Author: Joshua Goldman

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Sonos moves Alexa voice controls into public beta


Sarah Tew/CNET

Sonos owners, it’s finally time to sharpen your Alexa skills. 

The maker of high-end, connected speakers announced today at a press event in New York City that Alexa-powered voice controls will arrive via a firmware update. The voice controls will allow you to cue up music on your Sonos speakers using voice commands with an Alexa-enabled device such as the Amazon Echo or Echo Dot.

Sonos announced that Alexa controls were on the roadmap more than a year ago[1] with hints of its arrival showing up in an updated privacy statement back in August[2]

References

  1. ^ more than a year ago (www.cnet.com)
  2. ^ updated privacy statement back in August (www.cnet.com)
  3. ^ Tags (www.cnet.com)
  4. ^ Audio (www.cnet.com)
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Western Digital 14TB hard drive sets storage record

Western Digital’s Ultrastar Hs14 packs a massive 14TB capacity into a single drive — a world’s first — and you can’t have it. Not yet at least. 

The new enterprise-class drive falls under the company’s HGST brand and is built for cloud and data centers. According to Western Digital, it has 40 percent more capacity and more than twice the write performance of its predecessor. 

Designed for sequential write environments, the 3.5-inch drives use host-managed shingled magnetic recording (SMR) technology[1] (PDF) combined with WD’s HelioSeal construction. The drive is hermetically sealed with helium, which allows for thinner disks and more of them while also reducing costs, cooling needs and power consumption. 

The drive is also quieter and has higher reliability, rated at 2.5 million hours. Full details on the Ultrastar Hs14 can be found on the HGST site[2]

References

  1. ^ host-managed shingled magnetic recording (SMR) technology (www.hgst.com)
  2. ^ found on the HGST site (www.hgst.com)
  3. ^ Tags (www.cnet.com)
  4. ^ Computers (www.cnet.com)
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Watch GoPro's 'The Moment' launch event here live


Screenshot by Josh Goldman/CNET

GoPro will broadcast its 2017 launch event live from San Francisco, today, Sept. 28. GoPro CEO Nick Woodman will take the stage at 9 a.m. PT/12 p.m. ET, but viewers can start tuning in here at 8:00 a.m. PT/11:00 a.m. ET for the live stream.

At the event, called “The Moment,” Woodman is expected to announce the Hero 6 Black, which he teased during the company’s second-quarter financial announcement[1] at the beginning of August. 

Recent leaks[2] suggest the camera will feature a custom-made GoPro GP1 processor, which will improve image stabilization and double the Hero 5 Black[3]‘s frame-rate capabilities, letting the Hero 6 Black capture 4K-resolution video at up to 60 frames per second as well as full HD-resolution video at 240fps for slow-motion clips. Faster 5GHz Wi-Fi for quick mobile transfers is also rumored.

Leaks also point to a firmware update for its Karma drone[4] that will add compatibility with the new camera as well as Follow and Watch modes that will use GPS to track a subject. Those options were noticeably absent considering its competition including category leader DJI[5] had them for some time already when the Karma was released last year.  

We’re in San Francisco for the launch, so stay tuned after the event for full details on the announcements. 

References

  1. ^ the company’s second-quarter financial announcement (investor.gopro.com)
  2. ^ Recent leaks (photorumors.com)
  3. ^ the Hero 5 Black (www.cnet.com)
  4. ^ a firmware update for its Karma drone (photorumors.com)
  5. ^ category leader DJI (www.cnet.com)
  6. ^ Tags (www.cnet.com)
  7. ^ Photography (www.cnet.com)
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These are the lightest 15-inch laptops you can buy

lightweightlaptops-08

Ultraportables don’t need to have small screens. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

It used to be if you wanted a lightweight laptop, one that weighed less than three pounds, you had to settle for a 12- or 13-inch screen size. Not anymore. 

With display sizes of 15 or 15.6 inches, these ultraportable laptops give you more room for work, viewing the web, movies and games. But, with weights ranging from 2.4 to 4.4 pounds (1.1 to 2 kilograms), you can take them with you on a daily commute or around campus without sore shoulders or a strained back. 

Keep in mind, though, you are paying a premium for carrying around less weight: The least expensive laptop here starts at $800 (approximately £600 or AU$1,000). Also, while there are a couple here that offer some beefier performance with discrete graphics, most of them are meant for average day-to-day use like word processing, using web apps and streaming media. That makes them a good choice for work or school where mobility and screen size are more important than high performance. 

LG Gram 15

At 2.4 pounds (1.1 kg), the Gram is the lightest 15.6-inch laptop you’ll find at the moment. It also happens to have great battery life, lasting 9 hours and 42 minutes on our streaming video test. The Gram does feel a bit flimsy, but its magnesium alloy body should stand up to some abuse. It’s available with a touchscreen and Core i7 processor for $1,500 (about £1,185, AU$1,990) or with a Core i5 and a non-touch full-HD display for $1,200 (about £920, AU$1,510).

Read the full review[1]. Buy it on Amazon[2]

Samsung Notebook 9

samsung-notebook-9-2017

Samsung’s Notebook 9.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Notebook 9’s 15-inch display is slightly smaller than the Gram’s, but it improves on the LG in almost every other way and weighs only ounces more at 2.6 pounds or 1.2 kg. Its battery life is stellar at more than 12 hours — one of the longest we’ve tested. The Notebook 9 starts at $1,250 (roughly £960, AU$1,575), but if you’re willing to pay $1,400 (roughly £1,075 or AU$1,765), you can get it with an Nvidia GeForce 940MX[3] graphics card to assist with photo editing or do some gaming with the settings dialed back. 

Read the full review[4]. Buy it on Amazon[5].

Asus VivoBook S15

asus-vivobook-s15

Asus’ VivoBook S15.

Sarah Tew/CNET

At 3.6 pounds (1.6 kg), the VivoBook is noticeably heavier than the LG or Samsung. However, it also starts at $800 (about £600 or AU$1,000) and features the same dual-core 2.7GHz Intel Core i7-7500U processor found in those models. 

Asus also ups the storage by including two drives: A solid-state drive for fast boot times and application performance, and a slower, but significantly larger hard drive for storage. 

There is a Windows 10 Signature Edition[6] that upgrades the integrated graphics to a discrete Nvidia 940MX GPU. The biggest disappointment is its battery, which hit only 7 hours and 7 minutes on our video streaming test. 

Read the full review[7]. Buy it on Amazon[8]

lightweightlaptops-10

Lightest laptops with big 15-inch screens

Samsung Notebook 9 Pro

samsung-notebook-9-pro-07

Samsung’s Notebook 9 Pro.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Notebook 9 Pro weighs the same as the VivoBook, 3.6 pounds (1.6 kg), but does considerably more for its $1,299 (roughly £1,075 or AU$1,765) price. It’s a 2-in-1 for starters, with a 360-degree hinge so you can flip its 1,920×1,080-resolution touchscreen into multiple positions. 

It’s also Samsung’s first notebook to include a built-in S Pen with 4,000 pressure levels for writing and drawing on the screen. Samsung even put in an AMD Radeon 540 graphics card in it that’s good enough for a little low-setting gaming and image work. 

Read the full review[9]. Buy it from Samsung[10].

Apple MacBook Pro 

apple-macbook-pro-15-inch-2017

Apple’s MacBook Pro.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The top of Apple’s lineup and the king of high-end laptops, the 15.4-inch model weighs only 4 pounds (1.8 kg), but is the most powerful system in this roundup. It’s the most expensive, too, starting at $2,400 (£2,350 or AU$3,500). 

True, having only USB-C ports is a bit of a hassle, and the superflat keyboard requires some adjustment, but the excellent Retina-resolution display, the bigger touchpad and even the second-screen Touch Bar keep things interesting. Plus, the battery life is long at 10 hours and 43 minutes. 

Read the full review[11]. Buy it from Apple[12].

Dell XPS 15

dell-xps-15-2017-11.jpg

Dell’s XPS 15.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The XPS 15 can match the weight and performance of the MacBook Pro while instead running, you know, Windows 10. Featuring 7th-gen Core i3, i5 or i7 processors, the entry model with a dual-core i3, a 1,920×1,080-pixel resolution display and integrated graphics starts at $999 (which appears to be a US-only model, but would roughly convert to £765 and AU$1,260) and weighs 4 pounds (1.8 kg). A different starter model in the UK begins at £1,399[13], while the one for Australia begins at AU$2,499[14]

If you don’t mind an extra half pound (and about $800 more), you can get it with an accurate 4K-resolution touchscreen with hardware calibration support, 100 percent Adobe RGB and most of the DCI-P3 coverage and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 graphics card to push those pixels around. A similarly equipped model also runs for £1,849 and AU$2,699.

Read the full review[15]. Buy it on Amazon[16].

HP Spectre x360

hp-spectre-x360-15-inch-02.jpg

HP’s Spectre x360.

Sarah Tew/CNET

When we reviewed the 15.6-inch Spectre x360, we may have complained that this premium 2-in-1 wasn’t particularly lightweight. (What can I say? We’re spoiled.) Weighing in at 4.4 pounds (2 kg), it’s about as heavy as the Dell XPS 15, but can be used as a pen-enabled tablet just as easily as a laptop. 

For $1,500 (£1,500 or roughly converting to AU$1,670), it’s an all-around good performer, too, with nearly 10 hours of battery life in our tests. Plus, it just looks really nice. 

Read the full review[17]. Buy it on Amazon[18].

References

  1. ^ Read the full review (www.cnet.com)
  2. ^ Buy it on Amazon (www.amazon.com)
  3. ^ get it with an Nvidia GeForce 940MX (www.amazon.com)
  4. ^ Read the full review (www.cnet.com)
  5. ^ Buy it on Amazon (www.amazon.com)
  6. ^ a Windows 10 Signature Edition (www.newegg.com)
  7. ^ Read the full review (www.cnet.com)
  8. ^ Buy it on Amazon (www.amazon.com)
  9. ^ Read the full review (www.cnet.com)
  10. ^ Buy it from Samsung (www.samsung.com)
  11. ^ Read the full review (www.cnet.com)
  12. ^ Buy it from Apple (www.apple.com)
  13. ^ UK begins at £1,399 (www.dell.com)
  14. ^ Australia begins at AU$2,499 (www.dell.com)
  15. ^ Read the full review (www.cnet.com)
  16. ^ Buy it on Amazon (www.amazon.com)
  17. ^ Read the full review (www.cnet.com)
  18. ^ Buy it on Amazon (www.amazon.com)
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Asus VivoBook S15 review

There’s nothing much to the Asus VivoBook S15, but, then again, that’s sort of the point. It’s a 15.6-inch laptop, but since Asus shaved off some of the frame around the screen, the brushed aluminum-clad body is smaller (and yes, it also looks like a MacBook). 

The PC is also remarkably light for its size at 3.6 pounds (1.6 kg). That’s not quite as light as the 15-inch Samsung Notebook 9[1] or the 15.6-inch LG Gram[2], though the S15 costs a lot less for specs that aren’t all too different. 

Based around a dual-core 2.7GHz Intel Core i7-7500U, the S15 starts around $800 (approximately £600 or AU$1,000), but there are several configurations available[3]. They’re mainly just variations on amounts of RAM and storage, but there is a Windows 10 Signature Edition[4] that upgrades the integrated graphics to a discrete Nvidia 940MX GPU — definitely worth the $50 extra. We reviewed the base model here, the S510UA-DB71[5]

Asus VivoBook S15

Price as reviewed $800
Display size/resolution 15.6-inch 1,920×1,080 display
PC CPU 2.7GHz Intel Core i7-7500U
PC memory 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz
Graphics 128MB dedciated Intel HD Graphics 620
Storage 128GB m.2 SSD + 1TB HDD
Networking 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.1
Operating system Windows 10 Home (64-bit)

Aside from the “big screen in a slim, lightweight body at a reasonably price” thing though, the S15 is a somewhat unremarkable mainstream laptop. The full HD display, for example, has good color and contrast for entertainment and office work, but not good enough for anything that demands precision. Its matte finish helps with reflections, but it doesn’t get bright enough to use comfortably outdoors. Basically, it’s fine for what you’re paying, neither exceptional nor disappointing. 

asus-vivobook-s15

Like much of the S15, its keyboard is good, but not great. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

That sentiment carries over to the keyboard and touchpad, too. It’s a spacious keyboard with three levels of backlighting and it should be a comfortable typing experience for most. However, I hit the keys somewhat hard when typing so the response felt too flat for my comfort. Plus, there’s a lot of flex in the keyboard deck, which gives the notebook a less than sturdy feel. 

The precision touchpad is smooth and responsive and while there was some cursor movement from dragging my palm, adjusting the sensitivity helped. It responded quickly and correctly to multitouch gestures for everything from scrolling and zooming to switching apps and launching Cortana for search. There’s fingerprint reader in the upper right corner as well to sign in using Windows Hello.  

For those times when you want to use an external keyboard and mouse, there are two USB 2.0 ports on the left side joined by an SD card slot. The right side has a full-size HDMI for an external display in addition to a USB 3.1 port, a USB 3.1 Type-C  (gen 1) port and a headphone mic jack. There is no support for Thunderbolt 3 on the Type-C[6] port, however. 

References

  1. ^ Samsung Notebook 9 (www.cnet.com)
  2. ^ LG Gram (www.cnet.com)
  3. ^ several configurations available (www.amazon.com)
  4. ^ a Windows 10 Signature Edition (www.newegg.com)
  5. ^ S510UA-DB71 (store.asus.com)
  6. ^ Thunderbolt 3 on the Type-C (www.cnet.com)