27 Jul 2015
Windows 10 is fast approaching release, and with it comes Microsoft's first new browser in two decades: Microsoft Edge.
Internet Explorer is going into semi-retirement - it'll be included in Windows 10, though mainly for compatibility with legacy applications - so it's time to see whether Edge can succeed where its slow, insecure predecessor failed.
We sat down with Microsoft for a live demo and found a browser that, while lacking in must-have enterprise features, is already showing quite a bit of potential.
We'll say this for Edge: it looks impressively clean, a far cry from the chunky, toolbar-strangled interfaces of IE over the years. Favourites, Bookmarks and Downloads are tucked away in the drop-down Hub, an all-in-one menu accessible from one of the few icons sitting below the address bar.
As part of Windows 10's Continuum interface, Edge will optimise its layout based on whether it's running on a touch device or one with a keyboard and mouse/touchpad. When Windows 10 is in Touch view, Edge becomes a full-screen app, as we'd expect from something running on a phone or tablet.
Conversely, when a keyboard is detected, Edge will run in a resizable window, just like any other application you've ever run on a Windows 7 or 8.1 desktop.
We've been impressed by how Windows 10 can switch between these two views very near instantaneously, such as when a convertible tablet is docked with an attachable keyboard. This extends to Edge, which will quickly adjust its interface to fit the control method.
During our demo, Windows UK project manager Ian Moulster told V3 that Edge has been geared specifically towards consumers, as opposed to the more business-focused Internet Explorer. As such, Edge's headline features tend towards consuming content.
For instance, Reading View returns from IE 11, stripping away menus and adverts to leave webpage text and images in a straightforward, minimalist format. It goes even further in Edge, cranking up the text size and arranging it into a single column.
It's easy to see the appeal of a quick tool for cleaning up messy pages, on tablets in particular, even if switching in and out of Reading View will probably be too much of a bother for those who tend to bounce between multiple tabs.
Reading List, a Windows 8.1 app that recorded pages to read later, is also more closely integrated with Edge; new pages can be added in two clicks, and the List itself is accessible straight from the Hub. Like Reading View, it's not an original feature but has been reworked to become more user friendly in Edge. As far as we can tell, it has done so successfully.
One genuinely new feature is the integration of Cortana, Microsoft's attempt at a digital assistant, into Edge's search functions. Highlighting a name or phrase will enable Cortana to look it up, offering dictionary definitions and relevant web pages based on who or what is searched for.
In our demo, Cortana successfully identified the LinkedIn page of a fairly obscure geographer whose name was buried in a randomly chosen news article.
Cortana is widely integrated with Windows 10 and its key apps, and we're slightly concerned that it will become more of a nuisance than a help. But the digital assistant's presence in Edge is seldom felt unless it is asked to provide help, which is as it should be.
Regardless of Edge's lack of enterprise focus, it's worth noting that Microsoft's new browser adheres to many more web standards than IE ever did, introducing full support for media source extensions, touch events, CSS feature queries and many more specifications. This should enable more feature-rich websites to work correctly in Edge, which is good news for consumers and enterprise users alike.
That said, Edge still has a long way to go before it can match competing browsers in its web standards support. Edge greatly lags behind Chrome and Firefox in the number of specifications it currently supports, despite offering more robust compatibility than the most recent IE 11.
We haven't had Edge's security features demoed to us, but on paper they already sound like a big improvement on IE's protections.
For starters, Microsoft has ditched ActiveX, its creaking, malware-ridden framework for developing extensions, switching instead to HTML5. Support for the HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS) protocol is also built in to Edge to help ensure that certified websites can be accessed only over a secure connection.
HSTS is used for such highly sensitive services as online banking, so it's good to see Microsoft appreciating the need to keep Edge up to date with its supported protocols.
Like all Universal Apps - Microsoft-vetted apps that work exactly the same on the core and mobile editions of Windows 10 - Edge will also operate in its own Container Sandbox. This means that its processes run entirely independently from the rest of the system. So even if the Edge app is tampered with in a cyber attack, it can't be used as a launching point to access data stored on the rest of the machine.
That's the idea, anyway. Apple requires developers to implement a very similar measure in iOS apps, and seems to have found success in preventing infected apps taking over entire systems. Here's hoping that Microsoft can balance the need for secure applications with the need to maintain Windows' open ecosystem.
Speed is crucial to any web browser and, from our brief time with it, it looks like Edge won't disappoint. Pages load instantly, even when plastered with images, and navigating menus is similarly swift. Scrolling is smooth as well, which should be particularly welcome to Reading View users.
However, there was a noticeable delay before results appeared when using Cortana to search highlighted words. Since these results show up in a separate sub-window that pops out from the right, this leaves a few seconds where a fifth of the screen is filled with dead space. It's far from ruinous, but Cortana's relaxed pace is a little incongruous with how zippy Edge can be otherwise.
Despite the consumer focus, Edge's combination of new features and incremental improvements over IE already look to make it a welcome replacement as the default Windows browser.
However, Edge is entering a field that includes such fast, secure, versatile and deeply entrenched products as Chrome, Firefox and Opera. To truly make Edge a contender, Microsoft will need to stick to its ‘Windows-as-a-service' principle and provide continuous updates to the new browser's security measures and web standards support.
03 Mar 2015
BARCELONA: Microsoft has been flooding the smartphone market with a stream of affordable Windows Phone devices designed to increase the OS's presence in the business market.
Most of these devices, while fairly good, have been budget affairs that feature low-end internal components.
Unveiled alongside its smaller sibling the Lumia 640, the Lumia 640 XL takes a different tack, featuring a number of technologies previously only seen on much more expensive Windows Phones.
Design and build
Despite having almost the same name as its smaller sibling, the Lumia 640 XL has a noticeably different design.
The most obvious difference is its larger dimensions and weight, with the Lumia 640 XL measuring in at a sizable 158x81x9mm and weighing 171g.
However, the most important difference is the more robust chassis that has a matte finish that gives the Lumia 640 XL a more premium feel than the 640, which has a shiny, smooth plastic finish.
The Lumia 640 XL's chassis also felt firmer and more scratch resistant than that of its smaller sibling.
People who are used to plus-sized handsets will find the Lumia 640 XL comfortable to hold, but those trading up from smaller phones might find it slightly cumbersome.
The Lumia 640 XL has a 5.7in 1280x720 pixel 259 ppi Clearblack display, which for a device of this price is pretty impressive. On the brightly lit Microsoft MWC stand it performed fairly well. Thanks to the inclusion of Clearblack, the blacks were deep and the primary colours popped out, while colour balance and vibrancy levels were good.
The handset also boasts a sunlight readability mode that automatically adjusts the Lumia 640 XL display's settings so that it remains readable in very bright light.
Like the Lumia 640, the Lumia 640 XLn will be among the first wave of smartphones to be updated to Windows 10. Available as a technical preview now, Windows 10 is Microsoft's bid to create a single, multi-form factor friendly operating system that can run on smartphones, tablets, laptops, convertible and desktops.
This should mean application developers will be able to develop and release "universal" applications that share the same core code.
The common platform is also designed to make it easier for IT managers to deploy and manage Windows devices and reduce complexity within enterprise networks.
While Windows 10 is still a work in progress and yet to have a formal release date, it does have the potential to revolutionise smartphone use in enterprise and so we're pleased to see Microsoft confirm an update for the Lumia 640 XL.
Until then though the Lumia 640 XL will run Windows Phone 8.1, which boasts a wealth of productivity and security features, including in-built Outlook, OneDrive, Exchange and Skype support. As an added bonus Microsoft has bundled the Lumia 640 XL with a free one-year Office 365 subscription.
Powered by a quad-core 1.2GHz Cortex-A7, Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor, Adreno 305 GPU and 1GB RAM, the Lumia 640 XL's specs aren't anything to write home about when compared to most top-end handsets.
However, thanks to Windows Phone's low system requirements, if our opening impressions are anything to go by, they are more than good enough.
While we didn't get a chance to benchmark the Lumia 640 XL, during our hands-on we didn't notice any major performance issues. Applications opened in milliseconds and the Lumia 640 XL was suitably responsive and smooth to use.
Microsoft has been working hard to maintain Windows Phone's lead in the smartphone camera technology space since it acquired the phone division of Nokia.
To this end, Microsoft has loaded the Lumia 640 XL with a 13 MP, 4128x3096 pixel rear camera with Carl Zeiss optics, autofocus and LED, and put a 5 MP camera on the front.
Testing the rear camera on the MWC showroom floor we found the quality of photos to be above average.
Colour balance and vibrancy levels were good and images generally came out sharp and crisp.
The Lumia 640 XL's impressive rear camera tech is complemented by the Lumia camera app, which offers manual controls for key photography settings like white balance and ISO.
Our one concern is that shutter speeds were slightly slow on the demo device we tested, with a noticeable delay between when we pressed the phone's capture button and the photo actually being taken.
Battery and storage
We didn't get a chance to battery burn the Lumia 640 XL's non-removable Li-Ion 3000mAh battery during our hands-on, though a Nokia spokesman told us it should last at least one day off a single charge.
In terms of storage, the Lumia 640 XL comes loaded with a basic 8GB of internal space. A further 128GB can be added using the Lumia 640 XL's microSD card slot.
Price, release date and conclusion
The Lumia XL will launch in April. The 3G Lumia 640 XL will cost €189 while the 4G model will cost €219.
Overall, while the Lumia 640 XL isn't the most exciting of handsets, it does target a currently under-served segment of the market - the affordable phablet space.
During our hands-on we found plenty to like about Microsoft's budget phablet. Featuring a reasonable display, good-for-the-price rear camera and an enterprise-friendly OS, the Lumia 640 XL has the potential to be a worthy device for business users.
By V3's Alastair Stevenson
02 Mar 2015
BARCELONA: Lenovo may have a dominant presence in the Western laptop market, but it's yet to repeat this success in the tablet or smartphone spaces.
This is a little disappointing as Lenovo has released a steady stream of affordable and reasonably well specced tablets over the past couple of years. This legacy continued at MWC this year when Lenovo unveiled the Tab 2 A8, its latest 8in, and first Android Lollipop, tablet.
Design and build
Visually the black Tab 2 A8 demo unit was understated and featured a smooth polycarbonate chassis. Measuring 210x125x8.9mm and weighing 330g, the Tab 2 A8 is also fairly average when it comes to size and weight.
Were it not for the Lenovo branding on its back and front we could easily have confused the Tab 2 A8 for any of the unassuming Android tablets we've seen from other PC makers, such as Asus, Dell and HP.
While the design isn't terribly exciting, we found during our hands-on that it had a pleasantly functional feel and is reasonably well built.
Following an accidental drop onto the hard plastic demo table at the Lenovo MWC stand the demo Tab 2 A8 survived blemish and scratch free.
Featuring an 8in 1280x800, 189ppi IPS display, the Tab 2 A8's screen specifications aren't anything to write home about.
However, powering up the Lenovo Tab 2 A8 we were reasonably impressed with its performance.
Text and icons were noticeably less crisp than on other small form factor tablets, like Google's Nexus 7, but were sharp enough to read and colour balance levels were rich and realistic.
Contrast and brightness levels were also reasonably good. The only problem we noticed is that the screen was at times fairly reflective and had narrower viewing angles than we'd expect. Some colours, particularly white, began to distort when viewing the screen from an angle.
The Tab 2 A8's most interesting feature is its use of Android 5.0 Lollipop. Lollipop launched alongside Google's Nexus 6 and Nexus 9 devices at the end of 2014 and, as we noted in our full review, is a milestone update for the OS.
Key new features include a reworked and more user friendly Material design that removes unneeded animations and clutter, and an advanced notifications system that lets users access and manage incoming alerts from the lock screen.
Other key upgrades include an improved camera API and sophisticated multiple account and managed profile support features that can be activated via Google's newly launched Android for Work.
Even better, unlike many Lollipop devices we've seen at MWC, it looks like Lenovo has resisted the urge to make too many unneeded changes to the OS.
The only notable changes we noticed were a few reworked application icons and a couple of bloatware apps which appeared to be removable.
Hopefully the Tab 2 A8's software will remain similarly untouched come the tablet's full release.
Lenovo has taken advantage of Lollipop's 64-bit processor support, loading the Tab 2 A8 with a 1.3GHz, quad-core, 64-bit, MediaTek MT8732 processor and 1GB RAM. We didn't get a chance to fully benchmark the Tab 2 A8 during our hands-on.
Tasking the tablet with basic web browsing, document editing and a few games of Fruit Ninja, which oddly was preinstalled on our demo unit, we found it performed smoothly and we didn't experience any noticeable lag or chugging.
We here at V3 have never been fans of taking photos on tablets. Their increased size and weight make the process of taking a photo slightly awkward, and we've yet to find a tablet with a decent camera sensor capable of taking anything better than OK photos.
If our opening tests are anything to go by this remains true for the Tab 2 A8, which features bare bones 5MP rear 2MP front cameras. Images, while usable, looked slightly dull and at times were blurry.
Battery and storage
We didn't get a chance to battery burn the Tab 2 A8's 4200mAh unit so we can't usefully comment on its life.
The Tab 2 A8 comes with a basic 16GB of storage built in. A further 32GB can be added using the microSD card slot.
Price, release date and conclusion
The Lenovo Tab A8 is set to launch in selected regions in June with prices starting at $129. The device won't revolutionise the tablet market from what we've seen so far, but it could be a solid choice for any buyer looking for an affordable, small form factor Android tablet.
Featuring a lightly skinned version of Lollipop, a 64-bit processor and a solid design, the Lenovo Tab 2 A8 does have promise.
Check back with V3 later this year for an in-depth review of the Lenovo Tab 2 A8.
By V3's Alastair Stevenson
02 Mar 2015
Acer has been working hard to carve out a niche in the Android smartphone market for the past few years, and has shied away from using other mobile operating systems.
In an interview with V3's sister site The INQUIRER, Acer argued that this was because Windows Phone's application system was "too underdeveloped" for its tastes.
So we were surprised when Acer kicked off proceedings at MWC by unveiling its first Windows 8.1 smartphone, the Liquid M220.
Design and build
The Acer Liquid M220 is a fairly unique-looking device as it features a custom "faux silk" finish chassis that hides the fact it's actually made from polycarbonate.
Apart from this, it's a fairly standard, boxy design with dual sim inputs.
While we didn't get a chance to drop test the device, the 4in Liquid M220 does feel reasonably robust.
Screen technology is always one of the first corners most companies cut when designing affordable smartphones and this is certainly the case with Acer's first Windows Phone 8.1 handset.
Testing the Liquid M220's 4in 480x800 display on the brightly lit MWC showroom floor, the screen often looked washed out.
We found the screen was very reflective and brightness levels were also noticeably lower than we'd have liked, even when compared to other cheap handsets, like the Huawei Honor Holly or Motorola Moto E (2015).
Being fair to Acer though, the Liquid M220's display isn't any worse than competing budget Windows Phones, like the Lumia 535.
The Liquid M220's most interesting feature is its Windows Phone 8.1 operating system. As we've noted in past Windows Phone reviews, Microsoft's mobile operating system is one of the best available to business users and comes loaded with a wealth of security, productivity and enterprise focused features.
Key positives include Windows Phone's Cortana, OneDrive, Office 365 and Exchange features.
As an added bonus, Acer has also confirmed the Liquid M220 is "Windows 10 ready". Windows 10 was unveiled by Microsoft in October and is designed to bridge the gap between the firm's desktop and mobile operating systems, giving developers a single platform to work on.
Microsoft released a technical preview of Windows 10 for mobile in February for select Lumia devices.
Windows Phone has always been one of the least demanding mobile operating systems available.
In fact, its low system requirements have in the past meant Windows Phones have managed to match if not beat the performance of competing Android handsets, despite featuring lower end internal components. So in theory the Liquid M220's use of a 1.2GHz dual-core processor and 512MB RAM could be forgiven, although during our hands-on we did notice a few performance issues.
Testing the handset, we found it could at times stutter or take a fraction of a second longer to respond to commands than we'd like.
We didn't get a chance to benchmark the handset or see how it performed tasks with demanding tasks like 3D gaming.
Hopefully our performance issues were due to software bugs that will be ironed out come the Liquid M220's full release.
Acer has loaded the Liquid M220 with 5MP and 2MP cameras. Looking through the demo units app list we found the Liquid M220 only features Windows Phone's bare-bones camera application and doesn't offer any of the custom settings seen on Acer's Android handsets.
This is a little disappointing as the manual camera controls Acer added to its Android phones, which let you control things like the ISO and white balance, were very useful.
Snapping a few shots on the MWC showroom floor, we found picture quality is what you'd expect from a 5MP rear camera. While usable for blogging or social media purposes, images were often slightly fuzzy.
Though again, being fair to Acer, we find this is the case with most sub-£100 smartphones.
Storage and battery
We didn't get a chance to battery test the Liquid M220. In terms of storage it comes with a barebones 4GB built-in storage but further space can be added using the Liquid M220's microSD.
The Liquid M220 will launch in Europe in April with pricing starting at €79. Acer is yet to give it a firm UK price or release date.
While we noticed some issues on the demo unit we used, our opening impressions of the Liquid M220 are positive and a sign Acer is moving in the right direction.
By confirming the Liquid M220 is "Windows 10 ready" Acer's shown it's starting to understand the need to future-proof its devices - something it's been slow to do for its Android range, which regularly aren't upgraded to new versions.
Combine this with the Liquid M220's super affordable price, which targets a currently underserved segment of the market, and we can see the Acer Windows Phone being a solid choice for any business looking for a mass rollout device.
02 Mar 2015
BARCELONA: Microsoft has been working to persuade CIO and CTOs it means business when it says it wants to become the biggest player in the enterprise handset market.
As a part of this the firm has been releasing a steady stream of security- and productivity-focused software updates and affordable handsets, designed for mass rollout.
The Lumia 640 continues this trend and aims to offer business users an affordable access point to Microsoft's business cloud services that can be easily and safely deployed across enterprise environments.
However, with the release of the firm's even cheaper Lumia 535 still fresh in the memory, some buyers may justifiably wonder why they should pay attention to the Lumia 640.
Design and build
Visually the Lumia 640 has the iconic colourful design seen on past Microsoft Windows Phones and looks like a slightly blown up version of the Lumia 535.
The Lumia 635 features a polycarbonate smooth finish frame with rounded corners and flat sides. While not a significant move forward from past Lumias we found plenty to like about the Lumia 640's design.
The Lumia 640 is reasonably comfortable to hold and feels pretty sturdy, albeit a little on the 'plastic' side.
Most tech firms choose screen technology as the first area to cut when designing affordable smartphones. Microsoft has attempted to buck this trend with the Lumia 640, giving it with a 5in IPS, 1280x720, 294ppi display with ClearBlack technology.
Testing the display on the brightly lit MWC Microsoft showroom floor, we were reasonably impressed how well the display performed compared to other affordable smartphones.
Colours on the Lumia 640 jumped out and are much better than is the case with previous affordable Lumias and cheap Android competitors.
Brightness levels, while not dazzling, are also reasonably high. Thanks to its Sunlight Readability mode, the phone is usable in bright light - unlike most other affordable handsets.
The Lumia 640 is set to ship with Windows Phone 8.1 pre-installed, though Microsoft has promised it will be upgraded to Windows 10 when the next generation OS is released later this year.
As we've noted in past Windows Phone reviews, for business users embedded in Microsoft's ecosystem, Windows 8.1 is a great operating system.
Windows Phone offers users key productivity tools, such as integrated Outlook, Skype, Cortana and OneDrive, and as an added bonus, the Lumia 640 will ship with a free one-year Office 365 subscription.
Microsoft has also loaded the OS with a number of enterprise-focused management and security features, including upgraded mobile device management (MDM), VPN and Outlook S/MIME protection.
The Lumia 640 runs on a 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor with 1GB of RAM.
While the specs don't sound like anything to write home about, especially compared to what's on offer in the Android ecosystem, thanks to Windows Phone's low system requirements, we found the Lumia 640 was reasonably fast during our hands-on.
The Lumia 640 navigated between menus and opened applications smoothly and, while we didn't get a chance to benchmark the handset or see how it dealt with demanding tasks, we didn't notice any serious performance issues.
Microsoft managed to acquire the imaging technology that set past Lumias apart when it acquired the phone division of Nokia and has worked hard to retain Windows Phone's imaging lead since the deal closed.
While not a match for the 41MP Pureview camera seen on the Lumia 1020, the Lumia 640's 8MP rear and 1MP front cameras compare well with the competition at the affordable end of the market.
While we're a little disappointed the Lumia 640 doesn't feature the improved Zeiss Optics seen on its big brother the Lumia 640 XL, we were still able to get fairly good results using the rear camera.
Photos taken on the MWC showroom floor had noticeably better colour balance and contrast levels than those we have taken in the past using competing affordable handsets. Thanks to the Lumia app, we were also able to manually control some of the camera settings, including ISO and white balance.
The only issue we had during our hands-on was with the shutter speed, which is slightly slower than we'd like.
Battery and storage
Sadly we didn't get a chance to battery burn the Lumia 640's 2,500mAh removable battery during our hands-on.
In terms of storage, the Lumia 640 comes with a basic 8GB of inbuilt space. Fortunately, a further 128GB can be added using the Lumia 640's microSD card slot.
Release date, price and conclusion
The Lumia 640 will launch in April. The 3G Lumia 640 will cost €139, while the 4G will cost €159.
Considering the Lumia 640's low price our opening impressions are positive. Given its above-average specifications and the fact that it can be upgraded to Windows 10, the Lumia 640 could be one of the best affordable handsets available to business this year.
Hopefully it will make good on this promise when we test it more thoroughly for our full review.
By V3's Alastair Stevenson
Microsoft delivered a new build of the Windows 10 Technical Preview late last month, following an event at which the firm disclosed more upcoming features, such as Cortana support and the Continuum technology to optimise the user interface for tablet or keyboard modes.
The new version - identified as build 9926 - shows the progress Microsoft is making as it moves closer to a full release of the new operating system. This is slated for later this year, and some rumours now indicate that Windows 10 may hit its release to manufacturing date as early as June.
However, some features are still missing for those outside the US, including the Cortana personal assistant. In our tests, Windows simply displayed the message: 'Cortana is not available in your market' (see above).
What is apparent is a number of user interface tweaks and enhancements since the first Technical Preview was released last year.
The overall effect of these is to make Windows 10 look sleek and polished, and offer an experience much closer to that of older versions of Windows, without throwing out too much of the touch-oriented enhancements added in Windows 8 and 8.1.
The reinstated Start menu (see above) was present in the first Technical Preview but has now gained the option to expand to full-screen using a button at the top right. This principally provides more space for the Metro-style or Windows Store apps rather than anything else, but is welcome nonetheless.
There's also a new look Settings app (above), which delivers the Settings screen from Windows 8 in a format that somewhat resembles the old Control Panel in older versions of Windows, in yet another attempt to make existing Windows users feel more at home.
Also new is a beta of a new-look Windows Store app (see above), which introduces an updated visual design which will be common across PCs, tablets, phones and the web. However, Microsoft warned that apps purchased from the Windows Store Beta (represented by a grey tile) work only on devices with the January Technical Preview.
The Continuum feature, which dynamically adapts Windows for a desktop or touch-optimised tablet experience, is also implemented in this release. This is intended for two-in-one devices, where a keyboard can be attached or removed at any time, but users can also manually activate it using the Notifications panel accessible by swiping in from the right of the screen.
Overall, our impressions of Windows 10 from this updated Technical Preview are encouraging, and we could easily imagine using this as our everyday compute platform in place of Windows 7, something that we would not have sanctioned with Windows 8.
We look forward with interest to further developments from Microsoft.
02 Oct 2014
The technical preview release of Windows 10 was made available to download and try out late on 1 October UK time, and testers including the V3 team are finally starting to get their hands dirty with this first pre-release build of the next version of Windows.
If first impressions are anything to go by, Microsoft may finally have hit on the winning formula that will entice customers who have so far been put off by the huge changes that Windows 8 introduced, especially in the user interface.
Windows 10 boots by default into a desktop environment (see below) which is close enough to Windows 7 that existing users of Windows should have few problems getting to grips with it, and it is this familiarity that should ensure its success.
The Metro-style or Windows Store apps have not gone away, but these now run in a resizeable Window alongside traditional Windows tools and applications, blurring the distinction between them somewhat.
Many industry commentators have made false claims about the return of the Start button in various updates of Windows 8, but with Windows 10, it is the real deal. Tapping the Window icon at the bottom left of the screen (or a physical Windows key on a keyboard or tablet fascia) pops up a menu that is similar enough to the Start menu of legacy Windows to satisfy those enraged by its removal in Windows 8.
Where the Start menu differs is in the presence of the Live Tiles from the Start screen of Windows 8, shown as banks of small tiles alongside the list of applications on the menu. For those who have grown attached to the Windows 8 Start screen, you can check a box to switch the user interface back to this instead of the desktop.
Other changes to the user interface are relatively minor. Users can add multiple desktops (see below) and split applications between them, but this seemed of little value during our initial hands-on, as every open application still seems to have an icon in the taskbar, regardless of which desktop you switch to.
Windows 10 also adds a new Task View button, next to the search button on the taskbar, which shows every running app and lets you switch between them.
The way application snapping works has also been tweaked, with users able to have up to four apps snapped on the same screen (see below). However, on our test system, whenever we dragged a window to the side or corner of the screen to activate snapping, the app often seemed to freeze. It should be remembered that this is still an early release version of the platform and bugs are to be expected.
These are, perhaps the most noticeable changes in Windows 10, but it is remarkable what a difference it makes. The switch back to a desktop environment with resizeable windows and a pop-up menu to access applications makes it feel much more like Windows 7, even if in reality it is more like a fusion of Windows 7 and Windows 8.
For those who have tried Windows 8, the integration of touch with more conventional controls such as the mouse and keyboard now feels seamless. We found ourselves mixing use of the keyboard with touches of on-screen controls, occasionally resorting to a stylus on our test tablet when more precise control was required.
However, as with Windows 8, many of the more key changes are going to be found under the hood, such as better security for data, easier system updates, and expansion of the cloud-based management approach seen with Windows Intune.
Many such features are not yet present in the technical preview, however, so we can only look at the user interface changes so far to gauge how well Windows 10 is likely to be received. At first blush, we would say that Microsoft is getting it right, and we look forward to seeing what future updates bring.
15 Sep 2014
In a bid to take on Samsung and Apple, Nokia released its Lumia 830 at IFA in Germany earlier this September, at its first event as part of Microsoft after the Redmond firm bought Nokia's devices division a year ago. The Lumia 830 adds to the firm's recently announced models such as the Nokia Lumia 530 and Nokia Lumia 630.
The Lumia 830 is the formerly Finnish company's "thinnest and lightest" high-end Windows Phone yet, priced at €330, or around £300.
The main design feature of the Lumia 830 is that it offers a feature set similar to the flagship Lumia 930 but in a more compact chassis. Measuring 8.5mm thick and weighing 150g, the Lumia 830 is one of the lightest Lumia phones, and thus fits more comfortably in the hand than previous high-end Lumia iterations such as the Nokia Lumia 920 and Lumia 1020.
The handset measures 139x70x8.5mm from top to bottom, a little bigger than the Lumia 930's 137x71x9.8mm chassis but a lot thinner, which makes all the difference. It's also 17g lighter than the Lumia 930, at 150g, meaning it won't slip as easily into a pocket like its predecessor, but it does feel a touch easier to hold. We found that we liked the handset's design and feel, with the aluminium edging adding to its overall robust impression.
It might be Nokia's first release since it was bought by Microsoft, but the good news is that the firm has kept the Lumia brand's splash of colour. Like the Lumia 930, the Lumia 830 will be available in vibrant orange and green models, which certainly will turn heads on the street. Nokia has also opted for matte polycarbonate for the colourful casing rather than the shiny plastic often found on its Windows Phone devices, which means that it sits comfortably in the hand and likely won't be too prone to picking up fingerprints.
For the more conservative buyers, the Nokia Lumia 830 will also be available in black and white models.
The Nokia Lumia 930 has a 5in in-plane switching (IPS) 1280x720 resolution display that we found crisp and bright during our hands-on time with the smartphone.
Thanks to its ClearBlack display technology, Nokia boasts that the Lumia 830 offers 180-degree viewing angles, and the phone lived up to this during our time with it on Thursday at the launch event. However, we found the display quite reflective, and it struggled under bright fluorescent lighting.
In our hands-on tests, the Lumia 820's 10MP camera seemed to respond brilliantly when we took pictures of the greenery outside the launch event window. Shutter speed was reasonably fast and images taken were crisp, due its PureView image sensor. Nevertheless, it isn't quite as impressive as the Nokia Lumia 1020's 41MP rear-facing camera.
We have yet to put this camera fully through its paces, but early impressions suggest that it will produce images of similar quality to those taken on the Nokia Lumia 930, which impressed us with its crisp and natural image-taking capability.
Performance and OS
Powered by a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor, the Lumia 830 seems fast and fluid when swiping between different apps. Nokia said that its new smartphone's performance is "either better or on par" with the Samsung flagship competition, without naming which smartphone it was referring to.
The Nokia Lumia 830 arrives running Windows Phone 8.1 and thus is pre-loaded with Microsoft Office for productivity, OneDrive for cloud storage, and the Cortana voice control app "for markets it's available in".
We have yet to test all of the features of Windows Phone 8.1, but it also delivers Microsoft's Cortana personal assistant, WiFi Sense, Word Flow and enterprise additions.
Of course, all of Nokia's usual additions are also in place, including Here Maps, Nokia Music and the Finnish phone firm's custom camera applications.
Like the Lumia 930, the Lumia 830 supports wireless charging and Nokia has announced an accessory alongside it at IFA – the second-generation wireless charging plate. The device charges a wireless phone via NFC so when users tap their phone on the plate, they can customise notifications via the plate's lighting feature. They can then choose between different blinking patterns.
The wireless charging plate requires Windows Phone 8.1 and will be available in green, orange and white to match the covers of the Lumia 830.
While the Nokia Lumia 830 didn't immediately strike us as a breathtaking smartphone, our hands-on has convinced us otherwise, and we think that this could one of Nokia's most popular Windows Phones yet, mainly due to its relatively low price.
The screen is the most impressive we've seen on a Nokia Lumia smartphone yet, and the Microsoft's Windows Phone 8.1 mobile operating system brings some impressive additions, including built-in VPN support, integrated Skype access and low system requirements, meaning its more nippy. With all these extras, people might be more open to switching to Windows Phone from more popular operating systems such as iOS and Android.
Check back with V3 soon for our full Nokia Lumia 830 review.