Thursday, October 1, 2015

LG's crazy new flagship V10 has two screens, three cameras and 4GB's of RAM plus a removable battery

LG just upended their naming scheme. For the last 4 years, their top of the line smartphone has had a G in the name. Their was the Optimus G, the G2, the G3, and the early-2014 G4. Not to mention the G Pro phablets and experimental, curved G Flex series. But now, against freshened competition from Apple, Samsung, Motorola, and Sony, all of which have launched new flagships in the last month, there's the V10. No, I don't know why they started with 10 either(or maybe it's binary, in which case that's a 2?) but the V is their because of the focus on video. The rear camera, besides having a 16MP optically stabilized, laser auto-focused still mode, can shoot 4K in a 21:9 cinematic mode with stabilization.
There's also a 5.7" 2560x1440p IPS Quantum Dot LCD screen, with a small 2.1"secondary display right above it that can display the weather, time, battery status and notifications when the main screen's off. They threw two cameras on the front as well for super wide angle selfies, and the audio for music goes through a 32 bit ESS Technologies digital audio controller, so it should sound pretty great. As for specs, there's a Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 CPU, 4GB's of RAM, 64GB's of storage, Android Lollipop, and a 3000mAh battery. Perhaps most interestingly, they kept the removable battery, which none of the available competition offers, and have a microSD card slot that supports up to 2TB's.
Pricing is unknown, but the V10 will be available in black, white, beige, or two shades of blue, with a silicon and metal design, on all major carriers except Sprint.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Google's Chromecast 2 looks different and should be a lot faster

The original Chromecast was an unqualified success, as you might expect of a $35, easy to use device that lets you throw video or your phone/tablet/laptop screen on to any TV. That's why the new Chromecast 2 isn't hugely changed. There's 5GHz 802.11ac WiFi, "Fast Mode" to pre-cache apps like Netflix and videos it thinks you might want to watch, and a new design: It's now a tiny little circle with a bendable rubber HDMI cable sticking out, allowing you to plug it into TV's with lots of other devices and not much room between the ports. It still costs $35 and now comes in black, yellow or red, but that's really about it.
Meanwhile, the new Chromecast Audio is exactly what it sounds like: A $35 audio-only Chromecast for casting Spotify, Google Music, Pandora, or whatever else from your phone or laptop to any speaker with a 3.5mm, RCA or optical connection.
Why would you want this when so many speakers have Bluetooth now? For one thing it works with any, non-Bluetooth speaker set you already have, but it can also have(potentially much) higher audio quality and works even if your phone or other device isn't near the speakers. This is since Google Cast works by streaming your desired content from the internet, not actually from the local device.
As before with the original Chromecast, these devices will work with a growing selection of apps on Android, iOS, Mac OS X and Windows.

Google Pixel C is a high end, in house tablet with an NVidia Tegra X

A few years back, Google unveiled their first internally-produced hardware device, the Chromebook Pixel. It was beautiful, and an amazing screen back when that was a rarity, and cost a rather insane amount of money. The new Pixel C is also gorgeous, has an incredible screen, and costs the same as the iPad Air, in a market where most try to undercut the incumbent leader. On the other hand, the device really is stunning, with a 7mm thick minimalist aluminum design and magnetic connection to the optional keyboard, making it much more elegant then a Surface or iPad Pro's docking connector. The display is a 2560x1800 10.2" panel, making for an amazing 308 pixels per inch.  There's also 3GB's of RAM and NVidia's super fast Tegra X1, with 8 processing cores and 256 Maxwell GPU cores. There's also an 8MP camera, if you're the sort of monster who takes photos with a tablet. Finally, it has the new reversible USB Type C port, runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow and will cost $499 with 32GB's of storage and $599 with 64, while that keyboard costs $149.

Google Nexus 5X and 6P are the latest flagship Android phones

The Motorola and LG built, Google designed Nexus 6 and Nexus 5 have been some of the best phones available at their respective launch times of 2013 and 2014, and now Google has a successor for both: The LG Nexus 5X and Huawei Nexus 6P are all new, and they both look tempting so far.
Lets start with their commonalities: As Nexus devices, they of course run the absolute latest version of Android(version 6.0 Marshmallow), with no 3rd party customization's and guaranteed prompt updates. Then there's the fingerprint sensor, which is on the back of the phone right where your finger typically rests, and works for Android Pay authentication among other uses. They also are among the first few phones with the new USB Type C port, which is reversible, smaller, more durable, can support up to 100 watts of power(in other words, it can also charge a laptop) and faster. They also share a Sony 12.3MP camera sensor with larger-than-usual 1.55µm pixels, which should enable far better indoors or low light photos. That camera also supports the now-common for a 2015 flagship 4K video recording, On the negative side, neither have microSD card slots, like the latest from Apple and Samsung, but unlike the more flexible LG G4 and Motorola Moto X. Finally, both are bundled with 3 months of Google Play Music, a $10/month subscription, and a $50 Google Play gift card.
But they aren't the same phone. The LG model is, as you might expect, a 5.2" device with a smaller form factor but a plastic design and not quite the same level of specs. It still runs a blazing fast hexacore Qualcomm Snapdragon 808, 1920x1080p display, 5MP front selfie cam, 2700mAh battery, has 2GB's of RAM, and comes in black, white or a beautiful light blue shade. Unlocked pricing is $379 with 16GB's of storage or $399 for 32GB's of storage, making it $20 cheaper than a Moto X and $270 less than an iPhone 6S or Galaxy S6.
Meanwhile, the Nexus 6P is a successor to last year's Nexus 6, and as such is a little bit higher end: There's a sleek aluminum unibody frame, the namesake 5.7" 2560x1400p AMOLED display, front facing stereo speakers, 3GB's of RAM, a crazy 8MP front camera, and Qualcomm's octacore Snapdragon 810. It'll come in plain aluminum, graphite, or frost grey, with 32GB's for $499, or higher end 64GB/$549 and 128GB/$649 models. That puts the 6P at $250 less than an iPhone 6S Plus and $200 < the Samsung Galaxy Note 5.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Pebble Time Round is the thinnest & lightest smartwatch and the first round Pebble, for $249

Watches, in my opinion, should be round. It's just the classic form factor, and the best smartwatches are those that are basically normal watches with some added features. The circular design is one of the great things about the Motorola Moto 360, and a bunch of other smartwatches are jumping on board. That group now includes Pebble, with the Kickstarter-funded startup today introducing the aptly named Pebble Time Round. It's extraordinarily thin and light, with a nice looking metal chassis and a circular, always on color epaper display. They're rating the battery life at two full days of power, and a 15 minute charge time to get to 50%. It costs $249, which puts it at $50 more than the normal Pebble Time or ASUS Zenwatch but right in line with the Moto 360 and $100 cheaper than the Apple Watch. Of course, unlike the Apple Watch, the Pebble will support nearly any iOS or Android device.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Amazon's latest Fire family includes a $50 tablet, 4K Fire TV, and more

Amazon's unleashed a whole variety of new Fire devices this morning, ranging from the very entry level Fire tablet to the Fire TV 4K and the new Fire HD 8 and 10 inch options. This comes in the wake of their spectacular failure at entering the smartphone market, and consequent pairing down of the devices division. Seemingly, they still have enough engineers and designers to make a huge amount of tablets, however.

The Fire HD now comes in 8 and 10 inch models, making this Amazon's largest tablet ever. It's also super thin, at 7.75mm, has a 1280x800p IPS display, 1.5GHz quad core processor, 5MP rear camera and 720p webcam. There's also Dolby Atmos speakers, 802.11ac wifi, a microSD card slot, and 8 or 16GB's of storage on the 8 inch version and 16 or 32 on the 10" edition. In other words, they aren't targeting the high end here, but on the other hand, the prices are nicely low: You can buy an 8" Fire HD from $149 and up, while a 10" model will run you $229 or higher.
The new Fire(yes, just the Fire, not any other descriptors) has a even lower specs, but an even better price point: It costs just $49, or $249 for a 6 pack of tablets. Need a tablet for everyone in your family, small office, or every room in your house? Amazon has what's likely the best option around. Sure, with a 1024x600 7" display, 1.3GHz quad core Mediatek processor and 8GB's of storage are far from impressive, but you could legitimately use one as a cook book in the kitchen, one in your garage for help working on cars, one to control a sprinkler system... the possibilities are endless. It's a pretty cool idea. It'll also come in a $99 Kids Edition with a built in rubber bumper, special OS optimized for kids, and an unlimited warranty.
Meanwhile, on the home theater front, the Fire TV set top box has been updated with two major new features: 4K content playback support, which is something that the new Apple TV doesn't have, and Alexa, Amazon's take on the virtual assistant a lá Siri/Cortana/Google Now. To support all of that, it has a new quad core processor with 75% better CPU performance then the last Fire TV, 2GB's of RAM and WiFi AC. There's even a microSD card slot to augment the 8GB's of built in storage, and an optional "Gaming Edition" that comes with a 32GB card, a gamepad and two free games of your choice. Pricing? The normal Fire TV will be $99, while the Gaming Edition is $139.
All of the above products run Android Lollipop with the 5th version of Amazon's custom skin on top.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Porsche Mission E concept is a stunningly gorgeous electric super sedan

If Porsche decides to build their latest concept, Tesla's Model S will have some extremely compelling competition for the title of best high end electric car. That's because the latest from Stuttgart has an estimated range of 500km(310 miles) on a single charge, a top speed of >250km/h(155mph) and a 0-60 sprint in <3.5 seconds. That puts it on par with the Model S, but it also has some unique tricks: You can use an 800 volt charge to charge the batteries to 80% in 15 minutes, or charge inductively(ie without wires) from a more typical 400 volt charger.
And then there's the design. I'm not always a fan of Volkswagen Group products designs, but this think is just drop dead, unbelievably good looking. There's rear suicide doors, aluminum/carbon-reinforced polymer/steel construction, carbon fiber wheels, and a height of 1.3 meters for rather amazing aerodynamics. The interior is well designed as well, and has some nifty features like eye tracking to control the heads up display.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Lenovo A540 Review

The living room PC is a hard market to crack. A lot of companies have decided that it should just be a device connected to your TV for entertainment, while others like having a normal PC for every type of task. What most people do agree on is that having a ton of separate components connected with annoying wires is not worth it. That's why companies make computers like this Lenovo A540, a sleek, compact all in one with a touchscreen so you can use it without all the separate pieces of a normal desktop. Of course, it'll work in an office as well, and a self contained system like this might make sense for a small business.

Display: The most important aspect of an all in one is the display - it's almost the only factor that matters, actually. The A540's centerpiece is a 23.6" 1920x1080p IPS multitouch screen. I have nothing bad to say about it, and quite enjoyed using it to watch an episode of Narcos on Netflix, but it's not really a standout anymore. A few years ago, I would have been hugely impressed, but now it's just standard for the class. It pales in comparison to the outstanding panel in the A740 I previously reviewed, and competitors from ASUS, HP, Dell and Apple also have equal or in some cases better displays. You can also hook up another device with HDMI and use the A540 as a monitor, which I found quite useful. I used it with my desktop and Xbox One to play a bit of Metal Gear Solid and it worked perfectly. Of course, as HDMI doesn't pass through the touchscreen interactions, you can't use the touch capability of the monitor, but it's still a nifty feature.

Specs: Like its big sibling, the A540 uses an ultra low voltage Intel Core i7-4558U laptop chip, similar to what you'd find in an ultrabook like the Macbook Air or some Lenovo Yoga's. I found this disappointing when I reviewed the A740, and now time has passed, so that's a two-generation old chip as well. Among the competition, Dell's Inspiron 23 7000 has a faster full voltage Core i5 running at 3.2 GHz, for $100 less, or the same price with 4GB's more RAM. That said, the A540 never felt slow in my normal routine - in fact, everything was quite snappy. The other specs are pretty decent, with 8GB's of RAM, an NVidia GeForce GT840m(not a very powerful discrete GPU, but none of the direct competition have one at all) and a 1TB HDD with an 8GB SSHD. That little bit of flash storage helps boot up and app loading times be pretty good, and neither the Dell nor the entry level Apple iMac have one.
The speakers, meanwhile, are fabulous. For normal desktop use, I kept them at around 30% volume while listening to Kacey Musgraves Are You Sure?, and besides being loud, they sound just as good as my Logitech 2.1 channel set if not better.

Design: The A540 is quite a nice looking PC, with a sleek, minimalist glass and aluminum shell and all the computer-y bits in the base, making for a quite thin display panel. There's also the hinge, which allows you to tilt it 90 degrees backwards for a tabletop mode that's like using a giant tablet. There's a bunch of kids games preinstalled(more on that later) which take advantage of this mode, and it's quite fun. The responsiveness of the touchscreen when 2 people are swiping around on it quickly leaves something to be desired, but that's not a design complaint. All in all, I'd say Lenovo's designers are to be applauded here.

Software: There's a lot of extra software on the A540. I briefly counted them and found 41 programs that Lenovo has installed on top of Windows. None of them need to be there, and they're all taking up space and introducing the potential for security vulnerabilities. A lot of them also start by default, causing performance degradation and popping up messages. It's terrifically annoying, especially in comparison to the last Lenovo computer I reviewed, which had a relatively clean install of Windows. Bloatware, as this trend is called, is never a good thing and it's just over the top here.

Verdict: There's not a whole lot that really stands out about this PC, but it's a pretty decent purchase as long as you plan on performing a fresh install of Windows to get rid of all the bundled software. The Dell Inspiron 23 is a bit cheaper with a better processor, but doesn't have a GPU or the 8GB's of solid state storage, and it doesn't look quite as good. Apple's iMac has a smaller display, half the hard drive space, no GPU or touchscreen, and a slower processor, but it does run OS X and and have Thunderbolt in a nice design, at the same price. HP's Envy 23xt has a weird, overly-flashy design and a higher price tag(though it's on sale for $1069 at the moment) but with a quad core CPU, more RAM, optional Bluray, and better speakers. You still don't get the GT 840m graphics card or the 90 degree hinge, and HP's build quality is questionable. So for $1099, the A540 is a pretty great choice.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Huawei Watch has a sapphire, circular display for $349 and up

Android Wear has a burgeoning selection of hardware from the likes of Sony, Motorola, Samsung, LG, ASUS and now Huawei. The latest from the Chinese manufacturer known mostly for their smartphones is a premium, circular Android Wear watch. It looks somewhat like the Motorola Moto 360, but has a fancier sapphire crystal display. There's a Qualcomm 400, 512MB's of RAM, 4GB's of storage and magnetic charging, all similarly to the 360 as well. The screen is a 1.4" full circle with 286 pixels per inch, and it's IP67 water resistant certified. The steel case/leather band version starts at $349, while a gold plated case and stainless steel band will cost you a steep $799. While that's expensive compared to the $300 Motorola, it seems like a positive bargain against Apple's Watch, which reaches into the 5 figure range. It'll ship to the US on September 19th, and support Apple iOS 8 and Google Android 4.2 devices.

Lenovo's late 2015 ThinkPad lineup is centered around Skylake, lots of options

At IFA in Berlin Lenovo unwrapped the latest models in their business-centric ThinkPad series, the Yoga 260, Yoga 460, ThinkCentre Tiny, ThinkCentre M900 Tower and M900z AIO.
  • The ThinkCentre M900 has Intel's latest Skylake processors, up to 64GB's of DDR4 RAM, 8 USB 3.0 ports, Display Port 1.2, several removable hard drive bays and support for 7 different monitors. It also has a base price of $799.
  • The ThinkCentre M900z AIO is as you might expect, an all in one PC with Intel's Skylake Core i7 processors, up to 32GB's of DDR4 RAM, up to 12 TB's of hard drive space or a 1TB SSD or various mixtures of the two, and a 23.8" FHD display. There's also 6 USB 3.0 ports, Displayport in/out, and touch capability. 
  • ThinkCentre Tiny Available in M600, M700, and M900 versions, which start at $399/$499/$749 respectively, the Tiny is a small form factor tower with Intel Pentiums on the M600 and up to a Skylake Core i7 on the higher end. As for the rest of the specs, it has up to 32GB's of DDR4 RAM, 6 USB 3.0 ports, Displayport, and support for 3 monitors. 
  • On the more portable side, the ThinkPad Yoga 460 has Lenovo's signature Yoga 360 degree hinge design, Skylake Intel Core i7 processors, a 14" 2560x1440p display, 8GB's of DDR4 RAM, 1TB HDD or 256GB SSD, NVidia Geforce 940M 2GB, Mini Displayport, HDMI and 3 USB ports. It also comes in an optional silver color, which is quite unusual for a ThinkPad, is made from carbon fiber and offers a claimed 10 hours of battery life for a base price of $1049.
  • The ThinkPad Yoga 260 is in some ways lower end but also has some specs that surpass the 460. There's a 12.5" 1920x1080p display with active digitizer support for the stylus, up to a Skylake Core i7, 16GB's of DDR4 RAM and a 512 GB SSD. There's also 2 USB 3.0 ports, Mini Displayport, HDMI, a fingerprint reader, and the same 10 hours of claimed battery life and silver color option. 

Lenovo Yoga Tablet 3 series features built in projectors, higher-res screens and more

When I reviewed the Yoga Tablet 2 in both Android and Windows flavors earlier this year, I was mostly impressed by their solid build quality, good displays, useful kickstands and reasonable prices. However, there weren't a lot of features that made the lineup stand out besides the battery life and aforementioned kickstand. Lenovo's trying to change that with the new Yoga Tablet 3 devices, especially the flagship Yoga Tablet 3 Pro. It's a 10" device made of metal, glass and real leather that looks great, and has a brilliant 2560x1600p display, JBL speakers, 18 hours of battery life and an Intel Atom processor. But that's all standard tablet fare; What is definitely not is the build in 70' projector, which is one of the most intriguing tablet features I've seen. Unfortunately, it will come at a price: The Pro costs $499, pitting it directly against Apple's iPad Air 2 and the Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet.
Meanwhile, the 8 and 10" Yoga Tablet 3's have 20 hour battery life, LTE support and rotating cameras, along with Intel CPUs and the same aluminum design as before.

Tesla's 3rd car, the crossover Model X, is coming September 29th

Tesla Motors is a company that is excellent at many things, but not at staying within release windows. The Model X crossover has been delayed a ridiculous number of times, but we do finally have a hard release date: The first versions, so-called Signature Series models destined for the people who preordered the electric CUV, will be made available on September 29th. After that, new orders will start delivery early next year.

The new Motorola 360 comes in 3 versions, with many customization options

The Motorola Moto 360 was the first smartwatch with a round display, like most real watches, and is in my opinion still one of the best looking smartwatches ever. Plus, after a few software updates, the battery life became quite good I normally get two full days of light usage, or a good full day of heavy usage. That said, the ancient processor makes it a bit slow on occasion, and it is a very large watch, which bothers some people.
The new, 2nd generation Moto 360 rectifies those problems with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 chip inside, which allows better battery life and faster performance, and it comes in three models: There's a 42mm version, a 46 mm option and the 360 Sport, which is based on the smaller watch but has a chunkier, permanent rubber shell and increased waterproofing. The bands are also now easier to change, and there's a lot more color and band material options through the Moto Maker custom ordering website. Finally, they added GPS, which when combined with Android Wear's new standalone WiFi support will make the watch much more useful without a connected smartphone.

Sony Xperia Z5 will come in standard, compact and the 4K Premium

Europe's biggest tech tradeshow, the annual IFA extravaganza in Berlin, is in full swing at the moment with hundreds of new product announcements. Sony's big news was their new trio of flagship smartphones, one for each major size class. They all share top of the line Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 octa-core processors, 23MP cameras with industry-fastest 0.03 second autofocus, and fingerprint readers on the side-mounted power button and Android 5.1. Sony's also claiming increased low light performance for the camera, 2 day battery life, microSD support, plus streaming PS4 games. Then there's the design, which hasn't changed much for the last couple of years, but that's OK because these are some of the most beautiful smartphones around. The pictures really don't do them justice.
So what's the differences between the 3 models? Basically screen size, resolution and price.
The Z5 Compact is a 4.6", 720p device that will be the cheapest of the lot, while the Z5 has a 5.2" 1080p display. The craziest might be the 5.5" 4K(yes, 3880x2160p) Z5 Premium, which also has a mirror on the back. Because why not.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Android Wear now works with the iPhone

Android Wear is a pretty great smartwatch OS, offering just enough functionality to make it useful without so many features that it's too much to run on a watch, all in a pretty good looking UI. Plus it gets frequent updates that are sometimes quite substantial.
The latest added capability is may end up being the biggest yet for Google's marketshare in the smartwatch space: It now will work with Apple iOS, meaning you'll be able to pair your Motorola 360, LG G Watch, ASUS Zenwatch, Sony Smartwatch 3, or whatever else you may have with an iPhone. This puts those Android Wear devices in direct competition with Apple's own Watch, as well as the Pebble, which is also cross-platform.
Unfortunately, since Apple doesn't allow 3rd party app stores on the iPhone, you won't be able to download any additional apps to your Android Wear watch, unlike when it's paired with an Android phone.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

ASUS adds a crazy 256GB's of storage, special edition designs to the Zenfone 2

ASUS hasn't had a big presence in the smartphone market outside of Asia in the past, but this year's Zenfone 2 changed that, with a low price considering the high end specs making it quite a popular device. Today they announced a few special editions of the Zenfone, with new back plates in carbon fiber or blue/purple polygonal patterned plastic, which look quite snazzy. They also come with up to 256GB's of storage, a smartphone-industry first.
There's also the Zenfone 2 Selfie, which has the same 13MP, f/2.2 aperture camera and dual LED flash on the front as well as the back.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Lenovo's P50 and P70 mobile workstations have Intel Xeon processors, 64GB's of RAM and 4K displays

If you run a mobile 3D modeling, CAD design, computer forensics or movie studio, or you're just rich and want one of the most powerful semi-portable computers money can buy, Lenovo has 2 laptops for you. The 15 inch P50 and 17" P70 are the first laptops with Intel's new Xeon mobile workstation processors, which coincidentally are the first 6th generation "Skylake" CPUs to launch. If that wasn't enough firsts for you on the ridiculous-amounts-of-power front, they also are the first laptops(according to Lenovo, and I haven't seen anything to dispute the claim) with 64GB's of DDR4 RAM. They also have 1TB of super fast PCIe-connected SSD storage, as well as 4 total drive bays.

To make it immensely clear, these are workstations for professionals, not consumer machines, but they actually wouldn't be bad for watching movies: Both have the option of a 4K UHD display, along with an optical drive(remember those?) Not to mention the Thunderbolt 3 ports(another first) along with 4 USB 3.0 ports, HDMI 1.4, mini Displayport 1.2, Ethernet, Smart Card, Expresscard and a 4 in 1 media card reader. Finally, they both offer NVidia Quadro workstation graphics cards.
The P50 will start at $1599, while the P70 has a base price of $1999, and you can choose between Windows 7, 8.1, 10 or Ubuntu.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Good deal: the Amazon Kindle is $59 today

The entry level Kindle used to be far inferior to its only slightly more expensive brethren, but nowadays it's a much better deal. There's a 6" eink touchscreen, Whispersync, Xray, WiFi, 4GB's of storage and a battery estimated for 1 month of reading for half an hour a day. It normally costs $80, but today you can pick one up for $60 or $80 for the kids edition with a ruggedized case. That's a pretty great price, just be aware that it is the version with "Special Offers," Amzon-speak for advertisements on the home screen.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Motorola Surround and Pulse are surprisingly affordable wireless headphones

Wireless headphones and earbuds are proliferating, now that the AptX codec has made Bluetooth streaming capable of extremely decent audio quality, but they're mostly rather expensive. Motorola's looking to change that with the new Pulse over-ear headphones and Surround earbuds. They both use Bluetooth 4.1 for low power usage and latency, support HD Audio, A2DP and aptX, and the Surround is waterproof, unlike the older SF500 Buds, which I reviewed, liked and killed with water.
Both also have a microphone and button for taking calls, video chats or issuing voice commands to Google Now on a synced phone. They'll of course also work with laptops, smartwatches, or anything else with Bluetooth.
Best of all, the Surround costs just $59 with 18 hours of rated battery life, and the Pulse costs $69 with 12 hours of endurance.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Motorola's new Moto G, Moto X Pure and Moto X Play look fabulous

Motorola's line of smartphones are some of the most consistently excellent, class leading devices around, despite being relatively low sellers compared to their major competitors. The Moto X, their top of the line model, compares quite well with the Samsung Galaxy S, Apple iPhone and HTC One, but costs much less. Their most popular model, the midrange Moto G, is a solid device as well, and the entry level Moto E is perhaps the most impressive considering it's ridiculously low price.
Today, Motorola unveiled their 2015/16 portfolio, which consists of a decidedly more upmarket Moto G that somehow costs the same, and not one but two new Moto X devices, the Pure and Play.

The 2015 Moto G essentially fixes everything that was wrong with the previous version - which really wasn't a lot. It was already a surprisingly powerful device with a good looking, durable design, and a super low $189 price tag. That's not even mentioning the best part, the near stock version of Android, with just a few useful apps added, not an entire skin, which slows down performance, updates & can introduce security vulnerabilities. That said, you had to buy a special model to get LTE, the camera wasn't the best, and it wasn't waterproof. That's all fixed now: The G gets IPx7 waterproofing, a 13MP camera, Qualcomm's Snapdragon 410 quad core CPU, LTE, and a 5" HD display. It comes with 8 or 16GB's of storage, with 1 or 2GB's of RAM respectively, and costs $179 or $219. Plus, there's still a microSD card slot and interchangeable back plates, and you can now customize the design through Moto Maker just like on the flagship Moto X.
Speaking of which, the Moto X Pure Edition is the new flagship from Chicago's smartphone maker. Motorola doesn't normally play the spec one-upmanship game to the same extent as most, but the new Moto X has some seriously competitive specs. There's Qualcomm's 1.8GHz octacore Snapdragon 808, 3GB's of DDR3 RAM, 3000mAh battery, a 5.7" 2560x1440p IPS display with small bezels, and a 21MP camera. That rear camera is the best Motorola's ever made, with an f/2.0 aperture, video stabilization, 4k recording, 120fps slow mo, video HDR, dual Color Corrected Temperature flash, and phase detect autofocus. The front "selfie" cam is a 5MP shooter with a flash, which is somewhat unusual. Also unusual these days on flagships is a microSD card slot, waterproofing and front facing stereo speakers. All of those are offered on some other high end devices, but Motorola's still the only company that'll let you custom design your phone. You can choose between real wood, Horween Saffiano leather, plastic or rubber, many, many color options for the metal and glass parts, and engraving.

Also unlike most smartphones(but like the Moto G above,) the Moto X Pure Edition is only available at launch online, unlocked and compatible with every carrier, with stock Android 5.1.1 Lollipop. But what does it cost? Just $399 unlocked for the 16GB model, which is just slightly more than half what a Galaxy S6, One M9 or iPhone 6 would cost you. There's also 32 and 64GB versions available, and of course that microSD card lets you add a ton of storage. Sadly, there's no USB Type C port or wireless charging as had been rumored, but there is quick charge support to get 80% of your battery filled in 10 minutes.

There's also yet another new phone, but it's not coming to the US. That would be the Moto X Play, which has a 1080p 5.5" display and Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 instead of a 2160p display and Snapdragon 808, but compensates with a giant 3630mAh battery and otherwise similar specs. Interestingly, in other countries the Moto X Pure will be called the Moto X Style, presumably to differentiate it from the Play. The Play will also be cheaper than the Pure/Style, making it an extremely good value. Finally, the 2014 Moto X is sticking around at $299.

Monday, July 27, 2015

OnePlus Two is a near-flagship phone for half the price

Last year's OnePlus One, the first phone from OnePlus, was an extremely powerful phone considering the sub-$300 price point, but had a variety of compromises next to true flagship devices. The new OnePlus Two is somewhat pricier at $329 for 16/3GB's of storage and RAM or $389 for 64 and 4GB's, but it also has a much more premium design and some features that even top shelf phones don't have. Here's the full spec breakdown: Power is provided by Qualcomm's highest end Snapdragon 810, a 64 bit 8 core 2GHz chip, with a 5.5" 1080p display, 13MP camera and 3300mAH battery. There's also USB Type C, the new reversible, high speed connector that debuted on the Apple Macbook, and a fingerprint reader on the front.
In terms of design, the Two has an aluminum frame with a grippy plastic back that can be changed out for other colors, wood or Kevlar options.

Unfortunately, OnePlus has kept the weird invite system to buy the phone, but if you can put up with that it'll launch on August 11th running Android 5.1 with their "Oxygen OS" skin. It is however, missing a few useful features: There's no NFC for mobile payments(a la Apple Pay/Google Wallet) and no wireless charging or fast charging.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Apple updates the iPod Touch with a new processor, camera, and colors across the whole line

The iPod line has gone from spectacularly successful to living on life support in a relatively short time due to the rise of the smartphone, but Apple still makes the iPod Touch, Shuffle and Nano. This week they actually updated them slightly, which hasn't happened in years. The iPod Touch got the biggest changes, with the Apple A8 processor(albeit at a lower clock speed than in the iPhone 6) and a new 8MP camera, along with iOS 8.4. It'll cost $199 for 16GB's, with 32, 64 or 128GB options adding $50 sequentially. There's also some new colors, rounding out the options to silver, gold, space grey, pink, blue or Project Red.
The low end iPod Shuffle and Nano didn't receive any spec upgrades, but they now offer the same 6 color options as the Touch.