Update: Prefer to play the Halo maps you've designed yourself? Located at number 12 on our list, our latest entry, Halo 5: Forge, accomplishes just that.
What's the best shooter on the PC or consoles ever? That's a good – but loaded – question, as there are a ton that we could address individually. Besides, we would inevitably get it wrong by someone's measure.
So, let's highlight what's out there now that best exemplifies what shooters are all about – with that, re-releases of seminal works are on the table as well.
Honestly, there are so many shooters out there now that you simply shouldn't miss. Here are several first-person shooter (FPS) games that you need to check out immediately on the desktop or a console.
Contrary to popular belief, Overwatch isn't a MOBA. It is, however, a colorful, competitively focused first-person shooter from Blizzard featuring different classes incorporated across a variety of different heroes. Pitting two teams of six players against one another, Overwatch is all about teamwork and cooperation with their respective squads. That said, you'll want to make sure a healthy balance of offensive and defensive characters is secured if you ultimately seek survival.
After all, you wouldn't want to be demolished by the opposing team just because you have too many healers and not enough tanks or vice versa.
Battleborn is the product of a recent influx of "hero shooter" games. Down to the basics, this means in the case of Borderlands developer Gearbox's latest hit, you get to choose between 25 characters each resonating with one of five factions. The heroes range from hulking giants like El Dragón, who body slam their way to victory, to long-range snipers like Marquis. Unlike Borderlands, Battleborn is all about its three competitive multiplayer modes, although there's a single-player/co-op-driven story mode to boot.
I mean who doesn't want to play a game where your character is quite literally referred to as a badass within the actual canon?
3. Planetside 2
If you don't like throwing money away on games, Planetside 2 is a free-to-play MMO first-person shooter you can get probably get behind. Featuring battles with up to 2,000 players per server, Daybreak Studios certainly bolsters a challenge on its shoulders with this massive PC and PS4 title.
With six different character classes spread across five different continents and three factions, Planetside 2 is exactly what you want if you like shooting people in the face en masse… Virtually speaking.
4. Half-Life 2
Despite being 12 years old now, Half-Life 2 still holds up as an example of primetime video game storytelling, and if you put on your 2004-colored-glasses, some pretty advanced physics technology for its time.
The science-fiction shooter is out on a variety of platforms by now including Xbox 360, PS3, Mac and PC, but you're best off playing it where it feels most at home, on the good old mouse and keyboard-equipped rig. Even if your computer is a literal dinosaur, Gordon Freeman doesn't discriminate -- this frustration-inducing cliffhanger of a story has aged enough at this point where clock speeds are all but irrelevant.
5. Rainbow Six: Siege
Rainbow Six Siege isn't just a technical marvel, it's an ongoing tactical endeavor. Like a handful of other titles on this list, Siege is about teamwork. Without it, it's your standard deathmatch shooter, save some impressively realistic destructible environments. Acting on the goal of either defending or challenging objectives, the five-on-five online co-op game is certainly no Call of Duty. Instead of running around swiftly across maps, dodging bullets and taking headshots, characters are given abilities and limited resources, such as wall reinforcements, barbed wire, traps, and explosives, to overthrow and denounce victory over the opposing team.
Even with The Taken King expansion pack, Destiny's story doesn't trump Halo's in terms of both quality and coherence. From the get go, however, the game has been a fantastic shooter. Compared to most games on the market, Destiny's shooting never feels unfair or unnatural.
It's simple, streamlined, and it feels damn good to pop some Fallen scum in the head, especially when coordinating a Fireteam Strike with friends.
As far as shooters go, Splatoon isn't the most tactical or complex or even that competitive. It's old school Nintendo fun adapted for the 21st century, and though the music can get eerily repetitive and single-player content is on the trim side, Splatoon is one of the few games that can justify a Wii U purchase.
It's bright and colorful, drawing its color palette from something like Sunset Overdrive, but it's also highly original and complete with enough heart and soul to provoke the internalized high-pitched screaming of your inner child.
8. Warhammer: End Times - Vermintide
Like Left 4 Dead with giant rats in place of zombies, Warhammer: Vermintide is an independently published online co-op game from Fatshark whose story is told through levels infested with toxic bomb-equipped rodents called Skaven. To keep each playthrough unique, Vermintide boasts a slew of randomly generated antagonistic furballs whose power only grows with your own. And, while all this takes place, you'll have to balance your four-person team consisting of five different hero types.
9. Halo 5: Guardians
In terms of storytelling, Halo 5: Guardians may not have been the best game in the franchise, but it's obvious developer 343 Industries was trying to tackle multiplayer this time around rather than pinning the narrative techniques nearly perfected by Bungie years prior. As a result, Halo 5 is a beautifully rendered example of how Halo multiplayer should be done, and after the short-lived artifact that was Halo 4, the lack of commitment to a proper campaign mode could be seen as a blessing in disguise.
10. Counter-Strike Global Offensive
Despite being nearly four years old at this point, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is consistently among the most-played Steam games week on week. Developed by Valve and taking advantage of the highly optimized Source engine, Global Offensive is a team shooter in which players take on a string of objectives in pursuit of in-game currency. The more money you make, the better the weapons and equipment you can buy. As simple a concept as it is, its long-standing community keeps its four online game modes refreshing and worthy of praise.
Long gone are the days when Id Software wasn't merely a subsidiary of Bethesda. The famed creators of some of the most significant video games in pop culture history, John Carmack and John Romero, may not be affiliated with the company anymore, but that doesn't mean a great new Doom game wasn't possible. The 2016 reimagining of the Doom franchise, simply titled Doom is a lovely blend of new and old as indicated in our review.
By combining the 90s heavy metal over-the-top gore of the original Doom with the mechanics of modern first-person shooters like Halo, the end result will leave FPS fans grinning from ear to ear through a 14-hour wild ride. And, while the multiplayer component won't leave you breathless, the campaign is riveting enough to keep your attention.
12. Halo 5: Forge
Unlike Halo 5: Guardians, Forge comprises building, playing and sharing Halo maps across both Xbox One and Windows 10 PCs. Notably, this is the first time a mainline Halo title has appeared on PC since the Halo 2 days. And, aside from matchmaking, the beloved Halo 5 multiplayer is pretty much all there – provided you can be the one to arrange the matches.
On top of that, however, you're entitled to a slew of custom-made content from the community as well. What's more, you can design your own levels, maps and experiences too, for players to download and enjoy regardless of platform. For those of us who've avoided Halo in recent years due to the definitive controls for a shooter (mouse and keyboard) being neglected, Halo 5: Forge marks a golden opportunity to jump back in.
Surface Pro 5 features
The impressive, if a bit troubled, Surface Pro 4 is nearing its one-year anniversary, so naturally we tech lovers are already thinking about its successor. And with the Surface Pro 4 having sold nearly 10 times more than its younger (but bigger) sibling, the Surface Book, surely Microsoft has a sequel in the works.
In fact, rumors of a Surface Pro 5 release date have been floating around the internet since the current model was launched onto store shelves. The keyword there is "rumors", as none of those reported are citing trustworthy sources, if any at all.
That goes without mentioning folks clamoring across message boards, like Reddit, for their most desired features and improvements. (Can you guess the most popular one? It rhymes with "flattery.")
Cut to the chase
- What is it? The would-be fifth Surface Pro tablet
- When is it out? Current rumors point to spring 2017
- What will it cost? Likely as much as – if not a bit more than – the current Surface Pro 4
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Surface Pro 5 release date
As reported earlier in 2016, the second major update to Windows 10 was delayed until spring of next year to correspond with a new hardware launch. Purportedly, this lineup would consist of the Surface Pro 5 and Surface Book 2, though a new Surface keyboard appears even more imminent.
Moreover, with Intel's 14-nanometer Kaby Lake processors having just released, it wouldn't be out of character for Redmond to push back the hardware a few months. As the previous Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book encountered technical issues early on, it makes sense for Microsoft to allot itself time with the new CPU architecture.
Regardless of when the Surface Pro 5 finally arrives, you don't need to wait for the next iteration to get your hands on a Surface Pro as Microsoft recently revealed a subscription program that lets you upgrade to new hardware as it's released. Otherwise, you could snag a discounted Surface Book if you act now.
Surface Pro 5 price
In case you haven't noticed in the phone market, the prices of later iterations of modern tech products doesn't change all that drastically – if at all – between releases. Applying that logic to the eventual Surface Pro 5, it's likely that the device will start at $899 (£749, AU$1,349) and escalate from there depending on the configuration and accessories you choose.
Is there any chance that the final price will differ? Of course there is. Would it be smart for Microsoft to deviate too far from the standard it has set? Nope. Regardless, the ball is in Microsoft's court here, and the company will naturally preserve its bottom line if pricier new features are implemented as standard.
Surface Pro 5 stylus
One piece of the puzzle regarding every new Surface is how Microsoft will upgrade its Surface Pen stylus accessory that comes bundled with each tablet. Uncovered earlier this year was a patent filed by Microsoft for a stylus that features a rechargeable battery system.
Specifically, the patent details a magnetic charging dock built to give the new Surface Pen its juice, seemingly with connectors meant for a Surface Dock mounting. Such a venture makes a lot of sense for Microsoft, as the iPad Pro's Apple Pencil currently has this exact edge over the Surface Pen, able to charge by awkwardly connecting to the tablet via its Lightning port.
What we want to see
Look, as much as we've been impressed by the Surface Pro 4, firmware issues aside, there will always be room for improvement. (That would be the case even if it had earned our Editor's Choice award.)
From the screen size and resolution to the hardware inside, we have a few ideas for how Microsoft could craft an even better Windows 10 tablet.
Longer battery life
This is a bit of low-hanging fruit, but countless customers have lamented the Surface Pro 4's battery life – regardless of issues with its "Sleep" mode. We rated the device for 5 hours and 15 minutes of video playback.
That's well below Microsoft's promise of 9 hours of video playback, but we all know that few, if any, laptops actually meet their promised longevity. Our video playback figure is in line with the average laptop, though it's a far cry from what its nemesis, the MacBook Air, can produce.
Ideally, and realistically, we'd like to see at least 7 hours of battery life reliably from the next Surface Pro tablet. That would put it closer in line with the MacBook Air as well as competing tablets, like the iPad Pro.
An even sharper (and/or bigger) screen
With the Surface Pro 4, Microsoft managed to oust countless rivals in both the laptop and tablet spaces when it comes to screen resolution. With a razor-sharp 267 ppi (pixels per inch) already at 2,736 x 1,824 pixels within a 12.3-inch screen, it's not as if the Surface Pro 5 needs to be much sharper.
However, if the next Surface Pro were equipped with, say, a 4K (3,840 pixels wide, at least) screen, that would rip its productivity and entertainment capabilities wide open. Film and photo editors could work at the native resolution that's increasingly becoming the norm, while average Joe's (teehee) could finally watch Netflix in 4K on a tablet.
That said, the realm of super sharp resolutions might be reserved for the Surface Book range at this point. So, why not up its size a bit?
The Surface Pro 4 is big enough for almost all tasks, but it's still not the established default size for most laptops: 13.3 inches. Understandably, the point is for the Surface Pro to straddle both sides of the ever-eroding line between laptop and tablet.
However, maybe the iPad Pro is onto something with its 12.9-inch display. Plus, granted the resolution doesn't bump up too much alongside a size increase, the extra space could allow for a battery life boost.
It might finally be time for USB-C
We saw the latest Google Chromebook Pixel and MacBook be two of the first devices to adopt the latest in USB technology, but now it's the standard among a growing number of smartphones, tablets and laptops. Hell, even the HP Chromebook 13 has two USB-C ports.
The reversible, versatile port may be just what the Surface Pro 5 needs to alleviate the product line's slight input/output problem. A single USB 3.0 port and a proprietary charging port aren't going to cut it for much longer.
It helps that Microsoft has already well-tested the USB-C port within its new Lumia phones, so it's practically a no-brainer to apply that same tech to the Surface line.
If scuttlebutt is to be believed, we're about five months out from a release – plenty of time for the rumor mill to fire up. Stay tuned to this space in the coming months for the latest on things Surface Pro 5.
- These are the best 2-in-1 laptops around
What are Steam Machines?
Original article continues...
When you think of PC gaming, what comes to mind? A mouse, keyboard and monitor on a desk most likely. But, long gone are the days when PC gamers had to be confined to an unenthusiastic office-like setting, numbly perched only inches away from their screens. Especially with the advent of the largely living room-focused VR platforms, it's high time we move away from that antiquated stereotype.
Enter the Steam Machine, a lineup of hardware from a variety of different manufacturers all with one thing in common: they're PCs designed for shared spaces, presumably with a big-screen TV at the center of it all.
What's more, every single one of them runs an operating system based entirely on the Steam client, an application that since 2003 has provided a succinct catalog of computer games all capable of being stored locally in the same directory. Think of it as the iTunes of gaming, or even Spotify (minus the whole streaming-without-ties functionality). Steam, which started off on Windows, now packs considerable market share on both Mac and Linux as well.
The Steam Machines themselves aim to make PC gaming in the living room more accessible, further developing on the precedent Valve set years prior with its 10-foot "Big Picture Mode" user interface.
Think of the Steam Machine not as one device, but a range of hardware configurations signed off – but not designed – by Valve, the publisher who built Steam. Each one comes from an OEM partner like Dell, Origin or Maingear, shipping with the Linux-infused SteamOS operating system (OS) and claiming to "let you enjoy the Steam gaming experience in one box."
But does the Steam Machine deliver on Valve's promises? Let's find out.
Cut to the chase
- What are they? Home theater-ready gaming PCs with Valve's SteamOS loaded
- When are they out? You can buy one now from various gaming PC makers
- How much do they cost? They generally start at $449 (about £311)
Valve already took a big step into the living room with Steam's Big Picture mode years ago, but that still required a desktop PC in your entertainment center – or a really long HDMI cable. Perhaps because of that, a lot of Valve's phrasing regarding SteamOS treats Steam (the service) and the new OS interchangeably.
Still, Valve's goals with Steam Machines and SteamOS are clear: bestow upon PC gaming the ease and accessibility that console jockeys already enjoy – in a way that lets PC hardware makers continue to compete.
And that puts Steam right at the center of it all, ready to vacuum up its cut of games sold on Steam Machines like it's the Steam summer sale all year long.
- Read more: SteamOS: what you need to know
The journey from announcement to launch has been long and a tad messy. But, at GDC 2015, Valve revealed the final details of its living room plans, which included Machines, the revised controller and its Vive virtual reality headset. Since then, a few smaller events and announcements kept things going into the 2015 holiday launch and beyond.
Losing steam already, but gaining influence
The journey from announcement to launch has been long and a tad messy. But, at GDC 2015, Valve revealed the final details of its living room plans, which included Machines, the revised controller and its Vive virtual reality headset. Since then, a few smaller events and announcements kept things going into the 2015 holiday launch and beyond.
After a false start or two, Valve went on to finally launch its Steam Machines back in November 2015 to little fanfare. While 15 Steam Machines were slated to launch by the end of 2015, only a handful actually made it out the door.
Some hardware, like the Digital Storm Eclipse and the Webhallen S15-01 Steam Machines, is still being held back by manufacturers, with the Steam website continuing to characterize them as "Coming Soon" despite a notable lack of concrete release information.
Falcon Northwest, on the other hand, decided to contest the SteamOS platform as a whole last year after being swarmed with technical issues, according to VentureBeat. The company later clarified to Digital Trends that the one hard drive limit in SteamOS made it harder to save on the high cost of solid-state storage.
Each of these Steam Machines are essentially gaming PCs inside home theater-friendly cases that run on the Linux-based SteamOS and come with one Steam Controller. Unfortunately, it's even more difficult to peg which box is best for the kind of games that you want to play, as they all offer multiple configurations.
In the few reviews of Steam Machine candidates that we've published, we have run up against the same conundrum: do Steam Machines really make PC gaming that much simpler?
It seems as if we're not alone in asking these questions, as PC World reports that a scant 1% of Steam users play their games on Linux or SteamOS. It doesn't help Valve's case that many of the Steam Machines available on the market are also offered in Windows 10 configurations, the generally-accepted default operating system for most PC gamers.
Despite their arguably low tangible impact, Steam Machines may be affecting the gaming industry by their very presence. For instance, rumors of an iterative (but arguably major) hardware upgrade for the PS4, known as the PS4K, have been circling the internet.
Before Steam Machines, such rumors were few and far in between and gained little to no traction, as such an upgrade was practically implausible for how it would disrupt the console cycle. But maybe – just maybe – console makers are feeling the heat to keep up with emerging gaming technologies that, say, Steam Machines and PCs can weather easily.
Who are Steam Machines for?
The easiest way to answer this one is to say "console gamers that have been put off by the complexity and prohibitive hardware pricing of PC gaming." However, while that may be the case, that hasn't turned out to be the result so far.
Console gamers might find Steam Machines far easier to set up than gaming PCs, but that still doesn't solve the problem that PC games are often developed for a wide range of hardware. Sometimes, PC game makers want to develop for the highest-end systems, which most Steam Machines certainly aren't.
This causes problems that you can probably already foresee. For instance, what if someone who bought a Steam Machine for the next big Fallout game release? She will still have to see whether the parts inside her Steam Machine can run the game well, much less whether Valve's proprietary SteamOS is even supported by the game. That's not at all how consoles work.
Read our hands on SteamOS review
So, when you ask who Steam Machines are for, it's almost easier to answer who they aren't for, and that's discerning hardcore gamers. Folks in this category can either put up with complexity for the sake of a great gaming experience on PC or know enough to avoid it altogether with a console.
For those who haven't been following along, here are all of the Steam Machines we know about and their release status:
List of Steam Machines available
- Syber Steam Machine (SteamOS) - from $499 (£499, about AU$679)
- Zotac NEN Steam Machine (SteamOS) - from $799 (£839, AU$1,087)
- Maingear Drift (Windows 10, SteamOS) - from $1,099 (about £759, AU$1,496)
- Materiel.net Steam Machine (SteamOS) - from about $906 (about £626, AU$1,232
- Scan 3XS ST Steam Machine (SteamOS) - from about $718 (£496, about AU$977)
- Alienware Alpha (Windows 10) - from $449 (£449, about AU$610)
- Origin Omega (Windows 10) - from $1,362 (about £942, AU$1,847)
List of Steam Machines unavailable
- Asus GR8S (discontinued)
- iBuyPower SBX (discontinued)
- Digital Storm Eclipse Steam Machine (coming soon)
- Alternate Steam Machine (coming soon)
- Webhallen S15-01 (coming soon)
- Next Spa NextBox (coming soon)
- Gigabyte Brix Pro (cancelled)
- Falcon Northwest Tiki (cancelled)
The silver lining: Steam Controller and Steam Link
Every Steam Machine comes packaged with what might be the best product of Valve's big coup for the living room, the Steam Controller. Sold separately for a discounted price of $35 (£28), the Steam Controller primarily uses haptic feedback touchpads for input, a first for modern PC gaming.
The controller is affordable, beautifully designed and infinitely customizable. In fact, Steam now offers a fully-fledged community of Steam users that share uploadable controller profiles that can change everything from button mapping to the intensity of the haptic feedback motors.
Furthermore, in June, Valve updated the Steam Controller with a plethora of new features in commemoration of its 500,000 units sold.
Unlike before, motion controls could be used for racing games in addition to the controller receiving game-specific control scheme configurations. And, on an exciting note for HTC Vive users, the hardware gained support for SteamVR's Desktop Theater Mode.
Unfortunately for Valve, what's being celebrated as its shining achievement indicates bad news for its platform on the whole. 500,000 controllers sold might sound like a high point for the company, but considering every Steam Machine was bundled with one, it's now evident that less than half a million consoles were sold in over seven months.
Then there's the Steam Link, which doesn't solve the problem that Valve claims to be tackling with Steam Machines, but does one better. Like the Steam Controller, Valve's set-top box was discounted to $35 (£28) on June 2 and lets you stream games played on your PC via Steam to whatever HDTV the Link is connected to.
Streaming happens over your local network, and essentially allows you to play PC games in front of your TV without the need for a complicated HDMI setup or other methods. Steam Machines running on SteamOS offer this capability too. But why spend 500-plus dollars for that feature when you can spend just 35?
Where do Steam Machines go from here?
The exact future of Valve's living room project is largely unknown, as there hasn't been much said of future Steam Machine releases from neither their creator nor its partners. At this rate, Steam Link has a better chance of fulfilling Valve's couch-ridden dreams than any Steam Machine does.
With GDC 2016 having came and went with nary a word on Steam Machines, it would seem that Valve is in a holding pattern with the project. However, the firm struck up a deal with Lionsgate in April to stream about 100 films from its catalog on a rental basis, a la Amazon Prime Instant Video.
Then, in June, Dell revealed alongside some other hardware updates that it would be releasing a $749 Alienware Steam Machine equipped with an i5 Skylake processor, a GTX 960 GPU, 500GB of storage space and 8GB of RAM, though buyers could opt for an i7 and a 1TB hard drive for $100 more. Alienware senior marketing manager Chris Sutphen told ITWorld that the company "[expects] the SteamOS catalog to strengthen at the end of the year."
With E3 out of the way, Microsoft seems to be undertaking a similar strategy in unifying its PC and console platforms and adding two new tiers to its Xbox One hardware lineup. Redmond, however, wants to make its games playable across all of its hardware, differentiating it from Valve's initial plans with the Steam Machines.
Valve may be making an effort to get SteamVR working with lower-power graphics cards, but with Microsoft's plans to bring Xbox games to Steam for Windows 10, Valve's ambitious living room computers may be dead in the water. SteamOS, on the other hand, is a different story.
- As it turns out, Windows 10 is good for PC gamers
Alex Roth and Gabe Carey also contributed to this article
MacBook Pro 2016 release date, news and rumors
Apple's MacBook Pro range hasn't been updated for some time: the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina was refreshed in March 2015 and the 15-inch in May. New MacBook Pros are clearly imminent, especially considering Apple's market share in the computing space fell 4.9% in Q2 2016 compared to the year prior.
The biggest change is likely to be in the Pros' processors, and while there are rumors of detachable touchscreens we'd take them with a hefty pinch of salt.
Appearing more and more likely, though, is that a small, OLED display will take the place of the MacBook Pro's function keys in its 2016 revision. And, like the iPhone 7 before it, some are even suggesting the death of the 3.5mm headphone jack.
Let's sift through the river of rumors to find nuggets of knowledge: what can we really expect from the 2016 MacBook Pro refresh?
Cut to the chase
- What is it? The next generation of Apple's professional notebook
- When is it out? Rumors point to late October 2016
- What will it cost? Likely starting at £899 ($1,099, about AUS$1,670)
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MacBook Pro 2016 release date
While some of us expected a MacBook Pro 2016 reveal at Apple's September 7 iPhone event, there were no computers in sight. Nevertheless, shortly thereafter, Apple CEO Tim Cook suggested customers "stay tuned" for Mac developments, perhaps indicating that an unveiling wasn't far off.
Since then, following the launch of macOS Sierra, we've caught word that Apple is working on an update to its operating system specifically tailored to the new MacBook Pro hardware. That's right, in macOS Sierra 10.12.1 – which is slated for the latter half of October – we'll see integration with the new OLED touch bar, if reports from MacRumors are to be believed.
Metal injection-molded hinges inspired by Microsoft's Surface Pro line purportedly began shipment back in June for the 13-inch MacBook Pro. Meanwhile, the 15-inch model's hinges were set to arrive in the third quarter of the year, making the late October release window argument even more convincing.
Reports suggest that the new slim MacBooks will boast a quadruplet of USB-C ports, two on each side, maybe even with a few new color variations.
MacBook Pro 2016 price
The current MacBook Pro range starts at £899 ($1,099) for the 13-inch non-Retina model, rising to £999 ($1,119) for the entry-level 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro and topping out at £1,999 ($2,099) for the 2.5GHz 15-inch Retina.
The 13-inch non-Retina MacBook Pro, tucked away apologetically at the foot of Apple's product page, surely can't be long for this world; come the updates we'd expect it to vanish in favour of a Retina 13-inch model instead.
Apple tends to keep its pricing similar between generations, so an £899 entry-level Pro with Retina display is likely to be the baby of the range.
MacBook Pro 2016: What's so special about Skylake?
The MacBook Pro is trailing PC rivals in the processor stakes: Dell and HP are moving on to the seventh-generation Intel Kaby Lake processors this fall, while Apple is still clinging to the fifth-generation Broadwell chips.
This year's MacBook Pro, however, is believed to meet in the middle, purportedly sporting sixth-generation Skylake chips. The move to Skylake is likely to warrant massive speed improvements across the board in addition to more impressive battery life.
Skylake has some tricks up its silicon sleeve that Broadwell lacks, including support for WiGig and WiDi short-range, high speed data transfer as well as wireless charging. We may not see that flip of the switch in this year's notebooks, but it's possible nonetheless for Apple to tap into this functionality later on.
However, one thing Skylake can't do is output 5K resolutions over a single cable stream. That's why, in June, sources told Buzzfeed reporter John Paczkowski that Apple is working on a 5K external display complete with its own integrated graphics chip based on AMD's Polaris architecture.
MacBook Pro 2016: Hello USB-C, goodbye headphone jack
Faster is a given, better battery is almost certain. What about design changes? The current MacBook Pro is fairly porky compared to Apple's other notebooks, especially the minimalist USB-C MacBook.
That's partly because it's an older design and partly because the current MacBook Pro boasts lots of ports: twin Thunderbolt 2 and USB 3, an HDMI socket and an SDXC card slot.
Apple isn't sentimental about removing supposedly must-have features it deems redundant - the MacBook Pro lost its SuperDrive years ago - so could those ports be for the bullet too in favor of one or two USB-C ports? Reports seem to point to that.
Not only is the MacBook Pro 2016 expected to feature USB Type-C ports, but on top of that, they'll be USB 3.1 Gen 2, making them even faster than the first-gen port of the 12-inch MacBook. However, like with the iPhone 7 before it, the headphone jack might get the bullet on the MacBook Pro as well.
With Intel's integration of Thunderbolt 3 in USB-C connections, USB, Thunderbolt, DisplayPort, PCI Express and power can be delivered over a single cable. If the Lenovo Moto Z is anything to go by, so too can digital audio.
What's more, USB-C has the bandwidth for daisy-chaining even the most demanding devices, and of course Apple is always happy to sell reassuringly expensive adapters when it bins a previously popular port.
MacBook Pro 2016: Touch ID and next-gen SSDs?
The Pros are all about performance, so will they get next-generation SSDs? It's a nice thought, but while Intel's blazingly quick Optane SSDs are destined for Macs, they aren't likely to appear in any this side of 2017.
Another persistent rumour is TouchID fingerprint recognition, but that particular pundit also predicted TouchID in the recent Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpad updates, which of course didn't happen. A recent leak does suggest, though, that a fall MacBook rollout will incorporate a power button featuring TouchID tech.
MacBook Pro 2016: A stylus without a touchscreen
In a July patent approval, Apple suggested it was interested in extending Apple Pencil support beyond the limits of the iPad Pro's touchscreen display and onto its Magic Trackpad. The speculation doesn't stop there, of course, as this idea could easily translate to the onboard MacBook trackpads as well.
Don't be surprised if, come Autumn, we see a revamped Apple Pencil revealed alongside a new set of MacBook Pros.
MacBook Pro 2016: Detachable keyboard and screen?
One of the most interesting MacBook Pro rumors is that it's getting a touchscreen, and perhaps a detachable keyboard, too. We think that's spectacularly unlikely, for several reasons. More likely to come true is the theory that Apple will implement a smaller touchscreen component.
While a patent filed by Apple suggests an iPad-like interface in favor of a the physical keyboards we've all grown accustomed to, photographs recently acquired by Cult of Mac show something a little different; that is, a more conventional Magic Keyboard-esque qwerty layout featuring a touchscreen OLED display to replace the function keys.
And, although this rumor seems awfully farfetched for an annual MacBook Pro revision, there is evidently some truth behind it, according to French website MacGeneration via 9to5Mac who discovered code indirectly alluding to the OLED bar's virtualized buttons.
A touchscreen, even a tiny one ousting a single row of keys, could make for an enticing compromise for those in pursuit of the classic MacBook Pro experience as well as for fans of the ever-flourishing 2-in-1.
- Now, what about the its inevitable rival, the Surface Book 2?
Gabe Carey has also contributed to this article
The MacBook Air has been with us for eight years and it's barely changed in that time: the rumored Retina display hasn't made it onto it yet despite last year's frenzied rumors. It's been well over a year since the last minor speed bump and the Airs are still rocking Intel Broadwell processors, rather than the company's sixth-generation Skylake variants.
That means the time is ripe for a new model, a MacBook Air 2016 one might say, and rumors suggest that there could be some radical changes. They might include the retirement of the 11-inch MacBook Air and the introduction of a 15-inch version instead, a claim that has been reiterated several times over most recently by Japanese tech blog Macotakara who says the refresh will be announced in June.
Cut to the chase
- What is it? The next generation of Apple's entry-level notebook
- When is it out? The latest rumors suggests August 2016
- What will it cost? Likely to start at £749 (around $899, or AUS$1,399) like today
MacBook Air 2016 release date
Unfortunately, with WWDC 2016, Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference, having come and gone, we may not see a formal product unveiling of the MacBook Air 2016 at all. If we do, though, it will most likely be at Apple's September 7 event where the iPhone 7 is expected to be revealed.
At least one source, Economic Daily News, believes that the on-sale date will be in Q3 2016; in Apple's world that's the financial quarter ending in June. Macotakara, however, has cited a different (and more specific) release frame for the forthcoming MacBook Air lineup: August 2016. This report allegedly stems from a Chinese supplier bearing a close work relationship with Apple.
Another series of rumors suggest the MacBook Air may be completely defunct, or at least taking a hiatus. It would make sense given Apple's push for the iPad Pro as a laptop replacement. Plus, there's the 12-inch Retina MacBook to consider, which blows the Air out of the water with in terms of display clarity and portability while the performance gap between the two is beginning to narrow (the MacBook Air beats it by only 3%, according to MacWorld).
MacBook Air 2016 price
The current MacBook Air starts at £749 ($899, AU$1,399) for the 11-inch model and £849 ($999, AU$1,549) for the 13-inch. Apple tends to stick to its favorite price points, but one tasty rumor suggests that, while the prices will remain the same, the sizes will increase – so, you'll see a 13-inch Air at £749 and a 15-inch model at £849 to start.
Then again, that rumor comes courtesy of Digitimes and Digitimes' track record in Apple rumors is patchy to say the least. Economic Daily News believes that the price will go down and up: down for the 13-inch, but up for the 15-inch.
MacBook Air 2016: thinner, lighter, more powerful
Reports from Economic Daily News late last year predicted a "significant refresh" of the Air line-up in mid-2016.
Some rumors predict TouchID fingerprint recognition, but we think that's wishful thinking: the source for that particular prediction also promised that TouchID was coming to the revamped Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpad late last year. It wasn't. However, Apple has since filed a patent for a Magic Mouse with Force Touch tech, so the report might have been on the money after all.
Apple is working on a version of Apple Pay for its Safari web browser, but that's going to be on iOS: if it's coming to Macs, it won't be for some time after that.
In the meantime, if TouchID is likely coming to the Mac via Continuity – which enables the Mac to pick up on what you're doing on your iPhone or iPad – there are already multiple third-party apps that enable you to unlock your Mac via TouchID on your phone.
One feature that will most certainly make its way to the next-gen MacBook Air from iOS, however, is Siri. The virtualized personal assistant on mobile was revealed at WWDC running on an early build of macOS Sierra, the OS X 10.11 El Capitan successor that will presumably arrive alongside the new range of MacBook Air and MacBook Pro 2016 models.
Furthermore, while it's an unlikely scenario – especially on an entry-level MacBook Air – it's also worth considering a patent recently filed by Apple that suggests a MacBook without the physical keyboard. Instead, if this patent gets its way, we could see the intervention of touchscreen keyboards across an entire line of Apple products.
We don't think blazingly fast next-gen SSDs will quite make it to the 2016 Air, though: Intel's Optane SSDs are destined for Macs, but that's likely to happen in 2017 – not this year.
The reversible, versatile port
EDN's sources say the new Airs are significantly thinner and lighter than the current models, with new batteries and cooling systems, Intel Skylake processors and USB-C.
We've already seen USB-C in the MacBook, which owes much of its thinness to removing all the ports, and USB-C in the Air would enable Jonathan Ive to shave a few more millimeters off the Air too.
More recently, DigiTimes has caught word that HP, Asus and Apple are all working on laptops featuring the new USB-C interface standard. Apple in particular, the outlet's sources claim, intends on incorporating them in its next MacBook Air forthcoming 15-inch MacBook Air.
A stylus on a MacBook?
A recent Apple patent suggests the iPad Pro's Apple Pencil may soon be revamped with support for Apple's Magic Trackpad and possibly even the trackpads built into future iterations of its MacBooks. While it may not support the best canvas size for doodling, Apple Pencil could be useful on a Mac for document page-turning in Preview or moving objects around in Photoshop.
MacBook Air 2016: what's so special about Skylake?
The move to Skylake processors should be more significant than the move to Broadwell, as the latter was more about battery life and energy efficiency than performance. According to Intel, the Skylake processors likely to power a 2016 Air are 10% to 20% faster, have 34% faster graphics and last for more than an hour longer than Broadwell processors.
Skylake has some other tricks up its silicon sleeve including support for WiGig and WiDi short-range, high speed data transfer as well as wireless charging. Don't expect those features to be enabled in this year's Airs, but they're likely to turn up in future iterations.
MacBook Air 2016: Retina or no Retina? That is the question
The Air was widely predicted to gain a Retina display last year, but it turned out that the Retina displays channel sources had spotted were destined for the new MacBook. If Apple plans to cut the price of the 13-inch Air it might not be able to afford to stick a Retina in there, at least on the most basic model, although as with the current MacBook Pro it might decide to offer the 13-inch Air in a cheap non-Retina and a more expensive Retina version.
MacBook Air 2016: What we'd like to see
We've said it before: we think Apple is falling behind other laptop firms who have largely caught up and in some respects overtaken notebook Macs. As Kevin Lee put it: "Cupertino's Air and Pro series machines are long overdue for a makeover that goes beyond a simple internal refresh. The design and specs of both models are long in the tooth: the MacBook Air is sporting the same HD screen resolution it has for the last six years."
Some of Lee's suggestions are firmly in the "we wish" category than the "we expect" category - a touchscreen Air seems unlikely when there's the iPad Air and iPad Pros for touchy-feely stuff, and macOS isn't currently optimised for touch - but there's no doubt that the MacBook Air is starting to feel a little old compared to faster, thinner, sharper rivals.
MacBook Air 2016: is it going to get the bullet?
It's possible, although unlikely. The updated 12-inch MacBook that's mentioned is significantly more expensive than the Airs that you see absolutely everywhere. Why kill off a model that's so successful? What's more likely is the end of the 11-inch model, which would leave Apple with a 12-inch MacBook, 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Airs and the 13 and 15-inch MacBook Pros.
Contrarily, KGI Securities analyst Chi Kuo suggests Apple plans to launch a larger, 13-inch Retina MacBook in addition to the current lineup to compensate for the absence of a revitalized MacBook Air. This will leave us with the 2015 MacBook Air as Apple's entry-level model while the MacBook and MacBook Pro variants will occupy the mid and high-end tiers, respectively. This move is speculated to serve as a gradual discontinuation of the MacBook Air lineup in favor of the Cupertino company's more up-to-date devices.
MacBook Air 2016: when will the specs start to leak?
If Apple's gearing up for a June reveal and product launch, the leaks should start coming thick and fast any day now. If there's one thing we know about Apple's supply chain, it's that it tends to get awfully leaky once the production lines start work.
What would you like to see in a 2016 MacBook Air? Tell us your must-haves, would-love-to-haves and not-on-your-nellys in the comments.
Gabe Carey also contributed to this article
PC gaming is currently in better shape than it has been for years. More and more powerful builds such as the outrageously future-proof Origin Millennium are accompanied by innovative form-factors like the Overclockers UK Titan Hadron, effectively making PC hardware just as charming as – if not more than – consoles.
The simplicity of digital storefronts like Steam and the Windows 10 Store makes buying the best PC games easy as pie, and the open nature of the platform gives you a great choice of hardware. As all the parts are interchangeable on a PC, with the right configuration, the visuals produced are far superior to even the PS4 Pro and Xbox One S.YouTube : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VmH_WJCj_IQ
A great gaming computer doesn't come cheap though. You'll need to reach deep in your pocket for a PC sporting the most powerful graphics card, a top-end, overclocked Skylake or Kaby Lake processor and an ultra fast SSD. But, if you love playing games with the settings cranked up at a steady frame rate, the barrier of entry is absolutely worth it.
The choice is yours: you can build your own PC that tailors to your specific needs or you could just buy one of the 10 stellar gaming PCs that we recommend below. Your call.
- Don't need a graphical powerhouse? Check out the best regular PCs of 2016
A beefy LAN-friendly PC with a tasty design
CPU: Intel Core i7-6700K | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 980Ti | RAM: 8GB DDR4 (3,866MHz) | Storage: 500GB Samsung 850 EVO SSD; 1TB Samsung 850 EVO SSD | Connectivity: Gigabit Ethernet; Dual-band 802.11ac WiFi | Power supply: SuperFlower 1000W | Ports: 4 x USB 3, 1 x USB 3.1 Type-A, 1 x USB 3.1 Type-C, Optical S/PDIF, Gigabit Ethernet, 3 x audio
The latest Overclockers machine is one of the best-designed gaming PCs we've ever seen, with bespoke water-cooling, a great color scheme and keen attention to detail. It pairs its great design with class-leading performance in games and applications, and it's never hot or loud. It's expensive and niche, however, with limited upgrade potential. If you're looking for an attractive (and unique) LAN-friendly gaming PC that can handle anything from 4K gaming to VR, The Asteroid is an out-of-this-world machine with a price tag that will bring you back down to earth.
Read the full review: Overclockers Asteroid
A gaming PC that constantly runs in top gear
CPU: Intel Core i7-5960X | Graphics: 2 x Nvidia GeForce GTX 980Ti (8GB GDDR5) | RAM: Up to 16GB DDR4 | Storage: 400GB Intel SSD (PCIe, NVMe Gen-3), 4TB Seagate Barracuda HDD (7,200 rpm) | Connectivity: 2X RJ-45 Ethernet, Wi-Fi + Bluetooth radio adaptors | Ports: 12 x USB 3.0, 2 x USB 2.0, 1 x SPDIF-Out, Mic, Line-In and Line-Out ports
The Maingear Shift is the very definition of a luxury gaming PC. It's practically guaranteed to handle 4K and VR gaming with ease thanks to the Nvidia GTX 980Ti graphics card inside, which packs a huge 8GB of virtual memory. Despite a few nagging component issues, this build is a visually stunning 'flagship gaming PC.' It costs a bomb, though, so be prepared to empty your wallet for one - and then some.
Read the full review: Maingear Shift
Lenovo Ideacentre Y900
A forward-looking gaming desktop for PC enthusiasts
CPU: 4GHz Intel Core i7-6700K (quad-core, up to 4.2GHz, 8MB cache) | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 (4GB GDDR5 RAM) | RAM: 16GB DDR4 (2,133 MHz) | Storage: 2TB + 8GB SSHD with 256GB SSD | Connectivity: 802.11ac; Bluetooth 4.0 | Ports: 6 x USB 3.0, 4 x USB 2.0, Ethernet, HDMI, VGA, DVI, 7.1 analog audio out, optical audio out, headphone jack, microphone jack, PS/2 combo, 7-in-1 card reader
This gaming desktop might come in a designer case wrapping, but it's much more accessible and easy to upgrade than your average pre-built system short of a boutique. The arrival of the Y900, among a few other machines on this very list, herald a eureka moment in the major vendors' approach to PC gaming: give the people exactly what they want. A tool-less internal design will help soften the blow of some less-than-optimal cable management, meanwhile the device has plenty of room for expansions and upgrades. If you want the lowest friction possible getting into PC gaming, this is fine place to start.
Read the full review: Lenovo Ideacentre Y900
Alienware Area 51
A beautiful looking and well-designed gaming machine
CPU: Intel Core i7-5820K (overclocked to 3.8GHz) | Graphics: AMD Radeon R370 | RAM: 8GB DDR4 | Storage: 2TB 7200rpm hard drive | Features: Custom Alienware Chassis, 850W PSU, 802.11ac wireless
Looking at some of the gaming PCs in this article, it's clear that some manufacturers go to considerable lengths to present great looking custom chassis designs – but we think the Area 51, from Dell subsidiary Alienware, beats them all by a wide margin. A pentagon when viewed from the side, with a soft blue glow, the components are angled for easier access, and the entire design is incredibly funky. With the entry-level model, you get a liquid cooled overclocked processor and AMD graphics, but configurations with dual Nvidia GeForce cards are an option, although you'll need to dig quite deep into your pocket to purchase them.
Read our hands-on review: Alienware Area 51
Alienware Aurora R5
Alienware's iconic gaming PC returns as a mini powerhouse
CPU: Intel Core i7-6700K | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 256GB PCIe SSD, 2TB HDD | Features: 850W PSU, uniquely futuristic chassis
One of the few PCs on this list to earn a perfect score, the Alienware Aurora R5 combines design elements traditional to Dell's famed luxury gaming brand with a handful of contemporary twists. The nigh-mini ITX computer bears resemblance to, say, the Area 51, but with a case that feels strikingly more native to our home planet. Of course, it simultaneously boasts top-of-the-line specs; an overclockable K-series Intel Core i7 CPU, a GeForce GTX 1080 and a massively capable 850W power supply are just a few of the Aurora R5's redeeming qualities. Plus, even with the small chassis, there's plenty of room for an unparalleled SLI configuration.
Read the full review: Alienware Aurora R5
Two times 1080 equals 4K at 60fps
CPU: Intel Core i7-6950X | Graphics: 2 x Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 | RAM: 16GB DDR4 | Storage: 256GB Samsung 950 Pro (NVMe M.2), 1TB HDD | Features: Six-bay hard drive cage, variable mounting support, 850W PSU, 802.11ac wireless
Sure, for the price of an Origin Millennium PC, you could buy a halfway decent car. But why would you want to leave the house when you can game at a 4K resolution complemented by a buttery smooth 60fps? That's the question Origin hopes you'll ask when you talk to your spouse about dropping six grand on a new gaming rig. Between its pair of EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 Founders Edition twins and the new Intel Broadwell-E Core i7-6950X processor, there is nothing the Origin Millennium can't handle – and on the best of the best displays at that. Of course, it's expensive; it's like ten years worth of future-proof.
Read the full review: Origin Millennium
HP Envy Phoenix
HP has a good performer here, but the SSD is stingy
CPU: Intel Core i7-4790k | Graphics: AMD Radeon R9 380 | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 128GB SSD + 2TB HDD | Features: Bang & Olufsen Audio, 802.11ac wireless
HP never comes up with a bad looking design, even for a standard-sized PC tower. The Phoenix looks great, with a bright red light running vertically down the front, which also benefits from a metallic finish. The AMD Radeon 380 in this configuration can deliver great gaming performance to match Nvidia's GeForce graphics cards. And there's a Haswell Core i7-4970k chip on board as well, which is a great gaming CPU. There's everything else you need for a good modern gaming experience too: an SSD and a hard disk plus 16GB of memory. There's no Skylake chip to be seen here, but we expect HP will follow with a new configuration soon.
MSI Nightblade Mini Gaming PC Phoenix
This compact PC offers solid no-frills performance
CPU: Intel Core i7-4790k | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 960 | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 2TB HDD | Features: Micro-ATX case, red lighting
We've had large PC cases, PC cases with a wacky design, and PC cases that fit both those descriptions. How about small PC cases? The MSI Nightblade comes in a MicroATX chassis, which adds a degree of portability, useful if you regularly take your PC to LAN parties. It looks pretty good too with red illumination underneath the front. Although beefier configurations are available, this one only comes with a GeForce GTX 960. Intel's venerable 4.4GHz Core i7-4790k is used as the processor and this machine still offers a lot of gaming performance in a small box.
Ultra HD that won't make your wallet cry
CPU: 2.7GHz Intel Core-i5 6400 | Graphics: KFA2 GeForce GTX 1070 | RAM: 16GB DDR4 (2,400MHz) | Storage: 1TB SATA | Power supply: 500w | Ports: 1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse port, 2 x USB 3.0 ports (front), 1 x USB 2.0 port (front), 2 x USB 2.0 ports (rear), 4 x USB 3.1 ports (rear), 4 x USB 3.1 ports (rear), 1 x HDMI, 1 x VGA, 1 x DVI-D, 1 x LAN (RJ45), 3 x audio jacks |
Interested in Ultra HD gaming without spending a fortune? Enter the StormForce Tornado, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070-equipped rig with the appearance of a spaceship and five drive bays for near-limitless internal storage potential. If you don't mind the extensive wait times of a hard drive (as opposed to a PCIe or M.2 SSD), the StormForce Tornado is a no-brainer. Starting at a mere £899 (about $1,180/AUS$1,540), the StormForce Tornado makes 1440p gaming (and even some 4K) affordable, and who doesn't want that?
Read the full review: StormForce Tornado
Scan 3XS Vengeance
A very speedy PC which can cope with demanding gaming
CPU: Intel Core i7-6700K | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 980 | RAM: 8GB DDR3 | Storage: 256GB Samsung SM951 M.2 PCI-E SSD + 2TB HDD | Features: 4.6GHz overclock, Be quiet! Dark Rock 3 CPU cooler, Corsair Obsidian 450D chassis, 750W PSU
Scan's 3XS Vengeance gaming computer very closely matches that of Chillblast's Fusion Master, with an overclocked Skylake processor for the fastest possible gaming performance and a powerful GeForce GTX 980 graphics card. This sort of setup will cope with any game up to 1440p resolution in maximum detail. The gap in price between the two systems can be attributed to small differences – a slightly smaller Samsung M.2 PCI Express SSD and less memory in Scan's default configuration. Whatever, the combination of Skylake and a GeForce GTX 980 will result in a very fast gaming PC.
Overclockers Titan Virtual Force
Virtual reality made easy
CPU: 3.5GHz Intel Core i5-6600K | Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980Ti | RAM: 8GB DDR4 | Storage: 128GB SSD + 1TB HDD | Connectivity: Ethernet | Ports: (Rear) 2 x USB 3.0, 2 x USB 2.0; (Top) 2 x USB 3.0, DisplayPort, DVI, VGA, HDMI, microphone and headphone jack
Like many pre-built gaming desktops, the Titan Virtual Force is not tastefully designed nor is it particularly subtle. But very rarely when we buy gaming hardware are we as concerned about style over power – and holy hell is the Titan Virtual Force powerful. But it certainly needs to be seeing as the Titan Virtual Force is a gaming PC designed for use with the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive VR headsets.
For $1,820, of course you could build your own PC with equivalent specs for cheaper, but buying pre-built is all about convenience which is clearly on the table here. Taking a ride on the VR bandwagon with the Titan Virtual Force doesn't require knowing how to mount a motherboard or install a CPU cooler, but it does demand a hefty chunk of change.
So long as you're happy with a GTX 980Ti paired with an Intel 6600K but only 8GB of RAM at the entry level, the Titan Virtual Force serves as an excellent shortcut too buttery smooth VR gaming on the high end.
Read the full review: Overclockers Titan Virtual Force
Asus Republic Of Gamers G20AJ
A powerful PC with a smart looking case and customisable lights
CPU: Intel Core i7-4790K | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 | RAM: 12GB DDR3 | Storage: 128GB SSD + 1TB HDD | Features: 802.11ac wireless, six-core CPU, customisable lighting effects
If you want a tower PC that looks like it means business, the Republic Of Gamers G20AJ looks like it could be the best choice. Not only does it carry the Republic Of Gamers branding, reserved only for the top-end gaming products from Asus – all of which boast this signature red and black design – it also has a specification to match. We're talking a high-end GeForce graphics card, fast Intel Core i7 Haswell processor and both an SSD and hard disk, with built-in 802.11ac wireless. And call us immature, but we always love coloured lights on a gaming rig. Asus also used IFA 2015 to show off special edition of the machine that can squeeze in a Titan X for massive power.
- For the mobile gamer in you, here are the best gaming laptops
Gabe Carey has also contributed to this article
Best 2-in-1 laptops
2-in-1, or hybrid, laptops are all the rage these days. They're a response to the question, "Why buy a laptop and a tablet when you could have both in the same device?"
Made possible by detachable designs, some 2-in-1s allow for their displays to be removed from the keyboard base. Others take a convertible route, in which the notebook's hinge can be rotated 360 degrees and then clam-shelled as a thicker tablet.
Generally speaking, hybrid laptops are priced between $700 (about £450, AU$800) and $2,000, though you can find one for much cheaper if you wouldn't mind settling for a Chromebook such as the HP Chromebook Flip. Other PC makers, like Dell with its Venue 7000, have found success in enterprise-focused 2-in-1s.
Swiftly approaching the third year of Windows 10, with 400 million copies of the operating system installed, 2-in-1s are becoming as commonplace as traditional laptops and tablets. With that in mind, we've procured a list of the best hybrid laptops that suit the term by definition.
1. Lenovo Yoga 900
A thoughtfully refined 2-in-1 convertible
CPU: 2.5GHz Intel Core i7-6500U | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 520 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch QHD+ 3,200 x 1,800 IPS display | Storage: 256GB – 1TB SSD
Whereas the Lenovo Yoga Pro 3 had a winning design paired with less than stellar performance, the Yoga 900 is power without compromise. Complete with more powerful Intel Core i processors and a larger battery pack, the Yoga 900 turns out to be Lenovo's best convertible yet.
Better yet, this 2-in-1 can effortlessly compete with most Ultrabooks on the market and even Microsoft's acclaimed Surface Book laptop. Even though the extra power only adds to the weight and girth of the Yoga 900, it still manages to pull off a slender physique and flexible frame allowing for easy folding back into tablet mode.
Without taking a huge toll on the price, the Lenovo Yoga 900 is undeniably deserving of the top spot on our list.
Read the full review: Lenovo Yoga 900
2. Microsoft Surface Book
The ultimate Windows 10 hybrid laptop
CPU: Intel Core i5-i7 | Graphics: Intel HD graphics 520 – Nvidia GeForce graphics | RAM: 8GB-16GB | Screen: 13.5-inch, 3,000 x 2,000 PixelSense Display | Storage: 128GB – 256GB PCIe 3.0 SSD
In 2015, Microsoft made some noise in announcing the company's first laptop, the Surface Book. And while there's still work to be done, particularly in its ill-advised 3:2 aspect ratio and 13.5-inch screen, the Surface Book is still one of the best in convertible laptops around.
In its tablet, or Clipboard, mode it's already among the most powerful and thinnest Windows 10 devices on the market. Dock it onto the keyboard base, however, and you're in for a real treat; that is, assuming you opt for one of the discrete GPU configurations, which add more power to the Surface Book's lower half.
Read the full review: Surface Book
3. HP Spectre x360
CPU: Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 5500 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch, FHD (1,920 x 1,080) – QHD (2560 x 1440) Radiance LED-backlit touchscreen | Storage: 256GB – 512GB SSD
A vote for the Spectre x360 is a vote for not only one of our most recommended, but one of HP's most revered, machines. Complete with an excellent 1080p screen, stellar performance, sturdy build quality and not to mention a fabulous battery life, the HP Spectre x360 is among the best hybrids money can buy, especially considering its modest price point.
Read the full review: HP Spectre x360
4. Toshiba Satellite Radius 12
A stylish 4K convertible Ultrabook
CPU: 2.3GHz Intel Core i7-6200U | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 520 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 12.5-inch, 1,920 x 1,080 TruBrite LED backlit touchscreen | Storage: 256GB SSD
As the first 4K-enabled convertible on the market, the Toshiba Radius 12 is a spectacular machine both inside and out. This sharp 2-in-1 laptop was designed to be held as a tablet just as much as it was meant to be used on your lap.
Thanks to its lightweight and ergonomically designed chassis, this is one transformable notebook you'll actually want to hold in your hand. Despite its questionably rearranged keyboard layout and lackluster battery life, the Toshiba Radius 12 is surprisingly a solid performer even at its native resolution which, by the way, is only bettered by a striking color palette.
Read the full review: Toshiba Satellite Radius 12
5. HP Pavilion x2
The most affordable Windows 10 convertible
CPU: Intel Atom | Graphics: Intel HD graphics | RAM: 2GB | Screen: 10.1-inch, 1,280 x 800 WXGA WLED IPS touchscreen display | Storage: 32GB – 64GB eMMC
The Windows 10 convertible landscape isn't cheap unless we're talking about the Pavilion x2. This 10-inch hybrid neatly packages a surprising amount of goods considering its small size. It comes outfitted with an HD screen and more than enough power to get you through a simple day of web browsing (and even some light photo/video editing).
What's more, when you're ready kick back with some streaming media, you can pop off the 10-inch hood for an equally impressive standalone tablet experience. If you're looking for something with a bit more screen real estate, however, there's always a 12-inch model available as well.
Read the full review: HP Pavilion x2
6. Dell Inspiron 13 7000
An attractive, versatile package
CPU: Intel Core i5-i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 520 | RAM: 4GB-8GB | Screen: 13.3-inch HD (1366 x 768) Truelife LED-backlit – Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) touchscreen | Storage: 500GB – 1TB HDD, 128GB – 256GB SSD
Though there's nothing remarkably distinct about the Dell Inspiron 13 7000, there's no denying it's a sturdy device that nigh-perfectly balances the worlds of both performance and style. What's best about the Inspiron 13 is its ability to camouflage itself as a conventional laptop. Bend that sucker back like you're about to break the screen right off the hinge, though, and you'll be greeted by a flexible tablet design accompanied by shrieks of terror from surrounding colleagues.
Students and freelancers cranking out last-minute assignments in the wee hours of the night will be delighted to hear that the Inspiron 13 7000's keyboard, at least according to Dell, is indeed waterproof. We wouldn't advise, say, resting your steaming hot cup of joe on its alphanumerics, but of course it's a welcome feature.
Read the full review: Dell Inspiron 13 7000
7. HP Elite x2 1012 G1
CPU: Intel Core m3 – m5 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 515 | RAM: 4GB – 8GB | Screen: 12-inch, 1,920 x 1,280 FHD UWVA eDP ultra-slim LED-backlit touchscreen | Storage: 128GB – 512GB SSD
If you're looking for something more resistant than a Surface Pro but with minimal added weight, the HP Elite x2 1012 G1 is a top contender. Featuring a backlit keyboard, Wacom "Active" pen support, and Thunderbolt 3, the HP Elite x2 1012 G1 is as versatile as it is good looking.
And that goes without mentioning the 12-point stress test the tablet underwent through production. That's right, HP claims that its Elite x2 1012 G1 can endure drops, bumps and temperature shifts that would leave other tablets on the market dead in the streets. Though its cost might seem extravagant for a device with only a 1080p display, but the HP Elite x2 1012 G1 is better seen than heard about.
Read the full review: HP Elite x2 1012 G1
8. Lenovo Yoga 900S
The lightest 2-in-1 laptop
CPU: Intel Core m5 – m7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 515 | RAM: 4GB – 8GB | Screen: 12.5-inch, FHD (1,920 x 1,080) – QHD (2,560 x 1,440) IPS, multi-touch | Storage: 128GB – 512GB PCIe SSD
Lenovo Yoga 900S
The Lenovo Yoga 900S feels like a direct response to Apple's 12-inch MacBook. The 12.5-inch display, the USB-C port and even the Intel Core-m chip on the inside reeks of the controversial, yet incredibly lightweight MacBook. It's a response, however, that brings with it a few notable advantages over Cupertino's solution.
For one, you get access to full-size USB 3.0 ports in addition to the Type-C interface. The highest end version ships with an m7 processor and 1440p display and it costs less than MacBook's comparatively specced built-to-order model. Unfortunately, you'll also have to deal with a smaller trackpad and a similarly inadequate keyboard, but otherwise the Yoga 900S is an impeccable value.
Read the full review: Lenovo Yoga 900S
9. HP Spectre x360 15
This 15-inch hybrid is more portable than you think
CPU: Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 520 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 15.6-inch, Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) – QHD (3840 x 2160), IPS touchscreen | Storage: 256GB Flash SSD
The Spectre x360 15 is an excellent 2-in-1 laptop that stands out with its thin, all-metal body and heavy contrast display. Featuring an excellent 15-inch IPS touch panel, the x360 15 only gets better with the optional 4K display.
What's more, the x360 15's battery life is surprisingly unhindered by its high resolution; however that could be a result of the weak backlighting of the display. Those unimpressed by lengthy battery lives and more intrigued by sleek, ambidextrous designs, however, should scroll down to what's next on our list.
Read the full review: HP Spectre x360 15
10. Asus Transformer Book T300 Chi
Asus' thin and gorgeous 2-in-1 laptop
CPU: Intel Core M | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 5300 | RAM: 4GB – 8GB | Screen: 12.5-inch, FHD (1,920 x 1,08) – WQHD (2,560 x 1,440) capacitive multi-touch IPS display | Storage: 128GB – 256GB SSD
If you're looking for a 2-in-1 machine with portability to boot, there aren't many devices that beat the Asus Transformer Book T300 Chi. This 12.5-inch convertible is one of the thinnest in its class and taking the screen off the keyboard base transforms the T300 Chi into a true Windows tablet.
Though the device is powered by a low-wattage processor, it packs enough punch to drive a 4K display, managing to get you through all your daily tasks. Sadly, the Transformer Book T300 Chi's battery life is a little on the short side and you'll have to cope without full-size USB and HDMI ports, but otherwise this is an excellent and affordable hybrid.
Read the full review: Asus Transformer Book T300 Chi
Gabe Carey has also contributed to this article
- Now, how about that Surface Pro 4?