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iPad Air 2 first impressions

17 Oct 2014

The build-up to Apple's launch events always cause quite a stir in the technology community, and the iPad Air 2's 16 October launch was no different. Suffering the usual sea of alleged leaks and nebulous rumours, the iPad Air 2 was expected to be a bold leap in tablet technology.

However, come its unveiling, the iPad Air 2, for many, failed to deliver on the high expectations. Apple chose to release a reworked version of its 2013 tablet, leaving many buyers wondering why they should bother upgrading.

Visually the iPad Air 2 looks from a distance all but identical to the iPad Air, featuring a slim metallic back and sides and Gorilla glass front.

Despite this, there are a few key additions to its predecessor. For starters, the iPad Air 2 is 18 percent thinner, measuring 240x170x6.1mm. This doesn't seem like much of a difference but, combined with the 473g (WiFi model) weight, it means the iPad Air 2 should be one of the most travel-friendly tablets on its release.

More importantly, the iPad Air 2 is the first tablet to feature Apple's custom Touch ID fingerprint scanner. The Touch ID sensor is a security feature debuted on the iPhone 5S, allowing users to set the iPad to unlock or approve certain actions, such as Apple Pay transactions, only after the user has proved their identity.

Considering the ongoing security and privacy concerns around work devices, we can see Touch ID being a key selling point for the iPad Air 2.

The iPad Air 2 comes with a 9.7in, 2048x1536, 264ppi Retina display. While the pixel per inch density isn't anything to write home about these days, when tablets regularly break the 300ppi mark, Apple has made a few subtle improvements to the display.

iPad Air 2 with Touch ID A8X chip and gold colour option

One of the most useful is a fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating, which Apple claims makes the screen 56 percent less reflective. 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 screens unreadable, such as in bright sunlight.

Operating system
The iPad Air 2 comes with Apple's latest iOS 8.1. Sadly, iOS 8.1 isn't a major update and mainly fixes bugs in iOS 8. In fact, the only real non-performance-related addition is Apple's Camera Roll feature.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing as, beyond the bugs, iOS 8 is a very business-friendly operating system.

Key positives include improved password security, S/MIME features and VIP threads, and support for Microsoft Exchange out-of-office replies.

OS X Continuity is another useful feature debuted in iOS 8. Continuity represents the latest stage in Apple's work to converge the iOS and Mac OS X operating systems, and offers a variety of synchronisation features. One of the most useful is the ability to Airdrop files between iOS and Mac OS devices.

Apple made a big deal about the iPad Air 2's new A8X processor, claiming it will offer 40 percent faster CPU and 2.5 faster GPU performance than previous iPads. If true, the iPad Air 2 will be a powerhouse and should be one of the fastest tablets on the market come its release.

Apple iPad Air 2 is 6.1mm thick and will be available in gold

Past iPad cameras have been slightly disappointing affairs. While capable of taking reasonable photos, the cameras have failed to match the performance of most mid-range smartphones and have been woefully short of shot modes.

Apple has fixed the second issue with the iPad Air 2, bundling its 8MP iSight rear camera with 43MP panorama shot and burst photo, and time lapse and slow motion video recording options.

The iPad Air uses an unspecified non-removable battery, which Apple claims will offer 10 hours of WiFi use on one charge. This would give the iPad Air 2 a battery life similar to that of the first-generation Air.

Apple is offering the iPad Air 2 in 16GB, 64GB and 128GB versions. None of the models features a microSD card, meaning users will not be able upgrade the iPad Air 2's storage after purchase. Apple has dropped the 32GB model, as it did with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.

While slightly annoying, we can't see the lack of microSD being too much of a problem given the number of cloud storage services available on iOS.

The 16GB iPad Air 2 will cost £399, the 64GB £479 and the 128GB £559 for the WiFi-only models.

While the iPad Air 2 may not be a major upgrade to the original 2013 iPad Air, it does have a number of subtle and positive additions. Chief of these are the Touch ID sensor, a more powerful A8X processor and the reflective screen coating.

As a result, we can't see too much to persuade iPad Air owners to upgrade, but we can see the iPad Air 2 proving a hit with new 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

Nexus 6 vs iPhone 6

16 Oct 2014

Apple took the smartphone market by storm in September, unveiling what in many people's minds, including ours here at V3, was its most innovative smartphone to date, the iPhone 6.

Clearly unintimidated by the iPhone 6, Google answered Apple's challenge and teamed with Motorola to unveil what is on paper its most advanced Nexus smartphone ever, the Nexus 6, mere months later.

The iPhone 6 and Nexus 6 bring a wealth of custom hardware and software features to the table, and many buyers have become perplexed trying to determine which smartphone is best for them. Here to help, we've pitted the two handsets head to head, breaking down the key strengths of each device.

Nexus 6: 159x83x10mm, 184g
iPhone 6:138x67x6.9mm, 129g

Design is one area in which iPhone devices have traditionally beaten Nexus devices, with most feeling that their metal frames make them feel more premium and robustly built than their polycarbonate Google competitors.

Google Nexus 6 with Android 5.0 Lollipop in white

With the Nexus 6 this could all change. Motorola has made the wise decision to build the handset out of contoured aluminium and to rework the chassis to look like a blown-up metal version of its previous Moto X flagship.

That said, it's worth noting that the Nexus 6 is still significantly larger and heavier than the 129g iPhone 6. While this won't prove too much of an issue to seasoned phablet users, it could put off people used to smaller smartphones, such as the iPhone 5S.

Nexus 6: 6in, 1440x2560, 493ppi quad HD display
iPhone 6: 4.7in 1334x750, 326ppi Retina HD display

On paper the Nexus 6's quad HD display has a clear lead on the iPhone 6 as it's capable of displaying over 100 more pixels per inch. While some may question whether the human eye can discern the difference, we're fairly certain the Nexus 6 display will be the sharper of the two.

However, we're less sure whether the Nexus 6 will be able to match the brightness and colour balance levels of Apple's Retina display, which remains the industry leader.

Operating system
Nexus 6: Android 5.0 Lollipop
iPhone 6: iOS 8

Both the Nexus 6 and iPhone 6 run on the latest version of their makers' respective mobile operating systems.

iPhone 6 is available in silver gold and space grey

In the past we've struggled to pick between Android and iOS as the answer to which is better is determined largely by what ecosystem you're already embedded in. This is even more true comparing Android Lollipop to iOS, as both firms have worked hard to further synchronise the mobile operating systems with their cloud services.

As a result, until we've had a chance to fully test Android Lollipop and check how it actually compares with iOS 8, we're going to have to reserve judgement.

Nexus 6: Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 2.7GHz quad-core processor
iPhone 6: A8 chip with 64-bit architecture with M8 motion coprocessor

The iPhone 6 runs Apple's new A8 chip and reworked M8 motion coprocessor. Apple claims the A8 offers 25 percent faster CPU performance than the A7.

However, thanks to the inclusion of Qualcomm's Snapdragon 805 chip, the Nexus 6 theoretically has the chops to match if not beat the performance of the iPhone 6. We won't know if the Nexus 6 makes good on its promise until we've had a chance to test it and benchmark it.

Nexus 6: 13MP with dual LED ring flash and Optical Image Stabilization rear, 2MP front cameras
iPhone 6: 8MP rear and 1.2MP Facetime front cameras

Imaging technology was one area in which Apple had begun to fall behind in the smartphone market, with many Android handsets featuring noticeably better imaging sensors than the firm's previous flagship, the iPhone 5S.

Motorola joins forces with Google to create the Nexus 6 Aware of this, Apple worked to radically improve the iPhone 6's imaging performance by loading it with a number of new imaging technologies. Key additions include phase detection auto-focus which allows it to focus twice as fast, new tone mapping, noise reduction and a Slo-Mo mode that can capture video at 240 fps.

However, even with these the Nexus 6 does have a few additions that make it better than the iPhone 6. Chief of these is the Optical Image Stabilization technology which 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.

If this works as well as it has on past handsets, the Nexus 6 should not only perform better at capturing photos in low light, it should have noticeably better shutter speeds.

Nexus 6: 32GB or 64GB, 3GB RAM
iPhone 6: 16GB, 64GB, 128GB, unspecified RAM

Storage-wise the Apple iPhone 6 features more storage options than the Google Nexus 6. However, neither phone has a microSD card slot, meaning users won't be able to add space after purchase.

Nexus 6: 3220mAh battery
iPhone 6: Unspecified, 11-hour listed life

The Apple iPhone 6 on paper will last 2.5 hours longer than the Nexus 6, which is listed as offering 8.5 hours' "internet use" from one charge. However, the Nexus 6 features a number of charging innovations which may make up for this. These include wireless charging support and a new 'Turbo Charger' that will offer a claimed six hours of battery life from a 15-minute charge.

Apple iPhone 6 features a redesigned 6.9mm thick casing

Nexus 6: $650 (around £400 without tax)
iPhone 6: From £540

Google has yet to announce the Nexus 6's UK price, although if its US cost is anything to go by it should be cheaper than the iPhone 6. However, considering some US firms' tendency to charge more than the exchange rate would fairly imply, and UK tax on devices, it's too early to tell whether this will actually be the case.

Summing up, when it comes to specifications the iPhone 6 and Nexus 6 are fairly evenly matched. Both come with top-end processors, cutting edge software and innovative designs, and both look great.

The important question is whether the Nexus 6 will make good on its promises when we do our full head-to-head review later this year.

By V3's Alastair Stevenson

Nexus 6 first impressions

16 Oct 2014

The battle for dominance of the smartphone market between Google and Apple with their respective Nexus and iPhone devices has become a staple part of every tech fan's calendar.

Traditionally Google has worked to beat Apple by radically undercutting the cost of iPhones, releasing phones that, while slightly lower specced, are up to £200 cheaper.

With prices starting at $650 the Nexus 6 continues this strategy. However, being built by former Google company Motorola, as opposed to LG, as the past two Nexus smartphones were, there are a number of key factors differentiating the Nexus 6 from past Google flagships.

Previous Nexus designs have been minimalist, functional, polycarbonate affairs. While we here at V3 were fairly fond of the unassuming design approach, many users did find them slightly dull and, as we noted with the Nexus 5, there were some definite build quality issues. During our review the Nexus 5's display proved incapable of surviving a two-foot drop onto a carpeted floor.


Google Nexus 6 with Android 5.0 Lollipop in white

Aware of this, Motorola chose to rethink traditional Nexus designs and made the Nexus 6 chassis out of contoured aluminium as opposed to polycarbonate. This has the potential to be a huge differentiator for the Nexus 6. In the past we've found that metal handsets, such as the HTC One M8, not only feel more luxurious than polycarbonate phones, they're generally much more drop and bump resistant.

Additionally, thanks to intelligent work by Motorola, on paper the Nexus 6 isn't too cumbersome by phablet standards, measuring 159x83x10mm and weighing 184g.

Screen technology is a key area that has come on leaps and bounds in recent years, with players like LG and its G3 handset coming loaded with increasingly high resolution displays. Not wanting to lose face, Motorola has loaded the Nexus 6 with a 6in, 1440x2560, 493ppi quad HD display.

On paper the resolution means the Nexus 6 display will be one of the sharpest ever seen on a phablet. By comparison, most other phablets are still struggling to break the 400ppi mark. Also, if our past experience with Motorola phones is anything to go by, the Nexus 6 screen will boast cornea-scorching brightness levels and vibrant, rich, colour balance levels.

Operating system
Originally unveiled as Android L at the I/O conference in June, the Nexus 6's use of Android 5.0 Lollipop is likely to prove a key selling point for businesses. Android Lollipop is set to feature a number of under-the-hood upgrades that improve its enterprise appeal. Chief of these is full integration of Samsung's Knox security service.

At its most basic level, Knox is a sandboxing service similar to BlackBerry Balance. It lets users or IT managers set up and manage a separate password-protected work area on the handset. As well as giving IT managers the power to set policies, like blocking what applications can be installed or run on the device, Knox encrypts all data on the work side.


Nexus 6 with Android 5.0 Lollipop and Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 chip

Having tested Knox on recent Samsung Galaxy smartphones and tablets we believe the feature is a serious selling point that helps boost bring your own device appeal and are happy to see it included on the Nexus 6.

Lollipop also adds a significantly more user-friendly Material Design and reworked notifications system to Android. The Material Design aims to make the OS simpler to use, and replaces Android Kitkat's user interface with a flatter one similar to that of Apple's iOS 7. The upgrade also allows Android's UI to mimic depth by adding new shadow effects.

The reworked notifications system improves Android's already impressive system by granting increased management powers. For example, on Android Lollipop users can now view and manage incoming notifications from the lockscreen.

On paper the Nexus 6 is seriously powerful. Running on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 2.7GHz quad-core processor and featuring 3GB of RAM, the Nexus 6 should be one of the most powerful handsets on the market come its release later this year.

Hopefully, the Nexus 6 will make good on its on paper specifications when we benchmark it more thoroughly and test it for our full review.

Since Nokia threw down the gauntlet in 2011 with its first 41MP camera phone, the 808 Pureview, smartphone makers have been rushing to load their handsets with increasingly powerful imaging technologies.

Keeping up this trend Motorola has loaded the Nexus 6 with a 13MP rear camera with dual LED flash and Optical Image Stabilization (OIS). Putting aside the megapixel count, which as any camera consensus will tell you isn't the most important feature, the inclusion of OIS is a big deal.

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 to the captured image. This means the Nexus 6 should be the best Google Nexus device ever released when it comes to imaging quality.

In terms of storage the Nexus 6 is fairly well placed, coming with 32GB or 64GB of internal space. This, combined with the wealth of cloud storage solutions available on Android, means most users won't have to worry about running out of space.

Battery life has been one key area where most smartphones have struggled, and we've yet to find one that can consistently survive more than two days of moderate, let alone heavy, use.

Motorola joins forces with Google to create the Nexus 6

Working to fix this Motorola has equipped the Nexus 6's 3220mAh battery with 'Turbo Charger' technology that will offer a claimed six hours of battery life from a 15-minute charge. As an added perk the handset will also feature wireless charging support.

Considering the Nexus 6's reasonable listed 8.5 hours of 'internet use', the handset should be slightly above average when it comes to battery life.

The 32GB version of the Nexus 6 is set to retail for s $650 in the US, while the 64GB model will set you back $700. There's currently no official word how much the device will cost in the UK, but if the US price is anything to go by it will be £400 to £440.

Overall, the Nexus 6 is on paper a very impressive smartphone that showcases what Motorola and Google can offer the handset market, which is interesting considering that Google just sold the firm to Lenovo.

Featuring a more alluring design than past Nexus smartphones, a powerful Qualcomm processor, quad HD display and all the business perks of Google's latest Android 5.0 OS, we can't help but get excited about the Nexus 6.

Hopefully, the Nexus 6 will make good on its opening promise come its release later this year.

By V3's Alastair Stevenson

Windows 10 Technical Preview hands on

02 Oct 2014

The technical preview release of Windows 10 was made available to download and try out late on 1 October UK time, and testers including the V3 team are finally starting to get their hands dirty with this first pre-release build of the next version of Windows.

If first impressions are anything to go by, Microsoft may finally have hit on the winning formula that will entice customers who have so far been put off by the huge changes that Windows 8 introduced, especially in the user interface.

Windows 10 boots by default into a desktop environment (see below) which is close enough to Windows 7 that existing users of Windows should have few problems getting to grips with it, and it is this familiarity that should ensure its success.

Windows 10 Technical Preview

The Metro-style or Windows Store apps have not gone away, but these now run in a resizeable Window alongside traditional Windows tools and applications, blurring the distinction between them somewhat.

Many industry commentators have made false claims about the return of the Start button in various updates of Windows 8, but with Windows 10, it is the real deal. Tapping the Window icon at the bottom left of the screen (or a physical Windows key on a keyboard or tablet fascia) pops up a menu that is similar enough to the Start menu of legacy Windows to satisfy those enraged by its removal in Windows 8.

Where the Start menu differs is in the presence of the Live Tiles from the Start screen of Windows 8, shown as banks of small tiles alongside the list of applications on the menu. For those who have grown attached to the Windows 8 Start screen, you can check a box to switch the user interface back to this instead of the desktop.

Other changes to the user interface are relatively minor. Users can add multiple desktops (see below) and split applications between them, but this seemed of little value during our initial hands-on, as every open application still seems to have an icon in the taskbar, regardless of which desktop you switch to.

Windows 10 Technical Preview

Windows 10 also adds a new Task View button, next to the search button on the taskbar, which shows every running app and lets you switch between them.

The way application snapping works has also been tweaked, with users able to have up to four apps snapped on the same screen (see below). However, on our test system, whenever we dragged a window to the side or corner of the screen to activate snapping, the app often seemed to freeze. It should be remembered that this is still an early release version of the platform and bugs are to be expected.

Windows 10 Technical Preview

These are, perhaps the most noticeable changes in Windows 10, but it is remarkable what a difference it makes. The switch back to a desktop environment with resizeable windows and a pop-up menu to access applications makes it feel much more like Windows 7, even if in reality it is more like a fusion of Windows 7 and Windows 8.

For those who have tried Windows 8, the integration of touch with more conventional controls such as the mouse and keyboard now feels seamless. We found ourselves mixing use of the keyboard with touches of on-screen controls, occasionally resorting to a stylus on our test tablet when more precise control was required.

However, as with Windows 8, many of the more key changes are going to be found under the hood, such as better security for data, easier system updates, and expansion of the cloud-based management approach seen with Windows Intune.

Many such features are not yet present in the technical preview, however, so we can only look at the user interface changes so far to gauge how well Windows 10 is likely to be received. At first blush, we would say that Microsoft is getting it right, and we look forward to seeing what future updates bring.

BlackBerry Passport hands-on review

25 Sep 2014

BlackBerry has been redoubling its efforts to focus on its core enterprise professional market since sales of its handsets first started declining.

The BlackBerry Passport is the latest piece in this strategy, and is touted by the firm as the only smartphone available that is designed with business professionals in mind.

However, given the ongoing consumerisation of IT and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trends happening in many firms, business professionals may be asking why they would give up their iOS or Android handset in favour of the Passport. We took an opportunity to get a hands on at the launch event to find out why.

Design and build
BlackBerry made a big deal about the Passport's design, claiming it is "a welcome break from the sea of boring rectangular handsets".

The Passport's square design is undeniably different to most regular smartphones. Apart from this, most noticeable feature is its physical touch-enabled keyboard. Physical keyboards have been one of the few design features differentiating BlackBerry handsets from the tide of Android, iOS and Windows Phone competition.BlackBerry Passport front

The Passport's touch-enabled technology enables the keyboard to be used as a trackpad as well as keyboard. On top of this BlackBerry claims it will let professionals type more accurately and make 70 percent fewer typing errors.

We definitely found the keyboard a big improvement, even on past BlackBerry devices with physical keyboards. Document editing and typing on the Passport felt significantly more accurate than on most handsets.

We found the Passport initially felt slightly odd to hold, with its square dimensions making it feel noticeably different to most smartphones. However at 9.3mm thick the handset was far from unwieldy.

The Passport's 4.5in 1440x1440, 453ppi square display is one of its most interesting hardware features. BlackBerry claims the square display is optimised for productivity purposes and will display as much as 20 more characters per line than other top-end handsets, such as the iPhone 6 or Galaxy S5.

The display worked really well when editing documents or viewing webpages. Text on the display appeared crisp, and colours were suitably vibrant. We'll be interested to see how the Passport's display performs when being used on the move in more adverse lighting conditions, such as direct sunlight.

Operating system
The Passport is powered by BlackBerry 10.3. The 10.3 update adds a new BlackBerry Assistant feature, alongside upgrades to BlackBerry's core security and productivity features, such as BlackBerry Balance, Messenger and Hub.BlackBerry Passport back

Assistant is BlackBerry's answer to Apple's Siri and Google Now, and is designed to let users interact with their Passport using vocal or written commands. BlackBerry claims Assistant is more advanced than its competitors, and will have access to corporate as well as personal information stored on enterprise networks, a feature it claims its rivals lack.

We didn't get a chance to test this during our hands on, as the Passport we used wasn't connected to our company network, but we'll be sure to do this in our full review.

Beyond this, we found BlackBerry's Hub and multitasking services worked just as well as they have on past BlackBerry 10 handsets. BlackBerry hub is a tool that collates information and messages from all the accounts on the phone. This lets you see all incoming Facebook, email, Twitter and LinkedIn messages in one place. It also boasts filtering options that let you control which account is displaying at any one time.

The Passport is powered by a  2.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor that is backed by 3GB of RAM. In the past we've found BlackBerry smartphones slightly slower than their specifications would lead you to expect. This is due to BlackBerry 10's heavy demands on resources which have a habit of eating up memory.BlackBerry Passport keyboard hands on

During our hands on, although we found the Passport took a good few minutes to boot up, it did feel responsive in use. Apps opened in milliseconds and it managed to stream video and load content-heavy web pages hassle free. We'll be interested to see how the Passport deals with more intensive tasks when we more thoroughly put it through its paces in our full review.

The Passport features a 13MP rear camera with Optical Image Stabilisation and a 2MP front camera. Testing the rear camera around the showroom floor we found the Passport could take a pretty good picture, though not on a par with some top-end camera phones such as the Lumia 1020. In general, shots looked sharp and showed vibrant colours. Shutter speeds were also noticeably better than on past BlackBerry handsets.

Battery and storage
The Passport's powered by a sizeable 3,450mAh battery, which BlackBerry claims will last 30 hours from one charge. It also comes with 32GB of internal storage, which can be upgraded using its microSD card slot.

If opening impressions are anything to go by, the Passport definitely seems to have the potential to be a hit with the firm's core enterprise customer base, although we're not convinced it will be the game changer BlackBerry needs to win over consumers.

With its newly designed keyboard, crisp display and wealth of enterprise features, the Passport could prove to be BlackBerry's best handset to date.

Check back with V3 later for a full review of the BlackBerry Passport.

By V3's Alastair Stevenson

iPhone 6 Plus vs Galaxy Note 4 specs comparison

18 Sep 2014

Apple unveiled its first big-screen smartphone on 9 September – the 5.5in iPhone 6 Plus – as it tries to compete with the growing number of Android phablets on the market. The Samsung Galaxy Note 4, one of these large-screen Android phones, has a 5.5in Retina HD screen and will be directly in competition with Apple's new offering. So here we compare the two smartphones to see which comes out on top.

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

The iPhone 6 Plus and Galaxy Note 4 are not worlds apart in size. The iPhone 6 Plus is slightly taller at 158mm compared with 154mm, but trumps the Galaxy Note 4 when it comes to depth, measuring 7.1mm compared with 8.5mm. Samsung's latest phablet is also slightly heavier at 176g, while the iPhone 6 Plus weighs 172g.

iPhone 6 Plus design in gold

The two phones are worlds apart in design, however. The iPhone 6 Plus is crafted from the same metals used to build the iPhone 5S, retaining the same high-end design as its predecessor. The Galaxy Note 4, on the other hand, features a faux-leather backplate, coupled with metallic edges and a plastic front. While some might prefer the Galaxy Note 4's quirky design, it's likely that the metal finish of the iPhone 6 Plus will appeal to more people.

The iPhone 6 Plus will be available in silver, space grey and gold, while the Galaxy Note 4 will launch in white, black, gold and pink.

iPhone 6 Plus: 5.5in, 1920x1080 resolution, 401ppi Retina HD display
Galaxy Note 4: 5.7in, 1440x2560 resolution, 515ppi Super Amoled display

While the iPhone wins in the style stakes, the Galaxy Note 4 is the clear winner when it comes to the screen – on paper, at least.

The iPhone 6 Plus debuts Apple's new Retina HD resolution, with the 5.5in screen boasting a 1920x1080 resolution, and a pixel density of 401ppi. Apple also claims that its new Retina HD screen offers better viewing angles and colour production than before.

This likely will get iFans excited, but the Galaxy Note 4's QHD 1440x2560 resolution screen way surpasses that of the iPhone 6 on paper, boasting a pixel density of 515ppi, and Samsung's Super Amoled technology, which also offers better viewing angles and colours.

iPhone 6 Plus: Apple A8 chip
Galaxy Note 4: 2.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 chip

The iPhone 6 Plus arrives with Apple's new A8 chip under the bonnet. While Apple hasn't revealed many details about its latest processor, the firm claims it offers 25 percent faster processing and delivers up to 50 percent faster graphics.

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 with Android 4.4 Kitkat

It's also as yet unclear how this compares with the Galaxy Note 4's quad-core 2.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 processor, which proved impressive during our hands-on time with the phablet. This Qualcomm chip also provides the Galaxy Note 4 with support for 300Mbps LTE speeds, compared with the iPhone 6 Plus's support for 150Mbps connections.

iPhone 6 Plus: iOS 8
Galaxy Note 4: Android 4.4 KitKat

With the iPhone 6 Plus running iOS 8 and the Galaxy Note 4 running Android 4.4 KitKat, the winner in this category is a matter of taste.

Apple has clearly been taking some tips from Samsung in its iOS 8 software, however, introducing a landscape mode designed specifically for the larger 5.5in iPhone and a one-handed mode called "reachability". Samsung arguably makes better use of the screen space, thanks to the smartphone's included stylus, allowing users to doodle and annotate on the handset's screen.

However, with Samsung's custom overlay onboard, it might take the Galaxy Note 4 some time to be updated to Google's next Android iteration, whereas all iPhones receive software updates on the same day.

iPhone 6 Plus: 8MP rear camera with optical image stabilisation (OIS), 1.2MP front-facing camera
Galaxy Note 4: 16MP rear camera with OIS, 3.7MP front-facing camera

Camera is another category that the Galaxy Note 4 wins on paper, touting a 16MP rear-facing camera, compared with the 8MP camera on the iPhone 6 Plus.

iPhone 6 features an 8MP camera with optical image stablisation

However, Apple claims its camera is one of the best on the market. The firm has a new feature called Focus Pixels, for example, which means it focuses twice as fast as before, and has added Phase Detection Autofocus. The iPhone 6 Plus camera is also the first to feature optical image stabilisation and the first capable of capturing 43MP panoramic images.

Saying that, the Galaxy Note 4 comes with the ability to record 4K video, while the iPhone 6 Plus is able to record HD 1080p footage.

The Galaxy Note 4 boasts a 3.7MP front-facing snapper, compared to the iPhone 6 Plus' 1.2MP front camera.

iPhone 6 Plus: 24 hours of talk time
Galaxy Note 4: 3,200mAh battery, talk time TBC

Apple claims that its iPhone 6 Plus offers 24 hours of talk time, a huge improvement compared to the 10 hours offered by the iPhone 5S. However, it's not yet clear how this compares with the Galaxy Note 4's 3,200mAh offering, with Samsung yet to reveal its battery life.

iPhone 6 Plus: 16GB, 64GB, 128GB
Galaxy Note 4: 32GB, Micro SD up to 64GB

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 in gold with S Pen

While the iPhone 6 Plus is available in more models than the Galaxy Note 4, with 16GB, 64GB and 128GB models, it still doesn't feature a Micro SD card slot. The Galaxy Note 4, unsurprisingly, does, giving users the option to expand the phone's storage by an additional 64GB

iPhone 6 Plus: From £619 SIM-free
Galaxy Note 4: From £600 SIM-free (TBC)

The iPhone 6 Plus is, again unsurprisingly, an expensive device. The 16GB model is available for £619, while the 64GB and 128GB versions are priced at £699 and £789 SIM-free, respectively.

The Galaxy Note 4 looks like it will be the cheaper option, with preorders outing the handset's price as just shy of £600.

Apple phones usually trump their rivals on paper, but the iPhone 6 Plus does face some stiff competition from the Galaxy Note 4, with its higher-resolution screen, Micro SD card storage and lower price. But the iPhone 6 Plus wins on a design front, and we are still yet to find out which smartphone has better battery life. 

Check back with V3 later for a full head-to-head review.

Acer Aspire R13 hands-on review

17 Sep 2014

Acer unveiled several tablets and laptops at the IFA trade show in Berlin earlier in September, but perhaps the most significant model in its new range is the Aspire R13, which follows on from the Aspire R7, released last year. 

Acer Aspire R13 convertible with Windows 8.1

Much like the its Star Trek-inspired predecessor, the laptop comes with Acer's Ezel Aero hinge, allowing the Aspire R13 to be used in six different modes, including "tent mode" and "pad mode". Perhaps surprisingly, the device can also be used as a standard laptop, while the "stand mode" is aimed at doodlers, with the device shipping with a Microsoft Surface-style Active pen.

Design and build
At first look, the Acer Aspire R13's chassis does feel rather plasticy. Although it has a gunmetal grey finish, it looks a bit cheap and we would have preferred to have seen a satin or aluminium finish, considering its £700 price, to give it a higher-end appearance.

Nevertheless, measuring 25.4mm thick and weighing 1.5kg, it does feel rather sturdy. Closing it down and picking it up, the R14 feels strong and robust and thus would probably survive a good knock or two.

Acer Aspire Hands-on - hinge

Saying that, it is thick and bulky and as a result heavier than you'd like for a transportable device. However it's nowhere near as heavy as the Aspire R7, so it's definitely more ideal for those who often want to transport the device between office and home.

As for the keyboard, it feels high quality and was easy enough to type on. Knocking out a few sentences seemed pleasant enough, so we think it will be good to type on.

Acer Aspire Hands-on - flat

The Acer Aspire R13 has an active stylus for note-taking, digital design work and other creative work. In our tests it seemed fluid and responsive, though not as responsive as Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 stylus pen.

Acer Aspire Hands-on - Stylus support

The Acer Aspire 13 comes with a 13.3in screen, with the options of 2540x1440 or 1920x1080 resolution. It has a brilliantly vibrant display with very responsive touch and minimal glare. The Full HD model will use an in-plane switching (IPS) panel, while the 2560x1440 QHD model will have an indium gallium zinc oxide (IGZO) panel.

When testing the rotating display, we found that tilting the screen to change the viewing angle works very easily and stays in the position you want it to, due to the Ezel Aero Hinge.

Overall we were rather impressed by the resolution of the display and it offered good viewing angles. We look forward to testing this fully when we receive a unit for a full review, to see how movie playback fares on the Aspire R13.

In terms of power, users can choose between Intel Core i5 or Core i7 processors, up to 8GB of memory and up to 1TB solid-state drive (SSD) when buying the Aspire R14.

Unfortunately, we didn't have long enough to test the Acer Aspire R13's performance capabilities during our brief hands-on time with it. But, during the time we did use it, it seemed very responsive to commands, likely due to its Intel Core i5 processor.

Acer Aspire Hands-on - side

The Aspire R13 convertible has a fresh and innovative design, marking as different from others in the Windows 8.1 laptop market. In our time with it, we found it performed quickly and responsively and it was fun to use. The Acer Aspire R13 will cost from £699 when it is released in the UK in October.

iPhone 6 vs iPhone 5S specs comparison

16 Sep 2014

Apple's new iPhone 6, which the firm announced on 9 September, offers plenty of improvements compared with last year's iPhone 5S. Here, we compare the two handsets' specifications to help you weigh up whether it's worth upgrading to the iPhone 6 early.

Design, measurements and weight
iPhone 6: 138x67x6.9mm, 129g
iPhone 5S: 124x59x7.6mm, 112g

With its larger 4.7in screen, Apple's iPhone 6 is unsurprisingly longer and wider than its 4in-screened predecessor. However, Apple has been keen to tout the iPhone 6 as "the smallest iPhone yet", thanks to its slim 6.9mm profile, compared with the 7.6mm thick iPhone 5S. The iPhone 6 is slightly heavier than last year's model, tipping the scales at 129g, while the iPhone 5S weighs 112g.

Apple iPhone 6 features a redesigned 6.9mm thick casing

The iPhone 6 is to the iPhone 5S in design what the iPhone 5 was to the iPhone 4S, with the smartphone boasting a radical redesign. It features a new glass front that curves away at the edges, making the iPhone 6 more curvacious than its predecessor, and the handset's physical buttons have been redesigned to be similar to those on the iPad Air.

Like the iPhone 5S, the iPhone 6 will be available in white, gold and grey colour options, and it comes with a Touch ID fingerprint scanner in the home button.

iPhone 6: 4.7in, 1344x750 resolution, 326ppi Retina HD display
iPhone 5S: 4in, 1136x640 resolution, 326ppi Retina display

The iPhone 6 shows the first signs of Apple joining the trend to larger screen sizes, and is the first iPhone to feature a display larger than 4in.

The iPhone 6 boasts a 4.7in Retina HD 1344x750 resolution 326ppi screen, so as well as being larger, the display has a higher resolution than the iPhone 5S. While this could prove troublesome for developers, Apple claims the iPhone 6 has 38 percent more pixels than the previous iPhone and offers wider viewing angles.

iPhone 6: Apple A8 chip
iPhone 5S: Apple A7 chip

The iPhone 6 likely will deliver higher performance than its predecessor, with Apple's new A8 chip under the hood. While Apple hasn't revealed many details about its latest processor, the firm claims it offers 25 percent faster processing and delivers up to 50 percent faster graphics.

iPhone 6: iOS 8
iPhone 5S: iOS 7, upgradeable to iOS 8 

The iPhone 6 arrives running iOS 8, Apple's incoming mobile operating system release that sees the debut of HealthKit and HomeKit, Apple's OS X Continuity features and a new landscape mode designed with the larger iPhone 6 Plus handset in mind.

iPhone 6 with iOS 8

While the larger screen size will provide room for an extra row of icons, the iPhone 5S is due to receive an update to iOS 8 before the iPhone 6 is released, and will boast all of the same software functionality as its successor.

iPhone 6: 8MP, f/2.2 rear camera, 1.2MP front-facing camera
iPhone 5S: 8MP, f/2.2 rear camera, 1.2MP front-facing camera

On paper, it doesn't look as if the iPhone 6 offers much if any improvement in its cameras, with the handset having an 8MP rear-facing sensor like its predecessor.

iPhone 6 features an 8MP camera with optical image stablisation

However, Apple has been keen to point out otherwise. The firm has a new feature called Focus Pixels, for example, which means it focuses twice as fast as before, and has added Phase Detection Autofocus. The iPhone 6 camera is also the first capable of capturing 43MP panoramic images.

Apple has also improved video recording in the iPhone 6, and while it still records in HD 1080p like its predecessor, it is now capable of capturing slow-motion video at up to 240fps.

iPhone 6: 14 hours
iPhone 5S: 10 hours

Apple's A8 chip apparently enables longer battery life, with Apple promising that users will get 14 hours of talk time from the handset compared with 10 on the iPhone 5S.

iPhone 6: 16GB, 64GB, 128GB
iPhone 5S: 16GB, 32GB, 64GB

While some had speculated that Apple would drop the 16GB iPhone model, it actually dropped the 32GB model, making way for a higher-capacity 128GB model.

iPhone 6: From £539 SIM-free
iPhone 5S: From £459 SIM-free

For £539 you'll get the 16GB iPhone 6, while the 64GB and 128GB models will fetch £619 and £699, respectively. In comparison, the iPhone 5S 32GB model cost £629 when it launched.

iPhone 6 is available in silver gold and space grey


While it was more expensive at launch, Apple dropped the price of the iPhone 5S after it unveiled the new model. Now, you can buy the 16GB iPhone 5S for £459, and the 32GB model for £499. It appears that the 64GB iPhone 5S is no longer on sale.

For anyone who's been waiting for an iPhone with a bigger screen, it's worth buying the iPhone 6, and its improvements – such as its upgraded processor, longer battery life and better camera – are all likely to tempt any iPhone 5S owners to upgrade.

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