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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.)

Explainers

All filters: Article 13 of the EUCD explained

Is this the end for memes everywhere?

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If you haven’t been on the web often lately, this may be something that has slipped past your radar. On September 12, 2018, the European Parliament voted to pass a directive that could change the way we approach the internet for years to come. But, consider first that it’s only the initial review, with a final vote happening next year.

What is this directive, and why is the internet involved? Why are people suddenly seeing #Article13 trend on Twitter a few hours after the decision was passed? What’s with this #SaveTheInternet nonsense?

Understanding the copyright directive

The directive at the forefront of this entire debacle is known as the European Union Copyright Directive, or EUCD. The EUCD hopes to streamline effective regulations towards the protection of intellectual property in the EU. It was first adopted in 2001, following the ruling during the 1996 World Intellectual Property Organization Copyright Treaty. Earlier this year, another version of the directive was drafted with added articles and stipulations.

Basically, the EUCD seeks to create measures to protect one’s copyright on created content. The range of intellectual property that should be protected include music, videos, images, algorithms/codes, and even software. The directive calls for member countries to enact and implement laws that protect copyright owners. Eventually, such stipulations also reach big companies that operate within the EU.

You might be thinking why there is an outcry over it in the first place, especially when the directive’s purpose is clear. Well, there’s one particular part of the EUCD that a lot of people disagree on: Article 13.

The unlucky Article 13

Article 13 of the EUCD isn’t a lengthy piece of reading. The whole article contains three provisions for the implementation of copyright protection on websites that host user-generated content. The directive makes a note that these websites store large amounts of user-generated content, with the main purpose, if not one of its main purposes, of earning profit. Basically, any website that allows you to upload your own content and allows you to earn money from it is affected by the directive.

The article also cites that such websites should create measures such as “effective content recognition technologies,” complaint management systems, and tracking solutions. These measures should be readily available the moment users upload content on the website itself. With such measures taken into account, it allows content creators and service providers to properly engage in discussions should there be a dispute. It’s basically what YouTube Creators is all about.

Websites like YouTube, Twitch, Facebook, and Twitter, as well as streaming apps such as Spotify, Apple Music, and IGTV (when monetization is available) are most likely the article’s main targets. The directive also explicitly states that non-profit service providers and online marketplaces will not be affected. So, Wikipedia and Shopee aren’t affected, don’t worry.

The ongoing debate towards copyright protection

For some people, the EUCD is inherently good for intellectual property protection. They argue that the primary goal of the directive is to protect users from piracy and copyright infringement. Through the EUCD, there will be systems in place that protect music labels, content creators, and publishers from any illegal use of their content online. For these people, users should be held liable for infringement of any kind (memes, remixes, and parodies are a few examples).

Furthermore, the directive not only affects users but also the companies that run these websites. It basically mandates companies to create better content recognition systems, or change their already existing system for stricter copyright protection. If they don’t make adjustments, they will be held liable for any infringement-related issues. What Article 13 does, for those who are for the EUCD, is simply a suggested improvement.

However, there are others who believe that the directive is a little too extreme and could potentially do more harm than good. Leading institutions and companies in the tech industry think that the provisions are too vague, leaving it open for interpretation. This has the potential for companies to abuse copyright claims without effective ways of intervention. Furthermore, any significant changes to already-existing systems would require heavy costs to implement.

The bigger picture here is how the directive affects the internet as a whole. Big names in the tech industry argue that it’s an attack on the creative freedom of users. Instead of allowing the internet to be an open space for the right way of creativity, it simply adds more filters and restrictions in the process. Basically, you can’t put up an Avengers meme without having the approval of Disney and Marvel Studios first.

So, what happens now?

The EUCD was put in place to protect copyright — a simple and basic goal. There is recognition that there are measures that must be in place to uphold copyright. There is no denying that big companies have to abide by intellectual property rules, or suffer severe consequences for infringement. However, a lot of people are clamoring that these measures are both vague and sound extreme. Not only does the directive infringe one’s creative freedom in providing quality content, but it also makes the whole process costly and rigid.

At the end of the day, everybody wants to protect copyright. The argument for or against the EUCD is already past the debate on whether protecting copyright is right or wrong. The debate now is whether or not a open source like the internet should be kept that way or be strictly protected at all costs.

All of these will come into play in January 2019, when the European Parliament casts its vote for or against the directive. If you have the time to read the EUCD, you can access the full document here.

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How Chinese vendors have taken over the Indian market

Market share has been grabbed but can they sustain it?

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A few years back, the most prominent smartphone companies in India included Micromax, Karbonn, Sony, HTC, and obviously, Samsung. It was a healthy mix of a few homegrown companies along with a blend of various manufacturers from diverse backgrounds. Each had its unique selling point and the market was at a nascent stage.

Fast forward to 2018, the dynamics have completely changed. Except for Samsung, all other companies listed above are almost non-existent and the complete business has been taken over by Chinese makers. According to Counterpoint Research’s Q2 2018 report, Xiaomi, Vivo, OPPO, and Honor (Huawei’s sub-brand) have a combined market share of 53 percent.

Domestic companies like Micromax have a very unstable presence in the region now, and all other vendors like Karbonn, Intex, and Spice have packed up. The only brand that has been able to survive this long is Samsung. But, considering the recent two quarters, even Samsung has lost a substantial share to the Chinese.

How did the newcomers manage to take over the market so rapidly, and successfully?

The base strategy is pretty similar to that of Samsung. Back in 2010, when Nokia and BlackBerry had their superiority, Samsung Mobile was a fledgling in the country. Samsung came in and filled the market with next-generation trendy products at a nominal rate. When Nokia and BlackBerry were busy competing with their QWERTY phones, Samsung was selling touchscreen phones like the Corby and Champ.

These phones appealed to the younger audience, and while Apple was busy knocking down everyone in design, Samsung was busy scaling their production. Soon, we saw their brief stint with Windows OS via the Omnia series, followed by entry into the Android ecosystem. Even with Android, Samsung continued releasing phones in every price segment: The Galaxy Star was a top-selling budget phone, the S-series had just taken off, and new devices were being launched almost every month.

In short, they filled the market with options and every type of user was targeted. The gamble paid off massively. Within a few years, the old behemoths were gone and Samsung had established a brand with trust among users. The company focused on grabbing market share via the budget and midrange segment and simultaneously managing the top-tier S and Note series for higher margins.

This is the same strategy that the new Chinese vendors are applying. First, fill the market with trendy phones that are reasonably priced, and then expand their portfolio. A notch and glass backing are the current trends, and everyone quickly jumped on the bandwagon.

From gradients to patterns, there are multiple options available. Want a performance-centric phone? Huawei and Xiaomi brought in high-end processors for just INR 20,000 (US$ 276). Like iPhone’s Face ID? Almost every phone comes with face unlock.

Vivo brought in the in-display fingerprint scanner before everyone else and it’s exactly the kind of innovation the end user wants. While these companies are busy expanding their portfolio, they are also careful to consider long-term goals. Huawei’s Mate and P series have been mind-boggling, and with the P20 Pro, it has managed to establish itself as a premium player.

OPPO, Vivo, and OnePlus belong to the same holding company — BBK Mobile. OnePlus leads the premium segment while OPPO and Vivo act as test beds for new concepts, like the sliding camera. Ultimately, anything earned by either of them goes to the same pocket. Xiaomi has avoided the top-tier segment until now, but with the POCO F1, it still remains unclear how they intend to establish a premium brand.

Apples and oranges

I haven’t considered Apple in this equation because the company has completely different expectations from the market. It doesn’t care about market share as long as it grabs the top one percent audience. Every week we see new launches happening in the country with each new product trying to take on the competitors offerings.

I’ve heard a lot of people say that the Chinese domination in the country will be short-lived but the statistics suggest a different story. Each of them has also confidently invested in growing their presence; this includes the operation of service centers and exclusive stores. In fact, all of them have joined the Make in India initiative to avoid import duty.

We haven’t seen Samsung get aggressive to the competition yet; they are still trying to make it through at their own pace. It will also be interesting to see how HMD Global is able to make a mark with their Nokia branded offerings in the country.

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Sony’s PlayStation is back, Xiaomi outs new Mi 8 variants: Weekend Rewind

Ending the week with nostalgic feels

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Here are this week’s top stories on GadgetMatch.

1. The iconic PlayStation is back!

Let’s kick things off by taking a trip down memory lane. Almost 25 years after its debut, Sony is bringing back the iconic first-gen PlayStation and it will come as the PlayStation Classic.

It’s basically a miniaturized version complete with a pair of original controller replicas. What’s even more exciting is that fans of the original PlayStation will be able to relive 20 legendary titles including Final Fantasy VII and Tekken 3!

2. Razer Phone 2 gets a launch date

Razer officially confirms the arrival of its second gaming smartphone — the Razer Phone 2. It succeeds the Razer Phone that was launched last November and based on earlier leaks, it’ll be a familiar-looking product.

The phone should sport the same body as its predecessor including the display with a buttery-smooth 120Hz refresh rate. Of course, the internals will have beefier specs as well. We’ll know more real soon during its special event at California this October 10.

3. Apple has the lead!

While it may be true that Apple didn’t sell the most number of smartphones, they still earned more than their competitors. According to the latest data from Counterpoint Research, Apple had the biggest share of industry profits during the second quarter of 2018.

For comparison, Apple earned 62 percent of the second-quarter smartphone profits. Samsung, which is the top-selling smartphone vendor, is responsible for just 17 percent of smartphone profits in the quarter. Huawei takes the third spot with eight percent of the profits.

4. A complete but affordable smartwatch

Huami, Xiaomi’s sub-brand in China, has a smartwatch that offers tremendous bang for your buck. The company just unveiled the Amazfit Verge and it’s got everything you could ask for in a wearable without the high price tag.

The Amazfit Verge has a GPS, heart-rate sensor, and full-circle AMOLED display. It’s also equipped with a microphone and loudspeaker that allow voice calls through the smartwatch.

5. Xiaomi outs Mi 8 Pro and Mi 8 Lite

On a related note, Xiaomi also held a quick event to announce a few things including two new Mi 8 variants — the Mi 8 Pro and Mi 8 Lite.

In a nutshell, these are additions to the flagship Mi 8 family. The Mi 8 Pro is similar to the Mi 8 with the same specs like its Snapdragon 845 processor, up to 8GB of memory, and 128GB of expandable storage. Although, this model comes with an in-display fingerprint sensor.

As the name suggests, the Mi 8 Lite is a toned-down Mi 8 and comes with a midrange Snapdragon 660 chipset, dual rear cameras, and a 24-megapixel front camera. Both phones are initially available in China, and international availability is yet to be announced.


Weekend Rewind is our roundup of top news and features you might have missed for the week. We know the world of technology can be overwhelming and not everyone has the time to get up to speed with everything — and that includes us. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the rewind.

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