If you need a new laptop but want to wander off the beaten path of Windows and Mac, now’s a great time to try a Chromebook. These Chrome-powered laptops have been around for more than a decade and have really come into their own in latest years, but they only really stole the spotlight recently thanks to the surge of new people doing their work and studies from home. The cloud-based simplicity of Chrome OS is ideal for those who live online, and the fact that Chromebooks are pretty affordable doesn’t hurt their appeal, either. Caught your eye? Keep reading: We’ve got the week’s best Chromebook deals right here.
Looking for a Chromebook from one of the best laptop brands is always a good place to start. In the case of the HP Chromebook 11, you can carry this thing around almost as easily as a tablet because it’s so light and compact. The idea is that it’s best designed for younger students that are just starting out on their academic journey and therefore just starting out with technology like this too. It offers a nice keyboard for its size, and it’s robust and versatile. Students can use it for both typing up notes and for getting assignments done.
As expected, this Chromebook uses Chrome OS which means there are plenty of different games, productivity apps, and hands-on learning tools available through the service. It keeps things simple but that means that parents will know their child is using the system for the right reasons rather than anything potentially worrying. It still covers all the key bases, though, with a front-facing camera for video calls and taking classes online. The Chromebook uses an AMD A4 mobile processor, which is good enough for basic activities with 4GB of memory helping out. Its 32GB of eMMC storage is sufficient for storing the operating system and other vital files. The 11-inch display looks pretty good, too, with an HD resolution which is fine for this size.
This Chromebook is lightweight so it’s incredibly portable as you would expect from an 11-inch laptop. A solid battery life means you or your child can work hard without you needing to find a power source in the middle of a class.
The Lenovo Chromebook 3 gets things done in the style you would expect from such a well-regarded laptop brand. A standout feature is its 14-inch HD display that has anti-glare properties. Given it’s what you’ll be looking at most, it’s a great way of reducing the risk of eye strain when working or studying throughout the day. The other highlight for the Lenovo Chromebook 3 is its robust design. It has been rigorously tested so that it can survive bumps and drops, which is no surprise given Lenovo’s penchant f or build quality. If you’re accident-prone or providing this to a child with the same issues, this Chromebook should survive the many days ahead of it.
Under that robust hood is a decent set of specs for the price. It has an Intel Celeron processor along with 4GB of memory. Intel generally provides reasonable processors so while this one won’t be up to anything high-end, it’s perfectly capable of handling the needs of Chrome OS. Hard drive space is a little basic, with just 64GB of eMMC storage but that’s good enough for anyone who focuses on a Chromebook’s main aim — working on the cloud (and you get 100GB of free space via Google Drive).
It’s surprisingly lightweight despite its full-sized frame, so it’s perfect for taking between class or even on your daily commute. The included headset is icing on the cake. Promising dependable performance and a robust design, this Chrome OS laptop is ideal if you want a Chromebook you can rely on for some time to come.
The Lenovo Flex 5i is a smartly designed Chrome OS 2-in-1. While one of the more inexpensive Chromebooks on the market, it looks quite professional, and it’s robust too. It’s a 2-in-1, meaning you can fold the 13-inch 1080p touch display backwards on its hinge to set up this Chromebook in tent mode or lay it totally flat and use it like a tablet. It’s great for art and entertainment, with that convertible design lending a lot of versatility to an otherwise traditional-looking laptop.
Under the hood, this 2-in-1 Chromebook has everything else you could need. It sports an Intel Core i3 processor which is an improvement over many other cheap mobile CPUs. Alongside that, it offers 8GB of memory which is precisely what any Chromebook could require to handle Chrome OS. It also has 64GB of eMMC storage which is about standard for a Chromebook and perfectly sufficient for storing vital files while sticking with the cloud for the majority of other content.
This is a device that’s best suited for working while on the move. With long battery life, you or your child can easily get a lot done without a problem. It even offers fast recharging for those times you aren’t organized and need to charge in a hurry. It might be a straightforward 2-in-1 device, but this Chromebook knows exactly what you need from it most, ensuring it gets all the most vital tasks conducted in no time at all.
The Lenovo IdeaPad Duet 5 offers a few things different from other Chromebooks. It looks good, of course, having the stylings of a higher-end 2-in-1. Thanks to its design, it has a good-feeling keyboard along with an nice touchpad so you won’t feel restricted as you work. There are also a front-facing camera for video calls, online classes, and the like. However, the great hardware doesn’t just stop there. At its heart, this Chromebook has a Qualcomm Snapdragon octa-core processor that means great performance with Chrome OS as well as excellent battery life. The Chrome OS laptop easily works for a full work day without a problem.
The features keep on coming: Unlike most other Chromebooks, it has 8GB of memory which means it can multitask a bit faster than alternatives. There’s a lot more room for your files, too, with 128GB of storage meaning you can actually store many if not most of your digital goodies on your Chromebook rather than having to rely entirely on the cloud. It’s great to have that extra flexibility for the most important files in your life.
Best of all is the Chromebook’s 13-inch OLED touch display that offers maximum color broadness and accuracy. If you need to create colorful presentations on the cloud, this is a great way to ensure you get the most from your system. Offering plenty to love and standing a cut above the rest when it comes to Chrome laptops, this stylish 2-in-1 will deliver you a more premium experience at a great price. It’s the ideal way to get all the security of Chrome OS with all the advantages of its great hardware.
While many Chromebooks feature small 720p displays, the HP 14 2-in-1 Chromebook offers just as much as you could ask from a regular laptop and then some. It has a 14-inch 1080p touchscreen that looks great. If you hate staring at a cramped low-res display, you’re going to love the picture that this one gives you on top of its versatile 2-in-1 form factor. Don’t worry about portability, either: This remains a lightweight and thin design relative to its size. Weighing little more than 3.5 pounds, it’s not too heavy even by Chromebook standards.
You also get very solid hardware: It has an 11th-gen Intel Core i3 processor along with 8GB of memory. That’s more than what you need to get stuff done via Chrome OS. It also has a full 128GB SSD rather than pared-down eMMC storage, so you’ve got enough space for your work files and apps. Refreshingly, it has support for both Bluetooth 5 and Wi-Fi 6 so it’s suitably future-proofed for any connectivity needs you might come across further down the line. Amongst all that hardware is reliable battery life, meaning you can work throughout the day before you need to find a power source. This 2-in-1 Chromebook also offers two USB-C ports for charging your devices or connecting extra hardware.
Smartly designed in almost every way, this Chromebook is an absolutely delightful machine. It’s far classier than its price tag suggests meaning it’ll look great when you’re working from home while still being fully capable too. It’s a great all-rounder for most purposes and is sure to put you in good stead for a while to come.
The biggest sales are fairly easy to spot. Think of a major holiday and there’s probably going to be a sale around then. The brightest highlights are Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Both are major sales events which means retailers cut the price of highly sought-after technology significantly during those times. It’s likely we’ll see some of the best Chromebook deals of the year then, but you’ll need to be quick. Black Friday and Cyber Monday stock tend to be strictly limited which means once it’s gone, it’s gone, and you might miss out.
Alternatively, Prime Day is a key time for sales, too. It’s Amazon’s exclusive sales event, but often other retailers get in on the act and cut their own prices around the same time. Again, technology is some of the most highly sought-after stuff so discounts are pretty deep.
However, there’s a big catch to all of this — timing. Prime Day is not until the summer and Black Friday and Cyber Monday aren’t until near the end of the year. In all cases, you’re going to need to wait to snag one of the best Chromebook deals. There’s not even any guarantee that the deals will be better, though; if you need a Chromebook now, you probably won’t want to wait that long to get one. For one thing, if your existing setup has died, can you last months without a laptop or Chromebook? It’s unlikely, so you’ll need to look for the best offers going right now instead.
If for some reason you can wait it out then do so, but we won’t blame you if you have to dive right in. If nothing else, sales events can be stressful as stock flies out faster so by buying now, you don’t have to worry about stressing over your plans and beating the rush that comes around these big sales events. Plus, you get the benefit of your new Chromebook straight away rather than having to wait for months.
HP, Google and Intel set out to create a complete Chromebook for enterprise more than two years ago. A Chromebook that didn't have just a couple of important features but all of the features business users wanted. The Elite Dragonfly Chromebook is the result, a legit ChromeOS dream machine for hybrid workers.
But despite the Elite Dragonfly Chromebook's greatness, it's probably not for you. Again, this is primarily designed for businesses. Of course, for consumer Chromebook converts who already know the right combo of web, Android and Linux apps needed to get their work done, the Elite Dragonfly is perfect for being productive anywhere.
Unless your IT department is handing one of these beauties over to you, though, the price is likely going to be a deterrent. The. The custom configuration HP sent us for review is more than $1,500, however, and it's an enterprise model with an Intel Core i5 vPro processor -- a first for Chromebooks -- to increase security (which is already strong on Chromebooks). Enterprise versions also get a year of Parallels for Chromebook for those who might need legacy software. For commercial use, you might want a vPro chip but otherwise, the base model is going to be plenty for most Chromebook users. It doesn't include HP's excellent wireless rechargeable pen and it also available for .
|Price as reviewed||$1,519|
|Display size/resolution||13.5-inch 2,256x1,504 touch display|
|CPU||Intel Core i5-1245U vPro|
|Memory||8GB LPDDR4X 4,266 MHz|
|Storage||256GB NVMe PCIe SSD|
|Connections||Thunderbolt 4 USB-C (x2), USB-A, HDMI 2.0 out, microSD slot, 3.5mm combo audio jack|
|Networking||Wi-Fi 6E (802.11ax), Bluetooth 5.2, 4G LTE/5G optional|
|Operating system||ChromeOS/Android 11|
One of the main things HP, Google and Intel focused on with the Elite Dragonfly Chromebook was the collaborative experience. Most manufacturers in the past year bumped up the webcam resolution on premium Chromebooks from 720p to 1080p aka HD to full HD. HP did that, putting a 5-megapixel webcam in the Dragonfly. But it also uses image processing developed originally for Google Pixel phone cameras. There is HDR processing going on in the background to balance out strong shadows as well as blown-out highlights.
For example, the picture above is a screenshot of the Dragonfly's webcam. I'm sitting in a room only lit by the window behind me. While the image is slightly soft and noisy because of the low-light conditions of the room, it's by no means bad. More importantly, the color is accurate and I'm not shrouded in shadows and the building outside the window is visible, not entirely blown out by sunlight. Try this with just about any other built-in webcam and you'd never get an image like this.
And while many laptops will kick on their fans a few seconds into a conference call, the Elite Dragonfly stays silent because of how optimized it is for the task. Add in strong noise cancellation for the built-in mics and clear, clean audio from its top-firing speakers and video calls are actually pleasurable. Plus, there's a physical privacy shutter on the camera and a mic mute button on the keyboard for when you don't want to be seen or heard.
The 12th-gen Intel Core i5 processor is a champ, getting me through typical workdays using a mix of Chrome andand Zoom, Adobe Creative Cloud apps from the Play store and the Linux app for Slack. As I mentioned earlier that this is the first VPro Chromebook, but it's an Intel Evo laptop, too. The two combined mean the Dragonfly meets certain standards for design and performance.
Evo is essentially a guarantee the Chromebook has a thin-and-light body (it weighs less than 3 pounds), has all-day battery life (10 hours, 56 minutes on our streaming video test), instant-on performance when you lift the lid and fast wireless. With VPro it adds enhanced security, namely total memory encryption (TME) and KeyLocker. HP also included a fingerprint reader on the keyboard deck for additional security, though I would rather have it integrated into the power button on the left side of the body for when the two-in-one is in tablet or stand mode.
HP started talking with Google more than four years ago about adding a haptic touchpad to Chromebooks. Coincidentally, the talks dovetailed with Google's desire to Strengthen the keyboard and trackpad experience overall for Chromebook users. The basic idea: create a premium device with a touchpad so good you won't need to carry around a travel mouse.
The Elite Dragonfly's haptic touchpad (another first for Chromebooks) feels like a traditional click and not like a vibration you'd get from a phone or tablet display. Plus you get the same click feel regardless of where you press on the pad. The strength is adjustable but even maxed out it's not aggressive. I do wish there was some way to increase palm rejection, though, because I regularly ended up dragging the cursor on the screen while typing.
The haptics work for other ChromeOS actions, giving you a little buzz when you switch between virtual desktops, for example, or when you snap a window to one side of the display. Google also has plans to build out haptic integration into other areas such as Google Workspace apps. Having this touchpad makes the Elite Dragonfly Chromebook that much more attractive for work.
There's not much to say about the backlit keyboard beyond that it's spacious and comfortable to type on for an extended time. I also appreciate that HP made the function keys a little smaller to squeeze in buttons for the keyboard backlight, playing/pausing media and muting the mic.
As I mentioned earlier, my Dragonfly included an excellent USI pen for taking notes or drawing on the display. It wirelessly charges on the right side of the Chromebook. It magnetically snaps to the side and starts charging and it attaches strongly enough to store that way.
The 3:2 display is close to the size of a standard sheet of paper, making it nice for note-taking. It's also tall so you can fit more vertically on the screen for less scrolling while you work. It wasn't quite bright enough to use outdoors without fighting reflections but it was manageable. HP does offer a 1,000-nit panel which would be the way to go for frequently working outdoors. Plus, it features HP's privacy screen to block people from seeing what's on the display from an off angle.
While the display, keyboard and touchpad are excellent, sometimes it's just more comfortable to work on a big display and use a full-size keyboard and mouse. The Elite Dragonfly Chromebook has a Thunderbolt 4 port on each side. That means you can not only charge from either side but connect to a docking station like thefor a single cable connection to all your peripherals for quickly getting to work.
The dock adds an Ethernet port for the Dragonfly for a wired web connection while working at a desk. But the Chromebook has top-flight wireless, too, with Wi-Fi 6E as well as optional 4G LTE and even 5G support (yet another first for a Chromebook).
Chromebooks were somewhat indistinguishable for several years after. But as ChromeOS matured, higher-end Chromebooks started to show up more regularly. Although, even these premium models topped out at around $500, except for the occasional showpiece. The HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook is a showpiece, loaded with several design and technology pieces that will find their way into future Chromebooks for both business and personal use. It carries a hefty price tag that is likely too much for most people considering a Chromebook, even a premium model. But it's also worth every penny.
Still, if it's too much, the next best options right now are theor the slightly less expensive . You can also that we've tested.
The review process for laptops, desktops, tablets and other computer-like devices consists of two parts: performance testing under controlled conditions in the CNET Labs and extensive hands-on use by our expert reviewers. This includes evaluating a device's aesthetics, ergonomics and features. A final review verdict is a combination of both those objective and subjective judgments.
The list of benchmarking software we use changes over time as the devices we test evolve. The most important core tests we're currently running on every compatible computer include: Primate Labs Geekbench 5, Cinebench R23, PCMark 10 and 3DMark Fire Strike Ultra.
A more detailed description of each benchmark and how we use it can be found in our How We Test Computers page.
Here’s a two-word summary: pretty well!
Upon opening the box you definitely get the feeling that this is more Timex than Rolex: It’s a mass-market device aimed at everyday consumers who don’t necessarily need (or even want) a premium laptop. It’s quite plasticy with a bit of flex to it. It sounds hollow when you tap it. The bezel (the border that frames the display itself) is pretty big compared with higher-end laptops. It’s covered in stickers.
All of the above are signs of a laptop that was designed to hit a low price. But you know what? When you’re actually using the laptop, it isn’t half bad.
In terms of specs, it has an Intel Core i3 processor, 8GB of memory, and 256GB of solid-state storage. On paper, you’d be forgiven for thinking the laptop would be somewhat underwhelming.
Guess again. Browsing around the web, even on today’s ad-laden websites, proceeds smoothly. Watching HD video on YouTube is more or less identical to the experience you’d get on a much more powerful PC (such as the gaming PC this review is being written on), although you can really hear the laptop’s fans whirring while doing so.
Switching between different apps like Edge, Adobe Photoshop Elements, and Word either using the keyboard shortcut alt-tab or by clicking the Windows Task Bar? No problems there, showing that despite being a lower-priced laptop, its everyday performance is more than adequate.
If you’re the type of person who immediately downloads a tool like GeekBench or Prime95 to see how fast your computer actually is, well, none of this may be too impressive. But if you’re not that person (and most of us aren’t), then it’s hard to find much fault here.
I jumped straight from Samsung’s SDC event in San Francisco and analyst life on the road continued in Orlando, where I attended Microsoft’s annual Ignite customer conference for all things enterprise IT. The event is an industry can’t-miss, and I make a point of attending every year to find out what Microsoft has cooking for big and small businesses (see my coverage of 2016, 2017, and 2018 if interested in further background).
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella led off the keynote stressing trust, where I believe it has a certain advantage with end customers versus some of its big tech peers. Let’s take a closer look at what all was announced this year. My briefing book was 87 pages, so, of course, I will only be hitting the high points.
Hybrid cloud Azure Arc and Stack
To me, the biggest “lean-in” for Microsoft at Ignite was around hybrid cloud and the edge, led by Azure Arc.
Azure Arc is a set of technologies that will bring Azure services and management to what Microsoft characterizes as “any datacenter, cloud, and edge”, including Windows and Linux servers and Kubernetes clusters. This includes on-prem, the edge, and even competing clouds like AWS and Google Cloud. Out of the gate, Azure Arc includes a variety of capabilities, including Azure Resource Manager (aka Arm), Azure portal, API, Microsoft Azure Cloud Shell, Marketplace and Microsoft Azure Policy. First out Azure Arc services include Azure SQL database for PostgreSQL Hyperscale running a Kubernetes cluster, but I’m expecting many, many more services in the future. Microsoft’s Erin Chapple demonstrated Azure Arc, showing a single pane of glass for managing on-prem and multi-cloud environments, even replicating data to Amazon.com’s AWS cloud.
It’s important to understand the difference between Arc and Stack. Azure Arc is a follow-on to Azure Stack, which has morphed literally into a full stack of hardware, software and services. Azure Stack is characterized as “integrated systems” and are comprised of:
Microsoft leaned into its hybrid story more than ever and reinforced that “unlike others, we believe hybrid is a permanent, not temporary state.” It will have some very solid competition from AWS and Google Cloud. AWS Outposts (details here) wasn’t AWS’s first hybrid offering. AWS also offers Snowball Edge, VMware Cloud on AWS and many ways to integrate on-prem resources with AWS including Amazon Storage Gateway, VPC, Direct Connect, Systems Manager, Identity and Access Management, Directory Service, OpsWorks, and CodeDeploy. Google Cloud has Anthos (details here).
Azure Synapse Analytics
Microsoft announced a new analytics service called Azure Synapse Analytics, an offering that brings new capabilities to its Azure SQL Data Warehouse solution. The company says Azure Synapse will combine enterprise data warehousing and Big Data analytics and bring together structured and unstructured data. This is a Nirvana state.
While businesses typically have to maintain two different types of analytics systems (data lakes and data warehouses), Azure Synapse Analytics wants to bridge the gap so both can be utilized via a single cloud-native analytics service. It seeks to provide a unified space to perform data prep, management, warehousing, big data, and AI functions. The company touts the solution’s “limitless scale,” and claims it is the only data analytics system capable of running all TPC-H queries at petabyte-scale. Microsoft claims Synapse can process queries roughly 75 times faster than Google Cloud big query—fighting words to say the least.
Azure Synapse is integrated with Power BI and Azure Machine Learning, which should allow customers to apply ML models and derive insights from all their data. Going back to that trust thing, Azure Synapse also features an impressive number of security and privacy features, including always-on data encryption, automated threat detection, column-level security, native row-level security, and dynamic data masking. All in all, it’s a lofty undertaking on Microsoft’s part. Kudos to Microsoft for its ambition here.
Microsoft Power Platform enhancements
The Microsoft Power Platform is the company’s low-code developer platform and includes Power BI (biz analytics), PowerApps (app dev), Power Automate (workflow automation), and Power Virtual Agents (new) which sit on its Common Data Service, Data connectors (275+), and AI Builder. Net-net Microsoft wants to increase the amount of developers, increase their velocity and scale it through collaboration. This is in direct response to close the “talent gap”, which cited an Indeed survey which said that “86% of organizations struggle to find technical talent to build applications” and other studies saying there will be a 1M developer gap by 2030.
Microsoft announced a slew of big updates to Power Platform, its platform for visualizing data and writing custom business applications. These include the
renaming of Microsoft Flow to Microsoft Power Automate (not so big), but more consequentially, the addition of robotic process automation, or RPA, to Microsoft Power Automate. RPA is getting a ton of attention given the hige need for apps but the limited developer resources. The addition of RPA, makes Power Automate a full, end-to-end solution, by spanning AI, APIs, and UI. Microsoft’s new RPA capability, called UI flows, enables users to change manual tasks into automated workflows by recording and playing back human interaction with software systems that lack support for API automation. I saw a crazy (in a good way) demo where a new employee profile was created in Sharepoint automatically by pulling data from Microsoft Forms without APIs, but rather Windows UX locations and clicks.
Another new feature is Microsoft Power Virtual Agents, which is an app that enables people to create and deploy AI-powered virtual agents—no (or low) coding necessary. I see new “citizen dev” capabilities like this as essential moving forward, given the growing developer shortage. Along similar lines, Microsoft also announced a new set of prebuilt, more advanced models for AI Builder, including key phrase extraction, language detection, text recognition, and sentiment analysis. Additional enhancements include new data security enhancements to Power BI, and tighter integration between Power Platform and Microsoft Teams. My analyst take on all of this is that Microsoft Power Platform has the highest ratio of value/credit. Together with Dynamics 365 and Microsoft 365, it’s a killer combo—I’d say it poses a big threat to Salesforce, Tableau, Pega and maybe even SAP.
Visual Studio Online Preview
In addition to no and low-code “citizen” developer tools, Microsoft also has very robust developer tools and environments. Before I dive in, I wanted to say that I believe Microsoft doesn’t get enough credit for what it does for developers, but the facts speak for themselves:
Visual Studio Online is exactly what developers would expect, which is to make Visual Studio available from a browser editor from the cloud. Everything, and I mean everything is being made cloud-accessible so why shouldn’t an IDE? Developers can literally work from anywhere on any kind of infrastructure. I also think there’s a case to be made that as dev collaboration increases and open source workflows become more popular, cloud-based IDes like Visual Studio Online make a lot of sense. You can try it here.
Microsoft 365: a new knowledge network and more
There was a raft of new enhancements announced to Microsoft 365. I wanted to hit on a few that seemed particularly noteworthy. The big announcement, in my opinion, was Project Cortex, Microsoft’s first new service since the introduction of Teams. Project Cortex is a so-called “knowledge network” that the company calls “a cross between a powerful organizer of enterprise content and a digital concierge that brings people the information they need in the context of their workflow.” Microsoft says Cortex leverages collective knowledge and utilizes AI to bring insights and information to customers within their everyday apps. It seems to me like Project Cortex is a real culmination of the “big data + AI = knowledge” equation. This is exactly what it should be in an enterprise.
Several other new Microsoft 365 experiences caught my eye. Microsoft announced a new Teams Chat button for Outlook, which allows you to move pesky back-and-forth email conversations into a Teams chat module. Additionally, it announced a new Outlook feature called “Play My Emails,” in which Cortana utilizes natural voice and language recognition to read your emails out to you aloud. Lastly, it announced a new “voice enhance” function for Stream, which leverages ML algorithms to detect and get rid of unwanted background video noise. Frankly, I think I’ll make good use of all of these new features. They all serve to streamline the work experience in helpful ways.
It’s going to be really, really hard to slow down Microsoft in its end user 365 experiences as it keeps its incumbent spot and keeps adding useful, ML-enhanced capabilities.
The new and improved Microsoft Edge and Bing
I wanted to mention the launch of the new Microsoft Edge and Microsoft Bing, which the company hails as “the browser and search engine of business.” The new Microsoft Edge features tracking prevention (set as default), which, in conjunction with SmartScreen, better insulate users from phishing schemes and malware. Both Edge and Bing now offer InPrivate mode, which is different from Chrome and Google search as incognito mode can still send data to Google search. Edge also now features Collections, a feature that lets users collect and organize web content for export into Word and Excel which will finally become a post-beta reality. According to Microsoft, the new Edge is twice as fast as the old version and is compatible on new sites and with IE. I believe that the new privacy features protecting search are a huge differentiator. Again, it all comes back to trust.
The new Microsoft Search in Bing looks nifty, because you can now search both the internet and your intranet in one single browse and search experience. For example, you can use the address bar to locate people in your company through searching by title, team name, or office location. Microsoft also announced that users can now access Microsoft Search in Bing on their mobile phones. All in all, it seems like Microsoft really upped the ante with Edge and Bing.
I have used the Canary Edge as my primary browser and this is the first time in years I can confidently say there are good reasons for both consumers and enterprises to use the new Edge as the primary browser. For enterprisers, it’s a no-brainer, as it’s a “two-fer” with IE mode. Enterprises can standardize on one, single browser instead of two which most do today with IE for legacy web apps and Chrome for modern sites.
Ignite 2019 was a great event, chock full of 87 pages of enterprise announcements spanning Azure, Power platform, Microsoft 365, and Edge. While I didn’t mention it in my analysis, Moor Insights & Strategy quantum analyst Paul Smith-Goodson wrote about Microsoft’s open hardware approach with Honeywell here.
Microsoft never fails to cram the announcements in during these events, and this year’s conference was no exception. Microsoft appears to be protecting its incumbent positions, aggressively attacking current markets it doesn’t hold high market share positions and investing in the right growth areas. I look forward to seeing all of these updates in action over the coming year.
Google's blog post stated, "Chromebooks have always been known for being fast, secure, and easy-to-use devices. We have improved their capabilities and expanded the variety of devices for people to choose from. Today, we are taking that effort a step further by introducing the world's first laptops built for cloud gaming along with our partners Acer, ASUS and Lenovo." All the Chromebooks have been tested and Tested independently by the leading game performance measurement platform, GameBench.
The new Chromebooks will bring together the gaming hardware features, allow access to the latest games and provide cutting-edge graphics through the cloud and designed software. In addition, these laptops will feature some advanced specifications to Strengthen the users' gaming experience.
The company announced three new Chromebooks - Acer Chromebook 516 GE, ASUS Chromebook Vibe CX55 Flip and Ideapad Gaming Chromebook from Lenovo. The Chromebooks will feature 120Hz+ high-resolution screens for crystal clear visuals, RGB gaming keyboards (on selected models) with anti-ghosting capabilities for added speed and excitement, and WiFi 6 or 6E.
The company added, "We have teamed up with NVIDIA to bring support for GeForce NOW's highest performance RTX 3080 tier to cloud gaming Chromebooks so that you can stream titles like Fortnite, Cyberpunk 2077, Crysis 3 Remastered and more at up to 1600p resolution and 120 frames per second." In addition, the RTX 3080 membership also boosts the gameplay with features like ray tracing to make visuals hyper-realistic.
For more technology news, product reviews, sci-tech features and updates, keep reading Digit.in.
As devices create massive volumes of data, edge computing will allow brands to react to customer engagement at lightning speed.
A Gartner report estimated that by 2025, 75% of data will be processed at the edge, outside of traditional, centralized data centers and the cloud, resulting in a faster response time and reduced latency.
Edge computing will enable applications to provide real-time interactions with customers. Let’s look at the benefits of edge and the ways brands are using edge computing to enhance customer experience.
Edge is a computing paradigm that refers to a distributed computing framework that positions applications closer to data sources such as Internet of Things (IoT) devices, local edge servers, point of sales systems, robots, vehicles and sensors. This closer proximity to data enables processing at greater speeds and volumes, which facilitates greater action-led results in real-time.
Edge is about processing data closer to the devices generating the data. It uses locally generated data to enable real-time responsiveness to create unique customer experiences, control sensitive data and reduce the costs of data transmission. In the past, businesses would send all of their monitoring data from a device or process into the cloud or a data center where it would be processed, analyzed and stored.
IoT devices create massive volumes of data, so edge computing only uses the data that is useful.
Edge enables brands to Strengthen and enhance the ways they manage and use physical assets, which allows them to develop new interactive experiences for their customers.
Brian Gilman, chief marketing officer, at IntelePeer, a communications platform-as-a-service provider, told CMSWire that brands are using edge computing to process and react to customer engagement at incredible speeds.
"In retail, for example, edge computing allows brands to drive real-time marketing to Strengthen experiences. Likewise, because edge computing can react quickly to customer inputs, companies can create hyper-personalized experiences to increase loyalty and revenue,” said Gilman.
He added that because edge computing is not dependent on an internet connection, brands can continue to support the customer experience regardless of server outages or unstable connections.
Derek Swanson, chief technology officer at Silk, a cloud database virtualization platform, told CMSWire that as digital transformation evolves, brands must identify new edge technology leveraging real-time application stacks to push the customer experience closer to the edge.
“We are seeing this today in more advanced augmented-reality applications requiring real-time video rendering and social media streaming, where influencers create new forms of customer interactions and delight,” said Swanson.
Related Article: A Look Back at Gartner's Data and Analytic Summit 2022
Using edge computing, brands can create hyper-personalized, omnichannel customer experiences by providing access to services that work in conjunction with edge devices. Because edge reduces the data latency associated with cloud computing, it also opens new opportunities to deliver superior customer service. Customer expectations and patience have changed over the past few years. An expectation of immediacy is now the norm.
"The ongoing digital evolution has given customers more control, which means they are now accustomed to getting what they want when they want it," said Mindy Weinstein, founder of Market MindShift and author of the soon-to-be-released book “The Power of Scarcity.”
“When that doesn’t happen, it often causes anxiety and frustration,” she added. Weinstein said that brands can restore this feeling of control among customers by providing multiple ways to interact with customer service. “That puts some power back into customers' hands,” she said.
Edge computing provides many opportunities for customers to immediately interact with brands across multiple channels, enabling them to control their own narratives.
Retail shopping outlets such as grocery stores are now using edge computing to Strengthen the shopping experience.
In 2021 Kroger debuted a new self-checkout system that is self-contained on its shopping cart. Called the KroGo cart, it has a built-in camera and a scanner that allows customers to scan and weigh products before placing them in the cart. A 2020 Juniper Research report predicted that the value of transactions processed by smart checkout technologies will reach $387 billion in 2025.
Smart checkout technologies facilitate simpler customer experiences by removing traditional checkouts and embracing a “just walk out” approach. Retail outlets will use edge computing to process the vast amount of data generated during such transactions. Standard AI uses edge computing along with artificial intelligence to create such a “just walk out” shopping experience. Camera systems track the items that a customer has picked up and placed in their shopping cart and essentially tracks them until they walk out the door.
When the customer blocks the picking-up action, the application looks at the shelf to determine what item is missing. To identify the customer, the application uses the cell phone in the customer’s pocket, which has an app that includes their personal details. When the customer leaves, the application sends them a message that lists the items they have purchased, all in real time.
A separate edge network is not required for edge computing to function, although when a separate network is involved, it becomes yet another element that is between customers and data — but 5G cellular networks can play a large role in reducing latency.
5G technology adds super fast wireless connectivity to edge computing with low latency and high cellular speed. The network edge is often used when it is too complicated or overly costly to use edge on location, but high responsiveness is still needed. The Internet of Things refers to the exponentially growing network of connected devices (thermostats, cars, lights, refrigerators, aisle displays, kiosks, Fitbits, etc.) that collect and exchange data in real time using localized embedded sensors.
A report from Insider Intelligence indicated that by 2025 there will be 3.74 billion IoT mobile connections worldwide, and by 2026, more than 64 billion IoT devices will be installed. Edge provides IoT applications with a localized basis for data processing, storage and computing. IoT devices gather data and provide it to the edge server, which analyzes the data at the edge of the local network. Swanson said the combination of 5G and the new Wi-Fi 6 is key for enabling the boom in edge-computing paradigms over the next five to 10 years.
“But the immediate impact will be on IoT and making devices (rather than people) more functional at the edge as computing power and decision-making move closer to the end-user,” he said.
Swanson added that the potential for a dramatic expansion of consumers, combined with a substantial reduction in cost and effort, will mark a transformational decade as edge computing enables a new level of experience for people, purpose and profitability at speed and scale.
“Rich edge computing is still emerging, and as backend technology stacks mature enough to provide high customer value in real time, we can expect a surge in application development to offer new customer experiences,” Swanson explained.
The challenges of using edge along with IoT and related technologies to enhance the customer experience are largely related to the challenges of edge computing itself.
Security remains a top concern for many brands using or considering edge computing. A 2019 report by Kollective indicated that 52% of IT leaders polled said ensuring full security across all edge devices is a key concern. According to the report, this concern is based on the fact that multiple edge and IoT devices increase a network's potential attack surface with each new device. As for the customer experience when edge computing is involved, the challenges lie in creating experiences that delight the customer while not being invasive or creepy.
Customers will likely appreciate receiving in-app notifications alerting them that an item they just passed in the aisle is on sale for half-price, but they are not likely to appreciate the feeling of being followed and hounded by an overabundance of notifications.
Edge computing — along with IoT, AI and 5G technologies — enables brands to drive real-time marketing, provide hyper-personalization, relevant recommendations and coupons, walk-out shopping and other cutting-edge practices to enhance and Strengthen the customer experience while reducing the costs of data transmission.
I don't know about you but if I'm spending around $3K for a laptop, it had better be able to cover off a lot of uses. Browsing and emailing, creating presentations and documents; these should be the very least of its capabilities.
Effective online meeting tools are a must as is all-day battery life. Just quietly, if it was able to run a few games during your downtime, that wouldn't be the end of the world either.
If there's one company you can probably rely on for a dependable business tool like that, it's HP.
The HP Elitebook 860 G9 is the biggest laptop I've ever reviewed.
Well, it's certainly the laptop with the biggest screen, anyway. If you thought 16-inches is perhaps too big for a laptop display, the 860 G9 might just make you think again.
The device is actually surprisingly slim, given the fact it has an excellent selection of full-sized ports; two Thunderbolt 4 with USB4 Type-C, two SuperSpeed USB Type-A and an HDMI 2.0 for easy connection to an external display. Really the only thing missing is an SD slot of some kind - this is strange as there seems to be a cutout for one on the right-hand side of the chassis, only it's filled in with some kind of spacer.
Presumably, there's another configuration out there in the world that offers an SD option. Personally, I don't miss it, although film and photography creators might - especially given the two configurations currently available on the New Zealand HP website offer a choice of 256GB or 512GB PCIeNVMe SSD storage, which by modern standards is not massive.
The other thing that keeps the overall size of the 860 G9 in check is the reasonably small bezels around the 16-inch display - especially at the sides although the top and chin are also much smaller than those on many other similar devices. Despite this, the display feels very secure with little flex and is held in place by a very sturdy lid.
There's a 5MP Windows Hello-capable lens built into the top bezel, complete with a physical privacy shutter. This camera does a nice job of auto-focusing and adjusting to variable light conditions. I still don't understand why laptops don't seem to be allowed the same quality of camera as you'd find on a mid-tier smartphone but this one is definitely better than many others. Combined with what are described as "world-facing microphones" you're assured you'll be putting your best face forward at your next video briefing.
The audio setup has been tuned by Bang & Olufsen - not just the mics but the speakers too. These are situated on the lower edge of each side which had me worried; often laptop speakers built into the base of the device are easily muffled when it's... you know... sitting on your lap. However, that didn't seem to be the case here. I think this because a) the speaker grilles actually wrap up and around the bevelled edges and b) the 860 G9 is so wide, its edges protrude out past my lap - and believe me, I don't have that small a lap.
So yes, let's get back to this whopping WUXGA display. Because of its rather tall, 16:10 aspect ratio, I feel like I've used standalone desktop monitors that aren't as big as this. Thanks to Windows 11's new Snap Layout feature, I've frequently found myself setting up two browser windows side by side, just the way I would if I was using a secondary, external display. This just adds to the constant impression this laptop gives of a full desktop experience.
Of course, a massive screen means plenty of space opposite for a massive keyboard (complete with full number pad) and a massive touchpad.
There's a major issue with this wonderful display though; it's a touch screen and that's great - I always find the combination of touch display and touchpad pretty much eliminates the need to connect an external mouse. However, after only a few hours of use, I found the screen absolutely smothered in greasy fingerprints. While the anti-reflective coating on this display is stunningly effective, there doesn't seem to be a similar oleophobic treatment to repel fingerprints. Such treatments are commonplace on phone and tablet screens and I even ordered eyeglasses last week with a "smudge-resistant" coating. If the screen on the 860 G9 has such a layer to keep it clean, it's definitely not working on my review unit.
Don't let that minor annoyance put you off though - the huge display combined with the awesome power of the 12th-gen IntelCore i7 processor means a truly comprehensive and immersive multi-media experience - whether you're editing AV presentations, streaming video or yes, even gaming. Intel's integrated Iris X graphics technology seems to be going from strength to strength and while I'm not suggesting this is any kind of dedicated gaming rig, I've certainly run some fairly full-on First Person Shooters without the slightest glitch.
(Note, the 256GB configuration of the 860 G9 uses the i5 chip)
On the software side of things, I encountered very little bloatware when setting up although I was surprised to find Windows 10 Pro installed as the OS rather than Windows 11. I assume this is due to the fact most businesses still operate on the older version so it saves IT departments a reinstall if these devices are being issued as a work device.
If it's going to be your new work laptop, consider yourself very lucky. This is genuine desktop power with a screen size approaching that of a desktop monitor, basically eliminating the requirement for docks and other external accessories. For those of us maintaining a hybrid in-office/WFH work-life, this is the single device to make it easy.
Click here for more information on the HP EliteBook 860 G9.
The long view on computing is that every computer system starts with a limited set of functions and ultimately opens up to new functionality as creative individuals use the system in unexpected ways.
Cloud computing, its own kind of computer system when looked at in aggregate, is going to experience that renaissance just as other systems have, says John Roese, the chief technology officer, products and operations, of computer giant Dell Technologies.
"If you look at the compute paradigm, and you look at a mainframe or supercomputing environment, there's an interesting thing that happens: the system starts with a limited set of components and limited optionality so that you have manageable parameters to get to a system outcome," explained Roese in an interview with ZDNet via Zoom.
"What happens, though, is as the system becomes stable, and the system gets utilized, what occurs is diversification of the creative element of what we use it for — people figure out what to do with them which nobody contemplated when we first built the system."
The result of that burst of creative use, said Roese, is "it puts stress on architectures that are too curated, and leads eventually, inevitably, to a shift to an open system architecture."
There is a parallel now with cloud, says Roese.
"Since we went through it in the computing space — we [Dell] opened up computing — if we apply that to the cloud world, to the total IT stack today, our role is effectively to make sure that happens" with cloud.
"The master plan for Dell's place in the universe," said Roese, "is not to create another upstream silo but to actually look at which layers we can start chipping away at on the infrastructure side and turn them horizontal."
What does that mean, exactly?
Roese sees multiple initiatives that Dell is undertaking that may take layers, meaning, groups of functionality, and turning them into products and services that span multiple cloud computing providers.
For instance, Project Alpine, part of the company's APEX family of products, is Dell's program to bring its file, block and object storage management software into the public cloud as a service. Alpine will let companies deploy applications across storage in different locations, including on-premise facilities. The offering was first announced in January.
"Project Alpine is interesting because we said, We do storage really well, but if we do storage and it instantiates under a proprietary Amazon or a proprietary Google or a proprietary VMware, that isn't really binding these systems together into a multi-cloud," said Roese.
"And so Alpine was all about saying, What if that storage layer was actually horizontal, what if it was compatible with them but Dell provided that?" explained Roese. That creates tension because "lots of parties make money off of storage," he observes, including the cloud providers themselves.
But it comes down to the fact that "customers' biggest challenge in multi-cloud is, I would like my data not to be coupled to what compute substrate I use," he said.
In an analogy with a computer chip, Dell's storage software, said Roese, becomes "the shared memory substrate of the multi-cloud environment," like the cache memory in a processor.
This is a way, at the same time, to leverage distinct parcels of Dell's patented technology.
"By the way, from an IPR [intellectual property rights] perspective, we own the IPR in the storage layer, I don't care what a public cloud tells you," remarked Roese. "When they have a hard storage problem, they buy our gear and put it in their environment."
Another layer that could be chipped away at is edge computing, says Roese.
"Our edge strategy is creating an environment where an edge is not a mono-edge, in fact, the edge is a platform in which you have access to all the compute of all the clouds," said Roese.
"In fact, we have in our labs systems that on the same edge cluster are running [Google] Anthos, K3s, [Microsoft Azure] Arc, Vmware — and they're just software packages!" he said, citing four major container-management suites.
The same horizontal approach has Dell partnering with every so-called data processing unit, or DPU provider, including Nvidia's Mellanox and AMD's Pensando family of chips.
Working with Snowflake and other young companies, said Roese, makes the movement to data-in-motion, including Apache Kafka and other programs, a potentially horizontal affair.
"It's not, here's some storage under Snowflake," said Roese. Instead, "Their [Snowflake's] primary storage is in AWS, Azure or Google, and we are their edge." To be that edge, in this case, means that Dell uses connectors such as Kafka "so people can copy their data directly into Snowflake as a feature of a [Dell] storage array." Likewise, he said, by using a technology called remote database tables, "the Snowflake compute can now execute against remote data on prem."
Security may be the final frontier of such horizontal effects. For Dell, the field of security is a relatively new product area. Dell's offerings include data vaults, which it provides in both public cloud and on premise, as a way to "harden" data against ransomware.
But beyond a single product, "the right play for Dell is to lean hard into acclerating and simplifying the adoption of zero trust," he said, which is "not a product but our ability to organize the ecosystem."
Zero trust is "not hard," as a concept said Roese, it is simply constant authentication. That is, however, a very hard paradigm shift to engineer, he said. Being an entity that oversees zero trust, said Roese, can be an important position spanning different cloud computing instances.
Zero trust "is a set of business controls, knowing what you want your systems to do or not do, but then it also has a separable control plane," he said of the standard zero trust systems architecture.
"That control plane is in charge of diverse infrastructure underneath it," observed Roese. "If you were going to build for the multi-cloud world, that is exactly what you would do."
The process of chipping away at layers, said Roese, is a blend of partnerships.
In the traditional cloud compute world, "Today, we have pretty good relationships with all of them," said Roese. "We have a deep relationship with IBM and Red Hat, a deep relationship with Microsoft, deep relationship with Google, a growing relationship with AWS, a fairly good relationship with VMware, and on the telco side, we work with Wind River really deeply."
In the younger area of data-in-motion such as open-source Kafka, there is a growing number of relationships with young companies, with whom the existing partnership with Snowflake may serve as a model, said Roese.
"You can imagine us doing the same thing with Datastax and Databricks," he said. "So, it's a whole collection of people building new data architectures, and our role is still subordinate and underneath them."
Trying to open things up is one reason, said Roese, that Dell divested its stake in VMware last year. Although a virtualization platform could have advantages, he said, "there was also an encumbrance by owning them," he remarked, in terms of ending up with another silo competing with the cloud providers.
"We said, in order for us to be an enabler for [cloud service providers], do we want build things specific to them, or take it horizontal?" Jettisoning VMware was a vote for horizontal development, he said.
(VMware is in the process of being acquired by chip and enterprise software conglomerate Broadcom.)
From a business standpoint, all of the horizontal efforts are meant to create new opportunities for a company that already enjoys top position in its traditional compute and storage equipment markets.
"It's this age-old question: How do you grow a $100 billion company?" said Roese, referring to Dell's total revenue in 2021.
"You can consolidate, but if you run out of addressable market, it's a problem." Hence, his job, he says, is to divine, "How can we expand into adjacencies that make sense," a process that has the dual benefits of expanding the market opportunity but also creating "a lot more diversity at the company, which is good as technology ebbs and flows."
The company has six initiatives as the moment that are of primary focus to expand Dell's reach beyond its traditional bailiwick into adjacencies. That determination comes out of what the company calls its "tech radar," which for Roese means, "every technology that comes at us, we take a look at it, we decide if it's core [to Dell], adjacent or periphery, whether it's heading toward us or away from us."
The six, along with security such as zero trust, include as-a-service products such as APEX; edge computing, broadly the move away from centralized data centers; telecom technology, a new area for Dell where it sells to phone companies, called the Telecom Systems Business; artificial intelligence and machine learning; and data management including the real-time data-in-motion field that's emerging.
"The punchline" of those six initiatives, said Roese, is to "take the original TAM [total addressable market] of the company," which had been six hundred billion, and turn it into the current total addressable market of $1.4 trillion.
To the age-old question of business growth, said Roese, that larger opportunity has the effect of "expanding the surface area for Dell to grow."
Just as important to the business, said Roese, is that the six areas of focus, and the approach to them, sets Dell apart from the approach taken by competitors.
"At a macro level, we, kind-of, are emerging as doing what others aren't doing," he said.
"HP [Hewlett Packard Enterprise] is, kind-of, in a different vector, they're trying to be VMware, I think; Cisco can't afford to do it because you have to be able to play the commodity game; Huawei can, but they're crippled right now; the public clouds definitely don't want to do all the stuff I've talked about, like putting IT into the real world."
As a result, "I'm cautiously optimistic that we're playing a very meaningful role to pull things together, but we're doing it not just as an integrator but owning layers of the technology stack," said Roese.
"That makes us a bit of an odd duck, but we're a $101 billion odd duck that seems to have a lot of value and is, kind-of, providing more and more foundational technology."
Apple released its MacBook Air with its second generation M2 SoC over four months ago, and since its release, I have spent a good amount of time testing and using Apple's newly redesigned MacBook Air M2.
Over the four months, I have been using the MacBook Air M2 to write articles; sometimes, I take it with me when I travel. While I have many likes and dislikes about the MacBook Air M2, there is one truth that stays the same throughout my entire experience. Unless something dramatically changes in silicon and compatibility, MacBooks will be better at video editing and Windows laptops will always be better at gaming, productivity, and multitasking.
While I believe this truth is more profound for devices built for performance like the Surface Laptop Studio and MacBook Pro, it is also true for devices like the MacBook Air and Surface Laptop 4 that target small form factor laptop audiences. Although the Surface Laptop 4 is a generation behind under the hood, and the Surface Laptop 5 could be coming out soon, I believe the Surface Laptop 4 still offers a better experience for hybrid work and is a better value than the MacBook Air M2.
I have compared the Surface Laptop Studio and the 16-inch MacBook Pro, the Surface Laptop 3 and MacBook Air M1, and the MacBook Pro and Surface Book. I have also looked at the MacBook AAA gaming scene, much of which hasn't changed since Apple first released its M1 SoCs. Now I want to compare the Surface Laptop 4 to the MacBook Air M2. Let’s dive in.
Before I begin, I want to preface the benchmarks with my expectations and reasoning for including benchmarks. I also want to answer why I am comparing a system (Surface Laptop 4) that is about two generations behind specs wise.
My expectations are as follows: these are two completely different systems that run on two different architectures (x86 and Arm) that have their pros and cons. I expect the MacBook Air M2 to win in most of these benchmarks, especially the performance benchmarks, simply because the M2 is a newer SoC and runs on TSMC's "5nm" node, whereas the Surface Laptop 4 is running on Intel's "10nm." The M2 is also designed differently, with unified memory and more cores with one thread. While there are many more differences, these are enough to set the two systems apart.
However, both devices target a very similar audience. The Surface Laptop 4 and MacBook Air M2 target folks who want a smaller form factor laptop, don't need a significant amount of performance and are looking to be productive. Where the MacBook Air takes a victory lap over the Surface Laptop 4 in benchmarking, the Surface Laptop 4 makes up for it with its versatile features.
Benchmarking is not my full-time job, and while there are probably better benchmarks to use, I chose the benchmarks that are easily accessible if you choose to do them yourself. WebXRPT 4, and Cinebench R23, are free benchmarks, and Sid Meier's Civilization 6 (Civ 6) and Counter Strike: Global Offensive have free benchmarks within their respective purchase of the game.
When benchmarking the two systems, I have left the settings on default and exactly how both devices came out of the box. Both devices were also connected to the chargers that came with the devices and not running off the battery. Both devices were also in the same room running the same tests side-by-side, so there was no funny business. For each benchmark, the tests were run three times back to back, and then I took the average.
My goal was to get both devices to as similar of a price and as similar specs as possible. The MacBook Air M2 came at about $1,599 and the Surface Laptop 4 came at $1,399.99, making the price a $200 price difference. Below are the specs for both devices.
Apple MacBook Air M2 2022
Microsoft Surface Laptop 4
I could have gone with the very basic models of both devices with 8GB of memory and a 256GB storage option, but I did not want to deliver Apple a disadvantage knowing that its 256GB storage option has horrible performance. Apple decided to save an extra couple of bucks and not use dual-channel NAND storage for its 256GB models. This decision essentially makes the 256GB MacBook Air M2 perform worse than the M1 model for disk speeds.
Intel's 11th Gen Core processors are the generation before Intel transitions to its P-core and E-core configuration. The 11 Gen Intel Core i7-11857G has 4 cores and 8 threads (2 threads per core), while the M2 has 8 cores and 8 threads (1 thread per core).
Sid Meier's Civilization 6 AI and graphics benchmark
Very few AAA games can run on a MacBook, especially when you don't want to jump through hoops to get something like Boot Camp or Parallels to work. For example, Apple showcased its new feature using No Man's Sky at WWDC 2022. While I would like to use No Man's Sky for comparison, it is not even native to macOS. Huge bummer.
Sid Meier's Civilization 6 is a native macOS game on the Steam store, and it has its own built-in graphics and AI benchmarks. Although it may not be as graphically intensive of a game compared to other AAA games, it is very fitting for this type of laptop. I do not expect either laptop to run something like Cyberpunk 2022 very well for a long period.
I also understand that Civ 6 is the time of the game that could be played for hours on end, and knowing that the MacBook Air M2 has had thermal throttling issues in the past, these benchmark tests do not reflect performance over those long periods.
Sid Meier's Civilization 6 AI
The AI benchmark measures the amount of time the AI of the NPCs takes per turn. It is measured in milliseconds over a simulated game with multiple turns. Civ 6 uses AI to make decisions about the game based on AI traits per civilization. This AI benchmark is good for seeing how quickly AI can calculate and make decisions per system.
The Surface Laptop 4 was about 5 milliseconds faster on average than the MacBook Air M2. The results of this benchmark were slightly surprising to me. Keep in mind that the M2 has a 14-core NPU for specializing in AI processing. I am not certain whether Civ 6's AI uses the 14- core NPU, but if it does, it is quite underwhelming, and if it doesn't, then it shows the lack of support for M2. If the lack of AAA games for Apple silicon did not tell you how Apple doesn't care about gaming, this should.
Sid Meier's Civilization 6 Graphics
The interesting quality of Civ 6 is that the game is not reliable on frames per second (fps) in that the game is still very playable at lower frame rates. With that said, I believe it is still good to get an idea of the frame rate, considering it would reflect how well other games with similar graphics intensity would perform. In my testing, I did not change the performance or the memory impact in the graphics setting, but I did change the resolution on the MacBook Air.
The benchmark is measured in the average frame time rather than frames per second. I also provided the 99th percentile frame time, which gives an idea of frame time at its peak. The lower the time, the better.
The Surface Laptop 4 was able to run the game at its native 2256 x 1504 resolution, while the MacBook Air had a default resolution of 1470 x 956 I did bump the MacBook Air resolution up to 1710 x 1112 (149 PPI), which is still not near the resolution of the Surface Laptop 4. This difference is reflected in the graphics benchmarks.
The MacBook Air has about a 4ms better frame time than the Surface Laptop 4. This would be about equivalent to 60 fps for the MacBook Air M2 and 48.8 fps for the Surface Laptop 4. Yes, the MacBook Air M2 has much better performance, and we should see this more prominently with our CS: GO testing, but we also have to consider the disadvantages. The Surface Laptop 4 is running at a higher resolution with a GPU that is a generation behind. The Surface Laptop 4 is hanging with the competition. With the Surface Laptop 5 expected to come soon, I am interested to see how much better the Surface Laptop 5 performs with Intel's 12th Gen processors.
Counter Strike: Global Offensive graphics benchmark
CS: GO is another one of the few popular AAA games that can run on Apple's new silicon without jumping through hoops. It is also played competitively and falls into a different gaming genre than Civ 6. Fps is very important in CS: GO, and a jump in frames could cost you the game. CS: GO is not as graphically intense as other shooting games, and I believe it is perfect for these types of laptops.
Again, the MacBook Air had a default resolution lower than its native resolution, so I bumped it up to 2560 x 1664. This benchmark is not native to CS: GO but is a community benchmark within the game that has been tested over time.
The MacBook Air has twice the average fps of the Surface Laptop 4. I believe this accurately reflects what should happen with a generation difference between processors in both devices. Assuming the Surface Laptop 5 will have 12th Gen Intel Core processors and Intel's Xe LP( low power) integrated graphics, I believe it should easily double its performance to match the MacBook Air M2. With the optimization that Intel and Microsoft can achieve in gaming, I could also see it going beyond the MacBook Air's fps performance.
Web Browser- WebXRPT 4
I believe web browsing performance is the most important benchmark in this comparison. The browser is where most tasks are done, and having multiple tabs open and a fast web browsing experience is crucial to productivity.
WebXRPT 4 is a benchmark created by the folks at Principled Technology (PT). In there words of PT:
I checked all of the workloads available and did two different tests for each device. I tested each device with their respective default browsers, and then I tested both devices using the Chrome browser. The Apple MacBook Air M2 uses Safari 16.0, the Surface Laptop 4 uses Edge (Chromium) 106.0, and both use Chrome version 106.0.5249.103.
The MacBook Air M2 outperforms the MacBook Air M2 on its default browser and on Chrome. The MacBook Air M2 is about 27% better on web browser workloads than the Surface Laptop 4. While it is not a 27% difference across the board for all workloads, the MacBook Air did outperform the Surface Laptop 4 in all web browsing workloads. Remember that we are not looking to outperform the MacBook Air M2 in many of these benchmarks but to show that the Surface Laptop 4 can compete with the latest of what Apple has to offer. And, with the Surface Laptop 5 possibly coming soon and the Surface Laptop 4 on sale, it is all the more reason to look toward the Surface Laptop for web browsing.
Cinebench R23 is a great benchmark for testing video editing benchmarks. According to Maxon's website, "Cinebench is a real-world cross-platform test suite… providing a more accurate measurement of Cinema 4D's ability to take advantage of multiple CPU cores and modern processor features available to the average user."
While I don't expect much from the Surface Laptop 4, I believe this is a great benchmark to show the different rendering abilities of both devices. While I consider the web browser benchmark to be the most important, I consider this benchmark to be at the lower end of importance. I consider it at the lower end of importance because people who need a laptop for video editing and rendering will look for more powerful and performant devices.
The Surface Laptop 4 is able to keep pace with the MacBook Air M2 in single-threaded performance but has a difficult time keeping up with the MacBook Air in multi-threaded rendering. The MacBook Air M2 has twice as many cores and a single core per thread, taking on multi-threaded workloads much better than the Surface Laptop 4's multi-threaded processor.
I now want to consider features of a laptop that don't take into effect a device's generation difference in computing and address some of the digital trends we see today. For example, hybrid work and multitasking are two digital trends that make good connectivity and a versatile design important factors when considering a laptop.
Many Apple fans may scoff at my mention of multitasking. I believe a simple explanation of what I mean by multitasking would make this comparison more meaningful. When many people think of multitasking, it is often the person that is thought of as doing the multitasking. I can do two tasks at once when I walk and chew gum. However, there are many tasks that cannot be done simultaneously. For example, you cannot read and watch a movie. Either your attention and your eyes will be on a screen or in the book, but you cannot do both simultaneously.
Multitasking on a laptop is where the device is multitasking and providing a service for the user that makes the person's task more productive or efficient. For example, I can have Outlook open in one window, and OneNote snapped right next to it, taking notes on my emails in Outlook. It would not be productive for my workstation to have Outlook open and switch to my OneNote window every couple of seconds to jot down some notes. I would never get anything done.
Apple recently announced Stage Manager for macOS Ventura at the same event it announced the MacBook Air M2. At the time of writing this comparison, the MacBook Air M2 does not have macOS Ventura, but I want to include it in comparison with the assumption that it is coming to the MacBook Air M2.
Stage Manager comes from iPad OS as a multitasking tool. Similar to what you would see on an Android device where you are able to see all of the available apps open. With Stage Manager, apps and windows are automatically organized to the right of the display, and users are able to switch between apps. If this sounds familiar, you are right because this type of "multitasking" is exactly what I described in my example above. I believe it is an unproductive take on multitasking, especially when considering how the Surface Laptop 4 does multitasking on Windows 11 22H2 and snapped windows.
Windows 11 added a new feature where users can hover the maximize button at the top right of a window and snap the window into place next to other windows. With the 22H2 update, Microsoft added more layouts. It has more support for touch navigation so users can drag windows to the top of the display and snap a window to a layout. Snapped windows is a feature that I often use when I use multiple different apps to complete a task. For example, I could have OneNote, Microsoft Word, and the Edge browser open, taking notes, clipping research from the internet, and typing it into a blog. I do not see the MacBook Air being more productive with Stage Manager than what I am able to do with Snapped Layouts on Windows. While I am able to put two windows side-by-side on the MacBook Air, it is more effort than it is worth.
Microsoft also has great multitasking features for desk workstations. Whenever a user has snapped windows and disconnects from external displays, the snapped windows are remembered when the device is plugged back into the external monitors. I believe this is a very useful feature for hybrid workers.
The Surface Laptop 4 also has support for extra inputs like a multi-touch screen and pen support. Although the pen on a vertical display is not the most ideal, the display is sturdy enough to support writing with a pen. The touch display makes it easier to use Android apps from the Microsoft store and even draw on 3D rendering apps like Blender. Although the Surface Laptop 4 is not better than the MacBook Air M2 in terms of benchmark performance, it makes up for its touch capabilities.
Another benefit for hybrid workers is the Surface Laptop 4's support for the Surface Dock. The Surface Dock connects the Surface Laptop to external peripherals through the Surface Connector. The Surface Laptop 4 does not have Thunderbolt 4 like the MacBook Air M2, but the MacBook Air M2's Thunderbolt 4 does not work on all Thunderbolt 4 docks. For example, I plugged the Surface Laptop 4 into an Anker 777 Thunderbolt 4 dock and was able to connect to a Logitech keyboard and mouse, a Dell 4K webcam, Samsung 4K monitor, and 2K LG display with everything working. When I plugged the MacBook Air M2 into the same configuration, the display did not turn on, and I could only connect to the Logitech keyboard and mouse. Keep in mind the Surface Laptop 4 does not have Thunderbolt 4.
One of the perks of a Thunderbolt connection is its backward compatibility, and the limited Thunderbolt 4 dock options for the MacBook Air M2 is a red flag for me. Thunderbolt 4 docks like the CalDigit TS4 and Belkin Pro have support for Apple silicon-based MacBooks but what about older docks and connectors?
The MacBook Air M2 is an incredible device with a beautiful new redesign, and there are many reasons to like the device. At the end of the day, the MacBook Air was better at video editing, and the Surface Laptop 4 will be better at gaming, productivity, and multitasking. Although the MacBook Air outperformed the Surface Laptop 4 in gaming graphics benchmarks, it did it a generation behind and at a lower resolution. And don’t forget that very few AAA games run on Apple.
The MacBook Air M2 does much better than the Surface Laptop 4 in tackling web browser workloads and video rendering. If you are considering the MacBook Air M2 over the Surface Laptop 4 solely because of the better web browsing performance, keep in mind that it will be a $200 premium.
I believe the Surface Laptop 4 is a better device for hybrid work scenarios with its extra pen and touch support, multitasking features, and connectivity. These features are irreplaceable no matter how much more performance you can squeeze out of a device. As we look forward to the Surface Event this Fall, I expect the Surface Laptop 5 to flip these numbers and take home its feature win.
Note: Moor Insights & Strategy co-op Jacob Freyman contributed to this article.
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Now that cloud gaming is a thing, you don’t necessarily need a bleeding edge CPU or GPU to play games. But if you want to stream games to a laptop, a speedy and reliable internet access is a pretty good idea, as are good keyboards and displays, among other things.
So some of the first “gaming Chromebooks” from Acer, Lenovo, and Asus are focused on those features. But the first Asus Chromebook built for gaming? It’s a a bit different from the others… and not necessarily in a good way.
The Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming Chromebook and Acer Chromebook 516 GE have 16 inch, 2560 x 1600 pixel, 120 Hz, 350-nit displays, 12th-gen Intel Core processors, RGB backlit keyboards, quad speakers, and 1080p cameras.
The Asus Chromebook Vibe CX55 Flip, on the other hand, has a 15.6 inch, 1920 x 1080, 144 Hz, 250-nit display and an 11th-gen Intel Core chip and a single-color backlit keyboard, stereo speakers and a 720p webcam.
It does have a few features that make it stand out. First, it’s a convertible model with a 360 degree hinge that lets you push the screen back for use in tablet, tent, or stand modes. And the keyboard has permanently highlighted W, A, S, and D keys… in case you forget where they are or something.
The laptop has a decent set of ports, including an HDMI 2.0 port, two USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C ports, a USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A port, a microSD card reader, and a headset jack. It supports WiFi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity, has a 57 Wh battery, and a 45W USB-C power adapter.
But the Asus Chromebook CX55 Flip is the most expensive gaming Chromebook available at launch: a model with an Intel Core i5-1135G7 processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD is selling for $699 at Best Buy, making it $50 more expensive than the Acer model and $100 pricier than a Lenovo gaming Chromebook.
That’s despite the fact that the Asus model has a dimmer display, an older processor and half as many speakers, among other things. Google has apparently indicated that a lower-cost model will be available eventually for as little as $399 though, but it’ll probably have a slower processor and less memory.
Asus says models will be available with Intel Core i3-1115G4, Core i5-1135G7, and Core i7-1165G7 processor options, 8GB or 16GB of LPDDR4X memory, and 128GB, 256GB or 512GB PCIe 3.0 NVMe SSD storage options.
It does have a few things going for it, I guess, including a slightly higher screen refresh rate and a convertible design. And, like all of the gaming Chromebooks announced to date, it has an anti-ghosting keyboard for reliable input while gaming. Google also says that all “cloud gaming Chromebooks have been independently tested and verified” to deliver smooth 120 fps gaming experiences with less than 85ms of input latency.
But overall, the Asus Chromebook Vibe CX55 Flip really seems like something Asus slapped together from existing parts and decided to call a gaming Chromebook.