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Range Rover Evoque Convertible Review: Droptop SUV an acquired taste
I’m not a huge fan of convertibles, most of the time. For a start I’m a pale British man prone to burning in the sun; I’m also fairly self-conscious behind the wheel. Bizarrely, though, for all its ostentation the Evoque Convertible might actually be the perfect droptop for the socially awkward.
That’s primarily because of its jacked-up SUV height and its tall sides. You don’t sacrifice any of the regular Evoque’s off-road ability – which, yes, won’t take you as many places as a Land Rover Discovery might, but is certainly no misleading crossover – and so you don’t miss out on its ride height either. Combined with the hefty doors and the cabin actually feels reasonably snug and private.
The roof itself – a 5-layer fabric affair – drops in 18 seconds and raises in 22, and can be operated at speeds up to 29 mph. Raised, the cabin is impressively quiet, with only a gentle murmur of road noise when you’re on the highway. Down, there’s some buffeting for those in the rear seats, though Range Rover includes a removable windbreak that can be fiddled into place behind the rear headrests. Most of the time, I didn’t bother.
On the road, the 2.0-liter 4-cylinder turbocharged engine likes to rev high. It doesn’t lack in punch – there’s 240 horsepower and 250 lb-ft. of torque to play with – though the 9-speed automatic transmission can prove frustrating at times. In drive it can be slow to downshift, and combined with a little turbo lag can leave you unexpectedly lacking in power as you tackle uphill corners, for instance.
Switch to sport mode, meanwhile, and things get a lot more frenetic: a little too much, frankly, for comfortable everyday cruising. Happily there are paddle shifters to take control manually. Whichever way you row the gears, the Evoque Convertible can be a thirsty beast. Official EPA numbers suggest 20 mpg in the city, 28 on the highway, and 23 combined; I was lucky to see 20 mpg in my own, mixed driving.
As for the ride, the combination of a donor vehicle designed for off-road duties, and the strengthening involved in avoiding convertible flex, means this is no lightweight car. In fact, you’re looking at more than 4.5k pounds, though the short wheelbase helps make the Evoque Convertible surprisingly nimble in tighter corners. The AWD helps too, of course, but it takes a heavy right foot to get the Range Rover up to speed. Official 0-60 mph is 7.8 seconds, with top speed 112 mph.
In the back, there’s space for two adults comfortably. The roof pillars do intrude somewhat and take a bite out of shoulder room, mind, though not as much as the whole assembly impacts trunk space. Open the truncated hatch – which would be more convenient, frankly, if it dropped down rather than swung up – and there’s a fairly low slice of cargo room. On paper it’s 8.8 cubic feet, but it can be tough to load and unload.
InControl Touch Pro certainly looks the part, with its wide-aspect touchscreen spanning the center stack. It’s noticeably slower than versions of the system on other recent Jaguar Land Rover family cars, however, The dashboard, too, feels a little plasticky in places, and that’s only going to become more glaring when the upcoming Range Rover Velar arrives, with its beautiful interior.
Given the Evoque Convertible’s boulevard-cruising spirit, it seems almost distasteful to mention its off-road abilities. I suspect few will go further into the rough stuff than parking on the grass at a country fair. Kudos, then, to Range Rover for including the full suite of Evoque all-terrain tech nonetheless: dynamic stability control, hill descent control, trailer stability assist, hill start assist, an electron rear differential and active torque biasing, and a four-mode Terrain Response System with specific settings for snow, mud, and sand. Think of them as get-out-of-jail cards for your next swampy glamping trip.
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My favorite thing to talk about with Uber drivers, my beloved coffee baristas, or anyone who will listen is that fresh, potable water is actually a hot commodity, and the Water War is very much a thing that is here and happening in this world. I pontificate until I’m so parched that I take a sip from a reusable water bottle like the LARQ PureVis, and I feel like I’ve found an oasis in the desert.
Although water covers more than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface, only 3 percent is drinkable fresh water. Even deeper than that, .5 percent of that drinkable fresh water is available, meaning that it’s not locked in a glacier or the atmosphere. And water from public water systems isn’t guaranteed to be completely safe because of old infrastructure (remember the Flint, Michigan, water crisis?). All that combined equals a very cool worldwide phenomenon that deepens my existential crisis about the rad world we live in that no one is acting on to fix (slay!).
The LARQ PureVis bottle may not help with the existential doom the water wars bring (I have my therapist and a cabinet full of paraphernalia for that), but it does make me feel better that my bad Pennsylvania water is at least bacteria-free. If, like me, you enjoy staying hydrated but don’t love what the park water fountain yields, the LARQ turns any clear water into a smooth, clarified beverage worthy of being bottled.
LARQ’s PureVis water bottle uses UV-C light to self-clean and get rid of 99 percent of bio-contaminants, according to the company.
Easy to use
Quick, noticeable change in water taste after use
MicroUSB charger not exactly future-proof
Small and no wide mouth
No water tracking or app connectivity
Verdict: Adventurers, travelers, and regular ole hypochondriacs will be impressed at the quick change in water taste after using the LARQ PureVis bottle.The build
The LARQ PureVis bottle is made of food-grade 18/8 stainless steel and is double-vacuum insulated, providing up to 24 hours of cold retention and 12 hours of keeping beverages hot. (A non-insulated option is also available.) It comes in two capacities—17 oz. and 25 oz.—and five colors.
I received the larger LARQ bottle in seaside mint for review and was impressed at how light it was. I use two other vacuum-insulated water bottles regularly—the 36 oz. Yeti Rambler bottle and 32 oz. Hydro Flask Wide Mouth Bottle, tied for my favorite insulated water bottle. If you own a Yeti, you know it’s a bit heavy, and Hydro Flask bottles tend to be lighter. The LARQ beats both of them weight-wise at 17 ounces when empty. (The Yeti weighs 1.5 lbs., and the Hydro Flask is just under a pound.) But it’s in the LARQ cap where the magic happens. It houses the UV-C light—which the company calls “PureVis technology” and claims can eliminate 99 percent of bacteria, including E. coli. The cap also houses a button that controls the bottle’s functions, plus a microUSB port for charging.
There are three modes to choose from: a Normal Mode that gives your water one minute of UV-C exposure; an Adventure Mode option, which ups the UV-C light to three minutes when you need more purification (e.g., you’ve run river water through a portable filter and want to make sure it doesn’t make you poop your pants while you’re hiking); and a Travel Lock mode, which disables the self-cleaning mode for travel or storage. Technically, the self-cleaning mode would count as the fourth, but there’s nothing you need to press to set that up: The bottle self-cleans with 10 seconds of UV-C light every two hours, regardless of use.
There are technically four modes to choose from. Here, the LARQ is in Normal Mode. Amanda Reed / Popular Science Amanda ReedThe setup
Opening the LARQ PureVis packaging feels like you’re opening a new iPhone. You’re greeted by a message that says, “Meet the bottle that cleans itself,” on its bright white, weighty packaging. The quick-start guide has a little home inside the opening flap, with the bottle nestled in its own cardboard cradle on the other side. You’ll find the microUSB cord (more on that later) under the bottle in a cut-out portion, just like how Apple hides its own included accessories.
All you have to do is find a place to plug the microUSB charger (I chose my favorite place to plug chargers into, my Animal Crossing Nintendo Switch dock), plug the cap into the microUSB charger, and run around your house and do some chores until you see a steady green light. Although I don’t mind using a microUSB cord, I’m always surprised to see one on a device in the year of our Lord 2023, when USB-C has taken over. It’s not a con so much as a very interesting tech choice to make nowadays.
The quick start guide says to unlock the bottle by pressing the button for 5 seconds until the ring light around the cap flashes white, but nothing happened when I did. However, my bottle did start purifying after one press of the proprietary button on the cap. You can wait for the bottle to do its thing or lightly flip it to spread the PureVis light evenly. You have to be careful when filling up the bottle—you have to get the water about an inch below UV-C light, or it will plunge into the water and cause some overflow, which I learned the hard way.
The LARQ charges via a microUSB port. We’re still using them in 2023, folks! Amanda Reed / Popular Science Amanda ReedThe performance
I was fully expecting the LARQ PureVis bottle to be a gimmick. However, I was blown away by the incredible changes I tasted as I progressed through tap water, tap water run through a Brita filter, and both waters after exposure to the UV-C light in the LARQ.
First, I tested the tap water directly (yes, I drank raw Pittsburgh water), then I ran that tap water through the LARQ. I noticed that the tap water tasted incredibly chlorinated—which makes sense, considering water treatment plants add chlorine chloramine, or chlorine dioxide, to water as a disinfector. Tap water tastes refreshing when you happen upon a water fountain in the park, beyond thirsty. However, it’s merely tolerable in any other circumstance. This brings us to the tap water post-LARQ—the chlorination felt like a slap on the wrist compared to the sucker punch of sterilization from the tap water.
Next, I taste-tested my Brita filtered water and the same Brita water post-UV-C light. I took sips from one bottle containing Brita filtered water and then sips from the LARQ bottle to confirm that they indeed tasted different. Brita filtered water was Dasani levels of crisp, while the LARQ bottle was borderline Fiji silkiness.
I felt like Martin Riese, the Water Sommelier on TikTok, trying to qualify the taste, but I also felt like a huge weirdo drinking from two different water bottles with a perplexed look on my face. I’m an easily distracted child who loves a shiny bright thing, so seeing the light on the cap flash and receiving better-tasting water is a better high than completing your Duolingo daily lesson. I’m slightly more prone to use the LARQ water bottle just to get the instant gratification of my water turning into a different thing, like pulling a Shrinky Dink out of the oven.
Pennsylvania water is gross, and Pittsburgh water, specifically, is not good. The LARQ removed the tap water’s chlorinated taste and improved the Brita’s flavor profile. Overall, it left me genuinely impressed—it felt like I was aerating wine, cycling through swirl-sniff-sip-savor (and all the feels) as I noted how the water tasted before and after exposure to UV-C light. All I need to do is invest in the Brita filters that filter out lead; then I will have everything I need for the squeaky clean water.
The UV-C light in the cap is small but mighty. Amanda Reed / Popular Science Amanda ReedSo, who should buy the LARQ PureVis bottle?
The LARQ is perfect for those who want to ensure their water is germ-free post-filtration during a hike or even fresh from the tap. But filtering your tap water and then running it through the LARQ bottle is the way to go, in my opinion.
Some customer-submitted LARQ reviews say that it’s great for people who travel to another country and want to ensure their bottled water is extra clean or want to be sustainable and drink from the tap without the consequences. I couldn’t test either out, so use caution if you purchase the LARQ and test out the (international) waters.
I wish the LARQ came in a 32-ounce option. Sure, 25 ounces is enough, but I like the comfort of knowing that I won’t drink all my water while I’m out and about and don’t need to worry about finding a new source, whether that be a river or a nice cafe barista who fills it up for me as I wait on the other side of the counter like a Dickensian child waiting for food scraps.
The LARQ water bottle is expensive at $99-$118 (depending on size and if you decide on snagging the vacuum-insulated bottle). LARQ offering a version with app connectivity would put the bottle on another level, and help further justify that price. Hydration tracking, reminders to drink, being able to locate your bottle if you misplace it (a bonus considering it’s an expensive water bottle), and germ-free water? In my eyes, that would be worth the money, and more. However, the price tag is a drop in the bucket (or, well, bottle) compared to the pricelessness of clean water. If you’re slightly unhappy with the quality of your drinking water, even post-filtration, but not unhappy enough to spend the time and effort installing an under-the-sink filter, consider the LARQ a band-aid for your knee scrape.
Apple has been on a roll this year in terms of acquisitions. According to Apple CEO Tim Cook, the Cupertino firm acquired 15 companies this year, but only ten have been revealed. That list includes mapping companies such as Embark, chip makers like Passif, search specialists such as Cue and Topsy, and hardware companies such as PrimeSense. Because only 10 of the 15 Apple acquisitions of 2013 have been revealed, we have been digging and asking around to find the few remaining Apple pickups. Based on evidence and chatter from sources, Apple seemingly acquired mapping firm BroadMap in the first half of this year and Evernote-competitor Catch within the last few months…
BroadMap is a comprehensive and expansive mapping firm with several different products and services. While the other Apple maps-related acquisitions this year focused on transit and indoor mapping capabilities, which will likely be integrated into iOS 8, BroadMap’s expertise is managing, sorting, and analyzing mapping data. As company executives explain in the video above, BroadMap has expertise and technologies that could assist Apple is improving the data it has for its Maps app on iOS and OS X.
On its website, BroadMap lists its various areas of expertise. While BroadMap does not have a central feature that could be integrated into Apple’s existing product (like transit or indoor mapping functions), BroadMap’s experience in sorting data, cartography, points of interest, enterprise integration, geocoding, web development, and mobile application development would be invaluable to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Apple Services Senior Vice President Eddy Cue’s plan to bring Apple Maps up to the expectations of Apple’s customers.
According to BroadMap’s website, the company works with several large businesses, local governments, and notable companies. As can be seen above, BroadMap’s technology has been integrated into the successful MapQuest and Nokia Maps initiatives.
On his LinkedIn profile, BroadMap CEO Daniel Perrone says that BroadMap was acquired by a “Fortune 5” company to “support their digital mapping efforts.” Looking at the 2013 Fortune 500 list of companies, no company in the top 5 seems to have a mapping product.
However, number 6 does: Apple (shown above).
In addition to the information from Perrone’s LinkedIn profile, almost every BroadMap executive is now on Apple’s mapping team.
In addition to acquiring BroadMap, it seems likely that Apple bought Catch. Catch was a popular, cross-platform note taking application that has been regarded by many as a competitor to Evernote. Catch, which existed on both iOS and Android, was known for its ability to sync over the cloud, its simple user-interface, its reminders and notifications functionality, and its ability to logically and conveniently sort notes with both text and media including picture and audio files.
The company shut down in August of this year citing a “difficult decision to take the company in a different direction.” While this “difficult decision” appears (on the surface) to be the company simply closing its doors, the context of the shutdown was mysterious. See, only approximately one month before announcing its shutdown, the company launched a major new enterprise-related product called Catch Team. It would be odd for the company to shut down so quickly after launching a new product.
Catch was also popular among many productivity application fans and with… Apple. In fact, Apple promoted the Catch application across its different marketing platforms. As can be seen above, the Catch team is posing in front of a banner for their application in an Apple retail store.
The app was also promoted via banners at Apple media events and even as a reason to buy an iPhone on Apple’s own website. Following positive reviews and promotion from Apple, the company actually “shut down” because it was acquired.
Catch could help Apple in several potential manners: Catch could be used to integrate with Siri for reminders and notes functions, integrate with the Notes and Reminders iOS/OS X apps, assist Apple with mobile user-interfaces, and help out Apple’s iCloud team.
Perhaps even more interesting, Catch used to operate a known Android application called Compass. The application was location-based and infused locations with notes. Essentially, it was an app to “annotate your world.” Perhaps Apple was interested in that technology and this potential acquisition was more of an Apple Maps play. The Compass app is no longer available.
Besides learning of the likely BroadMap and Catch acquisitions, sources have clarified that Apple’s earlier acquisitions of both Cue and Topsy were specifically for enhancements to Siri over the next few major releases of iOS. 2013 has been an atypical year for Apple in terms of acquisitions, with the company buying three times as many companies this year as it did in 2012. Apple acquisitions are intriguing because they typically foretell future products. For example, Apple’s Authentec acquisition helped design Touch ID for the iPhone 5s, and before Siri launched with the iPhone 4S, Siri was a Silicon Valley-based startup.
Update: Apple confirmed the acquisitions to AllThingsD. The report also notes that the BroadMap acquisition was centered around talent, as we previously noted, not the company’s resources and name.
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Funky, eco-friendly design.
Preloaded with Windows 11.
Short battery life.
Keyboard quirks might annoy you.Our Verdict
The Acer Aspire Vero would have earned a stronger recommendation among midrange laptops, particularly for environmentally conscious people with budgets of less than $1,000 to spend on a laptop, but the disappointing battery life holds it back.Best Prices Today: Aspire Vero
There are two headliners that make the Acer Aspire Vero more than an average, midrange laptop. For starters, it’s made with PCR (post-consumer recycled) plastic that makes the manufacturing process more environmentally friendly but also results in a notebook with a funky, textured design that lets the Aspire Vero stand out from the 15.6-inch laptop crowd. The other headliner is inside the machine—it’s the first laptop we’ve reviewed that’s preinstalled with Windows 11.
Powering Microsoft’s latest operating system is a Core i7 chip from Intel’s latest series, integrated Intel Xe graphics, and an ample 16GB of RAM. The laptop feels snappy, but its battery life disappoints. I also have a few quibbles with the display and keyboard, but they’re relatively minor. With a longer runtime, the Aspire Vero would earn a stronger recommendation for students or anyone looking for an eco-friendly, big-screen laptop.
This review is part of our ongoing roundup of the best laptops. Go there for information on competing products and how we tested them. We originally published this review on October 4, 2023, but updated it on October 20, 2023, after installing a driver that increased battery life by roughly half an hour. The update doesn’t change our rating our opinion, but added tangibly more endurance to the notebook. Be sure to make sure your Vero gets updated if you purchase one.Specifications
We reviewed the Acer Aspire Vero (model AV15-51-75QQ) that costs $899.99 on Amazon and direct from Acer.
CPU: Quad-core Intel Core i7-1195G7
Graphics: Intel Iris Xe
Storage: 512GB PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD
Display: 15.6-inch, 1920×1280 IPS
Connectivity: Right side: 1 x USB 2.0 Type-A, combo audio jack. Left side: 1 x USB SuperSpeed 10Gbps Type-C, 2 x USB SuperSpeed 5Gbps Type-A (one with power-off charging), HDMI 2.0, ethernet.
Networking: Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0
Biometrics: fingerprint reader
Battery capacity: 48 Watt-hours
Dimensions: 14.3 x 9.4 x 0.7 inches
Measured weight: 4.0 pounds (laptop), 0.6 pounds (AC adapter)
Acer will have two versions of the Aspire Vero. The model we tested is available starting Oct. 5, and a lower-cost model will be available later in the month for $699.99 with a Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD. Both models feature a 15.6-inch, non-touch display with a full HD resolution rated for 250 nits of brightness.The eco-friendly laptop
Many companies have pledged to reduce their environmental impact by some future date, and Acer has a stated goal of using 100-percent renewable energy by 2035. As a consumer, you can support companies you believe are doing their part to combat climate change, but the long lead time toward making meaningful change can make it difficult in the here and now to feel like anything is getting done.
Consumers can make a more immediate impact with their purchase decisions. And with the Aspire Vero, you are buying a laptop that reduces the amount of plastic that ends up in landfills or the ocean. Acer also states that the use of recycled plastic in the Aspire Vero also results in a reduction of CO2 emissions because recycling plastic uses fewer fossil fuels than manufacturing new plastic.
Here are the stats on the recycled materials in the Aspire Vero: 30 percent PCR plastic in the chassis and 50 percent PCR plastic in the keycaps. Acer pairs the eco-friendly laptop with eco-friendly packaging made from 85 percent recycled paper. And in an effort to sustain the lifespan of the laptop and lengthen the time before it ends up in a landfill, Acer makes it easy to get inside the Aspire Vero to make repairs or upgrades by using standard screws on the bottom panel. (As someone who has searched for the right-sized Torx screwdriver to repair various MacBooks over the years, I can tell you that this seemingly small gesture is greatly appreciated.)
A sustainably designed laptop wouldn’t do much good if that design were ugly or boring for the simple reason that people would continue to buy regular laptops. And the Aspire Vero’s design isn’t boring. It might not be for everyone, but I really like the look and feel of the laptop. Where most laptops zig with smooth, brushed surfaces, the Aspire Vero zags with a textured enclosure. The texture feels like a very fine canvas. There’s no finishing coat of paint used or any paint used for the laptop’s name badges or logos. Each is stamped into the surface of the chassis, adding to the laptop’s unique look.
The laptop is primarily gray with tiny yellow and gray-blue flecks. The yellow highlights continue on the bottom panel with yellow feet and on the two keys of the keyboard, which I’ll get to shortly. The chassis features squared edges and is fairly thin for a 15.6-inch laptop, measuring only 0.7 inches thick. At four pounds, it carries an average weight for its size. Given its trim profile, however, it feels a bit heavier than I expected.
The plastic chassis feels mostly solid. The lid is rigid to offer good protection for the display, and the keyboard deck feels firm except at the top above the keyboard, where there is a worrisome amount of flex. The bottom panel features four yellow, rubber feet to keep the laptop firmly rooted in place and to help airflow through the vents. There are also two tiny yellow feet on the display hinge, and they swing down when you open the display to prop up the back edge of the laptop to further aid airflow and create a slight angle to improve your typing experience.
The keyboard is comfortable with quiet keys that still feel springy and responsive. The keyboard features one-level backlighting. Multi-level keyboard backlighting would be more useful for matching the strength of the ambient light, and it would be more eco-friendly because you could keep it a dimmer setting to lessen the laptop’s energy consumption.
Acer squeezed in a number pad to its right, but the keys are narrow, which limits its utility. The four arrow keys are less than full size to accommodate the addition of the numpad, which is a big sacrifice. I’d happily jettison the narrow numpad for a full-size set of arrow keys.
I’m afraid I’ve buried the lede with the keyboard. The most striking detail are the R and E keys. The letters are yellow and reversed. I’m pretty much a touch typist so don’t glance at the keys with any great frequency, but I still find it distracting. Acer added this touch, it says, as a reminder to Review, Rethink, Recycle, and Reduce. (I always thought there were three R’s for the environment and they stood for reduce, reuse, recycle.) After already making the commitment to purchase the Aspire Vero, do its owners need that reminder? I’m okay with the yellow lettering, but I’d rather not have the two backwards letters messing with my brain.
See the yellow, backwards keys?
In addition, I think Acer has the display brightness icons backwards on the F3 and F4 keys and for no apparent reason. Shouldn’t the filled-in sun be the one that makes the display brighter? As it is, that key dims the display and the F4 key with the hollow, dark sun raises the brightness.Average audiovisuals
The 15.6-inch, non-touch display features a full HD 1920×1280 resolution. The resolution is sufficient to produce a crisp image. Text and images look clear and free from blurring and pixelation. The biggest drawback to the display is its brightness—or lack thereof. It’s rated for only 250 nits, which is common to budget laptops. When the price starts to climb closer to $1,000 as with the Aspire Vero, you enter the midrange laptop category where you can and should expect displays with 300- to 400-nit ratings.
Our tests confirmed that the Aspire Vero’s display peaks right around 250 nits. It suffices for a typical indoor environment, but you’ll struggle to see the display not only if you take the laptop outside but also in a room filled with natural sunlight. I had the display brightness set to its max for my entire time with the Aspire Vero.
The 720p webcam above the display is merely average. It produces a moderately sharp image when video conferencing under ideal lighting conditions but struggles when you are in a setting that’s too bright or too dark. The picture quickly gets blown out if there’s too much light and appears very grainy at the first hint of your room being a bit dark.
Likewise, the Aspire Vero’s stereo speakers produce average laptop audio. They sound fine for YouTube videos and Zoom calls but lack the separation and bass response needed for enjoyable music playback.
You won’t need to carry a dongle in your laptop bag with the Aspire Vero; it features both USB Type-A and Type-C ports. There’s also an HDMI port and Ethernet jack but no media card slot.Acer Aspire Vero performance
Based on the quad-core Intel Core i7-1195G7 CPU, the Aspire Vero did well on our benchmarks, proving that an eco-friendly laptop isn’t necessarily underpowered. It felt peppy during general Windows use and handled multitasking with ease. The biggest disappointment was its lackluster battery life.
We haven’t reviewed many 15.6-inch laptops recently, so I added a trio of 14-inch midrange laptops to a pair of 15 inchers for performance comparisons. At the low end is a budget Gateway laptop based on a Core i3-1115G4 CPU. The other 15.6-inch model here is the AMD-based HP Envy x360 15. The 14-inch models are the Core i7-based Acer Swift 5, Core i5-based Lenovo ThinkPad E14 Gen 2, and the Core i7-based MSI Prestige 14. Each system features integrated graphics and 16GB of RAM, except the budget Gateway, which has 8GB.
Next up is Cinebench, a sort of CPU sprint that stresses the CPU rather than the GPU and makes use of all processing cores. The HP Envy x360 again took top honors, and the Aspire Vero again was tops among the Intel systems.
On a per-core basis, the Aspire Vero is fastest on Cinebench, but with only half the cores as the AMD-based HP Envy x360, it loses ground when all cores are accounted for.
We use the HandBrake utility to convert a 30GB movie to Android table format, an intensive task that stresses the CPU and all of its cores. If you’ve been following along, then it will come as no surprise when I tell you that the HP Envy x360 completed our HandBrake test in the shortest amount of time with the Aspire Vero finishing second.
On our 3D graphics benchmark, the Aspire Vero again finished second but this time behind the MSI Prestige. Whether with integrated Intel Iris Xe graphics or integrated AMD Radeon graphics, none of the laptops distinguished themselves on 3DMark. There is nothing for gamers to see here.
Our last result—battery life—is perhaps the test that matters most to most laptop users. And it’s not great for the Aspire Vero. We loop a 4K video in airplane mode using Windows 10’s built-in Movies & TV app with earbuds in place until the battery dies. The Aspire Vero’s small, three-cell battery ran for just over seven hours, which is better than the budget Gateway but far less than the other midrange laptops that ran for more than 10 hours on the test.Short battery life spoils the deal
If not for the meager battery life, the Acer Aspire Vero would have earned a stronger recommendation among midrange laptops, particularly for environmentally conscious people with budgets of less than $1,000 to spend on a laptop. It features a roomy if somewhat dim display and a comfortable if somewhat quirky keyboard wrapped up in a youthful, eco-friendly design. It provides sufficient performance for student life outside of gaming, and you won’t find a laptop with decent 3D graphics muscle at this price.
We could live with the display being on the dull side and the few oddities about the keyboard, given the price, but the limited battery life is a bigger obstacle to recommending the Aspire Vero for people who need a laptop that they can carry across campus or the office all day, then use for more work at night without worrying about making recharging stops. Compact laptops often feature small, three-cell batteries, but a large, 15.6-inch laptop like Aspire Vero ought to have room to accommodate a bigger battery for a longer runtime.
It may be twice as heavy as ultraportable laptops of similar size, but its gaming performance is twice as awesome.
Our review unit, priced at $1454 (as of August 20, 2012), as configured, sports a third-generation Intel Core i7-3610QM processor, 8GB of RAM, a 750GB hard drive, and a discrete Nvidia GeForce GT 650M graphics card. The M14x also features a Killer Wireless-N a/g/n Wi-Fi card with Bluetooth 4.0, a DVD-RW drive, and Alienware’s Command Center suite of software (including AlienFX, which allows you to change the lighting scheme). The M14x runs the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Home Premium.Performance
In PCWorld’s WorldBench 7 benchmark tests, the M14x earned a very good mark of 143, meaning that the M14x was 43 percent faster than our reference model, which carries a second-generation Intel i5-2500K processor, 8GB of RAM, and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 560 Ti graphics card.
These days, competing ultraportables are speedier and more powerful than ever, despite being slim and light. For example, the Acer Aspire S5, a sleek 13.3-inch Ultrabook with a Core i7-3517U processor, rolled up a WorldBench 7 score of 195. However, the Aspire S5, like all Ultrabooks, comes with a speedy solid-state drive that helps it boot faster. In other words, the Aspire S5 boots up and resumes from sleep much more quickly than the M14x does (the S5’s startup time in our tests was 12.3 seconds, versus 24.2 seconds for the M14x), but that doesn’t mean the Aspire S5 is more powerful overall.
A better way to identify the M14x’s computing strength is by assessing its gaming performance. In our Dirt 3 graphics tests, the M14x behaved like a true gaming machine, sustaining frame rates of between 82.8 frames per second (at high quality settings, and 1920-by-1080-pixel resolution) and 186.5 fps (at low quality settings, and 800-by-600-pixel resolution). The Aspire S5, in contrast, topped out at 19.1 fps and 44.5 fps, respectively, at the same settings. These numbers indicate that the M14x is a powerhouse.
The M14x also has very good battery life, considering that it’s a gaming machine at heart. In our tests the laptop managed 5 hours, 3 minutes of battery life—not far behind the Aspire S5’s 5 hours, 28 minutes.
Design: Chassis, Keyboard, and Trackpad
Though the M14x’s specs put it somewhere between an all-purpose laptop and an ultraportable laptop, it’s much larger and thicker than an average ultraportable today. The M14x is 1.5 inches thick (whereas most ultraportables are about 0.5 inch thick) and it weighs 6.5 pounds, not counting a 1.3-pound power block. By way of perspective, the 0.7-inch thick Acer Aspire S5 weighs just 3.3 pounds including the power block.
The M14x has the same retro-styling as other laptops in Dell’s latest set of Alienware models, with a soft, rubbery black lid, a sturdy chassis, and a unique grille on the front of the machine. The laptop telegraphs its gaming orientation with tons of changeable lights on the keyboard, around the trackpad, through the grille, under the power button, and on the logo beneath the screen. The default lighting color is set to blue.
The M14x packs a backlit, full-size keyboard with regular-style keys. The keys’ beveled sides and slightly indented tops make typing on them easy and comfortable. The keyboard incorporates a couple of gamer-friendly features: the S key has four raised dots for quick tactile recognition, and the arrow keys are positioned slightly apart from the rest of the keyboard.
A simple, medium-size trackpad with two discrete buttons sits directly below the keyboard. The trackpad is smooth and accurate, and the soft-touch mouse buttons are easy to press. The trackpad lacks fancy extras such as multitouch support, but true gamers will want to use an external mouse with this laptop in any event.Screen and Speakers
The M14x sports a great-looking 14-inch glossy WLED-backlit screen with a native resolution of 1600 by 900 pixels. This bright screen offers excellent contrast, depth, and color accuracy, and is perfect for gaming. Off-axis viewing angles are okay, though you do lose some contrast as you move from side to side. The glossy screen looks great in low and dark lighting, but it can throw back some pretty severe reflections in bright light (especially sunlight).
Video looks and sounds great on the M14x. HD video plays flawlessly, with little to no artifacting or noise even in intense, action-packed scenes. Audio sounds very good through the M14x’s Klipsch 2.1 speaker system. The speakers, which are located above the keyboard, produce full, rich sound at an acceptably loud volume.The Bottom Line
Don’t let the Alienware M14x’s benchmark specs mislead you–WorldBench 7 puts a lot of weight on small, speedy SSDs, which this laptop doesn’t have. Nevertheless, the M14x outperforms any Ultrabook we’ve seen in screen and graphic quality.
And because the M14x is built for gamers, it has a relatively user-friendly design. Ultrabooks often skimp on quality components in an effort to achieve the lightest, thinnest, and sexiest profile it can. In comparison,the M14x is heavy and bulky, but it’s also sturdy, with a keyboard and a trackpad that will stand the test of time, as well as excellent port selection. The M14x also comes at a great price for a gaming-oriented laptop, though upgrade prices are expensive: Doubling the RAM from 8GB to 16GB costs $150, and adding a Blu-ray reader costs $200.
It wasn’t until after Apollo 11 landed on the Moon that NASA starting thinking seriously about giving astronauts some sort of surface mobility system, a vehicle that would allow them to cover more ground during their brief sojourns on the lunar surface. In early 1970, the space agency award Boeing a contract to develop and build such a system. And Boeing delivered. The company delivered the first flight ready lunar rover to NASA on March 15, 1971, just 17 months after winning the contract and two weeks ahead of schedule. This rover flew on Apollo 15, and while taking a car to the Moon might seem insane, the rover’s simple and elegant design made it a worthwhile addition to the final three Apollo missions.
Apollo 17’s lunar rover on the Moon
Increasing Surface Mobility
Forward-thinking engineers had been dreaming up ways to increase astronauts mobility on the lunar surface since the early 1960s. Some wanted to see full roving laboratories akin to mobile homes — designs like MOLAB — serve double duty as crew quarters and traveling workspace on lunar missions. Others favoured worm- and centipede-inspired vehicles that would distribute their weight across a larger surface area to avoid sinking into the dust. Still other proposals imagined flying platforms that would give astronauts a bird’s eye view of the lunar terrain as they traveled from place to place. There was even, briefly, serious interest in sending astronauts to the Moon with electric mini-bikes.
The reality was that a car-like vehicle was ideal. Stable on four wheels and flat, it could carry two astronauts and their life support systems and tools to interesting sites a fair distance from their landing site.
But the design constraints for the lunar rover were strict. As was the case with the Apollo program on the whole, weight was something NASA didn’t have a lot of wiggle room with. The rover would have to be light enough to launch with the Apollo payload as it was, but also be sturdy enough to traverse all types of terrains, conquer slopes up to 25 degrees, and function in temperatures ranging from -279 to 243 degrees Fahrenheit. And like everything designed for use on the Moon, it had to be something astronauts could unload and use easily wearing their bulky pressure suits.
The final rover that Boeing built met these strict specifications. It was an electrically propelled vehicle that weighed 480 pounds on Earth (80 pounds on the Moon), could carry about twice its own weight, and move at a top speed of about 8.6 miles per hour. Physically, it was an open design with two seats and a central control panel with a joystick that either astronaut could manipulate with a bulky glove on.
But designing it was only half the battle. The rover would be useless if engineers couldn’t figure a way to get it down to and ready to drive on the lunar surface.
The steps to deploy your lunar rover.
**Getting the Rover to the Moon **
Luckily, the Apollo lunar module had enough storage space on board to carry a folded lunar rover. With its wheels folded in and its forward and rear chassis (or frame) folded over its middle section, the rover fit snugly into the LM descent stage’s quadrant 1, one of four storage units on the lower portion of the spacecraft.
The folded rover was anchored to the LM at one upper central strut on the lander’s body and to two points on its lower portion. Keeping it in this stowed position was a system of cables, shock absorbers, pin retract mechanisms, telescoping tubes, push—off rods, and a handful of other minor gears all designed so one astronaut could unpack the vehicle alone.
Deployment started with a single mylar cable attached to the rover’s aft chassis. One astronaut pulled this tape end over end to start the sequence then handed it off to his moonwalking companion to keep tension on the cord. Next, the first astronaut climbed up the lunar module’s ladder to pull a D-ring that released the rover’s upper restraint. This let the rover to fall about five inches away from its stowed position. It couldn’t go any further; two cables kept it in place.
Stuck in this half-released position, the first astronaut then walked around to the rover’s other side to pull a second mylar cable. This tape lowered the rover slowly to the surface. It also released two support cables that in turn triggered a push-off tube that moved the rover’s centre of gravity outward away from the lunar module. As it descended, release pins on the chassis pulled out to allow the base of the vehicle to unfold. Then the wheels sprung into place automatically thanks to torsion bars.
The astronaut continued pulling this mylar tape until all four wheels touched the surface and the support cables went slack. Another mylar tape on the other side of the rover brought the vehicle the rest of the way to the surface while telescoping tubes made sure it came to rest safely away from the lunar module. The cables and tubes released once their job was done. The rover was on the surface.
How the Apollo lunar rovers stack up against other offworld rovers.
Success on the Surface
With the rover unpacked, the astronauts had to set up the vehicle before they could take it for a drive. They deployed fender extensions over each wheel, inserted toeholds, deployed handholds and footrests, set up the control and display console, unfolded the seats and released the seatbelts, and finally discarded all the now unnecessary locking pins and latches.
The lunar rover turned out to be well worth the rapid development schedule. On the first three lunar landing missions — Apollo 11, Apollo 12, and Apollo 14 — astronauts covered a total combined distance of 4.4 miles. With a rover, Apollo 15 more than tripled that distance covering a total of 17 miles. Apollo 16 covered slightly less ground, just 16.8 miles. The final lunar Apollo mission, Apollo 17, that got the most out of its rover. In December of 1972, Gene Cernan and Jack Schmitt traveled 4.5 miles from their landing site, which was further than any other crew had gone, covered a total distance on the surface of 22.2 miles, and reached a top speed of about 11.5 miles per hour.
The variety of sites Apollo astronatus were able to visit with the luanr rover gave us far more scientific return from these missions than we would have been able to gather otherwise, deepening our understanding of the lunar environment and the Moon’s evolution. These missions also gave us incredible footage that continues to make Earth-bound drivers extremely jealous.
_Sources: The Apollo 15 Press Kit; NASA; The Apollo Lunar Surface Journal; The Lunar Rover Operations Handbook; The LRV Apollo News Reference. _
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