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Gadget show live 2014 hands on: Toshiba Encore tablet and Toshiba Kira Ultrabook

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With Windows XP reaching the end of its days, a lot of people are considering moving onwards and upwards. We've reviewed devices running Windows 8.1 before, such as the Dell Venue 8 Pro tablet, and once you get used to it, it's a simple and easy operating system to use.

These Toshiba products, namely the Toshiba Kira Ultrabook and the Toshiba Encore tablet, use the Windows 8.1 operating system, and are designed to be highly portable for people on the go.

The Encore, although not brand new, is extremely light and stylish. The screen is only 8 inches, which seems the standard in the current tablet market. Although it is smaller than some other tablets, for example the iPad Air or Sony Xperia, is still too big to comfortably use with one hand.

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What really makes this particular device stand out amongst others is the amount of connectivity options it has available. The device has a micro HDMI port, which would prove handy for presentations or just for watching videos on a larger screen. It also has a Micro SD slot, and a micro-USB port for quick transfer of data.

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The Encore also comes with Office 365 built in as standard, so all of the applications needed for work can be used as normal. The only downside is that the battery life is only up to 7 hours, but the tablet features 'InstantGo' in order to lower power consumption to combat this.

The Toshiba Kira Ultrabook is one of the newer products in the Toshiba range, featuring Windows 8.1 Pro and a 13.3 inch 2560 x 1440 PixelPure display.

The display fits in 221 pixels per inch, which is 90% more pixels than a normal HD display, and it definitely shows.

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It's extremely thin and light, and wouldn't be out of place on a train, plane or just at home if you were hoping to get some work done away from the office.

As well as being portable, this laptop is designed to be durable, with a honeycomb structured chassis to make it more sturdy.  

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The battery life can last up to 91 hours, so there are no worries about taking this laptop out and about, and with added extras to increase usability such as a backlit keyboard, Harman Kardon speakers and a 10 finger touch-screen display, it seems like the perfect device for a mobile worker. 

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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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CES 2014: Panasonic announce new Toughpad FZ-M1

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Panasonic's range of rugged devices has always been at the forefront of portable technology for rougher working environments, and it looks like the new Toughpad will be no different.

Toughpads have previously come in a range of sizes, including  7-inch, 10-inch and a massive 20-inch. The new Toughpad is a 7-inch model designed to be easily portable for people working in industries such as transport, retail and emergency services. With a 4th generation Intel Core i5 vPro processor, this fanless tablet is designed to provide high performance with low heat generation and power consumption.

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The Toughpad FZ-M1 weighs 540g and the strengthened glass houses an LCD touch screen with an anti-reflection layer to allow working inside and out. The touchscreen can also process up to ten finger touches at once. With optional business expansion models including NFC, smartcard reader and battery hotswap capabilities alongside the standard USB 3.0, headset and microSIM, the tablet can be adapted to suit the industry it is needed in. 

And now for the justification for its "tough" label: the tablet can be dropped from 5ft, heated to 50°C, cooled to -10°C and is dust and water resistant. It might not be massively pretty, but it does what it says on the tin.

Specs

Resolution: 1280x800

OS: Windows 8.1 Pro (Windows 7 version available)

Processor: 4th generation Intel Core i5 vPro

Memory: 4GB (8GB optional)

Dimensions: 7-inch tablet, 18mm depth

The Toughpad FZ-M1 is due to become available in February 2014 for a starting price of £1,183.

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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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Fujitsu's additions to its E Line

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Fujitsu has launched three business-ready laptops in their mid-high range E Line.

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The 13, 14 and 16-inch notebooks are from first impressions feel streamlined, and include a Fujitsu red accent to its brushed steel-effect shell which adds a nice touch to a corporate device.

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The products come out of the box with a Windows 7 license as well as a Windows 8 license ready to be installed when your company is.

This is because Fujitsu are seeing a major move from XP toe Windows 7 in the business world, as businesses prepare to see the end of XP support in Spring 2014. But in the tablet space, Fujitsu are seeing the larger leap from XP to Windows 8.

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The clever bit about these notebooks is their modular bays, which allows corporations to buy added extras that can be attached to the device. Items like a second battery which extends life from 13 hours to 19, or a bay projector, second hard drive or a DVD drive. Businesses wouldn't need to buy one of these per device, but a sample number of the accessories could be bought and they could be loan out to employees as and when, saving costs.

Weighing under 2kg (the 13 and 14-inch 1.7kg) the E Line is built for the typical mobile workforce.

The devices begin at £860 + VAT for the entry level 13-inch. But the notebooks are built to order and can make their way up to £1,294 + VAT for the core i7 16-inch edition.

One docking station fits all of the E Line range, and during August the company is offering one free of charge with all notebooks through its resellers (£80 RRP).

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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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Review: gDoc Binder

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I first came across gDoc Binder at CES on a table Windows PC. The software enables you to digitally create a ring binder of documents, which can be formatted and organised as you would with a real-life ring binder. The table PC showing off the product in Las Vegas really helped demonstrate the ingenius user experience of the product, you could swipe through pages just as we are now used to when reading books on tablets.

gDoc binder officially launched on the 5th of March, and I've been playing around with a copy for a couple of weeks now. I've been trying out the traditional desktop experience. The instruction manual (which is a gDoc) was really useful in setting up, but it was really easy to get going.  You start off with a template, choose how many tab dividers you want and create.


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You "open" the binder by clicking on the cover once, and it opens to reveal a traditional looking ring binder along with a table of contents. Now this is where I began question the desktop user experience opposed to the tablet - the way the binder opens and pages turn is a little clunky on the desktop and also to mention that the graphics are a little Windows 95 for me.


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The good thing is that it supports over 32 different file formats, including PDF and word documents. I found that inserting files took a little while to load, but once it got passed the first couple of documents, it sped up. You can also drag and drop documents as well as multiple files, but it did have a little trouble with over ten documents.

The table of contents also automatically updates with the file names of the documents you insert.

I found the tablet view quite intuitive, being able to drag it into different positions and angles, and it also demonstrated to me again how I think this works much better as a tablet application. It currently exists as a Windows 7 and 8 PC and tablet application, with other operating system applications hopefully in the pipeline,


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You can also create documents within your ring binder using the gDoc software - but for myself this wasn't particularly useful as I could just as easily import my word documents. You can share the binder in an email in a XPS document

The company recently won a KnowList Award for the professional service industry in the Technology Innovation category. The award was granted to the developer version of the software which allows IT departments and consultants to customize the software for clients, such as adding connectors into existing document management systems.

During the awards it was noted that the judging panel felt that gDoc provided a "tangible benefit" to the legal profession in managing their documents. By using a familiar and natural concept, users found that it saved time when producing closing bibles and court bundles.

"gDoc Binder makes it easy to review and track an entire matter in a completely natural way because it is based on the familiar paper binder concept that has worked in the legal sector for centuries. I've been looking for an electronic file that you can flick through and mark up for years but there's been nothing available until now," said Robert Cohen, IT Director at City firm Speechly Bircham.

When you consider companies who have to import hundreds of documents this would save time and space. And just think at the end of the day, how much physical shelving space you are saving.

It would just be nice to soon see the enterprise benefitting from the same graphics quality as consumers are now used to, because at the end of the day, there is a continuous cross over in expectation.

The company is offering the software for $10 which gives you the ability to create 10 binders. Available to buy from the gDoc Store and Amazon.


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Luxury smartphone maker Vertu, chooses Android over Windows for its OS

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According to the BBC, exclusive smartphone maker, Vertu, has chosen Android over Windows for the operating system  on its new luxury smartphone costing almost £7,000.

The device comes with a titanium frame and sapphire screen. However, the designer told the BBC that it was not 4G enabled, which is not exactly a long-term investment. 

The company told the Beeb that it had chosen Windows over Android as it had a more established ecosystem. 

"Your device will have to integrate with other devices. I think the Windows phone will have success but it is still a relatively small market share. At the moment it doesn't have the global reach of Android - which is about 60% of the market," said chief executive Perry Oosting.

However, 7,900 euros (£6,994), is small change compared the Vertu Signature Cobra at £167,567. No camera, no touchscreen and only 1MB of internal memory. Not a good start. The Signature Cobra was designed by French jeweller Boucheron and only 8 were made. The phone features one pear-cut diamond, one round white diamond, two emerald eyes and 439 rubies, although if you aren't particularly fond of rubies, Vertu also offer a ruby free handset for £62,162.

The Vertu Diamond is another luxury phone from the company, which would have set you back around £63,620.

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Inspect-a-Gadget has previously investigated the world's most expensive mobile phones ranging from the Diamond Crypto Smartphone costing a whopping £827,060 to the much more reasonably prices BlackBerry Porsche Design P'9981 at £1275.

Read more:
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Review: HTC Windows Phone 8X

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Windows Phone 7 proved a lifeline for Nokia and the announcement of Windows 8, alongside the Lumia 820 and 920, made the future look bright. Then, all of a sudden, HTC want to join the Microsoft mobile party, bringing James Corden as its +1.

Having already released the Radar, Pro 7 and Titan, HTC certainly know what they're doing with the Windows mobile offering so I was intrigued to see how it planned to differentiate itself from Nokia.

Looks

The 8X is everything I look for in a smartphone, durable, different, practical and eye-catching. The rubberised back is prone to scuffing and marking but who cares, it's colourful and looks nowhere near as bad as a scratch on a metal, plastic or glass cover.

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The rubber is not only comfortable to hold in your hand, it also improves grip, even if your hands perspire more than a pig doing star jumps in a sauna.

The slightly convex Gorilla Glass casing over the screen is very similar to that of the Lumia series but works just as well here, accompanied by the back, home and search buttons across the bottom. Along the top you'll find a front facing camera (more on that later) and the ear grille, which also houses a neat little led that lights up when charging.

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As for the edges of the device, an earphone jack and on/off/lock/unlock button are all you'll find along the top. The left side is bare and the bottom is only interrupted by the MicroUSB slot, smack bang in the middle. The right hand side is where it's all happening, the MicroSIM slot, volume control and camera button are all located on this edge of the handset.

Display

The 4.3 inch S-LCD2 screen, also found on the HTC One X, is certainly bright but despite boasting better pixel density than the Galaxy S3, iPhone 5 and Lumia 920, it just isn't that stunning.

I'm not sure if it was an isolated incident, I did tweet about it and had a few people respond saying they hadn't had a similar issue, but the screen on my 8X did seem prone to flickering. Eventually it put me off using the phone at night, for fear of that thing from The Ring crawling out of the display.

Whilst the, rectangular screen is perfect for Windows Phone 8 and the live tile format in portrait, it isn't what I prefer for watching movies or other media when in landscape.

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Spec

The 1.5 GHz dual core processor and Qualcomm MSM8960 Snapdragon chipset give this handset as much punch as a concrete fisted Mike Tyson.

The inclusion of Beats Audio was a big pull for me, alas there are no Beats earphones as with some other previous handsets. Whilst there is a distinct difference between the audio quality when Beats is turned on or off, if seems to me to just be, primarily, a volume boost. 

Camera

The 8MP rear snapper, capable of capturing 1080p HD video, is a particular highlight. HTC aren't often renowned for its cameras but I'd say it's a highlight on the 8X.

You can find two full res images, one portrait and one landscape, here and here

There is also a 2.1MP front facer for video calls, which, unlike the equivalent on the iPhone, somehow manages not to stretch your face into an almost unrecognisable state.  

  

Windows Phone 8

Given the amount of money Microsoft has spent on advertising Windows 8, Windows Phone 8 and the Surface, I was expecting big things and, ultimately, I was left disappointed.

Despite being simple to navigate and operate, i.e. accessing multi-tasking by holding the arrow, it isn't as responsive as it should be. Freezing and lag are common occurrences.

There is no doubt Windows Phone 8 is an improvement, an evolution and a stand of independence. However, I don't believe the live tiles (as fun as they are to customise and change colour) offer enough functionality to tempt Android users away from their devices.

As an OS, it feels polished, yet somehow still not fully complete. To me, the main appeal is that it's different to iOS and Android. Not better, just different.

Call Quality

With all the fancy widgets, add-ons and advancements knocking about today, people often forget that the primary use of a smartphone is a voice communication device.

Thankfully, HTC have not forgotten and have put time into ensuring the microphone is placed in the optimum position and is further boosted by an active noise cancellation feature. Perfect for walking around a busy street.

Battery life

My biggest gripe with my iPhone is the battery life. A day I leave my flat without a charger is a day I end up contactless from the afternoon.

Nokia, famed for battery life (granted that's not hard when the 3310 is your flagship device), set a solid mark with the Lumia series and you won't be surprised to hear that HTC fell short of that. Though it beats an iPhone I was expecting the juice in the 8X to stretch a bit further.

A day of medium use and a night's sleep on airplane mode is the most you can expect to get.

Conclusion

Despite a few negatives, add a few more thousand apps to the market place and I'd buy one without a second thought. The aesthetics, quirkiness and simplicity of the OS, collaborative possibilities and camera are more than enough to sell the HTC 8X to me.

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That said, if you asked me if it was better than a HTC One X, or iPhone 5, I'd be lying if I said yes. This is another phone that is all about personal preference but in terms of Windows Phones, this is the one I would pick, even over the Lumia 920. 
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