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Mini-review: Dell’s XPS 15 9520 is a low-key improvement to an established design If previous XPS 15 models have turned you off, this one won’t change your mind.

Even as an iterative update to an existing computer, Dell's XPS 15 9520 is pretty mild. It's super-iterative. The only thing that separates it from the XPS 15 9510 we reviewed last year is that it swaps the 11th-generation Intel processors for 12th-gen versions. Everything else, from the design to the screen to the GPU, is the same (unless you count changing the foreshortened Windows 10-era rectangle logo on the Windows key to a square Windows 11-era logo).

So we won't spend much time redescribing things about this laptop that we have already mentioned. Weighing just a bit over four pounds, this is still a computer made for people who want more power than a 13- or 14-inch laptop can provide, but who still care enough about size and weight that they don't want to graduate to a full-size desktop or a bulky gaming laptop.

It still has a nice slim-bezel screen, a huge trackpad, a comfortable keyboard with firm-but-not-too-firm keys and a pleasing amount of travel, and Thunderbolt and USB-C ports for accessories and charging (plus a single SD card reader and a headphone jack). A fingerprint reader, face-scanning Windows Hello-compatible IR camera, and a 720p webcam and speakers (serviceable-but-middling in both cases) round out the basic amenities.

It is worth reiterating some of the finer technical points for people who don't want to fish them out of a year-old review. The two ports on the laptop's left are Thunderbolt 4, while the port on the right is plain-old USB-C. It retains a pair of RAM slots for removable DDR5 memory modules (an upgrade from last year's DDR4), plus an extra M.2 2280 slot for a second NVMe SSD. The system's 130 W power brick uses a USB-C connector, but it's still technically proprietary—you can charge the laptop at a slower rate with any old USB-C charger, but you may still need to use Dell's for full power and performance.

The XPS 15 retains a nice, huge trackpad and a keyboard with a pleasing combination of firmness and travel. It's not the best laptop keyboard we've used, but it's comfortable.
Enlarge / The XPS 15 retains a nice, huge trackpad and a keyboard with a pleasing combination of firmness and travel. It's not the best laptop keyboard we've used, but it's comfortable.
Andrew Cunningham

We tested the model with the 3456×2160 OLED display, which sits in the middle of the entry-level 1920×1200 IPS panel and the top-end 3840×2400 IPS panel. It's nice to have the option for people who prefer OLED's infinite contrast, but the slight graininess (especially visible when looking at flat, textureless fields of white or color) and oversaturated colors are the prices you'll pay. The screen's max brightness of 404 nits and its 100 percent sRGB and 99.4 percent DCI-P3 gamut coverage (as measured by an i1Display Studio colorimeter) are all good, though.

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Performance and battery life

Compared to the Core i7-11800H in our review model from last year, the 12700H jettisons two big CPU cores and replaces them with eight efficiency cores, a trade-off that isn't noticeable in single-threaded or lightly threaded tasks but does provide a modest boost for CPU-heavy rendering or video transcoding tests. Here are some of the systems we're comparing:

  • The Dell XPS 15 9520, with a Core i7-12700H (6 P-cores, 8 E-cores), 16GB of DDR5 RAM, and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti GPU.
  • The Dell XPS 15 9510, with a Core i7-11800H (eight P-cores), 16GB of DDR4 RAM, and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti GPU.
  • Microsoft's Surface Laptop Studio, with a Core i7-11370H (four P-cores), 16GB of LPDDR4X RAM, and an Nvidia RTX A2000 GPU.
  • Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10, with a Core i7-1260P (four P-cores, eight E-cores), 16GB of 5200 MHz LPDDR5 RAM, and an Intel Iris Xe integrated GPU with 96 EUs (results shown are in "Best Performance" power mode).
  • Lenovo's ThinkPad Z13 Gen 1 has an AMD Ryzen 7 Pro 6850U (eight P-cores), 16GB of 6400 MHz LPDDR5 RAM, and an AMD Radeon 680M integrated GPU with 12 GPU cores (results shown are in "Best Performance" power mode).
  • The 14-inch MacBook Pro, with an M1 Pro (eight P-cores, two E-cores), 32GB of LPDDR5 RAM, and a 16-core GPU.

The 9520 is still decent as a low-end to mid-range gaming laptop, but its Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 and 3050 Ti GPU options are the same as last year, so it should come as no surprise that they perform the same, too. You might notice some differences here or there in games that are CPU limited (see the improved CPU subscore in 3DMark), but the GPU will be the bottleneck in most games.

As it was last year, Dell's default performance tuning (the "Optimized" setting, in the BIOS under the "Power" menu or in the My Dell app) prioritizes reasonably cool and quiet operation, with average CPU temperatures hovering in the mid-80° Celsius range during an extended Handbrake video encoding job. The result is a CPU that occasionally improves a lot compared to its most direct predecessor, and sometimes doesn't improve at all; the new XPS 15 was 13 percent faster than the old one in our Handbrake test and 33 percent faster in Geekbench's and Cinebench's multi-core tests, but there's effectively no difference in any single-core test.

But as in every review of every Alder Lake desktop or laptop CPU we've tested, giving the processor the extra power it so desperately wants can have an outsize impact on sustained performance. Setting the performance level to "Ultra Performance" in the BIOS raises the CPU's thermal and power limits, which bumped up speeds across the board in our benchmarks.

We observed the most noticeable differences in sustained multi-core tests and in single-core tests, with only minor differences in lighter multi-core workloads and GPU-centric tests. With more power, the laptop is about 12.5 percent faster in Handbrake than it is with its default power settings and a more-impressive 24 percent faster than its predecessor. In this mode, CPU temperatures are allowed to hang out in the high-90s rather than the mid-80s—the PL1/PL2 levels as reported by HWinfo were inconsistent, maxing out at a value of 76/115 W, but the boost seems to be coming mostly from that increased thermal limit.

The XPS 15 9520 manages slightly better battery life than a 9510 configured with the exact same screen and GPU.
Enlarge / The XPS 15 9520 manages slightly better battery life than a 9510 configured with the exact same screen and GPU.
Andrew Cunningham

While thin-and-light laptop battery life has suffered at the hands of 12th-gen Intel CPUs, the new XPS 15 actually did a bit better than the similarly configured last-gen model in our PCMark battery life test (this was run in Optimized mode, though we've found that PCMark's results don't vary much regardless of the power settings you're using). That may be because so many thin-and-light laptops, including the X1 Carbon Gen 10 and this year's various XPS 13 models, also climbed up a rung on Intel's performance and power use ladder in the jump from 11th- to 12th-gen. This didn't happen for the XPS 15; both the 9510 and 9520 use H-series processors with similar TDPs. In any case, the new XPS 15 doesn't ask you to sacrifice battery life for better multithreaded performance as many 12th-gen laptops do.

At least there’s no downside

Dell's XPS 15 9520.
Enlarge / Dell's XPS 15 9520.
SPECS AT A GLANCE: DELL XPS 15 9520
DISPLAY 15.6-inch 3456×2160 OLED  touchscreen (261 PPI)
OS Windows 11 Home
CPU Intel Core i7-12700H (six P-cores, eight E-cores)
RAM 16GB 4800 MHz DDR5 (2 DIMMs)
GPU Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti (4GB, 45 W)
STORAGE 512GB NVMe SSD
NETWORKING Wi-Fi 6E (802.11ax), Bluetooth 5.2
BATTERY 86 Wh
PORTS 2x Thunderbolt 4, 1x USB-C 3.2 gen 2, SD card reader, headphones
SIZE 13.57×9.06×0.17 inches (344.7×230.1×18.0 mm)
WEIGHT 4.31 pounds (1.96kg)
WARRANTY 1 year
PRICE AS REVIEWED $1,949 at Dell

Any other year, a laptop that was a bit faster than its predecessor without being worse in any notable way would be completely unremarkable. But Intel's P-series 12th-generation chips have delivered mixed benefits for thin-and-light PCs, with sometimes-impressive performance increases offset by frustrating heat and battery life regressions.

The XPS 15 9520 avoids those downsides. Its battery life is a bit better than the model we tested last year with the exact same screen and GPU in it, and its CPU performance is a solid step up. As with last year's model, we appreciate that Dell's default power tuning offers a good mix of performance along with reasonable heat and fan noise. And par for the course with Intel's Alder Lake CPUs, you have the option of significantly increasing your performance if you raise the processor's power limits and don't mind the accompanying temperature increases.

If you have a laptop you bought in the last two or three years and you're still reasonably happy with it, you might be better off waiting for next year's XPS 15, which will hopefully include a new GPU and a tweaked 13th-generation CPU. But if you have something older and you want or need a replacement today, there's no reason to avoid the 9520, which is higher praise than it ought to be.

The good

  • Nice design that blends power and portability
  • Good performance, with an option for better performance if you're OK with letting the CPU run hotter
  • Default power settings are tuned for reasonably cool, quiet operation
  • Respectable keyboard and trackpad
  • Decent battery life for the size

The bad

  • OLED display option has nice contrast but looks grainy
  • No GPU upgrade from the previous model and no option to use anything more powerful than an RTX 3050 Ti

The ugly

  • Other workstation-y laptops offer more ports, both in quantity and variety

MacBook self-repair program highlights Apple’s flawed reparability progress

Apple's more amenable to self-repairs, but complex processes and designs are limiting.

The front of a closed, silver-colored laptop on a table

On Tuesday, Apple expanded its self-service repair program to M1-based MacBooks. Giving customers repair manuals and the ability to buy parts and buy or rent tools for M1 MacBook Airs and M1 MacBook Pros is a far cry from the Apple of yesteryear. After a few days of availability, the MacBook self-repair program shows welcome progress, but work is still needed before Apple is considered a true right-to-repair ally.

The past few days have seen numerous right-to-repair activists critique Apple's MacBook self-repair program. Perhaps most notable is a strongly worded blog from iFixit, which said the program "manages to make MacBooks seem less repairable." While iFixit found the MacBook Air repair manual to be "in-depth, mostly logical, and well worth an additional repairability point," it was less impressed with the MacBook Pro repair manuals.

iFixit focused heavily on Apple's approach to MacBook Pro battery replacements, citing the natural degradation of lithium batteries. Apple's 13, 14, and 16-inch 2021 MacBook Pro self-repair manuals say that to replace the battery, you need to remove far more than just the battery. The manuals instruct users to remove the entire top case, bottom case, battery management unit, flex cable, lid angle sensor, the trackpad and its flex cable, the vent/antenna module, the logic board, display hinge covers, the display, the laptop's audio board, fans, the MagSafe 3 board, as well as the USB-C boards and Touch ID board.

From Apple's 14-inch M1 MacBook Pro repair manual.
From Apple's 14-inch M1 MacBook Pro repair manual.
Apple

That requires you to read through most of the 160-plus-page manual, which warns that "the battery is part of the top case" and that you shouldn't try to separate the two. The manuals also note that the top case includes the BMU board, keyboard, keyboard flex cable, mic, and speakers, which are all "nonremoveable."

Basically disassembling and reassembling a laptop to change its battery, a part known to need replacement after time, isn't user-friendly or... typical. iFixit, for example, has a MacBook Pro 14-inch 2021 battery replacement guide that breaks the process down into 26 steps and removes mostly just the bottom case, trackpad, and battery board.

And a quick look at repair manuals for other PCs, such as Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 Carbon [PDF] or HP's Zbook Fury G8 have simpler, shorter battery replacement processes. Although, those designs differ from Apple's MacBook Pros.

To replace the battery on an M1 MacBook Pro via Apple's Self-Service Repair Store, you'll have to buy an entire top case, too, which will run you about $527-$615, minus an $88 credit if you send back your original part (you can see a deeper price breakdown in this handy price list from The Verge). That's a steep price to pay for a new battery, especially if everything else is working.

Apple says it will eventually sell individual battery replacements for M1 MacBook Pros but hasn't specified when. Until then, battery replacements done the Apple Self Repair Store Way are wildly time-consuming and expensive.

"... Apple is presenting DIY repairers with an excruciating gauntlet of hurdles: read 162 pages of documentation without getting intimidated and decide to do the repair anyway, pay an exorbitant amount of money for an overkill replacement part, decide whether you want to drop another 50 bucks on the tools they recommend, and do the repair yourself within 14 days, including completing the System Configuration to pair your part with your device. Which makes us wonder, does Apple even want better repairability?" iFixit's content adviser, Sam Goldheart, wrote.

iFixit's blog notes that Apple isn't the only company to group self-service battery replacement with other repairs. The screen-battery replacement kit for the Samsung Galaxy S21 is an example. But Apple's offense, iFixit argues, is worse.

"Apple requiring keyboard and top case replacements is worse than the Samsung OEM display assembly because it makes the repair significantly more difficult, requiring you to disassemble the entire device to replace a battery," Elizabeth Chamberlain, iFixit's director of sustainability, told Ars. She noted that while the S21's battery-display assembly is "also unfortunate," it simplifies battery replacement.

iFixit's blog also lamented the mysterious disappearance of repair manuals for the 21.5-inch and 27-inch iMacs that Apple published in 2019. We reached out to Apple asking about its reasoning and will update this if we hear back. But there's hope that the manuals could return at some point (perhaps amended) as Apple continues expanding its self-service repair program.

A less pricey concern is replacing the M1 MacBook Air's keyboard function row. It costs the same amount of money, $39, to replace it as it does to replace the keycaps on the keyboard. As The Verge pointed out, Apple, in a move that feels painfully wasteful in more ways than one, will sell users seven sets of function row keycaps for that price.

At Apple’s whim

Because Apple's in charge of its self-serviceability efforts, there's concern that Apple's store will eventually make parts unavailable, limiting future self-repairs.

"They're likely to phase out product part availability before the real life span of the hardware (our office is full of 2012 MacBook Pros, for instance)," Chamberlain told Ars.

Right-to-repair legislation has seen notable movement of late, including the first right-to-repair bill for electronics passing in New York. iFixit argued that further legislation is still necessary, despite Apple becoming more amenable to self-repairs. Because just as easily as Apple decided to better accommodate self-repairs, it can change its mind.

Repairing an M1 MacBook.
Repairing an M1 MacBook.

"When we're at the whims of manufacturers, we get repair on their terms," Chamberlain said. "Apple can take away product part support and repair manuals at any time—proven by the fact that they took down the 2019 iMac manuals."

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More easily repairable, not upgradeable

A big driver of the right-to-repair movement is reducing the environmental impact of our love of gadgets. When it comes to making laptops more green, the object, with the ultimate result of less consumption, is greater upgradeability and repairability. Apple's Self Service Repair Store, as the name suggests, completely focuses on repairability and does not address its products' upgradeability weaknesses.

Since Apple debuted its self-service repair store with some iPhones in April, a top complaint has been its requirement of serial numbers or IMEI serving as an obstacle for third-party parts.

This week, 9to5Mac reportedly spoke to an Apple Self Service Repair Store support member, who told the website that any parts purchased have to match the original configuration of the owned MacBook, otherwise "you may encounter an issue that prevents the completion of the repair." The store is supposed to prevent and automatically cancel orders that don't match your original configuration, preventing upgrades.

This is on top of Apple making many products that are inherently not user-upgradeable, sometimes in the name of potential performance gains or improved experiences. Things like soldered-down NAND chips, proprietary screws, and components that are only sold to Apple-authorized repair stores continue to limit how much customers and third-party repair shops can do on their own.

As tech blog KnowTechie wrote this week, it can be hard for such repair shops to find certain MacBook components, resulting, at times, in full logic board replacements when a cheap chip fails and higher repair costs for consumers.

Give Apple a little credit

We've detailed some of the flaws in Apple's self-repair program, but it's still in its infancy. So far, it only pertains to M1 MacBooks, the latest iPhone SE, the iPhone 12 lineup, and iPhone 13 series. Apple plans to bring the program to other unspecified Macs later this year.

As it stands, though, the program represents an improvement for Apple, which just a year ago shared only a scant number of repair manuals online. Now, it's not only providing manuals for modern iPhones and some MacBooks, albeit with some of the lost iMac manuals, but it also has a system for buying parts at, generally speaking, reasonable prices and buying or renting tools.

Apple has also enabled independent repairs of parts that, before, you either couldn't fix on your own or required an authorized Apple partner to repair, such as the Touch ID Board.

Further, the MacBook Air manuals have been received with warmer regard, and Apple should, if you take its word for it, sell M1 MacBook Pro batteries without top cases... eventually.

Yes, the tool rental process requires a hefty security deposit and some literal heavy lifting. And there are still many products not yet accounted for in the store. Still, considering it wasn't too long ago that Apple was actively lobbying against right-to-repair legislation, it feels like the company has made incremental improvements.

That's not to say Apple is now your friendly neighborhood right-to-repair tech giant. But it's at least showing a willingness to play ball... even if it then slathers that ball in cumbersome repair instructions, an imperfect tool rental process, and IMEI requirements.

An iPhone undergoes repairs.
Enlarge / An iPhone undergoes repairs.

Despite its criticisms, iFixit agreed that Apple's efforts deserve some applause.

"We're really glad to see Apple finally making moves toward a more-open repair ecosystem," Chamberlain said. "We're definitely reading it as a sign that Apple knows they need to make some concessions to the Right to Repair movement."

What would be even more promising is seeing Apple's approach to repairability evolve. It has yet to address current concerns, such as IMEI requirements. And, for better or worse, there's no talk of Apple dramatically changing design strategies to make its upscale devices easier to dismantle and repair or upgrade at home.

However, we look forward to Apple's next addition to the Self Service Repair Store to see if it takes any notes on things like greater product representation (bringing back those iMac manuals would be a good start) and offering simpler processes for common tasks, like battery replacement.

Google tests battery-conserving feature perfect for hoarding tabs

Google is exploring making Chromebooks idle Chrome tabs more quickly.

Google is testing a method to boost the battery life of Chromebooks by changing how they work with the Chrome web browser. It's shaping up to be a potentially attractive update for users who leave a lot of tabs open on their Chromebooks.

Google Chrome currently cuts the CPU time and throttles the CPU load for any tab you haven't touched or looked at for five minutes. Google calls this "intensive throttling of JavaScript timer wake up," and it's supposed to help conserve system battery life. The feature also makes the page wake up once every 60 seconds to check if you're actively using the tab again.

It seems Google is interested in pushing the idea even further, at least for Chromebook users. About Chromebooks this week spotted a new flag in Chrome OS 105, currently being tested in the dev channel, that changes this five-minute period to 10 seconds.

"This is expected to extend battery life," the Chrome feature page reads. "An experiment on the Canary and Dev channels did not reveal any regression to our guiding metrics, and there are significant improvements (~10 percent) to CPU time when all tabs are hidden and silent."

As About Chromebooks pointed out, the expected benefits would grow as more browser tabs are opened. In this scenario, JavaScript code should use 10 percent less energy, but that's just one of many things that can drain a Chromebook's battery life at any moment.

This feature is still under development; should it reach the general public, it isn't expected until Chrome OS 105. Most Chromebooks currently run Chrome OS 103.

Upcoming RISC-V laptop promises free silicon upgrades

The clamshell computer should bring the open ISA to a new form.

The world's first laptop to use the RISC-V open source instruction set architecture (ISA) will reportedly start shipping in September.

The Roma laptop is available for preorder on Xcalibyte's website, but the site merely takes interested parties' information without providing much detail or any pricing. According to a report from The Register on Friday, the laptop will start shipping in September, according to spokespeople from Xcalibyte, which did system tuning for the laptop; a company called DeepComputing, which engineered the laptop; and RISC-V International.

According to the announcement from DeepComputing (which shares the same CEO with Xcalibyte, The Register reported), the Roma uses an unspecified quad-core processor with a 28 nm or, for the "pro" version, 12 nm node in a system-on-module (SoM) package. There's also an Arm SecurCore SC300 security enclave processor, an unnamed GPU and neural processing unit, and a feature accelerator.

The system-on-chip's motherboard is supposed to be user-upgradeable, too. DeepComputing's announcement said that owners of a Roma will have access to SoC and SoM upgrades for free.

"The Roma platform will benefit developers who want to test their software running natively on RISC-V, and it should be easy to transfer code developed on this platform to embedded systems," Mark Himelstein, CTO for RISC-V International, said in RISC-V International's blog post on Friday.

RISC-V processors are typically less powerful than the more common x86-64 or Arm chips, but they have more open intellectual property, so it's easier for anyone to make RISC-V CPUs. We've seen RISC-V adopted in products like the BeagleBoard V single-board computer, embedded processors, and development kits, as well as for enterprise workloads, like high-performance computing. But the Roma is the first RISC-V product announced in laptop form.

"This design is a crucial bridge between development boards and RISC-V-based business laptops that will be used for day-to-day work," Calista Redmond, CEO of RISC-V International, said on the nonprofit's blog.

Beyond its RISC-V heritage, the Roma comes with up to 16GB of LPDDR4x memory and 256GB of storage. It also supports "most" versions of Linux, according to DeepComputing.

The laptop also has a questionable focus on NFTs, promising 100 of them to the first pre-orders, claiming to be "Web3-friendly," and, according to RISC-V International's blog, partnering with companies like the LatticeX.Foundation for NFTs and proof-of-stake blockchain.

While PCs based on the RISC-V ISA are far from mainstream, the Roma represents a small step toward options beyond just x86 and Arm. SiFive, which licenses RISC-V-based CPU designs, has shown microcontrollers that could lead to supporting phones and laptops. And in March, the company told The Register that its customers could release RISC-V SoCs for PCs by 2025.

Windows 10’s 22H2 update might not actually do much of anything

Windows 10 22H2 can be enabled on a fully updated 21H2 install with a few commands.

Microsoft has had almost nothing to say about the next major update to Windows 10 beyond the fact that the operating system will keep getting yearly updates for the foreseeable future. But the Windows 10 22H2 update is actually already out there for those who know how to install it. Neowin has published a list of commands that can be typed into the Command Prompt or Windows Terminal to turn a fully updated Windows 10 21H2 install into a 22H2 install.

The commands use Microsoft's Deployment Image Servicing and Management (DISM) tool to make tweaks to your Windows install and require the optional KB5014666 update for Windows 10 to be installed first. The catch is that enabling Windows 10 22H2 doesn't actually seem to do much beyond incrementing the version number on the "About Windows" screen.

The Windows 10 21H2 update was released shortly after Windows 11 came out at the end of last year, and while it included few user-visible improvements, it updated the Windows Subsystem for Linux and added some capabilities for Wi-Fi networks using WPA3 encryption. These kinds of low-level improvements and backported features may be lurking beneath Windows 10 22H2's placid surface, and if they are, Microsoft isn't saying anything about them yet.

It may seem odd that a simple flip of a switch can "upgrade" Windows 10 21H2 to version 22H2, but it's not unprecedented. The Windows 10 1909 update was released via a similar "enablement package" that incremented the version number and enabled a few new features and tweaks that were lying dormant in Windows 10 1903.

New features or not, you'll need to install Windows 10 22H2 at some point to continue receiving software updates since Microsoft's end-of-servicing dates reset with each yearly Windows release. Version 21H2 will be updated until mid-2023 or mid-2024, depending on whether you're running the Home/Pro versions or the Enterprise version, while Microsoft plans to update at least one version of Windows 10 until October 2025.

These updates will be important for the years' worth of PC hardware that can run Windows 10 but falls short of Windows 11's security requirements. Windows 11 can be run unofficially on those systems, though Microsoft has threatened to cut off security updates for unsupported PCs at some point in the future. Windows's 11 22H2 update is working its way through Microsoft's Windows Insider testing channels, and we'd expect it to begin rolling out to Windows 11 PCs at some point in the next few weeks or months.

M2 MacBook Pro’s 256GB SSD is only about half as fast as the M1 version’s

Higher-capacity versions of the new MacBook Pro don't seem to be affected.

The use of the M2 chip is the new 13-inch MacBook Pro's biggest change compared to the M1 version Apple launched in 2020, but it's apparently not the only one. YouTubers on the Max Tech and Created Tech channels (via MacRumors) have run speed tests on the 256GB version of the M2 MacBook Pro and discovered that the SSD's read and write speeds are as much as 50 percent slower than the 256GB SSD in the M1 MacBook Pro.

The culprit appears to be the NAND flash configuration. Both YouTubers took the bottom off of the new MacBook Pro and discovered that the 256GB versions use just one 256GB NAND flash chip, whereas the M1 MacBook Pro uses a pair of 128GB flash chips. On drives with more physical NAND chips, SSD controllers use a process called interleaving to read data from and write data to multiple physical chips at once. Use fewer chips, and you can limit your peak performance.

While unfortunate for anyone who buys the cheapest version of the MacBook Pro, this problem isn't unique to Apple. Many modern SSDs for PCs only offer their maximum rated speeds starting at the 1TB or 2TB capacities. Higher-density NAND chips can increase your maximum capacity, making it possible to fit 4TB of storage in a drive that's just a bit bigger than a stick of gum. But speed drops at lower capacities are one unfortunate side effect of increased density.

The higher-capacity 512GB and 1TB versions of the new MacBook Pro appear to offer SSD speeds similar to the M1 version, so if you were already springing for more storage, you won't have to deal with these performance issues. It remains to be seen whether the new M2-equipped MacBook Air will have the same issues at 256GB, though it's hard to imagine Apple shipping a 256GB Air-branded laptop that performs worse than a similarly configured Pro-branded laptop.

PCI Express 7.0 standard provides eight times the bandwidth of today’s connections

PCI-SIG has drafted the PCIe 7.0 spec and aims to finalize it in 2025.

The group responsible for developing and updating the PCI Express standard, the PCI-SIG, aims to update that standard roughly every three years. Version 6.0 was released earlier this year, and the group has announced that PCIe version 7.0 is currently on track to be finalized sometime in 2025. Like all new PCI Express versions, its goal is to double the available bandwidth of its predecessor, which in PCIe 7.0's case means that a single PCIe 7.0 lane will be able to transmit at speeds of up to 32GB per second.

That's a doubling of the 16GB per second promised by PCIe 6.0, but it's even more striking when compared to PCIe 4.0, the version of the standard used in high-end GPUs and SSDs today. A single PCIe 4.0 lane provides bandwidth of about 4GB per second, and you need eight of those lanes to offer the same speeds as a single PCIe 7.0 lane.

Increasing speeds opens the door to ever-faster GPUs and storage devices, but bandwidth gains this large would also make it possible to do the same amount of work with fewer PCIe lanes. Today's SSDs normally use four lanes of PCIe bandwidth, and GPUs normally use 16 lanes. You could use the same number of lanes to support more SSDs and GPUs while still providing big increases in bandwidth compared to today's accessories, something that could be especially useful in servers.

As with all prior versions of the PCIe standard, the PCI-SIG says that PCIe 7.0 devices will remain fully backward compatible with older PCIe versions. There's some encoding overhead that will keep real-world accessories from reaching the full 32GB-per-second speeds promised by PCIe 7.0, but that's true of all PCIe versions.

It will be a year or two before we begin to see PCI Express 6.0 in consumer PCs, to say nothing of version 7.0. Intel's latest 12th-generation Alder Lake processors include a limited number of PCIe 5.0 lanes, and PCIe 5.0 will also be part of AMD's Ryzen 7000 series later this year. But consumer GPUs and SSDs that use PCIe 5.0 still don't really exist yet. Most new standards take years to go from "draft" to "finalized" to "available in shipping products" to "ubiquitous," and new PCI Express versions are no exception.

As cryptocurrency tumbles, prices for new and used GPUs continue to fall

AMD's Radeon RX 6000 series GPUs, in particular, are easy to find below MSRP.

Cryptocurrency has had a rough year. Bitcoin has fallen by more than 50 percent since the start of the year, from nearly $48,000 in January to just over $20,000 as of publication. Celsius, a major cryptocurrency "bank," suspended withdrawals earlier this week, and the Coinbase crypto exchange announced a round of layoffs this past Tuesday after pausing hiring last month.

It may be small comfort to anyone who wanted to work at Coinbase or spent hard-earned money on an ugly picture of an ape because a celebrity told them to, but there's some good news for PC builders and gamers in all of this. As tracked by Tom's Hardware, prices for new and used graphics cards continue to fall, coming down from their peak prices in late 2021 and early 2022. For weeks, it has generally been possible to go to Amazon, Newegg, or Best Buy and buy current-generation GPUs for prices that would have seemed like bargains six months or a year ago, and pricing for used GPUs has fallen further.

As Tom's Hardware reports, most mid-range Nvidia GeForce RTX 3000-series cards are still selling at or slightly over their manufacturer-suggested retail prices—the 3050, 3060, and 3070 series are all still in high demand. But top-end 3080 Ti, 3090, and 3090 Ti GPUs are all selling below their (admittedly astronomical) MSRPs right now, as are almost all of AMD's Radeon RX 6000 series cards.

Used prices have fallen even more quickly. Between June 1 and June 15, eBay prices for used GPUs fell an average of 10 percent as at least some cryptocurrency miners sought to cut their losses and sell their hardware. This is happening even as mining software is beginning to find ways around Nvidia's hash-rate limiting LHR protections—falling cryptocurrency prices and rising energy costs are still making the economics of mining tricky.

That said, buyers of used GPUs should still proceed with caution. Aside from the scams and bait-and-switches that can come with any high-value eBay purchase, GPUs that have been mining cryptocurrency at full-tilt for months or years may have problems that a new GPU (or a pre-owned GPU that was only used to play games) wouldn't have. The heat generated by constant use in a high-density mining farm can degrade performance (though GPU manufacturers have overstated this risk in the past), as can dust or dried-out thermal paste. If you buy a used GPU that looks dirty or runs hot, removing and cleaning the fan and heatsink and reapplying fresh thermal paste can help restore lost performance and extend the card's life span.

If you enjoy struggling to buy a GPU, things might get more interesting for you soon. Nvidia's RTX 4000-series GPUs are reportedly nearing release, and manufacturing and supply chain issues could conspire to keep these new cards scarce.