KEF LS50 Wireless Speakers

If you’re starting to take your music listening experience more seriously, it’s natural to look into getting a speaker setup. That is until you realize that you’ll have to pick a preamp, amp, and DAC to get your dream speaker setup. That’s a lot research and setup, which is quite intimidating to a hi-fi newbie. 

But what if there was a speaker system that just worked out of the box? What if all you had to do was plug the speakers into the wall and turn on some music?

Thankfully, this dream system is real and it’s made by the folks at KEF. 

The LS50 Wireless is an all-in-one speaker system that is dead-simple to set up and lets you play from a variety of sources out of the box, with room to grow with you over the years. 

After spending several months with the KEF LS50 Wireless, we were blown away by the package that the company was able to engineer. The speakers offer mind-blowing sound quality with absolute neutrality, hologram-like imaging, and an expansive soundstage. Plus, it was dead simple to set up and use from any of its sources. While not cheap, the LS50 Wireless is actually quite a bargain when taken as a complete package.

Design

The KEF LS50 Wireless are a gorgeous pair of bookshelf-sized speakers that will look great on your desk or in your home theater. 

Our unit came in a glossy piano black but there’s a white and silver version as well. The front of the speaker is dominated by KEF’s Uni-Q drivers which puts the tweeter in the center of the bass and midrange woofer. This, claims KEF, allows the speakers to offer a three-dimensional soundstage no matter where you’re sitting and it really works (more on this in the Performance section). 

On top of the right speaker you’ll find touch controls for power, Bluetooth, source, and volume. The controls are illuminated when the speakers are turned on and are easy to press, though they don’t provide any tactile feeling since they’re touch control. However, there’s an included remote that offers physical buttons if you miss the tactile feel.

Speaking of the remote, the one that comes in the box is fairly basic that’s just one step above the awful card-sized remotes with membrane buttons that ships with just about every soundbar and preamp. The remote is made of plastic but still feels nice in the hand and it replicates the touch controls on the top of the speaker plus buttons for previous/skip track and mute.

One nitpick we had about the LS50 Wireless is the fact that if you change inputs using the remote control that you have no idea what input you’ve switched to unless you at the panel on top of the speaker. This means you either have to memorize the sequence of inputs or have to get up and look at the speaker. We wish the included speaker included dedicated source buttons to switch instantly instead of cycling through them – but it didn't prevent us from loving the speakers. 

Features

The KEF LS50 Wireless packs a ton of features but let’s go over what features make it sound so good. For amplification, KEF designed the LS50 Wireless with two 230-watt power supplies in a bi-amp dual mono configuration. This means each channel gets its own dedicated amplifier for interference-free power delivery. 

On board is a DAC for each channel that’s capable of up to 192 kHz and 24-bit sources. While not the bleeding edge in terms of ultra high resolution audio, it’s a solid DAC setup that should last for years to come. We spoke with KEF about why they didn’t include support for new formats like DSD or MQA and were told that the company wanted to design the KEF LS50 Wireless to last as long as possible and decided not to include unproven formats. 

In terms of wireless connectivity, the KEF LS50 Wireless supports 2.4GHz/5GHz dual-band wireless N for streaming music over your home server. We tried this with our home Plex server and it worked well streaming high-resolution FLAC files over our network that’s powered by the Netgear X6S Nighthawk router. The mobile app used to browse music and control playback is a bit laggy at times so hopefully KEF and keep improving the mobile app experience. 

It’s a bit disappointing that neither Google Cast nor Apple AirPlay are supported, as it would have been easy to control by voice using a Google Home speaker. However, Spotify and Tidal users can control the LS50 Wireless directly, which is a nice touch. 

If you don’t have your own music server, Roon, Tidal, or Spotify, there’s always the Bluetooth 4.0 input, which supports the aptX codec for CD-quality sound. Bluetooth sounds good and is convenient to find and stream music from our phone. It’s a little disappointing that aptX HD isn’t supported, as it would have been the Bluetooth input sound even better. But nitpicky audiophiles are not likely using the Bluetooth input for serious listening in the first place. 

The inputs keep on coming with optical TOSLINK support for hooking up to sources like your TV. This means you can have the LS50 Wireless be your speaker setup for everything from television, wireless, and analog sources like a turntable. One thing to note that the optical input caps out at 96 kHz 24-bit so the USB input is preferable for connecting a DAC. 

Last but not least, the analog audio jacks let you connect your own source devices. This can be a turntable or you can attach your own DAC, if you please. 

Around the back of the speakers you’ll find the speaker’s DSP controls. You can specify if you have the LS50 Wireless on a desk or on stands and if they’re right up against the wall or have free space behind to breathe a little. This can also be tweaked within mobile app so you don’t have to go digging behind the speaker every time you want to change a setting. The app has even more advanced controls, which allows you to tweak things like the phase correction and subwoofer crossover. 

Performance

None of the above would matter if the KEF LS50 Wireless doesn’t sound good. That said, we’re happy to report that the LS50 Wireless sound phenomenal. 

Overall, they are staggeringly detailed and their stand-out sonic feature is their holographic imaging and instrumental layering: We could hear exactly where each instrument was coming from and each instrument sounded distinct and never blurry. Soundstage was expansive with good space to the side and above the listener. Resolution is excellent as the speaker can dig for the micro-details that get lost in lesser audio systems. 

Tonal balance is extremely neutral, which can be tweaked slightly in the mobile app. You can warm up the sound by setting the speakers to “extra bass” but the balance is near perfect from default to our ears. However, bass-lovers will want to add the optional subwoofer to get visceral bass impact that’s great for movies of electronic music. Without the sub, the LS50 Wireless still produce a surprising amount of bass and we were quite happy without the subwoofer for critical listening. 

The LS50 Wireless sounds so good, you’ll be staying up all night rediscovering your music collection because that’s exactly what we did. We played record after record on our Marantz TT-15S turntable to test how various music genres sounded on the speakers. The LS50 Wireless sounded amazing with every genre we threw at it and every input sounded spectacular. In terms of sonic quality there’s very little to nitpick about the KEF LS50 Wireless. 

Verdict

The KEF LS50 Wireless is an amazing pair of bookshelf speakers that has just about every input imaginable. The versatility of the speakers is really their selling point, as they will easily fit into anyone’s audio setup. They even work well as TV speakers as their holographic imaging makes watching movies fun. You’ll want to pair them with the optional subwoofer if you want to get room-rattling bass, though. That said, out of the box, we found the LS50 Wireless’s tonal balance just about perfect. 

So who benefits the most from the LS50? Mostly it's audiophiles who want the convenience of wireless audio, whether that’s directly from internet streaming services like Tidal or Spotify or from a home server. While it’s a bummer Google Cast and Apple AirPlay aren’t supported, we think most people will we happy with the myriad of other ways to play music. 

At $2,200 (£2,000, about AU$2,840) the KEF LS50 Wireless is a lot of money, but you’ll be hard pressed to put together a better sounding and more versatile system for the same price. This speaker setup is perfect for the audiophile who doesn’t want to throw down several thousand to piece together a system with monoblock amps, a preamp, DAC and wireless streaming equipment. 

For seasoned audiophiles with high-end equipment already, however, there’s always the wired LS50, which is nearly half the price.

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MacBook Air

As it stands today, the MacBook Air is frankly out of date. It has the same design the MacBook Air has had since 2010, two years after its initial conception. It also has an older processor and lower screen resolution than those used by its contemporaries, like the 13-inch MacBook Pro and the 12-inch MacBook. Still, right now the MacBook Air is the cheapest way to experience macOS 10.13 High Sierra on a laptop.

However, that may soon change. Nevermind the site’s admittedly shaky reputation, an analyst from DigiTimes has leaked that a 13-inch Retina MacBook is on the way that could challenge the MacBook Air’s price point. Just a week before that report came in, KGI Securities analyst Ming Chi Kuo reported that a more affordable MacBook Air is set to release in the second quarter of 2018 – which is right around the corner.

That said, the MacBook Air we’ve reviewed here is still your best option for now. Although it’s in dire need of a re-tooling, let it be known that it’ll get you by as-is for the time being. For future reference, keep your peeled to this page, as we keep it updated with the most recent pricing information and availability details related to the MacBook Air as we know it.

Price and availability

While the model sent to us was a maxed out MacBook Air with the highest specs you could get at the time of its original writing, it currently comes in a wide range of different configurations. 

It still starts at the comparatively humble amount of $999 (£949, AU$1,499), but now you’re looking at a 1.8GHz Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM and 128GB of SSD space for that price.

Should you be interested in stepping its game up, you can upgrade the processor to a 2.2GHz Intel Core i7 CPU and 512GB of storage for a pretty penny more. For that, you’re looking at a price tag of $1,549 (£1,384, AU$2,339). 

That’s a higher asking cost than an up to date MacBook Pro for a frankly older set of components (the MacBook Air uses a 5th-generation Intel processor as opposed to the MacBook Pro’s 7th-gen chip), but it might tempt those who crave lots of storage and a longer battery life. 

13-inch MacBook Air (2015)

Design

By and large, the MacBook Air generally looks the same as it has since 2010, and there don’t appear to be any changes in tow, either. That’s a shame, particularly because we’re now seeing virtually bezel-less laptops with smaller footprints and high resolution screens that dismally put the MacBook Air in its place. 

Forget the Dell XPS 13's physics-defying InfinityEdge display, which is lightyears ahead – even Apple's 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina, once seen as slightly tubby compared to the Air, has a smaller footprint and takes up slightly less space on your lap.

13-inch MacBook Air (2015)

Yet, the old ‘if it ain't broke’ mantra applies – at least to a point. The MacBook Air's aluminum unibody design, which supports the main enclosure and the display, is as durable as ever. Its lid can be easily raised with a single hand and doesn't droop in any position, and you have to press really hard to detect flex on the machine's base or lid.

It's also easy to clean with a damp cloth. If there's one drawback, it's that the aluminum body can scratch easily to leave permanent black marks, so you should consider buying a sleeve if you're going to sling it into a bag for transportation.

Gabe Carey has also contributed to this review

The 13-inch MacBook Air is more interesting than the 11-inch model due to housing flash storage twice as fast as its predecessor – or so Apple claims. It's available in two configurations starting at £849 ($999, AUS$1,399) for a 1.8GHz (Turbo Boost to 2.9GHz) Core i5 CPU, 128GB of flash memory and 8GB of RAM.

We reviewed the top-spec early 2015 model, starting at £999 ($1,199/AUS$1,699) and netting you a 1.6GHz (Turbo Boost to 2.7GHz) CPU, 4GB of RAM and 256GB of flash memory. Our unit had been further configured to ship with 8GB of RAM which, at the time added £80 (around $124, or AUS$170) to the total cost.

That price makes the 13-inch MacBook Air more expensive than the entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina (early 2015), which also starts at £999 ($1,199/AUS$1,699). Price is no longer a differentiator, so which one you go for depends on a few factors that will be explored in this review.

Apple 13-inch MacBook Air (early 2015)

Spec sheet

  • CPU: 1.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 (Turbo Boost up to 2.7GHz) with 3MB shared L3 cache
  • Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 6000
  • RAM: 8GB 1600MHz DDR3
  • Screen: 13.3-inch, LED-backlit glossy widescreen display (1440 x 900)
  • Storage: 256GB PCIe-based flash storage (configurable to 512GB flash storage)
  • Optical Drive: Not included
  • Ports: Two USB 3.0 ports (up to 5Gbps); Thunderbolt 2 port (up to 20Gbps); MagSafe 2 power port; SDXC card slot
  • Connectivity: 802.11ac Wi-Fi networking; IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n compatible; Bluetooth 4.0 wireless technology
  • Camera: 720p FaceTime HD camera
  • Weight: 1.35kg (2.96 pounds)
  • Size: 32.5 x 22.7 x 1.7 cm (W x D x H)

One advantage of the MacBook Air versus the 12-inch MacBook is its wider selection of ports. On the left-hand side is a MagSafe 2 connector for power, one USB 3.0 port and a headphone jack. On the right is a Thunderbolt 2 port, another USB 3.0 port and a full-sized SDcard slot. The 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro doubles the number of Thunderbolt ports compared to the Air, and adds HDMI.

Ports right

macOS Sierra is the version currently shipping with Apple's 13-inch MacBook Air. It doesn’t divert too much from the visual style of its predecessor, OS X 10.11 El Capitan, but it does introduce a range of new features such as Siri, Continuity between your Mac and iOS devices and Apple Pay for expediting online purchases.

Sierra has since been succeeded by macOS 10.13 High Sierra, though it doesn’t come with it out of the box – you have to download and install it yourself, for free. There aren’t many significant improvements by way of macOS High Sierra, save for better security, VR support down the road and refinements to the Photos app. 

That said, given that you don’t have to pay for it, macOS High Sierra is probably worth the 4.8GB hit to your data cap for the also-new Apple File System (APFS) alone. The new 64-bit file system brings native encryption and faster metadata operations to the table, making the MacBook Air quicker to use as a result.

Bundled software

For now, macOS Sierra ships with Apple's own iWork and iLife apps, including a modernized look for Garageband.

Photos app

These inlcude:

  • Movie
  • Garageband
  • Pages
  • Numbers
  • Keynote
  • Safari
  • Mail
  • Messages
  • FaceTime

Yosemite

In addition to:

  • Calendar
  • Contacts
  • Notes
  • App Store
  • iTunes
  • iBooks
  • Maps
  • Photo Booth
  • Time Machine
  • Spotlight

Manufactured on the 14nm fabrication process, the 13-inch MacBook Air’s Broadwell CPU is a die shrink of Intel’s 22nm Haswell chip. It means better battery life versus last year’s MacBook Air models, although the gains aren’t on the same scale as the switch from Ivy Bridge to Haswell. Still, battery life was staggering, clocking up more than 13 hours when looping a 1080p video over Wi-Fi.

Apple 13-inch MacBook Air (early 2015)

Benchmarks

  • Cinebench R15 Single Core: 103cb cb; Multi Core: 255 cb
  • Cinebench R15 OpenGL: 24.91fps
  • Geek bench 3 Single Core: 2,873; Multi Core: 5,768
  • Xbench (CPU and disk): 469.55
  • NovaBench (Overall): 634; Graphics: 42
  • Unigine Heaven 4.0 (Medium); FPS: 14.4; Overall: 438
  • Blackmagic Disk Speed test: Write average: 612.4 Mbps; Read average: 1302.4 Mbps
  • Battery, streaming 1080p video via Wi-Fi: 13 hours and 24 minutes

Broadwell brings performance gains too, even if they’re nothing to shout about. The MacBook Air scored 5,768 on Geekbench 3’s Multi Core CPU test, representing a 9% gain over the 13-inch Air from 2014. However, it proved 20% slower than the 2.7GHz Core i5 chip in the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina, which is to be expected considering that machine’s faster clock speed.

Apple’s claim that the 2015 Air’s storage is twice as fast as the 2014 version stands up. The MacBook averaged write speeds of 612.4 Mbps, and average read speeds of 1,243 Mbps, which gives the MacBook Air MacBook Pro-level storage speeds for the first time.

13-inch MacBook Air (2015) keyboard

The MacBook Pro with Retina’s Iris Graphics 6100 proved 38% faster than the MacBook Air’s HD Graphics 6000 in Unigine Heaven 4.0’s benchmark. That said, Intel’s decision to allocate die space to graphics on the CPU has been paying off for some time, and the MacBook Air is capable of playing a wide selection of games on low-medium settings with the resolution dialled down – especially when installed on a Windows partition using Boot Camp.

The MacBook Air cranked out a smooth 60FPS played at 1440 x 900 with the graphics on medium, while Skyrim managed the high 50s played at the same res with the graphics on low. If your intention is to play games, you’ll want to invest in a decent headset as the MacBook Air’s speakers are tinny and unsatisfying. Apple managed to squeeze an impressive amount of low and mid-range tones into the 12-inch MacBook’s speakers, but it’s yet to use the same technology in the Air.

Apple 13-inch MacBook Air (early 2015)

If the MacBook Air’s consistency of design can grow stale over time, this reviewer is happy for the keyboard to remain unchanged. Its slightly convex keys are the best I’ve used yet on a computer, and that includes the new MacBook, Lenovo’s ThinkPad notebooks and Logitech’s well-regarded Mac keyboards. Even the MacBook Pro with Retina’s keys, which are hardly uncomfortable, feel stiff in comparison. The keyboard is also backlit and easy to clean.

The MacBook Air’s trackpad is just as impressive, providing a smooth gliding action that makes executing OS X’s trackpad commands a breeze. It’s just a shame that Apple didn’t carry over the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina’s Force Touch Trackpad – it’s once again regular two-button clicking action for owners of Apple’s slimmer machine.

dd

Apple’s decision to put a 480p camera in the 12-inch MacBook was a poor one, and thankfully it hasn’t followed suited with the MacBook Air. At 720p it’s up to the task of Skype and Google Hangout sessions, producing sufficiently clear and defined images.

We

The 2015 edition of the MacBook Air, in short, remains a fantastic laptop held back by a shortage of noteworthy changes. This lack of substantial improvements is disappointing to say the least, but it’s gratifying nevertheless to see Apple continue to support one of its most iconic products. Over a decade later, the MacBook Air may still very well be the best version of the MacBook to date.

We liked

Not only does the MacBook Air boast favorable performance given the age of its guts, but the fact that it can go over 13 hours without charging is virtually unprecedented. In fact, there isn’t any modern MacBook that comes close. We’re equally proud of the legacy ports on deck, complemented by SSD speeds that bring double the trouble.

We disliked

Its battery life may be the only way the MacBook Air has deviated from the norm. In terms of design, it hardly differs from the MacBook Air we’ve known since 2010. This reluctance to change will surely have some Apple users turning their heads to Windows, while those too loyal to make the switch will gladly shell out a couple hundred bucks more on a 12-inch MacBook.

Final verdict

Much faster storage and a better performing processor/graphics combo make the 2015 13-inch MacBook Air a technically better machine than its predecessor. But, unless you really need those gains, it's not worth the upgrade. That's particularly so in the absence of any new features – such as the Retina MacBook Pro's Force Touch Trackpad.

Elsewhere, it's business as usual: while the MacBook Pro with Retina is faster than the Air and packs more features, Apple's lighter machine is no slouch. And, while the Retina model is chunkier than the Air, it's not a great deal heavier and has a smaller footprint. With both machines residing in the same price bracket, the deciding factor is more likely to be how prepared you are to put up with the MacBook Air's outdated display.

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Google Wifi

As devices like Netgear Orbi and Eero have shown: the age of routers and range extenders has ended. The future is tri-band or Wi-Fi mesh systems. And, surprising no one, the smart-home obsessed Google is all over it with the eponymous Google Wifi

And, it turns out that Google may have very well crafted the best Wi-Fi mesh system yet. Google’s managed to create a system that offers more mesh units than competitors at a lower price, and a focus on simple setup and management. The result? We never want to look at another router again.

Price and availability

Unsurprisingly, Google doesn’t ask for a lot of money for what’s on offer. Google Wifi costs $279 (about £197, AU$360) for a set of three units – that’s one primary ‘WiFi Point’ (the one you hook up to the modem or gateway) and two secondary WiFi Points.

In the UK, Google Wifi comes with a two unit set costing £229.

A single Google Wifi unit can be had for $119 (around £84, AU$153). Google promises that three Wifi Points can cover up to 4,500 square feet (418 square meters) in a home.

Unfortunately, at the time of writing, Google has made no mentions of pricing or availability in Australia. However, when we spoke to Google just before the UK launch, it suggested that it was looking to release Google Wifi globally in the future.

Google offers more units for less money than any competitor, like the Netgear Orbi, with all others costing at least $400 (about £320, AU$520) for the same amount.

Design and setup

Not only does Google have the clear advantage of pricing on its hands, but it also has the best-designed individual units and easiest setup of any offering. Each Google Wifi unit, a tiny, unassuming cylinder with a simple white LED band in its center, is capable of the same functionality.

This means that any of the three units could function as the “router” of the system, while the others can bestow wired internet (which is beamed to the unit wirelessly) with their included Ethernet ports as well as wireless internet. All three units are powered via USB-C.

Setup is as sublime as Google’s hardware design, using a free iOS and Android app to facilitate the process. While we won’t belabor you with the entire procedure, but the app configures your Wi-Fi network by first scanning the QR code on the Wifi Points connected to your modem or gateway and power.

From there, the app tells you to name your network and set a password, then pair the additional Wifi Points and label them in the app for reference. Again, it takes seconds for the “router” to recognize the Wifi Points and for them to begin broadcasting.

But, you’re not going to get the same depth of access as even Netgear Orbi provides, so no band switching for you. However, Google Wifi handles this in the background automatically.

However, the app offers plenty more useful features, like constant monitoring of your network, its Points and the devices connected to it. The app has an included internet speed test similar to that of Ookla’s, a mesh test that measures the health of your Points’ connections as well as a Wi-Fi test that measures your connection strength from within the network. 

You can also prioritize bandwidth to one device for a time, control smart home devices and pause internet access to certain devices in a family setting – all from within this app.

By far, this is the most complete and elegant suite of control settings we’ve seen from a Wi-Fi mesh system so far, despite its lack of dropdown boxes and toggles.

Performance

We’ve seen just as impressive, if not better, performance from the Google Wifi system as we have Netgear Orbi. Google Wifi draws the absolute most from our 100Mbps Wi-Fi service that we’ve seen any router able to, but can do so from every room of our, albeit small, house.

We’ve been able to stream 4K video through Netflix to our Roku Premiere in the basement as well as we’ve been able to play Overwatch in the office where the modem is located: without issue. Wi-Fi mesh systems like Google Wifi aren’t focused so much about throughput as they are coverage, but this product delivers regardless.

The traffic prioritization feature can ensure that your gaming session is getting more of that crucial bandwidth than the other devices in your house that are Facebooking and streaming HD video.

Plus, the network can automatically repair itself should one or more of the Wifi Points be accidentally unplugged or otherwise lose power.

While we know that Google Wifi operates its mesh system over existing Wi-Fi bands (2.4GHz and 5GHz) over the 802.11s mesh protocol rather than Netgear Orbi’s tri-band system that communicates over a second 5GHz Wi-Fi band, we haven’t found a terrible difference between either’s performance. We do see slightly faster download speeds in MB/s on the 2.4GHz band from the Orbi over the Google Wifi, but that could also be an anomaly.

The true benefit of Google Wifi over others is, simply put, its coverage for the price. You can get equal amounts of coverage in pure square footage from competing systems with fewer units, but the versatility having more units gives you in terms of shoring up dead spots can’t be ignored.

We liked

Google Wifi is incredibly easy to setup and manage on a day-to-day basis despite its lack of some finer control. The fact that the system includes three units for less than some competitors charge for two or fewer is also a huge benefit. Finally, these units look even better in terms of design than systems like Netgear Orbi, and are much easier to hide in plain sight.

We disliked

While there isn’t much to gripe about regarding Google Wifi, some might like finer control over Wi-Fi settings, like controlling which bands are broadcast and when. Also, as it uses AC1200 technology, Google Wifi isn’t capable of the AC3000 or even AC2200 throughput that Netgear Orbi and Linksys Velop are, respectively, which might turn off those paying big for super-fast internet speeds.

Final verdict

Google Wifi is the easiest router that we’ve ever set up, period. And, that’s considering the two extra devices required to complete it. For a relatively affordable price, Google offers more units than most competitors and the best setup and management app by far.

For all of the finer hardware controls it lacks, Google considered every toggle and test it could present in an easily understandable way through its app. (There’s even bandwidth priority control.) Couple that with a hardware design that’s easier to hide in plain sight than any we’ve seen yet, and you’re looking one of the best Wi-Fi systems that money can buy today.

First reviewed April 2017.

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MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (13-inch, Mid-2017)

Replete with all the bells and whistles you’d expect from a high-end Apple laptop, the MacBook Pro is here, though it may look a little different than you remember. Nearly two years ago, Apple released a redesign of its flagship laptop that would forever change the way we looked at Apple. It’s thin, just over half an inch thick, and it also harnesses the power of Thunderbolt 3, a single port that supporting pretty much everything that came before.

However, this laptop is controversial, as some of the innovations bring compromise. Rather than being able to use your old USB, HDMI and SD accessories out of the box, you’ll have to spend some cash on an adapter. And, depending on the MacBook Pro you pick, you might be in for a narrow OLED display where the function keys used to be. The main attraction of the MacBook Pro 2016, this ‘Touch Bar,’ remains both a selling point and one of contention.

And, this Touch Bar may soon extend to the entire lower segment of the next MacBook Pro, as Apple is toying around with the idea of an OLED touch screen keyboard.

Luxurious, but by no means ostentatious, the MacBook Pro comes at a premium. Like most of Apple’s products, it’s built to impress in the looks department. It doesn’t do anything too groundbreaking this time, at least not in the way that Apple’s recent patents suggest of its future spill-proof and crumb-resistant MacBooks will. It’s also not as affordable as Apple is positioning the purported 13-inch MacBook with Retina display to be.

However, the MacBook Pro of today is a laptop largely successfully geared toward professionals, which is far more than can be said for the other members of Apple’s MacBook family.

Price and availability

At $1,299 (£1,249, AU$1,899), you can fetch yourself a MacBook Pro minus the Touch Bar you would otherwise find in the configuration we were sent for review. Bear in mind that, as enticing as the cheapest MacBook Pro might seem, it has only 128GB of solid-state storage inside, making it tough to recommend for users who plan on using it as their main computer.

Of course, that MacBook Pro configuration lacks another key element: the OLED Touch Bar that replaces the function keys on the low-end models. If the Touch Bar, along with Touch ID verification, is on your must-have features list, you can expect to shell out no less than $1,799 (£1,749, AU$2,699). That’s a lot more than the presumably forthcoming entry-level MacBook is going to be.

Now, while you could simply fetch more storage than the base configuration for another couple hundred bills, the unit we reviewed is a supercharged beast. That’s due in part to the fact that it sports four Thunderbolt 3 ports, double that of the non-Touch Bar models, all of which can be used to charge the device. Moreover, the processor speed has been bumped from 2.3GHz to 3.1Ghz as well. 

For $100 less in the US, however, you can get a Dell XPS 13 with double the RAM and storage of the $1,799 MacBook Pro we’ve reviewed here and with a more capable Intel Core i7 CPU at that – not to mention a sharper 3,100 x 1,800 touchscreen as well as both Thunderbolt 3 and an SD card reader.

Similarly, the Surface Laptop, which can be configured with a stronger Core i7 CPU and equally capacious storage and RAM for a full 200 clams less, albeit with a slightly lower-resolution 2,256 x 1,504 touchscreen and only two legacy ports.

Bearing all this in mind, it doesn’t take a genius to see that you’re paying for the logo etched opposite your display, paired with a fantastic trackpad and a familiar operating system to boot. Nevertheless, you can save a wad of cash by trading in your old MacBook Pro to Apple itself for up to $2,500, if you’re residing in the states.

Design

Luckily, Apple’s pedigree does wonders for maintaining the MacBook Pro’s shining reputation as an absolutely beautiful and sensible computing device. That said, not much – if anything – has changed about the MacBook Pro design year over year, and that’s A-OK.

Still available in Apple’s standard space gray or silver colors (no rose gold yet), the MacBook Pro’s unibody aluminum shell is as gorgeous as ever, giving off a subdued shine through the anodization.

In terms of form factor, Apple maintains its achievement of cramming a 13-inch screen into an 11-inch frame a la the Dell XPS 13, but this laptop’s bezels are still a bit larger. Speaking of screens, Apple’s Retina display is as sharp and color-rich as ever, even more so with its new, professional-grade P3 color gamut.

However, it’s far from the sharpest out there, even among its strongest rivals, making its “Retina” claims tougher than ever to swallow. For instance, the XPS 13 can be configured with a 3,200 x 1,800 QHD touchscreen, easily outclassing the MacBook Pro in terms of pure sharpness.

This is a hugely important point for creative professionals working with media files that are high-resolution or require such a resolution to resolve minute details upon zooming in on a media file.

At any rate, the MacBook Pro is uniformly thinner than the XPS 13 by a hair, which starts from 0.6 inches and tapers off at 0.33 inches. The Surface Laptop, meanwhile, is marginally thinner than both at just 0.57 inches.

This is the thinnest and lightest MacBook Pro yet, and for that it feels right at home in our backpack – that is, assuming we don’t forget it’s even there. (Trust us, it has happened during this review, and it was horrifying.)

That Apple managed to craft a laptop this thin and still maintain top-firing stereo speakers, with deep and rich sound no less, should be commended when most other laptop makers just go for down-firing speakers. Instead, where speakers would normally go on an Ultrabook, Apple has placed intake fans that draw cool air in and spit it out the back just beneath the hinge.

Sure, the laptop heats up still right around that area, but said heat is far away from the more sensitive parts of your lap and far less dramatic than with previous models.

As for how Apple managed to make the MacBook Pro this thin, a key culprit is the laptop’s new keyboard with Apple’s 2nd generation butterfly mechanism, introduced in last year’s model. The improved actuation device doesn’t make the keys sit any more flush with the keyboard deck than they already were last year, but rather vastly improves the tactile feel of typing.

Feedback is much more forceful this time around, though the key travel doesn’t feel as if it’s changed much, which is the point ultimately. The keys are large enough so as not to miss given the lack of travel, though we’re not fans of the Escape key being relegated to the Touch Bar – something we’ve accidentally pressed more than once – and the tight positioning of the up and down arrow keys.

Also, we find typing on this keyboard to be louder than on Apple’s older MacBook keyboards, but perhaps that’s due to adjusting to the learning curve.

A mixed takeaway from the keyboard aside, the new-and-enlarged Force Touch trackpad was a welcome improvement last year and we’re just as happy to have it this time around. Its large size and strong palm rejection help immensely with multi-touch gestures and, more importantly, navigating the operating system the easier way, i.e. with your index finger moving the cursor and your thumb clicking the buttons.

Speaking of which, Force Touch returns to the trackpad, naturally, and it’s frankly remarkable. The vibration motors beneath the glass tracking surface vibrate so as to recreate the feeling of a mouse click, and, if Apple didn’t make such a stink about, it we’d be none the wiser. This is Apple’s “it just works” philosophy realized once again.

Touch Bar and Touch ID

While many have been quick to dismiss the Touch Bar since its introduction in last year’s MacBook Pro model, we’ve come down on it with a bit more understanding. You see, while we admittedly didn’t naturally come to use the Touch Bar much at all during the course of this review, its presence and potential are nevertheless noted.

While still relegated to supporting core macOS functions and a few, major third party apps (like Adobe Suite), the Touch Bar is incredibly fast at adapting to the task at hand. The strongest example of this is simply the Touch Bar’s built-in spell checker, which is constantly suggesting words no matter how fast of a typist you are. 

It’s almost like having the iPhone’s autocorrect function on your MacBook.

We’ve seen tech like this attempted before, but in no way this robust and quick. The OLED touch display is incredibly responsive, and its matte coating does well to shrug off glare from strong light sources – just don’t expect much in direct sunlight. All said, we’re impressed by the technological achievement that the Touch Bar is, but still believe it requires wider third party support to become a must-have feature.

Though, having Siri as a button for easy, constant access is a major plus, given the wide control it has over macOS in comparison to other digital assistants.

The second piece of the Touch Bar offering is, of course, Touch ID. While this is the second go around for the technology, we’re nevertheless happy that biometric login is finally available on an Apple laptop. The tool works just like it does on iPhone, and it’s just as quick.

That said, we’ve found Windows 10’s iris-scanning Windows Hello tech to be faster and require nearly zero effort. (To achieve this level of immediacy with a Mac, you’d need an Apple Watch with the Auto Unlock feature activated.) Regardless, being able to securely log into the laptop, and pay for things through Safari via Apple Pay, are both features we’d be clamoring for if they weren’t there.

First reviewed August 2017

  • The mid-2017 MacBook Pro is just one of the best Macs you can buy

Gabe Carey has also contributed to this review

It shouldn’t come as any surprise that the latest MacBook Pro is rather powerful. With the latest Intel processors inside and some of fastest flash storage available in a laptop, we wouldn’t expect anything less.

During our time with the device, not once have we hit any sort of lock-up, stuttering or freezing. We’ve yet to bear witness to the so-called “beach ball of death” either.

Granted, this is during our normal workload of 10-plus Google Chrome browser tabs as well as the Slack chat app – both of which are known for their considerable demands on system resources. We also find work in Photoshop to be silky smooth, too.

It should also come as no surprise that this MacBook won’t compare well on paper to rivals we’ve reviewed, as the XPS 13 we’ve tested has a stronger processor inside. In the case of the Surface Laptop, straight performance comparisons are even harder to make, given we couldn’t run any of our standard benchmarks on it short of our battery test.

Regardless, expect a similar level of performance between the three devices, given that they all make use of the latest Intel processors and super speedy SSDs. Not to mention that this MacBook Pro houses RAM clocked at 2,133MHz to its rivals’ 1,866MHz, helping shore up some differences.

We wouldn’t worry about that Touch Bar and Touch ID module hogging any system resources either, as both are powered by an ARM-based T1 coprocessor – the very same found in Apple’s own Series 2 Apple Watch. This keeps 100% of the Intel chip’s power devoted to core computing.

Though you may be hesitant to pick up a laptop labeled ‘Pro’ without discrete graphics equipped, recent developments to the open-source Vulkan API are providing new opportunities for this MacBook Pro to flourish without the mention of Nvidia or AMD. Paired with Apple’s Metal 2 graphics framework, the MoltenVK implementation can deliver up to a 50% frame rate increase to Dota 2 running in macOS. 

Still, it’s disappointing only the purchase of a 15-inch MacBook Pro will net you the more powerful, quad-core ‘HQ’ series processors. The 13-inch model we reviewed here will probably be limited to a dual-core chip for the foreseeable future.

Battery life

However, we can’t say the Touch Bar – and the coprocessor beneath it – doesn’t impact battery life. This MacBook Pro lasted for 6 hours and 37 minutes through our in-house battery test, looping 1080p video at 50% brightness and volume – with all backlighting and radios (but Wi-Fi) disabled – until it dies.

That’s nearly an hour short of how long last year’s 13-inch MacBook Pro without the Touch Bar ran on the very same test: 7 hours and 24 minutes. (Not mention well short of both the XPS 13 and Surface Laptop.) Plus, last year’s model was actually conducted at 75% screen brightness. 

Between that fact and that the Kaby Lake Intel Core processor inside this year’s laptop is generally believed to be more power efficient, we’re left wondering why the two results aren’t at least closer. Both of these points are rather strong tells that the Touch Bar’s nearly always-on display and its coprocessor have a measurable impact on battery life.

This is before even mentioning that the Touch Bar seems takes up a bit of space beneath the hood that would normally be occupied by battery cells. While we haven’t gotten inside the thing, why else would the model sans Touch Bar house a 54.5-watt-hour battery whereas the model with the Touch Bar included packs a smaller, 49.2Wh power pack?

Surely, you’d want more battery to power two screens and two processors if you could manage it.

Regardless, the newest MacBook Pro is still going to last you on most US flights and perhaps even flights across the Atlantic into western Europe. That should be also good enough to get most through a work day – either way, it’s still short of Apple’s 10-hour claim.

We liked

Getting a hold of a brand new MacBook Pro never gets old. There’s a reason why countless vendors have ripped Apple’s designs over the years: because they’re that good. The Force Touch trackpad should be lauded as an engineering marvel, while the newer keyboard is surprisingly easy to use and vastly improved over the first go at the butterfly hinge. Finally, Touch ID on a MacBook Pro works nearly as fast as it does on an iPhone, and it’s a no-brainer feature at this point.

We disliked

Our most chief concern with the MacBook Pro is what it offers for the price in comparison to rivals running . It’s almost painfully easy to configure a more powerful, longer-lasting and more pixel-dense Windows laptop at online checkout for the same price or even less. Also, despite its merit as another engineering feat, we find the Touch Bar lacking in convenience and necessity for the hit that battery life takes to accommodate the extra hardware.

Final verdict

When it comes to Apple products, especially laptops, there are some whom will never be swayed one way or the other. Either they’re vehemently for or against the MacBook, and will defend either position by any means necessary, whether that be with their money or yet another Mac vs PC Reddit thread.

However, for the scant few of you that might be on the fence (whether you’re coming from a Windows laptop or debating whether to upgrade your MacBook Pro), consider what you’re getting for the price in comparison to rivals. But, also consider the inimitable features that a MacBook Pro affords, like deeper iPhone integration than you can get anywhere else and some of the best keyboards and trackpads we’ve tested, to name a few.

The new MacBook Pro is a marked improvement over the previous generation, upping the processing power and RAM speed as well as improving the keyboard among other features. However, Apple sticking to its guns on things like Thunderbolt 3 ditching the SD card slot and display resolution only stand to hurt it in straight comparisons. 

All told, the newest MacBook Pro will not disappoint both incumbent fans and those jumping the fence – just apply due diligence before clicking the ‘buy’ button.

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Microsoft Surface Pro

Unlike Apple’s efforts with the iPad Pro, the Microsoft Surface Pro has always thought differently. Instead of asking what a computer is, it instead asks ‘How do you make a better computer?’ Because it’s a Microsoft product, the Surface Pro obviously does so through Windows 10, arguably the best operating system the company has ever made.

By default, the intuitive Windows 10 makes the new, 2017 revival of the Surface Pro better than the original trilogy of Microsoft’s professional tablets that shipped complete with the oft-lamented Windows 8. But, as a sequel to the long-praised Surface Pro 4, is it any good?

That’s been our question ever since it surprised us with a reveal in Shanghai last year, and we’ve answered it with a confident and unanimous yes. The Surface Pro may look similar to its predecessor in every way, but it’s leaps and bounds better in nearly every way. Aside from making a handful of necessary concessions to the formula we’ve grown accustomed to over the years, it’s no wonder we’re enthusiastic about the Surface Pro right now.

With this new model, not only is the battery life better than ever, but we’re now blessed with a Surface Pro design that effectively epitomizes what a Windows tablet should look like and how it should feel. It may retain a frame similar to what you were already accustomed to with the Surface Pro 4, but we assure you, this new Surface Pro makes some noticeable improvements with minimal negative side effects.

And, even if the Spring Creators Update, or Windows 10 Redstone 4, has been delayed until later this month, you can still download it for yourself today, you’ll just have to sign up for the Windows Insider Program.

Starting with where you can buy it and for how much, let’s get up close and personal, analyzing why the Surface Pro has once again been treated to our ‘Recommended’ seal of approval.

Pricing and availability

Consistent with its predecessors, the refreshed Surface Pro costs $799 (£799, AU$1,199) to start, but it’s price escalates from there. For that entry-level price, you’re fetching yourself a Kaby Lake Intel Core m3 CPU paired with 4GB of RAM and 128GB of SSD storage. 

Those specs aren’t ideal if your workload is anything like ours, so your best bet is to run with a Surface Pro configuration featuring an Intel Core i5 or i7 chips with more memory and storage. Currently, the Surface Pro maxes out at $2,699 (£2,699, AU$3,999) for an Intel Core i7 CPU paired with a 1TB SSD and 16GB of RAM.

Stacked up against, say, the latest 10.5-inch iPad Pro, Apple starts the conversation at $649 (£619, AU$979) for a tablet with Apple’s A10X processor and 64GB of SSD space. Meanwhile, the most heavily-equipped version goes for $949 (£889, AU$1,429) to offer 512GB worth of flash storage space and the very same CPU.

Then the recently-released Samsung Galaxy Book starts at $629 (£649) for the 10.6-inch version with a 64GB SSD and 4GB of RAM powered by an Intel Core m3 processor and caps out at $729 in the US only for twice as much storage. Only the starting version of the 10.6-inch is available in the UK, and the Galaxy Book has yet to launch altogether in Australia.

The 12-inch version has models that call for $1,129 (£1,099) and $1,329 (£1,269), each with an Intel Core i5 chip and housing 4GB RAM/128GB SSD and 8GB RAM/256GB SSD, respectively.

Considering that the new Surface Pro box no longer includes the Surface Pen and still doesn’t include the keyboard, the Samsung solution suddenly looks like a much better value than both the Surface Pro and always-accessory-challenged iPad Pro. It’s too bad, then, that its performance isn’t mind-blowing and neither is its design.

Still, while Microsoft pulling the Surface Pen out of the box appears to indicate that the new version is more expensive to produce, a Surface Pro purchased with both the Pen and Type Cover would surpass the price of a comparable Galaxy Book by just $100. Nevertheless, it remains a shame that the two aren’t bundled.

Design

At first glance, the new Surface Pro looks just like the last, the Surface Pro 4. It even has the same, admittedly gorgeous, 12.3-inch PixelSense touchscreen with a 2,736 x 1,824-pixel resolution.

But, a keen eye will notice key differences. For one, the magnesium-aluminum alloy frame is rounded at the edges more dramatically than before. 

If you’ve been using a Surface Pro 4 frequently before picking this one up, your fingers will tell the difference before your eyes do.

Another key change comes in the hinge, which has been improved through drawing inspiration from the Surface Studio. The hinge now bends back even further than before to a new “Studio mode” that makes for a narrower, 165-degree angle at which to draw than before.

To that end, the hinge looks markedly different, clearly incorporating new parts to make this more dramatic angle possible, but operates in exactly the same way.

All in all, the new Surface Pro comes in at the exact same 0.33 inches (8.4mm) of thickness with its 1.73 pounds (786g) too remaining unchanged. Considering that Microsoft accomplished this while packing inside a 20% larger battery, it’s an impressive feat.

This is even before considering how Microsoft’s improved thermal design allowed it to make the Intel Core i5 version, as well as the expected Core m3 version, fanless devices.

The new Alcantara Type Cover is a marked improvement in comfort over the previous generation, and largely worth the slight uptick in asking price over the microfiber cloth version. The keys feel like they’re deeper set and come back from a press with more force than ever, and the material looks like it will stand the test of time. Now, if only a black (or purple) version would arrive already.

Surface Pen gets a big boost 

Why Microsoft opted not to call this the Surface Pro 5 is beyond us, as you can now see the firm changed practically every facet of the product. The Surface Pen got some of the most meticulous and belabored treatment.

For one, Microsoft upped the pressure sensitivity of its pen to 4,096 levels of detectable pressure, meaning creators have more control over the width and intensity of their lines in illustrations or designs than before. Perhaps more importantly, the Pen now sports a much lower latency, meaning that the tip of your Pen has a far lower chance of “leading” the ink on the PixelSense display.

Finally, the Pen also supports tilt detection now, though only through the new Surface Pro – the other current Surface devices will get the support for this feature through a firmware update.

This feature will, again – short of some nifty navigation controls in some apps – largely matter most to true creators that would be concerned about representing tilt and direction of the strokes in their work.

To top it all off, the Pen also comes in new, slick colors platinum, black, cobalt blue and burgundy, designed naturally to match to the available colors of new Type Covers. 

There’s no debating that both the new Surface Pen and Type Cover have earned their slight price hikes, but we remain disappointed in the lack of any bundling to save committed customers a bit of money for fully buying in on Microsoft’s products on day one.

Unsurprisingly, the new Surface Pro performs admirably for every task in this editor’s workload, including web browsing with several tabs at a time while word processing, plus download and uploading lots of media files. Not to mention it works just fine for basic photo editing through Lightroom. 

As for gaming, again, anything beyond Hearthstone is going to result in a poor experience. Luckily, touch-friendly games, like Hearthstone, are just delightful to play on the sharp and colorful, 12.3-inch display.

Of course, with media creation being the primary purpose of this device, the 3:2 screen will make for larger black boxes than either you’re used to or are far too familiar with when viewing 16:9 and 21:9 videos and films.

On the benchmarks, the new Surface Pro contends with the latest iPad Pro on Geekbench 4, one of the few tests that can measure both systems. The Surface Pro’s average multi-core processor score of 9,296 is within a hair of the iPad Pro’s 9,290-point ranking.

Mind, that this is the Surface Pro containing a 2.4GHz Intel Core i7 processor, the strongest version of the chip that it can be configured with, starting the cost at $1,599 (£1,549, AU$2,449). Meanwhile, the iPad Pro remains just as powerful regardless of which configuration or model you choose. (Oh, and we’ll just say the Galaxy Book reviewed doesn’t compare to this configuration.)

That said, the processor inside the Surface Pro powers a more deliberately open PC experience with an operating system that allows users to install apps from multiple sources and dig into system files deeper than even will.

Battery life

One area in which Microsoft has improved year-over-year where the competing MacBook and iPad Pro refreshes have not is longevity. This year, The firm managed to shrink its motherboard design, allowing for a 20% larger battery inside.

Coupled with power consumption optimizations the 7th generation (Kaby Lake) Intel processor design brings, Microsoft promises up to 13 hours and 30 minutes of local video playback from the new Surface Pro. That’s a lofty claim.

Of course, we’re not surprised to see its claim not come anywhere close to being true in our testing, as has been the case with its previous products much less all of its rivals. 

However, based on our tests of the previous model’s battery, we no doubt see a marked improvement.

PCMark 8 Battery Life and TechRadar Movie Test results came in 24% and 32% longer than the previous model at 4 hours and 3 minutes, and 6 hours and 58 minutes, respectively. The iPad Pro was rated for between 6 and 7 hours of use, while the Galaxy Book lasted a longer 7 hours and 32 minutes playing back local video but nearly an hour shorter in the more intense PCMark 8 test.

While the numbers are far below Microsoft’s promise either way, the point is that we’re seeing a sizable improvement based on our own results, and that’s enough for us to commend Microsoft’s designers and engineers for making it happen.

We liked

Microsoft has improved just about every facet of the Surface Pro 4’s design while addressing complaints of battery life and even issues some might not have even noticed – like a hinge that could have titled even further. Frankly, with this much improvement inside and out, we’re surprised that Microsoft has refrained from calling this the Surface Pro 5.

We disliked

Vastly improved or not, taking away the Surface Pen from the package is a tough sell. Not providing any sort of bundling incentive for any of the Surface Pro accessories is now a bigger issue than just refusing to include the Type Cover, and Microsoft is only making it more difficult for newcomers to jump that fence.

Final verdict

While it should come as no surprise, to just the extent of how deeply improved this Surface Pro is over the previous model and how it maintains its lead over competing 2-in-1 laptops or tablets is worth reiterating. From the accessories designed to make Surface Pro feel like an even more worthy laptop-and-tablet replacement to its improved battery life, every one of our concerns have been addressed.

That said, Microsoft has again stumbled on the Surface Pro’s value proposition by pulling out parts of the deal. Microsoft didn’t manage to make its case any stronger with the Surface Pro, but rather weaker by removing the new Surface Pen from every box. Again, it’s not very consumer-friendly and only makes arriving at the decision to buy more difficult for would-be Surface owners.

In short, if you’re willing to pay a bit more for the latest accessories than even before, the new Surface Pro remains the ultimate 2-in-1 laptop and productivity tablet. So much so that, despite Microsoft’s decision to pull the Surface Pen from the box, it remains worthy of our Recommended award.

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Apple MacBook

Ever since the original MacBook was announced nearly 12 years ago, it was positioned as an affordable alternative to Apple’s MacBook Air and MacBook Pro laptop PCs. That’s no longer the case today, as the MacBook has since turned into a 12-inch, ultra-premium laptop.

To begin, it features a Retina display, which puts its price point at slightly more than the Air and around the same as the cheapest MacBook Pro. This means that the MacBook, according to Steve Jobs, has so many pixels that they are imperceptible by the human eye from more than 12 inches away.

Future versions of the MacBook may look wildly different from what is available today, as one patent filed by Apple suggests a spill-resistant keyboard in the works. Another rumor reports we might see a dual-screen MacBook with a touch-screen OLED keyboard. There are also some reports that Apple is messing around with the idea of a cheaper 13-inch Retina MacBook starting at around the same price as the $999 (£949 or AU$1,499) MacBook Air. There have also been rumors that Apple is planning on implementing co-processors into some of their future Macs. However, this is all just speculation, so we’ll just have to wait and see. 

As we sit, awaiting the advent of Apple’s next laptop, the 12-inch MacBook you see here is as good as they come. Light, thin and inalterable, it’s a classic Apple product shrouded in a beautiful exterior that’s sure to draw jealous looks. Yet, as luxury often does, the MacBook comes with a cost.

Price and availability

You can easily snag the MacBook we’ve reviewed here off the shelf of your local Apple Store (or Amazon) for $1,299 (£1,249, AU$1,899). That price fetches you everything found under our hot pink spec sheet, including a 7th-generation Intel Core m3 processor. 

It’s worth mentioning that this isn’t the latest CPU to come out of Intel, with the company’s 8th-generation chips having launched last year. Instead, you’ll have to wait for the MacBook 2018 to find out what’s next for Apple’s smallest laptop currently available for sale.

For the time being, should your lavish taste necessitate a more powerful 12-inch MacBook, there are higher tiers to choose from.

One version of the MacBook, for instance, comes with an Intel Core i5-7Y54 and 512GB of SSD space instead of the base model’s 256GB. It’s still fanless, so we wouldn’t bank on speeds quite as fast as the cheapest MacBook Pro, but does come to a grand total of $1,599 (£1,549, AU$2,349).

Should you be interested in getting the top-of-the-line MacBook experience, you’ll be looking at a price tag of $1,949 (£1,864, $2,909) for an Intel Core i7-7Y75 processor and 16GB of RAM, along with the same 512GB of storage brandished by the previously mentioned configuration.

Simultaneously, Google’s flagship Chromebook, the Google Pixelbook, starts at $999 (£999, about AU$1,295) with a beefier Core i5 Y-series processor with the same RAM, but half as much SSD storage.

On the Windows side, one of the most technically comparable laptops is the Acer Swift 7, an Ultrabook seemingly handcrafted to go toe-to-toe with the MacBook. This one starts at $1,099 or £999 (about AU$1,449) for a similar Core i5 Y-series processor with matching storage and RAM as well as a Full HD, 13.3-inch display. 

Design

Frankly, not much of anything has changed about the look and feel of the 12-inch MacBook frame, which isn’t entirely a bad thing. Available in space gray, silver, gold and rose gold, the brushed aluminum feels just as cool (literally) and sublime as it has on Apple laptops for years.

Again, the laptop’s thinness and feathery weight continues to impress to the point that its dimensions are a hallmark aspect of the device. 

That said, an even more narrow screen bezel or just one more USB-C port would be blessings upon the design at this point.

One major improvement upon the 12-inch MacBooks of yesteryear is the refined butterfly switches that comprise the new backlit keyboard. Travel doesn’t feel any deeper, which isn’t great, but feedback is much stronger and more forceful, improving the quality drastically.

The wide, glass-coated trackpad remains unchanged from last year, meaning it’s just as pleasant to use as it’s always been. Apple’s touch interface technology both through hardware and software remains nearly unmatched.

We say ‘nearly’ because Google may have well caught up to Apple with its Pixelbook. Seriously, the keyboard and trackpad on that thing are ones to be imitated.

Display and sound

We all know that Apple has prided itself on its displays for years, and with good reason. The 12-inch MacBook’s screen remains unchanged since the dawn of the product in 2015, which is just fine. Editing photos and doing graphically intense design work looks simply superb on the Retina display, but it’s not the sharpest in its class any longer.

Also, the 16:10 aspect ratio is just off-kilter enough to be annoying sometimes, like when watching movies or editing images that are formatted to 16:9 in fullscreen mode.

As for how the laptop sounds, the four stereo speakers toward its hinge can definitely pump out some loud tunes. But, like all laptops with mere millimeters to work with for audio chambers, the sound comes through tinny and thin, with some channels in songs just getting lost outright.

That said, you’re not going to find much better sound elsewhere out of a laptop anywhere near this thin. Thank heaven this is a product Apple has yet to cut the headphone jack from.

Gabe Carey has also contributed to this review

While the 12-inch MacBook still makes use of an M- or Y-series Intel processor, we’ve already come to know that this means little to the average user. It’s capable enough even if that user is doing some photo editing with the laptop in question – though, video editing might be pushing it.

During our time with Apple’s latest, we experienced nothing in the way of chugging or slowdown with more than 20 Google Chrome tabs open at some points. Bear in mind that those tabs were generating everything from streaming music to text editors, spreadsheets and even live chat.

Because we’re stacking the MacBook up against a laptop that runs Chrome OS and one that released early in the year, before we adopted the Geekbench 4 test, straight comparisons in the numbers would be a fool’s errand. 

What these numbers should tell you is that this laptop is more than capable of handling basic tasks and even some advanced ones, like Java-based graphical map generation.

That said, don’t be surprised to see this laptop get spanked by those equipped with full-fat, mobile U-series Intel processors. 

When you stack those stark differences with the arguably minimal gains in weight and thinness that those laptops present, it’s hard not to question the price of such an admittedly gorgeous device.

Battery life

All that said, the 2017 MacBook continues to beat most of its rivals in pure longevity, reporting a battery life score in our original TechRadar Battery Life Test of 8 hours and 4 minutes. That’s nearly a half-hour longer than the Pixelbook and several hours longer than the Swift 7.

Of course, that’s unsurprisingly far below Apple’s battery life claims of up to 10 hours wireless web browsing or up to 12 hours iTunes movie playback. Regardless, it’s well beyond what most Ultrabooks of this year have reported in our test, which sets screen brightness and audio volume to 50%, as well all other back lights and radios off save for Wi-Fi.

We liked

This year’s MacBook sees vast improvements to the keyboard, especially in feedback strength, making typing on it far more delightful and accurate. 

The sheer thinness and lightness of the device is still an impressive feat, and the gains in processor speed are welcome no matter how modest they may be in real-world use.

We disliked

Frankly, the price of this laptop should be at least 100 bills less regardless of currency, and a marquee performance feature of this laptop – 16GB of RAM capacity – simply costs too much.

Plus, the lack of ports and the middling 480p webcam just can’t be ignored any longer for a laptop that costs this much.

Final verdict

To be honest, given its exorbitant price for what’s on offer hardware-wise, we’re a bit annoyed that we like the 2017 12-inch MacBook as much as we do. Simply put, the laptop is rather easily out-classed in terms of pricing by many rivals in terms of brass tacks components, from storage capacity to ports to screen sharpness.

However, the feel of using this laptop on a daily basis is where it manages to hold its ground in the competition. Apple’s latest MacBook design has proven to be inimitable over the past couple years, delivering an experience that’s both performant and lightweight in ways that most other laptops can’t. 

Simply working on something or browsing the web from the couch with our legs crossed feels better on this laptop than it does most others we’ve tested. Throwing this MacBook into a backpack – and perhaps even forgetting the charger – feels as if nothing is in there. Yet, what comes out is a laptop that wakes up instantly and won’t slow down short of gaming or intense graphical editing work. 

If you can get past a price tag that’s high even for Mac fans, then prepare to enjoy what’s surprisingly the best MacBook in years – Pro or otherwise.

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Cooler Master MasterSet MS120

A solid keyboard and mouse are great for improving your PC gaming setup, but stepping up to said peripherals can get expensive, especially when you add a mechanical keyboard to the mix. Cooler Master has always been one to set the game straight with affordable mechanical keyboard and mouse combos, but now it has something for even lower budgets with its MasterSet MS120.

For $89 (£67, AU$99), Cooler Master’s combo includes a mem-chanical keyboard and an ergonomic gaming mouse. That’s a solid deal, especially when some mem-chanical keyboards, like the $79 (£99, AU$169) Razer Ornata and $89 (£89, about AU$115) Roccat Horde Aimo cost the same amount of money on their own.

Value aside, the MasterSet MS120 simply comes with such a spectacular gaming keyboard that we would go for this combo just to have it on its own.

Design

The MasterSet MS120 comes with a compact and sharp-looking keyboard and an ergonomic, right-handed mouse that’s sure to please palm grip users.

Firstly, in a word, we would describe the MasterSet MS120 keyboard as being ‘tight’. The keyboard features a frameless design that’s on par, if not smaller, than other compact peripherals, like the Logitech G513 and HyperX Alloy FPS. Cooler Master also incorporates an aesthetic all its own, with angular lines to give it a more interesting shape than just a plain rectangle.

Surprisingly on a combo this affordable, you also get full RGB illumination with per-key customization – which is all done through keyboard shortcuts with no software in sight. What’s more, the hovering keycaps and white baseplate beneath the buttons both help this keyboard truly shine.

Of course, for those not crazy about patterned RGB lighting, you can set the keyboard up with simple static lighting or switch it all off completely. Aside from some light-up letters to denote gaming mode as well as the Num, Scroll and Caps Lock keys, this is a very straightforward and modern peripheral.

Cooler Master MasterSet MS120 review

The MasterSet MS120 mouse is a right-handed, ergonomic pointer that looks like the spitting image of the Cooler Master MasterMouse MM520. Aside from the side grip being a smooth piece of plastic – as opposed to a honeycomb design – it’s practically the same mouse down to the same cheap, hollow feeling

As we’ve said in our previous review, we appreciate the mouse’s extended frame that adds support for our ring finger and a comfortable gripping point for our pinky, but it simply feels too hollow for its own good.

Cooler Master MasterSet MS120 review

Performance

The MasterSet MS120 keyboard might not feature real mechanical key switches, but Cooler Master’s Tactile Hybrid mem-chanical switches come damn close to emulating the experience. Every keystroke creates the same satisfying click we associate with Cherry MX switches, meanwhile springs beneath each key offer the perfect amount of resistance and an almost instantaneous reset we love on a premium keyboard.

It also helps that the Tactile Hybrid mem-chanical switches offer a deep 3.6mm of travel distance paired with an ultra-short 1.2mm actuation point. The only negative thing we have to say about the MasterSet MS120 keyboard is that it’s a little too loud, with a sharp squeak likely caused by the the plastics of the key switches rubbing against each other.

Unfortunately, the MasterSet MS120 mouse is a little less to write home about. It offers completely serviceable accuracy and responsiveness. However, the Avago 3050 Optical Sensor inside is only able to reach up to 3,050 DPI. This is a mouse you’ll eventually grow out of even if its Omron micro switches are rated for 10 million clicks.

Cooler Master MasterSet MS120 review

Final verdict

Just $89 (£67, AU$99) for a gaming keyboard and mouse combo is an amazing deal, especially when the keyboard is as good as other mem-chanical peripherals, like the Razer Ornata Roccat Horde Aimo. The included MasterSet MS120 Mouse isn’t the best, but whether you take it or leave it, the mouse does a decent job and adds to the package’s overall value.

If you’re looking to level up your gaming setup, the Cooler Master MasterSet MS120 is a great way to start with a combo that’s among the most affordable of options.

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Trendnet TV-IP318PI

There’s no shortage of almost identical IP cameras out there, all offering day and night surveillance with easy access via a mobile device, but there aren’t so many models capable of making 4K quality recordings. By capturing four times as much information as a 1080p device, the Trendnet TV-IP318PI has a real edge, revealing detail that could potentially be very useful.

At £200 (around $285 or AU$365) it is rather expensive for a network camera, and recording in 2160p takes up more space on a hard drive, all of which raises the question: do I really need to view my security footage in ultra-high definition?

Design

The bullet camera casing of Trendnet’s TV-IP318PI is made of steel and is weatherproof to IP67 regulations. The ball-and-socket hinge and wall-mounting plate are also metal and the whole thing feels strong enough to survive outdoors. It’s quite compact and could just as easily be located inside, although its pale grey livery is unlikely to match the office decor.

You can only just about make out when it is switched on and active, from the faint red light beside the lens, because the infrared LEDs are masked. After-dark intruders will not be able to see the ring of IR LEDs around the lens, even though they are strong enough to reveal objects 30 meters away.

At the rear is a single lead that splits into an Ethernet cable supporting PoE (Power over Ethernet) and a power input in case you’re not set up for PoE and need to add a power adapter, which is not included.

Look underneath and you’ll find the bolted compartment guarding the microSD card slot, which allows you to record up to 128GB of footage locally.

Features

Trendnet’s high-spec camera uses a fairly large 8MP sensor to record 2160p video at 20 frames per second onto a NAS drive, an FTP site, or a microSD card. The H.265 format that it uses is quite compressed, but if you think 4K is overkill for around-the-clock recording, then you can of course reduce the resolution and fit more on your NAS drive.

It’s worth noting that you can’t stream live UHD quality footage to your phone – the resolution is automatically downscaled to 720p.

Behind the black glass there are motion sensors too, which means you can program the camera to record only when it is triggered by movement, and have an email alert sent to your phone. You can also specify which days, and at what times of day, you want the camera to be active.

Setup

We had real trouble getting the Trendnet TV-IP318PI up and running and we wouldn’t describe it as user-friendly. PoE certainly makes the installation process easy, with only one cable to connect (there is no Ethernet cable in the box by the way), but we found that none of our routers were PoE compatible and therefore, a PoE injector was needed.

This makes the installation considerably messier, not to mention more expensive – the injector (pictured above) costs around £22 (around $31, AU$40) – so check your own router first.

The companion app for iOS and Android, called Trendnet IPView, is fairly new, but it’s not very helpful in connecting your device with a Wi-Fi network. There’s no QR code to scan, for instance. Instead you have to find out the camera’s IP address yourself in order to register your username and password on a computer before you can access the camera via the mobile app.

It’s the kind of thing an IT worker takes for granted, but anyone familiar with the latest smart cameras by Nest or Netatmo will be surprised and frustrated by Trendnet’s convoluted setup procedure.

Performance

So, the Trendnet TV-IP318PI is not the easiest security camera to install, or use for that matter, and once set up, we found that the connection with the companion app often faltered. When this happens the picture on your phone is replaced momentarily by a ‘disconnected’ message, but more annoyingly, it stops recording to your device.

In other respects, it worked smoothly, once we worked out how to set all of the preferences. The app doesn’t give you access to the settings for image quality and scheduling, so you have to use a browser and it’s not the most intuitive interface.

When it comes to picture quality, the Trendnet TV-IP318PI has a distinct advantage. Its 8MP sensor is able to capture video at 2160p (4K) resolution, which means four times as many pixels as a 1080p camera. This is a big advantage if you need to be able to discern detail such as car number plates, or identify faces.

For example, we were able to zoom in on the recording of a cat that visited the garden we were surveying to see whether or not it was wearing a collar. Most security cameras are unable to resolve that kind of detail.

But is that level of resolution really necessary? Streaming video at 4K is problematic and the highest quality this camera can live stream is 720p. Most people agree that to see the advantages of 2160p over 1080p, you need a fairly large 4K screen. With a modest-sized desktop monitor, you might not see much of a difference. And as mentioned, even with H.265 compression, 4K video takes up a lot more space on your hard drive than Full HD.

Final verdict

The TV-IP318PI feels well-made and is supported by an established brand. The PoE connectivity makes for a neat installation and there are undoubtedly situations where the extra resolution is a real advantage. If you view your security footage on a 4K monitor, then this is the camera you have been waiting for.

However, the user interface and companion app leave a lot to be desired, and the problems associated with streaming and storing 4K video could outweigh the benefits of the better image. 

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Honest Vital Reds Review: Does The Supplement Work?

Life today has become so fast that it’s quite difficult keeping balance of everything around, particularly concerning managing digestive, and metabolism, and weight management concerns. It’s not an easy thing to do. Mostly we tend to go for things which could provide optimal help in minimal time. But people often ignore their health to save their time, leading them to gain weight and other health issues.
 
What is Vital Reds?

Vital Reds is described as a wellness supplement that’s created by Gundry MD. This supplement comes in powder form. The product is marketed to help in giving you an energy boost, have enhanced digestion, and make your skin become healthier. This formula is said to be sugar free, lectin free, soy-free, and artificial sweetener free.
 
What makes Vital Reds Achieve Much?

The secret is in its ingredients. Together with polyphenol blend, the following is a breakdown of the supplement ingredients:

Metabolic mixture: Ginger root, cinnamon bark, white tea and green tea leaf extracts, black pepper fruit, bitter lemon leaf extracts plus black pepper fruit.

Digestive blend: Lactobacillus acidophilus, bacillus coagulans, L.reuteri2 and bifidobacterium lactis.

The question is now how to put these together…

It’s simple. Just pour into water or any other kind of beverage some small scoop of Vital Reds you like once in a day.

Perhaps you are concerned about adding some new supplement to your expanding regimen. Note that you are covered by a money-back guarantee of 90 days from Gundry MD. Therefore when you are dissatisfied with the results within this period, you sure to get your full refund.

The good thing is that Vital Reds supplements are only single part of the full range of Gundry MD supplement supply line.

Prebiothrive combines a total of five advanced prebiotic ingredients that help creating in your stomach prebiotic-friendly environment.

Primal Plants is an amazing 25-ingredient formula combining green superfoods that are rich in polyphenols together with metabolic and digestive support, similar to Vital Reds.

Glucose Defence that combines ingredients such as turmeric extract and cinnamon bark to support your body’s natural ability to manage your blood sugar levels.

Lectic Shield helps in reducing effects of lectins and plant-based proteins which may affect your digestion plus overall health.

Therefore, these and several more products may combine with Vital Reds so as to offer you full-on approach to your well being.
 
But Why Polyphenols?

A number of the ingredients are quite popular and you must have heard about them before. But others like polyphenols may be relatively unheard of. These are a combination of micronutrients which we receive via some plant-based foods. The most common example is the berry family. Polyphenols are linked to several benefits that include:

  •  Weight management
  • Digestive support
  • Heart support
  • Brain support

But when you select supplements to make you receive polyphenols, it is significant you select some safe product. This is the main reason why Vital Reds is important because it has this safety quality.

The Age Limit

People of any age may use the product. Vital Reds is going to assist them achieve their targets through boosting stamina, making the skin glow and healthier and improving metabolism. The use of the supplement is quite simple and it doesn’t need any prolonged process. All its ingredients are natural therefore; it is quite easy to trust the product.
 
Who’s Gundry MD, the brains behind Vital Reds?

Steven Gundry is a famous name concerning health management. He is a cardiovascular surgeon who has spent several years of his life helping people concerning their health problems. He is the founder of the Center for Restorative Medicine. He also has several other achievements to his credit in the medicine world.

Dr. Steven Gundry has a solid belief that a combination of natural ingredients together with positive diet changes may help those who want to lose their weight quickly without causing any adverse side effect to the body.

Conclusion

All in all, with the assistance of amazing products such as Vital Reds, a product that may be found on Gundry MD website, everyone now can enjoy the benefits of what the natural products can do to their weight loss efforts and skin management plus their overall health. With its natural ingredients that has no adverse side effects on the body, this product is highly recommended to people of all ages.