Wednesday, June 24, 2015

IT News Head Lines (Techradar) 6/25/2015


Tesla makes charging to your destination safer across Australia
Tesla makes charging to your destination safer across Australia
California-based automotive and energy storage company Tesla Motors has announced that its Destination Charging Program has been kicked-off in Australia, with over 10 sites already up and running, and a host of future sites still to come.
Tesla's High Power Wall Units have been placed at each location, allowing Model S electric car owners to recharge after long trips.
Each location has been selected based on the places that Model S owners tend to frequent for longer stops.

Wheezin' the juice

Locations mostly consist of hotels such as Park Hyatt Sydney, The Darling, Hotel Realm Canberra, The Observatory in Port Macquarie and Rundells Alpine Lodge Dinner Plain.
Premium parking spots outfitted with charging stations can also be found at Westfield Chatswood and Chadstone shopping centres.
Tesla has also announced that it's partnered with Secure Parking to provide "safe and affordable" locations for Model S owners to park and charge their cars across Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.

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Gallery: The best gadgets to buy with your tax return
Gallery: The best gadgets to buy with your tax return

The 10 best gadgets to spend your tax return on

Tax Return Money
Tax time can be hellish for some people, but for the rest of us who are living carefree without complicated tax debts, it's a joyous event where a large wad of cash is dropped into your lap to be spent on anything you heart desires.
With that in mind, we've compiled a list of awesome gadgets and tech items that you should totally blow all your money on with a blatant disregard of any financial commitments you may have in the future – read on to see what we recommend!

PlayStation 4 or Xbox One

game consoles
With so many great games announced at E3 2015, now's as good a time as any to jump into the current generation of games consoles.
The PlayStation 4 (AU$549.95) and Xbox One (AU$499.95) both offer big processing power and a great range of games, so your ultimate decision on which console to get will likely come down to whether you count multi-platform games or exclusive titles as the bigger priority (which you can also buy if you have any leftover tax return money).
If you still can't decide which console you'd rather own, then we suggest you check out our thorough PS4 vs Xbox One comparison feature.

Nexus Player

Nexus Player
If you're looking for an affordable way to bring the Android experience to your television set (that leaves you with some tax return money to spend on other stuff), look no further than the Nexus Player (AU$129).
The puck-shaped Nexus Player is the first device to run Android TV, allowing for screen sharing, media streaming (it's a great way to watch Netflix, Stan, Presto and Quickflix), productivity (it runs over 600 Android apps) and gaming – especially when used in conjunction with the Nexus Player Gamepad (AU$59).

Worx Landroid

Worx Landroid
There's nothing worse than having your weekend ruined by taxing yard work (see what we did there?), so why not spend your tax money on a machine that mows the lawn for you to lighten the workload?
Meet the Worx Landroid (AU$1,199), the robotic lawnmower that does all the hard work, ensuring that it'll be a long time before you have to push a mower around again.
The Worx Landroid does require a bit of setup (boundary wire must be placed around the perimeter of your lawn, so that it knows where to stop cutting), but let's face it – cutting down your lawn work makes it totally worth it (pun intended).

Handpresso Auto E.S.E.

Handpresso Auto E.S.E.
Love coffee but always on the road? The Handpresso Auto E.S.E. (AU$165) in-car espresso maker has you covered (though hopefully not in piping-hot coffee).
Adopting the popular coffee pod-system that many home espresso machines use, Handpresso provides its own pods for straight espresso, decaf and Arabica blends, though many other coffee pod brands are compatible with the machine.
Sure, you could opt to spend your tax return money on a bigger, more stationary espresso machine, but they won't make you feel like your ride has been 'pimped' by Xzibit.

iPad Air 2

iPad Air 2
We can think of no better tablet to spend your tax return money on than the iPad Air 2 – it's not only Apple's flagship tablet, but it's probably the best tablet on the market, period.
It's the lightest, thinnest, most beautiful iPad that Apple has ever created, one that has raised the bar for the rest of the competition, forcing them to up their game (we're looking at you, Google Nexus 9 and Surface Pro 3).

Sonos Play:1

Sonos Play:1
Still using a CD player to listen to music from a single spot in your house? Well, this wireless hi-fi system is going to blow you away.
With the Sonos Play:1, you can place wireless speakers around your whole house which you can send music to and control right from your phone – the Sonos Controller App lets you use your own music collection, or stream your playlists from services like Spotify, MOG, Rdio, JB Hi-Fi NOW Music and much more.
Seriously, use that tax money to bring your music-loving self into the 21st century.

DJI Phantom 3 Professional drone

DJI Phantom 3 Professional
There are many drone options available on the market, but if you've got a particularly large tax return, then you might as well spend it on the best drone around.
The DJI Phantom 3 Professional (AU$2349) comes equipped with an incredible 4K camera that shoots at 30fps, so you can take cinema-quality aerial shots with very little effort.
It's also got an amazing range of features – satellite support for rock-steady GPS positioning, an indoor Vision Positioning sensor to avoid crashing into stuff in your house, and automatic take off and landing functionality.

Perfect Drink

Perfect Drink
With all that tax return money burning a hole in your pocket, you're going to want to throw some lavish cocktail parties that are more in tune with your new, cashed-up lifestyle – enter Perfect Drink (AU$70)
This app-controlled smart bartender tells you how to make over 300 types of cocktail without the need to measure your liquids – simply place an empty glass on its smart scale, and start pouring each ingredient until it tells you to stop.
And, if you do overpour, the Perfect Drink app will recalculate itself in order to ensure your delicious cocktail is perfectly proportioned.
Now if only it spoke to you in Bryan Brown's voice... Or played Kokomo on repeat as you make a drink. Actually, this next gadget should take care of the latter request...

Marshall Stanmore Bluetooth speaker

Marshall Stanmore
If you're looking to spend your tax return money on a Bluetooth speaker, then the Marshall Stanmore is the way to go.
This ridiculously attractive product (which comes in a variety of colours) embraces the signature rock 'n' roll style that the brand is known for, resembling Marshall's world famous guitar amps.
Unwilling to rely solely on its good looks, the Marshall Stanmore's sound is also quite impressive, producing a loud sound that's ideal for guitar-based music.

Airwheel X8 electric unicycle

Airwheel X8
Let's just put this out there – pedalling is for suckers (just ask motorcycle enthusiasts).
Why pedal when you can just stand on an electric unicycle that does (most) of the hard work for you? Introducing the Airwheel X8 (AU$899), a smooth, single-tyre transportation method that will take some time to master, but is well worth the effort.
Working much like a Segway, the Airwheel X8 moves forward and backward based on your lean – though you won't have anything to hold on to here, so be careful.
With a design that improves upon last year's Airwheel Q3, the Airwheel X8 is the coolest unicycle around – all you need to do now is practice your juggling technique.

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Updated: Buying Guide: 5 best mobile workstations 2015: ideal laptops for business
Updated: Buying Guide: 5 best mobile workstations 2015: ideal laptops for business

Best mobile workstation 2015

Few productivity decisions are more important and, in turn, nerve-racking than selecting the right mobile workstation for your employees.
Making the wrong choice could mean saddling your employees with a bad computer. So what do business owners look for?
A great display, computing power and exceptional battery life without breaking the bank. There are few mobile workstations that can do this and we've rounded them up here.
Best mobile workstation

1. Lenovo ThinkPad W550s

Workstation-grade performance with Ultrabook-class battery life
CPU: 2.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i7-5600U | Graphics: Nvidia Quadro K2100M | RAM: 16GB | Screen: 15.5-inch, 2,880 x 1,620 (3K), multi-touch display | Storage: 512GB SSD | Connectivity: 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 | Camera: 720p | Weight: 5.47 pounds (2.48kg) | Dimensions: 15 x 10.2 x 0.92 inches (38.1 x 25.9 x 2.34cm)
Long battery life
Strong performance
Quiet fan
hick, boxy body
Bulky extended battery
No quad-core CPU option
With more conservative CPU and GPU configurations than last year's ThinkPad W540, the W550s provides impressive performance with the added bonus of longer battery life – all in a lighter, thinner body.
Read the full review: ThinkPad W550s
best mobile workstation

2. Dell Precision M6800

This monster laptop impresses with its power and versatility
CPU: Quad-core Intel Core i7 | Graphics: AMD FirePro M6100 Mobility Pro with 2GB GDDR5 dedicated memory | RAM: 32GB | Screen: 17.3-inch HD+(1600x900) | Storage: 750GB HDD | Connectivity: 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 | Camera: 720p | Weight: 7.86 pounds (3.57kg) | Dimensions: 1.71 x 16.41 x 10.65 inches (43.4 x 416.7 x 270.6mm)
Excellent performance
Versatile, sensible and sturdy design
Poor battery life
Bulky, heavy chassis
The M6800 is impressive, but it's a niche product. If you can justify investing in such a powerful notebook, it excels in every important area, which makes it an excellent high-end workstation.
Read the full review: Precision M6800
Best mobile workstation

3. HP ZBook 17 G2

The best-testing mobile workstation
CPU: 3.10 and 3.30 GHz Intel Core i7-4940MX | Graphics: NVIDIA Quadro K5100M | RAM: 16GB | Screen: 17.3-inch FHD 1920x1080 | Storage: 1TB 7200 RPM SATA, 256 PCIe SSD | Connectivity: 802.11a/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 | Camera: 720p | Weight: 7.42 pounds | Dimensions: 16.37 x 10.7 x 1.33 inches
Battery life
The HP ZBook 17 G2 does so many things well its flaws are forgivable. It outperforms all the mobile workstations we've reviewed in most categories by a very large margin.
Read the full review: ZBook 17 G2
best mobile workstation

Dell Precision M3800

4. Dell Precision M3800

Dell has produced one of the best Windows laptops available
CPU: Intel Core i7-4702HQ | Graphics: NVIDIA Quadro K1100M | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 15.6-inch FHD 1920x1080 | Storage: 500GB SSD | Connectivity: 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 | Camera: 720p | Weight: 1.86 kg | Dimensions: 18 x 372.1 x 254mm
Superb CPU performance
Superb graphics performance
Thin-and-light design
Poor battery life
No ethernet port or optical drive
If you can live with its quirks, the M3800 is still one of the best Windows laptops available and something we truly enjoyed using.
Read the full review: Precision M3800
Best mobile workstation

5. Lenovo ThinkPad W540

A top-notch 3K workstation with a top-shelf price tag
CPU: 2.7GHz quad-core Intel Core i7-4800MQ | Graphics: NVIDIA Quadro K2100M | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 15.6-inch, 2880 x 1620 (3K) IPS | Storage: 256GB SSD | Connectivity: 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 | Camera: 720p | Weight: 5.57 pounds | Dimensions: 14.8 x 9.8 x 1.1 inches
Immaculate 3K screen
Perfect keyboard and trackpad
Great performance for any task
Too expensive for company-wide use
Inconsistent build quality
High-res screen hogs battery life
The Lenovo ThinkPad W540 is a workstation powerhouse, but it's too expensive for general office use.
Read the full review: ThinkPad W540

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Google's new wearable tracks vital signs for medicine
Google's new wearable tracks vital signs for medicine
Google has revealed it's developing a new wearable, though it won't be for consumers.
Speaking to Bloomberg, Andy Conrad, head of the life sciences team at Google, explained the intended use for the health-tracking wristband, "... is for [it] to become a medical device that's prescribed to patients or used for clinical trials."
The wearable can measure pulse, heart rhythm and skin temperature, as well as collect environmental information like light exposure and noise levels, according to the report.
The information collected would be continuous, a feature Google believes will allow doctors to get a better view of a patient's health.

Google's new focus on health

In development within the Google X division, the new health tracking wristband is still an experimental device that the search giant hopes could work as a preventative measure for health conditions.
Google X has had a focus on health-monitoring tech for a few years now, with projects including sugar level-monitoring contact lenses and using nanoparticles to track blood cells and protein in cancer patients.
The company will work closely with the medical and pharmaceutical industry to test and fine-tune the new wearable, with trials reportedly set to start over this summer.
Google will also be seeking to pass regulations in the US and Europe, so we likely won't be prescribed a Google health tracker by our own doctors for a few more years yet.

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Hulu subscribers can get Showtime's new service on the cheap
Hulu subscribers can get Showtime's new service on the cheap
Put another win in the cable-cutter's column: for the first time in its history, Hulu is teaming up with Showtime to offer a reduced-cost package similar to most cable providers.
The two internet TV streaming titans are teaming up to offer Showtime's new standalone streaming service at a discounted rate to Hulu subscribers.
Hulu announced today that it will offer Showtime's service to its user-base for $9 a month, instead of the $11 going-rate available to Apple TV, PlayStation Vue and Roku TV owners.
The best part of today's announcement? Showtime on Hulu will be streamed ad-free.
While we still don't have an exact date for Showtime's new service, TechRadar has been told it will launch before the season premieres of Masters of Sex and Ray Donovan on July 12.
Today's news follows Hulu's announcement earlier this month that it will drop the "Plus" from its premium subscription.

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Review: Huawei P8 Lite
Review: Huawei P8 Lite

Introduction, design and display

From the iPhone to a $20 Nokia, every smartphone is made in China. Motorola attempted to bring manufacturing back to the US with the launch of the original Moto X, but that ended up only lasting a year. The inescapable truth is that China keeps costs low, and in the quest for more profits, every little bit counts.
A number of Chinese brands have tried making a splash in the US and UK from Lenovo to OnePlus. While it would be great to see Xiaomi finally offer its smartphones and tablets in the West, the saying "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" comes to mind. Huawei, on the other hand, has already broken out of its shell by launching an online store last June, and selling the Ascend Mate 2 to customers in the US.
Now, Huawei (pronounced WAH-WAY) is back with the flagship P8, and what we'll be covering in this review, its sibling: the P8 Lite. The P8 Lite has a 5-inch, 720p IPS display, giving it a pixel density of 294 ppi. It's powered by a 1.5 GHz octa-core processor, and 2GB RAM. A standard 16GB of internal storage is inside, and there's microSD card support up to 32GB.
On the back is a 13 megapixel (MP) camera and dual LED flash, and on the front is a 5MP camera. Dual SIM card and LTE support offers more freedom, and a 2,200 mAh battery keeps the wheels turning.


At first glance, the Huawei P8 Lite looks almost identical to its flagship counterpart. However, coming in at $249 in the US and £199 in the UK, some sacrifices have been made. Gone is the metal body for a plastic faux metal frame, and the screen is slightly smaller at five inches. It's also a bit thicker at 7.7mm, though does weigh about half an ounce less at 4.62 ounces.
Huawei P8 Lite review
It's very much a block design with ever so slightly rounded corners, and on the bottom front you have a chrome Huawei logo. On the back, the plastic continues with a brushed look. The 13MP camera and single LED flash sits in the top left corner, and another Huawei logo sits in the center below that.
Huawei P8 Lite review
The P8 Lite feels a little on the thick side, but at 4.62 ounces, is very light. From the faux metal frame to brushed plastic back, every angle provides solid grip, and reassurance it won't say hello to concrete anytime soon. If it does, Corning Gorilla Glass 3 should help minimize the damage. On the top is the headphone jack, and on the bottom is the charging port and two speakers.
Well, there are two speaker grilles, but the reality is that there's only one speaker, which is on the left-hand side.
Huawei P8 Lite review
The power button and volume buttons rest perfectly together on the right-hand side exactly where they should be, and the dual microSIM card slots are located below that. If you want to add a microSD card (up to 32GB), it goes in the first SIM card slot. This means your SIM card will need to rest in the second slot if you plan on adding more storage.


There was a time when 720p was great, but that time has long passed. The 5-inch IPS display does a good job, and offers OK color reproduction, but it clearly lacks the pop of a 1080p panel. You can't help but notice individual pixels throughout apps. One could argue the $249 (£199) price point, but that didn't stop Alcatel from packing a 5.5-inch 1080p display in the OneTouch Idol 3.
Huawei P8 Lite review
Bezels are to be expected, but a rather thick black bezel wraps around the entire display. Tapping on the display requires a little more force than on other smartphones I've encountered, and I frequently found myself having to double tap for something to happen. This was particularly annoying when typing on the keyboard, and noticing the spacebar never registered after creating a blend of words.

Interface and performance

There are no two ways about it: Huawei's EMUI skin borrows a lot from iOS. However, before we get into that, let it be known the P8 Lite is not running Android 5.0 Lollipop like it says on the company's website. You would think so given that the navigation buttons are identical to those found in Lollipop, but you'll actually find the phone is running Android 4.4.4 KitKat.
This could just be a simple mistake by the person updating the product page. After all, it also mentions the processor clocked at 1.2 GHz. However, given there are Lollipop navigation buttons, I can't help but feel like Huawei is trying to trick people into thinking they're running the latest, greatest OS. Not cool.
Huawei P8 Lite review
One of the first things you'll notice with the interface is you can't remove apps from the home screen unless you want to uninstall them. Because of this, there's no app drawer, and you'll have to swipe and swipe to find the app you're looking for. Swiping down from the notifications drawer gives you more evidence of Huawei's custom skin, and you're met with two categories: Notifications and Shortcuts. The first is pretty self-explanatory, and what you see by default. You can swipe away individual notifications or tap on the trash can icon to remove all notifications.
Shortcuts is where you'll find quick access to settings, and the ability to adjust your screen brightness, which you will have to do manually. With auto brightness turned on, it always seemed to be stuck at 3/4 of the way. This was fine outdoors, but too bright indoors.
Huawei P8 Lite review
The settings menu has all the options you'd expect with some minor changes, and extra features. "Data usage" is now "Data traffic management." It's laid out particularly well, and under "Traffic use ranking," I liked being able to see how much data apps used over Wi-Fi as well. However, one major oversight is the lack of an ability to set a data warning and limit.
Under "Privacy & security," there's "Notification center" and "Protected apps." The notification center is where you can turn notifications on or off for specific apps, and Protected apps are apps that you allow to keep running after the screen is turned off. The Huawei P8 Lite lets you know which apps are power intensive, and gives you the option to close them in an effort to save battery.
Huawei P8 Lite review
"Smart assistance" brings some unique features to the table, the first of which involving motion. For example, you can flip your phone over to mute/ignore a call, and if you decide to answer a call, once you pick up the phone, the ringtone will automatically get quieter. There's also the ability to shake your phone to rearrange the apps on your home screen, but only a mad man would enjoy that.
"Navigation buttons" lets you choose from several different fake Android Lollipop buttons. "One-hand UI" is possibly the most useless feature I've ever seen, and only appears to work in one app: the dialer. Here's what it does:
Huawei P8 Lite review
Huawei P8 Lite review
Just...why? "Gloves mode" actually worked really well, and "Touch-disable mode" supposedly prevents accidental taps while the phone is in your pocket or purse.
Huawei P8 Lite review
For when you're away from an outlet, and running dangerously low, Ultra power saving mode can step in. When turned on, the phone changes to a black and white layout, and only allows calls, messages or access to contacts.
On the performance side, the P8 Lite worked like a champ. It's definitely not the fastest phone out there, but apps opened quickly, and transitions and scrolling were smooth with no blatantly obvious jank. In our benchmark test, we run Geekbench three times in a row, and average out the multi-core score. The Huawei P8 Lite averaged a score of 2,660. This is just behind the Samsung Galaxy Note 4, but nearly 600 points ahead of the Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3.
Huawei P8 Lite review


As I mentioned previously, there's only one downward facing speaker despite the appearance of two. It gets somewhat loud, but taps out at about 3/4 of the way. It's definitely better than having a speaker on the back, however. The earpiece is almost useless, and I found it difficult to hear the other person even with the volume maxed out. In 90% of cases, I either used headphones or put them on speakerphone.

Camera, battery life and verdict

The 13MP shooter on the back uses a Sony sensor, and the P8 Lite shot good photos in the right lighting conditions. As per the usual, low-light photos were noisy. It takes about two full seconds after pressing the button for photos to process.
Huawei P8 Lite review
The skinned UI once again makes itself known in the stock camera app. There's panorama, HDR, and a "Best photo" mode, which is basically burst mode, and takes several photos in quick succession. "All-focus" attempts to put the entire image in focus, and "Watermark" is pretty self-explanatory.
Huawei P8 Lite review
While snapping a photo took longer than I would have liked, the camera tends to focus very fast, and you can swipe to the left to switch to video mode. One nice feature is the ability to open the camera by simply double tapping the volume button when the screen is turned off. It worked fairly quickly, taking about three seconds.
Huawei P8 Lite review
While not as good as the 8MP front-facing camera on the Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3, the 5MP camera on the P8 Lite is good enough for the average person. When you switch to the front-facing camera, the camera app automatically goes into "Beauty" mode, which uses some software tricks to give you more of a glow, and smooth out your skin. Sadly, software can't save all of us.
Huawei P8 Lite review

Battery life

With moderate use, I was consistently able to get around 16 hours with a little over 20% battery left. This was with around 2 hours and 30 minutes of screen-on time. However, it's worth mentioning that I had to manually adjust the display brightness, so with auto brightness turned on, I wouldn't expect to get the same numbers.
Huawei P8 Lite review
In our battery rundown test where we loop video at 100% brightness, the Huawei P8 Lite lasted 3 hours and 35 minutes. This was an hour and 20 minutes less than the Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3, which has a much larger 2,910 mAh battery.

We liked

Being able to quickly access the camera by tapping the volume button twice was a great added feature. Typically, a manufacturer's skin over top of Android can slow a device down, but Huawei managed to keep things running relatively smoothly.

We disliked

Unfortunately, I found there to be more dislikes than likes with the Huawei P8 Lite. The 720p display, while okay, isn't as good as comparable smartphones, and the fact that a new phone launched with Android KitKat is pretty disappointing.
The Lollipop navigation buttons are in bad taste, and the fake speaker grille, while looks good, just adds to that feel of trickery. The UI has been overly customized, and while may suit other folks, just isn't something I can fall in love with. However, I do have to hand it to Huawei for not letting it affect the performance too much.

Final verdict

With the Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 featuring a 5.5-inch 1080p display at the same price, there's really no reason to buy the Huawei P8 Lite. Even with the performance issues of the Idol 3, the better display, dual front stereo speakers, 8MP front-facing camera and better battery life make up for it. Also, there's the OnePlus One, which recently saw a permanent price drop to $249.
However, if a 5.5-inch display is too big for you – which I'd argue to test in person first, as you may just be surprised – the BLU Life One is a very interesting contender for those in the US. At just $100 after its June 19 launch, it'll offer a nearly identical display, rear and front camera, but takes a cut in performance and storage. All considered, the P8 Lite simply can't keep up with the competition.

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CE Week 2015: Apple CarPlay brings Buick into the 21st century
CE Week 2015: Apple CarPlay brings Buick into the 21st century
Apple's ascent into the automotive atmosphere rages on. During this year's CE Week conference in New York City, General Motors announced Apple CarPlay will be available on the 2016 Buick LaCrosse and Regal models.
Found as an "app" on the Buick's existing IntelliLink in-dash infotainment system, GM's CarPlay integration includes all of the functions and services that we've already come to expect from Apple's solution for the connected car. Naturally, Apple's personal assistant, Siri, is at the center of the experience.
It's a small rollout in comparison to, say, GM's own Chevrolet seeing both CarPlay and Google's Android Auto on 14 models come 2016.
When asked why that is on the CE Week show floor, a representative cited the volume with which GM ships these two particular Buick models in comparison to the rest of the Buick lineup as the main reason.
Speaking of which, GM teased Android Auto integration will launch on these Buick models through an update to the IntelliLink system "later in the model year."
Apple CarPlay Buick

How does it work?

Frankly, CarPlay on a Buick works in much the same way it does on a Chevy, a Volkswagen, or any other compatible vehicle. Accessed through an app on the IntelliLink dashboard (after your iPhone is connected to the car's USB port), CarPlay presents all of the same options it does on any vehicle.
This includes access to Apple's apps for making phone calls, sending text messages, listening to local music or podcasts and accessing Apple Maps, among other functions. Of course, Buick's implementation of CarPlay will support all of the third-party apps that Apple's system does.
Beyond the odd tap of the 8-inch IntelliLink touchscreen to initiate an app or control music playback, CarPlay is all voice controlled through Siri. Since tapping the touchscreen all the time isn't an ideal solution for accessing all these features, Buick has allowed for access to CarPlay through its existing voice control button on the LaCrosse and Regal's steering wheels.
Sadly, it didn't work during my time inside an otherwise snazzy 2016 Buick LaCrosse on the CE Week show floor. Instead, it activated the Buick's default, IntelliLink-powered voice control and promptly told me to long press the button to initiate Siri instead. No such luck.
Apple CarPlay Buick
At any rate, the system worked as it should when accessed through the touchscreen, which then would prompt Siri. However, it became glaringly apparent that your experience with CarPlay will heavily rely on the strength of your LTE connection.
Since LTE signals were getting cut heavily through the walls and ceilings of the show floor, it took quite a while for CarPlay to summon directions to a nearby Chevy dealer – cute.
It's a stark reminder that CarPlay and Android Auto, at least for now, are only as strong and useful as the access you have to LTE. In other words, folks in the Midwest of the US will likely have a very different CarPlay experience from those driving throughout, say, the Northeast Corridor.
When asked whether CarPlay and Android Auto would come to the full lineup of Buick vehicles, a Buick representative said it will happen within the next 36 months. Clearly, GM is taking baby steps with Buick – maybe the demographic has something to do with that.

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Updated: Buying Guide: Best business laptops
Updated: Buying Guide: Best business laptops


It takes a lot to run a successful business, whether you're managing a small-to-medium sized organization, or working at a large enterprise scale. Second to top-notch talent, the most important thing required is top-notch machinery: high functioning, cost-efficient, and easy-to-use computers. In many cases, particularly in open offices where space is tight, or in environments where employees may be shuffling from meeting to meeting or even working remotely, it's necessary that these workstations be mobile.
So, all that considered, what's it going to be for your staff?
You've got no shortage of options. In the past year alone we've reviewed a plethora of choices, but no need to go sifting through the archives. We've highlighted our favorite business-focused laptops/mobile workstations, taking into consideration a number of key factors including power, battery life, cost, and overall efficiency.
Best business laptop

1. Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch with Retina display

You already knew
CPU: 2.7GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 with 3MB L3 cache (Turbo Boost up to 3.1GHz) | Graphics: Intel Iris Graphics 6100 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 13.3-inch IPS, 2,560 x 1,600 pixels | Storage: 128GB SSD | Connectivity: 801.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 | Camera: FaceTime HD | Weight: 3.48lbs (1.58kg) | Dimensions: 12.35 x 8.62 x 0.71-inches (W x D x H)
Retina Display
Fast processor
Force Touch underdeveloped
Unchanged design
There are three standard models to choose from, priced at $1,299 (£999, AU$1,690), $1,499 (£1,199, AU$1,950) and ($1,799 (£1,399, AU$2,340).
Each model has a Broadwell processor: a 2.7GHz dual-core fifth-generation Core i5 in the lower-end model, and a 2.9GHz dual-core Core i5 in the most expensive option. The 2.7GHz processors can run at up to 3.3GHz in Turbo Boost mode, and the 2.9GHz processor can run at up to 3.4GHz. The new MacBook Pro gets about 10 hours of wireless web browsing and 12 hours of video playback, which is perfect for your gorgeous 2,560 x 1,600 pixel screen.
Read the full review: Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch with Retina display
Best Business Laptop

2. Fujitsu Lifebook U904

A business Ultrabook that has it all
CPU: 2.6 GHz Intel Core i5-4200U processor | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 4400 | RAM: 10GB | Screen: 3,200 x 1,800 pixel | Storage: SSHD, 500 GB / 16 GB SSD Cache, 2.5-inch, S.M.A.R.T. | Connectivity: 1 x DC-in, 1 (combo port with Audio line-out) x Audio: line-in / microphone, 1 (combo port with Audio line-in) x Audio: line-out/headphone, 2 (digital) x Internal microphones, 2 (1 with Anytime USB Charge functionality) x USB 3.0 total, 1 x HDMI, 1 (pull-out connector) x Ethernet (RJ-45), 1 x Docking connector for Port Replicator, 1 x Kensington Lock support, 1 x SIM card slot ( only for models with integrated 3G/UMTS or 4G/LTE module ), 1 (SD up to 2GB, SDHC up to 32GB, SDXC up to 128GB) | Camera: HD webcam | Weight: 3.1lbs. | Dimensions: 329.9 x 229.9 x 15.5 mm
High-res display
Elegant design
Lackluster keyboard
Average battery life
Attractive, lightweight, with a 14-inch screen, the Lifebook U904 is dare we say, a sexy machine. Constructed of magnesium alloy, this 15.5mm mobile workstation bears a hefty price tag, retailing for about $1550 (£1017, AU$2999), and is a rarity in the business world due to its WQHD+ display, which sports a vibrant 3200 x 1800 pixel-resolution, optionally 10-point multi-touch. Typically such fancy features are reserved for consumer products, but this laptop is indeed aimed at businesses, promising, and delivering exceptional mobility and an optional port replicator for convenience in the office.
Read the full review: Fujitsu Lifebook U904
Best business laptop

3. Lenovo ThinkPad W550s

A workstation you can also enjoy
CPU: 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-5600U (dual-core, 4MB cache, up to 3.2GHz with Turbo Boost) | Graphics: Nvidia Quadro K2100M (2GB GDDR5 video memory), integrated Intel HD Graphics 4600 | RAM: 16GB RAM (DDR3L, 1,600Mhz) | Screen: 5.5-inch, 2,880 x 1,620 (3K), multi-touch display | Storage: 512GB SSD | Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.0; 802.11ac (B/G/N), dual-band Wi-Fi | Camera: 720p webcam | Weight: 5.47-pound | Dimensions: 15 x 10.2 x 0.92 inches (WxDxH)
Long battery life
Strong performance
Thick, boxy body
Bulky extended battery
With more conservative CPU and GPU configurations than last year's ThinkPad W540, the W550s provides impressive performance with the added bonus of longer battery life – all in a lighter, thinner body. Compromising just a little on power, the W550s delivers double the battery life of last year's model in a slightly more travel-friendly package.
Read the full review: Lenovo ThinkPad W550s
Best business laptop

4. HP ZBook 17 G2

The best-testing mobile workstation
CPU: 3.10 and 3.30 GHz Intel Core i7-4940MX | Graphics: NVIDIA Quadro K5100M | RAM: 6 GB | Screen: 1920 x 1080p | Storage: 1TB 7200 RPM SATA, 256 PCIe SSD | Connectivity: WLAN: Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6205 802.11 a/b/g/n (2x2) | Camera: 720p HD | Weight: 7.42lbs. | Dimensions: 16.37 x 10.7 x 1.33 inches (WxDxH)
Battery life
This mighty machine with a 17.3-inch screen is a great alternative to the traditional desktop. It effortlessly pulls off first-rate processing speed, can hold up to 3.25TB of data - which it is practically begging you to enter via its chiclet-style keyboard that includes a number pad. It passed all our tests - no easy or common feat - most profoundly on the Cloud Gate graphics and physics tests, but also on SkyDiver and FireStrike - blowing the prior year's model out of the water.
Read the full review: HP ZBook 17 G2
Best Business Laptop

5. Dell Precision M6800

CPU: 4th generation Intel Core i5 | Graphics: AMD FirePro M6100 Mobility Pro with 2GB GDDR5 dedicated memory | RAM: 32GB | Screen: 1600x900 | Storage: 750GB 7200rpm SATA 6Gb/s | Connectivity: Dell Wireless 1506 (802.11gn) | Camera: HD webcam | Weight: 7.86 | Dimensions: 1.44" x 16.41" x 10.65" (WxDxH)
Excellent performance levels
Versatile, sensible and sturdy design
Poor battery life
Bulky, heavy chassis
This machine sports a 17-inch screen and is pretty heavy to lug around, but its heft has a purpose: its built to withstand and extreme temperatures. Do your employees really need a machine that can stand a trek through the Sahara? Perhaps not when you put it that way, but when you consider the chaos of airport security nowadays, you may lean toward "yes."
Read the full review: Dell Precision M6800
Best Business Laptop

6. HP 255 G3

A trustworthy and sturdy laptop
CPU: AMD quad-core processor | Graphics: Integrated: AMD Radeon 8210 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 15.6" diagonal LED-backlit HD anti-glare (1366 x 768) | Storage: 320 rpm SMART SATA II | Connectivity: Optional QCA 802.11b/g/n (1x1) wireless LAN module | Camera: HD webcam | Weight: 4.83 lbs. | Dimensions: 14.88 x 10.20 x 1.0 inches (WxDxH)
Good value
Relatively impressive performance levels
Poor battery life
10/100 Mbps Ethernet
If you have a growing staff and find yourself issuing laptops to the point where you risk pushing the margins of your budget, this might be your best bet. The update to the 255 G2 retail for as low as $279(around £185, AU$360), and is considerably lighter than its predecessor, as well as more powerful, thanks to an upgraded Application Processing Unit — from AMD E2-3800 to AMD A4-5000. It touts a reasonably large touchpad, a square-tiled keyboard that facilitates fast typing, and packs 4GB of memory, along with a 500 GB capacity hard disk. The standout problem with the 255 G3 lies in its battery, which drains fast, but again, considering the cost it's a con the pros should outweigh.
Read the full review: HP 255 G3
This article was recently updated...

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Fallout 4 Pip-Boy Edition is back, but not for long
Fallout 4 Pip-Boy Edition is back, but not for long
Remember that little Pip-Boy wearable bundled with Fallout 4 from Bethesda? It's back in stock for the same price as before - $120 (£99, about AU$155) - at the following locations but we're sure it won't be long before they're gone again:
United States customers: GameStop, Best Buy,
Canada customers: Best Buy,, EB Games
It appears to be out of stock on Amazon at the moment but Bethesda's Pete Hines notes that should be changing shortly.
European e-storefronts haven't been revealed yet but don't fret, Bethesda notes it will update the Bethblog with the information soon.
The standard version of Fallout 4 should be out later this year on November 10 for Xbox One, PS4 and PC.

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Instagram's latest update puts Twitter on notice
Instagram's latest update puts Twitter on notice
Instagram got a sizeable update today that overhauls its Explore page and introduces trending Tags and Places. The update looks like Instagram's move to position itself as the place to be for real-time events and moments (sorry, Twitter).
Unlike the previous Explore page, which listed personalized posts based on things you've liked and users you follow, the new Explore page pulls up Trending Tags.
The more targeted posts from the previous iteration of the Explore page will still be available to users below the new Trending Tags bar.
There are also curated collections featured at the top of the page that will be updated twice a week, featuring collections like "towering rocks" and "extreme athletes" for users to explore.

Seeing is better than reading?

Instagram's search also got a power-boost with the option to search places, not just people and tags. Instagram has also added Top Search, which gives the option to search across people, tags and places together.
"With more than 70 million photos and videos posted to Instagram every day, wherever something is happening, chances are you can see it here," Instagram wrote on its blog introducing the new features.
But Instagram has a clear target in mind with the update. Seemingly taking a jab at the more text-heavy Twitter, Instagram added on its blog: "Rich visual content captures everyone's unique take - not just what the community is talking about, but also what they're doing and seeing."
Instagram 7.0 can be downloaded starting today, and while the new Explore features are US-only for now, Instagram assures us it's working on introducing the new features globally.

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Updated: 18 best PC games: the must-play titles you can't afford to miss
Updated: 18 best PC games: the must-play titles you can't afford to miss


Best PC games
The PC is either making a comeback or never went away in the first place, depending on who you ask.
Whichever camp you're in, a deluge of triple-A titles, virtual reality and (whisper it) decent console ports make picking the PC over the Xbox One or PS4 a no-brainer.
Whether you're a mouse-and-keyboard diehard who mutters "boom, headshot!" in their sleep, or a joypad-wielding adrenaline junkie, the PC has no shortage of blockbuster and indie titles to help you waste away the hours.
We've rounded up the best games currently available for the PC. If you don't agree, let us know in the comments below. So here we go - click on for best games currently available.

1. Cities: Skylines

Cities: Skylines
Cities: Skylines is SimCity updated for the modern era, proving a breath of fresh air for would-be mayors. Its core gameplay lets you dig deep into the various aspects of running a sprawling virtual city - from economics to macro and micro management and land planning. But Cities: Skylines really shines when it comes to mods, which allow you to create custom maps, assets and tools to share with other online players.

2. Dragon Age: Inquisition

Dragon Age: Inquisition
Dragon Age: Inquisition places you in the heart of a huge, vibrant world on a far greater scale than its predecessors, and it does an excellent job of making you feel in command. Packing in a huge 90 hours (and the rest) of gameplay into its storyline, Inquisition's smart dialogue, compelling plot, savvy progression system and massive sandbox world will have you engrossed for months on end. Think the Elder Scrolls games meets the Diablo franchise and you're halfway there.

3. Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft
A card game from the makers of World of Warcraft, Hearthstone is easy to learn, but hard to master. Like Blizzard's famous MMO, Hearthstone combines classes, characters and a bit of tactical luck when throwing you into battle against computerised or online opponents. Stick with it and you'll be rewarded by its tactical, deep gameplay. Though available on iOS and Android, its low system requirements, excellent presentation and great sound effects mean it's best experienced on the PC.

4. Pillars of Eternity

Pillars of Eternity
Pillars of Eternity is a sprawling RPG in the vein of Baldaur's Gate or Icewind Dale that combines highly detailed technical combat with hundreds of hours of gameplay. It has refreshingly low system requirements on the PC but still looks incredible thanks to its simple but effective art style, which harks back to those aforementioned isometric fantasy RPGs of the 2000s. But it's not all about nostalgia: Pillars of Eternity has enough interesting characters, baddies and clever writing to make it a modern classic of its own.

5. Grand Theft Auto V

Grand Theft Auto V
Grand Theft Auto V is one of the most anticipated console ports to ever hit the PC. You probably didn't need telling twice to head back into Los Santos's hugely detailed and interactive world, but it's ten times more fun with the PC's richer graphics and smooth 60 frames per second gameplay. Once you're done with its 31-hour storyline or had your fill blazing around the city causing chaos, an ever expanding list of GTA V mods - from fine tuning cars or throwing vehicles around with a Gravity Gun - are bound to keep you entertained for some time.

6. Alien: Isolation

Alen: Isolation
Set in the future but based on the past, Alien: Isolation is the suspense-packed game that Alien fans have been crying out for. Inspired by the first Alien movie, Isolation is first and foremost a stealth game that pits you against an Alien on the Nostromo deep into space. A distinct lack of weaponry, particularly excellent graphics on high-end PCs and clever AI all help ramp up the dread, leaving you to quiver when turning every corner.

7. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

Counter Strike: Global Offensive
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive remains a fantastic update to a timeless classic that continues to live on thanks to its vast online communities. A well-rounded tactical shooter that builds on the simple Terrorists vs Counter-Terrorists gameplay mechanics of Counter-Strike 1.6 and Counter-Strike: Source, CS: GO updates classic maps such as Italy and Dust while keeping adding new modes in Arms Race and Demolition. Simpler than Battlefield but more nuanced than the Call of Duty franchise, it's a shooter for those who like to run, gun and think - if only a little bit.

8. Far Cry 4

Far Cry 4
Ubisoft's latest shooter marks Far Cry's most beautiful outing yet. Its graphically-rich world is eye-popping on high-end PCs, and you'll see plenty of it thanks to a 30+ hour-long campaign. Aside from the main campaign, there are plenty of things to do in Kyrat - from hostage rescue and assassination missions to escort quests, resource collecting and, of course, avoiding being killed by bullets or rampaging animals. Whether you're tearing across the savanna in a rickety car or slinging grenades around like tennis balls, survival has never been such a blast.

9. FTL: Faster Than Light

FTL (Faster Than Light)
FTL (Faster Than Light) puts you command of running a spaceship and looking after its crew. Featuring a complex game mechanism that involves maintaining weapons, engines, shields and other areas, in addition to tactical combat, FTL can get extremely in-depth over time. Whether you're ordering your crew to quite literally put out fires on deck in the heat of battle, or are navigating through asteroid fields, FTL is as much about long-term progression and satisfaction as it is quick fixes. Don't let its indie stylings fool you: this is game with untold depth and scary levels of addictiveness.

10. Grim Fandango Remastered

Grim Fandango Remastered
A 90s classic brought back to life (unlike its main protagonist), Grim Fandango Remastered is a successful attempt at reviving one of the PC's best adventure games of all time. Combining writing that matches the funniest dark comedies with clever puzzles and a still-impressive art style, Grim Fandango was the most entertaining work of art to take place in a Mexican setting for years until Breaking Bad came along. Now with updated graphics, sound and better controls, Manna Calavera's adventure has never looked so good.

11. Skyrim

Four years after its initial release, Skyrim is going as strong as ever thanks to a vast selection of mods and high-resolution texture packs. Even if you're only interested in playing the vanilla version of the RPG, it offers more than 100 hours of gameplay.
Throw in three action packs DLC expansion packs (Dawnguard, Hearthfire and Dragonborn), and it lasts even longer. That Skyrim has been compared to graphically superior but similar RPG blockbuster The Witcher 3 is testament to its enduring popularity. Step into Skyrim and you too can be an adventurer - just try not to take an arrow in the knee.

12. DayZ

Grim Fandango Remastered
Originally launched as an Arma II mod, DayZ is a standalone zombie shooter with a difference. Not only do you have to mind the undead when wandering around its sprawling maps, but other online players too. Armed with a lead pipe and carrying nothing but a backpack and a flashlight, you'll need wits and guile to survive.
Pretty much the opposite of adrenaline-packed zombie fests such as Left4Dead, you'll spent half of the time evading the undead and the other using a shovel to fend off any humans who are bent on trying to steal your last box of matches. And take it from us - they will try.

13. Minecraft

Grim Fandango
The phrase "build it, and they will come" quite literally rings true when it comes to Minecraft, the game that has been bought by more than 19 million people. The survival-themed sandbox RPG lets players build their own worlds or explore others, using the game's multiple block types to construct anything from small huts to extravagant castles and beyond.
Minecraft's ultimate appeal revolves around its open-ended nature. Creative types can build and destroy to their hearts' content, while solo players can concentrate on not being eaten by the zombie hordes that emerge at night. A modern-day classic that has spawned its own genre, it's not to be missed.

14. The Orange Box

The Orange Box
The Orange Box may be showing its age, but it remains a must-play collection of games - particularly for FPS fans. Half-Life 2, technically still the most recent game in Valve's franchise (excluding its Episode 1 and 2 add-ons), remains a modern masterpiece and is famed for being the first game to intelligently apply physics to its puzzles and combat set-pieces.
The collection's other titles aren't too shabby either: Portal takes gravity-based puzzles to the extreme by equipping the player with the Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device (also known as the Portal Gun), which places two portals for objects to pass through, while Team Fortress 2 continues to go from strength-to-strength thanks to the introduction of custom gear and well-balanced team combat.

15. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

The Witcher 3
Gorgeous graphics? Check. Huge explorable environments? Check. Enthralling combat? Of course. The Witcher 3 stands tall as one of the most ambitious open-world RPGs yet, combining Skyrim's unrestrained epicness with Grand Theft Auto 5's scale. While the game has been criticised for its inventory niggles, less-than-enthralling plot and not quite matching the graphics shown in its promo materials, it's so ambitious and jam-packed with detail that the package lives up to the hype. Huge, beautiful and an absolute time-sink, you'll want to scour every inch of The Witcher 3's glorious world.

16. Project CARS

Project Cars
Project CARS is a racing simulator that guns for realism without leaving excitement back in the pit stop, as some racers tend to do. Slightly Mad Studios' graphically-stunning title has enough car customisation and handling options to keep the keenest of petrol heads happy. Car types on show range from F1 to road, retro, kart, Le Mans, GT and more. Throw in realistic weather effects and driving assistance by Le Mans driver Ben Collins - formerly BBC Top Gear's Stig - and the smell of burning rubber will be floating up your nostrils in no time.

17. Elite: Dangerous

Elite: Dangerous
Modelled after the 1984 game Elite, Elite: Dangerous is one of the most ambitious space sims around. Featuring an in-game galaxy based on the real Milky Way (how's 400 billion stars for depth?), the ultimate goal is to advance your rankings to Elite status by levelling up combat, trading and exploration.
Starting out with a rickety ship and 1,000 credits in your space suit's back pocket, you'll need to turn to piracy, trading, exploring, mining or bounty hunting to rise through the intergalactic ranks. Doing so takes time and requires serious graft, but the experience provides a level of satisfaction that few other titles can match. And then there's the Oculus Rift...

18. Frozen Cortex

Frozen Cortex
Frozen Cortex is a tactical future sports game with oodles of depth and heaps of style. Players take turns to commandeer teams of five robots across randomly generated maps, scoring points by successfully carrying or passing the ball to the end line. Tactically demanding and Chess-like in execution, it can be exhilarating to watch the action unfold as robots play out defensive or offensive runs depending on their commander's style of play.
There's more than a shade of American Football to it, with online bouts providing the biggest thrills as you bluff and double bluff your way through human opponents to earn new robots (and new abilities) as you progress. As stylish as it is clever, Frozen Cortex's art style makes it a particular delight for anyone old enough to remember the Amiga classic, Speedball 2.

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Windows 10 could also arrive on a USB drive
Windows 10 could also arrive on a USB drive
Unlike its rival in Cupertino, California, Microsoft will reportedly be relying on traditional DVDs and USB flash drives to distribute its new Windows 10 operating system. Apple, on the other hand, has scrapped distributing its OS X software using physical media, instead opting to rely on internet downloads through the Mac App Store.
Offering Windows 10 on USB flash drives will be beneficial to customers who have purchased a new Windows notebook in the past few years. As reliance on optical disk drives declines, manufacturers have dropped the DVD-ROM or CD-ROM drives on many systems, including thin and popular Ultrabooks, hybrid convertibles and the emerging PC-on-a-stick category.

Windows 10 availability

Previously, Microsoft announced that Windows 10 will be available to consumers starting July 29. Windows 10 will be available as a free upgrade for consumers upgrading from Windows 7, 8 or 8.1 during the first year of release.
If you're ineligible for the free upgrade promotion, there will be two versions of the operating system at retail – Windows 10 Home and Windows 10 Pro. The Home version will cost $119 (£75, AU$153), while the Pro version will retail for $199 (£126, AU$257). Home users wishing to upgrade to the Pro version will need to pay an additional $99 (£62, AU$128).
According to, the cost of Windows 10 distributed on a USB stick or USB flash drive will be the same as the digital download and DVD versions. The benefit of choosing the USB method is that both the 32-bit and 64-bit versions of the operating system are preloaded on the memory drive.
This means that consumers can choose which version they want when they install. With the DVD version, consumers must choose if they want 32- or 64-bit system at the time of purchase, and they can't change their minds later.
Microsoft has not given any details about its distribution plans for Windows 10 at this point. We've reached out to the company for comment about the USB distribution method and are awaiting comment.
Windows 10 Enterprise will not be part of the free first year promotion, and business users can upgrade through Windows Assurance. The software also brings more flexibility to IT administrators in deploying future upgrades and features.
Read our coverage of Windows 10

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How to find the cheapest Windows 7 deals in the UK
How to find the cheapest Windows 7 deals in the UK
If, for some reason, you're looking to grab a genuine, legal copy of Windows 7 operating system or if you want to jump on the Windows 10 bandwagon and still have the option the option to revert back to something tried and trusted, then we've rounded up the best places to get the source the most popular Windows operating system on the market.
The cheapest Windows 7 at the time of writing comes from Tekheads where the 32-bit version costs £67.50. Ebuyer and Amazon sell the 64-bit version of the operating system for £67.95. Note that both deals are for the Home Premium edition, come with free delivery and are eligible for a free upgrade to Windows 10. Windows 7 Professional and Windows 7 Ultimate SKUs (stock keeping units) are far more expensive.

Cheapest Windows 7 PC

If you are after a computer with Windows 7, then there are plenty of options on the market, a marked change from last year when Windows 7 PCs were far and few. One popular online tech retailer is currently stocking more than 40 desktop computers from five vendors that offer both Windows 7 Professional and Windows 8.1 Professional.
HP ProDesk 405 MT
At the time of writing, the best Windows 7 PC deal is arguably the HP Prodesk 405 G2 MT from Ebuyer. It costs £199.98 but should you have an old XP PC around that you can send back, then trade it in and get £100 cashback to bring down the price of the Prodesk 405 G2 MT to less than £100.
Otherwise, the Lenovo Thinkcentre E500-00 costs £150 with a similar configuration; both those models target SMBs and provide with an excellent upgrade route for Windows XP users.
Given that Amazon sells the cheapest Windows 7 Professional version for £106.56, buying a new computer with a new OS makes financial sense especially for smaller businesses.

Cheapest Windows 7 laptop

Lenovo ThinkPad E555
Laptops with Windows 7 are as common as their desktop counterparts, as surprising as it seems, with dozens on offer, almost always with Windows 8.1 as an upgrade option. The cheapest Windows 7 laptop without any trade in is the Lenovo ThinkPad E555 which we reviewed earlier this month. If you have an old computer or laptop knocking around, then the HP 455 G2 might be a better bet with a stonking £150 cashback, bringing the price down to £266 after a trade-in scheme that ends later this year.

5 things you need to know about Windows 7 licenses

A word of warning: peddlers of illegal versions of Windows 7 licenses have successfully managed to position themselves high on Google's search engine result page for a vast number of keywords. Buying from them doesn't mean that you've got yourself a bargain, it means that you have landed the equivalent of a virtual paperweight.
Windows 7 up and running
If you are in the UK and the prices are displayed in US dollars or if you notice that they offer download-only option or if the site is poorly designed, has pictures of Microsoft logos without any links and contains a fair amount of grammatical errors, then proceed at your own risk; you've been warned.
The majority of counterfeited copies being sold are likely to come from Microsoft's MSDN network which usually provides developers and IT professionals with a healthy amount of free Microsoft software. The keys will activate the target Windows OS but will more than likely end up with the end-user getting a limited copy of Windows.
We would also urge you to avoid getting Windows 7 stickers or so-called DVD disc with COA product key. While they will definitely work on the target computers, they usually violate the terms and conditions of the original OEM; the OS is usually tied to the product it came on (i.e. when activated) and cannot be transferred.
Be careful with Dell DVDs
Dell reinstallation Windows DVDs clearly stipulate that it can only be distributed with a new Dell PC. Not a refurbished, second hand one or a PC from a different brand. Many eBay resellers get around that by selling the disks with one piece of the original computer (usually the motherboard).
This is a grey area, one where Microsoft has been reluctant to act forcefully, perhaps out of fear that it might impact negatively on the brand. While consumers will probably get away with it, businesses are always at risk of being hit with a surprise audit with heavy fines for culprits.

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Review: UPDATED: Amazon Echo
Review: UPDATED: Amazon Echo

Amazon Echo review

Update #1: Amazon Echo is now available to everyone for $179.99 through the Amazon store!
Update #2: The Amazon Echo and its A.I. Alexa have grown progressively smarter over the past few months with the addition of several knowledge categories including sports, entertainment and trivia. Besides iHeartRadio and TuneIn, Amazon has also added support for Pandora for music streaming, as well as support for automated home devices like WeMo switches and Philip's Hue light bulbs. In response to these changes, we've decided to raise the score from a 3 to a 3.5.
Original review follows...
"Hi Alexa, my name is Nick."
"I'm sorry, I don't understand the question."
"That's OK," I continue, "Alexa, I like the Red Hot Chili Peppers."
"Now playing samples of the Red Hot Chili Peppers."
This is the first conversation I had with Alexa, a personal assistant built-in to the $199 Amazon Echo (about £125, AU$230), a cylindrical wireless Bluetooth speaker developed by an experimental e-commerce giant.
After spending a week with it in my home, it's clear that Amazon Echo is something you don't know you want until you have it, and something you don't miss until it's gone. Which is surprising, really, when you consider that its primary function – a Bluetooth speaker for music – is actually pretty subpar.
The main attraction is the always listening, always-connected AI, Alexa. She can understand everything from music requests (a feature that works better if you're an Amazon Prime subscriber) to basic trivia. Alexa can give you a morning news briefing and even add items to your shopping or to-do lists, which can be found in the accompanying Echo app.
What Alexa can do is slightly limited at the moment – don't try asking about specific historical, sports, entertainment or political events. But focusing only on what it (she?) can do right at this moment devalues the product and, more importantly, Amazon's grand, invite-only experiment.


If I didn't know what I know about portable Bluetooth speakers, it'd be easy to mistake the Echo for a portable dehumidifier. It's all matte black exterior and 9.25 x 3.27 inch cylindrical shape gives it the kind of camouflage you'd expect from an appliance.
Amazon Echo review
Another difference between the Echo and other portable speakers is that the Echo isn't exactly portable. It needs to be plugged in and connected to Wi-Fi at all times. (Which, considering the six-foot power cable, can be a bit of a struggle.)
And this decision makes sense when you give it some thought. How could an always-on microphone hear you if it runs out of power? It couldn't. Moreover, how would it send your voice to Amazon servers without a connection to the Internet? Again, not going to happen.
Sure, it's a hassle to always be connected, but Wi-Fi networks are a dime-a-dozen in 2015.
On top of the cannister are two buttons, mute and listen, while the top ring rotates to raise or lower volume. If you're worried about regular controls (play, pause, forward and backward), don't. The Echo comes with a traditional remote identical to the one that comes with the Amazon Fire TV, or can be controlled from your phone via the Amazon Echo App.
Amazon Echo review
Speaking of, the app isn't the most fleshed-out companion app I've ever used, and can feel pretty barren in comparison to the Amazon Fire TV storefront. I found a few of the selections relatively useful – controlling radio stations via the app is painless compared to asking Alexa to do it – but the design looks and feels like it certainly wasn't ready for release.
Along the bottom of the Echo is a 360-degree speaker grille that gives it some surprisingly room-filling sound along with a small, white Amazon logo.

Sound quality

While the Echo can crank the volume, the quality of the sound near its upper and lower limits leaves a lot to be desired.
Testing took place in two environments: my small, 12 x 14 ft bedroom and much larger 20 x 15 ft living room. The confined space, as you might expect, benefitted the quieter volume levels and completely muddled anything above 7. Given enough space, sound only faltered at the highest levels, 9 and 10, but Alexa had a tougher time picking up commands. At least the balance around volumes 4-6 were spot on.
Amazon Echo review
Any other Bluetooth speaker with these kinds of problems would've been grounds for a failing grade. But the fact that Alexa not only needs to produce a lot of noise, but be able to hear over it as well, is good reason to cut it some slack.

Streaming music selection

Now that I've sold you on its music-playing capabilities (not), you're probably thinking, "but gee, what can I play on it?"
The Echo supports TuneIn, iHeartRadio, Pandora and, if you're a Prime subscriber, Amazon Prime Music.
The first two require syncing registered accounts to your companion app, and can be activated by some very round-about voice commands. ("Alexa, play Foo Fighters on iHeartRadio." "Would you like me to add a Foo Fighters station to your iHeartRadio account?" "Uh...yes?" "OK. I've added it.")Amazon Echo review
Most of the time though, Amazon Prime Music is Alexa's go-to media app. If the song isn't available on Prime Music – and trust me, two out of three songs are not – then Alexa will play a sample from the Amazon Music Store instead. Decide you like what you're listening to? Buying the song or album is as simple as saying "Alexa, buy this song," and confirming the price.
But, if all else fails or you don't feel like re-buying songs you've paid for on other services, there's one last-ditch effort to get your music: Amazon will actually allow you to import 250 songs to the cloud from your personal collection for free. This may not sound like a lot, but for those of us with one or two go-to playlists, it compensates for any slight inconvenience it caused to add them.
When it works, Alexa feels like the talking computer sci-fi has been dreaming of for the last 50 years. Conversations can happen in informal language and queries are picked up by natural cues instead of awkward syntax. Both "Alexa tell me about razors" and "Alexa, what is a razor?" lead me to the same answer, and feel completely natural when said out loud.

I'm sorry Nick, I'm afraid I can't do that

At this stage however, Alexa's knowledge base is limited. Asking something like "Alexa, who's the best player on Real Madrid?" or "Alexa, who's the Green Bay Packer's quarterback?" won't turn anything up. Amazon provides a work-around in the Echo app, allowing you to perform a Bing search on every interaction, but in the time it takes to pull out my phone and find my question in the app, I could've easily used Google or, you know, asked Siri.
Another hurdle for the Echo is that it's not dialed in to my email, cell phone contacts or calendar in the same way Siri or Cortana are. Ultimately this means no sending voice messages to friends or modifying my schedule for the day. This is something the competition does so well it's almost second nature, so to see no attempt to take this on from Amazon was disheartening.
Alexa, as an AI, feels more like a fun parlor trick that I could show off at a dinner party, rather than a full-fledged personal assistant like the other two. What's there is solid and fun, and hopefully the functionality for everything else comes sooner rather than later.

Final verdict

In almost every scenario I can think of, the Echo, and by extension Alexa, are more of a novelty than a necessity. They're not practical tools to get work done, and even as a standard Bluetooth speaker failed to pass an aural test.
The upside is that for $199 ($99 for Prime members) it's not the most expensive novelty I've ever purchased. As I stated earlier, I really can't see myself going back to a run-of-the-mill speaker after spending so much time with the Echo.
Amazon has its work cut out for its AI team, as there are still dozens of areas where Siri and Cortana run circles around Alexa. It's not fair to expect that Alexa knows the answer to obscure pop-culture questions, but I think it's reasonable that Alexa should know what's on my calendar for the day.
If you're paranoid of Amazon always listening-in on your conversations or content with the one know-it-all AI you already own, the Echo really isn't worth the price of admission. But, if you're ready to take a step into the connected home and are willing to ride out a few bumps on the way, you'll find the Echo a nifty way to unwind with some music at the end of the day.
Editor's note: We've reached out to Amazon about UK/AU pricing and availability details, and will update this review when we know more.
Originally reviewed January 2015

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Looking to buy something from Amazon? Here's how you can save money
Looking to buy something from Amazon? Here's how you can save money


Amazon Gift Vouchers
Over the last two decades, Amazon has changed the way people buy things; the company, whose name is almost synonymous with e-commerce, stocks millions of items. From audio books to baby nappies and even online movies, it has spawned an ecosystem worth tens of billions of dollars in annual revenues globally.
While the online retailer often has the cheapest prices online, that is not always the case and more often than not, Amazon aficionados are guilty of not trying hard enough to get the best deal online. This short guide provides some hints on how you can squeeze even more value from your money at Amazon and provides a few tips about some of Amazon's tricks.

1. Get a student to buy stuff for you

Consult the students
NUS card holders get a 5% discount on millions of Amazon items and 10% off Amazon Clothing. They need to go to the NUS Extra website and grab the discount codes which has then to be used on Amazon's website. Note that codes are not stackable and some departments (like Electronics and Computers), Kindle books and Marketplace/3rd party products are excluded from the list. Students can also enrol on Amazon Student scheme to get free one-day delivery for six months and after that, 50% off Amazon Prime.

2. Subscribe and Save!

Subscribe and save!
Amazon has a little known scheme called "subscribe and save", one that applies mostly for groceries and children products although you can also get discounts on office consumables. There are two saving tiers; grab 1-4 subscriptions in one month and save 5%; 5 or more subscriptions triples that saving to 15%. You can cancel subscriptions at any time. Bear in mind though that you may lose out on any price changes and 3rd party resellers may turn out to be cheaper than Amazon's (for example, this Samsung M40 ink cartridge which costs nearly twice the price on Amazon S&S).

3. The Other Sellers tab and dynamic pricing

Camel Camel Camel
It's worth noting that sometimes, prices listed on the "Other Sellers tab" are actually cheaper than on the main area of the page. Also, always check on the "new" section of the page for potential savings. Speaking of savings, keep an eye on fluctuating prices as Amazon practices dynamic pricing with prices going up or down depending on demand. A useful site that tracks Amazon's prices (more than 18 million products) and provides with tools to alert you when your wish list products hit a threshold is Camel Camel Camel.

4. Buy Amazon gift cards

Amazon Gift Cards
Not surprisingly, Amazon gift cards are one of the more popular virtual reward schemes around. Even Microsoft uses them for their Bing Rewards (only in the US though) and countless companies in the UK offer gift cards to entice customers or as an alternative to cashbacks. You can buy gift cards from eBay, from Zeek (a small but growing gift voucher marketplace) or put a "want to buy" request on popular UK website Hotukdeals. For eBay, always use your credit card for purchases above £100 as your credit card company is jointly accountable should the transaction fall through.

5. Amazon does second hand as well!

Amazon Warehouse Deals
Amazon has a separate warehouse deal and outlet section (not sure why they wouldn't just merge those two). The first one offers open-box customer returned, warehouse damaged merchandise while the second one deals in markdowns, clearance items, closeouts and overstocks. While the latter essentially redirects to the main website, the former provides with a list of used products, are of variable quality and stock is usually very limited. All purchases eligible for Amazon customer service and a 30-day return policy plus you should be able to use the various codes on there as well.

6. You can order from different countries

Curiua is a clever online service that compares prices for Amazon in France, Germany, Italy and Spain, converting them in pounds. The website has been named after a Portuguese explorer who was the first European to travel up the entire length of the Amazon (as in the river). Unbeknown to many you can actually get much cheaper deals (especially on smartphones) in mainland Europe. Because UK is still part of the EU, you don't need to pay extra taxes and warranty is usually upheld across the continent so that if your German-purchased Galaxy S6 breaks down, you can still get it covered here. Unlike Camel Camel Camel, the site doesn't unfortunately have a "best deals" section yet which makes it hard to find deals. As for the bargains, the LG G3 Gold (3GB/32GB) costs £255.32 in Spain or £275 in the UK. It is also advisable that you use a credit card that doesn't charge any fees for the conversion.

7. Beat Amazon at its own game

Beat My Price
A flurry of services has emerged over the past few years that allow users to receive pitches, similar to reverse bidding. Flubit, Avast! SafePrice, Beat My Price by Barclays are UK-only ones and once you have submitted your request - usually a URL - to the wider seller community on these websites, you will start getting propositions, usually within 24 hours. You can either choose to buy from Amazon or from the three aforementioned websites. Note that the services by them do not work for contracts, downloadable material, fashion or second hand products.

8. Amazon discount finder from MSE

If you're all about serendipity, then why not try Money Saving Expert's Amazon Discount Finder which creates a bespoke result page containing deals, in a particular category, that have been discounted by as much as 80%. You can change a few parameters including pricing and the sort order. Unfortunately we couldn't get any decent deals going on but given that there's millions of product lines in Amazon's database, there's bound to be something for everyone.

9. Be wary about customer reviews

PS4 review
Amazon was one of the pioneers of online user-generated reviews, coming up with great schemes like Vine which allows prolific buyers to get free products for testing and reporting. Customer reviews, while mostly beneficial, can also prove to be misleading sometimes. This is especially true for products that have a long shelf-life or have been on the market for a long time and have been through a number of iterations. That's the case, for example, for products that have had firmware updates (phones or motherboards) or are available in various iterations under the same stock keeping unit (hard disk drives, laptops etc).

10. Amazon Vouchers

Save with some vouchers!
Amazon has just come up with a new service called Amazon Vouchers, which is different from Amazon Gift Cards. Add a voucher to your basket, select the associated product (from a wide range of products) and proceed to checkout where the discount is automatically applied. There are actually some interesting vouchers that can be used with the other Amazon saving schemes (S&S or student discount). For example, there's £15 off the Motorola MBP27T digital video baby monitor that brings down the price to £85, far cheaper than the rest of the market.

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Dell adds new Xeon chips to PowerEdge family
Dell adds new Xeon chips to PowerEdge family
Dell has updated its 13th-generation PowerEdge family by adding a model geared to cope with high performance computing and big data.
The new PowerEdge C6320 combines Intel Xeon E5-2600 v3 server chips and up to 72TB of local storage to bring unparalleled levels of performance that is up to twice the level of its predecessor (the C6220) and ideal for HPC loads.
Intel's new Xeon chips were released last year and support up to 18 cores per socket, with the new PowerEdge model able to offer up to 144 cores inside each 2U chassis, 512GB of memory per node and the aforementioned 72TB of internal storage.
Further to that, the PowerEdge C6320 comes with Dell's latest Remote Access Controller (iDRAC8), and when the workloads require even more power, the PowerEdge C6320 can be paired with the PowerEdge C4130, according to a report from V3.

Already in the wild

Dell has already been using the PowerEdge C6320 to build Comet, a petascale supercomputer operated by the San Diego Supercomputer Center that is made up of seven racks of PowerEdge systems providing 1,944 nodes or 46,656 cores.
The PowerEdge C6320 could also find a home in Dell hardware solutions elsewhere, and there's currently no indication on a release date or price for the new server.

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Review: Updated: Amazon Fire TV
Review: Updated: Amazon Fire TV


Update #1: Music streaming service Rdio is coming to Amazon Fire TV.
Update #2: Amazon recently announced an official partnership with video game rental service GameFly to bring a cloud game streaming service to the Fire TV.
Called GameFly Streaming, the app gives users a choice of seven content packs that start at $6.99/month for unlimited game time. Packs so far include LEGO - which includes seven LEGO titles - or Speed, which includes games like GRID 2, Moto GP '13 and Ridge Racer Unbounded.
We'll update this review with our impressions of the app in the near future.
Original review below...
With the introduction of Fire TV, behemoth online retailer Amazon has entered the streaming set-top box battle that may ultimately determine the future of how we get content into our TVs. The device is competitive on both price and performance with Roku 3, Apple TV and Google Chromecast and seems squarely aimed at overthrowing those established players.
More competition has come along since its launch in 2014 (like the Nexus Player), but Amazon's stalwart box still holds one of the top two spots on our shelves. Why? The product, like Amazon itself, is friendly, powerful, and innovative and tackles some of the critical consumer complaints associated with the current streaming boxes.
Amazon explicitly stated that it wanted to address three problem areas about the consumer streaming experience: poor performance, closed ecosystems and cumbersome search.
Amazon Fire TV review
In terms of performance they have a clear winner on their hands. Fire TV is consistently snappy and responsive, thanks to some relatively beefy silicon inside.
It's a fairly open platform too (you'll find Netflix and HBO Go here), but its interface consistently tilts toward Amazon's offerings.
It can't access content from iTunes or Google Play (no surprise), but does support a wide array of third party services - including the highly coveted Sling TV app - and will presumably be adding more as time goes on. Third-party services, however, are relegated to second-class status within Fire TV's user interface. They sit in the system's "Apps" tab, while the system's prominent Movies, TV, Watchlist and My Library tabs all feed directly to Amazon's offerings.
The system's first-party offerings are always in plain view and accessible directly from the home screen. Third-party offerings tend to take some clicking and scrolling to get to.
While Amazon may overemphasize its own offerings, it's worth noting that the company has been putting serious work into beefing up its Amazon Prime Unlimited Streaming library. Along with a slate of well-produced original content, the company made a deal that will fold HBO's original programming (for shows more than 3 years old) into Prime Unlimited Streaming. They may not have Netflix's numbers yet, but Amazon is clearly becoming a serious player in the ongoing streaming services war.
In addition, Amazon recently launched its Prime Music service on the Fire TV that gives Amazon Prime users streaming access to an extensive library of top-tier music across a panoply of genres.
YouTube :
Other recent additions to the platform include Bluetooth headphone support, as well as expanded memory via USB - something users have been clamoring for since launch.
Search has been addressed with a slick voice recognition feature that uses a microphone on the remote to allow consumers to speak their searches instead of hunting and pecking across an on-screen letter grid. With access to cloud processing to handle the heavy lifting of voice recognition, the system does an excellent job of understanding what you're trying to tell it. However, voice searches only scan for Amazon and Vevo content, an unfortunate decision that significantly undercuts the utility of this breakthrough feature. Amazon has announced that it will be adding support for searching the catalogs of Hulu Plus, Crackle and Showtime Anytime. However, even with these additions, the device's tantalizing voice search function remains deeply underpowered.
Amazon has included some compelling extras, including the ability to view photos users have stored on Amazon Cloud Drive, and playback for Music purchased through its MP3 store. It's also put special focus on games with this system and thanks to a more powerful processor and Amazon's optional dedicated game controller ($40) Kindle Fire's gaming options surpass the Angry Birds-level options offered on similar devices. Still, most games are ports of existing Android titles that already run on the Kindle HDX, so while the games look and play well on the system, it doesn't have a patch on dedicated gaming consoles (which, to be fair, are typically far more expensive).
One potential differentiator for families is Amazon's integration of its FreeTime area, which allows parents to precisely proscribe the content kids access and their time on the system. It's an interesting offering that's not available on most other streaming boxes, however, it has its own set of drawbacks as well (see FreeTime section for further details).

Hardware and design

The box itself is about the size of a small external hard drive, or two CD jewel cases stacked on top of one another. Think of a tiny, squared-off version of the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey lying flat. Its exterior is sleek and minimalist, with the only contrast coming from glossy black lettering on a matte black background. At 0.7 inches thick, all of its visual cues seem to be telling you, "Don't see me." Its rear side is devoted to the essential ports: power, HDMI, optical audio, Ethernet and USB.
Amazon Fire TV
Under the hood, Fire TV is quite powerful compared to its competitors, sporting a quad-core processor, a discrete GPU and 2GB of RAM. Amazon claims it has three times the processing power of Apple TV, Chromecast or Roku 3, and says it can process 57 billion floating point operations per second. You can wire it into your router via Ethernet, but if that's inconvenient, Fire TV also packs two dual-band Wi-Fi antennas. All of this adds up to notably snappy menu performance. Movie titles fly by in the interface, transitioning between services is fast and the system handles itself well when tasked with rendering games.
The Fire TV's minimalist matte black remote is similar in functionality to Roku's, with seven glossy black buttons and a directional selector. It uses Bluetooth to communicate, eliminating line-of sight issues and allowing you to stash the box inside a cabinet or behind a TV. There are buttons for back, home, menu, rewind play/pause and fast forward. Topping the remote on its own is the microphone button that may one day be Fire TV's secret weapon (but not now, for more on this see the Interface and Search section).
Amazon Fire TV remote


As with Roku 3 and Apple TV, Fire TV's setup is eerily simple, and consists of connecting two or three wires (power, HDMI and an optional ethernet cable). If you don't have it wired to your router, the system will walk you through forging a WiFi connection. As with the Kindle Fire, when you order a Fire TV, Amazon pre-links it to your Amazon account, so after a quick (unskippable) tutorial video you're immediately able to browse Amazon Instant and Amazon Prime videos along with any photos in your cloud drive. Third party apps must be downloaded and set up separately with their own credentials. In terms of simplicity, the setup process is a win, but its lack of customization options leaves you at the mercy of the one-size-fits-all menu hierarchy Amazon has created (more on this later).
Amazon Fire TV review

Movies and TV

Naturally, the system provides full-spectrum access to Amazon's cloud video services, and Amazon Instant and Amazon Prime Video are both well (if not over) represented. At launch, Fire TV offered 40 third-party channels, a far cry from the hundreds available on Roku and Chromecast, but more are slowly-but-surely trickling in. Predictably however, iTunes and Google Play are not available on the system, nor are they likely to be.
Amazon is touting Fire TV's innards as a competitive advantage in terms of movie performance, but while menus move quickly, our tests didn't uncover much difference in terms of speed to open third party apps or start playing videos as compared with Roku 3 or AppleTV.
Amazon Fire TV review
Amazon's native offerings, on the other hand, clearly get a boost from living on their home hardware. First off, all of Amazon's content is accessible from the main menu of the system's OS and can start playing without first launching an app. Secondly, Amazon is introducing a feature called ASAP, which is designed to pre-cache video content for you based on your habits and preferences. I saw this in action when I watched the 11th episode of Alpha House (I had previously watched the first 10 episodes, but not on the Fire TV). Impressively, playback began instantaneously when I clicked, with no load time or buffering. Supposedly the system will make more inferences over time as it monitors my actions. It's a smart, effective system, but as only Amazon's offerings can use it, it's one more way the playing field inside Fire TV is tilted to the home team's advantage.

Music, photos and gaming

Amazon's added a music channel post-launch that allows consumers to access any music stored in their cloud drive (all MP3s bought through Amazon are stored in your Cloud Drive for free). Curiously, Amazon has not yet implemented support for its newly launched Prime Music service, which offers access to a large library of quality music tracks. Fire TV currently supports third party music services such as iHeartRadio, Pandora, Spotify, TuneIn and Rdio, but these are currently found in the Apps menu, not the music tab, another example of Amazon's home field advantage.
The photo channel provides a way to access any photos or videos you have stored in Amazon Cloud Drive. Amazon provides a free 5GB of storage for all accounts, and more can be purchased via subscription. The system works simply and seamlessly. You can upload photos from your computer, or use Amazon's iOS or Android apps to automatically put any photos you take up on the cloud. In addition to letting you page through slide shows, Fire TV can be set to use your images as a screensaver when the system is idle.
It's clear Amazon sees games as a key piece of their strategy with this box. The idea here seems to be to capture casual gamers who aren't sufficiently invested to buy a $400 to $500 dedicated games console, not a bad bet in a time when mobile gaming is reaching more consumers than ever. Since Fire TV runs the latest version of Amazon's Fire OS ("Mojito"), which is based on Android, it's relatively easy for existing Android games to be ported to work on the system and Developers I spoke with from Telltale Games (The Walking Dead) and Mojang (Minecraft) both emphasized how easy it was to move their games onto the platform from their existing games, both of which already run on the Kindle Fire HDX. Amazon has big plans for games, and appears to be actively courting developers and publishers (including EA, Disney, Ubisoft, 2K, Sega and Rockstar) as well as starting up their own in-house design team.
Amazon Fire TV review
Amazon's seriousness about gaming is best exemplified by its creation of a dedicated game controller for the system (sold separately, $40). While serviceable, the controller does not show the same polish as the rest of the system. Looking like a cross between an Xbox 360 controller and the Ouya controller, the feel of the face buttons and sticks is solid, but its shoulder buttons are a bit stiff and the triggers have a shallow travel that feels unsatisfying. It's worth noting that many of the games on the system (primarily those with simple tablet-type controls) are playable with only the remote.
Standout titles include Minecraft, The Walking Dead Seasons 1 and 2, Telltale's Game of Thrones, Terraria, Zen Pinball, You Don't Know Jack, Crossy Road, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and the original Sonic The Hedgehog games. Sev Zero, the first in-house game from Amazon Game Studios is an impressive hybrid tower defense/third person shooter that moves surprisingly well for running on a box this small.
Amazon Fire TV review
The controller also sports all the buttons on the remote (including play/pause, fwd and rew), allowing you to easily manipulate the system's media options via the controller. While the controller feels substantial in the hand, its look doesn't quite measure up to the gorgeous industrial design of the box itself or the remote. That said, having a dedicated controller at all is a very welcome option. It runs $40 (about £24, AU$43) and currently ships with a free copy of SevZero – which costs $6.99 (around £4, AU$7.50) when bought a la carte – and 1,000 Amazon Coins, a $10 (likely £10, AU$10) value.

Interface and search

Amazon has built an amazingly elegant solution to search in this device, thanks to a microphone embedded in the remote and cloud-powered voice recognition. Unfortunately, the way they have implemented this breakthrough feature is deeply anti-consumer. Voice recognition is accurate and solves the aggravating problem of tapping in your searches in via an on-screen letter grid. However, Amazon has destroyed most of the value of searching this way as voice searches scan only Amazon's native content library.
Amazon Fire TV review
This search myopia isn't only limited to the voice feature though. Indeed there is currently no way to search across services on the device. When I search Roku for a film it tells me if it's on Netflix, Crackle and others as well as if it's on Amazon. I ran into several scenarios where I searched for content I know is on another service (that I'm already paying for) and was only presented the option of buying or renting it from Amazon. It's the device's most serious flaw and Amazon should address if they want their device to be as consumer-friendly as they claim.
Amazon's self-bias is even more striking in the menu structure it has created. Of the 10 top-level tabs on its home screen (Search, Home, Movies, TV, Watchlist, Video Library, Games, Apps, Photos, Settings), all but three (Home, Games and Apps) are for Amazon services. Third party apps are relegated to the "Apps" tab. Thus, four of the highest-level menu items are devoted to different aspects of Amazon's video services, while a single menu item at the bottom of the page houses 40-plus third party apps. Certain high-profile apps (Netflix, Hulu) are profiled on the Home tab under Featured Apps and Games (which sits just below the "Recently Added To Prime" area). To make matters worse, the Apps tab is populated by games as well as apps (the Games tab only has games in it), making that area even more cluttered than it has to be.
In short, Amazon seems to be going out of its way to bury third-party apps on the system. It's not a dealbreaker, as most consumers will be aware of the services they want on their device and figure out how to find them, but it's irksome that these services require several extra clicks to access and can't be customized. Tip: Voice search can be used to navigate to apps you have installed and is often the fastest and easiest way to find a given app.


FreeTime, FireTV's most ironically named feature, is there to make 100% sure your children are not free to watch whatever they would like. In addition, the service costs $5 per month, making it the opposite of both meanings of the word "free" (though Amazon does offer a 1-month free trial of the service).
The idea behind FreeTime is a solid one. We're sure many parents would appreciate the peace of mind that comes with knowing that your children are only accessing content from trusted and age-appropriate sources. In practice, however, FreeTime has a long way to go before we can recommend paying extra money to access it (let alone recommend it as a reason to buy the system).
The service operates by having parents create profiles for each child in the household, then white-list specific apps and video content they want that child to have access to. In addition, the system lets parents specify how much time each child is allowed to spend on the system per day in increments of 15 minutes, as well as blocking off certain times. For example, I could allow one child an hour of FireTV time between 4pm and 8pm. And if I were feeling especially mean, I could allow another child four hours of screen time, but only between 2am and 6am. Parents can also set whether a child's time spent on apps, video or either.
The primary flaw in the system is its selection of video content. Currently FreeTime only allows parents to white-list individual videos that has been either purchased from Amazon or are available via Amazon Prime Instant Video. Netflix and other apps are available, but if you give your kid access, they can see every movie on that service (meaning that adding them to your child's library undermines the entire point of FreeTime). Given how open FireTV's ecosystem is and how much wonderful children's content is available on Hulu Plus, Netflix and others, it feels ridiculous (and possibly manipulative) to allow parent's to only proscribe choices that only come from Amazon's libraries.
In addition, FreeTime must be activated for it to work. Once the system is signed into FreeTime mode for a given kid, the countdown timer starts and it's impossible to exit to the main menu without entering a PIN. However, if an unsupervised kid is tech-savvy enough to get the system turned on by themselves (and newsflash, most are) they'll have full access to everything until FreeTime is activated. Also, when the PIN is entered (as it must be to change content choices), the magic numbers are plainly visible on screen, not even obscured by asterisks. And this is all assuming that the FireTV is the only source of content connected to the TV. The idea of this being a serious impediment to any media-hungry kid over age six is a little absurd.
The idea behind FreeTime is sound, but in its current half-executed form, it's largely useless, primarily due to its lack of hooks into the other video apps on the system. FreeTime is not yet a compelling reason to buy FireTV, even for those with small children they want to safely park in front of the flatscreen. Thankfully for FireTV, FreeTime is not its only trick and the box is compelling enough on its other merits to justify purchase. We hope to see Amazon work to improve this feature down the road.
Amazon Fire TV review

Amazon Fire TV vs the Amazon Fire TV Stick

The Amazon Fire TV Stick packs everything we love about the full-size box into a petite, powerful form factor. For better or worse the interfaces are identical and lean heavily on Prime content.
The big differences between the two streamers are the remotes (the Stick's stick doesn't have a built-in mic), and the silicon inside the machines. By and large the Amazon Fire TV proper has better internals and therefore can play games like the gorgeously addicting Crossy Road and Zen Pinball without a problem. The Amazon Fire TV Stick has gaming capabilities too, however, you're more apt to find Solitaire and Threes than you are anything more complex.
If you're just looking for a streamer and don't mind a bit more lag time when starting a show or film, then save yourself some cash and check out the pint-sized stick instead.


Amazon is entering the set top box wars at a very interesting time and with a very compelling product, especially for heavy users of Amazon's digital services. At $100 it's priced competitively with Roku 3 and Apple TV, and we expect the gaps in its channel lineup to be filled in the coming months. It's clear now that the retailer was not waiting, it was watching. Almost every aspect of the Fire TV attempts to improve or refine the aspects of the Roku, Apple TV and Chromecast that currently vex consumers. And as a powerhouse retailer, it's certain Amazon put the reams of customer data to which it is privy to heavy use.
Amazon Fire TV

We liked

It's a beefy box with processing capacity to spare. Amazon services are quick and easy to access and its ASAP feature pre-caches Amazon content for you so you can watch instantly. Voice search is the kind of breakthrough you wonder why we didn't see earlier in these devices. It's an open system with most of the must-have apps and channels. Photos were a very pleasant surprise and Amazon seems to be attacking gaming with a diligence we have not seen from their competition.

We disliked

It's hard to escape the fact that Fire TV's interface tilts toward Amazon's offerings. We would like to see more visibility for third-party apps in the main menu, as well as customization offerings. The inability of its search function to scan across all of its services (as Roku does) makes the feature worthless unless you are only interested in Amazon's offerings. Customers who aren't sure where to find a particular piece of content will be forced back to searching the web for information.


This device is simple to use and works well. If you are significantly bought in to Amazon's services, it's hard to go wrong with this box. However, if you are not an Amazon customer or even an Amazon customer who doesn't have or want Amazon Prime, then you might think twice. The device is clearly tilted toward Amazon customers, and nothing short of a full UI overhaul is going to change that. We'd like to at least see Amazon allow some kind of user customization in the interface. Until then, we're calling this device great, but not perfect.

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Review: Lenovo ThinkPad Helix (2015)
Review: Lenovo ThinkPad Helix (2015)

Introduction and design

Along with full x86 compatibility, one of the alluring features of Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 over an iPad or Android tablet is its strong performance. You can get a lot done with a dual-core Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of memory and an SSD of up to 256GB – but in a tablet form factor, not a laptop, so it's portable as well as powerful.
The ThinkPad Helix takes this one step further, offering even greater performance under the hood. Part of this is down to it using the latest generation of Intel processors – the 14nm Broadwell-based Core M chips.
Unlike the Surface Pro (and certain other Windows tablets), which is a traditional tablet with an optional Type Cover, the Helix is a true 2-in-1 hybrid tablet, with a dock called the Ultrabook Pro Keyboard that features a proper trackpad with physical buttons, and an array of extra ports.
Lenovo ThinkPad Helix tablet
It joins a number of other 2-in-1 Windows tablets in offering high performance x86 compatibility. The Dell Venue 11 Pro 7000 uses the same processor, while Lenovo's own ThinkPad Yoga 12 has a Core i5 processor rather than a Core M.
As it carries the ThinkPad branding, the Helix has a few of its trademark features. Namely, a red joystick right in the centre of the keyboard dock to move the mouse pointer, two chunky physical mouse buttons and, when the tablet is woken from sleep mode, the dot above the "i" on the ThinkPad logo lights up red.
Since ThinkPads are business-class machines, the three ThinkPad Helix variants carry business-class pricing. Starting at £1000 inc VAT ($1241 in the US, or AU$1602) and going up to £1500 inc VAT ($1860 in the US, or AU$2400) the Helix is certainly no toy.
Lenovo ThinkPad Helix profile


Although the Helix is an 11.6-inch tablet, it feels quite hefty compared with the Surface. When it's docked and closed shut, it isn't completely obvious which side is the front and which is the back, since the hinge completely covers the front edge.
It's not especially thin either. With the dock closed it measures 22mm off the ground, with the tablet portion measuring almost a centimetre. It matches the Surface Pro in terms of weight, starting at 795g (for the tablet on its own, since the dock increases the overall weight to 1.35kg).
There's a black bezel around the display, which seems thick, measuring 20mm at the sides and 25mm at the bottom, with the effect of making the viewable screen area look a bit like a letterbox.
Lenovo ThinkPad Helix flat
But the ThinkPad range has never been known for form over function – and a rigid, solid design adds a feel of sturdiness. We wouldn't test it, but it does seem like the Helix could survive a few light knocks that might easily destroy other tablets.
The tablet and dock are separated by pushing in a button at the side, otherwise they're bonded together very strongly.
Holding the tablet in your hand, the device has an odd asymmetrical look. One edge uses round corners, while on the other the corners are square, for a flat connection to the dock.
You can flip the Helix around to use it in an upright position, with the keyboard behind it, or push it down again so it becomes more of a 'slate'. And if you want, it can be used in 'tent' mode, like an inverted V shape, although since the dock works so well to hold the Helix upright, it's hard to see why you'd do this.
Lenovo ThinkPad Helix ports
There are plenty of expansion ports. On the tablet, a USB 3.0 port hides behind a protective cover, joined by a second USB 3.0 port on the dock, along with a DisplayPort output. And behind another protective cover on the tablet you'll find slots for a microSIM for mobile broadband, and a microSD card.
At the top of the tablet is the power switch and an autorotate lock button, with a volume rocker and 3.5mm audio jack at the side. Further down you'll find a microHDMI port.

Specification and performance

There are three ThinkPad Helix variants listed on Lenovo's site. The "low-end" variant comes with a dual-core, four-thread Intel Core M-5Y10c, which has a maximum clock frequency of 2GHz. The other two pricier models have a faster Core M-5Y71, with a base frequency of 1.2GHz, but in Turbo Mode, this goes up to 2.9GHz, a high clock speed for a tablet.
Lenovo ThinkPad Helix display
8GB of memory comes as standard in all models, as does a 1920 x 1080 display, which Lenovo touts as capable of 400-nit brightness. As I was sent a high-end model with a Core M-5Y71, it came with an Intel HD5300 integrated graphics chip, which isn't quite the performer the HD5500 is (that's what you get with Intel Core i5 processors as seen on, for example, the ThinkPad Yoga 12).
There are multiple batteries, one in the dock, one in the tablet itself, with two power connectors to charge either separately. They behave as you might expect. The primary battery is in the tablet itself. When connected, the dock charges the tablet, and if it is left disconnected from a power source, it's the dock's battery that powers the Helix – and obviously when you remove the tablet, then it's using its own battery.
The dock and keyboard also house separate speakers, with a mono speaker in the tablet and stereo speakers in the dock, which inevitably produce a more powerful sound. And as is the case with the batteries, when the two are conjoined, the audio switches back to the dock by default, with a pause of a few seconds as it does so.
Lenovo ThinkPad Helix dock
A 128GB SSD is present in the entry-level and mid-range models, while the high-end variant has a 256GB SSD, which supports Opal 2.0 self-encryption.
Dual-band 802.11ac wireless connectivity is catered for with an Intel 7265 wireless chip, as used in many mobile devices.
The Helix also comes with an Active stylus on the low-end models, with a Digitizer Pen in the high-end model, offering 256 levels of pressure sensitivity, although this can be purchased separately on Lenovo's site.
Here is the spec sheet of the review model provided to TechRadar:
  • CPU: Intel Core M-5Y71
  • Graphics: Intel HD5300
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Screen: 11.6-inch 1920 x 1080 Multitouch
  • Storage: 128GB SSD
  • Optical drive: None
  • Ports: 2 x USB, microHDMI, DisplayPort
  • Connectivity: Dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0
  • Camera: 5MP, 2MP
  • Weight: Tablet: 759g With dock: 1.35kg
  • Size: Tablet: 300mm x 192mm x 9mm
Lenovo ThinkPad Helix rear


The Helix is not quite the most powerful tablet around, as it's pipped to the finish line by a few other models, including the aforementioned Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga 12, but it's still a great performer. As with most high-end x86 tablets, expect just about any software you might use on a laptop to run perfectly well on the Helix.
However its CPU and graphics performance can't quite beat a Core i5 and more powerful HD 5500 graphics processor, with slightly lower PCMark and Cinebench performance.
Here are the benchmarks we recorded:
  • 3DMark: Cloud Gate: 2922; Sky Diver: 1888; Fire Strike: 504
  • Cinebench: CPU: 172 points; Graphics: 17.3 fps
  • PCMark 8 Home Test: 1891
  • PCMark 8 Battery Life: 5 hrs 41 mins (with dock) 3 hrs 59 min (tablet)
However, there are still some great results here, particularly the battery life. Almost four hours for a Windows tablet in PCMark 8, a quite taxing test, is a very impressive result, and this goes up by close to 50% when the dock is connected.
I also used a Spyder4 Colorimeter to test the display against Lenovo's claims. The result of the uncalibrated brightness test came out slightly lower than the quoted 400 nits, with a result of 361, but this is still good. sRGB coverage of 78% and Adobe coverage of 58% aren't up there with standalone colour-accurate PC monitors or high-end laptops such as HP's DreamColor display, but these results are still more than reasonable.


We liked

Lenovo's ThinkPad Helix offers a pretty powerful overall performance, and a very impressive screen to boot, with laudable brightness levels and accurate enough colours. The battery life is also a high point, with the tablet performing well as a standalone device, and the dock adding even more juice.

We disliked

While performance is good, the Helix is edged out by some of its hybrid rivals. We must also bear the price in mind – this is one expensive piece of hardware, especially at the high-end of the range. Another downside is that the Helix isn't particularly thin, nor is it particularly light.

Final verdict

Just who is the pricey ThinkPad Helix for? Clearly it isn't competing with Android tablets or the iPad. Perhaps not even the Surface Pro 3 – it would be silly to. All three have their own niche which they cover well, and Lenovo might not succeed if it took them head-on at their own game.
Instead, the ThinkPad Helix sits in its own segment of the market – this is a genuine hybrid tablet that actually has the power of a laptop. And there are plenty of people who want just that – a handheld, touchscreen device that can run any software going.
And with the dock, you can use it just like a laptop too.
Although it's not the thinnest or lightest tablet, the design is of a very high standard. The battery life is superb, the overall performance is good and the large high-resolution IPS screen is bright and big enough to be useful for real work.
The Helix should work just as well with more taxing tasks, such as light Photoshop use, as it does for the basics, such as web surfing or word processing. And that is perhaps the best thing about 2-in-1 hybrid devices – they'll run nearly all the same software you have on your desktop or laptop PC.
It's unfortunate though that the relatively high price isn't justified by market-leading performance, as the Helix comes out slightly slower than other models. But regardless of this, if it's a powerful Windows tablet you want, you're unlikely to be disappointed by the ThinkPad Helix, just as long as you can meet the asking price.

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