Laptop, Notebook and Netbook Computers Archive

VAIO makes a comeback to the US market

Article

VAIO computers to return to the US to woo high-end customers | CNET News

My Comments

Sony VAIO Fit 13a convertible Ultrabook at Rydges Hotel Melbourne

The Sony VAIO Fit 13a – VAIO is returning to the USA independently from Sony

Regular readers will have seen the product reviews of some of Sony’s VAIO laptop computers. These were positioned by Sony at the premium end of the market and had specifications and features that were considered “out of he ordinary” as far as Windows-based computers were concerned. An example of this was a Sony VAIO Pro 13 laptop that had a display resolution that was better than the Apple MacBook Air that was issued at the time the VAIO was marketed and various reviews said that this computer could earn its keep as a photographer’s field computer. Similarly, I had seen a DJ in action use a Sony VAIO laptop computer rather than an Apple MacBook as a playout device.

As the bottom was falling out of the “regular-computer” market thanks to the cheaper mobile-platform tablets, Windows 8 and other issues in 2014, Sony sold off their VAIO computer division to an independent investment fund. This fund continued to sell a smaller product range of computers under the VAIO brand which used to be a “sub-brand” of Sony’s for this product class. This range, which was sold in Japan only, was tightly focused around a few premium ultraportable computers. People after this brand tended to “grey-import” the computers from Japan whether online or as part of a foray in to that country.

Sony VAIO Fit 15e on dining table

Sony VAIO Fit 15e

Now VAIO have released these computers in to the US market through an online storefront and the Microsoft Stores in that country. Here, they are selling high-end portable computers that are focused around the “made in Japan” ideal which is similar to the way that some parts of Western Europe like Scandinavia or the Germanic countries (West Germany, Austria or Switzerland) were seen through the 1960s to the 1980s when it came to consumer electronics and photographic equipment – a purveyor of finely-crafted premium equipment.

The first of these is a VAIO Z Canvas which is a 12.3”  2-in-1 with a wireless keyboard. The screen resolution is 2560×1704 and it uses an Intel Core i7 for horsepower and has up to 16Gb RAM and 256Gb SSD storage. This will be offered as a Signature Edition computer that comes out of the box with Microsoft Windows 10 and no bloatware on board. The expected price will be US$2199 which would make you think of it like purchasing a the computer equivalent of a B&O or Loewe TV.

Sony VAIO Tap 20 adaptive all-in-one computer

Sony VAIO Tap 20 – an example of an “Adaptive All-In-One” computer

There are plans for VAIO to issue some more of these computers to the US market, more so in the form of traditional laptops (hear here, VAIO Fit 15e) and some desktops perhaps of the “gaming-rig” or “all-in-one” ilk. Personally, if VAIO were to have their fingers in the traditional “bricks-and-mortar” pie, I would recommend that they follow what Bose and B&O have done where they either run their own stores in upper-class neighbourhoods or work the “store within a store” method where they set up shop in premium department stores.

What it is showing is that computer brands are finding that working within certain profitable niches such as performance computers (mobile workstations or gaming-grade laptops) or premium computer ranges is considered a way to survive. This is similar to how a few American and European AV names focused on premium-grade photographic, audio and video equipment when Asian companies took on the mass-market for this class of equipment through the latter part of the 20th century

Who knows if VAIO will return to Europe, Australia or New Zealand?

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USB Type-C and Thunderbolt 3 make it real for outboard graphics expansion

Article

Here’s The Box That Can Turn a Puny Laptop Into a Graphical Powerhouse | Gizmodo

My Comments

Sony VAIO Z Series and docking station

The Sony VAIO Z Series ultraportable with functionality expanded by an add-on module

There have been some successful attempts at developing outboard expansion modules or docking stations that add discrete graphics or a better discrete-graphics solution to a laptop computer which wouldn’t have internal room for this kind of performance.

One of these was Sony with their VAIO Z Series that I reviewed previously which had an expansion module that housed a Blu-Ray drive and an AMD discrete graphics chipset. This used an Intel “Light Peak” connection (Thunderbolt over USB) between the devices to provide for high data throughput between the host computer and the expansion module.

Another of these was one of the new Alienware gaming laptops that could connect to a so-called “Graphics Amplifier” which was an expansion module for some of the Alienware R2 series gaming laptops that could house one or two PCI-Express graphics cards. This brought forward the idea that a laptop could have desktop gaming-rig performance just by adding on an expansion module.

Alienware Graphics Amplifier expansion module

Alienware Graphics Amplifier expansion module that connects to selected Alienware R2 gaming laptops

Both these solutions implemented manufacturer-specific connection methods which restricted which devices can connect to these “external-graphics” expansion modules.

But the USB 3.1 standard with the Type-C connection allowed the same connection to be used to connect other devices via different logical connection methods like Intel’s Thunderbolt. This was effectively “opened up” as a high-performance connection for expansion modules when Intel launched “Thunderbolt 3” which has throughput equivalent to what happens on a computer’s motherboard.

Alienware gaming laptop

An Alienware gaming laptop that can benefit from the Alienware Graphics Amplifier expansion module

This led to some reference designs being presented at the Intel Developers Forum 2015 for external-graphics docks of the Sony VAIO Z or Alienware Graphics Amplifier ilk that are able to work with laptops that have the USB Type-C and Intel Thunderbolt 3 connection. In their own right, they are expansion modules which add extra connectivity to the laptop but also they give it access to improved discrete graphics chipsets. One of these was modelled on the Alienware Graphics Amplifier by virtue of allowing the use of fully-fledged graphics cards of the kind expected in that tower-style gaming rig.

The equipment that was shown proved the concept that you could use Thunderbolt 3 over a USB 3.1 Type C physical connection to provide an external discrete-graphics solution for an ultraportable laptop computer or similarly-small computer design. This proves that it can be feasible to use these modules for an “at-home” or “at-office” solutions where performance is desirable but allow for a lightweight computer system.

Similarly, a manufacturer could offer a laptop or all-in-one desktop with the integrated graphics but allow their customers to buy a graphics expansion module at a later date should they want something with more graphics acumen. Here, they can simply plug in the graphics expansion module and play rather than opening up the computer to install a graphics card. There is also a reality that as newer graphics chipsets come along, the person can purchase a newer expansion module or, in the case of those units that use PCI-Express desktop cards, install a newer graphics card in to the module to take advantage of these newer designs.

It simply underscores that fact that USB 3.1 Type C opens up the concept of expandability for tablets, laptops, all-in-one and small-profile desktops even further by use of external modules that offer different functions to suit different needs at different times.

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ASUS Zenbook UX305–World’s thinnest Ultrabook

Article

Powerful Silence: What You Can Expect From The World’s Thinnest Ultrabook | Gizmodo

From the horse’s mouth

ASUS

Zenbook UX305 Ultrabook

Product Page

Purchase direct from ASUS

My Comments

ASUS is raising the bar when it comes to designing ultraportable computers by offering the Zenbook UX305 which has been identified as the “World’s Thinnest Ultrabook”. This is because it comes in at a thickness of 12.3mm and a weight of 1.2kg.

This has been achieved through the ability to dispense with a fan for keeping the system cool during use thus also allowing for ultra-quiet operation. There is also the benefit that the system implements a 256Gb solid-state drive which also gives extra cause to the ultra-quiet operation.

But it is a 13” computer  which has been pitched not just as an auxiliary note-taking copy-creating laptop but an all-rounder thanks to implementation of the Intel Core M processor (5Y71). The Gizmodo review reckoned that it could be your only laptop but if you are thinking that way, I would head down the path which most “laptop-as-only-computer” users have gone. This is to run the computer with a larger external monitor, an external keyboard and mouse along with an external USB hard disk for data storage for your primary office setup.

The Zenbook has 4Gb RAM along with the 256Gb solid-state drive which would be up to snuff for a laptop. As well, it uses 802.11ac Wi-FI networking and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity along with having 3 USB ports and a micro HDMI display connection. The screen does support Full HD resolution but doesn’t support touchscreen functionality. ASUS is still hanging on with Bang & Olufsen for their audio-related design and tuning needs even though HP have signed up this Danish hi-fi name for the same needs and this laptop uses the B&O icePower power-amplification technology for a powerful amplifier that takes less space and can run cool.

A good question is whether the ASUS Zenbook UX305 could serve as a work-home laptop, a laptop that you use in the main office but also frequently use in your favourite “second-office” café or bar or as the only computer you need. This is more so as ASUS was selling the machine through their store for AUD$1399 and is becoming more so as the ultraportable laptop computer with the traditional clamshell form factor is facing stiff competition from the “2-in1” convertible and detachable computers that also serve as tablets.

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Lenovo revives a classic laptop design

Article

Lenovo’s proposed ThinkPad Retro is like stepping back into 1992 | PC World

From the horse’s mouth

Lenovo USA

Blog Post

My Comments

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Ultrabook

The Lenovo keeps the same look for the ThinkPad laptops

There is something about classic industrial design that never dies. This has been augmented by a lot of items like the Mini, the Fiat 500, the AGA cooker, the Wurlitzer 1015 juke box amongst other things. These examples have been evolved and reworked over longer times with newer technological improvements but have maintained their shape.

Now the IBM ThinkPad has entered this line of classic designs. Here, it was about the black housing, the blue ENTER key, the red thumbstick to move the pointer around and the 7-row keyboard. These computers became a statement for what is expected of the corporate laptop that carries through the business sense of an office in New York or Chicago..

This has been carried through even when IBM sold their personal-computing business to Lenovo as part of their computing-hardware-business divestment effort and has been shown as a way to convey the bloodline that is underscored by the ThinkPad name.

The AGA cooker always had conveyed that same homely feel with the dog in front of it

The AGA cooker always had conveyed that same homely feel always underscored with the dog in front of it

A very strong analogy that comes to my mind is the AGA cooker which for many decades kept a particular design but had  many technical improvements such as being able to use oil, gas or electricity as a fuel or work under timer control. There were still the two hotplates with the distinct insulated metal lids sitting on the black top and two or four ovens with the distinctly-shaped insulated doors, the chrome towel rail on the top front edge (with many tea-towels hanging on it) and the thermometer above the top oven door. The AGA stove still carried through the homely feel in the kitchen, consistently warm and comfortable and has often been associated with the British farm houses and cottages and the cosy lifestyle endemic to them.

One of the machines that was being celebrated and is being considered by Lenovo for a “One More Time” treatment is the highly-portable IBM ThinkPad 700c which was issued in 1992. I use the expression “One More Time” to allude to what Wurlitzer had done with the 1015 jukebox. The original design could only make 10 78-rpm records for play through its valve amplifier. But Wurlitzer issued a newer machine with the same arch shape and decorations as the original unit, but was able to have 50 45-rpm records available to play via a solid-state amplifier and used microprocessor technology to fetch the records to be played. This newer model was called the 1015 “One More Time” to reference the preservation of the same industrial design but having newer improvemts.

The IBM ThinkPad 700c had a “cigar-box” look with the black housing, the red thumbstick and the distinct keyboard layout. But it had a 4:3 display that had a resolution low by today’s standards along with the processor power, memory and storage that was okay to 1992 standards for a secondary machine. It also had a 3.5” floppy-disk drive as its removeable storage. Here, they would revise this computer with a 16:9 widescreen display with Full-HD resolution at least, a few USB 3.0 ports as the main connectivity option, current-spec horsepower like Intel Core M or i-Series processors, 4Gb RAM and 128Gb SSD secondary storage at least, and more to suit today’s expectations.

What I like of this idea put up in Lenovo’s blog is to revisit a classic design and look at how it can be made relevant to today’s requirements rather than tossing it away.

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Microsoft answers the reality with your computing environment using Windows 10

Article

How Microsoft Is Bringing Windows 10 Features, Including Cortana, To Android And iOS | Lifehacker

Microsoft furthers Android, iOS integration push in Win10 | ITNews

From the horse’s mouth

Microsoft Windows

Blog Post

Video

My Comments

Windows 10 and your smartphone platform work together-1

They now can work together

Manufacturers and platform vendors live in a dream world where customers will have their phone, computer and tablet all on the same or related platforms.

But the reality is that most people will have a personal computing environment based on two or three different operating systems. Typically this is an iPhone or Android smartphone working alongside a regular computer running Windows or MacOS X and, most likely, an iPad or an Android or Windows tablet.

It leads to problems associated with data interchange between the various devices and may require you to use cloud services or folders on a NAS, along with software import / export abilities to exchange the data. Even keeping your phone book or contact list in sync amongst devices of the various platforms can be very difficult.

But Microsoft has taken off from where they have built developer tools to allow you to quickly have apps ready-to-deploy for iOS, Android and Windows. They have taken this further by providing iOS, Android and Windows 10 apps that interlink and share data between your computer, tablet and smartphone. It may go against the dream held by Apple and their fanbois that once you have an iPhone, you progressively move towards an all-Apple computing environment with your regular computer being a Macintosh.

The first of these is the Phone Companion. This determines the corresponding apps you need to download from the iTunes App Store (iOS) or Google Play (Android) to interlink your phone with our Windows 10 computer on an application level.

These apps make use of Microsoft’s Windows OneDrive as a transfer point between your smartphone and your Windows 10 computer. For example, one of the apps provides a “hook” for your phone platform’s camera app to transfer photos to OneDrive so they show up on your computer.

There is also the XBox Music app which allows you to store your music on OneDrive and stream it to your iOS or Android smartphone while notes you create with OneNote on either your computer or smartphone show up on the other device. Microsoft is even making sure that if you modify a document on its Office mobile applications, the changes are reflected on your Office desktop applications.

Both the main smartphone platforms have their own integrated voice-driven personal assistant software in the form of Siri for iOS and Google Now for Android. But Microsoft has written a gateway app for each of these platforms so you can use Cortana as your voice-driven personal assistant. They are pushing the idea that, with Windows 10, Cortana will work across your smartphone and your regular computer in a platform-agnostic manner instead of just working with your smartphone or tablet..

A situation that can arise with any interoperability solution is that the solution can be engineered to be the hub of your computing life and not work tightly with the other platforms. For example, you may not be able to link your iOS or Android contacts function tightly with Windows nor would you be able to exchange photos between your device’s native photo storage and your computer’s photo collection smoothly. This can be of concern for, say, iOS users who make the Camera Roll serve as their handheld “brag-book” even though they have a PC or Mac having its own photo store or a cloud service like Dropbox being a photo exchange.

It is a step in the right direction to ensure data interoperability across the different mobile and desktop platforms when sharing data between devices along with satisfying the multiple-platform computing reality that affects most people.

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At last Australian small business buying new IT equipment benefits from a tax break

Articles Small businesses - Belgrave shopping strip

Fringe Benefits Tax on all portable devices used for work abolished | SmartCompany

Federal budget 2015: Fringe benefits tax abolished on tablets, laptops and mobile phones | Australian Financial Review

From the horse’s mouth

The Hon. Joe Hockey MP, Treasurer Of The Commonwealth Of Australia

Growing Jobs and Small Business Package Press Release

Relevant Material

Small Business Technology page

Buyers’ Guides

Product Reviews: Laptop, Notebook And Netbook Computers

My Comments

Lenovo Thinkpad G50-70 Laptop

A 15″ work-home laptop that is now eligible to be paired with a..

As part of Australian tax law since the late 1980s, companies were required to pay a fringe-benefits tax on non-cash supplementary benefits they gave to their employees. The same situation also ensnared sole-traders who chose to run their businesses as a company and buy capital equipment like vehicles or computers in the company’s name but use it for business and personal / community purposes.

This has caused various tax-compliance quagmires for all businesses but there has been some special treatment for small businesses in relationship to them buying portable computer equipment. Previously, it was seen under fringe-benefits-tax law that if a company gave an employee two computers like a “work-home” laptop and a tablet computer or ultraportable, they could only see one of these devices as FBT-exempt because they did the same function.

Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro convertible notebook at Phamish St Kilda

.. tablet computer, “2-in-1” or other ultraportable without FBT risks for small buisness

Now, as part of the 2015 Federal Budget, the Australian Government have installed a tax break for small businesses with an annual turnover of under AUD$2 million by making the supply of all work-related portable electronic device not subject to FBT. This measure, which applies from April 1 2016, would allow for the supply of a regular 15”-17” laptop as a “work-home” computer along with a tablet, “2-in-1” or ultraportable, and a smartphone to an employee and the technology can be used for personal use without dealing with any further red tape.

This, along with a tax deduction for newly-purchased individual assets less than AUD$20,000, has been part of a series of measures that Treasurer Joe Hockey, who has had small-business experience through his family life, that make things easier for start-ups and small businesses.

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The thin-and-light laptops are becoming more lightweight

Article

Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro convertible notebook at Rydges Hotel Melbourne

An example of the trend being observed for 12″-14″ ultraportable computers

Lenovo’s super-light LaVie Z laptop is now available | Engadget

My Comments

I have observed that one of the premium points in a computer manufacturer’s portable-computer product lineup are the 12”-14” ultraportable notebooks like the Ultrabooks which command some rather princely sums of money. These have a strong appeal to people who are “on the go” due to them offering a lightweight chassis yet having a screen and keyboard of a minimum size that plays well for content creation and, as I have experienced for myself, they fit well on that economy-class airline tray table with room to spare for that coffee.

Acer Aspire S3 Ultrabook on tray table

Acer Aspire S3 Ultrabook – suits air travel very well

Another key feature that is being pushed for this class of computer is them being designed to run for a long time, typically a workday, on their own batteries when you are engaging in normal computing activities. Some manufacturers are even pushing the envelope further for longer batter runtime incase you forget the laptop’s charger when you head off for that business trip in a hurry.

This is even though tablets are still being considered part of the computing equation and there are some of these units being available as convertible or detachable “2-in-1” computers so that they can become a large-screen tablet. This can come in handy if you are viewing material with someone else for example.

When most of the companies like HP and Sony released a convertible or detachable “2-in-1” computer, they initially ran these models in the 11” subnotebook size. Then they ran with a 13” model as part of the line-up of “follow-up” products that had the same form-factor. Similarly, the Ultrabook form factor like the Acer Aspire S3 I previously reviewed in 2012 was defined in response to a similarly-sized Apple MacBook Air computer that was released close to the time.

But in response to Apple premiering their latest iteration of the MacBook Air computer which has the USB-C connector, some other companies are offering similarly-light ultraportable computers. Enter Lenovo who are fielding their newer LaVie Z (US product page) range of Ultrabooks that come close to the new MacBook Air’s dimensions and weight. Here, these computers maintain that ultralight requirement for increased portability and have a spec sheet comprising of Intel i7 horsepower, 8Gb RAM and 256Gb solid-state drive. But they also inserted in to their range the LaVie Z 360 (US product page) which is a convertible unit in the same vein as the Yoga 3 Pro that I previously reviewed.

Personally, I would find that each and every computer manufacturer would offer one of these lightweight notebooks as part of “refreshing” their 12”-14” ultraportable product line or to build out this line further. Here, they could make this product lineup include models that suit different user classes and budgets with some that are purely “secondary computer for typing up copy” models while others are geared towards performance computing.

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Product Review–Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Ultrabook

Introduction

I am reviewing the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon which is a 14” Ultrabook that has its housing built out of carbon fibre rather than plastic. Here, this computer is like most of the 13” ultraportable kind of computer but comes with a 14” screen and is the third generation of the X1 Carbon Ultrabook.

The review-sample computer came delivered with Windows 7 Professional but you can order it to be delivered with Windows 8.1. It is delivered with the latest Lenovo software for business laptops which means that it hasn’t come with the flaky Superfish software that was a security risk.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Ultrabook

Price
– this configuration
RRP AUD$1899
Form factor Regular laptop
Processor Intel Core i5-5200 extra cost
Intel Core i5-5300U
Intel Core i7-5500U
Intel Core i7-5600U
RAM 4 Gb RAM
extra cost 8Gb
shared with graphics
Secondary storage 128Gb solid-state drive,
extra cost
256Gb solid-state drive
Display Subsystem Intel HD 5500 integrated graphics Display memory in discrete options
Screen 14” screen
(Full HD 1080)
,
extra-cost:
14” screen (2560×1440), 14” touchscreen (2560×1440)
LED backlit LCD
Audio Subsystem Intel HD Audio
Network Wi-Fi 802.11a/g/n/ac dual-band 2 stream
Ethernet Gigabit Ethernet
Bluetooth Bluetooth 4.0 Smart Ready
Modems Optional 3G wireless broadband modem
Connectivity USB USB 3.0 x 2 (1 with continuous supply)
High-speed connections eSATA, Thunderbolt, etc
Video DisplayPort, HDMI
Audio 3.5mm stereo audio input-output jack
Expansion
Authentication and Security Fingerprint reader, TPM
Operating System on supplied configuration Windows 7 Professional

The computer itself

Aesthetics and Build Quality

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Ultrabook

A traditional business laptop

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Ultrabook is scaled towards a traditional business-use marketplace. Thus it has the same aesthetics as the other ThinkPad laptops such as the dull-grey casing. But its thinness and lightness pitches it towards users who are travelling a lot and intend to do a lot of work on the road.

One limitation with the carbon fibre housing is that the grey case can easily look dirty after a fair bit of use and make the machine look a bit “too old”. There is nothing flimsy about the way the ThinkPad X1 Carbon is built which makes for a durable Ultrabook.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Ultrabook thumbstick and trackpad

Thumbstick and trackpad as user interface

The heat output is focused around the top right edge of the unit’s base and was more noticeable during video playback. But this didn’t become too uncomfortable when I used it on my knees

User Interface

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon’s keyboard is of a width that is ideal for comfortable touch typing which I would describe as being important for this class of laptop.

There are two cursor-movement options for this notebook – a conventional trackpad and a thumbstick. I had not noticed any jumping around going on with either device even with using the keyboard, unlike some other laptops I have reviewed where this was a continuous problem.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Ultrabook fingerprint reader

Fingerprint reader

This business Ultrabook is equipped with a fingerprint reader which I found was very accurate and reliable. This didn’t matter whether I had eaten some food which would cause oil to appear on my fingers, something which I consider important when testing these security devices because these computers end up being used in various “second offices” as in cafés and bars or on the island kitchen bench.

Audio and Video

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Ultrabook Left-hand-side connections: Power, HDMI, DisplayPort, USB 3.0, headphones

Left-hand-side connections: Power, HDMI, DisplayPort, USB 3.0, headphones

The Lenovo’s display has worked in a manner that yields best resolution and even comes through properly with TV content that you may watch online. The screen has a matte look like what is expected for business equipment

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Ultrabook Right-hand side connections: USB 3.0, micro-Ethernet port

Right-hand side connections: USB 3.0, micro-Ethernet port

I never place a high expectation on a laptop’s internal speakers but it has performed adequately through them. But I would use a headset or external speakers if you want the best out if its sound.

Connectivity, Storage and Expansion

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon comes with a 128Gb solid-state disk as standard but you can pay more for a 256Gb solid-state drive. This allows for very quick response and is something you could get away with for “on-the-road” use whether you use an external hard disk for extra data storage or not.

Sadly this computer misses the SD card slot which is something I would consider as being very important for those of us who own digital cameras or camcorders. Here, you would either have to “tether” the camera or use a USB SD card reader to transfer the pictures or footage to the solid-state drive.

There are two USB 3.0 sockets with one being able to charge gadgets from the Lenovo when it is off using the Toshiba-style “plug-and-charge” setup. As well, there is an HDMI connection to connect to most video devices along with a DisplayPort connector for the good monitors and projectors.

The network abilities in this laptop are up-to-date even catering for 802.11ac wireless-network segments. There is a Gigabit Ethernet connection for you to use with an Ethernet or HomePlug powerline wired-network segment but you have to use the supplied rnet plug adaptor to plug the Ethernet cable in to the Ultrabook’s small low-profile Ethernet socket.

Battery life

The Lenovo is very economical on battery life even for viewing video content, which means that you could be able to get more than a day out of it without needing to dig out the charger. This is although I would still keep the charger with me if I was travelling as well as “topping up the battery” overnight.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

As an Ultrabook for business use, I didn’t come across with many limitations except for the price and the absence of an SD card reader.

Similarly, Lenovo could work on the carbon-fibre finish to make it stay looking clean rather than having a look that can degrade quickly.

Conclusion

I would position the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon as another example of a good-quality business-focused secondary “travel” computer that could do well for use between the “main office” and the “second office” (café or bar) where you meet clients or catch up on work without disturbance; or for whenever you do a lot of business travel.

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Product Review–Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro convertible Ultrabook

Introduction

I am reviewing the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro which is Lenovo’s latest premium iteration of the Yoga Pro family of 360-degree “fold-over” convertible notebooks, one of which I have reviewed before as the Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro. This still has the ability to work as a tablet or a laptop simply by you folding it over like a book or hinge.

Through the review, I had a good chance to write up the Consumer Electronics Show 2015 series of articles (1, 2, 3, 4) using this laptop and found it a good chance to test it as an on-road notebook especially with creating copy when out and about.

Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro convertible notebook at Rydges Hotel Melbourne

 

Price
– this configuration
RRP AUD$2099
Form Factor Convertible 360-degree “hinge”
Processor Intel Core M 5Y70
RAM 8Gb shared with graphics
Secondary storage 256Gb solid-state drive,
extra-cost: 512Gb solid-state drive
SDXC card reader
Display Subsystem Intel HD5300 integrated display
Screen 13.3” widescreen touchscreen (3200 x 1800) LED backlit LCD
Audio Subsystem Intel HD integrated audio
Network Wi-Fi 802.11ac 2×2 dual-band
Bluetooth 4.0 Smart Ready
Connectivity USB 3.0 x 3
Video mini HDMI
Audio 3.5mm stereo input-output jack
Operating System on supplied configuration Windows 8.1

The computer itself

Aesthetics and Build Quality

Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro convertible notebook - Watch-band hinge

Watch-band hinge

One fieature that I would describe as the equivalent of the “pop up headlights” on a sports car is the watchband hinge. This works also as an effective heatsink which dissipates the heat that builds up at the top of the keyboard when the system is used. But it doesn’t compromise on how easy it is to switch between a tablet and a laptop.

Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro convertible notebook at Rydges Hotel Melbourne - Viewer mode

Viewer mode

There is a distinctly tactile rubber surround around the keyboard that, at times could be a dirt trap. Otherwise it is a system that is easy to keep clean especially if your second office is your favourite café or bar.

User Interface

The keyboard is roomy enough for touch-typing like most 13” notebooks,but Lenovo needs to make the home keys easier to feel There is the proper tactile feedback while typing which allows you to type quickly and is even accurate even when I used the Yoga 3 Pro on my lap to type up some copy. It is also easy to clear dirt from around the keys which is something you would have to do if you have been munching on some food while typing up something on the Yoga at that “second office”.

Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro convertible notebook - tablet mode

Tablet mode

The trackpad works as expected but could benefit from a switch to disable it if you are using an external pointing device

The touchscreen is responsive as expected but a few bugs with some Windows 7 software doesn’t make it behave with proper cursor location when using these programs.

Audio and Video

Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro convertible notebook left hand side - 2 x USB 3.0 ports (including power inlet), micro HDMI port, SD card reader

Left hand side – 2 x USB 3.0 ports (including power inlet), micro HDMI port, SD card reader

There is the sharpness that is part of the high-resolution display but a lot of Windows software doesn’t exploit this capability properly. But it still works properly with most video content in that there isn’t any change with colour balance or saturation. As well, the display shows the images very smoothly which can come across for multimedia and games.

Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro convertible notebook right had side - USB 3.0 socket, headphone jack, volume buttons, power switch

Right had side – USB 3.0 socket, headphone jack, volume buttons, power switch

Like a lot of notebook computers of its class, the sound quality will be compromised by the speakers integrated in the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro. But it was able to come across properly with the sound that is expected for computers for its class.

Connectivity, Storage and Expansion

Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro convertible notebook - Tent mode

Tent mode

There is a 256Gb solid-state storage device serving as the main secondary storage and the capacity is enough to allow you to have plenty of work on board when you are on the road. This is augmented by 3 USB 3.0 ports and an SD memory card drive with the USB ports being able to support

One of the USB 3.0 ports on the left side and is highlighted in yellow serves as a power input port for the supplied charger. This predates the USB Power Delivery specification which is being purposed for powering small “secondary-use” laptops but the setup used with the Yoga 3 Pro wouldn’t be compatible with newer equipment.

There is also an 3.5mm audio input / output jack as well as a mini HDMI port for connecting to external displays.

The Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro has Wi-Fi that supports 802.11ac dual-stream but I don’t have access to a network that proves this new functionality. What I like of this is that it is ready for home networks that are tooled up with this new Wi-Fi technology. If you have to use it with Ethernet or HomePlug, you would need to purchase a USB-Ethernet adaptor, preferably a USB 3.0-Gigabit Ethernet adaptor or an expansion module (dock) that has this functionality.

Battery life

For day-to-day regular use, the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro was able to run for a long time without needing to be charged. This may be a point of confusion for those of us who are used to charging notebook computers overnight and starting off with a full battery at the beginning of the day. But you can get away with running it one or two days of regular Web-browsing, email and typing-up without worrying about whether you have taken the charger with you.

Other usage notes

I have noticed that the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro’s convertible design and touchscreen user interface still impresses most people especially when they haven’t been exposed to this concept with laptop computers that are in circulation. One of the men in the church I go to was impressed by the “watch-band” hinge that this computer has, more as a sign of luxury and quality.

For a time, convertible notebooks of the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro’s league will remind me of a situation with a man that I once knew through the 1980s who worked in a car showroom that sold Japanese cars as part of its stock. This is where the high-end sports cars that had the features that awed and impressed people, but these were out of the range of most peoples’ budgets.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

The Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro is expensive if Lenovo is to target it as a successor to the Yoga 2 Pro, but is the right price if they are to pitch it as the ultra-premium convertible laptop. They could keep this model as the lead model of a group of convertible notebooks.

Personally, I would like to see Lenovo use the Yoga 3 Pro as a leading model for a range of 11” and 13” “360-degree” convertibles pitched at either home users or business users. Here, some of the models can be positioned at prices that most of us can afford, but are still preserved as a secondary personal-computing device. This is because there is an interest in the idea of the convertible or detachable “2-in-1” laptop computer being considered as an alternative to the tablet or a secondary laptop.

Conclusion

I would position the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro as an option for a premium easy-to-use multifunction notebook that can serve well for those of us who do a lot of travelling on public transport. It is more so if you also appreciate the idea of a tablet being 13” which may appeal if you are showing something to two or more people.

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Microsoft to benefit convertibles, detachables and other multi-input computer setups

Article

How Continuum will work in Windows 10 | CNet

Windows 10 ‘Continuum’ mode for hybrid devices showed off by Microsoft (video) | PureInfoTech

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My Comments

Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro convertible notebook - image-viewer view

Windows 10 will play properly with these computers what way you fold them

A problem that was often echoed with Windows 8 was the Start Screen and the Modern user interface that was optimised just for touch interfaces. This is although there are computing setups that can work between a touch interface and / or a regular mouse / keyboard interface.

These range from the so-called “2-in-1” computers of the Microsoft Surface, HP x2 and Lenovo Yoga i which can be known as convertibles or detachables and change between a regular laptop and a tablet, through people connecting keyboards and mice to tablets, including the “Adaptive All-In-One” computers of the Sony VAIO Tap 20 ilk, to touchscreen-enabled regular laptops or regular desktop computers that are kitted out with touchscreen-capable monitors.

But Windows 8 didn’t perform well for the regular mouse / keyboard interface. Here, you didn’t have the “comfort zone” of the Start Menu or desktop interface elements most of us are used to for over the last 20 years of Windows-platform regular computing. Windows 8.1 performed a few upgrades to try to bridge the gap but Windows 10 has approached this more sincerely.

Here they have a new Start Menu that also has active Tiles for Windows Store apps and this can be “shoehorned” to suit your screen layout. It is also optimised for touch-enabled setups like a “2-in-1” set up as a laptop, a touch-screen-equipped regular laptop or a desktop computing setup equipped with a touch-enabled monitor. This is part of a desktop user experience optimised still for the keyboard and mouse.

But if you detach the keyboard from an HP x2 detachable, fold over a Lenovo Yoga or slide the keyboard under a Sony VAIO Duo, the display adapts to a full-screen-optimised “tablet” mode. The same thing happens if you turn off your Bluetooth keyboard and mouse that you have connected to your Windows tablet. This has a reduced clutter view and program selection is through the Start Screen “dashboard” that was par for the course on Windows 8. There is the ability to bring this on manually if you like to, at times, mouse around an uncluttered workspace or simply have that “dashboard view”.

At least the folks at Redmond have made the effort to cater for multiple-interface computer users, especially the 2-in-1 users or people who have touch-capable laptops. Let’s not forget that a touch-capable monitor for a desktop computer setup or a touch-enabled laptop doesn’t have to be considered an unnecessary luxury.

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