Monthly Archives: April 2015

LG G Flex 2 Review – Killer Curves

LG G Flex 2 Review – Killer Curves

First you have to prove you’re not a gimmick. Then it’s just a matter of proving you’re better. LG turned heads with the G Flex last year, an Android smartphone with a banana-like bend to it, only to be stung with criticism that its big idea was actually just too big for the hand. Now, 2015 brings a new curved flagship, the LG G Flex 2, distilling the best of the concept into something altogether more usable. As the SlashGear Smartphone of CES 2015 our expectations of the G Flex 2 were undoubtedly high, but does the reality live up to the promise?

The review phones LG has provided are for South Korean carrier SK Telecom, as US-spec devices are not currently available. LG requested the following disclaimer:


“The devices sampled are representative of final industrial design and user experience but are continuing to undergo additional optimizations to enhance benchmark performance. We expect our upcoming software releases to provide further improvements in this area. We remain confident that the G Flex 2 will deliver great experiences to our customers with a tremendous blend of multimedia, performance and industry-leading design.”

Hardware and Design

Like many, we had two key criticisms of the first G Flex. First off, it was simply too big: its 6-inch display left it unwieldy and, despite LG’s suggestions that the screen arc meant reaching the corners one-handed would be easier, in practice it was still a two-handed device.


We’d have been more forgiving if the display itself had been market-leading, but in reality the resolution wasn’t as impressive as the shape. LG had opted for a 720p screen, lacking in detail in comparison to the commonplace 1080p found on rival (albeit flat) handsets.


Thankfully, both of those issues are addressed with the G Flex 2. Now fronted with a 5.5-inch display, the new phone measures in at 149.1 x 75.3 x 7.1-9.4 mm, versus the 160.5 x 81.6 x 7.9-8.7 mm of the old model. It’s easier to hold, easier to reach across the display, and feels less ridiculous held against your face for calls. The bezels are slimmer all around, too, which removes some of the visual heft.


The display may be a little smaller, but it’s higher resolution, stepping up to 1080p. Now, 1920 x 1080 isn’t the highest out there for a flagship Android phone – LG’s own G3 from 2014 comes in at 2560 x 1440, for instance – but at 403 ppi it’s certainly detailed enough for all but the most discriminating of eyes.


LG maintains that there’s more than just gimmickry to its flexed P-OLED. Primarily you have to buy into the idea that a curved TV is more engrossing than its flat counterpart, and indeed the G Flex 2 has a 700mm radius curvature just like LG’s 55-inch curved TVs. Whether you’re sitting 3m away from the TV, or watching the phone from 30 cm away, the viewing experience will be more engrossing.

At least, that’s the theory. I’m still not wholly convinced that my enjoyment of YouTube videos or maybe a movie downloaded through Google Play and watched with the G Flex 2 propped up on an airplane tray table are made more dramatic or engaging thanks to the curve, but it’s a beautiful display all the same, with the rich blacks and vivid colors we’ve come to expect from OLED panels.

On top there’s a sheet of Gorilla Glass 3, with which LG’s engineers couldn’t resist having an experiment. The result is Dura Guard Glass, a combination of chemical and heat treatment which LG says add up to 20-percent more resilience than Corning’s best efforts alone.

The rough & tumble temperament doesn’t stop there, either. LG’s self-healing casing treatment has been upgraded since the original G Flex, too, still promising scratch recovery but now promising that mild grazes will disappear in as little as ten seconds.

It helps if you’re not expecting miracles: put the G Flex 2 in a pocket with a few sharp keys and you’re asking for trouble. Nonetheless, it shed very casual scuffs and scrapes with no issues, leaving LG’s “Spin Hairline Pattern” – effectively a radial brushed-metal effect – unmarred.


Inside, there have been some welcome changes too. Pride of place is occupied by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 810 with Adreno 430 graphics and either 2GB or 3GB of memory (geography depending). It’s a 64-bit octacore chipset, optimized for Android Lollipop, and as we’ve already seen in our benchmarking of the processor, most of the time not lacking in power.

The Snapdragon 810 gives you Cat 6 LTE with 3xCA (channel aggregation) for faster downloads on networks that support it. There’s also HSPA+, WiFi a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.1 (with apt-X audio), NFC, and USB 2.0. Storage consists of either 16GB or 32GB of onboard capacity, along with a microSD slot.

Software and Performance

LG has gradually been dialing down the degree to which it modifies core Android, and though there are certainly some changes to iconography and such, happily Lollipop 5.0.1 is in many ways closer to what Google intended than with earlier devices. What has been tweaked generally works to the G Flex 2’s benefit, too.


Glance View, for instance, gives a “peak” at the most recent notifications without leaving the display partially powered-on all the time. Sliding a finger or thumb down the upper curve of the display pulls open a glowing pane with the latest icons and alerts, along with date and time. It’s convenient enough to do with a reaching thumb, and useful if you’ve just snagged the phone out of your pocket and want to discretely check what you’ve missed.

Then there’s Smart Notice, which promises to work as a “personal assistant” based on how you use your phone and where you are. Frankly, in the face of true digital assistants like Google Now or Siri, LG’s weather and missed call reminders feel underwhelming, and the company’s much-vaunted “natural language” delivery doesn’t really add much.

Better are the security convenience features. Knock Code – which allows you to set an unlock pattern of taps rather than a PIN – can now be split across four quadrants of the display, increasing the number of potential sequences considerably. It’s a great balance of security and convenience, since you don’t have to look down at the screen to see where the buttons on a numeric keypad is. Lollipop, meanwhile, adds Smart Lock, which can bypass the code depending on whether you’re at home or at work.


Otherwise, the Lollipop experience is hidden to no small degree by the sheer amount of software SK Telecom adds itself. Many can’t be removed, and Korean language menus and keyboards are the default at several points. It’s hard to know what changes LG may make between Korean devices and their US counterparts.

For that reason, the performance of the phone needs to be taken with a serious disclaimer hanging overhead, not least LG’s assurance that tweaks and finessing are still underway. I didn’t have problems with heat, or indeed the smoothness that Android and apps ran most of the time, though occasionally there would be hiccups that seemed inexplicable when looking at overall load. In short, the Snapdragon 810 certainly seems capable, but we’ll need to come back for a closer look when LG has its final firmware ready.


The G Flex 2 gets the same camera rig as found in the LG G3, and that’s no bad thing. On the back, there’s a 13-megapixel camera with laser auto-focus, OIS+ optical image stabilization, and a dual-LED flash. Turn the phone around, meanwhile, and a 2.1-megapixel, f/2.4 camera is up-front for selfies.


As we found on the G3, the addition of lasers to the system doesn’t just give LG the opportunity to make Dr. Evil jokes. Instead, it’s used as a high-speed rangefinder, with the promise of better low-light performance where traditional autofocus systems more commonly struggle.


In fact, side by side with the G3 and the G Flex 2 is meant to be a little faster. It’s not something you could really see day-to-day, but no matter what the numbers might be, I had no complaints with the near-instantaneous focus lock. Even shooting in pitch dark, once the flash had kicked into action I found the lasers had done what they were meant to.

The resulting images are as solid as those from the G3, with exposure and contrast well balanced, while colors skew more toward realistic than over-saturated. An HDR mode helps even more when the lighting conditions are playing against you.


Rear facing camera

Battery and Phone

If there’s a sacrifice to stomach for the smaller size, it’s in battery capacity. The G Flex 2 drops 500 mAh from its predecessor, packing a curved 3,000 mAh Li-Ion pack that, like before, is non-user-removable. Peel off the back cover and you find the SIM and microSD slots, but the battery is screwed into place.


You may not be able to swap it, but you should be able to charge it more rapidly. LG’s phone supports Fast Charge which – with the right charger, usefully included in the box rather than sold separately as we’ve seen with some manufacturers – shaves recharging times by almost a third. A 50-percent charge can be squeezed inside in around 40 minutes, and happily the wall-wart itself isn’t too huge to travel with conveniently.

In practice, considering the smaller battery, runtimes were strongly dependent on what tasks the G Flex 2 was facing. OLED screens may be lower in the power demands than LCD, but a 5.5-inch panel still takes its toll. I saw a full day of casual use, but since this particular phone hasn’t been tailored to suit local networks, I’ll leave more comprehensive testing until US devices land.

It’s almost unusual to use a phone as, well, a phone these days, but if you do still stick to the old ways, LG says the G Flex 2’s shape has a usable benefit. In fact, there’s a claimed 3 dB improvement in how much volume the microphone supposedly picks up when you’re holding the phone against your face, better than the original G Flex – it was longer, so its microphone was further down toward your chin – and a whopping 40-percent improvement over a flag phone with the same display size.

Call quality is something we’ll return to when we have a US-spec device, though an AT&T SIM got the Flex 2 up and running. Certainly sufficient to suggest that LG’s argument is more than just PR fluff, anyway: callers reported being able to hear us clearly, while the G Flex 2’s earpiece proved loud though lacked finesse.


When you’re using a non-localized device, there are always provisos to be taken into consideration. In the case of the LG G Flex 2, we still have several outstanding questions: how the combination of Snapdragon 810 and US-spec software will play together is probably the biggest. I’m also curious to see how much restraint – or lack of – US carriers demonstrate when it comes to bloatware.


Nonetheless, when it comes to addressing the two biggest issues we had with the original G Flex, you can’t argue that LG has risen to the challenge. In the hand, the G Flex 2 feels reasonably sized rather than unwieldy, and the curve finally starts living up to some of its promise as an ergonomic boon to one-handed use.

Meanwhile, though I’m still not convinced that – as with curved TVs – a flexed screen is a must-have for entertainment, there’s at least no compromise on resolution this time around.

With final firmware still pending, the jury is still out on how solid an all-round package the G Flex 2 might be. Already, though, I’ve seen enough to convince me that curved phones aren’t a gimmick any longer. If the price is right when US carriers weigh in over the coming weeks, and you can resist the charms of whatever Samsung and HTC have in store with the Galaxy S6 and One M9, that leaves the G Flex 2 a distinctive device well worth keeping on the shortlist.


Lenovo ThinkPad W540 Review – Old-School Pride

Lenovo ThinkPad W540 Review – Old-School Pride

The ThinkPad’s distant history is pocked with no-nonsense business machines sporting plain designs and thick bodies. Those are largely a thing of the past, with the newest ThinkPads coming with a side dish of sleekness that make them stand out from systems of days gone by. Such isn’t the case with Lenovo’s new ThinkPad W540, a mobile workstation targeted at business users that in some ways harkens back to the old T-Series designs. That’s not a criticism, mind you. There’s something refreshing about a laptop that isn’t partly based on being overtly stylish, instead zeroing in on functionality for those who care most about what the machine can do. Does the W540’s functionality match its boardroom aesthetic, though? Read our full SlashGear review to find out!


The ThinkPad W540 features a somewhat textured plastic body that is notably thick when compared to your average modern laptop, but no more so than you’d expect for a workstation of its caliber. The trackpad is large and button-less, the keyboard is the traditional ThinkPad offering, and the display is matte framed by thick bezels and large metal hinges. The design certainly falls in the realm of “business chic”.


Various configurations are available with up to a fourth-generation Intel Core i7 Quad and Extreme CPU, as well as NVIDIA Quadro graphics and up to a 1TB HDD (or a 512GB SSD). The system can be had with Windows 8.1 Pro 64 or Windows 7 Pro. Though the system is large, it is hailed as the most portable of the W-Series, weighing in at 5.57lbs. The power adapter has been trimmed down by 30-percent over other models, as well, making it more portable.


The laptop can be had with either a 15.5-inch 3K display (2880 x 1620), or a 15.6-inch display with a Full HD 1080p resolution. There’s support for up to 32GB of memory, a 6-cell or a 9-cell battery, an optical drive, Dolby Home Theater version 4, Bluetooth 4.0, and an HD webcam.


The ports available are extensive, including VGA, a pair of USB 3.0 ports and a pair of USB 2.0 ports, support for a Smart Card, a single combo audio jack, Ethernet, a 4-in-1 card reader, Thunderbolt, and a Kensington Lock. As you’ll notice in the images, there’s also a fingerprint reader for biometric security, as well as an X-Rite PANTONE color calibrator.



With our system’s battery, we were rated to get 6 or more hours of run time on a charge, and after using the machine in different fashions, that rating seems spot on, if not slightly modest. Simple general usage like Web browsing and light tasks will get you several hours, while more strenuous things like encoding video files back-to-back still got us at least four hours of run time on a charge. Obviously how long you get will be dependent on things like screen brightness, system usage, and whether you’re using the 6-cell or 9-cell battery.



As expected, performance is the ThinkPad W540’s strong point, with it far outpacing the company’s other recent machines and pushing out enough power to accomplish whatever hefty task you might have. There were no performance hitches in any way, and the laptop handled the tasks we threw at it with ease. You can compare its GeekBench 3 score to that of other laptops we’ve reviewed by hitting up the Laptop Reviews portal.


The ThinkPad W540 is definitely for the business workers among us who need a machine more robust than the average ultrabook. Those who will find this offering appealing are of a certain sort: people who prefer having all the ports and functions they need rather than unnecessary frills and thinness; those who want a laptop that doesn’t make a show of itself during meetings; anybody who merely wants a laptop able to handle demanding use, and nothing more.


The machine has the hardware needed for tasks ranging from video work to animation, graphic design, and other activities beyond typing data sheets and compiling reports. The battery life is quite commendable given the specs, able to put out a few hours of run time even when demanding use is taking place, and even longer when one is simply browsing or reading. Despite all it has to offer, the machine is still light in comparison to competing models, ensuring you won’t strain your shoulder lugging it around. For these reasons the W540 is definitely a laptop to consider if you’re in the market for a business machine.

Price starts at $1,259 USD.


Lenovo Y50 Touch Review

Lenovo Y50 Touch Review

Lenovo is leaving no stone unturned. Want a slim and sleek convertible laptop? They’ve got you covered. Want a tablet with a built-in projector? They’ve got that, too. Want a gaming machine boasting a combination of raw power and edgy design? Enter the Lenovo Y50 Touch, a beast of a laptop with a design that lets you know what it’s all about before you even fire it up. The Y50 Touch boasts superior hardware from all angles: there’s JBL speakers, fourth-gen Intel processors, NVIDIA graphics, a Full HD display, and more. Does the laptop hold up under scrutiny, however, or is it ultimately all flashy designs and big claims? Read our full SlashGear review to find out!


The Y50 Touch is dense and smooth to the touch, feeling incredibly sturdy with no wayward creaking plastic or loose hinges. It follows the same basic design we see with Lenovo’s other laptops — dark and subtle — but with distinct dark red trimming that makes the speakers pop. That red goes from subtle to in-your-face when you start using the AccuType keyboard, however, which features a bright red backlight that is easy on the eyes.


That keyboard is complemented by the red accents and honeycomb vents, which follow the same sharp angles employed in other areas of the laptop’s design. This is topped off by a mixture of matte plastic around the keyboard, glossy plastics around the speakers and display, and the brushed metal top of the machine. It is important to note that the feel of the laptop is one of its more notable points — unlike some of the company’s workstation laptops, this one feels very solid and durable when held.


The Y50 Touch is available in different configurations, with our model toting a fourth-gen Intel Core i7-4700HQ 2.4GHz processor, 8GB of RAM (you can get 16GB, as well), and a 15.6-inch Full HD LED backlit multi-touch display. Graphics come by way of an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 860M 2GB card, and is complemented by JBL speakers with Dolby Advanced Audio. The webcam has a 720p resolution, storage is a hybrid 1TB 5400rpm HDD and an 8GB SSHD, and there’s both Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11 a/b/g/n WiFi (802.11ac is also available).


Ports are numerous, and the trio of USB slots in particular (two 3.0 and one 2.0) feature red accents that join the keyboard and speakers. There’s a single combo audio jack, HDMI-out, a 4-in-1 card reader that support SD, SDXC, SDHC, and MMC, RJ45, and SPDIF. This is all wrapped up into a complete package that keeps things fairly slim with a thickness of 0.9-inches and a weight of 5.29lbs.

The design is distinctly aimed at the gaming crowd — you’d be hard-pressed to find a business professional who’d tote it into a boardroom — and it wears its style well. The combination of sturdy construction and a surprisingly thin profile both stand out, and are welcomed features.


The Y50 Touch comes pre-loaded with some software that you may find useful, though there are a couple applications you might be uninstalling fairly soon after use. Lenovo included its own software, which you’ll be familiar with if you’ve used a ThinkPad or similar device in recent times: Lenovo Cloud Storage, VeriFace Pro, and Companion. Joining it is a fairly eclectic array of other applications: Zinio Online Newsstand, Skype, Evernote, and Amazon Kindle for PC. There are two trials included, as well: Microsoft Office 365 Home Premium and McAfee Internet Security (both are 30-day trials).

Performance and Battery

Performance is fine, as you’d expect, though it isn’t Lenovo’s only powerful laptop. The ThinkPad W540 that we recently reviewed, for example, scored 3216/12,101 in the same benchmark tests, as compared to the Y50 Touch’s 2974/10509. That’s due to the W540’s slightly better hardware configuration, of course, but it serves to show that there’s more than one option from Lenovo for those in need of a performance machine.

As far as battery life goes, the number of hours you’ll get will depend on how you’re using it. Casual Internet browsing will have you getting many solid hours of usage in before charging again, while cranking away at your favorite game will deplete the battery quite a bit faster. Our model features a a 4-cell 54 Watt hour Lithium-ion battery, which Lenovo says should get you up to 5 hours of run time if you’re just browsing the Web. That is indeed true — we got a handful of hours out of the machine when just putzing around the Web. That number begins to fall when you add in more strenuous activities, and so while you’ll be able to play your games away from an outlet, you shouldn’t expect to do so for more than a couple of hours.



There’s nothing to dislike about the Y50 Touch, unless you’re finicky about wanting the trackpad centered. It is solid from all angles, bringing with it a clean and mean design that makes no bones about what kind of performance can be expected. Unlike some other models, this laptop feels very solid and well-built, nary a creak of plastic to be found. This combination of design, construction, and performance means all your needs will be satisfied, and so the gamers among us can rest assured that the Y50 Touch is an all around solid choice. Prices start at $1,369 USD.


Falcon Northwest TLX Gaming Laptop Review

Falcon Northwest TLX Gaming Laptop Review

At last an opportunity to take a peek at a real heavy-duty gaming laptop rolling with the latest in Intel (Haswell) and NVIDIA GeForce GTX (980M) technology. Here we’re working with the Falcon Northwest TLX, a 7-pound notebook working with a Full HD 15-inch display and a fully customizable paint job. Can the creators of ourfavorite gaming tower convince us there’s a need for full-powered gaming notebook finesse? How about if the laptop in question is painted top to bottom in custom Candy Red?


This laptop rolls with the newest in new, coming with support for up to and including Intel 3rd Generation Core i7 processors up thru i7-4930MX Extreme Edition – (3.9 GHz Max Turbo speed) 4 cores, 8 threads, 8 MB cache. Inside the standard build of the TLX you’ll also be working with DX11 capable NVIDIA GeForce 800 series mobile or Quadro mobile – we’re exploring the next step with the GTX 980M.

Our unique build:
CPU: Intel Core i7 4910MQ @ 2.90GHz
Memory: 16GB RAM (15.92GB usable)
Max Resolution: 1920 x 1080, 60Hz
OS: Microsoft Windows 8.1


The display you’ve got here is an LED-backlit 1920 x 1080-pixel LCD, and it’s certainly decent. It doesn’t hold up to recent laptops we’ve reviewed including the Lenovo YOGA 3 Pro and the newest wave of MacBooks. Compared to other 1080p displays, this unit is great – if you’re coming from a display with far more sharpness and brightness, you’ll be in for a little shock.

Body robustness in this machine is spot-on. It’s heavy duty without being overly-heavy.

This isn’t the notebook you’re going to be sliding into your purse to bring on an airplane, but it is light enough to carry to school in a backpack. Not that you’ll be using the TLX for schoolwork, of course (not that you couldn’t if you wanted to do so).

You’ll have support for up to 4 drives, and this machine supports RAID 0&1. Here we’re working with a 1TB Samsung 840 EVO mSATA to keep things… simple. There’s also an optimal disk drive – pop-out and painted and everything!


That drive can work with Dual-Layer 8X DVD +/-R, and Blu-Ray action is optional.

Connectivity depends on Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11 a/b/g/n Wireless LAN – throughout our entire house we never had trouble connecting. Much more than can be said for certain towers we’ve tested recently. You’ve also got the option of plugging in a hard wire with this device’s one ethernet port.

1x USB 2.0
3x USB 3.0
1x eSATA
1x HDMI port v1.4a (with digital audio output)
1x DVI-I
1x I-EEE 1394a Firewire
1x RJ-45 for LAN
1x Kensington lock slot

Below the keyboard you have a touchpad with 2 hard buttons and a fingerprint scanner. Scanning was top notch – from one direction and done at a nominal pace, but still, good.


The touchpad provided a great experience whenever we did end up using it. Soft-touch selecting items and scrolling through pages of content were done, no problem.

Once you start playing games though, and it’s still a mouse affair. Not because the touchpad is bad – because it isn’t – but because the gaming universe is still one of mice and console controls.

SIDENOTE: The Xbox One controller worked like a charm, as it always should with Windows 8.1, for all compatible games.


Built-in sound is provided by SoundBlaster Xi-Fi, built in Onkyo stereo speakers + subwoofer, headphone-out, S/PDIFLine out, and an amplified headphone out. Without headphones, this notebook sounds great. With headphones, this notebook is amongst the best-sounding audio-blasting machines we’ve ever heard -for games or otherwise.


Cooling noise from under the hood can be heard when the processing gets hardcore, but it’s not overly-loud. Headphones in, no problem.

Your keyboard here has three sections that can be lit up with one of several colors. Don’t expect Razer Chroma customization, but do expect red, blue, green, cyan, white, and yellow. Or just turn the whole lighting situation off entirely.


This laptop is delivered to users with a custom-made backpack with full-on Falcon Northwest branding. This is “The Falcon Backpack”, and it’s surprisingly well made.

Above you’ll see several images of the backpack – stay tuned for our full “mini review” of this unit.

The smooth Candy Red paint job is a stand-out feature on this machine. With Falcon Northwest you know good and well you’re getting your money’s worth in exterior looks, while the NVIDIA/Intel combo inside brings the combo to be beat for high-powered processing.


There is literally no angle at which I was able to photograph this paint job that made it look bad. It’s top-tier material without a doubt.


Don’t expect one whole heck of a lot of battery life with this device, even after NVIDIA’s battery optimizations. If you really crank on the settings you’ll be able to get a 3-hour flight out of this laptop – perfectly legit for a flight, but not great if you expect the best of the best in graphics.

Such is the life of the gaming laptop.

On the other hand, plugging this device into a wall outlet will get you graphics like you’ve never seen in a notebook before.

Software / Games

Inside this Falcon Northwest TLX casing you’ll find a fully-operational Windows 8.1 gaming PC. This isn’t the past, where you had to expect kicked-down iterations of games due to lack of space for massive processors.

Instead, we’re in the age of “Desktop Class Gaming” and “AAA gaming, unplugged.” Everything we learned late last year from NVIDIA about this next-generation class of processor, come true here.


The Falcon Northwest TLX is a fine machine. It’s not going to compete with your modern super-thin notebook computer for portability – but it’s not really meant to. Instead, the TLX represents PC-level graphics and gameplay delivered in a package that’ll easily fit in your backpack. That’s no joke.


And when you see that custom-painted body delivered just the way you ordered it, you’ll be just as pumped up as you were the day you saw your hot rod in ruby for the first time. Inside and out, this gaming laptop has the potential to be gorgeous.

The build we’re reviewing here comes to a total of $4,092.85 USD.


VSN Mobil V.360 Camera Review

VSN Mobil V.360 Camera Review

The V.360 camera presents a fairly remarkable media-capturing proposition: the ability to capture panoramic (360-degree) videos or photographs with one tap. No stitching, no multiple-shot photography necessary. This system uses a mirror, instead, as well as a 4K/16 megapixel image sensor. You’re using a fixed f/3.0 aperture here and you’ve got the ability to capture up to 6480 x 1080 HD video at 30FPS or up to 7-megapixel photos (that’s 6480 x 1080 as well). What we’re doing in this initial review is checking image and video quality – we’ll be getting more hardcore in the near future.

Apps on both Android and iOS provide a rather large space for this device to perform in. Chances are you’ve got one or the other. The media you get from the device comes flat – you’ll see what I mean by flat soon – but you can also view it as it was meant to be viewed in-app.

You can view your captured media OR live content in your iOS or Android app.


This app also allows you to crop video in a very basic way, and to see your content as a tube or as a scroll-able image. To view this scroll-able image, you’ll have only to turn your phone or tablet on its side, to landscape mode.


Above you’ll see what I see when the camera is pointed – live – at me. This is a screenshot from my HTC One, not a photo taken with the V.360. Pulling left or right on this screen in the app on the phone shows any point in the 360-degrees of capture from the camera.

You can also view your captured media in a desktop player for OS X or Windows. All of these applications are, of course, free.


The viewer app for your desktop is just that – made for viewing media, not necessarily doing much with said media besides that. You can view files from your desktop or through the web, viewable by pasting a URL in a slot in the app’s menu.

Next you’ll see a selection of photos taken with the camera.


Above you’ll see a photo taken with the device on top of my car. This will be the best-case scenario for the camera as it’s being held still. The above photo is cut from the full scene captured by the device, expanded below:


The first several photos you see here are going to be a bit dim. These photos weren’t taken on a bright, sunny day, they were taken on a bit of a gloomy, winter day. Because of this, the camera is going to need to shine with auto-adjustments in brightness and contrast.


Unfortunately, the V.360 isn’t particularly good at making a dim day look fabulously appealing.


Taking photos sideways – not just the recommended super-flat – results in some interesting shots. Not that you’d want to go out of your way to shoot like this, but if you did, here’s what you’d get.


Next you’ll see one of the cooler applications of the photos you’ll be taking with the v.360 – Google Maps “Street View”. Of course this isn’t a photo taken from the street, and it’s better categorized in Google’s Photospheres collection – Views, it’s just called now.

NOTE: This is just the beginning. Once it gets a bit nicer outside we’ll be taking additional shots to show you how this device performs through the seasons. Let us know what you’d like us to shoot!The camera comes with a remote control unit that runs on two AAA batteries. You’ll be able to use this controller to turn the camera on and off, take a photo, and take a video.


On top of the camera you’ll find a bubble level – a tried and true super-simple solution for you to use to stay flat.


Inside the bottom of the camera you’ll find a single removable battery. Charging this device and transferring data requires that you use an (included) USB 3.0 cord.


You’ll also need to make use of the microSD card slot for data storage – this also allowing you to transfer photos and video using your own microSD transfer device, if you wish. You can also output using the device’s build-in HDMI port.

The VSN Mobil V.360 Camera will cost you a cool $399 USD should you choose to pick one up right this minute. This camera includes the Bluetooth remote control you see above, a microfiber carrying case, the aforementioned battery (2160 mAh large), and a USB 3.0 cable. You’ll also get a wall charger to plug your USB 3.0 cord into, a waterproof battery door, silicone sleeve, adhesive dash mount, and a GoPro mount adapter.

Is this device the way of the future, or is it just a gimmick? For now, we can safely say it’s the start of something really, really great. The ability to capture a full view – more than the human eye can take in all at once – that’s magical.

And that’s what we like. Technology that creates an environment in which what we’re perceiving seems so far out, it’s magic.


Moto E 2015 (2nd Gen) Review

Moto E 2015 (2nd Gen) Review

Motorola’s 2nd gen Moto E comes with Android 5.0 Lollipop, a 4.5-inch display, and is perfectly legit for the price it’s being offered at. Is it the finest piece of hardware on the market today? Of course not. Is it meant to be? No way. Does the 2015 Moto E provide one of the most compelling value propositions for a smartphone in the world today? Absolutely it does. This is Motorola’s continuation of their most successful smartphone-selling setup to date – inexpensive, yet not cheap – easily one of the best new smartphones for the price it’s being offered at globally this year.


The Motorola Moto E 2nd Gen, also known as the Moto E 2015, is a mid-range smartphone made to take on the lower end of the market with a build quality and specifications that look and feel like a much more expensive phone.

To create a high-end experience (with mid-range specs), the Motorola Moto E 2015 works with a 4.5-inch IPS LCD display up front – that’s 245 pixels per inch. Covering this front panel is a pane of Corning Gorilla Glass.


Above the display is a single front-facing speaker. Imagine what a big deal this front-facing speaker would have been a few years ago – before the HTC One M7 – when every other speaker was back-facing. Now it’s expected – but welcome.


Also up front you’ll find a VGA camera for OK-quality shots and video. Around the back you’ll get a 5-megapixel camera with the ability to shoot 720p video in regular or slow-motion.

Above: Instead of offering replaceable back covers – like previous-gen Moto G, for example – the Moto E 2015 has a replaceable rim. See our full Moto G Review as well.

Below: The power button and volume rocker on the Moto E 2015 are solid. These buttons on the 2014 Moto G are loose-fitting.


This device works with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 SoC. That’s a Quad-core 1.2 GHz Cortex-A53 CPU with Adreno 306 GPU.


Above and below you’ll see a number of benchmarks from the Moto E 2015 compared to the Moto G from 2014.


Why compare a 2015 device to a 2014 device? Because either you’re going to be buying a 2015 Moto E after having never owned a smartphone OR you’re going to be buying one because your Moto G or Moto E from 2014 has been fried for one reason or another.


Close – and remember that we’re working with different (both Qualcomm) processors here and different screen sizes, as well.


Notice the differences then know this: both devices function really well. All your basic apps will work fine – Facebook, Twitter, web browsing with Chrome – everything standard, including basic games as all.

Inside you’ve got 1GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage. There’s also a microSD card slot for 32GB more if you do so wish.


ABOVE: The white device is the Moto E 2015, the black is the Moto G 2014. Brightness is ever-so-slightly on the side of the Moto G.

BELOW: The Moto X 2015 is the larger device, the Moto E 2015 the smaller – the much more expensive device clearly dominates this display match-up.


Accelerometer and proximity sensors are here along with FM radio with RDS. GPS is provided by A-GPS or GLONASS, and you’ll be working with Bluetooth 4.0 as well.


Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n will connect you to the web when you don’t want to use 3G or 4G with AT&T, T-Mobile, or whatever other GSM SIM you happen to have on hand.


You get Android 5.0.2 right out of the box, so you’re on (nearly) the newest version of Android in the world today. This means you’ve got everything we’ve explained about Lollipop back when it was released, including some lovely Material Design throughout.


This isn’t Android 5.0 Lollipop like you’ll experience with competing smartphones – this is Motorola’s nearly-pure experience. That means they’re not going to get in the way of the design and presentation made by Google for all Android users – they’d much rather just give you access to their apps.

Motorola Alert connects you to your friends and family, sharing your location at all times (opt-in). “Moto” is an app that’ll connect you to Moto Display and Moto Actions, letting you adjust your settings depending on the time of day or the location you’re at.


Moto Actions start with Twist for Quick Capture – the flick-of-wrist action introduced with the first Moto X to let you get to your camera in an instant.

Moto Display works with quick notifications – showing up when your display is off, easily dismissible. You’ll remember this feature from the first Moto X as well.


With a 5-megapixel camera at its back without a flash, we didn’t expect a whole lot from the Moto E 2015’s back-facing shooter. While the camera doesn’t work super great in the dark, daylight shooting is pretty good, even without giving the setup a break for its price point.

Above you’ll see a number of shots taken with the 2015 Moto E. Let us know if there are any other unique shooting situations you’d like us to test!


Battery time is at least a day – just so long as you’re using the 2015 Moto E for basic web functionality. Streaming video will take you down to a half day if you’re doing so constantly – just be smart about how hard you’re blasting your display.


The battery size (2390 mAh) matches the display well. Use your time wisely and you’ll have 12+ hours easily.


Keep the phone and your pocket and it’ll be active for days at a time.


This is a smartphone worth owning. Look into purchasing smartphones on the used phone circuit first – just so long as you can trust the previous owner – then if you’re unable to locate a fine phone released in the past few years, this machine will be more than adequate for whatever basic smartphone needs you may have.


Is the Moto E 2015 (2nd Gen) a winner? Absolutely it is. Motorola continues to steam-roll the competition in this segment of the market, with no end in sight.

This device will cost you $119.99 USD off-contract here in the United States. It’s available through Motorola directly now and will be offered on several carriers soon.


Huawei Honor 6 Plus Review

Huawei Honor 6 Plus Review

After a few weeks of use, one thing is clear: with the Honor 6 Plus, Huawei isn’t messing around. While this device will not be released internationally* – nor will it be coming to the United States – Huawei has delivered a smartphone that’s worthy of your attention. In the future, we hope, Huawei will be able to continue their path to highest quality as they reach the United States with devices in the near future. For now – here’s what they’ve got brewing in the Honor line of smartphones with the 6 Plus.

*UPDATE: According to Huawei, “Honor 6 plus will [soon] also be available in Europe and other markets.”

This device works with a 5.5-inch IPS LCD display with 1080 x 1920 pixels across its face. That’s 401 PPI (pixels per inch) and well and above sharp enough to compete with all but the 2K displays on the market today.


Inside you’ll find a processor you may not have heard of before – HiSilicon Kirin 925. This is the combination of a Quad-core Cortex-A15 CPU and quad-core Cortex-A7 CPU with Mali-T628 MP4 GPU.


Performance is OK – it’s not as super-smooth as some of the newest Qualcomm or NVIDIA processor action on devices like theHTC One M9, for example… or even really the HTC One M8, for that matter.

But for the basics, this processor delivers a fine experience. Even playing games like Minecraft – you’d never know the difference between this and a much more powerful processor.


An odd configuration here means that you’ve got the option of using one of two SIM card slots as a microSD card slot. If you do, you get up to 128GB of additional space over the standard 16 or 32GB of internal storage. You’ll also have 3GB of RAM to roll with.


Two 8-megapixel cameras sit on the back of this smartphone, and another 8-megapixel camera rests up front. The whole lot takes some fairly high-end photos – some of the finest we’ve ever seen Huawei take, for certain.


Above: The Huawei Honor 6 Plus compared to some of the highest-end smartphones on the market today with a basic color test. Below: The same devices looking at SlashGear on the web – see the big differences in white intensity and brightness.


You’ll notice these differences when you’ve got the phones immediately next to one another. On their own, these devices will appear just as awesome as one another to your eyes for the most part – no worries.


We’re at a point with smartphones where all high-end devices look and feel very, very similar. With the Huawei Honor 6 Plus, you’ve got a smartphone that’s large enough to need two hands to operate. It’s got a glass back and front and a rim that’s made of plastic with embedded metal strips. Don’t drop it!


The user experience here is kicked directly in the pants by a lack of Google Play. Huawei uses its own unique software built with Android called Emotion UI – it does not comply with Google’s rules and has no Google Play or Google apps as such.

UPDATE: according to Huawei, “Emotion UI complies with Google in markets where Google services are available. Our phones in the US and internationally run EMUI and have Google services.”

The China model we’ve reviewed here has no Google apps, but in future versions in markets where Google services are available, it will.


If you’re in China you’ve probably got a handle on what apps you’ll be using with Huawei’s own app store, and shouldn’t worry about a lack of Google apps.

Without a basic idea of how to reach Chinese text, you’ll be stuck searching through this app store by image alone – which isn’t a big deal if you’re only looking for Minecraft or bubble-popping games.

Emotion UI is ever so slightly different from a standard build of Android. You have no app drawer, for example. Instead you rely on multiple home screens and folders – much like iOS.


With dual cameras at its back, you’ll have a collection of neat camera tricks at your fingertips. This means a “defocusing” sort of effect as well as an array of built-in filters.


This device has an 8-megapixel camera up front and two 8-megapixel cameras around the back. Photos are good – they’re not spectacular, but like any smartphone camera worth its salt, if you’re good, you’ll be able to make great photos here.


Above: Taken out in the daylight. Below: Real dark.


The dual-focus system is neat. It’s still a bit of a trick, and I can’t imagine choosing the camera for this one feature, but it works. Set your camera on a still platform and take a photo in a place with objects at multiple distances and you’ll be able to see the magic once the photo is processed.


Above: That’s one dog in focus. Below: That’s the other dog in focus – in the same photo.


Above and below you’ll see a number of photos taken with the from and back cameras on the Huawei Honor 6 Plus. See if you can tell the difference between the front and back cameras – they’re very, very similar.


Without region-specific SIM cards (or indeed being in the right area anyway), we weren’t able to give this device a real full battery test. Instead what you’re seeing here is roughly equivalent to the non-connected (like a tablet) experience.


That means a long time awake. Especially if you’ve got the battery saver on.



Is the dual-focus system enough to provide a stand-out experience? Not really. If we’re deciding between this smartphone and similar high-end devices from HTC, Samsung, LG, and Sony, the Honor 6 Plus wouldn’t be first on the list – or second.


This device is meant to operate inside China, where its users are prepared to use Huawei’s collection of China-based apps and software. Here in the United States, this device is just a herald of things to come.


Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 Review: Surprisingly Good

Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 Review: Surprisingly Good

The device you’re seeing here is not what it seems. While you might have never owned an Alcatel smartphone before – and you might never have even seen one in the wild – they’ve been around for a while. Here, with the Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3, the company has created a device that aims to take out the top tier with a surprisingly lower-tier bit of cost. While this smartphone does not break the bank, it certainly brings some heat to the feet of its far more expensive competitors.

We’ve had the Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 for a little over a week. In that time we’ve gone from thinking this would be just another budget phone to deciding that, no, this was no ordinary oversized device.


This device is big, indeed. It’s 152.7 x 75.1 x 7.4 mm (6.01 x 2.96 x 0.29 in), and comes with a display to match.

It’s thin, smooth, and feels by all means like a premium competitor.


With a 5.5-inch display with 1080 x 1920 pixels across its face, you’ll be working with 401 PPI (pixels per inch) – not half bad. Display color is quite good – second only to the slightly denser displays of devices like the Samsung Galaxy S6 and HTC One M9.


Inside you’ve got a Qualcomm MSM8939 Snapdragon 615 processor with Quad-core 1.5 GHz Cortex-A53 & quad-core 1.0 GHz Cortex-A53 and Adreno 405 GPU.


This device has a microSD card slot that can work with a card up to 128GB large. That includes 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB cards as well.

You’ll have 16GB internal storage and 2 GB RAM if you go with the 1-SIM version, while the dual-SIM model works with 32GB internal storage and 2GB of RAM.

You’ll want to check the SIM requirements in your respective area before purchasing the phone. Switching between SIM cards on the go was done with little effort – they’ve got this bit squared away at Alcatel.


Around the back you’ve got a 13-megapixel camera with autofocus and an LED flash. Video can be captured up to 1080p at 30fps. Up front you’ve got a massive 8-megapixel camera with 1080p video capabilities as well.

While you’re not going to be able to match the 60fps and 4K abilities of the heaviest hitters in the field today, this smartphone creates images and video that are hard to dismiss. Perfectly good for the everyday average shooter.


The ONE concern I have with the hardware is the relatively thin material over the speakers above and below the glass on the front of the phone. Pressed with a fingernail, this material bends.


While Alcatel brings a candy-coated look to Android on top of Android 5.0 Lollipop, you do get Google Play for all the Google apps you can handle. This means you can make Android look however you want with a wide variety of launchers, if you do so choose.


The software is slick, and the apps Alcatel provides are more than adequate for basic functionality. Playing music, looking through a photo gallery – it’s all parred down to the basics, and they do well.


This device has the awesome ability to be used upside-down as well as right-side-up. This means you can – if you’ve activated the ability in settings – answer your phone with the logo down or up, basically. Most of the phone indicates no up-side or down-side just to emphasize this ability – it’s neat.


The camera on this device is surprisingly good. It’s no iPhone 6, and it’s no Galaxy S6, but it’s just as excellent as many of the other phones on the market today with costs far exceeding itself.

Here you’ll see examples of the capabilities of this device. Let us know if you’d like to see any other unique instances of this device’s cameras in action.


Inside you’ll find a 2910 mAh battery that’s more than up to the task of providing all-day uptime. If you (for some reason) plan on using this device without mobile data, expect DAYS of battery life instead.


Data and screen time included, you can expect around 8 hours of uptime on average. That’s for a heavy user.


Alcatel has created a really, really great phone in the OneTouch Idol 3. I’ll use the word “surprise” once again to express how I’ve felt reviewing this device. I did not expect to be so stoked about it, but I really am – it’s a winner.


I recommend finding a physical show location to check the device out before you buy it, as always. While the Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 does look great, there IS a difference in perceived quality when you hold a device with a plastic back vs a device with glass, or metal. Once you’re past that, I can’t imagine not having a positive experience with this device.

You can purchase the Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 at a variety of retailers immediately if not soon for around $250 off-contract.


Apple now rejects Apple Watch apps that ‘just’ tell time

Apple now rejects Apple Watch apps that ‘just’ tell time

The App Store is ripe with apps that support the Apple Watch. Plenty more exist in the backlog, as many Developers note it’s taking longer than usual to see their apps feed through the bottleneck of Apple’s app review process. Today, Apple’s app review guidelines have changed, and the most notable difference affects Apple Watch apps. In the ‘User Interface’ section, Apple now says any Watch app that aims to do little more than tell time will be rejected outright.

The new rule, 10.7, says “Watch Apps whose primary function is telling time will be rejected”.

That’s likely a stopgap measure. Apple doesn’t let Developers create custom watch faces, so an app that simply told time would — in theory — be little more than a watch face.

Apple Watch

That would also fly in the face of another user interface rule that Developers can’t create apps that are similar to Apple’s own. Apple makes watch faces for Apple Watch, and hasn’t let Developers tap into it’s customization settings yet to create new faces.

Since it was put up for sale a few weeks ago, Apple Watch has seen massive sales figures. Ahead of — and during — the launch, various apps were updated to support the Apple Watch, of which there are now roughly 3,500 for Apple’s wearable.

To date, Apple hasn’t let Developers do much more than create glances and quick-action accompaniment apps for Apple Watch. This very plain rule suggests that when Apple opens the ecosystem up a bit more, we’ll not see watch faces become part of the shopping experience.


iPhone sales leap 40% over past year

iPhone sales leap 40% over past year

Today Apple reported their second quarter 2015 financial results with iPhone, Mac, and the App Store at the head of their release. In addition to an “all-time record performance” of the App Store, Apple reported that iPhone and Mac sales were amongst the best in any 2nd quarter in the history of the company. “The continued, strength of iPhone, Mac, and the App Store …” said CEO Tim Cook, “drove our best March quarter results ever.” Compared to last year at this time, iPhone sales look monstrous.

One year ago we didn’t yet have the iPhone 6 or the iPhone 6 Plus. Attention to rumors and leaks was reaching fever pitch, and – as such – iPhone sales were low.

You wouldn’t want to be the last person buying an old iPhone when the new iPhone was about to be revealed.


Back one year ago in this quarter, Apple sold 43,719,000 iPhones, bringing in a revenue of $26,064,000,000 (that’s $26 billion). Fast forward to Q2 2015 and you’ll see sales of 61,170,000 units of iPhone, and a revenue of $40.282 billion.

That’s down from the previous quarter, Q1 of 2015, Apple’s biggest quarter ever for iPhone sales. Q1 2015 had Apple selling 74,468,000 units and bringing in $51,182 in profit.

Stay tuned as we run down the rest of the earnings here for Apple’s Q2 2015.


Misfit Flash Review

Misfit Flash Review


The Misfit Flash is a tiny circular device that’s a follow-up to the first Misfit-made activity tracker, the Misfit Shine. The original Shine is still available with a slightly more high-quality set of materials, but the both of these devices do essentially the same thing.


This device is high quality. Its outer bits are a soft plastic (TPU / Polycarbonate) – certainly not the kind of hard plastic we saw with a device like the Duet – no. This plastic has a matte look to it and it’s clearly been designed by a team that’s got industrial design detail on their collective mind.

The Misfit Flash is 28.5 x 8.0 x 28.5 mm (WxDxH) and weighs in at nearly-nothing 6.0 g. It’s also waterproof to 30 meters – so feel free to take it for a swim. For more detail on color, head back to our firstMisfit Flash article from its first reveal.

In the box you get a watch band and a clip. The watch band is extremely thin, made with a rubbery material that clips in easily and is a comfortable fit, even for my excitable wrists.


Generally I’m not able to wear a watch because I type all day long and the strap makes my arm hurt – the Misfit Flash band is the first band that I’ve ever been able to work with for an extended period of time.

*NOTE: Misfit calls this a “Sports Band” – whatever you want to call it is your own prerogative.

The clip is a very simple piece of plastic that fits around the Misfit Flash and attaches to your pocket, or your lapel, or wherever you want to clip it.


There’s also a Panasonic CR 2032 3V coin-cell battery in the box. While we’ve not used the Misfit Flash for its suggested 6-month battery life, it’s difficult to imagine it’d last anything less.


You’re using basically no power, after all, tracking activity with a 3-axis accelerometer on its own. It syncs with your smartphone with Bluetooth 4.1 / BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) and has 12 tiny LED lights on its face – red, the lot of them.


Pressing the face of the Misfit Flash shows you how far along with your daily goal you are, then shows 6 lights. The lights are arranged at the top, bottom, left, and right, as well as at the positions of the clock that tell the time. Twelve lights, twelve hours – super simple watchface.


You attain points with the Misfit app, these points adding up to your daily goal. You can set your daily goal wherever you like it, and compare to friends’ goals as well.


You can connect with people around the world through Facebook, and compare goals and compete.


The basic Misfit app works for both iOS and Android while a Windows Phone release is in the pipeline. We’ll expect that one sooner than later.


Misfit recently released developer tools to expand their system of fitness tracking apps and 3rd party systems. The possibilities are exciting!


Above you’re seeing the Misfit Shine with a scientist. This scientist is also a developer doing work on future Misfit apps. Below you’ll see the apps and ecosystems that already work with Misfit devices. Check out IFTTT for some genuinely interesting connections.



As activity tracking wearables go, Misfit Flash is just about the simplest of the pack. That doesn’t mean it’s the worst – in fact Misfit creates a highly impressive package here given the relatively low cost of the device itself.

When this review is published, the Misfit Flash will cost you $49.99 USD on pre-order. Misfit Flash has an expected shipping date of Mid-October – have at it!


iPad mini 3 Review – Refinement not Revolution

iPad mini 3 Review – Refinement not Revolution

Hardware and Design

Depending on your color choice, you might find it hard to tell the difference between the iPad mini 3 and its predecessor at first glance. If you really must telegraph to those around you that you’ve the very latest version, there’s now a gold finish for the first time in the iPad mini line-up.


It’s a nice gold, as colors go, with the same warm finish as the iPhone 6 rather than the brassiness of some other gold gadgets we’ve seen recently. There’s also the option to cover it up more completely with a new Smart Case.

As per the Smart Cover, you get a tri-fold front which automatically turns the screen on and off, and flips into a stand to prop the iPad mini 3 up at two different angles for watching videos or typing. However, the new Smart Case also covers the full rear of the tablet, too, protecting that from scratches.


It’s available in black, blue, pink, brown, and red, each made from leather, and they feel great. They also add a little bulk to the iPad mini 3, noticeable more so from the way the hinge extends into your palm than from the extra thickness. Personally, I’ve carried two generations of iPad mini with nothing more than a Smart Cover in my bag, and the scratches are minimal.

Otherwise, the only key visual difference is if you’re looking closely at the home button, which is now a Touch ID sensor as on the iPhone 6. I’ll cover that more in the next section, but it also means you get Apple Pay support, or at least some of the elements of it.


Apple’s attentions have clearly been on the iPad Air 2 for this refresh cycle, and whereas the original Air and the iPad mini 2 had pretty much spec-parity, the same can’t be said this time around.

So, the iPad mini 3 keeps its A7 processor, its 5-megapixel main camera, and its 7.9-inch 2048 x 1536 display. It’s still a good panel, but it doesn’t acquire the fully laminated construction and antireflective coating that the iPad Air 2 benefits from.

It also misses out on WiFi 801.11ac, which has also been added to the Air 2, and nor does it add the barometer to its sensor suite. Frankly, I doubt many users will miss either – though the WiFi range of the iPad Air 2 is particularly impressive side-by-side.

Touch ID and Apple Pay

Apple’s fingerprint biometrics system was an obvious addition to the iPad, after streamlining how iPhone users could unlock their handsets since the iPhone 5s, and sure enough it’s such a neat feature you quickly wonder how you did without it.

For the unfamiliar, Touch ID can store up to five fingerprints, and with the arrival of iOS 8 it can be used to unlock your tablet, approve purchases through iTunes, the App Store, and the iBooks Store, and access third-party apps like Dropbox if their developers so enable it. It’s also used to authenticate Apple Pay, the new cashless payments system.


Registering a finger takes a minute or two of repeated tapping, and you can store up to five prints. They needn’t be all from the same person, either, which is useful given many tablets do coffee table duty and are used by multiple family members.

Since iOS still doesn’t offer multiple profiles, there’s no way to control what apps are available to each fingerprint: you can’t, say, limit your kids access to your banking apps if they use Touch ID to unlock. Still, as a convenience feature it’s tremendous: on more than one occasion I picked up my old iPad mini 2 and found myself waiting with my thumb on the home button, before realizing I’d need to punch in the PIN instead.


Touch ID is also used to grant payment permission to Apple Pay, though it works in a slightly diluted way compared to on the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. The iPad mini 3 (and, indeed, the iPad Air 2) doesn’t have the NFC which would allow the tablet to work with a cash register in physical stores: instead, Apple Pay is used solely for in-app purchases.

It works, though you’ll need to set it up entirely independently from Apple Pay on your iPhone 6. If you’ve registered one or more cards with Apple Pay on one platform, you have to go through the same process on the other since they don’t synchronize automatically.

That, Apple says, was an intentional decision. None of the payment card information is actually stored in the cloud: instead, a unique token is created for the iPhone or iPad it’s being set up on, and which gets stored in the same secure enclave as Touch ID uses. It’s a few minutes of duplicated effort, true, but feels worth it for the safety of keeping data local.

Which iPad do I pick?

Last year, making a decision between the iPad Air and the iPad mini 2 came down to size: both had the same specifications, differing only in screen size. This time around, there’s a gulf between the tablets. The iPad Air 2 has a faster processor, a screen that’s easier to read, improved cameras, more sensors, and is now even thinner, at 6.1mm, than the 7.5mm thick iPad mini 3.

Arguably further confusing things is the fact that Apple is adding to, not replacing, its old iPads with these two new models. The Cupertino tablet range is now five-strong – more if you count WiFi-only and WiFi + LTE separately – kicking off with the original iPad mini, now $249 WiFi-only, while the iPad mini 2 (née iPad mini with Retina display) starts at $299 WiFi-only.


The iPad mini 3 comes in at $399, $499, or $599 for the 16GB, 64GB, or 128GB WiFi-only models. WiFi + Cellular bumps those prices to $529, $629, and $729.

Personally, I’d not want to step back from an iPad mini with baked-in LTE to a WiFi-only version. The convenience of getting online without first hunting for WiFi is as addictive as Touch ID so quickly becomes, not to mention the tablet’s long battery life when acting as a mobile hotspot (itself made easier with iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite).


The value in upgrading to the iPad mini 2 from the original was clear; the improvements in stepping up to the iPad mini 3 from its predecessor are more granular. That’s not so much a critique of the new model as it is recognition that the iPad mini 2 simply got so much right.


Touch ID is a great convenience boon, and the gold finish has probably made some precious-metal fans happy, but neither is a must-have reason to upgrade if you have the last-gen hardware. Conversely, if you’re still rocking an original iPad mini then the iPad mini 3 improves it in all dimensions.

There’s likely to be juggling ahead in Apple’s iOS line-up. The larger iPhone 6 Plus arguably treads on the iPad mini’s toes now, while the iPad Air 2’s even more waifish form-factor leaves it increasingly portable. Nonetheless, for those who want a compact tablet, strong battery life, a solid display, and the growing convenience of Touch ID, Apple Pay, and the well-stocked App Store, the iPad mini 3 is king of its niche. How that niche will evolve over the next 12-18 months remains to be seen.


Crashed iPads ground several American Airlines flights

Crashed iPads ground several American Airlines flights

American Airlines removed the bulky paper manuals and flight plansfrom the cockpit of their commercial aircraft back in 2013 and handed out iPads after the FAA had approved iPads for use in the cockpit in 2011. The airline has run into its first major issue with using the iPads on the flight deck this week.

American Airlines says that several dozen flights were affected by an iPad outage this week after the tablets crashed. At least one of the flights was getting ready for takeoff when the iPad crashed for both the pilot and the co-pilot. The crashed tablet and no paper backups meant that the flight crew was left without a flight plan.

The flight was #1654 and passengers on the flight report that the pilot came on the PA system telling the passengers that his iPad and the first mates had powered off suddenly to a blank screen and that the entire American fleet of 737s had been affected by the outage. The outage left the flight stuck on the tarmac.

American Airlines confirmed the outage via twitter where it wrote in response to a question about iPads crashing across the fleet, “Some flights are experiencing an issue with a software application on pilot iPads. We’ll have info about your departure soon.” There is no word as of now on exactly what caused the crash.



Ipad Air 2 Review

iPad Air 2 Review – Apple builds a new flagship


The iPad Air 2 is Apple’s thinnest tablet yet. In fact, during its launch event Apple was keen to highlight just how far it had come in a little over four years, pointing out that you could stack two iPad Air 2 one atop the other and still have something thinner than the original iPad.

Do you really need a tablet that’s 6.1mm thick? It’s hard to conceptualize exactly what that means until you hold the iPad Air 2 in your hand: even photos of it next to the original iPad Air, or any earlier iPad for that matter, can’t capture the feel.


It’s like holding a sheet of glass, only that glass is actually an incredible display that supports multitouch. Or, it’s like picking up a thin, glossy magazine and finding it’s not only rigid but has full access to the App Store.

You get a slightly lighter slate, too, finally dropping under the 1 pound mark: 0.96 pounds for the WiFi-only model, and 0.98 pounds for the WiFI + Cellular. Again, it’s a scant difference versus the iPad Air, but in combination with the cut in depth you notice it. The iPad Air 2 is a little easier to hold for longer periods, feels a little less precarious when you’re hoisting it above your head while lying back in bed, reading.


The only omission is a physical switch on the side, which Apple has dropped in favor of larger volume buttons. Screen rotation lock and mute are now handled through the Control Center.

Build quality is still excellent, with Apple pretty much top of the game for tablet construction. There’s a new color option this time around, too, with the iPad Air 2 now available in the same trio of finishes as the iPhone 6 now that gold has joined the line-up. It’s a soft gold though definitely eye-catching when spread across that broad back panel, though the new leather Smart Case which covers not only the display but the full rear of the tablet will cover that in a choice of five finishes.


Hardware and Performance

Thinner it may be, but the iPad Air 2 is more powerful than before. Its beating heart is a new Apple A8X 64-bit processor, building on the A8 used in the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, but tailored to tablet duties.

The boost in performance is noticeable both on paper and in your hand. Apple claims a 40-percent increase in processing and a 250-percent increase in graphics compared to its predecessor, and sure enough I had no slow-down or lag while multitasking, playing games, or loading intensive websites in Safari.


It’s likely to be an even more impressive experience once developers get fully to grips with Metal, Apple’s framework in iOS 8 for harnessing CPU and GPU for improved games performance. We’ve heard the promise of console-quality gaming from a mobile device before – and not just from Apple – but while it’s early days for Metal, the demonstrations we saw at the iPad Air 2’s launch of things like Unit’s Unreal Engine 4 certainly suggested the A8X is capable of great things.

In fact, a little benchmarking suggests iOS 8.1 may only be scratching the surface of what the iPad Air 2 is capable of. The A8X is a three-core chip running at 1.5GHz, Geekbench suggests, with 2GB of memory and a whopping 4,470 score on multi-core testing.

The new chip isn’t the only improvement, however, and nor is it the only place where Apple has borrowed from the iPhone parts bin. The M8 motion coprocessor has been included too, for low-power movement tracking, and the iPad Air 2 is the only tablet in Apple’s range to pack a barometer.


WiFi 802.11ac is included – indeed, I noticed that it picked up significantly more WiFi connections than an iPad mini 3 next to it – while WiFi + Cellular models get a full twenty bands of LTE support. In combination with the new Apple SIM, it should mean getting online is easier when abroad: no more SIM-switching, just pick from a list of temporary 4G data plans.


A huge part in making the iPad Air 2 thinner was Apple’s latest twist on Retina display technology, though the changes around the new panel weren’t done solely in the name of dieting. The LCD is still 2048 x 1536 resolution, but now Apple has condensed three different components into a single, fully laminated slice.

On the iPad Air, the LCD, cover glass, and the touch sensor are all separate. The iPad Air 2 fuses them into one, doing away with the gaps in-between.


That means a big reduction in internal reflectance – where light bounces between the reflective surfaces of each layer – and the result is a step up in clarity. It’s subtle: you don’t necessarily clock that there’s been an improvement in color quality, or contrast range, but simply that the screen seems clearer and more lively. At times, it almost feels like graphics are popping out, or floating just above the surface of the cover glass.

That glass has been given a new antireflective treatment, too, for better visibility outdoors or when you’re working in the glare from a window. Again, the effect is subtle, though side-by-side with an untreated iPad you can tell that reflections are more diffuse and less obvious.

It also highlights fingerprints a little more, I’ve found, though since you get the same oleophobic coating any smudges come off with relative ease.

Touch ID and Apple Pay

Your fingerprint is positively welcome when mashed against the new home button, which accommodates Apple’s Touch ID biometric security. Another example of the iPhone lending some of its technology to its tablet sibling, you can now bypass a PIN and instead simply tap a finger to gain access.


The system is effectively the same as on the iPhone 6, with the ability to register up to five fingerprints and have them unlock the iPad Air 2. With iOS 8, those fingerprints can also optionally authorize iTunes, App Store, and iBooks purchases, as well as give the green light to the new Apple Pay payments system.

It works, and works well, and after a few unlocks with your thumb you start to wonder how you ever stomached punching in a PIN each time. The five fingerprints needn’t come from the same person’s hand, either, particularly useful given that tablets are more likely to be communal devices shared by a family.

Ideal would be a granularity of control over what privileges in different download stores were permitted depending on which finger had unlocked the iPad Air 2. As it is, there are global controls for things like whether a fingertip can be used for Apple Pay, but not print-specific ones: if you register your kids fingers to give them access, and you leave Touch ID for Apple Pay turned on, they’ll be able to approve payments too.


What they won’t be able to do is use the iPad Air 2 to make a payment in a brick & mortar store. iOS 8.1’s arrival may have sent iPhone 6 owning early-adopters rushing off to try Apple Pay across the US, but the iPad Air 2 lacks the NFC hardware to take part.

Instead, you get in-app payment support, making online shopping more straightforward. Given how unlikely it is that people would want to whip out a 9.7-inch tablet while they’re in the line at Whole Foods or McDonald’s, the absence of NFC is probably no great loss, however.

Even if you’ve set up Apple Pay on your iPhone 6, you’ll need to run through the process again if you want it on the new iPad. That’s because your credit or debit card details aren’t actually uploaded to the cloud; instead, a device-specific token is generated, meaning that even if the servers are hacked or your iPad is stolen, the rest of your credentials are safe.


Apple has upgraded the cameras on the iPad Air 2 front and back, not to mention borrowing more of the software features from iOS 8 on the iPhone 6 for its flagship tablet.


The iSight camera now clocks in at 8-megapixels, up from 5-megapixels on the iPad Air, with an f/2.4 aperture lens, backside-illumination CMOS, and autofocus. On paper it looks the same as what you’d find in the iPhone 6, though it’s actually both a different sensor and a different implementation, not least because the iPad Air 2 is thinner than its smartphone cousin.

On the front, meanwhile, you get an updated FaceTime HD camera. Like before, it shoots 720p video or 1.2-megapixel photos.

The images the iPad Air 2 produces are certainly better than its predecessor, though not as strong as those of the iPhone 6. Colors are more muted, especially in low-light conditions, and there’s more grain visible. The 1080p Full HD video recording fares similarly: good, but not so much so as the iPhone.

Still, there’s fun to be had with the various features on offer. HDR, 10fps burst mode, and panoramas are supported for stills, while there’s digital image stabilization, time-lapse, and 720/120p slo-mo video support. Single-shot HDR is possible using the FaceTime HD camera, helping reduce patchy spots of dark or light in stills, but also during video recording and FaceTime calls. The fact that you can touch to not only set focus but exposure during video recording is particularly useful.

Arguably more impressive than the iPad Air 2’s cameras, though, are what you can do with the footage afterwards. The iPad range has progressively been turning into a capable mobile photo and video editing platform, but the second-gen Air ratchets that up a further notch.


iMovie comes, of course, as standard, and is the same solid video editing suite as we’ve seen before. However, the addition of cross-platform AirDrop between iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite means it’s even easier to collate footage from multiple devices and bring it all together onto the iPad Air 2.

AirDrop is point-to-point, rather than requiring some sort of internet connection, and it’s fast too: I soon had a selection of video files from my MacBook Pro and iPhone 6 in one place, and imported into iMovie. Then it was a case of testing out how much faster the A8X is at processing video.

First, I exported a five minute 1080p video clip. The iPad Air 2 completed that in 1 minute 33 seconds, versus the 2 minutes 11 seconds of the iPad Air. For a longer, eight minute 1080p clip, the iPad Air 2 exported in 2 minutes 27 seconds; in contrast, the iPad Air took 3 minutes 29 seconds.

Battery and Pricing

Despite the faster processor, Apple is quoting the same 10 hour battery life for the iPad Air 2 as the iPad Air. That might seem over-ambitious, but in practice the new tablet has some serious legs on it.


After a full day of use, including push email, messaging, and some video recording and editing, we finished up with 74-percent still showing on the meter. Solid video playback makes a dent in the gage a little more, given the requirements of keeping the display powered on consistently, but this is still one long-lasting slate.

As is by now traditional, there are WiFi-only and WiFi + Cellular versions of the iPad Air 2 to choose between. WiFi models start at $499 for the 16GB, rising to $599 for the 64GB and $699 for the 128GB. As for the WiFi + Cellular, they start at $629 for 16GB, then $729 for 64GB, and finally $829 for 128GB.


After a year tied with the iPad mini, the iPad Air 2 has reclaimed the 9.7-inch iPad’s spot as the flagship of Apple’s tablet range. Easier to hold, faster, with a better display, and yet with no noticeable penalty in battery life, the iPad Air 2 takes what we liked about the original Air and improves on just about every area.


It’s also sufficiently removed from the iPhone 6 Plus so as to escape any cannibalization there, unlike what the iPad mini 3 will perhaps face. Having eschewed the Air in favor of an iPad mini 2 this past year, I’m now left reconsidering my allegiances with the arrival of the iPad Air 2.

True, iOS 8 may do the same – and boast the same strong Yosemite integration – on each slate, but the decision no longer comes down to just one of screen size. Its surge forward in speed and the convenience of the refined form-factor and Touch ID leaves the iPad Air 2 feeling like the true iPad for power users.


Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 Review

Lenovo YOGA Tablet 2 Review


Lenovo’s YOGA Tablet 2 is an impressive little device. Upon first picking it up, you’ll notice that it is lighter than expected, but that the light weight doesn’t come with a cheap feel. The related keyboard is the same way, offering a thin but sturdy profile with low-profile keys and a magnetic hinge. When paired together, the tablet and keyboard form a device about the size and shape of a netbook, folding together into a near-seamless hard-backed device.


The hinged portion of the tablet is perfectly round, with the power button being nestled in one end and the audio jack in the other. The kickstand folds flush into the back of the tablet, and “rolls” open with a firm twist using one’s palm. From there, there’s a decent sized hole in the kickstand allowing the tablet to be hung on the wall — something that comes in very handy when using the tablet to browse and follow recipes while cooking, and perhaps while watching a movie in cramped quarters.

The hinge allows for a surprising degree of articulation — you can fold the tablet nearly all the way open before the hinge will collapse into place (tablet mode). This is important for users who plan to use the tablet with the keyboard as a laptop. Unlike the earlier Surface models and many other combo devices, which have either singular or rigid kickstand positions, the YOGA Tablet 2 can be positioned anywhere between completely vertical and completely flat.


Our YOGA Tablet 2 features an Intel Atom Z3745 1.86GHz processor, 2GB of memory, 32GB of storage, Intel HD Graphics, and is running Windows 8.1. A pair of large-chamber speakers are on the front complemented by a JBL subwoofer, Wolfson Master Hi-Fi, and Dolby Audio. The back of the tablet features an 8-megapixel camera, and the front features a 1.6-megapixel camera.


Both 8-inch and 10-inch displays are available in 1920 x 1200 resolution. There’s a micro SD card slot for expanding the storage by up to 64GB, a micro USB port, and 6400mAh/9600mAh capacity batteries, depending on which model you get. Connectivity includes Bluetooth 4.0, 802.11 a/b/g/n WiFi, and MiMo.


Lenovo includes several applications with the YOGA Tablet 2, some of which will be familiar to those who have used the company’s newer hardware. For those with a Lenovo ID, there’s SYNCit HD to backup contacts, SHAREit for sending multimedia content to other devices with SHAREit, and CLONEit for cloning the system to a new PC. In addition, the tablet also features Security HD for helping keep things secure, and one year of Office 365 Personal with 1TB of cloud storage.



Performance was solid, and the benchmarks are comparable to other Windows slates. The system is snappy and there were no issues running applications or other tasks. Battery life runs 8 to 10 hours, depending on usage and which model you have.


Lenovo has a serious winner with the YOGA Tablet 2, and you’d have to be picking at the tiniest things to find any issue with this slate. The tablet is incredibly thin, and retains a light weight without feeling cheap or flimsy. The hinge has a welcomed design, not only allowing for precise adjustments but also doubling as a grip for holding the slate. The keyboard is likewise a welcomed combination of thin and lightweight, and it sits perfectly on the display when the hinges are snapped together.

This is the first tablet + keyboard combo I’ve used that doesn’t feel like a hassle — everything fits together perfectly, works as it is supposed to, and does so with more features than commonly found on these devices without making a nuisance of itself. If you’re in need of a tablet with a little extra oomph, you can’t go wrong with the YOGA Tablet 2.

The 8-inch model is priced at $279 USD, and the 10-inch model is priced at $369 USD.



Review: Lenovo Thinkpad Yoga 14

Review: Lenovo Thinkpad Yoga 14


The Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga 14 is the best of both worlds: it has the ThinkPad design and the Yoga flexibility, and the result is a laptop that can be positioned all over the place — including completely flat, “tented” backwards, and folded up into a tablet-like mode. This is nothing new when it comes to Lenovo’s recent laptops, but it hasn’t yet gotten old — this makes the laptop a more attractive option for those who don’t want to tote around a laptop and a tablet, but find a typical laptop arrangement to be inadequate in certain settings.


The ThinkPad Yoga 14 retains the same impressive level of smooth yet stiff operation as Lenovo’s other bendy machines. Too often with these sort of flexible hinges, the display feels loose or otherwise vulnerable to an overly enthusiastic rotation. Lenovo’s laptops don’t suffer from this problem, and you won’t worry about the hinges prematurely wearing out with every 360-degree rotation. Because the hinges hold their own so well, you can also set the laptop at just about any angle and it will hold steady (versus having to worry about it slipping open and tumbling down).


The level of durability ThinkPad users have come to expect is also included — there’s a magnesium-alloy frame and Dragontail display, which is resistant to smudges and scratches. Joining the durability is support for OneLink/OneLink Pro Docking, and a Lift n’ Lock keyboard that locks into place when the laptop is being used as a tablet (folded all the way open). The battery is flush with the system and gives about 8 hours of run time on a charge, give or take a bit depending on how you’re using it.


Different hardware options are available, but as a general option, the laptop features a comfortable 14 FHD IPS LED display complemented by Intel Core i5-42U 1.70Ghz processor and an NVIDIA GeForce GT 840M 2GB graphics card. Memory comes in at 8GB, and there’s a 1TB 5400rpm hard drive, which will meets the average user’s needs. Networking comes via an Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260 card (there’s also Bluetooth 4.0). The system itself is loaded with Windows 8.1 64-bit.


Rounding out the features is built-in dual digital array microphone alongside enhancements for VOIP usage. There’s Dolby Home Theater complementing integrated stereo speakers, HDMI, a combo mic/headphones jack, dual USB 3.0 ports, a single USB 2.0 port, 4-in-1 card reader, and a (starting) weight of 4.2lbs. The entire unit has a thickness of 0.8-inches.



If you’ve been a Lenovo faithful, you already know what to expect from the ThinkPad Yoga 14 — it comes pre-loaded with the software we’ve detailed in our previous ThinkPad reviews, such as Lenovo REACHit, Lenovo Settings for accessing common system settings in one app, Lenovo Ultranav, Lenovo Companion, and more. The software can be useful for some, but many users already have their preferred software for doing these different things, and the extra bloat is unwelcome. The good news is that you can get rid of any of this software if you don’t want it, or you can ignore it altogether — it’s not getting in the way of anything or making a nuisance of itself.



As far as performance goes, we again see benchmarks that fall in line with many of the other ThinkPads we’ve reviewed in recent times. Usage doesn’t suffer in any way — it’s as snappy and quick as you’d expect, and doesn’t have any troubles meeting high demands or multi-tasking needs. There are some more powerful options available from Lenovo, however, for those who need it, such as the Y50 Touch we recently reviewed.



The Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga 14 is a nice laptop that is distinctly related to its sibling devices, sharing the same design cues and attributes while bringing along its own features and peculiarities. If you’re not a fan of the all-black no-nonsense feel of the business-chic ThinkPads, you’d like find one of Lenovo’s other Yoga devices more appealing.


If, on the other hand, you’ve a special place in your heart for dense, durable machines with a simple design, the ThinkPad Yoga 14 will certainly fit the bill. It doesn’t deviate in any big way from other newer ThinkPads (though, of course, that Yoga flexibility is always welcomed), but it does what it sets out to do very well, and you can’t beat that.

Price starts at $1,099 USD.


Review: Lenovo W550s — an ultraportable workstation

Review: Lenovo W550s — an ultraportable workstation


The W550s is a workstation, and as such it is larger than what you’d get from the, for example, Lenovo X1 Carbon. It also brings with it more power and more connectivity options, something needed by certain business users in some industries. As far as a workstation goes, however, the W550s is relatively light at 4.92lbs — you’ll certainly notice it is in your bag, but it won’t wreck your shoulder as was common in the relatively recent past.


The style itself is like most other modern ThinkPads, with a slightly textured surface and near-black color, a red trackpoint in the keyboard and a with-buttons trackpad. There’s a dedicated keypad, lending its usefulness for accountants and others who regularly peck out numbers, and the high-resolution display means it’ll serve well for graphic designers, photographers, and other professionals in the visual professions.


The W550s can be had with an Intel Core i7-5500U or an Intel Core i7-5600U processor, as well as Windows 7 Pro 64 or Windows 8.1 Pro 64. Graphics come from an NVIDIA K620M 2GB card, and there’s support for up to 16GB of RAM. Users can select either an SSD up to 512GB of a 500GB HDD 7200rpm hard drive.

Two different display sizes are also available spanning a total of three options: a 15.6-inch offering with a Full HD resolution, as well as a 15.5-inch option available with a 2880 x 1620 resolution and a multi-touch option. There’s a ThinkPad Precision keyboard with a backlight, as well.


Connectivity includes integrated mobile broadband, Bluetooth 4.0, Intel 7265 AC/b/g/n dual-band WiFi (or just b/g/n WiFi, depending on which you select). Ports are numerous, including a trio of USB 3.o ports (one is always charging), a mini DisplayPort, RJ45 Ethernet, a 4-in-1 SD card reader, VGA, a combination audio jack, docking connector, and an optional Smart Card reader. The integrated webcam has a 720p resolution, and there’s an embedded microphone.

There are a handful of battery options, as well, including a 3-cell front 44Whr option, 3-cell rear 23Whr, 6-cell rear 48Whr, and 6-cell rear high-capacity 72Whr offering. Your battery life will depend on what batteries you’re utilizing, and the larger rear batteries obviously mean the back end of the laptop will be extended outward, increasing the machine’s thickness. Up to 17 hours of run time can be had if you’re using the 6-cell high capacity battery in the back in addition to the internal 3-cell battery.


Software and Performance

The W550s meets MIL-grade durability specifications, and as such accidentally spilling your coffee on it or taking it out into cold weather won’t spell its end. It is also tested to make sure it can hold up to frequent use over a long period of time — the maker tests opening/closing the lid 30,000 times, for example.

There’s carbon fiber in the case material, which lends both the lighter weight the W550s enjoys as well as the durability. Lenovo also boasts that its ultraportable workstation features ISV-certification (independent software vendors). Likewise, it can do things like operate at an elevation of 15,000ft. and has even been tested with 28 days of exposure to “common fungus sources”.

As far as operation goes, the W550s offers the power you’d expect given the Core i7 and NVIDIA hardware under the hood. We’ve some Geekbench benchmarks in the gallery below, which you can compare to other laptops in our Laptop Reviews portal.


The Lenovo W550s is a laptop for those who need the raw power of a workstation, but need it in a form factor that won’t be an undue burden when on-the-go. In many ways it is similar to the W540 workstation we previously reviewed, but certainly thinner and lighter with a noticeable boost in the feel of the construction quality.


That’s not to say the W540 isn’t a durable machine, only that the W550s, when held in one’s hands, feels more robust. The performance is spot-on for those with demanding needs, as well, and the battery life eclipses what you’d get from many competing workstation laptops. As such, if you need the level of power offered by the W550s, you can’t go wrong with it. Prices start at $1,133.10.


2015 MacBook Review

2015 MacBook Review

Everything about the new MacBook screams “future,” but can it handle today?

That was the basic question I asked myself when reviewing Apple’s latest Mac, which bravely sports just one USB-C port to handle power, data input and output, accessories and display connections. It also has an Intel Core M processor, which lets the MacBook sip power and drop fans entirely, but comes at the cost of processing muscle. Apple took some risks, for sure, but the MacBook might just be my favorite portable Mac ever.


  • 12-inch, 2304×1440 display, 226 PPI
  • 1.1GHz Intel Core M dual-core processor with Turbo Boost to 2.4GHz
  • Intel HD Graphics 5300
  • 8GB of RAM
  • 256GB PCIe-based flash storage
  • 480p FaceTime camera
  • 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0
  • Single USB-C port for data I/O, display, networking and power
  • 3.5mm stereo audio in/out port
  • Force Touch trackpad
  • 39.7-watt-hour battery offers 9 hours web browsing, 10 hours offline iTunes movie playback
  • MSRP: $1,299 (as tested)
  • On sale Friday, April 10 starting at 12 AM PT/3 AM ET
  • Product info page


  • Amazingly portable
  • Gorgeous display


  • Single port


Without question, this is the best notebook available in terms of pure design appeal. That sleek aluminum shell, with its all-metal hinge and three distinct color options, is simply the best looking portable computer currently on the market. No one who’s seen my tester has not instantly wanted one, based just on its outward appearance. My review unit is the space gray model, and the color alone makes all other older MacBooks seem bland by comparison.

I’d almost be happy to leave the design discussion there, if not for the stunning details you find when you examine every inch of this computer. The all-aluminum hinge, for instance, replaces the plastic one found on previous metal unibody Mac notebooks. That seems like a small change, but it truly elevates the design, making the MacBook seem even more like a computer magically hidden away inside a slab of perfectly machined metal.

This is the best notebook available in terms of pure design appeal.

The lack of external holes in the case also add to this effect. Say what you will about the functional validity of including just one USB-C and one 3.5mm audio port – it definitely increases the aesthetics of the outside case. It makes you yearn for the day when they can drop physical ports altogether, in fact.

Apple’s MacBook is remarkable, too, in just how much computer is packed into so little space. The case is only 13.1mm thin at its thickest point, and it weighs just 2 lbs. That’s only half a pound heavier than the original iPad, and under 3mm thicker (at the MacBook’s thickest point). When I first picked it up, I couldn’t shake the feeling that it actually had more in common physically with the iPad lineup than with Apple’s notebooks, a sentiment enhanced by the fact that it fit easily inside the tablet pocket in the backpack I primarily used to tote it around.


Other elements of the design that stand out include the keyboard backlights, which are now supplied by individual LEDs for each keycap, and which look much better than their predecessors. The smaller black bezel surrounding that 12-inch Retina display is also a big improvement in terms of overall charm, and the groove Apple uses to let you lift the lid when the clamshell is closed is surprising in that it doesn’t seem to make it any more difficult than previous models to open one-handed, which you’d probably expect from a lighter machine.


Force Touch Trackpad

The MacBook’s new Force Touch trackpad is a prime example of all the brand new Apple tech that enables this notebook to exist in the form that it does. The trackpad has zero mechanical travel, but that doesn’t stop it from feeling like a button that you can actually click, thanks to the “taptic” feedback engine that Apple is using here to provide vibration response. The engine can create extremely localized responses, letting you feel that physical click sensation directly under your fingertip no matter where you press down.


As I’ve discussed in my recent 13-inch MacBook Pro review, the tactile response isn’t exactly the same with Force Touch trackpads as it is with the old clicky kind – but after an initial adjustment period, that actually ends up being a benefit, since the ‘click’ you feel is the same across the trackpad, and produces consistent results (which wasn’t always true with the mechanical switch).

The trackpad also allows for ‘force touch’ interaction, which translates a secondary, ‘deeper’ click into various actions, like getting dictionary definitions or website previews in Safari. Plus, it’s a feature third-party developers can (and already are) using to add new dimensions of interactivity to their apps.

The trackpad has zero mechanical travel, but that doesn’t stop it from feeling like a button.

The MacBook’s new trackpad takes a very modest amount of getting used to, but pretty quickly you’ll forget entirely that it’s changed – and if you’re like me, you’ll also probably be using the dictionary to look up “Force Touch feature” more often than you might care to admit.



Apple had to redesign the MacBook’s keyboard, just like they did the trackpad, in order to make that incredibly shallow case. They did so by replacing the traditional scissor-based keyboard switches with a new butterfly mechanism, which saves 40 percent thickness per key. That means that you get less travel with each press, but Apple also points out that there’s greater stability across the key, meaning keys don’t ‘lean’ to whatever corner you’re exerting the most pressure on which each keystroke.

As with the Force Touch trackpad, the new keyboard takes some time to get accustomed to. The travel is quite a bit shallower than it has been even on MacBooks past. And while I’d say that the adjustment period required to get comfortable typing on the new MacBook’s keyboard is longer than the one required to get used to the new trackpad, I still found that it was very quickly a non-issue.


Apple has delivered a full-sized keyboard here, despite the size constraints in place thanks to the extremely small overall case design. While it’s hard to ascribe an exact benefit value to the new butterfly mechanisms and that more even key press, I’d wager that the new mechanisms have something to do with how quickly I became comfortable typing on the new MacBook.

I now feel just as at home with the new MacBook as I have with any other Apple notebooks.

This isn’t at all the same as having to get used to working with one of the myriad iPad keyboard cases – it’s just a matter of recognizing that you aren’t going to have to hammer away as you would with older Mac keyboards, and as a touch typist I now feel just as at home with the new MacBook as I have with any other Apple notebooks.

The key backlights are a big improvement, with their one LED per key design, offering just as much visibility in dark environments but with a much more pleasing overall look and light that seems more focused on you, the user, and therefore less likely to distract or catch the attention of onlookers.

Single USB-C Port

Despite brand new input hardware in the form of re-engineered keyboard and trackpad, the MacBook’s most dramatic change, at least from a user interaction standpoint, might actually be the use of just one data and power port. The single USB-C port on the MacBook’s left flank was a contentious topic at its debut, and was consequently something I paid close attention to during testing.


My surprising conclusion was that I actually hardly noticed having just one port at all. And that’s during standard notebook usage, which for me involves a fair amount of dedicated, continuous computer use while on the road.

The caveat here is that I always revert to using a desktop when at home, so if you’re looking for a single computer to rule them all and are used to plugging a lot of stuff in at the office or at home, the single port is going to be much more of an issue. Once we start to see more multipurpose hubs and docks it’ll be less onerous, but for now whether or not this is a second computer will be a big consideration, especially for power users.

Whether or not this is a second computer will be a big consideration, especially for power users.

Apple provided a USB-C to standard USB 3.0 adapter with the notebook, which retails for $19 from Apple’s online store, and this proved the only one I needed the few times I required plug-in accessories. I used it only a handful of times, when connecting my SD card reader to import video to Final Cut Pro, and when I plugged in my USB-to-XLR microphone adapter for recording video voice over and podcasts.

Charging and Power

Charging via the USB-C port is interesting, because it does indeed grip tightly, unlike MagSafe, meaning you’re definitely in danger of tripping on the cord and pulling your notebook off the desk and to the ground. This is clearly a calculated sacrifice on Apple’s part, and one that ultimately didn’t prove bothersome to me: I found that I treated this MacBook much more like an iOS device, using it unplugged during the day and plugging it in on the bedside table at night to replenish.


It requires a little more presence of mind than did MagSafe in terms of being careful where and how you leave the machine plugged in, but Apple has also added some tweaks that subtly guide you towards thinking about it differently: Plugging in doesn’t result in any kind of external light coming on, for instance, as it did with MagSafe. Instead, the MacBook makes Apple’s signature iOS ‘charging’ noise when you connect it to power, which is a quiet signal to your brain to treat it more like your mobile devices when it comes to filling up. And if you have the computer open but sleeping, you’ll see the charging graphic above appear on your display when you connect, also an iOS carry-over.


Handling Tasks

I came to the MacBook with certain expectations; specifically, that it would not be able to meet my more “pro” level needs, in terms of Photoshop, Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro. Luckily, the MacBook defied those expectations and performed well with each of the above applications.

Which isn’t to say performance is on par with, say, the brand new 13-inch MacBook Pro – it isn’t. But pre-launch concerns of this machine being seriously hampered by its low-power Intel M processor were, in my experience, very premature. The new MacBook handled the tasks I threw at it so well that I am now seriously considering whether or not I can adopt one full-time, as a replacement to my original 2012 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro road warrior.


The video review above was edited entirely on the new MacBook, and the most painful part of the process was running video stabilization corrections on each of the clips used, which got the MacBook quite warm and also started eating battery at a frightening rate. And if you’re doing something more advanced than short videos with more or less single video tracks with voice over and a simple soundtrack, you’d likely appreciate more processing muscle.

Concerns of this machine being seriously hampered by its Intel M processor were premature.

But the takeaway here is that practically speaking, the MacBook does not feel hamstrung performance-wise because of the concessions Apple has made to ensure maximum portability, at least based on my existing testing. This is not the original MacBook Air part two, in other words, with trade-offs that served the future goals of the line but did no favors to original purchasers: It’s a powerful, competent notebook that can most likely do what you need it to do.

For those who primarily use their devices for watching video, browsing the web, using the new Photos app for organizing their picture library and other lighter tasks, performance absolutely exceeds the mark.

Battery Life

The MacBook’s battery offers up to 9 hours of Wi-Fi web browsing, according to Apple’s official specs, and 10 hours of iTunes movie watching. My own battery testing eschewed artificial playback and browser loop tests, and consisted of using the notebook the way in which I’d actually use a notebook, both in a mixed use while travelling scenario, and in more fixed, workstation-like and couch companion situations.

Apple's terraced battery design for the new MacBook.

Battery life in the MacBook was such that I never really felt nervous or anxious about running out when using the notebook on the road. My first instinct was to find power and plug in wherever possible, but in keeping with the spirit of the machine, I resisted that urge, and once I got over that urge, I was pleasantly surprised by how long the power lasts.

In mixed use, leaving aside more intensive tasks like video editing, but including occasional Photoshop use and running the apps I normally use for work, including Slack, Safari, Tweetbot and occasionally Skype, I was able to get between five and six hours out of the MacBook on average, which is plenty for a standard day out of the office. In more casual, around the house occasional use, it was probably closer to Apple’s stated browsing maximum, especially with brightness keep below 50 percent.

I was pleasantly surprised by how long the power lasts.

The situation changes quickly when you start running things like Final Cut Pro for extended periods. While handling heavy tasks like rendering and outputting final versions, I could watch the percentage tick down with alarming quickness. Even still, I was able to edit, record voiceover for and export the review above starting out at around 36 percent without depleting the battery entirely – I ended up with about 10 percent remaining.


The new MacBook has a Retina display, meaning Apple’s high-res tech has finally come to a device as thin and light as (and in fact thinner and lighter than) the MacBook Air. It’s hard to understate how awesome this is, but if you’ve been forced to switch back and forth at all between a Retina MacBook Pro and a MacBook Air, you’ll already know.


Apple’s display tech remains one of its crowning achievements, and in a device this small, with the minimal bezel and combined display/glass manufacturing technology, it makes a huge difference. The 12-inch diagonal display size isn’t as luxuriously roomy as I’m used to, since I primarily use a 15-inch, but I can still use two Safari browser windows side-by-side effectively with resolution dialled all the way up in settings, which is my primary need when on the road.

The display alone is a big selling point on this MacBook, especially for those who’ve been making due with the standard resolution screens of existing MacBook Airs or older notebooks.

Bottom Line

Apple’s new MacBook seemed like a shift so dramatic that it was bound to cause some discomfort when it was unveiled on stage in March in San Francisco, but in practice the big changes are far easier to embrace than you might expect.


It’s true that for users who treat their notebooks as their sole computers, and who like to plug a lot of things into those computers as a result, this probably isn’t the best option. But for people looking for a mobile Mac to complement their desktop machine, and for those who aren’t spending their whole day on their Macs for work (meaning likely the vast majority of general consumers), this is a future-oriented notebook that is just as effective in the present, too.


LG Tone Pro arrives with a slightly redesigned neck brace

As strange as they may look, these behind the neck headsets keep on coming. LG, one of the biggest proponents of this design. Following in the tradition of its Tone series, the new LG Tone Pro has that same basic form, but LG adds a bit more pizazz to the table. These include a somewhat flatter shape to the “neck brace” part of the headset, as well as chrome accents that serve not only aesthetic purposes but are also quick buttons for taking calls or pausing music.

LG has had quite a few members of its Tone family, most bearing that rather odd style that combines in-ear earphones and a band for stability. The earbuds ensure that your ears are not weight down by bulkier headphones while the around the neck band removes the need for wires that tangle as well as clips that fall off, while providing users with as much physical controls as the want, without burdening the earbud’s wires directly

The tips of that band in this latest model has a flatter look, in contrast to the tubular design of previous LG Tone headsets. The chrome accents near the tips aren’t just for show, they also act as buttons for accepting calls and playing or pausing music. As for other physical controls, jog buttons take the place of traditional volume rockers to remove the guesswork when trying to adjust the volume.


The speakers themselves are still stereo and now even boats of quad layer technology, promising the best output without the high-frequency distortion. There are also magnets to keep the speakers in place when you don’t need them. As for audio input, the Tone Pro sports a MEMS microphone for equally high quality and clear voice input.

The LG Tone Pro works with any device that supports Bluetooth 4.1, A2DP and AVRCP, which probably includes most modern smartphones, tablets, and computers. The headphone batteries are advertised to last 16 hours of talk time, 11 hours of playing music, and 23 hours on standby. The headphones will arrive in May with a price tag of $69.99 and color choices of black, white, red, blue, gold, and pink.


Welcome To The Age Of 4D Printers

Welcome to Future World where the weird is commonplace! To wit: engineers at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science have created a 4D printer. That doesn’t mean the printer outputs objects into the space-time continuum. Instead, it means they are building objects that can change based on the physics of the materials used. By extruding objects in multiple materials, for example, you can build a valve that shuts down when hot water hits it or a working mechanism that is printed in one piece.

“So, as in 3D printing, a structure is built up layer by layer into the desired shape, but these new materials are able to transform themselves from one shape into another, much like a child’s Transformer toy,” wrote the team in a release.

These objects are essentially mechanisms that are printed as one continuous process. Just as you can lay conductive parts inside of a 3D printed object, these new printers lay down filaments that are heat-sensitive, pressure-sensitive, and that can even move over time.

 “The cool thing about it is, is it’s a working functioning device that you just pick up from the printer,” said ACES Professor Marc in het Panhuis. “There’s no other assembly required.”

The researchers expect these printers to usher in a new age of “soft” robotics that can move by inflating or deflating rubber parts or mimicking biological organisms.



Logitech MX Master review

The MX Master is a rechargeable wireless mouse for Macs and Windows PCs that offers smooth, precise operation, lots of customization options, good ergonomics, and works on almost any surface. You can connect to up to three computers using Logitech’s included Unifying Receiver USB dongle or opt for Bluetooth connectivity. Speed-adaptive scroll wheel lets you auto-shift from click-to-click to hyper-fast scrolling and a thumbwheel lets you scroll side-to-side.

However, it’s somewhat expensive, and the rechargeable battery isn’t user-replaceable (but should last several years).

While somewhat pricey, the Logitech MX Master’s expansive feature set and smooth operation make it a worthwhile purchase for power users seeking a high-performance wireless mouse.

                                                                                                                                                     (Source: Cnet)

Best TV 2015: what TV should you buy?

What TV technology is best? Which is the best LCD TV? Which screen size is best for your living room? What’s the difference between LCD and LED TVs?

The answers aren’t always obvious. In fact, buying a new TV can be stressful even for the tech-savvy – there are so many brands, so many features, so many screen sizes, colors, technologies and flavors to choose from.

So which one is right for you, your family and your living space? In this guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about buying a new TV.

What types of TV are out there?

There are a lot of different screen types out there, all working in different ways to produce the same results. Each technology has its own unique strengths and weaknesses so here are some basics to consider:

Until recently, all LCD TVs were backlit by always-on, CCFL (cold cathode fluorescent) lamps. This ageing technology has been superseded by the superior LED method on more expensive sets, but is still standard on some cheaper models.

LED TV: Direct LED
These displays are backlit by an array of LEDs (light emitting diodes) directly behind the screen. This enables localised dimming – meaning immediately adjacent areas of brightness and darkness can be displayed more effectively – and greatly improves contrast. LED TVs are also more power efficient and capable of a wider colour gamut than CCFL sets. Because of the extreme cost of mounting these arrays of LEDs, Direct LED TVs have largely been out muscled by Edge LED…

With these TVs, LEDs of the backlight are mounted along the edges of the panel. This arrangement enables radically slender displays and offers superior contrast levels to CCFL, but can’t achieve the same picture quality as directly lit LED sets. However, they do come in far cheaper which is why most LED TVs out there now use this technology.

The backlighting on OLED (organic light emitting diode) sets is achieved by passing an electric current through an emissive, electroluminescent film. This technique produces far better colours and higher contrast and also enables screens to be extremely thin and flexible. This is the holy grail display technology and only in 2014 did a bigscreen OLED TV go on sale. So it’s brand new, it’s expensive and the top brands are still struggling to get their heads around it. To date, only LG has been able to release full sized OLED TVs.

Plasma TV
PDP (plasma display panel) TVs use glass panels containing millions of tiny cells filled with a mixture of inert gases. Electricity excites the gases, causing them to illuminate the pixels across the screen. Plasma, while arguably superior to LCD in terms of contrast and colour accuracy, is only viable on large (42in+) screens and has been dropped by all but a handful of manufacturers. You’ll be lucky to find one on the shelves these days.

Curved TV
Some manufacturers are now making TVs that have slightly curved screens. But unlike old CRT TVs, the curve is inwards rather than outwards. The idea is that this makes every pixel equidistant from your eyes, delivering a more satisfying picture. However, there are drawbacks for this type of screen – the main one being that if you sit far enough to one side – more than 40 degrees or so – the curve clearly starts to affect the image’s geometry, foreshortening content near to you and compressing the image’s centre.

What resolution should I go for?

HD TVs come in two resolutions. Sets with the HD ready are required to be able to display a minimum 720p picture, and generally has a screen resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels. Meanwhile, full HD TVs have a higher resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels. It’s highly advisable that you don’t go for anything less than full HD in this day and age.

Ultra HD and 4K
The resolution of Ultra HD is exactly four times higher than full HD – 3840 x 2160. It means a far more detailed picture, with content requiring a lot more bandwidth and storage space. 4K TVs tend to be good at upscaling HD video to Ultra HD but there are currently very few options for watching native 4K content.Read more about 4K

What kind of tuner do I need?

TVs in the UK come with two types of tuner: DVB-T2 (Freeview HD) and DVB-S (Freesat HD). Some TVs such as many sets from Panasonic have both tuners on board, but most do not. So which should you go for?

Freeview HD
Freeview is the natural successor to the analogue TV signal of old, flying the flag for free-to-air TV through a traditional aerial. So your decision of which tuner to go for could well be decided according to what receiving devices you’ve already got strapped to your roof. If you’ve got a traditional TV aerial only, Freeview is the obvious option. Equally, if you’re buying a TV for a second room, you might have to rely on a portable aerial which again would make Freeview your best bet.

Freesat HD
Freesat is similar to Freeview in that it’s free-to-air, but different in that it’s delivered through a satellite dish. Freesat uses the same satellite as Sky HD – the Astra/Eutelsat satellite which sits in the sky at 28.2E. That means if you’ve got a Sky dish, you can easily plug a Freesat TV or box in without having to move it. Freesat HD is ideal for large living room TVs as it delivers slightly higher quality pictures than Freeview, has fewer problems with signal, and also has a much larger selection of channels both in standard definition and high definition. It’ll also likely be the first to carry 4K TV channels when they eventually launch.

Size matters

People tend to pick the size of their flat TV based on the amount of space they have for it, this isn’t necessarily wise. Flat TVs take up much less space than you might think, so your new TV may end up a foot or two further away from your viewing position, making the picture appear smaller.

Also, with hi-def, you can have a bigger screen and the same viewing distance without worrying about seeing blemishes inherent to the source. HDTV’s lack of noise means that the ideal distance to sit from the screen is three to four times the height of the TV.


How to calculate the right size HD TV:

The trick here is to ensure that your TV is big enough to fill your line of vision, but small enough to be sharp and clear. Remember, if you intend to only watch standard-definition sources, the bigger the screen gets, the worse the image will look.

The ideal screen size can be calculated by multiplying the distance that you intend to sit away from it by 0.535 and then rounding this up to the nearest size.

So, if you sit 80in away from your TV, the ideal size is 42-inch (80 x 0.535= 42.8).

What features should I look out for?

Features are too numerous to go into here, but here are some things you should consider.

Photo viewing: If you have a digital camera, a TV that has a slot for memory cards or a USB socket for a card reader will let you view your photos onscreen.

Here are some of the things we look for when we review a screen, so you should, too…

Contrast: Bright whites shouldn’t have any signs of green, pink or blue in them, while blacks should look solid and not washed out, grey, green or blue.

Colours: Look at how bright and solid they are; how noiseless their edges are; how ‘dotty’ richly saturated areas are and how natural skin looks, especially in dim scenes.

Fine detail: How much texture does the screen give? Does a tree look like a green lump, or can you see the individual leaves

Edges: Check for ghosting, bright halos and jaggedness, especially around curves.

Motion: Check moving objects and quick camera pans for smearing or blurring, trailing, jerkiness and fizzing dotty noise.

Image artefacts: Look for blockiness, colour bands, grain, smearing, dot crawl: anything that looks like it’s added by the TV picture processing or a weak TV tuner. Tinker with a TV’s picture settings before making a final decision. Factory settings are rarely good for everyday viewing.

What about sound?

To provide the best audio to complement the pictures, your TV should be hooked up to a surround sound system, but this isn’t always an option. So, here’s what we listen for when testing a TV’s speakers:

Bass: Deep, rounded rumbles that don’t cause the set to rattle or speakers to distort, cramp or overwhelm the rest of the sound; but that expand when needed.

Vocals: Voices should sound open, rich and clear, not boxed in, nasal or thin.

Trebles: Treble effects should sound clean, rounded and smooth in loud scenes and shouldn’t dominate the soundstage.

Soundstage width/depth: A good TV should throw the sound away from the TV, to the sides, forward and back, to give an extra dimension to what’s on screen, without losing any coherence.

Questions to ask before you buy

Taking the time to consider these questions will make choosing the best TV easier…

HD or 4K?

4K TVs are stunning and even though there is currently little native 4K content to enjoy, the good ones are able to upscale HD to 4K very well. That being said, unless you’re buying a very large TV – we’re talking 65-inches plus – full HD should be adequate.

What size do I need?

This is dictated by the dimensions of the room where the TV is going and the amount of cash you’re prepared to spend. As a general rule of thumb, work out how far from the set you’ll be sitting (in inches), multiply that distance by 0.535 and then round up the result to the nearest screen size. Bear in mind that a decent smaller telly is often a more sensible investment than a larger, less accomplished one. And if you’re going to buy a 4K TV, you can sit much closer because of the higher resolution.

How many HDMI sockets do I need?

For a living room TV you should be looking for a minimum of 3 HDMI inputs. If you want to attach a set-top box as well as games consoles etc, those HDMI ports will fill up fast.

Can I connect my older, analogue kit?

Most new sets carry no more than two Scarts, while S-video is fast approaching obsolescence. Check that your new TV can hook up to older digiboxes, VCRs or DVD decks that you might want to plug into it.

What picture type do I prefer, LCD or plasma?

LCDs and plasmas produce different sorts of pictures. Broadly speaking, the former’s are usually sharper, brighter and more densely saturated, while the latter’s tend to be richer, more natural and produce better black levels. Decent dealers should be able to arrange a side-by-side demo for you.

Do I want to hang my TV on the wall?

First off, you’ll need to consult a construction expert to check that the wall in question is strong enough to support a flatscreen. Then find out if the set you want is designed to be wall-mounted and, if so, ask if the relevant bracket is included in the basic package or as an optional extra.

Will I be connecting it to a home cinema?

If the answer is no, you might want to think more carefully about your set’s audio performance. Look for a screen that can go as loud as you’ll need without distortion or cabinet rattle. Consider how dialogue sounds and how much low-end rumble the bass is capable of.

Conversely, it’s pointless paying out more cash for exceptional built-in speakers if you already have a decent home cinema system.

Happy shopping!


Microsoft pro 3 review

The Surface Pro 3 is thinner and lighter than the previous two versions, despite having a larger 12-inch display and higher screen resolution. A new kickstand makes it easier to set up and use, and the keyboard cover remains a best-in-class example. The Surface Pro 3 is now optimized for a digital pen, which is included.

However, that excellent keyboard cover is not included in the base price, and its improved touchpad still doesn’t measure up. The chassis lacks pen storage, and even with tweaked kickstand and keyboard hinges, the Surface Pro 3 still doesn’t fit perfectly on the lap.

In general, while the new Surface Pro 3 is Microsoft’s best PC to date, it’s more successful as a tablet than a laptop replacement.

6 Best Ultrabooks 2015: top thin and light laptops reviewed

TechRadar’s top-ranking Ultrabook reviews

They all have Intel Core i3, Core i5 or Core i7 processors, fast SSD storage to some degree, and now USB 3.0 connectivity, for speedy file transfers.

Ultrabooks are made with design in mind, so they tend to start from around $999 (around £584, AU$1,064) in the lower end, going to nearly $2,000 (around £1,169, AU$2,131) at the very high end.

Ultimately, you’re likely to spend between $899 and $1,500 for a newer model, though you can get some older models for good prices. Below are the six best Ultrabooks at the moment, based on our latest reviews.

Best Ultrabooks

 Dell XPS 13

Possibly the best laptop on the planet, Dell’s latest is a masterpiece

We thought the Dell XPS 13 from 2014 was already a brilliantly thin and light 13 inch machine, but this year the company has really pulled all the stops with the 2015 model. The new Dell XPS 13 is a 13.3-inch notebook, but it has the small footprint of an 11-inch machine.

Fortunately for us, the XPS 13 isn’t all beauty and no brains. This laptop features the horsepower to make work and play enjoyable, and it has just enough battery life to never leave you in a lurch. Regardless of whether you choose to upgrade to the touchscreen quad HD+ version, or if you stand pat with the full HD model, the Dell XPS 13 will provide you with a delightful experience for years to come.
Best Ultrabooks

Asus ZenBook UX305

A truly excellent ultrabook at a very agreeable price point

While the Asus UX305 does not necessarily break any new ground in the Ultrabook scene, it’s a nearly flawless device, for an extremely affordable price and that in itself is worth high praise.

The ZenBook UX305 is a superbly-built, fully metal machine that’s thin, light and very attractive. This lightweight system’ also easily handled all my daily tasks whether I was browsing the web, watching video or editing images. What’s more, you can get excellent battery life out of the machine considering its 1080p display.

Of course, the most striking thing about the UX305 is that it comes at a $699 or £649 (about AU$902) price. This is a great price for any mobile computing machine, but in this case you’re getting a premium, full-metal Ultrabook with an excellent full HD display and a 256GB SSD to boot. While isnt’ exactly a shining symbol of innovation in the Ultrabook space, it is the most affordable Ultrabook out today and it won’t disappoint you.

best ultrabook

Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro

A triumph for design, Lenovo’s flagship is impressive if a little pricey

If you’re all about style and don’t need a super powerful machine, it doesn’t get much better than Lenovo’s latest flagship Ultrabook. While it may not be as punchy as its predecessor (thanks in part to its low-power, fanless Intel Core M chip), it can still manage all of the usual tasks you would throw at it.

And given its new metallic hinge and super thin design, the Yoga 3 Pro makes a better case than ever for its multitudes of usage modes. At any rate, this is one of the thinnest, lightest and sharpest Windows laptops to date. And while you’ll certainly pay for it, the price for such panache will be worth it for style nuts.

Best Ultrabooks

 Acer Aspire S7

Acer’s luxurious ultrabook is an ultraportable superstar

For 2014, Acer has updated it’s luxury laptop with a super sharp QHD display. This 2560 x 1440 panel is prepared for the day when hyper-HD content is finally viable to watch over wireless internet. In the now, text looks gorgeous, as do images – thus adding to the near-future feel of this device.

The build quality on display here, from the Aspire S7’s aluminum and Gorilla Glass frame is palpable. That goes for the snappy keyboard, with its fancy electroluminescent lighting, too.

The Acer Aspire S7 (starting at $1,349, £1,199, AU$2,599) truly feels like a machine built for the now, 2014, and one that you won’t mind using well into 2016, possibly longer. So, love the Aspire S7 for its cutting edge build, fine typing experience and premium specs.

Best Ultrabooks

Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus

With stunning performance and screen, it doesn’t get much better than this

Samsung was one of the very first PC manufacturers to jump on the Ultrabook bandwagon. It’s done a fine job of representing Intel’s baby ever since, with some stunning offerings, including the Samsung Series 5 Ultra Touch and, more recently, the top-of-the-line Samsung Series 9 NP900X3D.

Samsung’s new Ultrabook: the Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus (starting at $1,399, £1,412, AU$2,259), might keep the company ahead of the game for a while, at least if its on-paper abilities are anything to go by.

It’s a wonderful-looking unit. It’s thin and carefully crafted, with shiny, chamfered edges lining its all-aluminium chassis. But its plain black exterior might lend some clues as to its intent: This is premium-priced Ultrabook focused as much on the business user as the coffee shop regular.

Best Ultrabooks

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon

An excellent business laptop that (almost) has it all

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (starting at $1,186, £1,198, AU$1,699) is a business laptop that straddles the line between form and function more than ever after this update. For those with a penchant for aesthetics, here’s a brand new design with some fantastic new features. And to keep the no-nonsense business user happy, this is a plenty powerful piece of hardware.

The connectivity on offer through this Ultrabook’s super slim design profile alone is impressive. And the adaptive keys, while divisive, add a ton of function in a limited amount of space and an attractive presentation. Look out, MacBook Pro, you’re no longer the only thin and light business option on the block.

Best Bluetooth speakers 2015

TechRadar’s top-ranking Bluetooth speaker reviews

Best Bluetooth speakers

 The bazooka-sized boomboxes of yesteryear are no more, and haven’t been for a while now. They have made way for portable, wireless speakers that are more capable, and sometimes, are as small as a soda can.But the path to glory for the Bluetooth speaker hasn’t always been strong. In fact, it’s been downright shaky at times, as innovation in design flew past the actual execution of reliably streaming music wirelessly in its early years.Most of the bugs have been shook loose, and the Bluetooth speakers arriving on store shelves today are better and more affordable than ever. What with long-lasting battery life, stunning audio reproduction and other useful features, these speakers can turn any trip away from home into a tune-filled party.We’ve done the digging to present to you our picks for best Bluetooth speakers.Harman Infinity One

Harman Infinity One

For a heavy-hitting option, look no further than the Harman Infinity One. After all, Linkin Park helped develop it, so you know it has got to be good. (*wink)

In all seriousness though, this Bluetooth speaker can fill the room with rich sound from top to bottom. A slouch, the Harman Infinity One is not. You’ll find all of the important features here, like speakerphone and NFC capabilities, as well as a solid battery life.

At $300, it’s quite a steep investment for most just looking to pipe sound wire-free. But if you’re looking for a stellar-looking option that boasts enough good qualities to justify its price, your search ends here.

Get this if your entertainment center is longing for a bold-looking and powerful companion.

Fluance Fi30

Fluance Fi30

One look at this speaker might make you think that it costs a small fortune. Coming in aggressively at $149, the Fluance Fi30 loves defying expectations and the act doesn’t stop at its shockingly low price. It also sounds great. With room-filling audio, we’ve got a value-packed speaker that can bring down the house.

Unlike the others on this list, the Fi30 isn’t portable at all. Not just for its size, but also because it requires being plugged into an electrical socket for power. Minor negatives aside, this makes for the perfect porch companion or boombox-sized speaker for your pad.

best bluetooth speakers


Looking at the TREK Flex, it’s clear that the design is one of this speaker’s strongest suits. What’s more, it yields some nifty functionality too. Whether you stand this speaker vertically or lay it on its sides, you’ll be pleased with the performance here.

The TREK Flex can stand up to the elements with dust and water resistance. It may not look like it, but this speaker can take a beating, which makes it perfect for camping trips.

At $129, TDK made a speaker that follow you through your adventures, rain or shine.

Dell AD211

Dell AD211

A good Bluetooth speaker is something we all deserve, but it’s also something we can’t all afford. Thankfully, Dell stuck this stellar option in the budget Bluetooth speaker category.

The Dell AD211 won’t win awards for design, though some may dig its simple style. Whatever bad we had to say about (not much) it, can be mostly ignored once you hear that it retails for a staggeringly cheap $59 (£68.39, AU$79).

Taking value into consideration, you’ll have a hard time finding an affordable speaker with good battery life, NFC compatibility and a built-in microphone. But the AD211 has it all, and for a bargain.

Get this if you’re ballin’ on a budget and you need the most feature-packed speaker for your money.

Harman Kardon Esquire Mini

Harman/Kardon Esquire Mini

While this chic Bluetooth speaker is marketed to the on the go business professional, always catching flights to go catch more flights, the Harmon Kardon Esquire Mini is an easy recommendation.

It’s hard not to be partial to such a good-looking speaker, but thankfully, its performance ranks just as high in our book. Albeit a tad expensive for its size ($150, £129.99), it makes up for the financial burden with great battery life and fantastic style.

If size is of utmost importance, you’ll be pleased with the Esquire Mini, as it’s about the thickness of two smartphones. Of course, you wouldn’t guess that the voluminous sound would be coming out of such a small device.

Get this if want a pocket-friendly Bluetooth speaker that’s fashion-savvy.

Creative Sound Blaster Roar SR20

Creative Sound Blaster Roar SR20

Just like people do, some Bluetooth speakers try to do everything. And just like people, some Bluetooth speakers can do this gracefully and some cannot. TheCreative Sound Blaster Roar SR20 succeeds at being a multi-functional speaker that rings it at the pleasing tune of $129 (about £104, AU$155).

Compared to other speakers on this list so far, its design stands out, for starters. It’s about the size of a hard-cover book and can compliment a bookshelf, if you please, or just a table top.

This speaker houses a bunch of cool features, even some you may not use. The ‘aux in’ port allows it to amplify beyond what your computer is capable of. Its internal microphone can even record audio to a microSD card.

Get this if a cool, novel-sized Bluetooth speaker packed with premium sound and fun features (recording audio, “Roar’ volume boost) appeals to you.

Bose SoundLink Color

Bose SoundLink Color

Sound performance isn’t something that’s new to Bose. When it comes to Bluetooth speakers, they’ve nailed down a full-bodied sound in a small form-factor. There’s something that’s been missing though: Color.

With the Bose SoundLink Color, you have 5 options available to match your taste, each of which can power your listening experience for 8 continuous hours. At $129, Bose performance comes cheap with this portable Bluetooth speaker.

Denon Envaya

Denon Envaya

The grille is usually an afterthought in a Bluetooth speaker, just a fancy cover to protect the speakers inside. But with the Denon Envaya, the grille reveals a whimsical splash of color underneath.

At $199, it’s a bit expensive for its desk-friendly size, but it makes up for it booming sound, NFC pairing and 10 hours of battery life. It can also be oriented to lay on its back or propped up on the stand to find that perfect listening angle.

UE Mini Boom

UE Mini Boom

Big Bluetooth speakers are known for their loud, full sound performance. You’d think that small Bluetooth speaker are doomed to lackluster, tinny sound performance. In the case of the Ultimate Ears Mini Boom, that’s simply not the case.

For $99, UE packs an impressive amount of “oomph” into the Mini Boom. Just as we were, you’ll likely be surprised and impressed. Packed into a fun, durable form-factor, the UE Mini Boom is a fantastic value for music lovers.Koss BTSiKoss BTSi

Riffing off of the trend set by the UE Mini Boom, the Koss BTSi looks to take the idea of a value-packed, miniature Bluetooth speaker to a new level.

For $59, Koss makes a convincing argument with the BTSi. While it isn’t the bass-heavy juggernaut that the Mini Boom is, it’s capable of a sound that is more rich.

We’ll update this page as we review more speakers, so stay tuned. Let us know if you have suggestions for us to check out in the comments below.


Intro to home theater speakers | How to build a well-matched surround sound system

To enjoy the surround sound experience of a movie theater in your home, you’ll need a home theater receiver and at least six speakers (including a powered subwoofer).

In this article, we’ll give you some rules of thumb on how to assemble a well-matched surround speaker system. Tip #1: It’s OK to break the rules. If the ideal solution for sound quality doesn’t suit your décor, no problem. Some situations call for creative compromises.

Pre-matched surround sound speaker systems include 5 or more speakers, and some also include a subwoofer.

Want to keep it simple?

Consider a pre-matched surround speaker system. Even if you ultimately decide to buy your speakers a la carte, reading the descriptions of matched systems is a good place to start.

Want to do it your way?

If you’d rather mix and match, you’ll need to shop for the following:

  • A center channel speaker that sits below or above your TV.
  • Front left and right speakers that flank your TV. Most people choose either bookshelf or floor-standingspeakers for their main front speakers.
  • Two or more surround speakers that go behind and/or beside your seating area. Most people use bookshelf speakers or specialized bipolar speakers for their surrounds.
  • One or two powered subwoofers.
  • If you have a receiver that can power front height or width channels, you might want to add one more pair of speakers to your shopping list.
  • If your receiver offers Dolby Atmos® surround sound processing, you’ll want to include one or two pairs ofin-ceiling or specialized Dolby Atmos enabled speakers for overhead surround effects to complete your system.

For a cleaner-looking installation, consider in-wall speakers, in-ceiling speakers, or custom flat-panel speakers that integrate with your TV set.

Unobtrusive speakers can practically disappear into your room.

Matching the system to your room, your TV, and your viewing habits

Where will your speaker system go? In a family room on the main floor? Or in a basement bunker that’s far removed from bedrooms and other quiet spaces?

For multi-purpose spaces, where the TV and surround sound system won’t always be the main event, think small. Small speakers can blend more easily into your décor and stay out of the way, leaving you more space for other activities. For example, if you plan on using your family room for movie night once or twice a week, and otherwise mostly use it for socializing, helping with homework, and other non-TV activities, you’d probably be quite happy with a smaller speaker system.

On the other hand, if you’d like to use your TV and surround sound system more extensively, you should consider larger speakers, especially if it’ll be in a medium-to-large sized room. For example, if you want to add a theater-like quality to your nightly prime-time TV viewing, you’ll probably enjoy some high-quality speakers that can really fill your room with sound.

Consider the layout and shape of your room, because where you position each speaker might affect the size or type of speakers you choose. Once you have a good idea of where the speakers should be placed for good surround sound, think about how they will look and whether they might get in the way of foot traffic.

You can learn where speakers should go by watching our video on speaker placement, or find more detailed guidelines in our speaker placement article. For some creative solutions, check out our articles on room-friendly ways to add surround speakers and practically invisible speaker options.

You can take some liberties with the speaker placement guidelines, but only up to a point. For example, you really shouldn’t try to hide speakers behind furniture or other such obstacles to proper sound dispersion. Nor should you place your front left and right speakers too far away from your TV screen, because the soundscape will seem unnaturally wide. Instead of pulling you into the story, the sound will draw attention to itself and disconnect you from the on-screen action.

When home theater speakers are properly placed, they work together to create engaging, 360-degree effects.
Pair a large TV with larger speakers for high-impact, room-filling sound that complements your TV’s picture.

Big TV? Get big speakers, too

A large TV (say 55 inches or more) pairs best with a speaker system that can create a big soundscape. In general, we suggest leaning toward large floor-standing or bookshelf speakers up front. Some higher-end smaller speakers that can handle more power may also be a good match. On the other hand, if you have a 40-inch TV, a modest subwoofer/satellite system is all you really need.

Is it OK to mix brands?

Purists may cry foul, but there are some situations in which it makes sense to mix brands. Say you already own some stereo speakers. You’d like to use them in your home theater system, but you can’t find center or surround speakers to match. Or perhaps the only center channel speaker that will fit your cabinet isn’t from the brand you prefer for your front left and right speakers. Go ahead and mix.

If no such mitigating factors apply, you’re better off with “voice-matched” speakers, all of the same brand (and the same “family” or “series” within the brand). You’ll get a consistent tonal quality and seamless transitions as the sound travels from speaker to speaker.

Know your speakers

Each speaker has a distinctive role to play in your surround sound system. Understanding what each speaker does will help you shop smarter.

Center channel speaker
When you watch a movie, the center channel delivers more than 50% of the soundtrack, including almost all of the dialogue. Since its purpose is to keep sound anchored to the on-screen action, a good center channel speaker is crucial for a well-balanced home theater system. Don’t skimp on the center speaker.

The center channel lives just above or below your television, which keeps dialogue anchored to your TV screen.


The center speaker typically sits just below your TV, so make sure your center channel is an appropriate size for the intended placement. If you have a wall-mounted flat-panel TV, and you won’t have a stand on which to place your center channel speaker, consider a wall-mountable or in-wall center channel speaker.

When choosing a center channel speaker, consider the other speakers in your system and the size of your television set. Compact subwoofer/satellite systems usually use smaller center channel speakers, and these interact just fine with the smaller mains and surrounds. Tower speakers require a larger center channel model to maintain a balanced and seamless surround effect.

Front left and right speakers

In home theater, the front left and right speakers provide a wide soundstage that blends with the video to create a more realistic and exciting movie experience. In addition to reproducing the musical score, front speakers handle the bulk of the special effects, which move back and forth between the two speakers in sync with the images on the screen.

Front speakers also broaden the soundstage by reproducing the sound of things that are happening off-camera, such as a car or missile that’s approaching, but hasn’t yet come into view.

The front speakers are important for music listening, too. They do all the work when it comes to stereo music reproduction.

Floor-standing speakers, bookshelf speakers, and satellite speakers all work fine as front left and right speakers.Floor-standing speakers have the most impact and provide great low-frequency response. Bookshelf speakers don’t reproduce as much bass and may need a subwoofer, but they’re smaller and easier to move.

Compact wall-mountable satellite speakers must be teamed with a subwoofer, but they’re ideal if you want big sound from a small package. Bookshelf and satellite speakers can be placed on shelves or tables, and they can often be mounted on stands or walls.

Surround speakers
Consider mounting surround speakers to your wall or ceiling. In-wall and in-ceiling speakers may also be a good option.

Surround speakers produce atmospheric, ambient sounds — such as rain drops, the rustling of leaves, or footsteps crunching on gravel. They also work with your other speakers to deliver spectacular directional effects, like a locomotive rushing by, or a bullet zinging past. They help put you smack dab in the center of the action. [Shop forsurround speakers.]

Although a 5.1-channel surround system, with only one pair of surround speakers, is the most common setup, most newer home theater receivers can power more than a single pair of surround speakers. If you’ve got a larger home theater room, you may buy one or two additional speakers to use as “back surrounds” in a 6.1- or 7.1-channel system.

And, if your receiver can decode Dolby Atmos surround sound, you’ll need an extra pair or two of speakers to create a three-dimensional layer of sound above your listening position.You can use either in-ceiling speakers, or Dolby Atmos enabled speakers designed to fire sound upward, where it reflects off the ceiling to deliver special effects overhead.

To learn more about surround sound, including the latest formats, check out our article on surround sound.

Correct surround speaker placement results in a very realistic three-dimensional soundfield; incorrect surround speaker placement or poor calibration can leave people asking, “Are our surrounds even on?” Look for surround speakers that you can easily angle towards your listening area. Pivoting mounting brackets and speaker stands can really help.

Bipolar speakers use multiple drivers to disperse sound throughout the room. Pictured: Definitive Technology SR-8040BP.

Check our speaker placement guide or video and consider where you’ll put your surrounds and whether they’ll need to be stand-mounted, wall-mounted, or even in-wall or in-ceiling models.

Ideally, your surround speakers should have the same performance capability as your front left and right speakers, but that’s not always realistic when you consider room size and space. Most people use either bookshelf or satellite speakers for their surrounds. Both bookshelf and satellite speakers may require stand placement or wall mounting.

For a wider soundfield and greater speaker placement flexibility, consider bipole/dipole speakers. These models take advantage of reflected sound to create more realistic surround effects. Some higher-end surround speakers offer a dipole/bipole switch (sometimes referred to as a “Solid/Diffuse” switch). These speakers feature two high-frequency drivers that either fire in phase (bipole) or out of phase (dipole).

Powered subwoofer

If you’re assembling a home theater, plan on including at least one powered subwoofer. Many TV show, movie, and video game soundtracks provide a dedicated channel of deep bass (sometimes known as low frequency effects, or LFE). This bass is what makes the entire soundtrack feel larger, fuller, and more lifelike — it gives special effects like thunder or explosions their window-rattling punch.

The subwoofer provides deep, dramatic bass — a necessity for high-impact home theater sound

A subwoofer is also a wonderful way to enrich music listening — it can round out all types of music, from classical to jazz to rock to R&B. Since most speakers can’t deliver that level of bass on their own, a subwoofer is needed to ensure that your home theater system delivers crucial low-frequency impact.

Low-frequency sound waves are omni-directional, so you have a great deal of flexibility when it comes to subwoofer placement. If you have a spot in your room picked out, consider the dimensions of the sub’s cabinet to make sure it will fit. And remember that placing your sub near a wall or in a corner can increase bass impact noticeably. Though for tighter, more precise bass, you’ll want to move it a few inches away from the wall or corner.

To achieve consistent bass coverage throughout your listening area, experiment with different subwoofer locations, and choose the location that sounds best to you. Adding a second subwoofer is another great way to ensure smooth, even coverage.

As a general rule, the larger the driver, the deeper the bass — so go for a sub with a 10″ or 12″ woofer cone if you need to fill a large room. However, there are a number of compact and even ultra-compact subwoofers out there that offer multiple drivers and ported enclosures to produce surprisingly big bass. Compact subs are also a great option if you don’t have a lot of room for a sub, or if you want it to be as unobtrusive as possible.

If you have a large room (or if you just crave serious bass impact) then you should look for a sub with more watts in the built-in amplifier. Other convenient features include remotes that allow you to control the sub from your seat, and pre-set modes that change depending on what you’re watching or listening to. You can find out more in our article onchoosing a subwoofer.


Apple Watch: what’s in the box

The Apple Watch is a beautifully constructed, compact smartwatch. It’s feature-packed, with solid fitness software, hundreds of apps, and the ability to send and receive calls via an iPhone.

However, battery barely lasts a day and recharge time is slow; most models and configurations cost more than they should; requires an iPhone 5 or later to work; interface can be confusing; sometimes slow to communicate with a paired iPhone.

 The Apple Watch is the most ambitious, well-constructed smartwatch ever seen, but first-gen shortfalls make it feel more like a fashionable toy than a necessary tool.

HTC One M9 review

Let’s say you’re a smartphone maker and you cook up a formula for a beloved, game-changing device. The next year, you tweak that formula a bit to create a worthy, if slightly less exciting, follow-up of a phone. What do you do after another year has gone by? Try something completely different in hopes you’ll catch lightning in a bottle again, or keep plugging away on the mobile DNA that made you such a worthy name in the first place? If you’re HTC, the answer is obvious: You keep polishing and polishing that formula until you finally reach the ideal you’ve been working toward.

That’s what we have in the One M9. It’s still a ways off from fulfilling the vision that HTC’s design wonks had in mind, but in most ways it’s a very thoughtful refinement of what made the One series so special. Your pleas and complaints haven’t gone unheard. The thing is, when the One M9 does try new things — be they software features or hardware changes — it doesn’t always stick the landing.


  • Great performance
  • Top-tier build quality
  • Sense 7 is lightweight and thoughtful
  • Quick charging works well


  • Main camera is lackluster
  • Screen isn’t as vivid as last year’s model
  • BoomSound speakers lack some oomph
  • Battery life is hit-or-miss
HTC’s 2015 flagship was designed to feel more premium than previous models, but it runs the risk of feeling dated two years on. It’s sturdy and plenty powerful with its Snapdragon 810 chipset, but the M9’s 20-megapixel camera doesn’t seem any better than the UltraPixel shooter HTC ditched, and the occasional software quirk raises eyebrows.


Note: I’m working with the international version of the One M9. I’ll update this review with new impressions once US units become available.

It’s impossible not to compare the M9 to the Ones that came before it, which leads to some simple shorthand for HTC’s design work this year: Put simply, it’s almost like the M7 and M8 had a baby. Where the M8 was polished and curvaceous like a river stone — a choice that meant the thing slid around more than some liked — the M9 channels more of the original One M7’s angularity. HTC’s newest flagship feels familiar as a result, but that’s not to say that everything HTC did was for the best.

Anyway, more on that later. Let’s start with the broad strokes. The M9’s sloping back would look almost identical to its predecessors were it not for some major camera changes: Last year’s Duo Camera UltraPixel setup has been replaced with a single, squarish, sapphire-covered pod that hosts a more traditional 20-megapixel shooter. Thankfully, none of that changes how comfortably the M9 settles into the hand. You’ll find the nano-SIM and microSD card slots (the latter of which takes cards up to a whopping 2TB) nestled into the left and right edges, respectively, just where they were last year. The lengthy volume rocker that ran down the previous phone’s side has been split into two discrete buttons, though, and the sleep/wake key has been moved below it and was given a neat spiral pattern so you can tell the difference without looking.

At first glance, the phone’s face is almost identical too. The only real changes you’ll notice when that 5-inch, 1080p screen is off are incredibly subtle ones, like the top BoomSound speaker being a little shorter to accommodate the bigger UltraPixel selfie camera. Hell, you might not even notice one of the quietest structural changes — the M9 is the first One with a front plate hewn from a single block of aluminum, with holes machined in to hold the screen and speakers in place. It’s an impressive feat of production, but it’s not like it makes the M9 feel any sturdier than it already is.

Come to think of it, it’s that kind of minute change that seems emblematic of the M9’s overall aesthetic. In most ways, we’re still dealing with the same One DNA as before, just peppered with a handful of modifications meant to make the whole thing feel more premium. Consider the color, for one: My review unit is the same two-toned, rose-gold-and-silver affair I first played with back at MWC, and it’s still just as polarizing as it was a few weeks ago. I’ve grown inordinately fond of the color combination, though others who saw it were less than impressed by the company flinging itself onto a gold-hued bandwagon. Thankfully, you’ll soon be able to pick up full-on silver or gunmetal models too.

More importantly, the M9 sits in my hand with just the right amount of weight and gravitas. It’s light without feeling chintzy; it screams “solid,” maybe even a little more than the M8 did. No wonder HTC’s brass has spent so much breath talking up that machined chassis. To hear them tell it, the metal’s “jewelry-grade” finish resists scratches and crafting each M9 involves 70 steps and takes 300 minutes to complete. Similar attention has been paid to what wound up inside the phone: We’re looking at one of Qualcomm’s octa-core Snapdragon 810s (a bit of silicon that pairs a 2.0GHz quad-core processor with another 1.5GHz quad-core unit), 3GB of DDR4 RAM, 32GB of storage and support for super-fast LTE Cat 9 data speeds where they’re available. All of that together is enough to make you wonder how well the company can produce these things at scale, but the effect is mostly wonderful.

Yep, that’s right: “mostly.” The biggest physical offender is hard to miss: The gold edge that runs around the M9’s sides terminates in a pronounced ridge that feels completely out of place. Some will mind it less than others — it does make the M9’s body feel less slippery than the M8’s — but a colleague summed up my feelings best when he said it was like having the edge of a butter knife pressed into your palm. Possible butterfinger moments aside, the beauty of the M8’s curves was that it made the physicality of the phone sort of fade into the background. Not so this time. At least that edge won’t catch on your pockets when you whip your phone out.

All told, it’d be easy to snipe at HTC for playing it too safe this year. I had to fight the temptation to do so myself. Like it or not, HTC’s design chiefs have a clear sense of what they want their flagships to look and feel like and they seem more than happy to chip away in a single direction year after year. That’s just great for their sense of artistry, but we’ll see if people actually flock to a phone that doesn’t look like a dramatic improvement over the ones that came before.

Display and sound

While rivals like Samsung and LG have flung their arms open to embrace Quad HD screens, HTC seems more than happy to buck the trend. Need evidence? Look no further than the M9’s face — the flagship comes loaded with a 5-inch Super LCD 3 display running at 1080p, putting it well behind the competition when it comes to sheer pixel density. Thing is, that’s far more of a disadvantage on paper than in practice. After all, you’d be hard-pressed to pick out an individual pixel on the M9’s display, and viewing angles are still first-rate here. What’s more curious than HTC’s resolution decision is just how different it is from the panel placed in the M8. Seriously.

The M9’s LCD is altogether much cooler than the M8’s, which makes for crisper, more neutral whites at the expense of slightly less impactful blacks. I spend more time than I’d like to admit poking around on Instagram every day, but the difference couldn’t have been any clearer than there — colors were much punchier on the M8’s screen, while the flower, puppy, graffiti and food pictures Instagram is notorious for came across as less saturated and, dare I say, neutered on the M9. Your mileage may vary (I’ve always preferred the slight oversaturation of AMOLED screens), but a certain dose of pop that made some photos come alive on last year’s model is gone here, and I’m frankly bummed because of it.

If there’s one thing HTC knows, though, it’s how to shoehorn a pair of speakers into a smartphone. BoomSound is back for a third year running and the dual-speaker setup still mostly sets a high bar for the rest of the industry’s high-end wares. Yep, there’s that pesky “mostly” again. I’ve run both the M8 and the M9 through my usual slew of test tracks, ranging from poppy ethereal stuff like Mika’s The Origin Of Love album to Sambomaster’s furious Japanese rock, and once again found that the M8 usually did a better job of reproducing classic tunes than its successor. Most times, the M8 was a touch louder and shined a little more light on the primary vocal track in the mix; meanwhile, the M9 projected a soundscape that drew me in a little more thanks to cleaner channel separation, but seemed softer in comparison.

That doesn’t mean the M9 is necessarily worse, just that it seems to be tuned a little differently. HTC has Dolby Audio running in the background to help give those speakers some more oomph, and I can’t help but wonder if that extra software isn’t to blame — too bad there’s no way to turn it off. If you’re feeling really picky, you can toggle between Music and Theater modes in the settings, but I honestly couldn’t make out the difference either way.


Remember the old, overwrought days of Sense? With that gigantic weather/clock widget and HTC’s insistence that basically every bit of Android had to be customized to within an inch of its life? Yeah, so do I. Those were rough times. HTC’s done a great job of dialing back its influence on Android over the past few generations, and we’re now left with a version of Sense that’s both smarter and great at getting out of your way when you want it to. If you’ve spent any time at all with the M8, you’ll feel right at home here — just about all of the software features that made it what it was are back on top of Android 5.0.2, along with a few smart new bits that strive to do more than they actually can.

A tour of HTC’s Sense 7 UI
Sense 7’s look is pretty vanilla (and pretty Material Design-y) right out of the box. A clock widget stares back at you like it always has; BlinkFeed lives to the left of the home screen; and your app launcher is set up vertically with a customizable grid. Typical. The first new addition you’ll see is the Sense Home widget, and its raison d’etre is simple — it wants to show you apps you actually want when you’re at home, work or just out somewhere. Once you’ve defined your home and work locations, it does a solid job of remembering what apps you tend to use where, even if it does take a while for your preferences to stick. Thankfully, you can just drag and drop your most-used apps right into the folder.

HTC has expanded BlinkFeed’s reach, too. In addition to giving you a grid of news and social updates to thumb through when you’re bored, it’ll now offer up Yelp recommendations (devices in different markets will lean on different services) when it thinks you might be jonesing for coffee or dinner. Those suggestions live atop your grid of stories to consume by default, but they’ll also take over your lock screen too given enough time.

It’s actually a pretty great idea, but a feature like this is only really worth a damn if it knows what you like. Alas, the suggestions BlinkFeed has offered up so far haven’t been earthshakers — they just point out highly rated eateries near you, and there doesn’t seem to be a way to connect it to your Yelp account to give it a sense of your tastes. Missed opportunity, HTC. If you’re anything like me, though, you’ll be so used to unlocking a dark screen with a swipe up that the in-your-face recommendations might go completely unnoticed anyway.

To complete the “all about you” philosophy at play here, you can create and apply your own visual themes if the stock look is just too milquetoast for you. Fonts, icon sets, wallpapers, color schemes, sounds; all of them can be mixed and matched in HTC’s Themes app, and to my utter surprise, making a Myspace-circa-2006-style train wreck is harder than you’d think. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible, though, and a few minutes spent poking around HTC’s Themes hub is proof enough of that. After downloading and installing a slew of themes from 75 or so available at the time of writing, I got to work — after just a few minutes of agonizing over the right Hong Kong skyline wallpaper and icon set, I created a gold-and-silver aesthetic I’ve been looking at with a funny sense of pride ever since. If your well of inspiration is running a little dry, you can load up an existing photo and have the app work up a color scheme straight from that.

My only complaint is that you can’t go as far as you might think. Some themes you download from HTC’s hub come with stylized clock widgets and Android navigation keys, but you can’t swap those in and out of your theme the way you can with basically everything else right on the device. Like it or not, you’ll have to pop over to HTC’s dedicated theming site on a desktop or tablet to get it done.

Really, though, these three features are just the most blatant changes to Sense as we know it. All of Lollipop’s niceties are here too, like the ability to pin apps and filter the notifications you get by priority. You can change what quick settings panels appear when you drag down your notification shade. Oh, and the traditional Back-Home-Recent Apps order for Android’s navigation keys? You can finally rearrange them, add to them or swap them out for screen toggles and quick settings access. Clearly, nothing is sacred anymore. Throw in a very, very useful Help app that’ll help diagnose what’s up with your ailing phone, and you’ve got a thorough suite of software at least tries to be there for you.

I haven’t enjoyed a Sense-ified build this much in years, but it sure isn’t perfect. For me, the biggest immediate sin is the keyboard, or more specifically, its auto-corrections. They’re terrible. I’m normally willing to cut these international units some extra slack on this front, but even with the input language set to United States English, the auto-corrections and assumptions it made led to countless errors that seem puzzling in their stupidity. Is “Im” so frequently used that the keyboard never tries to swap in an “I’m” instead? “Thjng” was never, ever successfully corrected, even though I clearly meant “thing”. Having an Enter key right below Backspace also meant malformed messages went out almost as frequently as proper ones. Thankfully, the Google Keyboard is just a few quick taps away in the Play Store.

The Sense Home widget also recommends new apps to you in a special folder by default. It’s easy enough to ditch completely, but it rubs me the wrong way for two reasons. First, HTC hasn’t ruled out the possibility of sponsored suggestions, and I don’t really want HTC’s financial partnerships getting in the way of my carefully cultivated home screen. Second, and more important, some of these suggestions are just awful. For some reason, about a week into testing, it suggested I download an app for the Turkish equivalent of Seamless and an apparently Korean-made app that links to YouTube videos of Billboard Top 100 songs. Just… what? I’m willing to chalk this up as some quirk inherent to international models, but man, is this just silly.


Here’s where things get a little tricky. HTC spent the better part of 2014 arguing that yes, UltraPixels were the future of mobile photography and talking up situations where that bigger pixel size is a plus. With the M9, though, that message is even more muddled. Sure, there’s an UltraPixel camera up front (more on that a little later), but the primary shooter ’round the back is a 20-megapixel affair and it didn’t leave much of an impression the first time I used it. Actually, scratch that. It did leave an impression, just not a very good one. Due to some sketchy pre-production software, the M9’s early photos took on a peculiar greenish cast and generally looked worse than what the M8’s year-old UltraPixel camera came up with in the same situations. Thankfully, most of those issues have been killed off with a patch, and we’re now left with a primary camera that doesn’t make me want to cry.

HTC One M9 camera samples

In bright, consistent light, the M9 fires off detailed photos with nicely reproduced colors — they can be a little washed out compared to the M8, though, and the cooler screen on the M9 doesn’t help them look any better. Here’s the rub: You’d expect this thing to be uniformly better than the UltraPixel shooter HTC’s been pushing, but that’s just not always the case. I’m not just talking about low-light situations where the UltraPixel camera truly shines, either. Sometimes the M9 comes through with crisper details; other times the M8 seems to do a better job. Sometimes the M9 has richer, more accurately exposed colors; sometimes it doesn’t. You get where I’m going with this. It’s such a mixed bag that I’m honestly surprised HTC gave in to the simplicity of advertising a camera based on its megapixel count at all. When the company dropped the news, I think we were all hoping the company’s megapixel gamble would pay off in spades. Well, not so much. At least the UltraPixel selfie camera still works the way you’d expect. The lens is wide enough to capture most of your crew come Groufie time and, as usual, it excels in darker climes like bars and clubs (though you might come out looking a little pink for your liking).

On the plus side, HTC’s Camera app is still one of the more in-depth we’ve seen ship on a smartphone, and it’s easy enough to dismiss gritty technical bits like exposure control, ISO and white balance if you’d rather not bother. Oh, a quick heads-up to all those serious mobile photographers — the M9 technically supports shooting RAW photos, but good luck getting that to work without a little dedicated developer support. Swiping to the left and right still lets you hop among Panorama, Selfie and standard Photo modes, and they’re actually labeled this time too! It’s all about the little things sometimes. Delve deep enough into the settings and you’ll discover that HTC has finally put together a phone that can shoot video in 4K, though it’ll only record 6 minutes of super high-def footage in a go. Sadly, most of my test recordings suffered from the same washed-out look that the M9’s photos had trouble with during most of my weeks testing.

Speaking of the little things, HTC’s full suite of image-editing tricks are back too, from mainstays like red-eye removal to body-horror playthings like Face Contour (seriously, run it on the same photo a few times and tell me you’re not terrified). Feeling really festive? You can festoon your pictures with floating particles, be they snowflakes or cherry blossoms or shapes of your own choosing. I have no earthly idea why anyone would need this, but it’s cute, so someone somewhere will surely have a blast with it. Too bad you can’t save the resulting tableau as a GIF; it’ll wind up being saved as a static JPEG or a video file. You’ll have an easier time indulging your artsy side with the editor’s new double exposure and Prismatic features, too. The former does pretty much what the name says (with occasionally freaky results like the shot above), but the latter takes a cue from apps like Fragment by letting you stick trippy polygons and line art on top of your photos. Trust me, it’s cooler than it sounds.

Performance and battery life

HTC might not have been the first to out a Snapdragon 810-powered phone, but make no mistake: There’s some seriously powerful silicon thrumming away inside the M9’s metal frame. The surest sign of a strong performer is its ability to make you stop thinking about its performance altogether, and that’s almost completely the case here. I’ve spent the better part of two weeks basically treating this thing like crap — furiously firing up and cycling through apps, wiling away hours crashing into walls in Asphalt 8, watching high-res videos until I was bored stupid — and I haven’t yet found a scenario where the M9’s combination of lightweight software and speedy hardware let me down.

Now about that elephant in the room. Yes, the M9 can get almost uncomfortably warm if you make it a point to push it hard — I noticed it mostly during my repeated benchmark testing, which most average users will never, ever have to worry about. The M9’s all-metal chassis still gets warm during more normal hardware-intensive tasks like bashing zombies in the face in Dead Trigger 2, but considerably less so than during benchmarks and never to the point where I was worried about hurting myself. By now, it’s more than clear that the 810 isn’t a particularly cool customer, and HTC gets some props for trying to mitigate the issue before the M9’s official launch. That said, the company’s approach to thermal throttling seems to have had an effect on the numbers the phone put up — the One M9 and the G Flex2 were just about neck and neck throughout the whole process, save for a few tests where the M9 scored consistently lower.

AndEBench Pro 7,404 7,167 8,886 N/A
Vellamo 3.0 2,874 4,684 1,882 N/A
3DMark IS Unlimited 21,409 22,207 19,912 17,902
SunSpider 1.0.2 (ms) 706 667 788 388
GFXBench 3.0 1080p Manhattan Offscreen (fps) 22 21 18.4 18.2
CF-Bench 53,579 68,426 40,143 N/A
SunSpider: Lower scores are better.

You won’t be left wanting for horsepower, but the 2,840mAh battery was more of a mixed bag. In the standard Engadget rundown test (with a video set to loop endlessly while the screen’s set to 50 percent brightness), the M9 stuck around for eight hours and 19 minutes — a decent increase over the original One M7, but far short of the 11-plus hours we squeezed out of the M8 last year and the 10-plus hours the G Flex2 put up. That seems abnormally low, especially considering that the M9 did just fine when it came to average daily use: It regularly hung around for 13 to 14 hours of continuous work use (including a few spells as a mobile hotspot during press events) without batting an eye. Using the thing judiciously could obviously pump up those numbers even more, as would firing up its Extreme Power Saving mode (though you’ll lose access to all but the most crucial apps as a result).

The competition

I’ve been spending all this time with the international version of the One M9, and by the time you read this it’ll have started trickling onto store shelves in a few far-flung markets. All four major US wireless carriers have pledged to carry it (no word on price yet, but the usual $650 sans contract/$200 with seems likely), so it won’t be long before M9s will beall over the place. What else should you be looking at? We’re starting to see the first batch of Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 edge reviews make the rounds, and while we haven’t spent more than a half-hour with the things to date, there’s no denying that they’re going to be two of the M9’s fiercest Android competitors this year. We’re looking forward to seeing how the Snapdragon 810 in the M9 stacks up to Samsung’s homespun silicon, but the M9 already seems to have a leg up on the S6 when it comes to eye candy. The S6 edge is a completely different story — I still maintain it’s the best-looking phone Samsung has ever made — but you’re going to pay a hefty premium for a phone that’s functionally identical to the S6.

If you need a high-powered competitor right now, there’s always the G Flex2. LG beat HTC to the silicon-studded punch by bringing the Snapdragon 810-powered device to Sprint earlier this month (it’ll hit AT&T soon, too) and it’s strikingly pretty to boot. You’ll miss out on Sense’s occasional thoughtfulness and a rock-sturdy body, but LG’s light touch with Android 5.0 and the sheer “wow” factor of a curvy phone just might be worth it for you. HTC’s older One M8 is still no slouch either, and the punchier display, plus some slightly louder BoomSound speakers, might make it a contender for another year if you’re persnickety about your media and don’t absolutely need the latest and greatest.


It might sound maudlin, but I really wanted to love the One M9 as much as I did the One M7. This seemed like the year HTC would nail it again. They came close! I’m still surprised that it’s Sense that I’m most impressed with. BlinkFeed is a first-rate time sink, and theming is a lovely, awfully personal way to kill a few minutes and make your M9 really feel like yours. Sure, the app suggestions are so bad they’re almost great for a laugh, but I can ditch them whenever I feel like it. Alas, the M9 is let down by a camera that isn’t as good as it should be, strangely tuned BoomSound speakers and the occasional questionable design decision. And yet, despite those quirks, the M9 is still a very, very good phone. It’s an utter powerhouse even with thermal throttling in the mix and the now-traditional One aesthetic is as attractive as it’s ever been (strange metallic edge aside). That doesn’t change the fact that it’s still the biggest question mark of the One trio to date, and now I — along with others, surely — are left wondering where HTC goes next.


US$3.4 million Lykan Hypersport

When Ralph R Debbas founded W Motors in Beirut with Sari El Kahalil in July 2012, he wanted to create the world’s most expensive, luxurious, and exclusive car. Well he’s made a fair fist of it with the Lykan Hypersport, which has been unveiled at the 2013 Qatar Motor Show. W Motors will limit numbers of the car, which it heralds as “the first Arabian hypercar,” to just seven, each priced from US$3.4 million.

W Motors, which is now based in Dubai, is claiming performance figures that put the rear-wheel-drive Lykan Hypersport in the same league as theBugatti Veyron Super Sports. Powered by a mid-rear positioned, twin turbocharged flat-six engine generating 750 horsepower, W Motors says the car can go from 0-100 km/h (62 mph) in a neck-snapping 2.8 seconds, on the way to a top speed of 395 km/h (245 mph).

But the exorbitant price tag isn’t just due to the car’s claimed performance. Sure to dazzle oncoming traffic, the LED headlights feature white gold surrounds encrusted with diamonds. And the bling doesn’t end there, with buyers able to choose to integrate rubies, emeralds or sapphires throughout the car depending on their color choice.

The interior boasts gold-stitched leather and features what the company calls a “Virtual Holographic Display,” which acts as the instrument panel.

The car’s angular styling was inspired by the Arabic symbol for seven, which is “V” and is of course considered a lucky number. This was also the thinking behind limiting the number of cars produced to seven. A special plate embedded in the roof above the rear window displays the number of the vehicle, along with the delivery date.

For their $3.4 million, buyers will also receive a limited edition Cyrus Klepcy watch valued at $200,000 and a 24/7 concierge service.


  • Coupe Only
  • Carbon Composite Body
  • Unique W Motors Styling
  • Exclusive Exterior Paint Schemes


  • Boxer Type, 228.6 in3, 3746 cc Flat 6
  • Twin Turbocharger with Independent Intercooler
  • Mid-Rear mounted engine
  • Rear Wheel Drive
  • Fully Catalyzed, stainless steel exhaust system with active bypass valves
  • Max Power 552KW (770hp) at 7100 rpm
  • Max Torque 960Nm at 4000 rpm
    • Acceleration 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) in 2.8 seconds
    • Acceleration 0-200 km/h (0-125 mph) in 9.4 seconds
    • Maximum Speed 385 km/h (240 mph) (dependent on the gear ratios)


  • Six Speed Sequential Gear or Seven Speed Dual Clutch PDK
  • Limited Slip Differential
  • Transversely Rear Mounted


  • Front Axle: McPherson-strut, anti-roll bar
  • Rear Axle: Multi-link suspension, horizontal coil over shock absorbers, anti-roll bar


  • Front Wheels: 8.5” x 19”
  • Back Wheels: 12.5” x 20”
  • Front Tires: 255/35 ZR 19
  • Back Tires: 335/30 ZR 20


  • 6 piston aluminum mono-bloc calipers ventilated, cross drilled ceramic composite discs
  • Brake Disc Diameter: 15 / 15 in (380 / 380 mm)
  • Brake Disk Thickness: 1.3 / 1.3 in (34 / 34 mm)
  • Anti-lock Braking System, Bosch ABS 8.0
  • ABS, ASR and ABD
  • Traction Control (TC)


  • Litres/100km (mpg)
  • Urban: 20.0 – Non-Urban: 9.9
  • Combined: 13.5
  • CO2 Emission (g/kg): 311
  • Efficiency Category: G


  • Carbon Fiber Center Console finish
  • Multifunction Sports Steering Wheel
  • Dual-Stage Driver/Passenger Front Airbags
  • Electrical and Heated Exterior Mirrors
  • Heated Rear Screen
  • Automatic Temperature Control
  • Trip Computer
  • Premium Sound System
  • Bluetooth® Telephone Preparation
  • Satellite Navigation System
  • Rear View Camera (360 All Around Camera)
  • Alarm (with volumetric and tilt sensor) and immobilizer
  • Remote Control Central Door Locking and Boot Release
  • Remote Control Door Opening (1+1) and (Engine Ignition)
  • Tracking Device (Upon Request)
  • LED Ambient Lighting
  • Advanced Digital Cluster
  • 9” Hologram Display with Interactive Motion
  • Gesture Recognition (Virtual Sensors)


  • Electrically Adjustable Sports Seats
  • Special W Motors Seats with Carbon Fiber Blades
  • Dual Tone Leather with Gold Wire Stitching


  • Titanium LED Blades with 420 Diamonds (15cts)


  • Length: 4480 mm (175 in)
  • Width: 1944 mm (76.5 in)
  • Height: 1170 mm (45 in)
  • Wheelbase: 2625 mm (103.3 in)
  • Front Track: 1506 mm (59.3 in)
  • Back Track: 1585 mm (62.4 in)
  • Estimated Kerb Weight: 1380 kg



(W Motors)


Galaxy S6 versus Galaxy S6 Edge: The final word on which new Samsung smartphone you should buy

One is the base model, and one is the icing on the cake. We’ll help break down the pros, cons, and how much extra you pay to upsell from the S6 to the S6 Edge.

If you’re hemming and hawing over which of Samsung’s new Galaxy S6 superphones to order, let me help break down the major differences so you can decide which one (if any) is right for your pocket.

First things first. I reviewed both the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, and they’re both terrific. They’re also almost identical in looks and performance, so you shouldn’t sweat the decision either way.

(That said, I have a personal preference, but more on that — and in my video! — below.)

What’s the same

Let’s make it easy. Everything the Galaxy S6 has, the Galaxy S6 Edge has, too. OK, so there are a few really minor hardware differences, like the G6 Edge’s battery that’s a skosh larger than the S6’s — 2,600mAh versus 2,550mAh.

More importantly, though, they share these headliner specs:

  • Glass and metal build
  • 5.1-inch ultra-high definition screen (2,560×1,440-pixel resolution)
  • 16-megapixel camera
  • Octa-core processor
  • Available in 32GB, 64GB and 128GB capacities (no expansion available)
  • Fingerprint reader
  • Quick charging
  • Wireless charging (compatible with Qi-standard chargers)

What’s different

There are two central physical differences between the phones: the shape and the S6 Edge’s “Edge screen.”

You can read about what it’s like to hold both phones in my full reviews, but I will say here that the Edge’s two curving-down sides make it feel every bit like the elite model.

The design comes across as both sharper and more petite, with an air of fragility that will likely make most S6 Edge owners dash to buy a case. (In all reality, everyone should buy a case and glass screen protector if they want to safeguard their investments.)

Then there’s the Edge software, which includes ways to quickly reach and respond to the five most important people in your life, among other tidbits, like a night mode that dimly displays the date and time after lights-out. These are nice extras, but hardly catapult you to the next level of smartphone existence.

So, yeah. that fancy double tapered screen doesn’t do all that much. But in a world where all smartphones are flat slabs of glass, this is one of the first ones in years that really sets itself apart from a design perspective. It’s a looker.

How much more the S6 Edge will cost you

That leads us to the other big difference between the phones: price.

Carriers and retailers will set their own prices in your country and currency. For the sake of comparison, though, the 32GB S6 Edge costs between 14 percent and 19 percent more than the 32GB S6. In dollars, that’s between $100 and $130 more for the same capacity.

If I were you (or, more accurately, if you were me…)

On an absolute basis, I’d buy the Edge, for all the design reasons above, and even a bit for some of the Edge software too. (In truth, I could take or leave the Edge screen features, but I’d be miffed if Samsung hadn’t done anything with that space.)

Too bad I’m not an absolutist. While Tech-loving Me would snap up the Edge in an instant, Financially-aware Me has to think twice about getting the Edge versus spending the extra money on more S6 storage, or something else entirely.

Over time, buying the Edge means you’re paying that 14 percent to 19 percent more per month, but when you break it down, the few dollars difference (say $5 more per month according to one plan), amounts to only a little more than a latte. (Of course, those lattes add up over time.)

That’s why the standard S6 is our CNET Editors’ Choice — it’s the more prudent buy, and the overall better value.

All of which brings us full circle. S6 or S6 Edge, I truly believe they’re equally smart purchases. If you’re into design aesthetics, choose the Edge. If you’re not, stick with the S6.

And if you’re still unsure, get yourself into your nearest retailer for a little hands-on time of your own. Bar none, it’s the best way to determine which of these two is for you.