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Acer’s latest Chromebook means serious business

The latest Acer Chromebooks for business have arrived in South Africa. BRYAN TURNER reviewed the Acer Chromebook 715.

Click below to read the review.

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The Chromebook market has been perceived as very consumer-focused, until the recent introduction of management tools for Chrome OS.

To complement these corporate management tools, Acer has released the Chromebook 715, aimed at the business person that works in the cloud, in South Africa.

The unit we reviewed contained an Intel Core i5-8250U, 16GB of RAM, and 128GB of eMMC storage. All of this was housed in a sturdy aluminium body. 

On the left side, the computer features a USB Type-C port for charging and data transfer, a standard USB Type-A port, and a headphone jack, while on the right it has a Kensington Lock, another USB Type-C port just for connectivity and a microSD card slot. 

When open, the narrow bezelled 15.6″-inch display has a Full HD resolution for crisp lettering in documents. The wide colour gamut also ensures that colours are accurately represented on screen. 

The keyboard features a first for Chromebooks: a num-pad. This is especially useful for those working with spreadsheets on Google Sheets or Excel Online, or accountants working in web apps like Xero.

The overall design of this computer shows the professional look Acer was going for with a business-facing Chromebook. It has a grey aluminium body, which looks heavy, but comes to a mere 1.8kg. It’s much lighter than it looks for an almost 16″ laptop.

The performance is great and switching between web apps is fast. This is thanks to the embedded i5 processor, which doesn’t make as much of a noise as its Windows counterparts.

The computer isn’t for the “slashie”: those who run their personal and business lives on the same device. As a result, games don’t run on the computer because it doesn’t run applications. This asserts the device’s status as a purely business-focused device.

Apart from the hardware features, the computer is handled via the lightweight Chrome OS. 

Chrome OS is Google’s answer for those who only work with web apps, and don’t want their computer’s performance hindered by unnecessary apps. With the increasing power offered from web apps, the computer application as we know is likely to disappear eventually. 

With Google’s Apps for Work platform, the Chromebook lends itself to the same admin management tools that exist on other platforms. 
The integrated 45 Wh battery may seem small but operates for around 9 hours, thanks to the lightweight software and good battery management.  

Overall, for those who want a no-nonsense approach to computing, the Acer Chromebook 715 may be their best next device. However, its pricing at R7,999 may deter those who would expect to pay less.

Product of the Day

Asus ZenBook Pro Duo reimagines dual screens

Asus’s ZenBook Pro Duo implements the dual-screen concept very differently: instead of side-by-side, the extra screen sits beneath the main screen. BRYAN TURNER tried out the laptop.

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Asus’s strong ZenBook line, aimed at creatives, has added a powerful laptop to the game: the dual-screen ZenBook Pro Duo. This machine shows some of the most thoughtful design on the market, including a new type of dual-screen layout that makes a lot of sense. 

When closed it looks like any other laptop and has a concentric circle design etched into aluminium. The laptop feels sturdy on the base as well as the screen, and looks like it could withstand a drop. It’s 24mm thick and weighs around 2.5kg, so it seems pretty thick until one looks at the internals of this machine. 

We had the Intel Core i7-9750H processor configuration but can come with an Intel Core i9-9980HK configuration. Both configurations come with Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060, with 6GB of GDDR6 VRAM. This makes this laptop more of a high-performance desktop with laptop features rather than a high-performance laptop. 

When opening up this computer, we were greeted with a large 15.6” 4K (3840×2160) OLED panel and another 14” (3840 x 1100) 4K UHD display below that, called the ScreenPad Plus. Both screens are touchscreens, 100% DCI-P3, and are brighter than most laptops. As a result, the keyboard and trackpad have been shifted below the second screen. The lowered keyboard takes some getting used to, but is totally worth it for the second display.

The ScreenPad Plus comes with a set of its own apps, including Spotify, handwriting mode, and a few other quick settings. It comes with a stylus called the Asus Pen, which allows for 1024 pressure levels and rejects one’s palm, making it very useful for apps like Adobe Illustrator. The top screen supports that pen too, but writing feels far more natural on the ScreenPad Plus.

An ErgoLift hinge raises the computer up at an angle, to make the lowered keyboard more comfortable to type on, as well as aid the cooling system. It’s at a small 4.5 degrees tilt with this hinge that makes a huge difference in typing comfort.

On the left side, a USB-A port, a regular size HDMI 2.0 port and a proprietary charging jack. On the right side, it features a USB-A 3.1 port, Thunderbolt 3, and a 3.5mm audio jack. Both sides feature air outlet ports. 

We tested Rise of the Tomb Raider at 1080p, with the RTX 2060, and set the game to its highest preset graphics settings. The game’s frame counter was used. It hovered between 70 and 75 frames per second (fps) with 10 minutes of gameplay, which is really good compared to most desktop computers. 

The processor is a 6-Core 9th Generation Intel Core i7 CPU (i7-9750H), which provides snappy performance. We noted a start-up time from shutdown to desktop around 7 seconds. This was made possible by a combination of the fast processor and solid-state drive in the computer. This also makes opening programmes lightning fast.

Now for the trackpad. The off-centre trackpad placement feels a bit weird, even though we know why it’s placed that way. We found ourselves using an external mouse and using it in a very handy NumPad mode. The trackpad is extremely precise otherwise. 

The laptop’s battery is 71 Wh, which may seem large, but it needs to power two big screens and heavy processors. As a result, it’s difficult to get more than 6 hours of productivity out of the machine. We played Rise of the Tomb Raider with both screens on for about 1 hour before we needed to charge it. 

It will be available for about R48,000 (depending on when one buys it) in the Intel Core i7, 512GB SSD, and 16GB RAM configuration, putting it up there with the high-performance laptops in terms of price.

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Product of the Day

LG G8X ThinQ doubles up on multitasking

The G8X Thinq from LG features two screens, in a new take that isn’t quite foldable but definitely more affordable.

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LG has announced the global start of sales of LG G8XThinQ with LG Dual Screen, both previewed at Mobile World Congress in February and unveiled in September at IFA 2019 in Berlin. Together, LG G8XThinQ with LG Dual Screen offer consumers a new way to interact with a mobile device, by allowing two apps to run on full screens, side by side.

The handset lets consumers stay on top of two apps at the same time, whether texting a friend while watching a video, updating fantasy football while researching stats, or sharing and comparing while online shopping. And if users don’t want the second screen (depending on the scenario), it can detach.

It features a convenient cover display, with the essentials like notifications, date, time, battery life available at a glance. With a 360° Freestop Hinge, LG Dual Screen is able to lock into at any angle, making it practical for use as a game controller at 120°, a mini-laptop at 140°, flat at 180°, a stand or tent at 270°, or to take a call flipped back on itself at 360°.

LG Game Pad is a dual screen experience designed to level up mobile gaming and deliver an edge in the competitive moment. It gives gamers a view of a game on one screen and a full virtual controller on the other, giving the options to choose from multiple controllers or build a custom layout to match specific game play needs and styles. LG Game Pad mimics touch input on the main display, making it compatible with most games. 

The LG Smart Keyboard converts the device into a mini-laptop. The bottom display transforms into a full-screen virtual keyboard, which makes it possible to write emails on one display and watch the text flow on the other.

LG’s newest G-series smartphone features a dynamic 6.4-inch OLED FullVision display, a powerful 32MP front-facing camera, impressive dual rear-facing cameras with new photo and video modes, two balanced 1.2W stereo speakers, the first in-display fingerprint sensor on an LG smartphone and a large 4,000mAh battery.

“The introduction of LG G8XThinQ and LG Dual Screen enables us to be part of the conversation around larger mobile displays but at a much more price-friendly entry point,” says Morris Lee, senior vice president at LG Electronics Mobile Communications Company. “From the industry’s first wide angle camera in a smartphone, rear-mounted fingerprint sensor and optical gesture control, LG continues to push the boundaries of smartphone innovation and this continues with LG G8XThinQ Dual Screen.”

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