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Still considered the optimal blend between power and portability, they offer a tried-and-trusted way to stay productive away from the workplace.

Perhaps inevitably, the tech supply chain has struggled to cope with the surge in demand, particularly considering manufacturing came to a near-standstill in some countries.

That begs the question: Is it really worth buying a laptop now?

The answer to that question will depend on a number of variables, but we’ve attempted to cover most across the six following scenarios. 

Scenario 1: No laptop or PC

This is perhaps the most obvious reason for buying a new laptop now. If you’ve relied on the PC at work and only use your phone and TV at home, we’d recommend buying one now.

Which model you buy will depend on how much you’re willing to spend, so our laptop charts are divided into best budget and best overall. 

However, if you have a capable tablet lying around you could still make it work in the short term. Apple’s suggestion that the iPad Pro can replace your laptop makes it the most prominent example, but nearly all tablets have Bluetooth functionality so allow you to connect an external keyboard or mouse. It’s far from a perfect solution, but could see you through the next few months in theory.

Scenario 2: Multiple people sharing the same laptop/s

It’s a common situation in households across the world. Two laptops for a family of four may have seemed plenty under usual circumstances, but juggling work, home schooling and free time means strict schedules have had to be imposed to avoid complete chaos. 

In this scenario, I’d recommend buying at least one new device as soon as possible.

Fortunately, many of the entries in our best budget laptop chart are now in stock, and in many cases you can pick up two great devices for under £1,000. 

Scenario 3: Laptop not working properly, but looks fine

There are various reasons why a laptop might not be working properly, and it’s incredibly frustrating when you don’t know the cause. 

Whether it’s a device that won’t charge, ports that won’t recognise anything or a dreaded black screen, it can be tempting to simply go ahead and buy a new device. 

However, we’d encourage caution, and only invest if you’re sure you can afford it. There are plenty of great budget laptops out there, which should ensure you can get a great device without breaking the bank.

If you’d like to try fixing it yourself, there’s lots of support available online, including our dedicated guides to fixing a laptop that won’t turn on or displays a black screen. 

Scenario 4: Laptop needs repaired

If you’ve tried many of the potential fixes for your device but nothing seems to be working, you’ll need to contact a professional to try and get it sorted. 

It might seem like a lot of hassle, but their technical expertise might mean a fix is relatively inexpensive. Many won’t charge unless they feel there’s something they can do to solve the issue either, 

Depending on where you live there may still be restrictions on going into someone else’s home to repair tech, but you can always send it via secure postage. This means you’ll need a back-up device to work on in the meantime, but it’s something worth considering. 

Changed or planning on changing profession

Scenario 5: Long-serving laptop needs replacing soon

This has parallels with my current situation. The laptop I’ve had is nearly six years old, and while it’s served me extremely well it’s starting to show its age.

Naturally I’ve been considering what I’d look for in a replacement, most notably whether to go with Mac or Windows. 

My current line of thinking is that if I can eke just a few more months out of a laptop that still gets regular software updates, the market will be in a much better position for me to make an informed decision. 

If you can make do with your current device for the time being I’d recommend it, but if it’s hampering your productivity it’s probably time to upgrade. 

Another thing to consider is if you’ve changed or are planning on changing professions in the near future. Perhaps your sturdy business laptop now feels like overkill, or a lightweight ultrabook simply doesn’t offer enough power for your needs. 

These are both good cases for buying a new laptop, but it might be worth holding off if you can manage in the short term.

If you’ve decided that buying a new laptop is the thing to do, check out our best laptop chart for inspiration on which model to buy. 

Got a fully-functioning laptop but struggling to separate work and personal life? We can help. 

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Do I Need A High Refresh Rate Laptop?

original Razer Phone‘s 120Hz screen was primarily aimed at gamers, but the technology has rapidly spread to countless consumer-focused devices. With the exception of Apple’s iPhone, you’d now be hard-pressed to find a flagship with a 60Hz display, while handsets as cheap as the £199 Poco X3 have a 120Hz panel.

Logic suggests that laptops will be the next major form factor to embrace high refresh rates. Again, gaming devices have been the early adopters here, sporting displays all the way up to 300Hz. It feels like only a matter of time before this filters its way to everyday consumer devices.

However, we might have to be patient. The coronavirus pandemic has sent demand for laptops skyrocketing, and even now the education sector is reporting shortages of suitable devices for homeschooling. With that in mind, it’s no surprise to see manufacturers prioritise solid performance and a portable design over these sorts of embellishments.

At CES 2023, Lenovo launched one of what is only a handful of consumer-focused high refresh rate laptops to make it to market. The Yoga Slim 7i Pro has a 90Hz display, Intel 11th-gen chips and the option for a discrete Nvidia GPU, but a price to match – it’s likely to cost in excess of £1000. 

Why we haven’t seen more high refresh rate laptops

Aside from customer demand, the other big factor is price. Put simply, it still costs a lot more to include a high refresh rate display over one at 60Hz. That’s why the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 and Acer Predator Helios 300 start at £1,099 and £1,299 respectively.

Traditionally, high refresh rate laptops have had a tendency to reduce colour accuracy and contrast in the display. That may have left some manufacturers reluctant to embrace the technology, but the strength of the Razer Blade Stealth screen has shown that you don’t necessarily need to make these sacrifices.

The Razer Blade Stealth 13 has a 120Hz display

As with its phones, Apple looks to have taken a different approach. The new M1 chip on its MacBook laptops (such as the new Air) delivers big improvements to performance and power efficiency, two areas that are likely to be more noticeable day-to-day. The company hasn’t shunned the technology completely – it is on the iPad Pro, after all – so don’t rule out high refresh rate Apple laptops in the near future. 

High refresh rate or OLED?

Aside from processing power, the display is one of the most common ways to distinguish a premium laptop from its more affordable siblings. The dearth of high refresh rate consumer laptops mean you’ll likely be choosing between this and an OLED screen.

Both are ‘nice to have’ rather than a necessity on an everyday laptop for productivity, but that changes if you’d also like to use it for consuming content or gaming. The rich colours and deep blacks of an OLED will provide noticeable gains when watching movies or TV shows, but gamers will appreciate the extra smoothness a high refresh rate display offers.

OLED displays still haven’t come to budget laptops, though, so you’ll probably be paying four figures either way. 

Samsung might be leading the way

Should high refresh rate laptops become the norm, it looks like Samsung is ahead of the game. As Business Wire reported, in January 2023 the Korean company began mass-producing 90Hz laptop screens, ahead of a presumed rollout to devices in the relatively near future. 

This will likely begin with Samsung’s own hardware, like the next Galaxy Book Flex or Galaxy Book Ion, but we’d still expect to see more laptops adopt the technology in the near future. 

High refresh rate consumer laptops might not be widely available just yet, but it feels like only a matter of time before they become the new industry standard.

Until that’s a reality, you’ll probably have to be content with 60Hz. For the pick of the market right now, check out our best laptop chart. If you really want to buy a high refresh rate laptop, many of the options in our best gaming laptop chart support 120Hz or more.

You may have decided on the refresh rate of your device, but have you considered the future for upgradeable laptops?

Which Smartphone Should I Get?

It’s time to ditch my battered BlackBerry 9000. Whether the successor should be a newer BlackBerry, an iPhone, an Android handset, or something else entirely is up in the air. Is it worth waiting for something that’s not out yet, like the Windows 7 phone?

My wish list for a new phone includes reliability, a speedy Web browser, lots of options for apps, a decent camera, Wi-Fi, and GPS. Easy access to Gmail and Google Docs would be great.

iPhone 4

The legendary loyalty of iPhone users doesn’t stop with all-night lines outside of Apple stores prior to the launch of a new handset. Despite the “antennagate” debacle and complaints of a bad proximity sensor, surveys show that most owners remain satisfied with their iPhones. (Yet, maybe the surveys spoke too soon.)

The slim iPhone 4 for AT&T has a 3.5-inch display with the best resolution available on any phone. Multitasking and cut-and-paste functions make this 1GHz, 802.11n model more work-ready than its predecessor–even if multitasking isn’t up to snuff. The 5-megapixel camera and HD video, plus the FaceTime videophone app, add to the appeal.

Among the drawbacks to the iPhone are the touchscreen-only keyboard, which can lead to a minefield of typos, especially when larger fingers are tapping. The lack of Flash support is more annoying on the iPad than the phone, but irksome nonetheless.

Also, do I really want a smartphone that drops calls if held a certain way, or that requires wearing a funky case to function properly? It’s hard to stomach the chairman and CEO of a company address a product flaw by pointing fingers at rival companies, and offering customers little but a Band-Aid workaround and a short, 30-day return window.

Droid X

Unlike with Apple’s iOS, you can choose from among many phones that run the Android operating system. Among these, the sold-out Motorola Droid X for Verizon is perhaps the most appealing.

Comparisons abound between the competing handsets from Apple and Motorola. A speedy, 1GHz processor and HD video are among their shared selling points. Yet, the Droid X comes with a 16GB microSD card, while the iPhone lacks expandability. The Droid X‘s call quality attracts better ratings than that of the iPhone 4, it’s supposed to offer an hour longer of talking time, and it’s got an 8-megapixel camera. Its 4.3-inch display dwarfs that of the iPhone 4.

Flash support will come later with Android 2.2 and more business-friendly features. In addition, the Droid X can serve as a Wi-Fi hotspot. However, I’ve heard users complain about limited battery life and new Motoblur software.

While the Android apps marketplace is smaller than the iPhone app store, it’s bound to grow, especially because Google App Inventor‘s interface makes it easier for budding developers to build apps.

Unfortunately, rogue apps are reportedly leaving Android phones dangerously hackable. Do you really want to integrate your professional and private life on a device that’s prone to invasion? Then again, recent headlines about Android security threats have been overblown.

BlackBerry Torch 9800

Maybe the best replacement for a BlackBerry is another BlackBerry. RIM had fallen behind on the “wow” factor in the smartphone market, but its new handset blends next-generation features found in Android devices and the iPhone. The 624MHz BlackBerry Torch 9800 slider combines a QWERTY button keyboard and a large touchscreen display,a nd it has 802.11n Wi-Fi. The BlackBerry 6 operating system includes the WebKit browser with tabs for online multitasking, as well as remote data-wiping options in case of theft or loss.

Unfortunately, BlackBerry App World is a disappointment, not just because it’s clunky to find and buy apps, but because, in general, their volume and quality pales next to the options for Android and iOS. Despite the other bells and whistles on a new BlackBerry handset, it’s hard to imagine RIM catching up in the apps arena anytime soon.

And, although BlackBerry remains the best choice for those whose companies lean on its mobile infrastructure, that’s not the case with my job.

Carriers

Since I have an AT&T account with a legacy, all-you-can-eat data plan, I’m not tempted to switch carriers and get nasty surprises on the next bill. But if AT&T doesn’t supply the best phone for me, would another carrier’s plan be affordable? Could it even cost less than the $130 I shell out each month? That’s what I paid in the last billing cycle to talk for 841 minutes, send 523 text messages, and receive 481 texts. I also sent or received 11 MMS messages, and Internet data usage reached 17.74 MB.

The Choice

Of course, these aren’t the only options for a BlackBerry 9000 replacement. Maybe the Microsoft Windows Phone 7, upon release, will look more alluring than in its recent iPhone-mimicking preview. Could Palm’s WebOS even see a resurgence?

Then again, since I don’t use my mobile phone often for calls, maybe a better investment is a hybrid tablet-phone. As a phone, the Dell Streak is a bit clunky–still more portable than Gordon Gekko’s Motorola DynaTAC–but it might do the job.

Which smartphone should I get? Chime in by taking this poll:

5 Reasons Why You Should Buy A Mechanical Keyboard

There you are, sitting on your office chair. Feeling comfortable and good about yourself. Let me tell you something. You are lost. You are a nobody. Why? Because you don’t have a mechanical keyboard in your life! Like some evangelical preacher, I have an idea I need to sell you. That is the glory of the mechanical keyboard. If you accept the mechanical keyboard into your life, you could be experiencing increased comfort, improved productivity, and glory! It will change the way you type forever! Don’t just ask me, there are plenty of fanatics that have forever converted from using cheap, rubber-dome keyboards to high-quality mechanicals. I have made a short list of five reasons why you should switch to a mechanical keyboard. I have faith that you will see the light.

The second reason why you need to switch to a mechanical keyboard is ergonomics. Mechanical keyboards generally have higher quality keycaps which are rounded to let your fingers rest on them more comfortably. Traditional laptop keys, with the exception of Lenovo’s, are flat. Flat keys are good for space-saving designs but you not only lose precision, but also comfort. I find flat keys uncomfortable to type on for long periods because I have to hit them “head on” in order not to make an error. Also, it is very easy to hit these keycaps on the corners which will cause your fingers to slip and mis-type. If you hit the corner of a keycap on a mechanical keyboard, you still have a good chance of registering the input. The longer “throw” of mechanical keyboards are also more comfortable for long typing sessions compared to the short engagement point of chicklet-style keyboards. For a long time, I thought the main attribute of an ergonomic keyboard is shape. After using the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic keyboard for 2-3 years and using my Leopold Tenkeyless for about 5 months, I realize that it’s not about the shape. The main reason mechanical keyboards are better is the key switches.

The third benefit is reduced strain. I realize this is closely related to comfort but I felt that this deserved its own section simply because of RSI(Repetitive Strain Injury). We use our computers for hours and some of us do not take RSI seriously. I take good care of my hands. And so should you. For most people, their hands are their livelihood. Hand health is very important if you are a musician, laborer, or athlete. One thing I’ve notice after spending a few months with my mechanical keyboard compared to keyboards of my past is finger pain. I use to get finger pain after prolonged typing on the rubber dome keys. They were all I knew so I didn’t question. It wasn’t until I was in the market for a better keyboard where I found out about mechanical key switches. Subsequently, it wasn’t until I was typing on them for hours until I realized my finger pain was mainly caused by the cheap rubber-dome keyboards. If you are on the computer for hours, or if your profession involves extensive amounts of typing, consider investing on a mechanical keyboard for this very reason. These key switches will reduce finger strain. Your hands will thank you.

The fourth benefit of using a mechanical keyboard is improved speed. A more precise, comfortable keyboard means improved typing speed. I was never a speed typist. Barely being able to type 25 WPM, after a few months of serious training, I can now type 60-70 WPM. Your mileage may vary but you will improve your speed. If not in burst typing, definitely in endurance typing. That’s typing long essays or reports. Wiki has the average typing speed rated at 33 WPM. If you are over this, you are doing very well.

The last and most important reason why you need a mechanical keyboard? They’re fun! That may sound silly to say but after getting one, I now enjoy typing. I like the sound of these Cherry MX browns. Some people like the blues. You can’t go wrong either way. They’re great to type on. Mechanical keyboards have their own unique personalities. From the simple Leopold Tenkeyless to the highly sought after HHKB Pro 2. Typing shouldn’t be a chore. Most people probably won’t be competing on typeracer for leisure, but mechanical keyboards will make you smile. It’s like buying a luxury car. Sure, you don’t NEED leather heated seat with power everything but if you can afford it, why not treat yourself? Especially a tool that you will spend years using. Once you punch the keys, you will see the light

Who Should Buy A Ryzen Apu, And Who Shouldn’t

If you’re asking yourself, “should I buy a Ryzen APU?” for a new budget gaming PC, the short answer is yes, probably.

But for everyone? Well, no. There is no one-size fits all answer, so read on to learn who should buy the Ryzen APU—and who shouldn’t.

Gordon Mah Ung

AMD’s Ryzen 3 2200G is like getting a $110 GPU and a $100 CPU for $99—but it’s not for everyone.

Why the Ryzen APU matters for PC gamers

You can read our full review of the $99 Ryzen 3 2400G and the $169 Ryzen 5 2400G but the summary is this: AMD’s new APUs have essentially enough CPU and GPU power to enable satisfying gaming at 720p to 1080p. Both APUs combine quad-core Zen x86 cores with up to 11 Vega graphics cores, and the Ryzen 5 2400G also has SMT. The integrated graphics basically offers from double to triple the gaming performance of Intel’s HD 630 graphics, which is inside everything from an $85 Pentium to a $380 Core i7. 

The money math is simple and attractive: It’s taking the CPU performance of a $105 Ryzen 3 1200 and nearly the graphics performance of a $110 Radeon RX 550 and rolling it into a single $99 Ryzen 3 2200G.

IDG

Five reasons to buy a Ryzen APU

1. Starting your gaming PC from scratch or near-scratch

The Ryzen APU makes the most sense if you’re building a new or mostly-new computer. For someone graduating from a game console to PC gaming or replacing base components, you just can’t beat the roughly $158 it costs for an APU and motherboard. 

Valve

DOTA 2 is still one of the most popular games around.

PC gaming is glorious, and for many gamers, once they go PC, they can never go back. But it’s not for everyone, so if you just want to see what it’s like on the other side and experience the rapture of a Steam Sale, a Ryzen APU gets you there in the cheapest way possible today. Even if you decided to go back to your controller and game console, you’d still have a decent box for editing documents, photos or video, and browsing the web.

IDG

There couldn’t possibly be a worse time to build a gaming PC than right now. A GPU that cost $250 just two months ago is now going for $600. And that $600 Radeon Vega 64? Expect to pony up $1,400 for it—if you can even find one.

Unless you like the idea of paying almost 2.5X for a relatively elderly GPU, you might build on a Ryzen APU and wait for the GPU storm to end before buying a higher-end card.

IDG

In some tougher games, the Ryzen APUs are definitely beind a low-end GPU, but not really by that much.

4. It’s almost as good a low-end card

Some skeptics think the new Ryzen APU is irrelevant because, well, the performance of the $99 Ryzen 3 2200G is slower than it is for a $110 Radeon RX 550 card. The pricier $169 Ryzen 5 2400G barely pulls even.

For example, we priced the cost of a Ryzen 3 2200G build. Including $99 for the OS, it came in at $505. If we opted for a build around a Ryzen 3 1200 for $105 with a Radeon RX 550, you’d have to shell out $621 for just slightly faster performance. Even a build with the Ryzen 5 2400G, which offers near-equal graphics performance to the Radeon RX 550 (and four more virtual CPU cores compared to the Ryzen 3 2200G), comes in at only at $575 for the build (including $99 for Windows 10). We’d rather put that money into a larger SSD, more RAM, or a mattress, to sock it away for the day when much faster GPUs come back to Earth.

IDG

The quad-cores chips easily rule over the dual-core Intel in the multi-threaded Cinebench R15 test.

5. It’s actually a great CPU, too

The Ryzen APUs may offer impressive graphics power, but their Zen cores matter, too. The older A-series of APUs were pretty underwhelming in traditional CPU tasks. These new Ryzen chips very much hold their own against Intel’s best CPUs.

Five reasons not to buy a Ryzen APU

AMD

5. It’s only a quad-core.

IDG

4. You want 1080p gaming

If your idea of a gaming PC is nothing less than pushing 50-plus fps at 1080p resolution on medium to high, you’ll likely be disappointed by a Ryzen APU. Even paired with the fastest DDR4, it’ll struggle on newer titles at that resolution. Instead, target a GeForce GTX 1050 or Radeon RX 560, at a minimum, for your build, and prepare to shell out some scratch.

ASRock

The x16 PCIe lane will run at x8 speeds when a Ryzen APU is installed.

3. It “only” has x8 PCIe lanes

One cost-saving decision made with the Ryzen APUs was to cut the PCIe lane support in half compared to Ryzen CPUs. For example, plug a graphics card into a motherboard with a Ryzen 3 1200, and it will run at x16 Gen 3 speeds, or a theoretical 32GBps. Swap that CPU out with a Ryzen 3 2200G, and the PCIe bandwidth drops to x8 Gen 3, or 16GBps.

2. You don’t have an old CPU to upgrade the BIOS to use the new APU

Another reason to bypass a Ryzen APU is because many motherboards on shelves will need an updated UEFI/BIOS to run it. Yes, that means if you buy a $70 motherboard to run your $99 APU, the only way you can use it first (assuming it’s not updated) is to update it with an older CPU.

This step may be a deal-breaker for many. Readers have told us MicroCenter stores will update the BIOS for you for 20 bucks, but not all of us live near one of its stores.

AMD

AMD’s updated Zen+ cores are due real soon now.

1. You want to wait for Zen+

The last reason you might want to skip AMD’s new APU is the most valid one: The sequel to the Zen cores used in all Ryzen CPUs is due as soon as April. Called Zen+, it’s expected to offer clock speed improvements, better overclocking headroom, and perhaps fixes of all the things AMD couldn’t get into the original Zen launch.

While that doesn’t mean AMD will immediately replace the newly released APU, if you’re the kind of person that always needs to have the latest thing, then yeah, what’s another few months right?

Now I Understand Why The Oneplus Concept One Exists

Now I understand why the OnePlus Concept One exists

The OnePlus Concept One hides its magic well. Indeed, you’d be hard-pressed at first glance to spot that the technology OnePlus developed for its new concept smartphone at CES 2023 started development eighteen months ago, the Android phone-maker once again taking McLaren’s supercars as its inspiration. Only this time around, it’s not just a fancy color scheme.

There’s one of those, certainly. Most of the back of the Concept One is clad in the automaker’s eye-searing orange leather, the same hide (and hue) that you’d find inside supercars like the McLaren 720S. It looks and feels great, with all the stitch detailing you’d expect, though I can’t help but wish that it was the 720S’ Alcantara that had made it to the OnePlus’ rear.

Snaking down the center of those two leather panels, like half an hourglass, is a slender pane of glass. It’s deceptively simple, but that black sliver is what gave OnePlus engineers their sleepless nights.

It’s electrochromic glass, which basically means that it can go from being opaque to transparent depending on an electrical charge being passed through. McLaren offers the technology on the glass roof of its 720S, in fact: you can dim it when you want shade in the cabin, or make it transparent when you’d rather see the sky. Problem was, OnePlus couldn’t just borrow a piece from the car company.

McLaren’s version of the glass is thick: after all, it needs to withstand errant rocks and inclement weather, not to mention survive crash testing. In fact it’s probably not far off the overall thickness of the Concept One itself. OnePlus needed a much thinner version it could layer over the multi-camera array.

Clearly (pun intended) they succeeded. When the Concept One is locked, or you’re using apps other than the camera, the electrochromic glass is black. You can just about see the circular shapes of the lenses underneath, but you have to be looking at just the right angle, and up close.

Tap the camera app, and in a split-second the panel turns clear. Because OnePlus can operate it in levels, too, it can also apply it as a makeshift ND filter, helping cut over-exposure in brighter or mixed brightness scenes. Flip to the front-facing camera – which pops out of the top – and the panel blacks out again.

Like I said, it’s deceptively simple. OnePlus is still refining the technology: it may look production-ready, as does the Concept One overall, but it’s not quite ready for mass production. Still, the company is excited about the possibilities, which include larger panels of the glass or, indeed, making smaller, custom shapes like an individual lens for a camera. Get the latter right, and you could have different filters for, say, the ultra-wide versus the telephoto lens. Better still, OnePlus tells me that there’s no real power impact from the system.

I confess, at first I was a little unclear why OnePlus was doing all this. The roof in the McLaren makes sense: you get the benefits of both a transparent and a shaded roof, but without the moving parts that can slow down supercars. The argument for a phone, though, is a little less clear.

Listen to OnePlus, and it feels like there are a few reasons, varying on the scale of practicality to “well it just feels nice.” On the one hand, yes, you can add different filters to the camera, and that addresses a common complaint about smartphone photography. On the other, why not have a sleeker device when you can, and only expose the complexity when it’s actually needed?

Where you stand on that argument depends on how much you consider a reasonable price for a smartphone, and how big an emphasis you place on aesthetics. While the Concept One may feel like a frippery on one hand, I can’t really fault OnePlus for wanting to dig into engineering and make something cleverer for the sheer fact that you can. After all, nobody ever said a supercar was a necessary item, but that doesn’t make them any less appealing.

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