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The Morning After: Wednesday, October 18th 2017

Robot battles.
Megabots, YouTuve

Welcome to the mid-week Morning After. There's no lack of hardware today, with new Microsoft laptops, Pixel 2 reviews, a smart Sonos speaker and much more. And robot battles.

So long, wobbly fulcrum hinge. Hello, 15-inch beauty.
Surface Book 2 hands-on: The sequel we've been waiting for

The Surface Book 2 sounds like it may fix all of the issues we had with the original model (as well as last year's refresh). It has a stronger hinge, so no more screen-wobble as you're typing, and it's (predictably) more powerful than before. Microsoft also added a 15-inch model, making the Surface Book 2 even more of a competitor to Apple's MacBook Pro line.

The company says the updated model will ship on November 16th but is still being coy about pricing. The Surface Book 2 starts at $1,499 for the Core i5 13-inch model with integrated graphics and $2,499 for the 15-inch model. If you want a Core i7 and a dedicated GPU, be prepared to shell out much more.

Second time's the charm.
Pixel 2 and 2 XL review: Google's best phones get even better

Here's our verdict on Google's second attempt at home-made smartphones. Rather than build two identical Pixels this year, Google decided to make its new small smartphone a little more conservative. But make no mistake: the Pixel 2 is still an incredibly fast phone, and a clean build of Android 8.0 Oreo combined with Google's intelligent features make the device incredibly capable. And its camera? Just fantastic. Because of its more traditional design and smaller battery, though, the Pixel 2 doesn't make as strong an impression as the Pixel XL. Still, if you're looking for a first-rate Android phone that won't make your hands cramp, you'd do well to start your search here.

That gap, though.
ZTE Axon M hands-on: a new hope for dual-screen phones

ZTE is still trying to make dual-screen folding smartphones a thing. However, now that Android supports multi-window apps, the company expects it will get enough buy-in from developers to create a phone that people will actually find useful. The Axon M will be an AT&T exclusive when it arrives in the US next month for 30 monthly payments of $24.17. Reviews Editor Cherlynn Low tried out the Axon M and while she wasn't completely won over, it was at least a little compelling.

If you want clearer music than other smart speakers...
Sonos One review: The best-sounding smart speaker you can buy

According to Nathan Ingraham, the Sonos One offers significantly better music quality than your average Bluetooth or smart speaker without breaking the bank and includes the full Alexa experience. That means it's the first Sonos you can control with your voice. It's also a great first step into a multi-speaker setup for your home. The voice controls may have a few bugs to work out, and Spotify isn't available with full voice control just yet, but more services and features will be added over time -- there's no reason not to dive in now.

The "world's most powerful detachable."
HP ZBook X2 hands-on

HP's latest convertible has a 14-inch 4K display, texturized screen and a stylus that doesn't need a battery. If you need it in laptop form, there's a full-size keyboard to snap on, but that makes it heavier than a MacBook Pro. The ZBook X2 is made for Adobe-suite-using professionals; however our limited hands-on time didn't quite prove its worth as an alternative to devices like a Wacom, iPad Pro or Surface Pro -- even if it is more powerful. Still, those interested can check out the $1,749 ruggedized device when it starts shipping in December.

Instead of portability or power -- why not have both?
Razer upgrades the Blade Stealth laptop with a quad-core processor

Razer has released a version of its 13-inch ultraportable with a quad-core eighth-generation Core i7 processor (namely, the 1.8GHz i7-8550U) inside rather than the usual seventh-gen dual-core chip. There's also a new Core V2 external GPU housing that's better at managing device bandwidth and different types of graphics cards. The quad-core Blade Stealth is available now for $1,700, while its Core V2 partner will go on sale "soon" for $500.

It's all math.
Intel aims to conquer AI with the Nervana processor

Thanks to its purchase of Nervana, the deep learning chipmaker, Intel will ship its first purpose-built AI chips by the end of 2017. The Nervana Neural Processor family (NNP) is ASICS designed to do the matrix multiplication and convolutions necessary for deep learning programs instead of general CPU tasks. Of course, others like NVIDIA, Qualcomm, Google and IBM are already off and running in the artificial-intelligence hardware field, so we'll see if this purchase pays off well enough for Intel to take the lead.

But wait, there's more...

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