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REVIEW: Nokia Lumia 930 first impressions

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In this guest post David McClelland gives his impressions of the Nokia Lumia 930,
the first high-end handset to launch with Windows Phone 8.1.

Hardware

The Nokia Lumia 930 is a substantial handset in more ways than one. First up, the body: Nokia has adopted a sturdy aluminium unibody for its latest flagship, but has still chosen to decorate its back with the signature polycarbonate - neon green and orange get the Lumia treatment this season, with white and black completing line-up. 

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The Lumia 930's Full HD 5-inch OLED screen is striking too: blacks are black, colours pop and despite the high-gloss it repels greasy fingermarks well, remaining readable even in direct sunlight. The bezel is narrow enough, and the curved edges of the scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass 3 screen lap onto the handset's chassis, mirroring the contours on the rear. 

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The volume rocker, power and camera shutter buttons all sit along one side of the handset. This keeps the aesthetic clean but means that securing the 930 into most after-market car kits will result in one or more buttons being permanently depressed. Form 1, Function 0.

Beneath the vibrant exterior sits a quad-core 2.2 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 chipset, 2 GB RAM and 32 GB storage. While the CPU is last-year's model it's certainly no slouch. Despite the missing MicroSD card slot Microsoft now bundles 15 GB of OneDrive cloud storage for free, and 1 TB if you've an Office 365 account.

Battery and Wireless Charging

As with other unibody handsets the 930's battery isn't removable, although I found the 2420 mAh unit lasted through the day. 

Having toyed with wireless charging on the Lumia 920, Nokia once again integrates the feature and this time includes an induction charger in the retail box. 

Disappointingly, I found it a bit flaky. On more than one occasion I left the handset atop the charger to find it hadn't charged the phone. Software bugs need to be ironed out too, with the 930 insisting it was still charging hours after its removal from the charger.

Wireless charging is seen as a panacea by some but until reliability is improved many might still prefer the reassurance of a cable over the questionable convenience of a mat.  

Also worth pointing out is that the chassis can get very, very hot on charge or in use.

Camera

The Lumia 930 features a terrific 20-megapixel PureView camera which makes shallow depth of field shots look natural without any clunky software processing. Optical image stabilisation, ZEISS 6-lens optics, dual-LED flash and lossless zoom top out the specs, but again the Lumia's screen steals the show, making pictures pop like a print.

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Software

Windows Phone 8.1 is the newest version of Microsoft's mobile operating system introducing features which many hoped might bring it in line with its competitors.

Action Centre apes the notification bars seen in Android and iOS. A swipe from the top of the screen recalls missed messages, a customisable quick menu and a shortcut to the phone's main settings. A welcome addition to the operating system.

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Swipe-style typing also debuts and, once you've the hang of it, is very accurate. However, Cortana, Windows Phone's answer to Siri, hasn't made it onto UK handsets yet - expect to see it (her?) on Windows Phones by the end of the year.

Email and Productivity Apps

For many email will be a main driver and Microsoft makes setting up accounts simple. I didn't get the chance to try the 930 with an Exchange mailbox, but it handled multiple outlook.com, IMAP, Gmail and POP mailboxes with aplomb.

Windows Phone 8 also does some useful things around the concept of the unified inbox. Instead of a single inbox encompassing all configured accounts, individual email accounts can be grouped or 'linked' together. This makes it possible to combine work email addresses into one unified inbox and personal accounts into another, each accessible through its own live tile.

The bundled Bing News and Bing Sport apps are intuitive and well designed pulling news from a variety of credible sources. Fundamentally, for a news app to succeed it needs to leave me feeling as if I've caught up - these do exactly that, with style, and allow custom feeds too.


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Microsoft Office connects you with documents stored on your OneDrive or Office 365 cloud as well as with email attachments. Excel, Powerpoint and Word are well executed apps, although losing what feels like two-thirds of the display to the over-sized on-screen keyboard is a shame.

Windows Phone UI

Microsoft's spartan UI works hard to differentiate itself from its identikit competitors and, in general, it works well. However, for the sake of productivity I'd prefer to see more actual content on the screen. 

A case in point is the official Twitter app - even with the smallest font I can see no more than three or four tweets per screen; similarly, the email app reveals up to six messages before scrolling. At 5 inches and 1920 vertical pixels there's a lot of screen real estate on the Lumia but the important apps just don't seem to fill enough of it.

Conclusion

Despite the '80s-styling on the rear the Nokia Lumia 930 is Windows Phone's most mature handset to date.  

Its productivity credentials are top notch, and OS integration with Microsoft cloud apps and services mean it's a capable business workhorse as well as a fun down-time device. 

All the Windows Phone ecosystem needs now is more apps, and with high-quality handsets such as this they'll be sure to follow.

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Specs at a Glance:
Nokia Lumia 930
    • Screen: 5-inch AMOLED 1920 x 1080 Full HD
    • Camera: ZEISS 20-MP PureView
    • Chipset: Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 @ 2.2 GHz
    • Memory: 2 GB 
    • Storage: 32 GB (no expansion)
    • Operating System: Microsoft Windows Phone 8.1
    • Connectivity: LTE, HSPA+, GSM, WCDMA; NFC, Bluetooth 4.0 LE; Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac

From free with a £28.00/month contract, or £438.16 SIM-free. Details correct at time of publishing (July 2014).*

Microsoft announces new Windows Surface 3

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Microsoft announced the new Windows Surface Pro 3 tablet at an event in New York today. 

 

The device, which is 12 inches, is designed to fit perfectly into user's lives, with Surface product manager Panos Panay claiming that this could be "the tablet that replaces the laptop." 

 

The Surface Twitter feed was inundated with updates, labelling  the tablet an "entertainment powerhouse" due to its 2160 x 1440 resolution and Dolby sound capabilities.


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The new kickstand is multi-position, so you can angle the tablet any way you want to if placed on a table, although an emphasis was made about the "lapability" of the device, which apparently means it can be used to comfortably complete work from your lap.


As the tablet runs Windows 8.1 Pro OS, you can use all of the features and applications that you are used to, with the added ability to use the new stylus to generate hand-written documents in OneNote. 

 

Specs at a glace:

Surface Pro 3

  • Size: 12 inches
  • Resolution: 2160 x 1440
  • Weight: 800g
  • Thickness: 9.1mm
  • OS: Windows 8.1 Pro
  • Memory: Up to 8GB of RAM
  • Battery: Up to 9 hours
  • Storage: Varies from 64 GB up to 512 GB

 

The device includes features such as a redesigned keyboard that is larger than the previous model and includes an improved trackpad. The device also comes with an accompanying stylus dubbed the Surface Pen to make writing easier. Looks like this device might not only replace the laptop, but may also wipe out pen and paper altogether.

 

The new Surface is 800g, only 9.1mm thick, and is built to apply to Satya Nadella's vision of "empowering people to do more and be more."  

Huddle for Office - A new integrated experience

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It has been a busy year for Huddle, with its launch of the Huddle Note app for collaborative file sharing and its partnership with Tibbr for file sharing in the cloud.

Now, Huddle has announced that it is integrating with Microsoft Office to allow employees to collaborate on documents in the Huddle secure cloud via Microsoft Office applications.

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Users will be able to save their work directly into their Huddle accounts through Microsoft Office, and Office documents such as Powerpoints, Word documents and Excel files will have the Huddle comments stream alongside it to allow users to interact and collaborate on work.

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Huddle believes the next step for business is to move into the cloud, and provides content collaboration platforms for enterprises and governments. http://www.computerweekly.com/news/2240212784/Barnardos-uses-Huddle-Note-for-collaboration-and-communication

Huddle for Office integration will allow users to save documents directly to the Huddle cloud, comment on files directly from Office applications, view recent files instantly and track changes, comments and updates via Huddle's full audit trail.

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Alastair Mitchell, Huddle CEO, said: "Skipping between the applications on your desktop and cloud service to share information and discuss files with people is time-consuming and disrupts your workflow. With Huddle for Office, you can continue working in the desktop tools you're used to, but all of your feedback, files and updates are stored and shared in Huddle's secure cloud.

Huddle's Office integration is available now. 

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Huddle Note - File sharing for the future

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Huddle has launched a new app for enterprises to use as an alternative to Microsoft Office.

We've talked about Huddle before, and how it allow teams all over the world to work collaboratively on projects by sharing files and comments in the cloud.

Huddle Note iOS Screenshot 1.pngThe new Huddle Note application now allows teams to create, edit and store any content in the cloud, making sharing and cross-platform use easier. As explained by Huddle CEO Alastair Mitchell, it's a way for employees to share ideas wherever they are in the easiest way possible, without having to use other application or software.

He said: "People don't want to waste time skipping between apps, battling with legacy word processors, and then uploading documents to the cloud to share them with co-workers - especially when they're quick notes such as brainstorm ideas and meeting minutes. 

"With Huddle Note, we're adding an easy-to-use and intuitive way to capture content in Huddle, giving people a simpler, faster, mobile alternative to Microsoft Office and other bloated legacy offerings."

New features in the app include: creating and editing documentation in the cloud, sharing any content instantly with others and commenting and feedback. The app also has Huddle security features and an audit trail of activity so you can see when your documents have been read by others.

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This move away from "Jurassic systems" (Mitchell's words, not mine) will give workers everywhere a chance to share their ideas and be more productive in an environment where there's proper support available. 

With the workforce slowly becoming more and more dispersed, with people working from home, abroad or even on public transport, it's exactly what people need.

The new Huddle iOS application is also free to download from the appstore, so why not give it a go yourself? 

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Nokia announces five new phones and a Windows tablet

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Today at the Nokia World event in Abu Dhabi, Nokia announced its new range of products, including three new members of the Asha family, two new Lumia "phablets" and a Windows tablet. Although the new phones have different screens and cameras to the previous models, not a lot has changed. 

Lumia 2520 Windows Tablet

The new Lumia 2520 is the first Windows tablet developed by Nokia, and it promises to work anywhere and offer the best indoor and outdoor readability on its 10.1 inch HD display.
 
As usual with the Lumia series, it's available in a range of colours including black, white, turquoise and red. Admittedly the Windows Surface also comes in different colours, but somehow this tablet looks sleeker; a cross between a Surface and an iPad for those who like to sit on the fence. 

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The camera is 6.7 megapixels (MP), which seems like nothing next to the 41MP of the Nokia Lumia 1020 smartphone or even the 20MP of the new Lumia 1520. Some may argue that a camera isn't the main focus for a tablet, but when there's a phablet on offer from the same company that also offers a more powerful camera, which would you go for? 

It also has 4G LTE and Wi-Fi, as well as the ability to fast-charge, which might come in handy in the morning when you've forgotten to plug it in the night before. 

Lumia 1520 and 1320

The massive six-inch screen on these new smartphone tablets allows an extra column of icons to appear on the home screen, filling the navigation up with even more confusing imagery. The Windows Phone dashboard has always been a complicated mesh of colours, so nothing is different there. 

The high-end 1520 comes in yellow, white, black or glossy red, and has a 20MP camera with optical image stabilisation, which promises to produce sharp quality images even in the dark. It also has a 1080p full HD display to make it easier to read when you're out and about.

It has four built-in microphones for use with Nokia Rich Recording for better audio on video capture, as well as Microsoft Office. The downside though, is it's estimated to set you back $749.

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The lower-end model Lumia 1320 is estimated to cost around $339, but does have a lower resolution screen at 720p, as well as a smaller 5MP camera. However, it claims to be better in a business environment, including built-in Microsoft Office and applications such as Microsoft Exchange and Lync. 

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Available in orange, yellow, white and black, it still feels and looks like a Lumia, without the outrageous price tag. 

Asha 500, 502 and 503

The Nokia Asha family has been designed to offer a smartphone experience at a lower price. Perhaps the most innovative feature of these phones is the ability to use and swap between multiple SIM cards to allow the best tariff, meaning you could use one SIM for calling and one for data. 

The Asha 500 has a small 2.8-inch screen and a 2MP camera. Designed to be a cheap smartphone, it's estimated to be available for $69 in Africa, Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East. 

The Asha 502 is slightly bigger with a 3-inch screen and a 5MP camera to match the Lumia 1320. With a starting price of $89 in Africa, Asia-Pacific and the Middle-East, it offers a slightly better experience than the 500, with only a small increase on the price. 

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Finally the Asha 503 also has a 3-inch screen and 5MP camera, but with 3.5G connectivity and Corning Gorilla Glass 2, it's a step up from the other Asha models. It's estimated at $99 in Africa, Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America and the Middle-East.

The announcement of these new Nokia products comes just ahead of Microsoft's acquisition of Nokia's mobile phone business. 

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Gadget Guide: Smartphones

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Computer Weekly's Gadget Guide on smartphones gives you a round up of all the latest smartphone news, previews, and reviews from Inspect-a-Gadget.

If you're researching the wide range of smartphones in the market head over to our guide for the low-down on the devices you just can't live your life without. 

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The Gadget Show Live HANDS ON: Microsoft 3D scanning

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Now this was by far the coolest gadget I saw at The Gadget Show Live this week: Microsoft's Kinect for Windows software development kit, Kinect Fusion.

After all the (well-deserved) hype over 3D printers, I was seriously impressed to have a play with a 3D scanner which used only a Windows PC Kinect and this free developer software.

The software works by taking multiple images and fusing them together to create a 3D scan. It is still in beta developer mode, so can be subject to glitches, but it's a great way to allow people to have a go with this technology.  

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I got my head and shoulders scanned by the Kinect and the next moment it turned up on the screen in front of me. It took a while to get it right, as it seemed a bit sensitive as I twirled around on the spot many many times. But finally I saw a morphed version of myself on the screen. This image can then be manipulated in 3D on the computer and sent through to 3D printer to print out. While the scanning process took only a few seconds, once we got the technique right, the printing takes an hour or so to print a miniature head - sadly I wasn't allowed to have a mini-me printed out.

In order to show you how this worked, I asked an unsuspecting, yet curious, passer-by to give it a go so I could film the process:

Take one regular Gadget Show visitor:

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The finished result:

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Next step is to print it out:

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HANDS ON: Facebook Graph Search

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Facebook launched its new social search function, called Graph Search, last night, and I have been lucky enough to try out the additions which the company have said are still in beta test mode.

The social network, which boasts one billion members, 240 billion photos and one trillion connections, will enable users to "naturally" search through people, photos, interests and places.

Graph Search will enable users to filter content on Facebook to find out particular things, such as which nearby restaurants their friends have liked or which friends like a certain movie, or to search for photos including selected people.

Facebook will then order answers depending on the number of "likes" or the level of a user's interaction with their chosen person, place or photograph, placing more familiar links at the top of the search results.

Dressed in his statement black zipped-up sweater (for the love of God, you're a millionaire, shell out for a checked shirt at least? No? OK), Zuckerberg stated that while Graph Search is not a web search, like Google, Facebook has partnered with Microsoft's search engine, Bing, to enable users to search the internet when Facebook fails to find an answer.

When I used Graph Search for the first time last night, Facebook provided me with a two minute tour which showed you how to type questions into the search bar. It seemed to personalise the tutorial for me, using "Cardiff University" as an example search term.

However, that's where the personalisation ingenuity stopped, for me at least.

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During the press conference Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, and his cronies were describing different types of searches and how they had enabled Graph Search to recognise natural language. They suggested 'photos I have liked' as a search term to gather all the images you have positively engaged with.

Trying out Graph Search for the first time at about 11pm last night, I forgot the "correct" terminology and typed in 'my favourite photos'. Facebook decided to autocorrect my sentence to 'my favourite girl photos' and presented this page of rather nude women, which may I add, I haven't 'liked'.

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I found another couple of faults, which can only be expected in a beta test version - It seems that my best friend who lives in Bangor, North Wales, lives in Cardiff, because any Cardiff filters I put in she pops straight up.

I can see this going down particularly well with users who wish to check out single men and women. Just type in 'single friends of friends who live in London' and friends of friends who have publicly shared their relationship status will appear as the results. Maybe if everyone everyone knows is taken, Bing will direct you to Match.com?

While the tech industry generally seems underwhelmed with the added functionality, it will be interesting to see how small businesses may be able to explore their customers' likes and dislikes and target advertising at them. For instance if a user has liked a bar, it will be interesting to see if the bar can then go ahead and filter, finding that user to like a particular cocktail or cuisine, then pointing out special offers to them which will in theory be more attractive to the customer.

Zuckerberg kept a quite tight-lipped on using Graph Search for business, avoiding questions, but answering in regards to existing sponsored advertisements on Facebook:

"You build good businesses over time, by people wanting to use something," said Zuckerberg. "Sponsored ads extend quite nicely to Graph Search, but there is nothing new for this."

I predict that Facebook users will not mind the inclusion of Graph Search in general. It's not a redesign of the site, which is when users usually get up in arms about scandalous changes to their ever-so-familiar pages... for about two days. 

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The search bar will feature at the top of Facebook on the blue bar, with the home button moved over to the right. Facebook users do like complaining though, so they might kick up a bit of a fuss, until they realise the power of the Graph Search functionality to increase stalking by 600%.

Still in beta, Graph Search will be rolled out to a "very small audience" from 16 January. The company will collect feedback from users before rolling out to a wider audience. Graph Search will also go through tests before being available on mobile devices.

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CES 2013 HANDS ON: Huawei Windows 8 phone and giant phablet

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Huawei launched a few devices at CES in Las Vegas this week, while none of them were confirmed with regions, dates or prices, two smartphones, which are expected to ship to China and then worldwide, caught my eye.

The Ascend Mate - giant phablet with the "worlds largest screen"

Again, a growing trend at CES this week has been a huge leap in screen size, be that in tablets, phones, monitors or TVs. Huawei's Ascend Mate is a monster. Huuuuge, at 6.1-inches of HD 1280 x 720 LCD touchscreen compared the 5.5-inch screen of the Samsung Galaxy Note.

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But tell me something, when tablets are generally growing to ridiculous sizes, but also shrinking to 7-inches, and smartphones are growing to 6.1-inches, where will the line eventually be in the phablet space? In six months time, what will be a phone and what will distinguish a tablet?

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I found the Android device surprisingly light in the hand. The rows upon rows of Android apps sitting on the screen could get very messy or be a joy to organise for someone as OCD as me.

The Ascent W1 - Huwaei's first Windows 8 device

This entry-level Windows 8 device looks much simpler than a Nokia Lumia 920 or a HTC 8X. It still has the insanely bright colouring of the other Windows 8 devices, however it doesn't feel as superior as the other devices did when I first held them.

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It's light enough, but still feels a bit chunky, like the Lumia. I found the back panel in the bright blue to look not very appealing in plastic, which made it look like a child's toy.

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The device was fairly responsive, with easy scroll feature, but not as light to the touch as the Lumia and HTC models. It also comes with the standard additional features of Windows 8, such as kids corner and this model also features NFC.

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As I said, no pricing or availability announced as yet. 

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CES 2013 HANDS ON: Panasonic's demonstration of its 4K 20-inch tablet prototype

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At CES in Las Vegas this week, Panasonic unveiled a tablet to be added to CES's growing category of super-size screens.

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Sitting more in the "table PC" category, than "tablet", this technology demonstration will hopefully be out later this year with a few tweaks here and there. But the 20-inch tablet impressed me more than Lenovo's Horizon 27-inch Table PC, also launched at the show this week. At only 2.4kg, it's still very weighty, but compare it to its rivals - the Sony Vaio Tap 20 is 5kg and Lenovo's Horizon is a whopping 8kg but only 7-inches bigger. I found the device easier to pick up, but I'm always quite delicate when I pick up devices of this size. When doing so I found the aluminium backing very elegant, but also very warm, a kink that Panasonic will most definitely sort out before mass production.

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Panasonic claim that the device has the thinnest body with a screen of this size. It has 2 hours of battery life and at the moment the company is thinking of marketing it to photographers, architects and designers who will appreciate the large screen super high resolution screen from an artistic point of view.

The Windows 8 Pro device set up in CES also came with a special handwriting digital pen which I had a go at using, it was very responsive and was able to create hair-thin lines to chunky paint brush type strokes. The device had a Intel i5 Core processor, 128GB SSD as well as 16GB of memory.

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Kyp Walls, director of product management, said that the device was set up to use Bluebeam software for architects using blueprints, it enabled users to collaborate together while working remotely. The device is still portable, he said, "because architects are used to carrying around big flat folders of designs anyway."

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