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Exclusive: Consumer Reports' Nicholas De Leon on M1 versus Intel

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On this special episode, special guest Nicholas De Leon from Consumer Reports joins us to discuss the current state of Windows PCs, Intel, and how they compare to Apple's new M1 Macs.

Covering the technology industry for almost 15 years, De Leon has reported for Gizmodo, TechCrunch, Motherboard and Circa before joining Consumer Reports as a senior reporter for the electronics team. He covers both Apple and Windows laptops, tablets, and wireless routers.

In our interview — full transcript below — we begin with his impressions of Apple's M1 MacBook Air compared to other recent Windows machines. While the FaceTime camera still needs improvement, Consumer Reports has given it high ratings and recommends the Air for most users.

Having also covered CES, De Leon shares his thoughts on the current state of processor manufacturers and new technologies showcased this year. While Apple Silicon will eliminate all Intel chips from the Mac lineup within the next eighteen months, AMD is becoming a more popular Intel replacement in the PC market with its Ryzen processors.

While rumors of the 2021 MacBook lineup include eliminating the Touch Bar, there are Windows computers going all-in on built-in secondary displays. Laptops like the Asus ZenBook Pro Duo include a 4K "ScreenPad" above the keyboard where users can interact with apps via touch or stylus.

After commenting on foldable phones and other tablet devices including the iPad, we discuss the rumors of Apple entering the AR and VR space with its own headset. Considering other products like Microsoft's HoloLens and Google Glass have previously failed, Apple will have to find mass market and compelling use cases to make an "Apple Glass" headset worthwhile.

Rounding out the show, De Leon comments on the rise of Wi-Fi 6E devices from CES and how Consumer Reports typically advises readers on choosing a mesh network for their home.

If you have questions or comments on the show, tweet at @stephenrobles or email us here. Find us in your favorite podcast player by searching for "AppleInsider" and support the show by leaving a 5-Star rating and comment in Apple Podcasts .

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Full interview transcript

Stephen Robles: Hello, and welcome to the AppleInsider podcast, this is your host Stephen Robles and I'm excited today to have a very special guest, Nicholas De Leon who I have known for some time now and actually get to interview him here for the show. So, Nicholas, thanks for coming on the show.

Nicholas De Leon: Yeah, Stephen, my pleasure.

We have known each other for quite a while. I believe we were maybe a six or seven years old. We were young kids when we met.

Stephen Robles: I think so, I moved to upstate New York and I think we were in kindergarten or first grade together.

We haven't talked in a long time and you've been involved in technology in various places and I've been involved here on AppleInsider and other places. So it's just funny. Now our paths get to cross again. It's so fun to talk to you. So tell me, like, what is your current gig right now? I know you're at Consumer Reports.

Nicholas De Leon: Yes, my title is technically, I'm a senior reporter at Consumer Reports. I've been here for about three years, three years and change. I've kind of been all over the sort of tech blogging world. My first gig was at Gizmodo, basically as an intern. This was like 2006, 2007, and I was a TechCrunch for a couple of years.

I worked at News Corp The Daily. I don't know if anyone in the audience remembers that iPad news app. Yeah, I was there for about two years and then I did a startup called Circa, kind of like mobile news thing. Then I was at Vice for a few years and now I'm at consumer reports. My main beats are laptops, wireless routers, and tablets.

I almost like whisper tablets because there's not a ton of tablet news, generally. It's pretty much the iPad, the Amazon tablets and, and maybe the Samsung ones, but it's, it's a smaller category.

Stephen Robles: Right. Well, that's so interesting. And so I of course fell into the Apple world and I think your reporting is a little more far reaching.

So when you talk about laptops, you're talking about Windows, you cover the Apple ones, to kind of everything in between?

Nicholas De Leon: At Consumer Reports. we cover, you know, the whole ecosystem, Windows laptops, Apple laptops, Chromebooks, we can get into a little bit, how we test and where do I fit in all of this?

But yeah, we pretty much look at everything actually.

Stephen Robles: Gotcha. And because this is an Apple centric podcast, I just want to point out that as we tried to jump on Skype earlier and your microphone didn't work and you blame, not me, you blamed it on the Windows update that might've happened yesterday.

So I just wanna throw that out there.

Nicholas De Leon: It's the only thing that I can think of. I use my, daily driver. I have a gaming PC that I built, it's got an Intel 9700 K Nvidia RTX 2080, super. Those are getting a little older actually. But they're fine for, you know, the games I play. But yes, there is a Windows update earlier this week I was holding off and holding off and holding off.

And I finally pulled the trigger yesterday and lo and behold, just a few minutes ago, Skype could not see my microphone. I was panicking. I was very embarrassed.

Stephen Robles: No, no, it's all right. It isn't even a podcast if you don't have a Skype error, you know, right at the beginning,

Nicholas De Leon: I suppose. But yeah, this is hopefully working now, but yeah, a fun little Windows, bug, you know, who doesn't love it?

Stephen Robles: So you're someone who touches lots of pieces of technology and laptops and all that. What is your daily driver computer wise and phone wise?

Nicholas De Leon: We have at Consumer Reports a lot, a lot, of folks working from home currently, and we've been working from home since last March, just, you know, the whole pandemic situation.

And so my daily driver is, like I said, my home built gaming PC. I'm basically in you know, Google Docs all day Gmail or on the phone or, or taking Google Meet calls or whatever. So I'm basically in the Chrome web browser all day. And like I said, I have a 9700 K RTX, 20, 80 super mechanical keyboard, a gaming monitor, 280 Hertz.

So that's my own equipment. But then of course Consumer reports, depending on which department you're in, it dictates what computer, you get, and they give us a 13-inch MacBook Pro from 2017. I believe it's the one with the bad keyboard. Exactly the bad keyboard and the Touch Bar.

I mean, it's fine. I definitely don't love that keyboard. You kind of, you know, you use what they give you type of thing, but then I did just purchase the Apple MacBook Air, the M1, just the entry-level, model. I thought it was very neat this whole ARM base, and as a nerd, basically, it's like very interesting to me.

So I was like, I kind of want that thing. And I thought it would be useful, I'm pretty sure that the MacBook Air is the bestselling Apple laptop and Consumer Reports is a very mainstream audience. We're not dealing with with enthusiasts, we're not Engadget or anything like that.

We're talking to regular folks and so I kind of figured it would make sense for me to personally own a laptop that a lot of regular folks are going to use every day. So that was kind of my justification for it. So those are the kinds of the devices I use on a daily basis. And I have a an iPhone XS.

So that is also getting a little older, but I did just purchase over the summer the Pixel 4a, which I really like, I feel like I get an Android phone every couple of years, just to stay up to date on that side of the fence. I don't have any particular affinity for Android.

It's neat. You know, it's fun. But I did feel that it was necessary to sort of buy that every now and then the camera is very good for a sub $400 phone. It is something else. I'm not a camera tester, not a camera expert or anything, but like on a very affordable phone I'm very impressed.

So that's sort of the, the devices I use on a daily basis.

Stephen Robles: That's awesome. You know, I've had Pixels in the past and I do like to try one every once in a while. I've been seeing the reviews for the S21 Ultra from people like MKBHD and that camera just looks incredible.

Nicholas De Leon: I was very tempted. I feel like all last week, all I was doing was reading S21 reviews going to bed, watching reviews on YouTube. I watched a lot of it, let me tell you. And I was very tempted by the end of the week.

It's like, man, I really don't need the S21 Ultra. Like I don't need it at all.

Stephen Robles: Literally at all, but it's very tempting.

Nicholas De Leon: Ah, I kind of want it. Ultimately I was able to resist, resist the temptation, but I tell you, it got very, very close. It's very close to pulling the trigger there.

Stephen Robles: So as you have touched many laptops, and now you have an M1 Air in your possession, how has your experience been with that?

Were you surprised by the performance, battery life and all that? Or how would you compare it to some of the top end PCs that you're testing?

Nicholas De Leon: Honestly, I was very, very impressed with it. it's interesting, know the way Consumer Reports works. I'm trying to be objective.

I don't want to be a fan boy. Not that there's anything wrong with that. That's fun too, whatever. But we are trying to be sort of middle of the road and just look at the facts, just the facts, ma'am, that type of thing. So it was almost kind of a struggle to write about it because I didn't want to be too effusive in my praise.

I was like, this is a really good laptop man. Apple sort of has that reputation where it's like the first version of a product is maybe not the best. Like the first Apple Watch was, eh, it was okay. I guess, but like the second one, I feel like they knocked it out of the park.

You know, my first Mac was the iMac, the Bondi Blue iMac. I got that in high school. It would have been 2001, 2002. So that's sort of like how far back I go in the Mac world, but I feel like version one of every product there's always a little beta feel basically. And all that said with all due respect, obviously.

But this M1 MacBook Air. I was like, man, I really do not see anything wrong. It's hard to criticize it. I was honestly kind of struggling to write about it. Cause it's like, I can't say this thing is perfect. You know, you can't say that. But it is really good.

The keyboard is amazing. The screen is fine. It is faster, especially given our audience, you know, again, we're not Engadget, we're not some of the more enthusiasts crowd. We're not speaking to those folks. We're talking to regular folks out there and if you're a regular person and you're using Microsoft Word or Chrome or Safari or things like that where you're really not even getting into, "why do I need a quad core, eight core processor?" This is kind of lost on a lot of folks. And so to me, the biggest sort of knock I could give is the webcam. It's not good, and that's not a breaking news and we've known that for Apple, for whatever reason, they didn't prioritize the web cam in the past, and this is how quickly context changes.

How often are you using that thing? It's not that big a deal, but you know, if, if folks are working from home, they're trying to learn remotely. All of a sudden the webcam is a little bit more important than it was two years ago. So that was really my biggest issue, with the lab was like, this webcam is kind of junk but you know, for $50, you get a random Logitech and you're much better off.

But yeah, it is very impressive. I'm very impressed. And I'm looking forward to seeing, what does the M2 look like? It's going to be. Super interesting.

Stephen Robles: So some of the rumors that came out recently, Mark Gurman and stuff talking about the 14 and 16, 16-inch Apple, Silicon Macs coming later this year.

I know when you're building your own gaming PC, you're kind of in a different market altogether, but do any of those tempt you on the higher end? Would you maybe try and use those as a daily driver or even for some of your other work?

Nicholas De Leon: I mean, personally, probably not just because I've been into gaming my whole life.

That's kind of like what first got me into, you know, tech stuff. As a kid, I was reading the video game magazine and playing like Super Nintendo and N64. So that was kind of like my first love with respect to like technology stuff. And to me the PC is the place to play those things. You know, as an example, the big game Cyberpunk.

It came out a couple of weeks ago on the consoles. It's really not very good. And you know, that's terrible. They probably shouldn't have released it in that state. On the PC side of things, it's not bad. It's basically GTA in the future. But in terms of like performance it's really not bad at all on the PC.

So that's kinda like where I try to focus my gaming energy. So let's say the M2 16-inch Macbook Pro, I'm sure it will be awesome. I'm sure we'll get it. We'll get it in to CR and test it. And presumably it will do very well. But just on my day to day, what am I going to use?

What am I going to spend my own money on? I feel like with that entry level MacBook Air, I think I'm good for at least a couple of years in terms of owning a Mac laptop. Like I said earlier, my iPhone is getting a little old you know, I'm starting to notice apps kind of struggle to scroll and there's a little bit of jitter there.

I obsess about these things. It's like, Ugh, I want it to be smooth. Why isn't it smooth when I scroll through Twitter?

Stephen Robles: XS, that's like two and a half years, man. Most people won't recognize the jitter, but you for you it might be time.

But as you're talking about the M2, another thing, one of the other rumors that was coming out was that the Touch Bar was going to go away.

You said you've had a 13-inch Macbook Pro with a Touch Bar. And as we transition into talking a little bit about CES I see some of these other. PC laptops with that dual screen deal. I think it's the Zenbook Pro Duo. So your thought on the Touch Bar, and then also just the idea of having a second display on the keyboard side.

Is that even a good idea? I haven't seen many use cases for it, but you're in a different market.

Nicholas De Leon: I don't know about the Touch Bar, I guess, with the Touch Bar, I'll say I feel like I barely touched it, honestly. I barely use it. I feel like it was not a fully complete completed thought, it replaced the the F function keys, which, I mean, I don't know.

I'm in Google Docs all day, I'm not a programmer. I'm not an artist. I'm not making use of a bunch of macros or anything like that. So it's really not for me anyway, but it was also harder to push, like I'm tapping

Stephen Robles: It freezes on you.

Nicholas De Leon: It was fine. It was neat. You know, it's obviously very impressive that they were able to pull it off. But like in terms of functionality, I never felt like it was really there.

On the Windows side, seeing where they are doing with sort of those experimentations with the dual screens, we've looked at a few of those at CR. I have not used them for any length of time, maybe a day here or there, just to mess around with it.

I don't know, it feels, I don't want to say gimmicky that's a little bit disrespectful, but I don't feel like it is has justified itself quite yet. There was a Lenovo model, I believe. I forget the model number off-hand, but there's an E-ink display on the back of it where it displays your notifications, maybe the weather or upcoming meetings, emails, things like that.

And to me, that's like, I filed that under "neat". I was like, okay, that's neat. That's cool but like, I don't know. And especially given our audience, very mainstream users, am I going to tell the average kind of Mom and Dad on the street, like, hey, you need to buy this laptop with this display in the back so it could show your email. I don't know, it's unnecessary complication. Maybe you get my skepticism.

Stephen Robles: Yeah, for sure. So of all the things then we looked at CES, all virtual CES this year. And the Apple world, we don't get a whole lot at CES anymore. It's just kind of accessories and maybe some HomeKit stuff, but in the PC and Windows world, AMD was there and Intel, Intel trying to be like, Hey, we're still here, by the way, you know?

And then AMD had its Ryzen. So what did you see from a Windows perspective, what excited you or what are you excited to see this year?

Nicholas De Leon: Just as an aside there, but as CES being not especially fun for Apple fans. My very first CES that I attended in 2007, I remember very distinctly sitting in the press lounge where folks ate their lunch, basically in between meetings.

And that's when Steve Jobs was on stage giving the iPhone presentation. The feeling in the room at CES was like, we picked the wrong conference. Didn't we folks? Cause he's over there. I guess somewhere San Francisco, San Jose unveiling, the iPhone. And we were there in Las Vegas. Like, man, we picked the wrong one.

Stephen Robles: Cause that was at Macworld right. He was doing that at Macworld.

Nicholas De Leon: That was at Macworld and those two conference were at the same time. They coincided time-wise. So in terms of the PC stuff at CES this year. This year was the year of AMD, the year of Ryzen. I don't know how many of the AppleInsider folks are following too close to the Ryzen and stuff, but on the desktop computing side of things Ryzen processors have really come into their own.

They hit the market, I want to say 2017 obviously their claim to fame is cores and threads. If you need a lot of, a lot of cores, a lot of threads. And that covers a lot of folks nowadays. If you're editing video, if you're doing streaming, if you're any sort of like creator working, all those cores, all the threads really come in handy. Maybe less so if you're just kind of browsing Facebook or whatever, but the minute you do anything, creative, all those cores and threads really make an impact. So we've seen a lot of iteration over the past couple of years in the PC desktop side of things. And last fall, there was a rise in 5000. Intel is in a very interesting position.

I don't know who should buy an Intel processor. If you're building a computer today, if you're building a PC today, I don't know who the person is that needs to put an Intel processor in there. I feel like you are not even in a conversation of like values. Like, Oh, these Ryzens offer a better value.

No, it's not just value. Now it's like sheer performance. These things are hugely impressive. And whether it's gaming, gaming was always you know, Intel's specialty. That has been kind of like parallel to the laptop world that has been happening on the desktop side of things. There's obviously a smaller market, less eyeballs on it. You know, a lot of gamers have eyeballs on it, but that's been happening in parallel.

All of a sudden these latest generation Ryzen chips, third generation Ryzen, RG3, are now appearing on laptops. So that was basically CES, so many, you know, Acer, Asus pick your manufacturer. I don't want to say they're going all-in on Ryzen, but it's to the point where I feel like I have to write an article and hopefully it will publish that within the next couple of days, explaining to our mainstream audience.

They're probably not used to seeing AMD on the box of their laptop. They're expecting to see Intel. Intel makes the good processors, which is true. Intel still makes good processors, but AMD is also here now and they make very good processors. And there's a good chance that your next PC laptop I'll have an AMD Ryzen in there.

Then it gets into, what does Intel do? They just had a new CEO come, will they outsource their manufacturing? It's a whole lot of stuff that I don't really write about it at Consumer Reports, but just as an informed person in this industry, there's a lot happening.

That's sort of what CES was to me. It was kind of Ryzen's coming out party it was the first year where Ryzen really came to laptops. This was the year where it's like, boom, we're here and pay attention.

Stephen Robles: It's so funny I think when we were growing up it was Intel inside, you would get that sticker on every computer. Intel was just so much in the vernacular. I mean, do you think realistically think 10 years from now that we'll see Intel still in stuff? You think this is kind of the start of their phasing out?

Nicholas De Leon: Man. I don't know. It's interesting cause you look at the Apple side of things. Apple is not going to be using an Intel chip in their laptops and within their whole sort of computer stack, everything Intel is gone. That's interesting if you're Intel, that's bad.

Intel's not really in servers. They're not in the game consoles. They're not in mobile, in any real capacity. So I don't know, I'm not really a betting man or gambling, but they're in a very interesting position. And 10 years is a hugely long time. In terms of 10 years ago, we were talking about the iPad or two, I guess we'll see.

The momentum is definitely in the short to medium term. It feels like it is on the AMD side. And then of course, Apple is just doing its own thing and they're marching to the beat of their own drum.

And if I'm Intel, it's going to be very interesting. I don't know.

Stephen Robles: I might've missed this, but one place I feel like ARM processors would do the best is in Chromebooks. I've tried a couple Chromebooks over the years, even Google's own Pixelbook and there's some very nicely designed ones out there, but are there ARM Chromebooks out there or is it going to go that way?

Nicholas De Leon: We have so many Chromebooks in our ratings, I don't remember. There are a lot of them, they all share a lot. And that was funny too, because the work from home and everything, you basically couldn't buy a Chromebook last year. I know we did at least one story trying to help folks find these things.

But Chromebooks don't generally have the most powerful processers. And there's a reason, what are you doing on these things? You're in Chrome and you're basically looking at Gmail or browsing, and you're not doing a whole lot, or that's the expectation. You're not doing a whole lot.

So there's not really a necessity to put a top of the line processor. It also keeps costs down. But yeah, Intel, I don't know. Question mark. And I don't say that to be mean, obviously it's just this industry. The flux they're in, they're in an interesting position, I guess you could say

Stephen Robles: For sure. Going back to Apple for a moment, one of the big questions was Tim Cook said in two years time, they're going to transition every Mac to Apple Silicon.

And that was at WWDC this past June. So it'll be one year this June, and then it's just one more year. All Macs, according to Tim Cook will be on Apple Silicon. Everyone's thinking the Mac Pro will be the last one to transition because that's using the most powerful Intel processors that Apple could get.

One of the rumors was that half size Mac Pro that might use Apple Silicon and not have as much space. For me, it's a little bit concerning. I actually use in my workplace a full Mac Pro because of video cards and some BlackMagic video capture devices. So I still appreciate that room inside.

Do you think that half-size Mac Pro rumor is possible? You think they'll do that? And do you think it will be the last computer? The Mac Pro will be the last one to see Apple Silicon?

Nicholas De Leon: I mean, that makes a ton of sense to me for that to be the last, just thinking kind of through the steps here.

Our most powerful computer. We'll probably save that for the last. So for a number of reasons, one, they probably ship the fewest number of units of that thing. It's maybe not necessarily a priority in terms in that sense and it is the more specialized piece of equipment. It is the most raw power sort of thing.

Maybe they're waiting for the M2 or whatever. So that makes sense to me.

Stephen Robles: In the Windows or even Android side, we saw the Surface Duo. I don't know if you've got a chance to play with that this past year, but is there anything going on there in the foldable stuff? What everybody's trying to focus on?

Nicholas De Leon: That is one of my beats. I don't do a lot of tablets. To me, it feels like that was a battle that was fought a decade ago, Apple won that, it's the iPad and everyone else basically, Amazon makes their Fire tablets.

They're very good if you just want like a cheap tablet to watch Netflix or whatever, that's great. Or give it to your kid or whatever. That's fine. But like, in terms of a nice device, the things that are like lust worthy gadgets. Samsung still makes their Galaxy Tabs.

I don't even think they do well in our ratings. They're okay devices, but like, I just don't see any real demand for them. I don't know. The tablets are super interesting to me because I remember being in sort of like the New York media scene, a decade ago, the iPad was seen as kind of like the savior of publishing.

Oh, we'll get to put all our magazines on the iPad. Everything will be great. That was in the water, I guess you would say about a decade ago.

Stephen Robles: I don't think it happened. We got Apple News+. That's what we got out of that.

Nicholas De Leon: Yeah. And that's cool. It's fine.

I have a very old iPad Air and I literally use it to read the occasional Batman comic, which it's good for that. And I know there are people out there whose lives revolve around the iPad, and that's awesome. That's great. I'm not discounting that if that works for you.

That's why they made it awesome. But for me to try and advise consumers, the iPad is not especially cheap. I guess there's a $330 one. So that is affordable, but once you get beyond that the prices are pretty high.

Stephen Robles: Did you get a chance to play with the Surface Duo at all this past year?

Nicholas De Leon: I have not personally. No.

Stephen Robles: What is your take then on the folding phone phenomenon and those rumors about Apple doing it? Honestly, I feel like that would be such a weird day for Apple to do a folding iPhone.

What do you think of something like that? Z-Fold and all that?

Nicholas De Leon: I used the first gen, we had that back when we had offices. I used it in the office, whenever they came out the first gen Samsung fold and I filed it underneath: this is neat.

Also at the time it was like $2,000. So that's not me and probably not too many of our readers, to be honest. I can appreciate the underlying work that goes into it.

I don't know that it is as transformative as just a regular phone. All these things seem cool and fun. Eventually I'll probably buy, like I said, the S21 Ultra just because I want a new toy. So it's safe to say that I probably, at some point will buy one of these folding phones.

I like having the latest new toy, but will that play a central role in the average person's life? This year or next year I kind of find that hard to believe, I guess.

Stephen Robles: Same, and speaking of things that play into our daily lives, there's so many rumors about Apple and VR and AR, and I recently got a chance to play with an Oculus 2 for the first time, a couple of weeks ago.

It was a pretty wild experience. I mean, it was really fun.

Nicholas De Leon: I've had a couple of the Oculus headsets. I personally own the Oculus, the very first one, the CV one consumer version one, the Oculus Rift. I'm an early adopter, and I had a very low kind of bar, this is cool, I guess.

There was a bunch of like shooting and zombie games and things like that. And travel the world in 3D, like it's fun stuff. But I think I paid, I don't know, $400 or $500 for it. Is that a mass consumer product? Probably not. I did also buy the Oculus Quest 2 that came out a couple months ago.

I think it's $300 or $200, but that's way more affordable.

Stephen Robles: It's $300 on sale. You can get it for $200 at the cheapest.

Nicholas De Leon: It's obviously easier. You don't need to be tethered to a PC, you know, it's all self-contained and all the experiences are there, it's fun.

It kind of feels like if there was ever a moment for virtual reality, it would kind of be now where everyone is home. A virtual day at the beach is almost as fun as a real day at the beach! I guess I saw that rumor the other day, too, where Apple is considering getting into this and their headset will be pricey or whatever the terminology was.

Will it have good content? And I'm like, why would I buy it? Is it like a game console. It's like, why would I buy a PlayStation 5. If you don't play video games, you probably don't need a PlayStation 5.

Stephen Robles: You can run Netflix on it. That's it.

Nicholas De Leon: Yeah that's built in to the TV. We're past the days of like where the PS2 had a DVD player and it's like, okay, great. Now I have a DVD player. So if there's no content on the Quest or, Apple's upcoming headset, I don't quite get it. I guess we shall see, but I don't know what for Apple is there.

Stephen Robles: Even aside from VR, there's augmented reality. I think it has a little more real life implications.

I think it was when they actually introduced the iMac Pro Apple said this is capable of building VR games. I feel like augmented would make more sense for Apple, because it might appeal to a broader audience, something like goggles or glasses, but aside from directions or street view showing you exactly where the bagel place is. I mean, have you, in the world that you're in, seen augmented reality use cases that might actually hit real life people anytime soon?

Nicholas De Leon: I feel like everything has been very experimental. I've seen several sort of compelling business use cases. I saw Microsoft HoloLens a couple of years ago when they came out, I had a bunch of demos and they were showing, you know, HoloLens in the classroom, HoloLens with augmented reality cadavers, it's very specialized, like that is not a consumer product.

I guess I was at a CES maybe two years ago or three I'm losing track here. But there was some AR in like a warehouse situation and I was like, okay, these are neat, these are obviously valid uses of this technology, but, it's not for a consumer. Look I thought Google Glass was cool. So I'm perhaps the last person.

Stephen Robles: It looked cool. But you know the constraints of the technology, like battery life and charging, and just looking like a crazy person with Google Glass on, it's got a ways to go before I think it's something that mass people will want. I agree.

So we talked about computers, tablets, and some phones. Well, you said you also cover Wi-Fi routers. And so maybe we could round out the show here. Cause I just recently bought a Linksys Velop to get Wi-Fi 6 and it is killer.

And then we have all these Wi-Fi 6E devices that were just announced at CES. So what is your Wi-Fi router of choice or which one do you use now or which one are you looking forward to?

Nicholas De Leon: Well, the fact is I use whatever Verizon FiOS has given me the Wi-Fi 6e cover. It's a wifi 6E model.

I will say. Oh, okay. All right. It does work fine. But we obviously, we get a lot of readers who ask that same questions. Like, what's a good router. Maybe Verizon FiOS is like an exception here, but my sense is that a lot of ISPs out there kind of give, maybe not junk, but they don't necessarily give you the best router. And so your experience is perhaps sub-par, I think you could say.

Stephen Robles: This is the kindest way to say it, Consumer Reports language coming out.

Nicholas De Leon: I think Wi-Fi 6E was kind of the big Wi-Fi story coming out of CES this year, I recapped Wi-Fi 6E it was approved by the FCC last spring.

It basically opens up the 6 gigahertz band. So it's basically a lot more space. For your devices, laptops, smartphones, tablets, games, all that. It's not like we're inviting fewer of these devices into our home.

If anything, we're between Alexa devices and all the smart home stuff, we're not, we're not like, oh, we're done, we're finished. I have just enough, just the right amount of devices in my home. Everything's going to have a Wi-Fi chip in it. So we're accelerating the pace of devices that we're bringing into our home.

Under Wi-Fi 5, it just wasn't working before, especially depending upon if you live in an apartment building. Let's say in New York City, or any other city, I suppose. But Wi-Fi 6E will be tremendously helpful because I don't know if you have ever tried to set up a 2.4 gigahertz router in an apartment building. The last time I tried that was, I want to say 2014 and it basically didn't work.

And that's seven years ago. I can't imagine what it's like now. 2.4 is saturated, closed. There's no more room there. Maybe this wasn't an issue and again, context matters. Context is everything. If you didn't necessarily have to be online all day from your house doing Zoom calls and in Microsoft Teams and in Slack, eh, maybe who cares, it doesn't matter.

That's why you go to your office because they have the IT infrastructure to do your job. All of a sudden your home is at least partially your office part of the time, and you kind need this backbone to work. And so that's where Wi-Fi 6E comes in. You know, the flip side is that they're expensive. I was just looking at the prices about an hour ago.

They're not super cheap. I think the cheapest one I saw was like $450, which is a lot of money. One of the things I really appreciate about being at Consumer Reports, especially compared to some of the enthusiastic publication, where it's like family budgets matter.

You know, if someone has let's say $100 a month to spend on technology. That is the amount of money they have to spend. There is no, eh, I'll stretch and spend $200, that's not a thing. So the first sort of stretch of these Wi-Fi 6E devices will be a little on the expensive side and at the same token, prices obviously go down.

I was looking this up just a few minutes ago. Actually the original Eero debuted in 2016, I want to say it was like $500. That was 5 years ago, the time flies.

Stephen Robles: I don't even know how to think about that. It seems not long ago. And also it feel like Eero has been around forever.

Nicholas De Leon: Yeah, exactly. But they debuted the first gen and it was almost like a Nirvana moment. This technology came out and was like, wow, this is it. This is very useful. And it was $500, that was expensive at the time. That's expensive now. Now we're looking at a case where we have maybe older mesh routers in our ratings, they're Wi-Fi 5.

So they're not Wi-Fi 6, but if you don't necessarily need Wi-Fi 6, you can get a Wi-Fi 5 mesh router for like $150 or something. I you have a larger home and your problem is more like, I'm just trying to cover a good distance here. You know, my speed is fine, but it just doesn't reach my, all of a sudden my attic home office, because I haven't had a home office, an inexpensive mesh router will help.

I will say over 2020, I really don't think I got more questions from readers or like little television interviews with radio stations here and there throughout the country mesh was the single most, asked about technology in my life.

Hey, I heard about this mesh thing. Is that really good? Is that all it's cracked up to be? And in our sort of testing, yes is the short answer. It is really very good.

It also depends upon a million things. What is your house made of, what are the walls made of? I am Puerto Rican and in Puerto Rico there are a lot of houses made of concrete. Because there's hurricanes. So Wi-Fi doesn't necessarily travel through concrete super well compared to plywood in New York State or whatever.

So it really depends.

Stephen Robles: Do your devices support even the AC and the AX and all that.

Nicholas De Leon: And that's true. If you have older devices, it may not even make sense to buy a newer router. That's another big part of my job too. It's not only the shiny new things, like interesting and worth talking about obviously, but helping you evaluate whether or not it's a smart buying decision.

Just because last year's router came out last year, doesn't mean it's a hunk of junk, especially now that it's on sale for 30% off. That's a great router. It was a great router last year. It's still a great router. Maybe not the newest one all of a sudden, but again, if you're on a budget, if you really don't care that much, that's still a great router.

So that's sort of the balance that I try to play. You know, I don't personally recommend products, it's our testers. It's math more than anything. It's not people's feelings on the subject. In talking about these products there's a lot to consider and for our audience budgets matter and value matters.

That's kind of like my North Star, so to speak, trying to help folks navigate. That's the other thing too, I'm very cognizant that people have lives. People have kids, people have jobs, they don't spend all day reading, you know, Gizmodo or Consumer Reports or AppleInsider or whatever the case may be.

I do that because I'm a nerd and I think that's fun. And I've been doing that since I was 14 years old, but most people don't do that, they do other stuff. So it's kind of our job to guide folks a little bit.

Stephen Robles: Okay, cool. Well, Nicholas, thanks so much for being on AppleInsider.

Where can people find you, follow you or read you?

Nicholas De Leon: If you just go to the Consumer Reports website, which is consumerreports.org you'll find all my stuff there. Obviously Consumer Reports does stuff other than laptops and routers, you know, we cover cars and beds and home stuff, refrigerators and washing machines, all that fun stuff.

And if folks don't know, everything that is in our ratings, we go to the store and we buy it. We don't get any samples from manufacturers. Nothing that gets a rating from us is based on something that Acme incorporated loaned to us to review.

We buy everything to keep everything above board and to make sure that we're getting the same experience that the average Joe on the street, when they walk into a Best Buy or Home Depot, we're buying the same product and we're testing that same product. So just consumerreports.org and that's about it.

Stephen Robles: I'll put a link to that in show notes and to Nicholas on Twitter as well. He's a fun follow there. Well, Nicholas, thanks again for being on the show, man.

Nicholas De Leon: Yeah, my pleasure. Thank you very much.

 

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