Posts with «computing» label

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

ASUS ROG Zephyrus G16 (2024) review: Not just for gamers

ASUS’ latest 14-inch gaming laptop is an incredibly versatile and stylish all-rounder. But for those who want something even beefier, there’s the ROG Zephyrus G16. Not only does it feature a more powerful Intel Core Ultra 9 CPU, it supports up to NVIDIA RTX 4090 graphics cards. That’s not all. Its OLED display refreshes twice as fast at 240Hz and it has surprisingly good speakers as well as a full-size SD card reader for quickly transferring files from a camera. So despite being aimed at gamers, the G16 is better equipped to serve as a portable editing rig, which makes this a great system even for people who don’t care about bunny-hopping and fragging.

Design

The G16’s new all-aluminum chassis is simply fantastic. That’s because in addition to being a touch lighter (about 0.1 pounds) and thinner (about 0.2 inches) than the previous model, it feels even sturdier. For 2024, ASUS ditched the dot matrix display on its lid for a single diagonal slash with white (not RGB) LEDs running down the center, which gives the laptop a much more sophisticated look without becoming boring. It’s like a teenager who grew up and learned to dress properly without losing touch with their gamer roots. On the inside, there’s a backlit keyboard with rainbow lighting (though it’s single-zone and not per-key) flanked by some surprisingly punchy speakers with an absolutely massive touchpad below. All told, it’s a beautifully designed system that looks as good as it feels.

ASUS has also included the right blend of connectivity options. The G16 features two USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A slots, two USB-C ports (one of which supports Thunderbolt 4), HDMI 2.1, a full-size SD card reader and a 3.5mm audio jack. This is the kind of arrangement that lets you travel freely without needing to worry about extra dongles or adapters. Plus, thanks to ASUS’ new Slim Power Jack, you don’t have to hog any other ports while charging. And in a pinch, you can also juice up the G16 via USB-C, albeit at slower speeds (up to around 100 watts) than with the included 240-watt brick.

Display

The G16’s 2.5K (2,560 x 1,600) OLED screen might be the best component here. It’s vivid and supports a huge color gamut (100 percent of DCI-P3), while its 240Hz refresh rate makes it great even for gamers looking to squeeze out every last competitive advantage. Though brightness is just average at around 400 nits in standard definition mode or 450 nits in HDR, I didn’t really have any trouble seeing the screen unless the G16 was in direct sunlight. One last bonus for photo and video editors is that ASUS does include a few calibrated viewing modes in its Armoy Crate app for sRGB, D65 P3 and DCI-P3 so you can more accurately adjust hues or color grade footage.

Performance

Photo by Sam Rutherford/Engadget

The G16’s performance is pretty solid thanks to an Intel Core ultra 9 195H CPU, up to 32GB of RAM, 2TB of storage and NVIDIA RTX 4090 graphics. However, here’s where some trade-offs for the G16’s slim chassis factor in. Compared to similarly-sized rivals like the Razer Blade 16, the G16 features a lower overall TDP (total device power), which means even if they appear to have the same listed components, there’s still a difference in capabilities. For example, on our review unit with an RTX 4080, the amount of power sent to the GPU caps out at 115 watts versus 175 watts for the Razer. The G16's RAM is also soldered in, so you can't add more post-purchase. 

In Cyberpunk 2077 at 1440p and ultra graphics with ray-tracing on, the G16 hit 68 fps, which is just barely ahead of what we saw from a smaller Razer Blade 14 (66 fps), despite the latter having a lower tier RTX 4070 but with a similar wattage. That said, those figures are more than adequate to keep AAA games running smoothly. And let's not forget that the Blade 14 model I referenced costs $2,700, which is the same price as our G16 review unit. This makes it an apt comparison even if Razer’s laptop has a smaller footprint.

Battery life

Photo by Sam Rutherford/Engadget

One of the main advantages of a larger system is having extra room for a bigger battery. On PCMark 10’s Open Office rundown test, the G16 lasted 9 hours and 17 minutes versus just 5:12 for the smaller G14. That’s a solid mark considering it’s also better than an XPS 16 (8:31) we reviewed. However, overall longevity depends on your workload, because when I ran the battery test a second time only using the GPU instead of relying on NVIDIA’s Optimus graphic switching feature, that time dropped to just 3:08. That means the system will last all day if you’re using basic productivity app, but for more demanding tasks like gaming or video editing, you’ll want to keep ASUS’ 240-watt power brick close by.

Wrap-up

Photo by Sam Rutherford/Engadget

Just like its smaller sibling, ASUS’ ROG Zephyrus G16 is an almost ideal thin-and-light gaming laptop. It’s got a sleek all-aluminum build, a gorgeous 240Hz OLED display and longer battery life. Granted, it might not be quite as powerful as some of its rivals thanks to lower-wattage components, but it’s still got enough oomph to handle practically anything you can throw at it. And thanks to a full-size SD card reader, it makes for an even better portable editing workstation. But most importantly, with a starting price of $1,750, the G16 is more approachable than many of its high-end (and bulkier) competitors, which makes it a great pick for people who want a larger system that won’t weigh them down.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/asus-rog-zephyrus-g16-2024-review-not-just-for-gamers-153001954.html?src=rss

Apple may start releasing AI-centric, M4-powered Macs later this year

It's only been five months since Apple released the first M3-powered Macs, but we may not have to wait long to see laptops and desktops with M4 chipsets. According to Bloomberg, Macs with M4 processors could start arriving later this year (which isn't necessarily a massive surprise given the cadence of Apple silicon chips so far). While the M3 lineup didn't offer a massive upgrade from M2 chipsets, the M4 series could be a gamechanger since Apple is said to be placing far more onus on artificial intelligence this time around.

There will be at least three main versions of the M4, according to the report, and Apple is expected to update every model of the Mac with one of those chips. As things stand, Bloomberg says Apple will release iMacs, an entry-level 14-inch MacBook Pro, more powerful 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros and Mac minis with M4 chips by early 2025.

Versions of the 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Air with M4 chips could arrive by the spring, with an M4 Mac Studio to follow around the middle of 2025 and a Mac Pro to come later in the year. However, the publication notes that plans may change.

The Mac mini upgrade will be quite a long time coming, as Apple hasn't upgraded that device since January 2023. The Mac Studio and Mac Pro got M2 upgrades in mid-2023. M3-powered iMacs and MacBook Pros arrived in October (remember the Scary Fast event?). The MacBook Air, meanwhile, got an M3 upgrade just last month.

With the higher-end Mac desktops, Apple may include support for up to 512GB of memory. The latest Mac Studio and Mac Pro max out at 192GB of RAM, but previous Intel-powered systems supported up to 1.5TB of memory using off-the-shelf components. Apple integrates memory more deeply into its own chipsets, so upgrading the RAM on silicon-based systems is more difficult.

That said, Apple's major focus for the M4 lineup is said to be artificial intelligence as it aims to catch up (at least in terms of public perception) with the likes of Microsoft and Google. Bloomberg suggests that Apple will highlight how on-device AI processing capabilities of the M4 chipsets will integrate with the hardware and the latest version of macOS, which will debut at the Worldwide Developers Conference in June.

The company is also said to be planning AI-focused upgrades to the processors used in this year's iPhones. Previous reports suggested that Apple wants to integrate Google's Gemini AI into iPhones while it works on its own generative AI models.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/apple-may-start-releasing-ai-centric-m4-powered-macs-later-this-year-175312540.html?src=rss

ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14 (2024) review : This is the 14-inch gaming laptop to beat

ASUS’ ROG Zephyrus G14 has been one of our favorite gaming laptops for damn near half a decade. But the 2024 model is on another level. That’s because even without a fresh generation of GPUs from NVIDIA, ASUS went and redesigned the entire thing anyway. And the result is a notebook with a gorgeous aluminum unibody chassis with a more mature design that doesn’t need to throw RGB lighting in your face to get some attention. This edition is also sleeker and lighter while still providing powerful performance. Though ASUS made a few trade-offs when compared to its predecessor, with a starting price of $1,600, the new ROG Zephyrus G14 is not only a better value than almost all of its 14-inch rivals, it’s also simply one of the best pound-for-pound gaming laptops around.

Design

Compared to previous models that were awash in RGB or had dot-matrix displays built into their lids, this year’s G14 is an exercise in restraint. It’s almost like the line has grown out of its awkward teenage phase and become a stylish but still fun-loving adult. The lid is accented by a simple diagonal slash with white (not RGB) LEDs embedded down the middle. Meanwhile, on the inside, there’s a sturdy deck with a large touchpad and surprisingly powerful speakers.

The one thing I miss is per-key RGB lighting instead of ASUS’ single-zone approach. After all, this is a gaming laptop and if you’re going to offer multiple colors, it’d be nice to have full customizability.

Photo by Sam Rutherford/Engadget

That said, the G14’s redesign isn’t just about style, it’s functional too. The switch to a unibody aluminum frame has strengthened the whole machine. There’s barely a hint of flex even on typically weaker parts like the lattice between keys. But more importantly, ASUS also reduced the laptop's weight to just 3.3 pounds, which is noticeably lighter than rival notebooks with similar metal builds like the Razer Blade 14 (3.95 pounds). Plus, even with the smaller size, the G14 features a healthy selection of ports including a full-size HDMI 2.1 jack, two USB-C (one of which supports Thunderbolt 4), two USB-A and a microSD card reader.

Display

Photo by Sam Rutherford/Engadget

Another glowing component of the G14 is its OLED screen. In addition to producing vibrant colors, it has a sharp 2,880 x 1,800 resolution along with a 120Hz refresh rate and a color gamut that covers 100 percent of the DCI-P3 spectrum. Recently, I’ve been watching Three Body Problem and I’ve been absolutely loving the OLED panel’s excellent contrast and deep blacks. Furthermore, because ASUS includes a handful of color-calibrated settings for sRGB, D65 P3, DCI-P3 (but not Adobe RGB), the G14 is a very capable photo- and video-editing machine.

The one small issue is that because 2,880 x 1,800 is a somewhat uncommon resolution, you may not be able to play all of your games at their native resolution, which is an issue I encountered when playing Returnal.

Performance

A big change for the 2024 ROG G14 is that GPU options now top out with an NVIDIA RTX 4070 instead of a 4080 like on the previous model. That may be a bummer for some, but as I prefer laptops that are easier to carry around, I’m OK with trading out a little top-end oomph for enhanced portability. And with all models featuring an AMD Ryzen 9 8945HS chip along with at least 16GB of RAM (or 32GB like on my review unit) and 1TB of storage, you won’t be lacking in speed.

Photo by Sam Rutherford/Engadget

On Geekbench 6, the G14 matched the performance we saw from a larger XPS 16 with an Intel Core Ultra 7 155H chip. In games, it hit 90 fps in Cyberpunk 2077 on ultra settings, which is just shy of a much more expensive Razer Blade 14 (101 fps). That said, there are some important details you should know. Unlike previous models, the latest G14’s memory is soldered to the motherboard, so there’s no way to add extra RAM later. Additionally, while both ASUS and Razer’s 14-inch systems appear to have the same RTX 4070 GPU, the G14’s is capped at 90 watts versus 140 watts for the Blade, which explains the small gap in gaming performance.

It’s also worth noting that heat can be an issue in certain situations. In normal use, it’s not a big deal as the fans rarely need to spin up when browsing the web or watching movies. But under load, because the G14’s vents are on the bottom of the notebook, your lap can get toasty fast. Thankfully, this won’t be a major problem if you’re gaming, since you’ll probably want to be at a desk or table to put an external mouse on anyway.

Battery life

Photo by Sam Rutherford/Engadget

While the G14 doesn’t last quite as long as a traditional ultrabook, it still carries enough juice to last nearly an entire workday. On PCMark 10’s Modern Office rundown test, it lasted 7 hours and 29 minutes which is slightly better than the Razer Blade 14’s time of 6:46. And, new for 2024, ASUS has added its proprietary Slim Power Jack, which sort of looks like a USB-C port if you squint (but it isn’t). However, if you want to really travel light, the G14 supports charging via USB-C so you can leave the adapter at home. The one caveat is that USB-PD on this maxes out at 100 watts (versus 180 watts when using the included brick), so the battery may still discharge while gaming or performing other intensive tasks.

Wrap-up

Even though we already loved its predecessors, the 2024 ROG Zephyrus G14 has managed to take another big leap. It’s got an exquisitely crafted chassis along with a vibrant new display and boomier speakers – all while shedding nearly half a pound in weight. On the inside, you still get up to an RTX 4070 GPU. Sure, it’s a touch slower than a similarly equipped Blade 14, but considering our review unit costs $2,000 compared to $2,700 for the closest equivalently specced Razer, I’m happy to trade a tiny bit of performance to get a much more affordable machine. And that’s before you factor in a starting price of just $1,450 for one with an RTX 4060. My biggest gripe is that ASUS’ Amoury Crate app still feels clunky, thanks to settings that are hard to find or toggles that don’t work like you’d expect. But make no mistake, the G14 is a great laptop – for both gamers and content creators – who want good performance in a portable package. So while I appreciate what the Blade 14 and other high-end notebooks can do, ASUS’ latest creation is the one I’d buy.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/asus-rog-zephyrus-g14-2024-review--this-is-the-14-inch-gaming-laptop-to-beat-161524669.html?src=rss

Acer launches two all-new 14-inch gaming laptops alongside updated 16-inch models

Acer’s midrange gaming laptop line has four new arrivals today following the company’s refresh of its flagship models at CES 2024. On Tuesday, the company unveiled a pair of new 14-inch entries alongside two refreshes of existing 16-inch models. The Intel-powered Predator Helios Neo 14 and Nitro 16 will join the AMD-fueled Nitro 14 and Nitro 16, launching globally later this spring.

As is often the case with pre-launch laptop announcements, Acer only reveals the devices’ minimum pricing rather than a full specs-to-cost breakdown (Acer says they aren’t yet finalized), making it impossible to gauge their overall value. You can expect that info closer to their respective launches in May and June.

Acer

The Acer Predator Helios Neo 14, one of the two all-new models, is the first sub-16-inch variant in the high-performance line. (At $1,800 and up, it’s also the most expensive of the new batch.) That price gets you up to an Intel Core Ultra 9 processor 185H (with dedicated AI acceleration) paired with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070 Laptop GPU. The lower-cost models will downgrade those to Intel Core Ultra 7 155H or Intel Core Ultra 5 125H and RTX 4060 or 4050 graphics.

The top-of-the-line variant has a 14.5-inch WQXGA (3072x1920) display with a 165Hz refresh rate, 100 percent coverage of the sRGB color spectrum and NVIDIA G-Sync support. Its cheaper variants will drop the resolution to 2560 x 1600 or 1920 x 1200 with a 120Hz refresh rate.

The Windows 11 laptop has a 76Wh battery and offers up to 32GB of LPDDR5X SDRAM and 1TB of storage. It weighs 4.19 lbs, has a built-in 1080p webcam, and supports Intel Killer Wireless Wi-Fi 6E. It includes a USB-C/ThunderBolt 4 port with a microSD reader. On the cooling front, it uses a 5th Gen AeroBlade 3D fan and Vortex Flow tech.

The Predator Helios Neo 14 arrives in North America in May, starting at $1,800.

Acer

The Nitro 14 is the first 14-inch variant in the company’s midrange Nitro line. It should offer solid performance with up to AMD Ryzen 7 8845HS processor and RTX 4060 graphics. Cheaper variants drop that down to a Ryzen 5 8645HS processor and RTX 4050 or 3050 graphics.

Its maxed-out model gives you a 14.5-inch 2560 x 1500 display with a 120Hz refresh rate, 9ms response time and sRGB 100 percent gamut support. The entry-level model drops that down to 1080p at 120Hz.

The laptop has USB 4 and USB 3.2 Type C ports, a pair of USB-A ports (including one with offline charging support), HDMI 2.1 and a microSD slot.

The Acer Nitro 14 arrives in North America in May. It starts at $1,300.

Acer

The company’s updated Nitro 16 is launching in separate Intel and AMD variants with different model numbers (AN16-73 for Intel and AN16-43 for AMD). The former has up to an Intel Core i7-14700HX processor, while the AMD version has up to a Ryzen 9 8945HS (the same as the maxed-out Nitro 14). Otherwise, the two models are only separated by extremely minor weight differences (5.37 lbs for the AMD, 5.4 lbs for Intel) and Wi-Fi (Intel’s branded Killer Wireless Wi-Fi 6E vs. a nondescript Wi-Fi 6E for AMD).

As for the many specs the Intel and AMD variants of the Nitro 16 share, they both have Nvidia graphics, maxing out at RTX 4060 with 8GB of dedicated GDDR6 RAM. Cheaper models swap that for either an RTX 4050 or 3050.

Their screens have up to 2560 x 1600 resolution with 500 nits brightness, 165Hz refresh rates and a 3ms response time. The laptops each offer up to 32GB of DDR5 SDRAM and 2TB storage. They have 76Wh batteries with measly 720p webcams.

Both versions of the Nitro 16 will launch in North America in May. They start at $1,400. If you’re considering the new models, you can expect a more detailed configuration-pricing breakdown at or around launch time, so stay tuned.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/acer-launches-two-all-new-14-inch-gaming-laptops-alongside-updated-16-inch-models-160047740.html?src=rss

The latest Razer Blade 18 is now available to order

It’s taken Razer a few extra months to get its latest 18-inch Blade laptop ready for primetime after we first saw it at CES. Those who have been waiting for the company’s latest chonkster can now order the 2024 edition of the Razor Blade 18, which starts at $3,099.

The base system comes with an i9-14900HX processor, 32GB of RAM, 1TB of SSD storage, Wi-Fi 7, a triple-fan cooling system and a six-speaker array with THX spatial audio support. On the GPU side, you can equip the laptop with up to an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4090 (the base model has a 4070 graphics card). In what Razer claims is a first for a laptop, there's Thunderbolt 5 connectivity, but only if you opt for a 4080 or 4090 GPU.

Razer

The display is one of the big talking points for this laptop. It comes with a QHD+ 300Hz Mini-LED display as standard. If you want higher fidelity, you can opt for a 4K 200Hz screen. The company seems to have found an extra 35 hertz since CES, since it said at the time the Razer Blade 18 would have a 4K 165Hz display option. Razer claims that this display is a world first for a laptop and it’ll set you back an extra $1,700, far more than an equivalent standalone monitor would cost. You'll also need to wait until later this summer for a model with a 4K 200Hz panel to ship, whereas you can snag one with the QHD+ display now.

We felt that last year's model was very expensive for a fully kitted-out configuration and that's the case again this time around. Still, if you need a big-screen, high-end laptop that can run just about any program or game you can throw at it, the latest Razer Blade 18 can be all yours if you have the cash to spare.

Razer

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/the-latest-razer-blade-18-is-now-available-to-order-180330999.html?src=rss

Microsoft may have finally made quantum computing useful

The dream of quantum computing has always been exciting: What if we could build a machine working at the quantum level that could tackle complex calculations exponentially faster than a computer limited by classical physics? But despite seeing IBM, Google and others announce iterative quantum computing hardware, they're still not being used for any practical purposes. That might change with today's announcement from Microsoft and Quantinuum, who say they've developed the most error-free quantum computing system yet.

While classical computers and electronics rely on binary bits as their basic unit of information (they can be either on or off), quantum computers work with qubits, which can exist in a superposition of two states at the same time. The trouble with qubits is that they're prone to error, which is the main reason today's quantum computers (known as Noisy Intermediate Scale Quantum [NISQ] computers) are just used for research and experimentation.

Microsoft's solution was to group physical qubits into virtual qubits, which allows it to apply error diagnostics and correction without destroying them, and run it all over Quantinuum's hardware. The result was an error rate that was 800 times better than relying on physical qubits alone. Microsoft claims it was able to run more than 14,000 experiments without any errors.

According to Jason Zander, EVP of Microsoft's Strategic Missions and Technologies division, this achievement could finally bring us to "Level 2 Resilient" quantum computing, which would be reliable enough for practical applications.

"The task at hand for the entire quantum ecosystem is to increase the fidelity of qubits and enable fault-tolerant quantum computing so that we can use a quantum machine to unlock solutions to previously intractable problems," Zander, wrote in a blog post today. "In short, we need to transition to reliable logical qubits — created by combining multiple physical qubits together into logical ones to protect against noise and sustain a long (i.e., resilient) computation. ... By having high-quality hardware components and breakthrough error-handling capabilities designed for that machine, we can get better results than any individual component could give us."

Microsoft

Researchers will be able to get a taste of Microsoft's reliable quantum computing via Azure Quantum Elements in the next few months, where it will be available as a private preview. The goal is to push even further to Level 3 quantum supercomputing, which will theoretically be able to tackle incredibly complex issues like climate change and exotic drug research. It's unclear how long it'll take to actually reach that point, but for now, at least we're moving one step closer towards practical quantum computing.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/microsoft-may-have-finally-made-quantum-computing-useful-164501302.html?src=rss

HP Spectre x360 14 review (2024): Keeping the 2-in-1 laptop dream alive

The idea behind convertible, or 2-in-1 PCs, has remained the same over the last decade: Why buy a tablet when your laptop can fold a full 360 degrees, allowing you to use it as a large slate, or a screen propped up without a keyboard in the way? Most PC makers have moved on from the concept entirely, but HP remains one of the holdouts. While Windows never became the tablet-friendly platform Microsoft envisioned, there's still plenty of value in having a machine that can transform to suit your needs.

That was my takeaway two years ago when I tested HP's 16-inch Spectre x360, and now the company has returned with a smaller model, the Spectre x360 14. It features Intel's latest CPUs with AI-accelerating NPUs (neural processing units), faster Intel Arc graphics and a beautiful 2.8K OLED display. And best of all, it's still usable as a tablet, unlike its larger sibling.

Even if you never plan to twist its screen around, though, the HP Spectre x360 14 is still an attractive premium laptop. For some, it may also serve as a more traditional alternative to Dell's new XPS 14, which has an invisible trackpad and a capacitive function row. While that computer looks great, getting used to its less conventional features takes some time. The Spectre x360 14, on the other hand, is both attractive and familiar to anyone who's ever used a laptop. (Its rotating screen takes just 10 seconds to figure out for the first time, while Dell's invisible trackpad still tripped me up hours after I started testing it.)

Photo by Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

Design and hardware

That familiarity could also be seen as a shortcoming of HP's. The Spectre x360 14 has everything you expect to see in a premium laptop today: A sleek metal case, a gorgeous screen with ultra-thin bezels and a luxuriously large trackpad with haptic feedback. But really, it doesn't look that much different from the 13-inch Spectre x360 I reviewed in 2019. It would be nice to see HP take a few major design leaps, but on the other hand, I can't blame the company for sticking with a winning design.

With the Spectre x360 14, HP focused on minor updates. It has a wide 14-inch screen with a 16:10 aspect ratio, compared to the previous model's 13.5-inch display that was a squarish 3:2. Its trackpad offers configurable haptic feedback and is 19 percent larger than before, so much so that it completely dominates the palm area. HP stuck with its wonderfully responsive keyboard, but its key caps are 12 percent larger, making them easier to hit. And to simplify functionality a bit, HP unified the power button and fingerprint sensor (the laptop also supports Windows Hello facial biometrics).

The port situation hasn't changed. There are two USB-C connections along the right rear (including one on its unique chopped corner), as well as a drop-down USB Type-A port on the left and a headphone jack on the corner. As usual, it would have been nice to see some sort of card reader built in, especially for a machine aimed at creative professionals.

Photo by Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

The Spectre x360 14 may look very similar to its siblings, but HP says it's been tweaked significantly under the hood. It now supports 28-watt Intel Core Ultra CPUs, instead of the previous 14-watt options, and offers 10 percent more airflow than before. The company also managed to engineer those improvements without increasing the machine's 17 millimeter height. At 3.2 pounds, it's a bit more portable than the 3.5-pound MacBook Pro 14-inch.

The Spectre's 9-megapixel webcam is also a major upgrade from the previous 5MP option. The new sensor offers hardware-enabled low light adjustment thanks to quad-binning, the process of taking data from four pixels and combining them into one. That allows cameras with smaller pixels to let in more light, resulting in a brighter overall picture. During Google Meet and Zoom calls, the webcam delivered a sharp picture with bright and bold colors. It looked almost like a mirrorless camera once I enabled Windows Studio Effects background blur, though the picture occasionally looked overexposed in direct sunlight.

Photo by Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

Video chats also sounded great through the laptop's quad-speaker array, which consists of two upward firing tweeters along the keyboard and two woofers along the front. There's not much low-end (especially compared to Apple's MacBook Pro speakers), but voices and music sound surprisingly clear. The speakers can also get pretty loud without distortion, which is impressive for such a thin system.

While the laptop has an NPU-equipped processor, which powers features in Paint, ClipChamp and Windows Studio Effects, the Spectre x360 14 isn't technically an "AI PC" under Intel and Microsoft's definition. The reason? It doesn't have a dedicated button for Windows Copilot. Personally, though, I haven't found that key to be very useful on the XPS 14 and 16. Triggering Copilot from the taskbar or Windows sidebar isn't very difficult, and it's certainly not onerous enough to warrant giving up a spot on the keyboard.

Photo by Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

In use

The HP Spectre x360 14 I reviewed performed similarly to other machines we've tested with Intel's Core Ultra 7 155H chip. It’s fast and relatively efficient, especially compared to systems from two years ago. My review unit, which came with 32GB of RAM and a 2TB SSD, was 30 percent faster in the PCMark 10 benchmark compared to the Spectre x360 16 from 2022 (6,493 points, up from 4,785 points). This year’s Spectre also scored 78 percent higher in the Cinebench R23 multi-core benchmark, a testament to the improvements Intel has made since its 11th-gen CPUs.

Geekbench 6 CPU

PCMark 10

Cinebench R23

3DMark Wildlife Extreme

HP Spectre x360 14 (Intel Core Ultra 7, 2023)

2,273/11,735

6,493

1,651/8,481

5,952

ASUS ZenBook 14 OLED (Intel Core Ultra 7, 2023)

2,240/10,298

6,170

1,599/7,569

4,827

Apple MacBook Pro 14-inch (Apple M3, 2023)

3142/11,902

N/A

1,932/10,159

8,139

HP Spectre x360 16 (Intel i7-11390H, 2022)

N/A

4,785

1,515/3,722

N/A

The most noticeable upgrade for the Spectre x360 isn't AI smarts; it's Intel's Arc graphics, which are dramatically faster than Intel's older integrated graphics. In 3DMark's TimeSpy Extreme benchmark, it almost kept up with NVIDIA's RTX 3050 in the x360 16 (1,435 points compared to 1,730). That's impressive for a machine that's far slimmer and lighter. Sure, it's no gaming rig, but I was still able to play Halo Infinite in 1080p at around 30 fps. I'm sure it would handle smaller indie titles just fine.

Thanks to the wealth of RAM and Intel's Core Ultra chip, my review model tackled everything I threw at it without any noticeable slowdown. During a typical workday, I juggle dozens of browser tabs, photo editing apps, YouTube streams, video chats, Slack and Evernote. The Spectre x360's OLED display also made everything look fantastic, even if I was just staring at words on a news site. It supports a variable refresh rate up to 120Hz, so scrolling through documents and sites was very smooth.

Photo by Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

When I first tested a Spectre x360 five years ago, I immediately fell in love with its keyboard. Typing felt incredibly satisfying, thanks to a healthy amount of key travel and feedback. It was one of those rare designs that almost felt like it was begging me to use it, like a finely tuned piano that's simply urging you to play. Thankfully, HP didn't mess with any of that keyboard magic: The large new key caps are even more comfortable to use, and the actual typing experience is as great as ever.

I have a few complaints about the Spectre x360's new trackpad though. It's smooth and accurate for swiping, and its haptic feedback is indiscernible from a trackpad that physically depresses. But HP's palm rejection software feels sloppy — occasionally, while typing up a storm, my hand would hit the trackpad and push the cursor to select another window. It happened often enough that it became a creativity flow killer. I'm hoping this is something HP can sort out with a software update eventually.

As a convertible notebook, the Spectre x360 14 is far more useful than the 16-inch model. A gentle push on the screen is all it takes to flip it around the keyboard — it becomes a tablet when it’s fully turned around, or you can stop that process halfway and flip the Spectre around for its “tent” mode. The 14-inch x360 is better at being a slate, simply because it's lighter and easier to hold with one hand (though you'll probably want to prop it on your lap for longer sessions).

Rotating the screen was also less cumbersome, since the display was far less wide. I used the tent formation to watch YouTube videos in bed, while on the couch I occasionally folded the keyboard behind the Spectre, so I could use it like a large touchscreen with a stand. I appreciate the versatility of 2-in-1 convertibles more than the flexible OLED screens we're seeing on new machines. It's cheaper to implement, and for my purposes, convertibles are simply more pragmatic.

The Spectre x360's major flaw is battery life: It lasted five hours and ten minutes in the PCMark 10 Modern Office test, whereas the ZenBook 14 OLED pushed through for 12 hours and 43 minutes. There's a cost for keeping its frame so thin, after all. During real-world testing, it would typically need to charge around six hours into my workday. 

Photo by Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

Pricing and the competition

The Spectre x360 14 is a decent deal for a high-end convertible, starting at $1,450 with an intel Core Ultra 5 125H, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD. At the time of writing, that configuration has been discounted by $300, which is an even better value. (Credit to HP for not offering a meager 8GB RAM option, which would only lead to headaches for most users.) For $1,900, you can bump up to a Core Ultra 7 155H chip, 32GB of RAM and a 2TB SSD.

Your options are somewhat limited if you're looking for other upper-tier convertible laptops. Dell's XPS 13 2-in-1 is still running older 12th-gen Intel chips, and you'll have to look to the middle-range Inspiron and Latitude lines for more modern options. We’re also still waiting to see Lenovo’s Yoga lineup get upgraded to newer Intel chips. And we haven’t tested Samsung’s Galaxy Book4 360, but it doesn’t have the style of HP’s design.

Microsoft's Surface Laptop Studio 2 is also technically a convertible (its screen pulls forward, instead of flipping around), but it starts at $1,900. For that price, you're better off going for the x360 14's beefier hardware, instead of the Surface's unique screen.

Photo by Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

Wrap-up

It's unclear how much life is left in the convertible PC format, but I wouldn't be surprised if HP ends up being one of the last companies still giving it a shot. The Spectre x360 14 is one of the best laptops you can buy today — the fact that it can also be flipped around in multiple orientations is just icing on the cake.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/hp-spectre-x360-14-review-2024-keeping-the-2-in-1-laptop-dream-alive-140045823.html?src=rss

Apple Silicon has a hardware-level exploit that could leak private data

A team of university security researchers has found a chip-level exploit in Apple Silicon Macs. The group says the flaw can bypass the computer’s encryption and access its security keys, exposing the Mac’s private data to hackers. The silver lining is the exploit would require you to circumvent Apple’s Gatekeeper protections, install a malicious app and then let the software run for as long as 10 hours (along with a host of other complex conditions), which reduces the odds you’ll have to worry about the threat in the real world.

The exploit originates in a part of Apple’s M-series chips called Data Memory-Dependent Prefetchers (DMPs). DMPs make the processors more efficient by preemptively caching data. The DMPs treat data patterns as directions, using them to guess what information they need to access next. This reduces turnarounds and helps lead to reactions like “seriously fast,” often used to describe Apple Silicon.

The researchers discovered that attackers can use the DMP to bypass encryption. “Through new reverse engineering, we find that the DMP activates on behalf of potentially any program, and attempts to dereference any data brought into cache that resembles a pointer,” the researchers wrote. (“Pointers” are addresses or directions signaling where to find specific data.) “This behavior places a significant amount of program data at risk.”

“This paper shows that the security threat from DMPs is significantly worse than previously thought and demonstrates the first end-to-end attacks on security-critical software using the Apple m-series DMP,” the group wrote.

The researchers named the attack GoFetch, and they created an app that can access a Mac’s secure data without even requiring root access. Ars Technica Security Editor Dan Goodin explains, “M-series chips are divided into what are known as clusters. The M1, for example, has two clusters: one containing four efficiency cores and the other four performance cores. As long as the GoFetch app and the targeted cryptography app are running on the same performance cluster—even when on separate cores within that cluster — GoFetch can mine enough secrets to leak a secret key.”

The details are highly technical, but Ars Technica’s write-up is worth a read if you want to venture much further into the weeds.

But there are two key takeaways for the layperson: Apple can’t do much to fix existing chips with software updates (at least without significantly slowing down Apple Silicon’s trademark performance), and as long as you have Apple’s Gatekeeper turned on (the default), you won’t likely install malicious apps in the first place. Gatekeeper only allows apps from the Mac App Store and non-App Store installations from Apple registered developers. (You may want to be extra cautious when manually approving apps from unregistered developers in macOS security settings.) If you don’t install malicious apps outside those confines, the odds appear quite low this will ever affect your M-series Mac. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/apple-silicon-has-a-hardware-level-exploit-that-could-leak-private-data-174741269.html?src=rss

Qualcomm says most Windows games will work on its latest Arm laptop chipset

Qualcomm is said to have new Arm-based laptops of its own in the pipeline, while consumer versions of the new Surface Pro 10 and Surface Laptop 6 that run on the Snapdragon X Elite chipset are believed to be on the way. While that in the past would have meant the makers of x86- and x64-based Windows software needing to port their apps, Qualcomm sought to assure game developers that their titles will run just fine out of the box on any unannounced Snapdragon X Elite systems that just happen to be coming up.

At the Game Developers Conference, Qualcomm engineer Issam Khalil told the audience that the computers will use emulation to run many x86 and x64 games at nearly full speed without the need to tweak the code or change any assets. According to The Verge, Khalil explained that games are typically bottlenecked by the graphics processing unit, and emulation doesn't impact GPU performance. As such (save for some CPU cost when a block of code in a game runs through its emulation process for the first time), Qualcomm suggests many titles will perform just fine.

There are some caveats. Certain games simply won't work through emulation, particularly those using kernel-level anti-cheat tech. However, Qualcomm has been testing its emulation with the top games on Steam and appears convinced that its tech should be able to handle most games.

Otherwise, Khalil told developers that they have two other options for running their games on Snapdragon-based Windows machines. They can fully port their titles to native ARM64 for optimal CPU performance and power usage. Alternatively, Qualcomm will support hybrid ARM64EC apps, in which Windows libraries and Qualcomm’s drivers run natively, but the other parts of the software are emulated. This is said to deliver “near-native” performance.

If Qualcomm can actually pull off this emulation trick as promised, it'll be an impressive move, and it could ultimately help Arm-based Windows laptops offer a blend of strong performance and better power efficiency than x86 Intel-based machines. However, the proof is in the pudding. Qualcomm hasn't had a terrific track record of x86/x64 emulation thus far. In fact, senior editor Devindra Hardawar criticized the Arm-based Surface Pro 9 for its poor Windows emulation.

So far, Apple has arguably been the most successful company at emulating x86 software on its Arm-based M-series chips with the help of its Rosetta 2 translation layer. One key point to bear in mind here is that Apple has total control over the entire ecosystem, as PC Gamer notes, including the hardware and operating system. As such, Apple can perhaps better optimize the emulation process than other companies that provide fewer parts of the equation, such as Qualcomm with its GPUs and CPUs.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/qualcomm-says-most-windows-games-will-work-on-its-latest-arm-laptop-chipset-152540577.html?src=rss