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Alcatel’s 2018 phone lineup features a budget phone with an 18:9 display

It looks like TCL’s Alcatel is gearing up for a pretty big year. The company took an opportunity at CES 2018 to unveil three of its upcoming new phones — the Alcatel 5 Series, Alcatel 3 Series, and Alcatel 1 Series. We’ll have more details about the phones at Mobile World Congress at the end of February, but here’s everything we know about the phones so far.

Alcatel 5 Series

The Alcatel 5 Series seems to be the company’s big “affordable flagship” phone for the year, and the company says it “represents Alcatel’s affordable premium tier of phones.” Alcatel says it will deliver the same features users want from a flagship phone, but at a much lower price. We managed to check out the phone for ourselves at CES 2018, and while the design wasn’t groundbreaking in any way, it did seem like Alcatel was taking a step in the right direction by adopting more modern design trends.

The device features a somewhat blocky design but seems pretty thin, with a large fingerprint sensor and camera sensor on the back. The corners on the device are a little sharper than many other modern phones, and it seems to make the phone look slightly dated. The real standout feature is the lack of bezels on the bottom and sides, which is a very nice touch. The phone was previously leaked online by Evan Blass.

What Alcatel means when it says it’s offering an “affordable flagship phone” remains to be seen. Most of the time, when phone makers unveil an “affordable flagship phone,” there’s some kind of trade-off. The company mentioned in a press release that the 5 Series will offer an 18:9 aspect ratio, and face unlock — though those alone certainly don’t make a flagship phone. Processing power, camera quality, and so on will all be important factors to consider.

Alcatel 3 Series

The 3 Series looks to be the company’s new midrange phone, but Alcatel says it will still offer some premium features, like dual cameras, a beautiful design, and a display with an 18:9 aspect ratio.

When it comes to the design, the device features a display with beautifully rounded corners, which we quite like. It looks pretty similar to the Google Pixel 2 XL. On the back, you’ll find a vertically aligned dual-sensor camera, as well as a fingerprint sensor. It’s interesting that this phone features a dual-lens camera while the Series 5 doesn’t — though as Google proved with the Pixel 2, features like portrait mode don’t necessarily always require two camera lenses.

Alcatel 1 Series

Last but not least is the Alcatel 1 Series, which is the most affordable device of the bunch. Alcatel says it will also offer an 18:9 display and face unlock — so it looks like Alcatel is trying to build a uniform lineup of phones that offer a similar design and overall experience no matter which device you get.

As far as design goes, the 1 Series does away with the rounded corners on the display, a fingerprint sensor on the back, and the dual-lens camera. Depending on the price, however, that may not matter.

There’s still a lot we don’t know about the phones, but again, Alcatel says we’ll hear more come MWC. These initial features seem promising, and they could help make Alcatel’s lineup much more modern. Past Alcatel phones, like the Idol 5, have a lot to offer — but in our reviews, we noted that they simply did not compete with better devices in their price range.

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BlackBerry capitalizes on 2017’s surprising success with new Bronze Edition KeyOne

BlackBerry will launch two new smartphones this year that are not based on the existing KeyOne or Motion, and both will have physical keyboards. It has also added a third revision of the existing KeyOne to its lineup, in response to massive demand for the phone. Digital Trends sat down with Gareth Hurn, BlackBerry’s global head of device portfolio, to talk about the coming year for the company, and the influence the past year has had on its plans. It’s still too early for Hurn to talk specifics about the forthcoming new phones, but he did give us a few hints.

“There’s mileage to innovate further on the keyboard,” he told us. BlackBerry wants it to be seen as a modern alternative to a touchscreen, and not just a retro piece of tech for the nostalgic. Evidence of this can already be seen in the KeyOne, ranging from the customizable shortcuts that can be assigned to each key, to the entire keyboard working like a capacitive touch panel, adding convenience and functionality.

BlackBerry underestimated KeyOne demand by 50 percent.

“We’re paying attention to the feedback we’ve got from the KeyOne,” Hurn continued, adding that it has been very positive. “There are some things that could still be done even better, and we’re excited to evolve the keyboard further.”

“It’s not for everyone,” Hurn admitted, “but people are seeing the benefits and there’s interest in owning something different.”

The keyboard helped bring people back to BlackBerry, Hurn said, but it was the longer battery life that impressed many of them, particularly younger people who may have never owned a BlackBerry before. BlackBerry’s taking a different approach to the competition by emphasising the KeyOne’s long battery life (two days, approximately), rather than fast charging, as a way to stay connected for longer. The KeyOne still has quick-charge technology, but the company believes the real-world benefits of a phone that’s not plugged into a charger are greater.

Dual-SIM KeyOne Bronze Edition

BlackBerry launched the KeyOne in February 2017, and the initial plan was to sell it in around 10 to 15 markets. Less than a year later, it’s sold in more than 50 markets, and through 120 carriers globally. Hurn said BlackBerry underestimated demand by 50 percent, and called the period after its launch, “a roller coaster,” as the team came together and it learned to better manage the supply chain.

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

It’s now adding a third model to the range, following the original silver version and the black special edition that came in September. The new KeyOne Bronze Edition has a bronze finish and a dual-SIM configuration. It will be sold in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, where demand for dual-SIM phones is higher. The price hasn’t been finalized yet, but will be around same $550 cost of the Black Edition, due to it matching the higher 6GB/64GB specification. The phone will launch before the end of March.

In addition to the KeyOne Bronze Edition, the touchscreen BlackBerry Motion is coming to the United States through Amazon and Best Buy, where the unlocked phone will be sold for $450 starting January 12. The Android-based phones will also receive a software update to Android 8.0 Oreo before the end of the summer, which will include new features and security enhancements.

BlackBerry déjà vu

BlackBerry is brimming with confidence going into 2018. What’s fascinating is how parallels can be drawn between its sudden resurgence and Research in Motion’s original meteoric rise nearly two decades ago. When it was called Research in Motion, it created mobile devices with three key principles in mind — a physical keyboard, great battery life, and security. Co-CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis both ridiculed the first few generations of iPhone for terrible battery life. At the same time, the Apple phone slowly obliterated the company’s market share. This hubris was part of Research in Motion and BlackBerry’s downfall.

“There’s mileage to innovate further on the keyboard.”

Interestingly, those same ideals are being brought back into play with a contemporary twist —privacy instead of security, messaging speed over productivity, for example — by a reinvigorated, confident BlackBerry, and they’re resonating with not only BlackBerry fans but newcomers, too. When BlackBerry phones became a must-have in the late 1990s, Research in Motion couldn’t make enough to keep up with demand. In 2017, the KeyOne similarly took the company by surprise, and is now sold in three times the amount of places than was originally intended.

The smartphone world is a very different place than it was when Research in Motion was changing the game. It failed to react to later changes, and paid a heavy price. Under TCL Communications and CEO John Chen’s guidance, BlackBerry has shrewdly recognized how the game hasn’t really changed at all, and is this time ensuring it doesn’t make the same mistake twice.

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The Array smart deadbolt hopes to make fiddling with keys a thing of the past

Keys are proving to be a thing of the past at CES 2018, as keyless locks and smart deadbolts prove that they are here to stay. The latest company to jump on the smart lock bandwagon is Hampton Products, the company behind Brinks and Brinks Home Security locks and door hardware. This week, the company announced it would be taking pre-orders for its Array smart deadbolt, a cloud-connected, app-enabled door lock that promises easy installation free of separate hubs and accessories. All you need is your existing Wi-Fi router to connect the deadbolt to the cloud.

Requiring nothing but a single screwdriver to replace your existing deadbolt with the Array, this smart lock features data encryption and two-step authentication so that your lock (as well as your home) is as secure as can be. The deadbolt also boasts a unique power management system that brings a rechargeable lithium polymer battery together with an integrated solar panel to provide supplemental power, meaning you have to charge your battery less frequently.

To actually open an Array-guarded door, users have three options — the Android or iOS app from their smartphone, a tablet or smartwatch, or the LED backlit keypad. Of course, if you’re super old school, you can still use that traditional key, but why do so with so many other options? The companion Array app allows you to lock and unlock the deadbolt remotely, as well as activate geofencing, check your lock status, schedule access via keycodes, and monitor battery status.

Already, the Array is compatible with Amazon Alexa, and more platforms will soon be added. Priced at $249, the deadbolt comes in two styles and three finishes to match your door.

Also making their debut at CES are the new Array Smart Light fixtures, which feature built-in cameras for extra security. Thanks to a custom lens and improved camera firmware, these light fixtures promise “best-in-class images and reduced shadows and distortion.” The camera also leverages artificial intelligence to identify people and differentiate them from animals and tree branches, cutting down on erroneous notifications.

There will be two versions of the lights available — a coach light for front porches, and a dual-head security light for yards and side areas. Pricing information is not yet available, though these products are slated to come out in 2018.

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Native Union Eclipse review

Native Union is an accessory company that places an emphasis on style. Whether it’s a cool case or some neat cables, its products often stand out from the crowd of tech accessory makers. The Eclipse Charger is one of its latest products, and it’s a multi-device charging hub that’s far more complex than most other products we’ve seen from the company. The Eclipse Charger started out as a crowd-funding campaign, and we take a closer look in our review to see whether or not it’s worth the high price tag.

Heavy, but minimal

The Eclipse Charger’s design will split opinion. We like its simplicity and the inclusion of Native Union’s usual fabrics, but we’ve gradually come to consider it a little large and heavy. Its circular, moon-like top down view is attractive, but it’s quite bulky when you look at it from the side. For a device made to reduce clutter, it has a large footprint, and that may put some people off.

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The Eclipse holds three USB charging cables inside, keeping them neatly wrapped around the central, motorized drum section. Double tap the top of the Eclipse and it rises up, revealing your cables and connectors. The idea is to extract just enough of the one you need, plug it in to your device, and double tap the flat top again to lower the center back into place.

Before you get to this stage, you’ll need to “build” the Eclipse when you take it out of the box. Add each cable you want to use through the central screwhead-style stack. There are three ports that manage power, delivering faster than normal charging, but the Eclipse does not support technology like Qualcomm’s Quick Charge. There are three USB Type-A ports with 2.4A, and a USB Type-C port with 3A hidden inside. Wrapping the cables up wasn’t the hard part, but getting the central unit reattached to the base took a lot of force — to the point where we were afraid it would break. Thankfully, it eventually snapped into place.

Charge all the devices

We chose to feed in an Apple Lightning cable, a USB Type-C cable, and our Apple Watch charging disc. The two phone chargers neatly hide away inside the Eclipse, but the channels inside the central section aren’t big enough for the Apple Watch charging disc, so it flops around outside. It doesn’t affect use, but it’s not the prettiest solution. To be fair to Native Union, it states this fact quite clearly in its FAQ.

For a device made to reduce clutter, it has a large footprint.

We experienced no problems charging all of our devices — individually or all together. The Eclipse has surge protection along with smart power management, so it delivers the maximum power to devices that will take it. We didn’t notice it getting hot, or any other negative effects.

The Eclipse easily performs its main function — a stylish cable management solution — effectively. Three cables spread over a bedside table or on a desk is unsightly and a little dangerous. The Eclipse completely solves this problem. The Eclipse itself isn’t much of a space-saver though. It’s a substantial round plinth, and takes up a fair amount of room on a small table. There is the option to wall-mount the whole thing, which may be preferable; but this means winding the cables up again when you’re done to keep it neat, which defeats the Eclipse’s simplicity.

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

How about the motorized top? It’s a little gimmicky, but in a good way. Sure, a spring release system would have done the same job, but it wouldn’t be as neat or as fun. The double tap to raise and lower the cable management drum is easy to remember and works almost every time, although you do have to be quite precise with the timing of your taps. A single tap on the top turns on a small ambient light under the Eclipse — showing the inspiration for its name — that gives off a small glow. It’s no reading light, sadly, and outside of looking quite cool, it serves no purpose.

Colorful variants

Native Union is as much about style as it is about functionality and technology, so it’s no surprise to find several different color and material choices for the Eclipse. The model we reviewed has fabric, which is available in three colors. There are two wooden options and a more expensive marble edition. Native Union loves marble, as we’ve seen before on its iPhone cases.

Now if only the top part was a wireless charging pad too.

The fabric Eclipse chargers cost $80, the wooden ones are $100, and the marble model is $160. In the U.K., the Eclipse with fabric is 70 British pounds, the wood models are 90 British pounds, and the marble version is yours for 140 British pounds. Native Union also has various charging cables in matching color schemes, if you want to coordinate the entire setup. Everything can be purchased through Native Union’s own website.

The Eclipse is a smart, stylish, and well-designed cable management and charging system for your various gadgets. It’s versatile because you use your own cables, but the downside is it’s quite large, so don’t expect it to melt away into the background. Now if only the top part was a wireless charging pad too, we’d be overjoyed.

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Dell’s refreshed Latitude laptops get to work with 8th-gen Intel Core, 4G LTE

Dell took the wraps off its refreshed lines of Latitude 7000 and Latitude 5000 laptops and 2-in-1s at this week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. All models support up to an eighth-generation Intel Core i7 processor, but you can opt for seventh-generation chips at a reduced cost. Most of the solutions listed in this post rely on integrated graphics, although two offer options for Nvidia’s discrete GeForce MX150 graphics chip.

For the 7000 Series, you’ll find clamshell models ranging from 12.5 inches to 14 inches , along with a 2-in-1 version supporting the Dell Active Stylus Pen. Likewise, the refreshed 5000 Series features clamshell models spanning from 12.5 inches to 15.6 inches, and a 2-in-1 model with a 12.3-inch screen and Active Stylus Pen support. There are plenty of configurable options for all eight devices in terms of storage type, memory amount, and security features.

Some of the prominent features you’ll discover include optional facial recognition, fingerprint scanners, 4G LTE cellular support, and Thunderbolt 3 connectivity. Screen resolutions are either 1,366 x 768 or 1,920 x 1,080, some with touch support and others without it. There are even options for installing OPAL-based SEDs so your data stays encrypted and safe at all times.

Dell Latitude 7000 Series

Dell Latitude 7490

Key Specs

CPU: Up to 8th Gen Core i7, up to 7th Gen Core i5

Graphics: UHD/HD Graphics 620 (8th/7th)

Memory: Up to 32GB @ 2,400MHz

Storage: Four SSD options up to 1TB

Battery: 42WHr and 60WHr options

Display: 14.0 inches (HD, Full HD, non-touch, touch)

Weight: 3.11 pounds

Thickness: 0.70 inches

Ports: USB-A, USB-C, Ethernet, Micro SD, HDMI

Connectivity: Wireless AC, Bluetooth, optional 4G LTE

Release date: January 9, 2018

Price: Starts at $1,049

Dell gets the CES party started with its latest 14-inch Latitude laptop. It’s powered by up to an eighth-generation Core i7 processor, or up to an older seventh-generation Core i5 chip. Those processor differences will determine the speed of the laptop’s memory — up to 32GB at 2,133MHz on seventh-generation configurations and up to 32GB at 2,400MHz on eighth-generation systems. The integrated graphics also depend on the selected processor.

Customers can configure the Latitude 7490 with four different storage options: up to 128GB on a PCI Express-based SSD (M.2 2230), up to 512GB on a SATA-based SSD (M.2 2280), up to 1TB on a standard PCI Express-based SSD, and up to 512GB on a PCI Express-based OPAL SED. To protect this laptop, Dell provides three security options: a SmartCard reader, a fingerprint scanner, and/or an infrared cameras.

Finally, this laptop provides a handful of connections including USB-A, USB-C (with optional Thunderbolt 3 support), wired networking, a Micro SD card slot, and so on. Customers can configure the display with a 1,366 x 768 (non-touch) or 1,920 x 1,080 (touch, non-touch) resolution. Overall, the device measures a mere 0.70 inches thick, and has a starting weight of 3.11 pounds.

Dell Latitude 7390

Key Specs

CPU: Up to 8th Gen Core i7, up to 7th Gen Core i5

Graphics: UHD/HD Graphics 620 (8th/7th)

Memory: Up to 16GB @ 2,400MHz

Storage: Four SSD options up to 1TB

Battery: 42WHr and 60WHr options

Display: 13.3 inches (Full HD non-touch, touch)

Weight: 2.59 pounds

Thickness: 0.65 inches

Ports: USB-A, USB-C, Ethernet, Micro SD, HDMI

Release date: January 9, 2018

Price: Starts at $1,149

This is a smaller version of the 7390, with most of the same features. Differences include 50 percent less memory (16GB), one less USB-A port, and a smaller chassis. According to Dell, this model uses the same chassis as the 12.5-inch model (7290), and measures 12.0  x 8.19  x 0.65 inches. This version is slightly lighter then the other two 7000 Series laptops in Dell’s refresh, weighing in at 2.59 pounds, versus 3.11 pounds for the 7490 and the 2.63 pounds for the 7290.

All three 7000 Series models include Wireless AC and Bluetooth 4.1 or 4.2 connectivity, depending on selected wireless component. You can also configure all three with 4G LTE connectivity, but there are only three M.2 expansion slots across the board, two of which are used by the primary storage and Wireless AC/Bluetooth component. That third slot could be used for a 4G LTE module if it’s not used by a secondary storage device (if allowed).

For this model, the screen provides a 1,920 x 1,080 resolution with or without touch support. It’s complemented by an HD camera (available in all three), or an optional infrared camera supporting facial recognition. Powering this laptop, as well as its two siblings, are three battery options: a 42WHr prismatic battery, 60WHr polymer version, or a 60WHr long-life battery.

Dell Latitude 7390 2-in-1

Key Specs

CPU: Up to 8th Gen Core i7, up to 7th Gen Core i5

Graphics: UHD/HD Graphics 620 (8th/7th)

Memory: Up to 16GB @ 2,133MHz

Storage: Four SSD options up to 1TB

Battery: 45WHr and 60WHr options

Display: 13.3 inches (Full HD, touch)

Weight: 2.97 pounds

Thickness: 0.73 inches

Ports: USB-A, USB-C, Micro SD, HDMI

Connectivity: Wireless AC, Bluetooth, optional 4G LTE

Release date: January 9, 2018

Price: Starts at $1,149

This is a 2-in-1 version of the Latitude 7390 sporting a 360-hinge that supports laptop, stand, tent, and tablet modes. It’s mostly unchanged from the clamshell versio,n save for the storage options, size, weight, port complement, and memory configuration. That last feature is the biggest change: 4GB or 8GB of LPDDR3 memory clocked at 1,866MHz for seventh-generation Intel CPU setups, or 16GB of LPDDR3 memory clocked at 2,133MHz for eighth-generation chips.

This 2-in-1 has a locked resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 with touch support, and supports Dell’s Active Stylus Pen. There’s no discrete graphics chip, so the 2-in-1 relies on Intel’s HD or UHD Graphics 620 component integrated into its seventh- and eighth-generation processors. The screen is complemented with a 720p camera, although Dell provides an optional infrared camera for facial recognition. A fingerprint scanner and/or SmartCard reader are also optional security features.

On the battery front, customers can configure the 2-in-1 with a 45WHr, 60WHr, or 60WHr long-life battery. You can even configure the USB-C port with Thunderbolt 3, and throw in NFC connectivity with Control Vault 2 and FIPS 140-2 Level 3 certification. Overall, the device measures a mere 0.73 inches thick in a closed position, and has a starting weight of 2.97 pounds.

Dell Latitude 7290

Key Specs

  • CPU: Up to 8th Gen Core i7, up to 7th Gen Core i5
  • Graphics: UHD/HD Graphics 620 (8th/7th)
  • Memory: Up to 16GB @ 2,400MHz
  • Storage: Four SSD options up to 1TB
  • Battery: 42WHr and 60WHr options
  • Display: 12.5 inches (HD non-touch)
  • Weight: 2.63 pounds
  • Thickness: 0.65 inches
  • Ports: USB-A, USB-C, Ethernet, Micro SD, HDMI
  • Connectivity: Wireless AC, Bluetooth, optional 4G LTE
  • Release date: January 9, 2018
  • Price: Starts at $1,049

Last on the 7000 Series refresh list is the 12.5-inch Latitude 7290. It’s very similar to the 7390 model, using the same chassis despite its smaller non-touch screen. The only real difference between this model and the larger 13.3-inch version is the weight, with the 7290 sporting a starting weight of 2.63 pounds and the larger 7390 with a starting weight of 2.59 pounds.

Port-wise, it includes a gigabit Ethernet port, one headphone/microphone combo jack, one Micro SD card reader, and two USB-A 3.1 Gen1 ports pushing data at up to 5Gbps. You’ll also find one HDMI 1.4 port, and one USB-C port that you can configure to support Thunderbolt 3 connectivity. The optional connection supports speeds of up to 40Gbps, and video output spanning DisplayPort and HDMI.

Finally, customers can configure all three models with Windows 10 Home (64-bit), Windows 10 Pro (64-bit), or Linux-based Ubuntu 16.04 LTS (64-bit).


Dell’s XPS 15 2-in-1 gets slim maglev magic, yet packs AMD Radeon graphics

The 2-in-1 market continues to grow, with new machines featuring convertible hinges or detachable keyboards arriving for both Windows 10 and Chrome OS. Even the larger 15-inch segment is gaining a few members of its own. Dell is expanding its own 2-in-1 lineup, adding to the very nicely designed and built 13-inch XPS 2-in-1 with a larger 15-inch model.

Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

Key Specs

Intel 8th-gen Core i5-8305G or i7-8705G CPUs

AMD Radeon RX Vega M GL GPUs with 4GB RAM

Up to 16GB RAM, up to 1GB PCIe SSD

4K UHD next-gen InfinityEdge display

100 percent AdobeRGB

Gore thermal insulation

16mm thin

Maglev keyboard

Dell Premium Active Pen with 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity

In a move that’s reminiscent of Microsoft’s Surface Book 2 upsizing, the new XPS 15 2-1-in is the spitting image of its smaller sibling. Essentially, it looks like Dell simply took the XPS 13 2-in-1 and blew it up, while scrunching various design elements like the InfinityEdge bezels to keep everything proportional. In terms of materials, the XPS 15 2-in-1 utilizes a similar all-aluminum chassis with carbon fiber lining the keyboard deck for a comfortable feel.

According to Dell, the new machine will arrive in spring 2018. It sports a “next generation” InfinityEdge display that will offer up 4K UHD (3,840 x 1,920) resolution and 100 percent coverage of the AdobeRGB color gamut. That lovely-sounding display will be powered by an AMD Radeon RX Vega M GPU with 4GB of dedicated RAM, to go along with eighth-generation Intel Core quad-core Kaby Lake-G CPUs. According to Dell, these components combined with a 75 watt-hour battery will allow for up to 15 hours of battery life.

The XPS 15 2-in-1 will also be remarkably thin, at just 16mm, making it what Dell calls the “smallest, thinnest 2-in-1” in its class. Certainly, 16mm is thinner than some of the competition, such as the Surface Book 2 15, the HP Spectre x360 15, and the Lenovo Yoga 720 15. Dell also touts the use of Gore Thermal Insulation as an additional measure to keep heat under control by directing heat out of the chassis and providing greater performance via less thermal throttling.

In terms of input, the XPS 15 2-in-1 will utilize a maglev (magnetic levitation) keyboard that Dell says will mimic the travel and feel of a traditional keyboard while fitting within the machine’s diminutive dimensions. And the new Dell Premium Active Pen equals Microsoft’s latest Surface Pen in its specifications, with 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity and tilt support. The Bluetooth 4.2-enabled pen supports the Microsoft Pen Protocol (MPP) along with Wacom AES1.0 and 2.0, making it flexible as well as full-featured.

We know that the XPS 15 2-in-1 will start at $1,299 and be available in Spring 2018, but we’ll need to await further information on pricing, availability, and the full range of configuration options. It’s clear, though, that Dell is serious about improving upon it’s already excellent XPS 13 2-in-1 with a larger-format machine that promises fewer compromises than its competition.

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Dell’s stick-sized external Thunderbolt 3 SSDs are extremely fast, but expensive

During the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Dell introduced what it deems as the world’s most compact storage device supporting Thunderbolt 3 connectivity. The device measures just 3.89 inches long, making it a great pocket-slipping solution for business trips and unloading camera photos during a family vacation. It will be made available on February 28 in two capacities.

But don’t blow it off as another measly storage stick just yet. According to Dell, the NAND technology crammed into its Portable Thunderbolt 3 SSD is exactly what the company uses in its PCs. That indicates the device has similar read and write speeds, promising up to 2,650MB per second data storage rates. It’s backed by Thunderbolt 3 technology supporting data transfers to and from the parent PC at up to 40 gigabits per second (1Gb = 125MB).

Of course, data transfers will depend on the parent PC despite the drive’s support for Thunderbolt. USB-C ports offer a variety of connection speeds based on the technology behind the interface: USB 2.0 at 480Mbps, USB 3.1 Gen1 at 5Gbps, and USB 3.1 Gen2 at 10Gbps. Even more, Thunderbolt 3 connectivity depends on how it’s wired to the parent PC’s motherboard, hence the “up to” description regarding its speed.

“Unlike HDDs, SSDs have no mechanical storage components, making them more resistant to data loss caused by knocks, drops, and other ‘on-the-go’ abuse,” Dell states. “[It] uses the same internal SSDs as Dell PC systems, specified to high endurance and reliability standards and covered by Dell’s three-year limited hardware warranty, so you can be assured of the quality of the drives.”

SSDs are better than external hard drives because there are no moving parts. Hard drives are similar to old-school record players, packing multiple, stacked magnetic records, aka platters. Each spinning platter is read by its own arm sporting one read head, and one write head. Eventually all these moving parts will fail, resulting in data loss. That’s not the case with SSDs.

Typically, SSDs rely on cells that store data even when the device isn’t receiving power. These cells are spread out like a city block, resembling office buildings with up to three floors. A built-in controller sends and retrieves data from these office buildings as data moves to and from the parent PC. SSDs are normally faster than mechanical hard drives by a large amount, making them more ideal as both internal and external storage solutions.

Although USB sticks rely on flash memory technology, they’re not always as fast as external SSDs. Part of the bottleneck stems from the connection: There’s no sense in using high-performance flash if the port connection only supports 480Mbps. For instance, Kingston’s DataTraveler HyperX Predator USB stick provides 1TB of storage, but only has a 240MB/s read speed and a 160MB/s write speed due to its USB 3.1 Gen1 connection.

But Dell’s compact Thunderbolt-based SSD packing high read/write speeds doesn’t come without a cost. The 500GB model will set you back $439 while the 1TB version will cost a hefty $799 when they hit the market next month.

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Dell’s customizable Inspiron Gaming Desktop has something for all types of gamers

Dell is looking to take a hand in every part of your desktop PC gaming experience, hardware and software alike, with a pair of new showings at this year’s CES that cover the whole gamut of gaming-related features. Joining the heavily customizable Dell Inspiron Gaming Desktop 5680 is the new Alienware Command Center, which lets you control your game library, PC lighting, and overclocking from a single dashboard.

Although Dell is one of the world’s most prolific PC manufacturers, its status in the gaming software market has been far less elevated. With the new Alienware Command Center, it is looking to capitalize on the ever-growing support for RGB backlighting on various peripherals and products, as well as taking over from some of the more specific graphics-driver and overclocking tools out there.

Dell Inspiron Gaming Desktop 5680

Key Specs

CPU: 8th-generation Intel Core i3, i5, or i7

Memory: Up to 64GB of DDR4

Graphics: Nvidia GTX 1050, 1060, or 1070

Storage: Up to 256GB SSD, 2TB HDD

Audio: Performance 7.1 HD sound card

The most striking aspect of Dell’s understated but potentially powerful gaming desktop, the Inspiron 5680, is that it is heavily customizable. If you want to pack it with a Core i3 CPU, 8GB of memory, and an Nvidia GTX 1050 for entry-level gaming, you can do so. If you have deeper pockets and want to put in a Core i7 CPU, a GTX 1070, two terabytes of storage, and 64GB of RAM, that’s perfectly doable as well.

Whichever CPU you choose though, it will come from the latest generation, which means it will have at least four cores and potentially six if you opt for the top-tier offerings. Although the official specifications don’t mention it, we are also told that there is an option for an AMD RX 580 graphics card if you prefer to lean toward the red camp, like previous Inspiron gaming systems.

Dell goes out of its way to talk up the upgrade potential of the system, too, with four bays allowing for a total of three hard drives and two solid-state drives. It also highlights audio and network features like the onboard 7.1 sound card and support for Dell CinemaSound, alongside a connection optimizer called SmartByte, which helps prioritize video streaming to reduce lag and stuttering.

The chassis that contains all of this has a sleek, professional look rather than something gaudy and typically gamer-like, but that’s likely to appeal to Dell’s audience. It comes with plenty of front-panel ports and employs an “intelligent thermal design” to keep everything nice and cool.

The Dell Inspiron Gaming Desktop 5680 is available from the official store right now, starting at $750.

New Alienware Command Center

Key Specs

Supports 16.8 million colors for peripheral backlighting control

Design individual game profiles with lighting, graphics and overclocking options

Game library puts all of your games in one central location

Built-in simple and efficient overclocking control

Designed to take the place of many pieces of PC software that typically cater to very specific functions, the new Alienware Command Center has an overhauled dashboard that’s cleaner and more functional than its predecessors. It collects an overclocking tool together with a backlighting manager, a unified game library, and graphics profiles within a singular piece of software.

Typically these sorts of functions are found in individual applications like graphics driver backends and specific peripheral customizers, but Dell is looking to have you utilize just one for all of them in the future. While that might make you assume that some of the functions in this general application are dulled down, Dell claims that its overclocking suite is simple but powerful, and can be leveraged by casual and advanced gamers alike. It also lays claim to support for nearly 17 million colors in its peripheral lighting management tool.

Perhaps the most useful aspect of the Command Center for those who like to game on a variety of download platforms like Steam, Origin, and, is that it collects all of your games under one roof, making it easier to launch and customize them from a single location.

The new Alienware Command Center will be entirely free when it launches at some point during the first quarter of 2018 and will presumably support more than just Alienware desktops.

It’s unlikely to change our opinion of some of Alienware’s recent gaming systems, but it couldn’t hurt.

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Your next piece of jewelry could be made of recycled motherboards from Dell

Dell’s trash will soon be your treasure, now that the computing company is partnering with actress Nikki Reed to turn electronic waste into recycled gold jewelry. Known as the new Circular Collection, this jewelry line is made from the gold recovered from Dell computer motherboards, and seeks to highlight the value of recycling and sustainable design.

The collection includes 14- and 18-carat gold rings, earrings, and cufflinks, and will make their debut at CES 2018, where attendees can ooh and aah at the possibilities of a few old computers and creative jewelry designers. Created in conjunction with Reed’s personal business, Bayou with Love, all the pieces in the Circular Collection are sourced entirely from Dell’s machinery.

“Bayou with Love was created to bring greater awareness to the human impact on our planet and show that beautiful items can come from sustainably sourced and recycled materials,” said Reed, co-founder of Bayou with Love. “By recycling gold that was once considered ‘waste,’ Dell and I are working to create an environment where we continuously reuse resources and strive for zero waste.”

Aside from making jewelry, Dell is also finding other ways to repurpose previously used metal. The company has announced an industry-first pilot to make use of recycled gold from old electronics in new computer motherboards beginning in March 2018. This program could have enormous environmental impacts, as it is estimated that today, only 12.5 percent of e-waste is recycled. That means that folks in the United States alone throw away some $60 million worth of gold and silver (and that only takes into consideration discarded phones). But Dell hopes to use its new jewelry line and pilot program to aid in sustainability efforts, and prevent potentially hazardous materials from ending up in landfills.

“At Dell, we pride ourselves in finding better, more efficient ways to do business particularly throughout our supply chain,” said Dell vice chairman Jeff Clarke. “Materials innovation — where and how we source things like plastic, carbon fiber, and now gold for our products — is increasingly important for us.” Noting that there is 800 times more gold in a ton of motherboards than a ton of ore, Clarke said that Dell has realized “the enormous opportunity [it has] to put valuable materials to work.”

Pieces from the new jewelry line can be pre-ordered beginning at $88 from the Bayou with Love website.

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HP Spectre x360 15-inch (2018) hands-on review

Research Center:
HP Spectre x360 15 (2018)

Some people buy 2-in-1s because they want a versatile, portable PC that that can be used for the kind of lifestyle PC marketers dream of— creative, busy, constantly on the go. Yet others — perhaps even most of us — just want a laptop that can, on occasion, be used to jot down a note.

Those in the latter group have long adored the HP Spectre x360 15-inch for its big, sharp display, and powerful hardware. The newest refresh, revealed at CES 2018, doubles down on those strengths.

The Spectre x360 15-inch’s internals are drool-worthy.

Let’s talk hardware. The Spectre x360 15-inch comes standard with an 8th-gen Intel Core processor, as you’d expect, and it can be paired with Nvidia’s capable MX150 graphics chip. That’s fast — but what if you want more? Then HP has you covered with the new Intel Core 8th-gen with Radeon RX Vega graphics. It’s the Intel Core i7-8705G with Radeon Vega GL, to be specific — not the most powerful version available, but certainly quicker than the MX150 on its own.

We couldn’t benchmark the Spectre x360 15-inch during our hands-on, of course, but that’s not needed to tell you it’s quick. In fact, it’ll likely hit performance numbers close to an entry-level gaming notebook. Yet the system weighs about 4.7 pounds, and is just 0.76 inches thick.

Performance is just the start

The Spectre x360 15-inch’s internals are drool-worthy, but HP hasn’t just slapped together off-the-shelf parts. This is an exquisitely designed 15-inch laptop built from a block of machined aluminum. Its doesn’t adopt the more exotic materials found in Dell’s XPS 15 2-in-1, which is why it weighs a few tenths of a pound more, but HP says it’s sticking with aluminum for a reason. Kevin Wentzel, HP’s Technical Marketing Manager, told us its machined aluminum chassis is stiffer, giving the company’s engineers more freedom when choosing the look of the laptop.

Matt Smith/Digital Trends

Matt Smith/Digital Trends

Matt Smith/Digital Trends

Matt Smith/Digital Trends

HP has used that freedom well. It’s a beautiful system to look at, and its double-barrel hinge casts a unique silhouette. The model we saw paired matte black surfaces with semi-gloss bronze accents along the sides, hinges, and a few other highlights. It’s subtle combination but if let your eye linger, you’ll see it’s a stunner.

Picky enthusiasts will also enjoy the keyboard, which offers 1.5 millimeters of travel. We thought it a real highlight, and appreciated its long key long travel, crisp key action, and a comfortable layout. The port selection splits the difference between new and old-school choices, offering a combination of USB-A and USB-C connections, along with DisplayPort and HDMI. Here, once again, HP has refused to leap towards new ideas if it’s afraid quality won’t benefit. We can’t say we disagree with the company’s tact.

The HP does stumble a bit when it comes time to flip the screen around for tablet use. It’s rather heavy and thick for a 2-in-1, and that heft is easily felt. You won’t want to hold the screen aloft for more than two minutes. This PC won’t work as a digital notepad. It’s better suited for watching movies or browsing the web — preferably in tent mod on top of a table.

4K for better — or for worse?

If you do that, the 4K screen will keep you riveted. We can’t fully test the display with a hands-on, but hey — it’s 4K. It has a solid color gamut. It’s extremely bright at maximum burn. Of course it looks beautiful, even on the show floor, with overhead lights casting their harsh glare. 4K is the only option, so you’ll enjoy it no matter which model you buy.

Matt Smith/Digital Trends

That might be a weakness. 4K displays suck down battery. HP says the system will manage 12.5 hours of life with the Vega chip, and about 13.5 hours with the Nvidia MX150. That sounds like a lot, but it’s certainly not the best. Microsoft’s Surface Book 2 15-inch, for example, quotes 17 hours of life. HP has outfitted the Spectre with an 84 watt-hour battery, at least, so it’s certainly not slacking off in raw capacity.

HP Spectre x360 15 (2018) Compared To

Lenovo Miix 630

Acer Swift 3 SF314-52-517Z

Microsoft Surface Book 2

Asus VivoBook Pro 15 N580VD

HP ZBook 14u G4

Microsoft Surface Laptop

Asus ZenBook UX305

Toshiba Kirabook (2014)

Asus Zenbook UX301LA

HP Envy x2

Dell XPS 12

Sony Vaio S Premium 13.3-inch

Asus U36Jc

Sharp M4000

Toshiba Dynabook SX

Whatever its portability, we don’t doubt the Spectre x360 15-inch will be a serious contender. We already liked the previous model enough to give it a recommended award. This new version seems to retain all its predecessor’s good traits — and then turns the performance up a notch. The only problem is the competition. The Microsoft Surface Book 2 15-inch won’t take this sitting down, and Dell’s XPS 15 2-in-1 brings advanced materials and a maglev keyboard to the table.

The HP Spectre x360 15-inch will be available on March 18, starting at $1,370.

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