Your tech news digest, by way of the DGiT Daily tech newsletter, for Thursday, May 14.
1. Dell’s refreshed XPS 15 and new XPS 17
Dell has announced its new XPS 15 and XPS 17 line-up, and the 17-inch design is at a size not seen for about 10 years from the company. What’s new, and what’s dividing opinion? Let’s take a look.
XPS 15 9500:
The new XPS 15 9500 has its biggest round of changes in five years, with the design finally growing to an almost-bezelless 15.6-inch display.
Gone is the inch-thick black bar at the bottom, and gone is the terrible webcam placement at the bottom too. Despite thin bezels, a full HD webcam is back on the top of the lid, ending that poor experience for good. The display is now 16:10. Plenty love to argue ratios: Moving from 16:9 to 16:10 means the same width with more vertical screen real-estate, which is useful for work, but others like 16:9 for watching video. And then there’s the 3:2 camp, which is the same as 15:10, opting for more width. No OLED option on the display, which was a feature of the 2019 XPS 15 7590. Dell has gone to full USB-C only, removing the USB-A legacy ports and HDMI, which I still find useful, but dongle-life isn’t just for Apple people and Dell ships an adapter. That change means a thinner laptop. The full-sized SD card reader and headphone/mic jack remain. There are also now top-firing speakers, and new chassis design. In terms of specs, the XPS 15 range now features Intel’s latest 10th Gen processors at 45W: CPU options include the Core i5-10300H, Core i7-10750H, Core i7-10875H, and the Core i9-10885H, depending on your price point. RAM starts at 8GB and goes to 64GB, while on the graphics front, you can go with a model up to Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1650 Ti Max-Q graphics inside. There’s still a divide between FHD displays and the 4K display with touchscreen depending on your choice of spec. Dell is promising “the longest battery life of any 15-inch laptop” despite a slight decline in rated battery size at 86 Whr on the top-spec models. The new XPS 15 9500 now starts at $1300 for i5, 8GB RAM, 256GB storage and onboard graphics, whereas more professional-grade models start at $2,200 for i7-10750H, 16GB RAM, 512GB storage, and that Nvidia GPU, with loads of add-ons. Available today in North America, Europe/Asia will see it available “throughout this week.”
XPS 17 (9700):
Dell says the XPS 17 is its “most powerful XPS laptop ever,” and what’s interesting here is the sizing. Dell also says the XPS 17 has a width of 14.74-inches (374.45 mm), which makes it smaller than 48% of 15-inch laptops available today, and the smallest 17-inch laptop available right now. That matters, because previous 17-inch laptops needed special bags. Will this fit in laptop bags that cater for 15-inch devices? It features the same base specs as the XPS 15 range, but has one extra configuration trick, offering the more powerful RTX 2060 on top-spec XPS 17 models. It starts at $1500, but isn’t available until “summer”, with other outlets reporting June 11th availability, and no further pricing for higher-end models.
XPS 15 owner checking-in:
As an owner of a June 2017-era Dell XPS 15, Dell has my attention. My current XPS has seen me through well, except for the webcam placement during this Zoom era, which is now fixed in the new models, I have also replaced the battery once after a swelling issue. I missed the free recall period, sadly. It’s still going great but the temptation is always on upgrading when the upgrade is meaningful. Will I get a new XPS 15? I don’t know yet. Of course the boring answer is that I’ll wait for reviews. But pricing here in Europe won’t be announced until later in the week, and besides that, I will definitely be checking out the XPS 17 size in person somewhere just to see exactly what that display feels like. And the other options are better than ever. The 16-inch MacBook Pro range is functional again, plus AMD’s new laptop CPUs are hurting Intel-based laptops, and may be enough to encourage me to look elsewhere.
2. The Information last night reported that two key members of the Google Pixel team have quietly left: Google Pixel general manager Mario Queiroz, and Pixel camera wizard Marc Levoy, who is widely respected for heading much of the success of Google’s computational photography prowess. There’s more too, including Pixel 3, 3a, and 4 sales, and disappointment over the Pixel 4 battery size. Will it threaten the Google Pixel’s camera dominance? Probably not in 2020, but beyond, maybe? (Android Authority).
3. Amazon’s tablet range has had a round of refreshes: slimmer bezels, new chips, wireless charging. The new Fire HD 8 might be one of the best cheap tablets out there now, even if it’s only a little bit faster (Android Authority).
4. US President Trump has extended the Huawei ban for another year, to May 2021 (Android Authority). Also, the FBI has accused China of hacking US groups researching tests, treatments, and vaccines for the coronavirus (BBC).
5. Chrome will soon group tabs together, letting users organize them by name and color (Engadget).
6. Epic Games announces Unreal Engine 5 with stunning PlayStation 5 demo, and lots of talk of triangle counts. Beware the tech-demo versus actual gameplay, but this is really quite something (The Verge).
7. Why humans totally freak out when lost, including circling the same tree over and over (Wired).
8. New evidence of watery plumes on Jupiter’s moon Europa (ESA).
9. What’s going on in Earth’s inner core? (phys.org).
10. You can carry this inflatable electric bike in a backpack. Hell yes. (Gizmodo).
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