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When 2-in-1 costs less than 1

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Two-in-one combination tablet/laptops usually come at a price that makes laptops more attractive, but now low-cost options are emerging, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

Tablets that are designed with docking keyboards and better known as 2-in-1 tablets have long been touted as an ideal compromise between the portability of a tablet and the productivity of a keyboard device.

However, the cost of most of the options available in the South African market is often higher than that of a reasonable laptop.

For example, a 15.6-inch HP Celeron notebook with a 500GB hard drive and Windows 10, can be had for as little as R4999. An Asus 2-in-1 Transformer Book with 11.6-inch screen costs more than R6000. Granted, it comes with the versatility of a detachable tablet that can also be flipped round on the keyboard to become an effective display or presentation device.

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The tablet portion can be used to continue working in settings that are often too cramped for a fold-up notebook – ranging from buses and taxis to economy class seats on aircraft. Laptops come into their own when the trackpad and keyboard are essential for productivity applications like Word and Excel.

The challenge is to get the best of both worlds at a down-to-earth price. Now, solutions are beginning to emerge.

A local company called Inclusive Solutions has become South African distributor of a new range of low-cost 2-in-1 laptops under the Venturer brand. It is offering a basic 10.1-inch model called the BravoWin, but it is more likely to make inroads with the EliteWin 11K, an 11.6-inch device retailing at under R4 000.

Aside from the regular laptop mode, as the 2-in-1 format implies, it can also be used in tablet mode and display mode – with the tablet section reversed on the keyboard dock. It also offers a presentation mode similar to that of Lenovo’s Yoga devices, in the shape of an open laptop overturned and resting on the edges of the keyboard and tablet.

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A multi-touch capacitive touch screen means the tablet screen is fairly responsive. Along with an Intel Atom 1.44GHz processor and 4GB RAM, the system is not too shabby either.

The one drawback is storage space, which comes in at a stingy 32GB. Once the operating system and basic apps are installed, that doesn’t leave much room for a modest collection of music, photos and movies. In North America and Europe, on-device storage is becoming less of an issue as access to cloud storage becomes cheaply and widely available.

However, Inclusive Solutions has come up with its own local solution, bundling the device with a 64GB micro SD card, making for a total 96GB capacity. That is still not massive but, considering the device also has both USB and micro-USB ports, storage on peripheral devices becomes a viable option. The drives are both positioned on the side of the tablet component, making this one of the few tablets on the market with multi-USB functionality.

A Mini HDMI port for connecting to a TV, 2MP front and rear cameras, 1366 x 768 resolution, and 8 hours battery life round out a set of fairly straightforward features. It is a sturdy unit that will appeal to students and those starting out in the working world.

It’s closest competition is likely to be the 2-in-1 Alcatel Plus 10, with almost identical features but a slightly smaller screen, at 10.6-inches. Launched in South Africa late last year, it also has slightly lower screen resolution, of 1280 x 800.

It’s standout feature is a keyboard that doubles as a Wi-Fi hotspot for up to 15 users. This all comes with a recommended retail price of R3600, positioning it as another alternative for students and young users.

Both the Venturer and the Alcatel options are ideal for school use when iPads are either too costly or do not meet productivity needs. But there is one more factor that gives these devices an edge at their price: they provide a laptop format with touch-screen capabilities – a feature that would add almost the cost of these devices to any standard laptop.

 

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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CES: So long, and thanks for all the beer!

Last week, the Las Vegas expo showed off its fun side with state-of-the-art technologies for enjoying beer, writes BRYAN TURNER

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From craft beer-making machines to robots that pour beer, CES had more beer than usual in Las Vegas last week. And even free beer if you found the right stand. Stampede’s saloon-style booth offered beer to visitors who tried out its latest drones, virtual reality, and other gaming products. No beer tech, though.

Here are some of the beer technologies that stood out:

LG HomeBrew – Craft beer made at home

LG’s HomeBrew craft beer-making machine,  debuted at CES 2019, brings the brewing process home thanks to single-use capsules,  a self-cleaning feature, and an algorithm optimised for fermentation. 

Like a Nespresso coffee machine, the beer maker uses capsules, which contain malt, yeast, hop oil and flavouring. At the press of a button, LG HomeBrew automates the whole procedure from fermentation and carbonation to ageing. A companion app lets users check HomeBrew’s status at any time during the process, from their handsets.

The beer machine not only offers a simple way to make craft beer, but also enhances the quality of beer it makes. The fermentation algorithm intelligently controls the fermenting process with precise temperature and pressure control. It automatically sanitises itself, using nothing more than hot water, ensuring everything is hygienically clean for the next batch.

Designed with discerning beer lovers in mind, HomeBrew allows for in-home production of batches of more than 4 litres of beer in a variety of styles. The following five distinctive, flavoured beers are available now: 

  • Hoppy American IPA
  • Golden American Pale Ale
  • Full-bodied English Stout
  • Zesty Belgian-style Witbier
  • Dry Czech Pilsner

The only catch? It takes about two weeks to make, depending on the beer type.

“LG HomeBrew is the culmination of years of home appliance and water purification technologies that we’ve developed over the decades,” said Dan Song, president of LG Electronics Home Appliance & Air Solutions Company. “Homebrewing has grown at an explosive pace, but there are still many beer lovers who haven’t taken the jump because of the barriers to entry, like complexity, and these are the consumers we think will be attracted to LG HomeBrew.”

Click here to read about the party speaker that holds beer and robots that pour beer.

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CES: Alienware gets Legend-ary

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At CES in Las Vegas last week, Dell’s Alienware released a family of high-end, thin, light, and affordable machines for both amateur and professional gamers – and a new identity.

Alienware marked CES 2019 as a brand milestone with the debut of a new design identity, Alienware Legend. It aims to set a new bar of excellence for what gamers want most – performance and function. Alienware says it evaluated multiple concepts and chose one that was the biggest and boldest departure from its current look.

Alienware Legend, says the company, stays true to the brand’s core design tenets, taking cues from its deep roots in sci-fi culture and its early industrial designs, to distinguish the brand from the rest of the industry. The new Legend design is optimised with cutting-edge thermal cooling technology to achieve and sustain overclocking power, improved AlienFX lighting, and ultra-thin screen borders. It also unveiled a new “three-knuckle hinge” design that reduces the overall dimension while creating a stronger assembly, all combining to yield a better gaming experience.

“We’re excited to come to this year’s CES with some truly groundbreaking products, next-gen software and strategic partnerships that will bring more people to experience PC gaming and advance the industry,” said Frank Azor, vice president and general manager of Alienware. “The legend design answers the call for more and better from our gaming community, and the new G Series laptops will make PC gaming even more accessible to those looking for high-performance gaming at a cost they can appreciate.”

Click here to read about Alienware Legend in action with the Area-51m and m-series laptops

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