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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

Laptops

Acer announces new Chromebook Spin 11 for a cheaper price

Fully compatible with a Wacom pen

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It’s a case of déjà vu. A year after the first one, Acer has announced the Chromebook Spin 11 for a second time. This time, it has better parts, a cheaper price, and more consumer-friendly availability.

Previously, the Spin 11 was launched exclusively for the education sector, offering the needed durability and flexibility for a student. The new Spin 11, however, packs more punch for a lower price. The announcements comes only a few weeks removed from Acer’s other announcements at CES 2018.

The new Chromebook Spin 11 (CP311-1H/CP311-1HN) comes in three flavors of processors — Intel Pentium quad-core N4200, quad-core Celeron N3450, or dual-core Celeron N3350. It’s a bit more than the previous model which came only with the N3350.

Acer also offers variability with storage and memory. It is available in either 4GB or 8GB LPDDR4 for RAM. Meanwhile, it offers 32GB or 64GB variants for internal storage.

It also comes with a 11.6-inch IPS display with a 1366 x 768-pixel resolution. Like the previous model, the notebook is fitted with a 360-degree hinge that allows for laptop, tablet, display, and tent modes.

The Spin 11 pushes the emerging trend for USB Type-C charging. While it does reduce variability, it will boast of an uptime that lasts “all day.”

Besides charging, it sports two USB-C 3.1 ports, two USB-A 3.0 ports, and a microSD reader for connectivity. Likewise, Wi-Fi 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.2 round the laptop out for wireless connectivity.

However, the new notebook’s biggest upgrade is its compatibility with a Wacom EMR stylus, which comes packaged with the CP311-1HN model. It doesn’t require a battery and is resistant to trauma. Before the Spin 11, only a handful of hybrid notebooks came with a stylus.

The Acer Chromebook Spin 11 will start shipping out in March. It’ll come with a price tag of US$ 349.

SEE ALSO: Acer’s new Swift 7 is thinner than ever

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Laptops

Google lead designer reveals prototypes of Pixel 2, Home Mini, Pixelbook

A touch of human

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It’s not too often that we get a behind-the-scenes look at the drawing boards of premium hardware products, but when we do, it’s magical.

Ivy Ross, who’s the lead designer of Google’s latest devices, revealed the ideas and executions she and her team put into making their gadgets.

Published on The She Word (a series featuring the women of Google on the company’s blog), Ross discussed a variety of topics ranging from her early beginnings as a young designer to the aesthetics of Pixel and Home devices.

When asked what the most important design principle of Google’s hardware is, she had this to say:

Human. By that I mean friendly, emotionally appealing, and easy to fit into your life and your home.

She goes on to explain that three-dimensional and tactile aesthetics are important after spending so much time in front of flat screens. That’s why her design team puts so much emphasis on fabric materials.

Through images, the blog post also showed off the progress from multiple prototypes to finished product for Google’s most important items:

The visual progression of the Pixel 2 XL’s design is arguably the most interesting. You can see how the flagship phone went from a squarish panda to a more rounded one.

Ross became the head of design for Google’s hardware team in mid-2016, and has since made her mark as the company’s most human designer to date.

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Computers

Microsoft’s new patches may be harming your PC

The Meltdown and Spectre patches are duds!

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The Meltdown drama continues. Days after researchers confirmed the existence of the Meltdown and Spectre flaws, big firms like Microsoft and Apple started issuing patches against the bug. Microsoft’s fixes, however, might be doing more harm than good.

Microsoft’s series of patches have been causing issues among those who installed it already. Users are reporting that the patches have caused their PCs to run slower than usual.

Surprisingly, Microsoft themselves have confirmed the reports. A wide range of devices are indeed slowing down because of the patches. The firm has also listed down the affected PCs, as described below.

First, PCs that run Windows 10 on newer processors like Skylake and Kaby Lake show “single-digit” but hardly noticeable slowdowns. Meanwhile, PCs that run Windows 10 on fourth generation or earlier chips will suffer from noticeable slowdown. Finally, those that run Windows 8 or 7 on older chips will be most hit by the performance issues.

The chaos doesn’t even stop there. Some users have even reported that their PCs have stopped booting entirely. In an open thread on Microsoft’s support forums, a user suffering from a bricked PC has been joined by a torrent of users who are suffering from the same issue.

As with the performance issues, Microsoft has issued a statement regarding the unbootable state. This time, they have pinpointed that AMD processors are to blame for the issue, citing a lack of documentation on AMD’s part.

Microsoft has since halted distribution of the erring security patch to AMD processors. Their support team is working to resolve the issue among those already affected by the issue. Meanwhile, Microsoft and AMD developers are working to put out a more stable fix for the Spectre flaw.

Despite the lack of workable fixes for the issue, Microsoft is assuring its users that harmful exploits have not been discovered out in the wild. Not yet, that is.

SEE ALSO: Newly discovered bugs leave two decades of devices vulnerable

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