TR’s November 2014 mobile staff picks

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Quite a lot has changed since we spun off the mobile section of the TR System Guide into our first mobile staff picks.

In just five months, we’ve seen the arrival of Intel’s Core M processor, which has brought about a new generation of Windows tablets and convertibles. Google has also released Android 5.0 Lollipop along with a fresh batch of Nexus hardware. Meanwhile, Apple has let loose iOS 8.0 along with a bevy of new iPhones and iPads.

All of this calls for a new edition of the mobile staff picks.

As before, our selections will be based on our own personal preferences. We won’t cover every device type or every price point. Instead, we’ll focus on the kinds of products we’d be most likely to buy for ourselves. Also, while we may not always have the time or the opportunity to test every recommendation first-hand, our suggestions are based on a combination of experience, careful research, and healthy debate among TR’s editors. Separating the wheat from the chaff isn’t easy, but we hope we’ve singled out some of the nicest mobile hardware available this holiday season.

Convertible laptops

Let’s kick things off with the newest of the new: some of the first commercially available convertibles (a.k.a. two-in-ones) to feature Intel’s Core M processor.

The Core M is the first chip based on Intel’s new 14-nm Broadwell microarchitecture, and it promises to infuse fanless, ultra-thin systems with performance previously available only in bulkier, actively cooled machines. Watt for watt, this chip offers considerably better performance and battery life than previous-gen Haswell-Y processors. The Core M should also be much speedier than the Atom chips inside lower-end tablets.

Our selections below also include the Surface 3 Pro, which is based on Haswell silicon. We’ve kept the Surface around because it’s in the same size and weight ballpark as some of the new Core M machines, and it’s both sleekly designed and aggressively priced.

Product Specs Starting price
Dell Venue 11 Pro 7000 Display: 10.8″ 1920×1080 (204 ppi)
Processor: Intel Core M-5Y10 (Broadwell)
RAM: 4/8GB
Storage: 64/128/256GB + microSD slot
Battery life: 10 hours (20 hours with dock)
Connectivity: 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0, LTE
Thickness: 0.42″
Weight: 1.62 lbs
$699.99

(4GB, 64GB,

no LTE,

no dock)

Microsoft Surface Pro 3 Display: 12″ 2160×1440 (216 ppi)
Processor: Intel Core i3/i5/i7 (Haswell)
RAM: 4/8GB
Storage: 64/128/256/512GB + microSD slot
Battery life: 9 hours (web)
Connectivity: 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.0
Thickness: 0.36″
Weight: 1.76 lbs

$799.00

(Core i3,

4GB, 64GB,

no dock)

Lenovo ThinkPad Helix 2 Display: 11.6″ 1920×1080 (190 ppi)
Processor: Intel Core M-5Y10/Core M-5Y70 (Broadwell)
RAM: 4/8GB
Storage: 128/256GB + microSD slot
Battery life: 8 hours (12 hours with dock)
Connectivity: 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0
Thickness: 0.37″ (1″ with dock)
Weight: 1.75 lbs (2.89 lbs with dock)
$979.00

(Core M-5Y10,

4GB, 128GB)

The Dell Venue 11 Pro 7000 might be the best bargain of the bunch, thanks to its 10-hour battery life rating and $700 starting price. Shell out another $220 for Dell’s keyboard dock, which turns the system into a clamshell laptop, and the company claims you’ll enjoy up to 20 hours of unplugged time. Just make sure to get the “Dell Tablet Keyboard – Mobile” and not the “Dell Tablet Keyboard – Slim.” The latter is cheaper but doesn’t have a battery built in (or a hinge, for that matter).

Slightly upmarket from the Venue is the Surface Pro 3, which has a larger display with a different aspect ratio and a higher resolution. The extra pixels don’t result in a substantially higher pixel density (216 vs. 204 ppi), but some folks may prefer the extra vertical headroom afforded by the 3:2 aspect ratio. Most other Windows tablets have 16:9 screens, which can be a little awkward to use in portrait mode.

The Surface Pro 3 doesn’t have a keyboard dock like the Venue. Instead, Microsoft sells the $130 Type Cover, which includes a keyboard and touchpad and doubles as a screen cover. The Type Cover latches on magnetically, so users have to rely on the Surface’s “kickstand” to hold the screen up at an angle. That may not be the best setup to use on your lap, but at least the Pro 3’s new kickstand allows for fine-grained adjustment of the angle of the display.

The Surface Pro 3 also comes with a free Surface Pen, which lets users doodle on the screen and take notes using Windows’ handwriting recognition scheme.

Lenovo’s ThinkPad Helix 2 is also worth a look. It’s the most expensive of the bunch, and its 11.6″ 1080p display also has the lowest pixel density. However, the base configuration offers double the storage capacity of the Surface and Venue, and the keyboard dock is part of the bundle. That dock boosts the system’s battery life to an ample 12 hours, and the fact that it has a ThinkPad-style keyboard and TrackPoint nib doesn’t hurt, either.

Oh, and like the Surface, the ThinkPad Helix 2 ships with an included digitizer pen.

Ultrabooks and regular laptops

If convertibles aren’t up your alley, then you’ll probably want a regular laptop to do real work (and to get into heated arguments on Internet forums). We’ve got you covered there with three systems that range from the uber-affordable to the classy and pricey.

Product Specs Starting price
Asus EeeBook X205TA Display: 11.6″ 1366×768 (135 ppi)
Processor: Intel Atom Z3735 (Bay Trail)
RAM: 2GB
Storage: 32GB + microSD slot
Battery life: 12 hours (web)
Connectivity: 802.11n, Bluetooth
Thickness: 0.69″
Weight: 2.16 lbs
$199.00
Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus Display: 13.3″ 3200×1800 (276 ppi)
Processor: Intel Core i5/i7 (Haswell)
RAM: 4/8GB
Storage: 128/256GB
Battery life: 7.5 hours
Connectivity: 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.0
Thickness: 0.54″
Weight: 3.06 lbs
$1,099.99

(Core i5,

4GB, 128GB)

13″ MacBook Pro Retina Display: 13.3″ 2560×1600 (227 ppi)
Processor: Core i5/i7 (Haswell)
RAM: 8GB
Storage: 128/256GB
Battery life: 9 hours (web/video)
Connectivity: 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0
Thickness: 0.71″
Weight: 3.46 lbs
$1,299.00

(Core i5,

8GB, 128GB)

Netbooks are back, baby! Asus’ EeeBook X205TA harkens back to the glory days of uber-cheap ultraportables, with a rock-bottom price tag, small footprint, and 12-hour battery. This thing’s specs are relatively good except for the stingy 32GB eMMC storage—though happily, the system can take a 64GB microSD card. 96GB should be sufficient for the kind of software and files one might need on a neo-netbook like this one.

At the other end of the spectrum lie the 13″ MacBook Pro Retina and Ativ Book 9 Plus, two 13″ ultraportables with high-PPI displays. The MacBook is the pricier of the two, and it might be the best, thanks to its excellent keyboard and touchpad, its nine-hour battery, and the superior high-PPI support in both OS X and Mac software. The MacBook can also run Windows, either as a primary OS or in a dual-boot configuration, and a visit to the nearest Apple Store should take care of any problems you run into. For $1,300, it doesn’t get much better than that.

Those allergic to fruit logos may prefer the Ativ Book 9 Plus, a Windows system that’s thinner, lighter, less expensive, and equipped with an even higher-resolution display. Our brushes with Samsung ultrabooks have left us with lots of good things to say, and the Ativ looks like a good buy. Just keep in mind that it has less RAM, shorter battery life, and 802.11n Wi-Fi instead of 802.11ac. (A model with 8GB of RAM is available, but it costs $1,499.99.) Also, we should reiterate that high-PPI support in Windows remains something of a work in progress. All too many Windows apps still don’t handle high-PPI resolutions very well, which can turn what should be a premium experience into, well, something that’s not.

Straight-up tablets

Convertibles aren’t for everyone. There are reasons to go with a plain tablet, not least of which is the fact that Android and iOS have better selections of touch-friendly apps than Windows 8.1. Even if you’d rather stay in the Windows camp, recent discounts from Intel and Microsoft have made entry-level Windows tablets shockingly cheap. See below.

Product Specs Starting price
HP Stream 7 Display: 7″ 1280×800 (216 ppi)
Processor: Intel Atom Z3735G (Bay Trail)
RAM: 1GB
Storage: 32GB + microSD slot
Battery life: 8 hours
Connectivity: 802.11n
Thickness: 0.39″
Weight: 0.8 lbs
$99.99

(32GB)

Google Nexus 7 (2013) Display: 7″ 1920×1200 (323 ppi)
Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro
RAM: 2GB
Storage: 16/32GB
Battery life: 10 hours (web), 9 hours (video)
Connectivity: 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.0
Thickness: 0.34″
Weight: 0.64 lbs
$199.99

(16GB)

Nvidia Shield Tablet Display: 8″ 1920×1200 (283 ppi)
Processor: Nvidia Tegra K1 32-bit
RAM: 2GB
Storage: 16/32GB + microSD slot
Battery life: 10.7 hours (web), 13.9 hours (video)
Connectivity: 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.0, LTE
Thickness: 0.36″
Weight: 0.86 lbs
$299.99

(16GB,

no LTE)

Apple iPad Air 2 Display: 9.7″ 2048×1536 (264 ppi)
Processor: Apple A8X
RAM: 2GB
Storage: 16/64/128GB
Battery life: 10 hours (Wi-Fi), 9 hours (LTE)
Connectivity: 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0, LTE
Thickness: 0.24″
Weight: 0.96 lbs
$499.00

(16GB,

no LTE)

Thanks to those Intel and Microsoft discounts, the HP Stream 7 serves up Windows 8.1 and a quad-core Bay Trail processor for only $100. The storage and memory are admittedly limited, and the 4.5-hour battery life isn’t anything to write home about. Still, there’s something strangely compelling about a $100 slate that runs the full version of Windows. This could be used as a second tablet, as a starter PC for a kid, or even as a cheap Linux box to hack, if you manage to get rid of the pre-installed OS. (It’s been done on other Windows tablets.) Keep in mind the storage can be augmented with a microSD card, too.

Now, if you’re looking for a high-quality 7″ tablet, then we’d recommend the Google Nexus 7. While this thing is a year old, it’s still very competitive—and, being part of the Nexus family, it’s also among the first in line for new stock Android releases. (The Android 5.0 Lollipop update for the Nexus 7 is already available for download, and the over-the-air update is reportedly rolling out now.) The 323-ppi display, long battery life, and generous RAM are other reasons the Nexus 7 is still a great buy. The only downsides are the somewhat limited storage capacity on the cheapest model and the lack of a microSD slot.

Extra $100 burning a hole in your pocket? Then we can vouch for Nvidia’s Shield Tablet. In addition to being a solid, well-designed device, the Shield Tablet can stream PC games from a GeForce-equipped desktop or Nvidia’s Grid cloud streaming service. PC streaming is a particularly handy feature for gamers on the go—and it really works. The Shield Tablet also includes a stylus, and like the Nexus 7, it’s now upgradable to Android 5.0 Lollipop. Word to the wise: Nvidia’s Shield Controller is sold separately for $60, and a version of the tablet with LTE connectivity and extra storage is available for $399.99. PC game streaming is supported over LTE, assuming your data plan can handle it.

Finally, we couldn’t bear to leave out the latest full-sized tablet from Cupertino. Apple’s iPad Air 2 isn’t cheap by today’s standards, especially since the base $499 model only has 16GB of storage capacity, and Apple is apparently too cool to include a microSD slot. At 0.24″, though, this may be the thinnest tablet around. More importantly, the iPad Air 2 combines a gorgeous 9.7″ high-PPI display with Apple’s fastest processor yet—and long battery life to boot. Now consider iOS’s huge selection of quality apps and games, and you may find the total package is actually well worth the price. That holds especially true if you live near an Apple Store, since Apple’s in-person after-sales support is terrific.

Phablets

Some folks may not want to bother with either a full-sized tablet or a convertible. Instead, such users might prefer to use a phablet as their everyday smartphone and to whip out an actual notebook when a larger display, full-featured OS, and proper keyboard are called for. Here are some of our phablet favorites:

Product Specs Starting price
OnePlus One Display: 5.5″ 1920×1080 IPS (401 ppi)
Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 801
RAM: 3GB
Storage: 16/64GB
Battery: 3220mAh
Thickness: 0.35″
Weight: 5.71 oz
Software: Android 4.4 (Cyanogen 11S)
$299.00

(16GB,

unlocked)

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Display: 5.7″ 2560×1440 Super AMOLED (515 ppi)
Processor: Samsung Exynos 7 Octa 5433 or Qualcomm Snapdragon 805
RAM: 3GB
Storage: 32GB + microSD slot
Battery: 3220mAh
Thickness: 0.33″
Weight: 6.2 oz
Software: Android 4.4 (TouchWiz)
$780.99

(32GB,

Exynos,

unlocked)

Apple iPhone 6 Plus Display: 5.5″ 1920×1080 IPS (401 ppi)
Processor: Apple A8
RAM: 1GB
Storage: 16/64/128GB
Battery: 2915mAh
Thickness: 0.27″
Weight: 4.55 oz
Software: iOS 8.1
$799.00

(16GB,

unlocked)

Our most affordable recommendation is the OnePlus One, an interesting entry from an admittedly unproven Chinese startup. We have one of these in our labs, though, and we can confirm that it’s not made of duct-tape and string. It’s a real smartphone that undercuts other current-gen phablets by over 50%. The Cyanogen software isn’t quite stock Android, but it’s not too heavily customized, and it should get updates fairly promptly when new Android releases come out. Our only gripes are with the camera and screen, which are disappointingly low-grade (though perhaps unsurprisingly so, given the price). Ordering a OnePlusOne also involves jumping through a few hoops, since the handset isn’t available at retail quite yet.

Around the $800 mark (assuming you’re not buying on contract), we suggest picking up either Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4 or Apple’s iPhone 6 Plus. The Galaxy has the advantage in the display, storage, and memory departments, and it comes with a stylus. The iPhone is thinner and lighter. More than hardware differences, though, we expect platform preferences will dictate your selection here. The Galaxy runs Android, which many prefer over iOS. Then again, the Galaxy is also infused with Samsung’s custom TouchWiz software suite, which entails bloatware, ugly substitutes for Google user interface cues, and being stuck behind the curve on Android updates. Choose wisely.

We should also throw in a provisional recommendation for Google’s Nexus 6. While it’s not available yet, this jumbo 5.96″ phablet costs less than the Galaxy Note 4 and isn’t saddled with TouchWiz. The early reviews are fairly encouraging, too, although not everyone likes the extra bulk that stems from the six-inch screen. Heck, not everybody wants to carry around a six-inch device in the first place.

Ahem.

A note on Chromebooks

No, we’re still not recommending Chromebooks.

The premise of Chrome OS is that, with a handful of exceptions (for basic file management, video playback, and the like), the web browser is the center of your world. All third-party applications and games are meant to be web-based, and there’s really no out-of-the-box way to install a native copy of Steam, iTunes, or Photoshop—or The Gimp, for that matter.

If this is going to be your second or third computer and you just need a web-browsing, note-taking machine for school or work, that’s probably fine. There are lots of good web apps out there nowadays, including online versions of Microsoft Word and Excel. For anything more involved, though, we’d strongly recommend that you consider something else. Heck, even an iPad can run the kinds of native apps and games Chrome OS just doesn’t support.

Because some Chromebooks are Intel-based, some folks might be tempted to squeeze Linux or Windows onto them. Keep in mind that most Chromebooks are stuck with 16GB of built-in storage. The idea is that everything should be stored in the cloud. Unfortunately, that doesn’t quite fit the M.O. of traditional operating systems, which have a reasonably large footprint and additional storage requirements for third-party software.

So, no, you probably shouldn’t get a Chromebook—unless you’re really, really sure you want one. For $200, the EeeBook X205TA on the previous page looks like a much better deal to us.

What’s on the horizon

Before we wrap up, a quick word about upcoming hardware.

Apple and Google have already gotten their big launches out of the way, and Core M-based systems are now available, so there aren’t many earth-shaking changes in the cards for the near future. The only exception is Intel’s upcoming Broadwell-U processor family, which is due early next year. Broadwell-U will power a new generation of ultrabooks with, we expect, better performance and battery life than current models.

Otherwise, we’ll probably see more Core M systems trickle into the marketplace over the coming months. Some of the new arrivals could potentially be better than the Venue 11 Pro 7000 and ThinkPad Helix 2. But those two systems are already strong contenders.

If you’re on the fence about sinking $1,000 or more into a current-gen laptop, then waiting might be a good idea—if only to get a sense of what’s coming. Otherwise, you should be good to go.

Comments closed
    • Arvald
    • 5 years ago

    In the Phablet section:
    You do know Guys that the Note 4 has a finger print scanner too?

    You list it as an iPhone benefit but should be there for the Note as well. I’ve had the Note for a week and still loving it.

      • Cyril
      • 5 years ago

      Right. Fixed.

    • Grape Flavor
    • 5 years ago

    The paltry 16GB on the $499 iPad Air 2 is indeed pretty sucky, but it’s worth noting that $599 now gets you 64GB whereas on all previous models that price only got you 32GB. $699 gets you 128GB which is also $100 cheaper than that capacity was previously. It’s a step in the right direction, at least.

    • ronch
    • 5 years ago

    I’d like to nominate the LG G3 for the Phablet list.

    [url<]http://www.engadget.com/2014/06/05/lg-g3-review/[/url<]

      • NeelyCam
      • 5 years ago

      And it’s only a $1 at Best Buy!!

    • Norphy
    • 5 years ago

    [quote<]ust make sure to get the "Dell Tablet Keyboard - Mobile" and not the "Dell Tablet Keyboard - Slim." The latter is cheaper but doesn't have a battery built in (or a hinge, for that matter)[/quote<] I just want to back this up and emphasis it. At my work, we are investigating the various Dell tablet lines and got in a Mobile and a Slim keyboard to look at. The Mobile keyboard is one of the nicest I've seen on a laptop but because of the battery it's very heavy. The Slim one is horrific. The keys on it are even worse than the Type cover on a Surface RT. They have virtually no travel, they remind me of an oversized version of the keys you get on a Blackberry keyboard. Dell could have quite easily made a version of the Mobile keyboard without a battery, it really baffles me as to why they didn't.

      • NeelyCam
      • 5 years ago

      I decided to go with the Mobile keyboard… I am concerned about the weight, but I hope at least it’ll make sure that the thing doesn’t tip over that easily. I’m prone to returning stuff during Thanksgiving, though, so it’s not the end of the world if I’m too weak to carry it.

      By the way, Dell.com has a $50 off coupon deal on Dell Venue 11 Pro 7000 (so, 64GB is $650, and 128GB is $700). Also, the “Mobile” keyboard is $160 at regular price instead of $220… and right now it’s $144 (10% off accessories), so I got the 128GB system with the mobile keyboard for $844.

    • frumper15
    • 5 years ago

    A few have mentioned it here as well, but I would love to hear the TR staff pick on a laptop in the $500-600 range. While machines in that price range tend to be deciding which compromise is the least painful, you can still get a pretty usable machine and adding some memory and swapping in an SSD makes them downright speedy. This is usually the pricerange the friends and family segment seem to shop in (I’ve never had anyone say they were looking to spend $1k on a laptop and wondering what i suggest) and there are some pretty bad ones out there for the unsuspecting.

    I recently got a Lenovo Flex 2 -15 that managed to check all the boxes my wife’s Grandma was looking for: 15″ screen, DVD drive, touchscreen. It also met my criteria: 1080P screen, SSHD (that was surprisingly quick), backlit keyboard, Haswell processor. Also available in 14 inch (my preferred laptop size) with 1080P display. Adding RAM was bit of an adventure but doable for most enthusiasts. Total cost was $575 with 4GB additional memory added. Got it from the Microsoft store that has a lot of machines for good pricing.

    Asus also has some nice models in this size/price range as well. Just a suggestion that I think would benefit a lot of folks

    • LoneWolf15
    • 5 years ago

    In the “it wasn’t listed, but…” category:

    The Dell Latitude E7240 (12″) and E7440 (14″) Ultrabooks are pretty sweet stuff. Thin, light, powerful (Haswell Core iX processors), and 1080p displays (including touch screens) are available. After setting up several E7440 laptops for people, I’ve been really impressed.

    Plus, you can go to Dell’s Outlet and get a recertified one for a good deal, still with the three-year warranty. Add a coupon code if you can find one from the Dell Outlet twitter feed, and you may be able to get a better deal yet.

    • Jason181
    • 5 years ago

    The HP Stream 7 is out of stock at Newegg, but there was an even better deal on the Microsoft Store for the “Signature Edition” (with no bloatware):
    [url=http://www.microsoftstore.com/store/msusa/en_US/pdp/HP-Stream-7-Signature-Edition-Tablet/productID.308781500?Icid=Homepage_Hero_1_HP7_111014<]$99 Signature Edition[/url<]

    • burntham77
    • 5 years ago

    I recently bought a gaming laptop, so I no longer needed a Windows tablet. I sold my Surface Pro 3 and replaced it with a 12.2″ Samsung Galaxy Note Pro. It’s nice having access to the huge Android app library. The screen reminds me of the Surface Pro 3, which makes it nice for reading magazines (and I do that a lot).

    It’s not a perfect machine, however. It’s occasionally sluggish, which is a shame because the hardware is pretty good as Android tablets go. Unfortunately, Windows 8 does not see this as a storage drive, so I have to use a Micro SD card to get files onto the tablet.

    I thought about getting an iPad Air because the screen looks wide enough on portrait mode to handle magazines, but with a 10″ screen I worry about having to zoom too much.

    • Yumi
    • 5 years ago

    I cannot help wondering what the TR staff and commentators think about laptops between the $199 and $1000 price point.

    I mean, the staff suggests a $199 netbook and two units at over $1000, is there nothing in between that’s worth purchasing ?

      • internetsandman
      • 5 years ago

      I think the problem is that, in that price point, you’re not necisarily getting a good value relative to other options on the market. At $400 for example, you could get a 32GB Shield tablet, an iPad Air (first gen, if I recall correctly), or a fully fledged windows notebook that doesn’t have any of the discounts that Microsoft or Intel bestow upon lower end systems, but with corners still being cut in build quality and display in order to reach that price point. I think between $600-900 there might be a few decent offerings but nothing really noteworthy until you go north of a grand

        • Ninjitsu
        • 5 years ago

        Yeah but in places like India the $320-$400 laptop market is pretty big.

        Thanks to taxes and all, this price range is the most affordable for most people till they’re like…25 or 26, and earning enough. Unless of course, parents step in and buy it for them.

        Though for most of the country, $400 is about the most that people can spend on an item like a laptop.

          • derFunkenstein
          • 5 years ago

          In the US it’s still pretty big, but it’s basically the same hardware and the same features and the same OS with a bunch of different names (hp, Dell, Toshiba, etc.) and none of it is particularly good. But people buy them because they’re all made by Foxconn or Pegatron, they all have the same stuff, so it doesn’t matter what you buy. You’re just paying for a different name.

            • Milo Burke
            • 5 years ago

            I want to believe that some keyboards and touchpads are better than others.

            Also, I like features like replaceable battery and RAM and HDD, or better yet an HDD with an empty M.2 slot.

            Oddly, the weight can vary a lot between brands.

            I’m looking forward to entry Ultrabooks that are cheap, don’t suck, and don’t mess up on anything stupid. Because it seems most of them mess up in one way or another.

      • dragosmp
      • 5 years ago

      They are probably right. If you want a cheap and portable the netbook is ok, if you want performance, portability and quality go 1000+

      Seing that I already own a C2D+SSD+4GB RAM laptop that is as fast as any 2GHz dual core today I wouldn’t buy anything “in between”, except either to have a day’s battery or a jack of all trades as the C2D laptop was in its days.

        • Yumi
        • 5 years ago

        You have a point there, but I can’t help noticing the value comparison problem.

        With an SSD almost any laptop is good enough and when looking at a new laptop, it’s not a question of is it a good laptop or not, it’s a question of what improvement do I get for my money.

        I do not know your current laptop, but I would imagine that you have to get close to the $1000 price point before the device is a clear improvement on all fronts.
        If you look at a $500 price range laptop and you can move your current SSD over to it, you probably only gain a slightly faster CPU, or the new device is a few mm thinner, maybe you get a little extra battery time.
        All in all I would not spend $500 on something that’s not really an improvement on all fronts.

        I believe we agree on this, but what if you didn’t have any laptop or spare stuff right now and had to buy a laptop.
        Would you still go for a small $200 device, or would you have to go for a $1000 laptop before there’s anything you would want to own ?

      • Zizy
      • 5 years ago

      IdeaPad Flex is 500-ish. 14″, fhd screen. No idea if it is any good.

        • Yumi
        • 5 years ago

        Looking over at the Lenovo page, I can’t help finding a couple of laptops that look all right, but they get close to the $1000 point when going for good screen + SSD.

        Using the Flex 14 as an example, you have to pay $700 to get FHD and on top of that you have to find a SSD for the system, which Lenovo does not offer on this model, so you have to open it up and possibly void your warranty.

        Looking over the possible Flex 14 configurations, I can’t help complaining about the poor choices Lenovo makes on behalf of their costumers. Why do you have to get a i7-4510U when getting the FHD screen, an i3-4012Y or similar would be plenty for office work and could probably shave $100 off the price tag.

        The best option I have found from Lenovo is the Yoga 2 11 (non pro) you can actually get a FHD + 128 GB SSD version at $750.
        I have no idea on how good the Yoga 2 11 is, because all reviews focus on the pro version, but the pro got slammed for poor battery life (6 hr max) and this one probably has the same limitation.

      • Milo Burke
      • 5 years ago

      For a while, I was consistently finding fantastic deals on Deal Outlet. I’d find an Ivy Bridge i3 lappy with 8 GB of RAM for $390, and an i5 version for $405. Plop in your own SSD, and it’s a pretty nice system.

      But with RAM prices on the rise, it’s harder and harder to get a decent configuration. Now the prices are much higher, and I don’t know where to turn.

        • Yumi
        • 5 years ago

        I actually managed what you describe there, I got an Dell Latitude 3340 cheap.

        I added a used SSD (kinda free) and 4 GB of ram, total cost about $400 if I consider the SSD a free upgrade.
        Yes the screen is the standard HD TN panel and it’s a but bulky for a 13″, but I like it and that’s all that matters.

    • Ninjitsu
    • 5 years ago

    I put up a [url=https://techreport.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=13&t=98308&p=1225394<]forum post[/url<] about this, but I'll repeat it here because I'd assume there's a higher chance that TR's Staff sees this: There are "Pentium Quad Core"(BayTrail-M) laptops (14", 15.6") being sold along side "Pentium Dual Core" (Haswell) in the entry level segment here in India. They're priced similarly, and shopkeepers keep pushing the quad core models. We were shopping for a friend, and the saleswoman said "but why don't you want moar coars?!?!" and I was like...because, they're two different things? It'll be pretty cool if TR could test one of these (like Dell's Inspiron 3442) and figure out the difference? How justified are OEMs for selling tablet chips in place of full PC chips at the same price, and with the same brand name?

    • internetsandman
    • 5 years ago

    I know I’m probably in a very tiny niche here, but I would be interested to see TR’s take on desktop replacement systems in the 15-17 or even 18 inch laptop categories, especially those that support dual 970 or 980M graphics cards like those from Aorus or Falcon Northwest

    • Voldenuit
    • 5 years ago

    Obligatory gaming laptop roundup:

    [url<]http://www.somethingawful.com/video-game-article/gaming-laptop-picks/[/url<]

    • FireGryphon
    • 5 years ago

    You should mention that the Samsung Ativ Book 9 has a display that does not render the color yellow, so anyone who does anything that requires accurate colors should avoid it.

    • jessterman21
    • 5 years ago

    I have to pull for my new phone in the non-existent super-budget-smartphone category. The THL T6S.

    Tek Syndicate did a video on it, and I immediately went and bought one, because I was waiting for exactly that to finally upgrade my 6-year-old dumbphone.

    The camera sucks, battery life isn’t terrific, I can only use 2G with my AT&T SIM card I put in it, and the screen is 5″ 480p. But it’s as close to stock Android KitKat as you can get – once you install the Google Now Launcher. Dual-SIM slots and an FM radio built in as well.

    And it’s [url=http://www.dxsoul.com/product/thl-t6s-mtk6582m-quad-core-android-4-4-phone-w-5-0-ips-8gb-rom-gps-ota-black-presale-901336737#.VG6qMTTF-n0<]$90 off-contract[/url<].

      • Ninjitsu
      • 5 years ago

      Er…Moto E/G?

        • dragosmp
        • 5 years ago

        Nokia 535?

        *woops Lumia 535, no longer Nokia (or is it?)

          • Ninjitsu
          • 5 years ago

          To be or not to be?

            • Zizy
            • 5 years ago

            Not to be.
            Lumia 535 is Microsoft only, no Nokia name on the phone.

        • jessterman21
        • 5 years ago

        If I had the money I’d definitely pay the extra for the Moto G, but it’s double the price, but not twice as good…

    • danny e.
    • 5 years ago

    Where are the real laptops? 13″ screen does not a laptop make. That’s a phablet.
    15.6″ minimum with 17.3″ ideal for an actual laptop.

      • sweatshopking
      • 5 years ago

      13-14 inches are laptops. anything bigger is a mobile workstation/hugepita.

      • End User
      • 5 years ago

      I love my 11″ MacBook Air. I think the 13″ MacBook Air is way too big.

        • NeelyCam
        • 5 years ago

        I’m with you. 11-12.5″ is the ideal range for me.

      • NeelyCam
      • 5 years ago

      Lol. Are you the one who shoehorns a mini-ITX board into a giant case?

        • danny e.
        • 5 years ago

        I like seeing what I type on a laptop. 17.3″ with 1920×1080 is nice.
        I think 15.6″ at the same resolution would be ok also but we have the larger screens at work. And. they. are. sweet.

          • sweatshopking
          • 5 years ago

          I have a 13 inch 1440p 1000nits panel in my laptop. It’s decent.

          • NeelyCam
          • 5 years ago

          If you use it as a desktop replacement, then yeah – 17.3″ could work. But, I’d like to think a “laptop” is something you can keep in your lap without getting bruised under its weight

            • danny e.
            • 5 years ago

            business and birth control in the same package. win, win!

        • derFunkenstein
        • 5 years ago

        How does that require shoehorning?

      • danny e.
      • 5 years ago

      I feel the love! 😉

        • derFunkenstein
        • 5 years ago

        I think they’re all meant to be companions to “real” computers. I have my desktop, so I have no need for a DTR 17″. I don’t really have a need for even a 13″. A tablet or 2-in-1 are both useful for me.

    • sweatshopking
    • 5 years ago

    YOU KNOW GUIZE, I DONT THINK YOU’VE EVEN TESTED THE LUMIA 1520. IT’S A DARN GOOD PHABLET, AND POSTS BETTER GAMING BENCHMARKS THAN THE IPHONE 6. NICE SCREEN, QUALITY BUILD, AND OMG HAVE YOU SEEN THE GREEN?!?!? SOOOO NICE!!

      • End User
      • 5 years ago

      STOP LYING!

      [url<]http://results.rightware.com/basemark_x/all-all-phone-all-all[/url<]

        • sweatshopking
        • 5 years ago

        Dear EU. Stop being crazy. Nobody lied: [url<]http://news.softpedia.com/news/Year-Old-Lumia-1520-Tops-GPU-Benchmarks-While-iPhone-6-Comes-in-at-Number-17-459056.shtml[/url<]

          • End User
          • 5 years ago

          You quoted an article from September which is out of date and ignore my link to the actual benchmark page. I’m rolling my eyes!

          There was a bug in the original benchmark that was fixed ages ago. The valid results are below.

          [url<]http://results.rightware.com/basemark_x[/url<] Lumia 1520: 25346.84 iPhone 6: 31307.26 iPhone 6 Plus: 32587.62 iPad Air 2: 41883.00

            • sweatshopking
            • 5 years ago

            I didn’t LIE. I didn’t dispute, nor ignore your benchmarks. I just showed where I got my info from. I’m cool with your improved link.

            • Pbryanw
            • 5 years ago

            There are lies, damned lies and benchmarks.

        • NeelyCam
        • 5 years ago

        Hmmm….

        I should get Galaxy Note 4

          • NeelyCam
          • 5 years ago

          Got Galaxy S5 yesterday; I just couldn’t resist that 2-year contract price of $1 at Best Buy.

      • Grape Flavor
      • 5 years ago

      To be honest, what’s even the point of “better gaming benchmarks” on a Windows Phone when the selection of actual games on that operating system is so weak compared to iOS or even Android? I have nothing against Windows Phone but that’s just simply a fact as far as I’m aware.

        • sweatshopking
        • 5 years ago

        i dont game on my phone, but there are lots of games. san andreas, the angry birds things, etc. the selection isnt “so weak”, though it likely is better on the other two platforms. 400,000 apps is nothing to sneeze at though.

          • derFunkenstein
          • 5 years ago

          The number is never what’s important to me. I have a list of about 30 things I want on my phone, and WP8.1 hits most of them. Certain games I play with people are not on the Windows platform (either Win 8.1 store or WP8.1) yet, so I’d either have to keep another device (which is likely) or pick a different platform. Zynga has Words with Friends, which I’m totally burned out on, but they don’t have Scramble with Friends, which I totally dig and play with other people. Scopely doesn’t support Windows at all. I could probably play something else, but to make my friends change is kind of a pain just because I got a smartphone platform that doesn’t support what the two big guys do.

    • chuckula
    • 5 years ago

    I’ve got a Helix 2 on order and I’ll put my impressions of it up in the forums!
    I do intend to get Linux running on it as well.

    [Edit: It shipped today, I’ll have it by early next week]

      • NeelyCam
      • 5 years ago

      Yes!! Please tell me it doesn’t suck, so I could buy one

        • chuckula
        • 5 years ago

        I’ll let you know. I’m not expecting some sort of gaming powerhouse, but I do expect strong performance in regular productivity applications, great video playback, and enough power for casual games. The battery life needs to be strong as well.

          • sweatshopking
          • 5 years ago

          I think the casual gaming power might let you down, but otherwise you should be good.

            • chuckula
            • 5 years ago

            By “casual games” I don’t mean Assasin’s Creed UberBug edition. I’m more thinking of the types of games you see for Android & iOS, where the HD graphics are even ahead of the Tegra K1.

            • sweatshopking
            • 5 years ago

            it’ll run angry birds. Just not likely much more.

            • Ninjitsu
            • 5 years ago

            Maybe Mark of the Ninja?

            • chuckula
            • 5 years ago

            It’s on Steam with Linux support.. I may grab it and give you a report.

            • Terra_Nocuus
            • 5 years ago

            Don’t forget to try some Steam streaming

            • Ninjitsu
            • 5 years ago

            [quote<] Steam streaming [/quote<] It's a bit of a tongue-twister, innit?

        • Ninjitsu
        • 5 years ago

        Same here. Probably can’t buy one myself right now, but at least it’s something to point people at.

        Anyone heard about the Transformer T300 Chi? I had my eyes on that one…

    • Milo Burke
    • 5 years ago

    I’m seriously tempted by the Asus EeeBook X205TA. But truthfully, I need it more for work than for play. So I’m working on convincing my boss I need it.

    Microsoft and Best Buy are both selling it for $180. Apparently Best Buy temporarily had it for $140 this week. And Staples will have it for $100 on Black Friday, but I’m sure in obscenely limited quantity, and that’s in-store only.

      • Milo Burke
      • 5 years ago

      Work gave the go-ahead, so I picked it up from Best Buy a few minutes ago! It’s charging now. I’ll let you all know what I think.

        • derFunkenstein
        • 5 years ago

        That thing looks so sweet for the money. Too bad there’s no option for 64GB, but I guess you could pick up a very fast micro SD card and map it to a folder so the machine thinks it’s internal.

          • Milo Burke
          • 5 years ago

          I’m actually not worried about the storage. I’ve heard you get 20 GB after the OS? There will be less after I install Office, but I can fit a whole heap of Word documents in the remainder. And yeah, there’s the microSD slot.

          64 GB would make it a better personal computer than a note-taker, though. And 4 GB of RAM would help. I sure wish RAM would go back to the whole cheaper-over-time thing.

          I have two coworkers that have $400 tablets (one Apple and one Samsung) with $50 Bluetooth keyboards that are super cramped. Each time I use them, the keyboards constantly fall asleep and sometimes miss keystrokes. And it kills me to not be able to use a mouse that feels like it should be right there. And all they do is take notes on those things. If I was consuming websites, maybe a tablet without a keyboard would be great. But for note-taking for work, I’m super happy with what I bought.

          It finishes charging in 90 minutes. Then I can turn it on!

            • derFunkenstein
            • 5 years ago

            May not be such a big deal on that system if it’s got a regular USB port that it could boot the recovery partition from. I had a Dell Venue 8 Pro 32GB that was constricting because I only got about 10GB after the OS/Office. It can’t restore without being on power and it can’t boot USB except via an OTG adapter, so you can’t charge and read USB at the same time. That means the recovery partition is stuck on the device. I ended up not keeping it, and have considered getting a 64GB version of that instead. Except that as you said, typing is a serious pain on a matched Bluetooth keyboard.

            • Milo Burke
            • 5 years ago

            Yikes, sorry that was your experience.

            Yeah, I find it a very painful experience when the keyboard is as crappy as can be, falls asleep constantly, takes a couple seconds to wake up, and still drops keystrokes even when it is awake.

            I don’t yet know where the recovery partition is. I guess we’ll cross that bridge in a few minutes.

            • trackerben
            • 5 years ago

            I also have Chinese OEM BT keyboards and they’re mostly crappy as you say. The Logitech Ultrathin bluetooth keyboard is the one exception. My iPad 2 version works steadily with no lost keystrokes and a charge lasts for months. It has great quality and feel and is quick and easy to deploy. Of course it’s not as nice to use as that of a full-size laptop, but this combo delivers by far the best mobile browsing and media/gaming experience for its size and carry.

      • Milo Burke
      • 5 years ago

      The Asus X205 is very petite and super light. It weighs noticeably less than the iPad (2?) and keyboard/case my coworker has, even though the screen and keyboard are bigger on the X205. I can confirm the X205 is completely fanless, so no weird grills or holes, and it is silent as it has no moving parts.

      The keyboard feels pretty good. Not as spacious as the stock Dell keyboard I have at my workstation. The touchpad is quite nice. It’s big, responsive, and works will all the fancy gestures one would hope, but that I’ve never had on a laptop before. I even learned some new ones.

      It comes with “17 GB free out of 20 GB”. I assume that means it has a recover partition built in. I could monkey with it, but that will be plenty for Office and Word files.

      It boots in 12 seconds, shuts down in 8 seconds. As far as I can tell, it resumes from Sleep instantaneously. And apparently it can stay in sleep for two weeks from a full charge. Unlike my current laptop, I’m content to have it sleep after 4 minutes and to automatically sleep when I close the lid.

      Websites load almost as fast as my work desktop (Ivy i3 with 8 GB of RAM, SSD), and the computer hangs only for a moment when it is loading the website. Processor maxed out? I’ve got ten tabs open in Chrome, and I’m not seeing any major lag on any of them.

      However, Chrome took a surprisingly long time to install. Perhaps it’s very slow flash storage for writes?

      There is only a touch of bloatware on the machine, won’t take much to clean it off.

      The frame, inside and out, and the touchpad are all fingerprint magnets. If that’s important to you, beware.

      The screen is a touch dim at half brightness. I wish it were a bit brighter, but I can adjust and charge slightly more often. The color changes when you shift your viewing angle slightly. Contrast changes slightly side to side, and dramatically up to down. From what I read, the screen specs are truly abysmal. But if you’re looking at it straight on and not doing photo or video work, it looks perfectly fine. Colors look rich enough, and the screen looks as crisp as one can at this resolution. It is a glossy screen, but indoors with office lighting, the glare could be worse.

      I’m very happy with it. The performance is better than I expected. And I’m super pleased with the battery life and speed to resume from sleep. This will be a fantastic tool, and the price was right: $180 +tax.

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