Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 Is A Powerhouse With Minor Flaws

The version of the XPS 15 2-in-1 reviewed here is the one with an 8th-gen Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB RAM, a 256GB SSD, a 4K screen, and a discreet Radeon™ RX Vega GPU.

After problems with UPS (this can be a whole book written on this), I finally have the Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and have been using it for the past day. I’ve used it enough where I feel comfortable giving a full review. I am mostly happy with it, but there are a few flaws. Let’s get started…

Display

The 4K display on the 2-in-1 is gorgeous. It ranks up there with some of the best 4K screens on the market. The MacBook Pro’s screen has a better contrast ratio, but only a 2880 x 1800 pixel resolution screen.

This XPS screen, at 400 nits, gets extremely bright, so it is okay if you just turn it up 50 percent — this would be a good thing, since it saves battery life. I did notice some screen bleeding, but it is on the lower-right part of the screen. My eyes don’t even notice it unless I am using the XPS with a black screen in the dark.

Keyboard

Originally, I wasn’t thrilled with the magnetically driven keyboard. However, after two hours of use, I loved it. The keys don’t have as much travel as other laptop keyboards, but you can actually type faster on this than others, including the MacBook Pro and its butterfly keys. Some other sites say that this isn’t the type of keyboard that you would want to type a novel on, but I disagree. 

The keyboard on the XPS 15 2-in-1 takes some getting used to.

Performance

I’m not a gamer, so I can’t tell you how well this plays games. However, I am a video editor, photo editor, and do some minor 3D design. And I can tell you that this computer operates significantly faster than the Dell XPS 13 9370 that I reviewed a couple months back, which is the same one I use as my regular computer. Some of this has to do with the 16GB RAM on board, which makes a huge difference when using programs such as Adobe Premiere or Adobe Photoshop.

Battery Life

Some say that the battery life is the Achilles heel of the XPS 15 2-in-1, but I don’t agree. It’s certainly not fantastic. But I’ve been able to get five hours of use with the brightness turned to 50 percent. Considering the power under the hood of this computer, that is pretty good. Perhaps, with updates from Dell, the battery life will be even better.

Fan Noise and Heat

The XPS 15 2-in-1's fan can get quite loud, but it's not a deal killer.

If somewhat loud (but not overbearing) fan noise and warm keyboards (at times) bother you, the XPS 15 2-in-1 may not be for you. When I first used this on my lap, I felt that there would be a hole in my pants when I lifted it up. However, once I did a BIOS update, the heat wasn’t nearly as bad — just more of an annoyance. 

The fan noise, even after the BIOS update, is somewhat annoying, but it doesn’t make the screeching coil whine noise heard on Dell’s older laptops. It’s a small price to pay in order to have a large and powerful computer.

Tablet

There is a reason this is called the XPS 15 2-in-1, and that’s because the screen can be folded back so you can use your laptop as a tablet. Mind you, it’s one very huge tablet. There is an optional pen you can buy for inking or drawing.

Conclusion

The XPS 15 2-In-1 is the best 15-inch laptop in its class. You will have to pay a hefty price (most configurations are over $2,000), but you get a portable gaming machine and fantastic video editing device. Plus, your eyes will get addicted to the large and beautiful screen.

 

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WWDC 2018 Is Coming: Here Are All The Rumors

The Worldwide Developer’s Conference (WWDC) has been planned for June 4 in San Jose, CA. Let’s take a look at what Apple could announce.

iPad Pro 2018

The iPad (2018) may be a surprise hit, but the one everybody is waiting for is the updated iPad Pro. The general consensus is that Apple is going to give the iPad Pro an iPhone X-like overhaul, meaning there will be barely any bezels and lots of screen. There could be major problems with people accidentally touching the screen when they pick up their tablet.

Updated MacBook Pro

The MacBook Pro is desperate for an upgrade.

The MacBook Pros have been controversial the past couple of years as many say they are not “Pro” models made for power users. However, don’t expect Apple to make major design changes. It’s likely that Apple will announce that their updated MacBook Pros will have 8th-generation processors. If only they could get rid of the gimmicky Touch Bar and sell the new devices for a couple hundred dollars less.

iPhone SE 2

As Tech Radar notes, not everybody wants an iPhone with a large screen. The original iPhone SE was a decent hit, and many are expecting that an updated and cheaper iPhone with a 4-inch screen will be announced at the conference.

Updated Siri

It seems almost certain that Apple will update their highly-criticized software assistant, Siri. As CNBC notes, if you tell Siri to “tell me about WWDC,” she (or he, depending on your settings) will tell you, “I don’t want to brag, but I’m getting a lot smarter. It must be all that late night studying I’ve been doing.”

The update to Siri can’t come soon enough. While the assistant seemed groundbreaking in 2011, it has fallen far behind Amazon’s Alexa or Google’s Home assistant in capabilities. This is great news for people who own the HomePod.

What Not To Expect

It’s unlikely that Apple will announce the new update to the AirPods — that will likely happen during the 3rd quarter this year. It’s also unlikely Apple will announce their new over-the-ear wireless headphones, which are expected later in the year as well.

And what about Apple’s new virtual and augmented reality project? The VR and AR industries are suffering but hoping Apple could turn things around. That may happen, but just don’t expect it to happen this summer.

Whatever Apple announces will surely cause instant buzz. And like usual, there will also be disappointment. Same as usual for Apple.

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A Look At The Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I was supposed to get my review unit of the XPS 15 2-in-1 last Tuesday, but what is believed to be an inside theft at UPS ruined that. I will be getting another next week. But in the meantime, I was able to play with a Best Buy display model for 15 minutes.

So, my official detailed review will come next week. But here are some of my initial impressions.

  • This laptop is heavier than I thought. It’s not an ultraportable — at all.
  • The 4K screen is absolutely stunning.
  • I could hear fan noise even with all the background noise from Best Buy.
  • The speakers are rather tinny for such a big screen, but I need further tests to give my final verdict on the sound.
  • This is great for watching movies, just as long as you don’t have to hold the laptop.
  • Inking on the screen is okay, but there is noticeable latency.

Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

  • This laptop could get somewhat hot. It’s a good thing it’s not on my lap.
  • The new magnetic keyboard is okay. It will get the job done. But the keys on the new XPS 13 are better.
  • There are barely any bezels — this is a good thing.
  • The webcam is still under the display. However, if you put the laptop in tent mode, that won’t matter.
  • This would be a perfect laptop for video editing. I can’t wait to try Adobe Premiere Pro on it.
  • After 15 minutes of use, the battery level died 10 percent. It is said that the battery life of the XPS 15 2-in-1 is its Achilles heal. More tests are needed.

The 4K version of the XPS 15 2-in-1 costs about $2000

Overall, I’m somewhat fascinated by the XPS 15 2-in-1, but just not completely blown away. I can’t see owning a laptop this large unless it’s really portable. The 15-inch MacBook Pro can still be considered an ultraportable notebook since it’s so light. But Dell’s latest doesn’t seem like one for constant traveling. Of course, I could be wrong and really need to test it out more.After being so fascinated by the new XPS 13, I was hoping Dell’s 15.6-inch hybrid laptop would be like a larger version of the XPS 13, but one in which you can fold the screen over and write on it. Trust me, it’s not like that. But that doesn’t mean it’s bad or that it won’t satisfy a certain type of user. Expect a full review next week, but let’s just say that I am slightly disappointed when it comes to my first impressions. Is it because my expectations were too high?
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Hands On With Microsoft Surface Pro LTE

The Microsoft Surface Pro LTE was released last month (it’s been available for Microsoft Business customers since last December), and at first, it doesn’t seem that interesting. It’s the same Surface Pro that was released in June of 2017. But it adds $150 to the price tag, and includes a SIM card slot.

I can’t explain how convenient it is to have internet access on your laptop wherever you go. Yes, you can always use your mobile hotspot. That always takes a little time to set up, and, at times, the hotspot doesn’t work.

I was at the gym this week. There was no Wi-Fi. But I was still able to watch Hulu on the treadmill with the Surface Pro without lugging around a smartphone. And the internet works the moment the computer turns on.

The Surface Pro LTE is an almost perfect tablet-laptop hybrid.

Do you need an extra data plan for the Surface Pro LTE? Not really! I put the SIM card from one of my T-Mobile phones in the slot and I was able to get internet access the moment the computer turned on. There was no difficulty with setting up protocols, permissions, data numbers, etc. The only problem is that with my T-Mobile card, I was only able to get 3G speeds (500 kbps on the average) rather than the 4G LTE speeds I get on my phone (usually above 10 mbps). However, 3G is still relatively fast in most situations.

The Surface Pro LTE runs on an Intel Core i5 processor (7th generation), has 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB hard drive. It’s great for doing office work, somewhat heavy photo editing, and minor video editing. It’s not the type of machine you want to use all the time to edit 4K videos, but it can be done (although very slowly) with Adobe Premiere Pro. I really wish they had a more advanced version with LTE capabilities — like the Pro that runs the Intel Core i7 processor and has 16GB of RAM.

The Surface Pro LTE doesn't have many ports.

After not using the Surface Pro for a long time, I’m reminded of how far Microsoft has come to finally make a tablet/laptop hybrid. I’m also reminded of how far behind they are. There are no USB-C or Thunderbolt 3 ports on the latest Surface Pros. The bezel space is still somewhat big, but perhaps that’s a good thing since people use the device as a tablet and don’t want to accidentally press the screen.

I’m also reminded of how far behind Microsoft is with the Surface Pen, especially when compared to devices like the Apple Pencil with the iPad Pro. Still, the Surface Pro LTE is one of the only devices out there that allows you to do full desktop PC work anyplace and anytime. The $1449 price tag may be a little steep, but there are many ways in which you can get a $150 to $200 discount. The Surface Pro LTE will be a big hit for Microsoft.

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It’s Not 2013, But 1080p Laptops Are Back In Style

2018 LG Gram

The expected resolution of laptop screens has increased over the past eight years. When The 2013 Surface Pro arrived in February of 2013, the 10.6-inch 1080p HD screen was considered a big deal. Microsoft released their high resolution display right after Apple released the MacBook Pro Retina with a 13.3-inch version that contained a 2880 x 1800 pixel resolution screen.

Since then, the resolution of screens has only become better, even if this new trend has hurt battery life. The 2018 Dell XPS 13 9370 has a gorgeous 4K display. Dell also released their new computer with a 1080p display, which many say adds three hours of battery life. I thought people would want the 4K display, but I know at least three people who have bought the new Dell laptop and chose to opt out on the 4K version. The 4K XPS 13 9370 I use has decent, but not great battery life.

Dell has just released the XPS 15 2-in-1, and I will receive a review unit this week (so stay tuned!). It’s received mostly very good reviews. However, because the battery life is below average, many people on the Dell Reddit forums have opted for the 1080p version, and they are happy with their purchase.

LG has just released their updated version of the LG Gram, a 1080p laptop that comes in versions with a 13-inch or 15-inch screen. HP has just released the 2018 HP Spectre x360, and unlike last year’s version, the only one available now is a version with a 1080p screen. Tech Radar gives the laptop four-and-a-half stars, and notes that the screen is gorgeous. It also has great battery life, unlike the 4K version of the Spectre x360 that was released last year.

HP Spectre x360 (2018)

Let’s face it, a 1080p screen is not a disability for most people. Most games play better in full HD than 2K or even 4K. The majority of Netflix and Hulu users still stream in full HD or 720p since anything above takes up too much bandwidth. I couldn’t imagine doing professional photo editing with a 1080p screen, but most people don’t engage in professional photo editing.

4K enthusiasts shouldn’t be upset, nor should they believe that the industry is regressing. People still have the choice to buy laptops with Ultra HD screens if they really want to. But for now, most consumers don’t actually need so many pixels per inch on their laptop screens. They just want a computer that will last them all day.

 

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The iPad (2018) May Not Be For You, But It’s A Hit

I never thought it could happen. When Apple announced a “budget” iPad in late-March, I understood why they thought it would be appealing, but didn’t think it would take off. After all, it has a slower processor than the iPad Pro, and it doesn’t have the same awesome True Tone display. It also doesn’t have the four speakers. The screen, with huge bezels, is 9.7-inches instead of 10.5 inches.

But the iPad (2018) isn’t made for people like me. It’s made for children. It’s made for the classroom. It’s also made for adults who want a tablet, but don’t want to pay over $600 for one. (The 32GB Wi-Fi version costs $349.) It has received some excellent reviews.

“All the same, this isn’t the iPad to replace the model you bought last year. This is the iPad at the base of the pyramid. The iPad you buy when you want iOS, you want a tablet, and anything beyond those two prerequisites is a luxury,” says Slash Gear

The 2018 iPad comes in a variety of colors.

Trusted Reviews gave Apple’s new tablet five stars.

“The new iPad is an iPad Pro on a budget. You get many of the same features for a fraction of the price, and that makes it hugely compelling.”

It’s important to note that the iPad (2018) is compatible with the Apple Pencil — which is sort of strange, especially since the Apple Pencil is actually one-third of the cost of the new iPad. And I see people with the new iPad all the time, even though none of them use it with the Apple Pencil.

I have seen at least three people in the last week on the set of a television show I’ve been working on with the new iPad (2018). I’ve also seen several people at Starbucks. I’ve been following technology trends for the past 10 years and have always noticed it takes a new item a couple months before I start seeing everywhere. It took the AirPods one year before I saw people regularly wear them wherever I went.

There are no new sales reports for the 2018 iPad, but the iPad Pro is doing well. As Cult of Mac explains, Apple sold 9.1 million iPads during the first quarter of 2017. Apple also held almost 29 percent of the tablet market share, and this was without sales of the 2018 iPad.

The new iPad Pro (2018) will soon take away a lot of attention from the new 9.7-inch iPad. The upcoming Pro is the first iPad I’ve actually looked forward to in years. Yes, I was excited about the 2017 iPad Pro — but that was only after the device was announced. I can hardly wait to write about the 2018 iPad Pro once more details come in. But for those who don’t need all the bells and whistles, the 2018 iPad is on sale now.

 

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T-Mobile And Sprint Merger Could Be A Game Changer

The T-Mobile and Sprint merger, which has been talked about years, was officially announced on Sunday. Mac Rumors has the news.

“Sprint and T-Mobile have finally reached a merger agreement, which means if approved by regulators, two of the four major carriers in the United States will combine into one entity in an all-stock deal worth billions.”

The article adds that the combined company will be called T-Mobile and current CEO John Legere will serve as the CEO. Their first project is 5G, the next generation of wireless networks. Supposedly, the merger will lead to job creation, lower prices for consumers, improved coverage, and “unprecedented” network capacity.

This merger has me really excited. Sprint has been failing for years, and it’s about time they latch on to something. I was a Sprint subscriber for years, and it seemed to all go downhill once the iPhone 4S was released in 2011, the first time an iPhone was available for Sprint. The network welcomed so many new subscribers, but didn’t expand the network. As a result, in some areas, Sprint’s 3G network was no better than the dial-up networks of the 1990s.

The release of the iPhone 4s was a disaster for Sprint.

As Sprint went downhill, T-Mobile, a company that was jokingly referred to as “too ghetto” (an inappropriate term, even in context), gradually expanded their 3G network, launched their LTE network when everything was ready (unlike Sprint), and introduced non-contract plans in 2013. I didn’t realize how bad Sprint had truly become until I moved to T-Mobile in the fall of 2013. Since then, I have no regrets about my carrier choice. If I made more money, I’d be on Verizon. However, T-Mobile still offers the best value out of all the networks.

Still, Sprint has always been a visionary network. They were the first network with 3G plans, and also introduced 4G (their WiMax network ultimately failed) before anyone else did. The combination of Sprint’s forward-thinking and T-Mobile’s expert implementation make a killer combination. Both companies have strived to improve their customer service over the years, and this will be a huge benefit to consumers as well.

Sprint introduced the HTC EVO 4G in 2010.

However, there are some others who aren’t as fawning about this merger as I am. According to CNN, consumers may have to pay more for their service. (This has happened in the past when cellular companies merge.) Some believe that since the competition has been reduced, T-Mobile won’t have to make the effort to be as creative as they have been this past decade.

Let’s wait and see what the merger brings. But for now, T-Mobile and Sprint certainly get an enthusiastic thumbs up.

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The Best Ultraportable Laptops Available Today

Just three years ago, Apple had the ultraportable  laptop market on hold with its MacBook Air, MacBook, and 13-inch MacBook Pro laptops. That’s not so much the case anymore, especially since many companies, such as Dell, have made ultraportable laptops that match the quality control built in Apple’s products.

It’s also important to note that Windows 10 has become almost as good as macOS. With that said, here are the top three ultraportable laptops on the market today.

3. MacBook Pro (2017, 13-inch, Touch Bar)

It’s true that the latest MacBook Pro has not lived up to the hype. Many people think that Apple has sacrificed the keyboard, battery, and other things in order to make an ultraportable device even more portable. And that gimmicky Touch Bar? Who needs it?

However, although overpriced, the 13-inch MacBook Pro not only delivers a beautiful screen with perfect color representation, but it’s also a powerful laptop that can even be used to edit 4K videos (though the 15-inch MacBook Pro is certainly recommended more for this).

Don’t like the fact that you will need dongles to plug in your USB-A devices? Well, get used to it. And back to that Touch Bar — you have to admit that it’s still cool and makes the MacBook Pro feel futuristic. Still, in the present, the 13-inch MacBook Pro offers outstanding battery life and, perhaps, the best speakers ever put in a 13-inch device.

Best value: 13-inch Pro with Intel Core i5 (3.1 GHz) processor, 8GB RAM, and 256 SSD)
$1599 at Fry’s Electronics

2. Surface Pro (2017)

Each version of the Surface Pro has become better since Microsoft first introduced the device in 2013. The latest version not only gives you a choice of a 7th-gen Intel Core i3, i5, or i7 processor, but offers a crisp 12.3-inch 2736 x 1824 (267 pixels-per-inch) screen. It’s true that you have to buy the Type Cover separately, but it’s worth the price. However, the $99 Surface Pen, which has some reliability issues, should be included in the package.

Best value: Surface Pro with Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB RAM, and 256GB SSD.
$1099 at Best Buy. The Surface Pen and Type Cover are not included.

1. Dell XPS 13 (2018 Version)

The Dell XPS 13 isn’t a laptop hybrid, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s simply the best ultraportable laptop ever made.

The nearly border-less 4K screen (you can buy a 1080p version that saves battery life) is the best that has ever been put on a PC device. Dell’s previous XPS 13 laptops had color and saturation problems, but those have been fixed.

Even better, Dell has been able to include a great keyboard (no “butterfly” type keys) on it’s razor-thin laptop. They’ve also been able to include an 8th-gen Intel Core i7 processor (you can get an i5 if you want to save a little memory), and a touchpad that works as well as one does on the MacBook Pro.

Best Value: XPS 13 with 8th-gen Intel Core i7 processor, 8GB RAM, and 256 SSD.
$1349 at Microsoft Store

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Apple’s iPhone X Plus Could Be A Real Galaxy Note Competitor

Many thought that when Apple released their first “Plus” version of the iPhone in 2014, it would compete with Samsung’s Galaxy Note. It did compete, but the iPhone 6 Plus really wasn’t the same type of phone since it didn’t have a stylus.

Apple has allegedly seen the light. CNET has the news.

“‘Who wants a stylus? Steve Jobs famously asked when he unveiled the original iPhone in 2007, implying that the answer was ‘no one.’ Now, 11 years later, analysts believe that a new iPhone may work with a stylus anyway.”

The article adds that instead of using the Apple Pencil, Apple will make an “iPen,” but don’t expect it to be included with the the iPhone X Plus. Apple has (allegedly) accepted the fact that people want a stylus to use with their smartphone. Continuously high sales of the Samsung Galaxy Note over the years has shown this.

An iPhone X with a stylus would increase sales.

Apple could take things further than Samsung has if we look at the Apple Pencil and its use with the iPad Pro 10.5. Although the Samsung S Pen works great with the Galaxy Note 8, the iPad Pro has a 120Hz refresh rate and there is no lag when writing. The Apple Pencil also feels more natural than any other stylus. It may cost an extra $100, but it’s worth it. Then again, the Apple Pencil is also much larger than it needs to be.

But accuracy is more important than size. If you use Microsoft OneNote on the Samsung Galaxy Note 8, you’ll notice some slight latency that could get annoying. OneNote allows you to write and draw, but it doesn’t feel “real” on the Note 8. The same can’t be said about using OneNote on the iPad Pro. Once you use it, you’ll want to throw all your physical notebooks and pens away.

The Apple Pencil is the best stylus on the market.

If Apple can deliver the same stylus experience they do on the iPad Pro to the iPhone X Plus, then Samsung may see their Galaxy Note sales drastically decrease. One of the main reasons people purchase the Note over the iPhone is because of the stylus. Many don’t like Android, and would rather use iOS.

The iPhone X Plus is predicted to be available in early fall. We’ll know more about it in the next couple of months. For now, the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is still the best (sort of) pocketable note-taking device around. But that may not be for much longer.

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Hiking With Electronics Can Lead To A Slippery Slope

I have been trying desperately to lose weight, and — until recently — have failed miserably. Then, I discovered hiking. Despite only minimally watching my weight, I have lost four pounds in one week. I have been taking a steep path to the top of the mountains at Verdugo Mountain Park in Glendale, CA.

A quarter of the way up at Verdugo Mountain Park in Glendale, CA

I’ll stop with the exercise talk here since this isn’t a health and fitness blog. But what is relevant here is the use of your electronics while hiking. Smartphones, headphones, tablets, etc. can be either a blessing or a hindrance. And when I say hindrance, I mean you can get hurt or — at worst — killed. Here is some advice from a relatively new hiker who has learned by mistakes over the past week.

Get an LTE or 4G smartwatch.

A smartphone can be a distraction. It’s also extra weight. Some may say they need to take their smartphones with just in case something happens. However, this is where a smartwatch that has cellular service comes in. You can track your exercise, get directions (if you really need them), and make an emergency call if you need to.

My Apple Watch has come in handy for the past seven months, but never as much as it has the past week. Leaving my iPhone X in my car has been more of an asset than a disability. However, I do admit taking the iPhone up the hike with me once to take some pictures.

If you do take smartphone with you, put it in backpack and use minimally.

This is very important. I never thought I’d be one of the foolish ones to fall when answering a call, but it happened. To make things worse, I was going downhill. I had some minor scrapes and slightly hurt my wrist, but it could have been a lot worse.

Even yesterday, I was walking up, and saw a girl’s nose glued to her smartphone as she was walking down. It wasn’t steep, but steep enough for her to have a potential accident like I did. Or even worse.

Avoid wearing headphones, especially ones with noise cancellation.

Bluetooth speakers have become popular for hiking.

It’s dangerous enough taking a regular walk with headphones since it makes it easier to get in an accident. But it can be a lot more dangerous when hiking. Even if the headphones don’t have noise isolation or noise cancellation, they are a distraction.

Not having your ears fully open to sound is dangerous in some areas, especially ones where there is a possibility of being chased by a wild animal or even a snake. Many hikers invest in Bluetooth speakers to attach or put in their backpacks, and (usually) play their music quietly. Doing this can actually save lives.

Be careful…

Hiking is a very rewarding, and it keeps us mentally and physically fit. But technology products, if not used correctly, take away from the experience and make it dangerous. The less technology you walk up with, the better. But if you are going to use technology while hiking, use common sense.

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