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26
May

Barisieur’s coffee-brewing alarm clock might actually happen


When we first spotted the Barisieur coffee-brewing alarm clock back in 2014, it was a pet project for designer Joshua Renouf. The plan was always to turn it into a gadget for the masses, and in the months that have passed since, the overall design and the tech that drives the bedside system were refined for production. To help make waking up to a freshly brewed cup of pour over coffee or loose leaf tea a reality, Renouf and his team are looking to Kickstarter to get them over the hump.

In terms of overall features, not much has changed in terms of the bells and whistles of the Barisieur, despite the aforementioned refinements. The alarm clock boils water to 94 degrees using an induction hob that heats up a stainless steel base. There’s a reusable steel mesh filter too, so you won’t have to futz with, and end up wasting, the paper variety. Chilled milk storage is still there as well, keeping the liquid cool through the night. A sealed divider tray stores sugar and and other hot beverage condiments or the coffee and tea itself. Oh yeah, there’s a snazzy white option now, too.

Once more, Renouf & Co. are talking up the ritual of prepping the device for the morning brew before heading to bed as a way to tell your body it’s time to get some rest. It’s kind of like the habit of brushing your teeth and flossing. If the idea of waking up to the smells of a fresh cup are too good to pass up, Kickstarter backers can nab the Barisieur for £265 (around $387) with deeper discounts available to those who act quickly. Unfortunately, the manufacturing process is going to take about a year, so the coffee maker isn’t expected to ship until June 2017.

Source: Kickstarter

26
May

The trippy, haunting ‘Oxenfree’ soundtrack is on vinyl


Oxenfree’s soundtrack is an electronica daydream that fades into a bumping nightmare; it’s the aural interpretation of the sun setting over an abandoned, beachside military base packed with deadly secrets. In other words, it’s perfectly suited to the game’s haunting storyline and award-winning visual style. Thanks to iam8bit, the Oxenfree soundtrack is now available in vinyl form, including art from comic illustrator Austin James (Wet Brain) and a holographic portal on the front cover.

The double LP vinyl set costs $35 via iam8bit and it should ship in September. Anyone who buys it will also be emailed a download code for the digital album in early June, once mastering is complete. Get a taste of the soundtrack, created by veteran video game composer Andy Rohrmann (SCNTFC), on Bandcamp.

Oxenfree hits PlayStation 4 on May 31st complete with a New Game+ mode that expands the narrative even after players have finished the game. Steam and Xbox One versions will also receive New Game+ on May 31st in a free update. Oxenfree is $20 across all platforms, but it’ll be $15 for PlayStation Plus members in a launch month sale.

26
May

Blendle’s pay-per-article service is available on mobile devices


If you use Dutch startup Blendle to read all your news, you’re in for a treat: The previously desktop-only app is going mobile for both iOS and Android for simpler enlightenment on the go.

Blendle is a news aggregate that pulls news articles from outlets that lock their content behind paywalls. You can choose specific articles to curate the type of stories you want to read, while spending less money in the form of microtransactions. If for some reason you aren’t satisfied with the stories you choose, you can even get a refund.

The apps themselves feature over 300 print publications from which you can select stories to read ad-free. Each article runs around 25 cents to purchase, which is often a boon for readers looking to get into pieces from The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times without having to subscribe to the publication. With mobile choices available today, one less gateway to success for Blendle has been taken away since stories may now be read on the go.

Blendle has been around for two years and has amassed around 650,000 users. That number could very well grow as users on mobile devices quickly join the fold with the promise of cheap, quality content.

Via: The Verge

26
May

PayPal to Discontinue Apps for Windows Phone, BlackBerry, and Kindle


PayPal recently announced that it plans to pull support for its apps on the Windows Phone, BlackBerry, and Amazon Kindle Fire mobile platforms, as the company doubles down on its new and updated apps for iOS and Android (via CNET). Users on the three operating systems in question have until June 30 to access the PayPal app.

In the blog post announcing the impending sunset of PayPal’s app on Windows Phone, BlackBerry, and Kindle, the company mentions that on each platform users will still be able to access the money transferring service, through various internet browsers on PayPal’s mobile web experience. PayPal said it hopes this move will help it put all its focus on “creating the very best experiences for our customers.”

It was a difficult decision to no longer support the PayPal app on these mobile platforms, but we believe it’s the right thing to ensure we are investing our resources in creating the very best experiences for our customers. We remain committed to partnering with mobile device providers, and we apologize for any inconvenience this may cause our customers.

In addition to internet browsers, those with BlackBerry devices can still send peer-to-peer PayPal payments through the BlackBerry Messenger app, and Outlook users can enable the PayPal add-in feature to deliver payments within the email client.

PayPal’s announcement comes a few days after Microsoft confirmed the company is scaling back its mobile phone business. Both Windows Phone and BlackBerry devices have been in a last place competition behind Android and iOS for the past few years, with Windows devices dropping from 2.5 percent of the worldwide smartphone market share in Q1 2015, to 0.7 percent in Q1 2016. BlackBerry fell from an already-miniscule 0.4 percent to 0.2 percent in the same time frame.

The closing of the BlackBerry, Windows Phone, and Kindle Fire apps will allow PayPal to renew focus on its popular iOS and Android applications, which it hopes to “innovate and make enhancements” to as the digital payment landscape continues to evolve. In the same blog post, the company reminds customers that they will have to update to version 6.0 of the PayPal app [Direct Link] between June 3 and June 30. The updated app includes a renewed priority on sending and requesting money along with a cleaner aesthetic.

Tags: BlackBerry, Windows Phone, PayPal, Amazon Kindle Fire
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26
May

ZTE Axon 7 Release Date, Price and Specs – CNET


The word “elegant” doesn’t usually come to my mind when I think of ZTE (the Chinese phone manufacturer is mostly known for its inexpensive, midtier handsets), but with the announcement of its latest Axon 7 flagship, I can’t help but think the phone looks, well… pretty elegant.

While ZTE still stuck to a competitive price (the device costs $450 unlocked, or approx. £346, AU$604), it features powerful enough hardware to satisfy Google’s recently announced virtual reality platform, Daydream. And compared with its other high-end competitors, it’s one of the cheapest marquee handsets on the market.

The phone will be available today in China and then roll out to other markets in mid-June. There will be two variants: One with 64GB of internal memory and 4GB of RAM, and another that has 128GB of storage and 6GB of RAM. The former, however, will be more widely available and it’ll be the only one sold in the US.

ZTE’s Axon 7 is its prettiest phone yet (pictures)
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I had a chance to spend some meaningful time with the Axon 7, but it didn’t have its final software version loaded just yet. That being said, I was still able to get a good look at the device and I ran some preliminary tests too. Of course, once we get a final model in, I’ll update my impressions with a full review. If you also want to see how the handset’s specs compare to its competitors, head down to the comparison chart below.

(PS: And, if anyone out there is wondering what exactly happened to Axon 2 through 6, don’t worry — there weren’t really any. ZTE decided to include its Grand S and Star series in the flagship lineage and then jumped to 7 because reasons ¯_(ツ)_/¯ ).

Fit for a Daydream

A week ago during its annual developer’s conference, Google announced a new VR initiative called Daydream, which was a hardware and software platform that would guide Android phone companies to make VR headsets. (For a deeper dive of the endeavor, check out our feature with Google’s VR chief Clay Bavor.) The tech giant said a bunch of manufacturers are already on board with Daydream-ready phones including LG, HTC and ZTE.

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A sketch of the Daydream headset and remote.


Google

The Axon 7 is one of these handsets that fulfill Google’s VR standard. This includes hardware like a 9-axis gyroscope, Hi-Fi audio (which I’ll get into later) and a powerful processor. Though it will be some time until anyone gets their hands on a Daydream headset, ZTE gains a lot by throwing its name behind Google’s. By being Daydream-ready, the Axon 7 will be able to keep up with its competitors and attract users who are already interested in VR.

Easy on the eyes

With its unibody design, metallic aesthetic and solid build quality, the Axon 7 is the best-looking phone ZTE has created so far. Its 5.5-inch display has a sharp 1,400-pixel resolution and the screen is bright enough to view in the sunlight outdoors.

Given its luxe looks, though, I did notice that it felt heavy in the hand. Tipping the scales at 6.52 ounces (185g), it weighs more than any of its competitors (again, see chart below). However, it’s still comfortable to hold and maneuver in general.

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With its luxe aesthetic, the Axon is ZTE’s best-looking phone.


Josh Miller/CNET

Similar to the LG G5, the device features a fingerprint reader in the back, which you can use for extra security. The sensor works quickly, and I didn’t notice any lag from when I pressed the reader and when the screen unlocked. If you don’t want to use your fingerprint, you can also use your voice to say a pre-programmed phrase and unlock the handset that way.

On the front top and bottom bezels are the dual audio grilles. ZTE put a big emphasis on the phone’s audio experience. In addition to the two speakers, the Axon 7 is decked out with Dolby Atmos audio technology and an advanced chipset that will allow the device to both play and record crisp, high-fidelity audio. When I played a few music tracks and movie clips on the handset, audio was indeed loud and clear. It also had a lot of depth and didn’t come off as “crunchy” as phones with small, narrow audio grilles usually do.

Software goodies with optional stock Android

The Axon 7 runs Google Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow. This newest version of the mobile OS includes more emojis, security updates, and you can launch the camera by double pressing the power key.

Aside from a few new voice and gesture controls (you can activate the camera shutter, make a call, get the device to read out texts just by speaking to it), the handset doesn’t have anything particular new or compelling in terms of software.

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If you don’t like ZTE’s MiFavor interface, you can switch it up to stock Android.


Josh Miller/CNET

It will give users, however, the option to switch from ZTE’s own MiFavor user interface to stock Android. Because the unit I have doesn’t have the final software version loaded, I wasn’t able to check out this feature yet. (When I do, I’ll be sure to update this piece.) Until then though, I welcome this option. I’m a big fan of vanilla Android due to its clean aesthetic and simplicity, so the ability to switch to it is great. However, because this isn’t a Nexus phone (they also run the stock UI), it won’t receive software updates from Google as soon as they are available.

New camera, new tricks

The Axon 7 is equipped with an 8-megapixel front-facing shooter and a 20-megapixel camera in the rear that can record 4K video. Last year’s Axon had two rear cameras (a 2- and 13-megapixel) that enabled users to adjust and refocus the background and foreground after they captured an image. Though this year’s device only has one camera, ZTE loaded it up with software that still lets users change an image’s focal point. For the most part, this tool isn’t totally necessary (especially if you like to get your photos right the first time), but it was pretty fun to play around with when I wanted to make my pictures look more dramatic.

Overall, the camera was fast, and images were sharp and in focus. Colors looked true-to-life and lighting was exposed properly and evenly. For more about photo quality, check out the pictures below. And be sure to click on each image to see them at their full resolutions.

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In this sunny outdoor photo, objects are sharp and clear.


Lynn La/CNET

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Though the right side of this photo is very dim, the camera exposed the back light coming from the windows well.


Lynn La/CNET

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With the phone’s blur tool, you can adjust a photo’s focal point after you’ve taken the image.


Lynn La/CNET

Other features include short live photos that turn pictures into moving GIFs and timelapse video. The latter isn’t new to high-end handsets in general, but it is new for a ZTE phone.

Checking out the hardware

The Axon 7 runs smoothly and tasks like fingerprint unlocking, launching the camera and returning to the home screen were executed quickly. Its 2.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 820 processor is the same used in other flagships and it clocked in some of the highest benchmark results we’ve seen. In fact, it was on par with the Samsung Galaxy S7 with our 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited test, as well as both Geekbench 3 tests. It also edged out the HTC 10, the G5 and the Google Nexus 6P. Anecdotally, though, all the devices performed comparably, and when it comes to day-to-day tasks, I couldn’t really tell that the Axon 7 is any “faster,” than the rest. Its impressive benchmark numbers, however, is a notable indicator of how far ZTE handsets have come in terms of hardware performance.

ZTE Axon 7 preliminary benchmark scores

ZTE Axon 7

2406

5532

30,005

Samsung Galaxy S7

2323

5429

29031

LG G5

2313

5345

27758

HTC 10

2316

5014

27724

Google Nexus 6P

1286

4313

24224

Legend:

Geekbench 3 Single-Core
Geekbench 3 Multi-Core
3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Battery life

ZTE beefed up the battery just a tad going from last year’s Axon Pro’s 3,000mAh capacity to 3,140mAh. During our lab test for continuous video playback on Airplane mode, the phone clocked an average (out of two trials) of 11 hours and 18 minutes (compared to last year’s 8 hours and 8 minutes). It also has Quick Charge 3.0 technology from Qualcomm, which promises a 50 percent charge in 30 minutes. When I tested this claim, the device had a 47 percent charge in half an hour. A full charge takes about an hour and a half.

For comparison, ZTE’s handset didn’t outlast the G5’s 12 and a half hour scour, nor the Galaxy S7’s 16 hours. But it did edge out the HTC 10 and Nexus 6P, both of which lasted 11 hours and 15 minutes.

ZTE Axon 7 spec comparison

5.5-inch; 2,560×1,440 pixels 5.1-inch; 2,560×1,440 pixels 5.3-inch, 2,560×1,440 pixels 5.2-inch; 2,560×1,440 pixels 5.7-inch; 2,560×1,440 pixels
538ppi 576ppi 554ppi 564ppi 515ppi
5.98×2.95×0.34 in 5.6×2.7×0.3 in 5.88×2.90×0.30 in 5.7×2.8×0.35 in 6.3×3.1×0.28 in
151.8x75x8.7 mm 142.4×69.6×7.9 mm 149.4×73.9×7.7mm 145.9×71.9×9 mm 159x78x7.3 mm
6.53 oz (185g) 5.4 oz; 152 g 5.61 oz; 159g 5.7 oz (161g) 6.3 oz; 178 g
Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow Android 6.0 Marshmallow Android 6.0 Marshmallow Android 6.0 Android 6.0 Marshmallow
20-megapixel 12-megapixel 16-megapixel, 8-megapixel wide 12-megapixel 12.3-megapixel
8-megapixel 5-megapixel 8-megapixel 5-megapixel 8-megapixel
4K 4K 4K 4K 4K
2.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 820 2.15GHz + 1.6GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapgradon 820 processor 2.15GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor 2.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 2GHz eight-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 810
64GB, 128GB (varies by region) 32GB, 64GB (varies by region) 32GB 32GB, 64GB (varies by region) 32GB, 64GB, 128GB
4GB, 6GB (varies by region) 4GB 4GB 4GB 3GB
Up to 128GB 200GB 2TB 2TB None
3,000mAh (nonremovable) 3,000mAh (nonremovable) 2,800mAh (removable) 3,000mAh (nonremovable) 3,450mAh (nonremovable)
Back cover Home button Home button Home button Back cover
USB-C Micro-USB USB-C USB-C USB-C
Dual Sim; Daydream-ready Water-resistant Pull-out battery, two rear cameras OIS on front-facing camera; BoomSound “Pure” Android; Daydream-ready
$450 AT&T: $695, Sprint: $650, T-Mobile: $670, Verizon: $672, US Cellular: $672 AT&T: $689, Sprint: $576, T-Mobile: $630, Verizon: $624, U.S. Cellular: $636 $699 $499 (32GB); $549 (64GB); $649 (128GB)
Converts to £346 £569 TBA £569 £449 (32GB); £499 (64GB); £579 (128GB)
Converts to AU$604 AU$1,149 TBA AU$1,099 AU$899 (32GB); AU$999 (64GB); AU$1,099 (128GB)

ZTE’s time to shine

Though I’ll hold out any final judgements until I get my hands on a final post-production unit, the ZTE Axon 7 has a lot of potential. The fact that it performs comparably well to the flagships of Samsung, LG, HTC and Google is a testament of how far the company has come in just the last year with its Pro predecessor. In addition, by being compatible with Daydream, the phone will keep up with the mobile wave as it makes its way into VR waters.

At $450 unlocked (which converts to about £346, AU$604), the device’s low price tag and high-end specs — like its 20-megapixel camera, Snapdragon 820 processor and booming audio speakers — make it a tempting buy. True, it won’t fit everyone’s needs (for instance, you can’t take out the battery, and its stock version of Android won’t get updated as quickly as a Nexus handset) and ZTE still struggles with low brand recognition. But so far, the Axon 7 certainly hits a lot of the right marks that goes into a solid flagship.

26
May

Razer Turret review – CNET


The Good The Razer Turret’s mouse magnetization is a nice touch, and the lap-board is great for web surfing and light gaming sessions.

The Bad Not apt for intense, competitive gaming sessions, considerably more expensive than similar (though less stylish) options.

The Bottom Line If you like to play single player content then the Turret is a more usable piece of tech, but it’s just not stable enough for anything competitive.

Not designed to be a pure gaming keyboard, the Razer Turret is a lap-board best used on the couch with your PC or streaming device hooked up to a big screen. At $170, AU$280 or £150, it’s globally available on Razer’s online store.

The Turret consists of a “gaming grade” keyboard and a 3,500 dots-per-inch mouse. The higher the dots-per-inch, the more accurately the mouse registers movement — giving the Turret more than enough precision for all but the most competitive of gamers.

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Aloysius Low/CNET

According to Razer, the big innovation here is the integrated magnetic mouse mat. The mat connects to the keyboard via a foldable hinge and prevents the included mouse from sliding away. Thankfully, the mat’s magnetic pull isn’t too strong, so picking up the mouse when I needed to was never an issue. And while the mat’s surface area is a little small for my taste, it’s perfectly apt for more casual gaming sessions.

The device is light, so using it on your lap for long periods of time wasn’t an issue for me. Build quality, usually an issue with lap-boards, is surprisingly decent. The keyboard has a nice amount of give and typing is as good as you can expect on a keyboard sitting on your lap — though it’s not at the level of a laptop, which has the advantage of extra weight and stability.

A great touch with the Turret is its sleek included dock, which plays double duty as charger and organiser. It allows the Turret to look at home amongst even the most impressive home entertainment consoles.

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Aloysius Low/CNET

While the Turret is great to use for web surfing and casual gaming, it’s hampered on the gaming front by its natural habitat…the lap. Games like Call of Duty and League of Legends, while perfectly playable, force you to constantly keep an eye out for the position of the keyboard on your lap, as any minor adjustment could spoil muscle memory. If you favour more mouse-intensive genres, or are a particularly competitive gamer, it’s best to look elsewhere.

26
May

Android N could arrive on your phone sooner than you think


Google’s parent company Alphabet is reportedly stepping up its game to make sure operating system updates arrive faster across devices, which should start with Android N.

Currently the Android operating system can rollout quickly to gadgets running pure Android, like Nexus devices. Other handsets with their own user interfaces, like Samsung with TouchWiz, take longer to get the OS as an update. Sources of Bloomberg claim Alphabet is considering using a system to speed this process up.

Alphabet allegedly plans to publish a ranking system that promotes those who get the update rolled out quickest, but shames those who take too long.

Apple is the big competition here. Thanks to its more closed system, that only works on its own hardware, the latest iOS is on 84 per cent of handsets. Android, by comparison, only has its newest Marshmallow software on 7.5 per cent of Android handsets.

Since Google relies on getting its new software to users, via the updates, it’s important for the fragmentation of hardware to stop affecting software updates. This is also an issue for security which may put off some users entirely, especially after the Stagefright hack.

Google has reportedly already drawn up a list ranking phone makers by how up to date their security patches and operating systems are. That list may soon become public as a way to help speed up future updates. Even getting this threat in the media could be a move by Alphabet to prod manufacturers and networks.

Now we simply have to wait until the Android N update begins rolling out in the autumn to see if any of this takes effect.

READ: Android N preview: Everything you need to know

26
May

Osmo Coding: Educational iPad game now helps kids learn programming


Osmo is an iPad system that aids education for children aged five to 12 through fun, intuitive game packs.

It uses a base in which you stand your iPad and a camera attachment to scan objects placed on a table in front. They then work in combination with dedicated Osmo apps to help kids learn to spell, put together puzzles, draw and, more recently, solve sums.

Now there’s a new pack announced that will help very young children learn to code, through fun and basic methods. Pocket-lint saw it in action during the CU Exposed event in London.

READ: Osmo review: Physical meets virtual with this clever iPad game

Designed for the youngest in the Osmo age range, Osmo Coding is a pack that comes with large, chunky tiles, each of which able to give a downloaded game simple logic instructions.

The game features character Awbie, who can be guided through a series of mazes, collecting strawberries along the way. There are obstacles, so the tile instructions are needed to navigate him successfully.

There are tiles for walking, jumping, to turn around or stop. And the jumping and walking tiles each have directional arrows to turn Awbie to progress in the right direction. In addition, numbers can be added to the tiles to instruct the loveable character on how many steps to take.

A play tile starts the process.

Pocket-lint

Tiles can be linked together and are magnetic, so as children learn, they can chain an increasing number of moves. This gives them the basic tools to understand computer programming through move sequences – something that should stand them in good stead to progress to more complicated coding tools as they get older.

First Impressions

Osmo is an excellent system that we’re already big fans of here on Pocket-lint. Rather than simply provide an educational application, the physical nature of the games and their accessories means children get a more tangible way to learn and parents can interact and help more easily.

Osmo Coding continues in that innovative vein and provides a simple way for kids to understand command structures.

Even if just seen as a logic puzzle game, it works well.

We’ll test it a bit more thoroughly in the near future, but from what we’ve seen so far we want to play it, let alone our kids.

It is now available from the PlayOsmo.com website – along with the Starter Kit you’ll need to play the add-on – priced at £39. The Starter Kit is £69, which also includes the Tangram and Words packs.

You can also get other kits, including the Wonder Kit at £119 which comes with all the add-ones.

At internetmatters.org parents can find all the advice they will need to keep their children safe online. Designed specifically for parents, the site offers a wealth of up-to-date, unbiased information and advice about how to deal with online safety. Parents can learn about the latest issues and technologies, get great tips on how to talk about online safety with their children and get the best advice on dealing with issues and taking action. Created with experts, Internet Matters provides detailed information, but also signposts to best-in-class resources from individual expert organisations. Our goal is to ensure parents can always access the information that they need, in a format that is clear and concise.

26
May

Toyota Hilux (2016) review: Invincible by name, invincible by nature


Testing the new Toyota Hilux demands a little more than just nipping down to the local shop to grab a pint of milk and a Mars Bar. Although with all that space in the back you could buy a lifetime supply of those.

The famed “indestructible” pickup – apt, given the “Invincible” trime moniker of this review model – would even find pootling through the mud on an Oxford farming estate no problems. But ever the intrepid adventurers, we pushed things up a notch and headed to the plains of Namibia, Africa, to really put the Hilux through its paces.

From sand dunes, to rocky crevasses, through to fog-like dust during epic long drives, our 650-kilometres on the road was paired with very little sleep indeed. Given the exciting setting, we shunned the need for matchsticks under the eyes. But does the latest Hilux itself score high on the excitement-o-meter?

For a car not frequently spotted in UK cities – despite Toyota selling 8,643 of them in 2015, which is 250 per cent higher than Prius sales in the same period for this country – can the all-new Hilux continue to grow its success story in Blighty? Based on what we’ve seen, we think it’s a sure bet.

Pocket-lint

Toyota Hilux 2016 review: What’s new?

In its latest eigth-generation 2016 form, the Hilux is about as close to a total reimagining of the 1968 original as it could be. And we think the new model looks very contemporary indeed: all steely glares from those squint headlights and smooth bodywork that carries through in a wave-like form. Well, unless you park the nose in a sand dune and pop the front panel out of place… but it pops back in.

There are plenty of core new features to the 2016 Hilux: a new frame with higher rigidity than the outgoing model; a new 2.4l diesel engine with higher torque and more power than the 2.5l option it replaces (but no 3.0l option at present, sadly); new 6-speed manual/auto gearbox; and revised suspension and 4×4 capabilities – including a new rotational switch rather than lever for low-range engagement – all wrapped into a slightly bigger, longer and heavier chassis.

Which is a key point to note: the double cab option, as reviewed here, has an unladen weight starting at 2,100kgs, which tips beyond the 2,040kg threshold, thus classing it as a light goods vehicle (LGV) in the UK (the single and extra cab options, however, fall south of that weight threshold). That means you’ll be legally subject to slower speed limits of 50mph on single carriageways and 60mph on dual-carriageways. Well, supposedly: how many long-wheelbase white vans have you seen shunting along A-roads at 80mph+?

Pocket-lint

Toyota Hilux 2016 review: That new engine

With its new engine the Hilux’s top speed isn’t especially nippy: we pushed it to about 90mph/140kmph down a private road on farmland. Perhaps a surprise, then, that there’s no larger engine option (for the time being?).

Still, is the Hilux really all about top speed? We think not:  this is a devourer of lumps, bumps, hills, dunes and, who knows, even mountains. Almost all of which we’ve traversed during our three days of driving. Our average fuel consumption was approximately 26mpg, well under the 40.4mpg official figure – but hardly a surprise given the intense conditions.

The high torque from that new engine is what’s most important. It’s clearly apparent, too, with 400Nm delivered between 1,600-2000rpm – which is higher still than the outgoing 3.0l and 2.5l options of the last-generation. And when you’re off-roading – scaling rugged hills so steep that all you can see is the skyline, with your head hanging half out of the window to get a sense of where you’re going – that non-slip pull is a great thing to behold.

Pocket-lint

Not that we’re completely mad: the Hilux was set to low-range (L4 on the new dial; H4 engages 4×4) for off-roading, which sees the car almost drive itself, pulling forward even with all feet off the pedals – although you’ll need the right balance of power and the odd bit of braking to ensure optimum travel.

Which brings us to the process of engaging low-range. Toyota says it’s easier than ever before thanks to this new dial. But it’s a fair old hoo-ha to get it to engage. We used three cars over the course of driving – one an auto, the other two manuals – and in each case it wasn’t a first time success to activate L4 (including other drivers’ attempts). The vehicle needs to be stationary and in neutral, but even so it’d sometimes take three attempts to engage, typically with turning the engine off fully to help things along. Failure to do so and you’ll hear a non-stop beeping sound and flashing 4LO on the driver’s dash panel.

Toyota Hilux 2016 review: Sand in your… everything

From rugged hills – with stones so sharp they blew out three tyres among our convoy – to sand dunes, this was a real hardship test for the new Hilux. Although mostly down to driver fails than vehicle inabilities.

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Driving on sand is unlike driving on anything else. Think about taking a road bike and trying to cycle it across a beach – it’s not going to get you very far before you end up sunken with your face in the sand. To stop the Hilux sinking into those sands the tyres need to be deflated to two-thirds pressure for a larger footprint, less resistance and less chance of sinking in and getting stuck. Of course several drivers did get stuck, but that’s the peril of taking 2-tonnes of metal across African sand dunes – you need to be bold, hit the gas with gusto and trust in your vehicle.

Descending steep dunes is trickier than scaling them. One feature we found exceptional in the stoney hills when off-roading was the DAC (downhill assist control), which gauges the descent and takes you down low and slow, avoiding slippage. Put this to sand and it still works to some degree, but in a slightly confused manner. Having slipped the Hilux out of a more defined track imprint in the sand we let DAC do its thing, only to find the wheel locked sharply, so had to step in and manually take over. Good job the biggest sand dunes we see in the UK are on building sites, then.

Try doing this with your Ford Fiesta though. It won’t end well.

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Toyota Hilux 2016 review: Cabin fever

Not that you’ll be spending all your time skating about dirt roads and up sand dunes. Throw down a bit of Tarmac (a rare commodity in Namibia, but a wonderful thing to feel under tyres), skip through those gears – we never got on that well with this box’s throw from first to second, though – sink back into the seat and the new Hilux has an adept interior that feels more SUV than you might expect of a hardy pickup.

Our interior shots – complete with stark sunlight, two-way radio and, but of course, excessive amounts of biltong (and bonus points for spotting the Simba crisps) – aren’t nearly as glossy as the official Toyota ones, but then what did you expect? What is clear, though, is the wide layout with ample space and the Toyota Touch 2 multimedia system – which is optional in the Icon and Invincible, but included in the Invincible X trim. Go navigation is a separate addition again – we didn’t have this (as it’s fairly useless in zero signal Namibia anyway), but a separate Garmin plugged to the windscreen interior instead.

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The Touch 2 system melds together DAB/FM radio, sat nav and core multimedia controls across a 7-inch touchscreen to the centre console. It’s larger than in the outgoing system, but still a little fiddly to lean over and handle while driving. This isn’t the quite smooth marriage of on-screen and physical tunnel-based controls you’ll find in, say, Audi, BMW and Merc’s latest ventures – but it’s just about responsive enough and has all the core features you’ll need. Particularly useful is the rear reverse camera, because the Hilux is no small beast at 5.3-metres long and 1.9-metres wide.

There’s a USB port for charging phones on the go, or you can deliver music from a USB stick – we opted for a Bluetooth connection instead, as this syncs with the on-wheel controls to make skipping tracks through that party playlist all the easier. Oh, and the standard sound system is rather decent too, surviving everything from heavy metal to underground techno, the Frozen soundtrack and the cheesiest sing-along pop in existence.

The driver’s view has a 4.2in information display, which paired with the car’s camera will pull in road sign information and show you various useful nuggets of information, such as fuel efficiency and distance travelled. It’s clear to read and easy to glance at when on-the-go – even when the every ounce of your body is vibrating due to the relentless road surfaces.

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Ultimately the Hilux’s interior is sleeker and neater than you may visualise a pickup’s to be; but with competition from the likes of the Nissan Navara, it needs to stand strong to standout. Just because you’re driving around on a farm all day, or hauling goods, doesn’t mean you don’t want the comfort and decent tech that’s becoming an everyday affordability.

Verdict

The Hilux arrives at a really interesting time for the UK market. Back at the beginning of 2016 the very last Land Rover Defender rolled off the production line. Sure, there’ll be another one in the future – but right here, right now, that’s opened a gap the likes of the Hilux can neatly slip into.

Especially given its £29,850 starting price (in the double cab Invincible setup). And with Toyota’s 5-year/100,000-mile warranty thrown in for good measure, we suspect you’ll see many more 2016 Hilux trumping around the UK’s rural roads from the late summer.

Not that a pickup will be for everyone. But it’s clear to see that Toyota is angling for a broader market here. As light goods vehicles go it’s got more SUV-like appeal than ever before – from the front you won’t even necessarily notice its open-back design – providing the comfort, space and technology that can cater for a small family meets business crossover. Who needs a proper boot anyway, right?

So whether pulling a heavy load (it can tow 3.2-tonnes, tow-bar optional), or missioning your way through sand, mud, rock, dust tracks and beyond, the new Hilux appears not only to be Invincible by name, but invincible by nature. It’s got all the best pickup lines.

26
May

Humax adds Netflix to FVP-4000T Freeview Play boxes


Humax’s FVP-4000T Freeview Play recorders have just got even better, you can now play Netflix content using them.

The 500GB and 1TB set-top-boxes have each received over-the-air updates to add the Netflix app. Subscribers to the paid TV and movie streaming service can link their accounts to the box and watch content in Full HD through the Humax devices.

Both of the models already offer BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4 and Demand 5 (soon to be renamed My5) – all free streaming services. And with three HD digital TV tuners they can record up to four television programmes while watching another live channel.

READ: Humax FVP-4000T review: Freeview Play’s first set-top box

The headline feature of the FVP-4000T PVRs though is that they are Freeview Play enabled and therefore offer catch-up services through the electronic programme guide.

You can scroll back through the last week’s worth of shows to play any you’ve missed from the EPG itself. It currently works with BBC, ITV and Channel 4 programming, with Channel 5’s coming soon.

Netflix adds another string to the bow, with additional content accessible through the popular service.

The Humax FVP-4000T starts at £200 for the 500GB version, rising to £230 for the 1TB model. You can buy either from retailers such as John Lewis, Tesco, Currys, PC World, Argos and direct through Humax’s own online store.

READ: What is Freeview Play, when is it coming to my TV and how can I get it?

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