10 Jun 2015
Dell announced a series of laptops, desktops and hybrid machines at Computex 2015 this year, including a full line-up of Inspiron models, such as the 5000 and 7000 Series 2-in-1s, Inspiron 15 7000 Series notebooks, and Inspiron 20 & 24 3000 Series AIO desktops.
However, the standout device was the Dell Inspiron 15 7000, a 2-in-1 with a 360-degree hinge akin to the Lenovo Yoga line-up of notebooks, meaning that it can rotate between four modes - tablet, laptop, tent and stand - depending on intended use.
The design and build of the Inspiron 15 7000 is unquestionably high quality. The aluminium finish against a matt charcoal case ensures that it looks the part, which is rather refreshing for a laptop costing $550.
However, it measures just under 20mm at its thickest point so it's not the slimmest 15in laptop on the market. But it's impressively compact considering its flexibility and relatively high-end specifications.
It turns from laptop to stand mode, and over to tent and tablet modes with incredible ease. The whole process is smooth and straightforward as the screen rotates when the different modes are established thanks to the built-in accelerometer.
Overall, it feels strong, looks expensive and feels like it would be a pleasure to use for long periods.
The 15.6in display with a True Color IPS wide-viewing angle screen is full HD at 1920x1080 resolution - what you'd expect of a device of this calibre and in this price range - and we didn't have any real niggles about it.
Brightness levels are good and we can imagine working on it outside, although not in direct sunlight as with most mobile machines.
The Inspiron 15 7000's backlit, full-sized, spill-resistant keyboard has good travel, allowing you to type rapidly with ease.
Unlike some other laptops we've tested recently, there was no problem with the machine registering keystrokes.
However, the well-spaced layout of the keyboard means that it doesn't have a numerical keypad but, apart from accountants, who uses those these days anyway?
The Dell Inspiron 15 7000 has three Intel 5th-gen Core Broadwell-U processor options, from the lower performing i3-5005U running at 2GHz, to the i5-5200U running at 2.7GHz and the higest performing i7-5500U running at 3GHz.
These run alongside Intel's integrated HD Graphics 5500, and there's also an optional 8GB Single Channel DDR3L RAM and a 256GB SSD drive for faster storage.
We didn't have long enough with the Inspiron 15 7000 to really put it through its paces, but we did have a good play around on it. It handled Windows 8.1 very well. There was no lag when swiping between pages, and programs popped up almost as soon as we selected them.
It coped easily with most things we threw it at, probably owing to the Intel Broadwell processor. The Inspiron 15 will also be upgradeable to Windows 10 once it's released on 29 July.
An updated version of Intel's 5th-gen Core was released at Computex 2015, and packs in 35 percent more transistors than in Intel's previous 4th-generation Haswell CPU, while shrinking die size by 37 percent.
This allows for super powerful machines with unique form factors, like the Inspiron 15 7000, with lower demands on system power.
Dell said that the inclusion of the Broadwell chip improves the 43WHr, three-cell battery over previous Inspiron models, offering up to nine hours on a single charge.
Prices and availability
The Inspiron 15 7000 Series 2-in-1 will be available from 23 June in the US starting at $549.99 (about £420). As you'd expect from a US company, no UK price or availability has yet been confirmed.
02 Mar 2015
BARCELONA: When reports broke that Lenovo had installed the Superfish adware on a number of its laptops, HP gleefully pointed out that its line of Windows laptops never feature adware or bloatware.
So when HP unveiled its latest Spectre x360 convertible at MWC, some tech fans wondered whether the device could be the bloatware-free Windows 8.1 laptop hybrid we've all been waiting for.
Design and build
The Spectre x360 is very similar to Lenovo's Yoga line of devices in that it features a hinge mechanism that lets users set it in notebook, stand, tent or tablet configurations.
HP made a big deal about the hinge mechanism, claiming its use of three spiral gears makes it the most robust and smooth mechanism on the market.
Testing the mechanism we found it was indeed smooth to use and felt reasonably sturdy. When converting the Spectre X360 from a laptop into a tablet, the hinge never locked up and felt noticeably stronger than those seen on competing devices.
Built out of CNC aluminium, the rest of the Spectre x30 feels as robust as the hinge. Measuring 15.9mm thick and weighing 1.49kg, the Spectre is also reasonably travel friendly.
The 1.5mm travel keyboard and "extra wide" touchpad are also impressive. The keys have a nice snap that makes typing on the Spectre x30 a pleasant experience. The Spectre is also reasonably well stocked for ports, boasting full-size HDMI and DisplayPort 1.2 inputs and three USB 3.0 ports.
HP's loaded the Spectre x360 with a quad HD display complete with Panel Self Refresh (PSR) technology. The screen is "optically bonded" to the Spectre x360.
HP claims the bond radically improves display quality and increases brightness levels by "pulling each pixel up to the surface of the display".
The PSR tech is designed to improve the Spectre x360's battery life and has no noticeable impact on display quality.
Testing the display on the brightly lit MWC showroom floor we found that while colour balance and contrast levels were great, it was prone to picking up stray light and regularly became reflective - though to be fair to HP the showroom conditions were very harsh.
It's also worth noting that unlike many other convertables, the Spectre x360's display features active stylus support.
The demo unit we tested came with Windows 8.1 pre-installed. The enterprise Pro version of the Spectre x30 is also available with Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 Pro.
Putting aside the inherent benefits of Windows 8.1 for business and the incoming free upgrade to Windows 10, we were impressed how free of bloatware the device is: the only pre-installed non-Microsoft app we could find installed was a McAfee anti-virus tool that comes with a free one-year subscription and can easily be uninstalled.
HP is offering the Spectre x360 with Intel Core i5 and i7 processor options and up to 8GB of memory. The HP Spectre Pro x360 features optional vPro support for enterprise customers.
As an added layer of security, HP's loaded both the standard and pro Spectre x360 models with trusted platform module (TPM) chips.
Sadly we didn't get a chance to benchmark the Spectre x360 or see how it coped with demanding tasks during our hands-on. However, during basic tasks like word processing and web browsing it performed well and we didn't notice any performance issues.
Battery and storage
The Spectre x360 is powered by a 56-watt hour battery HP claims will last up to 12.5 hours off one charge. Hopefully the claim is accurate as the Spectre x360's battery is non-removable.
The demo unit we tested featured a 512GB SSD, which HP told us is the top storage option available.
Price, release date and conclusion
The HP Spectre x360 is "expected" to arrive in the UK in mid-March 2015 with a starting price of £849. An HP spokesperson declined our request for further details about its UK price and release date.
Overall, while the Spectre x360 isn't terribly original, from what we've seen it is a fairly impressive convertible.
Featuring a solid metal design, wealth of processor options and active stylus support, the Spectre x360, on paper, is one of the most flexible hinged convertibles we've seen.
Hopefully it'll make good on its opening promise when we really put it through its paces for our full review.
By V3's Alastair Stevenson
LAS VEGAS: Lenovo unveiled its third-generation ThinkPad X1 Carbon Ultrabook this week, featuring Intel's 5th-generation Core processor to bring the best possible performance for the form factor.
We got a chance to play with the device while running between the booths at CES 2015.
The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon looks all but identical to its 2014 predecessor, with the same black finish and red detailing.
The updated features are subtle, but very welcome. The laptop features an even thinner and lighter chassis, weighing just under 1.3kg and measuring 17.7mm thick, almost a full millimetre thinner than last year's model which measured 18.5mm.
The laptop felt especially light and thin in our hands and we can see it being ideal for travel or business trips.
Another new feature is PCIe SSD storage in a similar vein to the MacBook Air, which can take advantage of faster onboard SSD drive storage. The laptop will ship with up to 512GB drives.
The Thinkpad X1 Carbon (2015) is available in touchscreen and non-touchscreen versions. The demo unit we tried boasted a 14in, 10-point multi-touch display, with WQHD in-plane switching.
As well as being nicely responsive to touch, the new Thinkpad X1 Carbon's screen is pleasant to look at. Using the Thinkpad X1 Carbon in the brightly lit showroom floor, the ultrabook's display proved suitably bright and remained legible even when hit with stray light.
We were also impressed with its viewing angles, as text remained crisp even when viewing the screen from the side.
Colours were suitably vibrant and, while not as crisp as the Retina displays seen on Apple Macbooks, the Thinkpad X1 Carbon's screen was far better than those seen on most competing Windows 8 ultrabooks.
The laptop will be available with FHD display options.
Performance and software
Lenovo didn't go for an Intel Core M design and instead opted for the chipmaker's latest 5th-gen Core processor. The model we tested was running a Core i7 chip, and felt super fast in our initial tests.
It seemed to handle Windows 8.1 very well. There was no lag when swiping between pages, and programs popped up almost as soon as we selected them. It handled everything we threw it at with ease.
Beyond its performance-boosting powers, the real benefit of Intel's new Broadwell chip architecture is its ability to boost ultrabooks' battery lives.
Lenovo lists the Thinkpad X1 Carbon as being able to last for 10 hours of regular use from one charge, one hour more than last year's Broadwell model.
Intel's Core update packs in 35 percent more transistors than in Intel's previous 4th-generation Haswell CPU, while also shrinking die size by 37 percent, allowing for super powerful machines with form factors like the XPS 13, so expect many more like it to pop up from other OEMs later this year.
In terms of other features, there's wireless connectivity in the form of 802.11ac Wi-Fi and a selection of USB 3.0 ports and an HDMI output.
The ThinkPad X1 Carbon starts at $1,249 and will be available in the US from January. UK release dates are yet to be announced.
09 Jan 2015
LAS VEGAS: Dell unveiled its brand new XPS laptop line-up at CES this week, the XPS 13, which crams a 13.3in screen into an 11in chassis.
Showing off the laptop for the first time on Tuesday, Dell claimed that the XPS 13 is the "smallest 13in notebook in the world, fitting a 13.3in screen into the size of a typical 11in notebook".
We got some hands-on time after the event to see just how good the XPS 13 is in reality.
There's no question that the Dell XPS 13's design and high quality aluminium finish juxtaposed against a matt charcoal casing looks the part and reflects its premium price.
However, it measures 15mm at its thickest point so it's definitely not the slimmest 13in laptop on the market. But it's impressively compact considering its high-end specifications.
The XPS 13 is also lightweight for its power at just 1.18kg. The smaller frame with bigger screen makes it feel slightly heavier than you'd expect for an 11in laptop but, considering this is actually a 13.3in device, we were very pleased with its size and weight.
Dell has made good use of high quality materials and the XPS 13 impressed us with its tiny bezel, design and build.
It feels well made and has a high quality finish, and as a result feels like it would be a pleasure to use. And the super-thin bezel has left us screaming: "Why on Earth didn't they do this before?!"
The touchscreen display is one of its finest features. It's an UltraSharp Quad HD+ infinity display with 5.7 million pixels in just a 5.2mm bezel. It's vibrant and clear, and colour reproduction is great. Colours appear very rich, just like on its older brother the XPS 15.
Brightness levels are brilliant, and we can imagine working on the XPS 13 outside, although not in direct sunlight as with most mobile devices.
The XPS 13's keyboard has good travel, allowing you to type rapidly with ease.
Unlike some other laptops we've tested recently, the XPS 13's keyboard didn't fail to register keystrokes. But the well-spaced layout of the keyboard means that the XPS 13 doesn't have a numerical keypad.
Performance and software
Running Windows 8.1, the XPS 13 is powered by Intel's 5th-gen Broadwell Core processors and takes advantage of solid state drive options for storage.
In our tests, it handled Windows 8.1 very well. There was no lag when swiping between pages, and programs popped up almost as soon as we selected them. It handled everything we threw it at with ease, probably owing to the new Broadwell processor.
Intel's Core update packs in 35 percent more transistors than in Intel's previous 4th-generation Haswell CPU, while also shrinking die size by 37 percent, allowing for super powerful machines with form factors like the XPS 13, so expect many more like it to pop up from other PC makers later this year.
In terms of battery life, Dell has said the XPS 13 will last for a huge 15 hours on a single charge. We're definitely looking forward to trying this out in a full review.
The Dell XPS 13 will be available from 20 January starting at £1,099 in the UK. The Developer Edition will be available from late January starting at £1,199, so it certainly doesn't come cheap.
At its VMworld conference in Barcelona, VMware announced a new addition to its Horizon platform of end-user computing tools in the form of Horizon Flex. This is a tool that promises to help organisations with bring your own device (BYOD) schemes by enabling a corporate virtual PC to be provisioned on Mac and PC systems.
The firm did not say much else about Horizon Flex at the show, but it seems that the tool could fix many of the issues that customers have had in the past with virtual clients deployed onto endpoint systems, such as deployment, management and patching of the image once out in the field.
VMware's Horizon portfolio started out with View, which offered virtual desktops hosted in a data centre, plus Mirage for managing images on standard PCs and laptops. Horizon Flex rounds this out by enabling an IT administrator to build a corporate Windows PC image, then deploy that to workers anywhere in the world, who may be using their own PC or Mac.
The firm used to have a product that fulfilled pretty much this same role, VMware ACE, but that was discontinued back in 2011 with VMWare claiming that customer demand no longer justified the ongoing development of the product.
Since then, the BYOD trend has kicked in, and many organisations are now looking for a secure way to let workers run corporate applications on any device, whether it is owned and managed by the organisation or not.
Horizon Flex combines several of VMware's products, including the client-side virtualisation from Fusion Pro (pictured) and Player Pro, Mirage and the Airwatch mobile device management technology it gained with the company of the same name.
The basic idea seems to be to enable the operating system and the applications inside a Horizon Flex virtual image to be managed and updated separately, while the behaviour of the whole is controlled by management policies that govern whether the user can move files between the host and the Flex image, and whether it can access physical resources on the host system, such as a memory stick connected to a USB port.
Writing on VMware's blog, chief technology officer for end-user computing Kit Colbert explained that "with Mirage, you can remotely provision, manage, and update the Windows OS and apps running on a physical laptop. Flex extends this functionality to the containerised virtual desktop. This means that as patches or new versions come out, it's a matter of a few simple clicks for an admin to push those updates out to all Flex users, who will get them the next time they're online.
"In addition, IT can also push out new apps to Flex users and automatically back up the Flex virtual desktop transparently. This means if a user's laptop is lost or stolen, it's easy to re-provision the user's containerised desktop on a new physical machine without data loss."
VMware Horizon Flex is expected to be available this quarter and will be licensed on a per-device basis starting at $250 (£155).
12 Sep 2014
Lenovo revealed a range of new phones, all-in-ones and business laptops at IFA in Germany earlier in September. The Chinese firm's most significant unveiling was an update to its Lenovo ThinkPad Helix, unveiled at CES in January.
Taking on the Microsoft Surface tablets and Samsung Ativ series of hybrids, the ThinkPad Helix offers businesses an all-in-one tablet that is also an ultrabook.
Design and build
The 11.6in ThinkPad Helix features a Gorilla Glass display, weighs 815g and measures just 9.6mm thick, a design that has been made possible by the featured Intel Core M processor, which Intel also announced at IFA during its press conference on Friday.
At first glance the ThinkPad Helix has a lot more in common with its ThinkPad predecessors than other convertible laptops. The product's design features the same minimalist black, hard-edged plastic design associated with all ThinkPad laptops.
It's only when you open it up and look closely that you realise that the ThinkPad Helix is actually a convertible, sporting the obvious left-hand switch that, when popped, separates the tablet section from its dock.
Playing with the ThinkPad Helix, we were fairly impressed by the hinge mechanism's build quality. Despite being made of plastic the connecting section felt sturdy.
Popping the tablet in and out of the dock a few times, we felt suitably reassured that the section wouldn't break during prolonged use. The same was true of the ThinkPad Helix main tablet section, which also seemed fairly robust.
The 11.6in ThinkPad Helix features a Gorilla Glass FHD display with a 1920x1080 resolution, 10-point multi-touch screen. During our initial tests we found the display boasts great viewing angles, colour and brightness levels.
Testing the screen we found that the ThinkPad Helix was pleasantly responsive, easily picking up and responding to every swipe and poke we threw at it.
Performance and OS
The ThinkPad Helix is designed to offer users ultrabook-level performance, with the top-end version having up to an Intel Core M processor, either 4GB or 8GB of RAM and a range of different storage options such as a 128GB SATA, 256GB SATA eDrive, 512GB PCle or 180GB to 360GB Intel hard drive.
Running Windows 8.1 Pro, the Lenovo ThinkPad Helix has the same five modes as seen on the previous version and the consumer IdeaPad Yoga products, allowing users to put the device into Tablet, Stand, Tent, Laptop and Desktop modes.
In our tests the Lenovo ThinkPad Helix seemed to work flawlessly, with apps and web browser pages popping up instantly.
Our initial impressions of the ThinkPad Helix are positive, as it has some worthy upgrades from its predecessor, particularly the Intel Core M processor.
Lenovo added that the ThinkPad Helix also features better power efficiency and battery life compared with its predecessor, as well as a suite of add-on security options, including a biometric fingerprint reader, a military-grade smart card reader and three-factor authentication. We weren't able to test the improved performance or battery life on the IFA showroom floor, but check back soon for a full review.
With a hefty $999 starting price, which tops many other convertible laptop-tablet hybrids, we're not sure the ThinkPad Helix will attract a great deal of users when it is released worldwide at the start of October.
On Tuesday Apple made a quiet update to its MacBook Air range. Rather than the usual razzmatazz of a new Apple unveiling, this time the firm issued a release and left it at that.
What’s new, and what's missing?
The low-key announcement was probably due to the fact the only clear difference between the new Macbook Air devices and the old ones is a slightly improved CPU, which has increased from an Intel iCore 1.3GHz processor to 1.4GHz.
Perhaps more notable was the (disappointing) fact that Apple has not updated the screens for the MacBook Air 2014 range to include its Retina display technology.
Mac aficionados will no doubt be hoping Apple adds this to the range at its next big unveiling, possibly in September. Apple rumours have also suggested a 12in model will be unveiled later this year sporting the Retina display technology.
As such, those considering a new MacBook may decide to wait until later in the year.
One area of improvement that could tempt buyers is the price. Apple has lopped £100 off the cost of the cheapest device, so the 11.6in display model starts from £749 when bought with 128GB of flash storage.
For 256GB of flash storage the price is £899. This is a saving of £130 compared to the same model from the 2013 range.
Meanwhile the 13.3in model starts from £849 with 128GB flash storage and rises to £999 with 256GB of flash storage. That represents a saving of either £100 or £130, compared to last year's models.
For those in the market for a Mac, being able to pick up an Air device from £749 could well prove enticing. The screenshot below from the Apple page shows the price differences:
Best of the rest
While the rest of the specs have not changed from the previous Air range, it is still worth running over what you get for your money:
11in model 13in model
Storage: 128GB or 256GB 128GB or 256GB
Weight: 1.08 kg 1.35 kg
Dimensions: 30x19.2x.1.7cm 32.5x22.7x1.7cm
Battery: Nine hours 12 hours
Screen: 11.6in, 1366x768 13.3in, 1440x900
Both devices also have a 720HD front-facing camera for FaceTime calls and 4GB of memory. They also both offer two USB 3 ports and a Thunderbolt port.
Is it worth the upgrade?
For those on an existing 2013 Air device it seems not. The only difference is a minor boost in compute power, which while nice, is never worth buying a whole new device.
However, for those considering a Mac, the temptation will only grow. The reduced cost alongside the same high-end specs Apple has always offered is a strong pull.
With many not interested in the new Windows 8 operating system, and increasingly comfortable using iOS devices, the decision to move to Apple's laptops to complete the set just got a lot more enticing.
The new 13in Apple Macbook Air
17 Mar 2014
HANOVER: Fujitsu revealed its brand new 14in Lifebook U904 ultrabook at CeBIT this week, a business device that focuses on security and performance. As a top-end piece of hardware, the U904 is customisable in every area imaginable, and the device V3 tested was the pick of the bunch.
Design and build
At first sight, the U904 exudes quality, with its brushed metal outer coating feeling cool to touch and very sturdy. Fujitsu says the device weighs 1.39kg, although this will vary depending on the specification. Nonetheless, for a high-performance device, 1.39kg is more than acceptable for the business user on the move. The device is just 15.5mm thick, which Fujitsu claims makes it the thinnest business ultrabook on the market.
In terms of connectivity, the U904 has two USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI connector, a single audio in/out jack, an SD card slot and a pull-out RJ-45 Ethernet port for when you want to hook up to wired internet instead of WiFi. A port replicator for docking stations is an optional extra, and can be found on the underside.
The U904's backlit keyboard is of the island or chiclet variety. As you would expect for a business-focused device, the keys have a good amount of travel and are fairly satisfying to use. The same goes for the touchpad, which does not feature physical buttons but instead requires the user to press down on the touchpad itself to perform a click.
The Fujitsu Lifebook U904 has a screen resolution of 3200x1800, a frankly enormous number of pixels for a 14in screen. Everything we saw on the device looked incredibly crisp, with colour vibrancy also looking very good indeed. The screen comes in both touch and non-touch variants – we used the non-touchscreen, but would have welcomed a touchscreen too for the occasional prod. With that being said, we can imagine touching icons on a small screen with so many pixels would be quite a challenge.
It was difficult to tell how well the screen could stand up to bright lighting conditions, but Fujitsu advertises the screen as having an anti-glare coating.
There is plenty of choice when it comes to internal components for the Lifebook U904. The unit we used had Intel's top-end i7-4600U processor running at up to 3.1GHz. A pair of Intel i5 processors are also available. Both the i7 and the higher-spec i5 chip – the 4300U – feature Intel vPro technology, which secures the device at a hardware level, a big selling point for users working with sensitive data, and for IT managers who can monitor the laptop remotely using vPro.
Given our brief time with the device, we were unable to put it fully through its paces, but it is fair to say that we have high expectations for a device running Intel's top-end chipsets.
Because of its compact size, Fujitsu has not included a separate graphics card with the device, instead opting to use Intel's integrated HD Graphics 4400, which may limit the device's handling of more intensive multimedia such as video editing and games.
The device starts life with 2GB of RAM on board, which can be boosted to up to 10GB. Storage-wise, a host of options are available, with four solid-state drives and a traditional hard disk available. The solid-state drives (SSDs) range from 128GB to 512GB, while the spinning disk option weighs in at 500GB with an additional 16GB of SSD cache, offering a blend of capacity and performance.
We were also impressed to see that the device has room for optional 3G or 4G connectivity, which will be perfect for workers who often find themselves out in the field.
Battery life is estimated at a reasonable 10 hours, but we were unable to verify this figure.
Fujitsu has paid a lot of attention to security, with the Lifebook U904 featuring a variety of optional extras intended to keep businesses' data secure.
While a traditional fingerprint scanner is available for this device, Fujitsu is keen to draw attention to its Palm Vein scanner technology, which scans the veins of a user's palm to verify their identity. The U904 is the first ultrabook to feature this technology, which is now thin enough to fit into smaller devices. Below you can see the sensor, which Fujitsu said it wants to make even smaller so eventually it could be used in phones and even everyday objects.
Once you've been registered as a recognised user, you can use the Palm Vein sensor to log in. Administrators can also set up Palm Vein to authenticate other actions if needed, for example logging into a certain application. Users must place their hand a few inches above the sensor and follow the on-screen instructions, which will tell them to move their hand in a certain direction.
While Fujitsu claims Palm Vein scanners are 100 times more reliable than fingerprint scanners, the problem we can see with this technology is that it is still very slow. Even with a Fujitsu representative demonstrating the scanner, it took the device more than five seconds to recognise his hand and allow him to log in. While perhaps this is the price you pay for security, many users may be put off by its sluggishness.
Other security options include Intel's vPro technology, as mentioned above, as well as Full Disk Encryption and a Trusted Platform Module to keep sensitive data extra safe.
The Lifebook U904 continues Fujitsu's theme of high-performance devices suitable for workers in fields that require both security and portability. While pricing for the device is yet to be announced and will vary depending on the options you choose, expect to be paying the better part of £1,400 for a device with all the trimmings.
As ever, this is a case of you get what you pay for, and if your business is looking to tick those performance and security boxes, the Lifebook U904 should certainly make your shortlist.
By V3's Michael Passingham