Friday, 29 October 2010 - tech news fast! - tech news fast!

ViewSonic ViewPad: Tablet trade-in shaves £100 off shelf price

Posted: 28 Oct 2010 01:38 PM PDT

Considering an Android tablet but put off by the price tag weilded by the likes of the Samsung Galaxy Tab? Your luck's in. ViewSonic just unveiled a terrific trade-in deal to shave £100 off the price of their new ViewPad tablets. Swap any old laptop or netbook and you'll save a ton, literally.

To qualify for the deal, you need to buy a ViewSonic ViewPad 10 or ViewPad 7 from Scan, Misco, Wstore or eXpansys, then send your proof of purchase in, along with your old computer, which will be be broken down for spares, recycled or refurbished.

In return, you'll get a £110 refund (100 for the trade-in, and £10 to cover postage costs.) ViewSonic's only stipulation is that the PC you send them must have a working battery and power adapter, and be less than four years old.

Sounds like a steal to us, as it brings the price of a new ViewSonic ViewPad 7 down to £299, and the 10-inch dual-booting Windows and Android-packing ViewPad 10 down to £399.

Get more information at

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Samsung Galaxy Tab vs BlackBerry PlayBook

Posted: 28 Oct 2010 08:10 AM PDT

In the incoming wave of tablet devices the BlackBerry PlayBook and the Samsung Galaxy Tab are the closest of competitors in terms of their form factor – the curious 7″ screen size. But underneath the exterior, there’s a number of key areas where the two square up quite differently. Click through for our full BlackBerry PlayBook Samsung Galaxy Tab stat clash…

Both these tablets have 7" screens. The BlackBerry PlayBook 7" LCD screen clocks in at 1024 x 600 screen resolution. The Samsung Galaxy Tab has the same screen size and resolution, with 7" at 1024 x 600, but is built of the tough stuff: Gorilla Glass. That's the stuff the iPhone 4 screen is built from, and the same stuff that's used on helicopter windscreens. We found it to be bright, and responsive, with good viewing angles. There’ll be little difference between the two screens, but the Tab might stand up to more wear and tear.

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Battery life is one of the big sticklers. We got a good day of intensive use out of our Samsung Galaxy Tab, which the spec sheet states as giving seven hours of video playback. The PlayBook on the other hand has no official line on battery life yet, but BlackBerry is committed to squeezing power out of its devices, and has promised a good full day of battery life, so hopefully neither will cause a problem.

Operating system
The BlackBerry PlayBook comes with the all new BlackBerry tablet OS, which barely anyone has had a good look around, since even the developer kit that was handed out was sparse on details. What we do know is that it has BBM, Flash and HTML 5 support, and push and sync with your BlackBerry smartphone. The Samsung Galaxy Tab runs on Android Froyo with a Samsung skin, which is very similar to what you'll find on a high end Samsung smartphone.

Check out our full Samsung Galaxy Tab review here

One of the big differences here, as it we found with the Toshiba Folio 100, is that the BlackBerry PlayBook will not be launched with 3G, whereas the Samsung Galaxy Tab will have 3G built in as standard. There's no big impact on the PlayBook over and above the lack of 3G though, as the PlayBook will have the BlackBerry App Store, and won't lose out on app stores like Android devices without 3G. It does mean it'll be harder to use when you're out and about though, and there is around 90,000 fewer apps on the BlackBerry App World.

Size and weight
The Samsung Galaxy Tab and the BlackBerry PlayBook are closer in size and weight than other close competitors. The PlayBook is 194mm x 130mm x 10mm, and weighs in at 400g. The Samsung Galaxy Tab is 190mm x 120mm x 12mm and weighs in 20g less than the PlayBook, at 380g. That puts the Tab a tad wider and thicker than the PlayBook, and weighing a fraction less. Unless you're a real stickler though, you shouldn't notice any difference in the size and weight of these two devices.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab has two cameras, one rear facing 3.2MP camera, and one front facing 1.3MP camera for video calls and the like. The BlackBerry PlayBook goes one better, with a 5MP camera and a 3MP front facing camera for sharp video calling. If you want to be taking snaps with your tablet or want high quality video calls then the BlackBerry PlayBook is the better option by far.

Under the hood
Both the Samsung Galaxy Tab and the BlackBerry PlayBook have 1GHz processors under the hood, but RIM claim that the BlackBerry PlayBook is the "fastest tablet ever", with a 1GHz dual core processor and 1GB of RAM. The Samsung Galaxy Tab has a 1GHz processor with PowerVR SGX 540, which also powers the iPad and iPhone. We found the Tab to be super speedy, but until we put the BlackBerry PlayBook through its paces, we can't say for sure who's the fastest here.

These two tablets are very similar, with key differences being the camera capabilities and connectivity, as well as the very different proposition of a BlackBerry OS and Android Froyo OS. Prices are not out yet for the PlayBook, but the hints that have crept out place it in the region of the Samsung Galaxy Tab. Whether that will turn out to be a £100, or £300 difference could be the clincher between the two, or, as feedback on the Galaxy Tab is suggesting, could be a deciding factor in its success.

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Sagem Binder eReader unveiled

Posted: 28 Oct 2010 07:33 AM PDT

Watch out, Amazon Kindle – another eReader has turned up looking for a piece of your eBook wrangling action. The Sagem Binder is a compact 152 x 123 x 10.7mm and less than 240g in weight, but comes with both Wi-Fi and 3G for downloading new eBooks in slick cable-free fashion.

Formats supported include ePub, PDF, TXT and HTML for text, JPEG, PNG and BMP for images and MP3 for music. The 6-inch ePaper screen has capacitive touch capabilities, plus automatic rotation via an accelerometer.

There’s 2GB of built-in storage, plus a microSD slot allowing you to add an extra 16GB.

The Sagem Binder is currently only available in France, but we’d expect it to roll out throughout Europe shortly.

Out TBC | €199 (£175) | Sagem (via SlashGear)

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Top secret Apple iOS developer event incoming in time for iOS 4.2 update

Posted: 28 Oct 2010 07:32 AM PDT

Apple is holding some secret iOS developer events next week in California, and while details are scarce, it looks like it might be part of a push to raise the standards of iOS apps in time for iOS 4.2, to make sure that Apple stays ahead of the competition, Android. The event starts next Tuesday, and runs for three days.

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Business Insider reckons the timing is set to coincide with next month’s big iOS 4.2 update, which be the first major update to the iPad, and will mean that the iPad and iPhone are on the same page. It’s not clear who’s attending yet, and how big the talks will be, but no doubt details will be let loose soon enough.

What do you think the iOS developer event is for? Drop us a line in the comments and give us your predictions!

[via Business Insider]

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Orange San Francisco review

Posted: 28 Oct 2010 07:15 AM PDT

The Orange San Francisco is one of the cheapest Android phones on the market. Android may be the seen as the biggest rival to Apple’s iPhone, but phones like this prove it’s a different kettle of piranhas altogether. An ancient battered first-gen iPhone will fetch more than a hundred quid on eBay, but the Orange San Francisco costs just a ton new. How can it possibly be any good? Find out in our Orange San Francisco review.

Like finding a tenner down the back of the sofa, the Orange San Francisco is a wonderful surprise that your wallet will thoroughly approve of. For the money you can snap one up for, a hundred pounds on a pre-pay deal, not only is there no better Android phone, there’s no better smartphone, full stop.

We’ll get onto the Orange San Francisco’s lame duck elements later and, gushing praise aside, there are a few, but prepare for a light-speed tirade of love as we look at what makes this phone special.

Serene screen

The AMOLED screen is phenomenal for the price you pay

Top of the list is the Orange San Francisco’s capacitive screen. The only Android that’s been widely available at a similar rock-bottom price to use a capacitive screen is the T-Mobile Pulse, which T-Mobile doesn’t even stock directly any more. The rest? They use resistive screens – perfect for use with a stylus, but with a finger navigation feels stodgy and slow. The San Francisco’s touchscreen isn’t as super-responsive as an HTC Desire running Android 2.2, but it’s lightyears ahead of its direct rivals.

Wait, it doesn’t just end there though. The Orange San Francisco also uses an AMOLED display, which we’ve never seen in a phone this cheap. AMOLED displays don’t use a backlight, letting them reproduce near-perfect black levels – backlit LCDs’ black areas always have some degree of luminescence, making them look a little blue or grey. The screen’s viewing angle are ridiculously good for a budget phone too, with almost no visibility deterioration whatsoever.

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Next up is the phone’s resolution. The Orange San Francisco uses a 480×800 pixel display. Packing 384,000 pixels into a 3.5-inch display gives this phone a brilliantly sharp image. With plenty of pixels and rockin’ AMOLED tech on-board, the San Francisco’s display can feasibly be compared to the screen of the original HTC Desire and Samsung Galaxy S, phone which cost around four times the price at launch, without having to bow its head in shame.

How has Orange managed to reproduce such high-end features at such a low price? Not a clue, but we’re impressed. Some props go to ZTE, the company that originally manufactured the device before it was given the Orange branding stamp.

Android 2.1

The Frisco sport a custom Android 2.1 skin

The Orange San Francisco runs Android 2.1. With Android 2.2 already here and Android 3.0 likely due for release within the next few months, it’s not bang up-to-date, but it’s not bad. Android 2.1 offers swish features like live wallpapers (animated backdrops for your homescreens) and, most importantly, it’s compatible with almost every major app currently available on the Android Market, Flash 10.1 plugin aside.

The only thing holding it back is its 600MHz processor. To get a kick into the 1GHz big leagues, you’d have to spend three times the price of the Orange San Francisco, but with a 600MHz clock speed some high-end apps may chug occasionally, and there will be some lag as you navigate around menus.

This lag gets annoying if you make do with Orange’s default UI, which encompasses five home screens and a static icon dock down at the bottom of the screen. Like all the worst custom UIs, it’s slow and cumbersome, but the Orange San Francisco seems to admit this.

What we love just as much as the phone’s great screen is that it’s humble. It comes with the naff UI in place as standard, but admits its own failures by adding the Homescreen Selector app. Here you can switch to the pre-installed Launcher alternative, which is free of Orange branding, or any others you’ve found on the Android Market. We switched to Launcher Pro, available for free from the Market (with some extra features costing a premium) and the Orange San Francisco slipped into the fast lane, with any lag annoyance wiped out.

Spend the time on a tweak or two, and the Orange San Francisco can better phones that’ll cost you much more. The HTC Wildfire has an inferior screen and will cost you at least £50 more. The Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Mini offers a great UI and is tiny, but costs double the amount and runs the aged Android 1.6. If you want a cheapie Android phone on a pre-pay deal, this is the one to go for. As long as you can get on with following rotten eggs hidden under the carpet…

The cut corners

The Orange San Francisco’s 3.2-megapixel camera is awful. The autofocus is so slow that you could be forgiven for thinking you’d set it up for a 3-second delay. Even with the hands of a surgeon – and not one of those jittery alcoholic ones you see on TV either – your photos will often come out as a blurry, distorted mess. Yuck.

The AMOLED screen falls into a known trap of the screen tech, with slightly oversaturated colours. But even if that was to bother you, the built-in video skills aren’t good enough to highlight them too clearly. No DivX and XviD support means the majority of vids you’ve downloaded from the net will refuse to play. It’s a cut corner we could have predicted before even seeing the phone, but it’s a shame.

Let's just say the HTC Legend is a few leagues above when it comes to looks

Then there’s the styling. The Orange San Francisco is slim, petite given its 3.5-inch screen, and commendably solid. But parts of it don’t half look tacky. The cheap-looking silver strips down the side? The horrible camera lens housing? My, they’d get rotten veg thrown at them if they ever graced a catwalk. And that awful “San Francisco” font on the phone’s fascia? Darling, don’t even mention it – it’s hideous, simply hideous.

And yet, while these shortcomings became evident fairly soon after getting our hands on the Orange San Francisco, we’d urge you to forget them. If you’re watching your wallet, this is the best Android phone you could ask for, and it’s not that far off phones that would cost you £400 or so, SIM-free. As David Dickinson would say, it’s a bit of a bobby dazzler.

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Is the white iPhone 4 dead?

Posted: 28 Oct 2010 07:01 AM PDT

Yesterday, news broke that the white iPhone 4 had been delayed yet again, but this morning it we awake to find that was the death rattle of the notorious white iPhone 4, as the white version of the iPhone 4 has been removed from all Apple online stores, when previously it was listed, but not available for order.

The white iPhone 4, while not listed in the shop any more, is still featured in the iPhone 4 gallery. This will be frustrating news to those of you who are still waiting for the white iPhone 4, and there are quite a few of you who have been diligently holding on, according to the results of the quick straw poll we ran yesterday, where 39 per cent of you were still waiting on a white iPhone 4.

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Even more frustrating though, is that the white iPhone 4 does exist, but only in the hands of a very select few – mostly insiders who were invited to the launch of the iPhone 4 across the pond. It seems the problems in manufacture were in bumping up production, and in matching the home screen button white colour to the rest of the front of the iPhone 4.

Is this another big boo-boo from Apple? If you were waiting for the white iPhone 4, are you disappointed in Apple?

[via MacRumours]

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HTC Mecha leaked – by HTC

Posted: 28 Oct 2010 06:32 AM PDT

HTC releases smartphones so frequently that it’s tough to keep track, and it looks like there’s yet another touchscreen-toting handset joining the manufacturer’s range. It’s called the HTC Mecha and its existence has been flagged up by, of all places, HTC’s own HTC Sense website.

While the HTC Mecha listing has now been removed, users who signed up for HTC Sense earlier spotted a new addition listed alongside the HTC Desire HD and HTC Desire Z. The HTC Mecha looks a lot like an old HTC Hero, suggesting that a placeholder image may have been used.

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Naturally HTC hasn’t revealed any information about the HTC Mecha – it’s not even official yet – but we’ll keep our eyes peeled for any tidbits in the coming weeks.

Out TBC | £TBC | HTC Sense (via Engadget)

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Google says UK internet industry worth £100bn because we shop till we drop

Posted: 28 Oct 2010 05:31 AM PDT

Google has estimated that the UK internet industry is worth £100bn, putting it above the UK construction industry. That converts to 7 per cent of national income. The high figures are mostly driven us Brits doig a lot of online shopping. Paul Zwillenberg, one of the report’s authors, said : “As a proportion of retail sales, [online transactions] are high. The UK is punching above its weight.” Some folks over on Twitter (including Evan Davies) have expressed scepticism about the high figure though, and are wondering whether there in a confusion in the figures, or the way they’re being presented.

[via Guardian]

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BT has pop at “high price” of Virgin 100Mb broadband

Posted: 28 Oct 2010 05:25 AM PDT

Virgin Media launched its 100Mb cable broadband in the UK just yesterday, but already rival ISP BT has weighed in with a spot of  criticism, saying it was “surprised by the high price” of Virgin’s superfast service.

A BT spokesman said that, while it was “encouraging to see Virgin say they will upgrade their network by 2012″ and “good for UK plc that there will be another high speed network”, it couldn’t resist banging on about all the ways in which its own fibre optic broadband service is “better”.

BT is currently rolling out fibre optic broadband to a reported 17 million homes and businesses, and charges around £20 a month for it. Virgin Media’s 100Mb service, which goes live from Christmas and will reach a potential 12.7 million homes by mid-2012, costs £45 per month on its own, or £35 when taken with a phone line.

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However, BT only offers 40Mb speed at the moment, and won’t be offering its superfast 100-110Mb service until next year, and by the time Virgin’s 100Mb service is available to 12.7 million homes BT’s equivalent will be available to just 2.5 million. So perhaps its criticism is a little cheeky. After all, Virgin does already offer 50Mb broadband to half the country, at the cost of £15 a month, which is actually cheaper than BT’s 40Mb service.

Virgin Media (via ISPreview UK)

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The Sims 3 for console review

Posted: 28 Oct 2010 05:15 AM PDT

The Sims 3 is the latest console-based installment in EA's world-conquering life simulation series, but it’s been conspicuously absent on consoles until now. Indeed, the new ports are lagging behind the PC edition by over a year. Does the addition of the much-hyped 'Karma' system – and the option to play from the comfort of your sofa – make up for this excruciating delay? Find out in our exclusive The Sims 3 review.

The Sims 3 is one of those titles which neatly exposes the delicious irony behind the hobby of interactive entertainment. Many of us chose video games to escape from the rigmarole of everyday life, yet this insanely popular franchise is about living the life of another person – an existence which has the capacity to be equally as mundane and challenging as our own.

But then there's a good reason for that: The Sims 3 is insanely addictive. Based on the PC version which was released last year, this life simulation is more complex, more detailed and more significant than previous entries in the series. Pesky loading times and limited interaction with the outside world – two major criticisms which could be levelled at The Sims 2 – are now banished. Your Sim is free to explore the environment around them, and the act of stepping outside their front door no longer incurs a lengthy loading screen.

The real wonder of The Sims 3 comes with watching your creations mature and take on personalities of their own. You can interject and give your Sims a selection of orders whenever you wish, but the way in which they go about their everyday business is uncanny, and as relationships develop and skills are acquired you'll see your Sims get evermore independent.

We hope this doesn't happen too often in your real life

The Sims 3 is all about open-ended gameplay and freedom. Although you're encouraged to ensure your digital denizens are as content as possible, there's no real objective here – you can play the game in whatever manner you wish. In fact, using The Sims 3's new 'Karma' points system (which has been coded exclusively for the home console editions) and powers such as the hilarious 'Epic Fail' and the apocalyptic 'Fire Storm', you can inflict misery and suffering on your unwitting creations, and sit back to chuckle at the unfortunate aftermath.

Also new to the home console versions of The Sims 3 is a challenge-based achievement system which allows you to connect to your Facebook and Twitter accounts, thereby notifying your friends when you pass certain milestones within the game world. Keeping with the theme of social interaction, you can also use your console's online capabilities to exchange items and content with other Sims players.

You can even give your Sims old Nintendo Virtual Boys to play with - or something just as dorky looking anyway

The amount of content, situations, creations and entertainment offered by The Sims 3 is practically limitless — you can play it any way you wish, guiding a solitary Sim through their life from cradle to grave, or alternatively creating a fully-formed family unit – a situation which is arguably even more demanding. Those of you who like your games to have solid objectives and gripping storylines will probably find this astonishing degree of scope a little off-putting, but previous fans will undoubtedly revel in the almost boundless possibilities.

The biggest issue with this console port of The Sims 3 is the interface. This is clearly a PC title that has been customised in order to function on home consoles. Although the developer has done a commendable job of assigning shortcuts to various joypad buttons, there's no escaping the fact that a mouse pointer would be infinitely better. This is one game that would certainly benefit from support for Sony PlayStation Move peripheral or Microsoft's Kinect, although at present EA doesn't plan to incorporate either of these features into the PS3 or Xbox 360 versions of the title.

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We also noticed some slightly disappointing performance issues with The Sims 3. All too often the game stutters and pauses as data is spooled off the disc, and this can lead to some moments of frustration, especially when you're attempting to hand out detailed orders to your digital brood. Installing the game to your console's hard disc alleviates the problem somewhat, but those gamers who don't possess cavernous storage devices really shouldn't be treated as second-class citizens.

Dedicated Sims fans will be able to overlook the minor problems that ever-so-slightly dull The Sims 3's otherwise glossy exterior. If you've already experienced the game on the PC then there's little reason to revisit this home console edition – aside from the amusing Karma system – but computer-less devotees will no doubt find this zany replication of real life consumes all too much of their own.

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