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.
04 Nov 2013
Rumours have been circulating for weeks regarding Google's new flagship Android phone. The Nexus 5 is finally here with a £299 price. So how does it stack up against its iPhone 5C rival?
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, 16GB and 32GB internal storage models
Nexus 5: 2GB RAM, 16GB and 32GB internal storage models
Twice the memory, and honours even on internal storage. There remains a glass ceiling on internal storage, and the Nexus 5 doesn't appear to be the one to crack through it. That 2GB of memory will come in very handy though in keeping Android Kitkat running smoothly.
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. Nothing to see here, move along.
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, statistically speaking. And of course there will always be the argument that Apple concentrates on worrying less about what they have and more about how they use it.
We should point out that at £469 for the cheapest configuration, the iPhone 5C is much more expensive than the Nexus, but for our money, the contest is going to come down to how well Android 4.4 Kitkat and iOS 7 perform on their respective devices.
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
09 Aug 2013
Google unveiled its new Nexus 7 in July, claiming that it is one of the most advanced Android tablets ever made, despite costing a modest £200.
Backing up this claim the company has loaded the new Nexus with a host of upgraded internal components and software services, hoping to ignite developer interest in creating bespoke applications for Android tablets and finally end Apple's ongoing tablet monopoly.
Design and build
Visually the new tablet is very different to the old Nexus 7. Unlike Google's first Nexus, the new tablet has a smooth finish and slightly rounded chassis that wraps around the device's sides. This makes the new Nexus 7 feel far more top end than its predecessor, which featured a two-part design, boasting a textured back that was glued onto a grey polycarbonate mid-section. The single smooth piece made the tablet feel far sturdier in hand than the first Nexus 7 and left us feeling suitably assured it could survive the odd accidental bump and scrape.
The Nexus also felt very comfortable in hand, with its slightly rounded edges, modest 200x114x8.65mm measurements and feather-light 290g weight making it feel like one of the most travel-friendly tablets we've ever experienced.
Google made a big deal about the new Nexus 7's display at its launch event, claiming its 7in 1920x1200 1080p HD 323ppi screen is the sharpest ever seen on a tablet.
We found there's definitely some truth to Google's claim. Playing with the tablet in the insanely bright mobile studio Asus had set up, we found the Nexus 7's display remained legible at all times, dealing with the adverse lighting conditions hassle free. Colours also looked wonderfully vibrant and icons and text remained sharp and legible no matter what angle we held the tablet.
In our full review we're really looking forward to testing how the tablet's screen compares to the new Apple iPad, with its Retina Display, which makes it the current top dog in tablet display tech.
Operating system and software
The Nexus 7 model we tested was running Google's Android 4.3 Jelly Bean operating system. This is a massive boon for businesses as it adds a host of useful, under-the-hood upgrades to the OS. Chief among these is the addition of restricted profiles. Restricted Profiles builds on the multiple account support added on Android 4.2, letting the device's owner choose what privileges each user account has. This means SME IT managers can set up shared tablets to block employees' access to specific third-party marketplaces or applications while still keeping full control of the device on their central owner account.
Considering the sea of Trojan applications targeting Android users, we're thinking this could be a massive boon to small businesses looking for a shared work tablet. Additionally, thanks to the Nexus branding the tablet's OS is entirely untouched and runs exactly as Google intended, free of the bloatware most manufacturers, such as Samsung, seem determined on adding to the OS.
The new Nexus replaces the Nvidia Tegra 3 chipset used in the original Google tablet with a brand new quad-core 1.4GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro processor. It also upgrades the tablet's RAM from 1GB to 2GB. This means on paper the new Nexus is significantly more powerful than its predecessor.
While we didn't get a chance to fully benchmark the new Nexus during our hands-on, we found the tablet did feel significantly faster than its predecessor, which is fairly nippy in its own right. Navigating through the Nexus menu, the screen felt significantly smoother than on other Android tablets and we found applications and web pages opened a fraction of a second faster than they did on the older Nexus. We also found the pre-installed games, which included a few demanding Unity engine 3D titles, ran chug and stutter free.
Another big change Google's made for its new Nexus 7 is the addition of a 5MP rear camera. The original Nexus 7 reportedly had its rear camera cut from the design to save money and reduce its final cost.
Testing the 5MP camera in the low light of the Asus showroom floor, it struggled, with images coming out slightly pixelated. But to be fair this is true of next to all smartphone cameras, and even our Nokia Lumia 925, which is currently the best low-light smartphone camera available in the UK, had some issues in the conditions. For this reason we're going to have to reserve judgement on the camera until we can test it in more regular light. The Nexus also features a 1.2MP front camera, which suffered the same issues.
Unlike the first Nexus, which was released with 8GB and 16GB internal storage options, the new Google tablet is available in 16GB and 32GB versions. However, the new tablet models' upgrades come with a slightly more premium price tag, with the 16GB costing £200 and the 32GB £239. A 4G model has also been confirmed for the UK costing £299.
Overall our opening impressions of the new Nexus 7 are very positive. The tablet retains the same value proposition as the first Nexus 7, while offering significantly improved performance and software features. In our full review when the tablet is released in the UK on 28 August, we're really looking forward to seeing if our positive opening impressions ring true after we put the new Nexus through its paces more thoroughly.
Written by V3's Alastair Stevenson
26 Jul 2013
Google unveiled its latest Android 4.3 Jelly Bean operating system on Wednesday alongside the latest version of its Nexus 7 tablet. The new version is a much more modest upgrade than the one seen last year, when Google unveiled the original Jelly Bean on the first Nexus 7. That said, there are a few nifty additions to the latest Android version that make it one of the most enterprise-friendly iterations of Google's popular OS to date.
One of the biggest additions to the new Android version is its multi-user Restricted Profiles support. While multiple profile support was added on Jelly Bean 4.2, the expanded service will allow users to vet what apps and services each individual profile can access. While the service is primarily designed for parents, Google has been quick to highlight its business appeal, claiming it will help IT managers in SMBs to more easily control what employees can do with shared work devices, which is an asset considering the number of Trojan apps targeting Android.
Bluetooth Low Energy and 4.0
Another key change is the official addition of support for Bluetooth Low Energy, which comes as a consequence of the larger move to Bluetooth 4.0. It promises to reduce power consumption when running Bluetooth on an Android device, meaning connecting to remote speakers, fitness equipment and other smart devices won't kill the phone's or tablet's battery.
New keyboard, phone dialler and camera interface
The new Android version features improved text and caller input options, though how these upgrades work remains unknown. Google has also tweaked Android 4.3's camera application to arrange icons in an arc as opposed to a full circle.
Support for OpenGL ES 3.0 extensions
One of the less obvious new features is the addition of OpenGL ES 3.0 extensions. Android is the first mobile OS to officially support the new API extensions and the addition is designed to increase game developer interest in the OS, making it easier for them to create 3D games.
While the Android 4.3 upgrade isn't as groundbreaking as the original Jelly Bean update, which added Google's Project Butter code and Now service to the mix, it's still fairly impressive, adding a number of small but important features to the OS to increase developer and enterprise interest in Android tablets.
Android 4.3 is set to be rolled out alongside the new Nexus 7. Google has confirmed that an upgrade will be made available for older Nexus devices shortly after. Check back with V3 later for a full review of Android 4.3.
Written by V3's Alastair Stevenson