Windows 7 is a great operating system -- there is a reason so many computer users have clung to it. Well, we can also thank the terrible Windows 8 for scaring people from upgrading, I suppose. Windows 8.1 was better, and Windows 10 is actually pretty good, but neither are loved like Windows 7 is.
Sadly, Microsoft is killing Windows 7 for most users -- it reaches end of life status in just two days, on January 14th. After that date, Windows 7 will be unsupported (except for businesses that choose to pay for extended support) -- you'd have to be a fool to continue using that operating system. You should upgrade to Windows 10 ASAP or switch to a Linux-based OS.
It is remarkable that as time marches on, laptops are actually losing ports. You'd think computers would get more useful over time, but actually, it is the opposite. Instead, notebook manufacturers are largely embracing USB-C, meaning customers have to buy dongles to regain the ports they need. This can be both a blessing and curse. As a positive, it looks better aesthetically and lessens the chance you will have outdated ports on your machine. On the negative side of this, not only do dongles and adapters cost money, but they are easily lost too. Sigh.
But hey -- at least we have companies such as Plugable producing affordable, high-quality dongles so our needs can be met. If you need to connect your laptop to multiple monitors, that company has a new adapter that should interest you. The USB-C DisplayPort 1.4 MST to Dual HDMI 2.0 Adapter can push two 4K monitors at 60Hz. This is important, as many similar adapters top out at 30Hz, leading to a very poor visual experience. Best of all, it is very inexpensive at under $40.
While consumers seem to love thin and light laptops, there is one big downside to such svelte computers -- a lack of ports. You see, if a port is thicker than the body of the notebook, then it simply can't fit. While USB-A and USB-C ports are thin enough to be included on many laptops these days, there is one useful (yet thick) port that is being omitted -- Ethernet. Yes, the once-ubiquitous networking port is becoming increasingly more rare. This isn't a big deal for some consumers, as they will likely only ever use Wi-Fi. Some folks, however, still have either a want or need to connect to a network using a cable.
Thankfully, with dongles, you can add an Ethernet port to pretty much any computer these days. For the vast majority of consumers, a gigabyte dongle (such as this one that costs less than $20) is currently more than enough. But what if you have a desire to connect to a multi-gig network? In that case, there are faster dongles, such as this excellent USB-C 2.5G model from TRENDnet. Soon, there will be yet another such product on the market, this time from Plugable. What makes this USB-C 2.5G adapter so special is that it has an attached Type-A adapter.
If you have a laptop with Thunderbolt 3, and you like to use the computer as a makeshift desktop, a docking station is a must-buy. Whether you own a Mac or Windows 10 notebook with TB3, one of these docks can transform your portable computer into a powerful and useful desk-based workstation. A single wire from the docking station to the computer will provide you with numerous ports, plus charging. It is immensely convenient to plug in one cable and immediately have access to a mouse, keyboard, large monitor, etc.
There are many Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C docks on the market these days, but thanks to the Intel Titan Ridge chipset, there are now models that can accommodate both of those connectivity options (such as this one from StarTech). Plugable has a new such model, and it looks incredible. It has one big feature that many other docks are lacking -- an SD card reader on the front. Taking it a step further, it even has a dedicated micro SD card port! That is very cool, as it means you can read the smaller card without the need of an adapter.
CES 2020 has been very exciting for those interested in data storage. Just yesterday, Western Digital unveiled a prototype 8TB portable SSD plus a diminutive 1TB flash drive with both USB-C and USB-A connectivity. Both of these drives should prove very popular with consumers -- if/when they hit stores.
Today, it is Samsung's turn to wow the data storage community. The company's latest SSD, called "T7 Touch," is an external drive that uses USB-C for connectivity and features USB 3.2 Gen 2 speeds. What makes it particularly interesting however, is its integrated fingerprint reader which is used for secure hardware encryption.
Just yesterday, Satechi launched a revolutionary charging mat that can charge multiple devices at once. While that is very convenient, not all people like wireless chargers. After all, wired charging still remains a faster option. Not to mention, it is still necessary for larger devices, such as laptops and tablets. And so, wired chargers are still very much relevant.
Today, Satechi launches a new product for those that prefer a wired charging experience. Called "108W Pro USB-C PD Desktop Travel Charger," it has a total of four USB ports -- two are USB-C, while the others are USB-A. It plugs into a standard wall power outlet, making it a great choice for both home and on-the-go charging. It can charge smartphones, tablets, laptops, and more.
Satechi's AirPower-like Trio Wireless Charging Pad can simultaneously charge your iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods
Remember the Apple AirPower? If not, that is totally understandable. After all, the product never actually saw release. Please know, it was Apple's planned Qi wireless charging mat that could charge multiple devices at once. For whatever reason, the iPhone-maker canceled the product before it reached the public, saying it was not up to Apple's quality standards.
Impressively, popular accessory-maker Satechi has managed to do what Apple couldn't. You see, today, Satechi releases the Trio Wireless Charging Pad, which is capable of charging your iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods at the same time. This is with a single USB-C cable. Wow. Of course, since it uses the Qi wireless charging standard, it can charge non-Apple devices too, such as an Android phone.
Well, folks, with 2020, the Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) revolution is truly here. At this point, no one should be buying an 802.11ac router, After all, you can score a nice Wi-Fi 6 router for under $100. Of course, for many larger homes, a single router simply isn't enough. Instead, mesh systems are all the rage these days. If you aren't familiar, mesh is when two or more access points are used together for a single network. Basically, it should give you better Wi-Fi range without needing to mess around with extenders other other clunky add-ons.
Today, ARRIS unveils its latest mesh system, and it uses the aforementioned Wi-Fi 6. The AX6600 Mesh SURFboard mAX System is tri-band and features up to 5500 square feet of Wi-Fi coverage. It features a Quad-core ARM-A7 Cortex processor and has optional Amazon Alexa support. Each access point features two Gigabit Ethernet ports -- one wan and one wan/lan. This means the unit that connects to the modem will only be able to connect to one other hardwired device, but the second unit can connect to two.
When you think of portable storage, SanDisk is a name that likely comes to mind. The brand (now owned by Western Digital) has long been producing quality memory cards and flash drives. Personally, when choosing an SD card for my camera, I always go with SanDisk. Sure, there are less expensive options, but I know from experience, when it comes to storing important family photos, you should never go cheap. SanDisk cards offer great performance, but more importantly, they are extremely reliable.
And now, at CES 2020, Western Digital is, of course, highlighting products from its SanDisk brand. There are two new offerings that are very impressive. One is just a prototype (for now), but it is certainly the more exciting of the pair -- an 8TB portable USB 3.1 gen 2 SSD. That's big capacity from such a small drive. Even smaller, however, is the Ultra Dual Drive Luxe USB 3.1 Gen 1 flash drive. This drive comes in capacities ranging from 32GB to a massive 1TB. It offers dual connectivity -- USB-A and USB-C.
AMD is most well known for its desktop processors, but the company does make mobile chips too. In fact, some of the best budget Windows 10 laptops are powered by AMD mobile processors. The company’s laptop chips are gaining more respect these days; case in point, Microsoft is finally selling an AMD-powered Surface.
Today, AMD unveils its latest mobile processors, and Intel should be very worried. These 4000 series chips should provide impressive multi-core performance. Road warriors in particular should appreciate the long battery life provided by the 15W variants. In addition to the new 4000 series processors, AMD is also announcing two new low-end Athlon 3000 chips for budget machines.
Samsung Galaxy Chromebook is the elegant and powerful Chrome OS laptop the world has been waiting for
Google's Chrome OS has revolutionized desktop computing by stripping away the nonsense and allowing the user to focus on the task at hand. There is no clunky update system like Windows, nor is there the need for anti-malware software. Chromebooks just work, and they are very secure too. Best of all, they are often super affordable -- unlike Apple's overpriced MacBooks. While many folks can get by with web apps, the operating system also runs both Android apps and traditional desktop programs. If you haven't tried a Chromebook in a while, you will be surprised by just how great they are these days.
Today, Samsung announces a new premium Chrome OS convertible laptop that oozes elegance. The Galaxy Chromebook, as it is called, is just 9.9mm thin and features an aluminum chassis in either Fiesta Red or Mercury Gray colors. It has a built-in active stylus, 4K AMOLED display, and is powered by an Intel Core processor. It can even be configured with up to 16GB of RAM! It has the latest-and-greatest Wi-Fi 6 for connectivity plus two USB-C ports too. It even has a fingerprint reader -- a rarity for Chrome OS devices.
SuperTuxKart 1.1 is here -- download the free open source Mario Kart game clone for Linux, Windows, and Mac
There are many excellent open source software projects these days, such as the Linux kernel, GIMP, and LibreOffice to name a few. But what about games? Yes, there are open source games, one of which is SuperTuxKart. If you aren't familiar, STK is essentially an open source Mario Kart game clone. While it is very popular with Linux users, it is also available for Windows and macOS.
Today, SuperTuxKart reaches version 1.1. While it features bug fixes and other improvements, the real star of the update is the addition of a new arena called "Pumpkin Park."
Many people love Apple's AirPods, but others think the wireless ear buds are crap. Well, now you can prove them right, if so inclined, as the company will gladly emblazon your AirPods case with the poop emoji engraved onto the front. In fact, there are several emojis from which to choose, such as a unicorn, smiling face, or a chicken.
Best of all, this service is entirely free -- when buying new AirPods, of course. In other words, those that already own Apple's wireless ear buds are out of luck.
Dell's XPS 13 is a legendary laptop, not just with Windows users, but hardcore Linux fans too. You see, through the company's Project Sputnik program, Dell has long provided special "Developer Edition" variants of its laptops that come pre-loaded with Ubuntu. Operating system aside, the XPS 13 has been highly lauded for its build quality, attention to detail, and top specifications. Ultimately, you buy an XPS 13 and always know you are getting a quality laptop.
Today, Dell announces the newest XPS 13 Developer Edition and it looks incredible. This 10th generation computer (which is being dubbed "2020") is thinner and smaller while offering even better specifications, such as an improved 13.4-inch display (with 16:10 aspect ratio) and the ability to be configured with up to 32GB -- double the previous generation's maximum memory. There are no USB-A ports, sadly, but it does have two Thunderbolt 3 ports, a 3.5mm audio jack, and a micro SD card reader. You get thinner bezels and a larger trackpad too. Believe it or not, Dell is even promising proper fingerprint reader support in a future software update, meaning you can finally secure Ubuntu with biometrics!
Long gone are the days where Apple was the sole manufacturer of elegant laptops. Quite frankly, Apple has become a bit stagnant with its designs. Truth be told, makers of Windows laptops (such as Samsung, HP, and Huawei) have met or exceeded Apple's MacBook looks. Best of all, these Windows notebooks are often much more affordable than Apple's offerings too. Not to mention, they typically have touch screens!
Today, Samsung unveils a new Windows 10 laptop that isn't just elegant, but affordable too. Starting at well below $1,000, the Galaxy Book Flex α (Alpha) features a useful 2-in-1 design that should be beneficial for both work and play. It has a beautiful 13.3-inch QLED FHD display, long battery life, a fingerprint reader, a USB-C port. and a 10th gen Intel Core processor.