The Tech Report’s February 2018 mobile staff picks

Welcome to the FEBRUARY 2018 edition of The Tech Report’s mobile staff picks, where we recommend our favorite tablets, convertible PCs, laptops, and phones.

It’s been a while since our summer mobile staff picks. Where in the previous edition we were hunting down laptops and convertibles with Intel Kaby Lake (seventh-generation) processors inside, all the talk has turned towards Intel’s recently-released eighth-generation mobile CPUs, codenamed Kaby Lake Refresh (KBL-R). To put it simply, these newest chips put more cores in the same power envelopes as their Kaby Lake predecessors. For just a couple examples, the previous-gen Core i5-7200U and Core i7-7500U offered two cores and four threads. Their successors, the Core i5-8250U and Core i7-8550U, are quad-core, eight-thread deals—all in the same 15 W.

That means two things. The first is that the machines with the new CPUs simply have more horsepower under the hood, making for faster laptops and convertibles, especially for tasks that require a lot of processor grunt. Intel has also put that power in eighth-gen systems without significantly affecting battery life, either. Considering that Kaby Lake systems already had a good reputation in that regard, Intel’s achievement is quite impressive.

AMD has also gotten back in the game with a range of mobile-ready Ryzen CPUs. We thoroughly reviewed the Ryzen 5 2500U a while back and found that its Zen CPU cores can generally hang with Intel’s latest and greatest in a range of workloads. The real appeal of Ryzen APUs is that they can deliver potent entry-level gaming experiences, thanks to their complements of Vega compute units. We weren’t terribly impressed by the HP Envy x360 that we used to test the Ryzen 5 2500U, however, so it’ll remain to be seen whether AMD’s other mobile APU partners can put a better face on a potentially solid family of chips.

Whatever platform you fancy, the bad news is that it’s likely you’ll pay more for it than you might otherwise have of late. As most PC and parts shoppers have come to realize, the price of RAM can best be described as “hellish.” Contemporary memory kits in their various guises are roughly twice as expensive as they were not even a year ago. SSD prices are also pretty high, or at least they haven’t been steadily descending with time as all hardware is expected to. The scarcity of DDR4 and NAND have pushed the prices of laptops, convertibles, and Chromebooks upward in brutal fashion.

Judging by the interpretation of my Mark I Eyeball, the latest crop of laptops is easily $150-$200 more expensive than their generational equivalents not even a year ago. As a more practical example, where before you could find quality, thin laptops and convertibles with extras like 4K displays or Thunderbolt ports well under $1000, now you usually have to go above and beyond that mark to find those features.

Over in the phone aisle, there are new handsets, but there haven’t been any tectonic shifts for a while. The sky is blue, most Android handset makers don’t offer OS updates in a timely fashion (if they offer them at all), the sun still shines, and Apple has new iPhones out.

The most talked-of iDevice of late has to be the iPhone X and its beautiful, nearly borderless OLED display. Apple’s bleeding-edge effort also puts facial identification front and center thanks to an array of depth-mapping sensors that is thus far unique among handsets from any manufacturer. The $999-and-up price tag is a serious downer on the excitement about the iPhone X’s tech, though.

Over on Google’s side, the Pixel 2 has been getting rave reviews for doing almost everything right despite not strictly breaking new ground. Its XL sibling has also garnered its share of fans, although concerns about the quality control and vividness of the larger phone’s screen has dulled what might otherwise be the best Android phone around. Pick your poison.

If there’s a market that’s more ashes than embers, it’s probably tablets. There’s absolutely no new technology that we can think of in this department, and the only new recommendation we have is the newest iteration of Amazon’s Fire HD 10, an offering with a rather impressive bang-to-buck ratio. That boring grey cloud has a silver lining, however—you can get great tablets for cheap on either end of the market.

Chromebooks, on the other hand, took a M1 Abrams tank hit price-wise. These machines are meant to be affordable, so they live in an extremely-price-sensitive jungle. The component shortages we discussed mean that the vast majority of the latest-generation Chromebooks with a sub-$400 price use boring old 1366×768 displays instead of nice 1920×1080 panels, and actual CPU upgrades are scarce. Having said that, they’re still reliable and simple workhorse machines whose spec sheets tend to resemble those of costlier laptops. It helps that many Chromebooks nowadays have official support for Google’s Play Store, meaning that they can run Android apps alongside the Chrome browser.

By the way, 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. 

Our mobile staff picks guides include shopping links that you can (and should!) use to purchase the products we recommend. You’ll be supporting our research-intensive work by doing that, and you’ll also get a warm, fuzzy feeling inside from keeping our lights on. While we have referral partnerships with several retailers and receive commissions for our links to their product pages, they have no input on the products we choose to recommend in this guide.

 

Tablets

Product Specs

Amazon Fire 7 Tablet
Operating system: Fire OS
Display: 7″ 1024×600 IPS LCD (170 PPI)
Processor: Quad-core ARM Cortex A7 at 1.3 GHz
RAM: 1GB
Storage: 8 GB or 16 GB, with microSD slot
Battery life: 7 hours
Connectivity: 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS
Thickness: 0.4″ (11 mm)
Weight: 0.7 lbs
$49.99 (8 GB) or $69.99 (16 GB)

Amazon Fire HD 10
Operating system: Fire OS
Display: 10.1″ 1920×1200 IPS LCD (224 PPI)
Processor: MediaTek (two cores @ 1.8 GHz + two @ 1.4 GHz)
RAM: 2 GB
Storage: 32 GB or 64 GB, with microSD slot
Battery life: 10 hours
Connectivity: 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS
Thickness: 0.4″ (9.8 mm)
Weight: 1.1 lbs
$149.99 (32 GB) or $189.99 (64 GB)

Apple iPad (2017)
Operating system: iOS 11
Display: 9.7″ 2048×1536 (264 PPI)
Processor: Apple A9
RAM: 2 GB
Storage: 32 GB or 128 GB
Battery life: 10 hours (Wi-Fi), 9 hours (LTE)
Connectivity: 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2, opt. LTE
Thickness: 0.24″ (6 mm)
Weight: 0.96 lbs
$325.37 (32 GB, Wi-Fi) or $459.93 (128 GB, Wi-Fi)

Apple iPad Pro 10.5″
Operating system: iOS 11
Display: Wide-gamut 10.5″ 2224×1668 (265 PPI)
Processor: Apple A10X Fusion
RAM: 4GB
Storage: 64 GB, 256 GB, or 512 GB
Battery life: 10 hours (Wi-Fi), 9 hours (LTE)
Connectivity: 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2, opt. LTE
Thickness: 0.24″ (6 mm)
Weight: 1.03 lbs
$589 (64 GB, 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 due to the $200-and-up sums that are usually involved. But what if there was an absurdly cheap, impulse-buy tablet that’s actually decent? Enter the Amazon Fire 7. Its specs aren’t going to set the world ablaze, but it still offers a quad-core Mediatek MT8127 SoC (a 32-bit model of 2013 vintage), 1 GB of RAM, and a 1024×600 IPS panel that should offer decent color reproduction. Storage is limited to 8 GB or 16 GB depending on the flavor, but there’s a microSD slot on tap for additional capacity.

Amazon’s not-quite-Android Fire OS powers the device, and it’s regularly updated. Likewise, Alexa comes built into the Fire HD tablets, and she’s as smart as a computer assistant as it gets. And the price? $50 for the 8 GB model with some lock-screen ads, and $70 for the 16 GB 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 FireHD 10

Well, hello there. We used to recommend Amazon’s Fire HD 8 as the next logical step up, but Amazon recently released something far more interesting: an affordable and meaty update to the 10″ version of the Fire HD. If you’re looking for a regular-sized tablet on the cheap,  we reckon there’s nothing out there that comes close.

The FireHD 10 comes with a 1920×1200 display (which works out to 224 PPI) and is powered by a MediaTek MT8173 quad-core SoC coupled with 2 GB of memory. This tablet’s shell houses 32 GB or 64 GB of built-in flash, and there’s a microSD slot available for further expansions of up to 256 GB. Amazon says the battery ought to last you around 10 hours and claims that the Fire HD is more durable than an iPad Pro. So what about that price, then? That’ll be $150 for the version with 32 GB of storage and lock-screen ads, and $190 for the 64 GB version. You can’t go wrong with either of these basic tablets for the money.

iPad (2017)

Apple is pushing the the iPad Pro as a laptop alternative, but for those that just want a regular iOS 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 imported 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 (if it can even be said that there’s any competition left in this market).

 

 

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 $326 for the 32GB model, and a reasonable $450 for the version with 128 GB of storage. That probably makes it the best bang-for-buck Apple slate in the current lineup.

We’ve historically recommended the iPad mini 4 for those who want a smaller iPad, but we think that its internals are getting long in the tooth, especially in light of its price. Regardless, it’s the only compact iPad around. If you have such a preference, you can pick one up with 128 GB of storage for $342.

iPad Pro 10.5″

Some people are increasingly able to do most of their work on an iPad rather than a traditional PC. 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 A10X Fusion. Both the 10.5″ and 12.9″ versions of this tablet have wide-gamut, 120 Hz screens with variable-refresh-rate support (though more for power-saving purposes than for smooth gameplay). The iPad Pros support Apple’s Pencil for sketching and drawing, along with the Smart Cover keyboard. 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 looking at a couple, we were surprised by what a cloud-centric platform can do on modest hardware. The world at large is buying Chromebooks at a rapid pace, especially for educational purposes, and even the reasonably-affordable models would easily pass for a nice mid-range laptop. 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.

It’s not all good news, though. The hardware price crunch that we discussed in the intro affected Chromebooks hard, and newer machines don’t add much more than the older models. One of the aspects that was hit the hardest was the displays—where before you could find 1920×1080 panels at almost every price point, pretty much all the new Chromebooks these days use 1366×768 panels. For those reasons, we’ve replaced the lower-end model in our choices since the last guide, but we kept the remaining recommendations the same.

Product Specs
HP Chromebook x360

(11-ae010nr)

Operating system: Google Chrome OS
Display: 11.6″ 1366×768
Processor: Celeron N3350
RAM: 4 GB
Storage: 16 GB eMMC
Battery life: 11.5 hours
Connectivity: 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2
Thickness: 0.8″
Weight: 3.1 lbs
$259.00

Acer Chromebook 14

(CB3-431-C5FM)

Operating system: Google Chrome OS
Display: 14″ 1920×1080 IPS
Processor: Intel Celeron N3160
RAM: 4 GB
Storage: 32 GB 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: 4 GB
Storage: 64 GB eMMC
Battery life: 10 hours
Connectivity: 802.11ac (2×2), Bluetooth 4.2
Thickness: 0.54″
Weight: 2.7 lbs
$469.00

 

HP Chromebook x360 (11-ae010nr)

$260 wouldn’t get you much of a laptop in the past, but right now it can get you the HP Chromebook x360 convertible. The model on hand has an 11.6″ display along with a dual-core Intel Celeron N3350 CPU, 4 GB of RAM, and 16 GB of eMMC storage. The amount of internal storage may be on the small side, but the machine makes up for that with some handy extras. First of all, it can do yoga with its screen and can easily be used as a tablet. There’s also a microSD card reader, Corning Gorilla Glass covering the display, and a selection of ports that includes two Type-A and a pair of Type-C USB connectors. The battery should be good for 11.5 hours of usage, too. If you need a small-and-portable Chromebook that’s also inexpensive, this is it.

Acer Chromebook 14 (CB3-431-C5FM)

For those that feel that 16 GB 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. The CPU in this machine is a quad-core Intel 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 32 GB 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 for the cloud-connected.

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 Intel Core m3-6Y30 CPU, 4 GB of RAM, and a fairly capacious 64 GB 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
Acer Spin 5 Operating system: Windows 10 Home
Display: 13.3″ 1920×1080
Processor: Core i5-8250U (Kaby Lake-R) or Core i7-8550U
RAM: 4 GB or 8 GB
Storage: 128 GB or 256 GB SSD or 1 TB HDD , plus microSD slot
Battery life: 10 hours 
Connectivity: 802.11ac, Bluetooth
Thickness: 0.63″ (16 mm)
Weight: 3.5 lbs (1.59 kg)
$729.99 (Core i5 CPU, 8 GB RAM, 256 GB SSD)

HP Spectre x360 (2018)
Operating system: Windows 10
Display: 13.3″ 1920×1080 or 3840×2160 (4K)
Processor: Intel Core i5-8250 (Kaby Lake-R) or Core i7-8550U
RAM: 8 GB, or 16 GB
Storage: NVMe SSDs up to 1 TB, plus microSD slot
Battery life: 12 hours
Connectivity: 802.11ac (2×2), Bluetooth 4.2
Thickness: 0.54″ (14 mm)
Weight: 2.8 lbs (1.27 kg)
$1,159.99  (Core i5 CPU, 8 GB RAM, 256 GB SSD, 4K display, pen included)

 

Lenovo Yoga 720 Operating system: Windows 10 Home
Display: 13.3″ 1920×1080 or 3840×2160 (4K)
Processor: Intel Core i5-8250 (Kaby Lake-R) or Core i7-8550U
RAM: 8 GB or 16 GB
Storage: up to 1TB NVMe SSD
Battery life: 10.5 hours
Connectivity: 802.11ac (2×2), Bluetooth 4.1
Thickness: 0.6″ (14 mm)
Weight: 2.9 lbs (1.3 kg)
$1,349.99 (Core i7 CPU, 16 GB RAM, 1 TB SSD, 4K display)

Lenovo Yoga 920
Operating system: Windows 10
Display: 14″ 1920×1080 or 3840×2160 (4K)
Processor: Intel Core i5-8250 (Kaby Lake-R) or Core i7-8550U
RAM: 8 GB or 16 GB
Storage: NVMe SSDs up to 1 TB
Battery life: 15.5 hours w/ 1920×1080 display, 13 hours with 4K display
Connectivity: 802.11ac (2×2), Bluetooth 4.2
Thickness: 0.5″ (13 mm)
Weight: 3 lbs (1.4 kg)
$1,449.99 (Core i7 CPU, 16 GB RAM, 512 GB SSD, 4K display)

Acer Spin 5 (NX.GR7AA.003)

The recent component shortage has made it difficult to obtain a balanced, mid-range convertible for not much dosh, but there are a few exceptions. One of them is the Acer Spin 5. The specs list is quite impressive considering the $700 outlay for the base model we picked out: an eight-gen Intel Core i5-8250U processor, 8 GB of RAM, and a 256 GB SSD. Those kind of specs are usually reserved for convertibles costing a couple hundred more, easy. This 13.3″ system isn’t quite as paperback-light as the higher-end offerings, but it’s not heavy either at 3.5 lbs (1.59 kg). The display has a resolution of 1920×1080, a more-than-reasonable amount of pixels in a 13.3″ diagonal that still works out to a healthy 166 PPI. If you want a decent convertible without breaking your back, the Acer Spin 5 is it.

HP Spectre x360 (2018)

We took serious notice of HP’s Spectre convertibles in the last mobile guide, and we think the company has a real winner on its hands with these notebooks. Much like its predecessor, the 2018 version is positively gorgeous. The internals got an upgrade to Intel’s latest eighth-gen Core processors, and you get a fingerprint reader, two USB Type-C ports with Thunderbolt 3 support, and a USB Type-A port—look, ma, no clunky USB adapters! The model we picked out for $1160 (HP Configurator) has a meaty Core i5-8250U processor, 8 GB of RAM, a 256 GB SSD, and a gorgeous 4K display. Moreover, a stylus comes as standard equipment, and you can upgrade to one with tilt detection for only $30. The HP Spectre x360 is also the thinnest convertible in our guide at an unbelievably-slim 0.54″ (14 mm), and it weighs a mere 2.8 lbs (1.27 kg).

Lenovo Yoga 720

Lenovo’s been stepping up its Yoga game, and the most recent iteration of its 720 series is a real peach. The display has thin bezels on three sides, and you get two Type-C connectors with Thunderbolt along with a USB Type-A port that can charge connected devices even when the laptop is off. The optional active pen should work wonders with Windows Ink, too. Our recommended version carries a beefy Core i7-8550U processor, 16 GB of RAM, and a capacious NVMe 1-TB solid-state drive. Moreover, it also has a 4K screen for good measure. All this hardware for $1350 is a pretty good deal in our book.

Lenovo Yoga 920

The Yoga 720 above is nice, but the Yoga 920 is nicer still. This machine one-ups its lower-numbered brother with a particularly souped-up (and pretty) hinge mechanism, plus an all-aluminum construction. Battery life could also be impressive, at a claimed 13 hours for the version we picked out with a 4K display. External connectivity comprises two USB Type-C ports with Thunderbolt support, plus a USB 3.0 Type-A port. Our pick has a Core i7-8550U CPU, 16 GB of RAM, a 512 GB SSD, and the aforementioned 4K display. That machine rings in at a surprisingly-reasonable $1500.

 

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

Asus ZenBook UX330

(UX330UA-AH55)

Display: 13.3″ 1920×1080 or 3840×2160
Processor: Intel Core i5-8250U
RAM: 8 GB
Storage: 256 GB SSD
Battery life: 12 hours
Connectivity: 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.1
Thickness: 0.5″ (13 mm)
Weight: 2.6 lbs (1.2 kg)
$749.99 (Core i5 CPU, 256 GB SSD, 8 GB RAM)
HP Envy 13t Display: 13.3″ 1920×1080 or 3840×1260
CPU: Intel Core i7-8550U
RAM: 8 GB
Storage: 256 GB to 1 TB NVMe SSD
Battery life: 12 hours
Connectivity: 802.11ac Bluetooth 4.0 LE
Thickness: 0.6″ (14 mm)
Weight: 2.9 lbs (1.3 kg)
$979.99 (Core i7 CPU, 360 GB SSD, 8 GB RAM, 4K display)

Base: $829.99

Dell XPS 13 Display: 13.3″ 1920×1080, or 3200×1800 touch
CPU: Intel Core i5-8520U or Core i7-8550U
RAM: 8 GB or 16 GB
Storage: 128 GB up to 1 TB PCIe SSD
Battery life: 13 hours
Connectivity: 802.11ac (2×2), Bluetooth 4.2
Thickness: 0.3″ to 0.6″ (9-15 mm)
Weight: 2.7 lbs (1.2 kg)
$1,534 (Core i7 CPU, 512 GB SSD,16 GB RAM, 4K touch display)

Base: $879.95


HP Zbook Studio G4
Display: 15.6″ 1920×1080 or 3840×2160
CPU: Intel Core i5-7300HQ to Xeon E3-15353M
RAM: 8 GB to 32 GB, ECC w/ Xeon CPU
Storage: 128 GB to 1 TB NVMe SSD
Battery life: ~6-8 hours; 92-Whr option available
Connectivity: 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2
Thickness: 0.6″ (15 mm)
Weight: 4.6 lbs (2.1 kg)
$2,662.02 (Xeon E3-1505M, 256 GB SSD, 16 GB ECC RAM, 4K wide-gamut display, 92-Whr battery)

Base:  $1638.06


Apple MacBook Pro

(2017, 13″)

Display: 13.3″ 2560×1600
CPU: Intel Core i5-7360U or i5-7267U
GPU: Iris Plus Graphics 640 or 650
RAM: 8 GB or 16 GB
Storage: 128 GB up to 512 GB NVMe SSD
Battery life: 10 hours
Connectivity: 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0
Thickness: 0.6″ (15 mm)
Weight: 3 lbs (1.4 kg)
  $1649.99 (16 GB)

Base: $1,279

Asus ZenBook UX330 (UX330UA-AH55)

For our entry-level ultrabook, we have an offering that’s eminently portable: the Asus ZenBook UX330 and its gorgeous figure. This beauty measures in at 0.5″ thick and weighs next to nothing at 2.6 lbs (1.2 kg). Despite being svelte, this ZenBook has enough muscle under its shell. The main item is the eighth-gen Core i5-8250U processor, paired with 8 GB of RAM and a 256 GB SSD.

Despite the low weight, Asus says that the machine’s battery should be good for 12 hours of web browsing, and the 1920×1080 resolution should prove fairly sharp in a 13″ display. The only slight downside is that you only get two USB Type-A ports , but the price is pretty darn good to our eyes: only $749. Value for money doesn’t get much better than that.

If you want to stay roughly within the same price bracket but prefer a thicker machine that can do some light gaming, we’d like to point you to the Acer Swift 3 (SF314-52G-55WQ). This is a 14″ laptop with roughly the same specs as the ZenBook above, but it carries a Nvidia GeForce MX150 chip and 2 GB of dedicated VRAM. This version of the Swift 3 isn’t what we’d call bulky at only 0.7″ (18 mm) thick, though it’s a tad heavy at 4 lbs (1.8 kg). We think the compromise is perfectly reasonable, and the Swift 3 should let you enjoy many a match of Dota 2 on the go.

HP Envy 13t

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 i7-8550U processor as a base spec for the Envy 13t. The memory options are limited to 8 GB, but that’s an amount that’s balanced well enough. 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 hinge design 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 currently run you just $979.99 (HP Configurator) for a Core i7-8550U CPU, 8 GB of RAM, 360 GB of NVMe storage, and that beautiful 4K screen.

Dell XPS 13

You may have heard of Dell’s “New XPS 13” with an upgraded cooling system, eighth-gen CPUs, and some fancy new features. Those machines are quite dear, however, and as it happens, Dell also added Intel’s newest mobile Core CPUs to its “old” XPS 13. The company had my curiosity, but now it has my attention. For the uninitiated, the XPS 13 is one of the best laptops around, period, full stop. Its thin bezels, excellent keyboard and trackpad, battery efficiency, and gorgeous displays routinely turn many a head.

We’ve picked out a fairly high-end configuration of the XPS 13 for those whose needs and wants go beyond the basics. The mighty Core i7-8550U starts the party, accompanied by a good helping of 16 GB of RAM. A 256 GB NVMe SSD provides storage, and a gorgeous, jaw-drop-inducing 3200×1800 display with touch capability completes the set. The port selection includes two Type-A USB ports, plus one in Type-C flavor with Thunderbolt connectivity. That configuration goes for $1600. If you think that SSD is a little on the small side or you wish for further upgrades, you can customize the machine at Dell’s site.

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), 32 GB 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 92.4 Whr option available that we recommend for the higher-end configurations. Our sample configuration goes for $2877 (HP Configurator), and it includes a Xeon E3-1505M CPU, a 256 NVMe GB SSD, 16 GB of ECC RAM, and the extended battery. Oh, of course, it also includes that 4K wide-gamut display.

Apple MacBook Pro

Apple’s MacBook Pro remains the logical choice for folks who want to take macOS on the go. The 2017 revision received criticism for some of Apple’s design choices. These laptops only come with Thunderbolt 3 ports, and Apple ditched the older MacBook Pro keyboard for clickers with MacBook-like key travel. Fancier MacBook Pros now ditch the F-key row in favor of an OLED mini-screen called the Touch Bar, too.

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, even if its internals are getting a bit long in the tooth. The MacBook Pro comes with a wide-gamut panel capable of covering 100% of the DCI-P3 color space, and its backlight claims 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 Thunderbolt 3 ports on the latest 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 as many as 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 the 13″ models for $1649. This version packs a Core i5 Kaby Lake CPU, 8 GB of RAM, integrated graphics, and a 256 GB SSD. While the value proposition is questionable, those invested in the macOS ecosystem already know what the deal is there. We used to recommend the 15″ version in this spot, as well, but we think that model is a poor buy right now given that the rumor mill is abuzz regarding Intel’s six-core eighth-gen CPUs with 45 W TDPs. It’s possible we might even see some mobile Macs with Kaby Lake-G chips.

 

Gaming laptops

The category of gaming laptops is a particularly difficult one to offer advisement on. 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.

Luckily, these days you can actually find thin 15″ and even 13″ gaming laptops with above-average build quality, mostly thanks to the appearance of Nvidia’s Pascal mobile GPUs and their excellent performance-per-watt. The GeForce GTX 1050, GTX 1050 Ti, and GTX 1060 6 GB  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

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 to GTX 1060 6 GB
RAM: 8 GB to 32 GB
Storage: 1 TB HDD to 512 GB NVMe SSD (two bays)
Battery: 74 Whr (for 7657) or 56 Whr (for 7577)
Connectivity: 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2
Thickness: 1″ (25 mm)
Weight: 5.76 lbs (2.7 kg)
$999.99 (Core i5-7300HQ, 8 GB RAM, 256 GB SSD, GeForce GTX 1060 6 GB)

Base: $799.99

Gigabyte Aero 14 Display: 2560×1440 IPS
CPU: Intel Core i7-7700HQ
RAM: 8 GB or 16 GB
Storage: Up to 512 GB SSD
Battery: 94 Whr
Connectivity: 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2
Thickness: 0.75″ (20 mm)
Weight: 4.2 lbs (1.9 kb)
$1,649 (Core i7-7700HQ, 16 GB RAM, 512 GB SSD, GeForce GTX 1060 6GB)

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 $1000, and it has a Core i5-7300HQ CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 256 GB SSD, and a GeForce GTX 1060 graphics card with 6 GB 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, more RAM, storage, or even all of those.

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 $1000-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 $1649 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.

 

Phones

Product Specs

Huawei Honor 7X
Operating system: Android 7.0 with EMUI skin
Display: 5.5″ 1920×1080 IPS LCD
Processor: HiSilicon Kirin 659
RAM: 3 GB or 4 GB
Storage: 32 GB or 64 GB (plus microSD slot)
Battery: 3,340 mAh
Connectivity: LTE, 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.1
Thickness: 0.3″ (7.6 mm)
Weight: 5.8 oz (165 g)
$199.99 (3 GB RAM, 32 GB storage)

Motorola Moto X4
Operating system: Android 7.1 (upgradeable to Android 8.0)
Display: 5.2 1920×1080 Optic AMOLED
Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 630
RAM: 3 GB, 4 GB, or 6 GB (plus microSD slot)
Storage: 32 GB or 64 GB
Battery: 3,000 mAh
Connectivity: LTE, 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2
Thickness: 0.3″ (8 mm)
Weight: 5.8 oz (163 g)
$299.99 (3 GB RAM, 32 GB storage)

OnePlus 5t
Operating system: Android 7.1.1 (with OxygenOS skin, upgrade to Android 8.0 available)
Display: 6″ 2160×1080 Optic AMOLED
Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
RAM: 6 GB or 8 GB
Storage: 64 GB or 128 GB
Battery: 3,300 mAh
Connectivity: LTE, 802.11ac, Bluetooth 5.0
Thickness: 0.3″ (7.3 mm)
Weight: 5.6 oz (162 g)
$499 (6 GB RAM, 64 GB storage)


iPhone SE
Operating system: iOS 11
Display: 4″ 1136×640 IPS LCD
Processor: Apple A9
RAM: 2 GB
Storage: 32 GB or 128 GB
Battery: 1,624 mAh
Connectivity: LTE, 802.11ac (2×2), Bluetooth 5
Thickness: 0.3″
Weight: 4 oz
$374.95 (32 GB)

Google Pixel 2
Operating system: Android 8.0
Display: 5″ 1920×1080 IPS LCD
Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
RAM: 4 GB
Storage: 64 GB or 128 GB
Battery: 2,700 mAh
Connectivity: LTE, 802.11ac, Bluetooth 5.0
Thickness: 0.31″ (7.8 mm)
Weight: 5 oz (143 g)
$649 (64 GB)

iPhone 8
Operating system: iOS 11
Display: 4.7″ 1334×750 wide-gamut IPS LCD
Processor: Apple A11 Bionic
RAM: 
Storage: 64 GB or 256 GB
Battery: 1,821 mAh
Connectivity: LTE, 802.11ac, Bluetooth 5.0
Thickness: 0.29″ (7.3 mm)
Weight: 5.2 oz (148 g)
$764.99 (64 GB)

Huawei Honor 7X
Huawei’s Honor 6X was our budget phone pick in past guides, so it’s only fitting that its more modern successor takes its spot. The Huawei Honor 7X is a budget phone quite well disguised as a high-end model. Huawei clads this phone’s Kirin 659-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 32 GB of storage and a microSD slot, it’s a fairly obvious choice.

Moto X4

The Honor 7X above is enticing, but perhaps you want a phone with a little more oomph under the hood and a fancier camera setup. The Moto X4 is probably what you’re looking for. For horsepower, this handset taps Qualcomm’s midrange Snapdragon 630 SoC and its eight Cortex A53 processor cores clocked to a maximum of 2.2 GHz. The chip is accompanied by 3 GB of RAM (in the version we picked out), and you get 32 GB of flash and a microSD slot for storage purposes.

One particularly enticing aspect of this phone is that it runs a near-stock version of Android. Lenovo isn’t the fastest company out there when it comes to Android updates, but you can be fairly sure that your phone won’t arrive in your hands with performance-hobbling gimmicky applications or ill-advised user interface skins. The dual-camera setup and water resistance are also a boon at the $300 price point the Moto X4 sits at.

OnePlus 5T

OnePlus has been making a name for itself by making high-end phones with mid-range price tags. The company’s latest handset is the OnePlus 5T, and it goes for $499 with 64 GB of storage. That money gets you a sharp 1920×1080 screen, a hefty 6 GB 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 5T 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 is also an insane deal, the OnePlus 5T 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 that’s pretty much what it is. The outer shell is nigh-on indistinguishable from the iPhone 5S, but an Apple A9 SoC, 2GB of RAM, and a vibrant 4″ LCD offer a significantly faster experience.

Apple currently holds the crown of “longest software update track” for its mobile devices, too. iOS 11 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 $375 for the 32 GB version and $499 for the 128 GB model, you just can’t go wrong.

Google Pixel 2

The launch of the Google Pixel made quite a splash in the phone world, even if the company’s handset sales figures have yet to scale to those of Samsung and Apple. Nevertheless, it’s only fitting that Google would update the Pixel phone, and so it has. Meet the Pixel 2.

The Pixel 2 carries a Snapdragon 835 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 2700-mAh battery supports fast charging, and the body of the handset has been widely praised for the quality of its finish.

Being a Google-branded handset, the Pixel 2 comes out of the box with the freshly-baked Android 8.0 Oreo. 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 2 doesn’t come cheap, though. While it’s certainly a premium phone, Google’s pricing of $649 for the 64 GB version and $849 for the larger, same-capacity Pixel 2 XL model pit it against Apple’s iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. Even still, if you’re looking for what’s probably the best Android handset out there, with updates straight from the robot’s mouth, the Pixel 2 is it.

Apple iPhone 8

Pretty much every year is “new iPhone year” in the lands of Cupertino. Not too long ago, Apple released the iPhone 8, its latest iteration on the design trend created by the iPhone 7. From a bird’s-eye view, the handset isn’t a major overhaul from the iPhone 7, though it does come with a handful of sizable improvements over its forebear.

First and foremost, the SoC inside the phone is Apple’s new A11 Bionic, a hexa-core deal with two “fast” cores and four power-saving units. The updated chip should bring quite the speed boost over older Apple silicon, and it’s accompanied by a new image signal processor and a so-called “Neural Engine” for accelerating AI workloads. That, by itself, works quite well in tandem with the phone’s updated cameras, placing the whole caboodle among the best picture- and video-taking setups out there.

Other niceties include a True Tone display that can change its white point according to ambient lighting. The screen also covers the DCI P3 color gamut, and it can hit a maximum brightness of 625 cd/m². Apple also decided to finally embrace Qi wireless charging, something that should come in real handy for those that can’t stand unsightly cables. All the niceties ring in at a tidy sum, though. An iPhone 8 with 64 GB of storage will set you back $765, and climbing up to the 256 GB version will cost a gasp-inducing $900. Nevertheless, the iPhone 8’s unique features make up for its price somewhat in the premium handset landscape.

The iPhone 8 Plus boasts a larger screen and dual cameras. The twin shooters give the Plus model the ability to blur backgrounds computationally and apply effects like simulated studio lighting to portraits. If you care about those things, you’re probably looking hard at this handset.

You may have noticed a distinct lack of words about the iPhone X here.That’s not to say we don’t like it—much the opposite. Its almost-infinity OLED display is nothing short of gorgeous. But even within the confines of a mobile guide, we decided that the iPhone X asks a bit too much from the average person’s wallet at an even grand to start. However, let it also be said that if you’re strictly looking for the best Apple handset that money can buy, go right ahead and order one. We’re looking forward to the day when we’re comparing multiple phones of this caliber. That shouldn’t be long in coming.

 

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.

Our laptop and convertible recommendations this time around are all based on quad-core eighth-gen Intel Core CPUs. There’s good news for those looking for an affordable laptop or convertible that still packs a good measure of computing power. Just recently, Intel announced the Core i3-8130U, a dual-core, four-thread CPU with a healthy 3.4 GHz boost clock. By our reckoning, the i3-8130U should offer more than enough computing power for the majority of users—after all, this new Core i3’s characteristics would have been those of a Core i7 model not that long ago.

The CES show floor was rife with rumors about Intel’s Coffee Lake mobile CPUs, as well. These parts could bring as many as six cores and 12 threads to mobile systems capable of handling chips with 45 W TDPs. We don’t know exactly when that will happen, but keep your eyes peeled and your wallet closed if you don’t need a powerful laptop right this second.

While we’re still talking laptop innards, we should discuss Kaby Lake G (KBL-G) and Ryzen Mobile APUs. You may not be familiar with those names, but they both refer to chips that’ll soon find their way inside laptops and convertibles on store shelves everywhere.

Kaby Lake-G refers to Intel’s lineup of processors with an accompanying Radeon RX Vega M graphics processor on package. Yes, you read that right. These CPUs probably won’t make their way to the thinnest-and-lightest machines since they’re meant for 65 W and 100 W power envelopes, but they’ll certainly pack a punch when they arrive. At the highest TDPs possible from thse chips, Intel has compared the RX Vega M GL to a machine with a discrete GeForce GTX 1050 mobile part, and the RX Vega M GH could go toe-to-toe with GTX 1060 mobile parts in lower-TDP Max-Q trim. These chips will doubtless power premium thin-and-light notebooks, since that kind of power and integration doesn’t come cheap.

As we noted in the intro to this piece, AMD’s Ryzen Mobile APUs have started finding their way into machines at retail. AMD has a full range of Ryzen 7, Ryzen 5, and Ryzen 3 mobile APUs slated for systems this year. We’ve benchmarked the Ryzen 5 2500U and found that it has the potential to offer excellent value in the low- to mid-range laptop space. It’s still too early in the APUs’ life cycle to tell, but we have hopes that AMD might carve out a chunk of the mass laptop and convertible markets for itself.

To say that phones in general have been pretty boring would be an understatement (save for the excitement surrounding the iPhone X). Even still, there’s no stopping the phone train. Samsung’s rumored to unveil its Galaxy S9 handset in the shortly-upcoming Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, and there are unconfirmed rumors that Apple is considering a rehash of its smaller iPhone SE handset. I’m a big fan of not-bulky phones, so I’ll be paying close attention if that happens.

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 e-tailer links. 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
    • Kretschmer
    • 2 years ago

    Aero 14W purchase links are still broken.

    • Chz
    • 2 years ago

    I think it’s worth “translating” what some of those stranger SoCs actually are under the hood.

    For example, the Amazon 10″ tablet is an A72/A53 cluster. As technical readers, there’s a chance we’ll actually have an idea of the general performance envelope of that (pretty good, for a cheap tablet – think a bit faster than a Pixel 1 in most tasks) instead of whatever Mediatek’s latest nonsense code-name is.

    I can’t agree on the 14″ Chromebook, either. Except at the very cheapest level, Android app compatibility makes a touchscreen almost a necessity. Most things are fine without it, but only *most*.

    • Dark Pulse
    • 2 years ago

    Gotta say that I love my OnePlus 5T, although you guys failed to mention you can get a model that has 128 GB for $559 as well (which is what I got).

    It replaced a venerable OnePlus 1 whose SIM card reader decided to die after about three years.

    I don’t regret the purchase. Phone’s battery seems to last all day long, and yes, the Dash Charge *IS* that good. They aren’t joking when they say “A day’s power in half an hour.” Thing can go up like 40-60% in that time.

    • BabelHuber
    • 2 years ago

    I reluctantly shelled out the Euros for the Pixel 2 XL 128GB. Yes, it’s too expensive. But it’s the best phone I ever had.

    The battery runtime is fantastic. The software is top, this is the first Android phone where I don’t want to install a custom ROM.

    Just rooted it via Magisk and modded it a little bit via Substratum (substweaks and Swift Dark).

    Despite the unlocked bootloader, it is child’s play to install the monthly updates. No wiping of the phone is necessary, since Google doesn’t throw stones between your legs when you unlock the bootloader.

    You can even lock and unlock it as you see fit, without losing the warranty.

    Take note Samsung and LG, I won’t buy any of your phones anymore until you follow suit!

      • DancinJack
      • 2 years ago

      I know what you’re saying, but the Pixel 2 XL is made by LG 🙂

        • BabelHuber
        • 2 years ago

        I know it’s just a version of the V30 🙂

        But the software and the easy bootloader unlocking are the difference. LG is only Google’s supplier in this case after all..

        Edit: auto correction

    • Ikepuska
    • 2 years ago

    Honest question, is there any chance of adding a windows tablet section to the mobile guide? I don’t mean a convertable bit but an actual tablet. I just got one myself and work with a lot of people who have one and it definitely has some advantages for certain uses, but it was quite hard to do research honestly, and I’d love to be able to track the market through you guys for when I replace my current one. Or is the market of options too small to be worth looking into?

      • morphine
      • 2 years ago

      The latter, really (not many good options). The tablet market is pretty sad, to be quite honest. The good stuff that has good hardware [i<]and[/i<] software is all iPads. You've got your collection of very-variable-quality Android tablets, and the Windows tablets are usually budget offerings of some sort. We'll gladly revisit the topic if this changes--the guide isn't a static thing.

        • Ikepuska
        • 2 years ago

        Well there’s the latitude 5285 2 in 1 and other surface clones from what my research showed.

        Pcmag had a roll up that I referred to but the reviews themselves were pretty rubbish

        [url<]https://www.pcmag.com/roundup/310159/the-best-windows-tablets[/url<]

      • Airmantharp
      • 2 years ago

      Aren’t you looking for the Microsoft Surface?

        • derFunkenstein
        • 2 years ago

        Might be looking for something cheaper. Microsoft seems to have discontinued non-Pro regular Surfaces.

          • tipoo
          • 2 years ago

          I thought that may have been waiting for Win10 on ARM with x86 translation. Modern ARM efforts definitely poop all over the old Atom in the Surface 3.

            • derFunkenstein
            • 2 years ago

            For sure. They also poop all over the Tegra 3 in the Surface RT.

          • LostCat
          • 2 years ago

          I think Newegg still sells em.

            • derFunkenstein
            • 2 years ago

            There’s a Surface 3 for $620 but that’s crazy money for Atom hardware. 😮

          • morphine
          • 2 years ago

          I own a Surface and I love it. However I gave those machines a pass this time around because there are no KLB-R options (yet) and I also think they’re overpriced, at least for the time being. Market shifts all the time, it’s very possible they’ll be back next time. The Dell XPSs didn’t make the cut last time for that same reason and now they’re in the list.

    • Star Brood
    • 2 years ago

    My wife and I upgraded her iPhone SE and my Xperia Z5 to Galaxy S8s. Complete game changer on the display and camera.

    I could give half a turd the S9 is coming soon. We each paid a euro for these phones and even lowered our monthly bill on top of it.

    • Shobai
    • 2 years ago

    You’ve got maybe 4 or 5 references to 1366×768 resolution with the first number muffed – 1136, 1336, etc

      • morphine
      • 2 years ago

      Ah, thanks. In our defense, it’s a resolution that’s hard to take seriously.

    • Waco
    • 2 years ago

    It’s incredible to me that you *still* can’t buy a decent 11-13″ laptop with the new Zen chips. The only model that’s available is the big honking x360 15″ from HP…and they’re saddled with spinning rust that needs immediately replaced even if the size wasn’t a dealbreaker.

      • morphine
      • 2 years ago

      Oh, trust me, “still not available” was my big opponent this time around. You wouldn’t believe the number of laptops that were announced and/or have product pages up that don’t exist anywhere in stores. Some brands (coughSUS cough) are particularly bad at that.

        • Waco
        • 2 years ago

        You’d think AMD would be pushing channel partners to highlight how efficient their new chips are by offering thin/light laptops with gaming chops. Instead we have boat anchors and chips saddled with single channel DRAM. :/

          • Kretschmer
          • 2 years ago

          It’s ok, those single-channel laptops will only be driving 1366×768 TN panels, anyways (*sob*).

          • Pancake
          • 2 years ago

          Manufacturers aren’t dumb. AMD might be vastly better than it was previously but it is nowhere near Intel for efficiency. HP is the largest laptop manufacturer and can afford to experiment with Ryzen as they have the volume and reach to move product. For everyone else they have to think long and hard about where they spend their money to make a profit. Lots of product lines and a wide inventory is not a recipe for success.

          So, AMD will resort to their usual desperate tactic of dropping the price to try and eke out an existence in the low-margin crappy laptop space. Mind you, this is great for consumers in that space as AMD have effectively lifted the base. No longer do they have to choose a nastily built A8 or A10 craptop bit they can have a nastily built Ryzen Mobile that is much faster and last maybe 4 hrs on battery which is twice as long as before. Progress.

            • LocalCitizen
            • 2 years ago

            HP just introduced Snapdragon 835 based “always on” pc with 4 gb ram and 128 gb eufs for $999
            sure, these always-on things have their market, but at a thousand dollars?

            not all manufactures are smart

            • Waco
            • 2 years ago

            Zen is actually pretty competitive with Intel’s latest and greatest in the medium power segment (tens of watts). Where do you get “nowhere near” from?

            • Pancake
            • 2 years ago

            From TR analysis. Anyway, we’re talking ultrabooks here. 15W.

            Why do you think that other than the rather embarrassing HP effort there aren’t any other Ryzen Mobile models while there is an overwhelming abundance of Kaby Lake R models?

            Ryzen Mobile will have its day. Just parked inside shiny plastic cases beside all the other cheap and cheerful rubbish. But the benchmark for affordable laptops has been raised which is perhaps more important. Hugely raised. AMD be praised for raising the bottom line.

            Edit: perhaps also watch again David Kanter’s analysis of Ryzen Mobile right on this here august website.

            • Waco
            • 2 years ago

            I’m cautiously optimistic that the HP model is a bad reference.

            • Pancake
            • 2 years ago

            I dunno about that. It’s not as if some nincompoop engineers at HP just bought some fresh Ryzen Mobile chips then misread some datasheets when putting it together.

            I think the reality would be that as AMD’s flagship launch model from a tier one manufacturer, AMD engineers would have had a lot of input into designing and tuning it together with some very competent engineers at HP. It’s likely the best that could have been done.

            In isolation the performance and battery life is pretty darn good. A massive improvement. It’s just that Intel have flicked the switch on the nitrous oxide injection and left AMD in the dust.

            Ain’t competition grand. You could always hold out hope for Ryzen Mobile 2 somehow sorting out all the issues…

      • Pancake
      • 2 years ago

      Anybody in the premium thin light and small market wants long battery life. As TR has shown, Ryzen Mobile can’t deliver on that. Combine that with the insanely great Intel 8th gen quad cores (with optional NVidia graphics for those that care – not me) and there’s nowhere for Ryzen to go.

      At my favourite local shop there’s three areas laptops and tablets are displayed in – the Apple section with beautiful wood grain and white glass tables, the similarly high-class area for premium Windows devices (led by the Surface line) and then the crappy area where all the cheap nasty plastic stuff is jammed cheek to jowl on cheap long tables. That’s the present and future for AMD devices unfortunately.

        • Waco
        • 2 years ago

        The HP example isn’t a good one, unfortunately.

      • Airmantharp
      • 2 years ago

      I’m looking forward to seeing what Ryzen Mobile can do in the Ultrabook space, but the U8550 is an extremely good processor. AMD will very likely have to compete on price due to lower performance, including lower battery life, in the same chassis.

      • cynan
      • 2 years ago

      [url=https://www3.lenovo.com/ca/en/laptops/ideapad/ideapad-700-series/Ideapad-720S-13-AMD/p/88IP70S0929<]Lenovo 720s 13"[/url<]

        • Waco
        • 2 years ago

        Unfortunately it uses a single DRAM channel which severely limits GPU performance.

          • cynan
          • 2 years ago

          Yeah. A shame if true. Until AMD sales achieve some sort of critical mass, OEMs seem reluctant to go out of their way to invest any Ryzen-specific R&D money. That said, I don’t know that the single channel on the AMD version of the 720s has been verified in the wild. Though it does look likely given that the older 7xxx Intel version of the 13″ was single channel.

    • Firestarter
    • 2 years ago

    Looking to upgrade my home wireless performance

    [b<]Ubiquiti UniFi AP AC Lite[/b<] Yay or nay?

      • wof
      • 2 years ago

      I’d say Yay, but you should know that it’s only an access point and that you need to run the config server on a computer (or special switch).

      I’m really happy with it at home and also happy with the AC LRs at work.

        • Firestarter
        • 2 years ago

        I know, I’m currently using an old WR1043ND as an access point and figured I could get some nice AC speeds for parts of my home and improve N reception in others by getting something more modern. The Ubiquiti stuff seems to get the highest accolades

        • TrailBlazerDK
        • 2 years ago

        Also Yay from me.

        Im using the AP-Pro verison.
        Setup was more difficult/profesional, but it just works afterwards.
        The handoff from AP to AP is the best I have experienced.

      • davidbowser
      • 2 years ago

      UniFi gear gets thumbs up from me. My home setup is all UniFi.

      My caveat would be that performance is NOT my recommended reason to buy. I bought it because it was pro-sumer gear and had management software and firmware that gets constant feature updates and bugfixes.

    • cynan
    • 2 years ago

    The lack of 14″ ultraportable laptops is a bit of an omission. If I was looking for a travel laptop, a 14″ is a good size for me as I’ve always found 13.3″ a bit cramped for serious work. And 14″ slim/light will still fit on an economy flight tray table. Some popular models include ASUS ux430, Acer Swift 3, Lenovo Ideapad 720s…

      • morphine
      • 2 years ago

      Ackshually… not as much of an omission you might think. Very generally speaking, here’s the current trend.

      KBL-R machines have only very recently hit the market, and prices are floating a little crazy. The most popular machines are 13.3″ size [i<]by far[/i<], and those are the ones that got KBL-R earliest. 14" and 15" offerings are just now starting to appear (there are a few, but not yet what I'd consider "critical mass" in comparison). For example, if we'd published this guide about 1.5 months from now, it's very possible we'd have a 14" recommendation in there. Also, 14" ultrabooks in general are relatively rare. Off the top of my head, Asus is the only company that regularly makes those.

        • cynan
        • 2 years ago

        I disagree. I just listed 3 manufacturers/models in the OP from Lenovo, Acer and Asus. And all come with KBL-R. All have been out and purchasable since at least last Thanksgiving…

        Edit: But sure, 14″ ultrabooks are still more rare than 13.3″.

      • tipoo
      • 2 years ago

      Yeah I think 14″ is a great compromise. 13″ feels too claustrophobic for serious work but 15″ can be uncomfortable on planes and tight spaces. I like my T470S for that, and the T480S that just got updated to an 8th gen quad core should not be ignored.

    • tipoo
    • 2 years ago

    I sat out eight years of iPads never really figuring where they would fit into my life between a laptop and a phone, even just puttering around the web I prefer a laptop since I tend to type a lot. With the iPad ____/Budget popping into the refurb store I thought I might check it out and see if I was wrong. Looks like the iPad Budget may get a March refresh though, if they bring back the antireflective coating that would be awesome.

    Bonus but unlikely wish, if they moved one of the speakers to the top, even if it doesn’t have the quad speakers like the Pro, to have actual stereo in full screen video.

    • Kurotetsu
    • 2 years ago

    If you have Google Fi you can grab the Android One edition of the Moto X4 for $250:

    [url<]https://fi.google.com/about/phones/#android-one-moto-x4[/url<] The Android One edition gets updates direct from Google instead of Motorola.

      • JoeKiller
      • 2 years ago

      I picked this up recently to replace my Nexus 6. It is very adequate in all ways and just works like o expect it to.

      • LostCat
      • 2 years ago

      I just signed up a couple days ago. $150 off the phone and $80 off service? Geez. Throw money at me yo. I appreciate it.

    • DragonDaddyBear
    • 2 years ago

    Unless you REALLY hate Apple, the iPhone SE is THE budget phone to get. If only an Anroid maker would make a reasonably sized phone that has decent specs and update the damn thing. The new Nokia is going to try to be that maker but we’ll see.

      • Kretschmer
      • 2 years ago

      Platform investment (both monetary and knowledge) tends to hinder platform swaps. I don’t hate Apple but can’t be arsed to rework my ecosystem around their offerings.

      • smilingcrow
      • 2 years ago

      A 4″ Smartphone is laughable to me regardless of the O/S.

        • DancinJack
        • 2 years ago

        I kind of agree. The SE is just TOO small these days. The “regular” sized iPhone 8 is a good size for smaller phones IMO, but that SE is just a little, baby toy to me now.

        That’s not to say it’s a bad phone. It’s a good phone with good hardware, but it’s just too small.

        • morphine
        • 2 years ago

        A 6″ smartphone is laughable to me regardless of the OS 🙂

          • derFunkenstein
          • 2 years ago

          What about 5.8″? You seemed enamored with the iPhone X outside of the price. 😉

            • morphine
            • 2 years ago

            Being enamored with a piece of kit in general doesn’t mean it’s what I’d buy for my specific use case. I’m impressed with Bentleys in general but I’d quicker get an M5. 🙂

            • derFunkenstein
            • 2 years ago

            Yeah, I get you, but I finally saw an iPhone X in person recently. I just wanted to pop a bottle of wine and lay nude on the bear-skin rug by the fire with it.

        • DragonDaddyBear
        • 2 years ago

        I tend to agree, but using my S8 Active is just stupid. At least my wife’s SE can be used with one normal sized human hand. It is too small, but it’s functional where my S8 Active is not. Also agree, the 4.7″ screen is much better and about the same size overall.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 2 years ago

      For the most part I agree, but the small screen is a deal-killer for lots of folks. If it had a 4.7″ screen it’d be an iPhone 6S, and that’s a very capable device today and much more interesting. Plus it’s only [url=https://www.apple.com/shop/buy-iphone/iphone6s<]$50 more[/url<]. Based on Apple's software support in the past, I believe it still has two years of updates ahead of it, too.

      • RickyTick
      • 2 years ago

      If you like smaller phones in general, it’s perfect. It’s also a perfect “first-time” phone for kids.

      • Voldenuit
      • 2 years ago

      Sony had the xPeria Z Compacts. My Z3C received updates all the way to Marshmallow, and I’ve heard Qualcomm was the stumbling block to getting future updates (the contemporaneous Z3+ is getting Nougat due to it having a Snapdragon 810 instead of the older 801).

      My OP5 received Oreo a few weeks ago, but I’m not liking the usability quirks that Oreo seems to have introduced. My music player now keeps playing even after I turn my car off and the bluetooth disconnects, for one. Several other Oreo users I’ve spoken to have had the same problem, but others haven’t.

        • jensend
        • 2 years ago

        The Xperia Compact is a nice line of phones, but they’re consistently in flagship pricing territory, ergo $200+ outside of the scope of what DDB was talking about.

      • jensend
      • 2 years ago

      I concur in the wish.

      An inexpensive actually-pocketable device can have great performance and battery life on a 720p screen rather than wasting energy on a quad-HD screen.

      “Decent specs” should be very doable even for a budget phone now, with e.g. the Snapdragon 460 on the horizon (1.8GHz A55s, LPDDR4X, &c), camera improvements trickling down to lower budget tiers, etc.

      Google has made it easier than ever for manufacturers to keep things up to date via Project Treble.

      But do we get pocketable, performant, inexpensive phones with up-to-date software? No! Instead we get relatively stagnant performance at any given price point, continually expanding device sizes, gimmicks like second image sensors that only accomplish badly done fake bokeh, and [url=https://www.computerworld.com/article/3257607/android/android-upgrade-report-card-oreo.html<]every manufacturer except Google getting an F on the Oreo Update Report Card[/url<].

      • LostCat
      • 2 years ago

      Project Fi phones seem to be reasonably updated. I’m giving it a try.

    • tipoo
    • 2 years ago

    I did a double take at the Zbook studio 15’s listed weight, I think you might have lost two pounds there 🙂

    [url<]https://support.hp.com/ca-en/document/c05490369[/url<] And Acer lists the CB14 at 3.42 pounds. For 14"s, I wouldn't really call that heavy, the 13" rMBP is 3 and the 15 is 4, that's about between them. Granted without high end processors to cool though.

      • morphine
      • 2 years ago

      Heh, you’re right, thanks for the heads up. As it turns, you can make a few typos when you’ve reviewed dozens of phones, hundreds of laptops, tens of tablets, and hundreds of convertibles.

        • tipoo
        • 2 years ago

        [url<]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ta_myupIJm0[/url<]

          • morphine
          • 2 years ago

          Ha. 🙂

    • meerkt
    • 2 years ago

    Finding a phone nowadays is a problem. Barely anyone offers removable batteries, or not too-big phones. Add a few more constraints and the list of candidates whittles down to 0.

      • Kretschmer
      • 2 years ago

      Sadly, the smartphone industry is moving in a direction that diverges from utility or ease of use (say, removable SD cards or 3.5mm jacks) for aesthetic concerns (THIN THIN THIN).

      The best you can do is find the most acceptable compromise possible. Ironically, with budget phones “good enough” and high end features the cause of poor design decisions, your best bet might be something like the Moto G line. I’d be using a Moto, myself, if they had better cameras.

        • meerkt
        • 2 years ago

        Moto G5 was one of the candidates (I’ve given up hoping to find smaller than 7x14cm). Problem is it’s not available around here, and getting it internationally means no warranty.

      • Shobai
      • 2 years ago

      Ha. Try finding one with a hardware keyboard and near-flagship specs.

        • Kretschmer
        • 2 years ago

        I’d love that, but the market is unserved. There’s supposedly a Moto module thingy on kickstarter.

        • juzz86
        • 2 years ago

        I had the Priv for a while. Good overall package, but not cutting-edge anymore.

        Lack of QWERTY is a bit of a bummer. Make a new Rhodium, HTC!

          • Shobai
          • 2 years ago

          I had the Passport, but the KEYone was no upgrade. I ended up going for Huawei’s Mate 10, but I miss the hardware keyboard every day. I’m giving Blackberry’s keyboard a go: it’s mostly been a good experience (much better than the stock keyboard) , but my accuracy has gone through the floor, and typing takes longer.

      • rechicero
      • 2 years ago

      I had that issue and found an alternative: big batteries in not so big 720p phones, my Redmi 3 Pro started with 5 days of intense use or 10 days of light use with 1 charge. Still going for more than a day… For when I’d need a battery change, the phone will be more than obsolete. And with 3GB of RAM and figerprint scan I’d say it was a pretty good deal for way less than $200

      The big mistake is going for just 1 day of battery phone. The number of charge cycles is limited, the more you do, the sooner the battery starts being an issue.

    • Kretschmer
    • 2 years ago

    As a recent Pixel 2 buyer, I’d caution Gerbils to wait for the Pixel 3. Google’s latest offering really feels like a hardware generation or two behind the Galaxy line, especially for the prices being asked of you. I got one because my former phone (Galaxy S8) was stolen and the OP 5T isn’t compatible with Verizon.

    Honestly, I’d love to see Samsung hardware with stock Android. Samsung can’t do software; Google is stupid with hardware (goodbye SD card and headphone jack); why can’t we win?

      • prb123
      • 2 years ago

      I don’t agree. I love my Pixel 2 XL phone. Its crazy fast, awesome camera, and works great. Every time I pickup a Samsung device, I feel like it has so much crap loaded on / overlaying the real Google experience. Also I don’t under stand the screen complaints. When you set the backlight to the same brightness levels as other phones they look great. Google probably should have not allowed you to set the backlight to such a low value.

        • derFunkenstein
        • 2 years ago

        If he’s using a Pixel 2 regular (as I am) then I can see what he’s talking about regarding the hardware feeling behind. Yes, it’s fast and the camera is awesome, but it’s like every other HTC phone – thick bezels, kind of hefty, and not striking with its lack of full-frontal screenity.

        I like all those qualities, and I love my Pixel 2, but that’s certainly not trendy.

          • Kretschmer
          • 2 years ago

          Trendiness isn’t a very big deal, but I miss having the extra screen size and extra pixels; the Pixel 2 feels cramped (ironic, given its name).

            • derFunkenstein
            • 2 years ago

            That’s because it is cramped, relatively speaking. It has both a lower and less-dense resolution and less surface area (like 15% less, roughly).

        • Kretschmer
        • 2 years ago

        I’m a bit uniquely situated, having used both a Galaxy S8 and Pixel 2 (not XL) recently (the former was stolen, so I purchased the latter).

        The S8 had fantastic hardware compared to my Pixel 2 – substantially larger and sharper low-bezel screen in a similar footprint, SD card, 3.5mm jack. The configuration really felt a generation or two ahead of the Pixel 2, where screen size is constrained by a giant bezel, audio is Bluetooth only, and storage is locked in at purchase. Sometimes I would heft my S8 and marvel at how sleek and stylish phones have gotten since my first chunky budget smart device. That never happens with the Pixel 2, which looks like an upmarket Moto G My only hardware quibble with the S8 was the awkward placement of the fingerprint sensor.

        Conversely, the Pixel 2 absolutely blows away the S8 on the software front. Samsung loves to shovel unneeded complexity on top of the Android UI, replete with useless contextual menu options, knockoffs of Google’s apps, and stupid features. As an example, using an alternate keyboard triggers a dialogue to re-choose your keyboard if you swipe a certain way across the spacebar, making a once-per-phone option pop up multiple times a day while writing messages like this. Another offender is the Samsung assistant, which randomly bugs you to use it despite it’s pointlessness. Unneeded nagging dialogs were much more prevalent all over my S8 experience, given that I was used to near-stock phones. The software situation was so bad that my Samsung felt less responsive than my Pixel despite sporting similar hardware. Samsung is also very slow to adapt the latest Google updates to even their premium phones.

        So I feel completely justified in concluding that Google pushes mediocre hardware and Samsung needs to stop mutilating software with Frankenstein experiments. If I could combine their strengths, I would have the perfect device.

        Now I could have paid a lot more for a Pixel 2 XL and have gotten around the bezel/density failures of my Pixel 2, but it was money I didn’t want to send and too large of a footprint for my pockets. I also can work around the lack of expandable storage with thumb drives and dongles. I can charge my headsets every day and accept lower audio quality. But I shouldn’t have to do any of these, and Google needs to whip future flagship device developers into creating better offerings. I have zero hope of Samsung ever dialing back their software issues, hence the Pixel 3(/XL) recommendation.

          • MrDweezil
          • 2 years ago

          I needed a new phone last year and I had the luxury of comparing my wife’s OP5 to a S8 that I took home from work. Frankly, I disliked nearly everything about the hardware of S8 in comparison. The curved edges are functionally pointless and just make UI elements near the edge harder to use, the fingerprint sensor location is terrible, the entire phone body is a smudge magnet, and I really really don’t like the 16:10 form factor. The S8 was substantially more expensive than the OP5 but I still wouldn’t have bought it if their prices were flipped. It feels well put-together, but the thing they put together is bad.

            • Kretschmer
            • 2 years ago

            Ok, well imagine another step back and that’s the Pixel 2.

            I really wanted to grab a OP5T but am on the Verizon network. Shame on you, OnePlus!

            How is the camera in low light? That was my biggest peeve with my One plus One.

            • MrDweezil
            • 2 years ago

            I don’t take a ton of pictures and I’m not very picky about the ones I do take, so I’m not a great person to ask. I thought phone cameras reached the point of being “good enough” like 10 years ago on my BlackBerry 🙂

      • Vigil80
      • 2 years ago

      In fact would like to have seen in the guide at a glance which phones had jacks and accessible batteries.

      What is the value add anyway-for consumers or producers-of the silly junk layered on top of Android?

        • Kretschmer
        • 2 years ago

        Samsung pushes its own UI and apps partly as a differentiation from other phones and partly to maintain independence from Google. If Samsung and Google ever came to blows, the former could theoretically swap to an in-house operating system with in-house apps. I would shudder to own such a device, but I am not a Samsung exec.

        Ironically the Pixel 2 supposedly did away with its 3.5mm jack to decrease the screen bezels. They never got around to doing the latter but successfully jettisoned the former.

      • flip-mode
      • 2 years ago

      I really like the Pixel 2. It fits the hand perfectly and the weight feels just right. The screen is amazing. It is very fluid and responsive to use. The camera really is wonderful. I have no desire for an SD slot. The “active edge” this is way better than I expected – I have not had to say “ok google” for two months, thank goodness; hopefully Google will not drop that feature in future phones or I will be sad. Every once in a while I miss the headphone jack. Battery life is great, I have never come close to running out of charge with this phone.

      It is difficult for me to find anything to complain about the Pixel 2. It has been a fantastic phone and I hope it lasts me for years.

    • Kretschmer
    • 2 years ago

    Good article. The Aero 14W link takes readers to the HP Store, so that requires an edit.

    Please do an update once the Kaby Lake G and i7 HQ SKUs drop later this year. This could definitely be the Year of the Laptop!

      • morphine
      • 2 years ago

      Glad liked the article, and thanks for pointing out the link. We’ll be sure to revisit KBL-G and the other new stuff when the time comes.

        • Kretschmer
        • 2 years ago

        Out of curiosity, are these all devices reviewed by Techreport contributors? If so, it would also be great to add a blurb or bullet about their volume under load.

        If you can squeeze in whatever the next revisions of Razor’s Blade 14 is, I would be curious to read if the premium pays off. Ditto for the XPS 15.

          • morphine
          • 2 years ago

          Collectively, the staff owns some of these or has had contact with them, but the technical answer is “no”.

          We should note that we check third-party reviews for all items to watch out for any obvious pitfalls. Support, manufacturer history, reported reliability, etc, all count, too.

          Easily hundreds of hours go into these. Just poring through every offering avaiable (I’m looking at you, Asus and Lenovo) consumes tens of hours alone.

            • Kretschmer
            • 2 years ago

            Your effort is appreciated! When I do research on laptops or phones it’s amazing how much you have to apply a fine-toothed comb to various hardware reviews…every manufacturer comes up with unique pitfalls, and each site notices certain things.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This