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– Learns your house and improves over time – Lots of flexibility through the app – Great at avoiding obstacles – Good for a ‘little and often’ approach – Rarely have to empty it
Pros: – Learns your house and improves over time – Lots of flexibility through the app – Great at avoiding obstacles – Good for a ‘little and often’ approach – Rarely have to empty it
I’m not yet convinced about the concept of a smart home. In general, most products on the market solve problems I don’t have – boiling the kettle while I’m in a different room, for example. While many of them are great accessibility tools, they don’t seem like much use to me, and they don’t seem to be worth the energy they draw from being constantly plugged in.
A robot vacuum, on the other hand, does seem like a genuinely labour-saving device. Vacuuming may not be the most time-consuming chore, but while I wait for a robot that will do all my ironing, I’ll happily cross it off the list.
The obvious place to start is Roomba, the iconic robot vacuum brand. I tested the j7+, which is designed to spot obstacles like charging cables and avoid them, and which empties itself into a separate bin within its dock, so you don’t need to empty it by hand as often.What’s in the box?
With the Roomba j7+, you get the Clean Base, which functions both as a charging dock and as a bin for the robot to deposit its dirt. It also comes with a spare bag for the bin, and you’ll need to buy replacements once you’ve used both. The remaining accessories are a charging cord, a spare filter and a replacement edge-sweeping brush.
On the iRobot app, you can check the ‘robot health’ to find out how long before various components need replacing.Setting up the app
The Roomba is controlled via the iRobot app. Once you’ve chosen a spot for the charging dock, the app will take you through simple set-up instructions to get the robot connected to the Wi-Fi. The next step after that is the hardest: choosing a name.
Once the Roomba is set up, you can send it on a mapping run to let it figure out the dimensions of your house. After this run, it will create a map in the app showing the areas it thinks are different rooms, and which are carpeted. You can edit it, changing any divisions it’s got wrong and naming the rooms. I found that the Roomba did a pretty good job at working out the shape of the rooms; the main errors were just in areas of the room it couldn’t access. It improved over time with repeated runs.
You can also add Keep Out zones and Clean zones, and the Roomba will avoid or pay extra attention to these areas, respectively. I added a Clean zone in front of the front door, which tends to collect dust from our shoes, and a Keep Out zone in the spare bedroom where I had boxes piled up and not much floor space. Over time, the Roomba will suggest Clean zones – it suggested one in front of my desk, presumably because it kept finding snack crumbs.
If your home is spread over more than one floor, you can create a second map by moving the Roomba somewhere new and setting it off. This will be saved as a new map in the app.
The main benefit of the app is that the cleaning is incredibly customisable. You can tell it to vacuum certain rooms or areas (followed by mopping, if you have one of iRobot’s compatible Braava jet robot mops), set a schedule, tell it to detect when you’ve left the house and connect it to Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. I tried all of these, and got on well with most of them, but I had the most trouble with the voice activation. It was a bit hit-and-miss with which instructions it understood, even out of the recommended ones.Using the Roomba j7+
Having a little robot that trundles around your house is fun, and it was a while before it started to save me any time: at first, I felt a need to follow it around the house, watching it work. Even after that, I would leap up out of my seat when the sound of the vacuum changed to check if it had ensnared something (which it almost never had, except for a receipt that had fallen on the floor).
But as time went on, I was happy to leave it to it. In general, the Roomba will do a good enough job unattended, and is great at avoiding obstacles. Even if I left a laptop cable on the floor, for example, it wouldn’t get tangled. However, if you’re around to move things out of its way – say, so it can get behind a bin or under the table – then that’s all the better. So, if you want a really thorough clean, you’ll need to prepare your house to give it as much access as possible.
The suction isn’t astounding. It picks up the majority of the dirt from the carpets, but there were still some noticeable bits left after one lap. That said, it did have a few features that improve its dirt collection. Firstly, you can set it to do multiple laps, either of the whole map or the rooms of your choice. It will give you an estimate of the time it will take to do this, but don’t rely on it: I usually found it took longer, especially with multiple laps.
Secondly, the Roomba automatically detects particularly dirty spots, and slows down when it passes over them to get a better clean. Plus, the edge-sweeping brush does a decent job of gathering up crumbs from the edges.
When it’s finished its run (or when it gets full), the Roomba returns to the Clean Base to empty. It makes a surprisingly loud noise while it empties – much louder than the vacuuming itself. So loud, in fact, that I used the app to set ‘Quiet Time’ at night to avoid it disturbing the neighbours. However, I really liked the self-emptying feature: it meant I didn’t even have to think about it, especially since I set it not to start cleaning if the Clean Base bin is full.How good is the Roomba j7+ at navigating?
Thanks to the mapping software, the j7+ does a good job of navigating, especially since it learns over time. However, it would occasionally get stuck if it drove straight forwards into a narrow space; even though it can reverse, it would just rotate around seemingly random angles before trying again, and eventually give up and call for help.
I took the Roomba out into the hall outside my flat to test whether it could cope with stairs, and sure enough, it dutifully stopped when it detected the edge. Though, of course, it can’t vacuum on stairs, so you’ll still need a separate vacuum cleaner if yours are carpeted.Verdict
I’m not too bothered that it doesn’t do an amazing clean in one go, because it works well as a ‘little and often’ approach. With it scheduled to clean three times a week, I found that my floors were in general a bit cleaner than they were with my previous approach of a full vacuum once a week and occasional mess-cleaning as necessary.
Would the Roomba j7+ replace my trusty hoover? Well, no, simply for the fact that there will always be spots that a robot can’t handle, such as skirting boards, awkward corners and stairs. But I can’t deny that, if you get it set up in a way that works for you, it can keep your carpets looking fresher with less effort.
So, if you struggle to keep on top of vacuuming – and you generally keep your floors tidy enough for a robot to trundle around – then you would benefit from welcoming a Roomba j7+ into your home.
Buy now from Amazon (£899)
Buy now from Roomba (£899)Alternatives iRobot Roomba S9 Plus
iRobot’s range of Roomba hoovers are some of the best around, and if you like what you saw in the review above, but just want a little more power, this could be the better option.
Unlike the j7+, this hoover will be able to deal with every little bit of dust, cumbs and anything you might find on the carpet. For an extra bit of tech, you can also control this hoover via voice control.
Buy now from Amazon (£1499)Eufy RoboVac 15c
Obviously not everyone is going to be able to casually drop nearly £1000 on a hoover, so if you’re after something a bit more affordable, Eufy’s RoboVac could be better suited.
It only costs £199, but it does a great job at picking up small crumbs and dirt from hard wood floors, kitchens and certain carpets.
It does only have a small dust bin, and unlike some other more expensive robot hoovers, it doesn’t always get its directions quite right, running off in straight lines or bumping into unseen objects.
You're reading Roomba J7+ Review: The Little And Often Approach
Smaller case than regular 255
Improved GPS accuracy
Handy Morning Report featureCons
Lacks AMOLED from 265
Price jump with music edition
No Training Readiness featureOur Verdict
The Garmin Forerunner 255S might lack the extra splash of colour you get on the AMOLED-packing Forerunner 265, but this is still a great running watch for runners getting more serious about putting in more focused time on the treadmill, trails or pavement.Best Prices Today: Garmin Forerunner 255S
Garmin has a sports watch at pretty much every price point and if you’re a runner who’s started to get more serious about that running time, the Forerunner 255S is a watch built for you.
The follow-up to the Forerunner 245 grabs Garmin’s new multiband GNSS mode from its top-end watches to improve outdoor tracking accuracy in typically challenging conditions along with offering two case sizes and is still something swimmers, cyclists and now triathletes can put to good tracking use.
It has since been succeeded by the Forerunner 265, which most notably adds an AMOLED screen into the mix, but with the 255S offering a similar feature set outside of that AMOLED for less, it’s still a running watch worth casting an eye over.Design & build
1.1-inch transflective display
Waterproof up to 50 metres
The Forerunner 255S is the smaller of the two case options the 255 is available in, with a 41mm-sized case as opposed to a 46mm one. So if you like the idea of a watch that doesn’t dominate on the wrist, then this is the 255 model for you.
You can also grab the 255S in music or non-music editions. The former adds a built-in 32GB music player to store your own purchased audio or offline playlists from music streaming services including Spotify and Deezer. Opting for the music edition does push the price up by $50/£50.
That 41mm case is made from polymer, which is pretty much the go-to material for Garmin’s Forerunner watches and that’s matched up with an 18mm silicone strap that’s well built for exercise and can be removed if you want something more stylish or colourful in its place.
Along with a typical array of physical buttons there’s a 1.1-inch, 218 x 218 resolution memory in pixel (MIP) display. That’s a smaller display than found on the 245 and also a drop in resolution.
That does mean it lacks the more vibrant and colourful AMOLED you’ll find on the new Forerunner 265 and it’s not a touchscreen display either. If you’re happy living without that AMOLED touchscreen, then you’re still getting a good-sized screen here with solid viewing angles indoors and outdoors that was also fine to view during pool swims.
On the swimming front, it carries the same waterproof rating as its predecessor so it can be submerged in water up to 50 metres deep and you don’t have to take it off when taking a shower, though it’s worth taking it off every now and then to clean the sweat off the strap.
Turn the watch over and you’ll find Garmin’s own optical sensor that provides heart rate data continuously and during exercise and additionally offers blood oxygen measurements during sleep or throughout the day. That’s also where you’ll find the charging port, which is the spot for Garmin’s pretty universal charging cable for most of its watches though it lacks the wireless charging support Garmin introduced to its Vivomove Trend hybrid smartwatch.
Overall, it’s been a very comfortable time wearing the 255S. Yes, it’s small, but it’s light and unobtrusive and has a good enough display to soak up your metrics and other insights it serves up on the move.Health and fitness tracking
HRV Status delves deeper into recovery
Improved GPS performance
Forerunner might be in the name, but like other Forerunner watches, the 255S also has the sensors and tracking features to track swimming, cycling and has profiles for hiking, skiing and snowboarding among other more outdoorsy pursuits.
Garmin has bolstered the sports profiles available with the 255S now getting an open water swimming mode and a dedicated triathlon mode to make it a more affordable triathlon watch in Garmin’s collection.
If you are turning to it for running, then there’s plenty here. It covers running profiles for ultras and track running, and you have access to Garmin Coach to sync workouts from programs built for 5K up to half marathon distance. There’s also a visual race predictor to give you a sense of what you might end up running on race day based on workout history.
The big additions here in this department are Garmin’s new multi-band GNSS mode and SATIQ technology. The first of those is similar to the dual band mode used on the Apple Watch Ultra, tapping into multiple frequency bands from supported satellite systems to deliver richer accuracy, particularly when near tall buildings, trees and mountain ranges.
Using multi-band GNSS means sacrificing more battery than using the standard GPS tracking mode, but does notably deliver more accurate data and did when we compared data to a non-dual band running watch running near big buildings, which can typically impact on location tracking accuracy.
The SATIQ technology is used by Garmin to automatically determine which level of satellite support you should use given your surroundings and location. So the idea is that you’re not wasting battery using the top end positioning mode when you don’t need it. Ultimately though, I found that manually picking the GPS mode was the best way to go in most scenarios.
Garmin has also sought to offer more in terms of insights into your recovery and also doing a better job of packaging your data in a way that you can better absorb it. On the analysis front, you now have something called HRV status, which uses heart rate variability measurements taken from the optical sensor during sleep. As the watch gathers those measurements over a few weeks it tries to better understand if your body is handling your current training load.
While a tap of the top physical button will reveal if your HRV status is good or bad, the presentation of it feels a touch complex. It would have definitely benefited from including the Training Readiness feature, which is available on the new Forerunner 265 and other pricier Garmin watches. It takes that HRV status and other pieces of your tracking data to give you a more simplified way of knowing whether you should train or ease off.
It’s something that I like about the new Morning Report, which you’ll see when you wake up telling you how you’ve slept, the weather forecast, suggested workouts to do for the day and a little motivational message to put some pep in your step. It feels a bit gimmicky, but it’s a feature I’ve warmed to over time and it’s quite a useful thing to look at first thing when you wake up.
On top of those new features, the 255S has everything the 245 offered. Whether that’s tracking daily activity and sleep or dishing out stress and blood oxygen saturation data, it can be useful as a fitness tracker and a monitor for your general wellbeing, but lacks the more serious health monitoring features you’ll find on the smartwatches like the Apple Watch and Samsung Galaxy Watch.
The heart rate monitor performed pretty well both for steady paced and more high intensity workouts against Garmin’s own HRM Pro Plus heart rate monitor chest strap, with scope to pair up an external heart rate monitor to bolster accuracy.
The 255S still lacks the full mapping support you’ll get on Garmin’s top-end Forerunner, Fenix and Epix watches, but it does offer point-to-point navigation and the ability to see breadcrumb trails in real time, which still makes it handy to get around or get back home if you’ve got a bit lost.
The Forerunner 255S’s sports tracking is well-rounded, offering good accuracy, a rich level of training analysis and some new features that do make it more reliable and insightful on those fronts too.Smartwatch features
Spotify offline playlist syncing
Safety and live tracking features
Works with Garmin Pay
As a smartwatch, the 255S does a pretty admirable job of being useful when you’re not out tracking exercise. It works with Android and iOS and the experience of using the Garmin Connect companion phone app across those platforms is pretty consistent in terms of presentation and reliability of setup, pairing and syncing the watch.
In terms of smartwatch features, it’s the very same ones included on the 245. You have access to Garmin’s Connect IQ Store, which isn’t at Apple App Store level of quality in terms of apps, but is a useful place for grabbing some additional watch faces, data fields and extra widgets if a little slow at times to download and sync them over.
Viewing notifications works well in spite of that small screen, though it would be a nicer experience with the added touchscreen functionality you get on the Forerunner 265. If you’re using it with an Android phone, you can respond to texts and the notifications (out of luck on iPhone) and the support in general is better than you’ll find on most sports watches.
Then you have the music features, which is made up of the controls you can use for controlling audio playing on your phone and the built-in music player to store purchased audio and playlists from Spotify, Deezer and Amazon Music.
There’s capacity to store up to about 500 songs and getting playlists over from supported music streaming services can be done in a relatively straightforward fashion. Using the music streaming during tracking dents the battery more, but the support works well, it was easy to pair a bunch of different Bluetooth headphones to use it.
Again, it would be nice to have a touchscreen here to interact with the music features, but if you want the ability to stream music, podcasts and audiobooks on a sports watch, you want a Garmin like the 255s on your wrist.Battery life and charging
Up to 12 days in smartwatch mode
Up to 26 hours in GPS mode
The Garmin Forerunner 255S is a watch I’d say is built to last a good week if you’re planning to use its key sports tracking and smartwatch features on a regular basis throughout that week. Garmin says it should be 12 days, but getting to that number means lighter use of core tracking modes. Such longevity is helped by the MIP screen rather than a power-hungry AMOLED.
The biggest drain on battery life here is the music streaming and the continuous blood oxygen saturation monitoring, which sees the battery life drop quite dramatically. If you can live without that 24/7 blood oxygen data, then it’s worth disabling it.
If you switch to the new multiband GNSSS outdoor tracking mode, that number drops from 26 hours to 13 hours to give you a sense of the difference in battery usage. Add music streaming into the mix and that drops to 5.5 hours. That’s still good enough to last a long marathon, but listening to music does hit the battery hard.
The numbers are bigger than what was promised on the Forerunner 245, but unlike a lot of more expensive Garmin watches, you’re getting something here that will hold out for a week with the potential to go further if you sacrifice some of those more battery-hungry features.Price and availability
The Garmin Forerunner 255S costs $349.99/£299.99 or $399.99/£349.99 for the music version. You can buy it direct from Garmin.
It’s also available from Amazon US or Amazon UK.
It does also share similar features to the Forerunner 265, which sees roughly a $100/£100 price jump compared to the 255S to get that added AMOLED display and some of Garmin’s latest software features.Verdict
The Garmin Forerunner 255S might not be the newest model in this particular Forerunner range, but that doesn’t mean you should entirely discount buying it either.
If you’re not that fussed about having an AMOLED touchscreen display and features like Training Readiness and a few extra sports profiles and would gladly take a bigger battery instead, then there’s still reasons to go for the 255S.
It offers a really comprehensive experience overall and not just for runners either. If you were looking for a Garmin watch that can work as a triathlon watch, then it’s worth looking at too.
The problem Garmin has is that the Coros Pace 2 can offer a lot of what the 255S offers for less money. It’s not a better smartwatch and the UI won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but for sports tracking and value, it’s up there with the 255.
The Garmin Forerunner 255S offers a great experience overall, that’s not as pricey as the newer 265 and shows going for an older watch isn’t necessarily a bad thing.Specs
1.1in 218 x 218p MIP display
Gorilla Glass 3
5 ATM water rating
18mm quick release straps
41 x 41 x 12.4mm
It doesn’t take a genius to realize that when you hit pay dirt, you might do so again if you keep digging in the same area. That’s the tack Dell takes with its redesigned XPS 15 laptop: It’s easily summed up as a bigger, more powerful version of the super-popular XPS 13.
The model I reviewed is mid-range. That means a 1920×1080 resolution non-touchscreen, though a 4K Ultra HD screen with touch is available. Regardless of screen type, you get that 5.5mm-skinny bezel, and it makes for an impressive presentation—for comparison, HP’s Spectre X360 15T has a 15mm-wide bezel. But oddly, the XPS 15’s bezel didn’t wow me the same way the original XPS 13’s did, even though both bezels are basically the same size.The narrow bezel looks great except from this angle
Like its sibling, that thin bezel results in the same awkward camera placement. Instead of residing at the top of the screen, the XPS 15’s camera sits in the lower lefthand side. That means people who do a lot of typing during video calls had mind their cuticles.
Dell XPS 15
The price of that narrow bezel is the odd webcam placement on the XPS 15
The slender bezel also means Dell had to do some gymnastics to backlight the screen properly. This isn’t something you would notice under normal circumstances, especially because it’s an IPS panel and has good off-axis viewing angles. However, when I placed the XPS 15, HP Spectre X360 15T, and Samsung’s Book 9 Pro in a dark room and cranked up the screen brightness of each, the XPS 15 showed more backlight bleed. I’d rate the Spectre X360 15T first in quality, with the Samsung Book 9 second.
The image quality on the XPS 15 is fine, but it’s worth noting that the anti-reflective screen on our test unit will, basically by definition, look duller than the glossy displays on the HP and Samsung. What you give up in eye-catching pizzazz, though, you get back in greatly reduced glare..
Gordon Mah Ung
You get Thunderbolt 3 on the new Dell XPS 15 (bottom) and the new Dell XPS 13 (top).Ports: a note about the USB-C
For ports, you get an SD card reader, a USB 3.0 Type A port, and a Kensington lock on the left side. On the right, you’ll find a full-sized HDMI and second USB 3.0 Type A port, combination analog audio jack, and a USB 3.1 Gen 2 10Gbps Type C port with Thunderbolt 3 support. Nothing wrong with this selection, but I’d like to put in a good word for those of us with older hard drives that require dual Type A plugs to get enough power. On the XPS 15, such an accessory wouldn’t work without an optional adapter cable.
Update: After initially testing the XPS 15 with several USB Type C power bricks, I assumed there was no support for for charging through the laptop’s USB Type C port using USB Power Delivery. It turns out I was wrong. At least about Dell wiring the port that way. The XPS 15’s USB Type C port does indeed support charging but it appears to be pretty picky about what it supports. The unit would not charge with Innergie’s PowerGear USB-C nor with a 45 watt brick for the HP Spectre X2. It also understandably failed to charge (when on) with two other lower power USB Type C bricks for a Samsung Windows convertible and Google’s Pixel C brick. The one brick that did run the XPS 15 was the new Google Pixel and its 60 watt power brick.
Still, it’s nifty Dell also wired its XPS 15 to charger over both plugs but the success rate with Power Delivery over USB Type C really makes me thinks it’s a mess.
Gordon Mah Ung
Dell’s new XPS 15 gives you a lot more screen real-estate over the award-winning Dell XPS 13.Keyboard and trackpad Configuration
Just like mom told you, it’s what’s inside that counts—and the XPS 15’s specs are mostly a win.
Dell actually offers two battery options for the XPS 15. Our review unit features the smaller standard 56 watt-hour cell, but you can also get a much larger 84 watt-hour cell in some configurations. Generally, the bigger battery comes in models with the M.2 SSD, while the lower-end hard drive configurations get the smaller battery.
Our particular configuration straddles the fence, though. It uses an M.2 SSD and has the room to fit the larger battery, but it comes with the smaller battery. I wouldn’t mind giving up that battery capacity (which spills over into the hard drive caddy) if the XPS 15 had the user option to install a second hard drive or SSD in the bay. Dell, however, doesn’t include the actual ribbon cable that connects to a drive, so phooey. I suspect you could get the ribbon cable as a replacement part, but it would be a nice inclusion for upgraders.
Gordon Mah Ung
Getting inside the Dell XPS 15 is a snap and gives you access to the two RAM slots and M.2 drive.
Getting inside this laptop is super-easy. You just have to back out a few Torx screws around the perimeter and two Phillips-head screws in the center.CPU performance
The Dell XPS 15 destroys dual-core laptops and is a tiny bit faster than Samsung’s new Book 9 Pro too in Cinebench R15.
Most of these laptops illustrate just what you get from a dual-core CPU versus a quad-core CPU. In a heavy-duty 3D rendering test, the quad-core shows that the price you pay for that level of processing power is worth every extra dollar gone from your wallet (and additional ounce on your back).
If you’re wondering why the XPS 15 is faster than the Samsung Book 9 Pro—despite having the same chip—it’s because the XPS 15 runs its CPU at a slightly higher clock speed under load.
No surprise: the quad-cores also smoke the dual-cores in our Handbrake transcoding test.Office drone performance
If you just want to know if it’s worth having that quad-core for office-drone work, both the long and short answer are No.
As you can see from our PCMark 8 Work Conventional test, which simulates everyday office tasks, this Dell is ahead of the pack—but not in any exciting way. For the most part, you’ll never feel the difference between a quad-core Core i7 and a low-power Core m in office tasks. If you really only do just office work, it makes more sense to buy a different laptop.
The Dell XPS 15 is the fastest here but who cares in when doing office drone work?Gaming performance
Besides the quad-core CPU, the other performance highlight of the XPS 15 is its GeForce GTX 960M chip. On paper, it’s very similar to the Samsung Book 9 Pro’s GeForce GTX 950M. Both have the same 128-bit memory bus, 80GBps of memory bandwidth, 640 shader cores, and a memory speed of 1,253MHz. The key difference between the two is clock speed: The Samsung’s GPU clock is set to 915MHz with a boost speed of 928MHz. The Dell’s GPU clock is rated at 1,033 with a boost speed of 1,098MHz.
After 45 minutes of the Furmark stress test, the Dell XPS 15 showed no signs of throttling back on performance. I can’t say the same of its competitors.
After five minutes of this torture test, the XPS 15 held strong with clock speeds at 1,085MHz range. After 15 minutes, it dropped down to a still very respectable 1,019MHz. As for the Samsung—I’ll get into its performance when I write that review, but for now, let’s just say its GPU clocks plummet off a cliff as time goes on. The Book 9 Pro’s fans are definitely quieter, though.
The GeForce GTX 960M has a nice edge over the other GPUsBattery life
For our battery rundown test, we play a 4K Ultra HD video file using Windows 10’s built-in media player. We set the screen brightness at 250 to 260 nits, which is good for watching a movie in office lighting. Considering its higher-wattage CPU and larger screen, the XPS 15 does reasonably well with just over five hours of run time.
The 56 watt hour battery gives you okay battery life but I wish Dell offered the larger 84 watt hour cell in this configuration too.
For this particular model, you can mitigate the shorter battery life with Dell’s optional battery pack, which will let you run and charge the laptop from it. In higher-end configurations with the 84 watt-hour battery, I’d expect to squeeze out at least another few hours out of it.It’s small but…
For its class, the redesigned XPS 15 is fairly compact and blisteringly fast. However, it’s not as revolutionary as the XPS 13’s overhaul. With that laptop, Dell basically crammed a 13-inch screen into a body that usually fit an 11-inch screen. Compared to the MacBook Air 13, for example, the XPS 13’s extremely small footprint was game-changing.
Gordon Mah Ung
Here’s the original Dell XPS 13 sitting on top of a MacBook Air 13. Both, by the way, feature the same size screen.
The XPS 15 certainly has the smallest footprint of the 15.6-inch laptops we’ve seen, but it’s not that much smaller. Here’s a shot of the XPS 15 next to its contemporaries and an XPS 13. HP’s Spectre X360 15T is almost comically wide, but that Samsung next to it is barely half an inch smaller in both directions.
The power bricks balance out the weight issue. The Dell’s is big and heavy, bringing the total weight to 5 pounds and 7 ounces compared to the HP and its tiny brick, which total 4 pounds and 8 ounces.
Carrying the XPS 15 around in your hands is a pleasure, thanks to the rubber strips on the bottom. A lot of these metal-bodied laptops feel like they’re just one slip away from disaster, but you’d have to try to drop the XPS 15 for destruction to happen.
Gordon Mah Ung
The XPS 15 has the smallest footprint of the 15.6-inch laptops we’ve seen. Clockwise from top left: Dell’s XPS 13, HP’s Spectre X360 15T, Samsung’s Book 9 Pro, Dell’s XPS 15Conclusion
The XPS 15’s keyboard could be bigger. The backlight-bleeding issue could use some work. But the overwhelming amount of people interested in this size of laptop buy these machines for performance, and that’s where the XPS 15 shines.
Correction: After getting a report from a reader that the XPS 15 does indeed support charging over USB Type C, I have updated the review to reflect the information. PCWorld regrets the error.
Gordon Mah Ung
Dell’s new XPS 15 gives you a lot more screen real-estate over the award-winning Dell XPS 13.
Best Prices Today: Apple Mac mini (M2, 2023)
A new Mac Mini isn’t often greeted with too much fanfare – after all the design has hardly changed in years, it doesn’t have any natural rivals on the Windows side to compare against, and Apple mostly just updates the CPU and calls it a day.
This time is a little different. All of the above is still true, of course, but by throwing in its new M2 and M2 Pro processors and dropping the starting price to a mere $599/£649, Apple has made its mini Mac a value proposition that’s hard to beat – and how many Apple products can you say that about?Design & build
Iconic, compact design
Plenty of ports
The Mac Mini looks much as it ever has: a small, silver box, tinier than a computer has any right to be, with a large Apple logo front and centre.
It is, as my girlfriend put it, ‘chic’.
Dominik Tomaszewski / Foundry
There are, for what it’s worth, a few mini PC rivals that run Windows, though they rarely look this sleek, and your favourite influencer wouldn’t use one. Apple has cornered the market on compact desktops that are aesthetic, so you can’t blame the company for sticking to its guns.
It is, as my girlfriend put it, ‘chic’
Where it has had to work to keep things up to date are the ports round the back.
On this current iteration of the Mini, you get two USB-C ports with support for Thunderbolt 4 and USB 4, along with DisplayPort. Opt for the more powerful M2 Pro processor, and Apple throws in an extra two of these for four in total.
Dominik Tomaszewski / Foundry
Either way, you also get a further two USB-A ports, a 3.5mm headphone jack, an HDMI output, Ethernet (Gigabit by default, upgradable to 10 Gigabit), and the power socket. Unlike its MacBook Pro laptops there’s no SD card reader sadly, but the old-fashioned USB ports more than make up for it.Specs & performance
Exceptional M2 performance
Up to 32GB RAM
Up to 8TB storage
The Mac Mini can currently be equipped with your choice of an M2 or M2 Pro chip – though not the higher tier M2 Max, which is currently limited to the MacBook Pro.
That shouldn’t be an issue though, as the two available chips offer plenty of performance. I’ve been reviewing the Mini with a regular M2 chip, which includes an eight-core CPU and a 10-core GPU.
Dominik Tomaszewski / Foundry
Upgrade to the Pro and you get 10 CPU cores and 16 for the GPU, with the option to go one step further for 12 CPU cores and 19 GPU.
That means every step up delivers an increase in overall performance, though with a particular focus on added graphical oomph – so if the GPU isn’t your main concern, you might well be just as happy with the default spec.
One thing you can’t do is take all that power and put it to use on games
This is certainly more than enough power for most day-to-day computing, handling my horde of Chrome tabs, Slack, Spotify, video calls, and Photoshop with ease.
Comparing Macs to Windows devices is tricky over benchmarks – insert your own variant on the Apple/oranges joke here – but it’s clear that even the basic M2 Mini is plenty powerful. The MacBook Pro we reviewed is equipped with the same 12-core M2 Pro chip that’s an option here, so is a good indicator of the performance jump available to you if you upgrade – or you can check out our sister site Macworld’s more technical deep dive into the performance of an M2 Pro Mac Mini.
Part of the power on offer comes down to RAM configurations too, of course. By default, the new Mini ships with 8GB RAM, but if you want you can bump that way up to 32GB with the M2 Pro chip.
Storage is even sillier – the 256GB initial allocation is probably plenty if you’re an avid cloud user, but for those who aren’t this goes all the way up to 8TB. At that point, it’s not quite so much of a value proposition though.
Display options are also impressive thanks to the combination of Thunderbolt 4 and HDMI ports. Pro models can drive a 8K@60Hz display over HDMI plus up to two 6K panels over DisplayPort, while cheaper M2 models cap at 4K@60Hz on HDMI with a single added 6K screen on DisplayPort.
Dominik Tomaszewski / Foundry
Of course, this being a Mac, one thing you can’t do is take all that power and put it to use on games – pretty much the major reason someone might opt for a Windows desktop instead. Apple says this is improving, but Mac-compatible games remain thin on the ground, so don’t buy this expecting to play much.
Finally, connectivity is handled by the latest Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3 standards, plus that Ethernet port – which delivers Gigabit speeds by default, but as mentioned earlier can be upgraded.Software & apps
Ships with macOS Ventura
Stage Manager improves multi-tasking
Likely long-term software support
You won’t be shocked to hear that this Mac ships with macOS.
Dominik Tomaszewski / Foundry
The latest version, Ventura, delivers enhancements to multi-tasking and productivity that help elevate the Mini’s potential as a work device though, letting you make the most of all that power under the hood.
It’s a pretty safe bet that Apple will be issuing updates to this Mac Mini for years to come
The heart of that is the new Stage Manager feature, which allows you to group open apps while keeping them running and visible along the left-hand side of the screen, ready to switch to in a minute.
Together with the taskbar along the bottom, it does tend to make your display a little cluttered by default but makes it far easier to switch between different combinations of apps that work in synergy. I’ll admit to still preferring the simpler way Windows allows you to snap apps into various grids and configurations, but Apple is getting there.
Elsewhere this is mostly macOS as you know it, for good and bad. Its other key strength is interactions with the rest of the Apple ecosystem – it’s a doddle to pair AirPods for audio, to share files from your iPhone, or even use an iPad as a second screen. If you’re all-in on Apple, this stuff is a great extra.
Dominik Tomaszewski / Foundry
Finally, while there’s no specific promise of years of software support, it’s a pretty safe bet that Apple will be issuing updates to this Mac Mini for years to come. Ventura still supports Mac models released in 2023, so this could still be getting macOS updates come 2029.Price & availability
The starting price of $599/£649 is the Mac Mini’s secret weapon – it’s $100/£50 cheaper than its M1-powered predecessor. To get the power of even the most basic M2 chip at that price is pretty exceptional value, and hard to find replicated elsewhere.
The $4,499/£4,599 maxed out configuration – with the Pro chip, 32GB RAM, 8TB storage, and upgraded Ethernet – is rather less of an impulse buy, but few people will need to go anywhere near that spec. Perhaps the biggest issue is that any upgrade to the M2 Pro comes at a price – even a basic version starts from $1,299/£1,399 – at which point this stops feeling like quite such a steal.
Dominik Tomaszewski / Foundry
The caveat of course is that this is only a desktop – all you get is the computer itself, and a power lead. If you don’t own them already that means you’ll also have to splash out on a mouse, keyboard, and monitor, all of which are sold separately. That’s par for the course, but worth remembering when comparing this price to an iMac or MacBook.
To find the new Mac even cheaper, check out our guide to where to buy the Mac Mini, including the best deals.
For Mac mini accessory options, read Macworld’s feature on How to upgrade the M2 and M2 Pro Mac mini.Verdict
Apple hasn’t changed much in the latest Mac Mini, except for those astonishing chips, but then it didn’t really need to.
The previous M1 model impressed, but with the M2 inside and a start price that’s closer to $500 than $1,000, the Mini is now an unexpected value-for-money prospect, an affordable desktop PC with all the power you need for, well, just about anything with gaming being the main caveat.
Even demanding creative users can probably spec up an M2 Pro configuration to meet their needs, and few will find this Mini short of power – which is impressive in its own right. That makes the Mini much more expensive though, so upgraded models are definitely less appealing.
Still, this makes the Mini the ideal everyday Mac. It’s the Mac for almost anyone – or at least those of us still working from desktops.Specs
Apple M2 or M2 Pro chipset
Up to 32GB RAM
Up to 8TB storage
2x/4x USB-C 4 & Thunderbolt 4 with DisplayPort
3.5mm headphone jack
3.6 x 19.7 x 19.7cm
After six years of exploring the plains of Mars, NASA’s Spirit rover was brought to a halt in May 2009 when it got stuck in soft soil near the Gusev crater. Though scientists made many attempts to free the rover, it was unable to escape and researchers terminated the mission entirely in 2011. To avoid Spirit’s fate, researchers now know that future rovers will need to be able to move about in new ways to navigate rugged terrain like the Moon’s icy poles.
Fortunately, researchers at NASA and the Georgia Institute of Technology have recently devised a way for rovers to scoot over loose soils without getting stuck and even climb up steep hills without stalling. Using a miniaturized version of a scrapped rover design, they found that a combination of walking, paddling, and wheel-spinning allowed the vehicle to crawl through beds of poppy seeds and wet sand. The team reported the findings on May 13 in the journal Science Robotics.
“The work described in the paper represents a hybrid approach to mobility,” William Bluethmann, an engineer at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston and coauthor of the new paper, said in an email to Popular Science. During a mission, the rover would spend most of its time rolling about on wheels, but “during the uncommon, bad day when a rover finds itself in material where it’s too soft to rove,” the vehicle would deploy this unconventional new gait.
Much of the surface of the Moon and Mars is covered in soft, loose soil called regolith. The wheels on traditional rovers aren’t ideal for locomotion in this grainy, unstable substrate. “In a soft soil you get deeply buried and can’t climb out of your own little pit that you’ve created,” says Daniel Goldman, a physicist at Georgia Tech who also worked on the project. “Wheeled vehicles are really good on hard ground, but when you get to more complicated terrain you need more flexible and multifunctional appendages.”
When designing a prototype for the later-scrapped Resource Prospector 15 (RP15) rover, NASA researchers gave the vehicle limbs that could make lifting and sweeping motions in addition to spinning and rotating their wheels. The rover was intended to visit the lunar poles, where loose regolith, steep slopes, and shadowed craters abound.
RP15’s planned mission was canceled in 2023. However, the team went on to work on a more ambitious mission called VIPER (Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover) that could begin as early as December 2023. VIPER would explore the Moon’s south pole and gather information on the water ice that astronauts may one day extract and convert into fuel for longer space missions, like those to Mars.
To better prepare rovers for missions like these, the NASA researchers teamed up with Goldman and his colleagues, who had previously studied how lizards “swim” through desert sand. Goldman’s team then built a small-scale “Mini Rover” out of 3D printed plastic based on the RP15 prototype and tested it in beds of poppy seeds that could be tilted to different angles to mimic sand dunes. Siddharth Shrivastava, who at the time was a high school student working in Goldman’s lab, began experimenting with different possible gaits. He eventually came up with a combination of motions that allowed Mini Rover to scrabble up steep slopes without getting stuck (Shrivastava is now an undergraduate at Georgia Tech).
By using the front wheels to dislodge sand, the rover can “basically make a mess—make a puddle of granular material and swim through it,” Goldman says. “It’s essentially creating this little conveyor belt of sand from the front wheels and then letting the hind limbs paddle and thrust against it, which locally creates this bubble of granular material which the thing kind of rides up the hill on.”
The team also pulled the original, full-sized RP15 out of retirement at the Johnson Space Center. Although one of the rover’s legs was broken, the researchers did manage to put RP15 through its paces using the new roving methods on a flat bed of moist sand. “It turned out to still be able to make some progress,” Goldman says.
Last October, NASA researchers also tested a lightweight model of VIPER in a bed of material intended to simulate lunar regolith known as the “sink tank.” “The sink tank is called that because nearly everything [that] goes into it has the tendency to sink and get stuck,” said Bluethmann, who is leading the development of VIPER. “We deployed a swimming gait during the test and the rover went right through.”
If VIPER successfully paddles its way across the Moon’s south pole, the approach may allow future rovers to roam other lunar and Martian sites that have until now remained out of reach. The Mini Rover’s unique movements could also prove useful on Earth, including for military vehicles or robots that must travel through desert sand and other soft substrates (the project was partly funded by the Army Research Office). One day, the technique might even help delivery robots transport their cargo to remote dwellings, Goldman says.
Readybot domestic robot prototype video: now with Roomba garage
The “Readybot Challenge” team have released footage of their domestic robot, intended to demonstrate the feasibility of a home-help robot capable of performing up to 80-percent of routine chores. This current Readybot prototype – which resembles a dishwasher with a bin-lid dome and outstretched “hug me!” arms – can tidy up mess left on the floor, empty trash and, thanks to a flip-down garage at the back, release a Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner.Check out the video of Readybot in action, after the cut!
Taking the DARPA concept as their starting point, the team have challenged themselves to come up with a prototype capable of 50-percent of the usual cleaning tasks by the end of the year, topping out at 80-percent in its final form. They’re also claiming that, based on current progress, a “solid engineering and design team” could produce a shippable product in just two years.
Perhaps I’ve watched too many of those 50s “The Home of the Future!” clips, telling us that by the turn of the 21st century we’d all have robotic servants doing our bidding, but I can’t take this thing seriously. If it works out, fantastic – I’d love one! – but I’m reserving the right to be dubious.
Readybot Kitchen-Cleaning Robot Takes on Family Room – With Help From Friendly Vacuum
The Readybot prototype, which designers say “looks like a dishwasher, but with arms,” is shown rolling into action. It uses a carpet rake attachment to scrape toys into plastic bins, moving sideways and diagonally to reach tight spots. It stores the bins in a cabinet, closes the door, and empties the trash. “As always, we’re just showing a few key skills, to give viewers a feel for what robots can do,” says Readybot Director Tom Benson. “We can think of ten new ideas, for every one that we have time to write into the application software.”
In a surprise move, the video shows Readybot deploying one of the popular off-the-shelf cleaning robots, which scoots out to vacuum the carpet. Why didn’t the Readybot team build their own? “Vacuum robots are inexpensive, extremely well engineered, and available anywhere,” says Benson. “Why should we re-invent something that already works great?”
Benson explains how this fits their view of the future of robotics. “We believe the next and largest wave of the robotics industry will be similar to personal computers. With PCs, the disk drives, motherboards, and other components are made by different vendors and assembled into an easy-to-upgrade final product. This approach has led to fast growth and innovation in the PC market. We believe robots will be the same – robot arms, bases, video systems could be made by different vendors and plugged together. So it makes perfect sense to use an existing vacuum robot as a peripheral.”
This echoes views of other articles in the press, including a June 2006 Scientific American article by Microsoft founder Bill Gates. “It’s an international phenomenon,” said Benson, “with researchers all over the world, including here in Silicon Valley, developing the technology. The challenge is to assemble that into a practical platform, and fill in a few missing pieces.”
Readybot plans to announce “Phase II” of their robot challenge in the Fall of 2008.
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