Each gaming accessory company has one thing they do well, like Corsair and its keyboards or Razer’s line of mice. Turtle Beach is known as a premium headset manufacturer, but that hasn’t stopped it from expanding its offerings, starting with its very first gamepad, the Recon Controller. And it happily still incorporates the company’s audio expertise.
It’s a wired controller compatible with Xbox Series X|S and One as well as Windows 10. As a couch gamer I’m never really thrilled by the need to be tethered, but it makes up for it with a great hand feel. The grips are covered in a tactile gray material, with a grid of triangles that help channel heat and sweat away from your palms. But what I really like are the textured buttons — the shoulder, trigger and back buttons are studded with bumps that do a good job of keeping your fingers from slipping. They also feel great, so much so that I often find myself playing with the Recon Controller even when I’m not gaming.
The marquee features of the Recon Controller are its audio controls, located in a small panel at the top of the gamepad. One of my editors said it looks like a modern interpretation of a Mad Catz unit and, well, he isn’t wrong. It’s not exactly attractive, with so many buttons it looks over-engineered.
What all those fiddly buttons offer is an array of options for the sound coming from the headset you’ve plugged into the controller. The bottom has the usual 3.5mm port, so it’ll work with pretty much any headset, provided you have the right cable for it. I tried it with the Recon Spark, a solid and inexpensive set of cans that’s served as my daily driver at the office for a few years now.
At each end of the trapezoidal control panel are two toggles, the one on the left adjusts the volume and the right one handles the balance between game audio and chat. They’re far up enough on the controller such that you don’t accidentally hit the X and Y buttons. However, the buttons on the panel itself are packed in so tightly that if you overshoot you’re likely to hit one of the controls in the middle instead.
Which is less than ideal, given that the two big buttons are the mute function (not something you want to accidentally hit while communicating with your teammates) and the “superhuman hearing” button. The latter is a new feature, boosting smaller sounds like footsteps so you won’t miss a thing. The effect wasn’t as pronounced as it promises, as I didn’t notice huge changes while I played a few rounds of Among Us. But it certainly doesn’t hurt to have it, and the effect may vary depending on the game you’re playing and the headset you have connected.
Between those two buttons is another toggle, one that serves a variety of functions. You can adjust your EQ presets between the default, bass, bass/treble and vocal settings. You can also adjust the power of the gamepad’s vibrations, as well as the sensitivity of the thumb sticks. It’s nice to be able to adjust these things on the fly, rather than having to fiddle around in a settings program. The big drawback is that it’s not immediately clear what the icons represent, and I had to consult the instructions and experiment with them before I really understood.
Overall I was happy with the controller’s performance, and I’m enamored of the ergonomics of it more than anything. I’m just not entirely sure they’re worth dealing with a wired controller and headset when you’re used to going wireless.
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Samsung has released a new portable keyboard called the Samsung Smart Keyboard Trio 500. The keyboard is thin and lightweight and designed to slip into a bag to be carried with the user during the day. The device’s highlight is that it can connect to multiple devices at once and features shortcuts to help with multitasking allowing the user to get work done wherever they are.
The Trio 500 can connect to three devices simultaneously via Bluetooth and switch between each device with the click of a button. Samsung says the keyboard could be used for typing notes on the laptop and then quickly switch to your smartphone to answer a message. Changing between connected devices is accomplished using the three gray buttons inside the row of normal F keys.
The keyboard also has customization functionality to allow users to choose their three favorite apps on each device to open instantly when a dedicated key is pressed. Trio 500 allows users to put the galaxy smartphone or tablet into DeX mode, a software platform extending the smartphone or tablet into a desktop computing experience. Trio 500 has keys that are almost the same size as a regular keyboard but its size is more portable.
Samsung offers the Trio 500 in black or white colors, and the keyboard would be available starting in early May. Samsung also points out that the Hot Key function is available on Galaxy smartphones and tablets running One UI 3.1 that has been updated as of March 2021 or later.
Samsung also points out that DeX is supported only on select Galaxy smartphones and tablets. Samsung has offered no indication of pricing for the keyboard. Presumably, pricing details will be provided in early May when it launches.
Lenovo’s ThinkBook 13s is a deliberately intriguing combination of a business notebook with consumer flourishes, aimed at the vaguely-defined space between a home business and a more traditional consumer PC. It largely succeeds.
The ThinkBook 13s (also known as the ThinkBook 13s-IWL) sacrifices just a bit on the performance front for including an 8th-gen Whiskey Lake processor, but places it inside a sturdy chassis with a very good keyboard on top. It includes a combination of legacy USB-A and forward-looking USB-C ports, an excellent audio system, with decent battery life. And at a price hovering between $700 to $800, you’re left with a pretty solid midrange laptop for general use.
Lenovo ThinkBook 13s: Basic specs
Lenovo claims that the suggested retail price of the Lenovo ThinkBook 13s we tested is over $1,100, but we couldn’t find a single price suggesting it was over $1,000. Online, the prices we saw at press time averaged about $800 or slightly less, and should eventually fall. Otherwise, there’s a healthy mix of features catering to consumers and small businesses.
Storage: 128-512GB M.2 SSD PCI-E NVMe (256GB as tested)
Ports: 2 USB Type A (USB 3.1 Gen 1) 1 USB-C (Gen 2, DisplayPort), HDMI 1.4b, 3.5mm jack
Camera: 720p HD Camera (user-facing), fixed-focus
Battery: 45Wh, 78Wh
Wireless: 802.11ac (2×2); Bluetooth 5.0
Operating system: Windows 10 Home
Dimensions: 12.11 x 8.52 x 0.63 inches (15.9mm)
Weight: 2.9 pounds, 3.6 pounds with charger (measured)
Additional features: Fingerprint sensor inside power button
Price: $1,189 MSRP (Lenovo.com) with coupon $713.49; $749 at NeweggAmazon: $754Remove non-product link. Other configurations range from $1,049 to $1,649 MSRP on Lenovo.com.
Lenovo’s ThinkBook 13s manages to exude an aura of stability while still not breaking your back. It’s chunky, though not overly heavy. Officially, it’s made of aluminum and magnesium metal and sports a Mineral Grey finish, with a zinc-alloy hinge. I couldn’t discern any keyboard flex, and the display steadfastly refused to flop about while shaking it.
While it’s not a 2-in-1, the attractive IPS display folds back flat. Total luminosity is 301 nits maximum, close to but exceeding the 250-260 nits we consider appropriate for daily use. Note that our review model was not equipped with a touchscreen.
A generous vent underneath the chassis helps pull air from the outside, venting it out through the back of the chassis via a small grille running along one half of the hinge’s length. I did notice a slight fan whine while it was running, which can kick in—though very quietly—even during mundane, innocuous tasks such as typing this sentence.
Officially, the ThinkBook 13s is built to withstand dousing with up to 2 ounces of water, extreme temperatures, and vibrations. (We didn’t test any of those claims.) The hinge has been tested for up to 25,000 open-close cycles, Lenovo says—about 8 times per day for 8 years.
A practical number of ports split the difference between the consumer and business user. On the left, there’s a plain-jane USB-C 3.1 Gen 2 port, (without Thunderbolt capabilities) a full-size HDMI 1.4b port, a headphone/mic 3.5mm jack, as well as a proprietary power plug—one of the only slightly disappointing features on the ThinkBook 13s. On the right, Lenovo has include a pair of USB 3.1 Type A ports, managing the transition between the Type A and Type C generations. One of the Type A ports is labeled with a small battery, alerting you that it can be used to charge a phone or other device, even while the laptop is otherwise powered off. Lenovo doesn’t pack in any adapter dongles within the ThinkBook box.
Lenovo is known for its keyboards, and typing on the ThinkBook keyboard was comfortable enough. The keys are resilient and springy, though without much travel—I prefer the deeper keyboards found on the ThinkPad series. Note that the function keys were designed with an eye toward privacy: There are dedicated buttons to disable the webcam and mic, as well as the trackpad. Interestingly, the ThinkBook 13s also has dedicated calling keys for Skype.
There’s no Windows Hello-certified webcam, but there is a certified fingerprint reader hidden beneath the power button. In my experience, Huawei’s fingerprint readers do a great job of detecting your fingerprint and logging you in, but the ThinkBook’s identification capabilities were equally robust over the few days I spent testing the laptop.
As for that webcam—well, even though there’s a keyboard button to turn it off, Lenovo goes the extra mile. Just above the cutout for the camera lens is a tiny, almost imperceptible version of the ThinkShutter slider that can easily be slid closed or open to physically reveal or conceal the lens. A tiny red dot visually signals when it’s blocked, though it’s so small, against the glare of the screen those of you with poorer vision may be unable to tell. Perhaps a brighter shade of paint might solve the problem? In any event, the webcam is a fixed-focus 720p camera, just serviceable enough for Skype calls.
The audio experience that the Lenovo ThinkBook 13s delivers is surprisingly good. The speakers produce a strident, full-throated range of sound that’s excellent in the midrange and not too shabby on the lower end, either. In testing the ThinkBook 13s against my normal range of streamed YouTube music and other prerecorded samples, there were several occasions that I simply leaned back and enjoyed the music. The ThinkBook 13s builds in Harman speakers that are enhanced by Dolby Audio, turned on by default. There aren’t any presets for rock, pop, and the like, though the Dolby algorithm itself seems to understand and adjust. This may be an inexpensive notebook aimed at small businesses, but the audio was definitely designed with the consumer in mind.
Lenovo can’t quite get away from the usual mix of Windows bloatware and third-party apps. But one real plus is the Lenovo Vantage app, which provides comprehensive tools for updating the BIOS software and other system apps, and fine-tuning other system functions. Business and consumer users alike will appreciate its detailed explanations and controls. Some of the functionality is reproduced elsewhere in the Windows 10 Settings menu, but it’s still a good starting point to explore the nooks and crannies of the ThinkBook 13s.
It’s worth noting that while the ThinkBook 13s shipped with the Windows 10 October 2018 Update installed, Microsoft almost immediately pushed the April 2019 Update (version 1903) to the laptop as part of its daily updates. We accepted it, and tested the laptop using the April Update.
Lenovo ThinkBook 13s: Middling performance
Notebook buyers will have to step a bit gingerly though the logjam of not one but three competing Core processors, all shipping this holiday season and all competing for your dollars: Intel’s two 10th-gen Core chips, code-named Ice Lake and Comet Lake, will be selling alongside the more established (and still worthy) Whiskey Lake 8th-gen chips. (At press time, we didn’t have any to test.)
Though the 10th-gen chips offer some performance and graphics advantages, they’re really more well-rounded platforms. Nice if you can afford them, but don’t discount a Whiskey Lake platform like the the ThinkBook 13s because it doesn’t sport the latest label.
It’s important to place these results into the proper perspective. Many of the notebooks we test are consumer PCs, some with high price tags attached. We compared the Lenovo ThinkBook 13s to a variety of the consumer and business machines, weighted more toward the consumer market. Pay attention to where the ThinkBook 13s places—though its results are middling overall, its absolute scores aren’t bad. And for the price, it may be worth a purchase.
Historically, PCMark 8’s suite (Work, Home, and Creative) offers a range of applications tests, from general office work (word processing and spreadsheet calculations) to VoIP calls, image manipulation, light gaming, and even some video editing. PCMark 10 modernizes all of these tests, and combines them into a single overall benchmark.
For simplicity’s sake, we’ve provided the PCMark 8 Work and Creative tests below, comparing the ThinkBook 13s to some of its competitors. It fares pretty well.
We have fewer PCMark 10 scores to compare to, but here are some representative samples to place the ThinkBook’s performance into context. The ThinkBook 13s scored 3,752, slightly higher than the 3,737 that the well-regarded Dell XPS 13 9370, a 2018 laptop based upon a Kaby Lake-R chip, and the 3,882 score reported by the Samsung Notebook 9 Pro (2019). Top scores go to the HP Spectre 360 x15, at 4,691—a pricey, top-end consumer laptop.
While PCMark attempts to simulate real-world tests, the Cinebench test is synthesized. Cinebench appears in two versions, each rendering a scene using Maxon’s rendering engine. The difference between the two tests (R15 and R20) depends on the complexity of the scene, with the R20 test being the more difficult of the two. We’ve used the older R15 test for our comparison.
The open-source HandBrake tool is a prolonged CPU test that transcodes a Hollywood movie into a format suitable for watching on an Android tablet. Though it’s possible that more and more people are watching movies on their laptops, it’s still a practical task that shows how a prolonged activity stresses the CPU on the ThinkBook 13s.
Don’t expect to play many quick, action-oriented games on Lenovo’s business-consumer notebook, because of the integrated graphics. There’s an enormous cluster of laptops which all use the UHD 620 chipset, which will be good for some basic, older games. Still, if you’re willing to dial down the details, you can probably still have good experiences on Fallout 4, for example, or Batman Arkham: Origins, neither of which are especially ancient.
Finally, there’s battery life, one of the more important measures of a laptop. The ThinkBook13s fares pretty well here with just over 10 hours, about enough for a day of work and then some. (To test, we take a 4K movie and loop it over and over until the battery expires.) Some of the consumer laptops pull in much higher numbers, but laptop manufactures have begun taking advantage of low-power displays that extend battery life further.
Conclusion: Solid value at the right price
While Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Carbon 6th-Gen remains the superior business notebook in Lenovo’s stable, the MSRP is well over $1,000. (Prices on the base models have fallen to $999, as the 7th-Gen models have begun to ship.) It’s probably worth considering picking up a deal on the older X1 Carbon generation as well as considering the new ThinkBooks.
There’s a lot to like about Lenovo’s consumer-business hybrid, though. Save for a lack of a dedicated ethernet port, there’s a business-friendly mix of connectivity options, and good battery life, with consumer-friendly multimedia options. Though the performance is relatively average, being able to buy the ThinkBook 13s at an affordable price helps elevate it. So pay attention: if the price is close to MSRP, look elsewhere. At prices near the $800 or so that Lenovo is currently charging, the ThinkBook 13s is a solidly well-rounded notebook that we’d recommend buying.
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Xiaomi’s Mi 11 Ultra flagship Android phone isn’t the only Google-powered product the company has today, with a new Mi Smart Projector 2 Pro combining reasonably portable projection with the Google Assistant. The nondescript gray and white box looks more like an oversized smart speaker than a traditional projector, and indeed that’s because it’s one of those too.
The projector runs at Full HD resolution, with HDR10 support. It’ll crank up to 1,300 ANSI lumens in brightness, Xiaomi says, and supports 60- to 120-inch screen sizes. Usefully, there’s also omni-directional keystone correction for automatic adjustment when you’re projecting off-angle.
That should work to make a perfectly rectangular projection even if the projector is up to 40-degrees off-angle, Xiaomi says. A time-of-flight (ToF) sensor is onboard too, used for automatic focus. That can lock in within 2 seconds, the company claims.
Inside, the Mi Smart Projector 2 Pro is running Android TV, with Google Assistant support, meaning you’ll be able to use it as another smart speaker. There’s also Chromecast functionality, making it easier to cast content from a smartphone or other device directly.
On the audio side, there’s 10W speakers with support for DTS-HD and Dolby Audio, each having dual tweeters and dual full-range woofers. Bluetooth connectivity turns the Mi Smart Projector 2 Pro into a standalone speaker, too.
As for wired connectivity, on the back of the projector you’ll find an array of ports. That includes two HDMI inputs – one supporting HDMI ARC – and two USB 2.0 Type-A ports, plus both a 3.5mm audio output and an S/PDIF digital optical output. Finally, there’s an ethernet jack, if you’re not using WiFi to get the projector online.
It’s not Xiaomi’s first projector model, mind. The Mi Smart Compact Projector – which is currently on sale in the US for around $500 – also topped out at Full HD 1080p resolution with HDR10 support, though at 500 lumens lacked the maximum brightness of this new model. It also acted as a smart speaker, however with Android TV preloaded, and supported auto-focusing. However it lacks the omni-directional keystone correction.
The Mi Smart Projector 2 Pro will be sold at 999 euro ($1,160), Xiaomi says. No word on US-specific availability at this stage, though the company claims it will be offering the projector globally.