Apple introduced a trio of new keyboard and mouse accessories in the Magic Mouse 2, Magic Keyboard and Magic Trackpad 2 this week, and the first hands-on unboxing videos of the new products are now available.
YouTube reviewer Michael Kukielka has uploaded an unboxing and video review of the Magic Mouse 2, $79, providing a closer look at the mouse’s new bottom-facing Lightning port for charging, minor design changes, what’s included in the box, Bluetooth and Lightning to USB pairing processes and more.
Magic Mouse 2 has improved tracking and moves across surfaces with less resistance, as the mouse’s weight was reduced from 3.9 ounces to 3.5 ounces, and because it has an optimized foot design and fewer moving parts.
Kukielka concludes that the Magic Mouse 2 looks and functions similarly to the original Magic Mouse, with the inclusion of a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that gains 9 hours of usage from a 2-minute fast charge, and lasts approximately one month on a full two-hour charge.
YouTube reviewer Dave Cryer shared an unboxing and mini review of the Magic Keyboard, $99, and Magic Trackpad 2, $129, in addition to a quick comparison with the existing Apple Wireless Keyboard and original Magic Trackpad.
The video provides a closer look at the Magic Keyboard’s slimmer wedge-like design, rear-facing Lightning port for charging, power on-off switch and slightly larger keys with a reengineered scissor mechanism. Cryer found typing to be more precise, but said the slightly shorter key travel will take getting used to.
Cryer also went hands-on with the Magic Trackpad 2, showing off its matching wedge-like side profile, rear-facing Lightning port for charging and power on-off switch. The new Magic Trackpad 2 features Force Touch and has a larger edge-to-edge glass design with 29% more surface area, which is noticeable in the side-by-side comparison.
The video also shows what’s in the Magic Keyboard and Magic Trackpad 2 boxes, including a Lightning to USB cable, quick start guide and regulatory information.
By Cat DiStasio
The dream of flight has entranced humans for centuries, and modern innovators won’t quit until the flying cars of sci-fi movies are realized. Although today’s traffic jams still happen on the ground level, plenty of engineers have their eyes and minds on the sky. It’s fascinating, if not intoxicating, to dream of the day when we might one day be able to take to the skies in a vehicle of our own, but until then, we can revel in prototypes built by dreamers with the capital to turn their high-flying ideas into a reality. Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.Slideshow-329306
In 2013, Google added a full-fledged notification center to Chrome for Windows, Mac and Linux that combined rich notifications from web pages with Google Now info. However, it seems that almost no one ever used that notification center, so Google’s killing it in the next version of Chrome. In its Chromium blog, Google admitted that “few users” visited the notification area, so it would be removed to streamline the desktop experience.
Notifications will certainly still stick around Chrome — earlier this year, the browser started supporting a new web standard for push notifications from web sites. But it sounds like there won’t be an easy way to see what you might have missed while away from your computer, and it also looks like there won’t be any way to get Google Now info on your desktop, either. On ChromeOS, Google recently moved Google Now info out of the notification center and into a new app launcher that combines search, Google Now, and your frequently-used apps. Whether or not there will be a new way for Mac, Windows and Linux users to get to Google Now remains to be seen.
Swatch has revealed that it’s working on a mobile payments watch that it’ll launch in partnership with banks in China. Bloomberg reports that the timepiece will let users make purchases at point-of-sale machines in stores, thanks to an NFC chip that’s embedded beneath the dial. The device, named Swatch Bellamy, will launch in January 2016 in the country, priced at 580 yuan ($91), with releases in Europe and the US coming afterward. Unfortunately, we’re not sure too many people are going to be camping out days ahead of time to buy a bargain-basement fashion watch with an NFC chip inside. After all, you could buy a regular watch now and just grab an NFC sticker from any bank that offers them to its users.
At the announcement, Swatch CEO Nick Hayek (pictured) conceded that it was a break from tradition for the company that normally launches its watches in its home country of Switzerland. Unfortunately, he is quoted as saying that Swiss banks moved too slowly in opening up to mobile payments technology, so the firm moved on. It remains to be seen if Swatch’s gamble on long battery life at the expense of functionality is the right approach to take, but we’re not sure this counts as groundbreaking innovation.
[Image Credits: AFP/Getty (Nick Hayek), Sina Tech (Bellamy Watch)]
Sony’s marketing team may be reaching with its claims that the A7S II can turn night into day. But it isn’t far off. The company’s new full-frame mirrorless camera, announced last month, boasts an insane 409,600 ISO range — making it the perfect companion for shooting your darkest moments. Compared to the original model, which also came with those night-friendly features, the A7S II sports the same 12.2-megapixel, full-frame CMOS sensor and Bionz X processor as its predecessor. Now, here’s where things get interesting: Sony has added in-camera 5-axis image stabilization and internal 4K UHD recording at 24 and 30 fps. In addition to this, it also supports uncompressed 14-bit RAW files, up to 5 fps continuous shooting and photo-sharing via WiFi or NFC. The best part about it is that these high-end specs are all crammed inside a palm-sized body.Slideshow-329322
I had the chance to test it out for a couple of hours and put it this way: Parting ways with the unit was hard when it had to be returned to Sony. That said, I’m not surprised by the fine quality of the camera, inside and out, particularly because the first-generation A7S is already phenomenal in its own way. As you’d expect, the A7S II takes wonderful, sharp, vivid shots in low-light atmospheres, and finally being able to record 4K (3,840 x 2,160) footage directly into the camera is a huge benefit — especially for pro videographers. Browsing through the menus is a breeze, too; settings are easy to find and customize, while the S-Log3 Gamma and Display Assist Function modes will be appreciated by power users — who are ultimately the target audience for Sony’s new shooter.
We’ll have more on the $3,000 A7S II soon. For now, check out some sample images we took last night.Slideshow-329321
To view sample images shot with the Sony A7S II click here.
Netflix has released its quarterly earnings today (PDF), and so far, the folks on Wall Street aren’t responding positively. Of course, customers have already heard the big news — Epix movies and Sesame Street are gone, its first movie Beasts of No Nation premieres tomorrow night and the price for most of us will go up $1 next year. So what’s driving a stock drop (down about eight percent after the results came out)? It didn’t add as many new subscribers in the US as it had predicted (1.15 million predicted vs. 880,000 actual), and with plans to spend some $5 or $6 billion on content in 2016, it will need to grow to pay for all of that. According to CEO Reed Hastings the recent price hike is meant to “improve its ability to acquire and offer high quality content,” but Disney doesn’t come cheap.
Source: Netflix Q3 2015 earnings (PDF)
Satechi, founded and headquartered in San Diego(America’s Finest City and also my hometown), announced a new Wireless Gamepad to help turn your tablet or smartphone into a real gaming machine. Our mobile devices usually fill our desire to game while we are out and about, but are still far away from replacing our home gaming systems. Part of the problem with tablets and smartphones is touchscreen controls lack the accuracy of a real gamepad. Also your fingers get in the way of the display ruining your total gaming experience.
Leave it to Satechi to release a reasonably priced($39.99) Wireless Gamepad, now available at Amazon.com or Satechi.net, which will replace your touchscreen controls with a 14-button gamepad. The gamepad has two joysticks, a directional pad, A, X, B, Y, R1, R2, L1, L2 buttons as well as the standard Select and Start buttons commonly found on console system controllers. To keep you from fiddling with balancing your smartphone on a table or your lap, Satechi intelligently designed a spring-loaded holder to keep the action in your hands.
Maximizing value for your dollar, Satechi also made the controller compatible with not only Android but iOS and Windows as well. Competitors usually have separate controllers for different operating systems. That might not be a good thing though because I can imagine someone with an iPhone asking to borrow your controller and not giving it back.
- Android/Mouse Mode is compatible with a wide range of free apps from the Google Play Store including Angry Birds, Grand Theft Auto 3, MC4, Wild blood, Dungeon Hunter, Zombie, FC simulator, GBA emulator arcade emulator, SFC simulator, N64 emulator, Shadowgun, Sonic CD, Cordy, soulcraft, Zenonia4, 9 Innings 2013, Riptide GP, and more.
The post Satechi releases a new wireless gamepad to turn your smartphone into a gaming device appeared first on AndroidGuys.
Google announced 360-degree videos for YouTube a few months ago along with Cardboard support. What this means is you can now watch certain videos in a 360-degree setting or have a 3D experience with a VR headset, all from within the standard YouTube app.
The setup is quite easy and anyone can experience it right away. The most important thing to remember is this done through the YouTube app on your phone.
You have two options for step one. You can either open the YouTube app on your phone and search for this crazy long title, [360 VR] 서울호서예술전문학교(HAC) 실용무용학부 댄스(Dance) Teaser, or read this article on your phone and click the link supplied. Remember to open the link in the YouTube app if it ask you.
Launch the video you want to watch. In this case I suggest this Japanese dance group. It gives you a great 360-degree experience as there are multiple people around you to look at. The video is kind of short, so you may need to watch it twice if your eyes don’t adjust the first time around. Also, with all 360-degree videos, move your head slowly to look around. This makes the video easier to watch and minimizes any motion sickness people sometimes get.
The video above is the test video we are using. It must be watched on the YouTube website or mobile app for this to work. The video above will not be able to do anything special on our site. If you press play the video will look flattened and not at all 360 degrees. Click the YouTube button in the bottom corner to be directed to it on YouTube’s site. If you are on a computer, drag the screen around with the mouse. You should see everything moving around and be able to see all the people.
Also, remember to set the resolution to the max for the best possible viewing experience. On your mobile phone, click the three dots in the top right corner. Mine is at 1440s as I am using the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge. Obviously, the higher the resolution your phone is, the better the video will look.
If you don’t have a Google Cardboard or compatible virtual reality device, you are done here. Physically move your phone around and watch the view change. It’s pretty cool already, but the next step is where it gets awesome. You must have a Google Cardboard for this to work. I am using this one that is only $16.99 (currently), but Google also gives you many other options. They are all the same basically and offer very slight differences.
Get your Google Cardboard or equivalent device and hit the Cardboard icon at the bottom right.
You will notice the video spits in two.
At this point, put your phone inside the viewer and press play by flicking the switch on your Cardboard or just touch the screen before you put your phone in.
If you have never experienced 360-degree video before, I’m sure your mind exploded. And it’s much easier for users to find content just as it is for creators to share videos. A win-win all around? I think so.
The popular television show Mythubusters also tested out diving with sharks in their own virtual reality video. It’s a little unstable and harder to watch than other videos but still very cool to see actual sharks all around you.
I definitely suggest buying a Google Cardboard viewer to watch these videos as the experience is much better; plus, it’s usually under $20 and works with both Android or iOS devices. There are many other dedicated virtual reality apps out there as well. Whether you have one already or not, we would love to hear your thoughts on 360-degree videos in the comments below.
Come comment on this article: Using Google Cardboard to watch 360-degree videos on YouTube
With every passing year, Amazon finds ways to upgrade its Kindle e-readers and Fire tablets while also lowering the cost of entry. The company’s Fire HD 6, launched last October, broke the sub-$100 barrier, and yet it now looks relatively expensive in comparison with the new entry-level Fire. At $50, it’s pretty much the cheapest tablet money can buy, but don’t let that price fool you. Compromises have been made in the race to the bottom, of course, but the pessimistic idiom “you get what you pay for” doesn’t really apply here. The new Fire might only be the cost of a night out, but what you’re getting in return is a perfectly capable device that sets a benchmark for budget slates.Slideshow-328275
Some tablets are crafted using premium metal unibodies; some are designed with gamers’ sensibilities in mind; and some… well, they’re 50 bucks. Thus, you can forgive Amazon for paying only as much attention to aesthetics as was needed to create a Fire at this price point. That’s not to say it’s an eyesore, but it’s certainly on the generic end of the design spectrum: a single sheet of glass up front with a lightly textured plastic shell enveloping the rest of the device. What the Fire lacks in visual flair, though, it makes up for with a clever component layout.
The orientation of the Amazon logo stamped on the back of the device and the placement of the front-facing camera suggest the Fire is primarily intended for portrait use. That’s how you tend to hold it if you’re reading a book or browsing the internet, of course, but it’s no secret video is best viewed in landscape. And it’s clear Amazon’s paid special attention to that use case. The primary shooter and the small speaker grille on the Fire’s rear hug tight to one edge, for example, so your hands are unlikely to muffle audio output or obscure the camera lens.
Similarly, all ports and buttons (apart from the microSD cubbyhole) are crammed together along the Fire’s top edge. At first, I suspected this was for the sake of engineering efficiency, but all becomes clear when you load up a movie and flip the thing into landscape mode. The power key and volume rocker are now in close proximity to your left hand, while the micro-USB port sits high on the edge so that a charging cable won’t interfere with your grip. The position of the volume rocker I find particularly convenient, even though its unconventional placement baffled me at first. So, the Fire might be relatively ordinary to look at, but at least it’s been designed with usability in mind.
Now, the new Fire isn’t the thinnest or lightest 7-inch tablet that’s ever existed, but we’re still looking at perfectly manageable dimensions. It measures 191 x 115 x 10.6mm (7.5 x 4.5 x 0.4 inches), fitting comfortably in the palm of a largish hand. The plastic shell is rounded off in all the right places, too, so there are no sharp edges digging into your fingers and distracting you from that book you’ve been meaning to polish off. Taking into account the size of the display bezels, the Fire could perhaps be a little less wide and a little less tall; but the 7-inch screen certainly doesn’t look like it’s surrounded by an unnecessary amount of dead space.
Healthy bezels aren’t uncommon in the 7-inch category, and they’re a trait shared by many Amazon slates of old. All the internal components need room to breathe, after all, and I wouldn’t want the new Fire to be any thicker to accommodate smaller bezels. Anyway, they don’t impact usability and for $50, I can survive without an edge-to-edge display.
At 313g (11 ounces), the Fire is heavier than it looks like it ought to be, even weighing a hair more than Amazon’s new 8-inch Fire HD slate. It’s still more than light enough to slip in a bag and forget about, but a toddler that hasn’t been hitting the gym might be clumsier with it than they would a lighter device. If you are thinking about snapping up one of the cheap, entry-level slates for your tyke, then you might want to pair it with one of Amazon’s kid-proof cases for safety’s sake. There’s always the $100/£100 Fire “Kids Edition,” too, which includes one of the colorful bumpers, as well as a one-year subscription to educational content through FreeTime Unlimited (also known as Fire for Kids Unlimited in the UK) and a two-year, no-questions-asked guarantee.
Adults, even slightly heavy-handed ones, should get along with the Fire just fine. Sure, the plastic shell is susceptible to scuffing and the power key wobbles around in its socket a little, but the build quality of the device is otherwise of a pretty high standard. Its thickness undoubtedly contributes to the solid feel, and there’s hardly any give in the chassis when subjected to forceful attempts to twist and bend it. Let’s just say that it won’t disintegrate in a busy book bag, which for a $50 tablet, is tantamount to a compliment.
Display and audio
The new Fire is the only tablet in Amazon’s current range that doesn’t qualify for the “HD” epithet, but its 7-inch, 1,024 x 600 display isn’t too far off the 720p high-def standard. That said, with 171 pixels per inch to its name, the lack of acuity is definitely noticeable. Peer in close, and it’s easy to see the individual pixels at work, especially when you’re looking at the small, thin text used throughout the Fire’s UI. Book and album cover art in the on-device storefronts tends to look a little pixelated at this resolution, but as I’ve said a couple of times already (and will continue to), it’s hard to be judgmental of relatively minor shortcomings when you’re talking about a $50 device. An HD display isn’t absolutely necessary for reading, checking emails, browsing the web or playing the odd game.
With direct access to Prime Instant Video content in Fire OS, though, the tablet is supposed to be an all-encompassing multimedia buffet. That considered, the new Fire isn’t exactly going to win over videophiles when 720p content is a little noisy and heavily letterboxed. But, there are plenty of larger, high-res tablets available (at much higher price points) for those who require an excellent viewing experience; and you’re not going to be sobbing in a train carriage, cursing the resolution if you just want to catch a quick episode of Archer on the way to work.
The quality of the Fire’s IPS LCD panel is a bit of a mixed bag. Blacks are pretty good for an LCD display (which isn’t the technology’s strong point) and whites are spot-on as far as I can tell, but colors aren’t quite as saturated as they could be. They’re still at about an 8 or 9 on the intensity scale, however, so you’re not lacking a huge gamut of vibrancy. Viewing angles are surprisingly wide, but sunlight readability leaves something to be desired.
Direct sunlight is hard to find in the permanently overcast British autumn, but even on bright(ish) cloudy days, the panel doesn’t kick out quite enough power to eliminate glare entirely. Needless to say, the Fire’s screen doesn’t fare particularly well when uninhibited photons come into play. You’ll see enough to frame a photo and the stark contrast of black on white makes reading a book doable, but in most outdoor scenarios, you’re going to be staring mainly at your own reflection. While the max brightness of the display is partly to blame, I can’t help but think it’s not aided by whatever coating is on the glass covering it, or lack thereof. The Fire’s screen has a slightly “sticky” feel to it, picking up plenty of finger oil and grime, and clinging onto that muck for dear life.
The quality of the audio the lone, small loudspeaker spits out is, put bluntly, pretty terrible. It’s capable of kicking out noise at a high volume, but music has a horribly raspy quality to it that legitimately hurts the eardrums, and the louder it gets, the tinnier and more hiss-filled everything becomes. I’ve heard way better smartphone loudspeakers, which should be indictment enough. There’s little in the way of discernible bass tones, and it’s almost better that it’s facing away from you and not booming straight up into your ear canals. To be fair, the range in which it performs best is suitable for dialogue, so in a pinch, you could get through a whole film on the Fire without giving up entirely because of audio quality.
If at all possible, though, you’re going to want to track down a pair of headphones to level up your listening experience. Deep bass is still MIA and music lacks a little warmth, but audio is otherwise well-balanced and leagues more defined. Oh, and of course you also get the benefit of stereo sound.
While I highly doubt you’d ever think to use the new Fire to document your next sightseeing trip, the fact that Amazon even managed to stick two cameras in the device is commendable. You may remember that just a few years ago, Google’s first Nexus 7 tablet ignored a rear camera to meet a $200 price point. Understandably, the Fire’s shooters aren’t pushing the boundaries of portable imaging tech, but the VGA front-facer at least allows you to video chat with your nearest and dearest. Needless to say, it doesn’t take the most flattering selfies, and the 2-megapixel main camera doesn’t deserve a great deal of praise either.Slideshow-328276
The fact is, 2MP images are low-quality by design, so even in relatively favorable conditions pictures lack any kind of fine detail. These days, even budget smartphones have at least eight megapixels to work with, so I don’t remember the last time I even looked at a 2MP image — and I can’t say I’ve missed them. Aside from the low resolution of the images, the camera just isn’t very capable. It struggles to focus for landscape shots, spitting out a serviceable image only in the macro range. Pictures lack any real depth of color, too, which isn’t helped by erratic auto-exposure compensation that never seems to judge the appropriate level quite right. In comparison, the auto-white balance mechanism is pretty accurate, even in testing artificial lighting situations.
There are some benefits to having a low-spec primary camera. Shutter response and image processing are basically instant. HDR shots take only a split-second longer to generate, although I can’t say the setting improves contrast as much as it blows out pictures more than the auto-exposure mechanism tends to already. The camera interface on the Fire is extremely simple, which would be completely fine if I didn’t feel I could do a better job with a manual exposure-adjustment option. As well as being able to choose the picture aspect ratio (16:9 or 4:3), HDR, panorama and lenticular modes are all you’ve got. It’s almost impossible to get anything other than a Frankenstein-like picture using the panorama mode — just a bunch of images stitched haphazardly together. With the lenticular mode, you actually record a short video and view it by moving back and forth through the individual frames by tilting the tablet this way and that: a novelty at best.
Surprisingly, the quality of 720p video recorded with the main camera looks a damn sight better than stills. The focus holds steady; the auto-exposure compensation is only mildly fidgety; and audio comes through nice and clear, too. As is true with every camera, bright natural lighting is your friend, and the Fire’s primary shooter has no low-light performance whatsoever. There’s also no companion flash to help you out, so trying to take pictures in dark environments is simply not worth the effort.
The quality of the Fire’s cameras is another exercise in compromise, but at least they weren’t sacrificed entirely to meet the $50 price point. Chances are you aren’t going to want to use them very often — whatever smartphone you have in your pocket will almost certainly be preferable — but if you ever need them, they’re there.
All the new Fire tablets run Amazon’s heavily customized version of Android Lollipop: Fire OS 5 “Bellini.” It’s a far, far cry from stock Android, but certain UI elements like the notification/quick settings drawer and task manager screen will be familiar to anyone who’s poked around Google’s OS before. Perhaps the most significant difference between the two is that Fire OS does away with the home screen carousel, where app shortcuts and widgets would live if you were looking at an unskinned version of Lollipop. Instead, you’re thrown straight into a grid view of your installed apps once you get past the lock screen. Slideshow-328277
Oh, and by the way, the lock screen is essentially advertising space, depending on how much you want the new Fire to cost you. For $15 or £10 more than the $50/£50 base asking price — so, $65 or £60 in total — your Fire won’t show “sponsored” lock screens that plug products (like tablet accessories), apps and other content. You can choose to opt out of these special offers after the fact, too, if you find them more irritating than you’d originally anticipated, but I really wouldn’t bother. Paying extra to have a custom lock screen doesn’t seem worth it when the rest of Fire OS is basically advertising anyway.
The whole reason Amazon is able to sell the Fire at such a low price is because it’s making little to no profit on the device itself. The idea is you’ll use the Fire to shop on Amazon, as well as get your content via Amazon’s various services, and the company will pad its bottom line that way. And Fire OS is designed with that strategy in mind. To the right of the home screen app list, Fire OS has eight additional panels that showcase many of Amazon’s products and services: e-books, video content, games, online shopping, apps, music, audiobooks and magazines/newspapers.
The reality is you can completely ignore all of this and use the tablet however you choose, but the downside to the Amazon-first UI is that you’re often a few more taps away from on-device content than you’d like to be. This is particularly true for video, which is probably why Amazon added a “My Videos” shortcut to the app list for getting straight to your on-device catalog. But, as much as you’re hard-sold in that direction, an Amazon Prime subscription might be worth a look if you’re not invested in a multitude of streaming services already. For $99 or £79 per year, a Prime subscription affords you unfettered access to Amazon’s TV, movie and music streaming platforms, as well as the Kindle free e-book lending library, among other perks.
The only service you might want that a Prime subscription doesn’t cover is FreeTime Unlimited. From $3 or £2 per month (for Prime members), the subscription grants free access to kid-suitable books, apps, games, movies and TV shows, all packaged in a colorful, simpler UI. Bear in mind, though, that you don’t need to pay anything to take advantage of all the robust parental controls built into Fire OS.
As far as the core experiences go, Amazon’s Fire OS doesn’t include any of Google’s services, but the equivalent Silk browser, calendar, email and file manager apps are completely adequate substitutes. Amazon’s own Appstore isn’t quite as well-stocked as Google’s, but nowadays, you’d be unlucky not to find whatever it is you’re looking for (or at least an app that does the same job). In some respects, I actually prefer Amazon’s Appstore, purely because there are so many free apps you have to pay for elsewhere constantly in circulation. And if you really, really need an app it doesn’t stock, you can download the Android APK file and install it yourself, minimal technical know-how required (i.e., nothing a quick Google search won’t teach you).
Performance and battery life
At its heart, the new Fire is powered by a quad-core 1.3GHz MediaTek processor (MT8127), paired with 1GB of RAM, which is more or less what you’d expect from an entry-level tablet. You’ve also got 8GB of internal storage, but only 5GB of that is available to the user, so it’s a good thing the Fire’s microSD slot supports cards as large as 128GB (Amazon’s also releasing a software update soon that’ll allow downloaded Prime Music tracks to be stored on the microSD card). As you’d expect with this kind of internal horsepower, the Fire doesn’t offer the same level of performance as top-tier slates do, but you’re not completely sacrificing usability for a bargain-basement price. Navigating around Fire OS is a pretty smooth, slick experience; it’s only loading times and responsiveness that stand out as a little slower than you’d see if a beefier processor were tasked with the same job. The auto-screen rotation mechanism takes a few seconds to correct, for example, but the Fire isn’t annoyingly sluggish by any stretch of the imagination.
Apps might not load instantly, and the on-screen keyboard takes a heartbeat to appear when you call upon it, but you’re never left waiting long. What I like most about the overall user experience is that it’s extremely consistent: It’s not so much slow as it is measured. The Fire rarely stutters or hangs; it doesn’t feel… clunky. The Silk browser, for instance, takes a second or two to load, and websites need a few more before all the various elements find their rightful places, but from then on, it’s smooth sailing — no jerky scrolling, major tiling issues or zoom lag.
You’d think the Fire would be best suited for more casual tasks, like browsing, email, social networking and the rest, but I’m impressed with how it handles more intensive exercises. There was always a chance processor-testing apps would expose the Fire as a low-end device that crumbles under higher workloads. However, 3D titles like Real Racing 3, Goat Simulator and Ravensword: Shadowlands mostly run smoothly on the new Fire, dropping only a couple frames here and there.
In terms of connectivity, the Fire only has the basics: Bluetooth 4.0 and single-band WiFi (802.11b/g/n). There’s not a great deal more you absolutely need, though, and the WiFi chip manages to keep a strong, unwavering two-bar connection in places where my first-gen iPad Mini can’t even see my home router. According to Amazon, the Fire’s 2,980mAh battery is good for up to seven hours of mixed usage, which in my experience, is an understatement. In our standard 720p, looping-video battery-rundown test (at 50 percent screen brightness), the Fire lasted nine hours and 20 minutes before dying, with all battery-saving modes disabled. That doesn’t quite match the iPad Mini 4’s 13-hour stint, but it’s almost two hours longer than Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S2 was able to stick it out for.
In everyday use, I’d say the battery life is more or less consistent with our rundown test results. The Fire burns almost no juice when standing by, so you can use it lightly over several days before you even have to think about recharging it. Falling asleep while watching a Twitch channel happens to me more often than I care to admit, and the Fire’s the kind of tablet you wake up to six hours later to find still connected and streaming.
Unless you want to roll the dice with a no-name 7-inch tablet, of which there are many available through sites like eBay and Amazon, it’s practically impossible to find a $50 slate. Even budget-friendly slabs from manufacturers like Archos and Alcatel are significantly more expensive despite being lower or similarly specced. You could always seek out a second-hand or refurbished device, but even then you’re still looking at paying upward of $50 for an old, used tablet.
The fact is, Amazon’s pushing the boundaries of affordability with most of its Fire range. If it’s a cheap Android tablet you’re after and you don’t mind the look of Fire OS, Amazon’s a good place to start. The new Fire HD 8 and HD 10 tablets start at $150/£130 and $230/£170, respectively, so I wouldn’t really consider those competition given the price leap. Even the Fire HD 6, launched last year, is markedly more expensive at $100/£80, with the main trade-off being a smaller screen size for a higher pixel count.
There isn’t a great deal more to say other than that the $50 Fire kind of stands in a league of its own — there isn’t another tablet that offers a similar user experience and spec sheet at the same rock-bottom price.
Amazon’s new Fire isn’t aimed at graphic design graduates, and it isn’t made for videophiles needing 1080p as standard — it’s for everyone else. The overwhelming majority of people use tablets for exactly the same basic tasks: prodding out the odd email, browsing, playing puzzle games and watching Netflix in bed. The Fire is perfectly capable of doing all these things without a grumble, and it only costs as much as you’d spend on a couple of rounds of drinks at your local bar. If you want a cheap Android tablet for all your standard use cases, why would you bother to look elsewhere? Heck, buy five of the things to distribute amongst your whole family, and you’ll get a sixth free that you can leave in the living room for general use (but, seriously, you can buy a six-pack for $250/£250).
The Fire is no design icon, and it doesn’t have a high-definition display; loudspeaker audio is of poor quality; Fire OS is a giant advertisement; and the cameras aren’t very useful. Yet with all these shortcomings, the tablet offers respectable performance and good battery life, all for the paltry sum of $50. With that price tag, it’s impossible to be disappointed by what you get, because the Fire is a master class in value for money.
Google has just launched Chrome 46, and there’s a significant change in how it notifies you about web security. If you’re on an HTTPS site that’s 100 percent secure, you’ll still see a green lock icon, and broken sites show a red “X” symbol, as before. However, when you hit a protected site with minor issues, you’ll see absolutely no symbol, as if you were on a regular, unencrypted HTTP site (below). That’s a big change from Chrome 45, when Google showed a lock symbol with a yellow triangle on such “mixed” sites.
Google said it made the change to give Chrome users “fewer security states to learn. We’ve come to understand that our yellow ‘caution triangle’ badge can be confusing compared to the HTTP page icon.” In other words, users might feel that a protected HTTPS site with minor errors is less secure than an HTTP site with no security, which is obviously not the case.
More importantly, Google said that “this change is a better visual indication of the security state of the page relative to HTTP.” The search giant’s theory is that the lack of any warning won’t discourage folks from browsing sites that are in the middle of migrating to HTTPS encryption. That in turn will encourage sites, it hopes, to make the switch, knowing they won’t turn users off during the transition.
In a separate post, Google said that number of HTTPS sites significantly increased, with 63 percent now secure compared to 58 percent last year. It plans to eventually reduce the number of states to two, either “secure,” or “not secure.” It likely won’t do that until the internet reaches a certain threshold of HTTPS sites, however. In other words, if you’re the webmaster of an insecure HTTP site, you may want to get ahead of that before you get a big, red “X.”