Features

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet hands-on

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Lenovo can’t seem to get enough of hybrid and modular designs. The ThinkPad X1 Tablet has a little bit of both, but despite sounding like a full-on tablet, the convertible we have here behaves more like a laptop. Let us explain.

Convertibles aren’t a new concept; in fact, all the hybrid notebooks released in the past couple of years feel like they’re playing catch-up to Microsoft’s pioneering Surface lineup. To stand out, every execution is a bit different. Take the Samsung Galaxy TabPro S, for example: It disguises itself as an Android tablet, but it’s a full-fledged Windows computer through and through. The ThinkPad X1 Tablet takes a different path, choosing to be a business-oriented Windows convertible with modular components more than anything else. It’s this kind of flexibility that makes this fledgling category so exciting.

Since hybrid laptops are so distinct from one another and function differently for every type of user, we’ll apply the same idea to the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet. After all, certain features will serve an office worker really well, but a multimedia buff not so much. We’ll simplify things by narrowing down the usage cases to four.

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Writers will love the keyboard

Despite lots of convertibles successfully acting like actual laptops, few manage to provide a pleasant typing experience. We have to applaud Lenovo for upholding the ThinkPad lineup’s image and bringing its keyboard expertise to the X1 Tablet. It has to be the most laptop-like implementation we’ve seen on a convertible this year.

Key travel is splendid for a keyboard this thin, and there’s a distinct amount of space between each key. Wrists rest comfortably on the end of the board, and since the attachment doesn’t have its own power supply, there’s no heat to make your palms sweat. There’s also backlighting in case you’re working at night and are too lazy to reach for a light switch.

With the keyboard attached, there are a total of three ways to navigate: You can use the tablet’s touchscreen, the keyboard’s trackpad, or the signature red TrackPoint. We’ve always chosen the trackpad, because the touch experience on Windows 10 still feels five years behind iOS and Android devices, and the TrackPoint felt mostly unnecessary when there’s a touchscreen available. This isn’t to say the trackpad wins by default; the three clicky buttons above the trackpad and its compatible Windows gestures are fast enough to speed through open tabs on Chrome and Microsoft Office.

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Artists shouldn’t give up their graphics tablets for this

The stylus pen is both a blessing and a bother. It’s great that you don’t have to plug it into a power source to charge, but you also have to go through the hassle of finding an uncommon AAAA battery to slide in once the bundled one is dead.

Using it to draw on the touchscreen is a slippery affair. Without any replaceable tips or added texture, the stylus glides across the display like ice. This is bad news for anyone who wants precise control over inputs, and if you want to backtrack on any mistake, there’s no eraser on the other end to save you. The good news is that it behaves like an actual pen, thanks to a thick body and 2,048 levels of sensitivity. On top of that, the stylus has built-in left- and right-click buttons that you can program to other functions on Windows.

Fortunately, the build we received is equipped with an Intel Core m5 processor and 8GB of RAM, making it more than qualified to handle Photoshop and some light video editing. We managed to make the X1 Tablet open a hundred high-resolution photos at once on Photoshop without trouble, and the tablet didn’t flinch when we began editing each one. There are variants with a weaker Core m3 or faster Core m7 installed, but the one we have here seems suffice for everyday tasks. The 256GB SSD that came with our unit is also recommendable, since Windows 10 takes up a lot of space and you can easily eat up more once all your videos and apps are imported.

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Multimedia consumption is a mixed bag

We can summarize this section in two parts: The available ports make connectivity on the X1 Tablet seamless, but the 12-inch display and stereo speakers don’t do their ends of the job.

With so many manufacturers relying on a sole USB Type-C port for charging and plugging in peripherals, it’s such a breath of fresh air to see the X1 Tablet offer a full-sized USB port, USB Type-C port, an audio jack, and Mini DisplayPort. The USB port accepts all those flash drives stored in your desk drawer, while the Type-C port is used for charging, as well as future-proofing in case every single company begins focusing on USB-C as the only standard.

It’s those things that push the X1 Tablet into laptop territory, but it’s a shame it doesn’t leap in terms of visuals or sound. The stereo speakers, in particular, are a lot weaker than what you’d find on much smaller smartphones. And in spite of its 2160 x 1440-pixel resolution, sharpness and strong color reproduction seem lost on the display. Plugging in external speakers and pumping up the brightness to maximum are prerequisites to movie watching.

If you want to get fancy, Lenovo is selling a presenter module for $279 that can shoot a 60-inch projection from about two meters away. We weren’t able to try it out ourselves, but we can say with certainty that it’s a hefty investment, so consider your lifestyle and living space before spending the extra cash.

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Built for travelers

Something all users are going to appreciate is the adjustable kickstand at the back of the tablet. You can adjust it freely without set positions or help from the keyboard attachment. The stand is also wide enough to sit on your lap as long as you keep your legs together. And even with the keyboard attached, the whole thing is feather-light for a laptop replacement at 1.1kg.

Behind it, you can find slots for a microSD card and SIM card. Anyone who transfers photos from a camera during a trip and needs a data connection to instantly upload online knows how vital these two slots are. If for some unfortunate reason your camera is unusable, there’s a decent 8-megapixel camera with LED flash at the back of the tablet to help out – just don’t expect any miracles.

And now, we must ask: How’s the battery life? To be frank, it’s average compared to all the other tablets and laptops we tested. With mixed usage, which involves streaming TV shows, surfing on Chrome, and editing on Photoshop every now and then, the X1 Tablet can last a little less than five hours on a full charge. What’s impressive it how fast the tablet charges, able to achieve an ample amount of juice in only 30 minutes of charging.

Like the presenter module mentioned earlier, the productivity module costing $149 comes to the rescue. Lenovo claims it can add an additional five hours to the battery life, which means it would double the endurance if it works as advertised. We highly recommend purchasing one if you plan to work far from a wall socket; plus, it provides additional USB 3.0 and full-sized HDMI ports.

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Fun in a block

You really can’t tell by the industrial design and blocky exterior, but the X1 Tablet is more fun to use than it looks. And by fun, we mean it doesn’t give you a headache when you make it work. In typical ThinkPad fashion, the tablet simply takes all the tasks you throw at it and performs. You don’t have to put much thought into using it, such as charging the keyboard or stylus. Snapping the keyboard on and adjusting the angles are straightforward, and once you begin typing, you forget for a moment that it isn’t an actual notebook.

Again, you can’t rely on it for pure multimedia consumption. The battery life and audio-visual outputs just don’t hold up. Lenovo probably noticed these weakness during the production stages, and hence, we have the productivity and presenter modules to fill in the cracks. The pair of attachments actually bolster the functionality and make the tablet a true entertainment device, but you’ll have to pay the hefty price.

(Notes: The ThinkPad X1 Tablet package Lenovo sent us came with the tablet itself, attachable keyboard, and stylus pen. According to Lenovo, if you purchase the variant costing P83,990 in the Philippines, it’ll come with everything we mentioned, plus the productivity module. Elsewhere, the X1 Tablet’s price begins at $1,029 for the entry-level Intel Core m3 variant, and it costs around $1,299 for a Core m5 build similar to what we have.)

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Entertainment

Sony WH-XB700 hands-on: Extra bass, extra flex

Great for travels and even OOTDs

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Today’s gadgets are no longer just mere products. A lot have found their way to our daily lifestyle so it’s also important that they look good while we use them. And for others who are more trend-sensitive, these devices should blend well with their outfit and even character — all while doing what it’s supposed to do.

When it comes to headphones, Sony wants to offer something that you can bring anywhere during your travels while looking discreet yet fashionable. This is where the WH-XB700 comes into the picture. On paper, it ticks the boxes of what a casual listener is commonly looking for in headphones plus it’s geared towards those who prefer a bit of extra oomph in their bass.

It has a simple and straightforward design

Eye-catching but not too loud

Available in solid blue or black color options

We dig the blue one better

Soft padding on the earcup makes it comfortable

Has large cups which we like

Body is made of plastic so it’s light on the head

No problem using it for extended periods

Connects wirelessly via Bluetooth or NFC

Although an option to use its 3.5mm jack is available

Built-in microphone for hands-free calls

Can also connect to your phone’s voice assistant

Comes with 360 Reality Audio

Immersing you more in your music

The WH-XB700, among other models in Sony’s audio line, can be paired to your smartphone. And, using the company’s Connect app, you can tweak and customize your sound the way you like it. But as Rodneil mentioned in his WF-1000XM3 review (we know, confusing names), you wouldn’t really end up adjusting your settings that much.

In terms of sound quality, this pair of on-ear headphones deliver clear highs and decent mids. Vocals could be more pronounced but it’s still not bad. The lows, however, are indeed extra punchy. So if you like playing bass-heavy music like house, hip-hop, and the likes, you’d probably enjoy the extra kick in these cans.

Since it’s wireless, it has to connect via Bluetooth which means it has a battery. We’re glad to report that it has a decent battery life that doesn’t require you to keep on looking for sockets just so you could continue to use its wireless capabilities.

I brought it on one of my overseas trips and was able to use it at the airport while waiting to board, during the 4-hour flight, and while walking around for the rest of the entire day with a good amount of juice left when I got back to my hotel.

Charging time is also not bad with up to 90 minutes of music time just from a 10-minute quick charge.

Having the WH-XB700 for a while is basically being able to conveniently listen to your tunes anywhere you go. It doesn’t have the best audio quality in Sony’s lineup but having its flexibility for usage on-the-go sort of outweighs this shortcoming.

They are also light on the head and easy on the ears so fatigue has been kept down to a minimum. You also wouldn’t have to keep on charging it since it could last a few days of moderate usage.

The Sony WH-XB700 currently retails in the Philippines for PhP 7,999 (around US$ 150). It’s not the best wireless headphones we’ve tried on but it’s actually competitively priced for what it offers. Plus, it looks nice and goes well with almost anything you put on.

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Her GadgetMatch

Why Instagram is doing the right thing by removing the like count

We need to change this ugly culture we created

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Instagram used to be a space where you can get inspiration to nourish your creativity. It was also a place to connect with people through disappearing photos and videos called Stories. However, the platform took a different turn throughout the years and became an arena — a battlefield where people show off who has the most perfect life.

People started curating their feeds to make them stand out. The age of curation dawned upon Instagrammers, bearing unto the world themes and grids to reflect the user’s personality and aesthetics. Instagram fuelled perfectionism, too.

What used to be a space to share mundane moments of your everyday life became a place where you show your glamorous life which, frankly, only happens every once in a while for most users. Admittedly, I also succumbed to the perfectionism and the pressure. I would post only the photos where I looked like I was having the time of my life. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with putting your best foot forward, right?

Increasing cases of depression and anxiety

Apparently, not everyone thinks the way I do. In a study published in 2017 by the Royal Society for Public Health in the United Kingdom, social media — particularly Instagram — is a major contributor to the increasing cases of depression and anxiety among the youth today. The rise of influencers and other people with seemingly perfect lives made a lot of users feel inadequate.

“What used to be a space to share mundane moments in your everyday life became a place where you show your glamorous life which, frankly, only happens every once in a while for most users.”

RSPH Chief Executive Shirley Cramer said, “it’s interesting to see Instagram and Snapchat ranking as the worst for mental health and wellbeing – both platforms are very image-focused and it appears they may be driving feelings of inadequacy and anxiety in young people.”

Technology companies’ response

With this worrisome situation on the youth’s mental health, companies made an effort to help through technology. There’s Android’s Digital Wellbeing feature which tracks the amount of time you spend on social media, although it still requires a conscious effort to break your social media addiction.

In the crusade against depression and anxiety caused by social media, Instagram recently made a daunting move. The social media giant has started testing the removal of like counts in some countries, removing the user’s ability to see how many likes have been racked up by a certain person in their feeds.

People in dire need of too much validation, fret not. The feature will let you still see who liked your posts. Think of it as your usual form of public affirmation, but you get it in private.

Just like our stories, only we can see who viewed and reacted. In this scenario, only we can see who liked our posts. While this recent move can put a dent on someone’s ego especially when they crave external validation, this can have real benefits for some users’ mental health.

In a country like the Philippines, where social media consumes a chunk of Filipino’s time, Instagram is a big contributor in rising cases of mental illnesses plaguing today’s youth like the common cold.

The social media age has created a culture where people value their smartphones, social media accounts, and the content they create rather than socializing offline and establishing real-life connections. The youth measure their self-worth through likes and other forms of metrics that it’s taking a toll on their mental health.

If this is the ugly culture we developed, Instagram is doing the right thing of removing the like count. At the very least, they can stop other people from comparing their worth and relying on external validation to feel better.

“I personally don’t mind if the feature comes here or not, but I’m sure a few of my friends would care.” — Patricia Medina, a medical practitioner in the Philippines

However, some people won’t be able to accept the upcoming feature should it arrive in the Philippines, similar to how we all panicked when Instagram removed our ability to see the viewers of our stories after 24 hours. Despite the outcry, we adapted and got used to it.

Likes are not the only measure of influence

It may be hard to believe, but Instagram is on the right track. Aside from tackling mental health and fixing the problem their app posed in our society, they’re reshaping the marketing and advertising industry. Some influencers might be affected by the like count removal, particularly those who buy fake likes and followers, as well as those who became walking billboards for brands and agencies.

But for content creators like Ceej Tantengco, removing the like count won’t have much of an impact, rather it will reinforce her influence among her audience. “The brand partnerships I tend to get are with sustainable fashion and brands running women empowerment campaigns. These brands are less about pure numbers and more about connecting with brand ambassadors who truly share their cause and can speak about it with sincerity,” Tantengco said.

“The chase for likes has led to a sort of cookie-cutter templating of content based on what the algorithm rewards or what is easiest to generate likes. We live in a world where a selfie gets 800+ likes and a photo of what book the person is reading gets only 50. But like-bait content isn’t always the most thoughtful, and we need to be careful to not equate the number of likes to whether the brand message was communicated effectively,” Tantengco added.

On the other hand, Castro Communications PR Director Janlee Dungca is unbothered by the like count removal. Dungca, who works primarily with content creators and influencers, will still approach a campaign based on a brand’s goals and objectives. Likes aren’t the only form of visible metrics available since comments still count as a way to measure engagement rate.

Macro-influencers — accounts with more than 100,000 followers — tend to have higher reach but lower engagement, thus she opts for micro-influencers whose accounts range from 10,000 to 50,000 followers to get higher engagement for the brand.

“We live in a world where a selfie gets 800+ likes and a photo of what book the person is reading gets only 50.” — Ceej Tantengco

With this sudden change in the marketing landscape, people — not just influencers — might be more keen on engaging with other people through comments. People might start to make an effort to share their thoughts and interact, rather than just dropping an emoji of fire, heart, or a star-eyed face.

Additionally, people might not be as conscious of what they post anymore. Tantengco affirmed, “this move is great for people with advocacies because we can speak about them without worrying so much about ‘how do I package this to get the maximum number of likes’ and just say what we want to say. This feels very freeing.”

Moving forward, we might start to see posts of what people really care about again should Instagram proceed with removing the like count forever. There will be people though who will try to game the algorithm by leaving comments on each other’s posts and uploading video clips instead of still photos for validation as Instagram has not said anything about removing the view count.

Nonetheless, the future is bright for Instagram. I can’t wait to see moments where people embrace their natural selves and flaunt the things they’re passionate about again.

Illustrations by MJ Jucutan

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Automotive

Mercedes-Benz GLC and V-Class: Living the fly life

Smooth sailing on the GLC 200 and V-Class 220d

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When we hear the words “upper class” in a market segment, we usually think of luxury lifestyle, extravagant vacations, fine dining, and everything fancy. So when it comes to their means of transportation, we expect nothing less than utmost grandiosity.

With this in mind, some premium car brands will naturally come to mind and one of them is Mercedes-Benz.  This was the idea that Auto Nation Group, the official distributor of Mercedes-Benz in the Philippines, had in mind when they hosted the Media Ride and Drive — a day-long activity that offered participants the choice to drive the new GLC 200 and V-Class 220d or enjoy the comfortable ride and amenities offered inside both these new models.

Mercedes-Benz GLC 200

Instead of usual technical reviews, it was their goal for the participants to experience the affluent life — to be driven to where their consumers would go and do activities they would commonly do.

Scuba diving and the GLC

Of course, I took an underwater selfie

The first activity was a 3-hour course in scuba diving led by accredited PADI diver Igor Subora.  Held at the indoor scuba facilities of The Upper Deck Sports and Lifestyle Center in Ortigas, the activity aimed to give a glimpse into the lifestyle of someone with a spirit of adventure – a persona that perfectly matches the personality and performance of the new GLC.

According to Joseph Ayllon, head of PR Communications, the new GLC is a great match for confident go-getters in life determined to achieve goals. He says that it’s the right vehicle to take out of town or to a quick getaway within the city – like taking the morning off to go scuba diving.

The GLC remains as the best-selling Mercedes-Benz for 10 years with more than 1.6 million units sold. Priced at PhP 4,290,000.00, the GLC 200 is a robust adventure luxury SUV that delivers 197hp and 320Nm of torque from a 2.0 turbo petrol engine mated to a 9G-TRONIC 9-speed automatic transmission.

Its interior is wrapped in premium soft-touch materials, leather, and brushed metal accents. The soft leather seats were exceptionally comfortable, with plenty of head and legroom. In addition, the Burmester surround audio system is impressive and gave crisp & immersive sound.

Looking at the dashboard, it boasts a high-definition all-digital instrument panel along with their intelligent voice command LINGUATRONIC with “Hey, Mercedes” functionality which we found quite useful for a hands-free driving experience.

Sitting at the back, this SUV felt smooth and cabin noise was well isolated. Overall, this SUV is a perfect fusion of adventure and luxury.

R&R with the V-Class

After our scuba diving training and certification, we went our way to our lunch venue at Misto Seda-Vertis North onboard the 2019 Mercedes-Benz V-Class 220d. Priced at PhP 4,690,000.00, this lounge on wheels puts out 163hp and 380Nm of torque from a 2.2-liter diesel engine mated to a 7G-TRONIC PLUS 7-speed automatic transmission.

Mercedes-Benz V-Class 220d

As a passenger sitting on the third row, it didn’t feel like you were in a van; the cabin was unbelievably quiet and immensely comfortable. Everywhere you touch is made of premium quality material and the leather-wrapped captain seats just give you a sense of grandeur — almost like sitting on Queen Elizabeth’s throne.

The interior is spacious with abundant head and legroom. In addition, this model boasts swivel seats with a built-in pullout folding table. Looking out, I just loved how you are surrounded by huge & bright windows, perfect for scenic road-trips.

I have never felt more comfortable riding a third-row seat from a vehicle of this segment. You just feel pampered and EDSA traffic suddenly wasn’t so stressful.

After our bounteous buffet lunch at Misto, it was time to head to the last destination and the day was wrapped up with a relaxing full body massage at the Upper Deck Recovery Spa.

End of the day thoughts

As we ended this unique drive, one thing was made crystal clear to me: Mercedes-Benz really knows who their products are for and the new GLC 200 and new V-Class 220d truly cater to the needs and demands of this market segment.

I have to admit that I was easily spoiled by the activities the company has prepared — kicking it off with a fun diving experience, having a feast, and ending the day with a massage. Although, that’s exactly what they want their customers to feel with these new offerings — pampered and spoiled while getting from point A to point B.

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