Gaming

HP Envy x360 Review: Gaming power in a small package

It gets pretty hot and loud, though

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Gaming laptops are known to be heavy and bulky. It’s also a struggle to bring one outside because of the relatively short battery life. So, are there any alternatives? Well, this new notebook from HP will not replace gaming notebook, but it’s a portable device that’s more powerful that its competitors.

The Envy x360 is a 13-inch convertible powered by AMD’s latest Ryzen processors. Is it any good? Does it live up to the promise? Let’s find out.


This notebook has a 13.3-inch Full HD display

With slim side bezels, it’s more compact than most 13-inch laptops

It’s got a well-designed 360-degree hinge…

There’s a striking pattern to complement it

… that lets it convert into a tablet

It supports both pen and touch input

The webcam is paired with an IR scanner

For facial recognition using Windows Hello

On its left are a full-size USB 3.1 and combo audio jack

The power key, microSD card reader, and vents are also on this side

Another USB 3.1 plus a versatile USB-C are on the right

There’s also the charging port and volume rocker

The speakers occupy the top area of the keyboard

There are two more speakers at the bottom

The keyboard is surprisingly good despite its size

Well-spaced with good amount of travel

The touchpad is pretty good, too!

Gestures are difficult at times, though

Premium at all angles

For those who are unfamiliar, the Envy series of HP notebooks sits between the high-end Spectre series and the mainstream Pavilion line. This year’s Envy x360 inherited the design cues and characteristics of the Spectre line of PCs without the high price tag. That being said, this notebook looks and feels premium like a true expensive device. The whole body is made of aluminum with a matte finish.

The only available color option is this Dark Ash Silver, so there’s really no other choice for those who prefer a lighter finish. Don’t mistake it for being dull and boring though, because the subtle pattern near the hinge is quite a head turner. Also, the new minimalist HP logo is a conversation starter.

Aside from being a gorgeous-looking device, the Envy x360 is an ultra-portable notebook. Its 13-inch profile is significantly smaller than other similarly sized notebooks in the market due to its micro-edge bezels. Let’s not forget it’s using Gorilla Glass, too.

With its smaller body is a compact keyboard that is surprisingly great. Prior to the Envy x360, I was using the Lenovo C930, which is not exactly a small laptop. I loved the spacious keyboard on the Lenovo (as always), although HP is able to cram a well-spaced layout and it didn’t take long before I adjusted to it.

I can’t say the same for touchpad, though. It’s responsive, but it uses a third-party Synaptics driver as opposed to the native Windows Precision. Multi-touch gestures are present, but aren’t as precise.

Very capable considering its size

Usually, laptops with dedicated graphics have to be thicker and heavier, but not this one. The interesting feature of the latest version of the 13-inch Envy x360 is its processor: HP shifted from Intel to AMD.

My unit is powered by a Ryzen 7 2700U processor with Radeon RX Vega 10 graphics. Compared to other Intel-powered notebooks that only have integrated graphics, the Envy x360 is more adept in gaming and editing.

With an ample 8GB of memory and a speedy 256GB SSD for storage, I’d say the configuration is balanced — especially for its size. Unfortunately though, the memory is not upgradable, but the storage is.

As a consumer notebook, the Envy x360 is pre-loaded with Windows 10 Home. It’s bloated with a few HP apps and trial software that are just wasting storage space. It’s a good thing everything runs smoothly out of the box. When I installed the latest October 2018 update of Windows 10 though, it experienced some hiccups. AMD is not known to push the latest drivers on time, so a future update should patch the minor performance issues.

When it comes to gaming, the Ryzen 7 chipset shines. Usually, laptops this size can only run PC games on low settings but thanks to the prowess of the Radeon RX Vega 10 unit, I was able to play CS:GO well on high settings. Fortnite is nicely playable when you turn down the resolution, as well. My favorite, Cities Skylines, is also enjoyable on medium settings despite the occasional frame drops.

Battery life could be better

HP claims 11 hours of battery life based on its tests, which sounds impressive but real-life usage is nowhere near that number.

My usage of the Envy x360 varies, but the average battery life I get is around five hours. This includes consistent Wi-Fi connectivity, web browsing (using both Chrome and Edge), and a couple of Modern Family episodes on Netflix. When I put my gamer’s hat on, I only get two and a half hours on a single charge.

When it comes to charging, the included 45W power brick fills up the notebook to full in two hours. What’s great about the Envy x360 is it can also be charged through the USB-C port. Any 40W and above Power Delivery charger should work fine.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

If you want a powerful notebook without the high price of the more popular Intel processors, the Envy x360 with AMD’s Ryzen 7 is a viable option.

For PhP 63,990 or roughly US$ 1,215, you can have a premium machine that has more than enough computing power for everyday chores. It’s also a portable laptop than can run games on good quality settings, render videos and/or photos faster, and entertain on the go.

There’s an even cheaper variant running Ryzen 5 for PhP 56,990 or US$ 1,080. It’s slightly less powerful when it comes to gaming, but it pretty much offers similar overall performance.

AMD processors do have their issues, but those can be fixed by a patch. Hopefully, AMD and HP push regular updates to keep the machine compatible with the latest games and applications.

SEE ALSO: Lenovo Yoga C930 Review: It could have been the best

Gaming

ROG Phone II Hands-on

Console replacement?

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Is there a place for gaming phones in 2019? ASUS believes so. In fact they’re so bullish about the mobile gaming industry that they’re giving their gaming phone an update!

For 10% off your first Squarespace website or domain, visit https://squarespace.com/gadgetmatch and use my coupon code: gadgetmatch


Special thanks to The Unlockr David Cogen for helping create this video.

If you are having trouble watching this video, click here.

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Gaming

ASUS ROG Phone II Hands-On: The ultimate in mobile gaming

With new and improved accessories too

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Is there a place for gaming phones in 2019? ASUS believes so. In fact they’re so bullish about the mobile gaming industry that they’re giving their gaming phone an update. This is our ROG Phone II hands-on.

At first glance, it’s not very different from last year’s model and that’s intentional. Their focus hasn’t been to rework the wheel but to make the original even better.


The phone is now taller, giving it that now popular 19.5: 9 aspect ratio. It’s built tough with a Gorilla Glass 6 display and is intentionally flashy with RGB lighting baked into the logo on its back with ROG’s trademark styling.

Best display on a smartphone today

The flat all screen display is edge-to-edge except for its top and bottom. ASUS said this is a design decision so that gripping the phone doesn’t get in the way of gameplay.

It also leaves room for the dual front firing speakers and a selfie camera. It’s strategically placed so game streamers can play and stream at the same time.

The panel itself is impressive possibly the best we’ve seen on a smartphone today. It’s the world’s first 120Hz AMOLED display on a smartphone with a super fast one millisecond response time.

It not only gives you buttery smooth transitions, but combined with ultra low touch latency, it’s supposedly also going to give you an advantage when pulling the trigger in a head-to-head shooting game. This HDR display is glorious. Colors pop and images are rich and vibrant. It’s my new favorite display and is perfect whether you’re watching videos or playing games.

Baked into the display is a fingerprint scanner which, based on our initial tests, is quick and snappy.

Performance fit for the most competitive gamers

When it launches, the ROG Phone II will also be one of the most powerful smartphones in the market today. Topping early benchmark tests versus other flagships including the Galaxy S10+ from Samsung and the OnePlus 7 Pro.

It’s powered by an updated version of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855 — the 855 Plus which is even faster. Coupled with an updated Adreno 640, it’s promising a 15 percent GPU performance.

A completely souped up model will have 12GB of RAM and 512GB of storage. The phone promises to handle any power intensive game you throw at it with not only fast frame rates but also a commitment to sustained performance across long gaming sessions.

To keep its internals running at optimal condition the phone offers three steps of cooling: First with a 3D Vapor Chamber, second with a built-in heat sink and vents on its back cover, and third via an attachment called the Aero Active Cooler II. With all of these working together, ASUS promises unbeatable performance.

A battery that can handle all that power

So what about battery life? Surely all of this performance power will take a toll on battery life? Nope. The ROG Phone 2 will come with a massive 6000mAh battery. That’s 2000mAh more than most flagships these days.

ASUS is promising 7.1 hours of battery life when playing something like PUBG. What excites me the most is that non-gamers could potentially get two days of more than average use.

The phone also comes with fast charging support built in. A full charge will take one hour and 21 minutes.

More love for gamers

There is much more gamers will love about the new ROG Phone II. ASUS kept the Dual USB-C ports — one on the bottom of the phone and one on its side. This means you can charge the device and continue playing any which way you like.

I also particularly like the improved air triggers that let you control your game by tapping either top side of your phone in landscape mode. Along with an improved vibration motor, the phone feels more like a game controller than ever before.

It’s clear that this isn’t your average phone. It’s one built specifically for gamers. But having said all that ASUS says it’s not just the best gaming phone. It’s a great flagship too!

To ensure the experience is top notch. They gave the ROG Phone II the same impressive camera that’s on the Zenfone 6. Except for its flipping mechanism of course.

A 48MP main camera and a 13MP ultra wide secondary camera. Take a look at some sample photos.

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On the front of the phone is a 24MP selfie camera. Here are some selfie samples.

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The ROG Phone Ecosystem

Depending on how you like to play, ASUS attempted to cater to every game style with a range of accessories made specifically for the ROG Phone II.

The new Kunai gamepad comes with controllers that snap on to a bumper reminiscent of the Nintendo Switch. You can also attach the controllers to the Kunai Holder and use them as you would a gamepad.

The Twin View Dock from last year has also been updated making it lighter and easier to use. It can also be used in conjunction with the GamePad.

Other accessories include the Aero Active Cooler II, Aero Case, and the Lighting Armor Case. Older accessories like the desktop dock, Pro Dock, and the WiGig Display Dock Plus also support this new model.

Is the ROG Phone II your GadgetMatch?

Let me start by saying this phone isn’t for everyone. From the way it looks, to some of its standout feature, these are things that appeal to a very special kind of user.

If you’re the type who is serious about mobile gaming then it definitely is going to be a good investment. If you’re not a gamer but care about things like a great display and ultra long battery life this might be a phone worth considering also.

Representatives from ASUS tell me that once the phone rolls out globally this September there will also be an option to change its interface to the stock-like ZenUI for a more everyday smartphone feel. That’s good news too.

The ROG Phone II launches in China this week. The Global Version is coming first week of September – our review video will drop around the same time.

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Nintendo quietly updates the original Switch with a beefier battery

Will sell for the same price

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Last week, Nintendo announced the Nintendo Switch Lite. Compared to the original Switch, the upcoming Lite version will focus on handheld gaming. It will feature a smaller screen and non-detachable Joy-Con controllers. Sacrificing its home console capabilities, the Switch Lite will hopefully update Nintendo’s on-the-go gaming lineup.

Naturally, the Switch Lite leaves us with a burning question: what will happen to the original Switch? With a docking mode, the original Switch is still Nintendo’s number one choice for a home console. However, the Lite’s hype is leaving the original trailing in the dust. Thankfully, Nintendo is quietly launching an updated version of the beloved original.


In a few weeks, the gaming company will out a revised Switch. The new Switch will come with a beefier battery, reportedly packing around two more hours of battery life. The new battery will last between 4.5 to 9 hours, depending on the game. (For reference, the original battery plays between 2.5 to 6.5 hours.) According to tests, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild can play for up to 5.5 hours on a full battery — up from a paltry three hours.

Much like the Switch Lite, the updated Switch is a huge boost for handheld gaming. Gamers can take their consoles out for longer periods of time. Of course, the update can still feature new hardware on launch. Besides a bigger battery, Nintendo can effectively increase battery life with more efficient chipsets and storage options.

All in all, the new Switch is still a mystery before its launch date. One thing’s for sure: it’s not a completely new Switch. This isn’t a Switch Pro. On launch, the new Switch will cost the same — US$ 300 — as the old Switch.

Besides the revised Switch, Nintendo is also launching the Switch Lite later this year. Also, the company is reportedly working on a gamier Switch Pro for the future. It’s a great time to buy into the Switch ecosystem.

SEE ALSO: Nintendo reveals upcoming games for the Switch

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