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Apple is up to something, and as usual it’s the skills and press releases of other companies that shine the best light on Apple’s new direction.
Predicting the future is never easy, and with Apple it’s a special challenge. Apple always delivers far more, or far less, than people expect. They are experts at evolutionary change, like the new Macbooks. However, they are also experts at revolutionary change. The iPhone stands as a shining example.
Recently, Apple’s moves in acquiring PA Semi bought them a great deal of expertise in embedded systems, low power processing, and more generally in the area of SoC semiconductor design. As recently discussed, Apple possesses a lot of ARM design capability for a company that isn’t an ARM licensee. So, it is a reasonable assumption that they are.
The reasons to believe this are compelling. With the upcoming ARM Cortex processors in dual and quad-core configurations, ARM is going to be pushing out of the top end of their traditional performance envelope, and challenging Intel’s Atom for the netbook performance crown. More interestingly, ARM already thrashes the Atom on MIPS/Watt performance, and we know this is so important to Apple that Steve Jobs spent several minutes discussing it during his 2005 WWDC keynote – it was their primary reason for switching to Intel processors.
Now we have a new datapoint: Apple has taken a financial stake in Imagination Technologies. This is interesting for many reasons. Imagination has expertise in high performance graphics processing on small power budgets – something Apple desperately needs if they intend to bring high performance graphics to an ARM device for netbook or embedded use. The iPhone is passable, but it doesn’t have the performance to be a mainstay game platform, to do much with 1080p HD, or make for a pleasant OS X desktop experience.
Imagination Technologies is also a member of the Khronos Group, yes, the same people who recently finalized the OpenCL specification that is a big part of Snow Leopard.
From this we can start to draw reasonably safe conclusions about the device Apple would be designing, and its capabilities would betray its possible usage in future Apple products. What can we conclude?
Apple seems to be designing a high performance, power efficient, ARM-based SoC. It likely has high performance graphics, and an exceptional power envelope. It likely has the performance to support OS X natively, with comparable performance to current dual core Intel-based laptops.
This device seems almost overpowered for iPhone use. It would be a nice fit for a proposed netbook, where it would provide good performance, long battery life (days not hours), and an amazingly small thermal and physical footprint. It would also be very comfortable in the AppleTV, where it could reduce manufacturing cost and product complexity, and increase the AppleTV’s capabilities.
The greatest new product potential I see, when looking at the direction Apple has taken their core business over the last few years, is in selling devices that are tied to revenue streams that Apple controls. I’m referring, of course, to iTunes and the App store.
An AppleTV and a Wii have basically identical hardware requirements, and their functions support each other amazingly well. This new, proposed device would enable such a system to be built for less than $200. If you’ve used an iPhone, an AppleTV, a Wii and a DVR, you could see how these things coming together would be a Good Thing™.
The buzz, though, is about an Apple netbook. What does this proposed chip allow? If we take both design paths, the options are a giant iPhone with a touch-screen or proper keyboard, or the thinnest, lightest and ‘funnest netbook ever!’
What do you think?
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Performance is surprisingly competitive
Vivid, bright screen
Cellular connectivity for on-the-go work
Fantastic battery life
New Windows Studio Effects generally work wellCons
eSIM connectivity had issues
Audio isn’t as rich as earlier tablets
Inking isn’t quite as good
No headphone jack
Arm processor has some compatibility issues with gamesOur Verdict
If you’re in the market for an always-connected Windows tablet for office work, we’d recommend you take a look at the Surface Pro 9 (5G).Best Prices Today: Microsoft Surface Pro 9 (5G)
We recommend that you consider buying the Microsoft Surface Pro 9 (5G) Windows tablet, with an Arm chip—not an Intel or AMD chip—inside. That’s a first for us, and we hope it’s not the last.
Read reviews of the Surface Pro 9 with a large grain of salt, because there are two significantly different products hiding under the same brand name. The Surface Pro 9 is built on an Intel 12th-gen Core chip (Alder Lake), while the Surface Pro 9 (5G) uses a separate SQ3 chip co-developed by Qualcomm to Microsoft’s specifications. We’re reviewing the Surface Pro 9 (5G) here.
The Surface Pro 9 (5G) is essentially the Surface Pro X, now renamed and brought under the Surface Pro 9 brand umbrella. Inside it is the SQ3, an Arm chip that’s technically incompatible with the X86 architecture of Intel’s Core and AMD’s Ryzen processors, but can run most Windows apps both via a special Arm-optimized version of Windows 11 plus a special code interpreter.
What it boils down to is this: The Surface Pro 9 (5G) should offer somewhat more battery life and somewhat less performance than the Core version of the tablet, based on our tests. But it’s not that much less, and that’s the surprise. Nevertheless, there are still application compatibility issues if you wander too far from its mission: handling day-to-day Office tasks and browsing via Microsoft Edge.
The Surface Pro 9 (5G) is also the only SP9 to include a 5G radio inside, meaning that you’ll enjoy always-on connectivity once you leave the range of the nearest Wi-Fi router. We’re also told that Microsoft does not plan to sell a 5G version of the Surface Pro 9 with a Core chip inside, either — if you want an always-connected Surface Pro 9, the Surface Pro 9 (5G) is it.
A special Liberty Floral keyboard is available in limited quantities to celebrate the Surface line’s 10th anniversary.
Unlike the Surface Pro 9, the Surface Pro 9 (5G) does not include a pair of Thunderbolt 4 USB-C ports, which usually requires an Intel processor. Instead, the Surface Pro 9 (5G) includes standard USB-C ports rated at the vanilla 10Gbps spec instead. This matters in two ways: first, you won’t be able to use a Thunderbolt dock to expand this tablet’s I/O capabilities. You also won’t be able to use a powered Thunderbolt dock to charge the tablet either, and will have to depend on the 39W charger to charge the tablet through the Surface Connect port.
This is not an enormous issue; you can use Microsoft’s Surface Dock 2, the upcoming Microsoft Audio Dock, or an inexpensive USB-C dongle to provide some I/O expansion capabilities, and the in-box charger works just fine. But it’s another difference between the two.
Otherwise, aside from shaving a sliver off of the chassis weight, the Surface Pro 9 is essentially the same as the Surface Pro 8: the same design, with a Surface Pro Signature Keyboard (sold separately) which can tuck the optional Surface Slim Pen 2 (usually bundled with the Signature Keyboard) into its recharging cubby. Two new color options are available: Sapphire and Forest, with a special Liberty floral blue Surface Pro 9 color option in limited quantities to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Surface tablet.
Microsoft has continued to offer two sub-versions of the Surface Pro 9 and Surface Pro 9 (5G), which vary by operating system. Our review unit of the Surface Pro 9 (5G), supplied by Microsoft, uses Windows 11 Home. An optional Surface Pro 9 (5G) for Business ships with both Windows 11 Pro. Business customers also enjoy better support options.Surface Pro 9 (5G) features and specs
Display: 13-inch PixelSense Flow (2880×1920, 267 PPI) up to 120Hz with dynamic refresh rate
Processor: Surface Pro 9 (consumer): 12th-gen Core i5-1235U, Core i7-1255U; Surface Pro 9 for Business: Core i5-1245U, Core i7-1265U; Surface Pro 9 with 5G: Microsoft 3.00GHz SQ3
Graphics: Surface Pro 9: Iris Xe (Core i5, i7); Surface Pro 9 with 5G: SQ3 Adreno 8cx Gen 3
Memory: Surface Pro 9: 8/16/32GB LPDDR5 RAM; Surface Pro 9 with 5G: 8/16GB LPDDR4X RAM
Storage: 128GB/256GB/512GB/1TB removable SSD; Surface Pro 9 with 5G: 128GB/256GB/512GB removable SSD
Ports: Surface Pro 9 (5G): 2 USB-C 10Gbps; Surface Pro 9: 2 USB-C (USB 4.0/Thunderbolt 4). Both SP9 models include 1 Surface Connect port, 1 Surface Keyboard Port
Security: Camera (Windows Hello)
Camera: Surface Pro 9: 5Mpixel/1080p (user-facing), 10MP/1080p and 4K video (rear-facing); Surface Pro 9 with 5G: same, but with Windows Studio Effects
Battery: Design capacity: 46.5Wh; Full capacity, 49.2Wh
Wireless: Both: Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax), Bluetooth 5.1; Surface Pro 9 with 5G: see below
Operating system: Consumer, both Surface Pro 9 versions: Windows 11 Home; Business, Surface Pro 9: Windows 10 Pro or Windows 11 Pro; Surface Pro 9 with 5G: Windows 11 Pro
Dimensions: 11.3 x 8.2 x 0.37 inches
Weight: Surface Pro 9: 1.94 pounds; Surface Pro 9 with 5G: 1.95 pounds (mmWave); 1.94 pounds (Sub6)
Color: Platinum, Graphite, Sapphire, Forest, Liberty (limited supplies)
Price: Surface Pro 9 (consumer): $999 to $2,599.99, depending on configuration; Surface Pro 9 with 5G (consumer): $1,299.99 to $1,899.99; Surface Pro 9 for Business: $1,099.99 to $2,699.99; Surface Pro 9 with 5G for Business: $1,399.99 to $1,899.99 ($1,599.99 as tested)
Optional accessories: Surface Slim Pen 2: $97 on sale at Amazon; Surface Pro Signature Keyboard: on sale at Amazon for $149.99
Yes, the Surface Pro 9 (5G) is all about the hardware. But it’s also a showcase for the latest features of Windows 11, and you’ll see the updated Microsoft Edge browser (complete with a luxurious look at its features, including the new icon sidebar on the right side) when you first open it.
Mark Hachman / IDGMicrosoft Surface Pro 9 (5G): Out of the box
Microsoft sent us a Surface Pro Signature Keyboard in what appears to be the Sapphire color, along with the Surface Slim Pen 2.
Microsoft’s setup process doesn’t seem to differ too much from what Windows 11 now asks of you. You’ll still need a Microsoft account to proceed, though that opens the door for automatic installation of Microsoft 365 (Office 365) as well as migrating apps and settings from any other previous installations. Expect to see the Surface app pop up randomly early on, asking you to set up your Surface Slim Pen 2, including questions about what hand you ink with as well as a general overview of how the pen works. Inking is far more fundamental to the Surface Pro experience than, say, the Surface Laptop 5.
The power button and volume rocker have wandered about the top and sides of the Surface Pro over the last few generations. The Surface Pro 9 (5G) returns to the design of the Surface Pro 7+, with the power and volume rocker on top, next to one another.
The Surface Pro 9 (5G), like its 5G-less cousin, is a Windows tablet, with the SP9’s traditional kickstand that allows it to recline just 15 degrees or so off of the horizontal. The Surface Pro 9 experience is part consumption, as the lightweight tablet and kickstand allows it to be propped up in all sorts of non-traditional locations; part creation, via inking on the tablet; and part productivity, with the magnetically attached Signature keyboard allowing it to emulate a traditional clamshell notebook. It does all of these pretty well.
Mark Hachman / IDG
In general, the Surface Pro tablets do best on a flat surface, versus a typical clamshell laptop which can perch on your lap. Otherwise, you’ll have to hold the 13-inch SP9 tablet up, grasping it by the rather large bezels on the sides. The display matches the Surface Pro 8, which increased the display size slightly, with better resolution than rival tablets from Dell and others. You might think by now that Microsoft would use some sort of AI intelligence to sense which fingers are merely holding the tablet, and which are interacting with it. That’s not the case, and everything looks a bit antiquated as a result.
A pair of USB-C (not Thunderbolt) ports are on the left side of the Surface Pro 9 (5G). But where’s the headphone jack?
Mark Hachman / IDG
When comparing it to other tablets like the Apple iPad or the Samsung Galaxy Tab series, the Surface Pro 9 is hard-pressed to hold its own. But in the Windows space, versus traditional laptops, the SP9 stands out, with a display resolution that pushes past 1440p and with excellent pixel density. The PixelSense Flow screen continues to be simply beautiful, with a dynamic 120Hz option for improved smoothness and inking.
According to our colorimeter, the Surface Pro 9 (5g) puts out an extremely bright 443 nits of screen luminance and covers much of the sRGB color gamut as well. That’s about ten more nits than the Surface Pro 8 pushed out, and should allow you to work in the shade, if not daylight. That’s ideal for an on-the-go, connected tablet.
The Surface Pro 9 (5G) emphasizes creativity, with a wide color gamut.
Mark Hachman / IDG
Microsoft’s 5G tablet foregoes Dolby Vision IQ, a visual display improvement that the new Surface Laptop 5 includes but this device does not.
The Surface Pro 9 (5G) puts out enough light that you can work in moderate daylight. This was taken about 3PM, on a sunny day.
Mark Hachman / IDG
Unlike the Surface Laptop 5 (or virtually any other product that uses an Intel or AMD X86 processor) the Windows’ performance settings have no effect. With an X86 chip, you can get significantly increased performance for free; with the Surface Pro 9 (5G) the settings are there, but are just for show.
We understand that while Microsoft would have liked to add in Thunderbolt, that just didn’t happen. We have a 4K test display that includes a USB-C input, and it powered that display without any problems at all. (Naturally, it can only run its internal display at 120Hz, however.) Microsoft phased out the microSD card slot in earlier Surface Pro models, but you can “replace” that with a separate USB-C dongle.How is the Surface Pro 9 (5G) to type on?
Microsoft’s Surface Pro Signature Keyboards haven’t changed that much in the last few years, save for the addition of the charging cubby for the Slim Pen 2. Yes, the magnetic connector holding the keyboard to the tablet does secure the tablet well enough to use it on your lap, but you’ll probably prefer to use it on a desk or tabletop in most cases. While you’ll probably prefer the stability of typing on a clamshell laptop, the inclined Signature Keyboard is absolutely usable for everyday use.
The Surface Pro Signature Keyboard hides the Slim Pen 2, tucked underneath the fold.
Mark Hachman / IDGWhat happened to the Surface Pro 9’s headphone jack?
The Surface Pro 9 (5G)’s speakers provide a soft but balanced soundscape with noticeably less volume than prior generations. Put against the Surface Pro 8, there’s simply little point of comparison: previous Surface tablets have punched above their weight in terms of audio quality, and the Surface Pro 9 (5G) seems to be trading on that legacy with less to back it up. Yes, the specs say that there’s still the same 2W speakers inside it, but I find that hard to believe.
In fact, the Surface Pro 8 has a toggle switch within the Windows 11 Settings menu to toggle on audio enhancements. The Surface Pro 9 (5G) lacks that feature, and frankly sounds almost identical to the SP8 with that switch toggled off. Using headphones, though, thankfully rectifies those flaws, and my Google Pixel earbuds sounded terrific.
The Surface Pro 9 (5G) still ships with a rear camera, if that’s your thing.
Mark Hachman / IDG
It’s worth noting, though that those are Pixel USB-C wired earbuds. Why? Because the Surface Pro 9 (5G) has joined the ranks of those devices that have killed off the headphone jack alongside the Surface Pro X — still a black mark in my book. I don’t want to have to charge Bluetooth earbuds to use my tablet. If you feel differently, that’s fine.
The Surface Pro 9 (5G)’s webcam, however, is one of the device’s highlights. First, the Surface Pro family has always used a 1080p webcam, and they’re usually among the best of any laptop or tablet, anywhere. Though the webcam image shot with the camera is a bit soft, the image quality, color, and lighting is quite good. I typically capture these webcam images in the morning, but this was captured in the afternoon, with side light. It’s still very well done.
Specifically, Windows Studio Effects offer three features: background effects (specifically blurring), Eye Contact, and automatic framing. While other applications offer background blurring, the key is that Windows offers this as a general control, so it isn’t dependent on the app itself. (It’s a little unclear whether an app’s effects will be able to override this or not.) Microsoft offers two blurs: a “portrait” blur that vaguely blurs the background, and a deeper “standard” blur” that makes the background largely unrecognizable. These are all previewable within Settings, by the way.
Interestingly, both models of the Surface Pro 9 ship with a webcam with a 4-degree tilt, which we have to assume contributes to its capability for automatic framing.
This Windows blur is a necessity for a crowded home office, full of various test equipment and so on.
Mark Hachman / IDG
Eye Contact is a feature that, like FaceTime for Apple’s iOS, attempts to use AI to fix your gaze on the camera, no matter if you’re actually looking at something else. Again, this is a Windows control, so it should be active in Teams, Zoom, Google Meet, and other apps. But it’s not previewable, so you’ll have to trust (ha!) that you’ll look as if you’re actually paying attention. (It didn’t work with a phone movie I recorded of my face, with my eyes darting this way and that.) That’s a bit risky during those group meetings or staff calls, so play it safe until you can test it out with a friend.
Automatic framing does work, however. In a perfect world, automatic framing would work as a sort of face tracking, tracking your face as you move around. And it does! — within some limits. The webcam does a nice job of identifying your face and zooming in to it. If you’re seated at your desk during a call, it’s unlikely that this will make a difference. But if you stand up or slide your chair back, automatic framing should step in. We captured automatic framing in action to create this GIF, below.
Note that you’ll need Windows 11’s 2023 Update, and the October experiences update, and a device with a Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 or equivalent (SQ3) to make this work.
Mark Hachman / IDGHow is the Surface Pro 9 (5G) for inking?
The Surface Pro 9 (5G) continues to support the tablet well, even maximally reclined, for inking. Microsoft has also finally nailed the pen’s design, too: though you’ll need to buy a Surface Pro Signature Keyboard, the way that the flat Surface Slim Pen 2 conceals itself within it and charges when not in use is just about perfect. (Make sure not to buy the Slim Pen 2 separately without the keyboard, as the standalone Pen 2 doesn’t come with a charger.)
One of the few things we haven’t tested was how long the Slim Pen 2 lasts; Microsoft says that the pen’s internal rechargeable battery can last up to 15 hours, which should be just fine before it has to be returned to its cubby to recharge. We haven’t had any complaints, nor do the users we interact with online.
The Slim Pen 2, inside the charging cubby.
The Slim Pen 2’s flat shape is a bit awkward to use, though the redesigned Pen 2 has a sharper nib, allowing for more precision. It also applies 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity. I really can’t tell how accurate this all is, though we tested the inking capabilities by inking a series of straight lines. below, with a straight edge. The pen-tablet interaction on most tablets introduces jitter (wobble) under certain situations, especially when inking slowly on a diagonal. The Surface Pro 8 offered an exceptional inking experience, though I don’t think the Surface Pro 9 (5G) is as good, as there seems to be more jitter when inking slowly and diagonally, which is where it creeps in. There’s no noticeable ink offset, though, as the ink “flows” directly underneath the nib.
Again, Microsoft seems to have oversold the haptic feedback. When inking on the tablet your fingers should receive a bit of resistance, like inking on paper, I really couldn’t feel it.
It appears that the ink jitter in the Surface Pro 9 (5G) is more pronounced than what we found in our Surface Pro 8 review.
Mark Hachman / IDGCellular performance
One of the selling points of the Surface Pro 9 (5G) is its ability to connect on the go. Microsoft provides two options: either you can insert a physical SIM card into the back of the tablet, via a pop-out door that also houses the replaceable SSD, or you can sign up with one of two built-in eSIM providers and use that instead. If you choose the latter (as I did), you don’t need a physical SIM card at all. That’s certainly the more convenient option.
Unfortunately, I’m not sure it’s the most effective. I signed up for a 1Gbyte, 7-day eSIM plan with GigSky, one of the built-in providers, for $9.99. Neither GigSky nor Ubigi, the other provider, offer 5G connectivity—unfortunate considering this SP9 includes “5G” in its name. There’s also no obvious provision to save your GigSky password via the browser, and I hadn’t installed a password manager.
Across my test sites, I received decent connectivity, but not quite up to snuff to a Samsung Galaxy S22 5G phone. In two locations with middling to poor signal quality, the eSIM not only failed to connect but asked me to activate the eSIM again, after I’d paid for and actually used the eSIM at another location in town.
We’re told that these “stripes” are antenna bands that are used to improve reception, though it wasn’t that great on our tests.
Mark Hachman / IDG
I received a maximum of 268Mbits down and 1.69Mbits up within sight of the cellular tower, and progressively worse results elsewhere — 132 Mbits and 76Mbits. That’s not that shabby, and more than enough to work or stream a movie, as I did. Otherwise, without a 5G offering, and with middling bandwidth, I’d be tempted to look into what my provider would offer to wirelessly tether my phone, or what it would cost for a secondary physical SIM.
Pop this SIM cubby open with a SiM tool and you can insert a physical SIM card inside.
Mark Hachman / IDGHow good is the Surface Pro 9 (5G) performance?
The short answer? Not that bad, surprisingly.
Normally, we’d use a standard suite of benchmarks to evaluate the Surface Pro 9 (5G). But the fact that there’s an Arm chip inside complicates matters. While the SQ3 Arm chip runs most applications, it doesn’t run all of them, and it’s this unexpected “What? Really?” response that can still turn off potential buyers.
For most common applications, though the Surface Pro 9 (5G) should run most everything you’d throw at it: Office apps, Microsoft Edge and competing browsers, even the nitty-gritty apps like the Windows Command Line app. (Earlier versions didn’t always do this.) Just don’t expect to play games; the tablet “will not install some games and CAD software, and some third-party drivers or antivirus software,” according to Microsoft—games with OpenGL 1.2 or above or with anti-cheat software, essentially.
Streaming our test 4K60 test YouTube stream looked gorgeous on the tablet’s screen, thanks to the great color fidelity. But YouTube only delivered a 1440×810 stream, though it didn’t drop a single frame. The Netflix and Hulu apps worked as expected. You can download and run Google Chrome, if you’d like.
We’d normally provide links to comparative tablets, but there really aren’t any right now. We can recommend reading our review of the Lenovo ThinkPad X13s Gen 1, which uses the 8cx Gen 3 and should be roughly comparable to the Surface Pro 9 (5G) and its SQ3 chip. We don’t have the Surface Pro 9 with a Core chip inside of it to compare to.
the new surface laptop 5 sports a traditional intel CPU and laptop design
Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 (15-inch)
Read our review
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Normally, we’d test our suite of benchmarks that measures general day-to-day app performance, with CPU tests, and so on. But some of those applications still won’t work on Arm.
One of our test applications that has run previously, PCMark 8’s Creative workload, simply refused to run after numerous attempts. It’s one of the frustrations of this platform.
But there has been a surprising amount of improvement in the Snapdragon infrastructure. Again, it’s unclear whether or not that our limited test suite is just topping out in terms of theoretical performance, but we were surprised at how well Snapdragon caught up and even exceeded a Core chip.
Though we have a limited set of comparative laptops, the Surface Pro 9 (5G) is keeping up with Microsoft’s latest.
Mark Hachman / IDG
Here’s a more compelling benchmark. If you think of the Surface Pro 9 (5G) as primarily an office machine, running Microsoft 365 (Office) apps and browsing the web — well, that’s what the PCMark 10 Apps test measures. And the Surface Pro 9 (5G) holds its own.
In PCMark 10 Apps, there’s only a 14 percent gap in performance between the Surface Pro 8 and its Core chip to the Surface Pro 9 (5G) and its Arm processor.
Mark Hachman / IDG
Finally, we used 3DMark’s Night Raid, a cross-platform 3D GPU test, to evaluate how the Adreno 3D core inside the SQ3 fares. Here, it doesn’t quite hold up to the Iris Xe cores used within the Intel Core chips. There’s a significant gap, but it’s not extraordinarily huge, either.
Because of some benchmark database snafus, we weren’t able to directly compare the Lenovo ThinkPad x13s Gen 1 (a clamshell that uses the comparable Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 processor from Qualcomm) except for this test. The scores are almost exactly equal.
The Adreno graphics core from Microsoft and Qualcomm can’t really keep up with the Iris Xe integrated GPUs of Core chips, but that’s not really the point of the Surface Pro 9 (5G)
Mark Hachman / IDG
Battery life is certainly a key metric, too, and we use a video rundown test to measure how long the tablet will last when you use it in class, in meetings, and on the couch. We believe that our tests more directly correspond to real-world usage, as our test conditions use a much brighter screen than Microsoft itself does. This is where Arm processors typically shine, as the Surface Pro 9 (5G) does here with about 15.75 hours of real-world battery life.
We turn the Wi-Fi and cellular radios off for this test, which will affect your battery life, as will the work you perform on it. But this is still a great result.
Mark Hachman / IDGShould you buy the Surface Pro 9 (5G)?
We didn’t extensively test the Microsoft’s tablet for compatibility with modern applications due to time constraints, and that’s traditionally been the weakest point of the Arm argument. You can see that we struggled to get some of our benchmark applications to work, and we’re not going to award an Editor’s Choice award based upon that.
But the thrust of Windows on Arm has always been the core applications, namely Microsoft 365/Office and web browsing, and how they run. All of those load and run as expected. Battery life, the other selling point, has been somewhat superseded by Intel’s Evo platform — by convincing laptop makers to build their clamshells a little thicker and with more battery, they easily extended their run time.
As a tablet, the Surface Pro 9 (5G) sits within a niche, without the ravenous competition of the clamshell notebook space. That gives it breathing room. But, excuses aside, it’s now within striking distance of mainstream Core products. We don’t have the Surface Pro 9 and its Intel Core processor to test, but the Surface Laptop 5 stands in. The tablet’s battery-life argument holds up, and yes, you can argue that you can trade off a bit of lower performance for improved connectivity.
So yes, the Surface Pro 9 (5G) did unexpectedly well. We’re impressed. Is it the best tablet in its class? We don’t know. But yes, we’d recommend that you consider the Surface Pro 9 (5G), and hope for continued competition from Microsoft and Qualcomm in the future.
As much as I enjoyed my Roku streaming media player, I’m an Apple user and always have been. I still craved the Apple TV. Everything on the Roku was great, but I really wanted to be able to utilize iTunes, something that isn’t available on the Roku. Once we finally upgraded to an HDTV, I knew my next purchase would be an Apple TV, and it was.1. Ease of Setup
The Apple TV is just as easy to set up as the Roku. It simply plugs into the back of your TV. The only difference is that while the Roku works with both the older RCA-style cables (with the white, yellow, and red plugs) and the newer HDMI, the Apple TV only works with HDMI. The plug is not included with the unit and will need to be purchased separately.
Plugging in the Apple TV utilizes your existing WiFi Internet service. It recognizes the service on its own and asks you to put in your password. It should be noted that when first signing into the unit, it’s asking for your password or key to your Internet service, not any of the individual channels. Once the AppleTV is signed in, it presents you with a screen of all the channels that are available. While the Apple TV doesn’t have as many channels as the Roku, the ones it does have are all worthwhile. This means there are less signins and passwords to keep track of.2. iTunes and YouTube
Both the Roku and Apple TV have Netflix, but the Apple TV also has iTunes and YouTube. Signing in with your existing iTunes account, you can rent and/or purchase movies, TV episodes and seasons and can also play the iTunes music you already have. This is what really drew me in and what I found I was missing with the Roku. I could listen to Pandora and could rent movies from Amazon, but I already have so much tied up in iTunes. I like to joke that I personally built a wing on Steve Jobs’ home just with my iTunes purchases. I felt like it was going to waste not using it on the Roku. Along with playing the content from your purchasing history, turning on Home Sharing on iTunes on your computer will pick up all the music you have in iTunes in the Computer Channel.
Additionally, the Apple TV plays YouTube videos. Many people just use YouTube as their source of music, as it allows you to make up a playlist. This is of course in addition to all the other types of videos that YouTube plays. You can search for specific videos and can also sign into your existing YouTube account to watch videos you have uploaded yourself as well as access your list of favorites.3. AirPlay
While it was the ability to play iTunes content that drew me to the Apple TV, it was the AirPlay feature that made me fall in love with it. I knew it had that capability, but I didn’t realize the magnitude of how great it could be. AirPlay allows you to stream content from your Apple mobile device to the AppleTV. This includes just about any video. I’m a movie and TV reviewer, so I receive content from networks and studios for previewing and reviewing purposes. Having to watch it on my MacBook or iPad is a pain.
With AirPlay I can stream it directly to my TV. Opening up the content on my iPad or iPhone, it shows the AirPlay symbol, and pressing that allows me to choose whether I want the content to play on my mobile device or the Apple TV. That also meant that after I recorded videos of my daughter’s ballet rehearsal, I could show them to family.4. PhotoStream
As can be seen, the Apple TV is really a great product if you are already an Apple person. Most of the stuff are deeply integrated and you can easily switch from one platform to another. For those who have never owned an Apple product, you can still get the Apple TV, but you won’t be able to maximize all the features that come with it.
Laura has spent nearly 20 years writing news, reviews, and op-eds, with more than 10 of those years as an editor as well. She has exclusively used Apple products for the past three decades. In addition to writing and editing at MTE, she also runs the site’s sponsored review program.
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Selling a used, no longer needed electronic device is a great way of getting back some of the money spent on it. Thanks to auctioning services you can sell your old devices on eBay or Amazon. What should you remember about before putting the device on sale?
First of all you should make sure that the future owner won’t be able to access you files. Depending on their size and the type of a device you can choose between a couple of methods for moving them onto a new computer, smartphone, or tablet. In case of Office files and similar ones it is most convenient to use the cloud.
Your film, photo and music collection – taking more space, 50, 100 or more GB – will be best transferred using an external hard drive. If you don’t have one you can also burn the data onto DVDs, but such a process may be quite time-consuming.
When it comes to mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets there are fewer problems with moving user data between devices, as many application synchronize the saved information automatically and it can be accessed right after logging into a new device.
Keeping your sensitive data is just as important as moving files – a new owner should not be able to access your login data and passwords. The easiest way is by restoring the factory (or default) settings in the system. This will remove all the user-installed files and applications, remove private contacts and notes, and also logging data.
The first step in case of a computer should be a full format or wiping the partitions other than the system partition. Remember that only removing the files may not be sufficient – someone could always try to retrieve these files using a dedicated application.
The last step you have to take in a laptop or a dekstop is formatting the C: partition and installing a fresh Windows copy (from a hidden recovery partition or a DVD). This way all your programs, browser data and other important information will disappear.
Additionally a new user will receive a computer that is working with its maximal efficiency. The customer won’t call us after a couple of days after buying the computer and won’t tell us that we sold them a piece of s***.
An important thing when selling a computer is removing authorization of the device in various Web services. This kind of an authorization can sometime live through the formatting process (especially if files are stored online). Otherwise a buyer will be able to buy DRM music using your credit card.
To get the best price you should of course clean it (at least from the outside). This way it will look better on the photos in the auctioning service. Make sure to say clearly that there are standard signs of usage on the outside.
Of course, fewer customers may want to buy it, but you will not be faced with unpleasant suprises after you have sent the device.
When selling a laptop or a smartphone on Allegro you can add an extra piece of accessory, even the old case you used with it. You won’t probably need it anymore, and the offer will look more appealing to the potential buyers.
Do As I Do, Say What I Say
I worked in the North Orange, New Jersey school district for one day. It was a training day. I had accepted a job as a teacher in a fine High School (read: rich) teaching Journalism and Theater Arts. As a challenge, this was a step down from the English teaching I had been doing at inner city High Schools for the past five years, but it would have been a very cushy teaching job. I had been offered a salary of $75,000, which is more than I thought a teacher could make. On my first day of training, a couple weeks before the school year started, I got a call from a Web site to which I had also applied for a job. They wanted me to work for them as a product reviewer and news writer.
[Image credit: Redfire Motion Group]
The Web site was offering less than half of what I would have made as a teacher. I tried to negotiate, but things fell apart quickly. Instead of increasing their offer, they decided not to hire anyone for the position and just stick with the people they had. I got a message on my voicemail that pretty much said “thanks, but no thanks.” I called back immediately and asked if they would let me work for the initial salary offer. Of course, they accepted. As a negotiator, I really suck.
I recently left tech journalism to work with a major phone manufacturer. When I told people I was leaving, I heard two questions repeating themselves over and over. First, would I continue writing these columns for SlashGear. Second, could they have my job. I don’t understand the first question. I didn’t suspect people enjoyed reading reviews of bad movies and sentimental stories about Facebook quite as much as they did. I’m flattered, and I hope that I’ll be back on SlashGear to stay a while longer.
The second question I completely understood. I’ll tell you when I realized I was working a dream job. I started at the Web site on the Tuesday after labor day. That Friday, I did not realize it was the end of the week until around 4:30, when it was time to start winding down. When I realized I had two days off from work, I was sad to be leaving. I wanted a longer work week. That’s my definition of a great job: when you hate Fridays more than you hate Mondays. For the past 4+ years, I’ve never looked forward to a Friday.
So, here’s how to get my job. Let’s start with qualifications. I have an English degree and a Master’s degree, but I wouldn’t say those are necessary. Definitely not the Master’s. But you need to be a very good writer if you want to do well. You need to be completely comfortable expressing yourself in print in a way that people can understand, and in a way that will express subtext and a deeper meaning to your readers. And you need to be able to do it quickly. I wrote 200 word news stories in 5 minutes. I wrote 4,000 word reviews in a day.
However, it wasn’t the writing or the degree that landed me the job. It also wasn’t my prior experience. I’d been teaching High School for five years, but before that I worked at a few top notch Web sites riding the crest of the tech bubble in New York City. I’d written some reviews, done plenty of editing and learned just enough HTML code that I can ask where the bathroom is using only anchor tags.
What landed me that job, and my previous tech jobs, was a connection I made with my interviewer using gadgets. I talked about my first cell phone. My parents bought me a so-called Motorola bag phone in 1991, the year I started driving. I talked about that, and how I had been landline-free since 1997, the year I got my first portable cell phone (an early Sprint TouchPoint phone). My future editor was hooked. He asked all the silly interview questions, but it was talking about my early experiences, and showing wonder for the world that opened up when I started carrying a phone everywhere, that convinced him I would be a good fit. I don’t think I even submitted a writing sample.
Start following some of the smaller Web sites that cover products and topics that interest you. Don’t aim large at first. Sure, sites like SlashGear, or Engadget, or TechCrunch may hire someone with little experience, but it’s not likely. Instead, aim for a smaller, up-and-coming site and plan on working hard until you’ve made a name for yourself.
Web sites usually follow a specific tone. SlashGear is intelligent, slightly longer-form, and family friendly. This site is interested more in discussion than simply blip-by-blip press release repetition. Some sites are more irreverent, with reviews of toys and even paraphernalia of all sorts. Some sites are more strictly news-based. Be flexible in your hunt, and try to write a few samples in the site’s style and tone. Most sites will ask for 2-3 samples anyway, so it’s better to have this ready up front.
Most important, make sure you target your application to the site in which you’re interested. If I could tell from an email that the applicant was sending me the same form letter he or she sent to every other site, I lost interest very quickly. You will have much more success taking the time and tailoring your attack to sites individually. Sure, you won’t be able to hit 20 sites at one time, but would you rather spend 4 months sending 20 emails a day, or 1 month sending one thoughtful, sculpted email at a time.
Now that I’m looking from the corporate side, I realize just how difficult the journalism job can be. There are a lot of fun aspects of the job. In my first week of working for a gadget blog, I went to a fancy dinner with RIM, got a free BlackBerry Pearl (which we then donated to a charity called Phones4Life), reviewed some of the coolest smartphones available at the time and saw my name in lights, err, pixels at least.
I also worked 12 hours a day (though usually not in a row), plus a few hours on weekends. I grew despondent as some of my best reviews flopped with little interest in the product or my analysis. I was rejected by PR flacks and left out of the loop. At those amazing trade shows, I skipped the free booze and greasy fried food and worked until 3AM, only to get up at 7AM for breakfast meetings.
I made far less money than my wife, who has an MBA, and worked more hours. But every hour of work felt like play time. I felt like I was getting paid for a wonderful hobby, and not like I was toiling away at a thankless career. It’s certainly not for everyone, and it isn’t an easy job to find, but for the right person, it’s a job that will have you looking forward to every Monday morning.
Currently, the world’s longest commercial flight takes seventeen and a half hours. It connects Auckland, New Zealand to Doha, Qatar, and was only introduced in February. It probably won’t be long, though, before this record is usurped. Nineteen-hour flights from Singapore to New York and twenty-hour treks from Sydney to London are expected to join the fray soon.
These ultra long-haul flights are becoming more efficient and economically viable. They’re also a slog for passengers. But is there a point where a super-long flight becomes a public health risk?
There are a few health risks linked to flying (yes, aside from being dragged off the plane. Or stung by falling scorpions). Tacking on a few more hours probably won’t have much of an impact, though.
“If it’s one seventeenth of the trip, it’s not that big of a deal,” says Fanancy Anzalone, an aerospace medicine physician and past president of the Aerospace Medical Association. Still, he says, “There’s a multitude of things that you need to be concerned about when you do go on a long-haul flight.”
Sitting still in a cramped seat for hours isn’t just unpleasant—it can lead to deep vein thrombosis, when blood clots form in the legs because of poor blood flow. The longer you don’t move, the greater your risk. Worst case scenario, the clot can break free and lodge in the lungs. Fortunately, this is rare. And you can cut down on your risk by getting up and walking around or flexing your legs.
Passengers “really need to think about getting up anywhere between three to four hours and walk around,” Anzalone says. “But by sitting on your chair and just pumping your legs—in essence pressing down on your heels and up with your toes—that little bit can make a big difference in whether somebody is going to have a [deep vein thrombosis].”
It also helps to stay hydrated—which means avoiding the very drinks you’re most likely to reach for on a flight. Soft drinks, booze, and coffee are all diuretics, meaning that they make you pee more. “If you are going on a long haul it’s recommended that you start [hydrating] the day before,” Anzalone says.
The superdry air on a plane can make it easier to get dehydrated. It also dries out your mucus membranes, which keeps them from trapping germs. Which is unfortunate, because there is always chance you’ll catch a cold or worse from your fellow passengers. “As each hour goes by you have a little more exposure, and so therefore the probability of catching a cold on a flight like that grows,” Anzalone says.
So you might be out of luck if you’re seated next to someone who is already ill. However, the idea that the recirculating air on a plane abets disease transmission is a myth. “Airflow and circulation of cabin air is quite sophisticated technically, so there is usually no high risk of getting infected even if you have someone [sick] sitting two rows before,” says Jochen Hinkelbein, a professor of anesthesiology at the University of Cologne in Germany and president of the German Society of Aerospace Medicine .
You should be more concerned about the tray tables, bathrooms, and other germ-gathering surfaces you’re likely to come into contact with. They do get wiped down after flights. “The major airlines that are flying long-haul in my experience do extremely well in making sure that he airplane is as clean…as possible,” Anzalone says. But he does recommend traveling with hand wipes or sanitizer. Really, it’s best to touch as little as possible.
There’s not much you can do about the cosmic rays, though. Each time a passenger flies, they are exposed to a tiny amount of radiation from space. “The more time you’re on the plane, the more radiation exposure you’ll get,” says Steven Barrett, an aerospace engineer at MIT.
However, the radiation most travelers are exposed to in a given year falls comfortably within the recommended radiation exposure for a member of the public. “The very frequent travelers who are flying on long-haul flights could potentially go above the recommended limits of radiation exposure,” says Barrett, who has calculated how much radiation flyers are exposed to. “But that’s not within the region where you’d have any real health concerns.” It’s unclear how harmful these still-low levels of radiation exposure are, or if they are harmful at all, he says.
Pilots and other flight crewmembers do spend enough time in the air that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers them radiation workers. The agency recommends they try to limit their time on flights that are very long, fly at high altitudes, or fly over the poles.
Another concern is that the air pressure is also lower on a plane than it is at sea level. This doesn’t bother most people. However, the thin air can cause problems for those who are old or have heart conditions or other pre-existing illnesses.
Ultimately, the longer a flight is, the more time you have for something to go wrong. And planes have become larger in recent years, which also increases the probability that someone on board will have a medical emergency.
“Traveling itself is becoming more and more popular, more and more convenient even for the old ones with…pre-existing diseases,” Hinkelbein says. “So we have an…unhappy triad which is the setting is not ideal for unhealthy persons, the persons are older and older and having more pre existing diseases, and not moving within the aircraft cabin, drinking only a little bit.”
There’s no specific amount of time that is unsafe, and it depends on the individual traveler. “But my feeling is below 12 [or] 14 hours, you can nearly send everyone, if it’s longer you should be a little careful,” Hinkelbein says.
About half of the medical issues that do crop up on planes are cardiovascular troubles such as fainting or dizziness. Estimates for how often people have in-flight medical emergencies vary, ranging from one passenger in 10,000 to one in 40,000.
For these crises, planes come equipped with medical kits and equipment such as defibrillators. “Every one of the long-haul flights have a way by radio to connect to physicians that are available around the world to talk to them,” Anzalone says. “I have talked to pilots about medical issues that are on board and how to handle it, do you divert or not divert.”
However, very few airlines have forms to document when passengers do get sick, Hinkelbein says. He’d like to see standardized forms and an international registry where all inflight medical problems are reported. “Then you can try to figure out what are really the most [frequent] causes of inflight medical problems.”
For the vast majority of people, though, even the longest flights will pass uneventfully. “The flying public on major airlines is very safe,” Anzalone says.
In fact, a plane’s most profound influence probably isn’t on the passengers—it turns out that airplanes cruising miles above the Earth’s surface can cause problems down below.
“The main health impact is probably emissions that come from them and the health impacts for people for the ground,” Barrett says. He and his colleagues have estimated that 16,000 people globally die each year because of air pollution caused by planes. These emissions, which are linked to lung cancer and cardiopulmonary disease, came from planes at cruising height as well as those in the midst of takeoff and landing.
But ultra long-haul flights may actually spew less harmful pollution than routes that include stopovers. “From a human health perspective the direct flight would be better,” Barrett says. “Even though the high-altitude emissions do affect human health on the ground, the low altitude emissions at airports when the airplanes take off and land and taxi are still more impactful because they’re closer to where people live.”
One of the more radical ideas to cut down on plane-related pollution is to use electric aircraft, which would release no emissions while flying. Unfortunately, however, the longest flights are unlikely to be good candidates for this technology.
“Electric aircraft might be possible for shorter ranges, maybe up to 1000 or so miles, but it looks much less likely that electric aircraft could contribute in a meaningful way for ultra long-haul flights,” Barrett says. “That’s where there’s no obvious or no real solution on the horizon.”
This post has been updated. It was originally published on April 18, 2023.
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