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.

Macbook Pro, Air get new processors, Force Touch, Thunderbolt 2 and not much else

The new Macbook was Apple's main focus laptop-wise at their Spring Forward event today, but they also made a few minor changes to the Air and Pro lines.
The Macbook Air now runs on Intel's Broadwell, 5th generation Core i chips, specifically a 1.6GHz i5 or 2.2GHz i7, with Intel's new HD 6000 graphics and Thunderbolt 2. There's also an SSD that's twice as fast as the already blazing previous version on the 13" Air, but not the 11". They retain the $899/$999 starting prices, and unfortunately the low resolution, TN panel screens. There's also still only 4 or 8GB's of RAM.
The Macbook Pro, meanwhile, also gets Intel Broadwell chips and HD 6100 graphics as opposed to 6000 series, in this case a 2.7 or 2.9 GHz dual core i5 or 3.1 GHz dual core i7 on the 13". They also added the new Force Touch trackpad, which can be pressed to varying levels to control things like video fast-forwarding. Finally, the battery life is now a claimed 10 hours, up from 9 before.
The 15" model has not been upgraded as of yet - perhaps this summer.
Meanwhile, the Apple TV set top box has not seen any upgrades, but will be getting a price drop to $69 from the previous $99, which'll pay for 2 months of HBO Now. 
Unlike the new Macbook and the Apple Watch, all of these upgrades are available right now.

New $1299 Apple Macbook is just 2 pounds and 13.1mm, has a Retina display

Apple's latest Macbook is not called an Air or a Pro, but rather revives their old practice of just calling it a Macbook, with no secondary label. Despite that, it's not a low end model like some expected. Instead, it starts at $1299, the same as a 13" Macbook Pro, and is built around a Retina display. In this case, that means a 12" IPS panel with a 2304x1440 resolution that uses 30% less power than previous Retina laptop panels. There's also a new keyboard that spans the width of the device, and a "Force Touch" trackpad that has a secondary click mechanism for right click/special uses, like fast forwarding through a video.
But the biggest change is the design: It's just 13.1mm thick(thinner than the Motorola RAZR,) weighs 2 lbs, and does away with full size USB, MagSafe, Thunderbolt and HDMI ports. Instead, there's just the new USB 3.l Type C connectors, which power your device and provide connectivity or display output. That means you'll need adapters for nearly everything you own, but at least they're fast at 10GBps symmetrical transfer speed. There is at least still a standard headphone jack.
What's not very fast is the processor of the new Macbook. Despite costing as much as a Macbook Pro, it's slower than a Macbook Air, with a dual core Intel Core M processor at 1.1 or 1.2GHz. Other than that, the internals are decent, with the base model having 8GB's of RAM, 256GB's of storage and a quoted 9 hours of battery life. The $1500 premium configuration has the slightly faster CPU and 512GB's of storage. My favorite part: Apple's finally offering colors other than silver, in the form of gold or space grey.

Game of Thrones, entire live HBO catalog coming exclusively to Apple for $14.99 a month

Apple's main updates today may be the Watch and (hopefully) a new Retina Macbook, but they also announced HBO Now. This is the first time that HBO content has been available without a premium cable TV subscription, and it's huge news. Unfortunately, it's an exclusive to Apple devices(iPhones, iPads and the Apple TV - maybe Macs as well but that's unclear) so if you have a Roku, FireTV, Android TV, etc. you're out of luck. Still, being able to pay $14.99 to watch Jon Snow kill White Walkers live without having to also pay $100+ for cable has some appeal.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Amazon's Fire Phone now just $199 unlocked, with a year of Prime

Amazon's Fire Phone was audacious, but mostly a failure. It was panned near-universally by critics, and sales were extremely low despite quite a bit of promotion from both the Seattle shopping giant and AT&T. Despite all that, the plain design, and rather terrible skin on top of Android, the hardware is actually quite good. It's powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 with 2GB's of RAM, 32GB's of storage, a 13MP camera with OIS, and a 4.7" 720p display. Those are rather remarkable specs at the current sale price of $199 off contract, and it comes with a year of Amazon Prime, so if you're already paying for that it's more like $99.
If you want to pick one up, it's on Amazon here.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Pebble Time Steel is a metal Pebble Time with a bonded display

The Pebble Time was just announced a few days ago(and has already crossed $14.6 million in pre orders) but they now have announced a slightly higher end version. For $249 or a $49 charge for people who preordered the bast Time, the Time Steel adds slightly thicker stainless steel frame in silver, gold or black, and includes both a leather and a metal band. There's also a battery with twice the charge capacity, though Pebble's aiming for 7 rather than 5 days of use on the standard Time, and the display is bonded to it's glass covering. Most importantly, there's a magnetic connector on the back that can transfer data or power to a "smart strap," a band which could be extra battery or display lights for notifications, for example. Those will be up to 3rd parties to build though, as Pebble's just baking in the port and software support.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Sony Z4 Tablet is a stunning, super thin, waterproof 10" tablet with great specs

Sony's flagship Xperia Z line has always had gorgeous, incredible designs, though early on they also had a lot of issues with displays, cameras, price and software. Gradually though, almost all of those have been resolved, meaning if you're willing to pay quite a lot of money, Sony will sell you some of the best Android devices around. The new Z4 tablet is proof of that, with some positively incredible engineering & design but a price point at the high end of what anyone will pay for a tablet.
It's essentially a refresh of the excellent Z2 Tablet, but with upgrades to nearly everything. It's truly beautiful in person(pictures just don't do justice to Sony's designs) and is remarkably thin at 6.1mm and 389 grams. That equals the iPad Air 2 on thickness and surpasses it on weight savings. Yet while when almost any other manufacturer reduces battery, durability and screen quality when they make devices thinner, Sony has somehow still packed in a 6000mAh battery they rate at 17 hours of usage. They also kept the waterproofing of the Z2 Tablet, which is quite incredible on a device this thin, and you don't even need an annoying cap for the USB port anymore to keep your tablet safe from spilled drinks or falling in a shallow pool. And the screen is a 2560x1600 2K TriLuminos LCD that's 40% brighter than the Z2 and can reproduce 130% of the Adobe sRGB spectrum. Sure, Apple's iPad Air 2, HTC's Nexus 9 and the Samsung Galaxy Tab S also have great, higher than 1080p displays, but this one should be pretty good.
And what none of those previously mentioned competitors have, yet at least, is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810, which is the latest crown jewel processor from Qualcomm. It's got 4 64 bit 2.0GHz cores and 4 lower power 1.5GHz cores for battery savings, and it positively screams in early tests on the LG G Flex 2 and HTC One M9. There's also optional LTE, 32GB's of storage, rear 8MP and front 5MP cameras, 3GB's of RAM, and microSD expansion. Software is handled by Android 5.0 Lollipop with a few Sony additions, and Sony's also offering a Bluetooth keyboard dock and bundling Microsoft Office.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Samsung Galaxy S6 & S6 Edge are the best looking, best specced Samsung's ever

Samsung's just unveiled their latest flagship phones, and unlike the HTC One M9, they're quite a bit different than last year's models.
First off, there's now two Galaxy S flagships: The S6 and S6 Edge, which is like the Note 4 Edge in that the screen curves around the edge of the device to provide a few extra pixels for showing notifications and whatnot. Let's start with the normal S6, however; Samsung's somehow completely reworked the design while still keeping it recognizable as one of their devices, and it's gorgeous now. I've never cared for Samsung phones before - sure, they have great specs, but they're made out of a cheap feeling, flimsy plastic, which is both ugly and not as durable as the competition. That's started to change with the Galaxy Alpha and Note 4 however, and now the evolution is complete. The S6 is positively stunning, with a Gorilla Glass 4 back and front and metal frame, in white, black, gold, blue or green
Software is handled by Android 5.0 Lollipop with Samsung's TouchWiz skin, which has been toned down a bit and modernized, but is still questionably designed and completely unnecessary with how good Lollipop is stock. And of course, you'll get slower updates and more draw on system resources due to it.
. Internally, the S6 has a 64 bit octa core Samsung Exynos processor, 32, 64 or 128GB's of storage, 3GB's of DDR4 RAM, a 16MP camera with optical image stabilization, real time HDR and 4K video, and a 5MP front camera. The 5.1" screen has a density of 577 PPI, due to a 2560x1440 resolution, and there's a 2550mAh battery that supports wireless charging through both WPC and PMA, the two major standards. There's NFC for quick pairing, data transfers or mobile payments through Google Wallet or the new Samsung Pay, and an IR remote control feature.
Because of the inclusion of wireless charging, much faster wired charging, and better battery life, Samsung's seen fit to do away with the removable batteries of the previous versions, which will be unpopular with some. They've also gotten rid of the microSD card slot(amusingly on the same day HTC added one in to their flagship) and the water proofing of the S5, which is a much bigger omission.

The Galaxy S6 Edge is much the same as the S6, but with a curved screen on two sides that shows you a little extra bit of content. It can also host the navigation elements of an app to free up more space on the main part of the display. Besides the screen, the S6 Edge has a slightly larger battery at 2600mAh, and is just a hair thicker at 7mm instead of 6.8.

HTC & Valve team up for the Vive virtual reality headset

Everyone and their grandmother seem to be announcing virtual reality headsets these days, though not one company so far has showed off a finished, consumer oriented device. HTC is not changing that state of affairs, but what they are doing is teaming up with gaming titan Valve to announce the Vive. It's yet another developer kit VR device, but it's rather interesting because of the control set up. But first, the specs: Essentially, you plug the Vive into your PC, and it fires up a 1280x1000, 90 frames per second refresh rate screen in front of each of your eyes, You can then use it with just the two bundled controllers and the headsets gyroscope and laser position sensor for head tracking(to the 1/10th of a degree.) Or alternatively, you can get two of Valve's Steam VR base stations, which will track your position and motion within a 15 square foot area to allow you to walk or run in a virtual world. Besides a whole variety of game studios and Valve itself, HTC and Valve are partnering with Google, HBO, Lionsgate and the National Palace Museum to create content for the Vive.