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By Rich Woods
Lenovo ThinkBook 14s Yoga unboxing and first impressions
by Rich Woods
Lenovo's ThinkBook 14s Yoga is the first convertible ThinkBook, so while ThinkBook is a modern take on the company's business PC efforts, it's worth remembering that the firm actually invented the convertible under the ThinkPad brand. But unlike most of the ThinkPad convertibles that we've seen, this one is all aluminum, and it doesn't come with legacy features like the TrackPoint.
It does come with one feature that we've seen from plenty of Lenovo convertibles: the pen garage. It has a pen built right into it, so the pen is always with you, and it's always charged. It also comes with a ThinkShutter privacy shutter.
Personally, I'm excited for the new Abyss Blue color, which is apparently limited edition. It's very pretty, and along with the two-tone look, it really stands apart from the crowd. Of course, you can also get it in the old Mineral Gray color if that's more your speed.
Naturally, the ThinkBook 14s Yoga comes with up to an Intel Core i7-1165G7, and this particular model comes with 16GB RAM and a 512GB SSD. The 14-inch screen is FHD. It also comes with Thunderbolt 4 connectivity, solving one of my pain points in a previous ThinkBook review.
Check out the unboxing video below:
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.
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.
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 Microsoft.com here.
Microsoft Weekly: No more 3D Objects folder, mailbox throttling, and Halo insider flights
by Florin Bodnarescu
The week that’s just about to end has brought with it news about one of Windows 10’s special folders, details about productivity solutions Microsoft is planning on implementing, and even some gaming news. You can find info about that, as well as much more below, in your Microsoft digest for the week of February 21 –27.
No more 3D Objects folder
Let us begin our trek up the hillock of news that surfaced this week by talking about one of the default folders in Windows 10, the 3D Objects folder.
Cast your mind back to 2016 when Windows 10 was a year old, and Microsoft was keen to introduce folks to all the great things that could be done via the fancy new Paint 3D – as an extension to its HoloLens / Windows Holographic unveil. As such, the company also introduced the 3D Objects special folder in File Explorer.
Much to the chagrin of the three people who actually use the folder, it will soon no longer be shown inside File Explorer. Microsoft has begun de-emphasizing it via its latest Dev channel build, 21322, but says that it should still be accessible in the user folder – by typing %userprofile% in File Explorer – or via the Navigation Pane > Show all folders option in the ribbon’s View tab. Whether this change will be implemented soon or “Microsoft soon™” is still unclear.
In Beta channel news, the company also pushed out the Windows Feature Experience Pack version 120.2212.3030.0. Available to all insiders in this channel, it improves the reliability of the handwriting input panel, and should come through Windows Update.
You can catch our discussion about the various Insider and preview builds released this week in the latest episode of the Neowin Podcast.
As far as the non-insider part of OS servicing is concerned, the Redmond firm also pushed out an optional cumulative update for those running 2004 (May 2020 Update) or 20H2 (October 2020 Update), the two latest versions of the OS.
Detailed under KB4601382, the update will bring folks running 2004 to build 19041.844, and those on 20H2 to build 19042.844. As usual, the major build number differs, but the revision number is identical.
The cumulative update, although optional, includes a rather impressive array of fixes, covering the OOBE (Out of Box Experience), HDR display functionality, IMEs, language and locale issues, printers, and more.
There are two known issues to keep in mind, one being the loss of system and user certificates after updating, and the other being the input of incorrect Furigana characters in the Japanese IME. The former has been an issue for a while and impacts a certain subset of upgrade types, specifically relating to cumulative update integration when upgrading via install media or different install source.
With 21H1 on the horizon, and the update set to be an enablement package like 20H2 before it, the updates received by the most recent supported Windows 10 variants should be identical. That’s pretty convenient, since as per AdDuplex, Windows 10 20H2 has climbed to 20% market share, though version 2004 (May 2020 Update) is still the most used at 41.8%.
And speaking of release, the Windows 10 Team 2020 Update made its way to Surface Hub 2S users last week in Germany and The Netherlands, with global availability being switched on earlier this week. This same week also saw the release of this update to the original Surface Hub, either for the 55 or 84-inch model – so long as full telemetry was enabled.
Moving on to more productivity-focused news, Microsoft has stated that as of April 2021, it will begin enforcing an upper limit for received emails to avoid any service disruptions.
Now this isn’t some sort of ploy to prevent you from getting your much sought-after newsletters and other important communication, but rather an attempt to lessen the service impact from so-called “hot recipients”. This is a term used for folks who receive in excess of 3,600 messages per hour. Although this has been a bit of a soft limit previously, it will start to be enforced come April this year.
The change will be incremental, in order to allow admins to better adapt to the change, and is being enforced due to the fact that the aforementioned “hot recipients” were and are causing the service to be disrupted for regular customers. The sheer volume of emails causes delays everywhere else in the system due to network resources being diverted to operate those very high-volume inboxes.
As we’re on the subject of limits, the number of languages supported by Microsoft Translator has gone up by nine: Albanian, Amharic, Armenian, Azerbaijani, Khmer, Lao, Myanmar, Nepali, and Tigrinya.
Another limit-related bit of news concerns Microsoft To Do, which now lets you share lists between your personal and work accounts. Keep in mind this does not go both ways, so work lists won’t be shareable to personal accounts.
In a bid to increase productivity, Microsoft has also added the ability for Word on the web to generate PowerPoint presentations from text files, made PowerPoint’s Presenter Coach available for Mac Office Insiders, and revealed plans to roll out support for text predictions in Word starting next month.
Also worth noting is the fact that Pinterest content can now be embedded in both OneNote and Word on the web, and that the company’s chat-based workspace solution, Teams, is set to soon use AI to suggest polls to users based on a meeting’s purpose.
Halo insider flights
As per 343’s promise, the first Halo: MCC Insider flight of 2021 is now live, under session version 1.2159.0.0. It’s available across console and PC (both Steam and the Microsoft Store) and brings two new maps to Halo 3 (Waterfall and Edge), added from the now defunct Halo Online initiative.
Cosmetic content for Season 6 and community-requested features (like FOV sliders for consoles) are also being tested in this build, with the custom server browser scheduled for a later update.
If that’s not quite your thing, there are always Deals with Gold to peruse, covering the Assassin’s Creed franchise, Apex Legends, Dishonored 1 and 2, Kerbal Space Program, and more.
And if not even those are to your liking, you can nab Metal Slug 3 and Warface: Breakout (part of the Games with Gold March wave, with Port Royale 3 and Vicious Attack Llama Apocalypse available later), as well as some of the February titles like Gears 5, Resident Evil, Dandara: Trials of Fear Edition, and Lost Planet 2.
Microsoft and MSCI have joined forces to deliver Investment Solutions as a Service. No, really. Intel, the BBC, and Microsoft have formed a coalition to combat misinformation. Microsoft has begun selling removable SSDs for Surface Pro 7+ only, and only for commercial customers. Edge Dev 90.0.803.0 is now out, featuring minor improvements. LinkedIn experienced an outage earlier this week, affecting service access via both mobile and desktop. It has since been resolved. Logging off
We wrap things up with some IT pro and dev-relevant news.
For one, the Remote Desktop app on iOS has received some connection bar updates, including the ability to hide it, dock it to the left or right edge of the screen on larger-screen devices, a new zoom slider, and more. There’s also a couple of name-related bugs that have been resolved in this update, which bumps the app version to 10.2.4.
Speaking of updates, the February update for Power BI On-premises data gateway is now live, bringing a name change to the DocumentDB connector – now Azure Cosmos DB -, the immediate discontinuation of gx64krb5 support for Kerberos SSO when creating SAP BW data sources, and more.
In the aftermath of the Solorigate cyber attack, Microsoft, VMware, and other affected vendors began investigating the attack, with the Redmond giant now concluding its investigation. Microsoft stated that no customer data was compromised, but that a subset of Azure, Intune, and Exchange code files were accessed. To further help out with the ongoing investigations, the company has open-sourced its CodeQL queries, which it used for system-wide querying during the investigation.
We end with Ignite, which is just around the corner (starting March 2). Thanks to the company’s approach centered on holding only digital events until July 2021, Ignite was split in two, and this is its second part. The session catalog is now live, containing the usual Nadella keynote on the first day, as well as in excess of 340 sessions covering Windows, Edge, AI, and more.
Missed any of the previous columns? Be sure to have a look right here.
The console wars grand finale: Xbox 360 versus Xbox One versus Nintendo 3DS
by João Carrasqueira
Welcome to the final round of the console wars. For the past month, we've asked you to choose your favorite consoles in a series of polls, and your votes have brought us to the grand finale. Of course, that means it's up to you again to choose the true winner.
First, let's recap what happened in round two. The first matchup saw the Xbox 360 pulling an undisputed victory with nearly 50% of the votes. In second place, the PlayStation 2 won over just 24% of the voters, giving the Xbox 360 a crushing win. An interesting result, to be sure, considering the PlayStation 2 is the best-selling console of all time.
The second match pitted the original PlayStation, the Nintendo 64, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch against each other, and once again, Microsoft pulled a convincing. The battle was a bit more balanced here, but the Xbox One still got over 34% of the votes, with the Nintendo Switch slightly edging out the PlayStation for second place with roughly 27% of you choosing it.
Finally, the third match was focused on handhelds, and all of them were made by Nintendo, so there was only one possible winner. More specifically, victory went to the Nintendo 3DS, with roughly 34% of our readers voting for it. In second place, the Game Boy Advance had about 26% of the votes, and it's certainly interesting that sales numbers don't correlate to the poll winners at all in any of these matchups.
With that being said, we now have the three finalists - the Xbox 360, Xbox One, and Nintendo 3DS. You can vote for them right now, but since we're down to the final three, we'll also introduce you to each of the contestants below the poll.
What is the best console of all time?
Xbox 360 Xbox One Nintendo 3DS Submit Vote Meet the contestants
The Xbox 360 was Microsoft's second foray into the world of game consoles, following a relatively lukewarm reception to the original Xbox. Microsoft kickstarted the seventh-generation of consoles, having announced the Xbox 360 in May of 2005, and releasing it in North America, Europe, and Japan later that year. As such, it was the first console to feature HD graphics and it also ushered in the era of online gaming with Xbox Live, though the service was already available to some extent on the original Xbox.
Original Xbox 360 "Premium", Xbox 360 S, and Xbox 360 E The Xbox 360 also introduced a new controller that worked wirelessly and had a significantly improved design that not only negated the criticism towards the original, but actually became one of the most praised controllers for its comfort. The console itself got redesigned a number of times throughout its life, adding more storage, connectivity options, and addressing some reliability issues like the infamous "Red Ring of Death". The most recognizable revision was the Xbox 360 S, launched in 2010, but it also got redesigned to look more like the Xbox One with the Xbox 360 E model in 2012.
By this point, Microsoft had started to gain recognition for its online service, and it had a hugely popular franchise in the form of Halo, with other franchises like Forza Motorsport and Fable having also started to grow. Between that and other well-known exclusive games like Gears of War, the Xbox 360 had a strong library early on. Combine that with stronger third-party support, an earlier launch than the competition, and a more attractive price than the PlayStation 3, the Xbox 360 led in terms of sales for a long time, barring the casual-focused Wii.
Kinect for Xbox 360 However, towards the end of the Xbox 360's life, the company shifted its focus towards the Kinect - a motion-sensing camera - trying to lure the casual audience away from Nintendo. Meanwhile, Sony had introduced cheaper versions of the PlayStation 3 and kept investing in games like The Last of Us and the Uncharted series later on. As such, the Xbox 360 ended in third place in its generation, having sold over 84 million units. Still, it's Microsoft's best-selling console officially.
The Xbox One was first revealed in May of 2013, and its initial reception was completely opposite from the Xbox 360's early days. Microsoft initially wanted to require a constant internet connection, make reselling games impossible, require the use of Kinect, and the first presentation of the console focused much more on media and television than gaming. Microsoft did try to focus more on games at E3, but then it had to contend with Sony. The PlayStation 4 was revealed to be cheaper than the Xbox One, confirmed support for used games, and focused even more on the gaming crowd, which meant Microsoft was off to a very slow start. The first model of the Xbox One was also mocked for being bulky and looking somewhat bland.
But Microsoft put a ton of effort into turning things around as the generation went on. The Kinect was eventually removed from the Xbox One package (and ended up being killed off entirely for gaming purposes), and Microsoft introduced two redesigns that made the Xbox One much more appealing. The Xbox One S, announced in 2016, made the console much smaller and gave it an all-new visual identity, along with adding support for HDR and 4K. This also brought an improved Xbox Wireless Controller, now with Bluetooth support, which allowed it to work on PCs and mobile devices easily. Then, in 2017, Xbox One X became the world's most powerful console, with support for native 4K rendering, all while being even smaller than the One S.
Microsoft also started focusing on games again, and capitalized on its incredibly popular Halo franchise by releasing The Master Chief Collection in 2014, containing almost every game in the series' history so far, with the first two being remade to look the part on Xbox One. Microsoft also finally put its acquisition of Rare to good use with the release of Rare Replay, a collection of almost every Rare-developed game from the 30 years prior, including cult classics like Conker's Bad Fur Day and Banjo-Kazooie. And of course, that's to say nothing of big new games that came out in the next few years from series like Halo, Gears of War, Forza (including the open-world Forza Horizon sub-series), and new franchises entirely like Sea of Thieves and Ori. On top of that, backward compatibility, which was initially missing, would be added later on for both Xbox 360 and some original Xbox games.
Microsoft stopped reporting sales of its Xbox consoles in October 2015, but estimates point to it having sold 51 million units as of the end of the second quarter of 2020. Far from a failure, the Xbox One ended up in a distant second place from the PlayStation 4, and has also been surpassed by the Nintendo Switch, but it stands as a testament to the mistakes Microsoft made and the lessons it learned in this era.
We already talked about the entire history of the Nintendo 3DS just a few months ago, in honor of the console being discontinued in 2020. You can always read more there, but here's a quick summary. The Nintendo 3DS was first announced via a simple press release in March 2010 and then shown off at E3 that year, but it wouldn't release until March 2011.
Its headlining feature was support for glasses-free 3D, which required the user to look at the screen from a very specific angle and distance. It also featured higher-resolution displays, better graphics, and new control methods like a Circle Pad and motion sensors, compared to its predecessor. However, the console initially failed to gain traction thanks to its high price point and lack of blockbuster titles in the first few months.
Nintendo was determined to turn things around, though, and reduced the price from $250 to $170 just a few months later, and with big original games like Super Mario 3D Land and Mario Kart 7 releasing that holiday season, the 3DS began to exhibit a decent amount of success. It eventually got original games from series like The Legend of Zelda and Pokémon, revived franchises like Luigi's Mansion and Kid Icarus, and expanded the popularity of Animal Crossing, which no doubt contributed to the worldwide phenomenon that was Animal Crossing: New Horizons on the Nintendo Switch many years later. Even some third-party exclusives, like the Monster Hunter series and Resident Evil: Revelations (which was only exclusive for about a year), were released for the system.
The Nintendo 3DS received a handful of revisions, including the 3DS XL with bigger screens, and the 2DS, which removed 3D functionality and was more affordable. All models got revised with the "New" branding later on (2015 for the New 3DS and New 3DS XL; 2017 for the New 2DS XL), bringing even more control options, improved processing power, and better 3D support in the 3D-enabled models.
With 75.94 million units sold, it was far from Nintendo's biggest success in the handheld market, but it was far ahead of its competitor - the PlayStation Vita.
And those are the finalists this time around. Who will come out on top in the grand finale of the console wars? It's up to you. Cast your votes and we'll reveal the grand winner in a few weeks.
By Rich Woods
Unboxing the innovative new Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga
by Rich Woods
Lenovo has been expanding its ThinkPad X1 lineup quite a bit lately, and the most recent addition is the ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga, which comes with a 3:2 display as opposed to the more traditional 16:9 display or even the newer 16:10 screen. When it was announced back at CES, you might have just thought it was a ThinkPad X1 Yoga with a titanium lid and a 3:2 display, but it's so much more than that.
There's a lot of engineering that went into making this product, because it's not just about trying out a new aspect ratio. This is about being good at both being a laptop, and at being a tablet. It's made to be light at just over two and a half pounds, and it's designed to be comfortable to hold with the display folded back.
It's just 11.5mm thin, so it's not much thicker than a lot of smartphones, and the keyboard is shallower too at 1.35mm. It's even got a haptic touchpad to save on space. Indeed, Lenovo pulled out all of the stops to get this thing to where it wanted it to be.
Rather than thinking of it as a 3:2 version of the ThinkPad X1 Yoga, I think of it as more of a convertible version of the ThinkPad X1 Nano, which is the company's ultra-light clamshell. Just like the X1 Nano, the X1 Titanium Yoga has lower-powered Intel 11th-gen processors, and just two Thunderbolt 4 ports.
Check out the unboxing video below: