Editorial: Building the perfect ultrabook – and where PC makers are wrong

Editorial: Building the perfect ultrabook – and where PC makers are wrong

Ultraportables, thin and light laptops, ultrabooks, no matter what the name, arguably they represent the future of the form factor. Notably, Apple has been flirting with the concept since the MacBook Air was launched in 2008, but other manufacturers such as Lenovo and Sony have also heavily contributed to the design and development of lightweight notebooks in the past decade.

It appears as though we’re just now arriving to that sweet spot where fewer compromises can be made to build fast and svelte machines that are budget-friendly, all at the same time. Intel has recognized this trend and is investing heavily to make sure they become the platform of choice to build ‘ultrabooks’ (they own that trademark).

However, it’s easy to miss what a true next-generation ultraportable notebook should be. Manufacturers are short-sighted if they only focus on building fast machines that weigh 3 pounds or less, without putting design and user experience at the core of their future developments.

Recent examples of mainstream ultraportables include the Asus ZenBook UX31Toshiba Portégé Z835Lenovo U300. All of these machines rely on Intel’s CULV Sandy Bridge platform and, for better or worse, they are directly compared to Apple’s MacBook Air, which is widely regarded as the benchmark to beat in this form factor and price range.

With that under consideration, here are some key aspects where I believe PC makers should focus and where some are already failing on their first try to deliver a killer ultrabook.

Battery Life

You can thank tablets for the notion that portable computers should last longer than a mere 3 hours on battery. Triple that figure and that’s the kind of expectation that has been building up with every iteration of newer, more efficient notebook platforms in the past decade.

The first ultrabook that arrived to market, the Acer Aspire S3, had a rather poor showing, shipping with an attractive price but a less-than-stellar battery life. Other competing products from Asus, Samsung and Lenovo have done considerably better.


The Aspire S3 was first to market but it failed to impress despite its accessible price point.

The (easy) bottom line: don’t ship a system if it cannot compete on battery life. Go back to the drawing board, charge an extra $50, do what you have to do, but this is one key aspect that can’t be ignored.

Build Quality

Basic hardware that withstands the most abuse should be a main focus. In other words, a great ultrabook needs a great keyboard and touchpad, not mere afterthoughts thrown on top of a powerful processor and fast storage. ThinkPad’s strong and lasting reputation is well deserved after years of offering solid machines that have some of the best keyboards on the market.

In a similar fashion, we’re well past the point where it’s acceptable to ship sub-par screens with poor viewing angles.


The Portégé Z835 is one of the late arrivals to this year’s round of ultrabooks.

To be fair, PC makers are doing remarkably well today compared to where they were two years ago. Build quality on sub-$1000 systems used to be mediocre and netbook-like, but that’s no longer the case for the most part.

The Asus UX31 and Toshiba Portégé Z835 are prime examples of what a well-conceived ultrabook should be. Having that said, there’s still room for improvement.

User Experience

Among Intel’s requirements for ultrabooks are fast boot and wake from sleep times. This usually requires a solid-state drive, which is possibly the best addition you can make to any laptop. Samsung did a remarkable job of optimizing their Series 9 laptops — some of the best in the market even though they’re not “ultrabooks” — and other manufacturers are following suit.

In my opinion, boot times, while important, are heavily overrated. Personally I’d take any system with a 2 minute boot time and 2 second ‘wake from sleep’ over an identical machine that can boot in 30 seconds but takes more than 5 seconds to wake up. Sheer convenience in a modern OS should dictate not having to reboot all the time and instead being able to put your system to sleep and get back to work almost instantaneously whenever you need it.


Samsung’s Series 9 is one of the most refined ultraportables in the market, it doesn’t come cheap however.

Annoying bundled software is yet another element crippling users’ experience. Who needs a Wi-Fi manager on top of Windows built-in tools, trial Office software and security (when you can get Microsoft’s Security Essentials for free), a dozen of so-called services, shopping desktop shortcuts and, wait for it, nagging browser toolbars (!).

Apple is credited for making great products. Even though that may not always be the case, they succeed at making products people love, recommend to friends, and ultimately buy again. Where do you think PC makers stand when they sell a computer loaded with crapware for no good reason? Let’s end this horrible practice once and for all.

Branding and Incremental Updates

Some manufacturers do better than others in this respect. For a while, Acer seemed to have a great run with their Timeline laptop series. The first models were great, but instead of taking what was good and building upon those strengths, they systematically killed the brand by offering many different models with no true differentiation. There was this notion with later models that the originals had a better finish than subsequent releases.

In a somewhat similar scenario, Dell had more than one hit with their XPS notebooks and with the Adamo, but in my mind those are dead brands for premium machines.


Dell has had a few hit designs, they’ve decided not to iterate however.

Sony also comes to mind for poor branding practices. They have offered some of the best premium-priced ultraportable machines in the past few years. The Vaio T series evolved into the TX, TXN, TZ, and today it’s the Z series holding the torch. But is anyone following any buzz surrounding the company’s future announcements in this segment?

In today’s commoditized PC market, Apple’s practice of offering a handful of identifiable products that are updated constantly, and most importantly, building upon what’s good on the first to improve the following year’s model seems to be one valid route to success. You might recall, the MacBook Air was seen as a novelty three years ago, but is now one of Apple’s best-selling computers.

In my opinion, it goes hand in hand: strong branding, building expectations and long-term reputation, then delivering a machine that is always a comprehensive incremental update over its previous generation.


The MacBook Air is now one of the best selling laptops in the U.S.
It’s set to face even fiercer competition come January when a second wave of ultrabooks is expected.

Unfortunately this is hardly seen from most PC makers who try to redo their products from scratch every year, failing to understand what their most loyal customers want updated, and on occasion completely losing the formula of what made the original product appealing in the first place.

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By saddamfazal Posted in Review

Review : Sony Xperia Tipo/ Tipo Dual

Xperia Tipo Dual Review 10 580x325 Sony Xperia Tipo / Tipo Dual ST21i / ST21a Review

Specs and Features

Announced: Aug 2012

Released: Sept 2012

Price: Tipo : Rs 9299 / US $ 169 Tipo Dual Rs. 9899 / US $ 179

 

Hype: 4/5

Chipset: Qualcomm MSM7225AA

Processor: 800 MHz Cortex-A5

GPU: Adreno 200

Battery: Li-Ion 1500 mAh

Primary Camera: 3.15 MP fixed Focus / VGA Video

Secondary Camera: N/A

Weight: 99.4 g

Dimensions: 103 x 57 x 13 mm

Main Display: 320 x 480 pixels, 3.2 inches (~180 ppi pixel density)

In-Built Storage: 2.9 GB storage (2.5 GB user available)

RAM: 512 MB RAM

SAR Value: US : 1.37 W/kg (head) 0.74 W/kg (body) EU : 1.62 W/kg (head) 1.30 W/kg (body)

Manufacturer: 

Type: 

OS: Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0.3

Sony has recently announced and launched many phones, but the Xperia Tipo truly stands apart in India. The phone is the cheapest in the line of Xperia phones and possibly matched with respect to other Xperia device. Lets see how it fares in our review:

Xperia Tipo Dual Review 9 580x325 Sony Xperia Tipo / Tipo Dual ST21i / ST21a Review

Build Quality and Design

 

The Tipo fits great in the hands and almost relates to the shape of your palm

We were impressed by how Sony has marvellously transformed the Indian smartphone market by the introduction of a series of Xperia Devices. Sony Ericsson was always the underdog when it came to build quality, but since the breakup, Sony has been able to change that in the new Xperia line. The Tipo / Tipo Dual  assert that same logic, the build quality is great, refined and rounded edges and an overall nice feel in the hand set this phone apart from the competition.

The back has a matte finish panel and the front has a slight under chin below the LCD. The buttons are tactile and easy, although, you might fidget with the power button from time to time. The slightly tapered 3.5mm headphone jack causes problems with slightly fatter insulation plug equipped headphone cables.

Overall design aesthetics are pleasing and provide easy hold on the Phone, it fits great in the hands and almost relates to the shape of your palm.

Xperia Tipo Dual Review 10 580x325 Sony Xperia Tipo / Tipo Dual ST21i / ST21a Review

Hardware

At first it appears that Sony could have packed a lot more *grunt* inside the Tipo, but once you use it, you will actually start to appreciate the fact that the phone does what exactly you would expect from it. A 3.2 inch 320×480 display holds the front along with a 3.15 MP camera at the back. On the inside is a Single Core Snapdragon Processor the Qualcomm MSM7225AA thats running at 800 MHz. For RAM we have 512 MB and internal storage memory is at 2.9 GB  (2.5 GB user available).

Xperia Tipo Dual Review 5 580x325 Sony Xperia Tipo / Tipo Dual ST21i / ST21a Review

Camera, Multimedia and Software

Here is our problem, for a company that majorly provides camera sensors and modules to various other manufacturers, Sony could have at-least dropped in an autofocus camera. Its almost that time when Google should ensure the minimum requirements for Android devices, and an Autofocus camera needs to be top priority. What is the point of a camera that takes blurry images? Useless Instagrams, Facebook pics etc. Honestly the camera is sub-par and is a big let down. The camera also does purely VGA video.

In terms of the Multimedia experience however, the Tipo performs with subtle grace. Even though one would expect that, due to the resolution, the display would be choppy or pixellated,it is actually quite crisp and the colours are very deep. The size vs resolution works in Sony’s favor and their integrity of brilliant displays continue with the Tipo.  The speakerphone is loud and well weighted in all tone aspects, you will thoroughly enjoy the music and audio experience on the Tipo.

Running Android 4.0.4 this phone comes out of the box with ICS while most other manufacturers are promising updates. The Ice Cream Sandwich software is glazed with a sugar coating of Sony’s own sweet TimeScape UX, making this combination one delightful dessert. Don’t expect to game heavily on this phone, where as basic to medium gaming can be achieved easily. Most apps out of the Play Store work with the phone’s resolution, which makes for a brilliant apps experience.

Facebook within Xperia

Another thing that Sony has done right, right from the beginning, is to integrate Facebook deeply in the TimeScape UX. Allowing users to sync up their contacts and their updates, look at photos and share and update their own accounts from practically anywhere in the phone.

Xperia Tipo Dual Review 0 580x325 Sony Xperia Tipo / Tipo Dual ST21i / ST21a Review

Phone, Messaging and Network

The phone dialer has now been revamped on all Sony phones and boy is it a relief. The dialer is nice and easy and like any other android phone cleverly integrates contacts and groups, Xperia devices also allow Facebook friends to be updated into the contacts. Phone calls were very stable and so was the network, clear audio on both ends and almost zero dropped calls in the whole test.

Messaging is brilliant using the Xperia Keyboard and gesture input, the keys are slightly cramped on the screen, that makes it slightly difficult to type, but the inclusion of gesture input makes using the device a breeze. Flip it over into landscape and you will be enjoying the keyboard on all hand sizes.

Battery Life

 

Connections Off

 

  • Talk Time 3G network(data off): 7 Hours
  • Talk Time 2g (data off) : 7.5 hours
  • Internet : N/A
  • Music : 8.5 Hours
  • Video : 5.5 hours

Connections On

 

  • Talk Time 3G network(data on): 5.5-6.5 Hours
  • Talk Time 2g (data on) : 6.5 hours
  • Internet : 6 Hours
  • Music : 8.5 Hours
  • Video : 5 hours

Xperia Tipo Dual Review 1 580x325 Sony Xperia Tipo / Tipo Dual ST21i / ST21a Review

Conclusion

The Xperia Tipo is a brilliant budget phone from Sony that brings the Timescape experience with ICS down to a budget. The phone is snappy and pleasing to the eye as well as to a users patience. Sound and display is great and the overall package is brilliant. The camera is our one and only complaint with the device that fails on all levels. If you don’t need the camera, this might be the best phone you can buy for the specs and price.

 

Rating

BUILD QUALITY
8.0
DESIGN
8.0
BATTERY LIFE
9.0
DISPLAY
7.0
AUDIO AND SPEAKERS
8.0
NETWORK AND DATA
8.0
HARDWARE
6.0
EASE OF USE
7.5
CAMERA
5.0
VALUE FOR MONEY
7.0
TOTAL SCORE
7.4
By saddamfazal Posted in Review

Software Review : Hotspot Shield

The bottom line: The Internet connection protector Hotspot Shield encrypts your traffic to protect you from all kinds of spying while your computer communicates with the rest of the world. It’s a must-have utility for anybody who uses public Wi-Fi networks.

Review:
The Internet connection protector Hotspot Shield encrypts your traffic to protect you from all kinds of spying while your computer communicates with the rest of the world. It’s a must-have utility for anybody who uses public Wi-Fi networks, but it’s also an excellent tool for ensuring on any network connection that you can access sites and data according to your tastes, and nobody else’s. Hotspot Shield’s Virtual Private Network services are used by more than 10 million people at the time this review was written, according to the software publisher AnchorFree, making it the largest VPN in the world.

The browser-independent Hotspot Shield establishes an encrypted connection to the Hotspot Shield servers, and turns all HTTP traffic to the safer HTTPS. By rerouting Web traffic and providing you with a new IP address hosted by AnchorFree, the company is able to ensure that your data isn’t plucked out of the open by man-in-the-middle attacks or wireless network spoofing.

Recent changes include automatic detection of Wi-Fi connections nearby, the ability to work on corporate networks, and no longer requiring administrative privileges to install.

In our tests, we noticed that sometimes the program would actually resolve pages faster than when connected without it. This occurs, most likely, because of the geographic location of the company’s servers. During a day of hands-on testing on the notoriously pokey CNET public Wi-Fi network, we noticed that Hotspot Shield Elite was remarkably fast. There were no connection lags despite the rerouting, and the program admirably handled high-definition streaming videos from sites such as Vimeo, YouTube, and CNET TV. We’d recommend the program for improving the Wi-Fi speeds alone, nevermind the additional security benefits.

The free version of Hotspot Shield does come at a cost. The installation opts you into a toolbar, which redirects your default search and home page, and a desktop icon. Also, whenever you activate Hotspot Shield, it will open a new tab to AnchorFree.com and begin autoplaying a video. That’s seriously annoying, even in a free product that offers such a valuable service. Still, the toolbars and redirects are optional.

Once installed, it appears as a red icon that turns to green when activated in both your system tray and in your browser. Clicking will toggle it on or off. Choosing the Properties option opens a window that tells you that you’re connected. Hit the Details link to learn more about your connection, including the VPN IP address, amount of data sent in and out, and how long you’ve been connected. The data transfer rate makes for a useful, quick-and-dirty gauge for people with data caps.

Hotspot Shield’s paid upgrade is called Elite, which runs ad-free and on faster servers. Elite costs $0.50 per 24-hour session, with a minimum $10 deposit, or $5 per month, or $29.99 per year. Payment options include credit card, PayPal, prepaid cash cards or mobile phone payments via premium SMS. Along with built-in site malware protection, Hotspot Shield Elite comes with tech support, preferential bandwidth priority (read: faster Internet speeds) and serves you no additional ads from AnchorFree.

The company has created multiple ways to circumvent download blockers in countries with strict censorship, too. If you can’t access a Web page with the download, you can send an e-mail to win@anchorfree.com for the Windows version or mac@anchorfree.com for the Mac version, and the small installer file will be sent directly to you.

Note that although the Windows version number and the Mac version number don’t match, AnchorFree says the features are the same.

Even with the installation shenanigans, we highly recommend Hotspot Shield for anybody concerned with privacy. In today’s world, that ought to be anybody connecting a computer to the Internet.

Link to download: http://download.cnet.com/Hotspot-Shield/3001-2092_4-10594721.html?spi=71cf11723cf11996126d0b5d328cc57f

Windows 8 Review . Part – 2

It’s hard to imagine many people giving Windows 8 a fair shot if Microsoft had completely abandoned the previous design scheme, and so the Desktop mode remains an uneven compromise. To its credit, the active left and right edges go a long way to making Desktop mode feel less like an alternate mode and more like an app, even though it is clearly so much more than a mere Metro app.

Also worth noting is that Microsoft is pushing all of its apps toward a unified aesthetic. This doesn’t just include the apps that come with Windows 8, such as Mail or Music. The New Microsoft Office is part of this, as is the new Outlook.com. Microsoft may be late to this game, but it’s come through with a strong, clean look that’s eminently usable.

Features and support
While the seams between the ghosts of Windows past are sometimes visible when critiquing the Windows 8 interface, they are far less apparent when it comes to its features. What you can do with the operating system focuses heavily on the future of computing, and Microsoft has wisely put them into the peculiarly named Charms bar. (It apparently resembles a charms bracelet. We’ll leave the connection between that and Windows up to you.)

Search is global, and includes data from all your apps that have activated the search hooks. This being Windows, you could tweak those settings, but most people will see a unified search for across the OS, the apps, and your personal files to be a boon.

The Share Charm lets you share content in between apps. It’s as much a benefit for developers as it is for the rest of us. Developers only have to code their app to connect to the Share charm, instead of having to code to have their app “talk” to another specific app. The end result in Windows 8 is that apps share content effortlessly — much like Android’s Share mechanism.

The Devices Charm places secondary devices only a touch away. This may seem odd to many people, but it’s a nod to the fact that Windows 8 must serve both PCs and tablets. No matter the Windows 8 device, managing a second monitor will be as simple as managing an external drive. Because of our limited review period, we were not able to see how Devices worked with more than a second monitor, and we’ll update this section soon.

We discussed some the limitations of the Settings Charm as they relate to navigating Windows 8, but overall those problems are another twist on the learning curve. The new OS eliminates the requirement to sift through multiple drop-down menus looking for the right way to access the Power Management.

One notable frustration is that it’s not immediately apparent which settings controls are available from the Settings sidebar’s More PC Settings, and which must be accessed through the traditional Control Panel. A good rule of thumb would be that if you’re looking for a configuration related to Metro, start with the Metro settings, but unfortunately that doesn’t always pay out.

There’s more to Windows 8 than just its charming approach to search and socialization. For one thing, it offers some cool log-in options. You can choose to create a local account, but the OS becomes infinitely more useful when you use a Microsoft account. You’ll be able to synchronize Windows 8 settings, including Internet Explorer 10 history and preferences. This means that when you log in to any other Windows 8 machine with that account, your data will sync, including background settings, address book, and other accounts like Facebook and Twitter, e-mail, and instant messaging. App syncing is done through the Windows Store, while the 7GB of free SkyDrive storage and integration with the SkyDrive app can be used to sync personal files.

Google accounts appeared not to sync at the time of writing.

The People app is where all your contacts will integrate from across multiple services.

(Credit: Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

Beyond sync, once you’ve logged on for the first time you can change your log-in to a Personal Identification Number or a picture log-in. The picture log-in is neat, and lets you set a photo as your log-in background. You can then customize a quick series of drawings on the picture, made up of a line, a circle, and a dot, to log you in. It ought to provide a much faster log-in process for tablets than a PIN.

If you’re on the lock screen, you click and drag it up to reveal the password dialog. It may sound like a lot that’s different from the touch workflow, but it’s actually quite simple. You can even use the mouse for your picture log-in.

One of Windows 7’s better interface features was a split-screen view that you could initiate just by dragging one program’s Title Bar to the left or right side of the screen. This has been updated for Windows 8 when you drag an app from the left edge. Once the split bar appears, release the app and it will “snap” to the edge. The screen will be split, with one-third for the app you just dragged over, and two-thirds for the previous app. The benefits to multitasking in multiple apps are readily apparent.

Internet Explorer 10 plays a huge role in Windows 8. Under the hood, its JavaScript engine and hardware acceleration help power the Metro apps. More visible to the rest of us, it loads sites quickly and allows sites to be pinned to the Start screen as tiles. It also has a new interface, with the location bar on the bottom, and large thumbnails for open tabs at the top. Tap the location bar itself to search, or to see your collection of Pinned sites, Frequently Visited sites, and Favorites.

There’s a lot of debate about how restrictive Microsoft might be making Windows 8 to other browsers, but that’s a question that will take more time to resolve.

IE 10 is the most standards-compliant versions of Internet Explorer yet, as well as recognized by several sources as extremely good at blocking malware and phishing.

Windows 8 is also by far the safest version of Windows yet. Although there’s no such thing as a foolproof system, these features greatly reduce the parts of Windows that are vulnerable. There’s the Trusted Boot for double-checking system integrity before Windows loads, and the SmartScreen in IE10 to protect you from phishing and malware.

Windows 8 has even more features. This is the first version of Windows with dedicated parental control features called FamilySafety; there’s support for games through the Xbox app and streaming content from Xbox with the SmartGlass app; and the Desktop apps such as File Explorer works amazingly well with touch and their new layouts.

Meanwhile, in the PC Settings, you can now handle poorly performing Windows 8 computers with the Refresh option, for reinstalling the OS without affecting your personal settings and files; or Remove everything and reinstall a fresh version of Windows without having to use any external installation discs. Again, the brief review period afforded to us by Microsoft means that we’ll update this review with how these features performed in the future. If they work as advertised, though, they’ll negate one of the biggest complaints about Windows over time: that the operating system performance degrades and reinstalling is a unmitigated, painful hassle.

The Windows Store is where you’ll go to get the new Metro-style apps.

(Credit: Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

Performance
After spending months with various incarnations with Windows 8, we can confirm that it is indeed the fastest version of Windows ever. At least, it’s the fastest to boot. While our experience has been that the operating system is also dramatically faster to use, especially on metrics like waking from sleep and navigating from app to app or Start screen, those are notoriously hard to evaluate. First off, we’ll start with some hard numbers from CNET Labs. They’ve discovered that Microsoft’s controversial new operating system doesn’t steamroll over Windows 7 as much as it gently shoves it out of the way.

 

Operating system Boot time Shutdown time MS Office performance iTunes decoding Media multitasking Cinebench
Windows 7 SP1 45.2 7.7 408 127 343 16985
Windows 7 SP1 47.5 7.8 412 124 344 17,116
Windows 8 RTM 31.4 8.8 372 123 340 15,300
Windows 8 RTM update 26.4 11.7 367 123 340 17,114

 

 

*All tests measured in seconds, except for Cinebench. On the Cinebench test, the higher number is better.

Our test bed is a Dell XPS desktop, running a 3.2GHz Core i7 processor, with 8 GB of DDR3 RAM, a Nvidia GeForce 8400 GS PCI-Express with 512 MB RAM graphics card, and a 1 TB Western Digital hard drive (model WDC3200AAKS).

We tested Windows 7 Service Pack 1 twice, and Windows 8 RTM twice. The second time we tested Windows 8, we updated the operating system because Microsoft claimed that the update was a big improvement to the OS. We conducted the “Wake from Sleep” test only once on Windows 7 because of its recent addition to our benchmark tests.

A word of caution about these benchmarks: They provide a snapshot of how our specific test hardware performs under strictly controlled conditions. They are not always representative of actual real-world performance.

We excluded our new “wake from sleep” test from the chart because the results were erratic. The second Windows 8 “wake from sleep mode” test gave us an average of 17 seconds, significantly slower than our experience with a real-world Windows 7 computer running Windows 8. A Toshiba DX1215 all-in-one touch screen, running the Windows 8 RTM with all the updates, regularly woke from sleep in under two seconds. That’s a major win for Microsoft, even if our Windows 7 hardware running Windows 8 resulted in erratic tests.

Nevertheless, you can see that the Windows 8 RTM from August and the big October update to Windows 8 proved to boot significantly faster than Windows 7 Service Pack 1. Boot time shrunk by around 45 percent between Windows 7 SP1 and Windows 8 RTM updated, and that’s a key metric in making Windows 8 appealing.

Claims about sluggishness in Windows will be slightly harder to prove in Windows 8. Our in-use performance tests were fairly even, which CNET Labs explained to me as being because the tests have not been optimized to run on Windows 8. However, the Microsoft Office performance test shows Windows 7 taking around 410 seconds to complete its tasks, to around 370 seconds in Windows 8 — about 10 percent faster.

Shutdown times in the lab were recorded at about the same speed for both Windows 7 and Windows 8, which parallels our real-world experience. Windows 7 SP1 has never been beastly for us when shutting down, although that hasn’t been the case for everybody.

When using Windows 8 on real-world computers, not test beds that get re-imaged, there’s no question that it’s a faster operating system. In the time that Windows 7 boots to the log-in screen, it feels like Windows 8 boots and gets you through your log-in. Windows 8 wakes from sleep mode rapidly — not quite as quick as Chrome OS’s instant on, but significantly faster than Windows 7 and the closest to “instant on” that Microsoft has ever been.

Microsoft is claiming some bold numbers for Windows 8 performance, including a 35 percent performance boost when waking from hibernation; better battery management; and better disk I/O that can result in faster program install times — the company says that installing Office 2010 on Windows 8 is 10 percent to 20 percent faster than on Windows 7.

Windows 8 will work on the same hardware as Windows 7: a minimum of a 1GHz or faster processor; 1GB of RAM and a 16GB hard drive for an x86 computer, or 2GB of RAM and 20GB hard drive for an x64; and a graphics card that supports DirectX 9 with the WDDM driver. A screen resolution of 1,024×768 pixels is required to run Metro apps and use the Windows Store, while “snapping” apps requires at least 1,366×768 pixels.

Our judgment from all these lab tests is that on the key metric of how long it takes you to get going on your computer, Windows 8 lives up to its promise. But as always, your personal configuration could greatly affect your device’s performance.

Conclusions
After spending the better part of a year with various forms of in-development Windows 8, we’re giving it a strong recommendation in no small part because of its value. If you’re running a Windows XP, Vista, or Windows 7 computer, upgrading will cost you $40. That’s worth it alone for the security and speed enhancements, not to mention the better driver and utility support. That price point is almost $100 cheaper than upgrading from XP or Vista to Windows 7 was.

Windows 8 has more going for it, of course. It’s the first serious attempt to unify computing across disparate devices and accounts in a way that looks and feels cohesive. It’s stunningly fast, it presents apps in a new way that avoids the repetitiveness of Android and iOS, and it feels connected to your life and the Internet.

One big question remains: does the learning curve make it worth strongly considering other operating systems? We think not. The aggressive learning incline does not negate the vast similarities between Windows 7 and Windows 8. We think that it’s worth seriously considering the upgrade, especially from older systems, but it’s not yet the one operating system (to rule them all) that Microsoft wants it to be.

By saddamfazal Posted in Review

Aggressively innovative Windows 8 forces a steep learning curve

Review: Part 1

The good: Windows 8 embraces the future wholeheartedly. Log-in and boot times are fast, the apps look gorgeous, and the Sync feature brings seamless transition between devices.

The bad: The learning curve is steep and in-app navigation isn’t obvious. There are just too many known unknowns here.

The bottom line: Microsoft makes an aggressive, forward-thinking, and bold statement for the future of PCs with Windows 8, and vast security and speed improvements more than justify the $40 upgrade price.

This review was conducted with the RTM version. We’ll update with the final shipping version once it’s available, but we expect few if any substantive differences.

Microsoft’s vision for the future of computers builds a new world for Windows. It works well with a mouse and keyboard, and it’s great with touch screens. It lusts for apps, lives for sync, and loves real-time updates. But you’d better believe it’ll take some time to get used to it all.

Since Microsoft debuted its vision for Windows 8 to the world at its Build 2011 conference, we have watched the themes that drive Windows 8 slowly gestate. The new operating system applies the lessons of mobile to the personal computer in a way that’s absolutely innovative. Connectivity, cloud access to personal files, seamless updates, and a simple interface all come together in Windows 8.

A full CNET comparison between Windows 8 and Apple’s OS X Mountain Lion will be forthcoming, but for now it’s interesting to note two major differences. Apple’s approach to sync integration with iCloud and app updates is much more cautious than Microsoft’s cross-device Hail Mary. This isn’t surprising, given that Apple is the lion’s share of the tablet market, with the iPad claiming a 70 percent share.

However, Google’s clunky, robotic missteps on tablets have handed an opening to Microsoft to stomp in and grab the No. 2 spot. The “lite” version of Windows 8, Windows RT, will come withthe New Microsoft Office preinstalled, and Windows Phone 8 will offer a Windows 8-styled interface coupled with robust sync features. And the company is pushing tablet makers with its own innovative Surface tablets. Basically, Redmond wants to build one Windows to rule them all

There are two ways to get Windows 8 and Windows RT, which reach the public on October 26. You can buy a new computer or tablet running it, which is an attractive option because Microsoft is mandating its strictest standards ever for hardware manufacturers. Previews of the desktops, laptops, and tablets that will run Windows 8 have been, at worst, interesting curiosities, but generally have been much more than that..

However, Microsoft desperately wants people who own older Windows computers to upgrade. If you bought your Windows machine after June 2, 2012, but before January 31, 2013, you’ll be able to buy an upgrade license for $14.99. People with older Windows 7, Vista, and XP computers will be able to upgrade for $39.99. Those are effectively Mac OS X point upgrade prices for a major operating system upgrade. We can’t say that it’s worth holding on to your XP-running hardware, but if you’ve got Windows 7, $40 for an upgrade ought to be mightily attractive. Not only that, but if you’re considering buying a brand-new Windows 8 machine, this is a low-cost way to take the OS on a test run.

Windows RT will only come preinstalled on tablets. The two versions available to the public to download will be Windows 8 Basic and Windows 8 Pro, which this review is based on.

Welcome to the Windows 8 Start screen.(Credit: Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

Installation
The Windows 8 installation process is remarkably simple, and belies the massive changes you are about to wreak on your operating system. Run the installer, drop in the license key when asked, and allow the computer to reboot.

On the Toshiba DX1215 built for Windows 7 but running the Windows 8 Release Preview that we upgraded, installation took around 10 minutes — not including the hinkiness we encountered with the Microsoft-supplied USB stick. The syncing process took longer, and getting the RTM to the same point of usability as the RP was added took almost another 20 minutes. Microsoft said this was longer than normal, but not out of the realm of possibility.

Microsoft documentation notes people installing Windows 8 over Windows 7 will get to keep their Windows settings, personal files, and programs. (Check out CNET’s Windows 8 upgrade FAQ.)

If you have a preview version of Windows 8, you’ll be able to keep your personal files, but apps will have to be downloaded again from the Windows Store. Fortunately, your previous apps should be saved in the Your Apps section, at the top edge. Settings such as picture passwords and Facebook will carry over, since they’re attached to your log-in account. Google log-ins apparently will not, and must be re-entered manually.

People with Vista will be able to carry their Windows settings and personal files forward to Windows 8, but not their programs. If you’re running Windows XP, you’re even more restricted, and can only take your personal files with you. Microsoft has a Compatibility Center Web site to check your hardware before your purchase an upgrade.

Interface
Microsoft has never been accused of doing anything the easy way, and that’s doubly true for navigating Windows 8. The complaints and compliments about the definitely different Windows 8 interface are varied, but basically boil down to two aesthetic sensibilities.

We believe that Windows 8’s new Start screen presents apps in an elegant interface. It challenges current common wisdom about apps and their icons, and re-imagines the icon as an integrated extension of the app itself. The Windows 8 tile is a widget-esque surface that can stream real-time information from the app.

Tiles are arranged in groups on the Start screen, and you can drag them around to create new groups. You can also pinch to zoom out and get a global view of your groups, from which the groups themselves can be reorganized. This semantic zoom creates an easier way to navigate through content-rich apps, and across the dozens or hundreds of apps you’re likely to install.

Furthermore, Windows 8 takes advantage of your screen’s edges to stick menus in an accessible but out of the way place. There’s almost a zen approach to it all. Everything feels connected as you flip between recently used apps, as you use semantic zoom to navigate above and then within an app, and as your right-edge Charms bar provides an actual unified place to tweak settings, search in-app and across Windows 8, and share content.

The Charms bar on the right side of the screen lets you navigate through Windows 8.(Credit: Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

You navigate Windows 8 through the Charms bar, which has no true analog in Windows 7. It’s the navigation bar that lives at the right edge of the screen that intertwines OS navigation with OS functionality. From the Charms bar, you can Search apps, files, and settings; Share content across apps; jump to the Start screen; configure external Devices such as multiple monitors; and change Settings both for Windows 8 itself and any app that you’re in at the moment.

By putting these five key features all in one place, Microsoft has supplanted the catchall Start menu of previous Windows editions with something more nuanced, but with a broader mandate. All apps have settings, goes the logic — therefore, you should be able to access those settings in the same place, regardless of app.

In practice, this is generally smooth with moments of clunkiness. No matter what app you’re in, your Windows 8 settings are always accessible from the bottom of the Settings sidebar. However, the specifics of an app naturally are left to the app maker. In Microsoft’s Weather app, your toggle from Fahrenheit to Celsius lives not in the Settings sidebar, but in the also-hidden bottom edge options.

The left edge allows you to swipe through your previously used app, although you can turn this off if you’d like. Swiping in from the left edge and then making a quick U-turn back to the edge reveals a sidebar of thumbnails of your previously used apps, including the Start screen. You can cycle very quickly through previous apps, making this one of Windows 8’s better navigation options.

So, while it’s logical of Microsoft to restrict the side edges to the operating system, and the top and bottom edges to the app, the practice is not intuitive in all cases. Microsoft provides a helpful, necessary tutorial when you first install Windows 8 that demonstrates this, but it doesn’t show you the top and bottom edges, or the left edge.

Because Windows 8 is intended as a unified system for both PC and tablet, it works almost as well with a keyboard and mouse as it does with touch. While the mouse may eventually go the way of the fax machine, it’s doubtful that Microsoft intends to kill it off while encouraging so many non-touch-screen owners to upgrade to Windows 8. It’s much more likely that Microsoft sees an immediate future for touch and keyboard/mouse, not touch or keyboard/mouse.

So, as with seemingly everything in Windows 8, this, too, serves two masters. Sure, it gives you the precision required for image editing, but it’s also Microsoft proclaiming Windows 8’s usefulness. Windows 8 can do it all, Microsoft says: you get touch, mouse-like precision, and keyboard hot keys. While the tiles are clearly designed for touch, they are not irritatingly large for mouse work.

Meanwhile, all the major hot keys in Windows 7 perform the same functions in Windows 8, and there are some new ones, too. These include Win+Print Screen to take a screenshot, which then gets automatically saved to your Photos app, or using the Windows key to switch between the Start screen and your last-used app.

One of the best keyboard functions is that you can pull up an app from the Start screen just by beginning to type. It’s ridiculously simple and effective: type “cal” when on the Start screen, and a list of apps with “cal” in their name appear in the center of the screen, but on the right you can flip from Apps to Settings to Files that have the same “cal” string.

Not much will happen when you first connect a mouse to Windows 8. As soon as you move the mouse, though, a scroll bar will appear along the bottom edge of the Start screen. You can then use the scroll bar to navigate through your groups, or you can use the scroll wheel for that — so the vertical motion is interpreted by Windows 8 as a horizontal scroll.

Move the mouse to the lower-left corner to reveal your Start screen, or the upper-left corner for your most recently visited app. If you then move the mouse alongside the left edge, it will reveal your other most recently used apps.

One of the big new features is that Windows 8 will allow multitouch gestures on touch pads. Macs have had multitouch touch-pad drivers for a few years, while Windows touch pads haven’t progressed much since Windows XP. The blame for that can sit at the feet of Microsoft just as easily as you can point a finger at the hardware manufacturers. The point is now, with Windows 8 forcing dramatic hardware upgrades to accompany it, Windows touch pads are finally moving forward.

Three default gestures will come with all laptops that have touch pads: pinch-to-zoom, two-finger scroll along the X and Y axes, and edge swiping. That last one is important because it will give you an easier way to activate the edges on non-touch-screen Windows 8 computers besides using the mouse.

The mouse has been enabled for apps, too. So in Internet Explorer, for example, a back navigation arrow appears on the left, and a forward nav arrow appears on the right edge. Mouse to the lower-right corner to see the navigation Charms, and then mouse up along the edge to use them.

Right-clicking reveals the “app edges,” the app-specific options from the top and bottom screen edges, while a button denoted by a magnifying glass on the far right of the scroll bar zooms you in and out of your groups.

It’s impressive how well Microsoft has been able to replicate the touch workflow with the mouse and keyboard. We’ve never seen the two integrated quite like this before. The multiple ways to interface with the interface also will go a long way toward convincing previous Windows owners and perhaps even skeptics that Windows 8 is all that and a bag of chips. Most importantly, though, both work well with your apps.

Detractors rightly will criticize Microsoft for many of the same things that we like about Windows 8. It opens to an entirely new desktop called the Start screen, with the Start menu and Start button effectively evaporated into the history books. Confusingly, there’s a Windows 7-styled “Desktop” mode for legacy programs and some core Windows advanced configuration tools.

The tiles for non-Metro apps look funny on the Start screen, with traditional icons placed against relatively enormous square tiles. Oh, and Microsoft doesn’t want you to call it Metro anymore, but we’re going to in an effort to keep the review clear.

The Windows 7-style desktop has all the familiar features of Microsoft’s previous OS while making it easy to jump back and forth. Here, Desktop mode is on the left, with Internet Explorer and File Explorer open, while the Metro-style Mail app is open on the right.(Credit: Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

The Desktop tile will jump you directly into a Windows 7-style desktop, complete with Recycle Bin, traditional Internet Explorer, File Explorer, and taskbar. After almost 20 years, the Windows Explorer file management tool has been rebranded File Explorer, and it offers much more robust file-tweaking options. A keyboard icon next to the system tray forces the Windows 8 soft keyboard to appear, with options for splitting it for vertical orientation, or using a stylus for handwriting recognition.

There’s no doubt that Desktop mode is a visually jarring jump from Metro, as are the design rules that govern in-app styles between the two. Apps that open in Desktop mode have dropped the translucent Aero borders that debuted in Vista, replaced with the solid colors that background tiles in the Start screen, so there are some attempts to make them less dissimilar.

Via: Cnet

By saddamfazal Posted in Review

LG Nexus 4 gets a full blown review

After teasing us with a few images every other day, Belarusian website Onliner.by has now uploaded a full review of what has come to be known as the LG Nexus 4.

We can see from the images just how similar the Nexus 4 is to the Galaxy Nexus. The all-black, featureless face has become a signature of the Nexus line of phones since the Nexus S. The Nexus 4 looks practically identical to the Galaxy Nexus from the front, save for a chrome ring around the bezel. It even has the notification LED in the same place as the Galaxy Nexus.

On the back, LG has dumped Samsung’s matte grey back with the typical bump near the bottom for a flat glossy back with a peculiar dotted pattern. The back of this phone still says ‘with Google”, but then it also says ‘NOT FOR SALE’, so it could change by the time the phone goes for sale.

As mentioned before, the display uses an LCD panel, but the review mistakenly states the resolution as 1280 x 720, when the actual screenshots are in 1280 x 768 resolution. This particular device was running Android 4.1.2 but it is expected the final version to run on Android 4.2.

There are some images taken by the 8 megapixel camera on the back but the quality of these images is very mediocre. The details are all smudged and the colors and white balance in particular seem off. These images don’t seem particularly better than those from Galaxy Nexus. If anything, they seem worse.

Another area where the Nexus 4 disappoints is in the synthetic benchmarks department. The AnTuTu and Quadrant scores are way low for something with a quad-core Snapdragon S4 and 2GB of RAM under the hood and even slower than the scores of the international One X with the Tegra 3 processor.

All of this can be put down to this being a prototype device and things could improve considerably in the final version. That could also explain why this particular unit had just 8GB of internal memory. With the launch of the next Nexus being said to be on October 29, we don’t have to wait long to find out what the real deal would be like.

To read the full review of this prototype, click on the source link below.

Source