Skip to content

Archive for

15
Aug

Twelve South Debuts ‘Curve’ Stand for Apple Notebooks


Twelve South today announced the launch of the Curve, a new stand based on a simple, classic design.

Described as an “elegant” stand that’s designed to complement the lines of an Apple notebook while elevating it to an ideal angle, Curve comes in a matte black aluminum that matches well with the Space Gray MacBook models.

Curve elevates the screen by 6.5 inches while keeping 70 percent of the base of the MacBook exposed through its open bottom, which allows for better cooling.

According to Twelve South, the Curve is based on the iCurve, the first stand ever designed by Twelve South co-founder Andrew Green back in 2003. The new design is also meant to pay tribute to Apple Park, Apple’s new campus that houses a ring-shaped main building.

I knew someday I wanted to refresh the classic design for the modern Mac universe. In thinking about bringing it back to market, I visualized Curve as a thin metal ribbon – kind of like a Möbius strip. Utilizing aluminum with a matte black finish, Curve is a fresh remix of the original classic that looks simply stunning, especially when supporting the new Space Grey MacBooks.

Curve weighs in at 1.43 pounds and is a desktop accessory that’s designed to work with the latest MacBook and MacBook Pro models.

Curve can be purchased from the Twelve South website for $49.99. It’s also available from some Best Buy retail locations.

Tag: Twelve South
Discuss this article in our forums

MacRumors-All?d=6W8y8wAjSf4 MacRumors-All?d=qj6IDK7rITs

15
Aug

Instagram Updated With Better Comment Organization


Popular Facebook-owned image sharing site Instagram is today being updated with comment threads, a small but long-awaited feature that will bring better organized comments for the first time.

With comment threads, comments on Instagram will more closely resemble comments on Facebook, with replies clearly listed under top-level comments. Prior to comment threading, all comments, even those that were replies to existing comments, were listed in one general thread with no organization.

Comment threads help you keep track of conversations and make it easy to respond to a specific thread. This update will make your feed an even better place to share interests, get inspired and connect with others.

Now, when you hit reply underneath any comment, your response will automatically be grouped right underneath it in a thread.

Instagram says these updates are part of Instagram version 24, available from the App Store today.

Instagram can be downloaded from the App Store for free. [Direct Link]

Tag: Instagram
Discuss this article in our forums

MacRumors-All?d=6W8y8wAjSf4 MacRumors-All?d=qj6IDK7rITs

15
Aug

Hard Disk Drives: How Do They Work?


With today’s way of life being heavily tied to having access to digital information, it is important to know where all that data goes when you use a computer. While many people know about hard disk drives as data storage, many don’t understand how they actually work. Today, we take a closer look at the inner workings of hard disk drives.

While hard disk drives are available in different sizes, they all feature three key components:

  • The platters – Disc-shaped alloys coated with magnetic particles which are divided into countless tiny sectors
  • The arm – A thin part that contains the read-write head, responsible for writing and retrieving information.
  • The motor – A small electric motor that spins the platter at very high speeds.

How Data Is Stored and Retrieved

When a computer is writing data into the hard drive, the information is written as “bits,” which are technically a sequence of 1s and 0s translated into a physical form by the arm’s write head. It does so by changing the orientation of the particles on the platter’s magnetic surface. Eight bits form a single byte’s worth of data. The bits are arranged in concentric circles called tracks, which are further divided into smaller sectors.

In the past, creating more data storage required manufacturing bigger platters since there could only be a limited amount of sectors in a platter. However, increasing the platter size would have made the hard disk drives too bulky to fit inside a typical laptop or computer case. The development of multi-platter disk drives made it possible for users to have higher-capacity disk drives without them being too bulky. Today’s typical hard disk drives usually have around two to four platters.

When retrieving data, the arm’s read head simply checks the orientation of  the magnetic particles and translates the information based on what it scanned. The faster the platters spin, the more bits pass under the arm’s read-write head that get processed.

Because data may be too much to be contained in a single sector, it’s possible for a file to have its data distributed among multiple sectors and even throughout multiple platters. When you access that file, a series of precise actuators maneuver the arm to seek out which parts of the platter have the necessary data. Most hard disk drives available today can process 150 Megabytes (1 million bytes) per second, although there are high-end versions that can process data twice as fast.

Manufacturing the Hard Disk Drives

Hard disk drive manufacturers rely on automated machinery to manufacture hard drives starting from cutting out the alloy metal that will eventually become the platters. Because hard disk platters have to be smooth enough before the magnetic coating can be applied, the alloy has to be ground and coated to achieve a flat surface.

Fabricating and assembling the hard disk drive components require a high degree of precision. For example, the platters are assembled by mechanical arms and linear stages that are programmed to move and stop with only a few microns’ margin of error. This ensures that the cut-out aluminum disc platters have perfectly flat surfaces ideal for the magnetic coating used to store the data.

Aside from employing high precision, automating the assembly process also helps prevent the risk of defects caused by contamination. Even the smallest bit of dust can cause major damage to a hard disk drive. Manual assembly would likely introduce impurities every time workers stepped inside an assembly room, so it is not an ideal method. Furthermore, automated assembly is a lot faster than manual assembly – a very important factor especially since there is always a huge demand for new hard disk drives.

Thanks to constant developments in computer hardware technologies, hard disk drives tend to get smaller while their capacities grow bigger. Tomorrow’s hard disk drives will be able to store data many times more than today’s highest-capacity drives, all while being ultra-compact and several times faster to keep up with the ever-growing demand for more information.

15
Aug

10 MARKETING LESSONS FROM APPLE [INFOGRAPHIC]


Courtesy of: The Website Group
15
Aug

No cables, no hassle: Wi-Charge’s in-room wireless charging is coming next year


Today, we still rely on wired charging for our phones, tablets, and laptops. Wi-Charge is working on a long-range wireless charging system that will send power to your device wherever it is in the room, no cords or careful placement on a charging mat needed. Excitingly, the company has taken a crucial step toward making that future a reality.

Wi-Charge has received approval from the Food and Drug Administration for its wireless charging technology, which means it’s safe to use and much closer to going on sale. Digital Trends spoke to Wi-Charge about the importance of the FDA getting onboard, and how the system will work when it’s released.

“Without FDA approval, we couldn’t sell products in the United States,” explained Ori Mor, Wi-Charge’s co-founder and vice president of research and development. “Now we’re in the clear and ready to engage the market.”

Several companies have attacked the challenge of wireless charging systems, but Wi-Charge works differently then it’s competitors, which is why the FDA needed to certify the technology and not, as you may have thought more likely, the Federal Communications Commission.

Anything transmitted over the air has to comply with safety and commercial regulations. Most of the time it’s radio frequency waves for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, for which the FCC needs to be involved; Wi-Charge uses infrared beams to deliver power.

“In the United States, for historical reasons, the relevant entity for infrared device approval is the FDA and not the FCC,” Mor said. “Technically the FCC also has to approve Wi-Charge, but because we’re using infrared, it’s not a challenge for us to get FCC approval — because technically Wi-Charge isn’t under the domain of the FCC.”

Wi-Charge’s technology will be available in commercial public spaces.

Some of Wi-Charge’s competitors, including Energous and Ossia, must strive for the FCC’s approval because they use radio waves, not infrared.

“Compared to standard Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, these systems use a lot of power, and for this reason it’s challenging for these devices to meet the FCC’s requirements, both for safety and compatibility with other products,” Mor said. “For them, getting FCC approval is a huge obstacle.”

Energous, for example, has so far only received FCC approval for wireless charging using a pad.

Wi-Charge has been demonstrating its technology for years, progressively increasing the power delivered and reducing the cost of the hardware.

“The speed of charging and range have been improved, but are roughly the same as before. Range can reach up to 10 meters indoors, and power is up to three to four watts per device. The speed of charging is slower than cable charging, but since the charging happens in the background without you even knowing, there’s no need for fast charging.”

The technology operates in what’s called line-of-sight, so there’s no need to place a Wi-Charge compatible device on or near a special pad, it just needs to be out of your pocket or drawer and visible to the transmitter. At first, Wi-Charge will rely on dongles or special cases attached to your device to receive a charge, which comes from charging stations that double as lamps. In the future, Wi-Charge wants light fixtures in buildings to have the system already installed. Similarly, Wi-Charge receivers will be fitted inside devices, so no external parts will be needed to charge wirelessly.

“We are already in discussions with carriers and service providers regarding deployment of transmitters in public spaces in multiple geographies. Naturally, we can’t elaborate on the agreements but we can say these are ‘tier one’ players.”

When asked about how long it would be before receivers were embedded in hardware, Mor called the dongles a “short phase” in the product’s life and added that the company is in talks with manufacturers already.

Initially, Wi-Charge’s technology will be available in commercial public spaces, and the first examples will arrive during the first six months of 2018. The company wouldn’t discuss its plans for launching a Wi-Charge product for the home, so any dreams of wirelessly charging your phone inside your house may have to wait. But given how awkward it is to carry charging bricks and cables around, let alone finding a spare power socket in a crowded shopping mall or busy coffee shop, we’d argue that public wireless charging is considerably more helpful anyway.

Just as we now take wireless internet connections for granted, there may come a time when we take wireless charging systems for granted too. The future just got a little more convenient, huh?




15
Aug

No cables, no hassle: Wi-Charge’s in-room wireless charging is coming next year


Today, we still rely on wired charging for our phones, tablets, and laptops. Wi-Charge is working on a long-range wireless charging system that will send power to your device wherever it is in the room, no cords or careful placement on a charging mat needed. Excitingly, the company has taken a crucial step toward making that future a reality.

Wi-Charge has received approval from the Food and Drug Administration for its wireless charging technology, which means it’s safe to use and much closer to going on sale. Digital Trends spoke to Wi-Charge about the importance of the FDA getting onboard, and how the system will work when it’s released.

“Without FDA approval, we couldn’t sell products in the United States,” explained Ori Mor, Wi-Charge’s co-founder and vice president of research and development. “Now we’re in the clear and ready to engage the market.”

Several companies have attacked the challenge of wireless charging systems, but Wi-Charge works differently then it’s competitors, which is why the FDA needed to certify the technology and not, as you may have thought more likely, the Federal Communications Commission.

Anything transmitted over the air has to comply with safety and commercial regulations. Most of the time it’s radio frequency waves for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, for which the FCC needs to be involved; Wi-Charge uses infrared beams to deliver power.

“In the United States, for historical reasons, the relevant entity for infrared device approval is the FDA and not the FCC,” Mor said. “Technically the FCC also has to approve Wi-Charge, but because we’re using infrared, it’s not a challenge for us to get FCC approval — because technically Wi-Charge isn’t under the domain of the FCC.”

Wi-Charge’s technology will be available in commercial public spaces.

Some of Wi-Charge’s competitors, including Energous and Ossia, must strive for the FCC’s approval because they use radio waves, not infrared.

“Compared to standard Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, these systems use a lot of power, and for this reason it’s challenging for these devices to meet the FCC’s requirements, both for safety and compatibility with other products,” Mor said. “For them, getting FCC approval is a huge obstacle.”

Energous, for example, has so far only received FCC approval for wireless charging using a pad.

Wi-Charge has been demonstrating its technology for years, progressively increasing the power delivered and reducing the cost of the hardware.

“The speed of charging and range have been improved, but are roughly the same as before. Range can reach up to 10 meters indoors, and power is up to three to four watts per device. The speed of charging is slower than cable charging, but since the charging happens in the background without you even knowing, there’s no need for fast charging.”

The technology operates in what’s called line-of-sight, so there’s no need to place a Wi-Charge compatible device on or near a special pad, it just needs to be out of your pocket or drawer and visible to the transmitter. At first, Wi-Charge will rely on dongles or special cases attached to your device to receive a charge, which comes from charging stations that double as lamps. In the future, Wi-Charge wants light fixtures in buildings to have the system already installed. Similarly, Wi-Charge receivers will be fitted inside devices, so no external parts will be needed to charge wirelessly.

“We are already in discussions with carriers and service providers regarding deployment of transmitters in public spaces in multiple geographies. Naturally, we can’t elaborate on the agreements but we can say these are ‘tier one’ players.”

When asked about how long it would be before receivers were embedded in hardware, Mor called the dongles a “short phase” in the product’s life and added that the company is in talks with manufacturers already.

Initially, Wi-Charge’s technology will be available in commercial public spaces, and the first examples will arrive during the first six months of 2018. The company wouldn’t discuss its plans for launching a Wi-Charge product for the home, so any dreams of wirelessly charging your phone inside your house may have to wait. But given how awkward it is to carry charging bricks and cables around, let alone finding a spare power socket in a crowded shopping mall or busy coffee shop, we’d argue that public wireless charging is considerably more helpful anyway.

Just as we now take wireless internet connections for granted, there may come a time when we take wireless charging systems for granted too. The future just got a little more convenient, huh?




15
Aug

FrontRow is a wearable camera that lets you live in the moment, and capture it


Why it matters to you

Staring at a screen when trying to capture an event pulls you out of the moment. FrontRow wants to change that.

Smartphones have allowed us to easily capture intimate and memorable moments, such as a baby’s first steps or a graduation ceremony. But too often we’re looking through the smartphone, rather than simply being present. Ubiquiti Labs‘ FrontRow is a wearable camera that wants to help by capturing and sharing the moment, so you can stay in the moment hands-free.

The FrontRow looks like a pocket watch, except instead of a watch face there’s a 2-inch circular display. There are two cameras, one on the back with the display, and one on the front. On the side, you’ll find a power button, and a media button that lets you start and stop recording.

The premise is simple: When you are about to engage is an activity you want recorded, like a kayak ride, tap the media button and FrontRow will begin recording. You can take photographs, too. The primary camera, on the other side of the display, features a 140-degree lens, allowing you to capture more in a frame. The microphone array captures sound, and a speaker lets you play content back with audio.

Running Android, the touchscreen display lets you access a handful of supported live-streaming apps, such as Facebook Live, YouTube Live, and Twitter. You can directly hop into these apps to start a live-stream without needing to pull out your phone.

But FrontRow’s highlight feature is Story Mode, which is somewhat like the time lapse feature on an iPhone, except a little smarter.

Story Mode “autonomously captures” a handful of images every few seconds when you’re on the move. The company said the mode is optimized for the first-person perspective, and the end-result is a collection of images that tell a story of the event or your day.

The wearable will stay on standby mode for 48 hours, but Ubiquiti Labs claims it can last for two hours in live-streaming mode, and 16 hours in Story Mode. There’s a USB Type-C port on the FrontRow, which is used to charge it. Thanks to fast-charging technology, the company said it will recharge in about 20 minutes.

The FrontRow hangs around your neck, but the company will be offering a car window mount and a flexible coil mount in the future. While the design is stylish, the FrontRow still looks very much like a tech gadget — the camera gives it away. The idea isn’t entirely new either; wearable cameras are a growing trend, though FrontRow’s implementation certainly is unique.

It’s available for purchase on FrontRow.com and Amazon for $400, and the companion app is supported on iOS and Android.




15
Aug

Microsoft’s Surface Pro is a pricey alternative to the Asus Transformer Pro T304


Microsoft kicked off the modern 2-in-1 form factor in 2012 with the original Surface, and since then it’s improved the design and performance of the line through a series of annual updates. The most recent model is the 2017 Surface Pro, which replaced the popular Surface Pro 4 to become the reigning champion of the detachable tablet market. Microsoft’s OEM partners haven’t stood still, however, so we decided to compare the Microsoft Surface Pro to the Asus Transformer Pro T304 to see how well they’re doing.

If you’ve taken a look at the two machines side-by-side, then you’ll notice a striking resemblance. Asus borrowed liberally from Microsoft’s Surface design cues, resulting in a detachable tablet that is the spitting image of the Surface Pro. But they’re not the same inside, where it counts the most. So is the Microsoft Surface Pro or the Asus Transformer Pro T304 right for you? Read on to find out.

Specs

Asus Transformer Pro T304

Microsoft Surface Pro (2017)

Size
11.77 x 8.30 x 0.34 inches
11.5 x 7.9 x 0.33 inches
Weight
1.82 pounds
1.69-1.73 pounds, depending upon processor
Display
12.5-inch LED-backlit multi-touch display
12.3-inch PixelSense multi-touch display
Resolution
2,160 x 1,440 pixels (208 ppi)
2,736 x 1,824 pixels (267 ppi)
Operating System
Windows 10
Windows 10
Storage
128GB, 256GB, or 512GB SATA SSD, 1TB PCIe SSD
128GB, 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB PCIe SSD
Processor
7th generation Intel Core i3, i5, i7
7th generation Intel Core m3, i5, i7
RAM
8GB, 16GB LPDDR3
4GB, 8GB, 16GB LPDDR3
Camera/Webcam
Front 2MP, Rear 8MP
Front 5MP, Rear 8MP
Touch
10-point multi-touch
10-point multi-touch
Connectivity
Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2
Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2, LTE later this year
Sensors
Three-axis gyro, accelerometer, ambient light sensor, barometer, and Touch ID fingerprint sensor
Ambient light sensor, accelerometer, gyroscope, Windows Hello face sign-in
Battery
39 watt-hour lithium polymer
45 watt-hour lithium polymer
Ports
1 x USB  3.0 Type-A, 1 X USB 3.1 Type-C Gen1, 1 x HDMI, microSD reader, headphone jack
1 x USB 3.0 Type-A, microSDXC reader, Surface Connect, headphone jack, mini-DisplayPort, Cover port
Price
$1,000 to $1,400
$800 to $2,700
Availability

Newegg, Amazon

Newegg, Jet.com, Microsoft

DT review
3 out of 5
4.5 out of 5

Nearly identical look, a markedly different feel

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Microsoft should take the Asus Transformer Pro T304 as a serious compliment. Simply put, the Asus tablet and the Surface Pro look remarkably similar — to the point that you’d be hard pressed to tell them apart from more than a few feet away. Both posses the same silver sheen, both use nearly identical flip-out kickstands, and both connect to similarly-designed detachable keyboards.

But looks can be skin deep, and that’s the case here. The Transformer Pro T304 isn’t a poorly-built machine by any means, but the Surface Pro is simply on another level. It maintains a special place at the very top of design and build quality, one that was previously only occupied by Apple’s MacBook Pro line. Its lines are clean, its edges are smooth, and when you hold it in your hand it feels like a hunk of metal fused with a slab of glass.

The Asus Transformer Pro T304 is also a solid machine in its own right. But its design isn’t as clean, being marred by more connector ports — although of course, that’s a good thing — and it doesn’t provide quite the same feeling of solidity afforded by the Surface Pro. Most telling, the Transformer Pro T304’s hinge just isn’t as smooth as the Surface Pro’s, and it doesn’t quite exude the same aura of superior engineering.

Again, we have to stress: The Transformer Pro T304 is a quality machine. The Surface Pro is just in a class all by itself when it comes to detachable tablets.

Winner: Microsoft Surface Pro

Great performance versus just good enough

Asus lists a variety of configurations for the Transformer Pro T304, from a seventh-generation Core i3 processor up to a Core i7 and various RAM and storage options. In reality, though, there are currently only two versions available for purchase. There’s the model with a Core i7-7500U, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB SATA solid-state drive (SSD), which we reviewed, and then a special version offered at wholesaler Costco that ups the RAM to 16GB and the SSD to 512GB.

The Surface Pro is available in a range of configurations as well, from a low-power seventh generation Core m3 processor up to a Core i7-7660U, up to 16GB of RAM, and up to 1TB of PCIe SSD. All of those configurations are actually available for purchase, meaning you have far more flexibility when it comes to designing the model to meet your performance needs. In addition, the Core m3 and i5 models are fanless, offering up the extra benefit of silent operation.

When comparing the performance of the two machines, the Surface Pro’s Core i7-7660U naturally comes out on top. This was particularly true in our real-world benchmark test that converts a 420GB .MP4 video to H.265 format. The Transformer Pro T304 took 1,453 seconds to perform the conversion while the Surface Pro took only 822 seconds — the fastest score we’ve seen in a laptop with a dual-core processor. That means that if you need top-level CPU performance, the Surface Pro is the better choice.

In addition, the Surface Pro uses a faster PCIe solid-state drive (SSD) compared to the Transformer Pro T304’s SATA SSD. While both are plenty fast in booting, starting apps, and accessing and saving data, the Surface Pro is better when you need to access large amounts of data from storage.

Overall, Microsoft packed higher level components into the Surface Pro and tuned them for better performance. The Transformer T304 is fine for typical productivity work, but it can’t hold a candle to the tablet performance leader.

Winner: Microsoft Surface Pro

Many input options, but one in particular stands out

Both the Transformer Pro T304 and Surface Pro offer detachable keyboards that not only look the same (at least the Charcoal colored version that Asus provided with our review unit is similar to Microsoft’s Signature Type Cover), but they also provide similar typing experiences. This makes them equally good when it comes to entering copious amounts of information — both have crisp, responsive keystrokes with similar travel, both are equally quiet, and both suffer from some bounciness when the keyboards are magnetically attached at an angle.

The Transformer Pro T304’s touchpad is slightly larger, but both use Microsoft’s Precision protocol and so are equally responsive and precise. In addition, both machines offer 10-point multi-touch displays that are flawless in registering touches and responding to taps and swipes.

Finally, the Transformer Pro T304 and Surface Pro both benefit from active pens that allow for precise input for handwriting and drawing. The Surface Pro pulls ahead here in that the newest Surface Pen offers 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity compared to the 1,024 levels provided by the Asus version. The Surface pen also offers tilt support, which the Asus active pen does not, and Microsoft incorporated a hardware accelerator that enables a mere 21ms of latency — second only to the latest iPad Pro Pencil in terms of speed in laying down ink.

Type, touching, and swiping are therefore essentially the same on both machines. For users who primarily want to use the pen to handwrite notes on the screen and make simple sketches, both machines are again equally as good. For artistic types who need the most precise and responsive pen input, however, the Surface Pro provides a significantly enhanced experience.

We’ll also mention that both machines support Windows 10 Hello for password-less logins. The Surface Pro uses an infrared camera and facial recognition, while the Transformer Pro T304 uses a fingerprint scanner embedded in the power button. Both work equally well, and so it’s down to preference as to which method is superior.

Thanks to the more responsive and precise pen, we’re going to give the Surface Pro the win by the narrowest of margins. We’ll note, though, that both the keyboard and pen are included with the Transformer Pro T304 but are costly options with the Surface Pro.

Winner: Microsoft Surface Pro

Stuck in the past or looking to the future

There are no two ways about it: Microsoft has a thing about USB Type-C ports. It just doesn’t like them. The Surface Pro, therefore, is stuck with the exact same legacy ports as the Surface Pro 4. There’s an old-school USB Type-A connector, a MicroSD card reader, a mini-DisplayPort, a Surface Connect port, a Type Cover port, and a headphone jack. If you want USB Type-C, then you’ll need to pick up Microsoft’s planned Surface Connect to USB Type-C dongle.

Asus, on the other hand, managed to squeeze in a USB Type-C port to go along with USB Type-A, a full-size HDMI connection, a MicroSD card reader, a keyboard connector, and a headphone jack. That may not sound like much more when you’re simply counting connectors, but the addition of the forward-looking USB Type-C is a big deal for anyone who wants to look at more modern accessories.

Microsoft’s reluctance to add a USB Type-C to its Surface device remains a point of contention among its fans and keeps the machines mired in the past. Asus, on the other hand, makes sure that no matter what accessory you need to connect, the Transformer Pro T304 can accommodate your needs. Score one for the contender.

Winner: Asus Transformer Pro T304

Surface displays maintain their dominance

Microsoft’s Surface line is responsible for the growing popularity of the 3:2 aspect ratio, which makes the screen a little taller than the usual 16:9 widescreen ratio. This provides for improved productivity by showing off more of a webpage or document, while introducing a bit of letterboxing when displaying video. It’s a fair tradeoff, and the Asus Transformer Pro T304 has followed suit.

Another trend that Microsoft helps push forward is the use of increasingly high-quality and high-resolution displays. Starting with the Surface Pro 3, Microsoft has been known to put excellent displays in its Surface machines that also ensure pin-sharp text and graphics. The Surface Pro maintains that pattern, offering a 12.3-inch PixelSense display with 2,736 × 1,824-pixel resolution (267 PPI) and excellent contrast, good color support, and high brightness.

The Asus Transformer Pro T304’s display is larger at 12.5 inches, and doesn’t boast as high a resolution at 2,160 x 1,440 (206 PP). That’s still a higher resolution than most laptops and also provides sharp text and graphics. However, the contrast isn’t nearly as high and the display doesn’t get nearly as bright. Once again, it’s not that the Transformer Pro T304 isn’t a good machine, it’s just that it pales in comparison to the Surface Pro.

With better contrast, brightness, and image quality, the Surface Pro maintains Microsoft’s reputation for choosing some excellent screens. The Transformer Pro T304, on the other hand, has more in line with the average machine, meaning the leader wins another round.

Winner: Microsoft Surface Pro 

Only one might last you a full day’s work

The Surface Pro is a thin tablet at 8.5-millimeters thick and it weighs a scant 1.73 pounds with the Core i7-7660U installed. That doesn’t leave too much room for a battery, although somehow Microsoft managed to squeeze in a 45 watt-hour battery that’s larger than the ones installed in standard — and thicker — laptops. The Transformer Pro T304 is just the tiniest bit thicker at 8.85 millimeters, and it weighs a touch more at 1.79 pounds. Even so, Asus went with a smaller, 39 watt-hour battery.

The result is predictable. The Surface Pro lasted significantly longer on a single charge than the Transformer Pro T304. For example, the Surface Pro managed to loop a video for more than 10 hours while the Transformer Pro T304 petered out at just under eight. In our more aggressive test that runs through some CPU-intensive webpages, the Surface Pro lasted an hour longer.

In short, while they’re both thin and light machines that are easy to toss into a backpack and carry around, only one has a chance to last for a full workday. That’s the Surface Pro, which not only leads the detachable market in battery life but also competes well with some traditional laptops. Not surprisingly, Microsoft’s machine pulls out yet another win.

Winner: Microsoft Surface Pro

Availability and price

There’s no reason to mince words here: Microsoft Surface machines tend to be expensive, and the Surface Pro is no exception. It might start out at a reasonable price of $800 for a configuration with a seventh-generation Intel Core m3 processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD, but it quickly ramps up from there. The most expensive Surface Pro is a whopping $2,700 for the Core i7, 16GB of RAM, 1TB SSD model. For this comparison, the relevant configuration includes a Core i7-7660U, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD, and that’s $1,600.

But wait, there’s more! The Surface Pro doesn’t include either a Signature Type Cover ($160) or a Surface Pen ($100). Adding those makes our apples-to-apples Surface Pro configuration a hefty $1,860. Ouch.

The Asus Transformer Pro T304 is significantly less expensive. As we noted earlier, there are currently only two configurations available at retail. The seventh-generation Core i7-7500U, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD is $1,000, and there’s a Transformer Pro T304 model exclusive to Costco that ups the system to 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD for $1,400 (currently on sale for $1,200). Not only are those prices more down to Earth, but Asus also includes the keyboard and pen.

This means that a similarly-configured Transformer Pro T304 is $860 less than a similarly-configured and equipped Surface Pro for most buyers. That’s real money. If you’re a Costco customer, then you’ll save a whopping $1,260 while it’s on sale. The point is that Asus simply kills Microsoft on price, and while the Transformer Pro T304 hasn’t won many of our head-to-head comparisons, this one is a real doozy.

Winner: Asus Transformer Pro T304

Conclusion

Asus has produced a detachable tablet in the Transformer Pro T304 that isn’t as well-built, as fast, or as long-lasting as Microsoft’s Surface Pro, and its display and pen aren’t as good. The Transformer Pro T304’s claim to fame is that it’s affordable in a way that the Surface Pro simply is not. Simply put, Microsoft is asking you to pay a lot of money if you want the absolute best.

If you have the money, then grab the Surface Pro and don’t look back. And if your budget is less stratospheric, then you can scale down your Surface Pro configuration to the m3 configuration and get the price closer to the Transformer Pro T304. You could also consider the Core i5 configuration that’s a bit more. In either case, you’ll get a machine with much better battery life. It’ll also be fanless — and therefore completely silent — to boot. Our recommendation is to spend more and get the Surface Pro, the best detachable tablet and 2-in-1 available today.

If your budget is constrained, and you really want a Windows 10 detachable tablet, then the Asus Transformer Pro T304 is a decent alternative. It will do many of the same things that the Surface Pro will do, while asking you to make some compromises. You’ll need to carry your power adapter around with you more often, and if you’re an artist who needs the absolute most precise and responsive pen input, then you’ll want to steer clear.




15
Aug

How to use Amazon’s Alexa app on your smartphone


Amazon’s AI-powered voice assistant, Alexa, is spreading like wildfire and we’re seeing more and more useful Alexa skills roll out everyday. It’s in robots, vacuum cleaners, and the thousands of third-party apps that tap Alexa for voice recognition. It’s also starting to make its way onto phones. You’ll only find it integrated in two flagship smartphones so far: The Huawei Mate 9 and the HTC U11, but you can install the Alexa app on any smartphone and use it to configure your Alexa-enabled devices.

We’re going to start by taking a look at how to use the Alexa app on any smartphone, then on the next page we’ll dig into the extra steps required to get Alexa working as a voice-controlled assistant on the HTC U11 or Huawei Mate 9 and explain what it can and can’t do.

How to configure Alexa on your smartphone

You can personalize the way that Alexa works on all of your supported devices (including the U11 or Mate 9) by installing Amazon’s dedicated Alexa app via the Google Play Store. There is also an Alexa app for the iPhone in the App Store, but, sadly it’s a lot more limited.

If you’ve never used an Alexa-enabled device before, it’s worth taking a few minutes to customize things to your liking. Tap the three-line menu icon in the top-left corner of the app to access the following:

  • Music, Video, & Books: Sign into the services you want the Alexa app to use, but note that music services currently don’t work on the Huawei Mate 9 and HTC U11.
  • Lists: Here’s where you’ll see items you’ve added (via voice command) to your Amazon shopping and to-do list from the Alexa app.
  • All Skills: Here’s where you can browse, enable, and manage the thousands of third-party apps that extend Alexa’s functionality. See which ones you’ve installed by tapping the My skills button in the top-right corner of the screen.
  • Smart Home: This menu lets you configure smart home devices you can control with the Alexa app, including smart bulbs, TVs, security cameras, and more. Tap Discover to find and set up new devices, and then organize them into Groups and Scenes to suit your tastes.

You can also tap the three-line menu icon, and select Settings to review your various Alexa-enabled devices, set names for them, locations, time zones, and even choose your preference for temperature and distance measurement units

That’s all the Alexa app can do on most phones for now, but Amazon has been working on deeper integration so you can actually use voice commands on your phone, just like you would with an Echo. Sadly, it only works with the HTC U11 and the Huawei Mate 9 right now. If you have either of those phones, hit page two to find out how to get started and what you can do.

15
Aug

Samsung T5 Portable SSD review


During our Samsung T5 SSD review, we were struck by how capable this thing is. It’s not the smallest drive on the market, or the quickest, but it just might be the smallest, quickest drive out there. Plus, there’s a certain endearing quality to it you don’t often find in products as mundane as an external hard drive.

Our review model was the “Alluring Blue” 500GB drive, which retails for $200. The 250GB model starts at $130, with the 1TB and 2TB models coming in at $400 and $800, respectively. Let’s dig in and see if the T5 is worth its hefty price tag.

It’s the design

We’ll get into how quick the Samsung T5 was a little further down, but the reason the Samsung T5 is appealing is simple — it looks nice. The Samsung T3, its predecessor, was also a looker, with a slim and solid build that inspired confidence and set itself apart from the competition.

The Samsung T5, wrapped in matte blue aluminum, feels like a single solid piece of metal. Nothing rattles, moves, or shifts, even when you jostle it around or give it a good squeeze. According to Samsung, that robust build allows the T5 to survive drops of about six feet. Its dimensions are three-inches long, 2.3-inches wide, and .4-inches thick, making it small enough to slip into your pocket, forget it’s there, and run it through the laundry. Almost.

On the front is a single USB Type-C port, lending the drive a certain elegance. Beside the port is a single LED that’s invisible except when it’s on. It’ll flash blue when it’s connected, and red when it’s safe to disconnect.

The Samsung T5 managed to pack 500GB of storage into a tiny body by using Samsung’s signature V-NAND technology. It stacks its memory vertically instead of horizontally — meaning you can fit more storage into a smaller form factor. While the storage capacity of our review unit isn’t all that remarkable, and there are smaller 500GB drives out there, the Samsung T5 is also available in 1TB and 2TB configurations, at the exact same size. It doesn’t gain a single millimeter.

The Samsung T5 may only feature a single port, but it ships with two short cables — a USB Type-C cable, and a USB Type-C to USB Type-A cable. It’s nice to see both, since it means you can plug the drive into almost any PC.

There’s one small detail that’s important to highlight — the chamfered bezel. Around the top and bottom edge of the Samsung T5’s aluminum case, the bezel features a slight, glossy chamfer, giving the T5 a bit of shine when the light catches it. It’s a minor detail, but one that speaks to the high level of industrial design that went into this drive.

A lot of speed in a small package

The Samsung T5 manages an impressive write speed of 486 megabytes per second, and an equally impressive read speed of 513MB/s. If you’re used to looking at internal hard drive speed, those read and write speeds can seem low, but keep in mind this is an external drive. For an external SSD, the Samsung T5 is incredibly fast.

With those read and write speeds, the T5 is fast enough that you’ll be able to transfer files back and forth without any issues, and you can even watch movies or play games right from the drive.

The most important thing about these speed figures is the simple fact that Samsung managed to outdo itself, with the T5 outperforming the previous generations — the Samsung T3 and Samsung T1 — by a significant margin. Rather than just re-package an old drive in a snazzy new case, or make it smaller, Samsung managed to make the T5 just as small as its predecessors, but a whole lot quicker. That’s impressive.

Lock it down

The Samsung T5 ships with an encryption software suite, which allows you to lock the drive with AES 256-bit hardware encryption. There are bank vaults more vulnerable to intrusion than the Samsung T5 when it’s all locked up with a strong passphrase. The software works with Windows and MacOS, and once the passphrase is set, it locks and unlocks quickly.

Warranty

Samsung’s T5 just as small as its predecessors, and a whole lot quicker.

The Samsung T5 features a three-year limited warranty protecting against manufacturer defects. That might seem like a long time for a small device like this, but it’s about what we’d expect for an SSD — they typically have longer warranties due to how long it can take a manufacturer defect to show up. Still, it’s never a bad thing to have three years of protection against problems that may arise.

Conclusion

If you need a reliable external storage device that can fit in your pocket, features excellent security, and quick transfer speeds, the Samsung T5 is worth a look. It’s not cheap, starting at $130, and it’s a bit more expensive than going with an external disk drive. However, you get a lot of mileage out of that extra cash. The Samsung T5 is smaller, sleeker, and more durable than any external hard disk.




%d bloggers like this: