Monthly Archives: December 2015

How to Change Default Apps in Android Marshmallow

One of the freedoms Android users enjoy is being able to switch up the default options used for core apps like the browser, phone or messaging.

In previous versions of Android, you had the opportunity to make this choice when you opened one of the relevant apps for the first time, but switching to a new default app later on was a convoluted process. With Android Marshmallow, changing these choices at any time is just a few clicks away.

Here’s how to change your default apps.

1. Open Settings.

2. Tap Apps.

3. Tap the cog icon in the upper-right corner.

4. Tap Default Apps.

5. Select the Default App you would like to replace.

6. Select the app that you wish to use as the new Default App.

From then on, the app you just selected will now be launched as the default option. If you’d like to go back to a different app as your default, just repeat the above steps.


Fossil Q Dreamer review

If you wouldn’t be caught dead wearing a black plastic band, this is the tracker for you. It’s not the most useful, motivating or best value for money device but for many, it could be a choice between wearing this stylish smart bracelet or forgetting your whole health and fitness plan. Android issues aside, it handles both basic tracking and alerts nicely but in almost every instance, there’s a trade-off to consider before you buy.

  • A wearable in chic disguise
  • Fitness tracking and alerts in one package
  • Decent battery life
  • Pretty (expensive)
  • Connection issues with Android
  • App could be more incentive focused

Fashion and tech are friends now. The Tag Heuer Connected, Apple Watch Hermès Edition. It’s official, sure, but these collaborations often arrive with eye watering price tags.

Enter Fossil and its – relatively – affordable range of smartwatches and smart bracelets, all based on existing fashion accessories.

The Q Dreamer is a very similar device to Fossil’s Q Reveler and you can read the review of this, more masculine fitness tracking bracelet, for an in-depth look at the features, app and tracking shared by both options.

Fossil Q Dreamer

So we’ll keep this review short and sweet and focus on what the Q Dreamer brings to the notion of a fitness tracking piece of smart jewellery. Starting with the fact that depending on which model you choose, this is Fossil’s Wearable For Girls.


You’re paying for the Q Dreamer’s pretty looks here and very pretty it is – not in your face like say, Opening Ceremony’s MICA bracelet but chic enough to get me plenty of genuine compliments during the time I’ve been wearing it.

The tracker comes in two styles – the feminine rose gold finish/pale pink leather and more masculine stainless steel/black leather. There are also a couple of interchangeable 12mm straps (turquoise, brown, white etc) which you can buy later on to switch out.

It’s better looking than pretty much any other bracelet style tracker I’ve used so if that’s important, this could really sway you. It’s super light, at 28.2g, and IP67 water resistant down to 1m too – that’s not really designed for swimmers, and you won’t want to get the band wet, but it does put your mind at ease in terms of cooking mishaps and rainy days.

Three LEDs adorn either side of the hidden tech module which you can set up for alerts – we’d have been happy with just one set as over dinner, it can be distracting for the person sat opposite when you receive a text. Not as subtle as it could be.

It’s well built, feels secure and the 10mm module doesn’t feel as chunky as a smartwatch with an LCD screen would. Now, I’m not the best at keeping my gadgets – or my accessories – in perfect shape but the Sand leather and rose gold Q Dreamer I’ve been wearing has fared worse than most (as you can tell from the pics). The pale pink leather band got grubby very quickly and the main module scuffed really easily. Bear this in mind if you’re looking for a 24/7 wearable.

It’s also worth noting that Fossil’s ID Plaque bracelet (which the Q Dreamer is loosely based on) is about a third of the price so this is quite a bit more expensive. Expect prices to drop next year when Fossil cottons on.

Tracking and alerts

Before we move on to what the Q Dreamer can do – a quick warning, as Wareable’s editor Michael Sawh experienced with the Q Reveler, we have also had Bluetooth issues on Android.

This was in the form of (annoying) sporadic error alerts saying that the Q Dreamer wasn’t connected, the actual pairing process went smoothly. Fossil’s range seems to get on better with iPhone – and we’ve certainly experiencedworse – but on Android, it might not be really enough to entrust it with your alerts. Still, when it works, here’s what Fossil’s smart bracelet is capable of.

First up, alerts – the Q Dreamer handles these nicely with standard smartwatch-style vibrations and the aforementioned LEDs letting you know when you’ve got a message. There’s no screen so you need to head back to your smartphone to actually find out what’s going on but you can assign LED colours to different apps.

Next, tracking. This is as simple as it gets – more so even than Misfit – and there are no complicated sensors or extras like GPS. The Q Dreamer’s three axis accelerometer tracked our daily steps and distance within about a 10% margin error of the accurate (and cheaper) Misfit Shine 2.

Basic features like an alert and animation in the app when you reach your daily goal are nice touches but, in my view, don’t go far enough to help you make real lifestyle changes. There’s no sleep tracking and no heart rate data – the only extra you get is an estimate of calories burned.

If you want a stylish smart bracelet which comes with the added bonus of nudging you to move more and alerting you to messages and emails when you’re on the move, this is a great fit. If you have a particular fitness goal or you want to track sports, look elsewhere to more practical, slightly uglier wearables.

Fossil Q App

I liked the app’s UI and this is a great step in building a user friendly, lifestyle app when something like Fitbit might be too much. But I really missed the extra detail and motivation you get from dedicated fitness tracking apps, whether that’s daily, weekly or monthly graphs, smart coaching hints or more of a community to inspire each other. Daily goals and progress are easy to glance at so it works in this sense but there’s more work to be done here.

One great aspect is that Fossil has kept this range nice and open so you could save the Q Dreamer for going out or weekends away then sync it to Google Fit, Apple Health, Under Armour or Jawbone’s UP platform.

The less said about the Q Curiosity challenges the better – if you’re into life affirming Instagram photos and playing Manic Pixie Dream Girl you will love them. If not, they are easily ignored.

What’s more helpful is being able to choose which apps you’ll get notifications from in the app and also assign different coloured LEDs for types of alerts. It also tells you how many alerts you’ve had which is a bit overwhelming/unnecessary.

Battery life

The Q Dreamer tends to last between six and nine days in use and, of course, it depends on whether you just want a passive tracker or LED-blinking, vibrating alerts constantly seeking your attention. That’s pretty decent, better than most alert-only smart jewellery and comparable to more practical trackers like the Fitbit Charge HR.

Still, the Misfit Shine 2 handles fitness tracking – and sleep tracking – as well as alerts and lasts up to six months on a coin cell battery. The Q Dreamer isn’t so impressive when you consider that comparison.

As for the charging, it comes with a bundled wireless charging cradle which to be honest I find rather fiddly but it’s better than plenty of other solutions.


Audi RS Q3 review : One of the fastest small SUVs you can buy


  • Makes a great sound
  • Unassuming looks
  • Fast acceleration


  • Not great value
  • Doesn’t handle like a sports car
  • Poorly equipped

The Audi RS Q3 is the German carmaker’s first SUV to get the high-performance RS treatment. It’s a very niche car and doesn’t have a lot of rivals, but the Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 and thePorsche Macan S are similar in price and pace. Even the slowerRange Rover Evoque Si4 is a worthy alternative because it’s equally capable in the corners.

The best part about the RS Q3 is that it shares the characterful five-cylinder engine with the RS3. With a broad spread of pulling power and an addictive soundtrack, the engine is more usable than the four-cylinders found in rivals. After a mid-life facelift in 2015, the gearbox shifts quicker and the engine got an extra 29hp to bump it up to 335hp. This brought the already fast 0-62mph time down by two tenths to a very impressive 4.8 seconds. Top speed is limited to 155mph.

On the road it’s another pleasant surprise – the RS Q3 is firm but never as uncomfortable as RS cars used to be. Stick it in the Comfort driving mode and it’s perfectly comfortable for long journeys. The same can’t be said for the firm-riding GLA 45.

Inside, it’s typical Audi fare with little RS touches here and there. Quality is impeccable, but to replace some of the cheaper plastics with carbon-fibre inlays is a £250/$375 option. And this is generally the theme in the interior – the more you spend on options the better it looks and feels.

For a top-of-the-range RS model, the small Audi is quite poorly equipped – a Bluetooth phone connection and leather sports seats are just about the only kit that stands out, but even those you can get as standard in cheaper crossovers.

Audi RS Q3 passenger space

For a small SUV, the RS Q3 is pretty spacious. Despite having five seats, it’s much more usable as a four-seater because the middle rear seat is quite narrow and the transmission tunnel on the floor takes up lots of leg room. The sloping roofline can also be a problem for passengers taller than six feet and the narrow opening for the small rear doors doesn’t help with graceful entry and exit, either.

In the front, the driver and passenger are treated to large sport seats that hug you tightly in place, but never feel as hard as those in the GLA 45. There’s plenty of manual adjustment to the seat and steering wheel so it’s easy to get a good driving position. As part of the 2015 facelift, the driver’s seat was dropped by 15mm and testers liked the improvement saying you now feel you sit in the seat instead of on top of it.

Audi RS Q3 boot space

The RS Q3 is more practical than the RS3 thanks to a bigger, 420-litre, boot – 55 more than in the hatchback. The boot lid is electrically operated and the opening wide, with a relatively low lip – this means it’s relatively easy to haul heavy loads into the back of the car. Fold the rear seats flat and you’re left with 1,365 litres of space. For comparison the GLA 45 is more spacious with the seats up (480 litres) but less so with them folded down (1,235 litres). And while the Porsche Macan has a bigger boot altogether at 500-1,500 litres, the Evoque is the luggage king here with 575-1,400 litres of boot space.


If you’re still confused about whether this is a jacked-up hatchback that can go fast or a lowered SUV that can go fast, don’t worry, we haven’t figured it out either. We don’t think Audi really knows either, but what we have here is an RS car that does what we expect it to – it offers huge performance, under-the-radar styling and a dash of luxury.

In terms of rivals, the Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 is sharper and more engaging to drive and the Porsche Macan S is equally capable, but more expensive. Ultimately, as an all-rounder, the RS Q3 is best. However, the Audi RS3 hatchback is cheaper and better to drive and uses the same addictive engine as the RS Q3 – and that’s likely the best alternative to this fast SUV oddity.


Lenovo Y Gaming Precision Mouse Review — Gaming Imprecision

  • Adjustable weights
  • Comfortable textured grips
  • Clunky design
  • Unhelpful software
  • Inconsistent performance
  • Uncomfortable button layout

With a so-so sensor and highly limited software, the Lenovo Y Gaming Precision Mouse costs too much and does too little.

If Lenovo is correct to claim that the Y Gaming Precision Mouse ($70) is a “best-in-class” gaming mouse, it’s only because it’s been receiving a remedial education. This peripheral looks promising right out of the box: big and textured, with a slick red-and-black color scheme. The shine is only skin-deep, however, as the Y Gaming Precision employs a so-so sensor and highly limited software. With a $70 price tag, you could — and should — choose a much better gaming companion.


The Y Gaming Precision is enormous: 5.3 x 3.3 x 1.6 inches. Compared to other all-purpose mice, like the Razer DeathAdder (5.0 x 2.8 x 1.7 inches) or the Logitech Proteus Core (5.2 x 3.0 x 1.6 inches), it is either a little or a lot bigger than the competition.

Credit: Jeremy Lips / Tom's Guide

At first glance, it’s quite a striking design. The mouse is both round and angular, with coarse textures for both the thumb and the two outermost fingers. With a black-and-red motif and backlighting to match, the Y Gaming Precision looks like a formidable contender — at least until you pick it up.

In actuality, the mouse’s plastic shell feels a bit flimsy and cheap, and the mouse is so big that it’s not really comfortable for anyone but the largest-handed ladies and gentlemen. Using a palm grip is fine, but you can forget about a claw grip; it’s simply too big and clunky.

Credit: Jeremy Lips / Tom's Guide

The button layout is also, to put it charitably, irregular. The left button and right button feel fine, but the scroll wheel is a bit too rubbery, which makes it feel somewhat cheap. Below that, the dots-per-inch (DPI) sensitivity button features lighting to let you know the DPI level — which is good. But the button goes dark a split second after you change levels, making the feature only marginally useful. There are two buttons near the upper left, and you can’t use them to adjust DPI.

The Y Gaming Precision also has two thumb buttons. The first is a triangular one that on any other mouse would activate a “sniper mode” (temporarily lowered DPI for first-person shooters), but that feature is not available on the Y Gaming Precision. The second is an all-purpose thumb button, but it’s long and thin, and it rests just above where the thumb sits, which feels unintuitive.

Credit: Jeremy Lips / Tom's Guide

On the bright side, Lenovo’s mouse also comes with four 5-gram weights, and you can adjust the heft of the mouse easily by placing them in a compartment on the peripheral’s underside. Getting them in and out can be a bit sticky, but overall, it’s easily one of the Y Gaming Precision’s best features.


A mouse may feel clunky and cheap, but these are forgivable problems if it offers a ton of useful extra features or fantastic performance. The Y Gaming Precision doesn’t succeed on either count. When it comes to software, the Y Gaming Precision feels limited and archaic, when it even deigns to function at all.


The Y Gaming Precision Mouse runs on a piece of specialized software by the same name. Although Lenovo also produces a Y Gaming headset, there is no connectivity between the two devices, which puts Lenovo at a disadvantage compared with software like the Razer Synapse 2.0, the Logitech Gaming Software and the Roccat Swarm.

Credit: Jeremy Lips / Tom's Guide

In theory, the software lets you reprogram buttons, customize DPI, control the backlighting and set up macros. In reality, the button assignments are limited to simple mouse commands and media controls. Unless you set up a macro, you cannot even assign a keyboard command to a mouse button, as is standard on almost every other gaming mouse. A gaming mouse that can’t mimic keystrokes is basically just an office mouse with DPI options.

The macros themselves do work, but require following a fairly arcane set of instructions, involving a lot of different programming steps and confirmation buttons. Simply setting a thumb button to A for an attack-move command in StarCraft II, for example, is a process rather than a simple assignment.


Other aspects of the mouse are functional, but confusing. You can set up and name individual profiles, but you can’t link them with games or other software. There are two separate menus to set DPI levels, and they seem to bear little relation to one another. To set the “breathing” effect on the backlighting (the only effect available), you have to uncheck the box.


Normally, whatever else a gaming mouse’s failings may be, they at least perform well in-game. Using a high-quality sensor ensures that your hand motions will translate faithfully into game commands, regardless of how comfortable the mouse or how intuitive the software. In terms of performance, the Y Gaming Precision mouse isn’t terrible, but it’s also not up to the standard of what a gaming mouse should be.

I ran through Rainbow Six Siege, StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void, Batman: Arkham Knight and Star Wars: The Old Republic with the Y Gaming Precision, and the results were mixed. The Y Gaming Precision didn’t distinguish itself in any category (particularly not in FPS, as the sniper button isn’t a sniper button at all), and in some cases, it didn’t work very well at all.


Hunting down terrorists in Rainbow Six Siege worked well enough, as did commanding space armies in Legacy of the Void. However, even when I turned the DPI up, controlling the camera felt shaky and jumpy in Arkham Knight and The Old Republic. Something about the sensor feels a little sluggish and unresponsive, and while it’s not a deal-breaker for single-player adventures, it’s a shortcoming I’ve encountered in very few other mice.

Bottom Line

At best, the Y Gaming Precision is uninspired, and, at worst, it’s broken. Many of its problems, as significant as they are, would be excused in a budget mouse, but not one that sells for $70. For that price, you could get the excellent Logitech Daedalus Apex or the equally excellent Razer DeathAdder Chroma. If Lenovo has a genuine desire to compete in the gaming mouse space, its next effort will have to be much stronger than its first.



Cat S40 Review: The Monster Truck of Phones

  • Sturdy, waterproof design
  • Good battery life
  • Bright display
  • Mediocre cameras
  • Low-res screen
  • Sluggish performance

The sturdy Cat S40 is a waterproof and drop-proof Android phone, but its poor cameras and slow performance disappoint.

Caterpillar, which makes monster-size trucks, now has a monster of a phone. Designed for construction workers or anyone working in harsh environments, the Cat S40 promises rugged protection from dust, drops and water. It runs Android Lollipop and comes with a generous-size battery as well. But for its $400 price, the Cat S40 should offer a better camera and more speed.

Design: Built to Last

With a rubberized back and solid-metal chassis, the Cat S40 looks like the phone Bob the Builder would use.

Photo: Jeremy Lips / Tom's Guide

Unlike the rounded rectangles or rectangular blocks we see on smartphones today, the Cat S40 has a somewhat hexagonal shape that gives it a unique look. Its silver edges add a touch of class to what would otherwise look and feel like a truck tire.

Photo: Jeremy Lips / Tom's Guide

A dedicated button in Caterpillar’s trademark yellow on the phone’s left side lets you turn on the phone’s flashlight by default, but you can program it to launch a specific app, wake the device or start the Google app.

Photo: Jeremy Lips / Tom's Guide

Along the right edge are securely covered microSD, nano SIM and micro USB slots, and three black, ridged buttons for volume up, down and power. Below the device’s 4.7-inch display are three physical keys for Back, Home and All Apps.

All the buttons are easy to find and press while you’re wearing gloves, although they require some force to depress, but the covers for the USB and card slots are trickier to open with work gloves in the way.

Photo: Jeremy Lips / Tom's Guide

Measuring 5.7 x 2.9 x 0.49 inches, the Cat S40 is smaller but thicker than the Google Nexus 5X, theMotorola Droid Maxx 2 and the 0.34-inch Galaxy S6 Active. The S40 has a smaller 4.7-inch screen compared to the other phones, though.

At 6.52 ounces, the Cat S40 is also heavier than your typical Android phone. Only the 6.2-ounceOnePlus 2 and 6-ounce Maxx 2 approached its weight. The extra weight is noticeable compared to today’s smartphones, but because of the phone’s rugged build, it felt justified.

Ruggedness and Water Resistance: Impenetrable

This phone can take whatever you throw at it. The Cat S40 is certified drop-proof up to military spec MIL-810G, meaning it’s supposed to withstand drops from up to 5.9 feet onto concrete surfaces. It’s also designed to continue working in extreme temperatures, ranging from minus 13 to 131 degrees Fahrenheit.

Photo: Jeremy Lips / Tom's Guide

I dropped the S40 from roughly 6 feet high onto a stone surface several times, and it came away without a scratch. However, unlike the Droid Turbo 2, the screen on the S40 isn’t shatterproof.


With a water and dust ingress rating of IP67, the S40 is dustproof and waterproof, able to withstand a dive in up to 3.3 feet of water for up to 60 minutes. We dunked the device in a foot of water, making sure to check that all the ports and flaps were closed before doing so. An hour later, I took the S40 out of the water, and it still worked perfectly.

Cat S40 Water Tank Test

To make it more convenient for construction workers clad in safety equipment, the S40’s Gorilla Glass display can recognize your touch even if you are wearing gloves up to 4 mm thick. With Glove mode on, I launched apps and easily swiped through pages while I was wearing my gloves.

The screen will also detect wet fingers, so you can use the phone in the rain or under water.

Display and Audio: Just Alright

At 4.7 inches and just 960 x 540 pixels, the S40’s touch screen is small and low-res by today’s standards. A 720p trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens was colorful enough to show off the BB-8 droid’s bright orange stripes, while Darth Vader’s mauled helmet was clear. Viewing angles were limited, though, as images washed out when I turned the phone from side to side.

The S40 is designed to be bright enough to see even under the scorching sun at outdoor construction sites, and it lives up to that promise. Registering 566 nits on our light meter, the S40’s display is more luminous than the average smartphone and Galaxy S6 active (547 nits). However, the Cat phone doesn’t match the Droid Maxx 2.

Displaying a respectable 102.9 percent of the sRGB color gamut, the S40 has a richer screen than the Maxx 2 (98.1 percent), but can show fewer colors than the average smartphone (117.5 percent), including the Nexus 5X, the OnePlus 2 and the S6 active.

With a Delta-E error rating of 2.5, the S40 produces more accurate hues than the average smartphone, but competing phones get closer to a perfect 0.

Photo: Jeremy Lips / Tom's Guide

The Cat S40’s bottom-mounted speaker was just loud enough to fill a small meeting room, but the music it pumped out sounded tinny. Drake’s Hotline Bling came across as flat and metallic, while The Darkness’ I Believe In A Thing Called Love jangled unpleasantly.

Software and Apps: Tailor-Made for Outdoor Workers

Running the relatively outdated Android 5.0.1 Lollipop, the S40 has very few differences from stock Android. In addition to the Play Store, Cat offers its own app store called App Toolbox, which Caterpillar created in collaboration with Appland to provide a curated selection of apps tailored to workers.

App Toolbox contains such lists as Construction Apps and Farming Apps, as well as such titles as Mining Weekly, Track Construction Equipment, ViewRanger GPS and Trails.

Caterpillar also tossed in its own Cat Phones tool, which looks like an app but actually opens the Cat support website in the browser. It makes looking for help a bit more convenient than having to search for the website in the default browser, but the approach is also somewhat misleading.

Performance: Slow

Like a truck racing a car, the S40 cannot outperform its competition. Equipped with a feeble 1.1-GHz Snapdragon 210 CPU with just 1GB of RAM, the Cat S40 wheezed its way through many tasks. Closing the 10 apps I had open caused the phone to pause, while opening a complicated PDF document took 28 seconds — more than the 15.6 seconds it takes the average smartphone. Although swiping through home screens was smooth enough, launching games such as Drag Racing introduced lag.

Scoring just 1,019 on general-performance test Geekbench 3, the S40 lost to the average smartphone (2,758), as well as the octa-core-armed Maxx 2 (2,170). The S6 active is about five times faster, but it’s also more expensive.


Don’t expect to enjoy rich 3D games on the S40, either. Notching just 4,338 on 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited, the S40 delivered graphics performance that’s about three times worse than the average phone.

Cameras: Not So Sharp

The S40’s 8-megapixel rear camera is capable of delivering fairly good images on location, but it doesn’t offer the kind of detail and color accuracy more premium handsets deliver, such as the 16-MP Galaxy S6 active or the similarly priced Maxx 2 (21 MP).

Photo: Jeremy Lips / Tom's Guide

My shot of a Manhattan building against the sky was clear, but the blue sky looked paler than it did in real life. Ridge details on the edge of the roof were crisp.

At night, the S40 struggled to produce sharp shots. While my pic of Manhattan streets at night was bright enough for me to see individual windows on a dark building, the image was blurry and marred by flares from streetlights.

The 720p (highest resolution the S40 can record) video I shot of a busy cafe was bright, colorful and smooth.

Cat S40 Sample Video

Selfies I shot with the 2-MP front camera were splotchy and speckled, with my bright, peach-colored sweater looking like a pale, pastel pink and appearing more fuzzy than furry.

The S40’s camera app gives you control over settings such as ISO light sensitivity, exposure compensation and focus mode, which is more than what the standard Android camera app offers.

Battery Life: All Day Long

Packing a generous 3000-mAh battery, the S40 will last you all workday long and then some. The handset clocked 9 hours and 42 minutes on our battery test (Web surfing over AT&T’s 4G network at 150 nits of brightness), beating the average smartphone (8:13) and the OnePlus 2 (8:07). However, the Droid Maxx 2, the Galaxy S6 active and the Nexus 5X all lasted longer.

Bottom Line

Built to withstand harsh environments, the S40 is certainly one of the most rugged phones we’ve tested, surviving everything from drops to dunks. It also offers solid battery life. But its lackluster cameras and low-res display make the $400 price harder to swallow.

Photo: Jeremy Lips / Tom's Guide

If you don’t need something that’s as sturdy as the S40, consider the Droid Maxx 2, which has superior cameras, better performance and a sharper screen. Note that the Droid is just water-resistant, not waterproof like the Cat S40.

Those willing to splurge should take a good look at the $549 Galaxy S6 active. It’s waterproof and rugged, and it boasts excellent cameras, a long-lasting battery and speedy performance. However, the Samsung is rated to survive drops from 4 feet, compared to 6 feet for the Cat S40.

Overall, the Cat S40 is a solid phone that can take a beating, so long as you don’t mind some lag.



HP Spectre x2 review: A less expensive Surface rival

We’ve been noticing something the past few months: Every tech company is trying to be more like Microsoft. Which is to say, they’re belatedly copying the Surface Pro, a laptop/tablet mashup that’s already in its fourth generation. There are different examples: the iPad Pro from Apple, Google’s Pixel C, as well as offerings from Lenovo and Dell. But HP’s latest is an especially literal interpretation. The Spectre x2, as it’s called, is a 12-inch Windows tablet with a keyboard cover. Also like the Surface Pro, it sports a kickstand around back and can be used with a pressure-sensitive pen. But, it’s cheaper and the keyboard actually comes in the box (hear that, Microsoft?). On paper, then, it would seem that while the x2 isn’t groundbreaking, it could be worthwhile in its own right.

  • Less expensive than rival machines and includes a keyboard, too
  • Comfortable typing experience
  • Adjustable kickstand
  • Decent audio
  • Uses Intel’s depth-sensing RealSense camera setup
  • Supports pressure-sensitive pens
  • Doesn’t support Windows Hello, despite having RealSense cameras
  • Touchpad can be flaky
  • Not so comfortable to use in the lap
  • Slower than its rivals with shorter battery life
  • Despite having a Core M chip, isn’t necessarily thinner or lighter than “Core i” systems

The Spectre x2 undercuts its competitors with a lower price that includes a keyboard in the box (and it’s a very comfortable keyboard, at that). Still, for more money you could buy a similar product with faster performance, longer battery life and a sharper screen. That means the x2 is a good deal for the money, but not the best in its class.


It works like a Surface, but it doesn’t look like one. Whereas the Surface Pro is all chamfered edges and unibody metal, the Spectre x2 is marked by rounded corners, exposed screws and some chrome and glass bits. Let’s start our tour on the backside for once, because that’s where most of the action is. The all-important kickstand sits flush with the rear case until you hold down a release lever on the left side. When extended, it looks like an easel, with an open metal frame that stays put on flat surfaces, but isn’t always comfortable to balance on your lap. I also find it’s slightly more cumbersome to pull out than the Surface’s kickstand, though both are a bit awkward in that respect. On the plus side, the kickstand is fully adjustable (also like the Surface Pro), which not all hybrids are.

Also on the rear, you’ll find a black glass strip lining the top edge. That’s where HP places Intel’s 3D RealSense camera setup, which is composed of a main 8-megapixel shooter and stereoscopic 720p cameras for capturing different layers of depth information. As we’ve found in other productsusing the technology, it can be fun to take photos and then adjust the focus after the fact, as well as apply filters to selective parts of the picture. Unfortunately, while RealSense devices are in theory able to take advantage of the Windows Hello biometric log-in in Windows 10, the fact that these depth-sensing cameras are on the back of the x2 means they won’t be of any use for things like facial or iris recognition when you want to quickly sign in to your machine. Also, it’s a little awkward using a 12-inch, nearly 1.9-pound tablet to frame shots.

Speaking of the sort, the x2 is thin and light in the grand scheme of things — i.e., compared to full-fledged laptops — but it’s not remarkably small either. All told, it comes in at 840 grams (1.85 pounds) and 8mm (0.31 inch) thick. That makes it easy to carry indeed, though the keyboard cover adds quite a bit of weight, bringing the total to 2.68 pounds. Meanwhile, the Surface Pro 4 starts at 1.69 pounds, with the optional Type Cover adding just 0.64 pounds. Need some more examples? The tablet portion of theSurface Book weighs 1.6 pounds with a more powerful Core i5 or i7 processor, while the 12.9-inch iPad Pro starts at 1.57 pounds and measures 0.27 inch thick, despite having a larger screen than the x2.

If it sounds like I’m splitting hairs, I have a point. One of the main reasons to use Core M, ostensibly, is that you can achieve thinner and lighter designs than you could with a heavier-duty Core i processor. Or, at least, that was the case last year when the first Core M PCs started hitting the market. Now, though, there’s no real benefit, at least in terms of size and weight. As you’ll see, too, Core i systems still have a leg up when it comes to both battery life and raw performance power. That leaves just one reason to get a Core M system, then, and that’s price.

Before I get too far ahead of myself, though, let me finish up my tour of the tablet. The all-important power/lock button sits on the top edge, with separate pin-locked microSD and SIM trays on the right. Also on the right is one of two USB Type-C ports that you can use to charge the device. Google’s latest Pixel Chromebook also had two USB-C charging ports and while it’s not what I’d call a necessity, it’s nice to be able to choose which side you’d like to have the charging cord to come out of, depending on where you’re sitting relative to the nearest outlet. Should you need a full-sized USB Type-A connection, there’s a dongle included in the box, something other hardware makers don’t bother to offer.

On the left edge is the second USB-C socket, along with a two-stage volume rocker, headphone jack and the release lever for the kickstand. Lastly, the tablet features dual Bang & Olufsen speakers, one on the right and left side. (There’s also some B&O branding on both the tablet and keyboard dock, lest you forget who’s responsible for those thumping tunes.)


At the center of everything is the 12-inch IPS display. The resolution is capped at 1,920 x 1,080, which is lower than some competing products, including both the Surface Pro 4 and iPad Pro. Still, on a screen this small, the difference would be subtle at best, so in the interest of keeping the cost down, this was a fine compromise. Even if the screen angle weren’t adjustable, which thankfully it is, I would have had an easy time making out the screen. As a warning, the glossy panel doesn’t completely repel glare, but color and contrast at least stays mostly consistent as you tilt the screen forward and back.

Lastly, the x2 is compatible with pressure-sensitive Wacom pens — that’s the same technology that the Surface Pro used to have before Microsoftbought Wacom competitor N-Trig. All of which is to say: The x2 will make a good pen tablet for drawing and note-taking, so long as you’re willing to buy your own writing implement. HP sells an active pen on its site for $30, though any Wacom pen using the same technology will do.


The Spectre x2 might be slower than the competition, and the battery life might not be as long, and the screen might not be as sharp, but damn if it doesn’t have one of the best keyboards I’ve seen on a device like this. The metal keyboard feels sturdy, for starters, which goes a long way toward making it comfortable to use in the lap. It’s backlit — another plus. And, perhaps most importantly, the keys are generously sized with an impressive 1.5mm of travel, making them uncommonly cushy for a product in this class.

Also, I like how HP gives you a choice of resting the keyboard flat against your desk (or lap), or instead folding up the top to attach to magnets inside the tablet’s lower bezel. This gives the keyboard a lift in the back that for some will translate to a more ergonomically sound experience.

Too bad the touchpad isn’t nearly as refined. To be fair, when it works it works well, with smooth enough scrolling and precise cursor tracking. But it doesn’t always work. I wasn’t always able to get the pointer to go, and I frequently found myself accidentally rearranging pinned browser tabs. Worse, there were times when I swiped my finger across the large touch surface only to find that it wasn’t responding. Usually, a little persistence would do the trick, as would detaching and then reattaching the tablet. But it shouldn’t be that way. Fortunately, I think this is just the sort of problem a firmware update can fix.

Performance and battery life

HP Spectre x2 (1.2GHz Core M7-6Y75, Intel HD 515) 3,395 3,307 E1,884 / P1,148 / X331 2,737 554 MB/s / 281 MB/s
Microsoft Surface Pro 4 (2.4GHz Core i5-6300U, Intel HD 520) 5,403 3,602 E2,697/ P1,556/ X422 3,614 1.6 GB/s / 529 MB/s
Lenovo Yoga Pro 900(2.5GHz Core i7-6500U, Intel HD 520) 5,368 3,448 E2,707 / P1,581 3,161 556 MB/s / 511 MB/s
Microsoft Surface Book(2.4GHz Core i5-6300U, Intel HD 520) 5,412 3,610 E2,758 / P1,578 / X429 3,623 1.6 GB/s / 571 MB/s
Microsoft Surface Book(2.6GHz Core i7-6600U, 1GB NVIDIA GeForce graphics) 5,740 3,850 E4,122 / P2,696 6,191 1.55 GB/s / 608 MB/s
HP Spectre x360 (2015, 2.2GHz Intel Core i5-5200U, Intel HD 5500) 4,965 N/A E1,667 / P932 / X265 N/A 555 MB/s / 270 MB/s
Dell XPS 13(2015, 2.2GHz Intel Core i5-5200U, Intel HD 5500) 4,900 N/A E2,114 / P1,199 / X330 N/A 515 MB/s / 455 MB/s

The Spectre x2 comes with your choice of Core M3, M5 or M7 processor. It’s the same idea as Core i3, i5 and i7, except that Intel Core M sacrifices speed for the sake of achieving especially thin and light designs, like the one we have here. The unit I tested was a top-of-the-line configuration, with a dual-core 1.2GHz Core M7-6Y75 processor, Intel HD 515 graphics and 8GB of memory. Even with the best specs offered, benchmark scores still trail new machines with Core i5 chips, including the Surface Pro 4. In particular, you’ll notice a big gap in graphics-focused tests, like 3DMark.

To its credit, the LiteOn solid-state drive delivered max write speeds of 554 MB/s in ATTO’s disk test, which is in line with many other SSDs we’ve tested recently. Even so, though, it takes the Spectre x2 about 15 seconds to boot into the desktop, whereas it might take a faster machine around 10. Also, write speeds topped out at an average 281 MB/s, which trails many of its contemporaries, including the SP4, which gets into the 500-megabyte-per-second territory in write tests.

HP Spectre x2 6:43
Surface Book (Core i5, integrated graphics) 13:54 / 3:20 (tablet only)
MacBook Air (13-inch, 2013) 12:51
HP Spectre x360 11:34
Surface Book (Core i7, discrete graphics) 11:31 / 3:02 (tablet only)
Apple MacBook Pro with Retina display (13-inch, 2015) 11:23
iPad Pro 10:47
Chromebook Pixel (2015) 10:01
Lenovo Yoga Pro 900 9:36
Microsoft Surface 3 9:11
Apple MacBook (2015) 7:47
Dell XPS 13 (2015) 7:36
Microsoft Surface Pro 4 7:15
Microsoft Surface Pro 3 7:08

HP rates the Spectre x2 for 10 hours of battery life. If they say so. Perhaps it’s possible to achieve 10 hours of use if you lower the brightness to a fairly dim setting and use the machine intermittently. For my part, I never came close to reaching that milestone. With an HD video looping and the brightness fixed at 65 percent, the x2 managed six hours and 43 minutes. And it seems we’re not alone: Our friends at Laptop Mag, for instance, got around six and a half hours in what’s arguably a less taxing test.

All told, between the performance and battery life results, I’m convinced there’s not much reason at this point to buy a device with Intel Core M, especially if you have a choice. Yes, it enables super slim designs, but so do the latest “Core i” processors. Core-i chips also offer faster performance, and early reviews suggest that battery life is longer too, especially compared to last year’s Core CPUs. The only benefit to Core M seems to be that those models are slightly cheaper price your typical Core i5 system. But if you intend to own your next computer for several years, that extra $100 or so is well worth it.

Configuration options and the competition

The Spectre x2 starts at $800 with an Intel Core M3-6Y30 processor, Intel HD 515 graphics, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. From there, you can upgrade to a $950 configuration with a Core M5-6Y54 chip and 8GB of memory. That model is customizable, too, allowing you to swap in a Core M7 CPU ($50) and either a 256GB ($150) or 512GB ($450) SSD. Either way, the keyboard comes standard in the box, and the 12-inch screen has a fixed resolution of 1,920 x 1,080.

Or you could not buy an x2 at all. There are plenty of similar-looking tablet hybrids out there, including the one that started the trend: Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4. If you were to compare the two based on price alone, the SP4 would seem like the worse deal: With a higher starting price of $899, it has the same key specs as the $800 Spectre x2, and doesn’t come with a keyboard in the box (you’ll need to buy that separately for $130). Price aside, though, it’s still the better product. It’s lighter (1.69 pounds, versus 1.85); it’s more comfortable to use in the lap; it offers more powerful spec options; and the battery life is slightly longer, even with a more pixel dense display. Of the two, the Surface Pro 4 is the one I’d sooner recommend to my family and friends.

There are others. Lenovo will soon begin selling the Miix 700, and Dell recently released the XPS 12, a 12-inch Windows tablet with an accompanying keyboard dock. Since I haven’t had a chance to test this one yet, I can’t vouch for the performance, though it’s worth noting that it runs on Core M chips, just like the x2, which means you shouldn’t expect particularly fast performance. I’m also curious to see what effect the 4K screen option has on battery life.

The other thing I can’t account for is ergonomics. We already know that the 12.5-inch tablet has a fixed position inside its dock; that puts it at a disadvantage against the Spectre X2 and SP4, both of which have fully adjustable kickstands. On the other hand, perhaps the lack of a kickstand will make it more comfortable to use in the lap. We’ll see.

And lastly, what kind of reviewer would I be if I didn’t compare the Spectre x2 to the iPad Pro? It, too, is a pen-enabled tablet designed to be used as a laptop on occasion, and it starts at a similar price of $799. The performance is fast, the battery life is longer than on the Spectre x2 and the pressure-sensitive Apple Pencil works well. But, iOS 9 isn’t as robust a multitasker as OS X or Windows 10; none of the optional keyboard docks allow you to adjust the screen angle; and the fact that iOS 9 has no mouse support can get tiresome, depending on what you’re doing. It’s a worthy product in some ways, but I only recommend it in its current form to creative pros and early adopters.


In this increasingly big world of laptop/tablet hybrids, the Spectre x2 isn’t a bad choice, especially at this price. But that doesn’t mean it’s the best. The x2 is not the fastest, the longest-lasting or the most comfortable to use in the lap. It’s screen is not the sharpest. But it’s keyboard is arguably the easiest to type on of any click-in dock I’ve seen, and the audio is surprisingly decent.

If money is no object, you will probably be happier with the Surface Pro 4. But, if you were hoping to avoid spending $930 just for the entry-level SP4 and keyboard, the x2 is a fine runner-up.


Sony A7S II Review


The Sony A7S II is a new 35mm full-frame compact system camera with a 12.2 megapixel sensor that provides an incredible ISO range of 50-409,600 and high dynamic range. Other standout highlights of the A7S II include internal 4K video recording with full pixel readout without pixel binning in full-frame format, Full HD 120fps and 4x/5x slow motion recording, gamma assist display, time code and optional XLR audio inputs, 5-axis image stabilisation system, BIONZ X image processor, a silent image capture mode, continuous shooting rate of 5fps, and an enhanced auto focus system with 169 AF points which can operate down to light levels as low as EV -4. The A7S II also features a dust/moisture-resistant magnesium alloy body, 0.78x magnification XGA OLED electronic viewfinder, tiltable 3-inch LCD screen, and NFC and Wi-Fi connectivity. The Sony A7S II is available now priced at around £2499 / $2999 body only.

Ease of Use

The aluminium bodied Sony A7S II is virtually identical to the A7R II and A7 II cameras, measuring 126.9 x 95.7 x 60.3mm and weighing 582g without a lens, battery and memory card fitted, some 140g more than last year’s A7S. The A7S II has a large handgrip which protrudes forwards and is more DSLR-like than on the original A7S. We found it easy enough to get to grips with the A7S, but the new grip on the A7S II makes for an even more secure hold. Sony have taken advantage of the bigger surface area to re-position the shutter release, which now sits in a much more logical position on top of the handgrip, with a new command dial also more conveniently located on the front. All-in-all, we’re impressed with the ergonomic improvements that have been introduced on the A7S II, and feel that the resulting increase in size and weight is a worthwhile compromise. Also located on the front of the A7S II is the newly reinforced lens mount using magnesium alloy and a small porthole on the left for the self-timer/AF illuminator.

The A7S II is Sony’s latest full-frame camera with optical 5-axis image stabilization. Most image stabilization systems compensate for camera shake by correcting yaw and pitch. Sony claim that camera shake is actually caused by five different kinds of motion, and their image stabilization mechanism additionally corrects for horizontal shift, vertical shift and rotary motion (rolling) for both still images and movies. The A7S II offers 4.5-stops of compensation, slightly behind the Olympus OM-D E-M5 which offers 5 stops, but very impressive considering that the A7S II has a much larger sensor. Furthermore, the in-body system ensures that the A7S II can stabilize all kinds of lenses, not just those with the FE designation, including E-mount lenses without Optical SteadyShot (OSS) and A-mount lenses as well, although third party lenses without any electronic contacts only benefit from three axes of compensation, and you need to input which focal length you’re using.

Sony A7S II II

Front of the Sony A7S II

On top the A7S II has an external hotshoe, dubbed the Multi Interface Shoe, for attaching one of a range of accessories, including an external flash. Thanks to its electronic front curtain shutter, the A7S II has a sync speed of 1/250th sec, making it well suited to flash-based portrait photography. Turn the On/Off switch on the top plate and the Sony A7S II readies itself for action in a just over a second, noticeably quicker than the A7S. The adequately sized shutter-release button has a definite halfway point, determining focus and exposure with a bleep of affirmation and focus points highlighted as green rectangles on the LCD.

The A7S II has a brand new reduced-vibration shutter with an electronic first-curtain that produces 50% less vibration from shutter movements than on the A7S, a very welcome improvement. The new shutter also offers an impressive cycle durability of approximately 500,000 shots, comparable to most pro-level DSLRs. The new Silent Shooting mode does exactly what its name suggests, taking the picture quietly without any sensor vibration or movement via the electronic shutter. In conjunction with the incredible ISO range, this turns the A7S II into a candid photographer’s dream ticket.

The A7S II uses an enhanced “Fast Intelligent AF” contrast-detection system, comprised of 25 contrast-detection points and nine central AF points that have been split into 16 segments each, rather than the phase-detection systems that the A7R II uses. Although a little quicker than the A7S camera, the the A7S II’s AF system does still suffer from a slight lag when shooting in good light or bad. It’s certainly not terrible, but it’s still enough to limit the A7S II’s use to slower moving subjects, and it’s also not up there with quicker contrast-based auto-focusing systems from the likes of Olympus and Panasonic on their compact system cameras.

When you choose to manually focus, a distance scale is displayed along the bottom of the LCD screen, MF Assist can be turned on to magnify the image and help you get sharp results, and there’s also the same convenient Peaking and Zebra functions from Sony’s DSLRs that highlights sharply-focused areas of the image on the LCD screen. Go on to take the shot and JPEG or Raw images are quickly committed to memory in a single second, the screen momentarily blanking out and then displaying the captured image before the user can go on to take a second shot.

A round shooting mode dial with a knurled edge and positive action is also located on top of the camera with a new locking button at its centre, which is a little annoying in practice as you now need to use two fingers to change the shooting mode.

Sony A7S II

Front of the Sony A7S II

Despite ostensibly being a camera aimed at professionals, Sony has still included Intelligent Auto scene recognition, which works in virtually identical fashion to the intelligent auto modes of Panasonic’s and Canon’s compact ranges. Simply point the A7S II at a scene or subject and the camera analyses it and automatically chooses one of a number of pre-optimised settings to best suit.

Adding to the A7S II’s snapshot simplicity, these features accompany face recognition and smile shutter functionality on board, the former mode biasing human faces in the frame and the latter mode firing the shutter when it detects a smiling subject. The Face Detection system automatically adjusts the focus, exposure and white balance for people in the frame, and can even be set to distinguish between children and adults. Smile Detection offers three self-explanatory options, Big, Normal and Slight. Used in conjunction, the Face and Smile Detection systems do result in more hits than misses, especially in contrasty lighting conditions. The self-portrait options in the self-timer menu work by automatically taking the shot with a two second delay after either one or two people have entered the frame.

In addition to the regular Program mode, which provides the full range of camera options and additionally allows you to change settings like the ISO speed and metering, is the welcome inclusion of Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority and fully Manual modes which let you independently set the aperture and shutter speed, making the A7S II instantly appeal to the more experienced photographer. The ability to choose from 30-1/8000th second shutter speeds opens up a lot of creative potential. There’s also very welcome support for the RAW file format, which is really the icing on the cake for serious photographers, although we don’t like the fact that you still can’t capture Extra Fine JPEGs and Raw files at the same time. Two Custom modes on the shooting mode dial allow you quickly access different combinations of settings.

Sony A7S IISony A7S II

Side of the Sony A7S II

The proven Sweep Panorama mode lets you capture a panoramic image very easily without the use of a tripod. All you need to decide is whether you would like to start from left or right, top or bottom. Then press and hold down the shutter release while doing a “sweep” with the camera in hand. Exposure compensation is available before you start the sweep, but the exposure is fixed once you depress the shutter button. After you are done with the sweeping, the camera does all the processing required, and presents you with a finished panoramic image. There are two modes, Standard and Wide. Note that if you do the sweeping too slowly, or you let go of the shutter release button too early, the panorama will be truncated.

Sony A7S II

Side of the Sony A7S II

In the clever Hand-held Twilight and Anti Motion Blur scene modes, the A7S II takes six shots in a rapid sequence, typically at a high sensitivity setting and a (relatively) fast shutter speed, and then combines them into a single image that has somewhat less noise than a single shot taken at the same ISO and exposure settings. In our experience, the difference between the two modes is that in Anti Motion Blur mode, the camera is more willing to pick a really high ISO setting like ISO 6400 to maintain a fast shutter speed, whereas in Hand-held Twilight mode, it will only go as high as absolutely necessary to avoid camera shake at the chosen focal length. If light levels are truly low, however, the A7S II will pick a high ISO speed even in this mode.

Sony A7S II

The Sony A7S II can shoot and record 4K video in multiple formats including full-frame and cropped Super 35mm formats, both without pixel binning. The Sony A7S II can output uncompressed UHD 4K, 3840 x 2160 pixel video (30p/24p/25p) at a 4:2:2 color depth without downsampling to either the inserted memory card or over HDMI to compatible third party recorders. The A7S II also supports the XAVC S format, which is based on the professional XAVC codec and records full-pixel readout 4K footage at 100Mbps and Full HD video footage at up to 50Mbps. In addition 1080p HD footage can be recorded at 120fps in XAVC S mode for 4x/5x slow motion recording.

Sony A7S II

Rear of the Sony A7S II

There’s the ability to change the EV level, white balance, metering, ISO speed, DRO/HDR, creative style and picture effect, plus various audio recording options. If you set the shooting mode dial to Movie, you can also choose from Program, Aperture or Shutter priority and Manual modes, giving you full control over exposure for both stills and movies.

Sony A7S II II

Rear of the Sony A7S II/Image Displayed

The clean HDMI output from the camera also allows video to be viewed on an external monitor or recorded on another device. High-resolution still images can be displayed directly on a 4K television, offering four times the detail of Full HD. The A7S II incorporates extensive customizable color and gamma controls, offering the ability to adjust the gamma, black level, knee, color level, and more, as well as use the new S-Log3 Gamma and S-Gamut3 curves in addition to S-Log2 that are found on high end Sony Cinema cameras, plus it offers multiple timecode recording options to meet different workflows.

Sony A7S II

Rear of the Sony A7S II/Turned On

The Sony A7S II can shoot full-resolution 12 megapixel pictures at up to 5fps, quite a fast rate for a 35mm full-frame camera. To achieve the full 5fps you need to set the drive mode to the Speed Priority Continuous option, which locks the focus and the exposure at the first frame. The A7S II’s regular continuous burst shooting can change the focus and exposure between frames but provides a slower rate of 2.5fps.

Sony A7S II

Rear of the Sony A7S II/Main Menu

Sony’s long-standing D-Range Optimizer and HDR functions are present to help even out tricky exposures, for example where a bright background would normally throw the foreground into deep shadow. You can see from the examples on the Image Quality page that these features produce a photo with noticeably more dynamic range than one taken using one of the standard shooting modes, but at the same time without replicating the often “false” look of many HDR programs, and both offer a wide degree of customisation that’s previously only been seen on Sony’s DSLR/SLT range.

Sony A7S II

Rear of the Sony A7S II/Function Menu

Completing the top of the A7S II is a second prominent dial for setting the Exposure Compensation and two small buttons marked with C1 and C2, which as the names suggest can both be customised to access one of the camera’s key controls.

On the back, instead of the bulky optical viewfinder of a conventional DSLR, the Sony A7S II has an electronic viewfinder. The XGA OLED electronic viewfinder on the A7S II has been further upgraded to offer a large 0.78x magnification, 100% field of view, and a staggeringly high 2,359,000 dot equivalent resolution, resulting in a display that’s virtually indistinguishable from a more traditional optical viewfinder.

As the EVF is reading the same signal from the image sensor as the rear LCD screen, it can also display similar information, with a choice of five display modes. For example, you can view and operate the A7S II’s Function Menu, giving a true preview of the scene in front of you and quick access to all the key camera settings while it’s held up to your eye. The various icons used to represent the camera settings are clear and legible. The icing on the viewing cake is the clever built-in eye sensor, which automatically switches on the viewfinder when you look into it, then switches it off and turns on the LCD monitor when you look away.

Sony A7S II II

Top of the Sony A7S II

The A7S II’s EVF system also performs very well indoors in low light, typically the scourge of most EVFs which have to “gain-up” to produce a usable picture, resulting in a noticeably grainier picture. The A7S II doesn’t suffer from this unwanted effect at all, making its electronic viewfinder the equal of and in many areas better than a DSLR’s optical viewfinder. The truest testament to the A7S II is that we almost exclusively used it by holding it up to eye-level, something that we wouldn’t do unless the EVF was of sufficient quality.

There’s also a 3-inch, 1,228K-dot resolution White Magic panel LCD screen which can be tilted up to 41° downwards to shoot over crowds or up to 107° upwards and comfortably used outdoors even in harsh sunlight, although it still can’t be rotated to the side. Located above the screen and to either side of the EVF are the Menu and C3 buttons.

Sony A7S II

Bottom of the Sony A7S II

Press the Menu button and a number of shooting and set up folders appear on screen, with white text on a black background aiding visibility. The seven shooting folders allow users to select image size, ratio and quality and – if JPEG (RAW and RAW+JPEG also available) – compression rates too, plus features like long exposure and high ISO noise reduction – all in fact activated as a default, and also contains the video quality and audio options, while the six Customise folders allow you to tweak the A7S II to your way of working. Wi-fi, Apps, Playback, and Setup folders complete the long list of configurable options. By default the C3 button allows you to change the Focus Mode, but as the name suggests it can be customised to another function.

Sony A7S II

Tilting LCD Screen

To the right is the slimmed-down rear control dial and a useful one-touch movie record button embedded within the edge of the rubberised thumb-rest. Underneath is the combined AF/MF and Auto Exposure Lock (AEL) switch/button, and underneath that the Function button which accesses up to 12 customisable options that appear on in two horizontal columns along the bottom of the LCD screen. The Function menu proves to be a very handy way to quickly change the A7S II’s key settings and one of the main ways of setting the camera to suit your shooting style.

The traditional round navigation pad can be used to navigate through menus and options, in conjunction with the small button in the middle which activates whatever it is you’ve chosen. Three of the four directions on the navigation pad can also be customised to provide a quick way of setting various options. The navigation pad doubles up as a control ring that’s used to navigate through and set menu options, and usefully also has a new setting to choose the ISO speed. The ring is a little small, but it’s not too over-sensitive and the ability to take full control of the A7S II is very welcome. In total the Sony A7S II offers 10 customisable buttons and 56 assignable functions, making it very easy to configure to suit your particular requirements.

Sony A7S II II

The Sony A7S II in-hand

Underneath the navigation pad is the Playback button, which gives users the ability to dip in and out of created folders of images or the calendar view, view thumbnails, select slideshows and choose transitional effects and accompanying music, or delete shots. Press the shutter button halfway and you’re helpfully catapulted back into capture mode. And that’s basically it. With a press of the Menu button in playback, users have access to a few in-camera retouching effects, including the ability to crop and sharpen an image and apply red-eye correction. Completing the rear of the A7S II is the self-explanatory Delete button, which doubles up as the customisable C4 button (accessing the wi-fi options by default).

As denoted by symbols on the side of the camera, the Sony A7S II is wi-fi and NFC capable and the functions can be adjusted in the Wi-fi main menu. You can choose to transmit the images to either a smartphone computer, or a compatible TV set. One cool feature of the wi-fi is being able to link the camera to your smart phone using the PlayMemories Mobile app. You can then use the phone as a remote so those outstretched arm ‘selfies’ will be a thing of the past. The A7S II also features NFC (Near Field Communication) technology (the same technology that’s used for mobile payments), which allows you to connect it to a compatible internet enabled device or another NFC-enabled camera by simply tapping them together. You can also use the WPS Push option to locate a hot spot, access settings, edit the device name, display the MAC address or format all settings if you wish.

In addition to the built-in wi-fi/nfc connectivity, the A7S II supports PlayMemories Camera Apps. As the name suggests, this is a downloadable service that lets you add new functionality to the camera, either via wi-fi or USB connection. Smart Remote Control, which allows you to control the exposure and shutter release via your smartphone, is preinstalled on the A7S II. Other optional apps available include Picture Effect+, Bracket Pro, Multi Frame NR, Photo Retouch and Direct Upload, and Sony plans to provide more new apps in the near future. Note that only some of the apps are free.

Sony A7S II Review -- Product Image

Battery Compartment

The bottom of the Sony A7S II features a standard metal screw thread for attaching it to a tripod that’s inline with the centre of the lens mount. A lockable plastic cover protects the lithium-ion battery, officially good for 310 shots. In practice we only got around 200 shots when using the electronic viewfinder and LCD screen, which obviously draw on the battery for power. Sony have included not one, but two batteries and two separate chargers in the box, but it’s still a good idea to invest in some extra batteries for an all-day shoot, and you can also recharge the battery in-camera via USB. The A7S II is also the latest A-series camera to be able to use an external USB power source to charge it whilst still taking pictures, which is very beneficial for time-lapses or longer video clips.

The removable memory card is housed within a compartment located on the right of the A7S II (when viewed from the rear), with the camera supporting the SD / SDHC / SDXC format in addition to Sony’s own proprietary Pro Duo Memory Stick format. Positioned on both sides of the A7S II are prominent metal eyelets for attaching the supplied shoulder strap. On the left are two unmarked, sturdy plastic covers, underneath which can be found the Multi port, HDMI port, and the external headphone and microphone connections.

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this review were taken using the 12 megapixel Fine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 5Mb.

The Sony A7S II produced images of outstanding quality during the review period. The Sony A7S II has a very extensive and usable ISO range of 50-409,600. ISO 50-3200 is noise-free, whilst ISO 6400 and 12,800 produce more than acceptable results, and even ISO 25,600 and 51,200 are OK for emergency use. The fastest settings of 102,400, 204,800 and 409,600 are very noisy, but they do let you shoot in virtually complete darkness. The RAW samples illustrate just how much processing the camera does by default, though, as they’re much noisier at all ISO values than their JPEG counterparts.

Sony A7S II

The 12 megapixel images are a little soft straight out of the camera using the default creative style and ideally require some further sharpening in an application like Adobe Photoshop, or you can change the in-camera sharpening level. The night photograph was excellent, with the maximum shutter speed of 30 seconds and the Bulb mode offering lots of scope for creative night photography.

The effective Dynamic Range Optimizer function extracts more detail from the shadow and highlight areas in an image, without introducing any unwanted noise or other artifacts. The High Dynamic Range mode combines two shots taken at different exposures to produce one image with greater dynamic range than a single image would produce. It only works for JPEGs and for still subjects, but does produce some very effective results. Sony’s now tried-and-trusted Sweep Panorama is still a joy to use. The various Picture Effects quickly produce special looks that would otherwise require you to spend a lot of time in the digital darkroom, while the Creative Styles provide a quick and easy way to tweak the camera’s JPEG images.


There are 14 full ISO settings available on the Sony A7S II. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting for both JPEG and RAW formats:


ISO 50 (100% Crop)

ISO 50 (100% Crop)

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

ISO 6400 (100% Crop)

ISO 6400 (100% Crop)

ISO 12800 (100% Crop)

ISO 12800 (100% Crop)

ISO 25600 (100% Crop)

ISO 25600 (100% Crop)

ISO 51200 (100% Crop)

ISO 51200 (100% Crop)

ISO 102400 (100% Crop)

ISO 102400 (100% Crop)

ISO 204800 (100% Crop)

ISO 204800 (100% Crop)

ISO 409600 (100% Crop)

ISO 409600 (100% Crop)


Here are two 100% crops which have been Saved as Web – Quality 50 in Photoshop. The right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The out-of-the camera images are a little soft at the default sharpening setting. You can change the in-camera sharpening level if you don’t like the default look.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)

File Quality

The Sony A7S II has 3 different image quality settings available, with Extra Fine being the highest quality option. Here are some 100% crops which show the quality of the various options, with the file size shown in brackets.

12M Extra Fine (8.34Mb) (100% Crop)

12M Fine (4.46Mb) (100% Crop)

12M Standard (3.21Mb) (100% Crop)

12M RAW (24.1Mb) (100% Crop)


The Sony A7S II’s maximum shutter speed is 30 seconds and there’s also a Bulb mode for even longer exposures, which is excellent news if you’re seriously interested in night photography. The shot below was taken using a shutter speed of 30 seconds at ISO 100.


Night (100% Crop)

Dynamic Range Optimizer

D-Range Optimiser (DRO) is Sony’s solution to improve shadow detail in photos taken in contrasty light. There are 5 different levels and an Auto option.


Level 1 Level 2
Level 3 Level 4
Level 5
High Dynamic Range

High Dynamic Range Optimiser (HDR) is Sony’s solution for capturing more contrast than a single exposure can handle by combining two exposures into one image. There are 6 different EV settings and an Auto option.


Creative Styles

There are 13 Creative Style preset effects that you can use to change the look of your images.










Night Scene

Autumn Leaves

Black & White


Picture Effects

The Sony A7S II offers a range of thirteen creative Picture Effects.


Toy Camera

Pop Color


Retro Photo

Soft High-key

Partial Color (Red)

High Contrast Mono

Soft Focus

HDR Painting

Rich-tone Mono




Sweep Panorama Mode

The Sony A7S II allows you to take panoramic images very easily, by ‘sweeping’ with the camera while keeping the shutter release depressed. The camera does all the processing and stitching and even successfully compensates for moving subjects. The main catch is that the resulting image is of fairly low resolution.



Lens Mount
Lens Compatibility
Sony E-mount lenses
Sensor Type
35 mm
Sensor Type
35mm full frame (35.6 x 23.8mm), Exmor CMOS sensor
Number Of Pixels (Effective)
Approx.12.2 MP
Number of Pixels (total)
Approx.12.4 MP
Image Sensor Aspect Ratio
Anti-Dust System
Charge protection coating on optical filter and image sensor shift mechanism
Recording (still images)
Recording Format (Still images)
JPEG (DCF Ver. 2.0, Exif Ver. 2.3, MPF baseline compliant), RAW (Sony ARW 2.3 format)
Image Size (pixels), 3:2
35mm full frame L: 4240 x 2832 (12M), M: 2768 x 1848 (5.1M), S: 2128 x 1416 (3.0M), APS-C L: 2768 x 1848 (5.1M), M: 2128 x 1416 (3.0M), S: 1376 x 920 (1.3M)
Image Size (pixels), 16:9
35mm full frame L: 4240 x 2384 (10M), M: 2768 x 1560 (4.3M), S: 2128 x 1200 (2.6M), APS-C L: 2768 x 1560 (4.3M), M: 2128 x 1200 (2.6M), S: 1376 x 776 (1.1M)
Image Size (pixels), Sweep Panorama
Wide: Horizontal 12416 x 1856 (23M), vertical 5536 x 2160 (12M), Standard: Horizontal 8192 x 1856 (15M), vertical 3872 x 2160 (8.4M)
Image Quality Modes
RAW, RAW & JPEG, JPEG Extra fine, JPEG Fine, JPEG Standard
RAW Output
14 bit
Uncompressed RAW
Picture Effect
13 modes: Posterization (Color, B/W), Pop Color, Retro Photo, Partial Color (R, G, B, Y), High Contrast Monochrome, Toy Camera, Soft High-key, Soft Focus, HDR Painting, Rich-tone Monochrome, Miniature, Watercolor, Illustration
Creative Style
Standard, Vivid, Neutral, Clear, Deep, Light, Portrait, Landscape, Sunset, Night Scene, Autumn Leaves, Black & White, Sepia (Contrast -3 to +3 steps, Saturation -3 to +3 steps, Sharpness -3 to +3 steps) (Style Box 1-6 also provided)
Dynamic Range Functions
Off, Dynamic Range Optimizer (Auto/Level (1-5)), Auto High Dynamic Range: Auto Exposure Difference, Exposure Difference Level (1.0-6.0 EV, 1.0 EV step)
Colour Space
sRGB standard (with sYCC gamut) and Adobe RGB standard compatible with TRILUMINOS™ Color
Recording (movie)
Recording Format
XAVC S / AVCHD format Ver. 2.0 compliant / MP4
Video Compression
XAVC S: MPEG-4 AVC/H.264; AVCHD: MPEG-4 AVC/H.264; MP4: MPEG-4 AVC/H.264
Audio Recording Format
AVCHD: Dolby Digital (AC-3), 2ch, Dolby Digital Stereo Creator, MP4: MPEG-4 AAC-LC, 2ch, XAVC S: LPCM, 2ch
Image Size (Pixels), NTSC
XAVC S 4K: 3840 x 2160 (30p/100Mbps, 30p/60Mbps, 24p/100Mbps, 24p/60Mbps); XAVC S HD: 1920 x 1080 (60p/50Mbps, 30p/50Mbps, 24p/50Mbps, 120p/100Mbps, 120p/60Mbps); AVCHD: 1920 x 1080 (60p/28Mbps/PS, 60i/24Mbps/FX, 60i/17Mbps/FH, 24p/24Mbps/FX, 24p/17Mbps/FH); MP4: 1920 x 1080 (60p/28Mbps, 30p/16Mbps), 1280 x 720 (30p/6Mbps)
Image Size (pixels), PAL
XAVC S 4K: 3840 x 2160 (25p/100Mbps, 25p/60Mbps); XAVC S HD: 1920 x 1080 (50p/50Mbps, 25p/50Mbps, 100p/100Mbps, 100p/60Mbps); AVCHD: 1920 x 1080 (50p/28Mbps/PS, 50i/24Mbps/FX, 50i/17Mbps/FH,25p/24Mbps/FX, 25p/17Mbps/FH); MP4: 1920 x 1080 (50p/28Mbps, 25p/16Mbps), 1280 x 720 (25p/6Mbps)
High Frame Rate Recording
NTSC: 1920 x 1080 (24p/12Mbps, 30p/16Mbps), PAL: 1920 x 1080 (25p/16Mbps)
Picture Profile
Yes (Off / PP1-PP9) Parameters: Black level, Gamma (Movie, Still, Cine1-4, ITU709, ITU709 [800%], S-Log2, S-Log3), Black Gamma, Knee, Color Mode (Movie, Still, Cinema, Pro, ITU709 Matrix, White&Black, S-Gamut, S-Gamut3.Cine, S-Gamut3), Saturation, Color Phase, Color Depth, Detail, Copy, Reset
Movie Functions
Audio Level Display, Audio Rec Level, Auto Slow Shutter, HDMI info. Display (On/Off selectable), Time Code/User Bit, Picture Profile, Creative Style, Picture Effect, Rec Control, Dual Video Rec, Marker Setting, PAL/NTSC Selector,Gamma Display Assist
Colour Space
xvYCC standard (x.v.Color when connected via HDMI cable) compatible with TRILUMINOS™ Color
Storage Media
Compatible Recording Media
Memory Stick PRO Duo, Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo,Memory Stick Micro (M2),SD memory card, SDHC memory card (UHS-I compliant), SDXC memory card (UHS-I compliant), microSD memory card, microSDHC memory card, microSDXC memory card
Storage Media Slot
Multi slot for Memory Stick Duo/ SD memory card
Noise reduction
Noise Reduction
Long exposure NR: On/Off, available at shutter speeds longer than 1 sec., High ISO NR: Normal/Low/Off selectable
Multi Frame NR
Auto/ISO 100 to 409600
White balance
White Balance Modes
Auto WB / Daylight / Shade / Cloudy / Incandescent / Fluorescent (Warm White / Cool White / Day White / Daylight) / Flash / Color Temperature (2500 to 9900K) & Color Filter (G7 to M7: 57 steps, A7 to B7: 29 steps) / Custom / Underwater
AWB Micro Adjustment
G7 to M7 (57 steps), A7 to B7 (29 steps)
3 frames, H/L selectable
Focus Type
Contrast-detection AF
Focus Point
169 points (contrast-detection AF)
Focus Sensitivity Range
EV -4 to EV 20 (at ISO 100 equivalent with F2.0 lens attached)
AF Mode
Single-shot AF (AF-S), Continuous AF (AF-C), Direct Manual Focus (DMF), Manual Focus
Focus Area
Wide (169 points for contrast-detection AF) / Center / Flexible Spot (S/M/L) / Zone / Expand Flexible Spot / Lock-on AF (Wide / Zone / Center / Flexible Spot (S/M/L) / Expand Flexible Spot)
Other Features
Lock-on AF, Eye AF, Focus lock; Eye-Start AF and AF micro adjustment (both only available with optional LA-EA2 or LA-EA4 attached), AF illuminator (built-in, LED type, range: Approx. 0.30-3m), AF ON
Metering Type
1200-zone evaluative metering
Metering Sensor
Exmor CMOS sensor
Metering Sensitivity
EV -3 to EV 20 (at ISO 100 equivalent with F2.0 lens attached)
Metering Mode
Multi-segment, Center-weighted, Spot
Exposure Modes
AUTO (iAUTO, Superior Auto), Programmed AE (P), Aperture priority (A), Shutter-speed priority (S), Manual (M), Scene Selection, Sweep Panorama, Movie / High Frame Rate (Programmed AE (P) / Aperture priority (A) / Shutter-speed priority (S) / Manual (M) )
Scene Selection
Portrait, Landscape, Macro, Sports Action, Sunset, Night Portrait, Night Scene, Hand-held Twilight, Anti Motion Blur
Exposure Compensation
+/-5.0 EV (in 1/3 EV or 1/2 EV steps), with exposure compensation dial: +/-3.0 EV (in 1/3 EV steps)
Auto (AE) Bracketing
Bracket: Single/Bracket: Cont., 3/5/9 frames selectable. With 3 or 5 frames, in 1/3, 1/2, 2/3, 1.0, 2.0 or 3.0 EV increments, with 9 frames, in 1/3, 1/2, 2/3 or 1.0 EV increments.
AE Lock
Available with AE lock button. Locked when shutter button is pressed halfway. Can be disabled from the Menu.
ISO Sensitivity
Still images: ISO 100-102400 (expandable to ISO 50-409600), AUTO (ISO 100-12800, selectable lower limit and upper limit), Movies: ISO 100-102400 equivalent (expandable to ISO 100-409600 equivalent), AUTO (ISO 100-12800 equivalent, selectable lower limit and upper limit)
Viewfinder Type
XGA OLED, 1.3cm (0.5 type) electronic viewfinder (colour)
Number of Dots
2,359,296 dots
Brightness Control (Viewfinder)
Auto/Manual (5 steps between -2 and +2)
Color Temperature Control
Manual (5 steps)
Field Coverage
Approx. 0.78x (with 50mm lens at infinity, -1m style name=”sup” -1 /style )
Dioptre Adjustment
-4.0 to +3.0m style name=”sup” -1 /style
Eye Point
Approx. 23mm from the eyepiece lens, 18.5mm from the eyepiece frame at -1m style name=”sup” -1 /style (CIPA standard)
Viewfinder Display
Graphic Display / Display All Info. / No Disp. Info. / Histogram / Digital Level Gauge
Real-time Image Adjustment Display
LCD Screen

Sony A7S II Review -- Product Image

Screen Type
7.5cm (3.0 type) TFT drive
Total Number of Dots
1,228,800 dots
Brightness Control (LCD)
Manual (5 steps between -2 and +2), Sunny Weather mode
Adjustable Angle
Up approx. 107 degrees, down approx. 41 degrees
Display Selecter (Finder/LCD)
LCD Display
Display Graphic Display / Display All Info. / No Disp. Info. / Histogram / Digital Level Gauge / Shooting information for viewfinder mode
Real-time Image Adjustment Display (LCD)
Focus Magnifier
35mm full frame: 4.2x, 8.3x, APS-C: 2.7x, 5.4x
Yes (selectable level + range or lower limit as custom setting)
Peaking MF
Yes (Level setting: High/Mid/Low/Off, colour: White/Red/Yellow)
Other Features
Face Detection
On / On (Regist. Faces) / Off, Face registration, Face selection (Max. number of detectable faces: 8)
Auto Object Framing
Clear Image Zoom
Still / Movie: Approx. 2x
Smart zoom (Still Image)
M: Approx. 1.5x, S: Approx. 2.0x
Digital zoom (Still Image)
Approx. 4x
Digital zoom (Movie)
Approx. 4x
PlayMemories Camera Apps™
Lens Compensation
Peripheral shading, chromatic aberration, distortion
Zoom Ring Rotate
Lens Compensation
Shutter Type
Electronically controlled, vertical-traverse, focal-plane type
Shutter Speed
Still images: 1/8000 to 30 sec., Bulb Movies: 1/8000 to 1/4 (1/3 step) NTSC: Up to 1/60 in AUTO mode (up to 1/30 in Auto Slow Shutter mode) PAL: Up to 1/50 in AUTO mode (up to 1/25 in Auto Slow Shutter mode)
Flash Sync. Speed
1/250 sec.
Electronic Front Curtain Shutter
Yes, On/Off
Silent Shooting
Yes, On/Off
Image Stabilization
Image Sensor-Shift mechanism with 5-axis compensation (Compensation depends on lens specifications)
Compensation Effect
4.5 stops (Based on CIPA standard. Pitch/Yaw shake only. With Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA lens mounted. Long exposure NR off)
Flash Compensation
+/-3.0 EV (switchable between 1/3 and 1/2 EV steps)
Flash Bracketing
3/5/9 frames selectable. With 3 or 5 frames, in 1/3, 1/2, 2/3, 1.0, 2.0, 3.0 EV increments, with 9 frames, in 1/3, 1/2, 2/3, 1.0 EV increments.
Flash Modes
Flash off, Autoflash, Fill-flash, Rear Sync., Slow Sync., Red-eye reduction (On/Off selectable), Hi-speed sync , Wireless
External Flash Compatibility
Sony α System Flash compatible with Multi Interface Shoe. Attach the shoe adaptor for flash compatible with Auto-lock Accessory Shoe.
FE Level Lock
Flash Control (with optional external flash)
Pre-flash TTL
Drive Modes
Single shooting, Continuous shooting,Speed Priority Continuous shooting, Self-timer, Self-timer (Cont.), Bracketing (Cont., Single, White Balance, DRO)
10 sec. delay/5 sec. delay/2 sec. delay/Continuous self-timer (3 frames after 10 sec. delay/5 frames after 10 sec. delay/3 frames after 5 sec. delay/5 frames after 5 sec. delay/3 frames after 2 sec. delay/5 frames after 2 sec. delay)/Bracketing self-timer (Off/2 sec. delay/5 sec. delay/10 sec. delay)
Speed (approx. max.)
Speed Priority Continuous shooting: Max. 5fps, Continuous shooting: Max. 2.5fps
No. of recordable frames (approx.)
Speed Priority Continuous shooting: 64 frames (JPEG Extra Fine L), 200 frames (JPEG Fine L), 200 frames (JPEG Standard L), 31 frames (RAW), 26 frames (RAW & JPEG), 24 frames (RAW (Uncompressed)), 24 frames (RAW (Uncompressed) & JPEG) Continuous shooting: 100 frames (JPEG Extra Fine L), 200 frames (JPEG Fine L), 200 frames (JPEG Standard L), 59 frames (RAW), 34 frames (RAW & JPEG), 29 frames (RAW (Uncompressed)), 28 frames (RAW (Uncompressed) & JPEG)
Playback Modes
Single (with or without shooting information, Y RGB histogram & highlight/shadow warning), 9/25-frame index view, Enlarged display mode (Maximum magnification L: 13.3x, M: 8.7x, S: 6.7x), Auto Review (10/5/2 sec, off), Image orientation (Auto/Manual/Off selectable), Slideshow, Panorama scrolling, Folder selection (Still / Date / MP4 / AVCHD / XAVC S HD / XAVC S 4K), Forward/Rewind (Movie), Delete, Protect
PC Interface
Mass-storage, MTP, PC remote
Multi / Micro USB Terminal
Wireless LAN (Built-In)
Wi-Fi Compatible, IEEE802.11b/g/n (2.4GHz band); Playback of still images and movies on smartphones, PCs and TVs
Yes (NFC Forum Type 3 Tag compatible, One-touch remote, One-touch sharing)
HD Output
HDMI micro connector (Type-D), BRAVIA Sync (link menu), PhotoTV HD, 4K movie output, 4K still image playback
Multi Interface Shoe
Auto-lock Accessory Shoe compatible with supplied shoe adaptor, Microphone terminal (3.5mm Stereo minijack), Headphone terminal (3.5mm Stereo minijack), Vertical Grip Connector
Built-in stereo microphone or ECM-XYST1M / XLR-K2M (sold separately)
Built-in, monaural
Compatible Standards
Exif Print, Print Image Matching III, DPOF setting
Custom function
Custom Function Type
Custom key settings, Programmable setting
Memory Function
Yes (2 sets)
Supplied Battery
Rechargeable battery pack NP-FW50
Battery Life (Still Images)
Approx. 310 shots (viewfinder) / Approx. 370 shots (LCD screen) (CIPA standard)
Battery Life (Movies)
Actual: Approx. 55 min. (viewfinder) / Approx. 60 min. (LCD screen) (CIPA standard); Continuous: Approx. 95 min. (viewfinder) / Approx. 100 min. (LCD screen) (CIPA standard)
External Power
AC Adaptor AC-PW20 (optional)
Size & Weight

Sony A7S II Review -- Product Image

Dimensions (W x H x D)
126.9 x 95.7 x 60.3 mm
584 g (Body Only) / 627g (With battery and Memory Stick PRO Duo)
Operating Temperature
32°-104°F / 0-40°C
WiFi® & NFC
Wireless & Network Capabilities
NFC One-touch functionality
What’s In The Box
  • Rechargeable Battery NP-FW50
  • Cable Protector
  • AC Adaptor AC-UUD11
  • Battery Charger BC-VW1
  • Shoulder strap
  • Body cap
  • Accessory shoe cap
  • Eyepiece cup
  • Micro USB cable


Although the new A7S II seems like a rather modest upgrade of last year’s A7S model on paper, in reality it offers enough new features, especially for videographers, and usability enhancements to justify the increase in both size and cost.

The Sony A7S II now features the same very effective 5-axis image stabilisation that made its debut on the A7R II model. While not quite as effective as the Olympus E-M5 II’s 5-stop IS, the Sony A7S II’s system is remarkable given the sensor size (more than 4x bigger than the Olympus’ Micro Four Thirds sensor), and it also works with any lens that you care to attach to the camera for both stills and video. Other key improvements include the electronic viewfinder, again borrowed from the A7R II, and the enhanced auto focus system with 169 AF points which can operate down to light levels as low as EV -4, although it’s a shame that there’s no phase-detection as on the A7R II.

The A7S II’s 12.2 megapixel sensor continues to provide excellent results from ISO 50-12,800, while ISO 25,600 and 51,200 are fine for making smaller prints and web use. The fastest settings of 102,400, 204,800 and 409,600 are very noisy but astonishingly do let you shoot in almost total darkness. The A7S II and the fast Carl Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 lens that we predominantly tested it with make it hard to resist the lure of shooting wide-open at f/1.4 in combination with such a big sensor and vast ISO range. There are lots of new benefits for videographers – internal 4K video recording with full pixel readout without pixel binning in the full-frame format and Full HD 120fps and 4x/5x slow motion recording being the main two – which make the A7S II well worth upgrading to from its predecessor.

The A7S II has also addressed most of its predecessor’s flaws. Poor battery life, lack of touchscreen functionality, and a non-articulating screen are the main negative points that we’d hope to see addressed on the next model, but we can live without them given everything else that the A7S II has to offer. As the A7S II inherits the design of the A7R II, it is also substantially heavier than the original model, which may put some people off, and the launch price has also been increased. All in all, though, the A7S II certainly benefits from Sony’s incredibly aggressive strategy in the cmera market, and is an essential purchase if you’re predominantly a low-light stills shooter or videographer.



Bose SoundTouch 10 review

  • A sensible and welcome addition the Bose SoundTouch family that excels in features and usability
  • Smart, compact design
  • Big, clear sound
  • Very good app
  • Abundance of features, including multi-room
  • Slightly coarse treble
  • Midrange hardens up in higher volumes

If we can label any brand a veteran in a wireless speaker market that hasn’t even reached adulthood yet, Bose would be the one.

It has been in the game for over ten years and, following its SoundDock and SoundLink ranges, is still knuckling down on its two-year-old SoundTouch multiroom speakers.

While the desktop-suitable SoundTouch 20 and 30 models are now in their third generation, it’s only now that a speaker of more modest proportions has joined the family.

The SoundTouch 10 is the new baby, bringing the range’s entry-level price more in-line with rival speakers from the likes of Sonos, Libratone et al.


Bose has kept to playing it safe in the design department – ironically refreshing in a diverse market where traditional boxes sit alongside beach ball, dragon egg and Zeppelin-shaped structures – even if the word ‘unadventurous’ is on the tip of the tongue.

Still, top marks for consistency: it looks every bit a Bose speaker. Classic-looking, juice-carton-sized and available in black or white, the SoundTouch 10 is clothed from the shoulders down and resembles a mini radio.

It’s too small to feature its siblings’ OLED display (instead white lights across the top indicate source selection) and omits an Ethernet port for wi-fi connection only, though is just as well-equipped elsewhere.

You can stream music (whether it’s MP3, WAV or, thanks to a recent software update, FLAC files) directly from a laptop, NAS drive, smartphone or tablet over wi-fi or access a world of internet radio. Bluetooth lets you take playback offline, while a handy 3.5mm input is onboard for direct plug-in.

Completing the connection list is Spotify Connect, which lets Spotify Premium subscribers control streaming directly from the Spotify app.

Bose realises the struggle of hopping between two apps (Spotify’s and its own), so has integrated the streaming service (as well as Deezer) into its SoundTouch controller app – and impressively too.

It resembles the service’s friendly, intuitive interface and we like how it brings all your music into one place.


The app is one of the most comprehensive we’ve seen, seamlessly performing general controls, and accessing internet radio channel and music on our network – it picked up our NAS drive without needing prompting.

All music available to you can be found on a pull-out bar on the right-hand side, which is where you can access recently played songs too.

One of its biggest assets, though, is its shortcut system: six presets – not only down the left-hand side of the app, but on the unit and supplied remote too – can be allocated an artist, song, playlist or internet radio station for one-button access.

Want to favourite BBC Radio 2? Play the channel, press and hold the preset and hey presto.

So is there any room for improvement? Hardly, although a quick way of scrolling through music libraries would be welcome. Thumbing through from A to Z in our thousand-song library is a bit of a chore.


The app also takes care of multi-room tasks so several SoundTouch products can be controlled individually in one place, or grouped together to play music in harmony; tap ‘Play Everywhere’ and, well, you can guess what happens.

Grouping (and ungrouping) speakers is intuitive and prompt; juggling different songs on different speakers is a piece of cake; and because each speaker opens up its own full-page window, the interface never feels cramped.

Set-up couldn’t be easier either – simply download the app, select ‘add system’ and follow the clear on-screen instructions – and only asks for two minutes of your time, so any multi-room newbies out there shouldn’t be put off.

As the app really is the nucleus, the beating heart, of any multi-room system we’re glad Bose has put so much thought into its reliability and layout. After all, nothing’s worse than lag during pairing and unpairing, or apps that kick you out when asked to multitask.


Small speaker, small sound? Not on Bose’s watch. It may not fill your largest room with music, but perched on a bedside table or kitchen worktop it’ll belt out a surprisingly big sound.

It has enough about it for a small box too: weighty enough to be deemed a comfortable listen, capable of going pretty loud (even if midrange hardens up a little in higher volumes), and not shy of making its low-end presence known.

The thick bassline driven Broken Bells’ Holding on for Life has depth and substance, even if the Bose’s low-end tips the tonal scales slightly in its favour.

Synth lines and keyboard harmonies are clear and perky too, and the Bee-Gee-esque vocals are wrapped in character. You get a hint of their dynamic flavour, the SoundTouch 10 lifting them in the right places, although the Audio Pro Addon T3 (our 2015 Award winner, no less) shows its truer colours, and asserts its superiority with more detail and spaciousness.

There’s a bit of coarseness to the treble that the song’s cymbals can’t shake off too.


Bose has seen a (price and size) gap in its long-standing range and filled it with the SoundTouch 10: a small and talented package in its own right.

It’s a sensible move by the company, making all-you-can-stream features and great in-app control even more accessible, and one that sees the new SoundTouch range off to a solid start.


Galaxy S5 Android Marshmallow update: mistake or fake?

This month we’ve seen more than our fair share of Samsung Galaxy smartphone Marshmallow update videos, and through the sorting we’ve come to one conclusion. Either the Samsung Galaxy S5 Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow update is fake, or its release was a mistake. Earlier reports have the Samsung Galaxy S4 and Galaxy S5 off the list for updates entirely, stopping just before the Marshmallow update entirely*. Could it be that Samsung was working on this update to the device, but decided not to release it?

Galaxy S5 Android Marshmallow update: mistake or fake?

*Early leaks suggested that the Samsung Galaxy S5 wouldn’t be on the update schedule at all, while the most recent report suggested that the Galaxy S5 was, indeed, back in business. Today we’re to understand that there’s at least one Samsung Galaxy S5 out there in the wild with just such an update.

What SamMobile suggests – and what we’re inclined to believe – is that a SINGLE device out in the wild with an Android update means one of two things.

1. The person with the device is good at faking the whole presentation.
2. Samsung somehow pushed the update to this device early, maybe even accidentally.

Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 3.53.27 PM

As for the next generation, you can very much expect the Samsung Galaxy S6 and Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge – and the Plus, and the Note 5 – to get an update to Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow inside the first quarter of 2016. That would be no surprise at all.

Meanwhile rumors of the Samsung Galaxy S7 have reached a bit of a checkpoint – case photos have begun to appear. Not that this means the phone is about to be released, nor that the case photos are at all accurate – but one release generally seems to be preceded the other.


Fresh Audi Q5 and Q2 crossovers set for unveil in 2016

With only a few days left in 2015, we are all looking forward to what major automotive manufacturers will unveil next year. Audi has announced that it has a pair of crossover SUVs in the works that will be debuted in the next few months. It’s unclear if these new models will be available to purchase in 2016.

All Audi is saying is that the successor to the Q5 will be presented next year. An even smaller crossover is in the works called the Audi Q2. That car will bring Audi to a new market segment in 2016. The Q2 will take Audi further down market with a less expensive crossover that is thought to be on par with the Mini Countryman in size.

You can bet the Q2 will be more expensive than the Mini since the Audi name carries a premium. The Q5 is a straightforward replacement for an aging SUV that was introduced in 2008 and refreshed last in 2012.

A full redesign is expected and needed to compete with other premium crossovers like the Mercedes GLC, BMW X3, and the Porsche Macan.

Audi is also looking to introduce its first volume electric vehicle in 2018 and will be something along the lines of the E-Tron Quattro concept seen back in September.


Samsung 12-inch Windows 10 tablet lands WiFi cert

Samsung has reportedly been working on a new Windows 10 tablet since the summer. Rumors have hinted that the tablet will be a 12-inch unit with a Super AMOLED screen boasting a 2560 x 1600 or 3840 x 2400 resolution. The heart of the tablet is tipped to be an Intel Core M processor paired with 4GB of RAM.

The tablet will use S-Pen according to some of the rumors. That tablet has now been granted its WiFi Interoperability Certificate. The certification was granted on November 18 and the tablet carries model number SM-W700.

That model number has showed up in a Zauba listing along with the confirmation that it will use a 12-inch screen. With its WiFi certification now granted, the tablet could be ready to launch soon. There are still a number of key details unknown about the tablet.

Samsung 12-inch Windows 10 tablet lands WiFi cert

We have no idea when the tablet might launch and pricing details are unavailable. With a big screen with such high resolution this sounds like something aimed at high-end iPad users. It would be safe to expect the tablet to be high-end priced as well. The image with this story is a mockup made by someone and not an image of the actual tablet.


Fujifilm X-Pro2 photos get leaked ahead of January debut

In little less than two weeks, it will be exactly 4 years since Fujfilm announcedthe X-Pro. On January 15, at least based on an earlier leaked product page, it will be revealing its successor. Before that happens, however, there is of course enough time to have a few more leaks, especially one that reveals how the Fujifilm X-Pro2 will look like. Suffice it to say, it won’t be straying too far from its predecessor in terms of overall design and perhaps in some of the specs as well.

Fujifilm X-Pro2 photos get leaked ahead of January debut

Details of the X-Pro2 are still pretty slim at this point. It is expected to have an upgraded sensor, of course, this time measuring 24 pixels instead of 2012’s 16 megapixels. The camera is also said to have a shutter speed of 1/8000 and a flash sync speed of 1/250 seconds

Another unique feature of the camera will supposedly be a dual SD card construction, which, in theory, would double the available storage for photos and videos. Strangely, in an age of selfies, the X-Pro2 is described to have a non-tiltable LCD screen.


It will be resembling the first X-Pro in some regard. For example, it will still have a hybrid viewfinder, allowing users to switch between optical and electronic as the need requires it. Apparently, it will also share in its design as well, give or take a few embellishments here and there.26904510

According to recent sources, Fujifilm won’t be unveiling the X-Pro2 during CES, preferring to delay it by a week in order to have the spotlight all to itself.


Samsung launches Bio-Processor for health-centric wearables

There has been a lot of focus of late on smartphones and wearables with capabilities to measure certain health factors, mostly heart rates and sometimes even blood oxygen levels. Trying to capitalize on that still growing market, Samsung has announced what is billed to be the industry’s first all-in-one health chip solution that combines all the relevant sensors as well as processors in a single chip small enough to be placed inside a fitness band.

Of course there are already several wearables today that do advertise some form of health monitoring feature or another, but those are usually limited to one or two. In contrast, Samsung’s Bio-Processor includes five Analog Front End or AFEs, including bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA) for measuring body fat and skeletal muscle mass, a photoplethysmogram for heart rate, ECG for heart rhythm, skin temperature and galvanic skin response for stress levels.

In addition to these sensors, the chip also includes a microcontroller unit, a power management integrated circuit, digital signal processor, and eFlash memory. In other words, all the parts needed for a standalone device like a wearable gadget.

Samsung has not yet hinted at any specific products for this new chip but does have reference devices available for ideas, including a wrist band, a development board, and wearable patch. The chips are expected to be available in devices in the first half of 2016.


Google Glass 2: Enterprise Edition revealed in photos

The second edition Google Glass header has appeared, and it looks… very similar to the first. This is what Google calls the “Enterprise Edition” of the headset, aiming it directly at the industry that decided it was a device that’d be helpful – businesses. Using this headset in the line of duty in a wide variety of trades has been a real boon for the popularity of the device, and here it would appear that it’s been kept afloat by the segment that Google doesn’t normally go after – not with as much veracity as the consumer world, anyway.

Google Glass 2: Enterprise Edition revealed in photos

Google Glass this time around seems to be very similar to what we saw just a few weeks ago in patent drawings. No second hinge, and a piece of equipment that looks very, very similar to the first. It’s no longer a pair of glasses, as it once appeared to be, now it just wraps around one side of your head.


It could just be that this is still just the technology-infused bit of the device, the rest not necessary for the FCC’s testing. If that’s the case, it’ll be very difficult to tell the difference between this and the original Google Glass.

It would appear that the section of the headset that sits above the ear has been somewhat reinforced compared to the original – this is because the original was prone to break right in this area.

According to 9to5Google, this device will include a front light that comes on when the camera is activated, and the device will be waterproof and “closed off”, probably to avoid dust damage.

You’ll see a ball joint hinge for this device’s eyepiece as well, allowing plenty of adjustability for all wearers.

While Google has yet to make the device a public affair, it would seem that the FCC’s reveal has not been hindered. While generally a device such as this would be subject to courtesy blurs and the hiding of photos and so forth, this release does not appear to have been hindered in any way.

This tells us that Google isn’t going to make as big of a hubbub about the Google Glass Enterprise Edition as they did the original Explorer Edition Google Glass – and they won’t be allowing the massive non-stop PR and enthusiasm and publicity party that the original experienced either.


New 2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class interior raises the bar

There were a lot of loaded, descriptive words thrown out during Mercedes-Benz’s intimate press conference describing the new E-Class. “Luxury”, “simplicity”, “experience”, “high-tech”, “beauty”… all of which tie into a hard division between two categories: emotion and intelligence, the yin and yang if you will of the automaker’s latest view on what a high-end sedan should be.

The new core of the Mercedes-Benz brand is made up of emotion — things like, according to the company, the contrast between using colors such as red and free movements such as red hot flames – and intelligence – which is simply pure form.

Words only get you a fraction of the way, mind; turned out, Mercedes had a fairly surreal way in mind for me to physically experience the new car.

The setup: four new E-Class models, neatly tucked into its own partitioned nook behind black curtains. In one space, I can try out the Classic model, the standard configuration with the default two-gauge dashboard and various driver-selectable pages set in the screen the analog dials flank.

More interesting layouts appear in the new Sport and Progressive screen designs, with less analog and more digital to play with.

The final curtain hides an E-Class fitted with the new, second-generation Burmester 3D surround system – the second-generation to what wowed audiophiles in the S-Class – with a whopping 23 speakers and two amplifiers for a total of 1540 watts.

More displays, fewer physical buttons and all-round simpler yet elegant design

After handing over my phones and any recording devices I might have smuggled in with me, I slipped past the first curtain to experience the Progressive model. Mercedes has given this particular E-Class variant dual 12.3-inch displays with a resolution of 1920 x 720 pixels. Though they’re two separate panels, they’re covered by a single sheet of Gorilla glass: the resulting visual effect is spectacular, a real sense of a cohesive interface spanning both driver and front-seat passenger.

2017 Meredes-Benz E-Class Interior58

The obvious comparison is the Virtual Cockpit that Audi has used to great effect in its R8, TT, and most recently Q7 models, which also replaces traditional dials with a far more configurable digital display.

While I do love both implementations – I’m all for anything that gives you better information while you’re on the move – I do think Audi’s is more striking courtesy of its Google Earth integration, the entire display becoming your navigation screen with small cutouts for tach, speed, and other details.

Other than that, though, both allow for drivers to easily change the look of the dials and the type of information being displayed.

The ultra-widescreen aspect of Mercedes’ panels, along with the horizontal layout of the dashboard leaves a clean line spanning from the doors up, around, and over to the passenger’s door. Engagingly, the split between driver and passenger is clear, yet when I sat on the passenger side, I felt as much a part of the car as I had in the driver’s seat.

Speaking of seating, new to the E-Class is a redesigned massage option for giving your glutes special attention. It actually consists of four individual massagers – think of each one as a very large thumb – and you get two per cheek. According to Mercedes-Benz’s experts, it’s meant to help release strain in your lower back, and you certainly notice their handiwork once they get underway.


Don’t get too relaxed, mind; there’s still a luxury sedan to pilot. The steering wheel features new touch-control buttons, square-ish touchpads featured for the first time ever on a wheel. Placed at the 3 and 9 o’clock positions, they’re perfectly placed to be caressed by your thumbs.


The left controls the driver display, paging through various screens of information about the car in the instrument cluster, as well as changing drive modes and navigation instructions. The right, meanwhile, controls the center stack display, which in turn handles all the infotainment settings.

You’re not limited to the wheel, mind. There’s the standard touch/scroll wheel in the center console – useful if your passenger wants to take charge – and that’s also where you activate the various massage settings for both driver and passenger. Since personalization is a big theme for the E-Class this time around, there are 64 colors for the interior lighting, which can again be selected using the scroll wheel.

For anyone who’s ever used a modern smartphone with a touchscreen, swiping up, down and side-to-side should come as natural gestures. To select, you push down and get a nudge of tactile feedback in return.

Great in theory, but since fingers get dirty from greasy food, dirt, or whatever else you might encounter on your travels, I was a little concerned about what could sneak between the openings on the two touchpads. According to Mercedes, though, it’s a non issue, since the gap is sealed pretty much tight, and I’d imagine not much of anything can get past and seep into the innards.

Mercedes-Benz’s other point of pride is the second-generation Burmester 3D Surround-Sound system. Once an option limited to the flagship S-Class, it’s now making its way down through the range to more affordable – relatively speaking, mind – cars.


Yes, with more than twenty speakers embedded at various points through the cabin it’s hard to miss the extra money you’ve spent, but more importantly – even in my limited experience – it adds up to an ear-popping listening experience. Burmester and Mercedes cooked up a special 3D-Sound algorithm, just for the S-Class and E-Class, and it lends even traditional, stereo-encoded tracks a cabin-filling dimensionality unmatched by what you find in most other vehicles.

In addition to 3D-Sound, there are four other preset sound modes that I got to sample. Frankly, I’m left with a yearning for more after listening to Hello by Adele in first Pure mode and then 3D-Sound.

With Pure, as the name suggests, there’s absolutely no additional processing; it’s intended to be the most unadulterated listening experience, and there’s a transparency that certainly suits vocal-centric tracks. Switch over to 3D-Sound, however, and it feels like you’re in a whole new space. Mercedes had a sample playlist including acoustic tracks dominated by drums, and though it’s a cliche you really do feel like you’re right there on stage. Lastly, there’s the Easy Listening and Surround modes, which fall somewhere in-between the two processing extremes.

You’re not just paying for speakers and amps, mind; how they’re installed is important too. That includes what Burmester and Mercedes call “Frontbase”, which sees the woofers integrated right into the car’s firewall so that the space in the cross-member and side-member can be used as resonance chambers.

All this new tech, eye-candy, and amazing sound would be for nothing if the rest of the cabin didn’t come up to scratch. Happily Mercedes hasn’t stinted on its materials, and there are lashings of piano black, open-pore wood trim, leather, and aluminum to keep you suitably cosseted.

My overall impression is that the menu system has become far, far more straightforward to use. That’ll be of particular use while on the move, with the UI structure flattened out considerably. Even in my relatively short experience, it proved a whole lot quicker to get to the settings that matter, without masses of scrolling and clicking.

The proof will be on the road, though, and that particular test will have to wait. We’ll know more and report back when the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class arrives Stateside for a more in-depth drive experience.


Android 6.0.1 will make the Galaxy S6 edge’s edge more useful

It seems that Samsung has finally come to its senses. While some Android users are waiting for their Android 6.0 Marshmallow update just for the sake of being on the latest Android version, some of Samsung’s faithful might have a lot more riding on that update. A video of what is allegedly Android 6.0.1 running on a Galaxy S6 edge reveals that Samsung may have tucked in lots more functionality in curved edge, potentially making what is just a fancy design into something truly useful and perhaps even desirable.

There is no arguing that the Galaxy S6 edge and its larger Galaxy S6 edge+ sibling are beautiful pieces of smartphone hardware thanks to those curved edges on both sides. While they do have some functionality to speak of, it’s not that much, especially compared to the not so pretty Galaxy Note Edge, which actually had more uses for that small strip of screen real estate.

Come Android Marshmallow, however, Samsung might be dishing out features in spades. The update brings not just one, not just two, not even just three but more than 6 new panels to the side edge. That includes a My Apps for recently used apps, Task for commonly used apps, Quick Tools, S Planner, Weather, Twitter, Yahoo, and Sports.

It’s not certain what finally convinced Samsung to include these features. Maybe it’s thanks to the influence of the LG V10’s second screen, which has quite a few more functionality than Samsung’s initial implementation. It’s still not completely configurable, but we’ll take what we can.

As to when that update will arrive, no one yet knows. Galaxy S6 edge owners will just have to wait for version 6.0.1 to hit their notifications in order to receive this long overdue feature.


Apple CarPlay is finally coming to the Hyundai Sonata

They say that good things come to those who wait. Last year automaker Hyundai promised that they would be making Apple CarPlay available to owners of their Sonata. Well, a year and a half later, they’re finally ready to start making good on that promise.

When it was originally announced, Hyundai had stated that the upgrade to CarPlay would be a simple and free download for 2015 or 2016 model owners. Unfortunately, something has changed between the announcement and now, as it will no longer be a free upgrade.

In order to get the CarPlay functionality, Sonata owners will need to purchase a special SD card that will upgrade their system. So far there has been no word on how much the SD card will cost. It will be far less than a brand new CarPlay-compatible unit though, I’m sure.

While we don’t know exactly when the upgrade is due out, it should be out sometime in Q1 of next year.


LG HBS-910 and HBS-900 Bluetooth neckband headsets to debut at CES 2016

CES 2016 kicks off in a few weeks and there will be hoards of new devices and gadgets unveiled at the show. LG is showing off one of the devices that it will unveil at CES 2016 with a neckband headset that will be offered in two versions. The headsets are the HBS-910 and the HBS-900. The headsets are designed to be light and comfortably worn around the neck.

Dual microphones are integrated and positioned close to the mouth to capture the best sound for calls. The mics are able to cancel out noise for improved sound quality in noisy environments. The headsets have a Find Phone feature that will activate a sound on your phone if you lose it to make it easier to find.

LG plans to launch the product in February 2016. The headset will be offered in the US, Korea, Europe, Latin America, Asia, and other markets. We will have to wait until CES to hear all the specifics on the new headset.

LG is offering few details on the hardware or price of the headset. The single image also doesn’t make it clear just how a person would wear the headset.

The extra images show you would pull wired ear buds out of the ends of the neckband when you want to listen to music.


Nintendo 2DS arrives in Japan with limited-edition Pokemon colors

It’s been over two years now since Nintendo debuted its 2DS handheld system in the US, dropping the 3DS’s clamshell hinge as well as 3D functionality in favor of a slate-like form factor with a budget-friendly price. Now the odd portable is arriving in Japan for the first time, but in the form of special Pokemon-themed editions. The four models come in transparent red, blue, green, and yellow, and coincide with Nintendo’s release of updated versions of the original Gameboy Pokemon titles.

Each color of the Nintendo 2DS corresponds with the classic titles Pokemon Red, Blue, Green, and Pikachu Yellow, and the handhelds come with the matching game pre-installed. The special edition packages are in celebration of the four Pokemon games’ arrival on the 3DS Virtual Console, as well as the 20th anniversary of the series.

While the red and blue versions of the 2DS hardware have already seen release outside of Japan, such as last year alongside Pokemon Omega Rubyand Pokemon Alpha Sapphire, but the new green and yellow versions are said to be exclusive at this point.

The Pokemon-themed 2DS bundles will be released in Japan on February 27th, priced at 9,980 yen (about $83), the same time the older games hit the Virtual Console. The classic Pokemon titles will be playable on any version of the 3DS hardware, however there’s no word yet if the special 2DS bundles will be sold outside of Japan.


DxOMark puts BlackBerry Priv on par with iPhone 6s

Looks like BlackBerry has yet another thing to be proud of with its most recent smartphone. While we’re still not privy to exact and official sales numbers for the BlackBerry Priv, it has just received a vote of confidence from DxOMark, one of the most cited authorities when it comes to digital photography benchmarks. Earning an overall score of 82, DxOMark puts the Priv on the same level as the iPhone 6s ahead of the Samsung Galaxy S5 and Nexus 6 but still below the Galaxy S6 edge+, the Galaxy Note 5, or even the iPhone 6s Plus.

DxOMark give top marks to the BlackBerry Priv’s dynamic range performance, executing usually difficult operations with ease. While colors were also noted to be strong both indoors and outdoors, there was also a bit of white balance problems observed outdoors, resulting in some yellow, blue, or pink casts. The benchmarking site also praised the smartphone’s detail preservation even in low-light scenarios.

When it comes to video recording, the BlackBerry Priv also does quite well. In fact, DxOMark notes the irony of noise reduction being better in video than in still photos, at least in bright light. In low light, however, the camera does exhibit some unwanted behaviors typical of most mobile videos, like visible frame shifts and distortions.

The average score of 82 puts the BlackBerry Priv on the same ranking as the iPhone 6s, both the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, and the Sony Xperia Z3+, a.k.a. the Xperia Z4. Broken down, however, its score of 82 in still photography does put it lower than those other four devices. It’s 81 mark in videos, however, trumps all of the others.


For its part, BlackBerry is quite proud to claim that such a high score is not a surprise to it. Aside from having an 18 megapixel sensor, it also boasts that the camera is certified by famed Schneider-Kreuznach through its US subsidiary Schneider Optics. Overall, however, the Priv does rank lower than more widely available, not to mention affordable, rivals in the market.


Xiaomi Mi5 renders leak showing pink version

More renderings of the Xiaomi mi5 smartphone have leaked this time showing the device off in multiple colors. Earlier this month a leaked rendering showed a black version of the smartphone.

This time out the leaks, highlight a multiple colors including pink, gold, black, and white. Other than showing off the new colors, the leak brings with it no new information on the smartphone.

Rumors still expect to see the device turn up on January 21. That date hasn’t been confirmed at this time. Hardware inside the smartphone is tipped to include a 5.2-inch screen and a Snapdragon 820 chipset.

The renderings still show that the smartphone will have glass panels front and back. A metal back would be more durable, anyone that owned an older iPhone with a glass back can tell you that the back can crack rather easily if you drop it.

The front camera is tipped to be an 8MP unit with a 16MP rear camera. Power comes from a 3000mAh internal battery. Pricing was rumored in the past to be around $311 for one version of the device and $389 for the other.

What differs between the two versions is unclear. The smartphone is tipped to run Android 6.0 out of the box.


Fujitsu spins off PC, smartphone businesses

In what could be seen as yet another worrying development for the steadily declining PC industry, Fujitsu has announced that it has split its PC, both desktops and notebooks, business and its smartphone business into companies of their own with their own long-winded name. The first part is eerily similar to what fellow Japanese company Sony did with its VAIO business and brand. The second part, on the other hand, could be a portent of things to come for Sony as well as for the Japanese smartphone manufacturing industry as a whole.

Those two companies will now be called Fujitsu Client Computing Limited and Fujitsu Connected Technologies Limited for the new PC and mobile companies, respectively. They hare, however, still wholly owned subsidiaries of Fujitsu, unlike Sony’s full sale of the VAIO business. This leaves the core company the freedom to focus on its other products, like storage solutions, among many others.

Fujitsu isn’t coy about the reason for the split. It mentions that “it has become increasingly difficult to achieve differentiation, and competition with emerging global vendors has intensified.” In theory, companies and subsidiaries are spun out to give them more leeway in creativity, R&D, and design. In practice, that might not always happen.

One other reason for the split might be the rumored merger of Japan’s three biggest, but now struggling, PC makers. Early this month, there were rumors that Toshiba, Fujitsu, and VAIO are in the process of negotiating a merger of PC businesses. Fujitsu’s split might make it easier for its PC division to make that move.

On the other hand, Fujitsu’s reading of the smartphone market might not bode well for the Japanese industry in general. Almost every year, Sony’s mobile business and its Xperia brand has been the subject of potential sale. Although Fujitsu’s smartphone market share hasn’t exactly been that big, especially internationally, it does reflect a struggling economy for smaller smartphone makers, both in Japan and elsewhere.


HTC One X9 mid-range hero sounds a lot like the One A9

After the usual overabundance of leaks and speculations, HTC has finally unveiled the One X9, right on the eve of Christmas. And, perhaps to the disappointment of some, it does match most of that unofficial information. The One X9 is indeed a metal-clad HTC hero, but more from its mid-range line than a flagship contender. Curiously, however, it bears an uncanny similarity to theOne A9, another mid-range hero that the OEM has just recently launched in the US, which was a pleasant surprise. If not for the unpleasant surprise of its price tag.

It might be easier to compare the One X9 as a larger and perhaps beefier One A9, but that wouldn’t really be fair to the former. HTC has been somewhat stingy with metal when it comes to its mid-tier devices that seeing a second in the same half of the year is also an unexpected but welcome surprise. The design, however, is distinctively different. HTC seems to have softened its “threat” to impose the new iPhone-esque design from the One A9 on this new device, though it still does bear some resemblance. It almost looks like an amalgamation of the iPhone 6 with the Nexus 6P’s “visor” area.

As leaked beforehand, the front has had a major reorganization as well, with the conspicuous HTC branding now at the top and the return of capacitive navigation buttons. The front-facing speakers, an HTC hallmark, have been pushed way to the edge. These speakers boast of Dolby Audio as well as BoomSound tech, something the One A9 doesn’t have.

It’s in the specs, however, that the two most recent One’s show the most similarities. Though bigger at 5.5 inches, the screen does have the same 1920×1080 Full HD resolution. Though both have 64-bit cores, the One X9 eschews a Snapdragon in favor of a MediaTek Helio X10, with 8 Cortex-A53 cores running at 2.2 GHz max. In terms of memory, the One X9 has 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of expandable storage, like the higher end model of the One A9. Again, the two converge on the rear camera, both with perhaps the same 13 megapixel sensor with an f/2.0 aperture and optical image stabilization. The front, however, has a 5 megapixel sensor with its own flash.


Strangely enough, the One X9 is set to cost less than the One A9, at least as far as converted launch prices. The HTC One A9 started with a promotional $399 tag which jumped to $499 later on. On the other hand, the HTC One X9 will launch for 2,399 yuan, roughly $370 when converted. No word yet on availability outside of China.


Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 Planar T* Review


The Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 Planar T* is a manual-aperture, manual-focus short telephoto prime lens for Canon and Nikon full-frame mirrorless cameras. It features an aperture range of f/1.4-f/16, 11 elements in 9 groups, a nine-bladed circular diaphragm for smoother bokeh blur in out of focus areas, and a precision-engineered full-metal casing. The Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 Planar T* retails for £3299.99 / €3360.50 / $4490.

Ease of Use

Weighing 1200g and measuring 141mm in length, the all-metal Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 Planar T*4 is a massive lens considering the moderate 85mm focal length on offer. It feels fairly well-balanced on the Canon EOS 5Ds that we tested it with, although we’d suggest fitting a vertical grip as well.

Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 Planar T*

The Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 Planar T* lens mounted on a Canon EOS 5Ds

Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 Planar T*Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 Planar T*

The Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 Planar T* lens mounted on a Canon EOS 5Ds

Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 Planar T*

The Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 Planar T* lens alongside a Canon EOS 5Ds

The Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 Planar T* boasts superb build quality. The lens’ all-metal casing is dust and moisture resistant and it features a metal mount. With no need for a zoom ring, the manual focussing ring spans a significant width of the lens barrel and is exceptionally smooth to operate, complete with a useful depth of field scale and hard stops at either end.

Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 Planar T*

The side of the Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 Planar T* lens

Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 Planar T*Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 Planar T*

The front of the Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 Planar T* lens

Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 Planar T*Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 Planar T*

The rear of the Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 Planar T* lens

The 85mm f/1.4 has 11 lens elements in 9 groups. One of the lens elements has an aspheric optical surface and six are made of special glass. A nine-bladed rounded diaphragm, combined with the fast maximum aperture, helps provide very smooth bokeh blur.

Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 Planar T*

The Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 Planar T* lens in-hand

Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 Planar T*

The Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 Planar T* lens with the supplied lens hood fitted

There’s no optical image stabilisation, but the lens’ moderate focal length and very fast maximum aperture alleviate the need for it. A special sealing ring on the bayonet also protects the interface between the camera and the lens. A large round metal lens hood is supplied in the box.

Focal Range

The 85mm focal length gives an angle of view of 28.24° on a 35mm full frame sensor.

Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 Planar T*

Field of view at 85mm

Manual Focussing

The Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 Planar T*’s manual focussing ring spans a significant width of the lens barrel and is exceptionally smooth to operate, complete with a useful depth of field scale. It also has a large rotation angle which enables precise focusing and moves smoothly without any play, thus also supporting the intuitive interaction with the focal plane. The precise engravings in meters and feet, together with the depth of focus scale, help make manual focusing easier, although the Canon EOS 5Ds that we tested the Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 Planar T* with is not very well suited to accurate manual focusing.

Chromatic Aberrations

Chromatic aberration (purple fringing) is rarely an issue with the Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 Planar T*, so much so that we couldn’t find any instances of fringing in our test shots.

Light Fall-off and Distortion

Light fall-off is noticeable wide open at f/1.4, though this is to be expected for such a fast lens and can easily be corrected in Photoshop. Stop down to f/2.8 and the vignetting is much less prominent.

Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 Planar T*

Light fall-off at 85mm


The Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 Planar T* is not a macro lens, with the close-focus point 80cm from the film/sensor plane and a maximum reproduction ratio of 0.10x The following example illustrates how close you can get to the subject, in this case a CompactFlash card.

Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 Planar T*

Close-up performance


A major appeal of fast, wide-aperture prime lenses is their ability to produce an eye-catching separation between a sharp subject and a very soft out-of-focus background. The Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 Planar T* generates exceptionally smooth out of focus areas through its use of a nine-bladed diaphragm. Bokeh is however a fairly subjective part of a lens’ image quality, so check out these 100% crops to see the Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 Planar T*’s bokeh quality for yourself.

Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 Planar T*

Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 Planar T*

Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 Planar T*

Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 Planar T*


In order to show you how sharp this lens is, we are providing 100% crops on the following page.

Sharpness at 85mm

Our sharpness tests were conducted using a 50-megapixel Canon EOS 5Ds body mounted to a tripod. The camera’s shutter release was also set on a timer-delay to avoid any possible camera shake. The test subject was shot using ambient lighting, hence some colour and contrast variation is to be expected between apertures.

The full frame at 16mm

The full frame at 85mm

Both centre and edge sharpness are incredibly high right throughout the entire aperture range, with peak performance between f/2.8-f/11. Only f/16 is marred slightly by diffraction.

Aperture Centre Crop Edge Crop








Focal length 85 mm
Aperture range f/1.4 – f/16
Focusing range 0,8 m (31.50’’) – ∞
Number of elements/groups 11 / 9
Angular field, diag./horiz./vert. 28.24° / 23.71° / 15.97°
Coverage at close range 278,85 mm x 185,61 mm (10.97‘‘ x 7.31‘‘)
Filter thread M86 x 1.00
Dimensions (with caps) ZF.2: 138 mm (5.43‘‘)
ZE: 141 mm (5.55‘‘)
Diameter of focusing ring ZF.2: 101 mm (3.98‘‘)
ZE: 101 mm (3.98‘‘)
Weight ZF.2: 1140g
ZE: 1200g
Camera mounts F Mount (ZF.2)
EF Mount (ZE)


The Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 Planar T* is simply a superb prime lens for portrait photographers looking for the ultimate in image quality. You’d expect sharpness to be high across both the frame and aperture range from such a premium optic, and it doesn’t disappoint. In conjunction with the new Canon EOS 5Ds test camera shooting at 50 megapixel resolution, detail is exceptionally detailed and sharp. Shooting at the maximum f/1.4 aperture does reveal a minor reduction in sharpness compared to the rest of the aperture range, but the image is already pin-sharp by f/1.8.

The Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 Planar T* is also a pleasure to use, thanks to its superb build quality and smooth focus ring. As this is a manual-focus only lens, you’d expect this aspect of the operation to be intuitive, and so it proved, although the Canon EOS 5Ds isn’t really geared up for accurate manual focusing.

There is only really one drawback to the Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 Planar T* – yes, you’ve guessed it, the price. £3299.99 / €3360.50 / $4490 is an incredible amount of money to pay for any lens, even one as good as this. If you shoot enough portraits to justify the cost, though, and you can learn to love the manual-focus only nature of the lens, the Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 Planar T* is a superb choice for full-frame DSLR owners that’s capable of truly stunning results.


Ford C-Max review : Impressive MPV is fun to drive and practical


  • Great drive
  • Decent build quality
  • Lots of kit as standard


  • Low on space for five
  • Below par fuel economy
  • Rear seats tricky to fold

The Ford C-Max is one of the best cars in its class and is also surprisingly nice to drive for a family-focused people carrier. Before choosing the C-Max it’s worth taking a close look at some of the competition out there, not least the Citroen C4 Picasso, VW Touranand Renault Scenic are also worthy alternatives.

Prices start from £18,195/$27,293 and if you buy your new C-Max using carwow you can save £2,350/$3,525 on average.

Looking somewhat like a bulging family hatchback, the Ford C-Max actually offers bags of practicality and plentiful space for four adults. Carrying on with the theme, the driver of a C-Max could be forgiven for thinking they had actually purchased a Focus, were it not for the increased headroom. From the air vents to the dials and the switches, you will be very sure you’re in a Ford – though maybe slightly less sure which one.

The stand-out feature of the C-Max is the ride quality. Though a great drive is now expected from all Fords it is still a little surprising to have such a feel from a mid-sized multi-purpose vehicle (MPV). We tested the C-Max in 2015 and were impressed by its incredibly comfortable ride – when driving you feel very well isolated from any bumps in the road, making it ideal for keeping sleeping kids asleep on long journeys.

The engine line-up is quite broad and covers everything from a highly-advanced and lively 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol to a 2.0-litre diesel with bags of pulling power.

Ford has positioned the C-Max between the multi-award-winning Focus and its namesake big brother the Grand C-Max. The latter offering sliding rear doors and a larger, seven-seat interior for those that need it.

Available in three iterations, even the entry C-MAX Zetec offers 16-inch alloys wheels, USB and Bluetooth connectivity, DAB radio and a heated front windscreen.

Cheapest to buy: 1.0-litre Zetec petrol

Cheapest to run: 1.5-litre Zetec diesel

Fastest model: 2.0-litre Titanium diesel

Most popular: 1.6-litre Zetec petrol


Not the most practical car in its class

The interior of the C-Max may, at first glance, seem fairly run-of-the-mill but there are some crafty extras that could stand to make it a family favourite. The vehicle is littered with cubbyholes and storage space. The roof, for instance, holds two compartments, one for your sunglasses and one for your backup sunglasses, presumably.

Then there’s the larger than average glovebox, the well-sized door bins, that will easily hold a one-litre bottle of water and the central storage bin. The latter of these also hides iPod and aux inputs, putting connected devices and their associated wires far out of view.

In a smart move Ford have added rear blinds as standard – no need for the Winnie The Pooh aftermarket version any more. Shame… Another child-friendly move is the addition of picnic trays to the rear of the front seats, it’s certainly not a new idea but that doesn’t mean it’s not downright useful.

As for the rest of the interior, the driver and front-seat passenger are treated to a solid and well-built finish, with touches such as voice-command and DAB digital radio.

The controls that you can’t control using the infotainment’s voice-command system are easy to find and use. Sit in the driver’s seat and you’ll see the C-Max’s dashboard stretches away in front of you, giving you a real sense of being cocooned in a safe car – just want you want to feel when you’re transporting your family.All C-Maxs come with Isofix child seat attachments as standard.

Ford C-Max passenger space

Thanks to its slightly bulbous roof, the C-Max offers great rear passenger head space. Likewise legroom is decent. The slight issue comes with the introduction of a fifth adult in the middle of the back row, and shoulders are bound to clash. However, leg space still fares quite well because there’s a flat floor in front of the back row of seats – there’s no central transmission tunnel to tangle legs over.

Ford C-Max boot space

The C-Max is, by no means, the class leader when it comes to boot space, in fact at 432 litres it’s about 200 litres short of the Citroen C4 Picasso. That said, the boot space is easy to access and a good shape. Because the rear seats are not adjustable, as is the case with other vehicles of a similar size, the best way to get extra space is to fold them forward – or follow the fiddly process of removal. Once folded or removed their absence leaves a slightly impracticable and uneven additional space.

It’s worth noting that the C-Max is available with a hands-free electric-opening boot – you can just wave your foot under the rear bumper to open the boot. We’ve tested it and it does require a bit of patience to find the right spot to swing your foot at – it’s often just easier to scrabble for the electric-boot opening button, even if you have your hands full.

Ford C-Max diesel engines

The fastest model is the 2.0-litre diesel. Coupled with the dynamism of the Ford chassis the 150hp engine will see 0-62mph dealt with in 9.8 seconds and carry on to 126mph.

We tested this 2.0-litre Duratorq diesel engine in 2015, and although it makes quite a loud diesel clatter when you start it up, it’s a generally quiet motorway companion. It’s certainly powerful enough to whisk the C-Max up to motorway speeds with no drama, and there’s enough oomph to overtake briskly and safely.

The diesels (there’s also an 120hp version) make for a more soothing ride on long-hauls and are right at home on Britain’s motorways.

While performance is all very well, for the majority of C-Max owners the key question is ‘yes but what will it cost me to run?’ Well, it’s no Porsche but then it’s no solar-powered green machine either. For those inclined to try, the 150hp diesel engine will return more than 60mpg, which isn’t bad, but 13mpg down on the C4 Picasso and 7mpg down on the Renault Scenic. Pairing it with Ford six-speed, PowerShift automatic drops that figure to 56.5mpg. In a surprising twist, the 118hp diesel can only manage 58.9mpg.

As for real-world figures, we managed to eke 48mpg out of the 2.0-litre 150hp diesel with the PowerShift auto gearbox on 300 miles of motorway driving with lots of stop-start traffic.

Ford C-Max petrol engines

If emissions are on your mind, then it’s worth noting that both 1.0-litre petrol engine produce CO2 of just 119g/km. Unfortunately none of the range offer the holy grail of tax-free motoring – an engine must emit less than 100g/km of CO2 for that. For running around town and city, the 1.0-litre petrol models offer nippiness and agility – ideal for a trip to the supermarket or the school-run.

The 1.6-litre Ecoboost petrol is actually more similar to a sports-car engine than an MPV one, and as a result it feels and sounds racy and adds a new level of sportiness to the C-Max. The running costs are also sportscar-like, so for the best performance we’d stick to the 2.0-litre diesel.

Ford has kept things simple when it comes to specifying your C-Max. There are three trim levels to choose from – Zetec, Titanium and Titanium X. Basic Zetec models are not short on kit, they get smart-looking 16-inch alloy wheels, as well as body coloured door mirrors and bumpers. Inside the car has the latest version of Ford’s SYNC infotainment system. Other features include lumber support for the driver’s seat, electric windows and air-conditioning.

Ford C-Max Titanium

Despite the entry level model being well specced, many buyers choose to upgrade to Titanium trim. Its larger 17-inch alloy wheels and all-chrome grille distinguish it from Zetec models. Inside an eight-inch touchscreen display gives the dashboard a more modern look and families will appreciate the additional storage areas that include a covered centre cubby and overhead storage for your sunglasses – there’s also a mirror that means you can keep an eye on kids in the back. Extra kit comes in the form of climate control, plus auto lights and wipers.

Ford C-Max Titanium X

Choosing the top-of-the-range Titanium X model might not make much sense to most families, but we can’t deny it has some nice features. We particularly like the half-leather interior and the panoramic glass sunroof – both make the inside feel a good deal more premium, and although the sunroof doesn’t open, it does give the cabin a really nice airy feel that’ll cheer up the kids on a summer-holiday drive. 

It also gets an uprated infotainment system called SYNC2, which can read text messages aloud as well as letting you dictate a response on the move. Its Bi-Xenon headlights are more powerful than the standard affairs and can also follow curves in the road.


The new C-Max is stylish, though maybe not quite as stylish as the Citroen C4 Picasso. It’s fairly economical, too, but doesn’t lead the class in either emissions or fuel use.

But – and it’s a big but – it’s the best car to drive in the class, and by some margin. We lived with a C-Max for a week and would rate it as one of the best cars out there for family duties. It’s comfortable, reasonably spacious and won’t break the bank.


How to Make Windows 10 Look and Feel Like Windows 7

Windows 10 offers a number of benefits over its predecessors, including improved boot and wake-from-sleep times, the ability to run Universal apps, the Cortana voice assistant and Xbox game streaming. It even has a Start Menu, a key feature  that is infamously missing from Windows 8. But what if you like the improved performance and features of Windows 10, but you prefer the look and feel of Windows 7? While you can’t make everything look identical to Microsoft’s old operating system, you can change many key elements, including the Start Menu, wallpaper and taskbar.

Windows 10 like 7

I. Install a New Start Menu

Windows 10 brings back the Start Menu . . . sort of. While there is a Start Menu, it’s very different from the one in Windows 7 and you may not like the differences. Instead of providing a list of icons and folders, the new Start Menu has a set of flashy, but space-wasting, live tiles on its right side and a list of frequently used apps on the left side. You can add live tiles, but you cannot pin a simple icon to the left side like you could in Windows 7 and XP. Fortunately, you can install a third-party Start Menu that looks and functions the way you want it to. There are a couple of Windows 10-compatible Start apps out there, but we like Classic Shell, because it’s free and very customizable.

1. Download and install Classic Shell version 4.2.2 or higher. As of this writing is 4.2.2 is in beta and available for download from the Classic Shell forums. Earlier versions don’t work properly with Windows 10.

2. Deselect Classic Explorer and Classic IE during the install process. You can try those programs if you want, but we didn’t find them particularly useful.


3. Open Classic Start Menu settings. If Classic Shell is already running, you will see a Shell icon in the lower right corner and can right click it and select settings. Otherwise, you can search for “Classic Start Menu Settings.”

How to Make Windows 10 Look and Feel Like Windows 7

4. Check Show All Settings  if it is not already checked.

Check Show all settings

5. Navigate to the Start Menu Style tab and select Windows 7 Style if it is not already selected.

Select Windows 7 Style

6. Download the Windows 7 Start button image  from this thread if you want your Start button to look authentic. There are several custom buttons available. Then navigate to the Start Button tab, select Custom button and browse to the image. If you don’t see a Start Button tab, make sure Show All Settings is checked.

Select custom button

7. Navigate to the Skin tab and select Windows Aero from the pulldown menu.

Select Windows Aero

8. Click Ok. Your Start Menu should look something like this.

Classic Shell

II. Hide the Cortana / Search Box

On its taskbar, Windows 10 has a prominent search box which invokes Cortana when you click in it. While this box is actually quite useful, it doesn’t exist in Windows 7 so you may want to get rid of it. Besides, if you install Classic Shell or another Start Menu replacement, that will come with its own built-in search box. To hide the Cortana box:

1.  Right click on the search box. A context menu appears.

add border

2. Select Hidden from the Cortana menu.

Select Hidden from the Cortana Menu

III. Get Rid of the Lock Screen

The Windows 10 lock screen you get when you boot up or wake from sleep looks attractive but wastes your time. You have to click or swipe to get rid of it, and then you still get hit with the login prompt. In Windows 7, you boot straight to login prompt and you can do the same in Windows 10 if you make a simple registry edit.

1. Hit Windows +R to bring up the Run dialog.

2. Type “regedit” and hit Enter.

type regedit

3. Go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows in the registry tree.

Navigate to policies / windows

4. Right click in the right pane and select New > Key. A new key (looks like a folder) appears in the left pane.

add key

5. Rename the key to Personalization and select it.

Rename it personalization

6. Right click and select New > DWORD (32-bit) Value in the right pane.

How to Make Windows 10 Look and Feel Like Windows 7

7. Rename the new value to “NoLockScreen.”


8. Double click on it, set the value to 1 and click Ok.

Set it to 1

IV. Add Windows 7 Wallpaper

Nothing makes a computer look like Windows 7 more than using the default Windows 7 wallpaper with the bright blue background and the giant Windows logo in the middle.

1. Acquire the Windows 7 wallpaper. Windows 10 doesn’t come with the old wallpaper, but you can get it a couple of ways. If you still have access to a computer with Windows 7 on it, you’ll find the wallpaper at C:\Windows\Web\Wallpaper\Windows\img0.jpg. You can also download the wallpaper from various places that have posted it online, including here.

2. Right click on your desktop and select Personalize.

select personalize

3. Click the Browse button and select the wallpaper file.

Click Browse

 V. Give the Window Bars Colors

Windows 10 allows applications to select their own title bar colors, but most programs don’t have a custom color set and end up with a depressingly bland white bar. While you can’t get back the transparent aero effect in title bars, you can make them show a nice Windows 7 blue. Here’s how.

1. Download the Themes.rar file.

2. Extract the colored.theme file and colored folder to C:\Windows\Resources\Themes. You will need to install an application that open .rar files. 7-Zip is a good free choice.

Extract the files

3. Double click on colored theme. Your computer will take a second to switch themes and your windows will now have title bars that match the overall Windows accent color. If you’re happy with the title bar color you get, you can skip the following steps. However, you can also control the accent color to make it more Windows 7-like.

4. Right Click on the desktop and select Personalization.

5. Select Colors from the left pane.

Select Colors

6. Toggle “Automatically pick an accent color from my background” to off if you want to choose a custom color. Or leave it / toggle it to on to have it change colors based on your wallpaper.

toggle automatically pick

7. Select a color if you chose to pick a custom color. We recommend the dark blue in the second row for the most Windows 7-like shade.

pick accent color


VI. Replace Edge with Internet Explorer

Windows 7 came with Internet Explrorer as its default browser, with the IE icon pinned to the taskar. If you don’t like Edge browser, Chrome or Firefox, you can easily go back to using Internet Explorer as your default browser in Windows 10.

1. Right click on the Edge browser taskbar icon and select Unpin.


2. Search for Internet Explorer in the search bar. By the time you type Internet, you should see the icon for it.

search for IE

3. Right click on the Internet Explorer icon and select Pin to Taskbar. The IE logo will appear on your taskbar. You might want to drag it to the left so it sits next to the Start button.

select pin to taskbar

4. Launch Internet Explorer.

5. Select Internet Options from the menu.

select Internet options

6. Navigate to the Programs tab and click “Make Internet Explorer the default browser.” A new window opens with a list of programs.

Click Make Internet Explorer the default

7. Select Internet Explorer in the left pane and click “Set this program as default.”

Click set this program as default

8. Click Ok.


OnePlus Icons review

  • Funky design
  • Detailed, lively sound
  • Reasonable price
  • Harsh, synthetic upper mids
  • Large tips a little small

Key Features: 3x sets tof tips; 3-button remote; 11mm drivers

Manufacturer: OnePlus

What are the OnePlus Icons?

The Icons are the priciest earphones OnePlus has made, at £40/$60. From a company that makes phones rather than audio gear, you may think: so what?

However, not only does OnePlus produce some of the best-value phones in the world, it also made a ‘blind listening’ test promo video suggesting the Icons sound better than (what look like) the Sennheiser IE80. They are £250/$375-plus earphones. That’s bold talk for earphones that cost £40/$60.

If the claim was true the earphones would be some of the best available, but sadly the standard-setting performance the OnePlus 2, has not replicated on the Icons. Overambitious tuning makes them quite harsh-sounding with a lot of material. They are not quite the ‘flagship killers’ I had secretly hoped for.

OnePlus Icons 17


In design terms, though, the OnePlus Icons manage to look and feel far more expensive than they are. Most sub-£50/$75 earphones from the big names are made of plastic, and while plenty of smaller brands use metal these days at the price, few offer as much style as the Icons.

Asymmetrical pillars of textured metal make up the ‘stem’ of each earpiece, giving them almost a jewellery-like look. But it’s one that also avoids the bling factor.

The bits that stick in your ear are plastic, but it’s the outer metal that makes the initial, strong impression. It’s one that tells you “cor, these probably cost a bit.” The cable is braided too, common among cheaper earphones trying to make a good impression.

OnePlus Icons 13

I also quite like how hefty a handhold the stems offer to help take the Icons in and out of your ears. They’re a little heavier than some, but the only fit and comfort issues I had were with the tips.

You get three sets in the box, in the usual small-medium-large sizes, and the large ones are smaller than the average. I found using a larger set from another pair gave better results. The OnePlus ones simply weren’t quite big enough for me. However, I should note I have gigantic ear holes. 95% of you should have no issues.

These are also probably the best-packaged Chinese earphones I’ve ever opened. Like the OnePlus phones, you get a nice presentation box, and a neat little faux leather pouch with a magnetised clasp.

For earphones intended to be paired with a OnePlus 2 phone, it’s no surprise they have a handsfree housing too. It’s a fairly standard plastic junction box with a set of three buttons that will work with Android phones. There’s ultimately nothing limiting these to OnePlus phone owners.

Despite a tech-heavy approach on the phone side, the Icons are ‘normal’ earphones. They don’t offer wireless or active noise cancelling, and their isolation is limited. This is likely because they have ports on the back of each earpiece. These are used to improve bass performance. As you can see in the pics, there are little black grilles that put a bit of open air between the drivers and the outside world.

OnePlus Icons 15

Sound Quality

The use of these grilles is no surprise given the drivers used. The OnePlus Icons use 11mm drivers, the largest you’ll see commonly among in-ear headphones. They are dynamic drivers. That’s the ‘normal’ kind.

There’s a lot to like about the OnePlus Icons sound. You get a wide stereo field, good bass and sub-bass response and a good impression of clarity. The mids are up-front and energetic, giving sound a lively, rather than laid-back feel.

In most respects, the Icons offer a good emulation of a higher-end earphone. Perhaps the best part is the stereo width. While the bass response is only reasonably well-managed, the 11mm drivers are used to pretty good effect, offering good low-bass power without overpowering the rest of the sound.

There’s also a good sense of detail, both in the mid-range and treble.

OnePlus Icons 7

There’s a serious issue, though. The OnePlus Icons push the upper-mids and lower treble in order to increase the sense of detail way beyond what the drivers seem to be capable of.

This only becomes obvious with certain content, but when it does, it can ruin the sound. The result is sibilance, significant harshness with higher-register male voices in particular and a pretty poor representation of higher-register guitar lines.

As our reviews editor Alastair notes, the OnePlus Icons ruin a lot of punk guitar tracks, which lean on precisely these frequencies. From another perspective, they make a lot of higher-register male voices like Curtis Mayfield’s sound borderline caustic.

OnePlus Icons 3

Why? It seems as though OnePlus has tried to maximise the detail reproduction of a fairly low-end driver through tuning, and it just doesn’t work as well as hoped. The upper-mids and lower-end treble end up sounding a little synthetic, forced and hard on the ears.

To put it into a visual context, the OnePlus Icons can sound a little like how an oversharpened picture looks. From a distance it looks punchy and detailed, but a closer listen reveals some of the extra detail is a little ugly and unnatural-sounding.

It’s a shame, because with certain music the OnePlus Icons sound excellent. It’s not great wonder they managed to get such a great response from the ‘blind listening’ test group. However, it seems OnePlus must have chosen its test tracks carefully. Can you blame them?

OnePlus Icons

Should I buy the OnePlus Icons?

The OnePlus Icons’s tuning is as ambitious as the specs of its phones. With certain music it’s a great success.

However, play upper-mid heavy music and it becomes clear how the OnePlus Icons are really asking a lot of fairly basic 11mm drivers. I think a lot of you will be much happier with easier-going earphones like the Sennheiser CX5.00, SoundMagic E50 or the Fidue X53 (review incoming). These earphones are a bit less ambitious in terms of mid-range detail, but ultimately offer something I’m much happier to listen to, especially for longer sessions.

Of the three, I’l recommend the SoundMagic E50 if you’re after a more balanced sound. The Sennheisers are the best pick if you’re into a rich, ‘big’ style.


Classy design and some great sound properties are let down by harsh, unnatural-sounding upper-mids.


Huawei TalkBand B2 Review

  • Easy-to-navigate touch-screen display
  • Acts as Bluetooth headset
  • Water- and dustproof.
  • Inaccurate sleep tracking
  • Integration with Up app is currently limited
  • Earpiece still tricky to insert
  • Short battery life.

The $179 Huawei TalkBand B2 is an activity tracker that doubles as a Bluetooth earpiece, but its wonky sleep tracking, limited app functionality and short battery life hold it back.

Huawei returns to the fitness scene with the TalkBand B2. Like the original B1, this $179 device tracks steps, calories and sleep, and you can even pop the module off its base and stick it on your ear to use as a Bluetooth earpiece for calls. However, the B2 is made from more premium materials, and it now integrates with Jawbone’s app ecosystem. After testing it, we have some reservations about the band’s wonky sleep monitoring and lackluster battery life.


Huawei gave the TalkBand B2 a much-needed design upgrade from the B1. The B2 ditches the B1’s chintzy plastic design and physical scroll button for a sleeker aluminum alloy and a 0.73-inch PMOLED display. This new design is powerful and professional, and will pair with a suit much more easily than the earlier version.

The band’s display is now touch-enabled, so there’s no more constant button pressing to scroll between screens like on the B1. But Huawei didn’t get rid of all the buttons – there’s one on the side of the module for waking the screen and bringing up the menu.

The band is pretty much the same as before, featuring a cradle for the module to sit in and a plastic construction with an easy snap closure. There are two small round buttons on one side of the cradle, which, when pressed, release the module for when you want to use it as a Bluetooth earpiece.

My review unit was black, but the B2 also comes in silver and gold. While I enjoy having a touch screen for quick and easy viewing of my data, I prefer the more subtle yet chic design of the $99 Jawbone Up2.

You can jazz up the B2 with a leather band for the module if the default plastic one isn’t your style. The B2 is IP57 rated, just like the B1, meaning it can withstand dust and up to a meter of water for 30 minutes.


The TalkBand B2 has six screens, with a home screen that shows the date, time, battery life and Bluetooth connectivity status. I appreciated the layout of the screens – the typography was large and narrow, making it easy to read. The small moving images are a fun touch that not many other fitness trackers include; there’s feet walking (activity), a flickering flame (calorie burn) and a snoring moon (sleep).

However, there isn’t much else to do on the pages. You can only interact with the timer page, on which you can long press the start icon to begin tracking a workout. You can tap to pause the workout at any time after that, or end it by tapping the stop icon.

The B2’s side button has two functions: to wake the screen and to enter what I like to call the “Huawei menu.” Pressing and holding the button for a few seconds brings up three options, one of which is Bluetooth connectivity. You use this during the initial setup of the device, when pairing it to your phone.

The other two options are Find My Phone and Camera Remote, and only work with Huawei smartphones such as the P8 and the P8 Lite. I like the phone-finder option: Tapping the magnifying glass icon lets the B2 search for your smartphone; upon finding it (if it’s in Bluetooth range), the phone begins to buzz and ring with a jingly tune and a cute little voice saying, “I’m here! I’m here!”

Huawei Wear

The B2 uses a new version of the Huawei Wear app, which has a much cleaner look and feel than the one released for the B1. It has a lot of white space, with colored circles that represent how far along you are in your daily activity goal.

The main screen shows your step count, as well as a breakdown of how much of your activity has consisted of walking, running or cycling. Swiping to the left brings up a similar page showing your sleep time from the previous night, with deep and light sleep totals as well as how long it took you to fall asleep.

You can tap the big circles to show detailed bar graphs of when you were most active during the day, and when you were in different phases of sleep throughout the night. I wish you could see your tracked workout sessions in this view as well, as you can in the Jawbone Up app, but the band doesn’t break them out individually.

Overall, the software is an improvement from that of the TalkBand B1, but it doesn’t top Jawbone’s and Fitbit’s more warm and inviting apps. Those apps not only have more ways of viewing your data and more features, but they also use bright colors and icons to enhance the experience.

Jawbone Up Integration

The TalkBand B2 is the first third-party fitness tracker to integrate with Jawbone’s Up app, but it’s disappointing. Activity information is the only thing shared between the Huawei Wear app and the Up app; I wish the B2’s Up app also transferred over sleep data to make use of Jawbone’s advanced sleep-tracking features.

Having access to that sleep data would provide more fuel for Smart Coach, Jawbone’s health adviser, which uses your stats to give you tips to get more fit. A Huawei representative told me that the company is working with Jawbone to update the B2 with sleep data integration for the Up app.


The TalkBand B2 tracked my activity fairly accurately: I walked 105 steps around my office and the band counted them as 99 steps. The band took only about 10 seconds to sync to the app each time I opened it. Also, the TalkBand’s inactivity alerts made my wrist buzz once each hour, reminding me to move from my office chair.

Alarms were also accurate and easy to use. I set two: one to wake me up and one to remind me to take my daily medication. Both sent strong vibrations to my wrist, and I could easily dismiss them with a tap of the side button.

Sleep Tracking

The B2 automatically detects when you fall asleep, which would be a plus if it were accurate. The first night I wore it, the band had me asleep starting at around 1 a.m., when really I was in dreamland by 11:30 p.m. Every other night, the app did a better job, but it was consistently around a half hour off with my total sleep times.

To make matters worse, the B2 recorded me as asleep for an extra 45 minutes when I was standing still on the subway ride to work. Huawei told me to update the device’s firmware to solve the problem, but my firmware was already up to date before this occurred.

Bluetooth Calling

When your smartphone receives a call, you can detach the B2’s module and hook it to your ear to use it as a Bluetooth earpiece. The display also lights up and shows you who is calling with either a name or a phone number (for those unknown callers), similarly to the notifications on the Fitbit Charge HR.

The B2 comes with three-sized ear inserts, so you can find the best fit. I chose the largest one, and despite feeling like the insert would fall out of my ear, it never actually did.

Aside from one dropped call, the B2 served as a dependable Bluetooth earpiece that allowed my mom to hear me over the noise of rush-hour traffic in Brooklyn.

Battery Life

The TalkBand B2 has the same 95-mAh battery as the B1, which means it should get at least six days on a single charge. After three days of all-day and all-night use (with one Bluetooth call), the battery was down to 30 percent. That’s slightly shorter than the battery life of the Fitbit Charge HR, which can last five days.

Bottom Line

The Huawei TalkBand B2 is a wearable that really wants to stand out from the rest of the pack. It achieves that to an extent with its Bluetooth headset feature, which lets you make and take calls easily. However, as a fitness tracker, the device falls short. Its sleep tracking is inaccurate, and its companion app is too basic compared to the likes of Jawbone and Fitbit. For $30 less, the Fitbit Charge HR has better fitness features, including heart-rate monitoring, as well as a more informative and engaging app.


Asus Reco Classic review: A small and good-value dash cam with usable video

Asus is better known for its laptops, motherboards and graphics cards, but is branching out into dash cams. The Reco Classic is a fairly small unit which is pretty easy to install and has all the features you probably want, plus some extra safety features you’ll no doubt appreciate. 


The Asus Reco Classic is available from a number of UK retailers, including Amazon UK, for £99.99/$150.


It doesn’t come with a microSD card, but you do get a GPS receiver which is built into the suction mount. This plugs into the camera via a slightly-too-short mini USB cable and you get a long power cable that can be routed unobtrusively around your windscreen. Asus also provides adhesive clips for holding the wire neatly in place.

There’s no parking mode, but a g-sensor will automatically record a clip to the emergency folder if there’s an impact while driving. You can set the sensitivity so it doesn’t do this if you hit a pothole, but it’s advisable to set it to the most sensitive setting and then turn it down until you stop getting false positives. Like the Transcend DrivePro 200, there’s also a button to start an emergency recording, but we’d prefer it if Asus had used a different colour to make it more obvious.

There’s also a monitor mode which enables a power-saving mode if there’s no change in the scene for 60 seconds. It will record at 1fps until the scene changes again. You can also enable motion detection. This is an alternative to the automatic start/stop recording function which works when the camera powers on and turns off.

Asus also packs in three safety features. One is warnings of safety cameras, so you’re reminded to drive at a safe speed. This works using the GPS, and only in certain countries. Currently Asus is sourcing a database in the UK, so we couldn’t test how well it works. It isn’t meant to be used to avoid speeding fines, and it isn’t going to know about temporary or mobile cameras.

The other two are features you get in some modern cars: lane-departure warnings and ‘forward collision’ warnings. Both work only when you’re travelling at 40mph or faster. This is better than the Dome dash cam which works at any speed, but the system still gave us false warnings as it didn’t know that we intended to change lanes; we weren’t falling asleep at the wheel. Plus, both have the same alert sound, so it’s hard to tell what the warning is for.

In terms of resolution, the Reco Classic tops out at 1080p at 30fps, but there are two modes: HDR and standard. Audio is recorded – if you want it to be – and a timestamp can be recorded with the video.

By default the screen is always on, but you can set it to turn off after 30 seconds, 3 minutes or 5 minutes.

When you first insert a microSD card, you’ll need to format it. This will copy the media player onto it. You can then use a card reader to install the application on your computer. You can also attach the camera directly and review recordings via the media player, which also shows a map, your location on it, and your speed.


Proving that you can’t look at a camera’s specifications on paper and decide how good its video quality will be, the Asus outperformed cameras with higher resolutions. It may not be the best quality video, but what’s important is that you can see details – such as registration plates – when you pause the video.

The HDR mode isn’t noticeably different to the standard mode: both appear to expose the scene well. At night, it clearly offers a better exposure than its rivals, with much more shadow detail, and colours aren’t washed out.

In the menu you can disable the ultra-wide angle mode, but the difference in the field of view is minimal. Both options are wide (140 and 160 degrees), with noticeable distortion, just as you’d expect from such a wide field of view.

Audio is good, with the bass frequencies removed to cut out rumble and drone, and there’s plenty of treble.

The problem was that that the GPS receiver struggled to pick up a signal quickly during our tests, taking several minutes even if it had had a signal when we parked up five minutes ago. By contrast the Dome and Cobra had no problems locking on. The software may be in English, but it crashed from time to time, and refused to load the map, telling us “the page cannot be displayed”.


Asus Reco Classic day screenshot


Asus Reco Classic Media Player screenshot


  • Video resolution (max): 1080p, 30fps (HDR)
  • 1080p, 30fps
  • 720p, 60fps Field of view (horizontal degrees): 140 Video format: MOV Screen size (in): 2 Wi-Fi: No GPS: Yes G-sensor: Yes Speaker: Yes Memory card: Not included Accessories: Suction mount with GPS, adhesive mount and cable clips, car charger (4m cable) Connectors: mini USB, mini HDMI, mini USB (for GPS), microSD Dimensions (without mount): 82x52x48mm


Despite problems with the GPS and software, the Asus is a great dash cam which records useful video. It’s not the cheapest, but it is pretty good value.


How to Delete the Windows.old Folder in Windows 10

When you upgrade from Windows 7 or 8.1 to Windows 10, the software retains a copy of your old operating system just in case you want to revert. However, if you decide that you’re happy running Windows 10 and don’t want to roll back, you’re left with at least 15GB of wasted space on your hard drive, all of it stored in a folder called Windows.old.

If you simply try to delete the Windows.old directory in File Explorer, the system won’t let you remove most of the files because it considers them system files.

Here’s how to delete the Windows.old folder and save a lot of space.

1. Type “Free up disk space” into the Windows search box.

free up disk space

2. Click the shortcut for “Free up disk space . . .”

free up disk space

3. Click OK. Change the drive if your Windows disk is not already selected.

Click Ok

4. Click Clean up system files.

Clean up system files

5. Click OK again when the drive letter is displayed. The Disk Cleanup window will appear again.

Click OK

6. Check “Previews Windows installation(s)” in the Files to delete box and Click OK.

Delete Windows versions

7. Click Delete Files when asked to confirm.

Click Delete Files

8. Click Yes when prompted to confirm your decision.

Click Yes

The software will take anywhere from 30 seconds to several minutes to delete the files.

How to Delete the Windows.old Folder in Windows 10