Monday, May 13, 2013
The iTunes Store landing page for Daft Punk features a full 74-minute preview of the entire album. It's not clear if the leaked copy was pulled from iTunes before the store was updated to include the preview, but either way, an 100-percent official and legal copy of Random Access Memories is available for your listening pleasure now on iTunes
A copy of Random Access Memories has leaked onto the internet after over a month of hype surrounding Daft Punk's first proper studio album since 2005. Columbia Records has been slowly revealing details about the record: it released the single "Get Lucky" last month and it's been publishing interviews with some of the album's high-profile collaborators, setting up one of the most-hyped album launches in recent memory. The single — and now the album — made it online before the label intended, which is not at all uncommon for the music industry. "Get Lucky" broke Spotify's streaming records, and it shot to the top of the iTunes charts upon release. The copy of the album released on the internet today is both illegal and low quality, but it appears to be authentic. Random Access Memories is set for official release on May 21st.
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
10.1in, 1280 x 800 PLS screen; Quad-core Exynos 1.4GHz processor; 2GB of RAM, 16-64GB storage; Wacom-base S Pen stylus with 1024 pressure levels ; IR blaster, 3G, MicroSD card slot ; Android 4.1 Jelly Bean
Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 – Intro, Design, Feel and Build
We have updated this review for 2013 with a section on the new features brought to the Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet by Android 4.1 Jelly Bean on page 6, and tested the official full-size S Pen on page 7 to see if it’s worth upgrading to.
£399 for 16GB Wi-Fi
£499 for 16GB Wi-Fi plus 3G
The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 has had a rocky road. When we first saw it at the beginning of this year, it was a dual-core tablet with 1GB of RAM running a fairly standard version of Android with TouchWiz. What made it special was its Wacom-based, pressure-sensitive S Pen, a huge draw for creative types and those who still prefer to take hand-written notes.
Since then, the rest of the tablet has received a facelift to become pretty special too. Its processor has been upgraded to the same quad-core affair that powers the mighty Samsung Galaxy S3, and RAM has been upped to a whopping 2GB, pulling the Galaxy Note 10.1 ahead of the Asus Transformer Infinity as the most powerful Android tablet available.
Even the interface has seen some serious tinkering, with the standout being a split-screen multi-tasking ‘window’ arrangement that’s yet another first among Android tabs, and gives the Note 10.1 more of the productivity potential of a Windows slate than most of its rivals. Oh, and there’s a 3G version…
Is it a worthy big brother to the original Samsung Galaxy Note phablet and a serious challenger to the mighty iPad 3?
Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Design
Unfortunately, the Galaxy Note 10.1 isn’t the prettiest of tablets. If its design is the result of the legal wrangling with Apple and to avoid iPad-copying accusations, we can only say that the fruity company doesn’t have a patent on minimalism, and tablets like the Asus Transformer Prime have proven it.
Our Note isn’t helped by being white. First off white plastic generally tends to look just a tad more… plasticky than when it comes in black, and second, the black screen, white bezel and silver outer surround add too many disparate layers. So if you’re trying to decide which colour Galaxy Note 10.1 to go for, we’d recommend succumbing to the dark side.
Its speakers add yet another contrasting element, sporting chrome inset covers to either side rather than being subtly integrated – again, we suspect this is to set the Note apart from a certain iDevice. Of course, the mere fact that this tablet has proper stereo speakers puts it in a league of its own where audio is concerned, though we’ll get to that in a bit.
Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Feel and Build
Again, where feel is concerned, Samsung’s latest tablet just isn’t quite on the ball. Don’t get us wrong, the plastics feel solid and the slightly bulging silver surround helps to provide a decent grip. But the slick, glossy back isn’t particularly pleasant under the fingers and doesn’t give much traction.
As a result, the Galaxy Note 10.1 just doesn’t lie as securely in the hand as other premium all-plastic tablets like the textured Transformer Pad 300, or of course the anodised aluminium back of the new iPad.
However, build quality is pretty good. The plastics used throughout are very solid except for the rear panel which flexes slightly if you press in on it, but nowhere else is there a hint of flex or creak in normal usage. Our only real concern here is that glossy plastics tend to scratch easily, but we found no evidence of this happening on our Note.
At 595g, the Note 10.1 is also very light for a wider-than-most tablet with pen, beating out both the new iPad and lighter iPad 2.
Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Connectivity & Features
Design is not the only area where Samsung has taken an Apple-like approach in the past, as the connectivity on most of its Galaxy Tab range isn’t exactly stellar – and this approach has been maintained with the Galaxy Note 10.1.
As such, you won’t find a digital video output or USB port here. These can, of course, be added through adapters using the tablet’s proprietary docking connector, but since Samsung doesn’t include them in the box, these need to be purchased separately. Apple-tastic.
Where the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 does hold a major advantage over the iPad and some Android tablets like the Motorola Xoom 2, is that it has a microSD card slot to expand its storage. So you can add a 64GB card to the tablet’s native 16/32/64GB if you want enough space for you massive music collection.
The microSD card slot is protected by a hinged flap, and is found next to the power button and volume rocker. Both of these are well positioned and responsive. On the slot’s right side, we have an IR transceiver and headphone jack. The Galaxy Note 10.1’s sides are left clear, while at the bottom you’ll find the Samsung docking connector in the middle and the S Pen slot to the right.
Another advantage the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 has over most of the premium competition is that there’s actually a 3G version available to buy. This compares favourably to the likes of the Asus Transformer range, which still doesn’t offer a model with mobile broadband.
Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Smart Remote with IR
As mentioned, the Note 10.1 has an IR (infrared) emitter, which is a rare but very handy feature that allows you to use your tablet as a remote control for your television – and not just Samsung-branded ones, either. There are very few mainstream tabs on the market that offer this, so far comprising Samsung’s own Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 and the Sony Tablet S.
Paired with the pre-installed Smart Remote app, it makes for a great all-in-one solution that worked almost perfectly with the Panasonic TV we tried it with (we say almost because it wouldn’t turn it on, but every other function was flawless). A nice rival to the Logitech Harmony 1100, in other words.
Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Cameras
As with most tablets, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 has front and rear cameras. The front one is an HD, 1.9MP affair which gives decent quality that’s more than adequate for video chatting/conferencing, while the rear shooter sports 5MP and an LED flash. While this doesn’t produce the best pics we’ve seen from a tablet – that honour remains with the Asus Transformer Prime – it’s again good enough for general use. HD video, meanwhile, gets shot at up to 720p.
last year LG released an impressive smartphone in the LG Optimus G. So decent in fact, that Google decided to use many aspects of the device and collaborated with LG on their own flagship smartphone for Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, the LG Nexus 4. Now less than a year later we have the new and improved, in every aspect, LG Optimus G Pro on the AC test bench. With a 5.5-inch 1080p screen that matches the Note II as well as specs and a price that matches the smaller GALAXY S 4, read on to see what it’s all about.
Sunday, May 5, 2013
Earlier this year Sony announced and released what is one of their best devices yet, and that is the Xperia Z flagship smartphone. Now just a few months later we have a new and improved Xperia ZL where they’ve kept what everyone loved about the Z, only better and more polished around the edges. We still have all those top-tier features and that awesome 5-inch 1080p display but in an even smaller package. Lets take a peek below.
Smartphone bezels are the latest example of a trend that makes as much sense as a small battery powering a huge display. An edge-to-edge screen is an achievement many manufacturers are trying to claim as a feature of their device, and I really wish it wasn't a topic of discussion.
Present day devices like LG's Optimus G Pro and Samsung's Galaxy S 4 have bezels in the neighborhood of 2.5mm, and glancing at the device, it's hard not to be impressed. As compared to any of the iPhone's released over the years, or even HTC's new flagship, the One, both LG and Samsung are clearly leading the bezel disappearing act. Most recently, an image posted by @evleaks depicts an unnamed LG smartphone with a near bezel-less 5.5-inch display. It's quite a looker and really highlights LG's determination to be taken as a serious contender in the smartphone arena. But why no bezel, LG?
To me, the bezel disappearing act is equivalent to the "thin smartphone war." It seems manufacturers are creating an imaginary race to erase smartphone bezels in the same manner they're shedding features to make a thinner device. Though I might prefer the look of a device without a bezel, the display is an important part of a smartphone to protect. And don't even get me started about thin smartphones because I'll take a thicker device with a larger battery eight days out of the week.
There are a few reasons smartphones need bezels, and one of them isn't because it makes smartphones look sexier. Looks aren't everything, OEMs.
Much like a picture in a frame, a smartphone's bezel balances the face of the smartphone while providing structural rigidity. Technology is partially responsible for the aforementioned bezel disappearing act, and it's likely we haven't seen the end of it. As smartphones become more a showcase of design rather than a product of practicality, OEMs shouldn't forget that there's nothing worse than a cracked screen. And considering smartphones with unibody designs tend to be much harder to repair, a chassis which is less rigid becomes a serious flaw when you can't repair a broken display without shelling out a kidney as payment.
After watching a drop test of the Samsung Galaxy S 4 and the iPhone 5 conducted by TechSmartt, it's clear that the bezel plays a role in keeping your smartphone's display intact. Likewise, the iPhone 5's screen with its thicker bezel faired much better in the drop test. But the Galaxy S 4 isn't the only device which isn't as strong as it looks. Pantech also released the Vega Iron which has a "zero bezel display" with a "world beating" 75.5 percent viewable-to-total area ratio. This means 2.4mm separates the 5-inch 720p display from the frame of the device and less than 25 percent of the face of the smartphone is not display. But what for, Pantech?
To top it off, a bezel is a functional addition in one-handed operation. Try this: grab your smartphone and cup it in your hand like you normally would while reaching across with your thumb. On a device without a bezel, your palm comes into contact with the near-side while the thumb is also in contact with the further side. The result is a device registering two points of contact. Input errors occur. I sometimes have this issue with my LG Nexus 4, though it's easily avoided and not much of an issue if I try hard not to touch two points at once. But I'd be lying if I said it wasn't somewhat of a nuisance when holding it with one hand, and I can't imagine the unnamed LG device above, the Pantech Vega Iron, or the Samsung Galaxy S 4 won't suffer from the same issue in daily practice.
Lastly, a smartphone's display is outlined by the bezel for the same reasons photos are put into picture frames - it highlights the foreground as the central point to focus on. Displays are no different than pictures within frames. The purpose of any image is to highlight its importance by putting it front and center. A smartphone without a bezel loses the "picture frame effect" and looks incomplete. Imagine a car with no bumpers, a plane with no wings, or a chair with no arms. Each shape is rounded out by the frame of the object in the same manner bezels house the visual information of a smartphone's display. The result is a better looking image which is easier to differentiate from whatever is in the background.
Even though I might think a smartphone looks better without a bezel, it doesn't make sense not to have one. I prefer more accurate touch inputs, the "picture frame effect", and the rigidity a bezel provides. LG, please make the smartphone above strong enough to withstand a subtle drop. I'd hate to give up a limb to replace that enormous display.
What say you, Dear Reader? Do you think smartphones need bezels? Does a bezel detract from a device's appearance, or is it a worthwhile characteristic? Let me know in the comments down below!
Friday, May 3, 2013
That's not your eyes deceiving you, and there's no Photoshop trickery afoot here: that is a keyboard in front of the trackpad. And this is the Acer Aspire R7.
Is it a laptop, is it a desktop? The Aspire R7 is one of the more unusual takes on the adjustable Windows 8 laptop that we've ever seen. No, scratch that, it's the most unusual take.
The 15.6-inch adjustable laptop was on display at Acer's global launch event in New York city and Pocket-lint fought through the rabble to have a play with this topsy turvy PC.
First impressions are that the R7 is rather large, even when folded it's not as super slim as it first appears because of the special patented "ezel" hinge.
Hard to ignore is the R7's unconventional layout. Set up in the more standard laptop format and it's the placement of the trackpad behind the keyboard which is, well, it's bonkers really. We've only had a few minutes of play with it but this isn't part of the configuration which can be moved - and the necessity to lean beyond the keyboard to get to the trackpad just feels plain weird to us.
However the Aspire R7 is a touchscreen device, so arguably the trackpad will be of less use compared to other competitors more rigid, traditional designs. The patented ezel bracket means the 15.6-inch screen can be repositioned to a number of different locations from the far back of the base plate to much further forward as to almost touch the back of the keypad and hide the trackpad altogether.
The screen can also be flipped backwards for a touchscreen-only experience, with the keyboard behind to act as a base. Push a little further and the R7 becomes a giant tablet-esque device, albeit a thick and weighty 15.6-inch one. In these positions we got a close-up look at the 1920 x 1080 resolution screen and it looks pretty top notch to us. Even with the light blasting through the windows at Milk on New York city's west side it was bright and vivid, while the touchpanel felt responsive.
Pulled back into the more conventional position and we had initial concerns about the keypad's position right towards the front of the device. A little typing later and it's not the write-off we thought it may be - the front of the R7 has a smoothed edge so there's no sharp edge to dig into the wrists. Saying that, take the device onto a lap and the front-heavy key position - and back-heavy weight of the screen - don't make for an ideal typing position. Again, less laptop, more desktop-replacement.
The Windows 8 PC is powered by an Intel Core i5 processor and can serve up to 12GB of memory, up to 1TB of hard disk space or a 256GB SSD. Ports come aplenty in the form of three USB 3 ports, an HDMI out, SD card reader, audio jacks, plus built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. For the £900 asking price it's fully featured where it matters.
Overall we're a little confounded by the Aspire R7. It's got the fun card to play, but whether its design truly brings anything "revolutionary" to the game as Acer claims? We're less convinced.