Review: Toshiba Chromebook

IntroductionChromebooks are a bundle of contradictions, budget laptops that are both weird and brilliant, underpowered yet potent. They pack basic computing functionality into the Chrome OS, a web browser masquerading as an operating system. The search giant’s OS and mobile computer spec are just a few years old, but companies like HP, Samsung and Acer already have several models on the market.The other firms may have a headstart but the Toshiba Chromebook has come out swinging, the first with a larger 13.3-inch screen, plus two USB 3.0 ports.Size and speedy ports aside, the Toshiba Chromebook is nearly identical to its competitors on paper. Looks, however, are a different story.DesignSave for the Google branded HP Chromebook 11, these frugal Google machines are largely lacking in personality. The 11.6-inch Acer C720 Chromebook is a nondescript merging of gray and black plastic pieces. The 14-inch HP Pavilion 14 Chromebook rocks smudge-prone glossy plastic all over.An all-plastic, silver-gray frame, the Toshiba Chromebook sports a pocked surface on its lid and underside. Toshiba hasn’t pulled off anything extraordinary here, but rather employed its trademark budget design from its Windows 8 machines. While it generally looks bland next to slightly more stylish low-price laptops, it stands out among the largely drab Chromebook lineup.A chrome Toshiba logo and a glossy Chrome logo make the final touches on the outside. Opening the lid reveals a rather plain-looking keyboard deck and bezel, but it’s the matte plastic that I appreciate most throughout. Not only does it give a slightly soft shine, it’s almost impervious to fingerprints and smudges. It’s details like this that go a long way in design.An answer for everythingIf you’re new to the Chrome OS, it might surprise you how much […]

By |March 13th, 2014|Phone Reviews|0 Comments

Hands-on review: Samsung Chromebook 2

More laptops based on Google’s Chrome OS are hitting the market and Samsung’s second generation of Chromebook is testament to the resolute approach Google’s partners have adopted.The Korean company had its Chromebook 2 11-inch and 13-inch Chromebooks on display at its booth at CeBIT 2014 in Germany, two models that it announced earlier this month.The new Chromebooks (XE503-C12 and XE503-C32 respectively) will sell alongside the original one, bringing the total number of inventory units on the market to three. Prices in the UK have yet to be announced but we expect the 11-inch to retail for around £250 and the high-end, 13-inch model to hit £350.Faux leatherThe two models come with a faux-leather finish at the back of the screen. The material used is likely to divide opinions, as it did on its introduction at IFA last year with the Galaxy Note 3.We briefly handled the two flavours of Samsung’s Chromebook 2. As a reminder, both come with an octo-core Samsung Exynos processor, possibly the Exynos 5410, which has four Cortex-A15 and four Cortex-A7 subprocessors in the dynamically scaling CPU configuration known as big.LITTLE. The A15 subprocessors are clocked at 1.9GHz on the 11-inch model and at 2.1GHz on the 13-inch one.Apart from size and keyboard layout, the other major difference is screen resolution: the 11-inch model spans 1,366×768 pixels while the bigger Chromebook has a full HD resolution which falls short of Google’s high-end Pixel Chromebook but is still significantly higher than the rest of the competition.That particular model was not working properly which meant that we couldn’t visually compare the screen quality on both Chromebooks. Expect the 13-inch model to be marginally sharper as it boosts a higher pixel density (170 vs 142ppi).Hangout […]

By |March 12th, 2014|Phone Reviews|1 Comment

Review: Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2

Introduction and designIn recent years, the predominant tablet trend has been towards compact ones such as the iPad mini 2, the Google Nexus 7, and the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 7. Now, with Apple’s much-rumoured iPad maxi on the horizon, a new craze for super-sized tablets could be set to take hold.With Samsung yet to launch a wholly convincing compact tablet of its own, it will be hoping to get a strong foothold in the fledgling maxi-tablet category with the Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2.This is a formidable tablet in every way, with a premium spec sheet and an extensive list of software features that those familiar with the Note series will already be aware of.As well as that 12.2-inch 2560 x 1600 display, Samsung has gone big on specs. Sporting a custom 1.9GHz quad-core Exynos CPU, 3GB of RAM, 32GB or 64GB of internal storage, 8MP rear camera and Samsung’s integrated S Pen stylus, it’s one of the best-equipped tablets I’ve ever used.Of course, with a launch price of around £649 ($850, which is around AU$940), you’d damned well expect such class-leading components.That price places it somewhere in between the 128GB iPad Air at £639 and the 64GB Microsoft Surface Pro 2 at £719. Or, to put it another way, the best model of the best tablet ever and the most powerful tablet ever.No pressure, then.Samsung is clearly aiming for the same premium-business end of the market as those two elite tablets. Let’s see if it’s managed to close the deal.Size isn’t everythingYou know those tablet and smartphone reviews where the writer says that a device is deceptively large, and doesn’t feel as big and bulky as it is on paper? This isn’t going […]

By |March 5th, 2014|Phone Reviews|0 Comments

Review: Mini Review: iPro Lens for iPhone 5/5S

IntroductionThe iPro Lens comes to us as iPhoneography is now being helped with lens accessories and attachments. And if you’re looking to expand the capabilities of your iPhone 5 or 5S’ camera, you could do with the likes of iPro Lens.Similar to Olloclip, you slap lens attachments over your iPhone’s camera, and you’ve either got telephoto, macro or wide angle capabilities.There’s something to be said about working within the confines of the iPhone camera’s natural field of view and how it forces us to be more creative within that space. But if you’ve been pushing those limits for years now, the iPro Lens can help you take your art to another level.HardwareFirst, let’s start with the hardware. Most iPhone lens attachments come with cases or clips that allow the lenses to be affixed to the phone. In the case of the iPro Lens, you have to use the case that comes with the package.The case has a mount right over the iPhone’s camera that allows quick mounting and changing of lenses. Its design allows lenses to be mounted with just a short twist, rather than having screw threads that make you screw on the lens attachments.The mount for the lenses feels secure, so I really appreciate its simplicity and the ease with which I can change lenses.The lenses themselves mount into their casing the same way, and the casing comes in a tube shape that separates and screws together to form a handle. When screwed together, the handle can be screwed into the case on the iPhone, giving you a makeshift grip for shooting videos and more.Photos of the accessory probably do a better job describing what the thing actually looks like.Overall, the pieces fit […]

By |March 4th, 2014|Phone Reviews|0 Comments

Review: Updated: Google Nexus 5

Introduction and designThe Nexus 5 with Android 4.4 KitKat carries on the recent tradition of top-tier specs and relatively budget prices from Google, and in this review, we’re going to take a look at whether the device hangs with the best of them.We’ve come to expect Nexus devices to be developer-only handsets that never reach the type of hype or adoption that the HTC One or Galaxy S4 would get. Google doesn’t really advertise Nexus devices to the masses the way that Samsung or Apple does, and Nexus devices are generally not on par with other flagship handsets in terms of build quality and performance.When the Nexus 4 launched in late 2012, the most enticing thing was its initial low, low price point. For an unlocked device with decent hardware, it seemed like a steal. But we soon learned that its shortcomings were often too much to bear.Now we’re at the Nexus 5, a solid smartphone with a 2.3GHz Snapdragon 800 chipset and 2GB RAM. It has a 2,300mAh battery and a 5-inch 1080p display. It also features the latest version of Android – 4.4 KitKat.You’d think it would come with a hefty price tag, but for 16GB and 32GB versions, you’re only looking at $399 and $449 respectively. If you’re thinking it seems too good to be true, we can’t blame you. What, if any, corners did LG and Google have to cut in order to bring the price down to affordable levels?Let’s skip the boring Nexus history lesson and dive right into what matters – the Nexus 5 itself.FutTv : FL7M22R26Ps30DesignFirst, let’s talk hardware design. The Nexus 5 features a 5-inch 1080p IPS display – that’s 1920 x 1080, giving us 445 PPI. […]

By |March 4th, 2014|Phone Reviews|0 Comments

Review: REVIEW: Lytro Light Field Camera review

Despite the best efforts of some avid post-capture sharpeners the focus point of most images is set at the point of capture. However, the Lytro Light Field Camera allows the focus point to be changed after the image is captured, so you switch from an object in the foreground being sharp to the background. The image refocuses before your eyes.Lytro has managed to achieve this feat by fitting a microlens array in front of the Light Field Camera’s sensor to scatter light exiting the lens in different directions depending upon the angle at which it hit the array. This information is then used to calculate how the light would have responded if the lens was focused at a different distance.FeaturesWhile the Light Field Camera’s capabilities maybe revolutionary, its regular specification is not so exciting in comparison with more conventional cameras. The ’11-Megaray sensor’, for example only produces images of around 1080×1080 pixels.There’s also an 8x zoom lens that has a focal length equivalence of 43-340mm, but this is limited to the 43-150mm range in ‘Everyday mode’.The aperture is fixed at f/2, but with the Manual Control option selected it is possible to set the shutter speed (1/250-8sec) and sensitivity (ISO 80-3200) settings, or apply a neutral density filter. However, most users are likely to leave the exposure to the camera, or use a tap on-screen in Everyday mode to lock the exposure.Somewhat dictated by the slim, but block-like design of the Light Field Camera the screen, which is touch-sensitive, measures just 1.52-inches and has a lowly dot count of 128×128 (16,384dots).Unusually, there is no memory card slot and images are stored on the internal memory, which is 8GB or 16GB depending upon the model. According […]

By |March 3rd, 2014|Phone Reviews|0 Comments

Review: SteelSeries H Wireless headset

Spending $300 for a dedicated gaming headset is no small commitment; after all, that’s not far off from the price of a current-gen console. The Astro A50 gaming headset has been the standard thus far on the wireless end of the premium headset pool, with killer sound, great range, and wide device compatibility, despite inconsistent battery life and challenging interface.SteelSeries makes a strong play for the throne with the H Wireless Gaming Headset, another $300 offering that’s understated in design, but nicely refined and fits comfortably during long play sessions. And it addresses our complaints with its aforementioned competitor, offering not one, but two interchangeable 20-hour battery packs and a host of cables for setting up its OLED display-toting transmitter with a slick visual interface.Luckily, the SteelSeries H also lives up to its premium designation when it comes to audio quality, with clear, powerful 7.1 Dolby Digital virtual surround sound. Stellar mid-range performance and crisp highs are a highlight, only offset by slightly subdued bass power and the occasional wish for a bit more volume on the high end.No doubt, SteelSeries’ wireless headset has an “everything but the kitchen sink” kind of feel to it, bundling in an array of niceties and perks for its rich asking price, but if you’re willing to spend the cash, it delivers a superb gaming experience.DesignThe SteelSeries H Wireless Gaming Headset isn’t the sleekest headset we’ve used, but we like that it’s less fussed-over than the Astro A50’s design (with its open slats and exposed wiring). Call it utilitarian, but the understated design here makes a nice impression, and it feels lighter than your average large headset, which helps in the long run.It fits snugly and stays firm in […]

By |March 1st, 2014|Phone Reviews|0 Comments

Hands-on review: MWC 2014: Samsung Gear 2 Neo

The Gear 2 Neo is the second in Samsung’s range newest generation of wrist-based devices and arguably the better of the two.It’s annoying that the issue of price still hasn’t been addressed, but given that it’s running a lower spec than the main Gear 2 we’d expect it to be a little cheaper. If that’s the case then Samsung could be on to a winner here, as it could really be part of a product portfolio that resonates with consumers.The design is very similar to that of the Gear 2, with the same 1.63-inch screen and 320×320 resolution on a Super AMOLED screen. The differences between this and the main Gear 2 are very subtle, but in my mind are needed to make Samsung relevant in the smartwatch game.The camera is gone, for starters, and that’s a great thing. Samsung’s kept the technology on the Gear 2, but has wrapped it into the bezel of the device, which made me wonder how this would be cut out on the Neo.Well, it turns out pretty easily, and it’s dropped a few grams from the weight. The result is a more refined look at the top of the device, and not one that I think really does detract from the overall design. If anything, the single dot at the top of the Gear 2 Neo (which is the infra red blaster for controlling your TV) looks more subtle and refined.What does detract, and is probably the only early negative on the Gear 2 Neo (until we actually find out the price of the wrist-dweller) is the fact it’s made out of plastic around the bezel, the other element that helps to bring down the weight. Where the […]

By |February 27th, 2014|Phone Reviews|0 Comments

Hands-on review: MWC 2014: LG F70

The LG F70 is the Korean firm’s first push into producing more affordable 4G handsets, something which many manufacturers are doing at MWC 2014.LG hasn’t announced the price of the F70, but the handset is confirmed to arrive in Europe in the coming months.In terms of design the LG F70 takes cues from the flagship G2, although LG has decided against on screen navigation keys, instead choosing to stick a physical home button below the display, flanked by touch sensitive back and menu options.The power/lock button is located on the right of the F70, while the volume switch is on the left and both are easy to hit.The lightweight, plastic build of the F70 feels sturdy, although the rear cover offers little in the way of grip, so you’ll need to make sure you’ve got a firm hold of the phone.It is a little on the chunky side too, measuring in at 127.2 x 66.4 x 10mm, but the rounded edges means the F70 still sits nicely in the hand.A 4.5-inch display dominates the front of the LG F70, although its 800 x 480 resolution is a little disappointing as I’m now starting to see 720p options arriving towards the bottom end of the market.That said, text is still perfectly legible on the F70, but if you look closely you can see that it’s a little on the grainy side.The main selling point of the F70 however is it’s 4G connectivity at a lower price point, although I was unable to test out just how quick it could access the web during my short time playing with the device.I was pleased to find Android 4.4 KitKat installed on the F70, the latest flavour of Google’s […]

By |February 27th, 2014|Phone Reviews|0 Comments

Hands-on review: MWC 2014: ZTE Grand Memo 2 LTE

The original Grand Memo arrived at last year’s MWC, so it makes perfect sense that ZTE is rebooting its phablet one year on with the Grand Memo 2 LTE.The Grand Memo 2 builds on its predecessor, growing its screen from 5.7 to a full 6-inches, putting it on par with the Lumia 1520 and above the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and HTC One Max.The 6.44-inch Sony Xperia Z Ultra still rules the roost in terms of size though.A big phone needs big power and ZTE has equipped the Grand Memo 2 relatively well, but the 1.2GHz quad-core processor is a little disappointing.You also get 2GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage, microSD slot and a sizable 3200mAh battery ZTE claims will last for 15 days in standby.Battery life may actually be alright on the Grand Memo 2 as it’s not rocking a full HD display. Instead you’ve got to make do with a 1280 x 720 resolution, which doesn’t look particularly amazing stretched over such a large area.The handset itself doesn’t ooze premium quality either, with a cheap plastic finish highlighting the Grand Memo 2 may well be one of the more affordable big screen phones around.At first look the Grand Memo 2 does appear to be a relatively premium device, but pick it up and you’ll notice the overly plastic body and buttons that rattle inside the chassis.This does mean that the Grand Memo 2 is surprisingly light, making it slightly easier to hold in one hand, although I still had to stretch my fingers across the device.For the most part I’d recommend a two handed grip on the Memo 2, just to be on the safe side.There’s good news in the fact ZTE […]

By |February 26th, 2014|Phone Reviews|0 Comments