First impressions of a $200 Linux laptop

ETA prime has been using a Pinebook Pro laptop with an ARM CPU. It has an aluminum shell and 14.1-inch display. Overall, he's impressed with the performance, but says he had a few missed-click problems with the trackpad, and isn't sure if it's a hardware or software issue.

But he says he would rather have the Lenovo Ideapad S130, a similarly priced Windows laptop that "crushes the Pinebook Pro" in terms of performance.

I went to the Pine64 website and learned that they also have an 11.6 inch Linux laptop for $100.

Image: YouTube Read the rest

FAA just banned these recalled Apple laptops from flights and cargo

* FAA says some MacBook Pros are unsafe on airplanes • Apple recently recalled certain laptops over battery fire risk Read the rest

Razer laptops get hotter

Too late for Christmas! Razer's laptops—one of few designed for playing games that an adult could use in public without embarassment—got a spec bump to include 2000-series Nvidia graphics chips.

The updated line of laptops will also feature an anti-ghosting keyboard powered by Razer Chroma which offers 16.8 million colors for key customization. New power management options, including modes to boost graphics performance, or to maximize the run time of the 80Wh battery. Audio is delivered through improved dual front-firing speakers and features Dolby Atmos for deeper bass response in the sound.

Configurations start with the 2060 part, which was just announced by NVidia at a pre-CES event, but if you're going to spend this much on a laptop you should probably hike up to the 2070. It comes in white and traditional Razer "black 'n' rainbows". They'll be out Jan. 29, and if you have to ask, you can't afford it.

I found that a 15" laptop was too hefty for me and recently went back to a 12" MacBook as my daily driver. I'm more tempted to switch, then, by the smaller 13" Razer Blade Stealth laptop [Amazon]. Updated two months ago, it's still the size of a MacBook but now includes the MX150 chip. It won't handle the latest games on Ultra, but it is a credible game-capable GPU in an ultraportable laptop. (Last-gen Stealth owners had to get an external GPU to play—a bulky ask) Read the rest

Review: Twelve South HiRise for MacBook laptop stand

Back in 2011, I bought a 27” Thunderbolt Display to use with my MacBook when I was at home, working at my desk. It was huge, heavy as hell and, with a full suite of ports baked into its butt, wicked useful. This year, after being shipped across the country four times and riding around North America in a motorhome for the past three years, it finally gave up the ghost. It sucked taking it to be recycled. But, in all honesty, I’ve been feeling it was out of place for the tiny amount of space in our RV that we’ve allocated to be my work space.

After a few days of working in front of my laptop at my desk, I found that, from an ergonomic standpoint, life sucked without having a massive display to stare into while I typed. I have a neck injury that is very easily tweaked. Looking down for too long? That tweaks it. I decided that I needed to invest in a laptop stand.

I chose Twelve South’s HiRise for MacBook, for a number of reasons. First, I’ve used their gear in the past. It’s rock solid. The Compass iPad stand that I bought from them back in 2012 still gets a lot of regular use around the house and when I travel. Their BackPack shelf for my Thunderbolt Display was great too… although it’s not really all that useful since I trashed the monitor. Second, the stand is adjustable. I don’t like buying accessories that will only serve me in one situation. Read the rest

Apple may release an updated MacBook Air this year

There is no such thing as an inexpensive Apple laptop. The least painful entry into MacOS, save buying a refurb or hunting down a used MacBook online, is the MacBook Air. They're great! Well, they're great so long as you need to crunch numbers, do some VERY light gaming or type for a living. I've owned two of them. If the first hadn't been destroyed falling off the back of a motorcycle and the second hadn't been futzed up by Costa Rica's crazy temperatures, I'd still be using them.

That said, the line is getting a bit long in the tooth.

The MacBook Air's design is woefully dated – its wide display bezels make it feel like you're typing on a computer minted in 2010, which, I guess you are. Its design really hasn't changed since back then. Then there's the display. It's a low-resolution nightmare that guarantees eyestrain if you stare at it for more than a couple of hours at a time. Fortunately, all of this could soon change.

From Bloomberg:

Apple Inc. will release a new low-cost laptop and a professional-focused upgrade to the Mac mini desktop later this year, ending a drought of Mac computers that has limited sales of the company’s longest-running line of devices, according to people familiar with the plans.

The new laptop will look similar to the current MacBook Air, but will include thinner bezels around the screen. The display, which will remain about 13-inches, will be a higher-resolution "Retina" version that Apple uses on other products, the people said.

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Microsoft Surface Go gets rave reviews

Microsoft's compact Surface Go is a low-end 2-in-1 laptop, but it's getting rave reviews from sites such as Gizmodo and The Verge thanks to excellent design and balance of price—just $400, but see below—and capability.


Beyond its underwhelming performance, the Surface Go is a winner. ... The Surface Go feels like a smaller version of the premium Surface Pro. It’s a damn nice looking device—the kind people will note with admiration when you’re at a coffee shop or sitting in a crowded meeting. It’s proof that cheap laptops don’t have to feel or look cheap, and I can only hope that it inspires other computer makers to start seriously considering the build quality of their budget devices.


It’s $680 to get the version that I think would work best for most people, which is significantly more than the $330 base iPad but significantly less than an iPad Pro with a keyboard. It’s about what you’d pay for a pretty decent middle-of-the-road Windows Laptop or maybe even a used Surface Pro. Comparing the Surface Go to any of those devices quickly leads you to build a big pro-con list, one that is very personalized to your particular software needs.

It gets terrible benchmarks, but only when running games or making Photoshop work hard. It sounds to me that it's the gadget for people who really want to work on mainstream tablets such as the iPad or Galaxy Tab but find themselves needing the trappings of a normal laptop when they try. Read the rest

Thin and light laptops considered harmful

Apple's new i9-equipped MacBook Pro reportedly has trouble dissipating heat from the powerful new Intel chip, slowing it down and erasing its advantage over lower-end models under sustained load. The fetish for thin and light laptops has screwed us, writes Owen Williams, and it's not just Macs.

As our expectations have shifted for how we get work done with computers, it’s become popular to try and foist even the most demanding workloads—like video rendering, software development, and high-end gaming, on laptops. It’s been a fun shift to be a part of, and the things you can do with a laptop now are wild: VR on the go, or rendering motion graphics on a train, but for day-to-day, the shift has messed with our perception of what ‘performance’ means.

Desktop computers faded in popularity over the last decade, but many of the tasks we’re demanding from our laptops simply can’t compete with the raw power of a desktop in the physical constraints of their form factors. The problem, almost always, comes back to heat: there’s too much of it, and not enough space to get rid of it.

Not mentioned in Williams' article is the Razer Blade: as thin and light as a MacBook and easily the most attractive gaming laptop going, but so hot Wirecutter excluded it and its entire category from their gaming laptop roundup.

The Blade’s surface temperatures, though, were simply unacceptable. As you can see in the chart above, the Razer’s WASD keys were a sweat-inducing 43 °C (109 °F), the K key was 49 °C (120 °F), the strip of metal above the keyboard was a scalding 54 °C (129 °F), and the underside of the chassis was 52 °C (125 °F).

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Surprisingly attractive laptop for playing computer games

Most "gaming" laptops look like props from cheap 1990s sci-fi: greebled plastic carbuncles, all edgy red LEDs and bloated bezels, whirring like drones in a tiled bathroom as soon as gameplay begins. The new Razer Blade 15, though, is not only as sleek as an ultrabook, but looks beautiful: like a 2001: Space Odyssey monolith with a luminous Pride flag in it.

It comes with a matte 1080-line display (optionally with a 144Hz refresh rate) or a glossy 4k one, both 15.6" across, a GTX 1060 or 1070 Max-Q video card, up to 32GB of RAM and an 8th-generation i7-8750H CPU. It's 14" wide, 9.3" deep and just under .7" thick, and weighs about 4.6 pounds, going an ounce either way depending on options.

Prices start at $1900 for the entry-level model (HD, 16GB RAM, 256GB SSD, GTX 1060 GPU), up to $2900 [Amazon] with all the upgrades.

It comes with softare to make the rainbow backlighting any color you please, and it is my tragedy and shame to be that "minimalist" guy who just makes it plain white.

Full specs and prices after the jump.

Specifications: 8th Gen Intel® Core™ i7-8750H Processor (6 Cores/12 Threads, 2.2 GHz/4.1 GHz) 15.6-inch IPS Full HD (1920 x 1080) matte up to 144Hz, individually color calibrated 15.6-inch IPS 4K (3840 x 2160) capacitive multi-touch, individually color calibrated NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 1060 Max-Q Design NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 1070 Max-Q Design 16GB Dual-Channel system memory (DDR4, 2667MHz), 32GB maximum support Up to 512GB PCIe SSD, 2TB maximum support Windows® 10 (64-bit) Intel® Wireless-AC 9260 (802.11a/b/g/n/ac)

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Confession: You can't trust a junkie with a new laptop

There's still plenty of life left in my 2015 MacBook Pro. But sooner or later, I'll ditch my computer in favor something new.

The nerd in me is wicked excited with the notion of using an ultra light laptop with an external graphics processor, for several reasons. I've always wanted to own a gaming laptop, but I could never justify the price, or the weight of one in my bag. Going with a computer that can connect to an external GPU means that I could invest in the laptop first, and then the GPU when I could afford it. And since the GPU for the rig is external, I wouldn't be forced to carry around a heavy bastard of a computer with me every time I needed to take off on assignment. That said, I was hesitant to buy one without seeing how it'd perform, first and foremost, as a work machine. I really like the look of the Razer Blade Stealth: the laptop's industrial design is what Apple might have come up with if their design department had a shred of edge or attitude. So, relying on the privilege of my position as a tech journalist, I asked Razer if I could borrow one.

They said yes.

I spent the past month working on Razer's insanely well-built ultrabook. It was pimped out with 16GB of dual channel RAM, and an Intel Core i7 2.70Ghz processor. It's zippy! But then, that's in comparison to my daily driver: a three year old Core i5 with 8GB of RAM. Read the rest

Suggestions for improving the MacBook Pro

Marco Arment offers a review of things that make recent MacBook Pros a hard sell: unreliable keyboards, the neglected wasteland of USB-C, and (of course) the TouchBar.

Sorry, it’s a flop. It was a solid try at something new, but it didn’t work out. There’s no shame in that — Apple should just recognize this, learn from it, and move on.

Anecdatum: I had my 12" MacBook's (pictured) keyboard replaced once, and it's been perfect ever since. I think they got the reliability problem licked. But I'm just not coping with the USB-C situation, and I've given it two years of patience. I need a new computer, and that's what's pushing me toward getting a good old iMac instead. Read the rest

Saudi Airlines confirms that American laptop ban on U.S.-bound flights from Saudi has ended

The U.S. government's ban on laptops and other large electronic devices in the cabins of flights from Saudi Arabia to the United States has been lifted, Saudi Arabian Airlines confirmed today. Read the rest

After travel industry outcry, TSA will end Trump-era ban on laptops for flights to U.S. from Middle East

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration today said it was lifting a ban on carry-on electronics such as laptops for passengers on Saudi Arabian Airlines flights headed to the U.S..

This is the last carrier under the restrictions to have been permitted to now ignore those new restrictions. Somehow this is apparently all making America Great Again and So Safe. Read the rest

$20 for one of the best laptops money could buy 20 years ago: is it worth it?

"It was a little worse for wear... but I wanted to nurse it back to health."

An interesting video for people who like vintage computers: the mid to late 1990s is not only a hinterland of general boringness between "vintage" and "modern", but the high point of Microsoft domination, when Windows was so crummy that to try and put it to use invites an instant headache. As a $20 thrift store find, though, a mid-1990s IBM Thinkpad seems a good find.

It was infested with malware, needed a new battery, couldn't even run Windows XP, and the hard drive sounded like "marbles rolling around in a teacup." Ah, but what wonders lurk in the back of the desk drawer!

Spoiler: You can play old DOS games or fool around with Linux.

(I found one on eBay, but will pass on it, as it's $200!)

P.S. I know many will disagree, but I found those old Thinkpads perfectly portable: imagine the battery life you'd get these days from a laptop nearly two inches thick! Read the rest

The world's littlest laptop is yours for $399, but is it the ultimate writers' gadget?

The GPD Pocket is a wee laptop with a 7" high-dpi touchscreen display and an enticing $399 price tag. It'll be light on power, with an Intel Atom CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD, but promises about 12 hours on a charge and two USB ports, one of them type C.

There's a ThinkBook-style tracknipple in lieu of a trackpad. It'll run Ubuntu or Windows 10 and, somehow, they managed to sneak a headphone jack on there. Read the rest

Review: Lenovo Yoga Book

Lenovo's Yoga Book is the most striking personal computer I've seen in years. More than the original iPhone, or Sony's X505, or the Messagepad, here's technology that seems a few years ahead of schedule. It's compact, attractive and thinner than anything else that might be called a laptop. Imagine two hinged pieces of black glass, one of which glows with the internet and the other with Okudagrams, and you have the Yoga Book. Read the rest

Laptop has fake subwoofer

In this video, a mini subwoofer on the bottom of a laptop turns out to be a cosmetic divot impressed into the casing of a removable optical drive. The "subwoofer" is just a grill with a hole looking into the divot. Fans of the manufacturer have a range of superb excuses, such as it being a cleverly-disguised airflow structure. [via] Read the rest

New MacBook Pro "great for hackers"

Adam Geitgey offers an alternative take on Apple's new MacBook Pros, which were poorly-received when announced two weeks ago. Geitgey argues that, thanks to the finally-maturing USB-C ecosystem (and there being multiple USB-C ports), it's a miniature interoperative power-toy that hackers will love. For example, you can charge it with a drugstore power adapter: no more $80 bricks to lug around.

Universal sharing of accessories between devices is a hacker’s dream. It’s the exact opposite opposite of vendor lock-in. You can just plug anything into anything and it (mostly) works. ...

If you get any of the new USB-C compatible monitors (pretty much every vendor has at least one now), you only need to plug one single cable into your MBP: You can then plug all your other devices into your monitor and everything flows over one USB-C to your laptop — power, video, data and even sound. Your monitor is now your docking station and breakout box!...

I/O-wise, the new MacBook Pro is possibly the most open device Apple has ever built. There is literally not a single proprietary port on it. You get four universal high-speed ports that can each draw or supply power, send and receive data and transfer video and audio. It’s really pretty neat.

(Odd to think, though, that none of the clever mobile tricks he lists will work with iPhones, beacause iPhones don't use USB-C.)

I finally checked out the new MacBook Pros in person over the weekend. The 13" model with a function row is an almost-perfect laptop; if you don't need a cutting-edge mobile workstation, it has a lot of juice for such a tiny machine. Read the rest

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