Laptops

Microsoft Surface Pro isn’t just an incremental update

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Microsoft’s new Surface Pro (now without a generational number) is the Google Pixel of convertibles. That’s a good thing.

As the successor to the well-loved Surface Pro 4 launched way back in October 2015, the 2017 model looks a lot like the previous versions, but Microsoft assures us there’s a lot to appreciate under the hood.


The most prominent upgrade is the adoption of Intel’s newest seventh-generation Kaby Lake processors. Versions using the Core m3 and i5 chips are fan-less as a result, which means quieter operation and longer battery life — two things everyone wants.

There’s still a faster Intel Core i7 model available, although that requires a fan to run smoothly. More interesting, however, is the introduction of an LTE-enabled model accepting both micro-SIM and e-SIM cards. Mobile data without the need for Wi-Fi or a hotspot would make its tablet mode actually feel like you’re using a smart device.

Accessories are the other highlight. That cool Surface Dial we saw with the Surface Studio last year works on the Surface Pro, and there’s an improved Surface Pen with tilt detection this time. The catch? Neither are bundled in every package, and the stylus costs $99.

This all leads to a convertible with up to 13.5 hours of endurance on a single charge and better comfort thanks to a hinge that allows the 12.3-inch Surface Pro to lie nearly flat on a surface… Ohh, that makes sense!

But really, we just want new color options, and Microsoft hasn’t disappointed us:

I must say it looks fantastic, just like the Surface Laptop revealed a couple of weeks ago. Again the Type Cover keyboard ships separately, and it’s valued at $129.

How much do you have to spend for such a convertible? Not much. A starting price of $799 makes this more affordable than you’d think, but that’s for the lowest-end variant. It includes a Core m3 processor, 4GB of memory, and only 128GB of SSD storage.

Dishing out $2,699 gives you the Core i7 model with 16GB of memory and 1TB of SSD storage. That’s a huge jump from the introductory price, but it’s unavoidable if you want the very best.

If I were to buy one, I’d go for the $1,299 Core i5 version, which features 8GB of memory and a 256GB SSD. It strikes the best balance between optimal performance and a price worth paying for.

Worldwide rollout begins on June 15.

SEE ALSO: Microsoft announces ‘most balanced’ Surface Laptop

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Computers

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure: Dell embraces a circular economy

Sustainability is at the core of everything Dell does

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As consumers our top considerations when buying a new device are specs, performance, value for money, and design. We rarely think about the impact we and the technology we use have on the environment. The only time we probably ever do is when we need to dispose an irreparable phone or a dinosaur laptop. When that moment comes, we also don’t know exactly what to do or where to bring our old devices.

Fortunately there are companies like Dell that think ahead and consider the entire lifecycle of their products — from sourcing materials, to manufacturing, packaging, shipping, and recycling — and beyond. This approach is called a circular economy.


In a traditional, linear product cycle, recycling or refurbishing is thought of at the end of the product’s life, if at all. In Dell’s circular economy, the concept of waste is designed out of the system. This means sustainability is at the core of everything that they do. Here are some ways Dell is minimizing their footprint as a company while helping us consumers reduce ours as well:

Trade-in and recycling programs, not just for Dell products

Photo from Dell

Through Dell Reconnect, you can take that old computer sitting in your attic to a Goodwill store for recycling or refurbishing. The program also provides green jobs, and ensures that no environmentally sensitive materials are sent to landfills. The same program allows you to recycle or send back used ink cartridges responsibly as well.

If you’re due for an upgrade, the company can also recycle your old laptop for you, no matter the brand. You may also trade in any eligible piece of electronics, including smartphones and consoles, to earn a gift card that you can use to buy yourself a shiny new Dell laptop.

Packaging made of bamboo, mushrooms, straws

Photo from Dell

To solve mountains of packaging problems we face after unboxing a new device — large fancy boxes, plastic, and foam — Dell has come up with the 3Cs packaging strategy, which stands for cube (size and shape), content (material choice), and curb (recyclability).

For Dell, wasted space inside any packaging is just that — wasted — so the company is continuously finding ways to minimize the amount of material needed to create packaging, as well as reduce box sizes so as to fit more products in storage and during shipping.

More importantly, Dell uses the best possible material to protect the product, and consider that which makes most sense for each region by using what’s locally available. In 2009, Dell was the first to use packaging made from bamboo. Not only is it a renewable alternative to petroleum-derived foams, the bamboo they use also grows near their manufacturing facilities.

In 2011, Dell started developing cushion packaging made of mushroom, which has a smaller footprint compared to the usual protective foam, and is compostable. Recently, the company also started taking ocean-bound plastics like straws back to the economy where they can be reused to make the trays found inside Dell boxes.

The company reuses boxes up to 7 times before they are recycled. So when you buy a new laptop and the box is not in its most perfect form, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In certain markets, Dell also rewards customers for returning packaging that can be refurbished and reused.

Ink made of smog

Photo from Chakr Innovations

Here’s an unexpected way Dell is putting waste back into the economy and using locally available materials at the same time. Traditionally seen as a pollutant, the company is using ink made from smog in India to print some of its packaging.

A startup called Chakr Innovations developed the device called Chakr Shield which captures 90% of particulate matter emissions from diesel generators. The captured soot is then turned into carbon black, which is used to make ink. Dell is the first to use the ink on a larger scale and it works just as well as regular ink.

Backpack made of recycled windshields

Photo from Dell

Dell doesn’t just make computers and printers, they also make a whole array of accessories, and some of them are made with sustainability in mind. The Dell Pro Backpack 15 is made with a more environment-friendly solution-dyeing process. It’s also water-resistant, which is made possible by a layer of coating that’s made from reclaimed windshields.

Jewelry made of used computers

Photo from Dell

In its effort to reduce waste dumped in landfills, Dell also reclaims gold from motherboards through its recycling programs, reuses them to make not only new motherboards, but jewelry as well. So that old laptop you’re going to trade in for a new one? Parts of it will end up on someone’s finger or ears at some point, not in a developing country that becomes a dumpsite for other companies and countries.

Photo from Dell

Vivian Tai, Head of Global Environmental Affairs for the APJ region says the company is integrating sustainability efforts not for Dell’s benefit, but to provide better value for customers. She says sourcing and bringing what many consider “waste” back to life is challenging but is important to the company. Just this year, Dell already reached two of its 2020 goals: recover two billion pounds of used electronics and use 100 million pounds of recycled-content, plastic and other sustainable materials, one full year ahead of schedule.

Next time you need to buy a new laptop, take sustainability into consideration, too. Technology plays a big role in making our lives easier, and the good that it can do should not end at that but also extend beyond its usual lifecycle. It’s not just big companies who benefit from minimizing our ecological footprint — it’s also us, consumers, and the generations that come after us.

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Gaming

ASUS ROG Zephyrus S (GX701) review

Refinement of a modern classic

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A lot of credit has to be given to ASUS for pushing gaming laptop designs forward. Back in 2017, the original ROG Zephyrus paved the way for a new category of high-powered laptops that didn’t weigh a ton.

Since then, we’ve seen different variations of the Zephyrus that either upped the power or modified the original look. That evolution eventually led to the Zephyrus S (GX701) I’m currently reviewing.


With the some of the latest components and refinements based on previous generations, this Zephyrus already seems like a winner in my book. The question is: Does it have enough oomph to compete against the laptop brands that have caught up?

It all starts with the design

Once again, it’s the overall makeup that makes the Zephyrus S stand out. Every design cue was placed not just to make the magnesium-alloy body look sleek, but to improve airflow and cut as many grams as possible.

For one, ASUS managed to cram a 17.3-inch screen within a body normally reserved for 15-inch laptops. On top of that, its height tops out at 18.7mm and weighs about 2.7kg. That’s larger than what we’re used to from the Zephyrus line, but this beats every other high-end machine with equal specs.

Back as well is the Active Aerodynamic System (AAS) which lifts the bottom panel for more air intake. It sounds similar to ASUS’ ErgoLift on its ZenBooks, but the implementation here is more performance-centric, and unfortunately, not comfortable on a lap.

However, AAS is still the key to better cooling while staying slim. It’s complemented by two 12V fans and five sets of heatpipes to get as much heat away from the high-powered components. The only tradeoff is the awkwardly placed keyboard and trackpad; the former sits really low with no palm rest while the latter takes getting used to in its rightmost spot.

What I loved was the placement of the volume roller to the upper-left of the keyboard. It makes adjusting the two 2.5W speakers so easy. Pressing the roller mutes them. Less vital, but greatly appreciated, is how far the power button is from everything — safe from accidental touches.

To the side, we’re treated to two USB-C ports (one of which is capable of DisplayPort 1.4 and Power Delivery for charging), three USB-A, one HDMI 2.0, and a 3.5mm audio port. There’s no mention of Thunderbolt 3 which is a bummer at this price range.

The features we actually want

ASUS definitely went for the no-compromise approach when creating the Zephyrus S. On top of all the features mentioned above, the specs are a collection of the must-haves and great-to-haves in both gaming and content creation.

The screen in particular, while only 1080p in resolution, owns a refresh rate of 144Hz with a 3ms response time and NVIDIA’s G-Sync tech for smoother visuals. Even more interesting: the panel has a Pantone color certification for 100 percent sRGB coverage — ideal for creators who value color accuracy.

On the software side, Armoury Crate is a pleasantly comprehensive piece of software that allows you to monitor CPU and GPU frequencies, temperatures and voltages, and how much work the fans are putting in.

In addition, the program lets you change settings such as the RGB lighting of the keyboard and bundled mouse. But what makes the software so intuitive is that it can be accessed anytime by pressing the ROG button above the trackpad and monitored through a smartphone. I’ve always loathed non-stock Windows apps, but Armoury Crate is definitely an exception.

One more cool feature is the ability to charge the Zephyrus S using any PD-certified adapter or powerbank. Chances are you’ll always have its lightweight power supply on you, but for the few instances you don’t, this is a lifesaver considering how below-average the battery life is.

The one feature that’s missing is a built-in webcam. ASUS decided to leave it out in favor of slimmer bezels around the display. This might be a downer to some; at the same time, this opens the opportunity for folks to use an external webcam which would be far superior to the low-end cameras most laptops these days come with.

Performance you’d expect

It goes without saying that raw performance is what the Zephyrus S excels at most. From the Core i7-8750H and GeForce RTX 2080 Max-Q to the 24GB of RAM and 1TB M.2 PCIe storage, there’s no shortage of power in this machine.

Since the panel is of the 144Hz kind, you really feel these specs push the laptop to what it’s truly capable of. I’ve used gaming notebooks with a 4K display stuck at 60Hz, and I never felt that their high-end components were maximized to their full potential.

Personally, I find the 1080p resolution with a 144Hz refresh rate and G-Sync support to be the best-possible combination. After all, I honestly can’t tell the difference going any higher in pixel count on a 17.3-inch monitor. This is the sweet spot, and the Zeph nails it.

Here are a few benchmark numbers:

Shadow of the Tomb Raider: 95fps (1080p, Highest preset)

Unigine Superposition: 4858 (1080p Extreme)

Cinebench R15: 112.19fps (OpenGL), 1176cb (CPU)

Truth be told, the results only speak for a small portion of the big picture. Having an 8th-gen Core i7 chip and RTX 2080 (even if it’s a slightly slower Max-Q variant) should instantly signal that AAA game are no problem for this setup.

Even though we’re seeing silicon manufacturers pushing out newer, faster chipsets than ever before, rest assured the configuration we have here will run through games for years to come. We’ve reached a point wherein the next generation of games will stop being so demanding on hardware and instead focus on optimizing for current-gen processors.

On the downside, the battery life is lackluster as usual. When not plugged in to a wall socket, I’m lucky to get 2.5 hours out of this thing with a balanced workload consisting of web browsing and Photoshop usage. It’s expected out of any gaming laptop at this point and should be anticipated by any potential buyer.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

Even though gaming laptops are becoming increasingly common and more affordable in some cases, beasts like the Zephyrus S deserve the distinction of pushing the category to new heights. The model I reviewed here retails for PhP 199,995 or around US$ 3,835. It’s a heavy price to pay, but you’re getting top-notch hardware in return.

While this is certainly too much for mainstream users, creators and hardcore gamers will see the value in its top-notch components and attention to detail. ASUS has taken the Zephyrus line to yet another level, which is a major achievement considering how great the series had been to begin with.


The ASUS ROG Zephyrus S is available in ROG Megamall and ROG Concept Stores in the Philippines.

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Computex 2019

Acer’s ConceptD 7 is a multimedia creator’s dream come true

An alternative to the MacBook Pro?

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Photo by Vincenz Lee | GadgetMatch

Acer unveiled the ConceptD 7 at Computex 2019 held in Taipei, Taiwan. It’s part of the ConceptD series, Acer’s new brand of high-end notebooks, desktops, and displays.

It’s also one of the first NVIDIA RTX Studio laptops, together with the Razer Blade Studio Edition. Powered by an NVIDIA Quadro RTX 5000 GPU, this notebook is meant for creators such as designers, filmmakers, architects, and developers.


The Quadro RTX 5000 GPU’s performance has significantly improved compared to its previous generation. It’s perfect for rendering with its real-time ray tracing technology. It can also speed up complex workflows thanks to its AI-augmented tools.

 

The laptop can run multiple applications simultaneously and even work with up to 8K video in real-time, thanks to its 16GB GDDR6 memory.

The ConceptD 7 has the latest 9th-gen Intel Core i7 processor, promising a faster render time. Don’t worry about transferring big files, as it has Thunderbolt 3 and mini-DP connectivity so you can handle high-speed transfers. It can also connect up to three external displays.

 

 

With a 15.6-inch Pantone-validated 4K display that has a 100 percent Adobe RGB color gamut and Delta E<2 color accuracy, designers have the freedom to play with colors as they wish.

The ConceptD 7 comes in a sleek, gorgeous white finish. However, its price and availability have yet to be announced.

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