The Tech Report’s summer 2017 mobile staff picks

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Welcome to the AUGUST 2017 edition of The Tech Report’s mobile staff picks, where we recommend our favorite tablets, convertible PCs, laptops, and phones.

A bit of time has passed since our winter mobile staff picks. The big developments in the mobile device world since have mostly been in laptops. Intel’s Kaby Lake CPUs offer higher clock speeds in the same power envelope as their predecessors and better responsiveness thanks to Speed Shift technology. In practice, these characteristics mean Kaby Lake is quite frugal when it comes to power consumption, and their proliferation in ultrabooks and notebooks across the board has resulted in machines with suprisingly long battery life. The power savings also gave rise to more laptops with gorgeous 4K screens, a characteristic that would previously chop down battery life by a fair bit. If there ever was a time to upgrade your old clunker of a laptop, it’s now.

HP Spectre x2 12t

As for the phone arena, not a whole lot has changed since winter—but it soon might. The rumor mill says that Apple is set to release either a iPhone 7S or a fabled iPhone 8 (or both?), and that Google is set to unleash the Pixel 2 upon the world. OnePlus, ever the pretender for the smartphone crown, has released its OnePlus 5 handset, which packs a ton of hardware and then some. The upstart is keeping its sights set on the Apples and Samsungs of the phone business, and its latest entry is quite the stunner. The leading companies are hardly sitting still, though.

Meanwhile, in the tablet business, the news is that… oh, wait. There’s not much to talk about. The tablet market is now stagnant. Even Apple hasn’t been immune to this, as evidenced by iPad sales’ long string of declines. We’ve seen refreshes of Amazon’s Fire HD tablets, mild updates to the iPad lineup, and that’s about it. Still, tablet prices have been generally coming down, so it’s as good a time as any to grab one if you don’t already have one.

There’s at least one thing to look out for in the horizon, though. Apple’s been making a lot of noise about using an iPad Pro as a replacement for a laptop, but iOS isn’t very amenable to working with multiple applications at once. The impending release of iOS 11 and its improved file and application management might change that, possibly making the iPad and iPad Pro more useful as general computing devices.

Asus Chromebook Flip C302

Chromebooks, upscale PC laptops, and convertibles, on the other hand, are all burgeoning with activity. Chromebooks seem to have risen in popularity even further, fueled by a combination of ChromeOS’ no-nonsense usability and affordable, reliable machines whose spec sheets resemble those of costlier laptops. It helps that multiple Chromebooks have officially received support for Google’s Play Store, meaning that they can run Android apps alongside the Chrome browser.

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 folks 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. 

Like the rest of our guides, our mobile staff picks are sponsored by Newegg. We’ll be using links to Newegg product pages throughout this guide. You can (and should!) support our work by using these links to purchase the products we recommend. If Newegg doesn’t stock an item we want to recommend, however, we’ll link to other resellers as needed. Despite its sponsorship, Newegg exercises no control over the products that appear in this article. Our picks are entirely our own.

 

Tablets

Product Specs Starting price

Amazon Fire 7 Tablet
Operating system: Fire OS
Display: 7″ 1024×600 IPS LCD
Processor: Quad-core ARM Cortex A7 at 1.3 GHz
RAM: 1GB
Storage: 8GB or 16GB with microSD slot
Battery life: 7 hours
Connectivity: 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS
Thickness: 0.4″ (11 mm)
Weight: 0.7 lbs
$49.00 (8GB) or $67.99 (16GB)

Amazon Fire HD 8
Operating system: Fire OS
Display: 8″ 1280×800 IPS LCD
Processor: Quad-core ARM Cortex A7 at 1.3 GHz
RAM: 1.5GB
Storage: 16GB or 32GB with microSD slot
Battery life: 12 hours
Connectivity: 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS
Thickness: 0.4″ (11 mm)
Weight: 0.8 lbs
$77.99 (16GB) or
$104.99 (32GB)

Apple iPad mini 4
Operating system: iOS 10
Display: 7.9″ 2048×1536 (326 ppi)
Processor: Apple A8
RAM: 2GB
Storage: 128GB
Battery life: 10 hours (Wi-Fi), 9 hours (LTE)
Connectivity: 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2, opt. LTE
Thickness: 0.24″
Weight: 0.65 lbs
$364.95

(128GB, Wi-Fi)


Apple iPad (2017)
Operating system: iOS 10
Display: 9.7″ 2048×1536 (264 ppi)
Processor: Apple A9
RAM: 2GB
Storage: 32GB or 128GB
Battery life: 10 hours (Wi-Fi), 9 hours (LTE)
Connectivity: 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2, opt. LTE
Thickness: 0.24″
Weight: 0.96 lbs

$334.99

(32GB, Wi-Fi) or
$459.93

(128GB, Wi-Fi)


Apple iPad Pro 10.5″
Operating system: iOS 10
Display: Wide-gamut 10.5″ 2224×1668 (265 ppi)
Processor: Apple A10X Fusion
RAM: 4GB
Storage: 64GB, 256GB, or 512GB
Battery life: 10 hours (Wi-Fi), 9 hours (LTE)
Connectivity: 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2, opt. LTE
Thickness: 0.24″
Weight: 1.03 lbs

$649

(64GB, Wi-Fi)

Amazon Fire 7 Tablet

Unless you have first-hand advice on what to buy, picking out a tablet still requires at least a little careful consideration, mainly due to the $200-and-up sums of money involved. But what if there was an absurdly cheap, impulse-buy tablet that’s actually decent? Here’s the Amazon Fire 7. Its specs aren’t going to set the world on fire, but it still offers a quad-core CPU (though it’s a 32-bit model of 2013 vintage), 1GB of RAM, and a 1024×600 IPS panel that should offer decent color reproduction. Storage is limited to 8GB or 16GB depending on the flavor, but there’s a microSD slot on tap for additional capacity. Amazon’s not-quite-Android Fire OS 5 powers the device, and it’s regularly updated. And the price? $50 for the 8GB model with some lock-screen ads, and $70 for the 16GB version. Both of those stickers put the Fire 7 in impulse-buy territory. It’s not every day that a tablet computer can be described as a stocking-stuffer gift.

Amazon Fire HD 8

The Fire 7 above is nice, but what about something that’s a tad nicer yet for just a tad more money? Meet the Fire HD 8. We’re a little excited about this one, so bear with us: a 189-ppi IPS display, a quad-core ARM Cortex A53 64-bit CPU clocked at up to 1.3 GHz, 1.5 GB of RAM, and a microSD slot. “Surely that costs twice as the model above,” you’d be forgiven for thinking. But that’s not true. Only $80 for the model with 16GB of internal storage, and $110 for the version with 32GB. We say you can’t possibly go wrong here.

iPad mini 4
Apple’s iPad mini 4 might be getting a little long in the tooth, but it’s the only small iPad around. This slate gets the A8 CPU from the iPhone 6, 2GB of RAM, and a screen with with excellent coverage of the sRGB color gamut. The beefy hardware inside means it can take advantage of iOS 10 features that used to be exclusive to the 2017 iPad and iPad Air 2, like full split-screen multitasking.

If those upgraded specs aren’t convincing enough, one TR staffer was so taken with the mini 4 when he first held it that he ended up buying one for himself. Apple was kind enough to recently upgrade the iPad mini 4’s base capacity to 128GB, making it a no-brainer purchase in the small tablet arena.

iPad (2017)

Apple is pushing the the iPad Pro as a laptop alternative, but for those that just want a regular tablet, it’s hard to do any better than the 2017 iPad. This model has most of the iPad Air 2‘s innards, with the notable exception of a bit more horsepower thanks to the A9 SoC from the iPhone 6S. The screen is a mild downgrade from the gorgeous unit in my Air 2, and it doesn’t have the same slick oleophobic coating, but the overall package should still be miles ahead of most of its competition.

Between the slim body, the beautiful Retina display, the fast-acting Touch ID fingerprint sensor, and Apple’s unparalleled app ecosystem, we think your tablet dollars are best spent here if you’re shopping for a high-end slate. Apple has priced the 2017 iPad quite aggressively: only $329 for the 32GB model, and a reasonable $429 for the version with 128GB of storage. That probably makes it the best bang-for-buck Apple product in the current lineup.

iPad Pro 10.5″

Some people are increasingly able to do most of their work on an iPad rather than a traditional PC, and it’s possible that the upcoming iOS 11 might improve that concept further still. For demanding folks who fancy an iPad as their sole computing device, the iPad Pro is built around Apple’s most powerful SoC right now: the A10 Fusion. Both the 10.5″ and 12.9″ versions of this tablet have wide-gamut, 120 Hz screens with variable-refresh-rate support. The iPad Pros support Apple’s Pencil for sketching and drawing, along with the Smart Cover keyboard. For now, unless you need those specific features or you’re super gung-ho about putting as much power behind iOS as possible, though, the 2017 iPad is probably a saner choice.

 

Chromebooks

When Chromebooks first appeared, the TR staff was somewhat suspicious of them. After all, they appeared to be little more than underpowered, low-end laptops with limited usefulness. How wrong we were. When we spent some time with Asus’ Chromebook Flip, we came away impressed with what the cloud-centric platform can do on modest hardware. Unless you need Windows in a truly low-end machine (that is, sub-$350 territory) for some reason, we think Chromebooks can serve as a great way to do basic computing tasks on an inexpensive PC that doesn’t require a lot of care and feeding.

Manufacturers everywhere are jumping into the Chromebook bandwagon, and this time around we have some rather nice machines for you to choose from.

Product Specs Price
Asus Chromebook C301

(C301SA-DS02)

Operating system: Google Chrome OS
Display: 13.3″ 1920×1080
Processor: Celeron N3160
RAM: 4GB
Storage: 16GB eMMC
Battery life: 11 hours
Connectivity: 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0
Thickness: 0.8″ to 0.9″
Weight: 3 lbs
$256.83

Acer Chromebook 14

(CB3-431-C5FM)

Operating system: Google Chrome OS
Display: 14″ 1920×1080 IPS
Processor: Intel Celeron N3160
RAM: 4GB
Storage: 32GB SSD
Battery life: 12 hours
Connectivity: 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2
Thickness: 0.7″
Weight: 3.7 lbs
$299.99

Asus Chromebook Flip C302

(C302CA-DHM4)

Operating system: Google Chrome OS
Display: 12.5″ 1920×1080 touch-screen
Processor: Intel Core m3-6Y30
RAM: 4GB
Storage: 64GB eMMC
Battery life: 10 hours
Connectivity: 802.11ac (2×2), Bluetooth 4.2
Thickness: 0.54″
Weight: 2.7 lbs
$469.00

Our Chromebook recommendations now start at a higher price point. We made this decision based on the fact that Chromebooks with better-quality hardware (namely more powerful CPUs, better-quality screens, and more RAM) have dropped in price, making them far more appealing than before. The “Goldilocks” models now live in the $250 to $300 range, and we’ve adjusted our recommendations accordingly.

Asus Chromebook C301 (C301SA-DS02)

$250 wasn’t an amount that would get you much of a laptop before, but right now it can get you the Asus Chromebook C301. The model on hand has a quad-core Celeron N3160 CPU, 4 GB of RAM, and 16 GB of eMMC storage. The amount of storage may be on the small side, but the machine makes up for that with an SD card reader and 1920×1080 screen—a characteristic that used to be reserved for far more expensive models. Two USB ports and 802.11ac Wi-Fi complement the package.

Acer Chromebook 14 (CB3-431-C5FM)

For those that feel that 16GB of integrated storage may be a little tight, look no further than the Acer Chromebook 14. As its name implies, this machine has a 14″ IPS display with an honest-to-goodness 1920×1080 resolution. Like the Asus C301 above, the CPU in this machine is a quad-core Celeron N3160, packing more than enough computing punch for a machine of this class. Despite Chrome OS’ reliance on cloud storage, the Chromebook 14 offers a relatively spacious 32GB SSD for local files, too.

The Acer Chromebook 14 is a tad heavy at 3.7 lbs, but it makes up for some of that bulk with a battery that ought to go for 12 hours between charges and a gorgeous metal body. At $300, we think that this Chromebook is a fine choice for a no-nonsense, affordable work computer.

Asus Chromebook C302 (C302CA-DHM4)

Last but certainly not least, we have something a tad more luxurious. How about an affordable laptop with a 360° hinge, an all-aluminum body, and even two Type-C USB ports? The Asus Chromebook Flip C302 says “hi.” This machine’s build quality evokes that of laptops going for twice its price, and the fact that the screen can rotate behind the keyboard makes it useful as an impromptu Android tablet. To top it off, the chassis is only 0.54″ thick, making it easy to carry.

The innards don’t disappoint, either. There’s an honest-to-goodness Core m3-6Y30 CPU, 4GB of RAM, and a fairly capacious 64GB of eMMC storage. A 2×2 802.11ac Wi-Fi adapter and Bluetooth 4.2 take care of speedy wireless connectivity, and a microSD slot offers further expansion options. For $469, we think the Chromebook Flip C302 is well worth the money.

 

Convertibles

Need a PC that can serve double duty as a notebook and a tablet? The convertible market has been exploding, and there are options for all shapes and sizes. We’ve separated wheat from chaff to bring you the best.

Product Specs Starting price
Asus Zenbook Flip

(UX360CA-IH51T)

Operating system: Windows 10 Home
Display: 13.3″ 3200×1800
Processor: Core i5-7Y54 (Kaby Lake)
RAM: 8 GB
Storage: 256 GB SSD
Battery life: 10 hours 
Connectivity: 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.1
Thickness: 0.5″
Weight: 2.9lbs

$649.00

(Core i5 CPU, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD)


Microsoft Surface Pro (2017)
Operating system: Windows 10
Display: 12.3″ 2736×1824
Processor: Intel Core m3-7Y30, i5-7200U, or i7-7660U (Kaby Lake)
RAM: 4GB, 8GB, or 16GB
Storage: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB + microSD slot
Battery life: 13.5 hours
Connectivity: 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.1
Thickness: 0.33″
Weight: 1.7 lbs
$999

(Core i5 CPU, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD)


HP Spectre x2 12t (2017)
Operating system: Windows 10 Home
Display: 12.3″ 3000×2000
Processor: Intel Core i5-7260U or Core i7-7560U (Kaby Lake)
RAM: 8GB or 16GB
Storage: up to 1TB PCIe SSD
Battery life: ~7-8 hours
Connectivity: 802.11ac (2×2), Bluetooth 4.2
Thickness: 0.3″, or 0.5″ w/ base
Weight: 1.7 lbs, or 2.5 lbs w/ base
$1,149.99

(Core i5 CPU, 8GB RAM, 128GB SSD)


HP Spectre x360 13t (2017)
Operating system: Windows 10 Home
Display: 13.3″ 1920×1080 or 3840×2160 (4K)

Processor: Intel Core i5-7200U, i7-7500U, or i7-7560U (Kaby Lake)

RAM: 8GB or 16GB

Storage: up to 1TB PCIe SSD

Battery life: 13 hours (w/ 1920×1080 display)

Connectivity: 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2

Thickness: 0.54″

Weight: 2.86 lbs

$1,209.99

(Core i7 CPU, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, 4K display)

Microsoft Surface Book Operating system: Windows 10 Pro
Display: 13.5″ 3000×2000
Processor: Intel Core i5-6300U or Core i7-6600U (Skylake)
RAM: 8GB or 16GB
Graphics: Nvidia discrete GPU, 1GB RAM (optional)
Storage: 128GB, 256GB, or 512GB SSD
Battery life: 12 hours
Connectivity: 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0
Thickness: 0.9″
Weight: 3.5 lbs
$1,139.99

(Core i5 CPU, 8GB RAM, 128GB SSD, no discrete graphics)

Asus Zenbook Flip (UX360CA-IH51T)

 

This time around, the Zenbook Flip is actually leading our recommendations—except that it’s a new variant with a gorgeous, pixel-dense 3200×1800 screen. The Asus Zenbook Flip is a very competitively-priced flip-over convertible built around the spanking-new Kaby Lake Core i5-7Y54. This CPU is a two-core, four-thread unit with a 1.2GHz base clock, and it can Turbo up to a staggering 3.2GHz. That’s some impressive horsepower for a machine that’s only half an inch thick. Eight gigabytes of RAM and a large 256GB SSD complement the main package. At $650, we think this machine is an absolute steal.

Microsoft Surface Pro (2017)

Microsoft’s latest Surface Pro refined the company’s do-it-all tablet formula with Kaby Lake CPUs and a better battery, all the while keeping the machine’s already-excellent characteristics roughly the same. The convertible remains one of the category leaders thanks to its combination of powerful hardware, a fantastic 3000×2000 display, fanless cooling (save for the i7 models), and attention to detail in ergonomics. The only knocks we have against the Surface Pro are the single Type-A USB port  and the fact that Microsoft doesn’t include the (rather expensive) Type Cover keyboard in the box, nor the Surface Pen.

The base Surface Pro starts $799 with a Core m3 CPU, 4GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD. The Type Cover goes for $160, and the Surface Pen will set you back $100. The prices for the accessories are more than a little grating, but there are often promotional bundles that include at least one of them. It pays to be patient and shop around.

HP Spectre x2 12t (2017)

If we had to elect a machine that clearly has its sights set on the Surface Pro, it’s without question the 2017 version of the HP Spectre x2 12t. Let’s rattle off a few key specs: CPU options ranging from the Core i5-7260U up to the Core i7-7560U, 8GB or 16GB of RAM, and PCIe storage from 128GB to 1TB. That’s all fairly standard fare, but the Spectre x2 also has a 3000×2000 display—a resolution that results in a pixel density right up there with the Surface Pro’s. For peripheral connectivity, the Spectre x2 has two USB Type-C ports and a microSD reader.

The kicker is that HP includes both a stylus and a detachable keyboard in the package. Combined with the integrated kickstand, this makes for a more complete package than Microsoft’s offering. Prices start at $1,149.99 for a model with a Core i5-7260U CPU, 8GB of RAM, and a 128GB NVMe SSD. HP makes the baseline upgrades fairly affordable if you prefer to configure your own model, too.

HP Spectre x360 13t (2017)

The 2017 version of the HP Spectre x360 improves on an already-polished formula. The updated machine has even better battery life than its predecessor, a characteristic that comes in handy in tandem with the gorgeous 4K option. Reviewers praise this machine’s solid, all-aluminum body, high-resolution screen, and lengthy battery life, so we think it’s a solid choice if the form factor appeals to you. You’ll be hard-pressed to find anything better for just over a grand, and once again, upgrades to the CPU, RAM, and SSD are all affordable. Our sample configuration for this machine comes with a Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM, 256GB of NVMe storage—and, of course, the 4K screen—all for $1,209.99.

Microsoft Surface Book
Microsoft’s Surface Book is an unabashedly high-end convertible with a detachable screen, all-metal construction, Core i5 and i7 CPU options, and an optional GeForce discrete graphics card. The Book’s screen can pop off to enter what Microsoft calls “clipboard mode,” and an included Surface Pen lets owners sketch and take notes as they would on a Surface tablet. The screen can’t fold all the way over as it can on the Spectre X360, but it can be flipped around on the hinge to achieve similar positions.

The Surface Book starts at a little over $1,100 with a Skylake Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 128GB SSD, and no discrete graphics chip. We’d also like to point your attention to the $1,889 model that has a dedicated GeForce graphics card as a good price-vs-performance choice.

Microsoft also has a couple Surface Book models powered by a “Performance Base” that offer bigger batteries and faster GeForce GTX 965M graphics cards, at the cost of an extra couple millimeters in thickness and about half a pound more weight. These machines’ graphics performance is substantially superior to their predecessors, but the upgrade comes at a steep price: around $2,399 for the Core i7-fitted machine with a 256GB NVMe SSD, 8GB of RAM, and a GTX 965M card. There are even higher-end versions available, too. $2,799 gets a Book with 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD, while the range-topping machine with a 1TB SSD will set you back $3,299.

 

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 Specifications Price

HP Envy 13t (2017)
Display: 13.3″ 1920×1080 or 3840×2160
Processor: Intel Core i7-7500U
RAM: 8GB or 16GB
Storage: 256GB to 1TB NVMe SSD
Battery life: 14 hours
Connectivity: 802.11ac (2×2), Bluetooth 4.2
Thickness: 0.6″
Weight: 2.6 lbs
Base: $869.99

$1,019.99

(Core i7-7200U CPU, 256GB SSD, 8GB RAM, 4K display)


Surface Laptop
Display: 13.5″ 2256×1504
CPU: Intel Core i5-7200U or Core i7-7660U
RAM: 4GB, 8GB, or 16GB
Storage: 128GB to 512GB NVMe SSD
Battery life: 14.5 hours
Connectivity: 802.11ac Bluetooth 4.0 LE
Thickness: 0.6″
Weight: 2.8 lbs

Base: $999

$1,299

(Core i5 CPU, 256GB SSD, 8GB RAM)


HP Zbook Studio G4
Display: 15.6″ 1920×1080 or 3840×2160
CPU: Intel Core i5-7300HQ to Xeon E3-15353M
RAM: 8GB to 32GB, ECC w/ Xeon CPU
Storage: 128GB to 1TB NVMe SSD
Battery life: ~6-8 hours; 92 Whr option
Connectivity: 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2
Thickness: 0.6″
Weight: 2.6 lbs
Base:  $1049

$2,662.02

(Xeon E3-1505M,

256GB SSD, 16GB ECC RAM,

4K wide gamut display, 92Whr battery)


Apple MacBook (2017)
Display: 12″ 2304×1440
CPU: Intel Core m3-7Y32, i5-7Y54 and i7-7Y75 (dual-core)
RAM: 8GB or 16GB
Storage: 256GB or 512GB PCIe SSD
Battery life: 10 hours
Connectivity: 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2
Thickness: 0.5″
Weight: 2 lbs
$1,299.99

(256GB SSD,

1.2GHz CPU,

8GB RAM)


Apple MacBook Pro

(2017, 13″ or 15″)

Display: 13.3″ 2560×1600, 15″
CPU: Intel Core i5-7360U, i5-7267U, i7-7700HQ, or i7-7820HQ
GPU: Radeon Pro 555 or 560 (optional on 15″)
RAM: 8GB or 16GB
Storage: 128GB, 256GB, or 512GB PCIe SSDs
Battery life: 10 hours
Connectivity: 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0
Thickness: 0.6″
Weight: 3 lbs
Base: $1,299

$1,799

(13″, 256GB SSD,

3.1GHz CPU,

8GB RAM)

HP Envy 13t (2017)

What’s the definition of a laptop that’s “just right?” This one here, folks. HP is pulling off a gutsy move by using a Core i7-7500U processor as a base spec for the 13t. The memory options likewise start at 8GB instead of the pedestrian 4GB we see in many other offerings. The 1920×1080 screen that comes installed by default is nice enough on its own, but what we’re really looking for is the 4K option that comes in at a relatively modest price.

The bezel-less screen and graphite color option make the machine quite the looker, and the port selection ticks all the right boxes: two USB 3.0 Type-C ports and another two Type-A ports, a headphone-and-microphone jack, and an SD card reader. Our selected configuration will run you up $1,019.99 for a Core i7-7500U CPU, 8GB of RAM, 256GB of NVMe storage, and that beautiful 4K screen.

Surface Laptop

Well, well, well. Microsoft could already boast of the detachable Surface Pro tablet and the hinged Surface Book convertible in its mobile lineup. The company must have decided that two approaches weren’t enough, and it’s since let loose the Surface Laptop on the world.

Surface Laptop (Arc Mouse not included)

The key word for this machine seems to be “luxury.” The 13.5″ 2256×1504 screen is touch-responsive and offers excellent color reproduction, the machine weighs only 2.8 lbs, the battery purportedly lasts up to 14.5 hours, and the keyboard is clad in smooth alcantara suede. Reviewers everywhere have praised the machine’s top-notch build quality and quiet acoustics. The Core i5 version is even entirely fanless. The Surface Laptop starts at $999, and we’ve picked out a balanced configuration for $1,299 that includes a Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD.

HP ZBook Studio G4

The ultraportable machines above are all nice, but serious tasks beget serious hardware. If your work needs some serious oomph, you’d do well to look at a machine like the 15.6″ HP ZBook Studio. Although the base configurations are rather tame, the machine can be set up with up to a Xeon E3-1515M CPU (four cores running at up to 4.2 GHz with Hyper-Threading), 32GB of ECC RAM, and a Quadro M1200 graphics card. The default screen is option is a 1920×1080 affair, but all anyone should have eyes for is the DreamColor 4K model. There are two spots for NVMe SSDs inside for good measure.

Reviewers praise this laptop’s display and hardware options in particular. Given the hardware on offer, the battery life for this machine isn’t in the same league as an ultrabook’s, but there’s a 96 Whr option available that we recommend for the higher-end configurations. Our sample configuration goes for $2662.02, and it includes a Xeon E3-1505M CPU, a 256GB SSD, 16GB of ECC RAM, and, of course, that 4K wide-gamut display.

Apple MacBook

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 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 10 hours, thanks in part to the display’s ability to let more light pass through its pixel matrix.

The MacBook now uses Kaby Lake CPUs across the board. The entry-level model uses a Core m3 CPU and comes with 256GB of storage, while the higher-end models use Core i5 or Core i7 CPUs and have a roomy 512GB SSD. Either of those options should offer plenty of CPU for both regular and above-average macOS needs. The one true pain point on this machine might be its 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. If you can stomach those limitations, the new MacBook starts at $1300.

Apple MacBook Pro

If your computing needs include more demanding apps like Photoshop or Final Cut Pro, or you simply prefer a swifter macOS experience, the newest MacBook Pro is the logical choice. The latest revision (since 2016) has received criticism for some of Apple’s design choices. These machines only come with Thunderbolt 3 ports, and Apple ditched the older MacBook Pro keyboard for clickers with MacBook-like key travel, though there are reports that the 2017 update to the machine improves on that front. Fancier MacBook Pros now ditch the F-key row in favor of an OLED mini-screen called the Touch Bar. 

Even with all those changes, there’s little arguing that the MacBook Pro remains a good choice for a high-performance laptop with an expansive creative canvas. The MacBook Pro comes with a wide-gamut panel capable of covering 100% of the DCI-P3 color space and hitting a retina-boiling 500 cd/m² maximum brightness.

Many seem to lament the so-called “dongle life,” but TR Editor-in-Chief Jeff Kampman notes that the four Thunderbolt 3 ports on the MacBook Pro could actually be a blessing. His mid-2014 machine is saddled with two Thunderbolt 2 ports that work with practically nothing on the market, and his machine’s two USB 3.0 ports rapidly fill up when he’s doing video editing and audio recording all at once. He thinks that even with the need for dongles, having four useful USB ports backed up by Thunderbolt bandwidth is a major improvement for power users. He laments the death of the MagSafe charging port, though.

With those potential improvements in mind, we’re recommending one of each of the 13″ and 15″ models. In the 13″ corner, there’s a model going for $1800 that packs a Core i5 Kaby Lake CPU, 8GB of RAM, integrated graphics, and a 256GB SSD. Those wishing to step things up can get the $2400 MacBook Pro 15″ with a Core i7 CPU, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD, and a dedicated Radeon Pro 560 graphics card with 4GB of VRAM. While none of these machines offer a particularly good value proposition, those invested in the macOS ecosystem already know what the deal is there.

 

Gaming laptops

Well, isn’t this a surprise? After going so long without talking up the subject of gaming laptops, we’re finally ready to offer some guidance and recommendations. A question that’s probably going around in your mind is “what took you so long?” The main reason for this is that it’s hard to evalute gaming laptops. No, really, bear with us. Since gaming laptops universally pack more powerful hardware than their brethren—even if it’s just a dedicated graphics card—they require good thermal management and acoustics to be any good. However, we’re all too familiar with the race to the bottom in cheap laptops (Chromebooks aside). When you add “gaming” to “cheaply built,” the result is almost universally a disaster—if not there and then, then a year or two down the road.

That’s not to say that there haven’t been good gaming laptops produced before now. Far from it. It’s only fairly recently that thin 15″ and even 13″ gaming laptops with above-average build quality started popping up, though, mostly thanks to the appearance of Nvidia’s Pascal mobile GPUs and their excellent performance-per-watt ratio. The GeForce GTX 1050 and GTX 1050 Ti in particular have made quite a splash in this segment, offering a good gaming experience without the prodigious power draw and heat production that used to be side effects of gaming on the go. Without further ado, here are the picks we think you should keep an eye out for.

Product Specs Price
Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Display: 15.6″ 1920×1080 IPS or 3840×2160 IPS
CPU: Intel Core i5-7300HQ to Core i7-7700HQ
Graphics: GeForce GTX 1050 or GTX 1050 Ti
RAM: 8GB to 32GB
Storage: 128GB SSD to 512GB NVMe SSD
Battery: 74 Whr
Connectivity: 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2
Thickness: 1″
Weight: 5.76 lbs
Base: $749.99

$849.99

(Core i5-7300HQ, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, GeForce GTX 1050 Ti)

Gigabyte Aero 14 Display: 2560×1440 IPS
CPU: Intel Core i7-7700HQ
RAM: 8GB or 16GB
Storage: Up to 512GB SSD
Battery: 94 Whr
Connectivity: 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2
Thickness: 0.75″
Weight: 4.2 lbs

$1,699

(Core i7-7700HQ, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD, GeForce GTX 1060 6GB) 

Alienware 13 (2017) Display: 14″ 1920×1080 IPS or 2560×1440 OLED
CPU: Intel Core i5-7300HQ or Core i7-7700HQ
Graphics: GeForce GTX 1050 up to GTX 1060 6GB
RAM: 8GB up to 32GB
Storage: 128GB SSD up to dual 1TB NVMe SSDs
Battery: 76 Whr
Connectivity: 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.1
Thickness: 0.87″
Weight: 5.8 lbs
Base: $1,049.99

$1,849.99

(Core i7-7700HQ, 16GB RAM, 256GB NVMe SSD, GeForce GTX 1060 6GB, OLED display)

Dell Inspiron 15 7000

If you’re looking to do a little gaming on the road but don’t have a ton of cash to spend, you can do little better than the Dell Inspiron 7000. While it’s true that this machine is a tad bulkier than most of us would like with its 15.6″ screen and its one-inch-thick body, it’s also a fact that it’s very well-balanced platform. All of the options in Dell’s configurator are quite reasonable and in tune with one another. For example, it’s a commonplace theme to see laptops with “Core i7” advertised in blazing letters on the sticker, only to find out that the CPU has been paired with a puny graphics card that can barely lift a few pixels. This machine makes no such mistake, and the choice of an IPS display by default is the proverbial cherry on top.

Our sample configuration costs just $850, and it has a Core i5-7300HQ CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, and a GeForce GTX 1050 Ti graphics card with 4GB of VRAM inside. Those components push pixels to a desirable 1920×1080 IPS display. That’s a perfectly-balanced setup if we ever saw one, but those with a little more cash to spend can upgrade to a Core i7-7700HQ CPU, a GeForce GTX 1050 Ti graphics card, or even both.

One last note, though: there’s a version of this laptop starting at $750 with a display based on a TN panel. While in itself a TN panel isn’t a problem, the particular unit that Dell chose appears to be of sub-optimal quality. Stick to the $850-and-up model we linked above.

Gigabyte Aero 14

Gigabyte’s Aero 14 is the second surprise in our gaming-laptop picks. Although Gigabyte is best known for its wide-ranging selection of motherboards and graphics cards, the company also has a burgeoning lineup of laptops with pretty good specs and a no-nonsense looks. The most interesting of the bunch is undoubtedly the Aero 14. As the name implies, this machine fits a 14″ screen (preferably the 2560×1440 variant) into thin bezels and a body that’s only 0.75″ thick—a slim waist by gaming laptop standards.

The goodies don’t end there, either. Despite being a compact machine, the Aero 14 has a capacious 94 Whr battery. After all, there’s no point in having top-shelf hardware if all the gaming you can get when you’re away from a wall socket is a few seconds of the Steam login prompt. Our chosen $1700 configuration is quite meaty: a Core i7-7700HQ CPU accompanied by a GeForce GTX 1060 6GB graphics card, capped off with 16GB of RAM and a 2560×1440 display. Can’t go wrong there.

Alienware 13 (2017)

Dell took Alienware over roughly ten years ago, but only recently has the sub-brand established itself as the official label for all things PC gaming-related in Dell’s catalog. While Alienware’s past gaming laptops tended to be big and heavy, the newer Alienware 13 bucks that trend—and to great effect.

Judging by a mere passing glance, you’d be forgiven for thinking that there’s nothing special about the Alienware 13 compared to other similar-sized offerings. But here’s the kicker: there aren’t any similarly-sized offerings. The 13″ laptop form factor isn’t a popular one among gaming laptop makers thanks to the difficulty of packing high-end hardware in a constrained space. And yet, the Alienware 13 can be set up with CPU choices up to the Core i7-7700HQ and graphics card options as fast as the GeForce GTX 1060 6GB. But the star of the show in this machine is the optional 2560×1440 OLED screen. I had the pleasure of seeing one of these with my own eyes at the TR BBQ XIV, and I can definitely say that it’s quite a sight.

The model we picked out has a Core i7-7700HQ CPU, 16GB of RAM, a 256GB NVMe SSD, and that beautiful OLED display. The whole caboodle will set you back $1900, but it’s oh so worth it.

 

Phones

Product Specs Starting price

Huawei Honor 6X
Operating system: Android 7.0 with EMUI skin
Display: 5.5″ 1920×1080 IPS LCD
Processor: HiSilicon Kirin 655
RAM: 3GB or 4GB
Storage: 16GB or 32GB (plus a microSD slot)
Battery: 3,340mAh
Connectivity: LTE, 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.1
Thickness: 0.32″
Weight: 5.7 oz

$199.99

(32GB)


OnePlus 5
Operating system: Android 7.1.1 (with OxygenOS skin)
Display: 5.5″ 1920×1080 Optic AMOLED
Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
RAM: 6GB or 8GB
Storage: 64GB or 128GB
Battery: 3,300 mAh
Connectivity: LTE, 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2
Thickness: 0.29″
Weight: 5.6 oz
$479

(64GB)


iPhone SE
Operating system: iOS 10
Display: 4″ 1136×640 IPS LCD
Processor: Apple A9
RAM: 2GB
Storage: 16GB or 64GB
Battery: 1,624 mAh
Connectivity: LTE, 802.11ac (2×2), Bluetooth 5
Thickness: 0.3″
Weight: 4 oz
$374.95

(32GB)


Google Pixel
Operating system: Android 7.1.1
Display: 5″ 1920×1080 IPS LCD
Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 821
RAM: 4GB
Storage: 32GB or 128GB
Battery: 2,770 mAh
Connectivity: LTE, 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2
Thickness: 0.33″
Weight: 5 oz

$699.95

(32GB)


iPhone 7
Operating system: iOS 10
Display: 4.7″ 1334×750 wide-gamut IPS LCD
Processor: Apple A10 Fusion
RAM: 2GB
Storage: 32GB, 128GB, or 256GB
Battery: 1,960 mAh
Connectivity: LTE, 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2
Thickness: 0.28″
Weight: 4.9 oz

$679

(32GB)

 

Huawei Honor 6X
Huawei’s Honor 5X was our budget phone pick in past guides, so it’s only fitting that its more modern successor takes its spot. The Huawei Honor 6X is a budget phone quite well disguised as a high-end model. Huawei clads this phone’s Kirin 655-powered internals in an aluminum shell with a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor. A 5.5″, 1080p IPS display and a dual rear camera setup are both appealing things to find in a phone this cheap, as well.

This phone does come with Huawei’s extensively-customized EMUI skin on top of Android 7.0, but we think it’s probably going to be pretty hard to find a phone in this price range without some kind of custom Android distribution. At just $200 for a model with 32GB of storage and a microSD slot, it’s a fairly obvious choice.

OnePlus 5

OnePlus has been making a name for itself by making high-end phones with mid-range price tags, and labeling them “flagship killers.” While there’s a certain quantity of hyperbole attached to that description, we think there’s a grain of truth to it. The company’s latest handset is the OnePlus 5, and it goes for $479 with 64GB of storage. That money gets you a sharp 1920×1080 screen, a hefty 6GB of RAM, a speedy Snapdragon 835 SoC, and an enormous battery with OnePlus’ rather effective Dash quick-charging capability. Dual cameras round out this impressive package.

The Oxygen OS operating system on the 5 is a lightly-skinned take on Android with a few useful add-ins. As an added bonus, the handset’s all carved out of aluminum. These specs and finish would be worthy of a handset costing almost twice the money. If you’re looking for a phone that’s both slightly different than average and an insane deal, the OnePlus 5 is it.

iPhone SE

A large screen on a phone is certainly handy, but not everyone enjoys carrying around a barely-pocketable device the size of a plaster trowel. Compact phones may have become as rare as hen’s teeth, but they’re not entirely extinct, and we think Apple has the best one by quite a margin. The iPhone SE could easily be called the “iPhone 6S compact,” because it’s pretty much what it is. The outer shell is nigh-on indistinguishable from the iPhone 5S, but the phone has the 6S’s innards. That means an Apple A9 SoC, 2GB of RAM, and a vibrant 4″ LCD.

Apple currently holds the crown of “longest software update track” for its mobile devices, too. iOS 10 can be installed (and used) on handsets that go as far back as the 2012-vintage iPhone 5, and the company works extra-hard to get minor patches and bug-fixes out the door. The iPhone SE is affordable, too, a characteristic not commonly associated with fruit-logo’d devices. At $399 for the 32GB version and $499 for the 128GB model, you just can’t go wrong.

Google Pixel

Google seems to have had some trouble deciding what to call its in-house mobile devices, but the latest Google Pixel phone is jam-packed with goodies: a Snapdragon 821 SoC, a 5″ 1920×1080 AMOLED screen good for 441 PPI, a fingerprint authentication sensor, and a camera that’s been rated by DXOMark as one of the best snappers to grace a phone’s back. The 2,770 mAh battery supports fast charging, and the body of the handset has been praised for the quality of its finish.

Being a Google-branded handset, the Pixel comes out of the box with the freshly-baked Android 7.1 Nougat. Like previous Nexus and Pixel devices, the handset will receive updates directly from Google, making it a much safer bet, if you will, than other third-party phones. The Pixel doesn’t come cheap, though. While it’s certainly a premium phone, Google’s pricing of $649 for the 32GB version and $769 for the larger, same-capacity Pixel XL model pit it directly against Apple’s iPhone 7 and 7 Plus phones. While Google’s tactic of placing its newest handset in the same price area as the iPhone may alienate those who enjoyed Nexus devices’ fairly affordable price tags, the Pixel’s reviews seem to back up the sticker. If you’re looking for what’s probably the best Android handset out there, with updates straight from the robot’s mouth, the Pixel is it.

Apple iPhone 7

Every iPhone launch is a Big Event, and Apple’s most recent handset is certainly no exception. One the one hand, one could say that Apple didn’t change all that much in the iPhone 7. On the other hand, the old adage of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” also rings true. The evolutionary steps from the already-excellent iPhone 6S are a newer and faster A10 SoC, a gorgeous wide-gamut screen to go with an improved camera, stereo speakers, and a water-proof construction. The bigger iPhone 7 Plus has an extra trick up its back: a dual-lens camera system capable of taking breath-taking shots.

Not all the changes are universal improvements, though. The iPhone’s hallmark mechanical home button has been replaced with a capacitive, haptic-feedback circle that not everybody is a fan of, and the 3.5-mm headphone jack has vanished, leaving many users to suffer with another adapter dongle. Still, the phone’s all-around strengths and the super-fast A10 SoC make the iPhone 7 the king among premium phones. Apple’s sticker matches that lofty performance: $649 for the 32GB version, or $749 for the 128GB model. The iPhone 7 Plus goes for $679 in its 32GB incarnation, or $789 for a 128GB helping of storage.

If the iPhone 7 is too dear, Apple has also dropped the pricing of the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus handsets considerably. If a wide-gamut screen doesn’t sound that interesting to you and if you’re okay with the still-pretty-fast A9 SoC and a lesser camera, the iPhone 6S is a darn good bet at $521 for the 32GB model. The iPhone 6S Plus, meanwhile, is currently going for $530.

 

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.

In the laptop arena, we might see Intel’s eighth-generation Core CPUs this year. The company said that we could expect to see a 30% performance increase over Skylake parts, watt-for-watt—an impressive figure, and one that bodes well for machines so equipped. Details of these chips remain scarce for now, though.

The mobile phone market has been more-or-less sailing along at a steady pace for a while now. Big shake-ups and game-changing technology don’t tend to appear that often anymore. Not that there’s anything wrong with that—after all, handsets are still getting more polished and refined as time goes on. Google’s Pixel handset quickly made a name for itself since last year mostly thanks to its carefully-tuned software, and rumors are popping up everywhere that the search giant is set to release a successor sometime this year still.

Meanwhile, Apple is also expected to launch the iPhone 8 in relatively short order. iOS 11 is also nearing its release, and the purported multi-tasking enhancements within might give iPads a much-needed breath of life as general-purpose computing devices. Apple is talking a big game about the iPad Pro replacing a laptop, but we think it needs iOS 11 for its workflow to be as efficient as that of Windows or macOS.

Nvidia’s Max-Q initiative gave rise to several thin-and-light machines with GeForce GTX 1070 and GTX 1080 graphics card inside. Most of those laptops have yet to hit the market or just recently did, so the jury’s still out on their overall build quality and reliability. We’ll keep a close eye on those machines to see how they shake out. AMD’s Ryzen mobile APUs with Vega graphics on board were announced back in May, and the company promised we’d see machines with those chips inside in the second half of this year. When the time is ripe for another TR mobile guide, it’s possible we’ll have a few Ryzen-powered laptops in our selection.

With that, we bring this edition of our mobile staff picks 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. Enjoy your new laptop, phone, or tablet, and thanks for your support.

Comments closed
    • Stiqy
    • 2 years ago

    How can you not even have the Asus G752VS or similar in the gaming laptop lineup? It’s faster, cooler and quieter than virtually any contender… the two specs you specifically mention in your leading paragraph. Compare asus thermals and acoustics to MSI or alienware… [url<]https://www.notebookcheck.net/Asus-ROG-G752VS-Notebook-Review.171608.0.html[/url<] Of course I also own one, after trying the others, and from experience, it beats them both. No mainstream brand has beat Asus for cooling and quiet with power in a decade.

      • morphine
      • 2 years ago

      … because it’s huge?

      I mean, I’m sure it’s a nice machine, but it’s also enormous and it weighs [i<]ten pounds[/i<]. Given the choice (and for most scenarios) people universally prefer more compact machines.

        • UberGerbil
        • 2 years ago

        Gah, I remember carrying a 9lb Dell through airports and into hotel conference rooms in the 90s. Never again.

        I mean, it was cool having a three-spindle design with easy to swap battery/CD/Floppy modules, and that Pentium 166(w/MMX!) could run almost a full day with batteries in both bays, but… my shoulders hurt just from the memories.

        • Stiqy
        • 2 years ago

        I don’t know many gamers buying gaming laptops that choose, “slower, louder and hotter” because it’s thinner and fits in their purse better, over “faster, quieter and cooler” for a little bit of weight.

    • JustAnEngineer
    • 2 years ago

    [quote=”Morphine”<] Nvidia's [url=https://techreport.com/news/31993/nvidia-max-q-launches-pascal-into-thinner-lighter-notebooks<]Max-Q initiative[/url<] gave rise to several thin-and-light machines with GeForce GTX 1070 and GTX 1080 graphics card inside. [/quote<] Have you looked at the prices on those things? [url=https://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=ENE&DEPA=0&Order=BESTMATCH&Description=PPSSKFKEUVZKIU<]$2900[/url<] Ouch!

      • morphine
      • 2 years ago

      Yes, it’s almost like there are reasons why they didn’t go into the recommendations. I mean, paying a pretty high price could be worth it if the machines are really that good, but the jury’s still mostly out.

    • Kretschmer
    • 2 years ago

    Kudos for Gigabyte for creating a gaming laptop that isn’t styled like it’s a L4PT0P 4 GAMERZ. I might buy one from them next summer just on principle, if the implementation is good (e.g. no throttling, good build quality, et cetera).

    • Kretschmer
    • 2 years ago

    “The 1920×1080 screen that comes installed by default is nice enough on its own, but what we’re really looking for is the 4K option that comes in at a relatively modest price.”

    I don’t understand this. Why would you want to cram a 4K screen into a 13.3″ laptop when it murders your battery life and creates scaling issues (yes Windows has gotten better, but many of us use legacy apps)?

      • morphine
      • 2 years ago

      That’s the whole thing: the battery life on current-generation laptops is pretty good even with the 4K screen. That’s changed since the last time we did one of these.

      As for Windows’ scaling, sure, but it’s also getting better. We all have to take the plunge sometime, and… dat PPI.

        • Kretschmer
        • 2 years ago

        Thank you for responding. I still feel like the 30%ish battery tradeoff is insane for the minimal utility benefit. That’s the difference between making it an entire flight or a day at a client site and hunting for outlets.

        We don’t have to take the plunge unless said plunge makes sense. 🙂

      • Forge
      • 2 years ago

      I like the 4K screen on my 15″ laptop just dandy, my text looks GREAT. I don’t feel robbed at 6-8 hours of battery life, either. Moving from 1080p to UHD cost me about an hour, worst case.

      Not a theoretical number, I had to order with the 1080p panel, and bought the UHD panel and replacement eDP cable seperately.

      Now you want to kill battery life, just engage that Optimus Nvidia GPU. Even a Quadro M1000M means your battery life just dropped by half or more, and your fans will have something to say in under a minute.

        • Kretschmer
        • 2 years ago

        In Ars’s testing, XPS 13 battery life was cut in half going from a 1080P to 4K/touch laptops. [url<]https://cdn.arstechnica.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Review-chart-template-final-full-width-3.013-2-980x720.png[/url<]

    • tipoo
    • 2 years ago

    I thought from Apples visualizations of it, the stereo speakers in the iPhone 7 would have been equal. Not so, 70% of the volume and all of the bass still comes out the bottom speaker, cover the bottom one and you’re left with a muffled nothing, cover the top speaker and you lose almost nothing.

    Hopefully that keeps evening out over time with the 7S/8, but I was let down from expectations from it.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 2 years ago

      Are the speakers really on opposite sides? My wife has a 7 Plus and the only thing separating left from right is the lightning port. They might as well have just made two mono speakers.

        • frumper15
        • 2 years ago

        The stereo comes from a speaker on the bottom and then the earpiece speaker forms the second half of the pair. The other grill on the bottom is the microphone.

          • derFunkenstein
          • 2 years ago

          Hmm…learned something new. And since the earpiece puts out so little it just seems like those were both speakers, I guess.

            • tipoo
            • 2 years ago

            Yup, top and bottom. If you look at your bottom left grill closely, all but two holes are filled in, the other two are just the bottom mic as usual.

            The top speaker, yeah, barely adds much eh?

            • derFunkenstein
            • 2 years ago

            Well, it was a bad guess anyway. It’s not the phone I spend the most time with, since it’s my wife’s daily driver, so I just didn’t realize. Definitely a bad enough design to make me think there’s nothing coming from there.

            • derFunkenstein
            • 2 years ago

            wrong place

      • End User
      • 2 years ago

      If you want quality audio, with the side benefit of not annoying someone else, use headphones.

        • tipoo
        • 2 years ago

        When I’m serious about what I’m watching, definitely. When I’m home alone and just watching something while shaving or something, it’s still underwhelming compared to what they made me think it was. “Stereo but with 80% of the volume on one side” is still /technically/ stereo I guess, so my fault?

    • boskone
    • 2 years ago

    I’m curious why neither the Samsung Chromebook Plus or Pro ($450/$500), nor the Asus C213 ($350) made the list.

    The Plus brings a stylus to the table, albeit with an ARM processor. The Plus has an m3 (and stylus) for$50 more.

    The Asus is less svelte, similar specs to the Pro or listed Chromebooks, but $350 and ruggedized.

    • tipoo
    • 2 years ago

    I have the Acer Chromebook 14. A pretty good value for the aluminum build and 1080p IPS screen, though the N3160 is a bit pokey around JS heavy sites (youtube, facebook), for its low single core performance. The Apollo Lake refresh of it should be interesting, I wonder if it’s out soon.

    Fair warning, ChromeOS is pretty doodoo at local video playback if you get them in various formats, the native video player can’t play all of them and VLC is currently through an Android runtime on it which robs it of hardware decode. GalliumOS plays video much more smoothly on the same hardware since it has native apps. Whoda thunk a web based OS wasn’t the basis for performant apps, eh Palm? 😛

      • gerryg
      • 2 years ago

      Not sure if Acer or Asus but Costco had a great deal on a 14″ Chromebook with an i3 processor

        • tipoo
        • 2 years ago

        The Acer Chromebook 14 For Work (part of the name) has i3s and such, yeah. The regular CB14 is only Braswell. An Apollo Lake update at least would be interesting.

    • kvndoom
    • 2 years ago

    I just bought the new 9.7″ ipad when Best Buy had it on sale $50 off a few weeks ago. To make the deal even better, they had the Logitech Bluetooth keyboard case half off too ($50 instead of $100)! I got it to replace my ipad mini 2 (bought in 2014). Not bad at all.

    I love how well Apple stuff keeps its value. Sold the Mini 2 for $140 without making much effort at all, so that covered half the price of the new tablet.

    • tsk
    • 2 years ago

    Id recommended the Nvidia shield tablet for anyone wanting a small android tablet.

      • morphine
      • 2 years ago

      We removed that from the recommendations because it’s pretty much vanished from the market.

        • tsk
        • 2 years ago

        Ah I didn’t realize Nvidia stopped producing it, probably ran out of leftover K1 chips.

      • Sputnik7
      • 2 years ago

      What about Samsung’s Tablets? S2/S3/Tab A?

        • tsk
        • 2 years ago

        Get an iPad instead IMHO.

          • Sputnik7
          • 2 years ago

          Maybe we don’t want to get invested in Apple’s ecosystem?

            • tsk
            • 2 years ago

            Then the Samsung S3 is a very nice tablet spare for TouchWiz.

        • morphine
        • 2 years ago

        The problem with basically any tablet right now that’s not an iPad is software support, as in: there’s barely any. That’s not to say that the hardware isn’t nice, but a tablet will live and die by its applications and updates.

        The Nexus devices used to be the golden children in that regard, but Google decided those weren’t worth doing anymore. Plus, there’s the fact that the iPads have been pretty cheap for a while now.

        Having said that, if I absolutely didn’t want to go iOS, I’d probably go with one of Asus offerings.

    • jensend
    • 2 years ago

    One mobile upgrade still on the horizon I’m interested in:

    Could somebody at TR try to follow up with Intel about [url=https://techreport.com/news/28865/intel-plans-to-support-vesa-adaptive-sync-displays<]their adaptive sync plans[/url<]? Intel's graphics have come further since Sandy Bridge than their CPUs have. Intel has been using Embedded DisplayPort for mobile graphics for quite some time, and adaptive sync was part of the eDP standard years before G-Sync or FreeSync hit the market, but Intel graphics still can't use it for games even though it's been two years since they confirmed to Damage they were going to do so. Laptop iGPUs are certainly not gaming workhorses, but being able to count on adaptive sync for all Intel laptops' own panels would make much better use of the limited hardware. Being able to use adaptive sync on external monitors would help push adaptive sync more mainstream there too. There's been speculation about whether this could be in Gen10 or might wait till Ice Lake or even later. It would be nice to have an update.

      • chuckula
      • 2 years ago

      When we can get the frame rates above the absolute minimum FreeSync threshold we’ll think about it!
      — Intel

        • jensend
        • 2 years ago

        I don’t know the details, but since panel self refresh etc are supposed to be saving serious power, I imagine there’s been more emphasis on allowing slower timing for these panels than there has been on the desktop. Additionally, more of the display control is done by the GPU than when you’re using desktop cabling standards, reducing one of the major sources of limitations.

        So I imagine on a laptop panel the minimum refresh would be much lower than the ridiculous 48Hz minimum refresh you see on some Freesync monitors.

      • tsk
      • 2 years ago

      From what I’ve heard through the grapevine, you’ll see adaptive sync with ice lake.

      • tipoo
      • 2 years ago

      Even if not for gaming, adaptive refresh would be huge for smooth scrolling. Frames could be presented when the GPU and trackpad are ready, not at every 16ms afterwards.

        • tay
        • 2 years ago

        Right this causes the instantaneous refresh rate to be a multiple of 16ms giving you 60Hz, 30Hz, 20Hz, 15 Hz and so on. This is after all what causes the massive stutter that people complain about.

        If your frame isn’t ready this 16ms interval, the panel forces a refresh and you have to wait another full 16ms till it’s done, making your frame rate drop to 30. If it’s not done even then, you wait another 16ms which would be 48ms total, thus making your instantaneous refresh rate 20 Hz. You miss all the times you could’ve refreshed in between those intervals. Of course there is no such thing as instantaneous rate unless you work backwards from the 16.7ms number. HRR monitors without adaptive sync help a lot because now it gets a chance to refresh every 8ms and multiple there of.

        That’s how I understand it and it really Hz to not get the graphics controller control the sync. 🙂

    • DPete27
    • 2 years ago

    So, basically every Apple product, zero Android tablets, and just about every laptop is >$1,000 and/or <14″…I guess this guide isn’t for me.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 2 years ago

      What android tablets would you recommend? They seem to have given way to Chromebooks, which are still cheap and slow, if that’s your thing.

        • Sputnik7
        • 2 years ago

        Samsung S3 tablet is pretty OK (barring TouchWiz).

        EDIT: Thanks tsk!

          • derFunkenstein
          • 2 years ago

          Yeah that doesn’t look too awful. TouchWiz doesn’t bother me. I got used to it on the Galaxy S7 I have for work.

          The price is [url=https://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=12K-003Z-000N0<]kinda ridiculous[/url<], though. It might be for some people but $550+ tablets are just more than I'm willing to spend.

            • tsk
            • 2 years ago

            Check out the Huawei media pad m3, might be just what you’re looking for.

            • derFunkenstein
            • 2 years ago

            A nice combination of price and specs, for sure. Quad A72 should be plenty powerful for just about anything. I’m just kicking the tires at this point, probably won’t be buying a tablet soon, as long as my Chromebook is usable.

            • Sputnik7
            • 2 years ago

            The Samsung S2 is more in iPad territory (price wise), and isn’t too much of a downgrade from S3. But I agree with morphine that Android tablets (in general) don’t have the SW support like Apple’s products.

            • derFunkenstein
            • 2 years ago

            Right, that software support thing is key. When it comes to software and Android I just don’t feel like I can buy “last year’s” model because half the software support lifespan is already gone.

            I mean, it’s fine. Right now I’ve got the Asus Chromebook Flip that Jeff reviewed and it has the Play store, so I’m not really missing out.

      • w76
      • 2 years ago

      Yeah, it was almost a year ago when I was in the laptop market but there were plenty of great < $1000 laptops at that time. Crossing the $1000 or even $900 barrier starts to get in to a territory where I’d have to question continuing to have a desktop, and instead a laptop+dock to connect to a larger monitor at home.

      But, a laptop with mobility doesn’t make a good desktop replacement in terms of performance.

      • Vigil80
      • 2 years ago

      I felt the same.

      I have an Nvidia Shield K1 and it’s been swell. I see some other comments are concerned about software support, but I haven’t run into a problem with the Shield. On the other hand, it’s purely an entertainment device in my house.

      Edit: And I see further down the chain that Shields are unavailable. Weird. Well nevermind, carry on.

    • End User
    • 2 years ago

    iOS 11 on a 12.9″ 2017 iPad Pro is very nice. You can display 2 apps in split window mode with a movable third app floating on top. The third app can be swiped out of the way entirely to the right of the display and quickly retrieved by a left swipe from the rightmost edge of the display.

    The new dock is very nice and a rare macOS feature to appear on iOS.

      • blastdoor
      • 2 years ago

      Good to know!

      I have a 12.9″ 2017 iPad Pro (from which I am typing this message) and like it a lot, but I don’t do beta operating systems, so I haven’t experienced iOS 11 yet. Looking forward to it!

        • tay
        • 2 years ago

        Girlfriend just got the 10.5″ Pro, and the screen is insane. The trutone stuff, DCI-P3 and 120 Hz together make it so that you can almost read the text, and certainly the headlines, as you scroll the page. She doesn’t use her old MacBook Pro with a spinning disk anymore.

    • emorgoch
    • 2 years ago

    In the Surface Pro discussion: “and attention to detal in ergonomics.”
    Can’t help but laugh at that one.

      • morphine
      • 2 years ago

      Well, we meant to write “attention to METAL” \m/

      (Fixed).

      • tipoo
      • 2 years ago

      Attention to dental

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