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9
Jun

Acer Chromebook Spin 11 review



Research Center:

Acer Chromebook Spin 11

Though more premium options keep popping up, Chromebooks were always meant to be a cheap alternative to Windows and Mac. So, if your budget is under $500 for laptop, they are a great place to start.

Acer’s new Chromebook Spin 11 is a budget-oriented 2-in-1 that goes for just $350. For that price, you get an Intel Celeron N3350 dual-core CPU, 4GB of RAM, and 32GB of eMMC storage. It’s a smaller convertible 2-in-1, with an 11.6-inch IPS display at 1,366 x 768 (140 PPI) and a bundled Wacom pen for drawing and taking notes on the touch- and pen-enabled panel.

Chrome OS is an increasingly popular platform for users with relatively light computing needs, but does the Chromebook Spin 11 bring enough 2-in-1 functionality to the table?

An all-plastic, nondescript design

While commercial versions of the Chromebook Spin 11 are designed to meet the rigors of MIL-SPEC 810G certification, our review unit was a consumer model with a thinner, lighter, and less robust build. That’s not to say it’s poorly built, and in fact, that’s not the case — outside of some minor flex on the bottom of the chassis, the Spin 11 is solid enough for the price. But some competitors, such as the Asus Chromebook Flip C101PA, offer metal chassis that offer a little bit extra for the money.

At the same time, both 2-in-1s have hinges that in our testing reliably allowed the displays to flip all the way around to a tablet format. The Spin 11’s hinge, in particular, was firm enough to hold the screen in place no matter the mode, whether clamshell, tent, media, or tablet.

Generally, the Chromebook Spin 11 is more than robust enough for a casual home user who’s looking for an inexpensive 2-in-1, and its light plastic chassis (2.76 pounds) is easy enough to carry around. It’s not the thinnest notebook at around at 0.79 inches, which given its smallish frame makes it seem like a rather chunky little machine. Once again, we’ll compare to the Chromebook Flip, which sports a 10.1-inch display and so is smaller, thinner at 0.6 inches, and lighter at just two pounds.

Comparing the Spin 11’s performance to other Chromebooks left us decidedly unimpressed.

Regarding its aesthetics, the Chromebook Spin 11 isn’t going to win any awards, but neither is it an embarrassment. The newest version has a silver cross-hairline pattern on the lid that gives it a slightly more premium texture and appearance, but otherwise, this is a simple silver-gray design that’s rather mundane.

In terms of connectivity, there’s plenty to go around. Two USB-C 3.1 ports supporting data, DisplayPort, and charging provide for some future-proofing, while two USB-A 3.0 ports provide for legacy support. There’s also a micro-SD card reader and 3.5mm combo audio jack to go with the 2X2 MU-MIMO 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2 radios.

Perfectly competent 2-in-1 input options

The Chromebook Spin 11 serves up the typical island keyboard with black keys and white lettering, and as mentioned earlier it’s spill-proof and so can withstand the occasional splash of water. The key mechanism offers plenty of travel with a soft bottoming action, but there’s less tactile feedback than we like resulting in a bit of a spongy feel. It’s typical for the class of machine, with the slightly more expensive Asus Chromebook Flip C302C offering a similar feel.

Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

The touchpad is large relative to the available space on the small keyboard deck, and it provides a smooth and precise feel. General cursor control was just fine, with Chrome OS gesture support and good control over the platform’s most important environment, the Chrome browser.

Next, there’s an included Wacom EMR stylus that allows for taking notes, creating sketches, and generally doing all of the inking that Chrome OS supports. It’s not quite as complete an experience as you’ll find with Windows 10 Ink, but it’s nevertheless a nice value-add. Also, performance in Chrome OS apps was fine, but there was some lag when inking in Android apps like Microsoft’s OneNote. The stylus is unpowered and durable.

The display was fine for basic productivity, but its multimedia performance disappoints.

Notably, there’s no biometric login support, and so you’ll be relegated to typing in your Google account password. The touchscreen display is responsive and provides a satisfying experience when running Android apps, which are now available to download on all new Chromebooks.

A small display that’s not too sharp

The Chromebook Spin 11 gets its name from the 11.6-inch IPS panel that runs at a native resolution of 1,366 x 768, or 135 PPI. That means you’ll see some pixels in text and graphics won’t be the sharpest, and you won’t be able to enjoy Netflix at Full HD quality. And the extremely large bezels mean that the display seems even smaller than it is. Ultimately, this is what you’re going to get at this price point, as the very similar display on the Asus Flip C101 demonstrates.

Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

The audio was equally underwhelming, with just enough volume but some distortion and a muddied experience when things are turned all the way up. Sound quality is fine for a quick YouTube video, but you’ll want to pull out some headphones for music, movies, and TV.

Sluggish performance mars the experience

The Chromebook Spin 11 uses a Celeron N3350 CPU, a low-end dual-core processor that runs at a base clock of 1.1GHz and tops out at 2.4GHz. We can’t run our usual battery of benchmark tasks on Chrome OS machines and so comparing to similarly equipped Windows machines is difficult.

Battery life was very good for productivity tasks, allowing for a full day at work or at school.

But comparing the Spin 11 to the similarly priced Asus Flip C101, not to mention slightly more expensive options like the Asus Flip C302, left us decidedly unimpressed. Chrome browsing was speedy enough with a handful of tabs open, but despite the generous 4GB of RAM, things slowed down significantly when we hit 10 or more tabs. Chrome OS apps like Google Docs were a bit sluggish on occasion, with intermittent lag when typing and editing.

Also, Android apps were particularly slow. That’s not the Spin 11’s native platform, of course, but we’ve seen better performance on many other Chromebooks. While the Asus Flip C101 was a similar performer, the $550 Samsung Chromebook Pro with its Intel Core M3-6Y30 CPU was significantly speedier when running Android apps.

Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

To confirm our subjective experience, we ran Geekbench 4 for Android to compare to the Acer Chromebook 15 that uses a quad-core Pentium N4200. The Spin 11 scored 1,500 in the single-core test and a surprisingly low 1358 in the multi-core test. The Chromebook 15 scored 1,559 in the single-core test and 4,884 in the multi-core test, and even the Asus Flip C101 with its Rockchip CPU was faster in the multi-core test at 3,200.

The Spin 11 was equipped with 32GB of eMMC storage, which isn’t nearly as fast as the solid-state disks you’ll find in Windows and MacOS notebooks. It’s plenty fast for Chrome OS, though, and we didn’t find accessing files to be a bottleneck. There’s 19.7GB free after Chrome OS is accounted for, and users can expand storage via the micro SD card reader.

Acer Chromebook Spin 11 Compared To

Google Pixelbook

Acer Chromebook 15 (2017)

Asus Chromebook Flip C101PA

Asus Chromebook Flip C302CA

Acer Chromebook R 11

Lenovo Ideapad 100S Chromebook

Dell Chromebook 11 Touch

Lenovo Yoga 11e Chromebook

Lenovo N20p Chromebook

Samsung Chromebook 2

Acer C720P-2600

Acer Aspire P3

Acer C7 Chromebook

Samsung Chromebook Series 3

Panasonic Toughbook W2

Given the 2-in-1’s generally slow performance, don’t plan on running more graphically-intensive Android games. The CPU’s integrated Intel HD Graphics 500 solution works for some casual gaming, but we’d recommend avoiding anything more than the occasional game of Solitaire or Angry Birds.

Decent enough productivity battery life

While we were disappointed with the Spin 11’s performance, the combination of the Celeron CPU and small, low-res display provided more mixed results when it came to battery life. According to Acer, the 37 watt-hours of battery capacity should go for around eight hours when browsing the web and around 13.5 hours when playing video.

When running general productivity tasks, the Spin 11 mostly lived up to Acer’s expectations. On our most demanding Basemark web benchmark test, for example, it ran for almost four hours, which is considerably less than the almost six and a half hours scored by the Asus Flip C101 but roughly equal to the Acer Chromebook 15’s.

On our web browsing test, the Spin 11 exceeded Acer’s expectations, flipping through a variety of sites for more than nine hours before running out. The Flip C101 managed just eight hours while the Chromebook 15 was more impressive at eleven and a half hours.

Finally, on our video test that loops through an Avengers trailer with the display set at 100 lux until the battery dies, the Spin 11 was less impressive at just a bit under 10 hours. That’s less than Acer estimated, and it beat out the Flip C101’s roughly nine hours but fell flat against the Chromebook 15’s nearly 12 hours.

Overall, we found battery life to be very good for productivity tasks, allowing for a full work or school day away from a charge. The Spin 11 wasn’t as long-lasting for watching video, but almost 10 hours of binging isn’t exactly a terrible result — as long as you can live with the mediocre display, of course.

Our Take

The Acer Chromebook Spin 11 is a low-cost and reasonably solid Chrome OS notebook, with decent battery life and competent input options. Its performance and display were underwhelming, though, and there are better options for the same or just a bit more money.

Is there a better alternative?

The Asus Chromebook Flip C101 is a bit less expensive than the Flip 11, coming in at $300 for a configuration with a Rockchip six-core CPU, 4GB of RAM, and 16GB of eMMC storage. You’ll get slightly better performance and less battery life with the Flip 11, but you won’t get stylus support.

If your budget isn’t quite so tight, you could consider the Samsung Chromebook Pro at $550 for an Intel Core M3-6Y30 CPU, 4GB of RAM, 32GB of eMMC storage, and a much higher resolution (2,560 x 1,600) display. Performance will be much better, and battery life will be similar. Once again, though, you’ll be giving up the ability to write on the display.

Finally, you could allocate some additional funds and go for the upcoming Acer Chromebook Spin 13 that will offer a crazy-fast Intel Core i5-8250U quad-core processor, up to 16GB of RAM, and a 13.5-inch 2,256 x 1,504 resolution display in the productivity-friendly 3:2 aspect ratio. Pricing on that machine isn’t available yet and is guaranteed to be higher, but it’s likely worth the investment if you can swing it.

How long will it last?

The Chromebook Spin 11 is a solidly built 2-in-1 with a year’s worth of warranty protection and future-proof connectivity. Its performance is lacking, though, meaning that you might run out of headroom sooner than you’d like.

Should you buy it?

No. The performance is just too lackluster to make it good for anything other than simple web browsing, and that’s just not worth even the $350 you’ll spend on this 2-in-1.

we need a comparison to another similarly-priced Chromebook

9
Jun

Alienware 17 R5 review



Research Center:

Alienware 17 R5

With a 17-inch display and a chassis weighing in at nearly 10 pounds, the Alienware 17 R5 is truly massive. It’s thick, heavy, and incredibly sturdy. In most cases, a laptop of this size would be completely impractical for everyday use — if it weren’t packed to the gills with the most powerful hardware on the market.

Alienware threw everything it could at this laptop, cramming a 6-core Intel Core i9 processor in there, along with 32GB of RAM, and a GTX 1080 graphics card. It’s certainly outfitted like a gaming desktop so let’s find out if it performs like one.

Supermassive

On the outside, the Alienware 17 looks a lot like its predecessors. It features a soft-touch interior that still attracts fingerprints with every touch, a metallic shell on the top and bottom, along with a stylized grille on the front edge. Around back, you’ll find a big block of metal and plastic that houses a pair of vents for disposing of the enormous amount of heat generated by its powerful hardware.

Jayce Wagner/Digital Trends

It’s not a groundbreaking design, but it works well. It’s still distinctly Alienware — futuristic angles, RGB lighting on the chassis, an inlaid pattern on the back side of the display. The metallic finish is a bit darker than it has been in the past, but otherwise this is the same design you’ve likely seen on previous Alienware machines. It works, looks nice, but it is starting to show its age in one small area: The display bezels.

The 17-inch display is great, but we’ll get to that later, right now we’re talking about bezels. The frame around the display is almost an inch thick all the way around, and because of the shape of the chassis, the angled front-edge makes the top display bezel even thicker. It’s just an awful lot of wasted plastic and it looks dated compared to smaller, slimmer offerings. The Razer Blade 17 has thick bezels around its display, but because they’re recessed, part of the glass display itself, they’re less noticeable in everyday use. Unfortunately, big bezels seem to be par for the course when you’re shopping for a 17-inch laptop.

Space for ports

A credit to the Alienware 17 R5’s overlarge chassis, there’s an awful lot of room to fill with ports, and Alienware does just that. The power adapter plugs in on the back-side of the chassis, right beside an ethernet port, Thunderbolt port, HDMI port, and mini-DisplayPort. On the right-hand side there’s a single USB-A port, and on the left you’ll find a USB-C port, USB-A port, along with headphone and microphone jacks.

The port selection is pretty standard, with a couple appreciated inclusions like mini-DisplayPort, but it’s their placement that really makes the Alienware 17 stand apart from the crowd. By putting mission-critical ports on the back-side of the laptop, they’re always going to be out of your way when the Alienware 17 is sitting on a desk — which let’s be honest, is where it’s going to spend most of its life. This thing is a laptop in name only, so it’s an excellent design decision to position the ports so they won’t clutter up your desk.

The design is distinctly Alienware — futuristic angles, RGB lighting everywhere you look.

The keyboard offers a decent keystroke depth and quick snappy keys, it never feels too much like a laptop keyboard — none of that mushiness associated with membrane keyboards. Similarly, the touchpad works just as smoothly as it should, a credit to Windows Precision Touchpad support. It feels silky and smooth to the touch, but in an era of massive touchpads, it feels a bit small at times.

Another input the Alienware 17 features is a built-in Tobii Eye Tracker. Situated right below the display, the eye tracker has two functions: One, it’ll let you do some fun things in some games — but not very many. Secondly, you can use it for Windows Hello, Microsoft’s facial recognition login system. Windows Hello allows you to login by just opening your laptop and looking at the eye tracker, it’s a nice feature and definitely beats typing out a password every time you open your computer.

Regarding the Tobii Eye Tracker’s utility for gaming though, it’s a lot more hit-and-miss. Some games support it, but it’s still pretty rare to see. Using the Tobii software you can pop balloons by just looking at them though, so that’s nice.

Not the brightest star in the sky

We already covered the Alienware 17 R5’s awkward display bezels, but good news is the display itself is just fine. To the naked eye, colors are bright and vibrant without being washed out or too heavily saturated. The 120Hz G-Sync panel makes even the most basic mouse movements captivating. Seriously, just moving the mouse around is an absolute joy because of how liquid-smooth the motion is. That’s just an appetizer though, once you see this display panel in action, running your favorite games at high or ultra-high settings without skipping a beat, it’s going to be hard to go back to a plain old 60Hz display.

Jayce Wagner/Digital Trends

The resolution here is also worth mentioning. The 17-inch display panel features a 1440p display resolution, which is unusual given the high refresh rate. It’s an excellent pairing though, like chocolate and peanut-butter, the high resolution and high refresh rate complement each other beautifully. Games are impossibly smooth and fluid, and because of the resolution, they’re remarkably crisp.

The numbers paint a slightly more pedestrian portrait here, but the aforementioned aspects more than make up for the display’s shortcomings. Looking at color gamut, the Alienware 17 R5’s display hits 93 percent of the sRGB color space, which is the one you’re going to see most often. On the more finicky AdobeRGB color space, the Alienware’s display hits only 73 percent, which is about what we’d expect out of a laptop display that isn’t geared toward professional use.

Just moving the mouse around is a joy thanks to the high-refresh rate display, every animation is just liquid-smooth.

Moving on, we saw the Alienware 17 R5’s display top out at a contrast ratio of 560-to-1. That’s not bad, but it’s not great either. Overall it just means colors aren’t going to pop quite as much as they could, and that’s a side effect of the 120Hz display. To hit that high refresh rate, Alienware uses a twisted nematic or TN display panel, and they’re typically not as vibrant as more common in-plane-switching or IPS displays.

For comparison, let’s look at the Razer Blade Pro 17. Our review unit featured a 4K IPS display with a refresh rate of 60Hz. With a brighter IPS display, the Blade Pro 17 hit a contrast ratio of 900-to-1, managed to render 98 percent of the AdobeRGB color space, and featured slightly better average color error. This is the tradeoff between a 120Hz TN display like the one in the Alienware 17, or more vibrant, but 60Hz, IPS display.

Fastest in the galaxy

The Alienware 17 features a processor that’s a bit overkill for most uses. Not an Intel Core i5, not a Core i7, but a Core i9. For anyone unfamiliar, the Core i9 is Intel’s top-end consumer-grade processor. It’s marketed as a great processor for gaming — and it is — but it’s important to point out that gaming is not typically processor-intensive. Games rely more heavily on the GPU than the processor but having something as overwhelmingly powerful as an i9 in your machine has some important benefits.

First up let’s look at how it does in Geekbench.

Compared to regular 8th-Generation Core i7 processors, it’s clear the Core i9 is very powerful, but it’s hard to put it in context with just a couple scores. That’s why we ran a couple real-world benchmarks to give you a better idea of just how powerful this six-core processor really is.

For our Adobe Premiere benchmark, we rendered out a project file that stitches together a series of 8K videos and applies an unreasonable amount of adjustment layers, to really put the machine to the test. For reference, a decked-out MacBook Pro 15 takes about 25 minutes to run the same render, while our Alienware 17 here took a much more reasonable 98 seconds, or just over a minute and a half. The full-sized Core i9, residing in a desktop machine like the Alienware Area 51 R5 crunched the same benchmark in just 19 seconds.

Alienware 17 R5 Compared To

Razer Blade Stealth (2018)

Acer Predator Helios 300

Alienware 15 R3 (2017)

Asus ROG Strix GL553VD-DS71

Acer Predator 15

AVADirect Avant P750DM2-G

Asus ROG G752VS-XB78K

Acer Predator 17 X GX-791-73FH

Asus ROG G751JY-DH71

Origin EON 17-S (2014)

MSI GX70

Samsung Series 7 Gamer 700G7A

Alienware M17x R4

Maingear eX-L 17

Alienware Area-51 m9750

Clearly the Alienware 17 isn’t going to beat a desktop machine, but the contrast is important. The Core i9 inside the 17-inch Alienware laptop is capable of making short work of professional-grade workloads and doesn’t come too far behind its desktop-based cousin.

A generous cargo bay

The Alienware 17 features a 512GB SSD and 1TB mechanical hard drive, fairly standard options and the speed here is about what we’d expect. The 512GB SSD was relatively quick on its feet, hitting a read speed of 1,912 megabytes-per-second and a write speed of 1,313MB/s. Even swinging big files around, the SSD kept up beautifully.

As you can see it’s about as quick as you would expect from a laptop SSD, and it’s definitely quick enough that you’ll never notice it slowing you down when you’re handling massive files — or backing up your Steam library.

Stellar performance

When it comes to gaming performance, the Alienware 17 R5 packs enough power into its less-than-slender frame to run circles around similarly outfitted competitors. What does that mean in practice? Well, it means you won’t have trouble running games at 1440p with the settings maxed out, not for a while at least. Looking at our 3DMark scores, it’s pretty clear that the Alienware 17’s hardware configuration is fine-tuned for gaming performance.

The Alienware 17 R5 might not be as slim or stylish as the Razer Blade Pro or Asus ROG Zephyrus, but this thing can move. With the same graphics chipset as the Blade Pro and Zephyrus, the Alienware 17 R5 manages to outperform its slimmer competitors by a sizable margin. There’s a reason for that.

This laptop proves Alienware has earned its reputation for precision engineering. By including an Intel Core i9, and an overclocked Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080, the Alienware 17 R5 is able to kick into high gear and push past the performance we saw out of its competitors here.

When it comes to real-world results the margins narrowed a bit, but the Alienware 17 R5 still pushed past its competitors in most cases, a credit to the slight overclock its GTX 1080 graphics card features.

In Battlefield 1 for instance, we saw the Alienware consistently hit an average of 139 FPS at ultra-high settings at 1080p, and about 130 FPS at 1440p. The Razer Blade Pro came in just behind with an average 134 FPS at ultra-high settings on 1080p, and 126 FPS at the same settings on 1440p.

What this should show you is how robust the Alienware’s hardware really is. It barely takes a hit at all by stepping up to 1440p, and in the case of Battlefield 1 it’s still well above 120 FPS, which means your gameplay will liquid smooth on account of that 120Hz display panel we discussed earlier.

As always, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided illustrates what a more demanding game will look like on this hardware, and even though the Alienware 17 R5 doesn’t quite perform well enough to take advantage of the high-refresh-rate display panel, it still delivers exceptional performance here.

Power-hungry

All that power comes at a cost, though, the Alienware 17 isn’t exactly an all-day performer when it’s not plugged in. On account of its very powerful hardware, the Alienware 17 burns through its battery a lot quicker than something more modest like a Dell XPS 13 — a workhorse designed for all-day use. The Alienware 17 has a few factors working against it here, but let’s look at the numbers first.

As you can see, none of these gaming laptops really perform well when it comes to battery life, so it’s a good idea to keep that charger handy. That said, the Alienware 17 offers the kind of battery life we’d expect from a system with these specs. The six-core processor and overclocked GPU don’t help matters here — and neither does the UHD high-refresh-rate display.

Still, we ended up getting enough juice out of the Alienware 17 that we could do some light office work for a couple hours without worry, but that’s not exactly the kind of workload this laptop is designed for. If you need something that’ll see you through most of a workday without being plugged in, you’re probably not going to want a gaming laptop.

Alien engineering

The Alienware 17 R5 features the latest version of the Alienware Command Center, a software suite for customizing the R5’s lighting, performance, and power consumption settings. Just like the version Alienware ships on its latest desktops, like the Area-51 R5, the Command Center here is fully featured and easy to use. The UI is attractive and utilitarian, everything is where it should be, settings are clearly labeled and laid out, you’ll never have to dig for advanced settings if you need to get to them. They’re all  laid bare for you to customize.

Our Take

Taken as a whole, the Alienware 17 R5 delivers on everything it promises — exceptional gaming performance, unbelievable processing power, and a gorgeous display. It’s not without its flaws, but this is the laptop to beat if you need a gaming powerhouse that can — kind of — fit into a backpack.

Is there a better alternative?

When it comes to raw performance, there really isn’t a better alternative than the Alienware 17 R5. If you need exceptional power out of a portable gaming machine, the Alienware 17 is the way to go. However, if you want a gaming laptop that can also be your everyday driver — the thing you bring to work or class every day — you should probably look elsewhere.

For most games, even brand-new games, you’d do just fine with a more modest hardware configuration. Even the recent Dell XPS 15 2-in-1, with onboard AMD Radeon Vega graphics has enough horsepower for running games at 1080p at medium-high settings. It’s lighter, more portable, and a lot more affordable.

At the other end of the spectrum, you might want to look at the Razer Blade. With similar pricing and hardware, but a much slimmer build, it’s a bit more suitable for everyday use.

How long will it last?

As we mentioned, the Alienware 17 R5 is built like a tank. Alienware has a well-earned reputation for robust build quality and the 17 R5 is no exception. The chassis on this laptop will absolutely outlast its internal components and put up with the ravages of time.

Additionally, the hardware is powerful enough that it’ll see you through at least a couple years of gaming on the highest-possible settings. It also features a one-year hardware warranty protecting against manufacturer defects, which is fairly standard for this kind of laptop.

Should you buy it?

If you’re looking at a gaming laptop in the $3,000 price range, you can’t do much better than the Alienware 17 R5 in terms of raw performance — so you should definitely buy it. But if you’re looking to save a little, or pick up a laptop that’s a bit more general-purpose, and less gigantic and ostentatious, you should probably look elsewhere.

9
Jun

Facebook takes on YouTube, Twitch, and Mixer with a game broadcast channel


Facebook is now experimenting with a new gaming video “destination” that combines all the live and pre-recorded gaming videos posted on the social network. Labeled as FB.GG despite the portal’s longer real-world address, Facebook splits its one-stop video showcase into five sections: Live Now, Streams by Game, Suggested Streamers, Recently Live, and Watched by Your Friends. 

“People will be able to discover gaming video on our new destination based on creators and games they follow, Pages they like and Groups they belong to,” the company says. “We’ll also feature creators, esports competitions and content from gaming industry events.” 

To get FB.GG into the eyes of the gaming community, Facebook plans to fund content creators and esports coverage that will be piped into the page. That funding likely stems from Facebook’s Gaming Creator Program launched in January to help content creators build their communities, increase discovery across multiple platforms, and provide tools for making money from streams. 

But what the program lacks is means for actually getting started in the game streaming business. That is where Facebook’s new Level Up Program comes into play, launching in the next few months. This program provides tips, best practices provided by established streamers, and early access to new features. Beginners also have access to Facebook Stars, a monetization platform enabling fans to support their favorite streamers by purchasing and sending virtual “stars.” 

“Since our initial tests, we’ve seen encouraging results and have rolled out Facebook Stars to everyone in our gaming creator program,” Facebook says. “We’ve also been getting a lot of feedback from the community on ways to make Stars even better for both gaming creators and fans, so we’ll continue to iterate and add new features to Stars in the coming months.” 

To qualify for the Level Up Program, you must have a “Gaming Video Creator” page and have at least 100 followers on that page. Other requirements include broadcasting for four hours in the last 14 days, broadcasting on two days in the last 14 days, meeting Facebook’s community standards and its monetization eligibility standards. 

Currently, one of the main attractions headlining FB.GG is AlexRamiGaming streaming Fortnite. Click on the video, and a popup window explains how you can send Stars to support streamers. Based on the message, viewers accumulate Stars as they watch a broadcast, and can donate those Stars to the streamer who converts them into cash. You can purchase Stars as well: 

  • 100 = $1.40 
  • 378 = $5.00 
  • 795 = $10.00 
  • 2,235 = $25.00 
  • 4,465 = $50.00 
  • 9,525 = $100.00 

The whole program — from funding streamers to the new FB.GG page — is Facebook’s attempt to keep gamers glued to the social website instead of wandering over to Mixer, YouTube, or Twitch to watch gaming broadcasts. The new portal will automatically list the creators and games you already follow, your gaming Groups, and the game-centric Pages you follow. 

“We’re in an experimental phase and will continue to test new experiences, including a feed where fans can explore relevant gaming content,” Facebook says. 

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9
Jun

Facebook takes on YouTube, Twitch, and Mixer with a game broadcast channel


Facebook is now experimenting with a new gaming video “destination” that combines all the live and pre-recorded gaming videos posted on the social network. Labeled as FB.GG despite the portal’s longer real-world address, Facebook splits its one-stop video showcase into five sections: Live Now, Streams by Game, Suggested Streamers, Recently Live, and Watched by Your Friends. 

“People will be able to discover gaming video on our new destination based on creators and games they follow, Pages they like and Groups they belong to,” the company says. “We’ll also feature creators, esports competitions and content from gaming industry events.” 

To get FB.GG into the eyes of the gaming community, Facebook plans to fund content creators and esports coverage that will be piped into the page. That funding likely stems from Facebook’s Gaming Creator Program launched in January to help content creators build their communities, increase discovery across multiple platforms, and provide tools for making money from streams. 

But what the program lacks is means for actually getting started in the game streaming business. That is where Facebook’s new Level Up Program comes into play, launching in the next few months. This program provides tips, best practices provided by established streamers, and early access to new features. Beginners also have access to Facebook Stars, a monetization platform enabling fans to support their favorite streamers by purchasing and sending virtual “stars.” 

“Since our initial tests, we’ve seen encouraging results and have rolled out Facebook Stars to everyone in our gaming creator program,” Facebook says. “We’ve also been getting a lot of feedback from the community on ways to make Stars even better for both gaming creators and fans, so we’ll continue to iterate and add new features to Stars in the coming months.” 

To qualify for the Level Up Program, you must have a “Gaming Video Creator” page and have at least 100 followers on that page. Other requirements include broadcasting for four hours in the last 14 days, broadcasting on two days in the last 14 days, meeting Facebook’s community standards and its monetization eligibility standards. 

Currently, one of the main attractions headlining FB.GG is AlexRamiGaming streaming Fortnite. Click on the video, and a popup window explains how you can send Stars to support streamers. Based on the message, viewers accumulate Stars as they watch a broadcast, and can donate those Stars to the streamer who converts them into cash. You can purchase Stars as well: 

  • 100 = $1.40 
  • 378 = $5.00 
  • 795 = $10.00 
  • 2,235 = $25.00 
  • 4,465 = $50.00 
  • 9,525 = $100.00 

The whole program — from funding streamers to the new FB.GG page — is Facebook’s attempt to keep gamers glued to the social website instead of wandering over to Mixer, YouTube, or Twitch to watch gaming broadcasts. The new portal will automatically list the creators and games you already follow, your gaming Groups, and the game-centric Pages you follow. 

“We’re in an experimental phase and will continue to test new experiences, including a feed where fans can explore relevant gaming content,” Facebook says. 

Editors’ Recommendations

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  • The History of Battle Royale: From Mod to Worldwide Phenomenon
  • Facebook-first news means vertical videos, social media hosts
  • Facebook takes aim at Tinder and Bumble with its own dating service



9
Jun

MacBook Pro 13-inch with Touch Bar review



Research Center:

Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch with Touch Bar

Have you grown bored of seeing your local Starbucks awash in silver, mid-sized laptops, all sporting that glowing Apple logo? We don’t blame you. Apple has remained committed to the MacBook Pro’s design over the last four years, counting on engineering excellence to persevere through multiple product cycles. That decision drove Mac fans wild, as many itched for a newer, faster Pro – and ended up with “new” models that looked the same as what they already owned.

The base 13-inch model without the Touch Bar is $1,300, which comes with 128GB of storage. If you want the Touch Bar model we reviewed, you’ll have to shell out $1,800, though you at least get a processor upgrade as part of the deal.

$1,800 is a lot for a MacBook Pro 13 with a Core i5 processor, even by Apple’s standards. The sharp increase in price means you can only obtain a Core i5 MacBook Pro at prices that used to get you a Core i7, and perhaps a RAM upgrade as well. Can the new model live up to the expectations set by its price?

Still the most luxurious laptop

One look at the new MacBook Pro 13 with Touch Bar is all you need to know it’s a Mac. That’s even more impressive now that Apple has decided to take attention away from its branding, ditching the glowing white apple in favor of a slick, subtle gloss logo similar to what’s on the MacBook, the iPhone, and the iPad.

As before, the MacBook Pro 13 features an all-unibody design lacking any visible seams aside from those on the bottom. But the new version is slimmer and trimmer, shaving weight down to 3.02 pounds from 3.48 pounds, while thickness drops from 0.71 inches to 0.59 inches.

  • 1.
    Someone carrying the original macbook like this

And that’s not all. Apple, like Dell, has aggressively shaved space from the display bezels to reduce the overall footprint. The new MacBook Pro 13 remains slightly larger than the Dell XPS 13 overall, and a couple tenths of a pound heavier. Users with the older Pro model will appreciate the improvement.

Oh, and the new model comes in Space Gray, which hopefully is the beginning of a wider color selection. The 12-inch MacBook comes in Silver, Space Gray, Rose Gold, and Gold. Color choices may seem petty, but they add a touch of personality.

There’s no arguing with the new MacBook Pro’s elegance. The beauty of Apple design has always been subtle, which is why the company is sometimes accused of being safe, or boring. The new Pro doesn’t even try to side-step those criticisms. It’s not the smallest 13-inch laptop, or the lightest, and its materials feel much as before. There’s something to be said for design that works, though, even if it’s not innovative, and the new MacBook Pro remains the most luxurious laptop around.

Any port you want, as long as it’s USB-C

While the MacBook Pro 13 with Touch Bar has a headphone jack, it makes another connectivity choice that’s just as controversial and, functionally, more important. Apple has decided that USB-C / Thunderbolt 3 is the future and has ditched every other port.

Yes, USB-C is all you get. The MacBook Pro 13 with Touch Bar has four of these ports, two on each side. Even the card reader is missing. Crazy as it sounds, the decision has it benefits. The simplicity of the port selection is hard to argue with, and every port is a charging port, so you can plug the wall adapter into whichever is more convenient. The ports are quick, too, so you can hook up multiple displays or use fast external SSDs without worry about connectivity bandwidth.

You’re going to need adapters, and you might need lots of them.

Now, for the bad news: You’re going to need adapters, and you might need lots of them. Do you use an external display? That’s an adapter. External hard drive? Adapter. Wired input of any sort? Adapter. Ethernet? Adapter. SDcard? Adapter. At best, you’ll need to purchase one or two dongles. At worst, you’re going to need a dock solution, which can add another $100 to $200 to the price.

The greatest irony? Even Apple’s iPhone can’t plug into any MacBook Pro 13 without purchasing an adapter.

However, thanks to Apple’s lead, this has increasingly become the norm for better or worse. Laptops like the Spectre 13 and MateBook X now have similar port options — and it’ll only continue to be the direction the way things go.

At least it can communicate wirelessly. Speaking of which, the new Pro 13 has the usual 802.11ac Wi-Fi adapter paired with Bluetooth 4.2. It’s good to see the latest version of Bluetooth here, as it’ll help connect with a wireless keyboard and mouse.

The keyboard of the future isn’t very good

The 12-inch MacBook, released last year, debuted an all-new “butterfly” switch that’s much thinner than any used in a laptop keyboard prior. Though Apple touted it as having great feel, we complained that “typing for more than an hour [left our] fingers with a dull ache,” due to the keyboard’s stiff feel and limited travel.

Now that same keyboard can be found on the MacBook Pro. Well, not exactly the same.  The Pro’s keyboard has a “second-generation butterfly mechanism,” with slightly more travel than the first. And it is an improvement. If you’re a writer, the MacBook Pro 13 will serve you better than the MacBook Pro 12.

Bill Roberson/Digital Trends
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

That’s not to say it’ll serve you well. While travel has improved, the keyboard continues to suffer a stiff, abrupt bottoming action that can make long typing sessions tiresome. The degree to which this will bother you is a matter of preference. A few Digital Trends writers thought it was perfectly acceptable and most thought they could learn to live with it. No one said they preferred it over the previous MacBook Pro 13.

And it’s not clear why this sacrifice was made. While the new MacBook Pro 13 is thin, it’s as thick or thicker than many competitors with better keyboards, such as the Acer Swift 7, HP Spectre, HP Spectre x360, and Dell XPS 13. Whatever the reason, it’s clear Apple had to make a compromise between size, performance, and keyboard quality, with the latter getting the bad end of the bargain. The increased complaints (and lawsuits) about sticking keys doesn’t help either.

The keyboard suffers a stiff, abrupt bottoming action that can make long typing sessions tiresome.

Below the keyboard is a revised, plus-sized touchpad. Unlike the keyboard, this is an unmitigated plus. The spacious surface improves the ease of using multi-touch gestures, which work consistently well. While the new, larger surface means constant contact between it and your palms, we didn’t notice a single instance of unintended input throughout our testing.

And don’t forget Force Touch. The haptic feedback system, which uses vibration to simulate a click, is so good at emulating real movement that most users never notice a difference. It’s quieter than it used to be too, without sacrificing the satisfying clarity of the click. The touch pad also offers force sensitivity, which can enable special interface functions — just like the iPhone. The feature isn’t widely embraced, even by Apple’s own software, but it’s great when offered.

The Touch Bar searches for purpose

In May of 2014, Apple Insider published an article talking about upcoming Macs with “in-key displays,” a rumor that began to snowball in early 2016. After several misses (the rumor mills thought it might appear in early 2016, then in summer), it’s finally here in all its OLED glory.

If nothing else, the Touch Bar is great to look at it. It boasts Retina-equivalent pixel density, which means icons are rendered with crisp, vibrant graphics. And because it’s OLED, blacks look inky black — so dark it’s often hard to find the Touch Bar’s boundaries.

As a conversation starter, then, it holds up. As a functional tool? Less so. Apple tries to integrate the Touch Bar in a way that makes it relevant even in everyday web browser, note-taking, and photo-viewing. Its display changes constantly as new apps are opened, and old ones closed. It performs well, keeping up no matter how quickly apps are switched, or how many are open.

Bill Roberson/Digital Trends
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Yet there’s rarely much use for it. At best, it provides a quick way to scroll through lists, such as your Photo Stream. It can also be useful if you’d like to scroll through a video – and it’s great at picking up on such content, activating a scroll bar even when browsing YouTube.

In other cases, though, it’s clearly a solution searching for a problem. Take typing, for instant. As you input text in Safari, Word, and other apps, the Touch Bar constantly flashes word suggestions. It’s a feature that works well on the iPhone, where typing is often slow and cumbersome.

On a laptop, it’s pointless. Type in “office,” for instance, and the Touch Bar will suggest alternatives. Did you mean “officers”? Or, perhaps “off-season”? This happens whether a word is spelled properly or not. Even if you do slip in a typo, it’s hard to imagine why a user would look to the Touch Bar for help when MacOS already presents a correction on-screen and, in most cases, will correct the spelling automatically.

Since its release, a growing number of apps now feature Touch Bar support — including Evernote, Microsoft Outlook, and LastPass. But even with more developer support than it had at launch, the Touch bar is still not quite as integral to the MacBook’s user experience as Apple would like it to be.

If nothing else, the Touch Bar is great to look at it.

Even where it might be useful, the Touch Bar is limited by its size. It automatically displays open Safari tabs, complete with miniature content previews, a feature that could prove helpful. Yet the previews are so small that it’s often hard to tell the tabs apart, even with just three or four open. If you open six, or eight, or ten tabs, then the previews become smaller still, until they’re so tiny that it’s hard to even tap the right one. Similar problems trouble its photo preview and video preview capabilities. In theory, you can scroll through photo collections. In practice, it’s harder to do than with the touchpad.

In short, the Touch Bar isn’t great. But giving the function row over to an OLED display does come with an important perk called Touch ID. Yes, you can now log in with your fingerprint, and it works as seamlessly as it does on iPhone. Fast, secure login authentication methods are a great way to improve security for the average user. And Touch ID integrates with Apple Pay, so you can use it to securely make online purchases — from stores that accept Apple Pay.

Display

A quick look at the specifications could make you think Apple’s new MacBook Pro 13 had an old display. It’s still Retina, which means the resolution is still 2,560 × 1,600. That was stunning in 2012, but today it seems mediocre next to QHD+ (3,200 × 1,800) and 4K screens.

But don’t worry, Mac faithful. You can banish any concerns about the display from your mind. It’s fantastic.

We measured a maximum brightness of 548 lux. That’s ridiculously brilliant, and complete overkill for use indoors, but it can help make the screen, which is still very glossy, usable in extreme situations. By comparison, the Dell XPS 13 with QHD+ display only hits 278 lux, and the HP Spectre x360 hits 355 lux. Both those systems can have a problem with glare in bright conditions, though Dell gives you the choice to combat that with a matte display option.

Bill Roberson/Digital Trends
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Brightness is only important in a bright room. What’ll stun you, no matter where you use the MacBook Pro 13, is its color. The display can achieve 100 percent of the sRGB gamut, as well as 91 percent of AdobeRGB. It also delivered an average color error value of 0.72 (lower is better). Anything below one is generally unnoticeable to the human eye, and this reading is the lowest we’ve ever recorded from a laptop. The previous record holder, Dell’s XPS 15, boasted an average error value of 0.78.

Even the contrast ratio of 1,200:1 is excellent. The Pro can deliver dark blacks next to brilliant colors without trouble.

The only flaw we found is gamma, which came in at a reading of 2.3. The ideal curve is 2.2, and the MacBook Pro 13’s result indicates it portrays content a bit darker than it should. But this is a very minor fluctuation, and plenty of competitors miss it, too.

The Retina display may not be this Pro’s headline feature, but it remains its most attractive trait.

When the numbers are tallied, the new Retina display comes away a winner. It defeats the Dell XPS 13, Acer Swift 7, Asus Zenbook 3, HP Spectre x360, and Lenovo Yoga 910, beating all of them in color gamut, color accuracy, and contrast ratio.

That’s not to say it lacks competition, though. Microsoft’s Surface Book can go toe-to-toe with it. Though our tests found the Surface Book had a narrower contrast ratio of 1,010:1, its gamma curve reading was the proper 2.2. Its successor, the Surface Book 2, raised the bar even more with a 1,400-1 contrast ratio. But even still, in terms of color accuracy and brightness, they still don’t quite match up.

There’s also a small handful of Windows systems, like the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga, available with OLED displays. These clobber the MacBook Pro 13’s strong contrast ratio, and deliver an even wider color gamut, all with accurate gamma. But they don’t match the Mac’s out-of-the-box color accuracy.

Numbers aside, the display on the MacBook Pro 13 is excellent, and looks it in everyday use. Games and movies are crisp and vibrant, and high-quality photos render with such detail that you might think your display was switched with a canvas print. The Retina display may not be this Pro’s headline feature, but it remains its most attractive trait.

Pump up the bass

Apple has always shown an affinity for audio quality rarely found elsewhere, and the MacBook Pro is no exception. In fact, its speakers are the best we can recall hearing in a 13-inch system. That’s saying a lot, because a few recent laptops in this category, like the Asus Zenbook 3, have surprised us with their quality.

Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch with Touch Bar Compared To

Asus Zenbook UX330UA-AH54

Acer Swift 7 SF713-51-M90J

Lenovo Ideapad 710S

Acer Aspire S 13 S5-371-52JR

Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch with…

Apple Macbook Pro 13-Inch (2013)

Apple MacBook Air 13.3-inch…

Apple MacBook 2009

Apple MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2008)

Apple MacBook (2.4GHz, 2008)

Apple MacBook Air (80GB)

Apple MacBook Pro 15″ 2.4GHz

Apple MacBook Pro 2.33GHz

Apple MacBook 2.0GHz

Apple MacBook Pro 15.4-inch 2.16GHz

The MacBook Pro 13 offers a wide range of volume and, at maximum, it’s far louder than most people will need in normal use, and capable of filling a large room with tunes. Bass is present and accounted for in minimal but noticeable amounts – the thump can be felt through the keyboard at higher volumes. High and mid-range sound remains clear and free of distortion.

External speakers will be an improvement, as always, but the audio quality present here is surprising, and may convince you there’s no need to plug anything into the headphone jack.

A fast processor, facing stiff competition

Specifications have never been Apple’s area of focus, but that used to be a marketing concern rather than an indication of the company’s preference for hardware. Over the last few years, though, that has changed. The MacBook Pro fell behind, adopting new Intel processor lines late — or not at all.

The MacBook Pro only partially addresses the problem. Our entry-level MacBook Pro 13 with Touch Bar we reviewed has an Intel Core i5-6267U, though it’s been recently updated to 7th-gen Intel Core processors.

For the most part, yes. The system’s Geekbench 3 multi-core score of 7,638 is not the best we’ve seen, but it’s certainly in range of competitors. The Lenovo Yoga 910 hit 7,973, and the Dell XPS 13 hit 7,835. Both were tested with Intel’s Core i7-7500U. The MacBook Pro 13 scored even better in Geekbench 3’s single-core metric, beating all competitors, if only by a hair.

You might wonder how the MacBook Pro 13 with Touch Bar can keep up, given it has an older architecture. The secret is the specific processor used by Apple. It has a 28-watt Thermal Design Power, while most Intel Core mobile chips are designed under a 15-watt Thermal Design Power. Put simply, the MacBook Pro 13 keeps itself competitive by drawing more juice under load.

While the Pro does keep up, it’s still disappointing to see it stick with an older generation of hardware, especially given the price and the availability of newer Intel CPUs. The faster Core i7 in competitors we tested can be had for hundreds less than the MacBook Pro 13 with Touch Bar. Though quick, this level of performance is typical in laptops priced above $1,000.

Despite being well in 2018, Apple has still not announced an 8th-gen update, making the CPU available here feel more outdated with every day that goes by.

The hard drive to rule them all

Drive performance is often overlooked by consumers, but it’s important to a system’s overall capability. Apple knows this, and has been a leader in storage performance for years. The new MacBook Pro line is no exception. It quotes read speeds of 3.1 gigabytes per second, and write speeds of 2.2 gigabytes per second.

We can’t do an apples-to-apples comparison with Windows competitors here, because the tools we normally use to test performance aren’t compatible with MacOS. However, we did test using two benchmarks that run only on Apple’s operating system.

First up was Blackmagic, a test designed to tell professionals if a drive is up to the task of handling content at specific framerates and resolutions. It produced a write speed result of 1,348 megabytes per second, and a read result of two gigabytes per second (annoyingly, this appears to be the maximum result the benchmark can show). That’s a big improvement over the MacBook Pro 13 with Retina (2015). It hit a write speed of 647MB/s, and a read speed of 1,056MB/s.

We also fired up DiskMark. It spat out sequential read performance of 1,826MB/s, and sequential write performance of 1,289MB/s.  We hadn’t tested with that benchmark before, so take the numbers with a grain of salt. Still, they’re good figures, and reasonably consistent with Blackmagic.

Again, these benchmarks do not run on Windows, so we can’t make an apples-to-apples comparison of hard drive performance. But numbers we have from CrystalDiskMark, our Windows test, suggest Apple is at the head of the pack.

The Dell XPS 13 with 512GB solid state drive scored a read speed of 1,285MB/s and a write sped of 572.8MB/s. The best drive performance we’ve seen from a Windows laptop came from the Vaio Z Flip. It scored read speeds of 1621.7MB/s, and write speeds of 1565.3MB/s.

If this all sounds confusing, don’t worry. While the numbers are outstanding, you don’t need to obsess over them. It’s clear the MacBook Pro 13 with Touch Bar has outstanding drive performance, and it’ll handle any workload you ask of it. This is the most future-proof component in the entire system.

Mac gaming is still a bad idea

As in most past incarnations, the Apple MacBook Pro 13 with Touch Bar relies on Intel integrated graphics. If you want a more powerful discrete graphics solution, then you’ll need to accept the MacBook Pro 15’s larger footprint.

With that said, our review unit did boast Intel Iris Graphics 550 which, in theory, should be much quicker than standard Intel HD graphics. Compared to Intel HD 620, the solution most common in modern Windows laptops, Iris Graphics 550 has double the execution units (48 vs. 24) and a higher maximum clock speed (1,100MHz vs. 1,050MHz). Better still, Iris Graphics 550 has 64 megabytes of dedicated eDRAM, something you’ll never find with Intel HD 620.

But does that mean you can play games better than with a typical Windows ultrabook? To find out we fired up Civilization VI, testing it at 1,440 x 900 resolution on the MacBook Pro 13 with Touch Bar, and on the same resolution on HP’s Spectre x360, with minimum detail and memory consumption selected.

Bill Roberson/Digital Trends
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

The game performed identically — and poorly — on both, delivering 21 frames per second through the in-game benchmark. But the HP was the better experience, as the Mac suffered graphical glitches that weren’t present on the HP Spectre x360.

If you’re curious why the game performs poorly despite greater technical capability, blame Apple’s OpenGL support, which hasn’t been updated significantly for years. Instead, the company prefers Metal, its own API which can be used on both iOS and MacOS devices. The problem? Porting a game from Windows’ popular DirectX API to Metal is unfamiliar territory. Developers of Windows PC games don’t have a good option for porting to the Mac, and the result is often performance that’s less impressive than you’d expect.

You’ll have better luck with games ported over from iOS, such as CSR Racing Pro 3, Super Octagon, and Limbo. There’s a fair selection of such games on the Mac App Store. These also tend to suffer problems, though, especially in control, which is often poorly converted from touch to keyboard and mouse.

A smaller battery leads to adequate endurance

While the MacBook Pro 13 takes a step forward in processor performance, it takes a significant step back in battery capacity. The previous model had a 74.9 watt-hour battery, but the MacBook Pro 13 with Touch Bar has 49.2 watt-hour battery (the model without Touch Bar has a slightly larger 54.5 watt-hour battery). That’s a reduction in capacity of almost 35 percent.

Despite that, Apple quotes the same battery life as before. The company obviously thinks that efficiency will make up for the smaller battery, but we didn’t find that to be the case.

Peacekeeper, a looped web browsing benchmark, drained a full charge in five hours and three minutes. That’s not a bad result, but it’s not amazing, either. The Dell XPS 13 with Core i7 lasted five hours and seven minutes, while the Acer Swift 7 lasted five hours and 56 minutes. The HP Spectre lasted a tad bit less at four hours and 54 minutes.

We also tested the system in a video loop, using iTunes. It drained the battery in ten hours and 17 minutes. That’s another solid result, though behind the HP Spectre x360, and barely ahead of the Lenovo Yoga 910. The Dell XPS 13 with Core i7 comes up a bit short here, hitting nine hours and 12 minutes.

In real-world use, we found battery life to be average. Most 13-inch laptops priced about $1,000 can last through nearly a workday of a use, and the MacBook Pro 13 with Touch Bar can, as well. But this assumes your “normal” use isn’t constant use, and that you stay away from demanding applications.

Some users have noted that Safari seems to drain the battery more quickly than hoped. We’ve noted that, as well, even after the 10.12.3 update, which fixed a bug that caused Safari to use more graphics horsepower than needed.

If you want amazing portability, you should aim for Dell’s XPS 13 with 1080p display and Core i5 processor. It lasted an outstanding six hours and 12 minutes in Peacekeeper, and twelve hours 43 minutes in our video loop. The best of all options in terms of battery life is the Surface Book 2 13, which lasted an amazing 17 hours of battery life in our video playback test. The MacBook Pro 13 used to be the last word in battery life, but the new model — or, at least, the Touch Bar version — has lost the crown.

MacOS or Windows 10? You’ve probably already decided

The MacBook Pro 13 with Touch Bar of course runs MacOS, while most other laptops run Windows. For some, that’s all the information needed. If you prefer MacOS, then you’re going to need to buy a MacBook, and the new Pro models are the most powerful Mac laptops available.

If you’re not familiar with Windows 10 and MacOS, give our reviews a read. We generally recommend Windows 10 over Apple’s operating system. It offers better task management, superior notifications, a more versatile digital assistant, and extensive cloud integration. MacOS does have strengths, though. It remains intuitive to use, and it works extremely well with iOS devices, as users can quickly share content between them or send text messages through the MacOS iMessage app.

The usual warranty terms, with Apple Store convivence

Apple ships every MacBook with a one-year warranty that includes 90 days of phone support. The terms are typical for the industry. The company’s retail stores give an edge, though, because owners can stop by for in-person support. That’s much more convenient than calling a hotline or shipping a system back — if you live near an Apple store, of course.

Our Take

Apple’s new MacBook Pro 13 with Touch Bar is a beautiful machine, but it has several flaws, and it’s far too expensive.

Is there a better alternative?

That depends on if you’d consider a Windows computer. If not, the MacBook Pro 13 with Touch Bar is an attractive option – though you should consider the model without Touch Bar first. It’s more affordable, and has a larger battery. The processor is not quite as fast, but the downgrade won’t be significant for most people.

If you’re open-minded about choosing between Windows 10 and MacOS, there are numerous competitors. They include the Dell XPS 13, HP Spectre x360, Huawei Matebook X Pro, Surface Book 2, and Razer Blade Stealth. Many of these are a bit quicker, some have better battery life, and all offer a better keyboard. The Windows alternatives also offer an optional touchscreen, and some are 2-in-1 devices usable as either laptop or tablet.

The main sacrifice you’ll make with these alternatives is display quality. Only Microsoft’s Surface Book, and the handful of OLED laptops currently available, can go toe-to-toe with the new Pro in that area.

The DT Accessory Pack

ProCase Sleeve Cover

$16.99

Kensington SD4500 USB-C Docking Station

$179.99

Logitech MX Anywhere 2 Wireless Mobile Mouse

$35

How long will it last?

Apple has control of each Mac’s lifespan by dictating which systems will receive MacOS updates. Since the MacBook Pro 13 with Touch Bar was just released, it’s safe to say it’ll last as long as any Mac currently available. With this MacBook in particular, the real danger is in the keyboard, which has had notable reliability issues.

Should you buy it?

No, at least not at the configuration we reviewed.

The MacBook Pro 13 with Touch Bar is not a bad laptop. On the contrary, it’s good. But the $1,800 price tag demands more than just good. A laptop sold for that, as an entry-level model, must be among the best of the best. The MacBook Pro 13 without Touch Bar (starting at $1,300) and MacBook Pro 15 (starting at $2,400) are both better values for what you pay.

9
Jun

Now more efficient, without less jank [#acpodcast]


blackberry-key2-preview-16.jpg?itok=nw_P

Daniel Bader, Andrew Martonik, Russell Holly, and Michael Fisher gather in New York City for a look at the BlackBerry KEY2 and its glorious hardware keyboard. It’s a safe upgrade from the original, but features a faster processor, more RAM, dual cameras, a stronger frame, and larger keys.

As an aperitif to the main course, they chat about Moto’s Z3 Play. It’s a solid, mid-range phone that will be available unlocked in the U.S for $499, but through only two carriers — Sprint and US Cellular. Amazon will also be selling it as a Prime Exclusive Phone, likely at a discount.

Listen now

  • Subscribe in iTunes: Audio
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  • Download directly: Audio

Show Notes and Links:

  • Moto Z3 Play hands-on preview: Three’s company
  • Moto G6 review
  • Moto G6 Plus review
  • BlackBerry KEY2 hands-on: More of the same, back in the game

Sponsors:

  • Ziprecruiter: The smartest way to hire. Try ZipRecruiter for free. That’s right FREE!

9
Jun

Xbox Game Pass, PlayStation VR bundles, and more are all discounted today


Whether you’re looking for new tech gear or household items, we’ve got you covered.

We found plenty of great deals today that include big discounts on Xbox Game Pass, PlayStation VR bundles, the Roku Ultra 4K streaming player, and more! Time’s running out to take advantage of these prices, so hurry!

View the rest of the deals

If you want to know about the deals as soon as they are happening, you’ll want to follow Thrifter on Twitter, and sign up for the newsletter, because missing out on a great deal stinks!

9
Jun

Future Apple Watch to Adopt Solid State Buttons With Haptic Feedback


A future version of the Apple Watch will be updated with solid state buttons that don’t physically click but instead use a Taptic Engine to provide haptic feedback to users, reports Fast Company.

Apple will continue to use a two button configuration with a Digital Crown and a Side button, but neither button will be a traditional physical button.

Apple will stick with the Watch’s current button configuration, with a button and a digital crown situated on one side of the device, but neither will physically click as before. Rather than reacting to the user’s touch by physically moving back and forth, the new buttons will vibrate slightly under the fingertip, using the haptic effect Apple calls the Taptic Engine. (The digital crown will still physically rotate to navigate through content.)

What Fast Company is describing is the same solid state button design that Apple first introduced with the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 7 Plus Home button. These devices, and later iPhones with a Home button, use solid state buttons that provide haptic feedback from the built-in Taptic Engine to mimic a button press. Apple uses a similar method for its MacBook and MacBook Pro trackpads, which also lack physical buttons.

Solid state buttons will improve water resistance in the Apple Watch and also take up less space, leaving more room for a bigger battery or other components. Fast Company’s source also alleges Apple is working on using the top of the buttons as sensors to gather health-related data like heart rhythms as some types of measurements require more than one point of contact with a user’s skin.

According to Fast Company, the Apple Watch could adopt solid state buttons as early as 2018, but if the feature doesn’t make it into the 2018 Apple Watch models, solid state buttons will be introduced in 2019. In the future, beyond 2019, Apple is also said to be working towards a watch that has no buttons at all, with the sides of the device designed to respond to touch and swipe-based gestures.

Previous 2018 Apple Watch rumors have made no mention of solid state buttons, but we have heard that the fourth-generation Apple Watch models could feature a display that’s 15 percent larger, perhaps through a reduction in bezel size. New models are also said to feature a longer battery life and improved health monitoring capabilities.

Related Roundups: Apple Watch, watchOS 4, watchOS 5Tag: fastcompany.comBuyer’s Guide: Apple Watch (Neutral)
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9
Jun

Make the most of World Cup 2018 with these apps!


Listen to the latest podcast!

The world cup is just around the corner and the hype is getting real. The biggest sporting event in the world is expected to draw in an audience in the billions and showcase some of the best athletes in the world.

32 teams will head to Russia with the dream of raising the FIFA World Cup Trophy. From June 14 until July 15, they’ll battle it out to see who reigns supreme. Can Messi finally win the World Cup? Can Ronaldo power Portugal to the trophy or will Germany repeat? Only time will tell, but one is for sure, it’ll be fun to find out.

It’s almost impossible to watch every match. The matches will take place in Russia this year so many of them will take place during the workday in the United States. Since we’ll need some help staying up on the games, we’ve put together this list of apps that’ll help you stay informed during the World Cup

FotMob

FotMob is widely recognized as one of the best football apps in the Play Store. The app offers up live scoring so even if you can’t watch the games, you can follow live. Match reports give you real-time in-game reports like cards, substitutions, injuries, and goals. The app has a wonderful layout that makes it easy to see how your team is doing in its group and a handy schedule to see when they’ll play next. FotMob has a free version that contains ads and a paid version that removes them.

Play Store link: FotMob Free | FotMob Paid

The Official FIFA World Cup 2018 App

What could be better than the official app, right? FIFA has published a fantastic app that allows you to select your favorite teams and stay up to date on everything you need to know. From news, match alerts, and schedules, the Official FIFA World Cup 2018 App is a perfect companion for the month-long tournament.

Play Store link: Official FIFA World Cup 2018 App

Google Translate

If you’re lucky enough to head over to Russia for the World Cup, Google Translate could be your best friend. Unless you speak Russian, there’s definitely going to be a language barrier at some point during your trip, so why not load up Google Translate and download a few languages now? It could save you some heartache in the future!

Play Store link: Google Translate

Fox Sports Go

Fox has the broadcasting rights to the World Cup in the United States this year. That means that it’ll be streaming all of the games on its app so you can watch on the go. The Fox Sports Go app also has casting built in so you can show the games on your Chromecast-enabled television! You will need a valid cable subscription to stream through the Fox Sports Go app, but if you don’t, check out our next entry.

Play Store link: Fox Sports Go

YouTube TV, Hulu with Live TV, PlayStation Vue, or DirecTV Now

Credit: cordcuttersnews.com

We all know that one of the downfalls of cutting the cord is losing out on live programming. But, when there are special events like the World Cup going on, you may want to consider signing up for one of these cordless services. All of the streaming services listed offer some sort of free trial before they’ll charge you. In fact, YouTube TV gives you an entire month which is just about long enough to stream the entire World Cup! Even if you don’t keep the service, you can use it in the meantime to log into apps like Fox Sports Go to stream games that aren’t on TV.

Play Store link: YouTube TV, Hulu with Live TV, PlayStation Vue, DirecTV Now

9
Jun

Clear Pixel 2 and 2 XL cases


If you love how your new Google Pixel looks, and want to protect it, while still keeping its sleek design front and center, then look no further than totallee’s ultra thin clear cases for the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL.

Totallee has been making super slim iPhone cases since 2013, but this year they have
expanded their collection to include cases for the Google Pixel 2 and 2 XL. The South
Pasadena, CA based company understands that not everyone wants to hide their phone behind a boxy, hulking behemoth of a case. That’s why they have made a name for themselves creating sleek, branding-free cases, that will keep your Pixel looking like a Pixel.

The centerpiece of their Pixel collection is the glossy clear thin case made from thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU). The material is flexible, yet durable, and will protect your phone from most bumps, scrapes, and minor falls. But at 0.02” thin, the case adds barely anything to your phone’s profile. The case also features precise cutouts for the camera, flash, charging port, and fingerprint scanner. The power/volume side buttons are protected by raised coverings, yet remain easily operable.

The best part is that this amazing Pixel case is available for only $25, and it comes with a stellar 2-year warranty. If anything happens to your case, totallee will just send you one free replacement no questions asked! These cases have been selling quick! Get yours here today, and it will ship within 24 hours. Seriously, this case will change your life!

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