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23
Feb

See if your PC is ready for virtual reality with the SteamVR Performance Test


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Virtual reality is being pushed by multiple companies with numerous headsets in the works, but just how ready are you to push through into more advanced technology? Valve has published a new tool on Steam that will run some checks and let you know just what to expect from your rig. Prepare to either have your ego well and truly boosted or smashed through the floor with your graphics card being shunned.

The app itself is fairly simple. Valve will detect your current hardware, run through a Portal 2-themed test that will push your components to their limits and see just how ready your PC is. Should you have a bottleneck somewhere, the app itself will alert you as to whether that AMD FX-4100 is in dire need of upgrading should you wish to strap a headset to your skull and immerse yourself in the world of gaming.

Ready to get started? Hit the link below to download the SteamVR Performance Test. Do note that you’ll need to have Steam installed.

  • Download SteamVR Performance Teast

Via: Eurogamer

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23
Feb

Ebook reader powered by the sun will let you read forever without plugging in


Hoping to let you read in the sun for days, ebook reader maker Bookeen has created a new case for its Cybook Ocean ebook reader that lets you keep the battery topped up via the sun.

According to the company, the new cover can provide up to a days reading from just 1 hour in the sun meaning you’ll probably never have to charge it again.

The new cover features “invisible” solar cells on the back. The solar cells are actually printed optical network combined with solar modules enabling to recharge the e-book thanks to photovoltaic effect (production of electricity thanks to a light source).

A reader that would expose outside their cover during an hour in good light conditions (25 000 lux and more) would give an adding day in battery autonomy for their ebook claims the company.

The new case will be available initially for the Cybook Ocean e-book this summer, in time for the summer holidays, before being extended to other devices from the company.

“This new cover for the Cybook Ocean has an invisible charging mechanism making your product almost autonomous. The product recharges itself without you noticing it. We benefit from the very weak energy consumption of our e-books and of the SunPartner technology, for this world premiere” explains Michael Dahan, co-founder and CEO of Bookeen.

23
Feb

Microsoft Lumia 650: Windows 10, quality build on a budget


Windows 10 is well and truly upon us and in case you didn’t know Microsoft has made a big deal out of its Lumia phones. Plenty have arrived from the top end Lumia 950 to the Lumia 550. The latest edition is the affordable Lumia 650.

Windows 10 is here to unify Microsoft’s software platform by using cloud services and smart integration. The result is a steady experience from PC to tablet to smartphone. This even applies, in part, to lower end devices.

The Lumia 650 is for those on a budget, at £150, that still want the Windows 10 experience but also a decent build quality. It’s primarily aimed at businesses but, at that price, could have appeal for everyone.

Microsoft showed off the new Lumia 650 at MWC where we went hands-on.

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Microsoft Lumia 650: Build and design

Despite the Lumia 950 being a flagship device we were struck by how plastic its polycarbonate shell felt in the hand. The far cheaper Lumia 650 actually impressed us on first handling the smartphone. It’s still a polycarbonate shell, like the 950, but the metallic frame and heft of the device gave it a premium feel, despite the price.

The camera on the rear is slightly protruding while the front glass has nicely curved edges that slide into the frame. The side buttons are metal and have a premium feel to the click.

There is a reassuring weight to the handset, while still remaining light enough to sit in your pocket unnoticed. It’s also very slim with excellent grip in the hand. This feels like a handset that will last.

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Microsoft Lumia 650: Display

The Lumia 650 features a screen that sounds pretty old fashioned in writing. It’s a 5-inch 720 x 1280 resolution display with 293ppi. Despite, on paper, sounding poor, it actually looks fine.

Lumia’s have traditionally had decent ClearBlack screens and the punchy colours offset with deep blacks and minimal reflection helps the lower resolution of this one. Don’t expect to spend hours on here reading tiny type fonts but for most uses it will do the job just fine.

Microsoft Lumia 650: Specs and performance

The Lumia 650 isn’t packing top end power with a more affordable quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 212 processor backed by 1GB of RAM. The result is a bit of a wait at times.

In our experience loading up websites took considerably longer than it would on a higher end smartphone, even over Wi-Fi. That said the camera and gallery loaded quickly, so there is a chance this is an internet issue. Talking of, this phone doesn’t have 4G LTE. You’re limited to 3G speeds when out and about, which might be why it’s only built to handle slower page loading, even when Wi-Fi opens up the connection speed.

Another limitation of the lower end specs is the inability to use Continuum. While apps will work across devices via the cloud, Windows 10’s ability to output to a screen as a full PC won’t feature on the Lumia 650. The power just isn’t decent enough to support this feature. Seeing as this is a major Windows 10 pull, that’s a real shame.

The build does support Cortana though, which responds as quickly as on other phones, so that’s a win.

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Microsoft Lumia 650: Camera

The rear camera on the Lumia 650 is an 8-megapixel, f/2.2, autofocus snapper with LED flash. In our limited time with it the response was rapid with quick opening and fast autofocus. Shooting in quick succession was also taken in the camera’s stride. Perhaps some shots could have been brighter though, which is a worrying for night shots when you consider this was quite well lit.

The selfie camera is a 5-megapixel unit but, like the rear camera, tops out at 720p for video. While this sort of makes sense for the screen resolution limitations it’s a shame for anything being shot for export to a larger screen.

First Impressions

The build quality of the Lumia 650 is decent enough for the money and the screen, despite being 720p, does its job well. There’s a heft to the handset that makes it feel strong, like it will last.

Limitations to processing power, camera resolution and connectivity really pull the phone down. Yes the price is low at £150, but without Windows 10 Continuum, 4G or 1080p video recording it’ll be a no go for some.

If you want Windows 10 on a budget this is a good option, but for the full Windows 10 experience it might be worth spending a bit more for a higher end Lumia model.

23
Feb

Sony Xperia XA: Edge-to-edge beauty


Sony used Mobile World Congress to announce a new series of smartphones that will sit below the flagship Z line and above the mid-range M line.

The Xperia X series features three handsets – the Xperia X, the Xperia XA and the Xperia X Performance. The latter will be an Asia only device and was not available to see but we did have a play with the Xperia X and the Xperia XA.

It is worth keeping in mind that the devices on the Sony stand were not final hardware or software but here are our first impressions of the Xperia XA. If you want to read about the Xperia X, you can see what we thought in our separate hands on.

Sony Xperia XA design

The Sony Xperia XA features a very similar design to previous Xperia devices but like the Xperia X, it opts for different materials compared to others. The same OmniBalance design is on board, but Sony has wrapped the aluminium edges round to the rear on the XA, like it did on the X.

The front of the Xperia XA is covered in glass, again like the Xperia X, adding to the premium appeal. The combination of more metal and glass gives the new smartphone a more premium feel that is lovely and comfortable to hold and the four metallic finishes look great.

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While the Xperia X adopts design cues from the flagship Xperia Z5 with its oblong side power button and built-in fingerprint sensor, the Xperia XA follows some cues from the previous Xperia Z devices. The circular side button makes its return, a feature that now feels a little dated, but the same dedicated camera buttons and volume controls sit happily on the curved edges like the X and Z5.

Aside from the power button, which presumably is back to circular due to the absence of the fingerprint sensor on the XA, the two X series devices look almost identical. This means the XA still pulls in the refinements from the various generations of the Xperia devices, which is nice. 

The speakers and microphone also move to the very edge of the top and bottom of the Xperia XA, compared to being placed on the bezel above and beneath the display like they are on the X. The main distinguishing feature of the XA is the edge-to-edge display though.

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Sony Xperia XA display

The Sony Xperia XA comes with a 5-inch edge-to-edge display which looks fab. We have criticised Sony in the past for offering too much bezel around its smartphone displays so to see so much more screen and so much less phone is an absolute pleasure.

The resolution is lower than the Xperia X at 1280 x 720 pixels for a pixel density of 294ppi. It has something called Super Vivid mode on board but there doesn’t appear to be any mention of Triluminos or X-Reality, both technologies of which are found on the X and the Z5.

Despite the slightly lower resolution however, the display seemed to do well enough. We won’t pass judgement until we review the device in full but apart from not being as bright as we might have hoped for, it seemed capable and the design is great.

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Sony Xperia XA camera

The Sony Xperia XA comes with a 13-megapixel main camera, coupled with an 8-megapixel front camera, meaning a slightly lower spec than the Xperia X.

There are a couple of similar features that transfer across though including Hybrid Autofocus with Object Tracking, meaning you shouldn’t miss any good moment, theoretically.

The main camera also offers HDR and 5x Clear Image Zoom while the front camera incorporates a wide-angle lens like the Xperia X does, as well as autofocus.

We weren’t able to test the camera performance out during our short amount of time with the Xperia XA but we will be sure to do so when it comes in for full review.

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Sony Xperia XA hardware

The Sony Xperia XA features the octa-core MediaTek MT6755 processor, supported by 2GB of RAM and 16GB of internal memory with microSD support.

As with the camera and display, performance isn’t something that can be tested before reviewing it in full but from the small amount of time we spent with the XA, it seemed to operate nice and smoothly.

Sony has placed a focus on battery life with the Xperia XA, like it has also done with the X and its other Xperia devices. There is a 2300mAh capacity under the hood of the Xperia XA, which Sony claims will last two days thanks to the management software.

Again, we weren’t able to test the battery life of course but we will put it through its paces when we get it in for full review. In terms of audio, the Xperia XA has something called Clear Audio+ but it doesn’t offer Hi-Res or digital noise cancelling like the Xperia X and Xperia Z5.

Sony Xperia XA software

The Sony Xperia XA will launch with Andorid Marshmallow when it arrives in the summer with Sony’s own software overlay on top.

As the Xperia XA on the stand was not final software, we aren’t able to go into detail on what it will offer. The Xperia X features PS4 Remote Play but it looks like the Xperia XA might not offer this feature.

First Impressions

The Sony Xperia XA might not be as highly specced as the Xperia X, but that’s not to say it doesn’t have its talking points.

We really like the design of the X series. The combination of metal and glass works well and makes the range seem more flagship than mid-range.

Overall, apart from the design refinements, the most exciting thing about the Xperia XA is its edge-to-edge display. It might not be the highest of resolutions but the feature itself is something we would love to see appear on the Xperia Z6.

23
Feb

Internet of Cows is now a thing as UK start-up creates cow tracking app


You’ve probably heard of the phrase Internet of Things. It refers to the idea that everything can be connected to the internet to share data.

It’s a huge buzz word in the gadget industry at the moment. Over the last couple of years we’ve seen everything from phones to tablets to light bulbs to basketballs to even an umbrella that could connect to the internet to tell you it was about to rain, but now, even cows are getting connected.

Yes, you read that right, the Internet of Cows is now a thing. As seen in Twitter user @danielthomasldn’s posting on Twitter.

Created by a startup called Smartbell and posted on the @startup_people Twitter feed, the idea is by using sensors attached to cows, farmers will not only be able to see the location of the cow in the field by looking at an app on their smartphone or tablet, but also check their welfare for things like lameless.

@startup_people

@startup_people

The sensor, which is worn around their leg, tracks a range of data points like temperature, pulse, respiration, and movement, sending that data to a dedicated app allowing the farmer to track their herd at any given time.

The company behind the new device says the tracker has the potential to save farmers millions of pounds a year.

Cattle lameness is one of the most significant welfare and productivity issues in dairy farming today. Studies over the last 25 years have indicated that few significant improvements have been made in dairy cow lameness incidence in that time, yet there is increasing awareness of lameness (or mobility) problems in the industry, with training and accreditation for cattle foot trimming; and greatly increased understanding of how lameness can impact on cow welfare, and thus productivity and longevity.

23
Feb

Haier Watch: Full Android 6.0 Marshmallow on your wrist


Haier has shown off its new flagship smartwatch that comes packing full Android OS, dubbed simply, Watch.

The Haier Watch, shown off at MWC 2016, is due for release in April priced at €200. Its aim is to offer a high quality build and full Android OS in order to free the user, while keeping stylish. According to the representative on the Haier stand it will come packing Android 6.0 Marshmallow OS when it arrives in April.

The Haier Watch joins the company’s other watches designed for children and the elderly.

The Watch features multiple watch faces to choose from – limited to just handful in this early display model at MWC. The Watch also uses Bluetooth 4.0, but not Wi-Fi or NFC, and has 8GB storage for use as an MP3 player, without connected phone.

Built with a 316L stainless steel 42mm casing, the Watch is of a high quality and features a round 1.4-inch display with excellent 400 x 400 resolution. Note the lack of black bar along the bottom too. It will come in gold, silver and black with varying watch strap options to suit the look.

As mentioned the Watch has an MP3 player but also features an integrated speaker so it can be used to play music even without Bluetooth headphones connected. It also features a microphone meaning calls can be made and taken via the watch without needing to remove the connected phone from your pocket or bag.

Heart rate tracking is built into the Watch as well as activity tracking with automatic recognition of exercise types and registering of calories burned.

The Haier Watch is IP56 water resistant and features a “find my phone” option.

Expect to see final UK pricing and specific release date nearer to its expected arrival in April when it should be around the €200 mark.

READ: Android at MWC: There are 87 pin badges, and here’s what they look like

23
Feb

Best smartphones of MWC 2016: Samsung, LG, Sony, HTC and more


Mobile World Congress in Barcelona might not be of interest to Apple fans, considering the Cupertino company never exhibits there, but the latest and greatest smartphones from just about every other major manufacturer can be found on the show floor. And Pocket-lint is on hand to check each and every one of them out.

So far, Samsung has launched two flagship devices, while LG has made a massive and bold statement with possibly its highest-end phone yet. Then there are Sony, HTC, HP and Microsoft, all with big name smartphones that will be released in the coming weeks and months.

Whatever your taste there’s something for you. So if you’re looking to upgrade your handset this year, you can’t go far wrong than any we’ve seen over the last few days.

Just flick through the gallery above to check out our “best smartphones of MWC 2016”, with details underneath each of the pics. There might even be a surprise or two waiting for you there.

READ: Best smartphones to look forward to in 2016

We’ll also update this feature as we can to go hands on with other devices, so check back soon.

You might also want to give our in-depth guide on the goings on and product launches from Mobile World Congress in our round-up feature here.

Enjoy.

23
Feb

Cat S60 preview: Heat vision, Android 6.0 and can take an underwater beating


The Cat S60 is a huge leap forward for the company. It’s no longer just about being the most tough phone on the planet, it’s now about being cutting edge too. As such Cat has crammed in a Flir thermal imaging camera, full Android 6.0 Marshmallow OS and more into its S60.

Older Cat phones often meant compromising on features for toughness. The idea behind the S60 is to offer everything other phones manage and even more.

That in mind Cat has crammed in myriad extras like dual-SIM functionality and 4G LTE connectivity.

We got to grips with the handset to see just how far Cat has come.

Cat S60: Flir thermal imaging

The thing to really shout about is the Flir thermal imaging camera. This isn’t just for a bit of fun so you can pretend to see like Predator. This is aimed at professionals. Plumbers will be able to find a leak under the ground using the heat vision, electricians can find a faulty fuse at a glance and you can check heat loss on a potential new house you might move to. It’ll even work up to 100 feet away.

The camera offers a great function where you can tap an area and be told the temperature. Or select a box and resize to fit where you want and it will read out the point of highest and lowest temperatures. Ideal if looking for a leak, say.

The Flir thermal camera works for photos, panoramas and videos.

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Cat S60: Waterproofing and tough build

Anything with the Cat name on it is going to be tough. Despite looking more like a day to day phone the S60 still sticks to its hardy Cat heritage.

Firstly you can drop the handset from up to 1.8 metres and it’ll bounce back just fine. That’s largely thanks to a strengthened Die Cast Frame that makes it MIL Spec 810G, for those that speak the language of tough. Should that drop be into water there’s still no need to worry as it’s waterproof up to five metres for an hour. It’s good for two metres in normal mode but has physical switches on the speaker and mic to shut them off when going down to five metres. This all also means it’s dustproof too.

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Cat S60: Display, camera and specs

The camera on the S60 is built to be tough but functional. If you’ve got a handset that can survive diving down to depths of five metres you’re going to want to take advantage of that. So the 13-megapixel rear camera is fully functional underwater – it even has a dual-flash. If you want selfies the 5-megepixel front-facing camera should capture your best underwater face just fine.

Looking at the pics, or anything else, is easy thanks to a nice bright 4.7-inch HD display that kicks out 540 nits. Of course this is tough too with Gorilla Glass 4 coating it for protection. Plus it’ll remain touch sensitive even to gloved and wet fingers.

Powering everything is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 octa-core with 3GB of RAM and 32GB storage. It zipped along in our experience with no noticeable lag. Thanks to the 3800mAh battery it should last for plenty of time too. That’s presuming you’re not blaring out music on the 105dB speaker constantly, of course.

Thanks to a dual-SIM slot you can use this as a work and personal phone, a feature aimed at those working on site. Cat has also crammed in a microSD slot for memory expansion. We like that both are easily accessible through the simple flip of a back panel.

First Impressions

Cat has made huge progress of late and the S60 is the epitome of that. Not only does the company offer a phone that can be carried worry-free and case-free in most scenarios, but it does more than a lot of flimsier phones.

We loved the carbon rear finish and metallic buttons, even the yellow of the waterproof buttons was cool. As for that Flir camera, well its size and integration were both impressive, leaving a genuinely attractive finish to this handset.

The price, at €650 or $600, isn’t cheap. But when you consider you’re getting everything a normal phone offers plus a heap more, it’s really a decent deal. The Cat S60 will be available “later this year”.

23
Feb

You can go on a VR journey with Sir David Attenborough and a giant dinosaur here


The BBC has made a special 360-degree short film featuring Sir David Attenborough and a titanosaur which you can watch through a VR headset, such as a Samsung Gear VR, Google Cardboard or equivalent.

And it gives you the opportunity to understand the scale of the recently discovered giant beast as you travel alongside it while Sir David explains all.

You can find the video available for free on YouTube and embedded below, where it is presented by the BBC in 360-degree mode. Indeed, you don’t even need a VR headset to be able to watch and scroll around the landscape, although immersion in a device is highly recommended to get the best experience.

The BBC opted to make a 360-video when it was filming the heavily CGI-laden TV show, Attenborough and the Giant Dinosaur.

It was filmed against green screen, as you can see in the making of shots in the gallery above, and a BBC researcher stood in for the enormous dinosaur for the purposes of Attenborough’s eye-line.

Sir David is the first presenter to make TV shows and documentaries in every form of broadcast medium, from black and white and low scan lines, via 3D to Ultra HD and now virtual reality.

You can watch the Attenborough and the Giant Dinosaur documentary on BBC iPlayer here. And there are further details, including a video of Sir David watching himself using a Gear VR headset on a dedicated BBC blog here.

23
Feb

Omate Rise preview: Full Android 3G smartwatch with carbon fibre for $280


Omate, more well known for children’s watches, is making its entrance into the big boys game with an impressive offering. The Omate Rise plans to straddle the boundaries between connectivity, form and price.

Omate says the Rise, when it arrives in June, will offer full Android 5.1 OS plus a decent build with a special carbon fibre option.

The Rise has been Indiegogo funded which showed its popularity. It was funded in its first two days to hit $230,000, making it a record breaker.

The units on display at MWC 2016 were in the developmental stages still but we got a taste of what we can expect.

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Omate Rise: Design and build

It’s fair to say the unit we saw was not the final model, but a more plastic representation of what is to come. As such the screen was covered in a plastic that made it tough to use. That said there was another non-working version that looked better.

The final model will feature a tapered 22mm strap, sapphire coated screen and polycarbonate body. There will be a version with a real carbon fibre bezel finish, but this is limited edition initially at least.

On the rear is a simple coin twist access port that allows for the insertion and removal of a micro SIM. This works really well considering the watch is also water resistant.

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Omate Rise: Connectivity, OS and specs

The Rise, rather originally, will come with full Android as the operating system. This frees it up to offer a lot more than Android Wear or Apple Watch devices can. For example it’s 3G micro SIM compatible allowing for calls, via its mic and speaker, to be made and received without a phone. But it does also pack in Bluetooth 4.1 should you want to connect accessories.

The phone-free use goes further thanks to GPS, making it a working sports watch. Couple that with a Bluetooth heart rate monitor and you’re getting a lot for your money. Did we mention it has 4GB storage for playing music too? Yup, Bluetooth headphones also work with the watch.

Running all this is a dual-core 1.2GHz processor backed by 512MB of RAM and a 580mAh battery. Omate reckons this will be good for two days of use or five days on stand by.

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Omate Rise: Display

The screen on the Omate Rise is circular giving it an heir of the classic while still remaining solidly digital. Of course there are plenty of analogue faces as well as digital to choose from.

The display is encased in a sapphire coating which should make it totally scratch proof. Underneath that is a 1.3-inch round LCD with 360 x 360 resolution. It’s not the brightest we’ve seen but the colours are punchy. And if that brightness is a trade-off for battery life we’ll take it.

The at-a-glance clarity is great and touch controls combine with a side button for ease of access.

First Impressions

Omate has pushed the boundaries of what it does and of what a smartwatch can be. The result has been a massive show of support from the crowd-funding community.

Here’s hoping the rush to make good on a very challenging price-to-quality offering can be met by Omate.

The Rise was due to ship in March for Indiegogo backers but, judging by the prototype here and the June shipping date on its site for new orders, we’d say things are proving tougher than expected. That said we’d prefer to wait for a final product that lives up to the hype.

The Omate Rise is available to pre-order now for $280.

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