Well folks, 2014 is almost in the books, and we will soon be in 2015. Outside of tech, the world has been rather crazy; there have been tragic deaths, natural disasters and further division among US citizens. Sadly, the tech world got pulled into the major news with various hacking scandals -- Home Depot customer information was breached, Sony Pictures was brought to its knees and Hollywood celebrities had their naked photos leaked. In other words, there have been many negative things in both tech and non-tech news.
Luckily, not all is bad; the tech community has seen many great devices and software released too. As is customary for late-December, many tech-writers, such as yours truly, begin compiling lists of the best tech of the year. Well, "best" is subjective, I realize that, so instead, I am offering my favorite tech of 2014. Maybe your list is different; my colleague's lists are. Variety is the spice of life however, so please tell me if you agree or disagree with my choices.
If you need a laptop, there are generally two routes you can go -- desktop replacement or desktop companion. In other words, a svelte 11 inch laptop is cute and light, but hardly something you would want to use full-time. Such a small screen can be tedious for doing a lot of work. Sure, you can connect it to a larger monitor for enhanced productivity, but that is an additional purchase, and requires a dedicated work area in the home. What about those of us that want a machine that can be used comfortably anywhere -- including a kitchen table -- with a large screen and full keyboard? Not everyone is just surfing the web on their laptops as the Chromebook crowd would have you think. Some of us need an honest-to-goodness desktop replacement for getting work done.
Luckily, this demographic is not ignored, and good ol' fashioned laptops still exist, even if they don't get the same "oohs" and "ahs" as their tiny cousins. I became quite intrigued by the Lenovo Edge 15, because first of all, it is Lenovo -- a durable and dependable brand. More importantly though, it has a 15 inch screen, and a full keyboard...including a number pad! The fact that it is a 2-in-1 partial-convertible, is just icing on the cake. While everything looked good on paper, the question became, did the real-world experience match up? With a desire to find this out on my own, I obtained one for review.
In a world of tablets, the art of building a PC is becoming lost. However, while system-building is less popular than years past, many people still do it -- including myself. Sure, you can probably save money by buying an off-the-shelf Dell or HP, but there is something special about selecting each and every component of your PC -- things like processor, motherboard, and case.
The case is the unsung hero of any build -- it houses your precious components, but does not directly contribute to the overall performance. It is for this reason that many people look to save money and go cheap on a case. This is a mistake, as a case is something you look at often; it should be attractive. Also, while the components inside may change, a good case can be with you over several builds, making it a wise investment. Fractal Design is a company that commands much respect in the system-builder community. The manufacturer's "Core" line of cases provide great quality, while also being affordable. Today, I am looking at the Core 3300 -- a Mid Tower ATX case.
One of Android's most attractive aspects is also its greatest weakness. You see, unlike the iPhone and iOS, Google's Linux-based operating system is available to any manufacturer that is interested. This means you can see many Android devices in different shapes, sizes and styles. Hell, hardware aside, even the operating system can be customized. The problem is, with so much different hardware and tweaked software, many phones do not get regular updates -- this is also due to extensive carrier testing. To the average consumer, this is not a huge headache, as app compatibility is generally fine across versions. Where this becomes an issue is when vulnerabilities are discovered -- delays in updates or a total lack of updates can put a user at risk.
Enter the Nexus line of Android devices. Every year, Google hand-selects a manufacturer to build a smartphone running "vanilla" Android, meaning it is pure and not tweaked or customized. These phones (and tablets) are designed to get fast updates directly from Google. This ensures that not only does the user have the latest features, but the safest and newest version of the operating system too. The latest such phone is the Motorola-built Nexus 6 -- named as such for having a 6-inch screen (technically 5.96 inch). Is it the best Nexus yet?
Another day, another streaming media box. Quite frankly, the idea of testing yet another such device would normally bore me, but this one is different. You see, it carries the Nexus name. If you aren't familiar, "Nexus" is synonymous with a pure Google experience. What does this mean? Well, it is Android the way the search-giant envisions it.
Amazon for instance, uses Android as a base for its Fire OS found on the Fire TV; however, it is very customized and doesn't have access to the Play Store. The Nexus Player is Google's retort -- showing device manufacturers how Android TV should be done. How does the Nexus Player compare to the competition? Read on for more.
My first-ever tablet was the first-generation iPad. I loved Apple's tablet very much, but ended up selling it to buy the Nexus 7. My decision made sense, as the iPad was nearing end of life, while Google's tablet was just beginning.
The Nexus 7 was awesome, but it lacked the same magic as Apple's tablet. Yes, I am using the word magic to describe the iPad, a much maligned word for Apple's detractors. To explain, the "magic" I speak of, was the emotional connection that I had with iPad; something that did not exist with both Nexus 7 models. Don't get me wrong, both Nexus 7 tablets were great and functional, but also cold and smartphone-like. Now Google releases the Nexus 9 and it finally has the feature I desire most -- magic.
In the world of Android, there is rarely a clear-cut "best" smartphone. This is a good thing, as it signifies variety in the Android marketplace. In other words, consumers do not all have the same tastes; some like a smaller screen, some a larger screen and some even like having a stylus. However, with that said, even though people have different preferences, it is easy to identify the top flagship phones.
BetaNews has the two top Android smartphones in our lab. Yes, we have both the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and Google's Motorola-manufactured Nexus 6. For the immediate future, these will be the phones of many consumers' desires. Deciding which of these two smartphones to buy is very problematic, but hey -- it's a great problem to have, right? Please read on, to see how the phones differ and which one you should buy.
You never know when you’ll see or hear something interesting when out and about. If you want to record what's going on around you, the easiest solution is to whip out your smartphone, but that’s not always practical -- if you’re driving for example, or performing any task that requires both hands (like mountain biking down a treacherous slope).
The EHEAR E2 is a small finger-sized recording device that hooks over your ear, and lets you record what you see. You can fire up the camera with a single tap, and then view your recordings on a phone or tablet later on.
Everybody has different needs, so it is impossible to say one operating system is better than another. Sure, you can state which OS is best for you, but someone else may have a difference in opinion. In other words, whether you think Windows, OS X, Chrome OS or any Linux distro is the best operating system, you are right.
While I prefer Windows for heavy lifting, I use my Chromebook regularly for light use, such as writing, and trips to Starbucks. Unfortunately, Chrome OS has become synonymous with low-cost and portability, causing people to discount it for home desktop use. Actually, there is a segment of Chrome devices called Chromeboxes that are designed for the desktop and can excel at many things. Today, I am looking at the Acer Chromebox CXI (4GKM) to see how it performs as a home desktop PC.
Nowadays, all major operating systems are great. Regardless of your preference, it cannot be denied that Windows, OS X, iOS, Android and many Linux distributions are amazing feats of technology. It is not uncommon for me and many others to use multiple operating systems every day. While Windows is what I use mostly for getting work done, Android is my smartphone OS of choice, and the iPad is my bedtime entertainment computer. It is not necessary to live on a desert island-like environment from only one company exclusively.
Bluetooth keyboards have made typing on devices convenient; however, there is an annoying aspect -- pairing. If you use a Bluetooth keyboard with only one device, you should have no issue. Unfortunately, if you want to share it between multiple devices and operating systems, you have to re-pair it every time you switch. This becomes a tedious affair, turning convenience into a hassle. Luckily, Logitech has released a product, that should alleviate this nuisance -- the Bluetooth Multi-Device Keyboard K480.
I preordered Apple's new smartphone on September 12, and it wasn't easy. Few months back, I went "Microsoft All-In" for the summer, purchasing the Nokia Lumia Icon on contract from Verizon. So I didn't qualify for the discounted, upgrade price. But when there's a will, there's a way -- and a generous family member helps make something special happen.
My iPhone 6 review begins with such disclaimer. Like iPad Air, I paid for the device. Apple didn't send me a review unit, but I did ask, and I am not on the preferred list of writers who get early access to "iDevices" and who presumably are more likely to rave. Such qualification is necessary, because iPhone 6 is an exceptionally satisfying handset, and I don't want to be mislabeled fanboy for stating such. That's a brash conclusion coming from someone abandoning a competing smartphone with better specs and satisfying user experience.
Bluetooth speakers are a dime a dozen, nowadays. Quite frankly, it is hard to get excited about them. While they can be used with a desktop at a workstation, the true allure is portability with a smartphone or tablet. You see, there is typically a trade-off of quality for convenience, and the average audiophile would likely turn up their nose at using them.
While I have heard some great Bluetooth speakers like the UE BOOM and JBL Flip, they ultimately were not enough to replace my desktop speakers, the Logitech Z-2300. Those desktop speakers are quite phenomenal and hard to beat. I recently tested the Cambridge Audio Minx M5 and found them to be wonderful, but they do not offer a wireless connection. Today, I am looking at the Grace Digial aptX Bluetooth Speakers, which work as both wired and wireless.
While we all await the arrival of the next Nexus from Google -- and the wait isn't likely to be very long now -- other low cost Android tablets are trying to attract both our attention and our cash. Asus has a good track record in this respect. Lest we forget, Asus was in fact Google's partner for the last Nexus tablet, though it looks like Google may be ringing the changes in terms of a hardware partner this time round.
Anyhow, what we have here is the MeMO Pad 8, the latest in a line of smaller format, lower cost tablets from Asus that are designed to cater to our desire for a larger than phablet screen that's still potentially pocket-friendly in size and wallet-friendly in price. The MeMO Pad 8 will set you back around £160.
The new iPhone, as every smartphone fan knows by now, is not in fact one phone, but two. And unlike last time Apple launched two handsets at once, this time you don't have to choose between a cut down version (the iPhone 5c) or a full-fat version (the iPhone 5s).
This time, while there are some differences between the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus, apart from screen size they are subtle ones, and your choice is primarily about size -- do you want a 4.7-inch screen or a 5.5-inch one? This review is of the 4.7-inch iPhone 6, kindly provided by Three -- our review of the iPhone 6 Plus will follow.
Windows Phone is a very polarizing operating system to say the least. Many consumers refuse to give it a chance, and the ones that do, either hate it or love it. Despite the shortcomings of Microsoft's phone-focused OS, I find it to be a very rewarding experience. Of course, the biggest complaint is a lack of apps, and while there has been much improvement in that area, it is still a valid argument when compared against the iPhone or Android.
Apps aside, it is an intuitive experience that enhances one's life rather than take it over. Android and iPhone users are often in a zombie-like state while using the device, as if it is the sole-focus of their existence. Windows Phone is designed more to be glance-and-go. Unfortunately, while Nokia Lumia handsets have been wonderful, brand-diversity and selection has been severely lacking. Luckily, Microsoft majorly scored by getting HTC to produce a version of its One (M8) that runs Windows Phone. Can the sexy HTC handset outdo the sexiness of the popular Lumia line?