Tech round-up for August 29: Schulich scholarship winners, MacBook Pro may be too much for back to school,

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This week, more evidence that Canadians are smart, and getting ready for school time: hands-on with the new MacBook Pro, the Epson printer line-up, and TP-Link’s routers for robust Wi-Fi.

Scholarship recipients demonstrate Canada’s bright future

Last week, the 50 Canadians receiving Schulich Leader Scholarships were announced.

Each high school in the country can nominate one student based on their academic achievement in STEM subjects and their “entrepreneurial leadership.” Financial need is also considered.

A total of 1,400 students from across the country were nominated; 25 were awarded $100,000 towards an engineering degree and 25 received scholarships worth $80,000 for science, technology, or math degrees.

The $100 million scholarship fund was established in 2012 by Seymour Schulich, a Toronto-based businessman.

The latest iteration of MacBook Pro an improvement on an already powerful laptop

There’s something to be said about small steps leading towards big changes. With the tweaks to the new MacBook Pro, Apple has made the premium laptop a more credible option for users looking for style and performance.

I’ve been using the first-generation MacBook Pro since mid-2017 (the first models were on shelves in late 2016), and as with all Apple products, the form factor is sublime.

The replacement is thinner and lighter while delivering full-featured performance. In my use, the battery has been excellent, but I’ve always been careful about managing applications and connectivity when I knew I wouldn’t be close to power for a while.

With the first version I was concerned about it only having USB-C ports, but in the year I’ve been using it I’ve rarely been stymied. I had to replace one dongle so I could connect HDMI, but I’m rarely plugging into ports these days because so much of the work that we do is handled wirelessly.

I’ve also mostly adapted to the new “butterfly mechanism” keyboard. I never experienced any of the dust and debris failure issues that were reported by others.

And while I don’t use the Touch Bar often, I do appreciate the convenience when I need it. The touch sensitive strip along the top of the keyboard replaced the row of function keys and provides contextual controls, to adjust screen brightness and volume, for example, and to log in to the laptop with a fingertip.

All of this to say that I really appreciate this new MacBook Pro model. But it’s more computer than most will need because the average person is only using their laptop for web browsing, photo sharing, and word processing.

The hardware is available in silver and space grey, and the 13-inch devices are equipped with a quad-core Intel Core i5 starting at $2,269 for 256 GB of solid-state disc storage (you can double it for only $250, and you can upgrade to 1 TB or 2 TB).

The 15-inch size has a 6-core Intel Core i7 and starts at $2,999 for 256 GB of storage ($430 to double it, and available with 2 TB and 4 TB).

These computers were created for people performing processor-heavy tasks, like audio or video editing, photography, or design. If you are doing these things, the MacBook Pro will give you a performance bump and the Retina Display with Apple’s True Tone technology means you get incredible images on the screens.

If you want, you can connect to one or up to two high-resolution displays (13-inch and 15-inch, respectively) at a workstation.

The other benefit to spending the money on an Apple laptop is they are robust, so they will last up to twice as long as some laptops, and they retain their value.

In fact, you can trade in an old Apple computer to get up to $1,250 towards the purchase of a new MacBook Pro. You can find out what your device is worth online. Apple is also taking trade-ins of non-Apple computers, including HP, LG, and Lenovo laptops.

And students buying one now will get a pair of Beats Solo3 wireless headphones thrown in for good measure, as part of Apple’s annual back-to-school campaign.

Go old-school with printers from Epson

If you’re going to college or university this fall, or even if you’re still in high school, you may find that you’ve got teachers and instructors who aren’t quite living in the modern, digital world, and who expect you to turn in papers on, well, paper.

Don’t fret. Printers are cheaper than ever, more capable than ever, and better than ever. They’re also smaller than ever, so you don’t have to worry about taking up too much space in that tiny dorm room.

Epson’s WorkForce WF-2860 is only $129 and prints double-sided so you can save on paper.

If you need something that prints a bit faster, Epson’s Expression Premium XP-6000 is only $20 more, and can print a photo in 15 seconds.

You can use both printers without needing a printer cable, too. You connect to them over your wireless network.

Setting up Wi-Fi in your dorm or apartment

If you’re sharing a space, whether on campus or off, you’re going to want to set up your own Wi-Fi. TP-Link makes this easy with powerful, reasonably-priced routers.

The AC2300 ($150) is a solid basic router that provides multi-user multiple input and multiple output (MU-MIMO) functionality which enables multiple devices to be connected at the same time without affecting the speed of others.

If you’re in a house with a bunch of others, you can extend that network with one of TP-Link’s range extenders. The AC2600 ($140) is the most powerful of the bunch, and is easy to install: simply plug it into a nearby wall outlet.

For those who need lag-free performance for those late nights taking out competitors online, TP-Link has just released a gaming router in the AC5400 ($450) that provides astounding Wi-Fi speeds over the three frequency bands (2.4 Ghz, and two 5 Ghz) it operates on.

If you really need the speed, the AC5400 has a “link aggregation” feature that can deliver hardlined devices speeds of up to 2 Gbps.


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