A laptop and desktop from Vizio—the Vizio CT15T-B1 Ultrabook and the Vizio CA24T-B0, respectively—are the first computers into our labs with the latest Wi-Fi standard, 802.11ac. Though it's up and running, it's still an emerging standard, waiting to be ratified by the Wi-Fi working group; still, 802.11ac should result in faster throughput.
There's no need to sacrifice performance or portability if you're looking to save a few bucks on a new laptop. We turned up several models in our latest batch of Ratings that don't cost a fortune but come close to performing as if they do.
It's not often easy for an older person with little technical experience—or anyone else who's frustrated by current technology—to jump into the world of computing. The Telikin Elite PC ($1,000) wants to help: It's a 20-inch all-in-one touch-screen desktop computer the manufacturer says is designed for the "technology novice." But is that touted ease of use worth the rather steep price?
Alongside other innovations we've seen in new Windows 8 computers comes the Transformer AiO from Asus: It's an all-in-one desktop computer with a detachable screen that you can use as an 18.4-inch tablet. If that's not enough, it's also the first dual-OS hybrid desktop that's switchable on the fly. We tried out a press sample (the AiO will be available to buy on April 12 for $1,300). The AiO display is small for a desktop and large for a tablet—but we like its unique versatility.
Web-based e-mail—webmail—is e-mail, such as Gmail, Hotmail, and Yahoo, that's implemented as a Web app and accessed through a browser. These services are usually free, and it's a rare computer user who doesn't have at least one active webmail account. But I restrict my use of webmail because of security and privacy concerns. (Dean Gallea, a senior program leader at Consumer Reports, takes the opposite view; see his counterpoint argument, "5 Reasons to Use Webmail.")
Price-conscious computer shoppers, take heart. Consumer Reports' tests of the latest laptops and desktops show you can get a lot of bang for your buck.
What it means: You've probably heard the term "hybrid drive" if you're thinking about buying a new computer. A hybrid drive pairs a traditional spinning-disk hard drive with a small amount of solid-state memory, the kind also found on solid-state drives (SSD) such as Flash drives. The combination gets you the large capacity of today's hard drives plus the speed of solid-state memory, and it costs less than an SSD.
Windows 8 computers are catching up to their older Windows 7 counterparts, the latest tests from our labs show—likely at least partly due to manufacturers catching up with driver updates. In particular, two Dell laptops with Windows 8 turned in excellent performance, and a few more from other manufacturers were very good.
Last year was the first time the Super Bowl was streamed live online. This year, the Big Game in the Big Easy moves from NBC to CBS, which plans to offer a live stream of the game to desktops, laptops, and tablets on NFL.com and CBSSports.com. Those with mobile devices can also view a live stream of the game, but only via Verizon's exclusive NFL Mobile app.
Emblematic of one trend for smart devices this year, we saw at CES that tablets are growing: Vizio announced a 16-inch tablet, and Panasonic has went even bigger, with a 20-inch tablet.
Known for its high-end gaming rigs, Velocity Micro has begun to add more mainstream computers to its lineup, including an Ultrabook, a mini desktop, and an all-in-one.
I had a chance at CES today to get my hands on Asus's intriguing Windows 8 convertible, the Taichi. What's unusual about the Taichi is its two-sided display, one of which is a touch screen. One minute you can be typing away on its keyboard as on a conventional laptop. And immediately after pressing a button and folding down the regular display, you can use the touch screen as a tablet.
We've seen smart phones getting bigger and bigger, and now tablets are following suit. The newest Vizio Tablet PC is a whopping 11.6-inch device that weighs 1.8 pounds. It's the largest tablet we've seen, but it didn't feel overly bulky or uncomfortable to hold, for me. With that large screen comes a full high-def display—not a surprising feature from a TV manufacturer such as Vizio.
Our testers put 100s of products through their paces at our National Testing and Research Center. Learn more about how we test for: