Dell, Acer and Asus have all unveiled various PC models at
Computex in Taiwan this week. In a midst of a PC market crash, the computer
manufacturers have taken a leap of faith and revealed new designs the safety
net being of course the hybrid tablet devices.
Dell announced its XPS 11 model, a 2-in-1 convertible
Ultrabook. This hybrid device has a 360 degreed rotation design in order to
hide away the keyboard and flip into a tablet device. At 14.9mm and 2.5 pounds
this product could be utilised within an BYOD environment, which has seen many
of these types of devices in recent months.
Additionally, Dell launched an OptiPlex 9020 and All-in-One
machine. This commercial desktop will be available in four different form
factors, an all-in-one computer, as well as three different sized towers, all powered
by Intel Core i7 processors.
Dell also launched a 4th-gen Intel business
laptop, including swappable batteries. The Latitude E6540 will feature comprehensive
file-level encryption, advanced authentication and malware protection.
The XPS 12, OptiPlex 9020 desktop, and Latitude E6540 will
be available in the coming weeks.
Additionally, the computer manufacturer added two printers
to its portfolio of peripherals. The B1165nfw and B1265dfw claim to provide
affordable printing options, wireless networking capabilities and document
management software. The two printers will have the ability to print, scan,
copy and fax within the single device.
Acer announced its new Iconia tablet, the Iconia W3, which
claims to be the first 8.1-inch tablet running Windows 8. The company believes
that this is the "optimum size for productivity and entertainment, while
comfortable enough to sit in one hand". It will be available pre-installed with
Microsoft Office Home & Student 2013.
The company also launched a "phablet" device - the 5.7-inch
1280x720 screen Liquid S1. It offers an option to insert two SIM cards, and runs
Android Jelly Bean and a 1.5 GHz processor. Additionally, it has a few
functionalities to boost productivity: The Acer Float User Interface, which
allows several apps to stay open at the same time so users can multitask; the
Auto Profile which supports predefined network settings, which will adjust settings
such as brightness, volume and connectivity as users visit frequent locations.
Acer also launched its flagship ultrabook, the 13.3-inch Aspire
S7. The ultrabook boosts a longer-lasting battery for "all day computing" as
well as a updated cooling fan which makes less noise. It also offers wireless
display technology for sharing on a big screen wirelessly. Like its previous
model, it will include a 10-point WQHD display with 2,560 x 1,440 resolution taking
full advantage of the touch capabilities of Windows 8.
Probably, most interesting from all the launches at
Computex, was the Transformer Book Trio from Asus. This 11.6-inch clamshell
tablet with a detachable display, consists of two operating systems. It can switch
between Windows 8 notebook, Android tablet and Windows 8 desktop PC.
The Transformer series has been a success of Asus in the
consumer space in recent years, the ability to switch between app stores, synch
data and apparently "continue to surf a webpage when moving from notebook to
tablet, could be a game changer for the device in the business space also.
station dock has its own 4th generation Intel® Core™ i7 processor, keyboard and
750GB hard drive and it can also be hooked up to a monitor to be used as a
desktop PC. Additionally the screen can be removed from the station dock to be
used on the go as a tablet with a 2.0 GHz Intel processor , 64GB and full HD
display- taking the meaning of "hybrid" one step further.
Intel also had a presence at Computex, revealing a 22nm
low-power, Atom system on a chip design, which it claimed would offer faster
graphics and twice the CPU performance of the current generation. According to
Intel, the new chip would power Android and Windows 8.1 devices for up to eight
Having created this blog and nurtured it for the past four years, I've decided to put the best blog posts/videos from the best on one page.
Diary of an outcast: Apple's Special iPad 2 Event I will start with my favourite post, the infamous Apple event. I had been invited to Apple events before but somehow started getting missed off the list. I hate Apple so it was no surprise that they didn't want me there. Safe to say that after this post not only was I missed off the list but Computer Weekly never received an invite from Apple ever again.
iPhone Vs N97 This was the first big video project that me and David (video editor) put together. At the time I was so happy that I'd got the N97 I decided to make a video pitting it against the iPhone while mocking Apple's advertising campaign. Little did I know that the N97 would prove to be the worst purchase I've ever made in my life.
HTC Desire HD Review David (who stars in this video) and I wanted to do something different and create a cool video review. This is what we came up with.
Sadly once we started recording David (and the department he worked for) were made redundant. It didn't effect the video but it wasn't a happy time for us. Having cleared out his desk he set up at home the next day to finish it. This was our last hurrah and the last video I made. Very proud of it.
What is the best mobile OS around? At this point, no one wanted to be in any of my videos. The company was starting to cut back on them and so I tried to play four roles with four outfits and a moustache before I got told that what I was doing wasn't a productive use of my time. Honestly, how could they say that?
This video used to have a voting element that has since been removed because we couldn't afford to pay for the server the flash sat on.
The most ambitious video we ever tried.
Video: The future of business cards, I'm not taking the Poken There was a girl I was desperate to go out with at my work. I needed to do a video to have a reason to talk to her but the only thing I'd been sent was a Poken. No phones or cool gadgets. Somehow I persuaded her to help me make this video. We're still together :)
He would stand there saying "That's not funny" every time I cracked a joke or did something stupid. Or one of my favourite lines of his was "You might think that's funny, but it isn't".
Video: Palm Pre vs the iPhone - The big debate I had 2 weeks before Christmas to do a video armed with my wit and a white wig that was left over from a very bad 'Back to the future' spoof I'd made where I played the Doc. That video was so bad that the company we producd it for sent us a letter saying that if the video ever saw the light of day, they'd sue my a** off.
David went on holiday with a week left of editing/filming to do so I didn't have anyone to tell me that what I was saying wasn't funny and some of the editing is a bit off. It's still a good video but we felt it was rushed.
Video: Flip Mino HD review This video took 84 takes. For no reason at all I couldn't stop laughing during recording. We got in trouble because it was meant to take a couple of hours but took almost two weeks.
Being the sophisticated race that we are, we've managed to progress seamlessly from desktops to laptops and onto notebooks. But, the latest instalment in mobile computing, aside from tablets of course, appears to be Ultrabooks.
Faisal, who was blogging live from CES, supplied the ComputerWeekly office with all the news and information on Ultrabooks that our hearts desired. In fact, we even put together a photo gallery.
But what exactly are Utrabooks?
Well, allow me to enlighten you. They are effectively, Intel powered, thinner, high spec laptops made from superior materials.
Emerging new features include back-lit keyboards, USB 3.0 ports and faster boot times.
Ultrabooks are being pitched as the answer to the slumping PC market, with said slump being blamed on those pesky ARM powered tablets.
Question is, if this fails where do Intel go next? Megabook? Supabook? Speciabook? Amazebook? Wonderbook? Incredibook? Hyperbook? CallItWhatEverYouWantBook?
If you have any suggestions stick them on a post card and send them to the usual address. But seriously, leave a comment if you think you could help Intel out.
News of the upcoming BlackBerry Porsche (or P'9981) has inspired me to create a list of other 'special' or limited edition phones.
It's going to be in two parts. First, this part will outline five of the best (for various reasons) smartphone collaborations and the second part will look at five of the worst.
So, kicking things off, here is the BlackBerry Porsche:
The most shocking thing about this handset is not what it looks like but how much it costs. £2000 pounds.
£2000 is a lot to pay for any phone, for that amount of money you could get a run around car! Instead, what we have here is, in Faisal's words, a phone that looks like an 80's calculator.
It doesn't even come with RIM's new BBX operating system. What it does come with though is a forged stainless steel frame, hand-wrapped leather back cover, Wikitude World Browser augmented reality app experience (not a clue?), 1.2GHz processor, HD video recording capabilities, and 8GB of onboard memory.
As for the Porsche's input? Well apart from the nicely engraved name along the top of the screen that lets everyone know how rich and, in my opinion, how stupid you are, there is an exclusive Porsche Design UI running on the handset.
I know I said that this is five of the best yet I've gone on to heavily criticise the BlackBerry, so let me explain. In terms of build quality, memory and processing speed the P'9981 is head and shoulders above devices on the upcoming worst list.
Next up, the HTC Sensation range with Beats Audio. Specifically the XE model.
The XE is a solid Android 2.3.4 smartphone, equipped with a 1.5 GHz dual-core processor and HTC's popular Sense UI. The urban styled handset differentiates itself from the pack with the inclusion of Beats Audio technology.
Beats by Dr.Dre seems to be taking over the audio market so it is came as no surprise to hear it would be making the move to smartphones following HTC's decision to buy a sizeable stake in the company.
The device comes packaged with a pair of iBeats earphones, which cost a pretty penny if you were to go out and buy a pair, and the fact that I've seen a few people complain that the music player comes with the bass boost enabled tells you all you need to know.
Moving on, the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play, the first PlayStation certified smartphone, is third on my list.
Another Android 2.3.4 (although an update to 4.0 is looming) handset, the Xperia Play is equipped with a 4" touchscreen, a 1GHz Scorpion processor and 512 MB of RAM.
Thanks to Sony Ericsson's little Android tweaks, this smartphone would still have been a decent device before the PlayStation integration came along.
Having already used an Xperia Play for gaming, I know the touch sensitive flat joystick replacements, PSP like gaming buttons and a super-sensitive accelerometer all make for an impressive experience, whether your playing Crash Bandicoot or Pro Evo.
In conceptual terms, this fourth smartphone collaboration is genius. Take a Motorola Droid (the old model, not the new super thin RAZR), add a bit of Star Wars magic and the end result is the Droid R2 D2!
This Droid packs a 3.7" touch Screen, slide-out qwerty keyboard, 1GHz processor and 5MP camera. However, there is no hologram projector.
If you think the only difference between the R2 D2 and a normal Droid handset is a plastic back cover and a Star Wars wallpaper, you are sadly mistaken. Oh no, the R2 D2 also comes with official Star Wars sounds (lightsabers etc I'm guessing) as well as an exclusive "The Best of R2-D2" movie with original Cantina music. Wow.
I imagine these sold well at comic book conventions.
The final phone in my top five is the Acer Liquid E Ferrari edition.
Acer aren't really famed for their smartphones and, to be honest, the Liquid E only made the list because I couldn't find any other decent collaborations.
Shipped with Android 2.1, but up-datable to 2.2, and powered by a 768 MHz Scorpion processor, the Liquid E is by no means a world beater. In fact, media playback is lousy, the camera is poor and the phone as a whole is quite slow. Quite ironic really considering it is a Ferrari edition.
Considering it's hardware specs, the asking price of around £300 is ludicrous. The selection of Ferrari sounds and wallpapers are so-so but it's the plastic case with an air intake-style vent and the carbon fibre-wrapped Ferrari logo where things start to improve.
Acer have also taken the time to try and make some personal changes to the Android OS, with small spinning wheels at the end of each of the five home screens being the main example of this.
The Ferrari Bluetooth headset is what sealed the Liquid E's place on this list.
Well thats a wrap for now.
Next week I will be listing five of the worst smartphone collaborations so keep an eye out for that.
I will start by saying that my previous experience with Acer extends as far as my brother having once owned an Acer Laptop and I occasionally used it. Basically, the point I'm making is that I had no preconceptions when I picked up this tablet for the first time.
Acer currently has two lines of tablets available, the Iconia W series, which is a little bit pricier, and the Iconia A series. You'll also be glad to hear that I can offer a little bit more information, the W stands for Windows 7 and the A stands for Android, makes sense when you think about it really.
So, what we have here is an Acer, Android 3.0, 10" Tablet but I'm sure you would like to know more.
I'll just jump straight in and throw some numbers at you, the A500 weighs 765g, respectable, and measures 260 x 177 x 13.3 mm. All in all, this tablet isn't the slimmest or the lightest around but it's certainly not going to cause you any problems if you want to put it in your bag and carry it around all day.
It wouldn't be out of the question to hear that Acer may have some sort of reflection fetish going on after you've looked at this tablet. The brushed metal rear, darker plastic inserts and screen can almost leave you dazed if the light catches it in a certain way. As a matter of fact, the screen, even when turned on, makes as good a mirror as it does a tablet display.
Along the top of the Iconia you'll find the volume rocker and a rotation lock switch. However, these are made from the cheapest looking silver plastic imaginable, and although they're only small, it still detracts from the overall look. There is also a compartment covered by a sliding insert which, by the way, is far easier to slide off than it is to put back, and this is where sim cards and micro SD cards are inserted. Along the bottom of the A500 there sits a solitary docking connector.
The right side features the charging jack and two USB ports, one of which is a Micro USB port. A mini-HDMI port and earphone jack, along with the weirdly fascinating translucent on/off button are all found on the left side.
Unlike so many other Android tablets the home, back and menu buttons aren't found in the bezel around the screen, they are actually part of the screen. The bezel does, however, have the front facing camera embedded within it. There is also a rear facing camera, with flash, on the back, accompanied by two mesh covered speakers, more on both of those later.
Everything on the Iconia looks neat, precise and orderly, from the front it looks excellent, yet it could have been put together a bit better. By that I mean that the seams of inserts on the rear along with the actual seam of the tablet on either side should have been made less obvious. The devil is in the details.
The Acer offers up a 800 x 1280 pixel, 10.1 (the .1 makes a difference, trust me) inch TFT LCD screen, capable of displaying up to 256K colours. If you compare that to the HTC Flyers 16M colours, it comes out looking a tad bland but, by tablet standards, it isn't too shabby.
Its clarity and crispness is only slightly dampened by the amount of glare that the screen picks up, as well as its tendency to attract fingerprint grease, though a very effective cleaning cloth is also supplied.
Despite boasting about wide viewing angles on the box the glare again restricts how much of the screen you can see and at what angle.
The capacitive touch screen on the A500 is amongst the most responsive I have ever tested, as is the accelerometer, which I put through its paces with a few levels of Need for Speed.
As I mentioned previously, the Iconia comes with a front and rear facing camera. The latter is a 5MP effort with an LED flash, whereas the front facing snapper is only 2MP. I say only 2MP, it's better than the usual VGA numbers that many other tablets are fitted with.
With good light, the rear camera is a little over acceptable for taking still, close up shots, but start playing with the focus and zoom then images just become come a hazy mess of colour.
Here are a couple of sample shots, the portrait shot was taken using the zoom:
You won't be suprised to find out that the he video recording capabilities aren't really any better. The tablet is supposedly capable of 720p recording but, much like the HTC Flyer, it falls far short of that. To be fair, I can't see many people buying the Acer just to walk around holding it up to record video anyway. It's most likely there on the off-chance you bump into Bobby Davro and want video proof to show your friends.
Here is a sample:
Again, I'll get straight into it with more numbers and spec. The A500 comes with either, 16GB or 32GB storage and 1GB of RAM. It gets better, it is also packed with a Tegra 2 T20 chipset, a dual-core 1GHz ARM Cortex-A9 processor and GeForce graphics processing unit.
A couple more little bonuses are flash 10.1 and Bluetooth 2.1 support.
The rear grille covered speakers I mentioned earlier, with the help of Dolby Mobile 2, actually sound pretty darn good, well in tablet terms at least.
Don't go expecting ground shaking bass or pure musical clarity because that's not what I'm saying, but they perform admirably during gameplay and, at a stretch, it is probably strong enough to share a movie with three people sat in the back of a car.
One seriously annoying thing I encountered was that before you can begin taking media from and putting it onto the tablet, you must first go to Acer's website and download a 82Mb driver. I've never had to do this with any other Android tablet I've used, they've all been plug and play.
Android 3.0 is one of the main selling points of this Acer Tab and, aesthetically at least, it doesn't disappoint. Everything is laid out nicely, flows with no lagging and does everything you'd expect it to do.
Acer have, of course, included some of their own apps and regular readers will know that duplicate apps grind my gears.
Well, whilst using the Acer, even the duplicate apps didn't bother me, it brought with it a sense of serenity. Possibly because the apps that were duplicates had subtle differences.
For example, clear.fi multimedia browser basically does the same thing as Android's Gallery and Music apps, but clear.fi looks as if it has had much more time spent on it and the level of functionality is greatly increased.
The drag and pull lock screen, which is becoming increasingly common, is another nice touch, however, my favourite bit, by far is the web browsing widget. It sits in the top right corner of the home screen and can contain up to 14 bookmarked pages, all of which scroll smoothly down as you run your finger over it.
Despite the extra 4.5mm thickness that the A500 has over the iPad 2, it only comes with a Li-polymer 3260 mAh battery and that that doesn't come close to the longevity that the Apple device can offer.
You can see the Iconia's battery life slowly creep down with moderate usage and if I owned one I'm sure that one day, inevitably, when I'd need it most I'd have forgotten to charge it and end up running out of power.
The Acer Iconia A500, available at around £369 for the 32GB model, or £349 for 16GB, is a solid Android tablet. It comes close to being labelled average but the power of the Tegra dual-core processor is its saving grace. That, and the fact that the RAM means apps and Honeycomb can run without the slightest snag.
The screen, camera and build quality could be improved upon but it's a constant balancing act between performance and cost. In this case Acer have been sensible, it could have become iconic if they'd taken more risks to differentiate themselves.
The Asus Eepad Transformer, around £419, and Motorola Xoom, £399, are the alternatives and they come with very similar specs but better screens. The only other major difference is the additional skin that the manufacturers put on top of Android.
Price and personal preference are the deciders here, 3.0 hasn't yet reached it's full potential and whilst the spec of these tablets are almost identical the performance and strong points of each device varies.
Acer haven't exactly lit-up the smartphone world and don't look to do so any time soon.
This phone wasn't meant to break any records, a cost effective Android business phone is how I see it and in that space, it has it's limitations.
What's disappointing about this phone is that it is still on Android 1.6. Most Android phones are on 2.1 at least if not 2.2.
It looks like a Blackberry with a 2.6 inch resistive touch screen. It sounds great for business goers but in practice, it just looks like a Blackberry, it's no better than a normal budget phone with a QWERTY keyboard.
The keyboard is quite good. The keys are raised and easy to click. It's easy to get the keyboard wrong so to be fair Acer did a good job of this obviously taking note of Blackberry's best. Typing long emails is a joy.
There is a small trackball in the middle of the phone that is similar to the HTC Hero and the BlackBerry Pearl.
Trackballs are not common any more as they can be problematic. Personally I don't mind it and have never had a problem with them.
Other than that it has the standard Home, Back, Search and Menu buttons as well as Call answer and Call end buttons. The phone is made entirely of plastic and it's a very light phone.
Acer have skinned Android but not massively. The skin has Acer's 'media picker' which is a carousel for video, pictures and music. As with most Android phones you get five screens to fill with widgets, folders, shortcuts, applications and contacts.
Acer has also moved the tab that you would normally slide up to get to the full applications menu and instead you slide it horizontally, pulling it out from the right edge of the screen.
Most Android apps are made to fit screens that are portrait and not horizontal so you always have difficulty fitting things on the screen properly. There is no accelerometer so you can't even make it portrait if you ever need it.
The screen is low resolution which doesn't help matters. Apps look blocky and pictures don't look very good.
This also makes web browsing challenging, and since the screen is resistive there is no multitouch, meaning you can't pinch to zoom although double tapping the screen zooms in and out.
Ins and outs
The processor is only 416Mhz which will be fine for light users but heavy app users will find it starts to slow down once a few are open.
It comes with GPS, WiFi and HSDPA (3.5G internet speed) as well as a 3.2 megapixel camera which is acceptable but not great, much like the rest of this phone.
I haven't exactly been complimentary about this phone and that's because Acer have cut back in almost every department to create a good, budget Android phone with a solid QWERTY keyboard.
If you want a low-end Android phone and like emailing and texting then this could be up your street, if you want the full smartphone / Android experience at a low price then I would look at the HTC Wildfire.
We hate: No customised UI, unresponsive capacitive touchscreen and no LED flash.
When I heard Acer were about to release a smartphone, my assumptions had been confirmed that now Google has made Android so open, literally anyone could make a smartphone.
Looking back to a few years ago, most manufacturers would've felt that it would be far too difficult to compete in the mobile phone market. Forget about creating the hardware, that wouldn't be too difficult but to make a UI that can compete with Nokia and Sony? That would be difficult.
I'm sure the likes of Dell and Acer would've had meetings to discuss the possibilities but wouldn't have taken it further than that. Now we have the Dell Streak breaking new ground and the Acer Liquid E which is a bit of a let down.
The Liquid E is an updated version of the Liquid that didn't do very well. This version sports Android 2.1and a lovely, large screen.
I like the look. It's a shiny piano black with no buttons, just a very
slick row of touch-sensitive buttons taht sit under the screen.
I've heard people say that they feel the phone is too wide. I agree that
it does appear wide but when placed alongside other handsets you
realise that it is wider, but not by much.
Fingerprints on the screen can be a problem, especially when it's locked
but when the screen is on it's not a big deal.
The screen is nice and bright with WVGA resolution, although compared to retina display and super amoled it's behind and I found the capacitive touchscreen somewhat unresponsive compared to the iPhone and my Desire.
The onscreen keyboard wasn't great either. The keys seemed small despite the wide screen, that coupled with the capacitive screen made me somewhat disappointed. That might be just because I'm going from a Desire and iPhone.
Chips and vinegar
Like most Android phones, the Liquid E packs Qualcomm's 1GHz Snapdragon processor with Acer clocking it at 768MHz.
That's great for battery life but bad for running a tonne of apps. It really depends on what you prefer, personally I like to manage my battery myself but most people would be happy with better battery life. You can still expect to charge the phone
every two days or so.
Acer hasn't customized the Android interface which is bad when you look at what Samsung, HTC and Motorola have done but it's still not bad.
Customisation and hardware are what separates Android phones apart and while the Acer hardware is decent, the lack of customization means you don't have anything extra compared to other Android handsets.
I like the widgets they added though, especially the bookmark wheel that displays thumbnails.
The Liquid E's 5MP camera isn't bad.
It produces some clear pics with nice colours for daylight snaps but the
lack of an LED flash hinders its performance indoors. Photos taken in
low light look terrible.
If I'd got the Acer Liquid E 12-18 months ago then I would've been impressed. It does everything you want to a reasonable level, it's solid and works well.
But for those of us that have come accustomed to HTC Sense, Motoblur and an extremely responsive capacitive screen then this isn't the phone for you.