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21
Mar
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Tablet and e-reader deals of the week: 3.21.14


It’s now officially spring — that wonderful time of the year that leaves you feeling guilty for not going outside. Why not take a small, portable computing device with you? A selection of modestly discounted Android, iOS and Windows 8 slabs await your frugal whims after the break. Abhor reading LCDs in the great outdoors? No worries, we tossed in a more traditional e-reader for good measure.

If you still can’t find the sale of your dreams, you could always join us and add your favorite products to your “Want” list. Every time there’s a price cut in the future, you’ll get an email alert!

Kindle Fire HDX 7-inch

Price: $200
Regular Price: $230
Engadget Score: 85
Buy: Best Buy

When the Kindle Fire HDX landed last fall, it hit with a handful of new features, strong hardware upgrades and, unfortunately, a $20 price hike over the previous model. If you waited, your patience paid off: Best Buy is currently knocking $30 off the total, making up for the increased MSRP and then some. The 7-inch Fire has actually flirted with this price a few times this year, but if you’re money’s burning a hole in your pocket, it’s flaunting its steepest discount right now

Acer Iconia W4

Price: $250
Regular Price: $300
Buy: Amazon

Itching for a mobile device, but can’t bear to be away from the Windows desktop? Take a look at the Acer Iconia W4: a full Windows 8.1 tablet that’s small enough to fit in your jacket pocket. It might not have as many apps as Android or iOS slates, but for $50 off, it’s hard to go wrong.

Nook HD 7-inch tablet

Price: $107
Regular Price: $129
Engadget Global Score: 79
Buy: Amazon

The Nook HD may be getting a little long in the tooth, but at almost half off of its original ($199) purchase price, it’s a steal. It has a strong display, a good suite of reading apps and, thanks to an update last summer, access to Google Play. Don’t need a color screen? Well, maybe you should check out the…

Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight

Price: $80
Regular Price: $119
Engadget Global Score: 90
Buy: Amazon

There may be a new Nook color on the way, but the GlowLight might be the last of Barnes & Noble’s e-paper line. Even so, it’s a solid reading device with a strong backlight and gleefully hackable software. Curious to see how it stacks up against Amazon’s glowing gear? You can see the full lineup for yourself right here.

iPad mini with Retina display

Price: $370
Regular Price: $400
Engadget Score: 92
Buy: Best Buy

If you’re still having trouble picking between the iPad mini with Retina display and the iPad Air, maybe this will sway you: Our price drop tool found a $30 price drop on the former. Not only is it a solid deal, but it’s also one of the lowest prices the device has seen since it launched last year. Check out the full run down — including specs, price history and device comparison — in our product database.

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21
Mar
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Acer Iconia W4 review: a big upgrade to a small Windows tablet


Acer Iconia W4 review: a big upgrade to a small Windows tablet

Acer’s Iconia W3 wasn’t quite the best introduction to 8-inch Windows tablets; we liked it, but its subpar display and modest performance kept it from being stellar. Give credit to the company for quickly learning from its mistakes, though. Less than a year later, the company has released the Iconia W4, and it fixes those earlier gripes even as the price has dropped below $300 as of this writing. In theory, it’s a home run. However, Acer is no longer the only game in town — the W4 has to compete against a crowd of small Windows slates that promise similar bang for your buck. We think the W4 still fares well in this pack, although it won’t always be a dream machine. Read on and you’ll understand why.

Hardware

If you only gave the Iconia W4 a cursory glance, you would almost think that you’d picked up the W3 by accident. Outside of the repositioned logos and metal-colored plastic (“smokey gray,” in Acer-speak), the newer device is a dead ringer for its 2013-era ancestor. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, although it could stand to be better: While the curvy design is comfortable to hold and generally well-built, it’s not exceptionally grippy. We’d prefer the rubbery back of Dell’s Venue 8 Pro for one-handed tablet use. The W4′s front-facing Windows key is much more convenient than the Venue’s side button, mind you. For many, the real affronts may be the giant, tacky Intel Inside and Windows 8 stickers slapped on the back. Couldn’t you have chosen some subtler decals, Acer?

The newer Iconia is undoubtedly more portable than the W3. Despite its upgraded internals, the tablet weighs 0.92 pound — much lighter than its 1.1-pound predecessor. It’s ever so slightly thinner, too, at 0.42 inch thick. The W4 is still noticeably chunkier than 8-inch tablets like Apple’s iPad mini with Retina display or Samsung’s Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4, but the difference is small enough that I didn’t notice it while reading or watching videos. Even so, the Iconia is heavy compared to most 8-inch Windows hardware; the Venue 8 Pro, ASUS’ VivoTab Note 8 and Lenovo’s Miix 2 are a tad lighter. At least it’s not the heaviest: The Toshiba Encore manages to top them all.

Acer Iconia W4 microSD card slot

Not much has changed in the way of external features. You’ll find the familiar micro-USB port, stereo speakers and headphone jack on the bottom. Switch to the right-hand side and you’ll see a microSD card slot, a micro-HDMI video port (notably missing on Dell’s tablet), a volume rocker and one of two microphones. The only conspicuous functional change on the outside is the backside camera: While we’ve seen the 2-megapixel front camera before, Acer has replaced the W3′s paltry 2MP rear shooter with a 5MP unit. That’s a lower res than the 8-megapixel sensor in the Encore, but it at least means you’ll get reasonably sharp photos. Inside, there’s still 32GB or 64GB of storage.

Unsurprisingly, you won’t get any accessories in the box with such a low-cost device. Serious typists can plunk down $80 for the official Bluetooth keyboard dock, which remains unchanged from last year. We didn’t test the peripheral this time around, but it’s almost mandatory if you expect to write often. It’s safe to say that you’ll finish that big essay much sooner with full-size hardware keys instead of typing on an 8-inch glass pane.

Display and sound

Acer Iconia W4 showing Thomas Hawk's Flickr gallery

Let’s not beat around the bush: The Iconia W4′s 8.1-inch screen is a quantum leap over the W3′s. Where the older tablet’s TN-based panel would wash out when you weren’t looking at it head-on — in other words, most of the time — the IPS LCD in the W4 is color-rich from virtually any angle. It’s easier to read in less-than-ideal lighting conditions, too, thanks to a gapless design that eliminates a lot of glare (though certainly not all of it). Acer has at least caught up with its Windows rivals on the quality front, and those who’d avoided the W3 due to its screen may want to take a second look.

With that said, this isn’t the best display we’ve seen at this size. Although the W4′s 1,280 x 800 resolution is sharp enough for most media tasks, it’s hard not to wish for the crisper visuals of either similarly priced mobile OS tablets like the Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 (2,560 x 1,600) or a higher-end Windows tablet like Lenovo’s ThinkPad 8 (1,920 x 1,200). Those mobile OS devices probably aren’t on your radar if you’re shopping for a Windows tablet, but it would be nice to have their beauty alongside the W4′s brawn. You also won’t get a digitizer like that on the ASUS or Dell tablets, so you’ll have to make do with a relatively crude third-party stylus if you want to draw.

Acer could certainly stand to borrow some audio hardware from its competitors. The speakers on the Iconia are just as weak as on the W3 — even at full volume, they’re only loud enough for a quiet room. You wouldn’t want to watch movies with the W4 in a busy house.

Software

Acer Iconia W4 third-party apps

The Iconia W3 was one of the earliest showcases for Windows 8.1, so the experience of using that OS on the W4 will seem uncannily similar. Not that you’ll mind if you like Microsoft’s modern interface. Some of Windows 8.1′s features were built with diminutive tablets in mind, including smaller Live Tile sizes (to fit more on screen at once), access to the camera from the lock screen and more keyboard shortcuts. The platform’s multi-window snap mode isn’t as useful here as it would be on larger-screened hardware, but it’s still appealing to have a chat client open while you browse the web, or to check email while you catch up on TV shows. Most mobile platforms can’t juggle multiple active apps very well (see Samsung’s TouchWiz) or at all, so you’ll be happy with Windows if you prefer to run more than one app at a time.

The modern Windows app ecosystem is also reasonably healthy. Although you won’t find some of the bigger mobile games and apps (think Threes or Instagram), the odds are high that there’s touch-native software available to do what you want. Hulu, Netflix and the major TV networks have Windows 8.1 titles; you’ll also find reading apps like Amazon Kindle and Flipboard, while Nokia’s Here Maps provides a solid navigation option when you’re on WiFi. Heck, you can even fire up VLC to play less common media formats. Just be aware that major developers like Apple, Mozilla and Valve may never support the interface; you likely won’t get a finger-friendly version of iTunes or Steam, for instance.

These absences won’t matter as much when you have full access to the traditional Windows desktop, although having this fallback isn’t as ideal as it sounds. Simply put, the older interface doesn’t elegantly shrink down to an 8-inch display. You’ll often find yourself pressing the wrong button or obscuring a text input box with the virtual keyboard. If you expect to spend a lot of time in the classic interface on the W4, we’d strongly suggest using a mouse and keyboard — you’ll get around considerably faster.

Acer Iconia W4 keyboard and browsing suggestions

No matter which front end you prefer, there will be an abundance of apps from Acer, Microsoft and a wide range of third-party developers. Acer offers 10 titles of its own for app shopping, backups, media playback and sync, while Microsoft Office is here if you need to get work done. Venture into the third-party collection and there’s even more: You’ll get Amazon shopping, ChaCha, Didlr, Evernote, eBay, Hulu Plus, Kindle, Music Maker Jam, a Nero backup suite, Netflix, NewsXpresso, Next Issue, Norton Online Backup, Skitch, Spotify, StumbleUpon, WildTangent and Zinio. Frankly, the selection is overkill. How is a newcomer going to recognize many of these apps, let alone find uses for more than a few of them? We’re all for giving tablet buyers a head start, but we’d prefer a more focused, easily understood software lineup.

Performance and battery life

Device PCMark7 3DMark06 3DMark11 ATTO (top disk speeds)
Acer Iconia W4 (1.33GHz Intel Atom Z3740, Intel HD graphics) 2,538 2,089 E340 / P211 174 MB/s (reads); 70 MB/s (writes)
Acer Iconia W3 (1.8GHz Intel Atom Z2760, Intel HD graphics) 1,447 N/A N/A 84 MB/s (reads); 35 MB/s (writes)
ASUS Transformer Book T100 (1.33GHz Intel Atom Z3740, Intel HD graphics) 2,461 2,113

E338 / P209

123 MB/s (reads); 58 MB/s (writes)
Dell Venue 8 Pro (1.33GHz Intel Atom Z3740D, Intel HD graphics) 2,343 1,986

E299 / P164

86 MB/s (reads); 45 MB/s (writes)

Thanks to timing, last year’s Iconia W3 ended up with a relatively creaky dual-core, 1.8GHz Atom Z2760 processor at its heart. That was certainly enough for common tasks, but it left the W3 lagging as tablets arrived in the fall sporting Intel’s much-improved Bay Trail architecture. Kudos to Acer for getting up to speed in short order, though: The W4 is running the same quad-core, 1.33GHz Atom Z3740 as the latest budget Windows slabs. The 2GB of RAM hasn’t changed, although that’s both par for the course and enough to handle the lightweight apps you’re likely to be running.

You may not notice a major difference in typical 2D programs, but that’s largely because Windows 8.1 is forgiving with low-end devices. The W3 was already zippy when navigating the OS and playing media, so throwing more cores at these basic duties doesn’t make a difference. However, it doesn’t take much digging to see some tangible performance gains. The newer Iconia completes the SunSpider web browsing test in a brisk 402ms, versus more than 720ms for an Atom Z2760-based slate; the W4′s PCMark7 score is a whopping 75 percent higher. We wouldn’t upgrade from a W3 just for this newfound speed, but it’s a large enough boost that we’d rather buy a new W4 than a refurbished W3.

Acer Iconia W4 browsing

Some of that added get-up-and-go likely comes from a massive improvement to the solid-state storage. The Samsung flash memory inside the W4 is the fastest we’ve seen in a low-cost Windows tablet, and almost twice as quick as what the W3 used. You won’t wait long for most apps to start, and the boot time has been cut from a so-so 15 seconds to less than eight. The Iconia may not have an edge in processing power over its competition, but the reduced loading times will make it feel a little more powerful.

Don’t buy one as an ultraportable gaming rig, though. We could play an older release like Half-Life 2 at a smooth frame rate using low-to-medium settings, as we could on the Dell Venue 8 Pro, but the quad-core Atom chip and its Intel HD graphics won’t cut it for visually intensive games like BioShock Infinite. You’re best off with 2D games or ports of mobile 3D content. At least the Iconia W4 is fairly cool to the touch; even when running HL2, the tablet only got mildly warm.

Tablet Battery Life
Acer Iconia W4 9:50
Microsoft Surface 2 14:22
Apple iPad Air (LTE) 13:45
Nokia Lumia 2520 13:28 (tablet only) / 16:19 (with dock)
Apple iPad mini 12:43 (WiFi)
Apple iPad mini with Retina display 11:55 (LTE)
Apple iPad (late 2012) 11:08 (WiFi)
ASUS Transformer Book T100 10:40
Apple iPad 2 10:26
Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 10:04
Apple iPad (2012) 9:52 (HSPA) / 9:37 (LTE)
Nexus 7 (2012) 9:49
Microsoft Surface RT 9:36
Apple iPad 9:33
ASUS Transformer Prime Infinity TF700 9:25
Acer Iconia W3 9:21
Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 8:56
Sony Xperia Tablet Z 8:40
Toshiba Excite Write 8:13
Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 7:38
HP Slate 7 7:36
Nexus 10 7:26
Dell Venue 8 Pro 7:19
Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 7:18
Nexus 7 (2013) 7:15
Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 7:13
Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 6:55
HP SlateBook x2 6:34 (tablet only) / 8:49 (keyboard dock)

Thankfully, the higher-powered processor doesn’t hurt battery life. Acer estimates eight hours of non-stop video on the W4, as it did for the W3, but we managed nine hours and 50 minutes in our own looping video test before the tablet conked out — half an hour more than we got from last year’s model. That’s with the screen locked at 65 percent brightness, and WiFi periodically fetching both email as well as social network updates. In real-world terms, we could go for about three days of moderate browsing, email, music streaming and socializing. Standby mode doesn’t drain much power, either, so you won’t always have to plug in if you have a few hours’ charge left over at the end of the day. Although the Iconia won’t outlast the Transformer Book, newer Windows RT slates and the latest iPads, it’s in another class compared to the Miix 2 and Venue 8 Pro. Just watch out for the Encore; it may humble the W4 if it lives up to Toshiba’s claim of 14 hours of battery life.

A couple of notes are due regarding that 5-megapixel camera. Its picture quality isn’t anything to write home about, as with many tablet cameras — it’s too noisy in low light, doesn’t produce vibrant colors in daylight and has no major options outside of a panorama mode. However, it does have a party trick. Like some recent smartphones, pressing the shutter button will take a burst of photos (60 per second) and let you pick one ideal shot to save for posterity. You won’t want to go on photo safaris with the Iconia, but that best-photo option is handy if your subjects won’t stay put.

Configuration options

Acer Iconia W4 Start button

Acer offers just two choices of Iconia W4 models, but we won’t complain too loudly given the appealing prices. You can snag a 32GB model for under $300, or at least $80 less than an equivalent W3 cost when new. Your other option, the 64GB variant, is still less expensive than the 32GB original at $350. There are even better deals available if you hunt around; we’ve seen the 32GB W4 discounted to $250 at Amazon. Of the two W4 variants, you’ll want to splurge on the 64GB device so long as you’re not strapped for cash. It didn’t take long for us to chew up half of the 52GB of free space, and that was after installing a handful of benchmark tools, games and productivity apps. The 32GB Iconia W4 is best for those who tend to keep only small files (think Office documents) and get most of their content from the cloud.

As we mentioned, the only real official W4 accessory is the $80 Bluetooth keyboard. There’s a chance that cases and other W3-oriented add-ons will work, but we’d recommend trying these older accessories before you buy to avoid any rude surprises.

The competition

Acer Iconia W4 showing its main competitor

When the Iconia W3 arrived, it was an easy choice; there weren’t any other small Windows tablets on store shelves. Flash forward to early 2014, though, and the Iconia W4 is facing a glut of competition. There isn’t even much to separate the W4 from the pack at first blush. As a general rule, you can expect each of these devices to carry a 1,280 x 800 screen, a 1.33GHz Atom processor, 2GB of RAM, at least 32GB of storage and an official $300 price point. They even go on sale at similar prices (you can pick up either the W4 or Venue 8 Pro for $250, as an example). Does Acer have a chance of standing out?

Yes, actually. The W4′s most obvious competitor is the Dell Venue 8 Pro, but it’s not as strong a contender as you might think. Acer typically comes out ahead with a longer-lasting battery, micro-HDMI video and a higher-resolution front camera. Dell’s main weapon is its pen support; if you like to take handwritten notes, the Venue will make more sense. We could also see some customers preferring Dell’s more grippable chassis, although it’s not so important that we’d ignore other factors.

Other compact Windows tablets don’t usually fare much better. At its official $329 price, ASUS’ VivoTab Note 8 isn’t easy to justify unless you crave Wacom pen input. Lenovo’s Miix 2 is lighter at 0.77 pound, but its seven-hour claimed battery life and lack of video output may take it off your list; it no longer has a meaningful price advantage. The one competitor that catches our eye is the Toshiba Encore. With an 8-megapixel rear camera, micro-HDMI and that extra-long runtime, it’s potentially an ideal tablet if you can find a good bargain (it’s $270 at Newegg as we write this). We’ll be testing the Encore soon, so keep your eyes peeled.

If money isn’t an object, there’s the Lenovo ThinkPad 8. It costs at least $100 more than the Iconia W4, but you also get more — a faster processor, a higher-resolution screen, premium build quality and a sharper camera. There are options for 4G data and up to 128GB of storage, too. While we’ve yet to test the ThinkPad beyond a hands-on, you’ll want to at least consider it if you’re looking for the best possible 8-inch Windows device.

Wrap-up

Acer Iconia W4 loves Chaucer

Going into this review, we were skeptical that Acer could fend off its challengers. And yet, for the most part, it has. The Iconia W4 has the screen we were looking for the first time around, better battery life than some of its peers and the performance to handle most apps with grace. As long as you’re a fan of Windows 8.1 to start with, the big knocks against the W4 are limited to its relative heft, poor speakers and lack of native stylus support.

Having said this, the Iconia W4 doesn’t break any molds. The battery and display are good, but not spectacular; you’ll want to look to the Toshiba Encore for a longevity champion. The cameras won’t have you ditching your smartphone, and mobile OS tablets at this size still tend to have both higher-resolution screens and wider native app selections. Even so, the W4 represents a lot of tablet for the money. If you’re intrigued by running desktop-grade software on a miniature tablet, it’s worth checking out.

Daniel Orren and Edgar Alvarez contributed to this review.

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21
Mar
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BlackBerry liquidates most of its Canadian real estate


BlackBerry's John Chen at Mobile World Congress

BlackBerry has been signalling for weeks that it would sell most of its Canadian offices in order to save some badly needed cash, and today it reached a deal to do just that. The pact will see the company sell over 3 million square feet of property in its homeland, leasing some of it back; the Waterloo headquarters should remain intact. Everything should wrap up before the end of BlackBerry’s current quarter, which ends in May. The agreement should help BlackBerry focus on its core business (whatever that may be), although the move may not be enough when major customers like the White House are thinking of jumping ship.

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Via: Bloomberg

Source: BlackBerry

21
Mar
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Sprint Announces Galaxy S5 Pre-Orders with Arrival April 11th


We heard from AT&T and U.S. Cellular yesterday that they would be starting the pre-order for the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the various Gear 2′s and Fit. We caught T-Mobile in the mix last night, but didn’t get the post out. This morning Sprint has jumped in and announced that pre-orders for all four of the new Samsung devices is beginning as well.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Pre-Order SprintPricing is pretty standard. The device is $199.99 after a $50 mail-in rebate on a new two-year contract. If you opt for the Sprint payment plan, you can get the Galaxy S5 for $0 down and pay $27.09 a month for 23 months with the final payment being $26.92. Their kicker deal tosses in a free Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 if you sign up for a Sprint Family Plan.

Sprint also lists the pricing for the Samsung Galaxy Gear 2 ($299.99), Gear 2 Neo ($199.99) and Gear Fit ($199.99). No pre-ordering for any of those are appearing though. However they will also be available April 11th.

You can get your pre-order in at Sprint.com.

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21
Mar
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15 Paid Games/Apps Free Through Amazon, Saves You Over $75


Not even a week ago we let you all know that Amazon was celebrating the App Stores 3rd birthday with a 2 week sale of apps and games. The first few that went out weren’t all that spectacular, but free is free. Today they bring in 14 more games and apps for your downloading enjoyment and more than a few should make you happy to see. Check out the full list and their usual associated price tags.

Free Apps on Amazon

  • Toca Labs – $2.99
  • Ski Safari: Adventure Time- $0.99
  • Monopoly – $4.99
  • SpinArt – $1.99
  • Dr. Panda’s Airport – $1.99
  • Fruit Ninja: Puss in Boots – $0.99
  • SketchBook Pro – $4.99
  • Worms 2: Armageddon – $0.99
  • Worms 2: Armageddon (Kindle Fire) – $0.99
  • Swype Keyboard – $3.99
  • Polaris Office – $12.99
  • mSecure – Password Manager and Secure Digital Wallet – $9.99
  • PrintHand Mobile Print Premium – $12.95
  • King of Math Junior – $1.99
  • Battle Maiden Yuko Runner – $10.00
  • Runtastic PRO GPS Running, Walking & Fitness Tracker – $4.99

Doing the math puts just over $75 safely tucked into your device without spending a penny. Not all of them will interest everyone. I just picked up Worms 2, Monopoly, SketchBook Pro, Runtastic and mSecure just because.

You can pick them up through Amazon online and have them available for your device as long as you have the Amazon AppStore installed.

Feel free to check out all the apps that are floating in and out HERE. 

 

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21
Mar
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Tell the White House who you trust (or don’t trust) with your data


President Clinton’s former Chief of Staff, John Podesta, is back in the White House, working with President Obama to assess the state of big data and privacy. A thorough review is currently underway, and you can contribute by filling out a survey over at the White House website. First, you’ll be asked about how much you trust certain institutions with your data, with responses ranging from “not at all” to very much” (ha!), before the survey prompts you to rank your concern when it comes to certain types of content (like video and audio, or location info) and data practices in general. It’s not clear what change, if any, may result from the agency’s review, but if you feel strongly about sharing your opinions (and we know you do!), head on over to let the prez know what’s on your mind.

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Source: White House

21
Mar
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Peter Molyneux wants more from VR than what’s available


“I just want to make a world which I can be a god in,” jokes developer Peter Molyneux (Fable, Curiosity) in a San Francisco hotel suite. “Imagine being able to make and construct a world under your own rules.” He’s speaking with us at GDC 2014, painting a picture of what he would do with access to a perfect virtual reality interface. Despite his history of building deity simulators, he doesn’t have any plans for building the ultimate virtual god game — today’s virtual reality leaves him wanting.

“The problem is that, as a designer, I’m like a greedy child. I just want more.” That’s not to say he doesn’t recognize how far virtual reality has come in recent years. Dragging on an electronic cigarette, Molyneux recalls using awkward “virtual reality” headsets in 1980s arcades. “It was a very different kind of VR,” he says. “The Oculus Rift and the Sony stuff is a great step forward, but I want more. Really, what VR is, is immersion. I want my eyes to be immersed, my ears to be immersed … I want to touch things in the world and I want to be able to see my hands.” The technology to create the perfect Matrix-like playground he envisions simply isn’t available yet — not that it’s stopped him from building god simulators.

Molyneux’s current project, Godus, hails from more humble hardware, but he still thinks there’s room for innovation. “If you look at the number of things we can use to entertain people in today’s world, it’s just amazing. There’s all this tablet stuff, but I don’t think yet there’s been a game that really defines tablets for me, defines touch. There’s been some good games, but there’s not been great games.” Moreover, he feels that the technology in our smartphones and tablets is underutilized — navigation apps can track your speed and location to curate traffic data, yet few games make use of geolocation technologies.

“We in the gaming industry have not used that yet,” the creator bemoans. “We’ve got so many things we can exploit and use and squeeze the goodness out of. We’re kind of like children when they go to Disneyland; we don’t know which way to turn. You’ve got to narrow it down and focus on one thing.” Picking technologies isn’t easy, either. “If I wasn’t doing this,” he said, pointing to a test build of Godus, “I’d be seriously looking at VR.”

What he is doing with Godus seems to have changed how he thinks about development. “It’s been a fantastic, wonderful, scary and frightening experience.” Molyneux may be a seasoned game designer, but Godus is his first foray into the world of crowdfunded gaming — putting unfinished builds of the title in the hands of Kickstarter backers (through rewards) and Steam early-access buyers. “What’s been amazing is to be able to look at the way people play. We’ve been able to see the mistakes we’ve made with the game a year before releasing it. The problem has been that people who pledged on Kickstarter, I think, expect it to be a completely finished game, and of course it’s not.” The early-access build is missing most of the game’s content, he says. “It’s like playing Call of Duty without guns!” Even so, Molyneux feels that the advantages outweigh the frustrations. “I wouldn’t ever develop a game again without involving a community like the Kickstarter community.”

Before we left, we couldn’t help asking Molyneux if his opinion had changed about next-gen consoles. “I still don’t think that they’re a big enough step up from the last generation,” the designer explains, echoing his own sentiments from E3 2013. “I mean, between the Xbox 360 and the Xbox One and the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4, this has happened,” he says, picking up his iPad. “And this has changed the world.”

Even so, Molyneux says that if he was still working with traditional consoles, he’d be pretty excited about having extra memory to play with — but he still thinks it’s not enough. “It’s just another black box that sits under my TV. We’re surrounded by new tech that’s changing our lives; why should game consoles just take iterative steps?” For Molyneux, it’s about innovation, and the new next-gen simply isn’t innovative enough. “It seems to be the fad to put Nintendo down a bit, but at least with the Wii U they gave us something which we hadn’t had before,” he concluded. “Okay, it didn’t feel right, but they were pushing themselves a little bit.”

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21
Mar
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White House testing LG and Samsung smartphones, considering BlackBerry replacement


It’s been a rough few years for BlackBerry, but America’s highest office remains a dedicated customer — for at least a few more months. According to a Defense Department spokesman quoted in the Wall Street Journal, the White House is currently testing smartphone replacements from other manufacturers. Android appears to be the OS of choice, with the agency’s internal tech team evaluating handsets from LG and Samsung. As for BlackBerry, while the relatively small White House is hardly a significant customer from a financial perspective, the symbolic move would clearly be a significant blow. Though according to the aforementioned spokesperson, any move away from BB is still “months away.”

(Photo credit: Associated Press)

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Source: WSJ

21
Mar
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Pocket previews article-saving on Android Wear smartwatches


Earlier this week, Google pulled back the curtain on its Android Wear platform, signaling its intentions to conquer wearables beyond Google Glass. Motorola and LG even announced their own smartwatches based on Google’s software, indicating that the ball is already rolling. What’s next, beside us getting these devices on our wrists? Seeing what cool features third-party developers will cook up, naturally. Pocket, the read-it-later service that works across devices, is showing off an early software development kit that lets you save links directly from your watch. Pocket’s one of the first big companies to jump on board the Android Wear bandwagon, and its prototype takes smartwatch notifications one step beyond “glance and dismiss.”

Pocket’s SDK essentially lets you save notifications — so if you get an ABC news alert, you can swipe and stash it for reading later. You won’t be able to view saved links directly on your watch, though; the prototype is strictly for bookmarking articles and videos. Developers have the option to integrate Pocket’s SDK into their own apps, and we imagine plenty of breaking-news apps, not to mention Twitter, will do so. Pocket for Android Wear is still in the early stages, but you’ll have to wait until summer to get your hands on an Android Wear watch, anyway.

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Via: The Verge

Source: Pocket

21
Mar
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The winners of the 2013 Engadget Awards — Editors’ Choice


The readers have spoken, and now it’s our turn. We at Engadget aren’t shy about singing the praises of the products we love, and you’ll find plenty of kind words past the break as we reveal our picks for the best (and worst) gadgets of 2013.

Smartphone of the Year: Moto X

The Moto X doesn’t have flagship specs, but it still impressed us with a gorgeous design and great features like always-on listening and active notifications. It’s also the most customizable phone we’ve ever used (read: optional wooden backplates), not to mention one of the most comfortable to hold. — Brad Molen, Senior Mobile Editor

PC of the Year: Apple MacBook Pro with Retina display

When Apple released the Retina display MacBook Pro with new Intel processors, we expected a bump in performance. What we didn’t realize was that we had a MacBook Air rival on our hands. The Retina display MBP can now last up to nine hours on a charge, up from seven in the previous generation. — Dana Wollman, Managing Editor

Tablet of the Year: Apple iPad mini with Retina display

Following months of rumors, Apple finally released a pixel-packed version of its 7.9-inch tablet in November of last year. But that 2,048 x 1,536 display wasn’t the only novel feature in tow; Apple also loaded the Retina iPad mini with new chips and a beefier battery — all while keeping the design super slim. — Edgar Alvarez, Associate Editor & Lead Video Producer, NY

E-reader of the Year: Amazon Kindle Paperwhite

2013′s Kindle Paperwhite offers only slight tweaks from its predecessor, but if you’re in the market for an e-reader, this is the one to get. The flagship feature here is the built-in light, which can support low-light reading for weeks on a full charge. — Zach Honig, Deputy Managing Editor

Digital Camera of the Year: Sony Cyber-shot RX10

At $1,300, Sony’s flagship point-and-shoot is hardly cheap, but with a large 1-inch sensor and a constant-aperture f/2.8 24-200mm lens, you can expect brilliant image quality even when shooting in low light. We traveled to three continents while testing the RX10, and it performed phenomenally despite the occasionally harsh conditions. — Zach Honig

Wearable of the Year: Nike FuelBand SE

When Nike released a new version of its popular FuelBand, it retooled the companion app, threw in a load of new social features and tacked on sleep tracking. These additions, alongside modest design changes, allow the wearable to expand its activity-monitoring abilities to bragging amongst your Nike+ mates. — Billy Steele, Associate Editor

Gaming Product of the Year: Sony PlayStation 4

The PlayStation 4 is the most powerful console of 2013, and still the game platform we’d suggest buying. That’s saying a lot considering stiff competition from both Microsoft and Valve. The console is still waiting for its big exclusive game, but the PS4 is the only place to find next-gen indie darlings. — Ben Gilbert, Senior Editor

Home Theater Product of the Year: Google Chromecast

The Chromecast is easy to love for several reasons: The HDMI dongle is inexpensive; it works seamlessly; and it gets more useful by the day. Perhaps what stands out most, though, is its versatility. Beaming HBO Go, YouTube, Google Music and tabs from Chrome to your home theater is effortless. — Timothy J. Seppala, Associate Editor

Home Product of the Year: Nest Protect

Few of us have lusted after a smoke alarm. That is, until the Nest Protect. The smart smoke detector ditches the alarm sound of its forefathers for a human voice. When wired to your home, it tells you exactly which room it’s detected smoke in. Bonus: The LED ring serves as a night-light. — Emily Price, Associate Editor

Transportation Product of the Year: Airbus A350 XWB

So far, we’ve only had a chance to check out the A350′s display-packed flight deck, but Airbus’ Dreamliner equivalent sounds very promising indeed, especially considering the 787′s many setbacks. Expect a comfortable flight with up to 20 percent humidity and pressurization fixed at 6,000 feet or below. — Zach Honig

Offbeat Product of the Year: Scentee

When your smartphone has a display with the same resolution as your TV and sports a camera that rivals your point-and-shoot, what’s next? Smells. Or, scents… to make it sound nicer. Scentee plugs into your iPhone’s or Android’s headphone socket and, through an app, can expel a scent from separately purchased capsules ranging from jasmine to, well, just meat. — Mat Smith, Senior Editor

Worst Product of the Year: Samsung Galaxy Gear

The Gear “wins” for worst gadget because it doesn’t live up to our expectations for smartwatches. Its one-day battery life is a letdown, and hardware support is very limited. The new Gear line fixes some problems, but that just suggests Samsung shouldn’t have released the original Gear in the first place. — Jon Fingas, Associate Editor

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