The Surface Go is the laptop of the year

As a nearly constant traveler I’ve been looking for something like the Surface Go all my life. I’ve lugged around everything from massive ThinkPads to iPad Pros and I’ve always found myself stuck in one of two situations – the laptops that made the most sense were too heavy to be comfortably portable and the […]

As a nearly constant traveler I’ve been looking for something like the Surface Go all my life. I’ve lugged around everything from massive ThinkPads to iPad Pros and I’ve always found myself stuck in one of two situations – the laptops that made the most sense were too heavy to be comfortably portable and the tablets and ultraportables I used, including the Surface Pro, offered too much of a performance trade-off to warrant swapping from a full desktop device.

I tried a number of other laptops over the past year including my daily driver, the TouchBar-powered MacBook Pro, as well as a Lenovo’s oddly designed YogaBooks. Nothing quite clicked. The trade offs were always drastic. Wanted power? Sacrifice weight. Wanted thin and light? Sacrifice the keyboard. Want battery life and compatibility? Sacrifice the desktop experience. So when the Surface Go came out I wasn’t too excited.

Now I am.

When Brian Heater first reviewed the device he found them lacking. “And the Surface Go isn’t a bad little device, at the end of the day. At $400, it’s on the pricier side for a tablet, and certain sacrifices have been made for the sake of keeping the price down versus the souped up Surface Pro,” he wrote. “And unlike other Surface devices, the Go is less about pioneering a category for Windows 10 than it is simply adding a lower-cost, portable alternative to the mix. As such, the product hits the market with a fair bit of competition. Acer and Lenovo have a couple, for starters, most of which fall below the Go’s asking price.”

He’s right. There are thin and lights available for far less, and the Surface Go, with its 6-hour battery life and mid-range specs, is no hard core gaming machine. However, the user experience of the Go when matched with a keyboard cover have blown other contenders out of the water. Why? Because, like Google’s Pixel line, Microsoft knows how to tune its hardware to its software.

The Surface Go easily replaced by MacBook for most activities including light photo editing, writing, and communications. The Go ships with Windows 10 in S mode, a performance improving mode that reduces the total number of available apps available but, thanks to a certification process, ensures the apps will be more performant. It is trivial to turn off S Mode and install any other app you want and most people will do this, realizing that while noble, S Mode just doesn’t fly if you’re trying to use the whole breadth of the Windows universe.

Once I turned off S Mode I could install Scrivener and a few other tools and even got some games running, although the tablet gets a little hot. That’s the real benefit of the Surface Go – you don’t compromise on apps, performance, or size and all of it is specially tuned to the software it runs.

If you’re thinking of exploring the Surface Go you’ll find it’s not the cheapest ultraportable on the market. At $399 for the entry level model – I regret not splurging on the $150 upgrade – and $99 for the keyboard cover – it’s still more expensive than similarly appointed devices from Asus and Lenovo . That said none of those manufacturers could hit on all of the sweet spots that Microsoft hit. In terms of design and ease-of-use the Surface Go wins and in terms of price you’re basically paying a little more for more compatibility and performance.

So if you’re looking for a portable, usable, and fun device that beats many other current laptops hands down, it might be time to turn your gaze on Microsoft. As someone who got sciatica from lugging around too many heavy laptops, your buttocks will thank you.

Home Computing at IFA 2018: What’s New and What’s Hot?

One of the biggest announcements at IFA this year, Europe’s consumer electronics show currently taking place in Berlin, Germany until September 5, is Intel’s launch of their refreshed 8th Generation processor series. Simultaneously, laptop manufacturers like Asus, Acer, Dell, and Lenovo are releasing new hardware equipped with the new processors. Intel 8th Generation U-series and Y-series Processors Intel released two new laptop CPUs, both of which are based on the previous Generation Kaby Lake processors. The Intel U-series “Whiskey Lake” runs at an ultra-low power 15 Watt. Meanwhile, the Y-series “Amber Lake” gets by with an extremely low power 5…

Read the full article: Home Computing at IFA 2018: What’s New and What’s Hot?

One of the biggest announcements at IFA this year, Europe’s consumer electronics show currently taking place in Berlin, Germany until September 5, is Intel’s launch of their refreshed 8th Generation processor series. Simultaneously, laptop manufacturers like Asus, Acer, Dell, and Lenovo are releasing new hardware equipped with the new processors.

Intel

8th Generation U-series and Y-series Processors

Intel released two new laptop CPUs, both of which are based on the previous Generation Kaby Lake processors.

The Intel U-series “Whiskey Lake” runs at an ultra-low power 15 Watt. Meanwhile, the Y-series “Amber Lake” gets by with an extremely low power 5 Watt, which should significantly increase the battery life of devices equipped with this processor. In contrast to their predecessor, they come with overhauled chipsets, that natively support USB 3.1, among other features mainly relevant to hardware manufacturers.

Moreover, both processors contain firmware- and OS-based updates that mitigate the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities. Unfortunately, hardware-based fixes are not yet available.

So let’s have a look at the new laptops equipped with these processors.

Lenovo

Yoga C930

The Yoga C930 is Lenovo’s new flagship Windows 10 2-in-1 laptop.

The specs of this beast don’t disappoint. The C930 holds the latest 8th Generation Intel Core i5 or i7 U-series (Whiskey Lake) processor, up to 16GB RAM, 4K Ultra HD (3840 x 2160 pixels) touchscreen, 2TB storage, and with the high-end configuration screen you can get up to 9 hours of battery life, while Full HD adds an extra 5.5 hours.

Audiophiles will love the sound emitted by the new Dolby Atmos soundbar, which doubles as a hinge. The C930 also comes with Dolby Vision HDR and an integrated stylus.

Lenovo Yoga C930 001 IFA2018
Image Credit: Lenovo

Everyday users will appreciate that Lenovo finally solved the webcam dilemma. Yes, their new line of laptops comes with a physical lens cover, the TureBoc Privacy Shutter, meaning you no longer have to mess around with band-aids or the like.

Yoga Book C930

Lenovo, in partnership with Intel, will release a 1,400 Euro dual-screen tablet based on the Intel Core M platform in October of 2018, although pre-orders begin now. The form factor is around 11.3 inches for both the top and bottom panels. The E-ink portion of the display can function as an e-reader when fully folded backward or as a keyboard in laptop mode.

Lenovo Yoga Book C930 003 IFA2018

In its laptop mode, the E-ink keyboard slightly buzzes whenever a key is pressed. Unfortunately, the touchscreen keyboard lacks pressure sensitivity. While there exist pressure sensitive touchscreen layers, apparently Lenovo didn’t believe they could be effectively used to mimic keyboard actuation force. So whenever you accidentally touch the keyboard, the keys activate, just like on other versions of the Lenovo YogaBook. It’s a typing experience marred by irritating accidental key activations. Most touch typists won’t reach their maximum word-per-minute typing speed.

The LCD portion of the screen, fortunately, is pressure sensitive, which means it can be used for illustrators and other digital graphic designers.

When users want to shut the Yoga Book off, they merely close together the two displays and they lock into place, which prevents them from being accidentally opened when transported. Unlocking and opening the two displays is practically magical. Lenovo enabled a feature buried deep in Intel’s latest processor that allows the device to unlock just by double tapping the surface of the chassis. You have to see it to believe it!

Lenovo Yoga Book C930 002 IFA2018

The battery life of the Lenovo YogaBook should range from good to amazing. Lenovo officially advertises the battery life at around 14 hours. They did not have data on the battery life in e-reader mode though. Depending on the kind of electronic paper display (EPD) hardware they use, the battery life might be significantly higher than 14-hours.

 

ACER

Swift 5

Acer Swift 5, 14" Full HD Touch, 8th Gen Intel Core i7-8550U, 16GB LPDDR3, 512GB SSD, Windows 10, SF514-52T-82WQ Acer Swift 5, 14" Full HD Touch, 8th Gen Intel Core i7-8550U, 16GB LPDDR3, 512GB SSD, Windows 10, SF514-52T-82WQ Buy Now At Amazon $1,199.99

The Swift 5 is the first laptop to weigh less than a kilogram or 2.2 pounds. This makes it the de facto lightest 14″ 2-in-1 laptop in existence right now.

In the high-end configuration, the Swift 5 features the latest 8th Generation Intel Core i7 U-series (Whiskey Lake) processor, 16GB RAM, a 14″ multi-touch screen with Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels), and up to 8 hours of battery life.

Despite its compact design, it sports two USB 3.0 ports, one first generation USB 3.1 (Type-C) port, and HDMI output.

You’ll find laptops with more exciting hardware specs and features, but if ultra portability and a clean Mac-like design are appealing to you, then the Acer Swift 5 will hit the spot.

ASUS

ZenBook Flip 13 and 15

The hallmark of this series is its 360° ErgoLift hinge. Not only can it smoothly fold the display all the way to its back, but when folded back more than 135°, it also slightly props up the keyword to create a more comfortable angle for typing. In addition, this series has the frameless NanoEdge design, characterized by a 90% screen-to-body ratio. Both models offer smart control with face login and active stylus support.

The ZenBook Flip 13 is available with the 8th Generation Intel Core i7 or i5 U-series (Whiskey Lake) processor. This model features an integrated Intel UHD graphics chip and the 13.3″ screen offers a 16:9 Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels) touchscreen. It supports up to 16GB RAM and up to 512GB SSD storage. At 16.9mm thick, it clocks in at a weight of 1.3kg.

In addition to its 3D infrared front-facing camera, you can get an optional full HD world-facing camera, placed at the top left corner of the keyboard base. While operating the laptop in tent mode, this camera lets you capture the world from your perspective and tune into 3D virtual objects using mixed-reality applications. You can opt out of this camera in favor of better connectivity, specifically a USB 2.0 port.

The unique feature of the ZenBook Flip 13 is the number pad integrated into the touchpad. It turns on or off via the button in the top right of the touchpad.

The ZenBook Flip 15 offers enough keyboard real estate to feature a standard number pad section.

In terms of specs, this model sets itself apart from the ZenBook Flip 13 with improved graphics. It integrates an NVIDIA GeForce GTX graphics card with 2GB dedicated memory. In line with the improved graphics, you can also get it with a 4K Ultra HD (3840 x 2160 pixels) touchscreen, though you can also opt for a Full HD touchscreen.

The Flip 15 weighs 1.9kg, which is fairly light, considering its 15.6″ form factor.

ZenBook 13, 14, and 15

This series features many of the same characteristics as the Flip series, including a frameless NanoEdge display with an up to 95% screen-to-body ratio, a NumberPad in the 13″ and 14″ models, as well as Intel’s new 8th Generation U-series (Whiskey Lake) i7 or i5 processor, and up to 16GB memory.

The tight designs of the ZenBook 13 and 14, which ASUS praises as the smallest ever, contributes to their low weight of 1.09kg. The ZenBook 15 weighs only 1.59kg.

ZenBook Pro 15

The ZenBook Pro 15‘s unique feature is its ScreenPad, an interactive high-resolution LCD touchscreen that replaces the traditional touchpad. Using the ScreenPad, you can move the cursor, launch applications, and create a miniature dual monitor setup by pulling a window from your desktop to the ScreenPad.

Pair that with an 8th Generation Intel Core i9 processor, an NVIDIA GeForce GTX graphics card with 4GB dedicated memory, an Ultra HD 15.6″ touchscreen, up to 16GB RAM, and up to 1TB SSD, all at 1.88kg, and you have a true power user machine. Though you can, of course, get less heavy specs.

Dell

Inspiron 7000 and 5000 2-in-1s

Dell’s 2018 IFA exhibition heavily focused on its Inspiron line of 2-in-1 consumer laptops. Both models offer the latest 8th Generation Intel U (Whiskey Lake) series processor, thermal routing through hidden vents, and — except for the 13″ Inspiron 7000 — optional NVIDIA GeForce MX150.

The Inspiron 7000 2-in-1 is available with 13″, 15″, and 17″ touchscreens. On the 13″ and 15″ models, the new 2.7mm webcam enables a shrunk three-sided bezel. These are also the first laptops to feature Temporal Noise Reduction as part of an integrated webcam. Finally, the power button comes with an integrated fingerprint reader.

The Inspiron 5000 is a 14″ 2-in-1, available in two versions, the 5481 and the 5482. The USB Type-C port with power delivery and display support is now standard in the 5000 series, including the 5482. Meanwhile, the 5481 sports a full-size HDMI port, a full-size SD card reader, two USB 3.1 (1st generation) ports, and one USB 2.0 port.

Inspiron 2-in-1 Chromebook

At IFA, Dell also released a high-end 2-in-1 Chromebook. The 14″ premium device features a Full HD IPS display, up to 15 hours of battery life, up to 128GB onboard eMMC storage, USB-C ports, and a stylus with dock.

It doesn’t yet run on the latest 8th Generation Intel CPU; it’s powered by a Core i3-8130U processor instead.

XPS 13 and 15

Dell upgraded its XPS 13 and 15 families with the newest 8th Generation Intel Core CPUs.

You can get the XPS 13 with a Core i3, i5, or i7. The XPS 15 is available with a 6-core i9 processor. Both come with Dell’s UltraSharp 4K Ultra HD (3840 x 2160 pixels) Infinity Edge touchscreen, and a single Thunderbolt 3 port.

If you’re a Linux fan, you’ll love to hear that you can now obtain the XPS 13 Developer Edition with Ubuntu 18.04 LTS (long-term support, offering up to five years of support).

The 2-in-1 version of the XPS 13 remains the smallest 13″ 2-in-1 currently available. Likewise, the XPS 15 2-in-1 is the smallest and thinnest 15.6″ 2-in-1 on the market right now.

Mobile Connect

In addition to new hardware, Dell also presented several software solutions to enhance your productivity and entertainment.

Mobile Connect is Dell’s wireless PC to smartphone mirroring solution. You can mirror your Android phone to your desktop, receive notifications, write text messages, answer calls, and generally operate your phone from your Windows computer.

Cinema Sound, Color, and Streaming

This set of applications will greatly improve your media consumption. Cinema Streaming uses Killer Wireless and SmartByte to manage your internet bandwidth, guaranteeing stutter-free video streaming. Cinema Color and Cinema Sound enhance the visual and audio experience, respectively.

Note that both Mobile Connect and the Cinema features are only available with the latest Dell products.

Stay tuned for more laptops featuring Intel’s new 8th Generation processors and other cool features as we continue to explore the exhibition.

Read the full article: Home Computing at IFA 2018: What’s New and What’s Hot?

EU fines Asus, Denon & Marantz, Philips and Pioneer $130M for online price fixing

The European Union’s antitrust authorities have issued a series of penalties, fining consumer electronics companies Asus, Denon & Marantz, Philips and Pioneer more than €110 million (~$130M) in four separate decisions for imposing fixed or minimum resale prices on their online retailers in breach of EU competition rules. It says the four companies engaged in so called […]

The European Union’s antitrust authorities have issued a series of penalties, fining consumer electronics companies Asus, Denon & Marantz, Philips and Pioneer more than €110 million (~$130M) in four separate decisions for imposing fixed or minimum resale prices on their online retailers in breach of EU competition rules.

It says the four companies engaged in so called “fixed or minimum resale price maintenance (RPM)” by restricting the ability of their online retailers to set their own retail prices for widely used consumer electronics products — such as kitchen appliances, notebooks and hi-fi products.

Asus has been hit with the largest fine (63.5M), followed by Philips (29.8M). The other two fines were 10.1M for Pioneer, and 7.7M for Denon & Marantz.

The Commission found the manufacturers put pressure on ecommerce outlets who offered their products at low prices, writing: “If those retailers did not follow the prices requested by manufacturers, they faced threats or sanctions such as blocking of supplies. Many, including the biggest online retailers, use pricing algorithms which automatically adapt retail prices to those of competitors. In this way, the pricing restrictions imposed on low pricing online retailers typically had a broader impact on overall online prices for the respective consumer electronics products.”

It also notes that use of “sophisticated monitoring tools” by the manufacturers allowed them to “effectively track resale price setting in the distribution network and to intervene swiftly in case of price decreases”.

“The price interventions limited effective price competition between retailers and led to higher prices with an immediate effect on consumers,” it added.

In particular, Asus, was found to have monitored the resale price of retailers for certain computer hardware and electronics products such as notebooks and displays — and to have done so in two EU Member States (Germany and France), between 2011 and 2014.

While Denon & Marantz was found to have engaged in “resale price maintenance” with respect to audio and video consumer products such as headphones and speakers of the brands Denon, Marantz and Boston Acoustics in Germany and the Netherlands between 2011 and 2015.

Philips was found to have done the same in France between the end of 2011 and 2013 — but for a range of consumer electronics products, including kitchen appliances, coffee machines, vacuum cleaners, home cinema and home video systems, electric toothbrushes, hair driers and trimmers.

In Pioneer’s case, the resale price maintenance covered products including home theatre devices, iPod speakers, speaker sets and hi-fi products.

The Commission said the company also limited the ability of its retailers to sell-cross border to EU consumers in other Member States in order to sustain different resale prices in different Member States, for example by blocking orders of retailers who sold cross-border. Its conduct lasted from the beginning of 2011 to the end of 2013 and concerned 12 countries (Germany, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands and Norway).

In all four cases, the Commission said the level of fines were reduced — 50% in the case of Pioneer; and 40% for each of the others — due to the companies’ co-operation with its investigations, specifying that they had provided evidence with “significant added value” and had “expressly acknowledg[ed] the facts and the infringements of EU antitrust rules”.

Commenting in a statement, commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who heads up the bloc’s competition policy, said: The online commerce market is growing rapidly and is now worth over 500 billion euros in Europe every year. More than half of Europeans now shop online. As a result of the actions taken by these four companies, millions of European consumers faced higher prices for kitchen appliances, hair dryers, notebook computers, headphones and many other products. This is illegal under EU antitrust rules. Our decisions today show that EU competition rules serve to protect consumers where companies stand in the way of more price competition and better choice.”

We’ve reached out to all the companies for comment.

The fines follow the Commission’s ecommerce sector inquiry, which reported in May 2017, and showed that resale-price related restrictions are by far the most widespread restrictions of competition in ecommerce markets, making competition enforcement in this area a priority — as part of the EC’s wider Digital Single Market strategy.

The Commission further notes that the sector inquiry shed light on the increased use of automatic software applied by retailers for price monitoring and price setting.

Separate investigations were launched in February 2017 and June 2017 to assess if certain online sales practices are preventing, in breach of EU antitrust rules, consumers from enjoying cross-border choice and from being able to buy products and services online at competitive prices. The Commission adds that those investigations are ongoing.

Commenting on today’s EC decision, a spokesman for Philips told us: “Since the start of the EC investigation in late 2013, which Philips reported in its Annual Reports, the company has fully cooperated with the EC. Philips initiated an internal investigation and addressed the matter in 2014.”

“It is good that we can now leave this case behind us, and focus on the positive impact that our products and solutions can have on people,” he added. “Let me please stress that Philips attaches prime importance to full compliance with all applicable laws, rules and regulations. Being a responsible company, everyone in Philips is expected to always act with integrity. Philips rigorously enforces compliance of its General Business Principles throughout the company. Philips has a zero tolerance policy towards non-compliance in relation to breaches of its General Business Principles.”

Anticipating the decision of the EC, he said the company had already recognized a 30M provision in its Q2 2018.