Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The first phone with 4GB's of RAM is the $299 ASUS Zenfone 2

It's awkwardly named, but the new Zenfone 2 from ASUS is shaping up to be an extremely impressive device. Now that mobile processors and operating systems are going 64 bit across the mid and high end, you may have been expecting phones with more RAM than the older 32 bit architecture would allow. The Zenfone 2 is ushering in that change by offering a full 4GB's of RAM, a 64 bit 2.3 GHz quad core Intel Atom processor and a 5.5" 1080p display. It's basically a flagship-level phone, complete with Android 5.0, a 13MP camera, 64GB's of storage and a 3000mAh battery. Most of those specs aren't quite at the level of a bleeding edge device like the Samsung Galaxy S6, but while a GS6 costs $700, the Zenfone will run you $299. There's even a $199 version with only 2GB's of RAM and 16GB's of storage, along with a slightly slower 1.86 GHz processor, but otherwise equal specs. If you're intrigued, this is also one of the first ASUS phones that's being majorly released and promoted in the US, and it's available on Amazon here. 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The 6th Generation 2016 Chevrolet Camaro

The Camaro is an American icon, and Chevrolet's just showed off its 6th generation. At an event last night on Belle Isle, they unveiled the new 2016 Camaro, with a completely new chassis, new engines and transmissions, and a revamped interior.
The engine's one of the the most important things about a muscle car, and Chevy's put 3 different options under the hood of its latest. The base model will be a new turbocharged I4 that produces 275 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torqute, with in excess of 30MPG highway on offer and a sub-6 second 0 to 60 time. Next up is Chevy's well known 3.6 liter V6, with 335 HP and 284 lb-ft of torque. If you buy that model with the automatic transmission, you also get standard cylinder deactivation for increased fuel economy when you aren't flooring it. Finally, the Camaro SS gets a only-slightly-detuned version of the legendary LT1 V8 from the Corvette Stingray and SS sedan. In the Camaro, it'll make 455 HP and 455 lb-ft of torque, and... it's an LT1, which is simply an outstanding engine. Being able to get one in a Camaro is pretty incredible.
All that power will be routed through your choice of a 6 speed manual or 8 speed automatic transmission, with different versions in the SS versus the lower end models.

The biggest thing we were told about the new Camaro before the official reveal was that it would be 200 pounds lighter, and they exceeded their promise. Through extensive use of aluminum, the Camaro now has a curb weight more than 200 lbs lighter than the 2015 model, and is based on the Alpha platform along with the Cadillac ATS. It's also 27% more structurally rigid. They've also brought over the Cadillac/Corvette/Camaro ZL1's magnetic ride control, which measures the road 1000 times per second and adjusts the suspension for the smoothest ride possible.

Internally, the new Camaro takes a somewhat more upscale appearance, with plenty of tech. There's an 8" HD touchscreen with the latest version of Chevy MyLink, OnStar, a 4G LTE-based wifi hotspot, and a wireless charging pad for your phone. The charging pad is to keep your phone secure even during sudden, tight maneuvers. There's also a new ambient LED cabin lighting system with 24 colors which can  be fully customized or switch profiles based on what drive mode you're in. The dashboard instrument cluster is another 8" HD display, and there's now a backup camera available.
All in all, it's a fantastic redesign, and I'm looking forward to hearing pricing and exact performance and economy specs.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Lenovo Yoga 3 Review

If you're looking for a new mainstream ultrabook the main issues that matter are screen, keyboard and trackpad, performance, battery life, design and price. The Yoga 3 is the first laptop I've reviewed with one of Intel's new Core M processors, which sacrifices performance to allow better design and battery life. Unfortunately, the energy efficiency is not actually very good, and while many Core M laptops are near-unbelievably thin and light, the Yoga 3 is not. In most other ways, however, the Yoga 3 is an excellent device for the price.

Design & Display:

It's not a work of industrial art like the higher end Yoga 3 Pro or Apple's new Macbook, but the Yoga 3 is a pretty great looking laptop. My review unit's furnished in a nice shiny white(I took to calling it The Stormtrooper) yet has proved quite resistant to fingerprints. Meanwhile, I love the general Yoga design of a laptop with 360 degree hinge; It's more practical for doing real work and using on various surfaces than a tablet/dock combo like Microsoft's Surface, yet still gives you plenty of flexibility. Combined with the generally excellent(though again, not Y3P, Macbook or Dell XPS-level) display, this is simultaneously a good work machine and casual Netflix watching tablet. There's a reason HP has copied the Yoga's design for their x360 laptops. It's just a great idea.
Finally, the keyboard is quite decent, with Lenovo's "smile" keys, decent travel for an 11" ultrabook, and plenty of shortcuts. I didn't care for the keys next to the up arrow, though - empty space around those reduces accidental key presses. The trackpad is actually one of the better Windows trackpads I've used, though it's smaller than my 11" Macbook Air, and obviously doesn't support all the same gestures.

With my Moto 360, from Lenovo subsidiary Motorola
Lets get this out of the way. I recently reviewed the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2, which as the name implies is a Windows or Android tablet with a mobile Atom CPU. The Yoga 3 is only very slightly faster, and since you use a laptop for heavier tasks, it actually feels slower. To be fair, part of this is due to the amount of applications installed by default and thus would be fixed by a clean install of Windows. Despite that, the performance from the 0.8GHz dual core Core M is just disappointing. The one upside of the Core M is that it does run extremely quietly and stays pretty cool, no matter what you do.
Other than the performance from that Core M, the Yoga 3 has quite impressive specs. There's a health 8GB's of RAM and a 256GB SSD, both of which are expensive upgrades on a Macbook Air or Dell XPS 13. There's also a full HD 1920x1080p display, Bluetooth 4.0, the latest & greatest WiFi standard(AC) and plenty of ports; Specifically, you get two USB 3.0, microHDMI, a full size SD card slot and of course a headphone jack.


Unlike the Yoga Tablet 2 with Windows that I reviewed, which had a nice clean install of the OS, the Yoga 3 has a huge amount of bloatware. All of these preinstalled apps slow down the computer and take up space that could be used more productively. Of course, this can be solved by wiping the laptop and installing either fresh Windows 8.1 or another OS, but you shouldn't have to do that. It's annoying, and can lead to unforeseen security vulnerabilities like SuperFish.

Side comparison with the 11" Macbook Air
At $700, you're saving $200 over a Macbook Air 11", which has half the RAM & storage unless you upgrade for more money, no touchscreen, and no SD card slot. The Air does have a much better Core i5 or i7 CPU, faster SSD, better trackpad, more durable design and OS X, however.
On the Windows front, there's a whole lot of alternatives, but Lenovo's own Yoga 3 14" will solve the performance issue if you don't mind a larger laptop. It does cost $100 more, but comes with better specs all around and the same(good) design. Dell's XPS 13 is also larger and costs $799, but with a better processor & gorgeous design but again, half the RAM and storage unless upgraded. Acer offers the Switch 11 for $649 with a Core i5 processor and detachable keyboard, but 4GB's of RAM, 128GB's of RAM and questionable build quality.

Conclusion: The Yoga 3 has a sadly slow processor and way too much preinstalled bloatware, but is otherwise an excellent laptop, especially considering the price point. If next year's Core M has better performance, this might end up being the perfect midrange 11" Windows ultrabook, and it's already pretty hard to beat.

Monday, May 11, 2015

This 4K video of jetpacks over Dubai is incredible

Dubai is an incredible place, with some of the tallest buildings on Earth, a police force with dozens of supercars, and a unique geography of desert, ocean and giant city mixed in both. This makes it a beautiful setting for this 4K Ultra HD video of two people flying around on some rather amazing winged jetpacks. Yves Rossy previously flew a jetpack over the Grand Canyon, and he's now training Vince Reffet in flying at over 120 miles per hour in a wing suit with attached jets. It's not quite Boba Fett from Star Wars, as they don't launch from the ground but rather drop off a helicopter, but the entire production is extremely impressive.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Daredevil Review: The Story of an Anti-Villain

Antiheroes are undergoing a movie and TV revival, or perhaps even their biggest moment yet. From Walter White in Breaking Bad to the edgy, darker superheroes in modern DC Comics movies, they’re tremendously popular. Less common are stories that make the villain compelling, and motivated by the right reasons; If not “good,” at least understandable. It’s been done, but is still a good idea, and that’s where Marvel and Netflix’s series Daredevil is at its best. 

If you haven’t read the comics or watched the Ben Affleck movie by the same name, Daredevil is the story of Matt Murdock, a blind vigilante who fights crime in Hell’s Kitchen, New York City. He’s a struggling defense attorney and devout Irish Catholic by day who was struck by radioactive chemicals as a kid. This blinded him but supernaturally heightened all his other senses, because again, it’s based on a comic book. Charlie Cox of Boardwalk Empire plays the lead and does a good job, but the supporting cast really sell the show. During the rather slow-paced first two episodes, my favorite scenes were Deborah Ann Woll and Elden Henson’s hilarious side-adventures. They play Murdock’s law partner/best friend and the law team’s secretary respectively, and inject some much-needed comic relief. They aren’t just comic sidekicks though, as they get quite a bit of solo screen time, and Ms. Woll’s character makes a lot of the most important discoveries. Ben Urich and Rosario Dawson are also quite good. Most of all, actor Vincent D’Onofrio as the main villain (whose name I won't reveal here) is simply fantastic. He perfectly blends power with weakness and high-minded idealism with childlike rages. 

D’Onofrio’s character is a criminal kingpin with immense legitimate and illegitimate incomes plus most of the city police, judiciary and “at least one Senator” in his employ. I won’t spoil his name - you don’t learn that until several episodes in. Yet he’s also afraid of speaking to crowds almost to the point of a disability and can be easily overwhelmed by his emotions. This juxtaposition is also played out in how Mr. D’Onofrio succeeded at convincing me that he regretted his misdeeds more than any other TV villain I can remember. His master plan is gentrifying his city, and while you may not feel that’s a great goal, it’s far from Bond-villain-style evil. If his methods weren’t so awful, he’d essentially be a force for good. Of course, this being a TV show, they are terrible. In one scene he beheads a Russian mafia leader with the door of a Cadillac for interrupting him during a dinner date, which is somehow both gallant and horrible. And extremely bloody.

That brings us to how dark this show is, along with some other issues. Marvel’s movies and their previous shows have been relatively light fare, mostly PG13 rated and essentially happy. Daredevil is none of those things. Considering the relatively low body count compared to your average blockbuster or action show, there’s an incredible amount of graphic violence. There’s nothing wrong with that if it’s appropriate, such as in Game of Thrones, but I find it overdone here. It feels like they’re trying to look more serious and “adult” to combat their juvenile reputation by throwing in as many broken bones, stabbings, and long falls off rooftops as possible. The show also has a fair amount of stereotypes, with the bad guys delineated into the Russian, Japanese, and Chinese syndicates. Oh and Deborah Woll’s character is a pretty blond girl, so of course she quickly becomes a secretary. 

Overall though, Daredevil was worth watching in many ways. Another high point of the show was Murdock’s discussions of the ethics of vigilantism with his priest, and his guilt over wanting to kill the lead villain. They have a lot to play with, obviously: A supposed hero who admits to enjoying hurting people is a bit unusual. Finally, the fight scenes are well executed, choreographed and don’t always go in the Murdock’s favor, unlike most superhero shows. Sure, there’s some scenes of hopelessly outmatched thugs being quickly defeated, but most of the time the fights are well balanced. In one scene, he’s left writhing on the floor after being hit with a Taser by a 77 year old banker. You’d never see that happen to Thor or Batman, and it keeps things interesting. But most of all, Daredevil shines the brightest through its darkest character, emphasizing how important the villain can be. 

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Windows 10 will run slightly tweaked Android & iOS apps

Microsoft's giant Build 2015 developer conference has been a huge fountain of news from Redmond, but by far the biggest reveal is that Windows 10 will be able to run iOS & Android apps - essentially. Apparently it will be slightly more complicated then just recompiling your app for Windows, as you'll have to replace Google/Apple API's(frameworks) with Microsoft ones. But Objective-C, Java and C++ will all be supported in Windows 10, on everything from phones to desktops, meaning you won't have to rewrite your app in a whole different language. This will be huge if developers embrace it, as one of Windows on phones & tablets biggest problems has been a lack of apps. They're also providing a web wrapper, similar to those on Android or iOS, to allow developers to put a web app inside a Windows UI, with notification and sensor support.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

LG G4 is a powerhouse flagship with a leather back, removable battery and more

LG's been teasing their latest high end phone for a while now, not to mention all of the leaks we've seen, but as of today it's finally official. The 4th major flagship to debut this year, it matches up nicely against the Samsung Galaxy S6, HTC One and Sony Xperia Z4. First off, it's the only one of the quartet to offer a removable battery(a 3000mAh cell) and back plate. Unlike Samsung's latest, there's also a microSD card slot, capable of reading up to 2TB cards if those are ever produced.
If you find polycarbonate on your phone boring, you can get real leather on the back, like Motorola's Moto X. Inside, there's a Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 hexacore processor at 1.8GHz with a 64 bit architecture and Adreno 418 graphics, along with 3GB's of RAM and 32GB's of storage. The front is dominated by a large 5.5" 2560x1440 quantum dot IPS display with a contrast ratio of 1500:1 and a pixel density of 538 ppi. There's also an 8MP, f/2.0 front selfie camera. Around back is the main shooter, a 16MP, f/1.88 aperture optically image stabilized 1/2.6" sensor with laser autofocus, RAW capture, HDR and 4K video. As for the software, you get Android 5.1 Lollipop with LG's latest skin. The G4 will be available on essentially every carrier in your choice of metallic gray orceramic white polycarbonate, brown leather
or black leather.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Sony's full frame A7k camera $700 off with a kit lens today

Sony makes some of the cameras around, especially in the competitive mirrorless interchangeable lens market, where you get nearly-dSLR-size sensors in a smaller package. The A7k is a special breed, with a full frame sensor packed into a still compact body, manual controls, and basically all the features you could want. A 24.3MP full frame CMOS sensor is the heart, with ISO 25600 support, AVCHD 1080p/60 video, a 921k dot 3" articulating display, 1/2" OLED viewfinder, RAW shooting, and more. It normally retails for around $2000, but today you can pick one up on Amazon here for $1298 with a 28-70mm kit lens.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Google introduces phone service with Project Fi on T-Mobile and Sprint

Google's getting into the virtual cell carrier game with their new Project Fi network, a MVNO on both T-Mobile and Sprint. Typical for Google, it's doing things differently then most carriers. First off, it'll automatically switch between WiFi, Sprint or T-Mobile encrypted LTE signals depending on who has the best signal available, which is pretty great. They've also put your phone number in the cloud, meaning you can get texts and calls on any device, not just your phone. Admittedly, Motorola Connect, Apple Continuity, most Samsung devices and innumerable 3rd party services already do this, but it's still a cool feature.
Finally, the pricing is quite good, and if you don't use all the data you pay for, you get the money back(or applied to your next bill really.) So it starts out at $20 a month for unlimited talk, text, international roaming, and 24/7 support, and then you can add data for $10 per GB. In other words, if you pay $40, get 2GB's of data, and only use 1.5, you'll get $5 back. WiFi hotspot/tethering support is also included, which is somewhat unusual on MVNO's.
If you have a Google & Motorola Nexus 6 and what to try out Project Fi, you can request an invite to their Early Access Program now.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Android Wear gains emoji, WiFi support, gesture control and much more

Google's Android Wear platform for smartwatches has gotten quite a few updates since launching last summer, some even relatively major. The latest is perhaps the largest however, with the following new features coming to all Android Wear devices:
  • Gesture Control: Until now, Android Wear's provided two methods of interaction: Voice commands and taps/swipes on the touchscreen. That's a nicely simple alternative to the Apple Watch's many, many ways of controlling it, but if you want another approach, here you go. You'll now be able to flick or tilt your wrist to scroll through lists or cards in Google Now, which has the advantage of allowing one handed use but will likely be somewhat inaccurate. 
  • WiFi support: Most smartwatches use the same system on a chip as a smartphone, meaning they actually already have a wifi antenna. Android Wear hasn't supported however, but that's coming now, meaning you'll be able to get notifications, do Google searches and any other internet functionality even without your phone connected.
  • Emoji: I respond to emails or texts semi-regularly from my Moto 360, but the voice control is somewhat inaccurate and sometimes inappropriate for your surroundings. With this update, you'll be able to instead just draw a smiley face, thumbs up or similar pictogram and Google will translate your drawing into the closest emoji. 
  • New launcher: Now instead of having to use voice or dig through a menu, 3rd party apps you've installed get their own launcher, and contacts are just one swipe away from your main menu as well. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Western Digital's excellent 1TB Elements Portable hard drive is just $55 right now

One of the top rated portable hard drives, the WD Elements Portable, is on sale through Amazon for a pretty good price today. The 1TB model is $55, or slightly less than $0.06 per gigabyte, and this is the USB 3.0 version so you'll get extremely fast transfer speeds. If you need a new backup drive or some storage expansion for a laptop with a small SSD, you can pick one up from Amazon here.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Apple's World Wide Developer Conference is set for June 8th through 12th this year

If you make apps for OS X or iOS, or you just follow Apple, the week of June 8th should be added to your iCal: That's when their big yearly extravaganza, WWDC, will take place. It'll cost $1700 to attend, though there are scholarships available, and tickets will be sold on a lottery basis instead of first come first serve. Look for a preview of the next version of OS X, and likely iOS as well, as well as possibly some new services or hardware.

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Motorola Moto 360 is now just $179 on Amazon or $165 from Google

I'm quite enjoying my Moto 360, and if you're looking to jump into the smartwatch club, it's 2 full days or more of battery, round design and Android Wear OS make it a great choice. Plus, it's much cheaper than even the lowest end Apple Watch, especially right now: Motorola and Amazon are selling the stone leather band & silver case Moto 360 for just $179, down from an original price of $250. If you want a black leather band and black case, it's $204 at the moment, while an included silver or black metal band will run you $220(normally $300.) If you're convinced, head on over to Amazon.
Meanwhile, Google has the leather band versions for just $165 right now, though if you have Amazon gift cards laying around, or want a metal band, Seattle's biggest retailer still might be your best choice.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Tesla's new Model S 70D is the new entry level, with 240 miles of range

Tesla Motors has replaced the slow-selling Model S 60 with the new 70 D, which added range, AWD, power, dual motors, new colors and some tech features for slightly more money. At $75000, the Model S is now even less affordable then before, but previously optional features are now included so it's actually a price cut over a comparably equipped model. Navigation, Supercharging capability are standard and Autopilot mode for highway driving, and automatically adjusting suspension are all available on the 70 D. The acceleration has also been improved, with a new rated time of 5.2 seconds from 0 to 60, and 240 miles of range is specified. Finally, 3 new colors are available, namely Ocean Blue, Obsidian Black and Warm Silver.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Nearly 1TB solid state drive dips below $300 for the first time today

Here's a rather killer deal on Amazon: Crucial's M500 2.5" solid state drive in the 960GB version for just $299. It's not the fastest or highest rated SSD around, and in fact even staying with Crucial there's newer, better models. But $300 is a completely unprecedented price(which comes out to $0.31 per GB) for that much flash storage. If you have a desktop or laptop with an old fashioned spinning hard drive, an SSD is the best upgrade you can make, and if you already have an SSD... Well, it's probably not this big, and more space is better, right? Pick one up on Amazon here. 

Nissan Maxima updated for 2016 with more power, controversial design

The Maxima is Nissan's top of the line sedan, starting at $32,410 and attempting to combine sport sedan performance with some semi-luxury cabin features. It also has a... unique design. I quite like it, but opinions vary immensely.
What exactly are its performance bonafides? Power is provided by Nissan's VQ engine, a 3.5 liter V6 that here makes 300 hp and 261 lb-ft of torque, while offering 30MPG highway. There's also a new suspension with monotube dampers, more torsional rigidity than the Porsche Cayman on the Maxima SR trim, and a new Xtronic CVT transmission. Internally, you get Nissan's well-liked Zero Gravity seats, with optional leather, a 7" touchscreen, remote startup, Bose audio, and an 8" display in the instrument cluster. There's also intelligent cruise control, the AroundView 360 degree camera system, blind spot monitoring and collision alerts.

2016 Chevrolet Spark has 16% more power, less boxy design

The Chevy Spark is the slightly larger of the Bowtie's two entries in the subcompact hatchback class, and it's been updated with a better engine, new cabin tech and different design. This is a good move for Chevy, as subcompact market, once an arena filled with terrible econoboxes, is swiftly iterating. The Honda Fit, Ford Fiesta, Toyota Yaris, Nissan Versa & others all getting upgraded in the last few years.
Under the hood is a 1.4 liter inline 4 cylinder engine that makes 98 horsepower, offers an estimated 40MPG, and will be much lighter due to extensive use of aluminum. Safety-wise, there's 10 air bags standard, and collision alerts, blind spot monitoring and rear park assist are all available options. Internally, you get a 7" touchscreen for infotainment, 4G LTE to provide a WiFi hotspot, and a digital  LCD instrument cluster display.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

2016 Jaguar XF details released

The XF is famed British marquee Jaguar's entry in the midsize luxury sedan class, competing against the BMW 5 Series, Mercedes E Class, Audi A6, Lexus ES and Cadillac CTS primarily. For 2016, they've taken an iterative approach, making this far from the most exciting upgrade; However, the previous XF was already perhaps the best looking in it's class, great to drive and quite luxurious.
So what did they change, exactly? The design is slightly different, and now made out of 75% aluminum, allowing for weight savings of 132lbs on the RWD model and 265lbs for AWD. That means that even the lightest XF is heavier then the new Cadillac CT6, which is a full size class up from the midsize cat. That's somewhat disappointing, but the new Jag is lighter than the comparable BMW, Mercedes, and Audi midsize competition.
Under the hood, there's a 3.0 liter supercharged V6, in either 340 or 380hp variants, with an 8 speed transmission and either RWD or AWD. Internally, the new InControl Touch Pro infotainment system features a 10.2" HD console touch display, 12.3" instrument cluster, and iOS and Android apps for remote start and climate control. Sound is provided by 17 Meridian speakers, there's a full color laser heads up display, LED headlights, lane keep assist, collision warnings, auto parking and adaptive cruise control.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Cadillac CT6: The new flagship from GM is an engineering tour de force

The Cadillac CT6 marks the iconic-but-flailing luxury brand's return to the full size, flagship sedan space, targeting the BMW 7 Series, Audi A8, lower end Mercedes S Class trims, and Lexus LS.
It was teased at the Super Bowl, but today at the New York International Auto Show is the first time we've fully seen the new top dog from Detroit. It's definitely a looker, with a chiseled design and extensive use of aluminum, allowing for class leading weight. In fact, while at 204" long it's only 1.3" shorter than a BMW 7 Series and the same length as the shortest Audi A8, it's lighter than a BMW 5 Series. Cadillac's quoting an estimated weight of less than 3700lbs, which makes it lighter than the midsize 5 Series, Mercedes E Class, and Audi A6, much less its full size competitors.
As for power, you get your choice of 3 engines: A turbocharged inline 4 cylinder that makes 265hp, a 335hp 3.6L V6, or the brand new, top of the line twin turbo V6 that makes an estimated 400hp. There's standard 8 speed transmissions across the board, and AWD drive is available as well, with RWD standard. To try for a simultaneously luxurious and sporty driving experience, there's active rear steering and magnetic ride control.
Meanwhile, the inside is fittingly luxurious, with a 34 speaker Bose sound system, quad-zone climate control, 40.4" of rear legroom, class-leading interior storage volume and a variety of infotainment options. That includes a 10.2" HD touchscreen up front, 10" retractable screens in the back, HDMI and USB, 4G LTE, wireless charging pads, and reclining, massaging, heated/cooled rear seats.
Safety and driving features are plentiful as well, with night vision(really!) a 360-degree surround view camera for safety, advanced parking assist, and all the normal alerts and sensors you'd expect.

2016 Chevrolet Malibu adds hybrid model, reworked design, tech upgrades

The Malibu, Chevy's historically somewhat half-hearted effort in the midsize sedan class, sells rather terribly, which is an especially bad position in such a major category. That may be partially because of lacking brand awareness, or marketing, or many other things, but it's also because the 2015 and earlier Malibu was not a great car. It wasn't a bad one, either, but the Ford Fusion, Mazda 6, Honda Accord & Subaru Legacy are pretty great. And that's not even mentioning the Toyota Camry, which has rock solid durability and all the advantages that come with being the most successful car from the most successful brand in the US.
Against such tough competition, Chevrolet's finally put a lot of effort into the new 2016 Malibu, and it shows. They've improved fuel economy across the board, given it a pretty good looking design, reduced the weight by 300lbs, enhanced the interior, upgraded the transmission and more.
Under the hood, there's 3 engine choices: The base model's a 1.5 liter turbocharged inline 4 cylinder that puts out 160hp and 184lb-ft of torque, good for 27/37MPG city/highway. The new hybrid model can run on all electric mode at up to 55MPH, and "exceeds" 45MPG combined on the gas engine. As for power, it has a net rating of 182hp, from a 1.8 liter turbo 4 and the electric motor. There's also the carryover 2.0 turbo 4 cylinder, which is rated at 250hp and 258lb-ft of torque, with 22/32MPG fuel economy and a new 8-speed auto transmission.
Inside the cabin, there's optional ventilated leather seats, Chevy MyLink with a 7 or 8 inch touchscreen, Onstar, 4G LTE for a WiFi hotspot, wireless charging pads and 110v power outlets.
There's a luxury car-like array of safety features, as well, with a rear view camera, auto park assist, adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, collision alerts, 10 airbags, & "Teen Driver" mode.
All in all, it's a comprehensive upgrade, and the new design really does look quite nice, but we'll see how well the new midsized Chevy sedan does when it launches later this year.

Update: The hybrid model has received preliminary fuel economy ratings of 48MPG city, 45MPG highway, with a 0-60 acceleration time of 7.8 seconds. For comparison, the Toyota Camry Hybrid gets 43/39MPG, the Ford Fusion Hybrid 44/41MPG, and the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid 36/40MPG. The only midsize sedan competitor with better fuel economy is the Honda Accord Hybrid, at 50/45MPG, but it starts at $29,305, likely much higher than the Chevy.

Microsoft Surface 3 is a lower end, smaller Surface Pro for $499

The Surface line was historically extremely compromised next to the Surface Pro or similar devices, as it ran Windows RT, with no support for traditional Windows desktop programs on low power ARM processors. And relying on the Windows Store's extremely limited supply of ARM apps alone is not really a good option for most.
Therefore, and also due to the upcoming demise of Windows RT when Windows 10 is released, Microsoft's switched the Surface 3 to full Windows 8.1 with an upgrade to Windows 10 this summer. Of course, that means that it's running on an Intel quad core Atom Baytrail processor, with 2 or 4GB's of RAM and a 64 or 128GB SSD. There's also a 1920x1280p 10.8" display, optional LTE for an extra $100, and a new three way adjustable kickstand, as well as the Surface Pen for drawing or notetaking. Unlike the iPad, new Macbook, or other Atom-powered Windows tablets, there's a fulls size USB 3.0 port, microUSB for charging, and Displayport. It'll start at $499, which is a bit pricey compared to the similarly specced Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 I just reviewed, though you do get a larger SSD and pen support.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Tesla Motors to enter a new product category this Thursday

Tesla is mainly known for their cars, but according to CEO Elon Musk, they're getting into a new product category, with an unveiling at their Hawthorne Design Studio this Thursday. Mr. Musk says it won't be a car, meaning it's probably the previously discussed home battery. The idea there is that you store energy from solar, a connected Tesla charged somewhere else, or just the normal electric grid during non-peak hours, and then power your house with it the rest of the time. 
That said, with Tesla and Mr. Musk's level of ambition and innovation, it could be practically anything. My favorite idea? A Tesla pickup truck. 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

New Halo 5: Guardians trailer is mysterious, reveals that the game launches October 27th

Halo games traditionally are released in November, but developers 343 Studios are apparently ready just a bit early this time around: Halo 5 Guardians is coming October 27th this year. As you might expect, it will be an Xbox One exclusive, and there's a new trailer as of today that's... quite confusing, but rather awesome. I'll let it speak for itself, but in case you're wondering, the speaking character is Jameson Locke, introduced in Halo Nightfall.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Toyota RAV4 hybrid to debut for 2016 at the New York Auto Show

Toyota's played with eco-friendly versions of their RAV4 compact crossover, making and then killing off a full electric version not once but twice, and prototyping fuel cell models. But now they're finally adding the  most cost effective green power supply to the 2016 model year refresh: A hybrid.
There are zero details so far other than the image above and the fact that we'll learn more at the New York International Auto Show. Speculatively, though, it could use either the drivetrain from the Camry Hybrid or a Prius model, with the Camry more likely since the current RAV4 has the same engine as the non-hybrid Camry. The Camry Hybrid gets 43MPG city and 39 highway from it's 200 net horsepower inline 4 gas and electric setup, while a 2015 RAV4 gets 24/31 MPG from its 176HP 4 cylinder.

Intel is readying 10TB+ solid state drives

Solid state drives are great. They're amazingly fast, much more durable then traditional spinning hard drives, and have come down in price quite a bit recently. However, if you need a single drive with multiple terabytes of capacity, your only choice currently is a normal old hard drive.
That's about to change, as Intel and Micron have  just announced their latest SSD innovation, which uses 3D NAND flash storage instead of planar, 2D storage to greatly increase the capacity of an SSD. So far, they say that their first generation 3D NAND SSD's will have 10TB's or more capacity in a traditional 2.5" drive. The smaller, gum-stick-sized SSD's typically connected directly to a motherboard via PCI can also go up to 3.5TB now with the first version of this new technology. Expect full production within a year, and more limited availability by the summer.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Microsoft Windows 10 launching this summer as a free upgrade for everyone

Windows 10 has been in a public beta for several months now, but previously the release date was rumored to be in October. Microsoft's moved that up quite a bit with the announcement that its flagship OS is coming this summer to 190 countries, as a free update from Windows 7, 8 or 8.1. Even if you're currently running an unlicensed, pirated copy, you'll be able to upgrade to a full version for free.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Amazon is offering a USB 3.0 1TB portable hard drive for $49 today

Portable hard drives are extremely useful both as backup drives and as expanded storage for the space-constrained, SSD powered ultrabooks of today. The Toshiba Canvio Connect wouldn't normally be my top recommendation, but it is nice looking, compact and USB 3.0 capable for fast transfer speeds. Which is why today's Amazon sale of the 1TB version for just $49 is a good enough deal that I'm definitely considering picking one up, and if you want to as well, just click here.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Google's new Chromebook Pixel is cheaper, faster and still gorgeous

The original Chromebook Pixel was an anomaly. On one hand, it had a simply beautiful physical design, truly amazing screen, great trackpad and keyboard, and interesting lightbar. On the other, it had mediocre internal specs, ChromeOS, which especially in 2013 couldn't do everything you needed from your main computer, and lacking battery life, for the crazy price of $1300. But it wasn't really intended for consumers; Instead, it was more of a showcase of Google's best(and, some might say, worst) ideas and engineering prowess, and a testbed for developers to try out new web technologies.
Today, the giant of Mountain View has announced their successor, and while it still feels more like a showcase/testbed, it's also longer lasting, faster and cheaper while still offering a great design and interesting new ideas.
The basic specs are as follows: Intel's Broadwell Core i5 or i7 CPU's, 8 or 16GB's of RAM, a 32 or 64GB SSD, and that excellent 2560x1700 IPS touchscreen are all present. There's also now 2 USB 3.1 Type C ports, similarly to on Apple's new Macbook, which provide power, data transfer and display output to HDMI/Displayport/VGA through adapters. But unlike the Macbook, they kept the two standard sized USB 3.0 ports and a full size SD card slot, along with a headphone/mic jack. Physically, it's a solid machine, weighing 3.3lbs and measuring 15.3mm thick, and the design is still just as gorgeous as last time. The lid also retains the lightbar, which shows different color combinations either for ornamentation or to signal notifications and alerts. You can also knock on the lid when the device is closed to have the lightbar indicate your battery life, which is quite cool.
Speaking of battery life, Google claims a stellar 12 hours, equaling Apple's Macbook Air 13 and surpassing just about every other ultrabook, and early reviews are getting even more on average.
Despite all of these improvements, the 2015 Pixel costs $999, a significant price drop over the previous version, though still a pretty penny for a Chromebook.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Motorola adds Moto 360 to their custom design Moto Maker studio

Despite Sir Jony Ives' opinions of it, the Moto Maker website for designing the colors and appearance of your device before purchase is well liked by many, and definitely a unique idea in the tech world. Up till now, though, the only device you've been able to customize has been Motorola's flagship Moto X smartphone. As of today, you can also build your perfect Moto 360 watch, though the options are quite a bit more limited: You can choose a silver, black or gold body, a leather band in 3 colors or one of three sizes of metal bands in three colors, and preset your watch face. Still, it's a nice touch, and comes perhaps in response to yesterday's price-point announcement for the Apple Watch.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 10" with Windows Review

Soon after returning the Android-powered Yoga Tablet 2 8", I got a somewhat larger package from the awesome folks in the Lenovo media department: The Yoga Tablet 2 10", which is almost the same device but trades in Google's software for Microsoft Windows, along with a 10" display. I've been using it for a while now, and while I'm no more convinced that Windows tablets are the way to go, it's quite the solid device.

Specs: The Yoga 2 is very close to identical both internally & externally to its Android-powered sibling, with just a few slight differences. It has the same Intel Atom 1.33GHz 64 bit quad core processor, 2GB's of RAM, 9600mAh battery, full HD display, and 8MP camera. The only changes from a spec perspective are a 32GB EMMC chip for storage instead of a 16GB one(there's still a microSD card slot to add more,) and an added micro HDMI port. That last addition is quite nice, and I wish the Android version had it.
As for how well these all work... well, as a tablet, they're great. As a laptop, an Atom processor and 2GB's of RAM are pretty much the bottom of the pack, especially considering that you can get a normal form factor laptop for about the same $369 with a full powered Core i3 and twice the RAM. But those would be much less portable and most likely have a pretty terrible display... Which brings us to the screen on the Yoga Tablet: In a word, it's gorgeous. Just like the 8" Android Yoga I reviewed previously, it's a 1920x1080p IPS panel, and it's extremely sharp(not as stunning as the 8" version, but still quite good,) and gets plenty bright. Whether watching the new season of House Of Cards, writing articles on this site or studying for my physics midterm, I again found myself using it over the other devices I have available because of the pixel density. And that's a major advantage; The Yoga's main competition(the ASUS Transformer T100, HP Pavillion 10 x2 and Acer Switch 10) have far inferior 720p displays

A thickness comparison with my Moto X 2013
Design: I like the Android Yoga Tablet's design, and the Windows-running version is identical except for a nice black color that looks even better to my eyes, and a capacitive Windows button. In other words, it looks great, and the kickstand is just as useful here as it was on the Android version. I wish every tablet manufacturer built in a kickstand, and the number of cases with them imply lots of other people do as well. There's really not a whole lot to say here - it's a well made, premium feeling device, and if(like me) you don't find the circular hinge for the kickstand off-putting, it's also quite good looking.
It's not exactly part of the tablet, but the Windows Yoga comes with a keyboard dock that turns it into a miniature laptop. It's a Bluetooth system that doesn't actually dock or plug in to the tablet but rather just magnetically attaches. It works pretty well, and I like the keyboard, though I wish there was a wired connection option so I wouldn't have to keep Bluetooth on all the time and could recharge the Yoga with the battery. There's also a small trackpad, which is surprisingly good for its size but is just too small to be truly useful. Still, the assembly is nice to have and definitely worth buying. It'll actually also work with Android tablets if you wish to use it with one.

Software: The Yoga Tablet 2 runs full Windows 8.1, amusingly the 32 bit version again despite the 64 bit processor. That's apparently a theme with Yoga Tablets, as the Android edition was the same. Anyway, it's wonderfully devoid of bloatware - unlike the last Yoga I reviewed, which had a somewhat over-bearing skin with UI changes, tons of bundled apps, and an out of date OS as a result. Instead, there's literally just a user manual app, a couple of Lenovo network sharing programs, and an included 2 year subscription to Office 365, which could actually be useful. I'm a Google Docs user and my university provides free Office anyway, so I didn't try that, but it's a nice perk.
That's just Lenovo's implementation of Windows though. I've never been much of a Windows fan, but especially on tablets I just find it sub-optimal. The Atom, 2GB's of RAM and 10" screen make this device not really capable of being your only computer if you do anything particularly complex. Therefore, in my opinion it's more of a competitor to other tablets than laptops, and for most of what you do on a tablet, there isn't an app in the Windows store, or at least a good one. That doesn't mean you can't do those tasks or use those services, but it means you'll have to use the full desktop programs or websites, which aren't designed for touch and 10" screens by and large.

Conclusion: As I mentioned earlier, the most direct competition for the Yoga Tablet 10 are the ASUS Transformer T100, HP Pavillion 10 x2, and Acer Switch 10. All of those devices have the same RAM, processor, and software, but with far inferior displays across the board. The HP and Acer have the same processor as the Yoga and shorter battery life. The ASUS has a slightly faster CPU 1.46GHz and a 500GB hard drive plus a 32GB eMMC chip, but still inferior battery, no kickstand and of course that 1366x768 screen. Mainly due to the display, but also Lenovo's admirable lack of bloatware and that nifty kickstand, the Yoga Tablet is the best out of the comparable Windows tablets. I still would rather buy the Android-powered version for my tablet and a decent laptop, but if you just want one device that's affordable, ultraportable, touch-capable and powered by Windows, this one's a good bet.