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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
15 Sep 2014
In a bid to take on Samsung and Apple, Nokia released its Lumia 830 at IFA in Germany earlier this September, at its first event as part of Microsoft after the Redmond firm bought Nokia's devices division a year ago. The Lumia 830 adds to the firm's recently announced models such as the Nokia Lumia 530 and Nokia Lumia 630.
The Lumia 830 is the formerly Finnish company's "thinnest and lightest" high-end Windows Phone yet, priced at €330, or around £300.
The main design feature of the Lumia 830 is that it offers a feature set similar to the flagship Lumia 930 but in a more compact chassis. Measuring 8.5mm thick and weighing 150g, the Lumia 830 is one of the lightest Lumia phones, and thus fits more comfortably in the hand than previous high-end Lumia iterations such as the Nokia Lumia 920 and Lumia 1020.
The handset measures 139x70x8.5mm from top to bottom, a little bigger than the Lumia 930's 137x71x9.8mm chassis but a lot thinner, which makes all the difference. It's also 17g lighter than the Lumia 930, at 150g, meaning it won't slip as easily into a pocket like its predecessor, but it does feel a touch easier to hold. We found that we liked the handset's design and feel, with the aluminium edging adding to its overall robust impression.
It might be Nokia's first release since it was bought by Microsoft, but the good news is that the firm has kept the Lumia brand's splash of colour. Like the Lumia 930, the Lumia 830 will be available in vibrant orange and green models, which certainly will turn heads on the street. Nokia has also opted for matte polycarbonate for the colourful casing rather than the shiny plastic often found on its Windows Phone devices, which means that it sits comfortably in the hand and likely won't be too prone to picking up fingerprints.
For the more conservative buyers, the Nokia Lumia 830 will also be available in black and white models.
The Nokia Lumia 930 has a 5in in-plane switching (IPS) 1280x720 resolution display that we found crisp and bright during our hands-on time with the smartphone.
Thanks to its ClearBlack display technology, Nokia boasts that the Lumia 830 offers 180-degree viewing angles, and the phone lived up to this during our time with it on Thursday at the launch event. However, we found the display quite reflective, and it struggled under bright fluorescent lighting.
In our hands-on tests, the Lumia 820's 10MP camera seemed to respond brilliantly when we took pictures of the greenery outside the launch event window. Shutter speed was reasonably fast and images taken were crisp, due its PureView image sensor. Nevertheless, it isn't quite as impressive as the Nokia Lumia 1020's 41MP rear-facing camera.
We have yet to put this camera fully through its paces, but early impressions suggest that it will produce images of similar quality to those taken on the Nokia Lumia 930, which impressed us with its crisp and natural image-taking capability.
Performance and OS
Powered by a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor, the Lumia 830 seems fast and fluid when swiping between different apps. Nokia said that its new smartphone's performance is "either better or on par" with the Samsung flagship competition, without naming which smartphone it was referring to.
The Nokia Lumia 830 arrives running Windows Phone 8.1 and thus is pre-loaded with Microsoft Office for productivity, OneDrive for cloud storage, and the Cortana voice control app "for markets it's available in".
We have yet to test all of the features of Windows Phone 8.1, but it also delivers Microsoft's Cortana personal assistant, WiFi Sense, Word Flow and enterprise additions.
Of course, all of Nokia's usual additions are also in place, including Here Maps, Nokia Music and the Finnish phone firm's custom camera applications.
Like the Lumia 930, the Lumia 830 supports wireless charging and Nokia has announced an accessory alongside it at IFA – the second-generation wireless charging plate. The device charges a wireless phone via NFC so when users tap their phone on the plate, they can customise notifications via the plate's lighting feature. They can then choose between different blinking patterns.
The wireless charging plate requires Windows Phone 8.1 and will be available in green, orange and white to match the covers of the Lumia 830.
While the Nokia Lumia 830 didn't immediately strike us as a breathtaking smartphone, our hands-on has convinced us otherwise, and we think that this could one of Nokia's most popular Windows Phones yet, mainly due to its relatively low price.
The screen is the most impressive we've seen on a Nokia Lumia smartphone yet, and the Microsoft's Windows Phone 8.1 mobile operating system brings some impressive additions, including built-in VPN support, integrated Skype access and low system requirements, meaning its more nippy. With all these extras, people might be more open to switching to Windows Phone from more popular operating systems such as iOS and Android.
Check back with V3 soon for our full Nokia Lumia 830 review.
12 Sep 2014
Lenovo revealed a range of new phones, all-in-ones and business laptops at IFA in Germany earlier in September. The Chinese firm's most significant unveiling was an update to its Lenovo ThinkPad Helix, unveiled at CES in January.
Taking on the Microsoft Surface tablets and Samsung Ativ series of hybrids, the ThinkPad Helix offers businesses an all-in-one tablet that is also an ultrabook.
Design and build
The 11.6in ThinkPad Helix features a Gorilla Glass display, weighs 815g and measures just 9.6mm thick, a design that has been made possible by the featured Intel Core M processor, which Intel also announced at IFA during its press conference on Friday.
At first glance the ThinkPad Helix has a lot more in common with its ThinkPad predecessors than other convertible laptops. The product's design features the same minimalist black, hard-edged plastic design associated with all ThinkPad laptops.
It's only when you open it up and look closely that you realise that the ThinkPad Helix is actually a convertible, sporting the obvious left-hand switch that, when popped, separates the tablet section from its dock.
Playing with the ThinkPad Helix, we were fairly impressed by the hinge mechanism's build quality. Despite being made of plastic the connecting section felt sturdy.
Popping the tablet in and out of the dock a few times, we felt suitably reassured that the section wouldn't break during prolonged use. The same was true of the ThinkPad Helix main tablet section, which also seemed fairly robust.
The 11.6in ThinkPad Helix features a Gorilla Glass FHD display with a 1920x1080 resolution, 10-point multi-touch screen. During our initial tests we found the display boasts great viewing angles, colour and brightness levels.
Testing the screen we found that the ThinkPad Helix was pleasantly responsive, easily picking up and responding to every swipe and poke we threw at it.
Performance and OS
The ThinkPad Helix is designed to offer users ultrabook-level performance, with the top-end version having up to an Intel Core M processor, either 4GB or 8GB of RAM and a range of different storage options such as a 128GB SATA, 256GB SATA eDrive, 512GB PCle or 180GB to 360GB Intel hard drive.
Running Windows 8.1 Pro, the Lenovo ThinkPad Helix has the same five modes as seen on the previous version and the consumer IdeaPad Yoga products, allowing users to put the device into Tablet, Stand, Tent, Laptop and Desktop modes.
In our tests the Lenovo ThinkPad Helix seemed to work flawlessly, with apps and web browser pages popping up instantly.
Our initial impressions of the ThinkPad Helix are positive, as it has some worthy upgrades from its predecessor, particularly the Intel Core M processor.
Lenovo added that the ThinkPad Helix also features better power efficiency and battery life compared with its predecessor, as well as a suite of add-on security options, including a biometric fingerprint reader, a military-grade smart card reader and three-factor authentication. We weren't able to test the improved performance or battery life on the IFA showroom floor, but check back soon for a full review.
With a hefty $999 starting price, which tops many other convertible laptop-tablet hybrids, we're not sure the ThinkPad Helix will attract a great deal of users when it is released worldwide at the start of October.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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