It has all the bells and whistles you would expect from a Roomba-esque robotic cleaner, so I wanted to see if it could cope with the requirements of a small- or medium-sized office environment as well as in the home.
Like the Roomba cleaner, the iLife V8s will vacuum floors with its side sweeper brushes, although the V8s has two compared to the single Roomba brush. It also does not have roller sweepers like the Roomba.
It will vacuum around the edges of a room sized up to 7m x 7m, and it vacuums in a sweeping pattern to cover the complete room area.
It will also clean a designated area in a spiral pattern radiating out from the center The V8s also has a mopping tank and pad to mop hard floors.
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Its diameter is 320mm, and, at a height of 81mm, it will get under most desks. It weighs 2.7kg and has an interface that is intuitive to use. You can set the time and date on the display, set the timer to program your cleaning time, and select which cleaning path you want.
In the box, there is a docking station, and power adaptor, a remote control, extra side brushes, and a dust filter. There is a water tank and mop, and a cleaning tool to brush dust from the filter. The manual is well written and in good quality English.
It has a automated setting to customise cleaning at different times on each day of the week, and a remote control for manual intervention. The remote control allows you to drive the V8s to a designated spot in the room for cleaning.
I found this very time consuming. It was far easier to stop the robot and move it to the correct place, and start it again. I found the remote control useful for increasing the suction power where necessary or changing modes. I tended to use the max suction power all the time.
Emptying the dust compartment is simple. When docked, click the switch on the free side of the V8s, and the compartment slides out. A magnetic switch enables easy removal of the dirt.
The robot worked well during the office tests. In a fairly empty office with hard floors, it completed its cycle in about 25 minutes, navigating its way around office chairs and desk legs.
It turns if it senses an object or ledge and goes over room sills easily. Apart from a small triangle of uncleaned area in the corners, the robot managed to clean all of the office space easily — providing all waste bins and trailing cables were out of the way.
It was not even challenged by the server room, reaching underneath the cabinets easily. It did struggle with trailing power leads and under-desk network cables, twice losing one of its brushes when it tangled with an Ethernet cable.
The V8s transitioned easily from hard floor to carpet areas — and it picked up cross-hatched shredded paper and dust easily when operating on maximum power.
It worked well on the short pile entrance mat in reception and on looped pile office carpet. I tested it on my home carpet, too, and I found it did not pick up pet hairs as well as I had hoped it would — but, in the pet hair-free office, it performed extremely well.
I found the mop disappointing. In areas of high grime, such as the entrance to reception, the mop did not effectively clean the grubby floor.
However, it was excellent in mopping and clearing wet floors in wet weather. It does not scrub floors and does not recommend using the mopping feature on carpet.
The V8s cleaned for almost two hours before taking itself back to its charging station, which will charge its 2,600mAh battery for around two hours before it can be used again. This makes this device comparable to the top Roomba models — at a far cheaper cost.
And for around $220 on Amazon (a time-limited 13-percent discount if you use the code GJHNN6BG) this is a great robotic vacuum cleaner for the small to medium office with hard flooring or carpet — with the added bonus of a mopping system for hard floors.
While modern flagship smartphones are priced at $800 to $1,000, there are many decent options that cost less than $300. Alcatel has one for only $150 that offers modern design features with a few tradeoffs in performance.
The Alcatel 3V from TCL Communication was released a couple of weeks ago and I’ve had one of my T-Mobile SIM cards in it as a secondary device for more than a week. It’s a solid choice, for the price, but I tend to use the high end models so was a bit frustrated by the experience.
Processor: MediaTek 8735A quad-core
Display: 6 inch 2160×1080 pixels resolution 18:9 aspect ratio LCD
Operating system: Android 8.0 Oreo
Storage: 16GB internal with microSD card slot
Cameras: Rear 12 megapixel and 2 megapxiel cameras. Front 5 megapixel camera with flash
Connectivity: 802.11 a/b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.2, FM radio, GPS
Battery: 3000 mAh
Dimensions: 142 x 70.1 x 8.4 mm and 155 grams
There is no NFC radio so wireless payments through Google Pay will not work with this device. It also uses the older microUSB standard port for charging, but it does have a 3.5mm headset jack.
The Alcatel 3V supports the following bands. GSM: 2/3/5/8, UMTS: 1/2/4/5, and 4G LTE 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/13/17/28.
Years ago, $150 phones were complete crap. Thankfully, that is no longer the case and you can actually use a cheap phone for accomplishing most of your daily tasks.
Opening up the Alcatel 3V box revealed it was clear we have come a long ways when it comes to low cost Android smartphones, but turning it on and using it revealed there is still a bit further to go.
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The phone is big (about the same dimensions as the Note 8), but that is to be expected for a phone with a 6-inch display. It has nice curved matte finish edges that transition from the front glass and into a curved back. It is also not too heavy, but also not so light that it feels cheap in the hand.
One of the first things I noticed when Alcatel announced its new devices at MWC was the move for each of the 5, 3, and 1 series to have 18:9 displays. TCL Communication makes the LCD panel and it looks great with a solid 1080p resolution. There is no notch, but the bezels are not too large at all and actually remind me a lot of what I see on the HTC U12 Plus.
Sensors, the front-facing camera, and headset speaker are found above the display. A standard 3.5mm headset jack is positioned on the left side of the top. A mono speaker and microUSB port are found on the bottom. A long volume button is on the left side while the power button and SIM/microSD card are located on the right.
The dual cameras are stacked vertically about a quarter of the way down from the center of the top on the back. A flash is just to the right of the cameras. The rear fingerprint scanner is centered below the cameras and above the Alcatel label.
The fingerprint scanner works quickly to unlock the phone, but is not as lightning fast as we see on Huawei and other phones.
The camera takes decent photos and the two megapixel secondary one is there just to help with gathering depth data. Portrait mode shots cannot match the quality of the latest Androids and iPhone X so it won’t be mistaken for a DSLR, but for social shots it is fine.
The Alcatel 3V currently runs Android 8.0 Oreo and this eval unit has the 5 April 2018 Android security update installed. It is a very stock Android experience, without the Google news feed home screen panel.
Other than the stock Google apps you would expect to see, Alcatel has installed an image gallery, Mobisystems OfficeSuite, a sound recorder, and the SwiftKey keyboard. I personally prefer that Android manufacturers add an image gallery app as I find they provide advanced functionality, compared to stock Google Photos.
The image gallery app on the Alcatel 3V lets you view your images in day view, month view, collage, and slideshow. I personally enjoy creating collages to share with people since I tend to like my images to tell a story and always seem to have more going on than what can be captured in a single shot. You can select up to nine images for a collage and then choose from different template layouts and borders to create your collage. Images can be dragged and dropped as you desire too.
Alcatel also has its own camera app for shooting images with the cameras. Modes available include auto, pano, time-lapse, social, light trace, portrait, and night. Social mode lets you shoot and create collages on the go.
Pricing and competition
There is not much competition in the $150 market. My sub-$300 collection post shows the latest phones around this price range, but it is tough to beat the Alcatel 3V.
It is available in black from Amazon with a current arrival date out two to three weeks.
Daily usage experiences and conclusions
At first glance people will think you have a mid-level $400 to $500 phone in hand with that large 6-inch 18:9 display, dual rear cameras, and well-built construction. The only obvious signs that you have a less expensive device is the use of microUSB and glossy black plastic on the back panel.
While the hardware is solid, the device does struggle a bit in the performance arena due to the processor and minimal amount of RAM. Tapping on an app icon to launch an app usually results in a timely pause as the app launches. Scrolling is not instantaneous and moving up and down long pages of text may annoy you after a bit. I haven’t seen apps pause or quit so the performance is not errant, but likely just due to the minimal hardware specs.
The phone takes decent photos and the second rear camera lets you capture portrait photos. There are some artifacts in these photos and it isn’t going to challenge the $1,000 iPhone X, but don’t forget this is a phone that costs less than the insurance on the iPhone X.
I was able to easily go a full, long day of use with the Alcatel 3V. This day included browsing the internet, working with email, viewing social networks, and taking some photos. I tried watching a Google Play movie and it was a good experience with sound out of the mono speaker being fairly standard.
The Alcatel 3V is not going to challenge the $500+ mid-range or flagship market, but Alcatel did a good job in providing a low-cost alternative that looks like a phone much more expensive when laid side-by-side. It is a solid spare phone or a first phone for your children.
Lots of trends and technology come out of California; Apple, for example, makes a point of proudly proclaiming that its products are “Designed in California.”
Electronic license plates—a recent innovation developed and introduced in the Golden State—may also soon migrate across the country. A California pilot program uses e-plates developed by Bay Area-based Reviver Auto, and the state says it can save $20 million a year in postage alone by replacing metal plates.
Reviver Auto founder and CEO Neville Boston told The Drive that the company’s plates are now legal in Texas, Florida, and Arizona, and he expects that within a year Pennsylvania, Nevada, Maryland, and Washington will also allow them. Reviver also plans to make e-plates available for sale via car dealerships in California.
E-plates use the same technology employed in eReaders—the display can be changed and drivers can even flash personal messages. A video from the company shows that in addition to digital registration renewal, its RPlate Pro can be changed to “cause” plates and flash emergency messages such as accidents ahead; future features include showing Amber Alerts and parking permits
Since the plates are connected to the cloud, they also allow a car to be tracked. Last week, Sacramento began testing the plates on 24 vehicles in its municipal fleet. According to the Sacramento Bee, city officials want to see if the plates let them more efficiently track vehicles, and it plans to experiment using the plates as digital message boards to warn residents of street closures and to display ads for city services.
But the $699 price of the Reviver RPlate Pro, plus a monthly fee of about $7, is just one reason to stick with good ol’ metal plates.
My Metal Plate Will Do
I just renewed my tags on my 1996 Impala SS, and it costs me $86 for two years. And when I went to apply the stickers, I noticed how bent my front plate was from some idiot backing into me. So I’m not keen on dropping $700 on an easily breakable and far more expensive e-plate, although Reviver says on its website that its e-plates are “industrial-strength and able to withstand extreme changes in weather conditions.”
I’m not the paranoid type, and not too concerned with being tracked, but e-plates do bring up privacy issues at a time when data security and cyberattacks are on consumers’ minds. (The city of Sacramento said it plans to talk with labor representatives to assure them that the technology will not be used to track city employees.) And if I want to track my car while someone else is driving it there’s already technology for that purpose, ranging from automaker solutions such telematics systems and aftermarket OBD-II dongles.
Reviver also points out that if a car is jacked, the plate can be programmed to read STOLEN, and it uses “anti-theft fasteners” and a protective glass cover. But if a car thief doesn’t simply ditch the stolen car’s e-plate, I’m guessing a good whack will be enough to break it.
While the Rplate is powered by a replaceable battery, metal plates are low-maintenance. Finally, the plate display is monochromatic, while at least metal plates come in cool colors. (Shout out to South Carolina!)
Even though I’d probably never buy an e-plate, I do like the personalized message part. And I could think of a great use for the feature: to tell left-lane hogs to move over once I pass them.
One of the things I learned early in my career is that if you want to get a glimpse of the future, you need to go to technology trade shows focused on components and deeply entrenched in the world of engineering. Here, you see the technology that will likely show up in consumer gadgets two to three years down the line.
One such show is the Society for Information Displays (SID) conference, which took place last month in Los Angeles. Dedicated to the world of display technology, SID showcases all types of screens, including next-generation OLEDs for TVs and laptops, as well as the star of this year’s show: flexible and even rollable displays.
Visionox kicked off the event with a keynote that highlighted its foldable display in a video, but I did not see an actual model in its booth. On the other hand, BOE, one of the largest makers of displays in China, showed off two types of mobile devices with working flexible display. A smartphone with a display surface of close to 9 inches folded completely in the center, and even in that folded position, the image and videos worked flawlessly.
The second phone it showed had an actual bendable screen. The 5.5-inch screen folded in half to make a smaller device that’s easier to carry.
I saw a few other flexible screens I can’t yet discuss, but it is clear this is the next big thing in smartphones.
If you look closely at the BOE flexible display in the photo up top, you can see why foldable displays matter. Our smartphones today pretty much top out at 6-inch screens, but BOE’s flexible display adds about 3 more inches in viewing space, making it more like a tablet that fits in your pocket. The flexible or foldable display in the other photo provides even more portability.
While these screens are early demos, I’m told they are not far off. In fact, we could see one in a smartphone from a major manufacturer in early 2020. My best guess is that given the challenges in actually making these flexible screens in high volumes, they might not have a dramatic impact on smartphone designs until 2021-2022.
In the short term, the smartphone industry is well on its way to giving us an interim approach. By early 2019, look for more smartphones with dual screens that, when opened, double the size of the viewing space. In this case you will be viewing two screens and thus have two displays for content. A seam in the middle separates them, in contrast to the smartphones with flexible displays in which the content is delivered on a single display.
Another new concept in displays at SID was shown by E Ink, which is best known for supplying the electronic digital paper used on Amazon Kindles. In the picture on the right, you can see a prototype of a rollable display using its digital paper display.
It’s only in black and white but is an interesting twist on electronic digital paper. I also saw color E Ink screens that are destined to be used in all types of advertising displays in stores and any place where signage needs to be changed or updated on a continual basis.
While I do think that AR and mixed reality glasses tied to a smartphone will have a more revolutionary impact on mobile computing eventually, the introduction of flexible and foldable displays is important to advancing the designs of smartphones in general. I personally like the idea of having a smartphone that when opened up could become a tablet.
The Mac needs help, and in a more than two-hour presentation today, Apple refused to provide it.
Apple makes great software. I use Windows and macOS daily, and macOS is cleaner, smoother, and more stable for basic tasks. Windows gives me the power I need to do great work, but I relax into a macOS browser window at home.
Apple’s Mac shipments have been steady year over year in a declining PC market, according to Gartner. So you could be excused for thinking Apple doesn’t have a problem at all; everything’s fine. That’s not the sense I’m getting from tech-savvy users, though. They’re buying new Macs because of macOS software, and they’re grumbling increasingly about the hardware. But they’re trapped, because, of course, no hardware runs macOS other than Macs. That raises the question of when, if ever, they’ll snap and jump ship.
Last year, I needed a new Mac, and I bought a 2015 MacBook Pro. Yes, I bought a 3-year-old laptop because it’s better than Apple’s current models.
Apple’s hardware changes in the past few years have been awful. Its flat, loud, painful “butterfly” keyboards are now subject to three class-action lawsuits and can be disabled by bits of dust. The Touch Bar is like OpenDoc and 3D Touch, an “innovative” Apple technology that lies nearly useless because third parties decided not to take it up. (And I was a 3D Touch believer!) The latest laptops have a ridiculous lack of ports.
(Yes, I know the 2017 Macbook Pro got a PCMag Editors’ Choice. We can have more than one opinion on our staff. Mine is that the last time Apple made great PC hardware was in 2015.)
It was almost laughable when Craig Federighi called out Apple’s software support for external GPUs, because what people really want is a 13-inch MacBook Pro with some sort of discrete GPU option and not Intel Iris Plus. Apple said in April that it won’t introduce a new Mac Pro until 2019.
But Apple has always been better at playing up its strengths than admitting its weaknesses. We saw this with its iPad-in-education event in March. Under-resourced, over-tested American schools are turning away from the iPad because they want something more durable and less expensive. Apple instead doubled down on rich, creative curricula those schools probably won’t be able to pull off. The new iPad is the best midrange tablet available today, and it’s not a realistic choice for most of the schools it’s aimed at.
With Macs, Apple is coasting on the stickiness of its OS here, and on the ties between macOS and iOS. I can’t help but feel they’re only getting replacement buyers at this point, and that they’re even losing some of those to compelling Windows PCs like the Microsoft Surface.
iPhones continue to sell in multitudes, and Apple’s “sneak peek” developer feature, making it easier for devs to bring hot iOS apps to Macs in 2019, is going to help the platform. Continuity, iMessage, and other cross-OS features also keep pulling iPhone users over to the Mac. But the platform will leak passionate professionals if its keyboards continue to be rage-inducing garbage and there’s nowhere to plug in peripherals.
The potential light at the end of the tunnel: macOS Mojave is coming out “this fall,” which means new Mac hardware is probably also coming out this fall. I wonder how many Mac users will switch to Windows before then?
Many people who work outside or participate in outdoor activities wrap their glass sandwich smartphones in bulky rugged cases and hope for the best during their adventures. With the upcoming Unihertz Atom you can rest easy and carry a phone that fits within a single hand.
I can nearly completely enclose my hand around the Unihertz Atom and have been biking, running, working, and commuting with a sample device for the past week. It’s rather stunning how much power Unihertz was able to squeeze into such a small device and while I felt like Derek Zoolander making calls, the Atom is actually quite effective at basic communications and even some AR tools.
Processor: Unnamed ccta-core
Display: 2.45 inch 240×432 pixels resolution TFT LCD, Gorilla Glass
Operating system: Android 8.1 Oreo
Storage: 64GB internal storage
Cameras: 16-megapixel rear camera and 8-megapixel front-facing camera
Wireless technology: 802.11 a/b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC, GPS and GLONASS, FM radio
Durability ratings: IP68 dust and water resistant rating with a rugged enclosure
Sensors: Fingerprint (front-mounted), accelerometer, gyroscope, proximity, ambient light, and compass
Battery: 2,000mAh battery
Dimensions: 96 x 45 x 18mm and 108 grams
One aspect that is important for your consideration are the bands that are supported by this unlocked phone. It is a dual-SIM phone too so you can carry you work and personal SIM at the same time. Unihertz provided the following information on wireless bands:
GSM: Band 2/3/5/8
WCDMA: Band 1/2/4/5/8
TDSCDMA: Band 34/39
FDD-LTE: Band 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/13/17/18/19/20/25/26/28A/28B
TDD-LTE: Band 34/38/39/40/41
I’ve been using it for a week on T-Mobile and it has performed very well. As you can see, it doesn’t support the new Band 71 (600 MHz), but that is not expected for a phone under $200.
The Unihertz Atom Kickstarter Super Early Bird price is $159 (100 backer limit) with other pricing levels of $179, $199, and $219. The full retail price, with a planned delivery of October 2018, will be $299. I’ve backed several Kickstarter projects in the past and there is always a risk in backing these, but Unihertz had a very successful Project Jelly campaign last year that garnered more than $1.25 million from nearly 11,000 backers so it is likely that the Atom will be delivered to you before the end of 2018.
When I opened the tiny black Unihertz package I almost laughed when I saw the miniscule Atom smartphone lying there. Most of the pictures I saw on the internet turned out to be actual size of the phone itself on my computer monitor.
In the past, I have tested ruggedized phones from CAT and Sonim. These rugged phones were pretty bulky and also garnered a premium price for the additional protection for outside work environments. The Unihertz Atom is encased in black rubber with red highlights on the corners and PTT button.
Starting at the front, we have the small 2.45 inch LCD screen. The top and bottom bezels are huge while the side bezels are rather wide too. Bezels don’t really matter on a rugged device, but my aging eyes would definitely like a bit more screen real estate. A screen protector was also installed on the display out of the box and I left it on while testing the unit as it provides another layer of protection for rough use.
The headset speaker and front facing camera are above the display. Below the viewable screen we find the oblong small fingerprint sensor that also acts as a home button when you touch it, but it does not actually press inwards. There is a task switcher capacitive button to the right and a back button to the left of the fingerprint sensor. Like the new HTC U12 Plus, these are haptic buttons with decent vibration feedback.
A standard 3.5mm headset jack is found on the top. Power and push-to-talk buttons are on the right side with an uncovered open USB-C port for charging and USB OTG. We often still see microUSB used on low cost Android devices so it is great to see Unihertz using USB-C here. The two volume buttons and the dual-SIM card slot on the left side.
Each corner has ridges and red highlighted areas that appear to offer additional corner protection. There is a lanyard loop on the bottom of the back while most of the back has a textured rubber finish for additional grip. The 16 megapixel camera is found next to a flash at the top of the back. There are also eight visible screws in the back that look to hold the Atom together.
The cameras performed just fine for a tiny phone less than $300 and while it won’t compete with the high-priced flagships it will get the job done when you are out and about.
The Kickstarter page also has accessory options for a belt clip, armband, and bike mount so you can take the Atom with you on your outdoor adventures.
I was frankly shocked to open up the settings and see that the Unihertz Atom runs Android 8.1 Oreo with the April Android security patch. There are many flagships that don’t even have this latest version of Android up and running.
However, keep in mind that the Atom is not advertised to ship to customers until October 2018 so Android 8.1 makes sense. We may even see Unihertz get Android P on the device by then or shortly after, but given the key basic communication needs I am not sure you need to worry about having the latest and greatest version of Android installed.
The phone runs a stock version of Android with a basic home page experience and app launcher accessed by swiping up from the bottom of the display. In addition to the Google basics such as calculator, calendar, camera, Chrome, Gmail, Maps, Messages, and more, you get a few apps from Unihertz. These include a face ID utility, file manager, FM radio, pedometer, music player, sound recorder, trackback utility, and Toolbox.
The Toolbox is extremely useful and perfectly complements the fitness and outdoor adventure focus of the Atom. The tools in the Toolbox include a sound meter, compass, flashlight, bubble level, picture hanger tool, heart rate monitor, height measuring utility, magnifier, alarm, plumb bob, and protractor. It’s cool to see the camera used with some of these tools to provide an augmented reality experience that provides you with a device for accurate measurements.
When I saw the small display and realized I had to login to my Gmail account to setup the device, I was worried about the ability for my fat fingers to use the keyboard and not be completely frustrated. Gboard is installed as the default keyboard and it is amazingly accurate and easy to use on the Unihertz Atom. Swiping works well and my keyboard entry mistakes have been minimal over the past week.
Daily usage experiences
The Unihertz Atom launches today on Kickstarter at the special launch price of $159. When you look across the current collection of smartphones priced less than $300 that Unihertz Atom stands out as one with NFC, a fingerprint sensor on the front, the latest version of Android, and a price that beats nearly every other phone out there.
A phone like this is primarily used for staying in touch while outside and is not something you will spend hours looking at for your social networks or to draft documents. Phone calls sounded good on the headset speaker and through the speakerphone. NFC is present so you can use it for mobile payments. The battery lasted a full day, but I wasn’t watching movies either. Google Assistant works well with the fingerprint sensor/home button or through voice activation.
The utilities in the Toolbox were handy and I could definitely see adding the Unihertz Atom to my fly fishing kit and taking it running to make sure I had a safety lifeline in case of an emergency.
It’s a tiny smartphone, but for $159 it is a great secondary phone to take with you running, fly fishing, biking, hiking, and working out in the field. Even at the full $299 price, it is a solid phone for field workers and those weekend warriors who are rought on their phones. It will help you stay in touch without worry while other glass sandwich phones cost you $500 to $1000 and require a bulky case to keep safe.
Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 range is the epitome of the premium business laptop. There are now three variants: the ThinkPad X1 Carbon, now in its 6th generation; the ThinkPad X1 Tablet, this year in its 3rd generation; and the ThinkPad X1 Yoga (also at G3). The first to find its way to ZDNet is the X1 Yoga, a 360-degree convertible laptop.
With a starting price of £1649.99 (inc. VAT; £1,374.99 ex. VAT, or $1,269) and rising to £2,883.99 (inc. VAT; £2,403.32 ex. VAT, or $2,132) this laptop is clearly for the elite user. Even in that niche, it will need to be very, very good to pass muster.
The ThinkPad X1 Yoga (3rd Gen) has a very similar industrial design to the ThinkPad X1 Carbon (6th Gen), featuring a sleek, solid shell encasing a traditional Lenovo keyboard, plus top-end specifications. What it adds, of course, is the fully 360-degree rotating screen characteristic of the Yoga line.
There are some other notable differences between the two laptops.
The ThinkPad X1 Yoga adds about £200 to the starting price. There’s also some weight gain, with the X1 Carbon starting at 1.13kg compared to the X1 Yoga’s 1.4kg. And while both laptops share a 14-inch screen, the Yoga requires more screen bezel to promote usability in tablet mode. It’s therefore a bit larger, measuring 333mm wide by 229mm deep by 17.05mm thick compared to the X1 Carbon’s 323.5mm by 217.1mm by 15.95mm.
Still, this is not a comparative review, so let’s focus on the ThinkPad X1 Yoga 3rd Gen itself from here on.
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Lenovo hasn’t tinkered with the general look and feel of the ThinkPad X1 Yoga in its third-generation outing. The soft-touch carbon-black chassis of my review sample is classic ThinkPad X1, although there’s also a silver variant among the four preconfigured options on Lenovo’s UK website.
The ThinkPad logo is recessed into the lid, and is reflective black. The red dot over the ‘i’ pulsates when the laptop is charging, and when the lid is closed but the machine is on. Meanwhile a distinctive ‘X1’ logo sits on the opposite diagonal of the lid, just to let you know that this laptop heads up the ThinkPad range.
The keyboard has Lenovo’s familiar pot-bellied keys, the red TrackPoint between the G, H and B keys, and its associated scroll and mouse buttons above the trackpad. The keys have a wonderfully light touch, and bounce back in sprightly fashion as your fingers lift away from them. Touch typing is a pleasure.
The trackpad is responsive, with integrated buttons that depress quite a long way and are reassuringly resistant. The keyboard backlight is toggled by a Fn/spacebar combination that cycles through two brightness settings, off and an auto setting. It’s all intuitive and easy to get along with, right down to the relatively large cursor keys. The handy Windows Snipping Tool shortcut, which I noted in my recent review of the Lenovo ThinkPad T480s, looks to be a regular ThinkPad feature.
When the screen is rotated, the keys recess completely, and are locked out. The lock kicks in at quite a wide-angled tent mode, so that the keyboard is protected at any position apart from standard laptop mode or with the screen flat on a desk or table. This solves a perennial problem I have with 360-degree rotating screens — fear of damaging the keyboard.
All four preconfigured variants of the ThinkPad X1 Yoga (3rd Gen) on Lenovo’s UK website have a 14-inch IPS touch screen. Nestled in relatively wide screen bezels, it looks a little old-fashioned in design terms. There is a clear trade-off here, with bigger bezels (11mm side, 19mm top, 21mm bottom) are the price you pay for the flexibility of tablet-mode use cases.
The lower priced pre-configured laptops have FHD (1,920 x 1,080 pixels) resolution, while the higher priced pair are WQHD (2,560 x 1,440 pixels). The most expensive model sports LTE mobile broadband, NFC, Dolby Vision and 500 nits screen brightness (the other variants top out at 300 nits).
The big advantage of Dolby Vision is brighter colours and darker blacks, which are especially effective in video footage. My review sample did not have Dolby Vision, so I can’t comment on Lenovo’s implementation.
Those wanting to use this laptop for video conferencing or presentations will be interested in audio quality. The speaker is on the base, and can get a bit muffled by clothing. Volume goes pretty loud, and even at the top of the scale there’s no serious distortion. But, as is often the case with laptops, it’s light on bass and therefore sounds somewhat trebly.
Lenovo includes its ThinkPad Pen Pro stylus, neatly housed in a slot at the front right of the wrist rest. It’s necessarily thin in order to fit into the chassis, but that’s far preferable to having to carry it separately and risk losing it; also, the 130-minute battery is charged while the stylus is docked. With 2,048 pressure levels and right and left buttons, note taking and drawing are perfectly feasible in tablet mode. And if the worst happens, replacements aren’t exorbitant at £37.20 (inc. VAT).
There is a ThinkShutter privacy cover on webcam, as seen on the ThinkPad T480s, although it’s a different design. Here, the slider is built into the rim of the lid — a more discreet solution that doesn’t spoil the flat lines of the screen, which is important when you’re working in tablet mode.
There’s a fingerprint sensor on the wrist rest, and covered slots for SIM and MicroSD cards on the back of the keyboard section, where they’re well protected in laptop mode but accessible in tent and tablet modes. NFC is only available in the most expensive of the preconfigured models.
All of the ThinkPad X1 Yoga (3rd Gen) models run 8th generation Intel Core processors with integrated UHD Graphics 620. For connectivity there’s a pair of USB-C Thunderbolt 3 ports (one of which is used for charging), two USB 3.0 ports, a full-size HDMI port, a 3.5mm audio jack and Gigabit Ethernet (via a mini-port/RJ-45 dongle combo).
My review unit was not one of the four preconfigured specifications, but closely matches the £2,109.99 model, with 16GB of RAM rather than 8GB. Here are the four off-the-shelf configurations:
* Intel Core i7-8650U, Windows 10 Pro, 14.0-inch 2,560 x 1,440 touch screen 500 nits Dolby Vision, Intel UHD Graphics 620, 16GB RAM, 1TB SSD, fingerprint reader, black chassis, NFC, LTE mobile broadband £2,883.99 (inc. VAT; £2,403.32 ex. VAT)
Lenovo says the 54Wh in the ThinkPad X1 Yoga (3rd Gen) will last for up to 15 hours, but that’s somewhat ambitious. My test configuration — a tweak of the second most expensive preconfigured setup with 16GB of RAM — tended to drain about a third of its life in three hours of mainstream productivity use (document creation, browsing and streaming) with the screen set to the default 60 percent brightness.
You’ll probably want to carry the power adapter, even though it’s neither small nor light. The X1 Yoga supports RapidCharge, so you should be able to give battery life a boost during a quick coffee break, for example.
Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Yoga (3rd Gen) remains an excellent convertible laptop — definitely up there in the top tier. It’s slightly larger and heavier than the ThinkPad X1 Carbon (6th Gen), with thicker screen bezels, but brings 360-degree screen rotation to the ThinkPad X1 range.
The stylus is cleverly housed in a bay that also charges its battery, the screen and keyboard are both excellent, and the build is solid. Battery life could be better, though, and the need to use an Ethernet dongle may irritate some users. The top-of-the-range specification, including mobile broadband, a high-resolution screen with Dolby Vision and NFC, is also expensive.
I have the opportunity to review a ton of products here on ZDNet and while most are excellent and achieve ratings of 8/10 or higher, it is rare that I judge something to be perfect. However, WaterField Designs has achieved that with its newest backpack.
As a person who commutes about 40 miles each way to and from Seattle by walking, cycling, and riding on a train, my preferred gear bag is a backpack. According to Gary WaterField, there are more of his business customers using backpacks than messenger bags today so the company collected thousands of responses from fans to help create its newest Pro Executive Laptop Backpack and it is perfect.
A couple of months ago I took a day trip to San Franscisco for a briefing on a new phone and had an opportunity to visit the WaterField Designs office where I was able to chat with Gary, Heidi, and others about the company and its products. Gary asked me for some feedback on the Bolt Backpack I was wearing and I told him of a few things I would like to have added, such as dedicated slots for my pens and stylus. It turns out that Gary was collecting input from thousands of customers as his team designed the next backpack.
After traveling on a couple of business trips and commuting daily over the past several weeks, it is clear to me that the WaterField Designs Pro Executive Laptop Backpack gets everything right and is the best bag I have ever tested, for my needs. It has the perfect number of pockets, ample space, stands upright when set down, is very comfortable to wear and carry, has high quality zippers, contains the signature gold interior so you can find things in your bag, looks fabulous with the crimson leather accent, and is made here in the US.
The Pro Executive Laptop Backpack can be ordered now for $349 in four leather accent colors; black leather, chocolate leather, crimson leather, and grey leather. I was sent along a crimson leather one to test that perfectly matches the crimson CitySlicker case for my Nintendo Switch that I purchased after testing out the blue leather model.
Starting from the front and working towards the back straps, we find a prominent leather accent panel. One reason I chose the crimson model to test is the presence of this leather accent. It extends nearly the entire height of the backpack and the crimson leather has an excellent contrast to the black ballistic nylon that most of the backpack is constructed of. The WaterField Designs branding is etched into this accent panel.
The first pocket behind this leather accent panel is accessed through either side of the accent panel with zippers about six inches in length. These zippers are designed to let you access this central pocket through a sideways orientation so you can swing the backpack around on one strap and quickly get into this pocket without fully removing it from your back.
Next, we have the top center pocket that is located between the accent panel and red leather carrying handle. This is my most used pocket where I put in my transit card, earbuds, small notebook, and a pen. The pocket has a typical high quality zipper with that wonderful gold material lining so nothing gets left behind.
There are two large side pockets with zippers that start against the back and extend down nearly to the bottom of the front. The right side pocket has a couple of pen/stylus slots and another pocket composed of black mesh material. I have my Pixelbook Pen and a pencil in the slots with my passport in the larger pocket. The left side pocket has the same three pockets behind black mesh material with a lanyard to hang your keys. I actually attach my AirPods to this lanyard so I don’t lose them. These side pockets are also large enough for water bottles.
Just behind the top access pocket and under the leather vertical handle you will find one of the large storage compartments. This gold-lined compartment has no internal pockets, but is about four inches and has been perfect for carrying my lunch to and from the office. I also used it on a couple day trips to carry a few essential clothes and toiletries. It is an excellent multi-purpose pocket that helps the backpack stay upright when you set it down.
The last pocket towards the back is designed to hold the Executive Folio, laptops, tablets, ebook readers, and other gear. There are two dividers in this compartment with the back one having a soft padded felt divider that makes it perfect for protecting your laptop. The dual zippers extend down to within just a few inches of the bottom so you can easily access your gear.
There is a slot on the back, with padding to protect your back, so you can slide the Pro Executive backpack onto your roller bag while traveling. The padded mesh straps are very comfortable and I find this backpack sits a bit lower on my back than the Bolt backpack, which means this backpack fits my body size a bit better too.
WaterField also sent along a 13-inch Executive Folio to test out in crimson leather. If you buy the Pro Executive backpack with the Executive Folio then the combination is $399, making the Folio $49 instead of the stand-alone $89 price.
The Executive Folio has a large leather accent panel on the front with a front zipper positioned above this accent panel. Inside the Folio you will find a large pocket on the left with a padded pocket on the right side. On top of the padded pocket is a pocket that works well for business cards next to three pen/stylus slots. I carry my Pixelbook, stylus, pen, business cards, and a pad of paper in this Executive Folio as I walk around the office and attend various meeting during the week. Two zippers keep the Executive Folio closed with the majority of the folio constructed of black ballastic nylon material.
I honestly cannot think of a single improvement I would make to this backpack for my daily commute, daily office work, and business travel. It has all the space I need while fitting comfortably on my back and weighing in at just under three pounds. It is extremly well constructed, looks stunning, and like all other WaterField Designs bags I have tested over the years it is likely to look and function the same for many years.