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CES: Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 series hands on review

08 Jan 2013

LAS VEGAS: It's not easy to follow in the footsteps of Windows and Xbox, but that's exactly what Qualcomm's Snapdragon 800 chip was tasked with doing in the first ever non-Microsoft CES opening keynote.

The mobile chip was the headlining announcement in the headlining address of the biggest technology conference of the year. With that billing comes high expectations. Does the Snapdragon 800 measure up?

Snapdragon 800 series

The first versions of the 800 series, which will be aimed at the tablet sector, are only available in prototype devices. The first OEM models equipped with the hardware are still some months away and will likely only arrive in full force towards the end of the year.

Qualcomm has made a point of playing up the muscle behind Snapdragon. The company loves to show its complex images rendered as wireframe to underscore just how much processing power is being put into each of its demonstration scenes.

Snapdragon 800 series

The Snapdragon 800 will largely target the gaming market in its earliest incarnations. However, where high-end gaming is found, creative professionals and other high-demand business users are not far behind. The chip offers console-quality graphics and high frame rates, while controls were fluid and responsive, even for a prototype.

Snapdragon 800 series power management

Along with more processing power, Snapdragon 800 chips will feature brand new power management tools. The above meters show the chip regulating its power intake by completely turning off unused processor cores and regulating the activity of the GPU as needed.

CES: Panasonic 4K tablet hands on review

08 Jan 2013

LAS VEGAS: Tablets have long been seen as consumer-first devices. Even when they were brought into the enterprise, it was only because end users forced the issue. This year, however, Panasonic is looking to change that with a large-screen tablet model designed strictly for business use.

Panasonic 4K tablet

 

The Panasonic 4k is a 20in tablet designed for professional use. Unveiled at CES, the large-screen tablet looks to provide a platform for designers, photographers, architects and other digital professionals who require a large and accurate canvas for their work.

Panasonic 4K tablet

 

The main attraction of the Panasonic 4K tablet is, of course, the screen. True to its billing, the touchscreen offers an ultra-clear image with a resolution four times higher than that of the 1080p HD picture standard. While it doesn't come across in photo form, the screen clarity and picture quality is everything the company hyped it up to be. But the 4K isn't just a fancy display. Beneath the touchscreen lies a full Windows 8 tablet based on Intel's Core processors.

Panasonic 4K tablet

 

While the sheer size of the 4K makes it a two-handed device, the tablet itself is rather light and when held up provides a good weight distribution, so no need worry about wrecking your back carrying it around the office or through the parking lot.

The touchscreen interface still needs some work, but that is to be expected in a device so early in its development. Panasonic will have plenty of time for tweaks before the tablet hits the market in the second half of the year.

CES: Samsung Series 7 Ultra hands on review

08 Jan 2013

LAS VEGAS: Samsung initially announced its plans to use Windows 8 to increase its presence in the enterprise space in October 2012, when it unveiled its Ativ series of convertible tablet-laptop hybrids.

Following up its opening salvo, Samsung unveiled its Series 7 Ultra ultrabook at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas on Monday.

Eager to get a look at the device, V3 wrestled past the crowds at Samsung's CES booth and took a hands on look at the Ultra to see how it measures up to its more established Lenovo, HP and Dell-built competition.

Design and build
The first thing that strikes you about the Ultra is its unashamedly ultrabook design, featuring the telltale polished aluminium chassis that has become synonymous with with the title.

With its familiar brushed metal finish, the Samsung Series 7 Ultra looks sleek and stylish and feels fairly solidly built.Samsung Series 7 Ultra keyboard

It also looks to be extremely travel friendly, measuring just 18.9mm thick and weighing a modest 1.65kg.

Underneath its shiny metal exterior, the Ultra packs a surprisingly large backlit keyboard. But during our tests we found the keyboard, though usable and responsive, did feel slightly less well built than the rest of the device. The keys had a disconcerting spongy feel when pressed.

The Ultra sports a surprising number of ports, despite its diminutive size, packing a single USB 3.0 port, a pair of USB 2.0 connectors, HDMI, mini VGA and HP/MIC options.Samsung Series 7 Ultra side

Another added boon for business users is the inclusion of a 720p HD camera, which when tested was more than adequate for video calling.

Screen
The Samsung Series 7 Ultra packs a 13.3in Full HD 1920 x 1080, 1080p, 10-point multi-touch screen.

Using the device we found the screen was suitably responsive, recognising our pinch, zoom and swipe commands instantly, making navigating its Windows 8 Pro operating system an absolute joy.

Ultrabook performance
The Ultra we tested was powered by an Intel Core i7 processor though there is also an Intel Core i5 model is to launch too.Samsung Series 7 Ultra Windows 8 Pro

Testing the i7 version we were pleased how well Ultra handled, with programmes loading blazingly fast. We're looking forward to pushing the Ultra further and seeing how it handles more intensive tasks come our full review.

Samsung claims the Ultra will boast an eight-hour battery life. If true this will be another strong selling point for the Ultra, adding to its "use on the go" travel friendly appeal.

Overall
The Samsung Series 7 Ultra offers great performance - although a critical point, as ever will be price, a key bit of information Samsung's chosen to keep quiet about.

Check back with V3 later for a full review of the Samsung Series 7 Ultra.

CES: Sony Xperia Z hands on review

08 Jan 2013

LAS VEGAS: It's no secret that V3 was left slightly cold by Sony's 2012 Xperia smartphone line up.

This is largely because while handsets like the Xperia S and T were interesting, showcasing what Sony's custom Bravia and camera technology could do, they ultimately fell short, packing outdated versions of Android and slower processors than the competition.

It appears, however that Sony was aware of this problem, and has come out swinging, unveiling what we think could potentially be its best smartphone to date, the Xperia Z.

CES Sony Xperia Z

Design and build
The Xperia Z is an unashamedly large handset. Packing a 5in HD screen, the Xperia Z measures in at 139x71x7.9mm and weighs 146g.

However thanks to Sony's "OmniBalance" design, the handset doesn't look overly large and you don't realise quite how big it is until you actually pick it up.

OmniBalance is a design approach that aims to give the Xperia Z a consistent appearance from whatever angle its viewed at.look the same from all angles.

This is reflected in its minimalist look with its front and back being entirely devoid of buttons, only housing fairly well camouflaged cameras and Sony logos.

The Z's ports are also fairly well hidden, each being covered with a plug, that as well as hiding the device's inputs also make the smartphone water resistant.

The only noticeable design feature on the Z is its aluminium power button, which sits on the Z's right side.

Sony Xperia Z side

Display
Sony's packed the Xperia Z with a sizeable 5in Full HD 1080p Reality Display, loaded with its own Mobile Bravia Engine 2 technology.

Boasting 1080p 443ppi resolution, Sony claims the Z's screen is the best it has ever created and will offer equivalent performance to most HD televisions.

During our hands on, we only got the chance to test the screen in a fairly well-lit room, but saw no reason to doubt Sony's claims. Comparing the Xperia Z to the Lumia 920, a phone we've consistently listed as having one of the best screens seen on any smartphone, we couldn't pick a clear winner.

Performance
The Xperia Z is powered by a 1.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor and boasts 2GB RAM.

Unfortunately we didn't get a chance to see how well the Z performed, as the demo unit we got to try wasn't connected to the internet. This meant that we didn't get the chance to see how well it performs loading web pages, streaming video or running demanding applications.

Connectivity
The Xperia Z is 4G-enabled, although there's currently no word on whether it will be released on the UK's EE network, with carriers Three and Vodafone being the only operators yet to confirm they will carry Sony's new flagship handset.

This means those looking to take advantage of the 4G option will have to wait for Vodafone and Three to launch the service.

NFC
One of the nicest touches we saw on the Z is the inclusion of Sony's OneTouch near-field communication (NFC) service.

The feature aims to increase integration levels between Sony devices. During the demo we saw Sony show how the technology lets you sync your phone with speakers, headphones and even TVs simply by tapping them with the Xperia Z.

Camera
Looking to wrestle the best smartphone camera title from Nokia and its Lumia 920, Sony's loaded the Xperia Z with a 13MP camera, complete with its own custom Exmor RS for mobile sensor.

The Exmor RS for mobile is the first image sensor with HDR (High Dynamic Range) video designed for smartphones. It promises to radically improve the camera's usability and versatility.Sony Xperia Z operating system

Testing the camera we were only able to take a few photos of the showroom floor, but we were nonetheless very impressed. Even in the brilliantly bright lighting conditions, the test shots we took looked great, not looking oversaturated, and boasting great brightness and colour balance levels.

Battery and storage
Sony's loaded the Xperia Z with a fairly meaty 2400mAh battery and 16GB of storage, which is upgradable thanks to the inclusion of a microSD card slot.

Operating system
The Xperia Z runs using Android 4.1 Jelly Bean combined with Sony's own custom user interface. This means that while boasting all Jelly Bean's features, like Google Now, the Z's interface still looks largely identical to the one seen on Sony's 2012 Xperia lineup.

Outlook
The Xperia Z is set to arrive in the UK "in the coming weeks" in white, black and purple options. While there's currently no word on the Z's final cost, considering Sony's track record for charging a premium for its devices, we're thinking it could be fairly expensive.

That said, having had a chance to test the Xperia Z we've been left wanting more and can't wait to put the device through some more thorough tests.

Check back with V3 in the coming weeks for a full review of the Sony Xperia Z.

CES: Huawei Ascend Mate hands on review

08 Jan 2013

LAS VEGAS: Chinese phone maker Huawei took the word 'phablet' to a whole new level at its CES press conference on Sunday, with the launch of its gigantic Ascend Mate smartphone.

V3 was lucky enough to get its mitts on the 6.1in Ascend Mate handset following the event to check out whether such a massive device can actually work in the real world.

We must say, it really is enormous. We found it difficult to hold the cumbersome smartphone with one hand. It's plenty slim enough at just 6.5mm thick at its slimmest part, but the handset's 6.1in screen meant we found it difficult to wrap our hand around the device. It's quite a weighty device too, tipping the scales at 192g.

Huawei Ascend Mate hands-on

In fact, the Huawei Ascend Mate is so big that we're struggling to view it as a smartphone, as it feels much more like a tablet device. For example, we'd feel pretty stupid holding the device up to our ear while making a call, and it would be pretty much impossible to squeeze the Ascend Mate into a pocket.

However, we're not going to let the size of this device spoil our view of this phone, because in terms of performance it's very exciting.

For starters, the 6.1in screen is absolutely gorgeous, albeit not quite on par with the iPhone 5. That's no doubt thanks to its 1280x800 IPS screen, which looked extremely impressive even under florescent lighting.

This screen also comes with Huawei's new Magic Touch screen technology, which means that - much like on the Nokia Lumia 920 - it can be operated while you're wearing gloves. We have yet to test this feature, but will be sure to do so in our full Huawei Ascend Mate review once we're back in the UK.

Huawei Ascend Mate with Android 4.1

The Huawei Ascend Mate is an extremely slick device to use too, due to the 1.5GHz dual-core processor under the bonnet. Swiping through homescreens was impressively nippy, as was firing open applications, and although we were unable to test the browser due to the flaky Wi-Fi at CES, Huawei assured us that web access is just as lightning fast. Well they would, wouldn't they?

Another reason the Ascend Mate is fast is due to Huawei's stripped down user interface that Huawei calls its Emotion UI. Turn the device on and you're greeted with a panel of applications and widgets, which didn't appear obtrusive during our time with the giant phone. Another cool software feature is Huawei's live updating wallpapers, which means that your device could look different every time you switch it on.

Speaking of looks, we were pleasantly surprised by the casing of the device. Sure, it's huge, but the phone's glossy plastic casing - also available in black - felt much more robust that the casing used on Samsung's competing smartphones.

Huawei boasts that this casing is waterproof and resistant against drops and tumbles too, so we'll be sure to give this a thorough testing in our full review of the handset.

While we're not convinced that a 6.1in smartphone is a great idea, the Huawei Ascend Mate is a great phone if you look past its ridiculous size. It looks like Huawei is ready to take on the big names in the mobile industry, and if it starts putting out such highly specified devices it might be able to do in 2013.

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