Be honest: Your next laptop doesn’t need a headphone jack

It’s been years since we’ve had to debate the merits of analog headphones jacks. But like it or not, we’ve all moved on from there in our smartphones, accepting the fact that wireless earbuds, USB-C (or Lightning) headphones, and the occasional dongle will suffice. Even the iPad Pro moved on from the beloved headphone jack.

But in 2022, the issue has returned — and this time, it’s for laptops.

The Dell XPS 13 Plus is the company’s new flagship laptop, a device bursting at the seams with new ideas and fresh innovation. Among these features are an invisible haptic touchpad, an edge-to-edge keyboard, and even a row of capacitive touch buttons to replace the function keys.

The extremely compact and refined design, though, didn’t leave room for a conventional audio jack. It’s not that the device is too thin to house a headphone jack — after all, even the ultra-thin M2 MacBook Air includes one.

Instead, it’s about how the designers at Dell choose to use the space available to them. The keyboard on the XPS 13 Plus runs right up to the edge of the chassis sides, giving the device an extremely efficient-looking design. No space is wasted, allowing for the extra-large keycaps to extend right to the edge of the laptop. It’s a spectacular look.

Dell has shown how certain designs had been off the table due to the need for a headphone jack.

But it also means that the only location available to include ports are in the small area between the keyboard and the hinge. Without wanting to ditch one of the two USB-C ports, that left the headphone jack on the cutting room floor. In other words, it’s the removal of the headphone jack that allows for this kind type of design innovation.

That’s a lot more justification than was given when the iPhone first ditched its headphone jack. We were told it would allow for thinner devices, bigger batteries, and more features — but we were never given proof. With the XPS 13 Plus, Dell has shown how certain designs had been off the table due to the need for a headphone jack.

That’s bound to not be true for every laptop that decides to cut out this port in the future. Some manufacturers will undoubtedly jump on the bandwagon just to appear edgy or fashionable. But who knows what other innovation some extra space within the chassis could allow for? Every millimeter counts, and one less port can sometimes make all the difference.

The side of the keyboard on the Dell XPS 13 Plus.

And because smartphones led the way in the accelerated adoption of wireless audio, we’re much more prepared to leave the headphone jack behind. Wireless earbuds are cheap and widely available, even as connectivity standards like Bluetooth 5.2 continue to improve.

Personally, I found myself using the headphone jack on laptops less and less — and I bet you do too. Don’t believe me? Just go ahead and count how many times you actually need to use it over the next week. I bet it’s less than you realize.

In my time with the XPS 13 Plus, I only encountered one situation when I actually wished I had a headphone jack. My wireless earbuds had died, and I wanted to listen to some music while I worked. Lo and behold, there was nowhere to plug in my backup pair of wired headphones. Thing is, the adapter Dell included in the box fixed this problem within a few seconds. Before I knew it, I was back to work. It’s a bit of a clumsy solution, but hey, it showed me how small my perceived “need” for a headphone jack really was.

I’m not saying every laptop in the future needs to ditch headphone jacks.

Now, I know what you’re saying. You love your set of old wired computer speakers that you use at your desk. Or maybe you enjoy the ease of jacking into your living room entertainment system. Or maybe you just hate Bluetooth.

I’m not saying every laptop in the future needs to ditch headphone jacks. The huge variety of designs in the world of PCs and laptops is its great strength, and it means there will always be room for devices that carry older ports. Heck, even Apple reversed course on its MacBook Pros to bring back ports like HDMI and an SD card slot. There are certain use cases with laptops that certainly make sense for a headphone jack to be included.

But don’t poo-poo the innovation. I agree that removing features for the sake of removing them doesn’t help anyone. But Dell has already proved that there are advantages to taking the plunge — and I, for one, am ready to embrace what a headphone jack-less future has in store.

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Master & Dynamic put its headphone expertise into a $450 gaming headset

Master & Dynamic has staked its name on its mix of refined design, premium materials and crisp, clear audio quality. The company has a number of models under its belt, including wired, wireless and noise-cancelling headphones, in addition to true wireless earbuds and a concrete speaker. Now M&D is venturing into uncharted sonic territory: gaming headsets. With the MG20, the company has built a set of “wireless gaming headphones” with its trademark design and a range of handy features for a whopping $449 (€449/£429). 

The MG20 has a familiar look to the company’s over-ear headphones, with some simplified design choices. This gaming headset doesn’t have quite as many varying textures as some of M&D’s other products, for example. This time around, the company opted for a combo of aluminum, magnesium, lambskin leather and Alcantara. There’s a detachable boom mic for gaming sessions and the MG20 also has microphones for calls when you’re using them as a set of headphones. The headphones also have a semi-open back design for a wider sound stage and more natural audio quality. 

Inside, 50mm drivers power 7.1 surround sound with support for aptX HD for music and aptX Low-Latency for mobile gaming. With the debut of the MG20, M&D has added EQ presets to it’s headphone app for the first time, allowing users to select a sound profile to fit their needs. What’s more, independent volume controls for game audio offer another degree of customization. A low-latency USB adapter is compatible with both PlayStation and PC and offers easy switching between devices. Master & Dynamic says the MG20 will last for up to 22 hours on a charge, and thanks to wear detection, the headphones can save battery life when you’re not wearing them. 

The MG20 will be available in black and white color options starting November 16th.

Gallery: Master & Dynamic MG20 wireless gaming headphones | 10 Photos

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Tech News

Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition puts amp and streaming apps in one lavish box

If the idea of your own little bubble of perfect audio sounds appealing, Naim Audio’s new Uniti Atom Headphone Edition may be the trick to bringing out your inner-audiophile. A headphone-optimized version of the British music equipment specialist’s Unity Atom system, it combines a streaming box for platforms like TIDAL and Spotify with a high-quality headphone amp and more.

Rather than playing music back through a set of speakers, then, Naim’s newest box is focused on a single listener. It comes equipped with a new transformer design which, Naim says, has been reworked to deliver the best power for a headphone amp. There’s a choice of both balanced 4-pin XLR and Pentaconn outputs, plus a standard 6.3mm output.

The amp itself is a class-A that can switch into class-AB. Normally, at regular volumes, it sticks with class-A, but as you crank the power up – and the impedance of your headphones drops – then it can add in class-AB power for the top dB. There’s 1.5W per channel into 16 Ω, regardless of which output you’re using, and the Uniti Atom Headphone Edition connects to all outputs simultaneously.

There’s also support for using the box with a pre-amp, for those times you do want full speaker support. However, you can choose which to use depending on which headphones you feel like listening to. If you’re using the front 6.3mm and Pentaconn outputs, for example, the pre-amp outputs automatically mute and a headphone button illuminates. Or, you can press it manually if you want to use the XLR connection on the back.

On the streaming side, meanwhile, there’s the same tech that Naim already used on its Mu-so 2nd Gen, Uniti, and ND 555 players. There’s native support for TIDAL, Spotify Connect, and Qobuz, along with Chromecast and AirPlay 2 streaming to access other services, and Roon Ready status. TIDAL Connect, meanwhile, will be added in a few months time, Naim says.

There’s support for up to 24-bit/384kHz WAV, FLAC, and AIFF audio, plus ALAC. For MP3 and AAC, there’s up to 48kHz/320kbit (16-bit) support, plus up to 48kHz (16-bit) OGG and WMA. There’s DSD 64 and 128Fs, and finally SBC and AAC support over Bluetooth.

For connectivity, there’s an ethernet port, and WiFi 802.11ac, plus a USB port that can play music from external drives. Up to five Naim Streaming products can be connected and have their playback synchronized, all controlled via the Naim app. If you’re just operating the Uniti Atom Headphone Edition, there’s a front panel with buttons and a traditional rotary volume knob, or you can use the included Zigbee remote.

The Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition is available now, priced at $3,290.

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Tech News

The Verizon-exclusive Motorola Edge+ has high-end specs and a headphone jack for $1,000

If you’ve been patiently hoping for Motorola to get back in the premium Android phone game, your wish has been answered. Following years of solid mid-range offerings, Motorola has launched the Edge Plus, a full-on premium Android phone that’s locked to Verizon and costs as much as the Galaxy S20.

The bigger news might be that it features a 3.5mm headphone jack. Long extinct from iPhones and endangered on most Android phones, the tiny port is a welcome sight on the Motorola Edge+, which also sports speakers tuned by Waves audio.

You’ll also get a dramatic waterfall screen with a near-90-degree edge, 5G with support for Verizon’s super-speedy mmWave network, and the latest Snapdragon 865 processor, along with other ultra-premium specs:

  • Dimensions: 161.1 x 71.4 x 9.6mm
  • Display: 6.7-inch Full HD+ OLED, 90Hz
  • Processor: Snapdragon 865
  • RAM: 12GB
  • Storage: 256GB
  • Front camera: 25MP
  • Rear camera (triple): 108MP main + 8MP zoom (3X) + 16MP ultra wide + time-of-flight
  • Battery: 5,000mAh

Those specs match up well with other similarly priced phones, and it also comes with wireless charging and an expandable storage slot. However, you won’t find a couple of things you’d expect. For one, while Motorola claims the Edge+ has a “water-repellant design,” the phone doesn’t have an official IP rating, so you probably won’t want to take it swimming. Also, its wired charging tops off at 15W, slower than most other phones. You can, however, use it to charge other phones or earbuds with reverse wireless charging.

To take advantage of its dramatic curves, Motorola has a new software feature called Edge Touch, similar to Samsung’s own Edge screen settings. When on a table, the sides of the phone will light up to show charging status, incoming calls, alarms, and notifications, while you can swipe on the edge to bring up the notification panel or switch apps.

In addition to a camera that rivals the S20 Ultra on paper, the Edge+ also can record in 6K and lets you pull 20MP pictures from videos. It also comes equipped with Quad Pixel technology with four times the light sensitivity “to capture incredibly clear and crisp photos in all lighting conditions.”

The Motorola Edge+ will be available exclusively at Verizon on May 14 for $1,000.

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