Amazon, Flipkart Host Back to College Laptop Sales: Here Are the Top Offers

 

Amazon India and Flipkart are both hosting Back to College laptop sales on their respective sites. Both the e-commerce verticals are offering different deals, exchange offers, and No Cost EMI options on laptops from varied brands for students going back to college after the long summer vacation.

Amazon India has listed Intel-powered laptops from Lenovo, HP, Dell, and more with exchange offers and No Cost EMI options. The e-commerce site has also segregated laptops into curriculum sections like – Humanities and Commerce, Engineering, Medical Studies, MBA, Design and Architecture, and even Gaming.

With respect to price, the cheapest laptop listed in the sale is the Lenovo Ideapad 15.6-inch laptop available in Black, and priced at Rs. 18,990. Amazon is offering up to Rs. 10,000 off on exchange with an old laptop, and the option to get additional two-year warranty worth Rs. 4,990 for Rs. 1,499.Amazon, Flipkart Host Back to College Laptop Sales: Here Are the Top Offers

Flipkart, on the other hand, is hosting its Back to College Sale from Tuesday, July 18 to Thursday, July 20. The e-commerce site is offering the HP Imprint Core i3 6th Gen Windows 10 Home running laptop for Rs. 35,964. There’s an exchange offer of up to Rs. 7,000 listed, along with a No Cost EMI option that begins from as low as Rs. 999 per month from banks like ICICI and Citibank for a period of 36 months.

Flipkart has segregated its sections based on price, and budget laptops start from as low as Rs. 9,999. This includes Acer, iBall, and Lava laptops, some of which also offer No Cost EMI options. The Microsoft Surface Pro 4 laptop is also listed with a price cut, up to Rs. 15,000 off on exchange, and No Cost EMI options. Exchange offers on gaming laptops from HP, Dell, and Lenovo go up to Rs. 20,000. You can view all the Flipkart laptop deals here.

 

Akitio Node Cabinet review: Real, affordable graphics for your laptop

 

The Akitio Node external GPU cabinet is here to give your Thunderbolt 3-equipped laptop a big boost. This affordable unit—basically, a big steel box with a 400-watt PSU and a fan in front—lets you drop in most modern AMD or Nvidia graphics cards and then connect it to a laptop using PCIe over Thunderbolt 3/USB-C.

dsc04540

Gordon Mah Ung

The Akitio features one fan for the PSU, and one in front that offers plenty of airflow.

For the most part, when it works, it’s amazingly smooth. For example, we cracked open the Node, dropped in a Founders Edition GeForce GTX 1080 Ti card, then plugged it into a HP Spectre x360 13t. Once we had the latest drivers installed from Nvidia’s website, we were off and running. As these results from 3DMark FireStrike Ultra show, the tiny HP Ultrabook gives what-for to big, giant, fast gaming laptops.

spectre x360 egpu 1080 ti firestrike ultra overall

IDG

Yes, a sub-3lbs. laptop can hang with big fat gaming laptops–if you cheat like we did.

The score you see above, however, is the overall score for 3DMark FireStrike Ultra, which also counts CPU performance. The dual-core Kaby Lake chip in the tiny HP Spectre x360 13T isn’t going to compete with the quad-cores. In the 3DMark test that includes just the graphics performance, however, you’ll see a better spread from the GTX 1080 in the giant EON17-X laptop.

Yes, there’s a good chance the limited x4 PCIe Gen 3 could rob you of some performance over what you might get if the GPU were in a desktop. In fact, the same GPU will typically score in the 7,000 range when in a full x16 PCIe Gen 3 slot. But just remember: The alternative is being stuck with the integrated graphics in the laptop, unable to game at this higher level of performance.

spectre x360 egpu 1080 ti firestrike ultra graphics

 

MacBook 2017 review: Apple’s updated ultraportable laptop comes at a price

 

Trying to figure out which of Apple’s MacBooks you should buy can be a confusing experience. For years, we were presented with a simple, binary choice: the MacBook Air for those who wanted a cheaper, more portable option, and the MacBook Pro for those who needed firepower.

In 2015, Apple made things a little less simple. In came the “MacBook”, a 12-inch super-portable laptop with a long battery, a new shallower keyboard, the high-definition retina screen, and, controversially, only one port – the USB-C connection used for connecting to peripherals, displays and charging.

A year later, the MacBook Pro got a lightweight overhaul that borrowed many of these features and introduced the touchscreen “Touch Bar” above the keyboard on some models. The MacBook Air remained on sale but lacked a retina screen and looked a little outdated by comparison.

Then last month, Apple updated its entire laptop range. All models, even the MacBook Air, received a speed boost and the MacBook Pro got a new cheaper model. The MacBook itself also received a few tweaks, including an improved keyboard design. Following a mini update last year, this is technically the third iteration of the laptop since its release in 2015.

At the same time, Apple is pushing its iPad Pro as a laptop replacement, with the release of a new 10.5-inch model and an iOS software update featuring a host of PC-like functions.

So who is the MacBook for?

The 2016 price hike following the Brexit vote saw the MacBook lifted to £1,249, at the dear end for a laptop, twice the price of equivalently specced Windows laptops, and significantly more than a new MacBook Air.

While the 2017 model is no more expensive, Apple recently dropped the price of the entry-level MacBook Pro, so for the same £1,249 price you can get a more powerful machine, a bigger screen and an extra USB-C port. Both claim a 10-hour battery life, although when it comes to video playback, the MacBook can stretch that out an extra couple of hours longer than the Pro.

Where the 12-inch MacBook excels is in portability and, to a lesser extent, design. At 0.93kg, it is two-thirds the weight of Apple’s other laptops (and less than half that of my ageing 2010 MacBook Pro). It is envelope-thin, small enough to fit in any backpack and many handbags. If you spend a lot of time carrying your laptop around like I do it’s a godsend not to feel like you’re lugging a sack of bricks from place to place, and it’s dinky enough to sit on your lap or the cosiest coffee shop table.

MacBook Pro
Apple’s MacBook Pro contains extra power

None of that has changed from last year, of course, but other updates made this year mean you’re not sacrificing portability for performance.

The most significant upgrade is to the keyboard

One of the MacBook’s little niggles since it first launched is that it is so thin that the keys have very little depth, making typing feel more like hammering away at a set of small tiles than at computer keys. The new keyboard mechanism, first introduced on last year’s MacBook Pro, makes keys feel a lot more responsive even if they’re not actually moving very much.

It’s a reassuring change, especially if you do a lot of typing. The flatness of the keys take a little adjusting to, but you’ll find your fingers gliding across them after a while. Apple has decided to not port over the MacBook Pro’s Touch Bar, and I can’t say it’s a feature I’m desperately asking for on this.

The other change of note is to the MacBook’s innards. It has been updated with Intel’s new seventh-generation Kaby Lake chips as well as 50pc faster memory, which gives it a hefty speed boost. Geekbench scores peg it as being around a third faster than last year’s model

This is plenty unless you’re going to be doing any photo or video editing, or if you share my unfortunate habit of keeping dozens of tabs open in Chrome. For an extra £90 you can pick up a model with an Intel i5 processor, which I would say is worth the cash to future-proof your MacBook.

Most people’s biggest complaint about the MacBook hasn’t been fixed

There’s just one USB-C port on the left-hand side, which is used for powering the laptop as well as connecting any peripherals. This is a result of its slim design (the headphone jack is on the other side), and to be honest, I haven’t found myself in a position where I’ve needed two ports.

The MacBook’s battery is long enough to last a day, so you can simply plug it in to charge overnight as you would a phone, and I’m rarely plugging peripherals into my laptop.

But batteries degrade over time, and I can see myself in situations where it becomes annoying: if you want to charge your laptop and connect to a screen you’ll need a dongle, if you want to charge your iPhone (the standard cable still uses USB-A) you’ll need a dongle; if you want to take photos off an SD card you’ll need a dongle.

View image on Twitter

View image on Twitter

Verdict

If you carry your computer around a lot, the MacBook is the ideal laptop – as with previous models, it’s ridiculously thin and light. The keyboard and power boosts also mean it’s more capable of becoming your full-time computer. But I’m struggling to justify it at that price.

For the same amount, you get a perfectly portable MacBook Pro with more power, an inch more of screen and, crucially, two ports (albeit at 128GB, half the storage). If your laptop is going to spend most of the time on its desk, there’s little reason not to go for the Pro.

There’s also a lot of cheaper premium competition out there, from Microsoft’s very nice new Surface Laptop to Apple’s own recently-upgraded MacBook Air, which will match it for power and battery life, albeit without the retina display or the MacBook’s looks. There’s no doubt that the MacBook’s sleek design and extreme portability makes it a superior machine – if you’re willing to stretch to it.

 

The Razer Core can boost any Thunderbolt 3-equipped laptop with an external GPU

Razer Core

There’s long been an argument about gaming laptops and obsolescence. You plunk down $2,000 on a high-end laptop and in seemingly no time it’s borderline useless. No way to upgrade. No real tweaks you can try. It’s a $2,000 paperweight.

Perhaps spurred by these complaints, Alienware eventually said “Okay, what if you could hook up a desktop graphics card to your laptop? And then upgrade it whenever you want?” And thus the Alienware Graphics Amplifier was born. MSI (sort of) followed suit.Asus too.

But there’s been one nagging issue in this hot-button field: proprietary claim-staking. Each of the above solutions works within its own ecosystem. Alienware uses a custom PCI Express connection that limits it to Alienware laptops. MSI’s was designed to work withone laptop. Asus’s is—you guessed it—proprietary to Asus. That’s left some people to rig up an external GPU through the ExpressCard port, a versatile but clunky solution.

Back in June Intel said Thunderbolt 3 might be a good candidate for external GPU docks, given its 40 Gbps throughput. It’s not PCIe levels of data transfer, but it’s better than nothing. Also, it’s not proprietary to any one computer manufacturer.

Leading the charge? Razer.

Razer Core

Razer’s new GPU dock is dubbed the Razer Core. Designed to work with Razer’s new GPU-less laptop, the Razer Blade Stealth, it will in fact work with any laptop that packs a Thunderbolt 3 port. Which at the moment means not many laptops, although that number is steadily increasing.

Razer Core

The Core is an aluminum-housed dock that slides open to accommodate “virtually every popular desktop graphics card from both AMD and Nvidia,” according to Razer’s release (double-wide, full-length PCI-Express x16 cards, drawing up to 375W of power). Cards are held in place by a screw, and then the whole enclosure slides back together. Both power and data are supplied by the single Thunderbolt 3 connection. Plug it in and you’re ready to play—no reboot required.

The Core itself measures approximately 8.5-by-4.1-by-13.5 inches (218-by-105-by- 340mm), with two-zone Chroma lighting, four USB 3.0 ports, and Gigabit Ethernet.

The question now is performance. In theory, the Razer Core sounds amazing for those who need to own a laptop but want to do some hefty gaming at home: self-contained, no need for external power, relatively small, will connect to any Thunderbolt 3 computer so you don’t need to buy from the same manufacturer for the rest of your life, and more attractive than a naked graphics card sitting on your desk.

But the question remains, what kind of boost will you see when hooked in through Thunderbolt instead of PCIe? As I said, 40 Gbps is fantastic when compared to past ports (USB 3.1’s transfer speed is 10 Gbps for instance), but it’s nowhere near what you’d get plugging the same card directly into a PCIe slot on your motherboard. We’ll need to get our hands on the Razer Core and run a bunch of tests before we can recommend it.

Razer Core with Razer Blade Stealth

Still, it’s an important development—potentially the redemption that gaming laptops sorely need. While I use a gaming laptop because my job requires one, it’s always been tough to recommend something so expensive that so quickly loses value. With the Razer Core maybe you can get a few more years out of your aging hardware—or buy a cheaper laptop and supplement it with an old card you have lying around. The latter is clearly what Razer expects.

Toshiba, Vaio, Fujitsu said to be considering laptop PC merger

Toshiba HQ

Toshiba, Fujitsu and Vaio are considering a merger of their laptop PC businesses, according to a Japanese media report.

The three companies will begin specific discussions on the merger later this month with the aim of launching the company on April 1, when the new Japanese financial year begins, according to a report in Friday’s Nikkei financial newspaper.

Vaio was spun off from Sony in mid-2014 and will likely be the surviving entity, with Toshiba and Fujitsu merging their laptop businesses into the unit. Ownership will be roughly equal, The Nikkei said.

It wasn’t possible to immediately contact the three companies for comment.

Global demand for PCs is decreasing. In the third quarter, shipments dropped 11 percent year over year to 71 million units, according to IDC. Laptop computers made up the majority of those shipments at 42 million units, but they were also down on the previous year.

“I think it’s one way to survive for those companies,” said Mikako Kitagawa, an analyst with Gartner Group. She said with their smaller laptop market shares, a merger might make sense. The three also have a complementary global footprint.

Fujitsu has a good share in the European market because it used to work with Germany’s Siemens and Toshiba is stronger in North America, she said.

“We’re entering a phase in the PC industry where we are expecting some consolidation to happen,” said Linn Huang, an analyst with IDC in California.

He said price competition is hurting PC makers and the prevalence of smartphones and tablet PCs in homes is reducing the need to continually refresh machines as they get older.

The market is led by Lenovo, Dell, HP and Apple, all of which do well in enterprise laptop sales. Other brands are more focused on the consumer market, which is experiencing softer demand than the enterprise sector, Huang said. Weakness in the domestic Japan market is also hitting the three companies in question, he said.

NEC, which was a market leader in the Japanese laptop market, merged its portable PC business with Lenovo in 2011.

Apple’s MacBook Air claims laptop reliability crown

macbookair slotbench

Apple’s MacBook Air is the most reliable laptop on the market, according to a survey of nearly 60,000 American consumers conducted recently by Consumer Reports.

The ultra-light notebook has an estimated failure rate of 7% within the first three years of ownership, according to the publication’s poll of people who purchased a laptop in the last five years.

Apple’s other primary line of laptops, the pricier MacBook Pro, came in with a failure rate of 9%. Combined, Apple’s mobile PCs turned in a failure rate of 10%, the lowest of any OEM (original equipment manufacturer).

MacBooks fail at lower rates than those powered by Windows even though they’re used three hours more each week than the overall average.

Consumer Reports found that Windows-powered laptops, which on average are much less expensive than those sold by Apple, failed at significantly higher rates. Those made and sold by Gateway and Samsung, for example, failed at an estimated rate of 16% in the first three years. Notebooks from Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo and Toshiba, meanwhile, were in the 18% to 19% range.

Each Windows OEM had specific models that failed at rates less than the average, just like Apple: Lenovo ThinkPads, for instance, failed at an estimated rate of 15% during the first three years, three percentage points under the Chinese OEM’s average, while Dell’s XPS portfolio, also with a 15% failure rate, was four points better than average.

Consumer Reports noted that Apple’s notebooks were more expensive to repair than Windows PCs when they did go south, with a third costing $300 or more, more than three times the repair cost of an average Windows notebook.

That’s why the website recommended Apple notebook buyers also purchase AppleCare, the Cupertino, Calif., company’s extended warranty. The program lengthens the warranty from one year to three, and free technical support from 90 days to three years.

More than a third of those polled who bought an Apple laptop added AppleCare, more than twice the fraction of Windows notebook buyers who purchased an extended warranty from the retailer or maker. But AppleCare isn’t cheap: It costs $183 for a MacBook Air, or 18% of the purchase price of the $999 13-in. model.

AppleCare runs $183 for the 13-in. MacBook Pro and 12-in. MacBook, or $239 for the 15-in. MacBook Pro.

Why you should turn off your PC, laptop, modem, router, and other tech routinely

laptop pc on desk at night

I have yet to see evidence that leaving an electronic device on 24/7 wears it out faster than turning it off at night. On the other hand, I haven’t seen any evidence that turning it off at night hurts it, either.

Nevertheless, I vote for turning things off whenever practical.

Leaving something on when you’re not using it wastes electricity, and electricity costs money. What’s more, if your electricity comes from burning carbon, it damages the planet we depend on. I’m not saying you should move to a cave and give up all of your gadgets (I certainly couldn’t do that), but why waste power that you don’t need?

Because Rick specifically asked about networking gear, let’s look at that. I have a router, a modem, and two network printers plugged into one surge protector. When I researchedan article on vampire power earlier this year, I discovered that it would burn 12KWh over a month of absolutely no use. Without the printers, it dropped to 4.8KWh—still a lot to waste.

My wife and I now turn off that surge protector before going to bed, and turn it on in the morning, saving some power. But we couldn’t do that if our daughters were still living with us. College kids work and play late.

Computers, of course, can be put into convenient power-saving modes. But shutting them down entirely will save even more. Yes, you’ll have to wait while they boot up in the morning, but just as a good night’s sleep clears the cobwebs from your brain, a fresh boot can make Windows faster and more stable.

The peripherals around your computer (monitors, speakers, and so on) can best be controlled with a smart surge protector such as the Belkin Conserve Smart AV. Plug your PC into the surge protector’s Control outlet, and when your computer shuts down (or goes to sleep), the device cuts power to other outlets.

Xiaomi’s 12.5-Inch Laptop to Start Shipping in April: Report

Xiaomi has been now for months rumoured to be working on its first laptop that will look like Apple’s MacBook Air. Now, a new report citing supply chain makers claims that Inventec will start ODM (original design manufacturing) for Xiaomi’s 12.5-inch laptop. The report adds that shipments of the Xiaomi’s 12.5-inch laptop are expected to begin in April.

Digitimes claims Xiaomi initially planned to launch a 12.5-inch model and another 13.3-inch model with two separate ODM manufacturers – Inventec and Compal Electronics – in-line with an earlier report. The company however now plans to launch just the 12.5-inch model initially, according to the report.

Xiaomi’s 12.5-inch laptop, which is said to look like the MacBook Air, is likely to be priced at CNY 2,999 (approximately Rs. 31,000), according to the sources. The components in Xiaomi laptops will be mostly made by manufacturers based in China.

This is not the first time that Xiaomi has been rumoured to be working on not just one but two laptop models. Back in October, a report claimed that Xiaomi’s both laptop models – 12.5-inch and 13.3-inch – will enter mass production in the first quarter of 2016. The report had also added that Xiaomi had placed orders for about 250,000 units for the 12.5-inch model, and 500,000 units for the 13.3-inch model. Inventec was said to be tasked to produce the 12.5-inch model units, while Compal Electronics will manufacture the 13.3-inch model.

Back in September, Inventec Chairman Richard Lee had suggested that the first laptop from Xiaomi’s stables could be expected to start shipping in the first or second half of 2016. Lee had further tipped that Xiaomi’s entry into laptop segment could shake up the laptop market the same way it did with smartphones. For those unaware, Inventec has assembly lines for Xiaomi smartphones.

Gadgets 360 had reached out to Xiaomi for a response on the earlier report, but the company refused to comment. In an emailed response, Xiaomi said “We would not like to comment on the speculation.”