Framework’s new sub-$500 modular laptop has no RAM, storage or OS

Framework is all about modular, upgradable laptops and now the company is offering people a more-cost effective entry point. It has dropped the price of its B-stock Factory Seconds systems (which are built with excess parts and new components). As such, it's now offering a Framework Laptop 13 barebones configuration for under $500 for the very first time.

The 13-inch machine comes with an 11th-gen Intel Core i7 processor with Iris Xe graphics. So the CPU should be sufficient for most basic tasks and some moderate gaming. Here's the catch: Frameworks' barebones laptops don't include RAM, storage, Wi-Fi connectivity, power adaptor or even an operating system.

Tinkerers (i.e. folks who likely would be most interested in playing around with a Framework system) are likely to have some spare parts kicking around anyway. You can buy whatever other components you might need from the Framework Marketplace. To that end, Framework says it's selling refurbished DDR4 memory at half the price of new.

One other thing worth noting is that Framework's B-stock systems have an original display with "slight cosmetic issues." The company notes that these can range from things like fine lines that can be seen from a certain angle or a lack of backlight uniformity that may be seen on a white screen. A-stock systems have a matte display, but they're a little more expensive. Factory Seconds laptops are available in the US, Canada and Australia for the time being.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/frameworks-new-sub-500-modular-laptop-has-no-ram-storage-or-os-184711789.html?src=rss

Microsoft’s upcoming custom chip will be made by Intel

Intel's relatively new Foundry division — formerly known as Intel Foundry Services until earlier today — has just landed a notable order from a big name. According to Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced that his company will be tapping into Intel's latest 18A (1.8nm) fabrication process for an upcoming in-house chip design. But given Intel's process roadmap, this means we likely won't be seeing Microsoft's new chip until 2025.

While neither company disclosed the nature of said silicon, Microsoft did unveil its custom-made Azure Maia AI Accelerator and Azure Cobalt 100 CPU server chips last November, with an expected rollout some time "early" this year to bolster its own AI services. The Cobalt 100 is based on Arm architecture, and it just so happens that Intel has been optimizing its 18A process for Arm designs since April last year (it even became an Arm investor later), so there's a good chance that this collaboration may lead to the next-gen Cobalt CPU.

In addition to the usual efficiency improvements as node size decreases, Intel 18A also offers "the industry's first backside power solution" which, according to IEEE's Spectrum, separates the power interconnect layer from the data interconnect layer at the top, and moves the former to beneath the silicon substrate — as implied by the name. This apparently allows for improved voltage regulation and lower resistance, which in turn enable faster logic and lower power consumption, especially when applied to 3D stacking.

Announced at Intel Foundry Direct Connect, Intel’s extended process technology roadmap adds Intel 14A to the company’s leading-edge node plan, in addition to several specialized node evolutions and new Intel Foundry Advanced System Assembly and Test capabilities. Intel also affirmed that its ambitious five-nodes-in-four-years process roadmap remains on track and will deliver the industry’s first backside power solution.
Intel

In Intel's Q4 earnings call, CEO Pat Gelsinger confirmed that "18A is expected to achieve manufacturing readiness in second half '24." Given that Intel's very own 18A-based processors — "Clearwater Forest" for servers and "Panther Lake" for clients — won't arrive until 2025, chances are it'll be a similar time frame for Microsoft's next chip.

At Intel's event earlier today, the exec shared an extended Intel Foundry process technology roadmap, which features a new 14A (1.4nm) node enabled by ASML's "High-NA EUV" (high-numerical aperture extreme ultraviolet) lithography system. According to AnandTech, this 14A leap may help Intel play catchup after its late EUV adoption for its Intel 4 (7nm) node, though risk production won't take place until the end of 2026.

Intel Foundry is the brainchild of Gelsinger, who launched this department right after he assumed the CEO role in February 2021, as part of his ambitious plan to put Intel up against the likes of TSMC and Samsung in the contract chip-making market. Before Microsoft, Intel Foundry's list of clients already include MediaTek, Qualcomm and Amazon. The company still aims to become "the second largest external foundry by 2030" in terms of manufacturing revenue, which it believes is achievable as early as this year.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/microsofts-upcoming-custom-chip-will-be-made-by-intel-063323035.html?src=rss

Acer’s latest Swift laptops have AMD 8040 chips with Ryzen AI support

Acer unveiled a pair of AMD Ryzen 8040 series laptops on Tuesday. Unsurprisingly, given their chips’ dedicated neural processing units (NPU), the company is marketing the 2024 Acer Swift Edge 16 and Swift Go 14 as AI workhorses. The Windows 11 machines support OLED displays, Radeon 780M graphics and 32GB of RAM.

The Ryzen 8040 chip series, revealed in December, has a dedicated AI Engine that AMD claims makes it up to 1.4 times faster than its predecessors in Llama 2 and AI vision model performance. Acer says the Swift Edge 16 and Swift Go 14 will deploy the NPU for AI-related tasks like PurifiedVoice (remove background noise in calls and recordings) and PurifiedView (blurring backgrounds in images and correcting your eyes’ positioning on video calls).

A person sitting at a table, performing a video call with another person on the Acer Swift Edge 16. Open office workspace.
Acer

Like most new Windows machines (including Acer’s models launched at CES 2024), the laptops have a dedicated Microsoft Copilot button on their keyboards for quick ChatGPT-like AI queries. (Copilot taps into Microsoft and OpenAI’s servers through the cloud rather than using the machines’ on-device NPU.)

Both machines’ AMD chips include Microsoft’s Pluton security co-processor. Introduced in 2020 through a partnership with AMD and Intel, it bakes security directly into the processor, helping protect your credentials, encryption keys and personal data from hackers.

Acer Swift Edge 16

Side profile view of the (thin) Acer Swift Edge 16 laptop. Black laptop in front of gray background.
Acer

Acer markets the Acer Swift Edge 16 as optimizing performance without sacrificing portability. All device variants have a 16-inch OLED panel with WQXGA (3200 x 2000) resolution and a 120Hz frame rate with less than a 0.2ms response time. It supports 100 percent of the DCI-P3 color gamut and VESA DisplayHDR True Black 500 certification for (what should be) accurate and nuanced visuals.

The laptop’s Ryzen 7 8840U processor is joined by AMD Radeon 780M integrated graphics. The notebook has up to 32GB of LPDDR5 RAM and 2TB PCIe 4.0 SSD storage. Depending on your configuration, it supports Wi-Fi 7 or Wi-Fi 6E.

The Swift Edge 16 weighs 2.71 lbs and is 12.95mm tall. It’s encased in a magnesium-aluminum alloy chassis and has a 54 Wh battery. It includes two USB-C ports (with USB4 speeds of up to 40Gbps), two USB-A, one HDMI 2.1 and a microSD slot.

Acer Swift Go 14

Lifestyle marketing image of the Acer Swift Go 14 sitting on a beachside outdoor table.
Acer

The smaller of the pair, the Acer Swift Go 14, has up to an AMD Ryzen 9 8945HS octa-core processor with AMD Radeon 780M graphics. (Cheaper configurations will trade that for a Ryzen 7 8845HS or Ryzen 5 8645HS.) The machine maxes out at 32GB LPDDR5X RAM and up to 2TB PCIe Gen 4 SSD.

The top-shelf 14-inch variant will have a WQXGA (2880x1800) OLED display with a 90Hz refresh rate. Another version will swap that for a 1920 x 1200 IPS panel with touchscreen capabilities. The device’s hinge can extend to 180 degrees, and its glass trackpad is 44 percent larger than the previous model’s. It supports Wi-Fi 6E.

Thanks to its smaller footprint, Acer markets the Swift Go 14 as the more portable version. However, it’s about seven percent heavier than its 16-inch counterpart — at 2.91 lbs. It ships in configurations with either a 65 or 50 Wh battery.

Both models have 1440p QHD webcams, although only the Swift Go 14 is listed as having a privacy shutter. The smaller model is lighter on ports than the 16-inch model, forgoing the pair of USB-A connections in the larger one. The Swift Go 14 has two USB-C ports (both supporting USB4 speeds), an HDMI 2.1 connector and a microSD slot.

Pricing and availability

The Swift Edge 16 launches in March in North America, starting at $1,300. Meanwhile, the Swift Go 14 follows in April, starting at $700. Apart from their entry-level models, Acer hasn’t yet detailed how pricing will break down across various configurations.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/acers-latest-swift-laptops-have-amd-8040-chips-with-ryzen-ai-support-182942352.html?src=rss

Dell gaming laptops are up to $560 off right now

Dell gaming laptops are up to $560 off right now via a large sale on Amazon. The deals apply to both Dell-branded computers and Alienware models. The laptops here range from budget-friendly releases to more luxe high-end models.

First up, there’s the Dell G16 7630, which is on sale for $1,200 instead of $1,600. That’s a savings of $400 or 25 percent. The G16 is a sibling to our favorite budget laptop, the G15. This computer is plenty powerful, with an Intel Core i9 chip, a GeForce RTX 4070 GPU, 16GB of RAM and 1TB of solid-state storage.

There’s also a 16-inch QHD+ (2560 x 1600) display with a 165Hz refresh rate and 3ms response time. The thermal cooling system takes design cues from Alienware computers, with a large vapor chamber. In just about every way, this is a massive improvement over the G15, which we already loved.

The Alienware m18 is also on sale for $2,240 instead of $2,800, which is a significant savings of $540 and the lowest price ever for this model. The biggest news here is that glorious 18-inch screen. It may not fit in your backpack, but it’ll certainly provide for fantastic visuals. To that end, the laptop ships with the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4080 GPU and the 16:10 FHD display supports Dolby Vision and offers an impressive 480Hz response time.

The AMD Ryzen 9 processor can be overclocked, which is another boon for gamers, and you get 32GB of RAM, a 1TB SSD and a comprehensive cooling system that includes one of the company’s larger vapor chambers, four fans and seven heat pipes. This thing is an absolute beast.

This big Dell sale isn’t just for gaming laptops. You’ll find desktops here, along with displays, headphones, charging docks and just about everything else the company makes. It’s like Black Friday except, you know, it’s Monday and not even close to Thanksgiving.

Follow @EngadgetDeals on Twitter and subscribe to the Engadget Deals newsletter for the latest tech deals and buying advice.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/dell-gaming-laptops-are-up-to-560-off-right-now-161535462.html?src=rss

The Mac turns 40: How Apple Silicon cured its midlife crisis

The Mac, formerly the more austere Macintosh, turns 40 today, putting Apple’s longest-running product squarely in middle age. But like someone who sees the back half of their life approaching and gets in marathon-runner shape, the Mac is in the strongest place it’s been for decades. From a revenue perspective, Mac sales declined precipitously in 2023, but that came on the heels of four years of growth that was likely the product of pent-up demand for an improved Mac lineup.

In 2020, Apple finally started delivering on that, thanks in large part to Apple Silicon arriving in the Mac, ushering in the era we’re in now. While the Mac was on shaky ground prior to Apple Silicon, it would now be pretty silly to suggest the Mac won’t make it to its 50th birthday. That wasn’t always a given, though. While the Mac is Apple’s oldest product, it’s also gone through numerous moments where it appeared to be on the brink of irrelevance or complete disaster. Through most of the ‘90s, before CEO Steve Jobs returned to lead the company he had founded, the Macintosh was a mess.

It was too expensive for the power it delivered, Apple’s product lineup was confusing and cluttered and Windows PCs now had both the GUI and performance to make the Mac a poor choice for most people. And even after Jobs returned and introduced the iMac and iBook while revitalizing the Power Mac and Powerbook lines, the G3 and G4 still lagged behind PCs in most tasks. Ironically, the move to Intel in 2006 helped make the Mac more relevant, even as it held Apple back a decade later, as the company chased thin and light laptop designs with “innovations” like the Touch Bar and butterfly keyboard that held it back while letting its power languish.

But in 2014, when the Mac turned 30, it was in a pretty good place. Apple had spent the recent years focusing on the iPhone and then the iPad, with former CEO Steve Jobs famously comparing PCs to trucks — an implication that the iPad would be the more mainstream car for most people. But at least as far as laptops go, the Mac was fairly compelling. The MacBook Air had finally become what Jobs had wanted when he pulled it out of an envelope on stage in 2008. It was a thin, light and reasonably powerful laptop with a reasonable price, and the spill-over effect from people buying iPods and then iPhones had helped the MacBook Air become ubiquitous in coffee shops and college campuses. The MacBook Pro, meanwhile, was well-suited to the creative professional Apple marketed towards, with a great screen, plenty of ports and enough power for it to be a compelling mobile studio.

However, there were plenty of weak spots in the lineup if you looked closely. Perhaps the most obvious was the strange saga of the Mac Pro. For years, Apple’s tower-style computer had gotten more and more expensive, clearly priced out of the range of most consumers. That wasn’t a bad thing on its own, but Apple failed to recognize what its target market was looking for when it released the cylindrical Mac Pro redesign in 2013 — and then failed to meaningfully upgrade it for years. Between the lack of updates and a design that limited expandability, the Mac Pro was a bit of a joke in Apple’s lineup for the better part of a decade.

Apple then made a similarly disastrous change to the MacBook Pro in 2016. Let us count the ways Apple dropped the ball with this generation of laptops. First, the unreliable butterfly keyboard, which existed seemingly only so Apple could make these laptops as thin and light as possible. Then there was the removal of useful ports like HDMI, USB-A and an SD card slot in favor of just four USB-C / Thunderbolt ports, one of which was needed for charging. There’s also the Touch Bar, a thin OLED strip on the keyboard that dynamically changed depending on what app you were using. A neat idea, though one that failed to gain much traction with developers or end users, and the lack of a physical escape key baffled users for years to come.

Finally, while Apple managed to make the 13- and 15-inch MacBook Pro models much thinner and lighter than their predecessors, it came at a performance cost. Plenty of users experienced overheating and CPU throttling, as if the extremely thin enclosure combined with the powerful chips was a bad combo.

Meanwhile, the venerable MacBook Air was left to languish for years with minor updates and a design and low-resolution screen that were quickly becoming uncompetitive. The iMac and Mac mini chugged along as solid options for users looking for a desktop machine, but picking a Mac laptop at the time was an exercise in compromise and paying for something that probably did not check all the boxes.

Things showed signs of turning around in 2019, when Apple introduced a new, tower-style Mac Pro with increased expansion options. But more significantly, Apple reversed course on the terrible butterfly keyboard and brought back scissor-style keys to the MacBook Pro and, a few months later, the MacBook Air (which had since been updated with a Retina display and more current Intel processors). Amazingly enough, Apple made the revamped 16-inch MacBook Pro thicker and heavier than the one it replaced, something that showed the company was moving away from thinner and lighter at all costs, especially in products like this where it just didn’t make sense to chase a smaller form factor at the expense of performance.

However, the Mac really rebounded in late 2020, when Apple released the first Macs running on the company’s own custom silicon. Apple had been designing chips for years, ever since the A4 first arrived in the iPhone 4 and original iPad in 2010, and the combo of efficiency and power the company had hit on had proven to be a big advantage for the company. And the first round of Macs running Apple Silicon included some of Apple’s most popular models, like the MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro.

The improvements were immediately obvious — when we reviewed it, we said the M1-powered MacBook Air “redefines what an ultraportable can be.” The combo of huge performance gains alongside wildly impressive battery life made the MacBook Air a no-brainer. Meanwhile, the Mac mini provided a ton of bang for the buck if you were looking for an inexpensive desktop computer.

The next big move for the Mac came in late 2021, when Apple fully fixed the MacBook Pro issues it introduced with the 2016 model. The totally redesigned 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro models brought back a lot of the ports that Apple initially removed, banished the Touch Bar and utilized new M1 Pro and M1 Max chips that boosted the multicore performance of these laptops far beyond their Intel-based predecessors.

The last major piece of the puzzle came into place in March of 2022, when Apple introduced the Mac Studio. While the Mac Pro lingered on with Intel chips, the new Mac Studio represented a middle ground between the Pro and mini. The $2,000 model included the M1 Max chip, which you can also get in a MacBook Pro if you were willing to pony up the cash, but the $4,000 model basically strapped two of those chips together to make the M1 Ultra. That monster processor had up to 64 GPU cores, while the M2 Ultra that replaced it lets you get up to a 76-core GPU to go along with its 24-core CPU and 32-core Neural Engine for machine learning tasks. Plain and simple, it’s the kind of power Apple hadn’t offered in its computers for a long time.

Since 2022, Apple has mostly been in a refine, upgrade and iterate mode, with many Macs moving on to the M3 architecture. But there are a few places that could still use an overhaul — the Mac Pro moved to Apple Silicon late in the transition to these new chips, only arriving this past June. And while it has an expandable tower-style case, it runs the same M2 Ultra that you can get in the Mac Studio but costs a whopping $3,000 more. There’s a pretty big opportunity for Apple to put in an even higher-end workstation-class — maybe it can just bolt two of the M3 Ultras that are surely coming together to further separate the Mac Pro from the Studio.

On a more consumer-focused level, Apple has recently made another stab at making Mac gaming a thing, with the company bringing popular, mainstream titles like Death Stranding and Resident Evil 4 to the platform. But the company still isn’t in the same realm of gaming on Windows, despite the massive power Apple Silicon offers. If the company can figure out a way to make porting games easier, developers could have a whole new market to sell to — and Apple would have another feather in its cap. If the company has any ambitions of really pushing past PCs the way the iPad came to dominate the tablet market, they’ll need to push even harder to get big games on the Mac.

And, of course, we’re just a week away from Apple releasing its first new platform in almost a decade, the Vision Pro. While it’s launching as a wildly expensive, standalone device, it’s not hard to imagine the market expanding if the form factor catches on. If that happens, we might see a Vision device that runs Mac apps natively, instead of just viewing them. Apple has long held the belief that its platforms should stand on their own, though — witness the futile calls for a touchscreen Mac or a version of MacOS for the iPad Pro. But in this case, maybe we’ll be talking in 10 years about how spatial computing was the next thing to move the Mac forward.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/the-mac-turns-40-how-apple-silicon-cured-its-midlife-crisis-161520642.html?src=rss

The Mac turns 40: How Apple Silicon cured its midlife crisis

The Mac, formerly the more austere Macintosh, turns 40 today, putting Apple’s longest-running product squarely in middle age. But like someone who sees the back half of their life approaching and gets in marathon-runner shape, the Mac is in the strongest place it’s been for decades. From a revenue perspective, Mac sales declined precipitously in 2023, but that came on the heels of four years of growth that was likely the product of pent-up demand for an improved Mac lineup.

In 2020, Apple finally started delivering on that, thanks in large part to Apple Silicon arriving in the Mac, ushering in the era we’re in now. While the Mac was on shaky ground prior to Apple Silicon, it would now be pretty silly to suggest the Mac won’t make it to its 50th birthday. That wasn’t always a given, though. While the Mac is Apple’s oldest product, it’s also gone through numerous moments where it appeared to be on the brink of irrelevance or complete disaster. Through most of the ‘90s, before CEO Steve Jobs returned to lead the company he had founded, the Macintosh was a mess.

It was too expensive for the power it delivered, Apple’s product lineup was confusing and cluttered and Windows PCs now had both the GUI and performance to make the Mac a poor choice for most people. And even after Jobs returned and introduced the iMac and iBook while revitalizing the Power Mac and Powerbook lines, the G3 and G4 still lagged behind PCs in most tasks. Ironically, the move to Intel in 2006 helped make the Mac more relevant, even as it held Apple back a decade later, as the company chased thin and light laptop designs with “innovations” like the Touch Bar and butterfly keyboard that held it back while letting its power languish.

But in 2014, when the Mac turned 30, it was in a pretty good place. Apple had spent the recent years focusing on the iPhone and then the iPad, with former CEO Steve Jobs famously comparing PCs to trucks — an implication that the iPad would be the more mainstream car for most people. But at least as far as laptops go, the Mac was fairly compelling. The MacBook Air had finally become what Jobs had wanted when he pulled it out of an envelope on stage in 2008. It was a thin, light and reasonably powerful laptop with a reasonable price, and the spill-over effect from people buying iPods and then iPhones had helped the MacBook Air become ubiquitous in coffee shops and college campuses. The MacBook Pro, meanwhile, was well-suited to the creative professional Apple marketed towards, with a great screen, plenty of ports and enough power for it to be a compelling mobile studio.

However, there were plenty of weak spots in the lineup if you looked closely. Perhaps the most obvious was the strange saga of the Mac Pro. For years, Apple’s tower-style computer had gotten more and more expensive, clearly priced out of the range of most consumers. That wasn’t a bad thing on its own, but Apple failed to recognize what its target market was looking for when it released the cylindrical Mac Pro redesign in 2013 — and then failed to meaningfully upgrade it for years. Between the lack of updates and a design that limited expandability, the Mac Pro was a bit of a joke in Apple’s lineup for the better part of a decade.

Apple then made a similarly disastrous change to the MacBook Pro in 2016. Let us count the ways Apple dropped the ball with this generation of laptops. First, the unreliable butterfly keyboard, which existed seemingly only so Apple could make these laptops as thin and light as possible. Then there was the removal of useful ports like HDMI, USB-A and an SD card slot in favor of just four USB-C / Thunderbolt ports, one of which was needed for charging. There’s also the Touch Bar, a thin OLED strip on the keyboard that dynamically changed depending on what app you were using. A neat idea, though one that failed to gain much traction with developers or end users, and the lack of a physical escape key baffled users for years to come.

Finally, while Apple managed to make the 13- and 15-inch MacBook Pro models much thinner and lighter than their predecessors, it came at a performance cost. Plenty of users experienced overheating and CPU throttling, as if the extremely thin enclosure combined with the powerful chips was a bad combo.

Meanwhile, the venerable MacBook Air was left to languish for years with minor updates and a design and low-resolution screen that were quickly becoming uncompetitive. The iMac and Mac mini chugged along as solid options for users looking for a desktop machine, but picking a Mac laptop at the time was an exercise in compromise and paying for something that probably did not check all the boxes.

Things showed signs of turning around in 2019, when Apple introduced a new, tower-style Mac Pro with increased expansion options. But more significantly, Apple reversed course on the terrible butterfly keyboard and brought back scissor-style keys to the MacBook Pro and, a few months later, the MacBook Air (which had since been updated with a Retina display and more current Intel processors). Amazingly enough, Apple made the revamped 16-inch MacBook Pro thicker and heavier than the one it replaced, something that showed the company was moving away from thinner and lighter at all costs, especially in products like this where it just didn’t make sense to chase a smaller form factor at the expense of performance.

However, the Mac really rebounded in late 2020, when Apple released the first Macs running on the company’s own custom silicon. Apple had been designing chips for years, ever since the A4 first arrived in the iPhone 4 and original iPad in 2010, and the combo of efficiency and power the company had hit on had proven to be a big advantage for the company. And the first round of Macs running Apple Silicon included some of Apple’s most popular models, like the MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro.

The improvements were immediately obvious — when we reviewed it, we said the M1-powered MacBook Air “redefines what an ultraportable can be.” The combo of huge performance gains alongside wildly impressive battery life made the MacBook Air a no-brainer. Meanwhile, the Mac mini provided a ton of bang for the buck if you were looking for an inexpensive desktop computer.

The next big move for the Mac came in late 2021, when Apple fully fixed the MacBook Pro issues it introduced with the 2016 model. The totally redesigned 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro models brought back a lot of the ports that Apple initially removed, banished the Touch Bar and utilized new M1 Pro and M1 Max chips that boosted the multicore performance of these laptops far beyond their Intel-based predecessors.

The last major piece of the puzzle came into place in March of 2022, when Apple introduced the Mac Studio. While the Mac Pro lingered on with Intel chips, the new Mac Studio represented a middle ground between the Pro and mini. The $2,000 model included the M1 Max chip, which you can also get in a MacBook Pro if you were willing to pony up the cash, but the $4,000 model basically strapped two of those chips together to make the M1 Ultra. That monster processor had up to 64 GPU cores, while the M2 Ultra that replaced it lets you get up to a 76-core GPU to go along with its 24-core CPU and 32-core Neural Engine for machine learning tasks. Plain and simple, it’s the kind of power Apple hadn’t offered in its computers for a long time.

Since 2022, Apple has mostly been in a refine, upgrade and iterate mode, with many Macs moving on to the M3 architecture. But there are a few places that could still use an overhaul — the Mac Pro moved to Apple Silicon late in the transition to these new chips, only arriving this past June. And while it has an expandable tower-style case, it runs the same M2 Ultra that you can get in the Mac Studio but costs a whopping $3,000 more. There’s a pretty big opportunity for Apple to put in an even higher-end workstation-class — maybe it can just bolt two of the M3 Ultras that are surely coming together to further separate the Mac Pro from the Studio.

On a more consumer-focused level, Apple has recently made another stab at making Mac gaming a thing, with the company bringing popular, mainstream titles like Death Stranding and Resident Evil 4 to the platform. But the company still isn’t in the same realm of gaming on Windows, despite the massive power Apple Silicon offers. If the company can figure out a way to make porting games easier, developers could have a whole new market to sell to — and Apple would have another feather in its cap. If the company has any ambitions of really pushing past PCs the way the iPad came to dominate the tablet market, they’ll need to push even harder to get big games on the Mac.

And, of course, we’re just a week away from Apple releasing its first new platform in almost a decade, the Vision Pro. While it’s launching as a wildly expensive, standalone device, it’s not hard to imagine the market expanding if the form factor catches on. If that happens, we might see a Vision device that runs Mac apps natively, instead of just viewing them. Apple has long held the belief that its platforms should stand on their own, though — witness the futile calls for a touchscreen Mac or a version of MacOS for the iPad Pro. But in this case, maybe we’ll be talking in 10 years about how spatial computing was the next thing to move the Mac forward.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/the-mac-turns-40-how-apple-silicon-cured-its-midlife-crisis-161520642.html?src=rss

Samsung says its new 990 Evo SSD delivers improved performance and efficiency

It's been a while since Samsung last upgraded its high-end internal SSDs, and those looking for more performance and power efficiency from their system storage may be interested in the new model. The 990 Evo looks to be a true successor to the Samsung 970 Evo Plus, which is our top recommendation for a Gen3 NVMe SSD.

Samsung says that the 990 Evo is compatible with PCIe 5.0 and PCIe 4.0 interfaces to make sure it works in a wide array of systems. It's said to deliver performance improvements of up to 43 percent over the 970 Evo plus with read speeds of up to 5,000MB/s and write speeds up to 4,200 MB/s.

It's worth noting that the read speeds still fall somewhat short of Sony's recommendation of 5,500MB/s for any SSD used to expand a PlayStation 5's storage. That said, I use a 980 series SSD (with a maximum read speed of 3,500MB/s) in my PS5 and haven't encountered any lag while running games from it.

The 990 Evo is said to offer power efficiency improvements of up to 70 percent over the 970 Evo Plus. That could help extend the battery life of laptops that use the SSD. Additionally, Samsung says the drive has a heat spreader label, which is said to effectively regulate its thermal condition and allow it to run at consistently high performance without risking the SSD's integrity.

There's one other useful feature that comes in the form of support for Microsoft Modern Standby. This allows for "instant on/off function with uninterrupted internet connectivity and seamless notification reception, even in low-power states," according to Samsung.

The 990 Evo starts at $125 for 1TB of storage. For a version with double the capacity, that will run you $210. The SSD comes with a five-year limited warranty.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/samsung-says-its-new-990-evo-ssd-delivers-improved-performance-and-efficiency-160032381.html?src=rss

Framework Laptop 16 review: A modular marvel, but a mediocre gaming laptop

If you’re a PC hardware geek who’s been dreaming of a laptop that you can upgrade far beyond the life cycle of a typical machine, Framework's modular notebooks must seem like a miracle. The American company has a straightforward pitch: What if your laptop could be nearly as customizable as a desktop, with the ability to swap components out for repairs and upgrades? What if we could put an end to disposable hardware? We were intrigued by Framework's original 13-inch notebook and its Chromebook variant, despite some rough edges and a basic design. Now, with the Framework Laptop 16, the company is targeting the most demanding and (arguably) hardest group of PC users to please: Gamers.

Framework has already proved it can build compelling modular laptops, but can the Laptop 16 cram in powerful graphics, a fast display and other components to keep up with the likes of Alienware, Razer and ASUS? Sort of, it turns out — and there are plenty of other tradeoffs for living the modular laptop dream. Hardware quirks abound, battery life is mediocre and it still looks like a totally generic machine. But how many other notebooks could let you completely upgrade your CPU or GPU in a few years? Who else offers a customizable keyboard setup? In those respects, the Framework 16 stands alone.

You'll also have to pay dearly for its unique features. The Framework Laptop 16 starts at $1,399 for its DIY Edition, which includes a Ryzen 7 7840HS chip, but RAM, storage and an OS will cost extra. (You could also bring your own hardware, if you happen to have all those components lying around). The pre-built "Performance" model goes for $1,699 with the same Ryzen chip, 16GB of RAM, 512GB of storage and Windows 11 Home. The highest-end "Overkill" edition starts at $2,099 with a Ryzen 9 7940HS, 32GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD. Oh, and if you want the dedicated Radeon RX 7700S GPU, that's an additional $400 for every model.

I just wanted you to have those numbers in mind as we dive into what the Laptop 16 gets right, because for true PC tinkerers, those high prices could be worth it. The device's singular personality was clear the instant I opened it: I saw a machine with a fairly typical display, the usual wrist rest area with a touchpad, and a big gaping hole where the keyboard was supposed to be. I've come across hundreds (probably thousands) of laptops in my time, this was one of the rare times where I felt genuinely surprised. Underneath the metal Mid Plate where the keyboard was supposed to be, I could see the internals of the Framework 16 peeking through, just tempting me to get my hands dirty (and my knuckles inevitably scraped up).

Framework Laptop 16
Photo by Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

After opening the two side locks on the wrist rest, I slid the two side spacers off. Then, ever so carefully, I pulled back on the touchpad to detach it from the case. That's when I learned that I didn't have to be too gentle with the Laptop 16. All of the components are built for removal. With the lower panels gone, I had full access to the metal barrier protecting the rest of the machine’s internals.

At that point, I realized it paid to read Framework's online documentation, as things quickly got more complicated. It stated that I needed to remove the cable with the number one next to it, and then unscrew 16 screws spread through the Mid Plate. Thankfully, the screws are held in place, so I didn’t have to worry about losing them as I would during a desktop build.

Then, I was treated to a wondrous sight: A laptop with a completely open mainboard, featuring components I could easily reach without much effort. There's a large battery at the bottom, a wireless networking card at the top left, SSD slots in the middle and two RAM slots off to the side. QR codes are nestled alongside the parts, which direct you to online help documentation. The last time I saw so many easily reachable components was on the failed Alienware Area 51M, another dreamy modular laptop, but that was quietly killed after a few years. (Dell was sued by Area 51M customers who felt misled about its upgradability, though that ultimately didn't amount to much.)

Framework Laptop 16

And yes, I know other large gaming laptops like the Razer Blade 16 also let you easily access their RAM and SSDs. But those machines don't have the modular ambitions of the Framework Laptop 16. I could see the Ryzen 7840HS module within reach, and also easily swap out my review unit's Radeon RX 7700S graphics. That GPU, by the way, is completely optional. You can order the Laptop 16 with a slimmer expansion bay instead, which helps to cool the Ryzen chip's Radeon 780M graphics. Or you could have both modules and swap them out as needed. Simply having the option to do so is revolutionary.

The Radeon 7700S GPU is contained within a module that sticks out from the rear of the Laptop 16. A more powerful video card could potentially stick out further, while a more efficient one could end up being smaller. The key is that the choice could be entirely yours (I'm hedging a bit here, because Framework and AMD still haven't committed to the availability of future GPU upgrades). The GPU module also makes a big difference when it comes to weight: The Laptop 16 clocks in at 5.3 pounds with the graphics card attached, whereas it’s just 4.6 pounds with the standard expansion bay.

Framework Laptop 16
Photo by Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

Looking at the Framework Laptop 16 splayed out on my workbench, all I could see was possibility. The possibility of doubling my RAM in a couple of years to run local AI models, upgrading the CPU for a major power upgrade, and replacing the battery on my own after far too many charge cycles. Framework is selling a dream of hope. I had my doubts when the company launched, especially after seeing how badly Dell botched the Area 51M. (Fun fact: Frank Azor, the Alienware co-founder who spearheaded that machine's launch, is now AMD's chief gaming architect. He left Dell before the company failed to live up to its upgradability promises.)

But now that Framework has several products under its belt, and it's managed to deliver a truly replaceable mobile GPU where others have failed, I find myself rooting for this little hardware company that's daring to do something different. (Okay, sure, it also raised $27 million in VC funding, but hardware is a difficult and expensive thing to get right!)

Even if you're not eager to get new components in a few years, the Framework Laptop 16's modularity also allows you to easily customize it for your needs. As I reassembled the machine, a process that took around three minutes, I wanted to make my setup look different from a typical laptop. So I slapped the RGB keyboard module on the left side of the Mid Plate (it landed with a genuinely satisfying magnetic thunk) and aligned the trackpad right below it. To the right of the keyboard, I installed a customizable button module (you can also order a standard Numpad, if you'd like), and metal spacers on the right of the trackpad.

Framework Laptop 16
Photo by Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

With the top of the machine configured, I also had to figure out which ports I wanted to equip along the sides of the Laptop 16. Framework handles that process brilliantly: The computer has three expansion bays along each side, all of which lead to USB-C connections at the end. The expansion cards are just USB-C dongles connecting to your typical ports, including USB Type A ($9), Type C ($9), a headphone jack ($19) and HDMI ($19). Our review unit came with a handful of cards, so I slapped on two USB-C ports on the left (which also handle charging), USB A on both sides, as well as HDMI and 3.5mm on the right (because the legend will never die).

If I was configuring my own machine, I'd also opt for Ethernet ($39) and MicroSD ($19). The cards sit flush with the Laptop 16 once they're installed, and are very secure once you enable the locks on the bottom of the case. They're so easy to swap out, I wouldn't be surprised if Framework owners end up switching between them on the fly. You can never have too many ports, after all.

Framework Laptop 16
Photo by Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

While I appreciated the simple customizability of the ports, charging was a bit annoying. Framework's documentation points out that only certain expansion slots can be used for USB-C charging. There's also a USB-C port on the back of the GPU module, which I was disappointed to learn couldn't actually charge the Laptop 16. The company told me that USB-C port is only meant for accessories and additional displays. Still, it would have been nice to have rear charging support just to hide the cable from view.

Once I had everything locked into place, this ugly duckling of a laptop started to look like a gaming swan. The RGB keyboard jolted to life when I hit power. I had no idea what I was going to do with the programmable keyboard, but I could see it potentially being useful while podcasting (and certainly if I was a game streamer). But I also realized that nothing is permanent about the Laptop 16.

Framework Laptop 16

I learned quickly that I wasn't a fan of typing for too long on a left-aligned keyboard, so I yanked everything out and center-aligned the keyboard and trackpad instead. Instead of blank metal spacers around the keyboard, I installed some customizable LED modules, which basically exist to look pretty. That took me just two minutes. The keyboard, by the way, is wonderful to type on, with 1.5mm of key travel and a soft landing that easily dampens my heavy typing. The trackpad is also smooth to the touch and has a responsive click. It's so great that I have to wonder how some Windows laptops still ship with frustrating touchpads — I'm looking at you, ZenBook 14 OLED.

There's so much to love about the Framework Laptop 16, I was genuinely bummed to discover that it was a fairly mediocre gaming machine, at least for its high price. Across multiple games and benchmarks, it fell in line with laptops sporting NVIDIA's RTX 4060 GPU, a card typically found in systems starting around $1,000 (and sometimes less). Framework isn't completely out of line, though, Razer still sells the Blade 16 for $2,500 (down from $2,699). Remember, you're paying for the magic of customizability, not just raw performance.

NonePCMark 103DMark (TimeSpy Extreme)Geekbench 6Cinebench R23
Framework Laptop 16 (AMD Ryzen 7 7840HS, Radeon RX 7700S)8,1294,7702,557/11,9611,675/14,448
Razer Blade 18 (Intel i9-13950HX, NVIDIA RTX 4060)7,3265,0092,708/12,8741,900/15,442
ASUS Zephyrus G14 (2022, AMD Ryzen 9 6900HS, Radeon RX 6800S)7,1703,821N/A1,521/12,212

Our review unit included the Radeon GPU module, the Ryzen 7 chip, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD, which would all cost at least $2,144 to configure. (That doesn't include the cost of expansion cards or additional input modules.) For that amount of money, I really would have liked to see more than 61fps on average while playing Halo Infinite in 1440p with Ultra graphics settings. In Cyberpunk, I hit 53fps on average with maxed out graphics and mid-range ray tracing settings. Both games fared better in 1080p — 85fps in Halo and 76fps in Cyberpunk with the same settings — but still, those are numbers I'd typically only put up with in a budget gaming laptop.

As for benchmarks, the Framework Laptop 16 scored 200 points less than the Razer Blade 18 with an RTX 4060 in 3DMark's TimeSpy Extreme. And as usual, the AMD GPU still lagged behind in the Port Royal ray tracing demo. Still, the Laptop 16 held up decently in the broader PCMark 10 benchmark, which tests productivity apps and not just gaming. The Framework machine hit a score of 8,129, putting it alongside some of the fastest machines we saw last year (it even beat out the Blade 18, which was running a beefy Intel i9-13950HX CPU).

While I would have liked to see higher numbers across the board, the Framework Laptop 16's 16-inch screen was at least a joy to behold throughout my testing. It's an LED panel running at 2,560 by 1,600 pixels with a 165Hz refresh rate, a respectable 500 nits of brightness and 100-percent DCI-P3 color gamut coverage. The display made the neon-soaked world of Cyberpunk pop more than usual, though it certainly didn't have the extra brightness of MiniLED screens or the eye-searing contrast of OLED panels. At the risk of repeating myself, the beauty of this screen is that you can yank it off the laptop in a few minutes and replace it if your kid damages it, or if Framework releases new modules. (Again, big if there.)

Framework Laptop 16
The Framework's left speaker.
Photo by Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

Personally, I’d also eagerly swap out the Laptop 16’s 3-watt speakers the instant Framework offers upgrades. They’re serviceable, but given what Apple and Dell offer these days, they feel almost insulting. Music sounds far too tinny, and they can barely even convey the faux drama of a typical movie trailer. I’m sure most people would use headphones while gaming, but if you’re the sort of person who relies on your laptop speakers for music, I beg you to consider other options.

I’d also recommend some sort of noise blocking solution that can overpower the Laptop 16’s fans. While I was gaming and benchmarking the system, I could swear it was about to lift off like my DJI drone. The fans are louder than any gaming laptop I’ve encountered over the past few years, but at least they did their job. CPU temps stayed around 80 degrees Celsius under load, while the GPU typically stayed under 70C.

Since it’s a huge gaming laptop, I didn’t expect much battery life from the Framework Laptop 16, and I was right: It lasted for four hours and five minutes in the PCMark 10 “Modern Office” battery benchmark. I saw similar results while writing this review, and as you’d expect, it lasted around two hours playing a demanding game like Halo Infinite.

Framework Laptop 16
Photo by Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

Much like the original Framework notebook, the Laptop 16 is meant for a niche group of PC users, those who prioritize customizability and upgradability at all costs. If you’re a gamer trying to get the most frames for your dollar, this isn’t really the machine for you (consider these budget gaming PCs, or wait to see how we feel about the Zephyrus G14 in our review). But if you want a notebook that could last you for the next decade, and don’t mind so-so gaming performance, the Laptop 16 could be the notebook of your dreams.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/framework-laptop-16-review-modular-wonder-mediocre-gaming-laptop-150026910.html?src=rss

The best laptops of CES 2024

CES 2024 in Las Vegas had all kinds of tech, from attention-grabbing AI gadgets to, uh, whatever this is. There were also a whole bunch of laptops. Like, an endless array of laptops. So many laptops, in fact, that we had a real tough time deciding between them to choose our best of CES award winners.

These weren’t just any laptops with minor spec bumps. The theme of the year was, of course, AI, with many computers adopting dedicated AI chips. OLED displays with speedy refresh rates were also all over the show floor and, of course, there were several unique designs that just about defy description. We’ve gone through them all and come up with a list of the best laptops at CES.

ASUS Zenbook Duo

A two-screen laptop on a desk.
Sam Rutherford/Engadget

The dream of a dual-screen laptop isn’t dead! The ASUS Zenbook Duo is a technical marvel, with a dual-screen display and a detachable Bluetooth keyboard. In other words, you can use it in a traditional clamshell mode, with a keyboard in front of one of the displays, or you can balance the screens on top of one another. This is great for those who want the convenience of a laptop, but with added screen real estate.

The aesthetics are on point and the Duo includes high-end hardware like Intel's Core Ultra chips and gorgeous OLED screens. The price is also fairly reasonable, given the tech, as this laptop starts at $1,500.

ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14 and G16

Back of a laptop.
Sam Rutherford/Engadget

ASUS strikes again. The ROG Zephyrus G14 and G16 line has gotten a full redesign, with an attractive aluminum chassis and plenty of power underneath the hood. These laptops can run just about any AAA game on the market, thanks to its AMD Ryzen 8000 series processors and the optional NVIDIA RTX 4070 GPU at the high end.

We called it a “grown up” and “sophisticated” gaming laptop because, well, that’s what it is. It’s incredibly sleek and would feel at home in an office and in a basement-turned-gaming-paradise. It’s also lighter than previous generations, making it more portable. Each model ships with a simple LED slash across the front that can be programmed to glow in gray or white, instead of the typical Skittles rainbow of colors found with most gaming laptops. There’s no pricing on these yet.

HP Omen Transcend 14

A very light laptop on a desk.
Sam Rutherford/Engadget

There’s a new record-breaker in town. The HP Open Transcend 14 is the lightest 14-inch gaming laptop in the world, weighing just 3.5 pounds. Even cooler? HP seems to have hit this milestone without cutting too many corners. Despite being closer in size and weight to an ultraportable than an average gaming laptop, you still get support for the 14th-gen Intel Core Ultra 7 or Ultra 9 processor, up to 32GB of DDR5 RAM, 2TB of storage and an RTX 4070 GPU. This thing won’t struggle to play modern games.

Despite the teeny-tiny dimensions, you still get two USB-A and two USB-C ports (one of which supports Thunderbolt 4) plus a full-size HDMI 2.1 jack on the back. You’ll also have the option to upgrade to Wi-Fi 7 card with Bluetooth 5.4. This laptop starts at $1,600 and goes on sale later this year.

Dell’s new XPS line

A trio of laptops.
Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

Dell has upgraded its entire XPS line, with form factors that resemble last year’s XPS 13 Plus. The redesign covers the new XPS 13, 14 and 16, and there’s no longer a Plus line. Each of these laptops boasts a glass wrist wrest that hides an invisible haptic touchpad. There’s also touch-sensitive function buttons above the keyboard and large key caps for comfortable typing.

The XPS line includes Intel’s Core Ultra chips, which feature NPUs for AI tasks. The ports are on point, with the XPS 14 and 16 boasting a headphone jack, three Thunderbolt 4 USB-C slots and a microSD card reader. The minimalist design here is gorgeous and these laptops nearly made our best of CES list, but not quite. Once these are out in the wild, however, they could wind up on our list of the best laptops in 2024, just like the XPS 13 Plus.

Lenovo ThinkBook Plus Gen 5

A bizarre detachable laptop thingie.
Sam Rutherford/Engadget

We promised unique and funky designs, and here’s one. The Lenovo ThinkBook Plus Gen 5 is a Frankenstein’s monster of sorts, with a design that’s basically two gadgets smashed together. This is anything but your typical 2-in-1 device. At first glance, the ThinkBook Plus looks like an ordinary clamshell, but the display lifts right off and becomes a 14-inch tablet.

Not that big of a deal right? Here’s where things get interesting. Once removed, both components remain fully functional. So you can use the tablet as a standalone Android device, a wireless monitor for the laptop base or a Wacom-like inking display via Lenovo’s Freestyle app. Meanwhile, you can also use the deck as a mini desktop by plugging in an external screen. Now that’s some modular thinking. This thing starts at $2,000, however, which is fairly steep.

Everything else

There were many laptops that just missed this list, but still deserve mention.

  • MSI 18-inch laptops - The company went big this year, introducing a trio laptops with 18-inch displays. Now you won’t have to sacrifice screen real estate for portability.

  • Acer Predator Helios 18 - This is another large laptop with an 18-inch screen. However, the Predator Helios 18 also features a uniquely-designed hinge absolutely stuffed with RGB lights.

  • Acer Swift and Aspire - These are basic refreshes that don’t offer much by way of innovation, but will certainly sell like absolute hotcakes. They are stuffed with AI, however, with Intel's new Core Ultra processors and dedicated keys that can summon Microsoft's Copilot AI assistant.

  • Razer Blade line - Razer offered a refresh of its entire Blade gaming laptop line. The biggest news here? The Razer Blade 16 features a glorious 240Hz OLED display.

  • Alienware m16 R2 - What would CES be without some Alienware goodness? The m16 R2 is a sleek gaming laptop with a large 90 Whr battery, slim bezels and a beefy touchpad – all in a package with a 15 percent smaller footprint than previous iterations.

  • Lenovo Legion updates - Lenovo announced a slew of new Legion gaming laptops at CES, each featuring proprietary cooling technology and performance-enhancing AI chips. These all ship with Windows 11 and come with three free months of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate.

  • Sightful Spacetop - Well, here’s another funky one. The Spacetop doesn’t have an actual screen. It ships with AR glasses that allow for a 100-inch virtual display. The design is nifty, but the execution is iffy.

We're reporting live from CES 2024 in Las Vegas from January 6-12. Keep up with all the latest news from the show here.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/the-best-laptops-of-ces-2024-174531438.html?src=rss

ASUS ZenBook 14 OLED review (2023): A compelling AI PC stuck in a familiar design

The latest ZenBook 14 OLED from ASUS has most of the hardware we'd want in a modern ultraportable: Intel's new Core Ultra chips, a gorgeous OLED screen and a decent number of ports. But after testing ASUS's laptops for years, and seeing how much progress it's made with the Zephyrus G gaming line, it's surprising that the company's premium Zenbook hasn't evolved much lately.

While it's a solid step into the "AI PC" era, thanks to its NPU for accelerating AI tasks, the new ZenBook 14 is also a reminder that ASUS is lagging behind Apple and Microsoft when it comes to premium design. It doesn't feel nearly as sturdy or sleek as the redesigned MacBook Air, and it lacks the refinement of the Surface Laptop. The ZenBook 14 OLED looks fine — it’s as if you asked an AI to generate an image of a generic ultraportable.

On the plus side, ASUS is delivering far more bang for the computing buck than Apple and most other competitors. You can snag the ZenBook 14 OLED with a Core Ultra 7 155H chip, 32GB of RAM and 1TB SSD for $1,300 at Best Buy. An M2 MacBook Air for the same price comes with 16GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD (and it can only be upgraded to a maximum of 24GB of RAM). ASUS also includes a decent selection of ports, including a USB-A connection, two USB-C Thunderbolt ports, an HDMI socket and a microSD card slot. You'd have to step up to the pricier 14-inch MacBook Pro to get some of those ports on a Mac.

While ASUS is touting the Core Ultra's AI capabilities as the big upgrade this year, I'm still far more compelled by the Zenbook 14's glorious 14-inch 3K OLED screen. It's wonderfully bright and colorful when it needs to be, and it can hit those inky dark blacks that we love from OLED displays. This year the Zenbook's OLED screen can also reach a 120Hz refresh rate for smoother scrolling, which is practically a requirement for premium laptops these days.

Images and video practically leap off of the ZenBook 14's OLED screen, which makes it ideal for binging Netflix or catching up on your YouTube queue. And thanks to the laptop's incredibly thin bezels, it's almost as if the display is floating in the air — so much so, I stopped noticing how dull the rest of the ZenBook's design feels. I also wish there was a bit more spring and depth to its keyboard, and that its trackpad didn’t feel so stiff.

ASUS ZenBook 14 OLED playing the trailer for Furiosa.

But back to Intel's Core Ultra chip. Our review unit, which was equipped with a Core Ultra 7 155H, 32GB of RAM and Intel Arc graphics, delivered some healthy gains over ultraportables running Intel's 13th-gen chips. It scored 1,000 points higher in PCMark 10 compared to the ZenBook S 13 running a Core i7-1355U, and its Arc graphics were almost twice as fast as the S 13's Intel Xe graphics in the 3DMark Wildlife Extreme benchmark.

None

Geekbench 6 CPU

PCMark 10

Cinebench R23

3DMark Wildlife Extreme

ASUS ZenBook 14 OLED (Intel Core Ultra 7, 2023)

2,240/10,298

6,170

1,599/7,569

4,827

ASUS ZenBook S 13 (Intel i7-13700H, 2023)

2,479/13,367

5,165

N/A

2,784

Apple MacBook Pro 14-inch (Apple M3, 2023)

3142/11,902

N/A

1,932/10,159

8,139

While it's far from a gaming machine, the ZenBook 14 OLED's Arc graphics also reached between 30fps to 49fps while playing Halo Infinite in 1080p with low graphics. Streaming games over Xbox cloud gaming delivered far better results: Halo Infinite and Forza Motorsport played like a dream over Wi-Fi in my office. Of course, that's more a testament to the ZenBook's wireless hardware than its graphics.

ASUS ZenBook 14 OLED playing Halo Infinite.
Photo by Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

Intel's Core Ultra chips are also focused on a lot more than just raw horsepower (Intel's internal benchmarks even show it getting bested by a 13th-gen chip in some single-threaded tasks, a trade-off it made to deliver better AI and graphics performance). The addition of an NPU means the ZenBook 14 OLED can handle AI workloads in the future; developers like Adobe and Audacity have announced they're working on AI-powered features in their apps. If you're not using those apps, there's not much to do with an NPU in Windows yet except for Microsoft's Studio Effects, which lets you blur backgrounds and automatically keep yourself in frame during video chats. And notably, Studio Effects delivers far better background diffusion and person detection than the built-in alternatives in Zoom and Google Hangouts.

Buying an AI PC like the ZenBook 14 OLED is more a bet on the future rather than an immediate speed upgrade. But based on the industry support we've seen from Microsoft and other big tech firms, having an NPU-equipped PC could pay off soon. Just imagine Microsoft giving Copilot offline capabilities to make it more responsive, similar to Apple's push to make Siri available offline (something also powered by the company's Neural Engine). Eventually, you may be able to speak aloud to Copilot and have it instantly find files or locate a specific setting on your PC.

I won't blame you if you're not excited by the future of AI PCs. When Macs switched over to Apple Silicon chips, there were dramatic performance improvements over Intel's older hardware, along with the additional benefits of the Neural Engine and far better battery life. Windows users, instead, can only hope and pray that developers actually tap into NPUs.

ASUS ZenBook 14 OLED from the back.
Photo by Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

For now, though, you can look forward to some decent battery life from Intel's Core Ultra chips. The ZenBook 14 OLED lasted 12 hours and 43 minutes in the PCMark 10 Modern Office battery benchmark, which was longer than any other PC we've tested. During a recent trip, it held up for around a day and a half for general productivity work (lots of web browsing, writing, photo editing and a few video chats). ASUS is still lagging behind Apple, though — the M2 MacBook Air lasted 16 hours and 30 minutes in our benchmark. Fan noise also remains a problem: Its fans spun up noticeably during a podcast recording, whereas the fan-less MacBook Air is completely silent even under heavy workloads.

After spending a few weeks with the ZenBook 14 OLED, I’ve grown to love its OLED display and I’m intrigued by the possibilities of the Core Ultra chip’s NPU. It’s just a shame to see those features stuck in a relatively humdrum package. If you care more about getting a good deal than style, though, this ZenBook is tough to beat.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/asus-zenbook-14-oled-review-ai-pc-143054247.html?src=rss