Laptops

Huawei MateBook X Pro review: The MacBook of Windows

2018’s surprise hit

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As a long-time Windows user, I have to admit, I’ve always dreamed of having a Windows version of Apple’s MacBook. The Pro model in particular is an awesome fusion of sturdy hardware and precise software. Dell’s XPS line was often the best Windows had to offer, but they never quite hit every checkbox.

Surprise, surprise: Huawei came up with the closest thing to the MacBook of Windows yet. Yes, Huawei makes laptops; they don’t just specialize in smartphones and sick burns.

It’s called the MateBook X Pro, and it’s the successor to 2017’s MateBook X, which didn’t experience much fanfare outside of China. There was also a regular MateBook in 2016, but it was more of a Surface Pro competitor than a full-fledged notebook.

The MateBook X Pro has been available in select regions for a while now, garnering positive reviews and calls from fans to bring it to their shores. But why is it so coveted? Let me give you the reasons why, as well as some deeper-rooted cons.

Nothing beats its display

There’s so much to love about the MateBook X Pro, but I’m gonna go with the display as its best feature. The 13.9-inch 3K (3000 x 2000 pixels) touchscreen is enough to wow anyone who sees it. Even better: It’s got the highest screen-to-body ratio of any laptop today at 91 percent.

This is as bezel-less as it gets, and there’s no notch to interfere with the sleek design. Where does the webcam go then? Well…

Huawei picked the most unusual webcam location

If you’ve watched our hands-on video, you’d already know what to expect. The webcam pops up with the press of a button between the F6 and F7 keys. It’s innovative and totally bonkers. Check it out:

But as cool as it is — and trust me, I’ve wowed lots of people with this — I still would’ve preferred a top-mounted placement. I’d add a couple of millimeters on the top bezel to house a proper camera.

A login method I can get behind

Perhaps the biggest reason why I’m not a fan of the pop-up camera is that I can’t log in with my face the moment the laptop enters the lockscreen. It’s something I’ve enjoyed on every Windows Hello-enabled notebook I’ve used up until now, mainly those from ASUS and Lenovo.

To remedy that, Huawei integrated a fast fingerprint reader into the power button. If you leave your finger on the button a second longer when turning on the PC, it’ll bring you straight to the desktop — such a time-saver!

Keyboard and trackpad are top-notch

As someone who needs to write and edit articles on a daily basis, I consider the reliability of the keyboard and trackpad as priorities in a computer. Fortunately for me, this MateBook ticks both boxes with flying colors.

While not MacBook Pro levels of quality, the keyboard has just the right amount of travel and it’s so well-spaced — plus, there’s backlighting for when I work in the dark. The trackpad is massive for Windows laptop standards, and its use of Microsoft’s precision touchpad drivers means gesture control and navigation are easy peasy.

Speaker you wouldn’t expect from an Ultrabook

One of the first things normally given up when going for a slim form factor is the speaker setup. That’s not the case with the MateBook X Pro, which has some of the loudest units I’ve ever heard on an Ultrabook.

There are four in total, all Dolby Atmos-certified, making them loud and crisp. Combined with the immersive display, I’ve turned this into my go-to binge-watching machine.

No port problems here

A gripe of mine with newer laptops is the over-reliance on USB-C as the one, true port. Although I agree it’s the present and future of wired connectivity, I still want my USB-A on board.

That’s exactly the case with this notebook: It has two USB-C ports — one that allows charging and the other with Thunderbolt 3 support for plugging in an external GPU or monitor — and a full-sized USB-A for old flash drives and printers. It’s the best of both worlds, and there’s even a 3.5mm audio port so you won’t have to rely on the older Bluetooth 4.1 standard this MateBook uses for wireless headphones.

Performance is a strong point

At this point, there has to be some compromise, right? If you’re thinking that’s on the raw performance, you’d be absolutely wrong. My unit comes with Intel’s 8th-gen Core i7-8550U chipset, 16GB of memory, 512GB of SSD storage, and lo and behold, an NVIDIA GeForce MX150 graphics chip.

It’s amazing how Huawei was able to cram all this power into the 1.33kg, 14.6mm-slim chassis. Admittedly, it does get quick hot under heavy load from games such as Fortnite and Overwatch, but not enough for me to turn the machine off. For everything else, such as photo and video editing, this configuration blazes through apps.

And battery life is surprisingly great

Again, Huawei somehow managed to avoid any glaring weakness in its best laptop to date. Yes, the MateBook X Pro has a 57.4Wh battery which I’m happy to report is designed to last.

If I avoid the overheating mentioned earlier while off the plug, I can get over seven hours of straight usage. It helps that this notebook charges quickly with its compact 65W adapter, which can also be used to top up my smartphones, so I need to bring only one charger on trips.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

Since I began using the MateBook X Pro, I’ve found it tough finding faults, in the same way most Mac users feel about their laptops. There are minor hiccups here and there, but nothing deal breaking enough to avoid a purchase.

On that note, actually buying one may be the biggest hurdle. Even though it’s becoming increasingly easier to find through online retailers in different regions, it’s still nowhere near as easy to purchase as an Acer, HP, or even a MacBook.

It’s a shame, since more support for this product would mean a successor, though I think Huawei will produce one either way. Besides a specs bump and improved location for the webcam, I have nothing else on my wish list for next year’s MateBook X Pro Max Plus — or whatever it’s gonna be called.

Deals

Acer and Realme’s promo gives you the perfect match this Christmas

Buy a laptop, get a smartphone for free!

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It’s less than 50 days to go before Christmas. By now most people are already thinking of what gifts to buy for themselves and their loved ones. With Acer’s partnership with Realme, you’re in for a treat.

When you buy an Acer laptop you can get a free Realme C2 2020 (2 / 32GB) worth PhP 4,990. Meanwhile, buying a Predator laptop entitles you to a free Realme 5 (3 / 64GB) worth PhP 7,990.

All Core i5 and i7 variants of Acer and Predator laptops are eligible for the free Realme smartphones. AMD-based laptops are included too, so this is a promo that shouldn’t be missed.

To get the freebie, customers will have to register their newly purchased laptops on warranty.acer.com.ph within two weeks of purchase. All laptop purchases come with an electronic voucher that they need to present to redeem their Realme smartphones. Redemption of the smartphones is valid within 7 days after purchase.

Promo runs from November 15 until December 31. All laptops purchased from authorized Acer dealers nationwide are eligible for the promo. To know more about the promo, visit Acer’s website.

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Laptops

ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo: A multitasker’s dream

Is the expensive price tag worth it?

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I used to play MMORPGs while doing my schoolwork. Back then, I dreamed about working on a dual-monitor set up so I can multitask. Of course, my younger self won’t be able to afford a customized set up let alone convince his parents to buy one for him.

It was always a dream, given that my attention span is as short as a goldfish; moving from one task to another, wanting to do a lot of things all at once. Unexpectedly, my childhood dream reemerged when I got my hands on the ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo.

Perfect Dual Display

The ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo was first unveiled in Taipei during Computex 2019, enthralling everyone with a stunning, dual touchscreen display. Everyone dubbed it “The Laptop of Tomorrow” since its futuristic design could be a glimpse of how laptops might look like in the near future.

The ZenBook Pro Duo prides itself with a 4K OLED touchscreen 15.6″ main display. Yes, ASUS combined a 4K clarity and OLED display to show-off how premium this laptop is. Watching any form of entertainment is a visual treat in its humongous, stunning screen. You’ll surely build a mini theater at the comforts of your own home.

Additionally, this laptop boasts its crown jewel — the ScreenPad Plus. It’s a 4K secondary touchscreen display using an IPS LCD panel. Most people were amazed when they saw me working on a dual-display laptop. Everyone was curious and mesmerized but little did they know, it’s not that glamorous. Due to its flat placement, you have to look down to see what’s going on. Honestly, it’s impossible to look and read properly without straining your nape.

On top of the problem with its viewing angle, its aspect ratio isn’t perfect. You need to open a minimum of two apps and a maximum of three to fit the screen properly. The software used in ScreenPad Plus needs a lot of improvement.

Looking at the bright side, the ScreenPad Plus is a great way to multitask. I used to open Slack to keep in touch with my colleagues while I work remotely and play either Spotify or Netflix as background noise. In some occasions, creative individuals can use the ScreenPad Plus as an extension of their workspace while working on an artwork.

One of my favorite artists, Lei Melendres, used the secondary screen to watch YouTube videos while viewing his reference photos as a drawing guide. There’s an add-on stylus, too, in case you really love drawing on your screen.

Power that’s more than what you need

The ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo has so much raw power, packed with impressive specs dedicated for professionals. It runs on Intel’s best Core i9-9980HK coupled with a 32GB RAM and 1TB SSD. Additionally, it’s powered by an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 GPU. Just looking at its specs can overwhelm an everyday user.

However, if you use powerful apps like Adobe, Corel, Lumion, and SketchUp, this laptop can support you in your creative pursuits. It can handle editing photos and videos, working on heavy illustrations, animations, and architectural renders.

Play games, but moderately

When it comes to performance, you can’t really say anything bad about ASUS. They really outdid themselves with this chunky, premium laptop. Designed with every power user in mind, the ZenBook Pro Duo can be enjoyed not just by content creators and professionals, but also by gamers.

I have to tell you right from the start: The ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo isn’t a gaming machine for all your gaming dreams. It has a problem with cooling, despite its ErgoLift design and Cool-Air express system with five heat pipes for proper venting.

While I have no qualms playing and running multiple apps since, I’m afraid the heat could damage the sensitive components of the laptop. A lot of times, I accidentally break my laptops because of overheating.

Nonetheless, it’s still powerful enough to run Dota 2 and other graphics-intensive games but only do so for a short time. I highly suggest you play on gaming machines if that’s your jam. If you plan on streaming while playing, it has a webcam properly placed on its top bezel but as with any built-in webcams I’ve tried, it’s best to use an external camera to use for better results.

It’s not a laptop

The ZenBook Pro Duo already looks great at first glance, even more so when you test its power and performance. However, only after using it for some time you’ll see how it’s not really a laptop. It’s thick and chunky, too heavy to carry around — definitely not fit for portability.

It has poor battery life, which runs for two-to-three hours of browsing, social media, and watching videos. If you’re a power user, you need to have this laptop stationed in a spot near a power outlet. It felt like I was using a mobile PC than a laptop.

Comfort isn’t one of its strong points

ZenBooks are known for their ErgoLift design. It tilts the laptop to a comfortable typing position, which also improves its cooling and audio performance. This design is truly enjoyable, except for the ZenBook Pro Duo.

Due to the ScreenPad Plus taking a lot of space, the keyboard was pushed down to the edge leaving no room for your palms to rest. To compensate, the laptop comes with an add-on wrist rest, which is another thing to bring unless you decide to put the laptop in a dedicated work station. But even if you have the added palm rest, its keyboard is too spongey to type on.

Additionally, the trackpad was pushed to the lower right side. It’s practically useless, as it’s too small for you to use on a dual-screen laptop. It also doubles as a calculator and a number pad, which you’ll barely need.

There are a lot of improvements needed for the ZenBook Pro Duo’s functions and ergonomics. Seeing this as a first-gen product, it’s forgivable for ASUS since the laptop will only get better in the coming years.

Design and Details

The ZenBook Pro Duo is beautifully designed. It comes in a futuristic and elegant color called Celestial Blue, decorated with its iconic Zen-inspired aluminum finish, and diamond-cut edges that add subtle sophistication. Who wouldn’t be captivated by this laptop?

It feels premium in every touch. Whenever you glide your fingers, there’s this awestruck feeling of touching a glimpse of the future. To add more to its elegance, ASUS engineered Harman Kardon speakers providing decent sound quality.

But the classiness has its shortcomings, too. For a chunky and premium laptop made for creative professionals, it doesn’t have an SD card slot and contains a few ports.

It has two USB 3.1 Type-A, one Thunderbolt 3 USB Type-C, one standard HDMI slot, one 3.5mm audio port, and a DC input. Instead of adding more ports, ASUS used the sides to put vents for cooling purposes.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

The ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo has a lot of shortcomings, but it’s easily one of the best laptops today. It’s highly innovative and powerful to help you be more productive and creative. It’s an excellent laptop for creators and professionals willing to gloss over the inconveniences such as its ergonomics, poor battery life, and portability issues. After all, it can do everything you want to do, including bringing your ideas to life.

If money is no object, I would say this laptop is my GadgetMatch. However, there’s a lot more that I can buy than this laptop with a PhP 199,995 (US$ 3931) price tag. It’s expensive, but it’s a price we’ll really pay to use a futuristic laptop packed with innovations we never thought we needed.

Like I said earlier, this laptop is a first-generation product. Just like Samsung’s Galaxy Fold, this is a welcome innovation. Seeing how smartphones and laptops are getting absurd and weird upgrades, it’s astonishing to see a possibility of what our future gadgets could be.

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Gaming

Dell G7 review: All the heft and the heat

It’s simply one hot package your wallet hopes to afford

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I’d like to be able to play games wherever I go — provided some stable internet connection. I’d also like to have enough power to afford a device that allows me to do so. But in this world we live in, gaming laptops are things that are just out of our reach. Still, it shouldn’t stop us from trying to save up for them.

One such device is the Dell G7 15, a seemingly compact yet powerful gaming machine. The biggest and most powerful member of the Dell G series certainly brings a lot to the table. Performance and portability are its biggest selling points, especially for the on-the-go gamer. But does it really make the cut?

Let’s find out more about the Dell G7 15.

It comes in a slimmer metal finish compared to previous Dell gaming laptops

It has an NVIDIA RTX 2060 inside for unrivaled gaming performance

Ports for power, connectivity, and storage are placed at the back

It also has a customizable RGB-backlit keyboard

Hefty performance all around

Don’t let the slimmer body fool you; the Dell G7 packs a pretty hefty package. It comes with a 9th generation Intel i7 processor inside, a staple across gaming devices. I got around to doing research, Excel spreadsheets, and some video editing with this device. This, along with 16GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD inside, and you get that kind of speed and power.

Applications load fast, and I almost experienced no lags in trying to do multiple things at once. I even tried loading almost 30 tabs of Google Chrome, while doing some light video editing on Premiere Pro. This device simply does not have the word “lag” in its dictionary as even the most stressful situations keep it going.

Fiery gaming performance

I already knew what I’m getting with an RTX 2060 inside any gaming machine. True enough, my expectations for the highly touted gaming card were met when I tried it on this device. Gaming on this device felt like a visual experience that seemed too real. Color grading for games on the RTX 2060, to me almost comes close to the true colors of objects.

Colors aside, gaming performance with the RTX 2060 was phenomenal. I literally did not experience any lag with all the games I tried on this device, from AAA games to those that require little graphical power. Also, I noticed that visually, nothing was sacrificed for all the power it wields — which is the ideal situation anyway. 

Of course, there’s always a caveat to nice things like ultra-powerful gaming performance. Like most gaming machines, this thing gets pretty damn hot when you play for too long. I personally felt uncomfortable after playing for three hours around the WASD keys. That specific part of the keyboard felt like a frying pan, possibly telling me to take a break from playing Fortnite.

Charging up so quick, it makes you play more

Now, obviously gaming laptops have historically low battery lives. Playing on the Dell G7 for the recommended three hours already drained its entire battery so much. When I wasn’t fully using this device for gaming, I got about four to five and a half hours worth of usage before a full drain. These numbers, honestly don’t provide much in terms of long-lasting performance.

One silver lining to it all is that the device comes with a 60Wh battery that supports quick charging. And that’s not just from the proprietary charging port at the back; even the USB Type-C port to its side allows you to charge the device. The device reached close to 30% within 20 minutes, which is pretty decent compared to the other devices out there.

Of course, the charging brick that comes with the device isn’t so light. Figuratively, this 180W charger packs the necessary juice to supercharge the device. Quite literally, its weight didn’t bother me as much, and I’ve felt heavier chargers in the past. 

The cooling system that’s a little too hot at times

With all that power inside, you need a cooling system that settles everything inside. The Dell G7 has powerful fans inside that basically push all the hot air out. I thought it was a good touch that the Alienware Command Center allows you to control those fans. But, there were a couple of things that bothered me with this cooling system.

First off, in the times I didn’t play games, the fans somehow throttle out of the blue. I don’t know if that’s how these fans work, but I would be deeply concerned if upon startup the fans start to throttle. Second, the fans do take time to throttle when you start playing games, which limits performance overall.

Finally, even while the fans are able to push hot air out, it takes a while for the device to cool down. I get it, you have to be patient — especially when you’re gaming nonstop for three hours. But it wouldn’t hurt for the device to cool down a little faster than that. It’s things like this, along with the fans being loud that leaves you scratching your head a little bit.

Is this your GagdetMatch?

Starting at Php 113,990, the Dell G7 just proves to be one hefty machine. Great performance is already expected from this device, and it surely did not disappoint. This gaming machine comes in a package that just screams power, and I would surely recommend this device to most on-the-go gamers out there.

Of course, it’s simply not perfect. This device does not simply last long enough for you to game full time. Apart from that, it gets pretty damn hot when you play for too long. Even with a quick-charging port and an two-fan cooling system, these simply are not enough.

But you get past that, and the Dell G7 truly serves up one game-ready device. While it is one hefty price tag, the investment looks very promising.

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