Posts with «author_name|nathan ingraham» label

Microsoft's new Copilot+ Surface Pro has an OLED screen and a redesigned keyboard

Microsoft's Surface Pro strategy has been, shall we say, a little odd lately. The 2022 Surface Pro 9 came in both Intel and Arm configurations, but the Arm-powered device was both slower and significantly more expensive. Then, earlier this year, Microsoft announced and Intel-powered Surface Pro 10, a fine but boring device focused on IT professionals. 

Finally, Microsoft has a new Surface Pro that may get the average person in the market for a laptop to sit up and pay attention. The new Surface Pro Copilot+ PC (no more model numbers!) is another Arm-powered device, but Microsoft says that performance will not be compromised this time. In fact, thanks to a re-architected version of Windows 11, Microsoft claims these machines are 58 percent faster than “the fastest MacBook Air” with an M3 processor. Specifically, Copilot+ PCs run at 40 trillion operations per second, compared to the 18-ish trillion Apple claims with the M3. The company further clarified that peak performance is 23 percent faster, while “sustained” performance is 58 faster. Notably, Microsoft made no mention of the M3 Pro or M3 Max chips here. 

It's also a whopping 90 percent faster than the Surface Pro 9, and Microsoft is promising 22-ish hours of battery life for these new Copilot+ PCs. Physically, it's similar to what you'd expect — a tablet with a kickstand and keyboard attachment. But it does look like it has thinner bezels, and an 13-inch OLED screen for the first time. Finally, there's a "quad-HD" front-facing camera which seems the same as the one we saw on the Surface Pro 10 for business.

There's also a new keyboard called the Flex Keyboard that is meant to be used both attached to the device or removed and set somewhere more comfortable for you. The trackpad is 14 percent larger than before, as well.

We haven't heard yet how much the new Surface Pro or its Flex Keyboard will cost just yet, but stay tuned for more details as Microsoft announces them.

Photo by Devindra Hardawar / Engadget

Developing...

Catch up on all the news from Microsoft's Copilot AI and Surface event today!

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/microsofts-new-copilot-surface-pro-has-an-oled-screen-and-a-redesigned-keyboard-175611698.html?src=rss

Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power trailer reveals season two release date

Amazon's Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power was both extremely successful and extremely divisive in the LOTR fan community. (Separate question, has any recent adaptation or new content in a beloved franchise not been divisive? Thoughts for another time.) Lots of people whined about how Amazon should just trash the first season and start over, but clearly that was never going to happen. What is happening is that season two of The Rings of Power has its first trailer and an August 29 release date.

I'm a pretty big Lord of the Rings fan and found season one enjoyable if not essential, but I like the looks of how things are ratcheting up here for season two. We get plenty of teases of epic battles and creepy creatures as Sauron reveals himself and begins to tighten the noose on all of Middle-earth; there are also looks at him in his "fair" form as he forges the titular Rings of Power with Celebrimbor. 

Amazon says the first three episodes will arrive on August 29, with subsequent entries following every week. Like the first season, this one will consist of eight episodes total. 

This announcement comes less than a week after Warner Bros. Discovery announced it would release a new live-action Lord of the Rings film in theaters in 2026. Tentatively titled The Hunt for Gollum, the film is directed by and will star Andy Serkis, who played Gollum in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies. That project will be set in the same universe that Jackson built, while Amazon's series is an entirely separate entity. There is some shared DNA, though — the first season of The Rings of Power was shot in New Zealand, like Jackson's films, and composer Howard Shore wrote the main credits theme for Amazon's show after scoring all six of the Middle-earth films. 

Oh, and Lego just dropped this incredible Barad-Dur set — it's a big week for Lord of the Rings across the board!

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/lord-of-the-rings-the-rings-of-power-trailer-reveals-season-two-release-date-142522261.html?src=rss

iPad Air (2024) review: Of course this is the iPad to get

The expensive and gorgeous iPad Pro M4 is a complicated device that’s hard to outright recommend — does it make sense to spend well over $1,000 for a tablet with the inherent limitations of iPadOS compared to a Mac or Windows PC? The iPad Air, however, is much easier to evaluate. Since its 2020 redesign, the Air has had nearly the same form factor as the Pro, with some corners cut to differentiate the two. But the Air is also a clear upgrade over the base iPad, appealing to someone like me who appreciates its excellent screen, superior chip, improved multitasking capabilities and a better accessories experience.

It’s pretty easy to sum up what’s new about the iPad Air this year. It has a faster M2 chip compared to the old M1, it works with a new Apple Pencil Pro, the front camera has moved to the landscape edge and it starts with 128GB of storage (double the prior model) at the same $599 price. These are all expected updates given that it’s been two years since the last iPad Air. But with the 2024 iPad Air, Apple is also offering an intriguing new option: the first 13-inch iPad that doesn’t carry the “pro” designation and associated costs. The 13-inch Air starts at $799, which is $500 less than a comparably-sized iPad Pro. (The model I tested with 512GB of storage and 5G costs $1,249.)

Hardware updates

I’ve never considered buying a 13-inch iPad Pro. Besides the high price, I also find such a large and heavy iPad difficult to use handheld. It’s great when in a keyboard dock, as the bigger screen is much more suitable for multitasking, but I also want my iPad to be easy to hold for casual tasks, playing games, watching movies and all the other basic stuff tablets are good for.

My current personal iPad is an 11-inch Pro from 2020, so I’m an obvious mark for the new iPad Air. And after testing the 13-inch Air, I’m thinking about jumping on the big tablet bandwagon for the first time. Part of my reasoning is that the 13-inch iPad Air weighs less than the previous-generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro it is based on. Those tablets typically weighed in around 1.5 pounds, but the Air comes in at 1.36 pounds.

That doesn’t sound like a major difference, but it’s been just enough for me to feel more comfortable using the Air as a tablet rather than just docked in a keyboard case. It’s still a little more unwieldy than I’d like, and it’s still heavier and thicker than the new 13-inch iPad Pro. But, the iPad Air is $500 cheaper; at that price, I’m willing to accept a little trade-off.

Photo by Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

The new 11-inch model is indistinguishable from the 10.9-inch one it replaces in dimensions, weight and screen size. Don’t let Apple fool you into thinking the screen is a whopping .1 inches bigger this year, because it’s not — the company is just rounding up. (The same goes for the 13-inch Air; it has the same 12.9-inch screen size and resolution as the old iPad Pro.)

The M2 chip is a big selling point for the iPad Air, but note that if you have the 2022 model with an M1, you won’t experience massive performance gains here. Geekbench 6 tests show that the M2’s GPU is about 30 percent faster than the M1, with lesser gains in single- and multi-core performance. But, compared to my 2020 iPad Pro with an A12Z processor, the M2 is more than twice as fast. So if you don’t have an iPad with an M-series chip, the new Air will be a major step forward.

That camera is basically the same as the one in the last iPad Air, but now that it’s on the landscape edge it’s much better for video calling when you’re using it with a keyboard. I’d actually consider taking work calls with the iPad now, something that wasn’t the case before.

I’m also very happy that the base iPad Air comes with 128GB of storage rather than the stingy 64GB it was stuck on last time. It’s far easier now to recommend people pick up the cheapest configuration. And you can also get up to 1TB of storage in the Air for the first time, if you need it.

Photo by Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

Magic Keyboard and Apple Pencil Pro

The Air is stuck with the old Magic Keyboard, which is heavier and thicker than the new model and lacks the helpful row of function keys. The Magic Keyboard remains crazy expensive — $299 for the 11-inch and $349 for the 13-inch — but it’s still my favorite keyboard for an iPad. Well, it’s my favorite after the updated version for the iPad Pro. It’s comfortable, quiet and responsive, particularly considering how thin it is, and I have no problem banging out stories on it for hours at a time.

If you’re a fan of the Apple Pencil, though, the good news is that the iPad Air supports the brand-new Pencil Pro. I cover it in more detail in my iPad Pro review, but it does everything the older second-generation Apple Pencil can while adding new features like haptic feedback, Find My support, a squeeze gesture for bringing up menus and the ability to roll the Pencil in your hand to change the width of a brush thanks to built-in gyroscopes. It costs $129, which is the same as the second-generation Pencil. The only bad news is that the old Pencil isn’t compatible with the iPad Air because of a redesigned charging and pairing system that accommodates the landscape front camera.

Photo by Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

What hasn’t changed

That’s essentially everything new about the iPad Air this year. The display remains the same standard Apple LCD, which looks very good for everything I use an iPad for. It’s definitely not in the same league as the new tandem OLED screen in the iPad Pro, or even the mini-LED display that came before it. I definitely noticed the comparatively worse brightness and contrast in the Air’s screen when comparing it side-by-side with the Pro. But, the good news is that I don’t spend all of my life comparing screens, and the iPad Air’s is still a strong selling point for the tablet. It’s laminated to the front glass, unlike the screen on the basic iPad, and it’s more than bright enough for indoor use.

The only thing I wish it had was a higher frame rate. The iPad Pro’s “ProMotion” feature adjusts the frame rate from 10-120hz, while the Air maxes out at 60hz. Over time, I stop noticing that the UI feels comparatively jerky in animations and don’t think about it too much. But whenever I switch back to the iPad Pro, I quickly appreciate how much smoother and more fluid everything feels.

The back camera is identical to the one on the prior iPad Air, which is fine. It’ll take a decent snapshot in good lighting and you can shoot video in 4K at a variety of frame rates. But you can’t record in the ProRes format — Apple limits that to the iPad Pro. But that likely will not be an issue for anyone considering an iPad Air. Similarly, the iPad Air’s USB-C port doesn’t support faster Thunderbolt 4 speed, but in my testing it was fine for pulling in RAW photos from my camera. If your workflow is such that you’ll use that port a lot and benefit from faster speeds, I will shockingly recommend you check out the Pro.

I haven’t even had the iPad Air for a week, so I’ve yet to run our time-intensive battery test. But from the daily use I’ve put in, it typically meets Apple’s 10-hour rating for light tasks like internet browsing or watching videos. Doing more processor-intensive tasks will surely wear it out faster, and I’ve noticed battery life tends to dip a bit when I’m using the Magic Keyboard. But, as with most iPads, you won’t need to reach for the charger too often.

Photo by Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

Wrap-up

Jumping back and forth between the iPad Air and Pro has emphasized how great of a value the Air is. I can’t deny there are a number of niceties that all add up to make the iPad Pro experience better. Face ID is clearly superior to Touch ID, for example — I quickly got tired of reaching for the power button to unlock the Air. The iPad Pro’s screen is the definition of luxury, and the improved keyboard case provides a slightly better experience. It’s also lighter and easier to hold, with better speakers, too. And, of course, it has that new M4 chip.

These things are all important and useful, but after getting used to the Air again, I don’t miss them too much. The M2 is plenty powerful for my needs, the Apple Pencil Pro experience is identical, the old Magic Keyboard is still great to type on, the screen is bright and colorful and — perhaps most importantly — it’s $500 cheaper than a comparable iPad Pro.

For some, that extra cash might be well worth it. There are some things the Pro can do that the Air cannot, like shooting ProRes video or go into Apple’s Reference Mode for improved color accuracy and consistency against a bunch of color standards. And the M4 will save time on processor-intensive jobs like rendering video. And some people will simply want to get the best iPad they can, money be damned.

But for the rest of us, the iPad Air is still here, offering 80-ish percent of the iPad Pro experience for a lot less money. And for the first time, there is a large-screen iPad at a much more approachable price. My heart may want an iPad Pro, but my head (and wallet) agree that the iPad Air is a far more reasonable option.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/ipad-air-2024-review-of-course-this-is-the-ipad-to-get-210019225.html?src=rss

iPad Pro (2024) review: So very nice, and so very expensive

It hasn’t even been released yet, but Apple’s new iPad Pro is probably one of the most divisive devices the company has made in years. On the one hand, it’s an undeniable feat of engineering. Apple squeezed a new M4 chip and “tandem” OLED panel into a tablet that’s somehow thinner and lighter than the one it replaces. And the prior iPad Pro was no slouch either, garnering loads of praise for its combo of power and portability since it was first introduced in 2018.

On the other hand, this tech comes at a cost: the 11-inch iPad Pro starts at $999, while the 13-inch model costs $1,299. That’s $200 more than before, and that’s without a $299 or $349 Magic Keyboard and a $129 Pencil Pro. (The unit I’m testing is a 13-inch system with 1TB of storage and 5G, which costs $2,099) The iPad Pro has always felt like Apple flexing its muscles, showing off an absurdly powerful and portable vision of tablet computing that’s overkill for almost everyone, and that’s more true than ever. Furious debate has ensued over the value of an iPad Pro and why in the world anyone would buy one instead of a MacBook. This isn’t a new conversation, but it feels particularly heated this time.

Before getting into the details, it’s worth noting that I haven’t even had a week to use the iPad Pro M4. So I can’t assess things like long-term durability, which I can’t help but wonder about given just how thin it is. But in the short time I’ve had the iPad Pro, I can say that it’s somehow a major leap forward that doesn’t significantly change the iPad experience. As such, you’ll have to really ask yourself if it’s worth the price.

Hardware

If you stare at the iPad Pro M4 head-on, you won’t notice any difference between it and the previous model. The display still makes up the vast majority of the front, with thin, equally sized bezels surrounding it. The Face ID camera is now on the landscape edge (a great change that Apple first brought to the basic iPad in late 2022), but it’s basically invisible to the eye — no notch for the Pro.

However, picking up the iPad Pro tells another story altogether. While the new 13-inch model is fractionally taller and wider than the 12.9-inch version it replaces, the iPad Pro M4 is 20 percent thinner and about a quarter-pound lighter. I cannot stress enough how radically this changes the experience of holding the iPad Pro, especially the larger of the two.

Before, the big iPad Pro was just a bit too big and heavy to be comfortable as a hand-held tablet. I used to prefer using the 11-inch iPad Pro or Air when I’m relaxing on the couch browsing the web, playing some games, messaging friends and doing other light tasks. Now, however, it feels entirely reasonable to use the 13-inch model in that fashion. I still think smaller tablets are better for hand-held tasks, but the reduced thickness and weight make the new iPad Pro much easier to handle.

I want to talk a little more about how ridiculously thin this iPad is. Apple has rightly gotten its share of flack for relentlessly trying to make its products thinner, to the point where it affects durability and usability. Perhaps the best examples are the Touch Bar MacBook Pro models that Apple first introduced in 2016. Those laptops were indeed thinner and lighter than their predecessors, but at the expense of things like battery life, proper thermal cooling and a reliable keyboard. Apple reversed course by 2020 when it brought its own chips to the MacBook Pro; those laptops were heavier and chunkier than the disastrous Touch Bar models, but they had more ports and better keyboards and no issues staying cool under a heavy workload.

This is all to say that, for those computers, the pursuit of “thin and light” hampered their primary purpose, especially since they aren’t devices you hold in your hands all day. But with something like an iPad, where you’re meant to pick it up, hold it and touch it, shaving off a quarter of a pound and 20 percent of its thickness actually makes a huge difference in the experience of using the product. It’s more comfortable and easier to use — and, provided that there are no durability concerns here, this is a major improvement. I’ve only had the iPad Pro for less than a week, so I can’t say how it’ll hold up over time, but so far it seems sturdy and not prone to bending.

The iPad Pro on the left, next to the iPad Air on the right.
Photo by Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

Beyond that significant change, the new iPad Pro retains the same basic elements: There’s a power button in one corner, volume up and down buttons on another, and a USB-C Thunderbolt port on the bottom. There’s a camera bump on the back, in the same position as always, and a connector for the Magic Keyboard. Finally, there are four speakers, one in each corner, just as before. They sound much better than speakers from such a thin device should sound, a feat Apple has consistently pulled off across all its devices lately. Aside from the size and weight reduction, Apple hasn’t radically changed things here, and that’s mostly OK — though I could imagine some people wanting a second Thunderbolt port just for power when a peripheral is plugged in.

The specs of both the front- and back-facing cameras are unchanged; both are 12-megapixel sensors. Somewhat surprisingly, Apple removed the ultra-wide camera from the back, leaving it with a single standard camera alongside the LiDAR sensor and redesigned True Tone flash. That’s fine by me, as the standard lens is just fine for most things you’ll want out of an iPad camera. Its video capabilities are still robust, with support for ProRes video recording and 4K at a variety of frame rates.

Meanwhile, the front-facing camera on the landscape edge of the tablet means you can actually do video calls when the iPad is in its keyboard dock and not look ridiculous. I generally avoided doing video calls with my iPad before, but I’ve done a handful on the iPad Pro and all the feedback I’ve received is that the video quality is solid if not spectacular. Regardless, I won’t think twice about jumping onto FaceTime or Google Meet with the iPad Pro now that the camera position is no longer an issue.

Photo by Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

Tandem OLEDs

The next thing you’ll notice about the new iPad Pro is its OLED display. Specifically, Apple calls it a “tandem OLED” display, which means that you’re actually looking at two OLED panels layered on top of each other. The screen resolution is essentially the same as the old iPad Pro (2,752 x 2,064, 264 pixels per inch), but a number of other key specs have improved. It now features a 2,000,000-to-1 contrast ratio, one of the things OLED is best known for — blacks are literal darkness, as the pixels don’t emit any light.

The OLED enables more brightness and improved HDR performance compared to the old iPad Pro — standard screen brightness is up to 1,000 nits, compared to 600 nits for the last model. As before, though, HDR content maxes out at 1,600 nits. This is a nice upgrade over the Mini-LED screen on the old 12.9-inch iPad Pro, but it’s a massive improvement for the 11-inch iPad Pro. That model was stuck with a standard LCD with no HDR capabilities; the disparity between the screens Apple offered on the two iPad Pros was significant, but now both tablets have the same caliber display, and it’s one of the best I’ve ever seen.

Photo by Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

Everything is incredibly bright, sharp and vibrant, whether I’m browsing the web, editing photos, watching movies or playing games. I cannot stress enough how delightful this screen is — I have a flight this week, and I can’t wait to spend it watching movies. Watching a selection of scenes from Interstellar shows off the HDR capabilities as well as the contrast between the blackness of space and the brightness of surrounding stars and galaxies, while more vibrant scenes like the Shire in Fellowship of the Ring had deep and gorgeous colors without feeling overly saturated or unrealistic. Given how the screen is the most crucial experience of using a tablet, I can say Apple has taken a major leap forward here. If you’re upgrading from the Mini-LED display in the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, it won’t be quite as massive a difference, but anyone who prefers the 11-inch model will be thrilled with this improvement.

As usual, these screens have all the usual high-end features from prior models, including the ProMotion variable refresh rate (up to 120hz), fingerprint-resistant and antireflective coatings, True Tone color temperature adjustment, support for the P3 wide color gamut and full lamination. Other iPads have some, but not all of these features; specifically, ProMotion is saved for the Pro line. And this year, Apple added a $100 nano-texture glass option for the 1TB and 2TB models to further reduce glare, a good option if you often work in bright sunlight. (My review iPad did not have this feature.) Between that and the improved brightness, these tablets are well-suited to working in difficult lighting conditions.

M4 performance

Choosing to debut the M4 chip in the iPad Pro rather than a Mac is a major flex by Apple. Prior M-series silicon hit Macs first, iPads later. But as Apple tells it, the tandem OLED displays needed the new display engine on the M4 to hit the performance goals it wanted, so rather than engineer it into an existing processor, it just went forward with a whole new processor. The 1TB and 2TB iPad Pros have an M4 with four performance cores, six efficiency cores, a 10-core GPU and 16GB of RAM, while the less-expensive models have to make do with three performance cores and 8GB of RAM.

Either way, that’s more power than almost anyone buying an iPad will know what to do with. Interestingly, even Apple’s own apps don’t quite know what to do with it, either. When the company briefed the press last week, it showed off new versions of Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro for the iPad, both of which had some impressive additions. Final Cut Pro is getting a live multicam feature that lets you wirelessly sync multiple iPhones or iPads to one master device and record and direct all of them simultaneously. Logic Pro, meanwhile, has some new AI-generated “session players” that can create realistic backing tracks for you to play or sing over.

Photo by Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

Both features were very impressive in the demos I saw — but neither of them requires the M4 iPad Pro. Final Cut Pro will still work on any iPad with an M-series processor, and Logic Pro works on M-series iPads as well as the iPad Pro models with the A12Z chip (first released in 2020).

Of course, when you’re spending in excess of $1,000, it’s good to know you’ll get performance that’ll last you years into the future, and that’s definitely the case here. As apps get even more complex, the iPad Pro should be able to make short work of them. That includes AI, of course — the M4’s neural engine is capable of 38 trillion operations per second, a massive upgrade over the 18 trillion number quoted for the M3.

Unsurprisingly, the iPad Pro M4’s Geekbench CPU scores of 3,709 (single-core), 14,680 (multi-core) and 53,510 (GPU) significantly eclipse those of the M2 iPad Air (2,621 / 10,058 / 41,950). In reality, though, both of these tablets will churn through basically anything you throw at them. If your time is money and having faster video rendering or editing matters, or you work with a lot of apps that rely heavily on machine learning, the M4 should shave precious seconds or minutes out of your workflow, which will add up significantly over time.

Fortunately, the new chip remains as power efficient as ever. I haven’t done deep battery testing yet given I’ve only had the iPad Pro for a few days at this point. But I did use it as my main computer for several days and got through almost 10 hours of work before needing the charger. My workload is comparatively modest though, as I’m not pushing the iPad through heavy video or AI workloads, so your mileage may vary. As it has for more than a decade now, Apple quotes 10 hours of web browsing or watching video. But given what the M4 is capable of, chances are people doing more process-intensive tasks will run through the battery a lot faster.

New Magic Keyboard

As rumored, Apple has two new accessories for the iPad Pro: a new keyboard and the Pencil Pro. Both are still just as pricey as before. $350 for a keyboard case still feels like highway robbery, no matter how nice it is. But at least they’re not more expensive.

The good news is that the new Magic Keyboard is definitively better than the old one in a number of ways. First off, it’s thinner and lighter than before, which makes a huge difference in how the whole package feels. The last iPad Pro and its keyboard were actually rather thick and heavy, weighing in around three pounds — more than a MacBook Air. Now, both the iPad and keyboard case are thinner and lighter on their own, making the whole package feel much more compact.

Photo by Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

The base of the Magic Keyboard is now made of aluminum, which makes the typing experience more like what you’ll find on a MacBook. The keys are all about the same size as before, and typing on it remains extremely comfortable. If you’re familiar with the keyboards on Apple’s laptops, you’ll feel right at home here. Apple also made the trackpad bigger and added a function row of keys, both of which make the overall experience of navigating and using iPadOS much better.

The trackpad also now has no moving parts and instead relies on haptic feedback, similar to the MacBook trackpads. Every click is accompanied by a haptic that truly tricks me into thinking the trackpad moves, and small vibrations accompany other actions as well. For example, when I swipe up and hold to enter multitasking, there’s a haptic that confirms the gesture is recognized. Third-party developers will be able to add haptic trackpad feedback to their apps, as well.

Between the improved layout and thinner design, the Magic Keyboard is essential gear if, like me, you make your living while typing. It’s wildly expensive, yes, but it’s also extremely well-made and thoughtfully designed in a way that I just haven’t seen anyone else match yet. Yes, there are plenty of cheaper third-party options, but the Magic Keyboard is the best option I’ve tried.

Apple Pencil Pro

Photo by Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

Whenever I review an iPad, I can’t help but lament my complete lack of visual art skill. But even I can tell that the new Pencil Pro is a notable upgrade over the model it replaces, which was already excellent. As before, it magnetically attaches to the side of the iPad Pro for charging and storage, something that remains an elegant solution.

The Pencil Pro does everything the second-gen Apple Pencil does and has some new tricks to boot. One is Squeeze, which by default brings up the brush picker interface in apps like Notes and Freeform. It’s a quick and smart way to scrub through your different options, and it’s open to third-party developers to use as they wish in their own apps. The Pencil Pro isn’t too sensitive to the Squeeze gesture; I didn’t find myself accidentally popping open the menu while doodling away. The new Pencil also has a gyroscope, which lets it recognize rotation gestures — this means you can “turn” your virtual brush as you paint, giving it another layer of realism. Between tilt, pressure and now rotation sensitivity, the Pencil Pro is even better at capturing how you are using it.

Apple also added haptic feedback, so when you squeeze the Pencil you’ll get a vibration to confirm the action. It’s also used in a great new “undo” menu: if you squeeze the Pencil and then tap and hold on the back button, you can then quickly scrub through and undo everything you’ve written, step-by-step. This history makes it easy to take some risks while working on something and then quickly rewind if you’re not happy with the results. And each step of the log is accompanied by a haptic buzz as you scroll forwards and backwards.

Finally, the Apple Pencil Pro has Find My integration, which will make it easier to find when you inevitably lose it in the couch cushions (or leave it at a coffee shop). Given that Apple threw in a lot of new features and kept the price the same, I can’t complain too much about the Pencil Pro. The only bummer is that the new iPad Pro doesn’t work with the second-generation Pencil, presumably due to a different battery charging and pairing setup necessitated by moving the front camera to the same edge as the charging area. So if you’re upgrading, a Pencil Pro (or the less capable $79 USB-C Pencil) will be a requirement.

iPadOS

I think it’s worth a quick mention that Apple has not made any changes to iPadOS to go along with this release, and it’s one of the things that has made the internet very angry. There’s been a lot of chatter from some people who think the iPad Pro should run macOS or similar software; the vibe is that the iPad’s hardware is wasted on iPadOS.

I can only speak for myself and note that I was able to do everything my job asks of me on the iPad Pro while I was testing it, but that doesn’t mean it would be my choice over a Mac for certain situations. If I was at an event like CES, I’d want my MacBook Pro to facilitate things like transferring and editing photos as well as working in Google Docs. I can do those things on an iPad, but not as easily, mostly because the Google Docs app doesn’t handle going through comments and suggestions well. I did, however, find it easy and fast to import RAW photos from my SD card to the Lightroom app. For the first time, I felt comfortable doing my entire review photo workflow on an iPad. Even things like tearing through my email are better in the Gmail web app than the Gmail app for iPad. Overall, though, I was perfectly happy using the iPad Pro as my main computer; some things are a little tougher and some are easier. The whole experience doesn’t feel significantly better or worse, it’s just different. And at this point, I enjoy seeing what I can do on platforms that aren’t Windows and macOS.

Ultimately, Apple has shown no indication it’s going to make iPadOS more like a Mac. By the same coin, it still shows no indication of making a Mac with a touchscreen. For better or worse, those two worlds are distinct. And with no rumors pointing to a big iPadOS redesign at WWDC next month, you shouldn’t expect the software experience to radically change in the near future. As such, don’t buy an iPad Pro unless you’re content with the OS as it is right now.

Photo by Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

Wrap-up

The iPad Pro M4 is a fascinating device. I can’t help but want to use it. All the time. For everything. It’s truly wild to me that Apple is putting its absolute best tech into not a Mac but an iPad. That’s been a trend for a while, as the iPad Pro lineup has always been about showing off just how good of a tablet Apple can make, but this one truly is without compromise. It doesn’t just have a nice screen, it has the best screen Apple has ever made. It doesn’t have the same processor as some Macs, it has a newer and better one.

To get all of that technology into a device this thin and light truly feels, well, magical. That’s how Steve Jobs described the first iPad; significantly, he also said it contained “our most advanced technology.” In 2010, it was debatable whether the first iPad really had Apple’s most advanced tech, but it’s absolutely true now. And that’s what makes the iPad Pro such a delight to use: it’s a bit of an otherworldly experience, something hard to come by at this point when so much of technology has been commoditized.

But when I think realistically about what I need and what I can reasonably justify spending, I realize that the iPad Pro is just too much for me. Too expensive, too powerful, maybe a little too large (I truly love the 11-inch model, however). If you’re in the same boat, then fortunately, there’s an iPad that offers nearly everything the iPad Pro does for significantly less cash. The iPad Air may not be nearly as exciting as the Pro, but it offers the same core experience for a lot less cash. But if you aren’t put off by the price, the new iPad Pro is sure to delight.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/ipad-pro-2024-review-so-very-nice-and-so-very-expensive-210012937.html?src=rss

A new Lord of the Rings film, The Hunt for Gollum, will hit theaters in 2026

Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings film trilogy came out right around the time movie studios decided everything needed to be a big franchise that exists in perpetuity. From that perspective, it’s a little surprising that Warner Bros. Discovery hasn’t milked Tolkien’s work more than they already have. That’ll change soon, though, as the company just announced that there are two new Lord of the Rings films in the works (you can read the full press release here).

The first is tentatively titled Lord of the Rings: The Hunt for Gollum, and it’s being directed by Andy Serkis — you may remember him for his landmark performance as Gollum in Jackson’s prior movies. The fact that Serkis is on board, and working from a script by Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens (who co-wrote the prior Middle-earth movies along with Jackson) has me feeling a bit better about this not being simply a crass cash grab. Peter Jackson, along with Walsh and Boyens, are set to produce as well. Serkis previously served as second unit director on The Hobbit films and also directed 2022’s Venom: Let There Be Carnage.

Given the working title of the film, you won’t be surprised to learn that Serkis is also starring again as the titular Gollum. While part of me was interested to see how another actor might take on the character, Serkis so defined Gollum for the big screen that it’s almost impossible to put anyone else in the role. As for what the movie will cover, there’s no official word yet — but again, the title indicates it’ll take place between the events of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings as Gandalf and Aragorn search Middle-earth for Gollum, trying to learn more about the ring that Bilbo and then Frodo possessed. 

Given Hollywood’s insatiable thirst for Content based on Popular Franchises, it’s a little surprising something like this didn’t happen sooner. Jackson and company followed up the original trilogy of films nine years later with the bloated and overly CGI-reliant film series based on The Hobbit and corresponding events from Tolkien’s LOTR appendices. And, of course, Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power series debuted in 2022. And before The Hunt for Gollum arrives, we’ll see another intriguing project: an anime-style film called The War of the Rohirrim. That movie arrives this December and covers events in Rohan a few hundred years before The Lord of the Rings.

As a massive Lord of the Rings fan, I’m both skeptical and excited by this announcement. The sad reality of the entertainment world is that projects like this are going to happen no matter what; there’s too much money wrapped up in things like Lord of the Rings to not try and extract more. But Serkis seems like an excellent choice to direct this movie, and hopefully they’ll find a tight, self-contained story that works as a standalone film. The mess that was made in the Hobbit films has me wary, but even in those movies I found plenty of things to enjoy — and this feels like a good opportunity to chart a positive course forward for more movies in Middle-earth.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/a-new-lord-of-the-rings-film-the-hunt-for-gollum-will-hit-theaters-in-2026-140141386.html?src=rss

iPad Air M2 hands-on: A big-screen iPad that doesn't break the bank

Compared to the iPad Pro, the changes Apple made to the iPad Air are more modest. Rather than a total redesign, the iPad Air is getting some expected and slightly overdue changes: a new screen size, a new processor and a front-facing camera that is placed on the landscape side of the tablet. 

Yes, that's some faint praise, but there's a lot to like about the new iPad Air. It's long been the best overall iPad, straddling the line between the budget entry model and the wildly powerful and expensive Pro lineup. That's the case here, again. But now that the 13-inch iPad Pro is even more pricey than before, it's good to see a large-screen iPad that doesn't cost well over $1,000. 

The 11-inch iPad Air is identical in size and weight to the old one, though the screen is .1 inches bigger this time. So there's not a whole lot to say about that one. The 13-inch Air, however, feels quite a bit like the old 12.9-inch iPad Pro that was just replaced today. Indeed, it's identical in all dimensions, but a little bit lighter (1.36 pounds instead of 1.5).

Photo by Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

That makes it a little more approachable as a hand-held tablet, though I still feel like an iPad this large is best suited to either be used in a keyboard dock or flat on a table with an Apple Pencil. That said, Apple says that about half of iPad Pro sales were for the larger model, so there's clearly an appetite for this bigger screen. There's definitely something luxurious about using such a large screen tablet, provided it's easy to handle, and that's the case with the iPad Air (at least in the limited time I've had so far to handle the device).

I also got to try the new Apple Pencil Pro, which is compatible with the new Air. As I said here, the new tricks like barrel roll for changing the shape of your brush and a squeeze feature to bring up tools like a brush picker are solid additions, and I'm glad that Apple didn't increase the Pencil's price given these new features. 

Photo by Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

These tablets might not have the wow factor that I experienced when checking out the iPad Pro, but that's OK. From my first look, it feels like the iPad Air lineup offers most of the same experience that you'll get with an iPad Pro — at least in ways that normal buyers will recognize. And I think Apple did well on pricing this time out. The 11-inch iPad Air costs $599, same as before, but it now has a more reasonable 128GB of storage. The 13-inch model is priced at $799, an expected price bump for the larger screen. It's the first time you can get a large-screen iPad for less than a grand, and I'm definitely curious to see if that helps to improve iPad sales. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/hands-on-with-the-ipad-air-m2-a-big-screen-ipad-that-doesnt-break-the-bank-160655629.html?src=rss

iPad Pro M4 hands-on: Absurdly thin and light, but the screen steals the show

The new 11- and 13-inch iPad Pro models that Apple just introduced may be completely redesigned from the outside in, but they still feel a lot like their predecessors. That's not a bad thing, as the old iPad Pro design was outstanding. But there's no doubt Apple is flexing its hardware engineering muscles with these new tablets, not just with the M4 processor inside.

Both tablets are noticeably thinner and lighter than the ones they replace, something I didn't really think was possible before. It's frankly a little absurd to see such a thin and light device with such an advanced display and powerful processor. It still feels like the prior iPad Pro, just in a more refined package. My big question is around durability, something Apple mentioned during its keynote — I'd be a little worried about bending these iPads, but hopefully this is something Apple rigorously tested for. But it has had issues with thin products bending before (albeit a long time ago). 

Photo by Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

After the impressive physical specifications, the next thing you can't miss is the OLED screen. Technically, it's a "Tandem OLED" screen, a display layer that is thinner than the one in the old iPad Pro which helped Apple achieve the wild thinness here. In Apple's extremely bright demo area, the iPad Pro screen showed its quality — everything was extremely clear, blacks were pitch-black and colors really popped. After looking at the iPad Air display, it was obvious how much better these screens are. The viewing angles were particularly impressive to me, as images on the screen remained sharp, bright and clear no matter how I positioned the tablet. 

I also got a chance to check out the Apple Pencil Pro, which looks and feels nearly identical to the second-generation Apple Pencil revealed way back in 2018. That's OK, as the form factor is fine with me. It still connects to the side of the iPad Pro to charge and pair; all of its new tricks are under the hood. Squeezing the Pencil gives you a little burst of haptic feedback and pulls up a pane for selecting what brush you want to use in the FreeForm app demo I tried. But that action is customizable by third-party developers so the squeeze can do whatever is appropriate for the app you're using. The gyroscope, meanwhile, lets you spin the Pencil as you draw to change angles of your brush on the fly. 

Photo by Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

Unfortunately, we didn't get to try the new Magic Keyboard Apple is producing for the iPad Pro, but Apple says it's thinner and lighter than the old model. That older one will still be available for the iPad Air.

Between the display, the M4 processor and the new dimensions of the iPad Pro, this feels like a major update for Apple's best tablet, with a price to match. Both the 11- and 13-inch iPad Pro are $200 more than their predecessors: the 11-inch model starts at $999, while the 13-inch is a whopping $1,299. But hey, at least storage now starts at 256GB! That pricing firmly puts these iPads out of reach for normal humans, and that's OK — most people will be more than happy with a tablet like the iPad Air. If you want this wildly impressive screen, though, you're going to pay for it.

Photo by Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

Follow all of the news live from Apple's 'Let Loose' event right here.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/ipad-pro-m4-hands-on-absurdly-thin-and-light-but-the-screen-steals-the-show-153641259.html?src=rss

The rebuilt Sonos app focuses on getting you to your tunes faster

If you use Sonos speakers, chances are you’ve used their app and encountered at least a little frustration at some point. I don’t think it’s a bad app when you consider the many functions it needs to juggle: finding and playing music from dozens of services, managing multiple connected speakers, running people through setup and troubleshooting and so on. But at the very least, it’s fair to suggest that it’s a little long in the tooth. Sonos knows this, too, and is announcing a totally new app for Android and iOS that was written from the ground up. It’ll be available on May 7.

I spoke to Sonos VP of user experience and user research Neil Griffiths about the redesign, and he said that it came as a result of talking to hundreds of customers about their listening habits and the way they want to use the app. From those conversations came two principles the company followed for the new app. One was to make it easier for people to play back whatever audio content they have, whether it’s streaming music, podcasts, radio, audiobooks, devices plugged into Sonos speakers like TVs or turntables and more. The second is making the app into a hub that’s better-suited to getting to exactly what you want to hear.

The end result is a much simpler app — the old one had the usual five tabs along the bottom, three of which could be used to find music. Now, there’s a single, customizable home screen with a persistent search bar and rows of content. By default, you’ll see a “recently played” section at the top that pulls things in from any service you use; below that you’ll see a carousel of the different services you have hooked up to Sonos. There’s also an area that controls different inputs, like line-in to speakers that support it or TVs plugged into soundbars. That way, you can tap those to switch between streaming music and playing back the connected device.

Sonos

There’s still a “now playing” bar at the bottom of the app that you can tap to get the full playback controls and volume adjustments, but if you swipe up from the bottom of the screen you’ll instead get a view of your whole Sonos system. This shows all your speakers and what’s playing where; you can adjust volume for each from here or group speakers together.

Easily the best thing about this new app is the customizable home screen, though. Not only can you change the order of things that appear there, you can also pin content directly from within different apps so you can get to it immediately. For example, Spotify, Apple Music and basically every other music service typically have a “new releases for you” section that shows recent albums based on your listening habits. If you always want to see that, you can pin it straight to your home screen and it’ll dynamically update when Spotify has new picks. And you can re-order these carousels so your most-used one is right at the top of the screen.

The old Sonos home screen had a recently played section at the top and let you pin songs, albums, playlists and stations from across your services, so it had some degree of flexibility. But being able to add full, dynamically updating sections from the apps you use feels like a major step forward. I can easily see pinning a half-dozen lists from different apps to my home screen, which will make the process of starting music from the Sonos app itself a lot more fluid. I still mostly use AirPlay or Spotify Connect to broadcast to my speakers, but I think it’ll be worth setting up my home in this new app and see if I use it more. Pulling together content from the too many streaming apps I use in one place sounds like a nice improvement over jumping in and out of apps depending on what I want to hear.

Sonos also made it easier to jump right into the service of your choice. All of the streaming apps that you’re logged in to will appear in a carousel as well, with your default / favorite option always at the beginning of the list. The same goes for search — when you open the search bar and type something in, you’ll get the results from your favorite service first.

Sonos

The company is also replacing its existing desktop controller app for Mac and Windows with a web app that'll offer the same functionality and design as you get on your phone. That's probably a good call, as the Sonos controller feels pretty out of step with the company's current design and feature set, though I'm sure some will bristle at it being a web app. That should also start rolling out on May 7, and the existing Mac and Windows app will eventually be shut down.

For a lot of people, I wager the Sonos app will still be a “set it and forget it” kind of thing, used to get speakers set up and then tucked away in case something goes wrong. If you only have one or two speakers and do nearly all your listening through Spotify, for example, it’ll probably be preferable to just use the Spotify app itself still. But people who have a more involved speaker setup and use multiple sources for audio should find a lot to like here when the app arrives in a few weeks.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/the-rebuilt-sonos-app-focuses-on-getting-you-to-your-tunes-faster-130022601.html?src=rss

Acer's new $399 Chromebook Plus 514 hits the mark for a solid budget laptop

There are a frankly ridiculous number of Chromebooks on sale to choose from, but Google's Chromebook Plus initiative that launched last fall has gone a long way towards standardizing some key specs for ChromeOS devices. That in turn has made it a little easier to pick ones that'll provide a consistent quality experience without breaking the bank. Acer's latest Chromebook Plus 514, which the company just announced today, is a good example — at first glance, it looks like it checks most of the boxes I'm looking for when recommending a basic Chromebook that'll work for most people. 

To make things confusing, Acer already sells a few Chromebook Plus 514 models; this one is the CB514-4HT and is priced at $399. Look for that SKU if you want to make sure you're getting the latest one. This laptop is powered by Intel's 13th-gen Core i3-N305 processor and pairs that with 8GB of RAM and 512GB of storage — that latter spec is a bit of surprise and is a lot more storage than I'd expect to see on a $400 Chromebook. To meet the required Chromebook Plus specs, this laptop includes a 1080p webcam with a privacy shutter. While the resolution is pretty solid, not all webcams are equal so we'll have to see how this one performs in real life.

Acer

The display is a 14-inch, 1080p touchscreen, so it's not quite as tall as the 1,920 x 1,200 screens that I've seen on a number of other Chromebook Plus laptops. But again, at the price I'm not going to complain too much. It has a decent selection of ports, too: two USB-C and USB-A slots along with a microSD card reader. I wouldn't have minded seeing HDMI here, as the USB-C ports could quickly be taken up by power and a monitor, but I just keep reminding myself this computer is only 400 bucks. 

Acer says that this laptop will hit stores in early May, though the specific SKU we're talking about here should also be at Costco as early as next week. The company also says it'll have some other configurations available in the near future, though they didn't say what'll change. I wouldn't be surprised to see a model with less storage or perhaps no touchscreen, which could drive the price down even more. If so, this might be a great budget option. But even as is, you should get a pretty good laptop here for the price.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/acers-new-399-chromebook-plus-514-hits-the-mark-for-a-solid-budget-laptop-130058747.html?src=rss

The iPhone changed tech overnight. Almost 20 years later, nothing else has come close

I vividly remember Steve Jobs introducing the iPhone on January 9, 2007, a device he dubbed a touchscreen iPod, mobile phone and “internet communicator” all in one product. I immediately looked at my Motorola Razr with a burning sense of hatred. Now, with the benefit of hindsight, it’s pretty easy to say the iPhone launch was the most transformative event in the last 20 years of consumer technology. Even though the original model was lacking in a lot of important ways, its impact was so immediate and monumental that the history of consumer technology was instantly split into two eras: PreiPhone and Post iPhone.

Take the personal computer revolution, for example. Moving room-sized computers from research institutes into something a regular person could buy and use in their home was undoubtedly a huge advance, but there were multiple inflection points in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s that helped usher in modern computing. The trinity of the Apple II, Tandy TRS-80 and Commodore PET 2001 in the ’70s represented the first wave, followed by the rise of the IBM PC and Macintosh in the ’80s. Things really took hold in the ’90s with the dominance of Microsoft Windows; the arrival of Windows 95 was a particularly transformative moment. In more recent history, the laptop became a viable and then dominant in the late ’90s and 2000s, which changed how most people think about computing. These were all events that moved the personal computing marketplace forward, but it’s hard to say one was more important than the others. It was more of a gradual rise and fall of various technologies that brought us to the modern era.

But the mobile phone market was completely reshaped by the iPhone, even if it took a few years for the effects to play out. Companies like BlackBerry, Palm and Nokia clung to the pre-iPhone conception of a smartphone for too long, focusing on business users and physical keyboards and not materially improving the software experience. Those companies are gone or irrelevant to mainstream consumers now. Palm’s introduction of its own webOS and Microsoft’s purchase of Nokia to push Windows Phone forward were reasonable efforts to challenge the iPhone, but they were far too little, too late. Hardware and software quality was hit or miss in both cases, but the main issue was that developers never embraced either platform, largely because consumers adopted iPhone and Android so quickly. The best iPhone apps usually never hit those devices, leading to inevitable doom.

On the other hand, Google and Samsung went all-in on Android almost immediately and quickly reaped the rewards of having an alternative to the iPhone. Android had enough similarities to iOS while also offering enough differentiation to capture a new part of the market. That’s particularly true internationally, where the massive variety of price points and devices was a huge advantage in markets where most people were priced out of Apple’s products. And given that Android arrived just a few months after Apple launched the iPhone App Store meant developers quickly started writing apps for both platforms, giving Android the support it needed. Essentially, everyone either followed in Apple’s footsteps or quickly went extinct.

It goes without saying that the iPhone reshaped a number of other businesses as well. The late aughts were awash with single-function gadgets, from obvious things like digital cameras, portable gaming devices and the iPod. (Also consider what phones have done to watches, paper calendars, lists and address books.) In the Post iPhone Era, consumer-grade digital cameras and portable music players are extremely niche — the iPhone’s camera is more than good enough for most people, and the iPhone itself quickly cannibalized the iPod.

Portable gaming systems are enjoying a bit of a resurgence, but the popularity of games on a phone that anyone can pick up and play is unmatched. If Nintendo’s Wii made its mark by offering casual gaming, the iPhone and the App Store quickly took that concept on the go. Both Call of Duty Mobile and Candy Crush Saga have peaked at about 500 million players, while Minecraft is the top-selling game of all time, with 300 million copies sold. Most AAA blockbuster titles don’t crack 50 million copies sold.

Moving from that Razr to an iPhone was a breath of fresh air. Watching YouTube and movies I had purchased via iTunes transformed my plane rides or commutes. Being able to browse real web pages and use a solid enough email client on the go made me more productive (and began my crippling information addiction). The “touchscreen iPod” felt like a futuristic and intuitive way to navigate my music library. It took until the iPhone 4 in 2010 for Apple to really focus on camera and image quality, but that didn’t stop people from shooting tons of photos and uploading them to Facebook. Even 2009’s iPhone 3GS took respectable enough snapshots and videos that my photo library started growing exponentially, and I’m glad to have a lot of those old, grainy shots from my late 20s.

And about a year after the first iPhone, the App Store blew open the doors on what was possible. Games, productivity tools, better messaging apps, social media, streaming music and everything else we associate with a modern smartphone quickly burst forth. Some people didn’t really consider the first iPhone a “smartphone” since you couldn’t install third-party apps, and Apple wisely saw the writing on the wall and fixed that glaring omission.

Whether all of the changes that followed the iPhone’s rise are a good thing is debatable. Having near-unlimited access to the internet at all times often feels like more than we can handle, and smartphones have enabled all kinds of digital abuse. Our privacy has gone out the window as these devices log vast amounts of data about our movements and desires and spending habits and search histories on behalf of the biggest companies in the world, who monetize it and try to keep us addicted. Steve Jobs almost certainly did not have all of this in mind when he pulled the iPhone out of his pocket in 2007, and the technology advanced so quickly we didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into.

The ramifications of all this will take decades to fully play out, and to some degree, many of us are already pulling back from the “always connected, sharing everything” mindset the iPhone enabled. The specter of government regulation, at least from the EU, coming for companies like Apple and Google is impossible to ignore, though it’s hard to imagine much happening to loosen their dominance in the near term. Regardless of what changes, there’s no doubt we live in a world where, thanks to the iPhone, the most important computer in people’s lives is the one in their pocket.


To celebrate Engadget's 20th anniversary, we're taking a look back at the products and services that have changed the industry since March 2, 2004.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/the-iphone-changed-tech-overnight-almost-20-years-later-nothing-else-has-come-close-140041198.html?src=rss