Laptops

Starmobile Engage Aura review

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I get asked a lot about laptop recommendations, and while it’s easy to give an answer for notebooks above $400, anything below is tricky. So when Starmobile asked me to review its $150 Engage Aura, I happily obliged in order to deepen my knowledge of the budget-friendly segment.

Yes, it’s that cheap. And this isn’t even some entry-level Chromebook or tiny 10-inch tablet convertible; it’s a legit Windows 10 laptop resembling an Apple product. There are obviously going to be some tradeoffs for the low, low price, which I’ll get into beginning… now!

What should I know?

The Starmobile Engage Aura is a 14-inch Windows 10 laptop without a touchscreen display or flexible hinge for multiple modes. It’s as plain as a notebook can get, but that’s exactly what you should expect from a device this affordable.

Inside you’ll find a low-powered Intel Atom x5-Z8350 processor (something you’d normally find in much smaller tablets), a measly 2GB of RAM (most smartphones these days have more), and a decent 1366 x 768-pixel resolution for its screen.

Is this good enough for _____?

Surfing the web: Yes. Watching stuff on Netflix: Yes. Editing photos and videos: Not really. Gaming: Don’t bet on it.

I mean it when I stress this is an underpowered gadget. The most I was able to do on the Engage Aura was write on Google Docs while Photoshop was running in the background with a few images open. Adding anything on top of that will cause the system to overload its memory and stutter until you close something.

Still, if you manage your multitasking properly — as well as your expectations — its performance is satisfactory for getting work done. But don’t even bother playing games on it, unless you turn off absolutely everything in the background. You won’t enjoy the visuals that much anyway because of the muted colors and low resolution of the display.

Can I at least store all my files in here?

Haha, no. The Engage Aura’s biggest weakness is its internal storage; you get 32GB of space, half of which is already taken up by the operating system, leaving you with around 15GB when starting fresh.

That’s inadequate for anything beyond a set of personal photos and a few HD videos. Heck, your smartphone likely has more available storage. The Engage Aura is meant for people who rely on cloud-based storage or those with an external hard disk on hand at all times.

(From top to bottom, left to right) microSD card slot, mini-HDMI, USB 3.0, power-in port, USB 2.0, 3.5mm audio port.

What I found more convenient, however, was to just stick a microSD card in its built-in slot; that gave me an additional 64GB from my memory card, which is already twice as much as what the laptop comes with.

How’s the build quality?

Again, as you’d expect from a laptop this low-priced, it’s flimsy and can’t take too many hits. I had to make sure I kept it in a well-padded bag whenever I traveled. And even then, I discovered a few scratches mysteriously appear on the plastic cover.

I also found the keyboard and trackpad leaning towards the hard-to-use end, but I could say that about most Windows notebooks. It’s a matter of getting used to it, but what I could never get behind is the poorly located power button, which sits right next to the Delete button, blending in with the rest of the keyboard. Good luck consciously avoiding it all the time.

What’s the battery life like?

The great thing about having a processor meant for tablets in a laptop this big is its efficiency. Coupled with a large battery and low-resolution display, you’re looking at more than six hours of usage without having to plug into an electrical outlet.

That’s under mixed usage, by the way. I liked how the Engage Aura let me play several episodes of a television show even when the battery gauge was already below 30 percent. The laptop clearly works best when it isn’t overburdened by simultaneous requests.

Is there anything I else should worry about?

One irritating problem I had during my time with the Engage Aura was connecting to certain routers and hotspots. It’s picky at times, and can’t reach faraway signals. It seems like Starmobile equipped it with a weak Wi-Fi card to further drop the price.

The built-in speakers also left me disappointed while binge-watching. External speakers and/or subtitles are a must if you want to enjoy a movie or series. Bass is practically non-existent, and a lot of sound gets lost since the speakers shoot downwards.

Lastly, Starmobile made the pricing a little confusing. The company claims it’s being sold on Lazada for PhP 7,990, but it’s actually listed at PhP 7,388. And even though the original price is PhP 10,990, the supposedly limited price of PhP 9,990 — which is meant for the gold edition we have here — has been on the site for a while now. They’re all affordable, nonetheless.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

With so few options available at this price range, I can’t help but wholly recommend the Starmobile Engage Aura despite all its shortcomings.

I’d often think to myself, I wish I had more storage or I wish this thing could handle a few more browser tabs, but then I’d always go back to the price. Do I have any right to complain when it costs less than half the price of laptops that are already considered cheap?

Even if you forget about the price for a second, the Engage Aura simply works. It never glitched out on me, every movie and app I opened played the way it should, and I never felt embarrassed using it in a cafe — in fact, its subtle look is quite sleek.

Buy this if you’re on a tight budget but must type for a living (like me); buy this for your mom or dad who just needs something usable; or buy it as a backup for whatever you’re using right now. You won’t regret purchasing something this affordable in the first place

[irp posts=”7853" name=”Starmobile Play Five is a really affordable Marshmallow phone”]

CES 2020

The ASUS Chromebook Flip C436 screams premium

Simple, clean, and light

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Despite Apple’s dig at Chromebooks, it appears to be going strong with yet another addition to the portfolio — the ASUS Chromebook Flip C436.

Simple, clean, and light

ASUS is calling this the thinnest and lightest 14-inch Chromebook. It’s only 13.7mm thick and weighs just 1.1kg.

Complementing the slim form factor are two unique finishes: An iridescent Aerogel White which changes color depending on your viewing angle, and a more subtle Transparent Silver.

The sexy look extends to the display which has an 85 percent screen-to-body ratio.

Unexpected power

One would think something this slim form-factor will hold it back from going all out in performance. Fortunately for us, that’s not the case.

Here’s a specs and ports dump: Up to 10th Gen Intel Core i7, 16GB of RAM, 512GB SSD storage, Wi-Fi 6. Two USB-C ports, microSD card slot up to 2TB.

Whether you’re typing in laptop mode or writing on it in tablet mode, this will help you get your work done. Yes, write on tablet mode. This Chromebook supports any USI-compatible stylus.

The ASUS Chromebook Flip’s 42W all-day battery promises to delivery up to 12 hours of battery life.

Not just for work

When you’re done with the day’s work, you can flip it to tent mode for a Netflix session. The display along with the Harman Kardon-certified speaker setup should produce audio perfect as you unwind for the day.

The ASUS Chromebook Flip C436 starts US$ 999 will be available at around the first and/or second quarter of 2020.

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CES 2020

The Lenovo Ducati 5 is a racing inspired laptop

It even gets an exhaust note on startup!

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Lenovo has been partnering with Ducati on the racetrack for a couple of years now, and today, the company announced the Lenovo Ducati 5, a new Windows 10 laptop that was designed in collaboration between the two companies.

The racing stripe and additional design features come together well, and the fresh 10th-gen processor from Intel should keep it running quickly. The BIOS chime is meant to match the sound of Moto GP riders, and it comes in a Ducati gift box that has matching colors. It also comes with a sleeve that has a Ducati shield.

Apart from the Ducati branding, Ducati 5 is a standard mid-range laptop. It comes equipped with a 10th gen Intel Ice Lake Core i5-1035G1, Intel integrated graphics, 8 GB of RAM, a 14-inch display, and up to a 1 TB PCIe SSD.

Unsurprisingly given the size, there’s no discrete graphics on board, just the integrated graphics of the chip. This is not meant for serious video work or gaming.

Port selection is fairly good, offering users two USB 3.1 Type-A ports, one USB Type-C port, HDMI, an SD card reader, and a 3.5 mm audio jack.

The Lenovo Ducati 5 starts at EUR 900 and will be available in April 2020. Lenovo does not list a U.S. pricing. With a production run of just 12,000 units, the Ducati 5 is clearly a niche product.

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CES 2020

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold: Not just a computer

Best foldable so far?

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Last year in the midst of a foldable smartphone war, Lenovo showed us that a computer with a foldable display was also possible.

At that time it didn’t come with a name. Or specs. Or a launch date or a price. But all of that changes here at CES 2020.

What makes the Thinkpad X1 Fold so special? If you saw our preview video you would know, but if you didn’t don’t worry, we got you covered.

It’s not just a computer, its many things.

It’s a huge 13.3 tablet with an OLED display that folds close just like this. When shut, it looks just like a notebook complete with its built in leather folio cover.

You can also hold it like a book and and enjoy an e-book the way you would regular books. Use it with a pen, and it’s a notebook!

You can fold it horizontally too and the bottom half turns into a virtual keyboard. Or, and we weren’t allowed to tell you before, use a real keyboard.

When the X1 Fold is closed it fits snuggly in the middle of the display, so you can easily take it anywhere with you. Flick open the kickstand to use the tablet as a monitor and control everything with the physical keyboard.

You could also fold it horizontally and prop the keyboard on one half of the display and use it like you would any laptop. Key travel feels good and satisfying. It connects wirelessly and automatically. And it charges while tucked in the middle of the display.

The keyboard and pen are bundled and come free.

But Lenovo will also sell a stand for propping it up when you want to connect it to an external monitor. Yes you can do that do.

Another thing we weren’t allowed to show you before is its hinge mechanism. The secret sauce that allows it to fold and unfold like this.

It’s worth pointing out. While the durability of flexible displays is still questioned, Lenovo is willing to risk the name ThinkPad — a brand that’s synonymous with durability and performance.

Now that the design is final. We can also now share button and port placements: Two USB-C ports. One on the bottom, the other is on the right along with SIM card slot, volume button, and the power button.

At launch Lenovo will first be offering a model with a full version of Windows 10 Pro. A version with the upcoming Windows 10X is eventually coming.

Because many of you will ask. Here is the spec sheet: You get the latest Intel processors, up to 8GB of RAM and 1TB of storage.

While the future of computing is still being debated. A versatile device like the ThinkPad X1 Fold is exciting and makes sense. It’s an idea we can get behind. And it’s one of GadgetMatch’s Best of CES 2020 Awardees!

The question now is people will go out and buy it. Would you?

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