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CES: Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 hands-on review

09 Jan 2014

LAS VEGAS: Samsung unveiled the Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 alongside its Galaxy Tab Pro line-up at CES on Monday, and here are our opening impressions of the firm's first tablet made for professionals.

Not only this, but it's also the company's first 12in tablet, with Apple reportedly also set to join it later this year.

samsung-galaxy-note-pro-1We got some hands-on time with the Galaxy Note Pro on the CES showroom floor on Tuesday, and it quickly managed to convince us that it could be the best tablet for business folk yet. 

Design
Samsung clearly thinks that 12in tablets are the next big thing, given that it has launched two this week in Las Vegas, but we're not entirely convinced yet.

At 295.6x204x7.95mm the Samsung Galaxy Note Pro is not a bulky device, but with a weight of 735g, it's fairly heavy. We used the Galaxy Note Pro for approximately 15-20 minutes on the CES show floor, and by the time we finished we found our wrists begging for us to let go.

For those who don't mind a weighty device, the Samsung Galaxy Note Pro isn't bad-looking. It sports the same faux leather backing as the Galaxy Note 3 smartphone, and will be available in the same black and white flavours. While the textured back isn't quite to our tastes, it does feel nice in the hand and sets the tablet apart from others on the market.

Display
While we're not fans of the added weight that the large 12.2in screen adds to the Galaxy Note Pro tablet, we found the display quite impressive. It boasts 2560x1600 resolution, which makes it competitive on paper with Apple iPad tablets.

That said, with the 8.4in and 10.1in Galaxy Tab Pro models sporting the same screen resolution, the display's crispness and vibrancy seem somewhat pale in comparison.

Samsung Galaxy Note Pro with 12.2in HD display

The display, unlike that of the almost identically specified Galaxy Tab Pro, also supports Samsung's S Pen stylus, which comes included with the device. This, paired with the large 12.2in screen, makes for an all around productive experience, and we found that it felt natural to take notes and doodle on the larger than average screen. This also means that the device can take advantage of Samsung's S Pen optimised apps.

Performance and software
Under the bonnet, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is a powerhouse. The 3G and WiFi model ships with Samsung's homegrown octa-core Exynos 5 processor, while the 4G LTE versions has a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 chip.

We got our hands on the quad-core model, and as you'd expect from a tablet of this calibre we found the Galaxy Note Pro nippy. Apps open quickly, swiping through homescreens is especially smooth, and the device feels quite responsive.

The Galaxy Note Pro is one of the only devices announced at this year's CES that arrives running Google's Android 4.4 KitKat mobile operating system, which is a bonus for fans of Google's software, but you wouldn't know this by looking at the tablet.

Samsung has skinned the Android mobile operating system with its new Magazine UX, which looks like an amalgamation of Windows 8 and Flipboard. When we first picked up the device, the custom software felt very alien, and it took us about 10 minutes to study the user interface before we felt confident using it.

Once we had familarised ourselves with the user interface, we found it quite pleasant to use. As its branding suggests, swiping through screens and apps mimics flicking through a magazine and saves jumping in and out of applications, with Samsung clearly looking to make this device as productive as possible.

Samsung has also loaded the Galaxy Note Pro with features designed to convince professionals not to buy an iPad. The most obvious of these is multi-window mode, allowing four applications to be open on the screen at once, and a PC-like onscreen keyboard, which we found made it easier to type than Samsung's previous tablets.

There are several bundled business apps, too, including Cisco Webex, which is free for six months, as well as Dropbox, Remote PC and an onboard office productivity suite.

samsung-galaxy-note-pro-3First impressions
While we found the Samsung Galaxy Note Pro too large to hold comfortably and its Magazine UX confusing at first, the tablet soon managed to win us over.

In our opinion, there isn't a better alternative for business users on the market right now. While the iPad has famously won the affections of professional tablet customers, we found that Samsung's PC grade onscreen keyboard makes a huge difference when it comes to productivity, and the onboard apps and business focused features are added bonuses.

Of course, the tablet's success will really depend partly on its price when it hits the shelves – a pretty important detail that Samsung has so far managed to avoid revealing. Check back on the V3 website soon for our full review of the Samsung Galaxy Note Pro.

CES: Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 12.2 hands-on review

08 Jan 2014

LAS VEGAS: For the past few years Korean tech heavyweight Samsung has been trying to shed its reputation as a purely consumer-focused company, releasing a steady stream of enterprise-friendly applications and services.

This CES, the company has taken this to new heights by unveiling its new Galaxy Tab Pro range of tablets. The Tab Pro 12.2 is the biggest – both physically and strategically – of this new range of enterprise-focused Android tablets.

Design and build
Our initial reaction was shock when we picked up the Galaxy Tab Pro 12.2. Measuring in at 296x204x7.95mm, it's huge compared with other Android tablets. The tablet is also significantly heavier, with the WiFI-only model weighing a hefty 750g and the 3G/LTE model a slightly heavier 753g.Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 12.2in front

But after a couple of minutes we soon became used to the increased size and weight, and found that it wasn't too unwieldy to hold thanks to its ergonomic design. The Tab Pro looks like a blown-up Galaxy Note smartphone, with the same metallic sides and faux-leather back. The Note-like design meant that, unlike some other Samsung Galaxy devices, the Tab Pro felt sturdily built and didn't feel overly plastic.

Display
Samsung has loaded the Tab Pro with a gigantic 12.2in WQXGA, 2560x1600 Super Clear LCD display. This makes the Tab Pro one of the biggest Android tablets currently available.

Overall, during our hands-on we enjoyed the extra screen real estate. As well as making it easier to read text displayed on the screen, it also made it quicker and easier to edit documents and spreadsheets on the Tab Pro.

We were also fairly impressed with the Tab Pro's screen quality, with it proving pleasantly bright and vibrant.

Our one qualm with using the Tab Pro's screen is that, unlike its Note Pro sibling, it doesn't come bundled with an S Pen stylus. This meant that even with the extra screen space certain applications, such as S Note, were awkward to use.

Operating system and software
The Tab Pro 12.2 comes with the latest Android 4.4 Kit Kat pre-installed. But be warned that the operating system has been heavily customised and Samsung has overlayed it with its brand new Magazine UX interface.

Magazine UX alters KitKat so much that it's close to unrecognisable. After a while with the device, though, we soon found our bearings and began to take advantage of some the new user interface's productivity and business-focused features.Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 12.2in info

One of the best we noticed was the Tab Pro 12.2's multi-window support. The feature splits the Tab Pro's screen into up to four different windows so users can use more than one app at a time. We fired up the Tab Pro's web browser, while keeping email, Twitter and a Google Drive document open, and we can definitely see the appeal of the feature for business users who like to multitask on the move.

The Note Pro 12.2 demo unit we tried also had Samsung's Knox security service pre-installed. Knox is a security feature from Samsung, similar to BlackBerry Balance. The feature is designed to secure the device at a hardware level and protect users from threats such as Trojanised apps.

The feature also has sandboxing powers that let users create separate work and home areas on the phone. Businesses can have app management and data-wipe powers on the work side, while they can't touch non-work data stored on the user's personal side.

Processor and performance
The LTE version of the Tab Pro is powered by a Snapdragon 800 2.3GHz quad-core processor, while the WiFi-only version uses an Exynos 5 Octa chipset. Both versions of the Tab Pro feature 3GB of RAM.Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 12.2in back

We only got to try the LTE Qualcomm-powered Tab Pro. While we were slightly sad not to try the octa-core model we found the demo unit was still a very fast device. It opened applications almost instantly and in general dealt with any task we threw at it, hassle free.

We didn't have time to properly benchmark the Tab Pro, or see how it dealt with more difficult tasks such as 3D gaming, but we will be sure to do so in our full review.

Battery and storage
Samsung has loaded the Tab Pro 12.2 with a sizeable 9,500mAh battery. We didn't get a chance to battery burn the unit, but a spokesman told us the device should last "longer than most tablets" off one charge. Storage-wise the Tab Pro comes in 32GB and 64GB versions.

Chances
Overall, our first impressions of the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 12.2 were positive. Despite being significantly larger and heavier than most tablets and featuring a radically altered version of Android 4.4 KitKat, the new Galaxy Tab bristles with enterprise appeal. Featuring a host of productivity and security applications, powerful chipset and LTE connectivity options, the Tab Pro has the potential to be the best Android business tablet this year. But with Samsung remaining cagey on one key detail – the Tab Pro's price – we're going to have to reserve full judgement until this is announced.

Check back with V3 soon for a full review of the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 12.2 tablet.

By V3's Alastair Stevenson

CES: Sony Xperia Z1 Compact hands-on review

08 Jan 2014

LAS VEGAS: Sony launched its miniature Xperia Z1 Compact smartphone, which the firm says retains the high-end specifications of the full-sized Xperia Z1, at CES in Las Vegas on Monday.

Unlike Samsung and HTC, Sony decided "mini" shouldn't mean sup-par, and has configured the Xperia Z1 Compact with the same top-end specifications as its flagship smartphone to attract those looking for a powerful, pint-sized handset.

Design
The Xperia Z1 Compact is a smaller version of the Sony Xperia Z1, which in terms of design is no bad thing. We're fans of the boxy, glossy design of Sony's Xperia line, and the Xperia Z1 Compact is no exception. 

We do have a couple of gripes, though. The Sony Xperia Z1 Compact is slightly chunkier than its predecessor, measuring 9.5mm thick compared with 8.5mm, which means it doesn't sit quite as comfortably in the palm of the hand, although at just 140g, it feels light. 

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact design

The handset's also prone to picking up fingerprints, which means it can get grubby quite easily, although its glossiness means it's very easy to clean. 

We can let these gripes go, however, as the Xperia Z1 Compact's design also means that like the Xperia Z1 it's resistant against dust, water and scratches. It will also launch in a number of colours, including black, white, yellow and pink. 

Screen
The display on the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact isn't as impressive as its big brother's 5in 1920x1080 resolution display, but that's not to say that it's disappointing. Measuring 4.3in with 1280x720 resolution, it's clear that text isn't quite as sharp as on the Xperia Z1, but the screen still delivers vibrant colours and detailed images.  

Sony's Xperia Z1 has a 4.3in HD screen

Sony has equipped the Xperia Z1 Compact's screen with IPS technology, which means that viewing angles on the pint-sized smartphone are above average. 

Performance and software
The Sony Xperia Z1 Compact comes powered by a 2.2GHz Qualcomm quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor with 2GB of RAM. This is rare for a smartphone of this size, besides the iPhone 5S, to have such fast components. The chip is just as impressive in the real world as it is on paper, and we found the device very quick, considering its size. 

There's LTE support onboard, and the handset arrives with 16GB of internal storage that can be expanded to 64GB with a micro SD card. 

As for software, the Xperia Z1 Compact runs Google's Android 4.3 Jelly Bean mobile operating system, but Sony has said that it will release an update to Android 4.4 KitKat "almost instantly" after the handset's release.

It's unlikely to make too much difference however, as Sony has coated Google's mobile operating system with its own custom user interface. While we've never been huge fans of Sony's own skin, finding it overbearing compared with a vanilla Android user interface, the firm's application line-up is a bonus, with the Xperia Z1 Compact arriving loaded with the firm's Walkman and PlayStation companion apps, a boon for those who own a PS4. 

Cameras
Perhaps the most impressive feature of the Xperia Z1 Mini Compact is its rear-facing camera, with the downsized device packing the same 20.7MP sensor as its flagship sibling.

The Sony Xperia Z1 Compact features a 20.7MP rear-facing camera

We gave it a quick go on the CES show floor, and we're pleased to report that image quality is just as impressive as on the Xperia Z1, with pictures appearing crisp, clear and full of natural colour, even under the glaring Las Vegas lights.

The Sony Xperia Z1 Compact also features a 2MP front camera that can shoot HD 1080p video.

First impressions
For those after a pint-sized smartphone with top-end smartphone specifications and features, it's a tough call between the iPhone 5S and the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact. The handset's 4.3in screen is impressively vibrant, while its quad-core processor and top-end camera make this one of the most attractive small smartphones on the market.

Sony has not yet announced a price for the handset, but its success will no doubt be determined by how much it costs when it goes on sale later in 2014.

Check back with V3 soon for our full Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review.

CES: Huawei Ascend Mate 2 hands-on review

08 Jan 2014

LAS VEGAS: Huawei demoed its second-generation Android phablet on Monday, the Huawei Ascend Mate 2, at the CES show.

In the past it has been hard to get excited about Huawei smartphones: the firm has struggled to match devices from other brands such as Samsung or Sony. But the Chinese company is looking to change that with the Ascend Mate 2 smartphone, and was keen to boast on Monday that it beats the iPhone 5S and Samsung Galaxy Note 3 in performance and battery life. 

We managed to get some hands-on time with the mammoth device to see how it stacks up against the competition.

Design
With a 6.1in screen, it will be no surprise that the Ascend Mate 2 smartphone is massive. It measures 161x85x9.5mm, and while Huawei claimed that the device had been designed to sit comfortably in one hand, we found it quite awkward to hold. However, the phone is much easier to grasp than last year's model, with Huawei having trimmed some of the unnecessary bulk surrounding the smartphone's display.

Huawei Ascend Mate 2 design

Unfortunately, Huawei hasn't spruced up the handset's design much compared with the original Huawei Ascend Mate. Its casing is almost entirely glossy white plastic, aside from the faux-metal edging surrounding the handset, which feels and looks quite cheap.

Display
Not only has Huawei stalled with its design, but the screen resolution has remained the same as last year's model, which means that the Huawei Ascend Mate 2 has a disappointing 6.1in 720x1280 display.

Despite Huawei's claims that the screen is "just as good" as a full HD display, we noticed some blurring and fuzziness, although the display's IPS technology meant that viewing angles were good, even under the bright CES show lights.

We found the touchscreen easier to use than that of the Galaxy Note 3, despite Samsung's device measuring 0.4in smaller. That's thanks to Huawei's one-handed gesture mode, which shrinks the size of the on-screen keyboard to something more manageable and allows for easier one-handed navigation through homescreens.

Performance and software
We, along with most people, are fans of smartphones that run a vanilla version of Google's Android mobile operating system.

Huawei, however, has gone in the completely opposite direction with the Ascend Mate 2, skinning the Android 4.3 Jelly Bean mobile operating system with its custom Emotion user interface. According to Huawei, this makes the Android mobile operating system "easier to use", although during our time with this phone on Monday, as well as our experience with other Huawei handsets, we find it hard to agree.

Huawei Ascend Mate 2 with Android 4.3 Jelly Bean and Emotion UI

While we're fans of some of Huawei's software features such as its onboard Selfie Mode, the interface – much like Samsung's Touchwiz – proved overcomplicated due to its vastly customised homescreens and icons.

Huawei has kitted out the Ascend Mate 2 with a quad-core 1.6GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor. By no means is this the speediest processor on the market, but it offered a slick, smooth experience during our brief time with the phone.

Huawei says because of the the chip, and the handset's huge 4,050mAh battery, the handset has a two-day battery life, outperforming most other smartphones on the market. We have yet to test this, but will do so in our full review.

Cameras
The Huawei Ascend Mate 2 features a 13MP camera on its rear and a 5MP wide-angle lens on the front.

The Huawei Ascend Mate 2 has a 13MP rear-facing camera

Although we didn't have time to test these fully, we were immediately impressed by the 13MP camera, with images appearing natural and vibrant, even under the bright CES lights.

Chances
Huawei made some big claims about the equally large Ascend Mate 2 smartphone, but we're still not fully convinced. Due to Huawei's largely unfamiliar user interface, we think potential buyers, particularly those in the UK, will struggle to warm to this handset. We're also not keen on the smartphone's glossy white casing or low-resolution screen, although we didn't have any immediate complaints about performance or the cameras.

CES: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Touch hands-on review

07 Jan 2014

LAS VEGAS: Lenovo released the original ThinkPad X1 Carbon in 2012 and it was one of a select few unashamedly business-focused ultrabooks.

But despite being lightweight and ultra powerful, the first X1 Carbon's enterprise appeal was hampered by a few issues, chief of which were its lack of Ethernet port and slightly poor non-removable battery. Two years on Lenovo has attempted to address these flaws by releasing a brand new, Intel Haswell-powered version of the X1 Carbon.

Design and build
At first glance the 2014 X1 Carbon looks all but identical to its 2013 predecessor, featuring the same sleek black carbon fibre chassis. It's only when you get closer to the device that you realise it's slightly smaller than the 2013 X1 Carbon, measuring in at 331x226x18.5mm. By comparison the 2013 model was 331x226x21mm.Lenovo X1 Carbon 2014

The 2014 X1 Carbon also features a slightly more impressive array of ports, with two USB 3.0 as well as a single full-size HDMI; OneLink Docking; mDP; and Native Ethernet inputs. Opening up the X1 we also noticed the newly added Adaptive Keyboard.

The Adaptive Keyboard is a capacitive strip that lies on the top of the X1 Carbon's keyboard dock. It is designed to provide users with a choice of touch shortcut keys that dynamically update depending on which application is open.

The feature was fairly useful and responsive. While playing a video file on the X1 Carbon the bar offered basic stop, start, fast forward and rewind keys, but switched to offer home, forward back and refresh keys when we opened Internet Explorer.

Display
The 2014 X1 Carbon is available in touch and non-touch screen options. The demo unit we tried boasted a 14in, 10-point multitouch, 2560x1440 in-plane switching (IPS) display.

As well as being nicely responsive to the touch, the X1's screen was also fairly pleasant to look at. Using the X1 Carbon in the brightly lit showroom floor the ultrabook's display proved suitably bright and remained legible even when hit with stray light. We were also impressed with its viewing angles, with text remaining crisp and legible even when viewing the Carbon's screen from the side.

Colours were also suitably vibrant and, while not as crisp as the Retina displays seen on Apple MacBooks, the Carbon's screen was far better than those seen on most competing Windows 8 ultrabooks.

Operating system
The X1 Carbon comes with Windows 8.1 Pro preinstalled, so the Carbon is running the latest version of Windows. While some businesses are choosing to sit on the fence with Windows 8, upgrading their systems to the more familiar desktop-focused Windows 7, we're big fans of the latest version of Microsoft's operating system (OS).Lenovo X1 Carbon side

As well as featuring full legacy software support, Microsoft has also fixed a number of minor tweaks in Windows 8.1, reinstating a Start button on the Desktop menu's user interface and improving its search capability to let users search the internet as well local menus using the built-in Search setting.

Processor
Our demo unit ran using a fourth-generation Intel Core i7 Haswell processor and boasted 8GB RAM. The combination meant that for pure productivity purposes the X1 Carbon was more than powerful enough, and it opened web pages and applications seamlessly.

Sadly we didn't get a chance to properly benchmark or see how the X1 Carbon dealt with more demanding tasks such as 3D gaming or design during our hands-on. But considering its integrated Intel HD graphics we're guessing it will struggle to play most current PC games – meaning its bring your own device appeal could be limited for some users.

As a final enterprise perk, the X1 Carbon also features Intel vPro technology. VPro is a custom technology from Intel designed to protect devices from cyber attacks at a hardware level. Considering the growing number of criminals looking to target corporations, its inclusion is seriously worthwhile.

Battery and storage
Past its performance-boosting powers, the real benefit of Intel's new Haswell chip architecture is its ability to boost ultrabooks' battery lives. Intel claims that thanks to its more energy-efficient design, Haswell chips are able to offer third-generation Core processor-level performance, coupled with Atom-length battery lives. For this reason it's unsurprising that Lenovo lists the X1 Carbon as being able to last for nine hours of regular use off one charge.

Lenovo X1 Carbon closed

We didn't get a chance to battery burn the X1 Carbon to check this, but considering the fact that the X1 Carbon's battery is non-removable it will be a serious pain for business users on the move if it doesn't live up to Lenovo's claims. Storage-wise Lenovo has stocked the X1 Carbon with a generous 512GB of internal space, which should prove more than enough for most regular users.

Chances
The ThinkPad X1 Carbon is confirmed to arrive later in January, priced from $1,299. While we're disappointed at the lack of a removable battery, our opening impressions of the 2014 X1 Carbon are positive. Featuring a powerful and efficient Haswell processor, vPro technology and the latest version of Windows, the X1 Carbon could be one of the most enterprise-friendly laptops available in 2014.

Check back with V3 later this month for a full review of the 2014 Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon.

By V3's Alastair Stevenson

 

CES: Trewgrip Mobile QWERTY hands-on review

07 Jan 2014

LAS VEGAS: At CES, the home of bizarre technology unveilings, we came across the strangest piece of kit we've seen yet. The Trewgrip Mobile Qwerty, a failed Kickstarter campaign that looks ready to shake up typing on smartphones and tablets.

Trewgrip told V3 that it hopes to launch the device, which is still in the prototype stage, before the end of 2014. We managed to get some hands-on time with the latest Trewgrip Mobile Qwerty keyboard, but it's fair to say that we're not quite convinced.

Makers of Bluetooth keyboards for mobile devices seemingly have been striving to make their add-ons smaller and smaller, but that's not the case with the Trewgrip. The device is enormous, and we wouldn't feel comfortable using it on the Tube, for example.

Truegrip mobile QWERTY at CES 2014

It's heavy, too, although still comfortable to hold. It's also not bad to look at, with the device featuring colorful grip pads on the side, and quirky buttons on the front, which glow green when a key is tapped on the rear of the device.

On the bottom of the device is a full Qwerty keypad made up of soft, tactile buttons, which felt quite satisfying to press, when we managed to hit the right one.

We did have a fair bit of trouble when it came to hitting the right keys, as Trewgrip doesn't adopt a traditional Qwerty keyboard layout. Instead, the traditional Qwerty layout has been sliced in half and turned on its side, which means it will take a while to get used to, although there are corresponding letters and numbers on the front of the device.

Truegrip mobile QWERTY rear

According to the firm behind the device, it will take around "a week" to master it fully. But given that most business people won't have that much free time, this could be one of the gadget's major downfalls.

As for compatibility, the Trewgrip will work with iOS and Android devices, although it can only support 7in tablets, due to the size of the dock in the middle of the keys, which securely holds a device using a suction method.

So, has Trewgrip finally nailed an alternative to on-screen typing? We're not convinced, largely due to the Mobile Qwerty's awkward size and how tricky it is to master typing on it.

That said, the Mobile Qwerty keyboard is still in the early prototype stages, so we'll be sure to keep an eye on the company. µ

CES: Acer Liquid Z5 hands-on review

07 Jan 2014

LAS VEGAS: Days after its unveiling, we managed to test out the Acer Liquid Z5 smartphone at CES in Las Vegas. Due in Europe later this month, the Liquid Z5 will be priced at €169 (£140), and it has middling specifications to go with its mid-range price.

With the Google Nexus 5 and Motorola Moto G boasting higher specifications and selling for not much more, we see if the Liquid Z5 can stand up in the highly competitive budget smartphone market.

Design
Despite its budget price, the Acer Liquid Z5 is not a bad-looking smartphone. Due to launch in black and white, the phone comes wrapped in a plastic unibody casing. It feels a little cheap to touch, but it sits nicely in the hand and isn't particularly unattractive.

At 8.8mm thick it's compact too, although the large bezel surrounding the handset's touchscreen does add some unnecessary bulk.

Acer Liquid Z5 has a plastic unibody design

The Acer Liquid Z5's most interesting design feature is its rear-facing shortcut key, similar to that found on the LG G2. Placed where the forefinger naturally rests, a short tap on the rear-facing button will open your favourite app, while a long press will open the camera app, even when the device is locked. Speaking of cameras, there's a 5MP shooter on the rear and a VGA video calling camera on the front of the device.

Display
It's rare to find a 5in smartphone for less than £200, but the handset's low price is reflected in the quality of its phablet-sized screen. The 5in display has 480x854 resolution, which means some text appears fuzzy around images, and when placed next to an iPhone 5, the lack of display quality is clearly apparent.

Acer Liquid Z5 has a 5in display

But when used in a sunny Las Vegas hotel room, the screen proved resistant to glare and offered decent viewing angles.

Software and performance
Another issue with the Acer Liquid Z5 is its software. The phone arrives running the Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean mobile operating system, but since the latest version is Android 4.4 KitKat, the handset immediately seems out of date.

Acer has coated Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean with its own custom user interface, and has added a handful of custom apps to the Liquid Z5. Chief among these is Acer's multitasking tool Float Apps, which allows you to float apps on top of each other, so you can view the calendar while writing an email without closing it, for example.

Quick Mode is another of Acer's custom features. This turns the handset into an Android-powered imitation of a Windows Phone device, switching the traditional app screen for a boxy tiled alternative.

The Acer Liquid Z5 comes with a dual-core 1.3GHz processor. While it doesn't sound like much on paper – especially when compared with the Nexus 5's quad-core processor – we didn't experience any performance issues during our time with the handset, and apps loaded quickly and scrolled smoothly.

Acer Liquid Z5 with Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean

The processor is backed up with 512MB of RAM, and the Liquid Z5 comes with only 4GB of internal storage. However, unlike the Nexus 5 this can be expanded via micro SD card up to an additional 64GB.

As for connectivity, there's no 4G, but you will find HSPA+ support, 802.11b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth 3.0.

First impressions
Despite its low price, we don't have high hopes for the Acer Liquid Z5. The handset's backdated software along with its low-resolution screen and lack of standout features means that buyers are more likely to choose a Nexus 5 or Moto G instead.

CES: Lenovo ThinkPad 8 Windows 8.1 tablet hands-on review

06 Jan 2014

LAS VEGAS: Small form factor tablets have been increasingly popular in the technology industry. But traditionally these devices have opted to use the mobile-focused Google Android or Apple iOS operating systems, rather than Microsoft's touch-focused Windows 8.

For consumers this isn't too much of an issue as the entertainment offerings on iOS and Android are great. However, for businesses it can be a bit of a pain as neither Android or iOS were ever designed with IT managers' needs in mind.

The Lenovo ThinkPad 8 is a clear move by the Chinese PC maker to amend this problem, offering businesses full Windows 8 Pro and Microsoft Office software in a travel-friendly 8in form factor device.

Design and build
Visually the ThinkPad 8 has the barebones black design synonymous with its namesake, but it is slightly curvier than previous Lenovo tablets, boasting rounded corners and sides. The curves mean that while retaining the unashamedly corporate look of its predecessors, the ThinkPad 8 is very comfortable in hand. This is helped by its small 132x224x8.8mm dimensions.Lenovo ThinkPad 8 front

But we did find the ThinkPad 8 far heavier than other 8in tablets, such as the 331g Apple iPad Mini. We tested the 4G model, which weighed a hefty 439g. The WiFi-only version weighs a slightly lighter 430g.

Ports-wise the ThinkPad 8 is reasonably stocked, with single micro USB 3.0, micro HDMI and micro SD inputs. These mean it should be easy for users to connect the tablet to a monitor and keyboard and turn it into a fully functioning PC.

We were also fairly impressed with the ThinkPad 8's build quality. Despite being built with plastic the ThinkPad 8 felt fairly sturdy in hand. Unlike the larger ThinkPad Tablet 2, the ThinkPad 8's back offered no flex when pressed and in general left us confident it could survive the odd accidental drop or bump.

Display
Lenovo has loaded the ThinkPad 8 with an 8.3in 1920x1200 full HD screen, with 10 finger multitouch, and we were seriously impressed with how well it performed.Lenovo ThinkPad 8 back

On the ultra-bright CES showroom floor, the tablet remained usable, even when hit with direct light. We also found it was wonderfully crisp and featured brilliant brightness and vibrant colour levels. In short, while we wouldn't say the ThinkPad 8's display could match the iPad Mini 2's Retina display, it is still pretty impressive.

Operating system and software
The ThinkPad 8 comes with Windows 8.1 Pro pre-installed. This is a massive plus point for businesses because, unlike Microsoft's Windows RT, Windows 8 Pro is legacy software compatible. This means as well as having the touch-focused tiled Windows 8 interface, businesses can also install and run desktop applications created for older Windows versions; Windows RT tablets by comparison can only run apps from the official Windows Marketplace.Lenovo ThinkPad 8 system info

Lenovo's also bundled the ThinkPad 8 with Microsoft Office, meaning users won't have to shell out extra cash to work on spreadsheets or Word documents using the tablet.

Processor
The ThinkPad 8 will feature an Intel Z3770 quad-core 2.4GHz Bay Trail processor with Intel HD Graphics and boast 2GB of RAM. The ThinkPad 8 was very nippy and responsive, being able to open applications and webpages in seconds, and we didn't notice any performance issues.

We didn't get a chance to benchmark the ThinkPad 8 or see how it performed with more demanding tasks, such as 3D gaming, but we'll make sure to do this in our full review.

Battery and camera
Lenovo lists the ThinkPad 8's battery as being able to last for eight hours of regular use from one charge. We didn't get a chance to test this during our hands on, but considering our experience with other Intel Bay Trail-powered devices, eight hours is believable.Lenovo ThinkPad 8 side

The ThinkPad 8 features 2MP front and 8MP rear cameras. Testing the rear camera we found that, while better than most tablets, images taken on the ThinkPad 8 still aren't on a par with those taken on most top-end smartphones. In general we found the images we took on the showroom floor came out looking slightly overexposed and weren't quite as crisp as we'd have liked, though we were shooting in less than ideal conditions.

Chances
The ThinkPad 8 is confirmed for release in late January with pricing starting at $399. Overall our hands-on time with the tablet was positive. Coming with a powerful Intel chipset, great screen and featuring all the inherent business perks of Windows 8 Pro, the ThinkPad 8 could be the best choice for businesses on the market for a small form tablet come its release.

Make sure to check back with V3 later for a full review of the Lenovo ThinkPad 8.

By V3's Alastair Stevenson

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