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These are the 10 most sought-after reviews on Neowin in 2019
by Florin Bodnarescu
We took a look at the most viewed, then the most commented posts of the year, so how about we highlight some of the reviews that were posted on the site too?
As you well know, there are features such as editorials and reviews in addition to news items, so here are 10 of the ones you were really interested in during 2019. Not to worry, the most popular op-ed is here too, but let's look at reviews first:
Dell's XPS 15 opens up our top 10 with the latest iteration, featuring a carbon fiber palm rest, its chiclet-style backlit MagLev keys, and a beautiful OLED display.
It got a very respectable 9 out of 10, so not all was perfect. The score is due to its quirks like the inclusion of a barrel charger, some connectivity issues, and the lack of an IR camera.
Next up is the Lenovo ThinkPad P72, the company's latest mobile workstation packing an Nvidia Quadro P5200, a 17.3'' UHD display, and 16GB of DDR4-2667 RAM. Of course, that all comes at a price, but then again, that's to be expected.
It got an 8.5 out of 10, with the high points being its performance, keyboard, and inclusion of Windows Hello support. What wasn't so great was the battery life, landing at about two hours despite its 99Wh battery. Needless to say, it is quite thick and heavy, and there's also no RTX support as of yet, so keep that in mind.
Coming in at number 8 is HP's Spectre x360 13 inch variant, which does have quite a unique angular design and was reviewed in its rather pretty copper-looking colour.
Like the ThinkPad P72 above, it got an 8.5 out of 10, with the positives being the design - that much was obvious -, the display, and the inclusion of privacy switch, which disconnects the camera internally. On the other end of the spectrum, the not so great parts are the lack of a physical volume rocker - present on previous HP convertibles -, as well as the absence of Windows Precision drivers for the trackpad.
The ones above are followed by the Google Pixel 3a XL, a fantastic entry in Google's hardware lineup. Released earlier this year along with its non-XL counterpart, it follows the launch of the Pixel 3 phones in November of 2018.
It gets a nearly perfect 9.5 out of 10 because of its great value, quality screen, and great camera, though it falls a bit short, which is due in big part to the absence of wireless charging. This was a feature included on the Pixel 3 and 3XL, meaning folks could take advantage of the Pixel Stand and the addition of Google Home features to the device.
Slotting in at number 6 is the Lenovo Yoga A940, an all-in-one PC that according to our own Rich Woods, put Microsoft's Surface Studio to shame.
The second device on the list to get a near-perfect 9.5 score, the Yoga A940 is very well priced, has a full desktop CPU inside, as well as support for things like Dolby Atmos. What's not ideal is the included keyboard and mouse combo, the webcam, and the unfortunately loud fan. Then again, this is a desktop CPU we're talking about, the six-core Core i7-8700.
Also in the top 10 is the Fossil Gen 5 smartwatch, which Rich Woods believes to be the best Wear OS watch of them all.
It gets a very good 9 out of 10 for its performance, AMOLED display, and overall great design. With that said, the somewhat inconsistent battery life, as well as the quirks of Wear OS do drag the score down for what's an otherwise great wearable.
Fans of backups and media streaming off their own home server will be thrilled to see the Synology DS1019+ on this list, in no small part due to its fantastic feature set.
Getting a 9.5 out of 10 from our very own Christopher White, this NAS solution has great performance, is easy to set up, and has plenty of expansion opportunities due to its five dedicated drive bays. Please keep in mind that the chassis is entirely plastic, and that there are no springs on the drive sleds, which is reflected in the overall score.
Coming in at number 3 is the Lenovo Legion Y540, from the company's gaming-oriented notebook lineup.
Equipped with a 1660Ti, 16GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD, it does quite well in the performance department, also receiving praise for its keyboard and overall design. What ultimately gave it the 8.5 out of 10 score was the not so great battery life, the fact that it's quite thick and heavy, and the very unfortunate placement of the webcam at the bottom of the display.
Making its second appearance on this list is Fossil, with its Sport smartwatch. As the name implies, this one is a bit more fun looking, as well as a bit less expensive.
It's very light, weighing in at just 25g, and it packs the Snapdragon Wear 3100 chipset, which means it has support for an ambient display. With that said, the rather sluggish performance gets is a 9 out of 10, the same as the more expensive and serious Gen 5 above.
Surprise of all surprises, the one review you all thought was the most interesting was for the Huawei Band 3e. Advertising a rather great 14 days of battery life and a weight of 17g, this one is more on the entry-level of fitness tracking, as you won't be blown away by its 0.5-inch screen.
The Huawei Health solution contributed to the 8.5 out of 10 score, as did the form factor itself and the great value for money - $29.99 at the time the review was published. The notification delivery did however leave something to be desired, as the device itself doesn't show you what app it's coming from or what the notification is. The only thing you'll know is that you have a notification from something.
Unsurprisingly, the top op-ed of the year is the one highlighting that Microsoft did in fact make some good changes to the way Windows Updates were handled.
Gone was the strange seeker approach of 2018 and a more sensible implementation took its place. For one, 1903 spent a month in the Release Preview ring for testing, rather than no time like 1809, which was quite broken upon its first release.
In addition, 1903 introduced a "download and install" button that's specific to the feature updates themselves. If you wanted to check and see if there were any cumulative updates you could - by clicking "Check for updates" - without the need to worry that Windows would also install its feature update alongside.
Is this all? Perhaps, though you never know what else is right around the corner. In the meantime, sound off below in regards to what you thought about this list.
Have a great New Year, everyone!
By Hamza Jawad
Google addresses misleading inline review implementations in Search
by Hamza Jawad
Google introduced some changes to Search in recent days. For one, original reporting is being bumped up in search results, rewarding the significant time and effort put in by journalists. Moreover, the firm made it easier to discover films and shows that people want to watch.
Now, algorithmic updates have been rolled out to inline reviews within search results, such as the one in the image on the right, with the aim to make them more helpful (via 9to5Google). Primarily, these changes will be addressing the misleading ways in which these scores may be represented.
Previously, review markups could be attached to any schema type. However, this is now being changed as Google believes that star ratings for many of types do not offer much value to users. As such, only the following types (and their subtypes) will now be able to engage in this behavior:
Furthermore, reviews considered self-serving won't be allowed to be attached to search results any more either. With this, the schema types localBusiness and Organization won't be able to display inline reviews when the entity being reviewed is the one actually controlling those reviews. More clearly, self-serving reviews have been defined as follows:
And finally, it will now be a requirement to exactly specify the 'name' property of any item being reviewed. Google states that this and the aforementioned improvements will require webmasters to hardly make any changes to implement. You can find more about these updates in the developer documentation here.
Assassin's Creed Unity's recent Steam score jumps up due to giveaway
by Florin Bodnarescu
The week started with some upsetting news in regards to one of the most well-known Gothic cathedrals in the world, Notre-Dame de Paris. During renovations, the building's roof caught fire and was eventually destroyed by the blaze, although the main stone structure has thankfully survived. In support of the reconstruction efforts, Ubisoft decided to pitch in and also host a giveaway of Assassin's Creed Unity - which features the building - to raise awareness.
While outside of the giveaway folks can still purchase Unity via Steam, the game still requires Uplay. That said, reviews on the former platform have been improving quite a bit since the announcement of the freebie.
As is obvious from the graph, there was a big spike in positive reviews on April 16, with most if not all praising the publisher for its monetary pledge and of course, the free game.
In many ways, this is the reverse of things like review-bombs that have happened to titles such as Firewatch, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, or previous Metro games following Exodus' Epic Games Store exclusivity announcement. Valve itself decided to combat situations like these by including histograms and deciding to nullify off-topic review-bombs going forward.
In case you haven't done so yet, you can still grab your free copy of Assassin's Creed Unity via Uplay until April 25.
Source: Assassin's Creed Unity (Steam)
Those are the 10 reviews folks found most intriguing in 2018 on Neowin
by Florin Bodnarescu
After taking a look at the most viewed and most commented posts of the year, one would think there’s nothing else to make a listicle-type compilation out of. In this case, one would be wrong.
To complement the news and software posts, there are of course features such as editorials and reviews, and thus, we’ve put together the 10 most sought-after reviews of 2018. Don’t worry, the most popular op-eds are acknowledged as well. But first, reviews:
10. The beastly Dell XPS 15 with a Core i9-8950HK
In terms of the highest-end model of the XPS 15, the review unit had a beefy Core i9-8950HK, a 4K HDR display, 32GB of RAM and a 4GB GTX 1050Ti. At its $2,550 price point, the lack of an IR camera was disappointing, as was its battery life and the presence of a 130W barrel charger instead of USB-C power brick.
That said, its processor, Infinity Edge display and great keyboard were what helped the unit get a great score.
09. A low-end handset offering from Cubot
In the interest of providing a cheaper alternative to the +$1,000 flagships, Chinese firm Cubot put forth its P20, a sub-$200 handset with a surprisingly good screen, camera combo, and even a microSD expansion slot – something that can’t be taken for granted these days.
The inconsistent fingerprint sensor, lack of USB-C and less than stellar camera performance knocked the score down a few pegs. However, its rather sleek design, the FHD IPS display, build quality and impressive 4,000mAh battery capacity helped claw back some of the lost points.
08. HMD Global’s rather disappointing Nokia 2.1
HMD’s revival of the Nokia brand on Android was going pretty well, so it naturally thought about introducing a slightly more affordable option. The Nokia 2.1 can be had for $90 to $110, but it has unfortunately got a few things going against it.
Its biggest issue is built-in storage, which is a paltry 8GB – compared to double that from competitors in the same price bracket -, though it supports microSD expansion. The camera is not great, and the little stutters in day-to-day use do become quite annoying. On the plus side, there’s great software support, a nice design, and fantastic battery life. See? It’s not all doom and gloom.
07. An affordable ThinkPad
Slotting in at the seventh spot is the review for Lenovo’s ThinkPad L480, a laptop that’s a hair over $700. It’s a bit heavier than the trendier and more expensive variants, and not quite as powerful. Its Core i5-8250U (thankfully quad core) is paired with Intel’s UHD Graphics 620, so not the worst, but most definitely not the best.
Its heft and thickness do mean some points were knocked off, something to which its lack of IR camera or ThinkShutter privacy offering and plasticky-feeling keyboard contributed as well. On the upside, this is great value for money, the keyboard itself (in terms of travel) is also nice, as is the performance and anti-glare display.
06. Synology’s backup tool and service
Near the beginning of April, our very own Christopher White took a look at Synology’s C2 backup service, along with its Hyper Backup client. The experience was, for the most part, a pleasant one, though some things affected the final score.
On the one hand, C2 cannot restore multiple files, which is a bit of pain. There’s also no sort option for restores, and folks using Edge are out of luck: the service doesn’t work with Microsoft’s browser. It’s not all bad, as the Hyper Backup client is free and C2 is relatively inexpensive. Good performance and the ease of setting up were key factors in bumping up the final score for this solution.
05. A more expensive ThinkPad
Just like its sibling further down the list, this is another ThinkPad from Lenovo, only this time it’s the T480. Beyond the different letter at the start, it’s lighter, has some more premium materials, and it of course comes at a more premium price of $1,354.
The plasticky underside is one ding against it, as is the mandatory choice between either an IR camera or ThinkShutter privacy solution (no, you can’t have both). That said, the overall device is rugged, has a hot swappable battery, USB-C connectivity, great performance and battery life. As such, it’s near the higher end of the score spectrum.
04. The Surface Book 2, sans Thunderbolt 3
To everybody’s surprise, the second-gen Surface Book was not announced at an event (how Microsoft would usually do it), but instead via a press release. Weirdness of presentation aside, the refresh did bring some long awaited features, but was not perfect.
For one, the placement of the 3.5mm audio jack was not ideal, there’s no Thunderbolt 3 support, the pen is not bundled with such an expensive device ($2,999), and the hinge – while unique – still isn’t quite there yet. The positives include a now to be expected excellent build quality and form factor proposition, great keyboard, pen support, a USB-C port, and fantastic performance.
03. The Huawei P20 Pro and its massive 40MP shooter
In the first half of 2018, Huawei threw its hat into the ring with a monstrous 40MP-backed handset, the P20 Pro – no relation to the P20 from Cubot further down the list. This was the first phone since 2013’s Nokia Lumia 1020 and its Oreo-shaped 41MP sensor.
Despite its mostly glass body, the P20 Pro doesn’t support wireless charging, an omission which, with the lack of a headphone jack and ability to record 4K 60fps video, affected the score. That said, its great camera, display, design, as well as battery life and fingerprint sensor tipped the scales back in its favor.
02. A useful trio of applications for Synology’s NAS package
In January, Synology updated its application roster with Drive, Moments, and Office, each of which was targeted at a different kind of activity for its NAS customers. Despite all this, the trio is in no way perfect.
For once, Moments is unable to change labels, auto-tag pets or make use of geotagging. For its part, Office isn’t quite as full-featured as Microsoft’s more established solution. Compensating for these shortcomings is the fact that these applications are free and easy to use – with good mobile counterparts -, and they make it easy for you to back up your files. And let’s be honest here, more folks should be doing that.
01. The hybrid ThinkPad that’s better than a Surface Pro
The review that garnered the most traffic from you folks was this one, the third-gen of the ThinkPad X1 Tablet, which ensures Lenovo’s hat-trick presence on this list. Looking at the improvements over the previous iteration, it’s not much of a surprise this is at the top.
While the weird pen holster, as well as the reversal of the Fn and Ctrl keys is not great, the device does feature a larger HDR display, a U-series processor (again, thankfully quad core), a new kickstand, great performance, and the now legendarily fantastic ThinkPad keyboard.
While what we’ve seen above are reviews, it’s worth taking a look at two of the most viewed editorials this year, both of which are related to Windows 10 feature updates.
Just take a break from checking Windows Updates this one time
In light of a bungled final release of Redstone 4 (which as you may remember, had a bug so serious Microsoft decided to drop build 17133 as an RTM candidate), our own Rich Woods penned an editorial arguing that users should perhaps be a bit more patient and not necessarily check for updates as soon as Patch Tuesday hits.
This is of course not something many agreed with, but having an update version be 1803 (finished in March 2018), be called the April 2018 Update with a final release in May isn’t exactly the most confidence-inspiring turn of events.
The issues with 1809 and lack of communication surrounding it
Unlike its sibling from the first half of the year, 1809 went even further down the rabbit hole of problems. Skipping of the Release Preview ring was undoubtedly a strange decision, but ignoring the file deletion reports in the Feedback Hub, the ZIP file extraction issues, and just the general lack of communication around them was frustrating.
As such, Mr. Woods once again made use of his Surface Pen (what else would he be using?) to argue that this entire thing would be a lot less aggravating if Microsoft just talked to its users. Perhaps even more importantly, talk to arguably its most dedicated supporters, the Insiders.
This time, that’s really all. Maybe the list surprised you, maybe you were entirely expecting it to be this way. Either way, sound off in the comments section below.
Have a great New Year, everyone!
By Usama Jawad96
Shadow of the Tomb Raider is getting review-bombed on Steam because it went on sale
by Usama Jawad
Square Enix' Shadow of the Tomb Raider launched over a month ago. Although the title didn't receive as much critical appreciation as its predecessors, it was still praised for its graphics, which will likely get another facelift when it adds support for real-time ray tracing offered by Nvidia's RTX GPUs.
Right now, however, the game is currently getting review-bombed on Steam for going on sale too soon after launch.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider launched on PC and consoles on September 14 with an accompanying price tag of $59.99. However, fast-forward to today, and the AAA title already has a whopping 34% discount and is currently available for $39.59. This sale is part of Square Enix' week-long promotion that kicked off on October 16, and is scheduled to end in less than six hours.
Naturally, gamers who purchased the game at full price or pre-ordered it are angry that they had to pay $20 more just because they bought it within this timeframe.
Steam's algorithms detected a spike in negative reviews between October 16-18, which coincides with the time that the sale began. Scrolling through recent reviews also cements the fact that most reviews are from disgruntled customers who bought the game close to the launch period and now feel betrayed by Square Enix' sale.
It is important to note that this isn't the first time that the company has discounted one of its game so soon after launch. Rise of the Tomb Raider was released on February 9, 2016 on PC for $59.99 and was discounted to $47.99 less than a month after launch; on March 3, 2016. Similarly, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided was discounted by 50% just three months after launch. However, this is the first time that the company has faced review-bombing on one of its titles for this reason.
That said, if you haven't purchased Shadow of the Tomb Raider yet, but are interested in getting it, now is probably a good time to do so. The week-long promotion for the Standard, Digital Deluxe, and Croft editions of the game lasts for only about five more hours at the time of this writing.