Laptops

Microsoft is bringing the feature we’ve always wanted to Windows

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The dream of a Windows 10 smartphone running desktop apps is apparently alive and well. And perhaps next year, it might arrive at a store near you.

Microsoft today announced a partnership with top mobile chip maker Qualcomm at a hardware developer conference in Shenzhen, China that will basically allow next-generation ARM chips to deliver a full-fledged Windows 10 experience, support for peripherals and mainstream applications included. So, yeah, we’re talking a better execution of Windows RT, which tried but ultimately failed to make ARM devices play nicely with Windows.


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Microsoft says it is building an emulator into Windows 10 that will allow forthcoming Snapdragon-powered phones and tablets to run Adobe Photoshop, Google Chrome, Microsoft Office, or any of the million existing desktop apps right now. They should even be able to have a go at Crysis 2 without problems.

It is said the Snapdragon 835 will be the first Qualcomm chipset to offer hardware emulation, but it won’t be the last, and that the first ARM-based PCs aren’t due for release until the second half of next year.

Microsoft isn’t keen on explaining how the technology works, and, unfortunately, the emulator won’t run on today’s hardware, so we’ll have to wait until next year to find out. You can bet, though, that Snapdragon PCs should sell at lower price points and easily outlast their Intel and AMD counterparts, which is what Microsoft is pushing for here.

Think how much more compelling Windows 10 ultraportables would be if they were more affordable and offered all-day battery life without asterisks. It would have been the final nail in the coffin for Intel’s Atom family of processors, except the company had already thrown in the towel not too long ago.

Where does the Surface phone fit into all of this? Your guess is as good as ours; Microsoft is still mum on the fabled Windows 10 device. But it’s likely that — fingers crossed — when it does show up, it will have a Qualcomm chip under its bonnet.

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Gaming

ASUS TUF Gaming FX505DU Hands-on: An immersive experience for less

Striking a balance between performance and affordability

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We’ve got our hands on the ASUS TUF Gaming FX705 and the TUF Gaming FX505DY so you’re probably familiar with how the TUF Gaming series positions itself as the middle ground that offers premium features but with a more affordable asking price.

Another model from the same series has reached our headquarters. This time it’s the TUF Gaming FX505DU which is a newer model in the family. That single letter difference in the model name (DY to DU) suggests that it’s almost the same, with slight differences here and there. Let’s check out what those are.


It’s done with a polycarbonate body

Instead, goes for a more premium metallic shell

ROG DNA is present

Makes the overall aesthetics look edgier

Sports the same 15.6-inch IPS-level 120Hz display

Also with slim side and top bezels

Keyboard is backlit

Although this one has RGB color going on

There are distinct WASD keycaps as well

Still emphasizing its gaming origin

Loudspeakers are located at the bottom

Equipped with DTS Studio Sound

Spacious trackpad

Ergonomically placed, too

All the ports remain on the left

Leaves space when using a mouse on the right

A little subtle on the design, but…

The FX505DU, like its siblings, isn’t as flashy as the company’s more expensive ROG laptops, but it still looks like a gaming rig nonetheless. The lid is plain and straightforward but with that ‘X’ pattern that suggests it’s no common office laptop.

Once you open the lid, the brushed metal design seen on the body makes it look premium. It still has a large chin, but it isn’t much of an eyesore as the slim top and side bezels surrounding its Full HD display will catch your attention right away.

There’s also a webcam for video calls positioned on top so that’s a good thing. When it comes to typing, we don’t have any major qualms about it but I personally could use a bit more travel for the keys. It comes with two USB 3.0 ports, a single USB 2.0, an HDMI, and a 3.5mm audio jack.

Overall, build quality is something that I like about this model as it has been certified to pass military-grade stress tests. Factor in the cool RGB backlighting and its edgy design and you have a good-looking yet tough gaming laptop.

Play wherever you go

Inside, it packs an AMD Ryzen 7-3750H which is then partnered to NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 1660Ti. Together, they are a combo for fast and satisfactory performance while its 8GB RAM proved sufficient for day-to-day tasks. If needed, the memory could be modified up to 32GB for even snappier performances.

It runs Windows 10 Home out of the box and as for storage, it comes with a 1TB HDD plus a 256GB SSD.

We’ve tried a couple of games on it like Assassin’s Creed: Origins and battle royale titles like Fortnite and CS:GO — just like we did with the previous FX505DY. We’re happy to report that it could handle them easily but noticed a few lags here and there especially when there was a lot of movement happening. Not enough to affect the gaming performance, though, but we thought we’d just let you know.

The built-in loudspeakers sound decent and come with DTS Studio Sound to tweak and make the quality better. Still, it might not be for players looking for high-quality audio and you’d still be better off with dedicated gaming headphones plugged in.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

It’s true that more expensive gaming rigs provide better gaming experience, but what ASUS is going for here with their TUF Gaming series is to strike the balance between performance and affordability.

With the FX505DU and its PhP 71,995 price tag, it offers a competitive gaming experience with 120Hz display, slim bezels, more premium materials, and internals that will ensure you have what you need to be able to have immersive gameplay wherever you go.

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Laptops

2015 MacBook Pro banned from some flights worldwide

Free battery replacement program still ongoing

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Back in June, Apple announced a global recall for potentially malfunctioning MacBook Pro units shipped from September 2015 to February 2017. The aging device carried a faulty battery that can overheat and catch fire. Since then, the company has offered free battery replacements for affected units.

Haven’t we all heard this story before? In 2016, Samsung experienced a similar controversy with the exploding Galaxy Note 7. The issue caused a massive wave of calamity for the South Korean company. Airports even banned the smartphone from flights. Thankfully, an airport ban hasn’t happened to Apple yet. Until now, that is.


The US Federal Aviation Administration has recently banned the affected MacBook Pro units from American flights. Thanks to Samsung’s 2016 brouhaha, Apple will follow the same safety guidelines. The faulty MacBook Pro units can’t go on flights in both check-in and carry-on baggage.

In contrast, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency issued a more lenient ruling. Instead of a total ban, passengers can bring a faulty MacBook if it remains switched off during the whole flight. Regardless, some European airlines — like Air Italy — have still banned the model from their flights.

Naturally, fixed units are exempt from the ban. Unfortunately, none of the regulating groups have explained the enforcement procedures. Unlike the blatantly obvious Note 7 design, affected MacBook Pro units declare their identities using their serial number. Enforcers must cross-check the serial numbers from Apple’s own database. Enforcing the ban might turn into a nightmare.

Regardless, Apple invites affected users to turn in their units as soon as possible. You can check your unit’s status on this link. If your unit is faulty, sign up for a free battery replacement as soon as you can.

SEE ALSO: Apple discontinues the 12-inch Macbook and 2017 Macbook Air

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Laptops

ASUS VivoBook X412F Review: A great midrange option for work and school

For those who need a fresh start

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Not everyone can afford a premium device. Even if the specifications entice you to buy that nice laptop, the ultimate decision point is in its price and value to you. Parents and young professionals starting a new job would know.

ASUS regularly comes up with great midrange selections for students and young professionals. That seems to be what the ASUS VivoBook X412F is: an all-around midrange device for productivity and day-to-day tasks. But if you’re currently a student or working full-time, should you consider this device?


Here’s a rundown of the device’s specifications:

It has a 14” HD anti-glare display

It’s powered by an Intel Core i3 processor and an NVIDIA MX230 graphics card

It comes with both a USB Type-A and Type-C port

Has a fingerprint reader on the touchpad

It gets the job done for its intended purpose

The model I used came with an Intel Core i3 processor, which won’t deliver great performance on paper. But after using it for a while, I can say that it really isn’t the case. It kept up with the numerous tasks I threw at it, whether it was writing documents or watching videos. Do take note that this device only comes with 4GB of RAM, so obviously you won’t be able to do a lot more.

It also helped that it comes with a 256GB solid state drive installed. Using SSDs provide a significant boost in loading times, which allowed me to get more tasks done. I would still prefer to have the more powerful Intel Core i5 option installed to maximize performance.

You can play games on it, just don’t push it

The VivoBook X412F comes with an entry level NVIDIA MX230 graphics card. Upon reading this, my initial thought was that gaming was possible — and it was. The catch is, well any game that doesn’t require so much graphical power will run smoothly. Games like CS:GO, Minecraft, and Rocket League do reach a hard 50 to 55 frame per second cap.

But like any other non-gaming laptop, using this strictly for gaming is highly discouraged. This device was not exactly designed to be a gaming machine, even if you get the units with more powerful processors on it. Plus, you will definitely feel the heat on your keyboard when you play for too long. So, I’m not saying that you can’t use it to play games; don’t use it just to play games.

It lasts relatively long, as long as you’re using it properly

Upon initial testing, I did get around five to six hours on one full charge. It’s long enough for you to just browse the internet, watch a few videos or movies, and type down reports. Doing some form of photo or video editing decreases that number by just a bit. It took two to three hours to fully charge the device from zero.

Battery life when playing games on it is just what you expect it to be. I got close to two hours and 30 minutes before having to plug the charger. Again, you can play games on this device but it’s not meant for strictly just gameplay. 

The webcam is surprisingly decent

One of the key critiques I’ve had over most laptops centers around their webcams. Most built-in HD webcams, when used for the first time, are not as “high-definition” as promoted. Images and videos either look blurry or grainy, which won’t help during conference calls.

With the VivoBook X412F, the webcam is decent at best — which is all you could really hope for. Under good lighting conditions, image quality on this 720p webcam feels more “high-definition” than most. I observed relatively less grain than most other laptops I’ve tried, which is great for video calls at least.

Other features worth considering before you buy

The VivoBook X412F comes with a fingerprint reader on the touchpad. Setting up Windows Hello was pretty fast, but I found the sensor to be pretty sensitive after. Even if I had already cleaned my fingers and wiped out the sweat, the sensor sometimes won’t read it.

It also comes with a chiclet keyboard without the number pad on the right side. Key travel, for me was decent and took just a short while to get used to. Sadly, it wasn’t backlit which I would have liked — especially for working late at night. 

Finally, you get what you can with its display. It’s only a 14-inch HD display, which doesn’t leave you much room for proper viewing angles and color accuracy. The one good quality it has, in my opinion, is that it’s an anti-glare screen. I used the device outdoors several times, and even at 70 percent brightness I could still see the contents of my screen.

Is the ASUS VivoBook X412F your GadgetMatch?

The ASUS VivoBook X412F is one device that truly caters to those who want an affordable yet premium experience. It comes in a package that promises great productivity and portability, and lasts a long time. It’s a total fit for students and young professionals looking for their first school or work laptop. Of course, that’s only the case as long as it is used for its intended purpose.

With a device like this, you can only do so much. While tasks such as photo, video editing, and gaming are possible, it proves to do more harm than good. If you really want to get the most value out of this laptop, I suggest you use it mostly for its intended purpose.At PhP 32,995 (US$ 629) for the 256GB + 4GB RAM unit, the ASUS VivoBook X412F is a great productivity device for work and school. That is, if you will use it for work or school-related activities.

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