Monthly Archives: June 2016

Volkswagen Tiguan first drive: All grown up

php1pdsm4
php9idvxp
phpb11vge
phpbmxzme
phpducmeb
phpfqhcnn
phphpt16x
phphtwm0s
phpjnqdvd
phpn1usao
phpo9ncze
phpqdph9d
phpueu3k2
phpvue9fe
phpxlz31y
phpxwhjxe

Volkswagen was early to market with the last-generation Tiguan. It sold so well (1.8 million since 2007), it’s a bit confusing as to why VW has been shy at coming forward to join the SUV revolution.

But hurrah, never fear, the new Tiguan is here. And it heralds the start of an onslaught of new SUV models from the people’s car company, from big to small.

The last Tiguan, for all its sales success, looked more than a little gawky. The interior lacked the quality you’d expect from a Volkswagen. And it drove with little panache.

The new Tiguan changes all that. In comes a much sharper, modern VW design language — all creases and sharp surfacing with delicious little surface sections cut out around the rear section — and is bigger, longer, wider and slightly lower than its predecessor. That means it looks much more four-square and planted on the road. But it also feels like a more grown up car.

phpykhgjb

Volkswagen Tiguan first drive: Going upmarket

Volkswagen has pushed the Tiguan upmarket. But not just by giving it premium plastics, big wheels and an array of tech kit. It feels like an SUV, a slightly bigger, butcher and more serious car that’s half a size above the likes of the best-selling Nissan Qashqai.

It’s still perfectly manageable to drive of course — at 4.5 metres long, it’s shorter than a BMW 3-Series or Volkswagen’s own Passat. But the boot is a generous, family-friendly size.

Rear seat passengers have plenty of legroom and all-round the Tiguan feels like a very well-judged family-sized car, that’s quite a nice place to sit.

php1pdsm4

Inside, Volkswagen has moved things up a notch from the last model. Gone are the odd air-vents, and in comes VW’s neat, 8-inch touchscreen — which delivers an 840 x 480 resolution and includes a proximity sensor and sat nav as standard.

Go for an SEL version or above and you’ll get the Volkswagen group’s swanky 12-inch digital cockpit display. We drove both a SE Nav version of the Tiguan(the likely best selling version) which didn’t feature the digi cockpit, and the top-of-the range R-Line, which had it.

The display allows you to pick from various modes — such as one where the navigation map is priorities, or off-road data is played up — or you can get it to help you be more efficient, through a coaching system. VW refers to its approach regarding efficiency and technology on-board as “guide and inform” and in our brief drives of each car that sums things up pretty well.

The Tiguan’s system isn’t the ultimately connected, remotely controlled cleverness of an Audi or BMW. But it is fast, relatively intuitive and easy to use. Whether you really need the digital cockpit though, is a tricky question. It’s a lovely, yet novel tech feature. VW’s traditional dials are so crisp and clear already, however, so if you’re being matter-of-fact about it then you don’t really need the digital system.

phpxlz31y

All the Tiguans at the launch event we attended come with Volkswagen’s ubiquitous 2.0 TDi engine. No, not the one that’s been caught being naughty in the US. This is a new unit, introduced with the MQB platform that the Tiguansits on — and which features an AdBlue exhaust treatment system, which should sort out those pesky NOx issues.

The cars that we drove all came in 150bhp power output. There are 115bhp and 190bhp versions, along with 1.4 and 2.0 Tsi Petrols. But the 150 diesel is all the car you need.

If you’re looking for kicks on the road, then you’re looking at the wrong type of car. And while the petrol engines are smooth, the diesel versions suit the Tiguan’s demeanour and cope well with its weight and size. The 150bhp gets to 60mph in 9.3-seconds, and even with us thrashing it on a test route, it gave us over 50mpg.

The tougher questions you’ll need to answer on the drivetrain front are whether to go with four-wheel drive (available on most models, and over 50 per cent of buyers do opt in), and stick with a manual or go for the 7-speed DSG automatic. DSG and four-wheel drive give you an ultimate ease-of-use, get-anywhere vehicle.

phpbhvcne

In SE Nav spec, Volkswagen will want £31,235/$46,8525. Comparatively, lose the four-wheel drive and auto box in the same spec, and you’ll only need £28,035/$42,0525.

There’s a Tiguan for everyone then — including, it seems likely, a plug-in hybrid electric version on the way. But be warned, with four diesel, three petrols, autos, manuals, four- and two-wheel-drive options over five different trim levels, the Tiguan is not a car for those who easily get bored of looking at brochures or online configurators.

Our view? SE Nav will give most of what many people want. R-Line takes things sportier, blingier and fancier — but gets a bit full-on for this size of car. SEL is a nice mid-space if you’ve got a bit of extra cash and fancy a few toys like 19-inch wheels, LED lamps, panoramic roof and the digital display — all of which the SE Nav does without.

phpqdph9d

Out on the road, the Tiguan drives like a much more grown-up car than before. We know from experience in cars like the VW Golf and Audi A3 which share its MQB platform, that this is a very well engineered piece of kit.

The Tiguan feels solid, is extremely quiet and refined and rides very nicely on the smaller wheels of the SE Nav. The 20s on the R-Line don’t kill the ride, but they do make it notably busier. In all models, the factor that jumped out most markedly compared to the previous version was the way the car cornered: this is now a much smoother and more composed car to thread along a country road.

First Impressions

The new Tiguan is a likeable car. And one we think you should consider if you’re in the market for such a vehicle.

We’re impressed with Volkswagen pushing things on the tech front, with even base models getting the 8-inch touchscreen as standard. Nearly all models come with the company’s App-Connect system and sat nav, too, which means you can run Apple CarPlay and Anrdoid Auto. Just a pity we could only find one USB port — not very family-friendly for a car in this day and age. Still, the fold-out rear tables with integrated cup holders are a nice, old-school analogue touch.

The overall question is whether you’ll judge the Tiguan to offer more than cars like the Nissan Qashqai and Renault Kadjar. As we mentioned, the Tiguan now feels like it’s competing at a level above those. It is bigger, there’s a greater range of more powerful engines and big-car features, plus the design is notably more premium. But the Tiguan only offers a little more space on board, so we can’t help wondering whether some people will be swayed by the well-priced and well-equipped crossovers from the mainstream brands, which, car-for-car are a few grand less than this.

It’s best, really, to think of the new Tiguan as a good value Audi Q5. That way it makes more sense and, right now, with the Tiguan brand new and the Q5 really showing its age, the new VW is a better car than its supposedly more premium big cousin. And for that reason alone, it should do very well indeed.

(pocket-lint.com, http://goo.gl/N1ZI2q)

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 vs Note 5 vs Note 4: What’s the rumoured difference?

Samsung’s Galaxy Note device is expected to launch in August, adding another smartphone to the company’s 2016 flagship portfolio.

By default, the next Note should be called the Note 6 but rumour has it Samsung will be skipping the 6 and heading straight for 7 instead. This is apparently to allow the next Note to fall in line with the Samsung flagships that have already launched this year – the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge.

galaxy-note-5-14

Read on to find out how the Galaxy Note 7 compares to the Note 5 and the Note4, based on the rumours.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 5 measures 153.2 x 76.2 x 7.6mm and hits the scales at 171g. Although it still very much looks like a Note device, the Note 5 is more refined than its predecessors, falling more in line with the Galaxy S6 devices and tying the flagships together.

gg2012-galaxy-note-2-752x490

The Note 4 measures 153.5 x 78.6 x 8.5mm and weighs 176g, making it slightly larger and heavier than the Note 5. Both devices offer the S Pen Stylus and they both have a similar rectangular builds that distinguishes them as a Note device.

The Note 7 is rumoured to be measure 153.5mm x 73.9mm x 7.9mm, based on some leaked blueprints, which puts it at a similar size to the Note 5. Reports suggest IP68 water and dust resistance will be added to the party, and the new Note will follow in the path of the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge in terms of designs.

Some rumours claim Samsung will offer just a dual-edge model of the new Note, while others have said there will be curved and flat models. A dual-edge model only would mean a step away from the traditional Note design cues but you can be almost certain there will be an S Pen in some form to help distinguish the new device as a Note.

Both the Note 4 and the Note 5 have fingerprint sensors on board, so we’d expect to see some kind of security scanner for the Note 7 too. More and more rumours claim Samsung will opt for an iris scanner for the Note 7 but we will have to wait and see for now.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 5 features a 5.7-inch Super AMOLED display with a 2560 x 1440 pixel resolution for a pixel density of 515ppi. The screen is protected by Gorilla Glass 4.

The Note 4 also features a 5.7-inch Super AMOLED display with a Quad HDresolution for the same pixel density of 515ppi. Gorilla Glass 3 is on board for protection against scratches.

Some rumours have claimed the Note 7 will up the screen size to 5.8-inches, while others have said it will stick to 5.7-inches. The same Super AMOLED technology is said to be present regardless of size though, as is the Quad HDresolution.

samsung-galaxy-note-5-1-400x534-1-400x448

If the size is increased, it would mean a slightly lower pixel density of 501ppi compared to the Note 4 and Note 5 but this wouldn’t be noticeable to the human eye.

As we mentioned previously, the Note 7 could be coming with a dual-edged display over a flat one though, or both. If this is the case, it would differentiate the Note 7 significantly from its predecessors, especially if only dual-edged appears, putting it more in line with the Galaxy S6 edge+ that launched in the UK last year instead of the Note 5.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 5 features a 16-megapixel rear camera coupled with a 5-megapixel front snapper, both of which have an aperture of f/1.9. The main camera offers auto focus, 8x digital optic zoom and it is capable of 4K videorecording.

The Note 4 also has a 16-megapixel rear camera that is also capable of 4K videorecording and auto focus is also on board again. The front camera has a slightly lower resolution of 3.7-megapixels compared to the Note 5.

The rumours claim the Note 7 will arrive with a 12-megapixel rear camera and a 5-megapixel front-facing snapper. Although a 12-megapixel snapper would be a lower resolution than both the Note 4 and the Note 5, it isn’t all about megapixels when it comes to smartphone camera performance.

4

The Galaxy S7 and S7 edge both come with a 12-megapixel rear camera and 5-megapixel front camera, both offering an aperture of f/1.7 so it wouldn’t be too surprising to see the same for the next Note 7. This should result in better low light images than both the Note 5 and Note 4.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 5 comes in 32GB and 64GB models, both of which have 4GB of RAM. Neither offers microSD storage expansion. An octa-core Exynos processor runs the show, coupled with a 3000mAh battery.

The Note 4 has 32GB of internal memory but there is microSD support on board for storage expansion up to 128GB. A quad-core chip is under the hood, coupled with 3GB of RAM and a battery capacity of 3220mAh.

There have been a couple of different rumours surrounding the Note 7’s hardware. Word has it a Qualcomm or Exynos chipset will be on board depending on the region, which is the same as the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge. There have also been reports of both 6GB and 8GB of RAM.

Storage options for the Note 7 have been touted as 64GB and 128GB, but 256GB has also been thrown around. MicroSD has been mentioned in one report, suggesting it might make a comeback for the next Note, as it did for the S7 and S7 edge.

samsung-galaxy-note-7-release-date-1

There have been mixed reports regarding the Note 7’s battery, with 4000mAh, 4200mAh and 3600mAh all mentioned so either way, there should be an improvement on the Note 4 and Note 5. USB Type-C has also been suggested, something that the S7 and S7 edge both missed off their spec sheets.

Based on the rumours, it looks like the Samsung Note 7 could offer a slightly larger display than its predecessors, along with a more exciting curved design.

You can also expect to see improvements in the camera department and more powerful hardware including a larger battery capacity and extra RAM.

Everything is speculation for now though. We will update this feature as more rumours appear, as well as when the official specs for the Note 7 arrive. To read everything we know so far about Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7, you can head to our rumour round up.

(pocket-lint.com, http://goo.gl/C8Ra4v)

CIVILTOP G672FB Review : A notebook to work and play

Pros

+The Intel Core i7 6700HQ CPU.

+The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M GPU.

+Good battery life.

+Cool design and nice keyboard

Cons

-No Preinstalled OS.

-500 SATA HDD.

-No CD/DVD support

The Upcoming CIVILTOP G672FB it’s a powerful notebook that will be released on July 25th of 2016, this awesome laptop is suitable for both work and gaming while on the move. We are talking about a high-end notebook that will deliver flawless performance as soon as it hits the market, and represents a PC choice that everyone who is looking for a new system should take into consideration, for such reason, we are here to break down every single aspect you need to know about the CIVILTOP G672FB.

overview CIVILTOP G672FB

In the first place, the CIVILTOP G672FB features an Intel core i7 6700HQ quad-core at 2.6 GHz CPU and a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M GPU ready to fulfill your gaming or video needs. This built comes with 8 GB of Ram (DDR4L) distributed on two memory slots. When it comes to storage this laptop features a traditional SATA hard drive of 500GB and 5400RPM.

The display it’s an IPS screen of 15.6 Inches that supports a 1080P full HD resolution, which provides a beautiful picture, suitable for videos, movies, and hardcore gaming. And last but not least, we have the battery which is no slouch, in fact, it is a long life battery of 7200mAh that can provide up to 4 hours of continuous video and play time.

Overall we consider the CIVILTOP G672FB as a solid candidate for students or workers who require high-end performance at work or while playing since this laptop is meant for both tasks, so don’t be afraid of using this notebook as your mobile work or gaming station. It can handle almost anything you can throw at it.

The CIVILTOP G672FB doesn’t come with any OS preinstalled and allows you to choose which system to install. For some users, this will be an advantage and for others exactly the opposite, but at least you will be the one who decides on which OS the notebook will boot up for the first time.

Display

display CIVILTOP G672FB

The display featured it’s an IPS screen of 15.6 Inches that supports a 1920×1080 full HD resolution, it has a widescreen format with 16:9 aspect ratio as expected, and the viewing angles are good. Besides that, there is not too much that can be said except that the overall quality of the picture it’s perfect to enjoy movies and games.

Design

dimmension CIVILTOP G672FB

As you would have realized by taking a look at the pictures, the CIVILTOP G672FB features a modern design that is aesthetically pleasing and gamers will love, but that’s not all because the body is made of aluminum alloy which significantly improves the quality of the physical properties. The body has the following size dimensions 15.08 x 10.04 x 0.93 inches and a weight around 2.349 kg, in conclusion, the average size, and weight for 15.6-inch notebooks. On the right side, the following inputs can be found: an SD card slot, Mini HDMI slot, two USB 3.0 ports, and the DC Jack to plug the charger. On the left side, you will find: the traditional RJ45 Lan connector, two USB 2.0 ports for retro compatibility, a 3.5 mm headphone Jack, an Audio Jack for external speakers, and a microphone Jack.

Another key element featured by this notebook is the backlit keyboard, which holds a cool red glow that will allow the user to type (or play) in dark environments or at night.

desing CIVILTOP G672FB

It’s important to point out that the CIVILTOP G672FB features a dual fan system to keep the CPU and GPU temperature cool, which is suitable for long gaming sessions without having to worry too much about overheating. Also, the disposition of the heat vents is behind the laptop’s body and not at the sides, therefore, you won’t feel directly the heat on your hands while holding the notebook. So don’t you worry and play all you want with your friends on LAN tournaments, of course, you can do it online as well but it’s a laptop after all, and nothing beats the experience of playing in the same room with your buddies.

CPU

processor CIVILTOP G672FB

The CIVILTOP G672FB features an Intel Core i7-6700HQ quad-core processor running at 2.4 GHz of clock frequency and can reach up to 3.5 GHz with turbo boost. This chip is based on the latest Skylake architecture for Intel’s CPUs which is slightly better than the previous Haswell and Broadwell architecture. Also, it counts with 6 MB of Smart Cache.

This CPU also takes advantage of its Hyper-Threading features, which gives the cores and additional performance gain by optimizing the data processing of individual cores. The CPU has a 64 bits architecture, this may be something too obvious to point out, but you need to keep this in mind while installing an operative system since this laptop doesn’t have a preinstalled OS.

Leaving those technical details behind, we can tell you that this is a powerful CPU made with the latest technology that can easily handle the most demanding programs and excessive multitasking like if were nothing. This CPU can handle almost anything you can possibly imagine and perform several tasks at the same time without breaking a sweat.

This chip also integrates an HD Graphics 530 GPU, however, you won’t be using this unit whatsoever since the dedicated GPU featured in this rig it’s much, much better than this, which lead us to the next point of the CIVILTOP G672FB, the GPU.

GPU

graphics CIVILTOP G672FB

The CIVILTOP G672FB has a dedicated NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M GPU with 4 GB of  VRAM. This GPU is an upper mid-range graphics card that supports DirectX 11 and 12 (FL 11_0). It also supports Shader 5.0 and all the NVidia’s features such as PhysX, CUDA, SLI, GeForce Experience and Nvidia Hairworks. As we stated before, the GPU of this notebook has 4 GB of dedicated GDDR5 VRAM, which is a generous amount that makes this graphics card suitable to perform the most demanding tasks.

The GTX 960M won’t let you down, this is one of the best graphics cards for notebooks out there or at least one of the best you can get without having spent two thousand dollars or more. The GPU is also capable of playing 4k video, but for that, you would need to use another display since the maximum resolution supported by the notebook’s screen is 1920×1080.

When it comes to performance the CIVILTOP G672FB is capable of delivering a smooth and detailed visual experience, this laptop can handle videos, images and movies easily and what is more, video editing and gaming will work smoothly on this notebook. If you are more a desktop person and you want further insight on what the GPU can do, then we are glad to tell you that this GPU is the mobile equivalent of a Nvidia GeForce GTX 750 Ti, actually, it performs 10% better than the 750 Ti.

game CIVILTOP G672FB

To give further examples, the benchmarks for this GPU have shown that is capable of delivering 30+ frames on medium settings and 1080p resolution on games like the Witcher 3 and Fallout 4 with the FXAA on, and even 40 frames in the Witcher 3 if the Nvidia’s Hairwork option is turned off, after all, you won’t have time to appreciate Geralt’s hair while fighting monsters or adventuring. Other games like Dirt rally (2016) or MGSV: The Phantom pain that are less demanding can be played at 60 frames per second on high settings. With that said, you already know that the CIVILTOP G672FB can become your portable gaming station for you to take anywhere and enjoy long sessions of gaming.

Memory

This Built has been provided with 8 GB of DDR4L memory Ram, which alongside the Quad-core CPU guarantees a smooth experience for multitasking and working with demanding programs without lag.

The internal storage of the CIVILTOP G672FB it’s one of few weak points we have found on this rig. The SATA Hard drive has a capacity of only 500GB or even less given the fact that a portion will be occupied by the OS, also this is a 5400Rpm HDD, which means that is not precisely the fastest of its kind, it could have definitely been better regarding the HDD, especially when you consider the price of this notebook.

Connectivity and network

hdmi CIVILTOP G672FB

The CIVILTOP G672FB features the standard connectivity of 2016 notebooks and a slightly plus, it supports: LAN, SD cards, HDMI output, USB 2.0/3.0, microphone Jack, audio Jack and 3.5mm headphone jack.

When it comes to wireless connections you’ll find the usual features: WIFI 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0.

Camera

The CIVILTOP G672FB features a 2.0 MP on the front that is suitable for Skype Video calls or taking selfies from time to time.

Battery

The notebook is powered by a 7200mAh battery that according to the manufacturer it can deliver up to 4 hours of continuous video playback, of course, to deliver such duration you would need to turn plane mode on, however, it would be irresponsible of us to state an exact amount of time since that will always depend on the usage and the energy settings, but what it’s for sure is that a battery of this capacity can deliver a consistent and extended lifespan above the average run time of notebooks batteries.

Specifications

conector CIVILTOP G672FB

Basic Information:

Brand: CIVILTOP

Model: CIVILTOP G672FB

Usage: Game

Type: Notebook

OS: DOS

CPU Brand: Intel

CPU Series: Core i7

CPU: i7 6700HQ

Core: 2.6GHz,Quad Core

Caching: 6MB

Graphics Type: Graphics Card

Graphics Chipset: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M

Graphics Capacity: 4G

Process Technology: 14nm

Power Consumption: 45W

Threading: 8

Storage:

RAM: 8GB

RAM Type: DDR4L

RAM Slot Quantity: Two

Hard Disk Memory: 500GB HDD

Hard Disk Interface Type: SATA

Rotational Speed: 5400 RPM

Network

WIFI: 802.11b/g/n wireless internet

Bluetooth: 4.0

WLAN Card: Yes

LAN Card: Yes

Display

Screen size: 15.6 inch

Display Ratio: 16:9

Screen resolution: 1920 x 1080 (FHD)

Screen type: IPS

Connectivity

SD Card Slot: Yes

USB Host: Yes 2xUSB2.0+2 xUSB3.0

Mini HDMI slot: Yes

RJ45 connector: Yes

DC Jack: Yes

Audio Jack: Yes

3.5mm Headphone Jack: Yes

microphone jack: Yes

Keyboard Output: Yes

General

Battery Type: 3.7V / 7200mAh

Battery / Run Time (up to): 4 hours video playing time

AC adapter: 100-240V/19V 6.4A

Camera type: Single camera

Front camera: 2.0MP

Material of back cover: Aluminum Alloy

Skype: Supported

YouTube: Supported

Speaker: Supported

MIC: Supported

CD Driver Type: Not Supported

Package Contents

Charger: 1

English Manual : 1

Notebook: 1

CD: 1

Product size: 38.30 x 25.50 x 2.35 cm / 15.08 x 10.04 x 0.93 inchesPackage size: 52.00 x 32.00 x 11.50 cm / 20.47 x 12.6 x 4.53 inches

Product weight: 2.349 kg

Package weight: 4.600 kg

Final thoughts

gaming CIVILTOP G672FB

The CIVILTOP G672FB defines itself as a gaming laptop and it is certainly a good one, and can be even more than since it features an Intel Core i7-6700HQ CPU of 6th generation, which makes this built suitable to perform multitasking and running heavy applications or programs. This notebook indeed constitutes a great work and gaming station that can be taken anywhere. Another strong point that needs to be addressed it’s the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M GPU that brings many possibilities to the table, from movies and video editing to gaming and more. Just by looking at the specs you can be sure that it will perform very decent on today standards concerning GPU demanding programs and recent games alike.

In the downside, there are three major aspects that stand out. Firstly, the storage since it’s a regular SATA hard drive with only 500GB of capacity and a rotational speed of 5400 rpm, in our humble opinion an SSD of a similar capacity would’ve been a better choice for the built since a solid state drive performs several times faster than the traditional HDD, therefore, the current hard drive represents a bottleneck for both its capacity and speed. Secondly, the CIVILTOP G672FB does not come with any operative system pre-installed whatsoever, for such reason, you will need to install one by yourself. And last, this laptop doesn’t have CD or DVD drive, although the usage of disks has decreased we consider that it would’ve been a nice feature for some people.

However, in an overall picture the CIVILTOP G672FB represents a great choice if you are looking for a reliable notebook for your studies, work or gaming activities.

(xiaomitoday.com, http://goo.gl/ZYthJE)

2017 Volvo S90 Review : Living the (Nearly) Self-Driving Life

THE GOOD
  • Advanced safety systems are standard on all models
  • Luxurious appointments
  • Svelte design
  • Solid connected car system
THE BAD
  • Auto pilot not ready to take over, yet
  • Android Auto support still to come
  • Weak speech recognition
VERDICT

For those concerned about safety, the latest and greatest advanced driver assistance systems come standard in Volvo’s impressive new S90 sedan.

With warning bells ringing in my ears and the Volvo S90 perched precariously on the edge of a cliff, it occurred to me that the car’s engineers probably didn’t envision their luxury sedan packed full of safety features would be gingerly shepherded down what amounted to a mountain goat path in Spain. But the unintended off-road experience–plus hours of hands on (and hands-off) driving–proved that the technologically tricked out S90 is more than just a pretty face. It’s also the first car to come standard with an array of semi-autonomous driving features.

The 2017 Volvo S90 is the second model from the automaker, following the XC90 SUV, that’s based on a new engineering platform and features Volvo’s touch-screen based connected car system. Volvo has upped the safety and self-driving features on the sedan, adding large animal detection and taking the initial Pilot Assist version from city-only driving up to 80 mph highway speeds. It works well compared to similar systems from other automakers, but there’s a learning curve for drivers anxious to adopt the latest technology.

Suite Tech: Almost Autonomous

A myriad of safety and advanced driver assistance (ADS) systems are baked into the 2017 S90 as standard equipment. It includes road edge detection that monitors the shoulder and gently tugs the wheel back into the lane to prevent dangerous wheels-off-road rollovers (that’s the system pinging me on the mountain path).

Photo: Volvo

To its pedestrian and cyclist collision avoidance systems, Volvo has added large animal detection that uses radar to sense obstacles ahead and a video camera to identify deer and moose. A warning light and chime will sound should you encounter such a threat and then if you don’t apply the brakes, the car will do it for you. (As a demonstration that cars are increasingly rolling computers, Volvo will also do a software upgrade of its 2016 XC90 to add the large animal detection feature.) According to a 2012 State Farm study, there are about 1.23 million deer-car accidents a year, so any technology that can help mitigate such accidents is welcome.

Photo: Volvo

The technology attracting the most attention in the S90, however, is the company’s latest semi-autonomous Pilot Assist system. It has been upgraded so that it now works above 30 mph up to about 80 mph and it no longer relies on following a car in front of you. The new Pilot Assist will maintain your speed and follow lane markings, steering the car for you as long as your hand rests lightly on the wheel.

On the highway, the Pilot Assist system worked well most of the time. Once you’ve set the speed and turned it on by pushing a button on the left-hand portion of the steering wheel, a green steering wheel icon lights up in the center stack on the head-up display to tell you it’s on. You can take your hands off the wheel for up to 16 seconds before a message flashes on the dash to take the wheel again. If you don’t, you’ll hear more warning chimes and then the automated system disengages. The system is also smart enough to temporarily switch off when you signal to change lanes and then turn back on when you complete the lane change; it worked flawlessly in such situations for me (it could even train drivers to signal for a change).

The new Pilot Assist system will maintain your speed to up to 80 mph and steer the car for you as long as your hand rests lightly on the wheel.

Volvo emphasizes that the Pilot Assist feature is not intended for YouTube showboating: It’s a driver support system–you’re still captain of the ship. There’s a good reason for that: the system is not perfect. On quick, curvy mountain roads, the Pilot Assist sometimes failed to “see” an upcoming corner in time. It also takes time to become accustomed to the steering feel. If you put the car into “comfort” driving mode (for a more plush, effortless highway drive), there’s a distinctive tightening of the wheel every time the car makes a lane-centering adjustment. On the other hand, the steering tweaks are less noticeable if you set the car into “dynamic” mode.

Furthermore, some drivers won’t appreciate the way the car will continually force the vehicle squarely into the center of the lane if they’re more comfortable either hugging the yellow line or skirting the right white line.

Photo: Volvo

You can become complacent with Pilot Assist, and then you’re suddenly reminded that human driver input is essential. As I came around a slight curve on a two-lane highway, the S90 gently steered me away from the right hand soft shoulder at precisely the moment a car coming the opposite way veered into my lane to avoid a cyclist on his side. I quickly directed the car back toward the right side to avoid a collision. If I had not done so, the Pilot Assist would not have reacted in time.

While the Volvo engineers have overcome flaws I’ve witnessed in competing vehicles, such as being fooled by dark shadows or pole reflectors on curves, not everything was seamless in the S90.

On two days of test driving, I encountered several tunnels with the car in Pilot Assist mode. Sudden lights and shadows did not fool the S90, but near the end of one particularly long tunnel, the emergency braking kicked on for a split second and then off before I could apply the accelerator to disengage the system. It should have also have automatically turned off the Pilot Assist but it didn’t. The glitch did not present any danger, but the hiccup was a demonstration that no software program or computer is absolutely flawless.

Tablet In the Dash: Connecting the Dots

Volvo’s Sensus touch-screen based connected car system made its debut in the XC90 last year. The big 9-inch vertically mounted screen uses infrared sensors, so that it can be used with gloves, and it reacts quickly and smoothly. It’s based on a four-tile interface with navigation, media (radio and music), phone, and apps.

Photo: Volvo

One nifty trick is that the car supports Spotify without the need for a connected smartphone. The system also works with Apple’s CarPlay and uniquely does not have to give up the whole screen to Apple’s uber app. This is a major advantage over other CarPlay implementations because it means you have the rest of the screen to access features such as temperature control and ADS functions, which cannot be controlled from within CarPlay.

I found the Volvo interface logical and easy to master. Swipes left and right invoke different screens with various detailed adjustments covering everything from adaptive cruise control to flexible seat bolsters. You can also input an address using an on-screen keyboard or draw letters on the screen (remember the Palm Pilot?).

One nifty trick is that the S90 supports Spotify without the need for a connected smartphone.

Volvo has also added Wi-Fi based on 4G LTE support so the whole family can enjoy the wireless connection. Topping it all off, there are just enough physical buttons and steering wheel controls so that you don’t have to reach for the screen if you don’t want to.

Photo: Volvo

Alas, the Sensus’ bette noire is the speech recognition component. It uses a limited lexicon of words, rather than understanding natural language instructions. So it works reasonably well handling navigation commands or music requests, but it does not understand requests to change the AC or switch driving modes. (Siri can’t help you with those tasks either, because Apple’s assistant is limited to infotainment functions.)

The navigation system worked well–with the one off-road, cliff-hanging exception–and responded quickly when we missed a turn at a traffic circle. I particularly appreciated the head-up color display that showed speed, direction and icons telling me when various driver assistance programs were engaged.

Just Drive It: Luxury Four-Door

On my little dirt path excursion into Spaghetti Western territory, the all-wheel drive system in the T6 model was a welcome feature. The S90 climbed steep embankments like a sprightly cross over, and negotiated the ruts and rocks with aplomb. So if you face snowy winters, the Volvo should give you added confidence. But the S90 is really built for cruising.

The new S90’s sinuous lines are a refinement of an evolving design, and while the company refers to details like the front running lights as invoking Thor, I found the front more feline than hammer of the gods. So too with the driving experience. Highway handling was smooth and relaxed.

Photo: Volvo

The combination of turbo and supercharging the 4-cyclinder, 316-hp engine means you’re not lacking for power in the low end when trying to merge, and yet you’ve still got enough of a boost at higher speeds when you need to pass. The model I drove was rated to get you from 0 to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds; not the quickest in its class but also not terribly tardy.

Whether you’re trying to save gas, cruise in comfort or snap the car through country curves, there’s a preset driving mode for your mood. Comfort mode, for example, loosens the steering to make it more forgiving while dynamic mode is best for backroads. You can also customize the suspension, shifting and steering for your own individual preferences. But whatever setting you choose, you’ll find the car predictable and responsive, adhering to Volvo’s philosophy that there should be “no surprises” when it comes to driving.

With all the driver assistance technologies engaged, I found the S90 subtle in terms of communicating to me what was happening. If I strayed too close to the shoulder a steering vibration let me know I was stepping on the white line–without alerting the passengers as well. In general, such warnings as proximity alerts and chimes were obvious and understandable.

The one change that took me several hours to get used to was the fact that the Pilot Assist can turn off when you may not expect it; if you get too cavalier on a twisty highway with poorly demarcated lines, the system will turn off and start to drift before the driver notices. The more miles behind the wheel, the more I became accustomed to the hand-offs, but it’s an issue facing every automaker with semi-autonomous designs.

Bottom Line

On the path to making automobiles safer and saving lives, the 2017 Volvo S90 is a milestone because it establishes advanced safety technology as standard equipment. Other automakers, by contrast, have only promised to make automatic emergency braking standard by 2022. Furthermore, pedestrian detection and the large animal detection systems work both day and night, providing another level of driver assistance.

Compared to others in its class, such as the BMW 5 Series or Audi A6, the new Volvo S90 is a serious contender, especially for those who are serious about safety. While the semi-autonomous systems aren’t perfect, they still can save a driver from a disastrous mistake, something any family or couple looking at a sedan should appreciate.

2017 Volvo S90 T6 Inscription: The Vitals

  • Price as Tested: $57,245 MSRP (including destination charge)
  • Engine and Drive train: 2.0-liter, supercharged and turbocharged four-cylinder engine with eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive.
  • Fuel Rating: N/A.
  • Connected Car System: Volvo Sensus with 9-inch touch screen.
  • Safety Technologies: Collision avoidance with pedestrian, cyclist and large animal detection; lane departure warning, edge mitigation, adaptive cruise control with auto stop and go.
  • Driver Assist Technologies: Lane keeping (Pilot Assist), parking assist, 360 degree camera view, rear-view camera.
  • Installed Options: Rear cross traffic alert, bending headlights.

(tomsguide.com, http://goo.gl/EhZW5N)

Apple MacBook vs HP Spectre : Superthin Laptop Showdown

Every laptop maker wants to one-up the MacBook. And why not? Apple’s $1,299 ultraportable is extremely light and thin, and packs a rich Retina display and plenty of staying power into that stylish design. HP’s answer is the Spectre (starting at $1,169), which is even thinner than Apple’s machine and boasts more ports, a full-power Core processor — no dinky Core M here — and a cushy keyboard. However, the Spectre makes trade-offs — just as the MacBook does.

Spectre-vs-Macbook-home-scr

To find out which supersvelte system is tops, we put them through nine rounds of competition. Although this contest was very close, the HP Spectre came out on top. Here’s why.

Design

specs_chart

The HP Spectre is the self-proclaimed thinnest laptop on Earth, and at 0.41 inches, it certainly cuts a striking figure.

Spectre-vs-Macbook-thin-v2

The Apple MacBook is 0.14 to 0.52 inches thick, though it’s hard to tell the difference between the two machines when they’re side by side.

HP-Spectre-lid-2

What’s even more striking about the Spectre is its two-tone body, which is made of carbon fiber and aluminum. The ash-black-and-copper combo definitely makes this system pop — it’s anything but a MacBook clone. However, although the laptop’s polished hinge looks pretty, it picks up fingerprints quickly.

Apple-Macbook-2016-NW-G04

At 2.03 pounds, the MacBook is lighter than the 2.45-pound Spectre, and it’s more compact because of its smaller 12-inch display. Apple also gives you a choice of four colors, but its overall aesthetic isn’t much different from, or more exciting than, other Mac portables.

Winner: HP Spectre. The MacBook is lighter and gives you more color options, but the Spectre oozes with unique style.

Ports

Neither the MacBook nor the Spectre makes room for a full-size USB port or SD card slot, but HP gives you more ports in its slim design. The Spectre sports three USB Type-C ports; one is a USB 3.1 port, and two are Thunderbolt 3, giving you the fastest speeds possible as well as support for up two external 4K displays at once. I just wish all of the ports weren’t on the back.

Spectre-vs-Macbook-ports

By contrast, the MacBook has a lone USB Type-C port, which means you can’t charge the laptop and plug in a peripheral at the same time without using a dongle. Plus, the MacBook’s port doesn’t support the latest Thunderbolt 3 spec.

Winner: HP Spectre.Three ports are better than one.

Keyboard and Touchpad

This round is no contest. The MacBook’s keyboard offers very little travel — just 0.5 millimeters — making the Spectre’s 1.3 mm of travel feel positively cushy by comparison. There’s zero learning curve with the HP, while the Apple keyboard requires some adjustment.

Spectre-vs-Macbook-keyboards_v2

The Spectre’s 3.75 x 2.15-inch glass touchpad is roomy and provides smooth scrolling and accurate text selection, but people who use two fingers may find the pad to be jumpy. The MacBook’s 4.4 x 2.7-inch Force Touch trackpad is significantly larger and therefore easier to use.

Winner: HP Spectre. Its keyboard is just more comfortable.

Display

The HP Spectre’s 13.3-inch display has some advantages over the MacBook’s 12-inch panel. In addition to being larger, it’s also brighter (359 nits versus 327 nits for the MacBook). However, in all other aspects, the MacBook’s screen is superior.

Spectre-vs-MacBook-screens

Apple’s display is sharper than HP’s (2304 x 1440 versus 1920 x 1080 pixels), and I noticed the difference immediately while watching the new Jason Bourne trailer. I could make out more lines in Matt Damon’s face, as well as more details in his leather jacket. However, HP’s brighter display allowed me to make out details in his dark shirt more easily; it was a dark blob on the MacBook.

In terms of colors, the MacBook produces slightly more of the sRGB color gamut than the Spectre (107 percent versus 100 percent), and its hues are a bit more accurate. Apple’s panel registered a Delta-E error rating of 1 (0 is perfect), while the HP notched 1.23.

Winner: Apple MacBook.Although it’s smaller, the MacBook’s screen is sharper and more colorful.

Audio

I don’t know how Apple does it, but the speakers on the MacBook Pro put HP’s Bang & Olufsen’s speakers to shame. When I watched the Jason Bourne trailer, the MacBook produced louder sound and more powerful explosions.

It was the same story when I streamed the Red Hot Chili Peppers on Spotify. Anthony Kiedis’ vocals sounded tinny on the Spectre; on the MacBook, they were crisper, with a more pronounced bass line.

Winner: Apple MacBook.The audio experience is superior all around.

Webcam

You would think that the HP Spectre’s 720p webcam would produce better images than the MacBook’s 480p shooter. But you’d be wrong.

Spectre-vs-Macbook-webcam

In a side-by-side photo test, the MacBook produced an image with more accurate skin tones and better detail, while the Spectre’s image looked blurrier. On the plus side, the Spectre’s webcam produced a brighter image and made my skin look better.

Winner: Apple MacBook. Resolution isn’t everything.

Performance

The HP Spectre benefits from a full Core i5 or i7 processor, compared to a lower-power Core m3 or m5 chip in the MacBook. (You can upgrade the Apple to a Core m7 CPU, but it still won’t be as speedy as what’s inside the HP.)

geekbench_chart_bars

On the Geekbench general performance benchmark, our HP Spectre review unit with a Core i7 processor, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD scored 7,026. That’s much higher than the Core m5 MacBook we tested with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD, which hit 5,906. Just keep in mind that the Spectre needs a fan to squeeze this much power into such a slim frame, and it can get noisy.

On other tests, the MacBook performed quite well. Its flash storage turned in a transfer speed of 355.9 MBps, compared with 195.9 MBps for the Spectre. And the MacBook took just 3 minutes and 11 seconds to match 20,000 names and addresses in OpenOffice, while the HP took a bit longer, at 3:56.

Winner: HP Spectre. The MacBook has faster flash memory but a slower CPU.

Battery Life

Endurance is not the Spectre’s strong suit.

battery_chart_bars

On the Laptop Mag Battery Test, which involves continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi, the HP lasted a meager 6 hours and 13 minutes, which is well below the 7:55 ultraportable category average. The MacBook turned in a much longer runtime of 9:38 — more than 3 hours longer.

Winner: Apple MacBook.You can leave the charger behind.

Value and Configuration Options

While both the MacBook and the HP Spectre are decidedly premium laptops, the Spectre is a better bargain. The starting $1,169 configuration for the HP gets you a Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. In comparison, you need to spend $1,299 to get a weaker Core m3 processor on the Apple with the same RAM and storage. Stepping up to $1,299 for the HP gets you a faster Core i7 processor.

Apple charges a whopping $1,599 for a machine with a Core m5 CPU, but you also get 512GB of flash storage to go with it. HP charges an additional $250 to get a 512GB SSD, which would bring the price to $1,419 if you also opted for the beefier Core i7 chip — which is still less than the pricier MacBook.

Winner: HP Spectre.You just get more for your money.

Overall Winner: HP Spectre

winner_chart

Given how thin these two laptops are, it’s only fitting that the HP Spectre eked out a victory by a slim margin. HP’s laptop comes out on top for a few key reasons: It offers a better-looking design, a more powerful processor, more ports and a more comfortable keyboard, all for a cheaper price than the MacBook.

The MacBook is the superportable laptop to get if you demand long battery life, and it also offers a sharper display and better audio quality than the HP. But based on our comparison, the Spectre is the better overall choice.

(laptopmag.com, http://goo.gl/wfegqN)

Now TV Smart Box Hands-on Review

Now TV launched in 2012 as Sky’s internet TV service, offering access to the company’s premium content without the need to install a satellite dish. A year later, the company launched its first Now TV Box, providing an easy way to add Smart TV functionality to any television. With this market now becoming crowded, the new Now TV Smart Box aims to help Now TV get ahead of the competition.

The big change here is the addition of a Freeview tuner, adding free-to-air TV channels to the option of premium Sky content and catch-up TV channels.

Launched alongside a new range of Now TV Combo packages, with access to TV, broadband and phone, and a new Now TV router, the new Now TV Smart Box is Sky’s new take on the set-top box. We take a closer look.

Build

The new Now TV Smart Box is larger and slimmer than the current Now TV box, measuring 165 x 165 x 20.5mm (HWD), and looking more like the new Sky Q boxes. Weighing just 432g, it sports a gloss black finish with blue Now TV branding.

Now TV wants this box to replace any Freeview box you may already have. To that extent, it’s equipped with a digital aerial socket, alongside an HDMI out to connect to your TV. You can enjoy 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound over HDMI, but the video output is limited to 1080p full HD, so there’s no support for 4K TV.

While we knew you’d need the Sky Q service to get Sky 4K TV over satellite, rumours had suggested we would see a Now TV 4K box. For now, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Other connections include an Ethernet port for a wired internet connection – the box does also have built-in wi-fi – a microSD card slot, and a USB connection for viewing media on external devices.

There’s no built-in hard drive (and you can’t connect an external one), so there’s no option to record. Sky would rather point you towards its array of catch-up and on-demand content – and keep the costs of the box down. However, you can pause live TV and rewind programmes by up to 30 minutes.

Features

The aerial, Ethernet, HDMI and microSD connections are on the rear of the Now TV Smart Box, while the USB port is on the side.

The aerial connection gives the Now TV Smart Box access to 60 free-to-air channels, including 15 in HD (where available).

More than 50 apps are available to download to the box, including YouTube, Spotify and Sky News, but not Amazon Instant Video or Netflix. Naturally the push here is towards the Sky Cinema and Entertainment passes if you want to watch movies and TV shows.

The Now TV interface has been given a refresh and it is now easier to find recommended content and your favourite programmes. The interface, like the box, has been developed with Roku.

Interface

The homepage is the best place to go if you want to continue watching a series or movie you’ve already started, or to watch live TV.

One of the main boxes on screen shows you a live feed of the last channel you watched, while others recommend programmes based on personalised selections and on previous viewing history.

You can also access the TV guide which shows you what’s on now and next, as well as programme information.

Unlike YouView and Freeview Play, you can’t simply scroll back through the EPG to find programmes you’ve missed to watch on demand. Instead you need to go into the dedicated app for the relevant channel, such as iPlayer, or use the search function.

The apps page shows all the apps you have installed on your box. The most popular are front and centre on the Now TV Smart Box interface.

There are over 50 apps available to download, including BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4, YouTube and Spotify.

Navigating the menus is done using the supplied infrared remote control, the same as the one that comes with the standard Now TV box.

A new feature for this Smart Box is being able to pause live TV. You can also rewind up to 30 minutes, although the company says this depends on individual channels.

Content

If you want to go down the Now TV Combo route, then you need to choose a Sky pass for the content you want to watch, plus broadband and phone subscriptions.

There’s a choice of Sky TV passes. The Entertainment pass gives you access to 11 channels not available on Freeview, including Sky 1, Sky Atlantic, Sky Arts, Comedy Central and Discovery. You’re also given access to more than 250 TV box sets, including big name shows such as Game of Thrones and Modern Family.

The Sky Cinema pass opens up over 1000 movies to watch, including a new premiere every single day. Films including Spectre, Ant-Man and The Martian are all lined up to be added in the future.

The Sky Sports pass is available in three options; as a 24-hour day pass, a seven day week pass or a month pass. Each gives unlimited access to all the Sky Sports channels, allowing you to watch Premier League football, Formula 1, cricket and golf.

Finally, the Kids pass has recently been added. This gives children access to six channels, including Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network as well as a child-friendly interface.

Once you’ve chosen your pass, you’re all set. Want to change TV package? You can. Swap the Entertainment pass for the Sky Cinema pass, for example, and the monthly cost will be adjusted accordingly.

There are three Sky broadband options to choose from; up to 17mbps Brilliant Broadband, up to 38mbps Fab Fibre or up to 76mbps Super Fibre. There’s a one-off £40/$60 set-up cost for Brilliant Broadband or a £50/$75 fee for the other two options. As with the passes, you can change your broadband speed on a monthly basis.

Finally, you can add a calls package to your monthly bundle, with three options: pay as you use, evenings and weekends or anytime. Again, you can change your plan whenever you like.

Initial verdict

The new Now TV Smart Box is an interesting one. The addition of a digital Freeview tuner, coupled with an intuitive and easy-to-use interface, makes it a genuine alternative to the vast range of standard TV set-top boxes available. It’s missing a built-in hard drive, or support for an external one, but as more and more content goes on-demand, this should become less of an issue.

And on top of Freeview, you get access to Sky’s crown jewels, the pay TV content, without the dish and costly subscription. However, a Sky Sports pass and Super Fibre broadband would still see you paying up to £70/$105 per month, including line rental.

We also can’t ignore the fact this box doesn’t support 4K Ultra HD. Both Amazon and Roku have boxes that support the 4K video, so this won’t appeal to those wanting the very best picture quality.

But for the most part, the new Now TV Smart Box, whether combined with a Now TV Combo package or not, is certainly an interesting addition to the crowded TV landscape of streaming sticks, set-top boxes, apps and more. We look forward to getting hold of the new box for a full review shortly.

(whathifi.com, http://goo.gl/IiOYEZ)

Olympus E-M1II Coming with Dual SD Card Slot

More details are coming for the upcoming Olympus E-M1II mirrorless camera. The flagship MFT model is expected to feature dual SD card slot.

After the mention of the new handheld high resolution mode which will help pro users for better stabilization. Now the Olympus E-M1II is said to include dual SD card slots. So it is highly likely that the mirrorless shooter will be bigger than the current E-M1 model.

Photokina is the worlds biggest digital imaging event and photo enthusiasts welcome new products in the industry from all brands. The Japan-based company is rumored to announce the new Micro Four Thirds camera this year.

Olympus E-M1II specs list might include dual SD card slot feature

Aimed at professional sports photographers, the Mark II model of E-M1 will be capable of recording 4K videos. The company is allegedly working on a new handheld high-resolution shooting mode.

first-olympus-e-m1-mark-ii-rumors

If Olympus has managed to create a handheld high resolution mode than the users won’t need a tripod for extra stabilization. The rumor mill also claiming that the camera will include an electronic shutter of 1/32000s.

See the combined specs posted so far.

  • 20-megapixel Four Thirds image sensor
  • Handheld high resolution mode
  • Electronic shutter of 1/32000s
  • 4K video recording capability
  • Dual SD Card slot
  • New and improved AF system
  • New viewfinder
  • No global shutter

Professional cameras have dual memory card slots for a variety of professional use cases. The Dual SD card slot is another feature that will make the Olympus E-M1II more suitable for PRO photographers, sources say.

(dailycameranews.com, http://goo.gl/EhZW5N)

2017 Porsche Panamera Preview

Porsche has released information on the second-generation of its flagship sedan (it’s actually a hatchback), and the 2017 Porsche Panamera is a better looking car than the first generation.

The new Panamera is an evolution of the last car, not a revolution, but the lumpy look of the roof — there to provide plenty of headroom — is smoothed out and sleeker. The car rides on a new modular platform known as the MSB, and while the proportions grow for 2017, the car looks lower. Length is up by 1.3 inches to 198.8 inches, wheelbase grows 1.2 inches to 116.1 inches, and width and height both increase 0.2 inch to 76.3 and 56.0 inches, respectively. The extra wheelbase was achieved by shifting the front wheels forward, which had the secondary effect of shortening the front overhang and lengthening the rear overhang.

The front end features a new A-shaped lower air intake, giving the nose a new look. The hood also sits lower thanks to new compact engine designs. Intricate detail in the LED headlights (LED matrix headlights will be optional), with their four-point LED driving lights, provides the car with a high-tech look, while the new LED taillights have a 3D look and resemble the units on the latest 911. In fact, the whole car’s shape, from the low, flat nose to the rounded body panels to the extendable rear spoiler to the pronounced rear haunches, is inspired by the 911. The body is made almost entirely of aluminum, though there are also some optimized steel alloys.

2017 Porsche Panamera Turbo

New engines, more power

U.S. buyers of the Panamera will have a choice of two engines. Power in the Panamera Turbo will come from anew twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 producing 550 horsepower (30 more than the last model) and 568 pound-feet of torque. It will also come with cylinder deactivation to shut down four cylinders under light load conditions to save fuel. Porsche says the Turbo will be able to accelerate from zero to 62 miles per hour in as little as 3.6 seconds.

The base engine in the Panamera S will be a twin-turbocharged 2.9-liter V6 making 440 horsepower (20 more than the last S) and 406 pound-feet of torque. It’s zero to 62 time will be 4.2 seconds. Both engines will have “hot Vs.” In other words, the turbos will be located between the cylinder banks.

2017 Porsche Panamera Turbo

Porsche hasn’t released fuel economy figures but claims the V6 will be 11% more efficient in the European cycle. Porsche also says the V8 will be up to 30% more efficient, but that is with four cylinders shut off.

A third engine will be available in Europe. It is a new twin-turbocharged diesel V8 that churns out 422 horsepower and a whopping 627 pound-feet of torque in the Panamera 4S Diesel.  Though it has two turbos, the diesel can use one or both of them; it will use one at low speeds and both above 2,700 rpm. Porsche says zero to 62 miles per hour will arrive in as few as 4.3 seconds with fuel economy much improved over the gas V8. The diesel will come with all-wheel drive.

All of the engines will be linked to a new eight-speed dual-clutch transmission.

Porsche’s press release gave no information about a new plug-in hybrid model or the sleek wagon bodystyle, both of which should come after launch.

While there is also no word on how much stiffer the structure will be, Porsche says the car will offer rear steering, electronically controlled dampers, torque vectoring, active roll compensation, and a three-chamber air suspension. Wheel sizes will range from 19 to 21 inches.

2017 Porsche Panamera Turbo

Revised interior, fewer buttons

The most noticeable change for the interior of the 2017 Panamera is the new central command layout. Gone are the buckets of buttons in the last model, replaced by a new 12.3-inch configurable center touchscreen that works like a tablet. In front of the driver sit a pair of 7-inch instrument panel screens that flank a centrally located tachometer. Porsche calls it the Porsche Advanced cockpit and notes that it features far more communication, convenience, and assistance systems.

Those new assistance systems include a night vision assistant and Porsche InnoDrive, which includes adaptive cruise control. InnoDrive is an autonomous system that uses navigation data and signals from radar and video sensors to compute and activate the optimal acceleration and deceleration rates, gear selections, and coasting phases for the next 1.8 miles.

In the rear, a new control unit offered with the optional four-zone climate control system has its own digital screen so passengers can control the climate system and the infotainment functions.

Other interior options will include a panoramic sunroof, massaging seats, ambient lighting, and a Burmester 3D sound system.

The new Panamera is due in showrooms next January.

(cheatsheet.com, http://goo.gl/CQenyI)

Samsung Z3 Corporate Edition launched with SD410 SoC

After launching the Z3 back in October last year, Samsung has now launched a new variant of the Tizen-powered device. Dubbed Z3 Corporate Edition, the handset – as the name suggests – is aimed at enterprise customers, and is available for purchase in Russia.

It’s worth mentioning that the variant launched in Russia is different from the original Z3 (that was launched in India) in that it is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon MSM8916 (SD410) chipset, supports 4G LTE, and is SAFE certified for business use in Russia.

The original Z3, in comparison, is powered by a Spreadtrum chipset and is only 3G-compatible.

The Linux Center store – which is an official Samsung partner – is currently selling the Z3 Corporate Edition in Russia. The phone carries a price tag of RUB 16,618 (around $260), although those who purchase it before June 30 will get a 15% discount.

(gsmarena.com, http://goo.gl/ZSizO2)

Lenovo Miix 310 Review : an affordable 2-in-1 PC

Lenovo has a new 2-in-1 PC for those who want the convenience of a tablet and the truly usable form factor of a proper laptop. Unlike some competing 2-in-1 systems, the Ideapad Miix 310 features a keyboard with a hinge — attach the tablet portion to the keyboard and the combination of the two feels nearly identical to an ordinary laptop. It’s not just a laptop, though, and it’s all the better for it. Is the Miix 310 the inexpensive 2-in-1 you’ve been waiting for? Read our full review to find out!

Lenovo Miix 310 Review: an affordable 2-in-1 PC

Hardware

The Lenovo Miix 310 comes connected to its keyboard out of the box; upon removing it, you feel like you’re picking up a netbook from years back. Open the display, though, and you’ll be able to tell by the reversed display-to-keyboard weight that you’re holding a 2-in-1 system.

That’s the only tell-tale sign, though, as the hinge that connects the display to the keyboard is exceptionally well made. If you’re looking for a 2-in-1 arrangement that, unlike the Surface and Elite x2, can be used like any laptop on the market, the Miix 310 is exactly that.

The ports are located along the tablet’s right edge, with the exception of a couple on the keyboard portion. The tablet snaps onto the keyboard using magnets with two small feet to help guide it into place.

The tablet snaps very firmly in place; once attached, you can close the display more than 45-degrees with it remaining in place, and can open it a little more than 90-degrees. The viewing angles for the display, which is both glossy and excellently crisp, are fairly wide.

The tablet portion has slightly tapered edges and a smooth outer shell. The bottom of the keyboard features the same smooth shell but understandably avoids the tapered edges. Four shallow rubber feet keep it in place on the tablet or desk, while an array of low-profile mechanical keys make typing a pleasant activity.

If one is to look for something to complain about, the only issue for most will be the backspace key — it is small and located in the uppermost right corner where you’re likely to miss it your first few times.

When in laptop mode, the tablet and keyboard portions fit together very well, and the only thing that makes it (visually) apparent as a 2-in-1 PC is the webcam lens on the back of the display. The Lenovo logo is found on the exterior, as well, per most other Ideapad products.

Processor: Intel® Atom™ X5 Z8350 Processor
Operating System: Windows 10 Home
Graphics: Intel® HD Graphics
Memory: Up to 2 GB DDR3L
Webcam:
– Front 2MP
– Rear 5MP with Microphone
Storage: Up to 64 GB eMMC Storage
Audio: Stereo Speakers
Battery: Up to 10 Hours Local Video Playback
Display: 10.1″ (1280 x 800)
Dimensions (W x D x H):
Tablet:
– (inches) : 9.68″ x 6.81″ x 0.36″
– (mm) : 246 x 173 x 9.2
Keyboard Dock
– (inches) : 9.68″ x 6.81″ x 0.35″
– (mm) : 246 x 173 x 9
Weight:
– Tablet : Starting at 1.28 lbs (580 g)
– Keyboard Dock : Starting at 1.15 lbs (520 g)
Bluetooth: Bluetooth® 4.0
WiFi: WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
Connectors:
– Micro HDMI™
– microSD™ Card Reader
– Audio Combo Jack
– Micro USB 2.0
– 2 x USB 2.0 (on keyboard)

Software & Performance

The Miix 310 feature a few of Lenovo’s own apps — the Lenovo App Explorer, Lenovo ID, Lenovo Settings 3.0, and Lenovo Solution Center. None of them are particularly intrusive or feel like bloatware, and depending on what you use the tablet for, you may find them to be a welcomed addition. The PC runs Windows 10, and you can of course take advantage of trials for things like Office if you feel so inclined.

As far as performance goes, the PC does everyday tasks, such as Web browsing and basic image editing, just as well as you’d like, but you can feel a bit of a lag when waiting for heavy websites to load. Nothing too severe at all, and probably something that won’t even be noticed by those who typically use PCs in the Miix 310’s tier. But still something to be mindful of if you’re coming from a snappy, higher-end machine.

Conclusion

The Miix 310 is a little beefy when the keyboard is attached, and one would be fair in describing the exterior design as bland. Neither of those things matter much, though, especially not at a price as low as you can get the model. All the things that do matter, though, like the quality of the keys and the stability of the hinge are exactly what we’d hope for in a 2-in-1 PC, and for that reason the Miix 310 is a winner.

The Miix 310 2-in-1 PC is available now from Lenovo starting at $299.99 USD.

(slashgear.com, http://goo.gl/If3LJS)

Bose QuietComfort 35 review

PROS
  • Superb noise cancelling
  • Excellent mic for calls
  • Light and comfortable
  • Long battery life
CONS
  • No aptX
  • No option to turn off ANC
KEY FEATURES
  • Active noise cancelling
  • Bluetooth
  • 2.5mm jack for wired connection
  • 20-hour battery life
  • Black and grey colours available
  • Hard carry case with aeroplane adapter
  • Manufacturer: Bose

WHAT ARE THE BOSE QUIETCOMFORT 35 HEADPHONES?

Bose is synonymous with top-notch noise-cancelling headphones, and the QuietComfort 35 are no exception. The difference lies in the fact that these are Bose’s first active noise-cancelling headphones that also feature wireless capability. With rumours abounding that Apple is likely to do away with the 3.5mm headphone jack on the iPhone 7, this seems like a good move.

Being released from the leash makes the QuietComfort 35 more versatile than ever. With a refined design, clear and balanced sound and impressive battery life, these are some of the best over-ear noise-cancelling headphones you can buy.

DESIGN AND COMFORT

There’s no great departure from previous Bose headphones when it comes to looks – in fact, barring some minor trim and colour differences, the QuietComfort 35s are almost identical to the wired Bose QuietComfort 25s. These headphones are designed for an understated palette – and I’m more than happy with that.

The outer shell of the ear cups is made of metal, while the frame and headband are of a thick plastic. They’re covered in a beautiful faux-leather that manages to stay quite cool, even in muggy weather. There’s good reason for Bose to have put the word “Comfort” in the name of these headphones.

Bose headphones

The QuietComfort 35 headphones are available in two colours. There’s the classic Bose silvery-grey, of which I’m not a fan – the two-tone trim doesn’t work for me – and the more austere black, which in my opinion is better looking.

All the controls sit on the right ear-cup. A switch turns the headphones on and sets up Bluetooth connections – you can connect up to two devices at the same time, or change between multiple devices using the Bose app. Buttons on the side let you adjust volume and control your phone. The multi-function button that plays or pauses music accepts calls and initiates voice commands, too. Everything is in reach and easily accessible with your right hand.

The QC35s are surprisingly lightweight, weighing just 234g without the wires. By comparison, TrustedReviews’ wired headphones of the year in 2015, the Sennheiser Momentum 2, weigh only a little less at 220g without the cable. The low weight combined with a stiff but comfy fit means I’ve been happily wearing the QuietComfort 35s for hours at a time.

Bose QuietComfort 35

Those who travel will be pleased to discover that the headphones are supplied with a hard case, into which they fold down and fit snugly. The case will easily fit in a bag and comes with an aeroplane adapter and 3.5mm cable for use when the units are out of juice.

Bose has made minor changes to what was already a solid design and managed to create a luxuriously comfortable pair of wireless headphones.

NOISE CANCELLING

Bose headphones traditionally offer the best active noise cancellation (ANC) around and the QC35s are no exception – the units are brilliant at keeping noise out.

Their close-fitting over-ear design in itself blocks some noise, but with ANC turned on, pretty much all sounds disappear to leave you alone with your thoughts. It’s a little eerie at first, but you soon become used to it – and then learn to appreciate it.

Bose’s noise cancelling works best with low-frequency machine drones. It entirely blocked the engine noise of a ferry, as well as the clatter of trains and general cacophony apparent at train stations during rush hour. This means you can enjoy music in busy environments, even at low volumes.

Bose QuietComfort 35 17

While the QuietComfort 35 are excellent at low frequencies, the headphones won’t block out all high frequencies. I found this more of a benefit than a problem, as I could continue to hear ambulance sirens while walking around London and train announcements for platform alterations.

One scenario in which the noise cancelling feature struggles is when it’s windy. In such circumstances the noise cancelling mics cause a little crackle, but this is an issue with all ANC headphones.

Since the noise cancelling is so aggressive on the Bose QuietComfort 35, you will feel a sensation of pressure on your ears. This is evident with all noise-cancelling headphones, but it can feel a little odd to the uninitiated.

It’s a shame then that there’s no option to turn off noise cancelling when you don’t need it. At home, in the quiet, you still have full-on silence whether you want it or not. I found myself switching to another pair when I needed to keep half an ear on the sleeping baby in the next room.

SOUND QUALITY

I’ve never been a huge fan of noise-cancelling headphones because they tend to affect the quality of the sound. As such, I’ve only ever used my Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 headphones on long-haul flights.

The Bose QuietComfort 35 offer a huge improvement over the Audio-Technica headphones. They have a wide and encompassing soundstage, even though they’re close-backed units, and lack any hiss or white noise that may muddy the sound.

Bose QuietComfort 35 13

Bose uses a digital equaliser that automatically tweaks the sound on the fly so that one aspect doesn’t overpower at any volume. It works well: the QuietComfort 35 provide smooth and accurate sound, even at low volumes where I’d expect some elements to vanish.

The bass is meaty but remains under control, and doesn’t drown out the detailed mid-range or treble; nor does it go missing at low volume. Any music by the bass-heavy Massive Attack drips in lovely low-end gooeyness.

Audio purists might flinch at the equaliser, but I found the balance it provides works well regardless of whether you’re listening to smooth jazz or thumping electronica. If you’re an audiophile then, chances are, ANC and Bluetooth streaming will be enough of a turn off anyway. For most others, the QC35 will be spot on.

In all, the QC35 offer great sound considering they’re streaming over Bluetooth. Still, it’s a shame that they’re not compatible with aptX, a codec that allows for higher-quality audio streaming over Bluetooth. Phones such as the LG G5 and Samsung Galaxy S7 take advantage of aptX for higher bit-rate audio.

Bose QuietComfort 35 5

That said, the QuietComfort 35 come with a 2.5mm jack in the left cup and a 2.5mm to 3.5mm cable to attach via wire when needed. You also get a two-pronged aeroplane adapter in there.

The adapter and wire are useful, since some airlines don’t allow Bluetooth to be used during takeoff and landing. It also means you can use the QuietComfort when the battery dies, although the ANC and equaliser won’t work without power.

With both those features off, though, the Bose QuietComfort 35 become a bit more of a handful. Rough edges begin to appear and the mid-range becomes a little peaky. On or off, there are other headphones that provide superior sound quality, but nowhere near the QC35’s noise-cancelling prowess. The Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Wireless are a good example of this, but cost significantly more.

VOICE QUALITY

The QC35 aren’t only headphones; they work as a headset too. As a result, you’ll be able to pick up a call and talk to your friends (or Siri, if you’re an iPhone user) with all the benefit of noise cancelling. I found this a great way to have phone conversations in the hustle and bustle of London. I could hear the person on the other end of the line perfectly – and vice versa. The QuietComfort 35 use their awesome noise cancelling to clear up your voice too, so calls are a clear as a bell.

BATTERY LIFE

Bose claims the QuietComfort 35 can survive for 20 hours on a single charge, which I found played out in real life. It isn’t bad at all and matches the best rechargeable noise-cancelling headphones out there, such as the Sony MDR-100ABN h.ear on Wireless.

Annoyingly, the QC35 don’t turn off automatically when you stop listening, which meant that they ended up totally out of juice after leaving them on overnight by mistake. Thankfully, the Bose Connect app has auto power-down settings where it’s possible to pick a range of times from five minutes to three hours.

Bose QuietComfort 35 7

It takes about two hours to fully recharge the built-in battery of the QC35 via a Micro USB port. Some people might prefer headphones that run on AAA batteries, such as the Bose Soundlink headphones, because it’s easy to pop in replacements if the units runs out of juice. I’m not a fan, however, if only because of cost to your pocket and the environment.

Happily, Bose uses a lithium-ion battery and that means it should be good for a number of recharges.

SHOULD I BUY THE BOSE QUIETCOMFORT 35?

In the weeks I’ve been using the QC35, I’ve fallen a little in love. I’ve found myself listening to music on the go far more frequently, because I was enjoying it more. I put this down to the awesome noise-cancelling feature, but also to quality of the sound and comfort of the headphones – the QC35 are easy on the ears, in more ways than one.

If you want the best noise-cancelling performance in a wireless set of cans then the QuietComfort 35 are the ones to go for. However, for £90/$135 more, the Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Wireless arguably provide a better audio experience, while the Sony MDR-100ABN h.ear on Wireless are competent in all areas and cost £70/$105 less.

VERDICT

Bose may have arrived late to the wireless party, but the QuietComfort 35 headphones combine unequalled noise cancelling, great sound and a 20-hour battery life in a package that’s as quiet as it is comfortable.

(trustedreviews.com, http://goo.gl/aKCvcI)

2016 Nissan Leaf vs 2016 Volkswagen e-Golf : Range-Anxiety

Electric cars may be the future, but so is range anxiety. That’s the lingering conclusion after testing two of the most popular, competitively-priced EVs on the market, the 2016Volkswagen e-Golf SE, and the 2016 Nissan Leaf SL. Unlike anything from Tesla’s forecourt, you’ll get change from $40k even buying brand new, and various subsidies tickle the sticker prices even lower. Question is, are either of these all-electric chariots really ready to join the rat-race?

2016 Nissan Leaf vs 2016 Volkswagen e-Golf: Range-Anxiety

2016 Nissan Leaf SL

Nissan sold over 17,000 of its Leaf EV in the US in 2015, making it the most popular not-a-Tesla electric car in the country. In SL form, it’s $36,790 plus $850 destination; the review car Nissan parked on my drive had optional mats and a Bose audio system, which added $180 and $1,570 respectively, taking the total to $39,390 before incentives.

2016-nissan-leaf-review-3

Inside the somewhat cartoonish four-door hatchback there’s an 80 kW motor powered by a 30 kWh Li-Ion battery. That’s good for up to 107 miles of EPA-rated range, or 112 MPGe.

Nissan does have a Leaf S base model which, from $29,010, offers 84 miles of range from a smaller 24 kWh battery.

The Leaf’s dashboard does a mostly good job of communicating exactly what’s happening with the battery. For the driver, there’s a chart that shows whether you’re using power or regenerating it – both Leaf and e-Golf can convert energy most traditional cars waste during braking back into battery charge – plus a clear power gage and range estimate. A small display tells you how long it will take to recharge based on a regular 120V outlet, as well as a 3 kW or 6 kW 240V higher-powered supply.

2016-nissan-leaf-review-7

In the center stack there’s a touchscreen with more granular information on what’s using power, and that also serves up useful hints such as how many more miles you could squeeze out of the battery if you turn off the air-conditioning.

Ample space for four – and five at a squeeze – and a surprisingly accommodating trunk makes the Leaf more practical than you might expect.

2016-nissan-leaf-review-13

On the road, it’s hardly a speed demon with 107 HP, but it feels solid and planted, though you get a fair amount of lean in corners. Pep levels from a standing start are high – all that torque landing at once – but only if you avoid the battery-saving Eco mode. Stab that button and suddenly the Leaf feels like it’s wading through mud.

2016 Volkswagen e-Golf SE

If first impressions kick off at the dealership, VW’s e-Golf has a big advantage: in SE form it’s almost $10k cheaper than the Leaf SL I tested. With naught but the $820 destination charge tacked on, VW is asking $29,815 before incentives.

2016-volkswagen-e-golf-review-12

Unlike the Leaf, which is only sold as an electrified model, the e-Golf is a variant of VW’s existing Golf line-up. There are a couple of differentiating aesthetic features, like the low-resistance alloy wheels and LED lights, but you could easily mistake it for any of the other four-door hatchback Golfs on the road.

It uses a slightly more powerful 85 kW motor but a smaller 24.2 kWh Li-Ion battery, so while the economy numbers are a little better than the Nissan at 116 MPGe, overall EPA range is just 83 miles.

2016-volkswagen-e-golf-review-17

The gas-powered car’s dashboard carries over too, which means an analog fuel gage repurposed to show battery level. I’m less convinced by VW’s graphics overall; the touchscreen in the center console didn’t give me the same at-a-glance overview that I felt I got from the Leaf. In the driver’s display, I had to choose between the useful digital speedo and always seeing the range-remaining estimate.

2016-volkswagen-e-golf-review-2

Space inside is similar on paper but in practicality beats the Leaf, particular in rear legroom where Nissan’s batteries eat into footwell space. Where the SL-trim Nissan gets leather seats, the e-Golf SE makes do with cloth, and indeed the whole cabin feels a lot darker and under-equipped overall. No steering wheel music controls here, though you do get Apple CarPlay support. It’s solid, but hardly inspiring.

Happily on the road the e-Golf does much better. With 115 HP it’s slightly more powerful than the Leaf, but more importantly both steering feel and handling are spritely. VW’s stability control is less intrusive too.

2016-volkswagen-e-golf-review-6

As well as the standard drive mode there are “Eco” and “Eco+” settings which limit acceleration and scale back things like HVAC to prolong range. More noticeable is the regenerative braking in “B” mode: then, the e-Golf is aggressive in shedding speed when you lift off the accelerator, to the point where you can feasibly one-pedal drive without tapping the brake most of the time. In regular “D” mode there’s far less regenerative braking, unlike in the Nissan.

Range anxiety is real

You need a certain mindset to get into the swing of electric car ownership. Personally, when I’m driving a gasoline or diesel powered car, I tend to start thinking about refueling when the dashboard range estimate dips into double-digits.

Thing is, it doesn’t take much driving of the Leaf before you get to that point, while the e-Golf starts out under 100 miles anyway.

2016-volkswagen-e-golf-review-0

Both companies provide a regular charger in the trunk from which you can rejuice each car from a standard 120V outlet. You have to factor in a long time off the road if you’re relying on that, however. While charging, the Leaf shows a rough indication of its battery status with three LEDs blinking on the dashboard – it’s handy to be able to glance outside and see where it’s up to – and both cars are app-connected so you can remotely check in on status.

You can also program in your upcoming schedule and have the HVAC come on to cool or heat the cabin ahead of time, drawing mains power rather than taking up battery charge.

2016-nissan-leaf-review-16

Even with those convenience features, I found I was constantly aware of how much power I had left while out in both cars. The specter of running out of charge at the side of the road – further away from an outlet than any extension cord could reach – was enough to leave me obsessive about watching the power gages.

On the plus side, it does make you aware of how you drive and whether that’s economically or otherwise. Stepping back into gasoline cars, I couldn’t help but think about all that energy squandered during braking, which the e-Golf or Leaf would be eagerly gobbling up.

2016-volkswagen-e-golf-review-1

Fluctuations in estimated range, though, did cause a few cold sweats. Part of the problem is that there’s no taking into account changes in elevation, which can have a huge impact on how much power is used.

I’m a fairly extreme example, since I live at the top of a relatively high hill: the Leaf, for instance, could end up gaining 20-30 miles of estimated range simply during my mostly-coasting trip down the hill. However, taking the same roughly four miles of twisting road back up to the top could easily knock 30 miles from the Leaf’s estimate.

2016-nissan-leaf-review-14

On several occasions with each car, when considering a commute from home to San Francisco – roughly 36 miles each way – I decided to take a regular gasoline car instead, since I wasn’t confident I’d find a charger with space when I got into the city. Even though a 72 mile roundtrip is theoretically within the range of both e-Golf and Leaf, the vagaries of their actual longevity meant I wasn’t confident I could trust them.

Wrap-Up

Of the two cars, I prefer how the Leaf handles the day-to-day management of an electric vehicle, but the e-Golf is more engaging to drive. Range overall was better in the Nissan – unsurprisingly, given the larger battery – though I was always reluctant to push them to their theoretical limits given the risk of getting stranded as a result.

2016-nissan-leaf-review-2

Personally, while they work very well in urban areas and for those with short commutes or making errand runs, I suspect relatively affordable EVs of this sort will only really come into their own when potential range climbs to around the 200 mile mark.

2016-volkswagen-e-golf-review-14

That’s promised by the Chevrolet Bolt, due later this year, as well as the Tesla Model 3 which is of course further out. For 2017, Volkswagen is expected to offer a larger battery in the e-Golf, which will take EPA range to 124 miles; more competitive with the Leaf, true, but still closer to double-digits than the 200 threshold.

Electric cars work, certainly, and they needn’t be expensive to buy or run. For the moment, though, it’s vital you make sure your needs – and your nearest chargers – line up with the limited range that the most affordable EVs still suffer from.

(slashgear.com, http://goo.gl/AedX2O)

Leica S (Typ 007) review

Pros:
  • – Exceptional image quality up to ISO 6,400
  • – Well-designed body for handheld shooting
  • – Huge, bright viewfinder is a joy to use
Cons:
  • – Autofocus system only has a single point
  • – Lower resolution than medium-format peers
  • – Unconventional four-button control layout

Introduction

At a glance:
  • 37.5MP Leica ProFormat CMOS sensor
  • ISO 100-12,500
  • 3.5fps continuous shooting
  • 0.87x viewfinder with 100% coverage
  • 3in,921,600-dot LCD
  • Cine 4K video recording

With no background in medium-format film cameras, Leica was able to start with a clean slate when it decided the time was right to begin offering its users a larger sensor. Although the S1 was the first of its S-series models, it was a scanning camera and not closely related to the S models that followed. The S2 was the beginning of the current format, which was announced in 2008 and released for sale in 2009. Leica wanted to make a medium-format handheld camera that was small and easy to use, so it steered away from the Hasselblad/Bronica/Pentax 645 format of long-nosed SLRs and went with a shape more like the Pentax 67 SLR or Mamiya 7 rangefinder, and actually not that dissimilar to its own lovely R system of 35mm film SLRs.

Confusingly, Leica’s naming structure has altered since the introduction of the S2, so we had the S (Typ 006) instead of an S3, and now we have an S (Typ 007), representing the fourth generation of the series. This new model introduces some important changes for the system and brings with it features and functions that make it a thoroughly modern medium-format camera in a world in which the main players are only just moving away from bodies designed and created in the last century. It stands out too as the only digital medium-format camera built in the likeness of a 35mm-style DSLR. It also uses its own unique sensor size with a 3:2 aspect ratio, and is ploughing its own furrow when it comes to the sensor manufacturer.

Features

With its CMOS sensor, the Leica S (Typ 007) is capable of giving much better high ISO results than previous generations of the camera. This image was shot at ISO 3,200

With its CMOS sensor, the Leica S (Typ 007) is capable of giving much better high ISO results than previous generations of the camera. This image was shot at ISO 3,200

While we call the Leica S a medium-format camera, it doesn’t conform to any other medium-format sensor size that we are familiar with, either from digital sensors or from film. Its sensor measures 30x45mm and so is over 50% larger in area than what we’d call full frame for a 35mm-style camera, but fractionally smaller than the 33x44mm sensors used by Hasselblad, Phase One and Pentax. Leica isn’t letting on where the sensor is made, but the company has had a relationship in the past with a Belgian manufacturer called CMOSIS that makes the chip for the M (Typ 240). This CMOS sensor is likely made by the same company – at least it produces similar-looking results and images that don’t look like Sony’s.

Leica calls its unique format Pro Format, and this example of it carries 37.5-million 6μm pixels. This is the same resolution as the S (Typ 006) and the S2, so resolution hasn’t progressed at all, but Leica says its users are happy with the pixel count – it would, though, wouldn’t it?

Leica claims the sensor provides 15 stops of dynamic range, which is an impressive figure, and because it is CMOS and not 
CCD it has an ISO range of 100-12,500. Colour is recorded at 16 bits per pixel, and the sensor doesn’t use a low-pass filter, which should allow finer detail to be captured at the expense of some risk of moiré patterning.

At ISO 100 the camera captures exceptional detail and lovely tonality

At ISO 100 the camera captures exceptional detail and lovely tonality

A 2GB buffer memory and the Leica Maestro II processor allows a frame rate of up to 3.5 shots per second, and for the first time we have 4K and full HD video in a Leica S camera. The HD video mode uses the whole sensor area, so cinematic shallow depth of field is easily achieved, and lenses maintain the same angles of view as they provide in stills mode. The cinema 4K video setting uses a super 35mm area of the sensor, so the view is narrowed by about 1.5x, but resolution is 4,096×2,160p and the frame rate is 24fps. With an HDMI cable, the S can stream video to an external recorder and then can manage 4:2:2 colour and a data rate of 349Mbps. Video is recorded in the MOV file format.

The new CMOS sensor also brings live view to the S series, with a frame rate of 60fps and focus peaking, highlight warnings, a level, grids and a histogram. The rear screen is 3in across diagonally and uses 921,000 pixels, so shooting in live view is a pleasure, particularly when the camera is tripod-mounted. Most users will stick to the viewfinder for handheld work, and its size and 0.87x magnification make it a very enjoyable experience. The standard viewfinder screen is designed to highlight the focus area, but other screens are available with grids and micro prisms.

Another great benefit of the switch to a CMOS sensor is the expansion of the camera’s ISO range. The Typ 006 managed just ISO 100-1,600, but the Typ 007 pushes the top end to ISO 12,500.

The single focus point works best with central subjects

The single focus point works best with central subjects

The S cameras still have only a single AF point in the middle of the frame, but now we also have predictive tracking to make shooting moving subjects easier. You might be surprised that this hasn’t been a feature of the S cameras before, but the AF systems in medium-format bodies are generally less flexible and able than those in smaller systems. The larger lens elements are more difficult to move quickly and, perhaps more importantly, 
more difficult to stop quickly 
and accurately.

Wireless connectivity comes to the 007 as well, with Wi-Fi providing a link to your smartphone so you can control the camera via the Leica S app and transfer images to your phone.

Leica S app

iPhone_S

If you want to be able to use touch focus with the Leica S, you can download the Leica S app to your iOS device and enjoy the promise of modern living. I was quite excited about the app’s touch AF feature, so I downloaded it to an iPhone 5s and connected the phone and camera together.

Making the connection wasn’t all plain sailing, but I got there in the end. I had to set up a password in the camera, and once the camera’s network was selected in the phone’s Wi-Fi settings and the password typed in, the phone goes looking for the camera. 
I had to keep on top of the sleep modes of both phone and camera as they forget each other when they wake up and the phone doesn’t remember the password. Switch the camera off and it forgets it was in wireless mode too, so there is a bit of juggling to do, or you manually switch off the sleep modes.

The app works in both orientations on the phone and recognises whether the camera is in landscape or portrait orientation itself, which is very useful. The menu is extensive enough and allows us to change the majority of shooting features within the camera, and we can capture still and video images from the phone.

Leica’s suggestion that users can tap any element of the scene and the camera focuses on it isn’t quite true. You have to double-tap the screen and the camera’s contrast-detection system drags the focusing group backwards and forwards in an attempt to make something look sharp. If your hoped-for focus distance isn’t too far from the current one the camera will manage it, if not 
quite at lightning speed, but if the distances are dramatically different, some manual intervention will be required to help the machine find the subject.

What makes this app stand out from those of most other medium-format vendors is that it allows the user to download the images from the card to the phone, and to share them directly via the phone to email and other apps. Most other medium-format apps only allow reviewing, not downloading.

Handling

IMG_0134

If you are used to a 35mm-style DSLR, you’ll find the Leica S has a very familiar feel. It is shaped like a DSLR and is, in fact, a DSLR – with an eye-line optical viewfinder, a substantial grip and the shutter release in exactly the place you’d expect to find it. The top-plate offers a large command dial and the rear features a further dial, an eight-way toggle switch and four buttons positioned neatly around the rear screen. It will feel like home from home. It is, of course, bigger and heavier than a normal 35mm-style DSLR, but not excessively so – I was still able to carry it in the pocket of my favourite green coat when it was unzipped to the expanded position.

A great handling improvement for this body is the new LCD screen on the top-plate. The unit used on the Typ 006 was very difficult to see outside, but this new screen is bright and clear in all conditions and easy to use, with especially large typography.

IMG_0038-CMYK

There is a bit of delay on start-up while the camera finds the memory card, which I found a bit boring when I was in a hurry to get a shot, so I tried to just keep the camera on, but the delay occurs coming back from sleep mode too. Dialling in the settings you want to use is as easy as can be, and the rear dial can be turned to control the aperture and can be pressed in to adjust the exposure mode. A top-plate button takes us straight to the live view mode with a single press, while a second press gives us access to exposure preview and audio levels in a cropped 16×9 view.

Leica has unified its menu system across its whole camera range, so the menu in the S is basically the same as that in the Q compact and the M (Typ 240). It is a decent idea as it means Leica users will know where to find what they need immediately, no matter which camera they have come from, and the menu is good enough that it deserves to be repeated in multiple bodies.

Another element of the handling that the company is carrying from camera to camera is the arrangement of four long buttons around the rear screen. These are unmarked and customisable, so users can set them up to operate whatever features they use most often. The buttons are all dual-function as well, so a short press accesses one feature while a long press accesses another. All the short presses take us to menu screens and long presses give us functions such as ISO settings, metering modes or AF modes. It is pretty neat in one way, but you really have to remember which button you’ve set up for which function. That shouldn’t be an issue for those using the camera every day, but more occasional users may need a refresh before they get going.

The other point is that the body has only these buttons to deliver the entire content of its feature-set, and while we have smooth access to four of those features at any one time, there are plenty of others we need regular access to that can’t have a dedicated button to liberate them from the menu screens. The four-button arrangement looks very cool, but there were more than a few occasions when I wished there were more.

IMG_0044-CMYK

The camera has a new shutter system that is designed to reduce the impact of the curtain’s passing, the mirror flipping up and the shutter re-cocking. The process still creates a lot of vibration in the body, so faster shutter speeds than usual are needed, but for the most part the clatter and banging around is reduced. The company also now guarantees the shutter unit for 150,000 actuations instead of just 100,000.

The AF is decent enough in good light, and while the elements are inevitably big and heavy, focus is acquired in a reasonable amount of time. I found the system pretty good and the focus accurate, although I was always looking for more AF points 
across the frame.

Additional AF points are available in live-view mode, and they can be accessed using the joystick on the rear of the camera to shift the focusing marker across the screen until it almost reaches the edges. The marker moves pretty quickly and the action of shooting in live view is not so prolonged that it can’t be managed handheld – at a short shutter speed. It isn’t ideal, of course, and isn’t much good for moving subjects, but it can be done and is useful for off-centre subjects shot at wide apertures. With the camera tripod mounted live view comes into its own, and small details can be used as focus references in landscapes and so on.

For occasions when depth of field is critical, we have a standard stop-down depth of field preview button that works nicely in the bright optical finder as well as in live-view mode. The top-plate display also houses a depth of field information panel that shows the distances for our focused point, as well as the closest and furthest objects that will be sharp at the given aperture, which is pretty useful.

Performance

Leica-S-007L1001845

This past year, I’ve been struck by the extent of the improvement in image quality that Leica has achieved in its cameras. With the Q, the SL and the S, the company has made a sudden jump into the modern era and is producing thoroughly modern cameras that produce thoroughly excellent images. The resolution of this S will be the first measure that most people focus on, and while the detail that 38 million pixels can render is impressive, for me there are other ways to determine how good a camera’s output is.

The range of tones this camera can record in a single exposure is exceptional, and in my eyes makes the camera desirable on its own. Leica quotes a dynamic range of 15 stops and I have no reason to argue with that. It is normal for modern sensors to be able to reveal their shadow details, but highlights are the tones that suffer burnout and colour shifts. In the files this camera produces, highlights recover nicely and produce natural-looking images from scenes that were full of contrast. I love the way contrast can be moderated to create pictures free from hard shadows and glaring bright bits so we can see the subject without tonal distractions in other areas. The sensor isn’t magic, of course, and blacks and whites do occur in extreme cases, but on most occasions it creates lovely results.

Leica-S-007L1001925

Lifting shadows creates more image noise, as we all know, but Leica has done well to limit the number of dots and artefacts in these areas and in images shot at high ISO settings. Below ISO 800 noise doesn’t give us too many problems, but from ISO 1,600 it becomes a definite part of the image. I don’t mind good-looking grain, and that’s what we get from there until 6,400. Beyond that there be dragons, and I don’t recommend it.

I didn’t have too many occasions to use the 3.5fps drive mode, but can report that it does indeed work and that the camera will 
go on taking pictures at an inappropriate rate until you are bored. I thought it might slow down when DNG+JPEG was selected but it didn’t.

Dynamic range, resolution and noise

With the S (Typ 007), Leica has adopted a new 37.5-million-pixel CMOS sensor that’s used only in this camera. Typically for a CMOS design it’s vastly better at high ISO sensitivities than older CCD-based models, but it can’t match modern full-frame sensors for image quality beyond about ISO 1,600, with ISO 6,400 the highest really usable setting. However, image quality isn’t just about high ISOs, and it’s at the lower settings that the Leica really shines. At ISO 100 it delivers highly detailed images with barely any noise, which in turn allows incredibly fine tonal gradations and colour transitions. Image quality is maintained very well at settings up to ISO 800, but beyond this noise becomes increasingly problematic. The sensor doesn’t work alone, of course, and Leica’s uniformly excellent lenses are key to the overall package.

Dynamic range

This graph shows just how well the Leica S performs at low ISO settings. A dynamic range reading of 13.1 EV at ISO 100 indicates that there should be lots of scope for pulling out detail from the shadow areas of the image. However, once you increase the sensitivity beyond the ISO 400 setting, dynamic range starts to fall off quite rapidly, and while it’s still perfectly acceptable at ISO 1,600 the monotonous drop beyond this setting is indicative of ever-decreasing image quality. The 6.2EV result at ISO 12,500 is poor.

Leica-S-DR-graph-(new)

Resolution

With no optical low-pass filter in front of its 37.5-million-pixel sensor, the Leica S manages an impressive resolution of around 4,800l/ph at ISO 100. The DNG files converted using Adobe Camera Raw do, however, show distinct colour moiré around this point at low ISOs, along with maze-like aliasing at higher frequencies. Resolution drops a fraction at ISO 400, but then holds up remarkably well as the sensitivity is raised further. Even at the top setting of ISO 12,500 the camera still achieves 4,200l/ph.

RAW ISO 100

RAW ISO 100

RAW ISO 400

RAW ISO 400

RAW ISO 1,600

RAW ISO 1,600

RAW ISO 3,200

RAW ISO 3,200

RAW ISO 6,400

RAW ISO 6,400

RAW ISO 12,500

RAW ISO 12,500

Noise

Both raw and JPEG images taken from our diorama scene are captured at the full range of ISO settings. The camera is placed in its default setting for JPEG images. Raw images are sharpened and noise reduction applied, to strike the best balance between resolution and noise.

RAW ISO 100

RAW ISO 100

RAW ISO 400

RAW ISO 400

RAW ISO 1,600

RAW ISO 1,600

RAW ISO 3,200

RAW ISO 3,200

RAW ISO 6,400

RAW ISO 6,400

RAW ISO 12,500

RAW ISO 12,500

At its lowest setting of ISO 100, the Leica S (Typ 007) delivers superb image quality with lots of fine detail and exceptionally low noise, which in turn means remarkably subtle tonal gradations. With the size of the sensor – over 50% larger than full frame by area – it also maintains quality very well as the ISO setting is raised. There’s barely any drop in quality at ISO 400, and it’s only at the ISO 1,600 setting that we begin to see some luminance noise creeping into the image when looking very closely. At ISO 3,200 there’s a more obvious impact, especially in darker areas of the image, but the files are still very usable. At ISO 6,400 noise becomes rather prominent, but with careful handling in raw conversion it should clean up OK. However, the top setting of ISO 12,500 is a step too far, with excessive noise blighting even the midtones of the image.

verdict

For all the little difficulties this Leica S (Typ 007) presents, it’s a camera I enjoy using a great deal. Once I’ve set it up with the rear buttons customised to my liking, and now that I’m familiar with the menu system and how to skip pages instead of scrolling through all the options, I can make it work quite quickly. The AF is good enough and works well in most cases, and when it is insufficient the massive, bright viewfinder makes focusing manually a joy.

I long for all medium-format cameras to grow more than one AF point – if Pentax can do it, surely Leica can too. It is the weakest area of the camera.

The handling of the S is very important because Leica has made a statement by creating this design that looks as though it is supposed to be handheld, and while it is big and heavy it is easily the best medium-format camera for working with off the tripod. 
In all, handling is good and fast, and Leica has achieved what it set out to do.

Depth of field is shallow with medium format - this was shot at 70mm f/4

Depth of field is shallow with medium format – this was shot at 70mm f/4

The best aspect of the camera, though, is the image quality, which is exceptional. The resolution looks a bit weak compared with the 50MP and 100MP sensors used by other medium-format camera makers, but for most applications it is more than sufficient. The camera’s ability to resolve detail is really very good, and the Leica S lens range works in some style to ensure images are as crisp and aberration-free as they can be. The dynamic range is excellent, as is the colour and natural look of the images, and noise is well controlled.

When the camera was launched it looked like excellent value compared with the competition, and particularly to the price of the Type 006. Now Hasselblad has dropped the price of the H5D 50c Wi-Fi in dramatic fashion, so the proposition has altered somewhat.

Overall, this is a very nice camera. There are plenty of things I’d like to see done differently, but the combination of image quality and general ease of use make it a really exciting camera to work with.

Full specification

  • Sensor:37.5MP CMOS (30x45mm)
  • Output size:7,488×4,960 pixels
  • Focal length mag:0.8x
  • Lens mount:Leica S
  • Shutter speeds:60secs-1/4000sec
  • ISO:100-12,500
  • Exposure modes:PASMs
  • Metering:Multi, centreweighted, spot
  • Exposure comp:±3EV in 1/2 steps
  • Drive:3.5fps
  • Movie:Cine 4K (4,091×2,160) at 24fps, Full HD (1,920×1,080) at 60fps
  • LCD:3in, 921,600-dot touchscreen
  • Viewfinder:Pentaprism, 0,87x magnification, 100% coverage
  • Stabilisation:None
  • AF points:1-point phase-detection
  • Memory card:SD, SDHC, SDXC, CF
  • Power:Rechargeable Li-ion
  • Dimensions:160x120x80mm
  • Weight:1,260g (without battery)

(whatdigitalcamera.com, http://goo.gl/QbXre1)

Dell Inspiron 17 7000 2-in-1 Review

The Pros

Beautiful display; Powerful speakers; Solid performance

The Cons

Shallow keyboard; Unwieldy; Blurry webcam

Verdict

The Dell Inspiron 17 7000 2-in-1 has a big, beautiful display and solid performance for a convertible multimedia laptop, but its keyboard is shallow and its sheer size is clunky for the form factor.

Size matters. The Dell Inspiron 17 7000 2-in-1 (starting at $899, $999 as tested) is the first 17-inch 2-in-1, using a 360-degree hinge to switch among laptop, tablet, presentation and tent modes. Not surprisingly, the laptop’s size poses some challenges when you try to bend the screen back with normal, adult-size arms and hands. However, the Inspiron 17’s high-quality screen and solid performance make it a worthy choice for those who want the biggest display they can get with loads of versatility baked in.

Design

The Inspiron 17 7000 is a mammoth 2-in-1; a Brobdingnagian-brushed-aluminum slate that looks far less nimble than it is. The lid is spartan with a black Dell logo, and when the computer is opened, you’ll see the 17.3-inch, 1080p touch screen; full keyboard with number pad; and a brushed-aluminum deck.

Measuring 16.2 x 10.9 x 0.9 inches and weighing 6.4 pounds, the Inspiron 17 is far larger and heavier than 15-inch convertibles on the market — formerly the biggest hybrids in the land. The HP Spectre x360 15t is 4.2 pounds and 14.8 x 9.8 x 0.6 inches, and the Toshiba Satellite Radius P55W is 4.8 pounds and 15 x 9.6 x 0.8 inches. Dell’s flagship 15-inch laptop, the Dell XPS 15 is 4.4 pounds and 14.1 x 9.3 x 0.7 inches.

The key selling point is the Inspiron 17’s 360-degree hinge that lets you use the laptop as an oversized Tablet (by folding the screen around), a Tent (an upside down “V”) and a Display (with the screen standing straight up). The issue I had is that the laptop is so large and hefty that it’s cumbersome to switch among modes, and I often had to contort my arms to give the device enough room to flip around.

Ports

The sides of the Inspiron 17 feature a mix of ports that support both legacy connections and the newest standards. On the left, you’ll find the power port, a USB Type-C connector that supports DisplayPort and power delivery, a USB 3.0 port, HDMI output and headphone/mic combo jack. On the right side, you’ll se an SD card slot, USB 2.0 port and a Noble lock.

Display

You’ll want to watch all of your videos on the Inspiron 17’s 1080p touch screen with its stunning visuals. I watched the trailer for Ghostbusters on the 17.3-inch panel and was enthralled by the pastel blue spirits and Slimer’s mucky emerald body. I could make out small details like individual sparks coming from the Ghostbusters’ proton packs and globs of slime running down Erin Gilbert’s face and hands. The only issues I had were on pure white backgrounds, like empty Word documents, for which the screen looked a little pebbly. Viewing angles were strong, and I didn’t see much loss in color or detail until I was roughly 90 degrees to the side of the screen.

The display covers an excellent 106 percent of the sRGB color gamut. The desktop-replacement category average of 127 percent was better (as are the XPS 15’s 191 percent and Spectre x360’s 119 percent), but the Satellite Radius was worse, at 95 percent.

The panel produces accurate colors; it registered a score of 0.66 on the Delta-E benchmark (the closer to zero, the better) with the XPS 15 right behind, at 0.7. The Inspiron’s score is far better than the average of 1.6, the Satellite Radius’ showing of 2 and the Spectre x360’s score of 4.1.

The screen is plenty bright, at 313 nits. That’s higher than the category average of 295 nits and all of the Inspiron’s competitors, including the XPS 15 (285 nits), Spectre x360 (246 nits) and Satellite Radius (217 nits).

Keyboard and Touchpad

The Inspiron 17’s full keyboard is built solidly, without any flex, but it suffers from shallow keys that have just 1.3 millimeters of key travel, less than the 1.5-2mm we prefer. That’s counterbalanced by the 60 grams of force required to press the keys, which kept me from bottoming out while I typed but made the keyboard feel stiff. Still, I reached 109 words per minute on the 10fastfingers.com typing test, which is on the high end of my average 100-110-wpm range. I also wish that the keyboard were a little larger, as it takes up less than half of the deck and you have to reach over 5 inches to get your hands onto the home row. We’re used to laptops requiring us to reach 4 inches or less to get to the keyboard.

On the bright side, that leaves room for a luxuriously spacious 4.1 x 3.2-inch touchpad. It’s slightly coarse, which provides some nice feedback as you slide your hand along the surface. I found the touchpad to be extremely accurate as I navigated and gestured around Windows 10.

Audio

The speakers on the Inspiron 17 can pump out some seriously impressive sound. I filled our largest conference room with the strains of R.E.M’s “Losing My Religion.” The vocals, percussion and iconic guitars were perfectly clear, even as I switched among all four of the Inspiron’s modes. The Dell Audio app includes a number of presets for music, gaming and vocals, but I found the MaxxSense preset was more than sufficient, and I didn’t see any need to change that setting.

Performance

With its 2.5-GHz Intel Core i7-6500U CPU, 12GB of RAM, 1TB and 5,400-rpm HDD, and an Nvidia GeForce 940MX graphics card with 2GB of VRAM, our review config of the Inspiron 17 is a solid performer. When I browsed the web and wrote in OpenOffice Writer, I had 20 tabs open in Chrome (one of which was streaming 1080p video from YouTube) without any slowdown in the browser or word processor.

The oversized 2-in-1 notched a score of 7,029 on the Geekbench 3 overall performance test, comfortably beating competing 2-in-1s, the Spectre x360 (6,376, Core i5-6200U) and Satellite Radius (6,021, Core i7-4510U). However, it underperformed against the XPS 15 (13,502, Core i7-6700HQ) and was lower than the desktop-replacement average of 13,596, though that group includes dedicated gaming laptops.

The Inspiron 17’s traditional HDD put it at a disadvantage in our file-transfer test, copying 4.97GB of mixed-media files in 2 minutes and 25 seconds, a rate of 35.1 megabytes-per-second. That’s slower than the 523.64-MBps category average as well as the XPS 15 (254 MBps) and Spectre x360 (149.7 MBps). The Satellite Radius also has a traditional HDD, but it completed the task more quickly (42.76 MBps).

In the OpenOffice spreadsheet macro benchmark, the Inspiron 17 matched 20,000 names and addresses in 4 minutes and 2 seconds. That’s slower than the category average (3:40) and XPS 15 (3:36), but the Inspiron still outpaced the Spectre x360 (4:31) and Satellite Radius (4:23).

The Inspiron 17 isn’t built for video games, but its discrete Nvidia GeForce 940MX graphics card with 2GB of VRAM makes it possible to run games at low settings. The Inspiron earned a score of 97,422 on the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited benchmark, lower than the 124,290 average and the Dell XPS 15 and its NVidia GeForce GTX 960M’s 114,482. However, it obliterated the Spectre x360 (64,632) and Satellite Radius (51,732) and their integrated Intel graphics.

The Inspiron 17 ran Rainbow Six Siege at 43 frames per second on low settings at 1080p, which is above our playable threshold of 30 fps. The desktop replacement average is 144 fps (but that includes gaming laptops), and the XPS 15 ran the game at 76 fps. At high settings, it sputtered along at 21 fps, which is below our 30-fps playability threshold. But if you play lighter games like World of Warcraft or Hearthstone, you shouldn’t run into any issues

Battery Life

The giant display on the Inspiron 17 doesn’t suck up as much battery life as you might expect. The 2-in-1 lasted 7 hours and 28 minutes on our battery test, which involves continuous web browsing over Wi-Fi. That time is significantly longer than the category average for desktop replacements (4:15). The XPS 15 and Satellite Radius clocked in with times of 6:36 and 6:54, while the Spectre x360 finished at 8:27.

Webcam

The 720p webcam on the Inspiron 17 7000 is a complete mess. When I took a photo of myself at my desk, the result was blurry and lacked color accuracy. My eyebrows looked like they were drawn above my eyes, and my skin looked painted on. On top of that, my shirt looked a few shades darker than it does in real life.

On the bright side, the infrared camera is compatible with Windows Hello, so you can unlock your laptop with your face. Even in a dark, windowless room with a door just slightly ajar, the camera recognized me and jumped to the desktop.

Heat

The Inspiron 17 stays cold even while powering a massive display. After streaming 15 minutes of HD video from Hulu, the bottom of the laptop reached 91 degrees Fahrenheit, the keyboard between the G and H keys hit 89 degrees and the touchpad measured 83 degrees. All of these measurements are cooler than our 95-degree comfort threshold.

Software and Warranty

The Inspiron 17 is light on preinstalled software, but includes bloat such as Twitter, Flipboard and the ever-present Candy Crush Soda Saga. The machine also has Dell’s own power manager, SupportAssist, which is a combination of data from the Device Manager and some technical help, and Dell Shop, a useless program that serves as a catalog to sell you more stuff. Users also get a free 30-day trial of Microsoft Office and 20GB of free Dropbox space for one year.

Dell includes a one-year warranty on the 2-in-1. Premium support options, which include 24-7 online and phone support, start at $69 for one year.

Configuration

The Inspiron 17 I reviewed cost $999 and came with a 2.5-GHz Intel Core i7-6500U CPU, 12GB of RAM, a 1TB and 5,400-rpm HDD, and an Nvidia GeForce 940MX graphics card with 2GB of VRAM.

The $899 base model is almost identical, with the exception of its Core i5-6200U CPU. It’s a better deal, as the Core i7 CPU will be overkill for most people. The most expensive version of the Inspiron 17 is $1,350 and includes an Intel Core i7-6500U CPU, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD and an Nvidia GeForce 940MX graphics card with 2GB of VRAM.

Bottom Line

The Dell Inspiron 17 7000 2-in-1 is a fine multimedia computer. Its bright, colorful screen and powerful speakers make it a great choice for movies and music, and its solid specs even allow for some light gaming.

But the size and weight make this device heavy and cumbersome. Picking up the laptop to switch it from laptop mode to Stand, Tent or Tablet mode is too much like exercising for my tastes. Additionally, the laptop’s shallow, ill-positioned keyboard isn’t particularly comfortable for typing.

If you’re looking for a 2-in-1 with strong performance, a vivid display, clear sound and even longer battery life, the $1,150 HP Spectre x360 15t is a great choice, albeit a smaller computer with a higher price. But if you need the biggest screen for your media and don’t mind some physical labor, the Dell Inspiron 17 7000 2-in-1 could be right for you.

(laptopmag.com, http://goo.gl/OzdtgJ)

UMi Super Review – It’s More than a Phone, It’s Super

UMi® is the most salient Chinese manufacturer in rendering some of the best Chinese smartphones with a budget-friendly price tag. The organization is even better than Xiaomi and LeTV in doing so. Although, some of their terminals are not convincing at all due to some errors, but UMi has the potential to address its name amongst top international manufacturers alike Samsung, Apple, Xiaomi etc. But, why isn’t UMi among the best? Probably, the answer lurks in the trivial fame of the Chinese company and their limited sales. But everything is going to change through UMi’s latest flagship known as ‘UMi Super’.

UMi Super

To be specific, UMi Super is a 5.5-inch high mid-end phone featuring the modern Helio P10 processor and 4GB RAM for a breathtaking performance with a stupendous value. But, this isn’t enough to describe UMi Super. We must grasp the details of this terminal in this review and to know the true meaning of Super.

What’s in the Box?

UMi Super comes well packed within a shiny black box. No doubt that this time, they have paid attention to the packaging and first look of UMi after the delivery. We can have the first experience of the phone after lifting the Sadly, we don’t see extra accessories with it only the essential ones which includes:

  • UMi Super Smartphone.
  • USB Type-C charging cable with USB Charger (original plug is EU but can select others).
  • User Guide and SIM slot opener in the black envelope under the phone.

UMi Super BOX

Design and Appearance

We don’t easily get impressed by the appearance of any phone. But UMi Super had that charm that made us dazzle. Seriously, a perfect unibody metal chassis with the most accurate processing in any of the UMi products. The phone has physical dimensions of 150.8 x 75 x 8.5 mm. It’s true that the phone is pretty much thick with respect to the average thickness of 7.5mm. Even it seems to be a little bit hefty with those 196 grams, for which the Aluminium metal body seems to be a valid reason. Despite this, the phone fits perfect in the hand and we feel the presence of a premium phone.

UMi Super Dimensions

On the rear of the phone, we see the silver or golden metallic shine with respect to the back camera placed on the center-top of the Super. Right below is the Dual LED flash and a fingerprint reader. The top and the bottom of the back comprises of plastic for antennaswhich are logical.

UMi Super TopUmi Super BottomUMi Super RightUMi Super left

The sides appear to be CNC processed with smooth curves at the corners. The 2.5D is also present here, but sadly due to the slightly thick bezels, the phone’s display is not completely bezel-less. One can find dark gray borders visible on the side frame to further enhance the beauty of the terminal.

On the front, the most striking and rare aspect is the circular lining which acts as anotification LED with 7 colors for different types of notifications and home button (on screen) at the same time. It’s the only button there which is illuminating. Isn’t it interesting? On the top, the traditional location of the front shooter and the earpiece is retained.

UMi Super Design 1

In buttons and port placement, we have a USB Type-C situated, along with HiFi speakers with studio playback sound at the bottom and surprisingly there is also the 3.5mm audio jack on the top. The smart button on the left allows you to select the recent apps. Here’s a comparison of UMi Super with two top phones:

UMi Super Comapre

In short, UMi Super is the most elegant phone created by the Chinese manufacturer UMi which combines perfectly with trends and traditions.

Screen and Display

One of the strengths of UMi Super is its 5.5-inch huge screen with LTPS display from Sharp®. The resolution of the screen is also Full-HD (1920 × 1080 pixels) with a nice pixel density of 401 ppi. The specialty of Sharp is to provide excellent contrast and sharp colors along with indiscernible individual pixels.

UMi Super Display

The phone has the minimum brightness to be used under direct sunlight with no problems. As it is LTPS so we will have some good viewing angles with colors rendered naturally and vigorously.
UMi Super Side View

For the protection of the screen, UMi Super features Corning Gorilla Glass 3 and the previously discussed 2.5D glass. The smart wake function hasn’t been introduced yet, but we hope that it will be available in the next software update.

To be specific, the display seems to be fair, it could be Quad-HD but for a higher price tag. Right now, for that price it is excellent.

Hardware and Performance

Mentioning the hardware of UMi Super, under the hood, we have the latest mid-class SoC MediaTek Helio P10 or MT6755 (8 cores @ 1.95 GHz) – a Quad Core processor well known for its powerful and energy efficient performance. It is accompanied by Mali T860 as GPU and the one of selling point which is probably the 4GB RAM. The smartphone has ample power to play the latest 3D games smoothly with less heat dissipation. Even multitasking is Superb at that level and no freezing and delaying during use befall. The picture below shows the benchmarks of the processor and the speed rate of RAM and ROM.

UMi Super BenchmarkUMi Super Benchmark 1UMi Super Speed test

Speaking of the ROM, we have an internal memory of 32GB which is expandable through Micro-SD card (up to 256GBGB). Previously, he spoke a little about the fingerprint reader. Now for details, the company says that it is a Microarray 4th Generation fingerprint reader.The reader unlocks the phone in only 0.1s which are the shortest for any phone.

No doubt with that benchmark the phone will not be amongst the top 10 phones, but for $200, its great.

Camera

UMI Camera design

About 80% of the phones integrates a Sony sensor, but UMi Super rear camera is an exception; a 13 MP camera signed by not only but Panasonic. The highlights about this camera are all about the speed. It has an auto-focus which can focus within 0.3 secs and zero shutter lag. Moreover, we see a balance among the colors like natural. Even the camera provides good results (not perfect) in low light. However, the image with this camera is the one with extreme details. Here are some samples are shown in the slide:

UMi-Super-Camera-Sample-1-980×600
UMi-Super-Camera-Sample-2-980×600
UMi-Super-Camera-Sample-3-980×600
UMi-Super-Camera-Sample-4-980×600
UMi-Super-Camera-Sample-980×600

We are now left with 5 MP front shooter, which has a mediocre outcome and not that much interesting.

Operating System

UMi Super currently runs on the latest Android OS known as Marshmallow (v6.0.1). It’s like the stock based OS, totally untouched. We don’t have any extra and annoying pre-installed apps on the terminal. Overall, like the camera, the OS is all about the speed also. It takes only 1 Sec to open most apps.

UMI-Super-Button-980×600
UMi-Super-Fingerprint-980×600
UMi-Super-LED-notification-980×600
UMi-Super-OS-1-980×600
UMI-Super-Sound-980×600

Even the camera app takes 0.5 secs to open. Overall, Android 6.0 runs smoothly without a single bug. For any updates, OTA feature is also there.

UMi OS

Connectivity

Speaking about the network connectivity, UMi Super supports 2G, 3G as well as 4G LTEalong all frequencies. We have a Dual-SIM here, but sadly the slot is Hybrid which means only 2 SIMs or 1 SIM and Micro-SD can work at a time. The reception is pretty much strong, even in those areas which provide weak reception for most Chinese phones. When it comes to WiFi and Bluetooth they are also excellent for the reception. WiFi seems to be 2X as it’s a Dual band WiFi module. Like previously said, the SIM slot can be opened via SIM slot opener present with the user manual. The voice quality of the earpiece is also fine and the microphone has the noise canceling feature which is nowadays common in the majority of the phones.

UMi Super Signal

Navigation is also precise and real time with no errors, thanks to the GPS of UMi Super. The position of an individual is determined within two meters. However, a compass is missing here.

UMi Super GPS

At last specifying some of the sensors, we have a gravity sensor, a proximity sensor, an accelerometer, a light sensor and a gyroscope installed.

Battery

Here comes a change as UMi says that their product is powered with 4000mAh composed by Sony. But the size isn’t confirmed yet, as a test showed  3400-3600 mAh. Too bad that Umi again tried to deceive the customer, here. Even we can’t remove and reinstate a battery as it’s non-removable. A good point is that UMi super supports Quick Charge which tops up the phone in 1 hour and 30 minutes.

UMI Super Button

So the battery life is just satisfactory and the phone would have rocked results if the battery had improved, slightly.

Pros:
  • Unibody Metal Design
  • Nice Screen Display
  • Supports all LTE frequencies
  • 4GB memory
  • Notification LED
  • Latest Android 6.0
Cons:
  • Hybrid Slot
  • False statement about battery

Specification Sheet of UMi Super

8 Futuristic Cars That Look More Like Spaceships

If you traded in a 1996 model for a new car in 2006, chances are it wouldn’t feel that different. If you traded in your ’06 for something new today, you’d be in for a shock. Advances in safety, technology, and power mean cars today are evolving faster than ever before, to the point where an automotive utopia seems within reach. Today, it’s almost impossible to find a complete lemon. Build quality is likely better than ever before across the board, and we’re even reaching the point when our cars can do most of the driving.

McLaren

That said, it’s conventional wisdom that most car shoppers like things they’re already familiar with, so while there’s been a revolution under your car’s skin, it’s likely that its style has evolved a lot more gracefully on the outside. Today’s Toyota Corolla doesn’t look all that radically different from the last one. Neither does the Chevy Corvette, Honda Odyssey, or Ford F-150, despite its aluminum-intensive diet.

But there are a growing number of models that are embracing this technological boom and look like they’re pure science fiction. As is often the case, many are found on the upper end of the price and performance spectrum, but there are still a few affordable models that can make the everyman channel his inner Walter Mitty too. Here are eight of our favorite futuristic cars that have landed on our planet recently.

1. Tesla Model X

Tesla Model X

Yes, we know that there isn’t much of a market for an $81K-and-up minivan with Falcon Wing doors, and that the Model X has had more than its fair share of quality control issues. But if you told us 10 years ago that we’d have an all-electric, 532 horsepower people mover that could go over 250 miles on a charge, and silently whisk you and six of your closest friends from zero to 60 miles per hour in 3.3 seconds, we’d say you were crazy. Plus, Falcon Wing doors. What a time to be alive.

2. BMW i8

BMW i8

The i8 has been with us for two years now, and it still looks like something out of the near future. Its mid-mounted 0.9-liter turbocharged inline-three is mated to an electric motor for 320 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque. It’ll rocket you from zero to 60 in just 4.2 seconds, but for most people, they won’t be able to get over its spaceship styling and all that exposed carbon fiber.

3. Citroën C4 Cactus

Citroen C4

It may not be available in the U.S. (not yet, at least), but Citroën’s Cactus is proof that you can still make an avant-garde entry-level car. The French automaker is no stranger to bringing futuristic design to the masses, but the compact Cactus (it’s about the size of a Nissan Juke) is the most out-there the company’s gotten in years. Affordable crossover or not, this is at the top of our driving bucket list based on looks alone.

4. McLaren 570GT

McLaren 570GT

McLaren began applying its racing expertise to road cars about 25 years ago, and despite competing with Ferrari, Porsche, Lamborghini, and other supercars, it’s always seemed to operate on a higher plane. Maybe it’s because there’s so much race tech in its cars, or maybe it’s because they’re rarer than the competition, but we can’t help but think that its designs will look as good in 20 years as they do today. We aren’t sure the same can be said about some of its rivals.

5. 2017 Toyota Prius Prime

2017 Toyota Prius Prime

In a move that was completely out of character, Toyota let its freak flag fly with the 2016 Toyota Prius redesign. For 2017, it’s launching the plug-in Prius Prime, and going even further out there. With an origami-like design similar to the hydrogen-powered Mirai, the Prime’s most notable design flourish is concave rear glass with a shape that cascades across the decklid, a detail said to aid aerodynamics. The result is a car that looks about as futuristic as the BMW i8, for about one-quarter of the price.

6. Aston Martin Lagonda Taraf

Aston Martin Lagonda Taraf

Here’s another one we aren’t likely to see Stateside (though a deep-pocketed client may change that). Aston Martin’s million-dollar, hand-built Taraf sedan’s aggressive lines and bespoke interior aren’t likely to be mistaken for anything else on the planet anytime soon. Vaguely recalling the ’76-’90 Aston Martin Lagonda — itself a car that looked ahead of its time — the Taraf is the ultra-luxury car for someone who thinks the Rolls-Royce Phantom is too common. We’ve got a feeling that it’ll still look current in 10 years.

7. Audi R8

Audi R8

It’s hard to believe that the R8 has already been with us for 10 years, and other than getting some serious power and tech upgrades, there hasn’t been much Audi’s needed to do to make its supercar still look like it’s from the near future. It’s been refreshed for 2017 (above), but it hasn’t strayed far from the original car’s design. Hell, if it still looks like this in 2026, we probably won’t complain.

8. Acura NSX

2017 Acura NSX

Acura’s second-generation supercar has been a long time coming (about eight years, to be more specific), but it’s already proven to be worth the wait. Underneath its futuristic body lies an advanced trio of electric motors mated to a mid-mounted V6, giving the NSX 573 horsepower and 476 pound-feet of torque. Time will tell if it can live up to its legendary predecessor, but from here, it looks like it came from five years in the future.

(cheatsheet.com,http://goo.gl/bE334S)

AMD Radeon RX 480 review

PROS
  • Excellent 1080p performance
  • Decent 1440p performance
  • Cheapest VR-ready GPU
CONS
  • Slightly noisy under load
  • Not that much faster than a GTX 970
KEY FEATURES
  • GCN 4 “Polaris” architecture
  • 8GB GDDR5 memory
  • 2,304 stream processors
  • 1,120MHz base clock speed
  • 4GB models available for £180/$270
  • Manufacturer: AMD

WHAT IS THE AMD RADEON RX 480?

AMD surprised everyone when it announced the Radeon RX 480 at Computex at the beginning of June. With an Nvidia-busting price and performance to match, it looked as if AMD had managed to serve up a proper game changer.

As the benchmarks have begun to roll in the hype has faded somewhat, but what we’re left with is a competent card at a low price point. Is it enough to beat Nvidia’s offerings?

SPECS AND TECHNOLOGY EXPLAINED

AMD has moved from its GCN (Graphics Core Next) 3 architecture to GCN 4, codenamed Polaris. It’s a fairly big shift in terms of the chip’s physical design. Gone is the 28-nanometer process used in the previous generation, to be replaced by a 14nm process. This allows for a greater number of transistors on any given piece of silicon, but without resulting in an increase in power consumption and heat.

The 14nm process is more dense than the 16nm process of Nvidia’s Pascal architecture, used in the GTX 1070 and 1080, but since AMD hasn’t yet launched a GPU to rival either of these cards, direct comparisons on the effectiveness of this denser arrangement remains to be seen.

Still, it means AMD has been able to pack a huge amount of power into a GPU that will suit many smaller budgets.

It’s important to temper your expectations, though. This is firmly a mid-range graphics card, so any fancy new technologies are unlikely to be found here. Instead, specs-wise, the RX 480 is merely solid; not extraordinary. There are 36 compute units and 2,304 stream processors running at a base clock speed of 1,120MHz and a boost speed of 1,266MHz.

All this without a huge power draw; the RX 480 is rated at just 150W.

It’s capable of up to 5.8TFLOPs (trillion floating-point operations per second), which puts it very much ahead of the Nvidia GeForce GTX 970, its closest rival at this price. However, TFLOPs figures don’t reveal the whole story and, as you’ll see from the benchmarks, a greater number of TFLOPs doesn’t equal superior performance.

AMD Radeon RX 480

The RX 480 is supported by GDDR5 memory, with some cards including 4GB and others getting 8GB. 4GB models cost £185/$277, while 8GB units will be £215/$323. The differences don’t end here: 4GB units will have memory capable of 7Gbps (gigabits per second) speeds, while 8GB will have up to 8Gbps.

Third-party manufacturers might choose a different GDDR5 specification in order to save money, but AMD guarantees that no card will ship with a throughput that’s less than 7Gbps. It’s perhaps a little confusing, but isn’t a cause of worry; pricing and specs sheets will make it fairly clear what you’re buying.

We were supplied with an 8GB, 8Gbps card, and as a result can’t comment on the performance of the lower-specification models with any firm numbers.

The RX 480 also features asynchronous computing, meaning developers can assign tasks to the GPU with differing levels of priority, but have them all undertaken at the same time. This results in less stutter in games running in the latest DirectX 12 framework.

AMD Radeon RX 480

DESIGN AND PORTS

There isn’t anything particularly notable about the RX 480’s design, but it’s a cut above the cheapest graphics cards around. There’s matte-black plastic around the sides and a dotted plastic finish along the bottom of the cooler. There’s no fancy backplate, but I wouldn’t expect that from a card at this price.

The cooling system consists of a single fan, which spins up to a decent whirr when under load. You’ll probably want a fairly well-insulated case to keep noise at bay, but it’s far from the loudest I’ve heard.

The RX 480 gets its juice from a single six-pin PCI Express power connector. There are three DisplayPorts and an HDMI port at the rear. The DisplayPorts are of the 1.4 specification, meaning that they’re ready for HDR gaming when titles and monitors begin to support the standard.

PERFORMANCE –- BENCHMARK RESULTS

I tested the Radeon RX 480 in our in-house test rig. It represents a fairly typical gaming PC and consists of the following components:

  • Motherboard: Asus Z170-Deluxe
  • Processor: Intel Core i5-6600K (not overclocked)
  • RAM: Corsair Vengeance 2,666MHz, 16GB DDR4
  • Cooler: Corsair H60 liquid cooler
  • PSU: Corsair CX750M
  • SSD: Samsung 850 EVO
  • OS: Windows 10 Pro 64-bit

For this review, I’ll be comparing the RX 480 with the other GPUs we’ve tested recently. It’s the first AMD card to undergo tests in this way, so will be able to make comparisons only to recent Nvidia cards right now.

Dirt Rally

Dirt Rally is the easiest game in our suite of gaming benchmarks, and offers an insight into what gamers with relatively simple demands can expect. TrustedReviews’ benchmarks dictate that we run the test at the Ultra preset. The RX 480 didn’t break a sweat at 1080p or 1440p, and provided easily playable frame rates at both resolutions. It was between 5% and 8% slower than the Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 at these resolutions.

Thanks to its larger 8GB frame cache, the RX 480 was actually a little quicker than the GTX 970 at 4K resolution, but the point is somewhat moot since neither card is really suitable for 4K gaming.

AMD Radeon RX 480

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor is a challenging title with numerous particle and explosion effects as well as high-resolution textures. Its benchmark is short but intense, and provides a decent idea of how the game will run under normal conditions. The benchmark is run at the game’s highest preset.

The RX 480 came remarkably close to overhauling the GTX 970 in this benchmark, managing an excellent 83.6fps at 1080p and a very playable 57.2fps at 1440p. This put it around 2% slower than the GTX 970 in both cases.

AMD Radeon RX 480

Hitman

Hitman is a tough game on both CPU and GPU, with lots of NPCs milling around and some very pretty lighting effects. The game is one of AMD’s showpiece titles, so it isn’t surprising that the RX 480 was well clear of the GTX 970, posting a score of 69.7fps at Full HD and 54.3fps at 1440p, putting it 20% and 22% ahead.

AMD Radeon RX 480

Rise of the Tomb Raider

Rise of the Tomb Raider’s benchmark includes plenty of lighting and particle effects and is a decent representation of real gameplay.

At Full HD, the RX 480 managed a smooth 63.5fps, dropping to a still very playable 44.2fps at 1440p. At Full HD it was 6% faster than the GTX 970 and a full 20% faster at 1440p, which is a great result.

AMD Radeon RX 480

Ashes of the Singularity

We haven’t tested any other GPUs in this massive strategy game, but AMD’s marketing is very clear about the impact of async compute, so I felt compelled to try it out. I also ran the same test with the non-async compute-compatible GTX 970 to see what difference it would make. Not a huge amount, it turns out. The RX 480 managed 56.6fps while the GTX 970 managed an average of 56.6.

This doesn’t tell the complete story, however; async compute should assist with minor stutters, too, but I didn’t see any difference when running the benchmark. Still, this is one area where the RX 480 may hold an advantage in the future and is worth bearing in mind.

3D Mark: Fire Strike Ultra

Fire Strike Ultra is a synthetic benchmark that doesn’t represent any game in particular, but is an extremely challenging test that normally sets aside any anomalous results from other games. The RX 480 was bottom of the pile when it came to performance here with a score of 2,638, although not by a huge amount, which rather neatly summarises the RX 480’s overall performance.

AMD Radeon RX 480

OVERCLOCKING, CROSSFIREX AND VR

The RX 480 supports AMD’s new WattMan tool, which allows for a very customisable overclocking experience. However, I wasn’t able to sustain a well-behaved overclock during my time with the RX 480. I plan to revisit this following the launch of the card and its official Crimson drivers. I’ll also be conducting a full assessment of the RX 480’s VR performance once the drivers become available.

The same applies to CrossFireX. When it announced the GPU, AMD claimed that two RX 480s in CrossFireX could beat a single Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 under certain conditions. Without the drivers to test it, I can’t vouch for this claim, and I’d urge those thinking of doubling up on RX 480s to wait for post-launch CrossFireX benchmarking results before shelling out £400/$600 or more.

SHOULD I BUY THE AMD RADEON RX 480?

With excellent Full HD performance and decent 1440p frame rates as well, the RX 480 is an attractive proposition.

It’s stonking value right now: at £215/$323 (RRP) for the 8GB version, you can’t buy another graphics card with this much memory for less money. The 4GB version is also impressively cheap at £180/$270; but since I haven’t tested it, I can’t vouch for its performance. There is an argument that if you’re not going to be messing around with VR and don’t have a 1440p monitor, the 4GB model will be a better buy. When I get a 4GB RX 480 in for review, I’ll report back.

But the question here is “should I buy?”, and I think you should. The usual caveats of “wait until you see what Nvidia has to offer” apply, but I’m not convinced the company will be able to get down to the sub-£200/$300 mark with its rumoured-to-be-coming-soon GTX 1060. The GTX 1060 will probably be more powerful, but it’s unlikely to be quite so cheap. Or, if it is that cheap, I’m pretty certain that is won’t have 8GB of GDDR5 memory.

Also worth bearing in mind is the Nvidia GeForce GTX 970. While it comes equipped with only 4GB (3.5GB with allocation issues taken into account), you might start seeing the card at prices near or below that of the RX 480. If you have a G-Sync monitor or tend to play games that work better with Nvidia cards, it’s a reasonable alternative. I’d still recommend getting the latest and greatest in the form of an RX 480, though.

If you have a 1440p monitor and have extra money to spend, the GTX 1070 is a better bet, but if you’re on a tight budget the RX 480 is more than capable, especially if you’re not fussed about having every single graphics setting maxed out.

VERDICT

The Radeon RX 480 is the card to buy for Full HD gaming right now.

(trustedreviews.com, http://goo.gl/L2lS97)

Beyerdynamic T1 Generation 2 review

We reviewed the original T1 headphones back in 2010. They cost £880/$1320 at the time and stunned us with their performance. It was enough to see them pick up a Best Buy award in the high-end headphone category that year.

Build and design

Six years on and we have the Generation 2 version, and on first acquaintance little seems to have changed. The only visual differences are that the headband is now lined with leatherette rather than the real thing, and the cable – still 3m long but now detachable – is fully shielded and covered with a textile braid.

They’re comfortable too. Compared to the original, the inward pressure is a little less, but remains enough to keep the headphones stable. Remember, these are intended for home use and not for wearing during exercise.

The ability to swap leads not only means replacement is easy, but also opens up a balanced option. The move away from leather on the headband was prompted by durability and cost reasons.

Yes, even headphones at this price level are subjected to budgetary constraints, though at least these Gen.2s are cheaper than the originals.

Beyerdynamic’s engineers have tweaked the driver units to improve performance but the unusual semi-open enclosure remains unchanged.

This, as the name implies, is a halfway house between traditional open and closed designs, resulting in an interesting mix of strengths. There’s the spaciousness of open-backed (with some sound leakage) alongside the substance we hear from closed designs.

Compare the spec sheet of the two generations and there’s little notable difference, though the frequency response graph shows the new ones to have greater low-end heft and smoother highs.

That’s not the way they present on initial switch-on though. The Gen.2s sound thin and bright, with a peaky response in the treble that grates with recordings that are anything less than immaculate.

We’re a patient bunch and decide a weekend’s worth of running-in is required before we make any serious judgement. It turns out the best part of a week is needed before the G2s show their true colours. We’re glad we waited.

Sound

Once they stabilise, these headphones take the insightful yet entertaining sound of the originals and add extra doses of resolution, transparency and low-end weight. All the while we still have a firm grasp of rhythmic information and the kind of fluid dynamics we rarely hear from headphones, even top-end models.

Our listening sessions start off with Miles Davis’s So What and we’re impressed by the T1s’ ability to render fine detail. These cans capture the texture of instruments brilliantly and deliver the modulating but highly controlled intensity of Davis’s playing with precision.

Instruments are not only defined well – leading and trailing notes are drawn with finesse, not hard edges – but rendered with convincing body and natural warmth.

Tonally, there’s a touch of emphasis from the lower mid downwards and a touch of extra sparkle in the treble, but neither of these traits are excessive, and they don’t stop these headphones from conveying the music’s message authentically.

Switching to Drake’s Headlines shows that the T1s have the ability to entertain as well as inform. They charge along, pounding out the rhythm track with enthusiasm. There’s plenty of attack here and a solid dose of low-end authority. Importantly, that bass power isn’t bought at the expense of agility or precision.

Higher up the frequency range we’re impressed by the T1’s articulate way with vocals and the way they convey the dynamic nuances and varying pace of Drake’s delivery. With this track the Beyerdynamics turn in a complete performance that’s hard to pick holes in.

The story is similarly positive regardless of the musical genre. There’s blood and thunder with Stravinsky’s The Rite Of Spring and the kind of spacious presentation that in our experience only the likes of Sennheiser’s excellent (and pricier) HD800S’s can better, though not by much.

Yet, listen to Mount The Air from The Unthanks and the T1 Gen.2s deliver all the passion and heartache with considerable panache.

All brilliant, but you won’t get this kind of sound simply connecting these headphones into any old Smartphone or DAC. To get this level of performance everything from the original recording to the source and headphone amp have to be top class.

If you’re using a computer as source, we think CD-spec 16-bit/44.1kHz files are a must, as is good media playing software such as Pure Music (for Macs) or JRiver (PCs). As far as DACs/headphone amps are concerned, look at either the Chord Hugo or Naim’s DAC-V1.

If you’re using a traditional hi-fi, consider the likes of Cyrus’s CDi CD player a good starting point.

A good headphone amp from the likes of Graham Slee, Naim or Meridian is essential too. Get the rest of the system right and we can’t see the T1s doing anything less than impressing you.

Verdict

If you were after a pair of top-class pair of headphones without spending thousands, these – along with Sennheiser’s HD800Ses – would be our top recommendations.

Get the rest of the system right and all you have to do is sit back and enjoy.

(whathifi.com, http://goo.gl/ytPiLV)

 

 

 

Devialet’s Gold Phantom is heavy, mental

Bombs and Rockets. If French audio company Devialet was an ’80s synth band this would be the title of its sophomore album. For while the company gleefully compared the amount of pressure inside the Silver Phantom to a type of bomb, it says the new Gold Phantom has the same power as a rocket launch. Lesson in short: don’t drop these things from a great height.

In terms of price alone, the Devialet is winning the arms race when it comes to high-end wireless speakers at $3,000 or £1,690 (about AU$3,050). Below it sits models such as the Raumfeld Stereo L, the Naim mu-so and two other Devialet Phantoms.

04-devialet-gold-phantom.jpg

The Gold model is $600 more than the Silver and the company says the changes have not only been about extending frequency response but also providing a smoother response in the mids and treble. One of the improvements is the move from an aluminum tweeter to a stiffer titanium one, which Devialet says allows for a more extended treble.

The frequency response is now listed as 14Hz to 27kHz, which is way beyond both human hearing and the limits of a CD. Some of the improvements are as a result of the company tuning the digital signal processing (DSP) in the unit and Devialet representatives say this means users of the other Phantoms in the range will also see an improvement to their units with future firmware.

07-devialet-gold-phantom.jpg

The other improvement is that the power has been boosted yet again from a ridiculous 3,000 watts to an absolutely ludicrous 4,500W. This has enabled the designers to wring an extra couple of decibels out of the machine to top out at a rock concert-worthy 108 decibels.

As you’d expect from a “gold” product the new Devialet actually includes the precious metal in the finish. The “gills” on each side are covered in 22-carat rose gold but it isn’t as gaudy in the flesh as it might sound.

The Phantom is a Wi-Fi-centric speaker and is controlled by the Phantom Spark app (for Android, iOS and Mac), which plays music from your phone as well as Tidal and Spotify Connect, plus Deezer and Qobuz in applicable markets. Other streaming services are yet to be confirmed.

If you don’t want to connect via Wi-Fi though, you have the option of Bluetooth or even optical. Finally, as with the other two Phantoms you can pair them together for stereo listening, but at $6,000 for a pair they’re in pretty heady territory.


01-devialet-gold-phantom.jpg

Ears-on tests

If there’s one thing I noted about the performance of the Silver Phantom is that it tended on the bright side of neutral. Based on a short listening test the sound I heard lacked the brightness of the previous model and instead sounded open and nuanced. Nick Cave’s “Red Right Hand” had the three-dimensionality I’d heard in “proper” stereo systems and managed to untangle the knotty mass of deep vocals and bass line.

Dead Can Dance’s “Yulunga (Spirit Dance)” exhibited plenty of air during the 2-minute opening and then when the shaker egg appeared it sounded incredibly present. It was as if someone was shaking it in the room with us. The drums that accompany the shakers weren’t as bombastic as I’ve heard previously, but I couldn’t say without further testing of the Phantom with bassy material whether this was a good or bad thing.

Conclusion

The Devialet Gold Phantom will be available for pre-order on France’s national holiday, Bastille Day, July 14. This is obviously not your typical Bluetooth speaker. It is the Lamborghini Gallardo of wireless speakers: beautiful to look at and (potentially) performs well too. As nice as it is, however, unless you have a palatial room to fill, the “entry-level” 750W Phantom at $1,990 or £1,390 (about AU$2,510) will probably do almost as good a job.

(cnet.com, http://goo.gl/7XJHt0)

TomTom Via 52 and 62 nav units use smartphone for traffic info

TomTom has unveiled a pair of new portable navigation devices called the Via 52 and Via 62 that both have smartphone connectivity.

That connectivity with your smartphone means you can leave your phone in your pocket and still make or receive phone calls and have up to date traffic information. Each of the navigation devices can be used as hands free kits.

Hands free capacity is a big deal in areas where it’s illegal to talk on a phone without hands free technology. The big thing with the smartphone connectivity is that the navigation devices are able to use the smartphone to get real-time traffic information and live speed camera alerts.

Corinne Vigreux, co-founder and managing director, TomTom Consumer said, “We want drivers to be able to enjoy the journey ahead feeling safe and relaxed. That’s why the new TomTom VIA satnavs come with hands-free calling, and smartphone connectivity. The new devices are also packed with award-winning innovative features, smart routing, and our super-accurate maps – everything needed to drive headache-free.”

Both the Via 52 and 62 PNDs have lifetime maps and traffic information at no additional cost. Some GPS handhelds charge a yearly fee for map updates and traffic services. Via 52 and 62 users can also plan their drive using the TomTom MyDrive planning tool on their smartphone, PC, and tablet. That planning tool will also alert you if traffic is bad so you can change what time you leave to arrive at your destination on time. The difference between the Via 52 and 62 is screen size; the 52 has a 5-inch screen and the 62 has a 6-inch screen. Via 52 can be purchased now in Europe for £149.99 with the Via 62 launching soon for £169.99.

(slashgear.com, http://goo.gl/5v8es4)

Microsoft LifeCam HD 3000 Review

The Pros

Affordable; Capable software

The Cons

Blurry; Hard to affix to monitors

Verdict

The Microsoft LifeCam HD 3000’s blurry images make it a poor choice and no improvement over a built-in laptop camera.

In a glaring case of “you get what you pay for,” Microsoft offers its $22 LifeCam HD 3000 as a low-cost alternative to built-in cameras. However, the device produces blurry photos and videos, which are only marginally better than those of the absolute worst laptop webcams. If you can stretch your budget by just a few dollars, competitors offer significantly better output than Microsoft’s weakest webcam.

Design

The LifeCam HD 3000 is a 1.7-inch robotic eye staring at you from atop your monitor. The black oval features a series of fake shutters arround the lens. Microsoft’s logo is stamped on the front, as is “HD,” just to remind you how sharp you’ll supposedly look. The eye can swivel slightly side-to-side to help you adjust the frame.


Unfortunately, it isn’t easy to perch the HD 3000 on top of your laptop display or external monitor. Like Microsoft’s LifeCam Cinema HD, it uses a flexible arm to wrap around the back of your screen, and the foot needs to hit perfectly for a tight fit. When I tried to make a quick, angular adjustment, I often had to attach the camera to my laptop all over again.


Positioning struggles aside, the arm is sturdy and can stand up by itself. Although the camera lacks a tripod mount on the bottom, you can use the arm as its own stand on a desk or a shelf above your computer.

Picture and Sound Quality

The LifeCam HD falters on its sole purpose: taking video and photos. The footage I captured with the 720p camera was unrepentantly blurry, showing off less detail than the output from any other camera I’ve tested to date. My beard looked like a brownish blob had settled on my face, obscuring my dimple. And the background was dark and grungy, which only made matters worse.

When I tried a few test shots in a darkened room, the visual noise ramped up to 11, showing rainbow pixels on my face. I could barely see the outline of my head, resulting in a disembodied look similar to the flimflam act in “The Wizard of Oz.”

Logitech’s budget model, the HD Webcam C310, was sharp, clear and bright; it caught all of the detail that the LifeCam didn’t. The C310 showed off the stitching in my shirt, and individual hairs on my head and beard. There was still some visual noise, but not as much as on Microsoft’s camera.

The LifeCam HD’s microphone does nothing to reduce ambient noise. On the contrary, it provides some of its own, crackling as I adjusted the camera into a satisfactory position. It was easy enough to hear my voice, though there was a hint of an echo during playback.

Software

The HD 3000 is compatible with Microsoft’s LifeCam software, which is available on the company’s website. This software lets you play with a bunch of fun masks, filters and effects to liven up video chats; it also lets you decide what resolution to use in photos and videos.

The software additionally allows you to save photos, videos and audio to your hard drive, which is great for Windows 7 users who may not have built-in webcam software. It also one-ups Logitech, because that company’s webcam apps can’t solely capture audio.

Bottom Line

The Microsoft LifeCam HD 3000 is the external webcam that you buy if you’re either limited by your budget or just don’t know any better. The device’s blurry photos aren’t much of an improvement over a laptop’s built-in cam, unless it’s the worst of the worst.

Although a $22 webcam is tempting, Logitech’s $32 HD Webcam C310 is a better low-end option, with clearer picture and costing only $10 more. (It’s still hard to attach to monitors, though.) The best option is the $60 Logitech HD Webcam C920, which offers clear video and audio, along with a wide field of view.

Overall, we recommend steering clear of the LifeCam HD 3000 and its bargain-bin pricing. Unless you have the crappiest of crappy built-in cameras or no webcam at all, Microsoft’s cut-rate option probably isn’t much of an upgrade.

(laptopmag.com, http://goo.gl/WqDZzU)

10 Cars That Were Just Too Dangerous to Drive

The last thing an automaker wants is for a model to be branded unsafe. Not only is a defective car a major sales headache, it also puts thousands — or sometimes millions — of lives in danger, and could end up costing the manufacturer millions in lawsuits and recalls, as well as irreparable damage to the brand’s image.

But for every iconic car, there is almost always a ghoulish counterpoint, an infamous failure that has gone down in history to match each success. For every Mustang, there is the Pinto. For each Corvette, there is the Cobalt. These unsafe models not only pose a risk to their owners, they also have the potential to take entire companies down.

After Consumer Reports demanded Suzuki immediately recall its Samurai SUV, the company’s sales nosedived. The company famously ended up suing the magazine over its misfortunes, but with nonexistent sales and a tattered reputation, Suzuki left the American market in 2012.

Curiously, some cars are incredibly unsafe and became iconic anyway. The element of danger seems to add to their reputation and keeps them immune from the infamy heaped on lesser cars.  From the iconic to the infamous, here are 10 cars from throughout history that define the term “death trap.”

1. Ford Model T

Ford

The Model T Ford is an automotive icon. During its pioneering 19-year production run, Ford sold more than 15 million of the cars and transformed America into the world’s first automotive powerhouse. Also, the Model T was a complete death trap. When it was introduced in 1908, notable safety features included things like headlights, a horn, and a windshield. After that, you were pretty much on your own. The fact that Henry Ford famously refused to add front brakes to keep costs down didn’t help either.

2. Chevrolet Corvair

Chevrolet Corvair

Consumer advocate Ralph Nader built his career on demonizing the Chevrolet Corvair in his 1965 book Unsafe at Any Speed. While the Corvair wasn’t a particularly safe car, the book highlighted many of the safety issues that virtually every car of the era had. In the early ’60s, features like the collapsable steering column, three-point seat belts, padded dashboards, and two-circuit brake systems (to prevent brake failure) had yet to be standardized, causing most cars to be shockingly dangerous by today’s standards.

Still, Nader asserted that the Corvair stood out because its swing-axle suspension and rear-engined layout contributed to dangerous oversteer. By 1965, Chevy had the kinks worked out, but the Corvair’s sales would never really recover. The car was discontinued midway though the 1969 model year.

3. Porsche 911

Porsche 911

After 51 legendary years in production, the Porsche 911 is generally considered to be one of the greatest sports cars in the world. But to paraphrase the old cliché, Porsche took a bad idea and refined it to brilliance. Not only is the 911’s engine in the back of the car, it’s so far behind the rear axle that even the slightest miscalculation could cause dangerous oversteer, sending you hurtling backwards into oncoming traffic.

Porsche engineers first tried to solve the car’s weight imbalance by putting iron weights in the front bumpers of early cars. By the early ’70s, the 911’s iconic “whale tail” spoiler and front air dam did wonders to keep the car planted to the ground at speed. Today, a fantastic all-wheel drive system and traction control have ironed out most of the modern 911’s homicidal urges, but while the older cars are achingly gorgeous, they’re undeniably dangerous, too.

4. Ford Pinto

Ford Pinto

By the 1970s, the Detroit automakers were concerned with two things: competing with imported cars and keeping costs down. The Pinto was the worst of both worlds. True, its inline-four engine saw service until 2001, and its frame was a favorite of kit car builders for decades, but Ford’s refusal to install a $1 part to prevent the gas tank from rupturing during a rear-end collision is what this car is remembered for.

After an exposé in Mother Jones in 1977, it was revealed that Ford knew about the defect for years and opted to pay out individual lawsuits rather than shell out the extra dollar per car to fix the issue. By 1978, the public outcry was so strong that Ford reluctantly recalled 1.5 million Pintos (and the identical Mercury Bobcat), but as many as 900 people died as a result of the car’s faulty fuel system.

5. DeLorean DMC-12

DeLorean

The DeLorean DMC-12 may have earned its place as one of the most iconic cars of the ’80s, but it was alsowildly unsafe. When John DeLorean left General Motors in the early ’70s to build a “safety sports car,” we hope the DMC-12 isn’t what he had in mind. Stainless steel body panels mounted to a fiberglass frame didn’t do the car many favors in crash tests — after a 50-mile-per-hour impact, the car looked like a crushed can.

The car’s famous gull-wing doors didn’t help, either. If the car rolled over, occupants had no way of escape. Out of approximately 9,200 cars built, it’s estimated that about 6,500 cars survive — for safety’s sake, we hope the car’s awful build quality did the others in, not collisions.

6. Pontiac Fiero

Pontiac Fiero

The ambitious two-seat, mid-engined Pontiac Fiero was designed to be a sporty commuter car that would return Pontiac back to its ’60s glory days as GM’s “youth brand.” Launched in 1984, the Fiero was an initial success, but a design flaw and some seriously incompetent engineering led to a wave of engine fires that affected first year cars. Luckily, the fires caused no deaths, and the issue had been fixed for the 1985 model year, but by 1987, 260 Fieros had gone up in flames. The Fiero’s reputation took a beating in the press, and the model was discontinued after 1988.

7. Yugo GV

Yugo

By the time it reached American shores in 1985, the Yugo was a poorly built Serbian version of a 15-year-old Italian econobox, and an instant punch line. The GV (for “great value”) was billed as America’s cheapest new car, and its atrocious build quality and unreliability made it easy to figure out why.

A Yugo made national headlines in 1989 when its lightweight, terrible handling and boxy design mixed with winter weather and blew off Michigan’s Mackinac Bridge, plunging 31-year-old Leslie Ann Pluhar into Lake Michigan’s icy waters 172 feet below. The bridge scandal only added to the Yugo’s reputation as a death trap, and a host of costly federal emissions recalls, as well as the escalating Bosnian conflict, forced Yugo out of the American market after 1992.

8. Ford Bronco II

Ford Bronco II

During its seven-model-year run, the Bronco II was a success for Ford. Following the same concept of the Mustang II a decade before, the Bronco II was a downsized return to the original 1966-1975 Bronco’s compact dimensions in an attractive, modernized package.

Based on the Ford Ranger pickup, the rugged little truck was instrumental in kicking off the SUV craze along with the Chevy S-10 Blazer and Jeep Cherokee. But its tall ride height, short wheelbase, and narrow width made it dangerously susceptible to rollovers. During an official investigation in 1990, it was found that roughly 70 people a year died when their Broncos rolled over, giving it the highest rollover fatality rate of any vehicle tested. Shortly after the report was released, it was replaced by the longer wheelbase Ford Explorer.

9. Chevrolet Cobalt

Chevy Cobalt

Like the Pinto, the Chevy Cobalt was an entry-level compact that was a strong seller for the better part of a decade. Also like the Pinto, it’s at the center of one of the worst automotive scandals in history. The unassuming Cobalt is the root of General Motor’s ignition recalls, where a defect in its ignition switch can cause the cars to suddenly turn off at speed, deactivating safety systems — an issue that GM knew about and tried to cover up.

To date, there have been 90 deaths acknowledged by GM, along with 163 other serious injury claims. If not for its disastrous safety defects, the Cobalt should have been a forgettable car. Unfortunately, it will cast a pall over GM for years to come.

10. Ferrari 458 Italia

Ferrari

One of the longest-running stereotypes in the automotive world is that Italian supercars always catch on fire. While that may be an exaggeration that has dogged the builders of dream cars for decades, the Ferrari 458 Italia did actually have a penchant for spontaneously catching on fire more than just about any other car in the world at the time.

In 2012, Ferrari recalled 1,248 cars because an adhesive used to hold the car’s inner fenders in place turned out to be highly flammable and placed way too close to the exhaust. The fix was simple (the inner fenders were riveted on), but the damage was done. Three years after the recall, the jokes about flaming Ferraris have only gotten worse.

While the Ferrari fires are made light of because there were no deaths or major injuries caused by them, it was still a serious issue. From subcompacts to supercars, automakers have a long history of compromising safety for profit, and when they do, they put millions of lives at risk. These cars deserve to be remembered as the death traps they were because they remind us of the mistakes of the past. Let’s hope automakers remember them too, and make sure history doesn’t repeat itself.

(cheatsheet.com, http://goo.gl/FUPe70)

6 smartphones even more boring than the rumoured iPhone 7

It seems increasingly likely that the iPhone 7 is going to be a bit of a damp squib, which has prompted us to reflect on some other notably boring smartphone releases from recent years.

A growing number of reports suggest Apple isn’t sticking to the script with the iPhone 7 – and we don’t mean that in a positive way. History dictates that the next iPhone should boast an all-new design, but it seems we’ll actually be getting yet another iPhone 6-a-like. Yawn.

If true, the iPhone 7 will neither be the first nor the last phone to underwhelm with its dull, unimaginative design. Here are six such snoozesome smartphones that left us distinctly unmoved.

HTC ONE M9

This year’s HTC 10 is a handsome phone with a beautiful angled design we really dig. It really needed to be, though, after its predecessor turned out to be the most disappointing phone of 2015.

It wasn’t that the HTC One M9 had a below-par 1080p display, or that it suffered from some early performance gremlins (though it did and it did). It wasn’t even that the camera was a bit meh.

htc-one-m9

No, what really got everyone’s goat was that the HTC One M9 looked exactly like the HTC One M8 before it, which looked exactly like the HTC One M7 before that.

Unfortunately, Apple doesn’t seem to have learned HTC’s lesson.

SAMSUNG GALAXY S5

The only interesting thing about the Samsung Galaxy S5, in retrospect, was that it marked a turning point for smartphone design.

Its relative underperformance showed that ugly plastic was no longer acceptable for a flagship phone from an elite smartphone manufacturer. It’s been mostly metal across the board ever since.

galaxy-s5-1

It also showed Samsung that it badly needed to stop with the box-ticking features and focus more on premium, interesting design. To the manufacturer’s credit, it’s done just that with the beautiful Samsung Galaxy S6 and this year’s equally sharp Samsung Galaxy S7.

The Samsung Galaxy S5? You probably won’t notice any when out and about these days. Not because they’re not there, you understand – Samsung at least built these suckers to last. Rather, it’s because they look like every other cheap phone Samsung has made since 2010.

LG G4

You might think this is a bit of a harsh one. After all, the LG G4 was a decent phone with a strong spec sheet. We liked it a lot at the time.

So why can we barely picture the phone when we think about it just over a year later? There are two reasons we can think of.

lg-g4

One is a matter of expectation. We made the LG G3 our phone of the year in 2014, thanks such fresh features as a then-unusual QHD display and its innovative camera functions. The LG G4 simply didn’t make anything like the same impact, failing to bring anything meaningfully new to the table.

The second reason is that the LG G4’s design was plain boring, and lacked the premium feel of its all-metal contemporaries. No amount of optional leather could disguise that. The reaction – or lack thereof – to the LG G4’s design probably explains why LG went a bit crazy with the LG G5.

MICROSOFT LUMIA 950

You’re one of the biggest tech companies in the world, but your mobile OS is taking a battering from your two biggest rivals. There’s a big platform relaunch coming that could save your bacon, but you really need a killer flagship to push it.

Fortunately, using your almost unrivalled cash reserves, you recently purchased one of the most respected names in mobile phone hardware design. Meanwhile your internal hardware team has started knocking it out of the park with its own portable device design work.

lumia-950

So what did Microsoft come out with to push Windows 10 Mobile? The Lumia 950, which essentially resembled a tarted up Nokia Lumia 920 from three years prior.

Clunky, chunky, apologetically plastic, and late. The most interesting thing about the Lumia 950 was just how unremarkable it was.

NEXUS 6

The Nexus 6 is like that person at a party who brags and shows off and says outrageous things to cover up for the fact that they actually have very little to say.

Motorola’s attempt at a Nexus flagship was extremely big, with an outrageously colourful AMOLED display, and it ran on one of the most powerful processors of the time. But really, it was just an oversized Moto X running stock Android. Nothing more, nothing less.

nexus-6

The customised design of the Nexus 5, Nexus 4, and subsequent Nexus devices was nowhere to be seen. It smacked of a rather rushed, late rebadging exercise.

Like most of these phones, the Nexus 6 was certainly not considered to be a bad phone at the time, but it’s looked back on with disappointment at what should have been.

IPHONE SE

You would have thought that Apple would have known better than to repeat itself more than once with the iPhone 7 (assuming the rumours are true). After all, it has very recent experience of the response it’s likely to get.

The iPhone SE launched in March after a great deal of rumour and speculation. We may forget now, but there was considerable excitement over the fact that Apple was returning to the small phone form factor.

iPhone SE

What we got was essentially an iPhone 5SS. No, I’m not an Android fanboy hissing at the mere mention of the word ‘iPhone.’ I mean that the iPhone SE looked exactly like the iPhone 5S, which of course looked exactly like the iPhone 5.

So you see, those in denial that Apple would really release essentially the same phone design for a third iteration shouldn’t be so surprised. It’s actually got very recent boring design form.

(trustedreviews.com, http://goo.gl/s7NXzk)

 

Technics EAH-T 700 Headphone Review

AT A GLANCE

Plus

  • Two-way design with super tweeter
  • High sensitivity makes it ideal for use with portable hi-res music players
  • Handcrafted in Japan

Minus

  • No padded storage case
THE VERDICT

The Technics EAH-T 700 sounds sweet at home, and its high sensitivity makes it ideal with high-resolution portable players.

Remember Technics? They made turntables, right? Yes, they did, and now they’re making them again. The brand’s history dates back to 1965 when it debuted the Technics 1 monitor speaker. The brand went on to create a wide range of components, including a tube amplifier in 1966, and in 1970 the world’s first direct-drive turntable, the SP-10. Many other products followed, but the Technics name faded from view a few years ago and then roared back to life in 2015 with a couple of stellar speakers and a new line of electronics. This year, Technics showed an all-new SL-1200 Series turntable and these remarkable headphones, the EAH-T700.

These crisply styled beauties feature finely crafted aluminum earcups and deliciously thick padded ear cushions and headband; pictures fail to convey how it feels. These headphones look like they can shrug off a little rough handling with ease. The EAH-T700 were designed and made in Japan, precisely because Technics engineers want to maintain the strictest quality control standards.

Peer inside the EAH-T700’s earcups, and you’ll spot something unusual: In addition to a 50mm main driver, there’s a 14mm aluminum super tweeter. The 50mm is set in an angled aluminum baffle, as is the super tweeter, to better direct ultra-high frequencies precisely to your ear. The drivers are compliantly decoupled from the earcup to reduce resonance. Technics claims the tweeter’s response extends all the way up to 100 kilohertz to fully resolve the bandwidth of today’s ultra-high-resolution recordings. I can hear some of you muttering that human hearing doesn’t go much past 20 kHz, but even so, headphones that reach to 100 kHz might have audible benefits at the upper range of the frequencies we do hear.

You get two sets of oxygen-free copper headphone (4N) cables, one 4-foot one and a 10-footer. The cables are terminated with 3.5mm plugs with sleeves that screw onto the earcups. A 3.5mm-to-6.3mm adapter plug is provided, but I was surprised to note that Technics didn’t include the sort of classy storage box that comes with other flagship headphones. They do provide a basic drawstring pouch for storage and travel, however.

These closed-back headphones weigh a little over a pound (16.6 ounces), but I still found them a pleasure to wear. The luscious earpads and supple headband are largely responsible for the EAH-T700s’ comfort. The pads also do a great job sealing out external noise, so I took the EAH-T700s out to a local park with my Astell & Kern Jr high-resolution music player. That turned out to be a great pairing because the EAH-T700s are more sensitive than any other flagship headphones I’ve tried, so they played louder and were more dynamically alive than the other ’phones with portable players. Pumping up the volume to “11,” the bass slam was truly visceral on my LCD Soundsystem albums. So if you do a lot of listening on the go and crave audiophile sound quality and maximum dynamics, the EAH-T700 would be a great choice.

Back at home, I compared the EAH-T700 with another pair of two-way full-size headphones, the EnigmAcoustics Dharma D1000 ($1,195), with my Oppo HA-1 headphone amp, and the differences between the two headphones were clear cut. The EAH-T700 had a sweeter tone and richer bass, but the D1000 is more see-through transparent, so I could hear “deeper” into the music. Fingers sliding over strings and singers’ breaths were the sorts of details that the EAH-T700 glossed over. Ah, but maybe that’s why the Technics managed to breeze through some of the harsher-sounding contemporary albums in my collection. Still, the EAH-T700 is very much a high-resolution device, though other headphones dredge up even more detail.

With so much happening in high- end headphones, you might think there’s nothing new to offer, but even a quick listen to the Technics EAH-T700 will prove otherwise.

Specs:

Type: Closed-back, over-the-ear

• Drivers: 50mm dynamic driver, 14mm aluminum super-tweeter

• Impedance: 28 ohms

• Sensitivity: 102 dB/1 mW

• Weight (Ounces): 16.6

(soundandvision.com, http://goo.gl/vxCqDa)

Artison RCC Nano One Wireless Subwoofer Preview

Summary

  • Product Name: RCC Nano One
  • Manufacturer: Artison
  • MSRP: $999

Executive Overview

1115artison.2

So you bought a soundbar or you have small in-wall speakers and they don’t give you the bass that you really want and your significant other says a giant floor subwoofer is out of the question. Now you’re in luck. Artison might have an answer for you with their RCC Nano One wireless subwoofer. Artison touts the RCC Nano One as the world’s smallest high performance subwoofer and at $1000 it better perform.  Measuring only 7.5” x 8” x 9” including feet and grilles, it certainly is small!

Artison started development from the ground up with this new sub giving it a whole new driver design.  With a piston area of an oversized 8” woofer, the 6.5″ driver has 20mm (0.78″) of linear excursion (how far the cone can move without distortion), coupled with large magnet structures and with multi-layer voice coils.

 Nano-Drivers

The Nano One also incorporates a universal voltage power supply, designed so that no matter where you live it will work with your main’s power.  The Nano One should automatically sense and adjust to the voltage in your home. The sub features a Class D amplifier rated at over 300 watts RMS.

Nano-Power-Supply

Build Quality

We were intrigued that Artison decided to use aluminum as the cabinet design instead of composite materials. The 6061 T6 Aluminum enclosure is designed to be both rigid and thin to further decrease the overall size. Adsorptive damping is also added to help reduce resonance. Like all of Artison’s subwoofers, the Nano incorporates RCC (Reactance Cancelling Configuration) which reduces cabinet vibration, so you can place it anywhere without it walking out of the room or off a shelf due to excessive vibrations during action flicks or even just really poor plot Michael Bay movies. The aluminum enclosure is CNC machined, bead blasted and anodized, so it should be tough enough to last at least 10 more Dolby upgrades.

 Nano-Cabinet

“For the cabinet we chose aluminum, which allowed us to create an extraordinarily rigid enclosure that is also very thin, reducing the overall size without sacrificing performance. This attention to detail is what gives Nano a look and feel of uncompromising quality.”

Artison LLC

The Nano is designed to be extremely easy to set-up. Optimal room placement is enabled by a small wireless transmitter that simply plugs into the audio source.  In addition, the Nano One has the wireless receiver built in, so no additional box is needed at the subwoofer. One of the features we liked the most though was that all inputs are discretely hidden on the bottom, so no wires are visible on the back. Considering that the goal of this little sub is discreet functionality, the hidden inputs are a step in the right direction.

Nano-Input_Med     Nano-Transmitter

Remote

To control the bass levels Artison has included a remote with movie and music modes to simplify the task of changing the equalization. The remote seems really cheap looking considering the price of the sub, but we’ll have to see how it performs once we get our hands on one.

sunfire-xteq12

The remote features the following choices for adjusting the sub to optimum levels

  • Source 1, 2, or 3 (LFE, Wireless, High-level)
  • Volume Up/Down
  • Power On/Off
  • Movie/Music

Our Thoughts

Although pricey, the idea of creating a small unobtrusive sub with respectable output is commendable.  This sub won’t shake any walls, the laws of physics prevents it from doing so, but it’s meant for a lifestyle type application of surround sound, out of sight, and usually paired with a soundbar or in-wall speakers. Bench tests will determine the true output and functionality of this Mighty Mouse  unit once we get one in for a thorough pounding.

(audioholics.com, http://goo.gl/qoUbjr)

LG VPInput lets you control your LG flagship from your PC

Anyone who works with a computer daily is probably familiar with the frustration of having to reach out for your smartphone just quickly check or do something. Not only is it inconvenient, it is also unproductive. LG has just announced its solution that fixes. Provided you have an LG G5, G4, or even aV10. Simply called VPInput, the Android app and accompanying PC program allows you not just to view but also control your smartphone right from the comfort of your desktop or laptop.

Connecting a PC and an LG smartphone is as easy as downloading themobile app from Google Play Store and the PC or Mac counterpart from LG’s website. No Internet or even Wi-Fi is needed, as the wireless connection is done over Bluetooth, which means the PC must have that functionality. Not a problem for laptops, but not all desktops are properly equipped.

The basic purpose of VPInput is to let users control their LG smartphone from their PCs or Mac, which means mouse clicks translate to touches and keyboard input is relayed to the Android smartphone. It does have a few bonuses that go beyond direct control.

Clipboard, for example, is shared between the two, so copying text in one makes it available in the other. You can also take a screenshot of the smartphone and the image gets automatically displayed on the computer. Plus, you can set some of keyboard shortcuts to launch Android apps immediately.

LG’s VPInput is definitely not the only game in town, most of which work with devices other than LG’s three high-end smartphones. Those also do have requirements and limitations of their own. But if you have an LG G4, G5, or V10 anyway, one more free, official tool wouldn’t really hurt.

(slashgear.com, http://goo.gl/02Nr0d)

Fujifilm Medium Format Camera Coming with 3 New Lenses

The rumor mill is in talks of a future Fujifilm medium format camera. The company expected to unveil the camera with three new lenses.

As you might remember from the previous rumors. A new Fujifilm medium format camera is in the works. It will feature a large 50-megapixel image sensor.

The announcement of the medium format Fuji might be by the end of this year. However the release date or availability of the upcoming camera should be sometime in 2017.

Hasselblad X1D officially announced a few days ago. It comes with a 50MP CMOS sensor delivering up to 14 stops of dynamic range. The mirrorless camera comes with two new lenses with 90mm and 45mm focal lengths.

fujifilm-medium-format-camera-gf670

There are now two companies in the market. On the other hand the sensor in the upcoming Fuji camera could be the same one made by Sony. It’s not a secret that the company is currently developing such system.

According to trusted sources, Fuji is planning to introduce three new lenses with the new medium format camera. These lenses could be all prime models. We can expect at least two prime models with a wide-angle zoom. Even the specifications of the camera is unknown at the moment. It could feature hybrid viewfinder.

Fujifilm Medium Format Mirrorless Camera

So what we have in hand is the Fujifilm medium format camera might be unveiled in 2017 with three new lenses. What will be the design look like? Will it look like the GW690 or GF670? Anyway we are pretty sure the company will come up with something compact and cool.

Photokina is the world’s biggest digital imaging show and it will open its doors by the end of September. The company might display a prototype of the camera and again release it in 2017. Stay tuned with us for more information.

(dailycameranews.com, http://goo.gl/mL9nUj)

Who Should and Shouldn’t Buy a Turbo Diesel Jaguar XE

I still have yet to meet a single Volkswagen diesel owner who has immediately given up on their car in the wake of Dieselgate, and it seems that quite a few of them have even complimented the automaker for the way in which it has handled the entire situation. We like diesel, and regardless of what happens to Volkswagen, we’ll continue to appreciate oil-burning engines for what they can offer.

Entry level luxury sedan

Entry level luxury sedan

That meant celebrating when Jaguar announced that it would be offering its awaited entry-level sport sedan with a turbo diesel option. The old saying “There’s no such thing as bad press” sure rings true in this situation, because for as much of a fiasco as Dieselgate has become, it certainly has gotten many to actually pay attention to what has long been an underdog powertrain in the U.S. of A.

2.0-liter Ingenium turbo diesel engine

2.0-liter Ingenium turbo diesel engine

What started last winter with the Range Rover Td6 has passed the torch on to a little four-cylinder JLR option that puts down 180 horsepower and 318 pound-feet of torque. It’s a 2.0-liter motor that’s been badged with Jaguar’s latest “Ingenium” engineering, and damn does it deliver the goods.

But despite the inherent positives of JLR’s diesel units, the diesel version of the Jaguar XE may not be for everyone. Remember, there are turbo four-cylinder gas versions and bonkers-fast supercharged V6 variants out there, so if you don’t like what you see here today, know that the Brits have you covered in a variety of other areas as well.

Aluminum architecture

2017 Jaguar XE

Let’s start on a high note: Jaguar has done a great job of turning itself around after decades of being labeled as unreliable, over-priced slabs of soft luxury engineering. For those of you out there who are worried about reliability and resale value, remember that India-based Tata Motors has been allocating ungodly sums of money into JLR in the hopes of turning one of the most iconic automakers in history into a genuine automotive wrecking ball. So don’t fret, because this is not the Jaguar of the early aughts, and anyone wanting solid engineering and a decent warranty need not look any further.

Another person who will likely enjoy the turbo diesel XE is the efficiency fanatic. Even at 12,000 feet where our little 2.0-liter engine was under-powered and overworked by 36%, the fuel economy was outstanding. In order to get a somewhat fair estimate of what this little sedan can do, we reset the MPG gauge to zero once we came down from the Continental Divide, and over the course of the next 20 miles, we charted how well the engine worked in Eco mode. With an average speed of 70 miles per hour on terrain that was pretty flat, with zero stop signs or major deceleration, the XE averaged a staggering 67.4 miles per gallon, a number that will surely drop during everyday driving, but is commendable nevertheless.

Eco drive mode monitoring

Eco drive mode monitoring 

Technology buffs are also going to enjoy the XE. In order to get those extreme fuel gains, the monitoring of vital engine and efficiency numbers has to happen. Driving habits make up more of the perks you see at the pump than you might think, so being able to track the position of your foot on the accelerator, the kind of steering inputs you are giving it, and the way in which you shift and brake can make a huge difference when tech-heavy guidance systems are put in play. Add the number of infotainment and nerdy car stats prolific in Jaguar’s 10.2-inch InControl Touch Pro, and you’ve got a major selling point for luring in potential buyers.

The last kind of buyer who will likely love the XE, and perhaps the most important, is the active millennial buyer who is looking at entry-level luxury options. Equipped with all-wheel drive, a roof rack that is stylishly designed to hold everything from kayaks to skis, and a price point that starts in the upper $30,000s, the diesel XE lands right where it should. It provides an excellent value for all-around versatility and standard features, and since Jaguar has been missing out on this crucial segment, you better believe it is making up for lost time.

Jaguar XE

But for all of its strong suits, the XE does have its downsides, and while there may not be a lot of them, it behooves us to make mention of what might be unappealing to certain kinds of drivers. This is a vehicle that some critics consider to be nearly flawless, and while it may not be the most earth-shattering design, it certainly has more strengths than weaknesses, even if it isn’t your kind of car to begin with.

The biggest turn-off about the XE in diesel trim is its powerband. While 318 foot-pounds of torque sounds quite good on paper, there still is noticeable lag right off the line, and once boost builds, you feel like the engine is working harder than it should. Naturally, this could be partially due to the higher elevations at which we were testing the vehicle, but even at sea level, we could see some people wanting more from a Jaguar. In that case, we would point them toward either the turbo gas version or the supercharged V6.

Adaptive headlamps

Adaptive headlamps 

People who want or need lots of space probably aren’t going to like the XE very much either. It’s got enough rear legroom so that a six-foot person can sit behind a person of similar stature without issue, but it’s going to border on being too tight. The trunk is also not very tall, and although it may be acceptable depth-wise, it could prove problematic for anyone wanting to load larger items.

The final kind of person who might want to steer clear of the XE is the long term money miser. Although  Jaguar does offer the best luxury warranty on the market today, and it has made leaps and bounds in the tech and engineering departments, there still is the concern that as they get on in years they could be saddled with expensive, luxury-car level maintenance costs. While we have been reassured by Jaguar that these new models will be as reliable as a Lexus and just as indestructible, it might be worth it to some buyers to wait and see how things play out prior to committing to something like the diesel XE.

(cheatsheet.com, http://goo.gl/onb7gr)

The best budget fitness trackers

Activity tracking is cheaper than you think: Misfit, Jawbone, Fitbit, Razer and more...

If you’re looking for a cheap fitness tracker that doesn’t compromise on features, you’re in luck.

The best budget fitness trackers

So far, we’ve already seen an influx of next-generation products from the likes ofFitbit and Misfit that seriously lowers the cost of getting the latest wearable tech. Quality fitness tracking needn’t break the bank.

These devices are our choices for the best affordable trackers currently on the market, for (about) $50 or less.

Make sure you also take a look at our guide to the best fitness trackers money can buy.

Xiaomi Mi Band 2

The brand new tracker from Xiaomi, the Xiaomi Mi Band 2, is the latest from the Chinese purveyors of budget tech. In terms of activity monitoring the Mi Band 2 tracks time, steps and heart rate information. In a Xiaomi first, the Mi Band 2 offers inactivity alerts and will vibrate for incoming calls and texts. It’s pretty basic on the smart features front, but as a collective, there’s no budget tracker than can beat its spec sheet.

Feature check: Steps, sleep, heart rate, notifications.

$43.99, mi.com | GeekBuying

Withings Go

Tracking steps, distance, calories and sleep, the Withings Go can be clipped to your clothing or worn on the wrist, but given the look of the E-ink screen we feel that subtle wearing is the way forward. The basic looking display does have its upsides, the 8 month battery life from a single coin cell battery is highly impressive and means no charging. The Withings Go is water resistant up to 5 ATM (around 50 metres), and that does mean you can take it swimming. It also has the ability to automatically track swimming, but you only get duration and calorie burn data.

Read our full Withings Go review.

Feature check: Steps, sleep, calories, swimming.

$69.95, withings.com

Jawbone UP2

One of the top fitness trackers in our best activity band round-up, the Jawbone UP2 is now available at an incredible price. In terms of features Jawbone keeps things simple: accurate step tracking, top-notch sleep monitoring and a great app ecosystem, all at a snip of its original cost. A word of warning, while the Jawbone UP2 has been available at a bargain price for a few months now, the deals below could end at any time.

Check out our Jawbone UP2 review.

Feature check: Steps, sleep, calories.

$38.67, jawbone.com | Amazon

Misfit Flash

Fitness tracker under £50

Like the existing Misfit Shine, the Flash can track sleep and steps, be worn almost anywhere (including on the wrist), and tell when you’re cycling and swimming. Like its predecessor it comes in a range of colours, has a replaceable watch battery that lasts six months and syncs with the same app.

So what’s the difference? The Misfit Flash is chunkier, it’s made of plastic instead of aluminium. Check out our comprehensive Misfit Flash review.

Feature check: Steps, sleep, smart button.

$29.99, misfit.com | Amazon

Jawbone UP MOVE

Best cheap fitness band

Let’s not pretend that the Jawbone UP Move isn’t just a Misfit Flash in slightly different clothing. It’s clear that Misfit had the idea of making its popular Shine more plasticy and affordable at the same time the team at Jawbone were thinking along the same lines.

But we judge each device on its own merits and the UP Move has plenty of them. It has an accelerometer for step tracking and the like, and there’s sleep tracking on offer too. Fashionistas will be pleased that it comes in a range of different colours, with different clasps and straps to mix and match.

Feature check: Steps, sleep, clip-on option.

$49.99, jawbone.com | Amazon

Razer Nabu X

Best cheap fitness band

Apart from the fact there’s no screen to display notifications, the Razer Nabu X is essentially a half-priced Nabu. It tracks distance, steps, calories and sleep, and is a little smaller and more discreet than its bigger brother.

The set up is a detachable module and, instead of a display, you get three colour LEDs which can light up red, green or blue to notify you of smartphone notifications, or tell you how well you’re doing against your goals.

Feature check: Steps, sleep, notifications.

$49.99, nabu.razerone.com | Amazon

Fitbit Zip

Best budget activity band

This is Fitbit’s least capable fitness tracker, but it’s still a useful bit of kit – there’s no sleep tracking and no way to measure elevation, but steps, distance and calories are all covered and the Zip has wireless syncing capabilities too.

Add to that the rock-solid Fitbit software and platform and it’s an appealing choice for anyone who wants to keep things simple on a budget.

Perfect for: Fitbit family members. Fitbit Zip users can challenge other Fitbit device owners, whether they be One, Flex or Charge, in the existing Fitbit app.

Feature check: Step tracking.

$45, fitbit.com | Amazon

Fitbug Orb

Best cheap fitness tracker

The Fitbug Orb’s lightness is the biggest selling point here. Again, sleep, steps and calories are the three main metrics it’s measuring, but the app and web interface can prove fiddly to operate and its low price definitely shows through in its overall design.

That said, you can use it as a clip-on gadget or around your wrist, so you have options when it comes to how to wear it.

Perfect for: People who want to track their food intake with a bit more detail – the nutrition aspects of the Fitbug companion app are pretty good.

$49.99, fitbug.com | Amazon

Archon

Only available in the UK for now, the Archon Touch fitness tracker comes at a bargain basement price. You get steps, calories and sleep tracking and a tiny screen which you can summon your stats, and swipe through using your finger. There’s also some smart features too, with snippets of messages and incoming call details flashed on the screen. It’s not pretty or elegant, but it’s usable at an incredible price.

£29.99/$45 | Amazon

(wareable.com, http://goo.gl/U8Yzra)

Hands on : WileyFox Spark review

OUR EARLY VERDICT

A phone which sets you back less than £100 won’t set the world alight, but for those looking for an inexpensive Android with a pleasing screen and a camera which isn’t total garbage, the Spark may be perfect.

FOR

  • Great low price
  • Solid design
  • Reasonable cameras

AGAINST

  • Small internal storage
  • No NFC
  • Can be sluggish

WileyFox is a British smartphone firm which launched in 2015 with two solid, affordable handsets in the Swift and the Storm – and it’s building on its early success at the bottom of the mobile market with a trio of new devices. The most affordable of those is the new WileyFox Spark.

It will set you back just £89.99 SIM-free, and from a quick glance at the spec sheet it looks to be fantastic value for money. There’s a 5-inch display, 1.3GHz quad-core processor, 8MP rear camera and an 8MP front snapper.

The 1GB of RAM is a slight worry, while the 8GB of internal storage isn’t particularly useful – especially as you’ll get just 3.6GB of that to actually use. There is, however a microSD slot in the WileyFox Spark allowing you to expand on the measly internal offering.

The Spark will “adopt” the microSD storage too, meaning the phone will view it as internal memory and thus allow you to save apps, games, photos and anything else to it without issue.

Can a sub-£100/$150 smartphone really deliver a decent experience, or is this a case of cheap and not so cheerful? I got hands on to find out.

Spark-HandsOn-03-650-80

Design and display

When it comes to looks WileyFox has played it safe with the Spark – and why shouldn’t it? The traditional black slab has served manufacturers well for years and it’s relatively inexpensive to reproduce.

The Spark isn’t premium in terms of look or feel, but even still it’s solid and stylish. The 5-inch display keeps dimensions to a manageable 143 x 70.4 x 8.65mm, allowing it to fit nicely in the hand.

The rounded corners and ever so slightly curved rear means it’s pleasing in the palm, while the textured rear plastic gives a high level of grip, but risks feeling a little like sandpaper.

One handed use is certainly possible – assuming your hands aren’t on the smaller side – and the power/lock key (on the right) and volume rocker (on the left) fall nicely under thumb and finger.

It’s worth noting that the Spark (and the Spark+ and Spark X) doesn’t sport NFC, which means contactless payments via Android Pay are out of the question. WileyFox took the decision not to include NFC to keep the handset price down, and with Android Pay still being relatively new to the UK it’s unlikely to faze too many prospective purchasers.

The screen boasts a 720 x 1280 resolution, because WileyFox doesn’t deal in anything lower than HD. That’s great, considering the price of this handset, and while the IPS panel doesn’t provide the same colour vibrancy as its AMOLED rival, Android looks crisp and clear.

Spark-HandsOn-09-650-80

Performance and interface

There’s more good news as the WileyFox Spark runs the latest version of Google’s mobile operating system, Android Marshmallow, although that’s been overlaid with Cyanogen OS.

The community-built interface adds a host of extra features and customisations to Android, while maintaining a look which is close to that of Google’s stock platform. There are some differences though.

The app draw icon is the WileyFox logo – which is quite nice – and the app draw itself displays as a vertical list which is divided up alphabetically. It’s almost Windows Phone-like in its implementation, but it works well.

Spark-HandsOn-10-650-80

Inside a 1.3GHz quad-core processor is joined by 1GB of RAM, and it’s here we find the Spark’s main weakness. Performance is noticeably sluggish, apps can take time to respond and general navigation isn’t overly smooth.

Again though, considering the price of the Spark I wasn’t expecting lightning fast reflexes, but any new Android phone sporting less than 2GB of RAM these days is always going to struggle at times.

It’s still perfectly usable, and those looking to upgrade from a previous budget Android device are unlikely to find much wrong with the speed of the Spark. For those looking up to fire up intensive games such as Real Racing 3 though, the Spark is probably one to avoid.

Spark-HandsOn-11-650-80

Camera and battery

WileyFox has blessed the Spark with an 8MP rear camera, AND an 8MP front snapper – impressive for a sub-£100 smartphone.

The camera app does take a second or so to load up, and shutter speed jumps between fast and not so fast, but in good light with a steady hand I was able to snap a couple of pleasing pics.

Round the front the secondary 8MP camera provides a perfectly serviceable selfie snapper, and overall I’m impressed with the Spark’s early photography potential.

Spark-HandsOn-05-650-80

Peel off the rear plastic over of the WileyFox Spark and you’ll find dual-SIM ports, a microSD slot and something which is a rarity in today’s smartphones – a removable battery.

The 2,200mAh power pack should see out a full day on a single charge, although you’ll have to wait for the full review to find out, and some users will certainly be pleased that it can swapped out for a new one.

Spark-HandsOn-14-650-80

Early verdict

Considering the WileyFox Spark will set you back just £89.99, it’s a surprisingly strong offering. The design is solid, the screen great and the 8MP cameras a real boon at this price point.

Performance is a worry, and once you start filling up the internal storage the Spark may well be struggling – but if you’re a light user that’s unlikely to be an issue.

This isn’t a phone for enthusiasts on a budget, but it is perfect for those looking for an inexpensive Android smartphone which can offer a pleasing on screen experience and a camera which isn’t total garbage.

(techradar.com, http://goo.gl/xNawzN)