Thursday, 28 October 2010 - tech news fast! - tech news fast!

BlackBerry Bold 9780: it’s official

Posted: 27 Oct 2010 08:23 AM PDT

The BlackBerry Bold 9780, the one that’s sprung more leaks than the Titanic in recent weeks, has just been made official, in case you still had any doubts about its existence. RIM has just announced the BlackBerry Bold 9780, which we found on the Vodafone UK website, and in the T-Mobile Christmas gift guide just a fortnight ago.

The BlackBerry Bold 9780 comes packing BlackBerry 6, and is the first BlackBerry Bold to come with the new OS. It’s also loaded with a 5MP camera, optical trackpad and WebKit browser.

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The BlackBerry Bold 9780 also has 3G and Wi-fi, 512MB of Flash memory and expandable storage. The camera has scene modes, autofocus, flash and video recording. The BlackBerry Bold 9780 will be arriving on our shores at some point in November, across a number of carriers.

Out November 2010 | £TBC | TBC

What do you think? Want to get your hands on a BlackBerry Bold 9780, or will you be steering well clear? Tell us what you think in the comments.

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Windows 7 update adds bug fixes, security, no fireworks

Posted: 27 Oct 2010 08:22 AM PDT

Microsoft has quietly released Windows 7 Service Pack 1, the first major update to the OS since its launch just over a year ago. But don’t expect it to transform your Windows 7 experience in a major way: this Service Pack is mostly a collection of security updates and bug fixes that keep everything quietly ticking along.

Aside from these essential (but essentially unexciting) changes, the only major update is a jazzed up Remote Desktop client for RemoteFX – and this will only really be of use to people running Windows Server 2008. IT staff, in other words. Little wonder Microsoft isn’t making a huge song and dance about the Service Pack.

Strictly speaking, the update isn’t actually “out” out. It has reached RC (release candidate) status, essentially one step beyond a public beta – meaning it’s available for you to try if you like, but not fully tested. If you fancy seeing if it makes your Windows 7 experience any smoother, you can grab it through Windows Update (just make sure you uninstall the Windows 7 Service Pack 1 beta first, if you’re already using it).

Out now | £Free | Microsoft (via Techtree)

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Apple in talks to buy Spotify

Posted: 27 Oct 2010 07:37 AM PDT

Rumours have surfaced today that Spotify and Apple are in talks about a possible buyout. This isn’t the first time Spotify has been in talks with one of the major forces in tech though, last year a deal with Google fell through. It’s early days, but it could be a biggie.

The failed Google acquisition of Spotify was on the table for $1 billion, according to TechCrunch, but fell apart because of how Google wanted the label deals to have been brought in.

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These new acquisition talks with Apple are only in preliminary stages, and nothing is on the table as of yet. TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington did some digging in his world of Silicon Valley contacts, and found that “Apple and Spotify are in on-again, off-again discussions about an acquisition, but at best it's very early in the process. No firm price has been offered, no term sheet tabled.”

It’s a interesting deal to contemplate – how would Apple bring Spotify into its walled garden? Would Spotify as it stands be shut down, or would it survive in tact, but remain under the watchful eye of Steve Jobs?

What do you think about a deal like this? What’s the best and worst case scenario you can imagine? Drop us a line in the comments and tell us what you think.

[via TechCrunch]

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Pizza Express iPod booths: no more muzak

Posted: 27 Oct 2010 07:05 AM PDT

Pizza Express are opening a snazzy new restaurant in Richmond, London, where diners will be seated in futuristic booths that come complete with iPod dock and directional sound system, so that you only get your music piped in, and so you only hear, (or block out, if you’re more on the antisocial side), the conversations on your own table. This is bad news for eavesdroppers, as there’ll be no more listening in on the snipey conversation of the couple on the next table, but it does mean that there’ll be no mediocre chart tat simmering you into a rage before the garlic bread has even arrived.

The new restaurant in Richmond will be acting as a living lab, where you’ll give feedback on whether you preferred the old style earwigging and muzak, or whether you want to keep bringing your iPod to dinner. A series of circular, sound-absorbent panels similar to those used in the Royal Albert Hall hang from the restaurant ceiling.

These overhead dome structures create a "private dining experience", and Pizza Express says they act like mini recording studios, encasing you in your own acoustic chamber of sound that’s channelled through from the iPod dock. To call over the waiter you'll have to flick a switch to turn on a light, and you can also control the lighting, and obviously, all the music, through the iPod dock.

We like the sound of this. No more James Blunt or bicycles in Beijing, just whatever you want. Although, this might turn into just as big a problem – who gets to pick the next track, you, or your Pendulum-loving spouse?

Sounds good? We think so. Drop us a line in the comments and tell us what you think about the Pizza Express acoustically controlled dining experience!

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Acer tablet: all will be revealed on 23 November

Posted: 27 Oct 2010 06:34 AM PDT

Another day, another tablet toddles into the world. Now it’s Acer’s turn, although the PC-making giant is playing it cool with the specs of its forthcoming tablet (or tablets), revealing only that it’ll be launching its first line of touchy slates in New York City on 23 November. What could they have in store?

The simple answer is: we don’t know yet. We don’t know whether the firm will launch a single model or a range of different sizes. We don’t know the OS – although previous whispers have suggested Google Chrome OS – or, naturally, Android – may be on the cards.

What we do know is the price range, funnily enough. Albeit in US dollars. The Acer tablet range will start at $299 (£189) and go up to $699 (£440). That’s quite a spread, suggesting to us that we could be looking at at least two different screen sizes (say, 7-inch and 10-inch) – or perhaps Acer has already thrashed out deals with US carriers that will see the price of the Acer tablet itself subsidised.

Well, 23 November can’t come soon enough. We’ll be keeping an ear to the ground for more Acer tablet rumour rumbles in the meantime.

Out TBC | £TBC | Acer (via Engadget)

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The month in camera reviews

Posted: 27 Oct 2010 06:14 AM PDT

It’s been a non stop month in camera reviews, with loads of brand new shooters hitting our desk. We hit the streets with them all to find out how they stood up against the competition, and we’ve got the lowdown on them all rounded up right here for you.

Below are the compact cameras, DLSRs and bridge shooters that we’ve tested this month – you can get the verdict on each, with a simple click, and remember that you can see the latest at any time over on our Electricpig camera reviews page.

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Canon PowerShot SX30 IS review

We took the Canon PowerShot SX30 IS for a spin around London town, testing out its absurd telescopic zoom in (legal) situations and capturing the moment when ice cream was made out of liquid nitrogen on HD video.

Sony A33 review

Sony’s new Alpha uses a brand new style of technology that negates some of the problems with mirror technology in SLRs. But never mind that! Does it take good shots? We think so.

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Nikon D3100 review

Ah the Nikon D3100. An entry level DSLR so good, they named it twice. Well no, but we did put it in our Best Nikon camera Top 5 pronto.

Nikon Coolpix P7000 review

Nikon’s latest attempt at taking on the mighty PowerShot G10/11/12 line of beefy compacts is a worthy one, with some serious setting options for tinkerers without the neck strength to lug around a DSLR.

Ricoh CX4 review

Ricoh seems to breed CX compacts like bunnies these days. Is this one up to scratch, and worth your money if you own a CX2 or CX3?

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Samsung Galaxy Tab vs Toshiba Folio 100

Posted: 27 Oct 2010 05:55 AM PDT

The Samsung Galaxy Tab was received with lots of hype, but as sky high prices were announced, and more recently, as in depth reviews have started arriving left right and centre, confusion about the Samsung Galaxy Tab is emerging. We decided to pit the Samsung Galaxy Tab against the Toshiba Folio 100, which also runs Froyo, but that’s more similar in size to the iPad. Both are devices that those who want to look beyond the iPad will be thinking about, but which serve different purposes. Click through for our full stat clash…

Operating system
Both the Toshiba Folio 100 and the Samsung Galaxy Tab are running Android 2.2 Froyo. We've had a hands on with the Toshiba Folio, but devices with final software aren't knocking around yet. What we do know though, is that Google itself  has said that Froyo is not designed to be running on a tablet the size of the Toshiba Folio 100. The effect for the Toshiba is that Android apps might not run properly, because Android apps don't support screens this large. The Samsung Galaxy Tab is safer running Froyo because it is smaller in size, and Google reckoned the Tab could get away with Froyo.

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The biggest difference for the user between these two devices, aside from the obvious size difference, is the connectivity. The Samsung Galaxy Tab has 3G built in as standard, whereas the Toshiba Folio 100 does not, and there will not be a 3G version available until next year. In terms of outputs and slots, the Toshiba Folio 100 has an SD card slot, twin USB ports and HDMI output at full HD. The Samsung Galaxy Tab just has a microSD slot. To put it crudely, you can stick more in and out of the Toshiba Folio 100, but the Galaxy Tab is mobile friendly.

The Toshiba Folio 100 has a price tag £200 below that of the Samsung Galaxy Tab. The Tab is currently going for £530 unlocked, whereas the Toshiba Folio 100, when it's launched at the beginning of next month, will be priced at £330. The 3G version that will be arriving next year will be around £40-£50 more expensive than the Wi-fi only Folio 100. Whichever way we look at it, and whatever we compare it against, we can't help but come out with the fact that the Samsung Galaxy Tab is too expensive.

Click here to read our full Samsung Galaxy Tab review!

The Toshiba Folio 100 feels far shoddier than the Samsung Galaxy Tab, despite any differences in form factor and weight. When we've held both devices, we found the Samsung Galaxy Tab felt solid, whereas the Toshiba Folio 100 felt flimsy, and like it needed a bit of careful handling. The screen is good looking on the Tosh, but the back is plastic, which is what makes it feel flimsy. In terms of size, the Samsung Galaxy Tab is almost half the size of the Toshiba Folio 100, which is very similar in size to the iPad. To get a feel for the difference, click through to our Samsung Galaxy Tab review, where we posted some size comparison pics of the Tab versus the iPad.

Camera and video
The Samsung Galaxy Tab has a 3.2MP rear facing camera, which we found to produce pictures that were noisy, and difficult to focus, because there's no touch to focus feature in the camera functionality. The front facing camera has 1.3MP for video calling, as does the Toshiba Folio 100, but since this is the only camera the Folio 100 is packing, video chat is about all it's good for. If you’re looking for a device that takes pictures, neither of these devices is for you.

The Toshiba Folio 100 screen is a 10.1" capacitive multi touch display, with a resolution of 1024 x 600 pixels. The Samsung Galaxy Tab has a 7" capacitive screen with the same 1024×600 resolution, but on a smaller screen, and it has the extra resilience of being made of helicopter windshield stuff, Gorilla Glass.

These two devices are two different form factors. The Toshiba Folio 100 works best as a sofa device, for browsing and watching video at home, whereas the Samsung Galaxy Tab is an all singing all dancing mobile device, albeit one whose moves are a little off. The Toshiba is far less feature rich than the Galaxy Tab, and as well as what we’ve discussed above, it’s important to remember that until the 3G version of the Toshiba Folio 100 arrives, Android Market won’t be available on the Folio 100. For taking photos on the go though, neither devices are suitable, as the Tab’s camera functions are limited. The phone function on the Tab we also found to be less than ideal, as it’s only really suitable for speakerphone calls. Take into consideration the £200 price difference, and the deciding factors become the depth of your pockets, and whether you want a device for out and about or slouching at home.

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Nokia N8 movie: Dev Patel, Pammy and some guy you haven’t heard of

Posted: 27 Oct 2010 05:33 AM PDT

The Nokia N8 movie we mentioned a while back is out for your viewing pleasure, and we must say, we’re impressed. It stars Dev Patel and Pamela Anderson (and Ed Westwick but we’re still not sure who he is). Click through for the full HD Nokia N8 film.

Everything in the film was shot on the Nokia N8, and while it does look like tripods and the like were probably used, since there’s no wobbly hand held stuff, it’s still remarkable stuff. Looking at the colour cast too, it also would appear that the film has been put through at least a little post production.

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But even so, it’s pin sharp, and considering it’s still the Nokia N8, a smartphone, it’s great looking, regardless of what sort of helping hand it’s been given. Watch the full Nokia N8 Pammy and Dev Patel film below.

What do you think of the film? Does it make you want a Nokia N8?

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Android-powered Nikon NF-300i photo frame converts 2D to 3D

Posted: 27 Oct 2010 05:24 AM PDT

Digital photo frames are boring, right? Not so the Nikon NF-300i, which rides the 3D wave by converting your standard 2D snaps into three popping-out dimensions – and there’s no need to slap on a pair of plastic specs.

The Nikon NF-300i delivers its 3D content via glasses-less lenticular technology, which lets you view 3D photos and videos on the 7.2-inch 800 x 600 screen without the need for shutter or polarising specs. You’ll need to be no more than a metre from the screen, though.

The 2D-to-3D conversion requires that users subscribe to Nikon’s “my Picturetown” online storage service – around £15 per month. That’s on top of the price of the actual Nikon NF-300i, which you’ll have to essentially rent for the equivalent of £150 a year. Absolutely bonkers.

The Nikon NF-300i also features Wi-Fi and Ethernet, plus USB for getting your shots on there. Oh, and it runs on Android 2.1. It’s only available in Japan at the moment, and we wouldn’t be surprised if it stayed that way.

Out TBC | £TBC | Nikon (via Gizmodo)

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Minecraft review

Posted: 27 Oct 2010 05:15 AM PDT

A Minecraft review on Electricpig may seem a little strange. It is a resolutely independent game (essentially the product of one man's imagination), is still in alpha and has the kind of blocky, retro graphics that will make the average Halo fan splutter with disgust. But for all its foibles and eccentricities, Minecraft is a phenomenon in both its single player and (slightly shaky) multiplayer guises.

Minecraft is one of those titles that become more than a game. It swallows up your time and sucks you into its world completely with the sheer force of its creativity. Available on PC, Mac and Linux for $9.95 (c.£12.70) now and $20 when the final version is released, it's a truly impressive achievement. Read on to find out what all the fuss is about in our Minecraft review…

Pinning a genre on Minecraft is difficult, especially the single player mode. The sort of game it becomes depends on how you approach it. To some players, Minecraft is like a vast open-world Lego set letting you mine materials and cut down trees to create incredibly complex structures. Players have made creations as diverse as a model of The Rapture from Bioshock to a fully working computer – and even a 1:1 model of the Starship Enterprise, as you can see in the video below.

But Minecraft can also be a combat game – collect armour and weapons to battle the blocky zombies which swarm at nightfall – or simply about exploration. It sounds strange, but initially Minecraft can feel like a hipster Farmville.

You need to mine materials and collect resources before you really get started. Getting a grip of how you combine elements in the crafting menu and how to avoid coming to a sticky end when night falls can be a steep learning curve. Going through the tutorial first is a pretty good idea but there's also plenty of Minecraft info online including a through Wiki to help if you get confused – the fanbase is large and active already.

Once you get the hang of crafting, Minecraft becomes fascinating. It's a sandbox game in the true sense of the word. Its joy lies in the way it allows you to create almost anything you can think of if you have the patience and the tenacity to put it together. Combining elements from the world allows you to make tools, torches and building materials in a really clever way.

Because Minecraft gives you a limited number of lives in each game which you need to preserve, there's always a sense of jeopardy. You can't simply skip around the world building things and joyfully messing about in the rivers. If you don't build an effective shelter, the monsters that emerge after dark will do you in. By the same token, you have to be careful when mining deep underground to avoid being drowned, eaten or simply trapped.

In some senses, this Minecraft review or any Minecraft review for that matter will be more subjective than you'd get with a normal game. The gameplay is intensely personal – you have so much control over how you choose to play and there's no preset path to follow. It ties into an almost primal urge to build and explore as well as being strangely creepy when night falls.

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Multiplayer adds another layer to the Minecraft experience and helps avoid the Second Life trap of being a vast world where you wander around listlessly hoping something interesting will happen (the fact that you don't need to purchase land from a company that will then claim it still owns it also helps). There are lists of Minecraft servers to be found online. Hopping on to a server is as easy as entering the IP address but frustratingly many have white lists in place so you may have to search around to find one that will let you in without too much fuss.

Minecraft is well worth exploring but don't go into it without the realisation that the game can be madly resource hungry, laggy or lock-up entirely at times. It truly is in alpha. For that reason we can't in all conscience slap five stars on this Minecraft review – it's not the finished product yet – but even in its slightly unreliable current form, it's a brilliant game.

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