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By Rich Woods
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold unboxing: The first foldable PC is here
by Rich Woods
It was May 2019 when Lenovo first announced that it was working on a new Windows-powered ThinkPad X1 device with a foldable screen. Some more details were unveiled at CES this year, when it was officially dubbed the ThinkPad X1 Fold. That's also when Lenovo said that it would come with Windows 10 Pro, with a Windows 10X version coming later. Of course, the fate of the Windows 10X version is unknown now.
But now, the ThinkPad X1 Fold is here, and so far, I have to say that Windows 10 Pro is pretty good. Lenovo built some custom software to get it up and running with window switching and such. Also, one thing that didn't work in earlier demos was having the UI automatically react to the keyboard being attached. That's something that's been resolved. It's a much smoother experience than when I went hands-on at CES.
It uses Intel's new Lakefield processors, specifically the Core i5-L16G7. That means that it uses Intel's take on big.LITTLE, something that's been used in ARM processors. Of course, Intel calls it big-bigger, because it's Intel and it won't ever admit that it has any small cores. Nevertheless, the idea is that a single powerful core can work on powerful tasks, while the four smaller cores can do tasks that require less power, all while using less battery life.
The foldable OLED display is 13.3 inches with 2048x1536 resolution, making it 4:3. When folded, that offers two 9.6-inch 3:2 displays, but it has a kickstand for full-screen use. It also comes with a Bluetooth keyboard, so it can either be used when magnetically attached on the inside, or externally when using it in full-screen mode.
Check out the unboxing video below:
By Rich Woods
Microsoft is once again reportedly bringing Android apps to Windows
by Rich Woods
When Microsoft first introduced Windows 10, it promised a series of "bridges" to bring apps to the Windows Store, which is now called the Microsoft Store. Project Centennial brought Win32 apps to the Store, Project Westminster was for hosted web apps, Project Islandwood let developers recompile an iOS app with minimal modifications, and Project Astoria would actually allow Android APKs to be installed and run on Windows.
Project Astoria was the only one that never actually shipped (other than in Insider Previews), and it was pronounced dead in February 2016. As it turns out, not all was lost. It evolved into the Windows Subsystem for Linux as we know it today.
According to a new report from Windows Central's Zac Bowden, Microsoft once again has a plan to bring Android apps to Windows 10. This time it's called Project Latte, and it will be based on the Windows Subsystem for Linux. Being that WSL supports GUI apps now and GPU acceleration, there's a stronger basis for getting this to work properly.
The reasons that Project Astoria was killed off are still unclear. According to Microsoft, it was just too confusing for developers to have both an iOS and an Android bridge. Unofficially, some people said it was never good enough for production, while others said it was too good, with Microsoft fearing that Astoria could cannibalize its own UWP app ambitions.
Of course, Microsoft ruined that all on its own, and native Windows apps are no longer where the firm feels it needs to be. With Your Phone, you can basically stream Android apps to your PC, going so far as to add shortcuts for them. The next step is getting them to run natively.
Limitations of Project Latte don't really sound any different than they were for Project Astoria. Developers won't need to make any major modifications, but of course, there won't be any Google Play Services support. There's just no way that Microsoft could get that up and running while companies like Huawei have failed.
As for when this will arrive, Bowden is expecting it to show up in the fall 2021 update, which is expected to be a major one. We'll see x64 emulation on ARM PCs, an overhauled UI, and more.
By Rich Woods
Lenovo Yoga 9i 14 unboxing and first impressions
by Rich Woods
Announced at IFA this year, Lenovo's Yoga 9i is the company's flagship convertible, and it makes some really interesting improvements on an already-great laptop. For one thing, it's getting the improvement that pretty much all Intel-based laptops are getting: 11th-generation processors. Intel Tiger Lake not only brings faster CPUs and more powerful Iris Xe graphics, but it also supports Thunderbolt 4 and faster memory. It's pretty great.
It also comes in a new Shadow Black color with a leather cover, and I never realized how much I wanted this from Lenovo. I've criticized the firm for making laptops that are magnificent, but have designs that just feel bland. Seeing this in black is sexy, and then adding in the leather cover really gives it a nice touch.
That's not all though, because it has a haptic Smart Sensor Touchpad and an Ultrasonic fingerprint reader. The entire palm rest is completely smooth, and if you click the touchpad, it gives a vibration to make it feel like it's moving. Of course, if you power down the PC, you'll realize that there are no moving parts.
The Yoga 9i still has the other bits that make it an excellent convertible, such as the rotating Dolby Atmos soundbar. It comes with four 2W speakers, including two woofers and two tweeters. It's also got a 14-inch 4K touchscreen that supports Dolby Vision HDR. That touchscreen has pen support, and the pen is stored inside of the device, which has a pen garage.
Check out the unboxing video below:
AdDuplex: Windows 10 version 20H2 is now on 8.8% of PCs, as 1909 bounces back
by João Carrasqueira
It's that time again, as AdDuplex has once again released its monthly chart showcasing the market share of the different versions of Windows 10 on the market. As usual, this data is collected from about 5,000 apps in the Microsoft Store, which are using the AdDuplex SDK v2 or higher, and the data refers to November 25. Nearly 100,000 PCs were surveyed in this period.
Getting right into it, the biggest growth of the month was naturally for the Windows 10 October 2020 Update, or version 20H2, which is now on 8.8% of PCs, up from 1.7% in October. This update was released in October, and as usual, it's steadily being installed on more PCs. Meanwhile, the May 2020 Update, version 2004, actually lost a decimal point this month, hovering around 37.6% usage share.
An interesting change this month is that version 1909, the November 2019 Update, has actually grown from 32.4% to 36.4%, despite being over one year already. This is because Microsoft began upgrading users on version 1903 to version 1909 automatically, rather than pushing them onto the latest release. As a result, version 1903 has also seen a major drop, from 22% usage share in October to just 10.2% this month.
Older versions of Windows 10, as well as the percentage of Windows Insiders, barely changed during this period. Some percentages are slightly up, but not by much.
Since Microsoft changed the way Windows Update works to no longer force install updates, new releases have taken longer to grow in market share, and the story is no different with version 20H2. The update will continue to roll out slowly, and we'll only see more sudden changes in the lead up to May 2021, when version 1909 loses support and users start to be upgraded automatically.
By Rich Woods
Acer Enduro N3 review: Acer's first rugged laptop
by Rich Woods
Back in June at its next@acer event, Acer announced its new Enduro brand. For the first time, it was planning to compete in the rugged PC market, which is largely dominated by Panasonic. Along with a few tablets, the two laptops it introduced were the Enduro N3 and Enduro N7.
While the N7 is a fully rugged device, the Enduro N3 is more of a semi-rugged PC that's meant to be more thin and light. Of course, you wouldn't call it thin and light by any other standard. It weighs in at 4.37 pounds, and it's nearly an inch thick. But it'll sure take a beating.
It also has sealed ports for its IP53 water resistance rating. There are some key things that it doesn't have though, such as a hot-swappable battery and 4G LTE connectivity.
CPU Intel Core i5‐10210U processor GPU Intel UHD Graphics Body 351x247x24.85mm, 1.985kg Display 14 inches, 1920x1080 TFT IPS, Acer ComfyView RAM 8GB DDR4 SDRAM Storage 256GB SSD Ports (2) USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A
(1) USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-C
Connectivity Intel Wireless Wi-Fi 6 AX201 Audio Two built-in stero speakers
Built-in digital microphone OS Windows 10 Pro Price $1,099.99
Like I said, you wouldn't call the Acer Enduro N3 thin and light by any other standard, except the rugged market. Indeed, when it comes to semi-rugged PCs, this is about as thin and light as it gets. To be clear, semi-rugged doesn't just mean MIL-STD-810G tested, because all of Lenovo's ThinkPads pass over a dozen of those tests, and they can be much thinner and lighter.
But this thing can take more of a beating. It can also go underwater with its IP53 water resistance rating. All of the ports are sealed, in fact. You have to flip open a lid to gain access to the ports. This is a common method of water-proofing a device.
The color is black, and frankly, there's nothing sexy about the device. It's not like the Enduro N7 that looks more like a Panasonic Toughbook. Even the Acer branding on the textured lid is just a dull silver. If you're looking for something flashy, this really isn't that kind of device.
You'll notice that there are gray accents on the sides, such as the flaps the labels on the flaps that cover the ports. There are also gray bumpers on the corners of the PC, which help to protect it from drops.
As you can see, it has plenty of ports, as a device like this should. It supports wired Ethernet, HDMI, and has three USB 3.2 Gen 1 ports for 5Gbps speeds. Two of them are Type-A and one is Type-C. By the way, I got those specs from an Amazon listing, since Acer actually didn't provide much in the way of specs for this machine.
Note that while there's a barrel charging port and it comes with a barrel charger, you can charge via USB Type-C. It also charges a lot faster than most PCs, from my experience, and the battery life is pretty great, but we'll get to more of that later.
The design of this PC is purely functional, as there really isn't anything that's meant to make it pretty. It's meant to handle harsh conditions with its bumpers on the corners and closed-off ports. Unfortunately, there's no hot swappable battery, something that would definitely come in handy in the field.
Display and audio
The Acer Enduro N3 has a 14-inch FHD display that does not support touch, and this is another area where I feel like it falls behind Panasonic. Sure, touch is terrible if you're trying to use this thing in a sandstorm. No one wants false touches. But what could have been done here is Acer could have built software to turn the touchscreen on or off. I guess I'm just used to rugged PCs being made for a broader range of use cases.
The display isn't particularly bright, a surprise for something where users might be using it outdoors. Acer says that it's aimed at architects, project inspectors, event managers, scientists, adventure sport lovers, and outdoor activists, so that's a pretty broad range of groups right there. You'd think they'd want a brighter screen, and I'm sure a hot swappable battery would help too. The screen is fine for regular indoor use though.
One thing you'll also notice about the screen is that it really has large bezels. That's no surprise given the form factor, but they really feel like they stand out. Every part of this machine seems to be function over form, which is a good thing.
Audio quality is no different. Listening to music or watching movies doesn't sound particularly great, but it does get loud enough. In other words, if you're using it for calls, especially if you've got a loud background wherever you are, this gets the job done.
Keyboard and trackpad
The keyboard is backlit, and it's pretty standard. There's nothing about it that really stands out, and it feels good to type on. It's comfortable, and it's accurate. I'm using it to type this review right now.
The trackpad is not clickable, something that I'm not personally a fan of but I understand why it's like that. It has two physical buttons instead, which are placed below it. I'm a big fan of physical buttons with trackpads. It just makes dragging and dropping easier. Unfortunately, it also means that we get a smaller trackpad.
There's also a fingerprint sensor next to the trackpad, and it's the only method of biometric authentication that you're getting here. There's no IR camera for Windows Hello, but that's fine. At least there's something.
Performance and battery life
The Enduro N3 that Acer sent me comes with an Intel Core i5-10210U, 8GB RAM, and a 256GB SSD. There are, of course, a ton of configuration options. You can get it with a Core i7-10510U, which is still quad-core, 16GB RAM, a 1TB SSD, a secondary HDD that's up to 2TB, dedicated Nvidia GeForce MX230 graphics, and more. I believe that the model sent to me is the base model.
One thing that isn't an option is 4G LTE, which is really a shame. Again, when you start looking at the rugged category, a lot of outdoor use cases come into play. Along with the brighter screen and the hot-swappable battery, cellular connectivity could definitely be useful. These are Acer's first PCs in the rugged space though, of course.
Performance in general is just fine, and it's about what you'd expect from a Core i5 and 8GB of RAM. Unfortunately, based on the spec sheet that Acer sent me, there's no option for a vPro variant, such as the Core i5-10310U or the Core i7-10610U. All CPUs are from the Comet Lake family though, a decision that usually gets made because Comet Lake has a vPro variant, so it wouldn't surprise me if that gets released at some point.
Battery life is actually better than I expected. I was able to get a solid nine hours of real-world work out of it. Acer didn't tell me how big the battery is, but the battery report says it's 48WHr, which isn't particularly large. I guess with the FHD resolution and the somewhat dim display brightness, long battery life was doable. Whatever the cause, it's a great quality in a semi-rugged laptop.
For benchmarks, I used the usual PCMark 8 and PCMark 10.
PCMark 8: Home PCMark 8: Creative
PCMark 8: Work PCMark 10
None of the scores are surprising. It's a fairly standard configuration, which is a Core i5 and 8GB RAM.
Acer's Enduro N3 is a solid semi-rugged laptop, and it's an excellent first try from the company. Honestly, there really isn't anything that stands out about it, hence the relatively short review. I think I made my point best when I said it's function over form. It seems to have been designed with purpose, and that purpose is being semi-rugged while being thin and light, relative to the rugged market.
But I do think that the Enduro N3 is missing a few key features, considering the potential use cases. I'd like to have seen a brighter display for outdoor use, and of course, cellular connectivity. 4G LTE would open this up to first responders and more. I'd also like to have seen a hot-swappable battery, although I kind of understand why that gets taken out in favor of being thin and light. You'd need two batteries, easy access, and so on.
There's a lot of good here though. The display is a good one despite brightness issues in direct sunlight, and the overall package is pretty great. You get a lot of value for the starting price of $1,099. The IP53 water resistance rating means that it's dust-resistant and can handle jets of water. You can also drop it without worrying about it breaking, of course. In fact, I did that on video.
If you want to check it out, you can find it on Amazon here.
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