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By Rich Woods
2020 Holiday Gift Guide: Laptops
by Rich Woods
It's time for more holiday gift guides, and this one will be focusing on Windows 10 PCs. After all, many are working from home this year, so a new laptop might just be the perfect gift. Of course, when it comes to laptops, there are a lot to choose from. Here are some ideas.
HP Spectre x360
Convertible, pen support, ultrabook or more powerful form factors
HP's Spectre x360 is one of our favorite convertibles on the market. It has a stunning two-tone design, narrow bezels on all sides without compromising an IR camera, and B&O speakers. It comes with Intel's Ice Lake processors, Iris Plus Graphics, and an optional 4K OLED display.
The 13-inch model is great for the average user, but for someone that needs more power for editing photos and such, take a look at the 15-inch model that has a 45W processor and dedicated graphics. You can check out our review here.
Microsoft Surface Pro X
Tablet, ultra-portable, always-connected, battery life, pen support
The Surface Pro X is Microsoft's own Windows on ARM PC, using a custom SKU of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx. With its ARM chip, it's always connected with cellular connectivity, it gets better battery life, and it has instant-wake. It's also thinner with a fanless design, and it's quite stylish. It's a fantastic PC to take on the go.
It starts at $999, although there are some solid deals where you can get over $100 off. The base model comes with a Microsoft SQ1 processor, although the higher-end ones come with the newer SQ2 and have a Platinum color option, instead of just black. you can check out our review here.
Clamshell, premium, ultrabook to super-powerful
Dell's XPS lineup comes in 13-, 15-, and 17-inch sizes, and the amount of power you get from them is respective to the size. The 13-inch model comes with Intel's Tiger Lake processors, Iris Xe graphics, and Thunderbolt 4. Meanwhile, the XPS 17 has a 45W processor and Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 graphics.
All of them are known for their slim bezels and stylish designs. Even with the InfinityEdge displays, they still maintain the webcam and IR camera on top. You can check out our reviews for the XPS 13, XPS 15, and XPS 17. You can check out the products here, here, and here, respectively.
Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7
Clamshell, mainstream, balance of power and portability
Lenovo's IdeaPad Slim 7 is more for the mainstream category than the premium devices above, but it packs a punch. It has AMD's Ryzen 7 4800U processor, which not only has eight cores and 16 threads, but the TDP has been jacked up to 25W for some of the best performance that you'll find in a thin and light ultrabook. It's a nice combination between power and portability.
You can check out our review here. This laptop actually isn't available anymore, but the product link is here. I asked PR if it's coming back and it seems to be a possibility, so in other words, I'm leaving it on the list because the product is so good that if you can find it, you should definitely grab it.
HP Envy x360
Convertible, mainstream, pen support
At $799.99, HP's Envy x360 13 is a great high-end PC that doesn't break the bank. It's got AMD's Ryzen 4000 processors, a 13.3-inch FHD display, 8GB RAM, and 256GB SSD. It comes in a stylish Nightfall Black color, and frankly, has an excellent keyboard.
We gave it a 9.5 in our review, and you can check it out here.
Microsoft Surface Laptop Go
Clamshell, budget, thin and light
Microsoft's Surface Laptop Go is the newest PC from the Redmond firm, and it starts at just $549. It comes in colors like Sandstone, Ice Blue, and Platinum, and unlike the Surface Go 2, the Surface Laptop Go has a full Core i5 processor. It has a fingerprint sensor instead of an IR camera and is missing a backlit keyboard, but it definitely looks and feels premium.
You can check out the review here and the product here.
HP Pavilion x360 14
Convertible, budget, always-connected
HP's Pavilion x360 14 made some weird compromises, such as not offering any Windows Hello, having a dim display, and not having a backlit keyboard, but it also offered some solid value propositions. Along with solid performance and excellent value, this $699 PC offers 4G LTE. It's probably the most inexpensive Intel-powered PC to have cellular connectivity.
You can check out the review here, and the product here.
Lenovo Legion 7i
Gaming laptop, high-end, powerful
Lenovo's Legion laptops offer a subtle design that makes them stylish for work, but powerful enough for play. The Legion 7i is the premium one that has more powerful configurations and RGB lighting, although for more of a budget gaming laptop, check out the Legion 5 or Legion 5i. I like to think of it like the Legion 5 series is more about a work PC that can play games, and the Legion 7 series is about being a gaming PC that's also great at productivity.
You can check out our reviews of the Legion 7i, Legion 5i, and Legion 5, you can find the products here, here, and here, respectively.
By Abhay V
Samsung 970 EVO Plus SSDs are off by up to $250 on Amazon
by Abhay Venkatesh
Samsung’s ultra-fast 970 EVO Plus SSD is currently being discounted on Amazon, with the top-of-the-line 2TB variant being sold for $250 off, making the usually $499.99 product available for as low as $249.99. However, there are also deals on lower tiers of the SSD, with the 250GB, 500GB, and 1TB offerings being sold for a discount of $20, $50, and $100, respectively.
The 970 EVO Plus SSD boasts of impressive read and write speeds, with the company touting speeds of 3,500MB/s and 3,300MB/s, respectively, under ideal conditions. Naturally, the 2TB variant is expected to perform slightly better than the lower storage offerings. While the SSD is based on PCIe 3.0 – unlike the latest 980 Pro –, it offers a great choice for those that want to snag an additional drive for their new PCIe 4.0 PC builds without shelling more for storage or upgrade their storage for older builds.
It must be noted, however, that at the time of writing, the 2TB variant seems to be out of stock and is expected to be in stock only by December 24, though you can still place your order now. However, other tiers are currently available and offer decent discounts, especially for the 1TB model – which is now just under $150.
You can head to the Amazon listing here to order the 1TB model or choose your pick from the listing. Interested users might need to act quickly since the deal seems to only be live for less than two more hours.
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By Rich Woods
Lenovo Yoga 7i 15 unboxing and first impressions
by Rich Woods
Lenovo's new Yoga 7i is here, and it's a 15.6-inch convertible with Intel's 11th-generation 'Tiger Lake' processors. It's a bit different from the Yoga 9i that I'm currently reviewing, because while they're both 15.6-inch PCs, the Yoga 9i has a 45W processor and dedicated graphics. This one has a regular U-series processor and Intel's brand-new Iris Xe graphics.
That also means that it comes with Thunderbolt 4 ports, which means that you can power two 4K displays and get data transfer speeds of up to 40Gbps. In fact, if the integrated graphics aren't enough for you, you can always hook up an external GPU.
There are some compromises over the flagship Yoga 9i though. The Yoga 7i does have Dolby Atmos speakers, but the rotating soundbar isn't there. There's also no pen garage; in fact, for this mainstream PC, you'll have to buy the pen separately.
One thing that I really like is the new Dark Moss color. I'm really tired of Lenovo producing these gunmetal gray types of colors, so it's nice to see the change of pace. Check out the unboxing video below:
By Rich Woods
Lenovo Legion 5 review: AMD Ryzen 4000 gaming
by Rich Woods
Back in August, I reviewed Lenovo's Legion 5i, the 'i' standing for Intel. Now, the Legion 5 is here, and the key difference is, you guessed it, that it includes AMD's Ryzen 4000 processors. Alongside that, it has Nvidia's GeForce graphics.
Other than that, there's not a whole lot that's different, but I really wanted to check out what AMD has to offer in the gaming department. Also, Lenovo's gaming laptop designs are among my favorite, placing most ports in the back of the machine for better cable management. They're also just not as flashy as many gaming laptops on the market.
CPU AMD Ryzen 7 4800H Processor (2.90 GHz, Max Boost up to 4.20 GHz, 8 Cores, 16 Threads, 8 MB Cache)
GPU Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti 4GB Display 15.6" FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS, anti-glare with Dolby Vision™, 300 nits, 144Hz
Body 363x260x23.57-26.13mm (14.3x10.2x1in), 2.5kg (5.5lbs) Ports (4) USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A
(1) USB 3.2 Type-C (DisplayPort)
AC power Memory 16GB DDR4 3200MHz Storage 512GB PCIe SSD Battery 60WHr, 170W charger Audio 2 x 2W Harman Kardon speaker system
Connectivity 802.11AX (2 x 2)
Color Phantom Black OS Windows 10 Home Price $959
As far as the price goes, that's an estimate based on the closed one to this unit that I could find, and it's from Amazon. Amazon actually has quite a few configurations, while Lenovo.com only has two with the Ryzen 7, and if you choose to customize it, you can only pick a Ryzen 5.
As I said, Lenovo's gaming laptops design is among my favorite. It has an industrial design that looks stylish no matter where you bring it. It looks great for playing games, but it also looks professional enough to bring into an office. It's quite nice.
The color is called Phantom Black, which is strange, because I really don't think that it's black at all. It actually seems a lot more like a very, very deep blue. It's that kind of color where I could be mistaken though.
You'll notice the Legion branding in the corner, and this is something that only stands out as much as you want it to. It does have a white light in the Legion logo included in the 'O', but that's it. If you get a configuration with more RGB lighting, you can show it off a bit more. It's a very clean design, in my opinion.
Most of the ports are located in the back, which is awesome. It's fantastic for cable management. If you're like me, than you game with wired peripherals, and it's a real pain when those cables are all sticking out the sides. Moreover, you'll be connected to power, something that you'll want for the best performance, and don't forget about wired internet. All of those cables can get in the way.
On the back of this machine, you'll find an Ethernet power, an AC power port, two USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A ports for 5Gbps speeds, HDMI 2.0, and USB 3.2 Type-C with DisplayPort. Being that this is the entry-level machine for Lenovo Legion gaming, there's no Thunderbolt connectivity. It's not on the Intel model either, so that's not being compromised on the switch to AMD.
The bad news is that the USB Type-C port does not support Power Delivery. It's not all that common on gaming laptops for Power Delivery to be supported, since they require so much more power than Power Delivery can carry, but I like to see it possible to at least charge the PC very slowly.
On the right side, there's another USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A port.
There's also one on the left side, alongside a 3.5mm audio jack. This is nice because it's easier to plug in peripherals on the fly. You can use the ports on the back for things that you have plugged in all the time, and then the ports on the side for things you're plugging in while using it.
Display and audio
The Lenovo Legion 5 packs a 15.6-inch FHD display with options of 60Hz, 120Hz, and 144Hz for the refresh rate. Lenovo sent me the 144Hz one, which is obviously the best for gaming. The higher the refresh rate, the smoother motions are and the faster you can react to things. It's not just about pleasing animations; you'll find real improvements to your gameplay here. If you want more than 144Hz, you'll have to look toward the higher-end Legion 7 series.
The screen comes in at 300 nits, which isn't tremendously bright. The good news is that this isn't really the type of machine that you'll use outdoors. Seriously, if you're looking for the super-portable machine that you can use anywhere and everywhere, there are PCs that are actually made for that. Another thing you won't find on this screen, or the screen of any gaming PC, is touch support. Just like glare, false touches are something that you don't want when playing a game.
You'll also notice that there's very little glare on this matte display. That's really important when gaming because you obviously don't want anything blocking your view.
The bezels are pretty narrow all around, and Lenovo even uses its reverse notch on top to fit the webcam and a privacy guard. There's no IR camera for Windows Hello, something that you really won't find on any gaming laptop, and frankly, that's something that I still don't understand. There's no fingerprint sensor either.
As for audio quality, the two 2W Harman speakers sound great. They're not super loud or anything, but you'll presumably just be using them for immersive gaming sound, rather than filling a room with music. It certainly gets the job done for personal use.
Keyboard and trackpad
The Legion 5 comes with a backlit keyboard that can either be configured with a white backlight, or four-zone RGB. The model that Lenovo sent me has a white backlight, which is all I've ever actually seen on the Legion 5 series. Honestly, if you want to go all-in on RGB, you should go for the Legion 7 series.
The keyboard has a numpad on the right, which isn't uncommon for 15.6-inch laptops. It's fine, and I know a lot of people prefer it, but I don't. I like a keyboard that's centered, so I do feel like it gets in the way. The point is, if you have a preference one way or the other, be aware of it.
The keyboard itself is very comfortable to type on. Honestly, if you're spending good money on a Lenovo laptop, you'll always find this to be the case. The keys are somewhat shallow, and it's just like you'd find on any of Lenovo's consumer laptops (as opposed to ThinkPads).
The Microsoft Precision trackpad is clickable, which is great for if you're using it for work, but not so great for gaming. If you use a trackpad for gaming, you'll definitely want to be aware of this, because accidentally clicking it could be an issue. I'd have expected to see a non-clickable trackpad with physical buttons.
Performance and battery life
The Legion 5 that Lenovo sent me includes an AMD Ryzen 7 4800H, and it's the main difference between this and the Legion 5i, which has Intel Comet Lake H processors. The Ryzen 7 4800H has a 45W TDP, just like the Intel options, and it has eight cores and 16 threads. A big difference with Ryzen 4000 has been that it's built on a 7nm process, while Intel is still on 14nm. Intel has only been able to move to 10nm on its mobile CPUs for thin and light PCs.
In my experience with AMD's Ryzen 4000 processors for thin and light PCs (U-series), they smoke anything that Intel can offer. That's not been my experience with the H-series, possibly because companies never seem to ship these things out with solid GPUs.
The unit that Lenovo sent me includes an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti 4GB. It's not bad for FHD gaming at all, but for things like video and photo editing, I was not impressed at all. For 4K video editing, I found I actually got better performance from Intel's U-series Tiger Lake processors. Luckily, you can have this configured with up to an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060, which should be solid.
For benchmarks, I used PCMark 8, PCMark 10, and a bunch more.
Lenovo Legion 5
AMD Ryzen 7 4800H, GTX 1650 Ti Lenovo Legion 5i
Intel Core i7-10750H, RTX 2060 Lenovo Legion 7i
Intel Core i7-10750H, RTX 2080 SUPER HP OMEN 15
AMD Ryzen 7 4800H, GTX 1660 Ti PCMark 8: Home 3,819 4,438 4,419 4,756 PCMark 8: Creative 5,711 4,106 4,185 6,028 PCMark 8: Work 3,904 4,317 4,291 3,989 PCMark 10 5,519 4,898 4,980 5,639 3DMark: Time Spy 4,150 6,002 7,862 6,037 VRMark: Orange Room 5,608 7,873 7,978 7,533 Geekbench 5 1,185 / 7,971 1,218 / 6,190 1,188 / 7,946 Cinebench 4,527 2,941 4,374
Looking at benchmarks, it seems like Intel's Core i7-10750H is a little bit better for single-core performance, but the AMD Ryzen 7 4800H is superior overall, making a big difference in multi-core performance and on the Creative test. I'd suggest opting for a better GPU though.
Battery life wasn't particularly impressive, maxing out at around four hours. There's nothing surprising there, since this does have powerful internals. I only looked up the battery report to see if this had a 60WHr battery or 80WHr. Since it's the former, the good news is that you can get it with a bigger battery.
Well, my two biggest complaints from the Legion 5i remain. One is that it has a clickable trackpad and one is that there's no Windows Hello. I don't personally mind the clickable trackpad, because I don't use it for gaming, and if you use a mouse, it's fine. Another con that I'm adding is sluggish performance under heavy workloads because frankly, it was not good on this machine.
I definitely recommend getting a model with a better GPU. While Lenovo.com shows the only better option as the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060, you can actually find the Legion 5 with a GeForce GTX 1660 Ti, which is also a solid choice.
But other than that, this is a really solid machine. As always, I love Lenovo's gaming laptops. I really appreciate the more subtle design, and I appreciate that most of the ports are in the back. Seriously, if you use this machine for a few months and then move to a gaming laptop with all of the ports on the sides, you will really feel the difference.
Personally, I think Lenovo's Legion 5 series is a solid choice for the entry-level gamer, but I do recommend a better GPU. Check out this one with a GTX 1660 Ti.
As an Amazon Associate, Neowin may earn commission from qualifying purchases.
By Rich Woods
Lenovo Smart Clock Essential review: Just buy a Smart Clock
by Rich Woods
Last year, I reviewed Lenovo's Smart Clock, which is a four-inch Google Assistant smart display that costs $79.99. This year, the company introduced the Smart Clock Essential. Rather than being a successor to the original Smart Clock, this one is meant to bring it to a lower price point of just $49.99.
It does this by removing the LCD display and replacing it with an LED display. The Lenovo Smart Clock Essential is not a smart speaker like the Smart Clock is. Instead, this product is a smart speaker that's built into a digital clock, and it's best to think about it that way. The only thing smart about the LED display is that it shows the temperature on it.
The display is the key difference between the two products though, so that's what you need to know going into this. One is a smart display and the other is a smart speaker.
Processor Amlogic A113X Memory 4GB Storage 512MB eMMC Display 4" LED Speakers 1 x 1.5” Speaker, 3 Watt Nightlight 31 Lumens I/O 1 x Microphone Mute Toggle
1 x Volume Up/Down
1 x Play Button
1 x Alarm Button
1 x USB 2.0 Type-A Connectivity 802.11ac WLAN, Bluetooth 5.0 Body 4.474x2.52x3.27in (121x64x83mm), 0.52lbs (240g) Color / Material Grey, Soft Touch Cloth Price $49.99
Right now, you can actually buy this on Lenovo.com for $29.99. Also, the regular Smart Clock is just $39.99, so there's currently a $10 difference between the two products.
Design and display
The body of the Smart Clock Essential pretty much looks just like the Smart Clock. It's wrapped in gray cloth and it's a sort of wedge shape.
As you can see, there are some buttons on the top, such as volume controls, a play button, and an alarm button. Previously on the Smart Clock, there were only volume controls. One feature that's pretty cool is the nightlight feature, which you can turn on by holding volume down. Of course, you can also tell Google Assistant to do it.
On the back, there's a power port, a switch for muting the microphone, and a USB 2.0 Type-A port. That USB port is pretty much just there so you can charge your phone, something that's always useful for a device that's likely sitting beside your bed.
And then there's the display itself, which is sort of the defining characteristic. It's a four-inch LED, and there are pros and cons to it when compared to the LCD on the Smart Clock. For one thing, it actually looks a lot nicer, with its curved edges and the fact that it doesn't require a backlight. With the LCD on the Smart Clock, you can easily see the backlight and its big bezels.
One thing that I don't like about the LED screen is that I found that it doesn't get dim enough. Both products can sense ambient light, and they'll both dim down when the light goes out. But the Smart Clock doesn't stay bright enough to keep me awake; this one does, and I had to face it away from my bed.
The other downside to the LED screen is obvious: it's not a smart display. That means that when you ask Google what the weather is, it's simply going to tell you, rather than showing you a forecast on the screen. It also takes away things like the ability to use the screen as a digital picture frame when you're not using it, or use different clock faces.
Like I said, there are definitely pros and cons to each, but for the extra money, I think it's worth it to get a Smart Display.
We all know what smart assistants do at this point, right? Well, at $50, this product is really meant to lower that barrier of entry for the skeptics, so we'll discuss it a bit.
First of all, setting up the Smart Clock Essential is just like any other Google Assistant device. You just have to download the Google Home app on your iPhone or Android device and choose to add a new device; the app will guide you through the rest. There's a quick start guide in the box that will tell you to do just that.
When you say "Hey, Google" four lights light up on the screen, and you can ask it questions. This is the basic stuff. You can ask Google Assistant what the weather is or will be on a specific date or time, or you can ask what the time is. Seriously, people do this. My wife will actually ask what the time is instead of, you know, looking at the clock.
Another basic feature is setting alarms. This is a clock that might be sitting next to your bed, so you might want to use it for alarms. It's that simple. Just say, "Hey Google, set an alarm for tomorrow morning at 8". If you want to have some fun, you can also tell Google Assistant to tell you a joke.
Smart Assistants are also great for playing music. If you subscribe to Google's music service or something like Spotify or Pandora, you can link up the service and just tell Google Assistant to play whatever you want. After all, it is a smart speaker.
There are other services that you can add too, like ABC News and CNN to get daily updates. Obviously, you can't link up your video streaming services with this product. You can link up smart home products though, which is a lot of fun.
I'm big on Philips Hue lights, so I can use it to control the lights in different rooms and such. It's also that time of the year that I use my Hue lights for holiday-themed colors, and it's fun to be able to voice-activate them. For smart home stuff, just look for "works with Nest" products.
You can also set up routines. Like device setup, this can be managed through the Google Home app on your iPhone or Android device. Routines are basically a custom command that can do a set of programmed actions. You can create one routine to cycle through the weather, your calendar, and a news briefing, or maybe for a morning routine, it will also turn on the bedroom lights. You can have one for getting home from work to turn on the living room lights and set the Nest thermostat. These are just some ideas. There's plenty that you can do.
This is a simple product, so it's a simple review. The reason that this exists is to lower the barrier of entry. There are lots of people that think about getting a Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa smart device, but to them, it's not worth the money. That's how new technology goes for some people; they look at it and say they've been fine without it thus far, so they can go on without it.
At $49.99, this is one of the lowest barriers of entry for a smart assistant product that there is. And in fact, it's a good product. I love the two-in-one form factor, meaning that it's both a smart speaker and an alarm clock, the latter of which you might want to buy anyway.
The LED screen is quite nice too. It doesn't have the backlight that the LCD has on the Smart Clock. But still, the Smart Clock can do a lot more, and considering that they're on sale right now, I'd say to pick up a Smart Clock. At $39.99, it costs $10 less than the normal price of the Smart Clock Essential.
But of course, maybe you just want something simple and stylish. The Smart Clock Essential is definitely that.