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5 innovations that pushed laptops forward at CES 2021

CES 2021 may be virtual, but the event still offered up a trove of PC innovations, and that goes doubly so in the mobile space. Intel, AMD, and Nvidia all announced new laptop CPUs or GPUs, which in turn unleashed new generation of cutting-edge notebooks from every major vendor. We’ve covered our favorite PC hardware announcements in our best of CES roundup. 

Beyond specific products, we wanted to highlight some of the most fascinating laptop advances on display during the show. We didn’t see as many wild-and-crazy concept PCs as we normally do at CES—chalk it up to the difficulties of the past year. Nonetheless, several features and trends point to a bright future for notebook buyers, especially if you’re in the market for a gaming PC, as so many people are these days.

Without further ado, these are the best laptop innovations we witnessed at CES 2021.

Asus ROG XG Mobile
The Asus ROG Flow X13 is a diminutive 2.8-pound, 13-inch gaming laptop. Despite that small, slender profile, Asus claims the Flow X13 can outpunch desktop-replacement-class notebooks that weigh significantly more. How? With the companion ROG XG Mobile dock that Asus offers.

Asus equips the actual laptop with up to a Ryzen 9 5980HS, paired with a GeForce GTX 1650—a discrete graphics card, but one capable only of modest gaming. The magic happens when you connect the Flow X13 to the XG Mobile, which includes Nvidia’s new GeForce RTX 3080 inside along with an array of helpful ports. Now, boosting laptop gaming with external graphics docks is nothing new—that’s the Razer Blade Stealth’s whole schtick. But most of those efforts revolve around large docks that handle bulky desktop graphics cards.

The ROG XG Mobile instead opts to use Nvidia’s mobile RTX 3080. That means it can’t be upgraded, but it also lets Asus craft the dock using a tiny 2.2-pound design that slips easily into a custom travel bag designed to fit both the docks and the Flow X13. That’s easy enough to haul around if you need to—unlike other external graphics solutions. Better yet, the versatile design means you can schlep the bare laptop around all day without throwing out your back, then plug into the ROG XG Mobile for hot and heavy gaming sessions at home, or hot and heavy creation sessions at the office.

Laptop displays level up
Our other favorites are trends rather than discrete products. The most noteworthy? Laptop panels are leveling up big-time in 2021, most notably in gaming rigs, but actually across the board.

Most gaming notebooks tend to offer a couple of standard options: A 1080p 60Hz display, maybe a 144Hz panel if you’re lucky, and often a premium 4K 60Hz option, all in a standard 16:9 aspect ratio. Your options are about to get a lot more varied. 

Most exciting? The sudden availability of laptops with 1440p displays, thanks to Nvidia’s advocacy with panel makers and laptop vendors. We lamented the lack of 1440p laptops just last year, but at CES 2021, we saw 1440p gaming laptops announced by the likes of Lenovo, Acer, Razer, and Asus, among others. Finally.

Faster displays became far more common as well, with virtually every major vendor expanding its refresh rate options. Speedy 144Hz and 300Hz+ 1080p display used to be a luxurious premium upsell, but those now come standard in laptops like the MSI Stealth 15M, the Alienware m17, Acer’s Predator Triton 300 SE, and Razer’s upgraded Blade. Several gaming notebooks offer blistering 240Hz 1440p options as well, marrying both trends.

Beyond gaming, usability was a focus for the laptops of CES 2021 as well. The Lenovo Legion 7 offers a 16:10 aspect ratio, and the HP Elite Folio opts for a 3:2 display, bucking the widescreen 16:9 ratio that’s become ubiquitous. More vertical screen space means more real estate for spreadsheets. The HP Elite Dragonfly G2 pairs a blazing 1,000-nit display with a SureView privacy feature to keep prying eyes at bay. The Alienware m17’s 4K option can be paired with Tobii eyetracking. Lenovo partnered with TUV Rheinland on a panel with reduced blue light levels to keep your eyes from becoming strained. Keep the options coming, y’all.

Webcams don’t (always) suck anymore
With everyone working and schooling via Zoom, it wasn’t surprising to see webcams get more love in the 2021 crop of laptops, but it sure was welcome. Most gaming notebooks still come with ho-hum 720p webcams, sadly, but the MSI GE76 Raider Dragon Edition and Alienware’s new laptops bump that up to 1080p.

But HP leads the pack here, with a strong focus on webcam performance in its more business-focused laptops. The HP Elite Dragonfly Max packs a 5MP webcam with over 4X the pixels of your standard 720p model, paired with a manual camera switch to ensure it’s disabled, and not one, not two, but four microphones for better audio as well. “In addition to all this hardware, HP builds in a raft of audio enhancement technologies including HP Audio Boost for noise reduction, HP Sound Calibration to optimize the signal to your hearing, and HP Dynamic Audio to adjust the sound quality for speech, music, or movies,” we wrote in our coverage.

The consumer-focused HP Envy 14, on the other hand, sticks to a 720p webcam with a physical shutter, but surrounds it with “HP Enhanced Lighting”—a selfie light display intended to make you look better in all those video meetings. Both of HP’s laptops, as well as the Elite Dragonfly G2 discussed earlier, bake in AI tools to filter out background noise coming through the mics, because your audio feed should be just as clean as your video. Hopefully other vendors will follow in HP’s footsteps as the year goes on.

Cooler, faster gaming laptops
We won’t dive too deeply into the technical weeds here, but there were a pair of extremely geeky gaming laptop trends worth highlighting: Resizable BAR for laptops, and the exploding popularity of liquid metal compound paste on the CPU.

AMD kicked off interest in the PCIe specification’s Resizable BAR feature when it introduced Smart Access Memory in its Ryzen 5000 CPUs and Radeon RX 6000 GPUs on the desktop. It’s underpinned by the standardized (but previously unutilized) PCIe option. Resizable BAR (and Smart Access Memory) lets your CPU tap into the full memory capacity of your GPU, rather than limiting it to 256MB chunks. The resulting performance gains depend greatly on your game, your resolution, and even your settings, but as our testing with the Radeon RX 6900 XT showed, the feature can improve performance up to a very noticeable 10 percent.

Now that free extra performance is coming to laptops. Nvidia said its new GeForce RTX 30-series laptop graphics chips support Resizable BAR. Intel explicitly called it out for its new 11th-gen Tiger Lake H35 chips as well. AMD didn’t mention Resizable BAR or Smart Access Memory during its Ryzen 5000 Mobile introduction, but given that the company’s own desktop chips sparked this trend, consider it a lock—especially since Nvidia claims its Resizable BAR implementation will work on all the newly announced chips from both Intel and AMD.

Moving on, liquid metal is picking up steam. Liquid metal came into vogue among desktop overclocking enthusiasts because it offers superior cooling performance compared to standard thermal paste. Unfortunately its fluid nature and reaction to aluminum makes it difficult to use in mass production. Laptop makers need to prevent the highly efficient and mercurial-like liquid metal from flowing onto the surface-mounted chips near the CPU die. Asus and Lenovo have figured it out, and Lenovo announced its use in Legion gaming laptops. Asus is applying it in every ROG-branded notebook. Asus actually started doing that when Intel’s 10th-gen mobile processors came out, but it’s interesting to see such a nerdy feature become more mainstream. The companies’ laptops might have quieter fan noise and longer turbo boost speeds as a result.

Swappable Surface SSDs
Microsoft revealed the Surface Pro 7+ at CES 2021, a business-friendly version of its flagship convertible. It packs goodies like Intel’s new Tiger Lake chips and LTE options, but we want to highlight how the Surface Pro 7+ has been rejiggered to allow users to replace its SSD.

That’s nothing new for the vast majority of laptops, but since the Surface joined Apple in leading the anti-upgrade charge in premium thin-and-light laptops, we’re crossing our fingers that this signifies a new trend for Microsoft, and that future consumer Surface models will include swappable storage. Please?

Bonus: What’s next for Wi-Fi
This hot new technology wasn’t found in many laptops at CES 2021 but expect to see it soon. On January 7, mere days before CES kicked off, the Wi-Fi Alliance announced its Wi-Fi 6E certification program, unleashing the wireless technology on the 6GHz spectrum. Those relatively uncrowded airwaves should offer a speed boost over devices that currently use the congested 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands.

Router makers jumped on the announcement with an arsenal of Wi-Fi 6E routers to get the ball rolling. Of the major laptop vendors, we spotted Wi-Fi 6E onlyon the luxurious MSI GE76 Raider Dragon Edition at CES, but expect to see it become more common soon. Note: Other notebook vendors touted Wi-Fi 6 connectivity, but that doesn’t open up the 6GHz spectrum like Wi-Fi 6E. Instead, it’s a rebranding of the existing protocol formerly dubbed 802.11ax. It’s fast, but it’s not Wi-Fi 6E.

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Best Workgroup Printer 2021: the Top Printers for Busy Offices

Welcome to our pick of the best workgroup printers of 2021. These printers are essential additions to any modern office, especially busy ones were numerous PCs need to use the printer throughout the day.

Sure, many of the best printers now come with network connectivity, but they can really only handle a few devices connected to them at a time. The best workgroup printers, however, are much more powerful, with on-board memory to store jobs as they are queued, which makes them excellent purchases for busy and growing offices.

Having a decent amount of RAM, and a fast processor, means they can handle even the most demanding of workloads throughout the day.

Of course, because they are best suited to busy offices, they also need to be able to handle printing out large numbers of documents every month as well. So, speed is important, as well as large trays to hold paper, and they need to be able to offer top-notch print quality as well.

All the best workgroup printers will have network connections, either wired via Ethernet or Wi-Fi (or preferably both for maximum flexibility).

So, read on for our pick of the best workgroup printers, and let our built-in price comparison tool help find you the best deals as well.

1. Xerox VersaLink B600DN laser printer
2. Brother HL-L5100DN laser printer
3. Xerox VersaLink C400DN
4. Kyocera Ecosys P6230cdn laser printer
5. HP LaserJet Pro MFP M227fdw
6. Canon i-Sensys MF735Cx
7. Lexmark B2236dw
8. Ricoh SP C261DNw
9. Lexmark MB2236adw

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The best Mint Mobile phones for January 2021

Our list of the best Mint Mobile phones is here to give our readers some recommendations for great devices to pair up with this fantastic smaller carrier. We’re covering both iPhones and Android devices here and we’ll also cover a range of budgets, so if you’re really on a shoe-string – we’ve got you covered.

Mint Mobile is fast becoming one of the nation’s most popular ‘alternative’ carriers thanks to its competitive pricing and great value proposition. In a nutshell, they offer plans starting at $15 a month, which you buy in upfront chunks of three, six, or 12 months for plenty of prepaid flexibility.

Compared to most prepaid carriers the Mint Mobile iPhone selection is plentiful, not to mention they offer all the top Android phones at several different price points. We’ve reviewed most of these phones, too, which gives us a unique advantage to help you decide what’s the best bang for your buck. 

Another option is to bring your own unlocked phone to Mint Mobile, which is viable for all phones that support T-Mobile’s network. We’ve covered this topic in much more detail just down below, alongside the other best Mint Mobile phones, so simply scroll further down the page to see more information.

MINT MOBILE PHONES: IPHONES
1. iPhone 12 Pro
2. iPhone SE
3. iPhone 12 mini

MINT MOBILE PHONES: ANDROID
1. Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus
2. Google Pixel 4a
3. Moto G Power

BRING YOUR OWN PHONE
The best phone for Mint Mobile might actually be an older device you still have from your previous relationship with Verizon, AT&T, or any number of different carriers. 

Mint Mobile lets you bring unlocked phones to its network, which gives you more options than most carriers. Most GSM phones (AT&T, T-Mobile) should work just fine, but if you’re wondering if your old phone will work, simply use Mint’s own compatibility checker tool.

People trying to save money can get a phone elsewhere, bring it to Mint Mobile, and save tons of cash by getting a new affordable plan. So, if you still like your current phone, they’ll let you use it for as long as you’d like. Here’s a quick rundown of the benefits and downsides of bringing your own phone to Mint Mobile:

Pros:
Bring any compatible phone to Mint Mobile
Keep your same phone number and contacts
Avoid upgrading for no reason

Cons:
Not all phones are compatible
Sometimes you’ll have to pay to unlock a phone
Limited customer support for unusual devices 

In the end, Mint Mobile is a compelling option for those that want great service at consumer-friendly prices, with friendly policies and such. For the low price, buyers will get plenty of data, great cell coverage, and hopefully save some money. It’s perfect for teenagers or people that just need text or data and don’t’ talk too much on the phone. 

We love that Mint lets you pre-pay by the month or get a discount for buying 12-months at a time. Plus, they have awesome deals and discounts all the time, which will surely help you choose a great plan and device. Give it a try today. 

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The Most Overpriced Laptop of 2020 Seems to be Giving it Another Try in 2021

A brand new Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 leak is showing what the still-rumored laptop may look like in early 2021, and it seems more red than ever. No word on if it’ll be ultra-expensive like its predecessor.

Renders of the Galaxy Chromebook 2, first posted to Voice by tech leaker Evan Blass, echo what we saw from the original Samsung Galaxy Chromebook at CES 2020 – the overall color choice, design and port locations appear to be the same. 

Here’s what may be different in 2021: the Intel processor deserves an upgrade, and we expect reliability improvements to justify this Chromebook’s inevitably lofty price. The original was 2020’s most overpriced laptop – even if it was gorgeous.

But will the price change?
It’s going to be hard to top the design of the original Samsung Galaxy Chromebook. We felt that between the 4K AMOLED display and the exquisite quality of the chassis, it was easily one of the more gorgeous machines we’d ever gotten our hands on – even if it was really expensive for a Chromebook.

There will be a single-colored body, if Blass’ leak turns out to be accurate, ditching the two-tone look of Samsung’s last Galaxy Chromebook. We’re unsure if it looks better this way, but from the render still looks gorgeous, so maybe we can just leave that question for our eventual Galaxy Chromebook 2 review.

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Apple Started Working on its Own Modems

In a recent internal meeting, Apple’s SVP of hardware technologies Johny Srouji told employees that the company has “kicked off the development of our first internal cellular modem which will enable another key strategic transition.” That’s according to a report from Bloomberg that suggests Apple has started building its own 5G modems to replace those it currently uses from Qualcomm.

I think you could argue that the modem is the most important component inside an iPhone. Without it, no matter how nice the form factor or how powerful the processor, it’s basically just an iPod touch. The modem is the piece that allows it to connect to cellular networks, a fairly important quality for a mobile phone. 

The move doesn’t necessarily mean Apple plans to kick Qualcomm, its current supplier of modems for the iPhone 12, to the curb entirely just yet. It’s actually more complicated than that. 

Qualcomm is the dominant manufacturer of modems, and even moreso, the technology that makes them work. The company owns some 140,000 patents related to 5G technology, meaning that almost every company that makes cellular modems is paying a licensing fee to Qualcomm.

But Qualcomm builds modems and mobile processors for a range of manufacturers, meaning it has to accommodate a diverse set of needs and design. The iPhone may be one of the most popular smartphones sold, but Apple is still just one of many companies that Qualcomm sells to.

That means that one of the most important components in the iPhone is one of the few that aren’t highly specialized for exactly that device. 
Apple and Qualcomm entered into a settlement in 2019 that resolved a years-long battle over licensing fees and gives Apple access to modems through 2025, with an option to extend for two more years. Apple had used Intel’s modems in the iPhone 11 as part of its response to the battle. 

Shortly after the Qualcomm settlement, Apple bought Intel’s entire modem business for a bargain at $1 billion. With that purchase came all of its related intellectual property, as well as more than 2,000 employees. That should certainly give it a head start. 

It seems clear that Apple is taking control of its own destiny. It’s been taking steps down that path for a while, first with the chips in the iPhone and iPad, then with Apple Silicon for the Mac — which the company announced back at its Worldwide Developer Conference and debuted last month — and now with modems.

It certainly makes sense that Apple wants to control the important pieces that make up its devices. Apple is the most valuable company on earth, with a market cap of more than $2 trillion. With the acquired Intel assets, Apple has the resources and know-how to bring modem production in house, just like it did with Apple Silicon.

In addition, modems are complex and a major draw of power, especially the 5G version. That leaves plenty of room for improvement — something that certainly isn’t lost on Apple.

Could Apple design a chip that both better integrates with its A-series processors and extends battery life? It wouldn’t surprise me. This could be significant considering the fastest version of 5G, known as ultra-wideband, is much more power-hungry than LTE. That’s a big deal in a device like the iPhone 12 mini, which already suffers from shorter battery life due to its smaller size.

Apple, with the M1, has already shown it’s far better at designing and manufacturing low-power chips than either Intel or Qualcomm. That allows the company to achieve better performance with less power consumption. In a mobile device that’s important, since people tend to use them for long stretches at a time before plugging them in to charge. Battery performance and battery life is reason enough to think that Apple would much rather bring production in house.

That said, I think there’s a more interesting use case.
I think that it’s possible we could see Apple finally preparing the way to add 5G cellular capabilities to a Mac. I suspect the most likely candidate is some future version of a MacBook Air. 

So far, Apple has resisted adding cellular capabilities to its laptops, despite other manufacturers moving in that direction, but Apple has never been in a hurry to be first to adopt new technology with edge use-cases. That’s exactly what 5G remains for most people until it’s more widely available. It looks great on paper, but it’s not exactly practical, or even meaningful, yet.

Even in the case of the iPhone 12, which includes Qualcomm’s 5G modems, most people aren’t living in an area where they can take advantage of the fastest versions. I even tested out the only 5G laptop I’m aware of, the Lenovo Flex 5G. It certainly seemed like an interesting idea, but not only was it severely lacking when it came to processing power (due mostly to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx processor), I never once found a spot where it was able to take advantage of Verizon’s 5G network.

Another potential reason Apple hasn’t rushed in this direction is the way Qualcomm charges its licensing fee, which has traditionally been based on the total price of the device. That means that in addition to paying for a modem, Apple is also paying a fee for the license. That’s one thing in an $800 or $1,000 iPhone, but something else in a MacBook Air or MacBook Pro, which can easily exceed $2,000 or more at the high end. 

That was largely the reason Apple sued Qualcomm in the first place, meaning it’s likely addressed in the settlement. Still, there was never a reason to pay Qualcomm a piece of the profit on a MacBook with 5G when it wasn’t something anyone could use anyway. That’s starting to change.

Also, the M1 Macs — at least the portable flavor — are finally capable of actual all-day battery life. That’s without any change in the battery, just swapping in a more efficient processor. It isn’t hard to imagine that whatever comes next, both in terms of form factor and processor design, will continue to escalate that trend line in a positive direction. As Apple is able to get more gain in margin from the battery, it starts to make sense to spend some powering a modem that allows for anywhere access.

Granted, “anywhere access” isn’t super high on anyone’s list of needs right now while we’re all working from home. That, hopefully, will change in the next six or eight months. When it does, people who have been working from home might want to get out of the house, but that doesn’t mean they’ll all be in a hurry to race back to the office. 

A MacBook Air with all-day battery life plus LTE or 5G wireless would be the perfect remote work device. It’s true that we aren’t quite there yet, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be smart for Apple to try.

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What Is Fast Charging?

Being able to quickly charge your phone or tablet can mean the difference between hours of care-free use or scrambling to find the nearest coffee shop for a power outlet. Fast charging is an increasingly popular feature that allows you to power up your device in just a fraction of the time it takes to do it the old-fashioned way. But not all products use the same type of fast charging—and not all chargers support the various standards. Here’s what you need to know to make sure you’re getting the fastest charge possible.

Understanding Fast Charging
The output of a charge is measured in amperage and voltage. Amperage (or current) is the amount of electricity flowing from the battery to the connected device, while voltage is the strength of the electric current. Multiplying volts by amps gives you wattage, the measure of total power.

To make a device charge faster, most manufacturers either boost the amperage or vary the voltage in order to increase the amount of potential energy. The majority of fast charging standards typically vary the voltage rather than boost the amperage.

Standard USB 3.0 ports output at a level of 5V/1A for smaller devices like wearables. Most phones and other devices are capable of handling 5V/2.4A. For fast charging, you’re looking at something that bumps the voltage up 5V, 9V, 12V, and beyond, or increases amperage to 3A and above.

Keep in mind, your device will only take in as much power as its charging circuit is designed for. For fast charging to work, you need a phone or other device with a charging circuit capable of using one of the fast charging standards, and an adapter and cable enabled for that same standard.

Type of Fast Charging
Apple Fast Charging
Starting with the iPhone 8, all of Apple’s phones support fast charging. Unless you own an iPhone 11 Pro or 11 Pro Max, however, you’re probably using one of Apple’s slow 5W adapters to charge your phone.

Apple uses USB Power Delivery for fast charging, and claims you’ll see a 50 percent increase in battery life in just 30 minutes. In order to get these speeds, however, you need to use at least an 18W adapter with a USB-C-to-Lightning cable. A more powerful adapter won’t harm your phone, but it’s unlikely to help. We reached out to Apple to determine the most powerful adapter its iPhone lineup will support, but a representative for the company said it doesn’t disclose maximum charging specifications.

MediaTek Pump Express
Certain MediaTek-powered phones use the company’s Pump Express standard, which comes in different versions on different devices.

Pump Express 2.0+ is primarily for MediaTek’s low-end chipsets, and works with micro USB and USB-C charging ports. Charging maxes out at 15W by using 5V to 20V variable voltage in conjunction with 3A or 4.5A of current. 

Pump Express 3.0 and Pump Express 4.0 are largely the same. Both rely on 5A of current and use USB Power Delivery 3.0. The difference is that Pump Express 4.0 also supports its own proprietary wireless charging technology, as well at Qi wireless charging at 5W. 

MediaTek claims Pump Express 2.0+ should charge a depleted battery to 70 percent within 30 minutes, while Pump Express 3.0 and 4.0 should cut that time in half. While these are indeed fast estimates, we didn’t quite see these results bear our when testing Pump Express 3.0. On average, we saw closer to a 55 percent charge over 15 minutes, which is still nothing to sneeze at.

Motorola Rapid Charging and TurboPower
Motorola uses two different proprietary fast charging standards, Rapid Charging and TurboPower. For the most part, the company’s less expensive Moto E and and Moto G series phones use Rapid Charging, which offers 10W charging via micro USB or USB-C. It offers a slight boost over basic 5W charging, but don’t expect to see super-fast charging times.

Motorola’s midrange and flagship phones uses a different technology called TurboPower. To be honest, TurboPower is a little confusing, and you’ll probably want to check the company’s site to find the best charger for your phone, but basically there are 15W and 18W TurboPower standards. To simplify things a bit, all Motorola smartphones with TurboPower also support Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0.

OnePlus Dash Charge and Warp Charge
Dash Charge and Warp Charge are licensed from Oppo, and work the same as Vooc, bumping up amperage to 5V/4A to achieve an output of 20W. On a phone like the OnePlus 5T, you can charge up to 60 percent in 30 minutes.

Newer models like the OnePlus 8 Pro support 30W wired and wireless charging thanks to Warp Charge. Wired charging is delivered via a 5V/6A adapter and proprietary USB-C cable. Delivering 30W wireless charging speeds is more of a challenge, as it would create an extraordinary amount of heat using the standard 5V/6A formula. Instead, OnePlus delivers 20V at just 1.5A, since voltage creates far less heat.

OnePlus also uses charge pumps in an innovative way to make charging safer and more efficient. If you really want to dig into the nuts and bolts of OnePlus’ 30W wireless charging, check out Android Central’s explainer.

Oppo SuperVooc Flash Charge
Vooc is Oppo’s proprietary fast charging standard. The company has long been a leader in fast charging technology, and it currently holds the record for fastest charging speed with its 65W adapter that can fully charge the Reno Ace in just 31 minutes. In addition, Oppo is the only major manufacturer to use gallium nitride (GaN) batteries in its phones for better performance and reliability. 

Oppo’s SuperVooc comes in several different flavors. The fastest is SuperVooc 2.0, which uses 10V and 6.5A to charge its phones at 65W. SuperVooc comes in at an impressive 50W maximum charge by combining 10V of electrical force and 5A of power. Vooc is the slowest of the bunch, with a maximum charging speed of 25W at 5V/5A. 

Qualcomm Quick Charge
The most common fast charging standard is Qualcomm’s Quick Charge because of the widespread nature of the company’s chipsets. That said, many of the phones that support newer Quick Charge standards aren’t sold in the US.

Quick Charge 3.0 is one of the most common fast charging protocols used in midra, and Quick Charge 3+ brings similar speeds to midrange phones with some Qualcomm Snapdragon 700-series chipsets. Quick Charge 4+ is the the current global gold standard for flagships that don’t use proprietary fast charging technologies. Each standard is backward compatible with the previous one, so older cables and adapters will still work.

Quick Charge 3.0 dynamically boosts voltage from 3.2V to 20V, though peak power for both standards is 18W. That means, theoretically, phones with a 3,500mAh to 4,500mAh capacity can gain about 80 percent charge in just 35 minutes when the battery is depleted. Quick Charge 3+ brings similar charging speeds to less-expensive chipsets.

Quick Charge 4+ narrows the voltage range while pumping up the amperage. It offers 5V at between 4.7A to 5.6A, or 9V at 3A. Quick Charge 4+ devices use USB-C ports and are compliant with USB Power Delivery. They also have a second power management chip, allowing up to 28W of power without overheating. The LG V60 ThinQ 5G is one of a handful of US phones that support Quick Charge 4+, and in testing, we were able to get a 50 percent charge on a depleted battery in about 18 minutes. 

Qualcomm recently announced Quick Charge 5. The new standard supports fast charging at 100W and can completely recharge a 4,500mAh battery in just 15 minutes. It will initially be supported on Snapdragon 865 chipsets and upcoming premium Qualcomm processors. A representative for the company told PCMag it expects to add the standard to Snapdragon 600 and 700 series chipsets at some point in the future.

Samsung Adaptive Fast Charging
Samsung’s Adaptive Fast Charging works in a similar manner to Qualcomm’s Quick Charge by bumping up voltage and/or amperage. Samsung doesn’t release all the specifications for its Adaptive Fast Charging protocol, nor does it make any claims about charging times, but it provided us with some speed and support information in the charts below.

With Samsung’s optional 10V/4.5W adapter, the Galaxy S20 Ultra and the Note 10+ can theoretically charge at 45W. Most of Samsung’s current-generation flagships support Adaptive Fast Charging up to 25W with the adapter in the box. It’s important to note that while some Samsung phones support older versions of Qualcomm Quick Charge, you’ll see much faster speeds using the adapter that comes with the phone or a Samsung-certified adapter. 

What Is Wireless Fast Charging?
Wireless charging is convenient, but it can be slow. Most wireless chargers that lack fans or cooling systems are limited to charging speeds of just 5V/1A. But various companies now offer fast wireless charging pads that come with built-in fans to dissipate heat, allowing you to charge at speeds nearly on par with a cable.

Voltage and amperage depend on the charging pad in question. Once again, you’ll want to make sure that your phone and your wireless charging pad support the same fast charging standard. Also keep in mind you’ll need a wall adapter plugged into the pad that supports fast charging as well.

There are lots of variables to think about when buying a wireless charger, so we’ve done the homework for you by creating a list of the best wireless charging pads based on your phone and budget. 

Fast Charging Beyond Your Phone
For laptops, the fast charging situation is a bit different. USB Power Delivery (PD) isn’t so much fast charging as it is a standard that determines if an adapter or portable power bank is capable of charging a laptop or other high-powered device. With USB-C input/output ports now pretty much standard, it’s possible for adapters and power banks to charge devices that require an output of 18W or more. The Power Delivery spec allows a device to be charged at a maximum current of 5A or 100W.

Power Delivery 3.0 is quickly becoming the standard for power banks and adapters. It supports outputs at 7.5W, 15W, 27W, and 45W, each with its own voltage and amperage configurations. This means PD adapters with multiple USB-C ports can intelligently dole out power to multiple devices, so a 45W adapter may supply 18W to charge your phone, 5W to a wearable, and the remaining 22W to a tablet.

What You Need for Fast Charging
Depending on the device you have, the fast charging standard you’re able to use will vary. Check what your phone supports, then look at your wall adapter to see if it supports the same standard (they’re usually labeled). Then make sure your cable is compatible (you’re best off using one the one that come with your phone or adapter). If you need to buy a new wall adapter, cable, or wireless charging pad, take note of what standard it supports.

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Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Three other Samsung Foldables Could Land in 2021

 We’ve been hearing for a while that Samsung will be putting more focus on foldable phones in 2021, but it now sounds like the company might be going all out, as a report states that four Samsung foldables will be announced.
According to ETNews, Samsung is working on two Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 models. It doesn’t say how the two will differ, but does say that they’ll both support 5G. Elsewhere we’ve heard that there might be a Galaxy Z Fold Lite, so that could be one of the two models.

On top of that, the company is also apparently working on two Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 2 models, both of which will also supposedly support 5G, but one is said to be higher-end than the other.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 review
The Samsung Galaxy S21 is also on the way
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Months away
All four of these phones will apparently land in the second half of 2021, so it could be a busy period for foldables.

The report gets a bit more specific and says that the company will begin manufacturing the phones in August – so perhaps they’ll hit stores in September or October. But from the wording it’s not clear whether that August time frame is for all four or just the Galaxy Z Flip 2 models.

In any case, that’s around the time we’d expect to see the Samsung Galaxy Note 21, so this is more evidence that Samsung is looking to discontinue the Note range, since that would be a lot of premium phones to launch in such a small space of time.

This latest report for its part says that the Galaxy Note range will be discontinued “eventually”, which suggests there might still be a model next year at least – or maybe the report’s sources just don’t know.

Finally, the report says that a Samsung rollable smartphone, which in some corners had been rumored for a 2021 release, will instead land in 2022 or later.

As ever we’d take all of this with a pinch of salt, but it’s sounding like 2021 could be the year that foldable phones really start to take off if Samsung has any say in the matter.

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Apple Wants to Increase iPhone Production by 30% in 2021

Apple reportedly plans to increase iPhone production by 30% during the first half of 2021, buoyed by demand for its first 5G compatible handsets.

iPhone shipments decreased in both 2018 and 2019, but demand for the devices during 2020 has been relatively static despite the wider economic challenges of the coronavirus pandemic and the late launch of the flagship iPhone 12 range.

iPhone production
Nikkei says production forecasts shared with key suppliers indicate there are plans to ship 230 million devices during 2021, a 20% increase year-on-year and essentially matches the record 231.5 million devices shipped in 2015.

Production of the iPhone 12 and the iPhone 12 Max will increase, as will the mid-range iPhone SE. The iPhone 12 Mini has proved less popular.

However, it is noted that a shortage of key components could pose a threat to this growth. Although Apple has been able to stockpile its custom processors during the pandemic, many components are in short supply across the entire industry.

It is also suggested that a secondary challenge could be the race to steal Huawei’s market share. Chinese vendors such as Oppo, Xiaomi and the newly independent Honor are set to step up their international expansion to capitalise on Huawei’s struggles.

Although other Android manufacturers are far more susceptible, this rush is likely to have knock on effect on the market and the supply chain.

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Apple Working on its First Cellular Modem Which Could Bring 5G to The MacBook

After a year that delivered a host of improvements to Apple’s silicon offerings, including the A14 Bionic and M1 processors, it appears that Apple is looking to bring even more components in-house. A new report from Bloomberg claims that Apple has begun working on its first cellular modem to bring 5G to its growing system-on-chip components.

The development of a 5G modem isn’t a surprise, as Apple paid a cool billion bucks on the remains of Intel’s smartphone modem chip business back in 2019. According to the report by Mark Gurman, Apple senior vice president of hardware technologies Johny Srouji told attendees at a recent town hall that Apple “kicked off the development of our first internal cellular modem which will enable another key strategic transition.”

Development will likely take years to land in any of Apple’s products, but it’s a significant step. Modems and particularly 5G models are extremely power-hungry, so bringing the modem in-house could bring massive gains in power and thermal efficiency as well as battery life.

Development will likely take years to land in any of Apple’s products, but it’s a significant step. Modems and particularly 5G models are extremely power-hungry, so bringing the modem in-house could bring massive gains in power and thermal efficiency as well as battery life.

Apple has used Intel and Qualcomm modems in its previous cellular products, including the iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. However, Apple’s first 5G product, the iPhone 12, relies entirely on Qualcomm’s X55 modem, since Intel abandoned development leaving few options at the scale Apple demands. Apple previously signed a 6-year commitment to license chips from Qualcomm in early 2019.

Bringing the modem in-house will presumably reduce costs, but the implications are much greater than that. It could lead to cellular connectivity becoming a standard feature in the iPad and Apple Watch—in that you don’t need to choose a cellular model but it will be there if you want it.

It’s probably going to take a while though. Intel was developing its own 5G modem for years before it abandoned the project, and even Qualcomm’s first-gen 5G modem had issues with heat and power. But as Srouji said, “Long-term strategic investments like these are a critical part of enabling our products and making sure we have a rich pipeline of innovative technologies for our future.”

Hopefully, that future includes the holy grail of connected devices, the MacBook. Apple has yet to ship a Mac with a cellular connection likely due to the power and battery life limitations, but the M1 Mac, which has greatly improved battery life in the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro, changes the outlook. And with its own modem, power efficiency would be even less of an issue.

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4 Reasons Not to Buy a Gaming Laptop Right Now

PC enthusiasts looking for the next best thing may want to think twice before jumping on gaming laptop deals right now. With new hardware from AMD, Intel, and Nvidia coming around the corner, we’re likely to witness a major performance bump.

To help you decide, we’ll run through the four reasons you may not want to buy a new laptop. All are significant reasons, but the first one is a doozy.

1. Nvidia 30-series Ampere GPUs
If you buy a laptop to play games, the most important component is always going to be the GPU. While Nvidia remains tight-lipped, a report from WCCFtech.com’s Usman Pirzada indicates that the mobile version of the company’s “staggeringly powerful” RTX 30-series GPUs could appear as soon as January.

The WCCFTech story said Nvidia’s Ampere-based GeForce RTX 3060, RTX 3070, and RTX 3080 will supplant today’s Turing-based 20-series of GPUs in gaming laptops. The Turing-based GeForce GTX 1650 and GTX 1650 Ti will stick around at lower prices.

It’s really the 30’s that matter. Given that the GeForce RTX 3070 on desktop is somewhat equal to a GeForce RTX 2080 Ti, the mobile version should also provide a huge performance boost for gamers. And yes, the RTX 3080 will take yet another step beyond that.

As the GPU is the lifeblood of gaming, it’s worth it to wait a month to see if Pirzada’s story comes true. And yes, if he’s wrong, and you passed on a deal, you can shake your fist like Admiral Kirk as you scream into the heart of a dead planet: “USMAAAN!”

2. AMD Big Navi Mobile?
While there aren’t any rumors of a mobile version of AMD’s “glorious” Big Navi Radeon RX 6000 series for laptops, AMD has all but hinted that the Big Navi should yield good returns with its SmartShift technology, which intelligently shares power with the CPU. AMD also heavily pushed power efficiency as an advantage over Nvidia’s 30-series. So we do expect a Radeon RX 6000 in laptops, but we don’t know exactly when.

3. AMD Ryzen 5000 mobile CPU
Moving into CPUs, we can say it’s definitely worth waiting to see whether AMD CEO Lisa Su announces AMD’s upcoming Ryzen 5000 mobile chips at her CES keynote in January. We called the desktop version using the Zen 3 core the ”best computer CPU we’ve ever seen.” Offering better efficiency per clock than Intel’s 14nm chips, Zen 3 offers stupidly good multi-core performance and strong single-core performance, too. The mobile version isn’t likely to pack the 12 or 16 cores of the desktop, but the increase in single-core performance should greatly help Ryzen 4000’s soft spot.

Even better, Ryzen 5000 laptops will apparently finally be available with high-end GeForce GPUs, which were impossible to find this year. Most laptop vendors just never planned for how well Ryzen 4000 would do, but most likely they’ve shifted their plans for Ryzen 5000.

4. Intel Tiger Lake H mobile CPU
If you have a cynical view of the world, you might say the only thing Intel changed in its “H”-class high performance chips from 8th-gen to 9th-gen and 10th-gen was the number. While they have small differences, they’re all built on the same 14nm process that Intel has been nursing along for years. The old process means the chips make too much heat and consume too much power to compete.

All that may finally change when Intel releases its 11th-gen Tiger Lake H chips. The CPUs will be built on the company’s latest 10nm manufacturing process, which demonstrated impressive results on the lower-power version in thin-and-light laptops when we previewed it. 

With a higher-wattage power budget, we expect the Tiger Lake H versions to outrun Ryzen 4000 CPUs. What we don’t know is how it’ll do against Ryzen 5000, but after years of 14nm H-class CPUs, we really think Tiger Lake H will knock our socks off.

Next-gen gaming laptops will leap forward
Add up all these next-gen parts, and we expect the result will be far more of a performance boost in 2021’s gaming laptops than we’re used to seeing. Anyone who is chasing performance should definitely wait.

The catch is whether you’ll even be able to buy one of these amazing new laptops when they ship. Given the difficulty we’re already seeing in buying Ryzen 5000 desktop CPUs, and GeForce 30-series and Radeon RX 6000 GPUs, all bets are off on actual availability, especially if scalpers have their way. 

So yes, while we’d definitely recommend that performance fiends wait for next-gen gaming laptops, everyone else should still consider any stupidly good deal they find on a high-end gaming laptop now. Are you really ready to wait until the summer to get your dream laptop?

The other consideration is budget. All of these awesome-sauce parts will mostly go into higher-end laptops. If your funds are limited, you could snag a great deal on a current laptop precisely because vendors are clearing out inventory before the next generation hits.

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