A newly discovered firmware vulnerability could leave countless Windows and Mac computers at risk from a hack, according to security researchers from Duo Labs. The vulnerability could be used by malware to gain deep access to systems.
The bug involves the extensible firmware interface, or EFI, which is the first bit of code that runs when you hit the power button – part of its responsibilities include validating the software that’s running on the machine.
Based on tests on 74,000 Apple Macs, the Duo Labs team found that the EFI firmware was not always being updated at the same time as the operating system, leaving a security hole that could potentially be exploited. The vulnerability could also affect Windows PCs, the researchers say.
The good news is that a hack taking advantage of the EFI vulnerability would need to be quite a complex one, and it’s only really worth the trouble if you’ve got some pretty important data locked away on your machine.
What’s more, Duo Labs says it hasn’t spotted anyone actively making use of this security loophole yet – it’s working with Apple and other computer makers to get the bug patched. “For most people in most situations, the risk is currently not severe,” the researchers say.
If you’re on a Mac machine, updating to the latest version of the software (macOS High Sierra) is enough to squash the vulnerability. For more details about how the security vulnerability works and how to guard against an attack, see the Duo Labs blog.
Apple is looking at producing its own ARM processors for its notebooks Rather than relying on Intel CPUs for MacBooks. In the same self-reliant way it already makes in-house CPUs for the iPad and iPhone – it seems the company intends to produce all the chips for its devices.
It quotes the usual industry sources saying that Apple is ‘interested’ in building its own ‘core processors’ for notebooks – as well as modem chips for iPhones, plus a single chip that takes care of multiple duties: touch, fingerprint and display driver functions.
Modem chips for Apple smartphones are one thing, but building an entirely new processor for MacBooks is another entirely, because macOS is based on x86 architecture – it would require a huge amount of work to switch the operating system over to play nice with ARM CPUs.
That doesn’t mean it can’t happen, though, the sources The Nikkei spoke with believe this is exactly what’s on the horizon.
One anonymous ‘chip industry executive’ commented: “Notebooks are becoming thinner, while consumers are demanding better mobility and longer battery life. That gives ARM’s architecture, which is known for its power efficiency, a very good opportunity.”
Although Intel, too, is driving hard for power efficiency and greater performance in its mobile processors these days – as evidenced by the recent announcement of Kaby Lake Refresh.
But of course this move would also bring about independence for Apple. Also being able to bind hardware and software more tightly together, would help extract the maximum performance and efficiency from the firm’s laptops.
If this is indeed a vision of the Mac’s future, Intel wouldn’t be the only supplier to get the cold shoulder from Apple. Back in the spring, Imagination Technology was told that its GPU tech would no longer be needed, because Apple will be working on its own independent graphics design down the line.
Still, as we mentioned at the outset of this story, this particular ARM-comes-to-Mac rumor has been rattling around the net for a long time now, so forgive us if we don’t get too excited about the specter of big change at this point.
As cross-platform play , the best gaming laptops continue to bear a competitive edge against their living room-based rivals. For one thing, you don’t have to pay for the online multiplayer – there’s almost never a subscription fee required to play games purchased through Steam, Origin and even the Windows 10 Store.
Note that not all of the are meant for gaming
Yet, even as we’re faced with smartphones that cost over a grand, gamers can’t seem to shake the cost of playing on a powerful new PC. Even as Nvidia comes out with , there’s a baseless misconception that you have to be rich to own one of the top gaming laptops. In the long-run, however, it’s actually cheaper to game on PC.
That being the case, whether you need a gaming laptop that runs everything in 4K or just anything you can use to run the at stable frame rates, we’ve gathered the top gaming laptops in every category to help you determine your next big purchase. In an order based on our review ratings and awards, these are the best gaming laptops of 2017.
It’s almost as if Asus has initiated a new laptop category of its own with the Zephyrus GX501. That’s because, with the help of Nvidia’s Max-Q technology, the Republic of Gamers has crafted a hardy gaming notebook that measures no thicker than an Ultrabook. In fact, the only area wherein it’s not Ultrabook-esque is the battery, which struggles to attain a consecutive lifespan beyond two hours.
For many gamers, Ultrabook is a four-letter word, but it doesn’t have to be. The first time you get your hands on a Razer Blade, you’ll be looking at a battery life of 7 and a half hours of non-stop video. While you could argue it does skimp as far as graphics are concerned, with the help of a Razer Core external GPU enclosure, you can strap an Nvidia GTX 1080 Ti to this thing down the road if you want. Plus, with the newly added 4K screen option, you may actually need it.
Unlike most laptops its size, the Alienware 13 R3 bears a hinge-forward design. By moving the heat sinks behind the screen, the chassis is allowed to be thinner, at 0.81-inch (0.22cm). Unfortunately, this means you won’t find many 13-inch laptop bags that will actually suit the Alienware 13 R3. While you may be tempted by the inclusion of a full-size Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060, it’s the OLED touch display that caught our attention.
At long last, Razer has introduced a true desktop replacement that won’t weigh you down. Measuring in at only 0.88 inches thick with the option between a 17-inch 1080p display running at 120Hz or a G-Sync-laden 4K touchscreen, the Razer Blade Pro also introduces the company’s ultra-low-profile mechanical switches to a notebook for the first time ever. That’s a deal that’s only sweetened by an unusual trackpad placement that makes it comfier to boot.
The Asus Strix GL502 may not boast the most innovative design, swapping out the usual black and red color scheme for one that makes it feel like Halloween year-round. But, it’s undoubtedly one of the best when it comes to gaming in 1080p. In fact, we were able to crank the settings all the way up in Overwatch without taking a hit below 60fps. The battery life is janky, sure, but the screen, performance and onboard sound system more than make up for it.
When considering a high-end gaming notebook, you need to look at performance, features and style. Acer has all those bases covered, and even though it’s pricey for a notebook that’s still using a previous generation video card, all the packed-in features — including the 4K screen, an SSD and hard drive combo, and booming sound system — make it worthwhile.
To be frank, Alienware hasn’t been a name typically associated with value. That seems to be changing with the Alienware 17 R4, which bears so many different customization options when it comes to specs that you can practically name your own price. Bespeckled with all of the signature elements we’ve come to expect from the brand, such as RGB backlit-accents and tons of ventilation, our only real qualm with the Alienware 17 R4 is a disappointing battery life.
Read the full review:
The Lenovo Legion Y720 looks to be a solid choice for a mid-range gaming laptop. While we’ve seen plenty of laptops break the bank for the best specs and performance, this 15.6-inch option starts at a refreshingly affordable AED 5,699 – and users on a tighter budget may want to consider the lower-end Legion Y520 that starts at AED 3,699.
If there’s one thing we can say that we enjoy about the GT83VR Titan, it’s that you can rest assured that any game you throw at this device for the next few years should play at Ultra settings without issue. There’s also the fully customizable RGB keyboard backlighting, and the hardware-controlled cooling fans when you want to overclock. The laptop also offers Hi-Res audio through a dedicated port for the audiophiles out there.
Introducing the Dream Machine – a no holds barred gaming monster PC that we built in conjunction with Maximum PC.
It’s the culmination of a year’s worth of technological development, and the machine we’ve built now is one of the most powerful and intricate of its kind.
It is an exercise in hubris, neither adhering to any budget, nor any perceived spec—it is the best of the best of what we have available today.
Dream Machine is a concept, not something that should ever really be attempted. It is, by its very nature, an unreasonable machine, beyond any recommendations. So, when no holds are barred, what can you do with the latest and greatest hardware out there? That’s what we’re here to find out—to build, in-house, one incredible system, at one incredible price.
The specs of the beast
As we mentioned earlier, speccing out Dream Machine 2017 was a challenge.
The processing world is in a state of extreme flux right now, with both Intel and AMD providing fantastic solutions for anyone looking to build beyond a quad-core system.
And let’s go on the record: if AMD’s Threadripper had been available when we started the build, with all of its 16 cores, we would have used that, and if Intel’s $2,000-plus Core i9-7980XE were around, that would have been on the cards, too. However, deadlines are a kicker, and you could wait around forever for the next big thing.
Processor: Intel Core i9-7900X
The name of the game this time is 10 cores and 20 threads. Intel’s latest Skylake X parts are some of the gnarliest we’ve seen.
With a reimagined smart-cache superstructure and a top-end turbo of 4.3GHz, the Core i9-7900X is a single-core IPC-demolishing and multi-core rendering powerhouse.
This is also Intel’s first use of its Turbo 3.0 tech. Similar to AMD’s XFR smart overclocking, in applications that aggressively use fewer than four threads, the Core i9-7900X allocates the process to its “best” cores, and boosts their clock speeds up to 4.5GHz.
Anything capable of maxing out more than four brings the entire chip back to the 4.3GHz standard Max Turbo. Compared to last year, we’ve also seen improvements to the number of PCIe lanes (from 40 to 44), an increase in DDR4 memory support, and the DMI (direct media interface between the processor and chipset) improve from 4x PCIe 2.0 lanes to 4x PCIe 3.0, to alleviate any bottlenecks.
The Core i9’s true potential, however, lies in its overclocking capability. It’s an intriguingly mixed bag. And, for once, we’re not limited by silicon instability, but by thermals. There’s no denying the i9-7900X is one hell of a hot chip. Even with a 240mm AIO cooling the 10-cored behemoth, overclocking even to 4.5GHz can lead to thermal throttling hitting that TJMax of 100 C.
That said, if you can circumvent the cooling conundrums with a sound liquid-cooled setup, it’s not impossible to see 4.8GHz or 4.9GHz—potentially even 5.0GHz—on this powerhouse of a chip, pushing Cinebench R15 scores all the way up to 2,600-plus, and smashing CPU-heavy rendering times into the dirt.
Motherboard: Gigabyte X299 Aorus Gaming 9
When it came to choosing a motherboard, we had a few criteria in mind. We needed a board that could overclock like a champ, with a clean-looking black aesthetic, and have the potential to support up to three PCIe M.2 drives, without any ugly protrusions jutting out from the PCB.
The last part was our main concern. We wanted two 512GB Samsung 960 Pros in RAID 0 for our OS, and a 2TB model for anything else we could think of. Coupled with two old-school 10TB HDDs, plus two 2TB Samsung 850 Pros for even more storage, and connectivity is hugely important.
That left us with one winner: the Gigabyte Aorus X299 Gaming 9, a mammoth of a board to fit inside our equally gargantuan case. It’s one of the only mobos to support more than two PCIe SSDs on the board itself, second only to the Gaming 7, which lacks the heatsinks.
Plus, its onboard audio is exceptional, it features dual eight-pin EPS power for smoother voltage application during overclocks, and five PCIe x16 lanes, in theory enabling us to run three-way SLI in x8x16x8 configuration.
Graphics card: dual Nvidia Titan XP
12 teraflops of pure force, 3,840 CUDA cores, 12GB of GDDR5X, and the full might of Pascal’s GP102 core. Multiply that by two, and what you’re left with is $2,400 (£1770, AU$3000)-worth of pure graphical power.
Pascal was nothing short of a master stroke by Nvidia, making the impressive Maxwell architecture look like a toddler’s plaything in comparison. Designed to put AMD’s Vega on the back foot, we doubt even Nvidia expected what was about to occur.
As AMD vacated the upper echelons of performance GPU computing, Nvidia was left unchallenged. Fast-forward a year and the Titan X (Pascal) of that generation was trumped by Nvidia’s own GTX 1080 Ti, matching it spec for spec, sans one extra GB of GDDR5X.
The solution to derailing its own flagship? Unleashing the full might of the GP102 core on to the world. Featuring an additional 256 CUDA cores, 16 more texture units, and an impressive boost to core and memory clocks, the true Titan Xp arrived to sink its teeth into that upper ecosphere once again. A true 4K gaming card—but at a cost.
Memory hasn’t changed a huge deal — maximum capacity remains the same at 128GB, and the only thing that really has seen any increase is frequency, which now caps out at around 4,266MT/s.
That said, at that speed, you cut your maximum capacity in half, and as massive advocates of capacity over speed, we simply can’t warrant it over the alternative.
That said, we did want to do something different, so this time around we decided to put all eight DIMMs on ice, stripping them of their stock heatsinks, and liquid-cooling the lot of them.
We’ve always loved Crucial’s memory kits for their stability, availability, and performance, so we requested in a not-so-subtle 128GB (8x 16GB) of its Ballistix Elites, running at 3,200MT/s, with a CAS latency of 16.
It does feel something of a shame to strip these kits down, because the powder-coated finish on the heatsinks is one of the nicest we’ve seen, but the aesthetic finish and extra pep that liquid cooling your memory adds to a water-cooled loop is hard to deny, especially when you’re chilling two banks of the volatile SOBs.
SSD: Samsung 960 Pro (2x 512GB, 1x 2TB), Samsung 850 Pro (2x 2TB)
For our OS storage, we knew we wanted something a little faster than your standard M.2 PCIe SSD, and right now, the only way to achieve that is by RAIDing two, already powerful, PCIe drives.
Although, with the X299 chipset, you can invest in Intel’s on-processor RAID technology for a fee, it is, unfortunately, locked to its 600p drives, which, to be frank, pale in comparison to the likes of Samsung’s 960 Pros.
The chipset, however, still supports RAID 0, 1, 5, and 10, so the solution was simple: two 512GB Samsung 960 Pros in RAID 0 for the OS.
On top of that, we can provide an additional 2TB of standard PCIe storage for any other programs or games we want.
For media storage, we decided to up the ante a little more, and opted for two, now almost ancient, 2TB Samsung 850 Pro 2.5-inch SSDs. We’ve set these up in RAID 0 again, to capitalize on that additional speed, and will be backing up all 7TB of storage on to our 10TB mirrored HDD array.
Hard drive: HGST Ultrastar HE10
Speaking of hard drive arrays, why fix what isn’t broken? HGST is now part of Western Digital, one of our favorite spinning platter brands, and these helium-filled 10TB 3.5-inch disks are some of the best in the business.
Setting this pair up in RAID 1 gives us a total of 10TB of mirrored storage, with plenty of redundancy, for an on-site backup of everything and anything on the system.
And with their impressive sequential performance, backing up weekly or even daily shouldn’t be too much of an issue, especially given the infrastructure residing within the rest of the system.
We had quite a debate in the office as to whether to include these or not. The Phanteks Enthoo Elite does have support for multiple HDDs in the bottom tray, although, in reality, we could only use two, because any more would impact on our liquid-cooling plans. And there’s a certain noise element we’re trying to avoid.
Relegating these disks to backup drives, however, does neutralize the noise somewhat as, using incremental backups, these should only be operating for a small part of the day or week.
Cooling: EKWB liquid cooling and Corsair ML fans
As soon as we had confirmation of the parts we’d be featuring in our Dream Machine, we headed to EKWB’s website to grab the very best liquid-cooling hardware.
For us, nothing beats the clean, subtle look of EK’s parts. With the Core i9-7900X being notoriously hot under the collar, and those Titan Xps being no slouches either, we also needed some serious fan power to cool the loops, so we went with some of the best we’ve seen this year: Corsair’s Mag Lev ML120 and 140 Pro series. With a huge RPM operating range, impressive static pressure figures, and a fantastic aesthetic, they’re a no-brainer.
PSU: Corsair HX1200i
The choice of PSU this time around was an easy one to make: We went straight for Corsair’s HX1200i. After using the 1,000W variant last year, and appreciating just how quiet it is with its 0dB fan tech, plus the fantastic Platinum energy efficiency rating, there really was no other choice.
Case: Phanteks Enthoo Elite
The Enthoo Elite is undoubtedly the king of all fulltower cases. Coming in at a staggering $900 (around £660, AU$1100), this compartmentalized leviathan has the potential to support both an ITX and an XL-ATX system simultaneously.
Combine that with its class-leading liquid-cooling support and exceptionally premium build materials, and there’s simply no argument about why we chose this case.
The Elite comes in its own flight case to protect its massive 66lb bulk (when empty). It has two sets of accessory kits, and supports up to 20x 120mm fans, or 17x 140mm fans (with five included).
Phanteks hasn’t spared any expense with build materials, either, utilizing 4mm anodized sandblasted curved aluminum, a powder-coated steel chassis inside, and 4mm tempered glass with mesh ventilation baked in. The list of features is almost endless, and the Enthoo Elite even comes with a five-year warranty.
We give you an insight into the many troubles that we encountered when putting together this year’s truly titanic Dream Machine.
This is not a build for the faint-hearted.
The dream realized
Dream Machine 2017 took a lot out of us. It was a mammoth task that took three months to plan, and over five days to build and shoot, driving everyone involved to the brink of insanity.
Figuring out how the loops were going to operate, in which direction, and how the tubing runs were going to fit together was testing. Couple that with the modding of the panels to allow for the pass-throughs, the careful cable management to ensure the CPU power reached, making sure the fans fell into place, the blocks were installed correctly, and everything else was a success, and it was incredibly draining.
We’re not afraid to admit when we make mistakes, and when it comes to the finer pursuits, such as liquid cooling and case modding—of which there was a lot this year—we still have much to learn.
Tubing runs can always be cleaner and tidier, but it was the DIY aspect of the modding that really caught us off guard—mounting the reservoirs and the pass-throughs in particular.
Using the correct drill bit to get through that aluminum is imperative, as is using the right technique. We certainly could have been more precise. Working with the steel panel behind the reservoirs also proved tricky.
If we did it again, we’d make sure that the pass-throughs below the GPU were better marked and separated, to make them more parallel, that the reservoir mounting in the back of the steel plate was cleaner, and that the tubing runs in the back of the chassis consisted of soft tubing, making it easier to route the tubing, tidy the cables, and be safer to transport.
That said, being flexible helped. There are 86 separate fittings in this build, in all sorts of combinations. The CPU block, for instance, uses two extension fittings at the base of the two G1/4-inch threads, followed by two 45-degree rotary fittings on each side, then a hard compression fitting on the end, to create an extended 90-degree fitting, with a bit more height to give some wiggle room with those top two tubing runs.
Additionally, we used a combination of 45-degree fittings with unused pass-through fittings to connect two lengths of tube at the back of the motherboard tray, to enable us to run the loop from the uppermost radiator to the CPU pump at the bottom of the chassis.
And, of course, finding some way of mounting the hard drives in the back of the chassis (potentially on the back of the reservoir tray) would have been far nicer than our solution, which was to mount them on the included Phanteks mounting trays, on the right, slightly above the bottom radiator at the front of the case.
We removed them for the photo shoot, but it’s certainly possible to run them like that, forsaking a touch of airflow over that bottom radiator.
Naturally, this isn’t where our story ends. We’d tested the CPU, memory, hard drives, and GPUs outside the chassis, before we liquid-cooled them, but the one thing we hadn’t done was test the motherboard. We just didn’t have the time, as it arrived on the day of the build—so, after all the tinkering, building, and filling of the loops, on first boot we received a memory error, implying that we either needed to change the memory channels, or reseat them.
Less than ideal, given what our setup entails. In short, using the two T-blocks at the top of the chassis, we attached a ball valve, drained off the CPU loop, removed the memory blocks, reseated the memory, and the problem was solved.
Such are the potential setbacks of hardline liquid cooling.
That said, all in all, it’s a phenomenal build. On the next page you’ll see our benchmark results that show just how powerful this machine is, and it’s certainly a beauty to behold.
Combine those looks with sub-50 C temperatures and minimal noise, and it’s hard to argue with just how nice a system it is. The big question is, where do we go from here?
Summing up the concept of Dream Machine in a single sentence is difficult. It’s a labor of love for those who work on it, often taking months to source the parts, plan the build, and finally construct the beast.
But, in a lot of ways, it’s impractical, implausible, and excessive in its ambition. We’d never, ever recommend you buy or build a system quite like it, because it’s just not a feasible investment.
That said, Dream Machine 2017 is a fantastic insight into what the very best of today’s hardware can achieve.
Over the past few years, we’ve looked ever deeper into liquid cooling as an avenue of thermal venting for these monster machines, because it offers multiple benefits. Whether it’s a reduction in noise, lower thermals, or higher overclocks, liquid cooling to this degree, for those who have the cash and the patience, is a no-brainer.
On top of that, in the office, we collectively feel that Dream Machine should be a challenge.
But performance is the kingpin that holds this concept together, and all the cooling in the world does little if you’re running a Pentium processor and an Nvidia GT 720.
Luckily for us, then, Dream Machine 2017 comes rammed with the best hardware around.
Unsurprisingly, it demolished everything we threw at it. Whether that was processor or GPU-bound benchmarks, it destroyed our zeropoint entirely—in some cases by nearly 500%.
It did lose out in a few areas, though. Our PCIe SSD M.2 RAID 0 array was excruciatingly lackluster, presumedly because we’d saturated the DMI between the chipset and the processor with those GPUs and three PCIe M.2 SSDs.
And single-core performance is still lacking compared to its high IPC Skylake competition.
As far as cooling goes, Intel is still scrimping on the thermal interface material between the processor die and the heatspreader, unfortunately. With 1.25V, you can see temps spike up to 80-90 C (still lower than a 240mm AIO), but as soon as the load drops, it’s almost instantaneously back to idle temps.
Overall, though, Dream Machine 2017 is one burly beast of destruction, filled to the brim with the best the world has to offer, and we’re exceptionally proud of it.
1440p gaming benchmarks
4K gaming benchmarks
For the full story of the Dream Machine 2017 build, subscribe to Maximum PC
If you’re a DJ, or you’re looking for the best laptop for music production, then you’ve come to the right place, as we’ve gathered together the top laptops for making music on.
For the best laptop for music production, you’re looking for a machine that has plenty of processing power and RAM to handle multiple music tracks. A large (and fast) hard drive or SSD (solid state drive) is also essential, as you’re going to be working with large file sizes. Excellent speakers, or at least connectivity to external speakers, is also important.
If you’re a DJ and are looking for the best laptop for your needs, then you’re going to need something that is reliable and robust, so it can withstand knocks and bumps as you travel from gig to gig. As you’re going to be doing a lot of travelling, a laptop that is thin and light is also preferable. The best laptop for DJs will also have a large hard drive or SSD to store all of your track on. There’s loads of choice out there, and while Apple products are the main choice for music makers, there’s a lot of excellent Windows laptops available for DJs and music production as well.
To make your choice easy, our price comparison tools will show you where you can buy each one for the absolute cheapest price, so you won’t have to trawl through the web comparing prices. If you want to see a more comprehensive list of prices and retailers, simply click the ‘view all prices’ link on each widget!
The best laptops for music production and DJs:
The new Apple Macbook is the slimmest, slickest and best-looking Macbook Apple has ever built and it’s one of the most popular and best-selling laptops on the planet. This, along with the excellent music production software available for Macs, means it’s the best laptop for DJs and Music production. It’s a super slim and light Macbook that you can take anywhere without even noticing the weight, and gives you the same slick OS X performance.
Read the full review:
If you’re after the latest and greatest laptop from Apple, welcome to the 13-inch Macbook Pro with touchbar. It’s the best laptop Apple has ever made, and builds new features into the classic design. Of course the headline feature is the touchbar – it’s a thin OLED display at the top of the keyboard which can be used for any number of things, whether that be auto-suggesting words as you type or offering Touch ID so you can log in with just your fingerprint. The Macbook Pro also offers more power than the Macbook, which means if you’re a music producer, this is the best laptop for you, as it can handle complex arrangements with multiple audio tracks with ease. There’s cheaper alternatives on this best laptop for DJs and music production list, but if speed and quality are the most important considerations, then this is the laptop for you.
The Microsoft Surface Pro 4 is 2017’s best laptop for you if you’re looking for the perfect cross between a nimble Windows tablet and a fully functional laptop. The base version of the Surface Pro 4 is just a tablet – you get the main unit itself with kickstand but if you want the Surface Pen or the fantastic Type Cover keyboard you’ll need to pay extra for a bundle or buy it separately. Again, this is a great laptop for writers who can use a stylus to jot down their notes to later turn into editable text. As the Surface Pro 4 is a tablet 2-in-1 that runs the full version of Windows 10, it means it is an extremely portable device that can run any music mixing and editing programs that are available for Windows.
Slim, light, powerful and majestic – Dell’s 2017 flagship XPS 13 is one of the best laptops for DJs and music production in the world. If you’re after a brilliant all-rounder with powerful performance, a superb screen and extremely slim dimensions, then this is definitely worth considering. This laptop squeezes a 13.3-inch ‘Infinity Edge’ screen into an 11-inch frame- that means it’s the smallest/slimmest 13-inch laptop out there, with the screen stretching almost all the way to the edge of the device. Couple that with Intel’s latest Kaby Lake Core i7 and Core i5 processors, plus the availability of a multi-use USB-C port, standard USB 3.0 and SD slots, and what you end up with is the worlds’ most popular Windows laptop. You can buy this one in many flavours too – the most expensive versions have super high-res multi-touch screens plus Core i7 processors and loads of memory and storage, but you can save money in several steps which include opting for a non-touch full HD screen, Core i5 processor and less memory/storage etc. But rest assured, whichever version of the Dell XPS 13 you go for, it’ll be best in class and well worth the money.
Read the full review:
If you’re after a cheap laptop for writing that offers something a bit special, look no further than the Lenovo Yoga Book 2017. As with all Yoga devices, the screen folds flat so you can use it either as a tablet or a laptop. To add more versatility, Lenovo has now added the option to buy it with either Windows 10 or Android 6.0 onboard – which one you choose will depend how you’re more likely to use the device. The screen on this thing defies the cheap asking price and the keyboard and capacitive touch-keyboard are both fantastic too. While this is a bit under-powered for music production, if you’re a DJ looking for the best portable laptop for playing and mixing your music, this is an excellent choice.
The Macbook Air is in an interesting spot. While it’s still one of the most popular and well-known notebooks around, the iPad Pro and 12-inch MacBook have stolen much of its thunder. That is, unless you need the legacy USB 3, Thunderbolt 2 and SDXC card connectivity. Even without a Retina display or Force Touch trackpad, the 13-inch MacBook Air is a very capable machine, even if the 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage leave a lot to be desired. Plus it still has the beloved MagSafe 2 charger onboard as well as an impeccable battery life. So, if you don’t mind having a slightly older machine, the Macbook Air is an excellent – and now more affordable – choice for DJs and music production.
If you’re looking for a larger and more powerful laptop for running music production software on, then the Dell XPS 15 could be for you. Packing the same InfinityEdge technology as the smaller XPS 13, the screen extends right to the edge of the machine which means it’s as small as it’s possible to make a 15-inch laptop in 2017. It’s quite pricey though, depending on which version you get. The very top end version has a 4K color-accurate display, which can give you an excellent overview of all the tracks you’re working on.
If you’re a writer, or you’re in a job where writing is a big part of your day-to-day life, and are looking for the best laptop to suit your needs, then you’ve come to the right place.
We’ve gathered together the very best laptops for writers, taking into consideration the specific needs that writers and journalists need when looking for a laptop. That includes a comfortable keyboard that can be used for hours on end, a clear, easy to read, screen, long battery life and a slim and compact design that allows you to take your laptop with you where ever you go.
Because you’ll be mainly using your laptop for word processing and research, it means you don’t need the most cutting edge components. This can help keep the price of your laptop down. Also, even if you’re not a full time writer, author or journalist, it doesn’t means you’re not writing a lot for your job. Emails, reports and presentations all require a laptop that is comfortable to write on.
What’s more, our funky price comparison tools will show you where you can buy each one for the absolute cheapest price, so you won’t have to trawl through the web comparing prices. If you want to see a more comprehensive list of prices and retailers, simply click the ‘view all prices’ link on each widget!
The best laptops for writers:
Lenovo took an existing form factor and refined it to deliver the new 2016-2017 ThinkPad E470. Powered by the 7th generation Intel Core processors, this particular SKU has a 14-inch FHD anti-glare display, powered by a discrete Nvidia Geforce 940MX 2GB GPU. While a discrete graphics card may be a bit overkill for writers, it means you’ve got a fast performing machine that can also handle the odd game when you need a break.
Equipped with a spill resistant keyboard, a TrackPoint and a 3+2 buttons click pad, the E470 has more than enough ports and expansion capabilities to keep the average user happy. Shame that it doesn’t do DisplayPort, so no 4K output.
If you’re looking for a sleek machine that’s powerful and easy to carry around, then you’ll love the Asus Zenbook UX310UA. As an ‘ultrabook‘, this is a device that combines style with top-of-the-range components. For writers looking for a laptop, this means you get a brilliantly-performing machine that you won’t need to upgrade for years, and thanks to its slim design it’s easy to take with you if you do a lot of writing while travelling. The keyboard is a decent size which makes writing on it a pleasure. Like most laptops of this kind, it comes in various specifications so the cheaper versions have Intel Core i3 CPUs and full HD screens while the most expensive options come with a super high res display and Intel Core i5. Whichever one you go for, though, you’re getting a fantastic laptop.
A Chromebook doesn’t run Windows, Android or Apple’s Mac OS. Instead it’s powered by Google’s Chrome OS – a super lightweight operating system based on the Chrome web browser. It’s a great way to save money on a laptop, and if you’re buying a laptop to use primarily for writing, it’s a great choice, as Google Docs can be used as a word processor, and you of course also have the Chrome browser for research. The Chromebook Flip is the best Chromebook out there at the moment, offering truly premium build quality, a fabulous touchscreen and keyboard and excellent performance. All while offering great value for money too.
If you’re after a cheap laptop for writing that offers something a bit special, look no further than the Lenovo Yoga Book 2017. As with all Yoga devices, the screen folds flat so you can use it either as a tablet or a laptop. To add more versatility, Lenovo has now added the option to buy it with either Windows 10 or Android 6.0 onboard – which one you choose will depend how you’re more likely to use the device. The screen on this thing defies the cheap asking price and the keyboard and capacitive touch-keyboard are both fantastic too. The built-in Wacom digitizer stylus allows you to hand-write notes on the touchscreen, and then save them to the web – or convert it into text – which makes it the perfect device for quickly writing down notes when inspiration strikes.
The Microsoft Surface Pro 4 is 2017’s best laptop for you if you’re looking for the perfect cross between a nimble Windows tablet and a fully functional laptop. The base version of the Surface Pro 4 is just a tablet – you get the main unit itself with kickstand but if you want the Surface Pen or the fantastic Type Cover keyboard you’ll need to pay extra for a bundle or buy it separately. Again, this is a great laptop for writers who can use a stylus to jot down their notes to later turn into editable text. If you are buying the Surface Pro 4 as a device to use as a writer, then we strongly recommend buying the Type Cover keyboard, which adds a comfortable to use keyboard that also doubles as a protective cover for the screen.
The 255 G5 is HP’s entry-level business laptop and is a solid candidate should you be looking for a straightforward, reliable, workhorse at a bargain price. It’s a great laptop for writers, as it has solid (if unspectacular) specifications, while keeping the price at a reasonable level. If you want a similar laptop with an Intel processor, rather than AMD, then the HP 250 G5 is worth looking into. There are various configurations of both the HP 255 G5 and the HP 250 G5, so it’s worth shopping around and finding one with the right components for your needs.
If you’re after the latest and greatest laptop from Apple, welcome to the 13-inch Macbook Pro with touchbar. It’s the best laptop Apple has ever made, and builds new features into the classic design. Of course the headline feature is the touchbar – it’s a thin OLED display at the top of the keyboard which can be used for any number of things, whether that be auto-suggesting words as you type or offering Touch ID so you can log in with just your fingerprint. This makes it an excellent laptop for writers, and if you love Apple’s way of doing things, then you’ll love the Macbook Pro with touchbar. The reason why it isn’t higher in our list of best laptops for writers is the price: this is an incredibly expensive laptop, and if you’re just using it for writing, then there are plenty of much cheaper alternatives. However, if you’re an Apple fan that wants a machine for performing more complex tasks, as well as writing, then there really is no other choice.
If you want the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 but you want to spend a lot less, the Acer Switch 3 2017 is definitely the your best option. It’s designed around essentially the same concept as the Surface Pro and it’s a less capable thanks to slightly lower power innards, but for most tasks, especially writing, it’s a brilliant little machine. What’s more, to add further value this 2-in-1 laptop/tablet comes with the keyboard upgrade which means no little extras to pay for. As usual it comes in several different versions, with USB Type-C, 8GB RAM, an IPS display and Intel Core i3 7100U CPU coming with the more expensive option.
The Acer Chromebook R11 is probably the best cheap laptop around at the moment, and it’s a great laptop for wirters. Like the Acer Chromebook Flip higher up this page, this laptop runs Chrome OS so does away with all the overheads that Windows brings. Consequently it’s able to run nice and fast on less powerful components, which means a very cheap price! Its touchscreen is decent, though it’s only HD, and it will flip to become a tablet too. What’s more, it’ll run practically all day thanks to its excellent battery life. So if you’re looking for a capable but very cheap laptop that you can whip out and begin writing on, then this one is your best bet.
If you’re looking for a larger and more powerful laptop for writing on, then the Dell XPS 15 could be for you. Packing the same InfinityEdge technology as the smaller XPS 13, the screen extends right to the edge of the machine which means it’s as small as it’s possible to make a 15-inch laptop in 2017. It’s quite pricey though, depending on which version you get. The very top end version has a 4K color-accurate display, which may be a bit of overkill for a laptop for writing on, but it gives you more flexibility if you want to use this laptop for various tasks. Crucially, the large keyboard is also very comfortable to use.
In 2002 the arrival of Mike Skinner’s ‘The Streets’ legitimised music that had been produced at home on a laptop, and the inexorable rise of the ‘bedroom producer’ began.
Since then laptops have become more powerful, more portable and more capable of running the kind of high end software (Logic Pro, Ableton Live and Pro Tools to name a few) you would normally associate with a professional recording studio, and it’s the norm for a band (at any level) to utilize a laptop in their live setup.
Apple, with its Mac Garageband and Logic first-party music making software, has often been the go-to machines for those looking to record their own tunes. But, if you’re a struggling songwriter waiting for your big break, buying into Apple hardware can be a pricey investment.
However, in the last few years the progress of technology has meant you can now get laptop performance in significantly smaller devices, namely tablets and 2-in-1 ultraportables, making producing music at home or on the road more convenient than ever, without needing to make the dive into Apple’s MacBook line.
With that in mind we have rounded up the best devices for music producers in search of their next production tool, when a Mac just isn’t an option. Let’s get started.
Now in its fourth generation, the Microsoft Surface Pro has been taking the fight to the MacBook since 2013, and the latest version is hugely compelling for music makers.
Build quality is excellent, and the magnesium uni-body casing feels robust enough to endure life on the road but is also pleasingly light at only 770g.
The 12.3-inch screen is bright, crisp and clear. The panel is particularly luminous, so great in low light/club conditions, and the high pixel resolution means using a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) such as Cubase isn’t fiddly, especially when using the Surface Pen (sold separately £59.99/$94.95 AUD/$59.99 USD).
Power comes from an Intel Core i5-6300U and 8GB of RAM and provides enough grunt to run most resource intensive music production software on the Windows Pro OS. Don’t expect it to power Pink Floyd’s next stage show though, with the battery life of around four hours disappointing.
Nevertheless, the excellent Type Cover £149.99 ($249.95 AUD/$159.99 USD) is a joy to use and the USB 3.0 port makes hooking up MIDI equipment easy.
The iPad Pro 12.9-inch may be one of Apple’s most misunderstood products (who wants/needs a giant iPad?), but it makes a stella platform for music creation – arguably even more intuitive than the company’s MacBook offerings.
Importantly, the iPad Pro runs iOS 11, Apple’s mobile operating system, so you can’t run full DAWs as you might on the Surface Pro. What you can do is take advantage of the App Store’s unparalleled wealth of music making apps (including Korg synthesizers and even FL Studio), and Apple’s GarageBand (essentially Logic Pro light) remains the best entry level DAW around. It’s a great introduction to digital music making.
Build quality, weight (677 grams) and the phenomenal screen (2732 x 2048 pixels) are all impressive, but we’re not such a fan of the Smart Keyboard’s raised rubber keys.
However, we were impressed by the four-speaker audio system, and the lack of a USB port is somewhat compensated for by the fact that many DAW manufacturers let you use the iPad as a controller (connecting via Bluetooth).
The 2-in-1 market endured a stuttering start, but persistence pays off and the Yoga 720 proves you can have the best of both tablet and laptop worlds.
The device offers a great deal to the music maker. The Intel Core i7 combines with 8GB of RAM to make it powerful enough to run complete DAWs, one USB and two USB-C ports make this ideal for connecting sound cards or MIDI equipment (you can always use a USB-C to USB 3.0 converter if you want more of the latter) and the battery life of nearly eight hours offers you the freedom to make music on the move without need for a power point.
Build quality is very high and the sturdy hinge mechanism makes transitioning from laptop to tablet easy, the latter letting you use touch to manipulate instruments and effects to a greater degree than a mouse/keyboard combination ever could.
Finally, the JBL speaker system offers a nice little extra in terms of audio performance.
You wouldn’t associate a Chromebook with music production: they lack the necessary meaty specs to process and render software instruments over multiple tracks. However a growing number of apps in the Chromebook Web Store and an online DAW called Soundtrap make the Dell Chromebook 11 considering – especially on a budget.
Originally designed for the classroom this is a rugged device that suits life on the road and the excellent battery life of nearly 10 hours provides some of the best portability in this group. The 180 degree hinge lets you achieve a comfortable viewing angle in any situation – perfect for making music in cramped conditions – and the stereo speakers are pleasingly loud.
The Chrome operating system is simplicity itself and will be broadly familiar to anyone who’s ever used an Android phone, but it’s important to remember the Chromebook needs an internet connection to access most of its features (although offline functionality is constantly improving).
Once online we suggest you head straight for Soundtrap. Here you can create sketches of songs over multiple tracks, and even share them with collaborators.
Bringing up the rear is Samsung’s equivalent of the Surface Pro: the Galaxy Book. A large, 12-inch device that boasts an attachable keyboard (included in the price) and stylus, or S-Pen, that encourages you to make use of the device’s touch capabilities.
Build quality is good, if a little plasticy, but the screen is superb and produces razor sharp images that are extremely rich in color. When you’re not making music, games and movies will look great.
A good amount of power is provided by a Core i5 processor and 8GB of RAM so you’re music making applications should run without issue and, unlike the iPad Pro here, the Windows operating system means you aren’t locked into one ecosystem, offering you flexibility in choosing what those applications are.
Pleasingly two USB ports provide plenty of space for attaching MIDI equipment such as a keyboard or microphone and the battery life of around four hours is about industry standard.
Brexit is all over the news headlines right now, thanks to Theresa May’s negotiations with the EU, but since the vote to leave, we’ve seen a nasty impact on the prices of tech – a situation which is ongoing according to a new report from Which that underlines the rising prices of PCs.
This is the cover story from the latest issue of Which magazine (as highlighted by Computer Weekly), with the consumer watchdog quantifying the Brexit-fuelled price rises we’ve seen when it comes to popular computer manufacturers.
Apple’s MacBooks, for example, have in some cases seen their price tags increase by almost 20% in the UK; and they were far from cheap to start with.
And Microsoft’s Surface hybrids have witnessed hikes of from 11% to 15%, and again, those are premium pieces of hardware which had weighty asking prices before the decision to leave the EU.
Almost all major hardware vendors have put their prices up thanks to unfavourable currency fluctuations, and as well as the aforementioned two firms, that also means Dell, HP and Lenovo.
The average increase on hardware prices is around the 10 to 15% mark, with software prices getting a heftier whack of around 20%.
Put in Context
A recent report from analyst firm Context (spotted by Trusted Reviews) paints an even bleaker picture, asserting that the average price of PCs, workstations and laptops reached £480 in July and August of this year – a painful 30% increase compared to the same period in 2016.
Context noted that component shortages (including memory and SSDs) have had something of an effect in bringing on this price inflation, but the main cause was Brexit-related currency issues.
We can only hope that Black Friday bargains temporarily counter these rises
All-in-ones aren’t your average PCs. They’re every desktops with integrated displays, frequently complemented by a mix of laptop and desktop components. For these reasons and more, they’ve garnered an unfair reputation of being inferior to their full-on desktop counterparts.
Let it be known, however, that all-in-ones have their advantages. These self-contained PC setups typically require less desk space than a desktop tower, monitor and all their accompanying accoutrements. At the same time, they don’t produce a nest of cables for guests to trip over.
Because of the inherent convergence that an all-in-one boasts, PC makers can rethink their design strategies entirely, thereby resulting in more innovative efforts such as the . Ultimately, this only benefits us – the users.
Below are the best all-in-ones handpicked and regularly updated in traditional TechRadar fashion.
Resting atop an articulating stand, the Dell XPS 27 AIO comprises a massive 4K Ultra HD touchscreen display with a whopping sextet of ear-numbing speakers. Not only is it attractive, but it’s also top-notch when it comes to delivering powerful specs. Whether you’re making your own beats or vibing out to someone else’s; watching films or editing them yourself, the Dell XPS 27 should be at the top of your list when shopping around for a new PC.
The iMac has long been on the of the most affordable Macs you can get and it’s also one of the cheapest way to get a 4K screen to boot. Starting at grand and just a few hundred bucks more for that 4K upgrade, the 21-inch iMac with 4K Retina display, is a hardy MacOS machine featuring similar specs as the 5K variant but at a lower cost. For the money, what more could you really ask for from an Apple computer?
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Not to be shown up by the 5K iMac or new Dell XPS AIO, HP has its own unique take on the all-in-one desktop. Though it also has all its components stored in its base like the Surface Studio, the HP Envy Curved All-in-One also adds in a booming speaker bar. Add in the ultra-wide curved screen and this is one of the best and most immersive PC for enjoying movies.
iMac with Retina 5K display
While Apple’s iMac with Retina 5K display is one of the most impressive all-in-ones around, its price places it out of the reach of most people. However, if you’re up for the expense there’s no greater MacOS machine than this — that is until the iMac Pro arrives. It comes with Apple’s sharpest 27-inch 5K Retina display. Excellent build quality and hardy specs, also makes it a PC built to last, and a fine option for productivity work, watching movies or light gaming.
You need the best PC. We know you need the best computer because you’re here right now on a page full of contenders for that title. Rather than throwing money at the new, you would rather put that money to a PC that can game, make videos or simply power a big screen for media.
Yet, while we and most people would recommend a DIY project, we recognize that assembling the best PC takes time and a bit of skill. And, time is a scarce resource in 2017. It’s for that reason we’ve found the best computers you can buy off the shelf (or, more than likely, online).
At the same time, the best PC can vary in both function and form. While some of us prefer conventional desktop towers, detached from their accompanying inputs and screens, others enjoy a concise, all-in-one computing experience. Alternatively, PCs come in all shapes and sizes from half-sized towers to micro-sized boxes and even systems that fit inside a stick.
Whatever the use case or form factor you seek, you’ll find the best computer for you below:
For lack of a better description, the Dell XPS Tower Special Edition is a master of disguise. Appearing as subtle as the PC your parents hid under the desk, don’t be deceived by this boring exterior. Inside, you’ll find your choice of one of the latest high-end graphics card solutions from AMD and Nvidia in addition to a powerful Kaby Lake processor paired with plenty of hard drive and/or SSD storage. While the Special Edition of this PC is only available in the US, our readers in Australia and the United Kingdom will still be able to pick up the regular Dell XPS Tower and configure a system to the top spec.
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The Microsoft Surface Studio is one of the most glamorous PCs you can buy. It shakes up the all-in-one formula of putting all the components behind the screen, and instead moves everything to the base. The resulting device has one of the thinnest 28-inch PixelSense Displays that puts even most 4K screens to shame. What’s more, the fully-articulating stand makes it a versatile tool for work and play with Surface Pen support. All in all, the Surface Studio is an exceptional work of, and for, art.
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The Zotac Magnus EN1060 is practically as small as the Apple , but it’s an exponentially more powerful gaming PC, potent enough to drive virtual reality experiences. Thanks to its small size and understated features, users can place this mini PC under an entertainment center and it won’t draw attention to itself. Keep in mind, though, this system doesn’t come with storage or RAM pre-installed, not to mention it lacks an operating system, so interested users will need buy these components and software separately.
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The nigh-mini ITX Alienware Aurora R5 bears resemblance to, say, the, but with a case that feels strikingly more native to our home planet. Of course, it simultaneously boasts top-of-the-line specs; an overclockable K-series Intel Core i7 CPU, a GeForce GTX 1080 and a massively capable 850W power supply – just a few of the Aurora R5’s redeeming qualities. Plus, even with the small chassis, there’s plenty of room for an unparalleled SLI configuration.
Positioned as a “console killer,” the MSI Trident 3 looks a lot like an and, but it’s a far more powerful PC that feels just right in your living room. Complete with all the ports you could ever dream of, the MSI Trident 3’s advantages are clear. Still, in trying to be as thin and light as possible, the MSI Trident 3 comes equipped with a 330W external power supply brick, resembling some of the least attractive console designs.
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The iMac keeps it classy and, better yet, simple. Easy-to-use hardware combined with the famed accessibility of makes for a nigh-perfect computing experience. A built-in screen, speakers and 802.11ac wireless networking are complemented by the fantastic Magic Keyboard and Magic Mouse 2. Of course, trumpeting that gorgeous 5K screen, the iMac is sleek and, best of all, only requires a single cable to get up and running.
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Though at first you might confuse it for a fabric-woven refresh, the HP Pavilion Wave is anything but. This compact Windows machine packs in 6th-generation Intel Core processors and optional discrete AMD graphics with a uniquely integrated Bang & Olufsen speaker. Wrapped in a handsome fabric exterior, this is the perfect PC to have on the desk, as it radiates crisp sound while you browse the web or watch movies.
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No, this isn’t a USB thumb drive you’re looking at. The Intel Core Compute Stick might look like something you would store a PowerPoint presentation on shortly before losing it, but it’s actually a palm-sized personal computer that plugs into any screen with an HDMI port. Configurations start at a lowly 1.33GHz Intel Atom processor running Linux, and at the highest end is a notebook-class Intel Core m5 processor.