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.
May 2, 2017 / Comments Off on Microsoft’s unveils new Surface Laptop with crazy battery life
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.
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.
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 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.
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
April 27, 2017 / Comments Off on Acer’s new gaming laptop is the anti-MacBook Pro
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.
WATCH: Turn your laptop into a touchscreen with this ingenious magnetic bar
March 27, 2017 / Comments Off on The secret weapon that will make your next computer super fast
No, I don’t like strapping a smartphone to my face to enjoy virtual reality. And I don’t blame you if you don’t want to either.
But if you look at the reported sales numbers for mobile headsets like the Samsung Gear VR over the past year, you might think people prefer them.
Um, I don’t think so.
Although hard numbers are difficult to come by, in my own experience, the most dedicated VR users in the growing community tend to use high-end headsets like the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift.
That’s why it’s frustrating to see so many VR developers and content companies focusing on mobile VR over stationary, high-end VR systems. But I digress …
Not everyone is ready to make the commitment of installing a large gaming PC in their home expressly for VR. But on the other hand, I’ve rarely seen someone in the wild (on a train or in a park, etc.) using a mobile VR headset. I’m looking for these mobile VR users, but I almost never see them.
So I’ve been thinking that there must be a middle ground. A space between the lower cost, lower quality VR delivered via devices like the Gear VR and top-tier VR available on devices like the HTC Vive, which requires a full PC set-up to work.
Perhaps something like a VR-friendly laptop that can move with you from place to place.
Last year, when I shopped for my own VR system, most gaming experts I spoke to advised against getting a laptop, instead suggesting that I get a desktop machine (I did). But I still wondered: Is high-end VR using a powerful laptop viable? With so many people now living a peripatetic lifestyle from city to city around the globe, this is also question others interested in VR have frequently tossed my way.
To find out, I decided to get my hands on a powerful gaming laptop and put it to the test using the most system and graphics resource-intensive VR experiences currently available.
The machine I selected was the Asus ROG G701VI, or as I like to call it, The Beast.
Covered in special ops-style brushed gray aluminum, the laptop uses an Intel Core i7 processor, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 graphics card, 64GB of RAM and 1 terabyte of solid state drive memory. On the outside, the machine sports three USB 3.0 ports, one HDMI port and a 17.3-inch screen. Oh, and it weighs a whopping 7.9 pounds. Like I said, it’s a beast.
Before I get into the results, a few caveats. This is by no means an exhaustive test of all the most powerful gaming laptops on the market. Nor is this a laptop review. This exploration was designed solely to figure out just how viable high-end VR using a laptop could be. The VR system I used was the Oculus Rift.
Real talk: Is laptop VR easy?
In the era of the MacBook Air — a reliable laptop that’s so thin you can toss it into a backpack and forget you even have it with you — lugging around a laptop like the Asus ROG is an act of commitment rather than convenience. This is not a device you want to carry with you on a daily commute.
However, for our purposes — setting up two Oculus sensors and strapping on the Rift headset anywhere — what’s most important is that when you reach your destination you can quickly boot it up and launch VR apps without a hitch. To my surprise (after several gaming experts warned me off using a laptop for VR), the answer is yes.
Aside from its massive 17-inch screen and hefty weight, there’s also the matter of the power adapter. It’s huge. The 330-watt power adapter is listed as a mere 1 pound, but it has about the size and feel of an actual brick you’d pluck from a construction site. Again, this isn’t something you want to carry around regularly.
Does laptop VR match desktop VR, or is this some sort of hack?
The good news is that all that size and weight delivers all the needed horsepower to facilitate smooth and flawless VR. And I didn’t hold back, I purposely hammered the machine with every intensive VR experience I could think of, whether it was graphics-intensive games like The Unspoken and Robo Recall, or shared movie viewing experiences with friends in Bigscreen VR. The Asus laptop handled everything with ease.
Over the course of one month of testing, the only hiccups I experienced occurred when I launched the Oculus desktop app after the laptop had been put to sleep rather than shutdown. In those cases, a quick reboot of the system eliminated any issues.
No matter how long or hard I pushed the machine, there were no heat issues thanks to the device’s well-designed cooling system. Sure, the sound of the laptop’s cooling fans working was fairly loud during intense usage, but I could only hear them when I took off my Oculus headset earphones, so it wasn’t an issue that impacted any experience.
And while you can take this laptop anywhere, don’t expect to be able to go camping in woods, mount Oculus sensors in a pair of trees and suddenly commune with nature while in VR using the device’s battery alone. I generally had to remain plugged into a power source while using the laptop to avoid dropping frames and motion lag.
Better mobile VR, but at what cost?
Because of the laptop’s size, weight and power requirements, the use case for such a set-up is unique, and definitely not for the casual user.
Similarly, at $3,498 (the price of the configuration listed above on Amazon), the Asus ROG G701VI is in the realm of top tier power user laptops generally favored by independent filmmakers and graphic designers. For a loose comparison, a similarly powerful 15-inch Apple Macbook Pro with a 2.9GHz Core i7 processor, 1 terabyte solid state drive and a Radeon Pro 460 graphics card is about $3,499. (Currently, the Rift and Vive aren’t supported for Macs of any kind.)
Due to the cost and the fact the technology is still emerging, VR laptops aren’t likely to become the mainstream vector through which average virtual reality users access the metaverse.
But as more people get a taste of VR, and are in some cases dissuaded by the thought of setting up a massive gaming PC in their home, there is absolutely no reason not to consider this, or a similarly powerful gaming laptop, as a solution for accessing high-end VR.
Now the only barrier — as it often is with bleeding edge tech — is cost. If you have the cash, the virtual sky is the limit.
March 15, 2017 / Comments Off on Yes, mobile VR is possible without strapping a smartphone to your face
I like my gadgets bleeding edge, and I’m not going to lie: I’m a huge sucker when it comes to companies shrinking things down to fit into your wallet.
Whenever I hear “It’s the size of a business card,” I’m basically already caught in some company’s tractor beam.
Take the Kado Wallet, supposedly the world’s thinnest charger. At roughly the thickness of three credit cards stacked on top of each other, the charger really does fit in my bi-fold wallet without adding any serious bulk.
It comes with a 2-foot long retractable cord (micro USB, Lightning or USB-C), and the foldable prongs on the top half are interchangeable, so you can attach the proper plugs for different regions.
And that’s it. It’s so simple and small, and I really want one.
Sadly, I can’t go out and buy a Kado Wallet just yet. The company behind it, which also goes by Kado (that’s a play on “card,” in case you didn’t figure it out), says it’s planning to launch the product on Kickstarter in the near future for about $50.
$50 for a thin charger is pretty steep, but if that’s the price to get wallet-friendly gadgets, I’ll pony up.
Kado’s other slim-charger-you-never-knew-you-wanted is the Kado Sleeve. It’s a 70-watt laptop charger that’s almost as thin as a pencil and the size of a smartphone. It’s also got two full-sized USB ports for charging your other devices, like smartphones and tablets.
Kado says the Kado Sleeve is designed to fit inside of your laptop sleeve thanks to its foldable design.
The prototype Kado Sleeve I got to see at Mobile World Congress was still rough around the edges, but you get the idea. It’ll come with a 6.5-foot long cable and various charging tips to fit different laptops.
The Kado Sleeve will also launch on Kickstarter sometime in the near future. I’m told it will cost about $99.
February 26, 2017 / Comments Off on This crazy-thin phone charger is the size of three stacked credit cards