2022 MacBook Air review: Apple’s clean slate

The 2022 MacBook Air.

Enlarge / The 2022 MacBook Air. (credit: Samuel Axon)

The new MacBook Air is a remix—a bundle of ideas already seen in other Apple laptops, whether we’re talking about the previous MacBook Air, the 13-inch MacBook Pro, or the 14-inch MacBook Pro.

In that sense, it’s not too exciting since we’ve seen most of its individual features before. But it is interesting in another sense: It’s the first major redesign in years to Apple’s most popular laptop, what we’ve previously called the best Mac laptop for most types of users.

This flat, plain, slate-like machine is also a clean slate for the storied MacBook Air, and it’s the first time the Air has been redesigned around the company’s own silicon. Apple has improved on the previous design in almost every way, even though the laptop loses a bit of its unique identity in the transition. It’s still the best MacBook for folks who are OK with paying its relatively high purchase price, but it’s not a mandatory upgrade over its M1 predecessor.

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#apple, #gadgetology, #m2, #mac, #macbook, #macbook-air, #macos, #tech

Review: Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 7 looks good but feels warm

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 7 2-in-1.

Enlarge / Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 7 2-in-1. (credit: Scharon Harding)

Specs at a glance: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 7
Worst Best As reviewed
Screen 14-inch 1920×1200 IPS touchscreen @ 60 Hz 14-inch 3840×2400 IPS OLED touchscreen @ 60 HZ 14-inch 1920×1200 IPS touchscreen @ 60 Hz
OS Windows 11 Home Windows 11 Pro Windows 11 Pro
CPU Intel Core i5-1240P Intel Core i7-1280P Intel Core i7-1260P
RAM 8GB LPDDR5-5200 32GB LPDDR5-5200 16GB LPDDR5-5200
Storage 256GB SSD 1TB SSD 512GB SSD
GPU Intel Iris Xe
Networking Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2
Ports 2x USB-C (Thunderbolt 4), 2x USB-A (3.2 Gen 1), 1x HDMI 2.0b, 1x 3.5 mm jack
Size 12.38×8.75×0.61 inches
(314.4×222.3×15.53 mm)
Weight Starts at 3 lbs (1.38 kg)
Battery 57 WHr
Warranty 1 year
Price (MSRP) $1,589.40 $2,279.50 $1870.03
Other Stylus, optional 4G LTE Stylus, optional 4G LTE Stylus

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga, now in its 7th iteration ($1,870.03 MSRP as tested, as of writing), continues its modern take on the business-focused ThinkPad. It has the durability expected of a business machine, as well as smooth navigation underscored by a thoughtfully programmed keyboard fit for frequent typists, and, of course, that famous red nub.

However, the laptop doesn’t necessarily outperform high-end consumer laptops, even some with slightly cheaper price tags. And similar to other ThinkPads we’ve tested, heat in its Best performance mode is so much of an issue that even light workloads will run the machine so warm that you won’t want to touch it in certain areas.

ThinkPad styling

Part ThinkPad, part Yoga.

Part ThinkPad, part Yoga. (credit: Scharon Harding)

Naming tells you this machine is part Lenovo ThinkPad, part Lenovo Yoga, but the styling and tough build lean more toward the former. Yes, there’s the same 360-degree hinge found on Lenovo Yoga 2-in-1s, as well as a modern, thin-and-light build in a dark gray that’s more fun than the more traditional ThinkPad black. But the density and tough feel of the aluminum chassis combined with the deep keyboard, advanced trackpad, and famous red rubber nub all scream ThinkPad.

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#ars-shopping, #gadgetology, #laptops, #lenovo, #tech

Review: Acer’s Swift 5 is an affordable ultralight with notable sacrifices

Acer Swift 5

Enlarge / Acer’s 2022 Swift 5 laptop. (credit: Scharon Harding)

Specs at a glance: Acer Swift 5 (SF514-56T-797T)
Screen 14-inch 2560×1600 60 Hz IPS touchscreen
OS Windows 11 Home
CPU Intel Core i7-1260P
RAM 16GB LPDDR5
Storage 1 TB PCIe 4.0 SSD
GPU Intel Iris Xe (integrated)
Networking Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2
Ports 2x USB-C (Thunderbolt 4), 2x USB-A (3.2 Gen 1), 1x HDMI 2.1, 1x 3.5 mm jack
Size 12.22 x 8.4 x 0.59 inches
(310.5 x 213.3 x 14.95 mm)
Weight 2.65 lbs (1.2 kg)
Battery 56 Whr
Warranty 1 year
Price (MSRP) $1,500

The Acer Swift 5 ($1,500 MSRP) may not be your dream ultralight laptop, but it’s not a bad one. You won’t squeeze the most performance out of the Swift, and its touchpad still bothers me after weeks of use. But with perks like a good port selection and a strong keyboard, the laptop is worth a look if you want to save some money. Even though there are some compromises, it’s a decent option with a lower price tag than similarly specced alternatives.

Colorful design

The Swift 5 is priced lower than other ultralights with 12th Gen CPUs, a fact that is apparent when you hold it. According to Acer, the chassis is made from 6053 aluminum alloy with a 75 HV hardness and anodization to fight degradation (its gold accents are double-anodized). But instead of a luxurious metallic-like finish, like Lenovo’s Yoga 9i carries, it looks and feels like lightweight plastic that can still fall victim to scratches.

Subtle texturing helps the design, though, and prevents the laptop from feeling too slippery during use. The keyboard showed subtle flex when I typed aggressively, and that flexing became more apparent when I pressed down on the keyboard.

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#acer, #features, #gadgetology, #laptops, #tech

13-inch MacBook Pro review: Apple’s M2 is a worthy follow-up to the M1

Apple’s new 13-inch MacBook Pro is a little tough to recommend given the options in Apple’s lineup, but that doesn’t change the key takeaway: The new, second-generation M2 chip doesn’t disappoint.

While Apple calls the 13-inch MacBook Pro its “most portable Pro laptop,” there’s nothing that’s particularly “Pro” about it. It has too few ports for power users, and it can’t touch the 14-inch MacBook Pro in performance—yet it offers little to draw would-be buyers away from the similarly specced and soon-to-be-launched MacBook Air redesign.

That said, the real story is that this is the first laptop Apple released with its second-generation ARM-based processors for Macs. The M2 is an exciting follow-up to the already impressive M1 and a promising herald of what’s to come to future Macs that deserve the Pro moniker.

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#13-inch-macbook-pro, #apple, #apple-m2, #apple-silicon, #ars-shopping, #features, #gadgetology, #laptop, #m2, #macbook, #macbook-pro, #notebook, #tech, #touch-bar

IPS Black brings impressive contrast and vivid colors to Dell’s UltraSharp U2723QE

Dell UltraSharp U2723QE front-facing

Enlarge / Dell UltraSharp U2723QE 4K USB-C monitor. (credit: Scharon Harding)

Specs at a glance: Dell UltraSharp U2723QE
Panel size 27 inches
Resolution 3840×2160
Refresh rate 60 Hz
Panel type and backlight IPS Black, LED
Ports 2x USB-C upstream, 1x USB-C downstream, 1x HDMI 2.0, 1x DisplayPort 1.4, 1x DisplayPort 1.4 out, 5x USB-A, 1x RJ45, 1x 3.5 mm jack
Size 24.07×7.28×15.16-21.07 inches with stand
(611.4×185×353.01 mm)
Weight 14.64 lbs (6.64 kg) with stand
9.88 lbs (4.48 kg) without stand
Warranty  3 years
Price (MSRP) $655

Apple’s Studio Display, a 27-inch 5K IPS panel that offers USB-C connectivity, a polished finish, and some Apple-style perks, is a solid display. But what if you’re a Mac owner who doesn’t need 5K, or what if you don’t want to spend $1,600 on a monitor? What if you need to work across operating systems and want a stylish display with a unique boost in image quality?

Enter the Dell UltraSharp U2723QE ($655 MSRP as of writing). Dell’s USB-C-equipped UltraSharp line is a popular option for Mac and Windows users, though the U2723QE comes at a premium over other displays in the lineup because it introduces LG Display’s IPS Black technology, which aims to deliver twice as much contrast as the average IPS screen. You might not be able to tell 5K from 4K, but it’s easy to see the rich contrast the U2723QE delivers over standard IPS monitors, including the Studio Display.

For those seeking a 27-incher with enough extra oomph to make a difference but not completely break the bank, the U2723QE presents an attractive combination of good looks, superior image quality, and enough connectivity to drive a seriously productive setup.

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#ars-shopping, #dell, #features, #gadgetology, #monitors, #tech

Logitech MX Master 3S review: The best wireless mouse gets slightly better

Logitech MX Master 3S in white and dark grey

Logitech’s MX Master 3S. (credit: Scharon Harding)

Specs at a glance: Logitech MX Master 3S
Sensor Optical (model not disclosed)
Connectivity options Bluetooth Low Energy, 2.4 GHz wireless dongle
Programmable buttons 6
Onboard profiles None
Lighting None
Size 4.92×3.32×2.01 inches
(124.9×84.3×51 mm)
Weight 4.97 ounces
(141 g)
Warranty One year
Price (MSRP)  $99

I’ve used the Logitech MX Master 3 as my primary productivity mouse since it came out in 2019. I’ve tested dozens of mice since, but none juggled a decent number of programmable buttons, advanced wireless capabilities, multi-device control, and long-term comfort as admirably as the MX Master 3. Today, Logitech released a revamped version, the MX Master 3S.

It follows in Master 3’s footsteps of wireless mouse excellence but doesn’t introduce enough improvements to warrant ditching my MX Master 3 and opening my wallet again.

As you might have guessed by the mild moniker modification, the 3S is slightly different from the 3. The new mouse has quieter left- and right-click buttons, and it supports higher sensitivity, so your cursor can move farther with less physical mouse movement—and that’s it.

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#ars-shopping, #gadgetology, #logitech, #mice, #tech

Logitech’s MX Keys Mechanical is a satisfying, wireless introduction to mech keebs

Logitech's MX Keys Mechanical (bottom) and MX Keys Mini (top) keyboards.

Enlarge / Logitech’s MX Keys Mechanical (bottom) and MX Keys Mini (top) keyboards. (credit: Scharon Harding)

Specs at a glance: Logitech MX Keys Mechanical
Switches Kailh low-profile tactile, clicky, or linear
Keycaps ABS plastic
Connectivity options Bluetooth Low Energy or 2.4 GHz USB-A dongle
Backlighting White
Size 17.08×5.18×1.03 inches
(433.85×131.55×26.1 mm)
Weight 1.35 lbs (612 g)
Warranty 1 year
Price (MSRP) $170

With an office-friendly appearance, tasteful backlighting, multi-PC wireless control, and simple software all backed by a reputable name, the Logitech MX Keys Mechanical ($170 MSRP) wireless keyboard was announced Tuesday, as well as the smaller MX Keys Mini ($150), are solid, serviceable entry points into mechanical keyboards.

If the new keyboards look familiar, it’s because they take inspiration in appearance and features from the MX Keys ($120) and MX Keys Mini ($100) membrane wireless, respectively, but with satisfying, low-profile clicky, tactile, or linear mechanical switches. It’s the kind of design that leads plenty of people to try a mechanical keyboard for the first time. But when comparing it to other wireless mechanical keyboards, you can find more features, including some that power users will miss, from rivals for less money.

Keeping a low(er) profile

I tend to be wary of low-profile mechanical keyboards. Some subpar options I’ve tried with shallow, mushy, linear low-profile switches and flat keycaps have scarred me a bit. They’re popular among gamers, due to a perceived speed advantage, but you’d have to be quite competitive (I’m not) for that to make a huge difference.

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#ars-shopping, #gadgetology, #keyboards, #logitech, #mechanical-keyboards, #tech

Lenovo’s Yoga 9i Gen 7 is a 2-in-1 statement piece

Lenovo Yoga 9i lid

Enlarge / Lenovo’s Yoga 9i 14″ 7th Gen laptop. (credit: Scharon Harding)

Specs at a glance: Lenovo Yoga 9i (14″)
Worst Best As reviewed
Screen 14-inch 1920×1200 IPS touchscreen 14-inch 3840×1400 90 Hz OLED IPS touchscreen 14-inch 2800×1800 90 Hz OLED IPS touchscreen
OS Windows 11 Home
CPU Intel Core i7-1260P
RAM 8GB LPDDR5-5200 16GB LPDDR5-5200
Storage 256 GB PCIe 4.0 SSD 1 TB PCIe 4.0 SSD 512 GB PCIe 4.0 SSD
GPU Intel Iris Xe (integrated)
Networking 802.11ax (2×2), Bluetooth 5.2
Ports 2x Thunderbolt 4 (USB-C), 1x USB-C 3.2 Gen 2, 1x USB-A 3.2 Gen 2, 1x 3.5 mm jack
Size 12.52 x 9.06 x 0.6 inches
(318 x 230 x 15.25 mm)
Weight Starts at 3.26 lbs (1,480 g)
Battery 75 Whr
Warranty 1 year
Price (MSRP) $1,080 at Lenovo $1,730 $1,930

For a laptop to make a statement, it needs to have more than just the latest components—it has to have style. Lenovo’s Yoga 9i is ready to compete in today’s market with its Intel 12th Gen P-series CPUs, but it shows it’s more than just another thin-and-light convertible with luxurious details.

You can immediately tell the Yoga 9i was designed to grab your attention with its shiny, polished finishes. But it’s the creature comforts, like a hi-res webcam with background blur, an optional tall and fast OLED touchscreen, and abnormally loud speakers—that tell the real story.

(Note: The OLED versions of the Yoga 9i aren’t available for purchase, but Lenovo told us they should be available at Best Buy within the next two weeks.)

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#ars-shopping, #features, #gadgetology, #laptops, #lenovo, #tech

Portable monitors tested—which puny panels are worth it?

Portable monitors tested—which puny panels are worth it?

Enlarge (credit: Scharon Harding)

Whatever your reason for needing an extra screen, a portable monitor can help increase your productivity—and often for less money than other display types.

When selecting a portable monitor, your primary concern should be image quality, but there’s more to consider than just finding the prettiest screen. Depending on what you’ll be using the panel for, port selection is important. And since you’ll be carrying the display around and setting it up at different locations, you should pay close attention to build quality.

We tested three portable monitors with strong potential for different use cases. Here’s what we found.

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#ars-buying-guide, #ars-shopping, #asus, #gadgetology, #lenovo, #monitors, #tech

Logitech’s Lift is a vertical mouse that’s easier to grasp

Logitech Lift

Enlarge / Logitech’s Lift is a wireless, vertical mouse. (credit: Scharon Harding)

Specs at a glance: Logitech Lift
Sensor Optical (model not disclosed)
Connectivity options Bluetooth Low Energy, 2.4 GHz wireless dongle
Programmable buttons 4
Onboard profiles 0
Lighting None
Size 4.25 x 2.76 x 2.8 inches
(108 x 70 x 71 mm)
Weight 0.28 lb (125 g)
Warranty 1 year
Price (MSRP)  $70

With shockingly tall stature and non-traditional curves, vertical mice require some adjustment to use. But the purported payoff, if you’re to believe mouse-makers, is greater arm, wrist, and hand comfort due to a more natural hand position.

But like any ergonomic peripheral, you won’t reap any benefits if you don’t get used to the device. Logitech is one of the biggest names in vertical mice, thanks to the MX Vertical, one of the most feature-rich vertical mice on the market. The Logitech Lift wireless mouse isn’t as feature-rich, but it’s more inviting due to a smaller build targeting small to medium-sized hands, a left-handed option, and more colors.

These options make it easier to find a good fit, which is critical in ergonomics. And despite having a hand size appropriate for both the Lift and MX Vertical, I found the Lift easier to grasp while navigating its side buttons than any other vertical mice I’ve used.

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#gadgetology, #logitech, #mice, #tech

Review: Ryzen 7 5800X3D is an interesting tech demo that’s hard to recommend

AMD's Ryzen 7 5800X3D.

Enlarge / AMD’s Ryzen 7 5800X3D. (credit: Andrew Cunningham)

AMD’s AM4 socket has had a long and successful run on the desktop, ushering in the Ryzen processor lineup and helping AMD compete with and outperform Intel’s chips for the first time since the mid-2000s.

The aging socket’s time is coming to a close later this year when the Ryzen 7000-series chips are launched, but AMD is sending it off with one last high-performance processor: the Ryzen 7 5800X3D, which launches on April 20th for $449.

AMD uses a unique packaging technology called “3D V-Cache” to triple the amount of L3 cache on the processor, from 32MB for the standard Ryzen 5800X to a whopping 96MB. This new tech feels like an experiment in some ways. Unlike other Ryzen CPUs, the 5800X3D doesn’t offer overclocking or power consumption controls, and its clock speeds are a bit lower than the standard 5800X. But AMD says that the extra cache allows the 5800X3D to outrun Intel’s fastest CPUs when it comes to gaming.

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#ars-shopping, #gadgetology, #ryzen, #tech

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra review: The slab phone retirement plan

The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra.

Enlarge / The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra. (credit: Ron Amadeo)

Is there anything left to do in the slab phone market?

Samsung’s launch of the Galaxy S22 feels like a retirement plan for the company’s slab line. After killing the Galaxy Note line and skipping a 2021 release, Samsung is merging the S-Pen-equipped Note line and the Galaxy S line, cutting the slab phone flagships down to a single yearly release.

Look at the Galaxy Note 10 from 2019 and you’ll see that Samsung has essentially been recycling its design for three years now. It feels like Samsung is standing still, as if the plan is to have slab phones slowly ride off into the sunset while the company directs resources toward a future in foldables.

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#android, #ars-shopping, #gadgetology, #galaxy-s22, #samsung, #tech

Studio Display review: An Apple monitor where “5K” doesn’t describe the price

Apple's Studio Display.

Enlarge / Apple’s Studio Display. (credit: Andrew Cunningham)

Ever since Apple released the $5,000-and-up Pro Display XDR in 2019, rumors have persisted that the company was also planning a more affordable screen to fill the same niche as its Thunderbolt Display. You could connect the Pro Display XDR to a MacBook Air that costs one-fifth of its price, and Apple always went out of its way to mention that M1 MacBooks were technically capable of driving its 6K display resolution. But it wasn’t exactly an appealing value proposition.

Enter the new Studio Display. With a design that strongly recalls 2011’s Thunderbolt Display and a name that hearkens back to its late-’90s namesake, the display is tailor-made for anyone who wanted the 5K screen from the dearly departed 27-inch iMac without the computer that was attached to it.

It’s certainly not for everyone, and at $1,599, it’s not the first external display I’d recommend for all Mac owners (especially people who tend toward the cheaper Mac mini and MacBook Air end of the spectrum). But as its enthusiastic reception from several Ars staffers suggests, it will find an audience by virtue of being a 5K Apple-branded monitor, and its design and features are both a solid step up from the 5K LG UltraFine display that Apple has sold for the last few years.

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#apple, #ars-shopping, #features, #gadgetology, #studio-display, #tech

Review: The Mac Studio shows us exactly why Apple left Intel behind

Apple's Mac Studio desktop.

Enlarge / Apple’s Mac Studio desktop. (credit: Andrew Cunningham)

Apple Silicon Macs have gotten more interesting the deeper into the transition we’ve gotten. The MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, and Mac mini all looked and felt exactly like the Macs they replaced, just with better performance and much better battery life. The 24-inch iMac and 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros were throwbacks to the colorful G3 iMacs and titanium PowerBooks from two decades ago. And now we’ve gotten to the Mac Studio, the first totally new Apple Silicon Mac.

The Studio reminds me of a few Macs we’ve seen before—it’s sort of a trashcan Mac Pro by way of the PowerMac G4 Cube. It borrows elements of the Mac Pro and the Mac mini, but it replaces neither. It’s both a glimpse at what is possible now that Apple is leaving the Intel era behind, and yet another recommitment to the Mac as a powerful and flexible platform for getting work done.

It’s not quite the mythical midrange “xMac” workstation of yore, but it’s as close as we’ve ever gotten. That’s an exciting place to be.

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#ars-shopping, #features, #gadgetology, #mac-studio, #tech

2022 iPhone SE review: Revving up a classic hot rod

The 2022 iPhone SE.

Enlarge / The 2022 iPhone SE. (credit: Samuel Axon)

The iPhone SE is the classic iPhone, the OG iPhone, the Mazda Miata of smartphones. It performs well, and its design is iconic and familiar—even comforting—despite being dated and devoid of modern frills and comforts. But the SE is still one of Apple’s best products.

While the flagship iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro go all in on screen real estate and quality, battery life, and monster cameras, the iPhone SE focuses on simplicity, comfort in your hand, and yes, keeping costs down.

Most people don’t need the iPhone 13’s excellent OLED screen, though you could argue that more would at least want its improved cameras. But for some users, the smartphone is an as-needed workhorse and nothing more. They want something affordable and reliable—something that will last them several years, so they don’t have to think about the smartphone rat race at all.

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#apple, #ars-shopping, #gadgetology, #ios, #iphone, #iphone-se, #tech

2022 iPad Air review: M1, other tablets 0

The 2022 iPad Air.

Enlarge / The 2022 iPad Air. (credit: Samuel Axon)

Apple’s latest iPad refresh is minor on the surface, but there’s a big step forward inside.

The new iPad Air refresh is mainly about two things: the M1 chip and 5G. Apart from those changes, the new tablet is very similar to its 2020 predecessor.

Those two things are probably not enough to make upgrading from the 2020 model worth it, but thanks to the M1, the 2022 iPad Air is a slam dunk if you have an older iPad or another tablet and you’re ready for a step up.

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#apple, #apple-m1, #apple-silicon, #features, #gadgetology, #ipad, #ipad-air, #m1, #tablet, #tech

Intel’s Core i7-12700 tested: Top speeds or power efficiency—pick one

Intel's Core i7-12700.

Enlarge / Intel’s Core i7-12700. (credit: Andrew Cunningham)

Intel’s K-series desktop CPUs always get the most attention from enthusiasts because they represent the best performance that new Intel processors are capable of when money, heat, and power are no object. But more people will end up using the cheaper, non-overclockable versions of these processors, whether it’s in an office desktop PC, a budget gaming desktop, or a price-conscious home video editing workstation.

Today, we’re taking a look at the Core i7-12700, a 12-core, 20-thread CPU that retails for around $340 (or $315 without integrated graphics). That’s anywhere from $75 to $100 cheaper than the overclockable Core i7-12700K, plus whatever money you save by buying a cheaper H670 or B660 motherboard rather than a pricey Z690 model.

We came away impressed with the i7-12700’s performance but mixed on its power efficiency, as was the case when we reviewed some K-series CPUs last year. The good news is that home PC builders can usually decide for themselves whether they want to maximize performance or prioritize power efficiency and heat output. Using Intel’s recommended power settings, the i7-12700 can actually be quite well-behaved. Just know that most motherboard makers’ default power settings prioritize performance even if it makes your desktop hotter and more power-hungry.

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#cpus, #features, #gadgetology, #intel, #tech

System76 Launch review: Linux-friendly keyboard with a USB hub

System76 Launch with RGB

Enlarge / System76 Launch mechanical keyboard. (credit: Scharon Harding)

Specs at a glance: System76 Launch
Switches Kailh Box Jade or Kailh Box Royal
Keycaps PBT plastic
Connectivity options USB-A or USB-C cable
Backlighting Per-key RGB
Size 12.17 × 5.35 × 1.3 inches
(309 × 136 × 33 mm)
Weight 2.09 lbs (948 g)
Warranty 1 year
Price (MSRP) $285
Other perks Integrated USB hub, keycap/switch puller,  17x extra keycaps

The Launch is System76’s first mechanical keyboard, but it could be the last keyboard you need. With hot-swappable mechanical switches, legends that won’t fade, a durable build, and a pair of detachable cables, this tenkeyless board can evolve with you.

It’s also open source—from its chassis to its PCB and firmware—allowing for deeper tinkering. There are even some extra keycaps for when you want a new look. And in true System76 style, the board favors Linux users.

At $285, though, the Launch is a big investment, and many won’t like how hard it is to press the keys. The clicky mechanical switches are so tactile that they’ll tire some fingers out.

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#gadgetology, #keyboards, #mechanical-keyboards, #system76-launch, #tech

Flashy as can be: The Asus ROG Strix Flare II Animate keyboard

Produced by Sean Dacanay. Transcript coming soon. (video link)

Specs at a glance: Asus ROG Strix Flare II Animate
Switches Asus ROG NX Red or Brown
Keycaps Doubleshot PBT plastic
Connectivity options USB-A cable
Backlighting Per-key RGB
Size 17.13×6.5×1.5 inches
(435×165×38 mm)
Weight 2.55 lbs (1,157 g)
Warranty 1 year
Price (MSRP) $220
Other perks USB passthrough port, keycap puller, switch puller

Switches, keycaps, chassis colors, backlighting—many features bring personality to mechanical keyboards. But for the flashiest among us, they’re not enough. If you’ve ever looked at an RGB keyboard and still yearned for more pizzazz, Asus’ ROG Strix Flare II Animate is for you.

LEDs go wild on this keyboard, from the bright RGB backlight to the hundreds of mini LEDs above the numpad that create pixellated animations to varying degrees of success. You’ll need to love LEDs to be drawn to the keyboard, but they’re not the Flare II Animate’s sole selling point.

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#ars-shopping, #asus, #features, #gadgetology, #mechanical-keyboards, #tech

Alienware AW720M mouse review: An ambidextrous wireless win

Alienware AW720M

Enlarge / Alienware AW720M. (credit: Scharon Harding)

Specs at a glance: Alienware AW720M
Sensor Optical (model not disclosed)
Connectivity options USB-C to USB-A cable, USB-C dongle, Bluetooth 5.1
Programmable buttons 8
Onboard profiles 1
Lighting 1x RGB zone
Size 4.93×2.43×1.49 inches
125.22×61.72×37.85 mm
Weight 3.14 ounces (89 g)
Warranty 2 years
Price (MSRP)  $150
Other perks Wireless extender

Lefties are dealt a tough hand when it comes to finding an advanced mouse. Mice are usually built for right hands, with any side buttons typically located on the mouse’s left side and curves that favor right thumbs. Lefties seeking a mouse with high functionality have few options—even fewer if they want a cable-free mouse.

Alienware’s AW720M ($150 MSRP as of writing) is the type of mouse that makes lefties rejoice. It’s truly ambidextrous, with side buttons on the left and right sides. It is also feature-filled, with the ability to connect to PCs via a wireless dongle, Bluetooth, or cable.

But beyond its flexibility, less exciting is its price and a smooth chassis that easily gets clammy.

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#alienware, #ars-shopping, #gadgetology, #mice, #tech

Intel NUC 12 Extreme review: Alder Lake makes for a pricey, portable powerhouse

Intel's NUC 12 Extreme kit.

Enlarge / Intel’s NUC 12 Extreme kit. (credit: Andrew Cunningham)

Intel’s NUC Extreme mini PC kits have always been hard to recommend. It’s true that they’re considerably smaller than even the smallest mini ITX PC cases; it’s impossible to fit this much performance into less space if you’re using general-purpose PC components. But they’re also expensive, they haven’t been as fast as standard desktop PCs, and their upgradability has been limited. Those three things essentially defeat the purpose of building a beefy desktop gaming PC or workstation.

Codenamed “Dragon Canyon,” the newest version of the NUC Extreme Kit helps to fix the latter two problems by switching to actual socketed desktop processors rather than soldered-in laptop versions. It’s still an expensive box—you’ll pay about $1,150 for a Core i7 version with no RAM, SSD, GPU, or operating system and $1,450 for the Core i9 version we tested—but its performance now comes much closer to that of a typical desktop.

The NUC Extreme still isn’t for everyone, but if money is no object and you want the smallest desktop you can get, the 12th-gen NUC Extreme is less of a compromise than the previous versions were.

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#alder-lake, #ars-shopping, #features, #gadgetology, #intel, #nuc, #tech

Logitech G413 SE mechanical keyboard review: Affordable, but not cheap enough

Logitech G413 SE on a glass table.

Enlarge / Logitech G413 SE mechanical keyboard. (credit: Scharon Harding)

Specs at a glance: Logitech G413 SE
Switches Long Hua Brown
Keycaps PBT plastic
Connectivity options USB-A cable
Backlighting White
Size 13.98 × 5 × 1.43 inches
(355 × 127 × 36.3 mm)
Weight 1.43 lbs (650 g)
Warranty 2 years
Price (MSRP) $80

A common complaint about mechanical keyboards is that they’re expensive, especially if you prefer an established brand. But Logitech challenges that with its new G413 SE, which is one of the company’s least expensive mechanical keyboards. At $80, it barely squeaks into the budget category, and there’s also a $70 tenkeyless version.

Logitech comes through with a quality, mildly unusual typing experience. The G413 SE’s conservative design will also win over users who feel mechanical keyboards, especially gaming devices, have become too flashy.

Despite a reputation for high prices, $80 mechanical keyboards can still offer a lot these days. But if you’re comparing feature sets among budget mechanical keyboards, the G413 SE doesn’t seem cheap enough.

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#ars-shopping, #gadgetology, #keyboards, #logitech, #mechanical-keyboards, #tech

Sony’s latest wireless earbuds have donut holes in them (on purpose)

Sony LinkBuds

Enlarge / Sony’s latest true wireless earbuds, the LinkBuds. Their drivers are shaped like rings in order to allow ambient sound in naturally, the idea being to let you stay persistently aware of your surroundings. They look like donut holes, so here’s an actual donut for scale. (credit: Jeff Dunn)

On Tuesday, Sony announced its newest set of fully wireless earbuds, the Sony LinkBuds.

The earbuds feature a unique “open ring” design built to let in ambient noise alongside your music, with the goal of keeping wearers aware of their surroundings at all times. That puts the earbuds in opposition to Sony’s other high-profile wireless earbuds, the more awkwardly named WF-1000XM4, which feature active noise cancelation to block out as much external sound as possible.

The LinkBuds cost $180 and are available to order starting today, with shipping beginning on February 17. I’ve had the earbuds on hand for a few days now; here are some impressions from my testing.

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#ars-shopping, #gadgetology, #sony, #tech, #true-wireless-earbuds, #wireless-headphones

Review: MNT Reform laptop has fully open hardware and software—for better or worse

The MNT Reform, a boxy laptop built around maximally open-source hardware and software.

Enlarge / The MNT Reform, a boxy laptop built around maximally open-source hardware and software. (credit: Andrew Cunningham)

Specs at a glance: MNT Reform
Screen 1920×1080 12.5-inch (176PPI) IPS screen
OS Debian Linux
CPU NXP/Freescale i.MX8MQ (1.5GHz quad-core ARM Cortex-A53)
RAM 4GB
GPU Vivante GC7000Lite
Storage 32GB SD card, NVMe SSD optional
Networking Optional 802.11n Wi-Fi, gigabit Ethernet
Ports 3x USB-A 3.0, HDMI (optional), SD card slot
Camera None
Size 11.42×8.07×1.57 inches (290×205×40 mm)
Weight 4.2 pounds (1.9 kg)
Battery 8x 18650 LiFePO4 battery cells
Starting price $1,358 (not assembled, with trackpad or trackball); $1,550 assembled with trackball

If you’re a Linux fan or open source advocate looking for a decent laptop, you actually have some solid options right now—much better, at least, than buying a Windows laptop, installing Linux on it, and hoping for the best.

Dell has offered Ubuntu editions of some of its XPS laptops and other PCs for years now, and Lenovo sells a respectable collection of desktops and laptops with Linux. System76 sells a selection of Linux-friendly laptops preloaded with Ubuntu or its own Pop!_OS distribution. The repair-friendly Framework Laptop doesn’t ship with Linux, but it can be configured without an OS, and Framework promises robust Linux support from multiple distributions.

But those laptops all have something in common with run-of-the-mill Windows PCs: a reliance on closed-source hardware and, often, the proprietary software and drivers needed to make it function. For some people, this is a tolerable trade-off. You put up with the closed hardware because it performs well, and it supports the standard software, development tools, and APIs that keep the computing world spinning. For others, it’s anathema—if you can’t see the source code for these “binary blobs,” they are inherently untrustworthy and should be used sparingly or not at all.

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#ars-shopping, #features, #gadgetology, #linux, #tech

Keychron Q2 mechanical keyboard review: Enthusiast luxury at a decent price

The Keychron Q2.

Enlarge / The Keychron Q2. (credit: Scharon Harding)

Not everyone appreciates the luxury of a mechanical keyboard. Many are happy with the flat keys that come with their laptop; they don’t need to deal with the price premiums, varieties, and complexities of mechanical switches. Among those who do make the leap to mechanical switches, plenty are happy to settle on a keyboard preloaded with a specific switch type. But the Keychron Q2 is for those wiling to go an inch or two further down the rabbit hole.

I say “an inch or two” because the Q2 comes completely assembled (or with just the switches and keycaps missing), letting you pick your level of customization—and it offers options that only a mechanical keyboard enthusiast would consider.

Specs at a glance: Keychron Q2
Cheapest Most expensive As reviewed
Switches None, hot-swappable Gateron G Pro Red, Blue, or Brown, hot-swappable
Keycaps Doubleshot PBT
Connectivity options USB-C to USB-C cable, USB-C to USB-A adapter
Backlighting RGB
Size (without keycaps)  12.89 x 4.76 x 0.79-1.33 inches
(327.5 x 121 x 20-33.8 mm)
Weight ~3.13 lbs (1,420 g) 3.63 ± 0.02 lbs
(1,645 ± 10 g)
Warranty 1 year
Price (MSRP) $149 $179
Other perks Barebones kit; keycap puller; switch puller; screwdriver; hex key; 4x extra gaskets; 2x extra rubber feet; 2x extra hex screws; 2x extra Philips screws Pre-assembled with volume knob; keycap puller; switch puller; screwdriver; hex key; 4x extra gaskets; 2x extra rubber feet; 2x extra hex screws; 2x extra Philips screws

Those options include a gasket-mounted design, sound-dampening foam, and pre-lubricated switches, which should eliminate pinging noises or cheap stabilizer rattling. The Q2 is a surprisingly hefty 65% keyboard built for the long haul, and while the starting price of $150 isn’t cheap, it’s more digestible than other high-end rivals.

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#features, #gadgetology, #keyboards, #mechanical-keyboards, #tech

Keychron K14 review: The rare Mac-ready wireless mechanical keyboard

Keychron K14 with no backlight (top) and an RGB backlight (bottom).

Enlarge / Keychron K14 with no backlight (top) and an RGB backlight (bottom). (credit: Scharon Harding)

A common complaint about mechanical keyboards is that they’re too expensive. Options are limited further for budget-minded buyers if they want a wireless device, especially if they’re looking for a Mac-specific board. But the market has come a long way, and you can now pick up mechanical keyboards, including cable-free options, for under $100. And not only can you buy a wireless mechanical keyboard that works with Apple computers, but in the case of the Keychron K14, you can get one that comes with a Mac layout out of the box (don’t worry, Windows keycaps are also included).

The K14 is a 70 percent wireless mechanical keyboard, meaning that it ditches the numpad (but not the navigation keys) and forgoes a dedicated function row. The result is a compact clacker with an option for white or RGB lighting and hot-swappable switches to get the exact typing feel you want.

The K14 even throws in some wireless luxuries, like the ability to pair the board with up to three Bluetooth devices and toggle between them, plus USB-C charging and the option to use the keyboard with a cable. At $59–$99, the K14 is a good candidate for someone seeking a budget- to mid-priced wireless keyboard with mechanical switches, and it’s even better for those who want Apple-ready legends. For keyboard enthusiasts seeking the finest craftsmanship from sight to sound, though, some of the K14’s features fall short.

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#ars-shopping, #gadgetology, #keyboards, #mechanical-keyboards, #tech, #wireless-keyboards

Logitech Signature M650: A quiet wireless mouse for big, small, or left hands

Logitech Signature M650 in the rose colorway.

Enlarge / Logitech Signature M650 in the rose colorway. (credit: Scharon Harding)

Specs at a glance: Logitech Signature M650
Sensor Optical (model not disclosed)
Connectivity options Bluetooth Low Energy or 2.4 GHz dongle
Programmable buttons 3
Onboard profiles 0
Lighting None
Size Standard: 4.22×2.43×1.49 inches
(107.19×61.80×37.8 mm)
Large: 4.65×2.58×1.63 inches
(118.19×65.65×41.52 mm)
Weight Medium: 3.57 ounces (101.2 g)
Large: 3.92 ounces (111.2 g)
Warranty 1 year
Price (MSRP) $40
Other perks AA battery included
(Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs.)

Many mice offer very basic functionality—left-click, right-click, scroll wheel, and not much more. Others boast a range of programmable buttons, premium sensor specs, USB-C charging, and other features for power users. But what if you don’t need that extreme level of functionality but don’t want something cheap and bare-bones, either?

Released this past week, the Logitech Signature M650 wireless mouse is a middle-ground device that supports Windows, macOS, Linux, Chrome OS, iPadOS, and Android. It doesn’t have the most advanced features, but it isn’t basic, either. And by skipping some add-ons, like multiple Bluetooth profiles, the mouse is able to maintain an affordable $40 price point.

Logitech’s latest cord-free mouse also comes in three different versions: a standard size, a large size, and a large left-handed version, providing something for everyone—unless you have a smaller left hand, that is.

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#ars-shopping, #features, #gadgetology, #logitech, #logitech-m650, #mice, #tech, #wireless-mice

Amazon Echo Show 15 review: Alexa on the big screen

Amazon's Echo Show 15 is about the largest smart display you can find.

Enlarge / Amazon’s Echo Show 15 is about the largest smart display you can find. (credit: Scharon Harding)

When getting a display of any type, the first thing to consider is size. And unless the display will be moving around, chances are that the bigger it is, the better your experience will be. TV manufacturers have gone big, smartphones (to my chagrin) insist on doing so, and now it’s time for a newer category, smart displays, to step onto the big screen.

The Amazon Echo Show 15 isn’t just the biggest Echo package yet, it has the biggest screen you can easily find in a smart display of any brand. The 15.6-inch display is meant to be anchored and serve as a central organization hub for your household. Boasting Alexa-powered widgets like shared calendars, shopping lists, to-do lists, and the abilities to call household members and manage your other smart devices, there’s a lot of utility to take advantage of.

Navigating the Echo Show 15’s content sometimes feels clunky, and some features are hard to discover, despite Amazon’s efforts to stuff the UI with tips. Different family member profiles can be activated via facial recognition, but the transition isn’t always smooth. You’ll have to train your family to use the Echo Show 15 to make it really worthwhile. But if you’re going down the path of smart displays, the Echo Show 15 comes with a bigger screen and bigger possibilities than the competition.

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#amazon, #amazon-echo-show, #echo-show-15, #features, #gadgetology, #smart-home, #tech

Review: Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 4 is a powerful laptop with heat problems

Lenovo's Thinkpad X1 Extreme Gen 4.

Enlarge / Lenovo’s Thinkpad X1 Extreme Gen 4. (credit: Andrew Cunningham)

The term “desktop replacement” is a bit out of fashion as a descriptor for laptops these days, if only because fewer people have desktop computers they’re trying to replace. But I struggle to think of a better term for something like Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Extreme, currently in its 4th generation.

Where other workstation-y laptops like Dell’s XPS 15 have dropped ports and offer only limited GPU options in an effort to slim down and become more mobile, the X1 Extreme still comes with a healthy selection of ports (both in number and variety) and offers GPUs all the way up to Nvidia’s RTX 3080. Its 16-inch screen is also subtly but noticeably larger than the 15.6-inch panels you’ll find in other laptops with similar speeds and weights.

(If you’re buying an X1 Extreme Gen 4, you could also check out the Lenovo P1 Gen 4, which is a workstation-branded version of an essentially identical laptop with Nvidia A- and T-series workstation GPUs in most models rather than RTX-series consumer GPUs. If you can get a P1 for cheaper than a comparable X1 Extreme, it’s a safe trade to make.)

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#ars-shopping, #features, #gadgetology, #lenovo, #tech, #thinkpad

Logitech G303 Shroud Edition review: $130 wireless mouse for big-handed gamers

Logitech G303 Shroud Edition top view

Enlarge / Logitech G303 Shroud Edition. (credit: Scharon Harding)

What do you get when you take 2015’s Logitech G Daedalus Apex G303, halve its weight, tweak the length and width, and cut the cable? Well, you get another G303. But this time, it’s called the Logitech G G303 Shroud Edition. It’s way more powerful and expensive ($130 MSRP) than its predecessor, and it’s not for everyone.

Some of the changes made to the G303 were necessary for the mouse to compete in today’s gaming landscape. At 2.6 oz (75 g), it’s ready to compete in first-person shooters and for long sessions without tiring out your arm. At the same time, it avoids the aggressive sub-2-oz (57 g) ultralight category.

The G303 Shroud Edition is named so because it was made to the specifications of pro streamer Michael “Shroud” Grzesiek. What that means for you, besides some subtle Shroud branding on the mouse, is a wider, flatter device. You’ll need bigger hands to find comfort here, and even then, the mouse’s pointy edges may turn you off. But if you’re bigger-handed and have been seeking a wireless gaming mouse for your fingertip or claw grip, you’ll be proud to rock the Shroud.

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#gadgetology, #gaming-culture, #logitech, #logitech-g303-shroud-edition, #tech

Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7i Pro review: Tall screen, strong performance

Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7i Pro.

Enlarge / Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7i Pro. (credit: Scharon Harding)

You’ve probably been there. You’re shopping for a new PC, perhaps for the first time in a years, and you get bogged down in the specs. Even if you narrow the list to include things like a certain amount of storage or screen size, you find yourself asking the ubiquitous question: what is the difference?

Often, the difference becomes more obvious as the gap between prices increases. But what if you’re looking for a little extra oomph without crossing the price bracket into luxury territory?

Of course, you get what you pay for, but the Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7i Pro offers as much as you can get for its MSRP (currently set from $1,420 to a sale price of $1,140—but you’ll be hard-pressed to find it for under $1,300). It’s not exorbitantly priced compared to similarly sized rivals, like the Acer Swift 5 ($1,100 MSRP for the configuration we reviewed) or 13-inch Dell XPS 13 ($1,250 with the closest specs to the IdeaPad we reviewed).

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#ars-shopping, #gadgetology, #lenovo, #lenovo-ideapad-slim-7i-pro, #tech

Acer Swift 5 review: The grass is always greener

Acer Swift 5 top view

Enlarge / Acer Swift 5. (credit: Scharon Harding)

Acer chose the Swift 5 as its vehicle for ushering in Windows 11, and that was a safe choice. With a starting MSRP of $1,100, up to 1TB of storage, a good port selection, and a more standout keyboard and webcam, it will suit many laptop needs just fine.

But “just fine” feels less fine when looking at alternatives that go the extra mile. With similarly priced options offering a bit more CPU, graphics, and even SSD performance than the Swift 5, the eye can easily start to wander.

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#acer, #acer-swift-5, #ars-shopping, #gadgetology, #tech

HP Chromebook x2 review: A price cut away from great

HP Chromebook x2 11-inch two-in-one.

Enlarge / HP Chromebook x2 11-inch two-in-one.

For tech enthusiasts, Chromebooks can be an acquired taste. Advanced users don’t need a stripped-down operating system, and the low computing power generally disqualifies Chromebooks from being a serious, primary PC. But Chromebooks can often find a welcome spot in an enthusiast’s home as a secondary or (after the phone) tertiary device. And when that Chromebook comes in a detachable form factor with a screen that’s slightly larger than most competitors, it fits that role well.

The HP Chromebook x2 two-in-one makes a play for this space with an 11-inch display that offers more screen area than rivals like the 10.1-inch Lenovo Chromebook Duet, the 10.5-inch Microsoft Surface Go 3, or even similarly priced iPads. HP’s portable, bendable (and did we mention blue?) Chromebook is ripe for travel and less intensive tasks.

Specs at a glance: HP Chromebook x2
Worst Best As reviewed
Screen 11-inch 2160×1440 IPS touchscreen
OS Chrome OS
CPU Qualcomm Snapdragon 7c Compute Platform
RAM 4GB LPDDR4x-2133 8GB LPDDR4x-2133
Storage 64GB eMMC 128GB eMMC 64GB eMMC
GPU Qualcomm Adreno 618 (integrated)
Networking Qualcomm Atheros 802.11a/b/g/n/ac (2×2) Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5
Ports 2x USB 3.1 Gen 1 (Type-C), 1x microSD card reader
Size 9.9×7×0.3 inches (252.5×176.8×7.6 mm)
Weight With keyboard and kickstand: 1.2 lb; Tablet only: 1 lb
Battery 32 Wh
Warranty 1 year
Price (MSRP) $570 $680 $600
Other perks HP Rechargeable USI Pen 4G LTE HP Rechargeable USI Pen

Despite an MSRP of $600-$680, depending on the configuration, I’ve seen the HP Chromebook x2 at more appropriate sale prices of $370$400, or $480. Considering its level of power, its touchpad that demands a hard surface, and a keyboard cover that feels like a temporary solution, you’ll want to wait for that discount.

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#ars-shopping, #chromebook, #detachable, #features, #gadgetology, #hp, #hp-chromebook-x2, #tech

Logitech Pop Keys review: Reliable wireless mechanical keyboard with a divisive style

Logitech's Pop Keys mechanical wireless keyboard.

Enlarge / Logitech’s Pop Keys mechanical wireless keyboard. (credit: Andrew Cunningham)

Logitech Pop Keys

(Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs.)

Mechanical keyboards can be intimidating for newcomers. The sheer number of options—keyboard size, the type and the manufacturer of the switches, the style and material of the keycaps, among others—can make it hard to know where to start. And yet, once you do start using a mechanical keyboard, there’s a lot to love, from the excellent key travel and typing feel to the satisfying clackity-clack of the switches to the customizability of the keycaps.

As we talked about in our review of the Razer Pro Type Ultra, good wireless mechanical keyboards are still hard to come by. That’s doubly true if you’re looking for one from a more established company that can provide US-based technical and warranty support and well-maintained, actually useful software. Which is why I’m glad to see Logitech expanding its mechanical keyboard offerings with the $100 Pop Keys Bluetooth keyboard.

The Pop Keys is definitely not for everyone. Its high-contrast, high-saturation color palette, rounded typewriter-style keycaps, and dedicated emoji keys will instantly turn off people who just want a keyboard-looking keyboard. Its keycap quality leaves a bit to be desired, too. But as a starter mechanical keyboard, or as a mechanical alternative for other Logitech Bluetooth keyboards like the budget-minded K380 or the MX Keys Mini, it’s an aesthetically striking option with reliable connectivity and a decent feel.

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#ars-shopping, #gadgetology, #logitech, #mechanical-keyboards, #pop-keys, #tech

Logitech Pop Mouse review: Emoji button meets colorful simplicity

Logitech Pop Mouse.

Enlarge / Logitech Pop Mouse. (credit: Scharon Harding)

Specs at a glance: Logitech Pop Mouse
Sensor Optical (model not disclosed)
Connectivity Options Bluetooth Low Energy or 2.4 GHz dongle (not included)
Programmable Buttons 2
Onboard profiles 0
Lighting None
Size ~4.5 x 2.6 x 1.4 inches (114.3 x 66 x 35.6 mm)
Weight 2.9 ounces (81.9 g) with battery
Warranty 1 year
Price (MSRP) $40
Other perks Available in yellow, purple or pink

There are many reasons to prefer wireless mice. They keep your desk clear of unnecessary cords, and it’s now easy to find one with advanced capabilities, a nice set of programmable buttons, and the ability to hold a reliable connection. Some people use a wireless mouse to control a distant system—like a media PC, for example—and are interested in mice that not only cut the cord but the volume as well.

The Logitech Pop Mouse is aimed at that latter crowd. But before you notice its absence of cable and ability to easily toggle across three devices paired with Bluetooth, you’ll see the daring color options that scream “vibrant” in all their plastic glory.

Priced at $40, the Pop Mouse also boasts an “emoji button” directly under the scroll wheel, pushing the device toward a young demographic. But that emoji button is programmable, so the Pop Mouse can still be a viable option for advanced users looking for a secondary or travel mouse. Just don’t rely on this diminutive, flatter, more limited mouse for your next big Photoshop project.

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#ars-shopping, #bluetooth, #gadgetology, #logitech, #logitech-pop-mouse, #tech, #wireless-mice, #wireless-mouse

Razer Pro Click Mini review: A wireless mouse for power users

Razer Pro Click Mini wireless mouse.

Enlarge / Razer Pro Click Mini wireless mouse. (credit: Scharon Harding)

Razer Pro Click Mini

(Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs.)

A mouse is an obvious candidate for cord-cutting. Going wireless ensures that you don’t get tangled up in your cord or have to deal with cable drag, and wireless connections have become so reliable that even gaming companies are offering wireless mice with no real lag issues.

The situation is a bit more complicated for people using multiple devices. Bluetooth connections may be stable, but that doesn’t mean I want to pair and re-pair my mouse repeatedly. Sometimes, being able to just plug in a mouse seems easier.

But there’s another way. The Razer Pro Click Mini joins a selection of wireless mice that let you pair with three Bluetooth devices and pick which machine you’re controlling with the press of a button. You can add yet another PC to the mix by using its included wireless dongle, for a total of four connected devices.

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#ars-shopping, #bluetooth, #gadgetology, #razer, #razer-pro-click-mini, #tech, #wireless-mouse

Razer Pro Type Ultra wireless keyboard review: A grown-up mechanical clacker

Razer Pro Type Ultra with backlight on

Enlarge / Razer Pro Type Ultra. (credit: Scharon Harding)

Razer Pro Type Ultra

(Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs.)

It’s nearly 2022, yet it’s still hard to find a good wireless mechanical keyboard. There are options, sure, but if you’re after a numpad, a decent price, or different color options, the pool gets small. But an unlikely ally has emerged in the battle for more wireless mechanical options: pricey peripheral-maker Razer, which is now entering the productivity space with fewer RGB lights or snake logos.

The Razer Pro Type Ultra, announced this week for $160 and set to ship in Q4, can connect to three devices via Bluetooth (you switch between them using keyboard shortcuts). It also features a wireless dongle and a cable for wired connections, so it’s ready for today’s multi-device world. Razer’s Synapse software lets users reprogram the Pro Type Ultra’s buttons and even create macros to make work more efficient.

However, the Pro Type Ultra isn’t a solution for everyone. For one thing, it adds to the already high price of the original Razer Pro Type, which currently has an MSRP of $126 (though it’s sometimes cheaper). The new keyboard offers much better battery life, dampening foam for a quieter sound profile, and a wrist rest—at the cost of some extra cash.

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#ars-shopping, #features, #gadgetology, #mechanical-keyboards, #razer, #razer-pro-type-ultra, #tech, #wireless-keyboards, #wireless-mechanical-keyboard

2021 MacBook Pro review: Yep, it’s what you’ve been waiting for

The 2021 14-inch MacBook Pro stacked on top of the 2021 16-inch MacBook Pro.

Enlarge / The 2021 14-inch MacBook Pro stacked on top of the 2021 16-inch MacBook Pro. (credit: Samuel Axon)

Apple MacBook Pro (2021)

(Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs.)

Apple has long offered an application called Time Machine that lets you revert the software on your computer to the state it was in before something went seriously wrong. In many ways, the new MacBook Pro is a hardware Time Machine of its own; you could say it makes it seem like the past five years never happened.

The 2021 MacBook Pro is notably bulkier, more flexible, and more powerful than its predecessor. It clicks “revert” on a whole bunch of changes that have been generally unpopular, like the inclusion of the Touch Bar in place of physical function keys and the singular focus on Thunderbolt as the port of choice.

The new laptop also has the most advanced CPU,  GPU, and NPU ever included in a consumer laptop and display technology that has never been seen in mainstream consumer products. So maybe it’s not so much like the past five years never happened; it’s more like we’ve slipstreamed into an alternate timeline where Apple never changed course at a critical juncture when a lot of people felt it shouldn’t have.

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#14-inch-macbook-pro, #16-inch-macbook-pro, #apple, #apple-m1, #apple-m1-max, #apple-m1-pro, #apple-silicon, #ars-shopping, #features, #gadgetology, #mac, #macbook, #macbook-pro, #macos, #tech

Review: Bigger screen and better lighting make for a nearly perfect Kindle Paperwhite

The 11th-generation Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition.

Enlarge / The 11th-generation Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition. (credit: Andrew Cunningham)

It’s the most reliable upgrade in tech: take a thing that was already good, and make the screen bigger.

From laptops to TVs to phones to game consoles to tablets to watches, the time-honored tradition of making the screen bigger has resulted in some excellent upgrades, at least as long as making the screen bigger doesn’t screw up anything else.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (11th gen, 2021)

(Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs.)

And that’s Amazon’s playbook with the $140 11th-generation Kindle Paperwhite. Next to the 10th-generation model, the designs look nearly identical, but the new one has a larger screen enabled in part by slimmer borders around the top and sides.

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#ars-shopping, #gadgetology, #kindle, #tech

macOS 12 Monterey: The Ars Technica review

Psychedelic illustration of two hills.

Enlarge (credit: Apple)

Big Sur was a landmark release of macOS, in ways both technical and symbolic. It introduced a major new redesign, it was the first version of macOS to run on Apple’s own in-house processors in addition to Intel’s, and it was the first version of macOS in nearly 20 years to change the version number. Coming off that, this year’s release was bound to feel a little small.

Welcome to Monterey, macOS version 12.0.

Monterey feels of a piece with maintenance-mode macOS updates like El Capitan or Sierra or High Sierra—change the default wallpaper, and in day-to-day use you can easily forget that you’ve upgraded from Big Sur at all. It’s not that there aren’t any new features here—it’s just that improving any operating system as mature as macOS involves a lot of tinkering around the edges.

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#features, #gadgetology, #macos, #macos-monterey, #tech

MSI Summit E13 Flip Evo review: A flip in the right direction

MSI Summit E13 Flip Evo review: A flip in the right direction

Enlarge

MSI Summit E13 Flip Evo

(Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs.)

A 2-in-1 laptop may seem like the ultimate device for people who want portability and versatility without giving up too much power. You get the ultraportability of an ultraportable from lightweight builds measuring under 1 inch thick. When you don’t need an old-school physical keyboard, you can switch to tablet mode, and with touchscreen and stylus options, creative work seems more attainable, too.

But problems with battery life, heat management, durability, and audio quality often come with that oh-so-versatile approach. The MSI E13 Flip Evo isn’t completely immune to all these issues, but it evolves the story around convertibles that insist on being under an inch thick.

Hailing from MSI’s business- and productivity-focused Summit series of machines, the E13 (there’s also a 16-inch E16 with Nvidia RTX options) starts at a $1,300 MSRP and goes up to $1,900. (We’ve spotted it for $1,800.) With its lightweight, trim aluminum build, shiny accents, and dedicated pen, the machine is a clear rival for premium ultraportables like Dell’s XPS line and Microsoft’s Surface offerings.

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Surface Laptop Studio review: One well-built, weird convertible PC

The Surface Laptop Studio with its screen popped out over its keyboard.

Enlarge / The Surface Laptop Studio with its screen popped out. (credit: Andrew Cunningham)

The Surface Pro 8, with its larger screen and performance improvements, is the star of Microsoft’s Surface lineup. But for people who prefer true laptops to convertible tablets, a new family member merits a look: the Surface Laptop Studio.

Like the old Surface Book, the Surface Laptop Studio wants to be a regular laptop with the option to get the keyboard out of the way when it’s time to draw or write with the Surface Pen. But where the Surface Book’s screen could be removed entirely from its base, the Laptop Studio has an attached screen with a folding hinge—not totally unlike the old Surface Studio desktop that it’s named for.

So where does the Surface Laptop Studio fit into the new Surface lineup? How does it stack up to the old Surface Book design? And how does it compare to other premium large-screened laptops from the other PC makers?

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iPadOS 15 mini-review: It’s all about the home screen

Widgets on iPadOS 15's home screen.

Enlarge / Widgets on iPadOS 15’s home screen. (credit: Samuel Axon)

Last year, Apple released a meaty iOS update for iPhones, but some of the biggest changes didn’t make it over to the iPad. This year, the iPhone update is modest—so does that mean that the iPad update is the big one this time around?

Well, that depends on your point of view. iPadOS 15 brings almost everything iOS 15 brought to iPhones, but it also brings those major iOS 14 omissions from last year to the tablet. As a result, iPadOS 15 feels like a significant update if you haven’t been using an iPhone lately, but if you’ve already used iOS 14’s new home screen and app library features, it instead ends up feeling like it’s late to the party.

We published a lengthy, iPhone-focused review of iOS 15 earlier this week. Consider this a short addendum to that review that puts the spotlight on the iPad. Refer to the earlier review for details on new features like Focus that aren’t iPad specific or for a list of iPads that are supported by iPadOS 15.

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#apple, #gadgetology, #ios, #ios-15, #ipad, #ipados, #ipados-15, #tech

iOS 15 review: Forget quantity, Focus on quality

Screenshot of smartphone interface.

Enlarge / A few apps that received significant updates in iOS 15. (credit: Samuel Axon)

Every year, Apple releases a major update to its operating systems for the iPhone and iPad that sets the stage for a year of changes to come.  This year, iOS 15 brings new FaceTime and Messages features, tweaks to existing apps and notifications, and most notably, a new way of managing apps and notifications called Focus.

Frankly, this is a relatively modest update compared to what we saw last year. That’s amplified by the fact that some key features that Apple initially announced in June haven’t made it into the initial release of iOS 15. But today we’ll be exploring whether a modest update means a bad one. Should you bother to upgrade to the new version of iOS when it’s mostly a tune-up and a fresh coat of paint?

As always, let’s start with a look at which devices are still supported.

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Surface Pro 8 review: The best Surface for people who love the Surface

Microsoft needed three tries to get the Surface Pro right. The 2nd- and 3rd-generation models both improved aggressively on the first model’s small screen and mediocre battery life, arriving at something that was laptop-y enough to fill in for a laptop but tablet-y enough to be unique.

And then, things just sort of… stood still. Some of the ports changed over the years—late 2019’s Surface Pro 7 finally got USB-C—but the basic design and accessory compatibility have been exactly the same in every mainline Surface Pro between 2014 and now.

Five generations’ worth of accessory interoperability is laudable and useful in some cases, especially if you’re using multiple generations of Surface Pro tablets in a business and you need to be able to swap parts quickly. But some elements of the Surface Pro 3 design have been showing their age in the last couple of generations—Thunderbolt and/or USB-C ports accomplish nearly everything that the proprietary Surface Connect port is trying to do, and other laptops, tablets, and convertibles had been shrinking their display bezels for a few years to increase screen size.

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Windows 11: The Ars Technica review

Windows 11: The Ars Technica review

(credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft wanted everyone to use Windows 10.

Faced with slow adoption of Windows 8 and the stubborn popularity of Windows 7, Microsoft made Windows 10 a free upgrade for anyone using either version—the offer technically expired years ago, but to this day, old Windows 7 and 8 product keys still activate Windows 10 without protest. The OS was billed as a return to form that would appeal to people put off by Windows 8’s divisive touchscreen-oriented interface while still retaining touch-friendly features for people who had bought a PC tablet or a laptop with a touchscreen.

Windows 10 would be long-lived, too. Some in the company billed it as “the last version of Windows“—one big, stable platform that would simultaneously placate change-averse users, huge IT shops that would have kept using Windows XP forever if they had been allowed to, and software developers who would no longer need to worry about supporting multiple wildly different generations of Windows at once. Windows could still change, but a new twice-a-year servicing model would keep that change coming at a slow-but-consistent pace that everyone could keep up with.

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iPhone 13 and 13 Pro review: If you could have three wishes

The iPhone 13 Pro Max, photographed by the iPhone 13 Pro in low light.

Enlarge / The iPhone 13 Pro Max, photographed by the iPhone 13 Pro in low light.

Imagine you were visited by a genie who would grant you three wishes, but they all had to be about what you want from your next smartphone. As market research and surveys tell it, almost everyone would make the same three wishes: great battery life, excellent cameras, and big, beautiful screens.

This year, Apple is that technology genie, because that’s exactly what the iPhone 13, iPhone 13 mini, iPhone 13 Pro, and iPhone 13 Pro Max deliver when they hit store shelves today.

Cupertino’s flagship phone lineup might seem like an iterative “S”-style update, given that the phones look almost the same as last year’s models and that there are no major new features apart from screens with higher refresh rates in the priciest models. But since Apple zeroed in on most people’s highest priorities, this seemingly iterative update ends up being a noteworthy one.

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The more pricey 2021 iPad mini is the best one Apple has ever made

The new iPad mini—whether you want to call it the 2021 iPad mini, iPad mini 6, or iPad mini (6th generation)—is easily the best one Apple has ever made. That’s true whether you’re comparing this iPad mini to the last one, or if you’re comparing it to the other iPads Apple sells.

The mini almost always seems to get the short end of the stick on the rare occasions when it’s updated at all. It has been saddled with older, slower processors or inferior screens or dated designs. This iPad mini, on the other hand, has a fully modern design and a cutting-edge Apple A15 chip in it. It’s a fantastic tablet—if you’re the kind of person who is already ride-or-die for the iPad mini.

Apple iPad mini (2021)

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That’s a big if, because as great as the mini is, its position in Apple’s lineup remains awkward. The $329 iPad (also just updated with a new chip and other tweaks) is a great all-around tablet for kids and price-conscious adults. And the $599 iPad Air 2 is just barely more expensive and has a bigger screen that is a better fit for the computer-y multitasking features Apple keeps adding to iPadOS.

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2021 $329 iPad review: The “good enough” iPad gets a little better

As a rule, Apple doesn’t focus on budget-friendly gadgets. And that strategy has worked well over the last two decades—the company’s predilection for premium products at premium prices (not always unreasonable or uncompetitive prices, but premium ones) has paid off in the form of consistently extraordinary revenue and profit margins.