Laptops

Dell XPS 13 (2018) Review: Still the best in its class

The benchmark of portable laptops

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When talking about premium laptops, the flagship models of PC manufacturers are automatically part of the list. You’ve probably already heard of Dell’s XPS line of notebooks. If you haven’t, maybe you’ve seen it before in a cafe or at a store because it’s pretty distinct. Just look for the notebook with an incredibly thin display bezel, and that’s most likely the Dell XPS 13.

Since its introduction in 2012, the design of the XPS 13 hasn’t changed much. It was in 2015 that the Ultrabook (the name of premium Windows notebooks before) got its recognizable bezel-less display. Dell is not yet ready to give the XPS 13 a major makeover, so the 2018 version only has slight changes. Is it still the XPS 13 we know and love? Here’s my review.

The edge-to-edge design lives on

Let’s first talk about the display because it’s the first thing one would notice about this notebook. Since the introduction of the InfinityEdge display on the XPS line, we’ve been wanting other laptops to have the same design. Dell is able to achieve an 80.7 percent screen-to-body ratio with the XPS 13.

My particular XPS 13 comes with a 4K Ultra HD IPS panel with touch input, but it also comes in Full HD with the base configuration. Dell already claims to have covered 100 percent of the sRGB color space with a 1500:1 contrast ratio. Not only that, it’s got a Corning Gorilla 4 with an anti-reflective coating and it can reach 400-nits of brightness which guarantees optimum screen visibility outdoors.

Watching Final Space on Netflix is way more fun with this notebook

Basically, there’s nothing to complain about the XPS 13’s display: It’s color accurate, bright, and immersive. I can’t say the same for the side stereo speakers, though. While the display excels, the speakers do fall a bit behind. They do sound quite pleasant but distort a bit at max volume.

As with smartphones, there’s a catch to borderless designs. Thankfully, nobody has tried releasing a notebook with a notched display, but the webcam has to go somewhere, and here it’s at the bottom of the display. I’ve been using the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S as my daily driver which also has its selfie camera in an unusual position, so this camera placement isn’t weird for me.

It could be also be called the knuckles cam since fingers get in the view when typing

To be frank, I don’t use the webcam that much. Most of the time, I open it to act as a mirror. When I do need to call someone on Skype or any video-calling service, the camera is looking right up my nose and the quality is so-so.

Good thing it’s not a plain webcam. It has an additional infrared sensor that’s fully compatible with Windows Hello. I never had to type my password or PIN to unlock the XPS 13 because the facial recognition unlock is nearly instant.

Windows Hello works great with the infrared camera

Aside from face recognition, there’s also a fingerprint reader embedded into the power button. So when I wake the notebook from sleep by pressing the power button, it already authenticates and automatically unlocks the device. Pretty neat!

The power key and fingerprint sensor in one button

Moving on to the left side, there’s a couple of USB-C ports with support for Thunderbolt 3 and four lanes of PCI Express Gen 3. So, an external GPU (eGPU) will be able to turn the XPS 13 into a graphics powerhouse.

This will make the XPS 13 both a great laptop on the go and a workhorse when docked. There’s also a 5-LED battery indicator and a Noble lock slot beside these ports.

The battery indicator is a small feature but useful when on the go

On the other side, there’s another USB-C port. This one doesn’t support Thunderbolt 3, but it’s DisplayPort-compatible for external monitors. Thankfully, there’s also a 3.5mm port for headphones and microphones but I’m disappointed about the microSD card reader.

It would have been 100 percent better as a full-size SD card reader

The bottom of the laptop hides the unsightly grilles for ventilation and maintenance screws. There are two long rubber feet to keep the laptop in place when on a surface. The back foot is raised a bit higher, making the XPS 13 slightly inclined. You don’t notice this but it actually gives you a better angle when typing.

The heat dissipates away from the user

Speaking of typing, it’s easy to adjust to the layout of the XPS 13’s keyboard. Every key is where I like it to be with a good amount of spacing, and the travel of each key is just right. Overall, the whole keyboard never felt cramped.

What I like more is the touchpad. Despite being a bit constrained due to the size of the notebook, it’s smooth, responsive, and has full Windows Precision Touchpad support. Windows 10 now has many useful gestures and they’re a breeze to flip through.

This notebook has one of the best touchpads on a Windows notebook

The new rose gold exterior with white interior variant is also new on the 2018 version of the XPS 13, and it’s more than a new tint. We’re looking at an “alpine white woven glass fiber palm rest” which claims to be UV- and stain-resistant to prevent yellowing over time and staining. Just like last year’s XPS 13, it’s body is cut from a single block of aluminum.

A powerful yet compact notebook

Now onto the specs, the XPS 13 (2018) is powered by the latest eighth-gen Intel Core processors. The model I have has a quad-core Intel Core i7-8550U processor paired with 8GB DDR4 RAM and Intel UHD Graphics 620. The base clock speed of the new ultra-low power processor is 1.8GHz with a turbo boost to 4GHz when needed.

It’s a specced-out notebook for everyday use and it can handle Adobe Photoshop and some video editing with Adobe Premiere Pro. Gaming is also not an issue for the XPS 13, but don’t expect it to play AAA titles at high frame rates. The likes of CS:GO and League of Legends on low to medium settings is what it can handle.

The XPS 13 boots fast and is zippy. There are some minor hiccups from time to time but that’s pretty normal when Windows 10 is under stress. What grabbed my attention though is how fast apps load. This is probably due to the fast read times of the notebook’s 256GB M.2 SSD storage.

Moreover, the base of the XPS 13 feels pretty cool when on my lap, yet it does get really warm while being charged. Its fans are relatively quiet unless I’m running a game or benchmarking software. Overall, I have nothing to complain about the laptop’s fan noise even when it’s under heavy load.

Long-lasting on a single charge

We buy 13-inch notebooks for portability, but that normally comes at the cost of battery life. Fortunately, the XPS 13 is able to last long on a single charge.

I consider my use of the laptop as moderate, which includes constant Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, Chrome with multiple tabs, and brightness levels staying around 50 percent most of the time. On average, I get about seven and a half hours of power. The longest I got was around nine hours when I mainly used the notebook to binge-watch the whole day.

When it’s time to fill up, the XPS 13 charges through any of the USB-C ports. Ain’t that convenient? It takes about two hours to fully charge the notebook using the included small 45W charger. Maybe a bigger charger with a 65W output can charge the notebook faster.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

If you’re looking for the best 13-inch Windows laptops out there, the Dell XPS 13 (2018) should top your list. Why? I have three reasons.

First, the display and design alone will make you want an XPS 13. Second, it’s a portable powerhouse because it can also be an editing and gaming machine with the help of an eGPU. Ideally, I’d use the XPS 13 when I’m on the road, then plug it in at home to a bigger monitor and eGPU to transform it into a capable desktop PC. Lastly, after my more than two weeks of use, I didn’t have any negative experience that left a bad impression.

The lack of full-size ports might turn off some, but living the dongle life is pretty unavoidable with new laptops, especially when they’re this small. As long as it’s got Thunderbolt 3, you’re safe and there are a number of quality and useful adapters already available in the market.

The Dell XPS 13 (2018) starts around US$ 999 in some markets with the base configuration. The particular variant I have here retails for US$ 1,450 in the US, SG$ 2,399 in Singapore, and PhP 99,990 in the Philippines. It’s quite pricey, but you’re getting a premium notebook and not just another Windows 10-powered laptop.

SEE ALSO: Dell Latitude 7390 2-in-1 Review: The complete business laptop

Laptops

ASUS ZenBook series has some incredible additions

The Flip S, ZenBook S, and Flip 13

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The ASUS ZenBook series has easily been one of the more popular laptop series in recent memory. Now, the series has three noteworthy and incredible additions — The ZenBook Flip S, ZenBook S, and ZenBook Flip 13.

ZenBook Flip S

Easily the most premium of the bunch, the ZenBook Flip S headlines the newest members of the ZenBook Series.

It has red copper diamond-cut highlights to complement its timeless jade black finish. It also has a brushed-aluminum deco bar above the edge-to-edge keyboard that adds a subtle finishing touch.

Inside, it’s powered by an 11th Gen Intel Core i7 processor with 1.30 GHz quad-core with Turbo Boost (up to 3.90 GHz) and 8 MB cache. It’s also supported by Intel Iris X Graphics. You also get 16GB 4266 MHz LPDDR4x and 1TB PCIe NVMe 3.0 x4 M.2 SSD.

The ZenBook Flips S has a 13.3-inch OLED display. It has a 16:9 panel that’s slim-bezel and is also touchscreen. You also have dual Harman-Kardon certified speakers to go along with that display.

Ports-wise it has the following: two (2) Thunderbolt 4 USB-C, One (1) USB 3.2 Type A, One (1) Standard HDMI. More on connectivity, it supports WiFi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0. It promises up to 10 hours of battery life.

ZenBook S

The ZenBook S follows the extremely elegant red copper, jade black aesthetic of the Flip S. It doesn’t bend all the way back but it’s just as capable in every way imaginable.
It comes in two processor options. Either Intel Core i7-1165G7 processor with 2.8 GHz quad-core with Turbo Boost (up to 4.70GHz) and 12MB cache or Intel Core i5-1135G7 processor with 2.4 GHz quad-core with Turbo Boost (up to 4.20GHz) and 8MB cache.
It sports the same 16GB and 1TB RAM and ROM as well as the same set of ports. and connectivity tech. But, the display is a little different.

The ZenBook S has a 13.3-inch 3.3k panel with a 3:2 aspect ratio. It’s PANTONE-validated, has IPS level wide-view tech, and is also TÜV Rheinland-certified for eye care.

ZenBook Flip 13

If you’re hell bent on getting something that, well… bends, there’s the ZenBook Flip 13. It doesn’t quite evoke the same elegance as the other two additions in the series. But, make no mistake, it still looks sleek and you won’t feel bad carrying this around.

Inside, it’s powered by the Intel Core i5-1135G7 processor with 1.00 GHz quad-core with Turbo Boost (up to 3.60 GHz) and 6 MB cache supported by Intel Iris X graphics. It has an 8GB 4266 MHz LPDDR4x and 512GB PCIe NVMe 3.0 x2 M.2 SSD for its RAM and ROM combo.

It shares the same ports as the ZenBook Flip S and ZenBook S. As for the display, it’s also 13.3-inch and is 16:9 just like the Flip S. For connectivity, it also WiFi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0 and promises up to 14 hours of battery life.

More details on the ZenBook Flip 13 here.

Pricing and availability

All three are now available and come with pre-installed Microsoft Home & Student 2019 lifetime license, 2 years Global Warranty, and ASUS Platinum Protection Warranty on the first year of purchase. They’re also part of the ASUS Share 2020 Christmas Promotion.
Pricing are as follows:
  • ASUS ZenBook Flip S — PhP 94,995
  • ZenBook S — PhP 99,995 (Comes bundled with ASUS AC1300 Dual Band High Powered Gigabit Router and ASUS ZenScreen Portable Monitor during Dec 5-19 pre-order period).
  • ZenBook Flip 13 — PhP 64,995

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First Look

ASUS VivoBook S14 Unboxing and First Impressions

Just the right size and power?

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ASUS decks out stylish yet powerful laptops. For instance, the new VivoBook lineup comes with the latest 11th-gen Intel chipset, along with various colors befitting any personality and lifestyle.

Designed with a youthful vibe for a younger audience, the ASUS VivoBook S14 shows-off what it’s made of.

Out of the box, the VivoBook S14 greets you with its sleek, matte-like finish.

Underneath the laptop, you’ll see the usual guide and warranty booklet.

Of course, it comes with a charging cable and adapter, and a set of stickers.

A laptop that’s beautiful in black

Taking the laptop out of the box, the ASUS VivoBook S14 presents itself in a sleek, beautiful Indie Black. This color used to grace laptops from a decade ago but was abandoned in favor of parading colorful variants.

ASUS brings back the color in a classy manner — applying a matte-finish to make it look expensive. In varying angles, the Indie Black can also subtly look like Navy Blue or Dark Gray.

The curves and edges are designed flawlessly, without removing essential ports. I personally find this thoughtful, seeing how most devices we use haven’t transitioned to USB-C. The ASUS VivoBook S14 offers a balanced experience for everyday users — making the laptop a perfect companion for the daily grind.

The laptop opens easily, thanks to its bar-like hinge. Its silver body is unlike any laptops in its bracket, evoking a premium, classy appeal. Touching it feels like your fingertips were gracing a brand new SUV; it’s exciting and invigorating.

Surface you’d love to grace your finger on

The trackpad provides a touch experience decent enough so you won’t need a mouse. Additionally, ASUS reinvents the trackpad by applying a feature evident in its premium lineup — a NumberPad. Tapping the touchpad icon will turn the trackpad into a LED-illuminated numeric pad. Calculator, whomst?

The keyboard is perfect for everyday use. It’s not too big or small — just the right size. Aside from designing the keys smartly, the keyboard has secret functions that can boost the laptop’s performance.

With ASUS’s Intelligent Performance Technology, you can switch between different modes that perfectly suit your usage.

Simply toggle the Fn and F hotkey combination, and you can switch between Whisper Mode for a cool and power-saving operation; Balanced Mode for optimized performance, thermal, and power parameters; and Performance Mode which boosts the laptop’s performance up to 40 percent for heavy workloads.

A vivid, dream-like experience

Unlike the previous VivoBook S14 I’ve tried, this one comes with beefier specifications. It’s equipped with Intel’s 11th-gen Core i7 chipset, assisted by NVIDIA MX50 graphics (Intel Iris XE for other units).

This makes it easier for the laptop to balance battery life and performance, compared to previous models. It’s powered by up to 16GB of RAM with a large capacity PCIe SSD for superfast storage and experience.  You can access anything swiftly.

Moreover, the VivoBook S14 sports a 14-inch NanoEdge display that can handle a 60FPS frame rate. Its thin bezels and Full HD display offer vivid visuals; an exceptional color reproduction augmented by wide viewing angles. It’s truly a treat for content creators and everyday users.

First Impressions

There’s a lot to explore in this new ASUS VivoBook S14, but it remains true to its promise: a stylish, powerful laptop for anyone. It’s lightweight and offers just the right size — in its form, keys, and screen.

It fits in my bag and blends with my personal stuff. It’s truly a match for anyone’s personality and lifestyle. And it has the right power apt for content creation or everyday usage. In essence, it’s the perfect balance most people are looking for.

The ASUS VivoBook S14 comes in a variety of colors. The 11th Gen Intel Core i5 variant comes in Indie Black, Resolute Red, Gaia Green, and Dreamy White. Meanwhile, the 11th Gen Intel Core i7 comes in Indie Black and Dreamy White.

Pricing and availability

The ASUS VivoBook S14 S433 i5 and i7 are now available in ASUS Concept Stores, IT Multi-brand Stores, ASUS E-Store, ASUS Shopee, and ASUS Lazada official stores. They retail for PhP 49,995 and PhP 59,995, respectively.


This feature was produced in collaboration between GadgetMatch and ASUS Philippines.

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Apps

Microsoft could bring Android support to Windows in 2021

Feeling the heat from Apple’s move to ARM

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Microsoft’s Windows 10 operating system is widely used globally and has remained the laptop and PC segment’s undisputed leader. However, Linux, as well as macOS, have gained considerable traction in the last few years. To maintain its edge, Microsoft could bring Android support to Windows soon.

According to a Windows Central report, internal discussions are ongoing over the possibility of bringing Android runtime to Windows 10. Currently, you can install a third-party emulation software like Bluestacks to run Android apps on a Windows device. But the experience is far from perfect and still requires a bit of a learning curve.

Apple has a significant lead in this regard because its move to an ARM-based M1 processor allows it to run iOS apps on macOS seamlessly. This ideally helps in bridging the software gap between two very different devices.

Microsoft has tried to achieve a similar goal with the Universal Windows Platform. But the results are still limited because there are barely any devices with a smaller form factor leveraging the operating system.

More importantly, Microsoft wants to bring Android apps to its Microsoft Store. While there’s no information on how it intends to achieve this, the report does say the release is expected by Fall 2021.

Microsoft no stranger to cross-platform apps

Microsoft has whole-heartedly adopted cross-platform compatibility and has a host of apps on iOS as well as Android. If it’s able to bring Android apps to Windows, it’ll challenge the status quo of Chromebooks, which has long been a pain for the Redmond giant in the affordable segment.

This isn’t the first time a company is trying to incorporate Android within its proprietary operating system. BlackBerry 10 supported Android runtime, and the brand leaned on it to make apps easily available. While the move was too late for BlackBerry, it isn’t the same for Microsoft.

It’s worth noting that the idea is in a very nascent stage right now. We don’t know how Microsoft intends to distribute Android apps or whether it’ll start supporting Google Play Services. Although one thing’s for clear — Microsoft is feeling the heat from Apple.

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