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HTC’s ‘unexpected surprise’ is surprisingly disappointing

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HTC U Ultra announcement

Last week, HTC Taiwan’s Facebook page teased a new phone launch for March 20. The announcement finally came, but it’s actually something we had known about for the past couple of months.

The logical guess was the arrival of a successor to last year’s flagship HTC 10, which was revealed around this time in 2016. Instead, we’re all being treated to a more expensive version of the underwhelming HTC U Ultra that was unveiled last January.

HTC U Ultra Sapphire

The limited edition version adds a sapphire screen to the already premium smartphone. This raises the introductory price from the $750 of the original to — wait for it — $950 after converting from the New Taiwan dollar price of NT$ 28,900. Oh, boy.

Fortunately, the built-in storage has been upped from 64GB to 128GB, but that still isn’t enough to justify the $200 increase. Sure, sapphire displays are a rarity in smartphones, but tests have shown the more ubiquitous Gorilla Glass to be more than sufficient for daily grinds and occasional drops.

This is such a disappointment for long-time HTC fans. The best phone to come from the manufacturer’s factory in recent memory — the Google Pixel — isn’t even branded as an HTC. The U Ultra with its underpowered specs and outrageous price isn’t enough to stand against the flagships we’re seeing this year.

Care to share your strategy with us, HTC?

SEE ALSO: HTC introduces overly expensive U Ultra and smaller U Play

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Samsung Galaxy Note 9 gets a luxury treatment with 1kg pure gold plate

Turn your phone into jewelry

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The Galaxy Note 9 is not a cheap smartphone, especially the 512GB variant that will set you back US$ 1,249. It arrived with a Gorilla Glass 5 body, but what if they covered it in gold instead?

Russia-based luxury smartphone company Caviar decided that the Note 9’s glass body is not flashy enough, so they customized one and added 1 kilogram of pure gold.

Mind you, this is actual gold, and not just a simple paint job. Look at the images below:

The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 Fine Gold Edition is still a typical Galaxy Note 9 inside but with Caviar’s custom gold plate on its back.

It starts at RUB 3,870,000 or almost US$ 60,000! You can buy 60 units of the regular Galaxy Note 9 with this money, and that’s just for the 128GB variant. If you wish to get the one with 512GB of storage and 8GB of memory, you’ll have to add another US$ 1,000.

Check out Caviar’s website if you’re interested.

SEE ALSO: Samsung Galaxy Note 9 hands-on: All about the S Pen?

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Gaming

ASUS ROG Zephyrus S is the slimmest gaming laptop available today

The thinnest gaming laptop of them all

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Alongside the 17-inch ROG Scar II, ASUS has announced a new ROG device that they claim to be world’s slimmest gaming laptop. The ROG Zephyrus from last year was already thin by gaming laptop standards, but the new ROG Zephyrus S is 12 percent thinner with updated specs.

The ROG Zephyrus S (GX531) still has the look and feel of the original Zephyrus but it’s now only 14.95 to 15.75mm thick. Those numbers might not sound as sexy as other super-slim notebooks, but the Zephyrus S has desktop-grade gaming performance with either an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q or GTX 1060 GPU inside its chassis.

Powering the Zephyrus S is the six-core Intel Core i7-8750H processor with up to 24GB DDR4 memory. Storage options are from 256GB to 1TB M.2 NVMe SSDs.

The laptop’s display is a 15.6-inch 1080p panel with a 144Hz refresh rate, 3ms response time, and 100 percent sRGB coverage. It’s definitely not the sharpest laptop display, but it’s one of the fastest for smooth gameplay. The display has a thin-bezel design as well, so the footprint of the laptop is just a bit bigger than your typical 14-inch notebook.

ASUS uses their Active Aerodynamic System (same as with other Zephyrus laptops) which opens a vent at the bottom of the laptop when the lid is lifted, and the vent stretches across the entire back of the body. This improves airflow by 22 percent over a conventional design as per ASUS.

Another distinct trait of the Zephyrus S is the keyboard. It’s still on the front of the device, which helps with cooling, but it might not be everybody’s cup of tea. The keys have 1.2mm of travel, N-key rollover, and RGB lighting via Aura Sync over four zones.

As for I/O, it has two USB-C ports (Gen1 and Gen2), two USB 2.0 ports, one USB 3.0 port, HDMI 2.0 at the back, and a headphone jack.

The ASUS ROG Zephyrus S (GX531) will become available starting September in the US and in October for the UK and Asia. Pricing starts at US$ 2,099 for the GTX 1060 model, while the higher-end GTX 1070 is priced at US$ 2,199.

SEE ALSO: ASUS’ new ROG Strix Scar II is world’s most compact 17-inch gaming laptop

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Gaming

ASUS’ new ROG Strix Scar II is world’s most compact 17-inch gaming laptop

Thanks to its super-slim bezels!

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After going hands on with the ROG Strix Scar II and reviewing the Hero II in full, we wondered what else could be done to improve this second-generation lineup. Well, it looks like ASUS just gave us the answer.

Discreetly launched today, the new 17.3-inch ROG Strix Scar II (model name GL704) is the most compact gaming laptop of its kind, according to ASUS. It’s basically a supersized variant of the already-available 15.6-inch version but with an even badder screen.

It may be worth the wait, because the color-accurate 17.3-inch 1080p display is able to fit into a chassis designed for 15.7-inch panels, effectively providing it a width of less than 400mm thanks to the slim bezels.

The wide keyboard and Aura Sync RGB lighting make a return, along with the fast 144Hz refresh rate and 3ms response time of the display.

In terms of specs, it can go up to an Intel Core i7-8750H processor with 16GB of memory and an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 graphics chip. A 256GB SSD plus 1TB SSHD combo maintains the speed and fluidity of the system.

It’ll be available by the end of September in official ROG stores. Pricing begins at US$ 1,699.

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