Skip to content

Archive for

23
May

Apple’s Latest Transparency Report Shows Spike in U.S. Government Data Requests


Apple last night released its latest transparency report [PDF] outlining government data requests from July 1 to December 31, 2016. According to the data, which features several new request categories, Apple is making an effort to be as clear as possible about the types of information governments around the world have asked for. Apple’s report is the most detailed report the company has produced yet.

Worldwide, Apple received 30,184 device requests, covering 151,105 devices. Apple provided data for 21,737 device requests, which equates to a 72 percent response rate. In the U.S. specifically, Apple responded to 3,335 requests out of 4,268 (78 percent). According to Apple, device-based requests cover fraud investigations as well as customers who have asked law enforcement to help locate lost or stolen devices.

Apple received 2,392 financial identifier requests worldwide, covering 21,249 devices. Apple provided information for 1,821 of the requests, which are related to cases where law enforcement officials are working on behalf of customers who have asked for help with fraudulent credit card activity.

When it comes to worldwide government account requests, Apple received 2,231, rejecting 175 of those, and providing no data for 471. Non-content data was provided for 1,350 requests, and content was offered up in 410 cases. A total of 8,880 accounts were affected.

In the United States, Apple says it received between 5750 and 5999 National Security Requests under FISA and National Security Letters, which affected 4750 to 4999 accounts. Apple is not allowed to provide specific numbers, but offers up the narrowest range permissible by law.


U.S. National Security requests increased significantly in the second half of 2016 compared to the first half of the year. In its first 2016 transparency report, Apple said it received 2750 to 2999 National Security orders affecting 2000 to 2249 accounts.

According to the data, Apple also received one “declassified” National Security Letter from the FBI. National Security Letters are traditionally kept secret via a gag order that prevents companies from sharing information about them, but following the USA Freedom Act, the rules have been loosened and tech companies are now able to publish National Security Letters when declassified. Apple is able to publish the content of the letter, but has not done so.

Apple’s data is broken down into multiple additional categories, covering government requests for emergencies such as missing children, account deletion/restriction requests, and account preservation requests, all of which can be viewed directly in the report. The company also provides more information on government account requests by legal process type, including search warrant, wiretap orders, subpoenas, pen register/trap and trace orders, and other types of court orders.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Tags: Apple security, transparency
Discuss this article in our forums

MacRumors-All?d=6W8y8wAjSf4 MacRumors-All?d=qj6IDK7rITs

23
May

Kodak Ektra: Our first take


Update: Kodak and Bullitt Group are bringing the Kodak Ektra to the U.S. with a lower price tag and an improved camera. By Julian Chokkattu.

Kodak has a phone. You heard that right — everyone’s favorite old camera company is in the mobile market with the Kodak Ektra. It’s an Android phone with a giant 21-megapixel cam on the rear, and it’s built to mimic a point-and-shoot camera.

The company announced the phone in October 2016, and the phone is actually made by a tech company called Bullitt Group. Kodak assures us that the device “was a joint effort between Bullitt Group and Kodak,” and that the Kodak team was heavily involved in the Ektra’s design and development.

The Kodak Ektra has been available in Europe for a few months already, but the company is finally bringing it to the U.S. While our first impressions at CES weren’t entirely positive, Bullitt Group told Digital Trends the launch in the U.S. was delayed a little to address some concerns such as the price point and shutter lag experienced in the camera. The shutter lag fix comes via a software update, which will be issued to European devices as well, and it will also bring several other new features and improvements such as RAW file support, improved face detection performance, and enhanced low-light performance.

The other big improvement? The U.S. price will no longer be $550, but $400.

Nostalgic design

Everything about the Kodak Ektra is meant to revive nostalgia of Kodak’s “Ektra” camera from the 1940s — notably the leather finish on the back of the smartphone. On the back of the device sits a large 21-megapixel camera, reminiscent of the Nokia Lumia 1020.

Sadly, there’s no optical zoom — and while Kodak said the large size of the camera is largely an aesthetic choice, the anti-glare glass “collects more light, and therefore more data.” Kodak claims it helps improve image quality.

The design of the Ektra is unique and something different — even if it is a little thick. Kodak says it’s meant to be chunky, as it’s meant to help the device be more ergonomic for one-handed photography.

kodak ektra first impressions cesJulian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

kodak ektra first impressions cesJulian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

kodak ektra first impressions cesJulian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

kodak ektra first impressions cesJulian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The bottom of the device curves out, acting as a grip when holding the device in landscape mode. It felt comfortable and compact, only packing a 5-inch display. What’s handy is the dedicated camera button on the right side — there is a power button above it, and volume controls at the top right edge. You can double tap the button to launch the camera.

There are no on-screen buttons — instead, you use the capacitive multi-touch navigational buttons on the bottom of the screen.

Solid specs

The Kodak Ektra features surprisingly solid specifications — notably, it comes with a USB Type-C charging port, 3GB of RAM, a 1,920 x 1,080-pixel resolution (Full HD), and a large 3,000mAh battery.

It does have a headphone jack and a MicroSD card slot that can add up to 128GB of additional storage. The latter feature is necessary if you want to take a lot of photos and videos because the phone only comes with 32GB of storage (a lot of phones do). Kodak informs us that there is an NFC sensor.

The Kodak Ektra is powered by MediaTek’s Helio X20 deca-core processor. In our brief test, the device seemed to fly without any hiccups. Apps opened quickly, and swiping through a webpage in the browser as well as through the home screen was smooth. We’ll stress test the device further when we get our review unit later this year.

Unfortunately, the camera-phone runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow, which is the 2015 version of Google’s Android operating system. Bullitt Group handles software updates for the device, but the company said it’s still waiting for MediaTek and the Android qualification program for the Helio X20 to push an update to support Android 7.0 Nougat.

Still, you get a stock Android experience with almost zero modifications by Bullitt. There are quite a number of pre-installed apps, but some of these are all a part of the experience of getting the Kodak phone. One app, for example, takes photos that mimics classic Super 8 film stocks. Snapseed is also available, and it’s directly integrated into the camera app.

Camera needs more testing

If the main highlight of the Ektra is the camera, you would think it would be the best experience of the device. Unfortunately, in our initial brief time with the device, it was the primary weak point.

The rear camera has 21 megapixels, optical image stabilization, and an aperture of f/2.0. The front camera has a 13-megapixel with an aperture of f/2.2. All of that sounds good on paper, but when we tried to take photos with the camera there was noticeable shutter lag.

Kodak Ektra
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Shots were blurry, and the picture quality was merely “okay.” The user interface is meant to feel like a traditional camera — there is even a mode dial that lets you swap between different modes, such as automatic and manual. The manual mode is a great option as well as the mode dial, but simply rotating the wheel was a sluggish experience.

All of this should be fixed in version 2.0 of the camera, so we’ll have to test it further with our review unit.

Availability and price

The U.S. Kodak Ektra supports GSM networks, so it will only work on AT&T and T-Mobile networks. You can purchase it now at B&H, Amazon, Best Buy, and Kodak’s website for $400.

We’ll be testing the Ektra’s camera extensively, and we’ll check if the update to the camera does indeed greatly improve the experience.

Highs

  • Stock Android
  • Unique design
  • No software hiccups

Lows

  • Thick
  • No optical zoom
  • Still on Android 6.0




23
May

Microsoft Surface Pro (2017): Our first take


Microsoft’s Surface Pro (2017) doesn’t change the 2-in-1’s proven formula for success. 

The launch of the first Surface Pro in 2013 struck a chord. And as Microsoft’s hardware ambitions grew with its early success, it wasn’t long before Surface become a veritable family of devices. The first three years following the Surface Pro’s debut saw the Surface Hub, a digital whiteboard for boardrooms and classroom, and the Surface Book, an ultra-thin laptop with powerful graphics and a detachable keyboard. Then came the Surface Studio, an all-in-one desktop with an adjustable hinge, and the Surface Laptop, one of the first notebooks to run Microsoft’s lightweight Windows 10 S operating system.

But to Microsoft’s credit, it never forgot about the Surface Pro that started it all. And at an event in Shanghai, China on May 23rd, it’ll announce the newest member of the Surface Pro family. The Surface Pro.

It’s the fifth device in the Surface Pro series, but Microsoft, like Apple before it, is simplifying the nomenclature. It wants Surface Pro to be seen as a branch in the growing Surface Pro family —  as something of a compliment to the Surface Hub, Surface Laptop, and Surface Book. It’s fitting, then, that the new Surface Pro isn’t a leap forward in the same way that the first Surface Pro was. Instead, it’s a refinement — a minor, but welcome, iteration on a product that was nearing the end of its life cycle.

It wasn’t broken, so it’s not fixed

The new Surface Pro looks remarkably similar to the Surface Pro 4. Microsoft’s managed to shave a handful of grams and fractions of inches off the Surface’s frame and bezel — it’s 1.69 pounds and 8.5mm thin,   but it won’t be mistaken for an iPad anytime soon.

The Surface Pro’s smooth magnesium metal shell is intact, as are the prongs that magnetically pair the Surface Pro to the Type Cover. No detail’s left to chance — even Surface’s sounds are carefully designed. Microsoft said everything from the”click” the Surface Pro makes when you detach it from the Type Cover, to the mechanical fan’s acoustics, are thoroughly tested, calibrated, and adjusted in the world’s quietest sound lab.

surface pro  hands on review microsoft and penKyle Wiggers/Digital Trends

surface pro  hands on review microsoft and penKyle Wiggers/Digital Trends

surface pro  hands on review microsoft and penKyle Wiggers/Digital Trends

surface pro  hands on review microsoft and penKyle Wiggers/Digital Trends

But not everything on the new Surface Pro’s is unchanged. The 12.3-inch, 2736 x 1824-pixel touchscreen (the same as the Surface Pro 4’s) boasts improved responsiveness, thanks to a combination of hardware acceleration and a thinner glass sheet above the digitizer. The signature Surface kickstand is present and accounted for, but with a rounded edge and a new hinge design that allows the Surface Pro to lie almost completely flat against a table, like an easel.

The lack of major external changes may be controversial. While the Surface Pro is light for a PC, it’s still rather heavy for a tablet. The weight gap between the Surface and iPad is large, and Microsoft’s new model doesn’t do much to change that.

While the Surface Pro is light for a PC, it’s still rather heavy for a tablet.

Some of the biggest changes are on the inside. The new Surface Pro packs Intel’s 7th Generation Core processors, which deliver up to 20 percent better performance than the Surface Pro 4. They’re more energy efficient, too. Thanks to hardware optimization and new energy-saving techniques in the Windows 10 Creator’s update, the average user can expect about 13 hours on a charge, up from the Surface Pro 4’s nine hours.

Microsoft’s also expanding the quieter, passively cooled option for the Surface Pro. Configurations with Intel’s Core i5 processor will ship without a mechanical fan, joining the Core m3 model from the previous generation. It’s a feat for which Microsoft credits the Surface Pro’s new copper heatsink.

LTE connectivity, another first for the Surface series, will ship on pricier Surface Pro models. Microsoft wasn’t willing to say which carriers it’ll support, but promised that more details will be announced at the launch event in May. Otherwise, the new Surface Pro will sport the same specs as its predecessor: 4GB of RAM standard (up to 16GB), and up to 512GB of SSD storage, or 1TB of PCIe NVMe.

The keyboard looks the same, but it’s better

The Type Cover aesthetics are virtually unchanged from last year’s model, down to the luxurious, suede-like Alcantara material bordering the outer edges. But Microsoft says it’s made small adjustments to the Type Cover’s key travel, which we were given a chance to try for ourselves. We briefly pitted the old Surface Pro Type Cover against the new model, and found the keys much less resistive, and more comfortable. It’s a measurably faster typing experience.

Microsoft Surface Pro and Surface Pen 2017
Kyle Wiggers/Digital Trends

Microsoft’s smooth, circular $50 Surface Dial, which debuted with the Surface Studio late last year, will work with the new Surface Pro. It’ll recognize when you stick it to the screen, and assign tactile controls — like zoom level in the Windows Maps app and volume controls in iTunes — contextually, depending on which app you’re using.

A new, upgraded Surface Pen will launch simultaneously with the new Surface Pro later this year. It has 4,096 levels of sensitivity — four times the old Surface Pen’s 1,024 levels of sensitivity. And like the stylus that ships with Samsung’s Galaxy Book, it records tilt. The new Surface Pen recognizes when it’s angled forward or backward along the Surface Pro’s axis.

Surface Pen and Office 365, kissing in a tree

The Pen’s responsiveness has been improved, too. Thanks to system-level tweaks and hardware optimizations, strokes on the Surface Pro’s touchscreen appear the moment the Pen’s tip touches glass.

In Office, the Pen’s newfound capabilities have other tangible benefits. Tilting the stylus forward and backward increases and decreases the stroke’s thickness accordingly, and varying the amount of pressure on the glass affects stroke characteristics. Office’s rainbow brush stroke, for example, cycles between colors more quickly as you apply more downward force.

Strokes on the Surface Pro’s touchscreen appear the moment the Pen’s tip touches glass.

The Pen’s also easier to use with the Ink Editor and Solver, two new quick-edit tools Microsoft announced for Office earlier this year. The stylus’s precision makes highlighting zoomed-out lines of text a lot less arduous than before, and handwritten equations in OneNote are recognized with the help of the Microsoft Graph. Thanks to a combination of optical character recognition (OCR) and machine learning, equations are solved step-by-step inline with the sketches you’ve made.

A new app, Whiteboard, expands on those ideas. Microsoft describes it as a “limiteless canvas” for Windows 10 devices — a blank page with basic tools for sketching just about anything. Microsoft’s imbued Whiteboard with Office’s machine intelligence. If you sketch a triangle, square, or any other recognizable geometric shape, Whiteboard will automatically convert it to a manipulable object that can be resized, rotated, and moved to any position on the canvas. Built-in collaboration tools let other users jump in an contribute — a shrunken-down, circular avatar indicates which scribbles and shapes they’ve added.

Whiteboard won’t launch with the new Surface Pro — it’s in private preview on the Surface Hub, right now, where it’ll remain for the next few months. But Microsoft said it plans to bring it to more devices in the future.

Microsoft Surface Pro and Surface Pen 2017
Kyle Wiggers/Digital Trends

The new Surface Pen also compliments the Surface Pro’s Dial integration. Ink Replay, another recent Office addition, lets you play, rewind, and make changes to a sketch in Word, Office, or Excel by twisting the Dial’s rotating wheel. Microsoft gave the example of learning to draw a Chinese character.

While the new Surface Pen is great, it’s not bundled

In a move that’s sure to generate some controversy, the new Surface Pro won’t ship with the Surface Pen included — a decision Microsoft said it based on user feedback. Only about 30 percent of Surface Pro owners regularly use a stylus, as opposed to the 70 to 75 percent who use the touchscreen, Microsoft said.

Unfortunately, Microsoft’s not passing the cost savings to buyers. The new Surface Pro starts at $800 – same as the Surface Pro 4 at debut. Right now, the base Surface Pro 4 is $700, though it too does not include a stylus.

Microsoft Surface Pro and Surface Pen 2017
Kyle Wiggers/Digital Trends

Omitting the stylus is at odds with the messaging. Judging by what we’ve seen, the new Surface Pen is the real story, here — and Microsoft’s new Pen-optimized Office 365 suite, inking features (i.e., Ink Rewind and Ink Editor), and Whiteboard app are a testament to its commitment in a stylus-driven Windows experience.

That’s not to suggest the new Surface Pro’s improved Type Cover, faster performance, better battery life, and optional LTE aren’t solid improvements. But ever since Microsoft bundled the stylus with the Surface Pro 3, the Surface Pen has become inexorably linked to the Surface Pro’s identity. Excluding the very best version of it from the most refined Surface Pro yet seems like a misstep.

We’ll have to see for ourselves when the Surface Pro launches in June. It’s available for pre-order in platinum, burgundy, and cobalt blue colors starting today, and launches on June 15.

Highs

  • Fanless design option
  • Better Type Cover
  • Improved Surface Pen design
  • New stylus-optimized Office suite

Lows

  • Design changes are minor
  • Surface Pen not included




23
May

The new Surface Pro is boring — and that’s a good thing. Here’s why


Are you bored with the newest Surface Pro, introduced today in Shanghai? Did you find the Surface Laptop, revealed a couple of weeks ago in Microsoft’s education event, a bit underwhelming?

You’re not alone.

The truth is, Microsoft has conditioned us to expect something special from its product announcements with the Surface Book and the Surface Studio. The Surface Studio announcement was so shocking and impactful that its surprisingly inspirational introduction video has garnered over 12 million views on YouTube — more than twice that of Apple’s last MacBook Pro video.

The new Surface Pro, however, is an incremental update to the Surface Pro 4. It offers nothing particularly new or innovative over its successful predecessor. It offers a bump in specifications that comes across as rather pedestrian, particularly in light of new 2-in-1 options available from Asus, Dell, HP, Samsung, and many others.

Microsoft has conditioned us to expect something special from its product announcements.

The Surface Laptop is nothing special, either. It’s thin and light, and it promises good battery life for a machine with a lovely high-resolution display, but there are many other thin and light notebooks with good battery life, and some have better connectivity or better performance.

And let’s face it — when your most notable features are a cloth-covered keyboard tray and a default operating system that reduces functionality, it’s obvious that you’re not trying to bring fresh excitement to the market. Microsoft already did that, and the new machines are proof its strategy has already worked.

Next-generation Surface or stopgap?

Consider what Panay said a couple of weeks ago in an interview with CNET, when asked about the possibility of a Surface Pro 5 arriving soon. “When it’s meaningful and the change is right, we’ll put it on market. Meaningful change isn’t necessarily a hardware change, which is what a lot of people look for. They’re like, ‘Where’s the latest processor?’ That’s not what I mean. I’m looking for an experiential change that makes a huge difference in product line.”

Panay said that major increases in battery life or significant reductions in weight would quality as that sort of “experiential change,” rather than just upgrading the processor. He added, “you’ll see that same meaningful impact when Pro 5, or Pro Next hits the market.” He also said, “there’s no such thing as a Pro 5.”

think the surface pro is boring thats a feature not bug microsoft and penKyle Wiggers/Digital Trends

think the surface pro is boring thats a feature not bug microsoft and penKyle Wiggers/Digital Trends

think the surface pro is boring thats a feature not bug microsoft and penKyle Wiggers/Digital Trends

think the surface pro is boring thats a feature not bug microsoft and penKyle Wiggers/Digital Trends

It’s possible that Panay was talking about the new Surface Pro here, but it’s hard to credit the increase from nine hours of battery life to 13 hours, or the other enhancements in the new machine, as “experiential change.” If this is what he meant, then he was engaging in some serious hyperbole.

Another way to interpret his statement, however, is that we haven’t yet witnessed a real next-generation step for the Surface Pro line. Perhaps we can conclude instead that the new Surface Pro and the Surface Laptop aren’t terribly exciting because they don’t need to be. At the same time, the Surface Book and Surface Studio were exciting – and incredibly and innovative and different — because they had to be.

With the Surface Book and Surface Studio, Microsoft saw a need to push the Windows 10 ecosystem forward in particular areas that manufacturers were neglecting. That may no longer be true for the Surface Pro.

The Surface Pro has completed its mission

The Windows PC ecosystem has never been stronger than it is today. Intel’s Ultrabook initiative and Microsoft’s Surface succeeded in pushing Windows PC makers to up their game. No matter what kind of PC you’re looking for, there’s a Windows PC in the right price range, with the right quality, and with the right performance for just about anybody’s needs.

The new Surface Pro isn’t exciting because it doesn’t need to be.

Windows notebooks are thinner and lighter, they get better battery life while performing better, and they offer build quality that rivals Apple’s MacBook — often at significantly lower price points. There’s a reason why the PC market is starting to stabilize after years of falling sales, and signs point to a return to growth with Windows 2-in-1s and premium Ultrabooks leading the way.

Are the new Surface Pro and Surface Laptop boring? Yes, they are, and that makes perfect sense. Microsoft wants to push the Windows ecosystem forward, but it’s not in the habit of putting its hardware partners out of business. Surface Pro was introduced to make the 2-in-1 a viable design, and it achieved that goal. The new model seems dull only because it’s no longer trying to win the race. Instead, it’s headed for a victory lap.

Growing Windows 10 is the end game

“At the core of the Windows ecosystem today, laptops are the category where we have the most impact on the world,” Microsoft Executive VP Terry Myerson told Time in a recent interview. “We participate in so many categories, from mixed reality to large screens to phones to laptops . . . and laptops are the biggest category. In laptops we saw an opportunity to really try and set a new bar. […] But our goals are to grow the Windows ecosystem.”

We have our own theory about the Surface Laptop, seeing it as a Trojan horse for Microsoft’s new Windows 10S. The idea of “growing the Windows ecosystem” can mean many things, including pushing developers to make more apps that run from the Windows Store.

But the bottom line is the same. The Surface Laptop — like Surface in general — is a way to once again push OEMs to move the Windows ecosystem forward.

Microsoft Surface Pro and Surface Pen 2017
Kyle Wiggers/Digital Trends

We have no idea when we’ll see Microsoft’s next exciting hardware product. Maybe it will be “the ultimate mobile device” that CEO Satya Nadella mentioned last year, or mythical “Surface Phone” that’s sounding more and more like an ARM device running full Windows 10.

In the meantime, we should get used to seeing incremental updates like the Surface Pro, last October’s Surface Book with Performance Base refresh, and niche products like Surface Laptop. Microsoft Surface can continue to be boring, and that’s okay – because Windows PCs have never been better.




23
May

The Surface Pro 4 takes on the brand-new Surface Pro, let’s see who comes out on top


It’s been nearly two years, but today Microsoft finally unveiled a successor to the wildly popular Surface Pro 4 — though it’s not called the Surface Pro 5, but simply “Surface Pro.” While technically the fifth Surface Pro, its of Microsoft’s latest pro-grade tablet is a pared-down naming scheme similar to Apple’s iPad, or Microsoft’s own Surface Book.

So, is the new Surface Pro worth the wait, or is it just another incremental update without any major changes? Let’s dig into the specs just to see what the new Surface Pro is capable of.

Specifications Compared

Surface Pro 4

New Surface Pro

Dimensions
11.50 x 7.93 x 0.33 (in)
11.50 x 7.9 x 0.33 (in)
Weight
 1.6 – 1.73 pounds
1.69 – 1.73 pounds
Processor
 Intel Core m3-6Y30, Intel Core i5-6300U, Intel Core i7-6650U
Intel Core m3-7Y30, Intel Core i5-7300U, Intel Core i7-7660U
RAM
4GB, 8GB, or 16GB
4GB, 8GB, or 16GB
Display
12.3-in PixelSense Display
12.3-in PixelSense Display
Resolution
2,736 x 1,824
2,736 x 1,824
Storage
128GB, 256Gb, 512Gb, 1TB SSD
128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB SSD
Networking
802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2
802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2
Ports
1x USB Type-A, Surface Connect, 3.5mm headphone jack, Mini DisplayPort, microSD card reader
1x USB Type-A, Surface Connect, 3.5mm headphone jack, Mini DisplayPort, microSDXC card reader
Webcam
Windows Hello face sign-in camera, 5.0MP 1080p front-facing camera, 8.0MP 1080p rear-facing autofocus camera
Windows Hello face sign-in camera, 5.0MP 1080p front-facing camera, 8.0MP 1080p rear-facing autofocus camera
Operating System
Windows 10
Windows 10
Battery
Up to 9 hours
Up to 13.5 hours
Price
$700+
$800+
Availability
Available now
Available June 15, 2017
Review
8 out of 10
Hands-on

Not quite identical

Just looking at the specs, it’s clear that this is an incremental update rather than a radical redesign. Microsoft updated the Surface Pro’s CPU lineup to include Intel’s latest 7th-generation “Kaby Lake” processors, but there’s more to the new Surface Pro than meets the eye.

Inside, Microsoft has revamped the cooling system to make the internal fans quieter, and for one Surface Pro model, eliminate them entirely. That’s right: The Intel Core m3 and Intel Core i5 models are actually fan-less, relying only on clever thermal management to keep cool. With the Surface Pro 4, that was true only for the m3 version.

Microsoft claims even the Intel Core i7 Surface Pro model leverages advancements in thermal management to run faster and quieter, despite internal cooling fans. Battery life has also improved, up to 13.5 hours from the Pro 4’s 9 hours.

Otherwise, the new Surface Pro features the same storage and RAM options as the Surface Pro 4, and even the display is the same.

Refined and refreshed

Microsoft claims the new Surface Pro has received a complete, top-to-bottom “mechanical re-engineering.” Internally, the new Surface Pro features a few updated internal components, but the exterior remains relatively unchanged. The dimensions are the same, the weight is a little different, and visually both the Surface Pro 4 and new Surface Pro appear nearly identical.

There are a few small changes, though, such as the keyboard. While the original Surface Pro 4’s detachable keyboard cover was solid, it felt a little stiff. The new keyboard cover, while it looks almost identical to the previous model, features improved key travel, which makes the overall typing experience much less tiresome. The new keys have nice travel — sinking a little deeper than before — and provide less resistance.

Additionally, the new Surface Pro offers full support for the Surface Dial — that fancy peripheral designed for use with the Surface Studio. Anything the Studio can do with the dial, now the Surface Pro can do. It’s a welcome addition, particularly if you already own a Studio, but the Dial itself doesn’t shine quite as brightly as it does on the Surface Studio’s generous display. Placing the Dial on a 12.3-inch display ends up occluding your view significantly, so it does its best work on a desk right beside the Surface Pro.

These aren’t major changes on their own, but they contribute to an overall improvement to the Surface Pro’s user experience, as Microsoft continues to refine the Surface Pro formula.

So, which one should you buy?

That might seem like a tough question given their similarities, but the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Pro are also remarkably similar in one very important respect: Price. The Surface Pro 4 starts at $700, while the new Surface Pro starts at $800. That’s not a big margin, and while the two products are remarkably similar, the new Surface Pro has enough of a leg up on the old Surface Pro 4 that it’s definitely the one you should go with if you’re on the fence.




23
May

The Surface Pro 4 takes on the brand-new Surface Pro, let’s see who comes out on top


It’s been nearly two years, but today Microsoft finally unveiled a successor to the wildly popular Surface Pro 4 — though it’s not called the Surface Pro 5, but simply “Surface Pro.” While technically the fifth Surface Pro, its of Microsoft’s latest pro-grade tablet is a pared-down naming scheme similar to Apple’s iPad, or Microsoft’s own Surface Book.

So, is the new Surface Pro worth the wait, or is it just another incremental update without any major changes? Let’s dig into the specs just to see what the new Surface Pro is capable of.

Specifications Compared

Surface Pro 4

New Surface Pro

Dimensions
11.50 x 7.93 x 0.33 (in)
11.50 x 7.9 x 0.33 (in)
Weight
 1.6 – 1.73 pounds
1.69 – 1.73 pounds
Processor
 Intel Core m3-6Y30, Intel Core i5-6300U, Intel Core i7-6650U
Intel Core m3-7Y30, Intel Core i5-7300U, Intel Core i7-7660U
RAM
4GB, 8GB, or 16GB
4GB, 8GB, or 16GB
Display
12.3-in PixelSense Display
12.3-in PixelSense Display
Resolution
2,736 x 1,824
2,736 x 1,824
Storage
128GB, 256Gb, 512Gb, 1TB SSD
128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB SSD
Networking
802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2
802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2
Ports
1x USB Type-A, Surface Connect, 3.5mm headphone jack, Mini DisplayPort, microSD card reader
1x USB Type-A, Surface Connect, 3.5mm headphone jack, Mini DisplayPort, microSDXC card reader
Webcam
Windows Hello face sign-in camera, 5.0MP 1080p front-facing camera, 8.0MP 1080p rear-facing autofocus camera
Windows Hello face sign-in camera, 5.0MP 1080p front-facing camera, 8.0MP 1080p rear-facing autofocus camera
Operating System
Windows 10
Windows 10
Battery
Up to 9 hours
Up to 13.5 hours
Price
$700+
$800+
Availability
Available now
Available June 15, 2017
Review
8 out of 10
Hands-on

Not quite identical

Just looking at the specs, it’s clear that this is an incremental update rather than a radical redesign. Microsoft updated the Surface Pro’s CPU lineup to include Intel’s latest 7th-generation “Kaby Lake” processors, but there’s more to the new Surface Pro than meets the eye.

Inside, Microsoft has revamped the cooling system to make the internal fans quieter, and for one Surface Pro model, eliminate them entirely. That’s right: The Intel Core m3 and Intel Core i5 models are actually fan-less, relying only on clever thermal management to keep cool. With the Surface Pro 4, that was true only for the m3 version.

Microsoft claims even the Intel Core i7 Surface Pro model leverages advancements in thermal management to run faster and quieter, despite internal cooling fans. Battery life has also improved, up to 13.5 hours from the Pro 4’s 9 hours.

Otherwise, the new Surface Pro features the same storage and RAM options as the Surface Pro 4, and even the display is the same.

Refined and refreshed

Microsoft claims the new Surface Pro has received a complete, top-to-bottom “mechanical re-engineering.” Internally, the new Surface Pro features a few updated internal components, but the exterior remains relatively unchanged. The dimensions are the same, the weight is a little different, and visually both the Surface Pro 4 and new Surface Pro appear nearly identical.

There are a few small changes, though, such as the keyboard. While the original Surface Pro 4’s detachable keyboard cover was solid, it felt a little stiff. The new keyboard cover, while it looks almost identical to the previous model, features improved key travel, which makes the overall typing experience much less tiresome. The new keys have nice travel — sinking a little deeper than before — and provide less resistance.

Additionally, the new Surface Pro offers full support for the Surface Dial — that fancy peripheral designed for use with the Surface Studio. Anything the Studio can do with the dial, now the Surface Pro can do. It’s a welcome addition, particularly if you already own a Studio, but the Dial itself doesn’t shine quite as brightly as it does on the Surface Studio’s generous display. Placing the Dial on a 12.3-inch display ends up occluding your view significantly, so it does its best work on a desk right beside the Surface Pro.

These aren’t major changes on their own, but they contribute to an overall improvement to the Surface Pro’s user experience, as Microsoft continues to refine the Surface Pro formula.

So, which one should you buy?

That might seem like a tough question given their similarities, but the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Pro are also remarkably similar in one very important respect: Price. The Surface Pro 4 starts at $700, while the new Surface Pro starts at $800. That’s not a big margin, and while the two products are remarkably similar, the new Surface Pro has enough of a leg up on the old Surface Pro 4 that it’s definitely the one you should go with if you’re on the fence.




23
May

Huawei’s Matebook X: Our first take


The thin, light, and powerful Matebook X is one of the most ambitious laptops we’ve seen this year.

Huawei, the Shenzhen, China-based company behind the P10, Huawei Watch, the MediaPad M3, and a cavalcade of other mobile hardware, is a relative newcomer to PCs. Last year’s 2-in-1 Matebook, which packed Windows 10, an iPad-inspired aluminum unibody, and a full chicklet keyboard, marked the company’s first foray into premium computing.

The Matebook X is a traditional, all-metal laptop that boasts a thin frame, narrow bezels, and Dolby-optimized audio.

It didn’t make for a great first impression, unfortunately. The Matebook’s $700 asking price pitted it squarely against incumbents like the Surface Pro 4, and color accuracy and hard drive problems marred otherwise great hardware.

But Huawei’s nothing if not persistent. This year it’s back with the Matebook X, a traditional, all-metal laptop that boasts a thin frame, narrow bezels, and Dolby-optimized audio. Whether that’s enough to best standard-bearers like Apple, Dell, Microsoft will depend in large part on its pricing, which Huawei has yet to announce. But regardless, it looks like a stronger showing than the company’s first event.

As light and thin as a feather

The first thing you’ll notice about the 13-inch Matebook X is its slimness. Altogether, the laptop’s body measures 12mm thick and weighs 2.31 pounds — about a hair thinner and heavier than the incredibly compact LG Gram (12.7mm, and 2.4 pounds).

That’s all thanks to a fanless design that’s consistent across configurations. Even the most powerful Matebook X model, which packs Intel’s 7th Generation Core i7 processor, ships with a heat-dissipating backplate engineered by Huawei’s phone design team.


Kyle Wiggers/Digital Trends

Huawei said the Matebook X will launch in several flavors when it ships later this year. Storage and memory will start at 128GB and 4GB of RAM, up to a maximum of 512GB and 8GB. Core i5 models will be available, too, but only in select markets. Huawei says it will share more information soon.

All configurations will include the same inputs — a 3.5mm audio jack, two USB-C connectors (one on the right and on on the left), and a proprietary charging port. Battery life is quoted at 10 hours on a charge. Keep in mind that manufacturer estimates tend to be high, so real-world use will likely drain the battery more quickly.

Thin bezels steal the show

Just as impressive are its display bezels, which Huawei said are the narrowest on the market. The border between the Matebook X’s screen and edge measures 4.4mm, almost a full millimeter thinner than the bezels on the Dell XPS 13’s Infinity Display (5.2mm). In our brief time with it, we were impressed by the screen’s brightness. It’s a 2K (2,160 x 1,440) non-touch panel that’s vibrant both outdoors and in, though it’s a little prone to glare.

The Matebook X’s backlit, chicklet-style keyboard feels as good as its vibrant screen looks.

The Matebook X’s keyboard feels as good as the screen looks. The backlit, chicklet-style keys are something of a cross between the Microsoft’s Surface Type Cover and the Macbook Pro. They also accommodate a fingerprint sensor that supports Windows Hello authentication. Huawei says that multiple users can save profiles, settings, and pick up where they left off by swiping their finger across the sensor.

Not everything is perfect, though. The Matebook X’s aesthetics aren’t quite a match for its industrial design. Aside from its thin display bezels, we saw little to distinguish it from the dozens of the similarly thin, lightweight Ultrabooks already available. Choice of color is limited, too. U.S. buyers can only pick between gold and grey (a third option, rose gold, will be exclusive to China).

Dolby Atmos crammed into a tiny chassis

Huawei tapped Dolby’s expertise to optimize the Matebook X’s speakers. It’s the world’s second laptop with the Atmos Sound System, a combination of software-based equalization and custom speakers. Dolby engineers worked on “all aspects” of the Matebook X’s audio system, Huawei said, down to the size and placement of the speaker grills. And they collaborated with Huawei engineers on a unique “dual motor” design that’s purportedly much louder and crisper than standard, off-the-shelf laptop speakers.

huawei matebook x hands on review imgKyle Wiggers/Digital Trends

huawei matebook x hands on review first takeKyle Wiggers/Digital Trends

huawei matebook x hands on review imgKyle Wiggers/Digital Trends

huawei matebook x hands on review img

In a one-on-one demo with a company rep, we watched a clip from Mad Max: Fury Road with the Dolby Atmos app’s “Dynamic” mode enabled. Even beneath a whirring fan in a bustling hotel room, we were able to make out speech and dialogue easily. It won’t blow away a decent Bluetooth speaker, as the loudness of mid-range frequencies seemed a little inconsistent, and bass pretty much nonexistent (Huawei wasn’t able to stuff a subwoofer in the Matebook X’s tiny frame). But it’ll do in a pinch.

A free dock is hard to knock

All buyers get the Matebook Dock 2.0, a slimmer, enhanced version of Huawei’s first-gen USB-C dock. It offers a USB-C port for power, a VGA connector for video out, and an HDMI port, and can connect to a monitor and charge the Matebook X at the same. This inclusion is appreciated, as a good dock with similar ports can cost $50 to $100.

The Matebook X will also shipping with Huawei’s Smart Charger, a wall adapter that automatically optimizes voltage for plugged-in devices. Thanks to support for rapid charging, it can charge the Matebook X up to 45 percent in 15 minutes, Huawei said.

We’ll need to spend a little more time with the Matebook X before we can pass judgement, but our initial impression is quite positive. It might not be the most attractive laptop on the block, but it’s one of thinnest, lightest, loudest, and brightest. We’re eager to see how it holds up day-to-day.

Highs

  • Extremely light
  • Fanless, even with the Core i7
  • World’s thinnest display bezels
  • Dolby Atmos Sound System

Lows

  • Generic design
  • Plenty of screen glare
  • Atmos-powered speakers didn’t impress




23
May

Our Siri guide: How to merge your life with Apple’s witty virtual assistant


Updated on 5-19-2017 by Kyree Leary to include updated text and new screenshots.

Touch is so 2011. Apple helped kick off the voice-control movement with Siri in 2011, when it first released the iPhone 4S to the masses. Apple’s virtual assistant ties together a range of voice commands and wraps them in a comic personality adorned with your accent of choice. Siri can take dictation for messages, put appointments in your calendar, tell you the latest scores, or give you directions to the nearest Thai restaurant.

Siri is built into the iOS platform and capable of using Apple’s lineup of apps, which includes everything from Music and iMessage, to Calendar and Maps. It can also pull answers from Google, Bing, Yahoo, and Wikipedia, and unlike Google Now, Siri does not pre-empt your needs — it waits for instructions and responds to your commands. The recently-released Google Assistant is now Siri’s biggest competition, but Siri can rest easy knowing it’s the only virtual assistant with full integration on every iOS platform.

Setting Siri up

You will be asked if you want to enable Siri when you first set up of your new iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. If you didn’t enable it, head into Settings > Siri and toggle it on. You will also find options for setting your language and changing the gender of Siri’s voice, along with options for determining when you want voice feedback and enabling the Hey Siri feature. Keep in mind that Siri requires a Wi-Fi or cellular connection to work.

To launch Siri, press and hold the Home button until you see the multi-colored bar pop up at the bottom of your display. If you toggled Hey Siri on, then you’ll also be able to launch Siri whenever your iPhone’s screen is on — assuming you have an iPhone 6S or later — by simply saying “Hey Siri” followed by your question or command. If you’re using an earlier model, your device will need to be plugged in to a power source in order to access the convenient feature.

If you’re using iOS 10, then you’ll see a question mark in the bottom left of the screen when Siri is active. Tap the question mark for a list of commands that Siri can understand. You can also just say “options” or ask “What can you do?” to get the list of possibilities.

Configuring and correcting Siri

Believe it or not, Siri is capable of remembering your relationships with different contacts. This means that you can say things like “Call Mom” or “Send a message to my wife,” and Siri will know who you mean, so long as you set it up first. The quickest way to set this up is to head into Contacts and select your own name and tap Edit in the upper-right corner. Scroll down and you’ll find a section called “add related name,” where you can specify contacts. Then, tap the addition icon, which will allow you to adjust the relationship label. If you tap the “i” icon, you can set a previously-made contact to it.

You can also specify your relationships with Siri directly. Start Siri up with the Home button and say “Steven Hill is my brother” and you’ll get the option to add the relationship. If you say “Call my brother,” and you haven’t specified it previously, then Siri will ask you who your brother is, and you can choose a contact.

It can be annoying when Siri doesn’t pronounce names correctly, but you can do something about that. Start Siri, say “That’s not how you pronounce Steven,” and Siri will ask you how to pronounce it, and then give you a couple of options to choose from. You can also go into Contacts, select the one you want, tap Add Field, and choose Phonetic First Name or Phonetic Last Name.

Using Siri

You can ask Siri to find all sorts of information for you, set up appointments, send messages, and carry out a host of other useful tasks. All you need to do is start Siri up and ask for what you need. If Siri doesn’t understand your command or question, it will try to question you and narrow your request. Here’s a brief list of some of the things you can command or ask:

  • “Call my wife at home.”
  • “Set up a meeting with Jeff at 9 a.m. tomorrow.”
  • “Where’s my next appointment?”
  • “What day is it?”
  • “Email Dad about the football game.”
  • “How do I get home?”
  • “Find a Thai restaurant nearby.”
  • “Play Sabotage.”
  • “Open Facebook.”
  • “Remind me to buy milk when I leave work.”
  • “What’s the weather like tomorrow?”
  • “Turn off Bluetooth””
  • “Who directed The Shining?”
  • “When do the Giants play next?”
  • “How far away is the moon?”

Siri can understand some conversational commands and it has a basic grasp of context, so if you say something like “Find a Thai restaurant nearby,” then you can say something like “how about Mexican?” next and it will search for nearby Mexican restaurants. This doesn’t work for everything, however.

Edit your text

If Siri hears you incorrectly, then you can always repeat your command or question. You can also tap the relevant text in the speech bubble and edit your request or question. You’ll see a line under words that it thinks might be wrong, and you can tap those to get some quick auto-correct suggestions. You can also dictate punctuation in messages, notes, or any app that uses a keyboard. You can enable the dictation feature by going to Settings > General > Keyboard and toggling “Enable Dictation.” Then, instead of typing, tap the microphone next to the space bar, say “comma” or “period,” and Siri will put it in.

Not as great outside the United States

You should generally find that Siri improves over time and gets better at understanding you, though, there’s no doubt it struggles with some accents more than others. It’s also worth pointing out that not all of Siri’s features are available outside of the United States.

Tell it to “Google this” to avoid Bing

When you search for information online, you’ll also find that Bing is the default search engine. You currently can’t change this, but you can say “Google the best iPhone apps” and it will search using Google instead of Bing. The same thing will work with Yahoo or Wikipedia, and you can also ask Siri to search Twitter as well.

It’s worth experimenting with questions and phrases to see what you can find because there are a few comic replies in there if you say things like “Hey Computer” or ask “What is zero divided by zero?” We recently asked Siri a number of things and discovered the virtual helper has a keener sense of humor than we initially thought.

Before we wrap up this section, it’s worth mentioning that you can ask Siri questions like “Where’s my daughter?” or “Is my wife at home?” If you want to keep tabs on your family at all times, then you can use Apple’s Find My iPhone service. The app also allows you to track family members and set alerts for when people get to specific locations, which can be particularly useful for parents. The feature doesn’t always work perfectly, but if it works for you, it can provide real peace of mind.

The future of Siri

Siri has been improving steadily since its first release, and the latest iteration is definitely the best we’ve seen thus far. It’s faster, more accurate, and has an expanding repertoire of tricks that grows with each new iteration of iOS. Previous versions of mobile OS improved the assistant’s pronunciation, and gave it the ability to launch apps and read your emails out loud. Now the assistant can help you send texts hands-free, add punctuation through dictation, call a Lyft, or initiate a Skype call.

It’s tough to predict how good Siri will get. It can already do so much, but the point of Siri is to make our everyday lives easier, and the best way to improve that is by making sure it understands people, allowing it to avoid mistakes caused by simple misunderstandings. Beyond that, being able to interact with more third-party apps and hardware would be greatly appreciated. Perhaps Apple will one day open Siri to everyone, allowing developers to implement new features, voices, questions, and commands at a faster rate. Imagine a future version of Siri that no longer needs the “Hey Siri” prompt, or requires you to hold down the Home button.

While it’s far from perfect, Siri can be an incredibly useful tool, and it’s becoming a part of daily life for many. It may even be on par with Tony Stark’s J.A.R.V.I.S. one day — who knows?




23
May

Microsoft’s Surface Pro vs. Samsung’s Galaxy Book: Can the student become the master?


Coming to existence on basically the same day, it’s all too easy to compare the 2017 update to the Microsoft Surface Pro 5 and Samsung’s brand new Galaxy Book.

Both pack all their power into the tablet, for completely detachable computing, and feature premium keyboards, active styli, and high-resolution panels

As you start to draw them out, though, the differences become more dramatic. Importantly, the Surface Pro offers more under-the-hood variations, while the Galaxy Book is available in different physical sizes. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s break it down and see how these two devices compare on paper.

Specifications

Surface Pro (2017)

Microsoft Surface Pro and Surface Pen 2017

Samsung Galaxy Book

Dimensions
11.50 x 7.9 x .33 inches
10.3 x 7.1 x .35 inches

11.5 x 7.7 x .29 inches

Weight
1.69 – 1.73 pounds
1.43 – 1.66 pounds
Processor
7th Generation Intel Core m3-7Y30, i5-7300U, i7-7660U
7th Generation Intel Core m3 or Core i5-7200U
RAM
4GB, 8GB, or 16GB LPDDR3
4GB or 8GB
Display
12.3-inch PixelSense Display, 10-point touch
12-inch Super AMOLED
Resolution
2,736 x 1,824
Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) or FHD+ (2,160 x 1,440)
Storage
128GB, 256GB, 512GB standard SSD, 1TB PCIe NVMe
64GB, 128GB eMMC, or 128GB, 256GB SSD
Networking
802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.1, optional LTE
802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.1, optional LTE
Ports
1 x USB 3.0, MicroSDXC, Surface Connect, 3.5mm Headphone, Mini DisplayPort
2 x USB 3.1 Type-C, MicroSD, 3.5mm headphone jack
Webcam
5.0MP Front-facing camera with Windows Hello

8.0MP Rear-facing camera

5.0MP Front-facing camera

13MP Rear-facing camera

Operating System
Windows 10
Windows 10
Quoted battery
13.5 hours
9 – 11 hours
Price
$799+
$629+
Availability
June 15, 2017
Available now (some configurations)
Review
Hands-on
Hands-on

Take the tablet with you

Both systems separate completely from their keyboards, for a portable, touchscreen-based experience. As we’ve seen over numerous products, putting together a system that accomplishes that naturally is no small feat. There are battery life, performance, heat, and even weight distribution considerations, each of which can take a 2-in-1 from best in show to impossible to recommend.

Microsoft has continued to revamp its signature product, and things have improved, but there’s still work to be done. The kickstand in the back isn’t exactly robust, which makes using it on a lap with the keyboard close to impossible. On the other hand, the system is built from gorgeous, tough materials, while still coming in under a lighter-than-ever two pounds.

Samsung, meanwhile, has also stuck to the script design-wise, favoring lightweight materials that look slick over those that feel particularly sturdy. It pays off in tablet use, where it cuts under even the Surface Pro’s light weight, although the kickstand is built into the keyboard, which feels awkward. There are actually two Galaxy Book models, a 10-inch and 12-inch version, but both are nearly identical otherwise. At least it gives users more options.

Personal preference will make a big play here, but we tend to think, at least from previous Surface devices, that Microsoft has the recipe boiled down for the computing market, where Samsung tends to borrow too much from its admittedly-successful mobile devices.

Winner: Surface Pro

Plug shortage

While botch machines may occupy a similar footprint, their connectivity options couldn’t be more different. Microsoft still hasn’t caught onto the Type-C bandwagon, opting instead for a lone 3.0 Type-A port, a Mini DisplayPort for video out. That’s not exactly archaic, but it isn’t cutting-edge for a brand new device. The Samsung includes two USB 3.1 Type-C ports, plus the requisite 3.5mm headphone jack.

That gives the Samsung a number of advantages. The system charges over USB Type-C, and the extra port means twice the peripherals, to put it simply. It’s also a more versatile port, with a higher total bandwidth.

Both systems pack in identical wireless options, although LTE isn’t available in the 10-inch Galaxy Book.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Book

A performance variety show

The new Surface Pro’s top-end configuration packs a Seventh Generation Intel Core i7-7660U, but that’s far from the end of the performance story. The base models both feature Intel Core M chips, which have progressed over the last few years into more substantial offerings. We appreciate both their decent performance in everyday tasks, as well as their positive effect on battery life.

Samsung’s device also offers Core M and Core i5 chips, but no Core i7 is available. Maximum RAM tops out at 8GB, as well. While the Galaxy Book with Core i5 and 8GB is more than adequate for most people, hardcore power users will desire more. If you’re looking for a real runner, the Surface Pro may be the only option.

Winner: Microsoft Surface Pro

Two solid displays, but a clear winner

With one foot in the tablet world, both of these screens need clear, bright, high-resolution displays to function away from their keyboards, and both deliver. Samsung has opted for a 1,920 x 1,080 Super AMOLED panel on the smaller Galaxy Book, and a 2,160 x 1,440 Super AMOLED on the larger version. These screens have great black levels, and wide viewing angles, which makes for excellent movie watching. Both versions feature full touchscreen support, and active styli, an area familiar to both manufacturers.

Microsoft Surface Pro and Surface Pen 2017

Microsoft once again steals the show with its 12.3-inch PixelSense display, or at least it should. Previous iterations in the Surface Pro, Surface Studio, and Surface Pro 4 have impressed us with deep contrast, beautiful color reproduction, and very high pixel density. Combined with the excellent, sturdy Surface Pen and the Surface Dial, and the fact the higher-resolution panel is available on every model, Microsoft’s offering looks solid.

Both the Galaxy Book and Microsoft Surface Pro are packing redesigned type covers this time around, and both have lofty claims about how comfortable and revolutionary they are. We’ll reserve judgement until we’ve got a chance to spend time with both.

Winner: Tie

All-day portability, either way

Both systems make long claims for battery life, and as we know all too well, they rarely come anywhere near those manufacturer promises. Microsoft hasn’t shared an actual battery size for this year’s Surface Pro, so we’re only left with a few facts to educate us about potential longevity.

For one, both systems are almost identically sized — at least when comparing the 12-inch Galaxy Book to the Surface Pro — so their batteries are likely to be close to the same size as well, with the larger Samsung holding a 39.04Wh battery. The Samsung’s Super AMOLED screen is built with mobile devices in mind, so it should be more battery efficient than the Surface’s bright PixelSense display. However, the Samsung quotes a lower 9-11 hour battery life. Whether Microsoft is more boastful, or the Samsung hides a dark secret, will have to wait until we have a chance to test both systems in-house under identical conditions.

Winner: Tie

Pricing and availability

The Samsung starts at $629, and for that, users will receive a somewhat watered-down version of the Galaxy Book, with a Core m3, 4GB of RAM, an eMMC SSD, and a 1080p panel. The 12-inch version, on the other hand, starts at $1,130, with an Intel Core i5, a full-fledged SSD, and the higher-resolution panel.

Microsoft Surface Pro and Surface Pen 2017

The Surface Pro’s starting price point is about $150 higher than the Galaxy Book, but the value is a bit better. It already packs in the PixelSense panel, and a PCIe NVMe drive. It’s worth noting that neither device includes a keyboard or active stylus, so users will have to buy those or their own, adding to the price considerably.

Winner: Microsoft Surface Pro

Conclusion

There’s a lot more to building a successful 2-in-1 than just winning on paper, and Samsung and Microsoft both know it. Battery life is a major factor for the category, and only performance testing will reveal any great truths about either of these system’s endurance. Ergonomics, and the keyboard options, remain mysteries as well, at least for now.

The 2-in-1 category grows ever more refined with each generation, and the Samsung Galaxy Book and Surface Pro for 2017 are both solid offerings facing down some tricky problems with considerable courage. The Redmond team has considerable experience in this area, and it ultimately leads to a victory for the Surface Book, at least on paper.




23
May

There’s finally a pillow designed specifically with side-sleepers in mind


Why it matters to you

Getting a good night’s sleep can be hard when your pillow won’t cooperate. But now, there’s a smart pillow that will always be exactly how you want it.

Whether you’re the big spoon or little spoon, your side needs some loving in your sleep. That is, the side of your head. Alas, the majority of the pillows currently on the market aren’t exactly designed with us side-sleepers in mind, leading to long nights of fluffing, re-fluffing, adjusting, and re-adjusting in vain. But soon, you’ll fluff no more. Meet the SleepSmart Pillow, an adjustable pillow meant for people who don’t sleep on their backs on on their stomachs, but rather, on one side.

The SleepSmart team tells Digital Trends that this new pillow is the first to be designed with both a comfort layer and an easily adjustable support layer, which allows you to set the pillow at just the right height for your neck. The pillow was designed after more than 1,000 interviews with side sleepers, who aired their grievances with existing pillows that don’t quite support their heads they way they ought to. And many of these grievances resonated with SleepSmart creator, Brandon Larson.

“I got fed up with sleep solutions on the market, especially the tech, so I built SleepSmart with an inventor/engineer friend of mine, who was also frustrated with pillow options on the market,” Larson told Digital Trends. “We developed a pillow that quickly and easily adjusts its height. It has both a comfort layer and an adjustable support layer so people don’t have to compromise when trying to find a pillow.”

So how does the support layer work? As Larson explains, a “bladder” located inside the pillow allows air to travel in and out depending on where you place your head. This increases or decreases the support height into the optimal position for your unique sleeping position.

But being adjustable isn’t the only thing that sets the SleepSmart apart. Rather, this smart pillow comes with a companion app that helps you monitor your sleep, or wakes you up with a vibration alarm. “We went back to basics [in designing the app],” Larson told us. “The apps tracks only what is fundamentally the most important for sleep tracking — sleep duration, consistency habits, and lifestyle context. The goal is to provide user with awareness so they can understand how life affects sleeps and vice versa.” 

So if you’re in need of a good night’s sleep as a side sleeper, this may be the pillow for you. You can pre-order one now from Kickstarter for $100, with an expected shipment date of December 2017.




%d bloggers like this: