New Gaming Laptop, HP Omen 15 Review

hp omen 1As a reader of laptopreviews.com, you have already seen our reviews on laptop of various classes, from premium laptops to cheap and efficient one. So I thought, it might be the time we should focus on something different. And that’s why we are reviewing a gaming laptop this time.

With Omen 15, finally HP is back in the game. And as 2014 is over now, it is safe to say that the HP Omen is the best looking laptop of the year. With a strong and ultralight chassis, a 1080p IPS touch screen, and extremely beautiful lid design, this 15.6 inch beauty is a piece of work. But don’t let the shiny outlook fool you. Having a Core i7 CPU, a top class SSD and an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 860M graphics The Omen really is a monster inside. So, if you are looking for a desktop replacement or a gaming laptop, this laptop should be in your consideration.

With a base price of $1499, beside the MSI GS60, HP Omen is the most efficient gaming laptop so far.

Pros

  • Awesome design
  • Decent build quality
  • Strong gaming performance
  • Good overall performance
  • Fast boot time
  • Good file transfer speed
  • Full HD IPS touch screen
  • Full HD webcam
  • Relatively lightweight
  • Customizable keyboard backlit
  • Reasonable price

Cons

  • Odd keyboard layout
  • Moderate speakers
  • Rough and sharp edges
  • Glossy screen
  • Relatively inadequate GPU
  • High power consumption

hp omen sideSpecification

  • Brand: HP
  • Series: Omen
  • Model: 15-5001na
  • Processor: Intel Core i7-4710HQ
  • Chipset: Intel HM87
  • Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 860M
  • Memory: 8GB 1600 MHz DDR3
  • SSD: 256GB PCIe SSD
  • HDD: none
  • Optical Drive: none
  • Display Type: IPS FHD Capacitive Touch Screen
  • Screen Size: 15.6 inch
  • Screen Resolution: 1920 x 1080 (16:9)
  • Audio: BeatsAudio, Dual Front Facing Speakers
  • Keyboard: Island style keyboard with rainbow backlit
  • Navigation: 5.5 x 2.5 inch touchpad
  • Webcam: TrueVision Full HD camera with 30 FPS
  • Video Ports: HDMI and Mini DisplayPort
  • Audio Ports: Combo Headphone/Mic Jack
  • USB: 4x USB 3.0
  • Media Ports: 2-1 card reader
  • Wi-Fi: Intel Dual-Band Wireless-AC 7260
  • Bluetooth: 4.0
  • Ethernet: none
  • Width: 15.07 inch / 38.29 cm
  • Depth: 9.67 inch / 24.65 cm
  • Height: 0.78 inch / 1.98 cm
  • Weight: 4.67 pounds / 2.12 kg
  • Battery: 4 cell, 58Wh
  • Battery Life: 4:30 Hours
  • Operating System: Windows 8.1 64 bit
  • Warranty: 1 year Limited
  • Base Price: $1499 at Amazon

Build and Design

HP was never really famous for the design. But with the new Omen, HP has done the unexpected. In a time of Alienware and Razer, the design of Omen is something unique and also beautiful at the same time.

The Omen has a full aluminum chassis with anodized black finished outlook. The lid is wider than the body, and to keep up with wide lid, the edges of the base are tapered. Though tapered edges left no space for the connectivity ports on the side, it gave the illusion of being even thinner than the laptop actually is.

hp omen lidOn the lid, there is a pattern consisting small triangles along with chrome lettering brand name. On the other hand, the whole bottom side of the Omen is a big large vent to inhale the air. However, The exhaust vents are along the rear edge, which means you won’t have to suffer the hot air of the side vent, blowing directly on your hand when using a mouse.

hp omen bottomKeyboard

The Omen has not many drawbacks. But even if it has only one, it lies in the keyboard. Though the custom backlit is cool, the island style of the keyboard is a disappointment. Also the layout is kind of unusual. There is a row of shortcut keys on the left side and because of that, all other keys had to be shifted to the right. So there is a chance you will mistake “A” button with Capslock key eventually.

hp omen keyboardBesides these flaws, the responsiveness and built quality of the keys are good and strong.

hp omen keyboard backlitTouchpad

While we were not much pleased with the keyboard, the touchpad of the HP Omen is top class. To be exact, the Omen has 5.5 x 2.5 inch synaptic touchpad. Clearly, it is far wider and spacious than regular sized pad. The responsiveness of the pad also quite fast and speedy. Moreover, the touchpad supports all kinds of multitouch gestures of windows 8.1.

Connectivity

As we already mentioned, the sides of the HP Omen are tapered. Hence it was not possible to add connectivity ports on the side of the laptop. So instead of conventional style, they compiled all the ports on the rear.hp omen port 3

hp omen port 2However, there is only a 2-1 card reader on the right side of the laptop.

hp omen port 1On the other hand, there are four USB 3.0 ports, a mini Displayport, an HDMI port, audio and power jacks on the rear side between the exhaust vents.

Display

Though gamers don’t really crave for touchscreens, but it is always good to have one. With all the hype surrounding 4K screens, 1080p screens don’t really get much appreciation nowadays. But it is still awesome. Now, if you are wondering, the HP Omen comes with a 1080p full HD IPS touchscreen.
The screen is bright and clear (270 nits). The colors are rich and the touch is responsive. The viewing angle is also great, thanks to the IPS panel.

hp omen screen 1So far the only flaw I have found is the glossy screen. But considering the rest aspects, you will be able to live with that.

hp omen screen 3Audio

The internal speakers of the Omen are mounted on the top. To be honest, they are kind of bass heavy and relatively quiet. On an audio test I was able to get a maximum of 80 decibels. It is not so loud, as the category average is 87 decibels. However, the sound card of the Omen is good, so if you want premium sound, you will have to use external speakers or a headphone.

Performance

Unlike the extreme outlook, the specs of the Omen is not really what we call, “top class”. It has a 2.5 GHz Intel Core i7 4710HQ processor, 256 GB SSD, and 8 GB of DDR3 memory. As for the graphics, HP Omen comes with the Geforce GTX 860M, which is in fact, a mediocre graphics card for gaming.

hp omen cpuWith 6 MB of cache and 3.5 GHz of maximum turbo frequency, the i7 4710HQ is more than enough for a gaming laptop. While the 860M is far from the fastest GPU on the market. It is a good card for playing last Gen games based on unreal and frostbite engine 3. However, for the next Gen games like Assassin’s Creed Unity or Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, this card is barely adequate.

hp omen gpuThe Omen is also has an Intel HD Graphics 4600 GPU for those time, when you just want to watch movies or enjoy musics, instead of hunting knights in the Assassin’s Creed.

hp omen tempBattery

Gaming and battery life don’t really rhyme. But with the help of Haswell processor the Omen managed to get a decent battery life for a gaming laptop. While playing battlefield 4, I was able to get roughly 2 hours from it. But when I was surfing the internet and watching music videos, I got like four and half hour from it. Overall, it’s not bad run time for a 0.78 inch thick 2 Kg laptop.

Customization

The base price of the Omen is $1499, and for that, you will get the i7 processor, 8 GB of ram, a 128 GB SSD and the NVIDIA Geforce GTX 860M GPU with 2GB VRAM. However, for an additional $200 you will be able to get 16 GB memory. Also, if you need more storage, you can get a 512 SSD for an extra $300. Moreover, if you are not happy with your 2GB VRAM, you can get the 4GB VRAM version of 860M GPU for an extra $100.

Wrap Up

After all, The Omen 15 may not be the most powerful gaming laptop on the market, but it is a decent one. The design, portability and thermals of the Omen are top notch. Moreover, the 1080p touchscreen makes Windows 8.1 and touch supported games like Plants vs. Zombies and Civilization V much more enjoyable.

Anyway, in the end, the main reasons I think, for buying this gaming laptop would be the style and portability. Most gaming laptops currently on the market are either bulky crap or much expensive power hungry monsters. While you can take the Omen 15 literally anywhere, to the airport, to the library even to the work. Overall, it is a good gaming laptop of 2014 and of course, one of the best laptops of HP. So, if you are in need of a portable gaming device, the HP Omen 15 can be the perfect laptop for you.hp omen 2

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Acer Chromebook 13 Review

acer chromebook 13Acer is a famous brand for making affordable and efficient laptops; while on the other hand, Chromebooks are renowned alternative of low cost Windows laptop. So, when these two collide, you can imagine the outcome. Anyway, today we are going to review Acer Chromebook 13, which we believe, is one of the best Chromebook currently available on the market.

Acer Chromebook 13 is powered with the NVIDIA Tegra K1 processor.  So far, it is the first Chromebook with an ARM based NVIDIA processor. Though, I am not a fan of ARM powered laptop, and Tegra K1 doesn’t have 64 bit support, I have to admit that the performance of this laptop is charming.

Simple and sleek design, good touchpad, 4 GB of RAM, 11 hours of battery life and amazing 1080p display, it has everything you want from a value laptop. On top of that, with base price as low as $299 on Amazon, this Chromebook of Acer is worth every cent. However, if you are planning to buy a cheap laptop, but can’t decide what to get, reading our review on Chromebook 13 surely will give you some idea.

Pros

  • Simple and stylish design
  • Anti-glare full HD screen
  • Long battery life
  • Comfortable keyboard and touchpad
  • Runs cool and quiet
  • Relatively powerful processor
  • Good built-in graphics

Cons

  • Moderate performance
  • Poor viewing angles
  • Plastic built
  • Somewhat heavy for a 13 inch laptop
  • Limited offline functionality of Chrome OS
  • Limited apps
  • Compatibility issue of NVIDIA processor

acer chromebook 13 frontSpecification

  • Brand: Acer
  • Series: Chromebook 13
  • Model: CB5-311
  • Processor: Quad core NVIDIA Tegra K1 CD570M-A1
  • Graphics: Integrated Tegra K1 Kepler GPU
  • Memory: 4GB DDR3L SDRAM
  • SSD: 16GB
  • HDD: none
  • Optical Drive: none
  • Display Type: Active Matrix TFT Color LCD
  • Screen Size: 13.3 inch
  • Screen Resolution: 1920 x 1080 (16:9)
  • Audio: Two stereo speakers
  • Keyboard: Island style keyboard without numeric keys
  • Navigation: 4.1 x 2.4 inch touchpad
  • Webcam: HD webcam with 1280 x 720 pixels resolution
  • Video Ports: HDMI
  • Audio Ports: Headphone / Mic
  • USB: 2x USB 3.0
  • Media Ports: SD memory card reader
  • Wi-Fi: IEEE 802.11ac
  • Bluetooth: 4.0
  • Ethernet: none
  • Width: 12.9 inch / 32.76 cm
  • Depth: 9 inch / 22.86 cm
  • Height: 0.7 inch / 1.7 cm
  • Weight: 3.3 pounds / 1.5 kg
  • Battery: 4 cell Lithium Ion 3220 mAh
  • Battery Life: 11 Hours
  • Operating System: 32 bit Chrome OS
  • Warranty: 1 year
  • Base Price: $299 at Amazon

Build and Design

To be honest, the Chromebook 13 is the most stylish Chromebook from Acer till now.  The design is slim, simple and elegant. It has bright all white finish and matte outlook. The top side of the lid is decorated with Chrome and Acer logos. The whole body is made of plastic. But don’t think the build is weak. Though they used plastic everywhere, the laptop is well built and Acer used really good quality plastic. As we tested, light scratching or dirt doesn’t leave any mark.

acer chromebook 13  lidWith lid closed, the laptop is only 0.7 inches thick and has a weight of 3.3 pounds. The edges are not sharp and rounded, so it is easy to carry around, and slip into any backpack.acer chromebook 13 bottomKeyboard

Beside the nice island style design, the keyboard is comfortable as well. The keyboard followed standard Chrome layout. So it has search key instead of caps lock, which you can manually change if necessary. There are multimedia and shortcut keys like volume, brightness, window switch, browser controls are on the top row. The keys are comfortable and give good feedback on every stroke.

acer chromebook 13 keyboardHowever, if you look closely, you can see some of the keys are misaligned. Also, these keys are not made to take hard pounding, which will remind you the price of the laptop. And of course, as the laptop is really cheap, it is unnecessary to mention that the keyboard has no backlit.

Touchpad

Though we are not really happy with the keyboard, but on the other hand, the touchpad of this Chromebook is top class. The touchpad gives really good responsiveness for both single and multi-touch gestures. The size of the pad is 4.1 x 2.4 inch, which is also quite big and spacious. The surface of the pad is sleek, so you can glide your fingers easily. Overall, comparing with other Chromebook, this one has the best touchpad so far.

acer chromebook 13  touchpadConnectivity

Like any other Chromebook, the connectivity feature of this laptop is quite simple and limited.

SONY DSCOn the left side of the laptop, there is a USB 3.0 port and media card slot.

acer chromebook 13 ports 2And on the right, there are headphone ports and the power jack.

acer chromebook 13 ports 3Moreover, there is another USB 3.0 port along with an HDMI port on the back.

Display

Acer Chromebook 13 is equipped with a 13.3 inch screen. Despite the poor viewing angle, this display features Acer’s ComfyView anti-glare technology and matte surface, so it is not hard to read the screen while on the outside, even on a sunny day. The surprising fact of the screen is its resolution. Though it was kind of unnecessary for a 13.3 incher, the resolution of the screen is 1920 x 1080.

acer chromebook 13 display 1acer chromebook 13 display 2As we tested, the average brightness of the screen is (245 CD/m2) And the average contract is (458:1). Though these numbers are not that great, they are pretty decent for a value laptop.

acer chromebook 13 display comparisonBrightness and Contrast ratio of Chromebooks

Performance

Acer Chromebook 13 is the first laptop having both NVIDIA processor and Chrome operating system. Along with 2.1 GHz quad core Tegra K1 processor, the laptop also has 4 GB of DDR3 memory, 1080p screen and a 16 GB solid state drive.

acer chromebook 13 benchmarkGeekBench Score of some similar processors

The NVIDIA Tegra K1 is an ARM based processor, which you may already noticed in some high end tablets and smart phones. To be precise, NVIDIA used four ARM cortex A15 cores as the main processing unit for the Tegra K1. The processor also has 2 MB level 2 Cache which is also pretty decent. As we see in the benchmark, the performance of the processor is better than Intel Celeron 2955U and almost similar to Intel Core i3 4005U. However, sadly this processor doesn’t have 64 bit computing support. So, it won’t be possible to install a 64 bit operating system in the future.

acer chromebook 13 cpuThe graphics performance of the Chromebook 13 is remarkable. The integrated graphics chip came with the main processor. It is a Kepler based graphics card with 192 NVIDIA CUDA cores, 8 TMUs and 4 ROPs which is almost similar to NVIDIA GeForce GT 740M and Intel HD 4400. With this graphics card, you will be able to play almost every game supported by Chrome OS.

acer chromebook 13 gpuHeat and Noise

Surprisingly, Acer Chromebook 13 offers Fanless design. So regardless of load, the laptop will always run quietly. Also, as we tested, it doesn’t really generate much heat. You will be able to use it on lap all the time without any problem.

Battery

Acer Chromebook 13 has a 4 cell lithium ion 3220 mAh battery. According to Acer, the battery should last 11 hours long. But so far, we could get 9 hours out of it. Though we didn’t get as we were promised, personally I think 9 hours of battery life is decent for a value laptop.

acer chromebook 13 battery lifeAverage battery life (hour) of Chromebooks

Customization

The base price of this laptop is $299 on Amazon, but if you want, you can get 2GB extra ram and 16 GB of extra storage space for $80. Moreover, if you don’t think you need a 1080p screen, you can downgrade it to a 1366 x 768 pixels screen and save $20.

Operating System

Though Windows is still the mainstream operating system, Chrome OS is getting popular every day. Basically, Chrome OS is made for laptop users with basic need. So, instead of Windows 8’s sophisticated look and touchscreen optimization, Chrome OS offers a simple and extremely easy user interface.

acer chromebook 13 os 3In Chrome OS, there is a menu button, which is very similar to older Windows’s start button. At the bottom of the screen, there is a bar similar to taskbar where you can pin apps of your choice, while basic settings like internet, Wi-Fi and time are on the right side of the bar.

acer chromebook 13 os 2Though you won’t be able to install software and games you used to have on your PC, you will be able to use almost all apps along with games available on the Google play store. However, offline facilities of the Chrome OS are somewhat limited. You will be able to run the laptop without an internet connection, but most of the apps require internet connection. So, you in the end, there won’t be much to do on Chrome OS without internet.

acer chromebook 13 os 1Wrap Up

There are some compatibility issues and the processor is not as powerful as Intel Core “I” series, but the overall performance of the laptop is really good comparing with other value laptops. Anyway, Acer Chromebook 13 is not what we were promised, and it certainly isn’t the best or most powerful laptop on the market. However, it manages to redeem itself with stylish design, decent battery life, a sharp screen, and most importantly, an affordable price. So, if you are looking for a cheap laptop and interested in Chromebook, this 13 incher of Acer can be the right thing for you.

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Apple MacBook Air 13 inch (2014) Review

macbook air 2014 sideMacBook Air laptops are renowned for their combination of impressive design, ultra-light weight and unmatched performance. This new 13 inch MacBook 2014 version is not an exception. It not only has the apple’s elegant outlook but also it is powered up with all the latest technologies. If you are seeking a premium looking Ultrabook that doesn’t skimp on power, with latest Core i5 processor and a battery that lasts longer than 12 hours, this new MacBook Air is surely one of the best options out there.

Basically, the new 2014 version has almost nothing new, if you compare it with the earlier Air model, which is kind of disappointing. So far the improvements Apple made are, a small processor speed bump and a longer battery life, while the design, screen and all other basic features remained exactly the same. But surprisingly, the price of it is marginally lower than the previous versions, which is very unusual for Apple.

Anyway, if you are looking for a desktop replacement or something you are going to use 20 hours a day, maybe it is not a good choice. But if you care about the brand, design and performance; if you are looking for a lightweight premium Ultrabook. With the price tag of $999, this Apple’s ultraportable is the best laptop you can get with your money.

Pros

  • Slim design
  • Light weight
  • Latest Haswell processor
  • Runs cool and quiet
  • Long battery life
  • Low power consumption
  • Great keyboard and touchpad
  • Good webcam
  • Decent performance
  • Exclusive software bundle
  • Cheaper price than usual

Cons

  • Average quality screen
  • No retina display
  • Low screen resolution
  • No touchscreen
  • No HDMI and Ethernet support
  • Poor graphics
  • Limited storage capacity
  • No secondary storage
  • Very limited ports
  • Not upgradable

macbook air 2014Specification

  • Brand: Apple
  • Series: MacBook Air
  • Model: 13 inch (2014)
  • Processor: Intel Core i5 4260U
  • Display: Twisted nematic (TN) glossy panel LED display
  • Display Size: 13.3 inch
  • Resolution: 1440 x 900 (16:10)
  • Graphics: Integrated Intel HD 5000
  • Memory: 4GB LPDDR3 1600 MHz
  • SSD: 128GB
  • HDD: none
  • Optical Drive: none
  • Audio: Stereo speakers, two microphones
  • Keyboard: Backlit keyboard without numerical keys
  • Navigation: Multi touch touchpad
  • Webcam: 1280 x 720 HD Cam
  • Video Ports: Thunderbolt
  • Audio Ports: Headphone
  • USB: 2x USB 3.0
  • Media Ports: 2-1 SDXC card reader
  • Wi-Fi: 802.11ac
  • Bluetooth: 4.0 wireless
  • Ethernet: none
  • Width: 12.8 inch / 32.5 cm
  • Depth: 8.9 inch / 22.6 cm
  • Height: 0.7 inch / 1.7 cm
  • Weight: 2.9 pounds / 1.4 kg
  • Battery: 54 Wh
  • Battery Life: 12 Hours
  • Operating System: OS X 10.10 (Yosemite)
  • Warranty: One year RTB
  • Base Price: $999

macbook air 2014 thickness 2Build and Design

Apple never really changed the basic design of their MacBook Air series for the last few generations. But the laptops are just becoming thinner, lighter and more powerful. As usual, the 2014 version of the 13 inch MacBook Air has the aluminum unibody construction. The build quality is strong. With just 0.7 inch thickness, this beauty can take a decent amount of pounding. The color of the whole outer body is sliver and there is a glowing Apple logo on the lid.

macbook air 2014 lidThe MacBook Air is very portable. It weighs only 2.9 pounds, so you can easily slip it into any bag without even noticing the weight differences. The corners are rounded, which is also a good thing since almost everyone will use the Air as an on the go laptop.

macbook air 2014 bottomKeyboard

The keyboard of the MacBook Air is really great for a 13 inch laptop. The size of the keys and the space between the keys are ideal. The feedback of the keys is kind of catchy, which will give you comfort and good response over long stretches. The build of the surface and keys are strong. You can roughly use the laptop without worrying about damaging the keyboard. The decent backlit made it easy to read the keys regarding the light of the environment.macbook air 2014 keyboard

Moreover, all necessary multimedia shortcut keys are on the top, so you can operate the brightness of the screen, backlit, volume and manage all the apps without much effort.macbook air 2014 backlit

Touchpad

Just like the keyboard, the touchpad of the Air is smooth and flawless. The size of the touchpad is 4.1 x 3 inches. The pad not only has pinpoint accuracy and satisfying feedback but also it can perform all new multi touch gestures Yosemite operating system has to offer. You can control the laptop and do almost everything by only using the touchpad. To be honest, only because of this superb touchpad, you won’t feel the need of a touchscreen that much.macbook air 2014 touchpad

Connectivity

The connectivity feature of the MacBook Air is pretty basic and simple. They probably made it this way to keep it slim and light. But if you are a dedicated laptop user, you will face some problem as there are no VGA, HDMI, Ethernet or USB 2.0 ports.

macbook air 2014 ports 1On the left side there is only one headphone jack, one USB 3.0 port and the power connector.

macbook air 2014 ports 2While on the right side there is another USB 3.0 port along with SDXC card slot and Thunderbolt display port.

Display

Though the new MacBook Air is jacked up with various latest technologies, the display feature of the laptop is not something to be proud of. As you can see in the specs, it has a 13.3 inch LED backlit glossy widescreen screen with the usual Apple MacBook aspect ratio of 16:10.

macbook air 2014 screenAs Apple used twisted nematic (TN) technology for the display, the viewing angle of the screen is limited but it is wider than regular TN screens. The average brightness of the display is 285 nits and average contrast is 280 cd / m2 with the ratio of 600:1. The native resolution of the display is 1440 x 900 pixels, which is slightly better than commonly used 1366 x 768 pixels resolution. Anyway, as seen from the statistics, the screen is not what we call “premium”. However, the brightness, contrast and resolution of the MacBook Air are better than average ultraportable laptops.macbook air 2014 13 inch

Audio

The built in speaker of the MacBook Air is basic and generic. They are located right beneath the keyboard. Though the sound is loud enough, it’s quality is not that great. But as this laptop is meant for outdoor use, with a good headphone you won’t feel the lacking.

Performance

Though the design is still unchanged, the internal hardware has been upgraded. The new MacBook Air offers an Intel core i5 processor combined with Intel HD 5000 integrated graphics, 4GB of DDR3 memory, and a 128GB flash drive.macbook air 2014 benchmark

As you can see in the specs, this MacBook has the Intel core i5 4260U CPU. It is an ULV (ultra low voltage) dual core processor based on Haswell architecture, but since it supports hyper threading technology, these two cores can actually handle four threads in parallel. The base clock speed of the processor is 1.4 GHz, but with the turbo boost, you will be able to get a maximum clock speed of 2.7 GHz. Also, because of the latest Haswell technology, this processor is capable of providing great performance while consuming only little power (15W of maximum power consumption to be exact).macbook air 2014 cpu

On the other hand the integrated Intel HD 5000 graphics is not very professional and isn’t meant for serious gaming. Though it is significantly better than the previous HD 4000 and HD 4400 models, the actual performance is kind of bottlenecked because the graphics processors dip into the system RAM for their memory. The GPU supports DirectX 11.1, OpenCL 1.2, OpenGL 4.0 and supports up to 2560 x 1600 pixels on an external display. When I tested the Mac version of DOTA2 on it at native resolution (1440 x 900) with default graphics settings, I got an average of 35 FPS.macbook air 2014 gpu

The storage of the Air is a PCIe-attached solid state flash drive of 128 GB capacity. The average read speed of this SSD is 700MB/s and write speed is 450MB/s which is comparatively better than average SSD read/write speed (500MB/s and 440MB/s) but surely it could be better. Also, sadly there is no secondary storage and 128 GB is for sure not enough in today’s world. So in case you need to carry more data, you will have to rely on external storage.macbook air 2014 disk speed test

Battery

The 13 inch MacBook Air features a 54 Wh lithium-polymer battery which Apple claims to last 12 hours. When I tested the capability of the battery, I was thrilled as the performance of the battery was even better. It lasted roughly 13 hours while I watched movies, played musics and surfed the Internet over Wi-Fi. To be honest, this 13 inch laptop is the most enduring laptop I’ve ever tested.MacBook Air 2014 Battery

Customization

Once the purchase is made, you will not be able to upgrade your MacBook anymore. However, you can customize it a bit while you are buying. For an extra $100 you can get extra 4 GB RAM and make it a total of 8 GB. Also, you can exchange your 128 GB flash drive with a 256 GB one for $200 and get a 1.7 GHz core i7 CPU instead of 1.4 GHz core i5 for $150.

Wrap Up

As the design is almost same and there is no new feature, my suggestion would be not to waste money on it, if you already have a recent version (2012-2013) of the MacBook Air. However, if you are in need of an Ultrabook and going to buy one anyway, you must consider getting this 13 inch beauty. With an updated Intel processor, ultra portability and incredible battery life, no laptop in the same price range ($999 USD) can match the 2014 version of the 13 inch MacBook Air.macbook air 2014 thickness

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Thinkpad T440s, Lenovo’s Best Business Machine!

lenovo t440sLenovo ThinkPad T series have always been a good line of business laptops. Regardless of their look, they have been well known for their great performance, extended battery life, and superior usability. Undoubtedly, the T440s is no exception. Moreover, it probably is one of the best and most successful laptops of the series. The 14-inch ThinkPad T440s held the legacy as expected with strong 4th Gen Intel Core i7-4600U processor, incredible IPS screen with full HD 1080p resolution, 8GB of ram, 256GB SSD, a high-quality backlit keyboard, a durable battery and all those in a well-made 3.6 pound structure.

However, with so many versions available, and a starting price of $1349, neither this business powerhouse is cheap nor it is easy for buyers to figure out which model is best suited to their individual needs. So, before coming to a conclusion, take a look at our review and see for yourselves if the ThinkPad T440s is worth the investment.

Pros

  • Bright and colorful screen
  • High screen resolution
  • Long battery life
  • IPS support
  • Strong and durable chassis design
  • Excellent performance
  • Swappable batteries
  • Top class backlit keyboard

Cons

  • Odd looking extended battery
  • Inflexible TrackPoint
  • No touchscreen
  • Not really Lightweight
  • Poor graphics adapter
  • Expensive

Specification

  • Brand: Lenovo
  • Series: ThinkPad T
  • Model: T440s
  • Processor: 4th Gen Intel Core i7-4600U
  • Display: 14″ FHD anti-glare with IPS technology
  • Resolution: 1920×1080
  • Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 4400 with docking connector
  • Webcam: 720p HD face-tracking technology
  • Memory: 8GB (4GB Base / 4GB DIMM) DDR3 1600 MHz
  • HDD: 1TB/5400rpm
  • SSD: 256GB
  • Audio: Dolby Home Theater v4
  • Keyboard: ThinkPad precision keyboard (with backlight)
  • Navigation: TrackPoint and 5-button glass Touchpad
  • Fingerprint: Reader Available
  • Video Ports: Mini-Display Port with audio and VGA
  • Audio Ports: 3.5 mm Combo Jack Headphone/MIC
  • USB: 3x USB 3.0
  • Media Ports: 4-in-1 SD Card Reader (SD/SDHC/SDXC/MMC slot)
  • Wi-Fi: ThinkPad 2 x 2 BGN w/ Bluetooth
  • Mobile Broadband: Sierra Wireless 7355 – Gobi 5000
  • Bluetooth: Yes, 4.0 (Included with Wi-Fi Module)
  • Ethernet: RJ45
  • Width: 13 inch / 330 mm
  • Depth: 8.9 inch / 226 mm
  • Height: 0.8 inch / 20.3 mm
  • Weight: 3.6 pounds / 1.6 kg
  • Battery: Integrated 3-cell Li-Polymer (23.5 Whr) and extra 3-cell Li-Polymer (23.2 Whr)
  • Battery Life: 3 cell + 3 cell = 8.4 hours
  • Operating System: Windows 8.1 Pro 64bit
  • Warranty: 1 Year
  • Base Price: $1349

lenovo t440s 2Build and Design

The Lenovo T440s carries the same design style as other ThinkPads. There are no fancy designs on the lid to make the laptop look skinny or light. It’s a simple, black rectangular smooth designed case made of thick black plastic. However, the outer body of the laptop features carbon fiber coated matte black lid and magnesium chassis. There is a ThinkPad logo on the lid with a red light on the letter “i” that indicates the conditions of the system when lid is closed. Like any other T series ThinkPad, the T440s is built to take some pounding. There is an integrated roll cage inside the case which helps the laptop survive falls, while solid hinges at the joint allow the screen to bend back 180 degrees.

lenovo t440s lidLenovo says that the T440s has passed several military standards, or MIL-SPEC tests, including those for humidity, dust, extreme temperatures and vibrations. But considering the measurement and weight, this ThinkPad isn’t the most portable Ultrabook on the market nor the best looking. However, with top-notch durability and the addition of what is inside, the added weight surely is well worth.

Keyboard

The ThinkPad series is famous for their high-quality keyboards and this one is no different. It offers the familiar Chiclet island-style spill-resistant keyboard as expected. The keys are rounded and have a glossy finish. Lenovo used an inward curve design for the keys that helps provide extra grip. Spacing between the keys is good which gives a pleasing feel in each and every stroke. With each key instantly snapping back into place after being struck, the tactile feedback of the keyboard is really strong.

lenovo t440s key 2The keyboard also has a decent backlight with three different settings: off, low and high. As it seems, low setting surely is bright enough for a dark room and the high perhaps a bit too bright.

lenovo t440s key 1TrackPointlenovo t440s trackpad

Like other ThinkPads, the T440s offers both touchpad and TrackPoint. As you can see in the picture, there is a red TrackPoint stick located directly above the “B” key. To be honest, this TrackPoint offers more precise navigation around the desktop than any touchpad. This stick also allows typists to move the pointer without moving their hands off of the keyboard.

Touchpad

On the other hand, the buttonless touchpad of the T440s is not really that bad. The large, 3.9 x 2.75 inch touchpad placed directly below the spacebar. The surface of the touchpad is rubbery enough to move around without slipping fingers. Multi touch gestures, such as pinch-to-zoom, rotate, swipe in from right for charms, swipe in from left to switch apps and four-finger swipe to minimize all apps, also works smoothly.lenovo t440s touchpadsOverall the performance of the touchpad is really accurate and it can read all kind of motions and gestures without having any noticeable lag. However, right, left and scroll buttons are on the top of the touchpad. Pushing down on the top of the pad requires considerably more force than the touching the dedicated buttons which is very uncomfortable and unusual.

Connectivity

As an ultraportable laptop, it should come as little surprise that the ThinkPad T440s offers rich connectivity. The chassis is 0.8 inches thick, which provides enough room for several important ports that many other Ultrabooks failed to equip.

lenovo t440s rightOn its right side, the ThinkPad T440s has a headphone jack, a SIM card slot for optional mobile broadband, a 4-in-1 memory card reader, a Kensington lock slot, a USB 3.0 port and a legacy VGA port to connect to older projectors and monitors.

lenovo t440s leftThe left side features a SmartCard reader, a DisplayPort, a power jack, two more USB 3.0 ports and the ventilation system.

lenovo t440s bottomThere is also a dock connector on the bottom of the chassis.

Though most users should be all set with the Display port and VGA connector, some of you might feel the lack of an HDMI connector. But in that case, you can always use a converter.

lenovo t440s screen 1Display

Lenovo T440s offers a matte FHD display with a resolution of 1920×1080 pixels and IPS technology. The screen is rich and sharp. Because of the IPS panel, the display images are always clearly legible, even from extremely wide viewing angles. As the display has a matte surface, users don’t have to suffer reflections from outside light sources which makes the laptop perfect for outdoor use.

lenovo t440s screen 2Anyway, compared with other display technology, the FHD panel is clearly better with its accurate colors, better viewing angle stability and considerably higher contrast. Though the panel is kind of glossy, it doesn’t reflect back much light as well. Along with everything, 1080p resolution provides great desktop space.

Sound

Though it is enough for personal use and watching movies, the sound system of T440s is not something to brag about. There is a pair of speakers on the bottom of the chassis. Though they are on the bottom, the sound they provide is quite loud and can fill a small room. Additionally, the included Dolby v4 audio software makes the audio quality much more comfortable. Without the Dolby v4 feature, the outputs become lifeless and barely enjoyable.

Performance

lenovo t440s processorWith 2.1 GHz fourth generation Intel Core i7 4600U processor, 8GB of RAM and 256GB SSD, the ThinkPad T440s provides very strong performance, which is good enough for demanding productivity work and small gaming. With its speedy 256GB SSD, the T440s booted Windows 8 in just 13 seconds.

lenovo t440s hw monitorHowever, without a dedicated GPU, graphics performance is undoubtedly the weakest side of this laptop. Equipped with mediocre Intel HD Graphics 4400 this laptop is unable to handle any graphics demanding tasks or gaming.

Heat and Noise

The Lenovo T440s has a vent on the left side of the chassis which does not curve down towards the bottom portion of the chassis. So, any heat flowing from the device will be directed away from the user.

Usually, the laptop stays cool and quiet under small to medium pressure. After watching full HD videos for around half an hour, the device remained relatively silent while the touchpad measured a cool 27 degrees, the keyboard 29 degrees and the underside 31 degrees Celsius. However, under heavy pressure the fan produces an audible noise. Luckily under normal circumstances, you probably will never face the noisy problem.

Battery

ThinkPad T440s comes with a choice of two batteries, a 3-cell, 23.2 watt hour unit and a 6-cell, 72 watt hour high capacity battery that costs just $5 extra. In addition to these removable batteries, the T440s has a non-removable 3-cell internal battery, so you can change batteries without shutting the system down. With the 3-cell 23.2Whr battery, the T440s lasted roughly 8 hours while we watched movies, played music and browsed the internet over Wi-Fi.

lenovo t440s batteryAlthough, there is a high capacity pack available which costs only $5 more, we don’t recommend it because of its odd shape and extra weight.

Wrap Up

For about $1350, Lenovo is offering a business laptop that satisfies almost every possible desire. To be honest, the only point of criticism we have is the lack of touchscreen.

With the fourth generation’s Intel Core processor, solid state drive, amazing battery life, top class keyboard and a full HD IPS screen, the ThinkPad T440s is one of the best business laptop on the market, if not the best. It is the best business machine you can possibly get, if the price tag is not a problem for you.

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Dell Inspiron 3542, Reviewing The Value Powerhouse

Dell Inspiron 3542The Dell Inspiron series have always been a desired choice for average users due to its very reasonable prices and satisfying specs. They weren’t the best looking notebooks around in the past, because of their thickness and substandard design. But things have changed. Nowadays Dell offers laptops with decent built and sophisticated appearance while holding an inexpensive price range. And if you are looking for a good example of it, Dell Inspiron 3542 is as perfect as it gets.

Equipped with 4th Gen Intel Core i5 processor, 4 GB memory and Windows 8.1 operating system, the Inspiron 3542 is surely a good option to consider. Even with an internal optical drive, it is only one inch thick, almost like a Ultrabook. If you need a laptop with decent specs and  latest technologies, If you like a rectangular shaped laptop with matte surface for daily use and don’t mind having a plastic body, maybe the Dell 3542 is the one you are looking for.

However, to make sure you are buying the right thing, you might want to read our review on this laptop first.

Specification

  • Brand: Dell
  • Series: Inspiron 15 3000
  • Model: 3542
  • Color: Silver / Black
  • Screen Size: 15.6 inch LED Backlit Display with Truelife and HD resolution
  • Screen Resolution: 1366×768
  • Touchscreen: Optional
  • IPS Display: No
  • Processor: 4th Generation Intel Core i5 4210U
  • Chipset: Intel QM87
  • Graphics: Integrated Intel HD Graphics 4400
  • RAM: 4GB Single Channel DDR3L 1600MHz
  • Storage: Up to 1 TB SATA hard drive (5400RPM)
  • Optical Drive: DVD RW
  • Keyboard: Full size spill-resistant keyboard with Numeric Pad
  • Touchpad: Multi-touch gesture-enabled pad with integrated scrolling
  • Speakers: Stereo Speakers with Waves MaxxAudio processing
  • Cameras: Front, HD (720p) capable webcam
  • Wi-Fi:11N
  • Ethernet LAN: 10/100 Ethernet network
  • Wireless LAN: Dell Wireless N 1705
  • 3G – 4G Mobile Broadband: No
  • Bluetooth:0
  • USB: 2 x USB 2.0 + 1 x USB 3.0
  • Video Ports: 1 x HDMI 1.4a
  • Media Card Reader: SD, SDHC, SDXC
  • Battery: 40 WHr, 4-Cell Removable Battery
  • Maximum Battery Life:5 Hours
  • Weight: 5.3 pounds / 2.4 Kg
  • Height: 1 inch / 25.6 mm
  • Width: 15 inch / 381.4 mm
  • Depth: 10 inch / 267.6 mm
  • Operating System: Windows 8.1 (64Bit)
  • Warranty: 1 Year
  • Base Price: $500

Dell Inspiron 3542 keybPros

  • Attractive Design
  • Good Overall Performance
  • Affordable Price
  • Spacious keyboard
  • Good Ventilation System
  • Decent Battery Life
  • Stays Quiet
  • Various Options for Customization

Cons

  • Plastic Body
  • Heavy
  • Awful Keyboard Layout
  • Shallow Viewing Angles
  • Glossy Reflective Display
  • Low Screen Resolution
  • Mediocre Audio Quality

Build & Design

Dell Inspiron 3542 lid1Considering the built, the Dell Inspiron 3542 was more focused on cost efficiency and affordability rather than having a strong and premium structure, so don’t expect any revelations from the built quality. At a first glance, the laptop looks quite attractive, but shockingly whole body of the laptop is made of plastic. The lid cover has 2 different colors: silver and black. And the bottom panel is made of rough matt-black unpainted plastic as well.

Dell Inspiron 3542 lid0The cheap plastic feel is quite upsetting, as our expectation from Dell was higher. Though, if you check the lid, it is not that bad. Both silver and black covers have an interesting texture pattern. The surface is not remotely glossy and rather matte looking. The lid cover has good scratch resistance. However, the surface of the interior and sides is not that good. For an example, if you put your hand on the surface, even for a short time, your fingerprint going to leave marks on it. Though the fingerprint can be wiped, but the interior and side surfaces also can be damaged or get a scratch mark simply by using a port without being careful. And that surely is not repairable.

Keyboard

Dell Inspiron 3542 keysNow, if you open the lid and look inside, The Inspiron 3542 has a Chiclet keyboard with numeric keys. Built of the keys are strong and secured. Even under heavy pressure, the foundation of the keys shows no flex and remains straight. There is no backlit, but the keys are marked with neutral color. So, yet the interior is matte and dull looking, it is easy to read the keys without putting any hard effort. Still, there are some things to complain about the keyboard. First of all, there is no backlit but let’s ignore that as it is still considered as a premium feature. But the keys are too much sensitive and bouncy. Besides, they could make the layout of the keyboard better, judging by the space we have for the keys.

Touchpad

Dell Inspiron 3542 touchpadBeside the keyboard and a palm rest, there is a large 60mm/2.4inch touchpad. The design of the touchpad is modern and kept up with new fashionable button-less trend. Below the surface of the pad, there is only one button so far. Rest features are as usual like three-finger flicks, two-finger scrolling, double-finger taps, and Windows 8 swipes-in gestures. There is also a move button which is kind of short but quite good and flexible. But one problem we’ve faced so far is the edges of the touchpad, especially the lower edge which is slightly elevated towards the top.

Connectivity

As we see, the ports are well planned and organized.

Dell Inspiron 3542 ports 1The power connector socket, exhaust ventilation, HDMI output, LAN port, an audio port, one USB 2.0 and one USB 3.0 port are on the left.

Dell Inspiron 3542 ports 2While an optical drive, a USB 2.0 port and SD Card reader are on the right.

Dell Inspiron 3542 frontOn the front there is nothing but a battery indicator, which glows red when the laptop is low on charge.

Dell Inspiron 3542 backAnd as it is hard to access the backside of the laptop, they kept it completely free of connectivity ports.

Dell Inspiron 3542 bottomHowever, on the bottom panel there is a pair of speakers in the middle. Also, there is a large removable panel provides access to the hard drive, memory modules, and expansion cards. When you need to upgrade modules, you can remove the panel without voiding the warranty.

Dell Inspiron 3542 screen 01Display

The Dell Inspiron 3542 comes with a non touch 15.6 inch LED Backlit Display panel. Maximum resolution is 1366 × 768 pixels. But in general, display is not quite good and appealing. To be honest, the only thing good about this display is the size. Dell Inspiron 3542 screen 02

The display just made of cheap and regular TN matrix with LED backlit. As a result, viewing angles are very small, so when you are working, you have to adjust the angle of the screen a lot. Color temperature is not that smooth as well. Even the white color overestimates the temperature, and that’s why the picture on the screen looks very cold and quite, which at least is pleasing to the eye. Moreover, supply of brightness and contrast are also modest, which is somehow enough for indoor use. But on the outside, the glossy surface of the screen is going to make it worse and the display will fade without a doubt.

Sound

Dell Inspiron series was never famous for the sound system, and this 3542 is not an exception. Their Waves MaxxAudio processing is not that much helpful. Of course, it’s not the worst of all tested laptops, but not even nearly good. The only good thing about this built in speakers is its pretty loud volume. The frequency range of the speaker is narrow and there is no bass at all. Yet, the sound quality of the analog audio output is one of the best among the laptops which indicates good quality of the sound card. So, if you want neat sound output, you surely will have to consider external speakers.

Performance

Dell Inspiron 3542 cpuAs it was already mentioned, the Dell Inspiron 3542 comes with 4th generation Intel Core i5 4210U processor, which can be found usually in the expensive and premium Ultrabooks. 4210U is a Haswell based ULV dual-core processor clocked at 1.7 GHz with Turbo Boost support up to 2.7 GHz and has an average of 15 watt power consumption. It also has an on chip integrated HD Graphics 4400 and a dual-channel DDR3L memory controller.Dell Inspiron 3542 gpu

We tested the laptop with a popular multiplayer game DOTA2. At maximum graphics settings it was able to provide an average of 18 frames per second, which is completely unplayable. But at minimum settings FPS was 52 which is a much more comfortable, and enough to enjoy the game with pleasure.

Noise and Heat

Haswell processors are renowned for their extremely low power consumption and temperature. So, naturally the laptop runs cool and quiet. We tested the laptop with room temperature of 22 degrees Celsius where the temperature of the hard disk was less than 40 degrees, and the processor, even during the stress test barely passed 70 degrees. Though, things can be different, if you give too much pressure to it for too long. One thing is clear that this laptop was not made for gaming.

Power and Battery Life

The 3542 comes with a 4 cell 40 Wh lithium-ion Battery. For a laptop with 15.6 inch screen, the capacity of the battery is not something to be proud of. However, as this Inspiron is running on Haswell technology, the given battery will probably be sufficient for the average user. We tested the laptop with simultaneously running music and HD videos, where it was able to last roughly 6 hours. Considering the specs of the battery, it is more than what we expected.

Conclusion

To be honest, the 3542 is a perfect example of how Dell can improve the Inspiron series and make it more attractive and powerful while keeping an inexpensive price tag. Having said that, we expected something better than cheap plastic body and mediocre display, but considering all the other features and the price, it is one of the best value laptops currently available on the market. After all, if you want a powerful old-school laptop with a big screen and optical drive. With the latest Haswell i5 processor and elegant outlook, the Dell Inspiron 3542 might be the right thing for you.Dell Inspiron 3542_1

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ASUS X550CA Review, Combination of Style and Economy

ASUS X550CA

Here we are again, going over another laptop of Asus. The combination of Decent specs and flawless design made Asus X550CA an ideal business-oriented Ultrabook. This 15.6-inch laptop has an immense range of advanced technologies and that made it capable of delivering well-balanced performance while holding an elegant and classic look. If you are looking for a laptop with excellent configuration and fashionable appearance, this is the right thing for you.

Practical and sensible users who are in need of a laptop for everyday entertainment and tasks, consider getting this beauty which is available on Amazon with base price as low as $450.

Pros

  • Good build quality: Lighter, thinner and stylish shape.
  • Cool and quiet: Has exclusive ‘ice cool’ technology of Asus, what made it perfect for using on lap even if it is a long time.
  • Cheap: People who are in need of a laptop with a bigger screen and fancy look but don’t want to spend a lot. This one can be a good choice for you.
  • Large Display: 15.6 inch screen made it suitable for watching movies and light graphics work.
  • Quality Speakers: The sound system is so good for watching movies or songs that you will barely feel the need for an external speaker.

Cons

  • Bad port placement: Not only the placement is bad, but there are only 2 USB ports so far.
  • No keyboard backlit: This is not usually a bad thing, but considering the current situation, the backlit is a necessity.
  • Reflective display: The reflection is annoying and it is often visible, especially when the environment is brighter than the screen.
  • No SSD: It’s a disappointment for someone who was expecting a better performance.
  • Poor webcam: The webcam is only 0.9 megapixels, which is almost obsolete nowadays.

Specification

  • Brand: Asus
  • Model: X550CA
  • Color: Glossy White
  • Processor: 3rd Gen Intel Core i3-3217U 1.8 GHz
  • Chipset: Intel HM76
  • Memory: 4 GB DDR3 1600 MHz SDRAM
  • Display: 15.6 inch TFT with LED Backlit
  • Resolution: 1366×768 Pixels
  • Graphics: Integrated Intel HD 4000
  • Storage: 500GB HDD 5400 RPM
  • Optical Drive: Super-Multi DVDRW
  • Card Reader: 3-in-one card reader (SD/ SDHC/ SDXC)
  • Pointing Device: Touchpad
  • Keyboard: Standard Keyboard with numeric keys
  • Camera: 0.9 MP HD Web Camera
  • Bluetooth: V4.0
  • Ethernet: 10/100/1000
  • Video Output: 1 x VGA port/Mini D-sub 15-pin for external monitor, 1 x HDMI
  • USB: 1 x USB 3.0 port, 1 x USB 2.0 port
  • Audio: Built-in Speakers and Microphone
  • Battery: 4Cells 2600 mAh 37 Whrs
  • Dimensions: 14.96 x 9.88 x 0.98 inch / 38.0 x 25.1 x 2.5 cm (WxDxH)
  • Weight: 2.3 kg / 5.1 pounds (with 4-cell battery)
  • Operating System: Windows 8
  • Warranty: 1 to 2 years (different by country)
  • Base Price: $449

ASUS X550CA Lid

Build & Design

Asus laptops are renowned and popular for their stylish and solid build quality and this X550CA is no exception. It is a lot more fashionable than your everyday average mid-end laptops. To be honest, if the weight wouldn’t pull it down; this one easily could be an Ultrabook.

Though most of the laptops nowadays promoting matte outlook, but unlike them The X550CA sport a spin-line finish, sturdy build and an attractive lid pattern. To elaborate the design, there is a series of concentric circles made of dots radiating out from the middle of lid where there is a logo of Asus.

ASUS X550CA Lid Design

Now if we open the lid, there is a big patterned palm rest along with a spaced keyboard deck and pleasant contrast. All status LEDs are located on the lower left corner of the palm-rest what made it easier and user-friendly to track components just by a single glance.

Display

The display has a 15.6 inch screen featuring traditional 1366×768 pixels resolution, which is common for low-end laptops. The color and brightness are acceptable, but the viewing angles are marginally limited and unpleasant; pictures start to fade out completely if the angle is greater than 60 degrees to either side. But there is “Splendid Technology” suite what allow you to adjust the display’s contrast, brightness and color easily without effort. The suite features three preset and custom options. They are Normal, yellow shaded Theater, Vivid with pumps up color and a Manual option which allows you to set the color temperature and tone from red to blue or anything in between.

ASUS X550CA Screen

Considering the low price, touchscreen was not in expectation, but it still is, unusual to have only Windows 8 and not touch input.

Audio

Just like any other Asus laptop, this one has a good sound system. The quality is enough rich and accurate that you won’t feel the need for external speakers. Featured with SonicMaster technology, this laptop has truly large speakers and space in the specially designed speaker chambers. In particular the quality of the bass is so much better than any other laptop in its class and price range.

There is software included to optimize and enhance the sound experience named Asus AudioWizard. It features five preset listening styles, including Music, Movies, Recording, Gaming and Speech.

Keyboard & Touchpad

The Asus X550CA comes with a full size chiclet keyboard and number pad which was only possible because of its large dimension. The keys are less bouncy and well spaced, but there is a noticeable amount of space in keyboard tray and between the keys. The keys are little extra more sensitive than usual, but there are a few chances you will make typing mistakes.

ASUS X550CA Keyboard

On the other hand, the touchpad is quite large and featured with smart gesture technology, which is essential for using windows 8 without touchscreen. To be exact, the size of the touchpad is 4.2 x 1.8 inch. And the accuracy and responsiveness of the pad are so good that you can easily perform all windows 8 gestures.

Webcam

There is a 0.9 megapixel camera and we already mentioned that it is obsolete. The image quality is off-color and noisy and it is hard to notice fine details like patterns, hair, and texts.

To get better video chatting experience, you will have to get an external web camera.

Ports

ASUS X550CA Port 1

Statistically it is the worst part of the laptop if not the webcam. There is a single USB 3.0, a single USB 2.0, one HDMI, one VGA and an Ethernet port. And the worst of it is that all of those mentioned ports are on the left side. While on the right side there is only a multi-DVD drive and card reader.

ASUS X550CA Port 2

Without a USB hub you will often face the problem when you have to use both USB and LAN cable at a same time. Our suggestion would be to get a USB hub so you can use this laptop without worrying about ports every minute.

Battery

The battery pack of the Asus X550CA is adapted with a four cell and 37Whr battery. It could be better, but since the 3rd generation processors have decent power consumption, it is not much of a problem. While testing with music, videos and internet browsing, we were able to run the laptop for 4 hours. This is not so good these days, but you can live with that.
ASUS X550CA Bottom

Heat

Despite that fact Asus only used ‘ice cool’ technology only on high-end laptops in the past, you will be happy knowing that this laptop has the technology. It mostly keeps the laptop cool and quiet even when you are using it for a very long time.

ASUS X550CA Temp

And beside that the ventilation system is also well planned. There is a vent system installed on the front-bottom side of the laptop what intake the air while the exhaust ventilation system is on the left side placed beside those connectivity ports. So the air will never blow towards you.

Performance

Although on these days, so many mid-end laptops have similar specs; this one somehow manages to outperform almost every one of them. It has impressive file transfer speed and utterly fast boot up time.
ASUS X550CA Processor

To elaborate, there is a 1.8GHz dual core Intel core i3-3217U processor, 4GB of ram and 500GB hard drive. To compare with current trend they are not quite powerful, but if you know how to treat them, they will get the job done.

As for graphics, there is integrated Intel HD 4000 chip, which is able to handle some older 3D games. But don’t get your hope up as you have to remember, this laptop is not really suited for gaming. If you are familiar with Intel HD Graphics 2500 or 3000, there is only few improvements was made in 4000.

ASUS X550CA Rating

Anyway, as we see all hardware components are overall balanced. So improving a single equipment to get a massive boost in overall performance is not possible in this case. But it has to be said that replacing the hard drive with a SSD and get some extra RAM never hurts.

Wrapping Up

After all, in everyday PC, what people really want is the versatility. And as a 15.6 laptop with decent configuration, Asus X550CA has just the right set of equipment to provide them that.

ASUS X550CA Side

However, there are few shortcomings you will have to compromise such as, poor display, not so extreme performance, moderate battery life and limited viewing angle. Chances are, you can get a laptop of the same value with better display or better performance or even thinner and lighter, but surely not everything in one. There is a saying that, “to gain something, sometimes you have to lose something”. So if you think about the value of it in proportion to its price, and want a stylish laptop with decent performance and good sound quality for everyday tasks, believe me or not but the Asus X550CA is worth the money you are spending. Grab one as soon as you can.

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ASUS VivoBook Q301LA Review, The Affordable TouchScreen Experience

ASUS Q301LA

We are using touchscreen technology everywhere. Windows 8 is not a new thing to us anymore. But what is new to us is, a touchscreen notebook with an inexpensive price tag where we can enjoy windows 8 and its true potential. With the new Asus VivoBook Q301LA, we are able to experience everything we were looking for without worrying about the price. If you want something stylish, something you can easily carry, something with decent specs, you must consider this new 13.3 inch touchscreen notebook. It not only has a good price and stylish design, but also has the latest Haswell technology of Intel with a 4th Generation Intel Core i5-4200U processor combined with Asus splendid technology which will ensure you powerful mobile computing experience. It also comes with Intel HD 4400 graphics (good for enjoying some low-end gaming), a commonly used 4GB DDR3 RAM and 500GB internal storage. This Asus Q301LA notebook is actually the same as the S301LA, with the Q model being sold only in some selected regions, where S model is widely available all over the world with a price tag of around $600.ASUS Q301LA Software

Now, the question may come to your mind if this notebook worth looking at and eventually buying? Well, we can assure you that, the answer to your question lies within the review.

Specification

  • Brand: Asus
  • Model: Q301LA / S301LA
  • Screen Size: 13.3″ 16:9 HD
  • Screen Resolution: 1366×768
  • Screen Type: Multi-touch supported touchscreen with a glossy coat
  • Processor: Intel Core i5-4200U 4th Gen. Dual-Core 1.6-2.6GHz 3MB Cache
  • Graphics: Intel HD 4400 Integrated
  • RAM: 4GB DDR3L 1600 MHz SDRAM
  • Storage: 500GB HDD
  • Input: Keyboard without Numeric Pad, Multi-Touch Touchpad with Integrated Buttons
  • Speakers: SonicMaster Stereo Speakers
  • Cameras: 1.0MP HD Web Camera
  • Wi-Fi: 802.11N
  • Bluetooth: Yes
  • Ethernet LAN: Yes
  • USB: 2 x USB 2.0 + 1 x USB 3.0
  • Video Ports: 1 x HDMI
  • Media Card Reader: 2 -in-1 card reader (SD/ SDHC)
  • Battery: 2Cells 5186 mAh 38 Whrs
  • Weight: 3.9 pounds / 1.75 kg
  • Dimension: 330 x 233 x 21 mm (12.9″ x 9.1″ x 0.8″) (W x D x H)
  • Operating System: Windows 8
  • Warranty: 1 to 2 Years (*different by country)
  • Base Price: $600

Exterior and Design

The Asus Q301LA is a symbol of balanced style, simplicity and comfort. It has an aluminum textured metal surface that gives both high durability and elegant premium look. It has a weight of 3.9 pounds, which is not the lightest 13.3 inch notebook available, but still it gives considerable good mobility. Looking at the shape and size, this notebook has a thickness of 0.8” which is the average thickness of an Ultrabook and can slip easily into almost any backpack. The edges of this notebook are also rounded as it was inspired by book binding, made it comfortable to hold in hand with good grip and carry around.

ASUS Q301LA Lid

Though most of the exterior and interior parts are covered with aluminum, the underbelly part of the notebook remained made of plastic. Which can be opened without voiding warranty if you can take care of the 10 screws carefully whom hold it in place, and that will allow you to access the internals, in a situation where you need to upgrade.

Now if you open the lid and notice the interior, as mentioned earlier, it is also brushed with silver-colored metal which provides a good contrast over the black keyboard. The palm-rest is relaxing and comfortable since it has good space, especially for someone who plans to use the notebook hours in a row. The power button is placed on the top-left corner with Power, Caps and Wi-Fi LEDs, and rest status LEDs are to be found on the front edge towards the right.

ASUS Q301LA Thickness

Although we do not have a lot to complain about this notebook considering the looks, build quality, shape or weight. Definitely there are thinner, lighter and better looking notebooks available on the market. But considering what it has inside and the price, it has the best possible combination of power and beauty in this price range.

Display Properties

Let’s give attention to the screen. At first glance, you will notice nothing special, but rather a common generic TFT display and no IPS support. If you care about viewing angles, non glare polished finish, and other premium features of the screen, this notebook surely won’t be the perfect choice for you. But for average regular users who are hoping for a decent screen without spending loads of money, this is a perfect choice.

ASUS Q301LA Screen 1

The Asus Q301LA notebook has a 13.3 inch 16:9 HD TN panel supported display with 1366 x 766 default resolution. The screen supports Asus exclusive splendid technology that allows you to tune the display properties as necessary to get the ideal color, contrast and brightness combination for movies, photos or other applications you are currently using. Basically splendid technology offers four modes to satisfy different viewing conditions, so depending on personal choice, situation and environment you can select the one you need with a single touch.

ASUS Q301LA Screen 2

You also shouldn’t forget that the screen has fully functional multi-touch support. With all-glass panels, this notebook has impressive, forthcoming and accurate touchscreen where you can swipe, scroll and perform other gestures quickly and quietly. The screen has faster response than other regular touch panels and when you use it, you surely will be able to feel the difference. Moreover, this touchscreen feature actuators which can detect the touch of as small as 6mm in size and ensure you a better touch experience, especially when you are drawing or handwriting as high sensitive actuators provide more accurate finger precision.

ASUS Q301LA Splendid

However, the display will not be a problem to you as long you are keeping it on a desk or staying inside. Otherwise, screen reflection is going to annoy you since it is too noticeable when you are using the notebook outdoor as there is a reflective glass panel covering the screen. Also, when you are lying on a bed or couch, it will be hard to adjust the vertical viewing angle as it is not possible to completely lean back the display.

Audio Properties

If anything made this notebook complete, it is the sound system. As an Ultrabook, Asus Q301LA has exceptionally good audio features. There is a pair of stereo speakers branded by Altec Lansing along with SonicMaster technology.

ASUS Q301LA Audio

To elaborate, it has bigger speakers than usual, which ensure enough space for resonance chambers and that provides surround sound, richer bass and powerful output over a wide range. It also comes with an Asus AudioWizard contains five modes you can choose, depending on your preferences and listening environment and it is so user-friendly and flexible that you can access to any desired content and customize the sound as you like quickly and easily in a second.

To be honest, there is nothing to complain about the audio of this notebook. It has the perfect hardware and software combination to ensure an ultimate audio experience.

Keyboard and Touchpad

When it comes to checking the keyboard out, as usual, this 13.3 incher comes with a chiclet keyboard that has no numeric pad on the right. The keys are larger than usual and have well space between them, so even if we press on the edge, they take the commands flawlessly. With the accurate layout and resistance to dust and debris, there are only few possible drawbacks this keyboard has and they are: no backlit system and no dedicated button for Home, End, Page Up and Page Down. And since you have to press tiny FN and the arrow keys for them, sometimes it will be very annoying.

ASUS Q301LA keyboard

On the other hand, with smart gesture technology the touchpad is reliable as a mouse and gives perfect response even when you touch slightly with your fingertip. It supports all possible gestures Windows 8 can offer. Though for someone, who is familiar with regular touchpad will find it over-sensitive, but it is not a problem since you can tweak them with certain software.

Connectivity

Considering the ports and connections, Asus Q301LA has everything you expect from a notebook of its kind. There are three USB ports, HDMI output, a card reader, an Ethernet connector, LAN port, Wireless and Bluetooth. So far you will only miss the VGA port which can be recovered with an adapter.

ASUS Q301LA Port 1ASUS Q301LA Port 2

Bluetooth works as expected and wireless works great at 10-15 feet away from the router, but the performance falls dramatically when the distance is more than 20 feet and obstacles are involved.

Battery

Looking at the specs, this part of the notebook may not look good since it has only 2 cell 38 Wh non removable battery. But you don’t have to worry too much about it, since this machine is running on the 4th Gen Hashwell processor and they are well-known for their power efficiency. At 50% sound volume and screen brightness with Wi-Fi on, we were able to run it roughly five hours while browsing, listening to music and watching HD videos.

ASUS Q301LA Bottom

Performance

Considering all the tests, the performance of this notebook is somewhat similar to all other Ultrabooks powered by Hashwell processors.

ASUS Q301LA Processor

As being said, Asus Q301LA has the latest 4th generation Intel core i5 ULV (ultra low voltage) processor that clocked around at 1.6GHz optimized with Turbo 2.0 Boost technology, 4GB of DDR3 1600MHz Ram, 500GB hard drive and integrated Intel HD 4400 Graphics, which made it a potential powerhouse.

ASUS Q301LA Ram

It runs fairly and quite almost all the time, except for some time when you push it to the limit. It has a fan inside which spin at different RPM depends on what you are doing on the notebook and you can feel the difference. The only drawback of ventilation system is that it inhale air from the bottom and then blows toward the user from the grills below the screen.

ASUS Q301LA Vent

However, beside the 5400 RPM hard drives, another thing that bottlenecks overall performance is, the embedded graphics and that you can’t upgrade. Speaking of upgrades, all you can do is add more RAM and replace the hard drive with a SSD. Moreover, if you like small gaming on the notebook, there is a version of Asus S301 with dedicated AMD Radeon graphics while other specs are identical.

ASUS Q301LA Rating

Pros

  • Comfortable shape
  • Good looks
  • Good combination of hardware
  • Runs cool and quiet
  • Sound system
  • Big Keyboard
  • Smooth Touchpad

Cons

  • Small and non removable battery
  • Screen without IPS support
  • Low wireless range
  • No optical drive
  • Little heavy for Ultrabook

ASUS Q301LA Side

Conclusion

Reviewing all the aspects, the Asus Q301LA is one of the best 13.3 inch notebooks currently available, if not the best. Like some other premium Ultrabooks, it doesn’t have all those fancy features like backlit keyboard, SSD, IPS screen or not as light and thin as them. But if you want an elegant notebook with decent configuration and don’t want to waste loads of money on a fancy Ultrabook, The Asus VivoBook Q301LA is for sure the one you are looking for.

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New Dell Inspiron 15 3531 Laptop for $224.99 and Lower After Coupon

If you need a really cheap laptop, check out this deal you can get on the Dell Inspiron 15 3531 laptop.  If you click here and sign up for a mystery coupon then Dell will email either a 10%, 15% or 30% off coupon code that you can use at checkout.  If you get even the lowest 10% off amount you can score the Inspiron 15 3531 laptop for $224.99 and shipping is free on top of that!  The specs for the base model Inspiron 15 are as follows

  • Processor: Intel Celeron N2830 Dual Core CPU
  • Memory: 4GB DDR3
  • Storage: 500GB HDD
  • Screen: 15.6″ 1366×768 LED Backlit Display
  • Graphics: Intel HD Graphics
  • Battery: 4-cell Battery
  • OS: Windows 8.1

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These are very basic specs but the laptops computing power and performance will be enough for just about any average workaday Joe so if all you care about is saving money and having a no frills laptop that gets the job done this could be a deal to checkout!

Link to Deal:

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HP Announces New ENVY 15-K000 and ENVY 17-K000 at Computex 2014

HP today announced new ENVY 15 and ENVY 17 laptops at the 2014 Computex show in Taipei.  There are still no live demonstrations or pictures to show, but we do have a better idea of the specs on these machines which will essentially be a refresh of the current ENVY 15-j1000 and ENVY 17-j1000.  Each model will offer Full HD 1920×1080 screens with optional touch feature, Intel Core i5 or i7 4th generation processors such as the Core i7-4710HQ processor, up to Nvidia GTX 850M graphics, max of 16GB of RAM and a 1.5TB Hard Drive.   The look will be much the same as the current ENVY 15 and 17 models (pictured below), HP only described them as having a metal finish and premium look and feel, which could describe just about any laptop these days!  We should hear more from HP regarding the ENVY 15-KXXX and ENVY-17-KXXX models in the coming days at Computex.

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Link: HP ENVY Product Page

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Lenovo Y40 Portable Gaming Laptop $849 After Coupon

There’s a pretty decent deal on the entry level model of the Lenovo Y40 portable gaming laptop on Lenovo.com right now.  If you use coupon code USPY4093522 at checkout you can get a Y40 with the following specs for $849:

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  • Processor: 4th Generation Intel Core i7-4510U Processor (2.00GHz 1600 MHz 4MB)
  • OS: Windows 8.1 64-bit
  • Operating System: Windows 8.1 64
  • Screen: 14.0″ FHD LED AntiGlare Backlight (1920×1080)
  • Graphics: AMD R9-M270 4G
  • Memory: 8.0GB PC3-12800 DDR3L SDRAM 1600 MHz
  • Display: 14″ FHD (1920 x 1080) Display
  • Dimensions (W x D x H): 13.7″ x 9.8″ x 0.9″
  • Weight: 4.85 lbs
  • Storage: Hybrid 500GB 5400 RPM+8GB SSHD
  • Ports: 2 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 2.0, Audio Combo Jack (headphone and mic), HDMI-out, 4-in-1 (SD / MMC / SDXC / SDHC) card reader, RJ45, SPDIF

If you use a Discover card you can get an extra 10% cash back on this price, which would drop the total to $765.   The Lenovo Y40 is a recent release that started out as $1,049, a tough price to swallow, but at this much lower price it’s within reach of more folks and you can probably forgive the fact that the Graphics are AMD R9 instead of the Nvidia 8 series.

Link to Deal: Lenovo.com

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