24 Jun 2014
Google finally launched its Glass Explorer programme in the UK on Monday, making its fabled wearable technology available to enthusiasts and developers in the region – albeit for a hefty £1,000.
Designed to help Google fix problems and develop the Glass technology before its wider global release, the Explorer Programme has been running in the US since 2012 and, according to Google, has massively improved the platform.
In fact, Google says the Explorer Programme has been such a success that the version of Glass V3 tried a year ago is archaic compared with the current version being sold in the UK. So when we were offered the chance of a fresh eyes-on look at Glass, we couldn't resist the chance to check on Google's progress.
Design and build
The basic Google Glass design hasn't been changed since we last tested it and the majority of the upgrades are software based.
This means in its basic form Glass has the same slightly futuristic-looking metallic frame with a power pack at its rear and a mini high-resolution display on its front.
While predominantly designed for use with voice commands, Glass also has the same trackpad feature on its right arm, which lets you turn it on with a tap, or navigate through the device's menus with up-and-down strokes. It also has a camera button that lets you silently take a photo or shoot a video using its 5MP 720p camera.
In the past, while we've found the bare-bones Glass version comfortable to wear, we couldn't escape the feeling that the device made us look very strange. Even if we wore them in Soho, one of London's quirkier areas, we'd still feel self-conscious.
But Google has inked deals with a number of frame manufacturers to make Glass more friendly for public use, and to make the frames look more like regular glasses.
At the Glass UK launch event we got to see a number of different frames and were impressed by how good a job they did to make Glass look more subtle. The frames ranged from regular office specs to 1980s Terminator-style sunglasses.
While the glass technology is still very prominent, the frames go a long way to make them less noticeable, which, as well as making us feel less conspicuous, will also make them less obvious to potential thieves. Considering their hefty price tag this is a very good thing.
Operating system and software
As before, Google Glass runs using a heavily customised version of Google's Android operating system and is designed to offer users a similar experience.
Powering it up by leaning our head back, we were able to perform a variety of tasks. These included searching for a picture online, taking a photo, getting directions using Google Maps and opening various webpages simply by saying "OK Glass" followed by a command.
To get directions, for example, we said, "OK Glass, King's Cross Station", and then tapped directions on the trackpad to launch the Maps app. Once open the app presented us with a dynamic map showing our current location. Impressively we found the icon showing our location actually reacted to where we were looking, making it easy to know which direction we should walk in to get to our desired Tube stop.
Glass is also confirmed to integrate Twitter, Facebook and Google Now to offer users dynamic push updates. Though, as we found with our first hands on, we didn't get a chance to see how Google Now works on Glass, as it wasn't connected to our Google account.
While the innate services on Glass are impressive, we were more interested in testing out the wealth of third-party applications on offer. Google has been trying to increase developer interest in Glass since it first came up with the idea. One year since we first tested the technology, we have to say we were impressed with some of the applications on show at the Glass UK launch.
While we didn't get a chance to try some of the more enterprise, healthcare and education-focused apps Google has been ranting about, we did see a wealth of interesting products, chief of which were Word Lens, Star Chart and Goal.com.
Word Lens is an innovative application designed to make Glass translate any text you're looking at. The app is currently available in a number of European languages including English, French, German, Spanish and Italian. We were impressed with how well it worked.
The app could be launched at any time simply by saying "OK Glass: translate". Once activated we simply had to look at the piece of text and tap the language we wanted it translated to using the trackpad. We found not only was Word Lens accurate, it was also very quick and was able to translate posters and information boards in seconds.
Star Chart is a free application designed to offer users information about the stars. It does this using an augmented-reality display that offers dynamic feedback and information on any constellation the user is looking at, or in the direction of. The information is displayed as text or as an audio file that's played using bone-conduction technology. This is similar to the technology used in some hearing aids and is designed to let Glass play audio without using traditional speakers or headphones, by transmitting sound through the bones of the skull to the inner ear.
The Goal.com application lets users set up custom information feeds about football. The feeds can be set to push updates about specific games, teams or leagues to the user via Glass. While the feature isn't of direct business benefit, unless you happen to be in the football industry, the app is a good example of how Glass could theoretically be used to keep up-to-date with news 24/7. For example, how useful would it be for any IT professional or business user to have a permanent feed pushing news updates and industry analysis from V3 on Glass?
Google says the display offers users an equivalent viewing experience to watching a 25in high-definition screen from eight feet away. Initially we found the screen was slightly blurry and difficult to use at the busy launch event, but we soon sorted this by altering the angle we were viewing it from using the hinge connecting it to the metal frame. The screen seemed no better to us than non-HD TV quality, falling short of current high-end smartphone displays.
Poor battery has been one of the key gripes coming from the Google Glass US test group, with many complaining that it dies in hours. We didn't get a chance to test the battery life, but the spokeswoman on hand told us she generally gets about four and a half hours of use before having to reconnect it to a micro USB charger.
One year on from our first encounter with Google Glass, we have to say we're impressed. While the updates aren't groundbreaking it's clear Google is getting some momentum in increasing developers' interest in the technology. Hopefully with Glass now available in the UK this will continue and we'll see yet more innovations and app-development projects in the very near future.
By V3's Alastair Stevenson
11 Apr 2014
The Samsung Galaxy S5 arrived on UK shelves on Friday 11 April, and the Korean firm will be hoping to steal users away from rival smartphones such as the Google Nexus 5.
While the Google Nexus 5 debuted last October, the device still sports top-end specifications, and has so far managed to win over users' affections due to its vanilla Android 4.4 Kitkat mobile operating system and affordable price, with the handset retailing from £299, making it more than £200 cheaper than the Galaxy S5.
Here we compare the specs of the Samsung Galaxy S5 against the Nexus 5 to see which one is worth your money.
18 Mar 2014
For the past few years Google's been working to undermine Apple, releasing a steady stream of top end, but far more affordable Nexus devices. Aware of this Apple released its pseudo affordable iPhone 5C late last year. However, with prices going up to £549 for the 32GB model that went on sale late in 2013, the iPhone 5C was still far from cheap at its initial unveiling in September.
Fast forward to March 2014, and Apple has moved to drive down the handset's starting price, unveiling a new 8GB, £429 version of the iPhone 5C.
However, with pricing a mere £40 less than the 16GB version some may wonder if the new lower-cost iPhone 5C will be enough to entice bargain hunting smartphone buyers away from the £299, 16GB Nexus 5.
iPhone 5C: 4in 640x1136 361ppi Retina display
Nexus 5: 5in 1920x1080 445ppi display
The Nexus 5 is bigger, with full HD on an IPS screen, greater pixel per inch (ppi) density and Corning Gorilla Glass. Some people prefer Apple's Retina display, others Super Amoled, but statistically speaking, it's a walkover.
iPhone 5C: Dual-core 1.3GHz Apple A6 processor
Nexus 5: Quad-core 2.26GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor
Four cores instead of two, twice the clock speed, enough said. The Nexus 5 also has an Adreno 330 GPU clocked at 450MHz. However, we would expect this from what is supposed to be Google's flagship, whereas the iPhone 5C is Apple's 'budget' model.
Memory and Storage
iPhone 5C: 1GB RAM, 8GB, 16GB and 32GB internal storage models
Nexus 5: 2GB RAM, 16GB and 32GB internal storage models
The Nexus 5 doesn't come with an 8GB storage option, but still manages to beat the iPhone 5C on price. Prices of the 16GB Nexus 5 start at £299, so it is still significantly cheaper than the entry-level £429 iPhone 5C.
The 16GB and 32GB iPhone 5C models cost £469 and £549 respectively, compared to £299 and £339 for the Nexus 5.
iPhone 5C: 8MP rear-facing camera with autofocus and LED flash, 1.9MP Facetime HD camera
Nexus 5: 8MP rear facing camera with optical image stabilisation, 1.3MP front-facing camera
It's evens for the two here. Slightly higher specifications on the front-facing camera for the iPhone 5C, but that's rarely a showstopper for the average shopper.
iPhone 5C: UMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz); GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz); LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 13, 17, 19, 20, 25)
Nexus 5: GSM: 850/900/1800/1900 MHz, CDMA: Band Class: 0/1/10, WCDMA: Bands: 1/2/4/5/6/8/19, LTE: Bands: 1/2/4/5/17/19/25/26/41
Pretty much the whole gamut of mobile connectivity.
iPhone 5C: iOS 7 mobile operating system
Nexus 5: Android 4.4 Kitkat mobile operating system
Both are new here, and while other devices will be receiving the Android 4.4 Kitkat update, just as previous iPhones have had iOS 7, it will be all about how they perform on these devices. The Nexus 5 will also be the first device to run Kitkat, making it an attractive proposition for Android fans, while iOS 7 has attracted as much criticism as praise.
iPhone 5C: 124x59x8.97mm, 132g
Nexus 5: 138x69x8.6mm, 130g
Despite that extra inch of screen, the Nexus 5 is lighter than the iPhone 5C.
iPhone 5C: 10 hours of talk time on 3G, 250 hours on standby.
Nexus 5: 17 hours of talk time quoted by Carphone Warehouse, 300 hours on standby
Of course, battery life is a very subjective thing, depending on what you use the device for and how much you keep switched on, but Google makes some bold claims.
On paper, the Nexus walks away the winner. But the price drop for the iPhone 5C could tempt Apple virgins over to the ecosystem and away from Android.
14 Jan 2014
Since being bought by Google, Motorola has been going through a gradual period of refocus. In November last year this reached fruition with the release of the Motorola Moto G, a phone that offered specifications traditionally seen on £300-plus devices at a bare-bones £135 starting price.
Looking to repeat its success with the Moto G, Motorola has raised the bar and chosen to release its flagship Moto X handset in the UK. However, at £380 SIM-free and coming out six months later than its initial US release, some naysayers have been justifiably sceptical of the Moto X's chances.
Design and build
The black-finish Moto X we tried featured an understated, fairly minimalist design, similar to the one seen on the more affordable Moto G. Featuring a single-piece chassis, with soft rounded corners and a slightly curved back, the main difference we noticed between the two phones is that the X has a slightly more premium-feeling, textured back.
While some will bemoan the fact the X's design isn't radically different from the G's, we're fairly happy Motorola that didn't decide to rework the wheel. Testing the 129x65x10.4mm Moto X, we found the pebble-like design made the phone very comfortable to hold, and this was helped by the fact that the Moto X weighs a reasonable 130g.
We also found the Moto X feels reasonably well crafted. Featuring a nano-coating, the Moto X is technically "splash and water resistant". We didn't get a chance to test this during our hands on, but the coating made the Moto X feel fairly scratch and bump proof, and left us feeling reassured it could survive the odd accidental drop.
The Moto X comes with a 4.7in 720p (720x1280) 316ppi Amoled capacitive touchscreen. While we're slightly disappointed the Moto X isn't 1020p and features a lower ppi density than competing phones – such as the Nexus 5, which boasts a 5in 1080x1920 in-plane switching (IPS) plus capacitive touchscreen – during our opening tests the Moto X's display did perform well.
Using the screen in the brightly lit showroom floor, the display proved reasonably good. With the brightness cranked to full we were able to continue using the Moto X, even under direct overhead light. We also found, thanks to its Amoled tech, colours were wonderfully vibrant and rich. And despite not breaking the 400ppi count, text and icons were suitably crisp. During our hands-on, we had no trouble reading text displayed on the screen.
We also got a chance to see the Moto X's custom Active Display technology during the briefing, which is designed to push updates including incoming or missed calls to the user when the phone is locked. The tech does this by making the Moto X's display pulse on with the information displayed. The feature was far more pleasant than the traditional LED light alerts seen on most phones – though we are slightly concerned it could be a drain on the Moto X's battery.
Operating system and software
The UK version of the Moto X is due to ship with the latest 4.4.2 KitKat version of Android pre-installed. As an added bonus, from what we saw during our hands-on, the version looked close to untouched.
This is a big deal: by choosing not to reskin Android, Motorola has not only made the Moto X's user interface significantly less cluttered and pleasant to use than some competing phones – such as the Samsung Galaxy S4, which features a less than ideal Touchwiz skin – but it has also ensured the Moto X will be ready for future software upgrades.
This is because, by not drastically changing Android, Motorola won't have to develop or adapt the Moto X's software to work with new Android versions. This means theoretically the phone could get software updates faster than phones running more heavily customised versions.
The only obvious additions we noticed to the Moto X's software were Motorola's custom Migrate, Assist and Connect applications, and a non-touch speech recognition service. Migrate is a basic QR code feature that aims to make it easier to set up the Moto X, and lets you move files, basic settings and call history from your previous Android phone.
Assist is a productivity app designed to let you set up automatic actions for certain situations. Connect is a custom app designed to let users take incoming calls and messages directed to the Moto X using their computer.
The speech recognition technology builds on Android's inbuilt voice command powers, and is designed to let users interact with their phone without having to physically touch it. It tailors the phone to recognise its owner's voice and lets them ask the phone for directions and to open applications, for example.
We didn't get a chance to test any of the custom applications during our hands-on time but will make sure to do so in our full review.
In a day where quad-core processors are the vogue item in the Android smartphone world, Motorola has oddly chosen to load the Moto X with a dual-core 1.7GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro chipset. While not on a par with the quad-core Snapdragon 800-powered Nexus 5 or Snapdragon 600-powered Galaxy S4, the Moto X is backed up by 2GB of RAM and a powerful quad-core Adreno 320 GPU, and so is still set to perform fairly fast.
But, using the Moto X for regular tasks, including surfing the internet, watching a YouTube video and navigating between menus, we found the phone was fairly nippy. We'll make sure to put the Moto X through its paces with more demanding applications, such as 3D games, in our full review.
The Moto X comes with a 10MP rear and 2MP front camera. The 10MP rear camera comes with custom Quick Capture technology. The tech lets users activate the camera simply by twisting their wrist twice and users can take photos in split seconds just by tapping the screen with the camera application open.
Testing the camera on the showroom floor we found images taken on the Moto X were of reasonably good quality. Colour balance and contrast levels were decent and photos in general came out looking reasonably crisp.
Taken on the Motorola Moto X
We also found the camera's shutter speed was fairly good, with it being able to take rapid successions of shots as we ferociously tapped away on the device's screen. The only issue we noticed was that the autofocus could at times miss the subject matter we wanted and wasn't great at dealing with moving objects. In these situations images could come out slightly blurry.
Battery and storage
The Moto X is powered by a 2,200mAh battery, which Motorola lists as being able to last for up to 24 hours of "mixed usage". We'll test this thoroughly in our full review.
Storage-wise the Moto X features a fairly minimal 16GB built in. Luckily, though, Motorola has bundled the Moto X with 50GB of free Google Drive storage for the first two years after purchase.
Had we got our hands on the Moto X six months ago when the phone was first released in the US, our opening impressions would have been far more positive. Featuring an all-but untouched version of the latest Android 4.4.2 KitKat operating system, and what at first look appears to be an above-average camera and display, there is plenty to like about the Moto X. But priced at £380, costing £80 more than Google's Nexus 5 flagship, which features comparable and at times superior on-paper specs, it's clear the Moto X is going to have a tough time battling for sales when it is released in February.
Check back with V3 soon for a full review of the Motorola Moto X.
By V3's Alastair Stevenson.
01 Nov 2013
Google took the wraps off its latest flagship Nexus 5 smartphone this week, hoping that its high-end specifications and mid-range price will make it competitive against the Samsung Galaxy S4.
The firm is looking to attract geek fans of the Android platform too, as the Nexus 5 is the first device to run the Android 4.4 Kitkat version, and will also be among the first to receive future iterations of Android. Unlike the Samsung Galaxy S4, it also features a non-customised user interface, which can complicate future upgrades.
Measurements and weight
Google Nexus 5: 138x69x8.6mm, 130g
Samsung Galaxy S4: 137x70x7.9mm, 130g
The Google Nexus 5 and Samsung Galaxy S4 are nearly identical in size, with both phones weighing 130g and boasting almost the same dimensions. The Nexus 5 is slightly chunkier, however, measuring 8.6mm thick, compared to the Galaxy S4's svelte 7.9mm profile.
Google Nexus 5: 5in full HD 1920x1080 IPS 445ppi display
Samsung Galaxy S4: 5in full HD 1920x1080 Super Amoled 441ppi display
Not only are the Google Nexus 5 and Samsung Galaxy S4 nearly identical in size and shape, the two rival smartphones also have very similar displays.
Both sport full HD resolution. While we're yet to size up the the screen on Google's latest flagship phone, it very slightly pips the Galaxy S4 in pixel density, but might fall short in vibrancy due to its lack of Amoled screen technology.
Google Nexus 5: Quad-core 2.26GHz Snapdragon 800 processor
Samsung Galaxy S4: Quad-core 1.9GHz Snapdragon 600 processor
The Google Nexus 5 beats the Samsung Galaxy S4 in processing power, on paper at least. While both handsets have Qualcomm Snapdragon processors, the Nexus 5 chip is clocked at 2.26GHz compared to 1.9GHz on the Galaxy S4, and is likely to offer an even smoother experience.
Google Nexus 5: 17 hours' talk time on 3G quoted by Carphone Warehouse, 2,300mAh battery
Samsung Galaxy S4: 17 hours' talk time on 3G, 2,600mAh
Despite having a smaller 2,600mAh battery, the Google Nexus 5 matches the Samsung Galaxy S4 in battery life, with both phones promising up to 17 of hours talk time on 3G. We are, of course, yet to put Google's claims to the test.
Google Nexus 5: Android 4.4 Kitkat mobile operating system
Samsung Galaxy S4: Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean mobile operating system
For fans of the Android mobile operating system, the Google Nexus 5 trumps the Galaxy S4, with the handset running Google's newly unveiled Android 4.4 Kitkat release. The Samsung Galaxy S4, on the other hand, ships with Google's Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean release, and can be upgraded to the Android 4.3 and possibly also Android 4.4 release.
Google's Nexus 5 also features a completely vanilla user interface, as opposed to Samsung's custom Touchwiz user interface.
Google Nexus 5: 8MP rear camera, 1.3MP front camera
Samsung Galaxy S4: 13MP rear camera, 2MP front camera
The cameras on the Google Nexus 5 don't match up to those on the Samsung Galaxy S4, with the Nexus handset having an 8MP rear-facing camera and a 1.3MP camera on the front. Unlike the Galaxy S4, however, the Nexus 5 camera comes with optical image stabilsation, which is likely to make for sharper images.
Google Nexus 5: 16GB or 32GB of internal storage, 2GB of RAM
Samsung Galaxy S4: 16GB, 32GB or 64GB of internal storage, microSD card slot for expansion up to 64GB, 2GB of RAM
The Nexus 5 will be made available only in 16GB and 32GB models, compared to the Galaxy S4 that is available in 16GB, 32GB and 64GB storage models. The Samsung Galaxy S4 also comes with a microSD card slot allowing users to expand the phone's memory, whereas the Nexus 5 does not. However, given the difference in the smartphones' prices, this was likely a cost cutting measure.
Although the Google Nexus 5 doesn't quite match the Galaxy S4 for its cameras and storage, it matches the flagship Samsung handset in nearly every other category, be it size, display or battery life. It also has a faster processor, and gets one up on the rival handset as it's the first smartphone to ship with the Android 4.4 Kitkat mobile operating system.
Since Google's Nexus 5 smartphone is over £200 less expensive than the Galaxy S4, it looks like Samsung should start worrying.
31 Oct 2013
For years now Google's aimed to beat Apple by releasing affordable smartphones with top-end internal specifications. The Nexus 5 is the latest step in this strategy, with the premier Android handset featuring a number of top-end specifications unheard of in its modest sub-£300 price tag.
However, with the Apple iPhone 5S already having captured the hearts and minds of many buyers, many will question if value alone is enough for the Nexus 5 to beat Apple in the top-end market.
Measurements and weight
Apple iPhone 5S: 124x59x7.6mm, 112g
Google Nexus 5: 138x69x8.6mm, 130g
The Apple iPhone 5S has a close to identical design to the iPhone 5. This means it is significantly lighter and smaller than the Nexus 5. However, weighing 130g and being just 1mm thicker than the 5S, the Nexus 5 is hardly a back breaker.
Apple iPhone 5S: 4in 1136x640, 326 ppi Retina display
Google Nexus 5: 5in, full HD, 1920x1080, 445 ppi
When Apple first released its Retina display technology it was the best on the market. However, in recent years it has begun to show its age, with numerous Android phones boasting 400ppi displays offering superior colour balance and brightness levels.
For this reason, while the iPhone 5S 326ppi Retina display is still very good, it probably won’t be able to match the Nexus 5’s 445ppi screen.
Apple iPhone 5S: A7 chipset
Google Nexus 5: Quad-core 2.26GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800
Apple made a massive deal about the iPhone 5S A7 chipset and having tested the device we can understand why. However, powered by Qualcomm's latest Snapdragon 800 chip, the Nexus 5 may well be able to match, if not beat, the iPhone 5S performance.
Apple iPhone 5S: 10 hours' 3G talk time, eight hours' 3G internet usage
Google Nexus 5: 17 hours' talk time quoted by Carphone Warehouse, 2300mAh
The Nexus 5 has a bigger battery than the 5S and the added boon of wireless charging. Considering how useful we found the Nokia 920's wireless charging feature we're pretty excited about the Nexus 5.
Apple iPhone 5S: iOS 7
Google Nexus 5: Android 4.4 KitKat
Picking which of Apple and Google's mobile operating systems is better is close to impossible. This is because the answer is largely determined by which PC operating system you are in. Mac OS users will find iOS better due to its iCloud and iTunes integration, while Chrome OS and Windows will find Android better because of its open, cross-platform nature. Furthermore, those already embedded in the Android or iOS ecosystem will no doubt prefer to stick with the platform they have no doubt spent money on apps for.
Apple iPhone 5S: 8MP rear-facing camera with f2.2 aperture 1.2MP front-facing camera
Google Nexus 5: 8MP rear facing with Optical Image Stabilisation, 1.3MP front facing
On paper the iPhone 5S and Nexus 5 are fairly similarly matched camera-wise. For this reason the answer to which phone has the better camera is fairly difficult to know without a fair amount of real world testing.
Storage and price
Apple iPhone 5S: 16/32/64GB, no microSD slot, 2GB RAM. Pricing starts from £549.
Google Nexus 5: 16GB or 32GB, 2GB RAM. Pricing starts from £299.
Summing up, on paper the Nexus 5 offers buyers great value for money, offering users top end specifications while costing just £299. However, with the iPhone 5S having similarly impressive specifications and better synchronisation features for Mac OS, we're not convinced it will win over many Apple fans.
23 Oct 2013
Google changed the tablet market in 2012 when it released the original Nexus 7. As well as being the first ever own-brand Google tablet, the Asus-built device was interesting as it held a smaller 7in form factor than the iPad and was radically cheaper.
The offer proved such a hit that Apple, which had previously argued there was no market for a 7in tablet, made a u-turn and unveiled its first 7.9in iPad Mini. One year on Apple has released an upgraded iPad Mini 2, but with Google having again beaten it too the punch, releasing a new more affordable Nexus 7 months before, we've compared the key specs of both tablets to see whether the new Mini looks a better tablet than its Android rival.
iPad Mini 2: 200x135x7.5mm, 331g
Nexus 7: 200x114x8.65mm, 290g
Visually the iPad Mini 2 and Nexus 7 are about as different as you can get. The Mini has a classic iPad design, featuring metal back and sides and a Gorilla Glass front. The Nexus 7 by comparison has a single piece, slightly rubberised polycarbonate chassis. However, the Nexus 7 is the lighter of the two, weighing a full 40g less than the iPad Mini, meaning it may be the more travel friendly option.
iPad Mini 2: 7.9in, 2048x1536, 326ppi Retina display
Nexus 7: 7in 1920x1200 1080p HD 323ppi
The Google Nexus 7 made waves earlier this year, being the first ever tablet to boast a 300ppi-plus display. Aware of this Apple's learned from its mistake with the first iPad Mini, which featured a 7.9in 1,024x768 resolution, 168ppi screen and loaded its latest tiny-tablet with a 7.9in, 2048x1536, 326ppi Retina display. while we haven't yet had a chance to run the Nexus 7 and iPad Mini 2 head to head, considering how good other Retina displays are, we're thinking the Nexus 7's reign as best screened tablet could be short lived.
iPad Mini 2: iOS 7
Nexus 7: Android 4.3 Jelly Bean
The Apple iPad Mini runs on iOS 7, while the Nexus 7 uses Android 4.3 Jelly Bean. Picking which of these is better is largely determined by which PC ecosystem the user is in. For Apple Mac users iOS 7 is better as it features enhanced iCloud syncing powers and a host of free productivity apps, like Pages and iWork. However, for those outside the Apple ecosystem Google's Android applications are more cross-platform friendly and will work within pretty much any ecosystem - meaning they are far more appropriate for businesses using Microsoft Windows.
iPad Mini 2: A7
Nexus 7: Quad core 1.4GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor
Apple's made a big deal about the A7 processor used in the Apple iPad Mini 2, claiming it makes the tablet offer users four-times better GPU performance and eight-times better graphics than its predecessor. But, even if true, we're not sure it will be able to beat the Nexus 7 in performance. Featuring a quad-core 1.4GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor and robust 2GB of RAM we're yet to find a task or application on the Play Store the Nexus 7 can't handle.
iPad Mini 2: 5MP iSight rear and HD Facetime front
Nexus 7: 5MP and 1.2MP cameras
Both the Apple iPad Mini 2 and Google Nexus 7 boast 5MP rear cameras. Testing the Nexus 7's rear camera, while usable, photos aren't great and generally look slightly washed out or faded. For us this means if even a fraction of Apple's claims about iOS 7's camera software are true, the iPad Mini 2 should be better than the Nexus 7 at taking photos.
iPad Mini 2: 16GB, 32GB, 64GB, 128GB
Nexus 7: 16GB and 32GB
The Apple iPad Mini 2 has better storage choices than the Nexus 7, featuring 64GB and 128GB options. However the extra storage space comes at a premium. Apple iPad Mini 2 pricing starts from £319 for the 16GB, £399 for the 32GB version, £479 for the 64GB model and £559 for the 128GB model - and that's just for the WiFi only models. By comparison the 16GB and 32GB WiFi only Nexus 7 models cost £199 and £239 respectively.
In conclusion, on paper the iPad Mini 2 is a very nice tablet. It fixes many of the key problems of its predecessor, featuring a Retina display and significantly more powerful A7 chipset. However, the iPad Mini is still much more expensive than the Nexus 7, which itself boasts some pretty impressive hardware and software. For this reason while we're certain the iPad Mini 2 will prove a hit with established Apple fans, we're not so sure it'll win over many new businesses.
By V3's Alastair Stevenson
09 Oct 2013
Google's been enjoying a boom in Android sales for the last year or so, at least in smartphones. However, this success hasn't been replicated so far with Google's other mobile platform, the Chrome OS aimed at low-end laptop-style devices.
For this reason, Google seems to be stepping up its strategy of working with key hardware partners, resulting in devices like the newly unveiled HP-built Chromebook 11.
Design and build
HP and Google have both made a big deal about the Chromebook 11's build quality - one Google spokesman went so far as to describe the device as the "Wolverine of Chromebooks". On paper there's certainly a lot of merit to these claims, with the system boasting a metallic reinforced magnesium frame despite its low weight of 1.04kg.
Google claims the 297x192x17.6mm reinforced chassis is capable of taking more than the average wear and tear and should be able to survive the odd accidental bump or drop hassle free. While we didn't get a chance to actually drop test the Chromebook 11 during our hands-on, we were very impressed how robust the device felt.
Despite the slightly cheap feeling shiny plastic finish, the chassis has little give to it and feels much better built than any laptop we've experienced in the same £229 price-bracket.
During our hands-on we were also impressed how comfortable the keyboard was to type on. While, like any laptop in the same 11in size bracket, the keyboard did feel slightly squashed, the keys were suitable snappy and responsive and the Chromebook's slightly rounded frame made it comfortable to type on.
In terms of ports, the Chromebook 11 is sparsely equipped, featuring just two USB 2.0 ports and a SlimPort video output, which uses a microUSB style connector.
The Chromebook 11 comes with an 11.6in in-plane switching (IPS) display boasting a 300-nit brightness and 176-degree viewing angle. Using the Chromebook 11 in regular office lighting conditions we were fairly impressed with this screen. While far from the crispest we've ever used, the display was bright and colours looked rich and vibrant.
It also proved to have fairly decent viewing angles, with the display remaining legible even when viewing at an awkward angle. However, usersmay struggle to read itin in more adverse lighting conditions, like direct sunlight out of doors.
Software and performance
The Chromebook 11 comes with the latest version of Google's Chrome OS preinstalled. Whether this is a positive or negative is largely determined by which desktop and mobile ecosystem you're already accustomed to.
For those familiar with it, Chrome OS has a lot of benefits. Being largely cloud based, Chrome OS offers decent performance even on modest hardware. It does this by offloading a lot of the heavy lifting, traditionally tasked to the device's processor, into the cloud. This lets it do things like instant start and run demanding game applications traditionally beyond its Exynos 5250 processor and 2GB of RAM.
The OS also features built-in multiple security layers designed to ward off malware. This, combined with its low market share which makes it an unpopular target with cyber criminals, means the Chromebook 11 is on a paper a very secure choice for businesses.
Chrome OS also makes setting up the device a doddle for people with a Google account, as it can transfer and setting up all their apps, shortcuts, calendar and email services with one simple login. Even better, the latest version of Chrome OS goes beyond the traditional set of online-only services, featuring support for a number of applications that can run offline, including Google Docs and Gmail.
However, to those more accustomed to Apple or Microsoft platforms, the OS can seem fairly constricting. Considering how embedded most businesses are in the Windows or Mac ecosystems and services, this could be a massive sticking point for many buyers.
Storage and battery
Storage-wise the Chromebook 11 comes with a modest 16GB of solid state storage built in, which cannot be upgraded. Luckily, for those with an active internet connection Google's bundled the Chromebook 11 with 100GB of Drive cloud storage free for the first two years after purchase.
The Chromebook 11 is quoted as capable of six hours active use off one charge. We didn't get a chance to test the projected life during our hands on but will be sure to test it properly come our full review.
One plus point we did notice is that the Chromebook 11 charges using a generic microUSB cable, not a bespoke input. While this sounds small it does make the Chromebook 11 far more travel friendly, removing the need for you to pack an extra charger when away on a business trip.
Our initial impressions of the HP Chromebook 11 are positive. The Chromebook 11 appears to be a robustly built, yet lightweight and travel friendly netbook replacement.
Our only real concerns regard the nature of Chrome OS itself. Despite having a significantly better offline app offering than previous Chromebooks, a lack of inbuilt storage could still prove a problem for those regularly out of range of a network connection and the central focus on Google products and services will remain an issue for businesses already invested in alternative ecosystems.
The Chromebook is available in the US now and is confirmed to launch on Amazon, Google Play, HP Shopping, Currys and PC World on 21 October. Check back with V3 later for a full review of the Google Chromebook 11.
By V3's Alastair Stevenson