25 Jan 2013
With Windows 8 out of the bag, touch computing has become 2013's hardware hot topic.
Looking to capitalise on the wave of interest, PC makers across the world are rushing out a new business-focused Microsoft-powered tablets.
This has seen the likes of Lenovo add touch capabilities to its ThinkPad series of devices and now HP follow suit, unveiling a fresh batch of touch entries into its Elite-series of devices.
However, of HP's new batch the most interesting is without a doubt its ElitePad 900 Windows 8 Pro tablet, which aims to use add-on covers to target pretty much every professional group and industry under the sun.
Eager to see how the ElitePad 900 handles, V3 visited HP at its London Showcase event to grab some hands on time with the tablet.
Design and build
As a standalone tablet the ElitePad 900 looks like most other Windows 8 tablets. The ElitePad has the same slightly curved look as many other devices currently on offer, featuring rounded edges and a grey aluminium chassis.
Also, like most other Windows 8 Pro tablets, it's a lot heavier than similarly sized Android and iOS tablets, weighing a hefty 680g despite measuring in at a reasonable 178x261x9.2mm.
However, this is to be expected considering the fact the ElitePad is running a full version of Windows 8 Pro and using powerful Intel hardware as opposed to lighter Qualcomm and Nvidia mobile tech.
In terms of ports the tablet section of the ElitePad features charge, two USB, sim and MicroSD inputs.
For those looking for more connectivity, HP's unveiled a host of expansion jackets for the ElitePad, each being designed to customise it for use within a specific industry.
These include everything from a rubberised outer case designed to protect it when being used in more hazardous conditions, like a building site, to a folding keyboard cover similar to the clip on keyboards seen on Asus' Transformer series of devices.
At the event, we had the chance to see the ElitePad's "Expansion Cover". Living up to its name, the cover expands the number of ports on the ElitePad, adding two USB ports, an SD card expansion slot and an HDMI output. The jacket comes in two pieces and is designed so that the tablet slides into the larger body, with the top clipping on to hold it in place.
Given the lack of ports on the main tablet section the jackets will prove a must for most business users - a fact that could prove a blessing and curse. While the jackets make the tablet very versatile, there's currently no word on how much they're going to cost.
The ElitePad comes with a 10.1in 1280x800 resolution display. In terms of performance this means the ElitePad's display isn't anywhere near as crisp or dazzling as the displays seen on non-Windows tablets, like the Nexus 10 and new iPad.
However, during our hands with the ElitePad we still found the display more than usable, with it boasting surprisingly good viewing angles and proving more than crisp enough for general day-to-day tasks.
Aside from this, the only issue we had with the device's screen during our brief hands on was that it only boasts five, not 10-point multi-touch capabilities.
This meant that when typing using the ElitePad's onscreen keyboard we occasionally noticed a slight delay in response - though the spokesman on hand assured us that this was only an issue with pre-production demo units and has been fixed on the release retail versions. We'll make sure we test that claim.
As well as Windows 8 Pro's core security features HP's loaded the ElitePad with its own Client Security Manager software. This includes a number of useful packages like its Credential Manager, Password Manager and Device Access Manager.
While this won't be of interest to everyone, the services will prove a boon to network managers making it far easier for businesses to safely connect and manage the device when running it on the corporate network.
The ElitePad 900 features the full version of Windows 8 Pro, running on Intel's x86-based architecture.
The machine we had our hands on with was powered by a 1.8GHz Intel Atom Z2720 CPU and boasted 2GB of RAM.
During our hands on with the ElitePad we didn't get the chance to really put the device through its paces or run full benchmarks.
However, in the limited tasks we undertook, we found the ElitePad was fairly nippy and we're looking forward to getting the chance to really push the device come our full review.
Camera and Storage
The ElitePad 900 packs an 8MP rear-facing and along with a front-facing unit which HP has yet to provide the specs for. During our hands on we didn't get a real chance to test either the rear or front-facing cameras.
HP's loaded the ElitePad 900 with 64GB of internal storage, which can be expanded using the inbuilt micro-SD card slot.
From our brief time with the device, our opening impressions of the HP ElitePad 900 are positive. Thanks to its Smart Jacket offering, the ElitePad could prove one of the most versatile options for businesses.
This is especially true considering the tablet sections modest cost. With prices starting at £484 (including VAT) the tablet is just £80 more than Microsoft's Surface RT. Yet despite the minor price fluctuation the tablet offers businesses a host of benefits, the largest of which is the use of Windows 8 Pro.
Check back with V3 later for a full review of the HP ElitePad 900.
Kingston Technology's DataTraveler HyperX Predator 3.0 is not only the highest capacity USB memory stick we have ever seen, but the firm also claims it is the fastest of its type available.
However, with a recommended price of £595, potential buyers will need a compelling reason for buying 512GB of flash storage in a pocket-size format that could potentially be easily misplaced.
As announced earlier this month, Kingston will deliver a version capable of storing up to 1TB sometime later this quarter, though pricing for that one has yet to be disclosed.
As its name suggests, the DataTraveler HyperX Predator 3.0 is a USB 3.0 device, compatible with the USB 3.0 or "SuperSpeed USB" specifications that support data transmission speeds of up to 5Gbit/s, making it 10 times faster than USB 2.0.
In practice, the raw throughput of a USB 3.0 link is a maximum 4Gbit/s, which equates to about 400MB/s when transferring files.
To achieve anything like this, users need to have both a USB device and computer that supports USB 3.0 ports integrated onto the motherboard. However, you can still plug a USB 3.0 memory stick such as the HyperX Predator 3.0 into a USB 2.0 port, or conversely use a USB 2.0 memory stick in a USB 3.0 port - you will just be limited to USB 2.0 speed.
Kingston lists the HyperX Predator 3.0 as having a read speed of up to 240MB/s and a write speed of up to 160MB/s.
In our tests, the device actually exceeded this, achieving a read speed of 274.2MB/s and a write speed of 165.2MB/s under the freely available CrystalDiskMark benchmark tool.
In comparison, a standard USB 2.0 memory stick transferred data at a read speed of just 19.2MB/s and a write speed of 8.3MB/s, making the Kingston drive over 10 times faster.
The device itself is quite chunky and heavy when compared to a standard USB memory stick, possibly to make sure you won't forget you are carrying it around.
In fact, it is so bulky that we had to raise our test system - Dell's XPS 12 ultrabook - off the surface of the desk in order to connect the HyperX Predator 3.0 to one of the USB ports on its side. This is obviously a problem Kingston has encountered during its own tests, as the drive comes with a short USB extension cable included.
Our review sample was delivered in a case resembling a tobacco tin, alongside the USB extension cable and a key fob. The latter is presumably to enable you to attach the pricey HyperX Predator 3.0 securely to your belt while carrying it around.
What would you want with a 512GB memory stick? Well, this capacity is larger than that of most hard drives, if your computer is more than a year or two old, so the HyperX Predator 3.0 could be used as a backup drive.
Another potential use is to boost your PC's performance using the ReadyBoost feature in Windows 7 and Windows 8.
However, we suspect that the HyperX Predator 3.0 will simply be used by those who work with very large files or datasets, as the high data transfer speed means you won't be kept waiting as long when copying to or from a compatible computer.
It should be borne in mind, though, that even at USB 3.0 speeds, it will still take about half an hour to transfer the half a terabyte of data that the HyperX Predator 3.0 can hold.
DETROIT: Car technology is on the increase with self-driving cars and health-monitoring seats all turning from science fiction to science fact.
As such, when V3's sister site THE INQUIRER headed to the North American and International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit to see some of the latest innovations on show, we were keen to see what they unearthed.
One of the most interesting announcements they came across was from Telsa, which was showing off its Model X SUV featuring an in-built tablet control panel.
The car was actually first unveiled in February 2012, and the Model X SUV is still in the prototype stage. However, with gull-wing doors, a front-mounted boot and seven seats it's clearly no small-scale project. It's also said to have a zero to 60mph time of around five seconds. Speedy.
Based on the four-door Tesla Model S that Tesla also showed off at NAIAS, the Model X features some updates such as all-wheel drive, thanks to an additional electric motor mounted at the front wheels.
The main feature that caught our eye, though, was that the Model X exhibited Tesla's updated in-car control centre that features a 17in capacitive LCD touchscreen, the biggest we've seen in a car yet.
Debuting in the Model S when it ships in the US later this year, the Linux-based technology will allow the driver to manage features such as climate and music control as well as navigation via Google Maps.
Better still, you'll be able to browse the web and program driving settings, such as "ride feel". Such settings allow drivers to optimise the vehicle with sounds to make it feel more like an authentic motor vehicle, because the silent drive on an electric-powered car generally lacks that factor.
The 17in display is powered by an Nvidia Tegra 3 chip, meaning it will be powerful enough to run a variety of content without lag. However, one drawback is that you cannot view video on the screen, for safety reasons, even when the engine is turned off.
Tesla said that early customers of the technology won't have to pay a penny for it during the first year of use, although monthly pricing might be introduced later on.
Another feature with Tesla's in-car technology is that you can tether your phone or tablet and use its data plan to stream content from your mobile device to the display. Tesla's control centre also has upgradable firmware, giving the driver peace of mind that it is future-proof too.
The instrument displays including the speedometer and fuel gauge are also based on digital displays, allowing the driver to customise what is shown via buttons on the steering wheel.
Deliveries for the Tesla Model X will begin in 2014, however in-car technology will come as standard on the Tesla Model S, which has already started shipping across in the US and can be expected to reach the UK by early 2014.
16 Jan 2013
A hoodie-wearing Mark Zuckerberg took to a stage in San Francisco last night to show off the firm's latest feature, Social Graph.
While some had been expecting a Facebook phone, the smart money was on a search feature and so the announcement was not a huge surprise. The real issue, though, is what the tool means for Facebook, both for its own growth and rival Google, and if it's any good.
On the surface the announcement doesn't appear a huge threat to Google, as the focus is more on the social data within Facebook than web searches, a point Zuckerberg was keen to point out more than once.
However, the move clearly puts Facebook in position where it could undercut Google's own growing social-search push with its data from Google+. Boasting one billion users, Facebook clearly has an enormous head start here.
The team on stage where at pains to point out that the tool is in very early beta at the moment, and will be refined as more people start using it. V3 was able to swing an early beta pass, so we could get our grubby mitts on the tool, to see if it can live up to the hype.
Using the tool is easy: it sits at the top of the entire Facebook page and when you first place your cursor in the search bar it offers you a series of set topics you can dive into (shown below).
As you begin typing predictive results are offered – similar to Google – and generally these are fairly accurate, although some are a bit odd. A search for David Cameron offered David Cameron’s Bed. Erm, no thanks.
However, on playing around with the search functions the possibilities of the tool are revealed. For example, searching for photos becomes very interesting as you can have clearly defined searches for your friends, places, or dates.
We searched for photos of the London Olympics and were returned the below photos. It’s important to note these are not photos taken by us, or friends, but just public images tagged with the relevant information for Facebook to find.
This could well be of concern for those with a thing for privacy, although Facebook stressed that if you have your settings as private, your information will never be displayed to strangers, only friends.
Other interesting search capabilities including restaurants, books or films, helping you see what people you are friends with (and therefore trust, assuming to Facebook it seems) like to eat, watch or read.
However, where the tool really seems to excel is crossing to sets of data: for example, we searched for people in London that like Arrested Development; this returned friends of friends who have both sets of information listed in their profiles.
Of course, this does also make it a bit of a stalker's paradise. For example, you can search terms such as "photos of friends taken by non-friends" or even more worryingly, "photos of non-friends taken by friends".
Again, if you have the right privacy settings, Facebook seems to suggest you couldn't show up in such search terms, but given the complexity of ensuring you have the right privacy settings don't be surprised if you're being looked at by strangers.
Businesses could find use in the tool too, though. This could be through head-hunting, by searching for people with relevant skills and have mutual connections - thereby making it easier to get in touch with a potential employee - or to find out more information on page fans.
However, when V3 asked Facebook's team if they could elaborate on how businesses would be able to use the tool in other ways, we received a classic non-answer that just involved telling businesses to ensure their profile data is correct so users get the right information.
This doesn't really address questions of whether or not firms will have additional capabilities or controls, or how they can access data on their fans, but as the tool is only now available in a very limited beta, we'll forgive them and assume more information will come in the future.
For now, though, while Facebook might not have set the world ablaze with its announcement, it underlines the firm's growing ambitions, and, with a billion users' data behind it, it could well prove a worrying development to Google.
10 Jan 2013
LAS VEGAS: Samsung unveiled its Windows 8-powered Series 7 Chronos alongside its new Ultra ultrabook at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) on Sunday.
Running Windows 8 standard and featuring a touchscreen, Samsung touted the Chronos as proof it was capable of making laptops oozing with business appeal.
Design and build
The Chronos' most striking feature is its bare metal chassis and ample dimensions, with it measuring in at 376x249x20.9mm.
This meant that while the Chronos feels very sturdy, with its aluminium chassis giving the impression it could withstand the odd heavy whack, it's also fairly heavy, even when compared to other devices in its size bracket. For this reason, the Chronos is more a desktop replacement than portable device and won't be suitable for execs expecting to rack up the air miles.
Its large backlit keyboard does have advantages though. Testing the Chronos, we were pleased with the keyboard, with it proving very responsive and pleasant to type on.
Additionally, the Chronos' size has let Samsung load it with a slew of ports. These include two USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0, and individual HDMI and VGA ports. On its top, the Chronos also features a 720p integrated camera for video calling.
Samsung's loaded the Chronos with a 15.6in Full HD display. Boasting the increasingly common 10-point touch functionality, we found the display suitably eye-pleasing and responsive, recognising and enacting our touch inputs instantaneously.
The only issue we noticed with the Chronos' screen was that it could be prone to glare when it caught the light at a certain angle - though this could be more to do with the insanely bright lights Samsung had on its show floor and might not be an issue when using the Chronos in normal conditions.
Power-wise the Chronos sits in the middle of Samsung's laptop range, packing an AMD Radeon HD 8870M Graphics chip with 2GB GDDR5 Graphic Memory on board that is complemented by an Intel Core i7 processor.
While we didn't get the chance to fully run the Chronos through its paces during our hands on, we were pleasantly surprised by how smoothly it ran. Testing the Chronos using the slew of pre-installed apps on it we found the device could easily handle multi-tasking and most general tasks.
We're looking forward to seeing how the Chronos performs when challenged with more intensive tasks come our full review.
Samsung claims the Chronos will boast an eight-hour battery life off one charge. We didn't get the chance to test Samsung's claim during our hands on, but if true this should mean the Chronos will last a full working day off one charge.
However, given the device's large size, we're not sure how often users will find themselves using the Chronos on the go, away from a power station.
There's currently no official word on the Chronos price or release date. However given its middling specifications, we're guessing the Chronos will come with a similarly middling price tag. If our guess is right, then while its large size and weight make it unsuitable for prolonged mobile use the Chronos could be a solid choice for users looking for a desktop replacement.
Check back with V3 later in the year for a full review of the Samsung Series 7 Chronos.
09 Jan 2013
LAS VEGAS: The Helix is one of many new ThinkPads to be unveiled by Lenovo at the 2013, Consumer Electronics (CES) show. However, being the company's first tablet-come-laptop hybrid it is debatably the most interesting.
Taking on the likes of the Microsoft Surface and Samsung Ativ-series of hybrids, the Helix seeks to offer businesses an all-in-one tablet that also acts as an ultrabook.
Having beaten the rush to get our hands on the tablet, if our opening impressions are anything to go by, Lenovo may have actually managed to achieve its goal.
Design and build
At first glance the Helix has a lot more in common with its ThinkPad predecessors than other convertible laptops.
The Helix design is unashamedly barebones, featuring the same minimalist black, hard edged plastic design synonymous with all ThinkPad devices.
It's only when you open it up and look up close that you realise the Helix is actually a convertible, spotting the rather unsubtle left hand switch that when popped separates the 21mm tablet section from its dock.
Playing with the Helix we were fairly impressed by the hinge mechanism's builds quality. Despite being made of plastic the connecting section felt sturdy.
Popping the tablet in and out of the dock a few times we felt suitably reassured the section wouldn't break after prolonged use. The same was true of the Helix main tablet section, with it feeling fairly robust.
Our only qualm with the device is that it feels slightly heavier than many other convertible devices weighing a hefty 835g.
The Helix comes loaded with an 11.6in Full HD 1920x1080 pixels, 10-point multi-touch screen. During our opening tests we found that looks very nice, boasting great viewing angles, colour and brightness levels.
Testing the screen we found the Helix was pleasantly responsive, with it easily picking up and responding to every swipe and poke we threw at it.
Another added boon for artistic users, is the inclusion of a Wacom stylus, that sits neatly in the Helix's top edge.
While we didn't have time to do anything but use the stylus to make a few quick doodles, we were impressed with how well it worked.
Using Photoshop Elements, we found the Helix was able to pick up on even minor variations in pressure and angle and are fairly certain it could be used for digital painting and design purposes.
Performance and price
The Helix is designed to offer users ultrabook-level performance with the top-end version coming loaded with an Intel Core i7 processor 8GB of RAM and 256GB of internal storage. However, for this, users will have to shell out a massive $1,500.
For those shopping on a budget Lenovo's also confirmed the Helix will be available in Intel i3 and i5 versions, though there is still no official word on how much these lower specced versions will cost.
Overall our opening impressions of the Helix are positive. However, costing over $700 more than other cheaper convertible laptop-tablet hybrids, we're unsure whether the Helix will be able to attract anyone but the wealthiest of users.
09 Jan 2013
LAS VEGAS: Prior to the kick off of the 2013 CES show, Sharp showed reporters a sneak peek of a new display technology called Igzo. Based on a collection of four materials, Igzo acts as an efficient semiconductor and an alternative to traditional silicon compounds. The company believes that Igzo can support more powerful and efficient screen designs.
The monitors on display at this year's show did impress, though any technology in its infancy carries plenty of caveats. The touchscreen systems were sharp and responsive in their limited demonstrations.
One of the most impressive features on the Igzo monitor was its ability to quickly and clearly perform the type of zoom activities rarely seen outside of TV dramas. The screen was able to seamlessly go from this...
The most intriguing feature of IGZO technology, however, is its power efficiency. Due to its ability to intermittently power off hardware without losing picture, the displays are said to be as much as 90 per cent more efficient.
Also intriguing were the possible form factors for Igzo. Screens based on the format include both traditional and flexible handset displays.
LAS VEGAS: It's not easy to follow in the footsteps of Windows and Xbox, but that's exactly what Qualcomm's Snapdragon 800 chip was tasked with doing in the first ever non-Microsoft CES opening keynote.
The mobile chip was the headlining announcement in the headlining address of the biggest technology conference of the year. With that billing comes high expectations. Does the Snapdragon 800 measure up?
The first versions of the 800 series, which will be aimed at the tablet sector, are only available in prototype devices. The first OEM models equipped with the hardware are still some months away and will likely only arrive in full force towards the end of the year.
Qualcomm has made a point of playing up the muscle behind Snapdragon. The company loves to show its complex images rendered as wireframe to underscore just how much processing power is being put into each of its demonstration scenes.
The Snapdragon 800 will largely target the gaming market in its earliest incarnations. However, where high-end gaming is found, creative professionals and other high-demand business users are not far behind. The chip offers console-quality graphics and high frame rates, while controls were fluid and responsive, even for a prototype.
Along with more processing power, Snapdragon 800 chips will feature brand new power management tools. The above meters show the chip regulating its power intake by completely turning off unused processor cores and regulating the activity of the GPU as needed.