Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro Apparently Available Now - Definitely the Ultra-Convertible Windows 8.1 Machine to buy

I've had the original Lenovo Yoga convertible ultrabook for about a year - and it's fantastic. I'm currently using the 11" S with 8gB RAM + 256gB SSD that I bought for $799 (I upgraded the ram+ssd after purchase) - it's plenty powerful for me to do video editing, gaming, CAD, etc. all with 30-100 tabs open in Chrome. Not bad for something that's both extremely portable and also convertible (turns into a tablet).

The Yoga 2 Pro increases the screen resolution to a whopping 3200x1800 'QHD+', which, frankly, might be too good... but add in the backlit keyboard (which I can't believe was left out in the first place), new tapered design, lighter weight, 4th gen (haswell) cpu, 350 nit IPS screen, and a comparatively (to other machines with similar specs) low price of $999 and it's definitely a worthy upgrade to whatever you're using now.

The thing isn't supposed to be released until October 18th, primarily because it ships with Windows 8.1, but BestBuy's website lists it as available and shipping- and has another, identical listing that says coming soon. Here's the working link.

UPDATE - It seems that in the time it took me to write this post it's no longer available to ship directly to your house, but still shows that ship-to-store is available.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Ultrabook Docking Station to Upgrade SSD / Storage Space & add USB 3.0 Ports & Ethernet & More! The Dockbox 3.0

After quite a bit of feedback on my first design for the Dockbox ultrabook docking station, I have redesigned it from top to bottom to make a USB 3.0 version with interlocking plates enabling you to open it up & install your own 2.5" drive!

Upgrade your ultrabook with ethernet, 4x additional USB 3.0 ports, up to 256gB flash memory, and an external 2.5" drive with this handy & portable device that only needs 1 USB3.0 port!

See http://techneesh.com/#dockbox3 for more info.

Here are some pictures:

Friday, June 21, 2013

Sony Vaio Pro (One of the first Haswell Ultrabooks) Teardown, Upgrade How-to, Mini Review, & Benchmark

The new Sony Vaio Pro is one of the most promising ultraportable machines of 2013 - not only is it the lightest 13" ultrabook on the planet (at ~2.3 pounds), it's razor thin with a brand new energy-saving haswell cpu (giving it ~8+hours battery, supposedly) and the radical new Samsung PCIe SSD that offers 2-3X the speed of top-of-the-line SSD predecessors.

I got my hands on it to qualify its candidacy as a replacement for the Lenovo Yoga.
Here are some takeaways you might not surmise from photos & specs.

  • Backlit keys (with luminance control)
  • Definitely feels super light & well balanced (and can be opened one-handed)
  • Pretty good thermal management (vents most of the heat to the left side instead of your lap)
  • Nice sized keys + touchpad
  • Pretty sturdy (I was expecting it to bend in half based on other write-ups) for as thin and light as it is
  • Seemingly excellent battery
  • Bright, crisp, and clear screen
  • Good sound
  • Slope of the machine makes it more comfortable to use
  • Full hdmi out, SD card sticks in all the way (so you can leave one in for extra storage)
  • Optional sheet battery upgrade

  • Touchscreen only achieves about 10% usefulness compared to a convertible like the Yoga (due to gorilla arm syndrome). With such a huge and nice screen, it's a complete shame!
  • Corners are sharp! I could probably cut myself with the thing.
  • Fans are quite loud - and overall there seems to be much more heat/noise than on the Yoga (which has more than most other ultrabooks, in my experience)
  • No room for expansion - only one half msata slot for the wifi card and one pcie ssd slot. soldered ram
  • Can only upgrade the SSD, and barely
  • Power is on the opposite side as the rest of the ports (annoying if you want to plug something else in and use it on a couch/bed etc) - also, the power connector is the boring old barrel form factor
Here's how to open it up:

1. Peel off the long rubber strip

2. Pop off the middle tab

3. Peel/pop off the remaining two rubber feet

4. Remove the 12 newly exposed screws
5. Carefully pry open the case, starting in the middle and working towards the power port side first

Here's what the inside looks like:

Not much you can do to upgrade, unfortunately. 

The machine uses an uber-fast PCIe SSD, which I can't seem to find by itself online.

Your best bet for upgrading is really just throwing in a 128gB SD card.

Here are the rest of the benchmarks I took:

All in all, the pros of this machine do not make up for its lack of convertibility & lack of expandability. I'm gonna hold out for something better and stick to my Yoga + stand + support brace. What about you?

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Haswell Ultrabooks, Touch Laptops, And Convertibles Available now for Order / Preorder - Which will you buy?

Eager to replace my 8gB RAM dual-SSD $999 touch/convertible Lenovo Yoga with something a little less carpal-tunnel-inducing & with battery life at least meeting if not exceeding the Samsung Series 9 (which I had been acclimated to immediately preceding the Yoga), I've spent a couple hours scouring the web for info on new Haswell machines & their availability.

TBF, I've been keeping an eye on ultrabook offerings pretty consistently due to my total and utter bewilderment at the lack of viable options - really, the Lenovo Yoga has been the only legitimate choice for quite some time now - and it certainly has its shortcomings.

Fortunately, Haswell promises to remedy the situation.

"Delivering Intel's largest generation-over-generation gain in battery life enablement in company history"1, Intel's new haswell CPU is key to bridging the gap in portability, power, and battery life between tablets and laptops. But you already knew that.

Tomorrow might hold some exciting releases for Haswell ultrabooks, but sadly, Intel & notebook manufacturers seem to be planning on a Fall launch for the majority of the first batch of Haswell machines, timed for back-to-school shopping.

However, there still are a few machines available now and available for preorder:
-HP ENVY 17"
-Several MSI Gaming Notebooks including a $1300 12gB RAM 17" w/ a GTX765M
-Lenovo's Y410P 14" for $720 and the 15.6" Y510P for ~$1000

Right now most machines available use the i7-4700mq haswell chip but there of course are lots of other flavors to go around.

I've found ultrabooknews.com to be my favorite source for succinct, up-to-date info on ultrabooks, without all the clutter of other tech news sites. If you have other recommendations, let me know in the comments.

Personally, I'm thinking the Sony Vaio Pro 13" or the Asus Book T300 look like good candidates for my next machine (unfortunately I have to rule out the Zenbook Infinity because it's not convertible). What do you think?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

How to Upgrade (and fix if needed) Last Year's First Version Electree (Ulule.com) for $10

I participated in the limited-run prototype fundraiser for the coolest product on the planet, the electree, last year and thought I'd share a little hack I did to effectively increase the battery capacity & protect against the dreaded 'battery can't charge because it has no battery' bug that occurs in many devices including some cell phones, the original cr-48 chromebook, and a few first-gen//prototype electrees purchased on ulule.com.

A quick aside- electree just launched a Kickstarter today! They will be giving all Ulule.com backers (like me) a 'significant discount' on the new electree (the electree+). Scroll down to the Risks and Challenges section.

Firstly, note that you can easily jumpstart most batteries by shock-charging with a power source - in the case of the Chromebook, you simply insert & remove the power cable gently repeatedly ~10x until the light comes on, then let it charge. For the Electree, it's much simpler - you simply plug in the USB port on the underbelly to a wall USB adapter or backup battery like this. Instant fix.

While I was at it, I decided to both increase the battery capacity and prevent the charging bug by permanently installing a secondary battery. I opened up my 'chargers, batteries, and sparqs' bin and found a few options:
A little $10 Energizer that alone really doesn't serve much purpose and larger newtrent and zagg battery-chargers. I decided to put the Energizer to use, as I still sometimes travel with one of the others.

Start by removing the tree portion and flipping the base over:

Next, remove the rubber feet and unscrew the 4 screws:

Pry off the panel:

At this point I wasn't quite sure where the new battery might fit, so decided to tackle the wiring first.

You can remove the bottom-side USB port by unscrewing the 2 screws and severing the glue:
(Initially done to snake the new USB cable through)

I experimented with threading the Energizer's USB cable through the main USB panel after removing the main computer board:

But after a bit decided it would be too difficult to access the battery, and figured I'd make a more flexible solution. After removing the bottom-side single port, thread it through the inside dual USB port panel by first removing the board (it has 2 screws):

Screw the board back on, and secure the 3rd USB port down (I used hot glue)

Now you can hook up an extra battery to the electree, using the repositioned 3rd USB port to charge the electree, and one of the other two USB ports to charge the battery.

I ended up swapping the Energizer for a larger capacity NewTrent, giving me ~20,000 mAh total :)