Asus ZenBook UX305CA Review and RatingsAs we took the 2.7-pound, $699.99-MSRP ZenBook UX305CA from its box, we experienced two sensations: one, that it was exceptionally thin, light, and balanced; and, two, that we had seen this 13.3-inch-screened laptop before. Our first observation we’ll discuss over the course of this review. The second, that we had seen this laptop before, is true—the identically priced ZenBook UX305FA we reviewed back in July 2015 was, in many ways (but especially appearance) much alike.

Apart from the version of Windows (Win 10 here, versus 8.1 on the UX305FA) and a different generation of Intel Core M processor, these laptops differ little. The ZenBook UX305CA’s processor is a second-generation version of the Core M. (We tested a 900MHz dual-core Intel Core m3-6Y30 in today’s review unit; the Core M-5Y10 in the earlier ZenBook was a 800MHz dual-core.)

Asus Zenbook UX305CA (Front)Unlike the first round of Core M chips, which were classed simply as “Core M” and seen in only two variants, this next generation comes in the familiar “3”, “5,” and “7” stepping that Intel uses with its higher-end Core processors. (It’s a parallel scheme; instead of Core i3, i5, and i7, Intel has stacked the new Core M chips into Core m3, m5, and m7 classes.) Core M is all about power efficiency and keeping heat in check in small spaces, and by providing finer slices of its Core M silicon than before, Intel has enabled makers of laptops and 2-in-1s more flexibility in these thin, thermally challenging designs. Just as entry-level and mainstream portables typically run on Core i3 and i5 CPUs, and models meant for resource-intensive games and media editing/processing are home to more powerful i7 processors, we should see similar stratification with these new CPUs.

Of course, with Core M designed for work in tighter confines than Core i, we can’t help but wonder whether even Core m7 chips, without cooling fans, will be powerful enough to act as media crunchers for high-res photos in Photoshop or as effective mobile video workhorses. [Jury’s still out on that, as we we’ve tested just one example; see our review of the Core m7-based HP Spectre x2 2-in-1 detachable for more. —Ed.]

We’ll see as more Core M comes to market, but if clock speed is any indication, Core M will be more about base productivity work than CPU-heavy load crunching. Early on, it looks like the primary differences within this new-gen Core M line circle around clock speed. The Core m3 CPU in our ZenBook review unit, for example, runs at 900MHz, while the two Core m5 processors in the wild when we wrote this in mid-January 2016 (the Core m5-6Y54 and Core m5-6Y57) run at 1.1GHz, and the Core m7-6Y75 in the Spectre x2 runs at 1.2GHz. All of the other base specs in the new line are the same.

While the Core M CPUs emphasize low wattage and other power-sipping options, one of their more attractive features is that they’re designed to be “fanless,” allowing laptop and tablet manufacturers to build near-noiseless laptops and convertibles. (Noise, then, becomes a factor of the storage drive, but for the thin portables that Core M makes sense for, the drive is almost always a silent solid-state model.) It’s also the reason that this ZenBook and its predecessor are so thin. Although the marketing moniker “ultrabook” is falling into lesser use, if not disuse, these days, plenty of laptops still fit the profile, and being thin and light has always been one of the primary attributes. Whatever these machines end up being called, Core M CPUs should help keep them that way.

Which brings us back to our review unit. Like with its ZenBook UX305FA predecessor, given the UX305CA’s $699 list price, you get a respectable set of components. The top-line ones: That Core m3 processor, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB solid state drive (SSD), and an attractive 1080p HD display panel. On the whole, this is a respectable midrange ultrabook with an excellent mix of components that skillfully balances the perception of just-enough speed for productivity work without ever spilling into overkill. And like with the ZenBook UX305FA, we found very little to quibble with on this ultrabook’s design, assuming the level of performance matches the way you work.

Read the entire review at Computer Shopper

Toshiba Portege Z30-A1301 Review and RatingsWe’ve watched over the last year or two as mainstay business laptops gradually inch closer in design to their ultrabook competitors—as we saw when Lenovo bolstered the ThinkPad T430 with the thinner, lighter T430u and T431s. Now Toshiba is doing the reverse, making its ultrabook more businesslike.

Compared to its Portege Z835/Z935 predecessor, the Portege Z30 delivers more of the security and office-friendly features you’d expect to find on a business machine, such as a SmartCard slot and a docking connector for a $199 desktop port replicator shared with Toshiba’s Tecra enterprise laptops. However, since it’s an ultrabook, you also get an extra-slim profile and light body (albeit a fractionally heavier one—the Z835 was 2.4 pounds and bordered on feeling flimsy, the Z30 is 2.6 pounds and feels solid). Unlike some ultrabooks such as the Samsung ATIV Book 9 Plus that aspire to elegance and high-end looks, though, the Portege focuses more on practicality than glamour. 

Toshiba Portege Z30-A1301 dock

The Z30’s optional port replicator provides Ethernet, USB 3.0, and assorted video (VGA, HDMI, DisplayPort, DVI) ports.

You can buy the Portege Z30 in several different hardware configurations with your choice of processors, memory, and storage options. Our $1,279 review unit, the Z30-A1301, was built around a fourth-generation Intel Core i5 CPU, along with 8GB of system memory and a 128GB solid-state drive. Build-to-order options include a Core i7 processor, up to 16GB of RAM, and up to a 512GB SSD, as well as the Windows 8-suitable touch screen which our Windows 7 Professional test unit lacked.

One component you can’t change is this laptop’s mediocre, low-resolution 13.3-inch, 1,366×768 display, which frankly we found disappointing, especially considering that we liked nearly everything else about the Z30, right down to its relatively strong performance in our benchmarks and its exceptional showing in our demanding battery-rundown test.

Thinner, lighter, and faster than most competitors, the Portege Z30 is a well-built ultrabook with some nice extras numberswiki.com

and stellar battery life. Aside from its lackluster screen, we think it makes a great road companion.

Design

Unlike high-end, consumer-grade ultrabooks, the 0.7-inch-thick Toshiba is not made of chic brushed aluminum. Instead, the Z30’s chassis is made from a very light and durable magnesium alloy that looks and feels like plastic, but it’s much lighter and tougher than that.

Toshiba Portege Z30-A1301 closed

Furthermore, as you can see in the image at left, the new Portege appears, compared to several other ultrabooks we’ve reviewed, a little boxy, devoid of the sculptured bodies and sleek lines we see on so many consumer models. Instead of style and sex appeal, though, we say again that this laptop offers durability and business-friendly features, such as a fingerprint reader to help keep out intruders.

Any office-oriented laptop needs lots of connectivity and expansion options, and the Portege Z30 won’t let you down there. For example, it supports two types of video output, both VGA (RGB) and HDMI. You’ll find these two ports, along with the AC power jack and a USB 3.0 port with Sleep and Charge for recharging handheld gadgets, on the left edge. Meanwhile, on the right edge you’ll find an SD Card reader, another two USB 3.0 ports, a Gigabit Ethernet port, and a security lock slot.

Toshiba Portege Z30-A1301 ports

The Z30’s left and right profiles and ports.

On the underside of the chassis, up near the front edge, are two stereo speakers. The pair, with the help of DTS Studio Sound software enhancement, played back with decent tonal quality and stereo delineation, but we weren’t able to get enough volume out of them.

Toshiba Portege Z30-A1301 DTS

A supplied software utility offers hi-fi fine tuning.

As you can see in the image above, the DTS utility provides extensive control over audio playback. When we turned DTS on, our test videos and music samples sounded full and rich.

Read the entire article at Computer Shopper.

Lenovo ThinkPad T431s Review and RatingsLenovo’s popular business laptop line, the ThinkPad T Series, contains both a thin and light model, the ThinkPad T430s, and an ultrabook, the ThinkPad T430u. The first T Series to combine Lenovo’s high durability and business standards with Intel’s ultrabook requirements, the T430u represents an affordable alternative to Lenovo’s elegant ThinkPad X1 Carbon. Unlike the Carbon, though, the T430u is not—by ultrabook standards, anyway—all that light. In fact, it weighs slightly more than the T430s (4.1 versus 4.0 pounds).

Now Lenovo is giving slimline shoppers a third choice. Not only is the new ThinkPad T431s about half a pound lighter than the first T Series ultrabook (3.6 pounds), it has a few other features that make it more appealing, such as a 1,600×900-resolution display, up from the lowest-common-denominator 1,366×768-pixel panel of its predecessor.

In a further attempt to make the matte black brick ThinkPad more fashionable, Lenovo has also made a few cosmetic changes to the T431s. Though perhaps not as alluring as the brushed aluminum cases we’ve seen on other ultrabooks, this one’s semi-gloss lid, slender side profile, and thin display bezel make for an all-around more attractive laptop.

Lenovo ThinkPad T431s openOne change that ThinkPad loyalists may not like, however, is the new glass touch pad. Instead of three tactile buttons at the top of the pad, you now get the flat, no-button integration we see on many consumer-oriented laptops. TrackPoint pointing stick enthusiasts, we believe, will find this change a minus, because it’s now more difficult to distinguish between the left, right, and middle mouse buttons.

We were also a little disappointed with the Lenovo’s display. While the 14-inch screen displayed text, graphics, and images well enough for everyday business applications, it left something to be desired in overall brightness and vibrancy. In addition, its lack of in-plane switching (IPS) technology made for relatively narrow viewing angles—when viewing the screen at any angle other than straight on, the contents started to appear washed out and distorted.

Overall, though, the ThinkPad T431s, like most T Series models, is a strong business-class laptop. It’s built solidly, with the durability we’ve come to expect from ThinkPads, and it performed reasonably well on the majority of our benchmark tests. It’s thin, light, and comfortable to use, making it a solid travel companion. We don’t recommend it as a consumer-oriented media-consumption machine—there are a number of ultrabooks better suited for that. This ThinkPad means business, and we like it as a highly portable workstation.

See the full review at Computer Shopper.

HP Folio 13 ReviewSome laptop makers opt for ultra-thin, ultra-light, and ultra-sleek when making an ultrabook. With the $999 Folio 13, HP has taken a more utilitarian and practical approach: As Samsung did with the $949.99 Series 5 14-inch Ultra, HP provides more by way of features and ease of use, rather than focusing on a strikingly slender design.

The Folio 13 is a bit thicker, heavier, and blockier-looking than the average ultrabook, and unlike Asus’ attractive $1,199 ZenBook UX21E and several other models in this class, its chassis is not constructed entirely of metal. Instead of a MacBook Air-inspired work of art, it’s an average-looking slate that won’t turn any heads.

But it’s no ugly duckling, either. In fact, its comfortable, easy-to-type-on, backlit keyboard, as well as some business-friendly features such as Windows 7 Professional and an embedded TPM security chip, may make it more attractive for folks who work on their laptops for a living. The Folio also performed reasonably well on most of our tests—turning in above-average scores on some of them, including our battery-life benchmark trial—and comes with a respectable complement of ports.HP Folio 13 Review

Aside from a less-than-stellar screen (in terms of very narrow viewing angles), we found little to dislike about this machine. It’s more expensive than the Series 5 Ultra, however, and that ultrabook has a larger, better-looking screen and comes with an optical drive. Overall, though, the Folio 13 is a strong, thin, and light business-oriented laptop at a reasonable price.

If you seek an even more reasonable price, HP also offers an $899.99 base model that comes with Windows 7 Home Premium instead of Professional. Aside from the operating system, though, both models are essentially the same, right down to their identical Intel Core i5-2467M processors, 4GB of RAM, and 128GB solid-state drives.

 

See the review at Computer Shopper.

Samsung Series 5 14” Ultra ReviewNot every Editors’ Choice-winning notebook is a love-at-first-sight machine, and the Samsung Series 5 Ultra is one such notebook. It probably won’t turn heads or elicit any “wows” from those who look at it casually. But if you had a few notebooks lying around your house to choose among, we bet this would be the one you’d reach for most often—for a short trip, a day trip, a long trip, or a trip to the couch.

If you’ve been keeping up with trends in laptops in 2012, you know about “ultrabooks”—a new breed of exceptionally light laptops built around powerful Intel CPUs and that comply with a set of specifications dictated by Intel. And if you’ve seen any ultrabooks in the flesh (or should that be, “in the metal”?), you probably think of them as slim, sleek, and sexy. But one thing that you don’t expect out of most ultrabooks, given how lean they are, is a DVD drive inside. That’s an inclusion that makes the $949 Samsung Series 5 Ultra stand out from the ultrabook pack.

With a 14-inch screen and a little more girth than most ultrabooks, the Samsung Series 5 14″ Ultra juts out in other ways, too. It’s actually closer in size and weight to the almost-hefty but very sexy HP Envy 14 Spectre, another 14-inch-screened laptop that’s priced $450 more at $1,399. And while we liked the Envy 14 Spectre for its forward-looking innovation and unique design, we like the Series 5 Ultra for its creature comforts and healthy selection of ports. It’s simply a practical machine. With it, you won’t end up stranded in a hotel room or an out-of-town office with all the right cords and no ports to plug them into.Samsung Series 5 14” Ultra

The Series 5 Ultra comes in two screen sizes and three flavors. The $949.99 14-inch model (model NP530U4BI), the one we’re reviewing here, has an optical drive and a 500GB “hybrid”-style hard drive. (The drive is equipped with onboard cache for better performance.) If you prefer something smaller, thinner, and lighter, though, and you can do without the optical drive, Samsung offers a 13-inch model (NP530U3BI) in two configurations. The lower-priced ($899.99) 13-inch model comes with the same 500GB hybrid drive as the 14-incher we tested, while the higher-end ($1,099) version moves you up to a 128GB solid-state drive (SSD). All three models use the 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-2467M processor, have 4GB of RAM, and run the Home Premium version of Windows 7.

Granted, the Series 5 Ultra is no ultra-looker; its appearance is less striking than most other ultrabooks. And its benchmark-test scores, in most cases, hovered just above the ultrabook-category averages. Regardless, we liked this laptop. Samsung products typically have good-looking screens, and the Series 5 Ultra was no exception.

We can’t help but wonder, though, how much less it would cost if it wasn’t called an ultrabook—a distinction that, in itself, is worth a premium. We admired the first wave of ultrabooks for their elegant, MacBook Air–like grace and elegance. The Series 5 Ultra is a good-quality laptop, to be sure, but it didn’t remind us much of the MacBook Air or any of the first ultrabooks we’ve come to know. It’s more practical than pretty.

See the full review at Computer Shopper.

Hands-On With the GeForce 600M Series

Somebody woke up the giant. In desktop and laptop PCs, it’s been a quiet last couple of years for Nvidia, but the big graphics powerhouse isn’t keeping it down any longer. Nvidia’s big-splash news in early 2012 was its new-to-market, long-awaited revision of its graphics architecture, code-named “Kepler.” Touted since 2010, Kepler showed up in the company’s speed-monster (but power-stingy) GeForce GTX 680 desktop video card, an able competitor to AMD’s best. (See our March 2012 review of the Nvidia GeForce GTX 680, as well as a look at AMD’s leading 2012 video card, the AMD Radeon HD 7970.)

In early March, two of our editors ventured to sunny San Francisco to attend Nvidia’s 2012 Editors’ Day conference, where the company gave us a sneak peek at the GTX 680. But there, they were surprised to see something that’s potentially even more of a game-changer: the GeForce 600M Series, a suite of new graphics-processing units (GPUs) for laptops.

Of course, manufacturers always tout new hardware of this kind as an epochal breakthrough, destined to change the tech landscape. Sometimes it’s true, sometimes, less so. This time, though, we have to say that the new graphics processors Nvidia showed us looked, at least from the claims on the table, nothing short of impressive. And our preliminary tests bear some of this out.

Read the full article at Computer Shopper.

Toshiba Portégé Z835 Review

Toshiba Portégé Z835 - Light, Powerful, Beautiful

If nothing else, this recent round of ultrabooks hitting the market of late proves that Cupertino doesn’t have a monopoly on turning out sleek, thin, powerful, and sexy-looking notebooks. While Apple’s MacBook Air products are spectacular, so are the new Windows 7 ultrabooks coming down the pike. So far, we’ve looked at two of them—Acer’s $899.99 Aspire S3-951 and Asus’s $1,199 ZenBook Ux21E. Both are impressive machines with lots to offer today’s modern road warrior, but this new clash of the ultra-thin, light and powerful laptops shoot-out has just begun. With each new offering we find ourselves all the more impressed. These are indeed exciting times for the Windows notebook market.

Next up is the 13.3-inch Toshiba Portégé Z830 line of ultrabooks, starting with the $799 Z835 (our review unit) base model, which will be available exclusively as of November 13, 2011 at Best Buy. The Z835 runs Windows 7 Home Premium and sports the 1.4GHz Intel Core i3-2367M CPU (a.k.a. Sandy Bridge), 4 GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD (solid-state drive). Down the road (Toshiba won’t say when), several other outlets will offer the Z835 (under the Z830 SKU) and two other models. Again, we don’t know when, but you’ll eventually be able to buy a $1,199 configuration that comes with the Intel Core i5-2467M CPU, 4GB RAM, Windows 7 Professional, as well as a $1,429 version that comes with Windows 7 Pro, the 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-2677M CPU and 6GB RAM. In addition, on Toshiba’s Website (ToshibaDirect.com), you will be able to configure your Portégé Z830 to order with your choice of CPUs, up to 8GB RAM and up to a 256GB SSD. (Toshiba also refuses to show its hand on the release date of these products.

See this review at Computer Shopper.

 

If nothing else, this recent round of ultrabooks hitting the market of late proves that Cupertino doesn’t have a monopoly on turning out sleek, thin, powerful, and sexy-looking notebooks. While Apple’s MacBook Air products are spectacular, so are the new Windows 7 ultrabooks coming down the pike. So far, we’ve looked at two of them—Acer’s $899.99 Aspire S3-951 and Asus’s $1,199 ZenBook Ux21E. Both are impressive machines with lots to offer today’s modern road warrior, but this new clash of the ultra-thin, light and powerful laptops shoot-out has just begun. With each new offering we find ourselves all the more impressed. These are indeed exciting times for the Windows notebook market.

Asus ZenBook UX21E Review

Asus ZenBook UX21E - Move Over MacBook Air

It’s not every day that we see a whole new category of notebook computers emerge. Nonetheless, here in late 2011, off we go headfirst into the “ultrabook” era.

A few weeks before we looked at the subject of this review, we tested the first machine to meet the ultrabook outlines as defined by Intel: Acer’s $899.99 Aspire S3-951. As we promised then, Acer’s offering would be the first in what looks to be a long line of thin, light, and powerful laptops hitting the market just in time for the 2011 holidays.

The next thin, light model to meet the ultrabook criteria is Asus’ $1,199 ZenBook UX21E. The ZenBook comes in five basic versions: two models with 11.6-inch screens, and three with 13.3-inchers. The $999 base model (UX21E-DH52) comes with an 11.6-inch screen, Intel’s Core i5-2467M processor, 4GB of DDR3 memory, and a 128GB solid-state drive (SSD). The 13.3-inch models, depending on their processor speed and the capacity of the SSD, range in price from $1,099 to $1,499. The top model of those three, the $1,499 UX31E-DH72, comes with the Intel Core i7-2677M processor and a 256GB SSD. Across all five models, the specifications comply with Intel’s requirements for donning the “ultrabook” name.

See the review here.