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13
May

World’s largest tech companies: 10 biggest earners


In 2015, the world’s largest technology companies reported revenues exceeding one trillion dollars when combined. That’s a lot of money. In light of this, we’ve compiled a list of the top 10 largest technology companies in the world, based on their reported 2015 figures.

There are some usual suspects in the top ten, including the likes of Apple, Samsung, IBM, and Sony, but there are also a few surprise names you might not have expected to see.

Perhaps not too surprisingly, Apple leads the pack. The Cupertino company reported revenues over $233bn in 2015. Samsung follows behind, but not particularly closely, with revenues over $167.9bn within the same duration. It’s worth mentioning here that Samsung also has almost double the staff and sells considerably more products and services.

Being at the top is one tough game. In 2015, to find themselves in the top 10, a company would have to have had yearly sales of over $66bn. That’s something companies including Huawei, Dell, Toshiba, and Intel all failed to do. 

The list is based on revenues rather than profit which if you ask Amazon, who regularly doesn’t make a profit, that’s a whole different ball game.

Click here to see the world’s largest tech companies based on their 2015 revenues

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13
May

Pret A Manger slip-up reveals Android Pay coming to UK sooner than you think


It’s been known for a while that Android Pay is to launch in the UK this summer, but it seems we won’t have long to wait before the service becomes available. It could be a matter of days.

That’s the impression given by food chain Pret A Manger.

The Telegraph reports that a London branch of Pret was found to have put out marketing paraphernalia advertising the Android Pay service already.

An image showed that contactless payment terminals in the outlet were found to be accompanied by Android Pay instructions. “We now accept Android Pay,” they said.

An employee also told the newspaper that the tags appeared overnight and have been displayed in stores from today, Friday 13 May.

READ: Android Pay UK explained: Release date, how it works and where it’s supported

Many believed that Google world announce the UK availability of its contactless payment system during the Google I/O developers conference held on Wednesday 18 May. That still seems a good bet, with stores clearly in the process of readying themselves for action.

Barclays is not expected to be one of the banks that will be part of the Android Pay system at the beginning. Even though it is now available on rival Apple Pay, it is updating its own mobile banking app to support contactless payments on Android devices instead.

READ: Barclays goes it alone for Android contactless payment, not Android Pay

13
May

Everything you love will die, especially in tech


A little over a year ago, Microsoft bought beloved calendar app Sunrise. For the past 14 months or so, things have been more or less business as usual… at least for customers. But this week, the other shoe finally dropped: August 31st will be the last day that Sunrise exists as a standalone app. Sure, you could use Outlook, which by now shares some of the same DNA, but it’ll never be the same. Indeed, some of us here at Engadget are pretty heartbroken about it. Which got us thinking about all of the other apps and services that we loved and relied on that ended up being unceremoniously shuttered.

Sunrise

My life runs on Google Calendar. I use it everyday, not just for work meetings, but also to manage my personal life — everything from my gym schedule, hair appointments and dinners out with friends. But for years now, I’ve been unable to make Google Calendar play nice on my iPhone. The default iOS calendar just doesn’t seem to work with all of Google’s multiple shared calendars. This is especially true of the calendars we have on our corporate Google Apps account, which wouldn’t show up at all. A few years ago, someone suggested Sunrise to me as an alternative. And my life was saved.

Sunrise was beautiful. The UI made so much more sense. I loved the ability to just look at the week’s calendar at a glance, and I loved that I could integrate my personal and work calendars in a single interface. Sunrise really was the perfect Google Calendar app for me. What’s more, because Sunrise also worked on Android and the desktop, I could switch up my devices and still keep all my settings. Oh, and the integration with Google Maps was a godsend; it saved me from getting lost several times.

So when I heard Sunrise would be going away, my heart shattered. I know, it’s now been phased into the new Outlook app, but it just doesn’t look the same. I could also just use the recently launched Google Calendar app, but I find it sluggish (it takes forever for my calendars to sync) and the design is garish. It feels weird to say this about a calendar app, but Sunrise will be hard to replace. It was one of the few reliable constants in my life. I guess I’ll just have to make do with the default apps for now.

-Nicole Lee, Senior Editor

Hopstop

Why did Apple have to buy Hopstop? Don’t answer that. I know why they did: to help make their crappy maps app better. But man, what a shame. I first heard about Hopstop, the website offering subway directions, back in 2006 — a time when the web itself was still quaintly referred to as “new media.” Even as a lifelong New Yorker, I found the site useful: Though I have a good idea of which lines cover which areas, I haven’t committed the exact schedules to memory, nor am I always aware of service disruptions. Even now, I need something like this to figure out exactly how late I can sleep in on a Monday morning and still make the subway for my 6:30am workout class. (Hashtag humblebrag.) Obviously too, I need subway directions when I’m traveling strange cities, though back in 2006, Hopstop’s selection was admittedly more limited.

After Apple bought the service in 2013, I could no longer use the app on my Moto X. The standalone website has been shut down too, which is a bummer when I’m using a desktop machine. (Using Maps for OS X is annoying, since it’s slow to recalculate my route when I plug in custom arrival or departure times.) I’ve since switched to the iPhone 6, but even now, there’s no standalone app; just Apple Maps, with transit directions built in. That’s a shame, because even after all the improvements Apple has made to its once-terrible maps program, it’s still not my go-to. Worse still, the transit directions in Apple Maps seem to offer less detailed information than I was accustomed to in Hopstop proper, especially where train timetables are concerned.

Fortunately, as a famous man once said, good artists copy, and great artists steal. Today, in the year 2016, Google Maps has detailed transit directions of its own — and I don’t need an Android phone to access them.

-Dana Wollman, Managing Editor

Glitch

Most of the staff here at Engadget was pretty pleased when we switched to Slack for our work chats. It has so many features baked in that I’m not sure that any of us could ever go back. And yet, there are moments where I’m nostalgic for a world without Slack, because it would mean we’d still have Glitch. Glitch was a browser-based MMORPG that eschewed combat in favor of exploration, crafting and just generally being a nice person. It made mundane tasks like mining and farming irresistibly adorable.

It was also super weird: You were living inside a giant’s brain. But there was a subway. And you could milk butterflies. You got butter by shaking the milk. Eventually you’d get cheese? Don’t ask me to make sense of the game’s world or mechanics; I just enjoyed wandering around planting and harvesting crops, shaking chickens for grain and just amassing massive piles of odd virtual crap. Alas, it wasn’t exactly the sort of runaway success developer Tiny Speck needed to stay afloat. So, it shut the game down and shifted its focus to a chat program the team created while developing Glitch. And, given how well Slack has worked out I don’t blame the company at all. But man, there are times when I really, really miss milking butterflies.

-Kris Naudus, Senior Database Editor

Google Reader

Nary a day goes by that I don’t mourn the loss of my beloved Google Reader. Sure, there are countless alternatives with annoyingly similar names — Digg Reader, AOL Reader, Inoreader, Old Reader, (just) Reeder — but none of them have really captured my heart the way Google’s RSS app did. There was something elegant about its simplicity. It was reliable, fast and made it easy to keep up on the hundreds of sites in my feeds (at its peak, somewhere around 480). I knew all the keyboard shortcuts by heart and could plow through thousands of articles, opening the interesting ones to read later in a background tab, in mere minutes. It was all just muscle memory.

But, Google didn’t love Reader the way I (or the rest of its fans) did. In July 2013 it died for good. In the aftermath those previously mentioned alternatives scrambled to pick up the pieces. I took my business to Feedly, but honestly it’s never felt like more than a rebound. I could never love it the way I loved Google Reader. It left me out in the cold and I’ve never really gotten over it.

-Terrence O’Brien, Managing Editor

Carousel

I loved Dropbox’s Carousel. Its auto-upload function spirited my photos from my phone once I connected to WiFi, and the app interface had a tantalizing dial that you used to literally roll back in time through your photos. It was far more visually appealing than the original Dropbox photo upload option — and so very scrollable. I already paid for plenty of storage and often used the app for work-based photo sharing. This just brought my world of ramen photography and karaoke videos into the same cloud space.

Long before Facebook made flashback pics a plague on all of our newsfeeds, Carousel would corral weekly selections of your snapshots from yesteryear. It launched on Android and iOS in September 2014 but, by mid 2015, Dropbox was already planning a funeral. The company said it was putting its energy into sharing and collaboration features in the primary app, as well as newer work collaboration-based apps like Paper. Dropbox could have left Carousel to stand on its own. It was less serious, less business-y than the company’s main app.

Whatever Dropbox’s reasons for ending the photosharing fun-fair, there’s was one rival that probably made the decision to pull the plug easier: Google Photos.

It offered free unlimited (with strings attached) photo storage, automagically backed up photos to your Google account, and crammed in a ton of sharing features that were easy to access — even on an iPhone.

Basically, it became a better Carousel. It pulled in geotag data, face recognition and other machine learning tricks to group your photos together. It wasn’t perfect, but it was pretty on-point. I didn’t have to scroll through my iPhone camera roll to find pics of my reclusive brother, Google Photo automatically pulled them all together. It would also auto-create gifs of burst photo sets.

They say imitation is the highest form of flattery. Well, Carousel was flattered to death.

-Mat Smith, Senior Editor

13
May

The best $1,000 projector


By Chris Heinonen

This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a buyer’s guide to the best technology. Read the full article here.

The BenQ HT2050 is the best $1,000 projector for those who want a bright, colorful, detailed image—better than what’s possible with cheap projectors—but don’t want to spend more than twice as much for the next serious upgrade. We’ve based this on over 50 hours of research and 110 hours of directly testing seven competing models (and considering six others) with the objective measurements of $20,000-worth of testing gear. The HT2050 has the best contrast ratios in its class and light output that’s brighter than some projectors that cost three times as much. What really sets the HT2050 apart, though, is accurate color, which produces a more realistic image than the rest of the field.

Who this is for

Projectors can range in price from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands. Here’s the tricky part—picture quality doesn’t increase linearly as you go up in price. More often, there are gems at specific price points. Our pick is for someone who wants good picture quality but doesn’t want to spend more money on our awesome projector pick but wants a better image than that of our $500 pick.

What makes a good projector

The two most important attributes of a projector are contrast ratio and brightness. Contrast ratio is the difference between the brightest part of the image and the darkest. A lower contrast ratio would mean the image is more washed out, usually with more gray-looking blacks.

Brightness, or light output, is almost equally important. It determines not only how bright the image is (obviously) but also how large an image you can create (image brightness decreases with image size) and, in many ways, what type of screen you can use.

These two factors are followed in importance by color accuracy, and, more distantly, resolution and color temperature. Lastly, all projectors need a screen of some sort; just shining them on a wall won’t result in the projector’s output looking its best.

How we picked and tested

Left to right: BenQ HT2050, BenQ HT4050, Epson 2040, BenQ HT3050. Photo: Chris Heinonen

For our original article, we compiled a list of all the projectors in the $1,000 price range that had positive reviews. It was a surprisingly short list, as not many websites review projectors with the in-depth, objective measurements we’re looking for. We also eliminated business projectors, because their colors and processing aren’t typically as good for movies and TV as a home theater projector.

BenQ recently created a new model to replace our previous pick, so we got in the replacement and tested it, along with several other new models. We did our testing using i1Pro2 and C6 meters with SpectraCal’s CalMAN software. We tested for light output, contrast ratio, color, color temperature accuracy, and more.

Our pick

The BenQ HT2050 has one of the best contrast ratios in its class. Photo: Chris Heinonen

The BenQ HT2050 offers accurate colors, meaning its image is more realistic and lifelike than that of other models at the same price. It’s also bright, has a decent contrast ratio, and has great detail with motion. Overall, the image is better than most projectors from five or more years ago and as good as (if not better than) that of many at several times its price.

Measuring the light output with a lux meter, we found that the BenQ produced 1,130 lumens when calibrated and in eco-bulb mode and 1,665 lumens calibrated in normal-bulb mode. Switching to vivid mode gave us a less accurate image but a massive 2,200-plus lumens.

To put that another way, a movie-theater screen should be around 15 foot-lamberts in brightness. The HT2050’s 1,665 lumens is enough for 24 foot-lamberts on a 150-inch version of our favorite projector screen. Basically, the image will be plenty bright, even if you get a giant screen.

The HT2050’s contrast ratio is 1,574:1. Without calibration, this measures even better at 1,719:1. Plus, though other projectors in this price range have inaccurate colors—especially greens, for example—colors look far more realistic on the HT2050 than on the competition. That means more natural-looking grass, more realistic blue skies, and so on.

A previous pick with great performance

Aside from input lag, the BenQ HT1075 is very close in quality to our top pick.

The BenQ HT1075 was our prior pick and is what you should get if the HT2050 isn’t available. The models are close enough in performance—aside from input lag—that you won’t usually notice the difference unless they are side by side. The HT2050 has a little bit better contrast, its color is slightly more accurate, its input lag is lower (33 milliseconds vs. 49.7 milliseconds), and there’s a little less noise. Because performance is close enough that we don’t recommend anyone upgrade from one to the other, if the HT1075 goes on sale for at least $100 less than the HT2050, you should consider buying it.

A pick for smaller spaces

The BenQ HT1085ST is basically the same as the HT1075 but made to be placed roughly 40 percent closer to the screen.

If you have a smaller room (with the projector closer than 9 feet from a 100-inch or larger screen), or you want to place the projector closer to the screen and still have a big image (say, less than 5 feet for a 100-inch image), check out the BenQ HT1075’s short-throw sister model, the BenQ HT1085ST. The specs are basically the same, aside from the different lens. Check out the section on short-throws or ProjectorCentral.com’s great Projection Calculator Pro to see how well the projector fits in your room.

An LCD option

If rainbows are a concern for you, the Epson 2040 is a decent LCD pick.

The BenQ uses DLP technology, which creates artifacts known as “rainbows.” Most people don’t notice or aren’t bothered by them, but some people do and are. The Epson 2040 is based on LCD technology, so it won’t create rainbows. It’s also very bright, with a 27.8-millisecond input lag, but it offers a lower contrast ratio than the BenQ models and, because it uses three LCD panels instead of a single DLP panel, it isn’t as sharp.

This guide may have been updated by The Wirecutter. To see the current recommendation, please go here.

13
May

​The ThinkPad X1 Tablet is like a Surface with a business twist


Imagine the unholy union of Microsoft’s Surface lineup and the iconic Thinkpad, and you have the ThinkPad X1 Tablet. It’s not Lenovo’s first Surface clone — that would be the cheaper and less equipped Miix 700 — but it’s the company’s first for its ThinkPad lineup, which is targeted at the professional crowd. After years of honing the art of building convertible laptops, Lenovo seems like a safe bet for delivering a solid, Surface-like hybrid tablet. And for the most part, it succeeds.

Hardware

If you have a soft spot in your heart for the iconic ThinkPad design, the X1 will probably strike your fancy while it’s in laptop mode. It has a minimalist black metal case, a fairly spacious keyboard and heck, there’s even the love-it-or-hate-it bright red TrackPoint. It’s a subdued design that reminds me of a classic, business-oriented Windows laptop.

But of course, it’s much more than that: Its keyboard is ultra-thin and completely removable. There’s also a kickstand on the back of the tablet. And, lest you forget, it’s as much a tablet as it is a laptop. It doesn’t look as ultra-modern as the Surface devices, but it’s no less impressive. Toeing the line between respecting ThinkPad tradition and pushing entirely new form factors is tough, but the X1 Tablet manages it well.

Thanks to its 12-inch screen, it’s fairly hefty for a tablet, clocking in at 1.7 pounds. Together with the keyboard case, it weighs 2.35 pounds. That’s almost exactly the same as the Surface Pro 4 (a part of me wonders if Lenovo is trying to prove it can go toe-to-toe with Microsoft). It’s significantly heavier than standalone 10-inch tablets like the iPad Air, but it’s only around 0.1 pounds heavier than the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. In a way, the X1 is the antithesis than the iPad Pro: It can be a tablet when you need it, but most people would be buying it as an ultraportable laptop.

The actual tablet portion of the X1 isn’t much to look at. Its chassis is mostly made out of magnesium (with a bit of plastic thrown in), and it measures an impressive 8.6 millimeters thin. It feels just as sturdy as other metal ThinkPad cases, which PC users have long been praised for their ability to take a licking. Lenovo says the X1 passes 10 military certification tests, which are a big deal for government clients, and it’s capable of running between -20 degrees Celsius (-4 Fahrenheit) and 60 Celsius (140 Fahrenheit).

From the front, there’s a significant amount of bezel around the display, a 2-megapixel webcam up top and a fingerprint reader on the right side. From the back, it’s a bit more interesting: A small latch opens up the kickstand, which folds out from the bottom of the tablet (the Surface’s stand comes out from the top). While that orientation seems a bit odd at first, it makes the X1 far easier to hold on your lap than the Surface tablets, since there’s more than just a single edge of the stand digging into you.

There’s an 8-megapixel camera on the back of the X1, and around the sides you’ll find a USB 3.0 port, a USB-C connector, a single Mini DisplayPort and a combination headphone/microphone jack. The USB-C port is also used to charge the X1, something that’s quickly becoming the norm for thin tablets and laptops these days. In addition, there’s a microSD card slot under the kickstand for extra storage.

The X1’s keyboard comes bundled with the tablet (something I’ve long argued that needs to happen with the Surface) and it’s pretty thin, measuring at just 4.6 millimeters thick. It has a full-sized array of chiclet keys, and as I mentioned above, there’s the standard ThinkPad TrackPoint nub. Below that, there are two physical mouse buttons, a scrolling button and a large multitouch Mylar trackpad. It snaps onto the X1 easily via a magnet, and like the Surface, that connection is strong enough to hold up the entire tablet by the keyboard (just don’t shake it too much).

One intriguing aspect of the X1 is its expandability, thanks to a few optional modules that plug onto the bottom of the tablet. Lenovo’s $150 productivity module, for example, adds a HDMI and a few more USB ports, along with five extra hours of battery life. There are also modules for taking 3D images, and projecting images onto walls. Lenovo didn’t have any of these expansion offerings available to test at the time of this review, but we’ll update once we get some hands-on time with them.

Display and pen input

The ThinkPad X1’s 12-inch screen packs in a 2,160-by-1,440-pixel resolution, which is decent for its size, but not quite as sharp as the Surface Pro 4’s 2,736-by-1,824 pixel display. Still, it looks good, with accurate colors and more than enough brightness (I typically kept it around 50 percent indoors). Outdoors, the X1 was usable in direct sunlight; it’s far easier to see than my 2014-era MacBook Air, even while wearing sunglasses. But as with every device with a glass-covered screen, you should expect a bit of glare.

As a tablet, the X1’s screen is at its best when you’re viewing videos and digital comics. It’s a 3:2 aspect ratio panel, so you’ll get black bars with widescreen videos, but it made movies and TV shows look great. Those proportions were also well-suited to comics, since they could fill up the screen easily without needing to zoom in. I still feel a bit cramped working on a 12-inch display, especially after growing used to to the 13-inch MacBook Air and my 24-inch desktop monitors. It’s also a bit too heavy to hold with one hand for extended periods, but it’s fine for the occasional comic or news article.

Lenovo also packs in a stylus, called the ThinkPad Pen Pro. It uses Wacom’s active electro-static (AES) technology to deliver 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity — twice as much as the latest Surface Pen. The Pen Pro is powered by a single AAAA battery, which thankfully comes in the box. Unfortunately, though, there’s no place to stow the pen on the X1 itself. Lenovo includes a plastic holster that plugs into a USB port, but that’s not really useful if you need to use the tablet’s only USB connection. (It also just looks weird having the stylus hang off the side.)

In Lenovo’s WriteIt app, which comes preloaded on the X1, the Pen Pro felt surprisingly accurate. The pen had no trouble determining different levels of pressure, and it captured my scribbles without any big delays. Unfortunately, it’s a bit too slippery on the screen for taking notes, or for extended use. Microsoft mostly avoided that issue with the Surface Pro 4, which feels more like putting pen to paper (and you can customize it further with replaceable stylus tips).

Typing experience

The ThinkPad X1 is a bit deceptive on the keyboard front. It looks like a typical, full-sized ThinkPad keyboard, but its buttons don’t have the same amount of depth as Lenovo’s traditional laptops. I was still able to type fairly quickly, but the actual act of pressing down on keys felt mushy and not very satisfying. Perhaps I’m just too demanding as a heavy typer (I make a lot of noise!), but I expected a bit more from Lenovo, especially since Microsoft was able to deliver a truly great keyboard with the latest Surface Type Cover.

With the kickstand folding down from the bottom of the X1, I had no problem balancing it on my lap, bed and a variety of other scenarios. It’s a smart change from Microsoft’s Surface hinge: In typical laptop mode, it creates a flat surface that makes the X1 feel more like a laptop, and not a tablet being held precariously. It’s also more comfortable on bare legs, which is a good thing if you’re wearing shorts.

While I got used to the feel of the X1’s keyboard eventually, I never quite got the hang of its Mylar trackpad. It always felt a bit too stiff and jerky; it’s nowhere near as smooth as glass trackpads like we see on the MacBooks and the Surface Type Cover. It ended up being a problem navigating menus and options in our ancient CMS and Windows apps like Evernote, which have way too many small buttons to click on.

I’ve never been a big fan of the ThinkPad TrackPoint nub, but I learned to appreciate it on the X1, as I was stuck on a flight next to a particularly inconsiderate seat neighbor. Since I didn’t have enough elbow room to use the trackpad, I was forced to get the hang of the TrackPoint, which only requires gently moving a finger around. It took me longer than usual, but I was able to deal with my email backlog and write a few posts without constantly elbowing the person next to me. This is all to say: I finally get it, ThinkPad nerds!

Performance and battery life

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet (1.2 GHz Core M7-6Y75, Intel HD 515) 4,951 3,433 E1,866 / P1,112 2,462 298 MB/s / 545 MB/s
Samsung Notebook 9 (2.5GHz Core i7-6500U, Intel HD 520) 5,309 3,705 E2,567 / P1,541 / X416 3,518 539 MB/s / 299 MB/s
Dell XPS 13 (2.3GHz Core i5-6200U, Intel Graphics 520) 4,954 3,499 E2,610 / P1,531 3,335 1.6GB/s / 307 MB/s
HP Spectre x360 15t (2.4GHz Core i5-6200U, Intel HD 520) 5,040 3,458 E2,672 / P1,526 / X420 3,542 561 MB/s / 284 MB/s
Razer Blade Stealth (2.5GHz Intel Core i7-6500U, Intel HD 520) 5,131 3,445 E2,788 / P1,599 / X426 3,442 1.5 GB/s / 307 MB/s
Toshiba Radius 12 (2.5GHz Intel Core i7-6500U, Intel HD 520) 5,458 3,684 E2,865 / P1,622 3,605 552 MB/s / 489 MB/s
Microsoft Surface Pro 4 (2.4GHz Core i5-6300U, Intel HD 520) 5,403 3,602

E2,697/ P1,556/ X422

3,614 1.6 GB/s / 529 MB/s
Lenovo Yoga 900 (2.5GHz Core i7-6500U, Intel HD 520) 5,368 3,448

E2,707 / P1,581

3,161 556 MB/s / 511 MB/s
Microsoft Surface Book (2.4GHz Core i5-6300U, Intel HD 520) 5,412 3,610

E2,758 / P1,578 / X429

3,623 1.6 GB/s / 571 MB/s

I tested the highest-spec X1 tablet (which comes with a Core M7 CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD) for more than a week with my normal workflow. That usually consists of having several programs and windows open at once, including Slack to chat with coworkers, multiple browsers and dozens of tabs open for research and writing, Evernote for note taking and Spotify for some tunes. Despite being a lower-powered Core M CPU, the X1 had no problem keeping up with my demanding routine.

It was also my only computer on an intense work trip to Austin, which involved covering a major NVIDIA press event. I wasn’t initially planning to use the X1 in such a high-stress environment, but I managed to get a lengthy article out and a few pictures while balancing it on my lap in a crowded auditorium.

As you can see from the benchmarks above, the X1 I tested lands somewhere between the Surface Pro 3 with a Core i5 4300U processor and the Surface Pro 4 with a Core i5 6300U chip. That’s respectable, given that Lenovo’s tablet was running at a paltry 1.2GHz clock speed, while the Surface Pros were running between 1.9GHz and 2.4GHz. It also managed to stream 4K videos from YouTube without skipping, and it kept up with my workflow even when I had to start image editing and moving large photos around. No, it won’t smash any speed records, but it’s enough to be productive while barely breaking a sweat.

The X1’s biggest problem is battery life. In my typical usage, it lasted for a mere four and a half hours. Our battery test, which involves viewing an HD video on repeat until it runs down, was a bit more promising, yielding around seven hours of runtime. It could just be that it’s very efficient at playing video (I tried to turn off all the power optimizations I could), but the X1’s subpar performance in other scenarios is worrisome. If you’re considering it, I’d seriously recommend the optional $150 productivity module for additional battery life. (But keep in mind that’ll make the X1 heavier.)

Battery life

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet
7:05
Surface Book (Core i5, integrated graphics)
13:54 / 3:20 (tablet only)
MacBook Air (13-inch, 2013)
12:51
HP Spectre x360 (13-inch, 2015)
11:34
Surface Book (Core i7, discrete graphics)
11:31 / 3:02 (tablet only)
Apple MacBook Pro with Retina display (13-inch, 2015)
11:23
iPad Pro
10:47
HP Spectre x360 15t
10:17
Chromebook Pixel (2015)
10:01
Lenovo Yoga 900
9:36
Microsoft Surface 3
9:11
Samsung Notebook 9
8:16
Apple MacBook (2015)
7:47
Dell XPS 13 (2015)
7:36
Microsoft Surface Pro 4
7:15
Microsoft Surface Pro 3
7:08
HP Spectre x2
6:43
Razer Blade Stealth
5:48
Dell XPS 15 (2016)
5:25 (7:40 with the mobile charger)
Toshiba Radius 12
5:12

Configuration options and the competition

When the X1 was initially announced at CES, Lenovo said it would start at $899 with its keyboard. But it seems the price has been bumped up over the past few months. The entry-level X1, which comes with a Core M3-6Y30 processor, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD, now starts at $1,029. Coincidentally (or perhaps not so much), that’s the same price as the cheapest Surface Pro 4 ($899) plus the $130 Type Cover. Lenovo probably thinks it can justify the higher price since Microsoft is doing the same thing, but that also undercuts one of its initial advantages over the Surface.

For $1,349, you can snag the X1 with a Core M5-6Y57 processor, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. And at the top end, there’s the $1,649 model I’m testing, which adds the Core M7-6Y75 processor. That’s a surprisingly wide pricing spread, but for the most part, I think most consumers would be better off with the $1,349 model. That’s if you can get over the X1’s mushy keyboard and short battery life, though.

If you’re looking for a modern hybrid tablet/laptop, the Surface Pro 4 is still a better option, even though you have to shell out extra money for its keyboard. It has faster hardware, a better keyboard (and trackpad), as well as far more reliable battery life.

Still, I recognize that some businesses are committed to the ThinkPad brand, and most corporate workers don’t have a choice when it comes to choosing what type of computer they can use. If that’s your situation and portability is your main concern, then the X1 remains a solid option.

Wrap-up

We’ve seen Lenovo dabble with hybrid ThinkPad designs with its Helix series over the past few years, but the X1 Tablet is its first truly successful hybrid. No, it’s not perfect: I’d love to see better battery life and an improved keyboard. But it does a decent job of bringing some of the most intriguing elements of Microsoft’s Surface lineup to business users.

13
May

NASA upgrades ‘Snow White’ to our system’s third-largest dwarf planet


Meet 2007 OR10: “the largest unnamed world in our solar system,” according to NASA. At 955 miles in diameter, the dwarf planet is about two-thirds the size of Pluto, and is believed to have both water ice and methane on its surface.

The still-unnamed dwarf planet has an elliptical orbit that brings it about as close to the sun as Neptune, but with an orbital period of 548 years it takes over twice as long as Pluto to make it all the way around. A day on 2007 OR10 lasts is also extremely slow at about 45 terrestrial hours, and at the moment the dwarf planet is actually more than twice as far away from the sun as Pluto. That awkward distance made it a little difficult to calculate exactly how large and bright the object was until recently, when researchers at NASA Ames could combine data from the Herschel Space Observatory with visuals from the Kepler space telescope’s K2 mission to accurately determine its size.

And now all it needs is a name. The little floater in the Kuiper Belt was originally nicknamed “Snow White” when astronomer Mike Brown’s team at California Institute of Technology discovered it in 2007. At the time, it was presumed to be a bright, white object, but it turns out that 2007 OR10 is actually more deeply red, thanks to the methane frost on the surface. Although Brown’s team has yet to propose a name, according to him anyone will be able to suggest a designation for it in 2017. Please, just don’t call it Dwarfy McDwarfface.

13
May

ABC’s ‘Nashville’ VR specials will be a last hurrah for the show


There was sad news for fans of ABC’s country music drama Nashville this week. The network announced that the show was being cancelled at the end of season 4, which is currently airing. That revelation came on the heels of ABC revealing that it would give fans an inside look at the series with virtual reality. A collection of videos are set at the Bluebird Cafe serving as a companion to what will be the last few episodes of the show.

As you might expect the so-called “On the Record” series include performances from that iconic venue featuring actors from the show. Like other ABC series, reality shows and news features, the Nashville videos area available on the web and through Littlstar’s app for VR headsets, mobile devices and Apple TV. At least there’s some additional content to help fans cope with the show’s end, until the inevitable rumors of a Nashville movie start circulating.

Source: The Hollywood Reporter, Deadline Hollywood

13
May

Apple’s $1 Billion Investment in Didi Chuxing Aligned With Electric Vehicle Plans


Apple announced yesterday that it has invested $1 billion in Chinese ride-sharing service Didi Chuxing, but CEO Tim Cook refused to elaborate on the reasoning behind the move, beyond saying that it will help the company better understand the Chinese market and “deliver a strong return” on its invested capital over the long term.

Nevertheless, a pair of new reports suggest that Apple’s ambitions behind its investment in the Uber rival could relate to its oft-rumored electric vehicle plans and broader push into the automotive industry.

The Wall Street Journal wrote that Didi Chuxing is “not only an important ally in a key market, but also a rich data source for self-driving vehicles,” which is valuable to Apple amid rumors that it is developing its own electric and possibly autonomous vehicle.

Didi provides Apple with a rich data source for its self-driving vehicle push. It also could provide benefits to Apple’s mobile ecosystem. Ride-sharing apps are closely linked to payment services, such as Apple Pay. They also can be the foundation for other mobile commerce transactions such as deliveries.

The investment sets up with a potential showdown of firms aligned with Uber, which has taken investments from Alphabet Inc.’s venture capital arm and Chinese search giant Baidu. Both Alphabet and Baidu have invested heavily in autonomous driving technology.

The Information reported that ride-sharing services like Didi Chuxing and Uber are highly interested in self-driving vehicles, which would reduce overhead costs by eliminating the need for contracted drivers. In fact, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick was reportedly planning to meet at Apple headquarters this week to “talk about future partnership opportunities,” but the status of that meeting remains unknown.

This deal isn’t about the Didi service today. It establishes a future alliance around tech like self-driving cars, where Apple and Google are going head-to-head. Developing autonomous vehicles is the end game for these ride sharing companies—the move that will help them mint money by cutting out the cost of drivers. Uber has made big investments on that front, as has its partner Baidu. Didi had not. But Apple […] can help.

The so-called Apple Car, allegedly known as Project Titan internally, could launch by 2020. The bulk of research and development may be centered in the Santa Clara Valley area, near Apple’s existing Cupertino headquarters, led by a team that includes former Tesla, Ford, and GM employees and other automotive experts. The vehicle is expected to compete with the likes of Tesla and Google.

Related Roundup: Apple Car
Tag: Didi Chuxing
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13
May

4 essential IFTTT recipes for OneDrive – CNET


OneDrive to rule them all? Sorry, I can’t resist a good “Lord of the Rings” joke (or, in this case, a desperately overplayed one). Today, we’re going to look at how you can rule OneDrive, the cloud storage service that’s deeply integrated into Windows but also accessible via Android and iOS.

That rule comes in the form of If This Then That, aka IFTTT, the online service that performs actions based on other actions. So, for example, if you receive an email with an attachment, then automatically save that attachment to OneDrive.

These are called recipes, and although you can easily create your own, there are literally hundreds of IFTTT recipes already devoted to improving the OneDrive experience. Below are four I think you’ll really like. (Note: Some recipes continue to refer to OneDrive by its original name: SkyDrive. That’s not a problem; ultimately everything works with OneDrive.)

Save new Gmail attachments to OneDrive

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Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

As explained in the example above, this recipe scans your Gmail inbox for any messages that have attachments, then saves those attachments to the OneDrive folder of your choice.

Why would you want to do that? Simple: It’ll save you a ton of time sifting through Gmail and allow for faster, easier attachment-sharing.

Once you’ve set up IFTTT connectors for both your Gmail and OneDrive accounts, you can add the recipe, optionally choosing your preferred OneDrive folder for those saved attachments. Just take note that the recipe works for any new attachments received from that moment forward; it doesn’t work on past email.

Save photos you’re tagged in on Facebook

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IFTTT

You know the drill: a friend or family members tags you in a photo that appears on Facebook. You like the photo, so now you have to jump through one or more hoops to save it.

With this recipe, anytime anyone tags a photo of you on Facebook, that photo automatically gets saved to OneDrive. (This is one of those recipes that calls it SkyDrive, but rest assured the end result is correct.)

Send yourself a voicemail message

Did you know IFTTT has a phone number? It does, and you can leverage it for all kinds of things.

For example, suppose you’re tooling down the road when suddenly you have a brilliant idea. You can’t write it down while driving, of course, but you can call IFTTT. With this recipe (dubbed “Talk to the cloud”), any voicemail message you leave at that number will be delivered to your OneDrive account as an MP3 file.

Bridge the gap between Dropbox and OneDrive

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IFTTT

Many OneDrive users are also Dropbox users. If you’ve ever needed to transfer files between one service and the other, you know it can be a huge hassle.

Thankfully, there’s a recipe for that. Whenever you add a new file to a selected Dropbox folder, it will automatically get synced to OneDrive. (When adding the recipe, make sure to click the Advanced Settings option so you can also specify the OneDrive folder where new files should land.)

OK, those are my picks for must-have IFTTT recipes for OneDrive. If you’ve used (or created) others you consider essential, hit the comments and name them!

13
May

How to add a ‘Hey, Siri’-style command to your Mac – CNET


I increasingly use Siri on my iPhone and prefer to use voice commands when texting. On a Mac, it is easier and faster to type with the full keyboard, but if you use Siri and voice dictation on iPhone, then you might want to start talking to your Mac, too.

Similar to the Hey, Siri command on iOS, you can set OS X to start listening to you without pressing a key.

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Matt Elliott/CNET

The default command for starting dictation on OS X is hitting the Function key twice, but you can set up a voice command for the hands-free starting and stopping of dictation. It’s a two-step process:

Step 1: Go to System Preferences > Dictation & Speech and check the box for Use Enhanced Dictation. You will need to download a 1.2GB file, which allows offline use of dictation.

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Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

(In addition to allowing you to enable hands-free dictation in step 2, enhanced dictation has the added benefit of speeding up the dictation process. It saves your Mac from needing to go out to Apple’s servers to understand your words, which greatly reduces the lag of your spoken words being transcribed on your screen.)

Step 2: Go to System Preferences > Accessibility and then scroll down and choose Dictation from the left panel. Next, check the box for Enable the dictation keyboard phrase. The default keyboard is “Computer” so that you can say, “Computer, start dictation” and “Computer, stop dictation” but you can change it to whatever pet name you may have for your Mac.

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Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

If you like the idea of dictating to your Mac, then you will want to keep an eye on Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference scheduled for next month. Siri is rumored to be headed to Macs with the next update to OS X, version 10.12.

Lastly, for friends of Siri, we have the complete list of Sir commands.

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