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    • By Rich Woods
      Surface Pro 7+ review: Iris Xe graphics and 4G LTE make a big difference
      by Rich Woods

      Last month, Microsoft introduced the Surface Pro 7+, and there were a few surprises included. For example, we all expected it to be called the Surface Pro 8, and then when it wasn't, it wasn't really clear why, being that the Pro 7+ actually has more significant improvements than some other Surface Pro upgrades we've seen.

      First of all, there's the spec bump, going from Intel's 10th-gen 'Ice Lake' processors to 11th-gen 'Tiger Lake', meaning that the integrated graphics goes from Iris Plus Graphics to Iris Xe. There's a lot more power there, especially on the graphics side of things. It's more significant of a spec bump than the one that we saw on the Surface Pro 6, and the Pro 6 was only a spec bump.

      That's not the only thing that's new though. The Surface Pro 7+ also comes with 4G LTE and removable storage, both features that are found in the Surface Pro X. They're both features that are great for businesses though, offering better security in terms of data and connectivity.

      And yes, this PC is aimed squarely at businesses. If you're a consumer buying a Surface Pro in the store, you're going to be getting the Surface Pro 7 with its 10th-gen processors.

      CPU Intel Core i5-1135G7 Graphics Iris Xe Body 11.5x7.9x0.33in (292x201x8.5mm), 1.75lbs (796g) Display Screen: 12.3” PixelSense Display
      Resolution: 2736 x 1824 (267 PPI)
      Aspect ratio: 3:2
      Touch: 10 point multi-touch

      Memory 16GB LPDDR4x RAM Storage 256GB SSD Ports 1 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C
      1 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A
      3.5mm headphone jack
      1 x Surface Connect port (USB 3.2 Gen 2)
      Surface Type Cover port
      1 x nano SIM (LTE)
      Compatible with Surface Dial off-screen interaction Cameras,
      and audio Windows Hello face authentication camera (front-facing) 
      5MP front-facing camera with 1080p full HD video
      8MP rear-facing autofocus camera with 1080p full HD video
      Dual far-field Studio Mics
      1.6W stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos Battery life Up to 13.5 hours of typical device usage Connectivity Wi-Fi 6: 802.11ax compatible
      Bluetooth Wireless 5.0 technology
      LTE Advanced with removable SIM and eSIM support
      Qualcomm Snapdragon X20 LTE Modem
      LTE bands supported: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 14, 19, 20, 25, 26, 28, 29, 30, 38, 39, 40, 41, 66 OS Windows 10 Pro Material Magnesium Color Platinum Price $1,649.99
      There are a few things to note with the specs here. For one thing, if you want 4G LTE, you have to get the Core i5, without LTE is also offered with a Core i3-1115G4 or Core i7-1165G7. That's also because the Core i7 model has a fan, and the LTE module is placed where the fan would be on the i5 model.

      This model is also a bit heavier than the 1.7lb Core i3 or i5 model, and even a tiny bit heavier than the 1.73lb Core i7 model with its fan added in. Another thing to note is that 4G models only go up to 16GB RAM and 256GB of storage, although you can get it with up to 32GB RAM and 1TB of storage if you go Wi-Fi only.

      Finally, and this might be important to you, the LTE model ditches microSD expansion, something that's been a staple of the Surface Pro lineup since the beginning. It still comes in the Wi-Fi only model though.

      Day one
      On the surface (pun intended), the Surface Pro 7+ doesn't have any design changes. In fact, you'd be hard-pressed to find any significant design changes since the Pro 4. The modern Surface Pro was introduced in 2014 with the Pro 3, and then the screen size was increased from 12 to 12.3 inches in the Pro 4, and the chassis was made a bit thinner. The Surface Pro 6 saw the return of the black color, and the Surface Pro 7 finally saw the addition of a USB Type-C port, replacing the old Mini DisplayPort.

      Indeed, there's no real change there. Microsoft sent me the Platinum color again, and it's still got the chrome Microsoft logo on the back of the kickstand. But when you lift up the kickstand, that's where the actual change is.

      This is the first Intel-powered Surface Pro to have removable storage, something that we've already seen in the Surface Pro X, Surface Laptop 3, and Surface Laptop Go. While you could technically use this to get around Microsoft's exorbitant prices for storage tiers, that's not recommended. This can be a way to replace defective storage, and in fact, Microsoft is now selling replacement SSD kits so IT can swap out the faulty drive right away.

      The other key thing that this allows for is destroying sensitive data. Obviously, this PC won't be around forever, and there will come a time when your business recycles it, and you won't want some bad actor getting their hands on it and recovering any data that was stored on the device. Now, you don't have to worry about it.

      The panel to access the SSD opens with a SIM tool, but the nano-SIM slot isn't under that panel like it is on the Surface Pro X. Instead, it's on the side, and as mentioned, there's no more microSD card slot. Personally, I'd take a nano-SIM slot any day.

      Also on the right side are all of the ports that you need, including USB Type-C, USB Type-A, and Surface Connect. Unfortunately, the bad news is that they're all the 10Gbps USB 3.2 Gen 2. While I appreciate that in the USB Type-A port, since so many premium PCs are still using the 5Gbps USB 3.2 Gen 1, I really do wish that Microsoft would start using Thunderbolt 4.

      With Thunderbolt 4, you can connect dual 4K monitors or one 8K monitor to a single port, or you can connect an external GPU. When you look at the kind of performance that Intel's 11th-gen processors can deliver, this kind of expandability starts to sound more and more attractive.

      On the left side at the top is the 3.5mm audio jack, and that means that it's time to talk a bit about port placement, because I'm not a fan. The same goes for the Surface Book. These things are clearly designed to be used as tablets, an odd choice when Windows 10 isn't. Putting ports like a headphone jack at the top means that you have wires dangling while you're trying to use it, and it's a pain point.

      Frankly, the same goes for if you're charging via the USB Type-C port, which is the only one I'm willing to use. Naturally, it does ship with a Surface Connect charger, but like all review units that offer USB Type-C charging and ship with a proprietary charger, I just use USB Type-C.

      On the top, there's just a power button and volume rocker. This is another design element that clearly comes from an age when Microsoft thought that people buying this would spend a lot of time holding it in portrait orientation, but it's fine.

      Finally, on the bottom, we have our Type Cover port, and you can still use any Surface Pro Type Cover (or Touch Cover, for that matter) that's ever existed. If you use a Type Cover that was made for the 16:9 Surface Pro or Pro 2, it certainly won't cover the screen, but the keyboard will still work. Indeed, the Surface Pro 7+ has all of the legacy components that your business needs if it's standardized around Surface, including the same Type Cover port, Surface Connect, and more.

      I've spent a lot of time wondering why this is a business PC. Sure, I get that the new business features are awesome, such as removable storage and 4G LTE, which is way more secure than public Wi-Fi. But why not sell it to consumers too, even if it's just the Wi-Fi only model? This is entirely speculation, but it's possible that there's an actual Surface Pro 8 planned that doesn't have some of the legacy components that I described above; it could be a properly redesigned Surface Pro, and it would also explain the off Pro 7+ naming.

      Display and audio
      As far as this and the keyboard section go, everything is identical to the Surface Pro 7, so if you're familiar with the product, you can skip to the performance section. If not, read on.

      Once again, the Surface Pro 7+ has a 12.3-inch 2736x1824 PixelSense display. PixelSense is sort of Microsoft's version of what Apple calls Retina. It has a 267ppi pixel density, which is pretty great, as there's no visible pixelation. In fact, considering how small the screen is, it's pretty high resolution in the world of FHD laptops.

      Also, Microsoft is very good at making displays. It's one thing that it always pulls off pretty well. That means that you're getting accurate colors here, something that really comes in handy in photo and video editing work. It's incredibly glossy though, and that actually applies to the entire lineup.

      It's also got a full 178-degree viewing angle, as any premium laptop display should. That means that no matter where you're looking at it from, there's no visible color distortion.

      But also, it's got massive bezels. Indeed, those bezels really haven't changed at all since the Surface Pro 4's introduction in 2015, so if they make the PC look dated, it's because the design is dated. In fact, it's worth noting that much of the Surface lineup has dated designs. The Surface Book was introduced in 2015 alongside the Pro 4, and that hasn't changed either.

      Other companies are improving their designs on a yearly basis, often finding new and innovative ways to chop down the bezels a bit more and make the footprint just that little bit smaller.

      The top bezel does include both a webcam and an IR camera for Windows Hello. In fact, the new Surface Laptop Go has the smallest top bezel of any Surface, and Microsoft said it had to ditch the IR camera to do it. Also, the webcam is 1080p, something that's still a rarity in portable PCs.

      As for audio quality, it's as good as it can get for a tablet like this one. Microsoft puts two speakers in the bezels on both sides of the display, and while they're not particularly loud for media consumption, they do sound good for calls. Naturally, the latter is pretty important these days while people are working from home.

      Type Cover
      Like I said earlier, the port for the Type Cover is one of very few things that haven't changed over the years, so you can use (almost) any Type Cover or Touch Cover that's existed, unless it was made for the Surface Go or Surface Pro X, which were the only times Microsoft changed the port. I actually threw in the "almost" because the very rare Music Kit doesn't work anymore.

      Microsoft sent me the black Type Cover, which is the only one that doesn't come with Alcantara fabric, so it's not considered to be a Signature Type Cover. Of course, black is a more subtle cover for businesses.

      The keyboard itself is pretty good, and it's improved a lot over the years. In my experience, connectivity used to be a big issue for Surfaces. For example, the keyboard magnetically props up against the bottom bezel, and typing would cause a vibration that temporarily disconnects the keyboard. It was a pain point, and I haven't had that issue at all with this model.

      But to be clear, this isn't a laptop keyboard, and doesn't feel like one. You should absolutely take note of this when you purchase this product for your business. If you're going to hand this machine to an employee that's going to just place it on a desk and type on it like it's a laptop, then you should probably be looking at the Surface Laptop. If it's going to be used as a tablet rarely, then you should look at the Surface Book. The Type Cover is meant to be removed so the Surface Pro 7+ can be used as a tablet.

      I'd like to give a shout-out to Brydge, even though I don't always give call-outs to third-party peripherals in reviews. Brydge is known for making keyboards for tablets and making them feel more like laptops, and the Brydge 12.3 Pro+ is actually the first third-party keyboard that's Designed for Surface.

      As you can see in the image, it slides into two clamps on the keyboard and they have a tight hinge. It feels like a proper laptop to use. It does connect via Bluetooth though, so you're giving up that direct connection that you get with the Type Cover.

      Of course, a Surface Pro doesn't actually come with a keyboard, so you can buy Microsoft's, Brydge's, or someone else's. You can choose any keyboard that you want.

      Performance and battery life
      The Surface Pro 7+ comes with Intel's new 11th-generation processors, and that means that it comes with Iris Xe graphics. It's actually pretty phenomenal. With 10th-gen, Intel finally started to get serious about its integrated graphics with Iris Plus, and then it doubled down with Iris Xe.

      When you look at a tablet that's a third of an inch thick and weighs in at 1.75 pounds, you probably wouldn't expect it to pack much of a punch, and indeed, it sure didn't back in 2015. But today, I'm truly amazed when I see these PCs in tiny form factors that can do things that I'd have needed dedicated graphics for just a couple of years ago. Intel wasn't lying when it said that you can do FHD gaming on Iris Xe.

      Intel's naming is a bit different than it was with Ice Lake though. The G number is for graphics power, but it meant something different. With 10th-gen and Iris Plus, G7 meant it has Iris Plus with 64 execution units (EUs), G4 meant it had 48 EUs, and G1 meant it had UHD Graphics with 32 EUs. In other words, the Core i7-1065G7 and Core i5-1035G7 had the same graphics, which was great news for products like the Surface Laptop 3 where the only difference was CPU power.

      With 11th-gen and Iris Xe, the Core i7-1165G7 and Core i5-1135G7 both have Iris Xe, but despite both being called 'G7', the former has 96 EUs while the latter has 80 EUs. It's just something to be aware of when choosing between the two options.

      Battery life isn't particularly impressive, which isn't surprising for a Surface like this. I found that it gets around five hours of real-world use, and that really just includes working through the browser while having various apps open like Slack, Skype, and OneNote. This was with the brightness around 30% and the power slider at one notch above battery saver. You might be able to stretch it to six hours, but anything beyond that, you'll have to be doing something that really doesn't use much battery like local video playback.

      But let's talk about cellular connectivity, which is awesome. The nice thing is that if you pull this thing out of your bag and fire it up, it's connected to the internet right away. You don't have to worry about handing over your email address to use the Wi-Fi in Starbucks and ending up on their mailing list, and you don't have to hunt down the Wi-Fi password in the airport lounge. You're just connected, and it's a delightful feature.

      It's also a security feature. You don't have to worry about connecting to public Wi-Fi networks that are often insecure; moreover, you don't have to worry about your employees doing it.

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

      Surface Pro 7+
      Core i5-1135G7 Surface Pro 7
      Core i5-1035G4 Razer Book 13
      Core i7-1165G7 PCMark 8: Home 3,521 3,376 4,370 PCMark 8: Creative 4,192 3,749 4,796 PCMark 8: Work 3,403 3,339 4,047 PCMark 10 3,963 4,030 4,897 Geekbench 5 1,358 / 5,246 1,425 / 4,143 Cinebench 1,235 / 2,854 1,426 / 3,837
      As you can see, there are some big improvements coming from the Core i5 in the Pro 7 to the one in the Pro 7+. Honestly, it doesn't make sense to me that consumers still have to get the Ice Lake processor if they want a Surface Pro.

      One of my biggest issues with the Surface Pro is that it still hangs onto all of that legacy stuff. It's still got the massive bezels, and it still has the Surface Connect port instead of going all-in on USB Type-C. But of course, these things are exactly what businesses want. They want the old chargers they have lying around to work in the new model, and they want their Type Covers to work so they don't have to buy new ones. It all makes sense for a business audience.

      Of course, there's no excuse for not having Thunderbolt 4, something that you'll find in any other premium portable PC. If you wanted to connect dual 4K displays to this, you'd probably have to use the USB Type-C port for one and the Surface Connect port with a dock for the other. And just imagine being able to connect an external GPU; after taking this to work, you'd be able to bring it home and with a single cable, connect it to a ton of power that turns it into a gaming rig.

      But at least you do get Iris Xe graphics with this, which is quite nice. Indeed, the boost in power from the previous generation is pretty awesome. Intel is seeing some competition these days, and it's absolutely leading to us getting better products.

      I also love cellular connectivity, as it's one of my favorite features in any device. Frankly, in 2021, I just think all things should be able to connect to the internet at all times. Removable storage is excellent too, as it's yet another security feature for businesses.

      If you want to check it out, you can find it on here.

    • 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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