Wednesday, January 20, 2016
Author: Ken Scott
Old Personal Computer

The word ‘computer’ refers to a device or person that possesses the capability to compute. The earliest computer was invented a little more than half a century ago. In fact, the term PC or Personal Computer, which we are all used to by now, did not exist until the first home computer hit the commercial markets.

Our generation is so used to the PC; we practically use it for everything today. But, did you know that the modern PC is the result of a spectrum of technological evolution that occurred over decades. Well, if you didn’t, here’s a brief look at all the technologies that have led to the enhanced version of the PC as we know it today.

Magnetic drums and vacuum tubes

The first “computers” were very different from what we use now. They were fed power using vacuum tubes and storage was handled using magnetic drums. The vacuum tubes were used to control the flow of electricity via a sealed container. The container was composed of transparent glass and shaped roughly similar to a cylinder. The magnetic drums used for storage were basically cylinders coated with metal and a material called magnetic iron-oxide.

The first computer was called the ENIAC (Electric Numerical Integrator and Computer) and John Presper Eckert and John Mauchly invented it. The ENIAC’s construction included 70,000 resistors, 17,458 vacuum tubes, 1,500 relays, 10,000 capacitors, 6000 manual switches, and 5,000,000 soldered joints. It was a massive machine that covered the 1800 square feet and weighed over 25 tons. The ENIAC could carry out large-scale calculations within a second. To be more precise, that included 38 divisions, 357 multiplications or 5,000 additions.

However, due to the complex parts involved, re-programming the computer would take up to a week and maintenance was required round the clock. ENIAC was also an expensive machine to run and its application was limited to very specific tasks. Other problems included overheating and extremely high electricity consumption.

The advent of transistors

By 1956, vacuum tubes were replaced by a new technology that allowed computers to run transistors. Transistors had a significant impact on how electronics were developed and they were mich more dependable than vacuum tubes. Thanks to transistor, computers became more efficient, smaller, cheaper, and also, faster. This was also the time symbolic language like FORTRAN and COBOL came into play. These languages would eventually build the foundation for advanced programming languages of the future.

Eventually, even transistors had to be replaced with something better because they were causing drastic heating issues that led to internal damages.

Integrated circuits


By 1964, transistors were on the way out and being replaced by integrated circuits. Integrated circuits were a huge advancement in the field of semi-conductor technology. They paved the way for miniature transistors to be mounted on silicon chips. Some would say that this was the beginning of the modern computer. These integrated circuits improved things in a major way. Speeds improved and computers became way more efficient. Added to that, computers became smaller and could be accessed by a larger audience. Eventually, keyboards replaced punch cards and the monitor display was integrated into the system. This phase also saw operating systems come into play, allowing the execution of multiple applications on a single system.

The PC is born

The 4th generation saw the rise of the personal computer. This phase in the evolution of computers saw the development of microprocessors and it happened during the year 1971. Intel developed the first chip and it was called the 4004. Microprocessors consist of several integrated circuits on a single silicon chip. The chip played host to the CPU, input controls, output controls, and memory. The technology was simple leaps and bounds ahead of the previous generations.

A decade from this point, the world saw the launch of the first home computer or PC, which was introduced into the market by IBM. Apple with its signature Macintosh or the Mac soon followed IBM, as we refer to it now.

From here on, several iterations of the PC began to evolve, including the portable laptop.

The Internet and GUI

The next phase saw the creation of computer networks, which eventually led to the development of what we now refer to as the ‘internet’. This was also the same time advanced versions of GUIs (Graphical User Interfaces) came into being. GUIs are what allow us to use mice and keyboards to navigate our respective operating systems.

The Internet, on the other hand, needs very little introduction. Thanks to the Internet, our PCs today are more than just computing machines. They serve every task imaginable from allowing us to communicate with several people across the globe to even choosing our favorite kind of entertainment. 

Today’s PCs still run on microprocessors, however, on versions that are highly advanced compared to their predecessors.

Friday, October 30, 2015
Author: Ken Scott

Azure is a cloud computing platform and infrastructure from Microsoft you can use for building, deploying and managing applications and services through a worldwide network of Microsoft-managed and Microsoft partner-hosted datacenters.

Recently, five major new features have been added to Microsoft Azure, including some expansions to existing features. These new features and additions are sure to be of interest to a wide range of users.

Azure to Integrate with Akamai CDN

Although Microsoft has always enjoyed a close relationship with Akamai, early in 2016, Azure users will be able to deploy content into the Akamai content delivery network and buy Akamai offerings through their Azure self-service portal. This will allow users to reach a broader audience, particularly in Latin America and Asia.

PowerShell Almost Ready

The preview release of Azure Powershell 1.0 arrived earlier this month. With it, you can manage Azure resources and services from the command line instead of through a graphical user interface (GUI.) However, it’s a huge change that it is not compatible with previous versions.

Azure App Service Supports Go

Support for Google’s Go with Web apps was added to Azure earlier this month. Currently, only Go 1.4.2 and Go 1.5.1 are supported in their 64-bit forms and the whole package is experimental at present. Azure will configure the web.config file if needed for the app, but you can supply your own if your implementation requires custom settings. Eventually, Go support on Azure with offer full support status.

Azure Backup Improved

Azure Backup has grown to provide backup support for Microsoft SQL Server, SharePoint Server, Microsoft Exchange, and Windows Clients. The cost of backups is two-fold. There’s one charge for the size of the instance itself ($5 and up) and a charge for the storage used by the backup. The range of products covered by Azure Backup will likely continue to expand.

Azure File Storage Has SMB

Azure File Storage performs conventional Windows file shares via the SMB 3.0 protocol in the cloud. The idea is to support existing applications as they are moved to the cloud, some of which might depend of Server Message Block share operations. These shares can be mounted anywhere, allowing cloud and on-premises applications to share storage and data in a recognizable way.

It should be noted that clients connecting to an Azure File Storage share will be limited by their level of SMB support. SMB 2.1 for Windows 7 lacks support for encryption; Windows 8 and up, as well as Windows Server 2012 and up supports SMB 3.0, but most recent Linux distributions support SMB 3.0.

Monday, June 15, 2015
Author: Ken Scott
Acer’s Budget Ultraportable TravelMate B

If ultraportables have seemed elusively out of reach, Acer’s new machine the TravelMate B also going by the model number TMB115-MP-C23C, may offer some respite.

Affordable touch-screen ultraportable

Acer’s ultraportable is a laptop that comes at a highly competitive and very affordable $379. This may seem a tad higher than others in the budget segment, but keep in mind that the TravelMateB is a touch-enabled device that comes loaded with Windows 8.1. The TravelMate B has a 10 point touch screen system which is almost unheard of at this price point. The touch screen adds a bit to its price tag, with cheaper alternatives in non-touchscreen variants available from the likes of HP.  An added bonus is the two-year warranty that Acer offers for this laptop, compared to the usual one year that is the norm.

Its polycarbonate frame in black matte is a diminutive 0.83 x 11.5 x 8.5 inches (height/width/depth) and comes with a 11.6-inch screen that’s big enough to get the job done. Don’t expect any wonders from its LCD screen that comes in a 1366 x 768 resolution and you won’t be disappointed. Easy to travel with, it weighs in at 2.89 pounds.

Flexibility and connectivity

It comes equipped with multiple ports making it a handy device for daily use at work or home. Users will find the flexibility of having two USB 2.0 ports, as well as USB 3.0 port and an SD card slot along with an HDMI port and Ethernet port a big plus. Add to that the thoughtfully included HDMI to VGA adapter and you have a machine that is handy to hook up to an older style monitor as well. The WiFi is enabled to work on 5GHz networks as well as 2.4GHz networks, while the wireless connectivity comes from Bluetooth 4.0.

Packing some decent processing power

The TravelMate B comes with the processing power of the quad-core Intel Celeron N2940.  And while it doesn’t top the charts, it isn’t a straggler either, coming in at a healthy midway ranking on most tests. The integrated Intel HD graphics and its 1.83 GHz processor don’t pack enough of a punch to let you do any serious gaming, but it does fine on regular processing, browsing and Photoshop usage tests.

The TravelMate B has better memory and more storage capacity than most others in the budget segment with 4GB RAM and 500GB storage capacity.

A battery that keeps giving

The big thing the ultraportable from Acer has going for it, is the healthy 7 hours plus battery life. It may not quite compare to the nine hours a new MacBook 12 inch, but then again, it is so much more affordable.

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Monday, June 8, 2015
Author: Ken Scott
Linux

Technology, in recent times, has become a core part of all business related operations. So much so, that companies spend considerable amounts of money, time and other resources in order to ensure the proper setup of a technological infrastructure. This move towards a technology centered business and work environment only continues to expand and grow as time passes.

OS X Yosemite

As a business yourself, you probably put in a lot of effort in setting up your IT infrastructure as well, or maybe, you are in the process of doing so. You've probably noticed that one of the most major concerns about setting up a proper IT infrastructure was or is finding the right operating system (OS) for your systems. The most obvious choices would've included either the Apple OSX or the more common Microsoft Windows. But, there is and has always been another player in the game. A dark-horse by the name of Linux. If you haven't considered trying or switching to this OS, here are reasons why you should.

Cost-effective

The term 'cost-effective' wouldn't be the right term to describe the budget friendliness aspect of Linux because the fact is, the OS is absolutely free. All you have to download it from the company website and install it onto your systems. This is obviously a huge advantage, considering the facts that it’s rivals are quite expensive, especially the OSX operating system from Apple. Plus, Linux is also open-source, which means you get to do what you want with it. You can customize or modify it to suit your requirements.

User friendly

Though this was not the case earlier, Linux has changed a lot since its initial arrival. The system is just as easy to use as any other major operating system. It uses standard Unix commands and has a layout that is almost the same as any other commercial Unix based operating system. Though, the average user might find the dependence on keyboards too much to handle, it's a small price to pay for the flexibility and power that comes with Linux.

Those who are particular about a Graphical User Interface can always opt for add-ons such as Kubuntu and ZorinOS.

Security

Being an open-source platform, Linux has dedicated communities revolving around its development. Everyday, these communities work towards providing the latest bug and security fixes. On the other hand, popular OS options such as Windows and OSX depend on their parent companies to come up with security patches, which aren't always regular.

Low-resource requirement

Linux depends on minimal resources to operate and therefore, rarely faces performance issues. This isn't the case with an OS like Windows, because as systems get older, they become unable to support its high-resource requirements.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015
Author: Ken Scott
MSI GT 80 Titan SLI

Hard core gamers have longed for the comfort and rigidity of a mechanical keyboard since a long time. But not anymore! MSI has started a new era of first gaming beasts with a lesser-known feature for gaming laptops like mechanical keyboard. Pack it with a powerful Intel Core i7 processor and two NVidia GeForce GPUs in SLI and the much-needed ability to upgrade your hardware later, and you’ve built yourself a perfect replacement to desktop that you always deserved.

The great features

With amazing gaming performance, upgradable chassis and fantastic mechanical keyboard, this is surely a tough opponent for every gaming rig out there. Here is what MSI GT Titan SLI has to offer:

Design

MSI understands that an imposing but graceful design is perfect for such a gaming beast. This explains the extremely elegant black aluminum lid, brushed lightly. The red MSI Gaming Series emblem at the back along with the MSI logo simply adds class to the package.

It greets you with an amazing red back lit keyboard. Buttons for power and fan speed are placed above the track pad, to the right of the keyboard. Its carriage (rear and under) is made of black aluminum alloy, and the whole system design gives you the feeling of handling a muscle machine.

Keyboard

Keyboards with mechanical switches are far more durable than the ones with membrane switches and the Titan SLI keyboard has been tested to last 50 million keystrokes. It also provides a much stronger feedback than other gaming laptops in the market.

Display

The MSI GT 80 Titan SLI sports a 18.4-inch screen which is vivid, with crisp detail and expansive viewing angles. While a 4K display would have been truly awesome, the laptop's 1920 x 1080 panel is efficient enough to deal with anything you throw at it.

MSI GT 80 Titan SLI

Graphics and gaming

MSI has equipped their new gaming beast with not one but two Nvidia GeForce GTX 890 GPUs that deliver face-melting performance. You can run nearly any game on 'Ultra' graphics settings and it'll never make you feel a single glitch.

The touchpad and numpad combo

Pressing an illuminated Num button on the top-left nook of the touchpad changes it into a digital numpad. The two discrete mouse buttons provide powerful feedback, with a pleasant audible click that absolutely complements the mechanical keyboard.

The not-so-great features

  • Even though the laptop's 1920 x 1080 panel is amazing and crisp, a 4k display would have just made this a perfect gaming masterpiece
  • The laptop has a poor battery performance, even for a gaming laptop.
  • While the pair of Dynaudio speakers does sound fine, MSI could have used more bass to power the speaker.

The verdict

MSI's GT 80 Titan SLI has it all. It delivers amazingly fast performance every time you turn it on. All this, and it also sports a mechanical keyboard that delivers both superior precision and outstanding feedback.

GT 80 Titan SLI – Starting price: $3,399

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Thursday, May 14, 2015
Author: Ken Scott
OS X Yosemite

When it comes to computerizing your workplace, there are a lot of complex and confusing decisions to be made. One of those decisions is to choose the right kind of operating system for your workstations. Each operating system comes with its own set of strengths and weaknesses.

You will have to find one that would suit your operations and overall business better. In this scenario, it would be ideal to look at all your options and test them against your requirements. Here are the top OS options available in the market for you to take a look at.

The Big 2

Though there are more OS options available, the 2 most popular and widely used options include Windows and OSX and therefore, our comparisons will be limited to these options. To start off, we will take a look at Windows first.

Windows: Microsoft's Windows is the staple operating system for more than half the organizations around the world because it is highly flexible and compatible with multiple programs and software. This high level of flexibility and compatibility comes in handy, especially, if your organization has to constantly collaborate on work or share files with clients or other businesses.

Windows is also quite user friendly, which means you won't have to spend considerable amounts of money or time trying to train employees. In fact, windows is so common that most of your employees probably know their way around it.  Speaking of the flexibility mentioned earlier, Windows can be used with multiple hardware options giving you the freedom to pick and choose only the components that you would require.

Coming to the drawbacks, the truth is that windows has many. One of the main issues with windows is security. This OS has a wide list of viruses and other computer infections that it falls victim to on a regular basis. The other issue is that of hardware and software maintenance. Owing to the large number of software and hardware options available for Windows, not every configuration can be tested officially. This results in a lot of configuration problems and eventually leads to instability.

Nevertheless, Windows makes a good option if you aren't too concerned about security or regular maintenance.

OSX: Though not as common as the Windows OS, it is, nevertheless, considered to be far superior by its patrons. Apple's OSX is the dream operating system for those involved in content creation. It's built on the Unix platform, which gives it a wide range of advantageous features.

It also hosts applications that are optimized for the purpose of content creation, be it textual or visual. It is also extremely easy to operate and users constantly praise it for its brilliant interface. Work processes become smoother and problem free with OSX. It is also very secure compared to windows since there aren't too many viruses or malware designed for OSX.

However, there are drawbacks even to OSX. To begin with, OSX is an expensive program and would not be feasible unless your work involves continuous content creation. Even the annual updates tend to burn a hole in company budgets. The other issue is that it isn't compatible with multiple hardware or software options like Windows. OSX runs only on Apple hardware, which means you will have to buy the complete Apple system, which isn't cost-friendly at all. So, unless you are an organization whose service involves constant content creation, OSX isn't for you.

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Tuesday, May 5, 2015
Author: Ken Scott
Gtel

Gtel, the Zimbabwean company, has become known for its mobile phones and customized Original Design Manufacturer (ODM) hardware. The company has now ventured into tablets with its first one called the T9000 tab. They have chosen to go with a Windows OS for their first tablet, moving away from the trend of Android tabs that have been flooding the market. How does this tablet fare and is it worth buying?

Features and specs in the Gtel T9000 Windows Tab

The Gtel T9000 Windows Tab features a roomy 8.9 inch screen that works really well for watching videos, although the in-built speakers are not that great unless you are in a very quiet place. Windows has made its OS free for devices that are smaller than 9 inches, which is helping Gtel price their tab much lower than would have been otherwise possible for a Windows OS tablet.

Some basic specs of the Gtel T9000 Windows Tab:

  • 8.9’ 1920x1200 multi touch touchscreen display that works at 254ppi for the tab
  • Intel Atom z3735F Quad Core 1.83GHz processor
  • 2GB DDR3 RAM
  • 32GB TF cards storage
  • 5 megapixel primary back and 2 megapixel secondary front camera
  • 8000mAh battery
  • Windows 8.1 OS, but also optimized for Android KitKat Intel HD Graphics card

Gtel provides a wireless keyboard as part of the package for this tab, which is very convenient especially if you intend to use it for extended periods for typing and writing.

The body has a glass front and back with an aluminium finish in gray and black, making the tab look and feel very premium. However, the body plus the TF card storage make the tablet quite heavy and bulky. The bulkiness makes it less portable, so if that is something you are looking at, then consider your options carefully.

Being a Windows tab automatically reduces the choice of apps on this tablet. However, most apps that can be used for a Windows desktop can be used on this tab. Some of these apps are not optimized for tablets and touchscreens, so using the keyboard more often might be a good idea.

Pros

  • Comes with a wireless keyboard
  • Software updates directly by Microsoft
  • Battery good for daily use, lasts up to a day with a single charge
  • Wireless keyboard shipped with tablet

Cons

  • Heavy bodyweight
  • Camera gives poor quality photos and does not have an in-built flash
  • Files cannot be directly copied from PC to tablet
  • No choice between Windows and Android, although box mentions it to be so

Overall the tablet seems to be built sturdily, performs well for most day to day activities and has a good battery backup. Downside is its heavy body, a not-so-great camera and the fact that it is only usable with Windows 8.1.

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Thursday, April 30, 2015
Author: Ken Scott
Acer C910 Chromebook

The release of the Broadwell microarchitecture in September 2014 raised expectations of laptops and desktops getting the new fifth generation Intel i5 processors that claims to be the best silicone chip till date. Acer has not yet released any laptops with this new processor, but it has revamped an older model, the Acer C910 Chromebook with the Intel i5 Broadwell CPU. This beefed Chromebook is slated to be released in April 2015.

Has Broadwell made a big difference to performance of the Acer Chromebook?

The Acer C910 Chromebook is the only laptop with chrome OS, other than the Google Chromebook, to feature Broadwell microarchitecture as of now. This is a step up for the laptop from the earlier Core i3 and Celeron processor options that it was initially introduced with. This new processor is capable of speeds up to 2.2GHz, which is quite a jump from the earlier processors featured on this mode which clocked at about 1.6GHz. This automatically makes this laptop work faster and more seamlessly than its predecessors and, with the large display, is a sure winner.

What new to expect in the new Chromebook

The Acer C910 Chromebook is the only 15.6 inch Chromebook in the market today. And this upgrade surely makes it more desirable. Many Chromebook users were complaining that the larger size and heavier body makes it less mobile than earlier Chromebooks, but that is something that does not really affect real usage, since most use these systems only at home or office, simply moving around within the space. 

Some amazing features of this laptop that you should know about:

  • Intel i5 5200U processor
  • First Chromebook with a 15.6 Inch full HD IPS display
  • 4GB RAM
  • 32GB SSD storage
  • Body can withstand up to 132 pounds/60 kilos of force and 18 inches of drop without damage
  • Largest touchpad in any Chromebook
  • Up to 8 hours of battery life in a single charge

One big drawback of this laptop, though, is it weight. At close to 5lbs, it is not build for being carried out, if that is what you are looking for in your next laptop. 

Given the sturdy build quality, this laptop is perfect to be used in public spaces and in schools, where there is every chance of it being dropped or handled roughly on a regular basis. Acer believes that this laptop can withstand more impact than almost any other laptop in the market today.

If you are looking at a laptop to be carried around, then this is might not be your top choice. But if that is not a priority, then this Chromebook might surprise you with its speed and performance, and let you enjoy the large screen and great sound while you watch your favorite videos and movies.

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Monday, April 6, 2015
Author: Ken Scott
Acer Aspire V 15 Nitro

Gaming laptops are no longer simply desktop replacements. The latest gaming device from Acer - the Aspire V15 Nitro - is sleek enough and can be easily placed in any book bag, yet it is packed with power to enable you to enjoy your games on it.

Design review of the V 15 Nitro

The Aspire V 15 Nitro measures 0.9x15.3x10.1 inches and weighs 5.29 pounds. It has a plastic framework in black and a rough texture on the top. The hinge comes in metal and is quite sturdy. This metal also forms the internal framework of the device. You will find “Aspire V Nitro" stamped across the hinge. Overall, the quite a decent design as far as a gaming laptop is concerned.

Just as the lid, the touchpad and the palm rest have a similar matte-black finish. However, backlight of the keyboard is a bright red which lights up the key edges and the lettering. There is quite a good feeling working on the chiclet-style keyboard as you type; however even though the slightly flat keycaps work, one might miss the curved key surfaces when comparing it to the Lenovo Y50 Touch.

You will get access to all gesture controls required in Windows 8 with a huge click pad, but it is not exactly ideal as far gaming is concerned. A separate mouse is designed for gaming is recommended.

The laptop rental comes with a 15.6 inch screen display along with a 1,920x1, 080 resolution. The Aspire V 15 Nitro’s screen display allows you to save a lot of money and you don’t really sacrifice on the gaming experience. In fact the audio is surprisingly good and comes with four in-built speakers and surround sound (Dolby Digital Home Theater). The quality of the sound is also quite clear with minimum warp even at a high volume.

Features of the Aspire V 15 Nitro

The laptop is equipped with a 128GB SSD which enables quicker boosting and enhanced performance. In addition to this, there is also a 1TB storage hard drive in the device.

Boutique vendors typically customize a gaming device and avoid installing any unwanted programs and apps. But the Aspire V 15 Nitro is loaded up in the same manner as the other Acer consumer models. The start screen will have several apps including eBook, Amazon Kindle, Netflix, Flipboard, eBay, Evernote Touch and many more.

The system has the GeForce Experience backed by Nvidia that offers one single dashboard for updating and installing drivers. There are numerous baked-in features such as ShadowPlay (recording/sharing video), GameStream as well as Battery Boost.

Check out all the features of this gaming laptop by Acer at a computer rental near you!

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Monday, March 30, 2015
Author: Ken Scott
HP EliteBook Folio 1020

HP EliteBook Folio 1020 is said to be the lightest and slimmest business notebook available. The price for HP EliteBooks range from $1,199 to $1,499. It is built to be very secure inside and at the same time it is amazingly sleek externally. The highlights of the product are its 12.5-inch quad HD display, innovative touchpad and a fingerprint reader. If not for a few shortcomings, this would have been the best product in the market in its class.

The design

The laptop measures 0.63 by 12.2 by 8.27 inches and weighs only 2.68 pounds. It is evidently a little smaller than the MacBook Air, which measures 13 inches. The resemblance and similarity of design between the MacBook Air and HP EliteBook is suspiciously striking. The latter has an additional fingerprint reader and the chassis has both aluminum and magnesium alloy. Owing to the Intel Core M processor, the HP EliteBook Folio 1020 has a fanless design that is comparable to the CPU used in Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro. These are features that Apple fails to offer.

On the left, The EliteBook 1020 has a USB 2.0, microSD and a Kensington lock and HDMI. On the right side, a DC-in, a headphone jack, HP's proprietary docking connector and an extra USB 2.0 port is added.

The 720p webcam will be suited for use in office conference calls. The pictures taken with it is not of a great quality.

Durability

The EliteBook 1020 has a very strong chassis made with very rigid adherence to the MIL-STD-810G standards. This makes it more resistant to temperature extremes, dust and drops. It is just as secure on the inside. The HP Client Security app serves as a safe keeping hub for the EliteBook. You can use it to access drives, ports and store online passwords.

It also has Absolute Data Protect that lasts for four years. It will allow you to track your PC in case it goes missing. You can also remote lock and delete data. HP's Sure Start technology also makes sure that you can restore the BIOS in 30 seconds in case of a malware attack. You can also make sure that your files are secure with the fingerprint reader placed just under the right hand side of the keyboard.

Pros

  • Slim and light weight design
  • Strong and fanless chassis
  • Ultraportable design with added security features
  • MIL-Spec construction
  • Touch screen
  • The Intel Core M CPU is very energy-efficient
  • Compatible with the UltraSlim Dock

Cons

  • Short battery life as compared to the others in its class
  • The Intel Core M CPU is not of the same standards as that of Intel Core i5 processor.
  • The display is reflective and has low brightness
  • A short one year warranty
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