Asus’ Zephyrus M features Intel’s 8th-generation processor, but isn’t much of an improvement over last year’s model

As a product, Taiwanese hardware manufacturer Asus’s Zephyrus M laptop is a conundrum. While it contains the latest 2018 Intel Core i7 processor, the laptop’s graphical computing capacity — one of the only reasons to choose a gaming laptop over an ultralight or a 2-in-1 or a pro-class laptop — is actually less powerful than even last year’s Zephyrus model.

Additionally, thanks to Asus’s decision to update the Zephyrus gaming laptop with Coffee Lake processors, the existence of the Zephyrus M is made all the more redundant.

In effect, Asus has chosen to release a device that branches off of the Zephyrus computing line, while simultaneously releasing a product that pushes the core line forward.

At $2,799 CAD, the Zephyrus M is yet another powerful-but-costly pre-built gaming rig whose primary competition isn’t just the latest Dell, Razer or Apple device, or a computer customized and built by an ordinary user — its primary competition is its own family.

Specs

  • Display: 15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080 pixels, 144Hz, IPS display
  • Processor: 8th-gen Intel Core i7-8750H
  • Memory: Up to 32GB DDR5 2,666MHz SDRAM
  • Storage: M.2 NVMe PCIe x4 256GB/512GB SSD + 2.5-inch 5,400 RPM 1TB SSHD
  • Dimensions: 38.4cm x 26.2cm x 1.7cm to 1.99cm (WxDxH)
  • Weight: 2.45kg
  • Camera:
  • OS: Windows 10 Home or Windows 10 Pro
  • Battery: 55Wh, four cells lithium polymer battery
  • Connectivity: 802.11ac 2×2 Wave 2 WLAN, Bluetooth 5.0
  • Ports: 1 Gen 2 USB 3.1 Type-C port, four Gen 2 USB 3.1 Type-A ports, 1 HDMI 2.0 port, 1 3.5mm headphone jack/microphone port, 1 Kensington lock.
  • Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 with 6GB GDDR5 VRAM or Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 with 8GB GDDR5 VRAM

Portable, powerful, sleek and slim

Though the Zephyrus M is distinct from the regular Zephyrus line of devices, close the lid of both laptops, and you’d be forgiven for assuming that the Asus Zephyrus M and its regular Zephyrus sibling are the same computer.

Pop open the lid, however, and some notable distinctions become apparent. To begin with, unlike the Zephyrus’s trackpad placed on the right side of the keyboard, the Zephyrus M has its pointer device below the keyboard, resembling a more traditional laptop’s trackpad placement.

The Zephyrus M’s keyboard is also placed higher up along its frame, whereas the Zephyrus’s keyboard is placed closer to the edge of the device. The new keyboard placement provides a more comfortable typing experience. Thanks to the computer’s revised trackpad placement, using the Zephyrus M as a laptop — without a hardware mouse or external keyboard — is also much easier.

Though the laptop features redesigned input hardware, the Zephyrus M boasts similar input/output interfaces as the regular Zephyrus. Users have the choice of a single second-generation USB-3.1 Type-C port, four USB 3.1 Type-A ports, one HDMI 2.0 port, a 3.5mm headphone/microphone combo jack and a Kensington lock.

Savvy readers will note that this laptop eschews both a dedicated SD card slot, as well as a microSD card slot, which means that photographers, videographers, and pretty much anyone who still uses an SD card as their physical storage media of choice will need an adapter. Most USB-C dongles will work with this device — which is refreshing — but the absence of an SD card slot is troublesome nonetheless.

The Zephyrus M features an improved 15.6-inch full HD, 1920 x 1080 pixels IPS display with a 144Hz refresh rate, though the 2018 Zephyrus comes with the same panel, serving as yet another example of the more powerful Zephyrus device invalidating the M series of laptops.

The Zephyrus M also packs in a four-cell 55Wh battery — the same sized battery as the one present in the 2018 Zephyrus update. Asus suggests that the Zephyrus M should be able to provide up to five hours of battery life, though in daily use, the laptop eked out closer to three hours of computing.

Powerful computing that you’d expect from a dedicated gaming laptop

Beyond the physical build of the keyboard and mouse, the chief difference between the two laptops is the presence of a Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 or 1070 graphics card in the M, versus the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 on the regular Zephyrus.

In practice, I was unable to notice a marked difference in graphics quality and overall performance with the Zephyrus M when compared to the 2017 Zephyrus. The laptop was able to smoothly run games like Overwatch and Heroes of the Storm at most settings, as well as easily complete photo-editing tasks in Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop.

In 2018, however, users expect that a $2,800 laptop with an Intel Core i7 be able to perform complex tasks without sputtering, stalling or crashing. Indeed, in the era of relatively affordable Core i9 chips, users who choose to spend money on pre-built gaming machine also have expectations for virtual reality and multi-monitor output.

I can safely say that the Zephyrus M is able to connect with multiple monitors at once and continuously deliver smooth computing.

In the interest of full disclosure, however, I didn’t have the opportunity to test any virtual reality headsets with the Zephyrus M, and am therefore unable to comment on the kind of VR computing the laptop can deliver.

It’s worth noting that Asus claims that the Zephyrus M laptop is ‘VR ready,’ stating that the laptop’s Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 or 1070 configurations are able to deliver ‘smooth, stutter-free VR performance at up to 90fps.’

Asus’s marketing claims notwithstanding, computing is a numbers game, and I would be remiss not to mention that the GeForce GTX 1080 in the regular Asus Zephyrus laptop will deliver better VR performance regardless of whatever Asus may say.

As a result, users are once again forced to confront the fact that the regular Zephyrus laptop — slightly more expensive though it may be — is still the better option for virtual reality.

Gaming gimmicks are fun, but nonetheless gimmicky

On the subject of Asus, the Taiwanese hardware manufacturer has included a collection of gamer-centric hardware and software quirks alongside the Zephyrus M.

For instance, the laptop’s backlit chiclet keyboard can be customized in a myriad of colourful patterns.

The laptop also ships with Asus’s ROG Gaming Centre software, which allows users to customize its performance based on a number of different usage configurations. Users also have access to fan speed, while the Gaming Centre makes its a little easier to overclock the processor if necessary.

These quirks are definitely gimmicks, and genuine power users will no doubt prefer to mess about with the laptop’s computing power through more traditional means. Still, for entry-level script kiddies looking to enter the curious world of custom computing, the Zephyrus M’s software tweaks are an easy place to start.

An expensive option

As a laptop, Asus’s Zephyrus M is an undeniably powerful computer. With its Intel and Nvidia chips, its ample amounts of RAM, its Samsung SSD and its Seagate Firecuda solid state hybrid drive, users won’t need to worry about completing even the most resource-intensive tasks.

However, the device’s existence as yet another costly pre-built gaming rig — as well as the existence of an updated 2018 Zephyrus laptop — makes the Zephyrus M a difficult sell for players looking for an on-the-go gaming rig.

That being said, if you’re willing to spend $2,800 on a pre-built laptop — and you don’t want a MacBook — then this is wonderful Windows machine is a great, albeit expensive, option.

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‘Hocus’ puzzle game confounds with brilliantly impossible geometry [Game of the Week]

Hocus on iOS
When it comes to puzzle games on mobile, some of the best options are mind-bending perspective puzzles.

While the likes of Monument Valley come to mind, one that’s really stood out to me is Hocus.

The impossibility of Hocus’ levels make up for the lack of a Monument Valley-like story element.

The goal is simple: get a red cube into a tiny red hole. But the journey is where the challenge lies. Navigating the impossible shapes and incongruous paths of more than 100 levels requires serious thought.

Controls are simple as well — swipe in the direction you want to go. A small circle at the top of the screen indicates which ways are available to move.

Hocus levels

On top of this, the minimal visuals of the game are striking. The red cube and red goal stand out against the stark background and dull greys of the path.

One of the biggest strengths Hocus has is its built-in level editor. The editor makes it easy to make your own mind-bending puzzles and share them with friends. The hardest part of level-building is making sure its possible to solve.

The editor itself is simple to use, and before long you’ll find yourself building expansive puzzles.

Once you’ve finished a creation, you can turn it into a ‘card’ with a picture of the level and a QR code. The card saves to your photo library to easily share with others.

Hocus level creator

There’s a Facebook group as well where you can share and play creations with other users.

Overall, Hocus is an excellently designed puzzler. The game features tough but well-designed levels full of mind-bending geometry. When your master the levels, you can make your own challenging levels as well.

The app is available for $0.99 on the App Store, $1.09 on Steam, or for free on Android, with no ads. Instead, Android users can but an expansion pack with 70 new levels for $0.99.

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You’ll soon be able to order cannabis online from Shoppers Drug Mart

cannabis

Shoppers Drug Mart is already a source to fulfill your everyday drug requirements, but it has now been approved by Health Canada to sell cannabis.

Under the name of “Medical Cannabis by Shoppers Drug Mart Inc.,’ Shoppers will soon be licensed to sell those in Ontario dried and fresh cannabis, plants, seeds, and oils. This will not be at its 1,300 locations in Canada but only available online.

On its website, Shoppers notes, “As a leader in health and wellness for Canadians, Shoppers Drug Mart will be your trusted source for medical cannabis from a variety of producers. Through a secure website, patients with a strict safety record will be able to meet the strictest standards, and rest assured that they will be delivered discreetly, right to their doorstep.”

There was no timing listed, only that it will be “coming soon.”

Shoppers Drug Mart was acquired by Loblaws in 2013 for $12.4 billion.

Related: OCS receives over 220,000 legal cannabis orders

Source: Shoppers

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China urges Canada to release Huawei CFO or ‘accept full responsibility for the serious consequences caused’

Huawei P20 camera

Huawei’s unwanted spotlight on its CFO continues into the weekend.

Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s global chief financial officer, has been under arrest in Vancouver since December 1st, reportedly for ‘alleged fraud.’ Meng is the daughter of the founder of Huawei Technologies.

On Friday, during a court hearing, it was revealed that the “U.S. banks became concerned about [the] relationship between Huawei and subsidiary SkyCom. Meng told banks the two were separate when in fact ‘Huawei is SkyCom.”

Today, in a statement to the press, China’s Foreign Ministry said urged Canada to release Meng, noting, “China strongly urges the Canadian side to immediately release the detained person, and earnestly protect their lawful, legitimate rights, otherwise Canada must accept full responsibility for the serious consequences caused.”

While awaiting potential bail, or to see if she will be extradited to the United States, Meng might face charges of conspiracy to defraud multiple financial institutions, which could lead to a maximum sentence of 30 years for each charge. The court will resume on Monday.

In Canada, several wireless carriers, including Telus and Bell, are backed by Huawei’s cellular infrastructure. In an earlier report, it was estimated that it would cost Canadian telecoms upward of $1 billion to remove Huawei equipment.

Source: National Post

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Forest is an app to help you focus [App of the Week]

Forest is a charming app that helps users stay focused by keeping them off of their phone.

The app has been out since the beginning of the year, and it’s recently been placed on Apple’s top apps of the year list.

The central concept behind Forest is to plant a virtual tree in the app every time you want to focus on something. The goal is to spend time focusing on things every day in order to grow a forest of virtual trees.

If you open your phone and navigate outside of the app then the tree dies.

To use the app, you have to select a limit for how long you want to focus and then the tree or shrub will grow within that time frame. The longer the time you set, the larger the tree will be.

Once the tree has grown, you can even set a timer for a break if you want to keep yourself on track.

You can also set tags to each tree to help keep track of the reasons you decide to focus for.

Users who pay for the premium version of the app can also earn achievements and coins to spend on new plants to populate your forest. You can also tap on the tree on the main screen to change the variety of the plant.

There is even an option to listen to ambient music from the app. The default sound is ‘Forest Rain,’ but users can unlock more by growing more trees to earn coins.

The app also plants trees in real life when users spend virtual coins. Forest is available on both iOS and Android, plus there’s a browser extension to use on your computer.

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MobileSyrup Holiday Gift Guide – Wearables and audio [2018 Edition]

Wearables and audio

Connected devices can make for excellent gifts. There is such a diverse selection of great products. Better yet, there are options to fit almost any cost.

When it comes to wearbles, there are many great options. The Apple Watch is great for iPhone fans, and Fitbit makes fantastic fitness trackers for everyone — athlete or not.

We also compiled several excellent headphones and Bluetooth speakers for the audiophile in your life.

Check out our list of the best wearable and audio gifts for the nerds in your life.

 

Withings Steel HR Sport

Withings makes some of the most unique fitness trackers in the world. The brilliant melding of traditional watch faces with e-ink displays and fitness tracking components make for a stylish watch unlike any other.

Buy from Withings

$263

Buy from Amazon

Fitbit Versa

For the fitness nerd that wants more out of their wearable, the Fitbit Versa is the best activity tracker and smartwatch combo. And it plays well with Android and Apple

Read the Review

$249.95

Buy from Fitbit

Fossil Explorist

One of the newest Google Wear OS smartwatches, the Fossil Explorist has a premium design and great software, making it one of the most promising smartwatches on the market right now for Android users.

Read the Review

   $365

Buy from Fossil

Fitbit Charge 3

The Fitbit Charge 3 is a fantastic fitness tracker for the athlete in your life. With a refreshed design and great new features, the Charge 3 makes for an excellent wrist-companion.

Read the Review

    $199.95

Buy from Fitbit

Apple Watch Series 4

If you’re buying for someone in the Apple ecosystem, then the new Apple Watch is the premiere wearable for them. It’s designed from the ground up to work with an iPhone. It’s hard to beat that experience with any other wearable.

Read the Review

$519

Buy from Apple

Apple AirPods

When it comes to true-wireless earbuds, there’s few that compare to Apple’s AirPods. The ease of connection, the stability, the recognizable style are all pros. These are a great accessory for any iPhone fan.

Read the Review

$219

Buy from Apple

Amazfit Bip

The Bip is an excellent budget smartwatch. This little watch has GPS and can last for over a month on a single charge. Plus, it has an e-ink display for anyone that loves the retro futurism of its look.

Read the Review

$130

Buy from Amazfit

Loop True Wireless Earbuds

Looking for great truly wireless earbuds but don’t want to fork out a huge amount of money? The Loop wireless earbuds are a solid option with good sound and a great build.

Read the Review

$130

Buy from Loop

Sony WH-1000XM3 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Sony makes some of the best headphones out there, but its noise cancelling WH-1000XM3s are the best. They’re a premium product with a premium price, but once you put them, on the world just disappears. There really isn’t a price on that.

Learn More

$449.99

Buy from Best Buy

OnePlus Type-C Bullets

OnePlus offers great value on its phones and accessories, and the Bullets earbuds are no exception. The Type-C Bullets are excellent for the music-lover on a budget. However, the Bullets Wireless are fantastic as well, for a higher price.

Learn More

$26.95

Buy from OnePlus

UE Boom 3

Bluetooth speakers are almost a dime a dozen at this point. Finding one that will last, has great features and great sound is harder than ever, but the latest UE Boom 3 hits all the right boxes without breaking the bank.

Read the Review

$199.99

Buy from UE

Aukey SoundTank

Aukey’s rugged SoundTank Bluetooth speaker offers solid sound and durability in a light, portable package — and at a great price too. It’s also got an AUX input for a wired connection. For the music lover on the go, this speaker will make a great companion.

Learn More

  $49.99

Buy from Amazon

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BedJet V2 could make you feel like a toasty cinnamon bun [Sticky or Not]

Extreme cold temperatures can make it pretty difficult to live in Canada sometimes, especially since winter can last for eight months.

Enter BedJet V2, a glorified bed hair dryer “that lives under your bed,” or at least that’s how a review on Wired describes the device.

BedJet V2 is a large blower that is placed under your bed and circulates air up and through a flexible duct that turns into a nozzle placed between your comforter and top sheet.

The product, priced at $299 USD, launched on Kickstarter and raised over $1.3 million.

BedJet V2 describes itself as a “cooling, warming climate comfort system for beds.”

Wired noted that it’s relatively easy to install and can be done in under 30 minutes. The publication did add that “the hardest part [was] getting the nozzle situated just right so it sits close to the mattress.”

The machine comes with a clunky remote. It has three modes: cool, heat, and turbo heat. To turn off the machine users press the mode they’re on a little longer.

To make things more comfortable and easy, the machine works with an app, which has more control in working the machine (speed of the fan, temperature, duration). You can also set a timer for how long heat should run through your sheets.

The machine can be purchased with a special bed sheet that BedJet calls the AirComfort Cloud Sheet. The sheet attaches directly to the nozzle and directs airflow between the layers of sheets.

The part that really entices most buyers is that there’s also a sheet called the Dual Zone Cloud Sheet, which features a partition to split the sheet in half. This way you could essentially have two machines warming or cooling whoever is in bed.

Verdict: Sticky…ish

Honestly, when you’re living in a country where temperatures can get as cold as -40 C having a machine pumping warm air is a godsend.

But there are so many other products out there that can keep you warm without having to spend nearly $300 USD (roughly $385 CAD). Go buy yourself cozy socks that keep your feet warm and a solid comforter and crank up your heat.

The idea of having a split sheet that allows for two different air flows sounds, as one of MobileSyrup’s reporters said “really bougie” — but it’s a bougie feeling that most people could get by if they could have warm or cold air in between their sheets whenever they want.

It all really boils down to if you have the disposable income and, well quite frankly, how important it is for you to feel like a warm toasty cinnamon bun, like Homer Simpson.

Source: Wired

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Removing Huawei equipment could cost Canadian telecoms $1 billion

Head of CSIS in Canada says 5G networks are troubling

Removing Huawei equipment from next-gen networks could cost Canadian telecom giants an estimated $1 billion.

According to a Globe and Mail report, executives at both Telus and BCE compiled the financial costs of a prohibition on the Chinese telecom’s technology.

One executive suggested banning Huawei would cost $500 million to $1 billion for Telus alone. Another industry source told the Globe it would cost BCE hundreds of millions of dollars. Finally, a third insider said the total estimated cost for both BCE and Telus would exceed $1 billion. The Globe gave the sources anonymity as they weren’t authorized to discuss sensitive company business.

These costs would come from having to rip out and replace tens of thousands of antennas as the companies remove Huawei equipment.

BCE, Telus and, to a lesser extent, Rogers Communications, all use Huawei equipment in their cellular networks. However, Rogers already partners with Swedish telecom Ericsson, Huawei’s main competitor in 5G.

Should a Huawei ban come to pass, BCE and Telus would likely have to switch to Ericsson as well.

Further, Telus devotes roughly $1 billion to capital expenditures a year. The majority of that goes towards network infrastructure. Bell invested a little over $730 million in each of the last two years to capital expenditures in the wireless business. The company also spent approximately $3 billion a year on communications systems using cable and wire.

Veritas Investment Research telecommunications sector analyst Desmond Lau told the Globe that ripping out and replacing this infrastructure would be quite expensive.

For both BCE and Telus, he said: “It would not be unreasonable to think a full rip-and-replace would cost in the range of $1 billion.” However, Lau noted this figure was a “guesstimate” not based on information disclosed by the companies.

Lau also noted it was too soon to say whether a rip-out will, won’t or might happen.

Currently, the federal government is conducting a national security review to determine if Canada should follow fellow Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance members in banning Huawei products from 5G cellular networks. So far, the U.S., Australia and New Zealand have all banned Huawei.

While some federal MPs say Canada should exercise caution on the issue, others worry the U.S. is influencing Canadian foreign policy regarding Huawei and China.

Source: Globe and Mail

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Here’s how to give your Memoji a Santa Hat for the holidays

Memoji Santa Hat

It’s that most wonderful time of the year, full of Santa hats and ugly Christmas sweaters and other holiday accessories.

If decking out in your favourite holiday gear isn’t enough, you can give your Memoji a Santa hat too. Here’s how.

First up, you’ll need to edit your Memoji. To do so, hop into Message on your iPhone X, XR, XS and XS Max. Further, if you’ve got one of the new iPad Pros, you can do this too.

Open and edit your Memoji

Once you’re in Messages, open a conversation — or press the button to start a new chat — and tap the Animoji icon in the bar above the keyboard. Then, select the Memoji you want make festive, and press the blue button with three dots.

Tap edit, then headwear

On the next screen, tap ‘Edit.’ On the bar below your Memoji, scroll to the far right. You’ll see a section called ‘Headwear.’ Tap that and scroll down. You’ll see a Santa Hat option near the bottom.

Once you select the hat, adjust the colour to your preferred shade and tap ‘Done.’ Now your Memoji is ready for the holidays.

Pick the Santa Hat and the colour

If the hat isn’t enough, you can also add a big, white beard in the facial hair section for even more Santa style as well.

While the feature is rather adorable, it would be nice if there were a few more options. Something like elf ears, or reindeer antlers. A New Years party hat could be a nice addition as well.

Source: iMore

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SpaceX Christmas Gifts Arrive at the International Space Station

(CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.) — A SpaceX delivery full of Christmas goodies arrived at the International Space Station on Saturday, following a slight delay caused by a communication drop-out.

The Dragon capsule pulled up at the orbiting lab three days after launching from Cape Canaveral. Commander Alexander Gerst used the space station’s big robotic arm to grab the cargo carrier, as the two craft soared 250 miles above the Pacific.

It took two tries to get the Dragon close enough for capture.

NASA called off the Dragon’s first approach because of trouble with the communication network that serves the space station. Equipment failure in New Mexico for NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite system resulted in a temporary loss of communication with the station. For safety, Mission Control ordered the Dragon to back up.

It was a successful take two — just an hour-and-a-half late — after NASA switched to another TDRS satellite.

The Dragon holds everything the station astronauts need for Christmas dinner, as well as mice and worms for science experiments, and more than 5,000 pounds (2,270 kilograms) of station equipment.

The holiday food includes smoked turkey, green bean casserole, candied yams, cranberry sauce and fruitcake. There also are shortbread and butter cookies, with tubes of icing for decorating.

Three of the space station residents will be on board for Christmas; the other three will return to Earth on Dec. 20. Until then, the station is home to two Americans, two Russians, one Canadian and Gerst, who is German.

It is the second space station visit for this recycled Dragon; it was there last year, too.

SpaceX has been making station shipments for NASA since 2012. This is its 16th delivery under contract.

Two other supply ships are attached to the space station: One Russian and the other sent by NASA’s other commercial shipper, Northrop Grumman.