Xiaomi is one of very few new brands in the laptop space, but its huge footprint across the Indian smartphone and TV markets means that it isn’t a new name. Brand recognition and trust are important when spending large amounts of money. Of course, the Chinese giant is best known for offering excellent value in the entry-level space, and it will be interesting to see how that translates to laptops. We’ve already reviewed the premium Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Edition model, and now it’s time to take a look at how Xiaomi is catering to more budget-conscious laptop buyers.The vanilla Mi Notebook 14 loses some of the distinctive design elements and features of its Horizon Edition counterpart, but it’s still a slim and light laptop. It stakes its claim in a highly competitive segment, and will have to fend off major players such as Dell, HP, Lenovo, Acer, and Asus. Let’s see what the Mi Notebook 14 has to offer.The Mi Notebook 14 features a 14-inch anti-reflective full-HD screen Xiaomi Mi Notebook 14 designWhile not quite as slick as its sibling, the Horizon Edition, the standard Mi Notebook 14 is still quite modern and attractive. It has a metal body with an anodised sandblasted exterior, and the same logo-free lid that we liked on the more expensive model. The overall look is fairly minimalist and unassuming.There’s really nothing to see on the outside other than the ports on the left and right and a small indentation to help you left the lid. Intake vents are on the bottom and hot air is exhausted through the back of the hinge.Unlike with the Horizon Edition though, you’ll have to hold the base down with one hand while raising the lid with the other. The total weight is 1.5kg and thickness is just under 18mm so this laptop should be easy enough to carry around and even commute with every day.Flipping the lid open, you’ll see a relatively thick chin below the screen and some blank space all around it. This is one of the key differentiators between the standard Mi Notebook and the Horizon Edition, which boasts of slim borders. Even though there’s enough room on the top for a webcam, this model doesn’t have one built-in. Xiaomi says that this was a conscious decision made during the design process, but since people are now suddenly more dependent on video conferencing for remote work and learning, an external USB webcam will be included with every Mi Notebook.The keyboard deck is also metal, with a sunken tray for the island-style keyboard keys. The arrow keys are crammed into a single row and there’s no backlighting, but there aren’t any major issues with layout. In fact there are additional Fn row keys here, compared to the Horizon Edition’s keyboard, so that PrtScrn and Insert don’t have to be secondary functions. The wrist rest areas are generous enough, and the trackpad size and placement are quite standard.There’s only slight flex to the lid, and the screen doesn’t warp when pressure is applied. The hinge opens to 140 degrees and is quite firm. Overall, Xiaomi seems to have done a good job with design – the Mi Notebook 14 doesn’t feel cheap and plasticky, which gives it an advantage in its price segment.The selection of ports on the Mi Notebook 14 is relatively limited Xiaomi Mi Notebook 14 ReviewThere are three variants of the standard Mi Notebook, all of which use the same quad-core 10th Gen ‘Comet Lake’ Intel Core i5-10210U processor. This CPU has base and boost speeds of 1.6GHz and 4.2GHz respectively, and features integrated Intel UHD Graphics. All three versions have 8GB of DDR4-2666 RAM which is soldered and not upgradable.The base variant was launched at Rs. 41,999 and features a 256GB SSD. Stepping up to the middle tier doubles the SSD capacity to 512GB, which seems like great value since it’s priced at Rs. 43,999. At the top end, the SSD remains the same but you also get a discrete Nvidia GeForce MX250 GPU, for Rs. 48,999. This is the one I have for review.Unlike the top-end Horizon Edition, there’s no choice of CPU. Xiaomi has also used SATA M.2 SSDs for this model – you can swap yours out for an upgrade, but there’s no blank slot for an additional one. It also isn’t clear whether you can swap in a faster NVMe SSD.The port selection is also a bit limited, compared to the Horizon Edition. Most tragically, you don’t get a USB Type-C port at all. There are two USB 3.1 (Gen1) Type-A ports, one USB 2.0 port, an HDMI 1.4b video output, a 3.5mm combo audio socket, and a DC power inlet. An SD card slot would have been nice.A non-reflective screen is usually better for work, especially under indoor lighting. Xiaomi has gone with a 14-inch full-HD panel for the Mi Notebook 14. The company makes no claims regarding colour accuracy, but does boast of 178-degree viewing angles.The battery has a 46Wh capacity which Xiaomi says translates to 10 hours of usage. You get a fairly chunky 65W power adapter in the box, plus of course the external 720p webcam. Dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11ac and Bluetooth 5 are supported. The Mi Notebook 14 also has bottom-firing stereo speakers rated at 2W each, as well as DTS audio enhancement.Xiaomi ships the Mi Notebook 14 with Windows 10 Home and a one-month trial of Office 365. The two in-house apps that we saw on the Mi Notebook 14 Horizon Edition also make appearances here – Mi Blaze Unlock lets you automatically sign in to Windows if you’re wearing a compatible Mi Band, while Mi Smart Share is for transferring files to and from phones running the equivalent app.The keyboard is easy to get used to, but the trackpad isn’t very responsive Xiaomi Mi Notebook 14 performanceInitial setup went smoothly, and the Mi Notebook 14 was ready for use after following the standard Windows setup process. This laptop is convenient enough to use in various situations, even while reclining. Resuming from sleep sometimes took 10-15 seconds, but in general, usage was no trouble at all. I was able to multitask with over a dozen browser tabs open, streaming video simultaneously.The screen isn’t very vibrant and colours are somewhat muted. Xiaomi’s claim about viewing angles is not overstated, but the screen’s brightness will have to be pumped up fairly high. I did appreciate the anti-reflective finish. The speakers aren’t very loud, and sound is unfortunately scratchy and tinny.Typing is quite comfortable. The keys are just a little stiff, but that’s easy enough to get used to. On the other hand, the trackpad wasn’t always as smooth or responsive as I’d have liked, and the click action is a bit sticky.Coming to benchmark tests, it’s easy to see the strengths and weaknesses of the Mi Notebook 14. SSD speed is limited by the SATA interface, and so the CrystalDiskMark test showed sequential reads and writes capped at 500.6MBps and 383.3MBps respectively, with random reads and writes coming in at 300.2MBps and 269MBps. In real-world task tests, the Mi Notebook 14 took 7 minutes, 6 seconds to compress a 3.24GB folder of assorted files using 7zip, and 1 minute, 34 seconds to transcode a 1.3GB AVI file to H.265.The Mi Notebook 14 looks subtle and minimalist with no logo on the lid PCMark 10 posted scores of 3,542 and 3,371 in its standard and Extended runs, respectively. Cinebench R20 achieved 361 and 1,604 points in its single- and multi-core tests. POVRay finished its benchmark run in 2 minutes, 52 seconds.As for graphics performance, the Nvidia GeForce MX250 GPU is definitely not meant for serious gaming or anything beyond entry-level performance. 3DMark’s Time Spy and Time Spy Extreme scores were 1,217 and 171 respectively, while the Night Raid test and Fire Strike Extreme managed 12,327 and 1,661 respectively.Shadow of the Tomb Raider barely managed to cough up 23fps while running at its Lowest quality preset at 1920×1080. Taking the resolution down to 1280×720 and disabling AA entirely resulted in a jittery but playable 41fps average.This means the Mi Notebook 14 is capable of running older and less demanding games. However, it did get rather hot, and unfortunately the area around the WASD keys, along with the left wrist rest, did become uncomfortable after just a few minutes of gaming. The right side of the keyboard stayed cool but I could feel air being sucked in from between the keys by the cooling fan. Speaking of the fan, it did become audible while gaming, but not to a distracting degree.Xiaomi promises 10 hours of battery life but doesn’t say under what conditions. I found that with casual use, which involved streaming a movie and multitasking mostly within a Web browser, I got a maximum of eight hours, but usually more like six hours per full charge. The intense Battery Eater Pro test lasted 1 hour, 23 minutes which is lower than average. Thankfully, this laptop does charge quickly – I went from zero to 55 percent in 30 minutes with the laptop turned off.VerdictXiaomi has done a good job overall, and the Mi Notebook 14 is suitable for everyday performance. You shouldn’t expect to be able to play modern games, and movies won’t look or sound their best, but general productivity should be fine. Students and office workers, as well as home users with reasonable expectations will be happy with this laptop.Construction quality is good, and I do like the minimalist look with the logo-free lid. Not a lot of people are commuting these days, but if or when you do need to move around, you’ll appreciate what Xiaomi is offering.The base variant doesn’t make much sense since you can double your SSD capacity for just a few thousand Rupees more. The top-end one, which I have reviewed here, is of debatable value as well since the GeForce MX250 GPU is of limited use in such a machine. However, the mid-tier option seems to hit a sweet spot and is quite competitive, considering it is priced under Rs. 45,000.I would definitely have liked at least one USB Type-C port, an SD card slot, a faster NVMe SSD, and a backlit keyboard, but I think the package is reasonably well balanced overall. The Horizon Edition (Core i7 variant) is of course faster and sleeker, but it’s more expensive by around 33 percent, which makes the standard Mi Notebook 14 well worth considering.Is Mi Notebook 14 series the best affordable laptop range for India? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.
Drake sides with The Weeknd, says Grammys ‘may no longer matter’
The rapper took to social media to complain about it.”I think we should stop allowing ourselves to be shocked every year by the disconnect between impactful music and these awards and just accept that what once was the highest form of recognition may no longer matter to the artists that exist now and the ones…
The rapper took to social media to complain about it.”I think we should stop allowing ourselves to be shocked every year by the disconnect between impactful music and these awards and just accept that what once was the highest form of recognition may no longer matter to the artists that exist now and the ones that come after,” Drake wrote on his Instagram stories. “It’s like a relative you keep expecting to fix up but they just can’t change their ways.”Despite the commercial and critical success of The Weeknd’s “After Hours” album, and many industry observers considered his single, “Blinding Lights,” a frontrunner for song of the year, he did not receive Grammy nods.Drake wrote that he, too, had thought that The Weeknd “was a lock for either album or song of the year along with countless other reasonable assumptions and it just never goes that way.””This is a great time for somebody to start something new that we can build up over time and pass on to the generations to come,” Drake said.After the nominations were announced on Tuesday, The Weeknd took to Twitter.”The Grammys remain corrupt. You owe me, my fans and the industry transparency,” he wrote.Harvey Mason Jr., the Recording Academy’s chair and interim president/CEO, said in a statement to CNN “We understand that The Weeknd is disappointed at not being nominated.””I was surprised and can empathize with what he’s feeling. His music this year was excellent, and his contributions to the music community and broader world are worthy of everyone’s admiration,” the statement continued. “We were thrilled when we found out he would be performing at the upcoming Super Bowl and we would have loved to have him also perform on the GRAMMY stage the weekend before. Unfortunately, every year, there are fewer nominations than the number of deserving artists.”For years The Recording Academy has been the target of criticism that it is out of step with the preferences of consumers and has failed to recognize women and artists of color equally.Nicki Minaj appeared to echo that latter point when she tweeted after the nominations “Never forget the Grammys didn’t give me my best new artist award when I had 7 songs simultaneously charting on billboard & bigger first week than any female rapper in the last decade- went on to inspire a generation. They gave it to the white man Bon Iver.”Singer Teyana Taylor tweeted that there were no female nominees in the best R&B album category.Justin Bieber, who racked up nominations in both the pop and country categories, complained that he should be vying for R&B awards.”To the Grammys I am flattered to be acknowledged and appreciated for my artistry,” he wrote in a statement posted on his verified Instagram account. “I am very meticulous and intentional about my music. With that being said, I set out to make an R&B album. Changes was, and is, an R&B album. It is not being acknowledged as an R&B album which is very strange to me.”
Letter from Paris: French Universalism Shows its Limitations in the Art World—and Beyond
As the world came to a halt in the spring, I was reading two books simultaneously: How We Became Posthuman, a seminal work from 1999 by N. Katherine Hayles about transformation in the digital age, and Achille Mbembe’s Brutalisme, a philosophical volume on our tumultuous times that had just been published a few weeks prior.…
As the world came to a halt in the spring, I was reading two books simultaneously: How We Became Posthuman, a seminal work from 1999 by N. Katherine Hayles about transformation in the digital age, and Achille Mbembe’s Brutalisme, a philosophical volume on our tumultuous times that had just been published a few weeks prior. I opened both looking for material to back up some points in an essay I was writing. But I quickly realized that, taken together, they pointed to something crucial to an understanding of the workings of French institutions and how, in the art world, those institutions are positioning themselves in terms of exclusion, inclusion, and secession.
As France went into lockdown and resorted to a frenetic consumption of news, specific themes started to surface around questions related to what it means to be human and the long-debated concept of French universalism. Handed down through history as a remnant of the 1789 Revolution, French universalism is based on a belief that to be treated equal and be free, citizens should surrender their personal affiliations and that no group should be given special treatment. In the 1990s, however, universalism’s ideal of an abstract, essentialized citizen with no particularities collided with real bodies as women, queer activists, and immigrants started to organize, with support from multiculturalist politics gaining ground in Europe.
While the dominant political discourse in France remains conditioned by mutations of a universalist heritage, the pandemic shined light on a notable divide. In one camp were idealists hoping that a collective vulnerability to a shared, natural threat would revive the hope of building a world in common. In the other were more pragmatic observers who couldn’t help but notice how contamination rates among stigmatized minorities mirrored the results of years of politics based on an “indifference to difference.” (While statistics based on race, ethnicity, or gender remain forbidden in France, contamination rates in suburbs populated by a majority of residents of foreign origin with higher unemployment rates were soaring.)
In the context of the first camp, Hayles’s study of the posthuman can be read as an attempt to salvage a “critical universalist” position by foregrounding how the human stands in relation to other species and artificial agents. In April, Hayles herself published an essay, “Novel Corona: Posthuman Virus,” stressing “the commonalities that all humans share with one another, notwithstanding all the ethnic, racial, geopolitical, and other differences that exist between us.”
But, as reflected by the second camp, humans are mnemonic beings who reflect past and present living conditions, with vulnerabilities that affect some more than others. As Mbembe prophetically wrote in Brutalisme, humanity’s essence has been transformed and its existence threatened as a result of historically imposed Western dichotomies (nature/culture, subject/object, human/nonhuman) that erased ancestral African cosmogonies rooted in free-flowing and ever-reconfiguring flux.
Achille Mbembe with his award-winning book Critique of Black Reason (2015).
Matthias Balk/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Image.
During lockdown, Brutalisme—a dense and sinuous reconsideration of contemporary theories about technology, identity, and ecology—became one of the most-read books in France. While Mbembe was already a prominent public intellectual there (he graduated from the Sorbonne and the Paris Institute of Political Studies, and has frequently written for national newspapers), the book’s popularity can be pinned to a more specific cause. In April, Mbembe published a piece at the francophone website aoc.media (the acronym for “Analyse Opinion Critique”) that spread quickly as other publications shared extracts and responses translated in several languages.
The highly freighted term “universal” appeared in the article’s title, “The Universal Right to Breathe”—a gesture that was hard not to notice in a political context where the French president was rekindling the old debate over universalism by proclaiming “fighting separatism” as his priority. Before this moment, the Cameroon-born Mbembe had been known mostly for his analysis of contemporary power relations, widening the scope of “biopower” through his pivotal concept of “necropolitics,” or the annihilation of those considered enemies of the state. Sovereignty, he explained, equals the power to decide who lives and who doesn’t, as exemplified by modern states built on slavery, apartheid, and colonization—a power that, in recent times, has been extended on a planetary scale to include supranational entities such as corporations.
In such a context, “separatism” appears above all a vital reaction to the peril of death imposed on those treated, in Mbembe’s words, as “mere waste.” And the pandemic reveals political universalism as the material, structural construction of power that it is, regardless of whether citizens adhere to it or not. It is a kind of power that operates through what Mbembe describes as “fracturing and fissuring” and “expelling organic matter.” When he calls for a “universal right to breathe,” he simultaneously exposes how universalism has normalized its opposite.
In the institutional art world, metaphors of life and death prevail, and while most spaces survived the first phase of lockdown, those that did not offer a striking example of the unevenly shared “right to breathe.”
Above, a literary event organized by the publishing house Présence Africaine at La Colonie, Paris, October 2019.
Photo Alix Hugonnier.
In the middle of March, a multi–disciplinary space founded in 2016 by artist Kader Attia and restaurateur Zico Selloum to host exhibitions, critical debates, book releases, film screenings, concerts, and DJ sets announced that it was closing due to a funding deficit. Located near Gare de l’Est in central Paris, La Colonie (written so as to connote an anti-colony) was financed by income from a bar in the space, a model similar to the one Attia used in the early 2000s, when he financed much of his work through his bar Le Café Chéri(e).
Offering free entrance, La Colonie became a home for unheard ideas and, contrary to state-run institutions, did not impose translation on non-francophone voices. It played a major part in making decolonial thought accessible to a larger public by appealing to antiracist, militant circles as well as scholars and thinkers, threading together the two groups by hosting the likes of writer Françoise Vergès, artist and editor Pascale Obolo, philosopher Seloua Luste Boulbina, and economist Felwine Sarr.
When Attia launched a crowdfunding campaign to reopen the space elsewhere, Olivier Marboeuf, an artist, writer, and editor, wrote him a letter on Facebook stressing how they both create “organisms, collective bodies that grow, live and die” in the act of building “not monuments, but lifeforms.” In 2004, Marboeuf founded Espace Khiasma, a similar space dedicated to producing and exhibiting artists’ films until it was forced to close for financial reasons in 2018.
In an interview he was generous enough to grant me when Espace Khiasma was still running, Marboeuf explained how the “inequality, humiliation, and domination [is] disguised by the neutral figure of the citizen” and how universalist institutions have been preventing the emergence of a racialized intellectual elite. Regarding Khiasma, he emphasized how the space reflected the need for excluded communities to invent their own tools—as he himself had by refusing to become a curator in existing state-run institutions. “We don’t need them to validate what we create,” he said. “The [goal] is not to be against those big institutions, but not to depend on them anymore.”
Since early 2019, Khiasma’s former space has hosted new initiatives led by a collective structure of volunteers and various associations that gather different projects and undertakings. The name given to this experimental “house for all” is A Place to Breathe [Un Lieu pour respirer]. Marboeuf says such spaces mark “a new form of presence through flight.” The act of organizing independent, autonomous, and horizontally interconnected spaces that grow like mangroves puts different forms and practices on the agenda while transcending traditional cultural programs and politics.
Assa Traoré at a demonstration in memory of her brother Adama, July 2020.
Sipa via AP Images.
Even as the former Khiasma space continued to be A Place to Breathe, the “post-Covid-19” period that Mbembe wrote about in early April was tragically followed by what he called another “premature cessation of breathing.” In France, the wave of anger that spanned the world after the killing of George Floyd in America found its voice through Assa Traoré, who since her brother’s death in police custody in 2016 has managed to turn her advocacy group, Justice for Adama, into a widespread social movement and herself into an important political figure.
The protests in support of Black Lives Matter shined new light on questions of equality—something that riots in France in 2005 in response to the fatal electrocution of two teenage boys fleeing the police had not, or at least not to the same degree. In July, the New York Times published an in-depth article under the headline “A Racial Awakening in France, Where Race Is a Taboo Topic.” The author, Norimitsu Onishi, interviewed several key intellectuals and public figures—from Maboula Soumahoro and Binetou Sylla to Rhoda Tchokokam and Rokhaya Diallo—who represent a younger generation bringing debate over race to the fore.
Brick-and-mortar spaces like A Place To Breathe have recently been joined by virtual spaces working toward a shared cause. In March, Seumboy Vrainom :€, an artist and self-described “digital shaman apprentice,” put up on Instagram and YouTube the first video in what he called his Histoires Crépues (“frizzy histories”), a series meant to explore “our shared colonial history” as “complex and frizzy” as his hair. Each video explains a concept or event through cross-reading sources and references accessible free online; collectively, the videos will eventually form a database.
Screengrab of Seumboy Vrainom :€’s Instagram page.
In French schools, Seumboy Vrainom :€ recalled, the only education he had about racism referred to American history, as though French and European colonization had never happened. In Histoires Crépues he analyzes such topics as Africa’s debt, police violence, and racist monuments, showing how French colonial history still shapes society—all while avoiding American and African-American concepts as sole references.
Another example of an alternative digital space is Qalqalah قلقلة, a curatorial platform founded by independent curators Virginie Bobin and Victorine Grataloup in reaction to “a political and intellectual context and media coverage marked by reactionary, authoritarian, and discriminatory speeches and acts.” Dedicated to the production, translation, and circulation of artistic, theoretical, and literary research in French, Arabic, and English, the site’s online editorial space launched in March with the mission, as expressed by writer and theorist Sarah Rifky, to expand beyond “monolingual activists.”
Initiatives of the sort show how a younger generation continues to move beyond universalism by encouraging alternative, collective discourse and by refusing to surrender to total legibility. The pandemic allowed nimble experimentation to take place, as state-run institutions struggled to adapt.
It has also made only more clear the importance of Mbembe’s “universal right to breathe.” The global crisis, he writes, should be an opportunity to “reclaim the lungs of our world.” To do so, the voices of those already suffocating should be those we listen to more and more. For all of us, this is vital if we are to survive.
A version of this article appears in the Winter 2021 issue of ARTnews, under the title “Breathe In, Breathe Out.”
Apple Patent Application Shows It Could Bring Force Touch to MacBook Pro’s Touch Bar
Apple could make a new MacBook Pro model that would come with a Touch Bar supporting pressure sensing Force Touch. This has been suggested by a patent application that was published by the US Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday. Apple introduced its Force Touch technology on the first-generation Apple Watch back in September 2014.…
Apple could make a new MacBook Pro model that would come with a Touch Bar supporting pressure sensing Force Touch. This has been suggested by a patent application that was published by the US Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday. Apple introduced its Force Touch technology on the first-generation Apple Watch back in September 2014. It, however, reached the iPhone lineup as 3D Touch and debuted on the MacBook family through an all-new trackpad in 2015.As spotted by Patently Apple, the US Patent and Trademark Office has featured the patent application on its website that suggests an upgraded Touch Bar on the MacBook Pro with support for Force Touch. There are apparently new circuits to detect different levels of force being applied to the Touch Bar.“The secondary display and force-sensing circuitry may be encapsulated between two glass layers that are bonded to one another by a frit. In some embodiments the force-sensing circuitry is formed from, or constitutes part of, the frit,” reads the abstract of the patent application.Apple has submitted a patent application for bringing Force Touch to MacBook Pro’s Touch BarPhoto Credit: USPTO Apple has revised the original Force Touch technology with some upgrades in the past and even transformed the experience into Haptic Touch for the newer iPhone models. But the purpose of the technology has remained the same — which is to trigger certain features on long pressing on the screen.The newly published patent application was filed by Apple in May 2019. It is unclear whether the update will be available across all new MacBook Pro models or limited to a particular variant.Some recent reports suggested that redesigned MacBook models will be arriving in 2021. However, there is no clarity on whether any of those models would feature the new Touch Bar with Force Touch. It is also not clear that Touch Bar, which is essentially an OLED strip above the keyboard for multitasking, will remain exclusive to MacBook Pro or also debut on MacBook Air in the future.That being said, Force Touch may help Apple bring some new use cases for the Touch Bar that is currently not all that productive for many MacBook Pro users.Will Apple Silicon Lead to Affordable MacBooks in India? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.