Looking back over our Android-tablet reviews for 2015, we realized that we haven’t reviewed a new 7-inch tablet all year. (Indeed, the number of new Android tablets on the whole seems to be way down.) The low end is taking on a new shape, too: As we thought in 2014, 8 inches has become the new standard for compact Androids. You might say 8-inchers are the new 7-inchers, in terms of both popularity and price.
Case in point is last year’s $179.99-MSRP Lenovo Tab A8, which we reviewed in July of 2014. At that time, the Tab A8 was one of many entry-level compact Android tablets available, with most of the 8-inch models selling for just under $200 and most of the 7-inchers going for a bit over $100 ($129.99, or thereabouts). Here we are, just a year later, and Lenovo’s sequel to the Tab A8, the Tab 2 A8, raises the quality level for the price over last year’s model (even though both slates use the same processor). And it also lists for $20 less: a $159.95 MSRP. (Plus, as we wrote this in August 2015, it was selling at shop.lenovo.com and several other places for $40 less than that, or $119.99.)
Plenty of things about this slate place it firmly in the “entry-level” column, such as its relatively low-resolution, 1,280×800-pixel display, a mediocre 16GB of storage, and a relatively slow 1.3GHz MediaTek processor. Even so, its better-than-adequate display panel and Dolby-enhanced sound make it a good device for watching videos and for other kinds of not-so-resource-intensive media consumption.
Its shoulder-shrug-at-best performance on our benchmark tests suggests that this little slate might be somewhat sluggish, compared to other competing 8-inchers. The numbers suggest that perhaps you might notice it even when performing some everyday tasks—such as composing and responding to e-mails, Web browsing, and social-media interaction. But that was not the impression we got from our hands-on trials. As long as we didn’t try to push the Tab 2 A8 too hard, as we’ll get into in our Performance section later on, the Tab 2 A8 performed just fine.
That said, it’s also important to point out that the Tab 2 A8 simply could not complete a few parts of our cadre of tests. This, in turn, relegates this slate to a not-small group of entry-level- and midrange-performing tablets capable of most of the basics, but not up to the stresses of the most demanding Android games and apps.
In short: It’s dressed in fine accoutrements for media consumption—a good screen and speakers—but at the core this is a basic tablet. It’s ideal, we think, for first-time tablet buyers, for children (to keep their hands off Mom’s and Dad’s much pricier iPads), and anybody else looking for an inexpensive-yet-capable compact Android to help them keep in touch friends, family, and the world.
Read entire review at Computer Shopper
In the 20 or so years the world has enjoyed public Internet (ever since the days of dialup, in fact), there has always been free Internet in one form another. Usually, though, these so-called “free” providers forgo the monthly fee in lieu of the subscribers allowing the company to subject (bombard) them with advertising—in the form of banner ads or some other, usually more distracting, type of message. For these providers and their subscribers, this is a mutual exchange; nobody gets anything from charity or the goodness of anybody else’s heart.
Not so, though, according to Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, for subscribers of Facebook’s free Internet service, Internet.org. Founded in 2013, goals are much loftier than ad-supported providers of old. It hopes to offer free Internet service to the two-thirds of the world’s inhabitants who, because of poverty, location, or a general lack service availability, don’t have and can’t get Internet connectivity.
Istruly an attempt at altruism, as Zuckerberg claims, or a scheme to bring less developed countries of the world Facebook?
Read entire article at Digital Trends.
Perhaps in predicting “bio-neural” circuitry to store and transfer data throughout the starship, the writers of the mid-1990’s TV series Star Trek: Voyager were prophetic. Over the past few years, researchers at Harvard, the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg, ETH Zurich university, and other research facilities have been experimenting with storing data in DNA. Researchers are starting to find we may be able to store data for thousands of years by using techniques first perfected by Mother Nature.
The Voyager engineers have 400 years or so on today’s scientists. DNA storage is probably a little closer to today than the 25th Century, where Star Trek: Voyager was set. Still, this budding technology has a lot of obstacles, among them prohibitive costs. If that can be conquered, though, all of today’s existing digital data could be stored and preserved in about four grams of synthesized DNA.
Read the entire article at Digital Trends.
The recent introduction of Windows 10 Technical Preview has made many pundits wonder about the future of Microsoft’s Windows RT, an inexpensive, low-power version of Windows 8 designed to run on the ARM processors often used to power tablets and smartphones. Much of the speculation is that Windows RT is dead. Then again, was it ever really alive?
Nobody was ever enthusiastic about Windows RT. Microsoft promised, negotiated, bribed, and cajoled, but still the response to RT was poor, at best. The financial loses, especially Microsoft’s, were immense (and still climbing). Within a year or so of its 2012 release a list of PC manufactures including Asus, Dell, Samsung, and Lenovo gave up trying to sell RT devices.
Read the entire article at Digital Trends.
Surely you’ve seen, either in movies or educational shows, those artificial intelligence (AI) computers that you interact with through various cables, or input leads, connected to your fingers, your hands, your head, and your feet. Depending on the sophistication of the devices and the software, nearly all parts of your body create input for the AI computer. Now, imagine interacting with, even controlling, your computer via hand and head movements, even facial expressions, without the input leads and cables.
Or maybe you want to control your computer with voice commands, like iPads and Android devices? Enter RealSense and VoiceAssist, two new interactivity enhancement features slated for the next generation of Intel CPUs.
If it all works the way Intel claims, you’ll soon be interacting with your computer via voice commands, hand, and head gestures, rather than actual physical pointing devices and keyboards. Here’s a real sense of how Intel’s new RealSense and VoiceAssist technologies work.
Read entire article at Digital Trends.
Perhaps we’re getting too used to big tech companies collecting, using, and often distributing information about us without our permission.
Invasions of our privacy have become commonplace, and, for the most part, we tolerate them. We do so, solely, it would seem, because we value the convenience and productivity that we get by using these operating systems, applications, and online services that collect data about us. This data ranges from information about our systems, to how we use our computing devices, what software we use, our Internet usage, what we buy, and more.
Read the entire review at Digital Trends.
Recently, Intel released new drivers for its Intel HD, Iris, and Iris Pro integrated graphics chips.
To test the company’s claims of improved performance, we downloaded the new drivers, and installed them on a laptop running on a 4th-gen Intel Core i7-4500U processor, which contains Intel’s HD 4400 Graphics GPU.
To establish points of reference, we ran 3DMark Fire Strike and Cloud Gate before installing the new drivers as well. These are popular benchmarks which we use to test graphics performance regularly.
After that, we installed the new drivers, and ran the same benchmarks again. While we expected the new drivers to perform somewhat faster, we were a little surprised by the results.
Read the entire article at Digital Trends.
Every now and then we come across a tablet that demands we sit up and take notice—not because it’s glamorous, fashionable, or made of nifty materials, but because of its quiet competence. That was the case with the release of last year’s Asus MeMO Pad HD 7, a Computer Shopper Editors’ Choice in July of 2013.
Like most compact (7- and 8-inch-class) tablets we’ve seen over the past year or so, the MeMO Pad HD 7 was primarily an entry-level slate. At first glance, you might wonder why it was an Editors’ Choice at all, or even noteworthy. Compared to some competing compact models (such as Google’s highly desirable 2013 version of the Nexus 7), it offered little that was ground-breaking in terms of technology.
What that modest 7-inch slate diddo, though, was bring to reality a well-built, attractive tablet for under $150, complete with a decent sound system and a quite serviceable display. And that’s what the subject of this review—the MeMO Pad HD 7’s replacement—does here in 2014, as well: It redefines what a budget tablet can and should be.
Yes, the name is almost the same, to the point of confusion. The MeMO Pad 7 (no “HD”) is one of a group of three entry-level tablets that Asus rolled out in summer 2014. The others were the $299-list, 10.1-inch Transformer Pad TF103C and the $199-list MeMO Pad 8, both of which we reviewed just before this one. (Hit the links for the deep dives on those models.) The Transformer Pad TF103C, we found, was a pretty reasonable deal. It has a much larger display than our MeMO 7 review unit, and for the additional $150, you get a full-size tablet along with a fully integrated Android keyboard dock that turns it into a workable Android laptop.
Still, that’s double the price of the MeMO Pad 7, and these are two very different tablets, for two different crowds. A closer match is the MeMO Pad 8. For the additional $50 that it costs versus the MeMO Pad 7, you get, well, another diagonal inch of display (which translates, if you do the math, to 30 percent more screen area).
For some buyers, that extra 30 percent is well worth another half a C-note. It does make things larger and easier to see, especially for those of us advanced enough in years to start experiencing declining eyesight. Plus, the 8-incher can be easier to read for another, less obvious reason: Despite its smaller screen, the MeMO Pad 7 has the same native resolution as the MeMO Pad 8. That means that (as we’ll discuss later on) the 7-incher has the more “detailed-looking” screen of the two, due to the necessarily smaller, tighter dots, but the 8-incher renders icons and other elements a bit larger. Even so, it’s a difference only noticeable if you really look for it, and a matter of personal preference between the two.
Otherwise, the MeMO Pad 7 and its 8-inch sibling look, feel, and smell a lot alike, right down to their controls and internal connectivity, which are nearly the same. Unlike last year’s 32-bit MeMO Pad HD 7 model, though, all three of Asus’ new slates run on a fairly new quad-core, 64-bit Intel Atom CPU, which, as we’ve seen in both the Transformer Pad TF103C and the 8-inch MeMO Pad, is an able performer. It delivered respectable scores on our battery of benchmark tests, and it contributed to a good, long runtime on our demanding battery-rundown trial. And it felt snappy in practice.
Those truths, combined with the solid hardware, are what make this new MeMO Pad 7 much parallel to last year’s winner: It balances a lot of things that tend to be mutually exclusive. In addition to performing well, the MeMO Pad 7 is light, thin, and easy to hold on to. While the screen might be a little small for some buyers’ tastes in the current market, given the fast rise in popularity here in 2014 of tablets with 8-inch screens, it’s a good one, as 7-inchers go. If compact, economical, and Android are what you’re after in a tablet, it’s hard to beat the MeMO Pad 7 for the money, given the field.
Read the entire article at Computer Shopper.
Back in November of 2013, we looked at an early attempt at an Android all-in-one PC, the Slate 21-k100 All-in-One Desktop from HP. Our opinion then was that running Android—a mobile operating system designed for smartphones and tablets—on a full-fledged computer was sheer folly. Not only was Android clunky on a 21-inch all-in-one (AIO), but several of HP’s hardware and design choices were baffling, too. As a result, the Slate 21 received one of the lowest scores we’ve given to a product in quite some time.
Now, venerable monitor maker AOC has tried its own hand at the same game with its mySmart All-in-One Android PC, another attempt to run Google’s open-source mobile OS on a large-screen AIO. This time, though, there are actually two such models: a $299.99 (MSRP) version with a 22-inch screen and the $399.99 (MSRP) model A2472PW4T, the 24-inch unit we’re reviewing here. Aside from the 2-inch-diagonal screen difference and the ensuing chassis-size change, these two machines are identical in almost every way.
Note, though, there’s something big the AOC AIO can do that the HP Slate 21 can’t. The mySmart can double as a high-resolution (1,920×1,080-pixel) touch screen for Windows, making it, in a sense, something of a hybrid product. Unfortunately, while it makes a fairly decent monitor for straightforward viewing, this AIO has some serious design and performance issues that affect its overall value and effectiveness as a desktop machine. The touch functionality leaves much to be desired in either mode, too.
In addition, this is the first AIO we’ve seen that comes without a keyboard or pointing device in the box. You’ll have to provide your own, or else resort to typing onscreen, which isn’t at all productive. On the other hand, this AIO has several USB ports, and it supports Bluetooth, so your options are wide open if you want to buy your own input devices. We’ll talk more about these design issues on the next page.
All of this is not to say that there’snothing to like about AOC’s mySmart PC—quite to the contrary. For starters, it’s built around a good-looking 23.6-inch display panel and a decent sound system for watching movies and viewing high-resolution images. Very few Android games and apps, on the other hand, can take proper advantage of the high-resolution screen (which we’ll get into in greater detail in the Features & Apps section). So the screen is really only of note if you’ll be using the display in monitor mode.
On the other hand, for a mid-2014 Android-based device, this one is full of 2013 compromises, were it even just an Android tablet. It’s using last year’s Nvidia Tegra 3 processor, and it came outfitted with a two-versions-behind installation of Android, 4.2. While we didn’t care much for HP’s Android all-in-one, at least the HP Slate 21 came out of the gate with the most modern Tegra 4 CPU and the latest version of the Android OS at the time. Both systems, however, are low on storage (just 8GB inside).
As we said about the Slate 21, this Android AIO provides neither a well-rounded Android-tablet-style experience, nor full-fledged all-in-one PC performance. If all you need is a large touch-screen device for watching videos, browsing the Internet, and managing e-mails and social media sites, this one will do. And, like we said before, it works as a touch-screen monitor—with, as you’ll see on the next page, some major caveats.
Still, realize that you can find basic Windows AIOs starting at about $350 (albeit with smaller screens), and for most users, those will be a far better alternative. Android doesn’t do big screens all that well to begin with, and when you stack on some this model’s shortcomings, it’s tough to get excited about the mySmart in light of what you can get for the same money.
Read the entire article at Computer Shopper.
Starting with the Eee Pad Transformer TF101 back in early 2011, Asus’ Transformer Pad has been one of tablet-dom’s stalwart brands, almost as long-running as Samsung’s Galaxy Tabs and Apple’s category-defining iPads. It gets the “Transformer” in its name because attaching Asus’ proprietary keyboard-dock accessories turns these stand-alone tablets into de facto Android laptops.
Over the past few years, we’ve seen a few iterations of the Transformer Pad, starting with the all-polished-aluminum Eee Pad Transformer Prime TF201, which came with top-of-the-line everything and sold for $499.99 (MSRP), plus another $150 for the keyboard dock. It was a hot item in early 2012. Shortly after that model came the less-expensive Transformer Pad TF300 (At debut, it was $399.99 MSRP for the tablet, $150 for the keyboard.) For the most part, aside from their elegant polished-metal casings, the Transformer Prime and the Transformer Pad TF300 were, in terms of overall feature sets and performance, rather closely matched.
That was a good thing, because these Transformers were well-built, fast, and attractive tablets in their time. Their only big shortcoming: Once you outfitted the TF300 with its keyboard dock, it sold for more than $500 street price, or, if you opted for the Transformer Prime and its dock, more than $600. In fact, the Transformer Prime decked out with its keyboard dock and 64GB of onboard storage could have set you back upward of a cool $700. We know today (and, really, have known for some time now) that most buyers just won’t pay that much for a 10.1-inch Android tablet.
However, Asus is betting that today’s tablet buyers might shell out less than half that—say, $299—for a full-size Transformer Padwith the keyboard dock in the box. Provided that both the keyboard and the tablet are quality hardware, and that everything works right, we agree. And that was the case with the subject of our review here today, the Transformer Pad TF103C.
On the surface, before we started putting this slate through its paces, it seemed like a tremendous deal. We’re happy to report that our impressions held up to scrutiny. For $299, you get a pretty decent slate and a full Android-optimized keyboard, an impressive combo for the price.
Granted, this entry-level tablet is not identical in build quality to the high-end Transformer Pads of a few years ago. However, considering the tablet’s price, its Intel Atom processor performed well in our hands-on trials, as well as on most of our benchmark tests. The screen, while not spectacular, looked good, and the sound was better than passable, too.
Some of the early Transformer Pads were expense-no-object machines—the best of the best, as Android tablets came. The Transformer Pad TF103C, while it looks quite similar, does show some of its budget roots once you look closely, a trade-off for the lower price and the inclusion of the dock. But, frankly, considering the $299 price, it’s a trade-off well worth making if you can’t shell out the full $500 to play the full-size iPad game.
Read the entire review at Computer Shopper.