Hands-on review: MWC 2014: Jolla Phone

In today’s Android and iOS-dominated market, Jolla’s ambition in putting out an “indie” operating system might seem a risky move to most, but it’s hugely refreshing.Jolla is the creation of a few ex-Nokia bods who decided to go it alone when the company abandoned MeeGo for Windows Phone. As far as Nokia was concerned, the Nokia N9 was the the birth and death of that Linux-based operating system.Jump forward to now and we’re holding what many would consider the N9’s spiritual successor. It’s pleasing in the hand, nicely weighted and compact in design, with a 4.5-inch, 540 x 960 display. Chugging along inside is a dual-core 1.4GHz processor, 1GB of RAM and 16GB of storage. Throw in an 8MP rear camera and a 2MP front-facer, and you’ve got yourself a nice little proposition for €399.But beyond the surface-level specs and bog standard slab shape, Jolla has added some of its own personality to the handset. The phone is actually formed of two “halves”, with an interchangeable backplate.It’s not just about making your Jolla Phone look nicer though. The backplates also include NFC, which will cause the OS to morph depending on what you attach. We were shown an Angry Birds backplate that gave the UI a unique touch of the avian variety, while another changed the colour themes of the Jolla’s unique OS.That OS is Sailfish, a Linux-based system inspired by MeeGo. With Sailfish, Jolla wanted to create an OS that was perfect for one-hand operation, and indeed there are no buttons – not even capacitive – to be found on the handset.That’s because Jolla wants your thumb to become the home button, each swipe a different function depending on its direction. Swipe from left […]

By |February 25th, 2014|Phone Reviews|0 Comments

Hands-on review: MWC 2014: Sony Xperia M2

The Sony Xperia M2 is the follow up to the popular mid-range handset that saw the company trying a number of different suffixes and hoping one stuck for those that don’t want to spend a lot of money.When you pick up the Xperia M2, you’re instantly struck with that opinion. It’s not a phone with a lot of style when compared to the likes of the Xperia Z2, but at the same time, it uses the same design language well. The Omnibalance look (which mostly boils down to the unique power key) is in effect here, and does lend an element of premium packaging to proceedings, bringing a much better phone than the still-popular predecessor, the Xperia M.The only reason that it doesn’t feel overly premium in the hand is that it’s a slightly chunkier beast, coming in at 8.6mm compared to the razor thin 6.4mm thickness of the Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet, for example.It’s also got a slightly smaller screen than the other premium phones on the market, and that display is packed with fewer pixels. If you’ve never spent a lot of time with a phone that uses an HD screen, then you might not see the problem, but the qHD offering here is definitely sub par compared and looks a little washed out and overexposed.Still, when it’s shipping for under €220 (around £180 / $300 / AU$335) and can run 4G, Sony thinks that such things won’t matter – and I’m inclined to agree. The phone is solid, has a 4.8-inch screen and an 8.1MP camera that uses a lot of the same trickery as it’s more powerful brothers.The Exmor RS sensor helps boost the low light performance, and the general speed […]

By |February 24th, 2014|Phone Reviews|0 Comments

Review: Acer C720P Chromebook

Introduction and SpecificationsSince their introduction several years ago, Chromebooks have redefined our understanding of affordable laptops. They’re the new netbooks, using Google’s operating system based on its Chrome browser, are pared down to the bare necessities – low-power processors, low-resolution screens and a minimum amount of memory and storage. By stripping the laptops of extraneous features, manufacturers can keep their price down to $250 or less.As a result, however, many Chromebooks seem almost indistinguishable from one another. Because they lack defining features and are so affordable, it can be difficult to choose one Chromebook over another.Acer aims to change that with the C720P Chromebook. This 11-inch laptop sports a fast Intel Celeron processor, a comfortable keyboard and impressive battery life, all wrapped in an attractive and lightweight chassis. But the C720P’s standout feature is its touchscreen – in fact, it’s one of the few Chromebooks to use a touch panel. Of course, that begs the question: Is touch control on Chrome worth spending an extra $100?Same lightweight design and port selectionWith the C720P, Acer hasn’t substantively updated the design of its lauded, $200 C720 Chromebook. Like its predecessor, the C720P still features a slim, all-plastic design that feels surprisingly sturdy and light. My review unit sported Acer’s Moonstone White finish that proved resistant to smudges – Acer also offers the C720P in a Granite Gray, too. Unsurprisingly, the C720P isn’t particularly flashy. Small Acer and Chrome logos on the left side of the lid are the only adornments on an otherwise plain shell.One noticeable difference is the weight of this machine. Where the C720 clocks in at a respectable 2.76 pounds, the C720P weighs 2.97 pounds. Both machines are substantially beefier than the HP Chromebook […]

By |February 18th, 2014|Phone Reviews|0 Comments

Review: Apple Mac Pro

Introduction and SpecificationIt’s finally here. We’ve been waiting for Apple’s new high-end Mac since the summer of 2012, when a user emailed Tim Cook about the apparent neglect of the Mac Pro range and was promised “something really great for later next year”. A year and a half on it finally arrived, but was Apple’s late 2013 Mac Pro worth the wait?Apple’s Mac Pro range is designed for power users. If your needs aren’t extreme enough to justify buying a Mac Pro – or your pocket isn’t deep enough to afford one – you could go for an iMac.Apple Mac mini review21-inch iMac review27-inch iMac review11-inch MacBook Air review13-inch MacBook Air review13-inch MacBook Pro review15-inch MacBook Pro reviewMacBook Pro 13-inch with Retina display reviewMacBook Pro 15-inch with Retina display reviewThe iMac range is significantly cheaper than the Mac Pro, and has the advantage of having a built-in screen and coming bundled with a keyboard and mouse, all of which you have to supply yourself if you buy a Mac Pro. If you’d rather not take the Apple path, there are plenty of high-end Windows PCs to choose from. Overclockers Gold Rush Gamer Pro gives a great gaming performance, and has a 250GB solid state drive. The Aria Gladiator Diablo GTX is great value for money but runs a little noisily, and the PC Specialist Vanquish Eclipse 670 MKII features a built-in Blu-ray drive, unlike the Mac Pro, which has no optical drive at all. At first glance, the most striking thing about the new Mac Pro is the radical redesign of its casing. It’s just 9.9 inches tall and just over 6.5 inches in diameter. By volume, it’s an eighth the size of the previous-generation […]

By |January 17th, 2014|News, Phone Reviews|0 Comments

Review: Asus Memo Pad HD 7

IntroductionBy partnering with Google and introducing the world to the original Nexus 7, Asus became a de-facto leader in the small form factor tablet market. At that time, Samsung and Amazon were the only other major players, but backed by Google’s marketing and some incredible pricing, Asus had a game changer on their hands. In an attempt to dine out on that success, Asus has launched a number of follow-up tablets, clearly utilising its experience with the Nexus 7. The latest of these offerings is the Memo Pad HD 7. Unlike the company’s previous Memo Pad offering at this size, the HD 7 comes packed with a bevy of excitingly high-end sounding specifications and backs those up with a range of bright, glossy colours, all for a retail price of just £129 ($149, around AU$170).Comparisons with the original Nexus 7 are inevitable here. The HD 7 is very similar in size, being just a smidge wider and thicker, but gains back the advantage by forcing you to carry a little less heft at just 302g, compared to the 340g of the Nexus 7.This reduction in weight is despite that minor increase in overall size, with dimensions of 196.8 x 120.6 x 10.8mm.The similarities don’t end there, as the HD 7 offers a 7-inch screen at the same 1280 x 800 resolution as the original Nexus 7, and also arrives with a quad-core processor and 1GB of RAM.Despite having similar specifications on paper, the processor is significantly different to the Tegra 3 in the original Nexus 7. It is a MediaTek MTK8125 which is very similar to the MTK6589 that can be found in many Chinese market phones, but it doesn’t contain cellular radios. Indeed, there […]

By |January 17th, 2014|News, Phone Reviews|0 Comments

Review: HP ZBook 14 review

IntroductionWhen it comes to professional laptops, HP isn’t playing games. The company isn’t interested in fancy features or alternative designs—its simply out to make a product that delivers. Inside and out, that philosophy is clear in the HP ZBook 14, which the vendor claims is “the world’s first workstation ultrabook.”Weighing just 3.57 pounds and measuring 0.83 inches thin, the ZBook 14 is quite the mobile machine. The notebook was a breeze to carry around in my shoulder bag for the past week or so, and wasn’t a pain to pull out either. The fact that HP ensured that its workstation ultrabook was a looker certainly helped.The ZBook 14 comes in a gray brushed aluminum finish on its lid surrounded by black soft touch plastic accents and a classy chrome HP logo front and center. Smooth magnesium coats the laptop keyboard deck in an almost gunmetal hue, surrounding a chiclet-style, backlit and spill-resistant keyboard with matte plastic keys replete with drain to offset liquid damage.To please the veteran business users, HP included a gray rubber pointing stick between the G, H and B keys with two dedicated buttons just below the spacebar. Most users will be served just fine by the snappy, smooth touchpad with firm physical buttons.Above the keyboard is a 14-inch, 1920 x 1080 LED screen that users can upgrade with 10 point multi-touch capability. Look even further up, and you’ll find a 720p webcam—both of which are surrounded by a black, matte plastic bezel wrapped by a thick band of rubber.Unfortunately, HP didn’t keep a consistent aesthetic: The underside is made of a black magnesium and the soft touch plastic is off putting. The ZBook 14 no Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga or 15-inch MacBook […]

By |January 16th, 2014|News, Phone Reviews|0 Comments

Hands-on review: Pentax K-500

IntroductionThe rise of the compact system camera has made it a tough time in recent years for the entry-level DSLR, which may explain why Pentax hasn’t rushed to replace its ageing K-r junior model. But, better late than never, the K-500 steps in to fill the vacant bread-and-butter end of the company’s DSLR range.In essence the K-500 is the same camera as the new mid-range K-50 that Pentax recently introduced to replace the K-30. The key differences between the new siblings are that the K-500 has to do without weather sealing, and its autofocus system lacks any AF point display in the viewfinder.But given Pentax’s history of producing well made beginner DSLRs with good specs, can the K-500 prove a worthy alternative to the Canon 100D, Nikon D3200 and Sony A58?FeaturesFirst impressions aren’t encouraging, however, suggesting Pentax is already playing catch-up with its established rivals. At the heart of the K-500 is the same 16.3-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor found in the old K-30. This kind of pixel count sounds a bit paltry by today’s standards, especially compared with Nikon’s 24MP chip in the D3200.The sensor does, however, come equipped with Pentax’s Shake Reduction system, enabling it to shift enough to allow shutter speeds up to three stops slower while retaining sharp shots. Having such a system in the camera body rather than the lens carries the added bonus that you can attach almost any K-mount compatible lens and still maintain a stabilised image.When Shake Reduction isn’t enough and there’s no alternative but to crank up the sensor sensitivity, the K-500’s PRIME M processing engine should be up to the job. It’s another element borrowed from the K-30, but Pentax has given it a few tweaks […]

By |January 16th, 2014|News, Phone Reviews|0 Comments

Hands-on review: Plantronics RIG

Plantronics has been in the headset industry for quite some time now so its no rookie when it comes to creating great gaming audio peripherals. Owners of next-gen consoles have pretty limited headset choices right now and are left with expensive sets or … non-existent ones. The RIG, so far, seems to be a worthy headset – and an affordable option to boot with the price being slashed down to only $99.99 (about £60.83, AU$111.63).The RIG works with the PS4, PS3, Xbox 360 and PC/Macs to chat with other players but like many other headsets, it doesn’t quite have Xbox One support. Rather, there’s only side chat available – though you can still use the headphones with the new Xbox console.During CES 2014, the RIG was on the show floor hooked up to a PlayStation 4 and Xbox One where I was able to have a quick hands on.The design is simple and unassuming but does not take away from the fact that these are quite comfortable over-ear headphones. The cups are cloth and made with memory foam to better fit to your ears – plus probably won’t feel sweaty after hours of usage. Cleaning the cloth may be a problem though since the cups don’t seem removable. Tearing is also something to factor in but the cups seemed durable enough.The headband doesn’t look like much yet feels comfy – but more time is needed to see how well the headband holds up after hours of music on-the-go or gameplay to determine whether or not they’ll end up squishing your head. A bit more time is needed to also test out the durability of the headband especially since they’re touted to be portable. The RIG […]

By |January 15th, 2014|News, Phone Reviews|0 Comments

Review: Updated: Sony PS4

IntroductionThe PlayStation 4 is the most powerful games console on the planet. With more graphical power than the Xbox One, 32 times more system memory than the PS3 and a firm focus on pure gaming experiences rather than media mojo, it has established itself as the next-gen console to beat.It’s a games console built by gamers for gamers. It won the hearts and minds of many from the word go, with lots of prospective next-genners left feeling alienated by some of Microsoft’s bizarre policies and choices for the Xbox One – many of which were reversed as a result of a backlash.Coming in at $549.95, the PS4 is also $50 cheaper than the Xbox One, making it appear terrific value. It doesn’t come with the PlayStation Camera (the One does come with Kinect) but this can be bought separately for $89.95 if you so wish.Why the PlayStation 5 could be the cheapest games console everThe differences between the PS4 and Xbox One are actually evident before you even switch them on. Despite the two consoles both sporting similar half-matte half-gloss finishes and containing very similar internal components, they really couldn’t be more different.For a start, the PS4 is small and sleek in comparison to the enormous VCR-like square cuboid of the Xbox One. And this means that the PS4’s box is half the size and weight of the Xbox One. The Sony console can be extracted from its packaging and plugged in and booted up in a couple of minutes.Xbox One on the other hand comes in a huge, hulking box. It’s fiddly to open and unpack, and it’s full of little compartments, cardboard and plastic to get in the way and make a mess […]

By |January 15th, 2014|News, Phone Reviews|0 Comments

Hands-on review: Lenovo Y50 review

Everyone knows Lenovo for its leading business and hybrid laptops (and sometimes both with the ThinkPad Yoga). But did you know that the Chinese vendor also makes gaming laptops? Amid the Alienwares and Origins of the world, it’s easy to forget, but not for long.This is the Lenovo Y50, the successor to the company’s Y510p gaming notebook and a first for Lenovo in several ways. Lenovo recognized that, even in the gaming clamshells, thin is most certainly in. But the vendor also hopped on another growing trend: 4K.Yes, the Y50 is Lenovo’s first 4K gaming laptop – that’s Ultra HD, or 3840 x 2160 – though it doesn’t come standard (1920 x 1080 does, however). Lenovo didn’t have all the details in time for my visit to its flashy CES 2014 installation. What I know so far is that the Y50 will pack up to an Intel Core i7-4702HQ CPU, the latest Nvidia GTX graphics chip and up to 16GB of DDR3 RAM. The Nvidia GPU is not standard, but at least the Y50’s fresh and fit new design is. This gaming laptop loses the room for dual graphics chips, an optical drive Lenovo’s interchangeable Ultrabay, but it also lopped off some considerable poundage and inches. Where the Y510p weighed 5.95 pounds and measured 1.41 inches thick, the Y50 comes in at just 4.7 pounds (5.7 pounds with optional touchscreen) and 0.94 inches. I’d say it was worth it.Four cheers for 4K gamingWhile it doesn’t come standard, Lenovo has beat many gaming laptop makers to the punch in announcing a 4K mobile rig. (Not to mention that it puts the 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro’s 2880 x 1800 pixels to shame.) The Y50 might need the […]

By |January 14th, 2014|News, Phone Reviews|0 Comments