When Intel introduced the Arc branding last year for its high-performance consumer graphics products, it demonstrated what the line's GPUs can do using video games. The company's latest Arc GPUs, however, aren't for gaming at all: They were designed for desktop and mobile workstations running apps like Adobe Premiere Pro, Handbrake and DaVinci Resolve Studio. Intel has launched its Arc Pro lineup with three models, starting with the Arc Pro A40 that has a "tiny, single-slot form factor." The Arc Pro A50 is a step up and has a larger dual-slot form, while the A30M was made specifically for laptops.
All three models offer built-in ray tracing and machine learning capabilities, but their key specs differ a bit from each other. The A40 and the A30M, for instance, have 3.50 teraflops of graphical power, while the A50 has 4.80 teraflops. Both desktop models come with 6GB of memory, wheres the one for laptops comes with 4GB. Plus, all models support AV1 hardware encoding acceleration in what Intel says is an industry first. The new GPUs also have four mini-display ports for multiple screen setups and can support two 8K displays with a refresh rate of 60Hz, one 5K 240Hz display, two 5K 120 Hz displays or four 60 Hz 4K displays.
Intel has yet to reveal how much these new discrete GPUs for workstations will cost, but it said they will be available starting later this year "from leading mobile and desktop ecosystem partners."
The XPS 13 Plus is one of the boldest laptops I've ever seen. It's like Dell sent a computer back in time from the future, Terminator-style. It has a keyboard that stretches from edge to edge, with no gaps between the keys. The haptic trackpad is hidden underneath the wrist rest, and the capacitive function key row keeps things looking clean, without the annoying shape-shifting keys from Apple's Touch Bar.
With all of those features, and the most computing power ever in a 13-inch Dell ultraportable, the XPS 13 Plus should be perfect, right? Well, not quite. It's an admirable achievement, but it also feels like Dell's designers emphasized style over usability.
Take that haptic trackpad, for one. When I first got my hands on the XPS 13 Plus last December, I was both floored by its unconventional touchpad design and worried that it could lead to headaches. It's definitely intriguing: When the computer is on, the piezo motors in the trackpad area deliver the sensation of clicking without moving at all. But when it's off, the wrist rest is just a silent slab of Gorilla Glass.
Of course, haptic trackpads aren't new. Apple's been using them for years, and they've finally started popping up in other Windows laptops like the Surface Laptop Studio. Technically, they can make laptops more reliable since they can't trap gunk like normal trackpads. But on the XPS 13 Plus, that technology feels even stranger. There's no easy way to tell when you're in the trackpad zone without pressing down or looking for a moving mouse cursor. With other notebooks, you can feel a clear difference between the trackpad and wrist rest. That's not something we think about often, but it goes a long way toward making us feel confident as we browse the web or scroll through documents.
On the XPS 13 Plus, just right-clicking often feels like trial and error. Is my finger too far to the left? Too much toward the right? Doing something so simple shouldn't be frustrating, especially not with a laptop that's meant to represent the future of computing design. The invisible trackpad basically feels like a party trick: something that can impress your friends but will mostly make your life harder. Even after using the XPS 13 Plus for a week, I still find myself missing the trackpad often, especially if I try to do any complicated finger gestures.
The XPS 13 Plus's keyboard is far more successful. It spans the entire width of the computer, and it has practically no gaps between the keys. We saw something similar on HP's 2019 Spectre x360, but Dell's machine goes even farther to the edge. The result is something that feels luxurious to type on — finally, my large hands can spread out like they do on a desktop keyboard. It would be nice to have more than just a millimeter of key travel, but the overall typing experience still feels responsive.
After seeing the trackpad's haptic functionality in action, it's not hard to imagine future keyboards using similar mechanisms to deliver a deeper typing sensation. That technology could also help the XPS 13 Plus's function row feel a bit more like traditional keys while still being covered under Gorilla Glass. I didn't mind the capacitive function row — at least the keys stayed in place, unlike the Touch Bar — but I wish it was more visible outdoors. It tends to get washed out in direct sunlight, or if you're wearing sunglasses. (One Engadget staffer has also had to replace the capacitive function keys on his ThinkPad Carbon X1 several times. That could be a sign of Lenovo’s build quality, or it could point to capacitive buttons not being very durable.)
Aside from these features, the XPS 13 Plus mostly looks like a typical XPS 13 when it's closed. There's the machined aluminum case, which looks as premium as ever and feels plenty sturdy. If you look closely, you'll notice there's no headphone jack, just two Thunderbolt 4 USB-C connections on either side. That's something Dell also removed from this year's XPS 13, and it remains a baffling decision. And no, I don’t think the new quad-speaker array makes up for that (it sounds fine, but it’s nothing miraculous).
While Dell includes a USB-C to headphone adapter in the box, along with a Type-A adapter, there's no way to charge the computer if you have those both plugged in. If Apple can squeeze a 3.5 millimeter jack in the new MacBook Air, which weighs the same 2.7 pounds as the LCD-equipped XPS 13 Plus, Dell really has no excuse. (The OLED model is a tad heavier at 2.8 pounds.)
While we're talking about screens, if you want to get a 4K or OLED screen in an XPS this year, the 13 Plus is your only option. The standard XPS 13 only has 1080p LCD options. Our review unit is equipped with the 3.5K OLED touchscreen model, which offers a decent 400 nits of brightness. It looks as great as all the other XPS screens we've seen, with excellent color and deep black levels, but I'm more curious to see how the 500-nit 4K OLED variant performs. Our review model's display was just fine outdoors, but a bit more brightness would make it look better in direct sunlight.
This being an XPS 13, the Plus also sports Dell's razor-thin InfinityEdge screen bezels. The effect of having an almost border-less screen is still astounding, but I wish Dell had managed to push things even more with this supposedly futuristic design. It's hard to tell the difference between the Plus and the standard XPS models from 2020. At least the webcam situation is a bit better. The top screen bezel is thicker than the others because it houses a 720p webcam and a Windows Hello IR module for secure logins. I would have liked to see it reach 1080p, but this camera still looks more vibrant than what we've seen from Dell before.
The last major upgrade in the XPS 13 Plus is something you can't even see. Under the hood, it's powered by Intel's 28-watt 12th-gen processors, whereas last year's XPS 13 had 15-watt 11th-gen chips. More power means more performance – this is the small XPS for someone who wants to do serious work. The standard XPS 13 is still around, but it's now running 9-watt 12th-gen chips, which Dell claims are as fast as the previous 11th-gen CPUs. We haven't tested the smaller XPS 13 yet, but it's clear that Dell is positioning it as a more efficient system for less demanding consumers.
HP Spectre x360 16 (Intel Core i7-11390H, NVIDIA RTX 3050)
Our review unit was equipped with Intel's Core i7-1280P, the fastest chip available for the XPS Plus. It's a hybrid 14-core CPU made up of six performance cores and eight efficiency cores. That sounds impressive on paper, and it proved itself worthy in our benchmarks. In GeekBench 5, the XPS 13 Plus outpaced gaming laptops like the Razer Blade 15 and ASUS Zephyrus Duo, and it came close to the much larger XPS 15.
Not surprisingly, it also outclassed Lenovo's new Yoga 9i, another ultraportable running Intel's Iris Xe graphics, in Cinebench R23. That GPU doesn't help much when it comes to games, though. I could barely get Halo Infinite running in 1080p, though I'm sure a less demanding game like Overwatch would be more playable.
We tested the XPS 13 Plus in its "Ultra Performance" thermal mode, which spins up the fans and lets it run a bit hotter. But for simpler work, you can put it in quiet mode to reduce heat and noise. In its default "optimized" cooling mode, the laptop felt too warm to use on my lap outside. To be fair, it was well above 90 degrees Fahrenheit in Atlanta, so I won't hold that against the XPS 13 Plus too much. I wish the battery life was more impressive, though. The system only lasted 12 and a half hours during our benchmark in optimized mode, and a paltry nine and half hours in performance mode. In comparison, the 2020 XPS 13 kept trucking for almost 16 hours.
For years, we've recommended the XPS 13 to people who wanted to get basic work done, whereas the more powerful XPS 15 and 17 were better suited to creatives who needed to edit video or audio. With the XPS 13 Plus, Dell finally has a 13-inch ultraportable that can throw down some processing power. The only question is if anyone actually wants that on a smaller screen. At this point, it seems best suited for someone who's in the market for a souped-up XPS 13, or who wants to experiment with a futuristic design. Personally, I'd recommend testing out the XPS 13 Plus before committing to it. Its invisible trackpad may look cool, but it could easily become a headache for daily use.
The XPS 13 Plus starts at $1,200 with a 512GB SSD, 8GB of RAM, and a 1,920 by 1,200 (FHD+) LCD monitor. As usual, I'd suggest bumping up to 16GB of RAM and 1TB SSD for $1,499 if you're planning to keep the laptop for four years or more. And if you want OLED, expect to spend at least $1,799.
Ultimately, I have to give Dell credit for once again attempting to push laptop designs forward with the XPS 13 Plus. Like the InfinityEdge Display before it, there are plenty of great ideas in this computer that competitors may end up adopting. I just hope Dell considers dealing with the potential usability issues eventually (and maybe throw in a headphone jack too). If you're trying to show us the future of computing, don't make it feel like a step backward.
Intel and MediaTek have formed a strategic partnership to build chips for "a range of smart edge devices" using Intel Foundry Services (IFS), Intel announced. The aim is to help MediaTek build a "more balanced, resilient supply chain," with added capacity in the US and Europe.
MediaTek is a fabless chipmaker that supplies processors for smartphones made by OnePlus, Samsung and others, with most of its capacity currently handled by fab giant TSMC. However, it looks like Intel will build chips for less glamorous devices used for industrial computing, medical devices, internet-of-things applications and more. Intel currently manufactures chips for MediaTek used in its 5G data card business.
Very excited to announce a new foundry partnership with @MediaTek. Intel Foundry Services is ready to provide the advanced technologies to support their growth while building a more balanced, resilient #supplychain. Read more https://t.co/RpSyanElJt
Still, the partnership meets Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger's pledge to seek customers for its foundry business. Intel launched IFS in 2021 to take advantage of surging demand for semiconductor manufacturing by offering "leading-edge process and packaging technology," along with committed capacity in the US and Europe. As one of the leading fabless chip makers, MediaTek would be a key client.
Last year, Intel announced that it would build chips for Qualcomm as part of its foundry launch. It also detailed its "IDM 2.0" strategy to catch rivals TSMC and Samsung by 2025, kicking it off with a $20 billion investment in two Arizona fabrication plants. Later in 2021, the Biden administration spurned plans by Intel to manufacture silicon wafers in China as a way to relieve global chip shortage issues, citing security concerns.
The US Senate is set to vote on the CHIPS Act designed to bolster domestic semiconductor manufacturing with tax credits and up to $52 billion in subsidies. However, some industry players are concerned that it could unduly favor Intel, to the detriment of smaller manufacturers like AMD, Qualcomm and NVIDIA. Those companies design their own chips but don't manufacture them, so would see no direct benefit from subsidies.
Lenovo was one of the first companies to really nail 2-in-1 design, and ever since it’s been refining the formula for its top-notch convertibles. And while there are a couple small variables I'm not fully on board with for this year's edition, there's no doubt the new 14-inch Yoga 9i is continuing Lenovo's excellent track record. You get superb battery life, clever (and surprisingly) powerful speakers, good performance, plenty of ports and even an optional OLED display. In short, if you're looking for a light, long-lasting and very adaptable 360-degree hybrid, this thing belongs at the top of your list.
Now I have to admit, when I first unboxed the Yoga 9i, there was something about its design that just didn’t look right to me. And after thinking about it for a couple days, I realized Lenovo's attempt to create a luxury aesthetic doesn't quite go far enough. Most of the laptop is constructed out of matte aluminum including its lid, deck and bottom, while other components like its keyboard and touchpad have been painted to match. Lenovo calls this particular color oatmeal, which isn't especially flattering, though I must say the addition of subtle brown tones looks better in person than its name suggests. Nothing really unusual so far.
The issue is that for 2022, Lenovo rounded out the Yoga 9i's sides to make the laptop more comfortable to hold, which is and it feels great. But then the company polished those edges to a mirror-like shine which, when viewed next to its satin finish, feels very mismatched. Then you add in the fact that the only other bit of shiny metal on the entire system is its combo hinge/speaker bar, and you're left with something that doesn't quite give off the same vibes as high-end jewelry, and also lacks the appeal of more minimalist competitors like a Surface or MacBook. Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so if you think the 9i looks great, feel free to ignore me. (That said, I maintain a number of Lenovo’s older Yogas looking better than the new one.)
Aside from its appearance, the Yoga offers great build quality with very little flex across its chassis. Other small improvements include a larger touchpad, some handy new media and video calling keys on the right, and a subtle notch around the webcam that makes the lid just a touch easier to open. I also appreciate the dedicated fingerprint reader in the bottom right. My only remaining nitpick is the feel of the keys. They don't have a lot of travel and their light actuation weight leaves the whole affair feeling a bit lifeless, which is kind of a shame. And having used countless ThinkPads over the years, I know Lenovo can do better.
On the bright side, the 9i includes a stylus that features 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity. It also comes with a built-in USB-C for easy charging. And while there isn’t a place to stash the pen in the laptop like on some previous Yogas, you can throw both the stylus and the laptop in Lenovo’s bundled travel sleeve.
Display, sound and webcam
By default, the Yoga 9i ships with a 14-inch 1,920 x 1,080 LCD display with a new and slightly taller 16:10 aspect ratio (up from 16:9 on the previous model). But our $1,500 review unit has a 2,880 x 1,800 OLED screen that's brilliantly punchy. Not only does it feature VESA DisplayHDR 500 True Black certification, it pumped out just shy of 400 nits of brightness. So you get rich, vivid colors in addition to excellent screen readability, regardless of the conditions. If you have a little wiggle room in your budget, this is a great component to upgrade.
As for audio, the Yoga 9i features Lenovo's signature speaker bar hinge. So in addition to boasting an innovative design that ensures sound is directed at you in practically any mode (you know, instead of away from you or down into a table like some laptops like to do), the Yoga pumps out great audio with some of the deepest bass I've heard from a laptop this size. Look, you're not going to rattle your neighbor's china cabinet, but this is one the few times I'm not going to complain about a notebook lacking low-end thump.
In another small, but very welcome upgrade, the 9i comes with a new 1080p webcam that supports Windows Hello. I've said it before and I'll say it again: 1,920 x 1,080 should be the bare minimum for cameras on modern laptops. And while I admit its image quality can be a bit grainy in low light, it's still plenty sharp for all your video calling needs. And if you look close, you'll notice there's even a physical shutter you can slide closed when it's not in use. That's a nice touch for some extra peace of mind.
The Yoga 9i packs a new 12th-gen Intel Core i7-1260P CPU, up to 16GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD, promising plenty of speed for all your standard productivity needs. Among ultraportables without discrete graphics, it posted top-tier scores in Geekbench 5, PCMark 10, and Cinebench. However, its Intel Iris integrated GPU means that even though it posted a solid time of 37 seconds in our 4K video encoding benchmark in Handbrake, you're still gonna want something a bit more substantial if you're looking to do a lot of heavy photo or video editing.
Geekbench 5 (multicore)
Lenovo Yoga 9i (14-inch)
Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2
HP Spectre x360 16-inch
My one small complaint about the 9i’s performance is that when you’re really pushing it, you may hear a high-pitched whine from the fans. I only encountered this while gaming, and you might not find it all that distracting. But even if you do, you can change the laptop’s mode to lower the noise, though that may result in some thermal throttling.
Battery life and ports
Moving on to battery life, even with its above average performance, the Yoga 9i still turned in an excellent time on our local video rundown test. It lasted 14 hours and 22 minutes, which is the second longest mark we've seen this year, only behind the Surface Laptop Go 2's time of 14:43. And in the real world, I had no problems making it through an entire work day on a single charge.
Lenovo Yoga 9i (14-inch)
Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2
HP Spectre x360 16-inch
On top of that, because the laptop supports charging via USB-C, even if you forget your power brick at home, there's a good chance you can borrow an adapter from a friend or colleague in a pinch. Finally, I want to give credit to Lenovo for finding room for four USB ports (one Type-A and three Type-C) including two with Thunderbolt 4. A lot of laptop makers have started equipping systems with just two or three ports – even on standard clamshells – so it's nice to see that the corner cutting hasn't hit the Yoga line yet.
Not counting my admittedly subjective complaints about the Yoga 9i's design, this thing is a nearly ideal 2-in-1. It offers good performance, great sound and even better battery life in a well-built and adaptable chassis. Heck, Lenovo even includes an active stylus and a laptop sleeve in the box, the latter of which you can use to stash the stylus while traveling. Its display is now 16:10, which gives you a little bit of extra screen space for productivity, and thanks to its curvy edges, this thing is noticeably nicer to hold than last year's model. You even get two different options for biometric login.
The only real issue is its somewhat shallow and mushy keyboard. But given the rest of the 9i's strengths, that's probably not a dealbreaker unless you're a truly discerning typist. And while its starting price of around $1,250 isn't cheap, our review model with its OLED screen costs just $1,500 which kinda feels like a steal. I should also mention that at least in the US, the OLED model is a Best Buy exclusive. However, regardless of which version you go for, you're getting a quality product. Considering the pedigree of Lenovo's Yoga line, it's hardly a surprise that this year's 9i fares well by almost every metric. So if you're looking for a premier all-rounder with great longevity, there aren't a lot of systems that do it better than this.
Dell's XPS 13 Plus Developer Edition is the first laptop to be certified for the Ubuntu 22.04 LTS version of Linux, Canonical announced. That means you can buy one starting in August with Ubuntu pre-installed, while current owners of the XPS 13 Plus model sold with Windows 11 can download and install Ubuntu 22.04 LTS "and receive the same hardware-optimized experience."
The Ubuntu certification means all components will "work as expected" and the LTS (long-term support) designation means it will be supported for at least 10 years with "Base Package" maintenance and security updates. It also includes specific software or drivers different from the default distribution where required, installed automatically in the optimal configuration, according to Canonical.
Ubuntu 22.04 brings a new version of the Gnome 42 Linux desktop environment offering boosted desktop performance with triple-buffering and enhanced power management settings. It also includes new workspace layouts, touchpad gestures and customization options, including a cross-desktop dark style.
Dell has been offering XPS 13 laptops with Linux for years now, starting with its Ubuntu-based "Project Sputnik" laptop also aimed at developers, with the latest model being the 10th generation. As we noted in our hands-on review (above), the XPS 13 Plus itself is a sharp-looking minimalist ultra-portable laptop with capacitive touch keys replacing the function row, up to a Intel Core i7-1280P CPU (six performance and eight efficient cores), and more. It's launching in August starting at $1,289.
If you’re a regular Engadget reader, you probably don’t think of cheap Windows laptops when you think of daily drivers. But it would be a big mistake to ignore these devices — if not for yourself, for others you may know. There’s a reason why companies like Acer, ASUS, Dell and the like make Windows devices under $500 — lots of people have strict budgets to adhere to and others just don’t need the power that comes with a flagship laptop.
Affordable Windows notebooks are great options for people that only use a computer to check email, shop online or post on Facebook. (Hello, mom and dad?) They’re also good for kids who have no business putting their sticky little hands on a $2,000 gaming rig. And, depending on what you need them for, these devices can be decent daily drivers, too.
What about Chromebooks and tablets?
Now, you may be inclined to recommend a Chromebook or a tablet to all of the people listed above. Those instincts aren’t wrong, but Chromebooks and tablets aren’t for everyone. Tablets will only work for the most mobile-competent users like kids who have been grabbing smartphones out of their parents’ hands since they’ve been dexterous enough to do so. Tablets can also be just as expensive as some of the cheapest Windows laptops, and that’s without a mouse or keyboard.
Chromebooks are a good alternative for those that basically live in a browser. However, there are some who just don’t want to give up the “traditional desktop.” And Chrome OS is more limited than Windows when it comes to the programs you can install and run.
What Windows laptops do well
So what can you realistically accomplish on a cheap Windows laptop? Quite a bit, especially if you’re doing one thing (or a limited number of things) at a time. They’re great for web browsing, checking email, video streaming and more — but, yes, all of those things can be done on Chromebooks as well. Windows laptops have a big advantage, though, in Microsoft Office. While yes, there is a browser based version, the native, desktop apps are considered a must have for many and will run smoothly on even the most bare-bones laptops. The only caveat is that you may run into some slowdown on low-powered devices if you’re working with large data sets in Excel or a lot of photos and graphics in Powerpoint.
When it comes to specs, a bright spot for Windows laptops is storage. Even the most affordable devices tend to have at least 128GB SSDs. That will come in handy if you prefer to keep your most important files saved locally on your laptop. In contrast, cheaper Chromebooks often have less storage because they’re built on the assumption that you’ll save all of your documents in the cloud. Not only is that less convenient when you need to work offline, but it also limits the size of programs and files that you can download. So, not great for hoarding Netflix shows before a long trip.
Windows also has thousands of apps that you can download from its app store. Chromebooks have some Chrome apps, numerous browser extensions and the ability to download Android apps, but quality control is… inconsistent. Android apps, in particular, often haven’t been optimized for Chrome OS, which makes for a wonky user experience. Windows may not have as many apps as Android, but at least the experience is fairly standard across the board.
Windows also gives you the ability to download and use programs from other sources, like direct from the developer. You can run things like Adobe Creative Suite, certain VPNs and programs like GIMP, Audacity and ClipMate on a Windows device, which just isn’t possible on Chrome OS. Chromebooks limit you to the apps and programs in The Play Store and the Chrome Extensions store, reducing any others to unusable, space-sucking icons in your Downloads folder.
What to look for in a cheap Windows laptop
While you can do a lot even when spending little on a Windows laptop, you must set your expectations accordingly. The biggest downside when purchasing a budget laptop (of any kind, really) is limited power. Many Windows laptops under $500 run on Intel Celeron or Pentium processors, but you can find some with Core i3/i5 and AMD Ryzen 3/5 CPUs at the higher end of the price spectrum.
Specs to look for in a sub-$500 Windows laptop
Intel Core i or AMD Ryzen 3 processors
8GB of RAM
An SSD with at least 128GB of space
Mostly metal designs
We recommend getting the most powerful CPU you can afford because it will dictate how fast the computer will feel overall. RAM is also important because, the more you have, the easier it will be for the laptop to manage things like a dozen browser tabs while you edit a Word document and stream music in the background. However, with sub-$500 laptops, you’re better off getting the best CPU you can afford rather than a laptop with a ton of RAM because the CPU will have enough power to handle most tasks that cheap laptops are designed for (If you’re editing RAW images or 4K video, you’ll want to invest in more RAM… and a laptop well above $500).
When it comes to storage, consider how much you want to save locally. If you primarily work in Google Docs or save most things in the cloud, you may not need a machine with a ton of onboard storage. Just remember that your digital space will also be taken up by apps, so it may be worth getting a little extra storage than you think you need if you know you’ll be downloading big programs. A final side note: SSDs are ubiquitous at this point, not to mention faster and more efficient than HDDs, so we recommend getting a laptop with that type of storage.
You also don’t have to settle for an entirely plastic notebook either. There are options in the sub-$500 price range that are made, at least in part, with metals like aluminum. Those will not only be more attractive but also more durable. As for screens, there’s a healthy mix of HD and FHD options in this price range and we recommend springing for a notebook with a 1080p display if you can. Touchscreens aren’t as common in the under-$500 space as standard panels, but you’ll only really miss one if you get a 2-in-1 laptop.
A final note before we get to our picks: Cheap Windows laptop models change all the time. Unlike more expensive, flagship machines, these notebooks can be updated a couple times each year. That can make it hard to track down a specific model at Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart or any given retailer. We’ve listed some of our current favorite models below, but if you can’t find any of them available near you, just keep in mind our list of specs to look for in a cheap laptop – they’ll guide you to the best machines available at the moment.
Acer Aspire 5
Acer’s Aspire 5 series has been a reliable pick for quite some time now. Most recently, we tested out the A514-54-395V, which has a 14-inch 1080p display and runs on an 11th-gen Intel Core i3 processor, 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage.
Performance was similar to the previous Aspire 5 model that we tested, but you will find some design differences on the A514-54-395V. Namely, it’s a 14-inch machine, not a 15-inch one, and it doesn’t have a full number pad on the right side of the keyboard. It still has an aluminum top cover, which gives it a more premium feel, but Acer removed the backlight on the keyboard on this one, which is a bummer. Thankfully, though, the keyboard is just as comfortable to use as the one on the previous model.
In addition to new WiFi 6 support, the latest Aspire 5 has an additional, crucial USB-C port. This was lacking on the previous model we tested, so we’re happy to see it included on this version. And it accompanies the ports that were already present: three USB-A connections, one HDMI socket, a headphone jack, a lock slot and a drop-jaw Ethernet port. As promised, Acer increased the average battery life on this model to 10 hours. On the previous model, we were clocking in roughly six hours of battery life, so this is a much-needed improvement.
Lenovo’s Flex 5 14 is a good alternative if you want a more portable laptop with a battery life that will keep you going all day long. It runs on an AMD Ryzen 3 4300 processor, with 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD, and it’s accompanied by a 14-inch 1080p IPS display and an array of ports that includes one USB-C connection. If you care about future-proofing, that USB-C port will be critical. You may not have a lot of USB-C accessories right now, but that will most certainly change in the coming years.
The typing experience is also top-notch: while it doesn’t have a number pad, its keys have that rounded-bottom shape that’s similar to keys on Lenovo’s ThinkPad machines. They make a satisfying clicking sound while you’re typing, but they’re not loud enough to bother those around you.
And despite being a budget machine, the Flex 5 14 isn’t flimsy. The palm rests don’t creak under pressure and it’s easy to carry this laptop one-handed around a room. I also appreciate its convertible design, which gives you more flexibility. And like most Lenovo machines, the Flex 5 14 has a webcam that you can cover with a physical shutter.
The Flex 5 14 also has the upper-hand over the Aspire 5 when it comes to battery life: The former lasted about 16.5 hours in our testing, whereas Acer’s machine lasted roughly 10 hours. That makes the Lenovo option the clear winner if you’re looking for a laptop that can last all day and then some.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Microsoft's new Surface Laptop Go 2 here, even though it starts at $600. It’s certainly a decent option to consider if you’re really into the Surface line. Undoubtedly, the Laptop Go 2 has one of the best designs you’ll find on any cheap Windows notebook, with a minimalist aesthetic, thin bezels surrounding its display and a relatively like 2.5-pound weight. It’s 12.4-inch PixelSense touchscreen has 1,536 x 1,024 resolution, and it’s still pretty crisp despite not being an FHD panel. You’re also getting a 720p webcam, a fairly comfortable keyboard (albeit with no backlight) and a port array that includes one USB-A connection, one USB-C socket, a headphone jack and a power slot.
In addition to the attractive design, another reason why you may want to spring for the Laptop Go 2 is that even the base model runs on an 11th-gen Intel Core i5 processor. We found it to provide snappy performance, and you’ll probably notice a difference if you’re coming from a machine with a Core i3 processor or something even less powerful. We were also impressed by the Laptop Go 2’s battery life – it lasted nearly 15 hours in our testing, and since Microsoft improved the interior thermal system, you shouldn’t hear excessive fan noise when you’re using it.
There are two big downsides to the Laptop Go 2: the higher starting price and the base model’s 4GB of RAM. You’ll pay $600 for a machine with a Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD, and while those specs aren’t terrible, we usually recommend spring for a machine with at least 8GB of RAM. It’ll make multitasking much easier and more efficient, thereby improving your experience using the notebook in the long run. You’ll have to spend $700 to get that amount of memory in the Laptop Go 2, which is still cheaper than flagship notebooks, but not as affordable when compared with our other picks.
New Alienware laptops with optional 480Hz displays aren’t the only computers Dell announced today. The company also has a new option for those looking for something more affordable. The G16 represents the first 16-inch laptop for the company’s Dell Gaming brand. Dell went with a 16:10 panel that features a 2,560 x 1,600 resolution, 165Hz refresh rate, G-Sync compatibility and a modest 300 nits of peak brightness.
No word on response rate or panel type, but the company notes the decision to go with a 16:10 aspect ratio allowed it to fit the G16’s display into a 15-inch chassis. As a result, the laptop has 11 percent more screen space than the G15.
Internally, the G16 comes with Intel’s Core i7 12700H processor. The 14-core, 20-thread chip features a maximum boost clock of 4.70GHz. Straight from the factory, Dell will let you configure the G16 with up to 16GB of 4,800MHz DDR5 RAM. You can add 16GB of RAM on your own to max out the laptop’s memory. Storage starts at 512GB via a Class 35 M.2 NVMe. You can configure the G16 with up to 2TB of total storage.
As for your video card options, you have three. The base model has an with 4GB of GDDR6 memory that can draw 90 watts of power. Alternatively, you can buy the G16 with either an RTX 3060 or 3070 Ti. The latter can pull up to 140W of power and features 8GB of GDDR6 memory, making it the most sensible option for a gaming laptop with a QHD display. Your GPU will also decide whether the G16 comes with a Thunderbolt 4 port. The connection is only available on models with an RTX 3060 or 3070 Ti. Otherwise, both variants come with HDMI 2.1, three USB-A connections, a headphone jack and an Ethernet port. WiFi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity are also standard across all variants. Powering everything is either a 56WHr or 86WHr battery.
You also have three options when it comes to G16’s typing experience. By default, the laptop comes with a one-zone RGB keyboard. You can upgrade to a model with per-key lighting, with the option to add CherryMX switches as well. The Dell 16 will start at $1,400 when it goes on sale on July 20th.
Earlier this year, Google announced ChromeOS Flex, a tool that lets anyone take an old Windows or Mac laptop and give it new life by installing Chrome OS. After launching ChromeOS Flex in “early access,” Google now says that Flex is ready to “scale broadly” to more Macs and PCs.
The basics remain the same. You can visit the ChromeOS Flex website to make a bootable Chrome OS installation on a USB drive to ensure that your system works properly, and you can then fully replace your old computer’s OS with Chrome OS if everything checks out. As for what’s new, Google says it has tested compatibility with over 400 different devices. That was part of the intention of the early access program — it let Google gather a ton of user feedback and fix some 600 bugs that were identified over the last few months.
While anyone can install ChromeOS Flex, Google is mostly positioning this as a tool for businesses or schools to extend the usefulness of older hardware. To that end, IT departments can actually deploy Flex over their networks rather than update every computer with a USB drive. Google also notes that Flex devices can be managed using the Chrome Enterprise Upgrade, which lets departments manage apps and policies across a whole fleet of computers.
This all comes about a year and a half after Google bought Neverware, a company that first had the idea of letting users take old computers and turn them into Chromebooks. Now that ChromeOS Flex is being deployed widely, Neverware’s CloudReady software will be transitioned to Flex in the coming weeks and the standalone CloudReady product will be shut down. That shouldn’t be a major issue for anyone, though, as Flex is now stable and has some features that CloudReady didn’t, like Google Assistant support.
If you've already decided you want to go big on your next laptop, consider the 16-inch MacBook Pro. We gave it a score of 92 in our review, and we didn't find too much to knock it for. However, it's pretty pricey with its $2,499 starting price. But right now you can pick it up for $250 less at Amazon as the online retailer has knocked the price of the 512GB version down to $2,249. That's the best price we've seen it, and you can get the discount on their the silver or space gray model.
Unlike many of Apple's other notebooks, the 16-inch MacBook Pro was redesigned a bit to make it more of a power user's machine. It has a 16.2-inch Liquid Retina XDR display that's only interrupted by a top notch that houses the 1080p webcam. The TouchBar is gone but Apple's Magic Keyboard remains a dream to type on, and the trackpad is wonderful to use as well. But arguably most importantly, the sides of the MacBook Pro now have a bunch of ports that have been missing from the notebook for a long time. It has three Thunderbolt 4 USB-C connections, a full-sized HDMI port, and SD card reader, a headphone jack and a MagSafe power connector — all of that's to say that you won't be living as much of the dongle life as you might have been before, although you might still need a USB-A adapter every now and then.
The base model that's on sale runs on Apple's M1 Pro chipset, 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage, and it comes in at fairly hefty 4.7 pounds. While it's not the most portable machine (we recommend going for the 14-inch version if that's a priority for you), it's certainly a powerhouse when it comes to performance. In our benchmark testing, the Pro blew most comparable Windows machines out of the water and did so while maintaining a strong battery life. The 16-inch Pro lasted about 16.5 hours during our battery tests, and it's worth noting that we didn't see a performance dip while running on battery power alone.
Ultimately, the 16-inch MacBook Pro is best for audio and video producers or others in creative fields who want the maximum amount of screen space possible along with some of the best performance you'll find on a laptop today. Yes, it remains pricey even when on sale, but it's a much better buy when you can grab it for $250 less than usual.
The new MacBook Air is one of Apple's most important computers since Steve Jobs pulled the original Air out of an envelope. It shows what's possible when Apple builds an ultraportable entirely around its mobile chips, instead of lazily sticking them in old laptop designs, like with the recent 13-inch MacBook Pro. The Air is impressively thin and light, but it also has a bigger and better screen, a great set of speakers and a nifty MagSafe power adapter. And thanks to Apple's M2 chip, it's also far speedier than the last model, a computer just a year-and-a-half ago. Once again, Apple has set a new standard for ultraportables.
Before I dive into what's under the hood, I'll just say what we're all thinking: This is a gorgeous computer! The Air's trademark wedge design is gone – now, it's uniformly thin from front to back. Apple basically repeated the PowerBook-esque design of the 14 and 16-inch MacBook Pro – more rounded edges, a notch for the webcam – but squished it into a case that measures just 11.3 millimeters thin and weighs 2.7 pounds. While it's only a tenth of a pound lighter than the last Air, it's far more balanced, making it easier to hold.
When I picked up the MacBook Air for the first time, it felt more like an iPad with a built-in keyboard than a laptop. What's funny is that it's actually more portable than the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, which weighs about 3 pounds when combined with its Smart Keyboard. The iPad Pro has always been positioned as a futuristic ideal for truly portable computing, but it turns out it weighs the same as the 13-inch MacBook Pro. Once again, the humble Air wins out.
It's also nice to see Apple offering a wider variety of finishes. In addition to the typical space gray and silver, there's a brighter starlight case and a sleek black midnight option. I've been testing a starlight model, and the way the color pops off of the aluminum always gives me a bit of joy.
To be honest, that sense of delight can be found just about everywhere in the MacBook Air, like its new 13.6-inch Liquid Retina screen. It's only a third of an inch larger than before, but it feels more expansive and engrossing. It helps that Apple shaved off a bit of bezel and also bumped up the brightness to 500 nits, which makes the Air far easier to use outdoors.
For the most part, the Liquid Retina screen is on par with what we saw on the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros – the only difference is that it doesn't have ProMotion. I didn't expect to see that high refresh rate tech on a mainstream laptop, especially after it didn't arrive on the 13-inch MacBook Pro. But, at this point, it's one of the only things keeping the Air from being truly perfect. Maybe I'm just being greedy, but my eyes have been spoiled. I need silky smooth scrolling on every machine! I was also a bit disappointed by the new 1080p webcam. It packs in more pixels than the previous 720p cameras, but it still looks pretty drab and grainy.
At least Apple managed to bring over its improved speaker technology from the larger MacBook Pros. The Air features a quad-speaker system with support for Spatial Audio and Dolby Atmos. And while I didn't expect much from such a thin system, the new audio setup sounds shockingly great. It's enough to fill a small room with sound at max volume without any distortion. There's also a three-mic array to improve video chat sound quality, as well as a standard 3.5mm jack. (I'm sure there's some fanatical Apple designer who wants to yank out the headphone jack to make the Air's case even thinner, just like they did with the iPad Pro. So enjoy it while you can!)
All of these upgrades would be impressive on their own, but what makes the MacBook Air really shine is Apple's new M2 chip. It doesn't completely reshape the PC world, like the M1 did, but it's a decent sequel. The M2 features 8 CPU cores and up to 10 GPU cores, and Apple says it's around 18 percent faster for multithreaded performance. If you go for the faster GPU model, you can expect graphics speeds about 35 percent faster than the M1. Apple also doubled the M2's memory bandwidth and raised the maximum RAM to 24GB. That's probably overkill for an Air, but it's nice nonetheless. There's also hardware support for ProRes encoding and decoding, but I'd imagine most video editors would opt for more powerful MacBook Pros.
Geekbench 5 CPU
Geekbench 5 Compute
Apple MacBook Air (Apple M2, 2022)
Apple MacBook Air (Apple M1, 2020)
Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch, (Apple M2, 2022)
Apple MacBook Pro 14-inch (Apple M1 Pro)
Dell XPS 15 (Intel i7-12700H, RTX 3050 Ti, 2022)
Our review unit was equipped with a 10-core GPU, 16GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD, the same as our 13-inch MacBook Pro tester. And, just as I expected, the scores between both systems were nearly identical across benchmarks like GeekBench 5 and 3DMark Wild Life Extreme. There was a significant difference in Cinebench R21's multi-threaded test, but that wasn't a huge surprise. The MacBook Air is a fan-less system, so its CPU has to be throttled to keep things cool. The 13-inch MacBook Pro, on the other hand, has fans and a more robust cooling setup, so it can handle longer sustained workloads.
All of my testing made it clear that the MacBook Air is just as fast as the 13-inch Pro for most tasks. It even hit the same 30fps average in Shadow of the Tomb Raider's benchmark, which means the game would actually be playable on a crazy thin ultraportable. But you'll have to live with a bit of slowdown if you're doing more complex work, like video editing or 3D rendering. For most people, I think that's a decent compromise given everything else the MacBook Air has to offer. And if you're an actual media professional, you're still better off with the 14-inch or 16-inch MacBook Pro, instead of the aging 13-inch model.
Not to knock on that computer too much, but now that I've seen the Air in action, I'm even more baffled by the 13-inch Pro. The Air has the same great keyboard and super smooth trackpad. There's no annoying TouchBar, just trusty function keys. It even has more ports! There are two USB-C ports, but it also features a MagSafe connector for power. That means you can actually charge the MacBook Air without using up one of your precious USB-C connections! Maybe Apple should have just renamed this the MacBook Air Pro.
The 13-inch Pro does have a larger battery, which helped it last 17 hours and five minutes in our benchmark. The Air, meanwhile, reached 16 hours and 30 minutes. Still, that's plenty of time to last you beyond a full day of work, and it's on par with other ultraportables like Dell's XPS 13. Apple also has a variety of power adapters to choose from: one with two USB-C ports (for charging other devices) and a 67-watt adapter for fast charging.
The one downside to the MacBook Air's revamp is that it now starts at $1,199, $200 more than the M1 model. That older machine is still a decent option if you find it on sale or refurbished, but otherwise I'd say the M2 model is absolutely worth the extra cost. Just be prepared for the price to rise quickly as you start adding extra hardware. If you wanted to bump up to our review unit's specs, you'd have to pay $1,899. Personally, I'd say prioritize throwing in as much RAM and SSD storage as you can. The M2 chip will still be very capable without the $100 upgrade for the more powerful GPU.
It’s remarkable to think how far the MacBook Air has come since 2008. It used to be overpriced and underpowered, a testament to Apple’s tendency towards style over substance. Since then, the entire PC industry jumped aboard the ultraportable bandwagon, and Apple found a way to pack a ton of power into a razor-thin case. Now, the MacBook Air is arguably Apple’s best laptop yet.