Category: Tablet Computers

The Microsoft Surface Pro becomes another of personal computing’s Holy Grails

Apple MacBook Pro running MacOS X Mavericks - press picture courtesy of ApplePreviously, all the laptop vendors were trying to design their products to have a similar look to Apple’s MacBook product lineup. This ended up with the Apple MacBook product lineup along with the Apple iMac product lineup being seen as personal computing’s “Holy Grail” when it comes to design, construction and specification. This was involving computers that have the same slimline look to the Apple MacBook Air series along with some media-capable laptops like the HP Envy 15-3000 having a similar styling and capability to the Apple MacBook Pro.

Microsoft Surface Pro 4 press image courtesy of Microsoft USA

Microsoft Surface Pro 4 – considered to be the Holy Grail for Windows-based detachable-tablet 2-in-1s

But what has just been happening at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas was a run of detachable-tablet 2-in-1 computers that have a very similar look to the Microsoft Surface Pro.  For example, when the keyboard is attached to the Surface Pro and the kickstand is brought out so it is used as a notebook computer, the setup raises the keyboard at a slight angle; while the tablet part is very much a glass-covered slate.

This ended up with the Microsoft Surface Pro, especially the latest generation, being considered the “Holy Grail” whein it comes to detachable-tablet 2-in-1 computers.

All of the contenders have the detachable keyboard supplied with the tablet even if you purchase the baseline variant in their product lineup. This is while they achieve that slimline look that the Microsoft Surface has attained as a tablet.

They also offer features that Microsoft wouldn’t provide as part of the Surface Pro’s spec like use of common “open-frame” connectors such as the USB Type-C connector. HP’s Spectre x2, for example, even adds an Intel RealSense camera for Windows Hello facial recognition.

As I have noticed over the last year, the Microsoft Surface Pro lineup has also been aggressively targeted at those of us who would buy the Apple MacBook Air or own one of these computers. This is through the use of style to woo these customers along with TV commercials that show you what you can do on the Surface Pro but can’t do on the MacBook Air and pages on Microsoft’s Website giving instructions on how to move off Apple’s Macintosh platform to the Surface.

Could this be another trend for computer manufacturers to achieve “Holy Grail” products for their product class which which other comptuer designers aspire to? But on the other hand, the desire to imitate can ruin the desire to innoviate and make products that carry their unique look and design characteristics.

Send to Kindle

Consumer Electronics Show 2016–Part 1 Desktop and Mobile Computing

This article is part of a series about the trends that have been shown at the Consumer Electronics Show 2016 in Las Vegas in the USA.

Desktop and Mobile Computing

This encompasses personal computing systems ranging from desktop and laptop computers that run “regular” or “traditional” computer operating systems like Microsoft Windows or Google ChromeOS to smartphones and tablets that run a mobile operating system typically Android. Apple hasn’t been showing their equipment at CES because of the way they see themselves as their own unit.

The key trends

Windows 10 Start Menu

Windows 10 – influences how this year’s computers are being designed

Microsoft Windows 10 and the Intel Skylake processor / chipset family have become established as far as personal computing system is concerned. This has led to most of the manufacturers refreshing their desktop and laptop product lines to take advantage of the new microarchitecture and operating system with what it offers. It doesn’t matter whether you use these computers for work or play; or at home, the office or on the road.

Expect the USB Type-C connector to be common on this year's computers

Expect the USB Type-C connector to be common on this year’s computers

Feature that are being made available include the USB 3.1 Type-C connector which offers data transfer and laptop power on one cable, Thunderbolt 3 which uses the USB Type-C cable as an effective way to provide PCI-Express data throughput along with mobile-optimised design based around reduced heat output and reduced power demands.

This has led to a situation where most of the manufacturers have engaged in a race to see who is the first with the lightest 15” laptop and the most svelte 13” 2-in-1 convertible or detachable computer. The latter goal has been brought on because of Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book 2-in-1s as something to emulate or beat where these systems are being offered as a credible alternative to the Apple MacBook lineup. This has been brought about because of the Intel Skylake processor family offering more options for mobile-focused processors that can lead to fanless cooling and improved battery runtime. The latter benefit benefits designers due to the ability to supply a smaller battery yet yield the same runtime.

The display is being seen as a tool to differentiate the premium-grade laptops. This is based on an increasing number of laptops and 2-in-1s having a 4K ultra-high-resolution display along with some manufacturers offering OLED displays as an option in their premium models. From my personal experience with my Samsung Galaxy Note phones and their AMOLED displays, I have noticed that photos and videos do come across more vividly due to the improved contrast that these displays offer. This could mean that the OLED-equipped laptops could woo photographers and video editors away from the Apple MacBook Pro as their tool of choice.

This year has also seen a larger number of business-grade laptops and tablets being exhibited by the manufacturers. Why show business-focused computers at a consumer-focused show? Firstly, there is the concept of “bring-your-own-device” appearing in a large number of workplaces where workers could choose their own devices, perhaps with the employer subsidising the cost of the equipment. Then there is the concept of the Internet-based “cottage industry” where your place of business is your home, perhaps with extra rented premises as a shopfront or storage where applicable.

All the computer names are offering gaming-optimised desktop and laptop computers with two significant trends showing up this year. One of these is to have gaming computers rated to work with the Oculus Rift virtual-reality headset at best performance. Another is to have highly-compact gaming desktop computers in a manufacturer’s lineup rather than the traditional “gaming-rig” tower computers.

Some of what the brands offer

Acer Aspire Switch 12S convertible 2-in-1 - press picture courtesy of Microsoft

Acer Aspire Switch 12S convertible 2-in-1

Acer has premiered the Aspire Switch 12S detachable which uses Intel Thunderbolt 3.1 via USB Type-C connectivity. As well, there is a 4K ultra-high-resolution screen in the lineup but these computers normally have a 12.5” Full HD (1080p) screen. These detachables use a magnetic docking mechanism which shouldn’t be about messing around with a latch; while they maintain 2 USB 3.0 connections, microHDMI external display connection and a microSD card slot.

Acer Travelmate P648 Business Notebook computer press picture courtesy of Microsoft

Acer Travelmate P648 Business Notebook computer

Acer’s TravelMate business notebooks have been brought up to date. One of these is the TravelMate P649 14-incher which come with WiGig short-throw Wi-Fi support, a USB Type-C port, NVIDIA GTX940M discrete graphics, start with 4Gb RAM but can be set up with 20Gb RAM, storage up to 512Gb SSD or 1Tb hard disk, MU-MIMO 802.11ac Wi-Fi for the latest routers, amongst other things. It seems like this computer could be called as an “all-rounder” work-home computer. They even offered the ProDock expansion module as a recommended “desktop-computing” accessory for this laptop, because this can provide 2 USB 3.0 ports, Gigabit Ethernet wired network adaptor, and the ability to connect display devices via DisplayPort, DVI, HDMI or VGA.

The gaming scene didn’t miss out, thanks to Acer refreshing their Aspire Nitro range of gaming computers uprated to current expectations including Skylake technology. The Black Edition even sports an Intel Realsense camera for 3D scanning and Windows Hello facial recognition.

Acer Iconia Tab 8 Android tablet - press image courtesy of Acer

Acer Iconia Tab 8 family Android tablet with Kids’ Center

There is the Acer Liquid Jade Primo smartphone which is Acer’s entry in to the Windows 10 Mobile foray. This has the USB Type-C connectivity along with 3Gb RAM and 32Gb storage. But Acer hasn’t forgotten about Android with their Iconia One 8” family tablet that runs Android Lollipop 5.1, 9 hours battery runtime and has 16Gb storage and 1Gb RAM. Acer also added to this tablet the “Kids Center” software which is effectively an app corral for kids.

Acer has fielded a few Chrome OS computers to the foray with the Chromebook 11 which has 9 hours battery runtime, a Celeron processor and starts with 2Gb RAM but can go 4Gb RAM; and a Chromebase 24 all-in-one desktop which uses an Intel Core-family CPU and uses 8Gb RAM.

ASUS didn’t show up much in the way of laptop computers but presented their Zenfone Zoom which is a camera smartphone that uses a 10-element Hoya 3x optical-zoom lens. This phone is not as bulky as other camera-smartphone hybrid designs.

Dell revamped their Latitude range of business portable computers by offering the Latitude 11 500 series of business-focused tablets , the Latitude 13 7000 series of Ultrabooks and the Latitude 12 7000 series of detachable 2-in-1 tablets.

The Latitude 12 7000 series 12” tablets are effectively Dell’s answer to Microsoft’s Surface detachable tablet range, with an option to have the display resolution as 4K resolution as an option or Full HD (1080p) as standard; Intel Core M3, Core M5 0r Core M7 processors; 2 USB 3.1 Type-C ports with a USB Type-A adaptor supplied, 802.11ac Wi-Fi connectivity and an Intel RealSense camera. These 2-in-1s will offer 8Gb RAM and 512Gb storage. There is also the Latitude 11 5000 which is a closely-specced 11” variant of the Latitude 12 7000 2-in-1. The Latitude 13 7000 13” Ultrabooks will have the InfinityEdge “narrow-bezel” look, Thunderbolt 3 over USB Type-C and a fingerprint reader and NFC / RFID reader. Other members of the Latitude 5000 and 7000 business portable-computer lineup have been revamped to newer expectations with Intel Skylake technology, all USB connections being USB 3.0 or better, Thunderbolt 3.0 and 2560×1600 screen resolution at least. One of the systems even has support for WiGig short-throw high-bandwidth Wi-Fi wireless connectivity.

The Dell Inspiron 11 3000 is Dell’s entry to the bargain-basement laptop market with at least US$199 buying you a Windows laptop that has Celeron or Pentium processors, 2Gb or 4Gb RAM, 32Gb SSD storage and the 1366×768 display resolution.

For the gamers out there, Dell’s Alienware gaming brand has fronted up with some Oculus-ready gaming computers. They even put up the prospect of offering a gaming laptop with an OLED screen to improve those games graphics.

Hewlett-Packard (HP) have premiered their Phoenix x360 convertible notebook which has a variant equipped with a 15.6” display. This series implements the Intel Iris graphics engine and a 4K screen with OLED offered as an option. At the moment, HP are claiming this Skylake-equipped computer to he the thinnest  lightest 15” convertible notebook on the market. These computers are equipped with a USB Type-C connector and have their sound subsystem tuned by Bang & Olufsen which is part of a trend affecting HP laptops.

They have also released a larger version of the Pavilion x2  detachable tablet, which is another attempt to answer Microsoft’s Surface tablet range. It will come with low specs like a Core M or Atom CPU depending on the price range. The keyboard has a magnetic attachment mechanism rather than the usual mechanical latch used with most detachable tablets and the screen will come in at 12.1”.

HP Elitebook Folio laptop press picture courtesy of HP

The HP Elitebook Folio – as part of one’s office, whether that’s the main one or the café.

For business users, HP has released the Elitebook Folio whcih can lay flat for collabberation in the main or secondary office. This very thin Ultrabook has 2 USB Type-C connectors, a sound system that works well for voice communications, dedicated call-control keys, a piano hinge and, like a lot of this year’s computers, will have a 4K touchscreen option. As well, it is built on an aluminium chassis rather than a plastic chassis. You could achieve a good long workday and a few coffees from your favourite barista at your “second-office” café before the battery goes flat even if you go for the 4K touchscreen display variant or have the display at maximum brightness.

Other business computer options premiered by HP at this year’s CES include the Elitebook 1040 G3 14” notebook based on an aluminium chassis and using Core processors, Full HD or QHD displays. This is along with HP launching the Elitebook 800 family of business notebooks, available as 12.5”, 14” or 15” variants. HP have also added in a privacy filter feature to their latest Elitebook lineup as a deal-making option to prevent others like baristas or neighbouring aeroplane passengers from snooping on your work that is on the screen.

HP have not forgotten about the gamers and have premiered the Envy Phoenix performance gaming desktop which is pitched at today’s virtual-reality gamers.

Lenovo have come up with a large lineup of very interesting computer equipment.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet family - press picture courtesy of Lenovo

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet with additional options

Firstly, they have released the ThinkPad X1 as a family of portable computing devices rather than one notebook computer. The first of these is the ThinkPad X1 Tablet which is a highly-modular 12” detachable tablet set to answer Microsoft’s Surface. It has USB Type-C charging. Core M horsepower, up to 16Gb RAM and a 2K IPS screen. But its piece de resistance is the fact that there are clip-on modues that extend its functionality further. One of these is the Productivity Module which is a 15-hour external battery while another of these is the Presenter Module with a pico projector and HDMI video connectivity and the last of these is the 3D Imaging Module with an integrated Inntel Realsense 3D camera.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga convertible notebook (tent view) - press image courtesy of Lenovo

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga convertible notebook

The X1 Yoga is a 14” convertible notebook that carries through the Lenovo Yoga 360-degree hinged convertible design weighs in about 2.8lb and has a pen integrated in the tablet. This has a 2560×1440 OLED display as the top-shelf option or an LCD with similar resolution or a Full HD LCD at cheaper prices. It has that standard HDMI connector for external displays, uses Core M horsepower, is equipped with an Ethernet socket for Ethernet or HomePlug AV2 networks, and can have up to 16Gb RAM and 1Th SSD storage.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon notebook (Skylake powered) press picture courtesy of Lenovo

The Skylake-driven iteration of the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon notebook

The X1 Carbon is a follow-on from the legendary business notebook which I reviewed that has a carbon-fibre housing. It comes with similar specifications to the X1 Yoga and has military-specification construction and there is the option to have it run with Intel i7 processors while you have the same “elasticity” that you have with RAM and storage types and capacities as the X1 Yoga.

Lenovo ThinkCentre X1 all-in-one business desktop press photo courtesy of Lenovo

Lenovo ThinkCentre X1 all-in-one business desktop

It is followed on with the ThinkCentre X1 all-in-one desktop computer that is as slim as one of today’s typical computer monitors. This has a 23.8” Full HD screen; Intel i7 Skylake processor; 16Gb RAM and an option of 500Gb or 1Tb hard disk, 512Gb solid-state drive or a 512Gb self-encrypting drive or OPAL self-encrypting drive for storage; 1080p Webcam; DisplayPort input and output; SD card reader and 5 USB 3.0 sockets. It connects to home or business networks via Ethernet.

There are some more of the ThinkCentre and ThinkPad product families being offered for business users. One of these is the ThinkCentre Tiny which is Lenovo’s latest small-footprint computer but this is designed to be able to be attached to one of their monitors as part of a “ThinkCentre-In-One” all-in-one computer design.

Lenovo ThinkPad T560 business notebook - press photo courtesy of Lenovo

Lenovo ThinkPad T560 business notebook

The ThinkPad T Series manifests this year in the form of the T460 and T560 laptops, which continue the heritage that this series embodied. The T460s is a lightweight durable Ultrabook with a 14” screen while the T460p is equipped with improved graphics in the form of discrete graphics and WQHD screen. The ThinkPad X260 is a 12” Ultrabook that has an option of an add-on battery pack that gives this machine a runtime of 21 hours – enough for a long-haul flight to the other side of the world. The ThinkPad L460 and L560 are focused on military-specification durability.

Lenovo ThinkPad 13 notebook - press picture courtesy of Lenovo

Lenovo ThinkPad 13 durable budget notebook – can be supplied with Chrome OS or Windows 10

But the ThinkPad 13 budget notebook is the shining star when it comes to a purely secondary computer although it is pitched at the education market. It is available as a version which runs on Windows 10 or as a version that runs on Google Chrome OS. This unit implements military-specification durability, Intel Core i5 horsepower and up to 16Gb RAM and 512Gb storage. The Windows 10 variant has the IBM/Lenovo thumbstick on the keyboard, an HDMI external-video port, 3 USB connectors as well as a USB Type-C connector. This is while the Chrome OS variant has 1 USB connector along with 2 USB Type-C connectors. Personally, I would see this as a budget small-enough “portable typewriter” computer that is comfortable for answering emails, writing blog posts or completing that magnum opus while away from home or office – think of your favourite café or bar.

Lenovo Yoga 900 - stand mode press picture courtesy of Lenovo

Lenovo Yoga 900 – now available as a Business Edition computer

Let’s not forget that Lenovo also offered the Business Editions of both the Yoga 900 and MIIX 700. These add on features that allow for improved security and allow for management by a business’s own IT department or IT contractor. This will also mean that they may be available at value-added IT resellers that pitch to the business community.

Lenovo Yoga 900S watchband hinge detail press photo courtesy of Lenovo

Improved watchband hinge in the Lenovo Yoga 900S Series

Speaking of the Yoga 900 Series, there is the Yoga 900S which is a deluxe edition of the Yoga 900 with an improved watchband hinge and is available in that “Champagne Gold” finish reminiscent of early-1980s Marantz hi-fi equipment or a platinum-silver finish. Lenovo says that the Yoga 900S is the thinnest 360-degree convertible laptop on the market.

Lenovo IdeaCentre 510 all-in-one press picture courtesy of Lenovo

Lenovo IdeaCentre 510 all-in-one – aimed squarely at the Apple iMac

Lenovo is taking aim at the iMac by offering the IdeaCentre 510s 23” touchscreen all-in-one with narrow bezel which is equipped with a drop-down module that houses some USB ports and a Webcam. This comes in wiht Intel Skylake Core i7 processor, NVIDIA GT930a discrete graphics and has up to 1 Tb hard disk and a 256Gb solid-state drive for storage.

Lenovo Y Series Razer Edition gaming desktop press photo courtesy of Lenovo

Lenovo Y Series Razer Edition gaming desktop

Lenovo are trying their best to conquer the US gaming market by offering a run of gaming-focused computer equipment. This is in conjunction with them developing and publishing a game that would appeal to the core-level games. The Ideapad Y900 17” gaming laptop, which I reckon is a desknote, has the Core i7 processor, NVIDIA GTX980M discrete graphics, and up to 64Gb of DDR4 RAM. The IdeaCentre Y900 Razer Edition, which comes with a Razer mouse and keyboard, has the multi-colour lighting effects and Robocop look that will appeal at that frag-fest. It comes in with an Intel Core i7 CPU, 32Gb RAM, NVIDIA GTX750Ti discrete graphics and up to 2Tb hard disk and 256Gb solid-state drive capacity.

The IdeaCentre 610s small-form-factor desktop looks like a home appliance or wireless speaker and has a micro projector that docks on to it. This again comes with an Intel Core i7 Skylake CPU, NVIDIA GTX750Ti discrete graphics and up to 16Gb RAM.

Let’s not forget that Lenovo are showing the Vibe S1 Lite metal-body smartphone to the American market. This implemtns a 1080p Full HD screen and a selfie flash.

Samsung are not just offering Android smartphones and tablets but are introducing Windows 10 tablets to the US market. For that matter, they are applying the Galaxy Tab Pro model name also to tablets that run Windows 10 and have offered the Galaxy Tab Pro S which is a Windows 10 2-in-1 tablet that looks like the Microsoft Surface Pro, implements a Super AMOLED display, Intel Core M processor, and can fast-charge its battery in 2.5 hours to lead to a 10.5 hours runtime.

They have also shown the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge Android smartphones which will be equipped with a microSD card slot.

As for laptops, they are offering the Notebook 9 in 13” and 15” variants with a choise of Intel Skylake Core i5 or i7 processors, Full HD displays, 2 USB Type-C connections, and have them in metallic housings. Their Chromebook is the Chromebook 3 which will be equipped wiht an 11.6” 1366×768 display, a dual-core Intel Celeron processor, a choice of 2Gb or 4Gb RAM, and 16Gb storage.

LG Gram 15 laptop CES press shot courtesy of LG

LG Gram 15 laptop – how lightweight it is

Their South Korean rival, LG,  are offering some computing equipment of their own.  They have launched a pair of budget smartphones in the form of the K10 and K7 smartphones. As well, they launched the ultra-light Gram 15 laptop which they say is the lightest 15” laptop. It has the Full HD IPS display, a choice of an Intel Core i5 or i7 Haswell CPU, a USB Type-C connector and a Cirrus Logic audio DAC for its sound. They also launched the 15U560 15” mainstream home laptop which has a 15” 4K display driven by NVIDIA 940M discrete graphics, 8Gb RAM, and powered by Intel Skylake Core i3, i5 or i7 processors. Storage is up to 512Gb SSD or 1Tb hard disk and this laptop comes in a white finish.

Huawei have introduced fingerprint sensors across its phone and tablet range for this year. Examples of these include the Mate 6P 6” phablet and the Mate 8 6” phablet which is highly tuned for performance. There is also the MediaPad 10” 1920×1200 Android tablet which runs Android 5.1 Lollipop. This iPad alternative comes with 2Gb or 3Gb RAM and 16Gb or 48Gb storage.

Yezz Sfera have shown up with a smartphone that implements a 360-degree camera but could this catch on? Another newcomer called E.Fun fronted up to Las Vegas with a pair of budiget-priced laptop computers – a 14” notebook with a 1366×768 display, 32Gb onboard storage and a microSD slot, along wiht an 11” convertible notebook with similar specs except for 64Gb onboard storage.

Alcatel have fielded a small tablet in the form of the One Touch Pixi 3 which can work wiht 4G LTE mobile broadband. This 8” tablet works using Windows 10 Mobile, similar to what the Windows smartphones work on and it will support Contunuum for Mobile when it is used with a keyboard and mouse.

This is while Archos have presented a US$50 entry-level smartphone in the form of the Archos 40 Power 4” Android unit. This will have an 800×480 screen, 512Mb RAM, 8Gb storage, a microSD card slot and runs Android 5.1 Lollipop. Archos expects that this phone will run for 2 days before the battery dies but this depends on how many apps are running at once.

Nextbook have also fielded a range of entry-level detachable-tablet 2-in-1s driven by Atom x5 horsepower and equipped with 2Gb RAM and an HD touchscreen. Other features that are common include a microSD card slot, 802.11g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, the mobile-phone-standard microUSB port and a microHDMI port. The 9” 9A and 10” 10A units come with 32Gb storage while the 11” 11A comes with 64Gb storage.

Maingear have fronted up with a gaming computer that is based on an all-in-one design. As well Gigabyte have refreshed their Aorus X5 gaming notebook lineup with Skylake internals, Fusion keyboard, 4K display option, USB-C connectivity.

Razer have proven the concept of using Intel Thunderbolt 3 over a USB Type-C connection to work with user-attachable outboard graphics modules. This is by demonstrating their Razer Blade gaming laptop being hooked up to and working with a card-cage that houses a performance graphics card.

Intel have come up with their own consumer hardware in the form of a smartphone under their own brand and equipped wiht a RealSense camera. They also revamped their line up of Compute Sticks that plug in to a display’s HDMI port by releasing an entry level variant with an Atom x5 CPU, 2Gb RAM and 32Gb storage; along with better models that implement Core M3 or M5 CPUs and have 4Gb RAM and 64Gb storage. These units use a power adaptor which is actually a USB hub, thus making sure you are not forfeiting a USB port for power.

MSI are flexing their muscles amongst the gaming community by offering the Gaming 27XT all-in-one gaming computer which has an outboard card cage for a desktop-grade graphics card. This lets gamers and video enthusiasts upgrade the display card at any time without the need to take the computer apart. The computer cam put up 330W of power to the display card.

They also released the GT72 Dominator gaming laptop with a Tobii EyeX eye-tracking sensor which allows game players to control the action wiht their eyes. There is also the Vortex Compact Gaming PC which is a cylindrical modular small-form-factor gaming PC with dual NVIDIA GTX 980 SLI display cards and implements 360-degree Silent Storm airflow cooling. This is demonstrative of a trend towards highly-compact but powerful gaming computers rather than the large towers thar have always represented the gaming rigs.

Conclusion

What is being highlighted in this year’s Consumer Electronics Show 2016 in Las Vegas is that everyone is offering personal-computing devices that are pitched at every user class and wallet. This is underscored with the goal to benefit from what the new chipsets offer thus leading to slimmer and lighter-weight laptop and 2-in-1 computers along wiht higher-resolution displays.

Send to Kindle

Product Review–Lenovo ThinkPad Helix 2 detachable tablet

Introduction

I am reviewing the Lenovo ThinkPad Helix 2 which is the first “2-in-1” computer I have experienced  that is pitched at the business user, especially where business-level security is considered important.

There is a “stripped-down” variant that has only 4Gb RAM and 128Gb on the solid-state storage, which may be considered as a starting point when you are bargaining for these tablet computers.

Lenovo ThinkPad Helix 2 connected to Wi-Fi hotspot at Bean Counter Cafe

Price
– this configuration
RRP
Form factor Detachable tablet
Processor Intel Core M 5Y71 processor
RAM 8Gb RAM
cheaper option:
4Gb RAM
shared with graphics
Secondary storage 256Gb SSD
cheaper option:
128Gb SSD
microSD card reader
Display Subsystem Intel HD 5300 integrated graphics
Screen 11” widescreen touch display
(Full HD)
LED backlit LCD
Audio Subsystem Intel HD Audio
Audio Improvements Dolby Home Theater tuning
Network Wi-Fi 802.11a/g/n/ac
Ethernet
Bluetooth 4.0
Modems LTE wireless broadband (optional)
Connectivity USB USB 3.0 on tablet
USB 2.0 on standard keyboard
High-speed connections eSATA, Thunderbolt, etc
Video micorHDMI
Audio 3.5mm input-output jack
Authentication and Security Fingerprint reader, TPM
Operating System on supplied configuration Windows 8.1 Purchased systems will come with Windows 10 delivered or as a user install
Windows Experience Index – this configuration Overall: Graphics:
Advanced Graphics:
Insert variants with relative price shifts

The computer itself

Aesthetics and Build Quality

Lenovo ThinkPad Helix 2 as a tablet

Lenovo ThinkPad Helix 2 – as a tablet

The Lenovo ThinkPad Helix 2 is based on a “detachable tablet” form factor where the tablet docks in to a keyboard base. Unlike other detachable tablets, the tablet computer isn’t mechanically retained in the keyboard dock this wouldn’t be suitable for working on your lap. Rather this arrangement would be limited to working on a table or desk when you type up documents.

The Lenovo ThinkPad Helix 2 didn’t overheat even when I was viewing a run of YouTube videos. This means that it shows a heat-handling behaviour that is expected of a mobile-platform tablet like the iPad or the Galaxy Tab S.

User Interface

Lenovo ThinkPad Helix 2 detachable keyboard

Detachable keyboard with gully to rest Lenovo ThinkPad Helix tablet in.

The Lenovo ThinkPad Helix 2 has its keyboard and trackpad on a separate unit that detaches from the tablet. Here, the keyboard was responsive and showed signs of a high-quality unit. It may feel a bit cramped for those of us who touch-type.

As for the trackpad, this behaved properly and wasn’t “hair-trigger”. There wasn’t the ability to turn on or off the trackpad but it may not be an issue for you.

Lenovo ThinkPad Helix 2 detachable tablet

Rear of tablet with fingerprint reader – consistently accurate with the fingerprint scanning

As required for a business computer, the Lenovo ThinkPad Helix 2 is equipped with a fingerprint reader on the back of the tablet. I would suspect that there would be problems with this fingerprint reader’s accuracy because it could be easily damaged in transit or if the Helix was laid on a dirty table. But I didn’t come across problems with its accuracy which was very consistent. Even working the fingerprint reader with a finger that has remnants of a sandwich dressing did not phase this device and its accuracy.

Audio and Video

Lenovo ThinkPad Helix 2

Lenovo ThinkPad Helix 2 as a laptop computer

I used the Lenovo ThinkPad Helix 2 for the Skype video interview which I did with Matthew Hare from Gigaclear and this tablet performed excellently through the interview. Later on, I used the tablet to view some older episodes of a show I once liked which were available on YouTube.

The video display came up as being very smooth and sharp for video playback and similar applications. However, I wouldn’t consider this as being suitable for advanced video-editing work.

The sound came through loud and clear for the video content when I used the internal speakers but these would just come in handy for spoken content listened to closely by a few. Here, I would still use good headphones or speakers if you want to enjoy most audio or video content.

Connectivity, Storage and Expansion

There is a full-size USB socket on the keyboard so you can connect a USB peripheral like a mouse or trackball. Personally I would like to also see this replaced with a USB 3.0 socket so you can use USB memory keys with this computer at the best speed.

The tablet has a microSD card slot so you can move data off to your smartphone or use it as backup storage. This is also augmented with a microHDMI socket for you to use when connecting to a larger display.

The review unit came with a mobile-broadband modem but I didn’t have a spare SIM to test this modem’s performance with. As well it came with 256Gb solid-state storage but there is a cheaper variant with 128Gb storage which may be of use if you primarily store your data elsewhere.

I noticed that for reliable operation especially with fringe-area operation or where some legacy 802.11g access points are used, you need to download the latest drivers for the Lenovo’s Wi-Fi network adaptor. This is something you can do using Windows Update.

Battery life

Most activities didn’t place heavy demands on the battery thus it could be realistic to assume that you can get at least a workday out of this unit without needing to plug it in to AC power.

Other usage notes

Lenovo ThinkPad Helix 2 on church pulpit

The Lenovo ThinkPad Helix 2 earns its keep on that pulpit or lectern

The Lenovo ThinkPad Helix 2 had performed properly with Skype when I did the video conference with Matthew Hare from Gigaclear especially as this had put the Wi-Fi network adaptor along with the system’s computing power and audio-video functionality to the test.

I had shown this computer to other people in the various communities that I deal with and they remarked that it is beyond the norm for the laptops and tablets they are used to using or seeing in action. One café owner in a popular shopping centre reckoned that it conveys the look of business compared to most of the consumer-based portable computing devices he has seen.

Although the review sample of the Lenovo ThinkPad Helix 2 came with Windows 8.1, if you buy one of these units, it will be delivered to you with Windows 10 installed.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

There are some features that I would like to see happen for the ThinkPad Helix lineup.

One would be to have a standard SD card slot that could be part of the keyboard at least. Here, it would benefit those of us who download photos from digital cameras especially where the cameras use high-speed standard SD cards for their storage.

Similarly, Lenovo could improve the mechanical attachment of the keyboard unit to allow proper laptop operation. One way this can be facilitated would be to have a kickstand or other mechanism that clips the tablet to the keyboard.

A variant that has the 8Gb RAM and the 256Gb SSD storage but without the business-level security requirements could be positioned for those of us who place emphasis on a durable tablet or 2-in-1.

Conclusion

I would position the Lenovo  business-focused tablet / subnotebook especially where content consumption like Web browsing or reading of online content; or use as a “pad” is expected to be an increasing part of the user’s computing life. It will also serve as a similarly-sized viable alternative to an iPad or Android tablet as a “speaker’s companion” or “preacher’s companion” tablet.

Send to Kindle

You can set your iPhone or iPad to update iOS overnight

Article

Automatically Install iOS Software Update in the Middle of the Night | OS X Daily

My Comments

Those of you who run an Apple mobile device i.e. the iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch will end up keeping iOS which is the device’s operating software updated. But you may find that the software update will have your device out of action while it is downloading or installing.

Why can’t this be possible for that iPhone to be updated to the latest iOS version while I am asleep? You can achieve this goal.

What does your iOS device need?

Backing up device data

You need to back up your iOS device’s data, preferably to the iCloud incase something goes awry during an update such as a bad download. Here, you cam manually backup the device to iCloud over-the-air or to iTunes on your regular computer. Or you can set up iCloud to automatically backup your iOS device every night.

The backup will save your device’s app list, local data held by your apps, user credentials associated with online services where you use a native-client app, your email setup details and, most importantly, your Camera Roll.

Setting up your device

Power

Your iOS device needs to be connected to an AC power source as if for charging. You may think that you may get away with an external battery pack but you are never sure if they are in a position to last the distance, so it is a better idea to stick with an AC charger.

Wi-Fi

As well, your would have to connect your iOS device to your Wi-Fi network. If you are dealing with a public-access network that implements Web-based login like the one in your university’s residence hall / dorm or your favourite hotel or B&B, make sure your iOS device is logged in to that network with the “login-confirmed” page kept open in Safari. With these networks, you could enable both the “Auto-Join” and “Auto-Login” functions so that you stay logged in on the networks.

Similarly, if you make a habit of shutting the Wi-Fi or Internet off overnight, either to save money or protect yourself from perceived radiation dangers, you would need to keep the Wi-FI and Internet on to facilitate this update.

Start overnight updating

When you see the “Software Update” reminder screen pop up, select the “Later” option.

This will offer you an option to remind you later or install the update tonight. Select the latter option for overnight installation to commence.

Your iOS device will commence downloading the latest version of the iOS operating software at a time between 2am and 5am and then deploy that software. This will involve the iOS device power-cycling so as to fully “cement” the new operating software.

Send to Kindle

Lenovo brings back the Adaptive All-In-One

Articles

Lenovo Yoga Home 900 touchscreen lifestyle image - press picture courtesy of Lenovo

Large touchscreen

Hands on with the Lenovo Yoga 900 Home | SuperSite For Windows

Lenovo’s 27-inch tablet is still heavy, but comes with more useful apps | Engadget

The massive 27-inch Lenovo Yoga Home tablet brings back the tabletop PC | CNET

Lenovo upgrades its big idea: The 27-inch Yoga Home 900 is for homework or air hockey | PC World

From the horse’s mouth

Lenovo

Press Release

My Comments

When Windows 8.0 came on the scene, some computer manufacturers led by Sony brought forward the “Adaptive All-In-One” form-factor for personal computers.

Lenovo Yoga Home 900 lifestyle image - press picture courtesy of Lenovo

Large screen – good for group computing

What is this form factor? It is a tablet with a screen size of between 19” and 27”, typically 21”  and can either work as an “all-in-one” desktop computer or a large tablet suitable for group-based computing activities. As well, these computers were primarily a “transportable” class of computer with integrated batteries that had a runtime of under 6 hours along with them being larger and heavier than the typical laptop computer. This means that you could take them from room to room or be able to stow them away quickly and easily in the same vein as a boom-box, portable TV set or small sewing machine. The premier example of this was the Sony VAIO Tap 20 which sits on a kickstand and links with a wireless keyboard and mouse for desktop use or lays down as a tablet.

Lenovo Yoga Home 900 press picture courtesy of Lenovo

Lenovo Yoga Home 900 as regular all-in-one computer

There was some coverage about these computers being so-called “lifestyle” computers – devices that blend in to one’s personal and household lifestyle. The best example that comes to my mind was an account written by a Microsoft blogger who brought the Sony VAIO Tap 20 to her parents’ home which was effectively the “family house” for her family.

But things tended to slow down as far as this product class was concerned because of varying factors such as the low-cost mobile-platform tablets and cloud computing being considered more relevant for personal computing.

With Windows 10 and Intel Skylake silicon being launched over the last few months, the traditional “regular” personal computer has had a “shot in the arm”. These systems have been pitched as being complementary to mobile-platform devices rather than competing with them. As well, companies who worked on the “open-frame” computing environment where there systems ran Windows, ChromeOS, Linux or Android were pulling out all the stops to have systems, especially those in the premium class, that performed and looked as good, if not better, than Apple’s systems.

This has caused Lenovo to front up with an Adaptive All In One computer in the form of the Yoga Home 900/ This 27” system runs Windows 10 which has the Continuum feature that adapts the display for both tablet and desktop use. Lenovo even uses the “Aura” touch interface to make it work well for group computing. They also run an app store which specialises in games and apps that are for this class of computer, including board games, air hockey, photo-sharing apps and the like.

As well, the Lenovo Yoga Home 900 uses Full HD display resolution, Intel 5th-generation horsepower and has an option for discrete (should you say gaming quality) graphics. With air hockey and board games aside, there needs to be a way to convince most of us to consider a computer from the “Adaptive All-In-One” class as a viable personal-computing option.

Send to Kindle

Coming soon to your TV: The Microsoft Surface Book commercial

Video

Click or tap to view

Pre-order:

Microsoft Store (US, Australia)

My Comments

Microsoft has started building up the heat for the new Surface Book convertible laptop that is also detachable. They are pitching this computer at the arts-based territory which Apple heavily courts and is also tackling the premium end of the general-purpose computing market.

They also highlighted in this one-minute video the flexibility that this computer has in how you use it along with its prowess in handling graphics and multimedia tasks associated with the arts. As well, it shows these concepts in a manner that isn’t too gaudy and is of a similar quality to whenever a vehicle builder os announcing a new luxury vehicle.

This ad is being run in conjunction with pre-orders being taken for  the same computer and is showing up that the “open-frame” computing community can come up with equipment that can cut in to Apple’s territories, both in aesthetics and multimedia prowess.

Send to Kindle

Toshiba premieres the DynaPad 2-in-1 detachable as an answer to the Surface

Articles

Toshiba DynaPad - the lightest 12" 2-in-1

Toshiba DynaPad – the lightest 12″ 2-in-1

Toshiba’s New DynaPad Is A Surface Clone For People Who Scribble | Gizmodo

Toshiba introduces a unique Windows 10-tablet-the Dynapad/ | Windows Experience Blog (Microsoft)

From the horse’s mouth

Toshiba USA

Press Release

My Comments

Toshiba is snapping at the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 detachable by offering a 12” detachable that ranks as the thinnest and lightest of this class. Like the Surface Pro 3, the Toshiba DynaPad has an ultra-thin keyboard as an option rather than as standard and the keyboard attaches to the tablet using magnets..

Toshiba DynaPad press picture courtesy of Toshiba USA

Toshiba DynaPad – natural with handwriting

It runs Windows 10 and uses a 12” IPS display with a resolution of 1920×1280 which yields a sharp detail and wide-angle viewing. Of course it has a touchscreen but it also works with a Wacom pen that provides a handwriting experience that mimics writing on paper. As well it uses an Intel Atom processor and 4Gb RAM but there are scant details about how much storage there is in this tablet.

What I see of this is that the Microsoft Surface Pro series of detachable tablets is becoming the “reference product” for the detachable-tablet 2-in-1 class. This is more so with a lightweight design which applies whether the keyboard is detached or not. As well, a highly-responsive stylus is being seen as a product differentiator to allow for handwriting.

Similarly, it will be interesting to see if there will be a handful of 2-in-1s or other ultraportables that stand out as something to crave or be seen with, especially if they run an open-frame operating environment like Windows or Android. Or is Apple going to stay as the “one to be seen” with.

Send to Kindle

Microsoft brings forth a 2-in-1 that is both a convertible and detachable

Articles

Microsoft Surface Book shown at Windows 10 Devices Event, on Tuesday, October 6, 2015 in New York, New York. (Mark Von Holden/AP Images for AP Images for Windows) courtesy of Microsoft

Microsoft Surface Book shown at Windows 10 Devices Event- detached

Here’s our first look at the Surface Book, Microsoft’s answer to the MacBook Pro | Engadget

From the horse’s mouth

Microsoft

Surface Book

Product Page

Press Release

My Comments

Microsoft Surface Book (detached) press picture courtesy of Microsoft

It can detach ..

Microsoft has just released a 13” 2-in-1 computer that takes this concept further. This class of portable computer was either a convertible notebook that folded over or collapsed in a certain manner to become a tablet; or a detachable tablet where the keyboard was detached from the tablet itself.

With the Surface Book which was just released, the computer is a fold-over convertible like the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro which I previously reviewed. Here, it has that same watchband hinge although in a plastic form. But you can detach the screen like you can with the HP x2 family and have it become a tablet.

Microsoft Surface Book press picture courtesy of Microsoft

…. or can fold over to be a tablet

It also has a stylus so you can effectively write and this technology is augmented with features like “Palm Block” so you can rest your hand on the screen without unwanted activity like you can with a regular notepad.

As for the graphics, there is a dual-mode operation method where it can work with integrated graphics processing when detached or with discrete graphics when with the keyboard.

Of course, Microsoft is pitching this Windows-driven notebook in to the same market as the Apple MacBook Pro and even running publicity shots of it in action with graphics arts and even putting forward the idea that it can be used as a music playout computer by a DJ in a nightclub.  This is also playing out with VAIO and could easily play out with other computer names who are after the premium “status-symbol” end of the market.

This could also see the reality of the “2-in-1” convertible or detachable being a significant computing device class that is gaining traction in the personal-computing marketplace.

Send to Kindle

Internationaler Funkaustellung 2015–Part 1–Personal Computing Trends

IFA LogoI am reporting on the Internationaler Funkaustellung 2015 in Berlin which effectively is the show that determines the consumer electronics, personal IT and appliance technology trends that will affect Europe, Middle East, Africa and Australasia. It is also the time to publicly launch technologies that have been ready for prime time by the middle of the year.

Personal Computing

This year has become a year where smartphones, tablets, laptop and desktop computers are seen as one force where hardware and software vendors are working across these devices as of they are simply personal-computing devices.These are primarily based around operating systems which allow people and companies to develop the software that suits different users’ needs.

Desktop, Laptops and Tablets

Intel, Microsoft and others have caused a huge refresh to this class of device thanks to new hardware, software and standards.

Windows 10 Start Menu

Windows 10

Microsoft had just launched Windows 10 while Intel replaced their existing processor silicon with the new Skylake range. These new chipsets are focused on increased performance for the same amount of energy used. This allows for manufacturers to create a granular lineup of products that suit different needs and budgets while assuring “best bang for the buck” in this context. As for peripheral connectivity, the USB 3.1 and Type-C standards along with the Intel Thunderbolt 3 standard had been made firm and more systems honouring these standards were being launched. Acer stands behind the Thunderbolt 3 standard with USB Type-C connectivity because they want to allow users to enhance graphics performance on their computers using an outboard graphics expansion dock of the Alienware Graphics Amplifier or Sony VAIO Z Series Blu-Ray expansion module ilk..

USB Type C plug press image courtesy of USB Implementers Forum

USB Type-C plug – the way to go this year for multipurpose connectivity

Nearly every computer name has catered to the hardcore gamer market by offering high-performance  computers that are tuned to this class of user. Increasingly everyone is offering this kind of performance not just as a desktop or tower form-factor but as a laptop or notebook and some of these manufacturers are offering these products under a “performance” sub-brand like Acer Predator. Acer has even worked on the first Android-driven gaming-grade tablet and smartphone to cater for the mobile gaming community.

Lenovo IdeaCentre Y900 gaming tower PC - press picture courtesy of Lenovo

Lenovo IdeaCentre Y-Series gaming tower PC – the first product Lenovo offers for core gamers

In some ways, this is the late 1960s and early 1970s where GM, Ford and Chrysler fielded to the American and Australian markets a lineup of highly-powerful aggressively-styled “muscle cars” targeted at younger buyers. Examples of these include the Dodge Challenger and  the Chevy Camaro released in the US and the Ford Falcon GT, the Holden Monaro and Valiant Charger released in Australia

It is part of a strategy common amongst this year’s exhibitors where they are offering different ranges of computer products to suit the different user groups in a similar way to how the common vehicle builders like Ford. GM and Toyota pitch vehicle ranges to different kinds of drivers. This factor has been more demonstrated by ASUS, Acer and Lenovo who are effectively “pure-play” personal-IT companies.

ASUS RoG GX700 water-cooled gaming laptop with radiator dock - press picture courtesy of ASUS

ASUS RoG GX700 water-cooled gaming laptop with radiator dock

ASUS have built out their Zen Republic of Gamers sub-brand. One key example that ASUS had offered is the GX700 gaming laptop which is liquid-cooled when connected to a special dock that has an integrated radiator but is able to perform with less power when independent of this dock. As well, ASUS have fronted up with the Zenpad S 8” tablet which has a USB Type-C connector for power and data.

ASUS Zen AIO S Series all-in-one desktop computers press picture courtesy of ASUS

ASUS Zen AIO S Series all-in-one desktop computers

They also released the Zen AIO S Series of all-in-one desktop computers which are driven by Intel Skylake processors such as the i7-6100T, a 23” 4K screen or a 21” Full HD screen with both having touch as an option, NVIDIA discrete graphics, up to 32Gb RAM and 2Tb hard disk capacity and optional 128Gb SSD. These are endowed with connectivity in the form of 2×2 MIMO 802.11a/g/n/ac Wi-Fi and Gigabit Ethernet for your home network along with Bluetooth 4.0 Smart Ready wireless and USB connectivity in the form of 1 x USB 3.1 Type C, USB 3.0 x 4 and USB 2.0 x 1. These shows up a reality that the all-in-one can have the same kind of specification as a regular desktop computer.

They also fielded their VivoStick which is a direct competitor to Intel’s “Compute Stick” when it comes to a “PC-on-a-stick” that plugs in to a TV’s HDMI port. Here, the VIvoStick has two USB ports so you can use a keyboard and mouse without the need for a USB hub. They are still at the “toy” stage by using Intel Atom horsepower, 2Gb RAM and 32Gb storage.

Acer is building out their Predator gaming lineup of performance computing equipment. Here, they had pitched the first performance-grade Android gaming tablet known as the Predator 8 Tablet. This runs on an Intel Atom x7 processor and Intel Generation 8 graphics serving an 8” Full HD screen. It will have 2Gb RAM and 32Gb or 64Gb storage and a microSD expansion slot. It has 2×2 MIMO Wi-Fi, tactile feedback, an aluminium housing and four front-facing speakers. This is estimated to arrive in North America on November 6 for US$299 and will arrive earlier in the rest of the world in October for EUR€349.

They also are running the Aspire V Nitro Series range of laptops as performance laptops without the aggressive “muscle-car” looks associated with gaming computers. These 15” and 17” laptops, along with the Aspire V 13 ultraportable are driven with the latest technology – Intel Skylake processors under the hood, USB Type-C connectivity, 802.11ac 2×2 MU-MIMO Wi-Fi with the Black Edition variants offering Thunderbolt 3 over USB Type C.

Acer also fielded the first Chromebook R11 which is the first Chromebook to come in a 2-in-1 form factor rather than the cheaper “clamshell” style. This is also accompanied by another Yoga-style 360-degree convertible in the form of the 14” Aspire R14. They also demonstrated the Revo Build which is a modular personal computer where functionality is added on simply by one plugging extra modules on to the computer.

This year, Lenovo stepped into the gaming fray by offering the Y series of performance-grade computing equipment. They fielded the IdeaCentre Y900 and Y700 gaming towers which are based on the traditional ATX form factor. This allows for core gamers to improve these systems with the hardware that suits their performance curve, much like the way the “petrolheads” liked to “hot up” the Ford  and GM cars to turn them in to “street machines”. These use quad-core i7 horsepower and discrete graphics under the hood with the Y900 being able to work with 2 display cards. The IdeaPad Y700 range of gaming laptops can be based on Intel or AMD processors  but implements discrete graphics, a 10-point multitouch screen and a RealSense 3D camera. This is augmented with a surround-sound headset, precision mouse, mouse mat, laptop-optimised backpack, mousemat and a mechanical keyboard which is a brush with their former self due to the original IBM PC keyboards.

Lenovo MIIX 700 detachable tablet press pictue courtesy of Lenovo

Lenovo MIIX 700 detachable tablet – to snap at the Surface Pro

Lenovo is snapping at Microsoft’s heels by offering the Miix 700 12” detachable tablet which is a spitting image of the Surface Pro lineup. It comes with the keyboard folio and has a 12” touchscreen with 2160×1440 resolution and runs Windows 10 Home.  Lenovo also entered in to the Chromebook game with the 100S Chromebook and fielded the IdeaCentre AIO 700 which is a range of all-in-one desktops that have a 24” or 27” screen with resolution up to 4K and upgradeable discrete graphics. These can come with Intel or AMD processors and a RealSense camera.

Lenovo Yoga Tablet 3 press image courtesy of Lenovo

Lenovo Yoga Tablet 3 – the latest incarnation of the Yoga Tab lineup

The Yoga Tab series has been refreshed with these Android tablets fitted with features like rotating cameras along with new horsepower. The Yoga Tab 3 Pro still has the projector so you can throw a picture on the wall as big as one of today’s flat-screen TVs. These are being pitched more as entertainment devices rather than as general-purpose iPad-style tablets.

But they have come strong with more additions to the laptop range. Lenovo had shown 2 Xeon-driven mobile workstations along with their latest ThinkPad Yoga 2-in-1 laptops both driven by Skylake processors and having a silver finish. The ThinkPad Yoga 260 has a 12” Full HD screen, 16Gb RAM and 512Gb solid-state storage while the ThinkPad Yoga 460 comes with a 14” 2560×1440 screen, 8Gb RAM and either a 256Gb SSD or 1Tb hard disk along with discrete graphics.

LG have launched the G Pad II which is a 10.1” Android 5.1 tablet that uses a Full HD screen. This has 2Gb RAM, 16Gb storage, microSD expansion and connects to your home network via 802.11a/g/n/ac Wi-Fi. It is also available with an LTE wireless-broadband modem as an option and comes with that brilliant bronze look.

Toshiba has been big on the 2-in-1 computers this year. They launched the Satellite Radius 12 which is the first 360-degree “Yoga-style” convertible notebook with a 4K screen. This convertible ticks the boxes when it comes to up-to-date requirements like having a USB 3.1 Type-C socket and a capable Intel i7-6500U Skylake processor, 8Gb RAM and 512Gb SSD storage. Some press reports called the 4K resolution a bit of overkill for a portable computer of that 12”-13” “portable-typewriter” form factor especially because of Windows not handling display scaling properly and these machines typically earn their keep as being the smallest size to comfortably type on.

There is the Satellite Radius 14 which is a 14” “Yoga-style” convertible with Full HD resolution and available with either Intel or AMD processors. Toshiba also offers the Satellite Click 10 detachable which is based around an Intel Atom CPU from the Skylake family, 4Gb RAM and 64Gb SSD storage. These 2-in-1 computers exploit Windows 10 to the fullest by working hand in glove with Continuum display switchover, a dedicated button to access Cortana and dual-array microphones to improve speech recognition.

Samsung and Apple have pushed the barriers for mobile-platform tablets with the former offering an 18.4”  Android tablet and the latter heating the rumour furnace with the intent of the 13” iPad Pro family of iOS tablets. Do I see these tablets as something that competes with the 13” 2-in-1 laptops that run Windows 10 as a mobile computing device for group browsing or composing new material?

The tablet you get to do mobile computing activities on doesn’t have to be an iPad anymore.

Handheld devices (smartphones and phablets)

There is a main trend affecting the European smartphone market where more Android devices are appearing from brands other than the usual smartphone market leaders. It is more so with devices that are pitched to the mid-range sector. This is because it is harder to cut in to the high-end sector because Apple and Samsung have cornered the market with the iPhone and Galaxy S / Note phones respectively.

One main trend affecting smartphones this year is the fact that Android 5.1 offers native support for dual-SIM operation and this function is becoming more mainstream in this year’s smartphones. The feature may have relevance for a person who roams between different countries and wants better call value or local mobile-number presence in both these countries or a person who has a “work” or “business” SIM card and a “private” SIM card in the same device. This is typically offered by having two card slots with one that takes the main SIM card and another that can take either a microSD card or a secondary SIM card.

There is also the fact that Microsoft is intending to launch the Windows 10 Mobile operating system very shortly and it is bringing forth an improved third contender for handheld operating systems.

Lenovo Phab Plus phablet press picture courtesy of Lenovo

Lenovo’s answer to the Samsung Galaxy Note products in the form of the Phab Plus

Lenovo is pushing in to the European market with its Vibe and Phab phones which are all Android based. An example of this is the Vibe P1 mid-tier phone with a 1.5GHz processor, 5.5” Full HD screen, 5000mAh battery and 16Gb storage. There is also the Phab range which is meant to join the phablet market  One of these is the Phab Plus which is a dual SIM / microSD phone having a 6.8” Full HD screen, Snapdragon 615 chipset. 2Gb RAM and 32Gb storage.

Acer even has pitched an Android gaming-grade smartphone which is the first for a handheld device. This Android smartphone will use a deca-core MediaTek ARM system-on-chip with 4Gb RAM and a 6” Full-HD display.Some questions may be raised about how long it would last on its own battery especially if you play games on this phone or whether it even scales back on performance when you aren’t gaming.

They also fielded the Liquid Z630 mid-tier Android smartphone which also has MediaTek system-on-chip horsepower, 2Gb RAM, 16Gb storage, 802.11a/g/n Wi-Fi and 8 megapixel cameras on the front and back. It also has a 4000mAh battery and runs for EUR€199.

They also are fielding entry-level smartphones that can be packaged with Windows 10 Mobile or Android Lollipop like the LIquid Z330 Series. There is also the Jade Primo Windows smartphone which has a USB Type-C connector and is made to take advantage of Windows Continuum display-mode switching courtesy of an accessory dock, keyboard and mouse. This is a 5.5” screen with Qualcomm Snapdragon processor.

Archos is another company who are offering smartphones that can be specified with Windows 10 Mobile or Android. These dual-SIM phones will have the usual lineup of features like LTE, Wi-FI and Bluetooth Smart connectivity, microSD card slot. But they have 1Gb RAM and 8Gb storage which can be limiting.

Gigaset has risen to the European market with the ME series of smartphones. The ME phone is powerful but doesn’t go too far. having a 5” Full HD screen, USB Type-C connection, Snapdragon 810 processor and Adreno 430 graphics, 32Gb storage, microSD slot and 3000mAh battery. The ME Pure phone is considered a “foot in the door” phone having 16Gb storage and a Snapdragon 615 processor while the ME Pro has the larger 5.5” screen.

Marshall, known for their guitar amps used by many of the famous rock stars, have pitched a music-focused smartphone in the form of the London. This has a similar styling to their amps in that some of the controls have brass accents and the phone has a rubberised housing which has the same texture as these amps. The London 4.7” HD smartphone is one of a few smartphones that implements a discrete sound subsystem and the only app that Marshall furnishes with this phone is a DJ app. It will be sold in the Boxpark retail area in Shoreditch, London for GBP£375 and I would describe this as being a high-quality MP3 player with smartphone functionality attached to it.

The premium end of the market still hasn’t lost its ground despite the imminent arrival of Apple’s iPhone 6S and 6S plus phones. They also offered a clip-on keyboard for these phones as an optional accessory. Before the IFA 2015, Samsung had released the Galaxy Note 5 and Galaxy S6 Edge+ phones which are pitched on thinness. As well, Sony launched their XPeria Z5 family comprising of the XPeria Z5, Xperia Z5 Compact which is the smaller of the bunch and the Z5 Premium which has a 4K ultra-high-definition screen. They also offered the XPeria G8 which has the same camera abilities as Sony’s standalone digital cameras courtesy of improved focus abilities.

The next article in this series will cover the trends affecting wearable devices, display technology and the home network with subsequent articles covering home entertainment and appliances.

Part 1 – Personal Computing Trends

Part 2 – Wearables and the Home Network

Part 3 – Home Entertainment

Part 4 – Home Automation and the Internet Of Things

Send to Kindle

Tablets facing attack from different points

Article

The future of the tablet is the PC | CNET

My Comments

Acer Iconia Tab A500 tablet computer

The 10″ tablet faces stiff competition nowadays

The 8”-10” tablet like the Apple iPad and its peers is facing competition from many different angles.

Firstly, it is considered a venerable portable computing device class that suits most reading tasks including Web browsing, social-network interaction, email management and the like along with casual gaming, video viewing and the like. In a lot of situations, there isn’t much need to upgrade to newer models, except if the idea is to purchase a newer model so someone else can use the existing tablet. This is very similar to the colour television set that was based on solid-state electronics where this device was brought to a point where it can serve most people’s needs effectively and reliably for a long time and manufacturers worked on ways to improve the higher end of the market.

Sports scoreboard app

The phablet-style smartphone becomes the norm – fits in your hand easily

This device is facing competition from the 5”-6” smartphone or “phablet” phone with these phones becoming the norm for a highly-portable reading device. They are displacing highly-compact smartphones like the original iPhones along with the 7” “coat-pocket” tablets like the iPad Mini. This is because their size is very similar to a pocket calculator of the high-end scientific or financial type which had a large surface area with plenty of buttons for direct access to the formulae and functions that mattered.

Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro convertible notebook at Phamish St Kilda

The 2-in-one like this Lenovo Yoga Pro family offers competition to the tablet

Another device that is causing competition to these tablets is the so-called “2-in-1” which becomes either a laptop computer or a tablet depending on how you fold over the keyboard or whether you attach a detachable keyboard. The 11” variants like the Microsoft Surface family offer a size that suits tablet use but may be too small for intense document-creation activity whereas the 13” variants may be too large to work as a personal tablet but earn their keep for creating documents. This is although some tablet users are using Bluetooth or USB keyboards including the tablet cases that come with integral keyboards with their tablets to speed up text entry.

There have been the doubters who thought these devices would flounder during the early years of mobile computing. One of these was Apple’s Tim Cook who described the 2-in-1s as crossbreeding a fridge and toaster in 2012 and another was the Dell Streak which was one of the first 5” phablets that was panned by consumers and critics in 2010. These were made at the time when the market wasn’t really ready for these classes of devices and was grappling with the platform smartphones and tablets.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10" tablet - Press Photo courtesy of Samsung

The AMOLED-equipped Samsung Galaxy Tab S tablets fit for previewing digital images

Apple and Samsung are looking at exploring other market niches for their mobile-platform tablets while keeping venerable product categories alive. One area they are working on is to launch mobile-platform tablets that have a screen size of 13” or above. This may be seen as a way to snap at the heels of the 13” 2-in-1 of the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro ilk or the regular laptop computer where these computers are based on Windows or MacOS X which are “regular-computer” operating systems rather than mobile operating systems.

Other market niches worth exploring would include use in the business context including high-durability tablets for those doing construction / outdoors work. Similarly,tablets can be purposed to particular user groups like those of us who work in the graphics arts or those who enjoy advanced gaming. An example of this could be the Samsung Galaxy Tab S family with the AMOLED displays that excel on contrast making them fit for previewing photographs.

Send to Kindle