TR’s July 2015 mobile staff picks

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Welcome to  the July 2015 edition of The Tech Report’s mobile staff picks, where we recommend our favorite tablets, convertible PCs, laptops, and phones. With summer in full swing and school just around the corner for many, it’s time for an update.

 First, a brief recap of the developments in the mobile hardware market since our last mobile picks update in November. Intel just announced quad-core variants of its Broadwell mobile CPUs, which are trickling into systems as we speak. Higher-end versions of these chips with Iris Pro 6200 IGPs look to offer a major step up in the integrated graphics performance race, but not many computers are available with them yet. Entry-level laptops with AMD’s Carrizo mobile chips are also just starting to hit the market, too. 

The most interesting development in mobile computing may be the arrival of Nvidia’s G-Sync variable-refresh-rate tech for laptops. Given the benefits G-Sync offers for gaming on the desktop, it’s good to see it arrive in gaming laptops, as well. As a result, we’ve picked out a couple of gaming machines for this edition of the guide. While a desktop PC is a better value for most, we understand that  some people–especially students–might not want to haul around a tower and its associated peripherals.

As with our other main system guide, our staff picks update is sponsored by Newegg. We’ll be using links to their product pages throughout this guide when it’s possible. You can (and should) support our work by using these links to purchase the products we recommend. A big thanks to Newegg for their continued support.

If you like this article, don’t miss the rest of our guide series: our main System Guide, in which we detail the best PC components and explore some custom builds; our how-to-build-a-PC guide, where we walk readers (and viewers) through the PC assembly process; and our peripheral guide, where we pick the best monitors, mice, keyboards, and accessories to make your PC experience even better. 

Without any further ado, let’s get down to business.

Tablets

Product Specs Starting price

Google Nexus 7 (2013)
Operating system: Android 5.1.1
Display: 7″ 1920×1200 (323 ppi)
Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro
RAM: 2GB
Storage: 16GB
Battery life: 10 hours (web), 9 hours (video)
Connectivity: 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.0
Thickness: 0.34″
Weight: 0.64 lbs
$149.99

(16GB)


Dell Venue 8 7000
Operating system: Android 5.0.2
Display: 8.4″ 2560×1600 (359 ppi)
Processor: Intel Atom Z3580
RAM: 2GB
Storage: 16GB or 32GB
Battery life: 9.8 hours
Connectivity: 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0
Thickness: 0.24″
Weight: 0.67 lbs
$349.99

(16GB)


Apple iPad mini 2
Operating system: iOS 8
Display: 7.9″ 2048×1536 (326 ppi)
Processor: Apple A7
RAM: 1GB
Storage: 16GB or 32GB
Battery life: 10 hours (Wi-Fi), 9 hours (LTE)
Connectivity: 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.0, LTE
Thickness: 0.3″
Weight: 0.73 lbs
$299.99

(16GB)


Apple iPad Air 2
Operating system: iOS 8
Display: 9.7″ 2048×1536 (264 ppi)
Processor: Apple A8X
RAM: 2GB
Storage: 16GB, 64GB, or 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, Wi-Fi)

Google Nexus 7

Google’s Nexus 7 is officially discontinued, but you can still buy the 16GB version from existing stock. That’s a pleasant surprise, since the Nexus offers a lot to love for $149. The high-PPI display, decent amount of RAM, and long battery life all work in the N7’s favor, and since it’s a Nexus device, Google continues to roll out Android operating system updates for this slate, as well. Buy one while you can.

Dell Venue 8 7000

For the moment, our high-end Android tablet pick is Dell’s Venue 8 7000. We praised the Venue’s build quality, screen, battery life, and responsiveness in our review. Dell has since updated this super-slim slate to Android 5.0.2 Lollipop. Intel’s RealSense camera is just OK, but so are most tablets’ cameras, to be honest. Either way, the Venue 8 7000 provides a premium Android experience for a plenty reasonable $350 with 16GB of onboard storage, or $400 for 32GB. If that’s not enough room, both versions can be expanded with a microSD card. 

iPad mini 2

For a small iOS tablet, we don’t think there’s a better pick than Apple’s iPad mini 2. Yeah, there’s a newer iPad mini 3 available, but the only extra feature on that tablet is the Touch ID fingerprint sensor. We’re not convinced that’s worth the $100 upcharge.

Another benefit of sticking with the mini 2 is that stepping up to 32GB of onboard storage will only cost you $50 more than the 16GB version’s $300 starting price. Since iPads don’t come with upgradeable storage, that’s worth keeping in mind. Otherwise, the mini 2 features the same Retina display that we’ve come to know and love, and it offers full access to Apple’s vast App Store ecosystem.

Apple’s iPad Air 2

Apple’s iPad Air 2 is the biggest and most powerful iOS device you can buy right now. Between the slim body, the beautiful Retina display, the fast-acting Touch ID fingerprint sensor, and unparalleled app ecosystem, we think your dollars are best spent here. It’s also the only iPad so far that will be able to take advantage of the split-screen multitasking feature arriving with iOS 9 in the fall. The Air 2 is among the more expensive tablets out there, starting at $500 for the 16GB version, but there’s arguably not a better large tablet on the market. 

 

Convertibles

Need a PC that can serve double duty as a notebook and a tablet? The burgeoning convertible market has you covered. Since we last checked in, Microsoft has traded ARM CPUs in its entry-level Surfaces for Intel’s Cherry Trail Atom processors, which makes them a compelling enough product to warrant inclusion here.

Product Specs Starting price

Microsoft Surface 3
Operating system: Windows 8.1
Display: 10.8″ 1920×1280 (214 ppi)
Processor: Intel Atom x7-8700
RAM: 2GB or 4GB 
Storage: 64GB or 128GB SSD
Battery life: 10 hours 
Connectivity: 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0
Thickness: 0.34″
Weight: 1.4 lbs
$499.99

(64GB, 2GB RAM)


Asus Transformer Book T300 Chi
Operating system: Windows 8.1
Display: 12.5″ 1920×1080 (176 ppi)
Processor: Intel Core M-5Y10
RAM: 4GB
Storage: 128GB SSD
Battery life: 8 hours
Connectivity: 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0
Thickness: 0.3″ (tablet mode), 0.65″ (docked)
Weight: 1.6 lbs (tablet mode), 3.2 lbs (docked)
$699.99

Dell Venue 11 Pro 7000

Display: 10.8″ 1920×1080 (204 ppi)
Processor: Intel Core M-5Y10 (Broadwell)
RAM: 4GB or 8GB
Storage: 64GB, 128GB, or 256GB + microSD slot
Battery life: 10 hours (20 hours with dock)
Connectivity: 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0, LTE
Thickness: 0.42″
Weight: 1.6 lbs
$699.99

Microsoft Surface Pro 3
Operating system: Windows 8.1
Display: 12″ 2160×1440 (216 ppi)
Processor: Intel Core i3, i5, or i7 (Haswell)
RAM: 4GB or 8GB
Storage: 64GB, 128GB, 256GB, or 512GB + microSD slot
Battery life: 9 hours
Connectivity: 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.0
Thickness: 0.36″
Weight: 1.8 lbs
$799.00

(64GB SSD,

4GB RAM, Intel Core i3 CPU)

Microsoft Surface 3
With its Surface 3, Microsoft sheds the hobbled Windows RT and ARM CPUs of the Surface and Surface 2 for full-fat Windows and an Intel Cherry Trail Atom CPU. This new slate is a lot like a shrunken Surface Pro 3, and that’s a good thing. It inherits the 3:2 aspect ratio display from its larger, more powerful sibling, as well as the built-in pen digitizer. The Atom CPU isn’t going to break any speed records, but it should be more than adequate for most day-to-day work in Windows. Unfortunately, the $500 base price doesn’t include a Type Cover keyboard or Surface Pen–those are $130 and $50 extras, respectively.

Asus Transformer Book T300 Chi

One slightly frustrating fact of the convertible world is that the base price of many of these systems doesn’t include a keyboard dock. Not so with Asus’ Transformer Book T300 Chi. This Transformer offers Intel Core M power, a high-quality keyboard, and a gorgeous screen for only $700, which is the cheapest way to get into a complete convertible here. You do give up the Surface 3’s pen digitizer in exchange for the more powerful CPU, but that’s probably a reasonable tradeoff for most. 

Dell Venue 11 Pro 7000

If you need a business-oriented convertible with the potential for really long battery life, Dell’s Venue 11 Pro 7000 is worth a look. This Windows 8.1 tablet starts at $700 with an Intel Core M processor, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of solid-state storage onboard. 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).

Microsoft Surface Pro 3

If you need more computing power or a bigger, higher-res screen than the Surface 3 offers, then consider stepping up to the Surface Pro 3. This more powerful take on Microsoft’s tablet formula features low-voltage Haswell Core i3, i5, and i7 CPUs, as well as a 12″, 2160×1440 screen and more solid-state storage. The $800 base price gets you a Core i3 CPU, 64GB of storage, 4GB of RAM, and an included Surface Pen. The Type Cover keyboard is still a $130 extra, though. 

 

Laptops

Tablets and convertibles may be enticing for some, but others prefer a good old clamshell laptop. If you’re among that number, we think these are the ones most worth your while.

Product Specs Starting price

Asus X551MAV
Display: 15.6″ 1366×768
Processor: Intel Celeron N2840
RAM: 4GB
Storage: 500GB mechanical hard drive 
Battery life: 4 hours
Connectivity: 802.11n
Thickness: 1.2″
Weight: 4.7 lbs
$249.99

Asus ZenBook UX305
Display: 13.3″ 1920×1080
Processor: Intel Core M-5Y10
RAM: 8GB
Storage: 256GB SSD 
Battery life: 8 hours
Connectivity: 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.0
Thickness: 0.5″
Weight: 2.6 lbs
$699.99

Dell XPS 13
Display: 13.3″ 1920×1080 or 3200×1800
Processor: Intel Core i3-5010U, i5-5200U, or i7-5500U
RAM: 8GB
Storage: 128GB or 256GB SSD
Battery life: 15 hours
Connectivity: 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0
Thickness: 0.6″
Weight: 2.6 lbs
$799.99

(Core i3 CPU,

128GB SSD,

1080p screen)


Apple MacBook
Display: 12″ 2304×1440
Processor: Intel Core M 
RAM: 8GB or 16GB
Storage: 256GB or 512GB PCIe SSD
Battery life: 9 hours
Connectivity: 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0
Thickness: 0.5″
Weight: 2 lbs

$1299.99

(256GB SSD,

1.1GHz CPU,

8GB RAM)


Apple MacBook Pro 13″
Display: 13.3″ 2560×1600
Processor: Intel Core i5 and i7 dual-core (Broadwell)
RAM: 8GB or 16GB
Storage: 128GB, 256GB, or 512GB PCIe SSDs
Battery life: 10 hours
Connectivity: 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0
Thickness: 0.7″
Weight: 3.5 lbs
$1299.99

(128GB SSD,

2.7GHZ CPU,

8GB RAM)

Asus X551MAV

For those with modest needs and modest means, the $250 Asus X551MAV looks like a good bet. This notebook comes with 500GB of mechanical storage, 4GB of RAM, and a Bay Trail Celeron N2840 CPU. The 1366×768 screen is a touch underwhelming, and you’re not going to be playing Crysis on this thing, but hey: it’s only $250, and you get full-fat Windows 8.1. That’s a hard value to argue with.

Asus ZenBook UX305
Asus’ ZenBook UX305 might be all of the computer most people ever need. It’s wafer-thin, it features a gorgeous 13.3,” 1080p screen, and it comes with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. The all-aluminum body only weighs 2.6 pounds, too. Scott loves his UX305, and it’s pretty amazing that all of this Core M-powered goodness only rings in for $700.

Dell XPS 13
Dell’s XPS 13 has been making waves in the notebook market since its release, as well. Its signature feature is a nearly-borderless “infinity display” that packs a 13.3″ screen into a chassis that’s no bigger than many 11″ laptops. The XPS 13 can also be had in several configurations, packing 1080p or 3200×1800 displays and Broadwell Core i3 or Core i5 CPUs. If you want more room for customization than the ZenBook UX305 offers and don’t mind spending a bit more to get there, the XPS 13 seems like a fine pick at $800 and up.

Apple MacBook

Readers, please put down your flamethrowers. We know Apple’s latest MacBook is polarizing. Hear us out. At only half an inch thick and a breath over two pounds, the MacBook is barely a tangible thing, yet Apple somehow managed to cram a 12″ Retina display (re-engineered to be thinner, brighter, and more efficient) and a full-sized keyboard in there. The Force Touch trackpad is slimmer than traditional clickpads, but feels a lot like one thanks to a clever electromagnetic haptic feedback system. Meanwhile, the system’s battery life stretches beyond eight hours, thanks in part to the display’s ability to pass through more light.

The MacBook’s Core M processors aren’t going to set any speed records, but they should be plenty of CPU for the average user. The one true pain point might be the lone USB-C port, which handles everything from charging to peripheral I/O to display output. That’s a nice vision for the future, but it does mean living in a dongle-filled present. Some folks may be willing to tolerate these limitations for a taste of tomorrow today. The new MacBook starts at $1300. 

Apple MacBook Pro 13″

If your computing needs include more demanding apps like Photoshop or FInal Cut Pro, and you need OS X, the newest 13″ MacBook Pro makes the most sense to us. You get the same Force Touch trackpad as in the MacBook, a slightly bigger and higher-res Retina display, beefier dual-core Broadwell processors with Iris 6100 graphics, and more ports for $1300 and up. 

Gaming laptops

Here’s another case where you’ll need to hear us out. Yes, gaming laptops are still sort of a crazy idea, but not everybody interested in PC gaming wants to haul around a desktop and its associated peripherals. The world of PC gaming laptops just got to be more interesting now that some systems are available with Nvidia’s G-Sync variable-refresh-rate display technology. G-Sync can help provide buttery-smooth gameplay even on more thermally constrained mobile PCs.

No, these laptops won’t last anywhere near as long on a battery charge as saner notebooks, and they weigh several times as much. Those are tradeoffs that gamers on the go will have to accept.

Product Specs Starting price

MSI GT72 Dominator G
Display: 17.3″ 1920×1080
Processor: Intel Core i7-5700HQ (Broadwell)
Graphics card: 3GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 970M 
RAM: 16GB
Storage: 1TB mechanical drive, SSDs optional
Connectivity: 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0
Thickness: 1.9″
Weight: 8.4 lbs
$1499.99

Aorus X5
Display: 15.6″ 2880×1620
Processor: Intel Core i7-5700HQ
Graphics cards: 2 x 4GB Nvidia GTX 965M in SLI
RAM: 16GB
Storage: 1TB mechanical drive, 512GB SSD
Connectivity: 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0
Thickness: 0.9″
Weight: 5.5 lbs

$2299.99

MSI GT72 Dominator G
MSI’s GT72 Dominator G is probably the most affordable (or least insane) way into a G-Sync-equipped gaming notebook. This 17.3″ bruiser packs a 1080p display driven by a GeForce GTX 970M graphics card, a SteelSeries-designed keyboard with RGB backlighting, and an Intel Broadwell Core i7-5700HQ quad-core CPU with 16GB of RAM. At 8.4 pounds and 1.9″ thick, this thing is the size of an electrical engineering text, but the specs are otherwise quite reasonable for the $1500 asking price.

Aorus X5

For those with deeper wallets who also want a more compact machine, the G-Sync-enabled Aorus X5 (made by Gigabyte) might also be worth a look. This newcomer pulls out all of the stops: its 5.5-pound, 0.9″-thick body contains twin 4GB GTX 965M graphics cards in SLI driving a 15.6,” 2880×1620 IPS panel. As with the GT72 G above, the X5 features a Core i7-5700HQ CPU with 16GB of RAM. 512GB of solid-state storage and a 1TB hard drive round out this $2300 package.

A note on Chromebooks

No, we’re still not recommending Chromebooks. The prices may be tempting, but compared to the $250 Asus laptop with Windows we’ve selected, Chromebooks are more limited in pretty much every way. Unless you’ve carefully studied the restrictions of Chrome OS and concluded that it’s something you can live with, we would continue to steer clear.

 

Phones

Product Specs Starting price

Asus ZenFone 2
Operating system: Android 5.0 (Asus ZenUI)
Display: 5.5″ 1920×1080 IPS LCD (400 ppi)
Processor: Intel Atom Z3560 or Z3580 SoC
RAM: 2GB or 4GB
Storage: 16GB or 32GB, microSD slot up to 64GB
Battery: 3000 mAh
Connectivity: LTE, 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0
Thickness: 0.43″
Weight: 6 oz
$199.99

(16GB)


Samsung Galaxy Note 4
Operating system: Android 4.4.4 (TouchWiz)
Display: 5.7″ 2560×1440 AMOLED (515 ppi)
Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 SoC
RAM: 3GB
Storage: 32GB, microSD slot up to 128GB
Battery: 3220 mAh
Connectivity: LTE, 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.1
Thickness: 0.33″
Weight: 6.2 oz
$619.99

(32GB)


Samsung Galaxy S6
Operating system: Android 5.0
Display: 5.1″ 2560×1440 AMOLED (576 ppi)
Processor: Samsung Exynos 8-core SoC
RAM: 3GB
Storage: 16GB or 32GB
Battery: 2600 mAh
Connectivity: LTE, 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.1
Thickness: 0.27″
Weight: 4.9 oz

Varies by carrier


Apple iPhone 6 and 6 Plus
Operating system: iOS 8
Display: 4.7″ 1334×750 (iPhone 6), 5.5″ 1920×1080 (6 Plus)
Processor: Apple A8 SoC
RAM: 1GB
Storage: 16GB, 64GB, or 128GB
Battery: 1810 mAh (iPhone 6), 2915 mAh (6 Plus)
Connectivity: LTE, 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0
Thickness: 0.27″ (iPhone 6), 0.28″ (6 Plus)
Weight: 4.6oz (iPhone 6), 6 oz (6 Plus)

iPhone 6: $744.99

(16GB)

iPhone 6 Plus:
$844.99

(16GB)

Asus ZenFone 2

For a budget Android phone, we think it’s hard to argue with Asus’ ZenFone 2 right now. For $200 unlocked and off-contract, you get a quad-core Intel Atom Z3560 SoC, a 13MP camera with a dual-color flash, 2GB of RAM, and 16GB of internal storage, plus a microSD slot. Android 5.0 Lollipop runs the show (albeit under Asus’ ZenUI skin), and the action happens on a 5.5,” 1080p display.

In the $250-$300 price bracket, we would normally recommend the OnePlus One. The OnePlus 2 is coming soon, however, so it’s probably not a good idea to buy a One right now. If you’re shopping in this price range, it’s worth noting that Asus has a higher-specced ZenFone 2 for $299 that sits roughly between the two OnePlus One models. This more powerful ZenFone 2 has an Atom Z3580 SoC, 4GB of RAM, and 32GB of storage onboard. It also comes with a fast charger that can return the phone to a 60% charge in about 40 minutes.

Samsung Galaxy Note 4

Stepping into the premium tier of smartphones, we first suggest Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4. While the Qualcomm Snapdragon 805-based Note 4 available for AT&T won’t perform identically to the Exynos-based version that Scott reviewed, it should be pretty close. You still get the same beautiful screen, capable camera, and stylus support as with the Korean Note 4. Samsung ships the Note 4 with a TouchWiz-skinned version of Android 4.4.4, which is both less desirable than stock Android and getting a little long in the tooth, but he rest of the package is good enough that we can forgive it. The 32GB Note 4 for AT&T runs $620, which is a pretty good deal for a smartphone of this caliber.

Samsung Galaxy S6

We’d be remiss not to recommend the Galaxy S6, Samsung’s latest and greatest from its Galaxy S series of flagship handsets. The S6 marks a departure from Samsung’s past top-of-the-line phones. It trades a removable plastic back, user-replaceable battery, and microSD slot for a more iPhone-esque metal-and-glass construction, a permanent battery, and fixed internal storage. Android enthusiasts might not be pleased with these changes, but it’s hard to find a reviewer who doesn’t rave about the S6. Some have even given the edge to this phone’s updated camera in the ever-raging battle between the iPhone and everything else.

Unfortunately, Newegg doesn’t sell unlocked versions of the S6 for most US carriers just yet, so we suggest consulting your carrier of choice for pricing and availability info.

While we’re on the topic of Samsung devices, you may have noted that we’re not recommending the Galaxy S6 Edge or Galaxy Note Edge. These devices feature screens that curve away at the edges for some extra visual flair–and that’s about all they do, aside from a couple of novel Samsung Android widgets that take advantage of the design. If you’re really taken with either Edge device and don’t mind the extra cost, go for it, but we don’t think they’re the best choice for most people.

Apple iPhone 6 and 6 Plus

Finally, the elephant in the room. Apple’s iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are Cupertino’s first take on the large-screened smartphone trend, and the wait has been well worth it. While the new hardware is certainly compelling, it’s equally likely that you’re looking at an iPhone because it runs iOS. The only question is whether you prefer the iPhone 6’s smaller 4.7″ screen or the added real estate of the iPhone 6 Plus’ 5.5″ display. 16GB versions of the regular 6 start at $745 unlocked, while the 6 Plus will run you $845 and up.

What’s next

Before we wrap up this edition of our mobile staff picks, let’s take a look at what’s to come in the worlds of mobile hardware and software. 

On the PC hardware front, Intel’s quad-core Broadwell mobile CPUs may propagate more, well, broadly into laptops at the higher end of the market over the coming months.  We also expect to learn more about the upcoming Skylake CPUs sometime soon, but we don’t know enough about them right now to really say how they’ll shape the market when they arrive. 

The biggest news in PC software will certainly be the arrival of Windows 10 later this month. Microsoft has promised some improvements in the new OS that could make for a better touch experience on smaller-screened PCs like tablets, convertibles, and phones. Windows 10 is a free upgrade for the first year of its existence for those already running Windows 7 and 8.1, so if these improvements pay off, they’ll be gravy for anybody who upgrades.

Mobile hardware isn’t likely to see as big a shake-up, at least for the big players. Samsung only recently released the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, so the next major refresh we’re waiting on is Apple’s. Assuming the company follows its usual release schedule,  we’d expect to see a new version of the iPhone sometime in the fall. If Apple keeps with its practice during other iPhone “S” releases, we could see phones that are outwardly similar to the existing iPhone 6 models with some internal improvements–hopefully faster processors, better cameras, and more RAM. 

Android upstart OnePlus has announced a release event for its upcoming OnePlus 2, which could make for an intriguing option at a lower price point than the flagships from Apple and Samsung. Aside from the name (and the fact that it’ll be launched in virtual reality), we don’t know much else about it yet.

Both Android and iOS will be getting major new versions later this year. iOS 9 will get some more Google Now-like features that are based on contextual information from iDevices’ sensors and usage history. iPads will also get some multitasking features like a slide-over view for messaging apps and a picture-in-picture mode for video. The biggest change–a split-screen multitasking view that puts two iOS apps side-by-side–is reserved for the iPad Air 2. 

The next Android release, code-named Android M, is supposed to be focused on improving the basic Android experience rather than any sweeping changes to features or functionality. It features a new privacy model that should give users more granular control over what information their apps can access, as well as better power management and native support for fingerprint sensors. Whether you’re on Android or iOS, these updates (if they’re available for your device) should come free of charge. 

With that, we bring this edition of the Mobile System Guide to a close. If you found one of our recommendations useful, please support our work by purchasing that item through our link to Newegg’s product page. You should also consider becoming a TR subscriber, if you haven’t already. Subscribers get exclusive perks, and your support allows us to continue producing time- and research-intensive pieces like this one.

Comments closed
    • ronch
    • 4 years ago

    If the Nexus 7 2013 only had an SD card slot, better durability and no touchscreen problems (which neither Google or Asus seem willing to admit) it would be a killer product.

    Mine’s dead. Flimsy build and touchscreen problems.

    • ThorAxe
    • 4 years ago

    You will have to pry my Lumia 920 out of my cold, dead hands….at least until the Lumia 940 hits the market.

    No other phone OS comes close to Windows 8.1.

      • Gyromancer
      • 4 years ago

      Wow, Windows 8.1 Mobile must be worse than I thought for nothing to come close. 😉

      • UberGerbil
      • 4 years ago

      I actually enjoy WP 8.x the most out of the platforms, but the app support is so lacking that even someone like me — who never uses or even installs popular apps like facebook, instragram, or twitter — runs into gaps.

    • tootercomputer
    • 4 years ago

    What criteria are you using for making these selections other than your update was sponsored by Newegg and are available there? You then go on to say :

    “You can (and should) support our work by using these links to purchase the products we recommend. ”

    Seriously??!! What ever happened to a critical review based on hardware price X performance?

      • morphine
      • 4 years ago

      Because… the recommendations are based on the criteria you mentioned, and after that, it doesn’t hurt if you click the links if you happen to want to buy them?

      Not seeing the problem here.

      ** edit ** – non-Newegg-available products are often mentioned too.

      • Jeff Kampman
      • 4 years ago

      Despite their sponsorship, Newegg has no input on the contents of our guides, and in fact, we recommend products that aren’t available from Newegg throughout our guides where it’s appropriate.

      Apologies for not making that clear this time around, but that’s always been the arrangement.

    • Doron
    • 4 years ago

    Macbook:
    ” yet Apple somehow managed to cram a 12″ Retina display…” – Did Apple develop any aspect of the panel?

    “… and a full-sized keyboard in there” – Synaptics*
    ” The Force Touch trackpad is [insert praise here]” – Synaptics*
    * Synaptics announced development of these technologies around 4 years ago, and a few months ago announced limited availability, which was probably purchased by Apple. So IMO Synaptics deserves at least some (if not all) of the credit for these products.

    “lone USB-C port… a nice vision for the future” – Future as in 3 months from now?

    I’m not saying this isn’t a great machine, but as per Cyril’s 2011 excellent article “The science of fanboyism”, I can’t help but wonder how much of the praise is affected by the Apple logo.

      • Ninjitsu
      • 4 years ago

      If a lone USB-C port is the future, I don’t like it…

    • kvndoom
    • 4 years ago

    I love love love my ipad Mini 2. Got it for $250 last December. I might get a full size this winter if there’s a good sale, but even if I don’t, I’m still happy.

    • sweatshopking
    • 4 years ago

    199 is the lowest price you list, and really, the vast majority of phones selling today are NOT that expensive. it’s too bad, though very difficult, you guys didn’t do around the 100$ market. The cheap market is where most everyone outside of USA goes.

    • CreoleLakerFan
    • 4 years ago

    I was recently in the market for an upgrade to my Nexus 7 2013. I really wanted stylus input/handwriting recognition in an 8″ form factor. There is an 8″ Asus VivoTab with a Wacom digitizer, but reviews indicate the digitizer is buggy due to of a poorly implemented cable. Also the display isn’t the greatest at 1200×800.

    I was amazed at the display quality of the Dell Venue, but lack of stylus input made this just a passing observation. I understand there is an 8″ version of the Galaxy Note, but Touchwiz induces violent tendencies and I refuse to purchase Samsung since I got stranded with a single Android update each for my Tab 10.1 and Sprint G2 (bastards). I ended up with an Nvidia Shield – DirectStylus provided to be the killer feature my decision hinged upon. The gaming capabilities are a nice bonus, but not the main selling point.

    I’m surprised the Shield didn’t make the list … or the Nexus 9 which also is based on the Tegra K1. The damn thing is ludicrously fast.

      • Voldenuit
      • 4 years ago

      [quote<]I'm surprised the Shield didn't make the list ... or the Nexus 9 which also is based on the Tegra K1. The damn thing is ludicrously fast.[/quote<] Fellow Shield owner here, and while I'm very happy with it as a gaming device - it probably makes up 80% of my gaming time these days - I can see why it's not on the list. The display is decent (and certainly better than at launch since they added the native color setting), but nothing to write home about. The Directstylus is beyond useless (at least for me) - whenever I try to take notes with it using Papyrus, the shoddy palm rejection ruins most of my writing input. Build quality is pretty shoddy - I have babied the tablet since day one but still got the dreaded edge cracks. On the plus side, I do like the magnetic cover, Shield Controller (*so* much nicer to hold than the cheap-feeling 360 controllers), and get decent battery life, and it's generally quite responsive (have not had any Android UI slowdowns). Would I buy one knowing all the problems I'd face? In a heartbeat. Would I recommend it to someone else? Hell no.

        • CreoleLakerFan
        • 4 years ago

        I’ve only had it a little over a week, so still in the honeymoon phase. I’m more of a function over form kind of guy anyway, so the performance bump is the thing that I really appreciate, so far.

      • Jeff Kampman
      • 4 years ago

      The Shield is sold out practically everywhere (including from Nvidia), which may indicate that a new model is on its way. We probably should have clarified that in the piece, but I don’t think it’s a good time to buy one right now, assuming you can find one at all.

    • UberGerbil
    • 4 years ago

    As it happens, the 5.1.1 update showed up on my N7 (2013) this morning (it actually might have showed up earlier but I didn’t look at the device over the long weekend). That’s a bit late (the update started rolling out around the end of April IIRC) but at least it’s still getting updates. I agree: if I didn’t already have one, and I was shopping in the 7″ space today, I’d be jumping on on one before they’re all gone.

      • Kurotetsu
      • 4 years ago

      I’ve found that after updating my Nexus 7 to 5.1.1 it actually performs better than my OnePlus One on CyanogenMod 12S (which is a testament to how awful Android 5.0, and by extension 12S, has been).

    • ShadowTiger
    • 4 years ago

    It says that the Galaxy S6 phone is Display: 7.9″ 2048×1536 (326 ppi)

    I am fairly certain that is not correct. 5.1″ 2560 x 1440 (577 ppi)
    Seems to be the correct size based on Samsung and Engadget.

      • Jeff Kampman
      • 4 years ago

      Whoops, fixed.

    • Kurotetsu
    • 4 years ago

    After Android 5.0 crippled the performance of my 2nd gen Nexus 7 I was pleasantly surprised to see it back up to snuff after 5.1 dropped. It torpedoed any consideration I had of buying a new one.

    • tipoo
    • 4 years ago

    imo, wait for the next update to the Mini. It will probably get the tri-core and 2GB RAM from the Air 2, which will allow the multitasking and other stuffs from iOS9.

      • cygnus1
      • 4 years ago

      I don’t think that will happen exactly. I believe it will get 2GB of ram, as will the next iPhone. But I don’t think either will be getting the tri-core.

        • tipoo
        • 4 years ago

        Either way, I’m sure they’ll up the CPU performance to be able to use the multiscreen view.

          • cygnus1
          • 4 years ago

          I really don’t think they’re going to give a screen as small as the mini the same multi-tasking options as the big brother version. I prefer the mini, so I hope I’m wrong, but I just don’t see them doing it.

          *edit: forgot you were talking about the mini and not just the phones

    • trackerben
    • 4 years ago

    You know this is the first time I’ve seen a 2-year-old consumer computer recommended by TR or any of the major tech sites. If a 2013 model is the only one fully worthy then the space is in some trouble.

      • windwalker
      • 4 years ago

      Well, you can’t expect much interest in a 7″ tablet when the flagship is a 6″ phone.

        • trackerben
        • 4 years ago

        Yea, and thus new iOS models remain the best/best sellers

    • windwalker
    • 4 years ago

    How about a recommendation for an all around competent household laptop:
    [list<] [*<]15" screen with decent quality and resolution (e.g. 1080 IPS or better) [/*<][*<]good quality keyboard and touchpad [/*<][*<]Core i3 - i5 level of performance [/*<][*<]8-16 GB RAM [/*<][*<]256-512 GB SSD [/*<][*<]solid but not pretentious design [/*<][*<]mediocre to decent battery life, bulk and weight [/*<][*<]cool and quiet [/*<][*<]$1000-1500 [/*<] [/list<]

      • Ninjitsu
      • 4 years ago

      Yeah, this. What you describe would make a good value-oriented work laptop as well – not everything needs a dGPU.

      Of course it should be sub $1000 and would probably only come with a 128GB SSD or a mechanical hard disk.

      • Kurotetsu
      • 4 years ago

      Honestly, the ASUS Zenbook UX305 or the non-touch Dell XPS 13-inch (2015) meets all those requirements for far less then your minimum. If you absolutely need a 15-inch laptop, theres the Zenbook UX501 for $1,500:

      [url<]https://www.asus.com/us/Notebooks_Ultrabooks/ZenBook_Pro_UX501/specifications/[/url<]

        • windwalker
        • 4 years ago

        13″ is uncomfortably small and pointless for a laptop that stays in the home most of the time.
        Reviewers said UX501 has bad colour reproduction. Too bad about the high resolution.

    • southrncomfortjm
    • 4 years ago

    I agree with the no Chromebooks line. Only reason I got one for my mom was because she always complained of slowdowns on her laptops. I ended up attributing the slowdowns mostly to malware from clicking on any link anyone puts in an email to her.

    Chromebook has been running fine and is less vulnerable to malware. Other than those kinds of scenarios, an inexpensive Windows based machine should be a better choice.

      • nafhan
      • 4 years ago

      Given the target audience for this website, I agree.

      Also going to agree with the “mom-book” thing. It’s really, really nice not having to do PC maintenance for elderly relatives who just want a web browser with a keyboard! I’ve gotten several people onto Chromebooks for this reason.

    • A_Pickle
    • 4 years ago

    Aww, c’mon. The HTC One M9 is all-metal, big, and while it’s missing the removable battery, it features a removable MicroSD slot and a manufacturer-supported bootloader unlock utility. Surely that gets some techie points, right? Plus it’s HTC! Good hardware!

      • cygnus1
      • 4 years ago

      HTC = good hardware?? Since when? Their reputation is firmly in mediocre land I thought.

      • culotso
      • 4 years ago

      The downside is that there’s no way to buy one right now for what it’s worth: they’re still selling them at flagship prices, prices competitive to actual contemporary flagships. Once it drops down to <$400, then it’s into the buy zone.

    • sumang007
    • 4 years ago

    No love for the Razer Blade – universally agreed on to be the best thin & light gaming laptop out there (and I would argue for gaming laptop, period).

    Also lacking love for the OnePlus One and Nexus 6, both universally acclaimed…

    TR trying to be contrarian? 😉

      • Ninjitsu
      • 4 years ago

      OnePlus One should indeed get a mention – I’m surrounded by people with a OnePlus One.

        • Jeff Kampman
        • 4 years ago

        We would normally recommend the OnePlus One, but a new version of the handset is coming soon. We wanted to be cautious about recommending that people go spend money on one right now before we know what the revised version looks like.

          • Voldenuit
          • 4 years ago

          [quote<]We would normally recommend the OnePlus One, but a new version of the handset is coming soon.[/quote<] So instead you recommend an Atom Android phone? Sure, it'll work fine for 99% of ART apps, but what about games compatibility? (Note, I'm genuinely curious here)

            • Ninjitsu
            • 4 years ago

            My experience with Atom based Android devices has been that most games will work – at least the famous ones. That was on Android 4.x, too, so I’m sure the situation is better.

            • Voldenuit
            • 4 years ago

            Is this 2D games, or does it include some of the more demanding 3D games?

            (I mostly play Kritika on my tablet these days, and don’t want to get a phone that won’t run it. Pretty sure it doesn’t count as a ‘famous’ game, though.)

            • Ninjitsu
            • 4 years ago

            Asphalt 8 ran, otherwise 2D. I don’t play on mobile devices…

          • Ninjitsu
          • 4 years ago

          Ah, fair enough! 🙂

        • Generic
        • 4 years ago

        I’d like to give you 3 thumbs up for your glorious sarcasm, but I can’t be sure that it is, in fact, sarcasm.

        [b<][i<]Damn you internet![/b<][/i<]

          • Ninjitsu
          • 4 years ago

          What? No sarcasm, I’m sorry 😀

          I probably know at least 10 people with a OnePlus One now. Invariably someone I meet after a long time has a OnePlus One, and I’m sure more would switch if it wasn’t a giant phone.

            • Generic
            • 4 years ago

            No worries ^-^

            I was thinking that you were either a rare bird who was surrounded by the phone, or a master of dry humor. I just couldn’t resist the latter.

    • Kretschmer
    • 4 years ago

    I’m surprised not to see thin and light gaming portables like the MSI GSXX or the Razor Blade (<5 lbs). Alternately, you can game much, much more cheaply with units like the Lenovo Y series.

      • Voldenuit
      • 4 years ago

      Agreed.

      I am profoundly Krogoth’ed at every single one of the staff picks.

      Every.
      Single.
      One.

      • mnemonick
      • 4 years ago

      Me too. My manager has last year’s MSI Ghost Pro 15″ with a GTX 870M, and after playing around with it I [i<]really[/i<] want one (the new one with a GTX 970 of course :D). The Blade 14" looks really sexy as well, but I worry that the screen is too small.

      • JustAnEngineer
      • 4 years ago

      [quote=”In a forum thread, I”<] I'm not seeing many Broadwell based options yet. This one seems to meet some of your criteria. [url=http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16834152816<]$1500[/url<] MSI GS60 Ghost-607 [url=http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=ENE&N=100007595%20600003523%20600003526%20600003527%20600003532%20600166241&IsNodeId=1&bop=And&Order=PRICE&PageSize=30<]$73[/url<] External slim Blu-ray drive [/quote<]

    • tsk
    • 4 years ago

    Nice picks jeff, looking for a good 12 inch tablet myself, but don’t think there at any.

      • southrncomfortjm
      • 4 years ago

      The T300 Chi is 12.5inches and the keyboard is easily detachable. Did you mean 12.5inch Android? Or Apple?

        • tsk
        • 4 years ago

        iOS or Android I really dislike windows on a touchscreen.

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