- ✓11th generation Core i7 processor
- ✓High-resolution (4K+/UHD+) IPS touchscreen
- ✓Good CPU and GPU performance
- ✓Excellent keyboard
- ✓Slim but solid build
- ✕Only two (Thunderbolt 4) ports
- ✕Lid is tricky to open
- ✕No mobile broadband option
- ✕Battery life could be better
Last year ZDNet gave the mid-2020 version of Dell’s 13.4-inch XPS 13 a glowing (9/10, ‘Outstanding’) review, and chose it as the best laptop for knowledge workers requiring an all-round combination of design, features, performance, battery life and usability. How to improve on that? The latest 9310 model doesn’t make any radical changes, merely updating the Intel Core processors to the latest 11th-generation (Tiger Lake) and adding a variant with a 3.5K OLED touchscreen.
We looked at a Core i7 model with a 4K+/UHD+ IPS touchscreen, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD.
The XPS 13 9310 remains an excellent ultraportable, but of course there’s plenty of competition in the 13-inch space — not only from Windows-based rivals, notably from Lenovo and HP, but also from Apple’s M1-based MacBook Pro and MacBook Air.
Design-wise, the XPS13 9310 looks identical to last year’s model, with a compact footprint (295.7mm wide by 198.7mm deep) and a slim profile (14.8mm at the back, tapering towards the front). The weight, as before, ranges from 1.2kg for non-touch models up to 1.27kg for variants with a touchscreen.
My review unit had a silver aluminium chassis and a black carbon fibre composite material surrounding the keyboard and touchpad. This has a woven finish and is attractive, tactile and durable. There’s a second colour option: ‘Frost’ on the outside, arctic white on the inside.
I have only a minor criticism of the XPS13’s design, which is that it’s slightly awkward to open. There’s no indent on the keyboard section at the front (as you find on a MacBook, for example), so it’s hard to get a purchase between the lid and keyboard sections with your finger – especially as the hinges are solid (as they should be). Otherwise, it’s stylish and compact, and the build quality is excellent.
As noted above, the major change in the XPS 9310 is the upgrade to 11th-generation (Tiger Lake) Core processors with integrated Iris Xe Graphics. In the US you can get preconfigured variants with Core i3-1115G4, Core i5-1135G7 or Core i7-1185G7 processors, starting at $949 (Core i3, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, FHD+ non-touch display) and rising to $1,799 (Core i7, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD, UHD+ IPS touchscreen). Different configurations offer different customisation options for the screen (touch, non-touch, IPS, OLED) and SSD (up to 2TB), but RAM doesn’t go above 16GB.
In the UK, prices start at £1,064 (inc. VAT) for a Core i5 model with 8GB RAM, a 512GB SSD and an FHD+ non-touch IPS display, rising to £1,949 with a Core i7, 32GB of RAM, a 1TB SSD and a UHD+ IPS touchscreen. My review unit, just to be awkward, ran on a Core i7-1165G7, which no longer appears to be available in either the UK or the US.
The screen has minimal bezels (hence Dell’s InfinityEdge branding), resulting in a claimed screen-to-body ratio of 91.5% — although our measurement puts it at (a still-impressive) 88.7%. The 720p webcam, which sits in the top bezel, supports Windows Hello facial recognition but, unlike some rivals, doesn’t have a privacy shutter. Biometric authentication is also available via the fingerprint reader, which is integrated into the power button in the top right corner of the keyboard.
My review unit had the highest-resolution display available — 4K+/UHD+ (3840 by 2400 pixels, 338ppi). The IPS touchscreen, which is protected by Gorilla Glass 6, offers 500 nits maximum brightness, is certified for DisplayHDR 400, and supports 100% of the sRGB colour gamut and 90% of DCI-P3. Despite an anti-reflective coating, it’s moderately shiny, but I wasn’t troubled by reflections during testing in my home office, where a 60% brightness setting was perfectly adequate, even near a window. Although the 13.4-inch screen isn’t large, its 16:10 aspect ratio gives some extra depth compared to a ‘consumer’ 16:9 device when you’re working with documents or spreadsheets — although not as much as a 3:2 screen, as found on Microsoft’s Surface Laptop 4, for example.
You don’t expect an ultraportable to be overburdened with ports and slots, but even so, the XPS 13 9310 has a fairly minimal – if up-to-date – selection: two USB-C Thunderbolt 4 ports, one on each side (either of which can charge the 52Wh battery), a MicroSD card slot on the left side and a 3.5mm combo audio in/out jack. For wireless connection, there’s Killer Wi-Fi 6 AX1650 and Bluetooth 5.1, but no mobile broadband option.
My Core i7-1165G7/16GB RAM/512GB SSD review unit felt snappy in general use, especially when running typical knowledge-worker workloads such as document creation/editing, spreadsheets and photo editing. Graphics performance, powered by Intel’s integrated Iris Xe Graphics, was creditable too, and a distinct improvement on the Iris Plus Graphics in the previous-generation model.
However, CPU performance, as measured by the cross-platform Geekbench 5 benchmark, doesn’t match Apple’s pace-setting M1 SoC, lagging 18% behind on single-core and 57% behind on multi-core scores.
The XPS 13 acquits itself better in the Cinebench R15 OpenGL test, where its Iris Xe Graphics propel it to 101fps compared to the M1 MacBook Air’s 85fps. Bear in mind, though, that the MacBook Air was running this test using Rosetta 2 translation rather than as a native M1 app.
To get an overall picture of the XPS 13 9310’s performance, we turned to PCMark 10, which delivers an overall score along with subsidiary scores for different types of workload — Essentials (app start-up, web browsing, video conferencing), Productivity (writing, spreadsheets, photo editing) and Digital Content Creation (video editing, rendering & visualisation). Here are the XPS 13’s scores alongside those that PCMark recommends as a ‘good’ score:
Dell’s ultraportable clearly exceeds the recommendation in all categories, making it a particularly suitable platform for knowledge workers. It will handle moderately graphically demanding applications too, but power users and creators will need to look elsewhere.
Battery life for the previous-generation XPS 13, based on a Core i7-1065G7 with a 4K+/UHD+ screen, came in at about 12.5 hours on a diet of mainstream productivity workloads.
SEE: Windows 10 Start menu hacks (TechRepublic Premium)
With a similar mix of workloads – periodic runs of PCMark 10, some idle time with Wi-Fi on, and some media streaming – we recorded battery life of just under nine hours. Screen brightness was set at 50% and the default power plan (‘Dell’) was applied. All-day battery life may be possible with the high-resolution display, depending on what you’re doing, but only just. If this is a problem, you may want to look at a model with a lower-resolution FHD+ (1920 x 1200) screen.
Once performance and battery life are taken care of, a laptop’s usability largely revolves around its screen and keyboard, and the placement of its ports. We’ve covered the high-resolution, minimal-bezel 4K+/UHD+ IPS touchscreen, which is a pleasure to work with, and much the same can be said of the keyboard.
The keyboard is backlit, toggled via a key in the Fn row, and has a high-quality feel and a responsive action, without being too loud in operation. We’re used to heaping deserved praise on Lenovo’s ThinkPad keyboards, but this is up there with the best of them. There will always be some aspects of a laptop’s key layout that irritate people, at least until they get used to it; here it may be the location of the power/fingerprint sensor in the top right corner, which edges the Delete key one space to the left. The touchpad is a decent size, and works well too.
Laptop speakers used to be something of an afterthought, but no more. With more remote workers spending time on video calls, and needing to relax with streaming media during downtime, a good audio subsystem is a must for a usable laptop these days. The XPS 13 9310 delivers plenty of volume given the compact chassis, although bass is inevitably less rich compared to systems with more physical volume to work with. The bundled MaxxAudio Pro software gives you the controls to make the most of the audio subsystem.
Dell’s XPS 13 has long been a highly regarded ultraportable, and the Intel Evo-branded 9310 version, based on 11-generation (Tiger Lake) Core processors, is no different. It’s not perfect, though: there’s a trade-off to be made between screen resolution and battery life, CPU performance has been overtaken by Apple’s M1 SoC, and there are one or two minor usability niggles.
Overall, though, the Dell XPS 13 9310, like its predecessor, gets an ‘Outstanding’ recommendation from ZDNet.
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At last, a way to build artificial intelligence with business results in mind: ModelOps
How should IT leaders and professionals go about selecting and delivering the technology required to deliver the storied marvels of artificial intelligence and machine learning? AI and ML require having many moving parts in their right places, moving in the right direction, to deliver on the promise these technologies bring — ecosystems, data, platforms, and last, but not least, people.
Is there a way for IT leaders to be proactive about AI and ML without ruffling and rattling an organization of people who want the miracles of AI and ML delivered tomorrow morning? The answer is yes.
The authors of a recent report from MIT Sloan Management Review and SAS advocates a relatively new methodology to successfully accomplish the delivery AI and ML to enterprises called “ModelOps.” While there a lot of “xOps” now entering our lexicon, such as MLOps or AIOps, ModelOps is more “mindset than a specific set of tools or processes, focusing on effective operationalization of all types of AI and decision models.”
That’s because in AI and ML, models are the heart of the matter, the mechanisms that dictate the assembly of the algorithms, and assure continued business value. ModelOps, which is short for :model operationalization, “focuses on model life cycle and governance; intended to expedite the journey from development to deployment — in this case, moving AI models from the data science lab to the IT organization as quickly and effectively as possible.”
In terms of operationalizing AI and ML, “a lot falls back on IT,” according to Iain Brown, head of data science for SAS, U.K. and Ireland, who is quoted in the report. “You have data scientists who are building great innovative things. But unless they can be deployed in the ecosystem or the infrastructure that exists — and typically that involves IT – – there’s no point in doing it. The data science community and AI teams should be working very closely with IT and the business, being the conduit to join the two so there’s a clear idea and definition of the problem that’s being faced, a clear route to production. Without that, you’re going to have disjointed processes and issues with value generation.”
ModelOps is a way to help IT leaders bridge that gap between analytics and production teams, making AI and ML-driven lifecycle “repeatable and sustainable,” the MIT-SAS report states. It’s a step above MLOps or AIOps, which “have a more narrow focus on machine learning and AI operationalization, respectively,” ModelOps focuses on delivery and sustainability of predictive analytics models, which are the core of AI and ML’s value to the business. ModelOps can make a difference, the report’s authors continue, “because without it, your AI projects are much more likely to fail completely or take longer than you’d like to launch. Only about half of all models ever make it to production, and of those that do, about 90% take three months or longer to deploy.”
Getting to ModelOps to manage AI and ML involves IT leaders and professionals pulling together four key elements of the business value equation, as outlined by the report’s authors.
Ecosystems: These days, every successful technology endeavor requires connectivity and network power. “An AI-ready ecosystem should be as open as possible, the report states. “Such ecosystems don’t just evolve naturally. Any company hoping to use an ecosystem successfully must develop next-generation integration architecture to support it and enforce open standards that can be easily adopted by external parties.”
Data: Get to know what data is important to the effort. “Validate its availability for training and production. Tag and label data for future usage, even if you’re not sure yet what that usage might be. Over time, you’ll create an enterprise inventory that will help future projects run faster.”
Platforms: Flexibility and modularity — the ability to swap out pieces as circumstance change — is key. The report’s authors advocate buying over building, as many providers have already worked out the details in building and deploying AI and ML models. “Determine your cloud strategy. Will you go all in with one cloud service provider? Or will you use different CSPs for different initiatives? Or will you take a hybrid approach, with some workloads running on-premises and some with a CSP? : Some major CSPs typically offer more than just scalability and storage space, such as providing tools and libraries to help build algorithms and assisting with deploying models into production.”
People: Collaboration is the key to successful AI and ML delivery, but it’s also important that people have a sense of ownership over their parts of the projects. “Who owns the AI software and hardware – the AI team or the IT team, or both? This is where you get organizational boundaries that need to be clearly defined, clearly understood, and coordinated.” Along with data scientists, a group that is just as important to ModelOps is data engineers, who bring “significant expertise in using analytics and business intelligence tools, database software, and the SQL data language, as well as the ability to consistently produce clean, high-quality, ethical data.”
iPhone bug makes it easy for someone to break your Wi-Fi — here’s the fix and how to prevent it
Connecting to a Wi-Fi hotspot with a specific name can cause your iPhone’s Wi-Fi functionality to break, and even a reboot won’t fix it.
The bug, spotted by reverse engineer Carl Schou and first reported by Bleeping Computers relies on attempting to connect to a hotspot with a specific name. Schou first noticed the issue when trying to connect to his hotspot named with the SSID %p%s%s%s%s%n.
I’ve tested this with an iPhone running iOS 14.6, and it does indeed disable Wi-Fi, and a reboot doesn’t fix it.
So, how do you fix it if, like me, you’re relying on your iPhone?
The fix is to go to Settings > General > Reset > Reset Network Settings.
After doing this you will have to reconfigure your network settings.
OK, but how do you prevent this from happening in the first place? After all, little stops pranksters — or possibly a hacker using this as a vulnerability to do something more malicious — from setting up Wi-Fi hotspots with this name and no password.
Got to Settings > Wi-Fi and make sure that Auto-Join Hotspots in set to Ask to Join or Never.
Better safe than sorry!
I can also confirm that this does not seem to be an issue for Android users. I tried a number of handsets and they all connected fine.
I just watched McDonald’s new AI drive-thru and I’ve lost my appetite
I wanted it to be clever.
I wanted it to be surprising, enticing, well, at least a little bit human.
After all, AI companies are always telling us how much better than the human equivalent their creations truly are.
So when McDonald’s revealed it was testing the idea of replacing humans at the drive-thru with robots, I was filled with cautious optimism.
Would customers be greeted with a surprisingly chirpy voice, redolent of a young person who really enjoys high school?
Sadly, I haven’t been near Chicago lately and that’s where the burger chain is testing this as yet imperfect system — McDonald’s confesses the robot only grasps your order 85% of the time.
But then a TikToker called @soupmaster2000 documented her experience at the new AI drive-thru.
“Welcome to McDonald’s,” began exactly the same female robot voice you’ve heard every time you’ve tried to get through to a customer service operative at every internet provider/cellphone carrier/just about every business these days.
The McDonald’s robot continues: “We’re currently serving a limited menu, so please review the menu before ordering.”
There’s little more welcoming than being greeted by an inhuman voice telling you that the thing you want to order may not actually be offered today.
But goodness, this is just an experiment, isn’t it? Surely the robot is programmed to offer a tinge of wit, no?
The voice is exactly the same robot voice you’ve heard in every disturbing sci-fi movie. It’s as if Siri’s daughter has just got her first job.
Soupmaster orders two medium Oreo McFlurries. The response: “Alright.” In a voice that suggests you may shortly be approached by two members of the secret police.
The robot then asks if the customer wants anything else and invites the customer to “please full forward,” because no mere human would know to do that.
Soupmaster described it as “the most dystopian thing I have ever seen in the 27 years of my life.”
It’s hard to disagree. One hopes that, over time, the voices of robots will become more palatable. Perhaps, one day, you’ll be able to order from BTS or SZA.
There has been, though, a further little twist. McDonald’s is now being sued for allegedly recording voiceprint details of its customers at the robot drive-thru. The lawsuit claims that McDonald’s makes the recordings “to be able to correctly interpret customer orders and identify repeat customers to provide a tailored experience.”
McDonald’s isn’t, of course, the only fast-food chain that’s drifting toward the idea of personalizing offers for customers. Its purchases of Dynamic Yield and Aprente show that this is very much the idea.
Illinois, however, is one of 12 that requires both parties to consent to a recording of a voice conversation and the lawsuit claims there’s no warning to customers that recordings are occurring.
McDonald’s hasn’t commented, but it’s an awkward aftertaste to the company’s vision of the future.
Currently, many McDonald’s franchisees complain they can’t find staff. Some are even reluctant to re-open their restaurants for indoor dining, as they feel they’re doing just fine with drive-thru and delivery.
But if your local McDonald’s becomes one large modern vending machine, does that inspire love for the brand?
Perhaps the future won’t be about love at all.
Amazon’s Fire HD 10 Productivity Bundle review: This isn’t the work tablet you’re looking for
- ✓Affordable tablet
- ✓Solid battery life
- ✓Affordably priced
- ✓Includes keyboard
- ✕Lack of productivity apps
- ✕Keyboard feels somewhat cramped
Amazon’s tablets are known for being cheap, somewhat slow, but good enough to access your Kindle library, stream shows in Prime Video or browse the web. The tablets aren’t known for being fill-in for your work laptop, but Amazon is looking to change that perception.
The company announced the new $149 Fire HD 10 and $179 Fire HD 10 Plus tablets, complete with new kids editions, back in April. Alongside the refreshed design and new components, Amazon also announced a new productivity bundle. The bundle adds $70 to the cost of either Fire HD 10 model and includes a 1-year subscription to Microsoft 365 as well as a Bluetooth keyboard built specifically for the tablet.
For the last few weeks, I’ve been testing the standard Fire HD 10 and the productivity bundle — a kit that would cost you $219. As someone who uses the iPad as my main computer and laptop replacement, I was eager to see how the Fire HD 10 compared to the iPad Pro.
I don’t want to fully spoil it, but the experience fell short in a lot of areas. Namely app availability and performance.
Amazon debuted a new design with the Fire HD 8 last year, and that same aesthetic has carried over into the Fire HD 10 and HD 10 Plus. The edges and corners are now rounded, the front-facing camera is now centered when the tablet is horizontal — it’s a welcome design change.
When the tablet is docked in the included case, you’ll find the volume and power buttons to the right of the screen. That’s also where you’ll find the USB-C port that’s used for charging (another welcome change), and a 3.5mm headphone jack.
I really enjoyed the design of the Fire HD 8, and found that it translated well to the slightly larger Fire HD 10. It’s comfortable to hold and use as a standard tablet, tapping and swiping on the screen when browsing the web, the Amazon store or looking for a new book to read.
On the bottom of the tablet is where you’ll find the MicroSD card reader, where you can add up to 1TB of storage.
To be clear, the keyboard/case combo that comes in the productivity bundle isn’t made by Amazon. It’s made by Finite, a company I hadn’t heard of until I received the review unit.
The keyboard uses Bluetooth to connect to the tablet, and is also charged via a USB-C connector.
The keyboard doubles as a protective case for the Fire HD 10. You can detach the tablet, leaving the back of the case installed, and carry the Fire HD 10 around, and then easily place it back into the hinge that’s sturdy and holds the tablet in place when you want to use it in a more traditional laptop mode.
The keyboard itself is small, an expected side effect of a smaller tablet. There are shortcut keys to open apps in split screen mode (handy if you need to copy notes to an email), but I found the keys somewhat awkward to activate due to the size of the keyboard and the keys.
Amazon boosted the specs of the Fire HD 10 with an octa-core 2.0GHz processor and 3GB or 4GB of memory (a 50% increase compared to the previous version). The Fire HD 10 Plus, which costs $30 more, has 4GB of memory, a different finish on the tablet’s housing, and will wirelessly charge on any Qi-compatible pad. Or you can purchase the Amazon wireless charging dock built for the tablet that turns it into an Echo Show.
The 10.1-inch Full HD display is slightly brighter (10% according to Amazon) than the preview Fire HD 10’s screen. You’ll get about 12 hours of battery life out of the Fire HD 10 or HD 10 Plus, which is a little higher than what I saw during my testing and use. But a normal workday’s worth of battery life isn’t out of the question.
You have two options when it comes to storage: 32GB or 64GB. Regardless of your choice, both models support expandable storage up to 1TB via a MicroSD card.
Performance has never been a Fire tablet’s highlighting feature, and that’s still true with the HD 10. There’s a slight delay when navigating through the interface, apps open slower than what you’d find on, say, an iPad or Galaxy Tab.
App availability in Amazon’s own Appstore have always been a problem, and that hasn’t changed. Because all of Amazon’s Fire HD tablets are running the company’s own forked version of Android, forgoing any Google services including the Play Store, developers have to list their apps in Amazon’s Appstore. The result is that many of the key Android apps that users have grown to rely on are nowhere to be found on a Fire tablet.
For example, Slack, a key app for productivity for many of us, isn’t listed in the Amazon Appstore. You can still access Slack using the built-in Silk browser, but it’s not the same experience as a dedicated app. 1Password, a popular password managing app for consumers and business users alike, is also missing.
As I already mentioned, you won’t find any Google apps available on the Fire HD 10, so that leaves you with using services like Gmail, Google Workspace or Docs through the included browser.
Zoom is available in the App Store, as is nearly all of Microsoft’s mobile apps, including Teams, Outlook, Word, Excel and the rest of the Office suite.
Effectively, you have an Amazon tablet that gives you direct access to all of the company’s apps and services, combined with a dedicated tablet for those who are entrenched in Microsoft’s Microsoft 365.
At the end of my time using the Fire HD 10, I’ve come to the conclusion that this is a tablet that’s better left to serve as an entertainment device, with the occasional email or document typed out on the keyboard.
It can work, in a pinch, if your main laptop or computer is being repaired, or you’re looking to do light work while traveling. But there are just too many concessions, with apps and performance, for it to truly earn its productivity namesake.
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