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After explaining my thinking last time, it’s time for my Dell UltraSharp 49 review to begin in earnest.

I’ve been wanting a new monitor ever since I got my 15-inch MacBook Pro way back in 2024. The problem was, my perfect monitor didn’t exist then and – one Mac later – it still doesn’t.

But the Dell UltraSharp 49 looked like it would tick a lot of boxes. Thin bezels, single-cable connection, and the ultra-wide format I fell in love with a couple of years ago.

And, at four feet wide and 49 inches of diagonal screen, I was certainly expecting to be wowed by it …

Unboxing

If you want to see the unboxing process in detail, watch this video. I did so to see what I was letting myself in for.

In fact, Dell makes the process totally painless. There’s a quick-start guide with clear illustrations; numbered flaps to open in sequence – and you fit the stand to the monitor while it’s still in the box.

The screws do look alarmingly underspecced!

Just four of these hold the weight of the monitor. But it does feel rock-solid when installed. A Thunderbolt-compatible USB-C cable is included, along with HDMI ones.

There are two polystyrene grab handles to help lift it onto the desk, then these slide off the ends. I’d fully expected it to be a two-person job, but that turned out not to be the case. Getting it assembled and onto my desk was much easier than I’d expected.

Look and feel

Once unpacked and placed on my desk, no surprise that the overwhelming impression of this thing is that it is huge! It almost fills the width of my desk. Indeed, I no longer have room for the fan that used to sit on my desk and had to bring forward a plan to replace it with a ceiling fan.

I have room for the monitor, my HomePods, and the MacBook Pro – which I initially placed underneath the monitor in clamshell mode as I, fairly obviously, have no need for it as an additional screen!

It’s plastic, but from the front you’re only seeing pleasingly slim bezels, and as my desk is against the wall, I’m never going to see the back. But even if you will, it’s inoffensive enough. Bottom line: it’s plastic, but doesn’t look plasticky.

The front has top and side bezels around 1cm thick, and slightly more than that at the bottom. There’s a small Dell logo in the center.

The stand is big! You can get a good impression of the size in the top photo, with my 16-inch MacBook Pro next to it. With such a large and heavy monitor, a beefy stand is unavoidable, of course. But it’s nothing like as obtrusive as the huge legs you see on many other ultrawide monitors, so I’m quite happy with this.

Adjustability is great! The monitor offers 90mm of height adjustment, as well as tilting between -5º and +21º. Both mechanisms are super-smooth and easy. There is, despite Dell’s claims, no swivel mechanism. I set it close to the lowest position and angled back around +7º.

Set up

Physical set up is simple: plug in the power, and run a single Thunderbolt-compatible USB-C cable from the monitor to the MacBook. Cable management is … basic. You can run power and USB-C cables through a hole in the stand, and that’s it. But that is enough to keep them out of sight.

(I additionally have an Ethernet cable directly connecting my MacBook to my gigabit fiber broadband in order to deliver the full speed, but it’s not often I have any practical use for the difference between the c.900Mbps speeds I see on Ethernet and the c.400Mbps I see on WiFi. For most people, including me most of the time, 1 single cable does the job.)

While I was in preferences, I increased the trackpad speed as the left side of monitor is a long way away from the centre of the screen! As an example, when resizing an image in Photoshop, the physical distance between the centre of the image and the Image menu is about twice the length of the Magic Keyboard!

In addition to the single USB-C port, there are two upstream USB 3.0 ports (as the monitor supports two computers if desired, with a built-in KVM switch to allow use with a single wired keyboard and mouse), five downstream USB 3.0 ports (three in the centre by the stand, two more accessible ones at the front), a DisplayPort socket and two HDMI ones.

In my case, the only thing I have permanently connected is an 8TB Lacie drive for Time Machine. I used to have a scanner as well, but the amount of incoming paper I have now is low, so I now use the Scanner Pro app on my iPhone.

With the USB-C/Thunderbolt connection, of course, neither of the upstream USB ports is needed.

Quality

Let’s deal with the elephant in the room first. If you’re used to an Apple Thunderbolt Display 27, or any other 2560×1440 monitor, you’re going to be perfectly happy with the quality. However, if you’re used to either working directly on the MacBook Pro display or any doubled-pixel one, like the LG UltraFine 5K, then text will definitely seem less sharp.

If I’d come directly from my old ATD27, I likely wouldn’t have given it a second thought. But as I’ve been using my 16-inch MacBook Pro as my primary display for some time now, the difference is significant. How significant depends on the typeface.

Whether this will be a dealbreaker for me remains to be seen. My guess is not: I’m so wowed by the size and real-estate that it feels like a very minor thing. But that is, so far, my one question-mark.

When viewing photos or video, however, the quality is stunning. As I said last time, it’s not a pro monitor – and doesn’t have a pro monitor price tag – but I think even enthusiastic photographers will be more than happy with this. Photo editing on this size monitor is going to be a dream.

Not to mention the library overview you get.

Video editing, too, looks like it will be a wonderful experience. The amount of the timeline you can see at once is fantastic!

In use

This monitor is for me first and foremost about productivity and convenience: being able to see all my main apps at the same time. I use Spaces, with different desktops for different contexts, my two main ones being Work and Home.

Here’s my setup for my Work desktop:

It’s fantastic to have everything visible at once on a single display!

It’s the same thing with my Home desktop. Different friends use different messenger apps, so it’s handy to have all of them on-screen at once:

I use a menubar app called Stay to position the windows in their assigned places each time I connect to the monitor.

The Dell UltraSharp 49 does offer an alternative setup: you can split the monitor in half and create two virtual 27-inch monitors, each 2560×1440. The one benefit of this would be that I could have two menubars, so would have less distance to move on the trackpad. I’ll probably experiment with that setup at some point.

There is one significant compromise in the specs: there’s no webcam in the monitor. For some people, that would be a dealbreaker. For me, the majority of my video calls are social ones, not professional, so I wouldn’t normally want to hold them in the office. All the same, I do sometimes, so that is a bit of a nuisance. I do have an HD webcam somewhere, so I’ll have to dig it out.

I’m using the display at 87% brightness, which is slightly higher than the approx 80% brightness I set when using my MacBook Pro display in the office.

The antiglare coating works extremely well! My office is set up to minimize reflections anyway, but I can angle it such that the bezels pick up the reflection of my ceiling light, and there’s nothing visible on the screen.

SSD aside, my 16-inch MacBook Pro is a base-spec one. Connected to the monitor when flat on my desk, there was some fan usage – perhaps around 20% – and the machine got warm but not hot. I today dug out an upright stand for it, and the fans quickly dropped to around 10% before switching off altogether.

Dell UltraSharp 49 review: Initial conclusions

The most important of my initial conclusions can be summed up in one word: Wow!

It looks truly spectacular, and the ability to have all of my constantly-used apps visible all of the time on a single screen feels every good as bit as I’d expected. As a minimalist who likes a clean desk without clutter, a single ultra-wide monitor setup is a joy.

It’s not perfect, however.

In an ideal world, it would offer doubled resolution to match the sharpness of the MacBook Pro display or the LG UltraFine 5K. But then we’d be looking at two UltraFine 5K displays in one panel – and that would roughly double the price. This thing is close to the limit of what I’m prepared to pay for a monitor, even one this size, so that would be a non-starter.

The curve is, as I expected, shallower than I would prefer. I mean, everything is perfectly viewable right across the screen, but the edges do feel a little too far away, and I do find myself scooting my chair across slightly for a more natural viewing angle when reading things at the edges.

I’d like it to have a webcam. I find the absence pretty inexplicable since there’s room in the top bezel and plenty of thickness. Perhaps it was a cost compromise.

I’d like it to be aluminum, not plastic. While it looks fine, it doesn’t have the same stylish look of an anodized aluminum casing.

Finally (for now), I’d like some downstream USB-C ports just to let me use the same cables on the monitor as I do on the MacBook.

But these shortcomings are all ones I can live with. I’ve never been a fan of multi-monitor setups, especially dual-27-inch ones, as you either have the bezels right in front of you, or you have to position the monitors asymmetrically, which I hate. This one gives all the benefits of 2 x 27-inch monitors without that downside.

I remember the first time I used the 30-inch Apple Cinema Display. When people say their jaw dropped, I assume they don’t mean it literally, but mine almost did. And this is the same. I really can’t tell you what a ‘wow’ experience it is when you’re sitting in front of it. I am in love with this thing. I can’t imagine sending it back.

I said that the mildly-compromised text quality was my only question mark. Well, I’ve now written several thousand words on it (2,000 of them in this review piece), and it bothers me only when I actively think about it. While I’m writing, I’m not even remotely aware of it.

In UK law, you have a 14-day cooling-off period for anything bought online. That obviously requires you to hold onto the box and all the packaging so you can return it as you received it. I’m already wondering whether I want that huge box sat in my office for a fortnight. So far, it’s still there, but the fact that I’m even considering throwing it in the recycling before the end of the 14-day period tells you how confident I am that I’m going to be keeping this.

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M2 Macbook Air Vs. M2 Macbook Pro: Is The Pro A Professional Machine?

MacBook Air M1 is the best laptop under $1000 money can buy. Yes, there are many alternatives if you prefer Windows. But none match the battery life while providing equivalent performance to the M1 MacBook Air. And Apple just pulled off the veil of the much-anticipated M2 MacBook Air.

Apple also launched the successor to the 13″ MacBook Pro with Apple’s M2 SoC, but we already have 14″ and 16″ MacBooks with M1 Pro and M1 Max SoC. The 13″ MacBook Pro seems like the middle child who needs to compete with its younger M2 sibling and its M1 Pro and M1 Max elder siblings. However, in this article, let’s focus on the differences between the M2 MacBook Air and M2 MacBook Pro.

Differences between the M2 MacBook Air and the M2 MacBook Pro

When a consumer is looking to buy a product, price is always the first concern. We set a budget, and the price of a product will always influence decisions. The M2 MacBook Air is priced at $1199, and the M2 MacBook Pro is just $100 more than its Air counterpart. But the price is not the only differentiating factor between the two.

Design: MacBook Air looks more professional than the MacBook Pro

You read that right, and I say this not because I like the design of the M2 MacBook Air (which I do), but because the M2 MacBook Air has a similar design to the M1 Pro and M1 Max MacBook Pros. And the M2 MacBook Air also has more ports than the M2 MacBook Pro, more on that later.

The result of the new or rather inspired design of the M2 MacBook Air is a slimmer form factor than its predecessor and even the M2 MacBook Pro. And the M2 MacBook Air is also available in more colors, viz. Space Gray, Silver, Starlight, and Midnight while the M2 MacBook is only available in Space Gray and Silver.

Display, Camera, and Speakers

It feels like the notch has become an iconic aspect of Apple’s design. You can find the notch on the iPhone (which we hope changes with iPhone 14 series), the 14″ and 16″ MacBook Pro, and it has finally made its way to the MacBook Air, which results in a slightly bigger screen. Now the M2 MacBook Air has a 13.6″ display, a 0.3″ increase over its predecessor. And the display is also now 100 nits brighter and has a peak brightness of 500 nits which is the same as the M2 MacBook Pro.

But the M2 MacBook Pro neither has a larger display nor houses a notch. While some might prefer the bezels over the notch for several reasons, the notch enables a larger screen and houses an upgraded 1080p camera sensor. So, the M2 MacBook Air cameras are better than the M2 MacBook Pro.

The M2 MacBook Air has a four-speaker sound system, and the M2 MacBook Pro has Stereo speakers. I suppose the speakers on the M2 MacBook Air are louder and better than the M2 MacBook Pro, but cannot pass a verdict without testing them. Always remember higher quantity does not always equate to higher quality. Nonetheless, I expect the M2 MacBook Air speakers to be louder and sound richer than the M2 MacBook Pro.

Touch Bar vs. Function Row

You either love the Touch Bar, or you don’t give a damn about its existence. There’s no in-between. And that’s exactly why the only device to still feature the Touch Bar in the MacBook lineup is the M2 MacBook Pro. If you’re on the lookout for a new machine with the Touch Bar functionality, the M2 MacBook Pro is your only choice. Do note that you miss the function row when you get a MacBook with the Touch Bar.

The MacBook Air lineup never featured a Touch Bar, as the feature was exclusive to MacBook Pros. However, you get a full-height Function Key row with the M2 MacBook Air. Not a significant upgrade, but an upgrade nonetheless.

A Pro MacBook without MagSafe

Apple reintroduced the MagSafe charging port last year with the MacBook Pro. And, the MagSafe port has finally made its way back to the M2 MacBook Air. You get a MagSafe port, two Thunderbolt ports, and a high impedance 3.5mm headphone jack with the M2 MacBook Air.

The M2 MacBook Pro also features the same ports and 3.5mm headphone jack but does not feature MagSafe charging. The result of this is a MacBook Pro, a machine meant for professionals housing fewer ports than its Air counterpart, which is targeted toward users with light to medium usage.

Faster charging vs. longer battery life

With the introduction of M1 SoC’s came the era of phenomenal battery life on MacBooks powered by M1. The M2 SoC is an upgrade expected to provide better battery life than the M1 SoC. Nonetheless, the M2 MacBook Pro houses a bigger battery than the M2 MacBook Air. The battery of the M2 MacBook Pro will last over 2 hours longer than the M2 MacBook Air. But the Air charges faster than the Pro.

Both the M2 MacBook Air and the M2 MacBook Pro support 67W charging. But only the MacBook Air supports fast charging. Apple claims the M2 MacBook Air can charge up to 50% in under 30 minutes. So, it boils down to if you want your MacBook to charge faster or last longer? Most of us would love the best of both worlds, but I’d pick fast charging over a slightly larger battery from what is available.

Is the M2 MacBook Pro the infamous awkward middle child?

After reading everything above, the M2 MacBook Pro might not seem as impressive as the M2 MacBook Air. Also, $1200 is the base price for the M2 MacBook Air, which again is a lot higher than the M1 MacBook Air, and while the upgrades might be worth the extra 200 dollars, I expected the Air to launch at $999.

The M2 MacBook Pro sits in a weird spot where it is neither as powerful as MacBooks with M1 Pro and M1 Max SoCs, nor does it feature the extra ports available with these machines. The MagSafe charging port, which has made its way to the M2 MacBook Air, is also unavailable on the M2 MacBook Pro.

Like always, Apple plays well with the Popcorn pricing phenomenon, as we saw with the M1 iPad Air. Recommending getting the 14″ M1 Pro MacBook Pro isn’t as easy as there’s almost a $500 price difference between the two. There’s always a better product available within Apple’s lineup for a bumped-up price. That seems like how Apple pushes users to increase their budget and get consumers to spend more than they initially intended.

If a dedicated cooling system and a slightly larger battery are what you’re on the lookout for, the M2 MacBook Pro might be the way to go. But for most people, the M2 MacBook Air will get the job done without breaking a sweat. Nonetheless, tread lightly and make an informed decision by listing your needs and then picking one machine over the other.

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Darryl

Consumer Technology and Motorcycles are the two things that excite Darryl the most. Why? Because Tech helps better people’s lives, and solving people’s problems related to tech is something he enjoys. And what about bikes, you ask? Well, drop a gear and disappear.

First Impressions: Nook Tablet Is The Value Tablet To Beat

The $249 Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet announced Monday may look like its predecessor, the Nook Color, but that’s where the comparisons stop. When I picked up the Nook Tablet, it was clear that this tablet leaps ahead of B&N’s first-gen effort–because it behaved more like a tablet. That said, the Nook Tablet’s main weakness is that it’s not a full-featured tablet like some of its competition; it lacks features like built-in Bluetooth, stereo speakers, GPS, and front- and rear-facing cameras, most of which are common finds on tablets today.

Still, the Nook Tablet’s low price will make it appealing to both e-reader and tablet shoppers. In fact, it is priced low enough to potentially sway consumers who might have been considering an iPad 2, which has a larger display, but also costs twice the price. With its competitive price and beefy specs, other so-called “value” tablet makers (that includes Amazon and its Kindle Fire tablet) should be running for the hills right about now.

Impressive Specs

For starters, the beefed-up horsepower in this tablet, compared to the earlier Nook Color, really counts. The dual-core 1GHz Texas Instruments OMAP 4 CPU and 1GB of RAM made switching apps a breeze with no lag or stuttering. Movies played smoothly and stutter-free in Netflix, and the images looked gorgeous and crisp, with terrific contrast.

The display looked dazzling overall, as expected since it’s the same as it was in Nook Color. Glare was minimal–a clear credit to Barnes & Noble’s VividView laminated and bonded IPS display. It was a pleasure to not have a visible, annoying gap between the glass screen and the LCD beneath, as I’ve seen with literally the dozens of tablets I’ve tested before this one. I can’t say glare is gone completely, but the difference is very clear when you have two devices side by side.

The tablet felt noticeably lighter than the Nook Color, even though the difference on paper–1.7 ounces–doesn’t seem like so much. Still, I could feel the difference when holding the tablet in one hand, which is how I often end up holding a tablet at some point or another.

Navigating the Nook Tablet

With Nook Tablet, I liked how the Nook software evolved in keeping with the Nook Tablet’s alignment into the more broad tablet universe. You can now access apps and Netflix viewing history and recommendations from the home screen, a move that’s both convenient and logical, given how Nook Tablet aims to embrace its full potential from the get-go this time. Nook Tablet is optimized around reading, something that’s clear from the display, and clear from how you access your books and the visual presentation of periodicals.

The new Read and Record feature in children’s books was especially compelling, and worked very well when I tried it. I could create my own audio track to accompany a book, a feature I could see as being appealing for families–especially those with a loved one who travels or is far away. I hope we’ll see the mic incorporated into other applications. Sadly, one of those applications will not be video chat, since B&N didn’t include a front-facing camera.

Where Are the Apps?

While Nook Tablet calls itself a tablet, it still lacks many tablet features and access to the wide swath of apps on the Android Market. Apps need to come from B&N’s own, growing app store. But there is some good in B&N’s curated approach, though.

Through B&N’s store, you’ll get apps that are specifically tailored for use on a 7-inch tablet without a camera or GPS or phone, for example. In practice, this is actually a pleasant switch-up from the messy Android Market experience (hint, Google: Please fix the Market), from which I’ve downloaded plenty of apps onto 7-inch tablets only to have them crash and force-close on me or not stretch properly to fit the tablet’s screen.

What Barnes & Noble Missed

Add in the basic features. Nook Tablet is missing Bluetooth, stereo speakers, a GPS, and front- and rear-facing cameras. Beyond the basic processing specs, those are the features that Nook Color omitted, and that Nook Tablet–now that it’s actually crossing into the territory of calling itself a tablet and trying to compete with tablets–should have added.

These all are basic specs of dedicated competing tablets. Granted, some of the “value” competition lacks Google services and cameras, too, but Nook Tablet shouldn’t be trying to compete with those tablets–its core specs are good enough for it to play in the big kids’ sandbox, alongside Honeycomb 7-inch tablets from the likes of Samsung and Toshiba. Nook Tablet would stand up better to the competition had is added the competitive feature set.

I would have liked to see B&N step up the display’s resolution. I’m totally sold on B&N’s bonded and laminated VividView display’s qualities, and I know B&N says it has done optimizations on top of Android to improve text rendering but, in some fonts, I could still see pixelation in the text. I prefer the smooth text rendering of higher-resolution displays, such as those offered by Toshiba’s 7” Thrive and T-Mobile’s SpringBoard, both of which have stepped the resolution up to 1280 by 800 pixels.

While B&N clearly missed a few opportunities to forge ahead of the pack, these omissions were trade-offs that were likely made in the name of achieving the Nook Tablet’s attractive price. And attractive it is: At $249, the Nook Tablet is a veritable bargain compared with the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7 Plus (shipping now) and the Thrive 7” (shipping in December), both $399. (T-Mobile hasn’t announced pricng for the SpringBoard yet).

In Video: Nook Takes on Fire

Stay tuned for our full-review of the Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet next week.

Lenovo Vibe X3 Unboxing And First Impressions

Lenovo Vibe X3 Unboxing Video

Lenovo Vibe X3 First Impressions

Out of the box the Lenovo Vibe X3 feels very nice, and also very familiar in my hand. The soft white polycarbonate body (soft to the touch like the baby skin option on the OPO), the slightly thicker design and the black and white front all reminded me of the Oppo N3. It’s obviously not as long as the N3 but it is a little longer than most 5.5-inch phones due to the dual front facing speakers.

As I have mentioned in the past, black borders around the display don’t bother me as I tend to focus on the screen and not what is around it. But if you aren’t a fan of black borders then the Vibe X3 isn’t going to please. We have black borders all around the panel, especially notable between the top of the screen and the top speaker.

What is also notable is the build of the Lenovo Vibe X3. While it might not have a unibody alloy design like some of this years flagships, it still feels premium and solidly made, again it reminds me of an Oppo N1 or N3. The Polycarbonate rear is non removable so you cannot get at the 3600mAh battery inside and the a SIM tray is located on the left of the alloy chassis. For those of you wondering the answer is Yes, you have the option to use either dual SIM cards or a single SIM and an SD card (hence the reason I went for the 32GB model).

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The right side of the phone is where the power and volume buttons are located, and once again these are quality items with no wobble and a really pleasant action to them. Other physical features around the chassis are a 3.5mm headphone jack and IR remote at the top, and standard USB in the base.

Lenovo Vibe X3 features

If you haven’t tried Dolby Atmos and I suggest you do, it really is incredible! Basically the system offer 3D surround sound meaning that movies really do come to life from the Lenovo Vibe X3. Helicopters can be heard flying overhead, cars race from one side of the room to the other, and monsters can be heard behind you. It’s a truly immersive experience.

Gaming on the Lenovo Vibe X3 should also be fun too with that audio experience. Performance also promises to be good with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 chipset and 3GB RAM on board.

This being a first impressions and hands on I really haven’t had much time to play around with the other features such as the 21 mega-pixel rear camera, but a full review will be made to cover all that in due time.

Lenovo Vibe X3 first impressions conclusion

One detail to look out for with the Lenovo Vibe X3 is that it doesn’t support Google Services out of the box. Root is required to do this, and at this time the phone is a little new for a fix to have been found but people are working on it. Another detail is that the Android 5.1 based Lenovo ROM only has Chinese and English language options.

Thanks to the chúng tôi team for helping me source the Lenovo Vibe X3.

Dell Xps 13 Vs. Macbook Air: A Closer Look At Battery Life

The MacBook Air’s battery life is legendary. Colleagues who drive MacBook Airs claim they can get all-day battery life, and that no similarly sized PC can do the same. But now we have a real contender: The Dell XPS 13. Time to test those claims.

Before we dig in, it’s important to note that there’s no single test that can compare PC and MacBook battery life directly. We have to arrive at comparable numbers through reasoned use of similar tests. I’ll also be discussing other reviewers’ tests to help paint a more detailed picture.

Other outlets have actually expressed disappointment with the XPS 13’s run time. Jason Evangelho of Forbes said: “Dell’s battery life claims miss the mark by a not-insignificant amount, and the XPS 13 still can’t match or exceed the Air in that department. I was desperately hoping it would. But is it poor battery life? Absolutely not.” 

Gordon Mah Ung

The XPS13 can out perform the MacBook Air in battery life even with its high resolution screen.

Here’s an important detail, though: Evangelho’s comparison was with a MacBook Air 13, which has a larger battery than the MacBook Air 11. He’s also planning to retest after disabling Windows Indexing and seeing the Dell’s life shoot from 7.5 hours to 9.5 hours. 

Over at Gizmodo, Sean Hollister was  also deeply disappointed: “Dell quotes up to 15 hours of battery life, and I struggled to get even half that in the real world.” But he, too, tested the XPS 13 agains the MacBook Air 13. Hollister tested the QHD+ version and the 1080p version of the XPS 13, getting 5 hours and 6 hours respectively, while the MacBook Air 13 gave him 8.5 hours of practical use.

The MacBook Air 11 is slightly smaller than the XPS13 and also has 1/5 its pixels too.

We think differently

Here’s where my tests will differ. In my view, the MacBook Air 13 is quite a bit larger than XPS 13, despite the XPS 13’s similarly sized chúng tôi fairer comparison to the XPS 13 2024 should be based on size. So I reached into our locker for a MacBook Air 11 2014. That model is just slightly smaller than the XPS 13. 

I’ll also point out that both Dells pack far more pixels than the competition. The top-end XPS 13, with its QHD+ screen, has a resolution of 3200×1800. The base model’s is 1920×1080. The MacBook Air 11 is 1366×768, while the 13-inch model is 1440×900.

Thinking about resolution in megapixels helps illustrate the scale of the difference. The 11-inch MacBook Air is 1MP (1 million pixels). The 13-inch model is 1.3MP, and the 1080p XPS 13 is 2MP. The high-res Dell XPS 13 is…wait for it: 5.7MP.

More pixels use more power

As we all know, an increase in resolution can impact battery life. We’ve seen it in phones and laptops. Pixel density is nice, but it isn’t free. 

I queried Dell’s laptop panel expert, who summarized it this way: The circuitry to drive the panel eats more power. A 1080p panel might consume 0.9 watts, while a 4K panel controller might use 1.3 watts to 1.5 watts. That’s significant when you consider that the monitor generally consumes the most power on a laptop today.

Then there’s also the power needed to light higher-dpi panels. Because the pixel pitch is much tighter, it blocks more light. That means it takes more light to get to the same brightness level of a lower-resolution screen.

One way to get around that is to use different screen technology. IGZO panels, for example, let more light through than a traditional high-res IPS panel, so you don’t have to burn as much power to hit the same lighting levels.

It’s a trick Lenovo/NEC is taking with its LaVie to cut the weight to 1.76 lbs. By using an IGZO panel, Lenovo can reduce the battery size while maintaining acceptable brightness and run time.

Battery Tests

In my XPS 13 review, I used BAPCo’s MobileMark 2014 test. It’s the updated version of the industry-standard MobileMark 2012. It uses off-the-shelf and popular applications, and it runs them through various tasks at normal speeds. 

MobileMark is unlike most rundown tests in that it acknowledges typical users’ tendencies to take breaks or zone out like Office Space‘s Peter Gibbons. MobileMark replicates this by allowing long pauses and letting the screen go to black. PCWorld

MobileMark 14 is perhaps the most realistic test for measuring actual office productivity battery life around and the Broadwell chip delivers in battery life. Keep in mind, the XPS13 also has a larger battery too.

The above test shows the battery life performance of the XPS 13 with QHD+ screen against the larger and older Lenovo X1 Carbon 2014. Despite its higher-resolution screen, that’s decent battery life in the Dell. The X1 Carbon is a different beast: It has a 14-inch screen and a 45-watt-hour battery. Keep in mind, that’s with the Wi-Fi hot (but connected to a router that goes nowhere), which is required by MobileMark 2014. 

Gordon Mah Ung

The XPS13 on top of the MacBook Air 13 shows the size difference and why I selected the MacBook Air 11 for my tests.

What about the MacBook Air?

There is no MobileMark on the Mac that runs in OS X. Yes, I could install Windows 8.1 and dual-boot, but I’m not sure that accomplishes much. I’m also not sure how much actual optimization Apple does for Windows. I suspect the company would rather have its users boot into OS X and run Windows apps in Parallels.

Is there really a cross-platform battery test that makes sense? I’m investigating, but for now I decided to do video run-down test. It’s something everyone can agree is a fair usage scenario. 

For what it’s worth, Apple rates the 11-inch MacBook Air for 9 hours of browsing and 8 hours of video runtime. The 13-inch model, with the 40 percent larger battery, gets you to 12 hours of browsing, 12 hours of movies.

Dell rates the QHD+ version of the XPS 13 for 11 hours of browsing and 8 hours of HD video playback. The 1080p version of the XPS 13 takes it to 15 hours of browsing and just under 13 hours of video.

Each company uses its own battery methodology that can’t be directly compared. Even the “browsing” tasks are different: Apple uses iTunes to play a 720p video, while Dell uses Microsoft’s standardized Windows Assessment & Deployment Kit, which uses an H.264 file to gauge battery life in Windows-based devices. With two different video files and two different video players, it’s like comparing oranges and bricks.

PCWorld

VLC is popular because it’ll play just about any file format in the universe and it runs on OS X and Windows.

How I tested

To make it as even as possible, so I grabbed VLC 2.1.5 for OS X and Windows and used the 1080p Big Buck Bunny .OGG file PCWorld has. You should know that using VLC on Windows hardly favors the platform—in fact, it’s downright mediocre in optimization. Tim Schiesser over at TechSpot has done some great testing on this front, and other individuals have validated his findings. For my tests, I disabled hardware acceleration in VLC on both platforms, as I saw screen corruption when I enabled it under OS X.

I disabled variable screen brightness on both platforms and set the brightness to as close to 190 nits as I could on all three laptops. The QHD+ was actually putting out closer to 200 nits. I used our Minolta Photometer to measure the laptops’ display brightness at dead center.

If you’re setting the laptops based on the percentage of slider controls, you should know that doesn’t mean much. Setting the the MacBook Air 11 to 50-percent brightness is about 64 nits, while the same middle of the slider setting on the XPS 13 QHD+ is 185 nits. That’s a huge difference.

So as not to annoy my officemates, I ran our tests with volume muted, which isn’t realistic, but at least the audio was not a factor. Since I wrote my original review, I also was able to obtain the 1080p version of the XPS 13 that has 4GB of DDR3L/1600. My results are in minutes and were manually recorded by having all three laptops sitting on my desk and noting the time when the screens finally went to black. WiFi was hot on all three, but the connected router went nowhere, so there was no chance of their downloading updates in the background.

PCWorld

Using VLC and the 1080p .ogg file, I saw about five hours on the QHD+ XPS 13, another half-hour so on the MacBook Air 11, and just over seven hours on the 1080p version of the XPS 13. It’s pretty clear that with a lower-resolution file and using Windows 8.1’s built-in Metro video player, the XPS units can come close to the rated video run time. There should also be a healthy bump up in run time for the MacBook Air using iTunes.

So the MacBook Air 11 is better in run time, right? Sometimes. When I ran my original review, I actually didn’t use the shorter .ogg file. I used our encoding test file: a 31GB MKV file that’s high bit-rate and 1080p. PCWorld

Using a higher bit rate MKV file, the MacBook Air 11 loses to both XPS13 units.

That file is a bear, and we can see all the laptops taking a far bigger hit in battery life–including the MacBook Air 11, which suddenly falls behind the XPS 13 QHD+. This could be because the Haswell CPU in the MacBook Air 11 worked harder to decode the file than the Broadwell CPU in the XPS 13, or possibly something to do with the M.2 drive in the MacBook Air, which is PCIe-based and far faster than the M.2 SATA in the Dells.

No one gets bragging rights

After trying to wrangle cross-platform battery testing and seeing how many variables can go into the tests, I’ve decided that the best we can say is battery life on X platform is better for Y task. So, I can say quite comfortably that playing 1080p MKV files using VLC, the XPS 13 gives you better battery life.

I also believe that unless you’re saying what exactly you’re testing and how you’re testing it, it’s not very easy to compare the two platforms on pure battery life. I also don’t think it’s valid to try to compare platform Y against platform X by seat-of-the-pants testing of “using it.” That’s just too hard to replicate in a manner that’s actually useful beyond trolling each other in a forum.

Maybe the best way to settle this discussion next time is to say your mileage may vary.

Ipad Pro Diary: I’m Already In Love With The New Compact 12.9

I wrote earlier that I was hoping the 2023 12.9-inch iPad Pro was going to prove to be, as Apple claimed, ‘the ultimate iPad.’ All the joy of that huge screen in a form factor which didn’t prove too great a compromise when it came to comfort and portability.

When the folio case arrived ahead of the iPad, I was encouraged: the size difference didn’t seem to me to be too great. Since then, I’ve been waiting impatiently for my iPad to arrive – and today it has …

I’ve literally only had it for a few hours, but my impressions so far can be summed up in one word:

Wow!

Look

It looks absolutely gorgeous.

It’s true that Apple’s description of it as ‘all screen’ is hyperbole: there’s still a significant amount of bezel remaining – which is necessary both to be able to hold it comfortably, and to allow room for the Face ID camera system et al without the need for a notch. But, honestly, ‘all screen’ doesn’t seem like too ridiculous an exaggeration. It really does feel pretty close to that.

I also love the flat sides. Regular readers will know that I’m a huge fan of the slab-sided iPhone 4/5/SE design, much more so than the later rounded-side iPhones. So I love the design here. It’s a little reminiscent of the first-gen iPad, but without the bulbous back, of course.

To me, there’s an elegant simplicity to a slab-sided design that isn’t present in the previous generation.

Once again, I’m in love with the screen size, as I was with the original 12.9-inch model. And once again, it’s not so much that this size feels big, it’s that going back to the 10.5-inch one (or 9.7-inch one last time) feels small. When using it, the 12.9-inch screen feels right.

Visually, it doesn’t look thinner than the older 10.5-inch because that one pulls off a little optical illusion thanks to the way the top of it slopes back in, but you can just about see the difference.

Feel

It feels light.

I was worried that it might feel noticeably heavier in the hands than my 10.5-inch model, and yet – despite being 40% heavier – it really doesn’t. If I had to judge subjectively, I would have guessed something closer to 20%.

The one time I have noticed the additional weight is holding it in one hand in landscape mode, but even that doesn’t feel terrible, and it’s not something I do often.

I’m definitely not going to notice the extra weight carrying it around, and I’ve just tested the ‘reading books in bed’ position and it feels comfy there too. So my question about weight has been answered: it’s not a concern at all.

In use

I’ll write more about the experience of using it later in the week. As always, if there are specific aspects you’d like me to cover, please let me know and I’ll do my best. But first impressions are fantastic!

As with all Apple devices these days, I love the easy set up process: just bring it close to an iPhone or iPad and let it take care of most of the process on its own.

It’s great having Face ID and gestures on the iPad. I’ve been waiting impatiently for the iPad to catch up with the iPhone X experience, and now it has.

One small detail: during the set up process, Apple refers to the power button as the ‘top’ button, and in landscape mode the on-screen illustration shows the iPad oriented such that the button is top-left. But the magnets don’t align with the folio case that way up: you actually have to have it so that the power button is bottom-right in landscape mode. I don’t care which way up it is, but it slightly disturbs my OCDness that this is one detail Apple didn’t sweat.

Speaking of the folio case, I said before I was disappointed that Apple doesn’t offer a simple smart cover for it, and that remains the case: I’m happy to leave the back open and don’t want to add thickness to the device. However, I will say two things. First, the folio case is extremely light, so I don’t feel there’s any weight penalty to having a back. Second, it snaps magnetically against the back so easily that it’s actually less work to put on the folio case than it was the smart cover.

The magnets are, though, very strong: it takes more effort to remove it from the folio. But overall, I’m not grumbling too much about the change.

I’m happy to have USB-C in place of Lightning. It will be handy to be able to use my MacBook Pro charger for either device. The iPad – like its predecessor – also happily charges from my 15-inch MacBook Pro.

But most of all, I’m absolutely blown away by having this size screen in a device so small and light. I really, really didn’t want to return the original model. I was completely in love with the screen size. But it was just too big and heavy. This one is neither. Even in the short time I’ve had to use it so far today, it already feels a completely normal size and weight in my hands – but coupled to the wow experience of that screen.

Video is really great at this size, and the speakers are amazingly powerful. Magazines feel like you’re looking at a full-size page in portrait mode. Ebooks let you see significantly more of the text on a screen, so less page-flipping. For websites, I’ve switched to portrait mode because the page-width doesn’t feel cramped and you can see so much more at once. I’m not much of a gamer, but I just fired up XPlane, and it’s clear that games too are noticeably more immersive on this size screen.

In short, I feel the same way about this display I did about the original one: I absolutely adore it. But this time I don’t feel I’m having to compromise on size or weight.

Great as the speakers are for video, they still aren’t what I would consider music-grade speakers. The amount of bass is as impressive as the volume, and the stereo separation is great, but they are still tiny built-in speakers, and the audio quality reflects that.

Ahead of the launch, I was unsure whether the 11- or 12.9-inch model would be right for me. I subsequently felt the larger iPad was probably going to win out, and there’s already no doubt in my mind that this is the case.

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