Always Free To Place a Hit On Someone
We weren't sure what to make of the announcement of Toshiba's brand new Kirabook line of Ultrabooks, considering the last Ultrabook-like Toshiba product we reviewed was the underwhelming Portégé Z10t. However, one look at the specification, build and ergonomics of the Kira-101 put our fears to rest; compared to Toshiba's previous effort, the Kirabook is a very different animal. See also: The best laptops of 2014Chromebooks have grabbed between 20% and 25% of the US market for budget laptops, those priced less than $300 - and that market is expected to grow 10% this year, analyst firm NPD Group told Bloomberg.While we were sceptical initially, I think Chromebooks definitely have found a niche in the marketplace, Stephen Baker, an analyst at NPD, told the publication. The entire computing ecosystem is undergoing some radical change, and I think Google has its part in that change.
A week with Chrome OS Chromebooks still have a small share overall, between 4% and 5% in the first quarter, according to Gartner. That's an improvement on their less than 2% share in the first quarter of 2012. Plus, the sales gains come at a time when sales are sliding for PCs as a whole, with shipments falling for the fifth consecutive quarter.Google has previously claimed the devices were selling well, saying last year that one in ten laptops sold at PC World in the US was a Chromebook.However, analytics firm Net Applications said Chrome OS has yet to grab any significant browsing market share.Both Samsung and Acer have sold Chromebooks since their launch in 2011, while HP released its Pavilion 14 Chromebook earlier this year and Google unveiled its high-end Pixel Chromebook last year.Have a bit of tech savvy? Do your friends and family know it? Then you're likely used to acting as unofficial tech support, taking calls at all hours to fix wobbly internet connections, or offering step-by-step instructions to turning a laptop on and off again.
You're the one carefully explaining Heartbleed to confused friends who saw conflicting headlines about password resets, and warning parents to change login details on Ebay.If you're a PC Pro reader, we can only assume this is your lot in life -- we salute you, and want to help. We're working on a feature full of advice and hints for making the job of unofficial tech support a little easier, and we want your feedback.In the comments below, or to firstname.lastname@example.org, tell us your stories of life as unofficial tech support -- funny or horrible as they may be -- and share your tips and tricks for making the job a little easier.Do you install remote desktop tools ahead of time to make support simpler? Take photos of ports and plugs to direct friends to the right one? Let us know your clever ideas -- and hopefully we'll come up with some ways to make the job faster, and let you get back to your real work.Netbooks are back, and they're running Android: Archos has unveiled the ArcBook for only £140 - about the same as a mid-range smartphone.Acer's first quarter revenue was down 11% from the previous quarter and 19% from the year before, but managed to boost profit to $1 million New Taiwan dollars (£19,600) by controlling costs and inventory.The analyst firm predicted 22.9% of laptops will run on ARM processors by 2015 - up from 3% now - as the UK company helps manufacturers give some real competition to Intel.
Matthew Wilkins, principal analyst of compute platforms for IHS, said the days of X86’s unchallenged domination are coming to an end as Windows 8 opens the door for the use of the ARM processor, which already has achieved enormous popularity in the mobile phone and tablet worlds”.The days of X86’s unchallenged domination are coming to an end as Windows 8 opens the door for the use of the ARM processorThe days of X86’s unchallenged domination are coming to an end as Windows 8 opens the door for the use of the ARM processor Microsoft announced at the beginning of the year that Windows 8 would support ARM processors, as it looks to gain a foothold in the tablet market.But iSuppli doesn't see ARM's success limited to tablets, predicting ARM would see it's biggest successes in the value notebook segment, as it competes with AMD's E Series and Intel's Atom.“ARM is well-suited for value notebooks, where performance isn’t a key criterion for buyers,” Wilkins said. “Value notebook buyers are looking for basic systems that balance an affordable price with reasonable performance. ARM processors deliver acceptable performance at a very low cost, along with unrivaled power efficiency.”
We’ve been waiting eagerly to get a closer look at HP’s ZBook range of mobile workstations, and the first has finally arrived in the PC Pro labs – the range-topping HP ZBook 17. The biggest model in the line-up, the ZBook 17 partners a 17.3in display with a burly, upgradeable chassis, a truckload of connectivity and a slew of high-end componentry. See also: what's the best laptop you can buy in 2014?There’s no getting away from the fact that the ZBook 17 is an absolute giant. Measuring 416mm wide and 44mm thick, this mobile workstation weighs in at 3.8kg even without the mains charger. Factor in the 120W PSU and the whole package comes in at a back-breaking 4.5kg – it’s telling that one of the suggested accessories on HP’s web store is a wheeled roller case.The flipside to the ZBook 17’s sheer bulk is that it feels outstandingly well built. Indeed, the construction doesn’t only look burly: it feels nigh-on indestructible. Metal sheets shield the lid and keyboard surround, and tough plastics make for a chassis that’s rock-solid. The base has barely a millimetre of give in it, and the thick, chunky lid is similarly stout – there’s hardly any side-to-side flex, and it wasn’t until we pushed really hard on the centre of the lid that we noted any showthrough on the LCD panel. If you’re intending to cart the ZBook 17 from desk to desk, or office to office, the build quality immediately inspires confidence.
The HP’s ergonomics are top-notch, too. The keyboard has a numeric keypad alongside, and the crisp-feeling keys have a grippy, matte finish. Meanwhile, a touchpoint in the centre of the keyboard partners with a trio of buttons below the space bar. The glass touchpad is excellent: it feels silky smooth under the finger, and, neatly, a quick double-tap in the top-left corner toggles it on and off.If you’re on the hunt for an affordable mobile workstation, however, the ZBook 17 isn’t it. The base model comes in at £1,605 exc VAT, and partners a dual-core Core i7-4600M CPU with an Nvidia Quadro K610M GPU, 4GB of DDR3 RAM and a 500GB hard disk. At this price, it’s a tad disappointing to have to make do with a 1,600 x 900 display, let alone a standard hard disk. Upgrade to the model with a Core i7-4700MQ, Nvidia Quadro K3100M GPU and Full HD display, and the price rises to £2,025 exc VAT.
If that weren’t expensive enough to blow any IT budget, we received the range-topping, £2,998 exc VAT model for review. While the Core i7-4700MQ is still there, the memory doubles to 8GB; the GPU is Nvidia’s high-end Quadro K4100M; the 7,200rpm 750GB hard drive is accompanied by a 32GB mSATA SSD for caching duties; and the display is upgraded to HP’s DreamColor wide-gamut Full HD panel.The lack of a decent-sized SSD seems more than a tad stingy, but overall performance doesn’t suffer unduly as a result. The ZBook 17 sped to a result of 1.05 in our Real World Benchmarks, enough to put it narrowly ahead of Dell’s similarly specified Precision M4800, which scored 1.01. The HP’s Quadro K4100M GPU proved itself significantly more powerful than the Quadro K2100M in Dell’s machine, too: where the Dell’s GPU powered through our GPU-assisted Sony Vegas 12 benchmark in around 1min 56secs, the HP took only 1min 32secs – almost 21% quicker.Those looking to use the ZBook 17 away from the mains will almost certainly need to shell out on a spare battery or two, though, or go for the optional extended wedge battery that clips to the underside. Despite a meaty 75Wh power pack, the ZBook ran dry after 3hrs 29mins in our light-use battery test. Working flat out, the HP lasted only 1hr 3mins.
High-DPI displays are the flavour of the moment, but the Dell Precision M4800 marks the first time we’ve seen such a screen on a business-class machine. That isn’t this monster of a workstation laptop’s only talent though. Not only is its 15.6in panel super crisp, at 3,200 x 1,800, it’s also one of the finest-quality displays we’ve tested. See also: what's the best laptop you can buy in 2014?Put to the test with our X-Rite colorimeter, it delivered a superb maximum brightness of 344cd/m[sup]2[/sup] and a fine contrast ratio of 820:1. Colour reproduction is superb, as you might expect of a screen aimed at professional designers, architects, videographers and engineers. It’s capable of reproducing the full sRGB colour gamut, and is magnificently accurate with an average Delta E of 1.7 and a maximum of 3.5.It’s a glorious display, suitable for everything from professional photo editing and magazine layout, to 3D design and high-end video production. Coupled with a matte, anti-glare coating, it’s readable in most conditions, too.
The one caveat to all this is that – although Windows itself works fine – most applications have yet to be optimised for high-DPI displays. The result is either tiny, unreadable text in menus and dropdowns, or blurry icons and pixellated text as elements are scaled up. Some applications, such as Sony Vegas Pro, deliver the worst of both worlds, scaling some elements up too much and leaving others absolutely miniscule. We’d prefer a 1,920 x 1,200 display in most situations, but, disappointingly, the only other resolution on offer in the Precision range is Full HD.Dell hasn’t changed much about the chassis since the last time we saw one of its Precision workstations. It remains an absolute tank of a laptop, weighing 3.2kg without its charger – and a hernia-inducing 4.1kg with it. It feels built to last, though, clad entirely in thick, rigid-feeling anodised aluminium, and there’s plenty else to like.The keyboard is superbly comfortable, and is good enough to rival the best desktop models. Its soft, cushioned key action is a pleasure to use, and the size of the chassis means there’s room for a number pad to the right. There’s a trackpoint to supplement the small touchpad, and both work flawlessly. It’s nice to see separate buttons for both. We’ve yet to come across a buttonless touchpad that can match the comfort of an arrangement such as this.
As you might expect of a laptop designed to sit on a desk for most of its life, there’s a phalanx of sockets and ports: the left edge of the Precision M4800 hosts a pair of USB 3 ports, separate 3.5mm headphone and microphone jacks, and SDXC, ExpressCard/54 and smart-card slots. The right-hand edge is a little less crowded, but there’s still room enough for another pair of USB 3 ports and a full-sized DisplayPort video output. At the rear are HDMI and VGA video outputs, a combined eSATA/USB 2 socket and Gigabit Ethernet.Dell recently announced a newly formed pair of Latitude 7000 Series Ultrabooks, and the Latitude E7240 is the first to land in the PC Pro Labs. Following in the business-friendly footsteps of its predecessors, Dell has packed the Latitude E7240’s sturdy, 12.5in chassis with the latest Haswell technology and a range of office-friendly features.Where other Ultrabooks tout eye-catching designs, the Latitude E7240 is tastefully reserved. The stiff-feeling lid is clad in brushed metal, while the keyboard and screen bezels are comprised of smooth, tough black plastics. There is a little flex in the base, but nothing worrying, and the metal skeleton running around the keyboard’s circumference gives some reassuring protection against accidental knocks or drops. It’s no lightweight as a result, though – the whole package weighs 1.44kg.
On the inside, the Latitude E7240 pairs Intel’s Haswell CPUs with solid-state storage. The basic £799 exc VAT model has a Core i5-4200U CPU, 4GB of DDR3L RAM and a 128GB SSD. However, our review model is the range-topping £1,259 exc VAT model, which has a top-flight Core i7-4600U CPU with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD.Not surprisingly, performance soars as a result, and the Dell achieved a lightning-quick 0.73 in our Real World Benchmarks. The Lite-On SSD definitely plays its part here: its sequential read and write speeds reached 476MB/sec and 323MB/sec respectively; scores we’ve only seen bettered by the PCI Express SSD in Apple's MacBook Air 13in.Our review unit came with the larger of the two removable battery options, and the Dell’s 42Wh battery lasted an excellent 10hrs 28mins in our light-use battery test. If cost or weight savings are more crucial than stamina, however, Dell also makes a lighter, 31Wh battery. Bought separately, the 31Wh retails at £75 exc VAT, and the 45Wh retails at £95 exc VAT.