Feature Articles

Here are our favourite new gadgets of 2021

By Team HardwareZone - 2 Jan 2022

Part 2

Apple 14-inch MacBook Pro 

The new 14-inch MacBook Pro.

The last MacBook Pro was a compromised machine. Sure, you could say that for any notebook but the compromises Apple made were ill-judged. So imagine my joy when Apple finally announced the redesigned 14-inch MacBook Pro. It really is a professional’s dream notebook.

Let’s start with the performance. It’s light years ahead of any other notebook in its class, and you need very high-end desktop processors and graphics cards to match what the M1 Max chip is capable of. And despite all that power, it can easily last all day on battery if all you are doing is browsing the web, answering emails, and taking Zoom calls.

And then there’s the fantastic mini-LED screen. It’s slightly larger now, and it’s super bright, accurate, and vivid. The rest of the notebook is excellent too. The keyboard works, the trackpad remains ginormous and fantastic, the speakers are unbelievably good, and we now have a proper HDMI port and SD card reader, along with multiple USB-C Thunderbolt 4 ports.

Yes, it’ll leave a huge hole in your pocket, but I guarantee you that it will be money well spent. 

Read my review of the 14-inch MacBook Pro here.

Kenny Yeo, Associate Editor

 

Lian Li O11 Dynamic EVO PC casing

The Lian Li PC-O11 Dynamic EVO was launched just a little while ago, with Singapore getting stocks of them sometime next month (according to its distributor, Corbell). But it is already taking the PC enthusiasts community by storm - and for good reasons.

At a glance, the Dynamic EVO looks not that much different from the extremely popular and original PC-O11 but inside of the casing is where all the magic happens.

For starters, the case is now "reversible". So you can orient the case such that its motherboard tray and glass panel faces the left, allowing you to place the casing on the left side of your table and display your internals in all its RGB glory. Lian Li has also made the new Dynamic EVO to be extremely modular, even if it's not very clear from the outside. You can, for example, place the external I/O ports in any direction below the casing.

Inside, you can place your GPU not only horizontally, but also vertically near the front of the casing. There's a slight drawback if you opt to place the GPU here because, one, your graphics card's display outputs are not as easily accessible, and secondly, it seems like that placement also restricts motherboard sizes to no more than standard ATX types. You can still, of course, use an E-ATX motherboard as long as you don't fix your graphics card in the upright position.

Check out the video above that shows you how the new PC-O11 Dynamic EVO casing works. Personally, it's very exciting for me, and I can't wait for our review sample to arrive.

Aaron Yip, Lifestyle & Gaming Editor

 

The Morning Machine

The Morning Machine is my favourite gadget of 2021, and not just because I like to drink coffee.

You see, The Morning Machine is a Nespresso-compatible capsule coffee machine. It takes Nespresso Originaline capsules, now a burgeoning third-party market that ranges from large retail chains to your favourite local speciality coffee roaster. Like many Kickstarter projects, The Morning Machine set out to solve a perceived problem, but unlike many Kickstarter projects, there was actually a niche in the market it could fill, and boy does it deliver.

The Morning Machine marries the simplicity of Nespresso with the complexity of a professional robot barista. It features a built-in scale, dual thermal sensors with a PID controller, and a patent-pending pressure control function called the Intermittent Wave Brewing System that basically gives you complete control of how you can brew your coffee. Through the Morning app, you can access various roaster recipes for specific capsules, or tweak and create your own recipes to your heart's content. It's also a smart machine with a built-in water TDS meter, auto-voltage pump calibration, cup sensors, touch controls, Wi-Fi and app support with regular OTA updates.

But don't let all these features scare you. If you're not as adventurous, or just lazy in the morning, you can also make coffee with 1 button just like a regular Nespresso.

The icing on the cake? It's also considered a Singaporean product. The Morning Machine is the brainchild of Leon Foo of PPP Coffee (and Chye Seng Huat Hardware cafe) fame and Andre Chanco, of Yardstick Coffee in the Philippines. 

You can watch my full Morning Machine video review here. I drink all the recipes and directly compare it with a standard Nespresso machine too.

— Zachary Chan, Editor

 

Intel 12th Gen Core processor - Alder Lake

Intel lays big claims with its new 12th Gen Core processors but delivers in spades too.

While Intel has been comfortably churning out pretty decent mobile processors, the last few years have been harsh on the desktop side of things with AMD's Ryzen processors clawing back hard, not only in value for money, but even raw performance. Intel's 10th Gen Core and 11th Gen Core desktop processor offerings were starting to look long in the tooth even if they've continuously been optimizing them for performance per watt efficiency, squeezing in dedicated silicon to speed up AI tasks and adding in new instructions to support them. They even came with USB and Thunderbolt advancements, but it was ultimately lacklustre, to say the least. Clearly, Intel's manufacturing process has hit a hitch and left Intel vulnerable in making the necessary advancements to leapfrog their competition.

That all finally changed with the arrival of Intel's Alder Lake architecture this year in the form of the Intel 12th Gen Core processor. With an all-new scalable SoC architecture utilising the first-ever high-performance hybrid-core design (through a set of Performance and Efficiency cores) on the new Intel 7 processor technology, the 12th Gen Core was bristling with advancements like smarter, wider, deeper and more efficient pipelining, an updated cache architecture at all levels, advanced smart power management controller, a new Matrix Engine to turbocharge AI acceleration, and Intel Thread Director technology that works in tandem with Windows 11 to dynamically assign instructions/threads to the most ideal core for the task at hand. And that's not yet even factoring in other forward-looking technologies implemented at the platform level such as Wi-Fi 6E, and the first to boast PCIe 5.0 and DDR5 memory technology. 

Simply put, the 12th Gen Core processors are made to take PC gamers and content creators to new heights and with a platform that's choke-full of new technologies to ensure it's not going to be obsolete any time soon. It has the performance to prove its worth too and is without a doubt one of the most important launches of 2021 for the HardwareZone team.

Don't forget to also check out our detailed feature on all things new with memory, overclocking, platform and cooling matters if you're keen on getting on board the 12th Gen Core train.

— Vijay Anand, Editor-in-Chief

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