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By Rich Woods
HP refreshes its Z2 workstations with 11th-gen processors, PCIe Gen 4, and more
by Rich Woods
Z2 SFF Today, HP is introducing the new Z2 Tower G8 and Z2 Small Form Factor G8. Note that these aren't actually eighth-generation products; HP is just aligning all of its Z workstations on the same number now.
There are a few things that are new here, notably Intel's 11th-generation 'Rocket Lake S' CPUs, which come with a host of improvements. They have a new core architecture, but more importantly, they come with support for PCIe Gen 4, which has double the bandwidth of Gen 3. That means that you can add faster, well, everything.
“Today’s rapidly changing work environment has cemented the PC’s role as a critical productivity tool,” said Jaejune Kim, Corporate Senior Vice President of Memory Marketing, Samsung. “With applications growing in complexity and file sizes increasing exponentially, PCIe Gen4 SSDs offer a big step up in performance. We’re proud to partner with HP on the design in of our PM9A1 SSD into HP’s newest performance platforms to maximize the technology benefits for an improved user experience.”
Z2 Tower The CPUs used are up to a Core i9-11900K, which is Intel's top-end chip. It has eight cores and a 125W TDP, and in fact, that also means that it's unlocked for overclocking if you get down like that. That high-end CPU is included in both the Tower and SFF models of the Z2, and there are also Xeon W configurations.
There are also some new GPU options, including up to a Quadro RTX A4000 or A5000 in the Z2 Tower, which comes with a 700W power supply. Naturally, there are more restrictions to the size of the SFF model, which has a 450W PSU, but that still comes with up to Quadro RTX 3000 graphics. Indeed, HP says that it's one of the only ones offering RTX graphics in a small form factor desktop.
Both the Z2 Tower and Z2 SFF will be available in May, starting at $1,179 and $1,169, respectively.
Neowin Podcast Episode 22: LG gives up on phones, and what's next for Windows 10
by João Carrasqueira
The Neowin Podcast is supported by Audible, a provider of audiobooks, podcasts, and other audio-based entertainment that you can download and listen to anywhere, even when you're offline. Plus, if you also use Kindle to read books, your progress can even sync between your written books and the audio version. Sign up for a free trial of Audible and get your first audiobook for free at audibletrial.com/neowin. You can even keep that audiobook - and any other ones you end up getting - forever if you cancel your subscription.
Welcome back to the Neowin Podcast. On episode 22 - which might be our final one as Rich is leaving Neowin - we talk about the sad news that LG has officially called it quits on its mobile business, as well as the uncertain path for Windows 10 in the next few months.
This week started with news that may have left many of us disheartened. After almost two decades in the mobile phone space, LG has decided to close down its smartphone division due to the highly competitive nature of the market. As we discuss in the episode, LG was responsible for many innovations throughout the years, even in the smartphone era, with standout devices like the LG G Flex 2, the G5, or the V10.
Then, on Wednesday, we got a new Windows 10 build after a hiatus last week, and with it came a switch to a new development branch, co_release, signaling that Microsoft may be getting ready to wrap up development on the big Windows 10 feature update for this fall. We were expecting a big visual overhaul, x64 emulation on ARM, and potentially even support for Android apps, but it's unclear where things may be headed with this switch. The build also came with the news that Paint and Snipping Tool are going to start being updated through the Microsoft Store.
If you'd like to catch up on the news discussed in this episode, you can use the links below:
LG is officially shutting down its mobile phone business, but you may still get updates Retrospective: LG G Flex 2; LG G5, and LG V10 Microsoft releases Windows 10 build 21354 from the co_release branch Microsoft will update Snipping Tool and Paint through the Microsoft Store
You can listen to the episode below, and the Neowin Podcast is available on iTunes - and apps that rely on its library - as well as Google Podcasts, Spotify, and Amazon Music. And if you want to add it to your own podcast library, you can use this RSS feed:
Neowin.net · Episode 22 - LG gives up on phones, and what's next for Windows 10
Microsoft Weekly: Paint in the Microsoft Store, Age of Empires IV, and Surface updates
by Florin Bodnarescu
A number of Surface firmware updates, an overdue appearance of Paint in the Microsoft Store, and a celebration of the venerable RTS series that is Age of Empires were all in the news this week. You can find info about that, as well as much more below, in your Microsoft digest for the week of April 4 - 10.
Paint in the Microsoft Store
We’ll start with some Windows 10 and Paint news, as the Redmond giant has released yet another Insider build to testers.
Part of the co_release branch – and live in the Dev channel right now -, build 21354 has support for a number of new news and interests personalization options, some Display Settings improvements, the organization of admin and system tools under a new Windows Tools folder, and more. If you want to clean install this build, ISO images are also available.
Yet another somewhat interesting (and overdue) step is the availability of Snipping Tool and Paint in the Microsoft Store. The latter is especially surprising given that at one point Microsoft really wanted folks to transition to Paint 3D. That seems to no longer be the case.
For something that’s going to be here a little sooner than the above, feel free to check out our run-down of what’s coming in Windows 10 version 21H1.
Age of Empires IV
Arguably the biggest gaming news of the week was the long-awaited gameplay reveal for Age of Empires IV. As part of a bigger celebration of the venerable RTS series, Microsoft took the wraps off a couple new civilizations for the forthcoming game, as well as an extended gameplay look, new mechanics, and perhaps more importantly, a release window: fall 2021.
The good news didn’t stop there, as the firm also unveiled that Age of Empires II and III Definitive Editions are set to get new expansions – both free and paid -, including a new U.S. civilization for AoE III, and much more.
On the update front, Halo: MCC Season 6 is now available, Arkane’s Deathloop has been hit with another delay, moving its release date to September 14, and the ever-present Deals with Gold have now been enhanced thanks to the Spring Sale. Games on offer include Yakuza: Like a Dragon, Wreckfest, We Happy Few, and more.
Last but not least, there is Game Pass news to discuss too, as NHL 21, GTA V, Zombie Army 4, and more are headed for the subscription. Perhaps most surprising of all, MLB The Show 21, a PlayStation Studios-published title, is also coming to Game Pass on launch day, April 20.
It’s been a relatively busy week in terms of Surface news, with a number of models in the range getting firmware updates and other various quality of life improvements.
To start, there’s the Surface Book 2, the graphics performance of which has been enhanced by its latest set of updates, while the Surface Studio 2 has received more general enhancements targeting security and system stability.
Flipping over to the Pro range, the Surface Pro 6 also received some stability-improving updates, with the Pro 7 nabbing some camera experience tweaks thanks to its new updates. The latter was also featured in the company’s most recent ad, taking aim at the iPad Pro’s heavy keyboard.
Finally, the Surface Laptop 4 is set to debut April 27 as per a new leak, with the new models offering both Intel and AMD CPUs in the 13.5 and 15-inch form factors. Pricing starts at €1,499 for the Core i5, 8GB RAM, 512GB SSD version of the 13.5-inch model and €1,149 for the entry-level Ryzen 5 version, which comes with half the storage space. On the 15-inch side, the Core i7, 16GB RAM, 512 GB SSD version will set you back €1,999, while the entry-level Ryzen 7 version comes in at €1,499.
The leak above does hold some water as drivers and firmware updates for the Surface Laptop 4 have already showed up on Microsoft’s website.
Defender for Endpoint is now GA for Windows 10 on ARM devices. A new sharing experience for Power BI will be launched soon. Switching to things already available, Power BI Premium and Pro now have object-level security capabilities. A new Cloud Services model is now available in Azure. Dynamics 365 and Power Platform 2021 release wave 1 is now live. SQL Server Big Data Clusters CU10 has brought a number of new capabilities. Microsoft has highlighted a number of new Microsoft 365 features for consumers. Edge Dev build 91.0.845.2 is now out, bringing minor improvements. LinkedIn has denied reports of a data breach affecting 500 million users. You will soon be able to earn Microsoft Rewards points by using Microsoft Search. OneDrive apps on Android and iOS have gotten a host of new features, with the Windows sync client gaining 64-bit support. Logging off
To end, we’ll take a look at Microsoft’s explanation for last week’s Azure outage.
As you may remember, there was a pretty serious Azure outage on April 1, which affected services ranging from Xbox Live to Office 365.
While the company initially released a brief explanation as to why this had happened, pointing to DNS issues, it has now provided a more detailed explanation.
As per the company, there was an unusual surge in Azure DNS queries from all over the world, which should have been mitigated via “layers of caches and traffic shaping”. However, due to an error in the Azure DNS service code, this entire operation was made less efficient.
Though the issues started at 9:21PM UTC, by 10PM Microsoft’s cloud services had been fixed. As a result of this, the company has fixed the aforementioned DNS code bug and has updated the logic on its mitigation systems to prevent future excessive DNS retries, which were the cause of this massive outage.
Missed any of the previous columns? Be sure to have a look right here.
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By Rich Woods
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Titanium review: The new best convertible
by Rich Woods
When Lenovo refreshed its ThinkPad X1 family back in January, it added a new ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga to its lineup. Honestly, at the time, I didn't know that I should be so excited about it. Sure, it's a ThinkPad X1 Yoga but with titanium materials and a 3:2 screen, right?
But it's so much more than that. This thing is an absolute delight and has quickly become my favorite convertible. In fact, this is part of a larger family of devices from Lenovo that includes the new ThinkPad X1 Nano and the ThinkPad X12 Detachable. For some reason, Lenovo is going all-in on PCs that are just impossibly light.
I've actually been using the ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga for about a month and a half now. Lenovo was kind enough to send me a pre-production unit super-early and I've just fallen in love with it. Now that the actual production review unit is here and I can actually write about my experiences, I'm absolutely ready to tell that story.
CPU Intel Core i7-1180G7 Graphics Intel Iris Xe Display 13.5" QHD (2256 x 1504) IPS, Anti-Reflective, Anti-Smudge, Touchscreen with Dolby Vision, 201 PPI, 450 nits, 100% sRGB Body 11.5x297.5x232.7mm (0.45x11.71x9.16"), 1.15kg (2.54lbs) Memory 16GB LPDDR4X 4267MHz (soldered) Storage 1TB PCIe SSD Battery Integrated Li-Polymer 44.5Wh Ports (2) USB 4 Type-C with Intel Thunderbolt 4 (DisplayPort, Data Transfer, Power Delivery)
(1) Headphone / mic combo
Connectivity WLAN: Intel WiFi 6 AX201 802.11AX (2 x 2) & Bluetooth 5.1 with vPro Camera Hybrid infrared (IR) / 720p HD with webcam privacy shutter Audio (2) 2W speakers
Dolby Atmos Speaker System
4 x 360-degree mics
Input 6-row, spill-resistant, multimedia Fn keys with Unified Communications controls
TrackPoint pointing device and Mylar surface multi-touch touchpad
Lenovo Precision Pen, magnetically attached to the system Material Titanium + carbon fiber (top), magnesium-aluminium (bottom) Color Titanium OS Windows 10 Pro Price $2,429.40
This is the specced out model that Lenovo sent me, and with the discounts on Lenovo.com, which fluctuate, the price is $2,429.40. It starts at $1,684.99.
One of the first things that stood out to me when I took the X1 Titanium out of the box is the striking titanium-colored design. This is most definitely not just another silver laptop. The titanium lid is textured, the even the ThinkPad logo is unlike anything else in the lineup. It's embossed in the lid without any additional coloring, rather than the regular glossy logo seen on most ThinkPad X1 units. Below that is the X1 branding.
Of course, the second thing that I noticed is just how thin and light it is. It weighs in at 2.54lbs, whereas the ThinkPad X1 Yoga is just under three pounds and made out of aluminum. This is just designed differently. If you want, you can think of the ThinkPad X1 Yoga as a laptop that's designed so it can be turned into a tablet, and you can think of the X1 Titanium as something that's really meant to be more primarily a tablet.
In fact, in using this device as a tablet, I found it to be more comfortable than probably any 360-degree convertible that I've ever used. It just sort of feels natural. A lot of convertibles actually feel hard to use because for one thing, they're heavy. When you add the keys getting in the way of your fingers on the back, it gets awkward. Lenovo actually used to have a feature called the Lift and Lock Keyboard on its convertibles that would make the keys retract so they'd be flush with the deck, but that's way too much to ask for on a machine this thin and light.
It's too much to ask for because, like the ThinkPad X1 Nano that I already reviewed, this is a marvel of engineering. It's so insanely thin and light but without making any kind of meaningful compromises.
One thing that it's missing is USB Type-A, a key reason that this wouldn't be ready to replace the X1 Yoga in the lineup. This is also the case on the ThinkPad X1 Nano, the ThinkPad X12 Detachable, and the ThinkPad X1 Fold, and I'm really happy to see Lenovo not forcing the legacy port on its products. Don't get me wrong. I know businesses need it, and that's why it's still in all of the mainstream products, the X1 Carbon, and the X1 Yoga. But when making cool and innovative new products, Lenovo isn't letting USB Type-A hold it back like Microsoft is with its Surface Pro tablets.
The two USB ports that are there are both Thunderbolt 4, and that's good news. That means that on a single port, you can connect up to two 4K monitors, and believe me, I absolutely did just that. And if it strikes you to do so, you can connect an external GPU on the other one and turn this super-portable PC into a gaming rig.
On the right side, there's just a power button and a 3.5mm audio jack.
I truly love the design of this machine. Not only is it a great laptop that's super-portable, but it also feels more comfortable at being a tablet than a lot of actual Windows tablets that I've used.
One thing that's lacking, however, is proper pen storage. This is the first ThinkPad convertible that I've used that doesn't have a built-in pen garage. You can magnetically attach the pen to the side of the screen, and the magnet isn't even particularly strong. I'm not a fan of that method, since it easily falls off in my bag. Still, I understand the compromise, since this is such a thin PC.
The Lenovo ThinkPad Titanium Yoga includes a 13.5-inch 2,256x1,504 display, giving it a 3:2 aspect ratio. Indeed, we're taller screens are a trend that we're seeing across the industry. 16:10 laptops are becoming common, even in ThinkPads, and 3:2 was an aspect ratio first seen on Microsoft Surface PCs. It's taller, giving it a larger surface area, so we're seeing it in PCs like this one and HP's Spectre x360 14.
In fact, it's notable that Lenovo used a 16:10 display on the ThinkPad X1 Nano and it used a 3:2 display for the ThinkPad X1 Titanium. Taller displays are better for using as a tablet, while wider displays can, in my experience, be better for clamshell laptops because they're better at split-screen apps. There are a lot of smart decisions made here.
It also supports 450-nit brightness, which I really appreciate. I've seen a lot of PCs that are just 300 nits or so, and they always come up short. At 450 nits, you can use it outdoors, and things are more vibrant. Also helping with that is the Dolby Vision HDR support, which will really make your streaming content pop.
Obviously, it does support pen input, and it feels really natural to write on the glass with the pen. I spent a lot of time with this in OneNote and Microsoft Whiteboard, and I kind of love it.
The one thing I don't really love about the screen is the bezels. The top and bottom bezels are really big. The top bezel fits a webcam and an IR camera, and sadly the webcam is only 720p in the era of working from home. But back to the bezel size, when you take the tall 3:2 display and the big top and bottom bezels, it feels like the laptop is almost square; it's not of course, at 297.5x232.7mm.
The ThinkPad X1 Titanium has a 2W speaker on either side of the keyboard, which are tuned with Dolby Atmos. Honestly, it's a lot better than what I'd expect from a laptop of this design. The sound is pretty clear, and the volume can get comfortably loud; not uncomfortably loud though.
Keyboard and touchpad
The keyboard on the X1 Titanium is the same as the one on the X1 Nano, and that's a good thing. It's shallower than the ones found on say, the X1 Carbon, as this is 1.3mm instead of 1.5mm. The shallower keys, combined with the premium experience that ThinkPads always offer from keyboards, really gives it an entirely new feel. Let's face it; no one else is putting 1.5mm keys in laptops anymore, so this feels more modern.
I'm absolutely in love with this keyboard on here. But while the keys feel more modern since they're more shallow, one thing that absolutely does not feel modern is the TrackPoint.
Yes, that little red nub that can control the pointer is a relic from the days when Windows touchpads were terrible, but Lenovo won't let it go. Keep in mind that the TrackPoint does have its die-hard fans, so it would be a tough thing to kill off. Still, if you don't like it, you can ignore it like I do.
Naturally, it uses a Microsoft Precision touchpad, and those physical buttons at the top are for use with the TrackPoint, although you can use them with either one. While I'd love to focus on the silver color of the touchpad and buttons instead of the usual black, I have to talk about how this is a haptic touchpad.
Indeed, if you power this machine down, you'll see that the touchpad doesn't move. The good news is that this one is actually good. Lenovo had a phenomenal laptop with the consumer-focused flagship Yoga 9i, but the haptic touchpad on that one was awful. This one is much better, as it's much more capable of handling complex touch scenarios that mechanical touchpads can do.
For example, if you press on a touchpad and drag something, it's a common interaction to use a second finger to continue dragging the item once you've run out of space on the touchpad. Many haptic touchpads, such as the one on the Yoga 9i are really bad at this. I didn't have this issue with the X1 Titanium, and that's super-important. If you're going to swap out such an important component for something new, that new component can't be almost as good. The user has to not feel as though there's a sacrifice that's been made, and the X1 Titanium accomplishes that.
Performance and battery life
This is something that I've already talked about in my reviews of the ThinkPad X1 Nano and the ThinkPad X12 Detachable, since all three of these are part of a new family from Lenovo. The performance is fantastic for productivity, and just a year ago, something like this would be impossible.
The processor that's under the hood here is an Intel Core i7-1180G7, a quad-core chip from the Tiger Lake family. But this is the part of the Tiger Lake family that's the successor to the Y-series, which was known as Core M even before that. If you've ever heard of Y-series or Core M, you've probably not heard anything good. Those chips were great for producing improbably thin PCs, but there were big compromises to be made in performance.
That's not so much the case anymore. Sure, you're not getting as much power as you'd get from a Core i7-1185G7, but there have been some big improvements since Y-series was a thing. Note that 10th-gen Y-series was supposed to be pretty good, with a higher TDP, Iris Plus Graphics, and double the cores, but I don't think it ever shipped on Windows PCs. Now, Tiger Lake is here with Iris Xe graphics.
This is really good. The key is that I don't feel like it's lacking. If you used Amber Lake, which was the last Y-series to ship in most products, it was hard to not feel like you're missing something. You'd feel limited, constantly knowing that if you pushed your PC too far, it wasn't going to do what you wanted to.
With the ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga, that's not an issue. If you want to edit videos in Photoshop, you totally can, or you can do some light video editing in Premiere Pro, something that I wouldn't have dreamed of with Amber Lake. It's fantastic.
Battery life is pretty great too. I easily brought the screen brightness down to 33% for indoor use, and put the power slider on one notch above battery saver. Getting eight hours of use was a breeze. It's like this thing runs on magic, and I love it.
For benchmarks, I used PCMark 8, PCMark 10, Geekbench 5, and Cinebench.
ThinkPad X1 Titanium
Core i7-1180G7 ThinkPad X12 Detachable
Core i5-1130G7 Acer Swift 7
Core i7-8500Y ThinkBook 14s Yoga
Core i7-1165G7 PCMark 8: Home 3,851 3,967 2,440 3,851 PCMark 8: Creative 4,264 4,338 2,427 4,861 PCMark 8: Work 3,686 3,798 2,732 4,083 PCMark 10 4,488 4,286 2,775 5,105 Geekbench 5 1,333 / 4,055 1,299 / 4,446 1,534 / 4,861 Cinebench 1,127 / 2,597 1,147 / 2,860 1,455 / 4,820
Just in case I haven't expressed this enough, I love this PC. It's my new favorite. It's super-portable without making compromises, and that makes it a real pleasure. In fact, aside from missing a pen garage, which would be impossible on something like this anyway, the only thing I'd improve is the bezel size to make the footprint even smaller than it is.
The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga has really become my go-to PC for all of my needs. It's a laptop when I'm on the go, it's a whiteboard for when I'm brainstorming, it connects to my monitors for when I'm in my home office, and it has a pretty display for streaming.
I also just appreciate how much engineering went into it. And I know that part of it is Lenovo engineering, while the other part is that Intel is finally making CPUs that can allow for this kind of stuff to happen.
If you want to check it out on Lenovo.com, you can find it here. Still, I hope that this year brings a ton of PCs from a variety of OEMs that are using these chips to make thin and light PCs. It should be super interesting.
Surface Pro 6 gets new driver and firmware updates to improve stability
by João Carrasqueira
A handful of Microsoft's Surface devices have already received firmware and driver updates over the past few days, and today, it's time for the Surface Pro 6 to join the fray. The 2-in-1 tablet first released over two years ago is getting a set of updates focused on improving stability and security.
Most of the updates seem to be Intel-related, including a new graphics driver. Here's the full list:
Windows Udpate History Name Device Manager Name Update Intel Corporation – Display – 184.108.40.20681 Intel(R) HD Graphics – Display adapters Improves graphics and system stability.
Intel Corporation – Extension - 220.127.116.1181 Intel® Display Graphics Adapter Driver Extension Addresses security updates and improves system stability.
Intel - Extension - 1918.104.22.1680 Intel(R) ICLS Client - Extension Addresses security updates and improves system stability.
Intel – SoftwareComponent - 1.62.321.1 Intel(R) ICLS Client - Software devices Addresses security updates and improves system stability.
Intel - System - 2040.100.0.1029 Intel(R) Management Engine Interface - System devices Addresses security updates and improves system stability.
Surface - Firmware - 22.214.171.12438 Surface ME - Firmware Addresses security updates and improves system stability.
The updates for the Surface Pro 6 come very shortly after the Surface Studio 2 got its own set of updates. The two devices were announced at the same event in late 2018, and while the Surface Pro 6 has already received a few successors, we have yet to see a follow-up to the Studio 2, so that's still Microsoft's flagship all-in-one.
As usual, you'll need to be running Windows 10 version 1903 or newer to get the updates, but since that version is no longer supported by Microsoft, you should already be using something newer. You can find the updates in the Settings app under Windows Update. Alternatively, you can download the latest driver package from here.