A Diverse Lineup
ThinkPads have always been one of our favorite notebook brands here at PC Perspective. While there certainly has been some competition from well-designed portables such as the Dell XPS 13 and Microsoft Surface Pro 3, the ThinkPad line remains a solid choice for power users.
We had the chance to look at a lot of Lenovo's ThinkPad lineup for Broadwell, and as this generation comes to a close we decided to give a brief overview of the diversity available. Skylake-powered notebooks may be just on the horizon, but the comparisons of form factor and usability should remain mostly applicable into the next generation.
Within the same $1200-$1300 price range, Lenovo offers a myriad of portable machines with roughly the same hardware in vastly different form factors.
First, let's take a look at the more standard ThinkPads.
Lenovo ThinkPad T450s
The ThinkPad T450s is my default recommendation for anyone looking for a notebook in the $1000+ range. Featuring a 14" 1080p display and an Intel Core i5-5300U processor, it will perform great for the majority of users. While you won't be using this machine for 3D Modeling or CAD/CAM applications, general productivity tasks will feel right at home here.
Technically classified as an Ultrabook, the T450s won't exactly be turning any heads with it's thinness. Lenovo strikes a balance here, making the notebook as thin as possible at 0.83" while retaining features such as a gigabit Ethernet port, 3 USB 3.0 Ports, an SD card reader, and plenty of display connectivity with Mini DisplayPort and VGA.
Subject: Mobile | September 2, 2015 - 07:00 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: ROG, notebook, ifa, gx700, gaming notebook, gaming laptop, asus
IFA is turning out to be an odd place full of weird announcements focused on PC gaming and enthusiasts rather than just mobile phones and electronics. ASUS has gone in the completely opposite direction today, announcing not just a series of gaming notebooks but a new series that is water cooled. I'm not making that up.
That is the new ASUS ROG (Republic of Gamers) GX700 series of gaming notebooks, coming in the 4th quarter of 2015. Looking for a price? You won't find it here but you will find a lot of interesting technology. This is what ASUS claims about the GX700:
- All-new flagship gaming laptop
- 4K 17-inch display
- Water-cooling system with pump/radiator
- Mobile K-series CPU with overclocking
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX graphics (TBD)
A 4K screen in a 17-inch form factor is going to...have exceptionally small pixels. Clearly this is going to need quite a bit of Windows-based text and format scaling to make sure the desktop experience is usable. ASUS is using the new K-series Skylake processor that is unlocked and allows for overclocking in the same way you do so in the desktop market.
Oh, and what's this? An unannounced mobile GeForce GTX GPU? I doubt this is anything more than a currently shipping Maxwell GPU with some additional horsepower behind it, possibly more closely matching performance of the desktop GTX 980 Ti.
And of course, let's talk about the water cooling system. I asked for more details but ASUS wasn't budging. Clearly if you market this as a notebook there has to be portability to the device so expect that large portion that is front in center in the above picture to detach with quick connections to the notebook housing. That large external base will likely hold the pump, radiator, reservoir and even some docking functions like display connections, USB, etc. With water cooling and an unlocked Skylake processor you should expect some impressive overclocking capability considering the form factor!
I would assume that if you disconnect the machine to take on the road without the water cooling base the hardware would run at slower speeds with normal in-case fans as we see with other designs on the market today.
This sound amazing, crazy and kind of senseless, but I need to try it right away. Expect to pay top dollar for something like this especially considering the component cost of the screen, CPU, GPU, etc. not to mention the specific engineering for the new housing and design. I'll keep my eyes out for more information on the ASUS ROG GX700!
Subject: Systems, Mobile | September 2, 2015 - 06:00 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: V Nitro, Skylake, NVMe, nvidia, notebook, mu-mimo, laptop, IFA 2015, geforce, aspire V, acer
Acer’s updated V Nitro notebook series has been announced, and the notebooks have received the newest Intel mobile processors and have been fully updated with the latest connectivity some advanced wireless tech.
The Aspire V 13
"The refreshed Aspire V Nitro Series notebooks and Aspire V 13 support the latest USB 3.1 Type-C port, while 'Black Edition' Aspire V Nitro models support Thunderbolt 3, which brings Thunderbolt to USB Type-C at speeds up to 40Gbps. All models include Qualcomm VIVE 2x2 802.11ac Wi-Fi with Qualcomm MU | EFX MU-MIMO technology."
MU-MIMO devices are just starting to hit the market and the tech promises to eliminate bottlenecks when multiple devices are in use on the same network – with compatible adapters/routers, that is.
The Aspire V 15 Nitro
What kind of hardware will be offered? Here’s a brief overview:
- 6th Gen Intel Core processors
- Up to 32GB DDR4 system memory
- NVIDIA GeForce graphics
- (SATA) SSD/SSHD/HDD storage options
- Touchscreen option added for the 15-inch model
Additionally, the “Black Edition” models offer a 4K 100% Adobe RGB display option, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M up to 4GB, NVMe SSDs, and something called “AeroBlade” thermal exhaust, which Acer said has “the world’s thinnest metallic blades of just 0.1mm thin, which are stronger and quieter”.
The Aspire V 17 Nitro
Pricing will start at $599 for the V Nitro 13, $999 for the V Nitro 15, and $1099 for the V Nitro 17. All versions will be available in the U.S. in October.
The Dell Venue 10 7000 Series tablet features a stunning 10.5" OLED screen and is designed to mate perfectly with the optional keyboard. So how does it perform as both a laptop and a tablet? Read on for the full review!
To begin with I will simply say the keyboard should not be an optional accessory. There, I've said it. As I used the Venue 10 7000, which arrived bundled with the keyboard, I was instantly excited about this design. The Venue 10 is a device that is as remarkable for its incredible screen as much as any other feature, but once coupled with the magnetically attached keyboard becomes something more - and quite different than existing implementations of the transforming tablet. More than a simple accessory the keyboard felt like it was really a part of the device when connected, and made it feel like a real laptop.
I'm getting way ahead of myself here so let's go back to the beginning, and back to a world where one might consider purchasing this tablet by itself. At $499 for the 16GB model you might reasonably ask how it compares to the identically-priced Apple iPad Air 2. Well, most of the comparison is going to be software/app related as the Venue 10 7000 is running Android 5.1 Lollipop, and of course the iPad runs iOS. The biggest difference between these tablets (besides the keyboard integration) becomes the 10.5-inch, 2560x1600 OLED screen, and oh what a screen it is!
Gaming laptops are something that most people are quick to reject as out of their price range. There is a lot of sense in this train of thought. We know that laptop components are inherently lower performing than their desktop counterparts, and significantly more expensive. So the idea of spending more money for less powerful components seems like a bad trade off for the added gains of portability for many gamers.
However, we also seem to be in a bit of a plateau as far as generation-to-generation performance gain with desktop components. Midrange processors from a few generations ago are still more than capable of playing the vast majority of games, and even lower-end modern GPUs are able to game at 1080p.
So maybe it's time to take another look at the sub-$1000 gaming notebook options, and that's exactly what we are doing today with the Acer Aspire V 15 Nitro Black Edition.
The Aspire V Nitro is equipped with fairly modest components when compared to what most people think of gaming laptops as. Where machines such as the MSI GT70 Dominator or ASUS G751 seem to take the kitchen sink approach towards mobile gaming machines, The Aspire V is a more carefully balanced option.
|Acer Aspire V 15 Nitro Black Edition|
|Processor||Intel Core i7-4720HQ 2.6 GHz|
|Graphics Card||NVIDIA GTX 960M 4GB|
|Storage||1 TB Hard Drive|
|Dimensions (W x D x H)||15.34" x 10.14" x 0.86" - 0.94"|
Anchored by an Intel Core i7-4720HQ and a GTX 960M, the Aspire V Nitro isn't trying to reach to the top stack of mobile performance. A 15.6" display along with 8GB of RAM, and a single 1TB spindle drive are all logical choices for a machine aimed towards gaming on a budget.
While it's difficult for us to recommend that you buy any machine without an SSD these days, a 1TB drive is great for game storage on a machine like there. There are also other configurations optiosn which add SATA M.2 SSDs alongside the 1TB drive, and we managed to open up our sample and put an SSD in ourselves with little pain.
Subject: General Tech | June 24, 2015 - 03:00 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: windows update, Samsung, notebook, Malware
A report from Paul Thurrott draws an uncomfortable comparison between the behavior of Samsung's notebook software and the recent Superfish controversy, and should be cause for concern for anyone using Samsung laptops with factory software.
Image credit: Samsung
The behavior is rather malware-like, as Thurrott point out: "In disabling Windows Update, the Samsung utility is behaving like malware—is, in fact, malware—which of course opens this event up to a comparison with Lenovo’s Superfish fiasco."
This behavior is apparently designed to prevent Microsoft drivers from installing over Samsung's proprietary versions, but this obviously has significant security implications. The fact that this happens automatically in the background is a signifant breach of trust for consumers. This discovery was initially made by a Microsoft MVP, Paul Barker, who posted this response from Samsung on his blog:
“When you enable Windows updates, it will install the Default Drivers for all the hardware no laptop which may or may not work,” he was told. “For example if there is USB 3.0 on laptop, the ports may not work with the installation of updates. So to prevent this, SW Update tool will prevent the Windows updates.”
There are instructions for disabling this software, but it might just be time for all of us to go to the trouble of creating our own official restore media and starting fresh with a clean install of Windows.
Subject: Mobile | June 2, 2015 - 09:00 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: notebook, msi, Intel Core i7, gaming notebook, computex 2015, computex, Broadwell
MSI has unveiled a refreshed notebook lineup featuring the new quad-core Intel Broadwell mobile processors.
Broadwell launched as a dual-core only option, which resulted in some high-performance notebooks opting to stay with Haswell CPUs. With the introduction of quad-core versions of the new Broadwell chips for mobile, MSI has jumped on the bandwagon to offer a few different options. Of the 20 new notebooks offered by MSI, 18 of them are powered by Intel Core i7 chips.
Intel’s 5th Generation Core i7 processor powers 18 MSI laptop models, including the GT80 Titan SLI, GT72 Dominator, GS70 Stealth, GS60 Ghost, GE72 Apache, GE62 Apache, GP72 Leopard, GP62 Leopard, and the newly announced PX60 Prestige. Available immediately, all gaming notebook models come with an array of superior technologies, including Killer DoubleShot Pro for lag-less gaming, SteelSeries Gaming Keyboard for exceptional customization and feel, and more.
The flagship GT80 Titan SLI has these impressive specs, including an Intel Core i7-5950HQ processor:
GT80 Titan SLI
- Screen: 18.4” 1920x1080 WideView Non-Reflection
- CPU: Intel Core i7-5950HQ, 2.9 - 3.7 GHz
- Chipset: HM87
- Graphics: Dual GTX 980M SLI, 8GB GDDR5 VRAM each
- Memory: 24GB (8GB x3) DDR3L 1600MHz (4 SoDIMM slots, max 32GB)
- Storage: 256GB Super RAID (128GB M.2 SATA x2, RAID 0) + 1TB 7200 RPM HDD
- Optical: BD Burner
- LAN: Killer Gaming Network
- Wireless: Killer N1525 Combo (2x2 ac), BT 4.1
- Card Reader: SDXC
- Video Output: HDMI 1.4, mDP v1.2 x2
- MSRP: $3799.99
The GT80 Titan SLI gaming notebook
1920x1080 with this model seems low, especially considering the obscene amount of VRAM (8GB per card on a laptop? Really?). Still, this notebook has excellent external monitor support with dual mini-DisplayPort outputs, though HDMI is limited to version 1.4.
MSI has also introduced a refreshed GT72 Dominator with NVIDIA G-Sync (covered here), and this new version also features USB 3.1. And for the more business-minded there is the premium PX60 Prestige, now refreshed with Broadwell Core i7 as well.
These refreshed notebook models will be “available immediately” from MSI’s retail partners.
Introduction and First Impressions
The ASUS X205 offers the full Windows 8.1 notebook experience for the cost of a Chromebook, and the design offers a surprising amount of polish for the price. Is this $199 Atom-powered notebook a viable solution as a daily driver? We're about to find out.
What do you use a laptop for? A thoughtful answer to this question can be the most important part of the process when selecting your next notebook PC, and if your needs are modest there are a growing number of very low-cost options on the market. For example, I personally do not play games on a laptop, typically alternating between web, email, and Microsoft Office. Thus for myself the most important aspects of a notebook PC become screen quality, keyboard, trackpad, and battery life. High performance is not of utmost importance, and I assure myself of at least speedy load times by always choosing (or installing) a solid-state hard drive. For those reasons when I first read the description and specifications of the ASUS X205 notebook, I took notice.
The X205 is a small notebook with an 11.6” display and 1366x768 resolution, essentially matching the form-factor of Apple's 11.6" MacBook Air. It is powered by a quad-core Intel Atom processor with 2GB of RAM, and onboard storage is solid-state - though limited to 32GB and of the slower eMMC variety (which is in keeping with many Chromebooks). There is adequate connectivity as well, with the expected wireless card and two USB 2.0 ports. One aspect of this design that intrigued me was the trackpad, which ASUS claims is using "smartphone technology", indicating a touchscreen digitizer implementation. Smoothness and accuracy are the biggest problems I find with most inexpensive notebook trackpads, and if this turns out to be a strong performer it would be a major boon to the X205's overall usability. I opted for the Microsoft Signature Edition of the X205TA, which carries the same $199 retail price but does not come preloaded with any trialware or other junk software.
At the outset this feels like a compelling product simply because it retails for the same price as an average Chromebook, but offers the flexibility of a full Windows 8.1 installation. Granted this is the “Windows 8.1 with Bing” version found on low-cost, low-power devices like this, but it offers the functionality of the standard version. While Chrome OS and Google's productivity apps are great for many people, the ability to install and run Windows applications made this highly preferable to a Chromebook for me. Of course beyond the operating system the overall experience of using the laptop will ultimately decide the viability of this inexpensive product, so without further preamble let's dive right into the X205TA notebook!
Subject: Mobile | March 13, 2015 - 09:33 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: Razer Blade Pro, razer, notebook, laptop, i7-4720HQ, GTX 960M, gaming notebook
Razer has updated their massive Blade Pro notebook with new dual storage options and NVIDIA’s newly announced GeForce GTX 960M graphics.
Razer targets the Blade Pro at both gamers and professionals, placing emphasis on the usefulness of the device beyond gaming. However, being limited to 1920x1080 on a 17.3-inch display will eliminate this from consideration by most creative professionals (though the display does feature an anti-glare matte finish). Aiding the performance/gaming side of the notebook is Razer’s localized heating system which the company claims “focuses on directing heat away from the main touch surfaces of the notebook, to areas that can dissipate heat quickly and are not commonly touched by the user. This allows the laptop to pack in the highest performance available with NVIDIA’s critically acclaimed GTX graphics”.
The Blade Pro is constructed from aluminum and while reasonably thin at 0.88 inches, the notebook weighs in at a hefty 6.76 pounds (though the probably battery life of such a high-powered system precludes this from a lot of portable use anyway).
One of the most interesting aspects of this design is Razer’s Switchblade User Interface (SBUI), which the company says “is designed for a more efficient and intuitive experience for professionals and gamers.” It combines 10 customizable tactile keys and a unique LCD trackpad (which I would assume features a glass surface). Meanwhile the keyboard is backlit and features anti-ghosting technology as well.
Intel Core i7-4720HQ Quad Core Processor (2.6GHz / 3.6GHz)
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M (4GB GDDR5 VRAM), Optimus Technology
16GB System Memory (DDR3L-1600 MHz)
Windows 8.1 64-Bit
128GB SSD + 500GB HDD / 256GB SSD + 500GB HDD / 512GB SSD + 1TB HDD
17.3" Full HD 16:9 Ratio, 1920 x 1080 LED backlit
Intel Wireless-AC 7260HMW (802.11a/b/g/n/ac + Bluetooth 4.0)
Gigabit Ethernet port
3x USB 3.0 ports
HDMI 1.4a audio and video output
Dolby Digital Plus Home Theater Edition
Built-in stereo speakers
3.5 mm microphone/headphone combo jack
7.1 Codec support (via HDMI)
Built-in full-HD webcam (2.0 MP)
Compact 150 W Power Adapter
Built-in 74 Wh Rechargeable lithium ion polymer battery
Razer Switchblade User Interface (SBUI)
Razer Anti-Ghosting Keyboard (with adjustable backlight)
Razer Synapse Enabled
Kensington Lock interface
16.8 in. (427 mm) Width x 0.88 in. (22.4 mm) Height x 10.9 in. (277 mm) Depth
6.76 lbs. / 3.07 kg
The Razer Blade Pro starts at $2299.99 and is available now from the Razer online store.
Subject: Graphics Cards | January 7, 2015 - 10:51 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: nvidia, notebook, mobile graphics, mobile gpu, GeForce 965M
With zero fanfare NVIDIA has released a new mobile graphics chip today, the GeForce GTX 965M.
Based on the 28nm Maxwell GM204 core and positioned just below the existing GTX 970M, the new GTX 965M has 1024 CUDA cores (compared to the 970M's 1280) and the new 965M has a lower 128-bit memory interface (vs 192-bit with the 970M). The base clock is slightly faster at 944 MHz (plus unspecified Boost headroom).
Compared with the flagship GTX 980M which boasts 1536 CUDA cores and 256-bit GDDR5 this new GTX 965M will be a significantly lower performer, but NVIDIA is marketing it towards 1080p mobile gaming. At a lower cost to OEMs the 965M should help create some less expensive 1080p gaming notebooks as the new GPU is adopted.
The chip features proprietary NVIDIA Optimus and Battery Boost support, and is GameStream, ShadowPlay, and GameWorks ready.
Specs from NVIDIA:
- CUDA Cores: 1024
- Base Clock: 944 MHz + Boost
- Memory Clock: 2500 MHz
- Memory Interface: GDDR5
- Memory Interface Width: 128-bit
- Memory Bandwidth: 80 GB/sec
- DirectX API: 12
- OpenGL: 4.4
- OpenCL: 1.1
- Display Resolution: Up to 3840x2160
More information on this new mobile GPU can be found via the source link.