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Dell XPS 17 (9730) review: large and beautiful
8:30 pm | February 20, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Computing Gadgets Laptops | Comments: Off

Dell XPS 17 9730: Two-minute review

The Dell XPS line has been the gold standard among laptops for some time now. Though some models stumble a bit, at least in relation to the heights of the best versions of the XPS, these laptops typically ooze quality and elegance.

The Dell XPS 17 9730 reviewed here, certainly does that. Of course, you miss out on the portability that makes the smaller versions such perennial members of our best Ultrabooks guide. This is on the heavier, bulkier side.

However, if you don’t need something that you can easily throw in a backpack for on-the-go work, the Dell XPS 17 is among the best laptops for its performance – including the fact that it can handle editing work and gaming – and elegant design. It also comes with a gorgeous screen, especially if you upgrade to the UHD+ resolution that our review unit sports.

If you’re looking for a larger laptop with more screen real estate with plenty of power, you can’t go wrong with the XPS 17 9730. Just be prepared to pay for it.

Dell XPS 17 9730: Price & availability

Dell XPS 17 laptop in use on a wooden desk

(Image credit: Future)
  • How much does it cost? Starting at $1,599 / £2,698.99 / AU$4,398.90 
  • Where is it available? RTX 4050 model is only available in US, more expensive models worldwide

Though the Dell XPS 17 isn’t technically an Ultrabook, it comes from Ultrabook stock. After all, the Dell XPS 13 is the standard bearer for the category. It’s no wonder then that the Dell XPS 17 comes with the kind of premium price tag that these types of laptops come with.

Of course, part of that is the fact that even the base configuration, which goes for $1,599, comes with some powerful specs including an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4050. Still, the price of entry is nowhere near budget. Also, it seems that the model with an RTX 4050 is only available in the US - for UK and Australian readers, the base model starts with the more powerful - yet also more expensive - RTX 4060 GPU.

In Australia, the base model comes with a 13th gen i7 processor, RTX 4060 GPU, 16GB of DDR5 RAM and 512GB SSD storage for AU$4,298.80.

In the UK, the base model is more expensive, and while it comes with mainly the same specs as the Australian Dell XPS 17's base model, it only offers a minimum of 32GB of DDR5 RAM and 1TB SSD storage for £2,698.99.

You’ll have to spend even more if you want the review unit with its 32GB of RAM, slightly more powerful RTX 4060, and UHD+ screen. Specifically, you’ll have to spend $1,949 / £3,099 (about AU$2,990).

Now, the best 17-inch laptops usually aren't cheap. You can save a little money on an LG Gram if you don’t need all that power and want something a little more lightweight and portable. But, you’re still spending around $1,400 on one.

If you’re okay with a more gaming aesthetic and want some power to go along with that large screen, there are some other budget-ish options, such as the Acer Nitro 17. Its starting price of $1,249.99 (around £980 / AU$1,860) offers a bit of a saving, though you won’t end up with quite as elegant of a computer. 

  • Price score:  4 / 5

Dell XPS 17 9730: Specs

The base configuration of the Dell XPS 17 is already pretty powerful with a 13th-Gen Intel Core i7, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4050, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD (in the US, at least). But, there’s plenty of customization to add even more power and/or storage. You can also choose a more powerful i9 CPU, up to an RTX 4080 GPU, and up to 64 of RAM. You can even upgrade to an 8TB SSD (technically two 4TB SSDs). 

Beyond the internal specs, you also can choose between two different panels. There’s the more basic non-touch 1920x1200p screen or the one reviewed here that’s 3840x2400p with touch capabilities. 

  • Specs score: 5 / 5

Dell XPS 17 9730: Design

Dell XPS 17 laptop in use on a wooden desk

(Image credit: Future)
  • It’s very large
  • Powerful components inside
  • Limited amount of ports, but they’re versatile

As you would expect with a 17-inch laptop, the Dell XPS 17 is large. And, unlike some models such as the LG Gram, it owns it instead of trying to balance that with portability. It weighs over five pounds to start, which while technically portable, is not the kind of weight you want to carry around all day if you’re hopping from coffee shop to coffee shop.

The Dell XPS 17 is not for that person. Instead, it offers the kind of components that typically can’t fit in those smaller models. So, it comes with a dedicated GPU (you can choose between the Nvidia GeForce RTX 4050, 406, 4070, and 4080) and you can also max out specs that you'd otherwise couldn’t with a smaller (and thinner) laptop, as you can upgrade to up to 64GB of RAM and 8TB of storage.

Since this is a Dell XPS laptop, it’s also a gorgeous computer with a platinum silver exterior machined aluminum shell with a black carbon fiber covering around the keyboard. It’s like a BMW version of a laptop.

Dell XPS 17 laptop in use on a wooden desk

(Image credit: Future)

Since it’s on the bigger side, that means it comes with a large 17-inch screen. While I’ll go into further detail on the display below, I’ll just mention for now that it has 'Infinity edge' bezels, so they’re tiny, and the upgraded UHD+ version reviewed here also has touch capabilities. On that note, the panel feels very high quality when using the touch functionality.

Port-wise, the Dell XPS 17 skews a bit more Ultrabook-ish with just four Thunderbolt ports and an SD card reader. However, all the Thunderbolt ports have power delivery and DisplayPort capabilities, so you can use an adapter to plug into an external display if that monitor doesn’t have USB-C inputs.

Since I’m used to using smaller laptops, the large keyboard and trackpad are a bit of an adjustment. However, they’re also of high quality and don’t create any issues other than being different from what I’m used to. Probably the biggest adjustment is that the keyboard is set further back than I would like. But, again, that’s just personal preference.

  • Design score: 4.5 / 5

Dell XPS 17 9730: Performance

Dell XPS 17 laptop in use on a wooden desk

(Image credit: Future)
  • Powerful performance
  • Great color accuracy and coverage
  • Webcam just 720p
Dell XPS 17 9730: Benchmarks

Here's how the Dell XPS 17 9730 performed in our suite of benchmark tests:

3DMark: Fire Strike: 21,588; Time Spy: 9,467
GeekBench 6: 2,504 (single-core); 13,214 (multi-core)
Sid Meier's Civilization VI: Gathering Storm:
122fps @1080p
25GB File Copy: 12.9
Handbrake 1.6: 5:10
CrossMark: Overall: 1,895 Productivity: 1,776 Creativity: 2,115 Responsiveness: 1,657
Web Surfing (Battery Informant): 9:05:31 

As someone who gets their hands on a lot of gaming computers, I’m always surprised when I get something that can hang that’s not really intended for that purpose. So, when booting up the Dell XPS 17, I can honestly say that I was surprised.

Whether you’re a bit shy about your extracurriculars or need a laptop that has the horsepower to handle editing work (within reason), the Dell XPS 17 is more than capable. The review unit tested here is quite powerful with a 13th-Gen Intel Core i7, 32GB of RAM, and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4060. Of course, you can scale down a little bit to 16GB of RAM and a 4050 GPU. But, you can also go up to 64GB of RAM and a 4080, not to mention an Intel Core i9 CPU.

Frankly, it might be more power than you might need, depending on what you’re considering this for. But, more power is better than not enough, especially when you have a high resolution screen to power. The UHD+ (4K in 16:10 ratio) panel here is sharp, bright, and vibrant and has a Delta-E of 0.24. Color coverage is 188.8% sRGB and 133.7% DCI-P3 as well so you don’t have to worry about accuracy or color gamuts if you want to do some photo or video editing. At the very least, watching the latest streaming series is a pleasure.

The sound quality is pretty good for a laptop, though don’t believe Dell’s claims that you can mix on this (for any budding musician that’s considering this – get some good speakers).

Interestingly, the only issue I have performance-wise is the fact that Dell only included a 720p webcam.

  • Performance score: 4.5 / 5

Dell XPS 17 9730: Battery life

  • Battery life is average
  • Charges quickly

Considering the fact that the Dell XPS 17 is quite a powerhouse, it’s no surprise that it doesn’t quite perform as well in the battery department as the newest MacBooks or Ultrabooks. In our battery informant benchmark, for instance, it last just over nine hours. That’s not bad at all, all things considering. Just be aware that there’s a bit of a trade-off for powering the high-res display and GPU.

A little more disconcerting is the fact that it does seem to lose some charge over time when the lid is closed. While I won’t hold that against the XPS 17, it something to keep in mind. Since it receives power via Thunderbolt however, it doesn’t take long to charge back up.

  • Battery life score: 4 / 5 

Should you buy the Dell XPS 17 9730?

Buy it if...

You want power
This laptop has some serious power behind it. Whether you want a work laptop that can do some gaming when you’re done or you have to also do some editing work, the Dell XPS 17 is more than capable.

You want a premium looking and feeling laptop
True to the Dell XPS name, this laptop exudes elegance. Everything about it looks and feels like a lot of thought went into its design. 

Don't buy it if...

You’re trying to save money
While its price tag makes sense for its size and power, this is not a cheap computer. If you’re on a budget, there are plenty of other options out there. 

You need portability
As good as the Dell XPS 17 is, it’s not a portable computer. It’s heavy and a bit bulky, so you should look elsewhere if you need something to constantly take on the go.

Dell XPS 17 9730: Also consider

If our Dell XPS 17 9730 review has you considering other options, here are two laptops to consider...

How I tested the Dell XPS 17 9730

  • Tested for a couple weeks
  • Used for regular work as well as gaming
  • Used regularly unplugged

I used the Dell XPS 17 9730 for a couple weeks for work as well as for play. In particular, I wrote this review on it. I was able to play some demanding games like Battlefield 2042 on it, though with some adjustment to the settings, and spent some time streaming on it as well.

After spending time with the Dell XPS 17 9730, I was impressed by the fact that its power is more on par with a gaming computer than with its Ultrabook competition.

I’ve spent the last few years reviewing tech gear for gaming and otherwise, where I’ve gotten a feel for what to look for and how to put a piece of kit through its paces to see whether it’s worth the recommendation.

Read more about how we test

First reviewed February 2024

Acer Swift X14 review: a powerhouse machine with Ultrabook looks
2:30 pm | February 4, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Computing Gadgets Laptops Windows Laptops | Tags: , | Comments: Off

Acer Swift X14: Two-minute review

Let’s get the easy part out of the way: I’m a fan of the Acer Swift X14. The short version of it is the fact that Acer managed to put a powerful CPU and GPU, not to mention a gorgeous OLED screen, in a slim Ultrabook package.

While it doesn’t feel as premium as a MacBook Pro 14, it truly belongs among the best Ultrabooks right now. There are certainly some trade-offs as the price is nowhere near close to the best cheap laptops and the battery life suffers a little since it has to power an Nvidia graphics card. I find the trackpad to be annoying to use as well. And, for a device legitimately vying for attention among the best laptops out there, it surprisingly skips out on a Windows Hello-capable webcam.

That said, the pros vastly outweigh the cons, especially if you don’t want to lug around a gaming computer and prefer the experience of using Ultrabooks, but still want the power of a gaming computer, whether that’s for booting up Cyberpunk 2077 or for some photo and video editing. When it comes to competing with the Dell XPSes of the world, the Acer Swift X14 may be one of the most surprising laptops I’ve used. 

Acer Swift X14 open front

(Image credit: Future)

Acer Swift X14: Price and availability

  • How much does it cost? Starting at $1,099 (about £870 / AU$1,670) 
  • When is it available? Available now 
  • Where can you get it? Available in the US, UK, and Australia 

The Acer Swift X14 is not the most affordable laptop out there. While its most basic configuration is available for $1,099 / AU$2,699 (about £870), which is certainly affordable – this is a model that comes with an 13th-Gen Intel Core i5 and a last generation Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050, not to mention 512GB of RAM and a lower 1600p resolution – it seems to only still be available in the US and Australia.

For everyone else or those wanting a current gen 4000 series GPU, you’re looking at $1,499 / £1,429 (about AU$2,277). That gets you a faster 13th-Gen Intel Core i7, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4050, 16GB of RAM, 1TB SSD, and a 2880 x 1800p screen. And, if you’re in the UK, there are some slight variations as you can pay £170 more for 32GB of RAM.

The Acer Swift X14 isn’t the only light and thin laptop to come with a powerful GPU. The Samsung Galaxy Book3 Ultra covers a lot of the same ground. In fact, our Galaxy Book3 Ultra review unit, which is the base model, has the same specs as the Acer Swift X14 including the screen (well, it’s AMOLED vs OLED), but goes for a much pricier $1799.99 / £2,649 / around AU$4,875. Of course, you can pay even more – $2399.99 / £3,049 / around AU$5,610 – for a configuration with a 13th-Gen Intel Core i9 and Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070.

That said, many Ultrabooks come with that premium price tag without the kind of hardware to keep up with a gaming laptop. For instance, as great as its performance is, the Lenovo Yoga 9i Gen 8 only has Intel Iris Xe graphics and goes for $1,399.99 / £1,440. At least, it has that same OLED screen with HDR.

Value: 4 / 5

Acer Swift X14: Specs

There are basically two configurations of the Acer Swift X14. The more affordable one isn’t available in the UK, and comes with a 13th-Gen Intel Core i5, a last-generation Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050, and 512GB SSD. 

The more expensive configuration that we've reviewed here upgrades the CPU to an i7, the GPU to a 4050, and the SSD to 1TB of storage. And, in the UK, you can spend a little more for 32GB of RAM instead of 16GB. 

Beyond the internal components, there aren’t any additional variations as there aren’t different colorways except for the screen. If you go with the cheaper model, you also have a slightly lower resolution (2560 x 1600p). 

Acer Swift X14 closed lid

(Image credit: Future)

Acer Swift X14: Design

  • Gorgeous display with HDR and accurate colors 
  • Trackpad has issues with dragging and dropping 
  • Webcam doesn’t support Windows Hello, but fingerprint reader does 

The Acer Swift X14, like most Ultrabooks, comes in an elegant if discreet shade of gray called 'Steel Gray'. It doesn’t quite set itself apart from the pack visually, but it certainly looks good and is light and diminutive enough for easy on-the-go computing.

The display is probably the most impressive outward-facing feature on this laptop as the 14.5-inch OLED screen comes with a sharp 2.8K (2880 x 1800) resolution that runs natively at 120Hz for smoother results. Plus, it comes with Vesa Certified Display HDR True Black 500 to really make the colors pop.

The colors are definitely impressive. Not only is it incredibly accurate, measured at Delta E of 0.09, but it has fantastic color coverage, making this laptop more than good enough for video and photo editing. Specifically, it has 195% sRGB and 138.1% DCI-P3.

The keyboard is good enough, though I wouldn’t consider it to be the most comfortable I’ve ever used. The trackpad, however, gave me some issues. It’s nice to the touch and moving the cursor around is smooth, but the trackpad didn’t seem to want to cooperate when dragging and dropping unless I had my fingers positioned very accurately.

Acer Swift X14 keyboard and trackpad

(Image credit: Future)

At least the port selection is robust enough for an Ultrabook with two USB-C ports (that are also Thunderbolt 4 / USB 4), two USB-A, an HDMI, and a microSD reader, along with the requisite headphone jack. Those worried about security will be happy to note that there’s a Kensington lock as well.

Beyond that, there’s a 1080p webcam that unfortunately doesn’t support Windows Hello Facial Recognition. However, there’s a fingerprint reader in the power button for that purpose.

There are some aspects of the Acer Swift X14 that are a bit hard to pin down but worth mentioning and that is in regards to its use in AI tech. The laptop supports Windows Copilot, enhancements for the webcam and mic, as well as using AI to accelerate the performance of a number of apps.

Design: 4 / 5

Acer Swift X14 left ports

(Image credit: Future)

Acer Swift X14: Performance

  • Fast render scores 
  • Powerful gaming performance 
  • Good thermal performance 
Acer Swift X14: Benchmarks

Here's how the Acer Swift X14 performed in our suite of benchmark tests:

3DMark: Night Raid: 27,076; Fire Strike: 13,642; Time Spy: 5,730
GeekBench 6: 2,500 (single-core); 12,118 (multi-core)
Sid Meier's Civilization VI: Gathering Storm:
92.030fps @1080p
25GB File Copy: 13.7
Handbrake 1.6: 7:46
CrossMark: Overall: 1,924 Productivity: 1,847 Creativity: 2,022 Responsiveness: 1,872
Web Surfing (Battery Informant): 7:26:37 @ 60Hz 

Whether that AI acceleration puts the Acer Swift X14 over the top or it’s just a matter of powerful components, the performance of this laptop is a dream. With its 13th-Gen Intel Core i7, Nvidia GeForce RTX 4050, and 16GB of RAM, it’s no wonder that it can easily handle day-to-day work without breaking a sweat.

But, it can handle much more intensive workloads as well. Taking a quick look at the benchmarks, its 3DMark scores are much higher than the Lenovo Yoga 9i Gen 8 mentioned before and its Handbrake score, which measures how quickly a computer can render video, is two minutes faster. This is surely due to that powerful GPU.

I was also able to capably game on this laptop as well, running titles like Starfield and Gotham Knights on fairly high settings, certainly on par with settings I’ve used on gaming laptops equipped with the Nvidia GeForce RTX 4050.

Acer Swift X14 screen

(Image credit: Future)

Since the screen is an OLED panel with HDR as well as that great color coverage and accuracy, images pop and look rich and vibrant.

Really, every aspect of the Acer Swift X14’s performance is to be lauded in my opinion. Even its thermal performance is good, with it only really heating up underneath a bit when pushed.

The webcam is clear and sharp with auto framing, and comes with a feature that can make it look like you’re making eye contact with whomever you’re on a video call with (rather than looking down at the screen).

The audio quality is, as it is with most laptops, passable. It lacks some low-end and can be just a little hollow sounding, but it’s not bad and about what I would expect from a laptop like this.

Performance: 5 / 5

Acer Swift X14 underneath venting

(Image credit: Future)

Acer Swift X14: Battery life

  • Good battery life considering hardware 
  • Fast charging on hand 

Since the Acer Swift X14 has to power some robust components, it’s no wonder that it doesn’t have the battery life of a lot of other Ultrabooks. 

Make no mistake, a benchmark score of 7:26:37 for the Battery Informant test (though at 60Hz) is pretty good when compared to gaming laptops with similar internals, which are considered to have amazing battery lives when reaching the same scores, but don’t expect the 15 hours that you would get with a MacBook. And, if you run this laptop hard, expect that battery to go down pretty quickly.

It does seem to charge up pretty quickly when plugged in. However, it does seem to not quite hold onto its charge as well as it should when the lid is closed. But, this seems to be something that most Windows laptops don’t do as well as they should.

Battery life: 4 / 5

Acer Swift X14 screen close up

(Image credit: Future)

Should I buy the Acer Swift X14?

Buy it if… 

Don't buy it if... 

Also consider

If our Acer Swift X14 review has you considering other options, here are two laptops to consider...   

How I tested the Acer Swift X14

  • Tested for a couple weeks 
  • Used for regular work as well as gaming 
  • Used regularly unplugged 

Acer Swift X14 angled

(Image credit: Future)

I used the Acer Swift X14 for a couple weeks as a work computer. I did a decent amount of writing here, including this review. I also used it to do some gaming to see if it really had what it takes (clearly, it does). I took a look at all the features, not to mention used it regularly to see how it does unplugged.

After spending time with the Acer Swift X14, I was impressed by the fact that its power is more on par with a gaming computer than with its Ultrabook competition.

I’ve spent the last few years reviewing tech gear for gaming and otherwise, where I’ve gotten a feel for what to look for and how to put a piece of kit through its paces to see whether it’s worth the recommendation.

First reviewed February 2024 

Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 3i review: chic but cheap
3:16 pm | January 16, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Computing Gadgets Laptops | Comments: Off

Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 3i: Two-minute review

When reviewing a laptop like the Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 3i, it can be a bit tough deciding what kind of standard to set it against. Despite its somewhat chic look, this is not an Ultrabook. And, you’re not going to run any high-end gaming or editing programs on it, either.

Instead, it fits the criteria for the best laptop for those on a budget. In fact, my focus here is on whether it truly is among the best cheap laptops available right now, as its price to performance ratio is the barometer of whether it’s successful for what it’s supposed to do.

Since this is a budget model from Lenovo, you can be sure to see it on sale regularly – it’s discounted by about $200 at the time of writing – and that will probably affect how good of a purchase this laptop is. It does have a few features I don’t often see on budget laptops, namely a privacy shutter and fingerprint reader, not to mention Wi-Fi 6 support. For better or worse though, this is essentially the Honda Civic of laptops with an Abyss Blue sheen.

Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 3i: Price and availability

  •  How much does it cost? Starting at £400 (about $550 / AU$746) 
  •  When is it available? Available now 
  •  Where can you get it? Available in the US, UK, and Australia 

The review configuration of the Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 3i, the only Intel-equipped model in the states goes for a relatively inexpensive $659.99 / £518 (about AU$970). However, this is the kind of laptop that I would like to see at a slightly lower price tag, considering its compromises (discussed below). Of course, being a Lenovo, you should see it regularly on sale – it’s currently discounted to $464.99 in the US for example.

For comparison’s sake, the base configuration of the Acer Aspire 5 Spin 14 (2023) goes for $749.99 / AU$1,399 (about £600). For that small increase in price, you get a bit more power, an hour more of battery life, and a lighter weight. Of course, its screen, despite the higher resolution, is also middling.

If you’re in the UK or Australia, there are cheaper configurations, but they’re also weaker. For £400 (about $550 / AU$745), you’ll end up with an Intel U300 CPU and only 128GB flash storage. In Australia, you’ll get an even weaker CPU in the Intel Processor N100, just 4GB RAM, but more storage with a 256GB SSD. That will all cost AU$799.00 (about $545 / £430.

Value: 4 / 5

Lenovo IdeaPad 3i closed

(Image credit: Future)

Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 3i: Specs

Comparing the different configurations can be a bit difficult since the US, UK, and Australia all have different models available to them. 

The United States just has the review configuration available, while the UK has it as well along with some weaker and stronger versions available. 

Those UK configurations range from an Intel U300 CPU to a 13th-Gen Intel Core i7 and a range of 4GB –16GB of RAM and 256GB – 1TB SSD. You’ll pay accordingly, but you have choice. And, those in Australia can only choose between an Intel N100, N200, or N305 CPU and 4 or 8GB of RAM. 

Some of the premium features that I appreciated Lenovo including are not available in the base configurations – no privacy shutter, no fingerprint reader, and no touchscreen functionality. Of course, you don’t have to worry about that in the US as you only have the one configuration available. 

Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 3i: Design

  • Has a sleek look hiding budget level components 
  • Privacy shutter on webcam and fingerprint reader appreciated 
  • Trackpad is too far left 

I don’t mean to stick too much to comparing the Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 3i to cars, but it reminds me of when I drove a Toyota Celica. It looked snazzy and for a split second made me feel like I could keep up with anyone. But, after that split second, I would come back to the reality that I was driving what is essentially an economy car.

And, it feels like an appropriate comparison here as it has a certain sleek look, especially in its Abyss Blue colorway, that harkens to the elegant, status-symbol design of Ultrabooks like the Dell XPS’ of the world. It even has an aluminum lid and top plate.

Lenovo IdeaPad 3i camera shutter

(Image credit: Future)

However, the undercarriage is made of plastic, the internal specs consist of a 13th-Gen Intel Core i3, 8GB of RAM which is the bare minimum these days, and a 512GB SSD. And, there are weaker versions of this laptop in Australia and the UK.

That’s not to disparage the Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 3i. I actually like the look. It’s just a reminder that looks can be deceiving and this is a budget laptop. Even the 1080p screen is a little underwhelming in areas. When tested, it has 60.5% sRGB and 42.9% DCI-P3 color coverage, which not only makes it the last laptop you would want to do any photo editing on, but keeps those colors from popping when just pulling up a show on Netflix.

On the brighter side, the serviceable 720p webcam comes with a privacy shutter. A fingerprint reader is also included in the power button – a feature I would have expected on a slightly more expensive laptop. And, it has Wi-Fi 6 support, also a nice inclusion.

The keyboard is nice to use as well. And, though there’s nothing particularly remarkable about it, I didn’t find it cramped or uncomfortable to use. The trackpad is decent as well, though its far left placement is a bit uncomfortable, especially since my resting left palm sometimes got in the way of it tracking accurately.

Design: 3.5 / 5

Lenovo IdeaPad 3i keyboard

(Image credit: Future)

Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 3i: Performance

  • Good browsing performance 
  • Speedy and accurate touchscreen 
  • Sound quality is mediocre 

When it comes to the Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 3i’s performance, it’s pretty good for a budget level computer. You’re not going to do any gaming on it – just consider the  sub-18 fps it achieves running Civilization VI. That’s pretty abysmal.

But, if you’re considering this computer, you’re probably not thinking in terms of gaming. Instead, you’re looking at it to get on the internet, type up some emails, and maybe watch Netflix. And, it can do a lot of that just fine.

Lenovo IdeaPad 3i power button

(Image credit: Future)
Benchmarks

Here's how the Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 3i (15" Intel) performed in our suite of benchmark tests:

3DMark: Night Raid: 11,991; Fire Strike: 2,948; Time Spy: 1,144
GeekBench 6.2.1: 2,206 (single-core); 6,371 (multi-core)
Cinebench: 5,631 (multi-core)
Sid Meier's Civilization VI: Gathering Storm:
17.473fps
25GB File Copy: 26.8
Handbrake 1.6: 15:59
CrossMark: Overall: 1,307
Productivity:
1,356
Creativity:
1,296
Responsiveness:
1,199
Web Surfing (Battery Informant): 9:02:09 

In fact, it did fine with 20 tabs open on Google Chrome, which as a browser takes up a lot of RAM. Those 20 tabs include three videos streaming through Youtube, the google doc used to write up this review, and a number of TechRadar pages. While some of them took a second to load, switching between tabs was immediate even when playing video.

I mentioned before the poor color coverage of the display but I don’t want to dissuade the average user too much. The screen is colorful enough for most people and you probably won’t care that it doesn’t quite pop as much as screens with better color coverage. It’s kind of like the difference between a budget and high-end flat screen TV. You can tell quite the difference in the store. However, you don’t want to pay the huge price differential, and you probably won’t care when you’re home. More importantly, the touchscreen functionality is accurate and quick.

The sound quality is not great, but I have yet to come across a budget laptop that sounds particularly impressive. There’s very little soundstage so everything sounds like it’s coming from the center. There’s also very little low end so the quality is best described as nasal. It’s fine in a pinch, but I suggest using headphones or earbuds for your audio needs.

Performance: 4.5 / 5

Lenovo IdeaPad 3i ports

(Image credit: Future)

Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 3i: Battery life

  • Decent battery life for a budget laptop 
  • Battery runs down when the lid is closed 

Though plenty of computers these days can reach upwards of 15 hours when it comes to battery life, the Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 3i is not one of those. Lasting just over nine hours in our battery informant benchmark, the battery life here is actually decent for budget laptops. At least, it’s enough to get through a day without having to charge.

The one real complaint about the battery life, however, is the fact that it tends to run down the battery when in sleep mode with the lid closed. Some laptops have this issue while others are able to conserve that battery life for when it’s in use. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by MacBooks, but more premium models won’t dissipate the same amount of battery in sleep mode as during use.

Battery life: 4 / 5

Lenovo IdeaPad 3i ports

(Image credit: Future)

Should you buy the Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 3i?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Also consider

If our Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 3i review has you considering other options, here are two laptops to consider...   

How I tested the Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 3i (15" Intel)

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  •  Tested for a couple weeks 
  •  Used for all sorts of browsing needs 
  •  Used regularly unplugged 

I used the Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 3i for a couple weeks as a work computer. I did a decent amount of writing on here, as well as plenty of web browsing including streaming video. I took a look at all the features, not to mention used it regularly to see how it does unplugged.

After spending time with the Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 3i, it’s clear that this is meant to be a budget-conscious model for those that just want a day-to-day laptop that can get online without issues.

I’ve spent the last few years reviewing tech gear for gaming and otherwise, where I’ve gotten a feel for what to look for and how to put a piece of kit through its paces to see whether it’s worth the recommendation.

First reviewed January 2024 

Acer Aspire Vero 16: a more sustainable laptop that won’t hurt the wallet
7:47 pm | January 11, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Computing Gadgets Laptops | Comments: Off

The Acer Aspire Vero 16 is Acer’s latest budget laptop, and it looks set to outpace other laptops in the affordable 16-inch display market. Between its WQXGA screen, current-gen CPU, and solid RAM and storage, it's a pretty stacked laptop that's perfect for demanding productivity work and light editing projects. 

What sets the Vero 16 apart from Acer's other offerings is how eco-friendly the build is, and it shows how dedicated the manufacturer is to building laptops that have less of an impact on the environment while keeping the quality up and the pricing affordable.

Acer Aspire Vero 16: Price and availability

The Acer Aspire Vero 16 is slated for an April 2024 release in the US, with pricing starting at $749.99 – that’s around £590 / AU$1,120, but we don’t yet have confirmed release dates or prices for the UK or Australia.

That list price is impressive, considering that the Vero 16 is equipped with an Intel Core Ultra CPU and a large display. Add in its other solid specs and you have a laptop that's competitive with the best ultrabooks and the best thin and light laptops in the same market that cost at least double the price.

Acer Aspire Vero 16: Design

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The Acer Aspire Vero 16 has an impressive 16-inch WQXGA (2560 x 1600) screen, though it also being OLED would have made this laptop more competitive with Acer's Swift Go 14 and 16.

As mentioned, this is an eco-friendly laptop, and its chassis is more than 60% PCR (post-consumer recycled) material, with the touchpad made from Acer’s OceanGlass, and the packaging made from 100% recycled material. It feels lightweight for a laptop with such a large screen and with such a high-quality build, and the chassis has an interesting texture, giving the Vero 16 a more distinctive look and feel that I personally enjoy.

Like the Acer Swift Go 14 and 16 laptops, the Aspire Vero 16 has a 1440p webcam, which is a clear upgrade over most other ultrabooks, which still use 1080p or even 720p. And this camera even comes with a physical privacy shutter, a feature that in my opinion should be standard on laptops.

Its port selection is pretty decent, with Type-C and Type-A USB ports, an HDMI port, one 3.5mm headphone/microphone combo jack, and a Kensington lock. However, it's missing both an Ethernet port and a microSD slot, which is disappointing. 

The touchpad is smooth and responsive, and has a built-in fingerprint reader in the top-left corner; rather convenient for avoiding mishaps with a reader and the power button. The keyboard features lovely backlighting and an interesting detail – the 'R' and 'E' keys are backward, which an Acer rep explained is related to the 'recycle' theme of the laptop.

Acer Aspire Vero 16: Performance

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Though we couldn't test the Acer Aspire Vero 16's performance through benchmarks, the Intel Core Ultra CPU all but guarantees a speedy laptop that eats processor-intensive tasks for breakfast. 

As for the other specs, the GPU is the standard Intel Graphics, meaning that you won't be squeezing out much power on that end. I wish the Intel Arc Graphics upgrade option was available, as that would have kept the laptop lightweight while still offering a way to customize your laptop to better handle more demanding creative and editing work.

Acer Aspire Vero 16: Early verdict

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The Acer Aspire Vero 16 is a solid laptop that generally holds up well to other 16-inch models. What sets it apart is its price, which is quite budget-friendly, especially for the size of the screen, and its impressive eco-friendly credentials.

It shares most of the same specs and upgrades as the Acer Swift Go 14, and even starts at the same price. However, compared to the Swift Go 14, the Aspire Vero 16 is missing key features like an OLED screen, higher RAM options, and a microSD slot, to name just a few.

But, if you want a larger screen for an affordable price, a webcam that has a physical privacy switch, and if you care about the growing issue of e-waste, then this is the laptop for you. Otherwise, you could get the Swift Go 14 or 16-inch model for at or around the same price, and either would offer you more in terms of specs or features.

Acer Swift Go 14: a well-priced laptop that offers so much value
2:36 pm | January 9, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Computing Gadgets Laptops | Comments: Off

Acer's refresh of the Swift Go 14 comes in two flavors: the already-released version that's about as a vanilla refresh as you can get, and the upcoming enhanced version that comes with more features. If you waited past the initial release, this new version is shaping up to be quite the 

We've had some hands-on time with the upcoming model and it's a thing of beauty, with great specs and a lovely display. Coupled with the more than affordable pricing, this could easily be one of the best thin and light laptops and best cheap laptops around. It seems that Acer has stepped up its game as its offerings are well-balanced.

Acer Swift Go 14: Price and availability

So far, the Acer Swift Go 14 has been revealed for the US market, slated to release in March 2024 for a starting price of $749.99 (around £588 / AU$1,116). However, we don't have official pricing for either the UK or Australian markets at this time.

The pricing is quite good - close to budget even - as buyers would be able to have at least the current-gen Intel Core Ultra 5 CPU built-in for a low cost. Even with higher specs, the pricing would still be well under most Ultrabooks with worse specs.

Acer Swift Go 14: Design

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The most notable feature of the Acer Swift Go 14 is its incredibly thin and light design, with a weight under three pounds and a thickness of nearly half an inch. It barely weighs anything, yet has a nice metal sleek chassis. 

Compared to the current model, this upcoming model has a notch in the bezel due to it being outfitted with a superior 1440p QHD camera that produces an impressive image. It also has a privacy shutter, which is handy - though I wish it was a physical switch rather than a keyboard key.

The keyboard has a nice typing feel to it with well-sized keys and a lovely backlight for late-night typing. Its touchpad, made of Gorilla Glass, is responsive and smooth to use. It also features integrated media controls in the touchpad and has 'Swift' engraved at the bottom corner for a classy touch.

The display is a WQXGA+ OLED (2880 x 1880) screen and it looks stunning, delivering that OLED crispness that few laptops consistently have other than the Dell XPS series. And considering the price point, it's an excellent value.

Port selection is well-balanced, with Type-A and Type-C USB ports, an audio jack, an HDMI port, a micro SD slot, and a Kensington lock for security. It's missing an ethernet port - disappointing but not a deal breaker.

Acer Swift Go 14: Performance

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The Acer Swift Go 14 is outfitted with the latest Intel Core Ultra CPUs, with up to an Intel Core Ultra 9 185H to choose from. Combined with the DCI-P3 100% color gamut, you have the perfect creative machine that's able to tackle both editing and art projects with ease. 

The GPU starts at the standard mobile card but can also be configured to have an Intel Arc GPU, which is a solid budget card that means it can handle the more demanding processes of editing and high-end software.

While we don't yet have official benchmarks to properly gauge performance, the specs alone are almost guaranteed to give buyers way more than their money's worth.

Acer Swift Go 14: Early verdict

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The Acer Swift Go 14 model slated for a March 2024 release proves that Acer is offering a great affordable laptop. It's not only for those who need a portable machine for productivity work, but for creatives and editors as well. Its advanced CPU should translate to significant performance gains and if you equip it with an Intel Arc GPU, that bolsters its output even more. Its OLED display with a 100% color gamut and solid port selection serves to enhance an already solid laptop.

The real triumph here is the pricing, which is far cheaper than most other laptops on the market for comparable specs. Considering how expensive most Windows laptops have been for the past several years, it's a breath of fresh air to have one so well-priced. This is definitely a laptop to look forward to, if you ignore the bare-bones version that's already out to market.

Dell XPS 14 hands-on: a well-balanced thin and light Ultrabook
2:00 pm | January 4, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Computing Gadgets Laptops | Comments: Off

Dell showcased the upcoming releases of its popular XPS line of laptops, including a refresh of the Dell XPS 13 and two new sizes, the 14 and 16-inch. The designs are mainly based on what Dell offered last year, specifically the clean and sleek ultra-modern look that the Dell XPS 13 Plus from 2022 made into the series standard.

As its display is only an inch larger than the 13-inch, it's impressive how much has been improved between the two models from the specs to the display resolution to the port selection and more.

While the 13-inch has an advantage in pure portability, if you want a more well-rounded laptop then the 14-inch is the much better choice due to the superior specs, port selection, and display.

Dell XPS 14: Price and availability

Though the pricing is currently unknown for the Dell XPS 14, we can assume that it would be a bit more expensive than last year's Dell XPS 13 Plus, which went for $1,249.00 / £1,198.99 / AU$2,398. It's Dell's ultrabook line, which means it will command a price point matching that designation.

Availability has also not been confirmed as of now but, with Dell's track record, the XPS 14 will almost assuredly be released in the US, UK, and Australia markets, as well as plenty of other regions and countries.

Dell XPS 14: Design

The design is a slightly updated version of the Dell XPS 13 Plus from 2022, which cemented what the ultrabook line would look like since then. The Dell XPS 14's chassis is made from machined aluminum with Gorilla Glass 3 for the touchpad. It comes in two colors, Platinum or Graphite, which are normally standard palettes that have been heightened by the lovely finishes enhancing the aesthetic.

It weighs less than four pounds and feels even lighter, close to how little the XPS 13 feels. This could easily be one of the best thin and light laptops, made to be carried around freely and fit into most bags.

Opening the laptop, the 3.2K resolution OLED display is what pops out first with crisp and bright visuals. This is one of the top features of the XPS series and the XPS 14 doesn't disappoint in the slightest. Its distinctive keyboard is stunning, a sleek marvel that wastes nearly zero space, and feels so satisfying to type on to boot. Port selection is still a bit lacking but at least you have access to three Thunderbolt 4 plots and one Type-A USB via an included adapter.

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It features speakers on either side of the keyboard, allowing for crisper audio. Thankfully the webcam has been upgraded to 1080p, a glaring omission from past models, and it's a pretty solid quality one. It's been redesigned to fit the thin bezels (complete with a slight notch) while retaining the higher resolution. The ventilation system has also been redesigned to be more efficient, so hopefully it will go the distance once properly tested out.

Unfortunately, the biggest offense design-wise has yet to be addressed: the non-tactile function key touch bar and the invisible touchpad. Both are similar to past models which means they're incredibly stylish to look at but an accessibility nightmare for those with low to no vision. It's a shame since the touchpad is well-made and responsive but a slight ridge to establish boundaries would have been perfect.

Dell XPS 14: Performance

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While I wasn't able to test out performance directly through benchmarks, the specs are quite impressive, easily allowing gamers to run some of the best PC games around. Its CPU is the newly announced Intel Core Ultra 7, which is the flagship model of the AI-enhanced processor line. If the CPU's dedicated neural processing unit is as strong as Intel makes it out to be, then it'll be able to handle any workload including creative and editing.

The XPS 14 can also be equipped with up to a Nvidia GeForce RTX 4050, an excellent GPU that can handle any of the top AAA titles at high settings without overtaxing your laptop. Only future benchmarking can determine exactly how far this laptop can go, but fingers crossed that it lives up to its impressive specs.

Dell XPS 14: Early verdict

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Overall I'm impressed with what Dell is offering this year, as it seems that its refresh has addressed most of the issues we've found in previous iterations of the Dell XPS line. The only exceptions are the touchpad and function taskbar, which are both invisible with no buttons or ridges.

The aesthetics are gorgeous and distinctive as befitting the series, with a great keyboard and incredibly vibrant display. Coupled with a revamped webcam and ventilation system, it finally feels every bit one of the best ultrabooks that it was meant to be.

There are also the upgraded specs, including a CPU from the upcoming Meteor Lake line, that should guarantee some excellent performance once it can be properly benchmarked. Hopefully, the Dell XPS 14 will finally surpass the previous models with these enhancements. And maybe someday the non-tactile function key touch bar will be permanently retired.

Dell XPS 16 hands-on: a high-end Ultrabook that exudes luxury
2:00 pm |

Author: admin | Category: Computers Computing Gadgets Laptops | Comments: Off

Dell showcased the upcoming releases of its popular XPS line of laptops, including a refresh of the Dell XPS 13 and two new sizes, the 14 and 16-inch. The designs are mainly based on what Dell offered last year, specifically the clean and sleek ultra-modern look that the Dell XPS 13 Plus from 2022 made into the series standard.

The Dell XPS 16 in particular is meant to be the more luxury-minded and larger-screened Ultrabook for those who want an even more robust display resolution and specs. Despite its larger size and weight, it's still easy to carry around.

Dell XPS 16: Price and availability

Though pricing is currently unknown for the Dell XPS 16, last year's XPS 15 model started at a premium pricing of $2,799 / £2,649 / AU$4,500.10 which is a solid indication of what kind of price point we could be looking at for this version.

Availability has also not been confirmed as of now but, with Dell's track record, the XPS 14 will almost assuredly be released in the US, UK, and Australia markets, as well as many other regions and countries.

Dell XPS 16: Design

The design is a slightly modified version of the Dell XPS 15 (2023) with borrowed aesthetics from the Dell XPS 13 Plus (2022), the latter which cemented what the ultrabook line would look like since then. The Dell XPS 16's chassis is made from machined aluminum with Gorilla Glass 3 for the touchpad. It comes in two colors, Platinum or Graphite, which are normally standard palettes that have been heightened by the lovely finishes enhancing the aesthetic.

Though it's heavier than the XPS 14, it still feels lighter than other laptops in the same market and could still be considered one of the best thin and laptops. It's an Ultrabook through and through.

It features a fully 4K resolution OLED display, equipped with crisp and bright visuals that pop beautifully. This is one of the top features of the XPS series and the XPS 16 delivers in spades. Its distinctive keyboard is stunning, a sleek marvel that wastes almost zero space, and feels satisfying to type on to boot. Port selection is still a bit lacking but at least you have access to three Thunderbolt 4 plots and one Type-A USB via an included adapter.

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Like the XPS 14, there are speakers on either side of the keyboard, allowing for crisper audio. The webcam has finally been upgraded to 1080p, which has been a glaring omission from past models, and it's a pretty solid quality one that frames you well in a conference call. It's redesigned to fit the thin bezels (complete with a slight notch) while retaining the improved resolution. The ventilation system has also been redesigned to be more efficient, so hopefully, it will go the distance once properly tested out.

Unfortunately, the biggest offense design-wise has yet to be addressed: the non-tactile function key touch bar and the invisible touchpad. Both are similar to past models - incredibly stylish but an accessibility nightmare for those with low to no vision. It's a shame since the touchpad is well-made and responsive but a slight ridge to establish boundaries would have made it perfect.

Dell XPS 16: Performance

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Though I couldn't personally test out the Dell XPS 16's performance through benchmarks, the specs themselves are more than promising and should allow gamers to run some of the best PC games with no issues. It can be equipped with up to an Intel Core Ultra 9, one of the brand-new CPUs from the AI-enhanced processor line. If the CPU's dedicated neural processing unit is as strong as Intel makes it out to be, then it'll be able to handle any workload including creative and editing.

The XPS 14 can also be equipped with up to an impressive Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070, an excellent GPU that can handle any of the top AAA titles at high settings. Despite it being mid-range, it should play nice with the high-end CPU. Only future benchmarking can determine exactly how far this laptop can go, but fingers crossed that it lives up to its impressive specs.

Dell XPS 16: Early verdict

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I'm very impressed with Dell's offerings this year, as it seems that its refresh has addressed most of the issues we've found in previous iterations of the Dell XPS line. The only exceptions are the touchpad and function taskbar, which are both invisible with no buttons or ridges.

The aesthetics are gorgeous and distinctive as befitting the series, with a great keyboard and incredibly vibrant display. Coupled with a revamped webcam and ventilation system, it finally feels every bit one of the best ultrabooks that it was meant to be.

There are also the upgraded specs, including a CPU from the upcoming Meteor Lake line, that should guarantee some excellent performance once it can be properly benchmarked. If the Dell XPS 16 could finally live up to the illustrious Dell XPS 15 (2022), then we'll truly have a perfect laptop on our hands. And maybe someday the non-tactile function key touch bar will be permanently retired.

Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition review: A new dimension of discomfort
10:00 pm | December 3, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Computing Gadgets Laptops | Tags: | Comments: Off

Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition: Two-minute review

This SpatialLabs variant of the Acer Predator Helios 300 is by far one of the strangest recent additions to Acer’s popular Predator line of high-end gaming hardware. 

Taking a good all-round gaming laptop and slapping on an expensive glasses-free 3D SpatialLabs display is certainly one way to make a machine that stands out from the crowd, but it's hard to not wonder whether such a device was really necessary.

This is one of the very first glasses-free 3D gaming laptops on the market, a fact that sadly seems to be the root cause of many of its shortcomings. As is the case with being an early adopter of almost any new tech, you’re paying a prohibitively high price to get in on the action first while it's in its most unpolished state. 

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As you’ll see below, the glasses-free 3D is impressive when it works, but there are a raft of obvious teething issues to contend with. This includes a strange matrix of visible dots that spoil an otherwise excellent display in 2D mode, utterly atrocious battery life, and poor gaming performance whenever the 3D is turned on. 

These problems will surely be ironed out with future iterations but, for the moment, it's disappointing to see consumers being sold a product that feels a little too much like a prototype.

In spite of this, sharing a lot of characteristics with the design of the regular Acer Predator Helios 300 means that there is still a solid gaming laptop beneath it all. The materials are sturdy and the specs, while unimpressive for the price, are perfectly adequate for playing most modern games in 2D.

Will these strong foundations save the Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition from becoming nothing more than an amusing novelty? If not, what options should you consider instead? Let’s take a look.

Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition: Price & Availability

  • How much does it cost? $3,499.99 / £3,299.00 / around AU$4,300
  • When is it available? Available now
  • Where can you get it? Available in the US, UK, and Australia

The Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition is available for $3,499.99 in the US, £3,299.00 in the UK, and roughly AU$4,300 in Australia. These prices, however, seem to vary dramatically between retailers - so it's well worth taking the time to shop around to make sure that you are getting the very best deal.

There appears to be only one configuration on the market which, like our review unit, sports an RTX 3080 and a 12th-gen Intel i9 processor. These specs are enough to comfortably tackle most recent games at 1080p, but do seem rather outdated for the price

Obviously, it's reasonable to expect the unique SpatialLabs display to comprise a fair chunk of the cost here, but these specs sting when you can easily find laptops with the slightly more powerful RTX 4070 and comparable 13th-gen Intel processors being sold for significantly less.

  • Price score: 2 / 5

Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition: Specs

As I mentioned above, the Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition we tested came packing an RTX 3080 and 12th-gen Intel i9 processor. Here’s the lowdown on everything else under the hood:

Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition: Design

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  • Great keyboard
  • Sturdy construction
  • Impressive glasses-free 3D effect

My first impressions of the Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition were positive, not too unexpected given that it shares a lot in common with the excellent design of the preexisting Acer Predator Helios 300.

Taking it out of the box, I was immediately struck by just how sturdy everything felt. The laptop’s body is constructed with a pleasant matte plastic and the lid has been fitted with a robust metal cover. This cover not only looks suitably premium but should help prevent any unfortunate scratches when the laptop is inevitably chucked in a bag without a case - at least, if you’re anything like me.

The keyboard is a highlight too, with good spacing and bright RGB lighting that can be fully customized with the included PredatorSense software. There is no noticeable flex when typing and I found the smooth travel of each key to be satisfying and efficient. The trackpad, on the other hand, is not quite as strong thanks to its slightly mushy clicks.

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This is by no means the thinnest laptop on the market, but this bulk does allow for a fantastic selection of ports. You have easy access to three USB 3.2 Type-A ports for any gaming peripherals and one additional USB Type-C Thunderbolt 4 port on the rear - perfect for hooking the laptop up to an external monitor or dock.

In terms of video output, there’s also an HDMI 2.1 port and a Mini DisplayPort 1.4. The Kensington Lock is also a welcome inclusion at this price, adding some additional physical security should you need it.

The built-in speakers are one area for definite improvement, though, as they lack bass. This can detract from the enjoyment of some games, especially first-person shooters where I found that more powerful weapons like DOOM’s BFG 9000 just didn’t feel quite the same without that added oomph.

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Where things really start to take a turn, however, is with the display. This is a 15.6” IPS 4K UHD screen which, thanks to its 3D features, lacks some expected niceties like a high refresh rate, G-Sync, or HDR.

While the picture is perfectly crisp and its colors very vivid, the entire screen is covered in an array of tiny dots. This is, presumably, something that is necessary to accomplish the 3D effect but it makes the display unpleasant to use for the vast majority of 2D applications. If you spend a lot of time word processing or browsing the internet, you’re probably going to want to plug in an external monitor as soon as possible.

Thankfully these dots become invisible when you enable the 3D mode, your first introduction to which is likely to be the pre-installed 3D model viewer. Although the resolution takes a noticeable hit when you start the program, the results were striking enough to elicit an audible “wow” from me, a handful of colleagues, and several family members. 

The full effect is most easily compared to watching a 3D movie at the cinema, with a real sense of depth but without the need for any awkward plastic glasses. Better yet, the full eye-tracking allows the 3D image to convincingly follow your gaze. It can feel a tad uncomfortable, though, straining your eyes over periods of extended use.

  • Design score: 3 / 5

Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition: Performance

  • Excellent gaming performance… in 2D
  • Handy Turbo button to boost frames
  • Fans are loud but efficient
Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition: Benchmarks

Here's how the Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition performed in our suite of benchmark tests:

3DMark Night Raid: 32,311; Fire Strike: 17,546; Time Spy: 10,128
GeekBench 6: 2,422 (single-core); 11,191 (multi-core)
Total War: Warhammer III: 1080p Ultra: 96.5 fps 1080p Low: 227.6 fps
Dirt 5: 1080p Ultra: 50.5 fps 1080p Low: 126 fps
Cyberpunk: 1080p Ultra RT: 36.6 fps 1080p Low: 57.7
PCMark 10 Battery Life: 2hr 37m
TechRadar Movie Battery Life: 2hr 6m

The performance of the Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition is best approached in two distinct halves: 2D performance and 3D performance. With the formidable power of the RTX 3080 and i9-12900H, it’s no surprise that the 2D performance is impressive.

Although our 3DMark benchmark results were on the lower end of the expected range, this was likely due to interference from the SpatialLabs software (necessary for the function of the 3D screen) which cannot be disabled easily and runs in the background at all times. Performance was excellent in the games themselves, however, with Cyberpunk 2077 running consistently above 30 fps on its Ultra Raytracing preset at 1080p. 

Likewise, Dirt 5 on its Ultra preset could achieve an admirable 50 fps, while the less intensive strategy title Total War: Warhammer III was comfortably in the 90s. With specs this powerful, you’re unlikely to run into any major issues playing most recent games at 1080p and, even when you crank things up to 4K, careful use of Nvidia’s DLSS allows you to achieve very smooth performance. 

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While the fans do become loud very quickly, the thermals remain impressively consistent too. A quick tap of the turbo button (located above the keyboard) can also substantially boost your overall performance by overclocking the fans, CPU, and GPU.

In Cyberpunk 2077, I was able to achieve an average 53.2 fps running the same Ultra Raytracing 1080p benchmark with turbo enabled but, as it can only be used while plugged in and raises the already loud fans to such a level that headphones become a necessity, it’s not something that you’re going to want to have switched on all of the time.

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Unfortunately, the performance absolutely tanks once you turn the 3D on. Limited software compatibility is an obvious weakness too and there are just under 100 titles that support 3D at the time of writing. The vast majority of these are older games and, jumping into a fresh playthrough of Wolfenstein: The Old Blood, it quickly becomes clear why.

The use of stereoscopic 3D requires two separate 1920 x 2160 images to be rendered simultaneously - a very graphically intensive task. On its medium preset, Wolfenstein: The Old Blood hovered around 50 fps with frequent stutters. 3D performance in the small number of more recent supported games like Forza Horizon 5 is a similar story as that title specifically can barely scrape above 40 fps.

Low-intensity compatible indies like Abzû, a diving exploration game that was greatly enhanced by the charming impression of fish swimming out of the screen, fare much better - but such poor performance in the library’s bigger titles is a huge shame.

The uneven frame rates even seem to exacerbate the existing feelings of discomfort generated by the display. Your mileage may vary, but I was shocked to feel a nasty headache and motion sickness coming on after only 40 minutes of use in such games.

  • Performance score: 2 / 5

Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition: Battery life

  • The battery life is just awful
  • Really heavy power brick

As noted in our review of the 2022 Acer Predator Helios 300, this model already suffered from extremely poor battery life and the addition of a new 3D display only seems to have further exacerbated this issue. 

The Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition was unable to clear 3 hours in the 3DMark office battery benchmark - an incredibly poor result. Taking the laptop out and about, I frequently found myself completely running out of juice after just a couple of hours of light browsing. If you throw some 2D gaming into the mix, you’re going to find yourself looking for a power socket considerably sooner.

Acer Predator Helios 300 Spatiallabs Edition

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Believe it or not, this terrible battery life somehow becomes even worse when you’re doing anything with the 3D enabled. Be prepared to drag the laptop’s hefty power brick around with you at all times.

  • Battery score: 1/5

Should you buy the Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition: Also consider

This might have been one of the first glasses-free 3D gaming laptop on the market but Acer also offer a handful of machines with SpatialLabs displays geared towards content creation. If you’re solely interested in using the glasses-free 3D features for 3D modelling or video editing consider buying a specialist laptop like the Acer ConceptD 7 SpatialLabs Edition instead. 

If you want to game, however, you’re probably better off without the (literal) headache caused by a 3D screen. Here are two strictly 2D alternatives that offer more bang for your buck…

How I tested the Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition:

  • Replaced my everyday system for two weeks
  • Used for gaming and document editing

I used the Acer Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition as my main machine for just over two weeks. This included a mix of productivity tasks (including the writing of this review) and some gaming. Given the limited number of supported titles, I predominantly played older games that were compatible with the glasses-free 3D screen. This included a full playthrough of Wolfenstein: The Old Blood (broken up into half hour chunks to avoid discomfort) and the opening hours of Abzû.

I also experimented with a handful of more recent additions to the glasses-free 3D catalogue like Forza Horizon 5. In terms of 2D gaming, I played a game of Total War: Warhammer III and wandered around the open-world of Cyberpunk 2077 to soak in the sights of Night City after the latest update. To test the battery life, I lugged the Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition around with me for a few days and used it in various public settings. The patrons of my local library really didn’t appreciate the loud fans.

First reviewed November 2023

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3 review: sometimes you need to fix what isn’t broken
8:28 pm | November 7, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Computing Gadgets Laptops | Comments: Off

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3: Two-minute review

The Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3 is one of Microsoft’s two Surface device offerings for 2023, which naturally puts a lot of pressure on it. For the most part, it delivers on what it’s known for, which is to say it’s a very light and small laptop with a touch screen and that’s about it. Oh, it’s also about $200 more despite very few changes to specs and no changes to its design.

There are several positives to this portable machine, mainly that it’s ultra-thin, weighs only 2.49 pounds, and is tiny enough to fit into nearly any carry bag with no issues whatsoever. It’s shocking how much smaller it is compared to the M1 Apple MacBook Air, which is already one of the best thin and light laptops and one of the best laptops period that you can find on the market. But if sheer portability is what you’re looking for, the Surface Laptop Go 3 is your best bet.

However, it’s harder to recommend this laptop for much else. It is an improvement over older models of the Laptop Go series, equipped with a 12th-Gen Intel Core i5 CPU running at 2.5Ghz, a huge improvement over the previous 1.75Ghz 11th-Gen CPU. But the fact that this laptop is more expensive and still running a 12th-Gen instead of a 13th-Gen CPU is mind-boggling. It does have better specs elsewhere, up to double the RAM and storage from the Go 2 at 16GB and 256GB, respectively, with an upgrade to SSD for faster memory, as well as a fingerprint scanner built into all models, which is a step up as well.

The performance is also average at best thanks to the outdated CPU, which carries all the laptop’s processes due to the GPU being integrated Iris Xe graphics. Its benchmark scores from productivity to file transferring to CPU-based gaming can’t compete with similarly priced laptops with better specs. Everyday use is just fine if you’re not looking for particularly strenuous work but if you’re looking for more, it’s most likely best to invest in another laptop.

Due to its extremely light weight and size, it’s not particularly strong and I can imagine how disastrous a fall could be. Its design is virtually the same as older models, which to be fair is a solid one so I can understand the rationale behind not wanting to fix what isn’t broken. But in addition to that, there aren’t any new colors added to the roster of Platinum, Ice Blue, Sage, and Sandstone, which combined makes the lack of change more disappointing.

It has a nice display that’s bright and clean, though not a true 1080p due to the size. Both the keyboard and touchpad are sized well and comfortable to use despite the small build, though I wish the keyboard had back lighting. Too bad the camera is only 720p, while most other laptops have already made the upgrade to 1080p.

One feature that has been improved is the battery life, which lasts almost nine hours under normal productivity work and over six hours when using it for more taxing video streaming. This is compared to the original Laptop Go 2 and especially the original Laptop Go’s atrocious battery life.

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3: Price & availability

keyboard closeup

(Image credit: Future)
  • How much does it cost? Starting at $799 / £799 incl. VAT / AU$1,429
  • When is it available? Available now
  • Where can you get it? Available in the US and UK

Pricing for the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3 starts at $799 / £799 (incl. VAT) / AU$1,429, with the 16GB RAM / 256GB storage version priced at $999 / £999 (incl. VAT) / AU$1,729. This is a $200 jump from the Laptop Go 2 model. 

Given the jump in cost, it doesn’t fully sit in the affordable laptop market, which was its niche in earlier generations. It also means that it’s directly more comparable to other machines like the M1 and M2 Apple MacBook Air, as well as a variety of Chromebook Plus machines like the Acer Chromebook Plus 515.

Its availability is quite good, as you can snag one whether you’re in the US, UK, or Australia.

  • Price score: 3 / 5

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3: Specs

a green laptop

(Image credit: Future)

The review unit I received comes with the following configuration: Intel Core i5-1235U CPU, Intel Iris Xe Graphics, 16GB of RAM, and 256GB of storage.

The base RAM starts at 8GB and is configurable up to 16GB. The base storage has gotten a bump up from the previous model’s 128GB at a solid 256GB. However, the SSD storage can’t be configured to a higher amount. 

  • Specs score: 3 / 5

a green laptop

(Image credit: Future)

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3: Design

  • Still extremely light and compact
  • Unchanged from older models
  • Keyboard and touchpad are great

The Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3 keeps its distinctive design from older models, which is both understandable and disappointing. I can imagine that Microsoft doesn’t want to fix what isn’t broken, and it is a very solid design for a portable machine. You can open and close it with one hand, it fits into almost any bag without any impact on weight as you carry it, and the Pixel Sense display makes up for the fact that it’s too small to be 1080p. 

The touchpad and keyboard are still rather nice, and easy to use with great feedback despite its small stature. It’s a shame, though, that there’s still no backlighting for the keyboard, which is a standard among laptops and just handy to have on its own merit for late-night typing.

On the other hand, the fact that it’s unchanged from before can be a huge detriment. There aren’t any new colors other than the same offerings of Platinum, Ice Blue, Sage, and Sandstone, and the shape is falling behind laptops like the M2 MacBook Air, which is much more streamlined and sleek.

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a green laptop

(Image credit: Future)
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a green laptop

(Image credit: Future)
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side view of a green laptop

(Image credit: Future)
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side view of a green laptop

(Image credit: Future)

That unwillingness to change also extends to its webcam and port selection. The webcam is 720p in a laptop market that adopted 1080p as the baseline standard a long while ago, and it shows in the very average picture quality. Port selection consists of a single USB Type-A port, one USB Type-C port, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and the cursed Surface Connect charging port. While I’m happy to still see a Type-A port, having only one Type-C, no ethernet, no HDMI, and no SD slot for its new pricing is rather lackluster.

It does have a shockingly good audio quality, especially for its size. Most likely it's due to the speakers being located above the keyboard, giving it an unobstructed pathway for its sound. Testing it out on classical music and lyric-filled songs, instruments and vocals alike were clear and clean with little lost at higher volumes.

It’s difficult to overstate how portable this laptop is, and I’m always surprised at how easy it is to carry this laptop. Easily one of the lightest I’ve ever reviewed, right up there with the LG Gram Style.

  • Design score: 4 / 5

a green laptop

(Image credit: Future)

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3: Performance

  • Performance is completely average
  • Good for office work, not much else
Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3: Benchmarks

Here's how the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3 performed in our suite of benchmark tests:

3DMark: Night Raid: 12,991; Fire Strike: 3,883; Time Spy: 1,407
GeekBench 5: 1,543 (single-core); 5,883 (multi-core)
Cinebench:
5,631 (multi-core)
Sid Meier's Civilization VI: Gathering Storm:
48fps
25GB File Copy: 28.6
Handbrake 1.6: 15:28
CrossMark: Overall: 1,323 Productivity: 1,325 Creativity: 1,379 Responsiveness: 1,161
Web Surfing (Battery Informant): 8:49:14
PCMark 10 Home test: 4,295
TechRadar Movie Battery test: 6 hours and 14 minutes

While the portability of the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3 is still top-notch, its performance is painfully average. All its benchmark scores are nothing special compared to other laptops, suffering from its 12th-Gen CPU. Since it uses an integrated GPU, the CPU does all the heavy lifting in terms of performance, whether it’s for productivity work or creative and editing projects. And it being an outdated Core i5 processor powering this laptop puts it behind others released this generation with current tech.

Naturally, unless you’re running a CPU-heavy video game like Sid Meier's Civilization VI: Gathering Storm – which still runs at a okay framerate of around 40fps – you won’t be playing anything but low-end PC titles that could also run on a toaster.

Outside of benchmarks, the Laptop Go 3 performs just like most other Windows laptops when it comes to productivity tasks. I’m able to balance conference calls with various work documents and video streaming going on with very little slowdown. But more intensive tasks, like any creative works or editing that requires downloading, rendering, and uploading larger files, can cause noticeable stuttering and slowdown.

This laptop is clearly meant for office workers or the average college student who needs a portable machine that can handle basic tasks. But considering the sharp price increase costs over its main niche (an extremely portable laptop for a nice low MSRP) it’s harder to justify the still middling specs and performance compared to similarly priced laptops in the same market. The MacBook Air laptops and Chromebooks boot up much faster, run faster and more efficiently, and can juggle multiple tasks without any slowdown whatsoever. For the price, it’s not bad at all but there are simply better options available.

  • Performance score: 3.5 / 5

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3: Battery

a green laptop

(Image credit: Future)
  • Pretty solid battery life
  • Charge time isn't bad either

One aspect of the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3 that has noticeably improved is its battery life. It’s leagues ahead of the original Laptop Go, which could barely last four hours per change and took half of that time recharging, and even a solid improvement over the Laptop Go 2 which lasts about six hours on productivity work.

The Laptop Go 3 gives you nearly nine hours of productivity work on a single charge and over six hours of heavy video streaming when we tested it out using our TechRadar movie battery test. When I personally tested out the battery to see how long it would last during my work day, it lasted for about eight hours. It’s still a far cry from the promised “up to 15 hours” from Microsoft but it’s still a very solid if not exceptional battery life.

  • Battery score: 4 / 5

Should you buy the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3?

Buy the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3 if...

You want an easy-to-carry laptop
There are few laptops as portable and lightweight as this one. It doesn't even put a dent in your carry-on of choice.

Don't buy it if...

You want a better webcam
The webcam in this is pretty average not to mention only 720p, making it only good for basic conference calls.

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3: Also consider

If my Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3 review has you considering other options, here are two more laptops to consider...

How I tested theMicrosoft Surface Laptop Go 3

  • I tested this laptop for about two weeks
  • I tested its overall productivity performance as well
  • I used a variety of benchmark tests as well as a CPU-heavy PC game to test this laptop.

To test out the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3 I used a full suite of benchmarks to rank both CPU and GPU performance, with more emphasis on the former. I also tested out frame rate performance on various settings with the more CPU-focused PC game Sid Meier's Civilization VI: Gathering Storm.

This laptop would primarily be used for productivity work. Due to its GPU and high color gamut, it can also be used for creative and editing projects, and its CPU means that productivity work is a breeze as well.

I’ve tested out many laptops, especially gaming ones, which gives me plenty of experience with properly benchmarking them. I also have extensive knowledge of testing out general performance such as framerate and graphics.

Read more about how we test

First reviewed November 2023

Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3 Max): maximum power, maximum price tag
5:09 pm | November 6, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Computing Gadgets Laptops Macbooks | Comments: Off

Two-minute review

Apple’s October reveal of the MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3) range was both an unexpected, in terms of its timing, and a risky one. We expected that Apple would bring out a successor to the M2-based MacBook Pro 16-inch (2023) at some point, but few Apple watchers thought it would happen a mere 10 months later.

It's a risky move for several reasons. For a start, it risks annoying people who bought the last MacBook Pro 16-inch – particularly the maxed-out M2 Max model – and who will have thought they’d have some time before the very expensive laptop they just purchased was superseded. While trying to stay at the cutting edge of computing products is a ridiculous and expensive pastime, and while the reveal of the M3 Pro and M3 Max doesn’t suddenly make the M2 versions redundant, I can see why this might leave a bitter taste in the mouth for a lot of people.

It also risks making the whole M2 generation look like a misfire which Apple is keen to move on from. While the leap from M1 to M2 wasn’t huge, it didn't feel like a misfire – at least not until Apple launched not just the M3 at its October Scary Fast event, but also the M3 Pro and M3 Max, along with replacements for 10-month-old laptops and a new iMac that completely skipped the M2 altogether.

The good news is that with a starting price of $2,499 / £2,599 / AU$4,299, you’re getting the performance upgrades of the M3 series for the same price at the previous generation started at; well, that’s good news for people who held off buying the M2 Pro or M2 Max 16-inch MacBook Pro, although it could be seen as yet another insult to anyone who did buy those laptops, especially if they did so only a few weeks ago.

As with previous models, you can choose a variety of configurations, including M3 Pro or M3 Max chips, and up to 128GB of unified memory – and you’ll want to make sure you nail your options before you buy, as you can’t upgrade the laptops afterwards. Of course, the better specs you go for, the more money this already-expensive laptop is going to cost.

Also, unlike the new 14-inch MacBook Pro, there isn’t a more affordable option with the base M3 chip, so I can only recommend the MacBook Pro 16-inch to people who have the budget and need for such a powerful machine.

If that’s you, then this could be your new favorite laptop. It keeps the same best-in-class screen from previous models, with a stunning 16.2-inch display with a sharp 3456 x 2234 resolution and Liquid Retina XDR tech, offering 1,600 nits of peak brightness for incredible vividness and dynamic contrast. The ProMotion tech also allows for 120Hz refresh rates, which keeps the macOS operating system, and any app you run (or website you scroll through) feeling fast, smooth and responsive.

A great array of ports, including plenty of USB-Cs, a HDMI and memory card reader, gives professionals plenty of flexibility when using the Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3) when out and about.

Performance-wise, this is an impeccable workstation, with Apple building on the already impressive M2 Pro and M2 Max MacBooks. There wasn’t a task the new 16-inch MacBook Pro couldn’t handle during my testing, even when editing 4K footage with multiple 4K and 8K video files, and it also did an impressive job of running the latest games. That’s right: with the new 16-inch MacBook Pro (and the 14-inch model), Apple might have just come out with the first gaming MacBook. No longer is its ‘Pro’ range of MacBooks all work and no play.

M3 Macbook Pro

(Image credit: Future)

Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3) review: Price and availability

  • Official release on November 7
  • Starts at $2,499 / £2,599 / AU$4,299
  • Same starting price as previous model

The MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3) was announced at Apple’s Scary Fast event on October 30, and is released on November 7, 2023. That makes it little over nine months since the last model was released, on January 24, 2023.

The launch may well have set a record (and not a terribly good one) for shortness of lifespan for a new device, as the 16-inch MacBook Pros with M2 Pro and M2 Max chips were discontinued as soon as Apple announced the new M3 Pro and M3 Max versions. That’s sure to annoy a lot of people who only bought what was the latest and most powerful MacBook Pros less than a year ago.

You’d also be forgiven for wondering if this new MacBook Pro 16-inch will itself become outdated in just nine months. That seems unlikely, but I’d have said the same in January of this year – there was a gap of 14 months between the M1 Pro and M1 Max 16-inch MacBook Pros and the M2 versions). And, while the M2 models, as well as the M1 models, are still supported by Apple, if no longer sold by it, I wouldn’t blame you for being cautious. Always having the latest model of a MacBook is going to be difficult – and expensive – at the best of times, but for a new model to be replaced in just nine months definitely feels a bit cheeky. Would Apple attempt to do that with an iPhone?

At least Apple has kept the starting price of the new MacBook Pro 16-inch the same, at $2,499 / £2,599 / AU$4,299, which gets you a version with the M3 Pro chip, which comes with a 12-core CPU, 18-core GPU, 18GB of unified memory and 512GB SSD.

That means you’re essentially getting a big boost with the M3 Pro, plus more memory (the rather odd 18GB compared to the M2 Pro model’s 16GB), for no additional cost. That’s nice for people who had been weighing up the M2 Pro version up until a few weeks ago, although it could be construed as another slap in the face for people who've bought the M2 Pro.

The good news, however, is that while Apple has stopped selling the M2 Pro and M2 Max MacBook Pro 16-inch models, other retailers are still selling them, and they will likely be quite keen to clear inventory to make way for the M3 generation. That means you may be able to pick up an M2 Pro or M2 Max model with a big price cut, especially during the upcoming Black Friday deals event – and because those laptops are less than a year old, you could get yourself a still-excellent laptop for a bargain price.

You can also get the 16-inch model with the same M3 Pro chip, 36GB of memory and 512GB SSD for $2,899 / £2,999 / AU$4,899.

The next step up comes with the more powerful M3 Max chip, which features a 14-core CPU, 30-core GPU, 36GB unified memory and 1TB SSD for $3,499 / £3,599 / AU$5,999. Finally, you can get a model with the M3 Max with a 16-core CPU, 40-core GPU, 48GB Unified Memory and 1TB of storage for $3,999 / $4,099 / AU$6,899.

You can also configure the new 16-inch MacBook Pro to come with 64GB or 128GB of memory, and up to 8TB of SSD storage.

The fully-specced out version will set you back an immense $7,199 / £7,299 / AU$11,699. If you’re one of the few people who can a) afford this and b) need this kind of power, you’ll need to allow for two to three weeks for it to be delivered.

The 16-inch MacBook Pro is certainly a premium workstation laptop with the price tag to prove it, and while this will put many people off, for many others who require seriously strong hardware for work, may see this as a good investment – despite fears that Apple could drop a follow-up nine months later.

Unlike the MacBook Pro 14-inch (M3) which launched alongside it, the 16-inch model doesn’t come with a more affordable model with the base M3 chip. This is the first time the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros have differed (apart from their screen sizes).

  • Value score: 3/5

Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3): Specs

M3 Macbook Pro

(Image credit: Future)

Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3): Design

  • Same design as earlier model
  • New Space Black color option
  • Still the best screen you can get on a laptop

When it comes to the design of the MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3), Apple has hardly deviated from the previous model – the only change is a new color option, called ‘Space Black’, which Apple claims is made with a “breakthrough chemistry” that reduce the retention of fingerprints by creating am anodisation seal.

Apple sent me a MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3) in that color, and it looks great. Black can sometimes not be the most exciting color for tech to come in, but there’s a nice metallic finish to Space Black that gives it a depth that other laptops of a similar hue often lack. It looks serious and professional, which is what you want from a mobile workstation like the 16-inch MacBook Pro. It would be nice to have some more vibrant colors with the next MacBook Air, however. I can also confirm that whatever (space) black magic Apple used to banish fingerprints works a treat – after handling it for days, the MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3) showed not a single fingerprint, whereas other MacBooks would be beginning to look a bit smudged by now.

There is a bit of a design oversight, I feel, as while the braided charging cable comes in black to match the color of the MacBook Pro it came with (much like with the 24-inch iMacs), the power brick that you plug into the wall socket remains white, which looks a bit ugly with the rest of the Black Space-colored MacBook Pro.

I should also point out that while I liked the new Space Black color, a few of my colleagues – especially the ones who usually use MacBooks – weren’t too impressed, noting that it didn’t look like a MacBook, and more like a standard black laptop. One even commented that it looked like a gaming laptop – which is interesting as Apple has been pushing the gaming abilities of its M3 lineup.

Aside from that, things are identical to the model released at the beginning of 2023, which itself was the same as the model from 2021, but to be honest, I don’t mind. I feel Apple nailed the design of the first 16-inch MacBook Pro two years ago – the keyboard is comfortable and responsive (banishing the poor reputation older MacBook Pro keyboards suffered from), the Touch ID button lets you securely sign in and pay for things with a quick tap, and there’s an excellent array of ports (SDXC memory card slot, three Thunderbolt / USB 4 ports, a full-sized HDMI port and headphone jack.

M3 Macbook Pro

(Image credit: Future)

There was a fashion a few years ago to keep make laptops thinner and lighter, and that often came at the expense of ports. While that’s fine for regular laptops, for workstations where you’re likely going to want to plug in a lot of peripherals, such as hard drives, external monitors or projectors and memory cards, having only two USB-C ports, one of which often gets used to charge the laptop, just isn’t enough.

With the MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3), you can leave pretty much all of your adapters at home, and plug everything directly in to the laptop – making it a far more convenient device for people who travel a lot. With the quality of the screen (I’ll get to that in a moment), six-speaker sound system, studio quality mics and 1080p FaceTime HD webcam, the MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3) continues what I appreciated so much about the previous versions – that it offered excellent quality with its built in features which meant you didn’t necessarily have to plug in external screens, microphones or speakers, which gives a level of flexibility to creatives working in film, animation, music and photography.

The slimline bezels around the screen still feel nice and modern (just compare it to the older 13-inch MacBook Pro to see what a difference a thin frame around the display can make), and yes, the ‘notch’ around the webcam remains, dipping down into the menu bar at the top of the desktop. The controversy over this was overblown back in 2021 when it debuted with the new 16-inch model, and it remains a non-issue now. macOS Sonoma, like the previous versions of macOS, adapts to it well, moving menu items to either side of the notch, and with the large 16-inch screen, you really don’t notice it, as you get a large, unobscured workspace.

The 16.2-inch screen remains the best display you can get on a laptop, with a sharp 3456 x 2234 resolution and Liquid Retina XDR tech, offering 1,600 nits of peak brightness for incredibly vivid colors and dynamic range, especially with HDR footage. Mini-LEDs and local dimming help make dark scenes look absolutely superb, and the P3 wide color gamut and support for 1 billion colors allows for accurate tones that will be essential for video editors and photographers in particular.

Perhaps my favorite part of the 16-inch MacBook Pro’s screen (which is also found in the 14-inch model), is the ProMotion technology, which supports up to 120Hz refresh rates, and can automatically adjust that rate to match onscreen content. This can be particularly noticeable when scrolling though websites or documents. Text, images and even moving footage all scroll smoothly and remain visible no matter how fast you scroll up and down. TV shows and movies also benefit from this – as well as computer games. Apple has been keen to emphasise the M3 line up’s prowess when it comes to playing graphically-demanding games, and ProMotion is key selling point (high refresh rate screens are increasingly common in premium gaming laptops).

ProMotion also helps extend battery life of the MacBook Pro by reducing the refresh rate when it detects static content.

Finally, there’s a MagSafe 3 port for easily connecting (and safely disconnecting) the power supply. It’s good to have, especially if you forget the MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3) is plugged in and pull it away, as the charger will disconnect safely without damaging any ports. It also means you don’t lose one of the USB-C Thunderbolt 4 ports when it needs to be charged – though you can use one of those ports to top up the battery if you leave your MagSafe 3 cable behind.

So, the MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3) doesn’t do anything new design-wise, but that really isn’t a bad thing. Why tinker with such a great design? Sure, Apple could have added a touchscreen, or even *shudder* resurrect the Touch Bar above the keyboard, and at 1.62kg (3.6lbs), it is a heavy laptop to carry around, but honestly, this would just be tweaking for tweaking’s sake – and could come at a cost (such as dropping some of the ports for a lighter and thinner design). I don’t want Apple getting complacent, but for now, I am perfectly happy that the company has stuck to a tried-and-tested design.

  • Design score: 5/5

M3 Macbook Pro

(Image credit: Future)

Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3): Performance

  • Superb performance
  • Big leap over M1 Pro and M1 Max
  • Can play modern games

Apple made some big claims about the M3 Pro and M3 Max chips at its launch event in October, and it sent me the MacBook Pro 16-inch with the high-end M3 Max (with 16-core CPU and 40-core GPU) and 48GB of unified memory, which is the most expensive preconfigured MacBook Pro 16-inch you can buy.

There are less powerful models, and you can also configure the MacBook Pro 16-inch to come with more memory and SSD storage, and I recommend you think carefully about what configuration suits your needs. The model I received will be overkill for a lot of people, unless you’re planning on doing some seriously intensive workloads when it comes to graphics rendering and video, but as this is an Apple device, it’s notoriously impossible to upgrade yourself, which means the specs you choose before you buy are going to be the ones you’ll have to live with.

If you do go for a lower-specced model of the 16-inch MacBook Pro (M3), then you won’t get the exact experience I got with the highest-end model, but even at the lower specs, you’re going to get a very good experience.

According to Apple, the M3 Max inside the 16-inch MacBook Pro delivers up to 45% faster CPU performance than the M2 Max, and up to 20% faster graphics performance. That’s not a bad step up in just 9 months, and is probably enough of a gap to make M2 Max owners regret their purchase. However, it’s not enough to justify replacing an M2 Max model with the M3 Max – even if you get a good trade-in price.

Benchmarks

Here’s how the MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3 Max) performed in our suite of benchmark tests:

Cinebench R24 CPU: Single-Core: 140; Multi-Core: 13,122
Geekbench 6 Single-Core: 3,219; Multi-Core: 21,345
Blender: Monster: 207.7; Junkshop: 125.5; Classroom: 87.8
Battery Life (TechRadar movie test): 24 hours and 35 minutes

When it comes to the older M1 Max, the gap is more pronounced, with Apple claiming 80% faster CPU speeds, and 40% faster graphics performance. However, it’s clear that when Apple talks about performance gains, it really wants to address owners of Intel systems (be they older MacBooks or Windows 11 PCs), and here the performance gains are much larger, with Apple claiming the M3 Max 16-inch MacBook Pro is up to 5.3 times faster than the fastest Intel-based MacBook Pro. 

That’s an impressive boast, but bear in mind that the last MacBook Pro to come with an Intel chip was back in 2020, but Apple is referring to the 2019 MacBook Pro 16-inch model, which came with a 9th generation Intel Core i9-9980HK in its top configuration.

In our own independent benchmark tests, we definitely saw a good leap between the M3 Max and M1 Max MacBook Pro 16-inches, with a 35% increase in Geekbench 6 in single core CPU performance, and a huge 69% increase in multi-core performance.

Cinebench R24 saw a similar leap, with a 25% gain in single-core performance, and 98.9% increase in multi-core. This tracks, with the M3 having more cores that perform better, so multi-core performance increases as you’d expect.

The GPU performance also brought big increases according to the Cinebench test, with a leap of 188% for the M3 Max. These are all very impressive results.

But what do they mean for real-world use? In our Handbrake encode test, where we take a 4K video and re-encode it at 1080p, the M1 Max completed the task at 61fps (frames per second), while the M3 Max did it at 107fps, an increase in 76.6%, and with the higher fps, the task completed much more quickly – and this is how the new M3 series of chips can impact you, as there’s a noticeable cut in the time it takes to complete workloads, especially graphics-intensive ones.

M3 Macbook Pro

(Image credit: Future)

In my day-to-day use of the MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3), I was really impressed with how fast macOS Sonoma ran, allowing me to have a large number of applications open and running at once, plus a Chrome browser full of open tabs. The performance of the MacBook Pro 16-inch with M3 Max makes working on the laptop fast and fluid, and again, it feels like it’s an experience that’s been designed to speed up workflows, especially for creatives. Opening up and editing 4K videos in Premier Pro was incredibly quick, and I was able to add effects and use AI-enabled tools and see the results instantly, rather than having to wait for scenes to render. By speeding up workflows like this, I was able to complete the editing much more quickly, and for professional video editors, this means projects can be completed faster, which could enable you to take on more work. Suddenly, this very expensive laptop looks more like a wise investment.

One of the most exciting developments with the M3 family of chips is Apple’s focus on gaming performance, and I was keen to put this to the test.

Running games such as Shadow of the Tomb Raider, I was able to get 108fps at the highest settings at 1200p resolution (twice what we managed on the M1 Max), and in Total War: Warhammer III, it hit 58.2fps.

I also loaded up Baldurs Gate 3, a turn-based RPG that’s just launched, and is a popular game with a version made for Apple’s M3 lineup. On the M3 Max-powered MacBook Pro 16-inch, the game looked fantastic, with many graphical settings on ‘Ultra’. The ProMotion display also puts in good work, allowing me to cap framerates at 120fps, and while I might not often hit that in a graphically-busy game like Baldurs Gate 3, the ability to reach higher frame rates makes for a much smoother experience. There were a few times when odd graphical glitches appeared, such as strange lines in shadows, but they were only temporary, and it could be down to driver support for the new M3 chips.

I also played Baldurs Gate 3 on the new iMac 24-inch (M3), and while it was nice to play on an iMac, the power difference was clear, as the graphical settings had to be lowered, and there were still hitches in performance.

The MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3), then, has the potential to rival many of the best gaming laptops based on this showing – and it even looks the part if you go for the Space Black color option. Impressively, while the fans did kick in, they never got as loud as most gaming laptops get when powering through games, though the part of the chassis just above the keyboard did get noticeably hot to touch while gaming.

  • Performance score: 5/5

Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3): Battery life

  • Over 24 hours in benchmark test
  • Shorter for intensive tasks
  • Gaming drains it even faster

Since the switch to Apple silicon, the battery lives of all flavor of MacBook have been seriously impressive – especially the 16-inch models, which come with physically larger batteries, along with all the efficiency features of the M3 lineup.

Apple claims that the new MacBook Pro 16-inch ‘delivers that longest battery life ever in a Mac’, with a lithium-polymer battery with 100 watt-hours of capacity, offering up to 22 hours of video playback and 15 hours of web browsing.

In our battery life benchmark, where we ran a looped 1080p video until the MacBook Pro turned off, the battery lasted just over 24 hours – that’s incredibly impressive. Now it’s unlikely you’re going to be using the MacBook Pro 16-inch for just watching a local video file, but it shows how far we’ve come – the fact that such a powerful laptop with a relatively large and bright screen can hit those kind of numbers is a real credit to what Apple has achieved with its M3 lineup.

M3 Macbook Pro

(Image credit: Future)

When using the Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3) for more intensive tasks, the battery will deplete faster, but during my time with it, I never felt the need to charge it halfway through a day. The performance also remained consistent whether the MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3) was plugged into the charger or not – which is definitely nice to see, as some laptops reduce performance when on battery power to lengthen the time before it needs to be charged.

When gaming on the battery, the battery depletes even faster, and if you're playing a graphically-intensive game, you're looking at around three to four hours of battery life. That may sound shocking for a MacBook, but even the best gaming laptops often only last that long.

With the 140W USB-C Power Adapter included in the review sample I received, the MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3) charged up quickly, taking less than an hour to go from empty to 100%.

  • Battery life score: 5/5

Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3): Should you buy it?

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