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Honor 8 review: Honor’s mid-ranger gets Android 7.0 Nougat update

Christopher Minasians

1 day 15 hours ago
Price when reviewed 
370

The Honor 8 was released back in July 2016 and it was a surprisingly good handset at the time. An alternative to the Huawei P9, but slightly cheaper, it represents the pinnacle of the firm’s smartphone range. Both these phones share near-identical specifications.

It’s recently been upgraded to Android 7.0 Nougat, but the Honor 8’s price hasn’t drastically changed since launch. The phone still costs £370 on Amazon, but you can find for less (£320) if you go through vMall, Honor’s official web portal. The Huawei P9 has seen a price cut, too. Originally reviewed at £450 in April 2016, the dual-lens flagship can be found for £390 on Amazon and through various network providers, such as Three.

READ NEXT: The best smartphones in 2017

Honor 8 review: Build quality

If you think Honor and Huawei are trying to sell you the same phone twice, though, you'd only be partially correct. The Honor 8 has a design that really catches the eye. That's partly down to its rear glass panel, which is built from 15 different layers of materials, giving it what Honor calls a "3D grating effect".

That doesn't sound very luxurious, but the way its 7.5mm-thin chassis catches the light is certainly very pleasing to the eye. The white and black versions don't do it justice, but this 3D grating effect really comes into its own on the sapphire blue version. Couple this with its smooth texture and lightly chamfered edges and, to me, it's one of the prettiest phones around. Unfortunately, its glass back is prone to fingerprints and scratches, so if you do purchase the phone, I’d advise you purchase an £8 transparent phone cover to protect the device.

As with all of Honor's flagship phones, you'll find a fingerprint sensor on the back that does double duties as a touch gesture control. Whereas previous Honor fingerprint readers have given you the option of answering calls and bringing down the notifications menu with a quick swipe of your finger, the Honor 8 adds the ability to swipe left and right through your photo gallery as well. The sensor is fully clickable, too, allowing you to assign different app shortcuts to single and double clicks as well as a long press.

READ NEXT: Best budget smartphones of 2017 – our pick of the best

Honor 8 review: Display

The phone’s full HD (1,080 x 1,920) 5.2in display is as good to look at as phone itself.  Colours pop and aren’t overly saturated, and viewing angles are impressive. Reproduction of the sRGB colour gamut is good to reaching 98.20% coverage – it’s clear this is one capable, well-tuned display. the phone is capable of reproducing a wide array of colours. In fact, put in context it’s not far off the £550 Huawei P10, which covers 99.9% of the sRGB gamut.

The 1,086.8:1 contrast ratio and 0.38cd/m2 black level are a little on the low side for a modern flagship, but nonetheless both figures are still acceptable. Its biggest flaw is its readability under bright sunlight. At a tested 416 cd/m2 maximum brightness it lags behind most IPS-based screens; the Huawei P10 and P9 have brighter screens at 498cd/m2 and 489cd/m2 respectively.

READ NEXT: Huawei P8 Lite 2017 review: Can slick looking pretender match Moto?

Honor 8 review: Software

Originally shipped with Android 6 Marshmallow and EMUI 4.1, the Honor 8 now runs on Android 7 Nougat with EMUI 5.0. The update is free to install and is carried out over the air.

The look and feel of EMUI 5.0 won’t be for everyone, but I had no problem using it as the phone works seamlessly with Android 7 and the use of EMUI enables you to customise certain aspects of your phone, such as the button that doubles up as a fingerprint reader at the back of the phone.

Honor 8 review: Performance

Inside, you'll find an octa-core 2.3GHz Kirin 950 chip and 4GB of RAM. This is a slightly different chip to the Huawei P9’s, which has a Kirin 955, but the Honor 8's Kirin chipset is also joined by an i5 co-processor, allowing the phone to boot up quicker and capture health data in the background.

In terms of its benchmark performance, the Honor 8 is up there with the very best. With Geekbench 4 single-core score of 1,711 and a multi-core score of 5,449 it’s up there with the fastest phones on the market today.

The phone feels snappy, has no trouble under heavy load and is perfect for multitasking.

^Geekbench 4: Honor 8 vs Huawei P9 vs Huawei P10

It’s no slouch for gaming either, and with an onscreen GFXBench result of 20fps is another impressive result. Games feel fluid and no matter what I threw at the Honor 8, it was able to keep up.

 
^GFXBench Manhattan 3.0 Onscreen: Honor 8 vs Huawei P9 vs Huawei P10

As for storage, the Honor 8 comes with 32GB as standard, and this can be expanded by up to 128GB via the phone’s microSD card slot. There’s also a 64GB variant of the phone, but supply is rather limited.

Battery life is the phone’s weakest point, however. Inside is a non-removable 3,000mAh battery, which should be good for a full day of use, but it lasted only 9hrs 13mins in our video playback test.

In comparison, the Huawei P9 lasted 11hrs 24mins in the same test, and even the much cheaper Huawei P8 Lite 2017 lasted longer at 10h 24m. It’s not the best phone for playing Pokemon GO, that’s for sure, unless you equip yourself with a power bank.

On the plus side, the Honor 8 does support fast-charging via its USB Type-C port. You’ll get around half charge in 30 minutes with a zero-to-hero charge time of around an hour. Honor includes a fast charger in the box.

READ NEXT: Best power banks in the UK 2017: The best portable chargers you can buy

Honor 8 review: Camera

The Honor 8’s camera is the standout feature. It has a dual-lens 12-megapixel f/2.2 camera with laser autofocus and dual-tone LED flash, while at the front is an 8-megapixel f/2.4 camera.

Alongside the regular camera mode, you’ll find specialist modes such as Good food, Panorama, Night shot, Light painting, time-lapse and beauty. The most interesting of the bunch, though, is Pro photo, which will allow you to adjust the metering, ISO, shutter speed, EV, focus and white balance. If you’re competent with pro-level photography, the Honor 8 will satisfy your geeky habits.

The images it captures are simply stunning, although not quite as good, perhaps, as the more advanced Huawei P9 with its Leica-branded optics. A natural picture quality is achieved through Honor’s RGB and monochrome sensors, which combine to provide accurate colours and improve dynamic range.

In my tests shots I found details such as brickwork at distance clearly defined, with HDR mode adding that extra bit of detail and colour accuracy to my images.

^Road shot in HDR mode (brickwork is clear, colours are accurate, both sky and road are visible)

Low-light performance was spectacular. Our indoor studio still life was reproduced with little visible image noise and very impressive overall colour accuracy with no signs of over-saturation.


^Indoor shot in standard mode

Enabling flash somewhat reduces the quality of the image but does remove unwanted shadows from the background.


^Indoor shot with flash

You can’t record video at 4k resolution with the Honor 8, which is a little disappointing, but the Honor 8 will let you capture in 1080p at 60fps or 30fps and in 720p at 120fps for slow-mo. It’s also good to see there’s a Pro video mode, which lets you manually adjust the metering mode, EV, AF and white balance. You can’t lock exposure in, though, which is mildly annoying.

READ NEXT: Best phone battery life 2017: The BEST smartphones tested

Honor 8 review: Verdict

The Honor 8 is a fantastic smartphone, especially at its lower £320 price tag. It has a fantastic camera, a beautiful and unique design, a fast processor resulting in a fluid Android 7 experience and its Full HD screen is excellent. It is only let down by its battery life.

So should you buy one? It all really boils down to the price. At the Amazon price of £370, the Honor 8 doesn’t provide a convincing argument over the £390 Huawei P9 or, in fact, the superlative OnePlus 3T, which is only £10 more at £400. However, if you’re happy purchasing from Honor direct, at £320 the Honor 8 makes a great purchase.

Hardware
Processor Octa-core (4x2.3 GHz Cortex-A72 & 4x1.8 GHz Cortex A53)
RAM 4GB
Screen size 5.2in
Screen resolution 1080 x 1920
Screen type LTPS
Front camera 8 megapixels
Rear camera 12 megapixels
Flash LED
GPS Yes
Compass Yes
Storage  32GB 
Memory card slot (supplied) microSD (256GB)
Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth Bluetooth 4.2
NFC Yes
Wireless data 3G, 4G
Dimensions 145.5 x 71 x 7.5 mm
Weight 153g
Features
Operating system Android 7.0
Battery size 3,000mAh

Posted on 24 March 2017 | 10:48 am

 

iPad vs iPad Air 2: The new iPad is fast, but is it any better than the iPad Air 2?

Christopher Minasians

1 day 20 hours ago

Apple has just dropped the iPad Air line and replaced it with the “iPad” line, alongside a new iOS video app, Clips, which allows you to film and edit video clips.

Here, I’ll concentrate on the new iPad and compare it to the now discontinued iPad Air 2 – still available from third-party retailers Argos, John Lewis and Currys. From looking at the new iPad’s specs and new features, early signs suggest the iPad Air 2 actually offers the best value for money.

READ NEXT: Apple iPad Air 2 review

iPad vs iPad Air 2: Price and models

Winner: Draw

The iPad Air 2 is now discontinued, but you can still find it refurbished on Apple’s website from £299 for the Wi-Fi 16GB model, up to the Wi-Fi and 4G 128GB for £499. You’ll also be able to find leftover stock of the iPad Air 2 through third-party retailers, such as eBay, Argos, John Lewis and Currys among others.

The new iPad (2017), is available on order through Apple’s website for £339 for the Wi-Fi-only 32GB model, going up to £559 for the Wi-Fi and 4G 128GB model. The new iPad is only available in two storage sizes, 32 and 128GB – Apple has axed the 16 and 64GB iPad models.

At a price of £339-559 from Apple, the new iPad’s prices are actually cheaper than the iPad Air 2 was previously. Prior to the release of the new iPad, the Air 2 was priced at £379 for the 16GB Wi-Fi model and £589 for the Wi-Fi and 4G 128GB model. In fact, with an additional 16GB of internal storage, tallying up to 32GB, the new entry-level model is significantly cheaper.

The new iPad will be available for order through Apple, from 24 March 2017 at 15:01 London time.

READ NEXT: The best tablets to buy in 2017

iPad vs iPad Air 2: Design and build quality

Winner: Draw

The design and build quality of the two iPads is virtually identical. Both iPads can be found in Silver, Gold and Space Grey colours. They have the same 9.7in display size, metal design, Touch ID, button placement, cameras and ports. The iPad’s aesthetics haven’t changed and won’t be distinguishable until you’ve switched on the tablet.

^Pictured: iPad Air 2

The new iPad is a little thicker at 7.5mm, versus the Air 2’s 6.1mm, although this is barely noticeable. At 469g for the Wi-Fi model and 478g for the cellular version, the new iPad is also heavier than the Air 2, at 437g and 444g respectively. Both iPads have the same 240 x 169.5mm height and width.

We’re not sure why it’s thicker, as Apple still quotes the same battery life on the new iPad, which suggests we’ll find the same 27.62Wh battery in the new version. Before jumping to conclusions, we’ll wait for iFixit to teardown the new iPad – click here to see iFixit’s teardown of the Air 2.

Both the iPads have two speakers. Unlike the iPad Pro’s four-speaker design, the new iPad retains the same audio fidelity as the Air 2.

iPad vs iPad Air 2: Display

Winner: iPad Air 2

Both the iPad Air 2 and new iPad share the same 9.7in Retina display. This means both have a 2,048 x 1,536 resolution with a 264ppi pixel density.

However, the iPad Air 2 one ups the new iPad by incorporating a fully laminated display and anti-reflective coating. These features are essential if you want to look at your iPad in sunlit conditions, and I’m not sure why Apple would remove this from its latest iPad, but rumours suggest it might be linked with repairability.

Apart from the discontinued Air 2, the iPad Pro models and iPad mini 4 still have the coating.

^iPad Air 2 display

iPad vs iPad Air 2: Gaming performance and processor

Winner: The new iPad

This is the only category where the new iPad proves to be ahead by a margin over the iPad Air 2. While the Air 2 has the A8X processor and M8 motion coprocessor, the new iPad has the improved A9 chip and M9 motion coprocessor.

The later chip will give you a healthy boost in frames per second in games, and be more capable with intensive computing tasks. However, if you’re not an intensive gamer, you’ll not notice the difference between the two iPads, where both will be fluid and snappy to use.

READ NEXT: iPad Pro 12.9in review

iPad vs iPad Air 2: Camera

Winner: Draw

The iPads share the same camera, where both the new iPad and Air 2 have a rear-facing 8-megapixel f/2.4 aperture shooter and a front-facing 1.2-megapixel f/2.2 aperture FaceTime HD camera.

^Pictured: The iPad Air 2's front camera

iPad vs iPad Air 2: iOS

Winner: The new iPad

Both iPads run on iOS 10, but as with every Apple device, the older the product, the quicker it will stop receiving support.

It will be some time until the iPad Air 2 stops receiving the latest iOS updates, but it’s worth remembering that the new iPad will be able to support the latest iOS for a year longer.

READ NEXT: Apple 9.7-inch iPad Pro review – the best tablet ever, at a price

iPad vs iPad Air 2: Is it worth upgrading?

If you already own an iPad Air 2, there’s no point in upgrading to the new iPad. Apple hasn't really pulled out all the stops with this release, but have upgraded the processor and lowered the entry price of a 9.7in iPad.

If you don’t own an iPad and you’re looking to buy a new one, you’ll have to determine what you’re looking for:

-Pick the iPad Air 2 if you’re on a tight budget or want to reduce the cost of purchase. You can purchase a refurbished one on Apple’s website, or an unused one from a third-party website such as eBay.

-Pick the iPad Air 2 if you’ll be using the tablet in bright sunlit conditions. Its fully laminated display and anti-reflective coating will make its Retina display easier to see.

-Pick the new iPad if you’re a hardcore gamer and want the snappiest experience. The A9 and M9 motion coprocessor will provide a more fluid experience.

^iPad Air 2

There’s no clear winner, but if I were personally buying a new iPad today, I’d lean towards a like-new or refurbished iPad Air 2 64GB Wi-Fi and 4G model, which will set me back £379.

If I were to buy the new iPad 32GB Wi-Fi and 4G model, it would set me back £469. The extra £90 gives me a better processor chip and a shiny new device. However, the new iPad has less storage space and no anti-reflective display – all of which combine to make the Air 2, to me, the better buy.

Posted on 24 March 2017 | 5:44 am

 

Best cordless vacuum cleaners: The best handheld vacuum cleaners from £70

Chris Finnamore

3 days 15 hours ago

Handheld vacuum cleaners are fantastically useful. Whether it’s breadcrumbs around the toaster, scattered Shreddies under the high chair, or mud on your brand new car carpets, a handheld will bust the dust without you having to lug the Henry out from under the stairs.

And while most handheld vacuums look decidedly similar to each other, not all are created equal. They vary in terms of power and dirt capacity, but also in design – many have clever features to make your life easier and to help them reach the most awkward to clean places. Read on and we’ll explain the key points you need to know about before buying, what you need to look out for before buying, See the next page for our full buying guide, but in the meantime check out our top five handheld vacuums.

READ NEXT: The best full-sized vacuum cleaners to buy 

How to buy the best cordless vacuum cleaner for you

What specifications should I pay attention to?

There are a handful of specifications to look at before you begin: weight, bin capacity, battery power and run time. Weight isn’t so much of an issue when you’re vacuuming the floor, but you’ll certainly notice a heavy model when you’re standing on a chair cleaning a lampshade. The lightest models we’ve seen are around the 1.3kg mark, while the heaviest are nearer 2kg – that may not sound like a big difference, but you’ll certainly notice the extra weight when you’re holding a handheld vacuum at arm’s length.

Is bin capacity worth worrying about?

Bin capacity determines roughly how much dirt you can collect before you have to empty the vacuum. It’s not as big an issue as with full-sized vacuums, however, and even if a model has a small bin, it’s not a deal-breaker as long as the bin is quick and easy to empty. We mention how simple it is to empty each model in the reviews below.

How long do the batteries last, and do they vary in power?

Battery power determines roughly how much suction a vacuum will have, but this is a rough measure as nozzle design also affects the overall suction power. Run time is equally important, however: some models can clean for 20 minutes between charges, while others can only manage half that. Some handheld vacuums can also take 12 hours to charge again, so if you have particularly messy children (or partners) it’s best to look for a model with a long run time, or a quick-charge function.

What accessories and features are worth having?

It’s not all about the specs as handheld vacuums vary in terms of their design and the accessories which they come with. Some have pivoting nozzles or detachable hoses to help you reach awkward places, while others have crevice tools you can attach to get into confined crannies. Some come with charging docks to make them easy to plug in, while others make you fiddle with a small DC plug. Vax’s H85-ACH-BD Air Cordless Handheld is the only model we’ve seen with a detachable battery, which could be useful if you’re willing to buy a spare or have other Vax vacuum cleaners that use the same power pack.

The best cordless vacuum cleaners to buy 

1. Dyson V8 Absolute: The best handheld vacuum cleaner – and the most expensive

Price when reviewed: £420

Dyson’s V8 Absolute might cost almost as much as every other vacuum here combined, but for good reason: this is as versatile as handheld vacuums come. Dyson includes a pair of heads which are suitable for both hard floors and carpet, and the removable extension tube and selection of tools allows the V8 Absolute to convert effortlessly from full-sized vacuum to handy handheld.

Whichever tool you choose, however, the V8’s suction power allows it to take on pretty much any dust busting task you can think of, from cars to kitchens and the loft to the living room. Battery life is around 40 minutes at standard power – though the Max setting drains it in just six – and charge time is a speedy 3 and a half hours. Emptying the bin is a much cleaner affair than previous models thanks to a redesigned rubber collar which prevents dust getting stuck to the sides.

If you like the Dyson way of doing things but don’t want to spend quite so much cash, then it’s worth considering one of Dyson’s previous V6 models, but if you want the best, the V8 is most certainly it.

Read our Dyson V8 Absolute review

Key specs – Dimensions (WDH): 240 x 1244 x 224mm, Weight: 2.61kg, Bin capacity: 0.54l, Battery power: 22V, Run time: 40 minutes, Warranty: Two years RTB

2. Black + Decker PV1820L 18V Lithium-ion Dustbuster Pivot Hand Vac: A brilliant budget handheld vacuum with quick charging

Price when reviewed: £100

With the PV1820L Dustbuster Pivot, Black + Decker has made some seriously useful tweaks to the handheld vacuum formula. For a start, the Dustbuster will charge in just four hours – quick enough to make sure it’s ready to clean up after a messy toddler at every mealtime.

The Dustbuster Pivot’s innovative design allows the suction nozzle to pivot 200 degrees around its body. This lets you vacuum in all kinds of awkward places, such as the tops of shelves at head height, or along your window blinds. It also means the nozzle folds away when you don’t need it, almost halving the size of the unit.

Thanks to its side door, the Dustbuster Pivot is also easy to empty. We have no complaints about its suction, either – 18V of power is enough for keeping on top of household spills and getting mud out of your car’s footwells. The Dustbuster Pivot doesn’t have the longest battery life, but this is offset by its quick charge times. It’s a versatile and powerful handheld vacuum.

Key specs – Dimensions (WDH): 178 x 155 x 292mm; Weight: 1.38kg, Bin capacity: 0.4l, Battery power: 18V, Run time: 10 minutes, Warranty: Two years RTB

3. VAX H85-GA-P18 Gator 18V Handheld: The best budget handheld vacuum

Price when reviewed: £70

It may look like a traditional handheld vacuum, but the H85-GA-P18 Gator has some useful design twists. For a start, it’s remarkably easy to empty. Squeeze in two catches at the front of the unit and the front flips up to reveal the dust compartment. You can then point the vacuum straight into the bin and give it a shake to get rid of your accumulated dirt. It’s quick and neat, and results in the dust going into the bin rather than falling around it.

We’re not quite so keen on the Gator’s front-heavy weight distribution, which can be tiring for the wrists. It also takes a full 12 hours to charge, and there’s no neat charging base to drop it into – just a DC plug. Still, its cleaning performance more than makes amends, and we especially liked the motorized carpet attachment. This has rotating brushes to help with pet hair, but we found it made it much easier to clean carpets in the car and on the stairs. There are better all-round vacuums here, but the Gator offers a lot of vacuum for the money.

Key specs – Dimensions (WDH): 94 x 140 x 320, Weight: 1.9kg, Bin capacity: 0.3l, Battery power: 18V, Run time: 20 minutes, Warranty: Two years RTB

4. Hoover SM18DL4 Jovis Plus: Not the most powerful, but quiet and quick to charge

Price when reviewed: £80

The Jovis Plus’ provides several features to make your life easier. A battery indicator on the top means you don’t need to listen for the motor slowing down to know when it’s time to recharge; the crevice tool slots neatly into the vacuum’s nose; and there’s even a small wheel at the front to make for a smoother passage over tiles and tablecloths – we just wish it didn’t squeak so much.

The vacuum is simple to empty, and as the dust compartment is hinged at the back, all it takes is a squeeze of the trigger to make the jaws open and dirt tumble straight out the bottom of the vacuum. The Jovis Plus’s slender nose means you can poke it into your bin before emptying, to minimise the risk of dirt going everywhere, and it also comes with an extension hose and a brush attachment, which we found useful for cleaning blinds. It’s a shame the crevice tool doesn’t fit the extension hose, as the hose itself is a bit wide to really get into nooks and crannies.

The Jovis+ doesn’t have the strongest suction, but it's quick to charge (it takes less than four hours) and is significantly quieter than the competition.

Key specs – Dimensions (WDH): 130 x 160 x 400mm, Weight: 1.3kg, Bin capacity: 0.5l, Battery power: 18V, Run time: 20 minutes, Warranty: One year RTB

5. Black and Decker PD1820L 18V Lithium-ion Dustbuster Flexi Hand Vac: A flexible handheld vacuum which charges quickly

Price when reviewed: £150

When it comes to its handheld vacuums, Black + Decker seems determined to innovate. The Dustbuster Pivot has an adjustable nozzle that makes it easy to reach tricky places, but the PD1820L Dustbuster Flexi goes a step further.

The Dustbuster Flexi is a cross between a handheld and a full-size vacuum. If you leave the hose in place you can use it just like a normal handheld vacuum, but unclip the hose and you have 1.5m of reach. This makes it easy to clean high-up places, as you don’t have to lift the vacuum’s entire 1.5kg weight above your head. It also lets you reach into confined spaces like car footwells, where it would be awkward to manoeuvre the entire unit.

It’s a powerful vacuum, and 15 minutes is a reasonable amount of battery life considering the Dustbuster Flexi only takes 4 hours to charge. It’s one of the more expensive models we’ve seen, but its flexibility is worth paying for (and we’ve seen some bargains around).

Key specs – Dimensions (WHD): 315 x 250 x 240mm, Weight: 1.47kg, Bin capacity: 0.56l, Battery power: 18V, Run time: 15m, Warranty: Two years RTB

Posted on 22 March 2017 | 12:53 pm

 

Acer Spin 7 review: Can Acer's convertible beat rival Surface Pro 4?

3 days 13 hours ago
Price when reviewed 
999

Acer has been attempting to raise its profile as a maker of prosumer and business-grade hardware in recent years, with a series of laptops aiming to take on higher-priced devices like the MacBook and XPS ranges.

After reviewing Acer's surprisingly good Swift 3 notebook, we were expecting big things from the company's latest 2-in-1. The flagship of its convertible line, the Acer Spin 7 aims to cement Acer's position as a contender in the realms of high-end hybrids - but can it match its established rivals?

Acer Spin 7 review: Design

We were immediately taken with the Spin 7's design. With the lid closed, the all-metal chassis is only 11mm thick, and the clean lines and understated, minimalist aesthetic go together to create a striking-looking device. Sadly, our positive feelings quickly began to fade away once we actually started using it.

The 360-degree hinge is the first flaw - it's simply not stiff enough to hold the display firmly in place. Flip the Spin 7 over into tent mode, and it feels like it's in constant danger of falling over. Worse still, it even wobbles slightly back and forth when you're typing in laptop mode. Attempt to carry the Spin 7 across the room with the display upright, and it barely makes a few steps before sagging downwards and pointing towards the floor.

Read Next: Acer Swift 7 review 

At 1.2kg, it's among the lightest 14in notebooks we've come across. This feat is even more impressive when you consider that it's a touchscreen model, too, as this generally adds a couple hundred grams to the weight. However, while it is undeniably light for a 14in laptop, the Spin 7 is too heavy to comfortably use as a handheld tablet – like many convertible 2-in-1s, it's a much better laptop than it is a tablet.

Acer Spin 7 review: Keyboard and trackpad

It's tough not to like the Spin just a little, though. The gorgeous looks get it off to a good start, and it's all the better for marrying that handsome figure with a rather nice keyboard and trackpad. Despite the thin base, the chiclet keys have just enough travel and responsiveness to feel good under the finger, and the ultra-wide trackpad is great - multi-touch gestures such as swiping between open programs are an absolute breeze.

However, the Spin 7 does lose points for having no keyboard backlighting. This should be an essential feature by now and the fact that Acer has neglected to include it feels like a missed opportunity, especially for this kind of money.

Acer Spin 7 review: Performance and hardware

Sadly, Acer hasn't outdone itself in the hardware stakes. On paper, it sounds like it should be a potent performer: in addition to 8GB of DDR3 RAM, a shiny sticker on the chassis proudly proclaimed that it's fitted with a seventh-generation Core i7 processor. However, a surprisingly lacklustre showing in our benchmark tests prompted us to take another look.

While it acquitted itself capably in our image editing benchmarks, it seriously underperformed in the video editing and multitasking tests, scoring much lower than we'd expect from a 5th-generation i7 processor, much less one of Intel's latest models.

On closer inspection, however, we discovered that the Spin 7 uses one of Intel's Y-series Kaby Lake chips. In other words, it's a rebranded Core m7 processor, which explains its rather unimpressive results in the more demanding portions of our benchmarks.

With this in mind, the Acer Spin 7's results actually look very respectable; it offered performance roughly on par with what we'd expect from what's effectively a Core m7 chip, and it even outperformed Apple's 12in MacBook.

It's worth bearing in mind, though, that it's still roundly trounced by any of Intel's full-fat processors. Kaby Lake's low TDP talents have allowed Acer to pare the Spin 7 down to a sliver of metal and plastic, but the trade-off is performance. If processing power is what you're after, you'll get better performance at a cheaper price from one of last year's Core i5 Skylake notebooks.

Indeed, one of the keys to the Spin 7's slenderness is that it's forgone fans completely. The silence is welcome but despite the power-efficient Kaby Lake processor the chassis does tend to heat up noticeably even under light use. Push it harder with heavyweight applications, and it gets uncomfortably hot. According to our measurements, the temperature of the area just above the keyboard hit almost 50 degrees Celcius, even with a relatively minor load on the processor.

As you'd expect with a chassis this pared-down, there's hardly any room for ports on the Spin 7. You're left with just two USB Type-C slots, which is an acceptable number, although more would be welcome - especially given that you'll need to use one when charging the unit.

Things start to look up when we get to the 14in Full HD display, which is really rather good. As it covers 95.3% of the sRGB colour spectrum, colours are vibrant and natural, and the maximum brightness of 321cd/m2 means legibility shouldn't be a problem even on sunny days. Contrast is great too, which helps to eke out plenty of detail from the darkest shadows to the brightest highlights. The glossy screen finish does mean that glare could prove an issue under harsh fluorescent lighting, though.

The decision to stick with a 1080p panel over a more impressive QHD or 4K resolution helps to extend the battery life, and it's clearly a necessary compromise. Although the Spin 7's score of 6hrs 57mins in our battery tests is firmly respectable for a notebook this thin, a higher resolution would unquestionably have shaved this down by at least a couple of hours.

If an ultra high-definition display is a sticking point, however, higher resolution displays can be found in rival machines at the expense of processing power and touchscreen functionality.

Acer Spin 7 review: Verdict

The Acer Spin 7 gets an awful lot right; it's lovely to look at, the trackpad is a joy to use, and it's one of the thinnest convertibles we've ever seen. However, it's a machine that is built on compromise, which ultimately proves to be its downfall.

Issues with build quality - such as the lack of keyboard backlighting and the disastrous hinge - make it feel cheap. At the same time, its £1,200 price tag puts it in the same ballpark as the 12in MacBook and the Surface Pro 4, both of which are much more refined machines.

The Spin 7 is too flawed to be a credible convertible, and too underpowered to rival the best ultrabooks. Whether you're hunting for a lightweight 2-in-1 or a business-grade laptop, there are several better-performing and more cost-effective alternatives which we'd buy instead.

If you're after an ultraportable laptop, the new Dell XPS 13 offers substantially better performance and a much higher build quality for only £50 more, while those who need touchscreen functionality are advised to go for Microsoft's latest Surface Pro, which is better value with a much more attractive screen and hinge.

Posted on 22 March 2017 | 11:01 am

 

Yoyotech Warbird G2 review: High-spec gaming on a budget

James Archer

4 days 16 hours ago
Price when reviewed 
936

We've tested a lot of PCs that have been spruced up with a spot of coloured LED illumination, but never one that puts on the kind of veritable light show as the Warbird G2 does.

First, there are the two front fans, which can be quickly switched between seven colours – either solid or given a few different effects – via a button on the front panel or the included remote control. Then, there’s the Gigabyte H270-GAMING 3 motherboard, which is dotted with individual RGB LEDs around the PCIe slots and CPU socket as well as having longer, thicker strips down the right edge and along the RAM slots. Even the graphics card, a 6GB GTX 1060 model from Asus, has a touch of white light shining out through the clear perspex side window.

Bright club

Having this many light sources could look horrible if they were mismatched, but since the case and motherboard LEDs can be set to your liking (either through the remote control or Gigabyte’s RGB Fusion software), it’s not hard to get things looking nice and tasteful. At least, it’s not when the remote plays ball – ours seemed to have extreme difficulty in registering changes. The button on the case itself works fine, as long as you don’t mind cycling through the various colours and effects until you reach what you want.

Buy the Yoyotech Warbird G2 now

Fortunately, the Warbird G2 is much more reliable where it really counts. Its spanking-new Kaby Lake processor, the Intel Core i5-7500, is a step down from the overclockable Core i5-7600K that’s become our mid-range chip of choice, but you’d be lucky to find the latter in a system under £1,000. The Core i5-7500 does just fine for everyday computing, as demonstrated by our benchmark test results: 111 in the image test, 113 in the video test and 109 in the multitasking test, producing a balanced overall score of 111.

It doesn’t seem to hold back the GPU, either. The base model of the Warbird G2 includes the 3GB version of the GTX 1060, for £900, but our slightly pricier review model featured the full-fat 6GB version. This gives it great gaming chops even at 4K; Dirt: Showdown, running at Ultra settings with 4x anti-aliasing, averaged 118fps at 1,920 x 1,080 resolution as well as 55fps at 3,840 x 2,160.

Performance in Metro: Last Light Redux was also in line with what we’ve seen from other GTX 1060 systems. At 1,920 x 1,080, the Warbird G2 managed an extremely playable 50fps when running at Very High settings with all other visual effects maxed out, and while playing at 3,840 x 2,160 demands sacrifices, it’s still perfectly possible without ruining the game’s looks. At this resolution, we got 58fps on Medium settings with AF 4X texture filtering, Normal tessellation, and both SSAA and advanced PhysX effects disabled. That’s a huge leap from the 12fps it recorded with everything at maximum.

Switching things up

It’s worth noting, if you’re into gaming, that for a few tenners more you could get Yoyotech’s own Warbird RS C6 instead; this comes packing a considerably more powerful 8GB GTX 1070, as well as the older (but still slightly faster) Core i5-6600K processor.

Not that that Warbird G2 is a bad deal; in fact, it’s got an impressive set of bonus features (on top of all the lighting), such as integrated SD and microSD card readers and two fan speed selector switches. These can control up to three fans each, though tested on the pre-installed intakes, there’s not a great deal of noise difference between the high and low settings, so we just left them on high. However, there’s little to complain about on the connectivity front. The front panel’s two USB 2 and two USB 3 ports are good, but it’s the motherboard’s rear I/O panel that really impresses, with two USB 2 and four USB 3 ports, alongside one USB 3.1 and one USB Type-C port, plus Gigabit Ethernet. What’s more, two of the USB 3 ports are of the DAC-UP variety, so they can be used with high-end audio kit. The same goes for the C/SUB, rear- and side-speaker outputs, augmenting the standard 3.5mm audio jacks.

Expand aid

The internals is pretty decent as well. The two dual-purpose 3.5in/2.5in toolless drive bays are taken up by the existing storage, but you could add another three 2.5in drives if you wished, plus two 5.25in optical drives or controller panels. The motherboard’s two PCI slots are a bit old-fashioned, but there’s still scope for more modern upgrades with two PCIe x16 slots (one spare) and two PCIe x1 slots (both spare). We’re happy to see an M.2 slot as well, what with NVMe storage falling in price.

Buy the Yoyotech Warbird G2 now

Next to the RS C6 and Chillblast’s Fusion Hubble, the Warbird G2 isn’t quite the superlative system, but if you absolutely can’t stretch to the £1,000 asking price of those two PCs, this is a very respectable jack-of-all-trades alternative.

Posted on 21 March 2017 | 9:24 am