Black Friday 2020 deals: The best early Walmart sales start Nov. 4

This year’s hottest Black Friday trend this year may be “pre-Black Friday,” with retailers looking to jumpstart holiday shopping with early deals that will reward shoppers who think waiting until the end of November to start buying gifts is procrastinating. Dell already set the stage for this strategy with essentially six weeks of Black Friday sales, and now Walmart is joining it as an early bird.

Walmart has announced a pair of major shopping events in early November: The first “Deals for Days” sales kick off on Wednesday, Nov. 4 and return on Saturday, Nov. 7, and the second begins the following Wednesday (Nov. 11) and repeats on Saturday, Nov. 14. While the first event features a couple of gaming laptops, the second offers several notebook and tablet deals to entice potential buyers. We’ve highlighted the best of these below, and expect a number of additional ones when Walmart’s actual Black Friday ad drops.   

$140 off

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If you have a gamer on your shopping list who enjoys PC games more than console titles, this deal (on Nov. 4 and Nov. 7) on an HP gaming laptop for under $500 may wind up being the best for your budget. It may not have all of the bells and whistles of pricier systems, but you still get an Intel Core i5-9300H processor, full HD 15.6-inch display, 8GB of RAM, 256GB solid-state drive, and, most importantly, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 graphics card to boost those frame rates.

$449 at Walmart

Special buy

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Walmart is always good for a deal on a low-priced laptop that sticks out on an ad page, and for the second pre-Black Friday event, that eye-popper is the IdeaPad 3 for under $150. If you just need a notebook to handle basic tasks like word processing and web browsing, this 14-inch portable with Intel Pentium processor, 4Gb of RAM, and a 128GB solid-state drive will fit the bill without exhausting your gift budget.

$149 at Walmart

$120 off

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It’s a little more expensive than the IdeaPad 3 listed above, but Walmart’s deal on this HP Chromebook on Nov. 11 and Nov. 14 could be appealing if you don’t require a Windows laptop. That’s because it features a convertible design that allows you to flip the 14-inch touchscreen over to use as a lay-flat tablet in addition to its traditional laptop functionality — all for under $200.

$179 at Walmart

More early Black Friday 2020 deals

Here are some other noteworthy Walmart Black Friday 2020 deals worth checking out:

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Dell reveals Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2020 deals weeks ahead of schedule

Dell always likes to get the jump on the Black Friday hype machine, often being the first tech retailer to unveil its roster of deals, but this year it’s really outdone itself. Then again, in a year where not much has seemed ordinary, it’s probably not shocking that Dell is launching its holiday shopping plans for Black Friday and Cyber Monday on October 15, two weeks before Halloween and just after the dust settled on Amazon’s annual Prime Day extravaganza.

With people turning to online shopping not only as a necessity during the lockdown days of the pandemic, but also as a source of relief from the social isolation the pandemic has engendered, it’s probably inevitable that the hysteria surrounding Black Friday begin earlier than ever before. It helps that thanks to online retailers, what once was a limited-time event that occasionally erupted into brick-and-mortar bedlam has turned into a continuum of deals that starts in mid-November and goes straight through the week of Cyber Monday.

For consumers

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Dell’s plans provide consumers (and small business owners) with a blueprint of what the next several weeks of shopping will look like, as begins offering select “Black Friday” deals from Oct. 15, even though Black Friday is Nov. 27 this year. Those super-early deals on XPS, Precision, Vostro and Alienware systems will run until Nov. 1, when phase 2 of Dell’s dealing kicks off with access to all non-doorbuster Black Friday sales beginning Nov. 2 and running through Nov. 28. Next, daily doorbuster offers begin on Nov. 15 and the complete doorbuster experience launches Thanksgiving morning at 10am and runs through midnight, then restarts at 8am on Black Friday morning and goes until 10pm that night. Finally, Sunday, Nov. 29 sets off a new round of deals in anticipation of Cyber Monday, when hourly doorbusters are on offer from 8am to 10pm, before ending on Dec. 7.

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If you’re not exhausted yet from reading through the logistics of it all, let’s take a look at some of the highlighted deals Dell is making available. For today’s kickoff, the New XPS 13 Touch laptop with Intel 11th-generation Core processor options will be on sale for $1,249 until 7:59am on October 25. Another early doorbuster Dell has revealed is the Alienware m15 R3 gaming notebook with a 10th-generation Core i7 CPU 16GB of RAM, 512GB solid-state drive, and Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 graphics card for $1,549.99 starting on October 19.

(It’s important to remember to check the current pricing when evaluating any Black Friday/Cyber Monday special, as the promoted savings may be based off the list price — or “estimated value” in Dell’s ads —  of a product that’s been reduced some already. For instance, what is advertised as a $300 savings on the m15 R3 mentioned above is actually only $100 off because today’s price is $1,649.99.)

Given that caveat, notable Black Friday discounts for budget shoppers include a doorbuster at 1pm on Thanksgiving for the Inspiron 15 3000 laptop (Intel Celeron processor, 4GB of RAM, 128GB SSD) for $179.99, or $140 off the current price. If you prefer a desktop, the Inspiron Desktop equipped with Core i5-10400, 8GB of RAM, and 1TB hard drive is a 8pm Thanksgiving doorbuster for $399.99 ($120 off today’s price). For the same price (and $200 lower than the current price) the more stylish XPS Desktop with Core i3-10100, 8GB of memory, and terabyte hard drive is a 11am Black Friday morning doorbuster.

If you don’t mind a slightly older Core i5-9300H processor, you can grab the 15-inch version of the popular XPS laptop for $799.99 as a noon Cyber Monday doorbuster, a savings of $150 off the current price. Those who prefer screen size over sheer portability could go for an Inspiron 17 3000 configuration (Core i7/8GB/2TB) that doesn’t seem to be currently available on the Dell site, but will be come Nov. for $679.99.

Dell has stepped up its game — literally — with its Alienware gaming systems as well as its own G-series PCs — and the best deals that appear to be available this holiday shopping season are a G5 15 Gaming Laptop with Core i7-10750H, 16GB of RAM, 512GB SSD, and Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 with a Cyber Monday 10am doorbuster price of $1,149.99 (more than $250 off today’s price)  and an Alienware Aurora R11 desktop configured with Core i7 CPU, 16GB of RAM, 512GB SSD, and GeForce RTX 2060 graphics for $1,179.99 ($250 off) starting at 9am on Cyber Monday morning.

For small businesses

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Dell splits its deal up into consumer and small business buckets, with small biz getting its own Black Friday ad. One of the business-oriented pre-Black Friday deals is the Precision 3551 Mobile Workstation for $1,039 starting at 11am on Nov. 23; while it’s unclear which configuration you’d be getting, the savings Dell claims (45 percent off) suggest that if nothing else you’ll get 16GB of RAM and Nvidia Quadro P620 graphics. Those who could use a little less laptop for their business can grab a $679 Latitude 3510 doorbuster (Core i5, 8GB of RAM, 256GB SSD) instead of starting at 10am on Black Friday ($140 off the current price), or get a $230 savings off the current price of a Vostro 15 5502 notebook with 11th-generation Core i7 processor, 8GB of memory, 512GB SSD, GeForce MX330 graphics and full HD display available as a 4pm doorbuster on Cyber Monday for $819.

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For workers chained to their desks, an early Nov. 16 doorbuster gets you a Precision 3440 small form factor workstation with Core i5, 16GB of RAM, and 256GB SSD for $859, saving you $170 off today’s price, and a Cyber Monday sale sees Dell offering a well-configured Precision 3240 compact desktop for $1,289 or $210 less than the current pricing. Far less sexy, but equally essential servers are even discounted, such as the PowerEdge T340 with Celeron processor, 8GB of memory, and terabyte hard drive for $649 ($120 off) on Black Friday or the PowerEdge T440 with Intel Xeon Bronze CPU, 8GB of RAM, and 1TB hard drive for $999 ($160 off) on Cyber Monday. 

With Dell revealing its Black Friday hand early, will other retailers follow suit? Check back to ZDNet as we continue to track Black Friday deals on laptops, desktops, and more.

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Verizon adds 8-inch TCL Tab to its Android tablet lineup

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TCL Tab 8

You might recognize the TCL brand from its value-priced Roku TVs sold through Amazon, Best Buy and the like, but it’s been a player in the mobile space through its manufacturing of phones for the likes of Alcatel and BlackBerry. In 2020, the Chinese company has moved to release Android phones under its own moniker, which have been well-reviewed by ZDNet’s own reviewers (here and here). Next up: launching into the tablet market through a partnership with Verizon.

Whereas it’s selling its TCL 10 Pro and 10L smartphones unlocked in the U.S., it’s taking a different approach with its Tab 8 tablet by hooking up with a wireless carrier. At $199.99, or $8.33 per month for 24 months, the 8-inch slate is Verizon’s cheapest tablet offering, about three dollars per month cheaper than an 8.4-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab.

Though the Galaxy Tab has a slightly bigger screen and a much better known brand, the Tab 8 doesn’t compare unfavorably with it despite the lower price. It has a full HD display (1,920×1,200 resolution), equivalent claimed battery life of 17 hours (thanks to a slightly larger 5,500mAh battery), and the same 32GB of built-in storage. Both are powered by octa-core processors, though the Tab 8 uses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 CPU compared to the Galaxy Tab’s homegrown Exynos 7904 chip.

The Tab 8 does come with Android 10 pre-installed (as opposed to Android 9 on the Galaxy Tab) and not surprisingly features built-in 4G LTE connectivity, along with 802.11b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi for when you don’t need a cellular signal. It also comes with the expected accoutrements for any tablet worth its salt, such as 5-megapixel front-facing and 8-megapixel rear-facing cameras and SD card slot for additional storage.

The Tab 8 is currently available exclusively through Verizon, though it will be interesting to see if the partnership extends to the TCL TCL 10 TabMax and TabMid that were announced at the IFA trade show last month and are expected to be released in the near future.

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MSI Summit E14 review: Gamer gets down to business with stylish thin-and-light laptop Review

After years of being one of the boys hanging on the couch, content to play games, MSI is slowly starting to grow up and look for a respectable job. Over the past year, it’s begun rolling out notebook families like the Prestige, which are built with the high-performance components MSI is used to placing in their gaming laptops, but which feature a more subtle aesthetic in an aim to appeal to content creatives on the go.

As its name suggests, the newly launched Summit series is looking to climb even higher, with a more refined design (complete with new corporate logo) and the latest 11th-generation Tiger Lake Core processors from Intel. Although the series won’t start being available until mid-November, we received an early evaluation unit to determine if the Summit can get the job done.

The Summit takes its cues from MSI’s previous productivity portables, including a chassis made from sandblasted aluminum that is both rigid (meeting MIL-STD-810G testing standards for a number of durability conditions) and lightweight. The Summit E14 – reviewed here – weighs just 2.9 pounds, while the bigger E15 tips the scales at 3.7 pounds. While MSI offers fun color options like white, blue, and a pinkish concoction called “beige mousse” in the Prestige and Modern lines, the Summit family wears only a sensible suit of black matte.

In addition to the larger 15.6-inch display, the E15 also has room for up to 64GB of RAM and includes a second M.2 drive slot for either another solid-state drive or SATA hard drive. MSI also offers a B series of the Summit for those looking to spend a little less. The scaled-down B14 and B15 have a top processor of the Core i7-1165G7, graphics come courtesy of Intel’s new Iris Xe integrated solution instead of a discrete card, and there is no 4K display option.   

One downside to the Summit 14’s totable dimensions (12.6 by 8.6 by 0.6 inches) is a slightly narrower keyboard than I would prefer (including a truncated right Shift key), though it’s hardly a deal breaker. On the other hand, you have control over its backlighting brightness via the MSI Center for Business and Productivity app – four options from maximum to none. The touchpad’s rim of orange lighting appears to vary its brightness, however, based on the display’s brightness, which can be controlled more granularly in one-percent increments.(The palm rest area to the left and right of the touchpad is a bit of a magnet for fingerprints, a disadvantage to the black finish.)

The app also provides the user with four usage scenarios: the default is balanced, along with high performance, silent, and super battery. Each sets the panel and keyboard brightness (and fan setting, in the case of high performance), but lets the user override them. The MSI Center includes an Application Optimizer that allows you to choose which pieces of software receive system resources priority, though you currently can’t remove a piece of software from the list, despite the presence of a remove icon that was grayed out when we attempted to edit the list.

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Luckily, there are plenty of resources to allocate, as MSI timed the release of the Summit roster to coincide with the launch of Intel’s latest mobile processors, Tiger Lake. Our test unit included the Core i7-1185G7 quad-core CPU, which MSI claims can provide up to 20 percent faster performance than its 10th-generation predecessor. Our review unit was an early production model that wasn’t finalized to allow benchmarking, though tech sites have been given the nod from Intel to test the new laptop chip.

The Summit is exactly the type of system Tiger Lake was designed for – a class of laptop that balances power and portability. That means even the top-of-line i7-1185G7 isn’t intended for full mobile workstation workloads, but it should be able to offer solid performance without a massive power draw. For basic tasks, our test configuration – which also included 32GB of RAM, Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti graphics, and a 1TB SSD drive – was nearly overkill. Booting up was quick and loading Microsoft Office apps nearly instantaneous even with multiple Google Chrome browser tabs open.

Looking to push its capabilities – and being a hobbyist shutterbug – I installed the desktop version of Adobe Lightroom, a known resources hog, and sure enough, importing images into a new catalog gave the CPU a bit of a workout. While that task pushed the i7-1185G7 into the 30-percent usage range, processing photos using Topaz AI Denoise resulted in the processor occasionally spiking over 90 percent. (Granted, some of that surge may be related to the use of an external USB drive for the Lightroom catalog.) Nonetheless, that still compares favorably to my older 8th-generation Core i7 laptop, which struggles mightily with the RAM-hungry Lightroom and probably couldn’t even handle Denoise.

Using resource-heavy apps like Lightroom and Photoshop taxes battery life, and there was a notable dip in unplugged time compared to basic web surfing and Office document work. You can probably get close to a full workday of juice in the latter scenario but doing anything that relies on the graphics card will appreciably cut into that time. While MSI claims 10-hour battery life for the Summit E14 and the B series, it says the E15 can get up to 16 hours as a result of its larger battery. The Summit can fully charge back up in roughly an hour, so at least you don’t have to wait long to be back in business without being plugged in.

The introduction of Tiger Lake also brings with it the marketing rollout of Thunderbolt 4 connectivity, though the update from Thunderbolt 3 is more about Intel placing additional conditions on certifying compatible products than a speed update. It will support USB 4.0 Type-C to take advantage of Thunderbolt’s 40Gbps transfer rates and provide power to external devices. Along with the pair of Thunderbolt 4 ports (the B Series just gets one), the HDMI output (on the E15 only) lets you connect three monitors to the Summit. Other connectivity includes a USB 2 port (instead of a pair of USB 3.2 connections on the E15) and a microSD card reader, while 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1 provide networking capabilities.

As befits a laptop designed for business, the Summit comes with a bevy of security features such as Trusted Platform Module 2.0 technology and optional fingerprint reader and facial recognition support. A 720p HD webcam is included with built-in AI-powered noise cancellation to reduce the volume of your kids’ screaming in the background during Zoom calls.

At $1,799 for a configuration similar, though not identical, to this pre-production unit (the official release includes multitouch capabilities), the Summit E14 is a bit on the high side for performance thin and lights. However, if you consider the combination of specs, especially 32GB of RAM and discrete graphics, it might be pretty hard to beat for under $2,000 — if you can live with a 1080p screen. 

A second E14 configuration costs $100 more for which you move up to a 4K display but receive only half the RAM. The Summit E15 actually starts $100 less than the E14, though again with 16GB of RAM and a 1080p display, with two editions with a 4K display or 32GB of RAM and touch support, respectively, each costing $1,899. If you value the Summit’s portability over the top processor and discrete graphics of the E14 and E15, the B series is more affordable, with the B14 starting at $899, and the B15 at $999, for a Core i5-1135G7, 8GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD.  

Despite a couple of minor caveats, the Summit E14 is a great choice for those looking for Intel’s latest processing technology in a highly portable package, squeezing much of the power of a mobile workstation into a svelte package. You’ll pay quite a bit for the privilege, but it should be able to handle with aplomb most of the applications its target market would throw at it.

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Dell upgrades XPS 13 laptops with Intel’s new Tiger Lake processors

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Dell XPS 13 2-in-1

With Intel launching its latest batch of mobile processors — the 11th-generation Tiger Lake family — system makers are starting to announce new and updated laptops (even Chromebooks) that will take advantage to the performance boost and improved Iris Xe integrated graphics. Today Dell joins the roll-out with a refresh of one of the most popular Windows notebook lineups with Tiger Lake now inside.

The XPS 13 and its variants — the XPS 13 2-in-1 and the Linux-equipped XPS 13 Developer Edition — are just the type of thin-and-light systems (all under 3 pounds) for which Tiger Lake was designed. Using updated LPDDR4 RAM (8GB to 32GB in the case of the XPS), the Iris Xe receives a substantial boost over previous Intel integrated GPU, while the 10-nanometer CPUs unlock more performance from each core without cutting into battery life. New XPS configurations will be equipped with either the Core i3-1115G4, i5-1135G7, or i7-1165G7, that latter being quad-core chips.

Dell has taken the opportunity to tweak the design of the XPS line with the addition of new components. The display has been upgraded to reduce the size of the bezel, improving the screen-to-body ratio to 91.5 percent, while the keyboard and touchpad have increased in size. The 13.4-inch screen is available in either 1080p HD or 4K resolutions, with the XPS 13 2-in-1 obviously possessing touchscreen functionality standard though it’s available as an option for XPS 13 clamshell models. 

Tiger Lake brings a new emphasis on supporting Thunderbolt 4 and the new XPS models include a pair of those ports, which can power external devices and provide DisplayPort capabilities with 40Gb/s throughput. Dell offers high-performance Killer Wi-Fi 6 connectivity as a networking option. Storage options are based around PCIe solid-state drives with capacities ranging from 256GB to 1TB. Dell claims nearly 19 hours of battery life from the XPS 13 and the Developer Edition, while it only mentions “long battery life” for the new XPS 2-in 1.

Dell has long backed the Linux open-source cause via the XPS Developer Editions among others, and with its latest refresh, it’s updated the XPS 13 Developer Edition to be the first Tiger Lake laptop to have Ubuntu 20.04 LTS pre-installed. Even if you purchase an XPS 13 that isn’t a Developer Edition, Dell has worked to make it easy to add Linux to run alongside Windows or replace it altogether.

The new XPS configurations will be available in North America starting on September 30, with the XPS 13 starting at $999 and the XPS 13 2-in-1 priced from $1,249. As of this writing, pricing for the Developer Edition is still to be determined. While the XPS 13 and XPS 2-in-1 will come in silver or white color choices, the white option will only be available for the 2-in-1 model on September 30, with the clamshell version becoming available at an unspecified later date.

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Larger tablets revive tablet PC market during pandemic

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The COVID-19 pandemic — and the ensuing lock-down throughout the world — has brought back a lot of things that had fallen a bit out of favor, like jigsaw puzzle family nights and drive-in movies. It’s also given surprising new life to the tablet PC market, which cratered several years ago, but has come back to life, according to a new research report from Strategy Analytics.

The tablet craze of the early 2010s waned as smartphones became bigger and more powerful while (usually) retaining pocket-friendly dimensions. But if you don’t need a device in your pocket because you’re stuck at home, and you’re spending hours working or learning at school remotely, then the larger screen a tablet provides becomes a valuable advantage again. As a result, Strategy Analytics says the tablet market is growing at the fastest rate we’ve seen since 2014.

Granted, that is expected to provide a mere 1-percent increase in tablet sales from 2019, according to the research firm’s report, but it stems the tide of the five previous years’ sales declines. Not surprisingly, the boost in tablet sales is accompanied by larger screen units overtaking smaller tablets for the first time in market share. Those models — such as the Apple iPad Pro and Microsoft Surface Pro tablets — tend to be marketed as laptop replacements, sometimes including a keyboard accessory and/or digital stylus to enhance their productivity bonafides. Strategy Analytics forecasts that tablets with screens 10 inches or larger should continue to increase their share of the market, accounting for nearly two-thirds of tablet sales by 2025.

The pandemic will hopefully be long in the past by that time, which leads to the question: What kind of market will there be for tablets in 2025? Considering that Strategy Analytics suggests sales will “remain plateaued” over the next few years, this increase in interest is expected to be short-lived, especially when it comes to the slate form factor. A return to normality would mean a return to relying on our smartphones again for streaming outside the home, though Strategy Analytics predicts that tablets with detachable keyboards (so-called 2-in-1 devices) will continue to consolidate their share of the market at the expense of slates over the next few years. 

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MSI launches its first business laptop featuring Intel’s new Tiger Lake processors

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MSI Summit business laptop

Long known as a gaming PC producer, MSI has recently ventured away from its core competency to dabble in portables for digital content creatives, and today it’s taking an even bigger leap into the crowded business laptop market with the introduction of its new Summit series. Launched to take advantage of the new Intel 11th-generation Core processors — a.k.a. Tiger Lake —  the Summit lineup comprises two different models each available in 14-inch and 15-inch versions.

Though all editions are equipped with the latest Core i7 CPUs, the Summit E series is the more performance-oriented of the two, shipping with the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti graphics card that can power an optional 4K display. On the other hand, the Summit B series emphasizes its battery life (over 10 hours, according to MSI), thanks in part to its Iris Xe integrated graphics, the latest Intel effort to boost the humble integrated GPU closer to discrete graphics performance.

Both variations include business PC standard features like a fingerprint reader and facial recognition, TPM 2.0 security, and AI-powered noise cancellation to improve the audio of your video conferences. They are also come with a new Thunderbolt 4 port, which now lets you power a device using it and is also compatible with the forthcoming USB 4 standard. In addition to the 4K option, the Summit E can be configured with touchscreen capabilities, whereas the B Series only offers a 1080p full HD screen. MSI promises the Summit series will hit online retailers next month, though pricing has not been confirmed yet.

The launch of Tiger Lake chips is presenting MSI the opportunity to refresh its Modern and Prestige series laptops with Intel’s latest mobile chips. On the updated 14-inch Modern and Prestige notebooks you now get a choice of chassis colors — light blue, pinkish beige, or carbon grey for the Modern 14, or white, rose pink, or carbon grey for the Prestige 14. There will also be a new Prestige 14 Evo version rolled out, certified for Intel’s new Evo platform, which relies on Tiger Lake processors, Iris Xe integrated graphics, and the second generation of specs for Intel’s Project Athena program. As with the Summit series, these updated models will be available next month with pricing still unknown (though currently the Modern lineup starts around $700 and the Prestige family runs a few hundred dollars more).

Finally, MSI hasn’t completely forgotten its roots, slipping in a new gaming laptop amid the otherwise corporate-oriented announcements. With the Stealth 15M, the company claims it’s created the market’s thinnest 15-inch gaming laptop “in its class” (whatever that means). Slightly under 4 pounds and just 0.63 inchest thick, the Stealth 15M also has Tiger Lake inside, along with either a GeForce GTX 1660 Ti or RTX 2060 graphics card powering your gaming experience. If you like a different look than the typical gaming system, the Stealth 15M will be available with a white chassis option. It, too, will be available online starting in October, but MSI has listed a starting price for this particular model: $1,549. 

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NZXT looks to lure beginning gamers with its $699 Starter PC desktop

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NZXT Starter PC

With companies without gaming pedigrees like Acer and Lenovo offering entry-level PCs for budding gamers, manufacturing veterans have to compete for budding gamers who aren’t ready (or able) to spend more than $1,000 for a decked-out gaming desktop. NZXT, long known for its cases and other gaming components, isn’t beating around the bush with its gateway system’s name, calling it the Starter PC rather than the evocative extreme-sounding monikers typical of gaming PCs.

As with other budget friendly gaming systems, the Starter PC makes compromises with regard to components to keep prices down, but still provides a decent graphics card to allow suitable gaming performance. In this case, NZXT has an Intel Core i3-9100F, a quad-core previous generation budget processor, instead of a 10th-generation Core i5 or i7 in its base configuration. Likewise, a standard 8GB of RAM is on board, along with a 512GB M.2 SSD and no traditional hard drive for additional storage.

You do get an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 graphics card, which NZXT claims can provide 181 frames per second (FPS) playing Counter-Strike: GO, 161FPS on League of Legends, 67FPS on Fortnite, and 62FPS for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. As the Starter PC is built around NZXT’s H510 mid-tower case, there is room to grow with multiple drive bays and expansion slots available if you get the upgrading bug.

If you have a slightly bigger budget and like NZXT’s approach, there are (somewhat ironically) higher-end Starter PC configurations than the true starter Starter PC. For an additional $200, the Starter PC Plus swaps out the Core i3 CPU for a six-core i5-9400F, doubles the RAM, and swaps in a GeForce GTX 1660 graphics card. For $999, NZXT doubles the solid-state storage to 1GB and upgrades the graphics to a GeForce GTX Ti GPU. Of course, your choices expand greatly in the gaming PC world when you get close to the $1,000 threshold, so gamers will have many more options, but NZXT is hoping its reputation as a long-time gaming hardware company could give it an edge over Johnny-come-latelies. 

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MSI Creator 15 laptop now available for digital content creatives from $1,600

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MSI Creator 15

Back in April, MSI launched the Creator 17, a laptop for those involved in digital content creation that is part of Nvidia’s Studio RTX program, which means it comes with the latest Nvidia graphics cards and special Studio drivers for applications like ray tracing, AI, video editing, and more. While the notebook is fairly portable for a 17-inch performance system (5.5 pounds), creatives looking for something a little svelter should be happy to hear that MSI has just released the Creator 15, which tips the scales at nearly a pound lighter.

Though it lacks the mini-LED display of its big brother, the Creator 15 comes with many of the 17’s features, including Intel’s high-powered Comet Lake Core H-series mobile processors and Nvidia’s top GPUs. You can also choose 4K or touchscreen display options — the former with AdobeRGB 100-percent color gamut — but either way, the Creator 15 has a 180-degree hinge so the 15.6-inch screen can lay flat to ease collaboration on a project.

MSI will offer a variety of configurations that start at $1,600 for those on a tighter budget to models that cost more than double that base price, with some available to pre-order from online retailers. The “starter” edition still packs an eight-core Core i7-10875H CPU,  16GB of RAM, 512GB NVMe PCIe M.2 solid-state drive, full 1080p HD display, and GeForce RTX 2060 graphics. On the other end of the spectrum is the configuration that includes the same processor, but quadruples the RAM, upgrades the display to 4K, comes with a pair of 2TB SSDs, and swaps out the GPU for the RTX 2080 Super Max-Q — all for a whopping $4,659 price tag.

Other versions are equipped with the top-of-the-line Core i9-10980HK, the latest Wi-Fi 6 connectivity, and three-year warranties. While a number of configurations are only available for pre-order at the moment, Micro Center has the Creator 15 A10SFS-014 (Core i7-10875H, 32 gigs of RAM, 1TB SSD, 4K display, GeForce RTX 2070 Super Max-Q) available at its brick-and-mortar stores for $2,599.99, and Newegg has in stock the A10SGS-040 (i7-10875H, 32 gigs of RAM, 2TB SSD, 4K display, GeForce RTX 2080 Super Max-Q ) for $3,299.

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Asus delivers VivoBook Flip 14 TM420IA 2-in-1 laptop with AMD Ryzen 4000 processors, $600 starting price tag

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Asus VivoBook Flip 14

Earlier this year, ZDNet’s Sandra Vogel took a look at the Asus VivoBook S14, which she described as “a solidly built 14-inch Windows 10 laptop.” Asus must have agreed, because it just launched a 2-in-1 laptop that appears to share a number of design features with the S14.

There are a couple of key differences between the S14 and the VivoBook Flip 14 TM420, however, such as the Flip’s 360-degree hinged design and use of AMD’s Ryzen 4000 series mobile processors instead of the S14’s 10th-generation Intel Core CPU options. Nonetheless, many other aspects of the Flip 14 seem borrowed directly from the S14, such as the Enter key wrapped in bright yellow and a calculator embedded in the touchpad. The weight (3.08 pounds) is the same and the dimensions are very similar (the Flip 14 being a touch bigger, thanks no doubt to the hinged design), with both portables squeezing a 14-inch full HD display into the equivalent of a 13-inch chassis.

As befits its hybrid status, the Flip 14 comes with touchscreen functionality to support input from the included Asus Pen digital stylus. Like the S14, it ships with a pair of USB 3.2 ports (one of which is the charging variety), HDMI output, and 802.11ac Wi-Fi, though the Flip 14 includes two additional USB 2.0 ports whereas the S14 includes just a single one. While the S14 offers four color choices, the Flip is only available in basic black.

Like its clamshell sibling, the Flip 14 has two basic configuration options (in the U.S., at least): The less expensive Flip 14 is powered by a Ryzen 5 4500U processor, and ships with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB solid-state drive, while the pricier model has a beefier Ryzen 7 4700U processor and doubles the SSD capacity. Notably, Asus does not disclose battery life for the Flip 14, though it does point out a quick charge mode that will juice the battery to 60 percent in 49 minutes. Starting at $599.99 for the Ryzen 5 4500U edition and $100 more for the Ryzen 7 4700U version, the VivoBook Flip 14 TM420IA appears to be a moderately priced and powered laptop choice for those looking hybrid capabilities without breaking the bank.

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