Editorial

By November 20, 2014 Read More →

The Nokia N1: A yawn or celebration?

nokia-n1-tabletRight now, we are dealing with a tablet influx. Many manufactures are rallying to get their tablets out in time for Christmas and with the Nexus 9, iPad Mini and Air refreshes alongside every company from Acer, Archos and Binatone to own other brands Tesco and Argos hoping to make some fast cash. This year is all about the upgrade as everyone who wants a tablet probably already has one and it’s going to take quite a push to get some to release their beloved companion.

I sit here with my Nexus 10. A device that has is simply a media player on my daily commute. Aside from a little gaming in the evening I rely on Chromebook for work and phone for communications. The Nexus 10 is merely a good screen for entertainment. With Lollipop on it’s way to the device I have no need to be looking elsewhere. Of course as an enthusiast I was curious about the Nexus 9 and having played with one for a day I really would only consider getting one if Lollipop does not speed up the now aging Nexus 10. 

So what will  a Nokia N1 bring to the tablet? Well, it’s not quite a Nokia device, we are seeing something designed by the geniuses at Nokia but built by Foxconn. There is the complicated Microsoft / Nokia relationship that probably confuses most and can really only be summed up by a re-badging exercise. It might say Nokia but this is a Foxconn product.

I guess the easiest way to view this device is the bastard child of so many. Built by the iPad people, designed by the Microsoft people and running the Google stuff. Could this be Expendables the Tablet? All the greats in one device?

Inside the Nokia N1 comes with a 64-bit Intel Atom Z3580 processor clocked at 2.3GHz and 2GB of RAM. There is a PowerVR G6430 GPU. The N1 offers 32GB onboard storage, but there is no microSD card slot to expand it further. The camera is an 8 megapixel rear camera and a 5 megapixel front camera.

Decently speced and nicely priced the Nokia N1 will likely be a hit this Christmas. Enough to tempt folks away from the Hudl II with the Nokia name and oddly the Nexus 9 as it’s main competitor and higher price that should see it as a threat. Personally, it’s not enough to get me on-board. Those who want the ultimate tablet are best spending a little extra and getting the iPad Mini 3 or Nexus 9, or sticking the a yearly purchase and picking up the Hudl II.

 

 

 

Posted in: Editorial, Tablets
By November 13, 2014 Read More →

Online security: stay safe

symantec_padlockIt is important to know how to stay safe when you are using the internet. You should never give out any personal information about yourself to anyone online that you do not personally know; no matter who you think you’re talking to.

There are thousands of sites on the internet that allow you to communicate with just about anyone, anywhere in the world and get an instant reply. There are also hundreds of forums available for you to ask questions and get advice within the hour. However, it is important that you keep in mind that anyone can pretend to be someone they are not on the internet. Here are a few top online security tips to keep in mind when browsing the web safely.

Chat room safety

Chat rooms have become increasingly popular with their ability to allow you to talk to just about anyone about anything you like. However, it is vital that you remember not to give out any personal information to strangers, including your full name, address or phone number.

Websites asking for personal details

If you are doing a bit of online shopping, you may have to give out some personal information, such as your credit card details. Of course this is perfectly normal in order for you to make a purchase. However, you should always ensure it is a reputable business and a trusted website.

You can check whether it is a trusted website by the look of the URL: if it is ‘https’, has a green URL box or a locked padlock symbol it means that the website has an SSL certificate – this is a safe website. If however, it has none of the safety signs highlighted, you should rethink about inputting your card details.

Online threats

Protecting yourself and your computer from online threats is really important and therefore the simple answer to this is to ensure you are always using up to date firewall software. By ensuring you update your anti-virus software you are protecting your computer and yourself from viruses and hackers. There is a reason why companies update their software – you must update it also.

By being vigilant when you are online, you can ensure you are safe and protected from any threats.

Posted in: Editorial
By November 5, 2014 Read More →

Cruise ships take a Quantum leap forward

QuantumJust last week Royal Caribbean International took delivery of their newest cruise ship, Quantum of the Seas, from Meyer Werft Yard.

Now you may well be wondering why we’re talking about a cruise ship, and to be honest, when Royal Caribbean invited us aboard a few weeks ago, I too wondered

But Quantum of the Seas is all about technology and is the most technologically advanced cruise ship in the world, Royal Caribbean say it’s the world’s first Smart Ship, with “boatloads of bandwidth” which allow the cruise line to offer unprecedented connectivity – 500 times more than any other cruise ship; easy-to-use systems that expand guest choices and simplify schedules, plus, RFID technology that speeds up the boarding process and allows guest to track their luggage every step of the way.

Tracy and I were able to spend two nights on Quantum, to experience all of this technology for ourselves. This equated to two days of liberally using words like ‘Awesome’, ‘Amazing’, ‘Incredible’ and ‘Brilliant’.

So let’s starts with a few facts and figures…

  • Registry: Nassau, Bahamas
  • Built at Meyer Werft, Papenburg, Germany
  • 168,666 GRT
  • 1,141 feet (348 meters) long
  • 136 feet (41 meters) wide
  • 28 feet (8.5 meters) draft
  • 22 knots cruising speed
  • 16 guest decks
  • 18 total decks
  • 16 guest elevators
  • 4 bow thrusters with 4,694 horse power each  
  • 4,180 guests (double occupancy)
  • 4,905 guests total
  • 2,090 of Royal Caribbean’s largest and most advanced staterooms ever
    • 375 Virtual Balcony staterooms — interior staterooms offering expansive real-time views of the ocean and exciting destinations through virtual balconies
    • Up to 16 Family-Connected staterooms — perfect for multi-generational families or groups of friends, these staterooms provide separate bedrooms and bathrooms for all 
    • 12 new Studio staterooms with balconies and 16 Studio Interior staterooms, both for single travelers  

  

The use of technology starts before you even step aboard

About 10 days before we were due to set sail, Royal Caribbean sent me my “reservation number” and asked if we would complete the online check in. This process is very similar to online check in for an airline where they go through and take all your relevant information including passport and visa details. Although, as we were going on a cruise-to-nowhere, a visa was not required.

During the process you are also asked to take or provide a headshot which is then used as part of the boarding process. If you were going on a cruise which stopped at other ports the photo is used to identify you when you leave and board the ship as they scan you in and out with your WOWband or smart card. If you are not happy providing your own photo they can also take one at the port as part of the check in process. The last part of the online check in was to set up your onboard charging account. Once you have this set up it means that once onboard just a quick scan of your band and you can pay for anything!

The other big part of the pre-planning Royal Caribbean have introduced comes from their change from a traditional main dining room to their new ‘dynamic dining’ system. Once I was checked in I could then go and make restaurant reservations for our 2 nights along with entertainment reservations for the shows. The system will also handle the shore excursions and spa appointments in the future. What’s really nice is once you have something booked it tells you if you are going to have a clash and you can view everything in the really well laid out planner. Once onboard all these reservations will then transfer to your Royal iQ app and will also save guests from standing in lines and trudging from place to place on the first day of the cruise. As Royal Caribbean say, ‘you get the first day of your vacation back’.

Royal Caribbean guests can go from “sidewalk to ship” in 10 minutes with no check-in counter, no forms to fill out and no lines to stand in. The average check in time on the day we boarded was just 7 minutes!

 

RFID Technology

WOWBand

WOWBand

RFID technology is becoming more commonplace and Royal Caribbean are certainly using this to its advantage in a number of key ways.

During the boarding process, RFID tags are placed upon your luggage. This allows guests to track their luggage in real time on their smartphones and monitor their bags’ progress through key points en route to the stateroom.  On departure, the process is reversed.   

Quantum of the Seas also has new RFID ‘WOWband’ wristbands, which can be used as your room key or can be used to pay for onboard purchases, make reservations, find your photos in the onboard photo shop etc.

Simplicity and efficiency are also at the heart of two new apps that put guests in charge of their cruise choices: Cruise Planner, which allows guests to research and book dining reservations, shore excursions, spa appointments and more before their vacation begins; and Royal iQ, available as a downloadable app and provided at freestanding iQ stations around the ship.  Royal iQ allows guests to manage details during the cruise, includes a convenient calendar that provides at-a-glance views of their program, and keep in touch with one another and home via phone and text capabilities.

 

WiFi onboard

Connectivity on cruise ships has always been hit or miss and bandwidth is a big issue. This is set to change with Quantum of the Seas though, as Royal Caribbean International teamed up with O3b Networks, a global satellite provider, who developed a new technology. This new satellite network delivers “fiber-optic bandwidth.” Quantum of the Seas features O3b fiber-like Internet service which will provide more than 500 times the bandwidth that you’d experience from a regular on-board connection.

The O3b fiber-like Internet service was first piloted on Oasis of the Seas in December 2013 and has also been since introduced on Allure of the Seas. The new system fitted to Quantum of the Seas will provide O3b coverage as the ship approaches the east coast of the United States.

Royal Caribbean International is now testing a variety of pricing. While the prices are highly subject to change, the current pricing offers guests $29.95 per hour, $99.95 per day, and $189.95 for unlimited usage on a 7-night cruise for one device.

You may read elsewhere in the press that there was ‘no Wifi coverage’ on Quantum during the inaugural sailing but that’s just sensationalism. There was indeed WiFi on board but there isn’t O3b satellite coverage in Europe as yet. This will be ready in time for the launch of the next Quantum Class ship, Anthem of the Seas, when she commences service from Southampton in April of 2015.   A fact that was made clear to members of the press both before and during the inaugural sailing.

 

 

Ripcord

Ripcord by iFly is just awesome! This offers guest the chance to experience skydiving in a wind tunnel and is the first of such to be installed on sea-going vessel.

Following a short briefing video and time with an instructor, guests are provided with a jumpsuit, goggles, helmet and ear protection. Your group is then taken to the wind tunnel where you get to take it in turns to experience what it’s like to freefall skydive.

With a series of hand gestures and physical guidance from an instructor it doesn’t take too long to get the hang of the basic positions but it looks like a lot of training would be needed to get really good at it. Fortunately, you’ll be able to buy packages to give you a certain number of training sessions with an expert.

I’d recommend keeping each session fairly short to begin with though, it takes a lot out of you!

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North Star

If skydiving seems a little bit too energetic for you then there’s another way to experience some sights aboard Quantum of the Seas with North Star.

North Star is “an engineering marvel that transports guests more than 300 feet above the ocean”. Guests board a large glass capsule at the end of a large boom arm and are then hoisted high in to the air for unique views of both the ocean and the ship itself.

Here you can take some exceptional photographs and I’m sure it will be even more amazing to be able to take photos of some of the cruise destinations and North Star is able to operate both at sea and in port.

 

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Sea Plex

So heights may not be your thing but if you’re still looking for some fun then there’s plenty to be had at Sea Plex.

Sea Plex offers the largest indoor active space at sea and is a distinctive and flexible sporting and entertainment venue offering more first at sea experiences, guests can experience a circus school with flying trapeze, or play basketball on a full-size regulation basketball court. By night, the first-ever bumper car and roller skating offerings deliver fun and excitement. Or, guests can dance to music orchestrated from a floating DJ booth which hovers above the activity below.

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Bionic Bar

One of the coolest additions to Quantum of the Seas are the robot bartenders at the Bionic Bar.  

These masterpieces of technology can create and pour your favorite mixed drink in just a few seconds right before your eyes. Tablet computers allow patrons to select their desired drink for an extensive list while electronic screens at either side tell you how long you’ll have to wait for your drink and where you are in the queue.

Unfortunately the Bionic Bar was plagued with teething problems during our time on Quantum of the Seas but we were able to see it operational on a number of occasions and it certainly is a talking point. It also ensures that you get your turn to order from the bar fairly and the robots don’t ask for tips!

Quantum of the Seas launch photos

 

Of course, it takes far more than a bionic bartender and skydiving to make a truly smart ship and items mentioned in this post are just a few of the more obvious, customer-facing innovative technologies that you’ll find aboard Quantum of the Seas. Below the surface there’s plenty more to talk about from the on-board waste reclamation to the air-lubrication system…

Tracy and I were lucky enough to see much of what goes on behind the scenes on Quantum of the Seas and spent some time with Captain Patrik Dahlgran, Capt. (Felix) Srecko Ban, Captain Gus Andersson and Richard Pruitt (Vice President of Safety and Environmental Stewardship).  But that’s all for another post!

 

By October 30, 2014 Read More →

Four Lessons on Retail Shopping Apps

It is not unusual to see strangers on the street staring at their mobile phones or tablets or looking busy reading something. When attending concerts, you may have seen several dots of light emanating from handheld devices. Like you, they may have been trying to take pictures or recording the song at that juncture. There is no denying that we are moving fast into the digital age. Mobile phones have not only changed the way people communicate. It has also changed the way individuals live and shop.

Many are still using laptops and desktops at home, but handheld devices are becoming computers on the go. The internet has revolutionized mobile technology and shopping app. According to Tech Crunch, research firm Forrester expects online retail to grow at a 10 percent compound annual rate, with the money involved to reach $279 billion by 2015. A Nielsen study found that at least 48 percent of children between 6-12 years wish for an iPad for the holidays. The Nintendo Wii U comes in second, then the iPad Mini. The focus might all be about fun and games, but they want the flexibility of mobile devices more and more than fixed gaming consoles.

Adults in the US also have this affinity for mobile devices with just over a third of the population owning a tablet, according to Pew Internet. Not only do these tablets and mobile phones provide a means of contacting friends, family members, and colleagues. They have become computers on the go. Tablet devices are becoming a prime choice for shoppers looking for both necessities and luxury items. The key is for business owners like yourself to harness this information. This way, you can start integrating online storefronts into your current setup. Shopify has the technical capability to help ease your company into the digital age.

Ease of Navigation

Online stores can take their queue when sales are not picking up as expected. Marketing the site may have been the easy part. But if sales remain low, you may have an online store that is keeping customers from hitting the buy button. Does it take the customer forever to complete the transaction? Are their way too many next buttons to go through that customers end up abandoning the sale? Try timing how long it takes to complete a transaction. Ask friends to go to the site to do beta testing and ask for their opinion.

Clutter-free Web site

You may have several items to sell, so organizing them in different categories helps. You can even opt for a setup where customers can go to a page to answer some quick questions. This will help narrow down the item choices to what they want to take a look at and then buy as soon as it fits their requirements. Understanding that it takes a savvy developer to help you get that website right, you also need to know how the final look should come out. Some retail businesses point to costs as the main reason for not getting this one right. One must prepare to take on the extra cost for now to reap more profits later.

Smarter Shopping Cart

Although online shoppers may appear to be buying items in an instant, they do prepare for them. This means they go to websites to check out the items and compare it to a competitor site. This will include shopping based on the pictures posted, prices and shipping options. Taking all these factors together, they then make the decision to buy online. The problem is that they may close a website by accident without saving their shopping cart. This will mean going through the entire process again and worst case, they just end up at the last online store they were looking at. But if you have an app that allows customers to add items toa wish list, they will likely find their way back to your store again.

Payment Options

The customer has finally decided to buy the item, except there’s one drawback – the payment method. It could be that the customer gets redirected to another site to encode their credit or debit card information. This raises security questions for some customers and might make them abandon the sale. It could also be that you only accept card payments, but they may only have a checking account available. Again, this could appear as another dead end to the customer.

With the booming industry in online retail selling, many companies have found ways to post their online stores. What some of these businesses missed out on is the customer experience that could spell the difference according to Tech Crunch. Do some research on which developers to go to for your online store to get a piece of the market share. It may entail some cost, but you can get a quick turnaround for your buck if you do this right. Cutting corners may work if the risks are not as high. Get this right, so your efforts will be worth it.

Posted in: Editorial
By October 28, 2014 Read More →

Getting the most out of the Microsoft Surface

8583948813_4bbbb18bac_qRecent innovations in technology and the internet have seen us increasingly consuming more media on the move. The Microsoft Surface is kicking up a storm as the new laptop-meets-tablet hybrid on the tech and entertainment market. Boasting the key perks of each device; with the light weight of a tablet and the processor of a laptop, can the Microsoft Surface really do it all?

 

Key Features

Featuring a 12 inch screen, a fourth generation Intel Core processor and up to nine hours of battery life, the Microsoft Surface certainly packs a punch in the world of technology. Home to three ports and an optional keyboard, it takes the lead where earlier tablets have failed.

Keep it private

Unlike standard tablets, the Microsoft Surface allows for greater security with the regular 4 PIN passcode strengthened by a personalised picture password, meaning you don’t need to worry about sensitive information or even your kids picking up the device and having a go.

Personal touches

Once you’ve downloaded your preferred apps, you can then re arrange and even re name these on your home screen for quick and easy accessibility. You can also link your tablet up to multiple email accounts, social media feeds, networking and business messengers, allowing you to access both your work and personal emails on the go from one device.

Enhancing accessories & tips

Setting up your new Surface with Microsoft security software means that if your tablet is lost or stolen, your data will be encrypted and away from prying eyes. If you’re using the tablet for anything other than writing quick emails then consider purchasing a detachable keyboard as it will make your time much more productive.

As with all modern, powerful technology, battery life is the bane of your tablets performance capabilities. Never get caught short again by purchasing an external battery pack, these light and compact chargers will come to the rescue at your time of need!

To conclude

Although the Surface comes with a higher price tag than your standard tablet, it’s easy to see why. Microsoft has strived to create a tablet-laptop hybrid which shows off the ‘Windows experience’, allowing the user to access everything they need from one portable device.

If you’re looking at purchasing the Surface do some research, as the newer model may better suit your requirements.

 

Image by Jason Howle, used under the Creative Commons license

 

 

Posted in: Editorial, Tablets
By October 22, 2014 Read More →

Be Bond: try these gadgets

james-bond-gadget-caseThe bomb will explode in 40 seconds, so you better hurry up, Bond. You run through the metal corridors of the underground lair, eliminate four henchmen with your Walther PPK and chuck a defusing device at the bomb, seeing its timer stop at 00:07 seconds.

With that, the queen suddenly materialises in front of you, clutching a medal of honour and giving you a wry smile and a subtle wink. “Your majesty!” you exclaim, as you kneel on the ground.

It’s at about this time that you wake up, clutching your bedside lamp and saluting at your still-sleeping girlfriend.

If this is an experience you recognise, then it might be time to get those master spy fantasies out of your system.

With a few of these gadgets, you’ll be able to live your life like the suburban Bond you long to be. And stop saluting at your girlfriend in your sleep – it’s weirding her out.

Maintain an eagle eye

Just a decade or so ago, trying to hide a security camera was like concealing a woolly mammoth under your jumper. With their mass of wires, hefty lenses and loudly whirring rotation mechanism, they were about as subtle as a Brian Blessed cosplay convention.

How things change. Now, surveillance cameras can be concealed in replica Coke cans, BIC lighters, Blu-ray players and pretty much anything else you like.

Whether you’re meeting an ex-KGB informer, rendezvousing with a double agent or want to prove to your girlfriend that you did say to meet at eight, not quarter-past nine, these hidden surveillance cameras can be invaluable for the home. 

Glass yourself

Google Glass, that pair of hi-tech spectacles, has been making waves in the press, and rightly so. This versatile piece of kit could put Q out of a job, if he’s not careful.

You can essentially have the entirety of the internet in your eyes with Google Glass. Whether that means you want to Google someone’s name to think of new conversation topics or record the world around you, the possibilities are endless.

Some have criticised the device, claiming it’s leading our already dwindling attention spans to their death knell. But don’t let such negativity bother you – the Glass is the next step in technology.

See through the night

Do you ever stare into darkness and wonder what’s going in the inky black of the night? Then, ignoring the fact that you’ve got too much time on your hands, night vision goggles are perfect for you.

Even the cheaper end of the scale now allows you to see in complete darkness. Perfect for camping trips, reconnaissance missions or sneaking around your house with the lights off (everybody needs a hobby), pick up a reasonably priced pair and enjoy the pleasures of the night.

Posted in: Editorial, Gadgets
By October 2, 2014 Read More →

Making the iPhone 6 more affordable

iphone_6_pricesApple have done it again and have brought users a brand new, larger, handset, however, the only problem is how you make purchasing the iPhone 6 more affordable? As with the launch of any new piece of tech, the cost is substantially high and as such people franticly shop around for the best contract deals available. The only thing is, while you may be able to save the odd pound here and there by researching which network and tariff is best for your budget, there are other ways to make bigger savings to make the cost of the latest handset more affordable.

There is no denying that selecting a contract iPhone 6 or 6 plus will be the cheapest short term option, you don’t have to pay too much up front and you get a gorgeous new phone. Sadly, however, the costs start to sting your bank account when your monthly contract payments go out – new phones are notorious for being quite pricey when selecting contracts, so long term you’ll end out paying a lot more than you expected or would like.

Another option, and probably one of the cheaper in the long run is to choose a SIM only contract. Although this means you pay for the handset upfront, you benefit from being able to move freely between networks and deals without having to deal with the confines of a locked contract. The issue with this decision is most people don’t make it because they feel they can’t afford to spend that much money in one go. If that sounds like where you stumble when purchasing the new iPhone you could turn to Apple’s finance payment plan to help you make that handset obtainable.

The finance package with Apple means you buy directly from the company and then pay back what you owe, with interest, over a select period of months, the most common being 24 months. However, while it definitely sounds a lot more money savvy, you do have an APR rate of 14.9% added onto your repayments, which obviously means you end up paying more than what the handset is worth. This is where you might want to consider a 0% credit card instead, as this option means you can enjoy a long interest free period (maximum of 20 months), and only pay for the handset with no added extras.

By breaking it down and comparing the two options, the latter is more financially sound. When you buy an iPhone 6 (16gb) via Apple finance, you’ll pay £620.54 with repayment costs of £25.86 monthly for 24 months, however, when you buy an iPhone 6 via an interest free credit card, you’ll pay the SIM-free cost of £539.00 and pay back £26.95 monthly for 20 months. Despite the fact that you’ll pay out a little bit more each month if you choose the credit card option, you pay off the handset sooner and essentially make a saving of £81.54; and the saving for handsets with more storage is even greater.

As expected with a new phone, it’s all about shopping around for the best deal, however, that doesn’t restrict you to just what contracts are on offer in the high-street stores. There are many other avenues to research and consider before making a final decision, and weighing them up first and making the right decision can save you money in the long term.

Posted in: Editorial, Phones
By September 23, 2014 Read More →

Microsoft tablets that put the fun in functional

14469697956_7cb0aa01e7_hDespite the fact that global sales of PCs and laptops are in decline, several consumers still require functional, practical and workaday machines, which can perform more tasks than standard touchscreen tablets. 

Thankfully, Microsoft’s range of Surface devices makes this possible and you can pick one up at stores including Tesco and popular electrical retailers. In addition to their lightweight construction and expansive displays, they also feature comprehensive operating systems and various input methods. Here’s the full lowdown on all three models:

 

Surface 2

Full of features and incredibly good value for money, the Surface 2 might well be Microsoft’s entry-level tablet, but it still packs an impressive punch. Boasting a 1.7 GHz processor, Nvidia Tegra 4 chip, 2GB of RAM and a 10.6-inch screen, the Surface 2 can deal with a multitude of tasks and applications. When you add into the bargain a two-position kickstand, USB 3, MicroSD slot and Microsoft Office with Outlook as standard, it quickly becomes the best option for those on a budget.  

 

Surface Pro 2

Perhaps the ultimate tablet for professions that require portability and power, the Surface Pro 2 has everything you could possibly need. With an Intel Core i5 processor, 526GB of storage and the option of Microsoft’s entire Office Suite, this particular device takes all the benefits of a PC or laptop but manages to fit it in a truly attractive package weighing just 900 grams. Even so, it features a multitude of connections, commendable battery life and a full HD display. 

 

Surface Pro 3

The latest and possibly greatest tablet offering from Microsoft is the Surface Pro 3. On first impressions, the tablet’s look and feel is difficult to ignore, as the substantial 12-inch display and sleek magnesium frame are outstanding. But it gets better, as the Surface Pro 3 also comes with two 5MP HD cameras, stereo speakers featuring Dolby sound, a full-size keyboard and trackpad as well as a pressure-sensitive stylus. This means interacting with the pre-installed full version of Windows 8.1 is both easy and enjoyable.

So even if you’re looking for some fun from your tablet, you can get a great deal of functionality too with a Microsoft Surface device. Just be sure to choose a tablet that’s right for you and meets your requirements.

Image by Scott Akerman, used under the Creative Commons license.

 

 

Posted in: Editorial, Laptops, Tablets
By September 16, 2014 Read More →

Gareth’s top phone from IFA

P1010464Recently I have returned from IFA in Berlin and I have felt the need to report on one device in particular that really impressed me to no end. This year we saw some very interesting products from Samsung, Sony and even Phillips, however there was one device that, in my opinion, really stole the show if everything I was told is correct.

Weighing it at a possible £275-£300 is the Alcatel Hero 2. This little known French company grabs the bull by the horns this year and produced a phone that is, on the one hand budget friendly, yet on the other it manages to capture almost everything that every other manufacturer has injected into their latest and greatest. We have no affiliated with Alcatal, and to my knowledge never have, how this Hero 2 handset impressed the sock off me. 

Case and point.

Yes, the Hero 2 features a 6″ TFT LCD display. The TFT technology is a little off putting these days, however at the 1080p resolution (367 ppi), and with Dragontrail glass for protection  and oleophobic coating this phone almost looks just as good at a Note III. Certainly setting it next to the Note 4, the difference will be night and day however the average user will be looking for something that is easily passable for usage and this is will certainly meets the challenge.

Inside the Hero 2 is a MediaTek MT6592 chipset with an octa-core 1.7GHz Cortex-A7 CPU and 2G of RAM. Internal storage is 16GB expandable by up to 32GB via the microSD card slot. Things run smoothly and with a refreshingly sparse overlay. There are still additions from Alcatel however no where near that we see on the Samsung and Sony devices shown. It was nice to go back to a more familiar interface having spent time with the likes of the Sony Xperia Z3.

You also get Wi-Fi 802.11n, Bluetooth 2.0, NFC and 4G. The battery of the Hero 2 is a hefty 3,100mAh rated at a 10hours of 3G talk time (4.5h in 4G mode) and stand-by time of 380 hours. A rather decent 13MP OIS camera  sits on the back with a single LED flash and recording video of up to 1080p@30fps. There is a stylus in the Hero 2 and it’s very similar to the Samsung S Pen. Alongside this are a couple of peripherals. For example a game pad, touch screen game controller that click onto the Hero 2 providing protection and simple interaction. 

Of all the phones on display in Berlin, this is the one that made the biggest impression on me, and I have thought most about since. Certainly, Lenovo, Samsung and Sony all had strong offerings featuring revolutionary technologies, however it was Alcatel who produced a simple, elegant, well made and modestly priced road warrior. Provided the price translates when crossing the channel…

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Posted in: Editorial
By September 11, 2014 Read More →

Gareth’s Top TV from IFA

TV FranceWalking around Berlin’s IFA show you will realise the most important aspects of ever stand is the display. Every device and unit there relies on the most eye popping display to attract attention. Samsung, Sony and LG stands are full of jaw dropping panels with ever increasing size, beauty and novelty.  However, on closer inspection you can see colour contrasts pushed up and false vibrancy used to achieve an eye popping result. Most of these panels are eye popping for a minimal amount of time.

Panasonic was the only company to happily display their older panel beside their latest offering for direct comparison.  You can get right up and examine the pixels and colour representation within millimetres of the screen. Most other companies have their panels roped off.

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LG and Samsung brag them have true black on their screens however you can see they are not. Panasonic are refreshingly honest with their approach, true blacks are very hard to do, they aren’t their yet however they are close. They can show the progress from where they were this time last year.

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One of the most endearing things about the Panasonic flagship is their pride in the design. Having visited a number of shows I have spoken to many engineers over the years about the development of their products, however I have never had an Engineer ask me what I think of specific design aspects, only to step back and continually admire the work their company had produced. Panasonic’s engineers have taken pride in their work, not for profit, not for glory, but as a personal achievement in creating something that stands out and impresses.

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Panasonic have made a lot of effort to turn a Smart TV into an actual Smart TV. Most consumers have Smart TV features forced on them when buying a new TV, the functionality is usually half baked, slow and prone to bugs. It is normally turned off and a set top box used to replace. Panasonic have added a feature set to their high end devices, and some diluted features to the lower, that will impress those out hunting for the living room replacement model. A combination of services that integrate with the users lifestyle to produce a truly Smart experience.

Much like an Xbox One, the new Panasonic has a built in camera with facial recognition and the ability to build a profile for each registered user. Once the user has been recognised, or selected when multiple users are in one place, the TV can, even from standby, show information pertinent to the user. Weather, social updates, relevant TV content and recommendations based around viewing habits. Smart TV features a user would benefit from, and not what a manufacturer wants to throw are the user on a clunky interface. Panasonic’s Mystream and Infobar are simple, elegant and useful without interrupting or imposing.

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Adding in the ability to stream to devices over 3G and 4G, scheduling and recommendations Panasonic is making extra effort to evolve the television into a companion to spend time with in your freetime. This is something other TV’s cannot boast. LG and Phillips have adtoped mature operating systems for their models in WebOS and Android however these are not specifically designed to deliver the content directly to you, however you need it. Running ontop of a specifically designed Quad Core Pro5 chipset the AX 902 can handle most anything required and the software runs smoothly without issue.

Panasonic’s Viera AX902 is a head turner if ever there was one. Less gimmicks that the other manufactures, more progress in delivering a better TV viewing experience. A team of engineers have built a TV they would want to use themselves, not one they that solely to please shareholders.

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