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How to protect your iCloud account

If you haven’t heard, iCloud security is a hot topic these days. From claims that China infiltrated Apple with hidden spy chips (reports that Apple vigorously denies) to last year’s threats from the “Turkish Crime Family” regarding stolen account passwords, it’s understandable if you’re worried about how safe your iCloud data is.

You can learn more about how Apple works on end-to-end encryption that has thus far kept iCloud largely safe from hackers. But there’s plenty you can do on your end to help make iCloud safer and well protected as well. Here are the basic steps you should to increase your iCloud security.

Step 1: Create a strong password

The password you use for iCloud is the same password for your Apple account. Apple requires that this password must be at least eight characters long, use upper and lowercase letters, and have at least one number, but we can do a lot better.

Reset your Apple ID password and make it as strong as possible. That means around 15 characters, both upper and lowercase letters, multiple numbers, and symbols. If you’re worried about remembering a random string of characters, a common tactic is to take a familiar phrase or word and exchange letters for numbers and symbols. However, if you want to invest time in a dedicated password manager, the software can come up with very strong passwords for you. Password managers are becoming increasingly important in today’s digital security environment, so if you don’t use one yet it’s certainly worth considering.

Step 2: Set up your security questions if necessary

If you haven’t visited your Apple ID in a while, you may not have gotten a chance to set up any security questions. These questions work just like the security questions for any thorough online security portal — you set a few specific questions about your life with answers that strangers would never know. Apple will ask these questions when you log into your Apple account or make big changes.

To find your security questions, log into your Apple account with your ID and password, and look for the section that says “Security.” On the right-hand side of the page, select the Edit button to expand the section so you can examine the Security Questions heading. . If you haven’t added any questions, you will see an option to “Add Questions.” If you have set questions up but want to check and refine them, you will see an option to “Change Questions.”

Note: Some people cannot see an option to set up security questions when they log into Apple ID. If you don’t see this option, you can skip this step: This happens when someone sets up two-factor authentication, which overrides the need for security questions and may erase from your account info.

Step 3: Enable two-factor authentication

Apple used to have “two-step verification” but upgraded to “two-factor authentication” which is an effective method of making sure that the real you is accessing your account from one of your real devices. Basically, this authentication sets up a trusted device and/or phone number that Apple will send a verification code to when you try to log in from an unrecognized device.

If you haven’t already done so, turning on two-factor authentication is a simple process. If you have already logged into your Apple account online, you can go to the Security section and look at the section for Two-Factor Authentication, which will take you through the process of setting it up. You can also set up the authentication at any time on your iPhone by going to “Settings, Password & Security,” and enabling “Two-Factor Authentication.”

Again, remember that two-factor authentication will probably cancel out your security questions. We encourage you to set up security questions first so that they (hopefully) remain associated with your account in case support staff needs to verify your identity or something goes wrong with the authentication. However, you are perfectly free to skip right to the two-factor authentication if you want.

Step 4: Always sign out when not using your devices

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Finally, always be aware if you are signing into your Apple account on a public device or a device that isn’t yours. This isn’t a very good idea (especially when connected to guest Wi-Fi), but sometimes it may be necessary. Just remember to log back out from your account when you are finished.

In a similar vein, don’t give out your Apple ID or password to anyone if you aren’t sure it’s an official Apple login or representative.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • How to change your Gmail password
  • How to reset your Apple ID password
  • How to back up your iPhone
  • Google’s Titan Key ensures your phone and apps are virtually unhackable
  • There’s no silver lining for iCloud users, and Apple needs to fix it


Huawei Mate 20 Lite review: Not so smart

The Huawei Mate 20 Lite is a curious case of the “lite” edition predating the “standard” edition, offering an interesting glimpse into the future for fans of the Mate line.

What’s the forecast? Let’s find out in our Huawei Mate 20 Lite review. (Kind of gave it away in the title though.)

Specs and looks

The selling point of the Huawei Mate 20 Lite is the AI goodness it offers, even with mid-range specs (and price, in theory). It’s a promise Huawei has been known to deliver on in the past, and it should translate to some interesting features in the camera department.

Mate 20 Lite Specs

Speaking of which, that’s the phone’s other big selling point — a total of four cameras, thanks to an extra lens around the front. It’s got a 20MP f/1.8 lens around the back, and a 24MP f/2.0 lens around the front, both backed up by secondary 2MP depth sensors.

It also comes with 64GB of internal storage, backed up by either 4 or 6GB of RAM, and a 6.3-inch 19.5:9 IPS LCD 1,080 x 2,340 display. It’s got USB Type-C, NFC — something a lot of users will be happy to see — FM radio, a headphone jack, and a fingerprint sensor. There’s no splash resistance or wireless charging, but that’s par for the course for a mid-range device. The decent 3,750mAh battery easily saw me through a day.

On top of all that, it runs Android 8.1 Oreo with EMUI 8.2.

Mate 20 Lite EMUI

The phone’s metal and glass design is attractive. I’m not actually a fan of my navy version, or the pattern around the vertical camera module, but that’s very much a personal preference (does anyone else think the black and navy clash?). Despite that, I can tell it is well made for its 379-pound (~$500) price tag. Other colors include sapphire blue and platinum black.

It’s nicely reflective and feels solidly built, but as Android Authority‘s own Kris Carlon pointed out in his hands-on, it’s also a little on the generic side.

Huawei Mate 20 Lite Back

That said, this phone’s notch might turn some people off. It’s not just another notch — it’s a super-wide notch. This is a demonstration of OEMs’ true commitment to notches these days.

You might think having two selfie-cameras gives the perfect excuse to drop the divisive feature and return to a brow instead. Rather than go that route, Huawei chose instead to just make its notch r e a l l y w i d e. Cool cool.

As with other Huawei devices, you can at least turn it off in the settings if you prefer.

Huawei has chosen to make its notch really wide

This gives it an 81.7 percent screen-to-body ratio, and in my opinion, it slightly impacts on the looks.


Performance is unfortunately where things start to fall down a little for this Huawei Mate 20 Lite review. This is not a particularly quick phone. It’s rare I feel the need to point that out these days.

The phone’s performance isn’t terrible, or anywhere near Honor 7s territory, but it is occasionally noticeable when you’re navigating the UI. Every now and then, an animation will stutter, or something will take just a little bit longer than it should and it takes the sheen off of the experience slightly.

Huawei Mate 20 Lite Performance

My natural inclination at this point is to head over to a few benchmark apps and see just how the chipset holds up.

Except neither of the benchmark apps I usually use (Antutu and Geekbench) would install. This was weird since I had no problem with other apps.

Mate 20 Lite How Fast

Call me a conspiracy theorist, but maybe this has something to do with Huawei’s recent practice of gaming its benchmark scores.

Is it now just banning users from finding out? Or has it been banned?

We already know a bit about the Kirin 710 and can draw a few conclusions about the likely performance. This chipset is not quite as quick as the Snapdragon 660, though its energy efficiency may be better due to the 12nm manufacturing. It is ahead of something like the Helio P60, though not by a huge margin.

The Helio P60 powers the Realme 1, which I actually found performed a little quicker than the Mate 20 Lite in daily use. Whether that’s due to better optimization or software I’m not sure.

For gaming, the Mate 20 Lite relies on the Mali-G51 MP4, which doesn’t pack much punch. It’s not awful and you’ll certainly be able to play the majority of games. Just don’t expect to run things on the highest settings, or for the phone to be particularly future-proof.

Huawei Mate 20 Lite Performance

Performance may not be helped particularly by the EMUI layer plastered on top of Android. If you’ve used an Honor or Huawei device before, you’ll know what to expect. It’s not my favorite Android skin, but I think it’s a step-up from ColorOS. Your mileage may vary.

Dual selfie camera and AI features

At the moment then, this Mate 20 Lite review finds the device very much on the back foot. The device will need to impress with its AI and dual lens features to have a chance of clawing itself back into contention.

Turns out two lenses up front combined with AI is a fairly potent combination, at least in principle. It promises improved facial recognition at any angle (AI ability to recognize your face + depth information), as well as some interesting AR features (like Animoji). It also could mean you get the same scene detection and general AI magic brought to photos on the front you get around the back.

Huawei Mate 20 Lite front facing cameras

Then there’s face unlock, which for me is actually among the slowest implementations of the technology I’ve ever experienced. It certainly doesn’t work at any angle, and it takes a very noticeable one or two second pause before it registers me when head-on.

I don’t wear glasses, but maybe I just have a weird face.

Maybe the YouTube comments are right and I am a hobbit.

A device with IR face unlocking like the Pocophone F1 is much quicker already and works in the dark. It’s cheaper, too.

I haven’t been terribly blown away by the general quality of the selfie camera’s photos. The bokeh mode is quite good at cutting me out of the image, but not noticeably better than devices sporting just one lens up front. The general performance of the front camera is also just okay, which is a shame given the high pixel count — something I always welcome on a front shooter.

Huawei Mate 20 Lite Selfie Portrait Mode

The animoji were the only things that impressed me. These are the definition of “gimmick” (and not an entirely novel one either), but in fairness they work very well. I can raise one eyebrow and the little chameleon or whatever will do it too. It’s impressive how quick and accurate this is even compared the more expensive Note 9. I can’t see myself using it often, but it’s a good showcase for the tech. It’s a fun party trick, too.

This is me as a rabbit, and also a penguin, in case you’ve ever wondered how that might look.

Huawei Mate 20 Lite Animoji

Main camera

Huawei Mate 20 Lite Review

The main camera is fine.

I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with Huawei and Honor cameras. The big selling point these days is the AI scene recognition, and getting it on a mid-range chipset is a solid lure.

That scene detection is really hit or miss. A lot of the time it saturates images to a weird degree, making them look unnatural. On the Honor 10 and Honor Play, I noticed this improved over time, eventually becoming occasionally pretty impressive. Here that’s not the case. Several of my photos came out noticeably worse thanks to the AI mode — saturated to the point of being ugly.

Huawei Mate 20 Lite AI Photography

Here the Mate 20 Lite accurately recognized this as food, then proceeded to make it look radioactive…

I wonder if the Kirin 710 is just learning everything again from scratch and will also improve with time, or whether it’s just not quite up to the task. It’s noticeably slower at spotting things like cars, which is understandable too.

Turn that scene recognition off and you have a pretty standard Huawei camera. Images are sometimes washed out, or have that strange warm-hue I’ve noticed on other Huawei phones. It also has moments of brilliance where it reacts very nicely to different lighting.

Huawei Mate 20 Lite Dynamic Range

I thought this pic came out pretty nicely

Low-light performance isn’t particularly good. I put this against the Realme 2 Pro, seeing as I was reviewing both at the same time, and that much cheaper device was significantly better at taking photos at night. The Realme 2 Pro had a slightly higher aperture, but I’d still like more here. The Mate 20 Lite’s darker shots come out a little smudgy and grainy in comparison.

Huawei Mate 20 Lite low light performance

Not fantastic low light performance

It would be remiss of me not pointing out how the Huawei Mate 20 Lite wins major points for its incredibly feature-rich camera app. Just like other devices from Honor and Huawei, you get cool stuff like document scanning, a full-fledged pro mode, time lapse, and (my favorite) light painting. While AI scene recognition might not always work as advertised, it’s at least fun to play around with and I am hopeful it will get better. The portrait mode on this side also works quite well.

Huawei Mate 20 Lite Camera Sample

It’s a fun camera to use and if you really work at it, you can get some good photos. However, this is not a “great” camera by any stretch. I wouldn’t rely on it if you take a lot of photos as part of your job, or as a serious hobby.

For more camera samples, check out the folder here.

Value and closing thoughts

If it seems like I’ve been a bit hard on the phone during my Huawei Mate 20 Lite review, that’s probably due to its price.

Like I said, the Mate 20 Lite will set you back about $500. I just can’t see any justification for paying that much.

Huaweie Mate 20 Lite Back

For significantly less money you could get yourself a Pocophone F1 and you’d experience drastically faster performance — they’re not even in the same ballpark — as well as much stronger camera performance and loads more features. The F1’s only drawback is its plastic build.

If that matters a lot to you, for just $29 more, you could buy a OnePlus 6, a true “flagship” experience with a beautiful metal build, excellent AMOLED screen, and the same killer performance as the Pocophone or better. You could also get the Honor 8x, with mostly the same specs at a fraction of the cost, as well as a glass build. It uses microUSB and you lose a few megapixels in the camera department, but it’s nearly the same.

Honor 8x vs Huawei Mate 20 Lite

Heck, you could even get an Honor Play or Honor 10 for a lot less than this — devices from Huawei’s own subsidiaries with all the same scene recognition, light-painting, UI layer, and the company’s own flagship Kirin 970 chipset (flagship for at least for a little while longer, anyway).

Offering AI smarts in a mid-range processor isn’t really all that impressive, when you charge less for your own flagship processor elsewhere!

Huawei Mate 20 Lite Gloss Back

The only thing this phone has going for it really is the dual lens camera up front. Seeing as the selfie camera isn’t all that and the face unlock is slower than many other options, I just can’t really recommend this device to anyone.

The tech has promise, I’m hoping it will be better realized when we see the real Mate 20. This isn’t a bad phone, it’s just not a compelling option for the money, given what else is out there right now. The mid-range has become incredibly competitive, and you need to do a lot more to stand out.

This feels like a proof of concept more than something anyone should actually buy.


What Killed the Concorde? And Will Passenger Planes Ever Again Reach Supersonic Speeds?

On a Tuesday afternoon in Paris in 2000, an aeronautical marvel returned to earth in flames. A tire burst on the Concorde, the world’s first and only commercially viable supersonic transport (SST) jet, and started a fire that spread through the plane’s fuel tanks immediately after takeoff from Charles De Gaulle Airport. The crash killed all 100 passengers, nine crew members, and four people on the ground.

Nearly two decades later, the Concorde remains an icon, revered by the British and French in much the same way Americans admire the Space Shuttle. It represented speed, power, and progress. In just fifteen years, engineers sculpted an almost unfathomable idea into the shape of a sleek, mechanical swan.

The Concorde never really caught on in America. For one thing, tickets were prohibitively expensive. At the time of the crash, a one-way trip from Paris to New York cost just under $10,000. And in 1973, the United States banned civil supersonic flights over the continental U.S. because the sonic boom was so loud. Only Americans traveling abroad became passengers.

It was the closest thing to commercial space travel we’ve had yet.

But there was good reason to fly the Concorde. The jet had a cruising speed of 1,350 mph, or Mach Two, meaning a transatlantic trip could be completed in about three and a half hours. And at 60,000 feet, passengers were granted a striking view of the curvature of the Earth. It was the closest thing to commercial space travel we’ve had yet.

The crash didn’t do the Concorde in, but it didn’t help either. The plane had become a burden on airlines that couldn’t sell enough tickets to turn a profit. Plus, it was getting old. It’s worth noting that the Concorde entered service in 1976 and made its final flight in 2003 — for 27 years it ferried passengers through the sky at phenomenal speeds. Like Hendrix, Basquiat, and Winehouse; the jet lived fast, died young, and left a lasting impression.

In a new book, Last Days of the Concorde, journalist and author Samme Chittum delves into the mindset that inspired engineers to design this marvel, the series of events that led to its fatal crash, and the possibility that commercial SSTs may someday take to the skies again. We spoke to Chittum in about the Concorde and commercial SSTs. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Digital Trends: Can you give us a bit of background into what first motivated engineers to strive for commercial supersonic travel?

Samme Chittum: We have to put ourselves in the mindset of aeronautical engineers, innovators, and governments at that time. They were looking to the future. There was a clear path in terms of speed. Planes were going faster, starting with military planes breaking the sound barrier. There really didn’t seem as if there were any limits.

The United States and Russia were engaged in a race to get to the moon and the British saw another path forward, as a way to distinguish themselves and become a pioneer in a different area of aeronautics. That was supersonic. There was the dream that caught hold in the U.K. and France. Pioneering designers saw no limit to what they could achieve. It seemed almost predestined that the commercial industry would pursue supersonic flight.

In your book you call the Concorde “an homage to what was then perceived as the future of flight.” You describe how there was a future that engineers were trying to actualize despite huge engineering challenges.

“There are very few pilots out there at the top of their profession who aren’t willing to take tremendous risks to see what a plane can do.”

It’s really mind boggling when you look back. There was a certain romanticism and an amazing can-do spirit born out of World War II. There are very few pilots out there at the top of their profession who aren’t willing to take tremendous risks to see what a plane can do and what they can do in a plane. The engineers are very much the same. My father was an aeronautical engineer who designed engines for jet planes. They get ideas in their heads that they want to realize in design. There were many people who thought it was foolhardy and there are still many reasons for skepticism regarding commercial supersonic flight.

Creating a commercial supersonic jet required engineers to invent technology, some of which is now standard in aircraft. What were some of those innovations?

The wing design was critical. There was a breakthrough in terms of understanding the physics of flight and what was possible and how wing designs could withstand and facilitate supersonic flight. There were also important breakthroughs in terms of the materials used on the airplane. And there had to be a complete re-conception of everything large and small in the airplane. Everything from the tanks to the tires. Some of these were applied and adapted to other planes and some were entirely unique to the Concorde. It was a very idiosyncratic airplane.

Some of those idiosyncrasies gave the Concorde its signature look. It had its “droop snoot” nose, its pointed tail, and the delta wing, as you mentioned. Really iconic features.

Hats off to the engineers. These were ingenious innovations and adaptations that made it possible for the Concorde to get off the ground, and to allow it to get through this very difficult and dangerous transition from the takeoff to miles above the earth, flying at supersonic speed. It was a wild dream made possible by an incredible amount of engineering innovation. With all the advantage of hindsight people can now say it’s amazing that there wasn’t another catastrophic incident. And not surprising that there was.

Without taking any anything away from the engineers and mathematicians, there seems to be a sense of vanity in tackling such a huge task.

“At the time, everything was wide open in terms of what could be conceived and dared to be built in aeronautics.”

No doubt. It was a great deal of vanity married to technological genius. At the time, everything was wide open in terms of what could be conceived and dared to be built in aeronautics. The Concorde was definitely an expression of that. It will be a harder hurdle to clear when we talk about safety and supersonic flight today than it was then because of the cultural mindset at the time that really made the Concorde possible.

What ultimately led to the Concorde crash in 2000?

I don’t think anyone would disagree that the key to it all was the tires. The Concorde’s weakness was shown to have been the tires susceptibility to blowouts. That was known but it was never properly addressed or corrected. There were other factors involved that allowed the fire to spread, but you have to look at the tire burst as the precipitating cause of the crash.

Ami Vitale/Getty Images

Considering the potential for a return to commercial SSTs today, is that something that that could be addressed with current technology.

Yes, it could. They say the lessons in the airline industry are written in blood. When there’s something this catastrophic that happens and it’s actually tracked down to the root cause, there can be remedies applied retroactively. In this case, more advanced tires would address the Concorde’s Achilles heel at the time. Of course, that’s not what did the Concorde in. It was a costly boutique plane and it was aging out. The death of the Concorde began with this really horrific crash. Could the Concorde have been flown safely with proper corrections and updates? I think so. But there would be other issues to confront.

In the book you mention that the future of supersonic flight has two potential routes to reality. One is a sleek and exclusive business model. The other is more of a mid-sized model for more of the masses. Which of these is more likely?

Within the industry there’s more confidence that private supersonic jets for wealthy travelers are a more viable option. That flying experience will be very different from the original Concorde. Instead of looking out a window and being able to see the curve of the Earth, you might be staring at a digital screen. Travelers could be connected online and have a little office in the sky. The new experience would be private, exclusive, and comfortable. The Concorde was exclusive but it was not that comfortable.

Aerion Corporation

This generation of innovators may come up with designs using new technology that will make it possible to build a plane that is safe and has a price tag that airlines can afford to pay, while turning a profit from. That’s challenging but there are many impressive visionary people who think that it is doable. Since we’re talking about commercial travel, profitability will be key. Can a supersonic commercial plane be designed and flown? The answer to that is yes. But will the market conditions welcome it and make it viable? That’s much harder to predict.

The Concorde came with a significant environmental burden. It was a huge gas guzzler, so there were emissions issues. And it was really loud, so there were concerns about noise pollution. What barrier might these environmental factors pose to future commercial options?

Environmental impacts will be even more pronounced now than [they were] then, when the foot was pushing down hard on the pedal of progress. Environmental groups were just catching up in terms of organization and articulating their facts. You’ve hit upon what might be prevent a resurgence of supersonic flight — the noise around airports where these planes are taking off and landing. The innovators who are working on this know they need quieter planes because all of the millions of people across the country, who would have to live with this on a daily basis, would not want to if the boom cannot be brought down to some kind of noise level that is tolerable. It really isn’t tolerable for anyone living around airports to be subjected to this. It’s going to be rejected literally at the ground level, at the political level, at a public level.

“Our new heightened concerns about noise and environmental impacts — that could kill it right there.”

Our new heightened concerns about noise and environmental impacts — that could kill it right there. There’s a push now to say, “Oh we can make them quieter.” But it’s not by any means certain that they can make a supersonic plane quiet enough to be accepted by the general public. And if they don’t, I would be very pessimistic about government’s wanting to have planes take off and fly over land as opposed to over the ocean. But I think you’ve hit on the biggest issue. And that’s the boom problem.

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Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme review

Research Center:

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme

ThinkPads weren’t always meant for the average person. Despite their focus on business and enterprise use when introduced 20 years ago, their rugged, no-nonsense design earned them a cult following. They became the laptop of PC nerds, frequent fliers, contractors, and everyone else who valued function over form.

Most stodgy ThinkPads don’t acknowledge that, but occasionally, when the stars align, Lenovo will throw its fans a bone – like the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme. Packing an eight-generation Intel quad-core processor, Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti graphics, and a 4K display, it’s impressive on paper.

It’s not inexpensive. Our review unit’s 16GB of RAM and large 1TB solid state drive pegs the price at an intimidating $2,670. However, base models with more typical specifications start at $1,580. That puts it in line with Dell’s XPS 15, as well as Apple’s MacBook Pro 15. The X1 Extreme gives both a reason to worry.

An old-school look with modern concessions

ThinkPads have always boasted a distinct, boxy, utilitarian design. The X1 Extreme holds true to that, but it does make some compromises. The chassis, which measures just .72 inches thin, is tapered along its edges for a sleeker feel, and the display bezels have also gone on a diet. Taken together, the X1 Extreme looks and feels more like a Dell XPS 15 than a ThinkPad T580.

Rich Shibley/Digital Trends

Brand loyalists might complain about that, just as they’ve complained about the previous X1 models, all of which have made concessions to pursue a more modern look. Still, we think Lenovo made the right call. The X1 Extreme is for people wanting a 15-inch laptop that’s still thin enough to feel portable. If you want something larger and a more rugged, don’t worry. Lenovo still makes the ThinkPad T580 and P52.

There’s one area where the X1 Extreme makes no concessions, though: Connectivity. The X1 Extreme comes with two Thunderbolt 3 ports, two USB 3.1 ports, HDMI 2.0, a smart card reader, a SDcard reader, and a “network extension” port that’s dedicated to Ethernet (but requires a dongle to use with a standard Ethernet port).

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme Compared To

Microsoft Surface Book 2 15-inch

HP Spectre x360 15 (2018)

Lenovo Miix 630

Asus VivoBook Pro 15 N580VD

Asus ZenBook UX305

Asus Zenbook NX500JK-XH72T

Toshiba Kirabook (2014)

Asus Zenbook UX301LA

HP Envy x2

Dell XPS 12

Sony Vaio S Premium 13.3-inch

Asus U36Jc

Lenovo IdeaPad U110

Sharp M4000

Toshiba Dynabook SX

You won’t find a better selection in competing laptops. Dell’s XPS 15 has fewer Thunderbolt 3 ports and no dedicated network port. Apple’s MacBook offers four Thunderbolt 3 ports, but no others (aside from an audio jack). And HP’s Spectre x360 15-inch offers one less Thunderbolt 3 or USB 3 port, depending on configuration.

A great keyboard and, of course, the Trackpoint

The ThinkPad X1 Extreme’s keyboard is immediately comfortable. It lacks a numpad, which might turn off some buyers, but that means the keyboard is broad, spacious, and properly centered. We sat down and flew across the keys with very few errors.

Rich Shibley/Digital Trends

It’s a joy to use, too, thanks to long key travel and crisp feel. It’s miles better to use than a MacBook Pro. We think it also beats the Dell XPS 15 and HP Spectre x360 15-inch, though they’re also good.

A keyboard backlight is standard, as you’d expect. There’s not much light leak around the keys, but there’s only two keyboard brightness settings available. That’s a bit disappointing. Most competitors offer more control over the backlight.

When available in a game or movie, HDR is an absolute stunner on the X1 Extreme’s 4K display.

Below the keys you’ll find an adequately sized touchpad, which is joined by Lenovo’s TrackPoint, a small joystick-like nub in the middle of the keyboard. The TrackPoint lets you move the mouse while keeping your hands in an optimal typing position, but it takes getting used to. Luckily, the touchpad is pleasant. Some competitors, most notably the MacBook Pro, offer a larger surface, but the X1 Extreme is large enough and feels responsive when executing multi-touch gestures.

4K is great, but HDR will blow your mind

A 1080p display comes standard on the ThinkPad X1 Extreme, but our review unit was upgraded to a 4K display. The bump in resolution isn’t the only difference to note. Going 4K brings touchscreen support and changes the screen coating from anti-glare (matte) to anti-reflective, which is glossy. Reflections remain easy to see despite the “anti-reflective” coat, but the same is true of all the X1 Extreme’s competitors.

Speaking of competitors – the X1 Extreme is facing a tough lot, but it has the performance it needs to keep up. Its contrast ratio of 1110:1 is towards the upper end of the segment, coming short of the Dell XPS 15 but beating other alternatives. The X1 Extreme also scores well in color accuracy and gamut, going toe-to-toe with the most expensive competitors.

Then there’s the X1 Extreme’s trump card: HDR support. High Dynamic Range (HDR) is still a bit of a novelty for the PC due to limited support from movies and games, but damn – it’s a real stunner when available. We could hardly believe our eyes, seeing the gorgeous detail and depth of Battlefield 1 with HDR enabled. None of the X1 Extreme’s competitors have this feature.

Value shoppers would be wise to remember HDR is available only on the 4K display. The 1080p screen doesn’t offer it.

Rich Shibley/Digital Trends

We can offer less praise for the Double Audio Premium speakers. They have adequate volume, but sound flat in all situations, which saps vibrance and depth from music, movies, and games. You’ll have no complaints if you need to jump on a video call (and the camera, by the way, is at the top of the display as it should be), but you’ll want headphones or external speakers for everything else. Most laptops in this price range provide a better listening experience.

The six-core processor is a winner

Our review unit came with an Intel Core i7-8750H six-core processor, a small step up from the base Core i7-8850H. Lenovo also served up an incredible 32GB of RAM which, frankly, is overkill for this class of laptop. Base configurations come with a perfectly adequate 8GB, and but most have 16GB.

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme’s performance shined in the Geekbench 4 benchmark. Its score exceeded the Dell XPS 15 in both single-core and multi-core tests, despite the fact they both were tested with a Core i7-8750H processor. In fact, the X1 Extreme came closer to Asus’ ZenBook Pro 15 UX580, which boasted a Core i9-8950HK.

Handbrake, a video encoding program, showed a closer race. The X1 Extreme transcoded a 4K trailer exactly one second quicker than the Dell XPS 15. That’s basically a tie. Still, the X1 Extreme’s overall performance is sure to impress even the most demanding users.

We can say the same about the X1 Extreme’s hard drive performance, which proved solid in both read and write tests. While not the fastest in read speeds, write speed performance was better than usual for this segment. Both figures are high enough to suggest the X1 Extreme can load, save, and transfer files at speedy rates.

1080p gaming? No problem

Now we come to the most interesting part of our benchmarks. Lenovo isn’t marketing the ThinkPad X1 Extreme has a gaming machine, but it comes with a Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti Max-Q graphics chip. That’s a big part of its appeal. The 1050 Ti Max-Q promises solid game performance, as well as acceleration in some productivity apps.

There’s no shortage of competition here, as the GTX 1050 Ti (with or without Max-Q) has become the go-to chip for laptops that want to add more graphics muscle.

Still, the X1 Extreme holds its own. It scored 6,481 in 3DMark’s Fire Strike benchmark, which puts it right in range with the competition. Performance in real-world gaming also proved strong. While it often (but not always) trailed the Dell XPS 15, it generally outperformed the HP Spectre x360 15-inch and Asus Zenbook Pro 15 UX580.

The X1 Extreme manages to squeeze in a respectable 80 watt-hour battery.

That means a target for 60 frames per second is achievable in most games if you stick to medium or high detail and 1080p resolution. In Battlefield 1, for example, the X1 Extreme hit 72 FPS at medium and managed 54 FPS at ultra.

You can do better if you settle for 30 FPS. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, still among the most demanding PC games, averaged 33 FPS at 1080p resolution with detail set to high. Even the toughest games are playable if you settle for a reduced framerate target.

While the GTX 1050 Ti is best suited for 1080p resolution, our X1 Extreme review unit had a 4K screen, so we put it to the test. The results were predictably dismal. You can enjoy a full 4K resolution if you stick to Rocket League, but the other three games in our test suite – Civilization VI, Battlefield 1, and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided – ran well below 60 FPS even at medium detail.

It’s light, but the battery could be better

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme is a 15-inch laptop. It’s not small, though it is svelte for its size. The 1080p model starts at 3.76 pounds, and the 4K model is four pounds. Both models are about 0.7 inches thick. That’s the same as the Dell XPS 15, but the X1 Extreme is lighter. It’s also lighter than the Apple MacBook Pro 15, Asus ZenBook Pro 15 UX580, and HP Spectre x360 15-inch.

Despite that, the X1 Extreme manages to squeeze in a large 80 watt-hour battery. A few competitors have larger batteries – the Dell XPS 15’s optional 97 watt-hour unit is king of this hill – but X1 Extreme’s battery size is respectable.

Respectable is a good description of the X1 Extreme’ endurance, too. It’s not bad. It’s not great.

Our most demanding test, the Basemark browser benchmark loop, drained a full charge in about two and a half hours – on par with the HP Spectre x360 15-inch and Asus Zenbook Pro 15 UX580. The 1080p video loop extended endurance to about five and a half hours, which is less than other of those competitors. And the web browsing results landed somewhere in the middle of the pack.

Predictably, Dell’s XPS 15 is the standout entry in this field. Its large battery is part of the story, but its lead is great enough to suggest there’s more to it than just battery size. Dell appears to have figured out the secret sauce.

Our Take

Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Extreme takes aim at the prosumer’s heart, and it lands a solid blow. Its strong performance, beautiful display, and excellent keyboard make it a good choice if you need a big, powerful laptop.

Is there a better alternative?

There’s just one problem, really. Dell’s XPS 15.

The XPS 15 is just as attractive, is similar in size and weight, and matches the X1 Extreme in performance. Yet the Dell also boasts better battery life (in most configurations) and same hardware at lower prices.

Still, the X1 Extreme isn’t beat across the board. It has an HDR display option, which Dell doesn’t offer, better connectivity, and a better keyboard. You might prefer the X1 Extreme if they matter most to you.

None of its other competitors are a serious threat. The HP Spectre x360 15-inch isn’t as quick, the Asus Zenbook Pro 15 UX580 suffers a confused design, and Apple’s MacBook Pro 15-inch is far too expensive.

How long will it last?

ThinkPads are known for durability, and while the X1 Extreme isn’t as rugged as a T580, it does feel robust overall. Its performance should be more than adequate for years and its port selection offers a good mix of legacy and forward-looking connections. We think it’ll easy last three years, and more likely last five.

A one-year warranty comes standard. Longer warranties are available at relatively low prices (a three-year warranty starts at $109).

Should you buy it?

Yes. The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme isn’t the best premium 15-inch laptop, but it’s certainly near the top of its class, and it’ll certainly appeal to anyone seeking a quality display or excellent keyboard.


Best Custom Controllers for PlayStation 4

When you get tired of looking at the plain black controllers with your PlayStation 4, it might be time to start looking at a few different types of custom controller designs. Custom designed controllers like the Space Illuminating design add a brand new taste of flavor to your gaming. The best way to improve the storage for your gaming equipment is to give them a personal touch that shows your tastes.

Modded and ready

SADES PS4 Controller Gamepad


While this controller isn’t compatible with a headset. it does come with trigger clamps and two different types of buttons for your D-Pad. This controller was crafter with longtime gaming in mind, and will help keep your hands a little more comfortable!

$80 at Amazon

Precision gaming

AR-OWL C1 PS4 Controller


Not only are users raving about the durability of this controller, but the comfort as well. This analog sticks on this controller are highly sensitive, allowing even the slightest movements to be registered in your game. If you’re a fan of games like first-person shooters, this is the perfect controller for you.

$40 at Amazon

Retro appearances

“Space Illuminating” by ModdedZone


We all love a good design, and that’s just what ModdedZone is bringing us. The see-through design of this controller brings back a concept we have all known and loved for quite some time. They have even included LEDs inside of the controller to help illuminate all the parts inside to give off a very retro appearance.

$146 at Amazon

Rock & roll

“Illuminating Skulls Blue” by ModdedZone


Who doesn’t love a good design with some great LEDs put in? You can even find it without the LED switch for $22 cheaper. These are modded PlayStation 4 controllers, so you won’t have to worry about your comfort changing — just the looks!

$132 at Amazon

Classy designs

Matte Red & Gold “Soft Touch” by Custom Controllerzz


If you’re not looking for any fancy lights, you can always go for standard updates that improve the visuals. This controller is painted with matte red and highlighted with gold buttons. It’s rather sleek, and will look great when added to your set up!

$120 at Amazon

Cash money

“Money Talks w/ShotGun Thumbsticks” by ModdedZone


ModdedZone strikes again with another stellar design. This one features my favorite Benjamins and “Real Gold 9mm Bullet Buttons”. If you’re looking to save a bit of money, but you like the button style, you can actually find just the button expansions on Amazon for $13. Overall, this is a pretty baller way to upgrade your controllers.

$160 at Amazon

In regards to functionality, the SADES Modded Controller steals the show. Not only was there a lot of thought into the comfort of your hands put into the design, but they also made sure the sensitivity of the buttons, triggers and analogs were more sensitive than your average Dualshock. This makes playing games like Fallout 4 and Call of Duty that much easier to play because it registered even the slightest movements for the best sneak abilities.


The smart home conundrum: Amazon or Google?


If you want to make your house as smart as it can be, you’ll need to make a choice.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve dreamed about having a “smart” home. I grew up watching The Jetsons and reading about the future, and while most of my friends were waiting for flying cars I just wanted to be able to talk to my house and have it do things. Not crazy things, mind you, just simple things like turning on the lights or the TV, or locking the doors and arming the alarm. I’m no longer a kid, and I can actually do those things. Now I just need to decide who to talk to in the middle of the night.

And Siri decided she just didn’t care all that much even though HomeKit offers a lot in theory.

Amazon and Google have the inexpensive automated household “stuff” market locked up tight. Alexa and Google Assistant are happy to serve, turning lights on and off, adjusting the thermostat, and even locking the door without adding any significant costs to the things they can control. They are both cheap, too — in fact, they are free if you have a smartphone and everyone has a smartphone. Amazon and Google can do this because they aren’t worried about making money from Alexa or Google Assistant and use both as a conduit to other ways to make money. Ads and online shopping bring BIG BUCKS.

This makes everything so cheap that even if you don’t have smart stuff in your house now, you will soon. And eventually, you’ll have enough smart stuff that you’ll be pulling your hair out trying to use both Alexa and Assistant at the same time.

I just hit this cap, though it was more a stroke of bad luck than anything else. The update to the Google Home app “lost” all my Philips Hue lamps. If you’ve been through this you know it’s a pain to get things back in order and you’re left renaming lights that don’t work and deleting application data and sacrificing chickens as part of the “official” fix. Once I finally got my Hue account relinked and connected I thought I was gold until I tried Alexa and nothing worked. You can guess what happened once I was able to re-link my Hue account to my Amazon account and ran out of chickens.


I decided to stick with Alexa around the house. All the new stuff Amazon showed us with smart plugs and subwoofers for the Echo and a microwave that can pop me some popcorn when I tell it to are things I need in my life. They’re also things that will never work well with Google Assistant, no matter how hard companies like IFTTT or SmartThings try. Too bad the Echo Show sucks and my Lenovo Smart Display does not suck and now is mostly there to keep me company and tell me my calendar while an Echo Dot is hidden behind it to turn off the bedroom lights.

Hey Google, tell me about the weather tomorrow and Alexa turn out the bedroom lights rolls right off the tongue. Not.

If you fall into the smart home trap you’ll get here, too. You’ll either have too many things, or have bad luck with an update like I did, or just get tired of trying to remember what room name you gave the foyer in the Google Home app when it has a light called FrontLight01 in the Hue app and you can’t use the same name in the Alexa app or the world will end. And it’s our job to help you make decisions about buying all this stuff, so I’m going to do my job and help you.

Pick one. Pick either Amazon and Alexa or Google and Assistant, and pick it before you start looking at all the smart things you want to buy.

Both have their strengths and weaknesses: everything works and is easy to set up with Alexa but letting Amazon have control of your contacts and calendar is crazy — but both also have a wide array of products that make them worth using. That means choosing between cool stuff like Smart Displays and wireless subwoofers that pair to Bluetooth speakers, but in the long run you’ll be glad you don’t recreate my mess. That takes a lot of the fun of having a smart home away and replaces it with headache, and none of us need an AI assistant to help us get a headache.

November 14 is the day I can pop up some Orville Redenbacher in my smart microwave.

Don’t worry. We’ll still be here to tell you what’s cool and what sucks about all the new smart things. I have a room full of new stuff to look at (spoiler: The Arlo Pro 2 is incredible and buy as many Amazon Smart Plugs as you have outlets in your home) and will have to try it all with both Alexa and Assistant and hope no more chickens get hurt.


Can I install Nest Secure on my own?


Best answer: Yes! You can install Nest Secure on your own, and everything you need is included in the box except a screwdriver for the mounting screws.

Best Buy: Nest Secure Alarm System ($399)

What comes with the Nest Secure?

Nest Secure is Nest’s home security system. This expandable system uses a variety of sensors and tags to secure your home, and when you purchase it, you get:

  • One Nest Guard: this is the actual alarm hub in the system, with a motion detector on the front and a keypad on top for arming and disarming the alarm.
  • Two Next Detect sensors and open-close magnets: these motion and magnetic sensors are battery operated and can be used in a few different ways. These senors can be attached to a window or door and warn you if it is opened, or it can be placed flat on a wall to detect movement in their room.
  • Two Nest Tags: These are dongle-type keycards that can interact with the Nest Guard hub to stand down the alarm when someone arrives home.
  • Two flat-mounting brackets and two corner-mounting brackets
  • Adhesive strips and mounting screws

As you can see, the Nest Secure includes screws for mounting Nest Detect sensors, though you’ll need your own drill and screwdriver to install them on your wall. It also never hurts to have a tape measure around while you’re trying to figure out how far or close sensors need to be placed.

How hard is it to install the Nest Secure?

The Nest Guard can easily be placed on a tabletop or shelf. You’ll want the Guard between 28 and 42 inches above ground level. The Guard’s motion sensor — which is hidden behind the Nest logo — needs to be pointing at your entryway so it can detect moment and sound the alarm if someone walks through your front door while the system is armed..

The Nest Tags are carried around on a keychain or in a pocket, so the only setup required there takes place in the Nest app. The Nest Detect sensors are battery-powered and lightweight, so you don’t have to worry about running and hiding cables with them; they can be stuck on doors, windows, and walls with the included double-sided adhesive strips. You can screw these into the wall for a more secure fit, but this isn’t required. There are extra adhesive strips included if you don’t get the perfect fit the first time.

While the Nest Secure system can look like a lot to get up and running, you can easily install this system yourself, especially with the Nest app there to guide you along the way.

Your new security system

Nest Secure


$399 at Best Buy

Keep your home safe from intruders.

The Nest Secure is a bit pricey, but it’s less expensive than losing all of your possessions. And since it’s so easy to install, you don’t need to shell out extra money for a professional.


Kill it before it lays eggs! Crazy 32-leg robot moves like a cyborg sea urchin

We’ve written about one-legged, two-legged, four-legged and even six-legged robots, but researchers from Japan’s Keio University and the University of Tokyo have gone way, way further with their latest project: A 32-legged robot. Called Mochibot, the spherical robot moves by telescoping its individual legs, thereby pushing it wherever it needs to go. When it needs to remain still, it levels out all of its legs, keeping it stable on the ground. This movement is reminiscent of a creature like a sea urchin.

Each of Mochibot’s legs is composed of three sliding rails. These can extend to a maximum of 1.6 feet in length or shrink down to half that. The advantage of using this method of locomotion is that it should, in theory, make it much easier to move on challenging surfaces. That’s because Mochibot can essentially deform itself as it travels across the terrain, thereby giving it a leg up (pun kinda intended!) on robots which are stuck balancing on fewer legs. Presumably, it could also risk losing or damaging multiple legs, while still retaining the ability to move. The robot’s legs can additionally be modified to include cameras, sensors, or sampling devices for taking measurements.

The Mochibot robot’s unusual shape is referred to as a rhombic triacontahedron, a polyhedron with 32 vertices and 30 faces made of rhombuses. It weighs 22 pounds including its batteries and could carry a payload in its central section. Will a robot such as this ever launch as a commercial product? It is perhaps too early to tell, although we can certainly see potential applications in search and rescue missions, military transport, or even possibly exploring other planets. With that in mind, the researchers who created it are next planning to carry out more experiments with different types of terrain. Should Mochibot be able to successfully climb up and down slopes or roll over uneven, rock-covered surfaces, it will be interesting to see where the project goes from here.

The researchers recently presented a paper describing the work, titled “Continuous Shape Changing Locomotion of 32-legged Spherical Robot,” at the International Conference on Intelligent Robots (IROS 2018) in Madrid, Spain.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • This myth-inspired, karate-chopping centaur robot could save your life one day
  • Bizarre stork robot uses a drone to compensate for its weak, twig-like legs
  • iLife A7 Robot Vacuum review
  • LG’s SuitBot wearable exosuit will give workers the extra strength they need
  • Ecovacs Deebot Ozmo 930 review


Best Kindle Deals for October 2018

We did the hard work for you.


Purchasing a dedicated Kindle has tons of benefits. Using complimentary Kindle reading apps is nice and all, but sometimes you just want a distraction-free adventure through Hogwarts or Westeros. On a Kindle device, you can get lost in a book without straining your eyes, getting bombarded by social media notifications, or draining your device’s battery life. They are designed from the ground up for one thing: reading. The fonts are better, the screen is bigger, and the overall experience is ideal. Luckily, Kindle deals are relatively common, and certified refurbished models and bundles are here to save the day when there isn’t a full-on sale.

Once you have your new device, be sure to check out Amazon’s frequent Kindle book deals. Prime members get access to over a thousand titles for free, plus one of a selection of First Reads each month. You can also subscribe to Kindle Unlimited, which gets you access to millions of titles for one low monthly price. There’s a free trial here.


The base model gets you everything you need and that’s about it. There aren’t many bells or whistles, which makes this the most affordable e-reader in the lineup. The display does feature special offers on the lockscreen, which are tastefully designed and unobtrusive. You have the option to buy the device without the special offers for a bit more money. The touchscreen display is glare-free and feels like real paper, but note that this device doesn’t have a backlight, so reading in the dark will require some sort of additional illumination.

  • Amazon has the Kindle Essentials Bundle featuring a leather cover and power adapter for $114.97
  • Amazon has the Kindle for Kids Bundle with a cover and 2-Year Worry-Free Guarantee for $99.99
  • Amazon has the certified refurbished Kindle for $59.99

Kindle Paperwhite

The Kindle Paperwhite is Amazon’s best-selling Kindle. It has a built-in adjustable light to help you read at night, and the glare-free screen is easy on your eyes, too. The battery lasts for weeks at a time, and the display is higher-resolution than the original Kindle. This model also features Bookerly, which is an Amazon-exclusive font that was designed specifically for reading on digital screens.

  • Amazon has the Kindle Paperwhite Essentials bundle featuring a leather cover and power adapter for $159.97
  • Amazon has the certified refurbished Kindle Paperwhite for $79.99

Kindle Oasis

The Kindle Oasis is the swankiest Kindle available. The device itself is gorgeous, available in Graphite or Champagne Gold. The 7-inch display has the highest resolution out of all of the Kindle models, and the device also features an IPX8 waterproof rating. You can pair headphones to your Kindle Oasis using Bluetooth to listen to Audible books, and the dedicated page turn buttons and adaptive front light means you’ll be comfortable for chapter after chapter. This also boasts twice the storage, and you can opt for a 32GB version for even more space. There are other nice details, too, like in-line footnotes and on-the-fly dictionary access.

  • Amazon has the Kindle Oasis Travel Bundle with a tote bag, 32GB Kindle Oasis, and luggage tags for $306.97
  • Amazon has the certified refurbished Kindle Oasis for $209.99


Anki’s ‘Vector’ Home Robot Now Available for Purchase

Anki, known for its lineup of Overdrive iPhone-controlled cars and the Cozmo robot, today announced the official launch of its newest product, the Vector home robot.

Vector first debuted on Kickstarter back in August, where it earned nearly $2 million in funding.

Unlike Cozmo, Anki’s first robot, Vector is not a toy and is instead meant to be a robot companion. Vector is autonomous, cloud-connected, always on, and ready to help you get through the day.

Vector can do things that Alexa and Siri can do, like providing the weather, setting the time, providing word definitions, solving equations, answering pop culture questions, and more. Vector is activated with a “Hey Vector” command.

Vector can also take a photo of you and offer up a game of blackjack. In the future, Anki also plans to add Alexa support to allow Vector to do more. Other future capabilities include smart home control, notifications, music recognition, security camera functionality, news information, messages, and more.

Anki’s robot is designed to interact with you using eye contact and voice commands, and Anki has given him a personality so that he’s fun to interact with.

Vector is equipped with an HD camera that lets him see the world around him, navigate spaces, recognize people, and take images. There’s also a four-microphone array so that he can hear commands, and there are built-in touch sensors and an accelerometer allowing him to feel touch.

Vector also has a high-powered processor that allows him to answer queries and process the environment around him, and he has his own unique voice and language made up of hundreds of synthesized sounds.

A charging dock is included, and Vector is smart enough to return to his charger when he is low on battery. Vector requires a compatible iOS or Android device and a 2.4GHz WiFi connection to function. Vector ships with the aforementioned charger plus an interactive cube, and an optional base is available for $30.

Vector can be purchased from the Anki website or from for $249.99.

Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with Amazon and may earn commissions on purchases made through links in this article.

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