All posts in “Laptops”

Why don’t we have waterproof laptops already?

Image: Bob al-greene/mashable

I still don’t know how it happened.

One minute I was sitting down at my desk, glass of water in hand. Seconds later I was watching helplessly as the contents of the glass seeped into my MacBook Air. My screen went black almost immediately.

As I walk-of-shamed my soggy laptop down to IT, I started going through a mental checklist of what was backed up and what wasn’t. Just how screwed would I be if the thing ended up being totally unsalvageable?

Luckily for me, almost everything was backed up somewhere. Luckier still, IT was able to successfully dry out the laptop and return it to me within a couple days (thanks Norman!) with no sign of the incident. 

Still, the whole thing was more than just a reminder to be more careful (or, at the very least, to use cups with lids). The whole thing got me thinking about why, of all the waterproof gadgets we have, laptops — arguably one of the most important pieces of our digital lives — so rarely have any water resistance at all. 

Think about it. Water resistance is becoming the norm for flagship smartphones, including the iPhone 7. Want a waterproof camera? Take your pick. Even smartwatches, which have long been slightly water resistant, are becoming waterproof. 

But look for a waterproof laptop and your options are depressingly limited. You’re pretty much stuck with a handful of “rugged” notebooks designed for regular outdoor use. These thick bulky bricks are not only offensive to look at, they aren’t at all practical for anyone not working in the middle of a forest. Just look at this 10-pound beast from Panasonic: it could probably survive the apocalypse but I wouldn’t be caught dead with a laptop that looked like that.

Panasonic's Toughbook is fully waterproof and 100% hideous.

Panasonic’s Toughbook is fully waterproof and 100% hideous.

Image: amazon

Now, I get that making a laptop capable of withstanding a lot of water is no small engineering feat. But it seems like there should be some middle ground. It’s 2017, after all, at the very least I should be able to spill few drops of coffee on my laptop without panicking over whether it’s going to destroy my digital life. 

Surely, this is a solvable engineering challenge. I would even be willing to sacrifice a bit of thinness if it meant I could take my laptop into a crowded coffee shop without anxiety. 

So, OEMs (especially you, Apple), please take note: add just a little waterproofing, okay?

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When did laptops become such a danger on planes?

First shoes, then liquids, and now laptops.

With reports suggesting the airplane cabin laptop ban may soon expand from flights originating in eight Middle Eastern and African countries to parts of Europe, it’s clear that our computers have now joined the list of things we have to worry about when flying. 

However, some big questions remain: Why now, and why are laptops considered OK in a plane’s cargo hold but not in its cabin?

Laptops have been a key feature of international travel for years, with passengers in both business and economy classes tapping away on long flights to get work done or pass the time. As the administration of Donald Trump considers forcing certain travelers to check laptops into cargo holds, thus risking cracked screens and possible fires, it is reasonable to ask what’s changed — and if this is anything more than security theater

Unfortunately, the answer is light on specifics. 

CNN reported in March that an unspecified al Qaeda affiliate was in fact working to disguise explosives as laptop components. As such, we know that the initial laptop ban wasn’t totally out of the blue. 

Mashable has since learned that the standard screening process that passengers and carry-on luggage go through may not always be sufficient to detect certain explosives. 

What are you doing with your laptop?

What are you doing with your laptop?

Image: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Checked baggage, however, passes through a different screening process that is able to pick up the explosives. So, the logic is that it’s not about separating a would-be attacker from his or her computer as much as it’s applying an extra level of scrutiny to devices brought onto planes. 

But why now? Well, that one is tricky. We’ve learned that, apparently, a more thorough assessment of the current terrorist threat landscape led officials to believe that such an attack could emanate out of Europe.

So there you have it. Explosives can be hidden in laptops, and people might be doing that (or planning to do that) in Europe with the intent to bring the devices onto airplanes heading to the U.S.

As to whether or not the extension of the laptop ban to certain Europe airports will actually go through? That’s still up in the air, but Reuters calls the expansion “likely.” 

So, you know, maybe consider investing in hardened laptop travel cases — if there are still any left

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Microsoft’s unveils new Surface Laptop with crazy battery life

Meet the newest member of the Surface family.

Along with the new Windows 10 S, Microsoft also introduced the Surface Laptop on Tuesday at its education-focused event in New York City. 

The Surface Laptop is Microsoft’s first Surface computer with a traditional clamshell design that’s not a detachable 2-in-1. Until now, Microsoft pushed the Surface Pro 4 (tablet that’s powerful enough to replace a laptop) and the Surface Book (laptop that detaches into a powerful tablet).

Its design is a departure for Microsoft and kind an affirmation that students don’t really need tablets—they need a rock solid laptop that’s affordable and can take a beating.

Available in four colors, Surface Laptop is lightweight at 2.76 pounds and thin at 14.5mm. It’s got a 13.5-inch PixelSense touchscreen display and the keyboard is covered in an “Alcantara” fabric material Microsoft’s used on Surface Pro 4 keyboards before. The backlit keys have a 1.5mm travel and never feel cold when you type on them says Microsoft’s Panos Panay.

The Surface Laptop comes with the latest seventh-generation Intel Core i5 or i7 processor, up to 1TB of PCIe SSD storage, and up to 14.5 hours of battery life. Panay says it’s 50 percent faster than the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro and lasts longer, too (MacBook Air only gets up to 13 hours of battery life and MacBook Pro up to to 10 hours).

As for ports, it’s got a single USB 3.0 port, Mini DisplayPort, and headphone jack on the left side, as well as a lone SD card slot on the right side. See that Apple? Even Microsoft’s low-cost Surface Laptop has an SD card slot. There’s no excuse the MacBook Pro doesn’t.

The Surface Laptop starts at $999 and launches on June 15. Pre-orders are available immediately.

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Acer’s new gaming laptop is the anti-MacBook Pro

Aggressive, sharp-cornered gaming laptops are back in style.

While most PC makers have been content with chasing Apple with sleek laptops that sport unibody builds, soft corners, and minimalist designs, PC maker Acer is going in the opposite direction.

The sixth largest PC maker in the world is still selling traditional laptops like the Swift 1 and Swift 3 with more subdued designs, but it’s making a bigger push with its Predator-branded gaming laptops.

At its annual global press conference Thursday, Acer global CEO Jason Chen said the company’s Predator 21 X behemoth — a laptop with a 21-inch curved screen, mechanical keyboard, eye-tracking sensors, dual Nvidia GTX 1080 GPUs, and more — has been the most talked-about laptop in the last sixth months, despite its unconventional design.

That’s not surprising. The Predator 21 X is seriously bonkers, and the fact that it starts at $9,000 and comes in a massive Pelican case only makes it more so.

But not everyone can afford the $9K Predator 21 X. Nor does everyone need a machine that might as well be called Laptop Overkill.

Acer’s new Predator Triton 700 is a more affordable option that borrows much of the Predator 21 X’s zaniness, without taking things too overboard.

The Triton 700's design is big, bold and aggressive.

The Triton 700’s design is big, bold and aggressive.

Image: lili sams/mashable

Let’s start with the design. It’s cut out of aluminum, and it measures 0.75 inches thick — just a hair thicker than the 14-inch Razer Blade. It might not be as thin as the new MacBook Pros (0.61 inch), but it’s thin by gaming-laptop standards. Its 5.7-pound weight is also a little on the heavy side if you’re used to sub-3-pound Ultrabooks, but this ain’t no laptop for weaklings.

The 15.6-inch full HD resolution IPS matte screen is lovely and supports Nvidia G-Sync for connecting to an external gaming monitor. 

Full-sized mechanical keyboard and number pad is a must for gamers.

Full-sized mechanical keyboard and number pad is a must for gamers.

Image: LILI SAMS/MASHABLE

I can confirm the mechanical keyboard is very clicky and satisfying; gamers definitely love the keyboard, despite its island-style keys. Plus, the cool ice-blue backlighting system is just hot.

The trackpad is above the keyboard. Very weird.

The trackpad is above the keyboard. Very weird.

Image: LILI SAMS/MASHABLE

The strangest thing about the Triton 700 is the location of its trackpad: above the keyboard. And because it’s covered with Gorilla Glass, you can’t actually click on the trackpad. It’s a very odd thing to not have a place to rest your palms on a gaming laptop, and the weirdly integrated trackpad, while a good conversation starter, might not be very practical for any gaming.

As for performance, the Triton 700 has plenty of it. It’s powered by the latest seventh-gen Intel Core processors, Nvidia GeForce 10-Series graphics, two NVMe PCIe SSDs, and up to 32GB of DDR4 2,400MHz RAM. To boost performance and keep the machine from frying itself, Acer’s incorporated its AeroBlade 3D fan.

It's got tons of ports but stays cool thanks to a new AeroBlade 3D fan.

It’s got tons of ports but stays cool thanks to a new AeroBlade 3D fan.

Image: LILI SAMS/MASHABLE

The gaming laptop’s also tricked out with all the ports you’d ever need, unlike other laptops. You get two USB 3.0 ports, one USB 2.0 port, one HDMI 2.0 port, one DisplayPort, one Gigabit Ethernet port, and “Killer DoubleShot Pro” networking which intelligently prioritizes the fastest connection (either Wi-Fi or Ethernet) and sends all traffic over the fastest option.

A good gaming laptop leaves a lasting first impression and the Triton 700 absolutely does in every way, from design to performance. It’s beautiful a very different kind of way. If a MacBook Pro is a Porsche, then the Triton 700 is a Lambo. Its gamer looks won’t be for everyone, but that’s OK because Acer doesn’t care about winning casual coffee shop hipsters.

Best of all, the Triton 700 costs a fraction of the Predator 21 X: It starts at $2,999 when it comes out in North America in August.

WATCH: Ultimate hands-free gaming with Tobii eye-tracking laptop

The secret weapon that will make your next computer super fast

If you’ve ever waited for a webpage to load, took a lap around the office while your computer rendered 4K video or watched in dismay as your favorite video game stuttered to life, you know that computers are struggling to keep up with all the data.

Intel isn’t down with that. On Monday, the chip maker announced the ship date for Optane, a memory module that can change the data game. It takes the speed and fluidity of RAM and combines it with the storage capabilities of Flash memory.

“Storage needs dramatically increased over the last several years,” said Intel Client Computing Group SVP Navin Shenoy who caught up with me to explain why Optane  (unveiled at CES 2017) is a potential game-changer for computer users.

Working with system software, Optane can pre-cache frequently-used apps, which means they could load almost instantly. Even with system power turned off, the information remains (like a hard drive), and can be retrieved the moment the system is powered back on. 

Since a lot of that information will be the core bits of the operating system your computer needs to run, boot times could be much, much faster.

There’s a ton of data and not all of it is living in the cloud. According to Intel, 79% of the desktop market still uses a hard drive. Hard drives are great for data storage but not very efficient data movers (delivering data in milliseconds, as compared to memory’s nanoseconds). And with more data, heavier webpages, 8K, HDR and an explosion in high-end, livestream gaming, the situation is only going to get worse. 

Ten years in the making, Optane is not “incremental innovation,” said Shenoy, adding that it represents a fundamental shift in memory technology.

Optane memory breaks with the near 50-year tradition of using transistors and charge to determine ones and zeros, explained Intel Senior Fellow Al Fazio. In the case of Optane memory, “We don’t use transistors. We change the resistance of material to store ones and zeros,” he said.

Essentially Optane memory uses material that stores information based on the state of atoms

Fazio called it a “breakthrough in materiel science and physics” and one that Intel honed until they could achieve the performance and storage density necessary to make commercial products.

Optane memory also comes at a potential turning point in the personal computer market. After years of decline, the market has seen something of a design and market resurgence. IDC reported a rare jump in PC revenue growth for the last quarter of 2016. Those numbers have not gone up in years.

Optane modules promise to, according to Intel, dramatically speed up most of our core computer activities. Users will get, the company claims, a 28% overall system performance boost, plus:

It will, however, be weeks, if not months, before systems start shipping with integrated Optane memory modules.  Optane is designed to work with Intel’s Core i7 CPUs, which only just began shipping. Optane is not designed to work with all the Core i6 motherboards sitting inside many of today’s desktops and laptops. In other words, an upgrade to Optane is likely a full-system upgrade.

Shenoy told me manufacturers like Acer, Asus, HP, Dell and Lenovo plan to ship pre-configured Optane desktops starting in the spring. Microsoft, which makes its Surface line of laptops and desktops, is not currently on the Optane adoption list. Nor is Intel customer Apple.

Optane memory may only be the beginning of a golden age of super-fast personal computing. Intel already has Optane storage and, according to Fazio, the lines between storage and memory will further blur. “The ultimate vision is where you bring Optane directly into memory buses and have the concept of persistent memory.”

The modules, 16 GB ($44) and 32 GB ($77), will be available in April, but you’ll need an Optane-compatible motherboard to use them. Shenoy told me there are already 130 compatible motherboards on the market.

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