Laptops

Samsung Galaxy Book Review: Best of both worlds?

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It was exactly a year ago when I reviewed the Samsung Galaxy TabPro S, and while it was a complete Windows system inside a slim tablet, there were three drawbacks: no bundled stylus pen, overreliance on the keyboard case, and lack of ports. The newer, upgraded Galaxy Book — yes, the naming scheme changed once again — fixes one of those issues.

Before we begin, let’s clear up a couple of details.

One: Despite being part of the Galaxy series, the Book is not an Android device like the ubiquitous Galaxy S smartphones; this is a Windows 10 machine through and through.

Two: I’ve tested the 10.6-inch model which comes with an LTE SIM card slot. (There’s a larger 12-inch variant available, as well.)

It looks like a regular laptop upfront

The 10.6-inch model has a 1080p resolution on its TFT LCD unlike the 1440p AMOLED of the 12-inch version

But you can fold it back into a plain tablet

Perfect for pure stylus use on the Full HD display

Here’s how it looks from the side

You can see one of the side-mounted stereo speakers, as well

This mode is better for typing with the keyboard, though

The keyboard case attaches to the tablet magnetically

And you can set it up at a steeper angle

I just wish I could incline the keyboard the same way

The keyboard is fun to type on

This is way better than the overly flat keys of the Galaxy TabPro S

But the trackpad isn’t as responsive

A lot of accidental taps and gestures are bound to happen

You’re better off using the touchscreen for navigation

Multi-finger gestures are readily available

Or better yet, the bundled S Pen

Handy for taking down notes and highlighting sections of your screen

This funny-looking tray can accept one nano-SIM and a microSD card

It doesn’t look very happy :/

How well does it perform?

Performance varies depending on which configuration you get. For my test unit, I had a low-end Intel Core m3 processor, 4GB of memory, and 64GB of storage to play with. That’s similar to the Galaxy TabPro S, but there’s one major exclusion: no rear camera for quick snaps this time around.

It’s odd for Samsung to remove a feature highlighted by the predecessor, but this can be seen as a move to make the Galaxy Book look more like a notebook and less like an all-in-one tablet. I’m honestly fine with having just the 5-megapixel front-facing webcam, since I already have a smartphone handling Instagram duties for me.

Another upgrade over the TabPro S I would’ve liked to see is an additional USB Type-C port. Updated models of USB-C-loving notebooks have already opted for two ports, making the Galaxy Book feel so left behind. You’d need an adapter to allow charging and physical data access at the same time — ugh.

Besides those setbacks, the Galaxy Book is totally capable of getting work done without taking up much space on your work desk. During my tests, it only struggled when I had more than ten tabs idle on Chrome, Photoshop running in the background, and Spotify pumping music at the same time. But like with the TabPro S, don’t expect to game or edit videos smoothly on this thing.

Can it last an entire day?

As expected of a low-powered, efficiency-over-performance gadget, the Galaxy Book can likely outlast that smartphone you have on you, but that’s only possible on one condition: you rely primarily on Wi-Fi and not use the battery-hogging LTE connectivity. Without a SIM card inserted, I could get more than six hours of mixed usage, which is two hours longer than I get on most slim notebooks.

Unfortunately, true to its tablet-like functionality, the Galaxy Book comes with a rather slow charger. Samsung promotes its Adaptive Fast Charging, but it’s the same wall charger with a short one-meter cable you’d find packaged with a Galaxy S smartphone, which has a much smaller battery. Filling up the Galaxy Book’s 4000mAh capacity takes more than three hours when the screen’s turned off; charging while working takes even longer, depending on how much load you put on it.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

The Galaxy Book is an interesting entry in Samsung’s budding convertible lineup; it’s technically the successor to the popular Galaxy TabPro S from last year, but it feels like a different product altogether — and not just in the naming convention.

First, the good: Bundling an S Pen upped the usability of the Galaxy Book by several notches, and the highly improved keyboard makes the experience so much more fluid. Whether it’s on my lap or beside my desktop PC as a secondary computer, this convertible always felt like it was part of my daily workflow despite its unconvincing size.

As for the not-too-good: I really wish Samsung added another USB-C port this time, and did something about the tablet’s reliance on the keyboard case to keep itself propped up. The first issue translates to needing a separate USB-C hub to insert your flash drives and HDMI-powered devices, while the latter means you must hold onto the tablet if it isn’t attached to the keyboard’s stand.

Most consumers might also be turned off by the lack of a rear camera, but I myself never use my tablet’s main shooter if I have my smartphone on hand, which is a hundred percent of the time.

The most affordable configuration (4GB of memory and 64GB of storage) currently retails for US$ 500 (discounted from the original US$ 630 price tag). The only variant being sold in the Philippines is priced at PhP 44,990 (4GB of memory and 128GB of storage).

Alternatively, you may consider Samsung’s more notebook-styled convertible, the Notebook 9 Pro, once it’s available. It solves most of the Galaxy Book’s issues, albeit in a much larger package.

SEE ALSO: Samsung Galaxy J7 Pro Review: Looks good, feels good

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Laptops

Lenovo unveils new ThinkPad L390 and L390 Yoga for the business market

For price-sensitive business customers

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Lenovo ThinkPad L390

Before jumping into 2019, Lenovo unveiled their latest affordable line of business laptops: the ThinkPad L390 and the ThinkPad L390 Yoga. The new ThinkPad notebooks are designed to be starters for small businesses in need of reliability and durability.

Both laptops sport a 13.3-inch Full HD display and can be configured to have up to an eight-gen Intel Core i7 processor, up to 32GB DDR4 memory, and up to 512GB PCIe SSD. They have a plethora of useful ports including USB 3.1, USB-C, HDMI, microSD card reader, and mini RJ-45.

Lenovo ThinkPad L390 Yoga

Both have secured fingerprint readers for Windows Hello, but the Yoga variant is also equipped with an IR camera. Both of the laptops are Mil-Spec and, of course, have a pointing stick or a TrackPoint in the middle the keyboard.

The main difference between the two is the 360-degree hinge which allows the Yoga version to convert into tablet, tent, or stand mode. Also, the Yoga variant comes with a built-in ThinkPad Pen Pro and has an extra rear-facing camera when in tablet mode.

The ThinkPad L390 has a starting price of US$ 659, while the Yoga variant is priced from US$ 889. Both with be available in the US this December in black or silver colors.

SEE ALSO: Lenovo Yoga C930 Review: It could have been the best

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Accessories

C is the key: Explaining USB Type-C

What really makes this new standard special

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For years, people have grown accustomed to using USB ports for almost all of their devices. Whether you need to charge your phone using your computer or use a controller to play games, you can always count on a USB port to be readily available for you. But 2018 was the year of change and innovation, and the USB port you know and love welcomed change in a big way.

Introducing: USB Type-C, the newest port added to the family. Its round shape brought many new uses and functionalities to your ports. But, how different is it from its much older brothers? How have companies revolutionized its use in mainstream devices?

What is this USB Type-C port?

The USB Type-C (USB-C) port is a not-so-recent discovery in the world of tech. The USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) developed this USB port back in 2013, and launched it into mass production the following year. The connector is a reversible oval shape, much different from the usual rectangular shape of the previous generation. Its reversibility allows any orientation of the cable for transferring files or charging your device.

USB-IF developed USB-C following the USB 3.1 standard. Such a standard was particularly used because of its faster transfer speeds and charging capabilities. With a USB-C port, you can transfer an hour-long movie in less than 30 seconds, provided you have the appropriate connector for it.

Computer and smartphone manufacturers have incorporated the USB-C port in most of their devices. One of the early adopters of the new technology was Apple, with their redesigned 12-inch MacBook in 2015. Other computer manufacturers followed in the later years, especially with the release of the Thunderbolt 3 technology used for gaming machines.

It’s the younger, faster and more all-around sibling

USB-C has been around for the past four years, and it has gradually developed into an all-around port for users. Alongside Thunderbolt 3, the USB-C port posts the highest data transfer speed across all the available USB connections in existence. Not only that, USB-C ports these days can now connect your devices to external GPUs and displays, and charge your devices. Most USB-C ports even support fast charging for smartphones.

While the technology behind it is supported by a USB 3.1 standard, it’s still very much different from other USB ports that use the USB 3.1 protocol. For starters, the USB 3.1 standard found in USB-C ports are USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports, which offer twice as much performance in data transfer as USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports. Most of the Gen 1 ports also use an older USB Type-A standard, which works for most of your gadgets and peripherals today. However, you would need more adapters for other functionalities, like displaying to a monitor.

But the USB-C port is a far cry from the old USB 2.0 and 3.0 protocols, which have been in existence for 14 years (and counting). Data transfer speeds for those two protocols are significantly slower compared to the USB-C port. An hour-long movie would ideally take around one to two minutes on a USB 2.0 port. Also, older USB protocols don’t really allow you to power up devices that need more electricity. So, charging devices on them might not be as fast.

Supercharged with Thunderbolt 3

So, you’re probably wondering what really makes a USB-C port just that fast. It’s not so much that it’s round, or that it’s new; rather, it’s the technology inside it. Late 2015 saw the arrival of the new Thunderbolt 3 standard specifically for USB-C ports. It first started out in most Windows laptops before making it to the 2016 MacBook Pro and several gaming motherboards.

What Thunderbolt 3 does for USB-C ports is to significantly increase its capacity and capabilities by a mile. We’re talking faster file transfer, heightened gaming experiences, and being able to plug in 4K displays for clearer images. Thunderbolt 3 also allows much bigger devices to be charged at a controlled rate. This is mostly evident with the MacBook Pro, several high-end Ultrabooks, and most recently, the 2018 iPad Pro.

The charging capacity brought about by Thunderbolt 3 deals with a tweak to how USB power delivery works. USB power delivery standards state that each USB standard has specific conditions that must be met to power up devices. Early versions of USB ports only allow a small amount of electricity (2.5W) for delivery, while USB-C allows for the full 100W.  Basically, you went from just powering up your mouse and keyboard to charging your entire laptop.

What’s to come for USB-C?

At this point in time, you’re already living in the future that the USB-C port hopes to achieve. Suddenly, you can simply bring a USB-C cable around, plug it into a powerbank, and you can already charge your expensive MacBook. More and more devices are starting to adopt USB-C because of its potential to enhance your tech experience as a whole.

However, people still find it difficult to switch to USB-C, and for good reason. Most devices continue to use a USB Type-A or micro-USB connector, especially gaming controllers and peripherals. Also, they can argue that the old ports are more accessible. In a not-so-distant future, using a USB-C port could potentially replace a phone’s headphone jack.

The future of USB-C is still uncertain. Companies will iron out the new technology more so it can become mainstream for the future. Let’s just hope that by the time that happens, there won’t be a USB Type-D yet.

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Laptops

Lenovo Yoga C930 Review: It could have been the best

It’s just missing one thing…

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It was during IFA 2018 when Lenovo introduced their latest premium convertible for consumers — the Yoga C930. It doesn’t have a good name, but it does offer everything a Yoga should, especially in media consumption.

Notebooks with flipping displays, like the Yoga lineup, are not just designed for typing. Most manufacturers market their convertibles to be perfect for entertainment, yet they largely fail in one aspect where they should shine — audio.

When Lenovo introduced the Yoga C930 with the rotating soundbar and Dolby Atmos, I hoped that it was not just a marketing ploy. But, is it? Let me share my thoughts about Lenovo’s newest convertible.

No fuss design

The Yoga C930 has a metal shell with a familiar aesthetic from Lenovo. My unit has a dark finish that’s aptly named Iron Gray. If you want a lighter shade, Lenovo is also offering the notebook in Mica, which is close to white. Everything about the body of the Yoga C930 screams premium; nothing here looks cheap or ugly.

To make it more special, the sides and the hinge of the Yoga C930 have a brushed finish. It’s a minor touch, but it’s highly noticeable whenever you’re checking where you should plug your peripherals. I also think that it helps hide unsightly scratches and gives the notebook a bit of shine.

While we’re at it, the available ports on the Yoga C930 are generally okay. It’s got two Thunderbolt 3 ports that fully support PowerDelivery, DisplayPort, and USB 3.1 functions. Both Thunderbolt 3 ports employ 4x lanes for PCIe, so you can connect the Yoga C930 to an external GPU, which is good because this laptop doesn’t have a dedicated graphics unit.

Apart from a couple of versatile USB-C interfaces, there’s also a classic full-size USB that we all know and love. Thankfully, Lenovo knows that this is still a widely used port and bringing a dongle just to read a thumb drive is a hassle. The 3.5mm audio port is also available when you need to plug in a pair of wired headphones.

All of the ports on the Yoga C930 are on its left side, leaving the right with just the power button. There are no volume buttons, either.

While I appreciate that Lenovo provided both USB-A and USB-C ports, I was still hoping for more; another USB-C with PowerDelivery on the right and a full-size SD card reader would do. The Yoga C930 is slim, but it’s not ultra-slim like the fan-less MacBook which got away with having one port (or maybe two if you count the headphone jack).

The Yoga C930 has a fairly large 14-inch display (13.9 inches according to Lenovo), but with minimum side bezels. Since this is made for watching videos, the aspect ratio is still stuck at 16:9.

There are two resolutions available for the Lenovo C930: Full HD or Ultra HD. The one I have here is just the Full HD variant, but it still has the key feature: Dolby Vision. The best way to fully appreciate the display is to play an HDR or Dolby Vision-enabled title. You can find some on Netflix if you’re using the highest-tier plan.

The display gets bright enough to be used outdoors and really dim when you need it to. It’s vibrant and has deep blacks even if it’s only an LCD panel.

When watching a video, I prefer to use the Yoga C930 in Tent mode. It can also be used in Stand mode with the keyboard facing down, but for some reason, Lenovo didn’t put little rubber feet to protect the keyboard when placed on a surface. You have to be cautious where you place the notebook or you risk scratching it.

The integrated soundbar of the Yoga C930 is designed to always face the user. That’s another advantage of watching videos in Tent mode; the speaker is facing upwards. I get to hear the sound directly without any muffle. I must say, the Yoga C930 has one of the clearest speakers I’ve tried on a notebook. It gets really loud, too.

It even has Dolby Atmos to enhance it further, but it’s not as immersive as advertised. To be fair though, I get to hear the stereo effect better than on other notebooks.

The device is least useful (for me) when it’s in Tablet mode. The Yoga C930 is too heavy to be a tablet, plus the 16:9 aspect ratio makes it feel like I’m reading from a really tall magazine. But, this is where the built-in pen comes in handy. The integrated stylus makes it easy for doodlers to annotate on screen.

Fast but not incredible

Let’s talk about power. The Yoga C930 I have is powered by the latest 8th-gen Intel Core i7 processor paired with 12GB DDR4 memory and a 256GB M.2 PCIe SSD. Configurations may vary in some regions, so the Yoga C930 in your stores might be more powerful or inferior.

There’s one thing that’s missing though, and it’s not an option anyone can get either: discrete graphics.

As mentioned, the Yoga C930 is not an ultraportable. It has nowhere near the portability of Dell’s XPS 13 or even Lenovo’s own Yoga Book. It’s big enough to house at least a modest NVIDIA GeForce MX150 — just like the latest ZenBook from ASUS.

My usage includes multiple tabs on Chrome, some slight editing on Photoshop, and hours of binge-watching on Netflix. I primarily used the notebook for typing and browsing, which are not heavy tasks.

So far, I had no major performance issues during my time with the Yoga C930. I didn’t bother to install games because it lacks discrete graphics.

Of course, the notebook runs Windows 10. I got the October 2018 update just last week, and it made the dark mode better. It matches the gray motif of the device.

It’s ideal for my own use

Putting all the technical specifications aside, the Yoga C930 has been a great companion.

Aside from the soundbar, I also fully appreciate the notebook’s keyboard. It’s not as great as the one on ThinkPads, but it’s good enough for me. It’s well-spaced and has a good amount of key travel.

The touchpad uses Microsoft Precision drivers and it fully supports all the gestures of Windows 10. It has a glass surface and picks up all the inputs. A responsive touchpad and a good keyboard is the combo I need for work.

There’s also something about the craftsmanship of the Yoga C930 that gives assurance that it’s a well-built device. Perhaps it’s the balance between weight and dimensions.

Lastly, the webcam has a physically cover — just like a ThinkPad’s. It’s nice to see nifty features of Lenovo’s business laptops on a consumer device. I don’t have to cover the webcam anymore with a piece of tape.

Great battery life

I am generally impressed with the longevity of the Yoga C930. Lenovo promises all-day battery life, but we all know that is somehow a stretch. Based on my usage, I get around eight to nine hours. I also experience about the same when watching Netflix non-stop.

It’ll not beat records, but I am always assured that even if I leave my charger at home, I know I can rely on the Yoga C930 to get me through a full day.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

You probably already think that this is my GadgetMatch, which I’ll not deny. I had a good time with the Yoga C930, despite its shortcomings. It’s a premium convertible that managed to meet my expectations. I’m hoping Lenovo will soon have an option with discrete graphics. For now, you can maximize the device by plugging in an external GPU.

The Yoga C930 has a starting price of US$ 1,399. It’s a bit pricier than I expected from its specs, but it’s a premium convertible that offers more versatility than regular laptops.

SEE ALSO: Lenovo IdeaPad 530S, 330S, 330: Which is right for you?

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