Category: Electronic Product Reviews

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

The new Apple Pencil 2 has a magnetic personality.

Sarah Tew/CNET

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.

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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.

Sarah Tew/CNET

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.

Sarah Tew/CNET

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.

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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

Samsung Galaxy Book2 review: A Windows 2-in-1 that lets you work anywhere, anytime – CNET

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. 

Though priced at $1,000, Samsung includes the keyboard cover and S Pen. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

At least part of this is owed to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 850 mobile platform designed specifically for Windows 10 ($99 at Amazon) PCs. The chipset, which was announced at Computex 2018 in June, gives you better performance than first-gen models we tested running on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 platform along with up to 20 hours of battery life and an always-on web connection.  

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 $1,000 Display size/resolution 12-inch 2,160 x 1,440 Super AMOLED touch display CPU 2.95GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 850 Mobile Processor Memory 4GB Graphics Adreno 630 Storage 128GB SSD Networking 802.11ac Wi-Fi; Bluetooth 5.0 Operating system 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. 

The kickstand gives this model better screen positioning than its predecessor. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Paired with the display are speakers tuned by premium audio brand AKG, a Samsung subsidiary managed by Harman. They sound good for

Lenovo Yoga Book C930 review: An E Ink keyboard makes this the most unusual laptop of the year – CNET

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. 

Sarah Tew/CNET Lenovo Yoga Book C930 Price as reviewed $999 Display size/resolution 10.8-inch 2,560×1,600 touch display CPU 1.2GHz Intel Core i5-7Y54 Memory 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,866MHz Graphics 128MB Intel HD Graphics 615 Storage 128GB SSD Networking 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.2 Operating system 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).

Sarah Tew/CNET

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

Asus Chromebook C523 goes big to 15 inches – CNET

Asus

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.

Specs include:

Up to quad-core Intel processorHD or Full-HD display with 60Hz refresh rate with antiglare coatingOptional touchscreen displayUp to 8GB RAM32GB or 64GB storage
Multiformat card reader (SD, SDHC, SDXC)
Audio jackUSB-A and USB-C portsUp to 10 hours battery life
Wi-Fi: 802.11a/b/g/n/acBluetooth 4.03.2 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 MateBook X Pro review: The MateBook X Pro squeezes some big features into its little package – CNET

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) Display size/resolution 13.9-inch 3,000 x 2,000 touch display PC CPU 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-8550U PC memory 16GB DDR3 SDRAM Graphics 2MB Nvidia GeForce MX150 Storage 512GB SSD Ports Headphone jack, 1 x USB Type A, 2 x USB-C (1 x Thunderbolt 3) Networking Intel Dual-Band Wireless-AC 8275, Bluetooth 4.2 Operating system Windows 10 Home (64-bit) Weight 2.9 lbs/1.3kg 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.

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Who thought this was a good idea? It’s actually worse than Dell’s notorious up-nose camera placement.

Josh Miller/CNET

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This is the view of you the webcam shows. If the notebook is further away you just get the up-nose perspective.

Sarah Tew/CNET

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 Galaxy Book2 Windows 10 hybrid has LTE, runs for two work days – CNET

Samsung Galaxy Book2

Dan Ackerman/CNET

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.

Samsung has been out in front this year when it comes to adding LTE connectivity to its devices, too. In August, it released an LTE version of its Galaxy Tab S4, an Android tablet with a desktop interface for increased productivity and on Oct. 12 Samsung announced its Chromebook Plus V2 will be available with LTE support

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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

Top SpecsQualcomm Snapdragon 850 (quad 2.96GHz + Quad 1.7GHz)
Qualcomm X20 Gigabit LTE, 802.11ac 4GB of memory128GB of storageUSB Type-C (2), microSD, 3.5mm headphone jack
8-megapixel rear and 5-megapixel front camerasWindows 10S

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. 

2019 GMC Sierra review: Don't sweat the truck stuff – Roadshow

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?

It’s a lot of grille, but somehow, it works.

Nick Miotke/Roadshow 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

Microsoft Surface Laptop 2 review: A faster Surface Laptop 2 is back, now in black – CNET

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 Air laptops 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. 

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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.

You can read a deeper dive into the use of fabric in the Surface Laptop design in our review of the 2017 version

Surface Laptop 2 Price as reviewed $1,299 Display size/resolution 13.5-inch 2,256 x 1,504 touch display CPU 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-8250U Memory 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 1,866MHz Graphics 128MB dedicated Intel UHD Graphics 620 Storage 256GB SSD Networking 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.1 Operating system Windows 10 Home (64-bit)

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.