Tag Archives: Laptop

Samsung unpacks the Galaxy Book range



At today’s Samsung Unpacked event, the South Korean firm unveiled its vision for the future of PCs. A range of high spec ultrabooks with the characteristics of smartphones – mobility, connectivity and continuity. Not once was the word laptop mentioned in the whole presentation, but instead they’re portable PCs. Look like laptops to me…

Regardless, Samsung announced two new high-end Galaxy Books with the thickness of a smartphone and the power of a PC – the Samsung Galaxy Book Pro and the Samsung Galaxy Book Pro 360. The laptops are amazingly thin: the Book Pro is 11.2 mm and the Pro 360 is 11.5 mm. Available in two screen sizes – 13.3″ and 15.6″ – and three colours, the Galaxy Books have the thinnest hinges ever. The screens themselves are just crazy thin – check out the promo pic on the left.

While the Book Pro is a standard clamshell laptop, the Book Pro 360 is a convertible with the screen folding all the way back into a tablet. Talking about the display, it’s a touchscreen AMOLED display with S-Pen support (included in the box). Given the video conferencing world we’re in at the moment, the Galaxy Books come with dual array mics and intelligent noise cancelling. Disappointingly, the camera is only 720p. 5G’s built-in too, just as you’d expect with a mobile phone, though it seems to be only available on the smaller 13″ models.

Partnering with both Intel and Microsoft, the Galaxy Book Pros are the first in a portfolio of collaboratively-produced devices where Samsung has attempted to create deep integration between the hardware and the Windows software. It’s definitely the way to go.

Inside the Galaxy Book is an 11th Gen Intel Core processor (i3, i5, i7) with an Iris X GPU on the higher-end CPUs. It’s powered by a slim custom battery giving 20 hours of video playback or around 16 hours of standard use. The 65W charger (made from recycled materials) will give 8 hours of power in 30 minutes. Where have we heard charging stats like that? Mobile phones, of course. Port-wise, the Book is up-to-date with USB C and Thunderbolt 4.

Samsung is working hard to bring multiple products into a “Galaxy Ecosystem”. For example, the Galaxy Book series brings Samsung SmartThings Dashboard to the PC for the first time. There’s connectivity with the Galaxy smartphones too with apps you’d see on the phone also available on the Book and seamless syncing between the two devices. Android phone apps can be controlled from the Book so there’s no need to switch between laptop and smartphone. And for a second screen, the Galaxy Book can use a Galaxy S7 tablet. It’s all getting very integrated around here.

Of course, the Galaxy Book Pro isn’t going to be cheap. Prices appear to start at US$999/GB£1099 for the Pro and US$1199/GB£1199 for the Pro 360. Preorders are open now with delivery in mid-May.

For those with less deep pockets, Samsung unveiled the Galaxy Book, a 15″ laptop that will fold flat. It starts at a much more reasonable price of US$549/GB£699 though it looks like folk in the UK are getting ripped off unless there’s a spec difference. And in news for gamers, Samsung announced the Galaxy Book Odyssey. It comes with a Tiger Lake H CPU and an Nvidia RTX 3050Ti GPU for all those high-performance games. Priced at US$1399.

If you want to review the launch event yourself, it’s here but skip through to about an hour in for the start of the presentation.

 

 


Life In and After Lockdown



Although many of us still remain in lockdown, there’s light at the end of the pandemic tunnel with a number of countries now easing the restrictions. Painful as it has been for many, it’s also been positive in several respects. I spend more time with my children, there’s no hour long commute and I’ve been taking walks every day. Well, nearly every day…

And it looks like I’m not alone. LG Electronics commissioned research in UK to mark the launch of its latest portable and lightweight laptop range, LG gram, and found that

  • Just over a half of those questioned plan to continue with new habits like listening to podcasts, online fitness classes and regular walking once social distancing restrictions are lifted.
  • Two-fifths feel these new habits are better for their wellbeing.
  • More than one in four have found it easier to relax and keep a better routine.

Video calls have become a way of life and the main way to keep in touch with friends and family. In addition to calling for a chat, 25% have celebrated a birthday, 20% have taken part in a pub quiz and 7% have been to a stag or hen do. Frankly, I’d be asking for a do-over when things are more normal…

The study showed that the average person was spending nearly three hours per week on video calls, with half the nation (48%) expecting to continue with video calls after the lock down is finished. I guess what this shows was how much people felt that video calls were either unnecessary or difficult to do, but once people saw how easy the calls were and got past the initial awkwardness, it’s become ordinary. Thanks Zoom.

The poll of 2,000 conducted by OnePoll showed how integral technology is to our lives with laptops (54%), TV (57%) and mobile phones (64%) playing a key role for work and entertainment during the lockdown, allowing us to continue watching our favourite TV shows (51%), follow at-home workouts (19%), and learn a new skill or language (16%). If you include becoming a home school teacher as “learning a new skill”, then it’s three out of three for me.

When it comes to working-from-home this is where I think we will see lasting change. After experiencing working-from-home many will not want to return to long commutes in crowded trains or long traffic jams with the commensurate savings in fares or fuel. A quarter of the people (25%) questioned agreed that they planned on working from home more often after offices reopen. When asked what their ideal space to work from would be in the future, home was the most popular answer (30%) followed by a fixed office (23%) and then outside space (9%).

Hanju Kim, IT Product Director, LG UK said: “It’s both encouraging and uplifting to see some of the positive things coming out of this challenging period. The fact that many people are forming productive and healthy new habits is testament to the nation’s ability to adjust. The nation is working from home and has an appetite to continue working flexibly even after offices reopen. A big part of this can be attributed to technology keeping us connected.

And so to the product launch….the 2020 range of LG gram laptops is available in the UK now coming in 14” (from £1,199.99), 15” (from £1,299.99) and 17” (from £1,449.99) sizes, featuring a 10th Generation Intel Core processor with Iris Plus graphics and up to 24GB of dual-channel DDR4 memory. With the 14” model weighing under 1 kg and the 15” & 17” models allowing up to 17 hours of battery life, the 2020 range sets a new standard for portable computing. Available from all good UK retailers – Amazon, PC World, Argos and Costco.


Razer’s Project Valerie Triple Screen Laptop at CES



One of the best things about motor shows are the preposterous concept cars that will never see the light of day and serve only to showcase the manufacturer’s technology. Razer are verging into this territory with a bonkers triple 4K screen laptop, codenamed Project Valerie, where the three screens combine to give a whopping resolution of 11520 x 2160. And get this….the screens will automatically expand and collapse – so cool. Aimed at the (very) serious gamer or esports player, it’s totally awesome and no doubt will have a price tag to match when (if?) it goes on sale.

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at GeekNewsCentral.com.

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MSI shows off New Gaming Laptops at CES



MSI-laptopWhen it comes to computer gaming, the standard thinking is that you’ve got to have a massive, overpowered desktop system if you really want to be able to play. After all, modern games are chock full of high-resolution audio and graphics files that require a lot of horsepower in order to be properly rendered. And while most of the low-end laptops you’re likely to find at the local office supply store won’t really excel when it comes to gaming, companies like MSI are hard at work developing gaming systems that are as powerful as they are portable.

At CES 2016, MSI introduced its new GS72 Stealth Pro laptop, the successor to its popular GS70. Measuring in at 0.78” thin, the GS72 is MSI’s slimmest and lightest 17” gaming notebook and sports an ultra-high resolution 4K display  in a form factor chassis. There is also a non-4K GS72 Stealth option. Both versions of the computer are expected to be on the market in early 2016.

Some specs from one potential build of the Stealth GS72:

  • Windows 10 Home/Windows 10 Pro
  • Latest 6th Gen. Intel® Core™ i7 processor
  • NVIDIA® GeForce GTX 970M graphics with ultra performance
  • True Color Technology for increased color contrast and greater image detail
  • Exclusive ESS SABRE HiFi DAC for lossless, high-quality audio
  • Nahimic Sound Technology delivering 360⁰ immersive audio experience
  • Sound by Dynaudio system
  • NVMe M.2 SSD by PCIe Gen3 X4 up to 2200MB/s speed(Optional)
  • The latest USB 3.1 SuperSpeed+ interface built in

Booq Cobra Laptop Briefcase Review



booq LogoOn review here is the Booq Cobra Laptop Briefcase, a lightweight and high-spec laptop bag. Unlike some of the other Booq bags that I’ve reviewed here for GNC, it’s in the more traditional style for those circumstances where a rucksack looks a little bit too casual. Designed for laptops with screens up to 16″, it’s made with ballistic nylon complimented by lower leather trim, meaning it looks good but is durable too. As you’ll see from the pictures, the YKK zips are mostly on show in bright steel, though the main laptop compartment has a covered waterproof zip.

Booq Cobra Side

Booq Cobra with Laptop

Opening it up, the Cobra has plenty of room inside, with five main compartments for gear. Starting from one side…

  1. Booq Cobra InnerZipped pocket with Booq’s corporate copper-coloured inner, suitable for an A5 size notepad or tablet.
  2. Open pocket with soft jersey inner. Additional easy access pockets within suitable for purse, wallet, mobile phone, MP3 player or tablet. Useful when on the go but gear may fall out.
  3. Big zipped pocket with copper inner. Further internal pockets for A4 notepad and bigger devices, perhaps external hard drive, PSU or even lunchboxes. Couple of pen pockets and a keyring too. Handily, the zip on this goes at least three quarters of the way down the side of the Cobra, so it opens wide. Not sure you’d quite get a change of clothes in here but it’s close.
  4. Big hidden waterproof zipped pocket, with soft padded lining. The is obviously intended for the main device and it comfortably took a big Toshiba Satellite Pro.
  5. Simple open pocket with copper inner, big enough for a magazine or A4 notepad.

There’s padding and protection between the compartments, so gear is going to be looked after wherever it is.

Booq’s copper-coloured inner may not be to everyone’s taste, but it’s much easier to find stuff in the depths of the pockets. To some extent the pictures don’t do the colour justice – it’s better in real life, as they say.

Booq Cobra CarryFor carriage, the Cobra’s well covered. To start with, there’s the two handles which are comfortable without being overly broad, and attach to the bag with seatbelt-style webbing. The handles fold back into the bag when not needed, keeping the bag neat. Then there’s an over-the-shoulder strap, made from similar webbing with a large shoulder pad and metal clasps at each end. And finally there’s a webbing loop that can be passed over the handle of a trolley suitcase to sit the Cobra on top.

Even better, the Cobra has a flat bottom, so the bag stays upright when put down (mostly!).

As with all Booq bags, the Cobra is tagged with a Terralinq serial number, which is Booq’s “lost and found” service, giving a much greater chance of being reunited with lost gear. Let’s hope you never need to use it.

At US$295, GB£210 or 295€, the Booq Cobra isn’t an impulse purchase so I imagine the briefcase will be protecting some high-end gear. The Cobra seems a quality product – well finished, no lose threads, metal fixtures – and it’s perfect for cossetting a MacBook Pro or gaming laptop while travelling. Available on-line (US, UK, Europe) and other good retailers.

Thanks to Booq for the review Cobra.


The Mobile App Gap



The history of mobile applications dates back to simple games such as Snake, Pong, Tetris, and Tic-Tac-Toe included with candy bar phones.

As phones became “smarter,” Windows Mobile phones of the mid-2000’s and others included the ability to install third-party software, both paid and free.

Next came the era of the high noise level platform app stores that we know and love/hate today. There are tons of both free and paid apps. Some apps are useful to accomplish very specific, pointed tasks with high efficiency. Others apps are arguably less than useless. The good and the bad, the useful and the useless are packaged together in a cacophony of brightly-colored graphics and flowery sales language, all on equal footing and demanding attention. App discovery is often painful, unpleasant and risks device app bloat.

Mobile device ownership and management requires a learning curve. In phase one, the mobile device novice is at high risk of downloading seemingly every app encountered, while actually making use of very little of that which has been installed.

Phase two of the learning curve is typically marked by out of storage memory errors.

Phase three requires the user to decide which useless apps should be deleted so that the mobile device can continue to be updated and/or functional. When deleting apps, there is a tendency for the user to hang on to installed apps if there’s even the most remote of chances that the user might conceivably use the app.

The key test to determine whether a particular app should simply be deleted is to ask yourself whether or not you would reinstall it after a factory reset.

It should be noted that apps that the user has paid for will tend to have a higher psychological value placed on them, regardless of whether they are actually useful or not.

In this noisy mobile app jungle, where crap is right alongside cream, people are trying to squeeze the most out of their mobile devices, to extract the maximum productivity.

Mobile devices make great content consumption devices. Proof is all around us. At any given moment when people are around, how many of those people are absorbed with their mobile devices?

As mobile devices become ever more powerful, the next step in the evolution of the mobile device usage learning curve is revolving around increasing demand to accomplish real-world productivity tasks. While some productivity tasks can be accomplished, others are difficult or impossible – not because of computing power limitations – after all, today’s mobile devices often have quite powerful processors – no, because of software limitations.

Mobile device operating systems have grown larger and more sophisticated along with the more powerful processors. However, there is a problem plaguing both iOS and Android in the form of an app gap. Apps are wannabe pretenders when it comes to genuine software sophistication. No mobile device apps can compare on equal footing with desktop computer software. Both major platforms – iOS and Android – suffer from this problem.

There is nothing stopping software vendors from developing highly sophisticated mobile software, other than the fact that it’s typically just not worth it. For whatever reason, mobile device owners have a pervasive “it has to be free or very low cost” mentality. We are willing to spend upwards of a thousand dollars or even more for a high end mobile device, but balk at the idea of having to pay more than a few dollars for single apps.

If you have ever tried to push a mobile device to better take advantage of its powerful processing capabilities, you quickly run into a problem. Go beyond a certain level of task sophistication, and the apps typically fall flat very quickly. The ultimate test for mobile apps is to take a mobile device and plug it in to a 1080p or higher monitor. Attach a keyboard and if it’s an Android device, attach a mouse or trackpad. Try to use the mobile device and the installed apps like you would a full computer. For example, try to push the experience to its limits by editing a long, complex video and see how well it goes. The mobile software will play back high resolution videos without any trouble at all, but try to do something really productive and things quickly fall apart. The problem isn’t the processor, but the software.

The mobile app gap situation doesn’t look as if it will improve anytime soon. In the meantime, as mobile device owners and users there are a lot of questions we should be asking ourselves.

How much are you willing to pay for mobile device apps? What has been your experience? Have you ever paid for an app and then realized later that it was a waste of money? What is the most you have ever paid for a mobile app and why?

Why are people willing to pay sometimes hundreds of dollars for sophisticated commercial desktop class software without batting an eye, yet close their wallets when it comes to paid apps for mobile devices? Do people perceive mobile devices to have as big of a potential payoff as a desktop or laptop? If mobile computing devices don’t have the same payoff potential as a desktop or laptop, then why not? What is the difference between the two systems? What can be done to increase the potential payoff value of mobile computing devices?


Device Wars



surface-bookAs technology relentlessly moves forward, functions continually consolidate and devices get smaller as capabilities increase. This march forward has caused form factors to shift. The first desktop computers were relatively large and boxy and certainly not portable. Over time as laptop computers improved, desktop sales began to fall.

Imagine the succession of devices you have gone through over a long period of time. They start out as clunky and single purpose, and over time as the tech improves they get smaller and some of them are simply absorbed such as camcorder and point-and-shoot cameras. Imagine them endlessly changing and continually morphing as your expectations changed over long periods of time. There is an ongoing war not only between devices, their capabilities and their form factors, but there is also a war going on inside of each end user of these devices as to which one is better and performing specific tasks.

The first mobile phones were large and clunky. Mobile phones went through a long progression over time of getting smaller as capability increased and eventually turned into the ubiquitous smartphones we know and love today.
The ongoing warfront is now between smartphones, tablets running apps such as the iPad, and conventional laptop computers. Which one is better at performing what task?

Up until about 2011, I did all of my mobile computing on laptop machines. I got an iPad 2 in 2011. I found the iPad 2 to be a great media consumption device, so between the iPad 2 and my Android phone, I gradually stopped using my laptops for all but real productivity tasks, where the iPad and other tablets really seem to fall flat.

In 2013, I bought an iPad Air. In retrospect, I justified the purchase to myself thinking that the faster processor in the iPad air might enable me to move completely away from laptop computers altogether. Sadly, this was not the case. The iPad remains a great media consumption device, but as a productivity device it is still quite lacking.

My primary use for computers includes writing articles, editing video, editing my websites, and recording and publishing audio podcasts. While it is possible to do all of these tasks on an iPad or an Android tablet, it’s an unnecessarily painful, slow experience necessitating jumping through multiple hoops.

I believe many people did exactly the same thing I did, trying to turn the iPad into a small ultraportable laptop. The iPad makes a lousy laptop. There is no mouse, and though the iOS apps are great for media consumption, the apps make lousy productivity impostors. The iPad makes a poor netbook. I believe that is why Apple forbids the iPad from using a mouse.
The conventional laptop makes an inferior media consumption device.

Beginning in May of 2014, a new entrant entered the ongoing device war. I believe a significant portion of the future of computing resides in the so-called 2 in 1’s. I don’t believe that conventional laptops or tablets running apps will go away, but I believe the 2 in 1’s such as the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 and above will eat into laptop and tablet sales. Apple has yet to enter this 2 in 1 market, despite the recently-announced iPad Pro. The iPad Pro running iOS apps will be a bigger iPad and thus a bigger media consumption device that can’t run genuine productivity software.

I personally see a future for myself with a large screen smartphone, and a 2 in 1 tablet/computer, with some room left over for inexpensive mid-sized tablets that function as media consumption devices and offer mapping and GPS functions. I will allow my conventional desktop and laptop computers, the majority of them now-older out-of-date Macs, die of attrition as they inevitably quit working over time.