Offers, Promotions And Reviews

SD Cards

SD Cards

HP Stream 11.6 – CNET UK


The pitch for laptops running Google’s Chrome OS, known as Chromebooks, is pretty straightforward. Why pay extra for a laptop running Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system, when all you really need is access to a Web browser? For some people, nearly everything they use a PC for is online, from webmail to social media to streaming music and video. That argument seems to have resonated, as Chromebooks are now a huge part of the budget laptop market, and several models, including the recent Toshiba Chromebook 21 and Samsung Chromebook 22 , are actually quite good. But, the success of Chromebooks is eating into Microsoft’s budget laptop market share, which is a big reversal from several years ago when low-cost netbooks were (briefly) popular.

HP Stream 11.6 - CNET UK Sarah Tew/CNET

Microsoft and HP are now actively promoting a new HP line, called Stream. These low-cost laptops3 and tablets4 are being sold as essentially Chromebook-style devices, meant for low-power online use, but with the added utility of Windows 85. These systems, including the £200 HP Stream 11 ( 179 in the UK, and AU£299 in Australia) are pitched as being cloud-friendly, which is a polite way of saying they’re too underpowered to satisfactorily run a lot of standard apps. The Stream includes codes for a one-year subscription to Microsoft Office 365 (regularly £99, 79, AUS£79), and 1TB of online storage for one year through Microsoft’s OneDrive service. The Stream 11 has a low-resolution non-touch 11.6-inch display, runs an Intel Celeron processor, combined with 2GB of RAM and a minuscule 32GB of solid state storage, more than half of which is consumed by the operating system and related files. In that sense, it really is Chromebook-like, and not idea for local storage of big files or large applications. You can, however, use the included SD card slot to add another 16 or 32GB of space.

The reason you might choose this system over a Chromebook, which is really a more polished (if limited) low-end experience, is that you can install Windows apps such as Photoshop, Office, or iTunes. They won’t run great, but they’re there if you need them in a pinch.

HP Stream 11.6 - CNET UK

HP Stream 11.6 - CNET UK

Sarah Tew/CNET

Other products in the new Stream family include the 7-inch and 8-inch Stream tablets, running Intel Atom CPUs, with the 7-inch model starting at £100 ( 99 in the UK; only the 8-incher is currently available in Australia for AU£229), and a 13-inch version of the Stream laptop, running the same specs as the 11-inch, starting at £229, 199, AU£379. Both the 8-inch tablet and 13-inch laptop versions will also be available in configurations with 4G antennas for extra, which includes 200MB of monthly data. Overall performance was roughly comparable to current-gen Chromebooks or basic Windows 8 clamshells and hybrids6 , faster in some tests, slower in others, and our hands-on time with the system clearly indicated that will not be your all-day, every day computer. The Stream 11 did, however, have one killer feature. It ran for about eight hours on our battery drain test, which was very impressive, given our modest expectations. There are not many cases where you’ll find a ton of utility in a £199 laptop, especially one with the learning curve of Windows 8. But this little blue box did more than we expected, making it a rare budget PC that’s also a good value.

HP Stream

Price as reviewed £199, 179, AU£299 Display size/resolution 11.6-inch, 1,366×768 screen PC CPU 2.16GHz Intel Celeron N2840 PC Memory 2GB DDR3 SDRAM 1333MHz Graphics 64MB Intel HD Graphics Storage 32GB SSD Optical drive None Networking 802.11b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0 Operating system Windows 8.1 (64-bit)

Design and features

The HP Stream 11 looks nice, at least for a £200 laptop. Skipping the cheap glossy grey plastic of so many budget laptops, it’s instead covered with a matte blue (or pink) pattern, with a subtle dotted gradient on the keyboard tray. The outer surface is fingerprint-resistant, and the body is stiff enough to feel safe to travel with, although everyone who looked at our test system saw a little bit of warping on the base, bowing the keyboard tray up to the center-right. It wasn’t enough to make the laptop look truly deformed, but it certainly wasn’t ruler-straight. Thanks to its low-power platform, the system can run without fans, which helps with weight, heat, and battery life. The Stream 11 weighs a modest 2.8 pounds (1.3 kg), and has been, in our experience quiet and cool while running.

HP Stream 11.6 - CNET UK

HP Stream 11.6 - CNET UK

Sarah Tew/CNET

The large keyboard feels like it was dropped in from a more-expensive laptop. The island-style keys have minimal wobbling under the fingers, and a deep enough click for longer-form typing. Function keys are reversed, as on most HP laptops, which means you can access commands such as volume and brightness controls without having to hold down the Fn key. The wide touchpad fared less well, offering two-finger vertical scrolling that worked well, but otherwise touchy performance, including edge-of-pad Windows 8 gesture commands that triggered far too easily. The 11.6-inch screen has a 1,366×768 native resolution, which is about what one would expect from a budget laptop, but still not great for viewing HD video. The Windows 8 tile interface scales well, however. The screen has a matte finish, which is a plus, but also poor off-axis viewing, again adding to the budget feel.

HP Stream 11.6 - CNET UK

HP Stream 11.6 - CNET UK

Sarah Tew/CNET

References

  1. ^ Toshiba Chromebook 2 (www.cnet.com)
  2. ^ Samsung Chromebook 2 (www.cnet.com)
  3. ^ laptops (www.cnet.com)
  4. ^ tablets (www.cnet.com)
  5. ^ Windows 8 (www.cnet.com)
  6. ^ basic Windows 8 clamshells and hybrids (www.cnet.com)

>

Asus VivoMini VC65 – ComputerShopper.com


Measuring 7.75 inches square and 2 inches thick (or tall, depending on whether you stand it on end or lay it flat), the VivoMini VC65 fits nicely behind an HDTV or a flat-panel monitor. That said, the design is attractive enough that you may not want to hide it. The sides of the case, done up in iron gray (Asus’ description of the color), have a subtle circular pattern that resembles the one on the aluminum lids of some of the company s ZenBook laptops. In fact, before we hefted the VivoMini, we assumed that the plastic case was in fact aluminum.

Asus VivoMini VC65 - ComputerShopper.com

Sandwiched between the case’s book-end-like sides is a slightly recessed slice that houses the various ports and air vents. The look is much more understated than the designs of enthusiast- or gaming-oriented compact PCs such as the Intel “Skull Canyon” NUC Kit3 or Alienware Alpha R24, without being as fusty and utilitarian as certain business-oriented compact desktops from Dell and Lenovo. We like that the VivoMini VC65 has its power supply integrated into the chassis and thus does not require the external power brick that many other compact PCs do just a simple cord. Also, the chassis is VESA-mount-compliant, so you can mount it on a wall, beneath a counter, or behind a monitor.

Asus VivoMini VC65 - ComputerShopper.com

The diminutive design does come with a predictable drawback: The cramped quarters inside the case makes upgrading and servicing this system a little tricky for the uninitiated. On the plus side, Asus has made it easy to get inside the chassis. Simply remove the screw adjacent to the Kensington-style security-cable notch, slide the latch to unlock the lid, and lift off the top cover. Upgrading the hard drive is a snap, since it s right there on top. But accessing the RAM slots requires removing the drive and its bracket. Of course, most users aren t likely to ever crack the case, anyway. We do appreciate that this drive cage can accommodate up to four 2.5-inch drives, in any mixture of hard drives or solid-state drives (SSDs). That makes the VivoMini VC65 much more expandable than smaller compact PCs, such as Asus own VivoMini UN45 series5. Indeed, Asus notes that a similar version of the PC to the one we tested, dubbed “VivoMini VC65R,” will support RAID across these drives.

In our test unit, one bay was filled with a 1TB hard drive, and that was about our only quibble with the configuration; we’d have preferred, perhaps, a smaller-capacity SSD serving as the boot drive, paired with a hard drive for mass storage. According to Asus’ specifications page for the VC65, SSD-based configurations are (or will be) offered, but we weren’t able to find any actually for sale anywhere online in the weeks we spent with this machine. Also, we were surprised that this PC didn’t feature a slot on its mainboard for a small, onboard M.2 or mSATA SSD. We have no quibbles with the on-box connectivity that the VivoMini VC65 delivers. The front panel features the power button and two USB 3.0 ports…

Asus VivoMini VC65 - ComputerShopper.com

A flash-memory-card slot (supporting SD cards in their key varieties, as well as MultiMediaCard) is on what would be the top side if you place the machine vertically…

Asus VivoMini VC65 - ComputerShopper.comAsus VivoMini VC65 - ComputerShopper.com

The back panel has two more USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, a Gigabit Ethernet jack, and both mic and headphone jacks, as well as three video outputs

Asus VivoMini VC65 - ComputerShopper.comAsus VivoMini VC65 - ComputerShopper.com

This system relies on the integrated graphics built into its Intel CPUs, so for video connectivity you get HDMI and DisplayPort connectors to cover modern HDTVs and LCD monitors, as well as a VGA port for older projectors and monitors (such as the old CRTs that are all the rage for retro gaming). There s even a serial (COM) connector for legacy peripherals, such as hand scanners used at point of sale, medical equipment, or old custom hardware that may be in use by a business. All that s missing are parallel and SCSI ports! Ed.

One area where the relatively low price shows, though, is in the bundled keyboard and mouse. A wireless set would have been ideal, in keeping with the sleek aesthetic, but Asus put a wired set in the box. And they feel cheap. The full-size keyboard does have a number pad, but the island-style keys have a spongy, inconsistent action. (Some feel soft, while others feel clacky and not in the good clickety-clacky way of mechanical keyboards.) The ovoid, ambidextrous-design mouse falls somewhere between a full-size ergonomic mouse and a travel mouse in size, so it felt too small for our average-size hands. And it has no heft to it. Best to just leave those bits in the box and buy higher-quality ones. That said, many SFF PCs don’t bundle peripherals at all.

Asus VivoMini VC65 - ComputerShopper.com

As for other features, Asus ostensibly offers a build of the VivoMini VC65 with a DVD+/-RW burner, a real rarity these days in a desktop this compact. (To accommodate the optical drive, this model houses just two internal drives instead of four and is a bit thicker.) Our test unit didn’t have the optical drive. But as long as Asus is in theory offering an optical drive, we would like to see a Blu-ray option to build a true media-room PC. That said, like many of the other options listed on Asus’ product page for the VC65, actual configurations on sale were scarce; we couldn’t find a U.S. configuration on the market at this writing that actually had the DVD. Wireless connectivity comes via either an 802.11ac-plus-Bluetooth 4.0 chipset (with 802.11ac also supporting 802.11a, b, g, and n), or an 802.11n/Bluetooth 4.0 chipset. It depends on the VivoMini model you pick. Our model supported 802.11ac.


Asus offers the VivoMini VC65 series in configurations with 6th-Generation (“Skylake”) Intel Core i3 or Core i5 CPUs. That s in contrast to some compact desktops, which make do with previous Intel Core i-series chips, or even Celeron or mild Atom CPUs. The company also offers various hard drive and SSD offerings, ranging in capacity up to 1TB, though we saw just the 1TB in U.S. shipping configurations at this mid-September 2016 writing. This is all in theory, in any case. At this writing, Asus’ online store showed no VivoMini VC65 models available direct, and searching the Web yielded only the model we are reviewing from a few resellers, as well as a VC65R-G039M bare-bones model (£409.99 from Amazon.com). The bare-bones model requires you to shop for and supply some key components: RAM, the hard drive, and the operating system. This is typical of SFF PCs these days; makers like Intel (with its Next Unit of Computing, or NUC, mini-PCs) or Gigabyte (with its similar Brix models) sell some or all of their models as bare-bones “kits,” into which you install and configure these key hardware and software components yourself.

The model that Asus loaned us for a review was a VivoMini configuration dubbed “VC65-G042Z,” which came with an Intel Core i5-6400T processor, Intel’s HD Graphics 530 silicon (built into the CPU), 8GB of DDR3L RAM (expandable to 16GB), and the 1TB platter-style hard drive we mentioned, with Windows 10 Home pre-installed. We’ll put it through its paces on some demanding benchmark tests. But know that if this configuration isn’t quite right for your needs, Asus offers a few other VivoMini-line options of a different makeup. The VivoMini VM65N series offers a slightly different exterior design and in some models, low-end dedicated Nvidia graphics, while VivoMini UN65H models have a smaller, NUC-like design. Just know that many of these other configurations use Intel “U”-series chips more about which on the next page.


ComputerShopper may earn affiliate commissions from shopping links included on this page. To find out more, read our complete Terms of Service6.

References

  1. ^ Intel Compute Stick (www.computershopper.com)
  2. ^ MSI Nightblade x2 (www.computershopper.com)
  3. ^ Intel “Skull Canyon” NUC Kit (www.computershopper.com)
  4. ^ Alienware Alpha R2 (www.computershopper.com)
  5. ^ VivoMini UN45 series (www.asus.com)
  6. ^ Terms of Service (www.ziffdavis.com)

>

iOS 10 Review: What’s New for iPad


Apple continues adding new features and tweaking old ones with iOS 10. There were a great many changes in iOS 9 for iPad, but the follow up has more to offer iPhone. Still, there definitely are enhancements to benefit those with an iPad Pro1 or iPad mini2. We extensively tested iOS 10, and here are the new or updated features that will mean the most to tablet users. We also catalogued some much needed enhancements that are notably absent.

Split View Safari Tabs

iOS 9 brought much needed support for side-by-side multitasking the ability to display two applications on-screen at the same time. While that was all very well, each app was still limited to a single window. This was especially burdensome in Safari, as people frequently want to display two web pages simultaneously. This limitation began changing with iOS 10. Apple s web browser can now show a pair of sites, with each taking up half the screen. Arranging the two pages on the display is simple go to the list of open browser tabs and drag one to the side of the screen to open it in a second window but this split-view feature is limited only to landscape mode.

IOS 10 Review: What's New For IPad

Split View Safari Tabs in iOS 10

Ending split view is just as easy, but not as intuitive as it could be: Touch and hold on one of the Tabs icons and choose Merge All Tabs. This is a welcome step in the right direction, but now this functionality needs to be extended even further. iOS 11 should give third-party app developers the same feature. iPad users need to be able to work with two Word documents at the same time, for example.

Notification Center

iOS 10 changes the look of the Notification Center, and makes it more functional too. Dragging from the top of the screen brings down a list of recent notifications that now appear in grey boxes with rounded corners. Dragging each of these to the left allows the user to either clear the notification or jump to the application that sent it. A small X button can be used to clear all notifications at once.

From the Recent Notifications page, dragging the screen to the right brings up two columns of widgets. These can be a thumbnail view of the calendar, weather reports, and similar snippets of information.

IOS 10 Review: What's New For IPad

iOS 10 Widgets

An Edit button at the bottom of the left column opens the controls of which settings are displayed, and in which column, and in what order.

Lock Screen

Apple made significant changes to the way people use their tablets before they are even unlocked. First off, Slide to Open has been removed, and just pressing the Home button has taken its place. This simplifies the process considerably, especially as everyone should already be touching this button so their fingerprint can be scanned to unlock the computer.

IOS 10 Review: What's New For IPad

iOS 10 Lock Screen

Before the iPad is unlocked, iOS 10 can show users their newest notifications. They can also respond to these, by dragging the notification to the right. A whole conversation can take place in Messages without ever unlocking the tablet. Dragging down from the top of the Lock Screen brings up a list of other recent notifications. Dragging to the right on the Lock Screen gives quick access to the same widgets displayed in the Notification Center. Anyone who wants to keep private their notifications and the information displayed by these widgets should turn this feature off by going to Settings > Touch ID & Passcode. This is especially important because otherwise anyone can respond to incoming text messages without unlocking the tablet.

Bad news: No current iPad has the motion-sensing chip necessary for Raise To Wake, so it s only users of recent iPhone models that don t have push the Power button to activate their devices.

Control Center

Dragging a finger up from the bottom of the screen still opens a set of controls for toggling WiFi, Bluetooth, etc., but this has received a facelift with iOS 10. It s now split over two screens so everything is less crowded.

IOS 10 Review: What's New For IPad

iOS 10 Control Center

The main screen has the controls for various wireless functions, the backlight, as well as links to the camera and Clock app. Sweeping the finger to the left moves to a second screen that s focused on audio.

Notes Collaboration

The Notes application has been gradually improving in recent iOS versions, and has now acquired collaboration capabilities. Users can notify another person that a note has been shared with them, and then they can both see and make changes. Apple suggests using this for simple jobs, like a family sharing a grocery list, not for a team collaborating on a patent filing.

iMessages

Possibly the most important change in iOS 10 for iPhone users is the improvements to the Messages app. Although instant messaging is done primarily on a phone, that doesn t mean tablet users should overlook it. By turning on Settings > iMessage, conversations happening on a iPhone can also be displayed on an iPad. The larger screen and keyboard make longer conversations easier.

IOS 10 Review: What's New For IPad

iOS 10 iMessage on iPad

Apple added all kinds of fun features to iMessage, like bubble effects which cause texts to swell up, fall onto the screen with a bang, and more. Messages can be handwritten, or moving images can be inserted into conversations like really big emojis. These look better on a tablet than they do on a phone, even an iPhone 7 Plus.

What s Missing

Apple has tried to keep iOS simple, even to the point of leaving out features it doesn t consider necessary. This is why this operating system debuted on the original iPhone without a central file system accessible to users. But what was the right decision in 2007 has since become a serious limitation. iOS 10 is intended to be used by businesspeople on tablets as powerful as laptops, and they need to be able to easily view and manage their files. Last year s iCloud Drive was a step in the right direction, but iOS 10 should have taken it much further. There s another missing feature that s forcing buyers toward Windows-based alternatives: the new iPad Pro series is being positioned as laptop alternatives, and most people aren t yet accustomed to controlling this type of computer with a just a touchscreen. Apple recognized this when it released its Smart Keyboard3, and it s time to take the next step and add a trackpad to this accessory, as well as support for it to iOS. It would be a step backward a touchscreen is better than a mouse but it would increase iPad sales. Plenty of people have been asking for a removable memory card slot in iPad and iPhone for almost a decade, and at this point it s clear Apple isn t ever going to add one. Fortunately, many accessory makers offer very good alternatives, allowing iOS tablets to access microSD cards and flash drives. There are very good alternatives from SanDisk4, Lexar5, Leef6, and more.

Install Now

Split-screen support in Safari is probably the best feature for iPad users, but just about all of the new features in iOS 10 are useful, and others are fun. Some oft requested changes are still missing, though. even so, people are wondering when they should install this onto their tablet. We have been testing the official release version on an iPad Pro7 since it debuted, and so far have encountered no significant problems. Apple s new strategy of allowing anyone who s curious to install iOS betas appears to have resulted in a final release version that s more stable than iOS 9 was when it debuted. That said, there have been a few small bobbles. Anyone feeling very cautious might wait for Apple to introduce iOS 10.1.

References

  1. ^ iPad Pro (www.tabletpcreview.com)
  2. ^ iPad mini (www.tabletpcreview.com)
  3. ^ Smart Keyboard (www.tabletpcreview.com)
  4. ^ SanDisk (www.tabletpcreview.com)
  5. ^ Lexar (www.tabletpcreview.com)
  6. ^ Leef (www.tabletpcreview.com)
  7. ^ iPad Pro (www.tabletpcreview.com)

>

1 2 3 12