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By Abhay V
Microsoft releases firmware and driver updates for Surface Laptop and Pro devices
by Abhay Venkatesh
As part of the regular updates for its Surface devices, Microsoft is rolling out a bunch of firmware updates to the Surface Laptop 1, Laptop 2, Pro 5, and Pro 6 devices. The updates are rolling out to devices running the Windows 10 May 2019 Update (version 1903) or newer and bring a bunch of audio, reliability, and other improvements.
The first-gen Surface Laptop updates mostly bring audio performance and playback improvements, in addition to the general system updates to enhance stability. Here is the complete changelog for the update:
Windows Update History Name
Device Manager Name
Version and Update
Realtek Semiconductor Corp. - SoftwareComponent - 11.0.6000.92
Realtek Hardware Support Application - Software components
Improves application stability during audio playback. Realtek Semiconductor Corp. - Media - 6.0.8936.1
Realtek High Definition Audio (SST) - Sound, video, and game controllers
Improves audio performance and battery life. Realtek Semiconductor Corp. - Extension - 126.96.36.199
Realtek High Definition Audio (SST) Extension - no Device Manager notes
Improves integration between system services. Surface – System – 188.8.131.52
Surface Integration Driver Service – System devices
Improves integration between system services. The updates for the Surface Laptop 2 are mostly identical, including the same audio performance improvements. However, the second general clamshell laptop is receiving an additional fix for the Serial Hub Driver that fixes issues with the system experiencing bugchecks. Here is the changelog for the additional driver update:
Windows Update History Name
Device Manager Name
Version and Update
Surface - System – 184.108.40.206
Surface Serial Hub Driver – System devices
Addresses system bugcheck. Next up are the Surface Pro devices. The update changelogs for the fifth-gen and sixth-gen Surface Pro devices are identical to that of the first-gen Surface Laptop, bringing similar audio and stability fixes to the devices.
The company has not listed any known issues with these updates, which is always a good thing. As usual, these firmware releases will be rolled out in a staggered manner, meaning that not all devices will receive the update right away.
Again, users of these PCs should be running Windows 10 version 1903 or newer. With this version of the OS soon reaching the end of support next week, Microsoft has already begun force-upgrading users to Windows 10 version 1909, so it shouldn’t be a problem for most users. You can head to Windows Update to check if your device has been offered the updates yet.
By Abhay V
PowerToys pre-release version 0.28 out with a minor addition to the Video Conference utility
by Abhay Venkatesh
As promised earlier this week, Microsoft has released a new version of its PowerToys suite of tools to users running the experimental releases, bumping up the version to 0.28. The update contains all the additions and fixes that were introduced in version 0.27, along with the Video Conference Mute utility that helps users globally mute audio in video calls.
The company plans to integrate the tool into the regular release in the coming weeks and is currently fixing bugs and finalizing the offering. The company adds in today’s notes that it is currently “looking into changing the virtual webcam driver into a DirectShow filter” for ironing out issues and "quirks". The change, however, is not part of this release. The firm has also added an optional image overlay for video in the utility.
Additionally, the company notes that the release cannot be installed through WinGet and that the release will only be automatically offered to users running the experimental version. For those interested, the team is also maintaining an issue tracker for the Video Conference Mute utility here. There is no information on the possible timeframe for the launch of the tool.
You can check the release notes and download the update package from the GitHub page here.
By Namerah S
Turtle Beach Stealth 700 Gen 2 review: An all-around great gaming headset
by Namerah Saud Fatmi
Now that next-gen consoles are out, many people are looking for gaming accessories to go with their latest gaming systems. Whether you're opting for Sony's PlayStation 5 or Microsoft's Xbox Series X|S, Turtle Beach has got you covered. The gaming accessories-maker has released the Stealth 700 Gen 2 premium gaming headset which is compatible with either option.
Aside from being compatible with the newest consoles, the Stealth 700 Gen 2 can also be used with the Nintendo Switch in its docked mode and wirelessly via Bluetooth with Windows, Mac, Android and iOS devices. If you're on the quest to satisfy your gaming audio needs, join us as we review the second generation of Turtle Beach's Stealth 700 series.
Weight 1lb Battery 1,000 mAh Platforms and connectivity PS4, PS5, Nintendo Switch via USB transmitter | Windows, Mac, Android, iOS via Bluetooth Speaker size 50mm Nanoclear neodymium drivers Speaker frequency response 20Hz – 22kHz Mic design Flip-up omnidirectional Ear-cup design Over-ear, closed Ear cushion material Synthetic leather, memory foam cushioning
The Stealth 700 Gen 2 is a rather bulky device displaying some design choices which clearly favour comfort over aesthetics. Turtle Beach's giant second-generation top-of-the-line headset has two variants: a PlayStation version with a USB transmitter and an Xbox edition with an in-built Xbox Wireless chip. This review will look at the PlayStation version of the Stealth 700 Gen 2 headset. For colour options, customers can choose between black and white.
The top of the headset has an adjustable metal band which can expand or contract to fit one's personal preference. Both ear-cups feature soft memory foam padding which is touted to be glasses-friendly by Turtle Beach. In my personal experience, they made the entire experience incredibly comfortable and cushioned the ears very nicely. Extended periods of gameplay do not tire out the ears and they don't get sweaty or itchy.
On the back of the left ear of the headset, there are three buttons, a USB-C charging port, an LED light and two mappable control wheels. The buttons include a Bluetooth button, a power button and a mode button which toggles the Superhuman Hearing audio mode. Users can easily alter the function of the last button through the mobile or PC application.
The LED light indicates the power and Bluetooth connection status. As for the two wheels, one controls the master volume and the other changes the mic audio though it can be customized for other purposes as well. Apart from the mic, the other assignable options are toggling the Bluetooth volume and Superhuman Hearing volume. On the front of the left ear cup, there is a mic neatly tucked away inside the body of the headset. It supports flip-to-mute functionality which is highly convenient amid intense gameplay.
Sound-wise, my entire gaming experience with the Stealth 700 Gen 2 was extremely good. The audio quality is truly premium and playing with Superhuman Hearing on adds another dimension to gameplay. Having used Razer for a long time, I would compare it to the Surround Sound experience. You can hear exactly which direction someone is coming from or shooting from. The distance of the sound is also replicated really well and the positions of targets, enemies, vehicles or even animals can be understood due to the direction and loudness of the audio.
The soft memory foam plays a huge role in making the ride far more than agreeable. They are almost like two tiny pillows encasing your ears while playing. Unfortunately, despite their large nature they do not manage to block out external noise much which can be very distracting. On the upside, the mic is really great as my team members had absolutely no issues hearing me with the Stealth 700 Gen 2 headset on.
During my testing, I did have some other issues with the audio device. Setting the PS4 aside, it took horrendously long to connect the headset with other devices. I tried to connect it to several phones and for some reason, it just wouldn't connect to certain ones. Weirdly, most of the smartphones that were rejected by the headset were Xiaomi handsets.
Another problem was that once the Stealth 700 Gen 2 finally connected with my PC, the Turtle Beach application failed to acknowledge the connection so I couldn't customize anything without my phone. Though I could use it for audio playback, I couldn't play around with the mappable features or adjust the sound through an equalizer.
The wireless Stealth 700 Gen 2 headset has a 1,000 mAh battery which can last for up to 20 hours of usage. To my pleasure, I found this to be very accurate. As for the charge time, it takes about an hour and a half to charge this thing up fully from scratch. Considering the long-lasting battery life, this isn't as much of a bother.
All things considered, the headset is almost perfect when it comes to usability and sound quality. If you're lucky, you won't face any iffy connectivity problems as I did. It is also likely that the Xbox version without the USB transmitter works much smoother.
For a price of $149.95, I'd say the Stealth 700 Gen 2 is an excellent buy - maybe even the best in that price range. It provides premium quality gaming audio for a decent price and has great battery life. Despite being a gaming headset, it's an added plus that the wireless headset connects with smartphones as well.
By Rich Woods
Lenovo Yoga 9i 15 review: Big, powerful, and a workhorse convertible
by Rich Woods
This year, Lenovo's flagship consumer convertible PC is called the Yoga 9i. This follows two years of being the Yoga C900 series, and prior to that, the Yoga 900 series. Yes, Lenovo has struggled with branding as of late, but the product is still solid, and the latest 15-inch Yoga 9i is here. And to be clear, it's the successor to the Yoga C940 15.
And when I reviewed that, I called it the rare workhorse convertible. That hasn't changed. It still has a 45W Intel Core processor and Nvidia GeForce graphics. Of course, the ninth-gen CPU has been replaced by 10th-gen, but also, the GeForce graphics have been bumped up to a GTX 1650 Ti.
While the powerful internals are what makes it stand apart from its 14-inch sibling, the Yoga 9i series is just awesome. It has the best audio quality that you'll find in a laptop with the powerful Dolby Atmos rotating soundbar, and it has a built-in pen garage. The screen supports Dolby Vision HDR, and it's just an all-around solid package.
CPU Intel Core i7-10750H Graphics Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti 4GB GDDR6 Body 13.99x9.39x0.69-0.78in (355.5x238.5x17.5-19.7mm), 4.41lbs (2kg) Display 15.6" FHD (1920x1080), IPS, 500nit, VESA HDR400, Dolby Vision Memory 16GB LPDDR4, 2933MHz Storage 1TB PCIe NVMe Ports (1) USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A
(2) Thunderbolt 3 (Power, DP 1.4, data)
(1) 3.5mm audio Battery 69Wh, Rapid Charge Express Connectivity Intel Wi-Fi 6 802.11 AX201 + Bluetooth 5.0 Audio Rotating Sound Bar with Dolby Atmos Speaker System certification
2W x 4 (2x woofer, 2x tweeter) Input 6-row, multimedia Fn keys, numeric keypad, LED backlight
Buttonless glass surface multi-touch touchpad Material Aluminum Color Slate Grey OS Windows 10 Home Price $1,799.99
This model is sold at Bestbuy.com, but not at Lenovo.com. It was provided by Lenovo.
The Lenovo Yoga 9i 15 that was sent to me comes in Slate Grey, and it's made out of aluminum. Yes, it seems to look the same that it has in previous years, and frankly, it's a bit dull. I've often criticized Lenovo for the gray aluminum laptop look. Just take a look at HP's beautiful Spectre x360 15 and you'll see what I mean.
I will point out that Lenovo is doing some cool things with design on its 14-inch Yoga 9i, which is available in all-black and with a leather cover. It's pretty great. That's exclusive to the 14-inch one though, at least for now.
On the left side of the PC, there are two Thunderbolt 3 ports, a 3.5mm audio jack, and an AC power port. Yes, you'll need to use Lenovo's 135W proprietary power adapter instead of USB Type-C, since this powerful machine requires more power than you'd get over Power Delivery. In fact, these ports don't even support Power Delivery, so if you wanted to use a USB Type-C charger for a slow charge, you can't even do that.
Those Thunderbolt 3 ports do support DisplayPort 1.4, so you should be able to connect an 8K display to one port if you wanted to (I don't have an 8K display to test). Those ports also make it possible to dock the PC and use the Yoga 9i as your desktop. It has the power to handle all tasks for most people, and the display output for your high-resolution monitors.
On the other side, there's a lone USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A port. USB 3.2 Gen 1, also known as USB 3.1 Gen 1 and USB 3.0, is good for 5Gbps data transfer speeds. The combination of two USB Type-C ports and one USB Type-A port isn't uncommon for consumer laptops, but I'd still hope for a second USB Type-A port on a big device like this. That's a very minor complaint though; after all, one USB Type-A port should be fine for on-the-go, and if it's docked at home, you'll have extra ports that way.
You'll notice on that side that there's also a pen garage. This is one of my favorite things about premium Lenovo convertibles. The pen doesn't get away like it does if it's magnetically attached to the side, but you still always have it with you. It's also always charged. The only downside is that it's not a full-size pen, so if you want that, you can purchase any number of third-party products.
Finally, the Yoga 9i 15 comes with a Dolby Atmos soundbar in the hinge. Lenovo calls it a rotating soundbar, because no matter which orientation you're using the device in, you've still got audio firing right at you.
Dolby Vision display and Dolby Atmos rotating soundbar
Lenovo does have both FHD and UHD options for the screen. This time around, the firm sent me the FHD model, which should get better battery life. They both support Dolby Vision HDR, and they're super bright at 500 nits.
Honestly, there's a big trade-off to be had here. Obviously, battery life drops off dramatically when you switch to UHD, but FHD just doesn't look as good. And the bigger the screen, the more noticeable it is. For a 15.6-inch panel, I feel like a higher resolution is pretty necessary, especially on something like the Yoga 9i, which is meant to have an excellent media consumption experience. As always, I wish there was a QHD option.
The Yoga 9i 15 has narrow bezels all around, and the top bezel is a bit bigger. Lenovo also used its reverse notch, which we're seeing across the lineup, and it has a privacy guard built into it. The reverse notch provides an easy way to lift the lid, and it also gives Lenovo some extra space to pack in the webcam and other sensors. There's no IR camera for Windows Hello though.
I mentioned earlier that the Dolby Atmos rotating soundbar provides the best audio that you can get from a laptop, and I'm pretty confident in that statement. It has four 2W speakers built into it, and a comfortable volume for listening to music is around 25% for me. For most laptops, it's around 90%, because regarding the general market, quality has gotten a lot better, but volume has not. This laptop offers both quality and volume. This thing can fill the room.
The Yoga 9i is the ultimate media consumption machine. With a beautiful Dolby Vision screen and the Dolby Atmos rotating soundbar, movies and TV shows look and sound great, and music gets loud. You can also use it for some Full HD gaming if you want. And of course, it's good for work too, as those video calls while working from home will sound crystal clear.
Keyboard and trackpad
The full-size keyboard on the Lenovo Yoga 9i 15 has a numpad to the right of it, something that I'm not personally a fan of on laptops. It's big enough for it, of course, but if you don't want to use the numpad, you have to align yourself to the left.
The backlit keys are a lot shallower than you'd find on a ThinkPad, and that always kind of fascinates me. Both ThinkPads and Lenovo's Yoga consumer laptops have fantastic keyboards that are both comfortable and accurate to type on; they're just different. It's like Lenovo decided at some point that its business customers want something different from consumers.
There's a fingerprint sensor to the bottom right of the keyboard, which is fine. Honestly, I expect it to be there being that there's no IR camera for Windows Hello facial recognition. At least there's one method for biometric authentication.
The Microsoft Precision trackpad is clickable, and it's both fast and responsive, as you'd expect from any Precision trackpad. I do wish it was a bit bigger, a common point that I like to make on larger laptops. The real estate on the aluminum palm rest is there; why not use it? This is something that Dell finally took advantage of this year with its XPS 15 and XPS 17.
And of course, the other method of input is the pen, as I mentioned above. It comes in a pen garage in the PC, so you can always break it out if you need it.
Performance and battery life
The Yoga 9i 15 that Lenovo sent me includes an Intel Core i7-10750H CPU and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 GPU with 4GB GDDR6 memory. The CPU is a 45W processor with six cores and 12 threads, just like the Core i7-9750H that we got in last year's model, although the turbo frequency on this one can reach 5GHz.
You might also recall that last year's Yoga C940 15 also has a GTX 1650 GPU; however, that was one that was using GDDR5 memory. This year's model uses the superior GDDR6 memory, and that's definitely something you should take note of when looking at the GTX 1650 in any device.
These are powerful internals, and frankly, I used this machine for everything. I edited video, played games, watched shows, listened to music, took handwritten notes, and I just typed articles. It's an amazing all-around PC. Speaking of performance, FHD gaming does just fine with what we have here, and so does FHD 60fps video editing.
Sadly, as usual, the powerful internals don't translate well to battery life. I only got about five hours of real-world work, and that was on a good day and not including doing more power-hungry tasks like video editing and gaming. I thought the FHD screen would help it to do better than it did, but that wasn't the case. I'm not upset about it though.
A big part of choosing the right PC for you is finding the right balance between power and battery life. There's always a trade-off to be made, and you have to see how it fits into how you want to be able to use the PC. Of course, if you want better battery life, you can take a look at the 14-inch model that has a U-series CPU and integrated graphics.
For benchmarks, I used PCMark 8, PCMark 10, 3DMark, and Geekbench.
Lenovo Yoga 9i 15
Core i7-10750H, GTX 1650 GDDR6 Lenovo Yoga C940 15
Core i7-9750H, GTX 1650 GDDR5 HP OMEN 15
Ryzen 7 4800H, GTX 1660 Ti Dell XPS 15 9500
Core i7-10875H, GTX 1650Ti PCMark 8: Home 3,936 3,915 4,756 3,652 PCMark 8: Creative 4,693 3,788 6,028 4,839 PCMark 8: Work 3,817 3,918 3,989 3,322 PCMark 10 5,159 5,144 5,639 5,136 3DMark: Time Spy 3,643 3,511 6,037 3,743 Geekbench 5 1,232 / 5,608 1,188 / 7,946
Comparing this year's model to last year's, it's no surprise that there are few big changes in the scores. The CPUs between the two generations are very similar.
It's not the prettiest laptop I've seen by a long stretch, and as always, I wish there was 4G LTE and an IR camera, but as I mentioned, I was able to use the Lenovo Yoga 9i 15 for anything I wanted to. That goes for video editing and gaming to work and consumption.
It has the powerful internals for powerful tasks like video editing and gaming. At the same time, it's also just an incredibly well-built machine with a great keyboard and trackpad, so it's excellent for general productivity as well.
But let's talk about just media consumption. The beautiful screen supports Dolby Vision HDR and the Dolby Atmos soundbar provides audio that's second to none. The built-in pen is appreciated too. I was able to use this machine for taking handwritten notes and for signing documents.
I think that with Lenovo's Yoga 9 series, the company provides one of the best all-around experiences out there. If you want to check it out, you can find it here.
By Hamza Jawad
Microsoft shares the innovative ways in which its ElectionGuard software is being utilized
by Hamza Jawad
Image via Microsoft Last year, Microsoft unveiled ElectionGuard - a voting system aimed toward showcasing security and affordability for the voting process in elections. Since then, the tech giant has released the software on GitHub and even piloted it in an election in the U.S. state of Wisconsin. Today, Microsoft has highlighted some of the unique ways in which ElectionGuard is being used in various projects.
For starters, VotingWorks - the firm which partnered with Microsoft in the aforementioned Wisconsin elections - recently incorporated ElectionGuard into Arlo, its open-source auditing software. Arlo was then used to conduct a risk-limiting audit in Inyo County, California to show a link between the election and the audit results, with voter privacy being maintained during the process through the software.
Moving on, ElectionGuard was successfully used to encrypt votes cast using a mobile app, developed by technology firm Markup, which facilitated remote voting for the leadership of the U.S. House Democratic Caucus. No personal devices were used during this voting process, and House-managed iPhones were utilized instead. Similarly, Canadian company Neuvote created a hybrid mobile voting system that enables voters to "cast and confirm a paper ballot from a smartphone or tablet while watching the process on their device". The electronic vote record which is cast is secured through ElectionGuard. On both these projects, Microsoft has been assisted by the U.S.-based firm InfernoRed.
In the future, Microsoft plans to share more on ElectionGuard's use in ensuring voting confidence when it comes to traditional voting systems.