21 Feb 2013
Google has unveiled a new Chromebook device called the Pixel that is designed to compete with Apple and Microsoft at the top end of the laptop market with a cool £1,049 UK price tag.
The device was unveiled late on Thursday and V3 was one of a handful of UK sites to get its hands on the device. Below are a series of images showing the key dimensions and specifications of the devices.
The device boasts a 3:2 display which Google said is designed to better display pages on the web which are generally designed vertically, rather than adhering to movie formats of 16x9 that are more horizontally framed.
Google said it did away with the markings usually found for ports for design reasons and because most users never actually consult what they are, instead just working out the shapes of what will fit into which holes. This makes sense in a way; most people don't need these symbols and many other devices don't include them either.
Google made big boasts about the screen, claiming it was better than anything on the market with a pixel density of 229 pixels per inch (PPI). Here you can see it snapped against a large-screen Macbook Pro, and certainly there's not much difference between the two, as you can see below (although admittedly, this is far from ideal testing conditions, and we'll compare it more properly in due course).
When compared to other Windows devices on the market such as a Lenovo X220, you can see the device is not that much larger in general, but far more of its real estate is given to the screen or keyboard units, which is a nice touch as these are far more important than the casing around it.
Speaking of the keyboard, it’s certainly very nice, with deft, responsive keys that are well spaced out and easy to adapt too.
Overall, based on early first impressions, while the price is fairly eye-watering, the Pixel is a lovely piece of design and the touchscreen is very nice to use too. Those unsold by Apple or Microsoft and looking for something at the high-end and confident they'll always have Wi-Fi access may well be tempted, but the price may well be off-putting for many.
Check back in the coming days for a more thorough review.
10 Jan 2013
LAS VEGAS: Samsung unveiled its Windows 8-powered Series 7 Chronos alongside its new Ultra ultrabook at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) on Sunday.
Running Windows 8 standard and featuring a touchscreen, Samsung touted the Chronos as proof it was capable of making laptops oozing with business appeal.
Design and build
The Chronos' most striking feature is its bare metal chassis and ample dimensions, with it measuring in at 376x249x20.9mm.
This meant that while the Chronos feels very sturdy, with its aluminium chassis giving the impression it could withstand the odd heavy whack, it's also fairly heavy, even when compared to other devices in its size bracket. For this reason, the Chronos is more a desktop replacement than portable device and won't be suitable for execs expecting to rack up the air miles.
Its large backlit keyboard does have advantages though. Testing the Chronos, we were pleased with the keyboard, with it proving very responsive and pleasant to type on.
Additionally, the Chronos' size has let Samsung load it with a slew of ports. These include two USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0, and individual HDMI and VGA ports. On its top, the Chronos also features a 720p integrated camera for video calling.
Samsung's loaded the Chronos with a 15.6in Full HD display. Boasting the increasingly common 10-point touch functionality, we found the display suitably eye-pleasing and responsive, recognising and enacting our touch inputs instantaneously.
The only issue we noticed with the Chronos' screen was that it could be prone to glare when it caught the light at a certain angle - though this could be more to do with the insanely bright lights Samsung had on its show floor and might not be an issue when using the Chronos in normal conditions.
Power-wise the Chronos sits in the middle of Samsung's laptop range, packing an AMD Radeon HD 8870M Graphics chip with 2GB GDDR5 Graphic Memory on board that is complemented by an Intel Core i7 processor.
While we didn't get the chance to fully run the Chronos through its paces during our hands on, we were pleasantly surprised by how smoothly it ran. Testing the Chronos using the slew of pre-installed apps on it we found the device could easily handle multi-tasking and most general tasks.
We're looking forward to seeing how the Chronos performs when challenged with more intensive tasks come our full review.
Samsung claims the Chronos will boast an eight-hour battery life off one charge. We didn't get the chance to test Samsung's claim during our hands on, but if true this should mean the Chronos will last a full working day off one charge.
However, given the device's large size, we're not sure how often users will find themselves using the Chronos on the go, away from a power station.
There's currently no official word on the Chronos price or release date. However given its middling specifications, we're guessing the Chronos will come with a similarly middling price tag. If our guess is right, then while its large size and weight make it unsuitable for prolonged mobile use the Chronos could be a solid choice for users looking for a desktop replacement.
Check back with V3 later in the year for a full review of the Samsung Series 7 Chronos.
09 Jan 2013
LAS VEGAS: The Helix is one of many new ThinkPads to be unveiled by Lenovo at the 2013, Consumer Electronics (CES) show. However, being the company's first tablet-come-laptop hybrid it is debatably the most interesting.
Taking on the likes of the Microsoft Surface and Samsung Ativ-series of hybrids, the Helix seeks to offer businesses an all-in-one tablet that also acts as an ultrabook.
Having beaten the rush to get our hands on the tablet, if our opening impressions are anything to go by, Lenovo may have actually managed to achieve its goal.
Design and build
At first glance the Helix has a lot more in common with its ThinkPad predecessors than other convertible laptops.
The Helix design is unashamedly barebones, featuring the same minimalist black, hard edged plastic design synonymous with all ThinkPad devices.
It's only when you open it up and look up close that you realise the Helix is actually a convertible, spotting the rather unsubtle left hand switch that when popped separates the 21mm tablet section from its dock.
Playing with the Helix we were fairly impressed by the hinge mechanism's builds quality. Despite being made of plastic the connecting section felt sturdy.
Popping the tablet in and out of the dock a few times we felt suitably reassured the section wouldn't break after prolonged use. The same was true of the Helix main tablet section, with it feeling fairly robust.
Our only qualm with the device is that it feels slightly heavier than many other convertible devices weighing a hefty 835g.
The Helix comes loaded with an 11.6in Full HD 1920x1080 pixels, 10-point multi-touch screen. During our opening tests we found that looks very nice, boasting great viewing angles, colour and brightness levels.
Testing the screen we found the Helix was pleasantly responsive, with it easily picking up and responding to every swipe and poke we threw at it.
Another added boon for artistic users, is the inclusion of a Wacom stylus, that sits neatly in the Helix's top edge.
While we didn't have time to do anything but use the stylus to make a few quick doodles, we were impressed with how well it worked.
Using Photoshop Elements, we found the Helix was able to pick up on even minor variations in pressure and angle and are fairly certain it could be used for digital painting and design purposes.
Performance and price
The Helix is designed to offer users ultrabook-level performance with the top-end version coming loaded with an Intel Core i7 processor 8GB of RAM and 256GB of internal storage. However, for this, users will have to shell out a massive $1,500.
For those shopping on a budget Lenovo's also confirmed the Helix will be available in Intel i3 and i5 versions, though there is still no official word on how much these lower specced versions will cost.
Overall our opening impressions of the Helix are positive. However, costing over $700 more than other cheaper convertible laptop-tablet hybrids, we're unsure whether the Helix will be able to attract anyone but the wealthiest of users.
08 Jan 2013
LAS VEGAS: Samsung initially announced its plans to use Windows 8 to increase its presence in the enterprise space in October 2012, when it unveiled its Ativ series of convertible tablet-laptop hybrids.
Following up its opening salvo, Samsung unveiled its Series 7 Ultra ultrabook at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas on Monday.
Eager to get a look at the device, V3 wrestled past the crowds at Samsung's CES booth and took a hands on look at the Ultra to see how it measures up to its more established Lenovo, HP and Dell-built competition.
Design and build
The first thing that strikes you about the Ultra is its unashamedly ultrabook design, featuring the telltale polished aluminium chassis that has become synonymous with with the title.
With its familiar brushed metal finish, the Samsung Series 7 Ultra looks sleek and stylish and feels fairly solidly built.
It also looks to be extremely travel friendly, measuring just 18.9mm thick and weighing a modest 1.65kg.
Underneath its shiny metal exterior, the Ultra packs a surprisingly large backlit keyboard. But during our tests we found the keyboard, though usable and responsive, did feel slightly less well built than the rest of the device. The keys had a disconcerting spongy feel when pressed.
The Ultra sports a surprising number of ports, despite its diminutive size, packing a single USB 3.0 port, a pair of USB 2.0 connectors, HDMI, mini VGA and HP/MIC options.
Another added boon for business users is the inclusion of a 720p HD camera, which when tested was more than adequate for video calling.
The Samsung Series 7 Ultra packs a 13.3in Full HD 1920 x 1080, 1080p, 10-point multi-touch screen.
Using the device we found the screen was suitably responsive, recognising our pinch, zoom and swipe commands instantly, making navigating its Windows 8 Pro operating system an absolute joy.
The Ultra we tested was powered by an Intel Core i7 processor though there is also an Intel Core i5 model is to launch too.
Testing the i7 version we were pleased how well Ultra handled, with programmes loading blazingly fast. We're looking forward to pushing the Ultra further and seeing how it handles more intensive tasks come our full review.
Samsung claims the Ultra will boast an eight-hour battery life. If true this will be another strong selling point for the Ultra, adding to its "use on the go" travel friendly appeal.
The Samsung Series 7 Ultra offers great performance - although a critical point, as ever will be price, a key bit of information Samsung's chosen to keep quiet about.
Check back with V3 later for a full review of the Samsung Series 7 Ultra.
05 Dec 2012
FRANKFURT: HP's "one more thing" moment at its annual Discover event on Wednesday turned out to be the unveiling of another Windows 8 device, this time the tablet/laptop hybrid EliteBook Revolve.
The device, as the name suggests, features a swivel screen that can be laid down on top of the laptop's keyboard to turn it into a standard tablet device, akin to the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga. HP is betting that users' need for the functionality of a keyboard and the ease of use of a touchscreen is set to grow.
The firm's vice president of design Stacy Wolff had shown off the device on stage, touting the importance of visually alluring products and a thin design. Certainly in our brief hands on with the device - locked to a display stand - it had both those elements.
It was light enough to seem that you'd be happy to carry it around all day in a bag and use as and when necessary while it had a nice simple but clean design, not that dissimilar to an Apple MacBook.
The swivel function seemed easy to use, making it quick and efficient to turn the device into a tablet at a moment's notice, and remaining thin enough to be functional and portable.
Annoyingly, for an unknown reason, the device on display was not touch-enabled, despite the device being set to have his capability when it launches in March next year, in the US at least.
The driver appeared to be missing when we did some quick spec checks via the control panel, so we weren't able to test out Windows 8 in all its touch-enabled glory which was a shame. But we used the mouse pad when in laptop mode, and it all seemed to run smoothly.
The device we were playing with had an Intel Core i3 1.8GHz processor and so was fast to use, switching between apps effortlessly, while it also had 8GB of RAM and was running a 64-bit version of Windows 8.
Clearly these are some decent specs and HP is no doubt hoping it can lure enterprise customers plumping for Windows 8, as it seeks to regain its position as the number one PC vendor, at least in the enterprise market, despite competition from the iPad and other rivals.
We didn't have enough time to form a definitive opinion on the device but certainly the crowds standing around were keen to have a play and the ease everyone seemed to have turning it from a laptop to a tablet and back again that we saw suggested it could prove popular.
We'll aim to have a full review presently.
With Windows 8 now available, PC manufacturers will be hoping to see improved sales in the coming months after disappointing figures over recent quarters, mostly as firms and consumers awaited the launch of Microsoft's new platform.
Another firm that has plenty riding on this is Intel, which has thrown its weight behind the ultrabook category of devices now entering the market as it aims to boost sales of Windows device, and Windows 8 gives it another opportunity to do just that.
So it was no surprise that the firm held an event in central London on Tuesday showing off a raft of products from its partners such as Lenovo, Dell and Acer running the platform.
V3 popped along to have a look to try out some of the devices on show.
Certainly all the devices had something to recommend them, whether the novel combinations of display options such as the Lenovo Yoga (below) with four different viewing stances: laptop, tablet, ‘tent' or as a single screen, with the keyboard used as the stand at the back.
The device itself was nice to use, with a good quality keyboard and the system responsive to both touch and mouse-based inputs.
We also had a chance to see the new Windows 8 version of the Acer Aspire S7 ultrabook (below). The device has been on the market for a while running Windows 7 and secured a four-star review when we looked at it last year.
Now it's been updated with a touchscreen system so it can run Windows 8 in full and is certainly one of the nicest looking devices on display, with a compact 13.3in screen and weighing a lightweight 1.35kg.
However, if we're talking lightweight then we should probably mention the NEC Lavie Z Ultrabook (pictured below).
Although this isn't available in the UK at present and doesn't run Windows 8 either, the device is hugely popular in Japan for one key reason; its weight. It's just 875g.
The weight of devices is always something touted by manufacturers and usually it worth nothing more than a "yes it's quite light" comment but the NEC device was probably the lightest laptop device we've ever seen; there are paperback books that are heavier.
While it's not set to come to the UK - a shame - it's a good indication of how light laptops could still become. With the portability of tablets often touted as a selling point over laptops devices like this undermine that argument to some degree.
Lastly, no product showcase would be complete without something from Dell, so Intel had brought along the Dell XPS 12 which has a rather nifty rotating screen that can be swivelled within its casing to work as either a tablet or a laptop.
This mean it can also be propped up in the "tent" style akin to the Lenovo Yoga, as pictured below.
Overall, then, it's clear there's no lack of interesting, novel and quality devices from numerous manufacturers on offer for Windows 8, with Intel's technology an integral part of that.
Whether consumers take to the new system and this helps boost flagging sales, though, is another matter.
20 Sep 2012
Dell unveiled a handful of new business systems on Wednesday that will ship with Windows 8 when Microsoft's next-generation platform becomes available.
All three are based on the latest Intel processors, and include features designed to appeal to business buyers, such as extensions to Intel's vPro technology adding support for capabilities such as remote Bios updates and remote power management.
The Latitude 10 tablet (below) is a 10.1in slate-mode device running Intel's upcoming Clover Trail Atom chip.
10.1in (1,366x768) display with Corning Gorilla Glass, 2GB memory, up to 128GB SSD, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional mobile broadband, 2-cell (30Whr) or four-cell (60Whr) removable battery, full-size USB 2.0 port, SD Card slot, mini-HDMI output, 725g weight.
The Latitude 6430u (below) is Dell's first business-focused ultrabook. It has a 14in display and processor options up to the 3.2GHz Core i7-3667U.
However, it does not have a touch-screen as standard, despite being designed for Windows 8 (Windows 7 will also be an option on this system).
Third generation Core i3, i5 and i7 processors, up to 8GB memory, up to 256GB SSD storage, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and optional mobile broadband, three-cell or six-cell removable battery options, 1.69kg weight.
Completing the trio is the Optiplex 9010 all-in-one desktop (below), which has a 23in display with optional touchscreen capability, and an articulating stand providing flexibility in the height and angle as to how the screen can be positioned.
This also features the latest Intel 3rd generation Core processors, plus a choice of the older 2nd generation chips, and provides access to the memory and hard disk for maintenance, Dell said.
Up to quad-core i7 chips, up to 16GB memory, hard drive options including 1TB hard drive or 128GB SSD, DVD-Rom, DVD-RW or Blu-Ray optical drives, 1 x half mini-PCIe expansion slot, gigabit Ethernet, optional Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
All three are due to be available when Windows 8 launches on 26 October.
Even though the UK is unlikely to see any major 4G rollouts for another two years there are a smattering of services available across the country, mostly trials run by the likes of O2 and Everything Everywhere.
One in London that's currently taking place is being hosted by UK Broadband, which announced in February during Mobile World Congress that it would be bringing 4G services to the borough of Southwark in London running on the 3.5GHz and 3.6GHz portions of the spectrum.
Since then, the firm has also announced it will hook up Swindon and the surrounding area with 4G services too as it seeks to offer an alternative to fixed-line broadband services and tempt businesses into using its network on the go for flexible working and cloud computing.
V3 headed over to see the network in Southwark in action, as the firm prepares to take the service from a trial stage to a live network.
First up we tested the service in a hotel using a Huawei router (pictured above) to turn the signal into Wi-Fi service that laptops, tablets and smartphones could access, achieving speeds as high as 42Mbit/s during the tests, although some tests came in slightly lower (see below).
Next, we hit the road, to test out the service around the borough where the nine base stations installed by UK Broadband are designed to ensure a seamless experience for users of the service moving across the area.
We compared the service to a 3G dongle on the Vodafone network and the different in quality was plain to see. The 3G network failed to achieve speeds much over 3Mbit/s and often dropped off entirely.
Meanwhile, the 4G network ranged from 10Mbit/s to 14Mbit/s and was able to stream HD BBC iPlayer content and host a full-screen Skype call without any lag or buffering (see test results below).
Clearly the benefits of 4G are numerous and real, and for those in Southwark the impending availability of the service could help UK Broadband snap up numerous customers.
However, the issue is the small ecosystem of devices around the spectrum holdings that the firm is using for its network. Currently, there are barely any tablet or smartphone devices available that natively support 3.5 or 3.6GHz networks.
This means anyone wanting to use the network out and about will need a Mi-Fi device to convert the signal into Wi-Fi that their device can latch on to. This isn't a hardship, but adds another layer of complication when simplicity is vital.
Of course, for users of laptops and Mi-Fi devices, this will not represent much of a change in use, but for smartphone and tablet users it may be somewhat frustrating having to carry a second item around to access the network.
However, with numerous chipset vendors announcing their intention to produce chips that support these spectrums in the future, this may not be a problem for too long.
Certainly, with at least two years until 4G is available across the UK from mobile operators, the firm may well be able to entice homes and businesses in Southwark, Swindon, and other locations yet to be announced, to its growing 4G network.