Xiaomi Mi Mix 3’s slider is almost-perfect

Xiaomi Mi Mix 3’s slider is almost-perfect

I’ve yet to find the perfect phone , but Xiaomi’s Mi Mix 3 comes closer than any phone I’ve used in years.

The Mi Mix 3 is a full-screen display phone without a notch, and relies on hiding its front camera under the display that’s revealed when you slide it down –via a unique slider mechanism powered by magnets– with a satisfying click as it locks into place.

Using the sliding feature is almost an addictive experience, and I kind of can’t stop doing it. The screen even lights up and a buzz-like chime plays every time you slide it open, like a little mini reward. If you’re worried that you’ll break it, Xiaomi says the slider is rated for 300,000 cycles (opening and closing it counts as one cycle), and on average, I found myself sliding less than 50 times a day.

xiaomimimix3-4

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The front cameras uses a 24-megapixel and 2-megapixel setup.


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Beyond the slider, the Mi Mix 3 is a fantastic device that packs the current best in hardware, such as Qualcomm’s current Snapdragon 845 chip (though the Snapdragon 855 is due to arrive soon), a 6.4-inch Super AMOLED Full-HD+ display, dual 12-megapixel rear cameras with 2x optical zoom and wireless charging. Best yet, it even comes with a wireless charging pad in the box.

As for price, the cheapest Mi Mix 3, with 6GB RAM and 128GB onboard storage, sells for around $490, £375 and AU$680 converted from its 3,299 Chinese yuan price. The version with 10GB RAM and 256GB of onboard storage costs 4,999 Chinese yuan, or about $845.

While the cheapest version is a steal, the highest end model is still cheaper than the cheapest iPhone XS Max, by about $250. The only problem though, is where to get one. You can buy the Mi Mix 3 in most parts of Asia, as well Spain and Italy, but since Xiaomi currently doesn’t sell phones in the US there aren’t any official options for US phone enthusiasts. 

Almost perfect

I told you earlier that the Mi Mix 3 is almost perfect, and I wasn’t kidding. Sure, it’s missing a few things, such as waterproofing — which I’m guessing is almost impossible with the sliding mechanism — and secure 3D face unlocking, but I can live without these. Here’s why:

The Mix 3 looks amazing

The shiny signature ceramic rear shimmers in the light, and while the backing is acclaimed for resisting fingerprint grease, you’ll still see plenty. The darker color of the phone does hide the ugly marks somewhat. The phone is comfortable to hold, and while it’s slightly heavier than the iPhone XS Max on paper, I didn’t really notice it.

xiaomimimix3-2

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The rear is made of ceramic and is supposedly fingerprint and scratch resistant (but you’ll still see prints, in case you’re wondering).


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The 6.4-inch display is bright, and colors pop out, even outdoors in sunlight. The Mix 3 also supports wireless charging, which is nice to have, and as mentioned earlier, you don’t have to buy a charging pad since it comes in the box.

The MIUI 10 software ties it all together

You get an Android experience that feels somewhat like iOS, but it’s definitely Android. By default, the Mix 3 uses onscreen buttons, but you can switch it to a gesture based control that’s similar to iOS — swipe up to exit an app, swipe the sides to go back or forth, and swipe and hold to bring up all the currently open apps on the phone.

One of new features that takes advantage of the slider mechanism is to bring up a customizable quick menu that lets you quickly access apps such as a recorder, stopwatch or take notes. You can also set it to just take a picture with the front selfie camera.

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Twitter can keep copies of your deleted DMs for years

Twitter can keep copies of your deleted DMs for years


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Twitter might still have copies of your DMs saved in its system even if it’s been years since you deactivated your account. Security researcher Karan Saini told TechCrunch that he found years-old messages in an archive of his Twitter data — which you can request from Twitter itself under the Settings menu — even if they were from accounts that had been deleted or suspended. The publication has confirmed Saini’s report by looking through an archive and finding a conversation with a suspended account from way back in March 2016.

Under Twitter’s guidelines, the company wrote that “there is a very brief period in which [it] may be able to access account information, including Tweets.” You can only restore your account with all its data intact within 30 days, after all. Twitter accepts requests from law enforcement to preserve records, but the platform said it will only keep a temporary snapshot of relevant account records for only 90 days.

In addition, the security researcher discovered that those archives could also come with messages you’ve previously deleted or were deleted by the person you were chatting with. While Twitter now only removes DMs you delete from your own inbox, Twitter used to scrub them from the recipient’s inbox, as well. It looks like the platform can still keep a copy of them either way.

Saini said the records remain accessible due to a “functional bug” rather than a security flaw. Whatever it is that causes this issue, it’s clearly a privacy problem — one that Twitter still doesn’t have a full grasp of. A Twitter spokesperson told TechCrunch that it’s “looking into this further to ensure [the company has] considered the entire scope of the issue.”

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Recommended Reading: The best of the Best Pictures

Recommended Reading: The best of the Best Pictures


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The Best Picture championship belt
Adam Nayman and
Sean Fennessey,
The Ringer

This year’s installment of the Academy Awards is set for February 24th, but ahead of the festivities, The Ringer is looking back at the best Best Pictures with a unique spin. The outlet has applied a WWE-style championship belt to the list of winners, including how long it reigned, who it defeated during that time and more. Is it silly? Yes. Is it a very entertaining read? Absolutely.

How Kacey Musgraves’ Grammy wins give country radio a choice to make
Marissa R. Moss,
Rolling Stone

Country radio never really embraced Kacey Musgraves, but following big wins this week, it may be time to reconsider.

It’s impossible to follow a conversation on Twitter
Taylor Lorenz,
The Atlantic

Following an on-going Q&A on Twitter is awful, and an attempt this week to interview CEO Jack Dorsey highlights all the flaws.

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CBS reached its streaming subscription target two years early

CBS reached its streaming subscription target two years early


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With cord-cutting on the rise, it seems there’s enough room at the table for more internet-only services. CBS is now reporting that its streaming platforms, CBS All Access and Showtime, reach 8 million subscribers — up 60 percent from the 5 million reported last year. The number is split evenly between the two, marking a four-fold increase from July 2016. Like its counterparts, CBS is spending big on originals, including high-profile genre and cult fare like CBS All Access exclusives Star Trek Discovery and The Twilight Zone and Showtime’s Twin Peaks. And its strategy is paying off, with the company boasting it hit streaming targets two years ahead of schedule.

CBS is now upgrading its forecast to target 25 million domestic streaming subscribers by 2022. Comparably, Netflix hit 60.55 million domestic subscribers in its fourth quarter last year, though it’s been around much longer, has a larger library and the biggest streaming content budget.

But CBS shouldn’t have any issues stockpiling more content. Looking ahead, the broadcaster says its online and cable TV service will compliment each other. The example CBS boss Joe Ianniello used on its Q4 earnings call was taking season one of The Good Fight — a CBS All Access exclusive — and possibly putting it on CBS broadcast network. “They’re are not leaving the ecosystem; they just want more,” Ianniello said of streaming viewers, reports Deadline. “So let’s give it to them.”

There’s bad news, however, for those looking to watch CBS All Access exclusives on other streaming platforms in the US. Ianniello pointed to Star Trek: Discovery (which was only on Netflix internationally) as a guide to its ongoing approach to licensing.

The CBS boss also assured investors that the NFL isn’t going anywhere either, despite reports claiming Amazon and Google could look to swoop in on rights when its deal ends in 2022. “We’ve been successful three times in renewing our [NFL] rights and I would expect to do so again,” Ianniello said. CBS will “do what is necessary to make sure the NFL stays on CBS.”

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Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs outlines how it’ll make money from Toronto

Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs outlines how it’ll make money from Toronto


Sidewalk Labs

For the last two years, Google’s Sidewalk Labs has been working on a planned neighborhood on Toronto’s waterfront. Now, thanks to internal documents obtained by the Toronto Star, the company’s plans on how it will make money through the development have been revealed. Sidewalk Labs plans to take a portion of property taxes, development fees and siphon off tax revenue generated by increased property values in the region.

In a November presentation given to parent company Alphabet and seen by the Star, Sidewalk Labs reveals that it doesn’t intend to construct buildings on the majority of the land but does plan to attempt to benefit from other developers building on the property. In one slide, the company claims to be “entitled to … a share in the uptick in land value on the entire geography … a share of developer charges and incremental tax revenue on all land.”

The area subject to development, located in Port Lands, is expected to generate an estimated $6 billion over 30 years. That money would typically go to the city’s coffers, but Sidewalk Labs intends to lay claim to at least some share of it. The company has walked back some of the claims in the leaked presentation.

In a post on Medium, Sidewalk Labs CEO Dan Doctoroff reaffirmed the company’s planned investment in affordable housing in the area and its intention to help spur economic growth, though did not directly addres how it plans to recoup the money it spends on the development. Doctoroff also told the Star his company only expects to be “paid back a reasonable return for our investment” on its investments to build out infrastructure in the region.

Engadget has reached out to Sidewalk Labs for comment and will update this story if we hear back.

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FCC’s proposed rules target international robocallers

FCC’s proposed rules target international robocallers


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The FCC has been trying to squash robocalls for years, but it can’t fully get rid of them until it can find a way to get calls from overseas under control. Now, the agency has proposed rules that would ban illegal spoofed text messages and calls originating from outside the US to recipients within the country, allowing it to address people’s complaints where either scenario is involved.

In a statement, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said that the agency received 52,000 robocall complaints last year, and among them were reports about an international phone scam targeting Chinese-Americans. The perpetrators made their caller ID information look like they were from one of the Chinese consulate offices in the US. They then “conned their victims into thinking that they were the subject of a criminal investigation in China — an investigation that could be resolved by wiring money to a Hong Kong bank account.” Enough people fell for the scheme that a dozen New York residents were defrauded out of $3 million.

While the Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009 prohibits illegal spoofing, it doesn’t cover either texts or calls originating from overseas. That’s the weak spot the FCC is hoping to patch up with new legislation. In addition to those two, the rules would also prohibit spoofed MMS messages and oneway interconnected VoIP calls.

If the proposed rules get approved, the FCC will have the power to bring enforcement actions against spoofers, regardless of their origin. Presumably, that means the agency will be able to fine them, as well. And the FCC’s fines aren’t a joke: it once slapped a robocaller from Miami a $120 million penalty. Aside from proposing new legislation and seeking massive fines, the FCC is also pushing for the adoption of the SHAKEN/STIR framework for caller ID authentication this year.

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Google adds haptic feedback to its iPhone keyboard

Google adds haptic feedback to its iPhone keyboard


Engadget

Haptic feedback has been a feature in iPhones for the past few years, but you wouldn’t know it while you were typing — even third-party keyboards either use it in limited situations (like SwiftKey) or ask you to pay up. Google is willing to step up to the plate with a full and free solution, though. The latest version (1.40) of Gboard for iOS has introduced an option for haptic feedback with key presses, giving you reassuring thumps as your fingers hit the glass. You can’t fine-tune the vibration strength like you can with Android, but that tactile experience will be there.

You’ll need an iPhone 7 or newer to get the sensation, according to 9to5Google. This isn’t the sort of addition that will have you considering an iPhone when you hadn’t before. However, it might make life easier if you’re used to haptic feedback on Android (not to mention the Google ecosystem) and miss it while you’re using an Apple handset.

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Hot Wheels’ new TechMods are remote-control cars you build yourself

Hot Wheels’ new TechMods are remote-control cars you build yourself

Hot Wheels has excelled at merging the real and virtual worlds for the past few years, but a lot of that has really been focused on the driving experience. Specifically, how to make it more like a video game with toys like Hot Wheels AI, Mindracers and Augmoto. This year the brand is finally giving budding gear heads some love with its new TechMods set, an app-controlled vehicle that you build yourself and then control with your phone. It’s not the same as tinkering under a hood, but it is actually fun to put together.

The kit comes with a plastic chassis, which consists of a battery, a motor and four wheels, two of which can be steered. There’s a plastic frame that snaps onto the top of it, with the rest of the vehicle’s body made up of pre-cut plastic pieces that you punch out of several sheets and fold according to the in-app instructions. The pieces are held together by plastic rivets. If any of this sounds familiar, you’ve probably played with Mattel’s Kamigami toys. Two years ago the company released insect-like robots, and last year’s collection was a series of dinosaurs you put together. Hot Wheels has borrowed that general idea… to mixed success.

The instructions walk you through the process, step by step, with a little animation to show you how you should fold and put the rivets in. Missed something? You can replay the directions to your heart’s content until you get it right. For the most part this works, and is a vast improvement on Lego manuals. However, unlike Kamigami or Nintendo Labo, you can’t rotate the image, which means that the locations of some rivets might be unclear and will require some double and triple checking to get it right. However, if you do screw it up, the rivets are easily removable with the included wrench.

Gallery: Hot Wheels TechMods | 8 Photos

This is definitely not a toy for small children: The rivets are small, the folding requires a firm hand and the entire prospect requires quite a bit of patience. Though not as much as I originally anticipated — even though I had to stop several times to double check my work, it still didn’t take more than twenty minutes. The original Kamigami I assembled two years ago took an entire hour! But that was a more complex set, with legs I had to assemble and rivets that were a lot harder to remove. The Hot Wheels set is way simplified: There are only seven plastic parts on the sheets, plus the fender. The chassis and frame are only three pieces total. (And only 26 rivets are needed, for what it’s worth.)

The basic construction means it’s less likely to fall apart when I accidentally drive it off a table, or get it stuck under a couch or… you get the idea. The worst that happened was that the frame popped off completely when it tumbled onto the ground, but all I needed to do was push it back on. The plastic pieces might have sustained a few scratches as well. One of the nice thing about a design like this is that you can, theoretically, replace the outer shell. That’s a promise Hot Wheels has made before and it didn’t deliver on — you were supposed to be able to buy new rims and outer frames for Hot Wheels AI.

Engadget

Once the whole thing is put together and charged up via the micro USB port in the rear, you can link it up to the TechMods app. The connection was almost instant, a vast improvement over a lot of other Bluetooth-connected toys I’ve played with. The app itself has a limited number of modes, and doesn’t include any kind of coding features so parents hoping for a stronger STEM component will be disappointed.

What you do have is, of course, a standard driving mode where you can zip the car around in the real world. I found it pretty fast, though like many RC vehicles it didn’t handle rugs well and was better suited to a bare floor. There’s also a “treasure hunt” mode where you drive around and wait for your phone to detect treasure. The app signals the car is getting close by changing a set of lights from red, to yellow and then green. The car doesn’t have any way to track distance traveled, though, so it’s really just waiting for you to drive a lot. I turned the car upside down and let it spin its wheels and it still “found” treasure.

A little more interesting are the “car as controller” modes, which is pretty much described in the name. They’re in-app games that ask you to point your TechMods car at the screen to steer. There’s a standard track racing game, one where you drive around an arena picking up and delivering items and a survival game where you simply drive around until your car takes too much damage. It takes a little time to really master: It’s very easy to under- or over-steer so you need to find just the right point in the middle. It’s best with two hands, especially if your paws are on the smaller side, so you’ll need to prop up your phone or tablet somewhere. It’s odd that the TechMods vehicle has some kind of motion sensors for this mode but they weren’t used in the treasure hunt game to detect that I was cheating.

Because TechMods skews a bit older than the standard Hot Wheels product — ages 8 to 16 — Hot Wheels is releasing it via Indiegogo first, with the preorder page going live today and shipments going out in June. It’ll cost for $50 for backers. The idea is to get feedback from a more tech-savvy audience before releasing it in stores or expanding the line. Which hopefully is something that will happen — there’s a lot of potential here, and it’s a promising step up for kids who are ready to move on from little die-cast vehicles.

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Vuzix’s smart glasses still aren’t ready for prime time

Vuzix’s smart glasses still aren’t ready for prime time

After years of development, Vuzix is now ready to ship the Blade, its first pair of consumer-ready smart glasses. I had a good look at it last month, but at the time, it was lacking a few core features like Alexa integration and step-by-step directions. Over the past week however, Vuzix shipped a couple of big software updates and I was finally able to test them out. The features certainly make the Blade a lot more functional than before, but they’re still not enough for me to recommend these $1,000 pair of glasses.

Gallery: Vuzix Blade photos | 16 Photos

As a reminder, the Blade is essentially a modern-day reimagining of Google Glass. As I said in my initial hands-on, the Blade isn’t meant to go up against the likes of augmented reality headsets like the Magic Leap or Microsoft’s HoloLens. Instead, it’s designed to be a smartphone companion, much like a smartwatch. Except rather than getting notifications on your wrist, you’d see them floating in front of your eyes thanks to a full-color see-thru display on the right lens. It runs on a proprietary Blade OS that’s based on Android, and you can download a bunch of apps for it as well.

A lot of the core features on the Blade are very smartphone-like. For example, I was finally able to test the Blade’s call and messaging functions (I tested the Blade with a Google Pixel 3 as well as an iPhone XS). When incoming calls appear on the Blade’s display, you can answer or decline them by tapping on the side of the glasses. However, do note that you’ll still need your phone around to actually chat with the person on the other end, as the Blade doesn’t have speakers built-in. Vuzix says it’s working on making it possible to chat using a Bluetooth headset connected to the Blade, but that functionality is not available just yet.

Responding to messages works in much the same way, except they appear in the form of a drop down notification. When selected, you can choose one of several quick or preset responses such as “I’m busy” or “I’ll call you back” from either the Blade or the companion app. That said, message replies only work when I was using the Pixel 3. That’s because this feature only works with the Blade connected to an Android phone, and not on iPhones.

Vuzix Blade

Another feature that only works with Android is Google Maps notifications. This is especially useful, because you can use the Blade for step-by-step walking directions. Whenever I approached a corner where I had to make a turn, I would get a notification on the Blade’s screen telling me to make a right or a left. Or, at least, that’s the idea. There were times when I wouldn’t get the notification until I had overshot the intersection.

I was also able to test the Alexa app for a few days. As mentioned in the previous hands-on, in order to trigger Alexa, you have to swipe over to the app and tap the touchpad to activate it, then tap it again to end it. Since it uses Alexa’s Smart Screen SDK, it’s a little like having a mini Echo Show in the glasses. I asked it for the weather, for example, and it showed me the five-day forecast in addition to telling me about the current conditions. That’s pretty useful, but the app does have a couple of issues. For one thing, the Alexa app requires the Blade to have a direct WiFi connection; simply connecting to your phone isn’t enough. Additionally, the Blade doesn’t have a speaker, so you need to use a Bluetooth headset in order to hear what the Alexa app is saying. Because of these barriers, I ended up not really using the Alexa app anyway.

Last but not least, Vuzix has updated the companion app so you’re now able to access photos captured on the Blade. From there, you can share them on social media or just save them for safekeeping. You’re still not able to share them directly from the Blade, but I don’t think that’s a big deal.

Vuzix Blade

All of these features certainly make the Blade more useful than an ordinary pair of glasses. But it still has too many downsides for me to recommend it. As I mentioned in my initial hands-on, the Blade looks clunky, and I found it to be a little too heavy and big for my face. Plus, the battery life isn’t great either. In my testing, it lasted about three or four hours at most with just minimal tasks like using Alexa, snapping a couple of photos and getting notifications. According to Vuzix, the Blade can last around 12 hours with intermittent use, and that might be true if you cut down on the number of notifications you get, but that negates the purpose of the glasses a little in my opinion.

The Blade also isn’t the only pair of smart glasses on the market right now. North’s recently released Focals are meant to be a smartphone companion as well. Like the Blade, they cost at least $1,000 and you can use them to respond to messages, get directions and they’re powered by Alexa too. The Focals also have a speaker built-in, so you don’t need to use a Bluetooth headset to hear Alexa.

You interact with the Focals using a thumb joystick, which means you don’t need to mess around with tapping a touchpad on the side of your glasses (which I did find a little annoying). Plus, the Focals are far more attractive. No, the Focals don’t have a camera, you can’t use them to watch videos or play games, and they’re only available in certain markets right now. But looks are important when it comes to wearables, and if I’m going to spend $1,000 on something I’ll wear on my face, I’d want it to look as good as possible.

In the end, the Blade has too many shortcomings for me to recommend it. I can see it being interesting for a subsection of the population that wants to try out cutting edge tech, but that’s about it. Some features seem a little half-baked, the battery life isn’t great, and it has a clunky, unattractive appearance. That just isn’t worth $1,000 in my book.

Raised in the tropics of Malaysia, Nicole arrived in the United States in search of love, happiness and ubiquitous broadband. That last one is still a dream, but two out of three isn’t bad. Her love for words and technology reached a fever pitch in San Francisco, where she learned you could make a living writing about gadgets, video games and the internet. Truly, a dream come true. Other interests include baseball, coffee, cooking and chasing after her precocious little cat.

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Lenovo Legion Y7000P review: Great gaming for a grand

Lenovo Legion Y7000P review: Great gaming for a grand

Last year’s redesigned Lenovo Legion Y530 and Y730 laptops were a couple of my favorites for mainstream gaming. The Legion Y7000P is an offshoot of those two with a bit more gaming flare to the design and, oddly enough, better components than what you can currently get in the higher-end Y730. 

Currently only available in the US through Lenovo’s retail partners, the Y7000P sells for around $1,000 depending on the configuration. The version reviewed here available from Costco combines a midrange Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 and a hexa-core Intel Core i7 processor for $1,100 and includes Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 until the end of April. That converts to approximately £855 or AU$1,550 for reference.  

04-lenovo-legion-y7000p-1060

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For the same price you can get the Y7000P from B&H with less storage than the Costco configuration, but with a 144Hz full-HD display. But you can also find it for less than $900 from NewEgg, but with a GTX 1050. In the long run, though, you’re better off to save up and get the GTX 1060. 

Basically, the Legion Y7000P is a solid value with the CPU/GPU combo I tested when you add in its other specs, display, keyboard and overall build quality. If you want something that’s a step above entry-level gaming, it’s worth tracking down. 

Lenovo Legion Y7000P-1060

Price as reviewed $1,099
Display size/resolution 15.6-inch 1,920×1,080 display
CPU 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-8750H
Memory 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,666MHz
Graphics 6GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060
Storage 1TB 7,200rpm HDD + 256GB PCIe SSD
Networking 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.2
Operating system Windows 10 Home (64-bit)

Black and red out, black and gray in

Entry-level gaming laptops seemed to be stuck with the same designs over the past couple years: Black with red accents and a red blacklight for the keyboard along with the WASD keys outlined in red. That started to change late last year, which is when Lenovo originally announced its new Legions. 

The Y530/Y730 looked like a clean black Thinkpad workstation with subtle Legion branding. The Y7000P is a little more aggressive with flared cooling vents and an angular, iron-gray metal lid with a big glowing Y symbol. It’s not over the top, but it’s also not your average thin-and-light laptop, especially not at 5 pounds (2.3 kg). 

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Like its linemates, most of the Y7000P’s ports and power input are on back between those two vents. It’s a good setup for controlling cable clutter, particularly if it’s going to regularly be at a desk connected to an external display, mouse and keyboard. However, it can also be a pain until you remember which port is which. 

There are single USB-A ports on each side and a headphone jack on the left in addition to what’s in the rear, but no SD card slot. That’s a shame given the extra graphics horsepower under its hood. 

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Finally Over For Mars Rover

Finally Over For Mars Rover

The rover Opportunity has called it quits after working for more than 14 years on Mars.

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Mosquitoes that carry malaria may have been doing so 100 million years ago

Mosquitoes that carry malaria may have been doing so 100 million years ago

The anopheline mosquitoes that carry malaria were present 100 million years ago, new research shows, potentially shedding fresh light on the history of a disease that continues to kill more than 400,000 people annually.

“Mosquitoes could have been vectoring malaria at that time, but it’s still an open question,” said the study’s corresponding author, George Poinar Jr. of Oregon State University’s College of Science. “Back then anopheline mosquitoes were probably biting birds, small mammals and reptiles since they still feed on those groups today.”

In amber from Myanmar that dates to the mid-Cretaceous Period, Poinar and co-authors described a new genus and species of mosquito, which was named Priscoculex burmanicus. Various characteristics, including those related to wing veins, proboscis, antennae and abdomen indicate that Priscoculex is an early lineage of the anopheline mosquitoes.

“This discovery provides evidence that anophelines were radiating — diversifying from ancestral species — on the ancient megacontinent of Gondwana because it is now thought that Myanmar amber fossils originated on Gondwana,” said Poinar, an international expert in using plant and animal life forms preserved in amber to learn more about the biology and ecology of the distant past.

Findings were published in Historical Biology.

Most malaria, especially the species that infect humans and other primates, is caused primarily by one genus of protozoa, Plasmodium, and spread mainly by anopheline mosquitoes. Ancestral forms of the disease may literally have determined animal survival and evolution, according to Poinar.

In a previous work, he suggested that the origins of malaria, which today can infect animals ranging from humans and other mammals to birds and reptiles, may have first appeared in an insect such as a biting midge that was found to be vectoring a type of malaria some 100 million years ago. Now he can include mosquitoes as possible malaria vectors that existed at the same time.

In a 2007 book, “What Bugged the Dinosaurs? Insects, Disease and Death in the Cretaceous,” Poinar and his wife, Roberta, showed insect vectors from the Cretaceous with pathogens that could have contributed to the widespread extinction of the dinosaurs some 65 million years ago.

“There were catastrophic events that happened around that time, such as asteroid impacts, climatic changes and lava flows,” the Poinars’ wrote. “But it’s still clear that dinosaurs declined and slowly became extinct over thousands of years, which suggests other issues must also have been at work. Insects, microbial pathogens such as malaria, and other vertebrate diseases were just emerging around that time.”

Scientists have long debated about how and when malaria evolved, said Poinar, who was the first to discover malaria in a 15- to 20-million-year-old fossil mosquito from the New World, in what is now the Dominican Republic.

It was the first fossil record of Plasmodium malaria, one type of which is now the strain that infects and kills humans.

Understanding the ancient history of malaria, Poinar said, might offer clues on how its modern-day life cycle evolved and how to interrupt its transmission. Since the sexual reproductive stage of malaria only occurs in the insect vectors, Poinar considers the vectors to be the primary hosts of the malarial pathogen, rather than the vertebrates they infect.

The first human recording of malaria was in China in 2,700 B.C., and some researchers say it may have resulted in the fall of the Roman Empire. In 2017 there were 219 million cases of malaria worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. Immunity rarely occurs naturally and the search for a vaccine has not yet been successful.

Story Source:

Materials provided by Oregon State University. Original written by Steve Lundeberg. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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Arctic sea ice loss in the past linked to abrupt climate events

Arctic sea ice loss in the past linked to abrupt climate events

A new study on ice cores shows that reductions in sea ice in the Arctic in the period between 30-100,000 years ago led to major climate events. During this period, Greenland temperatures rose by as much as 16 degrees Celsius. The results are published today (Monday 11 February) in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

A team from British Antarctic Survey (BAS), University of Cambridge and University of Birmingham studied data from ice cores drilled in Greenland. They looked at oxygen isotopes and compared them to climate models run on the ARCHER supercomputer1. From this they determined that sea ice changes were massively significant in past climate change events in the North Atlantic. These periods, called Dansgaard-Oeschger events2, are some of the fastest and largest abrupt climate changes ever recorded. During some of these events, Greenland temperatures are likely to have increased by 16 degrees Celsius in less than a decade.

Lead author, Dr Louise Sime, a climate scientist at BAS says:

“For years scientists have been puzzled about the correlation between Arctic sea ice loss and the extreme climate events found in the ice core record. There were at least four theories being mooted and for two years we’ve been investigating this problem. I’m delighted that we have proven the critical importance of sea ice using our numerical model simulations.

“The summer time sea ice in the Arctic has experienced a 40% decline in the last few decades, but we know that about two thirds of that reduction is caused by human-induced climate change. What we now need to determine is, what can be learnt from these past sea ice losses to enable us to understand what might happen next to our climate3.”

Dr Rachael Rhodes, an ice core scientist from Northumbria University says:

“Now that we better understand how sea ice loss is imprinted on Greenland ice cores, we move closer to deciphering between different theories about what triggered these remarkable climate events.”

This work confirms a major significance of sea ice for past abrupt warming events. This is important because changes in sea ice have profound consequences on both global and local scales, including impacts on global climate and local ecosystems. Accurate forecasts of Arctic sea ice over the coming decades to centuries are crucial to understanding how the earth will respond to any changes.

Impact of abrupt sea ice loss on Greenland water isotopes during the last glacial period by Louise C. Sime, Peter O. Hopcroft, Rachael H. Rhodes is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Notes:

1.The researchers’ numerical model simulations were run on the large ARCHER supercomputer. ARCHER is based around a Cray XC30 supercomputer and is provided by EPSRC, NERC, EPCC, Cray Inc. and The University of Edinburgh. The simulations were run over the course of two years and were compared to ice core data that has been collected over the last twenty to thirty years.

2. Dansgaard-Oeschger events are rapid climate fluctuations that occurred about 25 times during the last glacial period. They are named after Willi Dansgaard who was a Danish paleoclimatologist (1922-2011) and Hans Oeschger (1927-1998), another paleoclimatologist, who jointly identified them in Greenland ice core records.

3.Following on from this work, Dr Sime alongside her European partners, have now won an 8 million EUR grant from the EU to develop our understanding of risk from abrupt climate change events. They will develop the underpinning science for safe operation of the Earth system. This will help us understand the risk of crossing climate tipping points, particularly due to Arctic and Antarctic sea ice loss.

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Mosquitoes that carry malaria may have been doing so 100 million years ago

Mosquitoes that carry malaria may have been doing so 100 million years ago

The anopheline mosquitoes that carry malaria were present 100 million years ago, new research shows, potentially shedding fresh light on the history of a disease that continues to kill more than 400,000 people annually.

“Mosquitoes could have been vectoring malaria at that time, but it’s still an open question,” said the study’s corresponding author, George Poinar Jr. of Oregon State University’s College of Science. “Back then anopheline mosquitoes were probably biting birds, small mammals and reptiles since they still feed on those groups today.”

In amber from Myanmar that dates to the mid-Cretaceous Period, Poinar and co-authors described a new genus and species of mosquito, which was named Priscoculex burmanicus. Various characteristics, including those related to wing veins, proboscis, antennae and abdomen indicate that Priscoculex is an early lineage of the anopheline mosquitoes.

“This discovery provides evidence that anophelines were radiating — diversifying from ancestral species — on the ancient megacontinent of Gondwana because it is now thought that Myanmar amber fossils originated on Gondwana,” said Poinar, an international expert in using plant and animal life forms preserved in amber to learn more about the biology and ecology of the distant past.

Findings were published in Historical Biology.

Most malaria, especially the species that infect humans and other primates, is caused primarily by one genus of protozoa, Plasmodium, and spread mainly by anopheline mosquitoes. Ancestral forms of the disease may literally have determined animal survival and evolution, according to Poinar.

In a previous work, he suggested that the origins of malaria, which today can infect animals ranging from humans and other mammals to birds and reptiles, may have first appeared in an insect such as a biting midge that was found to be vectoring a type of malaria some 100 million years ago. Now he can include mosquitoes as possible malaria vectors that existed at the same time.

In a 2007 book, “What Bugged the Dinosaurs? Insects, Disease and Death in the Cretaceous,” Poinar and his wife, Roberta, showed insect vectors from the Cretaceous with pathogens that could have contributed to the widespread extinction of the dinosaurs some 65 million years ago.

“There were catastrophic events that happened around that time, such as asteroid impacts, climatic changes and lava flows,” the Poinars’ wrote. “But it’s still clear that dinosaurs declined and slowly became extinct over thousands of years, which suggests other issues must also have been at work. Insects, microbial pathogens such as malaria, and other vertebrate diseases were just emerging around that time.”

Scientists have long debated about how and when malaria evolved, said Poinar, who was the first to discover malaria in a 15- to 20-million-year-old fossil mosquito from the New World, in what is now the Dominican Republic.

It was the first fossil record of Plasmodium malaria, one type of which is now the strain that infects and kills humans.

Understanding the ancient history of malaria, Poinar said, might offer clues on how its modern-day life cycle evolved and how to interrupt its transmission. Since the sexual reproductive stage of malaria only occurs in the insect vectors, Poinar considers the vectors to be the primary hosts of the malarial pathogen, rather than the vertebrates they infect.

The first human recording of malaria was in China in 2,700 B.C., and some researchers say it may have resulted in the fall of the Roman Empire. In 2017 there were 219 million cases of malaria worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. Immunity rarely occurs naturally and the search for a vaccine has not yet been successful.

Story Source:

Materials provided by Oregon State University. Original written by Steve Lundeberg. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

View the Original Article . . .

{authorlink}
https://www.sciencedaily.com/rss/top/environment.xml Top Environment News — ScienceDaily

Top stories featured on ScienceDaily’s Plants & Animals, Earth & Climate, and Fossils & Ruins sections.

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Gigabyte Aero 15 Y9 review: RTX 2080 performance, at a price

Gigabyte Aero 15 Y9 review: RTX 2080 performance, at a price

With last year’s Aero 15X, Gigabyte managed an impressive feat: putting powerful gaming performance and long battery life into a 4.4-pound body. This year, the Taiwanese company is trying to top itself with the Aero 15 Y9, its new flagship laptop. Weighing just a bit more at 4.5 pounds, it’s now equipped with top-of-the-line components: an Intel i9-8950HK 6-core CPU and NVIDIA’s RTX 2080 Max-Q GPU.

The latter component has become rather controversial. NVIDIA revealed that the portable Max-Q version, while packing the same Turing Tu104 chip, is underclocked by up to half that of the desktop RTX 2080 GPU. It comes in an 80-Watt version with a 735-1,095MHz core clock and a faster, more power-hungry 90-Watt variant that runs at 990-1,230MHz. The desktop RTX 2080, meanwhile, runs at 1,515-1,710MHz — over double that of the lower-powered Max-Q version.

So performance and battery life depend on which chip the manufacturer uses and how much it’s overclocked, which brings us back to the Aero 15 Y9. It’s the first RTX 2080 Max-Q laptop we’ve tested, so I was interested to see how Gigabyte handled it. The good news is that performance is definitely better. But it’s not that great a leap and, unfortunately, it’s much costlier. Some of the other defining qualities of the last Aero have been lost, too.

Gallery: Gigabyte Aero 15 Y9 gaming laptop | 38 Photos

Engadget Score


Poor


Uninspiring


Good


Excellent

Key

Pros
  • Very light and slim
  • Top-notch gaming and graphics performance
  • Keyboard and touchpad feel great
  • 4K display is bright and colorful
  • Plenty of ports
Cons
  • Microsoft Azure AI features not that useful yet
  • Low refresh rates for gaming
  • Expensive

Summary

Gigabyte continues to lead the way with powerful yet small gaming laptops. At 4.5 pounds, the Aero 15 Y9 is one of the lightest 15.6-inch models you can buy, but packs a one-two CPU and GPU punch that can knock down any game or graphics creation task. The 4K display is bright and colorful, but limits the battery life and gaming performance compared to 1080p models. Unfortunately, the AI software doesn’t help gaming performance much yet. It’s also expensive, but pricing should be comparable to rival models once they’re released.


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Last year, NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang held up the original Aero 15X as an example of what manufacturers could do with its Max-Q graphics, kickstarting a boom in lightweight, thin-but-powerful gaming laptops. This year, he wielded the Aero 15Y. It’s still just 19 mm thick, but slightly heavier at 4.5 pounds. That’s still pretty impressive considering the new internal parts.

The only RTX 2080 Max-Q model that’s lighter is MSI’s 4.2 pound GS65 Stealth. However, that laptop has a smaller battery, and as you’ll soon find out, that makes a big difference. HP’s Omen 15 packs an RTX 2070 Max-Q and weighs 5.2 pounds, Alienware’s m15 weighs 4.8 pounds, while ASUS’s ROG Zephyrus S, with RTX 2080 Max-Q graphics, weighs just a touch more at 4.6 pounds. None of those weights include the often heavy power brick, of course.

Otherwise, the Gigabyte Aero 15 Y9 has exactly the same low-profile design as the last model, with just a triangular textured area as a nod to its gaming genes. It has tiny bezels, making the laptop smaller than its 15.6-inch screen would suggest, and easily fits into the rear pouch of my Peak Design messenger bag.

Gigabyte Aero 15 Y9 gaming laptop with NVIDIA RTX 2080 Max-Q graphics

The company was wise not to change; the Aero 15X’s design looks smart and won’t be out of place at any office or production house, either. I liked the last model enough to purchase one myself.

There’s quite an array of ports. You get two USB 3.1 ports (5 Gbps), one higher-speed USB 3.1 Gen2 port (10 Gbps), ethernet, one Thunderbolt over USB Type-C, a UHS-II SD card reader, an HDMI 2.0 port and a 3.5mm headphone/microphone jack.

However, the new Aero 15 Y9 also packs DisplayPort 1.4 over USB Type-C, rather than a standalone mini DisplayPort like the Aero 15X. Data speeds are the same, but I had to buy a new cable (USB Type-C to DisplayPort 1.4) to get the best performance out of my HDR display. It’s worth mentioning that all these ports run at their rated speeds (I checked), which is not always the case with laptops.

In Use

Because of the low-key design and high-end components, the Aero 15 Y9 is equally well-suited to gaming and content creation. To be sure, the model I tested had top-drawer specs. It packs a six-core Intel Core i9-8950H CPU, 2TB Intel 760p NVMe SSD, 32GB of RAM (upgradeable to 64GB), NVIDIA RTX 2080 Max-Q graphics, a 94 Wh battery and a 4K 60Hz display. Gigabyte will eventually release a similar model with a 1080p 144Hz screen that will no doubt be more suitable for gaming and have a (much) longer battery life.

Gigabyte Aero 15 Y9 gaming laptop with NVIDIA RTX 2080 Max-Q graphics

While gaming in 4K, I consistently saw speeds of 29 fps on Shadow of the Tomb Raider with graphics settings on “highest.” I achieved similar results with Hitman 2, and subjectively, both games played fairly smoothly with little stuttering or tearing. At 1080p with the same settings, both games hit 60 fps, maxing out the sync rate on the laptop’s display. That’s not bad, but is about 33 percent less than the 45 fps you can get at 4K with the desktop RTX 2080 card. The GTX 1080 Max-Q can run the same benchmark at around 22 fps, so the RTX 2080 Max-Q is about 30 percent faster.

The most notable new feature other than the hardware is AI Gaming+ & Professional+. When you game or run graphics software, it uses cloud-powered AI (either from Gigabyte or Microsoft’s Azure) to adjust the performance and computer-fan speeds to optimize gaming frame rates. In practice, running the Shadow of the Tomb Raider benchmark, I found it increased 4K frame rates by a single frame or two per second in either mode.

There’s no way to control it, only run it in “edge” (Gigabyte), “cloud” (Microsoft) or disabled mode. Given the minor performance gains, it wasn’t particularly useful. However, it’s supposed to learn and get smarter over time, so perhaps it’ll improve down the road.

As for the vaunted ray-tracing (RT), I was only able to use it on one game: Battlefield V. You nee a very specific PC setup that includes the latest version of Windows 10 (build 1806) and recent NVIDIA drivers. I’m all about the pretty graphics, and ray-tracing does deliver — at times — with reflections, realistic lighting and more atmospheric gameplay. A recent NVIDIA patch delivers improved RT performance on Battlefield V, and I found I could game smoothly at 1080p and below. At 4K, there was quite a bit of stuttering and lag with the feature enabled, unfortunately.

Gigabyte, like many laptop makers, uses NVIDIA’s Optimus system, which switches between the Intel Iris 630 and discrete graphics to balance performance and battery life. If you use your laptop with an external monitor via the HDMI or DisplayPort, it will be powered exclusively by the NVIDIA graphics. That means you can hook up an external monitor with a higher refresh rate and benefit from better speeds and features like HDR and NVIDIA’s G-SYNC.

PCMark 7 PCMark 8 (Creative Accelerated) 3DMark 11 3DMark (Sky Diver) ATTO (top reads/writes)
Gigabyte Aero 15 Y9 (2019) (2.9 – 4.8Ghz Intel i9-8950HK, NVIDIA RTX 2080 Max-Q) 7,305 7,989 E25,007 / P20,589 / X9,138 37,665 2.6GB/s / 1.46GB/s
Alienware m15 (2018) (2.2GHz – 4.1Ghz Intel i7-8750H, NVIDIA GTX 1070 Max-Q) 6,276 5,293 E22,298 / P17,118 / X7,100 35,991 2.56GB/s / 432MB/s
Alienware 15 (2017) (2.8GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ, NVIDIA GTX 1070) 6,847 7,100 E17,041 / P16,365 20,812 2.9GB/s / 0.9GB/s
Razer Blade (2018) (2.2GHz – 4.1GHz Intel i7-8750H, NVIDIA GTX 1070 Max-Q) 6,699 5,434 E17,833 / P15,371 / X 6,760 29,932 2.1GB/s / 1.3GB/s
MSI GS65 Stealth Thin (2.2GHz – 4.1GHz Intel i7-8750H, NVIDIA GTX 1070 Max-Q) 6,438 5,696 E20,969 / P15,794 / X6,394 32,288 542MB/s / 482MB/s
Gigabyte Aero 15X 2018 (2.2GHz – 4.1GHz Intel i7-8750H, NVIDIA GTX 1070 Max-Q) 6,420 6,558 E18,920 / P15,130 / X6,503 30,270 2.4GB/s / 1.5GB/s
ASUS ROG Zephyrus (2.8GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ, NVIDIA GTX 1080) 6,030 7,137 E20,000 / P17,017 / X7,793 31,624 3.4GB/s / 1.64GB/s

The 4K AUO screen is pretty nice. It covers 100 percent of the Adobe RGB gamut and is factory calibrated using Pantone settings. I found it worked well for watching movies, gaming and content creation with accurate colors. However, unlike upcoming OLED screen models from Dell and HP, it can’t handle HDR. At 283 nits, the display is moderately, but not incredibly, bright. Still, if you love 4K resolution, like me, Netflix films and games looked incredibly sharp, and color-wise, everything was nice and punchy.

Apart from the higher-resolution display, the GPU is another attractive element for video editors and graphics pros. The RTX 2080 is the first NVIDIA GPU to support full RGB 4K 10-bit H.265 HEVC decoding, which should eventually make YouTube playback and H.265 video editing smoother.

NVIDIA also joined forces with RED to support playback of 8K video files, which will make video editing and effects a lot less of a pain. I tried downloading one myself (courtesy of Phil Holland), along with RED’s Redcine X, and can confirm that I was able to play a full-fat 8K RED video clip, which is slightly insane on a laptop.

Gigabyte Aero 15 Y9 video editing

It also felt a lot faster than my similarly equipped Aero 15X for video editing. I shot this video in 10-bit 4K and exported the color corrected clips at 1080p faster than in real time. Exports in general seemed a lot faster than on my GTX 1080 Max-Q Aero 15X laptop, and for video pros, that’s a huge time-saver. It also fairly flew for displaying and rendering 3D animations using Autodesk’s 3DS Max software.

The Aero 15 Y9 got slightly less hot than my Aero 15X, aided by the dual fans that duct air down and away. I was able to set it on my lap during gaming sessions, and it never got uncomfortably warm. The new model was also slightly quieter, with fan noise reduced except for the most challenging gaming and graphics rendering tasks.

As for typing and mousing, I liked the keyboard on my Aero 15X, so I’m pleased that it hasn’t changed on the new model. Gigabyte did fix the trackpad, thankfully, and it was less stiff and more accurate than the one before. It’s actually pretty good now, and unfortunately, that’s more than you can say for most Windows laptops.

Gigabyte Aero 15 Y9 (2019) 3:30
Alienware m15 (2018) 8:30
Razer Blade (2018) 8:50
MSI GS65 Stealth Thin 7:01
Gigabyte Aero 15X (2018) 7:45
ASUS ROG Zephyrus 1:50
Alienware 15 (2017) 4:31

In our battery rundown tests, in which an HD video was looped until power ran out, the Aero 15 Y9 ran for three and a half hours. While that might seem sad next to the previous model, which lasted for nearly eight hours, it’s typical for laptops with 4K displays. Calculating and pushing quadruple the pixels takes a great toll on battery life, and the screens hog a lot of power. As mentioned, Gigabyte will soon release a 1080p version with a much faster 144Hz refresh rate version of the Aero 15 Y9, and it should last a lot longer on a single charge.

Rather than using Dolby Atmos for audio, like before, the latest model features Nahimic 3D audio for gamers. That won’t make a huge difference, as Dolby Atmos on laptops is nothing like it is on a true home-theater system — it’s more about branding than anything else. The two-watt external speakers still pack tin-can quality, with bass just a distant dream.

Gigabyte Aero 15 Y9 gaming laptop with NVIDIA RTX 2080 Max-Q graphics

As you might expect given the components, the Aero 15 Y9 is expensive. If you wanted the same loadout that I’ve tested, it will cost you $3,999, while the base version of the Aero 15 Y9, with a 144Hz 1080p display, 16GB of RAM and a 1TB NVMe SSD is $2,700. Those sums are beyond the means of most gamers, but in reach for many content creators who earn a living with their computers.

Stepping down to the Aero 15 X9 will save you a decent sum. It comes with RTX 2070 Max-Q graphics, an Intel Core i7-8750H CPU, 16GB of RAM, a 1TB NVMe SSD and a 1080p 144Hz screen starting at $2,400. For that model, expect a mild drop in performance, but it should be a touch faster than a GTX 1080 Max-Q laptop. By comparison, last year’s Aero 15X started at $2,200.

With prices like that, the Gigabyte Aero 15 series is clearly not for everyone. However, it’s competitive against other RTX models like Razer’s new Blade model, which starts at $2,999 with an RTX 2080 Max-Q GPU and will probably be about the same as the Aero 15 Y9 with similar components. Other models from Dell, Alienware, ASUS and MSI will likely fall in that range, as this has become an ultra-competitive category.

Wrap-up

Gigabyte Aero 15 Y9 NVIDIA RTX 2080 Max-Q

As the first RTX 2080 Max-Q notebook we’ve had a chance to review, Gigabyte’s Aero 15 Y9 really showed us the best — and worst — of modern gaming laptops. On one hand, it’s awesome that I can get so much power in a portable device, letting me game, watch movies and work wherever I go. However, the pricing keeps going up and the performance gains are getting smaller and smaller. We’ve now reached a point where we’re quibbling over a feature like ray-tracing, which only works on one single game.

That’s not Gigabyte’s fault, though. It took the components it had and made a well-designed, fast and lightweight laptop that can grind through the most challenging games and content-creation chores. The company made it even better with tweaks to the touchpad and elsewhere, and the only shortcoming in this particular model (or any 4K laptop) is the battery life. It’s also costly, but again, the price should hold up to rivals. Overall, the Aero 15 Y9 is an easy laptop to recommend.

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