Subject: General Tech | August 6, 2014 - 06:58 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: best buy, tablets, convertible, laptop
Hubert Joly, CEO of Best Buy, talked with Re/code about the overall health of their company and various industry trends. The first question (at least in the order Re/code presented them) asked about the decline of the PC industry. He responded that PC sales are actually recovering, to some extent, but that Android tablets are, now, "crashing".
His view is that laptops are adopting the successful bits of the tablet market, especially as a result of various two-in-one initiatives. He believes students, in particular, appreciate tablet/laptop hybrids. This is certainly what Intel has been hoping for, through its recent Ultrabook efforts. He hopes that innovation will be done at the high end, so consumers will not simply settle for the $300-tier.
He did back off on his "crashed" statement, regarding the tablet market, however. The growth of tablets, from the start, were amazing. However, like the argument with "good enough" PCs, there does not seem to be a compelling argument for users to move to the next device, at least not yet. Like PCs, devices are being replaced, just not driven from industry forces. Also, like smartphones, the market seems to have matured, slowing in growth.
Naturally, Joly believes that Best Buy will be around for years to come. I agree with his reasoning. He acknowledges the squeeze between online resellers and boutique shops, which puts Best Buy in an awkward middle niche when the goal of a big box store is to be not niche. My interpretation of his strategy is to, instead of being crushed, strive to overlap. Embrace what the customers want on either side while doing your thing in the middle.
It is still questionable whether it will work, but it seems like the right move.
Introduction and Design
The next candidate in our barrage of ThinkPad reviews is the ThinkPad Yoga, which, at first glance, might seem a little bit redundant. After all, we’ve already got three current-gen Yoga models to choose from between the Yoga 2 11- and 13-inch iterations and the Yoga 2 Pro top-end selection. What could possibly be missing?
Well, in fact, as is often the case when choosing between well-conceived notebook models, it isn’t so much about what’s missing as it is priorities. Whereas the consumer-grade Yoga models all place portability, slimness, and aesthetics in the highest regard, the ThinkPad Yoga subscribes to a much more practical business-oriented approach, which (nearly) always instead favors function over form. It’s a conversation we’ve had here at PC Perspective a thousand times before, but yet again, it is the core ThinkPad philosophy which separates the ThinkPad Yoga from other notebooks of its type. Suffice it to say, in fact, that really the only reason to think of it as a Yoga at all is the unique hinge design and affiliated notebook/tablet convertibility; excepting that, this seems much closer to an X240 than anything in Lenovo’s current consumer-grade lineup. And carrying a currently-configurable street price of around $1,595 currently, it’s positioned as such, too.
But it isn’t beyond reproach. Some of the same questionable decisions regarding design changes which we’ve covered in our recent ThinkPad reviews still apply to the Yoga. For instance, the much-maligned clickpad is back, bringing with it vivid nightmares of pointer jumpiness and click fatigue that were easily the biggest complaint about the T440s and X240 we recently reviewed. The big question today is whether these criticisms are impactful enough to disqualify the ThinkPad Yoga as a rational alternative to other ThinkPad convertibles and the consumer-grade Yoga models. It’s a tall order, so let’s tackle it.
First up, the specs:
While most of this list is pretty conventional, the astute might have already picked out one particular item which tops the X240 we recently reviewed: a possible 16 GB of dual-channel RAM. The X240 was limited to just 8 GB of single-channel memory thanks to a mere single SODIMM slot. The ThinkPad Yoga also boasts a 1080p screen with a Wacom digitizer pen—something which is clearly superior to our X240 review unit. Sadly missing, however, are the integrated Gigabit Ethernet port and the VGA port—and the mini DisplayPort has been replaced by a mini-HDMI, which ultimately is decidedly inferior.
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | February 26, 2014 - 09:20 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: x360, Windows 8.1, tablet, hp, convertible tablet, convertible, Bay Trail
At MWC 2014, HP showed off an interesting convertible laptop similar in form factor to Lenovo's Yoga lineup. The HP X360 is a Bay Trail-powered laptop running Windows 8.1 that brings the 360-degree hinged hybrid laptop/tablet form factor to an affordable $460 price point. The red plastic and brushed aluminum PC is available for purchase now and will begin shipping in early March.
HP's new X360 tablet measures 12.12” x 8.46” x 0.86” and weighs in at a portable 3.08 pounds. It is noticeably larger than other Bay Trail tablets like the ASUS T100 and Dell Venue series, but it also has an integrated keyboard and trackpad attached via a permanently attached double hinge to the 11.6” LED-backlit touchscreen with a resolution of 1366x768. The chassis is a glossy red plastic while the keyboard cover and palm rest use a brushed aluminum surface that surrounds a large gesture compatible touchpad and a chiclet-style keyboard that appears to be well spaced for an 11.6” machine (excluding the arrow keys which are bunched up in the bottom-right corner in order to allow full sized shift and enter keys). A silver chassis version is also in the works, but will not be available until later this year.
The HP X360 features external I/O more akin to a traditional laptop than a tablet with the following connectivity options.
- 1 x USB 3.0
- 2 x USB 2.0
- 1 x HDMI
- 1 x RJ45 (10/100 Ethernet)
- 1 x headphone/mic combo jack
- 1 x SD card slot
- 1 x SIM card slot
Internally, the HP X360 uses an Intel Pentium N3520 processor, 4GB or 8GB of RAM, a 500GB hard drive, 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radios, and a 2 cell Lithium Ion battery rated for up to four and a half hours of use. HP has further packed its tablet with Beats Audio technology. Interestingly, the Pentium N3520 CPU is a quad core chip based on Intel's Bay Trail (Atom) architecture which uses Silvermont cores and Intel HD graphics. The CPU is clocked at 2.166 GHz base and 2.42 GHz Turbo with 2MB of cache.
The X360 can be used as a laptop or a tablet in several configurations by swinging the display around appropriately. It is very similar to Lenovo's Yoga system, though HP is using a slightly different hinge design.
The real advantage of the HP X360 is its price. At a starting price of $389 for the 4GB model, the X360 is much cheaper than the (admittedly more powerful) Yoga alternatives while still being a capable machine for note taking and media consumption. It lies in a middle ground between Bay Trail-powered tablets and Haswell-powered laptops. For an $80 premium over the ASUS T100, users get a more traditional convertible PC with more storage (albeit slower mechanical storage) and a faster clocked processor.
Personally, I'm tempted and have been debating between this and the T100 as a second portable machine to replace my aging Dell XT with comparably abysmal battery life (heh).
You can find more information on the new X360 (HP Pavilion 11t-n000 x360 PC) on this HP product page.
Introduction and Design
Contortionist PCs are a big deal these days as convertible models take the stage to help bridge the gap between notebook and tablet. But not everyone wants to drop a grand on a convertible, and not everyone wants a 12-inch notebook, either. Meanwhile, these same people may not wish to blow their cash on an underpowered (and far less capable) Chromebook or tablet. It’s for these folks that Lenovo has introduced the IdeaPad Flex 14 Ultrabook, which occupies a valuable middle ground between the extremes.
The Flex 14 looks an awful lot like a Yoga at first glance, with the same sort of acrobatic design and a thoroughly IdeaPad styling (Lenovo calls it a “dual-mode notebook”). The specs are also similar to that of the x86 Yoga, though with the larger size (and later launch), the Flex also manages to assemble a slightly more powerful configuration:
The biggest internal differences here are the i5-4200U CPU, which is a 1.6 GHz Haswell model with a TDP of 15 W and the ability to Turbo Boost (versus the Yoga 11S’ i5-3339Y, which is Ivy Bridge with a marginally lower TDP of 13 W and no Turbo Boost), the integrated graphics improvements that follow with the newer CPU, and a few more ports made possible by the larger chassis. Well, and the regression to a TN panel from the Yoga 11S’ much-appreciated IPS display, which is a bummer. Externally, your wallet will also appreciate a $250 drop in price: our model, as configured here, retails for just $749 (versus the $999 Yoga 11S we reviewed a few months back).
You can actually score a Flex 14 for as low as $429 (as of this writing), by the way, but if you’re after any sort of respectable configuration, that price quickly climbs above the $500 mark. Ours is the least expensive option currently available with both a solid-state drive and an i5 CPU.
Introduction and Design
It seems like only yesterday (okay, last month) that we were testing the IdeaPad Yoga 11, which was certainly an interesting device. That’s primarily because of what it represents: namely, the slow merging of the tablet and notebook markets. You’ve probably heard people proclaiming the death of the PC as we know it. Not so fast—while it’s true that tablets have eaten into the sales of what were previously low-powered notebooks and now-extinct netbooks, there is still no way to replace the utility of a physical keyboard and the sensibility of a mouse cursor. Touch-centric devices are hard to beat when entertainment and education are the focus of a purchase, but as long as productivity matters, we aren’t likely to see traditional means of input and a range of connectivity options disappear anytime soon.
The IdeaPad Yoga 11 leaned so heavily in the direction of tablet design that it arguably was more tablet than notebook. That is, it featured a tablet-grade SOC (the nVidia Tegra 3) as opposed to a standard Intel or AMD CPU, an 11” display, and a phenomenal battery life that can only be compared to the likes of other ARM-based tablets. But, of course, with those allegiances come necessary concessions, not least of which is the inability to run x86 applications and the consequential half-baked experiment that is Windows RT.
Fortunately, there’s always room for compromise, and for those of us searching for something closer to a notebook than the original Yoga 11, we’re now afforded the option of the 11S. Apart from being nearly identical in terms of form factor, the $999 (as configured) Yoga 11S adopts a standard x86 chipset with Intel ULV CPUs, which allows it to run full-blown Windows 8. That positions it squarely in-between the larger x86 Yoga 13 and the ARM-based Yoga 11, which makes it an ideal candidate for someone hoping for the best of both worlds. But can it survive the transition, or do its compromises outstrip its gains?
Our Yoga 11S came equipped with a fairly standard configuration:
Unless you’re comparing to the Yoga 11’s specs, not much about this stands out. The Core i5-3339Y is the first thing that jumps out at you; in exchange for the nVidia Tegra 3 ARM-based SOC of the original Yoga 11, it’s a much more powerful chip with a 13W TDP and (thanks to its x86 architecture) the ability to run Windows 8 and standard Windows applications. Next on the list is the included 8 GB of DDR3 RAM—versus just 2 GB on the Yoga 11. Finally, there’s USB 3.0 and a much larger SSD (256 GB vs. 64 GB)—all valuable additions. One thing that hasn’t changed, meanwhile, is the battery size. Surely you’re wondering how this will affect the longevity of the notebook under typical usage. Patience; we’ll get to that in a bit! First, let’s talk about the general design of the notebook.
Introduction and Design
As headlines mount championing the supposed shift toward tablets for the average consumer, PC manufacturers continue to devise clever hybrid solutions to try and lure those who are on the fence toward more traditional machines. Along with last year’s IdeaPad Yoga 13 and ThinkPad Twist, Lenovo shortly thereafter launched the smallest of the bunch, an 11.6” convertible tablet PC with a 5-point touch 720p IPS display.
Unlike its newer, more powerful counterpart, the Yoga 11S, it runs Windows RT and features an NVIDIA Tegra 3 Quad-Core system on a chip (SoC). There are pros and cons to this configuration in contrast to the 11S. For starters, the lower-voltage, fanless design of the 11 guarantees superior battery life (something which we’ll cover in detail in just a bit). It’s also consequently (slightly) smaller and lighter than the 11S, which gains a hair on height and weighs around a quarter pound more. But, as you’re probably aware, Windows RT also doesn’t qualify as a fully-functional version of Windows—and, in fact, the Yoga 11’s versatility is constrained by the relatively meager selection of apps available on the Windows Store. The other obvious difference is architecture and chipset, where the Yoga 11’s phone- and tablet-grade ARM-based NVIDIA Tegra 3 is replaced on the 11S by Intel Core Ivy Bridge ULV processors.
But let’s forget about that for a moment. What it all boils down to is that these two machines, while similar in terms of design, are different enough (both in terms of specs and price) to warrant a choice between them based on your intended use. The IdeaPad Yoga 11 configuration we reviewed can currently be found for around $570 at retailers such as Amazon and Newegg. In terms of its innards:
If it looks an awful lot like the specs of your latest smartphone, that’s probably because it is. The Yoga 11 banks on the fact that such ARM-based SoCs have become powerful enough to run a modern personal computer comfortably—and by combining the strengths of an efficient, low-power chipset with the body of a notebook, it reaps benefits from both categories. Of course, there are trade-offs involved, starting with the 2 GB memory ceiling of the chipset and extending to the aforementioned limitations of Windows RT. So the ultimate question is, once those trade-offs are considered, is the Yoga 11 still worth the investment?