Hand On: 2018 iPad Pro 11 (2018)

I was able to get my hands on the new iPad Pro (11-inch) and will have my full review after I test it out for the next couple of days. For now, here are my first impressions:

  • This thing is really small. It’s amazing how the size of Apple’s main iPad has decreased through the years.
  • This isn’t really the “all-screen-no-bezel” iPad I thought it would be. There is still some bezel space, which is a good thing since one needs space to handle the iPad.
  • The 11-inch iPad has a wider aspect ratio. This is a good thing, but most apps aren’t made for the new aspect ratio. For now, you’ll have to deal with extended black bars on many apps.
  • I like the industrial design. This thing feels solid.

The new iPad Pro 11 has a sturdy industrial design.

  • The audio is downright impressive — even better than it is on the 2017 10.5-inch version of the iPad Pro. Apple added a little more spacial separation and a little more bass.
  • The new iPad isn’t as much as a fingerprint magnet as previous iPads.
  • The contrast ratio and color saturation are amazing.
  • The new iPad gets blindingly bright.
  • The battery life is good, but not fantastic.
  • I’m glad that the new Pro has a USB-C port. But what good is it when you can’t connect an external hard drive?
  • The new Apple Pencil is overpriced. But it’s also very good. It feels better in the hand than the previous Apple Pencil. Even the writing feels smoother — you can feel friction like you do with a pen and a piece of paper.
  • Even though the Pro feels sturdy, it’s still best to get a sleeve for it. Getting a screen protector would also be advisable, but you need one that will not hurt the Apple Pencil experience.
  • I don’t have the keyboard cover, but the new iPad Pro begs to be used with your fingers — even if you’re just typing on the screen.

The biggest thing that hits me is that the hardware is far more advanced than the software. The new iPad Pro is so powerful. Wouldn’t it be amazing if the new iPad Pro ran macOS instead of iOS? Perhaps more companies will follow Adobe (they are releasing a full version of Photoshop next year for the iPad Pro) and release more desktop-like applications for the Pro in the near future. 
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Full Review: ‘Outdated’ Microsoft Surface Pro 6 Has More Improvements Than Previously Noted

Microsoft Surface Pro 6

The version of the Microsoft Surface Pro 6 that has an 8th generation Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB RAM, and a 256 SSD is used for this particular article. 

I gave my first impressions review of the Surface Pro 6 two weeks ago, and it was mostly positive. Now, that I’ve had a couple days to fully test out the new Surface Pro, I still think it’s a great device. But the more I use it, the more angry I get that it feels like a one-year old device. And in the tech world, one year can feel like 5. Let’s take a closer look

Build and Design

Besides the black matte finish (and it definitely looks sexy), there doesn’t appear to be any difference between 2018′s Surface Pro 6 and 2017′s Surface Pro. In other words, the laptop/tablet measures just 0.33 inches thin and weighs a mere 1.7 pounds. If Microsoft made it any thinner or lighter, the amazing battery life wouldn’t be possible.

I wish that Microsoft could have reduced the bezel space and added more screen real estate. Some may argue that the half-inch bezels around the screen is good for handling a tablet. I understand that a tablet can’t be all screen, but I hope Microsoft shortens the bezels in the 2018 edition.

The Surface Pro 6 now comes in an all-black finish.

Screen

Barely anybody has noticed this, but there is a noticeable difference in the contrast ratio on the new Surface Pro 6. Microsoft has finally matched Apple when it comes to the blacks being as black as possible for an LCD screen. The colors pop out beautifully and images look sharp.

Some people wanted Microsoft to make a 4K screen for the Pro 6, but it would serve no purpose except to make the battery life shorter. Overall, the Pro 6 screen matches Apple’s new MacBook Pros and iPad Pros when it comes to the best screens on computer devices.

Performance

This is where the Surface Pro 6 differs the most from previous versions. The quad-core i5 processor in the Pro 6 makes things operate very smoothly, even when using apps such as Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Premiere. The latter app actually works well on the Surface Pro 6, although one who constantly edits HD or 4K videos would probably want to go with the Pro that has the i7 processor or — even better — a laptop that has a discreet GPU.

The best part about this is that the Intel Core i5 processor is fanless, so you don’t hear the dreaded coil wine sound that Surface Pro units before 2017 had. The unit can get pretty hot when one performs processor-heavy tasks, but not overwhelmingly so.

Ports

This is where Microsoft really misjudged their consumers, even though it’s perhaps not a deal killer. There is still no USB-C port, which was questionable not to have in 2017 and not controversial to leave out in 2015. However, a USB-C port is pretty much a given now on just about every PC device.

The Surface Pro 6 does have a single USB-A port, a mini-DisplayPort, a microSD slot hidden under the kickstand, a Surface Connect dock, and a headphone jack. Most will be satisfied, but many, especially those who love cutting-edge technology, will be disappointed.

Surface Pen and Inking

The Surface Pro 6 provides an excellent inking experience.

Here is another area where the Pro 6 has greatly improved. With the latest Surface Pen, inking is almost perfect. You no longer need to worry about making squiggly lines when drawing; pen jitter is finally a thing of the past!

The iPad Pro still wins the award for providing the best inking experience (with the Apple Pencil). However, Microsoft comes very close this time around. The Pro 6 is perfect for students who want to take handwritten notes and organize them.

Battery Life

How does Microsoft do it? They put a battery in a Surface Pro (that runs a full desktop operating system) that lasts almost as long as the battery on 2017′s iPad Pro (12.9-inch version with mobile operating system). Microsoft claims 13.5 hours of life, but in a heavy video rundown test, I got 8.5 hours. Still, that’s the most I’ve ever received on a device with a desktop operating system.

Conclusion

The Surface Pro 6 appears outdated at first (and maybe second and third) glance. But once you use it, there are important improvements compared to 2017′s model, with noticeable improvements in performance and battery life. If you are thinking of getting a 2018 iPad Pro, it would be advisable to take a look at the Surface Pro 6 first.

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Huawei MateBook X Pro Proves To Be Best Laptop After Two Months Of Use

Huawei MateBook X Pro

The best laptop on the market isn’t the Surface Pro. It’s not the MacBook Pro. It’s not the new MacBook Air. The title goes to the Huawei MateBook X Pro, and it’s quite shocking that more people aren’t aware of it.

I gave the laptop a great review in August. Usually, my excitement with a laptop dies down after the honeymoon period. But that’s not the case with the MateBook X Pro, which I appreciate more than when I first got it.

Multimedia

The X Pro has become my number one go-to media device for watching movies and even listening to music when I am in a small room. The speakers are just as good as they are on the new 13-inch MacBook Pro, and the screen is just as sharp. Well, perhaps the color display and contrast ratio isn’t as good as the MacBook Pro’s, but it’s close enough. Besides, the screen resolution is better on the X Pro, and this is especially noticeable when reading text.

The Huawei MateBook X Pro has a stunning screen.

Video Editing

I sometimes miss Final Cut X Pro on the MacBook Pro, but Adobe Premiere Pro on the MateBook X Pro is faster — at least when compared to the 13-inch MacBook Pro with the 8th generation Intel Core i5 processor (the MateBook has an i7 processor and discreet graphics).

I have been able to edit 4K videos without any hiccups, even though I would prefer to edit 4k videos on a more powerful desktop. Still, the X Pro does the job, and it doesn’t take hours for the videos to render. The 2018 MacBook Pro is able to edit 4K videos as well, though much more sluggishly.

The Keyboard

I don’t dislike Apple’s Butterfly keys as much as others, but I prefer the keys on the MateBook X Pro, which actually have some travel (though minimal) to them. Still, once you get used to the keyboard, it’s the best on the market. It really makes a difference when you are typing documents for more than 15 minutes.

The X Pro has a perfect keyboard.

What I Don’t Like

I’m not absolutely in love with the touchpad. It’s comfortable and works, but it’s not as smooth as the touchpad on Microsoft’s Surface Pro. It’s not even close to being as good as the touchpad on the MacBook Pro. However, it’s definitely not a deal killer. It’s just easier to make mistakes between right and left clicks.

The worst thing about the X Pro is the webcam, which is hidden in a key on the top row. Once you press the camera key, the webcam comes out. As cool as it sounds, you’re not going to want to use this as your primary webcam. Luckily, I barely use a webcam. If I need to do video conferencing, I use my iPhone.

Still the Best…

Despite some minor shortcomings, Huawei’s MateBook X Pro is still the best laptop on the market. It not only provides a 14-inch screen, but the ultra-thin and portable notebook, which is powerful enough to replace your desktop in most situations, provides all-day battery life and allows you to accomplish just about any task whenever and wherever you need to. 

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Apple Pencil 2: The Forgotten Part Of Apple’s New Announcement

The Apple Pencil 2 is slightly thinner and flatter.

Yes, the new iPad Pro and MacBook Air were announced on Tuesday. The 2018 iPad Pro is, perhaps, the biggest upgrade on the iPad since the device debuted in 2010. The fact that it will be released with the Apple Pencil 2 is important, but hasn’t been talked about enough.

The first Apple Pencil, released at the end of 2014, was a game-changing stylus. When the iPad Pro screen was upgraded to operate at a 120Hz refresh rate, using the Pencil was like using a real-life pencil (or pen). The only problem is that the Apple Pencil has always been too large. And it’s easy to lose since it doesn’t connect to the iPad. Well, that’s all about to change.

First, the bad news — the new Apple Pencil is only compatible with the new iPad Pros, which will be available on November 7. It’s also going to cost $30 more. But with that, you get a more refined design. It also has a new charging method that doesn’t require you to take off the cap and connect to the bottom of the iPad to recharge. Instead, it will charge magnetically when you place the Pencil on the iPad Pro. Even if that isn’t a game changer, it makes things a lot more convenient.

The Apple Pencil 2 in action -- Click to play in YouTube.

The fact that the Apple Pencil now has gesture controls is a game changer — at least for Apple devices. Just by double tapping the barrel of the Pencil, you can change strokes. You can customize what you want the double taps to do in the settings. This is going to be especially useful when Photoshop is released next spring.

Even though pairing the Apple Pencil with previous iPad Pros was supposed to be simple, it often wasn’t. Now, the Pencil connects as easily with the iPad as the AirPods do. Once the magnets hit, the Pencil is connected, and you are immediately able to write notes, draw, or do whatever you like with Apple’s updated stylus.

Apple’s new updated stylus is now on par with the Galaxy Note’s S Stylus. If you think $129 is too much to spend on a stylus and plan to use or buy the old $99 stylus, you’re out of luck; the old Apple Pencil will only work with the old iPads. Even though the new stylus is overpriced, it appears to be an essential part of the new iPad Pro experience.

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New MacBook Air And iPad Pro Are Expensive, But Look Tempting

This morning, Apple took off the covers on its new MacBook Air and iPad Pro. The MacBook Air starts at $1199, while the iPad Pro starts at $799. But for many, they may be worth the price.

Let’s first take a look at the MacBook Air, a device that revolutionized the laptop industry in 2007 but has become outdated now. When Apple first introduced the Air in 2007, it lacked a DVD drive and seemed like a compromise. Soon, other laptop makers began building similar models and the ultrabook market really took off. Now, almost every notebook is an ultrabook.

Click to play in YouTube.

The new MacBook Air is 25 percent lighter than the previous one ( it weighs 2.75 pounds), has a sleeker bezel, and has a 2560-by-1600 native resolution at 227 pixels per inch (with support for millions of colors). It’s not a True Tone Display, but that won’t matter for most people. It now has Apple’s controversial Butterfly keyboard, a fingerprint reader, and it (thank God!) does without the Touch Bar.

The reason for choosing the new MacBook Air over the regular MacBook is because not only is the screen bigger, but it comes with an 8th gen Intel Core i5 processor unlike the mobile processor used for the MacBook.

Engadget calls it the “one you’ve been waiting for,” and TechCrunch claims the new Air is a solid upgrade. You can pre-order the new MacBook Air now, and it will arrive on November 7– the same day as the new iPad Pro.

We knew pretty much everything about the iPad Pro for the past couple of months, but seeing videos and demonstrations of the actual device makes it more exiting. It’s not a must-have device, but it’s certainly a would-love-to-have type of tablet. And, once again, the lines are blurred between a tablet and laptop.

Click to play in YouTube.

The 10.5-inch iPad Pro is now 11 inches, and there is still a 12.9-inch option. As predicted, there is minimal bezel space, deleted Home button, Face ID login, and the same 264 pixel-per-inch screen we’ve seen on the previous versions. But reviewers have called this an “all-screen” iPad and have been really impressed.

“Maybe you can finally replace your laptop with one of these,” says Chris Velazco of Engadet,” adding that the screen is gorgeous and the device is easier to handle than ever.

Raymond Wong of Mashable says that with the new iPad Pros, the iPad is, once again, exciting.

“The iPad Pro’s screen has grown over the years, but this is the first time the hardware (inside and outside) has changed so drastically, the tablet feels entirely new again.”

I will have a full review of the iPad Pro (most likely the 11-inch version) next week. It looks like Apple, once again, has hit a home run.

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Don’t Let Your ‘Broken’ Portable Hard Drive Ruin Your Day

Last May, I was testing out the new Surface Pro LTE with my Seagate portable hard drive, and it wasn’t reading the drive. So, I thought the connection might have been loose. I tightened the connection — perhaps a little too much. And then, it was all twisted.

The Seagate drive was the only one where I backed up all my video clips I’ve taken over the past year. Unfortunately, I hadn’t learned my lesson that important files should be backed up at least on two different devices. I thought it was too late. Yeah, it wasn’t the end of the world. But it was a rough week.

I knew there were data recovery services that could (possibly) recover the data, though it would cost over $600. I just didn’t have the cash. Then, this weekend, I was looking at Best Buy’s website and noticed the Data Recovery section. I decided to make an appointment with Best Buy to see what they could do. What’s the worst that could happen?

Actually, the best thing happened — the Geek Squad manager told me that the actual drive is still working and that all I needed was a new enclosure. I thought it would still take a couple hundred dollars to fix, but that wasn’t the case. They sold me an Insignia enclosure that would fix all my issues — it even came with the connection cord and a screwdriver.

Insignia's $30 portable hard drive enclosure

The Geek Squad wanted to charge me $40 to install my hard drive in it, but I decided to do it myself — it was very simple, and it only took a couple of minutes. I connected the drive to my laptop and instantly saw all my files that I thought had been lost forever. It’s like having a lost dog return. Okay, maybe not — but you get the point.

There are so many people who think that when their portable drive doesn’t work, it’s dead. It’s not. Even bigger hard drives can be brought back to life as long as the actual drive isn’t damaged. And even if the actual drive is damaged, there are still ways (though very expensive) to recover the data.

Portable hard drives are reasonably priced, and there's no excuse not to buy two of them for the same backup.

Still, to be safe — buy two portable hard drives next time. One will be used as a backup, and the other will be used as a backup of that backup. But, if for some reason one of them suddenly doesn’t work, it’s best not to just throw it out.

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Thoughts On Upcoming New iPad Pro Announcement

The new iPad Pro will likely look like this.

On Tuesday, the long-awaited iPad Pro will be announced. As Mac Rumors notes, we can expect a device that has very slim bezels (making it easy to accidentally touch the screen) as well as one that operates with Apple’s excellent Face ID rather than a Home button. Expect both iPad Pro models to stay the same size but with increased screen space. In other words, expect another fantastic device from Apple. However, it may not be something that you necessarily need.

Here are some things I’m hoping for in the new iPad Pro:

A Better Laptop Replacement

Yeah, we heard Apple claim that the iPad Pro is a true laptop replacement, but they have been completely wrong. Until Apple merges iOS and MacOS, we won’t get a true laptop replacement, so we can at least hope that we can get a better substitute.

Of course, Apple needs to make a much better keyboard cover for those of us who type blogs for several hours. It needs to include better keys and a trackpad. If Microsoft can do it, so can Apple.

A USB-C Port

Another way Apple can make the iPad Pro more of a laptop substitute is including a USB-C port. This would make the iPad Pro compatible with external displays, external GPUs, and it would produce fast transfer speeds. It is highly rumored that the iPad Pro will indeed include a USB-C port, and we will certainly have our answer on Tuesday. 

A Smaller iPad Pencil

The Apple Pencil is great, but it's too big.

The optional iPad Pencil is one of the best things about the iPad Pro. However, the Pencil is also pretty huge. It would be great if Apple could make a smaller stylus — even as small as the Galaxy Note stylus. If Apple does make a smaller stylus, the new iPad Pro will be a note-taking dream machine.

Better Apps

The iPad Pro is now powerful enough to take on desktop apps. It’s great that Adobe is introducing a full version of Photoshop in 2019, but what about apps like Final Cut Pro X or even Adobe Premiere? What about Adobe Illustrator? What about a browser with full desktop capabilities (although Chrome almost fulfills this)? Some designers don’t want to have to carry two computer devices with them all the time.

iPhone XS-like Sound

The sound on the iPad Pro is already great, but let’s hope Apple provides the same new wide stereo separation they provide on their new iPhones. This will make the iPad Pro even more of a master multimedia consumption device than it already is.

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Early iPhone XR Reviews Are Positive, But…

For those who don’t want to spend $1000 on an iPhone XS and still want a powerful new iPhone, the iPhone XR has been touted as the best alternative option for consumers. From a short distance, the XR looks almost identical to the XS, uses the same processor as the XS, and has the same Face ID feature.

The XR also has a water resistance rating of iP67 and, unlike the iPhone XS, comes in several different colors. However, it doesn’t have a dual-lens camera like the XS, and the biggest difference is that the screen only has a 1,792×828-pixel resolution at 326 ppi (pixels per inch). For some, the screen, which is an LCD display rather than the OLED one on the XS, may be a deal killer. The difference in resolution between this model and the higher-end models is most noticeable when viewing text.

However, many casual users won’t notice the resolution difference, or simply won’t care that the XR resolution isn’t quite “Retina,” but smartphone fanatics will. In any case, the XR has received the stamp of approval from most media outlets.

The Verge claims that the new iPhone XR is “better than good enough.”

“Personally, I would pay the extra money for a better OLED screen in a heartbeat because I am extremely picky about displays. But I think most people can find way better ways to spend $250 than on things like infinite black levels and 60 percent wider dynamic range when viewing photos. And in that case, the iPhone XR is a no-brainer upgrade.”

CNET gives the iPhone XR four-and-a-half stars, calling it the best value for an iPhone in years.

Click to play in YouTube.

“The iPhone XR is the best iPhone for the price, delivering most of the advantages of the iPhone XS for hundreds less.”

The reviewer adds that the only thing he really missed was the dual-lens camera. He also says that the battery life is better than it is on the iPhone XS, which also has a shorter screen (5.8-inches compared to the XR’s 6.1-inches).

The New York Times, USA Today and Pocket-lint have all given the iPhone XR top-notch reviews as well. The iPhone XR is available for pre-order now and will be shipped for delivery on October 26 — the same day it will be available in the stores. Because of its affordability, the XR will likely become Apple’s most successful iPhone in years.

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Hands On: Microsoft Surface Pro 6 Is Still King Of The Laptop/Tablet Hybrids

Microsoft Surface Pro 6

The version of the Microsoft Surface Pro 6 that has an 8th generation Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB RAM, and a 256 SSD is used for this particular article. 

I recently wrote an article about how underwhelming the Surface Pro 6 announcement was. And when finally playing with a unit for 15 minutes at Best Buy this weekend, I still wish Microsoft would have done more. Still, at $1199 (even without the Type Cover or Surface Pen), the new Surface Pro is still a great buy.

The black matte finish isn’t a necessary addition to the model, but it’s certainly a pleasurable one as it makes the Surface Pro look and feel more like a premium device (not that it already didn’t feel like one). But then you look at the bezel space around the screen, and you realize that Microsoft is behind the times. There’s another way to look at it though — the space makes it easier to hold device as a tablet without accidentally touching the screen.

The Surface Pro 6 is a premium device in every sense.

Then, when you actually operate the unit,  you notice an improvement immediately. That’s because Intel’s latest 8th generation processors are now quad-core. I wasn’t able to test apps like Photoshop or Adobe Premiere, but I was able to test Microsoft Office with several apps and Chrome open in the background. Things operated noticeably more smoothly than they did when operating the same test with 2017′s Surface Pro.

The quad-core processor is a big deal because it means that an Intel Core i5 device can actually be used as a video editing machine. If you are specifically looking  for a video editing machine, the Intel Core i7 version of the Surface Pro 6 would be ideal. However, the Core i5, which is much cheaper, can still be used for most people. Because there is no fan, you can expect the device to get pretty hot.

In my 15 minutes of somewhat heavy use, the Pro 6 only depleted five percent of its battery life. Microsoft has made gradual improvements to the battery life of the Surface Pro, and this was especially seen in last year’s version. This year’s version makes things even better, and you can be safe without carrying your charger with you during the day as long as your Surface Pro 6 is fully charged.

Speaking of charging, Microsoft still includes the ancient charger that was satisfying three years ago, but dreadfully outdated now. There is no USB-C port, which is disappointing since almost every Windows or MacBook laptop now have one — it’s the new standard. There’s the outdated Mini DisplayPort, the one USB-3 port, and a microSD slot.

Despite its faults, the fact remains that the Surface Pro 6 is still the best laptop/tablet hybrid on the market. The lack of a USB-C port is downright questionable, but it’s not a deal killer for most. The Pro 6 is a portable powerhouse that gets better with each iteration.  I’ll give a more in-depth review once my review unit comes in.

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Microsoft Surface Pro 6 Announcement Is Underwhelming

Microsoft Surface Pro 6

Microsoft has led the laptop/tablet hybrid game since 2013, but they may be falling behind. As The Verge explains, the company just announced the long-awaited Surface Pro 6

“The latest tablet / laptop hybrid has a familiar design, but updated internals. Microsoft has refreshed the Surface Pro 6 with Intel’s 8th Gen processors, and a new matte black finish.”

The support for quad-core processors is a big deal as we’ve seen the difference when using the new MacBook Pro or even the new Surface Book. But…NO USB-C port? What is Microsoft thinking? We excused the 2017 Surface Pro for not including the port, but that’s because that came out in June of 2017 when the USB-C port wasn’t completely mainstream yet. One year and three months makes a huge difference. Now, every major computer has at least one USB-C port, if not two or three.

Click to play in YouTube.

One of the reasons this is disappointing is because it means we still have to use Microsoft’s outdated Surface Connector. Another reason is because USB-C provides several benefits such as faster data transfer, more efficient charging, and great support for connecting to larger displays, especially if it is a Thunderbolt 3 USB-C port.

The good news is that hands-on reviews of the Surface Pro 6 are pretty good so far.

“The Surface Pro 6 brings forward the carefully honed design of earlier models and bumps the speed of the computer significantly. It doesn’t try to revolutionize the Surface Pro’s now well-known look. It doesn’t need to,” claims Jeremy Kaplan of Digital Trends, adding that the battery life has improved.

AnandTech notes that although the physical design of the Surface Pro 6 is virtually unchanged, the internals may make it worth the upgrade. The Surface Pro 6 will be released on October 16, although an LTE model is not available in the very near future. The LTE version of the Surface Pro 2017 wasn’t available until almost a year after the Wi-Fi versions were released in June of 2017.

The fact still remains that compared to other companies,  Microsoft has done the best job of combining a laptop and tablet into one device without sacrificing too many aspects of both. Unlike the iPad, which emphasizes the tablet part, Microsoft has always emphasized the laptop aspect more. Those who purchase the Surface Pro 6 certainly won’t be disappointed, but it’s a shame that Microsoft couldn’t do more for its flagship device.

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