Microsoft’s Surface Laptop 4 Is Nearly Perfect

Illustration for article titled Microsoft's Surface Laptop 4 Is Nearly Perfect

Photo: Joanna Nelius/Gizmodo

The Surface Laptop 3 was a special machine due to Microsoft’s decision to put an AMD processor in it for the first time. But the company has outdone itself with the smart improvements it’s made to the Surface Laptop 4, which has a more compelling price and better battery life, all while keeping key features and design elements the same. (If it’s not broken, don’t fix it, right?) The Surface Laptop 4 is a near-perfect laptop, and a serious contender when it comes to choosing your next machine.

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Compared to the 15-inch Surface Laptop 3 we reviewed in 2019, not much has changed on the outside. The new version has the same aluminum chassis with a black finish that has a tendency to show fingerprints, and it also has the same number and type of ports—one USB-A, one USB-C, one 3.5mm headphone jack, and one Surface Connect port that you use as your main charging port, although you can charge via USB-C as well if you don’t need to charge your laptop in a hurry. Even the weight and dimensions are the same at 3.4 pounds and 0.58 inches thick, and I’m happy to report the keyboard hasn’t changed either.

I love a laptop with perfectly-spaced keys. Typing on the newest Surface Laptop feels like I developed instant muscle memory. The size of the keys, the placement, even the weight of the keys beneath my fingers as I press them down feels like dancing. They are super quiet, too. Sure, it’s a no-frills membrane keyboard, but it doesn’t feel too mushy. We weren’t thrilled with the feel of the keys the last time we reviewed a Surface Laptop for that reason, but they feel fine to me this time around…and I’m used to typing with mechanical Cherry Reds all day long.

The touchpad is perfectly positioned and the perfect size, too, out of the way of my wrists when I type. It’s more comfortable for me to rest my wrists on the laptop itself, and if the touchpad is too large they rest right on it, causing many accidental presses.

But all the changes to this generation of Surface Laptops are on the inside, starting with a new processor: an AMD Ryzen 7 4980U. The 8-core/16-thread CPU can reach clock speeds of up to 4.4GHz, which a significant improvement over the 4-core/8-thread Ryzen 5 3580U in the Surface Laptop 3 we reviewed previously for the same price, and it wasn’t even the best AMD Surface Laptop 3 model. When you look at price compared to specs, you’re getting more for your money with this AMD Surface Laptop 4, which includes 16GB of memory and a 512GB SSD. The SSD is removable if 512GB isn’t enough space, but this isn’t a gaming laptop; 512GB should definitely be enough space for the average user.

There are plenty of other laptops with faster components for the same price, or even slightly lower, like the MSI Stealth 15M, which is only 0.3 pounds heavier and 0.04 inches thicker. (Microsoft does have a Ryzen 5 4680U model for either $999 or $1,199, depending on how much memory and storage you want.) But when it comes to the tasks this newest Surface Laptop was was made for, there’s not much to complain about.

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In our benchmarking tests, 3D-rendering a car in Blender took just under five minutes with the CPU, and a little over nine with the GPU. (The discrepancy is not surprising since the graphics are integrated with the processor.) Transcoding a 4K video to 1080p at 30 frames per second in Handbrake took almost nine minutes as well.

Even though we don’t normally run PCMark10 to benchmark productivity tasks it can be helpful for looking at a wide range of activities, from opening and saving Word and Excel files to web-browsing. Loading a word-processing document took an average of 2.3 seconds; saving a PNG photo file took 15.1 seconds; and other photo-editing tasks like color adjusting took a mere 3.3 seconds, although this could vary somewhat depending on the program you use.

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Illustration for article titled Microsoft's Surface Laptop 4 Is Nearly Perfect

Photo: Joanna Nelius/Gizmodo

The Surface Laptop 4 can handle some games, too, as long as you have the graphics turned down low enough and you’re not trying to play anything too graphically demanding. You can get up to 74 fps in Overwatch as long as the graphics settings are at medium. The 3:2 aspect ratio, though a little unusual, isn’t that bad for playing games, either. The graphics might be a little small on the 13.5-inch version, especially if you have the in-game ratio set to 16:9 with a resolution of 1920 x 1200, but the 15-inch display makes everything look lovely.

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Microsoft has improved battery life on its latest Surface laptop by nearly five hours. When we looked at the Surface Laptop 3, it had a middling battery life of about 7.5 hours. Good enough, but not up there with the likes of Apple’s M1 MacBook Air and other popular laptops for work. Battery life varies depending on how you’re using your laptop, but it’s quickly becoming the standard of work productivity laptops to have batteries hold a charge for longer than an 8-hour work day.

And the Surface Laptop 4 comes in at a little over 12 hours in our battery rundown test. Microsoft advertises up to a 19-hour battery life with the model reviewed here, but 12 is not bad at all. That’s two hours more than the Intel-powered MSI Prestige 14 Evo, and two hours less than the aforementioned MacBook Air. It even kicks the pants off the Razer Book 13, which only lasts 8.5 hours on a charge. With that longer battery life, the Surface Laptop 4 is a better overall laptop for work and school, and cloud gaming, too, assuming you have a good wifi connection.

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Illustration for article titled Microsoft's Surface Laptop 4 Is Nearly Perfect

Photo: Joanna Nelius/Gizmodo

While Microsoft has improved on major key elements of its latest Surface Laptop—processor, battery life, and price—it would have been nice to see another port or two, maybe another USB-A or a SD card. Anyone doing video or photography work on the Surface Laptop 4 will need a USB dock if they are loading photos or video from an SD card directly onto a device. The laptop is equipped with Bluetooth, and there are plenty of compatible styluses, but if you’re the kind of person that likes or needs to connect several peripherals to your laptop at once, you will likely need a USB dock.

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And even though the Surface Laptop 4 is extremely good, the one thing that would make it absolutely perfect is if it came with an AMD 5000-series mobile processor instead of a 4000-series. The latest AMD processors have a new architecture, which gives them a good performance boost over the previous generation.

It’s not clear why Microsoft decided to go with the older gen, but it could be as simple as the Surface Laptop 4 design processes started way before AMD made its 5000-series mobile processors available to laptop partners. (AMD has U-variants of its latest mobile CPUs and APUs, which are for productivity laptops like the Surface Laptop 4.)

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Still, with improvements in battery life, processing power, and price, the latest generation of Surface Laptops is worthy of a high spot on your list of laptops to get for your college-bound child or for yourself to replace that aging machine. The Surface Laptop 4 is an easy laptop to recommend to almost anyone.

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  • Stellar battery life
  • Stays super cool
  • More configurations compared to last generation with either an AMD or Intel processor
  • No 1TB SSD option for AMD models
  • I wish it came with the newest AMD processor, since the Intel versions come with the newest 11th-gen mobile CPUs

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Two New Galaxy Book Laptops Get Leaked Ahead of Samsung’s Upcoming Unpacked Event

Illustration for article titled Two New Galaxy Book Laptops Get Leaked Ahead of Samsung's Upcoming Unpacked Event

Image: Samsung via Evan Blass

The Samsung leaks just keep coming. Following recent rumors about the Galaxy Tab S7 Lite, Samsung’s Galaxy Book Pro and Galaxy Book Pro 360 have just been spotted in recently discovered renders.

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In what appears to be leaked press renders posted by Evan Blass, we can see two laptops that will most likely be the headline devices in Samsung’s upcoming Unpacked event on April 28th. Both systems are expected to be available in 13 and 15-inch sizes, with the Galaxy Book Pro offering a traditional clamshell design, and the Galaxy Book Pro 360 getting a 2-in-1 design with a 360-degree hinge and built-in stylus support.

Rumored specs for both systems are also expected to be quite similar, with Samsung offering a range of 11th-gen Intel CPUs with Intel Xe graphics, Thunderbolt 4, optional LTE connectivity, and possibly even Nvidia MX450 GPUs on some configs. Interestingly, it seems Samsung is going with AMOLED displays for the entire line, which should offer significantly richer and more vibrant colors than a typical LCD panel, while still maintaining relatively affordable starting prices of around $1,000.

However, in addition to these Intel-powered laptops, Samsung could also announce a new ARM-based notebook at Unpacked in the Galaxy Book Go, which according to SamMobile will still run Windows 10 but feature one of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8cx processors.

Sporting a 14-inch display, 4GB or 8GB of RAM, up to 256GB of storage, and a full HD display, the Galaxy Book Go looks like it will attempt to deliver even better battery life than the new Galaxy Book Pro laptops with a slim design good for general productivity or entertaining on-the-go.

So, based on recent leaks, it’s looking like Samsung will have at least three new laptops planned for its Unpacked event at the end of the month. That said, it’s a safe bet that Samsung has at least one more unknown device to show off, as the trailer for Samsung’s event teased that Samsung will reveal “the most powerful Galaxy yet,” which doesn’t really describe any of the machines above.

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Currently, my prediction is that Samsung will also reveal a new gaming laptop at the event, but that’s just a hunch based on looking at Samsung’s previous product releases over the past year. Either way, with Samsung’s event less than two weeks away, we should know more real soon.

Logitech Kills Harmony Universal Remotes, Says It Will Offer Support for as Long as Customers Use Them

Illustration for article titled Logitech Kills Harmony Universal Remotes, Says It Will Offer Support for as Long as Customers Use Them

Photo: Araya Diaz (Getty Images)

For those of you that turned to one of Logitech’s Harmony universal remotes to escape the mountain of remotes in your home, we have some sad news: Logitech has killed the Harmony line of remotes. If you own a Harmony remote or wanted to buy one, take a breath. As of now, the company says it will continue to support existing and new Harmony customers.

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In a post on Logitech Support on Friday, the company said that while its Harmony remotes continue to be available through various retailers, it will stop manufacturing them moving forward. Nonetheless, this doesn’t seem like it will affect current or even new Harmony users, at least the way Logitech explains it.

“We expect no impact to our customers by this announcement. We plan to support our Harmony community and new Harmony customers, which includes access to our software and apps to set up and manage your remotes,” a Logitech Support representative wrote on the site. “We also plan to continue to update the platform and add devices to our Harmony database. Customer and warranty support will continue to be offered.”

In other words: Logitech is saying that your remotes will still work. Additionally, it says that its goal is to “keep service running as long as customers are using it.”

The company also affirmed that it planned to continue to make updates to the Harmony software for desktop and Harmony apps for Android and iOS. It will continue to offer a support team as well as offer resources on the Harmony support page.

Logitech stated that its remaining Harmony inventory will still be available as supplies last through selected retailers for customers to purchase. It will still continue to maintain the Harmony database and software but will no longer upgrade the line or develop new products for it.

The announcement capped years of rumors and speculation that the company was looking to give its remotes the boot. In 2019, Logitech CEO Bracken Darrell said that the remotes were a small part of its overall business and that they were losing relevance in a world dominated by streaming services.

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“I think over time, you’ll have fewer and fewer people who feel like they really need that universal remote,” Darrell said on the Vergecast. “Now you have a different problem: you have 10 different streaming services, and I want to watch Friends. Where do I watch it? So it’s less about different devices and more about different streaming services.”

Yet, even in 2019, Darrell said that Logitech would always take care of Harmony customers, who “really love” the remotes. He’s not wrong. Even critics really like it. The Harmony remote makes frequent appearances on buyer’s guides, including Gizmodo’s own guide. On the announcement page, dozens of users expressed their dismay.

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“Wow. I don’t get shaken up by much but this has rattled my home theater cage,” one user wrote. “Is this really the end? Please tell me we’re there’s some future for the Harmony hardware line. Please!”

RIP Harmony. Let’s hope Logitech keeps its word and offers faithful Harmony customers service for as long as they want it.

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Lenovo’s Legion Phone Duel 2 Has 2 Fans, 2 Batteries, and One of the Weirdest Camera Bumps Available Today

Illustration for article titled Lenovo's Legion Phone Duel 2 Has 2 Fans, 2 Batteries, and One of the Weirdest Camera Bumps Available Today

Image: Lenovo

While I can’t confirm it, I suspect someone in Lenovo’s phone department is a big fan of Vin Diesel movies. Why? Well, it seems like Lenovo has just released a gaming phone inspired by 2 Fast 2 Furious.

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Lenovo is doubling down on its follow-up to last year’s Legion Gaming Phone with a ton of different components. The new Legion Phone Duel 2 is getting two USB-C ports, dual batteries, double the triggers, and two cooling fans, while still keeping that same funky side-mounted pop-up selfie cam. If there was ever a phone that embodied the spirit of a tuned and souped-up Nissan Skyline, this is it.

In Europe, the Legion Phone 2 starts at 799 euros (around $950) and comes with a Snapdragon 888 chip, 12GB of RAM, and 256GB of storage, though you can upgrade to a bundle with 16GB of RAM, 512GB of storage, and an included charging dock for 999 euros. You also get a massive 6.92-inch, 2460 x 1080 AMOLED display with a 144Hz refresh rate and a super-high 720Hz touch sample rate, which should deliver some of the most responsive touch controls currently available. And then there’s the dual-lens camera, with a 64-MP main and 16-MP ultra-wide lens.

Illustration for article titled Lenovo's Legion Phone Duel 2 Has 2 Fans, 2 Batteries, and One of the Weirdest Camera Bumps Available Today

Image: Lenovo

But what impresses me the most is the lengths Lenovo has gone to improve all of the Legion Phone 2’s other gaming features. If you look at the back, you can see that the Legion Phone 2’s camera bump is smack dab in the middle of the phone, instead of closer to the top like you’d get on a regular handset.

This serves a few purposes: Not only does it mean that when held in landscape mode (which is how you’ll almost certainly hold it while gaming) there’s a smaller chance you’re going to gunk up those dual rear cams with fingerprints and Cheeto dust, but that big central camera hump also provides a channel for the phone’s twin turbo fans to more easily push hot air out. And of course, you can’t have cooling fans on a gaming device without RGB lighting, so Lenovo tossed that in too.

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That middle section is also used to house the Legion Phone 2’s 44-MP pop-up selfie cam, which rises out of the side (or the top in landscape mode), so you can more easily take selfies or livestream while gaming. And on the inside, Lenovo uses dual batteries (one on either side) to deliver a combined capacity of 5,500 mAh that’s 10% larger than before. And for those times when you need to recharge quickly, the Legion Phone 2 even features two USB-C ports that can be plugged in at the same time to deliver super fast 90-watt wired charging.

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However, the Legion Phone 2’s real party trick is its support for eight different touch-sensitive buttons: four on the shoulders, two in back, and two in-display “force touchpoints.” Lenovo says these touch keys were placed to naturally match where you fingers rest when holding the phone in landscape, adding extra controls without the need for an add-on gamepad accessory like a Razer Kishi. 

Illustration for article titled Lenovo's Legion Phone Duel 2 Has 2 Fans, 2 Batteries, and One of the Weirdest Camera Bumps Available Today

Image: Lenovo

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Recently, we’ve seen a run of gaming phones from companies like Asus, Xiaomi, Nubia, and others, and even so, the Legion Phone 2 might be the most unique handset of them all. It’s really focused on maximizing the potential of a mobile gaming phone. I even like the two paint jobs Lenovo is offering, with the Legion Phone 2 looking especially slick in titanium white.

Unfortunately, Lenovo says U.S. availability for the Legion Phone 2 is still “to be determined,” so if you really want one, you may have to import one from China or Europe, which will get the phone in April and May, respectively.

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Tribit’s Versatile, Long-Lasting New Bluetooth Speaker Has a Weird Flaw

Illustration for article titled Tribit's Versatile, Long-Lasting New Bluetooth Speaker Has a Weird Flaw

Photo: Catie Keck/Gizmodo

There’s a lot to like about Tribit’s new flagship Bluetooth speaker. At just 7 inches tall, the StormBox Pro is highly portable. It also sits in that sweet spot between being big enough to have some solidly loud sound, but also small enough that you could definitely fit it in a backpack or tote bag. But for some of its best features, at $120, the Tribit is a little expensive for what it offers. And depending on what you need from your Bluetooth speaker, you might be better off with something else.

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The thing I immediately liked about the StormBox Pro is its clean, minimal lines, and a handle that can flip up for easy carrying. That makes it a decent choice for something that could look nice on a bookshelf, but thanks to its durability features, can also handle outdoor use as well. I think this speaker could be the right choice for the right shopper, but that depends heavily on how you plan to use it.

The good news is that the StormBox Pro has a Bluetooth range of up to 100 feet and can get up to 24 hours of battery life—though that will depend on how you’re listening and will likely be less at top volumes. At just three pounds, it’s also light, and Tribit said the speaker can be paired with a second StormBox Pro. It comes equipped with a single sub and two mid-high frequency drivers. An on-device button labeled XBass will boost the bass (obviously), which I did almost immediately while I was testing. Without it enabled, the sound didn’t quite bump as much as I’ve come to expect from many Bluetooth speakers in this category.

As for durability and portability, Tribit makes a pretty solid case for itself. In addition to its extended battery life, it’s got an IP67 waterproof rating, and based on my testing, it can definitely be dropped—particularly on softer surfaces like grass or indoor flooring—without fear of it suddenly shitting the bed. That’s a bit of a bare minimum win for this speaker, though. Similar speakers in this price category can similarly take tougher handling and produce better sound.

For example, if I had to choose between this speaker and the slightly more expensive Boom 3 (priced at $130 at Best Buy at the time of this writing), I’d without question go for the Boom 3. The Boom 3’s sound blows the StormBox Pro out of the water across the board, particularly for genres like hip hop and electronic.

Illustration for article titled Tribit's Versatile, Long-Lasting New Bluetooth Speaker Has a Weird Flaw

Photo: Catie Keck/Gizmodo

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I found that at top volumes, the StormBox Pro would sometimes give that absolutely awful popping sound, and that’s frankly unacceptable for a speaker at this price point. You will not have this problem at mid-volumes. But as someone who generally pushes their speakers to the limit, this was a huge issue for me during testing. You will not get the same battery life longevity on the Boom 3, as that speaker gets up to 15 hours depending on your listening habits. The Boom 3 also lacks the handle that I actually quite liked on the StormBox Pro. But the Boom also weighs half as much as the Tribit, so there’s that.

If the Boom 3 exceeds your budget and you’d like to spend a little less than the cost of either of these speakers, then I’d recommend the Anker Soundcore Flare 2 ($70), which will give you as good if not better sound than the StormBox Pro. That speaker has 360-degree sound, absolutely impressive bass for its price and size, has a waterproof rating of IPX7, and can be paired with more than 100 other Flare 2 speakers (just in case you find yourself in this extremely niche situation and decide to, I guess, blast your entire borough). Plus, that speaker has great EQ features and on-unit light show settings. But again, you’re compromising on battery life, as the Flare 2 only gets up to 12 hours of playtime on a single charge, meaning it’s trumped by both the StormBox Pro and the Boom 3.

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Ultimately, I do not think the StormBox Pro is a bad speaker. I think it’s actually a pretty good Bluetooth solution. I just didn’t love the sound handling on this speaker as much as I’ve heard and tested on similarly (or even cheaper) speakers, as was the case with the Anker. But I do think if battery life and portability are important to you—I can’t stress how nice it is to have the option to clip this speaker onto a backpack with a carabiner for, say, camping or hiking—and you’re typically a mid-volume listener, this could be the perfect speaker for you, even if it wasn’t for me.

LG Pledges Three Years of OS Updates After It Stops Making New Phones

Illustration for article titled LG Pledges Three Years of OS Updates After It Stops Making New Phones

Photo: David Ramos (Getty Images)

LG will continue to provide operating system updates for its mobile phones over the next three years, even after the company stops making phones entirely by July of this year, according to an announcement posted on LG’s website. And that’s good news for anyone who recently bought an LG phone or may be thinking of picking one up for cheap in the near future.

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“LG Electronics (LG) announced today that all premium LG smartphones currently in use will receive up to three iterations of Android operating system updates from the year of purchase,” the company said in a statement released early Thursday.

“The three OS update guarantee applies to LG premium phones released in 2019 and later (G series, V series, VELVET, Wing) while certain 2020 models such as LG Stylo and K series will receive two OS updates,” LG explained.

The company, based in South Korea, did note that these promises will depend on “Google’s distribution schedule as well as other factors such as device performance and compatibility.”

Interestingly, LG elaborated further on why it was continuing to produce some phones through mid-summer, and it apparently has to do with contracts that it’s already signed.

“LG will continue to manufacture phones through the second quarter to meet contractual obligations to carriers and partners. This means customers can still purchase LG mobile phones currently in inventory and service support and security software updates will continue to be provided for a period of time for certain devices,” LG said.

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THX’s First Consumer Gadget Is a Tiny Headphone Amp That Will Have You Embracing Wires Again

Illustration for article titled THX's First Consumer Gadget Is a Tiny Headphone Amp That Will Have You Embracing Wires Again

Photo: Andrew Liszewski/Gizmodo

THX is a brand synonymous with sound, best known for its eardrum-tickling deep note trailer played before movies in theaters. For years, THX has partnered with hardware makers, lending its expertise in sound to improve the audio capabilities of everything from smartphones to laptops, and now the company is finally releasing its own consumer product: a tiny amp that promises to make headphones sound better if you’re willing to give up the convenience of wireless.

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Before we dive in, I’ll admit that I’m in no way an audiophile. I’m happy to listen to music through a pair of lightweight wireless earbuds with the audio compressed several times (while it’s being streamed, and then further compressed so it can squeeze into the limited wireless bandwidth of the Bluetooth protocol) before it reaches my ears. But I’ve also spent plenty of time behind a mixing board with professional studio headphones pumping live music into my ears, and can easily hear the difference between the two. Most of the time I’m happy to prioritize convenience over quality, and I have little interest in bankrolling and obsessing over a home stereo setup costing tens of thousands of dollars, but when working at home and listening to music I’ll always reach for a pair of over-ear headphones instead of buds.

THX’s first consumer product might seem like it’s targeted solely at audiophiles, but after trying the $200 Onyx for a few weeks, I think it’s definitely an upgrade that anyone looking to improve their headphone listening experience should consider. But to really take advantage of what it offers, you’re going to want to also consider a serious headphone upgrade—and I mean spending well north of even the $550 Apple AirPods Max.

The THX Onyx is a combination amplifier and DAC—digital to audio converter—that’s designed to make the audio coming out of a pair of headphones sound as good as it can possibly be. The headphone jack on your laptop or (older) smartphone already functions as both an amp and a DAC, converting digital audio files or streams into analog signals and then passing them along to the drivers in a pair of headphones, and for most consumer-grade audio gear, they do an adequate job.

But your average laptop and smartphone also use average performing amplification and DAC components to keep prices low, which can result in compromises in sound quality and audio fidelity when digital files are being converted, as well as unwanted noise being introduced. It can even result in a large pair of headphones just not being loud enough because the built-in amp on a device simply doesn’t send enough power through the headphone jack.

The Onyx might not be the first headphone amplifier available—audiophiles have been relying on these types of devices for years—but THX has created what might now be the sleekest and easiest to use amp/DAC available to consumers. Squeezed inside the slim dongle is a THX Achromatic Audio Amplifier (which promises increased sound levels with minimal noise and distortion) paired with an ESS ES9281PRO DAC that includes an “integrated hardware MQA renderer.” It all sounds very technical and most consumers don’t really need to know what any of that means, but MQA—which stands for Master Quality Authenticated—is a new standard that promises better than CD quality sound through digital files that are still small enough to stream or download, and it’s a standard that’s quickly being adopted across streaming services promising high-fidelity audio.

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The THX Onyx is small and easy to pocket, and even features a magnetic closure so you can create a loop to help wrangle and organize headphone cables.
Photo: Andrew Liszewski/Gizmodo

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In layman’s terms, the THX Onyx is an easy to use USB-C dongle (it includes an adapter for old-school USB ports) that provides an alternate place to plug your headphones in for better sound. It draws all the power it needs from a computer or mobile device and does everything needed to deliver better sound to a pair of headphones automatically. There are no buttons to press, no dials to turn, and nothing to configure. It just works.

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You’ll also need Apple’s Lightning to USB Camera Adapter to connect the THX Onyx to an iPhone’s Lightning port.
Photo: Andrew Liszewski/Gizmodo

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As easy as the Onyx is to use, it does come with one big compromise—you’ll have to embrace wires again. The improvements in sound quality it promises aren’t available through wireless headphones. It gets even worse if the smartphone you’re using is an iPhone with an antiquated Lightning port (there’s a reason Apple doesn’t use Lightning on its laptops) instead of USB-C. According to THX, you’ll need to pair the Onyx with Apple’s $29 Lightning to USB Camera Adapter for it to work with iPhones, adding one more dongle to the mix.

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On one end of the THX Onyx is a USB-C connector, while the other features a standard 3.5mm headphone jack.
Photo: Andrew Liszewski/Gizmodo

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Returning to a life of headphone cables and dongles isn’t easy, but if you regularly listen to music through a pair of on-ear or over-ear headphones, you’ll immediately notice a difference when using the Onyx. I tested the amp/DAC with a pair of Sony’s excellent WH-1000XM4 headphones (with an audio cable attached) and I immediately noticed how much louder and fuller the sound is. When plugged directly into my MacBook Pro’s headphone jack I can turn the volume all the way up on the Sonys for most songs without the sound levels being uncomfortable, although near the upper levels it does start to sound like the signal is being overdriven. Through the THX Onyx I can only turn the volume up a little past the halfway mark before the Sony headphones are too loud for my years, but even at those levels there are no compromises in how good the music sounds, and it doesn’t sound like the amplification is reaching its limits—only my ears are.

It’s not just about being louder, though. A stronger signal helps headphones produced a more nuanced and fuller sound, with a larger dynamic range that helps ensure what you’re hearing is closer to what the sound engineers behind a track wanted you to hear.

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A set of three color-changing LEDs on the THX Onyx indicate the quality level of the music you’re listening to in four stages from CD quality to up to MQA studio quality.
Photo: Andrew Liszewski/Gizmodo

If you really want to experience the full benefits of the $200 THX Onyx you’re going to want to spend a little (or a lot of) money. Streaming services like Amazon Music HD and apps like Audirvana provide access to and playback of higher bit rate audio files, as do video services like Disney+, Hulu, and Netflix. Apple Music doesn’t currently offer a higher quality streaming option, and Spotify only recently announced a HiFi option, so while testing the THX Onyx I relied on Tidal HiFi ($20/month subscription with a free month-long preview) which offers many tracks at a ‘Master’ level that promises studio quality audio.

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The Onyx itself will actually let you know the quality of the track you’re listening to with its set of three color-changing LEDs. Blue is CD quality or slightly above, yellow is high resolution, red is Direct Stream Digital (what Sony and Philips used for Super Audio CDs), and magenta is for max quality MQA certified tracks. I was skeptical that I’d hear much of a difference swapping the Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones between my MacBook Pro’s headphone jack and the THX Onyx while listening to ‘Master’ quality tracks through Tidal, but my ears had no trouble discerning which was which. Music coming through the MBP’s headphone jack was noticeably flatter with less of a dynamic range than when connected to the Onyx. I’m not sure if the difference is big enough to warrant spending $20/month on Tidal HiFi if you’re using $350 headphones, but it might be if you upgrade.

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Photo: Andrew Liszewski/Gizmodo

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The other obvious way to take advantage of a device like the THX Onyx is with a better set of headphones, so in addition to the Sonys, I also tested the Onyx with a pair of $1,000 Beyerdynamic T5 High-end Tesla headphones. Now that my ears have had a taste of the better life, they’ll never be happy with wireless earbuds again. Imagine taking a high-performance sports car for a spin after filling its tank with Zippo lighter fluid, and then once again filled with jet fuel. The Beyerdynamics still provide a better listening experience than the $350 Sonys when plugged directly into my MacBook Pro, but when plugged into the THX Onyx, the T5s are given everything a $1,000 pair of headphones needs to make a hifi audio track sound unbelievable.

Audio compression often strips away frequencies our ears are less sensitive to to reduce file sizes, but with a hifi digital stream, the Onyx, and $1,000 headphones, you hear everything. Blasting the original Star Wars theme through Tidal made it feel like I was sitting on stage with the London Symphony Orchestra, and I now understand the stereotype of the rich old dude sitting in a plush leather chair with a giant pair of expensive headphones on. I didn’t want to take the Beyerdynamics off either.

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Like many of you, I often roll my eyes at audiophiles who look down their noses at anyone who hasn’t shelled out tens of thousands of dollars for audio gear, but the reality is that even if you have a much smaller budget, you can still vastly improve your listening experience. The THX Onyx is a good first step in that direction. Just be mindful that it’s a $200 upgrade that could potentially put you on a slippery slope towards spending a lot more money. You’ve been warned.

Up Your Running Game With an $18 Pair of Wireless Earbuds With Live Coaching

Best Tech DealsBest Tech DealsThe best tech deals from around the web, updated daily.

JVC AE Wireless Earbuds with Live Coaching | $18 | SideDeal

Did you give up on your new year’s resolution to run more, or faster, or harder? Or maybe you just want to up your running game anyway? You should check out these JVC AE wireless earbuds with live coaching!

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These buds are down to a super cheap $18 right now at SideDeal (WAAYYY less than the $121 price they are on Amazon).

Since these JVC AE wireless earbuds are meant for running outside, they do allow ambient noise in for safety. But you’ll still be able to hear your music, podcasts, and your running coach loud and clear! And, they have a nice and long battery life of up to seven hours.

What’s more, they are washable and water-resistant, so you can be sure to keep them clean easily— just the way you should be able to with activewear of any kind! This deal might not last long with such a big discount, so don’t miss out.


Save Big on Laptops, Desktops, and Printers in HP’s 72-Hour Flash Sale

Best Tech DealsBest Tech DealsThe best tech deals from around the web, updated daily.

Featured Deal: 72 Hour Flash Sale | HP

The best HP laptop and desktop deals of April 2021 are here.

HP is holding another 72-hour Flash Sale, but the savings won’t last for much longer: the promotion is set to end Saturday night. That means you don’t have much time left to take advantage on big bargains on HP laptops, desktops, printers, monitors, and accessories.

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But even if you’re just looking for an affordable notebook or desktop PC, you’ll find some stellar bargains right now. Here are some of the top picks from HP’s website, along with HP deals from other retailers.

HP Laptop 14Z | $280

Illustration for article titled Save Big on Laptops, Desktops, and Printers in HP's 72-Hour Flash Sale

Image: Andrew Hayward

Here’s one of the most affordable laptops that HP has right now: an entry-level Windows 10 device that might not be a powerhouse, but should be just right for basic everyday usage and media streaming. You’ll get a 14” HD screen here with an AMD processor and GPU, along with 8GB RAM and a solid 128GB SSD for storage. It’s only $20 off, but it’s already at a killer price.

HP Laptop 17Z | $450

Illustration for article titled Save Big on Laptops, Desktops, and Printers in HP's 72-Hour Flash Sale

Image: Andrew Hayward

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Want to go big at a bargain? Amazingly, you can get a Windows laptop with a huge 17.3” screen for just $450 right now in HP’s Flash Sale. This HP Laptop 17Z has lightweight specs, as you might expect, with an AMD Athlon Gold processor and AMD Radeon Graphics, plus 8GB RAM and a 1TB hard drive. Look, a 17.3” display at 1600×900 resolution isn’t going to be super crisp, but at least you’ll have ample real estate for multitasking. It’s $50 off right now.

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HP Envy Desktop | $840

Illustration for article titled Save Big on Laptops, Desktops, and Printers in HP's 72-Hour Flash Sale

Image: Andrew Hayward

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If you’re more keen on a desktop than a notebook, HP’s Envy desktop is a modestly-priced option that’ll give you solid power for a range of everyday tasks. Right now, the base configuration is $100 off from HP.com, with a 10th-generation Intel Core i7 processor, 12GB RAM, a speedy 256GB SSD, and loads of handy ports for plugging in peripherals and external memory. You’ll need to provide your own monitor, keyboard, and mouse for this one.

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HP Neverstop Laser Printer | $300

Illustration for article titled Save Big on Laptops, Desktops, and Printers in HP's 72-Hour Flash Sale

Image: Andrew Hayward

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If your job requires a lot of printing—seriously, a lot—then you’ll want a printer that’s up to the task of pumping out pages without blowing through ink too quickly. Luckily, the HP Neverstop Laser Printer seems well-suited for the task. It can handle up to 21 black-and-white pages per minute with both wired and wireless printing, and includes a toner tank that’ll last for up to 5,000 printed pages. Save $30 right now.

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HP Omen Laptop 17T | $1,000

Illustration for article titled Save Big on Laptops, Desktops, and Printers in HP's 72-Hour Flash Sale

Image: Andrew Hayward

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You don’t have to be tethered to a desk to get solid gaming performance. HP’s Omen Laptop 17T gives you a 10th-gen Intel Core i5, an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti GPU, 8GB memory, and a 256GB SSD. The large 17.3” screen ought to be great for both gaming and media, while that kind of power should be plenty fine for games like League of Legends and CS:GO. Save $80 right now.

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HP Slim Desktop | $450

Illustration for article titled Save Big on Laptops, Desktops, and Printers in HP's 72-Hour Flash Sale

Image: Andrew Hayward

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This is the cheapest desktop in HP’s sale: a slim tower that should have just enough power to give you smooth sailing across everyday tasks like streaming media, browsing the web, and typing up documents.

The compact computer has an Intel Core i3 processor inside with integrated graphics, 8GB RAM, and a huge 1TB hard drive paired with a speedy 128GB SSD. You even get a DVD-RW drive in the mix. Save $50 off the list price.

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HP All-in-One 22 | $550

Illustration for article titled Save Big on Laptops, Desktops, and Printers in HP's 72-Hour Flash Sale

Image: Andrew Hayward

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This HP All-in-One PC bundles both the brains and screen into one package, saving space while delivering a solid home desktop. With a 10th-gen Intel Core i3 chip and 8GB memory, it won’t be a beast for gaming or intense productivity. However, the 21.5” 1080p display and pairing of a 1TB hard drive and 128GB SSD will give you loads of space for media and more. It’s $100 off right now.

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HP Envy x360 Convertible Laptop | $800

Illustration for article titled Save Big on Laptops, Desktops, and Printers in HP's 72-Hour Flash Sale

Image: Andrew Hayward

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HP is currently cutting $80 off the price of this sleek, convertible HP Envy x360 Windows 10 laptop, which easily contorts to take the shape of a tent or tablet as needed. It’s solidly-equipped with a 15.6” 1080p touch display, 10th-gen Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB RAM, and a 256GB SSD. It won’t be a gaming powerhouse, but the versatile design could make it very handy as an everyday laptop.

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HP OfficeJet Pro 8025e | $170

Illustration for article titled Save Big on Laptops, Desktops, and Printers in HP's 72-Hour Flash Sale

Image: Andrew Hayward

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HP’s OfficeJet Pro 8025e is a fairly modest all-in-one printer/scanner/copier with a 2.7-inch touch display and wireless printing, and it can handle up to 20 pages per minute in black and white (or 10 in color). The printer is shown at list price, but right now HP is offering a bonus in the form of six months of free ink and a two-year warranty bundled in.

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HP 22er 21.5” Monitor | $115

Illustration for article titled Save Big on Laptops, Desktops, and Printers in HP's 72-Hour Flash Sale

Image: Andrew Hayward

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HP’s slimmest-ever LCD monitor is an affordable option right now at a $35 discount from the usual price. This 21.5” display comes at a solidly crisp 1080p resolution and has both HDMI and VGA inputs. There are larger, pricier HP monitors right there, but this is a bargain choice if you’re looking to save some cash.

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This Stick-On Gadget Solves Wireless Charging’s Biggest Problem

Wireless chargers have a dark secret that’s never addressed in the brochures and other promotional materials: You still have to deal with wires. But with Humanscale’s new NeatCharge wireless charger, at least those cords are hidden away out of sight underneath a desk or table.

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Is a wireless charger more convenient than having to plug a tiny cable into the bottom of your smartphone? Yes, of course it is, especially at 2 a.m. when it’s dark and you’re exhausted from doom-scrolling for hours. Setting your phone down on a charging pad is definitely easier, but that pad still needs to be plugged into a power outlet, leaving you with another wire snaking across a desk, table, or nightstand.

Humanscale’s solution is a simple one: Instead of the wireless charging pad sitting on top of a surface, it instead mounts to the underside using some included double-sided 3M tape, or a set of screws if you want to make absolutely sure it never comes lose. The power cable can then be run down a table leg where it’s out of sight and out of mind. And because wireless charging can be finicky if the pad and device aren’t properly aligned, an included sticker can be adhered to the top of the table or desk providing a target of where to play your phone, or you can come up with your own solution, as long as it’s large enough to ensure proper placement.

At $149, this is far from being the cheapest wireless charging solution, but it’s definitely the most aesthetically pleasing, and at 10 watts it’s among the most powerful. There’s a catch, however. Wireless charging only works at very minimal distances, and the NeatCharge only works on desk and tabletop surfaces no thicker than 1.18 inches. That should be fine for most desks and tables made from hardwoods (and glass, although that seems counterintuitive for a device you’re trying to hide) but many of Ikea’s desks are made from thicker sandwiched materials for added strength, and might not be compatible.