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.
A major problem with using Windows 8's touch-screen interface on a traditional computer has been having to reach across a keyboard to touch the display. Today, I was able to see firsthand a touch-screen laptop design that may solve this problem in the form of the 15.6-inch Acer Aspire R7.
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.
Samsung has announced it will set up dedicated mobile shops within Best Buy stores to sell its cell phones, tablets, laptops, and cameras. The Samsung Experience Shops, coming to more than 1,400 Best Buy and Best Buy Mobile stores beginning this month, aim to bring Samsung customers the same expert, brand-immersive experience that iPhone, iPad, and Mac types enjoy when they visit an Apple Store.
When Apple launched the first iPad, tablets were tablets, and laptops were laptops. Sure, there were cross-over features, but aside from a few outliers, it was always pretty clear which was which. Enter Windows 8: We're now seeing tablets running full Windows 8 operating systems. And we're finding that what makes a good tablet may not make a good laptop—and vice versa.
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.
The Microsoft Surface Pro delivers on its promise to provide the most laptop-like performance yet from a tablet. But like most groundbreaking devices, it has flaws—including limited storage and hefty weight and size—that mean it's suited mainly to road warriors who can't wait for a better super-tablet device to come along.
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.
Gesture controls have been around for some time, but the few computers we've tested with them failed to impress us: Gestures weren't always picked up, and the motion was very jerky. At CES, Intel demoed software that it says will let developers integrate better controls into their apps, so they can move beyond the simplistic Windows 8 controls of scrolling, raising volume or opening or closing applications.
Our testers put 100s of products through their paces at our National Testing and Research Center. Learn more about how we test for: