Category Archives: Product News

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Top Tablets anticipated at MWC 2012

Mobile World Congress starts in Barcelona on February 27th and it provides a great event for manufacturers to showcase not only their mobile phones but also the latest tablet devices.  There are several tablets that fans of this form factor are hotly anticipating but let’s take a look at three high on tech fans ‘most wanted’ list.

Samsung Tablet

Samsung did a solid job last time around, bringing to market one of the most popular Android tablets around, in the shape of the Galaxy Tab 10.1.  Having already stated that they won’t being displaying the follow-up to the Samsung Galaxy S II, despite leaks and much conjecture among Android fans, they’ll have to produce something to placate those who were holding out for the Galaxy S III.  A couple device names have been discovered already, specifically the GT-P5100 and the GT-P3100, which have appeared as part of the process of applying for interoperability Wi-Fi certificates.

Hard details on the specifications of these two models are still thin on the ground, but there have been rumours of a Samsung tablet with a 2560 x 1600 (WXQGA) resolution screen (which is huge) and a 2GHz Exynos 5250 chip, with the latest version of Android, Ice Cream Sandwich.  As with any rumour, you have to take these things with a pinch of salt, but in my personal opinion, I’d say that what is actually revealed at MWC won’t be far off from these details.  While there has been a few eyebrows raised at the supposed screen resolution and pixel density, this would be the sort of spec sheet to distract from the absence of a new top tier mobile phone and would make a bunch of Samsung tablet fans rather happy.

ASUS Padfone

ASUS have already scored a winner by being the first manufacturer to bring to market a quad core tablet.  The Transformer Prime has been very well received and demand for the tablet is still so high that ASUS are finding it difficult to fulfil orders.  This is perhaps one of the good problems to have, the sort of thing that you hear football managers talking about when they have four inform strikers vying for two positions on the pitch, and given that ASUS already have a formidable strike force, you may wonder why they are pushing a new tablet.  Well to be fair, this isn’t strictly speaking a tablet.  The ASUS Padfone, is a smartphone that can be converted into a tablet PC.  It has been on the horizon for quite some time, as it was first introduced in the summer of 2011, so it’s just about right to see its full release.

To mix things about a bit, it is thought that the Padfone will be powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 as opposed to the Nvidia Tegra 3 which powers their current crowd pleaser.  This model will also have a docking station giving it the added form of a netbook.  It is designed to truly be a multi-purpose jack of all trades and if executed properly, may very well appeal to those who’d rather make one purchase and hit three birds with one stone.

HTC Tablet

HTC have been one of the manufacturers that have ridden the Android wave into hearts of many mobile phone users, but their attempt at a tablet, somewhat surprisingly, wasn’t as big a success.  Unlike Samsung, who have been prolific in their production of tablets of varying dimensions (10.1, 8.9, 7.0, and so on), HTC just had the Flyer and that was it.  It would seem the plan was to patiently wait until they had everything sorted out and were absolutely certain of what they wanted to produce.  That they only have one tablet but seemingly hundreds of mobile phones suggests that their focus is not on the tablet market, but with the tablet market still in a growth stage and the mobile phone market pretty well saturated, there may well be a shift in focus.

To be perfectly honest, noise out of the HTC camp has been pretty quiet of late, last year there was some suggestion that a HTC Edge would be a tablet but this turned out to be a 4.7 inch, Tegra 3 flagship phone.  Add an inch or two to the screen size and you have a pretty neat tablet, especially if you’re a fan of the Sense UI.  Fingers crossed that a HTC tablet is announced and it lives up to expectations.

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Ultrabooks at CES 2012: HP Envy 14 Spectre

Rounding off the look at three of the most desirable Ultrabooks at CES, where previously we looked at the Samsung series 9 and the Dell XPS 13, this post takes a look at the HP Envy 14 Spectre.

One of the first things you’ll notice about HP’s Envy 14 Spectre, is its black glass lid, a striking aesthetic feature that helps it to standout at a glance and differentiates itself from the styling of the MacBook Air, the MacBook Air being the elephant in the room at CES.  The design is in keep with the existing Envy range and the gloss finish is robust enough to resist scratching and retain an attractive finish.

HP Envy 14 Spectre Glass (Credit:CNET)

The display has a wide viewing angle, and with a 1600×900 pixel resolution, it can handle most of the prime HD content that you may decide to throw at it.  A nice little feature built-in, is the auto-zoom HD camera that will focus on you when you move away or closer to the screen during a video call, great for those important long distance business meetings but also catching up with family and friends that may be a few hundred miles away.

Impressively, HP have managed to fit a full 14 inch screen into a 13 inch machine that is only 20mm thick and weighs 1.8Kg.  This does mean that the screen over hangs ever so slightly, but we’re willing to hold off from labelling this madness and give HP the benefit of doubt.  Key specifications are 4GB or 6GB of RAM, Core i5 or i7 processors, USB 3.0, HDMI, Mini-DisplayPort and SSD 128GB storage.  All this with a battery life of 9 hours, though the battery itself is not removable, which I guess for the most part many users won’t ever consider replacing the battery.  At 1,000 charge/discharge cycles, you should find that it lasts right up until you get in the mood to get a new Ultrabook.

As with all the latest HP gear, the Spectre is fitted with Beats Audio, as such it has a separate set of audio controls, speakers which reflect sound off of a desk for improved sound quality and an option to connect to HP’s Wireless Audio speakers which will stream audio content to any device with KleerNet protocol support.

HP Envy 14 Spectre Beats audio (Credit:CNET)

With all these feature it’s no surprise that the HP Envy 14 Spectre is in the premium product range, setting the bar high for all of the laptops, notebooks and Ultrabooks that will follow it.  It’s shaping up to be a fantastic machine and is sure to make you the envy of your friends and all those guys in the trendy coffee shop you like to visit as you conspicuously work on your latest novel.

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Ultrabooks at CES 2012: Dell XPS 13

The first post looking at the march of the Ultrabooks, focussed on the second generation Samsung Series 9.  This is a premium machine with some of the highest specifications you’ll see on any laptop that falls into the Ultrabook category, but it is by no means the be all and end all.  Next I’d like to take a look at the Dell XPS 13.

This is arguably, Dell’s first foray into the Ultrabook market, but of course the guys at Dell have no lack of experience when it comes to making computers.  As with many of the Ultrabook designs, the XPS 13 follows the style for a teardrop form, finding room for ports at the back and reducing overall volume at the front.

One choice which has been met with widespread approval, is the decision to use carbon fiber in the casing.  This has a number of benefits, firstly lowering the weight of the Ultrabook, secondly adding rigidity but also the choice of this material means that the base does not heat up quite so much, making it a lot more comfortable to use over an extended period when the Ultrabook is on your lap.

Another welcome feature is the Corning Gorilla glass on the display.  Gorilla glass has become somewhat of an industry darling, gracing the fascia of many of our most popular devices.  It’s present on a diverse portfolio of manufacturers including Apple, HTC, Samsung and Sony.  And it has been chosen by these manufacturers because it delivers such great results.  The tagline for the brand is ‘tough, yet beautiful’ and in the main, it lives up to this mantra, allowing the screen to be tactile and functional in everyday situations, whilst also remaining unscathed from the difficult conditions that can be found in the pockets and bags of the more nonchalant end user.

The XPS 13 is 18mm thick, which is not the thinnest 13 inch Ultrabook around but it’s not far off, about 3mm off in fact, so that’s a great effort.  And at 1.4Kg, you’ll have little reason to complain about the weight.  Inside you have the choice of either an Intel Core i3, i5 or i7 processor, so you can decide if you want to have a friendly kitten or a raging beast of a machine.  Intel steps in again to handle the graphics with the HD 3000.  Connectivity has been addressed with a USB 3.0 and 2.0 port alongside a Mini DisplayPort.  There are also a number of clever features such as Intel’s Smart Connect and location awareness, which will make updates to relevant widgets, apps, calendars and emails when appropriate.  It manages all this whilst still being able to churn out, eight hours of battery life.

The Dell XPS 13 is an excellent Ultrabook and would make a great choice if you’re in the market for this type of laptop.

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Ultrabooks at CES 2012: Samsung Series 9

There were a number of noteworthy appearances at CES, but it was refinements of old favourites that stood out the most with the category of laptop, extending into notebooks and now ultrabooks.  There will be a big push this year as weight is shaved off and power cranked up several notches producing, thin, highly portable devices that do not compromise on processing power or performance to those that want their machine to run normal day-to-day tasks and just a bit more whenever is required.

With competition so tight and specifications so closely matched, there is a lot to choose from which is excellent for the consumer.  In the coming posts, we’ll look at a few of the best on show at this year’s CES event in Las Vegas, but I’ll start with one that has garnered much praise.

Samsung have been pushing out competitive devices for some time, so much so that invariably the new models draw direct comparison with the Apple MacBook Air, the ultrabook that arguably ignited this section of the market.  While the second generation Series 9 may carry a premium price tag that could rule it out of the ultrabook category, it should still be given consideration due to its form.  The Series 9 is only 10mm at its thickest and weighs little more than 1.2Kg; this means you’ll barely notice it on your lap, let alone your bag.  Combine this with a 7 hour battery life, quad-core Core i7 processor and 128GB SSD and you’ve got a tasty prospect.

To bring this all together, you have a 13.3 inch, SuperBright Plus display delivering resolution at 1600×900 and a bright display which is good in most lighting situations.  All the important ports are available including two USB, one HDMI, a RJ-45 and even as SD slot.  There’s little else you could ask for which makes this a strong contender for the ‘Star of the Show’ title.

I’m interested to know your thoughts on this model, is this the ultrabook that all of the current crops of ultrabooks are to be measured by?

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Battle of the TVs – a tech giant face-off

Forget streaming to your laptop – 2012 is set to be the Year of the TV (good news for newly launched Netflix).

Whispers have reached us of the launch of the long-anticipated AppleTV for 2012 – a fully functioning Apple TV set, as opposed to their existing offering.  Late founder Steve Jobs reportedly cracked the formula for creating the TV in the quieter years before his death, and the launch of the latest innovation could secure Apple’s dominance on yet another area of our tech-consuming lives.

But don’t think that Apple have this one all sewn up already, as other tech heavyweights are stepping into the ring.  Connected TVs with built-in processors are tipped as one of the hottest topics at this year’s CES, and the big players are launching various new innovations for TV fanatics across the globe.

LG have unveiled their Smart TV with Google TV, powered by the Android OS. Now no more peering at a tiny screen to get the angle of that Angry Bird catapult just right – you can stream Android’s app portfolio direct to your TV.  The set also features passive 3D technology, and accompanied by a state-of-the-art remote containing a Wii-style selector and Qwerty keyboard, allowing users to easily navigate the OS, along with offering the portfolio of Google’s offerings like Chrome and the Android Market, along with a very navigable bottom task bar.

Samsung might be set to hang on to their title of world’s Number One TV retailer with the launch of its new ‘smart’ tv. Boasting an internet connection like many of the new crop of TVs, this machine also has the ability to have its hardware upgraded with each new development. Putting the ‘evolution’ into tech revolution. But Samsung haven’t stopped there – the new TV, thanks to a built-in camera, also offers voice, face and gesture recognition, indicating that the days of the humble remote – and the ‘roll the batteries’ troubleshooting technique – could be numbered, along with the need to update your whole set every few years.

Sony, meanwhile, chose to remind the world about their offering as a whole by using some celebrity endorsement to promote their offering to the market – famed performers Will Smith and Kelly Clarkson livened up Sony’s presentation at CES, reminding audiences of Sony’s content offering. Whether this will be quite enough to prompt people to buy one of their TVs remains to be seen.

But while there is a wealth of connected TVs out there, the problem remains that users still may not be employing their full functionality. According to television industry analyst Forrester, around half of all connected TVs bought are never put on the internet by customers. The challenge now for manufacturers is to convert this slightly more tech-fearful audience to use their devices to their full potential.

While there’s no confirmation yet on which of these will reach the UK market, we’re already creating our wish list. Which set would be your pick?

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What next for tech? A look ahead for 2012

HP have revealed details of their first 27-inch all-in-one PC, dubbed the HP Omni 27.  Upon release, it is due to pack features including a non-touch version of the Magic Canvas software, up to 2 TB of HDD space, Beats Audio, HDMI input and optional extras such as a TV tuner or a Blu-ray drive.  The basic model will have a 2.5 GHz Sandy Bridge Core i5-2400S processor, integrated graphics, 6 GB of RAM and two USB 3.0 ports.  All this will be cased within the 27-inch 1080p LED-backlit display, constructed with edge-to-edge glass.  Clearly, all-in-one PCs aren’t new, but they are becoming increasingly popular.   A combination of a mature and improving industry sector, as well as the trend to fit your tech into a small neat space within your home, has made all-in-one PCs an increasingly attractive option for all.

The Asus Transformer Prime has yet to reach our fair shores but there is already talk of a possible Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime Mini.  By all accounts, the Asus Transformer Prime is one of the champion of champions when it comes to Android tablets.  And as such, it will be the chosen one to lead the fight against the iPad.  The Transformer Prime Mini looks set to be a smaller and more affordable tablet; think something more Kindle-sized.  Sound interesting yet?  Well how about these tasty specifications: 7-inch capacitive screen, 1280×800 resolution, 1.2 GHz dual core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, up to 64GB flash memory and 3D capabilities.

This year at CES heralds the march of the ultrabooks into the homes of gadget lovers and technophiles across the world.  There will be a number of manufacturers competing to gain our attention and divert interest away from Apple’s consistently board-sweeping offerings. Acer have recently unveiled the world’s thinnest ultrabook – 15mm at its thickest point – called the Aspire S5. The device is expected to become available in Q2, and boasts a magnesium alloy cover, InstantOn technology, and HDMI, USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt ports – no mean feat for such a physically small machine. The push on ultrabooks by all manufacturers is the result of an Intel initiative to produce a rival to Apple’s MacBook.  It would seem that by banding together, they hope to ease pressure being put on them to cut their prices to attract custom away from Apple.  I’m all for competition, so this should be interesting.

If tablets are more your thing, the ‘world’s thinnest’ tablet title has just been claimed by Toshiba. The Excite X10 is the world’s thinnest 10-inch tablet – just .3 inches thick and weighing 1.2lbs. Another potential big player on the soon-to-be flooded tablet market? Definitely – 1GB of RAM and a TI OMAP 4420 1.2 GHz dual-core processor, with 1200×800 screen resolution, a 2 megapixel front face shooter for video chat and a 5 megapixel shooter on the back of the tablet, with mini connectivity ports for HDMI, USB and SD card. As yet though, the OS is unconfirmed and Toshiba’s previous offerings in that area haven’t been promising. It’s speculated that it will be issued with an Android operating system – depending on the Excite’s release date, it’ll be Honeycomb or Ice Cream Sandwich.

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The best processors you can buy

Editor’s note: this is a guest post by Dave at TechRadar.com, one of our favourite sources for tech news and reviews. Here are his thoughts on the best processors around today.

Things have been changing pretty quickly in the world of processors recently. First off AMD tried to make a big splash with its brand new Bulldozer architecture in its FX series CPUs, and last month Intel went crazy and released its super-enthusiast chips, the Sandy Bridge E series.

These chips weren’t designed to go head-to-head with AMD’s top FX chip, the 3.6GHz FX-8150, coming in around the £200 mark and the Sandy Bridge E top end part sitting at £810. That’s a big gulf in price and, despite AMD’s new chip claiming to have eight cores, the hex-core Core i7-3960X is a processing marvel.

There are a lot of flavours of CPU outside of those two big boys, and the traditional Sandy Bridge processors, like the Core i7 2700K and i5 2500K, still have an awful lot left to give.

We’ve gone into depth about the latest advances in CPU technology in our Best CPU guide and we’ve checked out the serious contenders for the top processor crown too.

You may have noticed we’ve left the Core i7-3960X out of the list, but at over £800 it’s out of the price range of most, and if you need the sort of performance it can give you’ll pay the premium.

So here’s our list of the top CPUs around right now.

8. AMD FX-8150 – 3 stars

Eight cores. Two billion transistors (or 1.2 billion depending on how AMD is feeling at the time of asking). A radical modular architecture. 16MB of cache memory. And Turbo clockspeeds north of 4GHz. How could something that sounds so awesome end up so wrong?

One day, the full story of AMD’s troubled new PC processor architecture will emerge. It should make for a fascinating tale. After all, the Bulldozer architecture that underpins the FX 8150 must have seemed like a great idea. It’s all about balancing threads with cores with a view to delivering the most efficient and effective processor architecture possible.

However, that 1.2 to 2 billion transistor count makes it very expensive to manufacture, while its disappointing performance puts a limit on the price tag AMD can attach.

And more than anything else, it’s just not a great chip for PC gaming.

Read TechRadar’s AMD FX-8150 review.

7. Intel Core i3-2100 – 3 stars

Take a cheap chip. And clock the living bejesus out of it. This, friends, has long been the path to great PC performance for the pathologically penniless.

Enter, therefore, the Intel Core i3-2100. Like it or lump it, Intel has by far the best CPU architectures today and the feisty little 2100 is part of its latest generation of chips, known as Sandy Bridge.

With an unlocked multiplier, this thing could seriously rock. Without one though it’s merely OK.

Read TechRadar’s Intel Core i3-2100 review.

6. AMD FX-4100 – 3 ½ stars

Consider the AMD FX 4100. We can’t be absolutely sure about this without official confirmation, but we reckon it’s based on the very same two-billion transistor processor die as the range-topping FX 8150.

The difference is that two of the 8150’s four Bulldozer modules have been nuked from orbit.

The best that can be said about this dual-module Bulldozer is that it’s not far behind its triple and quad-module brethren in games.

If only they weren’t all off the pace.

Read TechRadar’s AMD FX 4100 review.

5. AMD FX-6100 – 3 ½ stars

When is a six-core PC processor not a six-core PC processor? When it’s AMD’s new FX 6100.

Long before AMD released its fancy new FX chips, we had a feeling a fit of fisticuffs was brewing over the definition of what constitutes a processor core. Now the FX has arrived and the gloves are off.

At stock clocks and with the final module hidden, it’s not terribly exciting. However, if it turns out that most of all 6100s will happily run with the final module enabled, it might just be worth a roll of the dice.

If that happens, we’ll be more than happy to upgrade the 6100’s status to buy.

Read TechRadar’s AMD FX 6100 review.

4. Intel Core i7-3930K – 4 stars

The Intel Core i7-3960X is a positively preposterous processor. This is the Intel Core i7-3930K and it’s not the same chip. Not precisely, anyway.

We’ve reviewed the 3960X elsewhere and deemed it disappointing, moderately sinister (it’s prima facie evidence of Intel carpet bagging in response to AMD’s failure to bring out a really quick chip) and largely irrelevant to human existence.

So, here’s the best bit. The 3930K costs over £300 less.

OK, £500 is still a big ask. But the difference in price alone is enough to buy a half decent desktop PC or a cheap laptop.

The point, then, is that this cheaper Sandy Bridge E gives you everything the top chip delivers for a lot less money. There’s  absolutely no reason to spend.

We’re not completely convinced even this truly means the 3930K is good value for money. But it’s still a very fast processor and the chip we’d buy if we had a big budget.

Read TechRadar’s Intel Core i7-3930K review.

3. Intel Core i7-2700K – 4 stars

The 2700K is the new de facto king of Intel’s line of LGA 1155 models. For us, it’s the LGA 1155 socket that’s really relevant to PC enthusiasts and gamers, not the highfalutin’, server-derived LGA 2011 platform and its quad-channel silliness.

The 2700K, then, is the fastest chip any mere mortal is likely to run in his PC any time soon.

Unfortunately, what it ain’t is a big step forward over the existing Core i7-2600K.

What’ll she do, mister? The answer during our testing and in the context of air cooling and a modicum of extra voltage is an overclocking speed of 4.8GHz.

A very good result, we think you’ll agree. But not materially better than you can expect from most 2600K processors. Again, the game doesn’t move on.

Read TechRadar’s Intel Core i7-2700K review.

2. AMD Phenom II X6 1100T – 4 ½ stars

http://www.dabs.com/products/amd-phenom-ii-x6-1075t-3-0ghz-9mb-am3-125w-74MW.html?src=15

Little did we, or frankly AMD, know how good we had it with the Phenom II X6 1100T.

Only now, with the release of AMD’s all-new Bulldozer architecture and the FX processors it powers, can we truly put what was once known as Hammer into full context.

It’s not that far off when it comes to threading. But it also ponies up that little bit more per-core performance that could make the difference between smooth frames rates and the occasional chugging that really spoils the experience.

It’s a bizarre thing to be asking, But please, AMD, have another go with the Hammer.

Read TechRadar’s AMD Phenom II X6 1100T review.

1. Intel Core i5 2500K – 4 ½ stars

Odd as it is for a CPU that’s a year old and still offers the most advanced computing technology available, the Core i5-2500K feels like an old friend.

Of all Intel’s CPUs it seems like the most honest, the most straight forward. If you’re a keen gamer, it’s probably still the fittest for purpose.

Only the higher clocked 2700K has it beaten. That’s beyond impressive for a relatively elderly and affordable chip.

Chuck in the ability to go well beyond 4GHz on air cooling and you have an unbeatable package.

Read TechRadar’s Intel Core i5-2500K review.

For a full list of the processors we’ve looked at over on TechRadar.com check out our constantly updated CPU reviews.

Dave James is the Components Editor for TechRadar.com and as such is a massive PC geek of the highest order. What he hasn’t destroyed through benchmarking, overclocking or general tweakery isn’t worth looking at.

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Will mobile gaming ever be Number 1?

With tablet sales this Christmas expected to reach near-stratospheric levels, especially with more affordable entrants on the market (such as the upcoming Scroll Excel, recently voted as the best budget tablet on The Gadget Show which we’ll be selling very soon), the number of mobile gaming platforms in the hands of ‘casual’ or what I prefer to call ‘potential casual’ gamers will reach an all-time high. And this is on top of all the 3DS sales, the upcoming Sony PlayStation Vita and the continual onslaught of smartphones.

This made me wonder whether mobile gaming will ever be a bigger industry than the ‘traditional’ computer or static games console market. The Nintendo Wii proved that the gaming audience could be dramatically, and lucratively, widened by engaging the casual gamer, so will mobile devices be the tipping point that sees the traditional static games experience relegated to number 2?

Looking at the numbers, we’re really not far off. A bit of digging around on Google led me to two very helpful infographics with the following numbers:

  • $10.5 billion – the size of the global gaming industry (according to this ESRB infographic)
  • $8 billion – the size of the global mobile gaming industry (according to this Geekaphone infographic)

While it is worth bearing in mind that these stats cannot be relied upon for a direct comparison – they come from different data sources, were published at slightly different times (one in June the other in August) and we don’t know how reliable their methodologies are (although I would expect the ESRB one is pretty accurate) – they are certainly interesting. There may be a case of double counting here too – does the gaming industry stat already include some mobile gaming data in there? If the ESRB just took total sales of all the major games publishers to get to $10.5 billion then it probably does. In that case the ‘static’ gaming industry could be just $2.5 billion? That doesn’t sound right.

Based on this basic data and my gut feeling I would expect mobile gaming to overtake traditional gaming within the next year or so. Hardly scientific I know, but it makes sense to me. What do you think? Do you have more reliable data which debunks my theory? If so let us know and continue this debate on our Facebook page, Twitter and the comments below. I suspect this one might run on for a while…

Here’s a trailer for Infinity Blade 2, a goregeous looking title for iOS and an example of what static gaming has to compete against.

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The Asus Transformer Prime: Raw Tegra 3 quad-core processing power

For the sake of absolute transparency, I’ll openly admit that I want this tablet, so yes my opinion is biased.  Nonetheless, I will try my hardest to present everything that follows as objectively as I can, to ensure you are fairly informed.

By all accounts, the Asus Transformer Prime will be the all conquering champion that Android has been waiting for in it’s battle against the iPad.  Well, that at least is the account you’ll get when you read articles of those from the Google Android camp, of course, Apple advocates will more than likely tell you a different story.  I think it’s fair to say, that those who have an interest in the tablet format but are neutral  towards a manufacturer or operating system, are a little bit excited by the prospect of what the Asus Transformer Prime has to offer.  So let’s get straight into the good stuff.

Design - Sleek elegance

The basic tablet format, for the most part, is fixed.  The main variations are in the dimensions, casing and docking/port options.  The Asus Prime will have a 10.1″ Super IPS+ display with the tech screen of choice, the Corning Gorilla Glass.  You’ll see mention of the Super IPS+ display, which is an acronym for In-Plane Switching, a technique developed to improve viewing angles by allowing the crystal of a display to move parallel to the panel plane instead of perpendicular to it.  This difference allows a reduced amount of light scattering and in turn gives wide viewing angles and good colour reproduction.  The ‘+’ is Asus’s indication that there has been improvements over the previous variant that was present in the predecessor.  The back casing would appear to be a lightweight, brushed metal alloy.  All this is a strong statement of intent and encouragement that the user experience will be of a high quality.

Hardware - Power and grunt

Perhaps the standout feature of the hardware of the Transformer Prime, is the Tegra 3 quad core processor.  Upon release, it will be the first tablet to sport this new configuration which also has a dedicated ultra low voltage fifth-core for handling non-CPU intensive tasks.  The biggest benefit of this is the improvement in battery life which is an approximate total of 12-hours, which is boosted to 18 hours when docked.  Other features include what Asus are calling SonicMaster Technology, which in everyday terms translates as great speaker.  Sound quality is perhaps not the biggest consideration for most guys purchasing a new tablet, but if you’re at home or in a public place and want to watch a video clip, you’ll really appreciate the different in audio quality.  The final hardware point I’ll highlight, is the improvements made to the touch responsiveness, with Asus claim to have halved the normal response time form when the device detects your finger movement and follows along.  It’s an issue that most would generally consider to be a matter of software but this attention to detail, will ensure that Asus as a manufacturer will be held in high regard and compete closely with the likes of Samsung and Motorola.

Software - Android Ice Cream dessert

Currently, what the guys over at Asus have running on the Prime is Android’s Honeycomb OS, not a bad OS but not the latest.  What has already been stated, is that it won’t be long before the Prime will be running Ice Cream Sandwich, the unification OS that will be on both Android tablets and mobile phones.  Clearly, much like the approach taken by Apple with their iOS operating system, having one OS that runs one both mobile phone and tablet is great for app developers and should further help the proliferation of app production and the overall standard of apps available to your Android device.  There has been a lot already said about Ice Cream Sandwich, and perhaps it isn’t the huge leap that everyone wanted to see from Android but even this reiteration of the Android system comes with much welcomed improvements and is the most polished version of Android yet.

So there a brief run through of some of the highlights of the Asus Transformer Prime, there is in fact a bunch of stuff that I haven’t mentioned, such as the hydro-oleophobic coating on the screen or the 8MP camera with an auto-focusing f/2.4 lens and a back-illuminated CMOS sensor capturing 1080p video.  But, I think I covered enough to intrigue you enough to do a bit more digging of your own, and really, that’s where you’re really going to find out what’s interesting to you.  When you find that interesting point, whether it be positive or negative, please share in the comments below.

Below is an early video of the Asus Transformer Prime running the hardware intensive game, Glowball, to demonstrate its capabilities.

Not sure I was entirely objective in this post. :-P

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Playing with iOS5 AirPlay Mirroring

With the release of iOS5, Apple’s latest operating system for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, Apple released one of the coolest features yet – Mirroring over AirPlay. In English, this feature lets you mirror the screen of your iOS device onto another AirPlay-enabled screen – wirelessly. Today this ‘other AirPlay screen’ can only be your Apple TV 2, but we expect you’ll see AirPlay on other non-Apple devices over time (much as Apple’s Digital Audio Access Protocol (DAAP) has done on non-Apple devices previously). In the meantime if you have an iPhone 4S or iPad 2 (the only i-devices to currently support AirPlay Mirroring), then just drop £91.99 for the accompanying Apple TV to enjoy all this mirroring gorgeousness on whichever TV you like.

To test out AirPlay Mirroring, we downloaded Real Racing 2, the first game to officially support full screen wireless gaming over AirPlay. We conducted the test on an iPhone 4S 64GB and an Apple TV 2.

Enabling AirPlay
AirPlay works like all other Apple features – either seamlessly and invisibly, or not at all. There are no half measures with Apple products. No settings to configure. Apple doesn’t even make a song and dance about it when you install iOS5. In fact, if you didn’t know about it, you might never have known that your iOS device could now do something so cool. The only indication of when AirPlay is working is the little icon that appears when your device is sitting in a network with AirPlay devices on it. Have your iPad connected to your home wi-fi (where your Apple TV lives), and the icon appears. Take it to the office, and the icon disappears. It’s neat, but I’d rather Apple left the icon there to remind you about this new feature all the time.

Given Apple’s excessively subtle approach to this new feature, it took us a while to actually figure out how to enable Mirroring. Stupidly we thought it would be an option within the game. Why would we assume something so stupid eh? After a few scratches of heads (and the help of Google taking us to Firemint’s own guide), we soon had it up and running. Just double tap the home button to bring up the multi-taking tray, slide to the media controls and tap the AirPlay button that you never knew was there…

Big screen deliciousness
Now that Mirroring was up and running, it was just a matter of booting up and playing the game as normal. We dived into the first level, Castellona Bay, and headed into work. First impressions? While the resolution doesn’t quite stack up to an Xbox 360 or PS3, we hardly expected it to (especially since Apple decided to downgrade the Apple TV 2’s resolution to 720p, when its precursor could achieve 1080p). But it looked pretty damn awesome all the same. Running the game on a 40” screen makes you realise just how hi-res the iPhone 4’s screen really is – because it still looked fantastic.

Fundamentally, any feature like this is a nice novelty, but if it falls over all the time you’ll only ever pull it out for 2 minutes to show off to your friends, before quickly closing it down and booting up Forza 4 before they notice the terrible lag. But our experience was actually very positive. We had a bit of lag occasionally, but nothing that ruined the game. Anyone with a half decent 802.11N router set up should get along fine.

So there’s a brief recap of our first experience using AirPlay Mirroring. While Real Racing 2 is the only game currently to support the feature today (feel free to correct us if we’re wrong) we’re really excited by the prospects of it, especially as more devices and apps come out to support it. If you’re not convinced by how cool this is, take a look at this video to see it in action. Enjoy!