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Acer Aspire S7-392 raises the Ultrabook bar
At this year's Build conference, I had a chance to see this device before it went on sale. After using the 11-inch version, I wanted to see whether this newer 13-inch model had worked out the kinks in its predecessors.
The answer is a resounding yes.
The outside, with a white Gorilla Glass cover, is beautiful and tough, and the 13-inch Full HD display is gorgeous. The backlit keyboard doesn't have the same issues with occasionally sticky keys that the previous version did. For me, though, the killer feature is the 4th Generation Core i5 (Haswell). This is the first PC I've ever owned that can genuinely claim all-day battery life without having to add any qualifiers. At IFA in Berlin this year, I used the machine nonstop for a day without ever needing the charger. Atnd at 2.9 pounds it's genuinely portable.
I had no trouble upgrading it to the RTM version of Windows 8.1. I'll happily take a look at the new crop of Haswell-powered Ultrabooks, but it will take something special to knock this one off its perch.
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Touch: power at a price
OK, I'm cheating a bit on this one. Although I've had some hands-on time with this device, I haven't owned one. In fact, I've shied away from most Lenovo devices, primarily because the business-class models are very expensive. Still, if you spend any time around Microsoft's Redmond campus, you will see as many of these as you see Surface Pros. This is a very popular device with the developers of Windows 8.1.
So I asked my ZDNet colleague Jason Perlow, who owns an X1 Carbon Touch, for his capsule review. Here's what he wrote:
The Lenovo X1 Carbon Touch is the Chinese PCs giant's flagship Windows 8 Ultrabook, combining the power of the Intel Core i7 processor with a responsive and brilliant color touchscreen display. The system, which weighs only 3lbs, is made out of carbon fiber and is one of the lightest as well as one of the strongest 14" notebooks on the market, and is up to any task a road warrior can throw at it.
Like many "executive class" Ultrabooks currently on the market the X1 Carbon Touch has on the mainboard flash storage and has a fixed amount of memory, 8GB, so it cannot be upgraded. It also lacks an optical drive as well as a hard-wired Ethernet port, both of which can be remedied by using USB 3.0-based docks and peripherals. External displays can be connected using the laptop's MiniDisplayPort connector.
Something to keep in mind is that if you need to be able to boot from LAN (such as for a system re-image) you cannot use wireless networking so you must use a USB Ethernet dongle. While Windows 8.x recognizes many USB Ethernet devices, not every one will show up as a PCI LAN device in the X1's EFI. Currently, you'll need either Lenovo's USB 2.0 USB Ethernet accessory or their USB 3.0 dock ($150, which I find ridiculously expensive for what it does) in order to do this.
While the Lenovo X1 Carbon is a great laptop I would certainly like to see the display resolution increased in the next model to full HD or higher, as at around $1800 for the system, there are other devices on the market with much nicer screens for the same or less money. I also think that having a full-sized business laptop with no hard-wired ethernet port is just asking for trouble.
Microsoft's brilliant, quirky, flawed Surface Pro
I reviewed the Surface Pro when it came out in February of this year, and the keyword in that review was quirky. Here's what I concluded:
In short, this is a great product for anyone who’s already committed to a Microsoft-centric work environment. It isn’t likely to inspire many iPad owners to switch, unless those Apple tablets are in the hands of someone who has been eagerly awaiting an excuse to execute the iTunes ecosystem.
I don’t expect Surface Pro to be a breakout hit for Microsoft. Too many people will have good reasons to say no, at least for now. But it does represent a solid, interesting, adventurous alternative for anyone who wants to spend some quality time today exploring Microsoft’s vision of the future.
The big question is how large that market is, and whether Microsoft can evolve both the Surface hardware and its accompanying apps and services so the next iteration is capable of breaking out in a big way.
The short battery life and the heat generated by the 3rd Generation i5 made the first Surface Pro less than ideal for me. I am looking forward to getting my hands on the new design and its peripherals.
You can read that original review here.