Category: Electronic Product Reviews

Acer Spin 3 (2018) review: Acer’s 2-in-1 has a great screen but not much else – CNET

In 2018, a thousand bucks will get you an excellent laptop. Cut that budget in half and you’ll need to make some compromises. And yet there are plenty of very solid options in the $500 range (roughly £380 or AU$700) — including several from Acer — that deliver a better overall value than the unexceptional Spin 3.  

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Like every model in Acer’s series of Spin laptops, our $500 test unit has a 360-degree hinge that lets you tuck the keyboard behind the display, making the transformation from laptop to tablet. The Spin family comes in a wide (and confusing) array of size options and configurations that includes Chromebooks, Windows machines and even entry-level gaming models. Earlier this year, we reviewed the higher-end, all-metal 13.3-inch Acer Spin 5, which starts at $700 and found it to be a good value.

The less expensive Acer Spin 3 also looks good — but feels cheap. From a distance, it appears to be made of the same textured, brushed aluminum as the Spin 5, but a closer inspection reveals a plastic design. It’s just under 1 inch thick and weighs about 3.8 pounds — about average for a 14-inch laptop in this price range. The keyboard isn’t great — I found myself making more typos than usual — and the touchpad felt particularly flimsy, responding consistently only when I clicked the lower-right corner.

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The Acer Spin 3’s 14-inch HD display is a highlight. It’s not the brightest screen, but the 1,900×1,080 resolution is crisp and the 16:9 aspect ratio is well-suited to watching videos and reading in portrait mode. And after working primarily on Macs for so many years, I am always impressed by the versatility of convertibles; it’s a joy to poke at the touchscreen in laptop and tablet mode. 

Apple MacBook Air (2018) review: The new MacBook Air trades ports for pixels – CNET

Apple’s MacBook Air has gotten a much-needed reboot, keeping the name, but changing just about everything else, both outside and in. And while it’s still called the MacBook Air, this new version might as well be called the “MacBook Pro Lite,” because that’s essentially what it is.

For most of its 10-plus year life, the classic MacBook Air was the default laptop for pretty much everyone, from college students to creative types to startup entrepreneurs. For many years, I called it the single most universally useful laptop you could buy.

But over the years, the competition moved to higher-res displays, thin screen bezels, bigger touchpads, regular component upgrades, and thinner and lighter bodies.

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While this reimagined MacBook Air fixes almost all of the previous design’s issues, it adds a couple of its own. It’s a much better fit with the rest of the current Mac design sensibility: larger than the 12-inch MacBook, smaller than the 13-inch Pro, and much different from the classic Air, which Apple is still selling, at least for now.

That means the long-standing design, with its thick screen bezels, smallish touchpad, deep keys and multiple ports is gone. If anything, the new Air looks and feels like a half-step between the 12-inch MacBook and the 13-inch MacBook Pro.

Its price has jumped up to join the rest of the MacBooks as well. For most of its life, the Air was $999. Not cheap, but a reasonably achievable luxury, especially for a rock-solid laptop that could last years.

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The new starting price is $1,199 (£1,199, AU$1,849), which is a tough blow for generations raised on the idea of getting that first MacBook for under a grand. Right now, it’s only $100 less than the 12-inch MacBook or 13-inch basic MacBook Pro, so there’s some price-versus-features math to do.

My cheat sheet for that is as follows. Compared to the new MacBook Air:

The MacBook Pro is more expensive, more powerful and less portable.
The 12-inch MacBook is more expensive, less powerful and more portable.

With each laptop excelling in a different area, and only $100 separating their base models, there won’t be one correct answer for everyone. That said, this new Air is the safe middle ground between the two extremes.

Editors’ note: We are currently benchmark testing the MacBook Air, including battery life tests. Some initial performance results are below, and we’ll update this review with more benchmarks and a final rating when testing is complete. 

Body double

Picking one up, it immediately feels lighter and smaller than the current Air, which I’m intimately familiar with. At 2.7 pounds (1.25 kilograms) and about 15 millimeters thick, it’s actually fairly average when it comes to 13-inch laptops. Some similar systems get down under 10mm, but at the expense of battery, features and processing power. As it is, the new MacBook Air is firmly in the mainstream of slim laptops, but not leading the pack.

One bit of catch-up is in

iPad Pro (2018) review: Big beautiful tablet? Yes. Flexible computer? TBD – CNET

Traveling with an iPad Pro isn’t new to me. I’ve used the previous iPad Pro as my main commuter computer and, before that, other iPads. They’re great for quick reading, communicating, writing on a keyboard, and… for me, that’s about it.

Keep in mind, I’m on a New Jersey Transit train for at least 45 minutes each way. (With recent construction hold-ups, it’s closer to an hour and a half.) On my ride, I’m trying to get work done. To date, there have been limits to the iPad’s productivity and multitasking workflow that made it a difficult device, for me, to replace my laptop. But I muddled through on my commute, choosing its portability over a laptop.

Now I’m commuting with the 2018 12.9-inch iPad Pro. I’m writing this review on it. It’s got a great keyboard case, though it could use a trackpad. It’s got a big, laptop-like screen. It’s more portable than the last version. But it doesn’t solve the final few things I need to make it a true laptop. Does that matter? Is it close enough? And if I’m not sketching or editing photos, is this product even meant for me?

Welcome to the 2018 iPad Pro.

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Editors’ note: This is a review in progress, focusing on our impressions of the new iPad Pro after just a few days of use. Ratings will be added after additional battery testing, benchmarking and USB-C accessory testing has been completed.

An artist’s tool that needs more software upgrades

The new iPad Pro definitely bags some huge wins over its predecessor: It’s shockingly fast, has USB-C, a far better Pencil design, easy login with Face ID and there’s more screen real estate crammed into a more compact design. From a pure hardware perspective, it’s a knockout — and drop-dead gorgeous, to boot.

But the iPad Pro just isn’t flexible enough, yet. The browser is not the same as a desktop-level experience, which can make it hard to work with web tools. No trackpad on the optional keyboard and no support for mice makes text editing cumbersome. Furthermore, iOS hasn’t changed enough. It’s way too much like an evolution of the iPhone, instead of a fully evolved computer desktop. And the current crop of available apps don’t yet exploit this awesome new hardware. A true version of Photoshop is on deck from Adobe, for instance, but it won’t be available until 2019. (I got an early peek and it looks great, but it’s not here yet.)

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Those drawbacks notwithstanding, this new hardware is going to cost you — a lot. The iPad’s price has gone up, to $799 for the 11-inch version with 64GB compared with $649 last year for the 10.5 inch. The 12.9-inch version costs $999 for 64GB of storage. My top-of-the-line review unit, with a crazy 1TB SSD and cellular, is $1,899. Add in the new and improved Apple Pencil (increased in price from $99 to $129), that new fancy Smart Folio keyboard case ($179

Lenovo Legion Y730 (15-inch) review: Good gaming extras without the budget-busting price – CNET

Lenovo’s 2018 Legion Y530 and Y730 gaming laptops are like mash-ups between its last-gen Legion systems, which had more typical “gamer” styling, and one of the PC maker’s ThinkPad workstation notebooks. 

There are no big stylized fan vents or angular edges with color highlights. They’re just black and gray and even the Legion logo on the lid is reasonably discreet. The most striking thing about the design is that the display hinge on both is shifted forward, which allows for better cooling with rear and side air vents. It also gave Lenovo space to move power and a majority of its ports to the back, so you don’t have a tangle of cords coming from the sides. 

However, while the Y530 and Y730 look alike at first glance, there are some meaningful differences. The Y530 is mostly plastic and has white lights for the keyboard backlight. The higher-end Y730 has an all-aluminum chassis and is fitted with RGB lighting for the keyboard, fan vents, side ports and lid emblem. The lighting is all programmable, too, right down to individual key colors with included software from gaming hardware and peripheral company Corsair. The Y730 also adds an extra row of keys on the left side of the keyboard for custom macros. 

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While the Y730 also has slightly better memory and storage options as well as a better display than the Y530 we reviewed, the system processor and graphics options are the same: An eighth-gen Intel Core i7-8750H or i5-8300H and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 or GTX 1050 Ti. 

Pricing for the Legion Y730 starts at $907.49 and £1,200 in the UK. It currently isn’t available in Australia, but the Y530 is and it’s available with a GTX 1060 card starting at AU$1,511.10. As reviewed here, the price is $1,549, but after discounts it’s $1,162.49. It’s also currently listed as sold out on Lenovo’s site. You’ll have to keep checking with Lenovo for this configuration, go with this $1,100 configuration (it just has less storage than my review system) or pick one up from a retailer like Best Buy.   

If having good gaming performance now and well into the future is crucial, you’ll want to get a laptop with at least a GTX 1060 graphics card. That’s not offered on the Y730, but is on the Y530. If you don’t mind dialing back your video settings to save some money however, the Legion Y730 is an excellent choice for the money.   

Lenovo Legion Y730-15ICH Geekbox Lenovo Legion Y730-15ICH Price as reviewed $1,549 Display size/resolution 15.6-inch 1,920 x 1,080 display CPU 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-8750H Memory 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,666MHz Graphics 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti Storage 2TB HDD + 256GB SSD Networking 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.1 Operating system Window 10 Home (64-bit) The keyboard is key

The aluminum body

The new Apple MacBook Air: Hands-on – CNET

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It’s called the MacBook Air, but it’s an Air in name only. This new version of the popular laptop might as well be called the MacBook Pro Lite, because that’s essentially what it is.

The long-standing tapered Air design, with its thick screen bezels, smallish touchpad, deep keys and multiple types of ports is gone, replaced by the familiar design cues of the post-2016 MacBook ($1,279 at Amazon Marketplace) and MacBook Pro. If anything, the new Air looks and feels like a half-step between the 12-inch MacBook and the 13-inch MacBook Pro, rather than an evolution of the classic Air. 

The new MacBook Air comes in space gray, silver and gold. 

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In person, as seen during a hands-on demo session following Apple’s Oct. 30 event, it was hard to distinguish this new Air from Apple’s other laptops at first glance. (One Apple rep misidentified a nearby new Air as a Pro to us.) Picking up the new Air, it immediately felt lighter and smaller than the current Air, which — having had the same basic design since 2010 — many of us are intimately familiar with.

You get more screen and less body, thanks to a display that cuts the thick bezel border by half and adds edge-to-edge glass over it. Now the Air display looks much like the one on the MacBook Pro, with the same True Tone color shifting and wider color range.

At 2.7 pounds (1.25 kg) and about 15mm thick, its size and weight is actually very middle-of-the-road when it comes to 13-inch laptops. The slimmest systems get down under 10mm, but at the expense of battery, features and processing power. If you want super thin and light, step up to that aforementioned 12-inch MacBook for just $100 more — but know you’ll be losing considerable features and power.

Now playing: Watch this: MacBook Air 2018 now has a Retina display

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While size and weight aren’t particularly unusual versus other laptops in this price class, the new MacBook Air does feel substantially more solidly constructed than most of the competition. Like the current Pro and 12-inch MacBook, the new Air still feels as tough as a tank, with its one-piece aluminum construction (now 100-percent recycled aluminum, according to Apple). That’s one of the reasons MacBooks, both Air and Pro, have been able to command premium prices for so long — because you’re making an investment in a product that will hopefully last for several years, which has often been the case for the traditional MacBook Air.

It’s all about the keyboard

As the only MacBook with a traditional island-style keyboard, the MacBook Air was the one refuge for those who disliked the super-flat butterfly mechanism keyboards in newer MacBooks. Now the new Air is firmly in the same camp as the other models. 

Some may lament the loss of the

Apple's newest iPad Pros hands-on: The iPad X we expected – CNET

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I couldn’t tell if I was looking at the 12.9-inch iPad Pro or the 11-inch one. That’s a testament to how Apple has shrunken down the Pro lineup, and seems to have delivered on a more portable high-octane iPad this year. But can it get any closer to replacing my laptop?

The new iPad Pros announced at Apple’s October event in New York are pretty big changes, if you’re looking to maximize display in a metal frame. Both new versions fit larger displays in smaller, thinner bodies. Face ID has been added nearly invisibly, built into the thinner bezel via a depth-sensing TrueDepth camera, just like the iPhone X has. But there’s no notch, which makes it seem a lot more subtle.

That also means no home button. It’s more like a big, magic window now. But with a display and a beefed-up A12X processor inside that are promising this much, it seems like it’s time for the iPad to unleash even more inputs and accessories. Apple has delivered on some, and not on others.

Now playing: Watch this: Apple’s iPad Pro gets a giant makeover

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Lighter, more screen and Face ID hides away

I held both new iPad Pro sizes for a little while in Apple’s demo room, and they’re sometimes hard to tell apart. The 12.9-inch version is lighter, and finally feels one-handable, provided you’re OK with keeping a sheet of metal and glass in one hand. I had an urge to coddle these tablets more than ever. The bit of bezel around the edge of both helps give a hand-grip zone, but I really wanted these iPads in protective cases.

It seems like the 12.9-inch version is the most impressive change this time around. The new 12.9-inch version has a smaller footprint than last year’s model, while the 11-inch Pro fits a larger display into a size very similar to last year’s 10.5-inch Pro.

The iPad Pro’s displays now have slightly curved corners like the iPhone X and Apple Watch, but it has an LCD screen Apple has called “Liquid Retina” that should be similar or better to the iPhone XR display. Display resolutions this time around are 2,388×1,668 for the 11-inch, and 2,732×2,048 for the 12.9-inch, both 264 ppi (the entry-level iPad has a 9.7-inch 2,048×1,536 display, by comparison, with the same pixel density).

For me, smaller is better. The difference between iPads feels a lot subtler, though, similar to the bump-up between the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max. The 12.9-inch version costs an extra $200 per storage configuration. For a full comparison of specs and what’s new, read our breakdown.

USB-C, with a few caveats

USB-C replaces Lightning on the new iPad Pro, which sounds exciting, but doesn’t necessarily mean what you think it does. The new Pros will support USB accessories and export video to monitors, but last year’s Pros could do that too, with dongles. More

Apple Pencil 2 FAQ: All about iPad Pro's magnetic accessory for 2018 – CNET

The new Apple Pencil 2 has a magnetic personality.

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For Apple, the Pencil is mightier than the index finger alone.

Along with a pair of new iPad Pros and a new MacBook Air ($900 at Walmart), Apple will unleash a second-generation version of the Apple Pencil, its accessory for the iPad Pro 2018.

The Apple Pencil is the tech giant’s pressure-sensitive tool for creative professionals, and can be used for precision drawing, writing, drafting, annotating and editing photos. It will no doubt draw comparisons to the styluses from competing tablets, including Google’s Pixelbook Pen for the Pixelbook Slate and Pixelbook Chromebook and Microsoft’s Surface Pen for the Surface Pro and Surface Laptop ($695 at Amazon).

What’s the deal with the second-generation Apple Pencil?

The second-gen Apple Pencil (henceforth known as Apple Pencil 2 or Apple Pencil 2018) improves on the first-generation model with an enhanced design and new tricks to tote it around more easily and increase your productivity.

How much does it cost?

The new Apple Pencil goes for $129 in the US. That’s up $30 from the $99 Apple Pencil first introduced in 2015.

Apple Pencil prices: 2015 and 2018
Apple Pencil 2015 Apple Pencil 2018 US $99 $129 UK £89 £119 AU AU$145 AU$199 When can I buy the Apple Pencil 2018?

You can preorder it now. It officially goes on sale Nov. 7.

Now playing: Watch this: Apple’s iPad Pro gets a giant makeover

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What’s the difference between the Apple Pencil 2015 and Apple Pencil 2018?

A slimmer, sleeker matte design, the Apple Pencil 2 automatically pairs with your iPad Pro ($567 at Amazon), waking it up with a tap. It also snaps on magnetically to the tablet, and charges wirelessly when it’s attached. (The original Apple Pencil paired awkwardly through a Lightning connector hidden beneath the devices’ end cap and didn’t easily travel alongside the iPad Pro unless you bought a special case with a dedicated holster.)

You can double-tap the sides to change the Pencil’s function. In the Notes app, double-tapping switches from a pencil to an eraser. What you do depends on which app you’re in.

The second-gen Apple Pencil attaches to the iPad Pro 2018 and charges magnetically.

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As a bonus, Apple throws in a free engraving on the side when you order the Apple Pencil 2018.

Does the new Apple Pencil work with all iPads?

Sadly, it does not. The Apple Pencil 2 will only work with the 2018 iPad Pros. It is not backwards compatible with earlier models, or with the standard iPad for 2018. Apple still sells the original Apple Pencil to work with older iPad Pros.

Does the old Apple Pencil work with the 2018 iPads?

The Apple Pencil 2015 works with:

iPad Pro 12.9‑inch (first and second generations)
iPad Pro 10.5‑inch
iPad

Apple gives the Mac Mini its first update in four years with a higher price tag – CNET

The 2014 Mac Mini’s connections (bottom) vs. the 2018 model’s (top). Gone are the SD card slot, two of the USB-A connections and audio input. In exchange we gain more Thunderbolt capacity and better venting.

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After a several years of silence on the Mac Mini front, fans of Apple’s diminutive desktop computing slab had given up hope of ever getting a replacement. But in the 2018 models, Apple’s delivered a great upgrade, with only one possible drawback.

In addition to modernizing the connection options with USB-C/Thunderbolt ports, updating to HDMI 2.0 and offering a 10Gb Ethernet option, Apple fixed one of the big complaints about the 2014 model: soldered memory. Upgradable memory is back, and it takes two industry-standard DDR4 SO-DIMMs.

But like most Apple products, it’s not really end-user upgradable, requiring a trip to a service center. This undercuts one of the perks, namely being able to buy less expensive memory elsewhere. But if it’s going to be another four years until Apple updates the Mini again, then every little bit of upgradability helps.

Now playing: Watch this: Mac Mini: Apple’s tiny desktop computer gets an all-new…

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I had some time with the “cheap” entry-level model, equipped with an Intel Core i3-8100B, 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. There isn’t much to say about how it feels to use it: It’s similar to the old model. It drove the Dell Ultrathin 27 S2719DC display via Thunderbolt without any unexpected issues, and produced HDR on the monitor through the HDMI. 

The B series of the Core processors are new low-profile, thermally capped versions of their desktop counterparts designed for embedded systems and mini PCs, which is how Apple managed to switch from the last generation’s mobile processors while keeping essentially the same design, and with no increase in fan noise. 

Though the price of entry has gone up from $500 to $800 (£400 to £800 or AU$620 to AU$1,249), much faster than the pace of inflation over the same period, it’s still not out of line. The comparable Windows configurations in a compact design — and there really aren’t many — are actually pretty expensive in comparison. Examples include the HP Z2 Mini G4 workstation (about $1,000 for an i3-8100, 8GB and 256GB SSD) or the HP EliteDesk 800 G4 (almost $1,300 for an i3-8100T, 8GB of RAM and 128GB SSD).

But it’s not really an inexpensive system, either. That $800 doesn’t include a keyboard, mouse, trackpad or monitor, so really you’re looking at about $1,000 just for that base configuration if you only spend about $110 on a monitor. The least expensive iMac ($1,779 at Amazon) is $1,100, though it’s a far less capable system.

Apple Mac Mini 2018 Price as reviewed $799, £799, AU$1,249 PC CPU 3.6GHz Intel Core i3-8100B PC Memory 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,667MHz