Tag Archive | "low cost"

Archos Flip hands-on overview. 249 Euro, and not too bad at all!

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After testing the Archos Flip (which doesn’t look like a Lenovo Yoga BTW!) I’m disappointed that Archos are only planning to release this in France. Obviously if it sells well it will move to other European countries but I doubt it will happen this year. Here’s a rundown of my hands-on experience with it.

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Top 5 lightweight, powerful and value laptops

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I am constantly on the lookout for the ultimate mobile laptop. It’s got an office-class CPU, has a ‘real’ SSD, an IPS screen and weighs under 1.3 KG / 2.9 pounds. Ideally it has a 5+ hours battery life, a full HD resolutions and costs $500 or less. It’s not easy to find a solution but I’ve come up with 5 options and detailed them below.

Dell XPS 13 2015

13-inch lightweight laptops

Dell XPS 13 (2015)

One thing is for sure. If you want a 13-inch ultrabook (which in my opinion should have a Core U-series CPU inside) then you’ll be looking at over $700 and there’s nothing more to say here than Dell XPS 13 2015. It’s popular, has had good reviews and has excellent battery life. The Core i3 version with Full HD display and 4GB RAM for $799 should be fine for most users.


The other option is the ASUS UX305 which has also had some good reviews. It’s a Core M powered laptop with a 13.3-inch Full HD IPS display (also available with a QHD display) and a reasonably large battery. It weighs just 1.2 KG (2.6 pounds) and is the Windows equivalent of the new Apple Macbook, at a much better price – $699 is your starting point.

11 and 12-inch lightweight laptops

Move down to sub 13.3-inch sector and there are some interesting options that start at just $399. All of the options here are 2-in-1s as manufacturers like to put ultrabook-style products into a premium category. If you look at the mainstream-focused 2-in-1s however, there’s some good value options.

Acer Aspire Switch 11

The Acer Aspire Switch 11 (below, left) is available with a 4th-Gen Core i3 (2014, Y series) and a SATA SSD for just $399 and it’s the bargain of the bunch here. I’ve reviewed the 10-inch version of this and was happy with the price / quality ratio. Don’t expect the best build, materials or performance but do expect to have some fun with the detachable tablet. There’s a full-HD screen and there is even a model with a hard drive in the keyboard base.

Switch 11 Core i3Acer Aspire Switch 12

Acer Aspire Switch 12

If you want a slightly bigger screen and more processing power, check out the Acer Aspire Switch 12 (above, right) which is unique for a Core-based 2-in-1 because of the large built-in ‘lappable’ stand and Bluetooth keyboard. Performance on this is much better than on the Switch 11 with Core i3 due to the latest 5th-Gen Core M processor. The screen is good and there’s good battery life but it’s heavier than the Switch 11. I really enjoyed doing a full review on the Switch 12 and I’m now seeing prices from $599 down to $499 in the USA which makes it a great deal.

Yoga 3 11

Lenovo Yoga 3 11

Another Core M product consider is the Lenovo Yoga 3 11. This non-detachable design might suit those looking for more of a laptop experience and for $699 (offer at Dell.com) you get 8 GB of RAM and 180 GB of SSD with a Full HD touchscreen. The entry level 4 GB  version is just €599 in Europe (but $679 in the US which means there’s scope for discounts) The Lenovo Yoga 3 11 is fresh on the market so there aren’t many reviews around yet but i’ve added a few to the product database.



  • Dell XPS 13 2015. Latest Intel Core CPU with a stylish laptop design and long battery life for $799 < Performance
  • ASUS UX305. Core-M based laptop with good performance but less battery life than the Dell. $699 < Balance

Under 13-inch

  • Acer Aspire Switch 11. A 2014 Core i3 CPU and newly announced Switch 11V means this one is nearing end of life. Hence prices for the Acer SW5-171 from $399 < Bargain
  • Acer Aspire Switch 12. Core M based 2-in-1 detachable with unique design. Offers starting at $499. < Flexible
  • Lenovo Yoga 3 11. Newly released stylish and laptop-like. Prices starting at $679. €599 in Europe (inc taxes) < Sensible

Click the image below for the interactive comparison table for the top 5 lightweight, ssd-based laptops.

At $899 the MacBook Air 11 2015 isn’t cheap so doesn’t make the top-5 list here but it has to be mentioned as one of the cheapest and most powerful options in the 11.6-inch space.

One to watch out for soon: Acer Aspire Switch 11 V. A new design and Core M CPU, digitizer and 1.2 KG weight. Rumoured price is $500. Expect to hear more about this one during Computex next week.

Acer Aspire Switch 11V. Expected at Computex, 2015 (June)

Which one would you choose? Or are you looking for something else? Add your thoughts in the comments below.


Chromebooks pushing into India. Will the education sector respond?

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Xolo Chromebook

Why would you write an app about Cricket? Because there are more cricket fans in India than there are people in the USA. India is huge – 1.2 billion people live there. It’s developing too so when it comes to technology it’s an opportunity, especially for low-cost technology. Google recently introduced new Chromebooks and Chrome OS services at an event in India and it’s going to be very interesting to see how this market develops over 2015. Will the people, and government, take it on?

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Acer introduces price-breaking 15-inch Chromebook

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A 15-inch laptop for $199. The Acer Chromebook 15 (CB3-531) was announced yesterday and we’ve already put it into our database. It’s a basic specification (we expect that it’s re-using a mainboard from another Acer Chromebook) but the price is very, very interesting.

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Intel’s Orchid Island is a Braswell 2-in-1 Reference Design targeting $299

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Presented in a technical session at Intel’s IDF in Shenzen today were details about up-coming low-cost tablet and 2-in-1 platforms. The session covered a Core M reference design (used to make the Cube i7 low cost Core M tablet) and talked about the advantages of Atom X5 / X7. They also presented Brawsell as a solution for clamshells and 2-in-1s. Orchid Island is the reference design.

Orchid Island

It’s build around a Celeron N3000 (Brawsell) and a target price of $299. For $299 – $349 Intel expects you to get a 1366 x 768 11.6-inch multitouch IPS screen with 64GB of eMMC storage and 4GB of RAM. A useful 37 Wh battery is included in the reference design.

There’s an HDMI port, USB 3.0 (Braswell does not support USB 3.1) and an SD card slot. The ‘lid’ weighs about 750 grams.  The operating system could be Windows, Android or even Chrome OS. Battery life is said to be up to 11.5% better than systems built on previous generation (Baytrail M) processors.

We’ve previously seen most low-cost 2-in-1s being built on Baytrail-T (now X5 / X7) but it looks like Intel think that the Braswell platform can offer enough for the low-cost market. Lighter solutions with the longest battery life are possible with Atom X5 and X7 but at the end of day it’s the OEMs decision.

Orchid Island slide from IDF15 Source: Intel

Low-cost 10-inch 2-in-1s start at $200. Here’s a market overview.

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I’m testing a new 10-inch detachable. The MSI S100 is one of a number of products in this expanding class and at $299 with a 10-inch screen and running an Atom CPU this MSI S100 is typical. The specifications might sound a bit netbook-y but these 2-in-1’s offer much more than the classic netbook. They’re more powerful, lighter and have longer battery life. There’s a touchscreen, smooth full HD platback and battery life that we could only dream of back in the day. There’s one problem that didn’t get solved though because the keyboards and screens are still too small for everyday productivity use. As there are low-priced options in the 11.6-laptop category now it leaves the 10-inch detachables to focus on mobility and tablet usage and it turns out to be an ideal combination for many scenarios from sofa-buddy to travelling-buddy.

MSI S100 10-inch detachable tablet and keyboard-case.


ASUS Transformer Book T100

The ASUS Transformer Book T100 was one of the first successful devices in this category and it was a popular choice all the way from November 2013 through 2014. Versions included models with an extra hard drive, CPU variants, reduced RAM and various colours. There were even models selling with Windows 8.1 Pro which shows how wide the customer-base is. Prices for a 32GB/2GB T100 are well under $300 now but at CES in January ASUS launched a new model with a Full HD display, USB 3.0, faster processor and a slimmer design.  It will slot in above the existing T100 and pricing will start at $399. Meanwhile at the other end of the scale there are 10-inch Windows tablets with keyboard cases for under $200.

The T100 wasn’t the first 10-inch detachable – I’ve been a very happy owner of an early Acer W510 since 2012. It came with a keyboard that included an extra battery so as a video playback device it was superb and it still does duty on long journeys the car. I also have the Lenovo Miix 2 10 and as it came with Office 2013 it gets used for school homework via an HDMI-connected screen and USB-connected keyboard and mouse. The keyboard that comes with the Miix 10 isn’t good though. The MSI S100 that I’m reviewing for Notebookcheck  is a better option for typing than the Miix 2 10 and the pricing on the 64GB version is under  $300 making it very attractive.

Read more of my comments about 2-in-1 PCs in this Intel IQ article

Other options in the space include the Acer Switch 10, the HP Pavilion X2 10 (which is on offer at Amazon USA now for under $250) and the uniquely-designed full-HD one with a big 35Wh battery – the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 10. You’ll also find low-cost options under less well-known brands.

What can you do with a 10-inch detachable?

It’s a tablet, first, and when it only weighs 1.2lb it’s OK to hold for extended periods, to play accelerometer-driven games and to waste time watching YouTube videos or browsing the uch-improved Windows Store. The keyboard (sometimes with case) brings in a ‘stand’ mode and that great for seat-back videos. The Atom platforms inside these tablets all have no problem with 1080p videos, even at high bitrates. As a ‘newspaper’ or book the tablet weights are still a little heavy but they do make great sofa-buddies. And of course there’s the keyboard itself which introduces a traditional method of input and mouse control. Some of the keyboards are even good enough for long sessions of typing.

When it comes to work you’ll want to be sure that you only buy a product with 2 GB of RAM. 1 GB RAM might be enough for a good demonstration, some benchmarks or working on Windows Store apps but it’s not good enough for extended use, even with multiple tabs under Chrome. As for storage, 32GB is manageable but you’ll need to do your housekeeping. I can’t recommend 16GB of storage for any use cases at all.

If you’re looking at Microsoft Office usage, which is certainly possible, then try to ensure that the SSD speeds are good. The important figure to watch out for in reviews is the 4K write speed. Anything around 8-10 MB/s is good. Anything under 4Mb/s should be avoided for Office usage. Rotating hard disks are not recommended.

The Lenovo Miix 2 10 has a slightly more powerful processor (like the new ASUS Transformer Book T100 Chi) than some of the other models in the low-cost 10-inch range and having switched between the Miix 2 10 and tablets using the lower-powered processor I can say that there’s a noticeable difference. The SSD on the Miix 2 is good too but that keyboard prevents me from recommending it as the best all-round solution in this category.

One of the big considerations for 2015 is Windows 10 and the boost it will bring to the Microsoft Store. Universal apps that run across a unified phone and PC store are going to change the way developers look at the platform and Microsoft will give it a big boost with a new range of included apps that include Office. These apps are likely to be more optimised than their desktop cousins and touch will be available as a ‘first-class’ input method. We expect to see a new range of exciting apps appearing through 2015 that will add to the, already improved, choice in the Microsoft Store.

For content creators there are definitely limits to the current Atom-based tablets. You’ll be able to run up a desktop video editing app but the experience won’t be very smooth. Simple 720p editing via something like Movie Creator Beta or Movie Edit Touch 2 which should be enough for social sharing. Simple photo editing is also no problem along with photo management and of course, creating documents, blogs, spreadsheets and presentations is always possible either with supplied Office software or with online offerings like Google docs. If you’re into more demanding creative apps, take a look at the Core-M range of mobile PC solutions. 

Music library management is best done online due to space limitations and both Google and Microsoft offer ‘lockers’ for your music. Free storage often comes with the product and Office 356 licences come with 1 year of 1TB upload capability.

Windows Store gaming is getting better.

Casual gaming on Windows 8 is akin to what you’ll find on a smartphone but slightly more immersive due to the larger screen size. It’s nothing compared to desktop gaming with the latest 3D graphical games of course but there’s a lot of fun to be had. You’ll see a wide range in the Windows Store now. Starting with word games like the evergreen Wordament is no problem. Jetpack Joyride, a casual run-and-jump game is smooth on these low-end processors and if you’ve got yourself a 64GB SSD there’s enough space for a suite of the more detailed games. It’s not impossible to play some desktop games although the choice is going to be very restricted. Minecraft isn’t much fun and WoW only works on low settings, if you can find the space to install it. [Install WoW with an external SSD – Video]

Security and privacy are an important consideration and Windows 8.1 offers a range of security and privacy features. We always advise people to add the HTTPS Everywhere and Privacy Badger extensions to the Chrome browser and if possible add a power-on password via the BIOS. We also advise the use of a Microsoft account because on some devices it enables disk encryption. It also provides online password management, 2-stage authentication, login location-tracking and more. For a full review of the Windows 8 tablet security features, see this detailed analysis.

Battery life is important and those of you thinking about the 2-3 hours we used to get out of a 1KG netbook are going to be surprised. You’ll get about 5 hours of working time, 7 hours of light usage, from most of the 1.1-1.2 pound tablets out there. The HP Pavilion X2 10, one of the cheapest, has a 35Wh battery that might even get you up to 9 hours in some cases and don’t forget that they all support Connected Standby so you can run Windows Store apps in the background while the tablet is off. That’s 15 hours or more of music streaming or Skype standby. Versions with 3G should even allow you to use a Skype-in number for phone connectivity.

With prices on these low-cost 2-in-1 Windows tablets coming down every week and with more products filling the market there’s an incredibly rich mobile PC sector growing here. 10-inch 2-in-1’s are the perfect companion for out-of-office periods when productivity might be required but where entertainment and social networking, photos, videos and gaming are the number 1 thought. The quality and number of apps in the Windows Store has improved greatly and in some cases you’re buying an app that works across both phone and PCs. That feature is going to become even more prominent as Windows 10 for phones and PCs nears and as Universal apps create ecosystem for phone, tablet, laptop and desktop.

These new 2-in-1 PCs might be priced like netbooks and have specifications that sound like netbooks but they aren’t anything like them. The product and operating system has matured and there’s a lot of exciting flexibility and mobility across work, play and communications scenarios.

You can find all the current 10-inch dockable tablets through this link where prices start at $239 or you can go to our database and choose your own specifications.

So what’s my favourite 10-inch 2-in-1 right now? The HP Pavilion X2 10 has to be the best value at its current $240 price but the ASUS Transformer Book T100 Chi has to be the most desirable. With the higher-power processor, USB 3.0, full HD display and amazing design, it just might be worth the higher price. I should have some more hands-on with it soon and my finger is already hovering over the pre-order button at Amazon Germany.

The MSI S100 is being reviewed for Notebookcheck.net

HP Stream 8 with extreme USB Connectivity. Good showcase, bad solution.

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I’ve tested this before but it needs to be done again. A sub-$200 8-inch Windows 8 tablet with external Full-HD screen, Gigabit Ethernet, a 256GB SSD, external sound module and USB keyboard and mouse all driven over one UBS 2.0 link. I’m using the HP Stream 8 here.

Belkin DisplayLink and HP Stream 8

Here’s the display set-up I’m working with now. IE11 (Modern) on the left with Bing News on the right on the main screen. On the tablet screen I have Tweetium running.

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DataPass Deal: HP Stream 8 with 3G, free data and Office 365 for €175

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I’ve just ordered the HP Stream 8 5900ng 8-inch Windows tablet because of an amazing European 3G deal. The HP Stream 8 5900ng includes an unlocked 3G module and comes with 200MB of Europe-roaming data per month for 2 years. You can top-up on a regular or one-off basis. According to information on the HP Germany website, USA is included from the 1st Feb 2015. Is this the ultra-mobile PC deal of the year? My company just paid  €149 after entering an offer code and taking into account the sales-tax rebate. Office 365 is also included in the deal. Even without Office 365 this the best 3G-enabled ultra-mobile PC deal I’ve ever seen in Europe.

HP Stream 8HP Stream 8

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HP Stream 11, ASUS X205, Acer E11 Compared

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There are now three low-cost lightweight Windows 8 laptops on market that are getting good reviews and appear to be selling very well. Here’s a round-up of the HP Stream 11, ASUS X205 and Acer E11 laptops with pro’s and con’s. Each looks to be a good value purchase but there are important differences between them that will affect customer choices.

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Budget Windows 8 Tablets work well in ‘RT Mode’

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I’m testing a Point of View Mobii Wintab 800W budget Windows 8 tablet and it’s been a tough, slow process. The Wintab 800W is built on Intel’s low-cost reference platform that you’re going to see in a lot of $99 Windows tablet offers this quarter so what you see here applies to many other models. The issue is that with 1GB of RAM and 16GB of storage you simply can’t approach them as Windows PCs. Working in the desktop means running out of RAM and disk space quickly. Even Chrome is going to take up over 1GB  of disk space after you start using all the features and you’ll end up with this very quickly…

An empty disk on a 16GB Windows 8 tablet

I’m testing the PoV Wintab for Notebookcheck and the process we use for benchmarking is focused on desktop apps. In some extra testing I focused on the RT / Modern ui of built-in apps and Store apps and the results were completely different. Turn off automatic Windows Updates (it’s a security risk but you can selectively download the security patches if you want them) and refrain from installing desktop apps. Switch to RT mode / Start Screen and everything suddenly becomes smooth and trouble-free. These budget Windows 8 tablets are, effectively, RT tablets. Advanced users will probably want to remove the recovery partition (5GB) and experiment and I’m sure that those users will be able to squeeze some impressive usage out of these tablets but for normal users, don’t bother.

Point of View low-cost 16/1 Windows tablet.

My guide to surviving with 32GB of storage applies to 16GB tablets too so if you want to experiment, take a look here.

So here’s the video demo. In it you’ll see browsing with smooth zoom, music playing in Connected Standby, a 33 Mbps 2K video playing, maps and other apps running. In fact, everything a normal user would need is here. It’s an X86 Windows RT tablet.


The full review will be linked here when available. (Notebookcheck.net)

Acer CB3 at $179 – The New Entry-Level for Laptops

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Acer CB3-11 is $179 at Amazon.com

The Acer Chromebook CB3 is now $179 at Amazon.com. There have been cheaper laptops in the past but the CB3-111 is not a piece of crap. This is a stable, productive, 7-hour laptop with a reasonable keyboard. It is a laptop that can be integrated into the business world and education markets just as easily as it can be used on a lap at home. It’s using what can be argued as one of the most stable, secure and clean mainstream operating systems available. It comes with all the software you need plus 100GB of storage, for free. I have one under my fingers right now.

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ASUS C200 Chromebook is a silent, stylish all-dayer. (Video)

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ASUS C200 Chromebook _24_

I’ve previously done work with ChromeOS and Chromebooks but this is the first time I’ve done a top-to-bottom, deep-dive analysis of a Chromebook. The two weeks of testing and analysis has just been published at Notebookcheck.net and the overview video is below.

The ASUS C200 is probably the most productive PC per $ that I’ve ever tested. It offers over 10 hours of battery life in some scenarios and along with that it’s got a good keyboard, it’s light (1.2KG) and it’s completely silent.  But it’s a Chromebook and it has its limitations. It’s also running on a low power Intel Baytrail-M platform so that has limits too.

Luckily the C200 is running a high-end Baytrail-M platform so performance isn’t a major issue for web browsing but when it gets to HTML5 applications there are some issues. Documents in Google Drive took a long time to load as did my large Google Play Music collection and even good old Tweetdeck.  These long loading times aren’t due to poor WiFi performance as the AC-capable module was strong throughout the test.

Good speakers mean you’ve got the potential for a good video experience and this 32GB model had enough space to load up a number of films. With 10 hours of offline video viewing available with one charge you’ll have no problem on a long-haul flight although it must be said that this non-IPS 1366×768 screen has limited viewing angles.

ASUS have done a good job with the C200. It’s not a direct competitor to the Acer C720 which  you would probably choose if you were more into web-based working. If you’re more into a casual web experience, the C200 is the Chromebook to buy.

It’s well-built and incredible value. $229 right now on Amazon. Looking forward to 2015 and a time when Android Runtime and local apps are starting to be ported over it could solve some of the issues  I listed in the full review. Here’s a summary of those Chromebook issues:

Chromebook issues: Skype, local storage, printing, Microsoft Office and other Windows (or OSX) productivity suites, offline applications, USB device support, network attached storage using SMB, NFS and DLNA,video format support, AC3 and DTS audio incompatibility, music player synchronization, Amazon Prime Video outside the USA.

Enjoy the video and the full review and if you have any questions, let me know.