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May

ASUS Transformer Book T300 Chi review: thinner than air, but at what cost?


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When ASUS formally unveiled the Transformer Book Chi T300, it did so in the cheekiest way possible: with a cleverly worded swipe at Apple. “Our Chi is thinner than Air,” the company proclaimed — a clear shot at the MacBook Air. (“Chi” means “air” in Mandarin Chinese, by the way, in case the dig wasn’t obvious enough.) Indeed, ASUS’ newest laptop/tablet hybrid measures a scant 0.3 inch for the tablet (or 0.65 inch when docked), making it slightly thinner than the Air, which comes in at 0.68 inch at its thickest point. The Chi is also more affordable than the Air (not to mention most other thin-and-light laptops), with a starting price of $699. On paper, it’s a relatively affordable way to get your hands on a super-skinny machine. In practice, though, you’re probably better off spending a little more on something else. Here’s why.

Hardware

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Problem number one: While the 12.5-inch Chi is indeed super thin, it isn’t what I’d call super light. At 1.59 pounds for the tablet alone and 3.15 pounds with the keyboard dock attached, it’s relatively heavy. Certainly, it feels noticeably heavier than the 2.62-pound Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro, which can also be used as a tablet when needed. The Dell XPS 13 is lighter too, at 2.6 pounds, though with its fixed display, you admittedly can’t use it as anything other than a touchscreen notebook. Even the 13-inch MacBook Air, the machine ASUS seems to be gunning after, comes in at a lighter 2.96 pounds. All of which is to say: For a device that’s being marketed for its portability, the Chi doesn’t feel exceptionally light.

That alone isn’t necessarily a dealbreaker, but in the case of the Chi, a big portion of those three-plus pounds feels like dead weight. As heavy as the Bluetooth keyboard dock is, it doesn’t add much beyond the actual keys. There’s no extra battery inside. And there are virtually no extra ports, save for a micro-USB opening on the dock’s left edge. By comparison, the Yoga 3 Pro and Dell XPS 13 both offer two full-sized USB 3.0 ports and either a Mini DisplayPort or micro-HDMI connection. Even the 1.76-pound Surface Pro 3 manages to squeeze in a Mini DisplayPort and USB socket. Admittedly, Microsoft’s keyboard cover offers nothing in the way of extra connections, but then again, it also barely adds to the tablet’s weight or thickness. In any case, this is where I return to the weight issue: What’s the point of having a machine this heavy if you’re going to get fewer ports than you would on a lighter system?

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This means that the dock is left with just one job: to offer a comfortable typing experience. Even then, I’m not a huge fan. It’s mostly the touchpad; it’s the worst I’ve seen on any recent Windows laptop. The tracking was so unreliable, so imprecise, that after a while I avoided using the trackpad at all; if it was possible to hit a button on the desktop with my finger, I did so using the touchscreen. On the bright side, I appreciate the generous 1.5mm of key travel; between that and the well-spaced layout, I was generally able to type without making mistakes.

All told, this means the Chi is, in some ways, at its best in tablet mode. Even then, its nearly 13-inch screen makes it a bit unwieldy. (On the bright side, this is the world’s thinnest 13-inch tablet, for what that’s worth, and at 1.59 pounds it’s markedly lighter than the Surface Pro 3.) Even so, I find the SP3 easier to use as a slate, in part because of the less-stretched-out 3:2 aspect ratio. I don’t necessarily think the Surface has a more comfortable keyboard or trackpad, but it does work better than the Chi as a tablet — kind of an important thing on a hybrid device like this. And again, I can forgive the Surface’s relatively middling keyboard cover somewhat because it at least doesn’t weigh down the rest of the machine.

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In the plus column, the Chi’s all-aluminum casing feels solid, even if the full package is on the heavy side. I also like how the 12.5-inch screen has the tiniest of bumpers lining the edges; for all intents and purposes, it looks like edge-to-edge glass. Speaking of the sort, though the Chi is available at the lower end with a 1,920 x 1,080 display, I tested it with a higher-end, 2,560 x 1,440 panel, with a pixel density of 235 ppi. Particularly at $899 — what my particular configuration costs in the real world — this is a great screen: vibrant and crisp, with wide viewing angles, thanks to the IPS panel. In addition, there’s an active digitizer inside, allowing it to recognize 256 levels of pressure sensitivity, whether through pen or finger input. That puts it on par with the Surface Pro 3, with one difference: The stylus pen here is sold separately, for $40. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to test it out as part of my review, so I can’t vouch for pen performance, except to say that having a pressure-sensitive screen at this price is already a plus.

Compared to the screen (perhaps the Chi’s best feature), the sound quality feels a little like an afterthought, although it’s still acceptable. The audio is a bit tinny, as is the case on many ultraportable laptops, but the volume is loud enough and I ultimately got used to the sound quality, even if it is a bit lacking in the bass department.

Performance and battery life

PCMark7 3DMark06 3DMark11 ATTO (top disk speeds)
ASUS Transformer Book T300 Chi (1.2GHz Intel M-5Y71, Intel HD 5300) 4,494 5,236

E,1362 / P737 / X214

487 MB/s (reads); 366 MB/s (writes)
HP Spectre x360 (2015, 2.2GHz Intel Core i5-5200U, Intel HD 5500) 4,965 8,810

E1,667 / P932 / X265

555 MB/s (reads); 270 MB/s (writes)
Dell XPS 13 (2015, 2.2GHz Intel Core i5-5200U, Intel HD 5500) 4,900 7,433

E2,114 / P1,199 / X330

515 MB/s (reads); 455 MB/s (writes)
Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro (1.1GHz Intel M-5Y70, Intel HD 5300) 4,699 4,734

E1,076 / P595 / X175

554 MB/s (reads); 261 MB/s (writes)
Samsung ATIV Book 9 2014 Edition (1.6GHz Core i5-4200U, Intel HD 4400) 4,835 5,947

E1,752 / P948 / X297

551 MB/s (reads); 141 MB/s (writes)
Microsoft Surface Pro 3 (1.9GHz Core i5-4300U, Intel HD 4400) 5,024 5,053

E1,313 / P984

555 MB/s (reads); 252 MB/s (writes)
Samsung ATIV Book 9 Plus (1.6GHz Core i5-4200U, Intel HD 4400) 4,973 5,611

E1,675 / P867 / X277

547 MB/s (reads); 508 MB/s (writes)
Acer Aspire S7-392 (1.6GHz Intel Core i5-4200U, Intel HD 4400) 5,108 5,158

E1,724 / P952 / X298

975 MB/s (reads); 1.1 GB/s (writes)

I haven’t mentioned this yet, but one of the main reasons ASUS was able to build a tablet this thin in the first place is that it makes use of a low-power Intel Core M processor — the same sort of chip used in other fanless machines like the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro and the new 12-inch MacBook. As we’ve already seen, the dual-core 1.2GHz Core M 5Y71 CPU here isn’t quite as powerful as one of Intel’s new fifth-generation Core-series chips, but it’s predictably a bit faster than the 1.1GHz Core M processor used inside some competing machines, like the Yoga 3 Pro we reviewed. With 8GB of RAM, it roundly beat the Yoga 3 Pro in every graphics test we ran, though it fell slightly short in PCMark, a more general performance test. Startup takes a brisk eight seconds, just a hair faster than the Yoga 3 Pro. The SanDisk SSD inside also delivered respectable read speeds of up to 487 MB/s, with better-than-average write speeds of 366 megabytes per second. (Many SSDs top out in the two-hundred-and-something range when it comes to write rates.)

As for WiFi, the Chi has an 802.11n wireless radio (at least on models sold in the US), meaning it’s not making use of the current-gen 802.11ac standard like the Yoga 3 Pro and other competitors. That said, I enjoyed a fast, reliable connection and had no problem streaming video and music from inside my apartment.

Battery life

ASUS Transformer Book T300 Chi 5:51
MacBook Air (13-inch, 2013) 12:51
HP Spectre x360 11:34
Apple MacBook Pro with Retina display (13-inch, 2015) 11:23
Apple MacBook Pro with Retina display (13-inch, late 2013) 11:18
Chromebook Pixel (2015) 10:01
Samsung ATIV Book 9 Plus 8:44
Apple MacBook (2015) 7:47
Dell XPS 13 (2015) 7:36
Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro 7:36
Acer Aspire S7-392 7:33
Microsoft Surface Pro 3 7:08

As I’ve found on other Core M-powered laptops, including the new MacBook, the downside to having a quiet, fanless system seems to be that these machines tend to run warm. Even when I was just streaming Spotify and had a few tabs open in Chrome, I could feel the bottom side get hot while I had the machine resting on my lap. It’s a clear downside to the Core M, especially when the battery life isn’t so great (more on that in a minute), but at least it’s not specific to the Chi; it’s a problem I’ve had with nearly every Core M machine I’ve reviewed.

But back to the battery life. The runtime here is especially skimpy, even compared to similarly equipped Core M laptops. The 32Wh, 4,120mAh cell lasted just five hours and 51 minutes in Engadget’s video rundown test. By comparison, lighter-weight machines like the Yoga 3 Pro, the new MacBook and the Dell XPS 13 all lasted somewhere between seven and a half and eight hours under the same testing conditions. The XPS 13, in particular, can probably do even better if you get it with a lower-res 1080p display. In a note to reviewers, an ASUS rep suggested opening the included ASUS “Splendid” display utility and making sure it was set to the “normal” screen profile for maximum battery life. Even then, though, the machine wasn’t able to crack six hours on a charge. Not good.

Software

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In addition to that “Splendid” utility I mentioned, ASUS packs in a few other apps, including well-knowns like Twitter, Netflix and TripAdvisor. Other pre-installed programs include Fresh Paint, Line (the texting app, which is especially popular in Asia), ASUS PhotoDirector, ASUS PowerDirector, the Zinio magazine store and a shortcut for Microsoft Office (note: You still have to buy it or supply your own license code). In addition, the machine comes with a year of unlimited storage through ASUS’ own WebStorage service, as well as a 30-day trial of McAfee security software.

Configuration options and the competition

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The Chi starts at $699 with a 1080p screen, 128GB of storage and four gigs of RAM. From there, the price goes up to $899, bringing us to the model I tested. The unit comes with a WQHD screen, 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. As I’ve said, that’s not bad for the price. If only the battery life were longer and it had more ports and the trackpad were more reliable.

I’ve name-checked most of the Chi’s main competitors already, but let’s do a quick recap anyway. In terms of the form factor — a 12-inch-or-so tablet that can attach to a keyboard dock — the most obvious corollary is last year’s Surface Pro 3. Because it’s been out for a while, it does indeed run last year’s processors, but it still matches and in some cases bests the Chi on synthetic benchmark tests. The battery life is also around an hour longer and because there’s a tiny cooling vent surrounding the perimeter of the device, overheating isn’t an issue either. There’s also a pen included in the box, unlike with the Chi. That said, at $799, with the $130 keyboard cover sold separately, it’s pricier, even if you just buy the base configuration. Also, the keyboard and trackpad aren’t much better than what ASUS is offering, though the dock at least doesn’t add much to the total weight. And remember that a Surface Pro 4 might be coming later this year; that alone could be a reason to see what Microsoft does next.

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If you’re willing to get either a clamshell notebook instead or something with a convertible display (think: the Yoga), you’ve got a lot more options, all of which offer longer battery life at either the same weight or less. There’s the Yoga 3 Pro, of course, which starts at $1,149 and weighs in at 2.62 pounds, with a 3,200 x 1,800 screen, a comfy keyboard and a battery that can last seven and a half hours.

It’s a similar story with the Dell XPS 13, which starts at $800 and weighs 2.6 pounds, with a compact frame and a very comfortable typing experience. There, too, the battery life is comparable — around 7.5 hours — and you can expect even more if you go with one of the lower-priced 1080p models. (The XPS 13 we tested, which had a 3,200 x 1,800 display, currently starts at $1,300, making it much more expensive than the Chi. Indeed, the fact that you have to pay so much for a model that has either a touchscreen or a high-resolution display is one of the things we like least about it.)

Additionally, you might consider HP’s Spectre x360, which weighs nearly the same (3.17 pounds in the lightest-possible configurations), but offers longer battery life, even when the screen resolutions are more or less equal. With a starting price of $900, too, it isn’t that much pricier than the Chi I’m reviewing today.

Wrap-up

On paper, the Transformer Book Chi T300 is a good deal for what it is: $899 (or less) for a super-thin tablet with a sharp screen that accepts pen input, and a keyboard dock that actually comes in the box at no extra charge (ahem, Microsoft). Still, to get the price down that low — and to achieve a design that’s “thinner than air” — ASUS had to make all manner of compromises. The battery life is short, even compared to other systems with a similar Core M processor. At the same time, when you factor in the keyboard dock, it’s heavier than other comparably specced laptops that manage to last longer on a charge. And yet, despite being bulkier, it actually has fewer ports — in fact, there isn’t a single full-sized USB socket on the entire machine, not even on the detachable dock. If you really just want a hybrid-type PC but can’t spend a ton of money, this could fit the bill. But if you have any flexibility in your budget, you can probably do better.

Filed under: Laptops, Tablets, ASUS

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8
May

Cooking with Watson: Italian grilled lobster


Cognitive Cooking with Chef Watson‘ is a collaboration between IBM and the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City. Once a week, as part of an ongoing series, we’ll be preparing one recipe from the book until we’ve made all of them. Wish us luck.

I’ve got to say I am pretty against the idea of wrapping lobster in bacon. While, yes, bacon does tend to make everything better, I’m also a bit of a purist. I don’t like butter or onions in my hamburgers, or mignonette on my oysters. These are foods meant to be enjoyed as they are. And I feel the same about lobster. It is meant to be steamed and devoured as is (or with some drawn butter and lemon if you really must). But, I have a job, and right now that job is to cook whatever Watson tell me to. So it’s time to defile one of the most delicious (and expensive) sea creatures with bacon and a lot of citrus.

SONY DSC

This recipe, Italian grilled lobster, is definitely one of the simpler and less surprising in the book. There are a couple ingredients that are tough to come by on the list, fregula and pumpkin, but both can easily be swapped for Israeli couscous and butternut squash, respectively. You’ll also need saffron, but you should have some on hand anyway. Yes it’s expensive, but it’s an essential ingredient in many cuisines, including Spanish and Italian. And don’t be fooled into buying cheap stuff posing as saffron. For those that don’t know, saffron is the stigma from a particular crocus flower and it takes nearly 150 flowers to yield just a single gram of the spice. So it’s not surprising that a pound of Saffron can cost as much as $10,000. You don’t need to go and buy the highest grade, but definitely make sure you get real saffron from a reputable brand or dealer. In short: don’t skimp here and get the generic version at your local supermarket.

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Note: If you can’t bring yourself to dunk a living twitching lobster in boiling water, put them in the freezer for roughly an hour before hand. But research has shown that lobsters have no real central nervous system and don’t really feel pain.

Obviously though, the star is the lobster. Now, if you’re making this in the late summer or early fall and live somewhere in the north east US you may have the option of picking up new or soft shell lobsters. Now, while many prefer the flavor (myself included) and breaking them down is much easier, you should resist the urge. After a lobster molts it needs time to grow into its shell. And as this happens, the shell hardens. These “hard shell” lobsters have more meat inside and firmer flesh, which you’ll need to standup to the grill and salad preparations.

SONY DSC

The salad side dish here combines the delicate claw meat, with tiny pasta pearls, simple roasted squash, some olives and is dressed with fresh squeezed orange juice and mint. It’s a slightly odd combination, since we most often associate pumpkin (or in this case butternut squash) with fall, but the blend of citrus and mint screams summer. And the light texture of the couscous plays into that warm weather vibe. But here’s the problem. The lobster was lost in all the orange zest and juice. The lovely claws became less about flavor and more about texture. And the same is true of the tails. After being wrapped in bacon and grilled, their flaky flesh tasted nothing of the sea and more like the smoked pork they were wrapped in. When the plates were cleaned my wife even turned to me and said, “I don’t feel like I ate lobster.” Now don’t get me wrong, the flavors were good, but they just weren’t the flavors I was expecting.

So here’s the weird thing about this lobster dish, there are no surprises. No ingredients that make you stop and say, “what the…” None of the dishes have been really crazy yet (don’t worry, there’s a mushroom meringue coming eventually), but they’ve all had some element that tells you that a super computer and professional chef have been here. This on the other hand, feels like its missing that cognitive computing spark.

Italian Grilled Lobster

Saffron Tomato Sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoon dried oregano
Pinch saffron
15 ounces canned tomatoes, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons white wine
Salt and pepper, as needed

1. Place the olive oil, oregano, and saffron in a saucepan over low heat. Let infuse for 4 minutes. Add the white wine and reduce by half.

2. Stir in the tomatoes and gently simmer for 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Blend the mixture with a hand blender. Reserve in a warm place for plating.

Roasted Pumpkin

2 cups pumpkin flesh, small-diced
1 tablespoon fresh mint, cut into chiffonade
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt

1. Place the pumpkin into an oven-safe dish, then toss with the mint and olive oil.

2. Season with salt, then cook in a 350 degrees Fahrenheit oven until tender (about 15 minutes).

Lobster Fabrication

4 lobsters, each about 1 ½ pounds

1. Separate the heads, tails, and claws of the lobsters. Keep the heads for another recipe.

2. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Blanch the tails for 1 minute and the claws for 4 minutes.

3. Transfer the tails and claws to a bowl of ice water, and let cool.

4. Shell the tails and then lightly score underneath so they stay flat. Reserve.

5. Shell the claws and chop the lobster meat into medium-size chunks. Reserve.

Lobster Salad

½ pound dry fregula
Zest of ½ orange
½ cup Sicilian green olives, sliced lengthwise
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons orange juice
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
Pinch red pepper flakes
½ tablespoon fresh mint, cut into chiffonade

1. Cook the fregula in salted boiling water until tender. Drain and let cool. Measure 1 cup of cooked pasta and reserve the rest for use in another recipe.

2. In a bowl, combine the cooked pasta and the prepared roasted pumpkin, along with the orange zest, green olives, olive oil, orange juice, and white wine vinegar. Mix well and season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Add the prepared lobster claw meat, red pepper flakes, and mint. Toss again and reserve at room temperature.

Grilled Lobster Tails

6 strips bacon, each 12 inches long
2 tablespoons olive oil

1. Wrap the reserve lobster tails in bacon and brush each with olive oil.

2. Cook the tails on a grill over medium heat until well browned on all sides. If the bacon begins to burn on the grill, finish cooking on a rack in the oven. Let rest 2 minutes before slicing.

To Serve

8 red and yellow cherry tomatoes, halved
Salt, as needed
2 tablespoons olive oil

1. Reheat the tomato sauce over low heat.

2. Season the cherry tomatoes with salt.

3. Slice the lobster tails into rounds.

4. On each plate, spread a small amount of the tomato sauce, then arrange a lobster tail and some lobster salad in the center. Decorate with the cherry tomatoes and drizzle with olive oil.

This recipe and others can be found in Cognitive Cooking with Chef Watson.

Filed under: Household

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8
May

Facebook is using your Instagram feed to suggest new friends


Notice some familiar faces popping up in Facebook’s “People You May Know” section? Well, there’s a reason for that. Zuckerberg & Co. recently began serving up suggestions for prospective connections based on your Instagram feed. It’s no surprise that Facebook would pull data from the filter-driven app, especially from folks who’ve linked the two — it does own the photo software after all. And as we’ve heard a few times before, Facebook likes its apps to share info. Of course, if you’re like me, you use the two social networks for entirely different reasons (food pics and keeping up with old pals, natch). Facebook confirmed that it “recently” began pulling data from Instagram based on who you follow, but wasn’t too keen on elaborating further.

Filed under: Internet, Software, Facebook

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Source: The Daily Dot

8
May

Some Canon Rebel T6s and T6i cameras have defective sensors


Canon has acknowledged that a number of Rebel T6s and T6i DSLRs, which were introduced in February, are being affected by a major issue with the sensor. This matter came to light a few days ago, when LensRentals, a site focused on lending gear for cash, found some of its rental units had what appeared to be dusty or oily sensors. As it turns out, though, a more meticulous inspection by the firm revealed a much bigger problem. The sensors couldn’t be cleaned because these microscopic spots (pictured below) couldn’t be removed with a simple, traditional cleaning — they’re underneath a layer of glass, making them virtually permanent.

The following phenomenon may occur due to irregularities on an optical layer located in front of the image sensor:

White spots may exist on the optical layer which may result in the appearance of dark circular patterns on the captured image under certain shooting conditions.

— Canon

Since the problem is indeed serious, Canon’s published a product advisory to help those of you who own a T6s or T6i find out if your camera is affected. What’s more, the company says any potentially defective units are going to be inspected and, if need be, repaired at no cost to people. Canon didn’t mention whether there’s a plan to recall the flawed models, but did say more details will be shared as soon as possible. “At this time, we offer our apologies to any customer who might have been inconvenienced. We are actively looking into solutions to fix any issues related to this advisory,” a Canon spokesperson told Engadget.

An affected Canon Rebel T6s sensor. Image credit: LensRentals.com

Filed under: Cameras, Canon

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Source: Canon

8
May

Will quick charging replace the need to swap batteries?


No matter how dazzling is the display of your new smartphone, how powerful is its processor, or how high resolution its camera sensor is, at the end of the day it is the battery of the phone that runs the show. Because a high-end smartphone dying in the middle of the day is no one’s dream come true. That is the reason why most decent phones started coming packed with at least 3,000 mAh batteries and hardware and software tweaks to ensure saving as much juice as possible. But those phones with gigantic batteries still faced a major problem – charging them took a hell lot of time. However, things have been changing gradually on this front and fast charging technology has proven to be a major breakthrough. Be it Snapdragon’s Quick Charge v2.0, Samsung’s Adaptive Fast Charging or Oppo’s VOOC Flash Charge, all of them boast of cutting down the charging time significantly.

What is fast charging?

As smartphone screens started increasing in size and chipsets started becoming faster, charging technology had to evolve to keep up with new batteries that took time to charge. One of the most popular fast charging techniques that is used today is Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 2.0, which as the name suggests is in its second generation, and is capable of charging a mobile phone by 75% faster speed than a normal 5V/1A charger. Qualcomm integrates a power management circuit in its chipset that helps in charging the battery rapidly. While all phones featuring Snapdragon 800 chipset and up, come with the quick charging option, you will need a charger with 9V/1.67A output to put the technology to use.

Another player in the field of fast charging is Oppo, which uses Qualcomm’s chipsets but employs Voltage Open Loop Multi-Step Constant-Current Charging (VOOC). This method consists of several battery cells being charged simultaneously with high voltage current and a seven point charger instead of the usual five point one. Samsung, HTC and Intel also use Qualcomm’s Quick Charge v2.0 technology, but modify and market them with different names.

Should you buy a phone without a removable battery?

Although most of us can make do with a handset that requires charging once a day, there are some people who never put their phones down. Such people either keep their phones hooked to a charger the whole day or carry an extra battery in case they need to swap it for an instant recharge. But the days of phones with removable battery seem to be numbered as the market is getting dominated by devices with non-removable batteries(Galaxy S6). And quite legitimately so, because we have every modern technology at our disposal, like quick charging, to avoid messy ancient practices such as swapping batteries and rebooting the phone in the process.

What are your best options?

In a battery test conducted by GSMArena, Oppo’s VOOC Flash charging technology used in the N3 proved to be the fastest. It charged 70% battery in 30 minutes against Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge’s 60%, HTC One M8’s 36%, Asus Zenfone 2’s 47% and Apple iPhone 6 Plus’ 35% when charged with quick chargers. Notably, all of the above phones come with almost 3,000 mAh batteries. Here is a list of smartphones that come with Snapdragon’s Quick Charge v2.0.

Oppo N3

Samsung Galaxy S6, Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge, Samsung Galaxy Note Edge, Samsung Galaxy Note 4

HTC One M9, HTC Desire Eye, HTC One M8, HTC One Remix

LG G Flex 2, LG G4

Motorola Droid Turbo, Motorola Moto X (2014),

Google Nexus 6

Sony Xperia Z3, Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

Asus Zenfone 2

 

The post Will quick charging replace the need to swap batteries? appeared first on AndroidGuys.

8
May

Samsung: Note 2 will see Lollipop, but only in select regions


Galaxy Note 2

While Samsung isn’t known for being the quickest when it comes to pushing out Android updates, the Korean giant has actually done a pretty solid job with Lollipop. We’ve seen Android 5.0 push out to numerous flagships in the last few months, including somewhat older models like the Note 3 and Galaxy S4. But what about the Galaxy Note 2? Will this rather aged device ever see Google’s latest sweet treat?

Although Samsung Poland confirmed the Note 2 would, in fact, see Android 5.0 back in February, a more recent report directly from Samsung Gulf says that the Note 2 will not be making them move to Lollipop. Who’s right? As it turns out, they both are.

note-2-lollipop-tweet

Thanks to another tweet, this time from Samsung DK, it has been clarified that some regions are getting the update, while others will not. Although we have no way of knowing which regions are opting out of the update, we wouldn’t be too surprised if it eventually makes its way to North America and to the US carrier-branded Note 2 units — though that’s just speculation on our part.

With the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 now heading into its third year of life, we have to admit it is pretty impressive to see Samsung continue with this level of support, even if it isn’t reaching eveyone. As for when the Note 2 will get the update? That’s less clear, though hopefully sooner rather than later.

Thanks for the tip, Joseph Raphael!



8
May

Android 5.0 Lollipop now rolling out to the Sprint Galaxy S4


moto x vs galaxy s4 aa design s4 back in hand

Sprint is now beginning to roll out Android 5.0 Lollipop to the Samsung Galaxy S4. The update, which will bring the build number up to L720VPUGOD2, is for the non-Spark variant of the device.

So what exactly will this update bring to your S4? Consisting of both aesthetic and under the hood enhancements, Lollipop brings a lot to the table. Google has included a ton of visual changes with its new Material Design guidelines, as well as a ton of new animations throughout the UI. These changes won’t be as noticeable as they are on a device running vanilla Android, thanks to Samsung’s Touchwiz overlay. Some additional features include the switch to the Android Runtime (ART), Priority Mode notifications, Smart Lock and much more. According to the software update page, it doesn’t look like Sprint has included any carrier-specific changes in this update.

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As is the case with other software updates, Lollipop will make its way to your device over the next few days. If you’d like to check for the update manually, head to Settings>More>About device>Software update.



8
May

Samsung Gear VR Innovator Edition for Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge now available for $200


Gear VR S6 (6 of 6)

If you’re an early adopter of the Galaxy S6 or S6 Edge and want to get your hands on Samsung’s next generation virtual reality headset, now’s your chance. The Gear VR Innovator Edition headset, built specifically for Samsung’s two newest flagships, can now be ordered online from either Best Buy or Samsung for $199.99. The headset will also be available in-store at select Best Buy stores beginning Friday, May 15th, if you’d rather purchase it that way.

Related Videos

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Samsung announced the updated version of the headset back at MWC 2015, bringing with it a few notable improvements over the Galaxy Note 4-specific model. The version built for the Galaxy S6 is 15% smaller overall, and is significantly lighter and more comfortable, as well. The touchpad on the side of the device has been recessed, making it easier to locate, and the back button is now more tactile than before.

We went hands-on with the headset at the big trade show, and we’d suggest checking out our first impressions video if you’re considering purchasing one. If you’re interested, follow the links below.



8
May

Buyer’s Guide: Deals on iPad Air 2, MacBook Air, Apple Accessories, and More [Mac Blog]


As we head into the second week of May, deals on Macs and Apple accessories continue to be good. It’s an excellent time to buy a newer MacBook Air or Retina MacBook Pro, or pick up an older 2014 model at a cheap price.

There are some limited deals on iPads this week, and we’ve also rounded up plenty of Mother’s Day discounts on products and a list of apps that can be purchased on the cheap.

iPad Air 2

Target is offering a free $75 Target gift card with the purchase of any iPad Air 2 model through 5/9. Prices start at $499 for the entry-level 16GB Wi-Fi only iPad Air 2.

T-Mobile is offering $100 off its selection of iPads in honor of Mother’s Day. Any iPad purchased on an Equipment Installment Plan will have its monthly payments reduced by $5.50 as long as the device is used on a qualifying plan (1GB or higher) for 24 months.

tmobile
B&H Photo is offering a small discount on all of its iPad Air 2 models, dropping prices by $30 to $50. With the discount, the 16GB WiFi only iPad Air 2 is priced at $459 and the 64GB model is priced at $569.

MacMall is also offering some discounts on iPad Air 2 models, dropping the prices by $30 to $50. With the discount, the 16GB entry-level Wi-Fi only iPad Air 2 is priced at $459, while the Wi-Fi-only 64GB iPad Air 2 is available for $539.

iPad Air

Both Best Buy and B&H Photo have deep discounts on some remaining stock of now-discontinued higher-capacity iPad Air models, as listed below.

iPad Air Wi-Fi Space Gray 128GB$549
iPad Air Cellular Space Gray 128GB (AT&T) – $499
iPad Air Cellular Silver 64GB (AT&T) – $429
iPad Air Cellular Space Gray 64GB (AT&T) – $449
iPad Air Cellular Silver 64GB (Verizon) – $566.99
iPad Air Cellular Space Gray 64GB (Verizon) – $449
iPad Air Cellular Silver 128GB (Verizon) – $649
iPad Air Cellular Space Gray 128GB (Verizon) – $679

iPad mini 3

Target is offering a free $50 Target gift card with the purchase of any iPad mini 3 through 5/9. Prices for the iPad mini 3 start at $399 for the 16GB Wi-Fi model.

ipadmini3
B&H Photo is offering some modest discounts on various iPad mini 3 models, dropping the price by up to $60. The 64GB Cellular iPad mini 3 in gold is priced at $549, while the 16GB Cellular gold version is priced at $469. The Wi-Fi only 128GB iPad mini 3 in Silver is $529, while the 64GB version is priced at $439.

Discounts for each model and and color vary, but most models are being offered at a lower price than you’ll find at the Apple Store, and buying from B&H, you won’t have to pay sales tax unless you’re in New York.

iPad mini 2

Best Buy, B&H Photo, and Amazon have remaining stock of now-discontinued higher-capacity iPad mini 2 models, which are a good deal if you’re looking for an iPad mini. Compared to the iPad mini 3, the iPad mini 2 only lacks Touch ID.

iPad mini Cellular Silver 128GB (AT&T) – $440
iPad mini Cellular Space Gray 128GB (AT&T) – $449
iPad mini Cellular Space Gray 64GB (AT&T) – $399.99
iPad mini Cellular Silver 128GB (Verizon) – $479
iPad mini Cellular Space Gray 128GB (Verizon) – $534.99
iPad mini Cellular Space Gray 64GB (Verizon) – $409.99

iMac

– 21.5-inch 2.7GHz/8GB/1TB (Adorama) (B&H Photo) – $1,189, $110 off
– 21.5-inch 2.9GHz/8GB/1TB (Adorama) (B&H Photo) – $1,389, $120 off
– 27-inch 3.2GHz/8GB/1TB (Adorama) (B&H Photo) – $1,689, $110 off
– 27-inch 3.4GHz/8GB/1TB (Adorama) (B&H Photo) – $1,794.99, $204 off
– 27-inch 3.5Ghz/8GB/1TB Retina iMac (Adorama) (Amazon) – $2,329.99, $170 off

retina-imac-27

Mac mini

– 1.4GHz/4GB/500GB (Amazon) (Adorama) (B&H Photo) – $464.99, $34 off
– 2.6GHz/8GB/1TB (MacMall) – $663.99, $35 off
– 2.8GHz/8GB/1TB (Adorama) (B&H Photo) – $938, $60 off

MacBook Air

– 2015 11-inch 1.6GHz/4GB/128GB (B&H Photo) – $819, $80 off
– 2015 11-inch 1.6GHz/4GB/256GB (Best Buy) (Amazon) (B&H Photo) (Adorama) – $1044.99, $50 off
– 2015 13-inch 1.6GHz/4GB/128GB (Amazon) (B&H Photo) (Adorama) – $949.99, $50 off
– 2015 13-inch 1.6GHz/4GB/256GB (Best Buy) (Amazon) (B&H Photo)- $1,139.99, $60 off
– 2014 11-inch 1.4GHz/4GB/128GB (Adorama) – $719.99, $180 off
– 2014 11-inch 1.4GHz/4GB/256GB (Adorama) (B&H Photo) – $899, $200 off
– 2014 13-inch 1.4GHz/4GB/128GB (B&H Photo) – $819, $180 off
– 2014 13-inch 1.4GHz/4GB/256GB (B&H Photo) – $999, $200 off

macbook_air_yosemite_roundup

Retina MacBook Pro

– 2015 13-inch 2.7Ghz/8GB/128GB (Amazon) (Adorama) (B&H Photo) – $1,234.99, $64 off
– 2015 13-inch 2.7GHz/8GB/256GB (Best Buy) (B&H Photo) (MacMall) – $1,424.99, $74 off
– 2015 13-inch 2.9GHz/8GB/512GB (Best Buy) (B&H Photo) – $1709.99, $90 off
– 2014 15-inch 2.2GHz/16GB/256GB (Adorama) (B&H Photo) (MacMall) – $1,799, $200 off
– 2014 15-inch 2.5GHz/16GB/512GB (Adorama) (MacMall) – $2,249, $250 off
– 2014 13-inch 2.6GHz/8GB/128GB (B&H Photo) – $1,079, $220 off
– 2014 13-inch 2.6GHz/8GB/256GB (Adorama) (B&H Photo) – $1,249, $239 off
– 2014 13-inch 2.8GHz/8GB/512GB (B&H Photo) – $1,529 $270 off

macbook_pro_13_15_late_2013

Apps

There are quite a few apps that are on sale at discounted prices or available for free for a limited time. We’ll highlight a few here, but make sure to check out our sister site AppShopper for a complete list.

Goat Simulator is available for $1.99, down from $4.99. Peek Calendar is available for free, down from $2.99. 2-bit Cowboy is available for free, down from $0.99. Infinity Blade III is available for $2.99, down from $6.99. Final Fantasy VI is available for $7.99, down from $15.99.

Pixelmator for iPad is available for $4.99, down from $9.99. Monument Valley is available for $0.99, down from $3.99. Over is available for free, down from $1.99.

Toca Nature was named Apple’s App of the Week, so it will be free to download until next Thursday when a new app is picked.

Apple Accessories

In celebration of Mother’s Day, Vaja is offering 10 percent off all of its premium leather device cases. Just enter promo code MAMA when checking out. TwelveSouth is offering 12 percent off site wide with the promo code LOVEMOM though May 10. Speck is offering 30 percent off select floral cases for Mother’s Day.

Case-Mate is offering 35 percent off site wide with the promo code MOM2015 through midnight on 5/10. Groupon is hosting a sweepstakes for two Apple Watches this week, with entries being accepted until 11:59 PM PT on 5/10.

grouponsweepstakes
StackSocial is offering 10% off the new Griffin WatchStand Apple Watch Charging Dock. Best Buy has the Fitbit Flex activity tracker available at a $20 discount. LivingSocial has two Apple Lightning cables available for $12.99, regularly $38, and Woot has Apple EarPods for $12.99.

griffinwatchstand
Target is offering a free $10 Target gift card with the purchase of a $249 32GB iPod touch through 5/9. Target’s also offering a free $10 Target gift card with the purchase of a $100 iTunes e-gift card.

Groupon has the Kensington Transparent Back case for the iPad mini for $7.99, down from $19.99. Groupon also has Star Wars iPhone cases for the iPhone 4/4s/5/5s for $7.99, regularly $19.99 to $39.99.

starwarscase
Groupon is selling a single set of Apple EarPods for $12.99 or a set of two for $24.99, a decent discount off the regular price of $29. Groupon has the Apple Bluetooth keyboard for $63.99, down from $79. Groupon has the OtterBox Defender Case and Holster for the iPhone 6 available for $29.99, down from $59.95, and it’s offering the Apple iPad mini Smart Cover for $19.99, down from $39.

applearpods
StackSocial is offering the Satechi Aluminum 4-port USB Clamp Hub for $19.99, down from $29.99. Beats by Dre Solo HD Drenched headphones are available from Target for $99.99, down from $169.99. Best Buy is offering up to 20 percent off its selection of Beats headphones.

satechiclamphub
Groupon’s still running a big Apple event and selling a range of Apple products and accessories at discounted prices, including the LifeProof Fre case for the iPad Air, Apple EarPods, Speck MacBook cases, MagSafe chargers, Mophie battery cases, and more.

MacRumors is an affiliate partner with some of these vendors.




8
May

The Quest for Quality: Five of the Most Useful Apple Watch Apps


While Apple CEO Tim Cook recently confirmed that there are over 3,500 apps available for the Apple Watch, many reviewers and early adopters have complained that many fail to provide useful functionality on the wrist. Despite strict approval guidelines, the App Store for Apple Watch is cluttered with basic or poorly designed apps for the wrist-worn device, likely due in significant part to the apps having been developed before the Apple Watch was available.

To help users discover some high quality watch-based experiences, MacRumors reached out to its forum community and skimmed through the App Store to handpick five Apple Watch apps that we’ve found particularly useful. Some of the useful Apple Watch apps worth mentioning include Workflow, Philips Hue, Things, Calcbot and Clear.

Workflow

Workflow is an automation tool that enables you to drag and drop any combination of actions to create custom workflows for completing various tasks. You can, for example, use the app to get directions to nearby coffee shops within a preset radius directly on your Apple Watch. Workflows are created using a paired iPhone and automatically appear on the Apple Watch for one-tap use.

Workflow 3
Workflow features over 200 actions, including those for Contacts, Calendar, Maps, Music, Photos, Camera, Reminders, Safari, AirDrop, Twitter, Facebook, Dropbox, Evernote and iCloud Documents. The app, created by DeskConnect co-founders Ari Weinstein, Ben Feldman and Conrad Kramer, is currently $2.99 on the App Store for iPhone and Apple Watch as part of a limited time 40% off sale.

Philips Hue

Philips Hue for Apple Watch displays up to 10 different lighting configurations for Hue lights that can be activated by pressing a circular button — there’s one button per screen, and you swipe between them. One minor inconvenience is that Hue has no Glance, so you have to actually open the app to turn on your lights, although it’s a simple issue that could easily be addressed in a future update.

Philips Hue Apple Watch
You choose your desired scenes in the Hue for iPhone app in settings, where available scenes to choose from are listed under Widget & Apple Watch. Scenes you pick will be available on the Apple Watch and in Notification Center on iPhone if you have the widget turned on. The scenes will be the same in both places — you can’t pick different ones for the iOS widget and for the Apple Watch.

If you don’t have a Hue Tap, quick selecting scenes on the Apple Watch is easily the fastest way to control your lights since the device is right on your wrist. With 10 scenes, there are a lot of options for controlling lighting all over the house. You can get more scenes by creating them on the iPhone or downloading them from the Meet Hue website.

Philips Hue for Apple Watch is free on the App Store.

Things

Things is one of several to-do apps available for the Apple Watch, displaying a list of day-to-day tasks and long-term goals on your wrist that can be assigned to categories, marked as completed or added to larger projects related to, for example, planning a vacation, preparing for a presentation or filing taxes.

Things-Apple-Watch
To-dos can be added directly from the Apple Watch using Siri dictation, and categorized under Inbox or Today with a single tap. Things for Apple Watch can also provide notifications to remind you about scheduled to-dos for a specified date so that you don’t forget, and all tasks automatically sync to a paired iPhone.

Things for Apple Watch is $9.99 on the App Store.

Calcbot

Calcbot by Tapbots makes up for the lack of a stock calculator app on the Apple Watch, enabling you to perform basic calculations and conversions, calculate tips and split bills right on your wrist. The regular calculator mode features a basic numeric keypad, and a firm press using Force Touch brings up a menu with add, subtract, multiply and divide options.

The conversion mode brings up a similar looking number pad with options to convert US dollars to euros, pounds to kilograms, miles to kilometers and Fahrenheit to Celsius using Force Touch. Calcbot Pro, $2.29, enables users to customize the four conversion options using the Calcbot app for iPhone, with over 500 units across 22 different categories to choose from.

Calcbot-Apple-Watch
Perhaps the most useful functionality of Calcbot for Apple Watch is the tip calculator, which allows you to enter the total cost of your bill, calculate a 10% to 30% tip and divide the amount between up to 10 people if necessary. Apple Pay and Calcbot combined make the Apple Watch a more convenient option than fumbling with your iPhone and wallet when the check comes.

Calcbot for Apple Watch is free on the App Store.

Clear

The Apple Watch’s small screen size is ideal for displaying bite-sized information, making Clear a perfect match for the wrist-worn device. Clear for Apple Watch brings tasks, reminders and to-do lists to your wrist, featuring a Glance that shows you how many items are on your list and displays upcoming reminders. Adding new tasks can be done using Siri dictation.

Clear-Apple-Watch
Tapping on the Glance brings you to the full Clear app, where you can view all of your lists on the Apple Watch. If you create your own list, such as a grocery list or task list, you can check off items directly on the watch. If you press firmly on a list using Force Touch, you can sort the list, add new tasks or mark all tasks completed.

Clear for Apple Watch is $4.99 on the App Store.

These are by no means the only useful Apple Watch apps available so far, and we encourage readers to share some of their other favorites in the discussion thread associated with this post. It is clear, however, that many developers have struggled to find the right balance and user experience for the new platform.

With the Apple Watch now available and users and developers able to figure out the best way for apps on the wrist to fit into their daily lives, there will no doubt be improvements to the user experience and we’ll continue to watch for interesting and novel apps making their way to the Apple Watch.




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