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

Black Shark 2 launches with a pressure-sensitive screen

It sports 12GB of RAM!

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Gaming smartphones occupy a strange position in the market. When the category started, it consisted mostly of devices with high-end hardware. The gaming aspect was just a nice addition supplemented by a few gaming-centric features. Sadly, the first gaming smartphones funneled into a premium niche.

Years after, the gaming smartphone evolved into a more versatile device. The category now sports several premium features. For example, Xiaomi has recently launched the Black Shark 2, a gaming smartphone that puts the premium on gaming.

The Black Shark 2 touts a Samsung-sourced 6.39-inch AMOLED screen, pumping out images at 2340 x 1080 resolution. Additionally, the display’s brightness goes up to 430 nits. Latency has also been reduced to 43.5ms. It has motion interpolation, optimizing the display for gaming purposes.

The screen also comes with new pressure-sensitive features. Users can map separate button functionalities for both left and right flanks, like how a game controller works. Both buttons trigger with additional pressure. It will also come with an under-screen fingerprint sensor.

Under the hood, the Black Shark 2 boasts a Snapdragon 855 chipset, Adreno 640 GPU, up to 12GB of RAM, and up to 256GB of internal storage. Liquid Cooling 3.0 will keep the phone in workable temperatures even during heavy gameplay sessions.

For photography, the smartphone carries a dual 48-megapixel + 12-megapixel AI rear camera combination and a 20-megapixel f/2.0 front-facing shooter. Speaking of front-facing, it also has two front-facing speakers, preventing any blockages during gameplay.

Complementing this heavy machinery, the Black Shark 2 will use a huge 4000mAh battery, with 27W fast charging capabilities.

The Black Shark 2 is already available in China. A lighter 6GB+128GB variant retails for CNY 3,200 (US$ 475). Meanwhile, the stronger 12GB+256GB variant retails for CNY 4,200 (US$ 625). It comes in either Shadow Black or Frozen Silver.

SEE ALSO: Xiaomi Black Shark 2 shows up in quick hands-on video

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Ten university students arrested for playing PUBG in India

Because it’s too violent and distracting

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Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.

That’s something ten university students didn’t adhere to when playing PUBG on their mobile phones, which led to their arrests. The incident happened last Wednesday in the state of Gujarat in India, where this specific game is banned.

The report by Channel News Asia says that they were released on bail with a warning shortly after. According to the account of one officer, the students were so “engrossed in playing” that they didn’t notice the police walking toward them.

PUBG was banned from being played a week ago after several authorities, as well as parents and educators, felt the game is too violent and distracting for the youth. A local minister went as far as calling it a “demon in every house.”

As of now, Gujarat is the only state that has outright banned the game in fear of it harming the development of children. Although similar titles like Fortnite and Apex Legends have been cited as being equally detrimental, only PUBG is part of the current ban.

However, to PUBG‘s credit (or rather discredit in this instance), it’s been around longer as a battle royale-style game and has been free to download on mobile devices since its launch.

There’s no word yet if other Indian states will follow suit. Outside of India, PUBG is still experiencing worldwide attention as part of several esports tournaments such as the Predator League.

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Gaming

New avenues open for aspiring esports athletes

Brands are going all in!

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Competitive gaming has been around for quite a while now and in the Philippines, aspiring to be a professional gamer might not be too far fetched of a dream anymore.

The Nationals

Inspired by the PBA or Philippine Basketball Association, brands have come to together to form The Nationals — the first franchise-based esports league in Southeast Asia. The inaugural season will feature five teams and three games.

Here are the five teams:

  1. Bren Epro
  2. HF Emperors
  3. Cignal Ultra Warriors
  4. PLDT-Smart Omega
  5. Suha-XCTN Punisher

These five teams will compete in three games on three major platforms: Mobile Legends: Bang Bang on mobile, Dota 2 on PC, and Tekken 7 on PS4. A sixth team — STI — will join the league on June 2018 after the Dota 2 competitions.

Sizzle reel of fans hyped for The Nationals

Each game will have two conferences. The two conferences will comprise a double round-robin group stage and single-elimination playoffs. Winners of the two conference will then face off later on for the season finale.

The Nationals will be run like any other professional sports league. Commissioner Ren Vitug is hopeful the league will provide a platform where talent can be nurtured.

A tested league model in the Philippines

The franchise-based approach might be alien to international observers whose participants comprise of either clubs or city-based teams. However, it’s a tried and tested formula in the Philippines.

The PBA, which was founded in 1975 and is the longest-running professional basketball league in Asia, is also franchise-based and has been the model for other sports leagues in the country.

While that league is experiencing some issues in gate attendance, it is still running thanks in large part to the financial backing of its member franchises. It stands to reason that this league model might prove to be successful in the Philippines.

The Esports Center

Elsewhere, major Philippine telecommunications company Globe has launched The Esports Center or ESC. It’s a pop-up that will run from March 9 to 24 at Play Nation in UP Town Center, Quezon City. Globe says the ESC hopes to provide a venue where the entire esports community can come together.

The ESC also welcomes those who are into gaming and want to break into the esports industry but are not exactly sure where to start. Globe SVP and Head for Content Business Nikko Acosta says the ESC hopes to serve as the “venue to upgrade [the gamers’] knowledge and gauge their skill levels with others through peer learning.”

Present during the launch was Team Liyab — Globe’s own esports team which was built in partnership with professional gaming organization Mineski.

Team Liyab poses with shoutcaster Rikucasts

Other than mobile and PC arenas, the ESC will also have a place called The Studio. Here, those who are more interested in becoming streamers instead of esports athletes will have a place and the tools to learn more about the craft.

Brand support key in esports growth

Esports has seen a major rise in recent years and brands in the Philippines are going all in. The proclamation of overall support which include not only the athletes’ training and finances but also their emotional, mental, and physical well-being all sound very promising.

All of these are still in the infancy stages, but the prospect for growth and the continued support by brands and fans alike could push the industry to heights once reserved only for traditional athletes. If this continues, it might not be long before we’re having debates about who the G.O.A.T. esports athlete is.

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