Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Nokia attempts to reinvent itself post-buyout with the N1 tablet

Fabled smartphone manufacturer sold off their devices and hardware business(essentially what most people think of as Nokia) to Microsoft, and have said they won't build another smartphone until at least 2016. Everyone thought this meant they would just become a services company, not making any new hardware, but instead they're going a different route: Today they announced the Nokia N1, an Android tablet that they designed, will sell under their name and uses their Z Launcher, but is made by Foxconn, the manufacturing company that also makes many of Apple's products. And that's not the only similarity between the N1 and some of Apple's portfolio: The N1 looks almost exactly identical to the iPad Mini, just without the home button and Apple logo.
The specs are quite good though, with a 7.9" 2048x1536 laminated display, quad core 64 bit Intel Atom, 2GB's of RAM, and 32GB's of storage. And it runs Android 5.0 Lollipop, with Nokia's custom Z Launcher which tries to predict what apps you want and make them easily accessible, and lets you write a letter with your finger to search. There's also an 8MP camera and 5MP webcam, plus a new USB Type C connector that can be inserted either way. And the N1 is crazily thin: Just 6.9mm(to the iPad Mini's 7.5mm and the Sony Z3 Compact's 6.4mm) and weighs 318 grams. It's also quite a bit cheaper than an iPad Mini 3 at $249, though it's headed for China and Russia only to begin with.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Snapchat launches Snapcash, a payment service powered by Square

There's a lot of ways to quickly send money to friends, coworkers, or roommates. Options such as Paypal, Google Wallet, Square Cash, and many others provide different approaches for different needs. But most of those require downloading a new app, or at least setting up a payment account. Ephemeral messaging app Snapchat has just integrated Square into their app, with typical Snapchat simplicity. You just enter a debit card(which will be stored by Square, not Snapchat,) type a $ and then the monetary amount you want to send, and hit the green dollar sign.
I'll probably keep using Google Wallet, but for avid Snapchatters, the app just got more useful. Follow the source link for the(exceedingly weird) intro video/commercial.

Source: Snapchat(Youtube)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

ASUS Zenwatch launches on Google Play

Smartwatches historically have been big, ugly and just generally the kind of thing you have to be pretty nerdy to ware. That's gradually changing with the round, elegant Moto 360, small, sleek Pebble Steel and a few other options. Continuing that trend is the new ASUS Zenwatch, which at $199 is both one of the cheaper Android Wear watches and one of the best looking. It's rectangular not round, so I still like the Moto 360 a bit better, but the Zenwatch is thinner, $50 cheaper and has a very handsome band. There's a 1.63" AMOLED 320x320 display, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 1.2GHz processor, plus the usual-for-Android-Wear 4GB's of storage and 512MB's of RAM. It also has IP55 water resistance, which makes the Sony Smartwatch 3 still the best choice if you're planning on getting your watch wet, but it'll survive occasional moisture.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Google Now gets a huge slate of updates for Android Lollipop

Google's new vision of how mobile computing should work, Android 5.0, is rolling out now to some devices, as well as shipping on the Nexus 6 and 9, To complement that massive update, Google's updated their Google Search/Now app for Lollipop with a brand new, colorful design that utilizes the Material Design guidelines. Besides the new look, there's quite a few other enhancements: First off, the "OK Google" command to launch voice control can now work even when your phone's screen is off. Next up, there's now an algorithm that automatically looks for possible event plans in your emails and asks if you want them added to your calendar, which sounds extremely useful. Google's now rolled in a virtual coin toss to help you make decisions by means of a pseudorandom outcome. And finally, voice search will now let you search within apps on your phone, if the developer adds support.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Google is doubling every dollar given to help fight ebola

Google is well known for their philanthropic endeavors, and now they've launched yet another: For every $1 that is donated through the website they've set up, Google will give $2. The money will be split between Doctors Without Borders,the International Rescue Committee, Partners in Health, and Save The Children. And of course, Google will cover all the processing and transaction fees as well.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Sony Smartwatch 3 now available through Google Play, brings full waterproofing and a heart rate sensor

Sony's first Android Wear smartwatch, the Smartwatch 3, has just launched on Google's Play Store and brings some unique features. It's not quite as good looking as the Moto 360 or as high end as the G Watch R, but if you're looking for a watch that can double as a fitness tracker it may be your best bet. There's full waterproofing as opposed to the water resistance of the 360 and most other options, built in GPS, a selection of different colored rubber sport bands, and a heart rate sensor. That's in addition to a 1.6" 320x320 display and the usual half a gig of RAM and 4GB's of storage. The processor is an unspecified 1.2GHz dual core ARM Cortex A7 chip.
The latest wearable from Sony will cost you $249, which gives it some stiff competition: The round, elegant Moto 360 is the same price, the smaller Pebble Steel which works with iOS as well as Android is $50 less, as is the upcoming, sleek-looking ASUS Zenwatch. Not to mention that the LG G Watch 3, which also has a heart rate sensor and a slightly better processor, if a somewhat overly-complex design, is only $50 more. On the other hand, given the staid design and lacking features of the first LG G Watch, Samsung Gear Live and Gear 2, I would take this over any of those despite their lower price points.
Also: I have literally no idea what's going on with the model's pants in the press image above.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

LG G3 will get Android 5.0 Lollypop next week, starting in Poland

If you own LG's 2014 flagship phone, the G3, you're in for a treat: LG has just announced that they're starting the roll out of the Android 5.0 Lollypop upgrade next week. This means it's actually getting the update before the Nexus 5, 7 or 10, or any Google Play Edition phones, which is quite impressive.
The rollout is starting in Poland, and will continue to other markets as soon as possible according to LG.

Friday, November 7, 2014

LG G Watch R now available for a steep $299 with a heart rate sensor & circular screen

Motorola's Moto 360 is no longer the only round smartwatch in town. LG's second Android Wear-running device has just launched on the Google Play Store, and it has a completely circular 1.3" OLED display. There's also a heart rate sensor, Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor and the standard 4GB's of storage. In my opinion the Moto 360 is still quite a bit more elegant looking, and retails for $50 less at $249, though it will run you the same $299 if you opt for a metal band.


Thursday, November 6, 2014

Amazon's Echo is an invitation-only Bluetooth speaker with a built in voice assistant

Amazon's been on something of a product/service-releasing binge of late, with the Fire TV, Fire Phone, Fire TV Streaming Stick, loads of new Kindles, Kindle Unlimited, and Prime Photos all launching recently. Today, they've announced perhaps the weirdest device yet, the Echo. Basically, it's a Bluetooth speaker, like the many from Jawbone, Bose, Beats, Sony, Logitech and others. But it's got a few other tricks up the old metaphorical sleeve, namely a voice assistant similar to Siri, Google Now, or Cortana. And there's internet connectivity baked in so that Amazon can update it remotely and it can play music for you from Amazon Music or iHeartRadio without any other device connected.
Strangely, it's only available by invitation so far; You have to go to Amazon's page for the Echo and request an invite to buy the device, which will cost $99 for Prime members or $199 for everyone else.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

HP returns to the gaming laptop space with the Omen

10 years ago, HP bought boutique gaming PC startup Voodoo PC, but within 3 years had discontinued all products with any Voodoo influence. Today, they're bringing back the Omen badge that was used on many Voodoo laptops, for the first gaming laptop from Palo Alto's finest in quite a while. The new Omen is a machined aluminum, 4.68 pound 15" laptop with a custom hinge and ventilation system that HP says will let the CPU and GPU run at full speed more of the time. Speaking of components, it's based around Intel's Core i7 Haswell quad core chips, with an NVidia GeForce GTX 860m handling graphics duties  and 8 or 16GB's of RAM. There's also a 128, 256 or 512GB SSD on board alongside a 1920x1080p 15" touchscreen.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Samsung's crazy Galaxy Note Edge will launch in the US on November 14th

The Galaxy Note Edge takes one of this year's best phones, the Galaxy Note 4, and adds a bend to the screen that essentially gives you a secondary little strip of display. This can be used to shove UI elements off of the main screen, launch apps without returning home, show stocks or the weather, and various other gimmicky but potentially useful things. It'll cost you a pretty penny though: $950 unlocked or $399 on contract through AT&T, with other carriers announcing launch plans soon.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Watch the Avengers try to lift Thor's hammer while off duty


If you're like me, you've been watching the Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer pretty much on repeat since it came out, and analyzing every aspect. Now, Marvel's put up a new version that adds a hilarious scene of the full Avenger's team(Thor, Stark, Rogers, Banner, Barton, Romanoff, Hill, Rhodes) lounging around what I believe is one of Stark's buildings. Thor plops down Mjolnir, his legendary hammer on the table, and a variety of people try to lift it, including... oh just watch the video.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Alienware 13 refreshed with 1" frame, external GPU enclosure

External GPU's are a great concept - you can have a thin, light laptop that can become way more powerful just by plugging in a peripheral - but haven't caught on very broadly. The excellent Sony VAIO Z had one, and many people have hacked them together for Macbooks and various other devices, but that's about the extent of their adoption so far.
That changes now, with Dell's gaming branch Alienware unveiling a "Graphics Amplifier" for their latest Alienware 13 laptop. Essentially, it's an 8 pound, $299 rectangle that connects to the laptop via a custom PCI/USB cable and allows you to insert any NVidia or AMD desktop graphics card that uses 375 watts of power or less. This is pretty awesome for a gaming laptop, as it allows you to update your GPU without having to replace the entire laptop, or vice versa(as long as you stick with Alienware.)
The amplifier also adds 4 USB 3.0 ports to the already respectable 3 on the Alienware 13.
As for the laptop, it starts at $999 with a measly 1366x768 resolution screen but you can upgrade that to a 1920x1080p or 2560x1440p touchscreen panel. There's Intel's Core i5-4210U CPU, NVidia's GeForce GTX860m GPU, 8 or 16GB's of RAM, and either a 500GB or 1TB hard drive or a 256GB SSD. There's also stereo speakers with Creative Sound Blaster audio processing, a backlit keyboard and both HDMI and mini Displayport. The laptop itself is the thinnest Alienware yet at 1" thick with a carbon fiber composite frame.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Amazon Fire TV Stick takes on the Chromecast at $39 or $19 for Prime members

Amazon's Fire TV set top box is apparently doing quite well, and the selection of apps and games for it has swelled to over 600(from less than 200 at launch.) But at $99, it costs quite a bit more than the Google Chromecast or entry level Roku models. Not to mention that it faces stiff competition from the identically priced the forthcoming Apple TV, Roku 3 and forthcoming Google Nexus Player.
So the Seattle-based retail giant has unveiled the Fire TV Stick, which keeps the remote, voice control, casual gaming capability, and screen mirroring of the normal Fire TV, but cuts the price. It costs $39, or just $19 for Amazon Prime members, which is rather amazing. And the dual core processor, 1GB of RAM and 8GB's of storage are more equivalent to an Apple TV or Roku 3 than the comparatively priced Roku Streaming Stick or Google Chromecast.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Android Wear gains GPS, local music playback to welcome the Sony Smartwatch 3

Google's wearable platform, the aptly-named Android Wear, is getting its first major software update. The biggest feature addition is support for using GPS built into the watch instead of having to rely on a paired phone for location tracking. This is a perfectly timed addition given that Sony's new Smartwatch 3(which features GPS) is launching soon.
Next up, the music player can now actually... play music, instead of just acting as a fancy remote for your phone. With the 4GB's of storage in most smartwatches, you won't be keeping your whole music collection, but it should be perfect for hearing a workout playlist while using that GPS tracking on a run. And finally, you can pair Bluetooth headphones directly with the watch now.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Ridley Scott-directed Halo: Nightfall series gets its first trailer


Halo Nightfall, an episodic series from acclaimed director Ridley Scott(Aliens,) is going to be released alongside the Halo Master Chief Collection on November 11th. That's coming right up, so we've gotten our first full-length trailer for it, showing some action and the characters and sets. 
One question remains: How precisely can someone stop being a Spartan?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Spotify launches $14.99 a month family subscription

Spotify hasn't had a huge amount of success getting people to sign up for their premium subscriptions, despite the many benefits they offer, but their newest offering might be the best yet. The new Spotify Family plan costs $14.99 a month(as opposed to $9.99 a month for a Spotify Premium account) with 2 users, $19.99 for three, $24.99 for 4, etc. Essentially, you get a $5 a month discount per extra user, which adds up to a $20 a month savings at the max 5 user plan. Best of all, you actually get separate accounts, meaning your family member who only listens to your least favorite band won't mess up your account's recommendations. Plus, unlike if you have one account with multiple users by sharing your password, everyone can listen at the same time. And you get all the other benefits of a Spotify Premium account, including no ads, local cacheing, full mobile usage, and higher. Competitors RDio and Beats Music have offered family plans for quite a while, but services such as Google Music All Access and Apple iTunes Radio do not, so Spotify has a new differentiator here.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Google's HTC Nexus 9 and ASUS Nexus Player are now up for preorder

The fall 2014 Nexus lineup was announced on Wednesday, and now you can actually plunk down money for two of the three members. The gorgeous HTC Nexus 9, which as you might suspect is a 9" QHD tablet(complete with front facing stereo speakers and super fast performance,) costs $399. You can also pay $479 for an identical model with 32GB's of storage, and there's a $599 LTE version coming later.
Meanwhile, the $99 ASUS Nexus Player set top box/casual game console/fancy Chromecast is also up for pre order with an included $20 Google Play gift card for free. There's also an optional game controller for an extra $39.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

All Sony Xperia Z devices, NVidia Shield tablet will get Android Lollypop

Yesterday Motorola was first out of the gate with news about Android 5.0 Lollypop updates for their devices, but now Sony and NVidia have chimed in. If you've got any member of Sony's Xperia Z series, you will be getting the update, at least eventually. That includes the Z3, Z3V, Z3 Compact, Z3 Tablet Compact, Z2, Z2 Tablet, Z1, Z1 Compact, Z1S, Z Ultra, Z, Z Tablet, ZR, ZL, and Z Ultra Google Play Edition. That last one will receive the update first, followed by the Z3 series and Z2 in early 2015.
NVidia's gaming focused Shield Tablet will also be getting the update, and possibly other new features as the tweet making the announcement mentioned "and more."


Apple Mac Mini(2014) gets a price cut and spec boost, plus Thunderbolt 2

The Mac Mini is Apple's cheapest computer, but it hadn't been updated in quite a while, making it not the best value. Today in their iPad Air 2/Retina iMac event, they finally changed that, with the 2014 Mac Mini. Perhaps the most important change is the $100 price drop, which means Apple now has a computer for under $500 again. And even at that level, it has better specs than the lower end of the old range, with Intel's Haswell Core i5, running 2 cores at 1.4GHz with 4GB's of RAM and a 500GB HDD. You can update that all the way up to a dual core Core i7 at 3.0GHz with 16GB's of RAM and a 1TB solid state drive, with a variety of standard configurations in between. Sadly, there's no more quad core or server-oriented options available.

Apple iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3 are have TouchID, super thin frames and are faster

The iPad Air 2 is an iterative upgrade over last year's model - if this was an iPhone, it'd probably be called the Air S - but that doesn't make it a bad device. Apple's crammed a brand new A8X SoC that's 40% faster than the Air inside a frame that's just 6.1mm(0.24") thick, while maintaining the same battery life. There's also TouchID, which due to iOS 8 can now be used to authenticate payments in 3rd party apps as well as unlocking the system. It's available in white, space grey or gold, and has an 8MP camera on the back, a larger sensor for the web cam, and faster WiFi and LTE. And finally, they've changed the display to have optically bonded components for no air gaps and an anti-reflective coating.
The iPad Mini 3, on the other hand, got just a few seconds of attention at today's keynote, perhaps because it's even more of a minor update. There's TouchID, the faster wireless chip from the Air, a gold option, and that's about it. No new camera, better display or A8 processor. In fact, since the iPad Mini 2 is still around for $100 less, that's a better deal unless you really, really need a fingerprint reader on a gold-colored tablet.
As for pricing, from the top down: The iPad Air 2 costs $499 for 16GB's, $599 for 64GB's(yes, there's no more 32GB configuration) or $699 for 128GB's, with LTE models adding $130 to those prices. The iPad Air now costs $399 for 16GB's or $449 for 32, with LTE again adding $130. The iPad Mini 3 is also $399 for 16GB's, with 64 and 128 running $499 and $599 respectively and the usual LTE surcharge. An iPad Mini 2 is maybe the best deal of the bunch if you can't afford an Air 2, at $299 or $399 for 16 and 32 GB's plus $130 if you need cellular data. And finally, the aging original iPad Mini, with a non-Retina 1024x768 display and A5 CPU,

is $249 with 16GB's of storage.

Apple iMac with Retina Display is the highest resolution all in one ever

So called Quad HD(or 2560x1440) 27" IPS displays like those in the iMac or Lenovo A740 are already quite beautiful, but Apple's just unveiled a much, much better all in one screen. They're calling it a Retina 5K display, and it's an incredible 5220x2880 IPS 27" panel that somehow manages to also use 30% less energy. They've backed that panel up with what may be the fastest all in one computer available; The starting configuration has a 3.5GHz quad core Intel Core i5, AMD Radeon R9 M290x GPU, 1TB Fusion Drive, and 8GB's of RAM. But of course, you can max it out: up to a 4.0GHz quad core Intel Core i7, 32GB's of RAM, and either a 3TB Fusion Drive or a 1TB SSD, along with an AMD M295x are all on offer. It runs the just released OS X 10.10 Yosemite and will start at $2499.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

All Motorola and Google Nexus devices from 2013(& some from 2012) will get Android Lollypop


Motorola and Google have both announced their upgrade plans for Android 5.0 Lollypop, making Motorola the first 3rd party manufacturer to do so. On the Motorola side, their entire 2013 and 2014 lineup will get the upgrade; That means both the original and second generation Moto X and Moto G, as well as the Moto E and Droid Ultra, Maxx and Mini.
Meanwhile, Google's Nexus family is marketed partially around the fact that they get prompt upgrades, so it's no surprise that quite a lot of them will get Lollypop. Specifically, if you have an LG Nexus 5 or Nexus 4, a Samsung Nexus 10, or an ASUS Nexus 7 from either 2012 or 2013, you're getting Android 5.0.
Source: Motorola, Ars Technica

The ASUS Nexus Player is Google's latest assault on the living room, with Android TV

Google's first two TV initiatives, the Nexus Q and Google TV, were strikes. But before they could be struck out completely, the boys and gals in Mountain View hit a home run with the simplistic, $35 Chromecast. It was the top selling electronics product on Amazon for months, and I personally know a lot of people who have them. But full featured it was not. In fact, there was no UI or functionality at all, instead relying on your tablet/phone/computer to launch the content and then mirroring it on your TV.
The new Android TV OS seems to strike a balance between that uber-simplicity and the ridiculously complex Google TV, and today they've announced the first product to run it. It's manufactured by long-time Nexus program partner ASUS, but with hefty input from Google, and it's called the Nexus Player. Essentially a small shiny black circle, it looks something like a cross between an Apple TV and the old Nexus Q. Chromecast support is baked in, so you can use it the same way, but there's also a nice tiled UI that lets you navigate  using your phone, a remote or a gamepad. Just like the Amazon Fire TV, there's a mic on the remote for voice search; That was a super smart feature that should work even better here with Google's excellent voice control. The gamepad is sold separately but you'll probably want to pick one up since this is Android so developers won't have a hard time making games for Android TV. Plus, there's free online multiplayer and a quad core Intel Atom onboard, along with super fast 802.11ac 2x2 wifi.
Pricing is as of yet unknown but you can put in a preorder on Friday and it'll launch in early November.
Update: The Nexus Player will cost $99 and come with $20 of Google Play credit, while the game controller will be an extra $39.

The HTC Nexus 9 is a beautiful, QHD, super fast tablet for $399

The Google Nexus tablets have mainly been oriented at consumption rather than creation; The Nexus 7 is a relatively low end, media oriented device and the Nexus 10 never got a keyboard dock or a focus on productivity. That's changing now, with HTC making its first Nexus device and tablet in years(since the original Nexus One and ill-fated Jetstream, respectively) with the new Nexus 9. It's a high end device with a beautiful metal/glass/plastic design in your choice of black, white or sand(gold.) But it also has an optional physical keyboard that attaches magnetically, and an extremely powerful 64 bit NVidia Tegra K1 "Denver" CPU. Besides that, there's an 8.9" 2560x1440p display front facing stereo speaker just like on the excellent HTC One, and a 6700 mAh battery. Finally, there's an 8MP camera, 2MP webcam, 16 or 32 GB's of storage and of course stock Android 5.0 Lollypop.
The Nexus 9 is up for pre order on Friday and will launch November 3rd for $399(16GB's,) $479(32GB's) or $599(32GB's plus built in LTE.)


The Motorola Nexus 6: 2014's Google flagship is a 6" stock Android powerhouse

Like small phones? This one's not for you. Google's latest Nexus device is an upscaled version of the all-around excellent Motorola Moto X, but with a crazy 6" display. It's aimed right at the iPhone 6+ and Galaxy Note 4, and has a plastic, metal and glass body in black or blue with front facing stereo speakers. There's also that humongous 6 inch display, complete with a 2560x1440 Quad HD resolution and powered by the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 2.7GHz quad core processor.Around back there's a 13MP camera with an f/2.0 aperture lens, and there's a huge 3220mAh battery on board. If you ever do run out of juice, Motorola's bundling a "Turbo Charger" that can charge up 6 hours of battery life in 15 minutes. Finally, it's the first smartphone to run Android 5.0 Lollypop, as well as the first Nexus device from Motorola. It'll start at $649 with 32GB's of storage and also be available with 64GB's, unlocked through Google or on AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint or US Cellular.

Lenovo IdeaCentre A740 review


All in one desktops are a bit of a confusing category to review. On the one hand, they offer laptop-like low performance and high pricing compared to traditional tower desktops, due to their space constraints and built in displays. On the other hand, their simplicity, beauty(when done right) and space saving capabilities are very real advantages that are somewhat hard to put a price on. What I've decided on for a general rubric is that the display is most important, followed by design and size, then performance, followed by fun bonus features with price playing it's usual important role. Lenovo's IdeaCentre A740, which they sent me to evaluate, does near-perfectly on 4 out of those 6 categories, but not great on the remaining two.

Note: This is my thoughts about a review unit that I received for roughly 2 weeks from the ever-helpful media representatives at Lenovo. There was no monetary transaction involved, in either direction.

Display: A good display is the most important part of the all in one formula, and Lenovo nailed it. The centerpiece of the A740 is its 27" IPS 2560x1440(QHD) multitouch panel, and it lives up to it's role. This screen is seriously gorgeous; Next to my laptop, either of my two desktop monitors(1080p units at 24 and 25 inches,) my tablet or even my phone, this is definitely the best screen I have access to. I've used Apple's iMac - one of the A740's main competitors - quite a bit, and I would take the display in the A740 every time. It's not quite as good as a 4K panel, though I don't have one of those to compare it with directly in the same room, but there's not much content at that resolution anyway. Not only is it huge, bright and super high resolution, the fact that it's an IPS panel means the off-center viewing angles are quite good as well. Playing the Youtube trailer for The Judge, an episode of Doctor Who, Taylor Swift's new Shake It Off music video, and Destiny on an Xbox 360 using HDMI-in all looked great. It's a touch screen as well, but more on that below.

Not much thicker than the included keyboard
Design: The A740 is much thinner than most of its competition due to the fact that the motherboard, CPU and other components(along with the ports) are in the base, not the display. This is a very smart design decision that I hope the rest of the industry copies, and allows this Lenovo to look like a futuristic TV. At some angles, you can't see the hinge, so there's just a silver metal base with a black glass and metal display hanging over it. That hinge is also interesting, letting you fold the display down into a sort of table-PC that's good for... well, board games or drawing maybe? I didn't use that feature a whole lot, and it makes the screen bounce back a bit when you're touch typing on it, so I could have done without it. But if you like the idea, it's there, and all in all the A740 is minimalist, and good looking, without the design getting in the way of the functionality.


Performance & Specs: Here's where the weak point comes in. The A740 is not a slow computer at all, in fact it kept up with almost everything I threw at it, but it has the internals of a laptop. And not a large, powerful laptop, but a slim ultrabook. There's one of Intel's ultra low voltage Haswell Core i7-4558U 2.8GHz dual core processors, 8GB's of RAM, NVidia GTX850a graphics, and a 1TB HDD with an 8GB SSD. For comparison, the Apple iMac has a still-laptop-grade, but full powered(instead of ULV) quad core Core i5 running at 3.2GHz, while the Dell XPS One 27's is also a quad core i5 but at 3.3GHz.


Touch/Miscellaneous: I'm still not thoroughly sure that we need touchscreen desktops, but if you want one, there's nothing lacking about the A740's implementation. It's a full 10 finger multitouch panel, and that aforementioned hinge that lets you use it in "table mode" is quite the advantage for touch usage.
Want to hook up another device to that beautiful display? There's an HDMI-in port on the left side of the A740's base, which worked flawlessly with my Macbook Air and Xbox 360. It's a great feature, and it also lets you take advantage of the built in JBL speakers. They're quite good, and extremely loud; Sound quality wasn't quite as good as my external Logitech 2.1 array but I'm pretty sure the Lenovo's built in speakers are actually louder, which is somewhat amazing.
"Table mode," for touch use
As for the software, you're looking at the latest version of Windows, 8.1.1, plus a smattering of preinstalled apps: Dragon Assistant is a surprisingly useful Siri/Google Now-like tool, Microsoft Office, Evernote and Lenovo PowerDVD will come in handy, and the rest should be uninstalled. Particularly, the Lenovo start menu and McAfee AntiVirus are somewhat annoying.
Lenovo also bundled an external DVD writer, which connects via USB and works just fine if you ever need to read or write a CD/DVD. No Bluray capability, sadly. There's also built in NFC, WiFi AC, Bluetooth 4.0, a 6-in-1 card reader, 1080p webcam, & 4 USB 4.0 ports. In other words, nothing to complain about there.

Price & Competition: This is always the sticky point for an all in one. The IdeaCenter we're looking at today has a base price of $1649 or $1879 as configured. Alternatively, you could buy an excellent monitor, build your own tower desktop(or purchase a pre -built one) with far better specs, and still come out hundreds cheaper.
But assuming you want an all in one, and a high end 27" one at that, you're probably looking at the Apple iMac, Dell XPS One, and possibly the HP ENVY Recline. The HP starts at just $1249 with a faster quad core processor, but with a far inferior display, bulkier design, and less powerful graphics card. The Dell is more interesting: It has the same price, display, RAM, hard drive and touchscreen capabilities, but with some trade offs. It's powered by a 3.3GHz quad core processor and has a built in DVD drive, but lacks the GTX850a GPU and super thin design. Apple's iMac, meanwhile, is the many-times-removed descendant of the very first all in one computer. It's beautiful, and unusually for a Mac-vs-PC comparison, costs less($1799) than my review unit A740 while having a faster processor. But again, Lenovo has it beat on the GPU, with the iMac having a rather obsolete GT755m, plus there's no touchscreen or fancy 90 degree angle hinge here.


Verdict: Again, it's a bit hard to review an all in one, as it doesn't really make financial sense yet for some users it may be perfect. If you've already decided that you want an all in one, and you either prefer Windows or want a touchscreen(thus eliminating the iMac) I would go with the A740. I wish it had a full voltage, quad core processor since almost all its competition does, but I never really had any issues with the performance in actual usage. And that screen really is truly amazing.






Friday, October 10, 2014

Tesla's D is a crazy AWD, dual motor, partially self-driving, Model S that can do 0-60mph in 3.2s

The Tesla Motors Model S has rapidly become not just the most iconic electric car, but the status symbol of the entire Silicon Valley culture - it means you've arrived financially, but haven't lost your principles. Or something like that.
Now, CEO Elon Musk has unveiled a new variant, the D, which improves nearly every aspect of the Model S. Available on the entry level P60, midrange P80, or bonkers P85, the D trim essentially adds another entire motor. This allows all wheel drive, which obviously makes you safer in increment conditions, while increasing performance as well. How much? The lower end models have 0.2 seconds cut from their 0-60 time, & that same acceleration takes just 3.2 seconds on the P85D. This is despite the Model S being a large, nearly 5000 pound sedan. For comparison, a Porsche Panamera Turbo S($180,000) takes 3.6 seconds, while an Audi RS7 takes 3.7s($106,500,) and the Mercedes AMG E63 4Matic($96,000) has a quite good time of 3.4s. Those are all high end sedans, Tesla's direct competition, but what's most impressive is how it beats, equals or is near the performance of some legitimate super cars. The Porsche 911 Turbo, with a base price of $151,100, takes the same 3.2 seconds as the Tesla, while the Corvette Z06(just $78,995) would leave them both in the dust from a pure acceleration standpoint at 2.9s. The much higher end Ferrari 458 Italia costs $233,500 but takes 3.4s.
There's also a combined 691 horse power and 687 lb-ft of torque, which is quite a lot, and an all electric range of 275 miles.
You'll be paying $120,170 for the P85D, $85,070 for the P80, or $77,070 for the P60, and those lower end models actually get an increased range over the non-AWD versions, of 225 and 295 miles respectively.
Finally, there's the autopilot. It can't quite drive itself yet, but there's now cameras, radar and sonar on board both the RWD and AWD Model S versions, which allows it to switch lanes when you turn on your signal, park itself, or stop automatically to avoid a collision. And it can even come pick you up in a parking garage or on a long driveway. In fact, if you schedule it into the calendar, your car will be waiting outside your door(as opposed to having to find it in the garage) when you told it you will need it.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Lenovo Yoga 2 family is designed by Ashton Kutcher, available with Windows or Android(mostly)

Lenovo's partnership with Ashton Kutcher has yielded a new result: The Yoga Tablet 2 Pro. It's a 13" Android tablet with a built in projector that can create a 50" screen on any flat surface. There's also the signature Yoga kickstand, which I found quite useful when I reviewed the original Yoga Tablet. This time around, that kickstand can rotate a full 180 degrees, and has a hole in it to let you hang the device for using it in the kitchen or mounting it in a boardroom, for example. As for specs, there's a quad core Intel Atom processor, 2560x1440 13" display, 8MP camera, 8W speakers and a crazy 15 hours of rated battery. It'll start at $499 in a platinum color with an optional 4G LTE model when it goes on sale later this month.

Meanwhile, the 8-and-10 inch Yoga Tablets have been refreshed as well, with your choice of Windows 8.1.1 or Android 4.4 KitKat on board. Interestingly, the Windows models are only available in black while the Android versions are only platinum, but otherwise they have identical specs. There's the same quad core Atom, 8MP camera, 180 degree hinge and optional 4G as the Yoga Tablet 2 Pro, but with a 1920x1080p display instead of a 2560x1440 one.

Lenovo's Yoga 3 Pro slims down last year's best convertible laptop

Last year, the best convertible touch ultrabook you could buy was the Yoga 2 Pro, at least in most people's opinion. So the followup model is quite the important device for Lenovo, and it looks like they haven't messed it up. It takes the same formula of a traditional laptop with a hinge that lets you keep rotating the screen back nearly 360 degrees, and iterates on it. Instead of being 0.61" thick and 3.06 pounds, the new model is 0.5"(12.8mm) thick & 2.6lbs, and comes in gold, clementine or white. That hinge now has more than 800 hand assembled pieces, so Lenovo's calling it a "Watchband hinge." The beautiful 3200x1800 touchscreen is still the centerpiece, and now it's backed up by Intel's brand new Broadwell Core M processors. The battery life has been enhanced to a rated 9 hours, and there's JBL speakers, 802.11ac wifi, 8GB's of RAM and up to a 512GB SSD onboard. It'll launch at $1349 later this month.