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CES 2015: Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon 3rd-generation hands-on

09 Jan 2015

LAS VEGAS: Lenovo unveiled its third-generation ThinkPad X1 Carbon Ultrabook this week, featuring Intel's 5th-generation Core processor to bring the best possible performance for the form factor.

We got a chance to play with the device while running between the booths at CES 2015.

CES - Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon hands-on review - overall

Design
The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon looks all but identical to its 2014 predecessor, with the same black finish and red detailing. 

The updated features are subtle, but very welcome. The laptop features an even thinner and lighter chassis, weighing just under 1.3kg and measuring 17.7mm thick, almost a full millimetre thinner than last year's model which measured 18.5mm.

The laptop felt especially light and thin in our hands and we can see it being ideal for travel or business trips. 

Another new feature is PCIe SSD storage in a similar vein to the MacBook Air, which can take advantage of faster onboard SSD drive storage. The laptop will ship with up to 512GB drives.

CES - Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon hands-on review - lid

Screen
The Thinkpad X1 Carbon (2015) is available in touchscreen and non-touchscreen versions. The demo unit we tried boasted a 14in, 10-point multi-touch display, with WQHD in-plane switching.

As well as being nicely responsive to touch, the new Thinkpad X1 Carbon's screen is pleasant to look at. Using the Thinkpad X1 Carbon in the brightly lit showroom floor, the ultrabook's display proved suitably bright and remained legible even when hit with stray light.

We were also impressed with its viewing angles, as text remained crisp even when viewing the screen from the side.

CES - Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon hands-on review - thickness

Colours were suitably vibrant and, while not as crisp as the Retina displays seen on Apple Macbooks, the Thinkpad X1 Carbon's screen was far better than those seen on most competing Windows 8 ultrabooks.

The laptop will be available with FHD display options.

Performance and software
Lenovo didn't go for an Intel Core M design and instead opted for the chipmaker's latest 5th-gen Core processor. The model we tested was running a Core i7 chip, and felt super fast in our initial tests.

It seemed to handle Windows 8.1 very well. There was no lag when swiping between pages, and programs popped up almost as soon as we selected them. It handled everything we threw it at with ease.

CES - Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon hands-on review - keyboard

Beyond its performance-boosting powers, the real benefit of Intel's new Broadwell chip architecture is its ability to boost ultrabooks' battery lives.

Lenovo lists the Thinkpad X1 Carbon as being able to last for 10 hours of regular use from one charge, one hour more than last year's Broadwell model.

Intel's Core update packs in 35 percent more transistors than in Intel's previous 4th-generation Haswell CPU, while also shrinking die size by 37 percent, allowing for super powerful machines with form factors like the XPS 13, so expect many more like it to pop up from other OEMs later this year.

In terms of other features, there's wireless connectivity in the form of 802.11ac Wi-Fi and a selection of USB 3.0 ports and an HDMI output.

Availability
The ThinkPad X1 Carbon starts at $1,249 and will be available in the US from January. UK release dates are yet to be announced.

CES 2015: Dell XPS 13 hands-on

09 Jan 2015

LAS VEGAS: Dell unveiled its brand new XPS laptop line-up at CES this week, the XPS 13, which crams a 13.3in screen into an 11in chassis.

Showing off the laptop for the first time on Tuesday, Dell claimed that the XPS 13 is the "smallest 13in notebook in the world, fitting a 13.3in screen into the size of a typical 11in notebook".

We got some hands-on time after the event to see just how good the XPS 13 is in reality.

CES Dell XPS 13 hands-on

Design
There's no question that the Dell XPS 13's design and high quality aluminium finish juxtaposed against a matt charcoal casing looks the part and reflects its premium price.

However, it measures 15mm at its thickest point so it's definitely not the slimmest 13in laptop on the market. But it's impressively compact considering its high-end specifications.

CES - Dell XPS 13 hands-on review - lid

The XPS 13 is also lightweight for its power at just 1.18kg. The smaller frame with bigger screen makes it feel slightly heavier than you'd expect for an 11in laptop but, considering this is actually a 13.3in device, we were very pleased with its size and weight.

CES - Dell XPS 13 hands-on review - open

Dell has made good use of high quality materials and the XPS 13 impressed us with its tiny bezel, design and build.

It feels well made and has a high quality finish, and as a result feels like it would be a pleasure to use. And the super-thin bezel has left us screaming: "Why on Earth didn't they do this before?!"

Screen
The touchscreen display is one of its finest features. It's an UltraSharp Quad HD+ infinity display with 5.7 million pixels in just a 5.2mm bezel. It's vibrant and clear, and colour reproduction is great. Colours appear very rich, just like on its older brother the XPS 15.

Brightness levels are brilliant, and we can imagine working on the XPS 13 outside, although not in direct sunlight as with most mobile devices.

Keyboard
The XPS 13's keyboard has good travel, allowing you to type rapidly with ease.

CES - Dell XPS 13 hands-on review - closed

Unlike some other laptops we've tested recently, the XPS 13's keyboard didn't fail to register keystrokes. But the well-spaced layout of the keyboard means that the XPS 13 doesn't have a numerical keypad.

Performance and software
Running Windows 8.1, the XPS 13 is powered by Intel's 5th-gen Broadwell Core processors and takes advantage of solid state drive options for storage.

In our tests, it handled Windows 8.1 very well. There was no lag when swiping between pages, and programs popped up almost as soon as we selected them. It handled everything we threw it at with ease, probably owing to the new Broadwell processor.

Intel's Core update packs in 35 percent more transistors than in Intel's previous 4th-generation Haswell CPU, while also shrinking die size by 37 percent, allowing for super powerful machines with form factors like the XPS 13, so expect many more like it to pop up from other PC makers later this year.

In terms of battery life, Dell has said the XPS 13 will last for a huge 15 hours on a single charge. We're definitely looking forward to trying this out in a full review.

Availability
The Dell XPS 13 will be available from 20 January starting at £1,099 in the UK. The Developer Edition will be available from late January starting at £1,199, so it certainly doesn't come cheap.

Nexus 6 hands-on review

13 Nov 2014

Google’s Nexus 6 handset breaks with tradition. Gone is the usual mix of reasonable components in a moderate form factor at a modest price. Instead, the Nexus 6 is big, flashy and costly.

With a starting price point of £499 the Nexus 6 is putting itself up against some serious competition in the shape of the iPhone 6, Galaxy Note 4 and LG G3. As such, it needs to seriously impress if it’s to woo the paying public, whether consumer or business buyer.

V3 got its mitts on the device this week and spent a little time playing with it to see how we think it will fare in the market.

Design and build

The Nexus 6 weighs 184g, which is heavier than the iPhone 6 Plus (172g) and the Note 4 (176g). However, such differences are mostly negligible and we found the Nexus 6 comfortable to hold.

Google Nexus 6 hands-on review - side

Furthermore, the 159x83x10mm body of the Nexus 6 has an ever-so-slightly rounded edge, which gives it a nice, sleek feel. It’s not quite going to match the iPhone in terms of design chic, but it didn’t look out of place when placed against them, or other Android rivals.

Also, because Motorola has used contoured aluminium as opposed to polycarbonate - like previous Nexus devices - it has a reasonably premium feel, although whether this is worth £499 is debatable.

Google Nexus 6 hands-on review - iPhone comparison 

Display

One thing there is no getting away from with the Nexus 6 is its overall size, which has been expanded to house a giant 5.96in screen. This is bigger than the iPhone 6 Plus (5.5in) and the Note 4 (5.7in). For those who are still not convinced by the trend for larger screen phones the Nexus 6 won’t do anything to change your mind.

However, for those who think bigger is better, the 1,440x2,560 Amoled screen with a 493 pixel per inch density should meet your needs. The screen displayed web pages, apps and photos with a pleasant level of clarity and crispness.

Google Nexus 6 hands-on review - tilted

That said, the screen didn’t blow us away, and the Note 4, iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus probably have the edge in this department, although we’d need to get all three together to really test this out.

Camera

Motorola has kitted out the Nexus 6 with a 13MP rear-facing camera, with a 4X digital zoom and Opticial Image Stabilisation (OIS) technology, the same feature found on the iPhone 6 Plus, although not the iPhone 6.

OIS is a nifty piece of tech that improves photo quality by compensating in real time for shaking and vibrating while shooting, so there are no alterations or light degradations in the image. The inclusion of OIS means the Nexus 6 should have the best camera ever seen on a Nexus handset.

We snapped a few shots with the camera and were impressed with the initial results, especially as we were shooting under some fairly harsh artificial lighting. We look forward to testing this more fully in our complete review.

Furthermore, with such a large screen, you get a great viewfinder, as shown below. The camera also comes with the usual features you'd expect to control lighting, exposures and so forth.

Google Nexus 6 hands-on review - camera image

Operating system

One of the most notable features of the Nexus 6 is that it runs Android Lollipop 5.0 from the off. We didn’t get much chance during our hands on to really test some of the new features in Android 5.0, but the Nexus 6 seemed more than able to handle the requirements of the new OS.

Google Nexus 6 hands-on review - apps

This is no doubt helped by the 2.7GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 quad-core processor that should mean you can run several apps without noticing any slowdown. We will benchmark the device in our full review.

Battery and storage

We didn’t get a chance to test the battery on the Nexus 6, although Motorola has been touting the Turbo Boost feature that allows the device to receive six hours of battery life from just a 15-minute charge.

Motorola also claims that the 3,220mAh battery should provide up to 24 hours use per charge. Again, we will test this in our full review.

Storage options are 32GB or 64GB. Disappointingly, Google does not include the option for a microSD card slot, meaning your options are fairly limited.

First impressions

The Nexus 6 is a nice phone, that much is true. However, in our admittedly brief time with the device we weren’t exactly blown away.

Furthermore, with the price starting at a hefty £499 the Nexus 6 is moving the Nexus brand from the mid-tier to the top-tier, where it could struggle to compete.

But, with Android Lollipop, OIS camera technology and a quad-core processor, there are some compelling features that could sway buyers.

Stay tuned for our full review in the future, when we'll put the Nexus 6 through its paces to deliver our considered opinion.

Google Nexus 6 hands-on review - back

Nexus 9 hands-on review

29 Oct 2014

It's no secret that HTC wasn't the obvious choice for Google to make its next tablet. HTC has a strong track record creating excellent smartphones, like its current One M8, but its history in the tablet market isn't that great.

Prior to 2014 the firm's only tablet was the HTC Flyer, an Android device that was viewed by many industry commentators as an outright flop.

As a result, Google's announcement that HTC was the brains behind its first Android 5.0 Lollipop tablet, the Nexus 9, turned some heads in the technology community and led many to question what HTC could add to the increasingly competitive market having been away for so long.

Quite a lot, as it turns out, if our opening impressions are anything to go by.

Design and build
HTC has always been one of the few technology firms capable of matching Apple on the design front. As a result it's no surprise that the Nexus 9 is one of the most visually distinctive Google-branded tablets to be released. Featuring a metal frame and soft-finish polycarbonate back, the Nexus 9 felt significantly better built than past Nexus tablets, which were made entirely of plastic.

Nexus 9 hands on home-screen

The device also felt reasonably comfortable in the hand thanks to its satchel-friendly 154x228x8mm dimensions and 425g weight, even when it was plugged into its attachable folio keyboard case.

Given the lightweight dimensions we can definitely see the Nexus 9 working well as a mobility aid for business folk on the move, and we're looking forward to seeing how it works as a productivity tool come our full review.

Display
In a clear bid to stay competitive, HTC has loaded the Nexus 9 with an 8.9in IPS, 4:3 aspect ratio, 2048x1536 display, giving it the same resolution as the 2013 iPad Air's 9.7in display. Using the Nexus 9 in the brightly lit showroom and outdoor balcony on a rainy London day our opening impressions of the Nexus 9's display are very positive.

Nexus 9 hands on apps

Brightness levels were very good and, while the screen did become reflective under a showroom light, the display was generally pleasant to use. Colour balance levels were warm and, unlike many recent Android tablets, not oversaturated. Contrast levels were also decent and we didn't notice any serious performance issues during our time with the Nexus 9.

Operating system
The Nexus 9 is the first tablet to come with Google's latest Android 5.0 Lollipop. The Nexus 9 we tried didn't have the final build of Android 5.0 installed, so we can't sensibly comment on the operating system just yet.

However, if Google's claims are anything to go by, Android 5.0 should prove a key selling point for any enterprise buyer as it comes loaded with a wealth of new features and services.Nexus 9 hands on OS

In terms of user experience, Android 5.0 Lollipop adds a new Material Design and reworked notifications system. The Material Design aims to make the OS simpler to use by replacing Android Kitkat's interface with a flatter one similar to that of Apple's iOS 7. The new UI also adds the ability to mimic depth by adding shadow effects.

The reworked notifications adds a new heads-up form of notification designed to let you know that something urgent has come in without interrupting what you're doing, and instant access to notifications from the lock screen.

Under the hood Android 5.0 adds a number of important security features, chief of which are enhanced encryption support and a Security Enhanced Linux (SELinux) mode.

Past Android versions have supported some encryption services but have required activation. Android 5.0 Lollipop changes this and turns on encryption by default.

The SELinux mode is a sandboxing feature that can create separate protected areas on the device. Data can be stored in the protected area and IT managers can set policies on the device, like preventing certain applications being installed or run.

Processor
The Nexus 9 is the first Google flagship to take advantage of Android Lollipop's 64-bit support and comes with a 2.3GHz Nvidia Tegra K1 64-bit processor and 2GB of RAM.

Google claims the processor features GPUs based around supercomputers and will grant "all the power and graphics of a desktop computer".

Nexus 9 hands on side

We didn't get a chance to benchmark the Nexus 9 or see how it performed when faced with demanding tasks, such as 3D gaming, but were reasonably impressed with its performance during our hands-on.

The tablet opened applications in milliseconds and smoothly navigated between menu screens stutter and lag free. Overall our time with the Nexus 9 left us excited to see how it performs with more rigorous testing come our full review.

Camera
HTC has loaded the Nexus 9 with 8MP rear and 1.6MP front cameras. A few photos taken around the showroom floor using the native camera app's automatic setting were not on a par with most top-end smartphones, but came out reasonably well by tablet standards.

The images featured reasonable contrast and colour balance levels and were suitably crisp. Focus and shutter speeds were also fairly good. We'll be interested to see how the camera performs in more adverse conditions like mixed or dim lighting.

Battery and storage
We didn't have time to burn the Nexus 9's 6700mAh battery but will be sure to do so in our full review. In terms of storage the Nexus 9 is expected to come with with 16GB or 32GB of internal space.

Nexus 9 hands on keyboard

Chances
If our opening impressions of the HTC-built Google Nexus 9 are anything to go by, the tablet will be one of the best available this year.

Featuring a reworked design that adds a metal frame, a powerhouse 64-bit Nvidia processor and, from we've seen, top-end display, the Nexus 9 is stellar from a pure hardware perspective.

Hopefully the final build of Android 5.0 Lollipop will do the device's hardware justice come the Nexus 9's release later this year.

For an in-depth look at where you can by the Google Nexus 9, check out V3's round up feature.

Make sure to check back with V3 later for a full review of the Google Nexus 9.

By V3's Alastair Stevenson

iPhone 6 Plus vs Note 4

23 Oct 2014

Samsung has enjoyed control of the big screen phablet space for close to three years with its range of Galaxy Note handsets.

As we noted in past Galaxy Note reviews, this is in part due to the handsets being generally pretty good, but it's also because Samsung hasn't had too much competition in the space.

However, all this changed in 2014 as numerous technology firms around the world released top-end phablets capable of challenging Samsung's latest Galaxy Note 4. One of the biggest of these is Apple's first phablet, the iPhone 6 Plus.

Design
iPhone 6 Plus: 158x78x7.1mm 172g
Galaxy Note 4: 154x79x8.5mm, 176g

Visually the iPhone 6 Plus and Galaxy Note 4 are about as different as you can get. The iPhone features the same rounded metal design as its little brother, the iPhone 6, while the Galaxy Note 4 features the same fake leather-finish backplate as past Samsung phablets.Galaxy Note 4 vs iPhone 6 Plus

However, the Galaxy Note 4 is the only one to feature a dockable stylus. Housed in the bottom right hand side, the S Pen is a useful productivity aid for quickly and easily scribbling notes or editing documents.

Considering how useful we've found the S Pen on past Note devices, we're a little disappointed that Apple didn't load the iPhone 6 Plus with an equivalent stylus.

Display
iPhone 6 Plus: 5.5in 1920x1080, 401ppi Retina HD display
Galaxy Note 4: 5.7in QHD 2560x1440, 515ppi Super Amoled display

Traditionally we've struggled to pick a clear winner between Samsung and Apple smartphone displays because the respective Super Amoled and IPS Retina technologies each have their strengths and weaknesses.

Amoled technology produces deeper and richer blacks by electrically charging each individual pixel to generate colours. The flipside is that the screen has a shorter life and can produce more heat than IPS displays.

By comparison, IPS displays generally show more balanced and realistic colours and whites than their Amoled equivalents, because the technology organises liquid crystals on a fixed plate that's charged at a consistent rate.

This means we won't know which display is better without a hands-on test of the phones side by side.

Operating system
iPhone 6 Plus: iOS 8, upgrade available for iOS 8.1
Galaxy Note 4: Android 4.4.4 Kitkat with Samsung Touchwiz

Apple's ability to push upgrades to handsets faster than Google has been a constant selling point, and this remains true when comparing the iPhone 6 Plus and Galaxy Note 4.

While iOS 8.1 may be a minor update that generally does little more than fix bugs in iOS 8, the fact that the iPhone 6 Plus runs the latest version of Apple's operating system is a big bonus.Samsung Galaxy Note 4 with Android 4.4 Kitkat

The Galaxy Note 4, on the other hand, runs a heavily customised version of Android 4.4 Kitkat, which is not the latest version of Google's operating system.

While Touchwiz does add a number of useful features to Android designed to take advantage of the S Pen, such as S Note and multi-window support, we're still disappointed that there's no official word when the phone will be upgraded to Google's latest Android 5.0 Lollipop version other than it will happen at some point.

Processor
iPhone 6 Plus: A8 chip with 64-bit architecture and M8 motion coprocessor
Galaxy Note 4: 2.7GHz Snapdragon 805

Apple made a big deal about the A8 chip in the iPhone 6 Plus, claiming it will offer 25 percent faster CPU performance and 50 percent faster graphics performance than the A7. As we noted in our full iPhone 6 Plus review, there is a lot of truth to this claim and the Apple handset is one of the fastest currently available.

However, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 processor used in the Galaxy Note 4 in the UK makes it one of a select few handsets to have the on-paper chops to match the iPhone 6 Plus. While the Note 4 does ship with a 1.9GHz octa-core chip in some markets, this model is not available to purchase in the UK market.

Camera
iPhone 6 Plus: 8MP front with Optical Image Stabilisation (OSI) and 1.2MP Facetime rear cameras
Galaxy Note 4: 16MP with OSI front and 3.7MP rear cameras

Imaging technology is one area in which Apple has fallen slightly behind in recent years. The firm has worked to fix this on the iPhone 6 Plus with an 8MP rear camera loaded with a new sensor with TrueTone flash, 1.5 micron pixels, f/2.2 aperture and OSI technology.

OSI improves photo quality by compensating in real time for shaking and vibrating while shooting. The compensation means there are no alterations or light degradations to the captured image.

However, even with these additions, the iPhone 6 Plus still has some pretty stiff competition when facing Samsung's Galaxy Note 4. Featuring a higher megapixel sensor and equivalent OIS technology, the Galaxy Note offers an equally, if not superior, camera on paper.

Battery
iPhone 6 Plus: Unspecified, 14-hour listed life
Galaxy Note 4: 3,229mAh battery

Poor battery life is an ongoing problem with many smartphones. Aware of this, Samsung and Apple have made improvements with their latest phablets. The iPhone 6 Plus impressed us during our review and its 14-hour listed life generally rang true.

However, featuring a sizeable battery and a custom Fast Charging feature that lets it charge from zero to 50 percent in 30 minutes, the Galaxy Note 4 is likely to feature an above average battery life.iPhone 6 Plus design in gold

Storage
iPhone 6 Plus: 16GB, 64GB, 128GB, unspecified RAM
Galaxy Note 4: 32GB, microSD card slot

Samsung is offering the Galaxy Note 4 with 32GB of internal space, meaning that the iPhone offers significantly more varied storage options. However, the Galaxy Note 4 features a microSD card slot allowing up to 64GB of extra space to be added to the internal storage.

Price
iPhone 6 Plus: From £619
Galaxy Note 4: £630

You can pick up the iPhone 6 Plus for £11 less than the Galaxy Note 4. However, it's worth noting that this only gets you 16GB of space, while the £630 Galaxy Note 4 offers 32GB.

Overall
On paper the Galaxy Note 4 and iPhone 6 Plus are fairly evenly matched. The iPhone 6 Plus features a superfast A8 chip, luxurious metal design, more storage options and the latest version of iOS.

By comparison the Galaxy Note 4 features a higher megapixel rear camera, enterprise and productivity focused dockable S Pen stylus and cutting edge Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 chip.

Make sure to check back with V3 later for a full head to head review of the iPhone 6 Plus and Galaxy Note 4, breaking down how the two phablets compare in real-world tests.

Nexus 9 first impressions

21 Oct 2014

Nexus tablets have always been a cornerstone of Android's success since Google launched the original Nexus 7 in 2012, and for good reason.

Built by tablet expert Asus and running an unskinned version of Google Android, the Nexus 7 was one of the only tablets to successfully take on Apple's iPad.

As a result many people were surprised when Google chose to ditch Asus in favour of Taiwanese competitor HTC for its latest Nexus 9. HTC's only previous tablet, the Flyer, failed to take off and sold very badly.

Design
Visually the Nexus 9 is a departure from previous models. Unlike past Nexus tablets, the Nexus 9 is built of metal as opposed to polycarbonate, and is available in a variety of colours.

As we noted about the Nexus 6 smartphone, for us the use of metal is a serious positive. While previous Nexus devices felt far from cheap and were well built, they still didn't feel as solid or top-end as their iPad competitors.Google Nexus 9 in white with Android 5.0

Within its metal chassis the Nexus 9 also features a few novel technologies and design features. One of the most important is the inclusion of front-facing stereo speakers, complete with HTC's BoomSound technology.

While this sounds like a consumer feature, considering the number of times we've been stuck using a Nexus 7 struggling to hear a person speaking on a video conference call when working remotely, we can see the improved audio quality being a big bonus.

The Nexus 9 mobile offering is aided by its 154x228x8mm dimensions, satchel-friendly 425g weight (436g for the LTE model) and optional Folio keyboard (sold separately). The Folio is an attachable keyboard with full-travel mechanical keys and has the potential to turn the Nexus 9 into a full-on netbook replacement.

Display
The Nexus 9 comes with an 8.9in IPS, 4:3 aspect ratio, 2048x1536 display - the same resolution as the 2013 iPad Air's 9.7in display.

While we haven't had a chance to test the Nexus 9's display, the stellar quality of past HTC device screens and IPS technology in general suggests that the tablet's display should be at least above average.

Operating system
The use of Google's latest Android 5.0 Lollipop operating system is one of the Nexus 9's key selling points. Originally unveiled as Android L at the I/O conference in June, Lollipop is a big step-up from Android 4.4 Kitkat and features a number of new features and services.

For starters Lollipop adds a new Material Design and reworked notifications system to Android. The Material Design aims to make the OS simpler to use by replacing Android Kitkat's user interface with a flatter one similar to that of Apple's iOS 7, and includes the ability to mimic depth by adding new shadow effects.Google Nexus 9 with Android 5.0 Lollipop and Tegra K1 chip

The reworked notifications add a new heads-up form of notification designed to let users know something urgent has come in without interrupting what they are doing, and instant access to notifications from the lockscreen.

Under the hood, Android Lollipop also adds a few enterprise-focused features, the most interesting of which is Samsung Knox. At a basic level, Knox is a sandboxing service similar to BlackBerry Balance that lets users or IT managers set up and manage a separate password-protected work area on the handset.

It also gives IT managers the power to set policies on the device, like blocking what applications can be installed or run on the device, and Knox encrypts all data on the work side.

Processor
The Nexus 9 is the first Google flagship to take advantage of Android Lollipop's 64-bit support and comes with a 2.3GHz Nvidia Tegra K1 64-bit processor and 2GB of RAM.

Google claims the processor will grant "all the power and graphics of a desktop computer". We haven't had a chance to benchmark the processor but, if Google's claim is anything to go by, it should make the Nexus 9 one of the fastest Android tablets available.

Camera
The Nexus 9 comes with 8MP rear and 1.6MP front cameras. While this doesn't sound too impressive when compared with most top-end smartphone camera specs, it's reasonable by tablet standards.HTC partners with Google to create Nexus 9

However, considering our past experience using similarly specced tablet cameras, we don't have high hopes for the Nexus 9 imaging sensor and expect it to be capable of taking good, but not great, photos.

Battery
HTC's loaded the Nexus 9 with a 6,700mAh battery which it claims will offer up to 9.5 hours of Wifi browsing from one charge. If this is accurate, the Nexus 9's battery life will be average by tablet standards, offering eight to 10 hours between charges.

Storage
The Nexus 9 will come with 16GB or 32GB of internal space. Considering that the Nexus 9 doesn't have a microSD card, meaning users won't be able to upgrade the storage after purchase, we'd liked to have seen a 64GB model. Although considering the wealth of cloud storage options available on Android, this shouldn't be too much of a problem.

Price
Google has yet to reveal the Nexus 9's UK price, but if the US cost is anything to go by it will be very reasonable. The 16GB version is set to retail for $399 while the 32GB will cost $479. At the top end, the 32GB LTE-enabled model will cost $599.

Chances
Overall, while HTC may not be as experienced as some technology companies at making tablets, the Nexus 9 definitely has the potential to be a great device.

Featuring a reworked metal chassis, and being the first Nexus device to take advantage of Android Lollipop's 64-bit chip support, the Nexus 9 could be the first Google flagship tablet capable of taking on Apple's all-ruling iPad Air series come its release later this year.

Check back with V3 later this year for a full review of the Google Nexus 9.

By V3's Alastair Stevenson

VMware comes (almost) full circle with Horizon Flex

20 Oct 2014

At its VMworld conference in Barcelona, VMware announced a new addition to its Horizon platform of end-user computing tools in the form of Horizon Flex. This is a tool that promises to help organisations with bring your own device (BYOD) schemes by enabling a corporate virtual PC to be provisioned on Mac and PC systems.

The firm did not say much else about Horizon Flex at the show, but it seems that the tool could fix many of the issues that customers have had in the past with virtual clients deployed onto endpoint systems, such as deployment, management and patching of the image once out in the field.

VMware's Horizon portfolio started out with View, which offered virtual desktops hosted in a data centre, plus Mirage for managing images on standard PCs and laptops. Horizon Flex rounds this out by enabling an IT administrator to build a corporate Windows PC image, then deploy that to workers anywhere in the world, who may be using their own PC or Mac.

The firm used to have a product that fulfilled pretty much this same role, VMware ACE, but that was discontinued back in 2011 with VMWare claiming that customer demand no longer justified the ongoing development of the product.

Since then, the BYOD trend has kicked in, and many organisations are now looking for a secure way to let workers run corporate applications on any device, whether it is owned and managed by the organisation or not.

vmware-fusionpro

Horizon Flex combines several of VMware's products, including the client-side virtualisation from Fusion Pro (pictured) and Player Pro, Mirage and the Airwatch mobile device management technology it gained with the company of the same name.

The basic idea seems to be to enable the operating system and the applications inside a Horizon Flex virtual image to be managed and updated separately, while the behaviour of the whole is controlled by management policies that govern whether the user can move files between the host and the Flex image, and whether it can access physical resources on the host system, such as a memory stick connected to a USB port.

Writing on VMware's blog, chief technology officer for end-user computing Kit Colbert explained that "with Mirage, you can remotely provision, manage, and update the Windows OS and apps running on a physical laptop. Flex extends this functionality to the containerised virtual desktop. This means that as patches or new versions come out, it's a matter of a few simple clicks for an admin to push those updates out to all Flex users, who will get them the next time they're online.

"In addition, IT can also push out new apps to Flex users and automatically back up the Flex virtual desktop transparently. This means if a user's laptop is lost or stolen, it's easy to re-provision the user's containerised desktop on a new physical machine without data loss."

VMware Horizon Flex is expected to be available this quarter and will be licensed on a per-device basis starting at $250 (£155).

iPad Air 2 vs iPad Air

18 Oct 2014

Apple released what in many buyers' and reviewers' minds, including us here at V3, was its best tablet in 2013, the iPad Air. Featuring a stellar lightweight and thin design, that housed at the time cutting-edge internal components, the 2013 iPad Air is to this day one of the best tablets available.

Aware of this, Apple chose to rework rather than rethink its tablet strategy in creating its latest flagship iPad Air 2. However, featuring a very similar design to its predecessor, this strategy has slightly backfired and led to some confusion about what's actually new in the iPad Air 2.

Dimensions
iPad Air 2: 240x170x6.1mm, 437g
iPad Air: 240x170x7.5mm, 469g

From a distance the iPad Air and iPad Air 2 look very similar, both having aluminium backs and sides and glass fronts. However, there are a few subtle design factors differentiating the two.

For starters the iPad Air 2 is 18 percent thinner, measuring 240x170x6.1mm. The iPad Air 2 is also 32g lighter, meaning it should be one of the most travel-friendly tablets available.

The iPad Air 2 measures in at 6.1mm thick

 

 

iPad Air 2

The iPad Air 2 is also the only one of the two to come loaded with Apple's Touch ID fingerprint scanner. Contained within the iPad Air 2's physical home button, the Touch ID sensor is a security feature that lets users set the tablet to only unlock after they have proven their identity on it.

For us, Touch ID is the much more important change of the two and will likely prove a key selling point for any security conscious buyer.

Display
iPad Mini 2: 9.7in 1536x2048, 264ppi LCD Retina display
iPad Air: 9.7in 1536x2048, 264ppi LCD Retina display

On paper the two iPad Air's are evenly matched when it comes to display size and screen resolution.

However the iPad Air 2 features an anti-glare coating not seen on the original iPad Air, and Apple claims this makes the screen 56 percent less reflective than before. If true the Apple iPad Air 2 should be one of the best screens for workers on the move and remain usable in conditions that render most tablet's screens unreadable, like bright sunlight.

Software
iPad Air 2: iOS 8.1
iPad Air: iOS 7, upgradable to iOS 8.1

The iPad Air 2 is the first ever tablet to come pre-loaded with Apple's latest iOS 8.1 operating system, though iPad Air users will be able to upgrade to the latest software on Monday.Apple iPad Air with A7 processor

iPad Air

iOS 8.1 is a minor update to the operating system designed to fix bugs in iOS 8. In fact, the only major non-performance related change is the re-addition of Apple's Camera Roll feature.

Processor
iPad Air 2: A8X
iPad Air: A7

The iPad Air is still a fairly powerful device, however if Apple's claims about the A8X chip are even remotely true it will be noticeably slower than the iPad Air 2. Apple claims the A8X processor will offer 40 percent faster CPU and 2.5 faster GPU performance than previous iPads.

Camera
iPad Air 2: 8MP iSight and HD Facetime front
iPad Air: 5MP iSight rear and HD Facetime front

Image quality was one key area the iPad Air 2013 fell down on. Aware of this, Apple has worked to up the iPad Air 2's camera quality by increasing the rear sensor's megapixel count and adding new 43MP panorama shot and burst photo, and time lapse and slow motion video recording shot options.iPad Air 2 with Touch ID A8X chip and gold colour option

iPad Air 2

While we don't expect the iPad Air 2 to match the imaging performance of a top-end 2014 smartphone, it should still be well above average by tablet standards.

Storage
iPad Air 2: 16GB, 64GB and 128GB
iPad Air: 16GB, 32GB, 64GB, 128GB

Apple has taken the same strategy it did with the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus and has chosen not to sell a 32GB storage version of the iPad Air 2. While some buyers on a moderate budget may be saddened by the 32GB version's absence, considering the number of cloud storage services available on iOS we can't see it being too much of an issue.

Battery
iPad Air 2: 10 hours
iPad Air: 10 hours

Both the iPad Airs are listed by Apple as offering users 10 hours of life off one charge. If our experience with the original iPad Air is anything to go by this claim will generally be true with the iPad Air 2. Battery burning the iPad Air 2013 by constantly looping a video file stored on the tablet, the device generally lasted between eight to nine hours before dying.

Price 
iPad Air 2: 16GB £400, 64GB £480, 128GB £560
iPad Air: 16GB £320, 32GB £360

Price is one area the iPad Air has a clear edge on the iPad Air 2. While you can't pick up a 64GB or 128GB version of the original iPad Air on the UK Apple store any more, the 16GB and 32GB models have had their prices slashed by a massive £80.

Overall
While the iPad Air 2 isn't a massive step-up from the original iPad Air, there are plenty of new features to get excited about. Key additions include an upgraded A8X processor, sharper 8MP rear camera and new anti-reflective coating around its screen.

As a result, while we can see many 2013 iPad Air owners shying away from upgrading, we can definitely see the iPad Air 2 proving a hit with first-time tablet buyers or people still using older iPad versions.

Check back with V3 later for a full review of the iPad Air 2.

By V3's Alastair Stevenson

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