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HTC released their new range of mobiles recently called the "One" which includes the flagship mobile "X", the mid-range "S" and the lower end "V", however, does the "S" really belong to the "mid-range" class......lets find out! :p

I will only cover the areas, which are most important in this review (IMO) and try to keep it as brief as possible as being android and sense, this would be a very long review if I covered every area!




Some of the main specs.

  • Dimensions - 130.9 x 65 x 7.8mm
  • Weight - 119.5g
  • Display - Super AMOLED capacitive 4.3" 540 x 960 pixels (256 ppi pixel density) touchscreen, 16M colours and is corning gorilla glass
  • RAM - 1GB
  • Chipset - Qualcomm MSM8260A Snapdragon
  • CPU - Dual-core 1.5GHz Krait
  • GPU - Adreno 225
  • Storage - 16GB internal combined with 25GB extra of dropbox storage for the next 2 years, no SD card slot
  • Camera - 8MP, autofocus, LED flash, simultaneous HD video and image recording, geo-tagging, face & smile detection. VGA camera on the front of the device
  • Video - 1080P@30FPS, stereo sound rec. and video stabilization
  • OS - Android V4.0.3 (Ice cream sandwich) combined with Sense V4.0
  • Radio - Stereo FM radio with RDS
  • Battery - Standard battery, Li-Po 1650mAh


For a full list of features, check here.


Packaging & Accessories:


I was surprised at just how small the box was when I received it! The width and height was barely any bigger than the mobile itself, saying that though the box is sturdy enough and has a minimal design.

Inside the box we have the standard accessories;


  • Charger
  • Micro USB cable
  • Standard HTC ear phones


You may be wondering where the battery is? For the HTC One series mobiles, the battery is non-removable, therefore you can't use spares or/and use an extended battery etc. however, is the battery life sufficient enough that we won't really need to worry too much about this.......find out later ;)




Build Quality:


Now this is where the One S is truly the "one" for design, build quality and "perceived quality". The "S" has a uni body chassis made of Aluminium, which is then treated to Micro Arc Oxidation, this is essentially treating the aluminium case to a plasma bath and 10000 volts is then passed through, which means that it is carbonized, which in return gives a very nice matte finish and a ceramic feel to the case, this apparently increases the durability a lot as well (I am not willing to test the durability out though :p). The MAO process is only for the black model though, the gray model is anodized Aluminium, you have medium and dark shades of grey.


I have used a number of top end devices ranging from the Desire, Galaxy S2, iphone 4/4s, One X etc. and IMO the One S is easily the most "premium feeling" mobile to date and best looking device there is (of course some may disagree and say different). It is super thin at 7.8mm and super light at 119.5g.


If you have a read around on a few forums, there are many people who loved the "X" for the screen etc. and were going to buy it but once they tried the "S" out in the shop just before they were going to buy the "X", they ended up walking out with the "S" instead due to build and perceived quality, this just shows how good it really is.


Unfortunately there is a fault with the black models (due to the MAO process), there is a chipping issue, which seems to be affecting the majority of black "S" owners even under extreme care and use, tiny black chips are coming out of nowhere and leaving a silver layer visible especially around the USB port. I have had this mobile for three days now and have not got any chip issues except around the micro USB port *touch wood* :p


This will not be too much of an issue for people who keep their mobiles in cases etc. (I will be getting a case anyway)


If you have sweaty/greasy hands, sweat patches and fingerprints will easily show up on the back of the mobile.

I would suggest that everyone waits for a few weeks first though until it is confirmed that the problem has been fixed with new batches instead of returning the mobile every few days.




On the front of the mobile at the bottom, you have touch sensitive controls, which are the standard ICS buttons, back/return, home and multi-tasking window. At the top you have your standard HTC logo along with the ear piece grill, front VGA camera and a notification LED, however, the LED isn't separate, it is underneath the ear-piece grill, which is pretty tacky from HTC, the Desire notification LED was much better.


You have your standard orange/amber colour which means that the mobile is charging and if it is blinking orange/amber, your battery is low and a green LED means the battery is fully charged and if it is blinking green you have a missed call, text etc. The blinking will last only for a few minutes if you have a missed call, text etc. I am not sure if this is a bug or the way that it is suppose to be, to try and save power......however, it should keep blinking until you have unlocked the screen IMO.


It is easy enough to see when indoors and not at an extreme angle, however, outside on a bright sunny day or/and looking at the mobile from the slightest angle, you will really struggle to see the LED.


  • On the right side, you have your volume rocker, which is nice and long, however, not very good feedback is given when you press it and it feels a bit wobbly
  • On the left side, you have the micro USB port, which is for charging the mobile, connecting to the PC or if you have an MHL cable, connecting to a TV
  • At the top, you have a 3.5mm audio jack and the power/lock screen button. The lock/power button is a bit awkward to press, especially if you're only using one hand and you really have to push it in a certain way, but this is a good thing as it means there won't be any issues of it constantly turning the screen on or the device off when it is in your pocket
  • On the back, you have "HTC" engraved in the unibody part along with the "beats audio" logo and with two small pieces of plastic at the bottom and top (which feels great as well, but obviously not as sturdy as the rest of mobile). The top piece of plastic houses the 8MP camera (with a nice red metallic outer ring for the black model and a blue outer ring for the grey model), LED flash and microSIM card slot. The bottom piece of plastic houses the speaker.
  • And of course on the bottom you have the mouthpiece


As you may have noticed there is also no SD card slot and for a lot of people this is an extremely important factor if the internal storage isn't enough and this is the main reason why a lot of people haven't got the "S" and have gone for the "X" instead as it has 32GB internal storage or are now waiting for the Samsung Galaxy S3, hoping that it will include the SD slot.


To try and make up for the lack of a SD slot, HTC have partnered up with Dropbox to give any owner of a "One" series mobile an additional 25GB onto their current storage for free for the next two years, which combined with the 10GB of internal storage on the "S" for photos, videos, files and 2GB for apps etc. is more than enough for me (I have 30.9GB of dropbox storage now).


The "S" has a 4.3" SAMOLED qHD (540 x 960) display, but it doesn't have a RGB pixel arrangement like the Galaxy S2, instead it has the pentile pixel arrangement. It isn't as bad as what some people make it out to be though. Also it has been modified apparently, so lower power consumption, better colours etc. The screen is still super sharp, vibrant colours, great viewing angles and best of all, blacks are black!


Obviously compared to the likes of the iphone 4/4s, Galaxy Nexus, a couple of Sony's mobile screens and especially the One X screen, the "S" won't look as good but that doesn't mean that the screen is poor. Yes it would have been nice if a 720P res or/and RGB pixel arrangement was used instead or the IPS display from the X but the current screen is perfectly fine IMO, viewing videos and pictures on the "S" screen is great. Viewing the screen in direct bright sunlight is not a problem at all with the brightness set to 100%, I could easily read text and view pictures on neowin, I tried to get a good accurate picture showing this, but failed :p


Of course some people will prefer the AMOLED based screens over the IPS due to having the more vibrant colours, pitch-blacks, I personally love AMOLED screens and IMO they are better for viewing videos on the mobile than LCD IPS screens.


Obviously if you are downgrading from one of the mobiles that have a better 720P screen etc. then you wil notice the pixels but I suggest before you make your mind up on the screen without actually seeing it first to have a good look at it in a store. I personally don't notice the pixel issues with pentile unless I put my nose right upto the screen :p It is a bit more noticeable when you have white text on black backgrounds though, but again you still have to go looking for it. The screen is A LOT sharper and more vibrant than the desire AMOLED screen.




Unfortauntely the "S" doesn't have NFC either, granted in the UK (and probably most of the world) it isn't very popular yet and purchasing items using it still isn't a big thing (yet), there are more uses than just purchasing items using NFC though, such as tags, which means that you simply place your mobile on/near the tag and it will perform a certain action. Considering quite a few mobiles are coming out with this, it would have been nice to have anyway.




No point having a very nicely designed mobile with great hardware if the software is terrible to use.


ICS combined with the latest sense is unbelievably good! I was never a fan of sense on the desire, desire HD and sensation, sure it has great widgets and the homescreens looked pretty but the entire software just felt so bloated and there were far too many menus/sub-menus, which tried to make things easier to use and find but in the end it just made it more complicated and spending ages to get to one particular area.


Thankfully HTC made a comment about the recent versions and said they realised that they were bloating sense too much and adding un-neccesary things and that they would go back to what sense is suppose to be like, clean, minimal, light-weight and feature fulled and they most certainly have done so with sense V4.0. It is still not as clean and minimal as stock ICS.


Sense 4 with ICS is still feature rich for widgets and customizable skins, different lock screens etc. etc. They have got rid of the dock bar, which had your app drawer on the left, phone in the middle and personalisation menu on the right for adding widgets etc. instead we now have a standard dockbar just like every other android mobile, where you have the app drawer button in the middle and two shortctus to apps that you want to the right and left side of the app drawer (whatever you choose for your dock bar will also be on the lockscreen [if you choose to] for easy and quick access). We also have the same style of widgets to choose from including the famous clock/weather one and the notification bar is also transparent when on the homescreen but will go black when you are in an app or anywhere else apart from the homescreens.


The app drawer is very nice, you have your three tabs on the bottom, "all", "frequent" and "downloaded" and on the top you have "search", "playstore" and the "menu" button, which has the usual settings like arranging apps by name etc.


The lockscreen is the best I have seen on android yet as well (out of the box). You have 3 unlock types;

  • Face Recognition, which works very well and is extremely quick and if you haven't got enough light around you, it will use either the PIN or pattern lock instead
  • PIN, simply a keypad
  • Pattern, simply the same as every android pattern lock


We also have the sense modded versions of the stock android apps like the calendar, gallery, browser etc. The sense browser is the best browser I have used yet even better than the 3rd party ones that can be found on the play store, it is super quick and smooth even when browsing image/flash/GIF intensive pages with great rendering, and of course a very polished UI and some useful tweaks/features e.g. the full screen optimization so you get the most out of the 4.3" qHD SAMOLED screen without annoying bars at the top and bottom, which will only show when you scroll near the bottom or the top of the screen (I have noticed that sometimes the bars don't show at all and the only way to get them is to scroll to the very top of the web page).


The new keyboard with a ton of features is great to use, it now uses a dark theme and HTC have also integrated a swype feature, which works very well, it isn't as good as the proper swype keyboard though and so may not convert the hardcore fans! :p You also have cursor keys at the bottom, which means it is easier to move to specific parts in sentences. Does the keyboard top swiftkey X (once tailored to your texting style) though.......unfortunately no, swiftkey still has the best prediction there is with plenty of options as well and the new verison, which the team are working on should be much better.








This is another area where the One S is the best without a doubt, it really is the fastest/smoothest android handset to date. Many people will be going for the "X" purely because it is "quad core" and thinking more cores must mean it is better :p, but that is not the case. I had the "X", "S", Galaxy S2 and the Galaxy Nexus side by side trying various tasks out and the "S" was easily the fastest & smoothest handset out of them. Everything on the "S" was done lightning quick and super smoothly as well, you name it launching & playing games, loading an image intensive site etc., installing/downloading a numer of apps at the same time whilst browsing, nothing slowed this phone down, the only area were I have seen some lag is on the animations for the tabs part in the sense browser. Granted the difference in speed and smoothness between the handsets listed above isn't a huge amount, it is still noticeable.


A number of people who own both the "X" and "S" have also said the same.


The WIFI signal strength is very good! I am getting at least two bars no matter where I am in the house and even when I am outside the house, I still get two bars and this is with the Virgin SuperHub. My Virgin connection is 60MB and 3MB upload, however, due to the SuperHub?s atrocious wireless performance, we only get 29MB download speed so once we get a new router and are getting our proper speeds through wireless, I will test the mobile out using the app ?speedtest? to see what we get.


Here are a few screenshots for the people that love benchmark scores! The screenshot of the linpack score on the left is for "single thread" and the right "multi-thread".




The Dual-core 1.5GHz Krait CPU combined with an adreno 225 GPU make this is a true beast of a mobile.


We also have 1GB of RAM, which essentially means better/more multi-tasking and of course this also helps with performance. Here are a few screenshots of RAM usage according to go launcher, built in sense task manager and the stock android/ICS manager:




Battery Life:


The One S is truly exceptional for battery life, I haven't seen an android mobile that can achieve the same or better results out of the box as the "S" with similar or better usage as below (except the Motorola RZR :p), the Galaxy S2 and Galaxy Nexus come close. Thanks to ICS when the mobile is idle, there is now very little battery drain. I will just post screenshots of my first and second charge and usage:


First charge and usage was; A few texts, 10-20 min of video, fair amount of browsing, installing lots of apps, tweaking and changing everything about, GPS, camera etc. and brightness was at 70-85% brightness for about 1-2 hours and dropped to 50% for the rest of the time, however, I didn't have my SIM in for the first hour of use (testing the mobile first to make sure it worked ok), wifi was on constantly as well.


Second charge and usage was; the same as above but a fair bit more browsing was done and a few games (angry birds and ROM emulators) and brightness was at 50% the entire time, plus this time the SIM was in for the entire time.




I have disabled quite a lot of the apps that came on the mobile such as google+, facebook, twitter and a lot of other apps, which I don't use.

The battery life could be improved a bit more as well, as with sense, a lot of white is used throughout the UI i.e. messaging, gmail, youtube, system menus, colourful wallpapers, of course you can change a couple of those things with 3rd party apps.


Even though the battery life is very good, it would have been nice to have had the option to use an extended battery instead or/and to be able to use spares.


Media & Audio:


HTC have done great things regarding sense and the gallery & media capabilites. The gallery is is your standard modded app, photo albums are "stacked" and when you go into an album, the photos are in a "grid" layout then. Any image that is on your mobile is shown in the gallery, you can choose to show/hide certain albums though, but you can't do the same for individual pictures/videos. You also have all your other standard options, like delete, copy, cut, paste etc. We also have great editing features built into the gallery for photos and videos. The video player is very good as well, it has a great UI and features, there is no dedicated video app.




The music app is also very nice, it is more of a "hub" as you have the option to choose playing the songs on your phone or to use soundhound to identify certain music that you want to find out more on, such as lyrics, name, artist etc. and other music options (I have disabled them though)


We also have the FM radio, which has a nice minimal UI. This supports RDS as well.



The audio output of this device is outstanding, I don't have any equipment to properly test it though so you will just have to take my word for it :p As we all know, the latest big mutiplayer game BF 3 has got the best/most realistic sounds of warfare in a game yet and it sounds very impressive if you have a surround sound setup. I watched a few game play videos and trailers for it on youtube and WOW! The sound was so clear and great depth to it and not to mention it was very loud!




This is one area where HTC has always been pretty poor at when compared to other brands of mobiles particulary Sony Ericcson and Samsung, especially for video recording, so have HTC finally sorted this out with the latest one series mobiles especially as they said in a statement that the camera is the main thing that customers look at in the shops and so they wanted to make it as good as possible? Also given that the ad for the flagship handset is based solely on camera/video recording capabilities.


A simple answer.............YES! They really have worked wonders with the camera side of things this time round, not just for quality but features as well. Combined with the 8MP camera, we also have an f/2.0 aperture and a dedicated image processing chip, which really helps!


Photos are taken extremely quick, literally snapped instantly so you will never miss that special moment and you have a rapid "gun fire" burst mode, which captures a lot of images in seconds and afterwards, you can choose the best one from the lot and have the rest deleted straight away.


Whilst recording you can also take photos at the same time without any lag and essentially zero shutter time again.


Some photos below, unfortunately I don't really do the camera much justice in some shots :( so don't base a strong opinion on these shots alone, have a look around at other samples on the web: (depth of field effect was used) (depth of field effect was used) (no effects) (no effects) (no effects) (no effects) (this was taken in a pretty dark room with flash as you can see) (no effects) (HDR) (Macro shot)


Unfortunately HTC still haven't mastered the art of smooth video recording with smooth light metering focus. This is a problem on the software side as the hardware is more than capable enough of having smooth playback etc. so lets hope that HTC will fix this in an update. A few quick recordings can be found on my channel here, as well as a slow motion video of my cat! :D Unfortunately when using the slow motion feature, the video can only be captured at 768 x 432.


Now, this is where the camera is most impressive, the UI and features, you have a wide range of effects to choose from, all of which are very handy e.g. depth of field, HDR, slow motion video among others, which are a bit more "gimmicky" but still cool none the less.






It is a pleasure to use the One S for everything, be it games, social, media, browsing, camera etc. The premium feel to the mobile combined with a great sharp responsive touch screen (granted nowhere near the overall quality of the X IPS 720P screen when side by side) right down to the hardware and software make this mobile truly outstanding and the battery life is a huge bonus. I imagine that once rooted and a good custom ROM is out, the mobile will be even better!


I honestly can say that there is nothing that I hate about the mobile, the only thing, which I would have liked is for HTC to have included an option to use a black theme throughout the UI instead of mostly white and to have done a better job with the notification LED. Being a HTC phone, there are a lot of apps that still aren't neccessary for me (but may be useful for others), thankfully with ICS, you can disable apps that you don't need/use, therefore they will not use any resources :)


Usually I replace every stock app with 3rd party apps from the market such as go SMS pro, dolphin browser/boat/xscope, kaloer clock etc. however, this time I won't be as stated before, the new sense is great and IMO there is no need to replace the majority of stock apps. The only thing, which I have replaced is the launcher with go launcher and my own layout with custom icons (credits go to mrk for the layout idea, icons, minimalistic text widgets etc.




I will not be rooting (even though ads completely over run web pages and apps :angry:) or flashing a custom ROM on this mobile at all (unless HTC abandon the "S" and don't provide updates) as the software, performance and battery life is just great out of the box.


The question that you all are wanting to be answered though is, which mobile, the "X" or the "S"?


It is a very tough decision, they are both great mobiles and both have their strengths and weaknesses, the areas where the "X" is better than the "S" from my use and lots of research; is the screen, storage and NFC whereas the "S" has the better battery life, better performance, better build quality/perceived quality and it is more comfortable to use especially with one hand. From reading reviews etc. even though the camera on both mobiles is the same, the "X" appears to take slightly better photos whereas the "S" appears to record better 1080P content regarding smoothness, I have no idea why this is though.


Also, just like the "S", the "X" also has a fault as well, screen flicker.


Apparently the battery life should improve for the "X" in the next update, no idea as to how much, but I imagine that it won't be a huge difference and certainly not near the "S" battery life due to the screen.

I strongly suggest before making your mind up based solely on reviews, to go to a shop and try both out for yourself.


Unfortunately there is no such thing as the perfect mobile device yet, despite all the pros that the "S" has, it has many cons as well as has been stated throughout the review.




  • Super thin and light whilst still having the best "perceived quality" yet and great build quality
  • Gorgeous vibrant & sharp SAMOLED qHD display
  • Android V4.0.3 combined with sense V4.0
  • Great hardware (best processor)
  • Great camera for quality and features overall
  • Amazing battery life
  • Very fast & smooth for everything
  • 25GB of dropbox storage
  • Great Audio Quality




  • No NFC
  • No SD card slot and limited internal storage
  • Non-removable battery
  • Uses a pentile matrix instead of RGB
  • Notification LED isn't great


Thanks for reading and I hope this review has been helpful and as always any questions, ask away :)


Keep an eye on this thread for updates and for a mini review of a case (most likely a case mate barely there or tough case) and a quick video showing the mobile connected to the TV via MHL within the next few weeks.

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Muhammad Farrukh

Awesome read (Y)

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Amazing review, really well written. Also out of all the cons there the only major downside is the pentile display. The other four I can easily do without (16GB is plenty for the majority of users, NFC isn't really that big, battery is fine since I'm used to it (iPhone), and again the LED is something the iPhone doesn't have).


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great review! i was already decided to ditch the one s/x line and waiting for the galaxy s III, but after read the review and seen the lovely pics, i have to give it a 2nd thought...

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Thanks guys! :D Glad you liked the review! :)

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John Freeman

Im probably picking mine up sometime next month, but damn, i dont like the chipping issue. Here's me hoping they actually manage to fix in future batches.

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Went to edit a small part of my review there, but I can't find the edit button :o Can we not edit our posts after a certain time or is it due to this being featured on the front page? Just I have a few more things to add :)

Im probably picking mine up sometime next month, but damn, i dont like the chipping issue. Here's me hoping they actually manage to fix in future batches.

Hopefully the issue will be sorted by then :)

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Roger H.

From day one seeing both this and the X i thought i wanted the S because it's smaller. Now reading this review makes me even more sure i'm not missing out on anything compared to the X.

As for:


  • No NFC
  • No SD card slot and limited internal storage
  • Non-removable battery
  • Uses a pentile matrix instead of RGB
  • Notification LED isn't great

- NO NFC = not a big deal to me. It's nice to have but i wouldn't be using it much if at all since I don't know anyone with it and wouldn't be using NFC at the stores with it anyways.

- SD Card thing - not a big deal to me again as I have a SGS2 now with 11.49GB of Storage (16GB total spit with Apps) and I don't even use all of that now. I also have a 16GB MicroSD card that sits there empty.

- No-removable battery not a issue again as i don't swap batteries now on my SGS2

-This pentile thing is blah - I had a Nexus One and apparently that was Pentile too? :ermm: Didn't notice "pixels" then either.

- LED notification - now that's a real con for me and actually miss it on the SGS2 also :(

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-This pentile thing is blah - I had a Nexus One and apparently that was Pentile too? :ermm: Didn't notice "pixels" then either.

- LED notification - now that's a real con for me and actually miss it on the SGS2 also :(

Yup the nexus one was pentile as well. The screen on the "S" is much better than the nexus one and better than the GS 2 as well :)

Don't get me wrong the notification LED isn't is better than nothing at least :p But it is far from ideal and HTC should have just kept it the way it was with previous handsets.

Sorry I forgot to mention this (review has been updated with this info as well), the notification LED only blinks for a few minutes if you have a missed call, text etc. I am not sure if this is a bug or the way that it is suppose to be to try and save power......however, it should keep blinking until you have unlocked the screen IMO.

Hopefully HTC will sort this out in an update :)

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I think it's time to upgrade from my HTC Sensation :-)

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How much is this device priced at ??

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How much is this device priced at ??

In the UK, to buy it outright (brand new), it costs ?370-420, the cheapest being from 3 directly :)

And contract prices vary from ?21-30 for a 24 month contract and no up front cost.

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Just took a quick panorama shot:

Not bad and I am pretty sure that I moved up and down a bit for each "shot", so it wasn't exactly even throughout as I had to readjust.

See if you can spot where the "stitching" hasn't quite worked out :p

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ten years processor still kicking ass :laugh:

wake me up when they do something better, like at least 2Gflops

nice review, tho

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You can't compare desktop processors to mobile processors though :p

You will be sleeping for a very long time till that happens :p :D

Thanks :)

A couple of photos that I took earlier on there, which I thought were pretty good:

And a slow motion video of my cat playing with his blue ball:

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  • 2 weeks later...

MHL adapter arrived yesterday, ?7.28 including delivery (?4.58 just for the adapter), which isn't badly priced :)

Has gone up a tiny bit since I purchased it though:

Couple of photos below, as you can see, we have a HDMI port (I just used my Xbox 360 HDMI cable and it worked fine) and the micro USB port (just use the USB cable that comes with the S) for charging the device at the same time as when you're streaming to the TV at 1080P it can drain the battery pretty quickly especially when watching a 1080P HD film or playing a few games. You can either plug the USB into a socket near by or into one of the TV's USB ports (if available) to charge the mobile. The adapter is very tiny and obviously very light weighted, you could easily carry it around with you in your pocket.


When connected to the TV (Panasonic TX-P42G20B) the video mode of the TV switches to "1080P, 24Hz and 16.9 aspect ratio". I haven't looked at any of the settings on my TV to see if I can increase the refresh rate yet but everything seemed very smooth either way, 1080P films played flawlessly using BS player lite and looked perfect, the games also worked great but looked very jaggy as they are stretched to 1080P, this is down to the apps.

Here is the info. for the film trailers that were played:



And lastly a quick video demonstrating this. Sorry for the quality and jerkiness of this video, it was recorded using a desire on stock 2.2, the UI and actions etc. are smoother than what it looks in the video.

Yes I know my gaming skills are atrocious particularly for Goldeneye :( It isn't very easy using the on screen controls! :p

One thing, which should be noted is that the sound is very low! (hence why you can barely hear the audio of the films and games in the video) When watching standard TV, we have the volume bar at about 3/10, where as with the mobile connected and playing content, I had to turn the volume up to about 6/10 just to be able to hear it clearly. Not sure why this is and I don't know if a different, more expensive MHL adapter would be better for sound level......

To sum up; I can't complain about the adapter at all given the price, does what you expect of it and the only downside (which might not even be due to the adapter) is that the volume is very low and has to be turned up a fair bit to compensate for this.

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The official HTC one S screen protector arrived today, ?3.74 including delivery (?1.79 just for the protector, the delivery cost more than the item itself :o), which isn't badly priced and I got two screen protectors, I was only expecting one.

So for ?1.79, I wasn't expecting good things with this screen protector especially after reading some reviews, but I was pleasantly surprised in the end.


Unfortunately you can't really judge screen protectors in photos, these are the sort of things that have to be seen in person.

The best way to apply screen protectors is after you or someone else has had a nice long hot shower and kept the door closed as the steam works wonders with dust :D

On my first application, the protector applied effortlessly, there were quite a few air bubbles in the middle and I was worried about this but thankfully I was able to push them out by just using my nail, only two air bubbles remained, which are on the top left as you can see in the photos below, and two tiny pieces of dust on the "home" button and right side on the edge (the other bits of dust that are visible in some photos is just "on top" of the protector), however, these are only noticeable at certain angles and under certain lighting conditions. I could reapply the protector to try and get rid of them but I will probably end up making it even worse! :p

Despite some user reviews saying that the protector wasn't the right size, mine seemed like a perfect fit pretty much.

With some screen protectors, the touch screen sensitivity and colours are impacted, however, with this protector, that isn't the case IMO, I couldn't tell the difference at all personally, the one thing, which is noticeable is the feel, it is more of a plastic "feel" now instead of glass, obviously :p

If it weren't for the tiny cut out on the top for the light sensor and the two air bubbles, you wouldn't even know that there is a screen protector on.

Unfortunately the screen protector shows grubby marks/fingerprints more easily now. But this is easily solved by giving the screen a quick wipe every now and then.


Needless to say I am very happy with the outcome and will be cancelling the Martin Fields screen protector (?12 :o) now.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Bit of an update now!

Firstly for people that are still looking for a new phone and trying to get a bargain and by any chance are looking at the one S as an option, look no further!


24 month contract

200 minutes Anytime Any network

500 texts

unlimited data (no tethering)

Handset Price - Free

?16 per month

talkmobile network (pretty much vodafone)


You get ?35.25 cashback with topcashback to

There really is no beating this deal!

Also if you are considering the One S, you may want to hurry as it looks like HTC are going to be replacing the S4 chip with old gen tech, the snapdragon S3, however, possibly giving a 720P SAMOLED (pentile matrix as well) screen as well. In some ways this is good and bad if true, as obviously you get a lovely 720P screen, however, the S3 won't be in the same league as the S4 chip and the performance will be affected as well as battery life, even more so due to the higher res, not a good combination in the end.

A few more battery readings below now, it is still pretty much the same as my first two charges:

Usage: few texts, few phone calls, a lot of web browsing, installing/uninstalling apps, about 10-15 min of youtube videos, about 5 photos taken, about 10-15 min of games, about 15 minutes of TV catchup, a bit of GPS, mostly wifi connection and H/3G connection for a bit, snowstorm syncing every 2 hours and sense weather refreshing every 6 hours, general messing around in apps etc. some whatsapp use, gmail push and automatic brightness etc.


Usage: few texts, few phone calls, a lot of web browsing, installing/uninstalling apps, about 10-15 min of youtube videos, about 10-15 photos taken, about 10-15 min of games, about 15 minutes of TV catchup, a lot of speed tests (both wifi and 3G/H), mostly wifi connection and H/3G connection for a bit, snowstorm syncing every 2 hours and sense weather refreshing every 6 hours, general messing around in apps, gmail push and automatic brightness etc.


Have now installed qbright for manual control of the brightness, so I should hopefully get more on screen time if I adjust the screen when necessary for the appropriate lighting conditions :p

Also after the first software update for my device, WIFI related tasks seems to be much quicker now and loading web pages is even quicker as well! :o Feels like I am using my desktop PC for browsing now :p

Some speed tests and I never got near these dll speeds before the update, not even my PC gets over 29MB dll, 2.9MB ul and the wireless adapter that I have is pretty good (think it is related to the virgin superhub, but don't get why my mobile is getting better speeds and my PC isn't and my brothers PC gets exactly the same speeds as my PC.......)


Some photos that I took when I was away and I am pretty impressed with the quality considering the conditions for some shots!

Only a few photos, settings were left as auto/default.

Rome obviously :p However, these were taken when inside a bus and on a very dark cloudy day, poured that day :(

Obviously the below photo was not taken from inside a bus :p



Malaga, shot taken from inside a bus:

Apparently the MAO chipping issue has been properly addressed now:

slightly less sharp edge and a beveled USB port...

A quick thermal comparison test between the One S, Razr(A) and the SGS2(B):

Great news for the big gamers now! Sony and HTC are partnering to bring Playstation certification to HTC One Devices, this means that you will be able to play the Playstation classics on your One S/X/V when you're on the go! :D

Lastly, Nillkin are sending out this case for me to review, so hopefully I will have it sometime next week and the review will be posted up here :)

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Here are some comparisons (same photos posted before) of standard photos and the same photos but with the auto enhanced effect applied via the stock sense gallery:

Standard photo first followed by the auto-enhanced one:

Pretty good IMO and you have loads more effects to choose from, doesn't take like 5 minutes or anything to apply/process the effect, simply choose the effect you want and it is instantly applied and then save or cancel the new photo with the applied effect instantly.

The HTC one series/sense V4 really are/is featured packed when it comes to multimedia especially concerning the camera area, they have thought of everything! :p

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Noir Angel




ten years processor still kicking ass :laugh:

wake me up when they do something better, like at least 2Gflops

nice review, tho

Given that, for example an i7-2700k can do around 120 gigaflops when overclocked (peaks at around 100 at stock speed) those numbers aren't as impressive as you think. (Screenshot was taken of my 2700k which is running at 4.8 GHZ)

Besides, the amount of gigaflops that a CPU can pull are only a measure of their raw number crunching power, floating point operations are not on their own an overly good measure of how powerful a CPU is. It's also worth nothing that mobile CPU's are never going to even touch desktop CPU's in terms of power nor are they really designed to so it's not really a particularly good point on which to form a comparison. 200 megaflops is actually a significant amount of raw power for a mobile phone.


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Haha :D

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  • 2 weeks later...

Firstly, still no sign of the Nillkin Super Shield case :( Going to send Nillkin an email on Monday if there is still no sign, to see what is happening.

So, I decided to buy another case in the meantime till the Nillkin cases arrives, if at all :p

Ordered a transparent black TPU gel case for ?2.95 (including the delivery price) on Thursday and it arrived today and first impressions are, not bad considering the price.

The reason I am changing from the Tough case is due to the thickness it adds (more noticeable in the pockets), increase in weight and completely ruining/hiding the sleek & minimal design/look of the One S and the gel case seemed to be the best alternative to the Tough case in order to keep all sides protected but at the same time not increasing the size and weight by a considerable amount. Also, the silicone part of the Tough case gathered a lot of dust around the front edges of the screen area.

Now onto the mini review of the TPU gel case.


There are cut-outs for the bottom & top mic, the 3.5mm audio jack, the speaker, the camera and the USB port.


The case is very easy to fit on, a nice fit, not too tight and not loose at all once fitted. The case is relatively flexible, not as flexible as the silicone part of the Tough Case. It isn't as easy of a task to remove the case though, but still quicker and easier than removing the Tough case.

The colour suits the black MAO One S very well, was going to order the pitch black one but then thought that it would be too glossy and look a bit out of the place with my S, as the black model isn't completely black, it has more of a charcoal colour to it. With the transparent black case on, the back of the device looks pretty much the same regarding the colour in all different types of lighting conditions and you can still make out certain things i.e. the beats audio logo and the engraved HTC logo on the back (unfortunately the photos don't really reflect the true colour and doesn't capture the partially see through look :().

The case does look rather cheap overall, especially for the sides, you can see some form of stitching (you will see what I mean in some of the photos) and the glossy/shiny look doesn't help at all.


But the minimal/sleek design for the front of the S still remains in some ways. Very little bulk is added, maybe just over 1mm to the back of the S, which means that the camera lens is also below the surface now, this is the main reason I want a case as well, as the camera sticks out from the rest of the back by just less than a mm or so, thus more prone to getting scratches on the lens.



The gel case covers the edges on the front and adds a very tiny amount on to the front so that there is a a raised edge for when the mobile is placed flat down on a surface to stop the screen touching the desk surface.




The power/lock button is very easy to push, a very light push is all that is required, this isn't really a good thing IMO though, as it means that when the mobile is in your pockets (tight trousers etc.) it could very easily keep turning the screen off and on or/and even the mobile off, as for the volume buttons, they are harder to press with the gel case on. It isn't very easy to tell where the buttons are (when not looking at them e.g. in the dark :p) as they aren't raised above the rest of the case, the lock/power button has a tiny indentation around the button and both button areas feel different to the rest of the gel case, more of a "hard" plastic feel.


I may have to do a little modding to these parts sometime soon :p :D

It is more comfortable to hold the S with the gel case on, however, it does feel a lot cheaper and not as nice to touch as the ceramic back and the Tough case felt better to touch as well whilst not feeling cheap. Finger prints are shown, however, they are only noticeable when you look at the case from certain angles in very bright light. The case also provides more grip.


As for protection/durability, I would say that the case would do a good job protecting the mobile from normal drops and the standard scratches etc. however, a drop onto solid concrete etc. from a good height could damage the mobile i.e. crack the screen as their isn't enough thickness to the case like there is with the Tough case and there would be no shock absorption either. But for daily use, I would say it is perfectly fine.

Hard to say how this will last in the long run regarding wear & tear, if you're careful enough with it and put it in a pocket with nothing else, it should be just fine for a good while I would imagine. Saying that though, the case only costs about ?3, so you won't really be breaking the bank buying a new one every couple of months :p

Apart from the cheap looks (largely due to the stitching look on the sides and the glossy finish) and the power/lock button being too easy to activate and lastly the volume buttons being too hard to activate, there isn't really much wrong with this case at all, it does the job for ?3 :)

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    • By indospot
      Samsung Galaxy S21 review: A flagship that has learned the right lessons
      by João Carrasqueira

      I got to review a few Samsung phones throughout 2020, and it has definitely taken some time for the company's hardware to really resonate with me. I was very underwhelmed by the Galaxy A51 mid-ranger about a year ago, and when I finally got to review a flagship - the Galaxy Note20 Ultra - the issues it presented were far too significant for it to be worth its massive asking price.

      But then came the Galaxy S20 FE, a much cheaper phone that kept the essentials of a 2020 flagship while cutting corners in a few small ways to attain its price point. For what it set out to do, the S20 FE was a fantastic device, and it left me hoping that Samsung would take away some lessons from it and make future Galaxy S phones more appealing.

      Samsung announced the Galaxy S21 lineup last month with a significant reduction to its starting price - now just $799, instead of the S20's $999 - as well as some of the sacrifices we saw on the Galaxy S20 FE. After a couple of weeks with the S21, I think it's safe to say that Samsung learned the lessons I was hoping it would and created a fantastic baseline for its flagships in 2021.

      CPU Exynos 2100 (Octa-core) - one Cortex-X1 at 2.9GHz, three Cortex-A78 at 2.8GHz, four Cortex-A55 at 2.2GHz GPU Mali-G78 MP14 Display 6.2 inches, 1080x2400, 421ppi, 120Hz, Dynamic AMOLED 2X Body 151.7x71.2x7.9mm (5.97x2.80x0.31in), 169g (5.96oz) Camera 12MP main + 12MP ultra-wide + 64MP telephoto, Front - 10MP Video 8K - 24fps or 4K - 60fps, HDR10+, Front - 4K - 60fps Aperture f/1.8 + f/2.2 + f/2.0, Front - F/2.2 Storage 128GB UFS 3.1; non-expandable RAM 8GB Battery 4,000mAh Color Phantom White (as reviewed), Phantom Gray, Phantom Pink, Phantom Violet

      OS Android 11 with OneUI 3.1 Price €849-€879/$799 Of course, this is the European variant of the Galaxy S21, which means it comes with an Exynos processor, but you'll be getting a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 if you buy this phone in the U.S. I can't personally compare the two variants directly, but I will say that I don't think having an Exynos model is as much of a problem this year as it was last year. I'll get into that more later on.

      Day one
      When you look at it broadly, the Galaxy S21 is a fairly generic smartphone slab. It has a plastic back, one of the compromises it borrows from the Galaxy S20 FE, but it keeps the metal frame and overall feels more solidly built than that phone. It's also a very compact phone by today's standards, thanks to its relatively small 6.2-inch display and the minimal bezels all around. It's actually refreshing to have a phone that's this easy to handle nowadays.

      The thing that really makes me swoon over this phone's design is the camera module. I realize that's probably a weird thing to say, but the way it's made of metal and melts into the frame of the phone is just so nice and gives it such a distinct look that I can't help but love it. If you look closely, there is a bit of a ridge between the actual frame and the camera module, but it's barely noticeable and doesn't ruin the look at all. Samsung sent me the Phantom White model, and while I wish I had the Phantom Purple with its golden accents, this look really grew on me. It's classy without being too boring, and I'll definitely say I'm glad I didn't get the gray model.

      Moving on from the back and going around the phone, it's all pretty standard. The left side of the frame has no buttons, but there are some antenna bands.

      Over on the right side, there's the power/Bixby button along with the volume rocker, with all of the buttons feeling having a nice clicky feel to them.

      The top edge is also fairly empty, featuring two microphones very close to each other, only separated by an antenna band.

      Finally, the bottom edge has everything else you'd expect to find - a USB Type-C port for charging, a SIM card slot, and the bottom-firing speaker grill. There's one more microphone next to the SIM card slot, and if it's not obvious, you want to push the SIM ejection tool into the hole inside the SIM card tray cutout. You could damage the microphone by poking it with the tool.

      Display and sound
      Over on the front, of course, is the display. It's a 6.2-inch panel with Full HD+ resolution and a 120Hz refresh rate - another smart move by Samsung to cut costs, which we saw on the Galaxy S20 FE. Samsung phones have had Quad HD+ displays for a while, but I think it's the most obvious way companies can save money without hurting the user experience nearly as much. With the Galaxy S20, you'd have to choose between Quad HD+ resolution or the 120Hz refresh rate, and I would always have recommended the latter either way, so I endorse this change.

      The panel is also using Samsung's Dynamic AMOLED 2X technology and it continues to be oh-so-great. Samsung's displays have long been known for looking great, and suffice it to say, that hasn't changed. The colors look absolutely fantastic, the color temperature is great, and of course, because it's AMOLED, blacks are truly black since pixels can be turned off on demand.

      The display is only interrupted by a small punch-hole cutout in the middle of the top edge of the display, which houses the selfie camera. Bezels are getting smaller all the time, and they're very minimal here, even smaller than those of the Galaxy S20 FE. Samsung also seems to keep shrinking the grill for the earpiece more and more, to the point where I initially thought there was some kind of under-display sound system here.

      But there isn't, and the sound from this phone is actually great. The stereo setup enabled by the bottom-firing speaker and amplified earpiece sounds crisp and clear, and it can get pretty loud without any significant distortion. The Galaxy S21 is truly a great phone if you want a good media experience.

      The camera setup on the Galaxy S21 is one of the things that's changed the least from last year. There's still a 12MP main camera, another 12MP ultra-wide lens, and a 64MP telephoto camera with 3x optical zoom, with support for up to 30x zoom. It's not just the resolution either - the pixel size and aperture are all the same as last year's cameras, too.

      The video features are also pretty similar here, with support for up to 8K video recording at 24 frames per second or 4K at 60 frames per second. You can record HDR10+ video as an experimental feature, but only at 4K 30fps or lower.

      As for the actual results when using the camera, it really depends on the situation. In daylight, all of the cameras do pretty well in my opinion. Shots are bright and vivid, there's good contrast, and they're generally very clear, each object in the frame pops and looks great. There is a bit of oversaturation, per Samsung's tradition, but in general, I didn't mind it.

      Gallery: Galaxy S21 samples
      Things start to fall apart a bit when it comes to nighttime. Night mode kicks in automatically when it's deemed appropriate, but it's not that great, and the ultra-wide camera especially is evidently not as good as the others. Sometimes night mode doesn't activate for the ultra-wide camera automatically, so you can see major differences in the final shot, though you can always manually use night mode. Pictures, in general, degrade quite a bit in less than optimal lighting conditions, and that's even more true for videos, and while that can be said for all cameras, it seems especially not great here.

      I do like the ability to switch between different zoom levels, though, and while the maximum 30x zoom Samsung advertises is pretty bad, 3x zoom is actually really nice, though not comparable to the 10X you can get with a periscope lens.

      The phone also comes with the most recent version of Samsung's One UI, so there are some new features in the Camera and Gallery apps that I do find cool. The Camera app has a couple of new video features including multi-mic recording, which lets you record video with audio simultaneously coming from the phone's microphones and a Bluetooth microphone or earbuds. Of course, the quality of the audio will depend on the microphone you're using, but testing with LG's Tone Free HBS-FN6 earbuds, I did find it picked up my voice better while walking down the street compared to just using the microphone on the phone itself. There's also a Director's View mode, which lets you see video feeds from all four cameras on the phone at once and switch between the three rear cameras at will.

      The Gallery app, for its part, has an interesting feature for photos called Object Eraser, which does exactly what you think. It does require a consistent background to look convincing, but if you had the perfect shot that got ruined by someone in the background, this can definitely help.

      On a final note, while I rarely take selfies on any phone, I did give it a shot here and the front-facing camera is actually among the sharpest I've tried. Overall, the camera experience has some highs and some lows, but you probably already know what you're getting into if you've had a Samsung phone before.

      Performance, battery life, and software
      Battery life was one of my biggest complaints with the Galaxy Note20 Ultra, and that was almost certainly due to the poor efficiency of the Exynos 990 chipset. That phone struggled to last me through the day with a 4,5000mAh battery, but I'm happy to report that Samsung made great progress with Exynos this year. The Galaxy S21 has the new Exynos 2100 and even with a smaller 4,000mAh battery, it holds up much better. It's not fantastic, and when I push it with longer YouTube sessions or playing games, it doesn't quite last me until bedtime, but for my general use, it's been much more reliable. I have yet to review any phone with the new Snapdragon 888, but general impressions from other reviewers indicate that Qualcomm is still ahead here. Still, if you're in an Exynos market, this is a huge improvement.

      I should note that, following in Apple's footsteps, Samsung did remove the charging brick from the box, and you only get a cable now. The idea companies are taking with this is that it's "environmentally friendly", and while I think that's true, it's no secret that companies are always trying to squeeze more money out of their consumers. I do think most users will already have a charger they can use at home, but this step highlights a major need for standardization in USB power delivery. The Galaxy S21 supports fast charging up to 25W, but my 65W charger from OPPO can't activate fast charging for it. Companies would usually ship the most adequate charger for their own phones, and we're going to be losing that. The Galaxy S21 also supports fast wireless charging at 15W and reverse wireless charging.

      Moving on to benchmarks, the Exynos 2100 in the Galaxy S21 is overall a pretty solid upgrade over Exynos 990-powered phones. Let's start with AnTuTu, which is a general-purpose benchmark covering CPU, GPU, memory/storage, and overall user experience.

      The Galaxy S21's score of 609,292 is a pretty big jump from the Note20 Ultra's 548,110, with improvements across the board. The biggest leap here is in the GPU tests, and to be fair, the Galaxy S21 ran games like Asphalt 9 beautifully. Compared to the Galaxy S20 FE 5G, which had a Snapdragon 865, the difference is less noticeable, but it's still an improvement on almost every front.

      Moving on to GeekBench 5, which tests the CPU. The Galaxy S21 manages a 1,079 score for the single-core performance and 3,370 for multi-core.

      As expected, the Galaxy S21 has a decent lead on both the Exynos 990 and the Snapdragon 865, especially in multi-core performance.

      Finally, there's GFXBench, a series of tests focused on the GPU.

      Results here are a bit mixed, with the Galaxy S21 pulling some punches on the Note20 Ultra, but also falling behind in some of the tests.

      Overall, though, the performance on this phone is great and there's really not much to complain about. The phone does have a tendency to get warm more easily than others, but it's not a huge deal.

      Not a whole lot has changed on the software side with OneUI 3.1, but there are some tweaks with the experience. You can now control smart home devices using the Devices button in the notification shade, assuming you have a smart home app like Google Home installed. Stock Android 11 brought smart home controls to the power menu, but Samsung didn't do that, which is a bummer to me. Some UI tweaks have also been made to the volume flyout and the long-press UI in the One UI launcher.

      I will point out that I've been trying to use Dex more in my Samsung reviews, and it's a really cool feature to have. Like I've said before, it's pointless if you have a PC on you, but if you don't, it can turn your phone into a PC easily, though you won't be doing certain things like advanced photo or video editing on it. You need to relearn some shortcuts if you're used to Windows, but it's otherwise an effective productivity tool - I even used it to write a good chunk of this review. Also, if you're wondering, you can't use the Windows 10 Your Phone app (or the Link to Windows feature) while running in DeX, though I don't see why you would want to.

      I have to conclude this review in the same way that I started it - by saying that Samsung has learned the right lessons with its phones this year. What stands out the most to me is the inspiration Samsung drew from the Galaxy S20 FE to make its flagship phone way easier to justify. Removing the Quad HD display and swapping the glass plate for plastic are the perfect sacrifices to make, and the $200 you save compared to last year's Galaxy S20 make this so much easier to recommend.

      I also love the design, specifically thanks to the meta camera bump Samsung has used, and also because it's one of the most compact phones I've had the chance to try out. And for users outside of North America, the Exynos 2100 is a huge improvement in both battery life and performance. You're truly getting a lot more phone for your money this year.

      Of course, there are downsides, battery life still isn't as great as it could potentially be, and the camera experience isn't consistently amazing, especially in situations with less than optimal lighting. And the lack of a charger, while not a huge deal to me personally, might be a problem for some people.

      Still, those are relatively small blemishes on a phone that otherwise improved so much on its predecessor. If you haven't upgraded in a while, or if you're simply looking to upgrade and you're already familiar with Samsung, the Galaxy S21 is definitely worth a look. You can buy the Snapdragon variant in the U.S. on Amazon, where it's currently discounted to $699.99, making it an even better deal. In the UK, the Exynos variant (the one we tested), is available starting at £735.80 depending on your color of choice.

    • By Rich Woods
      MacBook Pro 13 (M1) review: A heck of a start for Apple, but not very pro
      by Rich Woods

      This is the seventh part of our Intel Evo vs Apple Silicon series, where we're taking a look at what each side can do better than the other. The MacBook Pro 13, Razer Book 13, Razer Core X, Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti, Samsung T7 Touch SSD, and CalDigit Thunderbolt 3 dock were provided by Intel. All opinions expressed are a result of our own testing and experience.

      I've been using Apple's new MacBook Pro for a while now, and I've been writing about my findings as I go. There's a lot that's good about it, and there's a lot that's bad. One thing that I learned rather quickly was that Apple Silicon isn't the home run that the Cupertino firm would have you believe.

      In general day-to-day usage, I don't think that I'd have noticed a performance difference if no one had told me. It certainly doesn't feel any faster than a Windows 10 PC with an 11th-generation Intel processor, although there are certainly some tasks that it performs faster, such as video rendering. But as far as launching apps and general tasks go, I wouldn't have noticed a difference.

      Don't get me wrong. What Apple did here is certainly an incredible feat of engineering, and it shines a bright light on what the future of the Mac can look like. But personally, I think that this is a first-gen product that you'll want to skip.

      CPU Apple M1, octa-core with four performance and four efficiency cores, octa-core GPU, 16-core neural engine Body 304.1x212.4x15.6mm (11.97x8.36x0.61in), 1.4kg (3lbs) Display 13.3-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit display with IPS technology; 2560-by-1600 native resolution at 227 pixels per inch with support for millions of colors
      500-nit brightness
      Wide color (P3)
      True Tone technology

      Battery Up to 17 hours wireless web
      Up to 20 hours Apple TV app movie playback
      Built-in 58.2-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery
      61W USB-C Power Adapter

      Memory 8GB unified memory

      Storage 256GB SSD

      Ports (2) Thunderbolt / USB 4 ports with support for charging, DisplayPort, Thunderbolt 3 (40Gbps), USB 4 (40Gbps), USB 3.1 Gen 2 (up to 10Gbps)
      (1) 3.5mm audio jack Input 65 (U.S.) or 66 (ISO) keys including 4 arrow keys in an inverted‑T arrangement
      Touch Bar
      Touch ID sensor
      Ambient light sensor
      Force Touch trackpad for precise cursor control and pressure‑sensing capabilities; enables Force clicks, accelerators, pressure‑sensitive drawing, and Multi‑Touch gestures

      Connectivity 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6 wireless networking
      Bluetooth 5.0 wireless technology

      Webcam 720p FaceTime HD camera Video support Simultaneously supports full native resolution on the built-in display at millions of colors and:
      One external display with up to 6K resolution at 60Hz

      Thunderbolt 3 digital video output
      Native DisplayPort output over USB-C
      VGA, HDMI, DVI, and Thunderbolt 2 output supported using adapters (sold separately)

      Audio Stereo speakers with high dynamic range
      Wide stereo sound
      Support for Dolby Atmos playback
      Studio-quality three-mic array with high signal-to-noise ratio and directional beamforming
      3.5 mm headphone jack

      Operating requirements Line voltage: 100V to 240V AC
      Frequency: 50Hz to 60Hz
      Operating temperature: 50° to 95° F (10° to 35° C)
      Storage temperature: −13° to 113° F (−25° to 45° C)
      Relative humidity: 0% to 90% noncondensing
      Operating altitude: tested up to 10,000 feet
      Maximum storage altitude: 15,000 feet
      Maximum shipping altitude: 35,000 feet

      OS macOS 11 Big Sur Material Aluminum Color Silver Price $1,299
      Day one
      You can certainly feel the build quality when you hold a MacBook Pro, but one thing I'll definitely say about the design is that it feels dated. Apple certainly could have redesigned the chassis to make it thinner and lighter given the new ARM processor, but it didn't. This thing weighs three pounds, which isn't exactly light in the world of clamshell laptops anymore. It's also got huge bezels when compared with the rest of the market.

      When we see a silver Windows laptop that's made out of aluminum, we call it a MacBook clone. Well, here's the original, and it makes me wonder if it makes it any more exciting to be the original. Either way, that's what it is, a silver laptop with an Apple logo stamped in the lid; it comes in Space Gray as well.

      Apple isn't one for including a lot of ports on its laptops, although rumor has it that it may add some back in the future. For now, this laptop comes with two Thunderbolt ports on the left side, and that's it when it comes to USB connectivity. According to Apple, these ports support USB 4.0, USB 3.2 Gen 2, and Thunderbolt 3, getting data transfer speeds of up to 40Gbps.

      The only problem is that they're missing a key feature of Thunderbolt, which is the ability to connect dual 4K monitors on a single port. A major drawback of Apple Silicon is that you can't use dual external monitors with this laptop, no matter what the resolution. The only Apple Silicon Mac that supports dual external monitors is the Mac mini, which lets you do it if you connect one via the HDMI port.

      There are, apparently, some workarounds for this, such as special accessories that you can buy or using an iPad with the Sidecar feature. I wasn't able to use any of my Thunderbolt docks to get dual monitors to work, and according to Apple's own documentation, it shouldn't work.

      On the right side, there's just a 3.5mm audio jack. Indeed, while the port is long gone on iPhones and now even some iPads, it's survived the port exoduses of the Mac.

      On a side note, I do wonder what Apple could have planned if it's bringing back ports on its MacBook Pro machines. USB Type-A feels like a big step backward; after all, it's been years since we've been switching to USB Type-C. HDMI is a likely candidate, but that to me seems unnecessary.

      Display and audio
      The 13-inch MacBook Pro has a 13.3-inch 16:10 display; indeed, while we've been seeing the 16:10 trend across the PC industry for the past six months or so, Apple was doing it before it was cool. The taller aspect ratio makes for a larger surface area, being that the screen is measured diagonally.

      The resolution is 2560x1600, which is QHD+, and it's frankly excellent. The colors are accurate, it's bright, it has a full 178-degree viewing angle, and there's no visible pixelation, hence why it's called Retina. It's a fantastic display. Obviously, there's no touch support, something that Apple has been against for some time, although you can use the Sidecar feature on an iPad for that.

      One thing that seems clear as day to me is that this thing has massive bezels, at least when compared to modern laptops. Microsoft isn't any better on its Surface lineup, but the rest of the industry is. Companies like Dell and HP are working out ways to have tiny bezels while still including an IR camera above the display, and all Apple fits in that massive top bezel is a webcam. Even the side bezels are larger than the competition.

      But Apple doesn't redesign its products much, so that just continues to make me feel like this is an antiquated design. With the newer ARM processor, it's a perfect opportunity to make the chassis smaller and thinner, while chopping down the bezels to reduce the footprint. That's simply not happening in this generation though.

      Apple puts the stereo speakers on either side of the keyboard, and they sound great. Honestly, all of the things that have to do with overall quality really hit the nail on the head. It has a pretty screen, clear speakers, a great keyboard, and more. It's clearly designed for creative work where an accurate display and clear speakers are necessary, and Apple's done a great job with that.

      Keyboard, touchpad, and Touch Bar
      Like I said, the keyboard is fantastic. I never had a Mac in the days of the infamous butterfly keyboard, although it seems like it would have been insane to buy one of those when it was so clear that they were so bad. The new 1mm scissor switches are phenomenal, and they have the proper resistance to feel like they're not so shallow.

      While the keys are accurate and comfortable, there's one other thing I want to point out. If you accidentally hit the caps lock key, it doesn't turn on. In fact, it's slightly challenging to hit it on purpose. I noticed this back in 2013 when I bought the only Mac I've ever owned, the Haswell MacBook Air, so it's not a one-time thing. I really wish more PC vendors would focus on this one little thing, because we've all hit that button accidentally before, and it's super annoying.

      The top-right button on the keyboard is a power button, which doubles as a fingerprint sensor for Touch ID. However, unlike on Windows, you can't use Touch ID when you boot up the PC, which is probably the time that you want to use it the most. It's similar behavior to what we've seen on iOS for some time.

      And then there's the Touch Bar, another infamous feature that Apple is rumored to be getting rid of when it brings back old ports. Personally, I think it's a good idea in theory. It gets rid of function keys which are antiquated, and replaces them with buttons that can be customized by each app. For example, in the Edge browser, I can tap an icon to go to a certain tab.

      It's smart. Instead of having to know shortcuts, or for example, that F5 refreshes the page in a browser, there's actually a refresh button in the Touch Bar. The only problem is that I've not touched the Touch Bar in the entire time that I've reviewed this product. Perhaps I'm just not used to it, or perhaps it's because my hand is already on the touchpad.

      Speaking of the touchpad, it's big, which is always nice. Indeed, Apple took advantage of the available real estate for this. It's also completely haptic. You'd probably never notice it just by using it, as clicking feels natural, but when you power down the PC, you'll notice that it no longer clicks.

      It also has a sort of hard click function, which is more annoying than anything else. This is another thing that I didn't use, unless it happened accidentally. It takes a little bit of getting used to.

      Hardware compatibility
      I wrote about this already, and it was a much deeper dive, but I wanted to give it its own section here. Hardware compatibility is already an issue on macOS, but it's especially an issue with the new ARM processor. As I already mentioned, you can't connect dual external displays, and that's probably the biggest issue for something that's branded as Pro.

      Another key thing that won't work is an external GPU. Intel sent me an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti for this project, and it doesn't work with the MacBook Pro. It does, however, work with Intel-powered Macs.

      Other items that I used were Xbox controllers, the Samsung Touch T7 SSD, and the Logitech Brio. For the most part, these things worked as expected, although the newer Xbox Series X controller didn't work; support for that's going to be added soon though. You won't be able to use the IR camera on the Logitech Brio, as biometric authentication is reserved for Apple's own Touch ID.

      The MacBook Pro can run two kinds of apps. It can run native ARM64 apps, and it can run Intel apps through Rosetta 2. In fact, Intel apps are surprisingly good, and you'll need them since so many apps aren't updated for M1 yet.

      Adobe Creative Cloud is the biggest example. You'll find that apps like Photoshop, Premiere Pro, Media Encoder, Premiere Rush, After Effects, Character Animator, and Audition all have betas, and Lightroom isn't in beta but supports the M1 now. If the beta doesn't work for you, you can always run the Intel app side-by-side, taking a bit of a hit in performance.

      When I first ran the Photoshop beta, it crashed if I tried to crop an image. Luckily, these things are getting updated pretty frequently. Premiere Pro actually still doesn't have support for MP3 files, so you can't import them into your project. You'll have to convert audio files to WAV before using them.

      Now, let's talk about Windows 10, because Boot Camp is gone now, even though there's still a Boot Camp Assistant app that will just tell you there's no Boot Camp if you launch it. You can run Windows in virtualization using Parallels, and frankly, you shouldn't, at least not right now.

      Microsoft only publishes VHDX images of Windows on ARM for Insider Previews, because they're made for Hyper-V, and Hyper-V for ARM is something that's in preview as well. And also, apps like the Microsoft Store, Photos, and a lot more don't work in Parallels on the M1 MacBook Pro. The reason is because the chipset actually doesn't support 32-bit ARM apps, which is no surprise because there hasn't been a 32-bit app in the Apple ecosystem in ages. There hasn't been a Windows device with a 32-bit ARM processor either since phones were supported, so it's unclear why those apps haven't been updated.

      Parallels has some great integration with macOS though. You can access the macOS file system from Windows, and you can even set Safari as the default browser. Unfortunately, you still can't access an NTFS storage device from inside of Windows 10.

      One other thing I just want to draw attention to is that I've been living in the Apple ecosystem this whole time and it's quite nice. Ever since the iPhone 12 series came out, I've been using the iPhone 12 Pro Max as my daily driver along with my Apple Watch, and using all of these things together is quite nice, even if part of the reason for that is because Apple doesn't build out support for other platforms.

      Just having a Messages app is super handy. Also, AirDrop lets me send images and videos to the MacBook quickly, a real pain point on Windows 10. And when I use Android, all of that stuff still works too.

      Performance and battery life
      The model that Intel sent me includes 8GB RAM and a 256GB SSD, so it's the base model. Note that higher-end models of the 13-inch MacBook Pro still come with 10th-gen Intel processors, and there's a reason for that. While what Apple has done here is great, it's just not very pro.

      Apple has been designing custom processors for ages, and that's what goes into iPhones and iPads. Indeed, the A7 in the iPhone 5s was the first mainstream 64-bit ARM processor, something that Qualcomm had to respond to with the Snapdragon 810. At the time, many thought 64-bit processors in phones were a gimmick, and that turned out to be untrue.

      The Cupertino firm continued to build out its ARM processors, but it was still Qualcomm that first got into the PC market. The bad news is that Apple blew away Qualcomm's accomplishments on its first try. The latest Snapdragon Compute chipset is the 8cx Gen 2, and it was announced in September, after Apple announced the transition to Apple Silicon. And as you're about to see in benchmarks, Apple Silicon really does a lot better.

      Unfortunately, the only two benchmarks I could run were Geekbench and Cinebench, since those were the only ones supported. Those only test the CPU though.

      MacBook Pro 13
      M1, macOS MacBook Pro 13
      M1, Windows 10 (Parallels) Surface Pro X
      SQ2 Razer Book 13
      Core i7-1165G7 Geekbench 1,720 / 7,668 1,398 / 2,697 794 / 3,036 1,536 / 5,405 Cinebench 1,495 / 7,771 1,210 / 3,711
      Real-world performance feels like a mixed bag to me. General tasks don't feel particularly fast, and when it comes to things like launching apps and boot time, it even feels sluggish. Video rendering times are quick though, as I've been able to render 4K 60fps videos that are 15 minutes long in under 20 minutes.

      Battery life is pretty wild too. You're looking at a solid 12 hours of real-world usage here. One thing that's always impressed me with Apple is that it's pretty good at quoting real-world battery life. When a Windows OEM says 12 hours, that means that you're actually going to max out at around eight hours in real life.

      The 13-inch MacBook Pro with Apple Silicon is an impressive product for a variety of reasons. It's just not pro. The M1 processor is fine for the MacBook Air, but if you feel like you need a step up from the Air to the Pro, I feel like that's not what you're getting here.

      The fact that this can't support dual external monitors should be a deal-breaker. I really don't think that that's a niche use case. Boot Camp would be nice as well, given that it's clearly possible to run Windows on this thing, even if it is limited. And also, the design just feels so old. Coming from reviewing a variety of Windows 10 PCs, the bezels feel so massive on the MacBook Pro.

      The build quality feels solid though, and like I said, Apple really nails down the core components of PC usage, such as the screen and the keyboard. It's also super impressive that the Cupertino company was able to build the custom chipset that it did.

      I just think it's worth waiting for the second generation of the product, or getting a Windows laptop for that matter. And if you need a 13-inch MacBook Pro right now, I'd get the Intel one. While the M1 is fantastic and has a bright future, it still leaves a bit to be desired.

      Check out the rest of the series:

      Part one: Unboxing the MacBook Pro 13 Part two: Unboxing the Razer Book 13 Part three: Setting up the peripherals Part four: Hardware compatibility Part five: Software Part six: Razer Book 13 review

    • By Rich Woods
      Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano review: Ultra-light isn't supposed to be this good
      by Rich Woods

      The story on the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano is that it weighs in at 1.99 pounds. That's the headline. It's the fifth entry into the current ThinkPad X1 lineup, which is reserved for the best of the best, and it's all about being compact, thin, and light. It was announced back in September, but now it's finally hitting shelves.

      Typically, a laptop that weighs under two pounds comes with some serious compromises, using a Y-series processor. This one has a Core i7-1160G7, which is Tiger Lake UP4, something that would have been called Y-series in the past. But now, it's got Iris Xe graphics and can actually have a TDP of up to 15W. Indeed, it's not as powerful as UP3 (Core i7-1165G7), but it's way better than those Y-series chips we got a couple of years ago.

      There are other reasons that this isn't just a lighter version of the ThinkPad X1 Carbon. After all, the X1 Carbon is the one that's known for being the lightest, so my first thought when hearing about the Nano was about why it's not carrying the Carbon flag. This PC has is the first modern ThinkPad to have a 16:10 display, and the first clamshell to cut out USB Type-A ports. Indeed, it's a big step forward when the X1 Carbon is going to be expected to keep some legacy components for some time to come.

      CPU Intel Core i7-1160G7 Graphics Iris Xe graphics Body 292.8x207.7x13.87-16.7mm (11.53x8.18x0.55-0.66in), 907g (1.99lbs) Display 13.0" 2K (2160x1350), IPS, 450 nits, Anti-glare, 16:10, 100% sRGB, Dolby Vision RAM 16GB LPDDR4x-4266 Storage 512GB PCIe NVMe Connectivity Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX201 + Bluetooth 5.0 Ports (2) Thunderbolt 4
      (1) 3.5mm combo audio jack Input 6-row, multimedia Fn keys, LED backlight
      Glass surface multi-touch touchpad, TrackPoint Audio Dolby Atmos Speaker System certification (2W x 2 woofers and 1W x 2 tweeters)
      Four array microphones, 360° far-field Security Match-on-Sensor Fingerprint Reader
      720P & IR Camera Battery 48Wh, Rapid Charge Material Top: Carbon Fiber
      Bottom: Magnesium Alloy Color Black OS Windows 10 Pro Price $1,847.40 (Lenovo, Walmart)
      Day one
      On the outside, it looks just like a regular ThinkPad. It's black, and it's got the glossy black ThinkPad logo that's reserved for the X1 devices. In fact, you might even mistake it for the ThinkPad X1 Carbon. After all, the vast, vast majority of ThinkPads come in black, so it's easy to mistake one for another.

      But Lenovo really pulled out all the stops to get this thing as light as it could get it; well, at least to hit a target of under two pounds. Seriously, at 1.99 pounds, this is the type of weight where you have to double-check that it's in your bag.

      To get there, it's made out of a carbon fiber lid and a magnesium alloy base, an interesting choice. A lot of companies use all magnesium alloy to get as light as possible, but then the devices tend to feel cheap. The carbon fiber lid seems to have solved that for Lenovo, plus carbon fiber is on brand for ThinkPad X1 anyway.

      It's also thinner and smaller. Not only is it more compact than the X1 Carbon, but it just has an overall smaller screen at 13 inches. And as I mentioned earlier, USB Type-A has been stripped out entirely.

      Indeed, all of the ports are on the left side of the PC, and they include two Thunderbolt 4 ports and a 3.5mm audio jack. As I've been pointing out in all of my reviews of PCs with 11th-gen Intel processors, Thunderbolt 4 is no different from the full Thunderbolt 3 spec, which used four lanes. The base spec of Thunderbolt 3 only used two lanes instead of four though, cutting the bandwidth in half, and it was super-hard to know what you were getting.

      To be clear, there's no change here. Lenovo has always used the full spec on ThinkPad X1. It's the non-X1 ThinkPads where the company used the base spec, so whenever those are updated to Intel Tiger Lake, that will be more of an improvement.

      In short, there's no improvement because ThinkPad X1 was already doing the right thing, and there's no improvement to be had.

      On the right side of the device, there's just a power button. There's also an exhaust vent on that side, which is kind of interesting because I'd have expected this to be fanless, but it's not.

      Display and audio
      The ThinkPad X1 Nano comes with a 13-inch 16:10 display with 2160x1350 resolution, and as you'd guess from something this thin, there's no touch. First of all, the screen is really good. It's got a matte coating, so you won't get any notable glare that will distract you from your work. It's bright too at 450 nits.

      It's just small. It's not Surface Pro 7 small, but it's small. It feels particularly cramped if you like to run split-screen apps, which I frequently do. Remember that screens are measured diagonally, and that this is 13 inches, not 13.3 inches like most standard laptops called 13-inch. And also, it's 16:10, which means that it's taller, and also narrower than a 13-inch 16:9 laptop.

      Also, Lenovo is adding 16:10 displays across its lineup, so you're going to see 14-inch 16:10 screens in the X1 Yoga and X1 Carbon as well. The ThinkPad X1 Nano isn't necessarily a niche device, but you really should want something that's super-light with a small footprint. If not, you should really be looking at the X1 Carbon or X1 Yoga.

      The screen has narrow bezels on all sides, with both a webcam and IR camera in the top bezel. Lenovo also has a Human-Presence Detection (HPD) system built into this. What this can do is automatically wake your PC when you're in front of it, lock it when you walk away (after a determined amount of time), and even keep it awake while you're in front of it if you're inactive. Now, if it wakes up when you sit down, Windows Hello automatically activates, and you'll be able to log into your computer without touching it.

      HPD is pretty cool, and it works as advertised. The only problem is that it also works when you don't want it to. If you set your PC to do a task and then walk away for an hour while it does it, you'll be disappointed when you realize it went to sleep after a minute because it didn't sense a person there. Obviously, you can customize this through the Commercial Vantage app, and you can shut it off if you need to.

      As for audio quality, it's pretty impressive for a laptop that's so small. It has two 2W woofers and two 1W tweeters in the Dolby Atmos speaker system, so while there are two speakers placed above the keyboard, there are also two underneath the device. It's pretty impressive, but then again, Dolby Atmos tends to be impressive.

      Keyboard and trackpad
      ThinkPads are renowned for having excellent keyboards, and this one is no different. It's super accurate, it's comfortable, and it has just the right amount of resistance, using a scissor life mechanism. Lenovo says that it's "nearly" full-sized, although I didn't even realize that it's not full-sized until I read the reviewer's guide. Normally when keyboards are smaller than I'm used to, I notice it right away because I make mistakes.

      Lenovo also said that it has "similar" key travel (1.35mm) to other ThinkPads (1.5mm), but this is clearly shallower, and it's good. One thing that I've noticed in recent years with ThinkPads is that while the keyboards are still excellent, they're starting to feel antiquated when other PCs are just using shallower keys. This feels more modern, and it's a pleasure. I really hope that they bring this over to the rest of the lineup.

      But sadly, that's the only part of it that feels modern, as it still retains the TrackPoint in the middle of the G, H, and B keys. If you're somehow unfamiliar with the TrackPoint, it's a relic from the days when Windows touchpads were terrible. But like all things ThinkPad, it has its loyalists that won't want to let it go, and it remains on every single model ThinkPad except for the Bluetooth keyboard that comes with the ThinkPad X1 Fold.

      The Microsoft Precision touchpad is really no different. Lenovo didn't sacrifice the clickable touchpad, just like it didn't sacrifice the keyboard backlight, to get this laptop so thin. It still has physical buttons above it, which really exist for use with the TrackPoint, but I use it with the touchpad because I just love physical buttons.

      To the right of the touchpad, there's also a fingerprint sensor. Lenovo is still putting the power button on the side, rather than on the deck and using it as a fingerprint sensor like it does on its ThinkBook series.

      Performance and battery life
      The ThinkPad X1 Nano comes with an Intel Core i7-1160G7, which is from the series that would have previously been known as Y-series. And it's come a long way since eighth-generation 'Amber Lake'.

      With Ice Lake Y (10th-gen), we were finally getting 10nm, a TDP boost, and Iris Plus Graphics, but there was only one problem with Ice Lake Y. It never shipped, at least for Windows PCs. Every Windows PC that shipped with 10th-gen Y-series processors had Comet Lake Y (at least that I've seen), which still has the old UHD Graphics.

      Now, 11th-gen is here with that TDP boost, Iris Xe graphics, Thunderbolt 4, and more. And it's actually really good. With Amber Lake, I'd have told you to stay away from Y-series no matter what. It made for thin and light fan-less PCs, but it wasn't worth the sacrifice. Now, Intel has finally made it to where it needs to be. But like I said earlier, this PC does have a fan, so I guess that's just what happens when you boost the TDP like that.

      The Core i7-1160G7 is a quad-core processor with eight threads, and the Iris Xe graphics do mean that you can do some light gaming and photo editing on here. Note that the CPU speed is slow still when it comes to gaming. For example, I did connect an external Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti and play some games. The graphics are great, but load times are brutal.

      But also, on Amber Lake PCs like the Acer Swift 7 and HP Spectre Folio, I'd barely be willing to touch Photoshop, let alone Premiere Pro. All of that stuff is actually pretty good on this machine. We're talking about the difference between unusable and usable here.

      While overall performance is good, integrated graphics performance is great, and Thunderbolt expandability makes it even better, the battery life kind of blew me away. As usual, I've been using it at about 25% brightness with the power slider at a notch above battery saver. A 48WHr battery is no more than average in size, but we're talking over 10 hours of batter life here, and you can definitely stretch it to 12 hours or even more.

      It feels like the battery percentage just doesn't go down. It's like it runs on magic, especially since the screen has a higher resolution than FHD. I assume that we can attribute this to the lower-powered processor.

      For benchmarks, I used PCMark 8, PCMark 10, Geekbench 5, and Cinebench.

      ThinkPad X1 Nano
      Core i7-1160G7 Surface Pro X
      SQ2 Acer Swift 7
      Core i7-8500Y HP EliteBook x360 1040 G7
      Core i7-10810U Razer Book 13
      Core i7-1165G7 PCMark 8: Home 3,919 2,440 3,721 4,370 PCMark 8: Creative 4,419 2,427 3,944 4,796 PCMark 8: Work 3,864 2,732 3,654 4,047 PCMark 10 4,586 2,775 4,080 4,897 Geekbench 5 1,346 / 4,891 794 / 3,036 1,197 / 5,065 1,425 / 4,143 Cinebench 1,296 / 4,052 1,426 / 3,837
      I chose those four PCs to compare it to for specific reasons. The Surface Pro X is the top-end ARM PC, and ARM chips are designed for these types of form factors. The Swift 7 was the last Y-series PC that I've been able to review, and then we have examples from 10th- and 11th-gen U-series.

      The ThinkPad X1 Nano blew away everything except for the Razer Book and its Core i7-1165G7. And to be fair, it was never meant to beat the Core i7-1165G7; if it did, we should be worried. It's more interesting that the X1 Nano beat the hexa-core 15W chip in the EliteBook, but you'll notice that the margin was even wider in graphics-related tasks. That's because business PCs only got Comet Lake with the last generation, and that had UHD Graphics instead of Iris Plus Graphics. The leap to Tiger Lake with its Iris Xe graphics in the business space is significant.

      The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano is a lovely laptop, and frankly, the engineering that went into this is remarkable. My only complaints about it are that the screen is small, that there's no USB Type-A, and I kind of wish that there wasn't a fan, although not having a fan means a lower TDP and an impact on performance. I don't personally miss USB Type-A, but it could be an issue for businesses.

      It's just wild that this thing exists and it's as good as it is. The keyboard is shallower than a regular ThinkPad, and the engineering team probably thought that it was making a compromise when it was actually an improvement. The performance is way better than I would have expected, and so is the battery life. It's like this thing runs on magic.

      And of course, it's so thin and light, coming in at just 1.99 pounds. I've reviewed a lot of laptops over the years, and I've learned a lot of things. One thing that I've learned as an absolute fact is that laptops that are this thin just aren't supposed to be this good. They're supposed to be annoyingly slow and make insane compromises in the same of portability. That's just not the case here though. This thing is amazing.

      You can check out this model on here and here.

    • By Rich Woods
      Razer Book 13 review: A premium laptop that costs a bit too much
      by Rich Woods

      This is the sixth part of our Intel Evo vs Apple Silicon series, where we're taking a look at what each side can do better than the other. The MacBook Pro 13, Razer Book 13, Razer Core X, Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti, Samsung T7 Touch SSD, and CalDigit Thunderbolt 3 dock were provided by Intel. All opinions expressed are a result of our own testing and experience.

      The Razer Book 13 was first announced back in November, and it's the company's attempt at productivity, whereas it typically focuses on gaming. It's something a bit different, but Razer really brought its premium design, and some subtle gaming features over to an ultrabook that weighs in at just over three pounds.

      Given that Intel sent it to me alongside the MacBook Pro, it's a surprisingly similar product. It has that feel of being made out of a block of aluminum. Indeed, it feels premium, and it acts that way as well with solid performance and more.

      CPU Intel Core i7-1165G7 Graphics Intel Iris Xe Body 15.15x198.5x295.6mm (0.6x7.8x11.6in), 1.4kg (3.09lbs) Display 13.4" Full HD Matte 60Hz Slim side bezel Touch display Up to 178° wide viewing angles Storage 256GB SSD RAM 16GB dual-channel (fixed) Input Per-Key RGB, powered by Razer Chroma Anti-Ghosting Microsoft Precision Glass-Touchpad

      Connectivity Intel Wireless-AX 201 (IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax) Bluetooth 5.1 Battery and adapter 55WHr 65W power adapter Ports USB 3.2 Gen 1 (USB-A) x 1 Thunderbolt 4 (USB-C) + Power x 2 HDMI 2.0 x 1 MicroSD Slot x 1 Audio 3.5mm Combo-Jack 2 Speakers + Smart Amp THX Spatial Audio 4 Mic Array Color Mercury with Tone-on-tone Razer logo OS Windows 10 Home Price $1,599.99
      Note that the Razer Book 13 comes in three configurations. The base model, which costs $1,199.99, has a Core i5-1135G7, 8GB RAM, a 256GB SSD, and a FHD non-touch display. At $1,599.99, the unit that Intel sent me is the middle one, and then at the high-end for $1,999.99, you can get a Core i7-1165G7, 16GB RAM, a 512GB SSD, and a UHD touchscreen.

      Day one
      After digging into the Razer Book 13 and MacBook Pro units that Intel sent me, it's actually quite a coincidence that I ended up with the Razer Book. Intel gave me a choice between various Intel Evo PCs, and I went with the Razer Book because it was the only one I hadn't reviewed. I suspect that a lot of journalists went with similar choices just because HP and Dell (Intel offered a Spectre x360 and XPS 13 2-in-1) have much broader review programs than Razer does.

      The reason I feel like it's something of a coincidence is because these two laptops are so visually similar. They both have that feel like they're built from a block of aluminum, and they both have a very minimal design. They've both got flat edges, hard corners, and they both come in a regular silver color. Looking at the Razer Book 13 from the top-down, you'd think that the Apple logo was replaced by a Razer logo.

      I've always sort of disliked the term MacBook clone, although that's what this is, even if Razer's design is an improvement on Apple's (we'll get to all of that). I've just always disliked the term because it generally means that Apple owns the design of a silver aluminum laptop, and if you look at what HP is doing with its Spectre x360 designs, you can see that it's possible to get far and away from that.

      One area where the design is clearly different is the ports, because indeed, this product actually has USB Type-A, although unfortunately, it's still the 5Gbps USB 3.2 Gen 1 instead of the 10Gbps USB 3.2 Gen 2. On the left side, you'll also find a Thunderbolt 4 port and a 3.5mm audio jack.

      The thing I'm really enjoying about Thunderbolt 4 in this generation is that I always know that I can connect dual 4K monitors to it, something that wasn't always the case with Thunderbolt 3. In fact, with Thunderbolt 3, you really had no way of knowing what you were getting. With a single Thunderbolt 4 port, you can connect two 4K monitors, one 8K monitor, an external GPU, or get 40Gbps data transfer speeds.

      On the right side, there's an HDMI 2.0 port, a microSD card slot, and another Thunderbolt 4 port. That's right; there are Thunderbolt ports on both sides, a rarity on Windows laptops, or any laptop that's not running Chrome OS. Being able to charge from either side, or connect from either side, just makes life a lot easier than when you're always forced to use one side.

      A look at the front will actually give you an idea of what the design of this laptop is like, and the weight is so well-distributed that you can easily life the lid with one finger. Everything about the design on the Razer Book feels premium, and that just translates across the company's entire portfolio.

      Display and audio
      The model that Intel sent me comes with a 13.4-inch FHD touchscreen, and in fact, the three configurations available come with three different screens. The base model is FHD non-touch, and the top-end model is UHD touch. This is where my issues with price start to come in, as $1,599 is pretty pricey for 256GB of storage and an FHD screen.

      But to be fair, this is a really nice FHD screen. It's bright and vibrant, and there's no noticeable pixelation. As noted in the spec sheet, it has a full 178-degree viewing angle, meaning that you can look at the screen from any angle without any noticeable color distortion.

      And of course, it's 16:10 rather than 16:9. It's a trend that we're seeing across the PC industry, and everyone seems to be on-board. It means that the screen is taller, quite a bit taller in fact. Screens are measured diagonally, so when you change the aspect ratio like that, you gain surface area. To me, 16:10 is just right at this size; if you go to something like 3:2, it starts to feel too narrow for me.

      And as you can see from the image above, it has narrow bezels on all sides, another area in which the design is improved over the MacBook Pro. I really haven't talked about this too much in the Intel Evo vs Apple Silicon series because I'm trying to compare the platforms rather than specific hardware, but this article is about specific hardware. The Razer Book 13 just has a much more immersive experience. That tiny top bezel also includes an IR camera for facial recognition, another Windows exclusive.

      Razer placed the two speakers on either side of the keyboard. They actually seem like they're made more for gaming and immersion than actual clarity. As far as volume goes, they definitely get loud, but listening to music doesn't really sound too pleasant. It sounds fine for calls and such, but for media, not so much.

      Keyboard and touchpad
      Did you ever think you'd see an RGB keyboard in a productivity laptop? Well, here we are, as the Razer Book 13 absolutely has one. Somehow, Razer build a professional-looking laptop that has an RGB keyboard that still manages to look and feel subtle. It generally cycles through subtle colors by default, but you can change that through the Razer Synapse app.

      I also think that the white keys on the silver background lend themselves to the not-so-flamboyant look of this RGB keyboard. Honestly, it's one of my favorite features of the laptop. I review so many productivity laptops and this really feels like a stand-out feature.

      Unfortunately, I really didn't care for actually using the keyboard. There were a lot of missed key strokes with this keyboard, and given the depth, it seems to have a strange level of resistance that doesn't feel natural. I just didn't feel like it was particularly accurate.

      As you'd expect, it has a Microsoft Precision touchpad, so it's fast and responsive. What I really love though is that it stretches across the available space on the keyboard deck. I wish more OEMs did this, but seriously, if the space is there, use it. The touchpad is quite good, and I didn't have any issues with it like I did with the keyboard.

      Performance and battery life
      The Razer Book 13 that Intel sent me includes a Core i7-1165G7, 16GB RAM, and a 256GB SSD. Don't forget, however, that it also sent me a Razer Core X external GPU enclosure and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti. On its own, the laptop includes Intel's Iris Xe graphics, which are quite good.

      Indeed, I've said this many times, but Intel's focus on integrated graphics that started with 10th-gen 'Ice Lake' is really paying off. While this machine is built for productivity, you could totally do some FHD gaming on it. And if you want to do some UHD gaming, just plug in the external GPU. That option is definitely a niche use case though, as the Razer Core X is $299 on its own before you even add in the cost of the graphics card itself.

      But that's what's really cool about Intel Evo as a platform; there's a lot of versatility here. With Iris Xe graphics, I'm amazed at some of the things that you can do. Honestly, I never imagined integrated graphics could do some actual video editing and FHD gaming. Just a few years ago, you really needed dedicated graphics for the stuff that this can do.

      And then with Thunderbolt, you can bring it home and plug it into a full desktop solution such as an external GPU, or just a dock that's hooked up to a couple of 4K monitors. And being a single-cable solution, you can just unplug it and take it on the go.

      Battery life is pretty great too. With the power slider at one notch above battery saver and the screen on about 25% brightness, I was able to get a solid eight hours of work out of it, and that's pretty rare in Windows laptops. Of course, that goes down if you turn up the brightness, or the power slider if you're planning on gaming. But also, any Thunderbolt dock charges the PC anyway.

      For benchmarks, I used PCMark 8, PCMark 10, 3DMark, VRMark, Geekbench 5, and Cinebench.

      Razer Book 13
      Core i7-1165G7 Razer Book 13
      Core i7-1165G7, RTX 2080 Ti MacBook Pro
      M1 Acer Aspire 5
      Ryzen 7 4700U PCMark 8: Home 4,370 4,294 3,702 PCMark 8: Creative 4,796 5,746 4,228 PCMark 8: Work 4,047 4,044 3,689 PCMark 10 4,897 5,756 4,718 3DMark: Time Spy 1,777 (1,612 / 4,255) 9,155 (11,560 / 4,203) VRMark: Orange Room 2,691 8,860 VRMark: Blue Room 3,756 Geekbench 5 1425 / 4,143 1,536 / 5,405 1,720 / 7,668 Cinebench 1,426 / 3,837 1,210 / 3,711 1,495 / 7,771
      Unfortunately, the benchmarking apps I use that are available for macOS only test out the CPU, so it's hard to get a picture of the whole package just based on benchmarks, especially when we're looking at things like how much of a boost you get from an external GPU, something not supported by Apple Silicon. One thing is for sure though. Apple wins in those CPU tests.

      First of all, the Razer Book 13 is an awesome laptop. It has a clean design and premium build quality that's always a pleasure to use. It's also got a lovely RGB keyboard, super-narrow bezels around the 16:10 display, and great performance from Intel's 11th-generation processors and Iris Xe graphics.

      But boy is this thing expensive. Just recently, I reviewed an Acer Swift 5 with a Core i7-1165G7, 16GB RAM, a 1TB SSD, and an FHD screen that costs $1,299.99. This unit costs $1,599.99, and it has a quarter of the storage. In this reviewer's opinion, 256GB of storage is barely passable, and is unacceptable in a $1,600 laptop.

      Personally, I think that the $1,999 model is the one to go with. It has the UHD screen and double the storage.

      But this is a great all-around laptop with some unique features. The RGB lighting in the keyboard is truly a delight, and the screen is really good. It's definitely not perfect given the price, but it's quite good. If you want to check out this model on Amazon, you can find it here.

      Check out the rest of the series:

      Part one: Unboxing the MacBook Pro 13

      Part two: Unboxing the Razer Book 13

      Part three: Setting up the peripherals

      Part four: Hardware compatibility

      Part five: Software

      Part seven: MacBook Pro review

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    • By indospot
      Amazfit GTR 2e review: A sleek smartwatch with fantastic battery life
      by João Carrasqueira

      Amazfit announced a couple of new smartwatches at this year's CES, the GTS 2e and GTR 2e. In terms of specs and features, these are nearly identical products, but the former has a rectangular display (the S stands for "square"), and the GTR 2e is round - you can probably guess what the R stands for.

      I already reviewed the Amazfit GTS 2e a few days ago, and because a lot of the things I said there also apply here, I'll avoid repeating myself as much as possible. The GTR 2e's form factor does bring some notable differences, though, and in my opinion, they make this the better product, even if it is a missed opportunity in some ways.

      Body 46.5*46.5*10.8mm, 32g (without the strap) Material Aluminum frame, plastic back, tempered glass display cover Strap Silicone, user-replaceable, 22mm Display 1.39-inch AMOLED, 454x454 Sensors BioTracker 2 PPG (heart rate, SpO2, stress, and sleep monitoring) Acceleration sensor Gyroscope Geomagnetic sensor Ambient light sensor Air pressure sensor Temperature sensor Battery 471mAh; up to 12 days heavy usage, 24 days typical usage, 45 days basic usage

      Water resistance 5ATM Connectivity Bluetooth 5.0 Price €129.90/$139.99 Day one
      Design and display
      Like I said in my review of the GTS 2e, the design is the most easily appreciable quality of a smartwatch because watches are fashion pieces. Both the GTS 2e and GTR 2e are sleek and stylish smartwatches, with a nice matte finish on the aluminum frame, a plastic back, and a slightly curved display cover that feels really nice to the touch. The GTR 2e specifically is the sleekest round smartwatch I've had the chance to review, and it's surprisingly comfortable for how big the display is. Amazfit sent me the Slate Grey version of this watch which uses a light grey body and a grey strap, but you can also get it in Obsidian Black like the GTS 2e, or in Matcha Green.

      Just like its square counterpart, the GTR 2e uses a standard strap mechanism, so you can easily pick out another strap if you don't like the included rubber one. It uses a 22mm fitting, though, which is larger than the one on the GTS 2e.

      The round form factor has two buttons instead of one, which helps the design feel a bit more balanced, but the way the buttons are built feels a bit less thought-through than it did on the GTS 2e. The body of that watch curved around the button, making it feel a bit more seamless, but the buttons here stick out a bit more.

      I also feel like Amazfit wasted an opportunity here because, while the GTS 2e had a double-press shortcut for its button, the extra button here just means that shortcut now has its own button. You can't double press either of the buttons on the GTR 2e, so there's no functionality added by having two.

      Of course, being that the watch is round, so is the display, which is a 1.39-inch AMOLED panel with a resolution of 454 pixels across - it's the same no matter how you measure it since it's a circle. It has the usual benefits of AMOLED displays, including true blacks and vivid colors - which look great - and it helps save battery since black pixels can be turned off entirely. There is a bit of image retention of the brighter parts of the screen for a few seconds, but no permanent burn-in so far.

      While the 1.39-inch display may sound like it's smaller than the 1.65-inch panel on the GTS 2e, it's important to know that these are diagonal measurements. Neither the height nor width of the GTS 2e are 1.65 inches, but on a round watch, it's 1.39 inches in all directions, and because of that, the display area feels much bigger.

      You may have noticed that the bezel around the display has a clock dial, which makes sense if you're using an analog watch face. It tries to make it feel like the bezel is part of the screen, which mostly works. When it gets darker around you, the display will be much more visible than the dial on the bezel, but in daylight, it's pretty neat.

      Software and features
      The Amazfit GTR 2e has all the same software and health features as its rectangular sibling, including heart rate and stress monitoring, sleep tracking, SpO2 measurements, workout tracking with 92 sports modes, and a temperature sensor that isn't all that useful. It also has the PAI measurement, which gives you an overview of your fitness level and summarizes it in a single number.

      All of that information goes into the Zepp app on your phone, which offers plenty of nice-looking graphs and cards to summarize your health data. The app also makes it really easy to have more than one device synced, so switching from the GTS 2e to the GTR 2e wasn't much of a hassle.

      The app list is exactly the same as before, and many of the apps can be added as widgets to the sides of the watch face. There's also a shortcuts page on the left of the watch face, which shows a series of cards with quick glanceable information from each app. Here's the full list of apps:

      Activity goal PAI Heart Rate Workout Activities Stress SpO2 Weather Music (only controls media playback from your phone) Alarm Events Widgets (Compass, Barometric Altimeter, Timer, Count down, Find Mobile) Temperature Settings Some things have been slightly tweaked to accommodate the round form factor, though. There are many different watch faces that make better use of the round display, for starters, and just like before, you can customize a few of them by changing the complications on them to show different information. But other elements of the way are also clearly designed to work better with round displays, so things like the heart rate monitor, PAI indicator, and weather app make much better use of the space available.

      Other things aren't adapted as well, though. The card format in the shortcut and notification pages doesn't feel quite as natural with corners being cut off, and some buttons don't fit as well on this display, though they're still usable. The same can be said for the quick settings panel, which is now split into two pages, but the second page only has one button.

      All the issues I had with the GTS 2e in terms of software are still here, though. Workouts don't sync with Google Fit properly, weather information doesn't sync to the watch automatically, stress levels aren't recorded consistently, and more. I already went on and on about all the little issues I have with the software, so I'll direct you to my GTS 2e review to see all about them. I had hoped there would be a firmware update during the review period to address at least some of these problems, but they're all the same here. There's one more to add, though, because switching watches revealed that my PAI number didn't roam properly across devices.

      Battery life and performance
      The biggest difference between this round watch and its square sibling is the battery size, and as a result, the battery life. The Amazfit GTS 2e has a 246mAh battery, but the GTR 2e boosts that to a whopping 471mAh, and it promises up to 24 days of typical usage or 12 days of heavy usage.

      I first charged the watch to 100% and unplugged it on February 6, and it lasted me through the end of February 16, which adds up to 11 days. I used all the same settings as I did with the GTS 2e, and the result relative to Amazfit's promises is also very similar, so that's not too surprising. But this is a super sleek smartwatch - the most comfortable round watch I've reviewed so far, really - and it still has the best battery life. The Honor Watch GS Pro had a similar result, but it's a bulky device by comparison, and much more expensive, too.

      As for performance, just like with the GTR 2e, there isn't a lot that can be said for a watch that's very focused on a specific feature set. Everything works smoothly here, and opening the menu is actually a bit faster here compared to the GTS 2e. That's likely because the GTS 2e allows you to press the side button twice for a shortcut, so it has to wait a split second before realizing you're not going to press the button again.

      Like its square sibling, the Amazfit GTR 2e is a smartwatch with incredible potential. The stylish design - while not as good as the GTS 2e's, in my opinion - makes way for a bigger screen and is still super comfortable among round watches. It has lots of health tracking features and capable software that runs pretty smoothly, many watch faces to choose from, and it's overall just nice to use.

      On top of that, the GTR 2e takes the already great battery life of its smaller brother and turns it up to 11. It's actually incredible to me that such a light and comfortable watch can last so long while offering all the features it does, and it's definitely one you'll want to carry if you don't want to constantly worry about charging it.

      However, all the issues I had with the GTS 2e are still a problem here, and it makes it a lot harder to wholeheartedly recommend this watch. It's frustrating because all these seem like issues you could easily fix with a software update, so there's potential for this to be a great fitness smartwatch, but there are a few too many problems.

      As it stands, it's a very good-looking and sleek watch with incredible battery life and pretty much all the health features you'd expect out of a smartwatch, but you have to deal with some painful software choices to enjoy it. If you know what you're getting into, you can get the Amazfit GTR 2e on Amazon, where it's currently discounted to $124.99 (usually $139.99). In the UK, you can have it for £119.99.

      If you'd like to read more about the software experience, you can read our review of the Amazfit GTS 2e, which has all the same features. We took a deeper dive into that side of things in that article and omitted them here to avoid repetition.