Category: Electronic Product Reviews

Apple MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (15-inch, 2018) review: The tricked out MacBook Pro recovers from an early software stumble – CNET

On paper, it looked like an impressive, if predictable, set of internal component upgrades. Apple’s 13-inch and 15-inch Touch Bar MacBook Pro models would get new eighth-gen Intel processors, more storage and RAM options, a color-temperature-sensing True Tone screen and other tweaks — all nice improvements over a ho-hum 2017 update. At the same time, the slim unibody aluminum design would remain unchanged since its last design overhaul in late 2016, keeping features both loved (the giant track pad) and not-so-loved (the slim-travel keyboard, the USB-C-only connections). 

If anything, the expensive add-on option for one of Intel’s new six-core Core i9 processors would appeal to pro-level users, such as video editors and 3D artists, who may be starting to feel that Apple isn’t keeping up with their ever-expanding needs for high-end gear. 

To say things got off to a rocky start is putting it mildly. First, there was confusion over that keyboard: Apple maintained that the new third-gen butterfly keyboard was quieter but otherwise unchanged — but a teardown at repair site iFixit revealed a totally new membrane that may well address the issue of sticky and dust-afflicted keys on earlier models that have prompted class action lawsuits against Apple. 

Secondly, there was the speed throttling issue that emerged just days after the July 12 announcement: Some of the most gung-ho early adopters who ran out and got Core i9 MacBook Pros as soon as they were released found mysteriously throttled performance. YouTube tech personality Dave Lee first brought the issue to public attention with a video in which he demonstrated the heat and throttling issues. These results were soon replicated by others, including our own CNET Labs testing. 

To its credit, Apple quickly investigated the issue and determined that a simple software bug was to blame. A software update to the MacOS operating system seemed to solve the issue, and you can read more about our pre and post-patch experience here

If you’re one of those early adopters, instructions for how to install the MacOS 10.13.6 update are available here. The issue affected all of Apple’s new MacBook Pro models, both 13- and 15-inch. The entry level 13-inch MacBook Pro without the Touch Bar isn’t affected, as it has not been updated this year.

And now that the hype around this software bug is dying down, we’re left to consider just how much is actually new inside the MacBook Pro, and if it meets the needs of a creative class increasingly moving towards 4K-and-higher video, and other power-hungry tasks. A more in-depth analysis of the new features and performance of the Core i9 15-inch MacBook Pro follows, but first we’ll break down the key takeaways: 

MacBook Go! Post-patch, the Core i9 version is much faster than last year’s high-end Core i7 model
The True Tone screen works well in a variety of lighting conditions
Options for up to 32GB of RAM and 4TB of flash storage can greatly help with video production
The “stealth” keyboard update makes it less prone to stuck keys, a major issue

Asus TUF Gaming FX504 review: Nothing but compromise – CNET

Entry-level gaming laptops typically have meh keyboards, which is a problem because PC gamers are undoubtedly hard on their keyboards. Asus’ TUF FX504 puts a better keyboard in a low-end laptop. One that’s cushy for long gaming sessions and Asus says is extra durable, lasting for up to 20 million key presses. 

Asus also designed its cooling fans to be better at removing dust particles and dirt, which in turn should extend the overall life of the laptop. It also keeps it nice and cool while gaming, which is great since the TUF is relatively thin for a gaming laptop.  

What Asus didn’t do is use a decent full HD 15.6-inch display in the base model reviewed here, the FX504GD-ES51, which sells for $699 in the US and £650 in the UK. (Australian buyers can get a AU$1,900 version with a better display, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050Ti GPU, 16GB of memory, dual storage drives and a six-core Intel Core i7-8750H.) 

Although the $699 price is on par for the specs with competing models from Acer and Dell, they have better displays than the entry-level TUF. So what’s more important for an entry-level gaming laptop: A durable keyboard or good display? For my money, it’s the latter.

Asus TUF Gaming FX504GD-ES51
Asus TUF Gaming FX504GD-ES51 Price as reviewed $699 Display size/resolution 15.6-inch 1,920 x 1,080 display CPU 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-8300H Memory 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,660MHz Graphics 2GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Storage 1TB hybrid SSHD FireCuda Networking 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 5.0 Operating system Window 10 Home (64-bit) Sit there, don’t move

Off-angle viewing is poor with the base model TUF’s display. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

The main issue with the display is that, instead of using an IPS-type panel like Dell, Acer, HP and others, it’s a TN panel with poor off-angle viewing. Unless you and the display are in the perfect position, the display starts to wash out or the colors appear inverted. Color looks muted in general and contrast isn’t particularly good either. 

Now, Asus does use IPS panels on the higher-end TUF models, so if you like the design and don’t mind spending $1,000 to get a better display then you can ignore the last paragraph. Or, if you intend to use this connected to an external display mostly, there’s no problem there, either. There’s even a full-size HDMI output on the left side ready to go. 

In fact, all the connections are on the left side: power, Ethernet, one USB-A 2.0, two USB-A 3.0, a combo headphone/mic jack and the aforementioned HDMI. This makes hooking up peripherals easy and puts all the cables on one side away from your mouse (assuming you mouse with your right hand). There’s nothing on right except for a lock slot. This begs the question, with all that space, why not add an optical

Asus TUF Gaming FX504 review: Nothing but compromise – CNET

Entry-level gaming laptops typically have meh keyboards, which is a problem because PC gamers are undoubtedly hard on their keyboards. Asus’ TUF FX504 puts a better keyboard in a low-end laptop. One that’s cushy for long gaming sessions and Asus says is extra durable, lasting for up to 20 million key presses. 

Asus also designed its cooling fans to be better at removing dust particles and dirt, which in turn should extend the overall life of the laptop. It also keeps it nice and cool while gaming, which is great since the TUF is relatively thin for a gaming laptop.  

What Asus didn’t do is use a decent full HD 15.6-inch display in the base model reviewed here, the FX504GD-ES51, which sells for $699 in the US and £650 in the UK. (Australian buyers can get a AU$1,900 version with a better display, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050Ti GPU, 16GB of memory, dual storage drives and a six-core Intel Core i7-8750H.) 

Although the $699 price is on par for the specs with competing models from Acer and Dell, they have better displays than the entry-level TUF. So what’s more important for an entry-level gaming laptop: A durable keyboard or good display? For my money, it’s the latter.

Asus TUF Gaming FX504GD-ES51
Asus TUF Gaming FX504GD-ES51 Price as reviewed $699 Display size/resolution 15.6-inch 1,920 x 1,080 display CPU 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-8300H Memory 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,660MHz Graphics 2GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Storage 1TB hybrid SSHD FireCuda Networking 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 5.0 Operating system Window 10 Home (64-bit) Sit there, don’t move

Off-angle viewing is poor with the base model TUF’s display. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

The main issue with the display is that, instead of using an IPS-type panel like Dell, Acer, HP and others, it’s a TN panel with poor off-angle viewing. Unless you and the display are in the perfect position, the display starts to wash out or the colors appear inverted. Color looks muted in general and contrast isn’t particularly good either. 

Now, Asus does use IPS panels on the higher-end TUF models, so if you like the design and don’t mind spending $1,000 to get a better display then you can ignore the last paragraph. Or, if you intend to use this connected to an external display mostly, there’s no problem there, either. There’s even a full-size HDMI output on the left side ready to go. 

In fact, all the connections are on the left side: power, Ethernet, one USB-A 2.0, two USB-A 3.0, a combo headphone/mic jack and the aforementioned HDMI. This makes hooking up peripherals easy and puts all the cables on one side away from your mouse (assuming you mouse with your right hand). There’s nothing on right except for a lock slot. This begs the question, with all that space, why not add an optical