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

Huawei MateBook D 15 2021 11th Gen review: 4 months after

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Huawei MateBook D 15

The work from home and online class setup had us all adjusting to this new normal. You’ll see a lot of inquiries on Facebook groups about LED ring lights, microphones and midrange laptop recommendations. Huawei’s MateBook D series is among the ones you’ll see that has gotten a lot of popularity for this purpose.

It makes perfect sense, since back when I first reviewed the Huawei MateBook D 15 2021 11th Gen, I had a lot of good things to say about it. After four months under regular use, there are quite a few more that I came to realize about this device that I think you guys might find interesting.

It can get things done

A quick refresher on its specs, the D 15 2021 we have with us has an 11th gen Core i5 with the Intel Iris Xe graphics, 16GB DDR4 RAM and 512GB of SSD storage. 

It’s no question, if you’re just going to use this for online classes or regular zoom meetings, the D 15 probably won’t even break a sweat. However, I consider my power requirements to be somewhat on the heavy side for my photo and video editing needs.

What surprised me was I didn’t find myself having to go back to my main editing workstation and have actually done more work on the D 15 than I expected. It may not be as fast, but it also wasn’t drastically slower.

Plus the fact that this has a more accurate display with its 100 percent sRGB color gamut, the 15.6-inch LED display is perfect for my daily Photoshop use.

Portability also applies at home

Huawei MateBook D 15

Working from home for a long time and looking at the same thing over and over, not having to be able to go to places, had many of us bored and unmotivated. I personally always had that urge to look for another spot just for the change of scenery.

Thankfully, weighing only 1.56kg, it gave me the flexibility for me to place it in different places. I didn’t worry that the surface wouldn’t be able to handle it.

Battery life

The capability to place the D 15 on different places wouldn’t really matter if you’re still stuck near an outlet because you’re constantly required to plug it in. Fortunately, the 42Wh battery of the D 15 keeps us away from the charger for around nine to ten hours before needing to plug it back in.

Huawei addresses issues and gives regular updates

Huawei MateBook D 15

During its time with me, the D 15 had quite a few driver and software updates. Along with one of the updates came a fix for an issue I had with its fingerprint scanner where it frequently had trouble recognizing my fingerprint. While it shouldn’t have had that issue to begin with, the regular updates are an indication that users aren’t abandoned and issues are in fact being addressed on Huawei’s end.

I also learned from Huawei’s website that the MateBook series has a Windows 11 upgrade rollout plan. That’s something nice to look forward to.

Undesirable camera angle

Huawei MateBook D 15

Sadly, not everything is praise worthy on the D 15. The hidden web camera, while innovative, came at the cost of an awful camera angle. Since it is placed on the keyboard, it is also pointed upwards.

Using it, you’ll mostly see an unflattering image of yourself often emphasizing the size of your nostrils.But if you decide that you’d want to use a laptop raiser for a more comfortable viewing angle, the camera won’t be pointed downwards. That’d make it barely usable.

A generous availability of ports

Huawei MateBook D 15

Being the boxing fan that I am, the recent Pacquiao fight had me subscribing for a pay-per-view service. The full sized HDMI port on the D 15 was heaven sent. During the fight as I was able to output the fight on our dated TV set. It let us to enjoy the stream on a bigger screen.

The availability of USB ports on both sides also let us to choose where certain devices can be plugged. We didn’t worry about hitting our external drives with our mouse or fitting multiple USB devices side by side.

Multi-Screen Collaboration

I did not find myself using this feature as much. However, having this capability eliminated the need for me to grab a USB cable to transfer files from my phone. A quick tap of my phone and I was ready to transfer photos I recently. It’s great for some quick editing before posting on Instagram. 

Is this still your GadgetMatch?

Huawei MateBook D 15

When I think of the D 15, freedom is the word that comes to mind. It gives so much freedom to work anywhere with its portability and battery life. You get freedom to do what you wish with it with its capable hardware. There’s also freedom from wires with the Multi-Screen Collaboration. And even freedom to plug various devices with its great selection of ports.

It’s a no fuss kind of laptop that just gets things done. Its sheer simplicity is what makes it a great device.

If you’re interested in getting the Huawei MateBook D 15 2021 11th Gen with 16GB RAM and 512GB SSD, you can now get it for PhP 48,999.00.

 

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Laptops

MediaTek launches Kompanio 900T for notebooks, tablets

Devices are coming soon

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Most users are familiar with MediaTek’s smartphone chips. However, much like other chipmakers, the company also has a respectable tablet and notebook processor lineup. Now, MediaTek is expanding this lineup with the new Kompanio 900T series.

Announced last week, the Kompanio 900T powers the industry’s more affordable devices. The chipset complements the company’s recently launched Kompanio 1300T, which graces premium tablets across the market.

The Kompanio 900T is a 6nm chipset with an octa-core architecture. It packs in two Arm Cortex-A78 premium cores with six Arm Cortex-A55 smaller ones. Besides the eight cores, the chipset also comes with an Arm Mali-G68 GPU and MediaTek’s AI processor.

The chipset can support up to 2K resolution and 120Hz refresh rates. It can also handle up to LPDDR5 RAM and UFS 3.1 internal storage. The chipset’s AI processor can help put out better images with the display. It can enhance image quality such as from standard quality to HD.

As with a lot of chipsets today, the Kompanio 900T has a 5G modem that covers sub-6GHz networks. 5G UltraSave balances 5G support with battery life. In terms of connectivity, the chipset can also support 2×2 MIMO Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.2.

MediaTek has not listed devices which will come with the chipset. However, they do promise that supported devices are coming out soon including Chromebooks.

SEE ALSO: MediaTek announces Dimensity 920 and 810

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Laptops

Lenovo’s new IdeaPad among the first to ship with Windows 11

Also the world’s lightest OLED laptop

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The next generation of PCs are coming.  Soon, a lot of PCs all over the world will start receiving the anticipated Windows 11 updates, refreshing the operating system for a wide user base. Of course, besides rolling out updates for existing PCs, newer PCs will ship out with the update already in tow. Lenovo is already a part of that esteemed first wave with two new IdeaPad laptops for you.

IdeaPad Slim 7 Carbon

Touted as the world’s lightest OLED laptop, the 14-inch IdeaPad Slim 7 Carbon weighs only 1.1kg. The laptop sports the AMD Ryzen 7 5800U octa-core processor and AMD Radeon Graphics. For more juice, users can also opt for a variant with NVIDIA GeForce MX450.

Inside, the laptop can pack up to 16GB of LPDDR4x of RAM and up to 1TB of PCIe M.2 SSD internal storage. It comes with 61WHrs of battery compatible with dual charging for rapid juicing. It can reportedly offer 14.5 hours of battery life on a single charge.

As mentioned above, the IdeaPad Slim 7 Carbon will come installed with Windows 11 out of the box. Lenovo Smart Assist supplements built-in Alexa and offers more convenience features for users. It will be available starting in October for US$ 1289.99.

IdeaPad Slim 7 Pro

While the previous laptop offers a lightweight for factor, the IdeaPad Slim 7 Pro packs in a lot of performance-heavy features inside. It touts up to an AMD Ryzen 7 5800H processor and up to an NVIDA GeForce RTX 3050 GPU.

It packs in up to 16GB DDR4 of RAM and up to 1TB PCIe M.2 SSD of internal storage. The laptop also has a powerful 75WHr battery with Rapid Charge Boost. The 16-inch laptop will ship in October for US$ 1,449. It is available in either Cloud Grey or Storm Grey.

Duet 5 Chromebook

Finally, the IdeaPad Duet 5 Chromebook can detach from its keyboard, offering the same Lenovo experience whether on-the-go or stationary. The 13.3-inch notebook sports the Snapdragon 7c Gen 2, up to 8GB LPDDR4x of RAM, and up to 256GB eMMC SSD of storage. It packs in 15 hours of life with its 42WHr battery.

The 2-in-1 device will come in Storm Grey or Abyss Blue. It will ship in October and will start at US$ 429.99.

SEE ALSO: Lenovo’s ThinkVision P27u-20 offers more than just a pretty monitor

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