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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).

Lenovo ThinkPad Helix hands-on review

12 Sep 2014

Lenovo revealed a range of new phones, all-in-ones and business laptops at IFA in Germany earlier in September. The Chinese firm's most significant unveiling was an update to its Lenovo ThinkPad Helix, unveiled at CES in January.

Taking on the Microsoft Surface tablets and Samsung Ativ series of hybrids, the ThinkPad Helix offers businesses an all-in-one tablet that is also an ultrabook.

Lenovo announces Thinkpad Helix at IFA for businesses - overall

Design and build
The 11.6in ThinkPad Helix features a Gorilla Glass display, weighs 815g and measures just 9.6mm thick, a design that has been made possible by the featured Intel Core M processor, which Intel also announced at IFA during its press conference on Friday.

At first glance the ThinkPad Helix has a lot more in common with its ThinkPad predecessors than other convertible laptops. The product's design features the same minimalist black, hard-edged plastic design associated with all ThinkPad laptops.

Lenovo Thinkpad Helix hands on - dock

It's only when you open it up and look closely that you realise that the ThinkPad Helix is actually a convertible, sporting the obvious left-hand switch that, when popped, separates the tablet section from its dock.

Playing with the ThinkPad Helix, we were fairly impressed by the hinge mechanism's build quality. Despite being made of plastic the connecting section felt sturdy.

Lenovo Thinkpad Helix hands on - keypad

Popping the tablet in and out of the dock a few times, we felt suitably reassured that the section wouldn't break during prolonged use. The same was true of the ThinkPad Helix main tablet section, which also seemed fairly robust.

Screen
The 11.6in ThinkPad Helix features a Gorilla Glass FHD display with a 1920x1080 resolution, 10-point multi-touch screen. During our initial tests we found the display boasts great viewing angles, colour and brightness levels.

Testing the screen we found that the ThinkPad Helix was pleasantly responsive, easily picking up and responding to every swipe and poke we threw at it.

Lenovo Thinkpad Helix hands on - stand

Performance and OS
The ThinkPad Helix is designed to offer users ultrabook-level performance, with the top-end version having up to an Intel Core M processor, either 4GB or 8GB of RAM and a range of different storage options such as a 128GB SATA, 256GB SATA eDrive, 512GB PCle or 180GB to 360GB Intel hard drive.

Running Windows 8.1 Pro, the Lenovo ThinkPad Helix has the same five modes as seen on the previous version and the consumer IdeaPad Yoga products, allowing users to put the device into Tablet, Stand, Tent, Laptop and Desktop modes.

In our tests the Lenovo ThinkPad Helix seemed to work flawlessly, with apps and web browser pages popping up instantly. 

Lenovo announces Thinkpad Helix at IFA for businesses - hands on tent

Overall
Our initial impressions of the ThinkPad Helix are positive, as it has some worthy upgrades from its predecessor, particularly the Intel Core M processor.

Lenovo added that the ThinkPad Helix also features better power efficiency and battery life compared with its predecessor, as well as a suite of add-on security options, including a biometric fingerprint reader, a military-grade smart card reader and three-factor authentication. We weren't able to test the improved performance or battery life on the IFA showroom floor, but check back soon for a full review. 

With a hefty $999 starting price, which tops many other convertible laptop-tablet hybrids, we're not sure the ThinkPad Helix will attract a great deal of users when it is released worldwide at the start of October.

MacBook Air 2014 v 2013: Specs and price comparison

30 Apr 2014

New Apple Macbook Air line-up side-by-side

On Tuesday Apple made a quiet update to its MacBook Air range. Rather than the usual razzmatazz of a new Apple unveiling, this time the firm issued a release and left it at that.

What’s new, and what's missing?
The low-key announcement was probably due to the fact the only clear difference between the new Macbook Air devices and the old ones is a slightly improved CPU, which has increased from an Intel iCore 1.3GHz processor to 1.4GHz.

Perhaps more notable was the (disappointing) fact that Apple has not updated the screens for the MacBook Air 2014 range to include its Retina display technology.

Mac aficionados will no doubt be hoping Apple adds this to the range at its next big unveiling, possibly in September. Apple rumours have also suggested a 12in model will be unveiled later this year sporting the Retina display technology.

As such, those considering a new MacBook may decide to wait until later in the year.

Price cuts
One area of improvement that could tempt buyers is the price. Apple has lopped £100 off the cost of the cheapest device, so the 11.6in display model starts from £749 when bought with 128GB of flash storage.

For 256GB of flash storage the price is £899. This is a saving of £130 compared to the same model from the 2013 range.

Meanwhile the 13.3in model starts from £849 with 128GB flash storage and rises to £999 with 256GB of flash storage. That represents a saving of either £100 or £130, compared to last year's models.

For those in the market for a Mac, being able to pick up an Air device from £749 could well prove enticing. The screenshot below from the Apple page shows the price differences:

New Apple Macbook Air line-up

Best of the rest
While the rest of the specs have not changed from the previous Air range, it is still worth running over what you get for your money:

                            11in model                       13in model

Storage:           128GB or 256GB                128GB or 256GB
Weight:            1.08 kg                              1.35 kg
Dimensions:     30x19.2x.1.7cm                 32.5x22.7x1.7cm
Battery:            Nine hours                         12 hours
Screen:            11.6in, 1366x768                13.3in, 1440x900

Both devices also have a 720HD front-facing camera for FaceTime calls and 4GB of memory. They also both offer two USB 3 ports and a Thunderbolt port.

Is it worth the upgrade?
For those on an existing 2013 Air device it seems not. The only difference is a minor boost in compute power, which while nice, is never worth buying a whole new device.

However, for those considering a Mac, the temptation will only grow. The reduced cost alongside the same high-end specs Apple has always offered is a strong pull.

With many not interested in the new Windows 8 operating system, and increasingly comfortable using iOS devices, the decision to move to Apple's laptops to complete the set just got a lot more enticing.

New Apple Macbook Air line-up 13in model

The new 13in Apple Macbook Air

Fujitsu Lifebook U904 ultrabook hands-on review

17 Mar 2014

HANOVER: Fujitsu revealed its brand new 14in Lifebook U904 ultrabook at CeBIT this week, a business device that focuses on security and performance. As a top-end piece of hardware, the U904 is customisable in every area imaginable, and the device V3 tested was the pick of the bunch.

Design and build
At first sight, the U904 exudes quality, with its brushed metal outer coating feeling cool to touch and very sturdy. Fujitsu says the device weighs 1.39kg, although this will vary depending on the specification. Nonetheless, for a high-performance device, 1.39kg is more than acceptable for the business user on the move. The device is just 15.5mm thick, which Fujitsu claims makes it the thinnest business ultrabook on the market.

Fujitsu Lifebook U904 ultrabook front view

In terms of connectivity, the U904 has two USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI connector, a single audio in/out jack, an SD card slot and a pull-out RJ-45 Ethernet port for when you want to hook up to wired internet instead of WiFi. A port replicator for docking stations is an optional extra, and can be found on the underside.

The U904's backlit keyboard is of the island or chiclet variety. As you would expect for a business-focused device, the keys have a good amount of travel and are fairly satisfying to use. The same goes for the touchpad, which does not feature physical buttons but instead requires the user to press down on the touchpad itself to perform a click.

Display
The Fujitsu Lifebook U904 has a screen resolution of 3200x1800, a frankly enormous number of pixels for a 14in screen. Everything we saw on the device looked incredibly crisp, with colour vibrancy also looking very good indeed. The screen comes in both touch and non-touch variants – we used the non-touchscreen, but would have welcomed a touchscreen too for the occasional prod. With that being said, we can imagine touching icons on a small screen with so many pixels would be quite a challenge.

It was difficult to tell how well the screen could stand up to bright lighting conditions, but Fujitsu advertises the screen as having an anti-glare coating.

Performance
There is plenty of choice when it comes to internal components for the Lifebook U904. The unit we used had Intel's top-end i7-4600U processor running at up to 3.1GHz. A pair of Intel i5 processors are also available. Both the i7 and the higher-spec i5 chip – the 4300U – feature Intel vPro technology, which secures the device at a hardware level, a big selling point for users working with sensitive data, and for IT managers who can monitor the laptop remotely using vPro.

Fujitsu Lifebook U904 ultrabook closed

Given our brief time with the device, we were unable to put it fully through its paces, but it is fair to say that we have high expectations for a device running Intel's top-end chipsets.

Because of its compact size, Fujitsu has not included a separate graphics card with the device, instead opting to use Intel's integrated HD Graphics 4400, which may limit the device's handling of more intensive multimedia such as video editing and games.

The device starts life with 2GB of RAM on board, which can be boosted to up to 10GB. Storage-wise, a host of options are available, with four solid-state drives and a traditional hard disk available. The solid-state drives (SSDs) range from 128GB to 512GB, while the spinning disk option weighs in at 500GB with an additional 16GB of SSD cache, offering a blend of capacity and performance.

Fujitsu Lifebook pull-out network port

We were also impressed to see that the device has room for optional 3G or 4G connectivity, which will be perfect for workers who often find themselves out in the field.

Battery life is estimated at a reasonable 10 hours, but we were unable to verify this figure.

Security
Fujitsu has paid a lot of attention to security, with the Lifebook U904 featuring a variety of optional extras intended to keep businesses' data secure.

While a traditional fingerprint scanner is available for this device, Fujitsu is keen to draw attention to its Palm Vein scanner technology, which scans the veins of a user's palm to verify their identity. The U904 is the first ultrabook to feature this technology, which is now thin enough to fit into smaller devices. Below you can see the sensor, which Fujitsu said it wants to make even smaller so eventually it could be used in phones and even everyday objects.

Fujitsu Palm Vein chip

Once you've been registered as a recognised user, you can use the Palm Vein sensor to log in. Administrators can also set up Palm Vein to authenticate other actions if needed, for example logging into a certain application. Users must place their hand a few inches above the sensor and follow the on-screen instructions, which will tell them to move their hand in a certain direction.

While Fujitsu claims Palm Vein scanners are 100 times more reliable than fingerprint scanners, the problem we can see with this technology is that it is still very slow. Even with a Fujitsu representative demonstrating the scanner, it took the device more than five seconds to recognise his hand and allow him to log in. While perhaps this is the price you pay for security, many users may be put off by its sluggishness.

Fujitsu Lifebook U904 Palm Vein

Other security options include Intel's vPro technology, as mentioned above, as well as Full Disk Encryption and a Trusted Platform Module to keep sensitive data extra safe.

Chances
The Lifebook U904 continues Fujitsu's theme of high-performance devices suitable for workers in fields that require both security and portability. While pricing for the device is yet to be announced and will vary depending on the options you choose, expect to be paying the better part of £1,400 for a device with all the trimmings.

As ever, this is a case of you get what you pay for, and if your business is looking to tick those performance and security boxes, the Lifebook U904 should certainly make your shortlist.

By V3's Michael Passingham

MWC: HP Pavilion x360 hands-on review

26 Feb 2014

BARCELONA: Since Microsoft released its latest touch-focused Windows 8 operating system, hardware manufacturers have been wrestling to find the best way to showcase its finer points and create a truly usable laptop-tablet hybrid.

Some firms, such as Asus, have tried to solve the problem by creating dockable keyboard attachments for Windows 8 tablets. Others such as Lenovo have been a little more creative, making IdeaPad Yoga devices with flexible hinges that let users turn the laptop into a tablet by rotating its keyboard round to go behind the screen.

HP has traditionally chosen the same route as Asus, creating standalone tablets that can be turned into laptop replacements with optional dock attachments. But all that changed at Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2014, where the company chose to quite literally go back on itself and unveil its IdeaPad Yoga-like Pavilion x360 laptop.

Design and build
HP has worked hard to make sure the Pavilion x360 looks as eye catching as possible, releasing it in a variety of colours. The red version we saw looked particularly striking and set the Pavilion apart from HP's other more enterprise-focused hybrids.

The Pavilion x360 is fairly light by large tablet standards, weighing in at 1.4kg, and doesn't feel overly heavy. We also found the slightly rubbery plastic outer coating felt suitably robust and offered little to no flex with pressure.HP Pavilion x360 regular

The keyboard and trackpad also proved fairly pleasant to use and were suitably responsive to the touch.

Checking the Pavilion x360's sides and back we were also pleased to see that HP has equipped it with a healthy selection of connectivity options. The system features a SuperSpeed USB 3.0 port, two USB 2.0 ports, HDMI, Ethernet and a headphone-out/mic-in combo jack.

It was only when we attempted to change the Pavilion x360 into a tablet that we noticed any issues. Attempting to rotate the keyboard to go behind the screen, the hinge was very stiff. It felt fairly delicate and on a few occasions we were concerned that we'd actually snap the hinge – though an HP spokesman told us this is because the model we looked at was pre-production and that this will be fixed on the final versions.

The Pavilion x360 was also slightly difficult to use, firstly, because by having the keyboard on its back, it's fairly hard to get a good grip on the Pavilion x360. Secondly, while it's reasonably light for a laptop, as a tablet, the machine is far too heavy to comfortably hold in one hand.

Display
The Pavilion x360 comes with a 11.6in HD LED-backlit, 1366x768 touchscreen, and seemed very responsive to gesture input. Our only regret in this regard is that the Pavilion x360 doesn't come with a digital stylus, which meant taht using it as a standalone tablet could at times be fiddly – especially if trying to use a desktop application.HP Pavilion x360 tablet

The display also offered reasonable picture quality. While nowhere near as good as the in-plane switching (IPS) displays seen in other tablets, the Pavilion's is reasonably good. Colours were suitably vibrant and text, while sometimes a little hazy, was always readable.

The only issue we noticed was that the Pavilion x360's screen was fairly prone to picking up stray light. When this happened the Pavilion x360 became all but unusable – though we were testing it in a very bright showroom.

Software
The Pavilion x360 comes with Microsoft Windows 8.1 pre-installed. There is no Windows 8.1 Professional option for businesses, meaning the device is more suited for BYOD than dedicated corporate use.

The use of Windows 8.1 is still reasonably good from a productivity perspective. The device comes with Microsoft's core Office and OneDrive document-editing and storage services. The use of Windows 8.1, as opposed to the less impressive Windows RT also means users can load and run legacy software on the Pavilion x360.

Performance
HP offers the Pavilion x360 with either an Intel Pentium N3520 2.17GHz processor or an Intel Pentium N2820 2.13GHz processor. The demo device we tested featured 8GB of RAM. All versions feature Intel HD graphics.

This means high-power tasks, such as digital painting, video editing and 3D modelling and gaming, will be beyond the Pavilion x360. Considering it is priced from £350, though, this is no surprise.HP Pavilion x360 side

Testing it for productivity tasks, such as web-browsing and document-editing, the Pavilion x360 purred along nicely and we didn't experience any performance issues during our hands on.

Storage and camera
The Pavilion x360 we tested had 500GB of built-in storage, but it also comes in 320GB and 750GB options. It also has an HP TrueVision HD Webcam with an integrated digital microphone for video-calling. Powering up Skype and making a video call to a smartphone, the camera was more than good enough for making video calls.

Battery
HP is remaining hazy as to how long the Pavilion's two-cell battery should last off one charge and a spokesman at the company's MWC stand declined to answer queries regarding battery life. We will test this properly in a full review.

Overall
While the HP Pavilion x360 doesn't feel terribly original, looking a little too much like a Lenovo Yoga for our liking, our initial impressions are fairly positive. While it is heavy as a tablet, the Pavilion x360 did feel like a reasonable netbook replacement.

But its ability to deliver will largely be determined by key details that HP is remaining quiet about, such as battery life.

The HP Pavilion x360 is due for release in Europe in March, with prices starting at £350. Check back with V3 then for a full review.

By V3's Alastair Stevenson

Fujitsu Celsius H730 laptop hands-on review

05 Feb 2014

Data security has been a growing concern for numerous businesses, with intellectual property theft or loss having the potential to cripple even the healthiest of firms. This is because, not only do lost or hacked computers put the company at a competitive disadvantage, thanks to new legislation regarding the powers of the UK Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), they can also land them with a hefty fine.

Fujitsu has looked to monopolise on businesses' security and data security concerns, marketing its brand new Celsius H730 with Palm Vein Security Reader as the ideal machine for any company working with sensitive customer data or valuable intellectual property.

Design and build
Visually the Celsius H730 is unashamedly business focused and is clearly designed to be a workstation, rather than a laptop. The pre-production unit we had a chance to test measured in at a hefty 380x257x35.5mm and weighed 2.9kg, so you wouldn't want to lug it around for an entire day.Fujitsu Celsius H730 three quarter

Making up for this, Fujitsu has taken advantage of the added real estate and loaded the Celsius H730 with a variety of graphics and component options. Unlike many other workstations that use Intel integrated graphics, Fujitsu has loaded the Celsius H730 with Nvidia Quadro professional graphics, offering K510M, K1100M and K2100M options.

Fujitsu has also equipped the Celsius H730 with a host of port and connectivity features, including an old school optical disc drive. Backing this up the Celsius H730 features four USB 3.0, two display and single VGA, DVI, Ethernet, audio in and out, and Kensington lock ports.

As an added bonus, the Celsius H730's rear battery is removable, meaning users on the move can pack a spare battery when they plan to be away from a power supply for a while.

Opening up the Celsius H730, we also got a chance to check out its full-sized keyboard and trackpad. Featuring a full-sized number pad, we found, while it wasn't backlit, the Celsius H730's keyboard was pleasant to type on. This was as much due to the reactive, snappy feel of the keys as it was the keyboard's large size.

We were also impressed with the build quality of the Celsius H730. While the Celsius H730 does have plastic parts, the workstation feels very robustly built and left us reasonably assured it could survive the odd accidental bump or scrape.

Display
The Celsius H730 comes loaded with a 15.6in LED backlit 1920x1080 display. Despite coming with a Windows 8 licence, the Celsius H730 doesn't feature a touch option. While this may be a bit of an issue for some early Windows 8 adopters, considering the number of businesses snubbing the latest version of Microsoft's operating system the absence is forgivable.Fujitsu Celsius H730 closed

In terms of display quality, we found the Celsius H730 performed reasonably well. In our bright office we found it, in general, boasted decent colour balance and brightness levels. The only slight issue we noticed was that it could at times become difficult to use when hit with direct sunlight.

Performance
The demo unit we tested boasted a cutting-edge Intel Haswell i7 Core processor, though it is also available in an i5 option. The Celsius H730 also comes with a variety of memory options ranging from a basic 4GB of RAM up to 32GB.

This, combined with its Nvidia graphics, means the Celsius H730 should be capable of dealing with even the most demanding of tasks and will be ideal for industries with high-performance needs, such as the financial or engineering sectors.

We didn't get a chance to test quite how powerful the Celsius H730 is or benchmark it during our hands on, but we will do this in our full review.

Software
Fujitsu offers the Celsius H730 in Windows 7 and Windows 8 options. The demo unit we tried ran using Microsoft Windows 7 Professional 64-bit. The Fujitsu spokesman on hand told us the majority of the units are set up to run Windows 7 as most critical independent software vendor (ISV) applications from companies such as Adobe and Oracle are yet to be optimised for Windows 8. He added that each Celsius H730 will come with a licence key for the newer Windows version, ensuring that they can be upgraded at the customer's convenience.

Security
The Celsius H730's enterprise appeal is compounded by its advanced security features. The Fujitsu Celsius H730 is the first ever laptop to come with the option to add an integrated Palm Vein Security Reader and Workplace Protect software.Fujitsu Celsius H730 PalmSecure scanner

The technology is similar to the Touch ID fingerprint scanner seen on Apple's iPhone 5S and uses biometric data to authenticate the identity of its user. Specifically the Palm Vein Security Reader scans the blood vessels in the user's hand to confirm their identity before unlocking. Unlike the iPhone Touch ID scanner, the Palm Vein sensor doesn't require the user to touch the device, but to hover their hand over the sensor, which is located at the bottom-right of its keyboard.

Fujitsu claims the scanner is the most reliable and secure way to lock any laptop. A spokesman told us the scanner has a 0.00008 percent false positive rate. By comparison he said fingerprint scanners have a less impressive 0.001 percent false positive rate.

We were impressed by how well the scanner worked. We set up the Palm Vein Security Reader using the Workplace Protect application, which simply required us to let the sensor scan our hand three times. Once done, the scanner proved capable of accurately and reliably authenticating our identity and generally took around four seconds to scan our hand and unlock.

As an added perk, the Celsius H730's Palm Vein Security Reader can register several users' identities and lock them to different accounts stored on the machine, so it can be used on shared devices with multiple users.Fujitsu Celsius H730 ports

The scanner is backed up by a number of other robust security features, including Intel vPro. Intel vPro is designed to secure the device against attacks such as rootkits, viruses and malware at a hardware level. As an added bonus, vPro also lets IT managers remotely monitor and interact with machines at a hardware level, making it quicker and easier for them to spot and mitigate any attacks on the machine.

Chances
The Celsius H730 is available from Fujitsu on a channel sales model with prices starting at £1,182. The Palm Vein Security Reader version is due for release sometime in March, and will add an extra £75 to the workstation's up-front cost.

Having tested the Celsius H730, we're fairly impressed. It comes loaded with a host of security features and hardware pre-installed, and includes the option for an integrated PalmSecure scanner, so the Celsius H730 is one of the safest choices for any business dealing with sensitive data or valuable intellectual property.

Add to this its powerful Haswell processor and dedicated Nvidia graphics card options and we can see the Fujitsu Celsius H730 with the Palm Vein Security Reader being a big hit in industries such as banking and engineering.

Check back with V3 later for a full review of the Fujitsu Celsius H730 workstation.

By V3's Alastair Stevenson

CES: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Touch hands-on review

07 Jan 2014

LAS VEGAS: Lenovo released the original ThinkPad X1 Carbon in 2012 and it was one of a select few unashamedly business-focused ultrabooks.

But despite being lightweight and ultra powerful, the first X1 Carbon's enterprise appeal was hampered by a few issues, chief of which were its lack of Ethernet port and slightly poor non-removable battery. Two years on Lenovo has attempted to address these flaws by releasing a brand new, Intel Haswell-powered version of the X1 Carbon.

Design and build
At first glance the 2014 X1 Carbon looks all but identical to its 2013 predecessor, featuring the same sleek black carbon fibre chassis. It's only when you get closer to the device that you realise it's slightly smaller than the 2013 X1 Carbon, measuring in at 331x226x18.5mm. By comparison the 2013 model was 331x226x21mm.Lenovo X1 Carbon 2014

The 2014 X1 Carbon also features a slightly more impressive array of ports, with two USB 3.0 as well as a single full-size HDMI; OneLink Docking; mDP; and Native Ethernet inputs. Opening up the X1 we also noticed the newly added Adaptive Keyboard.

The Adaptive Keyboard is a capacitive strip that lies on the top of the X1 Carbon's keyboard dock. It is designed to provide users with a choice of touch shortcut keys that dynamically update depending on which application is open.

The feature was fairly useful and responsive. While playing a video file on the X1 Carbon the bar offered basic stop, start, fast forward and rewind keys, but switched to offer home, forward back and refresh keys when we opened Internet Explorer.

Display
The 2014 X1 Carbon is available in touch and non-touch screen options. The demo unit we tried boasted a 14in, 10-point multitouch, 2560x1440 in-plane switching (IPS) display.

As well as being nicely responsive to the touch, the X1's screen was also fairly pleasant to look at. Using the 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, with text remaining crisp and legible even when viewing the Carbon's screen from the side.

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

Operating system
The X1 Carbon comes with Windows 8.1 Pro preinstalled, so the Carbon is running the latest version of Windows. While some businesses are choosing to sit on the fence with Windows 8, upgrading their systems to the more familiar desktop-focused Windows 7, we're big fans of the latest version of Microsoft's operating system (OS).Lenovo X1 Carbon side

As well as featuring full legacy software support, Microsoft has also fixed a number of minor tweaks in Windows 8.1, reinstating a Start button on the Desktop menu's user interface and improving its search capability to let users search the internet as well local menus using the built-in Search setting.

Processor
Our demo unit ran using a fourth-generation Intel Core i7 Haswell processor and boasted 8GB RAM. The combination meant that for pure productivity purposes the X1 Carbon was more than powerful enough, and it opened web pages and applications seamlessly.

Sadly we didn't get a chance to properly benchmark or see how the X1 Carbon dealt with more demanding tasks such as 3D gaming or design during our hands-on. But considering its integrated Intel HD graphics we're guessing it will struggle to play most current PC games – meaning its bring your own device appeal could be limited for some users.

As a final enterprise perk, the X1 Carbon also features Intel vPro technology. VPro is a custom technology from Intel designed to protect devices from cyber attacks at a hardware level. Considering the growing number of criminals looking to target corporations, its inclusion is seriously worthwhile.

Battery and storage
Past its performance-boosting powers, the real benefit of Intel's new Haswell chip architecture is its ability to boost ultrabooks' battery lives. Intel claims that thanks to its more energy-efficient design, Haswell chips are able to offer third-generation Core processor-level performance, coupled with Atom-length battery lives. For this reason it's unsurprising that Lenovo lists the X1 Carbon as being able to last for nine hours of regular use off one charge.

Lenovo X1 Carbon closed

We didn't get a chance to battery burn the X1 Carbon to check this, but considering the fact that the X1 Carbon's battery is non-removable it will be a serious pain for business users on the move if it doesn't live up to Lenovo's claims. Storage-wise Lenovo has stocked the X1 Carbon with a generous 512GB of internal space, which should prove more than enough for most regular users.

Chances
The ThinkPad X1 Carbon is confirmed to arrive later in January, priced from $1,299. While we're disappointed at the lack of a removable battery, our opening impressions of the 2014 X1 Carbon are positive. Featuring a powerful and efficient Haswell processor, vPro technology and the latest version of Windows, the X1 Carbon could be one of the most enterprise-friendly laptops available in 2014.

Check back with V3 later this month for a full review of the 2014 Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon.

By V3's Alastair Stevenson

 

HP EliteBook Folio 1040 G1 hands-on review

11 Dec 2013

BARCELONA: HP unveiled a series of new devices on Tuesday at its annual Discover conference and the most notable of these new units was the EliteBook Folio 1040 G1.

It was unveiled on stage by senior vice president of HP Business Personal Systems, Enrique Lores, who touted its military-grade build quality to withstand dust, extreme temperatures and drops, at which point he let it fall from his hand to the floor with a resounding clang. It seemed to be ok.

Enterprise buyers were also targeted with the inclusion of a fingerprint scanner and a smart card reader for extra security, and a docking connector to link to printers and other peripherals.

The firm also touted several other aspects of the device that have been upgraded from its earlier EliteBook Folio 9470M, saying it is lighter, thinner and faster thanks to the inclusion of Intel's Haswell processor. It will ship with Windows 7 or Windows 8.1.

We went to see the laptop in the giant Discover hall and had a quick play around on the new device and, as HP claimed, it certainly is a swish looking unit with rounded edges, a grey metallic design and an overall feel of quality that is not too dissimilar to a MacBook.

HP Elitebook Folio 1040 G1 side on view

One other notable feature of the new device that HP touted is the use of a new type of control pad called ForcePad (pictured below). Rather than the traditional style control pads on a laptop that require two fingers to select and drag items, this can be done with one as it recognises different pressure sensitivities.

HP Elitebook Folio 1040 G1 front view of ForcePad

It also has the ability to recognise five-touch inputs so touch-style controls such as pinch-to-zoom can be used on applications or web services that support this functionality. This would be useful if you choose to have Windows 7 shipped with the unit.

However, those wanting a touchscreen can get a Windows 8.1 model, which will now support touch, a major let down of the older model. However, the unit we saw was running Windows 7, so we didn't get a chance to test out the new touchscreen mode.

Another improvement is in size and weight, with the device weighing 1.49kg, down from 1.63kg, and the thickness is down from 18.9mm to 15.9mm on the previous model. We certainly found the device light and comfortable to hold, and it could easily slip into a shoulder bag or suitcase without adding much weight.

HP Elitebook Folio 1040 G1 side view keyboard

Overall, after a quick first glance and play, the EliteBook Folio 1040 seems a nice device with a focus on enterprises users that should appeal to many firms and staffers buying their own laptops. The option of Windows 7 or 8.1 means both tastes are catered for and the ForcePad shows that HP is trying to innovate on the otherwise fairly standard laptop model.

The HP EliteBook Folio 1040 will be available in the UK from the middle of December with a starting price of £1,380. Check back on V3 in the future for our full review of the device.

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