Good news — no great news — the one thing that crippled Microsoft’s first laptop, the Surface Laptop, is no more.
As we said in our review, Windows 10 S and the fact that it only lets you install apps from the Windows Store (there’s no Chrome!) is too restrictive, and anybody who buys a Surface Laptop should immediately upgrade to Windows 10 Pro.
The downside to upgrading from 10 S to 10 Pro was that you couldn’t revert or “downgrade” back if you changed your mind later. Microsoft’s now reversed that somewhat hostile stance.
Less than week after releasing the Surface Laptop, Microsoft’s provided a “recovery image” for owners to effectively revert back to Windows 10 S if they made the upgrade to 10 Pro.
It’s a nice token for Surface Laptop owners, but it’s also not as simple as clicking a button. To get your machine running Windows 10 S again, you’ll need to perform a factory reset, which means it’ll erase everything. So you’ll want to backup your data onto an external hard drive or to the cloud before doing so.
You can find both the recovery image and instructions on how to restore your Surface Laptop to Windows 10 S on Microsoft’s website.
Microsoft’s Surface Laptop is one of the best Windows 10 laptops you can buy and a solid alternative to Apple’s MacBook Pro.
It’s got a high-res touchscreen, a keyboard wrapped in Alcantara fabric that doesn’t feel like you’re typing on a table, all-day battery life, and a full-sized USB 3.0 port so you can live a dongle-free life.
Surface Laptop owners can upgrade their machines from 10 S to 10 Pro for free until the end of the year. After that, it’s $50 for the upgrade, and will presumably cost you each time you want to upgrade again after factory resetting back to Windows 10 S. Although, it’s possible you could save your Windows 10 Pro license and reuse it later. We’ve reached out to Microsoft to clarify the upgrade fee after performing a factory reset.
June 19, 2017 / Comments Off on Surface Laptop lets you restore back to Windows 10 S if you suddenly decide you hate apps
At this year’s E3 gaming expo, Razer refreshed its littlest laptop, the Blade Stealth, with the latest specs, and announced a new, toned down version with a larger screen (but the same dimensions) that ditches the brand’s neon green.
Is Razer finally growing up and shedding its gamer badge? Heck no. But at least you’ll be able to take your Stealth Blade to class or a meeting without looking like a total douchebag.
The Blade Stealth wowed us immediately with its stealthy compact aluminum design, 12-inch 4K-resolution IGZO touchscreen, solid Chroma-glowing keyboard and trackpad, and myriad ports.
The new Blade Stealth has all of the things that made the original great, but now it’s got the latest seventh-generation Intel Core i7-7500U processors, better Intel HD Graphics 620, 16GB of RAM, up to 1TB of PCie SSD storage, and up to nine hours of battery life. All these specs will also hit your wallet kinda hard; a 512GB machine costs $1,599 and a 1TB $1,999.
If the 12.5-inch Blade Stealth screen’s a little too cramped for your liking, you might want to consider the more affordable 13.3-inch Blade Stealth, which starts at $1,399. It’s got a larger screen, but the body’s the exact same size as the 12.5-inch model, thanks to its slimmer bezels.
The 13.3-inch Blade Stealth has the same processor, RAM, and graphics as its smaller-sized brother, but it comes with one big difference: screen resolution. Whereas the 12.5-inch has a 3,840 x 2,160 (4K) touchscreen, the 13.3-inch only has a 3,200 x 1,800 (QHD+) touchscreen. Will you see much of a difference? Not at all.
The larger-screened laptop also comes in two colors: black and gunmetal.
Black comes with your standard Chroma-lit keyboard capable of glowing in 16.8 million colors per key, glowing green triple-headed snake logo, and green-colored USB ports.
Gunmetal, however, is boardroom and classroom-ready. The backlit keyboard only lights up in white, the Razer logo on the lid is a more subtle polished gray, and the USB ports are standard silver.
Some might find the gunmetal version dull (if you’re buying a Razer laptop, you’re not afraid to shout from rooftops you drink the green glow), but I personally prefer it over the standard black and green version. It’s too bad about the keyboard, though. I really wish it still had the Chroma keyboard.
I’ve only had a few days to poke around with a pre-production gunmetal version, and so far it’s been pretty speedy.
You just don’t realize how convenient it is to have full-sized USB and HDMI ports on your laptop until you’ve used laptops, like the new MacBook Pro, that don’t have them. That said, it’s also great to see a Thunderbolt USB-C port on the Blade Stealth, so you still get the best of both worlds.
Based on first impressions, I’d say the new 13.3-inch Blade Stealth is a better buy than the 12.5-inch version. The larger screen, despite its lower resolution, is roomier than the 12.5 despite having the same dimensions, and you get the same performance. Plus, no gimmicky Touch Bars.
June 14, 2017 / Comments Off on Razer’s new MacBook Pro slayer has no gimmicky Touch Bar
Like so many students, the very first laptop I had was a MacBook (the plastic one, not the new 2-pounder). I bought it in the summer of 2007 after finishing my first year of college, and it lasted until I graduated.
I loved the machine even though it weighed a hefty five pounds and was an inch thick. It’s a tank by today’s thin and light laptop standards, but you have to remember something: Back then, a one-inch thick machine was the definition of thin.
Steve Jobs wouldn’t famously pull the MacBook Air out of a manila envelope until a year later, and the laptop wouldn’t go on to become the most popular laptop until 2010 when it got a redesign with more ports.
In the last decade, MacBooks have morphed into the gold standard. They’re still more expensive and underpowered compared to Windows laptops, but for students and professionals, Apple’s machines expertly balance style and performance.
Chromebooks are also a popular option for many students, but their inability to run many “real” apps outside of Google Docs, underpowered web apps, and Android apps (if your machine supports them), makes them less viable for many college students (at least according to the dozen or so that I asked).
Apple’s MacBook domination on campuses and in Starbucks is arguably the strongest case for why Microsoft’s first clamshell laptop, the Surface Laptop, exists.
The Surface Laptop builds on the Surface Pro’s success. Although the Surface Pro was never meant to sell in volume — it’s mostly an aspirational reference design meant to nudge PC makers towards Microsoft’s 2-in-1 vision — it has helped ingrain this idea that Microsoft is an underdog that builds hardware Apple won’t.
Just like how you know an Apple product when you see one, the same goes for Microsoft’s entire lineup of Surface devices.
The Surface Laptop is a very handsome machine. It comes in silver, gold, blue, and burgundy — all very attractive colors. The 2.76 pound laptop is lighter than the 13-inch MacBook Air and MacBook Pro, and thinner, too.
Its aluminum body is sturdy and sits firmly on a table or on your lap. The Surface Laptop has a wedge-shaped design and flaunts it hard; you won’t find rounded tapers to create the illusion that its thinner.
Most of its ports (USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort, and headphone jack) sit on the left side. On the right side is a lone SurfaceConnect magnetic plug. I appreciate the full-sized USB 3.0 port, but one just isn’t enough; a second one would have been great, or at least one USB-C port. There’s also no SD card slot (a trend I don’t like), which basically means students will need to buy a separate memory card reader or a USB hub to get more ports. Even though Microsoft thinks USB-C isn’t ready for primetime, you’ll probably still end up in #donglehell.
The number of ports may be a little lacking, but the screen, keyboard and trackpad are sublime.
The 13.5-inch PixelSense touchscreen (2,256 x 1,504 resolution) has super slim bezels around it, and it’s covered with scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass 3. I found the screen both remarkably sharp and bright, and incredibly responsive.
I used to feel touchscreens on a laptop were silly, especially on Windows machines, which have tiny icons not designed for fingers, but I now really like them. “Gorilla arm” isn’t really an issue since you’re not using the touchscreen all the time, only sometimes. It’s a shame Apple thinks touchscreens are wrong for Macs. My only qualm with the touchscreen is how it wobbles when you poke at it, but that’s a necessary concession to get the screen so thin.
The keyboard and trackpad are some of the best I’ve ever used on a laptop. If you’ve typed on a Surface Pro or Surface Book, you’ll know how bouncy the keys are — the Surface Laptop’s keys with 1.5mm travel are satisfying and the opposite of the flat-as-hell keys on Apple’s MacBooks (the Air’s still got the old keys, though).
Likewise, the trackpad is exceptionally smooth and nearly on par with a MacBook’s. That Microsoft can make a great trackpad only upsets me more that PC makers like HP and Lenovo still can’t get their shit together.
The most eye-catching thing about the keyboard and trackpad is, of course, the Alcantara fabric that surrounds it. The soft touch material is indeed soft and really keeps your fingers warm when you’re typing and scrolling. Microsoft says the material’s got a “polyurethane covering for durability, including water and chemical resistance.”
I’m not sure how well the Alcantara cover will hold up to years of Cheetos dust, Red Bull spills, and whatever other gross things it may come into contact with in a dorm room. But I can tell you the edges on my review unit started to fray a little after a week in my bag.
I tested the $1,299 model with 7th-gen Intel Core Intel Core i5-7200U, Intel HD 620 graphics, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB of SSD storage, and it powered through like a real champ.
I wasn’t gaming on it or anything (mostly web browsing, typing, and streaming Netflix and YouTube videos) — just typical college student stuff — but even so it never chugged. I can’t speak for the 4GB model, though. But based on my past experience testing laptops with 4GB of RAM I can tell you they bottleneck very quickly.
The Surface Laptop runs Windows 10 S. It’s Windows 10, but with one huge caveat: You can only install apps from the Windows Store. In this regard, Windows 10 S is basically like iOS.
Microsoft gives a few reasons for why Windows 10 S is better for students. One, it’s safer. Barring users from downloading and installing apps (from who knows where) means fewer virus-infested machines. Two, allowing Windows Store-approved apps improves performance and battery life. And three, Windows 10 S computers are easier to manage by network admins who want to quickly deploy a specific version and set of apps to devices.
You’d be stupid to say no to security and better performance, but are they worth restricting yourself to apps only in the Windows Store?
For me, the answer is no. I need Chrome for work and I use many apps that aren’t available in the Windows Store. But I’m not the target audience — students are — so I asked a bunch of my friends’ siblings who are in high school or college.
No surprise, all of them gave Windows 10 S’s huge app restriction a thumbs down. Sure, Windows 10 S runs Office 365, Google Docs works just fine in Edge, and you’ll find some popular apps like Netflix, VLC Player, but if you want, for example, Adobe’s Create Suite (Photoshop, Lightroom, Premiere, etc.) or even another web browser, you’re totally screwed unless the app makes it into the Windows Store.
You could probably find alternative apps, but college students often use custom apps that come with their textbooks — none of which will work on the Surface Laptop unless… you upgrade to Windows 10 Pro.
Students I asked all gave Windows 10 S’s huge app restriction a thumbs down.
Surface Laptop owners can upgrade from Windows 10 S to Windows 10 Pro and basically remove the Windows Store-only apps restriction until December 31, 2017. After that, upgrading will cost $50.
But while upgrading to Windows 10 Pro will “un-cripple” the Surface Laptop (there’s no going back to Windows 10 S), it comes at the expense of the aforementioned advantages.
You could argue that there’s no such thing as a truly secure computer — it’ll always be a cat and mouse game between Microsoft and hackers — and no laptop truly gets all-day battery life with real-world usage (I got around 6-8 hours of mixed usage; Microsoft advertises up to 14.5 hours of local video playback), and I agree.
How’s a student supposed to pick? I say be fearless and just upgrade. The Surface Laptop doesn’t get significantly slower and the power adapter’s compact enough to lug around. It’s not like it’s 2005 and laptops only get two hours of battery life on a single charge.
Making a decision
The Surface Laptop can be summed up in a single word: finally.
After years of beating the 2-in-1 drum, Microsoft’s finally made a laptop that’s a real laptop through and through (sorry, but the Surface Pro isn’t a laptop if the keyboard isn’t included).
The Surface Laptop starts at $999, but nobody should buy this model; 4GB of RAM won’t get anyone very far. Which means the lowest-priced model to consider is the $1,299 version I tested. (Don’t forget to add $50 to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro if you miss the cutoff by the end of year.)
A $999 MacBook Air (2017) gets you more ports and double the RAM, but also a lower non-touch display and punier graphics. The new $1,299 MacBook Pro (non-Touch Bar) is a more comparable machine, and it’s got the better specs for the same money (without a touchscreen, of course).
It’s a tough call. How important is a touchscreen to you?
For a first laptop, Microsoft got a lot right. It’s not perfect (no laptop is), but it’s damn close and it’s still one of the better Windows 10 laptops that I actually wanted to keep using because the hardware is so nice.
But if you buy one, do your self a favor and upgrade to Windows 10 Pro ASAP.
Microsoft Surface Laptop
Bright, high-res touchscreen • Fantastic keyboard and trackpad • Speedy performance • Great battery life
Apps restricted to Windows Store unless you upgrade to 10 Pro • No SD card slot • No USB-C port • $50 to upgrade to Win 10 Pro in 2018
The Bottom Line
Microsoft’s first laptop is a winner, but only if you upgrade it.
June 13, 2017 / Comments Off on Microsoft’s Surface Laptop comes with one big suck, but it’s easily fixable
Microsoft announced its first laptop, the Surface Laptop, earlier this month, and now Huawei, the world’s third-largest phone manufacturer, is getting into Windows 10 laptops, too.
Though Huawei is known mostly for its budget and midrange phones (more recently with its Honor sub-brand) in the U.S., the Chinese tech giant has made more concerted efforts to be seen as a premium device maker.
The company’s flagship P10 phone sits with the best Android phones. Hell, Huawei’s even hired former “Get a Mac” actor Justin Long to push its products.
Last year, Huawei dipped its toes into the PC world with its MateBook 2-in-1 Surface Pro competitor. It was a decent device, but like all first tries it had its shortcomings such as poor battery life.
Huawei’s new MateBook X — the company’s first clamshell laptop — is aimed squarely at Apple’s entire MacBook lineup.
Thinner than MacBook
More ports than MacBook
Like its flagship phones, the MateBook X has a unibody aluminum design and is built for thinness and lightness. The 13-inch laptop measures just 0.49 inches at its thickest point — thinner than the MacBook (0.52 inches) and MacBook Pro (0.59 inches). It only weighs 2.31 pounds compared to the MacBook Pro’s 3.02 pounds.
Thin as the laptop is, it’s still plenty powerful inside. The 13-inch non-touchscreen IPS display is made of Corning Gorilla Glass and boasts a 2,160 x 1,440 resolution. And, yes, the keyboard’s backlit.
Under the hood, it’s packing a fanless 7th-generation “Kaby Lake” Intel Core i5 or i7 processors, Intel HD Graphics 620, 4GB or 8GB of RAM, and 256GB or 512GB of SSD storage. Huawei also claims up to 10 hours of battery life for watching 1080p-resolution video. There’s also Dolby Atmos Sound inside.
For ports, the MateBook X has two USB-C ports, a power button that doubles as fingerprint sensor (fancy!), and a headphone jack. In the U.S., Huawei’s including the MateDock 2, which includes a full-sized USB port, USB-C, VGA, and HDMI port. Also bundled is a USB to USB-C dongle.
I haven’t seen the laptop in person so I can’t say how the device feels. But if the old MateBook tablet and Huawei’s excellent industrial design for its phones are any indication, the MateBook X could be the laptop to keep any eye on when it launches this summer. Plus, it comes in rose gold. Hopefully the price is lower than a MacBook, too.
The MateBook X isn’t Huawei’s only laptop. Alongside the 13-incher is a the MateBook D, a 15.6-inch Windows 10 laptop.
While not quite as premium as the MateBook X, the MateBook D is still a decent machine with an all-aluminum body, a full HD resolution display, a discrete graphics card, and a full range of ports.
Specs for the MateBook D include seventh-gen Kaby Lake Intel Core i5 or i7 processors, up to 16GB of RAM, up to 1TB of storage with several configurations split combining a traditional hard drive and SSD, and discrete graphics (up to Nvidia 940MX). Battery life is pegged at around 8.5 hours of local video playback.
The MateBook D has two USB 3.0 ports, one USB 2.0 port, a headphone jack, and an HDMI port.
The MateBook D ships this summer. Pricing is also TBD.
In addition to the new laptops, Huawei’s also updated its 2-in-1 to the MateBook E.
The new 2-in-1 has the same 12-inch screen as the old one, but this time around the 1080p screen’s been upgraded to 2K (2,160 x 1,440) resolution.
Performance gets a boost across the board with seventh-gen Intel Core m3 or Core i7 processors, up to 8GB of RAM, and up to 512GB of SSD storage. The company advertises up to 9 hours of video playback.
Huawei says it’s also improved the 2-in-1’s less noticeable features; the magnetic connector for the keyboard is stronger thanks to a reduction in pins from seven to three, and the included folio case is adjustable from 10 degrees to 160 degrees, compared to the original folio case’s three angles.
The MateBook E also ships this summer with pricing TBD.
May 23, 2017 / Comments Off on This hot MacBook replacement is from a company you’ve never heard of
Hackers attacked a hospital system with ransomware and demanded $17,000 in bitcoin payment.
This was not part of the potentially deadly Global WannaCry Ransomware attack that slammed Britain’s National Health Services (NHS) on Friday. It took place over a year ago, and the target was Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Angeles.
Like the NHS, Hollywood Presbyterian chose to pay the ransom so they could quickly regain control of their antiquated systems.
Ransomware attacks have been on the rise for more than a year and, according to Jonathan Penn, Avast Security’s director of strategy, WannaCry could be “just one wave in a very long series.”
So far, Avast, a security solutions company, has detected and prevented almost a quarter of a million WannaCry ransomware attacks around the world.
If companies, people and governmental agencies like the NHS knew that ransomware was exploding last year, why weren’t they preparing themselves? It’s like the ground floor of a 28-story high-rise is on fire and, instead of putting out the flames, we just keep taking the elevator up to another unaffected floor.
There are many excuses businesses and government agencies use to avoid upgrading their software. But the dramatic rise of ransomware attacks means it’s time for them to take their medicine and figure out a way to get it done. Otherwise, these attacks will just keep spreading with organizations paying ransoms that are cheaper than upgrades, until they’re not.
Microsoft and most security experts will tell you that the surest way to prevent a ransomware attack is to keep your Windows system up-to-date and fully patched, run security software, and avoid opening email from unknown parties and opening unknown links.
Those running Windows 10 can’t even avoid updates (they can postpone for a week or so, but that’s it). However, most people and businesses aren’t running Windows 10. They’re on older platforms like Windows 7, which Microsoft will only patch through 2020.
This latest attack could be ‘just one wave in a very long series.’
A shocking 7% are still on Windows XP, a 16-year-old operating system Microsoft stopped supporting years ago (but patched just for this attack). Anecdotal information indicates that businesses and governmental agencies around the world are the primary culprits here. Late last year, Citrix reported that the majority of NHS hospitals were still running Windows XP on at least some of their systems.
Penn isn’t surprised that the NHS hasn’t upgraded more quickly. “The health service in Britain is government-run. So, they need to make quite a significant case, go up the chain or take budget from somewhere else.”
However, it’s more than just money and bureaucracy that’s keeping businesses and governments from retiring old hardware and software.
Think about what it takes to update your own computer — or even your smartphone. It’s a pain in the neck, especially if functionality changes (and many people simply don’t let devices update). “Now multiply that times a thousand for business,” said Penn.
Businesses and government agencies often have customized software and disparate systems that need to communicate. Patches and OS updates can’t roll out willy nilly; they must be tested. That takes time and money and so do the potential ancillary updates that are often required.
“It’s just a hamster wheel of expense for a lot of these people,” said Penn.
Many simply decide to not upgrade, especially if all systems are still functioning.
“It’s just a hamster wheel of expense for a lot of these people,” said Penn.
What they’re doing, essentially, is a risk assessment. Changing things incurs cost and maybe lost business or even the ability to serve constituents. But the risk equation is tilting dramatically in the other direction.
Penn told me that the risk ramsomware poses is getting larger and will not go away. More worrisome is that the effectiveness of the WannaCry ransomware attack will probably lead to more attacks.
And the risks are widespread.
Sources within the U.S. Federal Government tell Mashable that, so far, the impact on government systems hasn’t been bad and that there have been no public reports of WannaCry-related issues.
However, the U.S. health care system may not be so lucky.
“Our health care system is fragmented: medical records, for example, might be created and managed by a single doctor’s office or by large hospital systems,” said former U.S. Department of Health and Human Services CIO Frank Baitman via email. “Their ability to patch legacy systems and employ cybersecurity staff varies enormously. Even in large enterprises, it’s difficult to patch all computers as soon as a Zero Day vulnerability is discovered,” he wrote. A Zero Day attack has no known patch or signature.
Penn, though, believes the next logical target is the education system, which has a devil’s brew of massive amounts of private data and grossly underfunded infrastructure. “It’s low-hanging fruit,” he said. I also asked him about the electric grid’s vulnerability, but Penn wouldn’t comment.
Even if consumers and businesses follow Penn’s advice and upgrade, patch, and install antivirus, they may not be fully protected.
Having your endpoints fully Windows and Office patched, antivirus software installed, behind a firewall and with Malwarebytes Anti-Ransomware (in beta) likely wouldn’t have protected you if you allowed users to open macros and didn’t have application whitelisting correctly configured.
MessageLabs, Google Mail, Office 365 and hosted Exchange all delivered the Word documents.
Penn acknowledge that so-called Zero Day attacks are a reality.
“No one is going to claim that, if you do XY and Z you will never get any kind of attack, because there are these things called Zero-day attacks. They can be successful against systems with all these protections. It depends on nature of exploit,” he said.
May 15, 2017 / Comments Off on It’s time to take your medicine and stop WannaCry ransomware in its tracks