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CES 2015: Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon 3rd-generation hands-on

09 Jan 2015

LAS VEGAS: Lenovo unveiled its third-generation ThinkPad X1 Carbon Ultrabook this week, featuring Intel's 5th-generation Core processor to bring the best possible performance for the form factor.

We got a chance to play with the device while running between the booths at CES 2015.

CES - Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon hands-on review - overall

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon looks all but identical to its 2014 predecessor, with the same black finish and red detailing. 

The updated features are subtle, but very welcome. The laptop features an even thinner and lighter chassis, weighing just under 1.3kg and measuring 17.7mm thick, almost a full millimetre thinner than last year's model which measured 18.5mm.

The laptop felt especially light and thin in our hands and we can see it being ideal for travel or business trips. 

Another new feature is PCIe SSD storage in a similar vein to the MacBook Air, which can take advantage of faster onboard SSD drive storage. The laptop will ship with up to 512GB drives.

CES - Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon hands-on review - lid

The Thinkpad X1 Carbon (2015) is available in touchscreen and non-touchscreen versions. The demo unit we tried boasted a 14in, 10-point multi-touch display, with WQHD in-plane switching.

As well as being nicely responsive to touch, the new Thinkpad X1 Carbon's screen is pleasant to look at. Using the Thinkpad 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, as text remained crisp even when viewing the screen from the side.

CES - Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon hands-on review - thickness

Colours were suitably vibrant and, while not as crisp as the Retina displays seen on Apple Macbooks, the Thinkpad X1 Carbon's screen was far better than those seen on most competing Windows 8 ultrabooks.

The laptop will be available with FHD display options.

Performance and software
Lenovo didn't go for an Intel Core M design and instead opted for the chipmaker's latest 5th-gen Core processor. The model we tested was running a Core i7 chip, and felt super fast in our initial tests.

It seemed to handle Windows 8.1 very well. There was no lag when swiping between pages, and programs popped up almost as soon as we selected them. It handled everything we threw it at with ease.

CES - Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon hands-on review - keyboard

Beyond its performance-boosting powers, the real benefit of Intel's new Broadwell chip architecture is its ability to boost ultrabooks' battery lives.

Lenovo lists the Thinkpad X1 Carbon as being able to last for 10 hours of regular use from one charge, one hour more than last year's Broadwell model.

Intel's Core update packs in 35 percent more transistors than in Intel's previous 4th-generation Haswell CPU, while also shrinking die size by 37 percent, allowing for super powerful machines with form factors like the XPS 13, so expect many more like it to pop up from other OEMs later this year.

In terms of other features, there's wireless connectivity in the form of 802.11ac Wi-Fi and a selection of USB 3.0 ports and an HDMI output.

The ThinkPad X1 Carbon starts at $1,249 and will be available in the US from January. UK release dates are yet to be announced.

CES 2015: Dell XPS 13 hands-on

09 Jan 2015

LAS VEGAS: Dell unveiled its brand new XPS laptop line-up at CES this week, the XPS 13, which crams a 13.3in screen into an 11in chassis.

Showing off the laptop for the first time on Tuesday, Dell claimed that the XPS 13 is the "smallest 13in notebook in the world, fitting a 13.3in screen into the size of a typical 11in notebook".

We got some hands-on time after the event to see just how good the XPS 13 is in reality.

CES Dell XPS 13 hands-on

There's no question that the Dell XPS 13's design and high quality aluminium finish juxtaposed against a matt charcoal casing looks the part and reflects its premium price.

However, it measures 15mm at its thickest point so it's definitely not the slimmest 13in laptop on the market. But it's impressively compact considering its high-end specifications.

CES - Dell XPS 13 hands-on review - lid

The XPS 13 is also lightweight for its power at just 1.18kg. The smaller frame with bigger screen makes it feel slightly heavier than you'd expect for an 11in laptop but, considering this is actually a 13.3in device, we were very pleased with its size and weight.

CES - Dell XPS 13 hands-on review - open

Dell has made good use of high quality materials and the XPS 13 impressed us with its tiny bezel, design and build.

It feels well made and has a high quality finish, and as a result feels like it would be a pleasure to use. And the super-thin bezel has left us screaming: "Why on Earth didn't they do this before?!"

The touchscreen display is one of its finest features. It's an UltraSharp Quad HD+ infinity display with 5.7 million pixels in just a 5.2mm bezel. It's vibrant and clear, and colour reproduction is great. Colours appear very rich, just like on its older brother the XPS 15.

Brightness levels are brilliant, and we can imagine working on the XPS 13 outside, although not in direct sunlight as with most mobile devices.

The XPS 13's keyboard has good travel, allowing you to type rapidly with ease.

CES - Dell XPS 13 hands-on review - closed

Unlike some other laptops we've tested recently, the XPS 13's keyboard didn't fail to register keystrokes. But the well-spaced layout of the keyboard means that the XPS 13 doesn't have a numerical keypad.

Performance and software
Running Windows 8.1, the XPS 13 is powered by Intel's 5th-gen Broadwell Core processors and takes advantage of solid state drive options for storage.

In our tests, it handled Windows 8.1 very well. There was no lag when swiping between pages, and programs popped up almost as soon as we selected them. It handled everything we threw it at with ease, probably owing to the new Broadwell processor.

Intel's Core update packs in 35 percent more transistors than in Intel's previous 4th-generation Haswell CPU, while also shrinking die size by 37 percent, allowing for super powerful machines with form factors like the XPS 13, so expect many more like it to pop up from other PC makers later this year.

In terms of battery life, Dell has said the XPS 13 will last for a huge 15 hours on a single charge. We're definitely looking forward to trying this out in a full review.

The Dell XPS 13 will be available from 20 January starting at £1,099 in the UK. The Developer Edition will be available from late January starting at £1,199, so it certainly doesn't come cheap.

CES: Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4in hands-on review

10 Jan 2014

LAS VEGAS: Unlike previous shows, at this year's CES Korean tech giant Samsung's chose to unveil a number of unashamedly business focused devices. Chief of these are its new Galaxy Tab Pro range of Android tablets.

The Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4in model is the smallest of the new tablets in Samsung's enterprise-friendly arsenal. However, despite featuring a smaller screen and chassis, the tablet still boasts a number of top-end internal components and productivity features.

Design and build
Despite being smaller than its 12.2in sibling, the Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4in features the same visual design. Up close the Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4in looks like a blown-up version of Samsung's Galaxy Note 3 smartphone. It features the same metallic lining along its sides and faux leather finish back.Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4in front

This is no bad thing, as like other Samsung devices the design ensures the 219x129x7.2mm Galaxy Tab Pro is fairly comfortable in hand. This fact is helped by its light weight with the WiFi-only version we tested weighing 331g and the LTE version a slightly chunkier 336g.

The Tab Pro 8.4in also felt reasonably built with its fake leather finish back and metal sides leaving us feeling fairly reassured it could survive the odd accidental bump.

Samsung's loaded the Tab Pro with an 8.4in 2560x1600, 359ppi, super clear LCD capacitive touchscreen. Using the Tab Pro on the CES 2014 showroom floor we were impressed how good it was. Text displayed on the tablet remained legible and usable even in the brightly lit conditions. It also proved to have decent viewing angles and great brightness and colour balance levels.

Operating system and software
Like the Tab Pro 12.2in, the Tab Pro 8.4in runs using Google's latest Android 4.4 KitKat operating system overlaid with Samsung's new Magazine UX skin. The skin is very different to Samsung's consumer-focused Touchwiz and alters Android's user interface to the point it is all but unrecognisable.

This meant that when we first picked up the tablet it took us a good few minutes to get our bearings. However, after that we soon began to notice a number of cool productivity and security features. The best of these was the inclusion of Samsung's Knox security service. Knox is a security service designed to protect the device at a hardware level. Samsung claims the service is capable of warding off all manner of attacks, including Trojanised apps.Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4in info

The Tab Pro 8.4in also features the same Multi Window support seen on the Tab Pro 12.2in. The Multi Window supports lets users split the Tab Pro's screen into up to four different windows. This means users can run, view and use up to four applications at any one time. While we found the feature was very useful on the Tab Pro 12.2in, we found the Tab Pro 8.4in's smaller size reduced its allure. With four windows open we found text became so small and was slightly awkward to read.

Unlike the Tab Pro 12.2in, the Tab Pro 8.4in doesn't offer an octa-core option. Instead both the 4G and WiFi-only models are powered by a quad-core 2.3 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor and feature 2GB of RAM.

We didn't get the chance to benchmark the Tab Pro 8.4in or see how it performed running demanding applications, like 3D games. However, testing it using the applications pre-installed on it we found it was very fast. Apps like Google Drive, Facebook, YouTube and Chrome opened close to instantaneously. During our hands on we didn't notice any performance issues, even when running multiple applications at once.

Battery and storage
The Tab Pro 8.4in comes with a Li-Ion 4800 mAh battery. Sadly we didn't get a chance to battery burn the Tab Pro 8.4in to see how long its battery lasts, but a spokesman told us it would be "above average" - we'll make sure to check this claim come our full review.

Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4in back

Samsung's confirmed the Tab Pro 8.4in will be available in 16GB and 32GB options. Both models will feature a microSD card slot that will let users upgrade its storage to a maximum of 64GB.

Overall our opening impressions of Samsung's Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4in are positive. While its smaller screen means it's not as pleasant to use certain services, like Multi Window support compared to a larger screen device, there is still plenty to like about the tablet.

Featuring a powerful quad-core processor, productivity focused version of Android, bright and crisp screen, and Samsung Knox security services, the Tab Pro 8.4in has the potential to be one of 2014's best business tablets. However, its ability to deliver on its promise depends very heavily on its price - a key bit of information Samsung's remaining cagey about.

Check back with V3 later this year for a full review of the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4in.

By V3's Alastair Stevenson








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.

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.

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: 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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: 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.

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.

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.

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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