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MICROSOFT IS GETTING READY FOR THE NEXT XBOX VS. PLAYSTATION CONSOLE WAR

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Microsoft’s gaming chief, Phil Spencer, didn’t spend a lot of time talking at the company’s E3 press conference last night, preferring to let the games speak for themselves. Microsoft showed off 52 games onstage, including Halo InfiniteGears 5Forza Horizon 4, and titles from third parties like Fallout 76 and Cyberpunk 2077. While Spencer let the pace of the games dazzle the 6,000 people in the crowd, in his less than 15 minutes of stage time, he also made it very clear Microsoft is ready to battle. With new Xbox consoles, cloud streaming, and a fresh commitment to original games, Microsoft is getting ready for the next console war and beyond.

The Xbox One fell behind Sony’s PlayStation 4 for a number of reasons (pricing and Kinect didn’t help initially), but Microsoft is now facing a lack of exclusive titles to really boost its new Xbox One X console. Microsoft is finally responding to that negative feedback, and one of the surprise announcements at last night’s Xbox E3 briefing was the company’s commitment to first-party games. Microsoft is acquiring Undead Labs (makers of State of Decay), Playground Games (Forza Horizon developers), Ninja Theory (Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice), and Compulsion Games (We Happy Few). These developers will join Microsoft Studios, alongside the formation of a newly founded Santa Monica-based studio, The Initiative, that will be led by former Crystal Dynamics head of studio Darrell Gallagher.

While two of the studios already develop exclusive Xbox games for Microsoft, the rest will add to Microsoft’s original games list. “We know that exclusive games from our Microsoft Studios are what originally turned so many of us into Xbox fans. My team and I take our commitment to you seriously,” said Phil Spencer. “By joining us at Microsoft Studios, these five new teams will have the resources, the platform, and creative independence to take bigger risks, create even bolder worlds for you.”

These studio acquisitions are clearly a reaction to a lack of solid first-party games, but they’re also a commitment to Xbox fans that Microsoft isn’t about to give up on gaming. Microsoft is already embracing a world beyond Windows PCs, reducing its consumer focus, and trying to win back developers. A lot of these moves have Microsoft and Xbox fans concerned about the future of its gaming commitments, and Spencer ended Microsoft’s E3 showing with a very clear message.

”We commit and harness the full breadth of our resources at Microsoft to deliver on the future of play,” revealed Spencer, before detailing Microsoft’s plans for a game streaming network and new Xbox consoles. “The same team that delivered unprecedented performance with Xbox One X is deep into architecturing the next Xbox consoles, where we will once again deliver on our commitment to set the benchmark for console gaming.” If that wasn’t enough of a message, Spencer ended with a clear signal that Microsoft is here to stay with Xbox for years to come.

Microsoft Studios dev teams.

“We have committed our team, our company, our technical resources so we can declare to you today, and next year, and all the years after that: you will always experience the best in gaming on Xbox.” Spencer’s strong message felt like a reassuring one to Xbox fans, but it was also a realization that Microsoft isn’t ready to offer the best games on Xbox One just yet. The Xbox One is the best console if you don’t care about new exclusive games, and it’s obvious that Microsoft’s deep focus on backward compatibility will continue with its future consoles.

These new studios will take time to create the games Microsoft needs, and this isn’t going to be a quick turnaround. Microsoft will once again have to mostly rely on third-party studios to fill the gaps this year, with massive games that can also be played on rival hardware.

It might be another tricky year for the Xbox One, especially as Sony has already delivered exclusive games like Detroit: Become HumanGod of War, and Shadow of the Colossus this year. Sony is also expected to show off more big exclusives at its own E3 event tonight, including Death StrandingThe Last of Us: Part IIGhost of Tsushima, and Spider-Man. Microsoft showed at E3 that it’s ready to play the long game, and that will inevitably lead it toward the next big console battle with Sony.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: The Verge

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Laptops

LENOVO YOGA BOOK C930 REVIEW

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We had some reservations about the Lenovo Yoga Book last year when we reviewed it, as the ambitious hybrid tablet introduced some rather intriguing concepts – most notably, ditching the classic physical keyboard for a razor-thin, touch-sensitive one. With this year’s successor, Lenovo has revamped its peculiar keyboard implementation, replacing it with a new e-ink screen, while also giving its light-weight laptop the necessary upgrade to a more formidable processor. At a whopping $1049.99, the Lenovo Yoga Book C930 finds itself in a totally different competing market – so it’ll be interesting to find out if it’s any better than the alternatives in this price range.

In the box:

  • Lenovo Yoga Book C930
  • Lenovo Active Pen
  • Wall Charger
  • USB Type-C Cable
  • Quick Start Guide
  • Microfiber cloth
  • SIM removal tool

 

Design

Lenovo Yoga Book C930 Review
Lenovo Yoga Book C930 Review
Lenovo Yoga Book C930 Review
Lenovo Yoga Book C930 Review

Recycling the same futuristic design that we saw introduced with last year’s model, the Lenovo Yoga Book C930 looks just as intriguing. For a hybrid, it’s incredibly lightweight and slim, making it the perfect companion when you want to mix pleasure and productivity while being on the road. And because it’s part of the Yoga family and features that eye-catching hinge, it can be used in three different modes – laptop, tablet, or tent.

What’s new here is that the Lenovo Yoga Book C930 features a dynamic e-ink screen, which acts as the keyboard and trackpad when it’s used in the traditional laptop mode. Indeed, this touch-based experience isn’t for everyone, and we find ourselves operating at a slower pace compared to when using a physical keyboard. However, we feel as though our rate of typing could be increased if there was an auto-correct option, but it’s only available when using the usual Windows on-screen keyboard. And finally, since it’s an e-ink screen with no backlighting, typing in the dark is nearly impossible.

Display

As for the C930’s main display, it’s a 10.8-inch QHD 2560 x 1600 IPS display that looks substantially sharper than what was put in with last year’s model. There’s very little distortion when looking at it from slight angles, which is great, and it’s complemented by its ability to produce rich and vibrant color tones. It may not be the brightest screen around in its size range, but we find that it’s still more than usable for reading.

Lenovo Yoga Book C930 Review
Lenovo Yoga Book C930 Review

Speaking of that secondary e-ink display, it’s even more suitable for reading because it doesn’t strain our eyes when staring at it for longer periods of time, which is a characteristic of e-ink displays in general. However, it’s fairly limited in what it can do because for now, it’s mainly reserved for note-taking, drawing, and viewing of PDF files. Unfortunately, it doesn’t support any e-book file formats – so to that degree, it doesn’t replace a true e-reader.

Nevertheless, the e-ink display here is useful in the way that it replicates the paper-meets-pen experience, so if you’re apt to that more than typing, the option is here with the included Lenovo Active Pen, which has 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity. And even though there’s technically no placeholder for the Pen within the Yoga Book C930, it features a magnetic connection that keeps it firmly tethered to the casing when it’s not being used.

Interface and functionality

The Lenovo Yoga Book C930 is only being made available as a Windows 10 offering. We wouldn’t miss having an Android-based option since Windows 10 has significantly more potential for productivity. What’s nice is that the C930 bridges the tablet and laptop experience, seeing that we can quickly go from using it in traditional laptop mode to full tablet mode by swiveling the display. Even better is the fact that it can do just about anything! From surfing the web to editing video and even some gaming, the Lenovo Yoga C930 offers the same level of versatility that other Windows based hybrids offer.

The Lenovo Yoga Book C930 is only being made available as a Windows 10 offering - Lenovo Yoga Book C930 Review
The Lenovo Yoga Book C930 is only being made available as a Windows 10 offering - Lenovo Yoga Book C930 Review
The Lenovo Yoga Book C930 is only being made available as a Windows 10 offering - Lenovo Yoga Book C930 Review
The Lenovo Yoga Book C930 is only being made available as a Windows 10 offering - Lenovo Yoga Book C930 Review
The Lenovo Yoga Book C930 is only being made available as a Windows 10 offering - Lenovo Yoga Book C930 Review
The Lenovo Yoga Book C930 is only being made available as a Windows 10 offering - Lenovo Yoga Book C930 Review

While Lenovo’s convertible can indeed perform the same functions and tasks as other laptops, it isn’t necessarily as effective at those. Because of its unique dual-display configuration, there are some challenges to using its e-ink display for typing. It gets the job done, offering a subtle vibration feedback when keys are pressed, but it can’t match the convenience we get from traditional laptops and hybrids with physical keyboards. There’s still room for improvement to enhance the typing experience, such as adding auto-correct based on contextual clues in what we’re typing.

Lenovo Yoga Book C930 Review

Adding to its productivity value, you can actually switch the e-ink screen from its keyboard mode to either the pdf reader or sketch pad at any time by pressing the corresponding icons in the top right area. It’s useful in the way that you can be reading something with the main display while also jotting down notes using the e-ink display. And speaking of that, if you flip it into tablet mode with the e-ink facing upwards, the main screen will power down and you can save more power by using the e-ink screen by itself. Furthermore, you can leverage the Windows Ink Workspace app with the Lenovo Active Pen to draw sketches, add stick notes to the desktop, and more. The e-ink screen doesn’t support additional apps or software, and there’s no indication that it will offer any support down the road either.

If you’re willing to invest more patience into adapting to its unique keyboard, you may be surprised by its utility.

Processor and Performance

Even with a super skinny frame, inside the device there’s room for a generous 256GB SSD that offers enough storage out of the gate. There’s expansion courtesy of a microSD card slot, but it’s annoying that it isn’t easily accessible because it requires a SIM ejector tool to access.

Camera

Lenovo Yoga Book C930 Review

Lenovo chose to slap the Yoga Book C930 with only a single 2MP camera that’s placed above the main display – reserving it mostly for video chatting and whatnot. Gone completely is the “main” camera from last year’s model, which means that you won’t be able to properly snap photos. We’re not particularly bummed by the omission, but we can understand how others may feel compelled to using a tablet to snap photos when there’s nothing else around.

Image Quality

Not surprisingly, there’s nothing too great with the performance out of the 2MP camera. We wouldn’t even bother using it for selfies either, since its shots are muddy-looking in general. For Skyping or video chatting, it certainly is good enough to use, but that’s about the extent of its usefulness. Given how the fingerprint sensor has replaced the “rear” camera that came with last year’s offering, it’s a compromise we’re willing to agree with.

Battery life

You wouldn’t expect something so thin and light to deliver outstanding results when it comes to battery life, but that’s the reality with the Lenovo Yoga Book C930. In our day-to-day experience, its battery delivers enough longevity to provide an entire day’s worth of basic productivity, which consists mostly of email replies, surfing the web, listening to music, and light word processing. When it comes to heavier things like video editing, we easily get 6 hours of heavy usage from a full charge. If you’re the kind to periodically use a laptop, this is something that’ll easily get you through a weekend.

Conclusion

Lenovo Yoga Book C930 Review

With this year’s model, Lenovo enhances the Yoga Book to make it even more functional. Switching to an e-ink display that transforms from a dynamic keyboard to a canvas for all of our note-taking and drawing needs, this Windows 10-powered hybrid offers significantly more functionality than its Android predecessor. But then again, its superiority is reflected by its higher price of $1049.99.

In the space right now, the Lenovo Yoga Book C930 is unlike anything else, which – combined with its pricey cost – can make it a tough sell over other comparable models. Take for instance the Microsoft Surface Pro 6 that starts at $899 sans keyboard (+$129.99 for the keyboard). The Surface Pro 6 offers the better 8th-generation Intel Core i5 processor. However, the Yoga Book C930 is an option worth considering because it bridges the tablet and mobile laptop experiences together – just as long as you have some patience in learning and acquiring a taste for its keyboard.

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Hardwares

LENOVO YOGA BOOK C930 REVIEW: TWO SCREENS AND LOTS OF COMPROMISES

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If you traveled back in time five years and asked what a futuristic 2018 computer would look like, there’s a pretty good chance that somebody would describe something very much like the Lenovo Yoga Book C930. It’s a svelte, small, and decently powerful computer that has so many different modes that it’s difficult to call it just one thing, and there’s not much else out there that resembles it in any way.

It’s not a laptop or a tablet or a note-taking device. Rather, it’s attempting to be all of those things at once, depending on your needs. It’s smaller than any Windows computer you’ve likely tried (save maybe the Surface Go), and it has two screens. One is a traditional LCD touch panel and the other is an E Ink screen that can change its function based on the task. Sometimes it’s a touch keyboard, and other times, it’s a sketchpad or an e-reader.

Almost everything about the new Yoga Book makes you want to love it. It’s the sort of device that makes you feel like you’re living in a future that would be more commonplace if only computer companies were just a little more daring. But it is also the sort of device that, once you use it, it makes you realize why everybody else has been so risk-averse. It’s much easier to love the idea of the Yoga Book C930 than to live with its reality — especially when that reality costs at least $999.99.

LENOVO YOGA BOOK C930

GOOD STUFF

  • Thin and light
  • Fast enough processor
  • Full Windows 10
  • USB-C

BAD STUFF

  • E Ink screen software is slow and buggy
  • Not comfortable for long typing sessions
  • No headphone jack
  • Too expensive

This is the second time that Lenovo has taken a shot at releasing a futuristic computer without a traditional keyboard. The basics of the new Yoga Book’s overall design are nearly unchanged. It’s incredibly thin and light for a full Windows PC, measuring just under 10mm thick when closed and weighing just 1.71 pounds. It has a 10.8-inch, 2560 x 1600 display that, sure, can feel a little bit cramped, but you can do a surprising amount of work on it.

Outside of one mystifying design choice, the build quality of the C930 is top notch. Everything feels solid, from the “watchband” hinge that rotates 360 degrees to the matte finish on the E Ink display to the textured power button. It’s a device that will virtually force people to ask you about it because it’s so tiny and unique.

That mystifying design choice is just opening the damn thing up. You have three choices: wedge a fingernail in between the two halves, literally “knock knock” on the top when it’s closed, or long-press the volume down button. The first is super awkward and weird, the second only works intermittently, and so by process of elimination, you’ll be pressing the volume button to open it. Why Lenovo didn’t just make a little cutout for your finger to grab will be a question for the ages.

The first Yoga Book was littered with compromises: a dinky processor, the wrong ports, and even the wrong operating system. It also didn’t have a second screen, opting for a weird touch-sensitive panel that you had to slap a pad of paper on top of to record your notes.

Lenovo looked at all of the problems on the original Yoga Book and tried to address them with the Yoga Book C930. In some cases, it was successful: this machine is a much more focused, intentional device. It only runs Windows; it has a relatively modern, 7th Gen Y-Series Intel Core i5 processor; and, most importantly, it swaps out that weird touch panel for a proper E Ink display. That’s where you type, draw, and take notes using the included pen. There are now two USB-C ports for connectivity and charging (but no headphone jack, sadly). Lenovo also added a fingerprint sensor for logging in. It works, though, personally, I’d have preferred a facial recognition camera.

Battery life is nothing to crow about. Lenovo rates it at over eight hours of use, but I didn’t quite get there using just Windows. Six to seven seems like a safer bet, depending on what apps you’re running. However, if you use it as more of a mixed-use device — a little Windows here, a little ebook reading there — you’re likely to hit that number or better.

Just as a Windows computer, it does its job and performs well enough (about in line with a low-end device with 4GB of RAM). Which is to say: it will run Office and let you do basic kinds of stuff, but don’t push it too much. The small screen sort of helps set expectations here. You wouldn’t ever try to tackle a huge Photoshop project on this thing, and you shouldn’t.

Any new kind of computer needs to justify its existence. Why would you get this instead of something simpler, like a Surface Go tablet or a traditional laptop (with a traditional keyboard)? And that bar is even higher for something that starts at a thousand bucks.

So let’s talk about that E Ink screen.

The first and most important thing to know is that it’s nicer to type on than you might expect, though I suspect your expectations aren’t very high. Lenovo has a special mode that maximizes the keyboard size and minimizes the touchpad, which cleverly expands only when you tap on the bottom when you want to use it. That little bit of extra space makes the keyboard much more usable, and Lenovo is also doing the standard trick of correcting for your mistypes with its software.

But typing on glass is still typing on glass, and no amount of haptic vibration can change that. You can’t really rest your hands on the keyboard, long fingernails will be a problem, and it gets tiring after awhile.

Honestly, that is probably going to be the end of the story for most people: an incredible device with a not-so-great typing experience. The idea here is that there are other things that you can do with the E Ink screen that offset the compromise on the keyboard. But I’m just going to tell you right now that they mostly consist of more compromises.

You can also use it as an e-reader, and since the device is so small and light, it’s comfortable to hold and read with it. Unfortunately, at launch it only supports PDFs; Lenovo says that ePub, .mobi, and plain text support will come next year. It’s nice enough for simple reading, but you can’t mark up or even highlight text. You can only use a fiddly, resizable box to screengrab portions of what you’re reading. And don’t ever expect to be able to read your Kindle library on it. The whole thing is just a huge missed opportunity.

My favorite mode is note-taking, which lets you sketch out your notes on the E Ink screen. It’s really neat to just fold the Windows screen back and have a small notepad thing to jot your notes down on. You can grab the OCR text from them automatically and get them into OneNote, too. You can also grab a screenshot from Windows and mark it up, but the experience of actually doing so is hellaciously fiddly. Trying to re-crop the image to what you want to actually comment on is a huge hassle on the E Ink display.

Though the E Ink screen has a decent refresh rate relative to other similar screens, the overall experience of using it is maddeningly slow. You switch modes by tapping small little buttons in the upper-right corner, and it takes a very long time to change. You can turn off the Windows display and just use the E Ink side, but you have to double tap the screen to do so, and sometimes it just doesn’t register. The device tries to automatically present different options to you, depending on how far back you’ve tilted the hinge or what orientation the device is in. But in practice, it often gets it wrong, and you’re left sort of flipping and folding the Yoga Book around to get it working.

I admit it: I really want to like the Yoga Book C930. I like that Lenovo is not only willing to take a chance on a weird design, but also to iterate on it and make it better. Just considering the device as a physical object and even as a concept, I love it.

But even if you can get over the awkward experience of typing on glass, the software that runs the E Ink screen makes the Yoga Book hard to love. There are probably niches where this device will be interesting, like for people who need a clipboard-style computer with the full power of Windows and a quick way to jot down notes.

For a thousand bucks, though, there are much better and more versatile options. They won’t wow strangers at a coffee shop, but they will let you get your work done without getting in your way.

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Hardwares

PIXEL SLATE’S $200 PROBLEM: ITS ‘MUST-HAVE’ KEYBOARD IS SOLD SEPARATELY

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I watched Google’s reveal of the much-leaked Pixel Slate with great interest. This was a sharp-looking Chrome OS device, with a great screen and the promise of excellent front-firing speakers. Sure, $599 felt like a lot for a quasi-Chromebook (unless you’re the even-more-expensive PixelBook), especially one that starts with an Intel Celeron processor — but I firmly believe Chrome OS can be premium and doesn’t have to be restricted to only budget PCs.

Almost every shot of the Pixel Slate showed it connected to its folio keyboard, itself a great example of high-end design with its round keys and big touchpad. It was not until the very end of Google’s Pixel Slate announcement that the ugly truth was revealed. That $599-and-up price didn’t include the keyboard, which runs an extra $199 (or a 33 percent premium).

035-google-pixel-slate
The new Pixel Slate and its keyboard.Sarah Tew/CNET

And if you want a stylus, that’s an extra hundred bucks on top of that. All-in, for just the lowest-end configuration, it’s a minimum of $899. That’s dangerously close to premium Windows laptop territory, where you could swing a MacBook Air or Dell XPS 13. Want to go to the top-end Core i7 model? That will take you to $1,599 before you add those accessories, per Google’s extended price list:

  •  $599 (4GB RAM, 32GB SSD, 8th Gen Intel® Celeron processor)
  •  $699 (8GB RAM, 64GB SSD, 8th Gen Intel® Celeron processor)
  •  $799 (8GB RAM, 64GB SSD, 8th Gen Intel® CoreTM m3 processor)
  •  $999 (8GB RAM, 128GB SSD, 8th Gen Intel® CoreTM i5 processor)
  •  $1,599 (16GB RAM, 256GB SSD, 8th Gen Intel® CoreTM i7 processor)

But Google isn’t the only offender padding your bill with sold-separately keyboards. I’ve reviewed nearly every Surface tablet Microsoft has ever released, and like a broken record, I bemoan the $129-and-up clip-on keyboard, which is even more of a must-have. Seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Surface Pro in the wild without a keyboard.

microsoft-surface-pro
Trust me, the Surface Pro works much better with its keyboard cover.Sarah Tew/CNET

Apple is another habitual offender. If there’s any doubt that the iPad Pro is primarily pitched as a screen-and-keyboard laptop replacement, just recall the company’s own “What’s a Computer?” TV spot.

 

The Smart Keyboard for the current iPad Pro is $159, plus $99 for the Pencil stylus, making the full package price just north of $900. Having used iPads of various types for productivity and content creation tasks many times previously, I can safely say a keyboard is a must-have for anything more involved than Tweeting.

I’ll even give all these companies a break on the stylus issue. Not everyone needs or uses one, and even though they shouldn’t be $100 a pop, it’s one place where you can cut a corner and still feel like you’ve got an all-day, every-day machine.

The end result is an online or real-life shopping trip that can end up being a lot more expensive than you bargained for after falling in love with an advertisement for one of these two-in-one devices. Until these companies wise up and put their keyboard accessories (often the most impressively designed part of the ecosystem) in the box with the product itself, we should all look at these starting prices as having a huge asterisk next to them.

 

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