Author Archive: Matt

More than 20 years in the IT industry. Blogging with a passion and thirst for new technology since 2005.

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By November 26, 2013 Read More →

Sony Xperia Z Ultra unboxing and hands-on

sony-xperia-z-ultra-1Hot on the heels of our Sony Xperia Z1 review we have its big brother, the Sony Xperia Z Ultra.

With its 6.4″ screen, the Sony Xperia Z Ultra is the largest of the ‘Phablet’ form devices to hit the market and just tops Samsung’s Galaxy Mega 6.3.

However, unlike many of the other phablet devices on the market, the Z Ultra follows other devices in the range and is IP58 rated making it both dust and waterproof and able to submerge in water to a depth of 1 meter for up to 30 minutes. Making it possibly an ideal device for using in or around the pool when you’re on your holidays.

At just 6.5mm thick, the Sony Xperia Z Ultra packs quite a lot in to its slim chassis. Inside we get a 2.2GHz Quad-core CPU, 16GB internal storage, 2GB RAM, 8MP camera and all of the usual bells and whistles in terms of GPS, WiFi, etc.

As always, we’re kicking off with an unboxing and hands on video. Here you’ll see the hardware in more detail and I’ll show you what the OS/UI is like before running that ever controversial benchmark test.

By November 24, 2013 Read More →

Kindle Fire HDX WiFi issues

Kindle-Fire-Wi-Fi-password-promptI got my hands on a new Kindle Fire HDX 8.9″ a few days ago and you may have seen me experiencing some issues with connecting to the App store during the recording of my Kindle Fire HDX 8.9″ unboxing video.

Since then I have been really struggling with the HDX. Despite its dual-band dual-antenna WiFi, it’s consistently dropping its WiFi connection and even when it reports connected to WiFi the connection is either poor or non-existent.

Now, it’s entirely possible that I just have a faulty unit and my Kindle Fire HDX WiFi issues could well be just a fluke. However, Googling for WiFi problems on the Fire HDX does yield rather a large number of results and there seem to be quite a few people out there with the same problem. Helpfully, one site suggests downloading the latest firmware for the Kindle and whilst there is a System Update available for my HDX, guess what, I can’t download that without an internet connection!

So as it stands, the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9″ may well be a super looking, light and powerful tablet with an incredible screen, but I’ve so far been able to do very little with it.

Obviously I’ll be speaking to Amazon support about it and will report back, but if anyone else out there has the same problems and better still knows the solution, I’d love to hear from you!

By November 23, 2013 Read More →

Kindle Fire HDX 8.9″ unbox & hands-on

Kindle Fire HDX 8.9Back in October of this year, Amazon announced that the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9″ would be available here in the UK in time for Christmas and just a few days ago, in a further announcement we learned that the HDX had commenced shipping.

With the HDX Amazon not only do we get an amazing hi-res IPS display with a staggering 2560 x 1600 resolution but there’s also a 2.2GHz Quad-core CPU, 2GB RAM and 16, 32 or 64GB storage.

Dispite the heavyweight specification the Fire HDX is still able to boast its “lightest large-screen tablet” status, the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9” is astonishingly light at 374 grams.

In another innovation, the HDX also has a “Mayday button” a revolutionary on-device tech support system which is free, 24/7, 365 days a year.

In the video below I get hands-on and set up my new Kindle Fire HDX 8.9″ and have a look around that new Fire OS 3.0 Mojito UI.

By November 22, 2013 Read More →

Nexus 5 Camera Fix

Nexus 5 Camera FixPossibly one of the most disappointing things about the otherwise-excellent Nexus 5, apart from the battery life, is the camera. Whilst it may be 8 megapixels and offer an optical image stabilizer,  the image quality still leaves much to be desired. This is a real shame when pitched against excellent cameras in the Xperia Z1, Nokia 1020 and the HTC One.

Many other reviewers are calling the Nexus 5 camera ‘terrible’ or ‘awful’ but personally I don’t think it’s quite as dire as others are making out but certainly think that it really lets the Nexus 5 down.

Nexus 5 Camera Fix

There is potentially good news for Nexus 5 owners. Thanks to one of the developers over on on the xda-developers forum, Jishnu Sir,has been working on a Nexus 5 Camera fix and has released a camera patch which is said to improve the camera quality in a number of key ways:

  • Sound Recording now in Stereo with the secondary Mic.
  • Faster Focusing for the camera.
  • Front Camera also records 720P [email protected] 20 Mb/s.
  • Front camera Audio [email protected] 192000 Kb/s.
  • AntiBanding default set to 50Hz
  • Focus Range Adjusted.
  • Enhanced Smooth Zoom.
  • Turned Edge Enhancement ON.

So that’s definitely good news. However, if you want to apply the Nexus 5 Camera Fix package you’ll have to have a Nexus 5 with an unlocked bootloader in order to install it. This will certainly deter many a Nexus 5 owner.

However, what it does point to, is that the Nexus 5 camera can be improved with a software patch and reveals that the camera hardware, optics, sensor etc. are actually quite good.

So there are now calls for an official update to be released for the Nexus 5 to address the issues about and, hopefully go even further with help from the manufacturers and development team.

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By November 21, 2013 Read More →

SlingPlayer 3.0 rolls out

SLING MEDIA INC. SLINGPLAYER 3.0Sling Media have just released an important update for Slingbox customers, offering SlingPlayer 3.0 and a SlingPlayer for Roku boxes.

A new version of SlingPlayer for iPhone and Android smartphones is available today as part of the Roku channel introduction. Sling Media will also introduce an app for Windows 8.1 in December.

FOSTER CITY, Calif., Nov. 18, 2013 Sling Media Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of EchoStar Corp. (NASDAQ: SATS), today unveiled three new clients that further enhance discovery, navigation and the social experience customers now enjoy with content, giving Slingbox customers the ultimate video experience both inside and outside of the home. SlingPlayer 3.0 and the SlingPlayer channel on the Roku® streaming platform are both available for download today. A new version of SlingPlayer for iPhone and Android smartphones is available today as part of the Roku channel introduction. Sling Media will also introduce an app for Windows 8.1 in December.

“With today’s announcements, Sling Media has clearly brought the Slingbox experience into the living room, changing the way our customers discover, navigate, view and socialize around content,” said Michael Hawkey, VP and General Manager of Sling Media. “With SlingPlayer 3.0, we’re giving customers the tools they need to turn traditional prime time into Prime Time Social Time. Our customers have been asking for Roku support and a Windows 8.1 app. We’re pleased to deliver the Roku channel today and the Windows 8.1 app in the very near future.”

SLINGPLAYER 3.0

SlingPlayer 3.0 combines the core value proposition of viewing live or recorded TV anywhere with powerful, seamless discovery and second screen enhancements that customers are now asking for. SlingPlayer 3.0 turns the iPad into the first screen and second screen at the same time.

Features include:

  • Content discovery – SlingPlayer 3.0 offers a visually appealing interface that enables users to seamlessly find content they want to watch from the vast number of shows on TV at any given time. Filters are provided in conjunction with customers’ personal TV lineups for easy management as well as third-party services that provide users with tools to quickly discover content they may be interested in.
  • Sports experience – SlingPlayer 3.0 greatly enhances the sports fan’s experience providing an easy and visual way of finding which channel the game is on, no more cumbersome surfing of the grid guide. In addition, once a game is selected, either for viewing on iPad or on the TV, fans can enjoy live statistics on individual and team leaders, get game scores and engage their social networks to comment or call out their favorite team or player.
  • Social – SlingPlayer 3.0 uses social media for both discovery and engagement. Users can filter live TV programming based on their personal social media network likes and once tuned to a show, users can join the Twitter conversation with a live feed of content-relevant tweets or let everyone know what they’re watching via Facebook posts.
  • Second Screen Control – Slingbox customers can use SlingPlayer 3.0 as a powerful second screen companion. Users now have the ability to cast their Slingbox experience to a TV from their mobile device, making SlingPlayer 3.0 the ultimate remote control inside the home, in addition to being able to watch your home TV on a connected device from anywhere in the world.
  • Split-Screen Navigation – This split screen framework empowers Slingbox customers to browse for other content, view show details, engage with social networks or see live sports stats while simultaneously watching video on the iPad.
  • Compatibility – SlingPlayer 3.0 requires iOS 7.0 or higher.

SLINGPLAYER CHANNEL ON ROKU
Slingbox customers can now watch their live or recorded TV through a Roku streaming player connected to a TV in another room in the house or in a remote location. Customers will use either SlingPlayer Mobile for iPhone or Android phone to initiate the video and send it to the TV with a tap of a button. They will also need to install the free SlingPlayer channel, from the Roku Channel Store. Roku devices supported at launch include the Roku 3, Roku 2, Roku 1, Roku LT (models 2400X and 2700X), Roku 2 XS, Roku 2 XD and Roku 2 HD players as well as the Roku Streaming Stick. Support for the Roku HD (model 2500X) and Roku LT (model 2450X) will be added later this month.

“Roku offers consumers the most choice of any streaming device,” said Ed Lee, vice president of content acquisition, Roku. “This partnership with Sling Media will bring even more value to Roku customers by giving them additional ways to enjoy live or recorded TV on their Roku players.”

Features include:

  • Sling to a Big Screen – Use Slingbox to send your TV to another TV via a Roku player. Use cases would include households with a second TV in the home (bedroom, basement, office, back porch etc.), in vacation homes or in college dorm rooms.
  • Smartphone Remote Control – The authentication and navigation of live and recorded TV played via Roku is all done via the SlingPlayer client on iPhone or Android phone. Customers must be on the same network as their Roku and once video is initiated on the phone they can “send” to the TV with a single tap. Changing channels, accessing the guide or DVR, etc. is all done via the phone commands.
  • Value – The SlingPlayer channel on Roku adds value to existing cable/satellite subscriptions, bringing live TV to additional TVs inside a home or in remote locations that have may have broadband, but not a cable/satellite/telco service.

SLINGPLAYER FOR WINDOWS 8.1
Sling Media is developing an app for Windows 8.1 customers who own a Slingbox. This new app will deliver an enhanced SlingPlayer experience across Windows 8.1 devices including Surface, desktop PCs, laptops and convertible devices. Sling Media expects the Windows 8.1 app to be available in December.

Posted in: News, TV & Home Cinema
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By November 21, 2013 Read More →

The best tablets for reading

tabsAs much as most people enjoy diving into a good book, dragging around heavy hardbacks is probably less high on their list of favourite things to do. Since e-readers burst onto the scene a few years ago many people have jumped onto the electronic trend, but with tablet technology becoming increasingly advanced, their multi-functionality means they might just be the best new book you buy. If you’re shopping around for tablets you can also use as an e-reader, here’s a run-down of some of your options.

Asus Google Nexus 7 (2013 Edition)

The latest edition of Google’s Nexus range has the highest resolution of any tablet to date, with a 7-inch Widescreen Ultra Extended Graphics Array (WUXGA) screen that boasts dimensions of 1920×1200 pixels and a resolution of 323ppi. At 290g, it is 50 grams lighter than its predecessor, with double the RAM and a 15-hour battery life, so if you’re deep into that can’t-put-it-down novel, you won’t have to worry about sudden blackouts. Running on the Android operating system means it has flexible resolution handling, so different eBook or document files should all appear just as clearly.

Apple iPad (4th Generation)

The new generation of iPad comes with Apple’s trademarked Retina display, which at 264ppi is impressive, but not quite as impressive as the Nexus 7. Still, it does offer a larger screen at 10.1 inches, and the ease of zooming in and out might suit people who usually wear glasses to read. If your priority is convenient transportation, the compact, 7-inch iPad Mini offers all the same technology with a smaller screen size. The cheapest option of each model comes with 16GB of storage space as standard, but if you’re looking for more memory you can go up to 32 or even 64GB. Remember though, with the iBookstore you can download and delete books as you choose – they’ll always be saved for a re-download.

Samsung Galaxy Note

This chunky tablet comes in the same 10.1-inch size as the iPad, but with double the RAM, housing a powerful 2GB and a Quad Core Processor. While it also comes with 16GB of standard storage, the Note has a slot for a micro SD card that allows this to be easily expanded up to 64GB. The screen is not as sharp, with a resolution of 1280×800, but this is more than adequate for displaying text, and with a battery life just shy of 10 hours, it equals the iPad. However, the inclusion of a stylus pen that allows you to write on screen makes it handy for making notes while reading, so if you like to annotate your texts for your studies or book club, this will be ideal.

Sony Xperia Z Tablet

Although it’s slightly more expensive than the other options, Sony’s Xperia Z has one major advantage – not only over other tablets, but also traditional books. It’s water-resistant; so all those prone to knocking over glasses or reading in the bathtub can breathe easily with this in their hands. It has a large 10.1-inch display, with a resolution of 1920×1200, 2GB RAM and 32GB of storage space. Compared to the other 10.1-inch tablets, it’s almost 100g lighter, and is also the thinnest on the market, but still has everything you need inside.

Posted in: Editorial, Tablets
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By November 21, 2013 Read More →

Top 3 Interactive Tables

table-pcNo, that isn’t a typo – we don’t mean tablets. Interactive tables are the latest developments that are revolutionising the way we live, particularly in the field of education. Packed with educational games and interactive learning activities, these touch screen devices are much tougher than tablets, and can be used by more than one person at a time. Here are three of the best interactive tables on the market right now:

1.       SMART Table

Created by SMART, a company dedicated to improving people’s lives through technology, the SMART boards tops our list. Designed for children who are just starting out in education, this clever device is available from United Carlton and can add a whole new dimension to the classroom.

Using the SMART table toolkit, teachers can design their own activities and send them to the table for the children to complete. There is also a wealth of activities available to download online too.

The table actively encourages group work. It features lots of problems that require students to work together and is big enough for more than one person to use, so they’ll be no impatient kids grumbling about having to wait their turn.

As it is designed to be used by little ones, the table boasts a robust, durable design with a scratch-resistant surface that won’t be damaged by an overly enthusiastic youngster.

2.       Promethean ActivTable

Moving on from tables for the little ones, the Promethean ActivTable is suitable for older students.

The large, tall table with a 46 inch screen is all about inclusion, catering for up to six users at any one time, while also providing disabled access too. It is the perfect tool to get students working collaboratively.

The table even provides teachers with a feedback report, documenting how each student contributed and performed during their group work. This provides teachers with better feedback than ever before, allowing them to tailor their teaching to the needs of the class collectively and individually.

3.       KioPro

Having seen the benefits to education that an interactive table can bring, many manufacturers are designing ones specifically for the business world. The KioPro is described as the ‘ultimate sales presentation tool’ and with its sleek coffee table design, it’s easy to see why.

The large touchscreen, available with a Windows 8 or Android operating system, allows you to compile high-quality presentations. And, if someone foolishly mistakes it for a coffee table, the screen is toughened to protect from damage.

The future

Could this London restaurant be the future? All of their tables are touch-screen and can be customised, with diners able to select their ‘tablecloth’, order their food, play games and even watch a live feed of the kitchen!

This may be uncommon now, but we predict we will be seeing a lot more of interactive tables in the future.

Posted in: Editorial, Gadgets, Tablets
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By November 20, 2013 Read More →

Windows Phone announces the arrival of Instagram

instagram-profiles-now-online-1The arrival of Instagram, which has more than 150 million users around the world, brings one of the world’s most popular social photo apps to what many critics have called the world’s best smartphone cameras.

Instagram can transform everyday moments into shareable works of art. Just grab a picture from your Photos Hub, choose a filter to transform its look and feel, then post to Instagram (or Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Foursquare). As with many other Windows Phone apps, Instagram for Windows Phone will have a Live Tile which updates with data on the Start screen as well as support for fast-resume.

With up to 500 apps added each day, the Windows Phone store has more than 190,000 apps and around 90 per cent of the top 20 ranked apps across all platforms. Windows Phone is also the fastest-growing platform among the leading operating systems according to recent analyst data.

 

Instagram for Windows Phone highlights include:

  • The full set of Instagram filters including XPro-II, Earlybird, Rise, Amaro, Hudson, Lo-fi, Sutro, Toaster, Brannan, Inkwell, Walden, Hefe, Nashville, 1977, and more
  • Ability to like and comment on other people’s photos and videos
  • Linear and radial tilt-shift blur effects for extra depth of field
  • Unlimited uploads

Instagram leads a wave of popular apps now available on Windows Phone, including Blippar, Vine, 4oD, Angry Birds Star Wars II and Asphalt 8: Airborne.

By November 20, 2013 Read More →

HTC Desire 500 hands-on in White

htc-desire-500-white-blueBack in September of this year, HTC launched a new Android smartphone under the much-used Desire name, the HTC Desire 500.

This new phone featured much of the software improvements from the popular HTC One but in a somewhat more affordable package.

When the Desire 500 first went on sale the all-black version was the first to land and we had an early hands-on with that model. Since then two further versions have become available; White with blue-trim and white with red-trim.

These are essentially the same hardware spec but it’s surprising just how different the phone can appear from a simple colour change. We wouldn’t normally return to a device just because of a colour change but as the Desire 500 has just had an Android update and has been so popular on PAYG tariffs we thought it was worth another look.

In the video below, Gareth takes a brief break from his painting-by-numbers to have a closer look at the HTC Desire 500 in white clothing. The phone, not Gareth in white clothing…

By November 19, 2013 Read More →

Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 starts shipping

Kindle Fire HDX 8.9Just a few weeks after the initial announcements of the new Kindle Fire HDX, news just in that Amazon’s latest tablet has started shipping in the UK.

With models starting at £329.00 for the 16GB WiFi version up to £489 for the 64GB WiFi/4G version. The Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 4G LTE will be released on 13 December and that can also be pre-ordered now.

Kindle Fire HDX 8.9” combines groundbreaking hardware, Fire OS 3.0 “Mojito,” and new features like expanded X-Ray for films and TV and the revolutionary new Mayday button.  Front-facing HD camera makes it easy to stay in touch with Skype, plus a new 8 megapixel wide- aperture rear-facing camera offers crisp photos and 1080p HD video.   Learn more about the new Kindle Fire HDX 8.9” at www.amazon.co.uk

  • Astonishingly light design — at just 374 grams, the 8.9″ Kindle Fire HDX is the lightest large-screen tablet, 34% lighter than the previous generation.
  • Powered by the latest version of Fire OS — Fire OS 3.0 “Mojito” — with hundreds of new and upgraded features, platform updates and Amazon-exclusive services.
  • New Mayday button delivers revolutionary, live tech support — one tap connects you to an Amazon expert who can guide you remotely through any feature — 24/7, 365 days a year, and free of charge. 15 seconds or less is the Mayday response time goal.
  • Kindle FreeTime extends parental controls to give parents a simple, engaging way to manage the way children use Kindle Fire — parents select content and set time limits by content type.
  • 8MP rear-facing camera with LED flash for high-resolution photos and 1080p HD video, plus a front-facing 720p HD camera makes it easy to stay in touch with Skype
  • Watch thousands of films and TV shows with LOVEFiLM, Europe’s leading film subscription service. Expanded X-Ray for films and TV, adding trivia, character backstories and soundtrack information.
  • All-day battery life — up to 11 hours of mixed use and 17 hours of reading.
  • Updated e-mail, calendar and Silk browser to stay connected and productive.
  • New enterprise features including hardware and software encryption, Kerberos Intranet, secure
  • Wi-Fi connections, VPN integration and wireless printing.
  • Dual stereo speakers with Dolby Digital Plus audio and virtual 5.1 multi-channel surround sound — the standard in high-end audio.
  • Full integration with the world’s best content ecosystem — over 27 million films, TV shows, songs, apps, games, books, audiobooks and magazines.
  • New Origami covers feature an innovative design that allows you to position Fire HDX in both portrait and landscape mode.
  • The 8.9” Kindle Fire HDX is £329.

Kindle Fire HDX 8.9″ has the highest resolution (2560×1600) and the best pixel density (339 ppi) of any Kindle Fire tablet, providing an incredible multimedia experience. The HDX display features over four million pixels for vivid, lifelike images that go beyond standard HD.

Posted in: News, Tablets
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