Windows 10’s next major update arrives in October

Microsoft is officially unveiling the name for its next major Windows 10 update today. Previously codenamed Redstone 5, the “Windows 10 October 2018 Update” will arrive at some point in October. It will include a number of new features for devices, like a new cloud clipboard that syncs across machines, a dark File Explorer, an updated snipping tool, improvements to Microsoft Edge, and performance information in the Xbox Game Bar.

Microsoft’s naming follows the Windows 10 April 2018 Update that was released earlier this year. Microsoft is expected to conclude development of the October update by the end of September, and it should be available to Windows Insiders by early October followed by regular consumers.

Microsoft is now focusing on its next Windows 10 update, codenamed 19H1. This update will likely arrive in April 2019, and the company has not yet revealed which major features will be included. Testing for 19H1 begun in late July, and it’s possible we might see the return of the Sets feature that won’t be included in the Windows 10 October 2018 Update.

Lenovo’s new flagship Yoga C930 laptop has a speaker in the 360-degree hinge

After years of touting its signature “watch band” hinge, Lenovo is taking a different tack this year with its flagship consumer laptop, the Yoga C930. Instead of a classy-looking watch band, there’s a Dolby Atmos speaker in the hinge, like a little soundbar for a laptop. There are still two more speakers on the bottom of the C930, but the purpose of the soundbar is to ensure that there’s a speaker pointing at you no matter what orientation you’re using. The Yoga C930 is a 2-in-1, of course, so the screen can rotate all the way around into tablet mode.

Tablet mode is where you’ll get the most benefit from the C930’s other big new feature: an included stylus that can be stored in a “garage” inside the laptop. It’s relatively thin and small, somewhere between a Samsung Note stylus and a more traditional laptop stylus like the Surface Pen. But despite its size, it’s an “active” stylus, with 4,096 levels of pressure detection. Like the note, Lenovo’s “Garaged Pen” is automatically charged when you put it back in its little silo.

The Yoga C930 will start at $1,399.99, which probably translates to the base spec of an 8th-Gen Intel Core i5, a 13.9-inch 1920 x 1080 touchscreen, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB of storage. It can be loaded up to an i7, 3840 x 2160 display, 16GB of RAM, and a 2TB SSD. Lenovo estimates 14.5 hours of battery on the FHD screen and nine hours on the UHD screen. For ports, you’ll get one classic USB-A port, a couple of USB-C, and a headphone jack (no SD card slot, though).

You’ll have a couple of options for logging in, starting with a fingerprint reader. The webcam also supports Windows Hello, and it’s blessedly placed where the webcam belongs: above the screen. You can also customize it with a glass back if that’s your speed, but it’ll add to the weight of the device.

We didn’t get a ton of time with the device, but on a high level, the fit and finish are really solid. Lenovo says that it was able to reduce the size of the bottom bezel slightly, thanks to the new hinge design, but it’s still a bit larger than you might like. We also listened to some demos on the soundbar — which essentially consists of a couple of small speakers — and it still sounds like a laptop speaker. Better than average, at least, but the main benefit is that it will always point sound directly at you, even if you’re using it in tablet or easel mode.

There are also “far range” microphones, and Lenovo has again partnered with Amazon to include Alexa support on the device. Lenovo will sell the device directly on its website, and it has made a deal with Best Buy to feature them in big-box stores.

Alongside the flagship, Lenovo is launching a huge slew of other devices. We have posts up about the ThinkPad X1 Extreme, Yoga Book C930, and a Qualcomm Snapdragon-enabled laptop. Beyond those, though, there’s also more stuff:

  • The Yoga S730 is an updated version of the S720, and it looks very much like a MacBook Air running Windows 10 — right on down to the lack of a touchscreen and a hinge that doesn’t rotate 360 degrees. Beyond a processor bump, the S730 also has a new cooling system.
  • There’s a new Yoga Chromebook that’s essentially trying to take on the Pixelbook with high-end specs at a lower price, starting at $599.99. It has a 360-hinge, aluminum build, and a huge 15-inch screen. Lenovo is probably angling to have this be the new default “big living room laptop” it sells. It’s still a surprisingly popular category.
  • Lenovo is also releasing two lower-end Chromebooks. The C330 is a small 2-in-1 with an 11-inch touchscreen, while the S330 has a 14-inch screen.
  • There are also a few new smart home devices, but they’re pretty generic. There’s a smart plug, a camera, and a smart bulb. All of them use Wi-Fi for communications, and I get the sense that they’re mostly getting made so they can be bundled with the Google Assistant-powered Smart Display. There’ll be a “Lenovo Link” app for controlling them, and you will be able to subscribe to cloud storage for the camera if you want.

Dell’s new Inspiron 7000 line brings XPS features at a lower price

Dell’s recent XPS 13 models — with its latest, 8th-Gen Intel processor and ultra-thin bezels — have become one of the best laptops around. Now, some of those features are trickling down the price spectrum, starting with the newly refreshed Inspiron 7000 lineup that was announced at IFA 2018.

The new Inspiron 7000s (which come in 13-inch, 15-inch, and 17-inch sizes) all feature 2-in-1 designs, similar to the older models, but Dell has totally overhauled the outside. The plastic is gone in favor of a machined aluminum chassis, and the screen now has a far slimmer bezel that actually improves on the XPS 13. It manages to place the camera on top of the display (which Dell says is due to a new, ultra small part that it’s debuting with the 7000 lineup). The 13- and 15-inch models also have an optional UHD display, for those looking for an even better experience.

But it’s not just a new look: Dell has also upgraded the internal specs to keep the Inspiron line competitive, with Intel’s just-announced Whiskey Lake 8th-Gen processors and either 8GB or 16GB of RAM.

All three models also include a USB-C port that supports both USB-C Power Delivery and DisplayPort, which is extremely nice to see on a laptop in 2018, given the less-than-ideal adoption of the theoretically universal cable standard. Amazon Alexa is also included, which is a first for Dell.

The Inspiron 7000 lineup starts at $879.99 for the base 13-inch model, which isn’t exactly the cheapest laptop around, but it’s certainly a good price relative to the more premium XPS line. All three versions are expected to be available starting on October 2nd in the US.

This is hopefully just the start. Dell’s goal here is to make great Inspiron laptops, not cheaper XPS knock-offs, meaning we’ll likely see more of this progress continue.

Acer’s lightweight Swift 5 will cost $1,099 when it’s released in January

The newly announced Swift 7 — the king for the thinnest laptop in the world — may have stolen the show at Acer’s IFA press conference, but we also finally got an update on the 15.6-inch update to the Swift 5 that was first shown off in May, including a price and release date.

The 15.6-inch Swift 5 will be out in the US sometime in January 2019, starting at $1,099, although it’ll release in November in Europe for €1,099 and in China for ¥7,499, if you’d prefer not to wait.

The new Swift 5 keeps things roughly the same as its 1920 x 1080 14-inch counterpart, but it swaps out the screen for a larger 15.6-inch size. And at 2.2 pounds, Acer claims that it’s the lightest 15-inch laptop in the world.

As for specs, Acer is offering Intel’s just-announced i5 and i7 8th-Gen Whiskey Lake processors, up to 16GB of RAM, and up to 1TB of NVMe PCIe SSD storage, along with an integrated Windows Hello-compatible fingerprint reader.

Microsoft starts testing Your Phone Windows 10 app that mirrors phone content to a PC

Microsoft is starting to test its new Your Phone app for Windows 10. The software maker first unveiled the app back at the company’s Build developer conference in May, and it’s designed to mirror content from a phone to a PC. Android phone users will be able to test Your Phone first, with the ability to drag and drop recent photos straight into Office apps and other Windows apps direct from a phone. Microsoft is also planning to add support for text message sync and notifications from phones to mirror to a PC.

The Your Phone app requires an Android app to be installed to mirror phone content to a PC, and Microsoft is also planning to extend this same feature to iPhone users. Microsoft claimed photos and notifications will be mirrored from iPhones to Windows 10 PCs back at Build, but the company is only testing with Android right now. Microsoft’s latest blog post only mentions continue on PC features, and not the message, photo, and notifications sync.

The Your Phone app is being tested as part of Microsoft’s next Windows 10 update, codenamed Redstone 5. This update should be available in October, but it’s not clear if Your Phone will ship directly in this update or be made available as a separate app once testing is complete.

Microsoft starts testing next major Windows 10 update with new emoji and Mixed Reality Flashlight feature

Microsoft is starting to test its next major Windows 10 update. Codenamed 19H1, the update will be made available in the first half of 2019. Microsoft has started releasing public builds of 19H1 to Windows 10 testers today, with features that will also be included in the codename Redstone 5 update due in September or October. Microsoft is adding a new Mixed Reality Flashlight feature that opens a low-latency pass-through camera feed from a controller to allow users to see the real world around them during VR apps or games.

Microsoft is also adding new emoji to both the Redstone 5 update and the 19H1 update that are designed to complement the 157 new additions to Unicode 11. Much like Apple’s iOS 12 additions; superheroes, redheads, a pirate flag, a llama, and more will be available later this year. Microsoft is also tweaking some of its existing emoji with both updates, and even adding in leap second support inside Windows to more accurately support the leap seconds that occur every 18 months.

While testing has only just begun for the 19H1 update, new additions will be unveiled in the coming weeks as Microsoft finalizes work on Redstone 5 and shifts its focus to new features for 19H1. Windows insiders will be able to skip ahead to these new builds to get access to the new features as they become available.

Windows 10 now uses machine learning to stop updates installing when a PC is in use

One of the more frustrating aspects of Windows 10 is the operating system’s ability to start installing updates when you’re in the middle of using it. While Microsoft has tried to address this aggressive approach to updates with features to snooze installation, Windows 10 users continue to complain that updates reboot devices when they’re in use.

Reacting to this feedback, Microsoft says it’s aware of the issues. “We heard you, and to alleviate this pain, if you have an update pending we’ve updated our reboot logic to use a new system that is more adaptive and proactive,” explains Microsoft’s Windows Insider chief Dona Sarkar. Microsoft says it has trained a “predictive model” that will accurately predict when the best time to restart the device is thanks to machine learning. “We will not only check if you are currently using your device before we restart, but we will also try to predict if you had just left the device to grab a cup of coffee and return shortly after,” says Sarkar.

Microsoft has been testing this new model internally, and says it has seen “promising results.” The software maker has been updating the model continuously as it’s cloud-based, and it’s now opening up to Windows Insiders to get additional feedback and testing. Windows 10 testers will start seeing the updated model in the latest Redstone 5 and 19H1 updates released to Insiders today. If Microsoft’s update model is finally fixed, it could bring an end to one of the most frustrating aspects of Windows 10.