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Game

‘Harvestella’ is a Square Enix farming sim with a dark twist

is moving into the farming sim world with Harvestella, which is coming to Nintendo Switch and PC on November 4th. While this is a 3D game with a distinct art style, you’ll surely recognize some elements if you’re one of the of Stardew Valley players out there. You’ll till land, sow seeds, water crops, collect items for cooking and crafting, go fishing, take care of pets, explore dungeons, slay monsters and so on.

You’ll be able to visit other towns and get to know their residents. In Nemea Town, cherry blossoms bloom all year, while Seaside Town Shatolla has a vibrant bar scene. There are multiple jobs to choose from as well, including mage, fighter and shadow walker. Each of those will offer different abilities in battle. You’ll also be able to explore some of the ocean in a submarine.

The overworld will change based on the season, but there’s a catch. Four crystals called Seaslight usually ensure there’s a stable transition between seasons. However, the game starts amid some abnormalities. Between each season is a period called the Quietus, when crops die and people are unable to go outside due to deadly dust. Even worse, these Quietus spells are lasting longer every year. You might have to do something about that.

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Computing

HP Elite Folio Review: A Twist On the Pull-Forward 2-in-1

“If you need a 2-in-1 that you can take anywhere and get work done, albeit a little more slowly, then the Elite Folio is a good choice.”

  • Comfortable construction thanks to vegan leather
  • Solid build quality
  • Pleasant display in 3:2 aspect ratio
  • Excellent keyboard and pen
  • Innovative 2-in-1 design
  • Performance limited to undemanding productivity
  • Battery life not as good as some ARM laptops
  • Only one angle in media mode

Laptop designs can be generic, but every once in a while, something breaks the mold. That describes the HP Spectre Folio when it launched in 2018.

It was a unique 2-in-1 — a leather-clad “pull-forward” design that stood out for its elegance and class. You can’t buy that machine any longer, but if you liked the form factor and the unusual materials, then HP has a new option for you, the Elite Folio. This new device follows the same design cues while being aimed at HP’s commercial customers.

But it’s not just a cookie-cutter copy of the Spectre Folio. The Elite Folio is notable for its use of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2, the latest ARM processor available for Windows 10 laptops. My review unit was configured with said processor, 16GB of RAM, a 256GB solid-state drive (SSD), a 3.5-inch IPS 3:2 display, and 4G LTE WWAN support. It’s an expensive laptop at $1,890, putting it solidly in premium territory. It’s an interesting design with unusual materials —  but is that enough to compete in the crowded business 2-in-1 market?

Design

Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

One of the biggest differences between the Elite Folio and the Spectre Folio is that the former is made with “vegan leather” rather than the genuine leather used in the latter. What’s “vegan leather,” you ask? Well, in a word, it’s plastic — technically, polyurethane. It’s called “vegan” because it’s not animal-based — obviously, a marketing rather than a technical distinction. Frankly, I don’t think the Elite Folio feels as warm and inviting — nor as supple — as the Spectre Folio. It’s just not as elegant.

The Elite Folio still looks a little like a leather-bound paper notebook, but the Spectre Folio emulates that feeling far better. However, the Elite Folio is still quite unique, and its all-black color scheme works well with the vegan leather, making for a laptop that’s not just another silver wedge.

Incidentally, the primary reason HP cites for using the vegan leather is that it bonds better with the magnesium frame. This allows for a tighter fit along the edges — the Spectre Folio’s leather wrapped around and added to the width and depth — and a slightly smaller chassis. I see the reasoning, but the vegan leather just doesn’t hold the same appeal.

Otherwise, the design is identical. The display flips in the middle thanks to the flexibility of the vegan leather material and can be pulled forward over the keyboard, forming a media mode. Pull it further forward, and it becomes a tablet with a slight angle. It’s a different take on the 2-in-1 and it works well, albeit with only one angle rather than the many angles available with a 360-degree convertible or tablet with a kickstand.

I found the display to be a little wobbly in clamshell mode, enough so that I noticed it while typing. Most 360-degree convertibles I’ve used, like the HP Spectre x360 14, have firmer hinges. And as with the Spectre Folio, the power button is on the keyboard and hidden in all but clamshell mode.

The Elite Folio feels quite robust, with no flexing or bending anywhere in the chassis. In this department, it’s the equal of the Spectre x360 14 and Dell XPS 13. That puts the Elite Folio in fine company, and you won’t feel like you need to baby the laptop just because of its unique materials and design. Only time will tell how the vegan leather holds up to wear and tear, though.

Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

In terms of its size, the Elite Folio is 0.63 inches thick and weighs 2.92 pounds. That compares to the Spectre x360 14 at 0.67 inches and 2.95 pounds and the XPS 13 at 0.58 inches and 2.8 pounds. While the metal portion of the Elite Folio’s base is quite thin, the lid is a bit thicker and the vegan leather adds additional bulk. The Elite Folio is therefore not as small as it might be if it were constructed purely of metal.

Connectivity isn’t the Elite Folio’s greatest strength. You get two USB-C 3.1 Gen 1 ports, one on each side (either will power the laptop), and a 3.5mm audio jack. That’s it. Thunderbolt isn’t supported, of course, because of the Qualcomm chipset. Wireless connectivity is robust, however, with Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5. You can also choose between optional LTE 4 or 5G WWAN support, and there’s a SIM slot located next to the pen (more on that later). HP chose to go with 5G Sub6 here and not mmWave.

Performance

Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

So far, Windows on ARM processors has been underwhelming, and nothing like the superb performance that Apple squeezes out of its M1 ARM chip. The Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 is supposed to provide improved performance, and while I would love to quantify this claimed improvement, it’s difficult due to the lack of support for many Windows legacy applications. Most of our benchmarks won’t run on the Elite Folio, so I can’t give much objective data.

I could run Geekbench 5, and here the Elite Folio managed a meager 770 in single-core mode and a slightly better 3,028 in multi-core mode. That compares to the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 1 in the Lenovo Flex 5G at 700 and 2,802, respectively — not much of an improvement. And, of course, it’s nothing compared to the scores achieved by Intel’s 11th-gen Core CPUs, not to mention the Ryzen 5000 chips and the Apple M1. The HP Spectre x360 14 with its Core i7-1165G7 hit 1,214 and 4,117, for example, while the Ryzen 7 5800U-equipped Asus ZenBook 13 UX325UA scored 1,423 and 6,758. Apple’s MacBook Air with the M1 blew away the field at 1,727 and 7,585. Only the Acer Aspire 5‘s Core i3-1115G4 scored similarly at 1,214 and 2,544. Going by this benchmark alone, the Elite Folio is a slow laptop.

In actual use, I found it to be snappy enough for typical productivity work like using Microsoft Office applications (which run natively on the chipset), web browsing, and the like. I couldn’t run any of our more robust benchmarks, such as the Handbrake test that encodes a 420MB video to H.265 nor Cinebench 23 or our usual PCMark 10 benchmarks. But I wager the Elite Folio isn’t a machine that you’re going to want to use for editing large photos or any video. It’s fanless and completely quiet, which is a plus and a boon for battery life.

I also couldn’t test the graphics using our usual 3DMark benchmarks, and Fortnite wouldn’t install, so I couldn’t run that test, either. The Elite Folio isn’t a gaming machine, which is fine because it’s not intended to act like one.

Display and speakers

Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

I also couldn’t test the display using my colorimeter for lack of supported drivers. And that’s a shame because it’s a lovely 13.5-inch IPS display in the productivity-friendly 3:2 aspect ratio that I’d love to be able to quantify. Resolution is lower than I’d like at 1,920 x 1,280, just slightly higher than Full HD, but I’m probably more concerned about higher resolutions than the typical productivity user. The screen was sharp, just not as sharp as I like.

HP advertises 400 nits of brightness, and I’m sure the display approaches that metric. I never found it too dim in my usual working environment, but it wasn’t bright enough to use outside in the sunlight (as is the case with most laptops). HP offers its latest Sure View Reflect privacy screen as an option, and it’s much brighter at 1,000 nits with the privacy function turned off — making it an option for anyone who wants a very bright display.

Colors seemed bright and natural and not oversaturated. I can’t attest to the accuracy, but I saw nothing amiss as I used the display next to a Dell XPS 13. Netflix and other streaming video seemed neither too bright nor too dark, so gamma seems to be on point.

Overall, I enjoyed using the display. Taller displays are so much more functional than old-school 16:9 panels, and so I can see the Elite Folio making short work of longer we pages and documents.

The two upward-firing speakers to each side of the keyboard put out sufficient volume for watching YouTube videos and the occasional Netflix show. Mids and highs are clear and pleasant, but the bass is almost no-existent. It’s a good sound system for such a small laptop, but you’ll still want a pair of headphones for longer binge sessions and music listening.

Keyboard and touchpad

Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

The Elite Folio utilizes a version of the Elite keyboard, which is similar to the version HP uses on its Spectre line but not exactly the same. It’s engineered to be consistent across the keyboard and very stable — and it shows. There’s also sufficient travel at 1.3mm, with a comfortable bottoming action and a light touch. I don’t find it quite as springy as the Spectre Folio’s keyboard, and so I still prefer that one to the Elite Folio’s, but the latter’s keyboard still ranks up there with the best.

The touchpad on the Elite Folio is slightly larger than the one on the Spectre Folio, thanks to the taller display and the additional space on the keyboard deck. It’s not quite as large as the touchpad on the Spectre x360 14. It was as responsive as all Microsoft Precision touchpads are, providing precise and reliable support for Windows 10’s multitouch gestures.

The Elite Folio’s display is touch-enabled and responsive. More interesting is the active pen that has its own dock and charging station above the keyboard. It’s a great solution for storing the pen, although it does make the pen flat rather than round. I found it quite comfortable in use, though. It supports 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity and tilt, and it works well with Windows 10’s inking capabilities. The 3:2 aspect ratio is also more comfortable for writing on the screen, being wider when held as a tablet in portrait mode and closer to a regular piece of paper in terms of dimensions. HP estimates that the pen’s charge will last for 10 days of three hours usage a day, but of course, you can keep it topped off just by storing it in its rightful place.

An infrared camera and facial recognition provide windows 10 Hello support, and I found it fast and reliable. HP built in a physical privacy shutter for the webcam, and so you’ll need to make sure that it’s open if you want to log in using your face.

Battery life

Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

HP packed a 46 watt-hour battery into the Elite Folio’s diminutive chassis, which is less than some competitors. The Spectre x360 14, for example, has 67 watt-hours available. The Qualcomm CPU is supposed to be very efficient, however, and so I was expecting battery life to excel.

Once again, I was limited in the number of benchmarks I could run. The PCMark 10 tests wouldn’t run on the Elite Folio, so I was limited to just our web and video tests. In web testing, which runs through a series of popular webpages, the Elite Folio managed just under 11 hours, compared to the Lenovo Flex 5G with the previous-generation Snapdragon 8cx that went for 17 hours. The Elite Folio’s longevity on this test was barely better than average for recent Intel 11th-gen Tiger Lake laptops — and many lasted for far longer. The Samsung Galaxy Book Pro 360 with a Core i7-1165G7, for example, lasted for more than 1.5 hours longer. I expected better performance from the Elite Folio on this test.

On our video test that loops through a 1080p movie trailer, the Elite Folio lasted for 19-and-a-half hours. That’s a strong showing, but again, it’s well behind the Lenovo Flex 5G’s 28 hours. The Galaxy Book Pro 360 made it to 17.5 hours, and again the Elite Folio underwhelmed given its efficient ARM CPU.

There’s no doubt that the Elite Folio will last a full day of work, but it doesn’t quite live up to its processor’s promise. That might be due to the relatively small battery capacity, which is a function of the laptop’s diminutive base portion. Whatever the case, the HP Elite Folio lasts longer than your average Intel-based laptop, but it’s far from being the longest-lasting among the other Snapdragon-based laptops we’ve tested.

Our take

The Spectre Folio was a standout machine when it was introduced in 2018. Its leather was luxurious, and its design innovative. The Elite Folio offers the same design, modified slightly to be even more effective thanks to the display’s 3:2 aspect ratio. I’ll note that the vegan leather material isn’t as viscerally pleasing as the genuine leather on the Spectre Folio, but it’s still more comfortable than bare metal.

The Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 underwhelmed. Its performance wasn’t much improved over the previous generation, and it remains a slower CPU that complicates things with limited application compatibility. And the Elite Folio’s battery life is competitive with Intel-based laptops, but it should be better. It’s not bad; it’s just doesn’t live up to its potential.

Overall, the laptop is pleasant to use, with a great keyboard and pen, and it offers fast always-on connectivity options. If you need a 2-in-1 that you can take anywhere and get work done, albeit a little more slowly, then the Elite Folio is a good choice.

Are there any alternatives?

The Lenovo Flex 5G might use the previous-generation processor, but it performs almost as well as the Elite Folio and gets far better battery life. As with our other alternatives, it’s also several hundred dollars less. You’ll just have to give up the pull-forward design and the vegan leather.

The HP Spectre x360 14 is a superior 2-in-1 in terms of performance and, with a lower resolution display, competes in battery life. We reviewed the model with the OLED display, and that machine is less expensive than the Elite Folio while offering a vastly superior visual experience.

The Dell XPS 13 9310 is a solid choice if you don’t need a 2-in-1. It’s just as well-built, also has an excellent keyboard, and outperforms the Elite Folio. Get the Full HD display and you’ll see similar battery life while spending hundreds less.

How long will it last?

The Elite Folio should last for years thanks to a robust build — as long as the vegan leather material holds out, which we won’t know until it’s been subjected to the usual treatment. There’s only a one-year warranty, which is industry standard and disappointing for a commercial laptop. Note that it’s just $75 to upgrade to a three-year warranty, which is a bargain.

Should you buy it?

Yes, if you need to work anywhere and you like the pull-forward 2-in-1 design.

Editors’ Choice




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Categories
Tech News

Telegram group video chat take on Zoom with a twist next month

Although video conferencing has become almost a fact of life these days and “Zoom fatigue” has started to become a real problem, there are still companies and services that are trying to compete or even unseat the leaders in that space. And it’s not just the usual culprits of Google, Facebook, and Microsoft either but other more focused services are also jumping on board. The latest that will be joining the bandwagon is Telegram who will be putting a different twist to the idea next month.

Telegram originally planned to add group video chat capabilities to the service last year when the first wave of lockdowns and work from home arrangements hit people around the globe. For better or worse, Telegram delayed that rollout and perhaps avoided being drowned by the torrent of announcements and features coming from bigger companies. The WhatsApp brouhaha earlier this year also put Telegram under the spotlight, which meant now would be the perfect time to roll out something big like this.

That said, Telegram’s group video calls might not rival Zoom one-on-one, at least not based on what CEO Pavel Durov said. He teased that the service will be adding a video dimension to its voice chats. If that’s the case, it might be more like a video Clubhouse than Zoom.

Telegram’s Voice Chats 2.0 was just announced last month and was its take on the audio-only social platform popularized by Clubhouse. If its group video conferencing feature will be built on top of that, it will be turning the tables on the Zoom convention, with “attendees” muted by default and only the speakers or organizers have the floor. At least until it’s time for some Q&A and attendees are given the mic temporarily.

Of course, Zoom and others like it can be set up to do the same anyway. What Telegram will be promoting, of course, will be the security of its feature, thanks to encryption, and other niceties like noise cancellation and, at least according to Durov, speed.

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Categories
Game

Xbox Series X|S restocked at Target, but this time there’s a twist

Target has apparently restocked the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S, and if your efforts to secure one of these consoles have only been an exercise in frustration so far, this might be your best chance yet to get one. Target, as it’s done a few times in the past, has opened up online orders for those consoles, but the twist here is that you’ll need to order them for in-store pickup.

While this might not be as convenient as home delivery, this does make it a bit easier for regular people to secure a console for themselves. As many next-gen console sales have moved online, consumers have had to contend with bots and scalpers snatching up as much stock as they can as quickly as they can. Bots, however, can’t drive to a store and pick up a console, and with Target limiting pickups to one per person, scalpers may be disinclined to go this route as well.

For me, Target is showing the Xbox Series S in stock at the moment, while the Xbox Series X is shown as out of stock. Since these orders are for in-store pickup only, we’re guessing that what the website shows is based on geolocation, so some shoppers who are quick might be able to find the Xbox Series X in stock at a store near them.

At the very least, this could be a good chance to snag an Xbox Series S, which for months has been as equally difficult to find as its more powerful counterpart. We’ve seen things to suggest that the demand for Xbox Series S is easing a little bit, so if you want to start the next generation off with Microsoft’s $299.99 offering, it shouldn’t be too terribly difficult to secure one moving forward.

Meanwhile, the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 remain as hard to find as ever, and there’s been no indication of those stock problems easing. We’ll let you know when we catch wind of another restock, but for now, those in the market for an Xbox Series X or Xbox Series S should head over to Target’s website and see if there’s any stock available at nearby stores.

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Categories
Game

PUBG: New State gives battle royale a twist on iOS and Android this year

There’s a new mobile game on the way from the creators of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, and this one is called PUBG: New State. This is not just a mobile take on the mainline PUBG game like PUBG Mobile is, but rather a futuristic take on the PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds universe. That means players will be competing on a new map with futuristic weapons and tools at their disposal.

PUBG: New State is being developed by PUBG Corp and Krafton, Inc. The two companies say that PUBG: New State “features graphics that push the limits of mobile gaming” via Global Illumination rendering tech, and that the game will feature a weapon customization system that players can tap into by finding customization kits in the in-game world. While the customization feature hasn’t been described in-depth yet, Krafton’s announcement today says that it will include “performance enhancements, fire mode selection, and grenade launcher attachments,” so it may be somewhat similar to the customization features in Apex Legends.

In any case, the free-to-play PUBG: New State is set in the year 2051 on a new map called TROI. We’ll apparently get new details on the PUBG universe, so if you’ve ever wondered what the lore behind PUBG is, you might actually learn it in this game. Being set in the near-future, players will be able to use tools like drones and a “futuristic ballistic shield” to help them win battle royale matches. Krafton says that TROI is an 8×8 map, so it should be around the size of Erangel and Miramar from PUBG proper.

PUBG: New State will be launching on iOS and Android later this year, and pre-registration is open today on the Google Play Store – Krafton promises that pre-registration for iOS is coming soon. While it seems that PUBG Corp and Krafton intend to have PUBG: New State exist alongside PUBG Mobile, this also seems to be a move to get a PUBG mobile game back on app stores in India as well, which banned PUBG Mobile last year because of the game’s ties to Chinese megacorporation Tencent.

So, we’re getting a new PUBG mobile game later this year, and it looks like it’s going to be a fair bit different from what’s currently on offer. We’ll let you know when more is revealed, but for now, PUBG fanatics can hit that pre-registration link over at the Google Play Store.

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