Always Free To Place a Hit On Someone
Schiller speaks under a graphic of the processor of a new 15in MacBook Pro during an Apple media event in Cupertino. Photograph: Beck Diefenbach/Reuters
Apple said the new 13in MacBook Pro can be equipped with dual-core versions of the Intel i5 or i7 processor, 8GB of RAM, 256GB storage and Intel’s Iris 550 integrated graphics chip with 103% faster gaming performance and 76% faster video editing and 3D graphics performance than the previous version.But the new 15in MacBook Pro is by far the more powerful, with a quad-core version of Intel’s i7 processor, 16GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. It also comes with an AMD Radeon Pro 450 graphics chip that offers up to 4GB of video RAM, with 130% faster 3D graphics, 60% faster gaming and 57% faster video editing.The new MacBook Pro will be for sale immediately, shipping in two to three weeks, with the 13in version costing $1,799 in the US and £1,749 in the UK and the 15in costing $2,399 in the UK and £2,349 in the UK. Apple is also making a lower specification 13in version without the Touch Bar, Touch ID and only two Thunderbolt ports costing $1,499 in the US and £1,449 in the UK, which will ship immediately.
Apple has kept the 13in MacBook Air, but dropped the smaller 11in version. The company did not announce updates of its Mac Pro or iMac desktop computers.The new laptop, which has been favoured by those in the creative industry for years, is a key part of Apple’s Mac computer line, but has stood stagnant in recent times, seeing only small specifications increases since the introduction of the retina MacBook Pro in 2012.While a design and specification update will be welcomed, the dropping of ports and connectivity options has proved divisive in the past. USB-C is seen as the future of multi-purpose connections, but is still a new connector. It is primarily used by Android smartphones and tablets, but not with such accessories as external storage and cameras, two pieces of equipment that are often critical tools for creative professionals. Four Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports mean that all old USB accessories will require adapters to connect them to the new MacBook Pro. The updates come at a time when Apple’s Mac shipments have seen three straight quarters of decline, culminating in a greater than 14% drop year-on-year in the last quarter. The decline follows Apple’s total sales of Macs growing by almost 6% in 2015, to which the launch of the new retina MacBook contributed.
At the same time, total PC shipments shrank by 8% globally year-on-year in 2015 and 0.2% year-on-year in 2014, according to data from Gartner. Even Lenovo, the world’s largest PC manufacturer, has shown decreasing sales, down 3.1% in 2015 and down three straight quarters in 2016.Revenues from Apple’s Mac computers are now worth less than those of its services, such as the App Store and iTunes. The company will be hoping that the renewed laptops and computer will buoy sales and return the Mac line to second place behind the iPhone in total revenue contribution to Apple’s bottom line.I’m going to University in October for a six-year degree, and I’m looking for a laptop which will last me. The main use will be for writing essays using Microsoft Word. I’m not planning on carrying it around, so it is more important to have a 15in screen which is more comfortable to type on for long periods, rather than a more portable laptop to take to lectures etc. A Currys store recommended the HP Pavilion 15-N298sa (£329.99) along with three years’ insurance (£150) and a Cloud, McAfee and Microsoft package (£79). Do you think this is a good deal? I’m unsure on the software package because, as a student, I think I can get Microsoft cheaper. I would be reluctant to spend over £400 on the actual laptop. Luke
When choosing a laptop for university, it’s important to find out if you will need to run any course-specific software, and then buy something that runs it. After that, the big decision is whether you want something that you can carry around all day and, nowadays, whether you would benefit from a hybrid Windows PC that also works as a tablet. You appear to have made those decisions so the question is relatively simple.There are dozens of Windows laptops with 15.6in screens at prices from about £250 to £400, and these make up the bulk of the mass market. The competition is fierce and driven by price rather than the quality of the screen and keyboard, or even the speed, and this encourages manufacturers to cut corners. Under the circumstances, it’s a good idea to get hands-on experience of a laptop, to see if the screen is bright and sharp, and to check whether it feels solid enough.Six years is quite a long time in the laptop business, but a machine that is kept on a desk and not thrown around should survive well enough. The golden rule with cheap laptops is never to pick them up by the screen but to get two hands underneath. In my experience, the hinges are the weakest link.
I usually stress the importance of testing the keyboard. Type a couple of characters of “WordPad” into the Windows 8 Start screen (no need to open a search box) and select that when it comes up. It’s a small word processing program that will give you an idea of what it will be like using Microsoft Word. In your case, it’s not vital. You should definitely not spend long hours typing on a laptop: it’s bad for your posture and therefore your long-term health. Instead, put it on a riser (or a pile of books) to lift the screen, and plug in a full-sized keyboard. Even cheap USB keyboards are much better than the ones fitted to most laptops, but an ergonomic version would be best. The HP Pavilion 15-N298sa should do what you want. However, it’s always better to have a faster processor and more memory, if you can afford the extra cost. In this case, you could buy the very similar HP Pavilion 15-P077sa (or 76 or 78) for £399.99, reduced from £499.99. This has a faster fourth generation Intel Core i3-4030U processor, instead of a third-gen i3-3217U, twice as much memory (8GB) and twice as much hard drive space (1TB instead of 500GB). I think the better specs are worth the extra £70. As both models are sold by Currys/PC World, you may be able to see them side-by-side.
I went to the large PC World store on the Tottenham Court Road to have a look at your suggested laptop and the alternatives, and the Toshiba Satellite L50-B-137 also caught my eye. It has an Intel Core i5-4200U processor, which is a step up from the i3-4030U, a 1TB drive, and 4GB of memory that can be expanded up to 16GB. It looks a good buy at £379.97, reduced from £529.99. Of course, you don’t need a Core i5 to run Microsoft Word – it will run perfectly well on a Pentium or Celeron. However, it’s always nice to have the extra speed, and you may want to use it for other purposes before 2020.Either way, resist the temptation to buy a laptop with a cheaper AMD A-4 processor: the A4-5000M is closer to Intel Atom level, albeit with faster graphics. There are HP Pavilions with A8-6410 and A10-5745M processors which offer respectable performance – better than the old Core i3-3217U but not up to the i3-4030U – but they cost more at £449.99.If you want to shop around a bit more, there are some decent Sony laptops going at fairly silly prices, because Sony is withdrawing from the PC business, and various offers at discounters such as Laptop Outlet, Laptops Direct and Save on Laptops. (Laptop Outlet also has a shop on the Tottenham Court Road.) You might have to find an alternative means of support, but there are plenty of third-party services, including Geek Squad (backed by Carphone Warehouse, which has now joined up with Dixons/Currys/PC World) and FixITLocal. Given that you can now insist on a two-year hardware warranty, I’m not sure £150 is good value for three years support.
If you are serious about support, then consider a Dell Inspiron 15 3000 Series. Dell offers three years of next-day in-home support for £114, and since there are no Dell shops, there should be fewer arguments about a repairman turning out. Accidental damage support -- which covers dropping the laptop or knocking a drink over it -- costs an extra £50 for three years. An Inspiron 15 3542 with an Intel Core i3-4030U, 4GB and a 500GB hard drive currently costs £299 including delivery. This is less than the HP Pavilion 15-N298sa, but it has the same processor as the £399.99 HP Pavilion 15-P077sa. Dell also offers an Inspiron 15 with a Core i5-4210U, 8GB and 1TB HD for £429, busting your budget. You should, of course, have anti-virus protection, and McAfee is a good product, though not the one I’d pick myself. Avast 2014 is good enough, and free. See my recent answer: How can I protect my Windows PC against malware?
When it comes to Microsoft Word, Microsoft Office 365 University is by far the best deal. It includes all the main Office programs for Windows for two computers for four years for £59.99, or 4p a day. That gets you Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Access, and Publisher, plus a terabyte of online storage at OneDrive -- enough to back up your whole hard drive. You can also use your Office apps online from PCs, tablets and smartphones.You’re allowed a maximum of two Office 365 University purchases, so you can buy it again after four years. Validation is required: you must be able to log in to a qualifying university email account to activate the software. There’s a free helpline on 0800 026 0329 for students who have bought Office 365 University and need help to get up and running.A terabyte of storage costs £80 a month on Dropbox or $10 a month on Google Drive, so Office 365 University is cheap at £1.25 a month, even if you don’t use Office.
My main computer is a Dell Studio 17 laptop from 2010 (specification attached). In my home office, I hook it up to a separate keyboard, mouse and monitor.As a part-time university lecturer, I run the usual software – Microsoft Office, Adobe Illustrator etc – plus some specialist software such as ArcMap, part of the ArcGIS suite.I have no problems with anything, but I am concerned about longevity and component failure. Should I be thinking of replacing the hard drive now? If so, would it be better to pay extra to go down the SSD route? However, if other components are likely to fail, would I be better off replacing the whole thing now?Either route will obviously entail transferring a large amount of data crucial to my teaching and research. I do have back-ups: I am more concerned with ease of transfer so that programs retain their settings and paths to data if possible. This is especially important in ArcMap, where a map file may contain dozens of links to data spread over many different folders. Rebuilding these links would be very time consuming.Just in case this makes it into your column, can I state for the record I have no interest in Macs or Linux. Neal
The Dell Studio 17 was a solid desktop replacement laptop with plenty of power but not much portability. It’s already running Microsoft Windows 10 with 8GB of memory, so there’s no urgent need to upgrade or replace it.Of course, hard drives do become increasingly likely to fail after five to 10 years, but many fail within three years and no doubt some last more than a decade: there’s no easy way to tell. Motherboard batteries also tend to fail after five years. Otherwise, many common problems are mechanical ones. For example, hinges break, especially if you lift a laptop by its screen, and power cables fray.It’s often worth replacing a spinning-platter HD (hard drive) with a chip-based SSD (solid-state drive). SSDs make your PC start up faster, and programs feel much more responsive. Programs can load data straight from an SSD without having to wait for a hard drive to spin up to speed, or for the read/write head to find the right sector on the platter.SSDs have no moving parts, so they are impervious to the shocks that can damage hard drives when laptops are bumped around or even dropped. They also consume less power, which prolongs battery life.
However, SSDs are still much more expensive than HDs for the same amount of storage. SSDs are also prone to fail, though I believe that, today, they are less likely to fail than HDs. In principle, SSDs are easy to install, as follows. (1) Connect the SSD to your laptop via an eSATA or USB cable or an external caddy. (2) “Clone” the current HD to the SSD, then unplug it from the laptop. (3) Close down the laptop, and remove the battery. (4) Unscrew the back of the laptop and swap the SSD for the HD. (5) Restart the laptop.Before doing any of that, check that your laptop’s BIOS can support an SSD via AHCI, and find out whether the hard drive is SATA I, II or III. Later versions of SATA are faster but backwards compatible. For example, a SATA II laptop should work with a 6Gbps SATA III drive, but it will only run at the speed of a cheaper 3Gbps SATA II drive.