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iPhone 6 vs iPhone 6 Plus

11 Sep 2014

Every Apple event causes a stir as fans speculate about what new devices and technologies the Californian firm will bring to the table. Sometimes the anticipation ahead of the event has been more exciting than the end product that's unveiled, other times Apple does something great and launches something that has the potential to change the direction of the technology industry.

Luckily for us, this year Apple has done the latter and unveiled its first ever "phablet", the iPhone 6 Plus alongside its new flagship, the iPhone 6. However, with both devices looking close to identical in every aspect but size, many fans have missed some of the more subtle technological and software differences separating the two.

Design
iPhone 6: 138x67x6.9mm, 129g
iPhone 6 Plus: 158x78x7.1mm, 172g

Outside of their size difference the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 plus are both close to identical and feature the same aluminium curved chassis and glass front. Both handsets feature custom Touch ID fingerprint scanners in their front-facing physical home buttons, and Lightning charge ports.

Display
iPhone 6: 4.7in, 1334x750, 326ppi Retina HD display
iPhone 6 Plus: 5.5in, 1920x1080, 401ppi Retina HD display

Apple made a big deal about the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus's respective 4.7in and 5.5in Retina displays. As well as having a larger display, the iPhone 6 Plus features a higher resolution than the iPhone 6.Apple iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus

However, considering the stellar colour balance and contrast levels seen on past Retina displays, the resolution difference may not be that big of a deal and the iPhone 6's screen will likely still be very impressive.

Operating system
iPhone 6: iOS 8
iPhone 6 Plus: iOS 8

The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are both powered by iOS 8. This means both iPhones have access to Apple's wealth of productivity services, advanced iCloud cloud storage and Mac OS X synchronisation features.

However, it's important to note that Apple has added a few extra features to showcase the benefits of the iPhone 6 Plus larger display designed to make it more pleasant to use in horizontal mode. For example, the iPhone 6 Plus's Messaging and Mail apps have a special two-tier horizontal user interface and separate keyboard with special keys for actions such as cut and paste.

Processor
iPhone 6: A8 chip with 64-bit architecture with M8 motion co-processor
iPhone 6 Plus: A8 chip with 64-bit architecture with M8 motion co-processor

Both new iPhones run using Apple's new A8 chip and reworked M8 motion co-processor, and if Apple's bold performance claims are anything to go by this is no bad thing. Apple claims it offers 25 percent faster CPU performance than the A7, meaning on paper both the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are more than 50 times faster than the first iPhone.

Camera
iPhone 6: 8MP rear, 1.2MP FaceTime front camera
iPhone 6 Plus: 8MP rear, 1.2MP FaceTime front camera

Apple has radically improved the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus's 8MP rear cameras, giving them a new sensor with True Tone flash, 1.5 micron pixels and f/2.2 aperture.

The sensor adds a number of improvements to the iPhone 6's camera compared with past iOS handsets. Key additions include phase-detection auto-focus – which allows it to focus twice as fast – tone mapping, noise reduction and a slow-motion mode that can capture video at 240fps.The iPhone 6 a 4.7in screen and the iPhone 6 Plus a 5.5in display

The only differentiator between the two, is the addition of optical image stabilisation technology to the iPhone 6 Plus. This 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.

In the past we've been really impressed by how well the optical image stabilisation technology works, and as a result we're fairly excited to see it included on the iPhone 6 Plus's 8MP rear camera.

Storage
iPhone 6: 16GB, 64GB, 128GB, unspecified RAM
iPhone 6: 16GB, 64GB, 128GB, unspecified RAM

Storage-wise the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 plus are evenly matched. Neither model comes in a 32GB storage version.

Battery
iPhone 6: Unspecified, 11-hour listed life
iPhone 6 Plus: Unspecified, 14-hour listed life

Apple lists the iPhone 6's unspecified battery as offering users 11 hours of video playback. This means the iPhone 6 Plus should last three extra hours off one charge. Both listed lives are well above the average, with most Android handsets generally offering between seven to eight hours of video playback.

Price
iPhone 6: From £539
iPhone 6 Plus: From £619

Neither the iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus are cheap. However, the iPhone 6 Plus is the more premium device of the two with the basic 16GB version costing £80 more than its smaller iPhone 6 sibling.

Overall
The iPhone 6 Plus does have a few extra features on top of its smaller iPhone 6 sibling. Key additions are optical image stabilisation technology in its rear camera and a number of novel software tweaks designed to help users take advantage of its larger and higher-resolution 5.5in Retina display. However, costing an extra £80, the iPhone 6 Plus's perks come with a hefty price tag.

Check back with V3 later for full reviews of the Apple iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.

By V3's Alastair Stevenson

iPhone 6 vs Galaxy S5

10 Sep 2014

The annual battle between Apple and Samsung has become a staple event in every tech fan's calendar and this year is no different. Both Samsung and Apple have come out guns blazing, releasing completely redesigned flagship handsets that come loaded with more new features and custom technologies than can easily be counted.

In fact, the Apple iPhone 6 and Samsung Galaxy S5 are so packed with features some fans have justifiably struggled to keep track and have been left wondering how the two match when they're run head-to-head.

Design
iPhone 6:138x67x6.9mm, 129g
Galaxy S5: 142x73x8.1mm, 145g

Both the iPhone 6 and Galaxy S5 have very different designs. The iPhone 6 has an aluminium curved chassis while the Galaxy S5 has a pebble-like perforated detachable polycarbonate backplate that connects to its metal sides.iPhone 6 is available in silver gold and space grey

Of the two, the iPhone 6 is the lighter and thinner of the two, however the Galaxy S5 is on paper more robust, with Samsung having built it to meet IP67 certification standards. The certification means the Galaxy S5 is the only phone of the two to be dust and water resistant.

Both handsets feature custom fingerprint scanners in their front-facing physical home buttons, though the Samsung Galaxy S5 is the only one of the two to feature a biometric heart scanner on its back.

Display
iPhone 6: 4.7in, 1334x750, 326ppi Retina HD display
Galaxy S5: 5.1in, 1920x1080, 432ppi, Super Amoled touchscreen

Apple made a big deal about the iPhone 6's 4.7in Retina display. But on paper it is still lagging behind its Android competition in terms of resolution. This is particularly true when comparing it with the Galaxy S5, which, featuring Samsung's Super Amoled technology, is currently one of the finest on the market.Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini with 4.5in HD screen

However, considering the stellar colour balance and contrast levels seen on previous Retina displays we're not willing to rule the iPhone 6 out just yet and will wait and see how the two compare with real-world use before offering our final verdict.

Operating system
iPhone 6: iOS 8
Galaxy S5: Android 4.4.2 KitKat with Samsung Touchwiz

Comparing Android and iOS phones from a software perspective is always a tricky affair and this remains true on the KitKat-powered Galaxy S5 and iOS 8-powered iPhone 6. While iOS's lack of malware is a selling point for the iPhone 6, both handsets are rife with enterprise features.

For example, iOS 8 features improved password security, S/MIME features and VIP threads, and support for Microsoft Exchange out of office replies as well as advanced synchronisation features with Mac OS X computers.

By comparison, the Galaxy S5 comes with Samsung's custom Knox security as well as Google's own enterprise applications and services. Knox is a sandboxing service that lets users create a separate encrypted password-protected work area on their device.Apple iPhone 6 features a redesigned 6.9mm thick casing

The Knox version 2.0 running on the Galaxy S5 also features upgraded certificate management, VPN+ and enhanced container-security powers, as well as new Marketplace and enterprise mobility management (EMM) services.

Processor
iPhone 6: A8 chip with 64-bit architecture with M8 motion co-processor
Galaxy S5: Quad-core 2.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801

Both the iPhone 6 and Galaxy S5 are on paper powerhouse smartphones. However with the iPhone 6 being the first ever smartphone to run using Apple's new A8 chip and reworked M8 motion co-processor, which Apple claims offers 25 percent faster CPU performance than the A7, we won't know how the two compare until we get our hands on the new iPhone.

Camera
iPhone 6: 8MP rear, 1.2MP FaceTime front
Galaxy S5: 16MP rear, 2MP front

Camera technology is one area where Apple has been falling behind in recent years, and when it was released the Galaxy S5's 16MP rear camera was better than the iPhone 5S's 8MP rear camera in close to every way. Even now, featuring what Samsung claims is the fastest auto-focus speed of 0.3 seconds, the Galaxy S5's camera is a very impressive piece of technology.

Aware it is facing stiff competition Apple has worked to radically improve the iPhone 6's 8MP rear camera and has loaded it with a new sensor with True Tone flash, 1.5 micron pixels and f/2.2 aperture.Samsung Galaxy S5 review back

The sensor adds a number of improvements to the iPhone 6's camera compared with previous iOS handsets. Key additions include phase-detection auto-focus, which allows it to focus twice as fast, as well as tone-mapping, noise reduction, and a new slow-motion mode that can capture video at 240fps.

Storage
iPhone 6: 16GB, 64GB, 128GB, unspecified RAM
Galaxy S5: 16GB and 32GB upgradable via Micro SD, 2GB RAM

The Galaxy S5 comes with fewer storage options than the iPhone 6, but it is the only one of the two that can have its storage upgraded after purchase. Via the Galaxy S5's Micro SD card slot, users can add a further 128GB of space, meaning the handset can technically feature more physical storage than the iPhone 6.

Battery
iPhone 6: Unspecified, 11-hour listed life
Galaxy S5: Li-Ion 2,800mAh seven-hour burn score

Apple lists the iPhone 6's unspecified battery as offering users 11 hours of video playback and WiFi browsing and 10 hours of LTE and 3G browsing. If accurate this means the iPhone 6 will feature a significantly better battery life than the Galaxy S5, which during our burn tests generally only offered between seven and eight hours of video playback.

Price
iPhone 6: From £539
Galaxy S5: From £580

Neither the iPhone 6 or Galaxy S5 are cheap, though the Samsung handset does carry a more premium price tag, with the basic 16GB model costing a full £40 more than its equivalent Apple competitor.

Overall
Run head-to-head, both the iPhone 6 and Galaxy S5 are very impressive handsets. However, thanks to a slew of new untested technologies, such as its new camera sensor, A8 processor and iOS 8 operating system, it's difficult to gauge how the iPhone 6 will perform with real-world use. As a result, until we get our hands on an iPhone 6 and thoroughly test it, we won't be able to accurately know which is the better phone.

By V3's Alastair Stevenson

iPhone 6 Plus first impressions

10 Sep 2014

Since Samsung released its first phablet in 2011 – the Galaxy Note – big-screen smartphones have become an increasingly common sight in the Android ecosystem.

Despite their popularity with Android users, though, key competitor Apple had so far not released a 5in-plus iPhone, sticking to deceased founder Steve Jobs' design philosophy that people didn't want giant handsets.

However, this all changed when CEO Tim Cook took to the stage to unveil Apple's first phablet, the 5.7in iPhone 6 Plus.

Design
The iPhone 6 Plus lives up to its name and looks like a blown-up version of the iPhone 6. In our mind this is no bad thing. Featuring a rounded glass front that runs round the sides of its curved aluminium chassis, the iPhone 6 Plus and iPhone 6 look great.

Additionally, despite being larger, the iPhone 6 Plus is surprisingly thin, measuring in at a modest 7.1mm. This means despite being large it should still be reasonably comfortable to hold.

Display
Packing a 5.5in 1920x1080 Retina HD display, when it comes to resolution the iPhone 6 Plus is still on paper lagging behind its top-end Android competitors. For example the LG G3 boasts an equivalently sized but much sharper 5.5in, 1440x2560, 534ppi True HD-IPS+ (in-plane switching) LCD capacitive touchscreen.

iPhone 6 Plus design in gold

However, considering past Retina displays' stellar colour balance and vibrancy levels, we're going to reserve judgement on the iPhone 6 Plus's screen and wait until our full hands-on review before giving our definitive verdict.

Operating system
Like its smaller sibling the iPhone 6 Plus runs using Apple's iOS 8 operating system. However, keen to showcase the benefits of the iPhone 6's largest display, Apple has added a few novel features designed to make it more pleasant to use in horizontal mode.

For example, the iPhone 6 Plus's Messaging and Email apps have a special two-tier horizontal user interface and separate keyboard with special keys for actions such as cut and paste.

Past its additional horizontal services iOS 8 comes loaded with a number of useful features, many of which are aimed at the enterprise. Key additions on this front 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 on iOS 8. Continuity is the latest stage in Apple's ongoing work to converge its iOS and Mac OS X operating systems and offers users a variety of synchronisation features. One of the most useful of these is the ability to Airdrop files between the iOS and Mac OS devices.

iOS 8 also adds support for third-party keyboards such as Swype, the ability to add widgets to the Notification Center and a QuickType word-prediction feature.

As a final bonus iOS also has HealthKit and HomeKit services. HealthKit is designed to help users track their calorie intake and exercise routines, while HomeKit is an Internet of Things-focused service designed to let users control appliances using their iPhone 6.

Processor
Like the smaller iPhone 6, the iPhone 6 Plus is powered by Apple's new 64-bit A8 chip and reworked next-generation M8 co-processor.

Apple claims the A8 offers 25 percent faster CPU performance and 50 percent faster graphics performance than the A7. If true, this makes it 50 times more powerful than the first iPhone.

Apple iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus

Apple also said the M8 co-processor can measure elevation and can tell when you're cycling, walking or running, meaning fitness apps should perform better on it than on competing Android handsets or previous iPhones. If the iPhone 6 Plus lives up to Apple's claims, it could be one of the fastest on the market when it is released.

NFC and Apple Pay
Near-field communication (NFC) has been a key technology missing on past iPhones. The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus fix this issue and come loaded with an NFC antenna. However, rather than just giving users access to existing NFC services, such as Visa's V.me payment service, or PayPal, Apple has created its own Apple Pay platform.

Apple Pay has an API developers can use to directly integrate the Apple payment option into their websites and apps. Having already scored key partnerships with Visa, Amex and Mastercard, Apple Pay allows users to make and take payments.

As an added assurance to security-conscious iPhone users, Apple has also loaded the iPhone 6 Plus with a Secure Element chip and that stores all the user's payment details locally. This means prying intelligence agencies and hackers should have a harder time getting it.

Camera
The iPhone 6 Plus is the first ever iPhone to feature optical image stabilisation technology. This, combined with its new sensor with True Tone flash, 1.5 micron pixels and f/2.2 aperture mean it should offer radically better imaging performance than past iPhones.

For example The sensor adds a number of new or improved features, including phase-detection auto-focus, which allows it to focus twice as fast. New tone-mapping, new noise reduction and a new slow-motion mode that can capture video at 240fps.

Battery
The iPhone 6 Plus runs using an undisclosed battery that Apple lists as offering the users 11 hours of video playback and WiFi browsing and 10 hours of LTE browsing and 3G browsing as its smaller iPhone 6 sibling. If accurate, the iPhone 6 Plus's battery life will be well above average, with most handsets still struggling to make it past the seven to eight hours of multimedia use mark.

Storage and price
The Apple iPhone 6 Plus will be available with 16GB, 64GB and 128GB storage options, and it will cost £619, £699 and £789 respectively at retail pricing.

Overall
If opening impressions are anything to go by, while Apple may be slightly late to the phablet market, its opening device is fairly impressive. Featuring a reworked camera, cutting-edge processor and Apple's latest iOS 8 operating system the iPhone 6 Plus has the on-paper chops to be one of 2014's best plus-sized handsets.

Hopefully the iPhone 6S will make good on its opening promise when it arrives in the UK later this year.

Check back with V3 later for a full review of the iPhone 6 Plus.

By V3's Alastair Stevenson

iPhone 6 first impressions

09 Sep 2014

Unveiled at Apple's exclusive launch event alongside the iPhone 6 Plus, the iPhone 6 is on paper one of the most advanced smartphones ever made. However, with leaked details still fresh in many buyers' minds, some have justifiably been confused about what's actually new in the iPhone 6. Here to help we've separated fact from fiction to offer our opening impressions of the iPhone 6.

Design and build
The iPhone 6 has a redesign, and now features a rounded glass front that runs round the curved aluminium sides of its chassis. As well as looking slightly more ergonomic than the hard-edged iPhone 5S, the iPhone 6 is also noticeably thinner, measuring in at just 6.9mm thick.

This means the iPhone 6 should be fairly comfortable to hold and be fairly travel and small-hand friendly.

Display
The iPhone 6 features a 4.7in, 1334x750 HD Retina display Apple claims can display 38 percent more pixels than the iPhone 5S's 4in 1136x640 326ppi Retina display. This means the iPhone 6 display is still slightly behind many of its Android competitors when it comes to screen resolution, with the likes of the LG G3 with its 5.5in, 1440x2560, 534ppi True HD-IPS+ (in-plane switching) LCD capacitive and Samsung Galaxy S5's 5.1in, 1920x1080, 432ppi, Super Amoled touchscreens easily beating it.iPhone 6 4.7in model with iOS 8

But considering past Retina displays' solid colour balance and vibrancy levels, we're hoping the iPhone 6 will still compete when it comes to display quality and we are going to reserve judgement until we come to review the device.

Operating system
As expected the iPhone 6 runs using Apple's iOS 8 operating system. This is no bad thing as iOS 8 comes loaded with a number of useful features, many of which are aimed at the enterprise. Key additions on this front 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 on iOS 8. Continuity is the latest stage in Apple's ongoing work to converge its iOS and Mac OS X operating systems and offers users a variety of synchronisation features. One of the most useful of these is the ability to AirDrop files between the iOS and Mac OS devices.

iOS 8 also adds support for third-party keyboards such as Swype, the ability to add widgets to the OS Notification Center and a QuickType word-prediction feature.

As a final bonus iOS also has HealthKit and HomeKit services. HealthKit is a health-focused service designed to help users track their calorie intake and exercise routines. HomeKit is an Internet of Things-focused service designed to let users control appliances using their iPhone 6.

Processor and performance
Performance has always been a key selling point for Apple iPhones and Apple has worked hard to continue this legacy with the iPhone 6, loading it with a new 64-bit A8 chip and reworked next-generation M8 co-processor.

Apple claims the A8 is its most advanced processor to date and offers 25 percent faster CPU performance and 50 percent faster graphics performance than the A7. If true this makes it 50 times more powerful than the first iPhone.

The firm also says the new-generation M8 co-processor can measure elevation and can tell when you're cycling, walking or running, which means fitness apps should perform better on it than on competing Android handsets or past iPhones.

Add to this the Apple iPhone 6's cutting-edge wireless 150Mbps LTE and the handset should be one of the fastest on the market.

NFC and Apple Pay
Near-field communication (NFC) has been a key technology missing on past iPhones. The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus fix this issue and come loaded with an NFC antenna. However, rather than just meaning users can get access to existing NFC services, such as Visa's V.me payment service, or PayPal, Apple has created its own Apple Pay NFC wallet platform.iPhone 6 is available in silver gold and space grey

Apple Pay is interesting as it has an API that developers can use to directly integrate the Apple payment option into their into websites and apps. Having already scored key partnerships with Visa, Amex and Mastercard, Apple Pay allows users to make and take payments.

As an added assurance to security-conscious iPhone users, Apple has also loaded the iPhone 6 Plus with a Secure Element chip that stores all the user's payment details locally. This means prying intelligence agencies and hackers should have a harder time getting it.

Camera
While the iPhone 6's rear camera has the same 8MP specification as the 5S, its new sensor with True Tone flash, 1.5 micron pixels and f/2.2 aperture make it a massive step up.

The sensor adds a number of improvements to the iPhone 6's camera compared with previous iOS handsets. Key additions include phase-detection auto-focus, which allows it to focus twice as fast, plus new tone-mapping, noise reduction and a new slow-motion mode that can capture video at 240fps.

Battery
The iPhone 6 runs using an undisclosed battery that Apple claims will give users 11 hours of video playback and WiFi browsing, or 10 hours of LTE browsing and 3G browsing. If accurate the iPhone 6's battery life will be well above average, with most handsets still struggling to make it past the seven to eight-hour multimedia use mark.

Storage and price
Apple will start taking pre-orders for the iPhone 6 on 12 September ahead of its 19 September shipping date.

The company will be offering the iPhone 6 in 16GB, 64GB and 128GB versions, which will cost £539, £619 and £699 respectively. No 32GB version was listed.

Overall
While the iPhone 6 isn't as interesting as its larger sibling, the iPhone 6 Plus, there is still plenty to like about it. Featuring Apple's enterprise-friendly iOS 8 operating system, a sleek-looking new design and being powered by a new A8 super-chip, the iPhone 6 on paper is a fantastic handset and we can't wait to put it through its paces come our full review later this year.

By V3's Alastair Stevenson

Asus Zenwatch hands on review

05 Sep 2014

Ever since the launch of the Android Wear OS, hardware manufacturers have been rushing to create smartwatches based on it. However, most of the devices so far have been pretty uninspiring, it has to be said.

Aware of this, Asus has seen an opportunity to fill the gap with its newly unveiled Zenwatch smartwatch.

Design and build
Visually the Zenwatch is fairly distinctive, and features a pebble-shaped metal chassis and leather wrist strap.Asus Zenwatch OS

Like most smartwatches we ahve seen, the Zenwatch is fairly well built and has been designed to meet IP55 certifications standards. The certification means the Zenwatch is water resistant. Testing the Zenwatch we were impressed how well made it felt and found its metal chassis was fairly scratch proof and resilient, as well as looking nice.

However, despite being larger than a regular watch, the Zenwatch is fairly comfortable to wear and didn't feel unwieldy.

Display
By smartwatch standards the Zenwatch's display is fairly small and comprises a 1.6in 320x320 Amoled touchscreen with 2.5D curved Gorilla Glass 3 - basically glass that makes its front face curve slightly.

While small, we didn't notice any serious performance issues with the Zenwatch screen during our brief hands-on. We found that text was legible and icons were suitably crisp. On top of that, thanks to the use of Amoled tech, colours on the display were wonderfully vibrant.Asus Zenwatch home

The one potential issue we noticed is that, like most smartwatches we've used, the Zenwatch's display can be hard to read in direct sunlight.

Operating system
As we noted in our LG G Watch review, while full of useful push update services for features such as email, Android Wear is short of business-friendly features. Perhaps with this in mind, Asus has tweaked Android Wear, adding several productivity-focused features. The best of these are its presentation manager, cover to mute and Find My Phone services.

Presentation Control is a useful feature that lets people use the Zenwatch as a remote control and time manager when giving a presentation. The cover alert feature makes it easy to screen incoming calls or alerts and lets you silence the smartwatch, and attached smartphone, simply by placing your hand over the Zenwatch's screen.

Find My Phone is a custom feature that lets you make the phone attached to the Zenwatch ring, making it easier to locate if you've misplaced it.Asus Zenwatch back

Sadly, the demo unit we tested wasn't set up to run these services, though on paper they make the Zenwatch one of the better smartwatches on the market if you are a business professional.

Performance
The Zenwatch is powered by a 1.2GHz Snapdragon processor and features 512MB of RAM. The specifications are fairly standard and during our hands-on we found the Zenwatch matched the smooth performance of past Android Wear smartwatches.

Battery
Battery life has been a constant issues on all smartwatches, with most at best lasting one to two days before needing a top-up charge. This appears to be the case with the Zenwatch, with an Asus spokesman telling us the smartwatch's 1.4Wh battery "currently gets a day", before adding: "we're still developing it and hope to increase this by the time of release."

Hopefully the work will pay off and the Zenwatch battery will offer at least two days come its release later this year.

Overall
Featuring a decent display, innovative design and wealth of productivity features, the Zenwatch has the potential to be a great business companion.

Check back with V3 later for a full review of Asus Zenwatch.

By V3's Alastair Stevenson

Acer Iconia Tab 8W hands-on review

05 Sep 2014

Windows 8.1 hasn't really taken off in the PC market, let alone the tablet one. Despite its lack of widespread adoption manufacturers around the globe have been experimenting with new sizes, hoping to better show off the touch-focused operating system's finer points.

The Acer Iconia Tab 8W is the latest step in the Windows 8.1 experiment and is designed to entice users to the OS by offering them an affordable, travel-friendly alternative to the sea of more popular 8in Android and iOS tablets.

Design and build
The Iconia Tab 8W has a slightly different design to past Android-powered Iconia tablets. The most noticeable difference is that the Iconia Tab 8W features a grooved, as opposed to smooth, textured polycarbonate backplate and metallic sides. It also features a reasonable selection of ports, including MicroSD, MicroHDMI and MicroUSB inputs.Acer Iconia Tab W8 home

While some may argue the white demo unit we tested looks cheap, we were fairly impressed with the design. As well as looking different to most tablets, thanks to its 9.8mm thickness and light 370g weight, the Iconia Tab 8W felt comfortable to hold and is suitably bag friendly.

We were also reasonably impressed with the tablet's build quality. It felt reasonably scratch and dirt resistant and left us reasonably assured it could survive regular wear and tear.

Display
Acer has loaded the Iconia Tab 8W with an 8in 1280x800 HD in-plane switching (IPS) display. While the display's resolution isn't anything to write home about when compared with competing 8in Android or iOS tablets, we were reasonably impressed.

Thanks to the IPS tech – which works to improve the display's colours and whites by organising the liquid crystals used to create them on a fixed plate that's charged at a consistent rate – the Iconia Tab 8W's screen was pleasant to use. Colours were suitably vibrant and the display was fairly bright.Acer Iconia Tab W8 ports

Text and icons were also crisp and generally readable. The only issue we noticed was that in certain situations text displayed on the Iconia Tab 8's screen could look slightly squashed. This was particularly true when viewing webpages in Windows 8.1's desktop mode, though being fair to Acer this is an issue for all 8in Windows 8.1 devices.

Operating system
Acer Iconia Tab W8 OSFor businesses and people with productivity in mind, the inclusion of Microsoft's Windows 8.1 operating system will be a bonus. As well as having the ability to run legacy Windows applications, the OS also comes preloaded with a one-year complimentary subscription to Microsoft Office 365 Personal, granting users access to key productivity services such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Outlook.

Performance
The Iconia Tab 8W isn't a powerhouse on paper and comes loaded with a quad-core, BayTrail-based 1.3GHz Intel Atom Z3735G processor and 1GB of RAM.

This means those looking to carry out demanding tasks on the Iconia Tab 8W, such as 3D gaming, will be disappointed, though considering its low price of £125 this isn't all that surprising.

That said, when faced with basic text-editing and web-browsing tasks, we didn't notice any performance issues, meaning it could still be a good choice for buyers who want a basic productivity aid or internet access point for when they are on the move.

Storage and battery
The Acer Iconia comes loaded with 32GB of internal storage, which can thankfully be upgraded using its MicroSD card slot and is powered by an unspecified battery Acer claims will offer users eight hours of multimedia use off one charge. We didn't get a chance to test the tablet's battery life during our hands on, but if Acer's projection is correct it'll be fairly standard.

Overall
While we're still not convinced Windows 8.1 works on small form-factor tablets, considering the Acer Iconia Tab 8W's low cost, it does definitely have potential and could hold some allure to buyers on a budget when it is released later this year.Acer Iconia Tab W8 back

Featuring a good display for its price, and what appears to be reasonable performance, coupled with one year's free access to Office 365, we can see the Iconia Tab 8W being a great choice for business buyers looking for an affordable travel companion for web access and document editing on the move. However, a big factor determining if the Iconia Tab 8W will make good on this promise is its battery life, one key thing we didn't get a chance to test during our hands on.

Check back with V3 later for a full review of the Acer Iconia Tab 8W.

By V3's Alastair Stevenson

IFA: Lenovo Tab S8 hands-on review

05 Sep 2014

BERLIN: Since Apple released its original iPad Mini, 8in tablets have become increasingly popular and manufacturers around the world have been releasing a steady stream of the mid-sized devices.

Key players were Samsung's Galaxy Tab S and Note ranges and Acer's latest 8in Iconia tablet, for example. Unperturbed by the strong competition, this IFA Lenovo chose to join the 8in tablet race, unveiling its first ever mid-sized Android tablet, the Tab S8.

Design and build
Unless you pick the yellow colour option, the Tab S8 is fairly unassuming, featuring a round back and sides, and barebones front that's free of noticeable design features. In fact, were it not for the Lenovo stamp emblazoned on the Tab S8, you could easily mistake this for one of Asus' or Acer's existing devices.Lenovo Tab S8 lock-screen

While some may complain about the Tab S8's unassuming design, we didn't really have too much of an issue with it. This is largely because, while not terribly ostentatious the Tab S8 ticks all the necessary design boxes. For starters, measuring in at 210x124x7.9mm and weighing 299g, the Tab S8 is suitably travel friendly and feels comfortable to use, or hold one handed.

Additionally, despite being made of plastic, the Tab S8 doesn't feel too cheap and, from what we've seen, it's reasonably well built. While we didn't get to drop test the Tab S8, its chassis did feel scratch and drop proof.

Display
In a world where tablets regularly break the 300ppi milestone, we were a little disappointed when Lenovo announced the Tab S8 will feature an 8in 1920x1200, 283ppi in-plane switching (IPS) LCD.

However, during our hands on we found the Tab S8's display is pretty impressive, especially when you consider its $200 price tag. Using the Tab S8 on the showroom floor at IFA, while it was occasionally prone to picking up stray light, the display did perform fairly well. Colours, while not on a par with those seen on Samsung Super Amoled tablets' displays, were rich and the Tab S8 featured impressive brightness levels. Text and icons were suitably crisp and we never experienced any serious issues with the display during our hands on.

Operating system
The Tab S8 runs using a customised version of Android 4.4 KitKat. We're not massive fans of Android skins as generally they don't add to the user experience, either making superfluous, or detrimental changes that make Android less user friendly and slow down future updates.

Lenovo Tab S8 app tray

Some of these issues remain true with the Tab S8, which features a number of needless applications and user interface changes that don't really add anything.

For example, in the app menu Lenovo has added a random shortcut icon. This brings up a tab on the bottom of screen with links to the tablet's main settings and theme options, all of which can also be accessed directly from the app menu.

That said, the skin is still significantly lighter than those made by some of Lenovo's competitors, such as Huawei Emotion or Samsung Touchwiz, and most Android users won't take too long to get used to it.

Performance
Unlike the majority of manufacturers, Lenovo has chosen not to use a Qualcomm snapdragon chip and has instead loaded the Tab S8 with a quad-core, 1.3GHz Intel Atom processor and 2GB of RAM.

We didn't get a chance to benchmark the Tab S8 during our hands on, but found the tablet was very fast for basic tasks. Webpages opened in seconds, even on the showroom's over-stacked WiFi the Tab S8 ran smoothly.

While we didn't get a chance to see how the Tab S8 ran when faced with more demanding tasks, such as 3D gaming, considering its use of Nvidia GeForce GTX graphics we have high hopes and are keen to see how it performs in our full review.

Camera
Tablets of all sizes are yet to really offer anything above average imaging performance when compared with their smartphone siblings and, from what we've seen, this will remain true with the Tab S8.Lenovo Tab S8 back

Testing the Tab S8's 8MP rear camera we found the device is fairly average and images, while more than good enough for sharing on social media, rapidly lost their clarity when zoomed in on. The same remained true when we took a few snaps on the Tab S8's 1.6MP front camera.

Battery and storage
We didn't get a chance to test the Tab S8's 4290mAh battery life, but even if Lenovo's projected seven-hours is true it will still be below average, with most similarly sized tablets lasting at least eight to nine hours before dying. In terms of storage the Tab S8 comes with 16GB of internal space that can fortunately be upgraded using the tablet's Micro SD slot.

Overall
The Lenovo Tab S8 will be available from the beginning of September, with prices starting at $199. While we did notice some issues during our hands on, considering its low cost and the inclusion of a powerful Intel processor, there is still plenty to like about the Tab S8 and we can see it being a popular choice for buyers on a budget.

Hopefully our positive opening impressions will ring true when we put the Lenovo Tab S8 more thoroughly through its paces in our full review later this year.

By V3's Alastair Stevenson

Lenovo Vibe X2 hands-on review

04 Sep 2014

When Lenovo announced its desire to purchase Motorola from Google, it made it clear the move was designed to increase its global smartphone presence and let it break into the Western European market.

The Vibe X2 is the latest step in Lenovo's expansion plans and debuts a number of cutting-edge technologies designed to showcase what the Chinese firm has to offer.

Design and build
Lenovo prides itself on the Vibe X2's design, claiming it is the first "layered smartphone" in the world, and we can see why the firm is so keen to boast about it. The Vibe X2 is built from three distinct sections, each of which has a different colour and texture. These range from basic polycarbonate backplate to a more esoteric "wood" finish.

Another interesting design twist, which we sadly didn't get to test during our hands on, is the addition of "Xtensions". These are extra custom covers that add add new functions to the Vibe X2, such as improved sound quality.Lenovo Vibe X2 home screen

Despite being composed of three layers, the Vibe X2 is reasonably thin, measuring in at 7.3mm. The 5in device is also comfortable to hold and feels fairly similar to Sony's range of straight-edged Xperia devices.

We were also reasonably impressed with the Vibe X2's build quality. It felt solid and left us fairly sure that it would survive the odd accidental bump and scrape. The rear backplate's slightly matt finish also felt suitably scratch and blemish resistant.

Display
Display technology is an increasingly important factor for many potential buyers, so Lenovo has configured the Vibe X2 with a 5in, 1080x1920, 441ppi, in-plane switching (IPS) LCD touchscreen. Using the screen on the brightly lit showroom floor we were impressed by how well it performed. Colours on the display were rich and vibrant and the screen showed surprisingly wide viewing angles.

Operating systemLenovo Vibe X2 operating system
Unlike Motorola, Lenovo chose to tweak the Vibe X2's Android 4.4 KitKat operating system with its custom Vibe UI 2.0 skin.

The changes we noticed during our hands on were fairly unobtrusive and amounted to little more than tweaked application icons and menu layouts, but under the hood the Vibe X2 does have a few notable features, one of the most useful of which is its quick-access lock screen.

The feature is designed to let you more quickly access regularly accessed applications from the lock screen using screen taps. It lets you can activate the lock screen from sleep with one tap and access a quick menu with shortcuts to recently opened apps with a second tap. While small, we can see the feature being a selling point for business buyers who regularly have to access emails or check incoming messages on the move.

Performance
One of the Vibe X2's most interesting features is its MediaTek eight-core processor, using a mix of ARM Cortex-A17 and low-power Cortex-A7 cores. In a clear shot at Samsung, which has recently launched smartphones and tablets running on its own Exynos "octa-core" chips, Lenovo claims the MediaTek processor is the first "true" processor of this kind and, paired with 2GB of RAM, will allow the Vibe X2 to easily outperform competing handsets.

We found there could be some truth to this claim. During our hands-on, the Vibe X2 moved between windows and open applications smoothly and stutter free, and proved capable of opening multiple content-rich websites in the native browser app hassle free.Lenovo Vibe X2 side

We're keento see how the Vibe X2 performs when faced with more demanding tasks, such as 3D gaming, upon its release later this year.

Camera
The Vibe X2 comes with a 13MP rear camera with a back-illuminated sensor and 5MP front camera, which we were also impressed with.

Shots taken on the Vibe X2 looked reasonably vibrant, crisp and had decent colour balance. The only possible issue we noticed was that, on a few occasions, the shutter speed was slightly slower than we'd have liked, which is odd as Lenovo claims the handset has advanced "instant-capture" capabilities.

In terms of shot modes, the unit we had featured all the staple options you'd expect, such as burst, panorama and HDR, plus a more esoteric "beauty mode". The beauty mode works the same way as the equivalent feature seen on Huawei's Ascend P7 and is meant to let users quickly remove blemishes from "selfies". But we really can't see this taking off with business users.

Battery and storage
The Lenovo Vibe X2 comes loaded with 32GB of internal space, which sadly can't be upgraded due to the device's lack of a Micro SD card slot. However, considering the number of cloud-storage services available, we can't see this being too much of an issue for many buyers.Lenovo Vibe X2 back

Past this, the Vibe X2 is powered by a 2,300mAh non-removable battery, which Lenovo claims will easily last a full day's use off one charge. But we didn't get a chance to check this claim during our hands on.

Price and release date
The Vibe X2 will launch in China in September, costing $399 SIM-free. It is currently unclear if the Vibe Z2 or X2 will be released in the UK, though Lenovo has promised to make the phones "available in select regions starting in October".

Overall
While it's still unclear if the Vibe X2 will launch in the UK the device is still interesting. Featuring a unique and original design and "true" eight-core mobile processor the Vibe X2 is clear proof that Lenovo wants to establish itself as an innovator in the smartphone industry, and we'd be pleased to find out if it delivers on its promise, if and when it arrives in Europe.

By V3's Alastair Stevenson

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