2017 Dell XPS 15 Causes Problems For Some Early Buyers

I’ve always heralded the Dell XPS 13 as a groundbreaking laptop. In 2015, Dell released the 15.6-inch version of the XPS 13, the XPS 15. The larger version didn’t seem as groundbreaking. The small keyboard with minimum travel was excused on the XPS 13 since Dell was trying to create the most portable 13-inch laptop. But Dell could have put a better keyboard on the XPS 15.

Still, over the past year, the XPS 15 has been heralded as the 15-inch MacBook Pro killer, especially since the latest MacBook Pro with Touch Bar has received such mixed responses. The Guardian listed the XPS 15 was one of the ultimate MacBook Pro replacements.

“The Dell XPS 15 is better value. You get a Core i7-6700HQ, 8GB of memory, Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M graphics with 2GB of video memory, and a 256GB SSD for £1,249. It has a Thunderbolt 3 port, two USB 3.0 ports, HDMI and an SD card slot.”

The new Dell XPS 15 has one significant advantage over the 2016 MacBook Pro — a 7th generation Kaby Lake processor. This processor has proven to save battery life while offering increased performance. However, this processor has also caused a problem referred to as “coil whine,” which this blog talked about last month.

There have been some complaints about the XPS 15 and coil whine, but they are not as widespread as they were with the late 2015 version of the XPS 15. However, as one can see on Reddit, new owners have dealt with Wi-Fi, backlight bleed, sound, ghosting, the keyboard, and other issues.

One owner of the new Dell XPS 15 finds his screen glows in the dark.

Reddit user Pa0ap received a unit from Dell that looks like it absolutely skipped quality control. Backlight bleed is common on most laptops, but it becomes a problem when the bleed interferes with the picture or goes towards the middle of the screen.

Jonsworkaccount, like others, is having Wi-Fi problems with the new XPS 15.

“I recently purchased a XPS 15 9560. I have been having a strange wifi issue that seems to be heat related. During normal use, the wifi connection is solid and doesn’t have any noticeable problems. However, if I boot up a game (in this case, Civilization 5) the wifi will die after an hour or two of play.”

When a new product is released, Reddit is usually filled with more complaints than compliments. However, the amount of complaints for the 2017 version of the Dell XPS 15 is much higher than it usually is for new laptops. Let’s help Dell can get things in order and make the new XPS 15 a hit. Competition is good.

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Apple’s macOS Sierra Is Better Than Microsoft’s Windows 10

Windows 10 has been a huge improvement for Microsoft. It’s not only more consumer friendly than Windows 8 (a huge mistake on Microsoft’s part), but it uses resources better, runs faster, operates very well on many different devices, and the voice-activated Cortana really works. It’s the closest that Microsoft has come to Apple’s macOS operating systems.

However, after working with both macOS Sierra and Windows 10 for several months, it’s unnerving to go from Sierra to Windows 10. It definitely feels like a downgrade, although not a  huge one. The popular Apple phrase “It just works!” really applies to macOS Sierra when you compare it to Windows 10.

Microsoft does offer a better virtual desktop app that makes you feel like you are working on an actual desktop. It does offer somewhat better multitasking options. And Cortana on Windows 10 (you really need to enable this feature) really does work better than Siri does on macOS Sierra.

However, if you browse the web a lot, macOS is certainly better, no matter which browser you use. For example, Chrome is more smooth on an Intel Core i5 processor than it is on an Intel Core i7 processor. It also uses less resources on macOS Sierra than it does on Windows 10.

macOS Sierra’s integration with the iPhone and Apple Watch is spectacular. For example, you can copy text from the iPhone and paste in Microsoft Word on your MacBook Pro. You can also unlock your MacBook Pro with your Apple Watch. While none of this is groundbreaking, it is convenient and helps you become more productive.

One of the best features of macOS Sierra allows you to shrink a video to a small rectangle so you can watch the latest episode of Scandal while buying new clothes on Amazon. However, on both operating systems, you can use the split-screen function, displaying a video on the right and the application you are working with on the left. However, editing pictures in Photoshop on 50 percent of the screen sounds as difficult as it actually is.

Besides running smoother, macOS Sierra still has much better touchpad integration than Windows does, although Microsoft has made improvements. On the latest MacBook Pro, for example, the trackpad feels like an extension of the operating system. It feels natural. On even the best Windows laptop, the Dell XPS 13, the trackpad feels separated from Window 10, even if the two can work together. There is no need for a touchscreen on a macOS Sierra machine, although customers would love one that allows digital inking like the iPad.

Microsoft has improved Windows so much that it’s possible that it will catch up with Apple’s desktop operating system in a year or so. But for now, macOS Sierra is still the best operating system available.

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Samsung Opens Up About Galaxy Note 7 Battery Issues

Samsung has finally completely opened up about the Galaxy Note 7 battery issues. USA Today has the news.

“Following an investigation that took months, Samsung Electronics has revealed the root causes behind those exploding Note 7 phones: design and manufacturing flaws associated with the lithium-ion batteries used in the phones, which were produced by Samsung’s battery suppliers.”

This was all suspected in the first place, but Samsung finally confirmed it. However, it was very interesting to hear that the specific reason for the explosions was very different from the first batch and the second “replacement” batch, which was released after the recall.

According to Mashable, the first batch involved a battery casing that was too small and caused an incorrect positioning of the negative electrode tip in the upper right corner of the battery. The second batch yielded an “abnormal” weld spot, which led to an internal short circuit.

The Galaxy Note 7 recall is the biggest in smartphone history.

One has to praise Samsung for finally coming forward about the issue. There have been arguments that Samsung waited too long, but it was important that they took time in their tests so the same mistake isn’t repeated. The results come after the company conducted large charge and discharge tests involving 700 engineers, 200,000 devices, and 30,000 batteries.

“We are taking responsibility for our failure to identify the issues arising out of the battery design and manufacturing process prior to the launch of the Note 7,” Samsung said in a statement, adding that the Korean company did not plan to take legal action against its suppliers.

Though Samsung has certainly wounded its brand, it’s not a severe wound; it’s one that can be fixed with an outstanding smartphone that will make everybody forget about the Note 7 disaster. The Galaxy S8 appears to be the band-aid Samsung will use to heal the wound.

According to Tech Radar, the Galaxy S8 is shaping up to be a huge upgrade from the S7 and S7 Edge. Some of the likely highlights include a 4K screen (on at least one version), a Snapdragon 830 processor, 6GB of RAM, and a massively improved camera. There is also a small possibility that the S8 will have a foldable screen, though that’s probably wishful thinking.

There could be two different versions of the S8, and both will come with curved screens. One could be a 5.7-inch regular version, and the other, the one that would have the 4K screen, will be 6.1 inches. The Galaxy S8 is expected to be announced next month and released in April. The day we can put our hands on this device can’t come soon enough.

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Is There Really A Need For An iPad Pro Refresh?

Both the 9.7 and 12.9-inch versions of the iPad Pro may be getting a refresh. Forbes has the news.

“Noted analyst Ming-Chi Kuo believes that Apple has three new iOS-powered tablets lined up for release in 2017; an update to the 12.9 inch iPad Pro, a price-conscious 9.7 inch model, and the previously rumored educational model with a screen of just over ten inches on the diagonal.”

Sales must have been decent enough to allow for an upgrade, although exact sales figures can’t be found. When I reviewed the iPad Pro (9.7-inch) last April, I said the device was a keeper, and it was — well, for three more months. Despite the beautiful display and great speakers, I found myself using the Dell XPS 13 or iPhone 6s Plus more to watch movies. It was also easier to use the iPhone 6s Plus to surf the Internet since it had 4G LTE built in. Of course, I could have bought the 4G LTE version of the iPad Pro, but it would have been at least an extra $30 a month.

The Apple Pencil provides a smooth writing experience on the iPad Pro.

I can say that the Apple Pencil, besides not being very portable, was the best stylus I ever used on a digital device. If fact, the best use of the iPad Pro was note-taking. Using OneNote felt like writing on a piece of paper. But it wasn’t something I really needed. Still, Apple is expected to release a second-generation Apple Pencil in March.

According to Mac Rumors, not much is known about the new Pencil, but it’s likely that it will have some type of magnet that would allow one to attach it to the iPad when it’s not in use. It could also have an antenna. But is all of this really needed? Has Apple realized that people want an OS X tablet with a desktop operating system, not an iOS mobile one?

As stated several times in this blog, the iPad Pro cannot replace your laptop, although it’s something Tim Cook insisted is possible. I tried a two-day experiment with the iPad Pro. I used it for all my blogging, and not only was it not comfortable to type on, but there were no apps that came close to being as useful as Photoshop, which I still use to edit and size all my photos (including all the ones on this blog). I had to do workarounds, which made things take twice as long.

Perhaps I’m wrong, and I may not be the typical consumer Apple is after. Perhaps the new iPad Pros will have an innovative feature that will blow consumers’ minds away. But the feeling that Apple is living in the past with the iPad Pro just won’t go away.

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One Week With The Dell XPS 13 (Late 2016 Version)

I have certainly mentioned the Dell XPS 13 a lot on this blog as it is the most groundbreaking laptop of the past two years. I actually owned the mid 2016 version, before I sold it and bought a 2016 MacBook Pro with Touch Bar. I can say that the late 2016 XPS 13 (Kaby Lake i7 processor, 8GB RAM, 128GB SSD) is the same XPS 13 I’ve known for the past two years — but is that alway a good thing?

The new XPS 13 certainly is a great laptop. It’s still delightfully light and portable. It still has that gorgeous 3200 x 1800 pixel resolution display. However, Dell certainly isn’t the only one these days to put an almost 4K screen on a 13.3-inch screen. And while the edge-t0-edge display is still great, it’s disappointing that Dell still puts the webcam on the bottom left-hand corner. If you are a Skyper, get ready to show off your chin, and if you have a double chin, the XPS 13 will certainly highlight that to your viewers.

The new Dell XPS 13 is still ridiculously thin, but keeps all the major ports.

The most noticeable difference between the mid-2016 and late-2016 version of the XPS 13 is the trackpad, which feels more solid, rather than rubbery. There were no complaints with the rubbery XPS 13 trackpad, but Dell made it even better. The XPS trackpad is the best one I’ve used on a PC.

Then, there’s the battery life. While the mid-2016 lasted me an average of 6 hours doing heavy tasks, the new version gives me about 7 hours. The new Kaby Lake processor really helps save battery life. But it’s also caused the phenomenon known as Coil Whine, which was discussed in detail here last month.

The issue doesn’t present itself all the time, but when it does, you can hear it. It sounds like somebody is being tortured a couple blocks away. It is audible with or without other noise.  I had to turn the maximum processor rate to 99 percent — the same thing I did when the Lenovo Yogo 910 coil whined. For the most part, it solved the problem. But at $1499, one should NOT have to change the settings like I did to resolve this issue.

You can't go wrong purchasing the new XPS 13, but it's no longer the leader of the ultraportable pack.

I would still recommend the Dell XPS 13, but would also advise one look at the Lenovo Yoga 910 and HP Spectre 360. Personally, I think the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar is the best ultraportable laptop now, but the other ones mentioned cost less and have more power.

Besides the coil wine issue, the only thing wrong with the XPS 13 is that others have caught up. However, Dell can take solace knowing it was at the top of the laptop heap for two whole years.

 

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Is Virtual Reality Stalling?

I’ve talked about my experiences with the HTC Vive on this blog before and have always been positive that VR is going to take off in a big way. Current VR experiences are flawed, but very promising. AltspaceVR, for example, is an amazing experience that allows you to meet up with people from all over the world in different open spaces.

One would think that virtual reality would have been the star of the show at CES last week. However, according to CNET, it certainly wasn’t.

“If you relied on CES to show you the latest in technology, VR was pretty much a no-show.”

The article notes that the most exciting new product was Lenovo’s new headset, which was only there as a prototype. CNET notes that the biggest players in the VR industry skipped CES this year. Could all this be similar to how 3D technology was largely ignored in 2012 at CES, despite being the biggest thing at the 2011 show?

3D failed because it was too much of a pain for the average consumer. Perhaps 3D that doesn’t require glasses would make the 3D industry big, but the technology just isn’t there yet. But at least VR shows promise.

What VR needs is headsets that have better resolution (4K would help diminish the screen door effect), better tracking, and — most importantly — killer software titles. It has been highly rumored that Samsung’s next Gear VR mobile headset will offer 4K virtual reality, given that the smartphone it will use for its screen, the Galaxy S8, will have a 4K screen. But virtual reality headsets that rely on smartphones to power them are limited in the amount of immersion they are able to provide.

A wireless solution has arrived for the HTC Vive

What is really needed to make higher-end VR headsets (like the Oculus Rift or the HTC Vive) more consumer friendly is cutting the wires. No matter how immersed you feel wearing your HTC Vive, you can always feel the wires pulling against the headset to remind you that you’re not really in VR land.

According to Polygon, HTC is allowing a third party solution to make its headset wireless. TPCast will likely be the first company to ship  their wireless add-on, which will cost $220. Shipping should start during the second quarter this year. Let’s hope the company doesn’t delay this wireless product, which is the most important thing the Vive can use now.

 

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Dell Latitude 7285 Is First Wireless Charging Laptop

Dell Latitude 7285

Dell is really getting their groove back. The XPS 13 is, perhaps, the most critically acclaimed ultraportable laptop of the past two years. The XPS 15 is certainly the most acclaimed power laptop. Now, the new Dell Latitude 7285 has been unveiled at CES and it has something that’s pretty groundbreaking.

“The notebook is Airfuel Alliance-certified and will be interoperable with magnetic resonance-based wireless charging infrastructure, the technology in which WiTricity founded. The laptop is key for the workplace of the future, enabling a wire-free environment that is not only aesthetically pleasing but also creates a more efficient and mobile office,” reads a press release I was sent about the device.

However, this might not really be as dreamy as it reads. The wireless charging keyboard base is optional. While this charging situation would be cool, one wonders if it is more convenient than an old fashioned charging cable.

Dell's Latitude 7285 could be the laptop of the future.

It’s quite clear that wireless charging is the future. It’s already been mainstreamed on many Android smartphones, and it has been suggested that the iPhone 8 will finally have wireless charging as well. But it may be a while before we see a true wireless charging era. Or will it be?

According to the Guardian, not only has Dell introduced a wireless charging solution for the Latitude 7285, but Ford announced it would be conducting tests of wireless vehicle charging.However, they were most impressed with a company called Energous.

“The four-year-old company, a CES regular, had something to show of its WattUp wireless system, which beams power to devices using radio frequencies, rather than the magnetic induction used in the the contactless charging of certain smartphones of the past few years.”

The article adds that magnetic induction can’t be used over larger distances, but radio frequencies potentially can. We’ll definitely be hearing more about this soon. As for Dell, they continue to be on a roll. Not only did they recently announced the XPS 13 2-in-1, but they announced the 2017 update to the XPS 15, which Tech Radar describes a potential portable gaming powerhouse.

The higher-end XPS 15 has a  NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 GPU that has 4GB GDDR5 graphics. The XPS 15 has always been seen as a MacBook Pro 15-inch alternative, and this latest version could put a dent in Apple’s sales, especially since many believe the 2016 15-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar is overpriced and underpowered.

Dell has pretty much become the go-to name in laptops now instead of Apple. Pretty soon, we’ll see Dell-branded retail stores pop up at malls all over the world.

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Dell Announces XPS 13 2-in-1 Convertible

The Dell XPS 13 has been the go-to ultraportable, even more so than anything Apple has come up with. It’s literally a powerhouse 13-inch laptop (higher-end versions) in an 11-inch shell. Since there isn’t much of a bezel, Dell had to put the webcam at the bottom of the screen — this is definitely bad for people who use Skype a lot. For everyone else, the XPS 13 is a technological marvel.

On Monday morning, Dell announced the convertible version of the XPS 13, (called XPS 13 2-in-1) that can also be used as a tablet. There is some disappointment for those who thought they were getting the full XPS 13 in tablet form. According to Engadget, Dell’s laptop runs fanless Intel Core i5-7Y54 or i7-7Y75 processors (otherwise known as Intel Core M) , which are noticeably slower than the regular processors that run the latest Dell XPS 13. That will be certainly be a turnoff for some buyers.

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In order to make the convertible tablet thinner and lighter (2.7 lbs), Dell had to take away the legacy ports, leaving only two USB-C ports. Some may be upset, but it’s very obvious that the tech world is converting to USB-C. If you can’t live with it now, you’ll have to in just a few years. It’s quite impressive that Dell was able to still fit in a microSD card slot.

The XPS 13 will come with either 4GB, 8GB, or 16GB of RAM, and is available in Full HD, or QHD+ display versions. If you don’t mind battery life being an hour or two less with a full charge, you should definitely get the QHD+ version, which looks absolutely stunning.

Laptop Magazine is the first to provide a full review (four stars), and the only thing they don’t seem to like is the battery life, which others say lasts longer than the regular XPS 13. Before selling my high-end mid-2016 version of the XPS 13, I was able to get about six hours of battery life doing some heavy tasks with brightness set at 80 percent. I found that satisfying, even knowing I was getting less than the Intel Core i5 version of the same computer.

Dell had to make some compromises on the XPS 13 2-in-1.

But a lot of people seem to believe that Dell has “butchered” the XPS 13 tablet.

“Honestly, I hate the direction Dell taken with this, No full size USB, slower processor, smaller battery, and they charge a $100 more, $100 MORE?????” screams Reddit user Squat_cobler.

“No USB-A port? Seriously? Don’t tell me that it did not fit. Since when fashion and 10 grams less are more important than convenience? This laptop looked very exciting – I now suddenly lost any and all interest in it,” says Vapor Eidolon.

The good news is that the XPS 13 convertible has a digitizer so you can write with an optional stylus that costs $45. However, it’s too early to even attempt to predict if the XPS 13 2-in-1 will become a hit.

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Apple’s AirPods Are Already Getting Complaints

I did a hands-on review of the AirPods ten days ago, and my review was very mixed. However, I received the AirPods as a Christmas gift and I am far more satisfied with them then I was during my brief demo. I found the sound to be a lot fuller. Perhaps they were in my ears better. But the one noticeable thing is that there is a presence of bass.

The AirPods will not replace your $350 Bose headphones, but they aren’t intended to. However, the AirPods represent the best overall wireless experience you can get right now, including ease of use, phone quality, and pairing. They are the jack of all trades. But just as it is with every Apple product, people have already found problems.

The main issue seems to be battery drain. As MacRumors reports, some users are complaining that the charging case that comes with the pods isn’t holding the 24-hour charge that Apple promised. After one puts the AirPods back in the charging case (which looks just like dental floss), it should theoretically hold a charge after the AirPods are completely charged. But that hasn’t been happening.

Is the AirPods charger battery leak really a major problem?

I am noticing quite a bit of charger leak myself, but I don’t think it is really an issue. For example, I charged my buds with the charger until they were both at 100 percent this morning. I used the buds for almost five hours, and when I went to put them back, the charger had 87 percent battery life left. One of the things that could be causing the leak is opening the charger too many times. Each time you open the charger, it appears to make a Bluetooth connection with your phone, even though it doesn’t display as a Bluetooth connection.

A thread on Reddit shows users having to recharge their charger every two or three days. To be honest, that isn’t bad — at all. However, it would have been great for Apple to include a switch to turn the charger on or off. I can almost guarantee you that Apple will have this in the next version.

I have been running, jumping, and lifting weights with the AirPods, and they haven’t even come close to falling out. The only time they did was when I changed my shirt at the gym. Still, according to Yahoo, Apple plans to include a mechanical mechanism that wraps around the user’s ear. Even without the mechanism, Apple has still hit a home run with the first release of the AirPods.

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A Look At The 2016 (15-Inch) MacBook Pro With Touch Bar

Last week was an awful one for Apple; the Cupertino company still continues to suffer a (mostly undeserved) backlash over their latest MacBook Pro. I worked with the 13-inch version for almost a week and, in a hands-on review, said I was more impressed with it than I ever thought I would be.

Now I have been working with the $2399 ($2199 at some places) 15.4-inch MacBook Pro, and am enjoying myself even more. I’ve received at least six hours of battery life with some pretty heavy use — that’s not great, but it’s not a deal breaker either, especially considering how powerful the new Pro is. It runs an Intel Quad-Core i7 2.6 GHz processor, has 16GB of RAM, and a 256 SSD. It’s hard to believe that something this thin can carry out all this power.

I thought the speakers on the new 13-inch MacBook Pro were great, but the ones on the 15-inch Pro are simply amazing. It’s the first notebook that I’ve used in which I can listen to lifelike music without a Bluetooth speaker or headphones. The bass is thumping, and the high and mid sound ranges are very distinctive.

But Consumer Reports certainly doesn’t agree, and they have written a damning article about how they can’t recommend the MacBook Pro because of — in some cases — disastrous battery life. They revealed that the battery life tests were inconsistent, and that, at times, the 15-inch version gave out only 3.5 hours of power. While the battery life certainly doesn’t live up to Apple’s own tests, one has to wonder exactly how Consumer Reports is “testing” the new MacBook Pro.

The article had a serious affect on Apple — so much that, as the Verge points out, Apple’s Philip Schiller tweeted that Apple was working with the magazine to understand their battery tests. Apple usually ignores media reports, but they couldn’t let this one go. It wouldn’t surprise me if there is some sort of follow-up on the article soon. Apple certainly has that power. But this time, they would definitely be right to use this power.

I can say there is one thing I don’t like about the new 15-inch Pro. The screen resolution (220 ppi) is somewhat noticeably lower than even the 13-inch Pro’s resolution (227 ppi). Both versions of the MacBook Pro have displayed the same resolution since 2012. The Microsoft Surface Book (267 ppi) and the Dell XPS 15 (282.4 ppi) have noticeably sharper screens, although Apple’s still wins at color display. Perhaps Apple is just trying to save battery life, which is already being complained about.

The only real problem with the new MacBook Pros is the price. The entry level 15-inch version should cost $1999, not $2399. And the entry-level 13-inch with Touch Bar should cost $1499, not $1799. After initial sales are done, I believe these will be the new official prices.

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