TIME deals

Microsoft Is Giving Apple Users Hundreds To Buy the Surface Pro 3

Microsoft Surface Pro 3
The Microsoft Corp. Surface Pro 3 tablet computer is displayed during an event in New York, U.S., on Tuesday, May 20, 2014. Jin Lee/Bloomberg—Getty Images

Microsoft is once again throwing huge sums of money at customers to try to convince them to buy its products. The company is offering up to $650 toward the purchase of its new Surface Pro 3 to customers that trade in a MacBook Air that’s in decent condition. The deal, which runs through July 31, is only available in Microsoft’s physical retail stores.

The Surface Pro 3 has been billed by Microsoft as a true laptop-tablet hybrid. That Microsoft is targeting the MacBook Air rather than the iPad with the new promotion indicates the company believes its new product can go toe-to-toe with laptops in terms of functionality.

Even in the best-case scenario where a customer gets the full $650 deal (the actual discount depends on the model of MacBook and its working condition), the cheapest model of the Surface Pro 3, at $799, will still require $150 out of pocket. MacBook Airs start a bit pricier at $899, but the base model has 128GB of internal memory compared to the entry-level Surface Pro 3’s 64GB.

TIME Computers

Samsung Chromebook 2 Review: Almost Worth the Price

Jared Newman for TIME

I really thought this would be the one.

When Samsung announced the Chromebook 2 a couple months ago, it seemed to be the mid-range device that we’d been missing since Samsung discontinued its Series 5 550 last year. The 13-inch version is currently the only Chromebook with a 1080p display, and it comes in a slick package that mimics Samsung’s most expensive Windows-based laptops. I was hoping these features would justify the $400 price tag.

After using Samsung’s 13-inch Chromebook 2 for several weeks, I’m conflicted. The Chromebook 2 is a solidly-built machine with an impressive balance of weight and battery life, but it also has a couple of problems that keep me from giving it a wholehearted recommendation.

Let’s start with the display. On paper, the 1920-by-1080 panel should be the Chromebook 2′s strongest selling point. Not only does it make everything sharper, it allows the taskbar and icons to be smaller, leaving more room on the screen for actual webpages.

But like so many other laptops that cut corners on price, the viewing angles on the Chromebook 2 are atrocious. As you shift your position, you have to constantly adjust the screen to avoid having the colors wash out. The screen looks especially bad when watching videos or looking at dark webpages. It’s by far the biggest problem with this laptop, and a huge letdown for what should be a killer feature.

One other minor complaint about the display: By default, the high pixel density made text a little small for my liking, and I have pretty good vision. Increasing page zoom to 125 percent in Chrome settings made things more readable; it should probably be set this way by default.

Aside from the display, the build quality of the Chromebook 2 is superb. The island-style keys have just the right amount of travel and snappiness, and the keyboard hardly flexes at all under heavy pressure.

Below the keyboard is a spacious trackpad that’s smooth to the touch. You can click on the trackpad almost all the way up to the top without having to apply too much pressure, and it supports two-finger scrolling and clicking. (You can also tap the trackpad instead of depressing it.) Overall, it’s fantastic.

The Chromebook 2 is fairly light for a 13-inch laptop, weighing in at 3.1 pounds. That’s 0.2 pounds lighter than Toshiba’s 13-inch Chromebook, though it’s the same weight as Asus’ 13-inch Chromebook that’s due out later this month. (Both of those laptops, however, have 1366-by-768 resolution displays.)

Jared Newman for TIME

Samsung’s Chromebook 2 is also one of the slimmest Chromebooks around, at 0.65 inches, and its bottom half has the same contoured edges found on Samsung’s Ativ Book laptops. Aesthetically, I’m not crazy about the “titan gray” finish–I’d prefer the white or black color options of the 11-inch model–and the faux-stitching makes less sense on a laptop cover than it does on Samsung’s Galaxy phones.

Unlike most other laptops, the Chromebook 2 uses an ARM-based octa-core Exynos processor, a lot like what you’d find in a high-end tablet. This allows it to run quietly with no fan, and despite the high-resolution display it still lasts for more than eight hours on a charge.

That processor does have a downside, in that it’s less powerful than your average laptop. Depending on your needs, this might not be a major issue. I generally didn’t have a problem scrolling through webpages, editing Google Docs or juggling a bunch of browser tabs. But I did notice occasional sluggishness when loading heavy pages and switching between tabs. Compared to Samsung’s original Exynos-based Chromebook, which had a slower processor and just 2 GB of RAM instead of 4 GB, the Chromebook 2 is still a big step up.

For connectivity, the Chromebook 2 has two USB ports–one on each side–along with HDMI output and a headphone jack. There’s also a microSD card slot, though I wish Samsung had included a full-sized SD slot instead. The speakers are loud and clear enough for video, but like most laptops, you won’t get much bass when listening to music.

If Samsung had only shipped a higher-quality display with the Chromebook 2, I could have fallen in love with this laptop. I’m a sucker for build quality, especially when it comes to the keyboard and trackpad, and I could have forgiven the middling performance, given that it’s still good enough for most basic web browsing. Chromebooks can’t do everything that a Windows laptop or MacBook can–you can’t install desktop software, which rules out programs like Office and iTunes–but the simplicity of a browser-based operating system has its own advantages. The Chromebook 2 could have been the perfect machine for users who want to spend a little more.

Instead, I’m wishing Samsung had tried just a little harder to make the ultimate mid-range Chromebook. This one is frustratingly close.

TIME laptops

Compared: Surface Pro 3 vs. Apple’s MacBook Air and iPad

SurfacePro3Primary_Web
Microsoft

Microsoft's latest hybrid is clearly gunning for Apple's MacBooks, so let's see how the specs, software and prices stack up.

If you ask Microsoft, the Surface Pro 3 is better than Apple’s MacBooks in every way that matters. Or at least that’s the impression you’d get from reading Microsoft’s own comparison chart or watching the Surface Pro 3 announcement, both of which try to tip the scales (literally and figuratively) in the Surface’s favor. In the interest of fairness, let’s do a more thorough comparison, one that sums up the strengths and weaknesses of each device.

Tech Specs

Tech specs should never be the only factor in a purchase decision, but there’s something to be said for lining up all the hard data before moving on to the intangibles. In this case, it’s interesting to see how the Surface Pro 3 falls in between the 11-inch and 13-inch MacBook Air in terms of screen size, weight and price. Here’s the full rundown, with Apple’s iPad thrown in for good measure:

Surface Pro 3 MacBook Air (11-in.) MacBook Air (13-in.) iPad Air
Operating System Windows 8.1 OS X Mavericks OS X Mavericks iOS 7
Screen Size (in.) 12 11.6 13.3 9.7
Screen Area (sq. in.) 66.46 57.49 75.58 45.17
Aspect Ratio 3:2 16:9 16:9 4:3
Screen Resolution 2160-by-1440 1366-by-768 1440-by-900 2048-by-1536
Pixel Density 216 ppi 135 ppi 128 ppi 264 ppi
Touchscreen? Yes No No Yes
Processor Intel Core i3 – i7 Intel Core i5 or i7 Intel Core i5 or i7 Apple A7
Memory 4 or 8 GB 4 or 8 GB 4 or 8 GB 1 GB
Base Storage 64 GB 128 GB 128 GB 128 GB
Maximum Storage 512 GB 512 GB 512 GB 128 GB
Battery Life Up to 9 hours Up to 9 hours Up to 12 hours Up to 10 hours
Front Camera 5 megapixels 0.92 megapixels 0.92 megapixels 1.2 megapixels
Rear Camera 5 megapixels None None 5 megapixels
USB Slots 1 2 2 None
SD Card Slot? MicroSD Full SD Full SD None
Video Out Mini DisplayPort Thunderbolt Thunderbolt None
LTE Connectivity? No No No Optional
Keyboard Included? No Yes Yes No
Stylus? Yes No No No
Runs Office? Yes Yes Yes Subscription-only
Weight (Tablet Only) 1.76 lbs. N/A N/A 1 lb.
Weight (with Keyboard) 2.41 lbs. 2.38 lbs. 2.96 lbs. N/A
Thickness (Tablet Only) 0.36 in. N/A N/A 0.29 in.
Thickness (with Keyboard) 0.56 in. 0.68 in. 0.68 in. N/A
Base Price (Tablet Only) $799 N/A N/A $499
Base Price (with Keyboard) $929 $899 $999 N/A
Max Price (Tablet Only) $1949 N/A N/A $929
Max Price (with Keyboard) $2079 $1649 $1749 N/A

Hardware and Accessories

Specs are a good way to gauge power, portability and features, but things get murkier when you start considering the capabilities of each device. The Surface’s main trick is the way it transforms from a laptop to a tablet, using a built-in kickstand and attachable keyboard cover. With the Surface Pro 3, Microsoft has tried to address complaints that previous models were too compromised as laptops, due to their flimsy keyboards, tiny trackpads and limited screen angles. The Pro 3′s keyboard can attach magnetically at two points, making it more rigid, while the kickstand can adjust to any angle. As for the trackpad, it’s larger and has less friction than the felt cover of previous Type Covers. The Surface also includes a pressure-sensitive stylus, and the new version lets you quickly open Microsoft’s note-taking OneNote app by clicking a button atop the pen. These changes still won’t match the simplicity of a proper laptop like the MacBook Air, which balances easily on the lap at any angle. But then again, you can’t detach or fold back a MacBook’s keyboard and just use touch to read an article or check Facebook. You’ll have to decide for yourself whether that’s something you want to do with your laptop.

Apps and Software

As I noted in last year’s comparison of the Surface Pro 2 and iPad, Apple’s tablet is way out in front in terms of touch-optimized apps. If you have a decent laptop already, and are mainly looking for a device for reading, playing games, checking social media and watching videos, chances are you don’t need a Surface Pro 3. It’s no surprise, then, that Microsoft’s positioning the Surface Pro 3 as a laptop replacement with tablet-like perks, rather than a device that floats effortless between the two categories. How does the Surface Pro 3′s software compare to a MacBook? Again, Apple’s simple, focused approach has its merits. Get a MacBook, and you won’t have to deal with the dual-headed beast that is Windows 8.1. Windows 8.1 isn’t bad, but it demands a degree of open-mindedness and willingness to learn. To get the most out of the software, you must embrace Windows Store apps, and use features such as Snap view and OneDrive cloud storage integration. Otherwise, you’re better off with a more traditional laptop.

Pricing and Wrap-Up

Like my colleague Harry McCracken, I question Microsoft’s decision not to bundle the Surface Pro 3 with the Type Cover. Whatever psychological advantage Microsoft thinks it has by advertising a lower price tag, it loses by making people feel nickel-and-dimed. Still, the total price isn’t unreasonable for a high-end, thin and light notebook with solid state storage. At $1129 for a Surface Pro 3 with a Core i5 chip and 128 GB of storage, it’s $130 more expensive than a comparable 13-inch MacBook. In exchange you’re getting a high-resolution touch screen, a pressure-sensitive stylus and the ability to use the device like a tablet. What you don’t get, however, is the tried-and-true design of a clamshell notebook. While Microsoft has worked to minimize the compromises in the Surface Pro 3, like every tech product it brings its own trade-offs. And they’re rarely the kind that fall neatly into a chart.

TIME Gadgets

Microsoft Finds Laptop-Tablet Balance with Surface Pro 3, but Windows Is Another Story

As Surface Pro 3 arrives, Windows becomes a lesser hybrid operating system

When Microsoft’s Panos Panay said on Tuesday that the Surface Pro 3 was three years in the making, I believed it.

This seems like the hybrid computer Microsoft has always wanted to build–one that’s thin and light enough to pass as a tablet but powerful enough to work like a laptop, and with a flexible enough design to blur the lines between device types. I’m already trying to figure out how to dump my Surface Pro 2 and upgrade to the Pro 3 when it arrives on June 20.

I only wish I was feeling more confident about Windows 8.1, the operating system that ships with the Surface Pro 3. More than ever, Windows 8.1 doesn’t feel like it’s meant for hybrid devices. Instead, the trend is toward accommodating tablets on one hand, and traditional laptops and desktops on the other, while the middle ground of devices like the Surface becomes muddled.

Much of this conflict stems from the “Windows 8.1 Update” that Microsoft shipped in April. To make the new Windows more accommodating to laptop and desktop users, Microsoft added new mouse-centric controls, such as the ability to close Windows Store apps with an “X” button on the top-right corner, and to launch these apps from the desktop taskbar.

If you’re using a regular laptop, these changes make sense. The classic Windows behavior is to switch between programs through the taskbar and click “X” to shut them down. In theory, extending those capabilities to Windows Store apps will help users feel more at home, so they can move beyond their stodgy old desktop software.

Unfortunately, this behavior is at odds with Microsoft’s original vision for Windows 8, in which you mainly use the new Start screen and recent apps bar to move between programs, and only fall back to the desktop for legacy software. If you actually use Windows 8.1 that way–as I do–and Windows Store apps are enabled on the taskbar, you pay the price for neglecting the desktop:

Microsoft

Having Windows Store apps on the taskbar only works if you’re actively closing things down when you’re finished. Otherwise, the clutter of unclosed apps accumulates when you stay away from the desktop for too long. That’s not how tablet usage is supposed to work; you should be able to just move between apps without thinking about whether they’re “open” or “closed.”

Windows 8.1 offers a half-baked solution: You can just disable Windows Store apps on the taskbar. But this in itself is a point of confusion for hybrid devices like the Surface Pro 3. Users now have to decide which type of behavior–actively closing windows on the desktop or staying within the modern interface–is the right one. As I’ve said before, it’s a cognitive burden that I’d rather not deal with.

And it’s only going to get worse. In April, Microsoft revealed that it will bring back a pop-up Start menu in Windows, and will also allow modern apps to run in windows mode on the desktop. This is great news for laptop and desktop users who don’t want to deal with an unfamiliar interface, but it presents even more confusion for hybrids like the Surface Pro 3. If you have a device that can function like either a laptop or a tablet, should you use the Start screen or the old-school Start menu? Should apps open in windows, or a tablet-friendly full-screen view? Microsoft could just let users decide, as it has done with the taskbar in Windows 8.1, but what happens if they want to switch back and forth between modes? Again, it’s more confusion, more complications.

There aren’t any easy answers here, but part of me hopes Microsoft will draw a clearer line between touch and non-touch versions of Windows. The desktop should still exist in both versions, if only as way to run programs that aren’t part of the Windows Store (including, for now, Microsoft Office). But the touch version of the desktop should make a greater effort to slim down, removing options and settings that are already available on the modern side. I wouldn’t even mind if Windows Explorer went away, provided there was a way to drag and drop files between Windows Store apps.

As we saw today, Microsoft clearly has a vision for hybrid hardware, and even presented software to match, including a touch-optimized version of Photoshop and a New York Times crossword app that works with pen input. All we need now is a better hybrid operating system to hold it all together.

TIME Gadgets

Microsoft Unveils New Surface Pro 3 Tablet

SurfacePro3Primary_Web
Microsoft

Microsoft is ready for its third crack at the tablet market. The company today unveiled the Surface Pro 3, its thinnest, lightest and largest device in the line yet.

Billed as “the tablet that can replace your laptop,” the Surface Pro 3 furthers Microsoft’s goal of creating a device that offers the productivity benefits of a PC with the portability and comfort of an iPad. The Pro 3 boasts a 12-inch screen, 1.4 inches larger than the Surface Pro 2’s and 1.3 inches smaller than the size of the smaller MacBook Pro. The device is also lighter than the previous Surface Pro at 1.76 pounds and thinner at 0.36 inches.

The Surface Pro 3 goes up for pre-order on Wednesday, starting at $799 with an Intel Core i3 processor, 64 GB of memory and 4 GB of RAM. Higher-performing models are priced at $999, $1,299, $1,549 and $1,949. The keyboard cover, which gives the device its laptop-like functionality, costs $129.99.

“We are not building hardware for hardware’s sake,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said at an event in New York debuting the new device. “We want to build experiences that bring together all the capabilities of our company.”

Microsoft has spent some time attempting to address some of the clumsier aspects of typical laptop-tablet hybrids. The Surface Pro 3’s keyboard cover, for instance, can magnetically attach to the device’s screen to give it a greater level of sturdiness. The company says the keyboard cover’s trackpad is also 68 percent larger than the Surface Pro 2’s. And the device’s kickstand is more flexible, allowing users to place the device’s screen at any angle they choose.

The company spent a lot of time demoing apps that illustrated the Surface’s versatility. The stylus (Microsoft calls it a pen) used on the Surface is a key differentiating factor from the iPad, and Microsoft claims it has eliminated parallax from the Surface Pro 3, the slight pause that often occurs between writing on a touchscreen and the device registering the input. Microsoft corporate vice president Panos Panay demonstrated the speed of the pen on the Surface Pro 3 screen with a New York Times crossword puzzle app, a tablet-friendly version of Adobe Photoshop and scriptwriting software FinalDraft.

Microsoft still faces an uphill battle in the tablet market. Surface sales reached $494 million in the first quarter of 2014, a 50 percent increase year-over-year. But the company loses money on each device it sells, and its business pales in comparison to Apple’s iPad, which had sales of $7.6 billion in the most recent quarter.

TIME Technologizer

Depending on Who’s Counting, Chromebooks Are Either an Enormous Hit or Totally Irrelevant

Dell

The numbers on Google's operating system add up to an utterly confusing picture

I went to Intel’s Chrome OS event this morning, which filled its San Francisco venue to the brim with new devices running Google’s browser-centric operating system and packing powerful Intel chips–scads of new Chromebooks from major hardware makers, Chromebox mini-desktops and even an all-in-one “Chromebase” machine from LG. It was an impressive showing, and I came away lusting after some of the models I saw. (I like my own Chromebook, an 11-inch HP with a Samsung ARM-based processor, but it can be pretty pokey when I open too many tabs.)

As usual at a Chrome OS event, part of the goal was to make the point that Chrome devices are doing well. Figures got quoted: sales rankings and user star ratings at Amazon, and the fact that 10,000 schools have adopted Chromebooks. Certainly, the platform feels viable in a way it once did not. (When Gmail creator Paul Buchheit predicted Chrome OS’s imminent demise in December 2010, it sounded like a perfectly reasonable prognostication.)

Still, the more data points you consider, the harder it is to get a grip on whether Chrome OS is booming, filling a small-but-healthy niche or struggling to matter at all.

Let’s review the available evidence:

Chromebooks took 9.6 percent of U.S. commercial sales of computing devices from January-November 2013, up from almost nothing in 2012.

That’s according to NPD’s figures for the sales channels that target businesses, and it includes the iPad and other tablets as well as laptops and desktop PCs. For a computing platform that barely seemed to be going anywhere a year earlier, that’s a huge deal. And if you count only notebooks, Chromebooks have an even more impressive 21 percent market share. In all, NPD says that 1.76 million Chromebooks shipped through U.S. commercial channels in the first eleven months of the 2013.

image

Only 1 percent of PCs sold worldwide in 2013 were Chromebooks.

In this case the numbers are IDC’s. They’re for the whole planet, not just the U.S., and cover all sales channels, not just business-to-business ones.

IDC says that 2.5 million Chromebooks were sold worldwide in 2013. At first blush, that sounds like it might conceivably jibe with NPD’s figure of 1.76 million units sold in the first 11 months of the year. Except that NPD’s number was for sales to U.S. businesses, while IDC says that “virtually zero” Chromebooks went to enterprises (i.e. corporate customers) and that it’s consumers who are buying them. I can’t reconcile these viewpoints.

Six of the top 20 laptops on Amazon are Chromebooks.

…including two of the top three models. And the single best-selling desktop on Amazon is Asus’s Chromebox. These figures are as of the moment I write this–Amazon updates them hourly–but they always make Chrome OS machines look like hot sellers. Looking at them, I can understand why Microsoft is concerned enough about Chromebooks to helpfully advise people not to buy them.

As of January, Chrome devices accounted for only .2 percent of U.S. and Canada web traffic.

Chitika released that figure in February, and it covers September 2013 through January 2014. It represents a doubling of Chitika’s previous number, but it’s still so puny that you might as well round it down to zero. And in theory, the average Chrome OS user should be online more than a Windows PC or Mac user, since the whole idea is that Chromebooks provide an entirely web-based experience.

image

Disclaimer: Except for the Amazon rankings, all of these stats are at least a few months out of date, and they don’t include some of the data I’m most curious about. For instance, you can buy Chromebooks at Best Buy, Walmart and Target, but I haven’t seen any figures on how they’re doing at these major retailers. (For what it’s worth, I checked BestBuy.com’s laptop section, supposedly sorted with the best sellers up top, and the first Chromebook came in at number 23.)

It’s also possible that all the data points above connect into a coherent story: Chrome OS devices are selling well to U.S. businesses and Amazon customers but barely matter on a global scale, and aren’t yet being used by enough people to add up to meaningful web traffic.

If Chrome OS use is growing rapidly, and continues to do so, I’d expect the picture to be clearer in the months and years to come. But for now, all I know for sure is that both Chrome skeptics and Chrome boosters can point to stats that seem to back up their respective stances. Convenient, isn’t it?

TIME Chromebooks

For Better and for Worse, Chromebooks Have Become PCs

Chromebook
Bloomberg / Getty Images

Chromebooks are no longer a small, focused selection of purpose-built machines, but a sprawling array of increasingly meaningless choices.

If you remember the days when Intel and Microsoft were an unstoppable force, you might be tickled by the former’s newfound love for Chromebooks.

At a press event on Tuesday, Intel heaped praise on machines running Google’s Chrome OS, pointing out how well they’ve been doing on Amazon’s sales charts and in schools. A long list of PC makers lined up to announce new hardware, including new Chromebook laptops and tiny “Chromebox” desktops.

I think Chromebooks are great, but as they gain support within the PC industry, they’re also inheriting the industry’s warts.

I’ve been worried about this scenario for a while now: Chromebooks are no longer a small, focused selection of purpose-built machines. Instead, they’ve become a vast lineup of computers in all shapes and sizes, meant to appeal to every niche. And most of them look pretty dull.

My colleague Doug Aamoth has the nitty gritty details, but in short, we’ve got Chromebooks with long battery life and lightweight processors, Chromebooks with shorter battery life and more powerful processors, bigger Chromebooks, smaller Chromebooks, Chromebooks with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage, Chromebooks with 4 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage, and a couple of Chromebooks with touchscreens. It’s a dizzying array of options, and it’s reminiscent of the Windows PC market, whose sagging sales have left Intel and its partners scrambling for alternatives.

The positive way to look at this is that you’ve got lots of choices, and choice is good. Not tickled by the design of Acer’s Core i3-powered Chromebook? Maybe you’ll like Dell’s version a bit better. Not comfortable with just 16 GB of storage? Asus has you covered with 32 GB options.

Here’s the downside: Choosing a Chromebook will become needlessly complicated, as the performance gap between low- and high-end Chromebooks grows wider. Nevermind that the justification for a Core i3 Chromebook is kind of thin–Intel says you might want it for Google+ Hangouts or 3D games–or that 2 GB of RAM can be a drag on multitasking, or that 32 GB of storage is overkill for a cloud-based computer. These are all factors you’ll have to consider when buying a Chromebook now.

The old Chromebook mantra was “speed, simplicity, security,” the implication being that all Chromebooks are fast gateways to the Internet. But that message is muddier now. Instead of making hard choices about what makes a good Chromebook, PC makers are taking the shotgun approach and leaving buyers to sort through the mess.

 

TIME Computers

Here Are a Bunch of New Intel-Based Chromebooks for 2014

Intel and Google recently partnered up for an event in San Francisco that could safely be referred to as a Chrome-splosion of sorts.

See, Intel understands that Chromebooks – Google’s low-cost, browser-based laptops – are here to stay. Problem is, some of the recent crop of Chromebooks have been using non-Intel processors.

In an effort to get the pendulum to swing back in Intel’s direction, the processor giant is upping its Chromebook lineup from a paltry four models in late 2013 to a whopping 20 to be trotted out over the course of this year.

You’ll have plenty to choose from, in other words. You’ll also need to opt for a Celeron-based model or a Core i3-based model when choosing a Chromebook. The Celeron models will generally be cheaper and able to last longer on a charge – Intel is promising up to 11 hours – while the Core i3 models will be more powerful (no 11-hour battery life promises, though).

Here’s a look at what was just announced, starting with the Celeron models and finishing up with the Core i3 selections. Just to make things interesting, we’ll throw the Chromeboxes in the middle, which use Haswell-based Celeron chips (more powerful but less energy efficient than Bay Trail Celeron chips) and most closely resemble desktop computers.

Bay Trail Celeron

Asus C200 Chromebook

ASUS_C200
Asus

Asus C300 Chromebook

ASUS_C300
Asus
  • 13.3-inch screen
  • Intel Celeron CPU
  • Available in June
  • Price unknown (C200 starts at $250; C300 likely around $300 to $350)

Lenovo N20 Chromebook

N20_Chrome_Standard_03
Lenovo
  • 11.6-inch screen
  • Intel Celeron CPU
  • Available in July
  • Price starting at $279

Lenovo N20p Chromebook

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Lenovo
  • 11.6-inch convertible touchscreen
  • Intel Celeron CPU
  • Available in August
  • Price starting at $329

Lenovo ThinkPad 11e Chromebook

  • 11.6-inch screen
  • Intel Celeron CPU
  • Available “this spring”
  • Price starting at $349

Lenovo ThinkPad 11e Yoga Chromebook

Lenovo
  • 11.6-inch convertible touchscreen
  • Intel Celeron CPU
  • Available “this spring”
  • Price unknown (11e starts at $349; 11e Yoga likely around $400 to $450)

Toshiba Chromebook

Toshiba
  • 13.3-inch screen
  • Intel Celeron CPU
  • Available “over the next few months.”
  • Price unknown (current model starts at $300)

Haswell Celeron

LG Chromebase All-in-One

LG
  • 21.5-inch full-HD (1920×1080) screen
  • Intel Celeron CPU (Haswell)
  • Available May 26
  • Price starting at $349

HP Chromebox

HP
  • Dual-display support (you supply your own) via HDMI and DisplayPort connections
  • Intel Celeron CPU (Haswell)
  • Available in June
  • Price unknown

Core i3

Dell Chromebook 11

Dell
  • 11.6-inch screen
  • Intel Core i3 CPU
  • Available “later this year”
  • Price unknown (current model starts at $279)

Acer C720 Chromebook

Acer
  • 11.6-inch screen
  • Intel Core i3 CPU
  • Available in June
  • Price starting at $350

Press Release [Intel.com]

TIME Computers

Apple’s MacBook Air Line Gets Cheaper and Faster

MacBook Air
Apple's 11- and 13-inch MacBook Air laptops Apple

The updated lineup of ultraportable notebooks is outfitted with the latest 1.4 GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processors and priced between $899 for the 11-inch, 128-gigabyte model and $1,199 for the 13-inch, 256-gigabyte version

Apple has updated its line of ultraportable MacBook Air notebooks, outfitting the machines with the latest-generation Intel processors and dropping the starting price by $100.

The 11-inch model with 128 gigabytes of storage now starts at $899. The entire line – two 11-inch models and two 13-inch models – starts with 1.4GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processors and four gigabytes of RAM, with base prices topping out at $1,199 for the top-of-the-line 13-inch model, which starts at 256 gigabytes of storage. Processors, RAM and storage can be upgraded before checkout.

Apple is also promising better battery life when using the new models to watch iTunes movies, with the company claiming that the 13-inch versions are capable of up to 12 hours on a charge and the 11-inch versions are capable of up to nine hours on a charge.

MacBook Air [Apple Store via 9to5Mac]

TIME FindTheBest

The 8 Best Alternatives to the Microsoft Surface

Microsoft Surface Pro 2
Microsoft

If you want a tablet built for productivity, but can’t stomach the Microsoft Surface, you might feel stuck.

You could go with the iPad. Apple tells us its tablet is made for work, the chosen device of high school football coaches, heart surgeons, and teary-eyed grandparents meeting newborns over FaceTime. But let’s be honest: For every one iPad-assisted heart surgery, there are 100 beer-bellied, Cheetos-eating Americans doing nothing but belching their way through Cut the Rope 2. There’s nothing wrong with this: Just don’t call it productive.

Meanwhile, other popular tablets do various tasks well, like the Kindle Fire HD (reading), Galaxy Note 10.1 (writing and drawing with a stylus), and Nexus 7 (logging into Google Plus), but none come close to serving as a proper laptop replacement.

We understand how you feel. We set out to pick eight solid alternatives to the Surface, each designed for true productivity. Choose your own adventure by picking the problem that matches yours most closely:

For Those Who Can’t Stand Windows 8(.1)

Give Microsoft credit for trying. From the initial “no compromises” mission, to the highly-publicized Windows 8.1 Update, the tech giant has packed in new features almost as fast as it’s churned out youthful, ethnically diverse Surface ads. Unfortunately, limited app support and a half-mobile-half-desktop interface continue to plague the operating system. With that in mind, here are some top alternatives that don’t run on Windows (with the corresponding Surface product included for comparison purposes):

The Full-Spec Laptop Replacements

 

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2

It may not come with a detachable keyboard, but the new Galaxy Note Pro is too powerful, and — literally — too big to ignore. With a massive 12.2-inch screen, 2.3 GHz processor, and 3 GB of RAM, its spec sheet reads more like a laptop than a mobile device. Take notes in class with the handy stylus, then grab a third-party keyboard to type up the essay back home, laptop free. You can give mom your old ThinkPad for Christmas.

Runner-up: ASUS Transformer Pad TF701T

The old standby, the TF701T is so committed to its half-tablet-half-laptop design that ASUS threw the word “Transformer” into the name — even after Michael Bay’s film series went off the rails and submarined Shia LaBeouf’s career. It’s not quite the technical achievement of the Note Pro, but the detachable keyboard comes built-in, and it’s over $200 cheaper than its Samsung competitor.

The Lightweight Hybrids

 

So you’re not ready to give up on a laptop, but you’d still like a lightweight device for doing a bit of work between flights. Consider the following:

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4

Cheaper and more compact than its stylus-wielding big brother, the Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 is nonetheless a powerful little tablet, with the same 2.3 GHz processor and quad core CPU. Snap up a third-party keyboard and slip this small-but-mighty gadget into your carry-on. Better yet, it’s half the weight of your buddy’s 4th-generation iPad (and a third lighter than the iPad Air).

Runner-up: iPad Air

Okay: we lied. If you can force yourself to put down the Cheetos, the iPad can accomplish a thing or two between five-hour Minecraft building sessions. Grab Microsoft’s newly released Office suite for iPad, poke around in view-only mode, and dream about all the work you’re about to get done.

Finally, note Office’s $100-per-year subscription fee, delete the app, and get back to your cheap, time-wasting mobile games.

For Windows Fans Who Can’t Stand the Surface

Maybe you actually like Windows, but the Surface itself just doesn’t do it for you. Perhaps it’s the tablet’s unpredictable battery life, or else you just can’t trust a piece of hardware from the same company that brought us the Zune. Regardless, here are our top picks for Windows 8 tablets not designed by Microsoft (again, with the corresponding Surface included for comparison):

The Full-Spec Laptop Replacements

 

Winner: Dell XPS 18

Though it’s been around since late 2012, the Dell XPS is still the best Surface alternative for truly serious Windows users. With 18 inches of screen real estate and 8 GB of RAM, you’ll have plenty of space and memory to do a dozen tasks at once. Just keep in mind that this titan of tablets is over five times heavier than an iPad Air.

Runner-up: Dell Venue 11 Pro

The Venue 11 Pro actually beats the XPS 18 in most technical categories, from processor speed to battery life — and that’s not to mention its far superior portability. If you plan to use your tablet mostly at your desk, grab the XPS. If you tend to live on trains and planes, however, consider the Venue 11 Pro.

The Lightweight Hybrids

 

Winner: ASUS Transformer Book T100

Take the classic flexibility of the ASUS Transformer pad, slap on Windows 8, and sell it for a modest $350. You’ve got yourself an ASUS Transformer Book T100. Even if you don’t mind the Surface, but just want to save $100, this tablet is a solid choice.

Runner-up: Samsung ATIV Tab 3

With Windows 8.1, a $499 MSRP, a low-profile kickstand, and a thin keyboard attachment, you might confuse the Samsung ATIV Tab 3 for the Microsoft Surface 2 itself. Yes, Samsung, that’s a backhanded compliment. But the ATIV Tab 3 still provides a competent, no-frills alternative to Microsoft’s latest creation. Throw in Samsung’s long, reliable track record for hardware, and the ATIV Tab 3 is a safe buy for Windows fanatics.

This article was written for TIME by Ben Taylor of FindTheBest.

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