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Samsung Galaxy A35 review: a Samsung Galaxy S24 for the rest of us
7:00 pm | May 19, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Phones Samsung Galaxy Phones | Tags: , , , | Comments: Off

Samsung Galaxy A35 two-minute review

The Samsung Galaxy A35 is a smartphone designed for people who want the finest tech from South Korea’s favorite phone company, but can’t stomach the hefty price tag often demanded by the best Samsung phones.

By ‘finest tech’ I of course refer to the Samsung Galaxy S24 series, Sammy’s recent line of flagship phones, which come with a cost that's north of my monthly rent. Thankfully, people who prefer their cheap phones can still enjoy some of the best Galaxy tech thanks to the A35.

If you’re new to the Galaxy A range, it’s Samsung’s step-down line compared to the flagship Galaxy S range (though not as far down as the M or J series, available in some countries). The ‘3’ in the title refers to the phone’s place in the sliding scale of premiumness – ‘0’ is super-cheap, and higher numbers get incrementally better – while the ‘5’ tells you that this is part of the fifth generation of Galaxy A mobiles (well, at least since Samsung started this numbering system).

These handsets all borrow specific bits of Samsung tech from the company's top-end mobiles, while otherwise presenting an affordable package with corners cut to keep the price low. And the Galaxy A35 is another great example of that strategy.

Samsung’s fantastic display tech is shining brightly on the Galaxy A35: the screen is big, bold, bright, vibrant, and other synonyms for ‘nice to look at’. If you consider your phone to be a glorified Netflix, Prime Video or Disney Plus-streaming device, then the Galaxy A35 will tick your box.

The Samsung Galaxy A35 leaning against a bench.

(Image credit: Future)

You’re getting all of Samsung’s popular OneUI software here, with its customization tools, programmable routines and the colorful, fun user interface. You’re also getting its bloatware, as it’s not just stuffed with Samsung and Google apps, but also some choice third-party ones, too.

The chipset is a surprising feature: on paper, it’s just a bog-standard, low-end Samsung chip, but it absolutely cracks through long gaming bouts or intensive tasks; mobile gamers won’t find anything to turn their nose up at here.

It’s not a perfect phone, though, even by Galaxy A standards. The cameras are a prime example, as they just don’t hold a candle to those on other models I’ve tested. Low-light snaps were vibrant enough, but odd scene optimization AI edits and questionable ultra-wide performance marred the results.

The trappings of low-end mobiles are here in some respects, too: charging is slow, the design is a bit utilitarian and the fingerprint sensor is just awful. Stick to facial unlocking or a PIN/password if you buy this device.

Still, there’s nothing on this phone that’s outright disappointing when you consider its price, and a fair few features are actually better than you’d expect. All told, then, you’re not going to be left feeling mugged off if you buy the Galaxy A35.

Samsung Galaxy A35 review: price and availability

  • Released in March 2024
  • On sale in the US, UK and Australia, among other regions
  •  $399.99 / £339.99 / AU$549.99, only one variant

The Samsung Galaxy A35 was announced in March 2024 and released shortly thereafter, as part of the company’s 2024 line of budget smartphones.

You can pick up the device for $399.99 / £339.99 / AU$549.99 in its sole 128GB configuration, though you can pick between a few color options if you want some amount of customization.

At that price, this is a worthy budget alternative to the $799 / £799 / AU$1,399 Samsung Galaxy S24, getting you a few specs and features pinched from the premium mobiles, but at a much lower price.

It’s not Samsung’s cheapest phone, with the Galaxy A0X, A1X and A2X lines all offering cheaper options, though almost all of those devices have specs weak enough to make them not worth considering (with the exception of the Samsung Galaxy A25).

Samsung Galaxy A35 review: specs

The Samsung Galaxy A35 has specs that run the gamut from low-end to top-end, which you can see below:

Samsung Galaxy A35 review: design

The Samsung Galaxy A35's USB-C port.

(Image credit: Future)
  • Standard-looking chocolate bar Android phone
  • Color options vary by region
  • Fingerprint scanner is unreliable

Samsung hasn’t exactly been changing things between its Galaxy A-series mobiles of late, and the Galaxy A35 is certainly no exception. It’s your standard chocolate bar smartphone with a fairly large body and a flat edge.

The handset weighs 209g, so it’s roughly average as mobiles go, and it measures 161.7 x 78 x 8.2mm, which is a little on the hefty side but not as big as Samsung’s ‘Ultra’ phones. It’s noticeably bigger than the S24, though.

The Galaxy A35 has a glass front and back, making it feel more premium in the hand than many other mid-range phones. It ships in a range of color options, too, but those options depend on region: US buyers can pick between navy and lilac, Australian customers can choose navy or pale blue, and UK buyers get all three of those options, as well as the fetching pale yellow that you see in the images accompanying this review. All these colors are relatively restrained given the vibrancy of some of Samsung’s previous Galaxy A color options.

Unlike some of its cheaper A-series siblings, the Galaxy A35 doesn’t have a 3.5mm headphone jack. Instead, its only port is the USB-C one on the bottom edge of the device.

Both the volume rocker and power button are on the right edge of the device, and you may find yourself stretching to reach them unless you have big mitts.

Samsung uses an under-display fingerprint sensor for the phone, but you’d be forgiven for not noticing — that is to say, it failed to find my finger more often than it succeeded, and I ended up having to type my password in far more often than on most other mobiles.

The phone is certified with an IP67 rating, which means it’s totally protected from small particles (sand, dust, flour and the like) and will also survive being submersed in liquid at a depth of up to 1 meter for a limited time – don’t take it swimming, then, but it should still work if you accidentally drop it in your beer.

  • Design score: 3 / 5

Samsung Galaxy A35 review: display

The Samsung Galaxy A35 leaning against a bench.

(Image credit: Future)
  • 6.6-inches with 1080 x 2340 resolution
  • Super AMOLED results in punchy visuals
  • 120Hz refresh rate for smooth scrolling

If any part of the Samsung Galaxy A35 will make you forget that you’re using a budget mobile, it’s the display.

The phone boasts a big 6.6-inch display, which is bigger than most Galaxy A-series mobiles and also the Galaxy S24. It has a 1080 x 2340 resolution, which is the same as most mobiles on the market, and a 19.5:9 aspect ratio. 

Anyone who’s used a Samsung phone will know that the company’s tech is strongest in the display department; this mobile uses a Super AMOLED panel with a fairly high max brightness of 1000 nits. The screen is bright and colors pop, enhancing that Netflix stream or gaming session.

Even your average scrolling experience is better on the Galaxy A35 thanks to its 120Hz refresh rate, which makes motion look smoother and is far from a given on phones in this price range (heck, even the iPhone 15 doesn't have a 120Hz refresh rate).

  • Display score: 4 / 5

Samsung Galaxy A35 review: software

The Samsung Galaxy A35's quick settings menu.

(Image credit: Future)
  • Android 14 with One UI 6.1 over the top
  • Customization and routines good, bloatware bad
  • Four years of OS updates, five of security

A major similarity between the Samsung Galaxy A35 and its Galaxy S24 brethren is in the software department: both come with Android 14 pre-installed, with Samsung’s One UI 6.1 slathered over the top.

Samsung has promised four years of software updates, taking you up to Android 18 (unless Google decides to get funky with numerical orders) and you get an extra year of security updates on top of that.

Visually speaking, One UI is one of the more distinctive Android forks, offering pebble-shaped icons, colorful menus and easy-to-parse icons in the quick settings menu. However, between the Samsung apps, Google apps and a fair few third-party apps, the Galaxy A35 is also chock-full of bloatware, which is something you’d think a massive company like Samsung would be above.

One UI brings plenty of customization options with widgets for your installed apps, a wide range of pre-installed wallpapers, the ability to pick a system-wide color palette, and more. The options here aren’t quite as extensive as on, say, Motorola or stock Android phones, but it’s something.

Like on iPhones, Samsung offers a handy ‘Modes and Routines’ feature so you can jump between, say, sleep, driving or workout modes at the tap of a button, which lets you completely change the way your phone works if you need different settings for a temporary amount of time. These options do require some set-up, though, so carve 15 minutes out of your schedule when you first buy the phone to set them up.

  • Software score: 3.5 / 5

Samsung Galaxy A35 review: cameras

The Samsung Galaxy A35's camera app.

(Image credit: Future)
  • 50MP main, 8MP ultra-wide and 5MP macro cameras
  • 13MP selfie camera on front
  • Range of extra photography and video modes

You’re looking at three rear cameras on the Samsung Galaxy A35. They create a package that’s par for the course for a mid-range phone at this budget, but won’t hold a candle to the Galaxy S24 range or even higher-priced Galaxy A mobiles.

The leader of the pack is a 50MP f/1.8 main camera, which is joined by a 8MP f/2.2 ultra-wide snapper, with a 5MP f/2.4 macro rounding out the trio.

In well-lit conditions, the main camera takes bright and colorful pictures, which made pictures of close items like flowers or food look bold. That's likely due to Samsung’s scene optimization AI processing, which is a staple of Galaxy phones. This feature adds some pep and pizazz to your snaps; and by that I mean it ratchets up the contrast and saturation, and also drizzles in some sharpening and HDR. 

Seasoned photographers might find this tweakery unwanted, but seasoned photographers probably aren’t using this kind of phone. The optimization is most welcomed for snappy social media posts and selfies.

Why did I specify ‘close items’ before? Well, for wider shots, pixel binning seems to result in a noticeable lack of quality, which you can see in the picture of a tree in the camera samples section below.

The Samsung Galaxy A35 taking a selfie.

(Image credit: Future)

The Galaxy A35 also struggled in lower-lighting conditions, with details lost and contrast handled about as well as you’d expect. Sometimes scene optimization decided to cast an odd blue pall over snaps – a picture of some ducks below was taken in overcast conditions, yet looks like a cheap TV-movie day-for-night.

The camera will suit you better if you usually take pictures of close-up subjects (including people) in decently-lit environments, rather than wider landscapes at darker times of day.

The Achilles’ heel of the phone’s camera array is the ultra-wide snapper, because photos taken on it looked dull and lifeless compared to their counterparts. It’s as though the AI scene optimization forgot to step in!

Rounding out the trio is the macro camera, which is a lot more situational in use than its siblings; it’s used for those close-up photos that the main camera will struggle to keep in focus. It’s up to the task, but you probably won’t be using this camera too much if you can help it.

On the front of the phone is a 13MP f/2.2 selfie camera, and everything I said about the rear camera’s optimization is out here in force, with the added distinction that the subject of a selfie is generally going to be close to the camera, so no landscape-shot woes here. There’s nothing wrong with nice bright selfies though, and in Portrait mode the device was fab at blurring the background and balancing the elements of the picture to create a great-looking shot.

Video recording goes up to 4K at 30fps or FHD at 60fps, or goes very low with several slow-mo modes. Most of the modes here are par for the course for a modern-day smartphone, with night, time-lapse and Portrait modes present and correct. Samsung stalwart modes Food (which ramps the saturation up for a very limited focus area) and Fun (which adds AR effects on human subjects) are back here, too.

Samsung Galaxy A35 camera samples

Image 1 of 8

A selfie taken on the Samsung Galaxy A35

A selfie taken in 'standard' mode. (Image credit: Future)
Image 2 of 8

A selfie taken on the Samsung Galaxy A35

A selfie taken in Portrait mode. (Image credit: Future)
Image 3 of 8

A bright flower taken on the Samsung Galaxy A35

A flower taken on the standard camera. (Image credit: Future)
Image 4 of 8

A field with a church taken on the Samsung Galaxy A35

An ultra-wide picture of a field. (Image credit: Future)
Image 5 of 8

A field with a church taken on the Samsung Galaxy A35

A 1x zoom picture of a field with a church. (Image credit: Future)
Image 6 of 8

A field with a church taken on the Samsung Galaxy A35

A 2x zoom picture of a field with a church. (Image credit: Future)
Image 7 of 8

A well-lit tree taken on the Samsung Galaxy A35

A well-lit willow tree with detail lost on the leaves and grass. (Image credit: Future)
Image 8 of 8

A picture of ducks taken on the Samsung Galaxy A35

An oddly-blue picture of ducks on the Galaxy A35. (Image credit: Future)
  • Camera score: 3 / 5

Samsung Galaxy A35: performance and audio

  • Snapdragon 695 is fit for purpose
  • 128GB storage can be expanded up to 1TB, plus 4GB RAM
  • 3.5mm headphone jack for wired audio

The ‘brains’ of the Samsung Galaxy A35’s operation is Samsung’s own Exynos 1380 chipset, which Samsung previously used in the pricier Galaxy A54 from last year.

In a Geekbench 5 benchmark test, the Exynos 1380 returned an average multi-core score of 2,868; the warmer the phone was, the lower the result, with scores ranging from the low 2,900s when cool to the mid 2,700s when warm. I’ve seen phones with much more dramatic ranges than that, I just say this to contextualize the average score.

The high 2,000s is nothing to phone home about, but it’s more than enough for most everyday use cases, and the A35 performed admirably in real-world testing. It blitzed through many games of Call of Duty Mobile or PUBG Mobile without breaking a sweat (though it did warm up if I was pushing it), and it did so without significant lagging, bugging or any crashing. Mobile gamers on a budget won’t find anything to dislike here.

Similarly, the phone felt snappy and fast to navigate, which is something you hope for but can never guarantee with phones around this price.

There’s 6GB RAM and board and 128GB storage; if you want more space you’ll need to rely on cloud storage, as there’s no expandable memory.

With no 3.5mm headphone jack, you’ve got one less option for audio on the Galaxy A35. The stereo speakers are serviceable: I found them perfectly fine for CoD:M, but even cheap headphones are better for music. The Bluetooth is 5.3, which is a decent standard for reliable and power-economic connection. You can also use a USB-C to 3.5mm adaptor if you absolutely need wired music.

  • Performance score: 3.5 / 5

Samsung Galaxy A35 review: battery life

  • Chunky 5,000mAh battery
  • Phone lasts a day of use, sometimes more
  • 25W wired charging is slow

The Samsung Galaxy A35 leaning against a bench.

(Image credit: Future)

You’re looking at a 5,000mAh battery on the Samsung Galaxy A35, which is the same battery you'll find in the vast majority of other budget and mid-range mobiles (and some high-end ones, too).

In testing, that saw the phone comfortably last for a full day of use, despite the big bright screen and 5G connectivity. It limped until lunchtime on a second day before charging really became necessary, so I’d recommend charging daily.

Charging is done using the USB-C port, and it’s 25W, which isn’t exactly fast. At that speed, you’ll have to be tethered to the wall for over two hours, which nudges into ‘overnight charging’ territory.

There’s no wireless charging, but that’s no surprise when it comes to a mid-range mobile like the A35.

  • Battery score: 3.5 / 5

Samsung Galaxy A35 review: value

The Samsung Galaxy A35's camera bump.

(Image credit: Future)

In many ways, the Samsung Galaxy A35 gives you exactly what you pay for, but you’re getting great value for money in a few distinct areas. I wasn’t kidding when I called this a budget Galaxy S24.

The display, software and performance all reach above the trappings of the A35’s low-mid-range price tier, giving you an experience that’s not quite ‘premium’, but is still more than you’d usually get for this price.

Plus, there’s no real department in which the Galaxy A35 falls below expectations: value all around.

  • Value score: 4 / 5

Should you buy the Samsung Galaxy A35?

Buy it if...

You watch lots of videos
The good-looking display on the Galaxy A35 makes it a dream for Netflix fans on a budget.

You're a gamer on a budget
The A35 is decently powerful for its price, but the big and attractive display ticks even more boxes.

You want One UI, without the price
You don't need to pay Galaxy S24 prices to use all of One UI's handy features, like routines and its customization options.

Don't buy it if...

You're a photography fan
The Galaxy A35's three cameras aren't going to impress amateur photographers much, especially with its overactive AI optimizations.

You need quick charging
You can buy budget phones with 120W charging, so the Samsung Galaxy A35's paltry 25W is slower than its rivals.

Your budget goes a little higher
Only a small fee will let you upgrade from the Galaxy A35 to the Galaxy A55, or another Samsung phone with improved features.

Samsung Galaxy A35 review: Also consider

If you're not certain on the Samsung Galaxy A35, here are some alternatives you might want to consider:

How I tested the Samsung Galaxy A35

The Samsung Galaxy A35's Samsung logo.

(Image credit: Future)
  • Review test period = 2 week
  • Testing included = Everyday usage, including web browsing, social media, photography, video calling, gaming, streaming video, music playback
  • Tools used = Geekbench 6, Geekbench ML, GFXBench, native Android stats

I tested the yellow – sorry, 'Awesome Lemon' – version of the Samsung Galaxy A35 for two weeks for this review. Product photography was conducted right at the beginning of testing, hence why I've only got a few apps in-shot.

Testing was done by using the phone as my normal smartphone for the two-week duration: texting, photography, music streaming, Netflix, and so on. 

I have over five years' experience of reviewing tech gadgets for TechRadar, having previously been an editor for the phones team and currently freelancing for several verticals. I've used plenty of Samsung phones (and other gadgets by the company) including previous Galaxy A devices.

Read more about how we test

First reviewed May 2024

Asus ExpertBook BR1204F review
2:23 pm | May 17, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Pro | Tags: , , | Comments: Off

Asus ExpertBook BR1204F: 30-second review

Specs

CPU: Intel® Processor N1000, 0.8 GHz (up to 3.4 GHz, 4 cores)
Graphics: Intel® UHD Graphics
RAM: 8GB DDR5 onboard (Max up to 16GB)
Storage: 128GB UFS, expandable via 1x M.2 2280 PCIe 3.0x4 slot
Rear Ports: Not specified
Front Ports: 1x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C (supports display/power delivery), 1x USB 2.0 Type-C, 2x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A, 1x HDMI 1.4, 1x 3.5mm Combo Audio Jack, 1x RJ45 Gigabit Ethernet
Connectivity: Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) Dual band 2*2 + Bluetooth® 5.2 Wireless Card
Audio: Audio by Dirac, built-in speakers, built-in array microphone, Cortana support
Camera: 720p HD camera with privacy shutter, 13.0M world-facing camera
Size: 12.2-inch touchscreen, WUXGA (1920 x 1200) 16:10, glossy display with Corning Gorilla® Glass
OS installed: Windows 11 Pro Education
Accessories: Optional MPP 2.0 garaged stylus

The Asus ExpertBook BR1204F is a robust and flexible laptop specifically designed for educational facilities. It provides students and teachers with workstations that meet standard academic course criteria while allowing easy upgrades and repairs.

From the ground up, this laptop is crafted with its intended audience in mind, resulting in a functional, if slightly unexciting, design. We've tested out loads of the best student laptops, and unlike many sleek modern devices with high-end CPUs, GPUs, and storage, this Asus model offers a more traditional word processing-focused approach, at least on first look.

The Intel Processor N200 easily handles Windows 11 Pro for Education and standard word processing applications. It even supports applications like Tinkercad without issues, making it one of the best laptops for engineering students and 3D modellers - but only if your needs are pretty simple or you're just starting out. While Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom can run, performance could be enhanced with a slight HD and RAM upgrade from our review unit.

While it looks like a traditional laptop, the BR1204F features a flip-over design that sees the keyboard flip under the screen, transforming the machine into a tablet and very capable creative tool. It features an outstanding touch screen protected by Gorilla Glass, ideal for less delicate students. Apps such as Microsoft's garage project Sketch360 and the native drawing app function smoothly.

Overall, this machine is designed with a focus on education. For educational-based fun and games, it performs well, though it's not intended for video or image editing. However, some graphics and creative applications are feasible with its flip screen design. It's a well-made, and designed educational tool, with straightforward maintenance requiring just a few tools.

Asus ExpertBook BR1204F: Introduction

The Asus ExpertBook BR1204F is a laptop specifically designed for education as part of Asus's Education product line. Consequently, many high-end features typically promoted are not the focus here. The Intel N200 CPU and standard Intel graphics are sufficient for office applications and academic study, rather than multimedia playback or overly distracting games.

The machine is tailored to meet classroom demands, equipped with Windows 11 Pro for Education, a stylus, and a flip screen design, enabling students to use it as a screen, tablet, or laptop, offering versatility.

When used with Microsoft Teams, the whiteboard feature is invaluable, allowing students to interact with the class by drawing directly on the board without leaving their seats. Class materials and formative and summative feedback can be easily distributed through the Teams Classroom environment.

Of course, the classroom is just part of what an education laptop needs to address. With decent battery life in use and standby mode, the system has enough power to last through a day's worth of lessons between charges. Charging is quick via a standard USB Type-C connector, and the machine offers a good array of other connection options for connecting devices such Lego Mindstorms, 3D printers, Laser Engravers and networks.

One of the most appealing features for education is the ease of maintenance, with a five-point procedure for maintaining, repairing, and upgrading, making it quick and easy for any IT technician or anyone with basic IT hardware skills.

The Asus ExpertBook BR1204F is fully geared toward education, and in that environment, the choice of hardware makes complete sense. Outside that world, the limited storage space and processing power might be restrictive.

Asus ExpertBook BR1204F: Price & availability

ASUS ExpertBook BR1204F

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

The ExpertBook BR1204F is designed for education and is part of the Asus Education Solution program. For more information on purchasing the machine please visit your local education supplier.

  • Price: 4/5

Asus ExpertBook BR1204F: Design & build

ASUS ExpertBook BR1204F

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

The laptop's size is compact, measuring 297mm x 213mm x 22mm and weighing 1.47kg, making it easy to carry or fit into most bags or backpacks. Its relatively flat shape allows easy stacking of several BR1204Fs in a secure cupboard or custom computer stand.

Designed for classroom use by students, the laptop’s overall construction is tough, though not to the standards of a tough book, so it will withstand knocks and far more abuse than most but will not survive submersion in water or drops from significant heights.

The robust construction is evident when picking up the laptop, as it feels more solid than similar general-use laptops. Aside from the stylus integrated into the case design, there are no protective doors or components that can be easily dislodged. Additionally, access to the inner electronics is secured by cross-head screws to prevent young engineers from making hardware alterations in class.

Once the lid is lifted, the robust build is clear, with large, thick monitor hinges designed to be extremely strong. If a student wants to walk around with the laptop open, held by the monitor, it should withstand this handling, although it is obviously not ideal.

The general layout includes a small touchpad, a keyboard, and a 12.2-inch monitor. While the touchpad and keyboard are standard, the monitor stands out as a full touch screen toughened with Gorilla Glass, making it more resilient in a classroom.

The laptop’s left and right sides feature connection ports, including 1x RJ45 Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI 1.4, USB 2.0 Type-C, USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A, and the stylus on the left, and USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C (supporting display/power delivery), USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A, and a 3.5mm Combo Audio Jack on the right.

An interesting feature are the two cameras: one above the screen and another above the keyboard. This second world-facing camera can be used with applications like Microsoft Office Lens. When the keyboard is flipped under the screen the now rear-facing camera can scan documents or students' work with the preview appearing on screen, essentially think mobile phone. The captured image can then be cast to a whiteboard or stored for portfolio work.

The flip screen means that the laptop can be used as a touch screen tablet or part open can be used as a stand so the laptop can sit on a desk as a handy screen, enabling class materials to be cast during presentations and the Teams Whiteboard feature to be used by the entire class for interactive sessions.

Using the laptop reveals more to its design compared to standard off-the-shelf machines, with features updated to ensure better functionality within a classroom environment.

The final aspect of the design is crucial for education IT engineers. The BR1204F is modular, meaning it can be purchased as is and expanded as needed for each intended use. Our review unit was suitable for most office applications, but with upgraded RAM and storage, it could edit HD footage and images. More importantly, the modular design simplifies maintenance.

The Panel, I/O ports, Keyboard, Thermal Module, and Battery are all quickly accessible, serviceable, and replaceable. Unlike other laptops, where removing these parts can be time-consuming and delicate, requiring specialist intervention, the modular design of the BR1204F simplifies the process significantly.

  • Design: 5/5

Asus ExpertBook BR1204F: Features

ASUS ExpertBook BR1204F

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

The BR1204F is designed from the outset as a durable and versatile laptop, tablet, and screen for educational environments. It may not be the best rugged laptop we've tried, but built for its intended use, it's more durable than most devices of its size and specifications, meeting MIL-STD 810H US military durability standards, with a fingerprint-resistant finish, full rubber bumper, and spill-resistant keyboard.

The display is a 12.2-inch touchscreen, protected by scratch-resistant Corning Gorilla Glass for durability, with a 16:10 aspect ratio and TÜV Rheinland certification for low blue-light emissions.

Standard storage options are relatively small at 128 GB of integrated UFS 2.1 storage, ideal for educational environments where multiple students use the same machine and files are stored in the cloud. For additional storage, there is an expansion slot for up to 1TB. The laptop also features advanced AI-powered noise-cancellation technology to isolate background noise during video calls, enhancing call quality.

Connectivity is well-catered for, with Wi-Fi 6E and 4G LTE ensuring fast connections for online learning, whether in the classroom or remote. An essential feature for tablet use is the inclusion of a garaged stylus, held on the left side of the machine and charged while docked, providing a more accurate tool than a finger for using and drawing on the touchscreen.

Beyond student use, the Asus BR1204F's design is fully serviceable, with a modular design allowing easy access and upgrades to internal components.

  • Features: 4/5

Asus ExpertBook BR1204F: Performance

ASUS ExpertBook BR1204F

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)
Benchmarks

Crystal Disk Read: 1709.58MB/s
Crystal Disk Write: 923.20MB/s
GeekBench CPU Single: 2754
GeekBench CPU Multi: 1220
GeekBench Compute: 3891
PC Mark: 2824
CineBench CPU Multi: 2300
CineBench CPU Single: 794
Fire Strike Graphics: 1204
Fire Strike Physics: 379
Fire Strike Combined: 379
Time Spy Overall: 430
Time Spy Graphics: 376
Time Spy CPU: 2444
Wild Life: N/A
Windows Experience: 8.0

Ordinarily, processing power is a primary concern for any computer, but within an educational environment, you just need a machine that works, runs the necessary apps, is durable, and can be fixed when the inevitable happens. With the BR1204F, Asus has provided exactly that, and if more is needed, the RAM and storage can be upgraded.

In use for all Microsoft Office applications, the BR1204F works smoothly, handling word processing and all the features of Teams with ease. Most importantly, the connection to a wireless network is robust, and the ability to link to the wired network as a backup adds resilience compared to some alternatives.

Outside of office apps, the lack of storage at 128GB is somewhat restrictive, allowing only small additional apps to be installed before running low on space. A base of 256GB would have been better, given the size of the Windows installation.

The integration with Teams is the major advantage here, with classroom apps enabling interactive sessions, and the touchscreen allowing all class members to engage with the lesson. The touchscreen also adds flexibility to the laptop’s use, and while drawing apps are not super quick, they are fluid enough to be enjoyable.

The benchmark results for the Asus BR1204F highlight its capabilities in handling educational tasks. The 3DMark Fire Strike graphics score of 1109 and a combined score of 379 suggest it can handle basic graphics and interactive classroom applications smoothly. Time Spy's overall score of 430, with a graphics score of 376 and CPU score of 2444 highlights its ability to run multi-threaded tasks, ideal for applications like Tinkercad and Lego Mindstorms.

Cinebench R23's multi-core score of 2300 and single-core score of 794 indicate moderate performance for multitasking and single-threaded applications like Microsoft Office, so just running one possibly two applications at a time is advisable. GeekBench 5 scores, with 2754 for multi-core and 1220 for single-core, underscore its ability to handle general computing tasks and most educational software well. The CrystalDiskMark read and write speeds of 1709.58 MB/s and 923.20 MB/s respectively ensure quick data access and saving, beneficial for handling large files and applications. 

PCMark 10's score of 2824 and a Windows Experience Index score of 8 reflect the laptop's robust performance for productivity tasks, again highlighting all Office applications, making it well-suited for extensive use with Microsoft Teams and classroom features.

  • Performance: 3/5

Should you buy the Asus ExpertBook BR1204F?

The Asus ExpertBook BR1204F is a solidly built, education-focused laptop offering a robust and versatile solution for students. Its durable design, coupled with a flexible touchscreen and easy maintenance, makes it ideal for the demands of a classroom environment. While the base model's storage is limited, the device's modular design allows for easy upgrades, enhancing its longevity and utility in education. Overall, it's a superb educational tool that prioritises function and durability over high-end specs, making it a worthwhile investment for schools and educational institutions.

ASUS ExpertBook BR1204F

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

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We've tested the best laptops for photo editing - and these are our top picks

OWC Jupiter Mini review
9:17 am | May 8, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Pro | Tags: , , | Comments: Off

OWC Jupiter Mini: 30-second review

Specs

CPU: 2.2 GHz Intel Xeon D-1518 4-Core
Graphics: VGA
RAM: 32GB ECC RAM.
Storage: 5 x 4TB 3.5" 7200 rpm SATA HDDs
Rear Ports: Includes 2x 10GbE and 2x 1GbE network connections, USB-A 3.2 Gen 1.
Front Ports: 2 x USB-A 2.0
Connectivity: 2x 10GbE and 2x 1GbE network connections
Audio: n/a
Camera: n/a
Size: 325 x 220 x 230mm
OS installed: TrueNAS SCALE.
Accessories: n/a

In the background of most offices and studios, there's usually some form of server with access to mass storage working away. This storage is typically found in a secluded area and accessed only by a qualified IT professional. While such network systems are complex and can be tricky to administer, their functionality is essential for any business, essentially supplying a centralised resource where all staff can access shared files of all types. 

The OWC Jupiter Mini is a Network Attached Storage (NAS) system that, while not a fully integrated server, performs all the storage jobs that larger enterprise technology handles in large institutions. The Jupiter Mini, though smaller and easier to administer, still offers the potential for a substantial amount of storage, up to 100TB and can be accessed by multiple users without the system slowing down, making it an ideal solution for small to medium-sized businesses and professionals working with TB of photos or video files and needing a professional storage solution.

The Jupiter Mini integrates with your network and can be subdivided into network drives (datasets) that can then be accessed by anyone on that network or remotely, given the correct permissions.

While there are many alternative NAS systems on the market, which may seem considerably cheaper, the Jupiter Mini offers incredible value, considering the performance, storage, and support provided. Unlike many consumer units designed for occasional access, this NAS can connect to the network with a 10GbE connection and is supported by powerful internal hardware capable of handling substantial data flow and multiple concurrent connections without faltering.

We've tried out plenty of the best NAS devices, and in our tests, the speeds over the wired connection were impressive. 140 GB was transferred to three machines in around 30 minutes, which is significantly faster than a consumer unit used to compare.

The speed of the connection makes a considerable difference when storing files, allowing multiple users easy access over the network in a small studio setting using smb shares. This means project folders and files can be quickly downloaded to a working drive and restored once finished. Additionally, equipment forms, risk assessments, and other regularly accessed files are easily reachable on-site, which is invaluable when internet connectivity is unreliable.

Ultimately, if you're a small to medium-sized business and need an easy mass storage device that is fast and easy to access with great support, then there is little to fault with the OWC Jupiter Mini.

OWC Jupiter Mini: Price & availability

OWC Jupiter Mini

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

The OWC Jupiter Mini is available directly from OWC and from many technology outlets. However, buying directly ensures that you get the exact specifications and build you require, whether for personal use or your business. Units start at the base level of 20TB, which we've examined in this review, and begin at $2,999.

  • Score: 4/5

OWC Jupiter Mini: Design & build

OWC Jupiter Mini

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

NAS boxes typically have a functional style with quick-access drive slot doors on the front and various ports around the back, often resembling an enlarged external hard drive. OWC, however, has enhanced this design principle with the Jupiter Mini, adding aesthetic touches such as blue anodised door lever locks on the front, giving the drive a stylish edge over competitors.

Despite its aesthetic appeal, this unit's true value lies in its features and functionality. The drive is available pre-configured from OWC and many other retailers, saving at least a couple of hours of setup time. This means it can be quickly integrated into your network and ready for use, providing instant, high-capacity storage without much fuss.

For many small businesses, this easy access to large storage capacity will be more than enough, having a drive that you can simply plug in and then browse the network located the drive login, and the Jupiter Mini network drive just appears on your desktop, ready to use, all very simple. However, the Jupiter Mini is far more, and the appeal of the machine isn't just the simplicity of connection but the ease of use when it comes to the administration of that storage for the people accessing the drive. Administration is handled by the TrueNAS interface, which is pre-installed and enables an administrator to log in and allocate different storage areas to groups or individuals in the form of datasets, as well as enable external sharing and check drive health. 

The drive also offers future expansion options, so you can start with the 20TB version and then expand the storage as needed. Drive replacement is made possible in a couple of ways, either by replacing the drives physically in the mini and then creating a new pool/dataset/share with the new drives. Or replace one drive in the pool with the larger one, let it resolve, replace another, let it resilver, and continue until you have replaced all 5 drives. Once this is done, you can then expand the pool to take up additional space on the drives, which is done with a single button press in TrueNAS.

If you like to explore the system, you can connect to the Jupiter Mini directly. It has a VGA port at the back and can be connected to a keyboard and mouse. This approach is far more akin to enterprise-level solutions, and for most users, the GUI of the TrueNAS browser version will be a far easier environment to navigate.

  • Score: 4/5

OWC Jupiter Mini: Features

The hardware of the Jupiter Mini is designed to meet the needs of creatives and support the large file types that tend to be handled in these environments, which is where similar capacity but lesser-powered NAS boxes struggle. The Jupiter Mini base capacity is 20TB (expandable to 100TB) and uses ZFS RAID for data protection; this leaves 16TB of usable space. The box comes pre-configured as RAIDZ1 (similar to RAID 5). One of the advantages of this is that the ZFS automatically caches your most frequently used and recent files in RAM, providing faster access to files at flash-like speeds. It also features a high-speed 10GbE network connection, providing faster file access compared to standard NAS drives, with all the processing down to its enterprise-grade Xeon Processor and 32GB of ECC RAM. Using the Jupiter Mini as part of a studio or office setup allows multiple users to access the NAS simultaneously, with automatic file caching for swift retrieval of frequently accessed files.

The system comes preloaded with the TrueNAS SCALE, which enables the easy management of the drive and its storage. This allows different network drives to be created and access permissions granted, ensuring a straightforward setup and management and a system that is fully compatible with both Mac and PC systems.

While the drive's overall handling is quite straightforward, if you do get stuck, there's plenty of documentation online, as well as a comprehensive single-source warranty and outstanding Pro Support from OWC. This support offers assistance during the setup and beyond, ensuring that help is just an email away if you have any questions or issues that may arise.

  • Features: 4.5

OWC Jupiter Mini: Performance

OWC Jupiter Mini

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

Network storage is a significant asset in any studio or office environment. It enables the sharing of large-format files among colleagues. In a studio setting, this is particularly beneficial for transferring large video files across the network, eliminating the need to copy everything onto portable hard drives and move them from one person to another.

While there are plenty of NAS solutions available, the Jupiter Mini stands out as one of the few options tailored for small to medium-sized businesses, boasting ease of use and operation, power, and scalability without requiring extensive IT experience.

The initial setup and use of the Jupiter Mini were notably straightforward, with the device connecting to the back of the EERO 6 wifi router and becoming accessible throughout the studio and home. This centralised resource proved its value by allowing quick access to essential video and image files for projects. The speed of file transfers was instantly impressive over the wifi connection, with 140GB of data downloading in about an hour and a half, compared to six hours with our existing NAS. 

However, when connected to the studio's wired network, the download time for the same files dropped to less than 30 minutes as the files were transferred to the OWC ThunderBlade X8. The OWC ThunderBlade X8 was used as a local working drive and enabled the fast transfer speeds required by the best video editing software for cutting and grading. 

In the test, the network here is not the fastest 10GbE network at 2.5GbE. However, the speed was impressive for a self-managed system. After a week, the potential of faster network storage became obvious, and TrueNAS was used to create additional datasets for different groups and users. This enabled different areas of the storage to be assigned as a network drive, with permissions to users and groups assigned. Once the dataset is created, it can then be shared through smb. Another nice feature is that you create a zvol, which then enables you to format that segment of the drive in another file format. There is also a host of apps that can be downloaded and used if you need an on-site web development environment, and again, you can assign part of the storage to this. 

Through the test all administration was managed through the browser TrueNAS GUI. While there was a learning curve, it proved to be a powerful tool with plenty of documentation to support its use. As previously mentioned, if you do want a little more, then you can access the command-line version of TrueNAS by using a VGA monitor, keyboard, and mouse, a setup more common in server environments than in small offices.

One key consideration was whether the OWC Jupiter Mini could serve as shared network editing storage for software like Final Cut Pro, DaVinci Resolve, or Premiere Pro. While technically possible with the correct setup and network speed, this NAS is not specifically designed for such intensive tasks, a role better suited to more powerful and expensive solutions like the OWC Jellyfish. However, lighter tasks, such as a centralised resource for photo or graphic design, are well within the Jupiter Mini's remit.

The OWC Jupiter Mini offers an easy-to-maintain, out-of-the-box NAS solution that provides enterprise-level performance, far surpassing what is achievable with consumer models and is scalable up to 100TB to meet the growing data storage needs of home, office, or studio environments.

  • Performance: 5/5

Should you buy the OWC Jupiter Mini?

The OWC Jupiter Mini is designed for creative professionals and small businesses that require a commercial network storage solution with substantial storage potential without the need for extensive IT know-how. Commercial NAS boxes, although ideal in functionality, often become completely impractical due to their design, cost, and often complex command-line administration. Conversely, smaller consumer models may offer ease of use but rarely offer the speed or power for multiple concurrent connections, capacity, connection features or ready support. These are all areas where OWC and the Jupiter Mini excel.

As a basic NAS, the Jupiter Mini is straightforward and efficient, making it particularly attractive to videographers and photographers needing reliable storage for projects and files. Its compatibility with the ThunderBlade X8 as a local working drive enhances its functionality. In a home environment, investing time in TrueNAS allows for segmenting the storage and providing dedicated areas for network or shared storage needs within the office or household.

The real advantage lies in its appeal to those seeking commercial-grade network storage that is both high-performing, expandable and reliable. The system includes a built-in support email system to alert users of potential issues with the hardware, preventing drive failures or other significant problems. In an office or studio setting, this single unit can be configured to provide various storage spaces for different groups, with tailored allocations and access, mirroring the capabilities of a large company's IT system.

Although the initial investment in the OWC Jupiter Mini is significant, the value it offers in storage capacity and the ability to self-manage—backed by OWC's excellent support—makes it a great choice. For studios or small offices in need of a network storage solution, the OWC Jupiter Mini stands out as one of the fastest, easiest-to-use, and most versatile systems available.

OWC Jupiter Mini

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

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We tested the best business computers - and these are the ones we recommend.

Minisforum Venus NAB9 mini PC review
9:32 am | May 6, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Pro | Tags: , , , | Comments: Off

Minisforum Venus NAB9: 30-second review

Specs

CPU: Intel i9-12900HK
Graphics: Intel Iris XE 
RAM: 32 GB DDR4Storage: M.2 2280 PCIe4.0 ‎1 TB SSD (Up to 2TB)
Rear Ports: Dual 2.5G Ethernet Ports, 2xHDMI ports and 2xUSB-C 3.2 Gen 2 (1 DP only), 2xUSB-A 3.2 Gen 2
Front Ports: 1xUSB-C, 2xUSB-A, 3.5mm audio
Connectivity: Wi-Fi6, BT5.2
Audio: 3.5mmCamera: n/a
Size: 180 mm x 208 mm x 67 mm.
OS installed: Windows 11 Home
Accessories: 120W GAD power Supply, SATA Expansion cable

Minisforum has designed the NAB9 targeting power users as its base, those who need the robust capabilities of a CPU to power through office and creative tasks but without the extensive GPU power that gaming requires, thereby keeping heat generation down.

Equipped with an Intel i9-12900HK and Intel Iris XE graphics, along with 32GB RAM and a 1TB SSD, this mini PC handles most office tasks, Photoshop jobs, and general 4K video editing software with relative ease. It is also well-equipped when it comes to connectivity, offering plenty of USB Type-C and Type-A ports, facilitating a range of accessories, although it's worth noting that one of the USB Type-C ports on the back is for display use only.

With two HDMI and two USB Type-C ports on the back, the machine allows for connecting up to four monitors without issue. The connectivity options are well catered for, with the M.2 2230 Wi-Fi support card ensuring a powerful wireless connection beyond most other mini PCs. For those needing the reliability of a wired connection, there are two RJ45 2.5G LAN ports.

Like many of the best mini PCs we've tested, this machine, while powerful, is all about balance. Handling image and video files is perfectly possible, though it's more suited for entry to mid-level work rather than professional tasks. However, the USB Type-C ports allow for storage expansion through external hard drives, and the data transfer rate for Premiere Pro and Photoshop is sufficient to keep up with workflow demands. The introduction of USB 4 would enhance data transfer and enable the use of eGPUs, but this would add considerably to the cost of this compact machine. Additionally, while 32GB of RAM is the baseline for video editing and is adequate in this system, it uses older DDR4 rather than the latest DDR5, but it handles video and image content well as long as video productions are simple and short.

Switching to gaming, most games run fine, with Portal 2 running smoothly. However, more recent games like Cyberpunk and Red Dead Redemption II require lower graphics quality—this is where USB 4 and DDR5 would have boosted performance, especially with the addition of an eGPU.

Considering the price, this mini PC has plenty to offer, and the i9 CPU, along with the RAM, storage, and generous cooling, ensures that the Minisforum NAB9 runs fast for extended periods. While it may not be the best choice for the latest games, it is a superb machine for everything else.

Minisforum Venus NAB9: Price & availability

Minisforum Venus NAB9

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

The Minisforum Venus NAB9 is widely available and can be purchased directly through the Minisforum website or Amazon.com. It is available in a variety of options; the 32GB, 1TB version reviewed here will set you back $509. Additionally, there is a barebones version available, allowing you to select your own SSD and RAM.

  • Score: 4/5

Minisforum Venus NAB9: Design & build

Minisforum Venus NAB9

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

The Minisforum Venus NAB9 sits in the mid-range when it comes to mini PC size, featuring a standard footprint and a slightly taller frame that accommodates the additional cooling required for the powerful Intel i9-12900HK CPU inside. The choice of case design helps keep the machine cool when working at full throttle, and the metal sides with vent slots and silver plastic top all contribute to giving this mini PC a slightly premium look and feel.

There are some nice touches to the design, such as the layout of the rear ports. The LAN ports take center stage, flanked by HDMI and USB ports on either side, USB Type-A on one side, and the power socket on the other. This arrangement makes it extremely easy to set up on a desk, with the ability to neatly arrange the cable layout into monitors, keyboards, mice, and accessories.

Likewise, the small selection of USB and audio ports on the front, along with the small power-on button, make plugging in headphones and other accessories convenient.

As the machine has a variety of configuration options, including barebones, it's nice to see easy access to the inner workings. Accessing the SSD and RAM is simply a case of pushing down on the front of the top plate; it then clicks, releases, and can be removed. Inside, everything is clear and easy to access in case of a component swap-around or upgrade. One of the features that will appeal to anyone wanting to boost the standard 512GB or 1TB storage is that this machine can be upgraded to 2TB. If that's still not enough, the lid of the machine is designed to hold a 2.5" SSD with the screws and cables provided in the box, although the purchase of the SSD is separate. This means if you want to pop in an 8TB SSD, you can, and this connects through the SATA expansion cable. Likewise, the 32GB of RAM in the review machine can also be upgraded to a maximum of 64GB, which could be ideal if you are looking to use the machine for photo or video work.

As a compact business computer, the design is very neat and discreet, with the metal silver finish giving it an understated yet stylish look.

  • Design: 5/5

Minisforum Venus NAB9: Features

GEEKOM XT Series XT12 Pro

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

The MINISFORUM Venus Series NAB9 Mini PC is designed for business use, blending high performance with a sleek, compact form factor. If you wanted a portable business laptop alternative, this will adequately fulfil that role. At its core, the Intel Core i9-12900HK processor features a hybrid architecture with 14 cores and 20 threads, capable of speeds up to 5.0GHz. Combined with Intel Iris Xe Graphics, this setup provides ample processing power for office, multimedia, creative tasks, and moderate gaming needs.

Connectivity is a major feature of the NAB9, with dual 2.5G Ethernet ports enabling a variety of networking options such as ultra-secure firewalls and file storage servers. For convenience in wireless connectivity, the NAB9 includes dual-band Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.2 on a replaceable M.2 2230 card, which not only ensures a robust wireless connection but also future-proofs the unit to some extent for upgrades.

Monitor connection is another area where the NAB9 provides plenty of options. It supports up to four displays at 4K resolution and 60Hz, made possible by two HDMI and two USB-C ports.

Our review unit arrived pre-equipped with 32GB of dual-channel DDR4 memory (max 64GB) and a 1TB M.2 2280 PCIe 4.0 SSD (max 2TB), both of which can be upgraded easily thanks to a user-friendly pop-up design of the top. There's also the option to secure a larger capacity 2.5" SATA drive into the lid to expand storage.

Cooling is critical and can often be an issue with the mini PC format; the NAB9 addresses this with an innovative cooling system that includes dual heat pipes, dual air vents, and a new active solid-state heat sink complemented by side cooling openings. Unlike some other mini PCs, the NAB9 does not include boosted graphics, so while it is powerful and capable of moderate gaming performance, the focus here is on the processing power for other uses. 

  • Features: 4/5

Minisforum Venus NAB9: Performance

Minisforum Venus NAB9

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)
Benchmarks

Crystal Disk Read: 4805.93MB/s
Crystal Disk Write: 3900.54MB/s
GeekBench CPU Single: 10689
GeekBench CPU Multi:
 2300
GeekBench Compute: 14636
PC Mark:
 5872
CineBench CPU Multi: 12081
CineBench CPU Single:
 1654
Fire Strike Overall: 5002
Fire Strike Graphics:
 5350
Fire Strike Physics: 26384
Fire Strike Combined: 1851
Time Spy Overall:
 1807
Time Spy Graphics: 1577
Time Spy CPU:
 10625
Wild Life: 11983
Windows Experience: 8.3

The Minisforum Venus Series NAB9 Mini PC's performance is impressive, especially considering its compact size. This is primarily due to the Intel Core i9-12900HK processor, which provides substantial processing power for a range of applications, from office productivity to creative media work. Minisforum has carefully considered the components used in this small machine, focusing on the essentials needed for a fast office machine rather than gaming. This does mean there is a compromise, with no DDR5 RAM, USB 4 ports, or higher-end graphics.

Starting with everyday tasks, the NAB9 handles Microsoft Office applications with ease, ensuring smooth operation across all Office apps without any noticeable slowdown. This performance is reflected in its PC Mark score of 5872, indicating strong general productivity capabilities with Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.

When it comes to creative software, the NAB9 manages processor-intensive tasks well, with Adobe Photoshop tasks like image manipulation and enhancement being handled efficiently. However, the absence of a dedicated GPU means it faces challenges with high-resolution graphic data in Adobe Bridge, a common compromise in mini PCs. Its performance in Adobe Premiere Pro is decent enough; editing 1080p footage is smooth, and even 4K footage remains manageable unless you push the machine to edit log3 quality footage, at which point it begins to falter.

This machine is ideal for businesses where some image and video enhancement is needed. Its power and cooling mean it can handle those demanding tasks with relative ease. It's suited for footage captured on phones or using standard quality settings for images and stills before switching to RAW or Log formats.

For gaming, the NAB9's limitations become apparent when dealing with graphically intensive titles like Red Dead Redemption II and Cyberpunk 2077 at native 4K resolution. While the device struggles at higher settings and resolutions, lowering the resolution to 1080p allows for a much better gaming experience, albeit at the cost of visual fidelity. This is corroborated by its 3D benchmark scores, with Fire Strike and Time Spy graphics scores of 5350 and 1577, respectively, indicating that while capable, it's not intended for high-end gaming.

The device's storage performance is fast, with Crystal Disk scores of 4805.93 MB/s read and 3900.54 MB/s write. This ensures that data transfer and loading times are exceptionally quick, which is beneficial for applications requiring frequent access to large files.

Benchmark scores in other areas further reflect the NAB9's strengths and weaknesses. Its GeekBench scores show a strong single-core performance at 10689 but a lower multi-core score of 2300, suggesting it handles single-threaded tasks well but may lag in more intensive multi-threaded operations. Similarly, CineBench scores highlight good performance, especially in multi-core tests, which is crucial for tasks like video rendering and software compilation.

Overall, the Minisforum Venus Series NAB9 mini PC is a solid business-focused mini PC ideal for those whose work involves office applications, moderate use of the best video editing software and photo editors, and occasional gaming at adjusted settings. Its performance benchmarks in real-world applications highlight that the NAB9 balances compactness with capability, making it a great option for a variety of uses.

  • Performance: 4/5

Should you buy the Minisforum Venus NAB9?

The MINISFORUM Venus Series NAB9 Mini PC excels as a business and creativity-focused system, powered by a robust Intel i9 processor and ample connectivity options. While it efficiently handles office tasks and moderates creative and video work, its gaming capabilities and the absence of the latest ports like USB 4.0 and DDR5 RAM might deter more tech-savvy users seeking cutting-edge specifications. Nevertheless, for professional environments and typical productivity tasks, it offers great value, ensuring high performance without the risk of overheating, thanks to its efficient design and cooling system.

Minisforum Venus NAB9

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

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We've tested the best laptops for photo editing - and here's the ones we rate

Azulle Byte4 Elite Mini Desktop PC review
8:44 pm | March 8, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Pro | Tags: , , | Comments: Off

Azulle Byte4 Elite Mini Desktop PC: 30-second review

Specs

CPU: Intel Core i5-1340P
Graphics: Integrated Intel Iris Xe Graphics
RAM: 4GB
Storage: 128GB SSD
Rear Ports: 3 x HDMI, 2 x Ethernet (RJ45), 1 x 3.5mm headphone jack 
Front Ports: None
Side Ports: 2x USB 3.1, 2x 2.0, USB Type-C, MicroSD
Connectivity: wifi 6, Bluetooth 5.1 
Audio: Integrated high-definition audio, HDMI audio support, headphone jack
Camera: N/A
Size: 167 x 114 x 36mm
OS installed: Windows 11 Pro
Accessories: Power adapter, VESA mount 

The Azulle Byte4 Elite Mini Desktop PC should be seen as something other than an everyday PC that you have on your desktop to open files and browse the internet. It's definitely not a machine that should be considered for creatives to edit videos and images. When it comes to gaming, you'll need more than patience if you want to play anything with any significant graphics processing. 

However, looking at the hardware contained within the i5 version that we have in for review, coupled with three HDMI ports and one of the most powerful Wi-Fi connections of any of the best mini PCs we've tried, you'll start to see what this is designed for. The manufacturer, Azulle, highlights that this machine is designed for interactive kiosks, digital signage, and any device where a screen is either required to show a display or used as a simple interactive kiosk.

When it comes to hardware, the machine is available as a barebones system, enabling you to configure it to your intended use, which is why our review system has arrived with the bare minimum of 4GB of RAM and 128GB SSD. While the processor is a powerful i5, the lack of RAM makes running even standard Windows tasks a slow process. However, for running back a simple 4K slideshow on a large monitor, this is more than you need. With the backing of a full version of Windows Pro 11 to support the system, you can be sure that it will keep on running with reliability, which is hard to match with less sophisticated systems.

In this review, I've put the machine through its paces as a standard PC, utilising Office applications, creative programs, and games to see how it would perform under the usual use-cases of the best business computers. However, the machine's intended use extends well beyond this. As such, I've also left it playing back a slideshow for a week and interacted with the machine remotely through the Wi-Fi connection. From the beginning of the test, it was obvious that without additional RAM, doing anything other than playing back slideshows and videos was going to be difficult, so I popped in 16GB of RAM to enable a little more flexibility with the use for the benchmark tests the machine is run on 4GB of RAM as it arrived. 

Azulle Byte4 Elite Mini Desktop PC: Price & availability

Azulle Byte4 Elite Mini

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

When you switch from consumer goods to industrial, the pricing quickly escalates, and here, with the Azulle Byte4 Elite Mini Desktop PC, the price premium for its intended audience is instantly apparent. However, this machine is designed with a specific purpose, and its features and design have been tailored to that use. This means that while it may not pack the power of other machines when it comes to reliability and resilience, it stands alone and warrants the relatively high cost. The Azulle Byte4 Elite Mini Desktop PC is available from Adorama, B&H Photo, as well as many other professional outlets.

  • Score: 3.5/5

Azulle Byte4 Elite Mini Desktop PC: Design & build

Azulle Byte4 Elite Mini

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

Ordinarily, units designed for industrial use are encased in tough, no-fuss metal, prioritising strength over design. With the Azulle Byte4 Elite Mini Desktop PC, however, there's a mix of materials. It features a tough plastic case and metal base that includes VESA mount holes ready for the optional VESA mount, which can be purchased separately.

Visually, at first glance, this mini PC looks more like some approximation of the best small business routers rather than a computer, with two large antennas that stick out from the back of the machine. Next to these are a line of three HDMI sockets, and then no other ports aside from a 3.5mm audio jack. If you need USB, these are all clustered on the side of the machine, which makes sense if you consider that for much of the time, this computer is only going to be connected to a monitor or monitors and power.

A notable addition to the usual ports and sockets is the MicroSD card slot. This enables you to quickly load up files, slideshows, videos, or presentations. You can also run applications for touchscreens and run updates if and when needed.

When it comes to design, there is some product design going on here, but really, this mini PC is designed to be functional and easily mounted. On this front, along with the VESA option, the small rubber feet are easily adjusted to ensure that the machine sits flat and level. These feet, if fully removed, also double as four of the six securing screws to access the machine's inner workings.

Once those screws are removed, the base can be lifted aside, and that's when you start to see the big difference between this and many other Mini PCs. There's a large fan over the RAM and SSD for a start, then the huge copper heat sink and dual-channel RAM slots with plenty of space. Our review unit may be minimal, but there's plenty of scope for expansion, and the all-important cooling system is in place and ready to see this machine work non-stop for days or weeks without downtime.

  • Design: 3/5

Azulle Byte4 Elite Mini Desktop PC: Features

Azulle Byte4 Elite Mini

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

The Azulle Byte4 Elite is a powerful barebones mini PC featuring an Intel Core i5 13th Gen Raptor Lake processor, with i3 and i7 versions also available. This versatility in customisation depending on use means our review system came with Windows 11 Pro installed, but you can opt for IoT, Linux, or nothing at all. Essentially, the operating system, RAM, and storage can all be adjusted to meet specific needs, making it an ideal choice for a wide array of industrial applications, from IoT to edge computing.

One of the Byte4 Elite's standout features is its ability to serve as a high-performance replacement for thin clients, significantly reducing the chances of downtime. Its build is robust, and the design of the cooling system should ensure that the machine can run continuously for long durations. This makes the Byte4 Elite an ideal choice to power kiosks such as self-service consoles, although more than the 4GB of RAM in our review sample will be required.

In home office setups or home theatres, the Byte4 Elite's compact form and powerful Wi-Fi connection will really stand out. Again, a RAM boost to 16GB is recommended to leverage what the system has to offer fully.

For IoT applications, the Byte4 Elite can drive smart solutions, allowing businesses to explore new ways to optimise their processes through Windows IoT. This feature underscores the Byte4 Elite's suitability for innovative projects and broader development. Digital signage is another area where the Byte4 Elite excels when paired with any of the best business monitors, thanks to its support for 4K resolution. Again, the powerful Wi-Fi link is a huge benefit.

  • Features: 4/5

Azulle Byte4 Elite Mini Desktop PC: Performance

Azulle Byte4 Elite Mini

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)
Benchmarks

Crystal Disk Read: 2140.72MB/s
Crystal Disk Write:
982.77MB/s
GeekBench CPU Single:
2143
GeekBench CPU Multi:
4439
GeekBench Compute:
9163
PC Mark:
4969
CineBench CPU Multi:
8161
CineBench CPU Single:
1687
Fire Strike Overall:
1933
Fire Strike Graphics:
2231
Fire Strike Physics:
18555
Fire Strike Combined:
578
Time Spy Overall:
n/a
Time Spy Graphics:
n/a
Time Spy CPU:
n/a
Wild Life:
n/a
Windows Experience:
5.9

The Azulle Byte4 Elite Mini Desktop PC is far from being a standard Mini PC and shouldn't be considered a machine that can be used in the home or standard office environment. The features and performance are there to be customised by you for your intended use, so the barebones system is just the start. 

When it comes to performance, we have to understand how the Byte4 Elite measures up in various computing scenarios, particularly in its designated roles, such as IoT, POS systems, thin client replacements, and digital signage.

The Byte4 Elite's storage performance, as indicated by Crystal Disk Mark scores, shows a solid read speed of 2140.72MB/s and a write speed of 982.77MB/s. These figures suggest that the system is more than capable of handling large data transfers quickly; this is crucial for applications that require quick access to substantial amounts of data, such as digital signage and kiosk systems.

When it comes to processing power, the GeekBench results provide a comprehensive look at the Byte4 Elite's capabilities. A single-core score of 2143 and a multi-core score of 4439 reflect a balanced performance, adept at managing single-threaded tasks as well as more demanding multi-threaded operations. This result would be OK for a mini PC used for running day-to-day office applications, and here, for a machine that would be run in a thin client setup to power complex interactive kiosks, it should be more than enough.

The GeekBench Compute score of 9163, alongside CineBench scores of 8161 for multi-core and 1687 for single-core CPU performance, further underscores the Byte4 Elite's proficiency in handling compute-intensive tasks. Such capabilities are essential for edge computing solutions and IoT applications, where processing data quickly and efficiently is, of course, important.

In terms of graphical performance, the Fire Strike scores paint a picture of a system that, while not designed for high-end gaming, offers ample power for digital signage and other visual applications. An overall score of 1933, with graphics at 2231 and a particularly impressive physics score of 18555, indicates that the Byte4 Elite can handle 4K video playback and graphic-intensive presentations with ease, making it an ideal choice for content-rich digital signage. When it came to the scores for Time Spy and Wild Life, in both instances, this machine didn't have the graphic processing to handle those tests. 

It's also worth noting the relatively modest Windows Experience Index of 5.9, which suggests that while the Byte4 Elite is a strong performer in many areas, there may be limitations to its capabilities, particularly anything where graphical performance or ultra-fast data processing is required. This aligns with the expectation for a device that's optimised for specific industrial and commercial applications rather than general high-performance computing.

The performance metrics of the Azulle Byte4 Elite Mini Desktop PC show that this machine is tailored to environments that demand reliability, efficiency, and the ability to handle a diverse range of tasks. Whether it's serving as the backbone of a kiosk, powering digital signage, or facilitating edge computing, the Byte4 Elite's test scores highlight the focus of its intended use. 

  • Performance: 4/5

Should you buy the Azulle Byte4 Elite Mini Desktop PC?

The Azulle Byte4 Elite Mini Desktop PC is a remarkably capable machine specifically designed for industrial and commercial applications. Its performance, alongside a suite of features tailored for roles such as digital signage, kiosks, and IoT solutions, positions it as a top contender in its niche. When considering its value for money, it's clear that the Byte4 Elite is not your everyday consumer device but a specialised tool meant for specific, demanding tasks.

Azulle Byte4 Elite Mini

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

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We tested the best business laptops - and these are our top choices for boosting productivity

Geekom A7 mini PC review
8:32 pm |

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Pro | Tags: , , , | Comments: Off

Geekom A7 mini PC: 30-second review

Specs

CPU: Ryzen™ 7000 (R9-7940HS & R7-7840HS)
Graphics: AMD Radeon™ Graphics 780M
RAM: Dual channel DDR5 5600MHz SODIMM, up to 64GB
Storage: 1 x M.2 2280 SSD Slot, support PCIe Gen4*4, up to 2TB, or SATAIII SSD, up to 1TB
Rear Ports:1 x Rear USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A, 1 x Rear USB 2.0 Type-A, 1 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C, 1 x USB 4 Gen3 Type-C, 2 x HDMI 2.0, 1 x RJ45 RTL8125BG-CG,
Front Ports: 1 x Front USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A, 1 x Front USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A, 1 x 3.5mm front stereo headset jack
Connectivity: M.2 Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2, 
Audio: HDA CODEC
Camera: N/A
Size: 112.4 x 112.4 x 37 mm
OS installed: Microsoft Windows 11 (64-bit) 
Accessories: 19V power supply adapter (120W)

The Geekom A7 mini PC represents the upper echelon of Mini PCs, with its all-metal casing exuding a premium look and feel. Upon examination, it's clear this is not just another compact, space-saving device. 

Unlike many of the best mini PCs we've tested, it boasts a high-quality build complemented by a wide array of ports on the back, convenient quick-access ports on the front, and an SD card slot on the side, indicating Geekom's targeting of creatives, gamers, and high-end users.

The machine, preloaded with Windows 11 Pro, impresses with its quick boot time and effortless handling of demanding applications including some of the best video editing software and photo editing apps. Gaming performance is notable, though some adjustments to quality settings are necessary for smooth gameplay. For instance, Tekken 8 benchmarks at a score of 287 are suitable for mid-range settings, while Cyberpunk, when set to Medium graphics at 4K, is playable despite occasional glitches. However, lowering the resolution to 1080p while boosting graphics settings allows for smoother gameplay.

In everyday use, the A7 showcases its prowess by efficiently running all Office applications and breezing through tasks. Creative professionals will appreciate the ultra-fast USB Type-C ports for quick data transfer to and from large-capacity storage devices. Additionally, the dual HDMI ports facilitate an easy dual monitor setup, with the option for further expansion through USB ports.

Our review unit came equipped with 32GB of RAM and 2TB of SSD M.2 storage, serving as a solid base for various work types. With the option to expand the RAM up to 64GB, this compact machine demonstrates significant potential for serious users.

Geekom A7 mini PC: Price & availability

Geekom A7 mini PC on a desk in a home office

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

The Geekom A7 is readily available in several configurable options. The model reviewed features an AMD Ryzen 9 7940HS with Radeon Graphics, while a slightly more affordable version comes with the Ryzen 7 7840HS, also equipped with AMD 780M graphics. Both variants can be customized with either 32GB or 64GB of RAM and a choice of 1TB or 2TB of SSD storage. These configurations can be purchased through Amazon.com, the Geekom website, and numerous other retailers.

  • Score: 4/5

Geekom A7 mini PC: Design & build

Geekom Mini PC A7

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

The first thing you notice about the A7's build quality is its premium metal casing, contrasted with a standard plastic base. This design not only creates a strong and durable machine suitable for both home and workshop use but also makes it conveniently portable for those needing to transport their computer between home and work without opting for a laptop.

A notable feature of the design is the abundance of ports on the back, facilitating easy connections to a wide array of devices via HDMI, USB Type-A and C, along with a direct network connection. This feature is particularly beneficial for creative users like photographers and videographers, thanks to the built-in SD card reader on the side for quick downloading of image and video files post-shoot.

The ample ports and connections also mean the system can be attached to numerous accessories without overloading it or draining its power, which is crucial for those requiring fast transfers for large storage and control desks.

While the mini PC comes with a range of hardware options for RAM and SSD at the time of purchase, both can be upgraded as budget allows. Access to the hardware is straightforward, requiring the removal of the small rubber feet and unscrewing four small screws to detach the plastic base. Beneath this, a metal plate adds an extra layer of protection to the electronics and assists with cooling. This plate, held in place by another four screws, can be removed to access the SSD and RAM directly.

A large fan is situated at the top of the machine, integral to the cooling system that allows the powerful CPU and GPU to maintain smooth operation. Similar to other high-performance mini PCs recently observed, this fan is designed to be large yet run quietly, ensuring it does not distract from multimedia activities, gaming, or work conducted on the machine.

  • Design: 5/5

Geekom A7 mini PC: Features

Geekom Mini PC A7

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

The Geekom A7 ushers in a new era of Mini PCs, elevating performance and demonstrating that this compact form factor is more than just a space-saving solution. It houses powerful Ryzen processors and offers a wide range of connectivity options, catering to professionals, creators, and everyday users.

Key features include the Ryzen 7000 Series CPU, known for its exceptional performance with a thermal design power (TDP) of up to 45W. This balance between performance and power consumption means users relying on intensive applications for video editing, graphic design, or software development will find the processing power they need for complex tasks.

Complementing the CPU is the AMD Radeon Graphics 780M, a mobile GPU with an impressive track record. While it may not match the power of a dedicated external GPU, it provides a balanced solution for content creators and casual gamers who need competent graphics performance for video editing, graphic design, and gaming.

This mini PC supports high-speed DDR5 memory in a dual-channel DDR5 5600MHz SODIMM configuration, expandable up to 64GB, ensuring smooth multitasking across applications. It also offers versatile storage options, supporting an M.2 2280 SSD for PCIe Gen4*4 (up to 2TB) or a more economical SATAIII SSD (up to 1TB), catering to the needs of creatives and gamers with faster transfer speeds, as well as general users.

A significant feature appealing to professional users is the extensive array of I/O ports, including USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A/C, HDMI 2.0, and more. Alongside Wi-Fi 6E or Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.2 support, it ensures versatile connectivity. Its compact size (112.4 x 112.4 x 37 mm) and lightweight (420g) make it ideal for space-constrained environments, offering a discreet, minimalist design that doesn't stand out, whether in homes or workshops. Its durable metal case and small footprint also facilitate easy wall mounting or placement away from potential hazards.

Despite its compact size, which could pose challenges for heat management, the A7 is equipped with the Geekom 4.0 cooling system, featuring a large top-mounted fan and side venting to ensure the system remains cool. The necessity of an external power adapter supporting a 120W power draw facilitates higher processing performance, compensating for the lack of USB-C power delivery. 

The Geekom mini PC is preinstalled with Windows 11 Pro and ready to go after the usual initial setup process. 

  • Features: 4.5/5

Geekom A7 mini PC: Performance

Geekom Mini PC A7

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)
Benchmarks

Crystal Disk Read: 4908.63MB/s
Crystal Disk Write:
 4720.80MB/s
GeekBench CPU Single: 2674
GeekBench CPU Multi:
 13296
GeekBench Compute: 33438
PC Mark:
 7289
CineBench CPU Multi: 19835
CineBench CPU Single:
 1802
Fire Strike Overall: 7875
Fire Strike Graphics:
 8512
Fire Strike Physics: 27471
Fire Strike Combined: 2994
Time Spy Overall:
 3244
Time Spy Graphics: 2886
Time Spy CPU:
 10925
Wild Life: 16681
Windows Experience: 8.2

The A7 demonstrates formidable performance across a diverse range of applications, evidenced by its impressive test scores. For creative tasks, such as working in Photoshop and Adobe Premiere Pro, its GeekBench Multi score of 13,296 and a CineBench CPU Multi score of 19,835 indicate its capability to manage complex, CPU-demanding tasks. Practically, this translates to smooth and responsive performance when editing high-resolution images from the Canon EOS R5 in Photoshop or handling 4K video editing in Premiere Pro, facilitated by high-speed DDR5 RAM for seamless layer manipulation and real-time footage preview.

In DaVinci Resolve, the GeekBench Compute score of 33,438 and Fire Strike Graphics score of 8,512 showcase the mini PC's proficiency in colour grading and 4K video rendering—a testament to its sufficient GPU power for demanding video editing tasks, ensuring fine 4K video editing with smooth playback and quick render times. If you've been on the look-out for a compact alternative to the best video editing PCs or even the best video editing laptops, this could be the mini PC for you. 

In fact, content creation across the board is good. The A7 comfortably handles Adobe Audition performance for track mixing and effect applications. Its HDA CODEC ensures high-quality audio output, indicating its well-rounded capabilities in handling audio editing tasks without hitches.

Although not primarily a gaming rig, the A7's performance in creative applications hinted at respectable gaming capabilities. With a Time Spy Graphics score of 2,886, it supports casual to moderate gaming experiences. Games such as "Tekken 8" and "Cyberpunk" can be played in mid-range settings, requiring adjustments for smooth gameplay at higher resolutions.

The A7 excels in everyday productivity tasks as well, including Microsoft Office applications. A PC Mark score of 7,289 signifies that it can effortlessly manage word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, and other office-related tasks, corroborated by actual use. The fast SSD, with Crystal Disk Read and Write speeds of 4908.63MB/s and 4720.80MB/s, respectively, ensures rapid application launches and almost instantaneous file access, enhancing efficiency, especially when transferring image and video files via the SD card slot. This combination of high-speed memory, robust processing power, and fast storage highlights the mini PC as a powerful, versatile computer capable of meeting a wide array of user needs, from creative to everyday productivity and casual gaming.

  • Performance: 4/5

Should you buy the Geekom A7 mini PC?

The A7 from Geekom is ideal for creatives, professionals, and users seeking a compact, powerful computer. Its robust processing and graphics capabilities make it perfect for demanding tasks like video editing, graphic design, and multitasking with ease. Casual gamers and those valuing a space-saving design without sacrificing performance will also find it appealing. 

However, hardcore gamers and users requiring the utmost in graphical performance may not find it meets their needs due to its limitations compared to dedicated gaming PCs. Additionally, those on a tight budget might consider the price point and explore more cost-effective options.

Value: Solid performance at a reasonable price. 4/5
Design: Compact, efficient, unobtrusive design. 5/5
Features: Versatile, with comprehensive connectivity and expansion options. 4.5/5
Performance: Strong in multitasking, moderate in gaming. 4/5
Total: Well-rounded, efficient for professionals and casual users. 4/5

Geekom Mini PC A7

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

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We've tested the best laptops for photo editing - and here's the ones we rate

Galaxy F15 5G teaser images leak, reveal a 6,000mAh battery and promise 4 OS updates
5:07 pm | February 19, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Mobile phones news | Tags: | Comments: Off

Last week we saw a Geekbench result from the Samsung Galaxy F15 5G with a Dimensity 6100+ chipset, the same chip that is inside the Galaxy A15 5G. The two phones have a lot in common, though as leaked teaser images show there will be some differences too. The biggest is that the F15 will have a 6,000mAh battery (1,000mAh more than the A15). This is the same capacity as last year’s Galaxy F14 5G that this phone will replace. We also saw the battery in question get certified recently. Anyway, the phone should support 25W charging over USB-C. Samsung Galaxy F15 5G: 6,000mAh...

Durabook S15 review
4:31 pm | February 8, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Pro | Tags: , , | Comments: Off

Durabook S15: 30-second review

Specs

CPU: Intel Core i5 (12th Gen)
Graphics: Intel Iris Xe; Optional NVIDIA Quadro T1000
RAM: 32GB - Up to 64GB (4800 MHz DDR5)
Storage: 500GB (256GB-2TB NVMe PCIe SSD; Optional 2nd/3rd storage)
Rear Ports: Thunderbolt 4, USB 3.2 (Type A/C), HDMI, VGA, Ethernet, Serial, Nano-SIM, DC-In
Front Ports: Audio in/out, microSD card
Connectivity: Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth V5.3; Optional GPS, 4G/5G
Audio: Integrated microphone, High Definition Audio, Speakers
Camera: Optional 2.0/5.0 MP; IR for Windows Hello
Size: 375mm x 273mm x 29.5mm; Weight: 2.6kg
OS installed: Windows 11 Pro 64-bit
Accessories: Various, including SSDs, Docking Stations, Adapters

The Durabook S15 strikes a fine balance between rugged durability and a sleek, slimline design. Its build quality is reassuring and reinforces its capability to withstand challenging conditions; it's also a reflection of its rugged aesthetics. 

WIth plenty of experience testing the best rugged laptops, one aspect that really stands out is how this model is impressively adaptable, offering customisation options, including CPU and GPU variations at the time of purchase. Our test of the base model, equipped with an Intel i5 CPU and Intel Iris XE GPU, demonstrated sufficient flexibility with ample RAM, 32GB, and storage expansion options. Despite not being waterproof, its IP5X rating highlights its resilience in tough environments.

In use, the S15 effortlessly handles office tasks and internet browsing, with Windows operating smoothly across various applications. However, its base GPU does show limitations when pushed with graphically intensive tasks, a gap filled by the optional NVIDIA Quadro T1000 variant for those needing extra power. Durability tests, including repeated drop tests, underscore its robustness, easily surviving falls from typical working heights.

In essence, the Durabook S15 very much feels like that link between the refined style of the best business laptops we've tried and the durability of full-on rugged models. While it may struggle with high-end gaming or demanding CAD applications, its core strength lies in its tough build and operational flexibility. Durabook offers enhanced versions if you are looking for additional power, which makes the S15 a versatile choice for professionals who require a durable yet capable laptop.

Durabook S15: Price & availability

Durabook S15

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

The Durabook S15 Semi-Rugged Laptop is available online from both the official Durabook site and elsewhere. Expect prices of around $2000 / £1800 plus. 

  • Score: 4/5

Durabook S15: Design & build

Durabook S15

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

The Durabook S15's design is instantly recognisable as rugged, with the style highlighting the durable nature of the machine and how it is tailored to demanding field environments. Its exterior is notably tough, featuring a large, easy-to-use lever lock on the lid that ensures the laptop remains closed even when dropped, and it's designed in such a way that it's unlikely to be accidentally released. 

The laptop's build quality is reflected in design elements such as the toughened corners and overall sturdy construction. It is designed to withstand a significantly higher degree of physical stress compared to standard laptops, including resistance to knocks, scratches, and bashes, of which it sustained quite a few through the test. 

This durability is not just superficial; the attention to detail extends to the protection of vital components. All ports on the S15 are safeguarded by strong plastic doors, ensuring they remain free from dust and damage. This includes the expansion slot, which is versatile enough to accommodate traditional optical drives or a range of other drive types, such as NVMe SSDs. The laptop even supports RAID array configurations, demonstrating Durabook's commitment to providing flexible and practical solutions for field use.

One user-friendly feature is the inclusion of a convenient carry handle, making the laptop extremely easy to transport. This may seem like a minor addition, but for professionals working in field conditions, such convenience is invaluable. Overall, the Durabook S15's design and build quality clearly reflect a deep understanding of the challenging environments it is intended for, offering a highly functional and robust computer for on-site professionals.

  • Design: 4.5/5

Durabook S15: Features

Durabook S15

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

The Durabook S15 is a decent blend of rugged durability and computing power, designed to meet the needs of professionals in demanding field environments. One of the standout features of the S15 is its incredibly thin and light profile, which is unusual for a rugged laptop. Despite weighing just 2.6kg and being only 29.5mm thin, it does not compromise on strength. It can endure a 4-foot drop and is both IP5X and MIL-STD-810H certified, ensuring reliability in challenging field conditions.

When using laptops outside, being able to see the screen clearly is essential, and here, the S15 features a 15.6-inch Full HD DynaVue sunlight-readable display, offering up to 1,000 nits brightness, making it perfect for outdoor use. Inside powering the graphics is Intel Iris Xe graphics, offering the average graphics processing speed that's required for standard Windows operation. For professionals needing more graphics power, such as in rendering or CAD applications, there's an option to upgrade to the NVIDIA Quadro T1000 at the time of purchase.

Mobility is a key aspect of the S15's design, with options for 4G LTE or 5G cellular connections, along with Bluetooth V5.3 and Wi-Fi 6E. For remote workers, the optional built-in GPS is a great addition, providing accurate location tracking. The laptop also features a long-life battery, capable of operating up to 12 hours of standard use, and the option of a bridge battery for swapping in the field, which is crucial for many industries.

Beyond just being a laptop, the S15 can transform into a mobile workstation. It can be equipped with up to three storage drives, supporting RAID 0 and RAID 1 configurations. The flexibility extends to its media bay, which can be converted into an ExpressCard 54 slot, broadening its use.

The connectivity and security features of the S15 include an array of ports, including Thunderbolt 4, USB 3.2 Type-A/-C, HDMI, and VGA, ensuring easy connection in any work setting. Security is paramount, with multi-factor authentication options like Windows Hello webcam, RFID/NFC, smartcard, and fingerprint readers safeguarding sensitive data.

The ergonomic design of the S15 includes a 98-key membrane keyboard with a dedicated numeric keypad and optional LED backlight. Finally, the S15 offers expandability, and it can be configured with a dedicated graphics card for specialised tasks like graphics rendering and CAD programs and configured with additional connectivity options like a 2nd RJ-45 and a 2nd RS-232 port, making it an adaptable tool in an evolving mobile work environment. These are all added at the time of purchase and are not additions to the laptop you can make later. 

  • Features: 4/5

Durabook S15: Performance

Durabook S15

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)
Benchmarks

Crystal Disk Read: 3647.40MB/s
Crystal Disk Write: 2200.13MB/s
GeekBench CPU Single: 3970
GeekBench CPU Multi: 1871
GeekBench Compute: 8727
PC Mark: 4314
CineBench CPU Multi: 4147
CineBench CPU Single: 1374
Fire Strike Overall: 2581
Fire Strike Graphics: 3053
Fire Strike Physics: 9825
Fire Strike Combined: 791
Time Spy Overall: 929
Time Spy Graphics: 830
Time Spy CPU: 2895
Wild Life: 5757
Windows Experience: 8.1

The Durabook S15 delivers a robust performance across various benchmarks, indicative of its capabilities in handling a range of tasks from basic to moderately demanding applications.

In terms of storage performance, the Crystal Disk scores are quite impressive. The read speed of 3647.40MB/s and write speed of 2200.13MB/s suggest that the S15 is more than capable of handling large files and data-intensive operations swiftly, making it suitable for applications that require quick data access and processing.

The Geekbench scores offer a glimpse into the CPU's capability. A single-core score of 3970 and a multi-core score of 1871 demonstrate that while the S15 is competent in handling everyday tasks efficiently, it might face some limitations in heavily multi-threaded applications. The computed score of 8727 further underscores its adequacy for general computing tasks.

In the CineBench tests, which are more focused on the CPU's rendering capabilities, the S15 scores 4147 in multi-core and 1374 in single-core tests. These scores reflect its ability to manage moderately demanding rendering tasks, although it may not be the top choice for highly complex rendering work.

The graphics performance, as indicated by the Fire Strike and Time Spy benchmarks, shows a decent capability with overall scores of 2581 and 929, respectively. The laptop seems to handle standard graphical tasks well, but it might not be optimal for high-end gaming or advanced 3D rendering. The Wild Life score of 5757 further reinforces this perspective.

Lastly, the Windows Experience score of 8.1 is a good indicator of the laptop's overall capability to provide a smooth user experience for most typical applications and tasks.

The Durabook S15 appears to be a solid performer for everyday professional tasks, including data management and basic graphical applications. It offers quick storage speeds and decent CPU and GPU performance, making it a reliable choice for professionals who require a rugged laptop with balanced performance features. However, for highly demanding graphical or rendering tasks, it might be worth considering models with higher-spec CPUs and GPUs.

As well as the standard computing performance test, this is a tough laptop, and as such, the durability of the S15 also needed to be tested. In the product description, Durabook highlights that the laptop is IP5X rated and drop-proof to 4 feet. 

In the first test, the laptop was used in a CNC, laser and 3D print workshop, left between the Bambu Labs A1 and the SnapMaker Artisan with CNC tooling. It was left open to the debris created by the two machines. While most laptops will withstand this amount of dust, it can render keys and ports blocked. Here, due to the design of the keyboard, the dust was not an issue, and a quick shake and vacuum quickly returned the machine to an almost new condition. Likewise, the plastic port covers did their job of keeping dust out.

The next test was to see how the laptop would cope with being used in light rain. It's worth noting that this is not a waterproof laptop, so time in the rain was kept to five minutes. Here again, the laptop functioned without issue and continued to work after the product shot without issue. 

The final test was the drop test here, measuring four feet off the floor. The laptop was dropped, then dropped again, rotated, dropped, etc. and aside from a nasty crack as it hit the stone and then the wooden floor on countless occasions, it seemed to be absolutely fine.

  • Performance: 3.5/5

Should you buy the Durabook S15?

Deciding whether to purchase the Durabook S15 hinges on your specific needs. Its rugged design, MIL-STD-810H and IP5X certifications make it an ideal if you're a field professional working in uncontrolled environments, workshops, warehouses and factories. 

The inclusion of a 15.6” Full HD DynaVue display and options for Intel Iris Xe or NVIDIA Quadro T1000 graphics make it versatile for a range of professional tasks. Moreover, its lightweight and slim profile defies the typical rugged laptop stereotype, enhancing portability.

However, the S15 might not be the best fit for those requiring a machine for advanced gaming or intensive multimedia tasks like high-end video editing or 3D rendering nor should it be as that's not it's key market. While it performs well in standard and moderately demanding applications, its capabilities in handling extremely graphics-intensive tasks are limited. Additionally, the investment cost, which starts relatively high, should be considered, especially if your requirements are more aligned with general computing rather than rugged field use.

Durabook S15

(Image credit: Alastair Jennings)

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T-Bao MN78 Cyberpunk mini PC review
3:09 pm |

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Pro | Tags: , , , | Comments: Off

T-Bao Cyberpunk Mini PC: 30-second review

Specs

CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 7840HS
Graphics: AMD Radeon 780M 12cu
RAM: 16GB DDR5
Storage: 512GB M.2 SSD
Rear Ports: 2 x USB 2.0, 1 x HDMI, 2 x LAN, 1 x DP
Front Ports: 2 x USB 3.2, 3.5mm audio, 1 x USB 4
Connectivity: WiFi 6, Bluetooth 5.2
Audio: 3.5mm headphone jack
Camera: N/A
Size: 13.15 x 13.15 x 5.5 cm
OS installed: Windows 11 Pro
Accessories: Charge Adapter, User Manual

The T-Bao MN78 is a mini PC with a difference and one that will instantly appeal to gamers and, for that matter, anyone who wants a machine with a little aesthetic appeal. There's no doubt that the MN78 Cyberpunk name and futuristic design outline instantly that this is a machine designed for gamers, especially when plugged in and the rainbow lights illuminate. The T-Bao MN78 mini PC is a more affordable gamer option than the impressive Acemagic Tank 03, we reviewed. But then again, it doesn't quite have the pure processing grunt offered by some of the other best mini PCs we've tested.  

At the heart of the MN78 lies an AMD Ryzen 7 7840HS processor; this new generation of processors certainly ups the game when it comes to outright performance and, through the test, impressed. This processor is further boosted by the integrated AMD Radeon 780M GPU. While these processor combos were designed for laptops, they're perfectly suited to these mini PCs and offer superb performance. Whether it's running graphically intensive games or multitasking between creative applications, the MN78 proved a great solution. However, it's worth noting that in order to get the best gaming performance, a bit of tweaking in the graphics settings might be required for some games, such as Cyberpunk 2077; while this machine is good, it doesn't quite meet the power of a full-sized laptop.

Connectivity options on the MN78 are generous, featuring USB 3.2 and 2.0 ports, HDMI, DP, and Type-C ports, along with dual LAN ports. This range allows for easy connection to various peripherals and displays, making it a versatile unit for different setups.

While the machine is designed for gamers, it packs decent power, so it is perfectly suited to creative applications; the small size and distinctive design with a solid build means that it's easy to transport without worry. If you are looking for a decent all-rounder that looks a little different, then this is a great machine, although I would be tempted to opt for the 32GB RAM and 1TB SSD version to enable some headroom. 

T-Bao Cyberpunk Mini PC: Price & availability

T-Bao Cyberpunk Mini PC

(Image credit: Ali Jennings)

You can easily pick up the T-Bao MN78 Cyberpunk on popular online platforms like Banggood and Geekbuying, catering to a wide range of consumers. As of the latest information, it's priced at approximately $600-790 / £500-600. But we recommend checking the sites for flash sales and discounts to get it cheaper. 

You can get a variety of different configurations, such as the version with 32GB RAM and 1TB SSD, provides options if you need more power and storage, although this will come at a higher cost. 

  • Score: 4/5

T-Bao Cyberpunk Mini PC: Design & build

T-Bao Cyberpunk Mini PC

(Image credit: Ali Jennings)

This mini PC instantly stands out, blending functionality with futuristic, Cyberpunk aesthetics. Its compact form factor, measuring just 13.15 x 13.15 x 5.5 cm, makes it an ideal choice if you're limited in space. The machine's design sees a sleek, white exterior that reflects the Cypherpunk name engraved into the top, with plenty of venting to help aid with the cooling. If the futuristic white is not your thing, then the machine is also available in black.

The Cyberpunk-inspired design that truly sets the MN78 apart. The mini PC features customisable RGB lighting, which adds a vibrant touch to its overall look and really helps to define this as a gamer; a nice touch here is a button on the front that enables you to personalise the lighting in accordance with your mood or preference, which can be off if the bright light is too distracting. This feature is, of course, aimed at gamers, but it has a certain appeal beyond that genre as well.

In terms of build quality, the MN78 is impressive. OK, it's plastic, but it feels robust and well-constructed, indicating a focus on durability alongside style. If you want to take this machine with you, then the size and high build quality mean that it is very suitable for this purpose. Every aspect, from the ports to the cooling vents, has been well-designed, with good spacing for cable insertion and flexibility over the accessories you use. 

One of the key design features is its large cooling fan. This component can be seen through the cutouts in the top plate of the machine; these aren't just there for looks and serve a practical purpose in enabling heat management to keep the machine cool when working under load; the size of the fan also helps to contribute to the MN78's quiet operation.

  • Design: 4.5/5

T-Bao Cyberpunk Mini PC: Features

T-Bao Cyberpunk Mini PC

(Image credit: Ali Jennings)

Central to the MN78's performance is the AMD Ryzen 7 7840HS processor, designed for laptop platforms and perfectly suited to the compact PC form-factor, making it ideal for both demanding gaming sessions and intensive creative work. This processor features an integrated AMD Radeon 780M 12cu GPU. It's never going to be a true alternative to the best gaming laptops, but it offers enough processing weight to handle most modern games with ease, with some settings adjustments and creative applications. 

While internal processing is a key feature, unlike many other mini PCs we've tried, the striking design makes this model stand out. The futuristic design looks great, with the customisable RGB lighting adding ambience, but as well as being aesthetic, it also plays a functional role. 

The cutouts in the design enable plenty of venting, and all ports on the back are well-spaced, making plugging in and removing accessories nice and easy. The LEDs on the large cooling fan that covers the majority of the top section of the computer are visible through the cutouts on the top plate, which are all part of the design to enhance heat management. This ensures that the mini PC remains cool under load; playing Cyberpunk 2077 with some of the settings reduced to enhance the gameplay, the cooling system proved it's worth keeping the performance of the machine consistent and the fan noise low. 

Build quality is another area where the MN78 shines. Despite its plastic construction, it feels robust and well-made, indicating a focus on durability. The Build, coupled with the compact size of the MN78, makes it an ideal companion if you need a portable yet powerful computing solution for gaming, creative tasks or both. 

  • Features: 4/5

T-Bao Cyberpunk Mini PC: Performance

T-Bao Cyberpunk Mini PC

(Image credit: Ali Jennings)
Benchmarks

Crystal Disk Read: 5072.98
Crystal Disk Write:
2598.10
GeekBench CPU Single:
2486
GeekBench CPU Multi:
11474
GeekBench Compute:
32878
PC Mark:
7243
CineBench CPU Multi:
14608
CineBench CPU Single:
1720
Fire Strike Overall:
6587
Fire Strike Graphics:
7033
Fire Strike Physics:
22487
Fire Strike Combined:
2598
Time Spy Overall:
3004
Time Spy Graphics:
2680
Time Spy CPU:
9567
Wild Life:
13154
Windows Experience:
8.2

The T-Bao MN78 showcases impressive performance across a variety of applications and games and, through the test results and real-world usage, we found it to pack more power than most.

Starting with benchmark tests, the Crystal Disk Read and Write scores of 5072.98 and 2598.10, respectively, show swift data transfer rates, making it an excellent choice for tasks requiring quick access to large files such as video editing. The GeekBench scores, both in single (2486) and multi-core (11474) tests, highlight the processor's efficiency in handling both singular intensive tasks and multitasking scenarios. The high GeekBench Compute score of 32878 further underscores its graphical power, helping with gaming and video rendering.

In CineBench tests, the MN78 achieves a multi-core score of 14608 and a single-core score of 1720, which indicates that it will be able to handle CPU-intensive tasks effectively. The PC Mark score of 7243 aligns with this, suggesting a well-rounded performance in everyday computing tasks.

Gaming performance is the main focus of this machine. In the Fire Strike and Time Spy tests, the MN78 scores 6587 and 3004 overall, with particularly strong results for graphics and physics, again reinforcing its suitability for gaming. The Wild Life score of 13154 and a Windows Experience Index of 8.2 shows that it's good for gaming as well as general use.

Real-world application tests paint a similar picture. In Photoshop, the MN78 performs excellently, though the benefit of a RAM upgrade to 32GB and a larger SSD for files from the latest cameras, such as the Sony A7IV and Canon EOS R5 C. And there's scope for swapping out the best video editing laptops for the even small, more portable mini PC in some use-cases. Its performance in Premiere Pro is excellent for HD video editing and good for 4K, showing it can handle professional-grade video editing tasks, albeit more comfortably with expanded memory and storage.

Gaming tests reveal its abilities further. It was never going to match the power of the best gaming PCs, of course - while playing Cyberpunk, we had to make adjustments in settings for optimal performance. But the gameplay was more than satisfactory, and running the in-game bench helped me fine-tune the settings. In Dirt Rally and Portal 2, the MN78 delivers excellent performance, showcasing its ability to handle fast-paced games and deliver smooth graphics. Hogwarts Legacy also runs excellently after some settings adjustments.

Overall, the T-Bao MN78 Mini PC is as a versatile performer, capable of handling a range of tasks from professional creative applications to intensive gaming, with the lowering of some graphic and resolution settings. While it benefits from additional RAM and storage for more demanding tasks, its base configuration offers a solid foundation for a variety of uses.

  • Performance: 4.5/5

Should you buy the T-Bao Cyberpunk Mini PC?

The T-Bao MN78 is a great blend of style, power, and versatility, offering great value for money. Its performance in gaming and creative tasks is impressive, especially considering its compact form. The customisable RGB lighting and sleek design add to its appeal, making it not just a powerful machine but also a stylish addition to your desktop. While it excels in many areas, the need for potential upgrades in RAM and storage for high-end tasks is worth considering. Overall, for those seeking a compact yet powerful PC, the MN78 is a solid choice in the mini PC market.

T-Bao Cyberpunk Mini PC

(Image credit: Ali Jennings)

Buy it if...

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Apple Vision Pro review: The spatial computing revolution is here, and I love it
7:17 pm | February 7, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Computing Gadgets Software Virtual Reality & Augmented Reality | Tags: , | Comments: Off

Apple Vision Pro: Two-minute review

Apple has spent almost a decade developing the Vision Pro, and it shows. Everything about it is spectacular, from the exquisite design to brilliant visuals that blend the real with the fantastical, to the versatility that puts other mixed-reality headsets to shame.

The fact that, even after all that work, there are still limitations is frustrating. Sure, I want a sub-1lb/500g headset that somehow integrates the battery; and, of course, I want it to cost $500. The state of the art, even Apple’s bleeding-edge form of it, isn’t there yet. None of that, however, makes me think less of the Vision Pro. It's a stunning achievement in industrial design and technology that translates the inscrutable worlds of AR, VR, and mixed reality into an experience that pretty much anyone can understand and enjoy.

Using your gaze and gestures (finger taps, long pinch, pull) to control a computer is the intuitive technology control you didn’t know you were missing – the millimeter precision is more like what you’d expect from a seasoned OS, not the brand new Vision Pro platform, visionOS, Apple introduced nine months ago. Apple got this right on the first try, and it could become as second-nature as tapping, pinching, and swiping on an iPhone or iPad is today.

Apple Vision Pro Review

(Image credit: Future)

As a new computing platform, the Vision Pro is rich with features and possibilities. The fact that it does so many things so well, and that they work and make sense, is a testament to Apple’s efforts. I’ve been marveling at the attention to detail, and at how a bleeding-edge, V1 product can feel so finished and complete. Apple has created a headset that I’m itching to wear almost every day, and if I did nothing but work in it the Vision Pro would transform my life. I’ve long dreamed of having a 150-inch or larger workspace, but I couldn’t imagine how it would be practical or, more importantly, viewable. With the Vision Pro, I get an almost unlimited desktop that makes me want to never return to the confined space of my laptop.

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Apple Vision Pro Review

Encounter dinosaurs remains one of the most eye-popping Vision Pro experiences… (Image credit: Future)
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Apple Vision Pro Review

…especially when this virtual butterfly lands on your finger (Image credit: Future)

I’ve rarely tested a technology that has moved me in the way the Vision Pro does. Spatial videos are so achingly real that they instantly trigger an emotion that a flat image might not. Being up close with otherworldly or prehistoric creatures that seem to almost see me is at once jarring and thrilling. To pull this off, you need more than great apps, software, developers, and artists; you need a cohesive system that brings it all to life. The Vision Pro does it time and again, with 23 million pixels of imagery, spatial audio that travels the distance from band-bound speakers directly to your ears, and eye-tracking that knows your gaze better than you do.

There are frustrations and missteps, too.

Apple Vision Pro Review

Apple Vision Pro with the Solo Knit Band (Image credit: Future)

I struggled to find the best fit, and while I can now wear the Vision Pro for hours, my face reminds me afterwards that it’s not built for this. I've struggled on occasion to find a fit that doesn’t cause me some niggling discomfort (although the more immersed I get, the less I feel anything).

I don’t mind the external battery, but it feels not quite up to the task when you want to watch a 3D movie and power seems to drain at double speed. Thank goodness the battery can be plugged in for continued use.

Apple Vision Pro Review

You won't go anywhere without that battery pack (Image credit: Future)

While I think the outside-in pass-through technology that marries the real and computer-generated worlds is among the best I’ve seen, Apple’s attempts to keep you connected to people in front of you and through, say, FaceTime calls, need work. Personas are just this side of creepy, and EyeSight, which shows a video of your eyes to those around you on the exterior screen, looks a bit scary. Then there's the price, which is overwhelming, and will be an instant turnoff for many. I wonder, though, if they might feel differently after their first experience – I’d argue that they will decide they want a Vision Pro, and the only question will be how they can afford it.

Apple Vision Pro Review

(Image credit: Future)

Apple Vision Pro: Price and availability

  • Expensive
  • Price does not include lens inserts
  • No yet available outside the US

Apple announced its Vision Pro headset on June 5, 2023, at WWDC 2023. It's available now in the US, and costs $3,499 for the 256GB model. Preorders opened on January 19, and the headset began shipping on February 2. Availability and pricing for other markets is yet to be confirmed, but Apple says that will follow in 2025.

Value score: 4

Apple Vision Pro: What's in the box

Everything that's inside the Apple Vision Pro box

Here's what you'll find when you unbox your Vision Pro (Image credit: Future)

So what do you get for your $3,499 (Apple sent me the 1TB version, which starts at $3,899 – you can opt for a $3,699 512GB headset)? Essentially, in the box is everything you need to put on and start using the Vision Pro. In order of importance:

  • There’s the Vision Pro system
  • A battery with attached cable
  • USB-C charge cable and 30W adapter
  • The Solo Knit Band
  • A Dual Loop Band
  • Two Light Seals Cushions
  • A fabric cover
  • A polishing cloth

The only thing that's not included, and which you might need, as I did, are the Zeiss prescription lens inserts. These will run you $99 for reading-glass lenses, and $149 for full prescription lenses, which is what I need. The Vision Pro might be unusable for those with particular sight issues – Apple can let you know upfront if that's likely to be the case.

It all arrives in a large white box that has all the hallmarks of containing a high-end Apple product.

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Apple Vision Pro carrying case

The optional case costs $199 but I thick its worth it (Image credit: Future)
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Apple Vision Pro carrying case

(Image credit: Future)
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Apple Vision Pro carrying case

(Image credit: Future)

You can buy an optional carrying case for $199, and, considering that you just dropped almost $3,500, I think it’s money well spent, although some might argue that Apple should include the case with the expensive headset. Apple sent me the case; it's compact, and has storage space for everything I mentioned above, and I think the hard-shell, soft-surface body will do wonders to protect your expensive new toy.

Apple Vision Pro: Specs

The headgear is, in some ways typical goggle size: it's roughly six inches wide by almost four inches deep from the edge of the Light Seal to the front of the glass, and almost four inches tall. 

Perhaps the most important spec of all, though, is the weight. Depending on which bands you use, the Vision Pro clocks in at 1.3 to 1.4lbs, or 600 to 650g. The external battery, which I kept either in my pocket, on the table, or on the couch next to me (later I got a nice $49.95 Belkin Case, so I could attach it to my belt), weighs just over three-quarters of a pound, or around 350g. Thank goodness Apple opted to not integrate the battery in its first mixed-reality headset.

Apple Vision Pro: Performance

  • Powerful, proven M2 chip
  • R1 appears to take the visual load
  • Never a lag
  • Could do with more base storage

Apple’s Vision Pro works as well as it does not only because of the design and remarkably intuitive interface. As always, it’s what’s inside that really counts.

At its heart is the  M2 chip, a second-generation piece of Apple silicon, featuring an 8-core CPU and a 10-core GPU that powers, for instance, the most recent MacBook Air (MacBook Pros now have M3 chips). In my experience, this is a powerful chip that’s well qualified to handle the demands of virtual and augmented reality.

However, the M2 has the support of a new piece of Apple silicon, the R1 chip, which appears to be primarily in charge of managing those 4K screens, and maintaining a 12-millisecond image update so that what you see is clear and butter-smooth.

The Vision Pro’s dual 4K micro-OLED displays with 23 million pixels are also industry-leading. My experience with the headset is that I get crystal-clear imagery wherever I look, and at whatever size I make the screens.

Apple Vision Pro Review

The Vision Pro's audio comes through a pair of audio pods which are hidden under that white rubber (Image credit: Future)

Apple has placed the stereo audio pod headphones on the stiff white rubber stems that feed into the Vision Pro frame, but they provide excellent spatial audio that’s arguably as good as anything you might get with in-ear buds. If you place an app on your virtual left, the audio will come from that space. At one point, I took a screen that was playing video and slowly dragged it from one side of my space to the other, and the audio tracked perfectly from my left side to the middle and then to the right. There’s also a six-microphone array that does a good job of picking up “Siri” commands. I love summoning Siri because, in the Vision Pro, the digital assistant is embodied as a small floating glass orb.

Apple Vision Pro bottom edge cameras

The Vision Pro's bottom-edge cameras (Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)

There are numerous cameras arrayed on the outside and inside of the Vision Pro. The two on the front handle the stereoscopic imagery that you can see and capture in photos and videos that you’ll play back later, and sometimes cry over.

The Vision Pro supports Wi-Fi 6 (though oddly not Wi-Fi 7, which in a few years will be ubiquitous) and Bluetooth 5.3, the latter of which allowed me to easily connect the Vision Pro to an Xbox controller, Magic Keyboard, and Magic Trackpad. 

Apple Vision Pro virtual keyboard

The Vision Pro is best for a quick message or short sentences; typing anything of length on it is virtually impossible (Image credit: Future)

The Vision Pro also displays a virtual keyboard that you can poke at in space. This can be resized and positioned to your liking, but the lack of physical and tactile feedback makes it difficult, at best, to use. What’s worse is that because you may not be looking at the keyboard when you type, the gaze control system can’t really help you with accuracy. To be fair, I’m a terrible typist and do often look at the keyboard when touch-typing. Ultimately, if I want to type within visionOS while wearing the headset, I find that using the Magic Keyboard Apple sent me is best (they also sent a Magic Mouse that can work across both visionOS and my connected MacBook Pro’s virtual display).

Apple provided me with a 1TB Vision Pro test unit, which retails for $3,899. The base model, which costs $3,499, starts with just 256GB of storage. Apple pitches the Vision Pro as the first “spatial computer,” which makes me wonder why it didn’t start with at least a half-terabyte of storage as standard.

Performance score: 4.5

Apple Vision Pro: Design

  • Exquisite materials and build
  • Good looks hide impressive specs
  • Not that light
  • External battery

I know people joke about the Vision Pro looking like a pair of hyped-up snow goggles. Maybe so, but I’d argue there’s not one false note in this design. Apple, as it often does, chose the best material, with a particular focus on weight. So, it’s a mix of an aluminum body, magnesium, carbon fiber, and woven fabric. It’s virtually all curved, with a gleaming glass front that protects the screen marrying almost seamlessly with the body.

There’s a lot of technology packed into the Vision Pro, but Apple has made some effort to hide it. There are cameras behind the glass, and a set of them along the bottom edge that watch your face and hands. The AudioPod speakers that deliver near-perfect spatial audio are hidden behind stiff, white rubber.

Along one side of the top edge is a familiar piece of technology: the Digital Crown. When I first saw this, I wondered why Apple would pull an idea from Apple Watch and slap it on its newest device. But Apple considers the Vision Pro to be a wearable, so there’s some logical continuity here. Plus, the Digital Crown turns out to be one incredibly useful and important piece of Vision Pro technology.

The 'Top Button' on the top left side, which is mostly used for Spatial Photos and Video, gets far less use.

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Apple Vision Pro Review

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Apple Vision Pro Review

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Apple Vision Pro Review

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Apple Vision Pro Review

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Apple Vision Pro Review

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Apple Vision Pro Review

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Apple Vision Pro Review

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Apple Vision Pro Review

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Apple Vision Pro Review

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Apple Vision Pro Review

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Apple Vision Pro Review

(Image credit: Future)

There are some large vents on the top of the frame, and a grille on the bottom, and these seem to work together to draw air in and flow it up and away from your face. The Vision Pro does get warm, but never so much so that it’s uncomfortable.

The Vision Pro and the Light Shield both curve to meet your face, but the crucial bit that makes this design work is the foamy Light Seal cushion. This rests on and follows the contours of your face, and it’s about as comfortable as such a thing should be, though on occasion during my testing time I've wondered if it should be either thicker or denser.

Apple Vision Pro Review

Once I settled on the Dual Loop Band, I found my Vision Pro comfort zone. (Image credit: Future)

Attaching this spatial computer to your head requires a band, or a pair of bands. The default Solo Knit Band is wide, and can be adjusted via a dial to make it tighter or looser. It’s never offered enough support for me, though.

It’s worth pausing here to remind you that the Vision Pro weighs 1.3lbs. That’s not particularly heavy in itself, but a typical set of eyeglasses might weigh 0.08lbs, and now imagine attaching a pound of ground beef to your head. This experience is far more enjoyable, but it needs support. In contrast to the Solo Knit Band, the Dual Loop Band supports the headset on the back of your head and across the top of it, and I bet most people will prefer it over the more attractive Solo Knit version.

Design score 4.5

Apple Vision Pro: Setup

I would not call any part of the Vision Pro setup process complicated or off-putting. There are several steps to go through, but mostly these are to customize the experience. As for assembling it, there’s the matter of which band you choose for comfort, and fitting the right Light Seal (the thinner one is standard, the thicker one is for glasses-wearers who have those Zeiss inserts). You also need to attach the battery cable, which snaps into the right side (if the headset’s glass is facing you) and locks on with a twist – there’s no chance of it popping off. The cable is long enough for you to drop the somewhat hefty battery into your pocket.

The bands snap on and off metal lugs using small orange pull tabs; I usually put the lens cover on, so that I can tip the Vision Pro on its face while I swap bands. Aside from the colorful screen behind the glass, which is just black when the device is off, that orange is the only bit of color pop on the headset.

If you ordered Zeiss prescription lenses, as I did, you’ll have to put them in before using the headset. They, like most other pieces on the Vision Pro (for instance the Light Seal and its cushion) attach magnetically. They’re also labeled, so you won’t get confused about which lens goes on which side. The box comes with a QR code that you’ll use to register the lenses with the headset.

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Apple Vision Pro Review

(Image credit: Future)
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Apple Vision Pro Review

(Image credit: Future)

There’s also a QR code moment when you want to sync your Vision Pro with your phone and iCloud account. None of this takes long, or is even remotely confusing.

The rest of the setup occurs mostly with the headset on. Apple fans will appreciate the startup, which includes a floating Apple logo and then the iconic 'Hello' spelled out in 3D scripted letters floating in your real-world space. It’s just a hint of what’s to come.

One of the keys to the Vision Pro’s technical excellence is its ability to track your gaze (along with the dual 4K micro-OLED screens inside the headset are cameras pointed directly at your eyes). So, the setup begins with pressing the crown to get the pupillary distance – that is, the distance between your pupils – right. The screens mechanically shift position to match your pupils.

Apple Vision Pro Review

Looking at and selecting these dots is an important step in the setup process (Image credit: Future)

Next, to ensure that the Vision Pro fully understands where you’re looking, you go through a series of vision calibration tests, during which a circle of dots appears and you look at each one, and pinch your index finger and thumb together. You do this three times in three different environmental light settings. I’d already tried this five times over the last seven months of demos, so I'd gotten quite good at it.

The system also needs to calibrate for your hands. This process consists of holding them up in front of the Vision Pro. You’ll see a faint glow around the outside edges of your digits, and then you flip your hands over and do it again.

While the system may occasionally ask you to reset the pupillary distance by holding down the Digital Crown, you won’t have to perform any other part of the setup again. For Guest Mode, if you want to let someone else to try the headset, they’ll go through the vision and hand calibration, but the results will not be used by the Vision Pro when their session ends.

As I've said, I found this setup simple, and quite effective in that from that point on the system has seemed to know me every time I've donned the Vision Pro, and it worked as well as the time before. The only step I need to follow now to get started is logging in with a PIN. You can also log on with an iris scan (OpticID) but, while I successfully registered my iris, I could never unlock the Vision Pro with my eyes. I've asked Apple about this issue and will update this review with its reply.

Apple Vision Pro: Software and Interface

  • Excellent intuitive OS
  • A true 'think-do' interface
  • Spatial computing turns the world into an unlimited digital space

You start on the home screen, or Home View, which can be summoned with one press of the Digital Crown. This screen will look somewhat familiar to most Apple fans: there's a grid of preinstalled app icons, many of which match what you’ll find on your iPad or iPhone (Notes, Safari, Photos, Podcasts, Calendar, Mail, Files, etc), horizontally arrayed and floating in your real-world environment. You can use the pinch-and-wave gesture to move through multiple screens of apps. This is where the apps you install will live – you can download many more from the App Store, which now has more than 600 visionOS apps. There’s also access to 'Compatible Apps' folder, which collected all the iOS and iPadOS apps I installed on Vision Pro. Apple claims that roughly a million iOS and iPadOS apps already work with Vision Pro, even if they were not designed for visionOS and the Vision Pro. It's not hard, though, to find ones, like most Google apps, that don't.

Compatibility is a mixed bag. Sometimes it works perfectly, other times less so. NBA2K got stuck on setup screens and wouldn’t let me access the game. In the case of Paramount Plus, which is not officially designed to work on the headset, it played, but I couldn't expand the live video to a full window. Apps that have not been custom-built for visionOS were the ones most likely to crash.

The Vision Pro defaults to a full pass-through mode, although that’s a misnomer; you’re never looking directly at your surroundings. Instead, the cameras on the front deliver a clear video feed of your surroundings to your eyes. It’s the best way to marry virtual information with reality, and it's very effective.

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Apple Vision Pro Review

The Home View (Image credit: Future)
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Apple Vision Pro Review

Environments (Image credit: Future)
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Apple Vision Pro Review

Home View on 50 percent immersed envrionment (Image credit: Future)
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Apple Vision Pro Review

App Store (Image credit: Future)
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Apple Vision Pro Review

Arcade (Image credit: Future)
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Apple Vision Pro Review

Immersion and audio controls. both accessed by spinning the Digital Crown. (Image credit: Future)

The Vision Pro is constantly keeping track of your gaze, and your hands and fingers, so as long as your hands are in view of the cameras you can control anything you see simply by looking and pinching. The headset will not register gestures made behind your head, or if you drop your hands down to your side; I usually have my hands in my lap, or raise them in front of my chest to pinch, drag, and zoom. To telegraph my intentions, I simply look at something and then pinch to, for instance, open an app.

Once an app is open, you can move it about the room by grabbing a thin white bar at the bottom of the app’s screen. This isn’t hard to do; you just look at it, pinch to grab, and move it. You can also use this gesture to pull the app window closer or move it further away. On the bottom right corner is a curved bar that you can use to resize from, say, a big-screen TV size to a wall-size app. Inside an app you can look at, for instance, a photo in the Photo app, and use both hands with a pinch gesture to zoom in and out.

Apple Vision Pro Review

My work, entertainment, information, and creativity space is all around me (Image credit: Future)

While working and playing in apps, you can have them superimposed onto your real world, or select one of Apple’s Environments to change your surroundings. There’s Yosemite, Mount Hood, Joshua Tree, Haleakalā, Hawaii, and even the Moon, and each one is a 360-degree, 'live,' immersive experience, complete with spatial sounds. Once you've chosen an Environment, you can twist the Digital Crown to turn the immersion up or down (this is also how you raise and lower the volume – you just look at the Volume icon instead of the Environments one). Up means the real world increasingly fades, and you’re surrounded 360 degrees by, for instance, the dusty surface of the Moon. Your hands don’t disappear, but they’re not resting on your knees, and instead appear to be floating above the moon’s surface.

Apple Vision Pro Review

You can see my EyeSight here. That's not a pass-through; you're looking at screens displaying a video feed of my eyes from inside the headset (Image credit: Future)

While the Vision Pro can drop you into virtual reality, it’s smart enough to keep you connected to the outside world. When my wife started to speak to me during one immersive session, I could see her gradually appearing in front of me as we talked. On her side, she sees a video feed of my eyes on the front of the headset. Apple called this EyeSight, and it’s a hit-or-miss affair.

EyeSight shows a video recreation of your eyes based on what the camera sees inside the headset. The color is blue and purplish, and it can look, well, weird. My wife never liked it, but I noticed that she got used to talking to me while I was wearing the headset.

Software and interface score: 5

Apple Vision Pro: The Experience

  • There's nothing quite like using a Vision Pro
  • It can be hard to convey the experience to people on the outside
  • Your work life will change, too

If you can get your fit right (this can take some trial and error) there's nothing quite like the experience of using the Vision Pro. Even when I wasn’t wearing the headset, I found myself thinking about wearing and using it.

It's an able virtual-reality and mixed-reality machine, and I have much more to share there, but its ability to integrate my real-world work environment has been transformative for me.

I’ve spent many hours now working in the Vision Pro. To do so, you use the Control Center, which you access by glancing up until you see a green arrow and pinching to open, to launch the Mac Virtual display. In my case this showed me my MacBook Pro as an option, so I selected this and my desktop appeared before me as a huge 55-inch display. I could expand that to, say, 150 inches (or more), and then pull it close to me – this is the endless desktop I’ve always dreamed of, and none of this would work if every window, app, and bit of text weren’t crystal clear.

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Apple Vision Pro Review

That little arrow at the top is to access the Control Center (Image credit: Future)
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Apple Vision Pro Review

The Control Center has many of the typical Apple controls you'd expect (Airplane Mode, Bluetooth, etc). It also adds Mac Virtual Display and Screen Mirroring. (Image credit: Future)
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Apple Vision Pro Review

Choose your system (Image credit: Future)
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Apple Vision Pro Review

One click and the big screen will appear (Image credit: Future)

Just because I had my work desktop in front of me didn’t mean I lost out on the rest of the Vision Pro experience. On my right, I had Messages open (when a new message arrives, a green message icon floats in front of my face), and, on my left, I had my Photos. Sometimes, I would AirDrop an image (often a Vision Pro screen-grab that I'd captured by saying “Siri, grab a screenshot”) from the Vision Pro to my desktop, and then edit it in Photoshop on my giant virtual display.

You can place apps anywhere you want around you, and not just in one space. Vision Pro understands your space, even different rooms in your home.

One day I wanted to try JigSpace, an app that lets you manipulate and pull apart giant 3D objects like a race car. I wanted ample space to work, so I walked over to my den. The Vision Pro’s pass-through capabilities are good enough that I was never worried about navigating around my home, though I did need to sometimes look down to see what was near my feet. I would not recommend wearing your Vision Pro while walking in the street, where you need to pay attention to curbs and other obstacles.

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Apple Vision Pro Review

JigSpace let me put a jet engine in my den… (Image credit: Future)
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Apple Vision Pro Review

…and take it apart by looking and parts and grabbing them with my hands (Image credit: Future)

Once in the den, I opened JigSpace and started pulling apart a jet engine – whatever part I looked at, I could grab and drop somewhere around the room. Then I went back to work.

Hours later I was writing about JigSpace, but wanted to double-check something in the interface. I couldn’t find the app, so on a hunch, I got up and walked back into the den – and there was the app, where I’d left it hours before. What we have here with spatial computing and the Vision Pro is, maybe for the first time, the concept of space-aware computing. I could, perhaps, leave apps all over my house and the Vision Pro would remember where they were. To bring all open apps back into my local view, I just needed to hold down on the Digital Crown.

Experience score: 5

See more

Apple Vision Pro: Entertainment

  • An immersive entertainment experience
  • Spatial audio support is strong with or without AirPod Pros
  • Games designed for Vision Pro are often inspired
  • Compatible games don't always work as expected

I've tried watching movies on other virtual reality headsets, and it just never clicked. The Meta Quest Pro is an excellent device, but I still find it too uncomfortable to wear for more than 20 minutes at a time. There is, however, something special about watching a movie in the Apple Vision Pro, especially if you add in the AirPods Pro 2 (which include support for spatial audio and, thanks to their new H2 chip – also inside the Vision Pro – add support for lossless audio with ultra-low latency).

What makes it work so well isn’t only the near-perfect 3D fidelity (Disney Plus has a particularly excellent library of 3D films, including the trippy Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness), but also the way in which you can immerse yourself in the theater experience with various Environments. The Disney Plus app provides some of my favorites: there’s an Avengers space, a Monsters Inc. Factory, and the Disney Theater, which is probably my top pick overall.

Apple Vision Pro Review

Inside the virtual Disney Theater (Image credit: Future)

When the lights come down, and you’re staring at a giant 70mm or even IMAX-class virtual screen inside a darkened theater, you can almost smell the popcorn. There’s virtually no light leakage to break the illusion, and I had no trouble losing myself in the experience of watching a two-hour movie. One thing I did notice, though, is that 3D movies can chew through battery life. If you plan on watching, say, the three-hour and 26-minute Killers of the Flower Moon (an Apple production, by the way) you’ll want to plug in the battery using the included cable and charge adapter. They’ll provide all the pass-through power you need.

As I write this, YouTube and, more problematically, Netflix, are playing a wait-and-see game with the new platform. That’s a shame. I’d love to binge the next Squid Game inside the Vision Pro.

Marketing for the Vision Pro often shows people sitting down while using it, but, while I've spent most of my time seated, I have played games while standing. Synthriders is a Vision Pro-ready game that has elements of Beat Saber in it; your hands are orbs, and there are music-beat-based orbs flying at you that you must bounce back or ride the waves of with your hands. I played this while standing, and between waving my arms and ducking glass trapezoids flying at my head, it was quite a workout.

Apple Vision Pro playing Synthrider

Apple Vision Pro playing Synthrider (Image credit: Future)

Entertainment score: 4.5

Apple Vision Pro: Spatial Photography

Apple Vision Pro Review

(Image credit: Future)
  • Vision Pro is a strong spatial photography machine
  • An excellent spatial imagery partner for your iPhone 15 Pro
  • The spatial photography and videography playback effect is often moving

I love how Apple always manages to cook up new terms for existing technology that somehow manage to capture the imagination of regular people. 

Stereophotography is well over a century old, and many boomers and GenXers first experienced it in the 1970s with View-Master toys. The effect was okay, though not remotely immersive. With the Vision Pro, Apple has introduced the concept of spatial photography, a 21st-century upgrade of 3D photography and videography that puts 3D image capture in the hands of, or rather on the head of, everyone. It even extended the concept by building spatial video capture into the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max.

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Apple Vision Pro Review

(Image credit: Future)
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Apple Vision Pro Review

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Apple Vision Pro Review

Flat 2D screens cannot do spatial imagery justice. (Image credit: Future)

In some of my earlier Vision Pro demos, I played back spatial video that I'd captured on my iPhone 15 Pro Max on the Vision Pro. This was no View-Master experience: I could view the videos in a floating window, which put them at a certain remove, or use a pinch-and-expand gesture with both my hands to almost enter the video. The edges fade away, so the spatial video looks like it’s floating in a cloud.

The Vision Pro can capture both still and video spatial imagery. To capture, you use the dedicated button on the top-left side of the visor. A single press brings up the option to shoot photos or videos, and after you select one you press the button again to capture a single photo or start recording spatial video (you press it again to end the video capture). I did this with photos of my hand, and then a photoshoot with my son. Every time I view spatial imagery I have an immediate and automatic emotional reaction; when I replayed the spatial content it was like my son was standing before me, complete with his pained expression.

I must hand it to Apple, it doesn’t just invent new terms, it reinvents the experience.

Spatial photography score: 5

Apple Vision Pro: Communication and Personas

  • Personas can look strange, but they're more useful than you think
  • Communicating through iMessage and FaceTime is trouble-free

During setup, the Vision Pro will guide you to create a Persona, a 3D rendering of your head that you can use in FaceTime and other video calls. To build mine, I followed the instructions, removed the headset, and then pointed the display at my face. It captured me looking up, down, left, and right, as well as making a few facial expressions. All of this information enabled the spatial cameras to create a 3D map of my face.

Apple Vision Pro Review

(Image credit: Future)

When I put the Vision Pro back on, I could see my new Persona, which automatically started mimicking my facial expressions (the cameras inside and the ones pointed down at my face and hands capture my live expression). I added semi-translucent glasses to my Persona, and I was done and ready for a FaceTime call with my wife. She hated it. Even though I think my Persona is one of the better ones out there, I can’t deny the uncanny valley look of it.

Apple Vision Pro Review

Chatting with my colleague Ray Wong's Persona via FaceTime (Image credit: Future)

Later, I conducted a call with a colleague who was also testing the Vision Pro. We both remarked on the limitations of our Personas, but throughout our 20-minute conversation those concerns faded away, and I forgot that we weren’t looking at either our real faces or our real hands. I’m still convinced that Apple can do better here, but then that’s why Personas are still in beta. By the time you finally decide to buy a Vision Pro (or some version of it), I expect Personas to be much more realistic and palatable.

Communication and Personas score: 4

Apple Vision Pro: Final thoughts

The Apple Vision Pro is expensive, but I’m not sure I can argue that it’s too expensive for what it does. Someone asked me if I would buy it. I now know that if I could afford it, the answer would be an enthusiastic yes.

There has never been a wearable quite like the Vision Pro, let alone a mixed-reality headset like it. It’s a true 'think-do' platform. It’s powerful, but also inviting. It’s fun to use, but also completely ready for work. It might make you look like a bug, but there’s also beauty in its design.

Apple Vision Pro Review

I know, it's looks weird on the outside, but it's incredible on the inside (Image credit: Future)

I wish it were lighter, but still, I can forget I’m wearing it and give myself over to the experience of work, play, or entertainment in a dark, virtual theater.

I love working in the Vision Pro, but I'm aware that if you spend hours working in it, it’s unlikely that you’ll want to keep the headset on at the end of the day. Over time, Vision Pro enthusiasts will likely achieve a balance between work and play, though I’m convinced that the tug of this one-of-a-kind technology will remain strong.

The Apple Vision Pro instantly goes to the top of our list of the best virtual reality headsets. It may not be a best-seller yet, but those who have one will talk about it endlessly, and they may even let you try it. I suggest you take that opportunity if offered, or at least get yourself to an Apple Store for a demo.

There has never been anything quite like the Vision Pro. It's my favorite mixed-reality headset ever, and I’m certain that it has reinvigorated the AR/VR market while also creating something completely new. Spatial computing is a thing. Better get used to it.

Apple Vision Pro Review

Apple Vision Pro (Image credit: Future)

Should you buy the Apple Vision Pro?

Buy it if... 

Don’t buy it if… 

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How we test

For my Apple Vision Pro review, I spent almost a week, and as many hours each day as I could, wearing and using the mixed-reality headset. 

I watched movies, played games, communicated with friends and co-workers, streamed live TV, moved apps around my home, and did a lot of work on my giant MacBook Pro virtual display.

Read more about how we test

  • First reviewed February 2024
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