Earlier this year, Microsoft successfully blurred the lines between laptop and tablet with the Surface Pro 3. Yes, the company had attempted it twice before, but the small screens on the previous models made it a less-than-ideal laptop replacement. On the Surface Pro 3, stretching the screen to 12-inches and making it lighter finally achieved the portable productivity nirvana of which many of us dreamed.
While this was great for many, others like me had a dilemma; we do much of our computing at home. Sure, I need a portable machine for travel and working in, let's say, Starbucks; however, at home in my office, I want to use a big 27-inch screen, keyboard and mouse. This was achievable by using Bluetooth peripherals and connecting my monitor directly to the Surface. Sadly, this proved clunky and I needed a better way. Supposedly, that better way is now available with the official Docking Station, so I bought it. The question is, how is it?
If you're specifying a notebook for your kids or your school, the attractive world of ultra-portables probably won't be top of your list of possibilities. Robustness, durability and value are far more likely to be your chief considerations. Dell's Latitude 13 Education Series 3340 is designed specifically to satisfy this kind of need. It's clearly built to last, and has both a specification and price that should appeal to the target audience.
The Latitude 3340 is not going to win any style awards, but it is very sturdy. The dark gray plastic chassis feels tough and is surrounded by rubber edges on the base and screen bezel. The hinge is similarly solid, and rotates 180 degrees so it can lie flat on the desk alongside the base, although the screen isn't touch-enabled so this facility is less useful than it could have been.
Amazon's Fire phone does not have access to Google's Play Store. I want to get that out of the way first, as it may be a consumer's biggest concern about the phone. However, that said, it might not be a big deal. In fact, it is quite refreshing to experience Google's Linux-based operating system without Google. In my opinion it is dangerous for Android to become synonymous with Google's store.
With Android, you do have the ability to add 3rd party stores without rooting or hacking. Unfortunately, on most devices, only Google's Play Store comes installed. While I have seen some devices come with the Amazon Appstore preloaded too, make no mistake, the Play Store is always the main focus. The Fire phone bucks that trend and puts Amazon's store into the spotlight and that is not a bad thing. Actually, as I will explain later, you can add additional app stores and even install some of Google's apps.
Self-proclaimed tech nerds around the world are turning their backs on system-building. This is tragic, as this art is part of the foundation of the tech nerd lifestyle. It is hard to argue with these perceived traitors -- an off-the-shelf tablet such as an iPad can do very much. In other words, why spend the time and money building a PC? The same can be said for much in life. I mean, why cook when you can get take out? Why mow your lawn when you can pay someone to do it? The answer is simple -- fun and self satisfaction. Yes, building a computer is a rewarding experience and everyone should at least attempt it.
System-building is something I am still a fan of and I know I am not alone -- you guys are out there. Amazing components are constantly being released -- motherboards, processors and even power supplies. A power supply is the unsung hero of any system build. It literally powers the computer! It is sad how often people choose cheap PSUs for their builds and instead focus on the "fun" stuff, like RAM and processors. I have always cautioned against cheap power supplies. When I say "cheap", please do not misunderstand -- I am referring to poor quality and not low price. If you can get high quality for a low price, awesome. However, if you've never heard of the manufacturer, it is probably a good Idea to pass. Recently, I saw a new PSU from world-renowned manufacturer Cooler Master that got my motor running -- the V1200 Platinum. Once I wiped the drool from my chin, I obtained one to review.
When it comes to productivity, no tablet is as good as the Surface Pro 3. Of course, that tablet also comes at a very high price. While the price is justified for a laptop or desktop replacement, it wouldn't make financial sense to purchase it as a companion to an existing Windows computer. Sure, you could go with a small-screen Windows tablet, but currently, app selection isn't too great (it is getting better though). In the mean time, an Apple or Android tablet would serve as a better companion.
In my testing, I have found the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 to be the current king of companion tablets, beating out the iPad Air. However, Samsung's tablet is very capable of creation too. In theory, you may be able to use it as your main computer. Logitech wants to help with that -- its Type-S keyboard cover turns the Galaxy Tab S into a mini laptop. But is it good?
Android is a very capable operating system. With it, Google accomplished the unthinkable -- widespread Linux use by average home users. Linus Torvalds popularized his kernel with nerds and the enterprise, but the search giant made it accessible for all. Here's the thing though -- the fact that Android is powered by Linux doesn't matter. No, to the average consumer, all that matters is the experience. What lies beneath is inconsequential.
Samsung recently released the Galaxy Tab S 10.5, its newest flagship tablet. The device's closest competitor is the iPad Air -- which is a tablet I love. Besides Apple's tablet, there is really no other product to consider at the $500 price point. So, if you are considering a $500 general-use tablet, the only question that must be asked is -- is it better than the iPad Air?
If you want to send images, videos or music to your TV from another device the obvious choice might seem to be Google's Chromecast. However it's not the only game in town, the Tronsmart may not be a name you've heard of but at $24.09 it's around $10 cheaper than Google's alternative, so is it worth considering?
First impressions are good, it's made of a nice smooth matt plastic and the design is tidy if unexciting. The unit plugs directly into the HDMI port of your TV or projector and it offers 1080P resolution, though can be switched to 720P for older TVs. The T1000 will work with Android (including Kindle Fire HDX), iOS or Windows devices, you just need to download the right software.
Hitting the road means luggage, and luggage is a pain -- all that… stuff… to carry from place to place. Traveling light can help to make the journey less of a chore, but there are some things that simply have to be packed: no self-respecting technology fan would go on vacation without taking a raft of devices with them. But devices need power, and this means chargers are needed. iPhones, MP3 players, Android tablets, iPads, digital cameras, Chromebooks, and countless other devices all need power -- and that means a lot of chargers.
We just took a look at the Lumsing DCH-5U 5-Port USB Travel Wall Charger which enables you to leave the chargers at home and charge up to five devices simultaneously from a single power point. And we have one to give away!
A few weeks ago I took a look at Lumsing's harmonica battery pack. Now from the same stables comes the lengthily titled DCH-5U 5-Port USB Travel Wall Charger. This is a slightly different twist on the idea of providing power to travellers' devices -- this is a wall charger rather than a portable battery pack. If you're going on vacation, taking a trip, or even just hitting the office, there are your devices to consider. Your phone, tablet, MP3 player, and other bits and pieces all need power, all need their own charger.
Except they don’t. Leave all of your chargers at home, and just take a selection of USB cables -- this 5-port hub allows for up to five USB devices (obviously) to be charged from a single wall power point. The 31W/6.2A unit has two 5V 1A ports for phones, and three 5V 2A ports for tablets and devices with higher power demands. Oddly, the ports are labelled, left to right, iPad, iPad, Samsung Tab, iPhone, and Android. It would have made more sense to simply indicate which of the five were the high-powered ports, but this is a minor niggle in the grand scheme of things.
Taste in music is very personal. My favorite genre is Hip-Hop, but many people detest that music type. And really, that's OK -- not everyone has to like everything. However, it is nice for people to respect all music. Even though I listen to songs from Slum Village, Lil Wayne and Mobb Deep, I can respect others too. Hell, I went to the Beach Boys concert this past Saturday night and had a blast.
As polarizing as music can be, so too can music mediums and hardware. Some people still swear by vinyl, others by CD and people like me are OK with streaming music services and MP3. Sadly, when it comes to hardware, like speakers and headphones, it seems consumers are adverse to spending money on quality. It is crazy to see people listening to music with expensive smartphones and tablets with $10 junk ear buds. Today, I am looking at an expensive and polarizing set of on-ear cans -- Beats Solo2.
With the recent Hurricane Arthur moving up the east coast of the US, power becomes something to worry about and a mobile connection can prove a lifeline for many people in the path of such storms. Keeping a tablet or cell phone alive during a disaster is paramount, but portable power is also handy for mundane times like travel and camping.
Backup batteries are not scarce on the market, you can find any number of them if you look. The real question is, what do you need? Ideally, you want the maximum mAh you can afford, as it will provide the most charges -- remember that battery in your phone is rated, and is usually somewhere in the 2,000 to 3,000 range. Use that number to compare to what you are buying to get a rough estimate of the amount of times you will be able to recharge. If you live in a household with multiple members then that should also be taken into account.
It is hard to get excited about an Android smartphone nowadays. There are simply too many similar devices on the market. Slightly faster processor? Slightly larger screen? Yawn. At this point, Android is simply evolution rather than revolution. Hell, Google I/O 2014 was rather boring. While the proposed changes to Android "L" are nice, it is hardly anything to get excited about.
Instead, it seems that true innovation is coming from the manufacturers, rather than Google. There have been many cool additions to Android by Samsung, LG and HTC to name a few. Samsung in particular has enhanced the OS immensely with its tweaks and features. Sadly, many critics have lambasted that manufacturer for cluttering the user experience with too many features. While I understand the "less is more" philosophy, I refuse to fault any company for being too ambitious. For the past couple weeks, I have been testing Samsung's ambitions with the Samsung Galaxy S5 (Verizon) and I would like to share that with you.
When we first looked at AOMEI Data Backuper in January 2013 it was a capable free image backup tool with some limitations -- no scheduler -- but a lot of promise. Now at version 2.x , and renamed to AOMEI Backupper Standard, is the program worth considering again? We checked it out.
Installation remains quick and easy. It’s the free edition of a commercial product, but there’s no adware, no nag screens, no unmarked functions which display annoying "can’t use this until you pay" messages. Only an unobtrusive "Upgrade" link on the main page reminds you there are other options available.
Samsung's Galaxy Tab Pro comes with an 8.4-inch, 10.1-inch and 12.2-inch screen. I reviewed the pen-friendly foil to the largest Tab Pro, the Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 earlier this year, and we've also already looked at the Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4.
What you have in the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 12.2 is quite an interesting concept. A giant sized screen, in tablet format, that at £480 for the 32GB version easily costs as much as a good laptop but which lacks a lot of laptop features. There's no capacious hard drive, no physical keyboard, no support for the huge range of apps you might want to run on Windows or OS X.
HTC has been extremely busy recently in terms of unleashing handsets upon us. Over a period of just a few weeks I have reviewed the flagship HTC One M8, the smaller format HTC One mini 2, and the HTC Desire 816. Now, with barely a pause for breath following those last two reviews, here comes the HTC Desire 610.
Styled by HTC as a good value, entertainment-focused handset, the Desire 610 costs around £235. It shares a lot of design features with its more expensive, higher specified cousin the Desire 816, which will set you back close to £300. So, if you need to save money but like what the Desire 816 has to offer, is this handset a good buy?