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CES 2017: HP introduces new EliteBook x360 and Spectre x360 convertibles

“The EliteBook x360 is being touted as the world’s slimmest business convertible”

HP has kicked off its CES journey with the launch of a couple of convertibles – the EliteBook x360 and Spectre x360. Similar to their predecessors, the new convertibles also sport 360-degree rotatable hinges, which allow them to be used in several modes like laptop, tablet, stand, and tent. The brand is touting the EliteBook X360 as the world’s slimmest business convertible, and adds that it sports the longest battery life in a convertible – up to 16 hours and 30 minutes.

The HP EliteBook x360 sports a CNC aluminium unibody frame, and is designed to pass twelve MIL-STD 810G tests. It features up to a 13.3-inch UWVA UHD display with a layer of Corning Gorilla Glass. The device offers up to an Intel Core i7 processor with Intel HD Graphics 620, 16GB of RAM, up to 360GB of SSD storage, and up to Windows 10 Pro 64. The convertible comes with optional NFC, one USB Type-C port with Thunderbolt, an IR camera for Windows Hello, a fingerprint sensor, and HP Active Pen stylus support.

The new HP Spectre x360 flaunts longer battery life – from 9.5 hours to 12.75 hours compared to its predecessor. The convertible offers a nearly borderless 15.6-inch 4K display. It comes with a 7th-gen Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, and 256GB of solid state storage. The device features NVIDIA GeForce 940MX graphics with 2GB of dedicated video memory. It comes with dual Bang & Olufsen speakers, infrared webcam with Windows Hello support, HP fast charge, and a USB Type-C port with Thunderbolt.

The HP EliteBook x360 will be available by the end of this month, but there’s no word regarding its pricing at the moment. The Spectre x360 will go on pre-order in the US on January 3rd at the starting price of $1,499,

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ZenBook Windows Laptop Rentals for Your Next Event

If you’re hosting an event and you need to get a large quantity laptop rental, you probably have a very specific way you want your laptops to look. Odds are that you want get laptop rentals which look sleek and professional. The mainstream option would be to get a lot of MacBook rentals; however, you may not be capable of running your event essential programs on MacOS.

Fortunately, Apple is not the only company with sleek, highly portable, and powerful laptops. If you need to use programs which run on another operating system, such as Windows, there are many alternatives to MacBooks that you can use for your event, such as an Asus ZenBook UX303UA.

Design wise, the ZenBook is sleek, light, and looks modern, but it still looks a little less appealing in comparison to the design of Apple’s MacBook. The ZenBook has an aluminum case, which comes in three colors: Smoky Brown, Icicle Gold, and Rose Gold. The Zenbook UX303UA has a 13.3 inch HD touch display which has an anti-glare coating, and a backlit keyboard to top it all off.

Specification wise, the ZenBook UX303UA offers a lot for its weight of 3.19 pounds (1.45 kg). The ZenBook UX303UA has a battery life of at LEAST 8 hours of web browsing, which should suit most event needs. Processing wise, the ZenBook can come with an Intel Core i3, i5, or i7 processor. In regards to storage, the ZenBook UX303UA can have up to a 1 Terabyte hard drive and a 256 GB SSD, as well as a minimum of 4 GB RAM.

Overall, the ZenBook UX303UA can provide you a good alternative to Apple’s MacBook Air. The ZenBook UX303UA has solid specifications, and only weighs slightly more than the Apple MacBook Air. If you need Windows OS or need to run any Windows related application for your next event, get an ASUS laptop rental quote today.

 

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Laptop Buying Guide: 8 Essential Tips

Compact enough to carry with you, yet versatile enough to run demanding applications, a laptop is the best tool for doing serious work or play at home and on the road. While standalone tablets and smartphones are always popular, most people realize that everything from typing a research paper to crunching video to gaming works better on a laptop. So what type of laptop should you get?

There’s a wide variety of sizes, features and prices, which makes choosing the right laptop a challenge. That’s why you need to figure out what your needs are. To make the right call, just follow these steps.

1. Pick a Platform: Mac, Windows or Chrome OS?

This is not an easy question to answer, especially if you’re not familiar with both Macs and PCs. But this quick overview of each platform’s strengths and weaknesses should help.

Most laptops come with one of three operating systems: Windows, Chrome OS or Mac OS X (for MacBooks only). Choosing the right one is a personal preference, but here’s a quick summary of what each offers.

Windows 10

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The most flexible operating system, Windows appears on many more makes and models than Chrome OS or Mac OS X. Windows notebooks range in price from under $150 to several thousand dollars and offer a wide array of features from touch screens to fingerprint readers to dual graphics chips. Windows 10, the latest version of Microsoft’s flagship operating system, provides a number of improvements over Windows 7 and 8, including the ability to switch between tablet and desktop modes, a revamped Start menu with live tiles and the powerful Cortana digital assistant. Since its launch in July 2015, Windows 10 has also added a host of improvements, including the ability to use follow-up questions with Cortana, search your email using natural language and use your stylus to scribble almost anywhere.

Apple macOS Sierra

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All MacBooks come with Apple’s latest desktop operating system, macOS Sierra. Overall, the operating system offers similar functionality to Windows 10, but with a different take on the interface that substitutes an apps dock at the bottom of the screen for Microsoft’s Start menu and taskbar. Instead of the Cortana digital assistant, Mac users get Siri. They can also perform transactions with Apple Pay, take calls or texts from their phones and unlock their laptops with an Apple Watch. However, macOS isn’t made for touch, because no MacBook comes with a touch screen.

MORE: MacBook Air vs MacBook Pro: What Should You Buy?

Chrome OS

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Found on inexpensive “Chromebooks” such as the Lenovo 100S Chromebook, Google’s OS is simple and secure, but limited. The user interface looks a lot like Windows with an application menu, a desktop and the ability to drag windows around, but the main app you use is the Chrome browser. The downside is that many of the “web apps” you use don’t work particularly well offline.

However, the operating if you need a device to surf the Web and check email, navigate social networks and chat online, Chromebooks are inexpensive and highly portable, and they offer good battery life. Google is also slowly adding support for Android apps , with a handful of Chromebooks able to run Google Play today.

MORE: Best Chromebooks Available Now

2. Decide If You Want a 2-in-1

These days, many PC laptops fall into the category of “2-in-1s,” devices that can switch between traditional clamshell mode, tablet mode and other positions in between such as tent or stand modes. The 2-in-1s generally come in two different styles: detachables with screens that come off the keyboard entirely and flexible laptops with hinges that bend back 360 degrees to change modes. Most of these systems are much better at serving one purpose than the other, with bend-backs being laptops first and detachables offering a superior tablet experience. However, if you don’t see the need to use your notebook as a slate, you’ll usually get more performance for your money and a better productivity experience with a traditional clamshell laptop.

If you decide you want a 2-in-1, note that bendables usually have far better battery life than their detachable brethren.

MORE: Windows Detachables Have Big Battery Life Problem

3. Choose the Right Size

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Before you look at specs or pricing, you need to figure out just how portable you need your laptop to be. Laptops are usually categorized by their display sizes:

  • 11 to 12 inches: The thinnest and lightest systems around have 11- to 12-inch screens and typically weigh 2.5 to 3.5 pounds,
  • 13 to 14 inches: Provides the best balance of portability and usability, particularly if you get a laptop that weighs under 4 pounds.
  • 15 inches: The most popular size, 15-inch laptops usually weigh 4.5 to 6.5 pounds. Consider this size if you want a larger screen and you’re not planning to carry your notebook around often.
  • 17 to 18 inches: If your laptop stays on your desk all day every day, a 17- or 18-inch system could provide you with the kind of processing power you need to play high-end games or do workstation-level productivity.

4. Check That Keyboard and Touchpad

The most impressive specs in the world don’t mean diddly if the laptop you’re shopping for doesn’t have good ergonomics. If you plan to do a lot of work on your computer, make sure the keyboard offers solid tactile feedback, plenty of vertical travel (distance the key goes down when pressed, usually 1 to 2mm) and enough space between the keys.

LaptopBuying_Guide_keyboard_sLook for an accurate touchpad that doesn’t give you a jumpy cursor and responds consistently to multitouch gestures such as pinch-to-zoom. If you’re buying a business laptop, consider getting one with a pointing stick (aka nub) between the G and H keys so you can navigate around the desktop without lifting your fingers off the keyboard’s home row.

5. Pick Your Specs

Laptop Buying Guide 2014: 9 Essential Tips

Notebook components such as processor, hard drive, RAM and graphics chip can confuse even notebook aficionados, so don’t feel bad if spec sheets look like alphabet soup to you.

Here are the main components to keep an eye on.

  • CPU: The “brains” of your computer, the processor has a huge influence on performance, but depending on what you want to do, even the least-expensive model may be good enough. Here’s a rundown.
    • Intel Core i5: If you’re looking for a mainstream laptop with the best combination of price and performance, get one with an Intel Core i5 CPU. Models that end in U (ex: Core i5-7200U) are the most common.  Those with the a Y in the name are low power and have worse performance while models with an HQ offer four cores.
    • Intel Core i7: High-end performance for gaming rigs and workstations. Models with numbers that end in HQ or K use higher wattage and have four cores, allowing for even faster gaming and productivity. There are also Core i7 Y series chips that have lower power and performance.
    • Intel Core i3: Performance is just a step below Core i5 and so is the price. If you can possibly step up to a Core i5, we recommend it.
    • AMD A, FX or E Series: Found on low-cost laptops, AMD’s processors — the company calls them APUs rather than CPUs —  provide decent performance for the money that’s good enough for web surfing, media viewing and productivity.
    • Intel Atom: Found on very low-cost laptops — think $250 and under  — Atom offers basic performance but more battery life than Celeron/Pentium.
    • Intel Pentium / Celeron: Common in sub $400 laptops, these chips are a little faster than Atom, but offer worse battery life. If you can pay more to get a Core i3 or i5, you’d be better off.
    • Intel Core m / Core i5 / i7 “Y Series” — Low-power and low heat allow systems with these processors to go fanless. Performance is better than Celeron, but a notch below regular Core i5 U series.
  • RAM: Some sub-$250 laptops come with only 2GB of RAM, but ideally you want at least 4GB on even a budget system and 8GB if you can spend just a little more. For most users, 16GB or more is overkill.
  • Storage Drive (aka Hard Drive): Even more important than the speed of your CPU is the performance of your storage drive. If you can afford it and don’t need a ton of internal storage, get a laptop with a solid state drive (SSD) rather than a hard drive, because you’ll see at least three times the speed and a much faster laptop overall.Among SSDs, the newer PCIe x4 (aka NVME) units offer triple the speed of traditional SATA drives. Sub-$250 laptops use eMMC memory, which is technically solid-state but not faster than a mechanical hard drive.
  • Display: The more pixels you have, the more content you can fit on-screen, and the sharper it will look. Most budget and mainstream laptops have 1366 x 768 displays, but if you can afford it, we recommend paying extra for a panel that runs at 1920 x 1080, also known as full HD or 1080p. Some higher-end laptops have screens that are 2560 x 1600, 3200 x 1800 or even 3840 x 2160, which all look sharp but consume more power, lowering your battery life.MORE: Why 78 Percent of Laptop Screens Suck
  • Touch Screen: If you’re buying a regular clamshell laptop, rather than a 2-in-1, you won’t get much benefit from a touch screen and you will get 1 to 3 hours less battery life. On 2-in-1s, touch screens come standard.
  • Graphics Chip: If you’re not playing PC games, creating 3D objects or doing high-res video editing, an integrated graphics chip (one that shares system memory) will be fine. If you have any of the above needs, though, a discrete graphics processor from AMD or Nvidia is essential. As with CPUs, there are both high- and low-end graphics chips. Nvidia maintains a list of its graphics chips from low to high end, as does AMD.
  • DVD/Blu-ray Drives. Few laptops come with optical drives, because all software and movies are downloadable. However, if you really need to read / write discs and your laptop of choice doesn’t come with a built-in DVD drive, you can always buy an external one that connects via USB for under $20.

6. Don’t Skimp on Battery Life

LaptopBuying_Guide_batteryIf you’re buying large, bulky notebook that you’ll use only on a desk near an outlet, you don’t have to worry about battery life. However, if you plan to use the laptop on your lap, even if it’s at home and or work, you’ll want at least 6 hours of endurance, with 8+ hours being ideal. To determine a notebook’s expected battery life, don’t take the manufacturer’s word for it. Instead, read third-party results from objective sources, such as our reviews.

MORE: Laptops with the Longest Battery Life

7. Plan Based on Your Budget

These days, you can buy a usable laptop for under $200, but if you can budget more, you’ll get a system with better build quality, stronger performance and a better display. Here’s what you can get for each price range.

  • $150 to $250: The least-expensive notebooks are either Chromebooks, which run Google’s browser-centric OS, or low-end Windows systems with minimal storage and slower processors, such as the HP Stream 11 and the Lenovo Ideapad 100S. Use these as secondary computers only or give them to the kids.
  • $350 to $600: For well under $600, you can get a notebook with an Intel Core i5 or AMD A8 CPU, 4 to 8GB of RAM, and a 500GB hard drive, all respectable specs. However, at this price, most notebooks don’t have an SSD, a full-HD display or long battery life. There are a few noteable exceptions, such as the Asus VivoBook E403Sa and Lenovo ThinkPad 13.
  • $600 to $900: As you get above $600, you’ll start to see more premium designs, such as metal finishes. Manufacturers also start to add in other features as you climb the price ladder, including higher-resolution displays and SSDs.
  • Above $900: At this price range, expect notebooks that are more portable, more powerful or both. Expect higher-resolution screens, faster processors and possibly discrete graphics. The lightest, longest-lasting ultraportables, like the Apple MacBook and the Dell XPS 13, tend to cost more than $1,000 (although you can get the Dell for less if you don’t opt for a touch screen). High-end gaming systems and mobile workstations usually cost upward of $1,500 or even as much as $2,500 or $3,000.

MORE: Best Laptops Under $500

8.Mind the Brand

Your laptop is only as good as the company that stands behind it. Accurate and timely technical support is paramount, which is why Laptop Mag evaluates every major brand in our annual Tech Support Showdown. This past year Apple came in first place, followed by HP and Samsung.This past year Apple came in first place, followed by Microsoft and Samsung.

Support is only part of what makes a notebook brand worth your money. You also have to consider how the manufacturer stacks up to the competition in terms of design, value and selection, review performance and other criteria. In our 2015 Best and Worst Laptop Brands report, Apple placed first, followed by Dell and HP

 

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The new MacBook Pro looks and feels so good it’s unreal

I’m sold on the Touch Bar

The new MacBook Pro is here — literally available for preorder today — and I’ve just tried it. The best thing I can say about is simple: everything about it looks and feels so good I almost didn’t believe it.

We’ll start with the marquee feature, the Touch Bar. What you might not have gathered from the keynote is that it has a matte finish, which makes the buttons on it somehow feel a little more physical. It’s bright, but not so bright that it distracts — it seems to be about on par with the brightness of the backlit keyboard.

THE TOUCH BAR LOOKS REALLY GOOD, THE SCREEN LOOKS INCREDIBLE

I have questions about whether or not all these changing function buttons will be comprehensible, but in my brief time with them they all made sense to me. There’s no haptic feedback on them, unfortunately, but obviously they all worked perfectly. That included quickly applying filters in Photos and sorting emails in Mail.

 I also rearranged buttons (you can find the option in a menu) and it worked, well, as advertised. What’s neat about dragging buttons down from the screen to the Touch Bar is that you can keep moving them with the mouse on the second screen.

The most important button when you’ve got music playing is the “Play/Pause” button, at least in my humble opinion. And when the Touch Bar is busy being used for application-specific stuff, it’s stone-cold not there. But Apple added a more permanent music options button over on the right, so you can always tap it to get to your music transport controls.

One last neat thing on the Touch Bar: you can tap-and-hold on a bunch of buttons to get to functions faster. Long-press on Reply and you can slide over to Reply-All. Same for other buttons like volume control.

 Touch ID worked — though of course I couldn’t try it myself. I’m told the MacBook Pro now automatically powers on when you open it and that holding down the Touch ID button will turn the computer off (the Apple rep here didn’t want to show me that, though).

YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE THE KEYBOARD, BUT I DO

The keyboard is almost identical to the butterfly keyboard found on the tiny MacBook. That’s going to cause some people to grind their teeth, but I think it’s great and easy to type on — and I do think the keys might have sightly better travel, but don’t hold me to that. In any case, I expect that this will be a sore spot for some people.

The trackpad is absolutely massive, so much so that Apple had better make sure it has its palm-rejection software perfect, because your palms are going to be resting on this thing all the time. The screen is, of course, beautiful — and it’s funny to note that a beautiful Retina Display is basically table stakes now.

MacBook Pro 2016 hands-on photos

As for weight, well, it feels like a three-pound laptop. It’s certainly not impossibly light like the MacBook, but it feels a fair bit lighter than any previous MacBook Pro. It makes me realize that a lot of what makes a laptop feel lighter than it is is the wedge shape, which this device obviously doesn’t have. What it does seem to have are vents on both the left and right on the bottom — they’re part of Apple’s new thermal management system.

Yes, there is a regular 3.5mm headphone jack.

You’ll also find 4 Thunderbolt / USB-C ports. This is another thing that’s likely to cause people some consternation — but I’m here to tell you that everything is going to be fine. Now that Apple is selling a whole series of laptops that only use USB-C, the number of cables and accessories is going to skyrocket. Those dongles are going to be annoying, yes, but way less annoying than they are with the iPhone 7 — most people I know carry a laptop around in a bag, after all, and bags have pockets.

MacBook Pro 2016 hands-on photos

Getting down to hard numbers, the 13-inch model starts at $1,499 for a basic model with no Touch Bar, two USB-C ports, a 2.0GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor, and a 256GB SSD. Go up to $1,799, and you add in the Touch Bar, two more USB-C ports, and a 2.9GHz Core i5 processor, with the 13-inch model topping out at $2,899 for a maximum spec of a 3.3GHz dual-core i7, 1TB SSD, and 16GB of RAM.

All of the 15-inch models include the Touch Bar, and start at $2,399 for the base 2.6GHz quad-core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, and an 2GB AMD Radeon Pro 450 graphics card. Prices max out at a whopping $4,299 for the most powerful MacBook Pro that Apple will sell you, with a 2.9GHz quad-core i7, 2TB SSD for storage, 4GB Radeon Pro 460, and 16GB of RAM.

The budget 13-inch model is available for purchase today to ship sometime next week, while the Touch Bar models can be ordered now but won’t ship until later in November.

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Microsoft Surface Studio PC announced for $2,999, coming this holiday

The ‘world’s thinnest LCD monitor’ inside a PC built for creativity

Microsoft’s Surface family has officially expanded to include the desktop. The company just announced the Surface Studio at today’s event in New York City. It will be available “in limited quantities” this holiday for $2,999, $3,499, or $4,199, depending on hardware options. Preorders begin today, and the Studio will also be showcased in Microsoft retail stores ahead of its release. “We totally believe that Surface changes the way you produce, the way you create, the way you learn,” said Panos Panay, who leads Microsoft’s devices team. “The product I’m going to show you is all of that — but it’s one step further. It’s going to seem familiar, but it’s going to feel different.”

He then unveiled the Studio, with an all-in-one form factor touted as having the “world’s thinnest LCD monitor ever built” at 12.5mm. That touchscreen display is contained in a forged aluminum enclosure and measures 28 inches across. The display outputs 13.5 million pixels, according to Panay, which is 63 percent more than a 4K television. “It’s got the best screen in its class,” Panay said.

The Surface Studio supports expanded color output – critical for photographers, videographers, and designers. Microsoft refers to this as “TrueColor.” The display has a 3:2 aspect ratio with 192 pixels per inch. It’s powered by Intel’s 6th generation processors and, graphics-wise, has an Nvidia GTX 980M GPU in the premium model, with a 965M in the lower-priced configurations. The Studio’s hinge allows for the display to be adjusted to a 20-degree orientation that’s convenient for drawing or marking up Word documents. “These chrome arms were meant to completely fade into the background,” said Panay.

Hands-on: Microsoft’s Surface Studio is a stunning desktop computer

The Studio supports a variety of peripherals including the Surface Pen and a new radial accessory, the Surface Dial, that can be placed directly on the Studio to trigger menus and other features like adjusting volume, screen brightness, or scrolling through a document. There’s also built-in palm rejection for the touchscreen, allowing users to avoid false inputs and interact with the Studio comfortably. Its base has numerous connectivity options: audio, SD card, Mini DisplayPort, ethernet, and 4 USB 3.0 ports. There’s also a built in microphone array, making it easy to activate Cortana, the built-in Windows 10 assistant, from across the room.

Microsoft’s main push with the Surface Studio is all about creativity, with a huge focus on 3D. Its unveiling comes alongside the announcement of the Windows 10 Creators Update. The Creators Update aims to make creating 3D content quick and easy for the company’s millions of Windows 10 users. It’ll include the biggest-ever update to the classic Paint app, now called Paint 3D, and more updates are on the way — including for apps in the Office suite. “Over the next year, you will see us integrate 3D across our most popular Microsoft applications,” said Megan Saunders.

Microsoft’s hardware division is ramping up its direct competition with numerous Windows PC vendors. It’s also taking on Apple’s iMac, a popular desktop option among creative professionals. Apple is expected to update the iMac line sometime in the coming months. “Every now and then in pursuing our mission, we see the opportunity to create a new category of device,” said Microsoft’s Windows VP Terry Myerson. “We seize these moments to create something so much more than a product.” The full specs for Surface Studio are as follows:

  • Display: 28-inch 4500 x 3000 PixelSense LCD (192 PPI), 3:2 aspect ratio, Adobe sRGB and DCI-P color settings, 10-point multitouch
  • Processor: sixth-generation Intel Core i5 or Core i7
  • Storage: 1TB or 2TB hybrid drive
  • Memory: 8GB, 16GB, or 32GB of RAM
  • Graphics: GeForce GTX 965M 2GB (in Core i5 Studio) or GTX 980M 4GB (in Core i7 Studio)
  • I/O: 4 USB 3.0 (one high power), 3.5mm headphone jack, SD card slot, Ethernet, Mini DisplayPort
  • Wireless: 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0
  • Cameras: 5MP front camera with Windows Hello support, 1080p video rear camera
  • Sound: Stereo 2.1 Dolby audio
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Neonode AirBar – Give any laptop a touch screen

AirBar is a lean element that is magnetically fixed at the base of display of your system (PC or Laptop). When affixed and plugged into the USB port a sensor is triggered and begin to emanate hidden light to perceive user’s touch and gestures. Actions like zooming, scrolling, swiping and pinching can be performed by the users and with these actions the user can network with their devices. One of the best advantages of AirBar is that it is a portable solution which means you can use it anywhere – anytime without the pain of sticking at one place and using it. Another super cool feature of this solution is that it can be used with fingers, gloves, long fingernails and even paintbrushes.
All thanks to Neonode’s zForce AIR™ technology, for getting their hands on and building this portable solution, which can be used for all sorts of cool stuff. The magnetic strip is attached to the bottom of your system and is super easy to take off when you don’t want to work.  AirBar reflects invisible light on the screen of the device. When you touch the screen this breaks light and you can actually interact with your device.

Why should you get an AirBar?
If you want a touch screen for your laptop then this is definitely the best choice for you, because sitting in front of your non touch screen and swiping it around is just too cliché.

Some Irresistible Features
Use Windows gesture
Pinch, swipe, zoom and scroll away

Touch Without Touch Screen
Touch without glare and battery drain

Plug and Touch
Attach with a magnetic strip and plug in the USB Port

Works with Anything
Use your fingers, brush or gloves. It works

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