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Lenovo S330 review: The benchmark for budget laptops

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The Lenovo S330 Chromebook is the de facto entry-level Chrome OS machine on the market right now thanks to its low price-tag, solid spec sheet, and a reasonably impressive performance. Considering that the Lenovo S330 Chromebook is now 12-months old, it still manages to be one of the best value Chromebook packages on the market today.

Chromebooks have become the first port of call for many people looking to buy an affordable and portable laptop. Because they are so cheap you would expect an overall terrible experience, but at under $200 there are a few standout options.

Having only fleeting experiences of Chrome OS in the laptop form factor means that the S330 was a pretty refreshing experience coming from primarily Windows and macOS. As far as laptops go, the S330 is most definitely barebones, but it does make a case for entry-level Chrome OS as an actual tool for those needing just the ‘basics’ — and at a very affordable price tag.


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Hardware & Design

Being such a cheap machine means that the S330 is undoubtedly cheap feeling in most regards. Primarily made from plastic, it is lightweight and very easy to wield one-handed — something I tend to do when moving from one seating position to another when I’m working.

The entire chassis feels pretty basic but I will say that for $170 I didn’t go in expecting a metal build and premium exterior. It does manage to have a pretty sleek black color and the textured lid is really nice to run your fingers along when the lid is closed.

I like that there are no real sharp edges, just soft corners, and the flexible plastic body does enhance this feeling of approachability in my opinion. I also like the plain slate black color, it’s utilitarian and simple.

On the sides of the body, you’ll find the 3.5 audio port and Kensington lock on the right side, whereas the left side plays host to a USB 3.0 port, full-sized HDMI port, USB-C power, and DisplayPort, with an SD card reader also present. That isn’t the most stacked selection but it is quite all-encompassing. Being able to plug in an HDMI cable is one area that this $170 laptop manages to beat many of the newest laptops on the market — and it happens to be one of the most useful ports in my opinion.

Open up the S330 and you are greeted with plenty of bezel around the 14-inch display. The display itself can be configured in several ways. The cheapest version of the S330 comes with a slightly better than 720p 1366 x 768 resolution display, whereas there is a Full HD model too. Neither one comes with a touch screen though.

I find the display does look good in isolation but it does look grainy and pixelated when I swap from my 1440p smartphone display and then worse still when moving from a 4K monitor to the S330. That is to be expected but I think for most people the display on the S330 is more than good enough for everyday usage. The display does get reasonably bright but the viewing angles aren’t particularly brilliant. But on the whole, it gets a passing mark.

It should be clear from the outset that the S330 isn’t a 2-in-1 laptop; it is strictly a laptop in the hardware-sense. That said, the hinge does allow for 180-degrees of tilt, meaning you can get the display at the perfect comfort angle for you. I’ve found this is great for usability given that the matte screen is way easier to view in variable lighting.

Audio is one area I think the S330 does lack a little. But with a pair of headphones, it doesn’t really become a problem. The sound can be a little hollow and flat compared to other laptops on the market. In my opinion, you might be better off sticking to headphones rather than relying on the in-built speakers.

My favorite portion of the entire package is actually the keyboard. As a bit of a keyboard nerd, I thought that it might leave a nasty taste in the mouth. In fact, it’s not a bad experience at all. Keys have good travel, feel nice and spongey, and are overall pretty responsive. I can’t quite say the same about the touchpad, as it isn’t quite as responsive as the keyboard. It isn’t to the detriment of the experience though.

Software & Performance

Lenovo S330 software and performance

The specs are most definitely on the ‘modest’ end of the spectrum in most Chromebooks, the Lenovo S330 is no different. With 4GB of RAM and MediaTek MT8173C CPU, you are not going to be able to run Crysis or edit movie-grade videos. While they are most definitely modest specs, you will be able to edit documents, spreadsheets, browse the web, scroll through social media and watch videos comfortably and smoothly.

I only really noticed slowdowns if I had multiple tabs of YouTube open and playing or when I had 10+ Chrome tabs open. For the most part, everything runs nice and smooth. Things do load a little slower than they will on a proper desktop or mid-range laptop but you won’t be disappointed by the overall performance levels of the Lenovo S330.

Considering that Chrome OS doesn’t tend to slow over time, a Chromebook such as the S330 will likely feel just as snappy in 12 months — which doesn’t tend to happen with comparable Windows laptops. If you were worried about 4GB of RAM, you don’t need to be, it is actually more than enough for most general day-to-day tasks.

The ability to install Android apps also opens up more features that you might not get right out of the box. Many Android apps are designed to run on modest hardware, which means that they run just fine on the S330. It also gives you the ability to do more than just the basics, even some very light gaming. Stay away from the graphically intense games like Asphalt 9 and you’ll have fun with most titles.

Battery

Lenovo S330 battery life

Chrome OS running on this modest hardware means very impressive longevity. During my testing period, the S330 manages around 7 hours on a single full charge. That is a fair few hours short of the 10 hours that Lenovo touts in their marketing material.

Shutting the laptop lid and putting into a deep sleep rather than powering down completely does result in some battery bleed. My advice would be to only do this in a bind, as you could leave yourself stuck when you need your laptop. Powering on takes no time either, so I would recommend always powering off rather than putting to sleep.

Topping up is made so much easier thanks to the USB-C charge port. There is no fast-charging, but being able to stick in your smartphone charger if you forget the official power brick is handy. From dead to 100% I found it took around 3 hours, which was a little disappointing. It might be worthwhile ensuring you have the battery level at 100% before you head somewhere. It also might help to be strategic with your charging habits.

Verdict

I previously suggested that the Lenovo S330 was one of the best entry-level Chromebooks on the market — which I do stand by. It doesn’t pretend that it is something it’s not and doesn’t have an overblown price-tag to boot. Considering that we spend so much time in our web browsers, it makes so much sense as an entry-level machine for those just looking for a laptop to browse the web, do some basic text editing and watching videos.

The battery is one area that despite not reaching the lifespan suggested by Lenovo, still manages to offer solid all-day longevity. I have to say the entire package for the price makes it a superb purchase. In no way is the Lenovo S330 designed to compete with the high-end Macbooks and Windows machines, instead, it offers those with incredibly modest budgets a truly solid entry-level laptop for the basics. There is literally no Windows-powered laptop under $200 that can compete with the Lenovo S330 — which is why this is a great buy.

If possible, I would suggest upping your budget slightly for the Full HD display and 64GB storage model. It should perform exactly the same but does come with a bump in cost. It’s also worth noting that the new wave of Lenovo Chromebooks is coming very soon. While they will undoubtedly provide upgrades on the current lineup, the bump in cost probably isn’t quite as justified.

Where to buy the Lenovo S330 Chromebook

You can pick up the Lenovo S330 Chromebook at a number of online retailers. If you want the entry-level 32GB storage, HD display version, it will cost just $170 on Amazon with free tech support. Alternatively, the 64GB storage, Full HD display version costs $220. Walmart has the 32GB version at just $180, the best deal though is at NewEgg, where you can pick up a refurbished model for just $129.

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‘Perfectly Real’ Manipulated Videos Are Just 6 Months Away, Says Deepfake Pioneer

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Deepfake pioneer Hao Li said that digitally manipulated videos could become ‘perfectly real’ in as early as half-a-year to a year’s time. He cited the emergence of apps such as the Chinese-developed ‘Zao’ and growing research focus on the field.  ( MIT Technology Review | Twitter )

A deepfake expert has warned that even regular people will soon be able to create digitally altered videos that look “perfectly real.”

Hao Li, a computer science professor at the University of Southern California, recently discussed the future of deepfake technology.

In an interview with CNBC, Li said that most manipulated videos can still be easily spotted even with the naked eye. However, there are some that have actually become very convincing. He said that these videos often require “sufficient effort” to produce.

According to Li’s estimate, “perfectly real” will be easily accessible to the public in about six to 12 months.

What Is Deepfake Technology?

Deepfake is a portmanteau of the words “deep learning” and “fake” and refers to computer programs that combine human image synthesis with artificial intelligence. The technology is often used to create digital representations or manipulated videos that are made to seem real.

With deepfake technology becoming increasingly more sophisticated over the years, some people are starting to become concerned about its possible negative effects. Digitally altered videos could be used to promote disinformation and confusion among the general public, particularly in the context of global politics as noted by CNBC.

For instance, several social media campaigns and smartphone apps have already been used to spread misinformation, all for the purpose of interrupting elections in different parts of the world.

Emergence Of Digitally Manipulated Videos

Li, who had presented a deepfake of Russian president Vladimir Putin at an MIT tech conference last week, said he initially thought perfect digitally manipulated videos would become reality in two to three years.

However, he later sent out an email explaining that it might actually happen in just half a year to a year.

The deepfake pioneer said he was forced to “recalibrate” his timeline because of recent developments in the technology. He cited the growing popularity of a Chinese-developed app known as Zao, as well as the growing interest of researchers on the field.

“In some ways we already know how to do it,” Li mentioned in the email. He added that the emergence of perfect deepfake is “only a matter of training with more data and implementing it.”

Zao allows users to swap their faces with other people. It uses photographs taken by app owners and then digitally inserts them into scenes from popular movies and TV shows. Despite growing concerns regarding Zao’s privacy policy, it is reportedly among the most popular programs in China.

Li warned that there will come a point that people won’t be able to tell which ones are deepfakes and which ones are real anymore. He said this is why there’s a need to look at other types of solutions as well.

ⓒ 2018 TECHTIMES.com All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.



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