RuggedTec RoqBloq Portable Bluetooth Speaker Outdoor Rugged Water Resistant Dust & Shock Proof (Black/Black) Reviews

 

  • IPX3 Water Resistant Rating – tightly built with a rubber gasket that protects the charging and AUX input ports.
  • Dust/Shock Resistant – RoqBloq is built tough and feels bullet proof when you hold it. It will withstand being knocked around and isn’t afraid of a little dirt.
  • 8 Hour Battery Life (1800 mAH Battery)
  • Built-in microphone allows for hands free calling. Receive calls right through the speaker!
  • Wireless Bluetooth or AUX Line-in Connections

Product Reviews

“Good audio with protection against shock and water spray” – J. Chambers
Score: 5/5 Source: Amazon.com

After checking out the RoqBloq, I’m impressed it as a water resistant portable speaker. I was very pleased with the audio quality, its ease of pairing with my tablet and phone, and its ruggedness.

By my own measurements, the RoqBloq is 6.2″x2.4″x1.9″, and weighs 12.2 ounces. As such, it’s small and lightweight enough to drop in a bag or backpack without weighing you down too much, and the smoothly rounded edges won’t poke holes in anything. I didn’t drop it or give it any hard knocks to test how shockproof it is, but it appears to be solidly made, and the silicone covering adds some cushioning to the frame.

The RoqBloq paired easily with my Kindle Fire HD 7″ tablet as device “Ruggedtec.” I used one of my playlists to check the audio quality, which was quite good for a speaker of this size. Also, the sound is true stereo from the two internal speakers separated by about 3½”. I used a couple of stereo setup MP3s to test the channel balance and separation, which was very good. For controlling the audio, the buttons on top of the unit control the volume, play/pause, next track, and previous track. The RoqBloq also plays when connected to an audio source by an audio cable, but the only control function that works in that mode is the play/pause button (other functions must be controlled from the source).

On the rear of the RoqBloq is a section that contains the 3.5mm audio jack and the charging port for the internal 1800mAh battery. The manufacturer claims up to 8 hours playing time on a fully charged battery. When the ports are not in use, they’re covered with a silicone flap to keep out splashing water.

Having seen and used the RoqBloq, I believe that it’s reasonably well protected against dust, vibration, shock, and splashing water. About water resistance, it’s only recently that I’ve learned about the International Protection Marking codes, also known as IP codes, which classify and rate the degree of protection provided against the intrusion of water by mechanical casings and electrical enclosures. The IPX3 rating for the RoqBloq is fairly low (IPX3), providing protection against spraying water for a limited time and volume of water.

The RoqBloq should not be used as a shower speaker or in any situation where it’s continuously exposed to splashing or spraying water. In damp, humid environments with occasional direct exposure to water, it should be water resistant enough to survive undamaged. It may also be a good choice for activities like boating where it may get splashed on but won’t be submerged.

A product sample was provided for review purposes.

“Nice unit but overpriced” – Stephen M. Charme
Score: 4/5 Source: Amazon.com

[3/20/14 Note: In response to my review below the company changed the product description from “waterproof” to “water resistant”. Therefore I upgraded my review from 2 stars to 4 stars].

I received this in black/red at no cost in exchange for writing a review. If you keep it away from water, it’s a nice sounding unit–though no better than other units that cost half the price. But calling this “waterproof” is a joke. Let me explain how this got a two star rating.

1. This comes in an expensive looking box, which makes this look nice as a gift, but not sound any better as speaker that costs half the price and comes packaged in a simple box. It comes with a micro USB charging cable and an audio cable for a direct connection–but so do less expensive speakers.

2. It was effortless to pair this with my iPhone 4S. For a speaker this size it was very powerful and the music sounded great–but again not better than speakers that cost half the price.

3. This is advertised as an “Outdoor Rugged Waterproof” speaker, which is presumably why it sells for twice the cost of a comparable speaker that is not geared specifically for the outdoors or is waterproof. I agree that it is ruggedly built with a protective rubber casing around the speaker. But it failed my waterproof test.

4. When somebody tells me that an electronic product is waterproof, I put it under running water in the sink or shower for 30 seconds to see how it works. Items that are truly waterproof pass the test with flying colors. This product failed, meaning that the 30 seconds of running water in my sink zapped it, so it no longer works at all–no bluetooth connection and no sound using an audio cord connected to my iPhone. It’s basically “fried”.

5. I was really surprised that my water test zapped this “Rugged Outdoor Waterproof Speaker”, but then something in the product description caught my attention: this is “IPX-3 Waterproof”. I had ignored the reference to “IPX-3” because I thought I knew what “waterproof” meant. However, I did some internet research and discovered that there are different degrees of “waterproof”. Sure, I knew that certain waterproof items can’t be submerged, but it turns out it’s a lot more complicated than submersible and non-submersible waterproof items.

6. There are 9 “IPX” waterproof ratings, with IPX-0 meaning no protection, with IPX-7 and 8 protecting against submersion and IPX-4, 5, and 6 protecting against splashing water from any angle, low pressure stream from any angle, and high pressure stream from any angle, respectively.

So what does IPX-3, which is what this product is rated, do? “Protect against spraying water when tilted up to 60 degrees vertically.” Huh? So you better make sure the water hits at just the right angle and is not too strong or this “Outdoor Rugged Waterproof” unit will be zapped.

7. Calling this “waterproof” may be technically correct because the company references the IPX-3 standard, but I think most consumers, like me, will be mislead into thinking this provides a lot more waterproof protection than it really does. In fact I had never heard of “IPX” designations before. Most companies just tell you whether or not you can submerse something. For this kind of deceptive marketing I deducted two stars.

Also, the rubber gasket on the back will keep out dirt and dust from getting in, but not water. Unlike the gaskets on truly water proof items, this provides no seal whatsoever against water.

8. Since this product isn’t really what most people consider waterproof, I deducted another star because without the waterproofing ability, it should not cost any more than comparable speakers selling for half the price.

Bottom line: This looks very nice, but is overpriced for an ordinary bluetooth speaker. In addition, to market this as waterproof without expressly disclosing this means you can’t even splash water on it (that requires an IPX-4 rating) is a joke, especially because the picture on Amazon shows this being used at the beach.

Update March 20, 2014: In response to my review the company emailed me that they had Amazon change the description of this product from “waterproof” to “water resistant.” Since the description is now accurate and not misleading, I am changing my initial 2 star rating to 4 stars. I am still deducting 1 star based on pricing (which the company also emailed that they lowered from $79.00 to $69.00 based on my review). I have brought non-water resistant bluetooth speakers to outdoor locations without any problems, just like I bring my non-water resistant Nexus 2013 tablet and iPad. They sound just as good but none sells for more than about $50 (see the ARCTIC S113BT NFC/Bluetooth 4.0 Stereo Speaker, AAC/aptX, Build-in Microphone for Hands-Free Calls, Black, which also has a protective rubber covering around it). The “water resistant” feature on this product is not worth an extra $20 to me, though perhaps it is to other people.

“Very distinctive look; great features and performance” – Comdet
Score: 5/5 Source: Amazon.com

I’m impressed with this bluetooth speaker. It’s clear some thought went into the design, both from the standpoint of aesthetics as well as functionality.

It looks great. The case is a rubberized material that provides excellent anti-skid properties. It holds fast even when it is on a tilted surface. The speaker grills are metal and have exposed fasteners (sort of mini bolts) that give it an industrial look. The grills are in front of a red colored backing which also adds to the overall look. In short, it looks and feels much better than the typical mini bluetooth speaker.

I’m also impressed with the packaging. Rather than the usual blister pack, it comes in a very nice box with foam padding and a magnetic-closing top. No, that doesn’t add anything to the product performance, but it does tell me that some thought and care went into the presentation of the device, which usually means care went into the building of the device.

The controls are simple and all located on the top. Just 4 buttons with a nice positive click to them. My only quibble with the controls is that the function icons (on/off, vol up/down, phone pickup, etc.) are molded into the buttons in a black-on-black situation. While that keeps the visual clutter down, I’m more of a fan of well-marked buttons. But, with only 4 buttons to keep track of, it’s not a significant problem.

Pairing was simple and straightforward with a couple of devices I tested it with (tablets and phones). It also has direct-connect ability with a 3.5mm cable.

The sound quality is quite good. As expected given the size, this is not a room-filling sound, but there’s a good amount of bass and pretty clear mid-range and treble. It does get a bit harsh at very high volumes, but at normal listening levels the sound quality was very good.

Although it is “rugged” it’s not a leave it out in the rain type of device. It’s ideal for taking along in a backpack since it’s built to deal with bumps and bruises. The rubber case and flap for the charge port/aux port keep it secure from incidental elements (dust, moisture, etc.) that you’d encounter outdoors. But, it’s not something you can dunk into the pool and have it survive.

I’m finding the battery life is a little better than the claimed level of 8 hours. It has a 1800mAh battery, which is pretty good for a device this size. Alas, the battery is not user-replaceable.

All in all, I think this is an excellent bluetooth speaker. Granted, you can spend less and get a speaker that sounds just as good as this. I’ve used several that sound great, but look really plain. I like speakers with a some visual style as well as a good sound. This fits that bill perfectly, plus has a better, more solid build quality than cheaper speakers.
[Sample provided for review]

“Decent sound from a water-resistant speaker” – Yarii “fifty shades of blonde”
Score: 4/5 Source: Amazon.com

*Resistant* is the key word here, not waterproof. I don’t think it would hurt the speaker to get an occasional sprinkle on it, but a sure-fire way to fry the speaker would be to accidentally drop it in water or leave it outdoors during a heavy thunderstorm – don’t do it! I love the soft rubbery feel of the speaker. Good build quality. Since it has a built-in mic, you can also place and receive calls from your cell phone. The sound is decent, but a little light on bass. The bluetooth connection beep is loud and obnoxious. [review sample]
“fm) would cut out for a couple micro seconds every few minutes which quickly became annoying. So i contacted the company” – mark manuel
Score: 2/5 Source: Amazon.com

My music stream (di.fm) would cut out for a couple micro seconds every few minutes which quickly became annoying. So i contacted the company. They asked if I was listening to the speaker via my wifi and I stated yes. Their suggestion to eliminate the music gap…wait for it…use cell data. Um no, returned.
“Great sound for the price” – Raymond
Score: 4/5 Source: Amazon.com

Took it to the beach for a true test. Great sound for the price. Does seem to have higher treble at higher volumes. The surf and crowd noise didn’t drown it out. The only reason I gave it four stars is because the charge light stays illuminated even after a full charge. I brought it to work and a few co-workers are ordering some.
“Good speaker!!” – Diego Chavez
Score: 5/5 Source: Amazon.com

Really good bass and sound quality, the only problem I have is that my devices (iPhone 4 and Kindle fire hd 8.9) have pretty crappy range, I only walk like 10 or less feet and it starts cutting off. This speaker feels good in your hand but tbh it looks smaller than what it looks like in the picture.
“… the boat on the 4th of July because I loved it. Awesome sound quality and I never had …” – sara demory
Score: 5/5 Source: Amazon.com

I wish this didn’t fall off the boat on the 4th of July because I loved it. Awesome sound quality and I never had any issues with connecting my phone. R.I.P. little buddy
“Great little boom box that sits on my desk at …” – John Smith
Score: 5/5 Source: Amazon.com

Great little boom box that sits on my desk at work. The speaker phone is a plus and works well.
Very nice sound for such a small box. I would recommend this product.
“He LOVES it!!!” – EB
Score: 5/5 Source: Amazon.com

Bought this as a christmas gift for my hubby and he can’t get enough of it. Takes it everywhere now. Awesome product. Super fast shipping, came right on time.

 

2015 Newest Model Dell XPS13 Ultrabook Computer – the World’s First 13.3″ FHD WLED Backlit Infinity Display, 5th Gen Intel Core i5-5200U Processor 2.2GHz / 4GB DDR3 / 128GB SSD / Windows 8.1 Reviews

  • The World’s Frst Infinity Display of 13.3″ Full HD (1920 x 1080) Backlit WLED Screen
  • 5th Generation Broadwell Intel Core i5-5200U 2.20 GHz with Turbo Boost Technology up to 2.70 GHz
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM / 128GB SSD / Intel HD Graphics 5500
  • Exceptionally Long-Lasting Battery Life up to 15 hrs
  • Windows 8.1 (64-bit), light weight only 2.6 lbs

Product Reviews

“Dude, I got a Dell!!! And it’s Awesome!!! (Google for the Dell Dude reference. lol)” – Quentin Moore “The Tech Ranker”
Score: 5/5 Source: Amazon.com

Like everyone else, I saw all of the positive press the Dell XPS 13 received during CES 2015. Since the XPS 13 was made available for ordering right after it was announced, and since I needed a new laptop to replace my failed Microsoft Surface Pro 3 experiment, I decided to take a plunge and buy the latest and greatest thing.

I like the Surface Pro 3, but I need a laptop that has good performance + a good keyboard + long battery life. So far the XPS 13 appears to have answered all of my prayers. Here are some of my quick thoughts on the device thus far:

✔ PROS:

– Beautiful “bezel-less” screen. Wide viewing angles. Can be viewed in direct sunlight
– Thin screen bezel allows this 13″ laptop to fit within an 11″ laptop size chassis
– Build quality is solid. There’s no flex in the keyboard or the bottom of the device
– Thin, light weight, and ultra-portable. Its soft touch carbon fiber material looks and feels premium
– Performance is good for a low power, Intel core processor
– You can opt to save money and battery life and get the 1920×1080 non-touch screen model, or you can upgrade to the 3200 x 1800 touch screen model
– HD Video looked good and worked as you expect it to
– While researching Ultrabooks, I found many to have trackpad issues. The XPS 13 doesn’t have this problem. Its trackpad is accurate and nicely sized
– The trackpad allows you to perform some gestures (scrolling, pinch and zoom, etc.) that will help you miss the touch screen less, should you go with the non touch screen model
– It includes 802.11ac dual band Wi-Fi for maximum wireless performance. Bluetooth 4.0 is included as well
– It has a backlit keyboard
– Battery life is great. Plus you can add a small external battery to increase battery life even further
– Low starting price, although I would suggest that most upgrade to the i5, 8GB ram unit.
– It has a full size SD card slot, which should make photographers happy. Note that 1/3 of the SD card protrudes from the slot
– Includes a display port. Optional Dell adapter allows you to add HDMI, VGA, and Ethernet ports. Or you can get a cheap HDMI adapter
– Optional docking station supports up to three external monitors, including 1 4K monitor
– The PCIe M.2 SSD drive is upgradable. Unless you need 512GB, the Dell $100 upgrade to 256GB is a good value.
– You can plug the AC adapter into the optional external battery, then plug the external battery into the XPS to charge the XPS and external battery simultaneously.

✔ CONS:

– The fan kicks in when you are taxing the system. If you use the High Performance power setting, the fan seems to run constantly
– The screen on the touch-screen version is very glossy. I don’t mind glossy but some people will.
– Key travel on the keyboard is a tad bit shallow. It’s not bad but it’s worth noting.
– Due to the thin bezel, the web cam is under the screen. As a result, your fingers may show up on the webcam while you type during webcam sessions
– The body can get warm, although I have yet to experience uncomfortable warmth
– Air vents are on the bottom so be careful about resting the XPS 13 on your bed or rug
– The speakers are on the sides instead of the front and sound tiny
– The low entry price increases quickly once you add a few upgrades
– No HDMI port, although you can add one via an optional Dell Adapter
– No Stylus pen support.
– No 4G option as of this writing
– Don’t expect to play 3D games with this laptop as its integrated graphics can’t handle it

✔ TIPS:

– Just like with all Windows Computers, before you begin using your XPS 13, run Windows Update. Repeat running Windows Update until there are no more updates available.
– If you have the Ethernet equipped Dell adapter accessory, consider using the Ethernet port to speed up the update process.
– If you encounter a failed update, restart your computer and try again. Another thing to try is a clean restart before performing the update. (Google: windows 8 clean restart)
– I find that I get the least amount of fan noise when I use the default Dell Power Settings. In High Performance mode, the fan runs constantly.
– Unless you need 512GB of storage or more, get the Dell $100 256GB SSD upgrade. It’s more economical than an after market upgrade to 256GB (unless you can sell the 128GB PCIe M.2 SSD drive you are replacing)

✔ ACCESSORIES I HAVE:

– The Dell Power Companion 12,000 mAh external battery works great. Plus you can charge it and your XPS 13 with the AC Adapter at the same time
– The Dell Adapter adds these ports to the XPS 13: HDMI, VGA, Ethernet, USB 2.0. I got it primarily to add VGA and Ethernet ports.

✔ TOUCH SCREEN vs NON TOUCH SCREEN:

Non Touch Screen
+ Cheaper! 🙂
+ 15 hours of battery life
+ Matted Screen minimizes glare
– Will not be able to use touch centric, Metro apps
– Lower resolution (1920×1080 vs 3200×1800), although, I doubt most people will miss the bigger resolution

Touch Screen
+ Fully compatible with touch centric, Metro apps
+ Higher resolution screen (3200×1800 vs 1920×1080)
– More Expensive
– Glossy screen leads to more glare
– Less battery life (12 hours) than the other model (15 hours)

✔ Dell XPS 13 vs Lenovo LaVie Z HZ550

Yes, the LaVie is very light but the battery life is only 6 hours. If you are always near a power outlet, this may not be an issue for you. Personally I don’t see the point in having a light and portable laptop that only gets an OEM rated 6 hours of battery life. Real world battery life will likely be less.

The LaVie also has a higher starting price than the XPS 13 ($1299), although, I generally recommend getting at least the $1299 XPS 13. Note that you can often save on Dell laptops via coupons, cash back offers, and finance deals. The LaVie’s high price coupled with the smallish battery makes me think the XPS 13 is the clear winner in this battle of early 2015 Ultrabooks.

✔ BOTTOM LINE:

Between work and personal laptops, I’ve probably used over a dozen laptops over the years. This includes the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 that was supposed to replace laptops but missed the mark (at least for me). Without a doubt, the Dell XPS 13 is my favorite of all time. It’s beautifully designed, it’s light and thin, and it has a solid build. It’s both functional and cool. Depending on whether or not you need the upgrades, it can be had for relatively cheap ($799 minus coupons, cash back offers, and other deals).

My favorite feature is the combination of long battery life, and the ability to further extend its longevity via an optional, small external battery. I purchased this thing for its ability to handle long travel days, long meeting days moving from conference room to conference room without a power cable, and long work sessions at Starbucks. So far, the XPS 13 has worked well for my personal use cases.

There are a few compromises to be aware of, such as the glossy screen, webcam location, and tiny speakers. Also, 3D gamers should definitely choose something else. If these issues do not matter to you, I suspect you will love the Dell XPS 13. It’s a premium device and probably one of the best mainstream laptops Dell has released in years.

✔ DELL COUPONS:

2RRVTDD4TVJMCM – $100 off $999 (expires 1/30/2015)
VPJ1MHN3Z6T6V3 – $75 off $799 (limited time)
D98VWMJMXTZCVZ – 10% off accessories (limited time)
78M4SHHJ4JC9WW – Extra 10% off accessories (limited time)
H3P95KRH?KF5VH – 50% off Dell 12,000 mAh Portable Power Companion – PW7015M (expires 1/30/2015 7am)

** Did you find this review helpful? I hope so! If you have questions about the XPS 13, please post a comment. **

Quick Review” – Wayne Ngo
Score: 5/5 Source: Amazon.com

My configuration: Core i5, 4 GB RAM, 128 GB SSD, 1080p matte display at $899 (Microsoft Store)

Things I Like:

+Looks:
The aluminum finish is extremely clean. It’s a tad darker than Apple’s aluminum finish and both the lid and bottom are solid with that cold metal feel upon touch. The palm rest area has an interesting carbon fiber pattern that adds a unique look and has a very nice soft touch finish. The Dell logos on the lid and beneath the screen is tidy and minimalist.

+Size & Weight:
I considered the MBP 13″ Retina to be one of the smallest 13″ notebooks but the XPS 13 is even smaller thanks to the extremely thin bezels. The XPS 13 may not be the thinnest but it has the smallest foot print of any 13″ notebook – it’s basically the size of the MacBook Air 11″. I am very much enjoying the compact size and the associated lack of weight (2.6 lbs for my model).

+Workmanship:
Fit and finish are impeccable. Despite the small size, the XPS 13 feels extremely solid. The carbon fiber palm rests feel sturdy and rigid and there is no creaking when I put pressure on them. The hinge is nice and tight and there is no screen wobble when typing. There are no gaps between the carbon fiber deck and bottom panel nor are there any between the screen and bezel. The keyboard is rigid on the perimeter and has minimal flex in the center.

+Screen:
I chose the 1080p non touch option because for me, 1080p on a 13″ screen is more than enough. Additionally, it’s matte! I’d pick the matte 1080p panel over the 3200×1800 glossy panel on any day of the week. Having no glare and gaining ~4 hours of battery life is worth more to me than an (unnecessarily) high resolution.

At $899, I was expecting the 1080p screen to be a cheap TN panel, but it’s not! The colors are pretty vibrant and the horizontal and vertical viewing angles are wide. Adjusting the screen angle produces minimal color shifts. With the default scaling to 150% DPI, text is sharp and easy to read. Overall, this is a much, much better panel than that of the MacBook Air’s – I’m absolutely impressed at what you get for this price.

Also, I’ll note that the screen tilts back at a farther angle than the previous model. Standing and using the XPS 13 is comfortable.

+Touchpad:
Most Windows PC touchpads are not so great but Dell has cooperated with Microsoft to make their “Precision” track pad for the XPS 13. Basically, the responsiveness is very close to the MacBook track pads and I haven’t experienced any errant cursor jumps while typing. Coming from a Mac, I got situated pretty easily – the only thing I miss are the touch gestures of OS X.

Pressing on the track pad actuates a rather loud click and the left and right buttons are marked by a painted line. I use tap to click on all track pads so the noise isn’t an issue for me. This is much better than the track pad on the Surface Pro 3’s keyboard cover. The XPS 13’s track pad has less friction and is bigger compared to the coarsely textured track pad of the SP3’s cover. The XPS 13’s track pad is thus much easier to use.

+Keyboard:
Speaking of typing, the keys offer decent travel for the thickness of the machine. I’d say the key travel is similar to the Macbook Air models but slightly shorter. The keyboard is definitely full sized despite the XPS’s compactness and I got used to it very quickly. I’d be pretty satisfied with this keyboard for long periods of work.

The top function rows are inversed – meaning if you press f1 you will mute the volume instead actually activating f1. The f1 key is activated by pressing fn + f1 and so on for f2, f3… I consider this a nice touch that saves time when wanting to adjust basic functions like display and keyboard brightness. However, if you wish to inverse this behavior, just press fn + esc to set the function keys as default.

+Performance:
My Core i5, 4 GB RAM, and 128 SSD model performs perfectly. I’ve not experienced any hiccups or crashes. I mainly use the XPS 13 for MATLAB, CAD through remote desktop connection, MS Office suite, and general internet and email browsing. I also watch the occasional YouTube video but I don’t play any 3D games.

Compared to my Surface Pro 3 (Core i3, 4 GB RAM, 64 GB SSD), the XPS 13 is smoother in every day operation. The Surface Pro 3 suffers from throttling with the Core i5, i7 models so I opted for the lower end Core i3. The Core i3 SP3 unfortunately stutters from time to time and 1080p YouTube videos are slightly choppy. With this experience in mind and the fact that Broadwell only offers at most a 10% performance increase over Haswell, I would steer clear of the Core i3 XPS 13. The $100 upgrade to a Core i5 is a must if you want absolutely smooth performance.

There are people who clamor for 8 GB or 16 GB RAM minimum, but in my experience, you don’t really benefit unless you are doing rendering or other heavy workloads. There is a point of diminishing returns with RAM and this is another debate for another day. For my tasks on a laptop, 4 GB is more than enough. I’ll leave the heavy lifting to a workstation PC.

On a side note, the Intel HD 5500 is capable of driving a 3840 x 2160 (4K) display at 60 Hz through DP 1.2.

+Heat & Noise:
Heat is very minimal even when watching 1080p YouTube videos. While doing lighter tasks like writing this review, I’ve noticed no heat from the palm rest area or upper keyboard deck. Because the lack of heat, the fans have stayed off for the majority of the time I’ve used the XPS 13.

Also, I can report that there is no coil whine for those who used the previous model.

+Battery:
Battery life has been stellar so far. I couldn’t kill the battery in a day with light tasks. Dell rates the battery for the 1080p model at 15 hours but I’d say a more realistic number would be around 11-12 hours. Your mileage may vary of course. I’ll update this section with more usage details and numbers after a week or so.

Update: After 3 weeks of using the XPS 13, I can confidently say the battery life lasts at least 10 hours for moderate usage. I define my moderate usage as using 5+ web pages open with multiple PDFs, Word docs and Excel sheets open at the same time. I can easily get 10 hours using the XPS 13 to code on MATLAB while having reference documents open. To get the 15 hours Dell claims, you would have to be doing light tasks like word processing or browsing the web with a few tabs open while having brightness at 20-30%. For those light tasks, I can easily get 12 hours. I usually always use 50% screen brightness.

+Price:
I believe the 1080p model has the most value of any model. Compared to the MacBook Air 13″, this $899 model has more bang for the buck because of the better screen and smaller size. I would say their battery life are similar but remember that the XPS 13 is driving a higher resolution display at 1920 x 1080 vs. 1440 x 900.

I bought my XPS 13 at the Microsoft Store and used the 10% education discount. On top of this, you can text MSSTORE to 295-02 to get a 4.5% off coupon for any purchase. Basically, I got about $130 off which is a steal. Dell also has $100 coupons (just Google “Dell Coupons”) if you prefer to shop on their website.
——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————
Things I Don’t Like:

-Keyboard:
Backlighting only has 2 settings: high and low – not a big deal to me but may matter to some.

-Ports:
Only mini Display Port – you will need to carry a dongle around if you give presentations often. However, an SD card reader is included unlike last year’s model!

-Webcam:
The angle is awkward because you can see you fingers if you type while video conferencing.

-Ventilation:
Unfortunately, the XPS 13 has an air intake at the bottom. This means you shouldn’t use it on your carpet or bed if you want to avoid overheating. There is a ridge that helps raise the intake above the floor but I’m not a big fan of this design. I much prefer the MacBook Pro’s side intakes and back vents.
However, I think this should be fine for using on your lap – I’ll update this section in a week or so.

-Speakers:
These aren’t the loudest but serviceable for my tasks. They fire from the sides if that helps anyone.
——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————
Conclusion as of 1/19/15:

As an engineering student heading into the field and running a business on the side – I can whole-heartedly recommend the XPS 13 for anyone needing an ultra-mobile computing package. It’s small, it’s light, and the battery goes and goes.

I think Dell has really stepped up their game in manufacturing and design. Fit and finish are top notch and they refined the previous design by removing the thick bezels and increasing battery life. For me, the 2015 XPS 13 ticks all the right boxes because Dell nailed the core functionality (performance and battery life) and user experience(matte screen, good keyboard and track pad).
——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————
Update 2/10/15:
After using the XPS 13 for 3 weeks, here are some of my thoughts:

+ I wish they made an extrusion at the front of the laptop so you can lift the screen up easily. Opening the lid is usually a 2 handed operation.
+ I haven’t had any overheating problems using this on my lap. I looked at the tear-down of the XPS 13 and there is 1 small fan positioned at the left edge of the underside vents so there is plenty of room for air to be sucked in thanks to the sheer size of the intake vents.
+ Under similar workloads, the XPS 13 is cooler than my Surface Pro 3 with Core i3. The excellent thermal management of the XPS 13 is well documented in notebookcheck.net if you want a more detailed review.
+ The exterior finish is free of scratches and dents. No wear of the carbon fiber deck or track pad.
– The track pad can sometimes get confused when you click on something and would register as a double click. This is disappointing because the multi-touch gestures work pretty well. I hope that Dell will release a firmware update for this. Fortunately, this happens only occasionally.
– The display has automatic dimming built in that you can’t disable. This is very hard to notice, but if you are looking for it, you will notice. Apparently, this helps increase the battery life by dynamically darkening or brightening the screen based on the colors displayed. This dimming is very gradual and isn’t noticeable during regular usage.

XPS 13 – 2015 – Signature Edition from Microsoft Store” – Robert Francis
Score: 5/5 Source: Amazon.com

Other reviewers have dealt with specs. I’d like to share more general impressions.

This machine strikes me as the most unusual, unexpected, and exciting development in the laptop market since the Macbook Air debuted in 2008 and perhaps before that when the Titanium G4 Powerbook appeared back in 2000. (A close runner up would be the X1 Carbon from Lenovo.)

There are several things about this computer that haven’t ceased to impress me from the time I brought it home a week ago.

I can’t overstate the pleasure of the “infinity display.” The effect is something like the vastly greater sense of immersion people felt when first using the iPad and its full-screen apps. But here it’s different. It’s not the full screen effect so much as a kind of “levitating” screen effect. It’s as though you’re staring at a screen and nothing else. There is no edge or border to it. When you expand an app to take up the whole screen, you see the app and nothing but a thin black line edging the screen—not quite “framing it,” but edging it. Everything looks punchier. Cleaner. More elegant.

The next most noticeable feature is the size and scale. Staring at the screen, I see that it’s bigger than other computers I’ve used—the surface, the 12.5” thinkpad yoga–but at the same time, it’s much smaller. It’s a strange optical illusion. I see more screen, but feel less computer on my lap or in my hands. Carrying it also feels so much lighter than the 13” Air or 12” thinkpads I’ve used.

I also really like the keyboard, and this too was a pleasant surprise. When I tried the display model at the Microsoft Store, I found the keyboard distractingly shallow. It was almost a deal-breaker for me. Many of the reviews complained about the shallowness of the travel but said it isn’t as bad as the keyboards on macbook airs or pros (which are very shallow). Despite being sensitive to this detail, I thought I’d take a chance and just buy the machine and return it if I didn’t like it.

I may have ended up with a great specimen, by luck, but I suspect not. In any case, the keyboard is fantastic—and oddly enough, it’s one of my favourite features. The travel is not as deep as it is on a thinkpad, but as I discovered here, it’s the quality of the travel that matters. (I know I’m getting very geeky here!) I think in this case it has to do with the nature of the materials used in the XPS, the seating, the casing, etc – whatever it is, the keys have a really satisfying springiness and clack to them, such that even though they don’t travel far, they feel great to type on. The backlighting is a nice touch too, though I’m disappointed to see that the lights don’t stay on (even when plugged in). It would be nice if they did, but it’s not fatal.

There has also been some discussion in the forums about the adaptive brightness issue with the screen. This is certainly an issue, and I would prefer that the screen didn’t have this odd quirk. But given how many other things they got absolutely right with this machine – and how unique it is – I’m prepared to overlook this. It’s also not bad enough to be all that distracting. It’s noticeable, but slight.

I have the 4gig, 128 model, with matte screen. If I could pay another $100 or two to have 8 gigs of ram, I might think about it. But so far, 4 hasn’t been an issue. (I use it only for typing, email, and light surfing.) Even if it were an issue, though, I’d be reluctant to return the model I happen to have, because I’m inclined to think I got an especially good one and wouldn’t want to take my chances…

If you appreciate good design and true innovation in tech, check this out. It’s a genuinely new experience as far as laptops go—and pictures don’t do it justice. The changes here are slight in theory but significant in practice. It’s a gem of a computer. Kuddos to the designers and engineers.

beautifully designed, but flawed and buggy” – pjs
Score: 3/5 Source: Amazon.com

The laptop is beautifully designed, has great specs, and is a good value. If all went well, this would be the ideal laptop. I switched from Mac just because of this model. But the fan is absurdly loud. It runs virtually non-stop, even when the laptop is not used for CPU intensive purposes. (It’s louder than my desktop fan.) The touchpad is overly sensitive, jerky, intermittent, and sometimes non-responsive. The battery life isn’t anywhere close to the advertised duration. The keyboard is nice, but oftentimes doubles a pressed key (e.g. two letters instead of just one). Maybe future generations of this laptop will have these issues resolved. In the meantime, though, these design flaws really undermine the full potential of this product.

UPDATE 4/1/15

Dell replaced the laptop, and the replacement is much better. The trackpad is solid, and the keyboard is much sturdier. The keys still sometimes double up, but less frequently. The fan was screaming out of the box, but a BIOS update seems to have calmed it significantly. So, it seems that Dell are working out the kinks. I will post a further update once I’ve had more time with the new machine.

UPDATE 4/29/15

The fan noise appears to be fixed. The BIOS update helped, and you can further control it with the power management settings. It hasn’t been a problem for me in weeks.

The remaining weak spots are the trackpad and keyboard. The trackpad is much better than on the first generation model but still nowhere close to Apple’s: it’s jerky, not as precise as the name “precision trackpad” would suggest, and if you rest your thumb on it by accident, it doesn’t respond when you try to control the pointer with your other finger, whereas the Mac trackpad is smart enough to overlook the resting thumb. Maybe future driver updates will fix this. The keyboard seems too sensitive, and doubles up many of the keys. I type fast and press the keys pretty hard, but I’ve used hundreds of keyboards in my life, and I’ve never had this problem before, so I don’t think the fault is entirely mine. I suspect future generations of the keyboard will have this resolved, too.

Other than that, this laptop is a beauty. If it weren’t for these remaining imperfections with the keyboard and trackpad, I’d give it 5 starts.

The laptop that finally switched me back to Windows” – Y. Zhou
Score: 5/5 Source: Amazon.com

I have been using Macbooks for the last 5 years as my main laptop preference. I have tried Windows laptops over the years but never really found one that I preferred over a MacBook. I was running with the MacBook Air 13″ 2014 before buying this, but have used the pro and retina models as well. Here is a pros/cons and comparison to my old MacBook.

I bought the i5, 4gb, 128gb, and 1080p model.

PROS:

– Lightweight. It’s a little thicker than my MacBook Air but it’s smaller in width and length.
– Screen. A lot better than the TN panel on the Air. Viewing angles are great! Very bright screen. I like that it’s a matte over glossy but that’s a personal preference.
– Bezels. The bezels just makes everything look sexy about this laptop. I changed the Windows theme to black to match the laptop.
– Battery Life seems decent. Not as much as my Air’s but it gets me through the day. I’m estimating about 8-10 hours or realistic usage.
– Charger Power Brick. Dell seemed to have copied Apple’s MacBook charger. They made the charger so that you can directly plug the power brick into the outlet. I always like this feature on the MacBook chargers so that I don’t have to lug around an extra wire with me along with the brick. Just seems more simpler this way. They also give you a wire if you’re used to that. They also have a light at the tip of the charger so you know where it is in the dark.
– Sound. For a laptop this size, the sound is surprisingly loud. Speakers are on the left and right side of the laptop. Don’t expect quality audio though.
– Keyboard. Some people complain that there’s flex in the keyboard. I didn’t really notice any.
– Price. When Dell first introduced this laptop with the thin bezels, I thought they would jack up the price unreasonably high for early adopters. When they announced that it was starting at $799, I was really surprised. There is definitely a premium to pay for the touchscreen and higher res models. Be warned: the higher res touchscreen models will noticeably reduce your battery life.

CONS:

– Microphone. I had a Skype chat but it was hard for the other person to hear what I say. He said my voice went in and out and was inconsistent.
– Trackpad. Coming from a MacBook, I may be spoiled by their trackpad. This one just can’t compare. The XPS’s was decent for a Windows trackpad though. Two finger scrolling jumps around a lot making me miss things on webpages.
– Opening the lid. There is no real place for you to put your finger under to open up the laptop. It’s almost always a 2 handed operation. It only requires 1 finger to open up pretty much every MacBook built after 2009.
– Connectivity. The only video output it has is a mini-displayport. I can’t really blame them due to the small size but I rather take an HDMI port.
Comparison to Macbooks:
– Much cheaper.
– Build quality is slightly below a MacBook (small keyboard flex), but more stylish.
– Louder speakers
– Better screen than non-retina macbooks
– More portable than most Macbooks
– Worse trackpad, worse lid mechanism, worse battery,

CONCLUSION:
Despite the cons, this is the best laptop in the market for the price. I do not think the premium higher res models are worth it though. If you’re a long time Windows user, this laptop is the best portable option out there that provides a complete package. If you’re coming from a MacBook, I wouldn’t say this laptop is a huge upgrade, so it really depends on your OS preference. I chose to go back to windows mainly because of its compatibility with games.

A very nice ultrabook spoiled by a wonky trackpad” – Jeff2468
Score: 3/5 Source: Amazon.com

I really wanted to like the new XPS 13 1080P non-touchscreen model that I tried with Windows 8. The computer is sleek and light, had a very nice screen and a very usable keyboard for a computer this thin and light. I had all day battery life and liked that the media keys were the default rather than requiring the use the fn key, which is reversible in the BIOS if you prefer. Backlit keyboard was well done. The 256GB solid state drive I ordered was very fast and boot times were only a few seconds. The wireless 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0, Dual Band 2.4 & 5GHz, 2×2 radio was very slow and short range on 2.4GHz, half the speed and significantly less range than my old VAIO on 2.4GHz, but the 5GHz radio was as fast as my VAIOs 2.4 GHz with a little less range providing approximately 50Mbps+ down and 25Mbps+ up. I have an old Belkin dual band router with Comcast cable and was therefore unable to test the AC radio.

Unfortunately I was unable to live with the trackpad which has known issues. Dell already posted a firmware update that I flashed which improved the trackpad a little but it was still too wonky for me. The cursor doesn’t react until I move my finger a mm or so and then jumps past where I want to be if I am trying for just a small movement. In addition, the cursor often jumps off the button or location I am trying to select when removing my finger from the trackpad. Palm rejection when typing seems non-existent with touch select for the trackpad turned on in PC settings and still unacceptable when touch select is turned off. The cursor is very sensitive to location on buttons and doesn’t recognize a button unless exactly centered on the button. Also, there are only a few multi-touch features available on this “precision touchpad,” it doesn’t have the option to swipe for forward or backwards on websites or recognize 3 or 4 finger gestures. The home button requires holding the fn key to go to the top of the page. Because of these trackpad deficiencies I returned the computer to Dell yesterday. I don’t know how many stars to give, if it weren’t for the trackpad I would give this computer 4 or 4.5 stars, for me personally it is unusable and therefore 1 star.

Un-upgradable RAM” – Roda Ruus
Score: 4/5 Source: Amazon.com

Almost perfect computer in any way BUT for some reason the DELL people decided to make it almost completely un-upgradable
you can upgrade the SSD drive ( you need to take all computer apart in order to do so – but still – it’s doable)
but you CANT upgrade your RAM.
So if you buy it with 4gb it will stay forever this way.
There is no expansion slots for it.
And initial RAM is build in on the motherboard.
Review from a Computer Science Major (Student)” – kindle fire
Score: 4/5 Source: Amazon.com

I ordered the UltraSharp QHD (3200 x 1800 resolution), 8gigs of Ram, Core i7 version of this beautiful laptop with Windows 8 Pro (over $1600).
I sold my 13” Macbook Air (2014 edition) for this and I can honestly say I’m satisfied.
But before I sold it, I tested both of them first to see if I truly loved it. First noticeable differences…- Speakers: The Dell is definitely louder than the Macbook Air. Granted, at full volume, the speakers’ sounded a little statically so it’s best it on a littler lower setting.- Screen: Soooooo much better than the Macbook Air. And the brightness is better too. I have this device on 20% brightness whenever I’m at a coffee shop doing my assignments. I do get a little bit of glare from the ceiling lights, but you can angle the screen more than the Macbook Air by a good extra degrees.

– Body: I love the fact that it’s carbon fiber inside and it doesn’t get cold like my Macbook Air. I can open this and rest my palms on it right away so I can start working (my house is usually 60 degrees). The aluminum is darker than the Macbook Air by a few shades sort of like a lead color on a piece of white paper. This weighs lighter but only a few grams. If both of them are laid out on the table, the Dell is slightly taller than the Macbook but the body is smaller like the Macbook 11” Air. The compact design is great.

– Keyboard: The backlight only has three modes: High, low, off. I usually have it on low and the backlight will switch itself off if left untyped after a few seconds (to conserve battery). Since the inner body is all black, the backlight keyboard gives off a nice glow. Typing on it is good. It did take a bit of a learning curve to get use to typing on a compact size. I don’t have thick fingers so if you have man hands then it might be a problem.

– TrackPad: It’s alright. I got to admit, I do miss the Macbook trackpad a lot on this area. It does have some of the features but I find myself struggling to have some reaction to it whenever I touch it. I later discovered that the finger should be placed directly in the middle if you want to scroll or pinch.

– Performance: It may vary depending on what is loaded in your computer and the CPU/RAM that is installed. Since I got the highest end model, so far no hiccups or lags whenever I load in my program. I use Firefox as my browser so it works great on this laptop. But I am concern about how much RAM it takes up whenever I’m using it… This could take away battery life.

– Battery: I was informed that 15 hours battery life is possible on this laptop, 12 hours if it’s the touch screen and QHD model (which I have). I don’t know if it’s my Core i7, or my antivirus (BitDefender) constantly running in the background along with my Firefox, but on average I get about 7-8 hours of battery life. I had to get the Dell battery companion just so I can get 2-3 more hours out of it. So together, basically 9-10 hours average. The Macbook Air is better at this topic, I got 10-12 hours without a battery companion so I will miss that a little. I usually stay at a coffee shop for 8 hours when I’m doing my assignments so don’t worry about finding an outlet if this is you.

Overall, great purchase. I was hesitant at first since this is an expensive laptop. But once I got used to it, I let go my Macbook Air go. There is one thing I will miss about Macbook the most…. Opening it with one hand. When opening the Dell, there’s no lip for the fingers to grasp on. I usually have to open this laptop vertically with my thumb grasping each plate. It’s not much of a struggle but gosh… I will miss that the most.

Good ultrabook with some trade-offs (vs ThinkPad X1 Carbon)” – The GOAT
Score: 4/5 Source: Amazon.com

I bought the new Dell XPS 13 despite having always preferred ThinkPads (mainly because of the quality keyboards and “UltraNav” dual trackpad and pointer). I decided to go with the Dell because of the innovative packaging and the lower price. The Dell was about $300 less than a comparable, and bigger, ThinkPad X1 Carbon (14″). I originally lamented the lack of an i7 option, which was available on the ThinkPad (for even more money). Now I think the i5 is sufficient, and it appears Dell plans to offer an i7 XPS 13. I’m not convinced I made the right choice yet, but so far the good outweighs the bad.

First, my system specs. I decided on the base model matte FHD (1920×1080) display because of better battery life and the fact that I hate touch screens. (I don’t want to see finger smudges while I’m trying to work.) I got an i5 5200U (which runs 2.2GHz) with 8GB RAM and the 256GB SSD. The dell product page gives most of the necessary info:
http://www.dell.com/us/p/xps-13-9343-laptop/pd?ref=PD_OC

Full specs can be downloaded here (which shows an i7 option):
http://downloads.dell.com/Manuals/all-products/esuprt_laptop/esuprt_xps_laptop/xps-13-9343-laptop_Reference%20Guide_en-us.pdf

Before the good, is the awesome… the physical design, size, weight, and screen. The new XPS is gorgeous. It looks like a little MacBook, and that’s not a bad thing. The exterior, both top and bottom, is real aluminum, not painted plastic. It’s not flimsy either; about 1.5mm thick all the way around the edge. There’s also blessedly little clutter and stickers. There’s an “Intel inside CORE i5” sticker on the palm rest and that’s it. The bottom has a magnetic, spring-loaded metal latch that covers the mandatory government info. There’s a single, long vent that runs along the bottom and eight exposed screws (more on those later). I’ll include a picture of the bottom since there isn’t one on the Dell website.

The size and weight are self-explanatory from the specs, but you really have to see this next to other laptops to appreciate it. My former ThinkPad X300 was the smallest laptop I’d used prior to this. The XPS 13 makes that ThinkPad (Lenovo’s first response to the MacBook Air) look clunky. The screen is only 4mm thick. The front edge is also 4mm, although the bottom angles away so the laptop is actually 15mm thick at the front (and 20mm at the rear). Dell’s specs are smaller, but I suspect they’re ignoring the rubber pads on the bottom.

The screen is the other bright spot for the Dell. The comparable ThinkPad (1920×1080) comes with a TN display, rather than an IPS panel like the XPS 13. Even at 40% brightness on battery power, the screen is great at every angle. I don’t know why someone would pay extra for the QHD+ (3200×1800) display, especially since Windows and many software programs do not scale well. If you’re the type who insists on 20 mega pixel cameras to post pictures to Facebook, you probably don’t mind spending extra (money and battery life) for “the best,” but the FHD display is plenty good. (If you want a touch screen, you have to go with a QHD+ screen… and a heavier laptop.)

Other goodness that surprised me include Dell’s customer support, the relative lack of bloatware, battery life, and the speed/silence of the hardware. I had issues with the website, but each time I wrote an e-mail, I was promptly contacted by customer support and they resolved the problem. They even sent me recovery media (on an 8GB USB3 flash drive). It’s not the factory image my XPS 13 came with, but it gives you a clean version of Windows 8.1 with only two installed programs (Dell Rescue and Recovery and My Dell), and no drivers… a great option for DIY-types.

While Lenovo is having some issues with Malware, Dell has surprisingly little pre-installed software (based on my previous experience). Sadly, one of those is McAfee. I wish Dell offered an option to exclude this. Instead, you get a choice of 12 months or 36 months (for an extra charge). It can be removed, but you have to go to the McAfee website to download an uninstaller. Here’s a list of all the pre-installed software (not including drivers):

– Dell Applications:
— MyDell (PC Doctor)
— Dell Backup and Recovery
— Dell Data Services
— Dell Digital Delivery
— Dell Foundation Services
— Dell Product Registration
— Dell Update
– Dropbox
– McAfee LiveSafe (with 12 month subscription)
– Microsoft Office 2013 (which you have to pay for if you want to use it)

The Backup and Recovery software can be used to create factory restore DVDs (needs two DVDs), but that’s about it. It constantly bugs you to pay for an upgrade, which can be used to create images and manage software backups (all of which Windows can do anyway). The benefit (I guess) is that you can store your images and backups on Dell servers. I’m not sure it uninstalls cleanly, because I’ve seen the icon appear on the system tray.

There are a lot of people complaining that battery life on the XPS 13 doesn’t match the advertised 15 hours. I don’t think they read the fine print. Dell says the 15 hours is for web browsing on the FHD display at 40% brightness. I haven’t sat at the computer for 15 straight hours, but I think that number is pretty close. I did read a review that showed only 6 hours of battery life, but that was playing HD video. BTW, the Dell has a higher capacity battery than the larger ThinkPad X1 Carbon.

One of the first things I noticed was the eerie silence when I first booted up the XPS 13. The i5 doesn’t even break a sweat in day-to-day computing (Word, Excel, web, etc.). I’ve only heard the cooling fan turn on once in two weeks and even then, it wasn’t very loud. That includes several factory restores as I played with installing and uninstalling various things.

Unfortunately, it’s not all sunshine with the XPS. The operating system and keyboard make for daily frustration. The XPS 13 only comes with Windows 8.1. You can still get a ThinkPad with Windows 7, but you have to pay $50 extra. I wish there was a way to disable the Metro interface and all the associated worthless apps. I have “Classic Start Menu” and can almost exclusively stay on the desktop, but every now and then an app will load and I have to use Task Manager to kill those memory hogs. Another annoyance is the lack of DVD or Blu-ray capability. I know Microsoft has to pay for the licenses, but it was only about $2 for Windows 7 to play DVDs. I’m disappointed that Dell didn’t provide codecs, even if it was an optional charge. I would’ve paid to avoid a third-party player.

If you need your laptop for a lot of video chats, you may want to avoid the XPS 13. The cost of the fancy display is a bottom-left mounted camera. The people on the other end will mainly see your left hand, and when that’s not in the way, they’ll get a good view up your nostrils. Fortunately, I don’t need the camera so it’s not a big deal to me.

Another annoyance is the lack of a “stereo mix” record option. I’m not sure if that’s Windows 8.1, or Dell modifying the RealTek driver options. I used to use “stereo mix” to capture sound bites on my old computer (RealTek HD audio codec), but the only option on the XPS 13 is microphone. The system uses an I2S controller and RealTek HW audio codec. I couldn’t find a standalone driver from RealTek.

I definitely miss my UltraNav pointing stick, which serves for both scrolling and cursor movement on a ThinkPad. It allows you to work much more efficiently, without having to take your hands off the keyboard. I can almost deal with not having a pointing stick, but the Dell keyboard is horrible compared to a ThinkPad keyboard. It’s not nearly as tactile or smooth, but the design itself is what drives me nuts. The compromises for the smaller size seem to be from designers who don’t actually use keyboards. The lack of dedicated scroll keys (Home, End, PgUp, PgDn) definitely slows down my productivity.

Another issue with the XPS 13 is the lack of a true port replicator. Dell offers a USB port replicator, but that’s not as elegant as the ThinkPad solution (which uses a single connector to the laptop). I use my XPS 13 as a desktop replacement, but I have to connect three cables: power, USB and mini-DP (both to my Dell U2415 monitor). That also means I can’t turn on my computer without opening the screen, which then changes my display resolution.

One more positive note for the Dell… maybe, because I won’t know for sure for two or three years. Those exposed screws on the bottom of the XPS 13 mean it’s somewhat easy to open up and replace the battery. The folks at ifixit.com go through all the stops to completely disassemble the XPS 13 and they conclude it’s reasonably easy to work on for such a small laptop. I’m hoping Dell makes batteries available whenever it comes time to replace mine.

After all that, should you get an XPS 13? That depends on your priorities. A friend of mine insists on a 17″ screen for his “laptop.” Unless you’re an NBA player, that’s not really a laptop. Portability was key for me even though I use this as my daily computer. If your time away from a real keyboard is limited, the XPS 13 is definitely the way to go. Ask me again in a few months if I ever get over the frustrating keyboard.

Dell XPS 13 with Infinity Display (2015)” – THOR’S HAMMER
Score: 5/5 Source: Amazon.com

It’s been roughly 3 years since I’ve last upgraded my laptop, which is long overdue considering the progressive leap in technology in recent years. My main criteria for my next laptop consists of:

– Portable thin and light (3 lb or less)
– Stylish design, not boxy
– At least 1080p screen resolution
– 4GB of ram minimum (prefer 8GB)

Of course, most of the things listed above can be found in most ultrabooks these days. However, it is Dell’s latest model that really shined in this year’s CES show in Las Vegas.

Screen

First thing anyone’s going to notice from this laptop is it’s stunning, nearly bezel-free Infinity Display. Notably, this is not the UltraSharp Quad HD 3200 x 1800 resolution model featured on the higher specced variation. Despite this, the 1080p display still retains the thin, thin 5mm border and sleek form factor and very impressive bright viewing angles. More importantly, I was able to see noticeable improvements in battery life over the higher resolution counterpart.

Design

The XPS 13 is comprised of high quality materials like the aluminum lid and carbon-fiber palm rest. Despite being under 3 lbs, the laptop was still considerably solid, with virtually no flex to the keyboard. Speaking of which, the keyboard is chiclet styled with the much appreciated backlight. Another appreciated feature: there is a battery indicator light located on the left

The large clickpad-style touchpad is similar to what’s been used on many other high-end systems. It works fine for basic navigating and tapping or clicking. Since there’s no touchscreen here, this is important.

Processor

This is one of the very first 2015 laptop models to feature Intel’s latest 5th gen. Broadwell Core i5 (5200U) processors. I saw a considerable boost in speed, responsiveness, and multitasking prowess in most mainstream tasks, like Microsoft Office, HD Twitch streaming, Photoshop, and iTunes. The sluggishness experienced on the Core M variant chips are absent here, thankfully.

No Like:

– Webcam is relocated to the bottom left portion of the display due to the thin bezel
– No touchscreen feature for this model
– Only 2 USB 3.0 ports (none of the new USB standard)
– Display port instead of dedicated HDMI port
– Built-in speakers are a bit tinny at higher volume levels (common among many Ultrabooks)
– Only 128 GB SSD and 4GB ram for this model
– Only one color choice available so far

Overall, I still find this to be one of the most aesthetically pleasing and good performance portable laptop of early 2015. Recommended!

NETGEAR ProSAFE GS728TP 24-Port Gigabit PoE Smart Switch 10/100/1000Mbps Reviews

  • 24 auto-sensing Gigabit RJ45 ports + 4 SFP Gigabit Fiber Ports
  • 24 Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) ports including 8 PoE+ (803at) ports, 192w total PoE budget
  • Comprehensive networking features such as VLAN, QoS, IGMP and MLD snooping, Static Routing, Link Aggregation, ACL
  • Auto Voice/Video VLAN speed up VoIP and IP Surveillance deployments
  • Easy to use Web management GUI, IPv6 management supported
  • LIFETIME WARRANTY
  • LIFETIME Advanced Tech Support via chat

Product Reviews

“Great PoE Switch” – gray-eagle
Score: 5/5 Source: Amazon.com

The main reason I selected this switch was the energy budget of 192 watts. I did not need half this much but the next size down fell short by about 10 watts. When you first power up, it takes longer than non PoE switches to boot. It has to look at the power demands in addition to IP address and other constraints.

That said, I installed this switch three months ago to connect to and to power multiple wireless access points for a large multi story building. Configuration is accomplished via browser. After several reboots during the configuration it has not been necessary to reboot or in any other way deal with this switch. If I do have to deal with it, it has it’s own IP address so I can log into it remotely.

“Great PoE for the price” – FLI IT Dept
Score: 5/5 Source: Amazon.com

we bought two of these for a new place and they work perfectly. They are connected with a fiber backbone and one of them is connecting and giving power to 12 Cisco access points, the second one connects 6 access points and 6 phones with the PoE.
We couldn’t be more happy about them.
“Switcharama Powerama” – Brian Flores
Score: 5/5 Source: Amazon.com

One of our favorite 24 poet POE switches. Install the crap out of them. Powers polycom phones, Access Points, and IP cameras. And, has 4 SFP GBIC ports. Getcha-sum.
“Another happy Netgear customer” – James Mullen
Score: 5/5 Source: Amazon.com

This is probably overkill for my home network but more and more devices are supporting POE so I justified the upgrade. I have a few cameras and will soon be installing a few POE access points within the next month. As near as I can tell this switch has plenty of capacity for my power needs and I’ve had it running for about a month without any issues.
“Excellent PoE Switch!” – D. Matheny
Score: 5/5 Source: Amazon.com

We have been using a Netgear ProSAFE GS752TP 48-Port Gigabit PoE Switch to power the network and VOIP phones in our office for the last year.

It’s worked extremely well; so, when we expended into a new section of the office, we decided to use this smaller version to expand our network.

Fortunately, the performance of this GS728TP is just as good as the original switch – and our phones and network are continuing to run perfectly.

Here are the things we like about these switches:

1) The performance is excellent. We’re running a total of 21 IP phones as well as computers and servers through these two switches without any hick-ups.

2) They auto-detect whether a device needs power or not, and automatically supply power if needed. There isn’t any problem with running PoE and non-PoE equipment through the same switch.

3) The GUI isn’t perfect; but, it isn’t bad either. I can only access it using Internet Explorer in ‘Compatibility Mode’, so keep that in mind – Chrome doesn’t work at all.

Even though I’m definitely giving the router a well-deserved 5 stars, there are some issues to be aware of:

1) The VLAN stuff isn’t very intuitive, and it’s spread between several different menus – which makes it even more complicated. Even the Netgear support people had trouble figuring out what the settings should be to get it working…

2) This switch absolutely did NOT like Netgear’s own Prosecure UTM-9 Router. Originally, I thought the problem was with the switch; but, we ended up moving over to a Peplink Balance 305 Router, and the problems completely went away. With the UTM-9, our IP phones were almost unusable with this switch; but, they’re working better than ever with the Peplink 305. (We did work with Netgear support on this, but they couldn’t figure out what the problem was either.)

I know this switch is expensive (at least compared to the switch we were using); but, if you’re looking to get good bandwidth, combined with reliable PoE capabilities, I would highly recommend it. This has been well worth the money for us – and we’re able to discard all those irritating power bricks that came with the phones. 🙂

“Quality Unit” – R. Foy “Techsity”
Score: 5/5 Source: Amazon.com

Easy to install and works like a charm…PoE is the way to go! I have 20 IP phones connected no power adapter needed
“Good price on a just what I needed to switch …” – A.P. Henderson
Score: 5/5 Source: Amazon.com

Good price on a just what I needed to switch office over to VOIP using PoE ports which this has plenty of. Also has automatic configuration of vLANs to separate the phones on the network. Very easy setup, no problems.
One minor issue which I’m not deducting for in this review but which should not have happened: there was a slight noise when first powering on the device. I didn’t have time to send it back so, reluctantly, I opened it – which didn’t require breaking any seals. With the cover off it was easy to see that the noise was coming from a wire that had apparently moved during shipping and was interfering with the cooling fan. I rerouted the wire and the noise disappeared.
“Noisy fan” – D. Coral
Score: 4/5 Source: Amazon.com

This switch has some wonderful features but.. the two fans on the side are unusually annoying sounding even when there is no PoE load when no cables are plugged in. It sounds like grandma’s old refrigerator from across the room. Although it’s not super loud, even the “gentle” fan noise becomes rather annoying when it sounds like mini gears turning plus a metallic tunnel sound of a whirring fridge compressor. I didn’t want to risk the noise again, so when I decided on a replacement I went with the Cisco SG300-10MPP which is fanless and has 10 PoE+ ports and super reliable as well.
“The unit was easy to set up and work great” – Staybright
Score: 5/5 Source: Amazon.com

I bought this to provide a central switch for my home ethernet system. The unit was easy to set up and work great. I love the fact that you can see with a glance whether the interconnected units are running at gigabit speeds or not.
The web interface is very intuitive and easy to use as such.
The fans are fairly quiet but I am glad I mounted my rack in the garage. Putting this in an out of the way closet or the garage like I did is the best way to go I believe.
“Works” – Lauren C
Score: 2/5 Source: Amazon.com

Works as described. Sometimes the web interface loads, sometimes it takes a long time to load, sometimes it doesn’t load at all, which is annoying. Interface has a couple confusing sections. For instance, there is no “firmware upgrade” section, you have to “download” the firmware to the switch, then choose the newer image under the “dual image configuration.”

Yamaha NSIW960 2-Way Speaker Review

  • Crossover Type-2-way;Minimum Frequency Response-50 Hz; Physical Characteristics-Weight (Approximate)-6.20 lb.;
  • Crossover Frequency-6.50 kHz; Maximum Frequency Response-28 kHz;
  • PMPO Output Power-150 W;Impedance-8 Ohm;
  • Dual 6.5″ Kevlar cone woofers
  • 1″ titanium swivel dome tweeter
  • 150-Watt maximum input capability
  • High-capacity, high-quality customized crossover network
  • Gold-plated push-type speaker terminals

Product Reviews

“Great sound” – Anthony
Score: 5/5 Source: Amazon.com

I purchased 3 and hooked them in a LCR setup for my basement 7.1 theater and I’m amazed with the clear sound I’m getting out of the 3 front speakers and the 4 NS-IW470- 6.5″ surround speakers also Yamaha, I would recommend this set up to anyone.
“Solid, high quality speaker” – Dave
Score: 4/5 Source: Amazon.com

Recently upgraded my receiver and wanted to clean up my home theater space so I decided to get rid of my bookshelf speakers and mount something in the wall. Having always been a fan of Yamaha, I took a look at their in-wall line and liked the look of the 760s and 960s. Specs were very similar between their single-woofer models and the duals and I thought that I’d like the look of the duals a bit more; and for slightly more ($20 per speaker) the 960s add 20W of power and have Kevlar woofers, which I am hoping may last a little longer than the coated paper.

Have had them for several months now so they’ve had time to break in, and these are nice, natural-sounding speakers. I listen to music CDs or concert DVDs more than movies and, when in pure stereo mode, these 960s have a very life-like staging. If you have a passive subwoofer or one with relatively low power, you may want to opt for an 8-inch single-woofer model, like the Polk MC85, that will give you a deeper response; if you have a decent sub and need your fronts to concentrate on the mids and highs, the 960s should be quite pleasing. And with handling of 150W, they can fill a decent sized room with no problem.

As far as installation, these were a breeze. Supplied is a template – simply trace it and cut out your drywall. Attach your speaker wire to the binding posts, press the speaker into the hole and tighten the 6 screws. And if you’re painting them before installation, Yamaha includes a plastic tray that fits snuggly into the groove where the grill fits – just put that in place and spray paint the frames, and do the grills as well. I’d suggest spraying both sides of the grill to make sure you’ve covered the inside of the holes. I matched them to my wall color and they blend into the decor nicely; if you’d rather paint them black to compliment your flat-screen monitor, I’m sure that would look great as well.

In all, the 960s are a solid flush-mount speaker. Good power, nice sound and simple installation. Decent buy at $199 each, but a great buy from Amazon at under $100 each.

“Great speaker – but hard to install as a center” – Do-It Yourselfer
Score: 3/5 Source: Amazon.com

We selected this speaker as a center channel for our home theater system. The sound is fantastic, but because of the size, it won’t fit between two studs, so you end up having to cut studs and frame around the speaker. It would be a 5-star product for vertical installation (which would be EXTREMELY easy, but for horizontal installation…Let’s just say that I would probably choose something else if I were to do it again.
“great center channel” – Amazon Customer
Score: 4/5 Source: Amazon.com

First let me start by saying this thing sounds great. The bad thing is most houses have 16″ stud spacing. If you are actually constructing a room, plan for this. You’ll need 24″ stud spacing. Now, if this fits the bill and you’re able to fit this, you’ll love it. The clarity is excellent. You hear every bit of what you should with a center channel. The dual kevlar woofers are well built, the tweeter is crisp, construction quality is top notch, and the grill is elegantly curved versus flat. I didn’t use the “glue” to hold the grill on. It stays on without the mess. The color, like most in wall or in ceiling speakers, is more off white, so don’t expect brilliant white. I gave it a 4 star because of the width restriction.
“Yamaha NS-IW960 In-Wall Speaker” – David B. Katz
Score: 5/5 Source: Amazon.com

This is an awesome speaker as a whole. It serves as my center channel directly below my 50″ Panasonic plasma. The sound quality is very good. Installation was easy if you are technically inclined. This speaker was a bit longer than other LCR speakers I looked at in this price range. I decided to go with it partially for that reason (so it wouldn’t look so small under the tv). I hand painted the trim in less than 10″ with a brush. The grill took two coats with a home depot handheld sprayer (cartridge type, $10). The paint was diluted with water at least 10 fold. If a whole fills with paint simply blow on it to pop it out. The speaker is visible, but blends right into the wall. Given the inexspensive price and all of this, I couldn’t be more pleased.
“Yamaha in Wall speakers!” – K. Arnold
Score: 4/5 Source: Amazon.com

These speaker cabinets are not small for in wall applications, so pay attention to the product dimensions. The sound is very good for the price. Installation requires that you pay attention to directions, it is easy enough to break off the plastic clamps that hook into the drywall behind the speaker if you use a power screw driver so exercise some care with this detail! These are used for side and rear speakers on a 7.1 surround sound Pioneer Elite sound system at 110 watts per channel with good results. Finding a reasonably priced speaker with decent sound for use at these power levels is not always easy and these Yamaha’s fit the bill nicely.
“yamaha quality” – Scott P. Peevy
Score: 5/5 Source: Amazon.com

Great product. Yamaha quality in every aspect. These are being used as left and right front speakers and the sound matches well with the center channel (yamaha ns-c225) and rear surrounds (yamaha ns-iw360c).
“Great Unit – Size larger than expected for horizontal mounting.” – LotusEater
Score: 5/5 Source: Amazon.com

Works great as my center channel. Be aware that it is wider than typical 2×4 spacing if mounting horizontally. I had to remove a part of a stud and build a header to support this as vertical mounting was not an option.
“Excellent as a center speaker.” – Toolmanjsp
Score: 5/5 Source: Amazon.com

Great sounding speaker to my ears. I use one of these for the center channel in an office training room (7.2 surround system) and it seems well suited for this. No distortion all the way up to max volume when the amp starts to clip. Voices and center channel sounds very clear.

If you are putting them horizontally in a stud wall, you will need to cut at least one stud out to get the clear width needed to put these in the wall. Mounting vertically they will of course fit within one stud cavity but this didn’t seem right for the center channel.

I had trouble with two of the six clamps. It could be because I was installing in a commercial building with 5/8″ drywall (instead of standard 1/2″ in a house) because when I loosened the screw far enough to get clearance two of the toggles refused to turn to the clamp position (friction between the screw and the toggle is supposed to make it turn so it clamps the edge of the hole). Nonetheless 4 clamps seem to hold it well enough and I give it 5 stars for the appearance and sound. I’d take off 1/2 star for the mounting system if Amazon allowed it.

“Excellent buy. Good bang for your buck.” – Charles Williams
Score: 5/5 Source: Amazon.com

Really nice speaker. I have Klispch and Polk speakers too. I have installed all 3 in customers homes. I went with the NSIW960 version because I liked the Kevlar cone. I use it as a center and 2 for fronts in my den 18X32X8. The sound is full and clear. The power handling is accurate. I am powering my speakers with the Pioneer VX 1123K and a Pioneer VX 1124K. I also have Yamaha 6.5 3 way as my rears. You will not find a better speaker for the price. Dollar for dollar these these Yamaha speakers are as good as Martin Logan in this price range. They are better than Polk or Klispch at a lower price. Let me be clear. These are not just entry level low grade speakers. They are of excellent construction and a great crossover.

Western Digital 250 GB WD Black SATA III 7200 RPM 16 MB Cache Bulk/OEM Notebook Hard Drive WD2500BEKX Reviews

  • Sophisticated performance enhancing features deliver the speed you need for demanding applications like photo and video editing and Internet gaming.
  • High performance, high capacity, high reliability, and cutting-edge technology make up WD Black, the ideal drive for those who demand only the best.
  • Dual processor provides twice the processing power to maximize performance.
  • 250 GB capacity holds up to 50,000 digital photos, 62,000 MP3 files, and up to 30 hours of HD video.
  • 5 year limited warranty.
  • Package includes a hard drive only – no screws, cables, manuals included. Please purchase mounting hardware and cables separately if necessary.

Product Reviews

“Fast” – Kamran
Score: 5/5 Source: Amazon.com

I’ve replaced the original HDD of my notebook, which was Seagate ST750LM022, with this one, and I’ve been using it for two weeks. For me, the following changes were tangible:
1. Increased performance: Of course not as much as using an SSD drive, but in comparison to my previous HDD this drive is much faster. While the Windows 8’s score remain the same for two HDDs (5.9), the increased performance is clear. Just don’t expect a huge enhancement.
2. Increase power consumption: The battery life time of my notebook has been decreased from 7 hours to less than 4.5 hours! It seems awful, but I don’t have any complain about this, since this is a black edition product of Western Digital and is specifically designed for performance.
3. HDD noise is a little bit higher, but it is still in an acceptable level and can be neglected.
4. Vibration of this HDD is more than the previous one, which should be natural for 7200 rpm drives.
Hope this information help you find your right HDD.
“Drive’s Good, Packing-Shipping Much Improved” – bentsnake
Score: 5/5 Source: Amazon.com

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The drive itself is a Western Digital Black. There are millions of them running right now all over the world. Given half a chance (mostly meaning no shipping damage, and not overheated) these drives will run happily for years.

As for it being an “Advanced Format” drive (AFD), I’m running Windows XP on two such drives. Western Digital provides a program that makes the needed adjustments (if any) to the drive, though oddly, you can only download the program after you register your warranty. The program itself is simple to run.

The important thing here is that Amazon seems to have cleaned up the way it ships hard drives. I’ve posted pictures of the shipment I received. The drive was contained in what appears to be a factory box, and that box was contained in another.

Sadly, there was no packing material at all between the two boxes. All shipped boxes are thrown around by carriers (if not by human handlers, then by the sorting machinery) and the lack of packing material here can actually amplify shock loads when the small box slides inside the larger. Even a small amount of brown paper wadding here would make all the difference. But still this is a huge improvement over Amazon’s previous near-useless packing methods, so credit where it’s due.

Again sadly, it’s not certain that every shipment is packed this way (or perhaps better, with packing materials between the two boxes). In the past different Amazon shipping points have used different packing methods, so unless Amazon makes an announcement we can only hope for the best.

There are some general things to know about hard drives. None of this is my personal opinion, it’s all information I’ve gotten from the Western Digital and Seagate web sites:

All hard drives are essentially silent. Any intrusive noises, including loud clicks, and especially including any grinding noises, are guarantees of imminent failure.

Hard drives have no noticeable vibration. Put your hand on the metal casing (not the circuit board) and you can barely feel the disks spinning, and that’s all be vibration there should ever be. Anything more means, again, imminent failure.

An occasional exception to the no-noise-no-vibration rule happens when the metal parts of the computer case vibrate, which can amplify sound the way a guitar top does. But this is not common, and the general rule about hard drives is: you should never know it’s running.

Overheating is death to all electronics. If you’re at all geeky do a web search for a free program named Speccy, by piriform dot com. Speccy requires no installation. Just 2click to run it, and it reports various internal temperatures. Anything over 50 degrees Celsius is bad, and lower is better. Check your fan(s), make sure air vents are clear, always ensure that there’s a cooling airflow.

As a matter of information, these are laptop drives but I have two and run them in my two desktops. The data (small) and power (large) cable connectors are the same, they plug in with no alterations or adapters of any kind. The connectors themselves automatically make the right connections.

And finally, my opinion is don’t hesitate to use Amazon’s 30-day warranty. Shipping damage seems to be the #1 cause of hard drive failures, so if you have any suspicion at all that you received a damaged drive, then I say back she goes.
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“Very fast & RELIABLE mechanical drive” – Stephanie Sullivan
Score: 5/5 Source: Amazon.com

When I upgraded one of my laptop hard drives for more space last summer I selected the WD Black 750GB because it was at a “sweet spot” in the value/performance curve at that time. This is a very fast 2.5″ drive within its class and I found a noticeable performance advantage over my older 7200 RPM Toshiba laptop drive.

I can hear this WD Black drive a little bit when it’s busy. While any drive noise may bother some people, I find it useful feedback that the drive is busy.

Power consumption specs are higher than the older Toshiba. That makes sense with a mechanical drive: high performance takes higher power. However, I’ve not noticed my usable time on battery has changed for the worse so I don’t think it’s a power hog. Power is a place where modern and more expensive SSD drives shine over mechanical drives, but since I normally have power plugged in this isn’t an issue for me.

Alternatives I considered include a Seagate 1TB Solid State Hybrid Drive. Because of bad experiences (documented in my review of that drive) I did not feel I could trust it. The Seagate Hybrid drive is very fast for frequently used files and the OS, but the failure mode I’d experienced was total loss of access – no recovery possible. OUCH!

I also considered the WD Black2 Dual Drive: 120GB SSD + 1TB HDD that I installed for a client. He is doing video editing on a laptop. It can be a good solution for certain specific kind of use. The dual drive (NOT Hybrid) solution has shortcomings and a price that take it way off the price/performance curve for general use. My review of that drive covers that thoroughly.

The price of SSD drives has been decreasing pretty quickly and their reliability is improving. I expect if I were to consider this sort of upgrade a year or so from now I’d be selecting a SSD. Perhaps one like a Samsung 840 EVO 500GB or the Crucial M500 480GB which I just bought for a client at $260 and has been reported to have a longer expected lifetime.

This WD Black drive was selected in part because of a long personal history of reliable drives from WD and when there has been a problem, hassle-free service.

If you need plenty of space for a very low cost and the top performance available from a mechanical drive is satisfying, this WD 750GB black drive is a very good choice. For outstanding economy, reliability and performance at the top of its class I think this drive has earned 5 stars.

Hope this is helpful

“Operates as expected” – adugas
Score: 5/5 Source: Amazon.com

Installed into a macbook pro 2010 model. Nothing out the ordinary during setup and operation is as expected. I expect this drive to last for the lifetime of my macbook. One thing to note when changing a laptop drive. Make sure you have a torque drive set otherwise you will not be able to attach mounting screws.
“Very fast 2.5 hard disk I’ve owned” – Ka Na
Score: 5/5 Source: Amazon.com

This is the fastest 2.5″ hard drive I’ve owned so far.

Write/Read (average) using a very fast USB3 (goes up to 435 MB/s for SSDs) enclosure on Macbook Pro:
127/128 MB/s

(WD’s spec sheet ([…] says the max internal transfer rate is 160 MB/s)

For comparison, the previous model WD7500BPKT, performs at 80/80 MB/s;
fastest 3.5″ disks I own perform around 180 MB/s.

Noise is audible when running, but it is acceptable for my ears.

This is still brand new – I’ll update this review if I find any issues.

“Great HDD even better customer support!” – Joshua Taylor
Score: 5/5 Source: Amazon.com

I have had this drive for about 2 years in my laptop and it eventually started to fail. I am still able to get my data off just fine but it fails diagnostics. Contacted western digital and got an advance replacement. Needless to say I am thrilled with what they sent me. I received a drive that is larger and newer than the original. This is exactly why I have bought Western Digital for years and why I will continue. They did the same thing years ago with my Raptor that went bad. I absolutely love this company.
“AWESOME!! — A rock-solid storage solution with exceptional versatility: it’s fast, reliable, affordable, & has a great warranty” – ZapNZs
Score: 5/5 Source: Amazon.com

This is, in my opinion, THE product of choice when you need a reliable, affordable, and fast 2.5-inch drive. While the solid state drive is arguably the pinnacle of fast, this is the pinnacle of reasonably fast but much more affordable.

It’s high-speed makes it a good choice if a solid state drive is not a possibility for your main disk, and its reliability and durability makes it great for desktop computing even though it is marketed as a mobile drive. It may also be a good choice for upgradable gaming consoles when a SSD or hybrid drive isn’t an option. It runs circles around most other mobile HDDs, and at a price that is surprisingly affordable.

Whether you are using a Mac or a PC, this is the perfect drive to use as a high-speed clone (there are good programs for both OS’.) You use this WD Black in an external enclosure as a self-powered backup drive to make a clone of your hard disk. If you local disk fails, you literally drop this into the laptop and you can boot from it. It is equally great for a progressive point-in-time backup such as OS X’s Time Machine, or just as a self-powered external to give you extra data storage for your computer.

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A NOTE ON “FAKE” WD DRIVES AND AUTHENTICATING THE REAL DEAL
I am sorry to say that many Sellers are either intentionally or unintentionally misleading customers when it comes to hard drives. Western Digital is aware of this, and they have implemented an online tool called the “WD Warranty Checker” in which you can enter the serial number of your drive and confirm it is authentic with a valid warranty (you can with HGST as well, and Seagate has their own authentication system.) I do not recommend purchasing used hard drives from any third party Sellers because there is no way to know how that hard drive was used (and possibly used so much that the service life is almost over.)

Because the plain OEM cardboard boxes that Western Digital bare drives are packaged in are easy to replicate (as is the sticker on the outside that says the model and serial number), they are moving in the direction of shipping their OEM/Bare drives in a tamper-free type of packaging inside of the box. The hard drive is SEALED in a magnetic bag with a yellow Western Digital watermark on the bottom, and this bag cannot be opened without being physically torn or cut open. If you get a Western Digital product in a bag sealed only with a sticker or tape, I would be sure to use the WD Warranty Checker to verify it is just in an older packaging rather than a repackaging used by a Seller to make a hard drive appear brand new when it is not. I have attached a picture showing this. If the hard drive you get has had this packaging torn open previously and taped up, reject the shipment as that drive is NOT new.

Many used hard drives on Amazon are also sold as “refurbished” but in reality they are simply used drives marketed in a fashion to make it sound as if you aren’t taking a gamble on inheriting someone else’s old problems. Some Sellers seem to feel that making a few extra pennies at the price of their integrity is worth it, and it’s put a lot of good people into very stressful situations that they didn’t deserve. There are too many sellers engaging in this practice to even start listing names, but I strongly caution reviewing Seller credentials and buying a hard drive from a Seller with a solid return policy in the event you pay for a new drive and a 5 year old used drive shows up on your doorstep. This happens a lot more than you might expect…some of the Sellers who do this are even part of Amazon’s Fulfillment Program. Amazon needs to step up here and take action as this isn’t fair to you and it isn’t fair to me.

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HOW I LOOK AT HARD DRIVES
I’ve been in a position in which I have worked with a lot of drives over the years and have developed my own beliefs and mindset. This is to summarize how I look at Hard Disk Drives and my advice for storing data. The two biggest assumptions I operate under are:
1) ALL HARD DRIVES WILL FAIL. What differs is the run time the drive gives before it fails, and this is neither consistent nor predictable to a degree of good accuracy.
2) DATA RECOVERY IS RIDICULOUSLY EXPENSIVE, OFTEN NOT VERY SUCCESSFUL, AND NEVER COVERED UNDER THE STANDARD WARRANTY OF A HARD DRIVE.

Because of that, I stress that one should NEVER STORE IMPORTANT DATA IN A SINGLE LOCATION THAT YOU WOULD NOT BE OK WITH LOSING FOREVER. While a home user may not need a RAID 5, setup using a Thunderbolt interface, they should always keep data in more than one location. That could be as simple as an external hard drive backing up data from Win 8 or OS X’s built-in backup systems so that the data is on the local disk of a computer as well as an external hard drive. Cloud services also have some backup advantages. Whatever method, just be sure to keep it in multiple locations. If one of those locations are damaged/lost, replace what was lost to ensure the data stays stored across more than one source. If the data is very important, store it in two different geographic locations (or inside a fireproof safe) in the event of fire or water damage.

I do not give brand loyalty to any single brand and the reason is because most major hard drive makers offer both some great and some terrible products. I occasionally have had hard drives fail on me that were some of the finest made. This happens and it is not avoidable. When you are putting coatings on the disk platter that are under 1 nanometer thick, there is an incredibly narrow acceptable margin of error. Such unpredictability means a consumer must take defensive action or else they are setting themselves up for an expensive, stressful, and costly incident of data loss.

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MAKING SURE YOUR HARD DRIVE WILL LAST IN THE LONG RUN
My advice with any new hard drive is to spend the time to stress test it, and not to rely on it fully until it has been used at least for a few weeks if not tested extensively.

Google’s study of hard drives showed us some very interesting observations. Most specifically, it showed how failure rates of new hard drives are really unpredictable. While after the 4-year mark shows a progressive trend of higher probability of failure, that isn’t the case when new. The first month of ownership can be one of uncertainty, but the trend suggests that a drive with a defect will generally fail in this time period. Failure rates in the short 0-1 month period are often higher than the period of years 1-3.

My solution to this has been to “stress test” ALL new drives heavily. I run a secure delete that takes multiple passes over the entire drive more than once. Then I will transfer an ungodly amount of data on and then off the drive, if possible, filling most of the drive. I will use a benchtest program that runs a multi-hour stress test. It makes the drive work hard, get hot, use the entire surface area, and work for a sustained period. Simultaneously, I also use an advanced disk management program that can take a very detailed look at the drive’s health. This simulates the real-world usage a drive will see if used intensely, which most of the drives I oversee are. My findings are that in many cases this is enough to get a drive with an issue to display symptoms of compromised reliability or have a catastrophic failure. Drives that have no issues generally go on to work reliably for years without a hiccup. It’s not perfect, but this has helped weed out many of the drives that would wind up failing shortly after they were put into service.

Why would someone want to spend the time pushing a drive specifically to see if it will fail? My logic is that I prefer it happen when doing a test rather than after I have set everything up and put important data on it. Especially given 1) the cost of data recovery is high, and 2) I prefer not to send a drive that may have partially recoverable confidential data that can’t be securely deleted. If one of my drives fails during the testing, I feel a lot better sending it back to a vendor with 10 copies of Shrek on it than I do business materials intended for internal usage or personal documents/files.

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THE HISTORY OF THE WD BLACK MOBILE DRIVES
Not too long ago, the older version of this product was called the WD Scorpio Black. WD’s 2.5-inch laptop drives had the Scorpio name, and their 3.5-inch desktop drives had the Caviar name. Their two common home-use grades were Blue and Black: Blue noted general-purpose usage, Black noted high-performance usage with often a longer warranty. Generally Blue was 5400 RPM and Black 7200 RPM (that has since changed as many Blue desktop lines are now 7200 RPM as well.)

The track records of these products are exceptional: always good speeds for their era, excellent GB-to-dollar value, great reliability, great durability, and very good warranty service. I am still using older Scorpio Black & Blue drives, and a few Caviar Black drives. Some of these are OLD for HDDs. They have long passed what is a reasonable expectation of service life. They have given consistent performance over many years, with extremely low failure rates. The quality that has characterized the lineage that this drive comes from shows how well this product is designed, and why this is a good choice today, and will still be a good choice years down the road when it is still working flawlessly.

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THE CURRENT WD BLACK MOBILE DRIVE
This current WD Black mobile drive is great. In a USB 3 enclosure, I am getting sustained read and write speeds of around 110 megabytes a second, which for a 2.5-inch hard drive is fantastic and an improvement over my older Scorpio Blacks (the upgraded processor certainly plays a role.) Like the older WD Scorpio Black, the energy consumption is reasonably low for a 7200-RPM hard drive and so if you use this in a laptop to replace a 5400-RPM drive, it should not have a majorly negative impact on battery life. It is also quieter than my Scorpio Blacks, and while some noise with a faster speed drive cannot be avoided, this is reasonably silent for a high-performance HDD. Like previous generations, the drive does a good job dissipating heat and inside of an aluminum external it rapidly dissipates the heat generated.

Like many other drives, this drive moves from SATA 2 (3.0 Gbps) to SATA 3 (6.0 Gbps), doubling the theoretical peak transfer of 3.0 Gbps to 6.0 Gbps. However, a single drive is not nearly fast enough to max out the older SATA 2, so if you are using this drive in a standalone fashion, the change from SATA 2 to SATA 3 really won’t affect you one way or another, and it’s more of a marketing aspect than a functional improvement for users of single drive systems. Like virtually all SATA 3 drives, it is backwards compatible with SATA 2 and SATA 1 enclosures and computers.

Also of note is the warranty on this drive: a 5-year warranty for a home-use drive is unusual. Generally, that kind of warranty comes with enterprise class drives. Western Digital’s willingness to offer a 5-year warranty on a home use product only further speaks to how confident they are of the long-term reliability of this drive (otherwise, offering an unusually long warranty for such an inexpensive hard drive would cost them a fortune.) The User Reviews here also demonstrate this.

You may also notice that Western Digital now has two versions of the 500, 320, and 250 GB versions of this drive. The slightly more expensive versions have a larger cache, slightly improved shock resistance, and are slightly thinner. They likely have slightly faster read and write speeds. I have not used these models, but the thinner profile and doubled cache may be beneficial to some users (neither are critical for my own applications.)

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GETTING THE MOST OUT OF THIS AS AN EXTERNAL: USB 2 AND FIREWIRE WON’T CUT IT
The speed of this drive is almost double the theoretical maximum speed that USB 2 supports. If you want to utilize the full read & write capability of this drive and you are using it as an external hard drive, you will need to use a high/super-speed port such as USB 3.0, Thunderbolt, or eSATA (ideally the 3.0 Gbps revision, which is common.)

Using a slower port like USB 2 or FireWire 800/400 will result in the connection throttling back the drive speed to only run as fast at the max speed of the connection will allow. Therefore you will need an enclosure, a cable, and a computer that are all capable of using one of these faster interfaces. (USB 3.0 is generally the least expensive and most universal of the above-noted possibilities.)

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CONCLUSION
Overall, this is an extremely versatile hard disk drive. Even with the advantages of SSDs and their recent price decreases, HDDs like this WD Black will continue to have a role in computing. This drive is affordable, fast, and reliable. It’s a rock-solid storage solution that will give you years of usage for an affordable price; therefore, I highly recommend this product.

Pretty fast” – BigWill3
Score: 5/5 Source: Amazon.com

I needed to upgrade the hard-drive in my old Alienware m15x laptop and after some research opted for the WD Black drive. I was looking for a fast and affordable hard-drive with plenty of space. This hard-drive definitely fits my criteria. I would have preferred to go with a SSD but for 750GB of space the prices were just way out of my price range. If you’re in the same situation as me with a slightly older laptop with only one available drive slot (with no option for mSATA) then this is about the largest/fastest drive that you can get. The reasonable price makes it a slam dunk.

Also worth noting, I was concerned initially with some reviews stating that the packaging used during shipping was sub par. This would be a concern for me because any excessive jarring about could affect the long term longevity of the drive. In my case I found the drive was well secured and suitably padded during shipping.

“Great HDD!!” – Anthony
Score: 5/5 Source: Amazon.com

I bought this HDD knowing what I was buying and definitely got what I wanted. The only SSD/HDD I buy are from WD or Kingston. I have had great experiences with both brands and have no complaints.

SO HERE IS THE SCOOP!!! As always, I’m big a the packaging especially when it comes to pc hardware. Amazon, as always, packaged it well and it arrived on time with Amazon Prime. Most people aren’t really up to speed with the difference between HDD, SSD, and hybrid drives. The SSD is self explanatory, so I’ll move on. I have 3 laptops…. HP Envy, HP tx2, and a HP g7. All are running SSD and 2 laptops are running dual drives, one a SSD and one a HHD. I started to buy hybrid drives first and quickly realized that at this point in time, hybrids are a waste of money….. A big waste of money!! This WD drive is in both laptops and they ARE as fast, or faster, than a hybrid. Why? the reason is that hybrid drives learn your habits when you do the same thing(s) over and over, and stores the info to make the software load and run a lot faster. The problem? If you tend to do different things like myself, the hybrid drive is always learning, and because of this, it will not work like a SSD. It will work like a 5400 rpm HHD that isn’t a hybrid. You money is better spent buying a WD 7200 rpm or another brand that your partial to that is also a 7200 rpm. This WD drive is fast and the load time from power on to windows is a lot quicker as opposed to a 5400 rpm. I have an old Dell tester laptop that took almost 2 minutes to fully load windows, with this drive it loads in well under 1 minute. I test and help create software as part time employment, and I’m always looking for quality, innovation, and reliability. And yes I’m very partial to WD drives because they work and they just keep going year after year.

I almost failed to mention something very very important that most people may not be aware of…. These drives do not like to install Windows 8.1 when your doing a fresh install when you receive the drive. My 2 newest WD HDD 7200 drives have an advanced format and would not read as an external drive in Windows 8.1 or as an internal drive when trying to install Windows 8.1. Because I got a bit lazy, I installed Window 7 Ultimate and then Windows 8 read it as an external drive. I then wiped the drive and the Windows 8 install was flawless. I’m assuming I may have had an issue because the drive was used, but never really USED. The prior owner most likely got confused on how to handle a drive with advanced formatting, as they work a little bit different and seem to be pretty specific to windows 7 until you reformat them. This drive would not align with the Acronis cloning software the WD gives you for free when you buy their drives…. Any drive!! That it in itself is nice perk, as long as you can get the drive to align.

“Good drive, just not for the PS4” – Scott Kreger
Score: 2/5 Source: Amazon.com

To start, my reviews always get negative votes when I am just trying to help. Please, if you do not agree, just move along. What I post are facts and when I get so many negative votes buyers overlook my comments. Now on to the review.

This drive is very, very fast. It is also very loud but that should not be a concern of yours when looking for a HDD. Drives these days just make more noise. A loud drive minus any very unusual sounds does not mean something is wrong with it or it will die soon. This is by far the fastest 7200rpm laptop hdd I have ever used. The problem is the PS4 and this drive running too hot. If I were to use this in a PC, it would get 5 stars. You will not have a heat problem using this drive in a laptop. I tested it on three different laptops. I gave this HDD two stars to get the attention of buyers looking for a HDD for their PS4. I am sorry I had to do this but no one reads 5 star reviews. Once again, if you just use this in a laptop this is best HDD you will find by a mile.

Now, on to what to expect with this drive in your PS4

– Very, very unstable performance. One minute it’s breezing through the UI and the next moment it takes 15 or so seconds to load the settings menu. The HDD stalls left and right on the UI and it is just not usable after a certain point.

– Game performance is great. To the point where I did not get one single stutter in Warframe or DC Online. No joke, no stutters. Not one single stutter. I have tried 3 different HDD’s (that includes the stock HDD the PS4 came with) and they all stutter like crazy in those games but this ran those games flawless. However, I should mention I did get stutters in Killzone when the HDD was getting too hot.

– Heat. After about 10-15 minutes into any game the PS4 fans kick in so loud you’d think it’s about to take off. Killzone and Resogun are known to make the fan louder on the PS4. However, games like Warframe and DC Online are pretty quite with the stock HDD and other drives. They are not quite with this HDD. The hotter the HDD gets the worse it performs as well. It got to the point where while I was playing a game and I paused it to go to the UI and clicked storage management it took over 1 minute to load to see my games. The whole UI was sluggish. On a cold boot with the PS4 being off awhile it runs great for the first 10-15 minutes. Yes, it gets that hot that quick.

So, let’s scratch this off the list sadly of PS4 HDDs that work well. Here is what I have tried so far:

B00B99JU5M

Seagate Laptop Thin 500 GB Solid State Hybrid Drive SATA 6Gb/s 64 MB Cache 2.5 Inch ST500LM000

This drive does everything perfectly minus one major flaw: games that require heavy streaming from the HDD are slow. DC Online and Warframe are a chopfest. This drive while it boots everything very quick has the worst read speeds in games I have ever seen. I made a review of this one that got down voted. Go read that one for more detailed info.

So, what’s next?

B003SX0ORA

HGST Travelstar 2.5 Inch 500GB 7200 RPM SATA II 16 MB Cache Internal Hard Drive (0S02858)

I got this drive as this is the closest HDD to the stock PS4 HDD I could find with better performance (i hope). Sata 2 just like the stock HDD etc.

Look for my review on this drive soon as I have not received it yet.

Please note I go with the 500GB versions of these drives as it is a single platter and that means faster read times. I have spent over 220.00 alone on testing HDDs for the PS4. I tell the truth and I am very picky. I want it all to run perfect. This is why my reviews get down voted I assume. However, if you are like me and demand top performance and stability I would suggest you take my reviews seriously. I do not hold back.

I will be happy to answer any questions about my review and this HDD as long as you are polite. Sorry for my grammar.