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Microsoft Surface Book 2 review: a powerful yet pricey laptop-tablet combo

The first generation Surface Book was a feat of engineering that took Microsoft’s Surface tablet PC and turned it on its head, making it a laptop first and a tablet second. The Surface Book 2 refines a few things, adds much more power and finally adopts USB-C.

If you’re primarily a laptop user, who occasionally wants to take just the screen with you and needs some brawn for your processing duties, the Surface Book 2 is the machine for you. But getting your head around what the machine can do is the first challenge.

With the screen attached like a laptop it behaves just like any other Windows 10 laptop with an interesting hinge. Press the detach key and the screen pops off, turning into a full tablet PC with up to five hours of battery life. But you can also turn the screen over and re-attach it to the base to either have the screen facing away from the keyboard, or folded down to make an angled drawing pad.



The Surface Book 2 in studio mode with the Surface Dial and Surface Pen. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

It means you can go from a laptop one minute to a note-taking tablet the next to a graphics tablet thereafter. In every situation the Surface Book 2 excels, thanks to some accessories, including the excellent Surface Pen and Dial.

There are a few caveats. The screen on its own is thin and light for a PC tablet, but I would not be comfortable taking it out and about on its own as it doesn’t feel as robust as the Surface Pro or similar. As a laptop, the fulcrum hinge extends out further away from the user than a traditional laptop hinge would, meaning the base of the laptop is quite long and I struggled to fit it between my gut and the back of the seat in front of me on a train. On a desk, though, the Surface Book 2 is arguably the best Windows laptop available.

The keyboard is brilliant – better than most dedicated keyboards. The trackpad is a bit clicky but smooth and precise, while the screen is crisp, beautiful and bright. The machine also runs cool. The only time I could detect the fans going was when playing XCOM 2, and even then they weren’t very loud. Most of the time the Surface Book 2 was completely silent.

Battery life was solid, but not as spectacular as Microsoft’s quoted 17 hours might suggest. With 10 or so tabs open in Chrome and with Spotify, NextgenReader, Windows Mail, Typora and Affinity Photo open at different times, as well as 45 minutes of watching video on Netflix with the tablet detached (and all with recommended brightness and recommended power mode active), the Surface Book 2 lasted around nine hours before powering down.

The tablet alone would easily last around three hours of movie watching, or more with the brightness turned down.

Specifications

  • Screen: 13.5in LCD 3000 x 2000 (267 ppi)
  • Processor: Intel Core i5 or i7 (7 or 8th generation)
  • RAM: 8 or 16GB
  • Storage: 256, 512 or 1TB
  • Operating system: Windows 10
  • Camera: 8MP rear, 5MP front-facing
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, USB 3.0, USB-C, SD, Surface Connector
  • Laptop dimensions: 232 x 312 x 23mm
  • Laptop weight: 1.533 or 1.642Kg
  • Tablet weight: 719g

Windows 10 Pro



With the lid shut the Surface Book 2 looks fairly like a regular laptop. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

The Surface Book 2 runs the same version of Windows 10 as any other modern PC, which in this case is the Autumn or Fall Creators Update. Since the launch of the first Surface Book, Windows 10 has become more efficient, with various battery saving settings that can make a real difference when using the screen in tablet mode.

With plenty of useful gestures, excellent stylus and accessory support, and a modern design, the Fall Creators Update is the most well thought out, fastest and slick version of Windows 10 yet. There are still the legacy bits, such as parts of the Control Panel and back-end tools that look like they came straight from Windows XP 16 years ago, but Microsoft’s progressive modernisation of the user interface means most will not have to encounter them unless something breaks.

USB-C, Surface Pen and Dial



The Surface Book 2 has one USB-C port next to the Surface Connector. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

One of the important updates for the Surface Book 2 is Microsoft’s eventual acceptance of USB-C, which has increasingly become an important standard, not only for connecting accessories such as displays, but also for charging.

The Surface Book 2 has one USB-C port, which will also charge the machine, alongside the Surface Connector. But unlike most other high-end machines, the USB-C port does not double as a Thunderbolt 3 port, which is a shame for such an expensive and otherwise capable computer.

The Surface Book 2 will quite happily drive a 4K monitor at 60Hz, as you would expect, via the USB-C port, but if you want more than one display you’ll have to switch to the Surface Connector and Microsoft’s optional extra docking solution, which will drive two external displays, provide power and USB connectivity.

The improved £100 Surface Pen is the best stylus in the business – accurate, with low latency, pressure and tilt sensing, it stays firmly attached to the side of the screen with magnets. It’s the first stylus that has not come off in my bag while transporting any machine.

The new machine also supports Microsoft’s £90 Surface Dial rotary accessory, both on and off the screen similar to the company’s Surface Studio desktop computer. While using it on the screen can be a bit cramped, it works very well indeed. It will work as a general computing input for things like scrolling through web pages, zooming or adjusting the volume, and can be set to perform certain tasks on an app-by-app basis.

It comes into its own when used with photo editors and other creative tools. In Affinity Photo, for instance, you can adjust brush sizes, change opacity and other settings, or you can put it on the screen and use it to rotate the image. There are plenty of ways to use it, and while it’s by no means a must-buy for most, creatives will certainly get their money’s worth out of it – particularly with the Surface Pen in the other hand.



The tablet detaches from the keyboard, held in place by pins along the hinge’s edge. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

Observations

  • The hinge has been improved, but it still has play when positioned
  • Microsoft’s Windows Hello camera is great, recognising you and logging you in instantly
  • Full sized SD card slot is a rarity in any machine in 2017
  • The speakers in the screen are loud and clear, making watching a film a pretty good experience
  • You can charge the tablet without the keyboard using the Surface power adapter
  • You need quite a powerful USB-C power adapter (at least 45 Watts) to safely charge the Surface Book 2

Price

The Microsoft Surface Book 2 starts at £1,499 (buy here) for the base model with 256GB of storage, a 7th gen Core i5 (dual-core) and 8GB of RAM, but without a discrete graphics card in the keyboard.

The 8th gen Core i7 (quad-core) version with 256GB of storage, 8GB of RAM and a GeForce GTX 1050 discrete GPU costs £1,999 (buy here). The same Core i7 version with 512GB, 16GB of RAM and GPU costs £2,499 (buy here) and with 1TB of storage and 16GB of RAM £2,999 (buy here).

For comparison, Microsoft’s Surface Laptop starts at £979 (buy here), the Surface Pro starts at £799 (buy here), Apple’s 13in MacBook Pro starts at £1,249 (buy here) and Dell’s XPS 13 starts at £1,099 (buy here).

Verdict

The 13.5in Microsoft Surface Book 2 is an adaptable powerhouse of a computer. There aren’t many rivals that can double as a true hinged laptop, tablet and angle graphics tablet-style halfway house, particularly with the power of a discrete graphics card.

Given that the minimum specification anyone should really buy if they’re considering the Surface Book 2 is the £1,999 model with the discrete graphics card and 8th-generation Core i7 chip, Microsoft’s do-it-all machine is very expensive. But you get a lot of computer for your money with some very neat party tricks.

It’s not perfect, lacking Thunderbolt 3, but the Surface Book 2 is arguably the best Windows 10 power-user laptop going – plus you can take the screen off.

Pros: excellent keyboard, great trackpad, brilliant screen, great stylus, 9-hour battery, fancy hinge, great 2-in-1 compromise, USB A, full-sized SD and USB-C, Windows Hello, Surface Dial support, 8th generation Core i7 chips, discrete GPU

Cons: Windows still has tablet app gap, very expensive, relatively heavy, still a bit of play in the hinge, no Thunderbolt 3

Other reviews

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Nevada drops to 37th in health care firm’s annual ranking – Las Vegas Review

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Nevada ranked 37th in the nation this year in health, dropping two rungs from last year in an annual ranking by a health care company.

A UnitedHealthcare annual report showed that Nevada’s greatest challenges include high rates of violent crime rate and the uninsured and a dearth in primary care.

It also ranked last among the 50 states and the District of Columbia in public health funding, at $41 per person, compared with $296 per person in the No. 1 state for such funding, West Virginia.

The score comes out of the company’s nonprofit health advocacy arm, United Health Foundation. It’s based on 35 factors divided into five categories: behaviors; community and environment; policy; clinical care; and outcomes. The state ranked 49th in its high school graduation rate, 48th in violent crime and in the 40s in seven additional factors.

There were a few bits of good news for Nevada in the report: The percentage of children in poverty was nearly cut in half, from 20.6 percent to 11.4 percent, over the last five years, boosting it from 29th to sixth.

The state’s ranking in excessive drinking also dropped from 12th to 20th in the past year.

But the report found more unhealthy trends to counteract those gains. In the last four years, cardiovascular deaths increased 6 percent; physical inactivity pushed the state from 18th to 32nd on the list; HPV immunization among women dropped Nevada from 24th to 39th; and frequent mental distress sent it plunging from 29th to 45th.

Unlike in women, the HPV immunization rate among men increased nine points, moving the state from 35th to 29th.

The state also ranks high in salmonella cases — second behind only Maine.

UnitedHealthcare also ranks the state 40th in senior health and 47th in health for women and children in separate reports.

Contact Jessie Bekker at jbekker@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4563. Follow @jessiebekks on Twitter.

Nevada’s top and bottom rankings

— Salmonella cases: 2nd

— Children in poverty: 6th

— Infectious disease: 8th

— Obesity: 8th

— Primary care doctors: 46th

— Violent crime: 48th

— High school graduation: 49th

— Public health funding: 50th

Xiaomi Redmi 5A review: Unmatched value

On the hardware front, the Redmi 5A is packing the Snapdragon 425 — the same chipset that powered the Redmi 4A. In fact, the only major change when it comes to the hardware is the battery size, which is a downgrade from the 3120mAh unit on the Redmi 4A. That said, you won’t have any issues getting a day’s worth of usage from a full charge.

Elsewhere, you’re looking at 2GB/3GB of RAM, 16GB/32GB of storage, 13MP rear camera, 5MP front shooter, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.1, and FM radio. The phone comes with MIUI 9 out of the box, and all the optimizations carried out by Xiaomi in terms of reducing app load times and improving stability make a significant difference when it comes to using the Redmi 5A on a day-to-day basis.

The Redmi 5A has rock-solid build quality and reliable performance.

I’m using the variant with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage, and even on the base model performance is generally snappy. That said, the phone isn’t ideal if you’re looking to play visually-intensive games. There’s also the odd stutter when transitioning from one app to another.

The Redmi 5A retains the same 5.0-inch 720p display that was used in the 4A, and while the panel won’t win any awards, it is perfectly serviceable. Like all other Xiaomi phones, you get the option to adjust the color balance and use a blue light filter to reduce glare at night.

The full loadout of MIUI 9 features is available on the Redmi 5A, including the Dual Apps feature that lets you run two instances of an app at the same time, new themes and sticker packs, notification pane that has bundled notifications and in-line replies, and so much more.

With the advent of Jio, the number of people using two SIM cards simultaneously has increased. Xiaomi offered a hybrid SIM card slot in its early 2017 phones, with the secondary SIM tray doubling up as the microSD slot. However, with a sizeable portion of the audience requesting a standalone microSD slot, Xiaomi has switched out the usual tray for one with a dedicated microSD slot in addition to two SIM card slots.

That’s not the only customization for the Indian market — Xiaomi started bundling a custom wall charger for phones sold in India to withstand the wildly varying voltages seen in most parts of the country, and the Redmi 5A comes with the charger in the box.

Xiaomi Redmi 5A What you won’t

RAVPower Fast Wireless Charger Review: Power for iPhone or Samsung Galaxy

Apple has finally gotten on board with inductive charging, building this feature into all its 2017 phones, including the iPhone X. Samsung has been using this technology in its high-end handsets for years, of course, including its Galaxy S8 and Galaxy Note8 . Both these device makers picked the Qi (pronounced “Chi”) standard, so the RAVPower Fast Wireless Charger will work with either company’s products.

We tested this accessory with an iPhone X and can report on its charging speed and overall performance. Is this $49.99 charging pad right for you? Read on to find out.

RAVPower Fast Wireless Charger: Build and Design

29a29_RP_FWC_Pad_Ed-300x300 RAVPower Fast Wireless Charger Review: Power for iPhone or Samsung GalaxyThe design of this inductive charger is simple: it’s a round pad for the smartphone to sit on. All that’s necessary to get a compatible device to charge is place it on this pad.

The diameter is 3.5 inches, and it’s 0.6 inches thick. That makes it smaller than many of its competitors, so it takes up less room on one’s desk.

Black is the only color option, and the entire exterior is plastic, but the general appearance is still acceptable, especially as the RAVPower logo on the top is subtle. The Fast Wireless Charger will look fine on just about anyone’s desk, even a CEO’s.

There’s a ring of silicone on the top to help keep the phone from slipping. This does a decent job, though the slickness of so many handsets makes this challenging. The silicone material does attract dirt, though. Rubber feet on the bottom help prevent the charging pad itself from sliding around.

Build quality is good. The product feels solid, and we could neither bend nor twist it.

An LED on on side of the Fast Wireless Charger gives charging status. It pulses orange during standard charging, or pulses green during fast charging. This LED briefly glows red when the charger itself is plugged in, and the manual says it will pulse red when “a foreign object [is] detected”, though we couldn’t make this happen.

29a29_RP_FWC_Pad_Ed-300x300 RAVPower Fast Wireless Charger Review: Power for iPhone or Samsung GalaxyUSB Cable and Wall Plug

Despite it’s name, the RAVPower Fast Wireless Charger itself needs a wire to get power.  There’s a microUSB port opposite the charging LED, and this accessory comes bundled with a 4-foot fabric-wrapped USB cable that’s quite the nicest we’ve ever seen.

The USB charging plug is a bit bulky, but it’s capable of sending up to 10 W to a compatible phone so maybe the extra is justified.

RAVPower Fast Wireless Charger: Performance

Our tests with an iPhone X showed that it’s not necessary to carefully place one’s phone on the charger pad in order for it to start charging. The handset does need to be somewhat centered, but as long as the phone is approximately in the middle of the pad, and the pad is close to the center of the phone, current will start flowing. After just a bit of practice, placing the handset down so that a wireless connection is made every time becomes second nature.

Inductive charging doesn’t require taking off the phone’s case. We did all our tests with our handset in a Mujjo Leather Wallet Case with credit cards inserted and it had no effect on the charging process. That said, don’t try it with a case that includes metal.

29a29_RP_FWC_Pad_Ed-300x300 RAVPower Fast Wireless Charger Review: Power for iPhone or Samsung GalaxyWe did multiple test runs, charging the iPhone X with the RAVPower Fast Wireless Charger to determine how quickly the handset gets powered up. Averaging the various results, 30 minutes of charging garnered about 20% of charge. Two hours of charging resulted in 70% charge of Apple’s phone. That’s a faster charging rate than many of its rivals.

The status LED is supposed to turn green when the handset’s battery gets to 100%, but this didn’t happen with our test iPhone.  RAVPower says this is because “iPhones do not send any signal to the wireless charger”. Don’t be concerned that this means the battery will get overcharged though, as iPhone batteries do not allow this to happen.

iOS 11.2 and Fast Charging

In standard charging, the phone is getting between 3W and 5W. As its name implies, RAVPower’s accessory supports Fast Charging in which the handset receives between 7.5W and 10W of power.

We thought we were going to be able to test this feature with the iPhone X, as the recent release of iOS 11.2 was supposed to bring support for 7.5W charging to all Apple’s 2017 phones. However, this didn’t happen. Despite installing the latest IOS version on our test device, Fast Charging was not enabled.

We don’t know which device is causing the problem, but we tend to think it’s the iPhone X. iOS 11 has been loaded with bugs from the day it was released, and iOS 11.2 was rushed out to fix a serious problem in an earlier version, so it’s most probable that the iPhone is the source of difficulties. It’s likely a future iOS update will fix this.

Just so there’s not any confusion, we experienced no issues doing standard wireless charging with the iPhone X; it’s only Fast Charging that isn’t working.

29a29_RP_FWC_Pad_Ed-300x300 RAVPower Fast Wireless Charger Review: Power for iPhone or Samsung GalaxyRAVPower Fast Wireless Charger: Final Thoughts

Now that Apple is on the bandwagon, iPhone users can finally take advantage of a feature that Samsung users have been enjoying since at least the Galaxy S6 and the Note 5. Not having to fumble around with wires to keep one’s phone charged isn’t a life-changing experience, but it’s especially nice for people who often forget to plug in and regularly find themselves with a dead battery.

And the RAVPower Fast Wireless Charger is well designed for this task: it’s not persnickety about only working with the phone in exactly the right spot, it charges fairly quickly, and it looks professional. At $49.99 it isn’t the cheapest charging pad around, but it just might be the best. 

Pros:

  • Small and professional looking
  • Charges devices quickly

Cons:

  • No Fast Charging with iPhone

Apple iPhone X: The Mid-Term Review. Ten Things To Love Or Hate

David Phelan

Apple iPhone X. All-new.

I’ve been using the new Apple iPhone X since I first got my hands on it on October 23. I had some issues at first along with many positive responses, but it has been my only driver for seven weeks now.

Since supply of the expensive, king-of-the-hill, top-of-the-heap iPhone has now become much more readily accessible – and way faster than was initially thought – this seems like a good time to report on what I’ve found.

The Mid-Term is my occasional column, reviewing a product I’ve been testing consistently for a long time. It’s for a product which I’ve put through its paces for weeks or even months, so you can be sure the results are reliable, especially compared to some other reviews, written after just a day or so of use…

David Phelan

The lock screen of the iPhone X. Note the padlock icon which swings satisfyingly open when FaceID recognizes it’s you.

1 Face ID: Usage

Love

It’s so speedy, effective and reliable. I thought I’d regret losing the intimacy of Touch ID. I worried it wouldn’t work – as facial recognition on some other phones has been less than consistent – and that it wouldn’t feel as intimate or seamless. In fact, it’s more intimate. I realized this when I found myself raising an eyebrow, Roger Moore-style to try and catch it out. It worked perfectly but I suddenly thought, ‘Oh no, I just flirted with my iPhone. What’s next, asking Siri on a date?’ Some have said it’s not as fast as Touch ID but I haven’t found that.

And one of the very best features on the iPhone X is the way that Face ID keeps my notifications private until it recognizes that it’s me looking at the screen. That, and the way it dials down the ringtone volume when it sees I’m looking at it and so knows it has my attention, are brilliant details which make using the phone a wholly intimate experience.

Hate

It doesn’t recognize me if I’m brushing my teeth, say, because it needs to see my eyes, nose and mouth to be sure it’s me. And those occasional moments when it the little padlock shakes its head no when it doesn’t quite see me right, though pretty rare, are always dispiriting. Thought: am I getting too emotionally involved with my cellphone?

David Phelan

Face ID on the new Apple iPhone X.

2 Face ID: Security and Apple Pay

Love

Touch ID for Apple Pay is a highly satisfying way to use a contactless card reader. But it does mean you have to hold your iPhone so that your thumb is right down at the base of the handset which isn’t always the easiest to balance. Face ID sorts this because you can hold the phone more comfortably as you double-press the side button.

Hate

Not much to dislike here. I thought I wouldn’t care for the fact that I have to double-press a button to activate Apple Pay. More work, I thought, though I grant you, this is an issue you can file under first world problems.

But it turns out that on many occasions I was pre-arming the system anyway. And I have plenty of friends who have never used Apple Pay because they press on the Touch ID sensor rather than resting a finger on it, causing Siri to activate and have given up on using it. For them, and many others, this will be a much better system.

David Phelan

Apple iPhone X in silver.

3 Design

Love

The shiny edge to the iPhone X in the shape of the polished stainless steel antenna band looks spiffy and the glass back, which I’d come to like on the iPhone 8, looks its best here thanks to a warmer silver color than on the smaller phone.

Hate

The most divisive part of the X’s design is that notch at the top of the display. At first, it’s true, it jarred, but after the first week, I honestly failed to notice it apart from when I was viewing a movie, say. As more and more apps are optimized for the iPhone X screen, this distraction is becoming increasingly unimportant.

David Phelan

Part of the new iPhone X interface: no Home Button means a whole new way of operating the iPhone.

4 The gesture interface

Love

The new interface is enjoyable and, now I have shifted over to it, seems more intuitive than what came before. I especially like the fact that swiping down from the top of the screen to reach the Notification Center is made easier by that notch at the top. And I now understand why that screen doesn’t have a search bar on it – where it would sit is where the padlock icon appears to show if the iPhone X is locked or unlocked.

Hate

But it wasn’t an instant shift. I got used to swiping up to unlock instantly, but swiping up to return to the home screen was harder. And even now I occasionally go to swipe up to reach the Control Center instead of swiping down from the right ear. And, by the way, I would still like a search bar on the Notification Center screen.

David Phelan

Apple iPhone X with its big-display-on-a-small-phone combination.

5 The size and shape

Love

A screen bigger than the iPhone 8 Plus in a gadget scarcely bigger than the iPhone 8 is a phenomenal achievement and is something I’m still cooing about. It’s a brilliant fit in the hand in the way that the Plus phones sometimes seemed a stretch, but there’s no screen compromise as a result. Brilliant.

Hate

The trade-off is that the display is longer and narrower than I’m used to, so that’s taken a while to get used to. I’m there now, but at first I worried that documents would be too small to easily read. They’re not, not least because the screen resolution is so high that text is sharper even when smaller. Which leads me to…

David Phelan

The bright, vivid screen on the iPhone X.

6 The OLED screen

Love

The colors! The brightness! The detail! This is a phenomenal screen, and the best OLED display I’ve come across, helped along by that Apple specialty True Tone and other technologies like Night Shift, which add to color fidelity beautifully.

Hate

But it’s still true that if you turn the phone so you’re looking at it off-axis, the colors on screen tend more towards blue. Here True Tone probably emphasizes the color change all the more. Other OLED screens do this, it’s a characteristic of the technology, and it’s not a deal-breaker but it’s still pretty noticeable.

David Phelan

iPhone X and the rear camera.

7 The camera

Love

The joys of Portrait Lighting are better realized here than on other iPhones and the pleasures of having dual rear cameras on a smaller-in-the-hand iPhone cannot be overstated. I think the camera is the best yet on an iPhone, but it’s true that the snapper on the iPhone 8 Plus is very nearly as good.

Hate

No, there’s not much to dislike about the camera. It’s fast, effective and works better than most cameras out there.

David Phelan

Those adorable Animoji.

8 Animoji

Love

I love everything about Animoji. The range of characters, the way the dog’s ears and the chicken’s wattles wobble as you tip your head. The way you can do the Roger Moore eyebrow twists I use for unlocking to much greater effect here, and the fact that you can share them with non-iPhone X users. Just for the bragging rights.

Hate

Well, one thing maybe. What’s the plural, Animoji or Animojis? I prefer without the S but, oh, it’s so difficult to know. Oh, and Apple, can we have even more characters to choose from, please?

David Phelan

Apple iPhone X on the Belkin Boost Up 7.5W Wireless Charging Pad.

9 Wireless charging

Love

It’s so convenient. If I’m continually answering the phone or changing the track I’m playing or checking something else out on the phone, I love not having to unplug the iPhone each time. And now I can listen to music on wired headphones while charging.

Hate

Maybe it’s me, but I’ve been caught out by placing the phone badly on the charging pad, only to find in the morning that it’s not charged at all. I’m more careful now and to be fair this is a problem with the pad more than Apple, I dare say. Of course, you can still charge the iPhone X the regular way through the Lightning socket.

David Phelan

Apple iPhone X in silver with rear cameras in vertical arrangement.

10 Battery life

Love

It gets me through the day, no problem. And if I’ve been topping up via my charging pad, I have plenty of peace of mind that I’m not going to run out of juice, too. Win-win.

Hate

But I wish the battery percentage indicator was on the display all the time, still. I’m sure plenty of people don’t miss it, but I do. Sure, I can swipe down to see whether I’m on 64% or 52% charge, because it’s not always that evident from the battery icon, but I just like to know. Still if that’s my biggest gripe with the new phone, and it is, maybe it’s evidence that the iPhone X is a heck of a phone.

David Phelan

Apple’s iPhone X – note the white bar on the bottom of the display. Swipe right or left to access other open apps without returning to the home screen in between.

Mid-term Verdict

I’ve reviewed a lot of smartphones over the last decade and this is the standout. It is a gorgeous, slick, powerful phone that works brilliantly and at speed. Over the weeks I’ve had with it, it has been unfailingly efficient and increasingly delightful, matching reliable performance with knockout features and, of course, a dazzling, show-stopping design. Is it the best phone I’ve ever used? Well, there are plenty of others that come close, like the Samsung Note8, for instance, but the iPhone X unquestionably puts Apple decisively ahead, leaving its rivals behind by a country mile.

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HP Elite X2 Review: Perfecting The 2 in 1 Windows 10 Business …

With the rise of the convertible tablet style PC, led by Microsoft’s Surface Pro, HP has taken the styling and sensibilities of its Elite x360 enterprise laptop, and brought it into the new form factor. I’ve spent some time with the machine to find out where it excels.

Ewan Spence

HP Elite X2 (Image: Ewan Spence)

The obvious place to start with the Elite X2 is the Elitebook x360. I reviewed this laptop earlier in 2017. It adopted HP’s new approach to style but kept it in a subdued silver tone so it wasn’t too garish in the office. The package picked up top of the line hardware specifications, an increased focus on security (including secure booting, sandboxed web browsers, biometric ID, and more). It was an enterprise laptop with a focus on features and security.

The Elite X2 takes the very same approach, but instead of applying it to the laptop form factor, it applies it to the convertible 2 in 1. This HP machine sits comfortably alongside the Dell XPS 12 and Microsoft’s Surface Pro, but it stands out thanks to the focus on features specifically for the enterprise.

Ewan Spence

HP Elite X2 (Image: Ewan Spence)

It’s worth highlighting the security and the biometrics. Although Windows Hello is available, HP notes that this is less secure than its other primary method, the fingerprint sensor. Although there’s no space on the front of the display, HP has tucked the sensor into the rear of the tablet/screen. It is indented, but color matched, to the rear surface. It’s also really easy to find when the X2 is open. Curiously you’ll need to set up minimum of two fingerprints to use this, along with three backup questions that create a spare security key.

Using HP’s Sure Start, you can set up the X2 to request logon details (fingerprint or password) as the machine boots, i.e. before Windows 10 even starts. It can temporarily remember the credentials so you get automatically taken to the desktop, or you can leave the machine to prompt you at various stages such as the regular Windows 10 logon screen.

Ewan Spence

HP Elite X2 (Image: Ewan Spence)

Design wise there’s a lot of similarity to Microsoft’s Surface Pro range of convertibles – not surprising given that one part of the Surface design goals was to create a reference design on what can be achieved with Windows 10 in various form factors. HP doesn’t stray too far in terms of wacky design, instead making a number of decisions to improve from the starting point.

Rather than a full body flap that you see on the Pro, the X2 goes bezel-like approach of a long hinged, border. That gives a full length edge in contract with a table or other surface, while giving the X2 a distinctive look compared to the competition. The stand is leveraged out via a small cut-out for your finger, and is on a friction hinge that can be set at pretty much any angle for comfortable viewing. It feels solid, with more heft than the Surface Pro flap, and has enough friction that you can tap away on the touch screen with notable force and the package remains stable.

The detachable keyboard is even more of an improvement. It has a magnetic strip that connects and covers the large bezel at the base of the screen, putting the keyboard pitch at a comfortable angle. There’s a lot more heft in the aluminium covered keyboard, which offers a secure base for the keys. They have a great amount of travel for a convertible keyboard, there’s just enough resistance for me, and there’s almost no flexing in the entire assembly. The same is true for the track pad. It might be small – an occupational hazard of convertibles. but it is accurate, has a solid click, and can accommodate multi-touch with ease.

If you’re looking for a great typing experience, then the X2 keyboard offers that. It’s arguably the best part of the entire package.

Ewan Spence

HP Elite X2 (Image: Ewan Spence)

And of course the X2 has a stylus, which thankfully comes in the retail packaging. It’s slightly narrower than I expected but thanks to a little extra length feels comfortable and secure. Powered by a user-replaceable AAAA battery it uses active technology to increase the accuracy of the positioning. For note taking and basic UI work it’s accurate enough, but this is more for inking than artistic endeavours.

I’m not sold on the attachment mechanics. HP’s use of a fabric loop at the side of the keyboard feels like a last-minute bodge to the question of ‘where to keep the pen’, rather than something that was considered early enough in the design process. Something is included, which is good, but it’s a weak implementation.

There’s one last design point to note – the X2 is not a sealed unit. You do need to unscrew the back off the machine, but  you (or more accurately your IT department) can replace memory and storage, as well as replacing the screen. One day, all computers were like this, but in a large roll-out the ability for on-site repairs will be attractive.

Ewan Spence

HP Elite X2 (Image: Ewan Spence)

Security and serviceability show the commitment to enterprise. I’d argue that the robust construction also makes a contribution. Tested to the MIL-STD 810G standard, the Elite X2 is going to be able to absorb a lot of bumps and small impact damage as it gets thrown around during travel and transit as part of its working life. Although the keyboard can cover and protect the screen, there’s another layer of protection in the use of Gorilla Glass 4 . This is a machine designed to stand up to the rigours of a lot of business travel.

Specifications wise the Elite X2 is very slightly down on the ultimate top-specs you can find in this class, although there is still a lot of power here. No more Core-M from Intel, this is a full-throated Core i7-7600U backed up with 16GB of RAM. Performance is a little bit behind the Surface Pro, but then so is the price. That said the difference is very small, and the benefits of the package are found in other areas. A slightly faster machine with a poor keyboard is still going to be beaten thanks to the feedback from the keys of the Elite X2’s peripheral. That comfort  is a huge selling point. Add in the extra layers of security, the robustness offered in the construction, and the flexibility offered by a USB-C thunderbolt enabled port and aUSB 3.0 port, microSD expansion, and 4G connectivity to keep you connected at all times,

Ewan Spence

HP Elite X2 (Image: Ewan Spence)

HP’s Spectre range of computers are the ‘all-round’ machines and are rightly targeted at the consumer. The Elite brand is clearly focused on delivering a slightly more niche machine suitable for the enterprise market. The Elite X2 is a good corporate companion to the Elite x360, offering a superb experience for the end-user while appealing to the corporate mentality.

Now read my review of the HP Elite x360…

Disclaimer: HP supplied an Elite X2 for review purposes.

HP Elite X2 Review: Perfecting The 2 in 1 Windows 10 Business Notebook

With the rise of the convertible tablet style PC, led by Microsoft’s Surface Pro, HP has taken the styling and sensibilities of its Elite x360 enterprise laptop, and brought it into the new form factor. I’ve spent some time with the machine to find out where it excels.

Ewan Spence

HP Elite X2 (Image: Ewan Spence)

The obvious place to start with the Elite X2 is the Elitebook x360. I reviewed this laptop earlier in 2017. It adopted HP’s new approach to style but kept it in a subdued silver tone so it wasn’t too garish in the office. The package picked up top of the line hardware specifications, an increased focus on security (including secure booting, sandboxed web browsers, biometric ID, and more). It was an enterprise laptop with a focus on features and security.

The Elite X2 takes the very same approach, but instead of applying it to the laptop form factor, it applies it to the convertible 2 in 1. This HP machine sits comfortably alongside the Dell XPS 12 and Microsoft’s Surface Pro, but it stands out thanks to the focus on features specifically for the enterprise.

Ewan Spence

HP Elite X2 (Image: Ewan Spence)

It’s worth highlighting the security and the biometrics. Although Windows Hello is available, HP notes that this is less secure than its other primary method, the fingerprint sensor. Although there’s no space on the front of the display, HP has tucked the sensor into the rear of the tablet/screen. It is indented, but color matched, to the rear surface. It’s also really easy to find when the X2 is open. Curiously you’ll need to set up minimum of two fingerprints to use this, along with three backup questions that create a spare security key.

Using HP’s Sure Start, you can set up the X2 to request logon details (fingerprint or password) as the machine boots, i.e. before Windows 10 even starts. It can temporarily remember the credentials so you get automatically taken to the desktop, or you can leave the machine to prompt you at various stages such as the regular Windows 10 logon screen.

Ewan Spence

HP Elite X2 (Image: Ewan Spence)

Design wise there’s a lot of similarity to Microsoft’s Surface Pro range of convertibles – not surprising given that one part of the Surface design goals was to create a reference design on what can be achieved with Windows 10 in various form factors. HP doesn’t stray too far in terms of wacky design, instead making a number of decisions to improve from the starting point.

Rather than a full body flap that you see on the Pro, the X2 goes bezel-like approach of a long hinged, border. That gives a full length edge in contract with a table or other surface, while giving the X2 a distinctive look compared to the competition. The stand is leveraged out via a small cut-out for your finger, and is on a friction hinge that can be set at pretty much any angle for comfortable viewing. It feels solid, with more heft than the Surface Pro flap, and has enough friction that you can tap away on the touch screen with notable force and the package remains stable.

The detachable keyboard is even more of an improvement. It has a magnetic strip that connects and covers the large bezel at the base of the screen, putting the keyboard pitch at a comfortable angle. There’s a lot more heft in the aluminium covered keyboard, which offers a secure base for the keys. They have a great amount of travel for a convertible keyboard, there’s just enough resistance for me, and there’s almost no flexing in the entire assembly. The same is true for the track pad. It might be small – an occupational hazard of convertibles. but it is accurate, has a solid click, and can accommodate multi-touch with ease.

If you’re looking for a great typing experience, then the X2 keyboard offers that. It’s arguably the best part of the entire package.

Ewan Spence

HP Elite X2 (Image: Ewan Spence)

And of course the X2 has a stylus, which thankfully comes in the retail packaging. It’s slightly narrower than I expected but thanks to a little extra length feels comfortable and secure. Powered by a user-replaceable AAAA battery it uses active technology to increase the accuracy of the positioning. For note taking and basic UI work it’s accurate enough, but this is more for inking than artistic endeavours.

I’m not sold on the attachment mechanics. HP’s use of a fabric loop at the side of the keyboard feels like a last-minute bodge to the question of ‘where to keep the pen’, rather than something that was considered early enough in the design process. Something is included, which is good, but it’s a weak implementation.

There’s one last design point to note – the X2 is not a sealed unit. You do need to unscrew the back off the machine, but  you (or more accurately your IT department) can replace memory and storage, as well as replacing the screen. One day, all computers were like this, but in a large roll-out the ability for on-site repairs will be attractive.

Ewan Spence

HP Elite X2 (Image: Ewan Spence)

Security and serviceability show the commitment to enterprise. I’d argue that the robust construction also makes a contribution. Tested to the MIL-STD 810G standard, the Elite X2 is going to be able to absorb a lot of bumps and small impact damage as it gets thrown around during travel and transit as part of its working life. Although the keyboard can cover and protect the screen, there’s another layer of protection in the use of Gorilla Glass 4 . This is a machine designed to stand up to the rigours of a lot of business travel.

Specifications wise the Elite X2 is very slightly down on the ultimate top-specs you can find in this class, although there is still a lot of power here. No more Core-M from Intel, this is a full-throated Core i7-7600U backed up with 16GB of RAM. Performance is a little bit behind the Surface Pro, but then so is the price. That said the difference is very small, and the benefits of the package are found in other areas. A slightly faster machine with a poor keyboard is still going to be beaten thanks to the feedback from the keys of the Elite X2’s peripheral. That comfort  is a huge selling point. Add in the extra layers of security, the robustness offered in the construction, and the flexibility offered by a USB-C thunderbolt enabled port and aUSB 3.0 port, microSD expansion, and 4G connectivity to keep you connected at all times,

Ewan Spence

HP Elite X2 (Image: Ewan Spence)

HP’s Spectre range of computers are the ‘all-round’ machines and are rightly targeted at the consumer. The Elite brand is clearly focused on delivering a slightly more niche machine suitable for the enterprise market. The Elite X2 is a good corporate companion to the Elite x360, offering a superb experience for the end-user while appealing to the corporate mentality.

Now read my review of the HP Elite x360…

Disclaimer: HP supplied an Elite X2 for review purposes.

HP Elite X2 Review: Perfecting The 2 in 1 Windows 10 Business Notebook

With the rise of the convertible tablet style PC, led by Microsoft’s Surface Pro, HP has taken the styling and sensibilities of its Elite x360 enterprise laptop, and brought it into the new form factor. I’ve spent some time with the machine to find out where it excels.

Ewan Spence

HP Elite X2 (Image: Ewan Spence)

The obvious place to start with the Elite X2 is the Elitebook x360. I reviewed this laptop earlier in 2017. It adopted HP’s new approach to style but kept it in a subdued silver tone so it wasn’t too garish in the office. The package picked up top of the line hardware specifications, an increased focus on security (including secure booting, sandboxed web browsers, biometric ID, and more). It was an enterprise laptop with a focus on features and security.

The Elite X2 takes the very same approach, but instead of applying it to the laptop form factor, it applies it to the convertible 2 in 1. This HP machine sits comfortably alongside the Dell XPS 12 and Microsoft’s Surface Pro, but it stands out thanks to the focus on features specifically for the enterprise.

Ewan Spence

HP Elite X2 (Image: Ewan Spence)

It’s worth highlighting the security and the biometrics. Although Windows Hello is available, HP notes that this is less secure than its other primary method, the fingerprint sensor. Although there’s no space on the front of the display, HP has tucked the sensor into the rear of the tablet/screen. It is indented, but color matched, to the rear surface. It’s also really easy to find when the X2 is open. Curiously you’ll need to set up minimum of two fingerprints to use this, along with three backup questions that create a spare security key.

Using HP’s Sure Start, you can set up the X2 to request logon details (fingerprint or password) as the machine boots, i.e. before Windows 10 even starts. It can temporarily remember the credentials so you get automatically taken to the desktop, or you can leave the machine to prompt you at various stages such as the regular Windows 10 logon screen.

Ewan Spence

HP Elite X2 (Image: Ewan Spence)

Design wise there’s a lot of similarity to Microsoft’s Surface Pro range of convertibles – not surprising given that one part of the Surface design goals was to create a reference design on what can be achieved with Windows 10 in various form factors. HP doesn’t stray too far in terms of wacky design, instead making a number of decisions to improve from the starting point.

Rather than a full body flap that you see on the Pro, the X2 goes bezel-like approach of a long hinged, border. That gives a full length edge in contract with a table or other surface, while giving the X2 a distinctive look compared to the competition. The stand is leveraged out via a small cut-out for your finger, and is on a friction hinge that can be set at pretty much any angle for comfortable viewing. It feels solid, with more heft than the Surface Pro flap, and has enough friction that you can tap away on the touch screen with notable force and the package remains stable.

The detachable keyboard is even more of an improvement. It has a magnetic strip that connects and covers the large bezel at the base of the screen, putting the keyboard pitch at a comfortable angle. There’s a lot more heft in the aluminium covered keyboard, which offers a secure base for the keys. They have a great amount of travel for a convertible keyboard, there’s just enough resistance for me, and there’s almost no flexing in the entire assembly. The same is true for the track pad. It might be small – an occupational hazard of convertibles. but it is accurate, has a solid click, and can accommodate multi-touch with ease.

If you’re looking for a great typing experience, then the X2 keyboard offers that. It’s arguably the best part of the entire package.

Ewan Spence

HP Elite X2 (Image: Ewan Spence)

And of course the X2 has a stylus, which thankfully comes in the retail packaging. It’s slightly narrower than I expected but thanks to a little extra length feels comfortable and secure. Powered by a user-replaceable AAAA battery it uses active technology to increase the accuracy of the positioning. For note taking and basic UI work it’s accurate enough, but this is more for inking than artistic endeavours.

I’m not sold on the attachment mechanics. HP’s use of a fabric loop at the side of the keyboard feels like a last-minute bodge to the question of ‘where to keep the pen’, rather than something that was considered early enough in the design process. Something is included, which is good, but it’s a weak implementation.

There’s one last design point to note – the X2 is not a sealed unit. You do need to unscrew the back off the machine, but  you (or more accurately your IT department) can replace memory and storage, as well as replacing the screen. One day, all computers were like this, but in a large roll-out the ability for on-site repairs will be attractive.

Ewan Spence

HP Elite X2 (Image: Ewan Spence)

Security and serviceability show the commitment to enterprise. I’d argue that the robust construction also makes a contribution. Tested to the MIL-STD 810G standard, the Elite X2 is going to be able to absorb a lot of bumps and small impact damage as it gets thrown around during travel and transit as part of its working life. Although the keyboard can cover and protect the screen, there’s another layer of protection in the use of Gorilla Glass 4 . This is a machine designed to stand up to the rigours of a lot of business travel.

Specifications wise the Elite X2 is very slightly down on the ultimate top-specs you can find in this class, although there is still a lot of power here. No more Core-M from Intel, this is a full-throated Core i7-7600U backed up with 16GB of RAM. Performance is a little bit behind the Surface Pro, but then so is the price. That said the difference is very small, and the benefits of the package are found in other areas. A slightly faster machine with a poor keyboard is still going to be beaten thanks to the feedback from the keys of the Elite X2’s peripheral. That comfort  is a huge selling point. Add in the extra layers of security, the robustness offered in the construction, and the flexibility offered by a USB-C thunderbolt enabled port and aUSB 3.0 port, microSD expansion, and 4G connectivity to keep you connected at all times,

Ewan Spence

HP Elite X2 (Image: Ewan Spence)

HP’s Spectre range of computers are the ‘all-round’ machines and are rightly targeted at the consumer. The Elite brand is clearly focused on delivering a slightly more niche machine suitable for the enterprise market. The Elite X2 is a good corporate companion to the Elite x360, offering a superb experience for the end-user while appealing to the corporate mentality.

Now read my review of the HP Elite x360…

Disclaimer: HP supplied an Elite X2 for review purposes.

Your 2017 Wrapped by Spotify is a musical year in review with a new custom playlist

One of the best things about the music streaming service Spotify is the platform’s incredible ability to customize itself to the listener. Its automatically generated playlists are second to none, making it easy to find new music you like. The holidays are also a special time for Spotify listeners, as we get to look back at the last year’s listening habits in the form of customized playlists, and this year Spotify has turned it into an interactive experience: Your 2017 Wrapped

94bf2_nexus2cee_Your_2017_Wrapped_-_Google_Chrome_2017-12-06_16-59-43-668x362 Your 2017 Wrapped by Spotify is a musical year in review with a new custom playlist

The new Your 2017 Wrapped is an animated analysis that plugs itself into your Spotify account data and provides you with some fun facts about your personal listening habits. You get a complete survey of the music you listened to for the last year in an interactive format, as well as two customized playlists (Your Top Songs 2017 and The Ones That Got Away) to cap off the end of 2017.

94bf2_nexus2cee_Your_2017_Wrapped_-_Google_Chrome_2017-12-06_16-59-43-668x362 Your 2017 Wrapped by Spotify is a musical year in review with a new custom playlist 94bf2_nexus2cee_Your_2017_Wrapped_-_Google_Chrome_2017-12-06_16-59-43-668x362 Your 2017 Wrapped by Spotify is a musical year in review with a new custom playlist

Your 2017 Wrapped splash screen (left) and section (right) in Spotify for Android

You should see an invitation to check out the new playlists sometime soon when you open the Spotify app on Android, and the interactive site works for both desktop and mobile. Each playlist should appear in the “Made For You” section in the Spotify Home tab, and a new Wrapped section containing both of the new playlists should also be present in Genres Moods.

94bf2_nexus2cee_Your_2017_Wrapped_-_Google_Chrome_2017-12-06_16-59-43-668x362 Your 2017 Wrapped by Spotify is a musical year in review with a new custom playlist

Your 2017 Wrapped is divided into 7 sections. “Keep Discovering,” the first section, shows off your total statistics like minutes of music played and the total number of songs played. “Be self-aware” is a fun quiz about your listening habits over the course of the year. As the section’s title suggests, it requires a bit of self-awareness to get all the questions right.

Other sections point to specific facts like the number of songs you skip or how your genre tastes align with different age groups on Spotify. You can even share your stats via Facebook or Twitter. But the two sections most likely to provide lasting entertainment are the custom playlists.

94bf2_nexus2cee_Your_2017_Wrapped_-_Google_Chrome_2017-12-06_16-59-43-668x362 Your 2017 Wrapped by Spotify is a musical year in review with a new custom playlist

The Your Top Songs 2017 playlist is pretty much the same as last year’s incarnation but updated for 2017. You get your most played ~100 songs across all genres and interested on one list. If you’d like an example, you can check out my 2017 playlist, but you should get the idea.

94bf2_nexus2cee_Your_2017_Wrapped_-_Google_Chrome_2017-12-06_16-59-43-668x362 Your 2017 Wrapped by Spotify is a musical year in review with a new custom playlist

The other playlist, however, is entirely new. It’s called “The Ones That Got Away,” and it contains 30 songs that should be relevant to your interests but which, for whatever reason, you didn’t play on Spotify. In my case, some of the music was stuff I had heard but just hadn’t listened to via Spotify, but that speaks to the playlist’s accuracy.

If you’re a Spotify subscriber, be sure to go check out Your 2017 Unwrapped and see how well you know your own tastes. I wasn’t too surprised to find out which songs and artists I listened to most, but your results might be a bit more interesting. And even if you don’t dig the data or quizzes, the new playlists should provide you with both some new recommendations and a concise musical retrospective of the year.

Happy 2017.

Apple iPhone dominates Flickr’s year in review as top brand, largest camera supplier


 

The iPhone dominates all other manufacturers and devices on Flickr’s annual year in review roundup, with all of the service’s top 10 devices in use occupied by various iPhone models.

5e0a6_23926-30815-Screen-Shot-2017-12-06-at-73918-PM-l Apple iPhone dominates Flickr's year in review as top brand, largest camera supplier

In the annual roundup of photography and cameras published by Flickr on Thursday, the iPhone held 54 percent of the top 100 device spots. The most popular phones worldwide were the iPhone 6, the iPhone 6s, and the iPhone 5s in first through third places.

The smartphone continues to push out point-and-shoot devices. In general, smartphones grew to 50 percent of all the photos uploaded to Flickr, up from 48 percent in 2016. DSLR cameras grew to 33 percent, up from 25 percent, with point and shoot dropping to 12 percent from 21 percent.

5e0a6_23926-30815-Screen-Shot-2017-12-06-at-73918-PM-l Apple iPhone dominates Flickr's year in review as top brand, largest camera supplier

Following Apple, Canon was the second largest brand used by photographers on Flickr, responsible for 23 percent of the top 100 devices. Nikon was the third most popular brand of 2017, with 18 percent.

For photo selection, Flickr started with an algorithm that calculated the top photos based on a number of social and engagement metrics, including how many times the photo was viewed, favorited, or shared. Flickr staff curated that raw data using a method that it did not disclose to avoid having the results be overly impacted by a user’s popularity. Flickr also limited selections to one photo per photographer.

In conjunction with the device rankings, and the top 25 pictures across all nations and categories Flickr has posted galleries of the top 25 photos for the United States, Canada, the U.K. and other nations. Other galleries for top nature photography, best macro shots, and street photographyhave also been assembled.

Fluently Calendar for Windows 10 Review: A nostalgic throwback to wall calendars

d1df6_Fluently-closeup_0 Fluently Calendar for Windows 10 Review: A nostalgic throwback to wall calendars

Fluently for Windows 10 is a calendar for those yearning for the days of writing their appointments with a marker and paper.

Fluently creates a digital canvas for each day on your calendar. You can draw or write information about your appointments and use a variety of tools to keep your plans organized. The app is centered around inking but you also have the option to draw your plans by hand.

The app is available for free on Windows 10. To unlock the full version and remove ads you need to spend $0.99.

See in Microsoft Store

Features and design

d1df6_Fluently-closeup_0 Fluently Calendar for Windows 10 Review: A nostalgic throwback to wall calendars

Fluently earns its name from its implementation of Fluent Design elements within Windows 10. The title bar and toolbar are transparent and the app is very minimalist. It doesn’t have hover effects or the more intricate aspects of the Fluent Design style but it looks very nice and is easy to navigate. You have options for a digital pen or pencil as well as a highlighter with a variety of color options. You also can use a digital ruler which is very handy for underlining items on your calendar.

Each day is a blank digital canvas with a lot of screen real estate. It’s your day to fill with your notes — so if you’ve got a lot to do on Thursday, I suggest writing it small.

The downside of Fluently is that this is all it does. It doesn’t integrate with any other calendar apps like Outlook and won’t sync over to your phone. You can save days to use on other devices but that isn’t the same as a synced calendar.

Can it replace your other calendars?

d1df6_Fluently-closeup_0 Fluently Calendar for Windows 10 Review: A nostalgic throwback to wall calendars

Fluently is a simple app that allows you to ink your calendar events rather than type them in. This is a welcome change but its usefulness depends greatly on how you intend to use it. Fluently is not going to replace Outlook or Google Calendar as a powerful cross-platform calendar app, but in its current state is isn’t trying to do that. If you’re looking for a basic calendar where you can organize your thoughts and add handwritten notes then Fluently could be a nice tool. Additionally, Fluently could be used in conjunction with other calendar apps where the more powerful one reminds you of your appointments and Fluently lets you add details by hand of your days.

Overall thoughts

d1df6_Fluently-closeup_0 Fluently Calendar for Windows 10 Review: A nostalgic throwback to wall calendars

Fluently is a refreshing thought when it comes to calendars. It could work very well on home devices and shared PCs where a family wants to record notes and multiple events on their calendar. It isn’t powerful enough to replace other calendar apps by itself in most scenarios but could be a nice companion app.

Decent

3/5
d1df6_Fluently-closeup_0 Fluently Calendar for Windows 10 Review: A nostalgic throwback to wall calendarsd1df6_Fluently-closeup_0 Fluently Calendar for Windows 10 Review: A nostalgic throwback to wall calendarsd1df6_Fluently-closeup_0 Fluently Calendar for Windows 10 Review: A nostalgic throwback to wall calendarsd1df6_Fluently-closeup_0 Fluently Calendar for Windows 10 Review: A nostalgic throwback to wall calendarsd1df6_Fluently-closeup_0 Fluently Calendar for Windows 10 Review: A nostalgic throwback to wall calendars

See in Microsoft Store

Tech review: You paid a ton for your iPhone. How much protection does it need?

Circleville, OH

(43113)

Today

Sunshine and clouds mixed. High 34F. Winds W at 10 to 20 mph..

Tonight

Some clouds this evening will give way to mainly clear skies overnight. Low 19F. Winds W at 5 to 10 mph.

Updated: December 7, 2017 @ 5:34 am

OnePlus 5T India review: Hitting all the right notes

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Deal: Buy 3 Months, Get 3 Free. Unlimited Talk, Text.
Plans from $15/month

Review: The Eve V computer is promising, but mostly misguided

Beware of group-think. It can lead to bad choices and circular logic. The wisdom of the crowd might help you solve a difficult puzzle, but it won’t necessarily lead to better choices or products.

For EVE, the puzzle was how to build the Surface Pro-style 2-in-1 computer of their dreams, while undercutting Microsoft on price.

EVE’s team of just 8 employees tapped into a community of 1,000 developers around the world and a larger EVE community of over 6,000 members to decide each specification. The result is a solidly-built, attractive, and generally performant computer that packs impressive power and battery life into an extraordinarily affordable package.

The EVE V starts at the same base price as the Microsoft Surface Pro: $799 for a Core m3 system, but EVE throws in the keyboard and pen, a $228 value. The system I tested was running an 8th-generation Core i7 processor with 16 GB of RAM and a half terabyte hard drive. The list price is $1,599. A similarly configured Surface Pro starts at $2,199, and that’s without the Type Cover Keyboard and Surface Pen.

And if price were your only consideration, the EVE V would be an all-out winner. It’s not.

Something’s different 

The EVE V laptop has all the earmarks of a Surface Pro. The thin HD display, fully adjustable kickstand, detachable keyboard and Bluetooth stylus. It runs Windows 10. There is a plethora of ports: two USB-C ports (two more than the Surface Pro has), two USB-3 ports (one more than the Surface Pro) and, like the Surface, a micro-SD card slot for storage expansion.

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The EVE V back is a bit of a fingerprint magnet.

Image: LANCE ULANOFF/MASHABLE

e6c79_https%253A%252F%252Fblueprint-api-production.s3.amazonaws.com%252Fuploads%252Fcard%252Fimage%252F668465%252F57c226b8-6062-45c3-96e9-f00c84df59c7 Review: The Eve V computer is promising, but mostly misguided

It’s a little thick and a little heavy.

The display is slightly smaller than the Surface Pro’s, with more unsightly black bezel around the edge, but it’s also higher resolution (2880×1920). There are also HD-capable cameras on the front and back.

While the Eve V lacks the front-facing infrared camera to enable Windows Hello facial recognition and authentication, it does have a finger print reader hidden on the right edge of the screen that doubles as a power button. It sits right above the volume rocker button.

e6c79_https%253A%252F%252Fblueprint-api-production.s3.amazonaws.com%252Fuploads%252Fcard%252Fimage%252F668465%252F57c226b8-6062-45c3-96e9-f00c84df59c7 Review: The Eve V computer is promising, but mostly misguided

The EVE V has decent speakers and powerful far-field microphones.

Image: LANCE ULANOFF/MASHABLE

It all sounds good, but thanks to the the brilliant crowd, the Eve V features several bizarre design decisions that ultimately hobbled this otherwise decent machine.

As soon as I picked up the machine, I was shocked by its heft. The tablet alone weighs over 2 pounds. That’s at least a quarter heavier than the Surface Pro. Even the keyboard is considerably heavier than its Type Cover counterpart. In total, it all makes the Eve V a noticeably heavier system than you might expect with an ultra-portable 2-in-1. The extra weight also messed with the “lapability” of the system. I worked with the EVE V on my lap for a couple of hours and noticed how the edge of the kickstand was digging uncomfortably into my legs.

e6c79_https%253A%252F%252Fblueprint-api-production.s3.amazonaws.com%252Fuploads%252Fcard%252Fimage%252F668465%252F57c226b8-6062-45c3-96e9-f00c84df59c7 Review: The Eve V computer is promising, but mostly misguided

Yes, the keyboard is too thick, but at least you can change the color of the back-lighting.

Image: LANCE ULANOFF/MASHABLE

There is good reason for all this weight. In its wisdom, the EVE V hive-mind decided it was willing to add a couple of millimeters here and there (in the display and keyboard) to accommodate more battery. 

Before you applaud this foresight, let me make it clear that you are not getting an extra day of battery life. All that extra weight equates to, maybe, a few hours (I got almost 12 hours of battery life with full screen brightness).

My preference is for ultra portable manufacturers to achieve battery savings though efficient components and smart programming. If I wanted a heavier system with a lot more battery life, but some of the Surface DNA, I’d switch to the Surface Book 2 (13 or 15-inch). It’s a heavy beast, but at least I have tons of battery life and discrete graphics.

The keyboard is more evidence of the sometimes-confounding group-think nature of this device. 

e6c79_https%253A%252F%252Fblueprint-api-production.s3.amazonaws.com%252Fuploads%252Fcard%252Fimage%252F668465%252F57c226b8-6062-45c3-96e9-f00c84df59c7 Review: The Eve V computer is promising, but mostly misguided

Typing is easy on this keyboard, but let me know if you can find the “Backspace” key.

Image: LANCE ULANOFF/MASHABLE

Generally, I like the keyboard. It has decent travel, and though the keystroke feel is a bit mushy, the keys are well spaced. It even has customizable backlighting, I can switch between seven different color options. However, I quickly noticed that the “V” key is an inverted rectangle and “Backspace” says, “Oops!” 

Seriously. 

I’m all for being cheeky, but don’t mess with my keys unless you don’t expect people to be doing real work on this system.

The touchpad is small, but effective. Despite the thicker keyboard, it doesn’t travel as far as the trackpad on my Surface Pro Type Cover.

My last complaint about the keyboard is that it does not ably flip around to the back of the display for easy conversion into a handheld tablet without detaching from the screen. That’s just not how these things are supposed to work.

Boot me up

While I miss the ability to unlock my PC with my face, the EVE V’s fingerprint sensor is a decent substitute. It’s a little hard to find by feel, but the more I used the computer, the more I got used to putting my finger in the right spot on the side of the computer.

e6c79_https%253A%252F%252Fblueprint-api-production.s3.amazonaws.com%252Fuploads%252Fcard%252Fimage%252F668465%252F57c226b8-6062-45c3-96e9-f00c84df59c7 Review: The Eve V computer is promising, but mostly misguided

It’s hard to spot (and to feel), but there is a fingerprint sensor here

Image: LANCE ULANOFF/MASHABLE

Overall, though, the fingerprint reader/power button and long volume control button right below it feels a little unfinished. In fact, I’m not a big fan of most of the materials used here. I admit. Microsoft’s frequent use of magnesium has spoiled me. The EVE V metal chassis doesn’t feel great and, oddly, is a fingerprint magnet.

Aside from these many nits, the EVE V is a decent Windows 10 System.

e6c79_https%253A%252F%252Fblueprint-api-production.s3.amazonaws.com%252Fuploads%252Fcard%252Fimage%252F668465%252F57c226b8-6062-45c3-96e9-f00c84df59c7 Review: The Eve V computer is promising, but mostly misguided

Unlike Microsoft, EVE didn’t hesitate on the USB-C ports.

Image: LANCE ULANOFF/MASHABLE

It handled all tasks I threw at it and I was especially impressed with the responsiveness of the pen and screen interactions. The tip of the thin, black stylus glides across the screen. Unfortunately, there’s a little more lag between drawing on the screen and the digital ink dropping down on the page. From what I can tell, EVE V is not matching the Surface Pro’s 20 millisecond latency.

e6c79_https%253A%252F%252Fblueprint-api-production.s3.amazonaws.com%252Fuploads%252Fcard%252Fimage%252F668465%252F57c226b8-6062-45c3-96e9-f00c84df59c7 Review: The Eve V computer is promising, but mostly misguided

I like the feel of the pen (and that it’s included in the price), but I wish it held onto the side of the EVE V screen a little more tightly.

e6c79_https%253A%252F%252Fblueprint-api-production.s3.amazonaws.com%252Fuploads%252Fcard%252Fimage%252F668465%252F57c226b8-6062-45c3-96e9-f00c84df59c7 Review: The Eve V computer is promising, but mostly misguided

Drawing on the EVE V feels great, though, there is more lag than I found on the Surface Pro.

When I was done drawing, I placed the pen on the right edge of the screen where somewhat weak magnets struggled to hold it in place. Lacking the flat edge of the Surface Pen, the EVE V’s pen appears designed to be lost.

Why buy it

If you want approximate Surface Pro functionality, a bunch of useful ports and can live with the tradeoff of weight, polish and smart feature choices, it’s hard to find a better value that this. I have long said that it’s time for Microsoft to offer a decent Surface Pro, Type Cover and Surface Pen bundle deal, to which they have responded with resounding silence. The EVE V shows us what’s possible at a much more affordable price.

I fully expect EVE V version 2 to improve in all the areas it lags, especially if they stop listening to the crowd. I also expect, by then, a response from Microsoft.

EVE V Computer

The Good

Excellent value Effective fingerprint reader Gorgeous screen

The Bad

Materials could be better Keyboard substitutions not welcome Too thick and heavy

The Bottom Line

EVE’s V Computer is a good start on the affordable Surface Pro-style computer, but the crowd-influenced design and features are not winning.

WATCH: Check out Microsoft’s latest, sleekest Surface Pro

Xiaomi Redmi 5A review: The truly affordable Android phone raises the bar

When it comes to budget smartphones around Rs5,000 there are very few good options for buyers. Xiaomi Redmi 4A, launched in April 2017, stood out due to its good display and steady performance. Now the Chinese phonemaker has come with its successor, Redmi 5A. It starts at Rs5,999 for the 2GB RAM+16GB storage variant, but the first five lakh units of the will be available at Rs4,999. The slightly more powerful 3GB+32GB variant will cost Rs6,999. The first round of sales on Amazon.in and Mi.com starts from 7 December 2017.

Here are the seven critical elements that you need to know about the new Xiaomi Redmi 5A before you decide to spend on one:

■ Like most of the recent Xiaomi smartphones, the Redmi 5A has a metal body. It is a refreshing change from phones with plastic exterior which still dominate the segment. The physical buttons are made of metal too, but feel a bit stiff. The closest competitor to it in terms of looks is another Xiaomi smartphone, the Redmi 4, which starts at Rs6,999.

■The Redmi 5A weighs just 137g, which is impressive for this screen size, and would fit comfortably into small hands due to its compact size. The other good news is that the phone has dedicated microSD slot, so you can use the two nano SIM trays and the microSD card side by side. Most unibody smartphones have hybrid SIM trays which club microSD slot on one of the SIM trays.

■ There is no finger-print sensor on the Xiaomi Redmi 5A, which means one will have to type the password or draw the pattern to unlock the phone. Finger print sensor is no longer unusual in sub Rs5,000 smartphones. The likes of Karbonn K9 Kavach (Rs4,749) and Reach Allure Secure (Rs4,999) have it. Also, we don’t like the position of the speaker on the Redmi 5A. It is placed on the back which suppressed sound when you are holding the phone in hand or placed on the bed.

■The Redmi 5A has a good looking display with resolution of 1,280x720p, which makes it a better bet than rivals, many of which still offer resolution of 800x480p at most. Texts in webpages look crisp enough for casual reading, while colours in videos and games look slightly oversaturated, but not the point where it would hurt your eyes. At this price point, most screens look washed out, unrealistic and suffer from visibility issues from add angles. That is not the case with the Redmi 5A.

■ Xiaomi hasn’t used a new processor in the Redmi 5A. It runs on the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 425 quad-core processor, clocking at 1.4GHz, that was seen in the predecessor. It is clubbed with 2GB RAM in the 16GB variant and 3GB RAM in the 32GB variant. This is not a very powerful processor but has proved to adequate for casual users with limited requirements. We would still recommend the 3GB variant as the MIUI is a resource intensive user interface and can get sluggish if there are many apps open in the background. Gaming is not its strong point. We noticed frame drops with games such as Shadow Fight 3.

■ This is the first smartphone in India to offer Xiaomi’s new MIUI 9 interface out of the box. It runs on top of Android 7.1.2 (Nougat). It is a bit disappointing to see a new smartphone being launched with an older version of Android, but Xiaomi has never been the early adopters of the latest version of Android. Some of the promised features of MIUI 9 such as the App Vault is still not available, though.

■ The camera quality in most budget smartphones is abysmal. The Redmi 5A’s 13-megapixel snapper is slightly better placed. It lacks the detail that a mid range smartphone camera can muster, but impresses with its clarity and colours in well-lit conditions. Also, it offers plenty of options for users to play around with such as the Beautify, Tilt shift, audio in photo and timer modes.

iPhone X Review Update After One Month: 5 Ways To Master The X And Face ID

Credit: Apple

iPhone X: Face ID setup.

The iPhone X gets better over time. With a little know-how, most (but not all) of my initial quibbles vanished.

Here’s an update after using the phone for almost a month constantly with a focus on tips that have improved the experience.

Face ID: partial resolution

Face ID is the defining feature of the iPhone X. So it’s got to be easy to use. 

Original quibble: must keep picking up the phone to ID my face. Would prefer to keep it flat on the desk.

Resolution: this isn’t a “satisfaction-guaranteed” solution but it helps. Set up Face ID (in “Settings” — “Face ID Passcode”) so it sees your face from below. In other words, hold the phone below your face — not straight on — when setting up. Then toggle off “Require Attention for Face ID”* in the Face ID settings. The upshot is, you can leave the phone flat on a desk and it will ID your face. It it works for me and has been getting better over time (see “Boost Face ID accuracy” below).

Problem is, Touch ID is better in this case, i.e., it’s easier to just reach over and tap the Touch ID button on phones like the iPhone 8 (imo).

If this is a deal killer (as it is apparently for some), get the iPhone 8. It’s not a deal-killer for me but would prefer that Apple update the next-gen iPhone X with a Touch ID button integrated into the glass or a good software-based ID button.

And note that some PCs, like the HP EliteBook X360 that I’m using, have both facial and fingerprint recognition. Having both helps a lot.

Credit: Apple

Face ID can be used for purchases.

Boost Face ID accuracy: resolved

Original quibble: Face ID can be slower than Touch ID.

Resolution: Because Face ID is so important, it’s worth using every trick available to make it as fast as possible (without compromising security of course). When Face ID fails to recognize your face, it prompts for a passcode. Every time it fails and forces you to enter your passcode, Apple’s “mathematical representation” of your face improves.

I wasn’t aware of this at first. So, I now make sure to type in my passcode when, for example, the iPhone X is flat on the desk and Face ID tries to recognize my face from an angle but fails. And, yes, it improves over time.

Credit: Brooke Crothers

iPhone X: virtual home button (at bottom of screen).

Home button: partial resolution

Original quibble: there is no home button on the X. 

Resolution: virtual home button. Go into Settings — General — Accessibility — AssistiveTouch. Turn on AssistiveTouch and, voila, a virtual home button appears with access to Notifications, Control Center etc.

You can drag the virtual home button down so it sits at the bottom of the screen like a real home button. Problem, it’s (obviously) not a full-fledged home button.

Credit: Apple

iPhone X: app switching.

App switching: resolved

Original quibble: initiating app switching was slow.

Solution: don’t just swipe up (what I was doing before) but swipe up and to the right or left. That launches the app switcher (app cards) immediately.

Also, if you’re in an app and want to switch to another, just swipe up (maybe better described as “drag up”) to the middle of the screen and that launches the app switcher.

Quit apps: resolved

Original quibble: not fast enough.

Solution: once you see the app cards just tap on any app and a red circle (with a white line through the middle) appears at the top left of the card. Then just swipe up on the app you want to quit.

Extra tips — side button/power switch: the big side button (on right) is pretty versatile. Push volume-up button (left) and side button (right) simultaneously and it takes a screen shot. Hold both buttons, and it brings up the “slide to power off” screen.

Another tip: hold the button to launch Siri. Note that many users figure this out right away because they mistakenly hold it thinking that it will power down the X. It doesn’t, as pointed out in the paragraph above.

The button is also used for authenticating Apple Pay. You’re prompted to double tap on the button when using Apple Pay.

—-

*Toggling off “Require Attention for Face ID” turns off an additional level of security so some may prefer to leave this on.

iPhone X Tips And Review Update After One Month: 5 Ways To Master The X And Face ID

Credit: Apple

iPhone X: Face ID setup.

The iPhone X gets better over time. With a little know-how, most (but not all) of my initial quibbles vanished.

Here’s an update after using the phone for almost a month constantly with a focus on tips that have improved the experience.

Face ID: partial resolution

Face ID is the defining feature of the iPhone X. So it’s got to be easy to use. 

Original quibble: must keep picking up the phone to ID my face. Would prefer to keep it flat on the desk.

Resolution: this isn’t a “satisfaction-guaranteed” solution but it helps. Set up Face ID (in “Settings” — “Face ID Passcode”) so it sees your face from below. In other words, hold the phone below your face — not straight on — when setting up. Then toggle off “Require Attention for Face ID”* in the Face ID settings. The upshot is, you can leave the phone flat on a desk and it will ID your face. It it works for me and has been getting better over time (see “Boost Face ID accuracy” below).

Problem is, Touch ID is better in this case, i.e., it’s easier to just reach over and tap the Touch ID button on phones like the iPhone 8 (imo).

If this is a deal killer (as it is apparently for some), get the iPhone 8. It’s not a deal-killer for me but would prefer that Apple update the next-gen iPhone X with a Touch ID button integrated into the glass or a good software-based ID button.

And note that some PCs, like the HP EliteBook X360 that I’m using, have both facial and fingerprint recognition. Having both helps a lot.

Credit: Apple

Face ID can be used for purchases.

Boost Face ID accuracy: resolved

Original quibble: Face ID can be slower than Touch ID.

Resolution: Because Face ID is so important, it’s worth using every trick available to make it as fast as possible (without compromising security of course). When Face ID fails to recognize your face, it prompts for a passcode. Every time it fails and forces you to enter your passcode, Apple’s “mathematical representation” of your face improves.

I wasn’t aware of this at first. So, I now make sure to type in my passcode when, for example, the iPhone X is flat on the desk and Face ID tries to recognize my face from an angle but fails. And, yes, it improves over time.

Credit: Brooke Crothers

iPhone X: virtual home button (at bottom of screen).

Home button: partial resolution

Original quibble: there is no home button on the X. 

Resolution: virtual home button. Go into Settings — General — Accessibility — AssistiveTouch. Turn on AssistiveTouch and, voila, a virtual home button appears with access to Notifications, Control Center etc.

You can drag the virtual home button down so it sits at the bottom of the screen like a real home button. Problem, it’s (obviously) not a full-fledged home button.

Credit: Apple

iPhone X: app switching.

App switching: resolved

Original quibble: initiating app switching was slow.

Solution: don’t just swipe up (what I was doing before) but swipe up and to the right or left. That launches the app switcher (app cards) immediately.

Also, if you’re in an app and want to switch to another, just swipe up (maybe better described as “drag up”) to the middle of the screen and that launches the app switcher.

Quit apps: resolved

Original quibble: not fast enough.

Solution: once you see the app cards just tap on any app and a red circle (with a white line through the middle) appears at the top left of the card. Then just swipe up on the app you want to quit.

Extra tips — side button/power switch: the big side button (on right) is pretty versatile. Push volume-up button (left) and side button (right) simultaneously and it takes a screen shot. Hold both buttons, and it brings up the “slide to power off” screen.

Another tip: hold the button to launch Siri. Note that many users figure this out right away because they mistakenly hold it thinking that it will power down the X. It doesn’t, as pointed out in the paragraph above.

The button is also used for authenticating Apple Pay. You’re prompted to double tap on the button when using Apple Pay.

—-

*Toggling off “Require Attention for Face ID” turns off an additional level of security so some may prefer to leave this on.

Ticwatch S Review by MrMobile: Android Wear on the cheap

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Deal: Buy 3 Months, Get 3 Free. Unlimited Talk, Text.
Plans from $15/month

iPhone X review: A very expensive peek into Apple’s future – ABS

 iPhone X review: A very expensive peek into Apple's future - ABS iPhone X review: A very expensive peek into Apple's future - ABS
An iPhone X is seen on a large video screen in the new Apple Visitor Center in Cupertino, California, US, November 17, 2017. Elijah Nouvelage, Reuters

MANILA – Apple offers its best camera, screen and software yet on the iPhone X, but in a very expensive shell that feels small and unfinished compared to the Android competition.

California-based Apple likes to market its products with consumer-accessible terms that hide the fact that the competition has been offering it for years, and the tenth anniversary iPhone is no different.

The “super retina” display is actually OLED, the same technology used in Samsung’s Galaxy and Note lines. But this doesn’t mean that the screen is no less vibrant.

The deeper reds and blacks are immediately noticeable on the X if you’re coming from an older iPhone. Text is also sharper and the screen is brighter, even at under 50 percent brightness.

On paper, the near bezel-less 5.8-inch screen is larger than the 5.5-inch iPhone Plus line, but it seems smaller because most content shot on 16:9 get cropped on the X’s slimmer and taller screen with a 18:9 aspect ratio.

It’s a change that brings to mind the jump from the iPhone 4s to the taller 5, the first iPhone Apple released after the death of its visionary founder, Steve Jobs.

The X is bigger than the 8, but is dwarfed by the Galaxy S8 Plus, the Galaxy Note 8, even Google’s Pixel 2 XL.

WHAT’S IT LIKE TO USE

The biggest change comes when you try to exit an app. Without the home button, a trademark feature since the first iPhone in 2007, users need to swipe up from the bottom of the screen to call up the home screen.

A swipe to the right on the bottom of the screen activates the app switcher. This used to require a quick double tap of the home button.

A swipe down from the top right summons the control center with WiFi, Bluetooth, mobile data and music controls while a swipe down from the left brings back the lock screen with notifications.

The purely swipe-based interface is jarring at first, but it’s not that hard to get used to. It’s actually similar to the ill-fated Blackberry 10 operating system.

The notch on the top of the screen, which houses the front facing camera and face-mapping sensors, is polarizing. You get used to it after a while but becomes a nuisance when watching videos on landscape, like the Avengers: Infinity War trailer.

 iPhone X review: A very expensive peek into Apple's future - ABS iPhone X review: A very expensive peek into Apple's future - ABS
The iPhone X display is shown in this photo. ABS-CBN News

Face ID was spotty in our tests. It worked in good lighting, even with eyeglasses on, but not in the dark, or when lying in bed.

The novelty of the animoji, where on-screen animations mimic the user’s facial expressions, disappears quickly, much like the live messaging feature on the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.

The camera is the best yet on the iPhone producing images with vivid colors while sticking close to the subject, unlike Samsung cameras that tend to oversaturate colors.

The simulated lighting effects on portrait mode are clearly in beta and in our tests didn’t work well when the lighting was either too bright or too dark. The feature is available on both the front and back cameras on the X.

Battery life is better that the non-plus iPhone, enough to last the entire the day with moderate to heavy usage, but definitely not at par with the Plus variant.

 iPhone X review: A very expensive peek into Apple's future - ABS iPhone X review: A very expensive peek into Apple's future - ABS
A test shot on the iPhone X. ABS-CBN News
 iPhone X review: A very expensive peek into Apple's future - ABS iPhone X review: A very expensive peek into Apple's future - ABS
A test shot on the iPhone X. ABS-CBN News
 iPhone X review: A very expensive peek into Apple's future - ABS iPhone X review: A very expensive peek into Apple's future - ABS
A test shot on the iPhone X. ABS-CBN News
 iPhone X review: A very expensive peek into Apple's future - ABS iPhone X review: A very expensive peek into Apple's future - ABS
A test shot on the iPhone X. ABS-CBN News
 iPhone X review: A very expensive peek into Apple's future - ABS iPhone X review: A very expensive peek into Apple's future - ABS
A test shot on the iPhone X. ABS-CBN News
 iPhone X review: A very expensive peek into Apple's future - ABS iPhone X review: A very expensive peek into Apple's future - ABS
A test shot on the iPhone X. ABS-CBN News

CONCLUSION

The iPhone X is a big leap in design and features compared to the line.

It has a gorgeous screen, unlocks with a glance, charges wirelessly and takes professional-looking photos.

But these features have been available for years on Google-powered phones. And with Chinese manufacturers cramming the most features at the lowest possible price, the X’s asking price of P64,490 seems outrageous.

The price, however, will not be much of a concern for Apple fans, as grey market units have sold for P90,000 ahead of the official Philippine release on Friday.

At P51,490 for the 64GB model, the iPhone 8 Plus packs the same technology and with the familiar home button and appears to be the smarter upgrade if you are deep in the iOS ecosystem.

The iPhone 7 Plus, which starts at P42,990 is an even better buy if you can live with last year’s technology.

Apple is reportedly planning a bigger iPhone X successor in 2018, which will hopefully see a better placement of the front sensors and more intuitive swipe gestures.

In many ways, the iPhone X feels like a device to tide people over until Apple finds a way to cram all its a tech in a larger body. But that will also likely supersize the price.

The iPhone Upgrade Program: A Year in Review

I now have an iPhone X and have returned my iPhone 7 Plus, thus completing one full cycle of Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Program, and I thought I’d share my impressions and answer any questions you may have.

For those out of the loop on the iPhone Upgrade Program, here’s a quick refresher: in the United States, cell phones used to be sold via carrier on a two-year contract. You’d get the phone at a cheap, subsidized price, usually $200 or so, and would pay off the rest of the phone’s cost as part of the service fee for the next two years.

Carriers tired of this approach, and after T-Mobile successfully implemented an installment plan for buying the iPhone 5 in 2013, the industry began phasing out subsidized phones and contract service.

Some pundits, like Jay Yarrow, formerly of Business Insider, claimed that this would doom Apple. But as we now know, that was far from reality, because Apple adapted to the new environment.

Many people don’t want to cough up the $649 to $1149 for a new iPhone all at once, so carriers started offering installment plans that let customers pay the phone off over 24 months. Most of these plans let you trade in a phone after a year or so for a new one, assuming the phone is in decent condition. Apart from activation fees, this installment approach costs you nothing extra beyond perpetual device payments. If you pay off a phone instead of trading it in, it’s yours to keep.

Apple, seeing a market opportunity, launched its own installment program, the iPhone Upgrade Program, which is essentially the same as the carrier installment plans, except that it includes AppleCare+, which explains why its monthly fee is higher than plans from the carriers.

(I got a chance to use AppleCare+ with my iPhone 7 Plus, since I stupidly broke the screen while on vacation just days after acquiring it. Getting it fixed required a typical Apple Store visit with the two-hour drive, two-hour wait in the snooty mall with no food, followed by a two-hour drive home. However, I paid only $29 plus $2.68 in sales tax for the repair instead of the usual $149 fee. You get two screen replacements with AppleCare+ at that price before you have to start paying full price to fix a cracked screen.)

Now, to take some of the mystique out of all of this: the iPhone Upgrade Program is actually an interest-free loan administered by Citizens One. Every year, when you order a new iPhone through the program, Citizens One checks your credit (a “hard pull,” which can negatively affect your credit score) and issues you a new loan if you’re approved.

Despite being administered by a third party, the iPhone Upgrade Program has some uniquely Apple pros and cons.

iPhone Upgrade Program: Hands On Experience — My first impression of the iPhone Upgrade Program in 2016 was not great. It was the middle of the night, and not only was I sleepily fumbling to order an iPhone 7 Plus quickly, I also had to fill out a loan form. It wasn’t onerous, but when you’re fighting the rush and unstable servers, every second counts. Everything went through, but the extra paperwork prevented me from getting the iPhone 7 Plus on day one — it arrived a week after launch.

737aa_tn_iPhone-Upgrade-Program-form The iPhone Upgrade Program: A Year in Review

I know, that’s the very definition of first-world problem, but I do this for a living so I’m under pressure to get Apple products as soon as possible so I can tell you about them. Also, it stands to reason that iPhone Upgrade Program customers are Apple’s most loyal and want each new iPhone right away.

After you place your order, there’s no way to know if Citizens One has approved you until you receive an approval email. That could take hours or even days, so if you’re trying to beat a rush, it adds extra stress. And if you’re denied or entered something incorrectly, which is easy to do in the middle of the night, you’re set for an even longer delay. I hope Apple improves this onboarding process in the future.

However, Apple made up for it this year, when it came time to order the iPhone X. Several days before pre-orders began, I was prompted to open the Apple Store app, choose my model, and work through the approval process beforehand. When pre-order madness hit in the middle of the night, it took only a couple of taps on my iPhone to complete my upgrade. Some iPhone Upgrade Program customers didn’t receive their iPhones on the first possible day, but it seemed to give us better odds. As it should, since we’re giving money directly to Apple instead of a third-party seller.

The process of returning my iPhone 7 Plus was easy. A few days after my iPhone X arrived, I received a nondescript cardboard box containing a bag, a SIM removal tool, two pieces of tape, and instructions. All I had to do was reset the iPhone 7 Plus, pop out its SIM card and replace the empty tray, drop it in the bag, put the bag in the box, tape up the box, tear away the shipping label to expose the return label, and hand it to the FedEx guy when he next delivered a package. It’s almost as painless as Apple could make it; if you’ve ever sent a device to Apple for repair, that’s a similar experience.

737aa_tn_iPhone-Upgrade-Program-form The iPhone Upgrade Program: A Year in Review

A few days later, I received an email from Apple letting me know that my trade-in was complete and that my loan had been closed. That was a relief, because my iPhone 7 Plus had a gouge in the back. If Apple had been dissatisfied with its condition, I could have been charged a repair fee. Fortunately, Apple doesn’t seem to be that particular, although I presume a cracked screen would require repair.

Where the iPhone Upgrade Program Fails — Apple products are like rides at Disney World: they work great as long as you’re behaving as expected, but the second you go off the rails, things get messy. The iPhone Upgrade Program is no different.

As long as you stick to the plan, the iPhone Upgrade Program works flawlessly. But the second you need to change a payment method, want to pay off a device early, or need to make up a payment, you have to deal with Citizens One, because Apple handles none of that.

Amazingly, I made it over a year without creating a Citizens One account, and I only did so for research on this article. Which is good, because the process is agonizing. I didn’t keep a count, but it probably took 30 to 40 attempts to create a username/password combo that Citizens One would accept. Check the screenshot for the inane list of password requirements.

737aa_tn_iPhone-Upgrade-Program-form The iPhone Upgrade Program: A Year in Review

Once I logged in, there wasn’t much the Citizens One Web site would allow me to do. You can change the payment method, and that’s about it. I dug around until I found a link about paying off my iPhone early, and it told me to call them. Ugh.

But in my experience, Verizon, from which we bought my wife’s iPhone, isn’t any better. Although the Verizon site offered a large, red, PAY OFF YOUR DEVICE button, I couldn’t get it to work, and I ended up paying off my wife’s iPhone via chat.

Ideally, I should be able to just make early payments or pay off an iPhone entirely from the Web site, without having to have a conversation with anyone. My suspicion is that Apple and the carriers don’t want to make this easy, because they want you paying in perpetuity.

If you’re an iPhone X user on the iPhone Upgrade Program, you might find yourself dealing with a hassle in 2018, especially if you want the latest iPhone immediately. The iPhone X arrived a month after the iPhone 8, but if Apple releases the next top-tier iPhone in less than 12 months — the minimum number of payments Apple requires before you can trade up — you may have to wait, because Apple won’t cut you any breaks:

You will still be eligible to upgrade next year. However, your new upgrade eligibility date will be determined by the start date of your new iPhone Upgrade Program loan. Please note that you are eligible to upgrade after six months in the program, as long as you have made the equivalent of at least 12 payments.

The most annoying part about the required cycle is that if you have to wait even a week to order a new iPhone, you may be waiting even longer to receive it as shipping times slip further and further out. I hope Apple has a solution for next year — either an easy, negligible fee to upgrade early or reserved iPhones for iPhone Upgrade Program members.

I’ll withhold judgement until next year, but if the iPhone Upgrade Program makes me wait a long time for the next iPhone, I’ll seriously consider alternatives.

Is the iPhone Upgrade Program Right for You? — When the iPhone Upgrade Program debuted, you had to go to an Apple Store to purchase or trade in an iPhone. It was hard to endorse then, but now that you can complete the entire cycle remotely, it’s a lot easier to recommend.

The iPhone Upgrade Program is probably the best bet for dedicated iPhone fans who always want the latest device but don’t want to pay all at once. And if you tend to be rough on your devices, AppleCare+ is a far better deal than the insurance offered by the carriers.

Here are two questions to ask before signing up:

  • Do you need or want AppleCare+? For iPhones with exorbitant repair costs, like the iPhone X, AppleCare+ is a good idea. But if you don’t have an Apple Store nearby, AppleCare+ may not be your best bet for insurance.

  • Are you tempted by non-Apple phones? If you’re considering an Android phone, you may not want to be locked into Apple’s program. (However, perusing Apple’s fine print, it appears that you can get out of your commitment a year early by upgrading to a new iPhone and then returning it. Your mileage may vary.)

For many Apple fans, I think the iPhone Upgrade Program is a financial win because you don’t have to pay for AppleCare+ up front. You can keep the iPhone if you wish, but if you want to switch, you can do so after 12 payments. It offers more flexibility than buying it outright.

Also, if you’re wondering: yes, you can buy more than one iPhone through the iPhone Upgrade Program. The trick is, when you come to the choice of “I’d like to enroll” or “I’m already part of the program,” choose “enroll.” That lets you set up a second Citizens One loan.

Despite some small caveats, Apple has rewarded my faith at every step. I originally signed up for the iPhone Upgrade Program with the hope that the company would allow trade-ins by mail the following year, and that came to pass. Over the next few years, I anticipate the iPhone Upgrade Program will become Apple’s preferred way to sell iPhones, and those customers will be incentivized to buy directly from Apple. For serious Apple fans who want the latest iPhone every year without a large up-front payment, it’s the best choice.




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