Monday 22 October 2018

Ask Adrian: Our tech editor tackles your trickiest technology problems


Lenovo Yoga 900
Lenovo Yoga 900
Riva Festival
Sony XZ1
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Q I'm in the market for a laptop and am looking for something lightweight, with plenty of storage, good power and decent battery life. I'm not looking for a Mac.

I hear the new Microsoft laptops are good but can they give me apps like Kindle, Sky Go and Mobdro? Or is that just the Android store? My budget is a maximum of €1,200.

A For that budget and for those requirements, I think a Lenovo is going to suit your needs best. I'd go for either the 14-inch IdeaPad 720S (€1,199 from Harvey Norman) or the 13-inch Yoga 900 (€979 from Harvey Norman). Both have lots of power (Intel Core i5 processors with 8GB of Ram memory) and decent storage (256GB).

I might have recommended Microsoft's own 13-inch Surface Laptop (€1,169) but the sub-€1,200 price option only gives you 128GB of storage which, from what you describe, may not be enough.

Dell's superb XPS laptop range used to be in the €1,200 range but has since been bumped up closer to MacBook Pro (€1,500-plus) levels.

Of the two Lenovos I mention above, I'd ultimately plump for the cheaper Yoga 900 for a couple of reasons.

First, it's significantly lighter than the slightly bigger IdeaPad (1.29kg versus 1.55kg). 13-inch screens are also more of a standard display size for accessories such as bags and sleeves. Put together, this makes the cheaper machine quite a lot more portable than the IdeaPad.

The other advantage it has is in its superior screen resolution and technology (QHD versus the older 'full HD' standard). Over time, this makes a difference.

But the main feature which makes it a winner for what you say you want is its two-in-one touchscreen nature. This has a hinge that allows it to flip right over, propping it up as a portable video player, letting you control playback with screen touches.

This feature is largely sold as 'making it a tablet', but the real benefit is in its video consumption applications.

It also makes it a much better fit for the likes of reading (such as with the Kindle app), as it means you have a flat device to hold.

There is a drawback that the Yoga 900 has compared to the IdeaPad - battery life. Because the latter is a bigger, fatter machine, the battery is more substantial. You'll get up to 10 hours from the IdeaPad, compared to around 6 hours from the Yoga 900.

For me, this isn't enough of a benefit to counterbalance the other issues (not to mention the additional €220 you'll pay for the largest laptop). But battery life is very important for some, so it's worth bearing in mind.

You mention apps: Windows 10 laptops have access to an App Store, although there aren't nearly as many apps as for Android or iOS devices.

For example, there's no Sky Go app for Windows. Instead, you have to watch it through your browser. This isn't quite as good or as flexible as the app, although you get the basic service. (For what it's worth, Sky is said to be working on a new Windows universal app.)

On the other hand, both Netflix and Kindle have apps for Windows laptops.

Mobdro is aimed more specifically for Android, with no app available for Windows. (There are alternatives out there, although I'd be cautious about using services that claim to deliver "free" movies or TV to your PC.)

Ultimately, €1,200 is a reasonably decent budget for a laptop these days. The Yoga 900 should tick your boxes.

RECOMMENDATION: Lenovo Yoga 900 (pictured, €979 from Harvey Norman)

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Two to Try

Sony XZ1 

(€569 prepay from Three or from free on operator contract)

Sony XZ1

Sony's XZ1 is a just-below-flagship phone that boasts a quirky feature: the ability to take 3D photos of faces (and objects) which can then be 3D-printed. Other than that, the 5.2-inch handset has a good 19-megapixel (4K) camera with excellent continuous autofocusing, plenty of power and a decent 64GB of storage. Ergonomically, Sony still likes those sharp corners which, while distinctive, won't suit everyone. This competes more with last year's flagship iPhones and Samsungs.

Riva Festival


Riva Festival

A substantial wireless option to replace your old hi-fi? Riva's Festival has big, roomy sound that is intended for large spaces. As well as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi (which means you can play Spotify directly), it also has several wired connection options, meaning optimised audio quality.

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