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Best Apple iPad Pro alternatives you can buy right now

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If you want the power and functionality of Apple’s top-end slate, but without the premium price or the toxic hellstew software that comes with it, you do have options.

Apple offers three different iPad lines: the iPad Mini 4, iPad 9.7, and iPad Pro (which you can get in either 12.9-inch or 10.5-inch sizes). In our review of the iPad Pro 10.5-inch model earlier this year, we said it totally replaced our MacBook. CNET called it a multitasking, file-sorting king and even named it the best tablet of 2018. As for the 12.9-inch model, it’s a dream for graphic designers, but it’s too large to be easily portable and costs as much as a laptop.


(Image: CNET)

While the smaller iPad Pro starts at around $570, the larger one begins at $880. And if you get it with the Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil, you’re looking at close to $300 more in accessories. Clearly, the iPad Pro isn’t a whim purchase, and if Apple or iOS aren’t your thing, it’s definitely off the table for you. Luckily, as we said, there are alternatives you can buy right now. We’ve also included a couple that are coming soon.

Here are your best options running Android, Chrome OS, or Windows 10. Not all of them are cheaper, but they do provide a computer-like experience in a tablet or hybrid form factor.

Best Apple iPad Pro alternatives you can buy right now

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(Image: CNET)

Microsoft Surface Pro 6

Microsoft offers five different Surface device lines, one of which is Surface Pro. And its latest model — the 12.3-inch Surface Pro 6 — launched Oct. 16. It still has a detachable keyboard, but now comes in a new matte black color and updated eighth-generation Intel Core CPUs.

It offers LTE and up to 16GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD. And while it still has USB-A ports, its display is improved to 267ppi. There’s also an autofocusing 8MP camera for video-chatting and Windows Hello login. You can get the Surface Pro 6 with Microsoft’s Surface Pro Signature Type Cover ($159) and Surface Pen ($99), too. So, if you want an Apple Pencil-like experience, look no further. The Core i5 model with 128GB of RAM starts at $899.

Also: Microsoft Surface Pro 6 review: Racing ahead of last year’s model CNET | Microsoft Surface Pro 6 alternatives you can buy right now

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(Image: Jason Cipriani/ZDNet)

Google Pixelbook

The $999 Pixelbook is another hybrid, meaning it can be used as a laptop or a tablet. This particular form factor doesn’t have a detachable keyboard, but the sturdy hinges easily rotate, so the screen sits flat on the Pixelbook’s body. But what’s most notable about 12.3-inch Pixelbook is the top-of-the-line model is powered by a 1.3GHz quad-core Intel Core i7-7Y75 processor. That’s a high-end Kaby Lake CPU designed for fanless, super-thin laptops.

ZDNet tested the device earlier this year and was able to have 257 tabs open at once and still have memory to spare. So, who should buy this? Anyone who needs a no-holds-barred, great 2-in-1. You also get, for buying it, a terabyte of Google Cloud storage for a year. And it works with an Apple Pencil-like Pixelbook Pen ($99). However, Pixelbook has no LTE and runs Chrome OS, so it won’t have every desktop-class app you may need. But, remember, it does run Android apps.

Also: Google Pixelbook review: The best Chromebook CNET | The Killer Chromebook: Google’s i7 Pixelbook

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(Image: CNET)

Samsung Galaxy Tab S4

The iPad may be the most popular tablet, and it is great for many people, but there are some key business features missing from the iPad, including limited keyboard and no mouse support. The $650 Galaxy Tab S4 is a better option that functions much more like a computer in a lighter, portable form factor. It’s an Android tablet, with the Book Cover keyboard designed for business use. You can use it for typing, storing the S Pen, and tablet protection.

What we like most about the 10.5-inch Tab S4 is it includes LTE, Samsung DeX integration, mouse support, S Pen functionality with Air Command utilities, and a multi-window capability. You can also use the tablet as a touch pad, digitizer, or touch keyboard when connected to an external monitor. The Wi-Fi model with 64GB internal storage starts at $650.

Also: Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 review: A premium tablet CNET | Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 review: An Android tablet built for business

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(Image: CNET)

Lenovo Yoga 920

The 13.9-inch Lenovo Yoga 920 is a top-end Windows 10 convertible. It improves on the company’s premium two-in-one ultraportable by adding active pen support and Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports, and by throwing in an eighth-generation Intel Core i-series processor for better performance and a long battery life. CNET said the super-slim bezels around its display, all-metal chassis, and unique watchband 360-degree hinge make it seem like a premium laptop.

In our review, we said it’s a good convertible laptop with minor niggles, like the lack of LTE and an SD card reader, and its price. The Core i7 model with 8GB of RAM starts at $1,399.

Also: Lenovo Yoga 920 review: One of the best 2-in-1 laptops CNET | Lenovo Yoga 920 review: A premium 2-in-1 convertible

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(Image: CNET)

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet (third-generation)

In our review of the latest generation, we said it’s designed to compete with Apple’s 12.9-inch iPad Pro, as it brings tablet computing into the office without compromising on traditional laptop features. It should be the only laptop a mobile professional needs. The 13-inch tablet is very solid, and its durable kickstand hinge supports a wide range of angles. The keyboard is detachable, too, so you can get the full Windows 10 tablet experience.

Plus, there’s an LTE variant.

The only drawback is it isn’t cheap. The Core i5 model with 8GB of RAM starts at $1,290.

Also: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet review: A Surface-like tablet CNET | Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet 3rd Gen review: A top-quality 2-in-1

Best Apple iPad Pro alternatives that are coming soon

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(Image: CNET)

Samsung Galaxy Book 2

We had to include this one — even though you can’t buy it until Nov. 2. Arriving as a successor to last year’s 12-inch Galaxy Book, the $1,000 Galaxy Book 2 runs Windows 10 S and comes with 128GB storage, 4GB RAM, an 8MP rear and 5MP front camera, two USB-C ports, and a microSD slot. An S Pen and keyboard come bundled together with purchase.

It’s also one of the first devices to use the Snapdragon 850 platform, which promises Gigabit LTE connectivity and a 20-hours battery life. While not a traditional tablet, the Galaxy Book 2 can be used as one, and CNET thinks it’ll be great for those of you who want to work anywhere, anytime.

Also: Samsung Galaxy Book (12-inch) review: A great Windows tablet CNET | Samsung unveils Always Connected Galaxy Book 2 PC

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(Image: CNET)

Google Pixel Slate

When CNET checked out the just-announced 12-inch Pixel Slate, it described the device as a convertible tablet-meets-Chromebook with detachable keyboard that’s basically the iPad keyboard we’ve all wanted for years: one with a touchpad, one that feels like a laptop, and one that adds front and back protection to the tablet when traveling. The Slate is clearly designed to go up against the Microsoft Surface and its workplace-meets-tablet design, but it also seems to come within striking distance of the iPad Pro, especially in terms of price.

The model with Core i5 and 16GB of RAM starts at $599 and will be available from November. It can be paired with the Pixel Slate Keyboard ($199) and Pixelbook Pen ($99). It’s honestly a perfect model for where Apple should take its iPad next. Our only problem with it is the lack of LTE and good desktop-class apps, which can make it a problematic purchase.

Also: Google Pixel Slate, hands-on: the keyboard’s the best feature CNET | Google’s Pixel Slate problem: The Android apps are awful


For more great deals on devices, gadgetry, and technology for your enterprise, business, or home office, see ZDNet’s Business Bargain Hunter blog. Affiliate disclosure: ZDNet earns commission from the products and services featured on this page.

Previous and related coverage:

Apple to hold iPad Pro event on Oct. 30 in New York

The company is expected to announce new iPad models and possibly update its MacBook lineup.

Here’s the next iPad Pro Apple should build: Specs and speculation

Apple’s third-generation iPad Pro is likely to have important but incremental improvements over its predecessor and include technologies introduced in the iPhone X.

New iPad Pro: Fantasy features list

I’ve not owned an iPad in years, but if Apple updated the iPad Pro and added the following features, I’d be the first in line to buy a new one.

Apple iPad Pro Review: A superb tablet waiting for its time to shine

It’s hard to review the new iPad Pro without peering into the future and thinking of its true potential once iOS 11 is released.

I tried to write this article on an iPad Pro. It didn’t go well

Apple keeps insisting an iPad Pro is a computer. So could I switch to it from a MacBook Air?

New iPad Pro 2018: All the rumors on specs, prices, and features CNET

Will the new iPad Pro show up at Apple’s upcoming event?

The iPad Pro 2018 models: 8 things the pros need TechRepublic

The iPad Pro is Apple’s effort to build a tablet for the enterprise, but it would be a better business tool with these features.

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Clubhouse gives musicians a new high quality audio mode – TechCrunch

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Clubhouse added a new “music mode” this week, doubling down its commitment to centering social audio in all its permutations. The new music mode will give musicians who play live on the social network their own special set of tools to optimize sound quality and will hit iOS first before rolling out to Android.

Clubhouse didn’t get too into the audiophile weeds with the announcement, but the company said the new feature would allow users to “broadcast with high quality and great stereo sound” — prerequisites for a rich listening experience. The company says that music mode will also make it possible to hook pro-level audio equipment like mixing boards and mics into Clubhouse.

Image Credits: Clubhouse

In late August, Clubhouse made another investment in audio quality with spatial audio, a feature that gives listeners a sense that different speakers in one of its group audio rooms are speaking from different physical locations — an effect more akin to how we’d perceive a real-life social interaction.

To turn on music mode as a speaker, tap the three dots in the upper right corner and choose “audio quality” then select “music.” Clubhouse’s replayable clips will also support the higher quality audio in their recordings. Beyond music mode, Clubhouse is moving its search bar to the top of the feed, and users can now wave at each other through the search bar on iOS.

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Core might be the Vegas of the metaverse – TechCrunch

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A self-described “endless arcade,” Core feels like a 90s cyberpunk fever dream come to life. Half playable game library, half no-code game creator, all neon lights, the new platform is a surprisingly well-realized vision of this metaverse thing everyone sure seems to be talking about lately.

Billing itself as your “portal to the multiverse,” Core is primed to test the age-old proposition If you build it, they will come. Giant companies like Roblox and Facebook might have huge established platforms, but Core has laid some very compelling groundwork for creators and players alike.

Logging in, players are transported to Core’s central hub, a fitting cross between a theme park, a high-tech mall and a casino, with entertainment and shopping a few gravitationally unburdened strides away in every direction. Giant neon signs beckon, enticing players to hop into myriad user-generated virtual worlds. Swapping out clothing and in-game gear or inviting a friend to jump in with you takes only a few clicks and just cruising around and people watching is plenty interesting.

If Core looks a lot like Fortnite, that’s not a coincidence. Core, made by Manticore Games, runs on Fortnite-maker Epic’s Unreal engine. And those ties are even deeper: Epic led a $15 million round of investment in the company last year and the platform is exclusively available through the Epic Games Store for PC. In March, Manticore raised $100 million more from a grab bag of major investors and took its creator platform live.

Core might not be a household name yet, but it’s already nailed one of the challenges that any metaverse aspirant has to crack. In my time playing around with Core, the experience of getting from one place to another was often so seamless I wound up in the wrong place by accident. Chalk this up to user error, but instantly being transported — to a Deadmau5 show, to an overgrown dystopian wasteland, to a isometric pirate game — after walking through various portals was one of the more seamless online multiplayer experiences I’ve had more than a decade of those games.

Core looks great. That’s one strike against Roblox, one of the most successful companies building out a vision for the metaverse. Much like Fortnite, Core’s graphics are cartoony but not too cartoony. Roblox’s under-13 crowd is aging up — a factor that company is actively planning around — and those not-so-young players will be looking for a new virtual home. Any aspiring edgelord would be able to take themselves plenty seriously with Core’s wide selection of custom outfits and avatars. Or you could be a kitty.

Deadmau5, metaverse resident

Most of Core’s content is UGC, a.k.a. user-generated content, a new-ish name for an era-defining online phenomenon (don’t blame yourself if the acronym evokes mixed martial arts). But Manticore also has plenty of room to partner up with musicians and brands for elaborate themed in-game experiences.

This week, DJ and EDM festival perennial Deadmau5 launched his own, a sprawling, colorful series of experiences described as a “permanent residency in the metaverse.” Core is mostly home to user-made games, but it’s also a natural fit for entertainment and even education — the team noted that some users started hosting game development classes.

Unlike recent shows in other virtual worlds like Lil Nas X in Roblox or Ariana Grande in Fortnite, the Deadmau5-themed content will stay live after it debuts for anyone to explore. The team at Manticore likened this to how performers like Penn and Teller camp out in Las Vegas for ongoing shows, and the metaphor is very appropriate. But unlike Vegas, performers can be in two places at once: Deadmau5 also announced he’d participate in a music festival hosted on the Ethereum-based virtual platform Decentraland this week.

I watched the show with Deadmau5, né Joel Zimmerman, for an early sneak preview. He wore one of his signature giant animal helmets (I think a cat?) and cyborg angel wings, while I opted for an understated black hoodie, the little black dress of the metaverse.

“I think what drew me to it was the modularity of it all and how it gives more tools to creators,” Zimmerman told me, hopping around wildly in Core while reclining IRL in a gaming chair emblazoned with the Deadmau5 mouse.

Like we’ve come to expect from virtual concerts, the interactive performance is well-stocked with melting psychedelic visuals, mini games and a menacing Chain Chomp-esque mouse with turntable ears. Zimmerman and Core co-founders Frederic Descamps and Jordan Maynard who also ran around the show with me had seen it at least 10 times, but everyone still seemed to genuinely be having fun.

At some point I either fell into lava or got smashed on a conveyer belt by a massive metal fist while a Deadmau5-themed villain loomed nearby. “I think it’s the only interactive concert you can die in,” Maynard said. The show was visually a lot of fun, creatively interactive and ultimately a lot like concerts in Fortnite, which sets a high bar for this stuff.

The elaborate virtual experience, called Oberhasli, also showcases some unique worlds created by fans with no prior game dev experience, from an eerie jungle ruin to a spooky world full of floating space debris. The Core Deadmau5 performance kicks off on Friday at 3 PM PT. It’ll replay over the weekend and be available on demand afterward, for anyone else who’d like to be smashed into an EDM pancake.

Core for creators

Later on our call, held on Discord, the Core tour devolved into everyone running through a secret gate behind a destructible wall and world-hopping wildly through game genres, each remarkably polished for something that doesn’t require any code or game development experience. Moving from one game world to another took seconds even with a terrible wifi connection, including the time I ran through something that looked like World of Warcraft’s dark portal and wound up sailing an isometric pirate ship.

The WoW nod is probably not a coincidence. Descamps waxed nostalgic about the heyday of WoW machinima, narrative movies built through captured gameplay, like only a serious longtime player could. Descamps and Maynard also previously worked on Rift, another fantasy MMO that still commands a loyal following a decade on. (Maynard was employee number seven.) Everyone is raving about the metaverse these days, but surprisingly few companies in the space trace their roots back to the seamless virtual gaming worlds that have brought people together for years.

Core screenshot gameplay

Image Credits: Manticore

To underline how easy it is to make stuff in Core, Maynard quick-built a first-person shooter for us to play, a drag-and-drop process that took maybe two minutes of dipping into Core’s huge library of original in-game assets that were created using its system. Grab a handful of 3D objects and pick a game mode from the template choices (battle royale, racing or dungeon crawler?) and you’re most of the way to a polished-looking playable game built in Core’s modular sandbox. Setting your game in a chilly snowscape or a barren desert is also as simple as dragging and dropping, lending the environments an expansive feel.

Gameplay aside, out of the box Core games look light years better than the UGC you’d run across in Roblox, though that platform’s users have never seemed to mind. The breadth of visual styles and game genres is also mind-boggling for anyone who’s bounced out of samey UGC on other platforms.

Core users who create content have a pretty good swath of monetization options, which Manticore calls “perks.” That includes offering in-game cosmetic items, but also charging for premium games, selling Fortnite-like battle passes or implementing a subscription model. The revenue split is 50/50, which looks generous next to the 25% that Roblox passes on to creators. And in Core, like in other modular game-making platforms, everyone is a creator — no development experience needed.

Core is PC-only for now, but Manticore plans to bring it to other platforms, including iOS, starting next year. Game creation will likely stay limited to PC, but the idea is that anyone could play Core games anywhere, a platform agnostic vision that certainly boosted Fortnite early on and Roblox more recently.

“[Game development] is kind of like baking: a very precise formula, technical, can take weeks to iterate,” Descamps said. But in Core, the technical stuff gets out of the way and a process that would normally drag on can happen in minutes, leaving the rest of the time for experimentation and play.

“What if you put a portal gun into Mario Kart?” Maynard asked, and I’m fairly certain we could have found out right then.

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WhatsApp now lets users encrypt their chat backups in the cloud – TechCrunch

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WhatsApp is beginning to roll out a new feature that will provide its two billion users the option to encrypt their chat history backup in iCloud or Google Drive, patching a major loophole that has been exploited by governments to obtain and review private communication between individuals.

WhatsApp has long encrypted chats between users on its app. But users have had no means to protect the backup of those chats stored in the cloud. (For iPhone users, the chat history is stored in iCloud, and Android users rely on Google Drive.)

It has been widely reported that law enforcement agencies across the globe have been able to access the private communications between suspect individuals on WhatsApp by exploiting this loophole.

WhatsApp, which processes over 100 billion messages a day, is closing that weak link, and tells TechCrunch that it’s providing this new feature to users in every market where the app is operational. The feature is optional, the company said. (It’s not uncommon for companies to withhold privacy features for legal and regulatory reasons. Apple’s new encrypted browsing feature isn’t available to users in certain authoritarian regimes, such as China, Belarus, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan, Uganda and the Philippines.)

Mark Zuckerberg, founder and chief executive of Facebook, noted that WhatsApp is the first global messaging service at this scale to offer end-to-end encrypted messaging and backups. “Proud of the team for continuing to lead on security for your private conversations,” he wrote in a post on his Facebook page.

WhatsApp began testing the feature with a small group of users last month. The company devised a system to enable WhatsApp users on Android and iOS to lock their chat backups with encryption keys. WhatsApp says it will offer users two ways to encrypt their cloud backups.

Users on WhatsApp will see an option to generate a 64-digit encryption key to protect their chat backups in the cloud. Users can store the encryption key offline or in a password manager of their choice, or they can create a password that backs up their encryption key in a cloud-based “backup key vault” that WhatsApp has developed. The cloud-stored encryption key can’t be used without the user’s password, which isn’t known to WhatsApp.

“While end-to-end encrypted messages you send and receive are stored on your device, many people also want a way to back up their chats in case they lose their phone,” the company wrote in a blog post.

The feature can be accessible by navigating to Settings > Chats > Chat Backups > End-to-End Encrypted Backup (WhatsApp)

As we wrote last month, the move to introduce this additional layer of privacy is significant and one that can have far-reaching implications.

Thoughts, governments?

End-to-end encryption remains a thorny topic of discussion as governments across the globe continue to lobby for backdoors. Apple was pressured to not add encryption to iCloud Backups after the FBI complained, according to Reuters, and while Google has offered users the ability to encrypt their data stored in Google Drive, the company reportedly didn’t tell governments before it rolled out the feature.

India, WhatsApp’s biggest market by users, has introduced a new law that requires the company to devise a way to make “traceability” of questionable messages possible. WhatsApp has sued the Indian government over this new mandate, and said such a requirement effectively mandates “a new form of mass surveillance.”

The UK government — which isn’t exactly a fan of encryption — recently asked messaging apps to not use end-to-end encryption for kids’ accounts. Elsewhere in the world, Australia passed controversial laws three years ago that are designed to force tech companies to provide police and security agencies access to encrypted chats.

WhatsApp declined to discuss whether it had consulted about the new feature with lawmakers or government agencies.

Privacy-focused organizations including Electronic Frontier Foundation have lauded WhatsApp’s move.

“This privacy win from Facebook-owned WhatsApp is striking in its contrast to Apple, which has been under fire recently for its plans for on-device scanning of photos that minors send on Messages, as well as of every photo that any Apple user uploads to iCloud. While Apple has paused to consider more feedback on its plans, there’s still no sign that they will include fixing one of its longstanding privacy pitfalls: no effective encryption across iCloud backups,” the organization wrote.

“WhatsApp is raising the bar, and Apple and others should follow suit.”

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