Main image: The IBM ThinkPad 700 series first appeared in 1992
If you own a PC there’s a very good chance it’s a lightweight and portable laptop, rather than a big and bulky desktop. Those rectangular boxes that are tethered to your desk have been declining in popularity, with laptops now far outstripping them when it comes to sales.
Thanks to an almost constant stream of innovations, the humble laptop has become slimmer and lighter than ever before, while the hardware inside them has become ever-more powerful, while batteries are lasting longer.
Creating a powerful and portable computer is no mean feat, and here we look back at some of the pivotal moments in the history of laptop development, and examine how early machines influenced the laptops of today.
1981: Osborne 1, the world’s first truly mobile computer
Many people consider the Osborne 1 to be the granddaddy of laptops. Released by Osborne Computer in 1981, the Osborne 1 had a five-inch screen, two floppy drives, a modem, battery pack and a keyboard that was built into the lid.
Although it was big and bulky (it weighed 11kg, which is just over the combined weight of five MacBook Pros), this early computer still has some recognizable laptop features. Sadly, it wasn’t a hit, but it showed the potential of a portable personal computer – for the first time, people were able to carry their computer with them and work on them when traveling.
At the time of its release it cost $1,795, which would be around $5,000 (£4,000, AU$7,000) in today’s money.
1983: Grid Compass 1101, the first clamshell laptop
The first portable laptop that really looked like a laptop was the Grid Compass 1101, which was released in 1983. It featured the clamshell design, with the screen able to be folded up against the keyboard when closed. This remarkable innovation meant that the Grid Compass 1101 could be more easily carried around, while the screen and keyboard were kept protected.
It was such a successful and influential design that it’s endured to this day, and while the Grid Compass 1101 itself wasn’t a huge success due to its high price of around $10,000 (around $25,000 / £20,000 / AU$35,000 in today’s money), the patents on many of its innovations earned GRID Systems Corp a lot of money.
1989: Compaq LTE and Compaq LTE 286, the first notebook PCs
Up until this point, early laptops were sometimes referred to as ‘luggables’, due to the fact that while they were more portable than a regular PC, they were still large and bulky, and not easily carried.
However, in 1989 the Compaq LTE and LTE 286 were released, and they’re generally regarded as the first notebook PCs, as they were around the size of a paper notebook. These smaller laptops were easier to carry around, making them more popular with people who travelled a lot.
They were also two of the first laptops to include a built-in hard drive and floppy disk drive, making them even more versatile. The hard drive in the Compaq LTE offered 20MB of storage space, which was doubled for the Compaq LTE 286.
1989: Macintosh Portable, the first Apple laptop
1989 also saw Apple release its first laptop device, and while it wasn’t as small or as easy to carry as the Compaq LTE (it was still considered a ‘luggable’ device), it offered very good battery life and decent screen – something modern MacBooks are still renowned for.
Due to its size and weight it wasn’t a popular device, but it did spur on competitors to release Mac-compatible laptops that were more portable – these days it’s strange to think of any other company other than Apple building Mac hardware.
1991: Apple PowerBook 100 series: a revolutionary early laptop
In 1991, Apple released a series of PowerBook laptops – the PowerBook 100, PowerBook 140 and PowerBook 170 – which were far more successful than the company’s previous attempts at creating a portable PC, and they ushered in a number of revolutionary features that have become staples of modern laptop design.
For example, the keyboard was positioned towards the back of the bottom half of the laptop, providing room at the front for palm rests and a trackball. Up until that point most laptops had the keyboard positioned at the front, with the space at the back for function key reference cards and instructions.
The included trackpad was also noteworthy, as it provided a convenient way of controlling a pointing device. With operating systems moving away from text-only command line interfaces to graphical user interfaces, these pointing devices would become pivotal.
The Apple PowerBook series was immensely popular, and over the years the PowerBook line brought in more innovative features that we now take for granted in laptops. In 1994, the PowerBook 500 series was the first laptop to include a true touchpad, and the first to include a built-in Ethernet network adapter.
1992: IBM ThinkPad 700 – a powerful and iconic laptop
In 1992 IBM released its first ThinkPad laptops, the 700, 700c and 700t, and these, along with the Apple PowerBook 100 series, can be considered some of the first modern laptops, helping to shape the laptop landscape for the next 25 years.
The ThinkPad came with a red TrackPoint in the middle of the keyboard, which was used to control the pointer, and the iconic feature is still found in modern ThinkPads.
The ThinkPad 700 also really showcased what a laptop device could be capable of. It had a full-color 10.4-inch display, which was larger than any laptop screen that had come before, a 120MB hard drive and a powerful IBM 486 SLC processor.
The design of the ThinkPad was both stylish and functional, and it won a host of design awards. IBM was keen to highlight how well built the ThinkPad was in a series of promotional events, with, for example, the laptops being used by archaeologists in Egypt. The ThinkPad 750c was taken into space by NASA, proving just how capable these modern laptops were.
With innovative features and design choices used to overcome the technological issues of the time, these early laptops paved the way for the modern machines we now use daily, and it’s these early pioneers we have to thank for making laptops the brilliantly versatile devices we have in our homes, schools and workplaces.
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Computer historians have staged a re-enactment of World War Two code-cracking at Bletchley Park.
A replica code-breaking computer called a Bombe was used to decipher a message scrambled by an Enigma machine.
Held at the National Museum of Computing (TNMOC), the event honoured Polish help with wartime code-cracking.
Ruth Bourne, a former wartime code-cracker who worked at Bletchley and used the original Bombes, oversaw the modern effort.
Enigma machines were used extensively by the German army and navy during World War Two. This prompted a massive effort by the Allies to crack the complex method they employed to scramble messages.
That effort was co-ordinated via Bletchley Park and resulted in the creation of the Bombe, said Paul Kellar who helps to keep a replica machine running at the museum. Renowned mathematician Alan Turing was instrumental in the creation of the original Bombe.
“During the war, they had about 200 Bombes,” said Mr Kellar. “It was a real code-breaking factory.”
For its re-enactment, TNMOC recruited a team of 12 and used a replica Bombe that, until recently, had been on display at the Bletchley Park museum next door.
The electro-mechanical Bombe was designed to discover which settings the German Enigma operators used to scramble their messages.
As with World War Two messages, the TNMOC team began with a hint or educated guess about the content of the message, known as a “crib”, which was used to set up the Bombe.
The machine then cranked through the millions of possible combinations until it came to a “good stop”, said Mr Kellar. This indicated that the Bombe had found key portions of the settings used to turn readable German into gobbledygook.
After that, said Mr Kellar, it was just a matter of time before the 12-strong team cracked the message.
Ms Bourne, who worked at Bletchley, said authentic methods had been used by the modern code-breakers but the effort lacked the over-riding stress and tension that accompanied the wartime work.
“During the war, there was a feeling of great pressure because the Enigma [encryption] keys changed at midnight so everyone was pushing to get enough information before it went out of date,” she told the BBC.
“The only high spot was when your machine happened to find the ‘good stop’ and you felt pleased about that,” she said.
Work on cracking the Engima machine was greatly aided by Polish cryptographers, said Mr Kellar. Friday’s event commemorated 80 years since that information was shared with the Allies. In addition, he said, the early stages of the code-cracking re-enactment were broadcast live to a Polish supercomputer conference in Poznan.
Dell’s S2419HGF gaming monitor offers up a 24-inch, 1080p display with a 120Hz refresh rate out of the box and easy overclocking to 144Hz. It does all that at a middling bargain price of $319 or £364 (about AU$430) for a monitor with those specs.
But, you can slap the best CPU and the best graphics card into your computer, and your gameplay experience is still only going to look as good as your monitor allows. Hardcore gamers may sacrifice some visuals for higher frame rates, and budget shoppers sacrifice quality for a good price. But, the balance feels off with the S2419HGF gaming monitor.
Pricing and availability
Though Dell’s monitor hits a tolerably budget $319 or £364 (about AU$430) price point for a 1080p 120/144Hz monitor, it’s readily shown up by the offerings of somewhat more expensive models. For example the $350 (£429, AU$649) Acer XG270HU monitor offers a higher 1440p resolution, native 144Hz refresh rate, 1ms response time, and the same AMD FreeSync feature.
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The best of the Dell 24 Gaming Monitor shows in the design department. It’s quick and easy to put together, and the stand offers so much flexibility for positioning, we have no trouble finding the perfect angle for the screen. If anything helps this monitor beat the competition, it’s the design.
The stand allows us to easily raise and lower the height of the screen, tilt it up and down, swivel it, and pivot it. If we want to orient the screen vertically, it only takes seconds. The base of the stand doesn’t hog a ton of desk space, yet still feels like it’s keeping the monitor firmly planted. Plus, a circular opening in the stand is well placed for feeding cables from the various ports through to the monitor for a much tidier desk.
On the back of the monitor, there’s a pleasing amount and variety of ports. Two HDMI 1.4 ports, one DisplayPort 1.2 port, USB 3.0 pass-through for two devices, a 3.5mm headphone out jack, and a 3.5mm audio line-out jack all make it a versatile monitor. And, that USB pass-through is a lovely way to connect a keyboard and mouse, especially if we’re using the monitor with a laptop that won’t always be plugged into its peripherals. Plus, all the ports face down, so the cables won’t get mashed up against the wall behind the monitor.
A plastic bezel is about a half inch thick runs around the perimeter of the screen, leaving a small gap between the monitor edge and the active portion of the screen. We don’t find it obnoxious, but it won’t look good in a multi-monitor setup. Plus, the 27-inch model trims the top and size bezels by more than 50% while offering more screen, plus a higher resolution and 155Hz refresh rate.
Bezels-aside, the stand is stellar and the recon blue metallic finish looks slick. So, things are pretty positive for the Dell 24 Gaming Monitor until we get the screen on and get into gaming, where it impresses much less.
With the pleasing build of the Dell 24 Gaming Monitor, we almost hoped that Dell had found a way to make Full HD at 24 inches look good on a TN panel, but that was asking too much.
There is good to this monitor. For one thing, the 120Hz offers plenty smooth game visuals, and FreeSync can help avoid stuttering frames and tearing if you connect it to an either mobile or desktop AMD graphics card or Xbox One X. Plus, it only takes a few clicks of the easy-to-navigate menus to overclock to 144Hz.
Even better, our computer’s display adapter automatically notices the switch from 120Hz to 144Hz, so we don’t have to fiddle with Windows settings when we switch between the two.
In eSports titles where frame rates trump almost everything and most of the on-screen elements aren’t too tiny, the 1080p resolution is passable. Overwatch looks good, enemies are easy enough to spot, and visible pixelation around the edges of characters is easy to ignore at 120+ FPS.
But, elsewhere it’s harder to give the screen a thumbs up. In games with sprawling levels where enemies can be so far away that they’re just a few pixels, the low resolution and pixel density are more apparent. Outside of gaming, black text on white backgrounds is hard on the eyes even with Windows’ ClearType calibrated for the monitor. The resolution doesn’t hurt when watching shows or movies, but that brings us to the next issue.
TN panels aren’t known for their great viewing angles, and this is no exception. Colors on the screen shift with only a little side-to-side movement, and viewing the screen from even slightly above ruins the picture.
The viewing angle from below doesn’t suffer as much, but the Dell 24 Gaming Monitor is only going to look good positioned directly in front and center of you. The poor viewing angles mar the vertical orientation. While this isn’t a big problem in single-player games, it is an issue for shared viewing experience.
Moving into Dell’s gaming modes, things get dicier. This monitor boasts 1ms (GTG) response times, but comes set to a slower 4ms response time by default. Jumping into the menus and enabling the ‘Super Fast’ response time setting brings it to 1ms, but introduces bright white ghosting to any fast moving elements on the screen. We find games basically unplayable with this setting, and have to deal with the slower response time.
We also don’t think the various game modes, which tweak the lighting and color, improve the experience. The FPS mode makes the screen uncomfortably bright, and butchers the contrast. We prefer the standard mode, but that brings us to our big question: if the gaming features don’t help, what good do they do for this gaming monitor?
The nice construction and stand make it a real shame that the display itself doesn’t meet the same standards. It leaves us wishing we could take our preferred monitor and attach it to this stand.
While the Dell 24 Gaming Monitor is good for eSports titles, it fails to be great. There are other monitors like the Acer XG270HU that can hit 144Hz without overclocking, and that can deliver 1ms response times without trippy ghosting.
If you have the budget, there are plenty of monitors that are a step up from the Dell 24 Gaming monitor with consistently faster response times, higher resolutions, or faster refresh rates. Or, even for less, the $299 (£239, AU$449) Asus’s MG248Q offers a comparable experience to Dell’s monitor.
So, the Dell 24 Gaming Monitor is left in an awkward position where it has cheaper monitors beating it in the eSports scene, while also not being able to live up to slightly more expensive monitors for high-FPS gaming at higher resolutions.
Withings has gone through a big change in recent years; it was bought by Nokia for around $191 million back in 2016, before being sold back to the original co-founder earlier this year after Nokia’s failed Digital Health rebranding. What better way to celebrate new (or is that old) ownership than to release one of the best smartwatches in the Withings collection?
The Withings Steel HR Sport is the most advanced smartwatch on offer from the company, offering exercise tracking for over 30 activities, sleep tracking and an amazing companion app. Read our Withings Steel HR Sport review to find out what we think about the sporty smartwatch, and check out our selection of the best fitness trackers of 2018 to see how it compares.
Withings Steel HR Sport: Pricing and availability
The Withings Steel HR Sport is now available to buy around the world following a late-September 2018 release. It’s not the cheapest smartwatch/fitness tracker on the market at £189.95, putting it up against the likes of the Fitbit Versa, but we think that the style and breadth of features on offer from the Steel HR Sport make it worth the price.
At the time of writing, you can only buy the Withings Steel HR Sport from the Withings website. It’ll set you back £189.95/$199.95, although you’ll have to add shipping costs if you want express delivery. You can purchase additional straps and other accessories from the site too.
Withings Steel HR Sport: Design and build
Like with other watches in the Withings collection, the Steel HR Sport is a beautiful blend of analogue and digital, offering an analogue watchface with a range of built-in smart tech.
The first thing you’ll likely notice is the digital subdial display; it’s an OLED panel that provides real-time information including smartphone notifications, heart rate, calories, step count, access to fitness tracking and more with the push of the side button. Beneath the digital subdial is a secondary analogue subdial that displays your progress towards your daily step goal, customisable via the Health Mate app.
The watch is available in both black and white, and while the white face is certainly eye-catching, it doesn’t do a great job of hiding the digital subdial when it’s not in use. The black watchface is much more conspicuous, as the black display blends with the dark watchface and is barely noticeable when not in use. No matter your choice of black or white, the watchface features red accents that give a largely black-and-white watch a much-needed pop of colour.
The watchface is housed in a durable 40mm stainless steel case with an engraved bezel, bringing a premium touch to the Sport. It comes with a soft-to-the-touch silicone watchstrap designed to be breathable and durable enough to endure the most strenuous of workouts. If that’s not your style, the Withings website allows you to customise your Steel HR Sport with a range of silicone and leather straps.
But even with a sporty silicone strap, the Steel HR Sport doesn’t look like a sporty watch. The muted colour scheme, analogue display and premium case make it just at home on your wrist at the office as it is at the gym.
It’s a slim, attractive little number too; measuring in at 13mm thick and weighing only 49g, the Steel HR Sport is barely noticeable on the wrist.
Withings Steel HR Sport: Features & App
So, what’s on offer with the Withings Steel HR Sport? As the name suggests, the watch features heart rate monitoring capabilities using a sensor on the rear. Unlike some smartwatches, your heart rate is constantly monitored when wearing the watch, and can be accessed at any time by pressing the side button on the watch.
While the watch provides live readings, you can access daily, weekly and monthly data via the Health Mate app for iOS and Android. As well as being able to see your heart rate range in any given 30-minute period, the app provides average bpm measurements for waking hours and while asleep too.
Of course, it wouldn’t be the Steel HR Sport without the ability to track exercise, and that’s an area where the watch excels. You can track a wide range of activities – over 30 in total – that range from the standard exercises you expect from a Sporty smartwatch (running, cycling, jogging) to the niche (yoga, golf, ping pong, ice skating and more). It’s water resistant up to an impressive 50m, so you can track swimming and other water-based activities without fear of water damage.
You can set a list of five ‘favourite’ activities via the app for easy activation on the watch. It really is simple to start exercise tracking on the watch; you hold the side button for a second, browse the selection of exercises and hold the button once more to activate. If you’ve got your smartphone connected via Bluetooth, it’ll use the smartphone’s GPS to get more advanced readings including elevation and pace.
Though the measurements taken vary depending on the activity you’re doing, one of the more useful readings provided is VO2 Max. When you run, the smartwatch will assess your general fitness level and provide you with a maximal oxygen consumption (VO2 Max) estimation in the form of a level. In general terms, the higher the level, the fitter you are, and this provides a great way to track overall fitness over time.
But what if you forget to turn on the exercise tracking feature? Thankfully the Steel HR Sport features automatic exercise recognition, though it’s not perfect. In our experience, it detects strenuous activities like running automatically, but it’s not the best at automatically detecting the likes of fast-paced walking or dancing. It’s probably best to activate it manually if you can!
The Withings Steel HR Sport is a great smartwatch, but that means nothing without a great app to back it up. Thankfully, that is the case; the Health Mate app for iOS and Android is one of the best companion apps we’ve come across. It’s well built, and provides more than just access to your data. Unlike similar apps, Health Mate provides information about what all the data means, and how you can act on the data to improve your fitness and wellbeing.
It’s little features that enhance the experience, like explaining that a 60bpm average heart rate reading during sleep indicates good cardiovascular health, or what the different periods of sleep (light and deep) mean and how it can influence how you feel daily. It really does provide a great insight into your health, both in terms of exercise and sleep.
As mentioned, the Steel HR Sport tracks your sleep and provides data including sleep stage, interruptions, total time asleep and more, assigning you a score and colour (green for good, red for bad) allowing you to compare tracked sleep at a glance.
As well as little titbits of information alongside your data, you can sign up to a variety of wellness programs from within the app. These provide specific targets, whether it’s sleeping better or learning how to lose weight more effectively, and use data from the Steel HR Sport to coach you over the course of several weeks. For example, we’re currently enrolled in a Sleep Smarter program, with the aim of setting a consistent sleeping pattern across the week and weekend. It looks at your sleep data across the week and provides you with a ‘social jetlag’ score and information on how to improve. It’s personal, effective and provides a great user experience.
With all that going on, the battery life can’t be amazing, can it? Oh, it can. With average use, the Withings Steel HR Sport can last up to 25 days on a single charge. It drops down to five days with constant fitness tracking, but we can’t imagine many people will be tracking exercises 24 hours a day. Even once the battery runs low, the power reserve mode will provide an extra 20 days of power with time and activity tracking.
When the time comes to eventually charge the smartwatch, you simply drop it onto the magnetic wireless charger and wait. It doesn’t take too long to charge either; it’ll take around 2 hours to charge from 0-100 percent, though an hour should provide around 80 percent charge (more than enough for a few weeks of use!).
We’re really impressed with the Withings Steel HR Sport, both in terms of design and the range of features available. If you’ve been holding out for a gorgeous analogue smartwatch with smart features, it’s time to make a purchase.
The Lenovo Legion Y920, with its full-on GTX 1070-calibre graphics, a bright 17-inch screen, and a mechanical keyboard, makes for a solid—and quite hefty—gaming laptop. Besides its premium mechanical keyboard, the Y920 boasts some enticing amenities that its competitors lack, such as a one-touch Turbo mode and Dolby Atmos sound.
It’s a good machine, but shop wisely. Gamers focused purely on the visuals may balk at the Y920’s hefty price tag, particularly given that a similarly configured version of the Alienware 17 R5Remove non-product link (not the maxed-out version we reviewed) currently costs many hundreds of dollars less. You’ll also see 17-inch gaming laptops with newer CPUs than its 7th-generation overclockable part.
Note: This review is part of our roundup of the best laptops. Go there for details about competing products and how we tested them.
Price and specifications
The Lenovo Legion Y920 (more specifically, the Y920-17IKB) packs a quad-core, seventh-generation Intel Core i7-7820HK processor and a middle-of-the-road Nvidia GTX 1070 graphics core, both of which you can overclock a skosh by nudging a “Turbo” switch. You also get a 17.3-inch full-HD and G-Sync-capable display, 16GB of dual-channel DDR4 RAM, a 512GB solid-state drive, and a 1TB 5,200rpm hard drive.
A note on pricing and availability: Lenovo is no longer selling this model directly, but the company confirmed it was still available on Amazon and other third-party online retail channels. Its price tag is something of a moving target. One day, it was about $1,950 on Amazon, then the price jumped to about $2,110 a few days later. Newegg, meanwhile, has been selling the laptop for anywhere between $2,100 and $2,660.
That said, if you’re pining for a gaming laptop with a mechanical keyboard (not a guaranteed feature) and easy-as-pie overclocking, the Legion Y920 might be worth the extra cash.
The Lenovo Legion Y920 is about as hulking as you’d expect for a desktop refill, tipping the scales at more than 9.5 pounds and measuring a roomy 16.17 x 12.4 x 1.42 inches. Once you add the massive power brick, you’re looking at close to 12 pounds of hardware.
The Y920’s sturdy shell boasts a handsome brushed-aluminum lid emblazoned with Lenovo’s familiar “Y”-shaped logo, with a pair of stylish cooling vents in back.
Open up the Y920 and you’ll find a nifty maroon speaker grille sitting above the mechanical keyboard (more on the keyboard itself in a moment). The keyboard’s RGB backlighting boasts a trio of customizable presets, ranging from a soothing “wave” effect to a pulsating ripple whenever you strike a key. Both zone and single-key backlighting are also on the menu.
Sitting in the top-left corner of the keyboard is the Y920’s Turbo Boost switch, which lets you overclock both the CPU and the GPU on the fly. Thanks to the Y920’s one-touch Turbo Boost feature, you can overclock the CPU’s maximum clock speed from 3.6GHz to 4.1GHz, while the GPU can go from a top clock speed of 4GHz to 4.1GHz. We’ll take Turbo Boost for a real-world spin in a moment.
While it’s not 4K, the Legion Y920’s 17-inch, 1920×1080 display looks bright and sharp. The screen brightness measures an enviable 360 nits (or candelas) according to our readings, well above our minimum standard of 250 nits for comfortable indoor viewing.
Viewing angles on the Y920’s IPS-technology panel were pretty good, with only moderate dimming starting from around 45 degrees or so. We saw no signs of inverse colors as you’ll see on cheap laptop displays.
I did notice a little backlight bleeding along the top- and bottom-right edges of the screen, particularly when the screen was completely black. I found it minimally distracting, and I didn’t notice it at all during intense gameplay. That said, those who can’t unsee even the smallest screen defect should take heed.
Keyboard, trackpad, speakers and extras
Boasting roomy, slightly concave keys with 2.2mm of travel distance, easy discovery, a 10-key numeric keypad, and yes, some pretty snazzy RGB backlighting effects, the Y920’s keyboard makes a great first impression—and yes, we’re talking a mechanical keyboard here.
The Y920’s keys have a clicky, somewhat heavy feel. That’s good news for typists, who generally get a kick out of clicky keyboards, but not so great for those gamers who prefer smooth, linear key switches, which allow their fingers to flutter over the keyboard.
The Y920’s trackpad sits directly in the middle of the chassis, meaning it’s a little to the right of the main keyboard due to the numeric keypad. The backlit trackpad requires quite a bit of pressure to click, making for a heavy feel mirroring that of the keyboard. The trackpad is surrounded by a rubberized palm rest with a crosshatched design that, while comfy, tends to attract little bits of debris.
Armed with a pair of top-firing JBL speakers, a three-watt subwoofer and Dolby audio processing, the Lenovo Legion Y920 comes with impressively loud, robust sound as far as laptops go, although I was disappointed by the cramped soundstage. Indeed, the Y920’s sounds almost monaural while playing music and games, although you can hear the stereo separation if you bend your ears close enough to the speakers.
My usual test tracks—”Live and Let Die” by Paul McCartney and Wings, along with Mozart’s 25th Symphony—sounded rich, detailed and even somewhat bassy, although I did notice a little speaker vibration at high volumes. If you find yourself missing surround effects from the Y920’s speakers, you can always plug in your headphones for a full-on Dolby Atmos experience, which makes your head feel like it’s swimming in sound.
The Lenovo Legion Y920’s 720p webcam sits in the top bezel of the display. It captures relatively sharp video given its resolution, perfect for Skype chat or even low-budget Twitch streaming.
If you’re a fan of USB 3.0, you’ll love the selection of ports on the Lenovo Legion Y920. On the left side of the Y920, you’ll find two of a total of four USB 3.0 ports, along with a rectangular power port, DisplayPort, full HDMI, Gigabit ethernet, and—sad face—a single Thunderbolt 3 port.
On the ride side of the laptop sits an SD card reader, a microphone input, a headset jack, a Kensington lock, and the other two USB 3.0 ports.
We didn’t find any big surprises while putting the Lenovo Legion Y920 and its quad-core, Kaby Lake-era Core i7-7820HK processor through its paces. We compared it to other recent 17-inch gaming laptops we’ve tested, a variety that includes the maxed-out Origin PC EON17-X and Alienware 17 R5 (both costing over $1,000 more than the Legion Y920, and for good reason); the prior-generation Alienware 17 R4, which is closer to the Legion Y920 in specs; and the HP Omen 17 and MicroCenter PowerSpec 17, which carry 7th-gen CPUs as well. For the Legion Y920, we include results for both its default and Turbo modes.
Our HandBrake test, which involves converting a 30GB MKV video file into an Android tablet-compatible format, turns up the heat for even the most powerful CPUs.
The Y920’s HandBrake result is a little on the “meh” side. Generally speaking, we’d like to see a score south of 3,000 seconds (or about 50 minutes) on a laptop with a Core i7-7820HK (such as the older Alienware 17 R4 in the chart above), which didn’t happen in the laptop’s default mode. Once we switched on the overclocking Turbo Speed mode, we got the score down to about 2,500, a 16-percent improvement. Still, the Y920’s so-so, non-overclocked HandBrake mark hints at a fairly conservative approach when it comes to keeping things cool.
Another punishing test for multicore CPUs, our Cinebench benchmark pushes laptop processors to the limit as it tasks a system with rendering a 3D image. Whereas our HandBrake test tells us how a laptop deals with heat over an hour or so, the five-minute (give or take) Cinebench benchmark gives us clues how a particular system performs under short bursts of stress.
Again, we see the Lenovo Legion Y920 in the mix but a tiny bit behind the pack, although the laptop’s numbers look marginally better (6.4 percent) with Turbo Boost mode engaged.
With its mid-range Nvidia GTX 1070 graphic core, the Lenovo Legion Y920 turns in solid performance when it comes to playing our favorite AAA gaming titles, cranking out buttery visuals well north of 60 fps at maxed video settings. Just don’t expect the Y920’s Turbo mode to juice frame rates beyond a few percentage points.
Looking at our 3DMark FireStrike Extreme results, the Lenovo Legion Y920’s performance landed pretty much where we expected, slightly ahead of the similarly GTX 1070-equipped HP Omen 17, but well behind laptops with beefier Nvidia graphics cores (such as the Alienware 17 R4). When we flipped the Y920’s Turbo switch, we saw only a slight (1.7 percent) improvement in its score.
Next, we fired up 2013’s Tomb Raider reboot. Once again the Legion Y920 is pretty much on the mark, edging the HP Omen 17 and keeping pace with the Microcenter PowerSpec 17, another GTX 1070-powered gaming laptop. Engaging Turbo mode only gave us a slight 1.3-percent performance boost.
Moving on to Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, the Lenovo Legion Y920 managed to serve up a steady 130 fps—slightly better than what we’ve previously seen with the GTX 1070-equipped HP Omen 17 and Microcenter PowerSpec 17. Flipping on Turbo mode netted a small 1.6-percent performance boost, which (not surprisingly) wasn’t quite good enough to match the stellar frame rate of GTX 1080-equipped competition.
Finally, the graphically intense Rise of the Tomb Raider kept the Legion Y920 to about 103 frames per second, on a par with the GTX 1070-packing HP Omen 17 and the Microcenter PowerSpec 17, and even in range of GTX 1080-powered machines. Turning on Turbo mode gave us a modest 2.7-percent fps improvement.
You can’t really expect stellar battery life from a hefty, power-hungry gaming laptop like the Lenovo Legion Y920. The laptop didn’t serve up any surprises here.
We measure battery life by looping a 4K video using the stock Windows 10 Movie & TV player. We set screen brightness at about 250 nits (or about 91 percent, in the Y920’s case) and set the volume halfway with headphones connected.
We’ve seen desktop-replacement gaming laptops that can barely last 100 minutes during our battery-drain test. While the Y920 and its 84-watt-hour battery lasted an additional hour and change, it couldn’t break the 200-minute mark achieved by a few other big-and-heavy gaming laptops.
Big and heavy though it is, the Lenovo Legion Y920 boasts some serious gaming firepower and a mechanical keyboard, not to mention one-touch overclocking and Dolby Atmos sound. For about the same money, however, you could spring for our favorite gaming notebook with a superior graphics card.
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One of the most exciting innovations of recent years has been cloud computing. Many of us use cloud-based services every day without really thinking about it. For example, if you take photos on your Android smartphone or Apple iPhone, your photos can be backed up automatically to the cloud, which means you can view them from any internet-connected smartphone or computer.
With cloud computing, the idea is to make use of a remote, powerful, computer that’s connected to the internet, and stream its processing power to a cheaper, low-powered computer in your home. The potential for this technology is huge. It allows gamers to experience playing on powerful hardware they wouldn’t be able to afford, or allow research institutes to make use of the most powerful supercomputers in the world without physically having them in the same building.
Cloud computing is definitely an innovation worth getting excited about – but in its current state, is the technology too good to be true? Let’s take a look.
What is cloud computing?
First of all, what is cloud computing? It’s a rather broad term that covers a lot of services and technology. The basic gist of it is that cloud computing is a method of accessing services provided by remote computers over the internet – which is referred to as ’the cloud’.
These services can include servers, storage, software and raw processing power, and they’re usually provided through a subscription, so you can pay small amounts each month, rather than having to pay a lot of money all at once for the hardware or services.
As we mentioned earlier, it’s likely that you use cloud computing every day, even without knowing. Popular cloud storage services like Google Drive, Dropbox and OneDrive, for example, allow you to easily store your files in the cloud, and access them from other devices.
Sending emails, or creating online documents in Google Docs, could also be considered cloud computing, as you’re using servers and hardware from remote internet-connected PCs.
Even streaming services like Netflix and Spotify could be considered cloud computing, as you’re accessing content (videos and music) that’s stored remotely on other machines.
Cloud computing and gaming
There are also a number of exciting cloud computing services for video games. For example, Microsoft has long been touting using cloud computing as a way to offload certain intensive tasks for its Xbox One console, potentially offering much more impressive graphics, physics and gameplay than the console itself is capable of.
Unfortunately, this is where we first encountered the notion that cloud computing might be too good to be true. When Microsoft talked about Xbox One’s use of cloud computing, the company was intentionally vague, using jargon and buzzwords but providing little in the way of facts.
This came at a time when the Xbox One was being roundly criticized for being underpowered compared to its competitor, the PlayStation 4. Microsoft was keen to stress that cloud computing could overcome the hardware limitations of its console, as it could harness the power of cloud computers to help out with the graphics load.
That all sounded great, and Microsoft certainly has the experience to back up its claims, thanks to its established cloud services and products, such as OneDrive and its Azure cloud platform, but we’ve yet to see the Xbox One really take advantage of cloud computing. Crackdown 3, a game that was once touted as being a showcase for the Xbox One and the ’Power of the Cloud’, has yet to be released after numerous delays, and talk of the cloud when it comes to the game has been conspicuous by its absence recently.
Meanwhile, Microsoft seemed to waver in its belief that the cloud could save the Xbox One when it comes to power, and instead built a more powerful traditional console in the Xbox One X.
The promise of Microsoft’s gaming nirvana where hardware didn’t matter sadly proved to be too good to be true. However, there are rumors that the next Xbox (apparently codenamed Scarlett Cloud) will finally fulfill Microsoft’s lofty claims of cloud computing.
Feeling the GeForce
A more realistic use of cloud computing for gaming, and one that actually exists, is Nvidia’s GeForce Now service, which is currently available as a free beta. This service uses Nvidia’s huge collection of powerful cloud-connected servers and hardware to stream games to your PC, Mac or Nvidia Shield console.
Like most cloud computing services, it uses the power of remote computers to stream games to your device, while your inputs for controlling the game (through a keyboard and mouse or gamepad) are sent back to the remote computer. On paper, if your internet connection is good enough, there should be minimal lag between you sending a command and it appearing on-screen.
We had a chance to use GeForce Now at an event Nvidia was holding, and we were very impressed. We played PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, a game in which quick reflexes are essential, and any hint of lag could mean game over, on older MacBooks which shouldn’t usually be able to run the game. Most of the time it felt like we were playing the game natively on powerful gaming PCs in front of us, rather than using cloud computing to stream the game from remote PCs many miles away.
However, it should be noted that we were using GeForce Now in circumstances that benefited the service, namely a central London hotel with super-fast internet access. If you live out in the countryside and your internet connection is poor, then the results may not be so good.
Regardless, in this early beta stage we saw the promise of cloud computing that Microsoft has so far failed to deliver on Xbox One.
There are also a number of similar services, such as Shadow, which is growing in popularity and gives subscribers access to a remote PC that has a powerful CPU, 12GB of RAM and a GTX 1080 graphics card – essentially a high-end gaming rig.
Sony also has its PlayStation Now service, that allows people to stream PS4, PS3 and PS2 games to their PS4 or PC. It’s not as ambitious as what some other companies are delivering (or promising), but it’s a great example of how cloud computing can benefit gamers, and free them from the limits of their hardware.
TechRadar’s Next Up series is brought to you in association with Honor
TechRadar’s Next Up series is brought to you in association with Honor
Some speakers are criticized for their overt personality, for exaggerated (or undernourished) tonal characteristics that can misrepresent the music. But it’s hard to imagine anyone taking Q Acoustics to task for what they’ve wrought with the personable 3020i bookshelf speakers. These speakers’ special distinction is a focus on soundstage optimization and unwavering clarity that serves almost every musical master exceedingly well, from classical to folk, rock to hip hop to jazz.
These speakers will send you running for your favorite recordings, so you can hear what nuances will be revealed. They imbue studio performances with such presence, depth, and bounce as to create a sort of sonic hologram that pinpoints musicians’ spatial placement in the mix, not just in the horizontal plane but also forward and aft, high and low. And it all comes from an attractive package that positively oozes quality at an almost unbelievably low price: Just $299. For the pair.
The 12-year-old Q Acoustics design team is largely comprised of alumni from a host of august home audio brands, including KEF, Meridian, Mission, and Tannoy. The company’s pinch-me pricing is achieved by manufacturing its speakers in China and selling them direct, at QAcoustics.com and via online storefronts at Amazon, Jet, Reverb, eBay, and Walmart.
The 3020i are in the middle of a range of speakers consisting of the smaller 3010i speakers at one end and the 3050i floor-standers at the other. If you’re looking to build out a 5.1-channel system for your home theater, Q Acoustics also offers the 3060S subwoofer and the 3090Ci center channel.
On their own, however, a pair of Q-Acoustics 3020i’s fabulous for both music and TV/film presentations, especially in a small to mid-sized room. Honestly, these two-way, rear-ported speakers could easily pass for floor-standers. On the cinematic front, they swept me away with precisely calibrated dialog, dynamic in-motion sound effects, and robust scoring.
Test equipment and selections
My test equipment included a Sonos Connect:Amp and a Sony UBP-X800 Universal Ultra-HD Blu-ray/CD/SACD/DVD-A/streaming-video player. With 55 watts per channel, the Sonos falls smack dab in the middle of the recommended power range (25 to 75 watts) for the moderately sensitive (88dB) 3020is. Sufficient to crank the speakers to a Spinal Tap-ish “eleven” with most content in my family room, though really sounding at their best at the middle of the amp’s range.
These ears also obsessed over made-abroad musical content, from Sting’s arresting Live in Berlin, videoed in concert with the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra on Deutsche Grammophone/UMG Blu-ray disc, to the newly unearthed (by Columbia Legacy) 1960 Euro concert sessions of Miles Davis and John Coltrane (The Final Tour – The Bootleg Series Volume 6). Yes, the quintet romps through the likes of “Bye Bye Blackbird,” “On Green Dolphin Street,” and “All Blues” in pristine monaural. And everything is firmly phantom-centered on the Q Acoustics; yet, there’s a sense of staggered depth and room ambience in the playback that sounds 3D-ish!
I also streamed the new self-titled set by Cuban mambo jazz band Orquesta Akokan (on the Daptone label.) The 3020i charmingly celebrate both the quaint, brassy sound of the ensemble, and the fabled, resonant qualities of the wood-paneled Areito studios at EGREM, the state-owned music complex in Havana where Buena Vista Social Club also recorded.
Our test speakers also showed their mettle with the just-out ECM classical oddball Tangere performed by Alexei Lubimov. Covering works by the lesser known C.P.E. Bach, the Russian keyboardist is playing the now obscure tangent piano, a hybrid invention of the 1700s that is evocative at turns of harpsichord, clavichord, and hammer dulcimer. With the 3020i put to the task, that eccentric, quirky nature is apparent and intriguing. You’ll never confuse the sonic portrayal as just another small piano.
To coax tight and accurate sound out of small boxes with extended bass response, Q Acoustics’ engineers built the 3020i with a 25-percent larger cabinet than was deployed in the earlier 3020 (without the “i”). The cabinets grew in depth especially—to 10.9 inches—so they’re nearly as deep as they are high (11.1 inches), a fortuitous formula for boosting dynamics. While no wider (6.7 inches) than average bookshelf speakers, you might find these too deep for shelf placement, even with their deeply recessed binding posts.
If you do intend to place them on a bookshelf against a wall, you’ll likely want to insert the included foam bungs into their rear reflex ports, to subdue exaggerated bass. A better placement would be on stands, a few feet away from the wall, preferably at ear level (when seated, that is).
Clean, curved-corner unibody construction (there are no visible seams or indents) and robust internal stiffening are key to the 3020i’s sonic refinement. These design elements aim to eliminate unwanted vibration and coloration and fine-tune signal delivery. Q Acoustics applies its trademarked “P2P” (point-to-point) bracing technology here to tighten up areas of the MDF-constructed box that suffer the most strain, such as the corners and the front baffle that supports the tweeter and low-frequency/mid-range driver.
Q Acoustics is equally proud of its proprietary, coloration-free drivers, of course, which collectively achieve a frequency response of 64Hz to 30kHz (+3 dB, -6dB.) The 5-inch low/midrange units utilize an extra sturdy Aramid fiber material for the cone, coated with an acoustically neutral material (mostly to prevent damage in humid climates). The cone is surrounded with low-lag rubber for accurate movement. The 0.9 inch soft dome tweeter is polyester microfiber with a polypropylene surround that decouples it from the baffle.
I prefer the look of these speakers (available in vinyl-laminated Graphite Grey, English Walnut, Carbon Black, or Arctic White finishes) with their magnetized black cloth grills in place. With grills off, your eyes are drawn to the semi-shiny bling of metal trim rings surrounding the woofers and tweeters, a look that shouts “boom box” to me. But I found it essential to take the grills off for my listening tests. It was the only way realize the full holographic effects these magic makers can create, and to eliminate any trace amounts of signal blunting and distortion. This was particularly noticeable while listening to Sting and the symphony vamp like mad on “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic.” The issue here is that the artist introduces a bit of intentional microphone distortion to thicken his vocals. That extra grit is bearable with the grills off, but it sounds more like nasty sputtering with them on.
I also found the need to futz with the Sonos amp’s EQ controls with the grills on, making adjustments when revisiting familiar album pleasures such as bassist Rob Wasserman’s sonically immaculate Duets, with collaborators like Aaron Neville, Rickie Lee Jones, and Jennifer Warnes (also available in Wasserman’s Trilogy collection); the newly remixed (by Bob Clearmountain) 50th anniversary edition of Music from Big Pink (The Band); and when jumping into Stevie Wonder’s masterwork Songs in the Key of Life in 24 bit/96KHz fashion on Pure Audio Blu-ray.
It was a totally different story with the grills off. I could then leave all settings flat and just flip on the Sonos amp’s “Loudness” setting to let the 3020i frolic: bold, free, and happy. Me, too.
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