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
When can I buy the Apple Pencil 2018?
You can preorder it now. It officially goes on sale Nov. 7.
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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.
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 Pro 9.7‑inch
iPad 2018 (the sixth-generation, 9.7-inch $329 iPad introduced earlier this year)
It does not work with either size iPad Pro 2018.
Will the Apple Pencil 2 work with iPhones and Macs?
Sorry, no. The Apple Pencil for 2018 will only work with:
iPad Pro 2018 (11-inch)
iPad Pro 2018 (12.9-inch)
How does Apple Pencil 2’s wireless charging work?
Glad you asked! The short answer is that the Apple Pencil 2018 charges the second you snap the flat edge on the new iPad Pro. Plus, when the tablet charges, the Apple Pencil charges, too.
The longer answer is that what Apple refers to as “magic” is most likely inductive charging, which uses an electromagnetic field to ferry power from the iPad Pro 2018 directly to the Apple Pencil. We’re confirming that with Apple.
What’s the deal with all those magnets?
Apple outfitted the iPad Pro 2018 with 102 magnets it, which connect it to the Apple Pencil 2 and Smart Folio Keyboard. That means you can affix the new Apple Pencil just about anywhere along the tablets’ edges.
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.
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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
3.6GHz Intel Core i3-8100B
8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,667MHz
1535MB dedicated Intel UHD Graphics 630
Apple 128GB SSD
Four USB-C/Thunderbolt, two USB-A 3.1, one HDMI 2.0, audio out
Gigabit Ethernet, AirPort Extreme
Apple MacOS Mojave 10.14
Performance of the base model is fine, about what you’d expect given the components, but in general I really recommend you skip the quad-core i3 and head for at least the hexacore i5, not just for the speed boost, but for the futureproofing. An increasing number of applications are taking advantage of more cores, and for premium systems quad core is over. While the Mac Mini is inexpensive for Apple, it’s still essentially premium — after all, you can configure it with up to $4,200 (£3,860, AU$6,660) worth of components.
Plus, the i3 operates at a fixed processor speed of 3.6GHz; it doesn’t incorporate Intel’s Turbo Boost technology, which holds it back.
We didn’t rebenchmark the 2014 Mac Mini for comparison, but Apple would have had to actively try to slow it down in order to deliver worse performance than those four-year-old components.
Bigger on the outside
So what’s the drawback? For many pros, it may be hamstrung by Intel’s integrated graphics processor. I’m not saying it needs a powerful gaming or rendering GPU. A Kaby Lake G CPU, for example, would be a nice alternative to the i3 simply to make the system low-end VR ready, to take some of the video decoding burden or to help reduce overhead in audio production. (With only four cores, that CPU may not match the performance of the i5 and i7 eighth-generation hexacore processors.)
Not all software supports the latter, but some notable digital audio editing software, such as Avid Pro Tools, at least take advantage to accelerate plug-ins. (I’ve included benchmark results for a couple of Kaby Lake G laptops to give you a sense of performance and speed.) But that also would require some internal redesign and — gasp! — maybe a few millimeters’ embiggening.
Apple really seems to be betting on external GPUs as a solution for much of its graphics woes. But one of the benefits of the Mini is that it’s mini. Having to make space for a big eGPU just for better-than-basic graphics acceleration kind of defeats the purpose of a tiny system, especially when you’re likely going to be hanging a multitude of external drives and other accessories off it as well. (And with that in mind, a couple of ports on the front would be nice.)
We’ll be back with a final review once we’ve finished all our testing, so stay tuned.
Dell XPS 15 9575 2-in-1
Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 3.1GHz Intel Core i7-8705G; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 4GB AMD Radeon RX Vega M GL Graphics; 512GB SSD
Apple iMac (27-inch, 2017)
Apple MacOS Sierra 10.12.5; 3.4GHz Intel Core i5-7500U; 8GB 2400MHz DDR4 SDRAM; 4GB Radeon Pro 570; 1TB Fusion Drive Journaled HFS+
Editor’s note: This review was originally conducted in a podcast format, available as a video above or right here as an audio file. A summary of the review follows.
Red Dead Redemption 2 is, in many ways, a pretty staggering video game. First and foremost, it is staggering in its scope. An open-world game in the grand tradition of Rockstar‘s lengthy catalogue in the genre, RDR2 offers up an Old West world that is massive in scale, teeming with life and activity, and astoundingly, exhaustingly detailed. It tells an uneven, but highly enjoyable tale set 12 years before the events of the first game, and largely affords its large cast of characters far more opportunities to endear themselves to the player than any other Rockstar production I’ve ever played. In the 60-plus hours I spent poking through every corner of RDR2’s world, I constantly found myself getting lost in both the myriad activities it provides, and the simple pleasures of walking through its diverse and gorgeously rendered environments.
And as I worked my way through this staggering game, I couldn’t help but repeatedly think about the staggering amount of work that went into creating the game. I probably would have had that thought irrespective of recent events, just by virtue of how unusually polished the whole experience feels. But the recent reporting on conditions at Rockstar’s various studios in the lead-up RDR2 undoubtedly intensified those thoughts. No matter how transfixed I became by the “magic” of what this game does, I found it difficult to shake the sensation that everything I was experiencing came at unreasonable expense.
The story follows the adventures of Arthur Morgan, right-hand man to charismatic gang leader Dutch van der Linde. Players of the original Red Dead will recall that this gang is the one previous protagonist John Marston originated from. At this stage of history, Arthur, Dutch and crew are on the run following a failed job in the town of Blackwater. Throughout the story, the gang exists in a transient state. Moving from state to state, the crew finds itself mixed up in a wide variety of misadventures as they try to regather themselves and pull together the funds they need to finally disappear. As Arthur, you are essentially the gang’s fixer. In addition to participating in the various robberies and related crimes that take place throughout the game, you’ll also find yourself in charge of the gang’s camp, a bustling communal space where you collect quests, manage resources, and just exist alongside the various personalities that encapsulate the gang.
This is the best aspect of the game, not necessarily from any gameplay perspective, but rather in terms of overall immersion in the world. One of RDR2’s greatest strengths is the lengths it goes to in order to make its world feel like it is breathing on its own. Other Rockstar open world games have largely focused on centering the player in every way. Everything is typically built like a playground, chock full of activities that exist at the forefront, while the various NPCs just sort of mill around. Here, the various cities, camps, and wild areas all feel like they are moving along at a lifelike pace. When you’re in your gang camp, you’ll see people doing chores, reading, playing games, and engaging in conversations that have nothing in particular to do with whatever quest you’re about to embark upon. These personalities, these people, are the core of what makes RDR 2 go. There is a humanity to these characters that Rockstar games don’t typically seem all that invested in portraying.
The story itself does not always do right by its cast of characters, but its primary tale of Arthur’s journey through the gang’s final days is an extremely compelling one. The performance of Rob Clark as Arthur is a big part of that, but the writing is strong too. His motives are understandable, and his internal conflicts are thoughtfully portrayed throughout the campaign. Many of the other personalities around him are loud and cartoonish in ways you’d expect, but few of them feel like pure caricature. Where the writing does falter, it’s largely around the margins of that core story. Its attempts at delving deeper into conflict between indigenous people and the US military feel too steeped in cliche to say anything of note, some of the various stranger missions peppered throughout the world are blandly obnoxious in the way the worst GTA missions can be, and there is more than a little seemingly unexamined irony in the story repeatedly making villains out of tyrannical capitalists and demagogues who work their people half to death entirely to their own benefit.
The most gobsmacking thing about RDR2 is how all its various systems and characters are weaved into its world. Right from the jump, the game drops numerous tutorials about hunting, crafting, shooting, horse bonding, and a million other things both big and small. Some of these systems are more important than others, but there are opportunities to engage with them on a near constant basis. All these pieces, all these systems, are remarkably blended into the game world. The sheer number of mechanisms all working behind the scenes are exhausting enough to think about, but the way Rockstar has obscured all those gears grinding in the background is its most impressive trick. In most open world games it’s not long before you can start seeing the seams. If not outright bugs and glitches–which RDR2 has, albeit in much smaller volume than you might expect–you’ll eventually come upon quests and activities that feel like they’ve been copied from somewhere else in the game. Think about Far Cry‘s various towers, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey‘s bandit camps and timed missions. Very little of RDR2 has that sensation. From the biggest missions right down to the smallest interactions, all of this stuff feels like it was constructed individually. I was inspired to do missions that I might have ignored in a more repetitive game because each one had its own distinct thing going on. I almost never thought of ticking off checkboxes as I went.
You sense this everywhere you go in RDR2. I spent long stretches in the towns and cities following NPCs around to see where they went, what they interacted with. When out in the countryside, I constantly found myself standing still as I watched wildlife scurry around, and the wind blow through the grass and trees. This is a slow game, one where huge stretches involve little more than riding or walking from place to place, drinking in the atmosphere that surrounds you. This is a sensation I expect some players will bristle at. Arthur moves at a methodical pace, and while there are some sections where the controls feel flat out unintuitive or unresponsive, more often it’s just a matter of letting Arthur’s animations play out. And there are so many of them. So many. If you want to pick up a gun, skin an animal, even open a damn drawer, you’ll have to watch him go through a realistically, if slowly paced animation for it. Hell, every major character in this game has their own distinctive way of moving through the world. It is a ludicrous amount of animation. Ludicrous.
Details like this are easy to fixate on, especially when considering the amount of work poured into it. No one detail is by itself remarkable, but all these little details, these exhaustively rendered things, overwhelm the senses from the beginning and never really let up. The thing of it is, though, Red Dead Redemption 2 would still have been a pretty remarkable game without all these little details. They impress, no doubt, but knowing what we know about how Rockstar put people to work to make all those little things go, it’s understandable to question whether it was necessarily worth all of that effort. In Kotaku’s most recent reporting on the company’s work culture, there’s an anecdote at the beginning describing the way the game reframes the camera into a letterboxed shot every time it shifts from gameplay to a cutscene. This was apparently decided upon very late in the development cycle, and required members of the cinematics team to put in numerous overtime hours to rework. Does this particular feature look cool? Totally. Would I ever have noticed it wasn’t there had they opted not to put their employees through a great deal of extra work to make this happen? Absolutely not.
This is what it ultimately comes down to with Red Dead Redemption 2. It is an incredible achievement in open world gaming, an intricate machine that disguises its machinery better than just about anything else that’s come before. In addition to its lengthy and engrossing campaign, it delivers moments of emergent storytelling more compelling than anything I can ever remember playing. Graphically and aurally, it is top-to-bottom stunning. And all that came at an expense of labor that, while in no way unusual for an industry steeped in a culture of endless crunch and burnout, nonetheless cannot be dismissed. How do you reconcile those two things? Do you boycott the game? Do you buy it to support the people who worked the hardest on it? I do not have that answer for you. I’m not sure anyone does at this stage. What I can say is that Red Dead Redemption 2 is one of the best games I’ve ever played, and alongside the accolades the quality of its production richly deserves, it should always be noted what the circumstances were for those tasked with producing it. That is the asterisk this brilliant game should bear for as long as people feel like talking about it. The people who developed Red Dead Redemption 2–both credited and uncredited–should rightfully feel proud of all they have accomplished. Likewise, they should be afforded the opportunity to continue making games under circumstances more cognizant of, and beneficial to, their livelihoods going forward.
How to describe my experience with Samsung’s Galaxy Book2 in one word? Seamless.
Between the Windows tablet’s long battery life and Gigabit LTE wireless, you can work on it all day anywhere you want and then close it up, run to catch your train and open it up again to keep working on your commute home. Or you could watch some Netflix, catch up on email, read a graphic novel or sketch out one of your own with the included S Pen.
The Galaxy Book2 behaves more like your phone than a typical laptop, switching from Wi-Fi to LTE and back again so you always have a connection. And when you open up its keyboard cover (also included) it just turns on and is ready to go — again, just like waking your phone.
There are a lot of options at or below the Book2’s $1,000 price (roughly £765 or AU$1,400), and many with faster performance, more storage or other things that might be important to you. But if it’s crucial for you to have battery life that takes you well beyond your work day, a wireless connection that’s always available and a versatile ultraportable design, it’s well worth the investment.
Samsung Galaxy Book2 specs
Samsung Galaxy Book2
Price as reviewed
12-inch 2,160 x 1,440 Super AMOLED touch display
2.95GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 850 Mobile Processor
802.11ac Wi-Fi; Bluetooth 5.0
Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit)
The same, but different
The Samsung Galaxy Book2 is a detachable two-in-one PC not too unlike Microsoft‘s Surface Pro, right down to its fold-out kickstand on the back. It’s built around a nice-looking 12-inch super AMOLED touch display that’s bright, but should be brighter to help fight reflections under office lights and out in daylight.
Compared with last year’s model, the frame around the display is slimmer and the body’s rounded corners are now squared off. The aforementioned kickstand is new, too, which allows you to not only position the display at the perfect angle for how you’re working, it makes it possible to comfortably use it on your lap.
Paired with the display are speakers tuned by premium audio brand AKG, a Samsung subsidiary managed by Harman. They sound good for tablet speakers, and even better when you kick on the Dolby Atmos processing. You’ll probably still want to use headphones when you can; there’s a 3.5mm headphone jack on the right side as well as two USB Type-C ports. There’s a microSD card tray in with the SIM card on the left side.
Good performance, better battery life
The nicest part of using the Galaxy Book2 is that there’s really nothing separating you from your work. No booting up or waking from sleep mode. No starting up a mobile hotspot or tethering to a phone. The tablet comes to life instantly and its built-in fingerprint reader on back signs you in fast.
There are a lot of perfectly fine, highly portable, premium laptops to choose from, but let’s face it: at the end of the day, they’re more alike than different. The Dell XPS 13, Acer Swift 7 ($886 at Amazon), HP Spectre or MacBook Air ($900 at Walmart) all have a clamshell hinge the connects a color LCD display to a physical keyboard and touchpad. Some have touchscreens, some have different ports or LTE antennas, but when was the last time you saw a portable PC that was really fundamentally different?
The Yoga Book C930 from Lenovo is certainly different. Whether those differences are for the better is up for debate. But it’s hard not to like a laptop that so gleefully takes industry conventions and tosses them right out the window. What makes the Yoga Book ($269 at Amazon Marketplace) stand out is that it combines one LCD touchscreen with a second E Ink touchscreen, sharing a 360-degree hinge between them. The single available configuration is $999. International price and availability isn’t available yet, but that works out to £770 or AU$1,400.
Lenovo Yoga Book C930
Price as reviewed
10.8-inch 2,560×1,600 touch display
1.2GHz Intel Core i5-7Y54
4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,866MHz
128MB Intel HD Graphics 615
802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.2
Windows 10 Home (64-bit)
On-screen, on-demand keyboard
How does one type on such an unusual device? The E Ink display is considered the lower half of the clamshell. There, a monochrome on-screen keyboard appears on demand, complete with a touchpad. An options menu offers a couple of different keyboard layouts and levels of both fake keyboard clacking sounds and haptic feedback (but it’s very generalized buzzing, not specific to the key you’re pretend-pressing).
The keyboard choices are a standard design with a full-time touchpad zone, and a version with larger keys plus a touchpad that only pops up when summoned. That larger version certainly makes for a better typing experience, or at least it’s more forgiving considering the lack of tactile feedback.
Lenovo says software behind the keyboard app will adjust to your haphazard typing on the totally flat keys. But my biggest issue was that I could never get quite used to calling up and dismissing the touch pad. It led to too many instances of tapping the space bar when was trying to click a button, or else fumbling around when my finger went to where my brain expected the touchpad to be (hitting any letter on the keyboard sends the touchpad away and brings back the space bar).
Actual typing, including most of this review, was surprisingly better than I expected. I’m no expert typist, but I move into a new laptop at least once a week, so I’m pretty good at acclimating to new keyboards. It helps that the keys are generally in the right place with good spacing. But, you also have to keep an eye on the keyboard while you type.
The touchpad is tougher to use. It’s way too easy to let your finger slide off the touchpad outline onto the keys, and the auto-hiding version of the touchpad feels like it’s never there when you need it, but always there when you don’t.
Windows 10 ($99 at Amazon) is still much easier to use with a keyboard and touchpad than with touchscreen controls, so not having a great keyboard/touchpad experience is a mark against this otherwise very clever PC.
The idea of a laptop with an onscreen keyboard is rare, but it isn’t new. In fact, this is the second generation of the Yoga Book line. The 2016 original (available in both Windows and Android versions) had two LCD displays, one as a primary screen, the other as either an on-screen keyboard, drawing tablet or secondary screen. The typing experience was subpar, but the idea of being able to use either screen for any app or browser window was great. It was also held back by a sluggish Intel Atom processor. True old-timers will remember the similar Acer Iconia, also with twin LCDs, which I reviewed back in 2011.
Because this new version swaps the bottom LCD for E Ink, it gets some of the battery and readability benefits of E Ink. Flip the screen around to “tablet” mode, and one can use only the E Ink display, which any Kindle owner will tell you is a real battery saver. But with the LCD running streaming video, battery life ran only around six hours, which is poor for a superthin, superportable laptop that’s supposed to travel with you.
Asus keeps quietly posting new Chromebooks to its site; a couple of weeks ago it was the inexpensive 14-inch Chromebook C423 and now it’s added one for a slightly larger 15.6-inch Chromebook C523. In fact, it sounds identical to the 14-inch model, with the same connections and skinny display bezels, just writ a little larger.
HD or Full-HD display with 60Hz refresh rate with antiglare coating
Optional touchscreen display
Up to 8GB RAM
32GB or 64GB storage
Multiformat card reader (SD, SDHC, SDXC)
USB-A and USB-C ports
Up to 10 hours battery life
3.2 lbs/1.5 kg
We don’t yet have pricing or availability yet (we’ve reached out to Asus for the info), but a listing on Adorama’s site shows what looks like the base model with a price of about $270 configured with an Intel Celeron N3350 (dual core), 4GB RAM and a 32GB SSD.
While it’s the biggest Chromebook Asus has produced, 15 inches seems to be the new 14 inches in Chromebooks as we’re seeing with models such as the Acer Chromebook 15 and Lenovo Yoga C630.
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Huawei’s slim little 14-inch clamshell laptop makes a big first impression that stands up over time. It boasts a bright, color-accurate screen and Nvidia MX150 discrete graphics in a slim, mostly well-designed body, making it an appealing Windows-based MacBook Pro ($1,579 at Amazon Marketplace) alternative. As long as you’re not counting on using the built-in webcam.
Note that it’s not quite a direct match to a MacBook Pro, at least for graphics work: The display is accurate, but it only covers the sRGB color space, as compared with Apple’s Retina Display with its much larger P3 color gamut. But for basic photo and video editing, that’s good enough.
The system comes in two configurations: a Core i5-8250U with a 256GB SSD and 8GB memory for $1,200 (£1,300, AU$2,230) or our test configuration with a Core i7-8550U, 16GB memory and a 512GB SSD for $1,500 (£1,500, but with 8GB; not yet available in Australia, but probably around AU$2,500).
If all you’re doing is typing and web surfing, you can get away with the cheaper model, though if that’s all you’re doing then the MateBook X Pro is overkill and you could save more money with something like the slightly heavier Dell XPS 13.
Huawei MateBook X Pro
Price as reviewed
$1,499.99, £1,499.99 (with 8GB)
13.9-inch 3,000 x 2,000 touch display
1.8GHz Intel Core i7-8550U
16GB DDR3 SDRAM
2MB Nvidia GeForce MX150
Headphone jack, 1 x USB Type A, 2 x USB-C (1 x Thunderbolt 3)
Intel Dual-Band Wireless-AC 8275, Bluetooth 4.2
Windows 10 Home (64-bit)
From the ridiculous to the sublime
Let’s just get these two design abominations out of the way: the gimmicky pop-up webcam and the awful AC adapter plug that takes up the space of three outlets. While it’s great that you can hide the camera for extra privacy, the angle and location make it unusable. Of course, you can work around both problems with a third-party 65W USB-C charger and external webcam.
But the rest of the design is almost ideal given the trade-offs it needs to make between size, heat dissipation needs and connections. With only two USB-C ports and one USB-A, you’re going to have to go with a dock or dongle.
Samsung continues its push into the the always-on, always-connected future with the Galaxy Book2.
The $1,000 Windows 10 two-in-one tablet PC is one of the first to use Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 850 platform designed specifically for Windows computers.
The chipset, which was announced at Computex 2018 in June, promises better performance than first-gen models running on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 platform while delivering longer battery life and Gigabit LTE connectivity. For the Galaxy Book2, Samsung said it will run for up to 20 hours, which essentially adds up to more than two work days.
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Having built-in LTE means you’ll be able to connect anywhere you have cell service without worrying about sketchy Wi-Fi networks or tethering to a phone or mobile hotspot. But it does also mean you’ll also have to add the Book2 to your data plan. Samsung says the Book2 will be available from Sprint, AT&T and Verizon.
The Galaxy Book2 is one of the first PCs to use the Snapdragon 850 along with Lenovo’s Yoga C630 WOS, a 13.3-inch two-in-one expected to be available in November. The Book2 is built around a 12-inch super AMOLED 2160×1440-pixel resolution touch display. It will be bundled with its keyboard cover and S Pen for writing and drawing on the screen.
The Samsung Galaxy Book2 will be available online at ATT.com, Microsoft.com and Samsung.com for $1,000 (approximately £765, AU$1,400) starting Nov. 2. It will be available in Verizon, AT&T and Sprint stores later in the month.
The 2019 GMC Sierra, like every other pickup truck on the market, needs to be two vehicles in one. With prices creeping ever skyward, it’s important to pick a truck that can handle both work and play with aplomb, and the new Sierra does just that. All the traditional truck stuff — towing, hauling, etc. — gets handled with complete competency, with some extra credit for a unique trick in the bed. In its secondary job as a family vehicle, it succeeds thanks to GM’s tech-forward feature lineup. No matter which job it’s time for, the Sierra is ready to clock in.
Design avoids the ugly stick, new tailgate impresses
Both the GMC Sierra and its Chevrolet Silverado sibling get major updates for the 2019 model year. While the Silverado’s scrunched front end isn’t for everyone, the Sierra wears a design that’s a bit more traditional. Sure, the grille makes up 90 percent of the front end, but it blends well with the rest of the truck’s blocky good looks, casting an imposing shadow over most other cars on the road.
The rear end keeps GM’s clever inset bumper step, and while I think it’s sort of ugly, its practicality can’t be beat. However, it might not be necessary if your Sierra packs the same MultiPro tailgate that my SLT-trim tester does. It’s a tailgate within a tailgate that can act as a laptop stand, a big ol’ step or a temporary bed extender. It’s some truly clever stuff that should help the Sierra stand out with buyers.
The interior keeps it pretty simple. There’s no major redo here — instead, GMC goes for the familiarity play with a layout that’s largely the same as before. My crew-cab tester has two very spacious rows of seats wrapped in comfortable leather, and the front row seats are separated with a center console capable of holding every tchotchke accumulated across a lifetime, including enough space under the armrest for an entire purse.
My favorite feature in the Sierra is the electronic parking brake, which is a single button that can only be pushed one way. I don’t have to fumble to remember whether engaging the brake requires a pull or a push — if it’s on, the button turns it off, and if it’s off, the button turns it on. It’s the little things, you know?
Capable without being uncomfortably rugged
Not everyone will buy a 2019 Sierra for truck stuff, but people who regularly tow or haul won’t be lacking for capability. Spec the Sierra with a crew cab, the optional 6.2-liter V8 and an $850 trailering package for its improved cooling, a beefier suspension and a different rear axle ratio, and this truck will tow 12,100 pounds. If payload is more important, ditch the 6.2-liter V8 (but keep the crew cab and trailering package) and the Sierra will haul 2,140 pounds of whatever.
My tester is optioned out for max trailering, so it has all the goodies mentioned above. The 6.2-liter V8 adds $2,495 to the Sierra SLT crew cab’s $50,000 base price, but I think it’s worth it. With 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque on tap, it sounds (and nearly feels) like 75 percent of a base Corvette, providing loads of hustle with an empty bed and ample torque in every gear. The 10-speed automatic is fine on the upshifts, but downshifts take a surprising amount of time as the truck figures out which gear is ideal for its given throttle position.
The remaining driving dynamics are pretty pleasant, as far as unladen pickup trucks go. There’s some audible cabin sound when the suspension shuffles the truck over bumps and potholes, but tire and wind noises on the highway are relatively muted. The Sierra exhibits the same wishy-washy characteristics as every other body-on-frame pickup truck, but compared to other vehicles in the segment, it feels near the top comfort-wise.
With its base (for now) 5.3-liter V8, the 2019 Sierra can achieve an EPA-estimated 17 miles per gallon city and 23 mpg highway, but my tester’s 6.2-liter V8 drops those numbers to 15 city and 20 highway. Thankfully, they’re easy to beat — in fact, my observed numbers with the 6.2-liter V8 were pretty close to the 5.3-liter’s estimates. That’s without anything in or attached to the truck, though — slap a race car on the back or fill the bed with rocks, and all bets are off.
Tech and safety abounds
Currently, all Sierras have the same 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system, which can be upgraded to include embedded navigation. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, though, so navigation is still available by cheaper means. A 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot is present, as well.
The infotainment system itself runs the freshest version of GM’s software. First seen on Cadillac before migrating slowly to other GM marques, this new system is snappier and prettier, ditching its skeuomorphic past in favor of something flatter and simpler. It allows for cross-car personalization, too, thanks to a user profile system that will bring stored navigation destinations and other data from car to car. It’s a good system, made even better.
There are two parts of the system that I am obsessed with. The first is the Trailering app, which is an entire bit of tech dedicated to pullin’ stuff. It offers checklists to make sure no step (like hooking up the electrical) is forgotten, and it lets me save multiple trailer profiles in case I need to tow a boat one day and a horse trailer the next. The other is the Camera app, which shows every possible angle of the truck, including a top-down view. For an extra $250, GMC will add an extra camera on each mirror, as well as a top-down camera on the tailgate that makes hitching trailers much easier.
My tester packs the $6,825 Premium Package, which offers just about every creature comfort known to man, including ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, additional USB ports, an improved audio system and every safety system possible. Many of the updates are broken down into smaller packages, too, for buyers who don’t want to send the truck’s price through the roof. The USB ports deserve special mention, because my tester has six of them — two up front, two in the center console and two for the back row. Each bank of two has one USB Type-A and one USB Type-C for faster device charging, which is a nice touch. Wireless phone charging is available, too, but alas, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto don’t work wirelessly with the Sierra.
The big-boy Premium Package also adds a whole load of active and passive safety systems. My Sierra tester comes toting front and rear parking sensors, lane-keep assist, a following-distance indicator and low-speed automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection. The lane-keep assist was especially helpful, as the truck usually feels larger than a whole lane.
How I’d spec it
As more cab, bed and engine configurations come online, the Sierra’s base price will drop precipitously, but for now, I’d spec it almost exactly like my tester. Configuring a truck is almost as involved as configuring a Porsche, but the limited number of available Sierras means it’s a bit easier.
A V8 crew cab is all that’s available at the time of writing. It’ll sneak under $50,000 (including $1,495 in destination charges) with rear-wheel drive, but as a Midwesterner, I’ll take the $51,495 four-wheel-drive version. Adding the 6.2-liter V8 brings the price to $53,990. I don’t need the ruggedness of the AT4 trim or the fancy-pants attitude of the Denali, so I’ll stick with the SLT trim, which is the least expensive of the three.
I would keep the $6,825 Premium Package, because I want all the safety systems, in addition to the extra USB ports, ventilated front seats, power rear window and revised center console. I’d skip over my tester’s $995 sunroof, the $495 fancy red paint and the $850 trailering package, but I’d invest the $250 in the extra cameras. That brings the total to a lofty $61,065. That’s not too far off my tester’s $62,605, but it cuts some of the fluff. My tester should be $63,605, but GMC currently discounts the Premium Package’s price by $1,000, which is good, because it’s expensive.
Down to brass tacks
With a bunch of fresh trucks on the market, this is one hot segment. The 2019 Silverado is almost a carbon copy of the Sierra, but its design is polarizing and it lacks the versatile MultiPro tailgate. The 2019 Ram 1500 offers a better ride and an optional 12-inch touchscreen, but I’m not sold on its unibrow-ish front end. The 2018 Ford F-150 was only a refresh, but I can go to a dealership today and pick up one with a diesel engine, and I can’t do that with the Sierra (yet).
The 2019 GMC Sierra offers a comprehensive bag of tricks that enhances both of its major functions. From a work perspective, it’s versatile and capable, while from a play perspective it’s comfortable and filled with the latest cabin tech. It won’t let you down, no matter what you have in store for it.
Last year’s Surface Laptop from Microsoft broke the mold for Surface devices. Microsoft had spent a good part of the past half-decade pushing the idea of Windows-powered slates and two-in-one hybrids, eventually becoming the standard bearer for the category with the best-in-class Surface Pro line. But the Surface Laptop was something different. It was a slim, premium laptop designed to compete with the Dell XPS, HP Spectre and Apple MacBook Airlaptops of the world.
The Surface Laptop borrowed more than it invented, but it did an excellent job of synthesizing a greatest-hits high-end laptop, with a slim, modern design, great 12.3-inch touchscreen, good keyboard and touchpad combo and even a decent set of ports. It wasn’t necessarily better than those other laptops, but it was at least in the running, and provided a real alternative to the same familiar shapes seen in every coffee shop and classroom.
The Surface Laptop’s one big innovation was a fabric-covered interior, using an artificial material called alcontera, perhaps best known for its role in the boat upholstery industry. The fabric surfaces ended up being much sturdier and more stain-resistant than I expected, and I’ve become a fan.
In the year-plus since the original Surface Laptop, it’s remained near the top of my premium slim laptop list, in part because the official Microsoft Store and other retailers often had steep discounts on the base model.
Now that there’s a new version, unimaginatively named Surface Laptop 2 ($999 at Microsoft Store), and that means the starting price is bouncing back to $999. As I liked the Surface Laptop, it should come as no surprise that I like the Surface Laptop 2, but that’s because they’re nearly identical. The outer form is unchanged, with the exception of a new matte black color option. There’s still a USB-A port and mini-DisplayPort, but no USB-C or HDMI.
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