Tablet World.pdf

Tablet World.pdf

TabletW rld




of expert


Best full-size, mini and kids' tablets tested

Android vs iOS vs Windows 8 tablets

Includes 10 video reviews: iPad, Nexus & more

iPad 4 | Nexus 10 | Surface RT | Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 | iPad mini | Nexus 7 | Kindle Fire HD | Nook HD



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to TabletWorld

Are tablets just a fad? That’s the question we’re often asked by readers

looking to justify the expense of yet another pricey gadget. After all,

they’ve already got a smartphone, a laptop, a desktop PC and possibly

even a netbook, too. Two-and-a-half years after Apple blew wide open the tablet

market with its iPad, we can safely say otherwise: tablets are a phenomenon.

The next time you get on a train, count the number of people using a tablet to

browse the web, watch an HD movie, fire off an email, play a game, listen to music,

read a book or get on with some work. And it’s not just adults and commuters

taken in by these highly portable, always-on devices: my four-year-old nephew can

barely read or write, yet he’s more in tune with the ins and outs of Android and

iOS than his thirty-something parents.

In fact, tablets have become so popular with the younger generation that a

whole new category of devices has sprung on to the market. Children’s tablets

such as the Fuhu nabi 2, LeapFrog LeapPad and VTech InnoTab are not only

brightly styled and come with tough designs, helping to prevent the inevitable

in the whirlwind that is a child’s tantrum, they’re safe to be left unsupervised

with your kids. What’s more, the preloaded educational activities can keep them

quiet for hours. We review all these children’s devices and more from page 62.

Despite what some Apple loyalists would have you believe, the incredible

success of the iPad isn’t the only factor in the rise to popularity of tablets.

Google, with its Android alternative, can offer a much cheaper entry point to

ownership, and with its latest Jelly Bean update (page 10) it closes the gap on iOS.

Fact is, Apple’s products are expensive. Given that you usually get what you

pay for, and the iPad is a premium device, that’s understandable. But price is an

important consideration when choosing a tablet, and in recent months we’ve

seen exceptional devices from Google, Amazon and B&N that cost less than half

the iPad’s ticket (page 56). These are subsidised, of course, designed to encourage

content sales and uptake of the Android platform, but we’re easily bought.

Up your budget a little and there’s the Nexus 10 from Google. For the first time,

the iPad is no longer definitely the best tablet money can buy. The Nexus is not

only much cheaper, and faster in our lab tests, it bests Apple’s unique selling point:

that awe-inspiring Retina display. Eventually, Apple stands to face competition from

Microsoft, too, with its burgeoning Windows RT platform (page 14).

Whichever tablet platform or form-factor you desire, and whatever your budget,

TabletWorld’s 100 pages of buying advice and reviews will be your expert guide.

Marie Brewis, Editor

Facebook: @MarieBrewis





Editor Marie Brewis

020 7756 2868

Cover design/

original photography Dominik Tomaszewski


Brian Beam, David Court, Matt Egan, Glenn Fleishman,

Andrew Harrison, Mark Hattersley, Rosemary Hattersley,

Brie Hiramine, Chris Holt, Sarah Jacobsson Purewal,

Chris Martin, Jim Martin, Melissa Perenson


Head of digital production Richard Bailey

020 7756 2839


Marketing manager Ash Patel


Publishing director Simon Jary

Managing director Kit Gould

TabletWorld is a publication of IDG Communications, the world’s

leading IT media, research and exposition company. With more than 300

publications in 85 countries, read by more than 100 million people each

month, IDG is the world’s leading publisher of computer magazines and

newspapers. IDG Communications, 101 Euston Road, London NW1

2RA. This is an independent journal not affiliated with Apple, Google,

Microsoft, Samsung, or any other company other than IDG. All icons and

images are registered trademarks of the respective trademark owner.

All contents © IDG 2012.



















24 Google Nexus 10

26 Apple iPad with Retina display

28 Microsoft Surface RT

30 Microsoft Surface RT vs Surface Pro

32 Nexus 10 vs iPad 4 vs Surface RT

34 Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1

36 Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1

38 Acer Iconia Tab A510

39 Toshiba AT300

40 GoClever Tab R974

41 Disgo 9104

42 Archos 101 XS

43 Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga

64 LeapFrog LeapPad2 Explorer

66 Fuhu nabi 2

68 VTech InnoTab 2

70 Kurio 7

71 Arnova ChildPad

72 Dolphin Browser

73 Mozilla Firefox

74 Bitdefender Power Tune-Up

75 Google Play Movies & TV

76 TVCatchup

77 BBC Media Player

78 BBC iPlayer 2.0

79 AmazonMP3

80 7digital

81 Google Play Books

82 Photosynth

83 Sketchbook Express

84 Magix Camera MX

46 Google Nexus 7

48 Apple iPad mini

50 iPad mini vs iPad 4

51 iPad mini vs Nexus 7

52 Amazon Kindle Fire HD

54 Barnes & Noble Nook HD

56 Nexus 7 vs Kindle Fire HD

vs Nook HD

58 Acer Iconia Tab A110

60 GoClever Tab A73


85 Microsoft Fresh Paint

86 Echograph

87 CoPilot Live HD Premium

88 Skype

89 MyScript Notes Mobile

90 Quick Note

91 iCookbook

92 Coach’s Eye

93 Rovio Bad Piggies

94 Granny Smith

95 The Walking Dead

96 Disney G nome Village

97 Jetpack Joyride


FEATURE Which tablet is right for you?

Which tablet is right for you?

2012 saw the launch of three iPads, Windows RT tablets, and the rise of

mini tablets. The result: a market that’s now more confusing than ever


Here’s a fun game. Ask the person next to you when the iPad was first

announced. Then watch them look surprised when you reveal that

Apple’s iconic tablet was first launched as late as 2010.

Tablet computing has been around for a long time, of course. PDAs were

popular in the 1990s, and Microsoft was heavily pushing tablets at the start of that

decade. But until the iPad changed everything, tablets occupied only a tiny niche of

the wider personal computing market. The tablet boom has grown from next to

nothing to its current staggering pitch in just two-and-a-bit years.

Following the never-to-be-surpassed success of the iPad, tech hardware

manufacturers rushed to capture a slice of the pie with what turned out to be

inferior devices. Throughout most of 2010 and 2011 the iPad had no rivals that

could match its combination of high-end software and good-looking, stable and

seamlessly integrated platform.

Android tablets were hobbled with, in essence, an outsized smartphone

operating system, and the best ones cost the same or more than the iPad anyway.

Windows tablets were heavy, shrink-wrapped laptops with poor battery life and

a desktop OS. BlackBerry managed to launch a great tablet in the PlayBook, just

as smartphone users were turning their back on BlackBerry phones, and with

barely an app worthy of the name to make the PlayBook useful or fun.

As of the end of 2011, there was only one answer to the question

‘what tablet should I buy?’. The iPad.

“At the end

of 2011, there

was only one

answer to

the question

‘which tablet

should I buy?’”

All change

That all changed in 2012, however. For one thing, Apple released an

unprecedented three tablets in the year, including its first 7in device, meaning a

broader choice for iOS users. Meanwhile, Google pulled off the neat two-card

trick of finally creating a true tablet OS in Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, and then

subsidising hardware makers to produce in the Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 genuinely

high-quality products at a staggeringly low price.

In Windows 8 Microsoft has an OS fit for tablets, and in Surface RT the

ARM-based hardware to match. Meanwhile, e-book makers Amazon and Barnes &

Noble have brought to the UK their own subsidised devices, the Kindle Fire HD

and Nook HD. Both offer high build-quality and easy access to content – in theory.

Christmas 2012

The range of tablets that lined up to fill stockings for Christmas 2012 has never

been bigger or better. The Kindle Fire HD was predicted to be the must-have

present, closely followed by Nexus 7, iPad mini and Barnes & Noble Nook HD.

At the top of the range sits Apple’s fourth-generation full-sized iPad, under

some pressure from the Google Nexus 10. The Surface RT means Microsoft has

added its own intriguing device to the mix, with Intel Windows 8 Pro tablets to

follow in 2013 offering another exciting new development. Meanwhile, a plethora

of Android devices of varying quality plug every price point... and we haven’t even

Which tablet is right for you? FEATURE

“The tablet

boom has

grown from

next to nothing

to its current


pitch in just




FEATURE Which tablet is right for you?


2013 to be

the year tablet


really matures,

and these

truly portable



your only




mentioned BlackBerry, set to relaunch in the new year with BlackBerry 10.0.

Don’t write off BlackBerry just yet.

For children, there is a dedicated category of specialised tablets, and

laptop makers are beginning to launch hybrid devices that offer the benefits

of both tablet and PC.

Tablet sales are set to go through the roof, which can only help to push

app, movie and music makers into creating more content and software to be

enjoyed on these devices. So expect 2013 to be the year tablet computing

really matures, and these truly portable computers become capable of being

your only entertainment device or workstation. Which leads on to the question,

which tablet is right for you?

Mini tablets

The Nexus 7 changed the tablet market, bringing to the market iPad-like build

quality, an easy way to purchase movies and music, and a good tablet OS at a

staggeringly low price. It also relaunched the 7in tablet.

That size change from the 10in form-factor of the original iPads makes a big

difference: mini tablets are great for reading on and using on the move, fitting into

a handbag or suit pocket. They are less able than full-sized tablets when it comes

to creating or editing documents, and the smaller screens can make for a less

satisfying movie-watching experience. But if you are watching on the move,

you’ll find that holding a 7in device in one hand is a lot more fun than taking

on a wrist-aching 10in tablet.

The Nexus 7 is an utterly brilliant media consumption device, with which you

can also email and web browse, as well as edit documents and photos and so on.

You probably won’t want to use it for anything more complex than that, but at

this price why would you? The Nexus 7 is cheap enough that you could buy it and

a cheap laptop, and it will still cost you only about the same as a top-end iPad.

Further along the same media-consumption road is the Kindle Fire HD. It’s

priced to shift and well built. You can web browse and email, and consume all the

media you want. In fact, it seems too

good to be true and, to an extent, it

is – but only if you are looking for a

full-featured tablet. The Kindle Fire

HD is made by – and subsidised by

– Amazon to drive sales of e-books,

music and movies. It’s very easy to

use, but only if you are happy to buy

your books from Kindle and your

films from LoveFilm. As such, it will

make a great gift for that person who

doesn’t want a computer, but

does want a brilliant gadget.

A similar proposition is the

Barnes & Noble Nook HD.

It is also a well-built

and easy-to-use

tablet made for the

consumption on

the move of movies,

e-books, music and so

on. But like the Fire

HD it is locked down,

in this instance to

Barnes & Noble’s own

Nook store.

A 7in device is far more

comfortable to hold up

for longer periods than a

10in tablet, such as when

watching movies

Should you want a ‘proper’ tablet at this size, the iPad

mini is possibly better even than the Google Nexus 7.

But it costs more than £100 more, and we’re not sure

that it’s worth the extra cash. Buy one, however, and

you won’t be disappointed.

There are other, cheaper, 7in Android tablets, such

as the Acer Iconia Tab A110. There’s nothing wrong

with such devices, but in the tablet world you get

what you pay for and we think that in the list above

there is a device for everyone.

Full-size tablets

The iPad remains the best full-spec, full-sized tablet there

is. If you want the best tablet on the market, get Apple’s

fourth-generation iPad with Retina display. It is a beautiful

device with unsurpassed build quality, and the iTunes

market offers more quality apps than any other platform.

But you pay a premium for quality, and you will find that

you are pretty much locked into Apple’s world when it

comes to purchasing music and movies.

Apple still sells the iPad 2 at a discounted rate, and it

remains a great tablet. So if you want an iPad, but don’t

want to pay the full price, it’s worth checking out.

The list of alternative 10in tablets starts with the

Nexus 10. Google’s new Nexus 10 Android tablet has

an impressive PLS screen with a resolution of 2560x1600. The Samsungmanufactured

device is also thinner and lighter than Apple’s iPad, runs Jelly Bean

4.2 and, with prices starting at £319, is a bargain.

Samsung has two other 10in tablets in the Android tablet market, both are

solid competitors: the Galaxy Note 10.1 and Galaxy Tab 2 10.1. With pen input

and a highly customised version of Android 4.0, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1

distinguishes itself in a crowded market, but at £500 you’ll have to really want pen

input before it makes sense to choose the Note. Meanwhile, the Tab 2 10.1 is like

the iPad and the Nexus 10, only not as good. Unlike its predecessors, however, it

is cheaper. For £299 it will make all but the most stringent tablet fans happy.

Honestly, unless price is your primary driver, we wouldn’t recommend devices

such as the GoClever Tab R974, Toshiba AT300, Archos 101 XS and Disgo 9104.

In the 10in tablet market you get what you pay for. It doesn’t make them bad

devices, but you should know that you are making a compromise.

There is an alternative, however, and an intriguing one. The Barnes & Noble

Nook HD+ is a 10in tablet with expandable storage that costs only £229. It runs

Barnes & Noble’s locked-down, stripped-down version of Android, and shares the

Nook HD’s high build quality. Like that device and the Kindle Fire HD, the price

you pay for such value is that the Nook HD+ locks you into Barnes & Noble’s

world, all-but forcing you to buy books, music and movies via its store. But it is

a quality device at a great price, and less technical users may actively enjoy the

ease of use in a closed market.

Operating system

TabletWorld categorises devices in three main camps: full-size, mini and

children’s tablets. However, within these categories are three more: those

running Android, iOS and Windows RT, the version of Windows 8 written for

ARM processors. Also look out for tablets running BlackBerry 10.0, which is

set to be released in 2013. Over the following pages we explain the ins and

outs of each major tablet platform.

Which tablet is right for you? FEATURE

The iPad 2 is still

available at a discounted

price, and may be worth

a look


FEATURE Android 4.2 Jelly Bean

Android 4.2 Jelly Bean

Jelly Bean is Google’s latest mobile platform, but there’s no guarantee the tablet

you buy will be running it. If you’re lucky enough to get it, here’s what to expect


Jelly Bean is an incremental update to Google’s Android 4.0 Ice Cream

Sandwich mobile OS, but it helps Android close the gap on iOS and has been

very well received by those lucky enough to be able to access it. Indeed, while

version 4.2 Jelly Bean is now upon us, as seen on the Nexus 4 smartphone and

Nexus 7 and 10 tablets, most devices are yet to be upgraded to 4.1 from 4.0, let

alone to 4.2. Here, we’ll look in-depth at the changes in Jelly Bean 4.1, and then

explain some of the new features added to 4.2.


One of the fi rst things you notice when you use Jelly Bean for the fi rst time is the

speed boost. Google calls it ‘Project Butter’, and we can vouch for the fact it is

lag-free and super-smooth. It’s extended vsync timing to all drawing and animation,

tripled the graphics buffering and even applied some wizardry that anticipates

where on the display your fi nger will move next. Following a period of inactivity, a

CPU input boost is applied at the next touch event to eliminate latency.


Since Jelly Bean is an incremental update to 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, the interface

hasn’t seen a major overhaul. The main addition is smooth animations, seen

when you open an app, for example. Rather than the app suddenly popping up

when you tap its icon, the animation gradually appears from wherever that icon

is placed onscreen. Another improvement is that widgets and app shortcuts will

automatically rearrange themselves around a new object, and if there’s only a

certain space available the widget will resize itself to fi t.

“Jelly Bean

has been very

well received

by those lucky

enough to

be able to

access it”


The Notifications bar has been enhanced and can now show more detail, such

as including a text message or photo. Some notifications can be expanded or

collapsed with a two-finger gesture. As well as showing more information, users

can respond to the notification via multiple action buttons without opening the

associated app. You could respond to a missed call by returning the call directly

from the alert, for example.

Google Now

One of the best new features in Jelly Bean is called Google Now, the latest

development in Google search. Its aim is to stay one step ahead of you, offering

the answers to your questions before you ask them.

For Google Now to work at its best it needs to get to know you. When

logged into your Google account, it will use your search history to learn what

sort of things you look for. If you’re happy to divulge your search habits, location

and similar information, Google Now will quickly become a useful tool.

Dictation and keyboard input

Until Jelly Bean, Android’s voice-input feature has required a data connection to

function. Now, you can dictate an email or text message, for instance, regardless

of whether you have a mobile or Wi-Fi connection. Words appear onscreen

almost immediately after they’ve left your mouth.

Voice search

As before, you can use the microphone icon to perform a voice search. Like

Apple’s Siri, you can have the answers read aloud to you. Android also gets one

over on Siri in the UK, since you can search for local businesses and attractions.


Google Chrome is the default web browser. It offers an excellent tabbed

browsing experience and things such as your bookmarks, most visited sites and

even open tabs can be easily synchronised with the desktop version of Chrome.

There are other nifty settings, too, such as the ability to configure text scaling.


The biggest issue with Jelly Bean is its lack of Flash support. This puts it in a

similar position to the iPad, on which Flash-based web and video content is

inaccessible. If you’re happy to do a bit of hacking there are ways around this.

New in Jelly Bean 4.2

Android 4.2 Jelly Bean is preloaded on Google’s own-brand Nexus

devices. It hasn’t announced when the free update will roll out to other

devices – as always, if and when your specific device is upgraded will

depend on whether its manufacturer decides doing so is worth its while.

A new feature is the ability to configure multiple user accounts,

each with its own Home screens, backgrounds, widgets, apps and

games. It’s a snap to switch between users, without logging out.

Gesture typing is another neat addition, which in effect turns

Android’s keyboard into a Swype-style keyboard. You glide a finger

over the characters you wish to use, and it intelligently works out

what you’re trying to write, automatically inserting spaces.

If you like taking panoramic photos, Photo Sphere is great.

This camera feature allows you to take continuous pictures in

any direction, then stitches them together in a sphere.

Also new is wireless display technology, which lets you share what’s on your

device on a larger screen, expandable notifications for more apps, lock-screen

widgets, and quick settings in the Notifications bar.

Note that not all these features will necessarily be available on all devices

running Android 4.2, since the manufacturer will the OS how it sees fit.

Android 4.2 Jelly Bean FEATURE

“Google Now

aims to stay

one step ahead

of you, offering

the answers to

your questions

before you

ask them”


FEATURE Apple iOS 6.0

Apple iOS 6.0

iOS 6.0 is the slick operating system at work behind the scenes

in all Apple iDevices. Here’s what to expect


This autumn saw the launch of the sixth-generation iOS platform, which

headlined on the iPhone 5, but is suitable for most iDevices made in the

past three years. Apple says 200 new, mostly minor features have been

folded in. Some are immediately obvious – Passbook is added to the Home

screen, along with a retouched icon to signify the new Maps app.

When the non-location-aware Siri first appeared last year, it was of limited

use to UK users. iOS 6.0 adds this functionality, allowing you to use Siri to find

local businesses, restaurants and the like.

It can be all too fallible, though. We asked Siri to find the nearest post office; it

responded with several map pins, completely overlooking the main branch close

to our office. It’s unclear whether the mistake is Siri’s, or flaky mapping data.

Photo Stream was introduced with iCloud for accessing your photos on any

iOS device. With iOS 6.0, you can now share new photo streams with others.

Passbooks isn’t yet especially relevant in the UK. Launching the app gives

you an idea of what may come: boarding passes for airlines, tickets for films and

events, credit cards for specific shops and discount coupons.

Social media fans may welcome the extra integration with Facebook, allowing

you to post updates from the Notification Center and Siri.

As seen in Android Ice Cream Sandwich, Apple now lets you deflect

inopportune calls; rather than ignore the call, a push-up menu lets you reject it

with a preset text message.

With so much personal information stored on smartphones these days, more

fine-grained control over who gets to see what was overdue. You can now

restrict how your data is siphoned by other companies. We’d rather have a simple

“With so

much personal


stored on


these days,

more finegrained


over who gets

to see what

was overdue”

off option to keep all data personal but, until then, you can elect to, for example,

not share your contacts with Google Earth; likewise, your photos, calendars and

reminders can be walled off from apps.

Buried in the Settings menu is an option to ‘Limit Ad Tracking’ – that’s limit, not

stop. We still need a ‘Keep all my affairs private’ option, but it’s a positive step.

Safari has received a few updates, including iCloud tabs. This lets you jump to

pages you currently have open on other iOS devices or Mountain Lion Macs.

In the Mail app you can now paste photo or video inline without leaving the

app. And you can refresh your inbox by pulling down the screen.

Panorama mode has been added to the Camera app, which stitches together

a series of portrait shots into one widescreen photo.

Maps app

Apple has created its own Maps system in place of Google Maps, using mapping

data from third parties such as TomTom. It’s built on vector-based graphics and

text, and scales wonderfully. It’s an elegant solution to the problem of having your

device continually redownload bitmapped images at different resolutions each

time you zoom in. With smaller downloads required, larger areas can be retrieved,

and the data seems to be retained longer on the device.

It’s not all good news, though. Popular features such as Street View aren’t

available. More worrying is the misplacing of landscape features, towns and cities,

and the absence of crucial details such as railway stations. Satellite imagery is also

of a comparatively poor quality.

The Flyover feature is an attractive way to see buildings in 3D, but available

only in select larger cities, and not on older devices such as the iPhone 4.

Maps is still a work in progress, but that doesn’t help users who have already

upgraded. And apps such as Find My Friends are reliant on Apple’s sparse beta. You

can still view Google, Bing or Nokia’s mapping data in Safari, of course.


Some previous iOS updates have resulted in older hardware struggling. We

tested performance before and after on the iPhone 4 and 4S. The results were

encouraging. In the SunSpider JavaScript test, for example, an iPhone 4 moved

from 3,519ms to 3,003ms, suggesting a 17 percent improvement in rendering

speed. The 4S recorded 1,891ms, up from 2,421ms – a 28 percent improvement.

Geekbench 2 showed no signifi cant change in the raw processor and memory

speed: our iPhone 4 still averaged 326 points, and the iPhone 4S 632 points.

GLBenchmark showed very similar graphics performance. The iPhone 4 played

the Egypt HD sequence at 4.1fps in iOS 5.1, and 4fps in iOS 6.0; the 4S managed

18- and 19fps respectively.

Lots of added handy features make iOS 6.0 a good upgrade – with the caveat

of the underperforming Maps. In every other respect, iOS 6.0 is a compelling free

upgrade for iPhone and iPad users.

Apple iOS 6.0 FEATURE

“iOS 6.0 is

a compelling

free upgrade

for iPhone and

iPad users”


FEATURE Microsoft Windows 8 & RT

Microsoft Windows 8 & RT

Windows 8 represents the biggest change since Windows 95, with a new

tiled interface that’s touch-optimised for tablets. Here’s what to expect


Windows 8 represents a radical change from previous Microsoft

OSes. The traditional desktop has been relegated to the sidelines to

make way for a new Modern (previously Metro) UI. This interface is

touch-optimised, making it equally usable via finger- or keyboard-and-mouse input.

However, in this environment, only specially coded apps are compatible.

Windows 8 or ‘Modern UI’ apps are downloaded via the new Windows

Store, or from third-party developer websites. The Windows Store is similar to

Apple’s App Store and Google Play, with free and low-cost software available for

download, but it’s comparatively barren. This is expected to change as more and

more people upgrade or buy new PCs preinstalled with Windows 8, or tablets

running Windows RT.

Let’s clear up one important point at the start: Windows 8 is written for x86

processors, such as the Intel and AMD variants found inside your existing PC or

laptop; Windows RT is written for the ARM processors found inside your tablet

or smartphone. Except that it won’t actually run on your smartphone - for that,

you’ll need Windows Phone 8. Windows 8 and RT look the same, and use the

same gestures, but there are some subtle differences.

One is that you can’t buy Windows RT, in the same way you can’t buy iOS.

It comes preinstalled on a tablet.

Windows RT is compatible with apps downloaded from the Windows Store, as

is Windows 8. However, RT comes with Office preinstalled; Windows 8 does not.

Windows RT doesn’t include the traditional Windows desktop required to run

legacy programs; Windows 8 does. Both the standard version of Windows 8 and

RT also lack some of the features found in Windows 8 Pro: there’s no Windows



desktop has

been relegated

to the sidelines

to make way

for a new

Modern UI”

Media Player, nor BitLocker encryption, no domain support and, although

there’s Remote Desktop, it works only as a client, so you can’t remotely

connect to a Windows RT tablet.

Windows RT includes the Internet Explorer 10.0 web browser, the Office

2013 productivity suite, plus apps for Mail, Calendar, Maps, Photos, Music, Videos,

Weather, People, News, Travel, Finance and SkyDrive. There’s also Windows

Defender, Exchange ActiveSync and support for virtual private networks (VPNs).

Internet Explorer 10.0 in Windows RT supports Flash, which is used on

many websites and for a lot of internet video. Flash is also supported in the

desktop version of Windows 8.

Start screen

The Start menu of old has gone, even on the Classic desktop, now replaced with

the Modern UI. This is best thought of as a full-screen Start menu. Don’t be put

off: it takes only a few minutes to gain your bearings and figure out where things

are and how to accomplish tasks.

The Start screen is well designed and conveys far more information than might

be gleaned from a first glance. Some of its tiles display live information, allowing

you to view a weather forecast without opening the Weather app, or read the

headlines without launching the browser, for example.

Windows 8 Search

For a list of all installed apps on your machine, swipe up from the bottom to

bring up the bottom options bar, then choose All apps.

A neat shortcut, if you know what you’re looking for, is to simply start typing

its name on the Start screen. This opens the search box, and you can filter the

results by type: Apps, Settings or Files. You can apply a search to a particular app

(Internet Explorer, for example) by tapping on the app in the search box.

Multiple windows

Tapping on an app opens it in full-screen mode. Drag down from the top, then left

or right, to resize the app to occupy a small column at either side. The remainder

of the screen is then left for a second app. Flip apps between these positions by

grabbing the black bar separating them and dragging it to the left or right.

Working in this way feels more restrictive than it does with the traditional

desktop, which lets you have open as many windows as you like, and in any

position. On a Windows 8 tablet, however, the ability to simultaneously view

two apps is uncharted territory.


The Charms bar is a new feature in

Windows 8. It appears when you

swipe your finger in from the right

edge of the screen. From the top,

you’ll find Charms for Search, Share,

Start, Devices and Settings, most of

which are self-explanatory.


Web pages load noticeably quicker

in Windows 8 than they do in

any Windows 7 browser. In fact,

compared with Windows 7 on the

same hardware, Windows 8 is a

faster OS in general. The interface

is responsive, apps load quickly and,

crucially, it’s much faster to boot up

and shut down.

Microsoft Windows 8 & RT FEATURE

“The interface

is responsive,

apps load

quickly and,

crucially, it’s

much faster

to boot up

and shut



FEATURE 4G tablets

4G tablets in the UK

The 4G mobile network is fast enough to let you enjoy the web at Wi-Fi-like

speeds, but you’ll need compatible hardware to take advantage


You’ve probably heard of 4G, but what is it? In short, it’s the name given

to the fourth-generation mobile network, just as the previous generation

is known as 3G. Another piece of jargon, which you’ll often see tagged

on to the end of 4G, is ‘LTE’. This stands for Long Term Evolution, a type of 4G

technology. 4G LTE aims to offer faster, more reliable mobile broadband to

devices such as smartphones, tablets and laptops.

In general, 4G is around five times faster than existing 3G networks. It can

theoretically provide download speeds of up to 100 megabits per second (Mbps),

but you won’t see this in real-world use.

Unless you buy a fourth-generation iPad (note that the third-generation iPad

doesn’t support the 1,800MHz 4G network offered by EE) or iPad mini, your

tablet won’t natively support 4G. We expect more 4G-enabled tablets to arrive

in 2013; in the meantime, you can use your tablet’s Wi-Fi connection to take

advantage of a 4G mobile hotspot, or tether it to a 4G-capable smartphone.

This is because 4G and 3G networks use different frequencies to transmit

data, so your modem must supports the new frequencies to be compatible.

Although 4G is new to the UK and us Brits like to think we’re running the

latest technology, it’s actually been around for many years. Two forms of 4G are

in use today: WiMAX and LTE. You may have heard of WiMAX before, since it

was trialled in the UK in 2009. But WiMAX began three years previous to that,

with the first network launched by South Korean firm KT in 2006.


4G is new

to the UK

and us Brits

like to think

we’r running

the latest


it’s been

around for

many years”

The first LTE network was deployed in Scandinavia in 2009. However, it was

debatable whether the speeds on offer back then were worthy of the 4G tag.

Across the Atlantic in the US, mobile network operator Sprint has been using

WiMAX since 2008, while MetroPCS was the first operator to offer an LTE

service in 2010. Verizon and AT&T also offer LTE.

Only the LTE version of 4G will be accessible in the UK. You may have already

seen several smartphones appearing on the market with an LTE suffix appended

to their product name. The Samsung Galaxy S III LTE is a notable example, and

not to be confused with the standard Samsung Galaxy S III.

Us Brits are more accustomed to 3G connectivity, where available. Hutchison

Telecommunications unveiled the UK’s first 3G network under the simple brand

name ‘3’, often seen as ‘Three’.

Wideband Code Division Multiple Access (WCDMA) was the first technical

standard used for 3G. It’s now more commonly known as Universal Mobile

Telecommunications System (UMTS). More modern forms of 3G are High Speed

Packet Access (HSPA) and HSPA+. The latter allows for download speeds up to

42Mbps, which is twice that of which HSPA is capable. Common spectrum used

for 3G connectivity includes 850MHz, 900MHz, 1,900MHz and 2,100MHz.

Connection speed

4G’s headline download speed is 100Mbps, and a blistering 50Mbps for uploads.

This means 4G offers more than double the speed of the latest 3G technology,

and is many times faster than previous versions.

Of course, these speeds are theoretical, and won’t be achievable in the real

world. Regardless, 4G offers significantly faster connection speeds than 3G, in

downloads but even more so in uploads.

In practice, web pages are quicker to load, and there’s no lag involved in

streaming video and podcasts. You can quickly download large email attachments

and pull down other content stored in the cloud. Apps that depend on online

data, such as mapping programs, run more smoothly, especially when zooming in

or out. The speed difference is akin to switching from 3G to Wi-Fi.

How easily you are able to stream video is a good measure of the strength

of your internet connection. The BBC recommends a minimum 3.5Mbps to watch

HD content online. Although 3G is theoretically capable of this, the average

achieved in the UK is 3Mbps.

For all those tasks for which you would normally toggle on a Wi-Fi connection

to achieve smooth performance, 4G will more than suffice. It will allow you to

feel as though you’re taking your home broadband connection on the move. In

fact, EE touts an average connection speed of between 8- and 12Mbps, which is

faster than the 5.9Mbps average for ADSL home broadband.

Faster upload speeds are also be a boon. If you hate waiting for pictures to

upload to Facebook or Twitter, for example, you’ll find it a much

quicker process over 4G.


The main reason 4G is faster than 3G is

Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiplexing

(OFDM). It’s the same technology used in Wi-Fi,

ADSL broadband, digital TV and radio.

OFDM allows more data to be squeezed

on to a given amount of radio frequency. It also

reduces latency and interference.

Data is split up and sent via

small chunks of frequency

in parallel, increasing the

network capacity.

4G tablets FEATURE




speed is


and a


50Mbps for


The speed difference

is akin to switching from

3G to Wi-Fi


FEATURE 4G tablets

“Don’t make

the mistake of

assuming that

if you have

decent 3G

coverage now

you will also

get good 4G

coverage when

the network

launches in

your area”


Multiple-input, multiple-output, or Mimo, is another reason 4G is able to

provide faster speeds. This is simply the use of multiple antennae on both the

transmitter and receiver to improve communication performance.

Mimo allows more data to be transferred, without requiring additional

bandwidth or power. The most common confi guration is 2x2 Mimo, found in

many smartphones and some tablets. A 4x4 setup is also possible, and promises

even faster speeds, but it’s still a little way off from making its way on to devices.

However, since different setups are possible, one handset could potentially

provide faster 4G speeds than another.

With 3G networks, most of us take international roaming for granted.

We expect to pick up emails and browse the web from whichever country

we’re in. Things are different with 4G.

Although 4G networks are accessible in many countries, a UK 4G device may

not be compatible. It’s not a given that 4G will operate on the same frequency in

each country you visit; in these cases you’ll instead need to use 3G. Even if the

frequencies in use are a match, your network operator will also need to have in

place a roaming agreement, and offer data at a reasonable price.

4G coverage in the UK

EE provides 4G in 16 UK cities, with some 20 million users able to access the

faster network. The lucky cities include Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh,

Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Sheffi eld, Belfast, Derby, Hull,

Nottingham, Newcastle and Southampton. Twelve of these have wide-ranging

coverage. London 4G’s signal will stretch beyond the M25, for example.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming that if you have decent 3G coverage now

you will also get good 4G coverage when the network launches in your area.

Independent regulator Ofcom has set a requirement that 98 percent of the

UK must have 4G coverage by the end of 2017. However, EE has promised

the fastest ever rollout of a mobile network in the UK, claiming it will reach

70 percent coverage by the end of 2013. It also says 98 percent of the UK will

be able to access 4G by the end of 2014, three years ahead of Ofcom’s goal.

You can check 4G coverage in your area on EE’s website:

4G tariffs

There has been, and remains, a lot of aggro between the

UK’s mobile operators and Ofcom over 4G. EE was the fi rst

operator to launch its 4G network. Until other operators

are allowed to roll out their own 4G networks, EE will have

a monopoly on the market.

The process of setting up a 4G network is

complicated and involves plenty of red tape, so it will

be a while before there’s a choice of 4G operators.

Ofcom is auctioning off 800MHz and 2,600MHz

spectrums spectrums to be used used for 4G: 4G: O2 O2 and Vodafone will will be

the main bidders. Once Once this this process is complete, networks

are expected to roll out from spring 2013.

Ofcom allowed EE to launch a 4G network ahead of its

competitors because it already already owned 1,800MHz spectrum

that that it could use for 4G services. Ofcom also wanted 4G to

be available in the UK as soon as possible.

Three has made an agreement with EE to use parts of the

1,800MHz 1,800MHz spectrum spectrum for 4G, but it won’t be able to so until the latter

part of 2013 when it gains approval.

Virgin Media is negotiating with EE to launch 4G tariffs. Since Virgin is a ‘virtual’

operator, and already uses uses EE’s network for 3G, it hopes hopes to piggyback on EE’s 4G.

Orange and T-Mobile are owned by EE and won’t be going anywhere. All three

operators will use the EE network, and users will begin to see ‘EE’ displayed on

Only the fourth-gen

iPad and iPad mini natively

support 4G in the UK

We recorded download

speeds up to 41Mbps and

14.3Mbps uploads ahead

of EE’s offi cial launch

Download speeds and population coverage

their devices. However, this doesn’t mean you’re getting 4G. Existing

Orange and T-Mobile customers must switch to EE to gain 4G services.

It’s free to move, but users will need to sign an 18- or 24-month

contract of the same or higher value than their current tariff.

A 4G SIM will be provided for free.

EE’s 4G tariff starts at £36 per month for 500MB of data,

rising to a maximum 8GB for £56. Unlimited calls and text

messages are included with all plans.

Which devices support 4G?

Only the fourth-generation iPad and iPad mini

tablets support 4G in the UK, although a handful

of smartphones, including the Apple iPhone 5,

HTC One XL, Huawei Ascend P1 LTE, Samsung

Galaxy Note II and S III LTE, Nokia Lumia 820

and 920 LTE, which means you may be able to

tether your smartphone to your tablet to take

advantage of the faster connection.

An alternative is to buy a 4G mobile hotspot, such as

the Huawei E589 Mobile Wi-Fi or Huawei E392 MBB Stick. You can

insert a 4G SIM, then wirelessly share its faster connection with a smartphone,

tablet, laptop or PC. A drawback is you’ll need to sign up for a second tariff.

If you’re about to buy a new mobile device, it’s critical that you check with

which 4G networks it is compatible. Some might claim to be ‘4G-ready’, yet not

be compatible with UK 4G networks.


Theoretically, 4G can offer download speeds up to 100Mbps and upload

speeds of 50Mbps. We were able to test EE’s 4G network in central London

prior to its offi cial switch-on.

The fastest download speed we achieved on an iPhone 5, according to, was 41Mbps. The fastest upload was 14.3Mbps.

Both fi gures are seriously impressive, but we saw wildly different results

as we repeated the test with different smartphones.

We were able to run tests on a Samsung Galaxy S3 LTE, Huawei Ascend P1

LTE and HTC One XL. The average speeds achieved across nearly 20 tests

were 26.4Mbps download and 14.2Mbps upload.

In our side-by-side test with 3G, the 4G network was more than three

times faster for downloads and 10 times faster for uploads.

Our results show a best-case scenario, with few devices competing for

bandwidth and an optimum location.

4G tablets FEATURE

Technology Typical Typical max

av. speed speed1 Peak speed2 Headline

speed3 UK population coverage

4G LTE 8-12Mbps 40Mbps 64Mbps 100Mbps 34%

3G (DC-HSPA+) 3Mbps 6-8Mbps 26Mbps 42Mbps 40%

3G (HSPA+) 3Mbps 6-8Mbps 26Mbps 42Mbps 95%

3G 3Mbps 6-8Mbps 26Mbps 42Mbps 98%

2G Voice & text Voice & text Voice & text Voice & text 99%

Fibre broadband 58.5Mbps 76Mbps 80Mbps 80Mbps 11.4m homes & offi ces

Broadband (ADSL) 5.9Mbps 14Mbps 24Mbps 24Mbps 95%

1 Ofcom measures that at least 10 percent of base can achieve 2 Technical speed that could be reached in non-commercial environment 3 Theoretical speed for which technology allows

“If you’re

about to buy

a new mobile

device, it’s

critical you

check with

which 4G

networks it’s



FEATURE Get the best price

Get the best price

Buy your tablet direct from the manufacturer and you’ll always pay

top-whack. Here are some tips to help you get the best price


Shopping for tablets can be an expensive business, full of pitfalls for the

wary. Here we offer simple tips to help you get the best value when you

buy technology products, as gifts or for yourself.

It sounds obvious, but if you want to get value for money it’s important to do

some research. And the start of that process is researching which product is best

for your needs. Remember that ‘cheap’ doesn’t always equate to ‘good value’.

Recently, we were challenged over our assertion a year ago that the iPad was

‘well-priced’. Surely, said the reader, Android tablets were cheaper and product

tear-downs had shown that the components were worth a lot less than Apple

charged for the iPad. A tear-down of the components of a device will show how

much they cost, but it bears only a small relation to the value of that product.

The iPad is well-priced, although the argument is more nuanced now. Back

then, the only products that came anywhere near to the quality of the iPad

weren’t as good, and cost at least as much. And they ran an Android smartphone

OS that wasn’t fit for purpose on tablets, with nary a tablet-optimised app or

decent source of music and movies to be found.

The market is very different now. With the Nexus 7 and Nexus 10, Kindle

Fire HD and Nook HD, Android hardware is getting close to iPad-quality, and

these products cost a lot less than Apple’s tablet. Android Jelly Bean is a proper

tablet operating system, with good music and movie options, although there is

still a lack of apps for tablets on Android.


that cheap

doesn’t always

equate to

good value”

Skinflint for iOS lets

you compare the cheapest

prices from more than 850

UK technology retailers

The Microsoft Surface RT tablet adds a decent Windows option, but it costs

the same amount as the entry-level iPad.

The cost of the Nexus devices, and the tablets from e-reader makers, is

subsidised to encourage content sales. As such they are instantly attractive to

consumers, but those who purchase them are making a deal: the Nook HD and

Kindle Fire are locked down to the extent that they are useless bricks unless

you’re happy to purchase content via their respective stores. The Nexus devices

are subsidised because Google’s main customer is advertisers, and it wants you to

purchase apps and music, while delivering data to advertisers.

None of these things makes these tablets bad products, but it does put the

iPad’s price into perspective. They are different devices for different needs.

So, before you decide on a product to buy, work out what you need it to do.

Then read as many reputable reviews as you can.

Use price comparison

Price-comparison sites have a bad name in some quarters but, used well,

they can unearth the odd bargain. At the very least, a visit to Google

Shopping, PriceRunner, Reevoo and the rest will let you know what sort of

price you should be paying for your selected product.

Don’t limit yourself to price-comparison websites, either. Hit the high

street with a smartphone and you can utilise a raft of comparison apps

while physically checking out gadgets. One of the best is Skinflint for

iOS, which lets you compare the cheapest prices for tech products from

more than 850 UK technology retailers. If you’ve done your research you

can shop by specification and compare prices from major chains, online

retailers and hundreds of independent retailers. And because Skinflint

includes geolocation services and a barcode scanner, you can find out who

has what offers in stock, wherever you are.

Of course, the business model of most comparison engines is that the

company doing the comparing gets a small cut of any sale made. Given the

already small margins most resellers make on technology products, and

the relative ease of access to the market for online retailers, this can lead

to some sharp practice. It’s also why some big manufacturers and vendors

make a point of stating “we are not on price-comparison sites”.

We recommend finding the best deal on price comparison, then

comparing it to what is available from the manufacturer or vendors from

whom you have previously purchased, and who you know will be around

to fulfil any support requirements. Bear in mind that some products are

available only, or primarily, from their makers.

Check all options

eBay is no longer a flea market, and Amazon is not just a book store. These days,

savvy online retailers will have a presence on eBay and Amazon Marketplace as

well as the open web and price-comparison sites, and they may have different

prices and special offers across all these portals.

Also look at deals sites such as HotUKDeals, in which users spread the word

about voucher offers and time-limited deals.

Don’t be upsold

Retailers and manufacturers often make very little margin on tech products, so

they’ll try to claw back some profit by selling additional software, warranties or

next-day delivery. These can be useful, but don’t buy them if you don’t want to.

The final word

So, there you have it: research the product, research the price, and shop wisely

with care and imagination.

Get the best price FEATURE

“The Nook

HD and Kindle

Fire are

locked down

to the extent

that they

are useless

bricks unless

you’re happy

yo purchase


via their




BUYING ADVICE Full-size tablets

Which full-size tablet?

With the bewildering array of tablets on the market, it can be hard

to decide which is right for you. If you’ve got your heart set on a

full-size tablet, here’s what to look for


Tablet PCs bridge the gap between laptops and smartphones. They combine

the mobility and connectivity of a smartphone with a larger screen and

more powerful processor that’s more akin to a laptop, and they run a

lightweight, touchscreen-focused operating system.

The fourth-generation iPad, along with the latest version of iOS, is a tough

combination to beat: it’s slick, supremely easy to use and has a library of hundreds

of thousands of apps to choose between. It remains the benchmark that other

tablets strive to beat, but it finally has two genuine rivals in the face of Google's

Nexus 10 and Microsoft's Surface RT.

The Nexus 10 has all the features you'd expect from a high-end tablet,

combined with a slick OS in Android Jelly Bean, the highest-resolution screen

ever found on a tablet, and an unbeatably low price tag, starting from £319.

Meanwhile, the Surface RT is Microsoft's own-brand tablet running its

Windows RT OS, which is optimised for touch input. The Surface RT costs the

same as Apple's entry-level iPad, at £399. We've compared all three on page 32.

Processor and memory

A fast processor and an adequate helping of memory are essential for slick

performance. The gigahertz rating of a processor alone can't tell you how it

will compare with alternative chips, and you also need to take into account the

number of cores it has (the more the better for multitasking). Some premium

tablets sport dual-core chips and 2GB of RAM, although the supremely fast

iPad combines a dual-core processor with just 1GB of RAM.

We use Geekbench to test the overall performance of each tablet (in

which a higher score is better), SunSpider to test the web-browsing JavaScript

“The iPad

remains the


that other

tablets strive

to beat, but

it now has

some genuine


Security is only really

of concern to the Android

platform and, even then,

there are plenty of free

apps to protect you

performance (a lower score is better), and GLBenchmark for gaming framerates

(higher is better). You can read our results within the individual reviews.


Some tablets, and notably the iPad, don't allow you to add to their storage

capacity via a removable memory card, so make sure you get sufficient storage

when you buy. This is especially important given the ever-more impressive

resolutions of which full-size tablets' screens are capable, and the range of HD

functionality each platform now offers.

So how much storage do you need? As an example, the 720p films Apple offers

to buy or rent in the UK each consume around 4GB, and with 1080p movies the

storage problem is only exacerbated. Then there are all the games you download,

and HD photos and videos you capture to consider, not forgetting the OS itself,

which will usually gobble up at least 2GB.

We'd recommend 32GB of storage as the minimum for most users, but you'll

get by with less if you mostly stream content from the cloud or a Wi-Fi-enabled

portable drive, or you're lucky enough to be able to access external storage.


As your main interface with the tablet, the screen is of crucial importance. The

iPad has long led the pack, with its Retina-quality in-plane switching display. The

Google Nexus 7 can now claim to beat its resolution, but that’s not the only

means by which to judge a display. Also important are the viewing angles,

contrast and brightness levels, and the vibrance of colours.

Most screens are capacitive, but you may still find some budget models with

less responsive resistive panels. These can be incredibly frustrating in use.

Avoid glossy displays where possible, with which overhead or bright lighting

can cause distracting reflections.

Battery life

Good battery life is vital for all-day use, but tablets don’t have removable batteries

like laptops do. What you’ll get from your tablet depends on how you use it. Using

Wi-Fi and 3G will drain the battery far quicker than merely watching videos

stored on the internal memory, for example.


The App Store boasts the best catalogue of apps, both in terms of numbers and

security, with each app rigorously screened. Google Play, by comparison, has a

more lenient app-admission policy, plus apps can be installed on to an

Android device from any third-party site, which means users must keep

their wits about them when finding new software. Windows Store, lastly,

is still relatively new, and you're likely to find that many of the apps you

want to use are not yet available.

Watch out for cheap Android tablets that don't offer access to

Google Play, since you'll be restricted in the apps and games you can

download. This is also a problem for tablets from Amazon and Barnes

& Noble, which run heavily customised versions of the OS and offer

access only to their own stores.


With tablets and smartphones growing in popularity at extraordinary

pace, mobile platforms are increasingly becoming a target for malware

writers. Apple's locked-down system has done wonders to keep out

the criminals, so this really is a concern only for tablets running Android

and, even then, threats can come into contact with your device only

when you download dubious apps. Don't let this put you off buying an

Android tablet: a plethora of third-party apps from big-name brands in

the PC world, such as Kaspersky and Bitdefender, promise to protect

your device at little or no cost.

Full-size tablets BUYING ADVICE

“As your main

interface with

the tablet,

the screen

is of crucial



REVIEWS Google Nexus 10

Google nexus 10

Google set a new standard for budget tablets with the Nexus 7; now it’s

back with the larger Nexus 10. Is the new benchmark for 10in tablets?

● Price From £319 ● comPany GooGLe ● WeBSiTe


Incredible screen;

fast performance;

great build quality;

low price; Micro

USB charger; latest

Android software


No storage expansion


Easily the best 10in

Android tablet we’ve

seen. Those looking

for an alternative to

the iPad need look no




Google's Nexus 10 was the first Android tablet to launch in 2012 that stands

a real chance of taking on the full-size iPad. Manufactured by Samsung, its

design isn’t too far removed from the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1.

Like most 10in Android tablets, the Nexus 10 is designed to be primarily

used in landscape mode. It has a Gorilla Glass 2 front and a plastic casing.

The build quality is excellent, and the tablet has a soft and grippy feel, but it

doesn't match the quality of the iPad.

The Nexus 10 is comfortable to hold in either landscape or portrait mode.

It's both thinner and lighter than the fourth-generation iPad at 9mm and 604g.

Physical power and volume buttons are located on the top of the tablet, while

ports are found on the sides. Refreshingly, the Nexus 10 charges via Micro USB.

A cover similar to Apple’s Smart Cover can be attached, but at the time of

writing this had yet to go onsale.


This tablet is incredibly fast, with some impressive hardware specifications.

Samsung has equipped it with its own 1.7GHz Exynos 5250, a dual-core

processor based on the ARM Cortex-A15 architecture, plus 2GB of RAM.

In GeekBench the Nexus 10 crushed its rivals with a score of 2,505 points.

Its closest rival, the fourth-generation iPad, managed ‘just’ 1,769. The iPad fared

better in the SunSpider JavaScript test, though, with 854ms versus 1,329ms.

“The Nexus

10’s pixel

density of

300ppi is

nothing short

of incredible”

The Nexus 10’s graphics are competent,

too. It beat the third-gen iPad’s 22fps in

GLBenchmark with a playable 27fps, but the

fourth-gen iPad was faster still with 39fps.

The Nexus 10 is fast to respond

to input, apps open quickly, and

pinch-zooming in the Chrome

browser is silky smooth.

The Nexus 10 is available

with 16- or 32GB of storage,

priced at £319 and £389 respectively.

This can’t be expanded via a

removable memory card slot.

The third- and fourth-gen

iPads boast Retina-quality

screens, but the Nexus 10

sports an even higher resolution

at 2560x1600. Its pixel density of 300ppi is nothing short of incredible. Everything

displayed onscreen looks super-sharp and detailed. We found the screen very

responsive and viewing angles astounding. Combined with a 16:10 aspect ratio

and front-facing speakers, the Nexus is an ideal tablet for watching films.

The Nexus is well connected, with Bluetooth and dual-band 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi

with Mimo antennae and Wi-Fi Direct. There's also NFC and GPS, but no 3/4G.

A Micro HDMI port lets you hook it up to a big-screen TV, too.

A 'Magnetic Pogo pin charger' is found on the bottom edge of the tablet.

At the time of writing, no compatible accessories were available.


If you don't mind looking a bit odd when

taking photos with a 10in slab of glass and

plastic then the Nexus 10 has a good-quality

5Mp rear-facing camera with an LED flash. It

can shoot full-HD (1080p) video footage, too.

There are a few simple settings within

the camera app, such as exposure and white

balance, but you can go to town afterward.

A Photo Sphere mode enables panoramas.

The front-facing camera is capable of

1.9Mp stills and 720p video.


Buying a Nexus device is a sure-fire way to ensure you always have the latest

version of Google's Android operating system. Android 4.2 Jelly Bean offers

the vanilla experience Google intended, with none of the clutter and bloatware

other manufacturers so often add.

The user interface is fluid and has the familiar set of homescreens, permanent

Google search bar and customisable app tray. You can set up the Nexus 10 how

you like with app shortcuts, widgets and wallpapers.

A few new features are found in expandable and actionable notifications,

offline dictation and Google Now. You can also create and easily switch between

multiple user accounts, each with their own apps, widgets and more.

The interface now has two pull-down bars – swipe downwards from the left

side of the screen and you get the regular notification bar, swipe from the right

and you get a new quick settings bar. Certain widgets can now be displayed on

the lockscreen in a rotating carousel, and a Swype-style keyboard is a real boon.

Battery life

The Nexus 10 has a 33.3Wh battery, which promises up to nine hours of

continuous video playback. The tablet has plenty of stamina: even with moderate

to heavy use, we were able to go a solid few days between charges.

Google Nexus 10 REVIEWS


10.1in (2560x1600)

capacitive multitouch

screen; Android 4.2

Jelly Bean; 1.7GHz Exynos

5250 dual-core processor;

Mali T604 graphics; 2GB

RAM; 16GB storage;

802.11b/g/n; Bluetooth;

NFC; 5Mp, 1.9Mp

cameras; Micro USB;

Micro HDMI; 3.5mm

headphone jack; 33.3Wh

lithium-polymer battery;

264x178x8.9mm; 603g


REVIEWS Apple iPad with Retina display

Apple iPad with Retina display

Apple’s fourth-generation iPad, known as the iPad with Retina display, is its

best yet, and is still the benchmark for all large-screen tablets

● Price From £399 ● comPany aPPLe ● WeBSiTe


Excellent IPS

screen; super-fast

performance; great

graphics; latest iOS

software; flawless

design and build


Proprietary dock

connector; no storage



This is Apple’s

quickest iPad yet, and

a tablet in which we

can barely find fault



Just seven months after Apple unveiled the 'new iPad', or iPad 3 as it's better

known, came this iPad with Retina display, aka the fourth-generation iPad or

iPad 4. Those who have already bought an iPad 3 have good reason to be peeved:

this is Apple's fastest iPad yet, and by quite some margin.

Design and build quality

There's no mistaking the iPad 4 from the previous version of Apple's tablet.

Oh wait, yes there is. Once again, Apple has stuck to the same rectangular

shape with rounded corners and edges. There's no change in the dimensions, so

it's 186x241x9.4mm and 652g (662g for the cellular model).

As we've come to expect from Apple, the build quality is exceptional.

Attention to detail is paramount, and the iPad truly feels like a premium device.

There's just one visual change to the design, which comes in the form of a

Lightning dock connector. If you want to use existing 30-pin accessories with

this iPad you'll need to separately purchase a £25 adaptor.


First and foremost in the list of hardware tweaks is a new processor, the

1.39GHz Apple A6X, which is paired with 1GB of RAM. This dual-core processor

with quad-core graphics is said to offer twice the speed of its predecessor, and

double the graphics performance.

“The extra

pace is more

noticeable in


tasks, and


in graphics”

Our benchmarking revealed some

impressive results. In GeekBench 2 we saw

1,769 points, which is signifi cantly faster than

the iPad 3's 750 and has only recently been

beaten by the Google Nexus 10's 2,505.

The iPad 4 retains its crown in the

SunSpider JavaScript test and GLBenchmark

graphics test, however, where it recorded a

speedy 854ms and 39fps respectively, versus

the Nexus 10's 1,329ms and 27fps.

But it's the real-life user experience that's

most important. The iPad 4 is a nippy device,

but we didn't feel it was twice as fast as the iPad 3 in general use. We could see

no difference in general navigation, but the extra pace is more noticeable in

demanding tasks, and particularly in graphics – the iPad 3 was capable of only

22fps in our benchmarks.

Price and storage options are the same as with previous iPads – £399 for the

16GB, Wi-Fi-only version, up to £659 for a 64GB iPad with Wi-Fi and 3G/4G LTE

connectivity. Be wise with your selection, though, since there's no possibility of

storage expansion through memory cards. Bear in mind that apps supporting the

Retina resolution take up considerably more space than previous versions, and

you may fi nd yourself fi lling up 16GB of storage faster than you expected.

The screen hasn't changed either. It's still a 9.7in Retina-quality (1536x2048)

LED-backlit IPS panel, and there's still no faulting this display.

The other big change is 4G LTE connectivity. The iPad 3 was marketed as

4G-capable, but it didn't meet the frequencies in use in the UK so Apple removed

the claim. If you want, and can afford, 4G mobile broadband, then this iPad will

cater for your needs. The iPad mini also supports 4G in the UK.

Other connectivity options, such as Bluetooth, remain the same, but Apple has

upgraded the Wi-Fi with channel bonding.

There's not a great deal of change when it comes to the iPad's cameras either.

Those hoping for an 8Mp rear camera will be disappointed to fi nd it's still the

same 5Mp iSight camera seen in the iPad 3.

It's unsurprising, then, that the photographic capability of the iPad 3 and 4 is

very similar. The iPad forms a useful camera if you don't mind using such a large

device for composition. The only change here is the addition of a back-illuminated

sensor, which should help in low-light situations.

More useful is a 1.2Mp FaceTime HD front-facing webcam, which can also

capture 720p video. This image quality is offers is much improved over that of the

iPad 3, which will not only better your Photo Booth pictures, but be more useful

for Skype and FaceTime calls.


The iPad 4 is preinstalled with the latest version of iOS. This includes the Siri,

voice voice assistant which was introduced to the iPad with the the previous generation

of the tablet. Some recent and notable changes to the operating system

include the switch from Google Maps to Apple's own mapping

system, which hasn't been Apple's proudest moment

– the app has received heavy criticism for its

many failings, so it's handy that third-party

alternatives are available in app form,

and you can access Google

Maps in the Safari browser.

Battery life

Apple touts a double-digit battery

life of 10 hours when browsing the web

over Wi-Fi. It's diffi cult to suggest a typical

usage fi gure, since everyone will use their iPad in

different ways, but we'd go along with that claim.

Apple iPad with Retina display REVIEWS






9.7in (1536x2048

‘Retina’) LED-backlit

multitouch display with

IPS technology; Apple

iOS 6.0; 1.39GHz

Apple A6X dual-core

processor; 1GB RAM;

16/32/64GB storage;

dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n;

Bluetooth 4.0; 3G/4G

LTE; 5Mp iSight rear

camera; 1.2Mp FaceTime

HD front camera,

720p video; 42.5Wh

lithium-polymer battery;

Lightning connector;




REVIEWS Microsoft Surface RT

Microsoft Surface RT

Microsoft’s highly anticipated Surface RT has arrived. Thankfully,

it’s nothing like the dogs previous Windows tablets have been

● Price From £399 ● comPany microSoFT ● WeBSiTe


Well-built; great

(optional) keyboard;

premium feel;

strong performance;

good connectivity;

expandable storage


Few apps; battery life

not as expected


The Surface RT is

a great tablet, but it

lacks a good range

of apps. In time, this

should change



Windows RT, the version for ARM tablets of Microsoft’s flagship OS, is finally

available on a range of devices, including its own Surface RT. The 10.6in

screen provides a fraction more room in which to manoeuvre than the iPad, but

it’s just as thin as Apple’s tablet at 9.5mm. The Surface is easy to squeeze into a

bag, and it isn’t too heavy to carry, at 686g. An optional cover adds around 200g.

In contrast to the rounded iPad, the Surface has a far more angular, businesslike

yet sleek design. In portrait mode, Windows 8’s tile-based interface looks

odd, but held in its preferred landscape mode the Surface promotes wrist strain.

This tablet is very much designed to be operated from a desk.

The kickstand is an important element. A bracket flicks out at the tablet’s rear,

in the process revealing a microSDXC slot, which lets you add up to 64GB more

storage, but the kickstand’s rake isn’t adjustable.

Adding one of two keyboard covers creates what feels like a pint-sized laptop.

These keyboards are a genius invention. The Touch Cover, just 3mm-thick with flat

keys, initially feels strange in use, although you quickly get used to it. Its pressuresensitive

touchpads are fine for casual use, but serious typing demands the Type

Cover. This is double the thickness, but fitted with real keys.

Both keyboard covers click securely into place, and you can even dangle the

Surface from its cover without it hitting the ground.

The Surface RT feels like a premium product right out the box. We’d have

been more impressed in this regard had it not been for an unseemly gap on the





rear, through which the internals are on display.

The VaporMG chassis, made from injection-moulded

magnesium, makes the slab strong and nice to the touch;

although, within minutes, we’d tainted its absorbent

fi nish with scores of fi ngerprints.


Windows RT can’t run regular x86 software, making

it all but useless when faced with legacy Windows

programs. It’s designed to run on ARM processors,

and the Surface is fi tted with a 1.3GHz nVidia

Tegra 3 quad-core chip and 2GB of memory.

There’s precious little software available for

Windows RT, which includes our usual benchmarking

utility. Through Internet Explorer 10.0 we were able to

run SunSpider, in which the Surface recorded 1,024ms in

the Desktop mode and 985ms in the Modern UI. Both

scores trail the iPad’s 854ms.

From the user’s perspective the interface is extremely slick, just like

Windows Phone 8. The interface animations are smooth, and tasks such

as pinch-zooming in Internet Explorer are responsive.

Apps don’t launch as quickly as we’d like, though, and we were often left

staring at Windows 8’s swirly dots for several seconds upon fi rst launch –

behaviour we’ve previously noted in Windows Phone 8.

At its comparable £399 price point, the 32GB Surface has twice the storage of

the 16GB iPad 4. A microSDXC slot lets you add up to 64GB more. There’s also a

64GB Surface RT, which costs £559 (including

the Touch keyboard).

The 1366x768 pixel count is common on

15in laptops, but on a 10.6in tablet it gives a

higher 148ppi pixel density. The screen looks

good at a regular viewing distance, matching

the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1, but it’s no

Retina iPad; look closer and fuzzy edges are

noticeable in reading type.

More than the usual Wi-Fi, the Surface

has two antennae for better wireless

performance, plus Bluetooth. There’s also

a headphone jack, micro-HDMI, full-sized USB, and a keyboard dock and charging

port. The Surface won’t charge over USB, although this port accepts peripherals.

Our experience of battery life bemused us. We started the day with a full

charge, and used the tablet for 90 mins while shooting our video review, and

30 minutes browsing the web. The next day the battery was fl at. Microsoft touts

a seven- to 15-day idle runtime.


Most interaction is via the touchy Modern UI with its tiled design. Learn all the

fi nger gestures and it’s a breeze to navigate. One handy feature is the ability to

confi gure multiple user accounts. Logging into the tablet with our Windows Live

account instantly populated the tablet with our contacts, email and calendar. The

Store lets you buy apps, although many everyday utilities, including Facebook,

Twitter, Gmail, Google Maps and Dropbox, are missing.

The Surface includes a preview of Offi ce 2013, which runs within the Desktop

tile. This makes the Surface a great portable productivity PC.

Bottom line

The Surface RT is a very well built and a cleverly designed tablet. The hardware

is mostly sound and Windows RT runs smoothly, but lacks decent apps.

Microsoft Surface RT REVIEWS



cover clicks

securely into

place, and

you can even

dangle the

Surface from

its cover

without it

hitting the



1.3GHz nVidia Tegra

3 quad-core ARM;

2GB RAM; 32/64GB

fl ash storage; 10.6in

(1366x768) LCD;

802.11a/b/g/n, 2x2 Mimo;

Bluetooth; microSDXC;

USB 2.0; Micro HDMI;

Microsoft Offi ce Home

& Student 2013 RT

(preview); 31.5Wh

fi xed lithium battery;

275x172x9.5mm; 686g


REVIEWS Microsoft Surface RT vs Pro

Microsoft Surface RT vs Pro

Two versions of Microsoft’s Surface tablet are available, and it’s essential that

you understand the differences before making a purchasing decision


Microsoft's Surface is its own-brand tablet, but there are two models,

the Surface RT and Surface Pro. So what are the differences between

the two and which one is right for you?

On the, er, surface, both tablets look pretty similar. But while they have an

almost identical design, they vary wildly in specification and run different versions

of Windows 8. Here, we'll compare the specification of the two Surface tablets

and highlight the differences between them.


It's difficult to tell the difference between the Surface Pro and the RT, since

they share similar dimensions – both are 275x172mm. However, with beefier

components to pack in, the Surface Pro is thicker, at 13.5mm compared to 9.5mm.

It's not a surprise that the Pro is also heavier, at 903g, while the RT weighs 686g.


The Surface RT starts at £399 and goes up to £559. Microsoft has announced only

US pricing for the Pro, which will launch in January with prices starting at $899.


Both tablets have a 10.6in ClearType screen, designed to be used predominantly in

landscape mode. Each has an aspect ratio of 16:9, but there are some differences.

The main difference is resolution: the Surface RT offers 1366x768 pixels,

whereas the Surface Pro has a full-HD resolution of 1920x1080. This means the

Pro's pixel density of 208ppi is greater than the 148ppi offered by the RT.

Another difference is that the Surface RT supports up to five-point multitouch,

while the Surface Pro offers 10-point input.

“The Surface

RT and Pro

look similar,

but they vary

wildly in


and run


versions of

Windows 8”


Running the tablet-specific version of Windows 8, the Surface RT is fitted with the

popular nVidia Tegra 3 quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM. The Surface Pro, by

comparison, has the type of hardware line-up you'd typically find in an Ultrabook.

It boasts a third-generation Intel Ivy Bridge Core i5 processor and 4GB of RAM.

We don’t know the exact processor model, but it will be a dual-core chip with

a clock speed of 1.7GHz and integrated Intel HD 4000 graphics.


Both Surface tablets are available with two storage capacities. The Surface RT

offers 32- or 64GB, while the Surface Pro has 64- or 128GB.

They each come with a microSDXC card slot for expanding this capacity,

and a full-size USB port is useful for attaching an external hard drive.


There's no difference when it comes to the cameras. Both the Surface Pro and

Surface RT have 720p front and rear cameras. The rear camera is angled such that

it's level when the tablet is propped up with its kickstand.


Connectivity options are very similar for the Surface Pro and Surface RT.

Both have Bluetooth 4.0, a headphone jack, a microSDXC card slot and

a 2x2 Mimo antennae for 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi.

However, the Surface RT offers USB 2.0 and Micro HDMI, while the Surface

Pro one-ups it with USB 3.0 and Mini DisplayPort connections.


The software each tablet runs is perhaps the most important distinction. The Pro

runs the full version on Windows 8, as seen on laptops and PCs, while the Surface

RT runs Windows RT, the version of Windows 8 designed for ARM processors.

Operating in the tiled Modern UI, the tablets are no different; apps for this

part of the operating system can be downloaded from the Windows Store.

It's in desktop mode that you'll notice a real difference. On the Surface RT,

this is merely an environment in which you can run Office and Internet Explorer,

and access the Control Panel and File Explorer.

On the Pro, which isn’t preinstalled with Office,

you can run legacy x86 programs.


The Surface RT has a 31.5Wh battery, while

the Surface Pro has a higher-capacity 42Wh

pack. Despite this, the Pro offers half the

battery life of the RT – Microsoft claims it

runs to around four hours.

Bottom line

The Surface Pro is our preferred choice.

The full-HD screen, extra storage,

laptop-like spec and ability

to install any Windows

software gives it

the edge.

Microsoft Surface RT vs Pro REVIEWS

“The Surface

Pro has

the type of


line-up you’d

expect to

find in an



REVIEWS Nexus 10 vs Surface RT vs iPad

Nexus 10 vs Surface RT vs iPad

The Nexus 10, Surface RT and fourth-gen iPad represent the best of each

tablet operating system, but how do they stack up against each other?


Smartphone and tablet users tend to fall into two categories: those who

are diehard Apple fans and seemingly willing to pay any price for its

fashionable hardware, and those who prefer the semi-open approach of

Google's Android operating system and the less costly hardware on which it

runs. Now there's a third category, which champions Windows RT.

In most cases, people choose an operating system and stick with it. The OS

feels familiar, you already know your media collection is supported, and if you

have more than one such device you can expect them to play well together. So,

if you have an iPhone you'll probably want an iPad; if you have a Galaxy S III or

Nexus 4 you'll likely want the Nexus 10; and if you're a Windows Phone user,

perhaps the most loyal of the lot, you'll almost certainly be eyeing up the Surface.

But what if you don't have a particular preference in terms of the operating

system? Here, we put head-to-head the best each platform has to offer.


Microsoft's Surface RT starts at £399 with 32GB of storage, whereas this amount

of cash will net you only a 16GB iPad. Add a Touch Cover,

though, and the Surface RT matches Apple's 32GB slate at

£479. The Nexus 10 offers great value, with a 16GB model

costing £319, and 32GB £389.


Somewhat surprisingly, the iPad is the chunkiest tablet

in this trio. The Nexus 10 is the slimmest, at 8.9mm;

the Surface RT is also slightly thinner than the iPad at

9.3mm versus 9.4mm. The Nexus is a relative

lightweight, at 603g, although

the 662g iPad and 678g

Surface don't tip the scales

much further.

“In most

cases, people

choose and


system and

stick with it”


Every full-size iPad released by Apple has had a 9.7in screen, which is ever so

slightly smaller than that of the 10.1in Nexus and 10.6in Surface. Until the Nexus

10 launched, the iPad had by far the best tablet screen resolution on the market.

The Surface RT's 1366x768, 148ppi ClearType display looks comparatively low-res

in the face of the iPad's beautiful 2048x1536, 264ppi Retina-quality screen, but the

Nexus 10 is the real star of the show here, with a 2560x1600, 300ppi display.

Processor and memory

It's difficult to compare the Surface's nVidia Tegra 3 quad-core chip with the

dual-core 1.39GHz A6X CPU selected by Apple and 1.7GHz ARM Cortex

A-15 preferred by Google, since our usual benchmarks are incompatible with

Microsoft's tablet.

In Geekbench, the iPad scored 1,769 points, and the Nexus 10 recorded a

massive 2,505 – the best we've seen yet. In real-world use, the Surface felt like

the slower tablet – not that it's by any means slow. Animations are smooth and

demanding tasks, such as pinch-zooming in Internet

Explorer and Bing Maps, is responsive. This is no

doubt helped by the 2GB of RAM.

On the iPad and Nexus 10 we also ran the

SunSpider JavaScript benchmark and GLBenchmark

graphics test. The iPad fared better in both, recording

854ms against the Nexus 10's 1,329ms in SunSpider,

and 39fps versus 27fps in GLBenchmark. The latter

result is perhaps to be expected, given that the

iPad sports quad-core graphics. However, it's

equipped with just 1GB of RAM, whereas the

Nexus 10 has 2GB.


Neither iPad nor Nexus allow you to add to the storage capacity through

removable media, so it’s important to carefully calculate what capacity you’re

likely to need – the iPad is available from 16- to 64GB, the Nexus is 16- or 32GB.

The Surface RT, by comparison, has a microSDXC slot, which lets you add up to

64GB to its 32- or 64GB of internal storage.


On the photography side of things the Nexus 10 and iPad 4 have a similar setup,

and both are better than that of the Surface RT in our subjective tests. Both iPad

and Nexus have a 5Mp rear-facing camera capable of 1080p video, and front-facing

webcams – the Nexus' offers a slightly higher megapixel rating, at 1.9Mp versus

1.2Mp. Meanwhile, the Surface supports only 720p video, but when propped up

with its kickstand the front-facing cam is cleverly angled such that it's level.


Apple's latest iPad replaces the 30-pin docking port with a Lightning connector.

This means existing iPad accessories will work only with a £25 adaptor. Both the

Nexus 10 and Microsoft Surface RT are more user-friendly in this regard: the

Nexus 10 charges via Micro USB and offers a Micro HDMI slot, while the Surface

RT has a full-size USB 2.0 port, a microSDXC slot and an HD video-out port.

All three tablets support Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11n Wi-Fi, although the Nexus

10 and iPad can cope with both 2.4- and 5GHz frequency bands. The Nexus also

caters for NFC, while the iPad supports 3G and 4G LTE in the UK.


The iPad has a 42.5Wh battery, while the Nexus 10 has a lower-capacity 33.3Wh

pack and the Surface’s is lower still, at 31.5Wh. The results are as you would

expect: the iPad can keep going for around 10 hours, while the Nexus can manage

nine and the Surface eight.

Nexus 10 vs Surface RT vs iPad REVIEWS

“The Surface

RT’s display

looks low-res

in the face

of the iPad’s



screen, but the

Nexus 10 is

the real star of

the show here”


REVIEWS Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1

Samsung Galaxy note 10.1

With pen input and a highly customised version of Android 4.0, the Samsung

Galaxy Note 10.1 distinguishes itself in a crowded market

● Price £500 ● comPany SamSUnG ● WeBSiTe


S Pen stylus;

very fast graphics

performance; good

speakers; Samsung

TouchWiz interface


Screen is a mixed

bag; huge number

of preinstalled apps


The S Pen helps the

note stand out in a

crowded market, but

it won’t appeal to all




With pen input and a highly customised version of Android 4.0, the Galaxy

Note 10.1 distinguishes itself in a crowded market. You’d be forgiven

for confusing the Note 10.1 with the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1, as both look extremely

similar. Both are 10in Android tablets, and both come in white or grey.

S Pen stylus

What’s unique about the Note, just as with the original 5.3in Galaxy Note, is its

stylus. The screen responds to your fingers as usual, but also works like a Wacom

tablet when you write with the pressure-sensitive stylus. Whether you need

a stylus or not is debatable, but there’s no doubt that if you need to annotate

documents or draw onscreen, it’s something no other 10in tablet offers.

When you remove the stylus from the bottom of the Note 10.1 a shortcut

bar appears where you can launch, among other apps, Samsung’s Note app. This is

probably the best of all those preloaded, letting you write notes, sketch and even

write formulae. Text and equations can then be converted to editable text.

Hardware and build

Inside the Note is a fast 1.4GHz quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM.

This version has 16GB of storage, but a 32GB model is also available.

There’s built-in GPS, Bluetooth and also Wi-Fi direct for sharing photos

and other files with compatible devices.

“Whether you

need a stylus

or not is

debatable, but

it’s something

no other 10in

tablet offers”

The Note 10.1 has a distinctive, but not especially premium look. The tablet is

neither the thinnest nor the lightest tablet, but it compares respectably to others

in its size class. It measures 256.7x175.3x8.9mm, and weighs 583g – noticeably

lighter than the iPad. It’s designed with the intent of holding it horizontally in two

hands, with the front-facing 1.9Mp camera centred above the display, and stereo

speakers mounted on either side.

We like the front-firing stereo speakers, which are surprisingly loud and

well-positioned for holding the Note and watching videos. HD clips look great,

too, and motion is crisp. There’s no USB in or HDMI out port, but a microSD

slot lets you add up to 64GB of extra storage and, oddly, an infrared emitter

means you can control your TV.

The screen is a mixed bag. Despite having the same 1280x800-pixel resolution

as the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1, it’s sharper and has more vivid colours. Viewing angles

are good, too. Next to an iPad, though, it looks inferior.


The Note 10.1 excelled in our lab tests, setting new benchmarks for graphics

performance on Android tablets, and for web browsing across all tablets. In

SunSpider, for example, it blasted through the test in 1.2 seconds, compared

with the Google Nexus 7’s 1.7 seconds.


With the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1, Samsung offers its most tailored operating

system and locked-and-loaded app selection yet. Samsung ships the Note 10.1

with Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich, but Jelly Bean is expected to be rolled

out to devices in the near future.

Like other Samsung devices, this tablet is not for Android purists. Most of the

overlays and modifications make for a more friendly experience. Samsung does

its most far-reaching TouchWiz overhaul of the Android OS seen on one of its

tablets yet. Among the tweaks: it replaces such basics as the Settings menu and

the layout of the Notify launcher. The trade-off is you get more control over

many options, but in other cases Samsung clutters the interface. Also changed

is the stock Android keyboard, which is now a Samsung keyboard with off-white

buttons with black letters, and a dedicated number row.

Some of our favourite additions include the resizable pop-up video player

(which launches a video into a separate overlay window that can be placed

anywhere on the screen) and the dual-screen option that Samsung’s enabled

for side-by-side views. Currently, the dual-screen mode is available for just

six apps: Samsung’s own native S Note app, the web browser, video player,

a Note-enhanced version of Polaris Office, and Google’s Gallery and email apps.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 REVIEWS


10.1in (1280x800) PLS

TFT capacitive multitouch

screen; Android 4.0 Ice

Cream Sandwich; 1.4GHz

dual-core processor;

1GB RAM; 64GB storage;

microSD; dual-band

802.11a/b/g/n; Wi-Fi

Direct; Wi-Fi channel

bonding; Bluetooth 3.0;

A-GPS; Glonass; USB

2.0; 3Mp rear, 2Mp front

cameras, 1080p video;

3.5mm headphone jack;




REVIEWS Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1

Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 offers Ice Cream Sandwich at a much

lower price than its predecessor – which makes it a bargain, right?

● Price £299 ● comPany SamSUnG ● WeBSiTe


Relatively cheap;

SD expansion slot;

thinner and lighter

than the iPad;

1080p video capture


Slow; dual-core

processor; grainy

images; no flash


We loved the original

10.1, and the Tab

2 is even better, but

there are now better

options available



The first-generation Galaxy Tab 10.1 was the iPad's closest rival of the time. If

you didn’t want an iPad, you bought the Tab 10.1. But Samsung has a lot more

competition in the large-tablet market now, including from its own Note 10.1.

Sporting a 1GHz dual-core TI Omap 4430 processor, the Tab 2 10.1 has a

10.1in, 1200x800-pixel capacitative multitouch display. Onboard storage is limited

to 16GB this time around (the previous Tab 10.1 also had a 32GB storage option),

but there’s an SD card slot for expansion. A 3G version is also available.

There are some cosmetic changes from the original, but they are surprisingly

similar devices. Indeed, the only major upgrade the Tab 2 10.1 can claim over the

original 10in tablet is its operating system: whereas the Tab 10.1 was one of the

first major players to run Android 3.1 Honeycomb, the second-gen Android tablet

sports Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. We’d like to see 4.2 Jelly Bean, though.

Build quality

The most notable change is in the dimensions. The Tab 2 is marginally thicker, and

has a metallic finish to its back. We measured it at 9.7mm; it’s also a few grammes

heavier than the original Tab. It’s both thinner and lighter than the iPad.

The black bezel is slightly thinner, but the screen remains the same size.

Whereas the speakers previously sat recessed in the side of the Tab, now they

are front-facing. The SD card slot sits at the top, next to the power and volume

switches. To the right on the top is the 3.5mm headphone jack.


the Galaxy

Tab 2 10.1

feels like a


device than its


Subjectively, the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 feels like

a better-quality device than its predecessor.

The Tab 2 uses the same colourful and bright,

1280x800 capacitative multitouch display. Viewing

angles are pretty decent, too, although the

screen is prone to finger smudges. Don't expect

Apple-like detail levels, though. This Tab offers

just 149ppi, and you’ll notice the difference next

to the Retina-quality iPad.


The Tab’s dual-core processor and 1GB of RAM

pales next to tablets such as Samsung’s own

Galaxy Note 10.1, and the Nexus 7 and 10, all

of which are quad-core devices. It's a fast enough

device, and we had no problems in terms of general navigation, web browsing and

even HD video playback, but there is no doubt that the Nexus devices are much

zippier. Waking up from standby takes perceptively longer, as does opening apps.

In Geekbench the Tab 2 scored a disappointing 908 points. This is by no means

disastrous but, to put it in context, the £159 Nexus 7 scored an average of 1,561.

The 7,000mAh battery held up well in our tests, comfortably dealing with a full

working day of use, which chimes with Samsung's claimed nine hours of battery

life. In our video-looping test it held out for five hours 48 minutes.

In the SunSpider JavaScript test, which measures web-browsing performance,

the Tab 2 10.1 averaged 2,369ms. This is a pretty poor result.


The Tab 2 has a 3Mp rear-facing camera with no flash. We're not sure how many

people would feel comfortable holding up a 10in tablet to take a photo, but we're

assuming it's not many. And that's probably

just as well: the Tab's camera is perfectly

adequate for the occasional snap, but it's

never going to replace your dedicated camera.

Images are grainy and flat. However, the 1080p

full-HD video recording is worth having.


The biggest update from the original Tab 10.1

is the move from Honeycomb to Ice Cream

Sandwich, although this has since been rolled

out to the original Tab, too. Android 4.0 is

a much more mature tablet OS, offering a level of slickness previously absent

from Android. It's customisable, stable and consumer-friendly. The interface looks

neater, crisper and sleeker throughout.

Android 4.0 offers new features, including notifications that can be accessed

from the lock screen, better text input with a spell-checker and enhanced email

handling. There’s also a data-usage monitor.

Typically, Samsung has laid over the top of ICS its TouchWiz UI. Honestly,

we could live without Samsung's apps dominating our home screen, but that at

least is customisable. And although Google Play Movies & TV is a better app than

Samsung's Video Hub, the latter contains a lot more content, and the opportunity

to buy, rather than simply rent movies.

A year ago we liked the Tab 10.1. For the second generation the hardware

specs remain broadly the same, but it’s £100 cheaper. We love the bright screen,

and adding SD support and 1080p video capture are both improvements. The

problem is the competition: the Nexus 7, in particular, has changed the game for

Android tablets, and is a little more than half the price of the Tab (albeit with a

smaller screen, half the storage and no front-facing camera). Meanwhile, the iPad

remains a cut above for £100 more than the Tab 2 10.1. But if you absolutely

require a 10in Android tablet, spend £20 more on the Nexus 10.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 REVIEWS


10.1in (1280x800)

capacitive multitouch PLS

screen; Android 4.0 Ice

Cream Sandwich; 1GHz

TI Omap 4430 processor;

1GB RAM; 16GB storage;

microSD; Wi-Fi; Bluetooth

3.0; 3Mp rear camera;




REVIEWS Acer Iconia Tab A510

Acer Iconia Tab A510

The games are over, but this special Olympic Edition tablet with winning

battery life could still be a gold medallist in your eyes



Usable performance;

strong battery life;

good image quality;

expandable storage


Olympic branding;

heavy; glossy screen;

poor camera quality


The Iconia Tab is

looking dated now the

Olympics are over, as

is its spec. This tablet

simply can’t compete

with newer rivals



Style-wise, the A510 looks and feels much like the original iPad, although its

10.1in screen has a wider aspect ratio. The resolution is higher at 1280x800,

but this is standard for an 10in Ice Cream Sandwich tablet.

At 680g and 11mm thick, it's no featherweight and isn't all that comfortable to

hold after a while. The plastic back panel looks like metal, but lacks the reassuring

feel you get with real aluminium. This panel proudly displays the Olympic rings,

but these look dated now the games have fi nished.

A quad-core 1.4GHz nVidia Tegra 3 T30 processor powers the A510. This

quad-core chip means Android runs smoothly, even with several apps open. It's

also adept at playing games – even intensive titles such as Grand Theft Auto III.

The Acer averaged 1,258 points in GeekBench, making it a fair bit slower

than the Toshiba AT300. In real-world usage, though, web pages load quickly and

browsing the web is a decent experience.

Image quality is good, but the screen's brightness is average and colours are

slightly more muted than some Android tablets. Viewing angles aren't restrictive;

it's the glossy, refl ective screen fi nish that's the main problem.

There's 32GB of internal memory, which can be expanded via a microSD slot,

while a micro-HDMI output lets you hook up the A510 to a large-screen telly.

The rear 5Mp camera and front-facing 1Mp twin aren't great. Technically, the

rear snapper can capture 1080p footage, but the resulting quality is good only for

Facebook or YouTube. Similarly, photos lack detail, and the sweep panorama mode

produced blurry images with conspicuous joins.

Acer has made several changes to Android, including an HTC-style lock screen

where you can drag the lock icon to one of four customisable apps to instantly

launch them. Another addition is the ring interface, which is launched by a circular

icon in the bottom status bar. This also provides four shortcuts, which are

customisable, but default to screenshot, Gallery, Settings and Browser.

Both Wi-Fi (802.11n) and Bluetooth 2.1 are integrated, as is a GPS receiver.

Battery life is respectable at 9.5 hours of video playback.

“The A510


displays the

Olympic rings,

but these look

dated now

the games

are over”


10.1in (1280x800)

capacitive multiotouch

screen; Android 4.0 Ice

Cream Sandwich; 1.4GHz

nVidia Tegra 3 T30

quad-core processor; 1GB

RAM; 16/32GB storage;

microSD; 802.11n;

Bluetooth 2.1; GPS;

259x10x15mm; 680g

Toshiba AT300

This quad-core Android tablet is fast and offers strong battery life,

but it falls down in other areas



Well-built; good

battery life;

reasonably fast;

full-size SDXC slot


No 3G version;

proprietary dick

connector; poor

camera quality


Good performance

and battery life

are promising, but

this Toshiba can’t

compete with rival

10in Android tablets


Toshiba’s 10.1in AT300 tablet is the company’s best yet and runs Android 4.0

Ice Cream Sandwich. This is the 16GB model; a 32GB is also available.

It’s well built, and feels solid and well-balanced in the hands. We like its

rounded corners and tapered screen edges, but it’s a bit bland.

The screen has a now-standard

1280x800-pixel resolution, and a bright

LED backlight. Viewing angles are reasonable,

but contrast isn’t wonderful.

A quad-core processor makes for a slick

experience when swiping between Android

Home screens, and also when playing HD

video or games. In Geekbench, the AT300

scored an impressive 1,575 points. It also

completed the SunSpider JavaScript test in

2,056ms – not the best, but still pretty quick.

There are lots of ports and connections,

including Micro-USB and Micro HDMI, which allow you to connect external

storage and a large-screen TV. A full-size SDXC card slot means you could even

pop in the card from your camera to share and edit photos.

You also get 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 3.0 and GPS. A proprietary dock

connector and an inability to charge from a USB port are disadvantages.

The front-facing 2Mp camera provides adequate quality for video chat.

At the back is a 5Mp camera with a useful LED fl ash. There’s considerable shutter

lag and the screen isn’t bright enough to use as a viewfi nder in sunny conditions.

You get media-player and fi le-manager apps. There’s also a Toshiba Places

app where you can buy music, videos and games, but Google Play is better.

We were impressed with the Toshiba AT300’s battery life. The tablet easily

lasted a day of use in our experience, and it managed to endure almost nine

hours in our video-playback test.

Toshiba AT300 REVIEWS


10.1in (1280x800)

capacitive multitouch

screen; Android 4.0.3 Ice

Cream Sandwich; 1.3GHz

nVidia Tegra 3; 1GB

RAM; 16/32GB storage;

SDXC; 802.11b/g/n;

Bluetooth 3.0; 2Mp, 5Mp

cameras; 720p video; GPS;

260x179x8.9mm; 593g


REVIEWS GoClever Tab R974

Goclever Tab R974

It’s cheap, but is it cheerful? The GoClever Tab R974 is proof that –

in the tablet market, at least – you generally get what you pay for

● Price £179 ● comPany GocLeVer ● WeBSiTe


Good performance;

strong connectivity;

cheap price; decent

9.7in screen; access

to Google Play


Cheap construction;

poor speaker


The GoClever

Tab R974 is very

obviously a budget

tablet, but its

performance is usable

and the screen is good



The Nexus 7, Kindle Fire HD and Barnes & Noble Nook HD are all proof that

decent budget tablets do exist. But these tablets are all loss-leaders, designed

to encourage content sales or boost Android platform popularity; the GoClever

is not. Unlike the Fire and Nook, though, it does offer access to Google Play.

Mainly plastic in construction, the rear panel has a faux metallic silver finish

that gives a fleeting impression of quality. It's by no means a thin device, but the

edges taper off and make it feel thinner than it is. The screen bezel is also larger

than those of premium tablets, but our main concern with the GoClever's build

is the amount of flex in its plastic sides, and the loose plastic construction of the

volume switch and on/off button.

The GoClever has some great connectivity options, including micro USB, mini

HDMI and a microSD slot. The latter lets you boost the 16GB storage with a

further 32GB. There are front- and back-facing 2Mp cameras; both capture video.

A single 1W speaker is found on the rear, situated exactly where you'd

typically place your hand, so any movie watching or music listening will likely

make use of the 3.5mm headphone jack.

The GoClever boasts a 9.7in, TFT capacitative touchscreen LCD. Its 1024x768

resolution makes it far from the crispest screen we've seen, but we found it zippy

and responsive, with decent viewing angles.

Given the low price, the specification isn't bad. The CPU is a RockChip

RK3066 dual-core Cortex A9 chip running at 1.6GHz, and it's backed with a

healthy 1GB of DDR3 memory. There's also 802.11n wireless, an accelerometer

and a 6,800mAh lithium-polymer battery.

Subjectively, the GoClever Tab R974 feels like a responsive and snappy

device, and this is born out by our performance benchmarks. In GeekBench the

GoClever recorded 1,178 points, and we saw 1,267ms in the SunSpider JavaScript

test, placing it not too far behind tablets costing a lot more.

The GoClever Tab R974 runs Android 4.1.1 Jelly Bean. This is no longer the

very latest Android OS, but it's as near as dammit.

“Given the

low price, the



isn’t bad”


9.7in (1024x768)

capacitive multitouch

screen; Android 4.1.1 Jelly

Bean; 1.6GHz RockChip

RK3066 processor; 1GB

RAM; 16GB storage;

802.11b/g/n; 2x 2Mp

cameras; mini HDMI 1.4;

micro USB 2.0; 6,800mAh

lithium-polymer battery

Disgo 9104

Before the Google Nexus 10 came along, the Disgo 9104 was the

first budget large-screen Android tablet actually worth a look

● Price £179 ● comPany DiSGo ● WeBSiTe


Very good IPS

screen; cheap price;

strong build quality;

supports Flash


Poor performance;

short battery life;

no access to Google

Play app store


Well-built with a good

screen, the Disgo is a

good budget option,

but leagues behind the

Google Nexus 10


Many will write off the Disgo as a no-name brand, but the 9104 is worth a

second look. It's the first budget Ice Cream Sandwich tablet to emulate the

iPad's 9.7in screen, but this 1024x768 capacitive IPS screen has a 4:3 ratio.

The screen itself is an impressive panel in such a cheap tablet: relatively bright,

with good contrast and wide viewing angles. It isn't on a par with the iPad 2's

screen, and the resolution is yesterday's, but don't forget that low price.

Build quality is significantly better than that of Disgo's 8104 (a tablet the

company is likely to want to forget), and rivals Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1.

However, the Galaxy has a plastic back, whereas the Disgo has an aluminium panel.

The 9104 is reasonably light at 630g and feels thin, despite measuring 10.4mm.

All the buttons and ports are consigned to the right edge: power and volume

controls sit above the power socket, mini-USB and mini-HDMI connectors.

There's also a 3.5mm headphone output and a microSD slot for boosting the

16GB of internal storage. A rear-facing 2Mp camera is twinned with a front-facing

VGA version for video chat.

It seems the corners have instead been cut on the inside. The Disgo’s 1.2GHz

single-core processor is paired with 1GB of RAM but, even with Android 4.0

installed, the 9104 isn't as slick as we'd like.

Disgo has personalised Ice Cream Sandwich so it feels more welcoming to

new users; as this is likely to be a first tablet, that's a good thing. Shortcuts to the

browser, email, camera and settings apps are on the desktop. There's no access to

the Google Play store, though, and no Google apps are installed by default.

Browsing the web is one of the 9104's strengths. There's enough resolution to

view the desktop versions of websites, and Flash is supported.

Battery life isn't fantastic, with the 7,000mAh slab lasting just under five hours

in our video-looping test. It's better than most budget laptops, though, and fine

as long as you carry the power supply with you.

Wireless 802.11n is supported, but there’s no GPS receiver or Bluetooth.

This is worth noting if case you planned to use the 9104 as a satnav.

Disgo 9104 REVIEWS

“Many will

write off the

Disgo as a


brand, but

the 9104

is worth a

second look”


9.7in (1024x768)

capacitive multitouch

IPS screen; Android 4.0

Ice Cream Sandwich;

1.2GHz Cortex A8

processor; 1GB RAM;

16GB storage; 802.11bgn;

2Mp, 0.3Mp cameras;

mini-USB; mini-HDMI;

243x190x10.4mm; 630g


REVIEWS Archos 101 XS

Archos 101 XS

This 8mm tablet is one of the thinnest we’ve seen, and comes with

a keyboard that doubles as a protective cover



Fast performance;

relatively cheap;

keyboard cover;



Build concerns;

glossy screen


This is Archos’ best

tablet to date, and

a strong rival to the

Asus Transformer Pad

300. We have some

concerns with the

build quality, however



The 101 is the fi rst Android tablet from Archos’ new XS range and one of the

thinnest we’ve seen at just 8mm. It comes with a keyboard that converts into

a cover when you’re not using the tablet, but there’s no battery in the keyboard.

The cover is held in place by strong magnets, and more magnets hold the XS

when docked into the keyboard. A small stand can adjust the tablet’s tilt angle.

Despite the reasonable price, the 101 XS has a fast dual-core processor and

1GB of RAM. The 10.1in screen has a standard resolution of 1280x800. There’s

also 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, and a front-facing camera and mono

speaker. You get 16GB of storage and can add up to 64GB with a microSD card.

Inevitably, there’s a trade-off between thinness and rigidity; the thing that

concerns us the most is that pressing too hard on the screen left causes ripples.

We didn’t like the power and volume buttons lying fl ush with the edge of the

case either, which makes them diffi cult to locate.

On the side are microSD, Micro-USB and Micro HDMI ports, plus a

headphone socket. At the bottom is an X-pin connector, which can be used

to attach accessories such as a speaker dock.

In our benchmarks, the Archos 101 XS recorded 1,407 points in Geekbench

and 1,575ms in the SunSpider JavaScript test. It’s a fast tablet.

The 10.1in screen’s glossy fi nish means it’s very refl ective, and its average

brightness prevents you from minimising refl ections when ramping it up to its

maximum setting. Colours, viewing angles and contrast are all decent, however.

The keyboard dock is one of the main reasons you might want to buy the XS,

and it frees up a lot of screen space in comparison with an onscreen version. Its

separated keys have just enough travel to give feedback for quick typing. There

are also plenty of shortcut keys, so you almost never need to touch the screen.

The keyboard works well when typing with the tablet propped up on a desk,

but held on our lap it failed to register keystrokes when typing with normal force.

The 101 XS is Archos’ best tablet to date, and its lower price and less fi ddly

keyboard make it a strong rival to the Asus Transformer Pad 300.

“The 101 XS

is Archos’ best

tablet to date”


10.1in (1280x800)

capacitive multitouch

screen; Android 4.0.3 Ice

Cream Sandwich; 1.5GHz

TI Omap 4470 dual-core

processor; Imagination

Technologies PowerVR

SGX54 graphics; 1GB

RAM; 16GB storage;

microSD; 802.11b/g/n;

Bluetooth 4.0; 1.2Mp

camera, 720p video; GPS;

Micro-USB; Micro HDMI;

3.5mm headphone jack;

271x169x8mm; 631g

Lenovo Ideapad Yoga

This Lenovo is one of a new breed of tablet-laptop hybrids, inspired by

Intel’s Ultrabook design and running Windows 8

● Price FrOM £999 ● cOMPany LenOVO ● WeBSiTe


Flexible design; fast

for an Ultrabook;

speedy startup time;

capable of playing

Windows games;

fantastic screen;

USB 3.0; great



Heavy to hold in

tablet mode; battery

life isn’t the longest


A stylish, powerful,

and flexible computer


The Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga is aptly named - it's flexible in more than one way.

Not only can this Ultrabook be used as a laptop and a tablet, its screen can

swivel around the hinge 360 degrees to maximise the tablet experience.

Our review model has a third-generation Intel Core i5-3317U processor,

4GB of RAM, and a 128GB solid-state drive. There’s also a 13in multitouch screen,

a 720p webcam and built-in Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n, It runs Windows 8.

The Yoga scored 60 out of 100 in WorldBench 8, and 2,115 in PCMark7

– good scores for an Ultrabook. Plus, it has the fastest startup time of any

computer we've tested, at just 7.9 seconds.

Its GPU is integrated to the processor, yet the Yoga can play most games

acceptably well. In Dirt Showdown (1366x768, Low), it recorded a playable

30.1fps. Battery life isn't amazing, though, at five hours 37 minutes.

The Lenovo's design is what really makes it stand out from the crowd.

It's a laptop and tablet in one, which can be folded into a variety of positions

– and it feels sturdy and durable in all.

The Yoga's silver-grey exterior has a soft, rubbery finish, which extends to the

wristrest. The screen features a glass-to-glass 'bezel-less' design that makes it look

more like a tablet, with a small button Windows button on the bottom that lets

you switch between the Modern UI and traditional desktop.

This 13in glossy 10-point touchscreen has a native resolution of 1600x900

pixels. It’s a pleasure to look at and to touch. Text and images are crisp and clear,

and colours are bright and vibrant. The screen gets very bright, although it’s still

a little difficult to use in bright or direct sunlight.

Ports include one USB 3.0, one USB 2.0, HDMI, a combo mic/headphone jack,

an SD card reader and buttons for adjusting the volume and locking the screen

orientation in tablet mode.

The Yoga has a full-size keyboard and a button-less glass trackpad. The

keyboard is comfortable to type on and easy to use, with great tactile feedback

and nicely spaced keys. The trackpad is smooth, accurate and responsive.

Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga REVIEWS


IdeaPad Yoga

is flexible in

more than

one way”


Intel Core i5-3317U

processor; Windows 8; 4GB

RAM; 128GB SSD; 13in

(1600x900) multitouch

screen; 802.11b/g/n; 1x

USB 3.0; 1x USB 2.0;

HDMI; SD slot; combo

mic/headphone jack; 720p

webcam; 16.9mm; 1.47kg

(all specs as tested)


BUYING ADVICE Mini tablets

Which mini tablet?

Large-screen tablets are great for watching movies and playing games,

but chucking them into a jacket pocket or bag can be a bit of a stretch.

Here’s what to look for in a smaller slate



couple of years ago it was easy to choose which tablet to buy. There

was very little choice, and the iPad was pretty much the only sensible

option. Now, though, there are hundreds of tablets on the market,

and it’s particularly tricky to decide which 7- to 8in model is right for you.

Here, we explain what you should look for in a tablet.

The first step is to work out what will be your primary use for the tablet.

This will help you to choose a model based on such factors as weight,

physical size, storage capacity, screen resolution and quality, features such

as GPS receivers and more.

Operating system

A tablet’s OS is important: it determines which apps are available, as well as

whether the tablet can handle your existing documents and multimedia files.

Buy a ‘vanilla’ Android tablet such as the Nexus 7, and you’ll have a versatile

piece of hardware that has access to the well-stocked Google Play app store.

However, unlike Apple’s App Store, Google Play is not a curated environment.

The quality of the apps it offers can vary wildly, and some may even contain

malware. It’s important to keep your wits about you when downloading apps,

checking out the Permissions requested and reading user reviews. For a selection

of apps verified by our own TabletWorld editors, head to our Best Android Apps

Advisor at

Wi-Fi-enabled portable

storage drives, such as the

Kingston Wi-Drive, can

offer a workaround if you

run low on storage space

Conversely, unlike Apple’s locked-down system, you’re free to drag-and-drop

files on to an Android tablet from any computer, which is more convenient than

using iTunes. That’s not to say everything you upload to your tablet will be in a

format it supports, and it won’t always ‘just work’ as it would with an iPad.

Apple doesn’t support Flash, so an iPad won’t play the videos on the BBC’s

news website, for example. Neither do some Android tablets – notably those

running Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. While websites are slowly moving to HTML5,

many still rely on Flash. In many cases, though, a workaround is available in the

form of a third-party app.

Other tablets, such as Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD, run a custom version of

Android and don’t allow you to access Google Play. The Fire HD offers Amazon’s

app store, from which you can buy books and magazines, and Amazon-owned

Lovefilm for video streaming.


Some tablets have a memory card slot that allows you to add capacity when

their storage starts to run low. If such a facility isn’t available, as is the case with

the iPad and iPad mini, you will need to work out how much storage space you’re

likely to need and purchase a suitable model. If you think you’ve done this and still

run into storage-capacity problems, workarounds are offered by Wi-Fi-enabled

hard drives, such as Kingston’s Wi-Drive, and cloud storage, but it’s far more

convenient to have all your files in one place and not be reliant on an active

internet connection.

In general terms, 16GB is a sensible minimum, but for those who are likely to

install lots of apps and keep a movie collection on their device, 32GB is better.


All tablets have Wi-Fi and most have Bluetooth connectivity, but 3G/4G access

is usually available as an optional extra (or not at all). If you need to get online

on the move, a 3G- or 4G-capable tablet makes sense; if you’ll only ever use

the tablet in your home or office, it’s probably a waste of money – the cellular

version of the iPad mini is £100 more expensive than the Wi-Fi version, for


If you later change your mind, you can always tether the tablet to your

smartphone and utilise its internet connection, or connect to a 3G/4G hotspot

(often known as MiFi) that has a data SIM inside.

Look for Bluetooth 4.0 for backward compatibility and lower power

consumption with the latest supported devices.


Just about any tablet can cope with firing off the odd

email and chatting on Facebook, but some cheaper

tablets skimp on processing power and can be

frustrating in use. Apps take longer to load

and demanding websites, such as those

that make heavy use of Flash, can

bring an underpowered

tablet to its knees.

Mini tablets BUYING ADVICE


websites, such

as those that

make heavy

use of Flash,

can bring an


tablet to its



REVIEWS Google Nexus 7

Google nexus 7

Built by Asus, Google’s own-brand Nexus 7 was the first high-end tablet with

an affordable price tag, giving a boost to the Android platform’s popularity

● Price From £159 ● comPany GooGLe ● WeBSiTe


Excellent value;

high-quality IPS

touchscreen; strong

performance; runs

the latest Google

Android software


Can’t expand the

storage capacity


The best budget tablet

we’ve seen yet, and an

excellent choice if you

don’t want or need a

1oin tablet



Google’s Asus-manufactured Nexus 7 is still the benchmark for

inexpensive 7in tablets. It runs Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and has a

7in (1280x800) screen. It’s relatively thin and light at 10.9mm and 336g.

Designed to be predominantly used in portrait mode, we found

one-handed use in either orientation comfortable. Its compact

120x199mm chassis makes the Nexus 7 pocketable, too.

The front takes the form of a single sheet of glass, surrounded

by a silver metal frame. On the rear is a dark brown textured cover

with a rubbery feel. It aids grip and feels nice to the touch.

Buttons and ports are kept to a minimum: on the right are a

power button and volume rocker, while a Micro-USB port and

headphone jack are found at the bottom. A four-pin side dock will

be useful for accessories; speakers are concealed behind a long slot.

Build quality

We’ve come to expect sub-£200 tablets to display lousy build quality.

The Nexus 7 bucks the trend, and this well-made slate feels like a

premium product. Scratch-resistant Corning glass lies flush with the

metal frame, and the buttons and ports feel solid.

The Nexus 7 has a surprisingly good specification for the money.

It uses the same 1.3GHz nVidia Tegra 3 quad-core processor found


Nexus 7

sets the

benchmark for


7in tablets”





in many top-spec Android devices, backed with a healthy 1GB of

RAM. As such, the Nexus 7 scored highly in Geekbench 2, with

1,452 points. This result was refl ected in its smooth operation.

The Nexus 7’s in-plane switching (IPS) panel is a highlight, and

provides excellent contrast, brightness and viewing angles.

A 1280x800 resolution and 216ppi pixel density translates to

very good detail levels.

We found the screen good for web surfi ng and playing

games, but even more so for watching fi lms.

The 16GB Nexus 7 costs just £159 but, since you can’t add

to this capacity, it makes more sense to opt for the new 32GB

version for £40 more. And for a further £40 you can add cellular

connectivity. Note that the Android OS gobbles up around 2GB.

Bluetooth, GPS and near-fi eld communications (NFC) are

included, but there’s no rear-facing camera for quick snaps.

A 1.2Mp front-facing camera is adequate for video chat.


The Nexus 7 runs the very latest Android 4.2 Jelly Bean

operating system. Google has improved the OS’ performance

and responsiveness. Jelly Bean is slick, and closes the gap

between Android and iOS.

We experienced no lag when moving between home screens,

navigating menus and scrolling through video. Web surfi ng with

the default Chrome browser is smooth; pages load quickly, while

zooming and scrolling are similarly speedy.

Enhancements have been made to the Notifi cation bar,

now showing more information about each alert and letting

you carry out tasks without launching the associated app.

For example, Gmail

notifi cations group emails

and display subject lines.

Widgets automatically resize to fi ll the

available space, while app shortcuts and other

widgets tidy themselves out the way when

you place a new widget over the top. Few are

preloaded, but the Play Store offers plenty.

Dictation is now available offl ine, and

Google Search gives results in information

cards – you can ask questions and receive

answers in spoken form.

Google Now is another addition, and taps into the data Google holds about

you. It aims to stay a step ahead, predicting the information you need before it’s

requested. For example, it might offer train times.

We found Google Now very useful, offering us the information we’d usually

search for and more, including local attractions based on our location. Its downfall

is the need for an active internet connection; when you’re on the road and out of

range of a Wi-Fi hotspot you’ll need to tether the Nexus 7 to your phone.

Missing from Android 4.2 is any Flash support. The free BBC Media Player

app offers a workaround for iPlayer content, but it won’t assist you with inline

video content on websites.

Google touts a 10-hour battery life when browsing the web, and we recorded

a whopping 9 hours 40 minutes in our video-looping test.

Bottom line

Google sets a new standard for budget tablets with the Nexus 7. It’s an

unbelievably well-equipped device for the price. Silky-smooth performance

and a high-resolution IPS screen are highlights in the best budget tablet we’ve

seen yet. The Nexus 7 remains one of the best choices for those who don’t

want or need a 10in tablet.

Google Nexus 7 REVIEWS


7in (1280x800) capacitive

multitouch screen; Android

4.2 Jelly Bean; 1.3GHz

quad-core nVidia Tegra 3

processor; Quad-core

ULP GeForce graphics;

1GB RAM; 16/32GB

storage; 802.11b/g/n

(2.4GHz); Bluetooth 4.0;

3G optional (32GB model

only); 1.2Mp front camera,

720p video; GPS; Micro

USB; 3.5mm headphone

jack; 16Wh battery;

120x199x10.6mm; 336g


REVIEWS Apple iPad mini

Apple iPad mini

Apple has finally made its move into the small-tablet market with the iPad

mini. But can all that iPad greatness be squeezed into such a tiny package?

● Price From £269 ● comPany aPPLe ● WeBSiTe


7.9in IPS screen;

fast web browsing

and gaming; slick


dual-band Wi-Fi


Low speed score;

4:3 aspect ratio;

proprietary dock


Whether it matches

the Nexus 7 is

debatable, but you

won’t be disappointed

with this iDevice



Smaller than an iPad, but bigger than an iPod touch, the Apple iPad mini is

the long-awaited and much-rumoured new tablet from Apple. Of particular

note to UK users is the fact that only this tablet and its bigger brother natively

support 4G LTE mobile connectivity. That alone may be enough to sway you.

Although the mini is the same physical size as its 7in rivals, it packs a bigger

7.9in screen. You wouldn't think it, but this extra space gives the iPad mini around

35 percent more screen area than a 7in tablet, and the difference is noticeable.

We like the 4:3 form-factor, which is only a disadvantage when it comes to

watching videos, since 16:9 content is displays a letterbox effect.

To keep things simple, and likely to keep down costs, the screen has the

same 1024x768 resolution as the iPad 2. This means it can run Apple's existing

catalogue of iPad-specific apps. Most Android tablet owners have to put up with

the phone versions of apps.

The iPad mini's display has a higher pixel density than the original iPad and

iPad 2 because it's around 2in smaller, but it's obvious that it's not as crisp as

the iPhone or larger iPad's Retina displays. Fortunately, it's still an IPS panel, so

colours are vibrant and viewing angles excellent.

Build quality

What strikes you as you pick up the iPad mini is how light it is. It's less than half

the weight of a third- or fourth-generation iPad, and 23 percent thinner. Despite

“The A5 chip

is getting a bit

old, but our


results show

it can still rub

shoulders with

the current

crop of 7in






this, build quality is spectacular and the mini feels as solid as a rock.

The mini is also noticeably thinner and lighter than most of its 7in

rivals, including the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD.

It uses the new Lightning dock connector, so you'll need an

adaptor to use 30-pin accessories - not all of which will work

(and there's currently no HDMI adaptor available). The button

layout is identical to that of a 9.7in iPad.

Like all recent Apple iPads, the iPad mini has dual-band Wi-Fi,

allowing it to roam across the less crowded 5GHz radio band.

Apple also lists channel bonding in its spec, where two adjacent

20MHz channels are combined to make a 40Hz channel for

potentially greater throughput. Most people won't get this benefi t,

though, as few have a router with a 5GHz radio, or one that can

simultaneously operate on both 2.4GHz and 5GHz.


Both cameras are brilliant, the rear one especially so. It takes sharp

photos in dingy conditions, and great-looking images with accurate

colours in good light.

The rear camera is great for capturing video, too, and you'll feel more

comfortable taking photos with this smaller iPad than its bigger brother. Plus,

there's face recognition on both cameras for photos and videos.


Another similarity with the iPad 2 is the processor. The A5 chip is getting a bit old,

but our benchmark results show it can still rub shoulders with the current crop

of 7in tablets. Importantly, the iPad mini feels snappy in use, whether loading apps,

scrolling around maps or browsing the web.

In the SunSpider JavaScript test the iPad

mini scored 1,442ms, which puts it toward

the head of the pack, but in the synthetic

Geekbench it managed only 752 - not a great

score compared to the Nexus 7 (1,452) or

even the Kindle Fire HD (1124).

For gaming the mini is a capable device,

and it mustered 24fps in GLBenchmark 2.5.1.

In the same test the Kindle Fire HD scored

just 8.2fps, while the Nexus 7 managed 14fps.

When it comes to more demanding games,

the iPad mini leads the way.


A slight surprise is the presence of Apple's voice assistant Siri, as it was

previously thought that the processor was to blame for its absence in the iPad 2.

The mini has most of the other headline iOS 6.0 features, too, including fl yover

maps and VIP mail, but there's no panorama mode in the Camera app. You can, of

course, download any number of apps that do the same job.

One neat addition to iOS is that it recognises if you're resting your thumb on

the side of the screen or interacting with an app. The side bezels are just 5mm

wide so touching the screen is inevitable, especially when reading an e-book.

Bottom line

The iPad mini is a premium small tablet, with a price to match. It's a shame Apple

couldn't have included a Retina screen and newer processor - expect the next

iPad mini to get those updates. This Wi-Fi-only model also lacks GPS.

It's not cheap by any stretch, especially if you want more storage space or a

cellular version, but it offers great value when compared to a full-size iPad. You

can save £70 on a Nexus 7, which has double the storage, GPS and NFC, but if

you must have an iDevice, it won't disappoint.

Apple iPad mini REVIEWS


7.9in (1024x768, 163ppi)

capacitive multitouch

IPS screen; Apple iOS

6.0; Apple A5 dual-core

processor; 512MB RAM;

16/32/64GB storage;

PowerVR SGX543MP2

graphics; 802.11a/b/g/n

with channel bonding;

Bluetooth 4.0; 5Mp rear

camera, 1080p video;

1.2Mp front camera;

3.5mm headphone jack;

Lightning connector;

16.3Wh lithiumpolymer


200x134.8x7.4mm; 307g


REVIEWS iPad mini vs iPad 4

iPad mini vs iPad 4

We compare iPad with iPad to fi nd out whether there’s more than just a size

differential between the fourth-generation iPad and iPad mini


For a long time Apple refrained from creating a small-screen tablet, but it’s no

longer content with dominating only the large-screen tablet market: it wants

the lot. But has it compromised on quality to create the mini, or is it possible

that great things really do come in small packages?

Apple has stuck to its usual pricing structure for its fourth-generation iPad,

which starts at £399 and goes up to £659. Meanwhile, the iPad mini starts at

a more affordable £269 for the most basic model, which extends to £529.

There are no prizes for guessing that the iPad mini is smaller and lighter than

the iPad. The former measures 135x200mm, and the latter 186x241mm. The mini

is also thinner and lighter, at 7.2mm and 308g versus 9.4mm and 652g.

The full-size iPad takes Apple’s tried-and-tested 9.7in IPS panel. Swap around

the numbers and you get the mini’s screen size: 7.9in. Both sport a 4:3 aspect

ratio, but differ in their resolution. Whereas the big iPad has a Retina-quality

2048x1536 screen, the mini matches that of the iPad 2 with 1024x768 pixels.

The full-size iPad’s 264ppi pixel density is more impressive than the mini’s 163ppi.

Apple tends to share very little information on its processors, but the iPad

takes its latest 1.39GHz A6X dual-core chip with quad-core graphics, and the

mini runs the iPad 2’s 1GHz A5.

As is always the case with iPads, both are available with 16-, 32- or 64GB

of storage, and neither has an expansion slot.

The cameras in use by the iPad and iPad mini are identical. You get a 1.2Mp

front-facing FaceTime HD (720p) camera, and a 5Mp rear-facing iSight snapper

that can also capture full-HD (1080p) video.

Connectivity specifi cations are like for like between these iPads. Both use

Apple’s new Lightning connector, and both support dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi

and Bluetooth 4.0. The iPad and iPad mini also offer the same support for 3G or

4G LTE connectivity in the UK, although its offered via a Micro-SIM in the fourthgeneration

iPad and a Nano-SIM in the mini.

The similarities continue with the battery life. Apple claims a 10-hour battery

life for each of its iPads when surfi ng the web over Wi-Fi.

“Has Apple


on quality, or

is it possible

great things

really do

come in small


iPad mini vs Google Nexus 7 REVIEWS

iPad mini vs Google Nexus 7

Apple’s iPad set the standard for 10in tablets, so how does its pint-sized

mini fare against the best of the smaller-screen tablets?

Google's taken a hit on the pricing of its Nexus 7, hoping to encourage

take-up of the Android platform and content sales. We never expected

Apple to match that price with its iPad mini, which costs £110 more than

the Nexus 7 at the same 16GB capacity.

The Nexus 7 is the smaller tablet at 120x199mm versus 135x200mm, but

the mini is both thinner and lighter: the Nexus 7 is 10.5mm and 340g; the iPad

mini measures 7.2mm and weighs in at 308g.

Given this slightly larger chassis, it's no surprise to fi nd a larger 7.9in screen

on the mini. Its 1024x768 resolution and 4:3 aspect ratio matches that of the

iPad 2, whereas the 7in Google panel offers a higher resolution of 1280x800

pixels. This results in a 216ppi pixel pitch for Google's tablet; 163ppi for the mini.

In our testing the Nexus 7 was also the faster of the two tablets, with its

quad-core nVidia Tegra 3 chip able to offer more oomph than the iPad mini's

1GHz Apple A5 dual-core processor.

Neither tablet accepts removable memory cards to boost the internal

storage capacity, although the iPad mini offers a 64GB option where the

Nexus 7 maxes out at 32GB.

Google's Nexus 7 has a front-facing 1.2Mp camera; the iPad mini matches

this and gets one up with a 5Mp rear-facing iSight camera.

The iPad mini is charged through Apple's new Lightning connector, introduced

with the iPhone 5, while the Nexus 7 takes universal Micro USB. Both have Wi-Fi

and Bluetooth connectivity onboard, although Apple’s tablet is dual-band and the

fi rm is touting faster speeds via channel bonding. The Nexus 7, meanwhile, adds

NFC to the spec sheet. Mobile 3G connectivity is an option for both tablets, and

the mini also supports 4G LTE in the UK.

The major difference between these two tablets is the software they run –

that's Android 4.2 Jelly Bean for the Nexus 7, and iOS 6.0 for the mini. You can

read our reviews of each on pages 10 and 12 respectively.

With similar battery packs inside, expect both tablets to last around 10 hours

when surfi ng the web.

“We never

expected Apple

to match


pricing with

its mini”


REVIEWS Amazon Kindle Fire HD

Amazon Kindle Fire HD

The Kindle Fire HD is the first Amazon tablet to hit the UK. With its 7in

screen, dual-core CPU and tempting price, it appears a bargain. But is it?

● PrIce £159 ● comPany amaZon ● WeBSITe


Great value; slick

interface; nice screen


Amazon Appstore

has fewer apps than

Google Play; no

offline movie viewing;

locked down


Available with the

same amount of

storage and at the

same price as the

Nexus 7, this tablet

is not only slower but

severely locked down



It's been a long time coming, but Amazon’s tablet is finally available to buy in the

UK. The Fire HD has a 7in (1280x800) 10-point touchscreen, dual-band Wi-Fi

and a slightly faster processor than the standard Kindle Fire sold in the US.

The Kindle Fire HD runs a highly customised version of Android 4.0. In fact,

you wouldn’t even know it was running Android if it weren't for the occasional

in-app advert for Android apps on the Google Play store.

Amazon would prefer you to think of the Fire HD as a touchscreen e-reader

with extra capabilities, such as videos, music, games and apps. Amazon has done

a great job of making a slick system that is both easy to use and intuitive.


We like the Fire HD's lock screen, which displays a different wallpaper each time

you turn it on. However, unless you pay an extra £10 at purchase, you'll have to

put up with special offers on the lock screen.

The home screen has a menu for jumping to the various different types of

media, with a carousel of recently used apps, books, websites and everything else.

Below this you get a 'related items' carousel, which in essence shows contextual

adverts for the item showing in the main carousel. For example, if it's a game,

you'll see a list of games ‘Customers Also Bought’; if it's a website, you get a

‘Trending Now’ list; or shortcuts to creating a new email if the calendar, email

or contacts app is highlighted above.

“Cloud Drive

offers 5GB of

online storage

for your


while Cloud

Player stores

up to 250

audio fi les”





Tapping each menu item at the top of the screen displays the content

stored on your device for that section. A toggle button at the top lets

you switch to what's available in the cloud.

Confusingly there are two separate cloud services: Cloud Drive and

Cloud Player. The former provides 5GB of storage for your documents,

photos and videos; the latter is just for music and lets you access all

the tracks you've bought through the AmazonMP3 store, plus 250

of your own tracks. This is increased to 250,000 with a £22 annual

subscription. Similarly, you can upgrade your 5GB of fi le storage to

20GB for £6 per year, up to 500GB for £160 per year. The device

itself has 16GB of storage (or 32GB for £199).

It's possible to drag-and-drop fi les to the Fire HD as you would

a USB fl ash drive, but we saw mixed results. Some photos were

displayed with the wrong aspect ratio, and some MP3s were ignored.

Books and fi lms

One of the main reasons to buy a Kindle is to read e-books, and

the Fire HD’s interface is almost identical to a traditional E Ink

Kindle. Of course, the experience is completely different. The

Fire HD’s LCD isn’t nearly as easy to read in bright light, and it's

refl ective. You get the option for a sepia look if black text on a white

background is too dazzling, and there's a white-on-black mode, too.

The Kindle Fire HD uses IPS panel technology, which offers very

good viewing angles. The screen resolution is also suffi cient that

characters are sharp and easy to read.

Whispersync means you can carry on reading any title from where

you left off, even if you pick up on a different device.

Amazon owns Lovefi lm, which means you

can access Lovefi lm's library of on-demand

movies. The selection isn't all that impressive,

but more disappointing is the lack of offl ine

viewing. At least movie soundtracks sound

better than on most tablets, thanks to a pair

of rear speakers with dual drivers and Dolby

virtual surround technology.

Apps and browser

Amazon's Appstore has a lot of popular apps,

but it's not as packed as Google's Play store.

You'll fi nd top titles such as Angry Birds, Bad Piggies, Netfl ix, Facebook, Twitter,

iPlayer and more, but no Google apps.

The browser is based on Amazon's Silk technology and looks much like the

standard Android browser. The default search engine is Microsoft's Bing, but if

you delve into the Fire HD's settings you can change this to Google. The browser

doesn't support Flash, so catch-up TV and YouTube videos are out of the question.

Hardware and performance

At just under 400g, the Fire HD is pretty heavy, and that's without one of

Amazon's cases. It's very well put together, though, and feels like a solid slate, with

no creaking or bending. You’ll fi nd a micro HDMI output, volume rocker, power

button and headphone socket on its sides. A front-facing HD camera is primarily

intended for Skype; there's no rear-facing camera.

The Fire HD isn't as fast as we'd like. It doesn't feel as snappy as an iPad mini

or Nexus 7, especially when browsing the web or launching apps. Scrolling around

web pages shows a white screen until the content is loaded.

In Geekbench 2, the Fire HD managed 1,124, which is signifi cantly lower than

the Nexus 7’s 1,452. Running the SunSpider Javascript test it returned a score of

1,783ms – again, this is slower than the Nexus 7’s 1,665ms.

Amazon Kindle Fire HD REVIEWS


7in (1280x800) capacitive

multitouch IPS screen;

Android 4.0.3 Ice Cream

Sandwich; 1.2GHz TI

Omap 4460 dual-core

processor; 16GB storage;

dual-band 802.11b/g/n;

1.3Mp front camera; mini

HDMI out; micro USB 2.0;

accelerometer; 16.4Wh

lithium-ion battery


REVIEWS Barnes & Noble Nook HD

Barnes & noble nook HD

The Nook HD is a cheap 7in tablet with a stunning HD screen. We take a closer look to

find out how it stacks up against its rivals, including the Kindle Fire HD and Nexus 7

● Price £159 ● comPany BarneS & noBLe ● WeBSiTe


Fantastic screen;

good performance;

user profiles


Lacking UK-specific

content; proprietary

dock connector; no

music store


We can hardly fault

the hardware, but

the Nook store is

sorely lacking in

UK-specific content.

early adopters may be

taking a gamble



Barnes & Noble is an established chain of bookstores in the US. Its 7in Nook

HD weighs about the same as an iPad mini, and is comfortable to hold in one

hand. It’s available in white or grey, and with 8- or 16GB of storage. A microSD

card slot lets you boost this capacity.

The Nook HD is has its sights set on the Amazon Kindle Fire HD, and Barnes

& Noble is quick to point out that you won’t get bombarded by adverts on the

lock screen and that there’s a mains charger in the box.

It’s also thinner and lighter than the Fire HD, but it's the screen that's the

star of the show. This IPS display has 1440x900 pixels, giving it a pixel density of

243ppi – almost as high as the Retina iPad. In fact, it’s hard to tell the difference

in terms of clarity, and the colours and contrast of the Nook HD’s screen are

excellent, as are viewing angles.

One annoyance is the proprietary dock connector, which means you'll have to

carry the charger around with you. An HDMI adaptor cable is said to be in the

works, but we prefer Amazon's industry-standard micro USB and HDMI ports.

It's also a shame there's no camera for Skype, but this is a device purely for

content consumption, and Barnes & Noble makes no bones about that.

Like the Fire HD, the Nook HD runs Android Ice Cream Sandwich. It’s so

heavily customised that it’s unrecognisable as Android, save for a few clues such

as the volume slider. Press the power button on the left side and you immediately

find a feature we’ve been waiting a long time for on a tablet: user profiles.

“The Nook

HD loads apps

and web pages

quickly, rarely

leaves you

waiting, and

the interface

never feels


You can create up to six profiles, and you drag an avatar on to the

padlock to load that profile. Naturally, you can assign passwords so your

kids (or your other half) can’t access your stuff. You can choose which

apps and features are available to each person.

Backgrounds can also be personalised for each user, and things like

bookmarks and notes are user-specific, even though several family

members could be reading the same content. You can even have

separate email accounts – there's support for Microsoft Exchange, too,

which means you can access work email if your firm uses Exchange.

The main menu is similar to Amazon’s, with a carousel of recently

used apps, books and magazines, but not web pages. Below this is

space for a few shortcuts to apps, books, videos and magazines.


The book selection is vast, although there are holes – no Gruffalo for

kids, nor any Jamie Oliver cookbooks, for example. Things are less

impressive when it comes to magazines and newspapers, with few UK

titles on offer. At the time of writing the film store had yet to launch.

When it comes to apps, your only option is the Nook store,

which has a limited selection of popular titles, but they are at least

curated. There's Angry Birds Star Wars and Words With Friends, but

no BBC iPlayer or Lovefilm. There is Netflix, which is a consolation

if you have a subscription to that service.

A Flash app has been added to the Nook store, which you'll have to install

to watch Flash videos or use Flash-based websites.

The system is locked down so tightly it makes the Kindle Fire HD look like

an open platform. You can't install any app that's not in the Nook store, so it

isn't possible to side-load the Amazon

Appstore or Google Play.

Music fans are out of luck as there's no

music store, but the built-in Music Player will

play your MP3s, while the Gallery app can

show your photos.

Books and magazines from the Nook store

look amazing, with high-resolution images that

look lifelike on the HD screen. Page turns in

magazines are slick 3D affairs, while in books,

you simply swipe to instantly slide to the next

page. With kids' books, you can double-tap

to enlarge the text panel on each page to

make it more readable, and it's possible to record your voice so they can listen

to someone read aloud the book.


The dual-core 1.3GHz processor is a slightly slower version than the one used

in Archos' 101 XS, but the Nook HD is still a powerhouse. It completed the

SunSpider JavaScript test in 1,248ms and web browsing is a speedy affair.

The Nook HD managed 1,199 in Geekbench 2, which is a reasonable result

and higher than that of the Kindle Fire HD (which scored 1,124), but lower than

the Nexus 7 (1,452). In our graphics benchmark, GLBenchmark 2.5.1, the Nook

HD produced 14fps. Not a bad result but, again, slightly behind the competition.

Subjectively, the Nook HD is fast. It loads apps and web pages quickly, rarely

leaves you waiting and the interface never feels jerky. Plus, in casual games such

as Angry Birds Star Wars, the framerate is very smooth.

The high screen brightness immediately puts the Nook HD at a disadvantage

compared to dimmer tablets, and it lasted 5 hours and 25 minutes with maximum

brightness in our video-looping test. If you drop the brightness to a more sensible

level you could get an extra couple of hours.

Barnes & Noble Nook HD REVIEWS


7in (1440x900) capacitive

multitouch IPS screen;

Android 4.0 Ice Cream

Sandwich; 1.3GHz TI

Omap 4470 dual-core

processor; 1GB RAM;

8GB storage; microSDXC;


3.0; HDMI via optional

adaptor; proprietary

sync/charge port;

accelerometer; lithium-ion

battery; 127x194x11mm;



REVIEWS Nexus 7 vs Kindle Fire HD vs Nook HD

Nexus 7 vs Fire HD vs Nook HD

Sold as loss-leaders, these three small-screen tablets offer

exceptional value. But which is best?


The Google Nexus 7, Amazon Kindle Fire HD and Barnes & Noble Nook

HD all offer incredible value. This is because each is sold as a loss-leader,

designed to either encourage uptake of the Android platform or content

sales in their manufacturer's independent app and media stores.

As such, you're unlikely to feel cheated by any of these devices. But if you

don't have a particular preference over whether you purchase your books, music,

videos and apps from Google, Amazon or Barnes & Noble, which is best? Here

we compare each tablet spec by spec to help you choose.


Each of these tablets cost from £159. While this amount of money will get you a

16GB Nexus 7 or Kindle Fire HD, you'll be looking at a Nook HD with just 8GB

of storage. Amazon and Google also offer 32GB models at £199, while the 16GB

Nook HD costs £189. A 32GB version of the Nexus 7 is also available for £239.

This might make the Nook HD appear to offer less value, but it's the only tablet

here to accept microSDXC memory cards, enabling you to add an extra 64GB.


Given that all three tablets have 7in screens, they're fairly evenly matched in

terms of size and weight. The Nook HD is the thickest, but also the lightest, at

127x194x11mm and 315g. The Kindle Fire is the widest, the heaviest, and also

the thinnest, at 137x193x10.3mm and 395g, and the Nexus 7 is the tallest, at

120x199x10.6mm and 336g.


All three tablets have 7in in-plane switching (IPS) capacitive multitouch displays.

The only difference is in their resolution, where the Nook HD takes the lead

with 1440x900 pixels over the 1280x800 of the Kindle Fire HD and Google

Nexus 7. This means it has a tighter-packed pixel pitch of 243ppi, versus the

216ppi panels of its two rivals.


unlikely to feel

cheated by

any of these



One area in which there are clear differences between the tablets is in processing

power and the resulting performance. The Nexus 7 has the fastest hardware, with

a 1.3GHz quad-core nVidia Tegra 3 chip and quad-core ULP GeForce graphics.

The Amazon Kindle Fire HD has the slowest hardware, with a 1.2GHz dual-core

TI Omap 4460 processor and dual-core PowerVR SGX540 graphics. The Nook

HD sits in the middle, with a 1.3GHz dual-core TI Omap 4470 processor and

dual-core PowerVR SGX544 graphics. Unsurprisingly, then, the Nexus 7 boasts

by far the best overall performance, while the Fire HD is the slowest.

In Geekbench, in which a higher score is better, we measured 1,452 points for

the Nexus 7, 1,199 for the Nook HD and 1,124 for the Amazon tablet.

This performance was mirrored in the GLBenchmark graphics test, in which

a higher framerate is better. We recorded 20fps for the Nexus 7, 14fps for the

Nook HD and 8fps for the Kindle Fire HD.

In web-browsing performance, measured using the SunSpider JavaScript test,

in which a lower score is better, the Nook HD stole the show. Barnes & Noble's

tablet completed the test in 1,248ms, while the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD

trailed behind with 1,665ms and 1,783ms respectively.


As we mentioned earlier, the Amazon Kindle Fire HD and Google Nexus 7 are

available with larger storage capacities out of the box, offering 16- and 32GB

against the Nook HD's 8- and 16GB. However, a microSDXC expansion slot

means the Nook HD can hold the most content, potentially up to 80GB. You'll

need to factor in the cost of a microSDXC card, of course.

Amazon's tablet offers 5GB of web space for your documents, photos and

media, while the Nexus 7 has access to all manner of cloud-storage apps. The

difference here is that you'll be able to access content stored in the cloud only

when you have an active internet connection, which isn't so great on the road.


If a camera is important to you, don't buy the Nook HD - it has no camera at all.

Meanwhile, the Kindle Fire HD's 1.3Mp webcam is rated ever so slightly higher

than the Nexus 7's 1.2Mp snapper; both can record HD (720p) video.


We love the Nook HD's microSDXC card, but its single-band 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi,

Bluetooth 3.0 and proprietary dock connector don't stand up to the competition

here. Both the Amazon and Google charge over Micro USB, cater for the latest

Bluetooth 4.0, and the Kindle Fire's wireless support is dual-band. The Nexus 7

also boasts GPS and NFC, and 3G connectivity is an option, while the Kindle Fire

sports Micro HDMI. All three have a 3.5mm headphone jack.


All three tablets are Android-based, but whereas the Nexus 7 runs the very latest

Android 4.2 Jelly Bean software, both Nook HD and Kindle Fire HD run heavily

customised versions of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich.

The Nexus 7 offers full access to Google Play, which means you can buy

content from whoever you like, including Amazon, while the Fire HD offers access

only to Amazon Appstore, and the Nook HD only to the Nook store.

The Nook store, in particular, is currently limited. Amazon’s Appstore is better,

if not up to Google’s level, but the firm also owns Lovefilm, so those who hold a

subscription to this service can also stream movies on the tablet.


Google's tablet kept going for nine hours 40 mins in our tests, while the Kindle

Fire HD's slightly larger-capacity battery (16.4Wh vs 16Wh) lasted a shorter

seven hours 42 minutes. The Nook HD trailed the pack, able to endure five hours

25 minutes of our video-looping test.

Nexus 7 vs Kindle Fire HD vs Nook HD REVIEWS

“The Nexus 7

boasts by far

the best overall



REVIEWS Acer Iconia Tab A110

Acer Iconia Tab A110

This a 7in Android tablet faces stiff competition from the Google-subsidised

Nexus 7, but it may still be worth a look

● Price £179 ● comPany acer ● WeBSiTe


Good performance;

microSD slot;

micro HDMI port;

up-to-date OS; good

battery life


Chunky, dated design;

poor screen; plastic



The Acer is a great

7in tablet, but it can’t

compete with the

cheaper Nexus 7 on

storage or design



At first glance the Acer Iconia Tab A110 looks almost the same as the popular

Google Nexus 7. It's a similar size, but closer inspection reveals some

differences – not all of them good.

This tablet is both thicker and heavier than the Nexus 7, and its square sides

make it feel larger than it really is. It’s just 49g heavier than the Nexus 7, but you’ll

certainly notice the difference.

Although the A110 feels robust, we're not fond of its dated slab-like design

and plasticky feel. The entire body of the tablet is made of plastic, making it feel

very cheap – and that’s not great considering it costs more than the Nexus 7.

Acer tells us the screen is fronted by glass, but it feels as though it's made of

plastic. It resists scratches well, but the same can't be said for fingerprints.

Hardware and performance

In hardware specifications, the Acer Iconia Tab A110 almost identical to the

Nexus 7. It, too, uses an nVidia Tegra 3 quad-core processor and 1GB of RAM.

In Geekbench the Acer scored a little lower than Google's tablet –

1,389 versus 1,452 points. We also recorded an slightly slower score of 1,747ms

in the SunSpider JavaScript test, but in GLBenchmark it managed a slightly faster

16fps (the Nexus 7 mustered 14fps).

Storage matches the original Nexus 7 with 8GB, but this has since been

boosted to 16GB at the same price. A microSD slot allows expansion, though.

“The screen

is where the

Acer Iconia

Tab A110

falls massively

short of the


set by the

Nexus 7”

The screen is where the Acer Iconia Tab A110 falls

massively short of the standard set by the Nexus 7. It’s also

a 7in display, only with a disappointing resolution of

1024x600 pixels. This returns a pixel density of 170ppi.

Viewing angles aren't great either, especially when compared

to the Nexus 7's IPS panel. The LCD on the Iconia Tab

A110 is set deep into the tablet, so much so you don't

really feel as though you're touching it.

As well as an microSD card slot, the Acer Iconia Tab

A110 has another feature absent from the Nexus 7 – a

micro HDMI port. There's no cable in the box, so you’ll

need to purchase one separately if you wish to hook up

this tablet to a large-screen TV or projector.

Wireless connectivity includes 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi,

Bluetooth and GPS. There's no NFC chip.

Neither is there a rear-facing camera but, like Google's

tablet, there is a front-facing snapper for conducting video

calls and capturing self-portraits. We found the 2Mp

camera produced a good picture.


The Acer Iconia Tab A110 is one of a few tablets to ship

with Google Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. This has since been

refreshed with version 4.2, but the Acer remains more

up to date than most tablets on the market.

Pleasingly, Acer has enabled the homescreen to operate

in landscape mode, something Google only recently made

possible on its Nexus 7 via a separate update.

Google’s latest mobile OS runs smoothly on the Acer Iconia Tab A110.

Acer has made only some very small tweaks to Android Jelly Bean.

Firstly, the notification bar has an extra button, which offers quick access

to three power plans: High performance, Balanced and Power saver.

Preinstalled apps include the usual set of Google services, such as YouTube,

Gmail and Chrome. There’s also Google Now, the latest version of the company’s

search engine, which uses Google’s extensive dossier on you to predict what you

want to know before you search for it.

In addition there are two games: Ice Age Village and Real Football 2012.

More games can be downloaded from the nVidia TegraZone.

The lack of Adobe Flash support is becoming less of a problem for Android 4.1

devices. For example, the BBC has updated its iPlayer app to make it compatible

with Google’s now Flash-less OS.

Battery life

A tablet's battery life will depend on how often you use it. Acer admits in its

spec sheet that the Iconia Tab A110 won't last as long as the Nexus 7, quoting

7.5 hours of video playback, compared to more than nine hours.

We found battery life to be good, lasting us a couple of days with occasional

and varied use. While this isn’t bad, we found the Nexus 7 would last around

half a day longer on average.

The Acer Iconia Tab A110 doesn't stand up to the obvious competition

from the Nexus 7, let down by a chunky design and low-grade screen. It's more

expensive than Google's tablet, with less storage, so unless you need a microSD

card slot or micro HDMI port, you’ll get better value with the Nexus 7.

Acer Iconia Tab A110 REVIEWS


7in (1024x600, 170ppi)

capacitive multitouch

screen; Google Android

4.1 Jelly Bean; 1.3GHz

nVidia Tegra 3 quad-core

processor; 1GB RAM; 8GB

storage; ULP GeForce

graphics; 802.11b/g/n;

Bluetooth 3.0; GPS;

2Mp front camera;

720p video @30fps;

mono speaker; 3.5mm

headset jack; Micro-USB;

micro HDMI; 11W USB

adaptor; lithium battery;

127x193x11.7mm; 385g


REVIEWS GoClever Tab A73

GoClever Tab A73

A 7in Android tablet running Ice Cream Sandwich for £90 sounds tasty, but

with tablets you usually get what you pay for

● Price £90 ● comPany GocLeVer ● WeBSiTe


Cheap; can handle

casual gaming


Terrible screen; short

battery life; poor webbrowsing


only 512MB RAM


That £90 price tag is

tempting, but a few

too many corners

have been cut to

reach it. You’ll be

wise to spend more on

a better-performing




GoClever is new name in Android tablets and, like many companies,

manufactures them in China. Oddly enough, the Tab A73 is the spitting

image of the Kurio 7 children’s tablet, albeit in a more demure grey livery and

without the rubber bumper.

In fact, it's the same tablet, with the same 7in, 840x400 screen, the same mini

USB and mini HDMI ports and the same 4GB of internal storage. One difference

is the processor: it runs at 1GHz rather than 1.2GHz in the Kurio. There's also

just 512MB of RAM, rather than the 1GB found in just about every other tablet.


This corner cutting is understandable, given the low price, but it does have a

significant impact on performance. Although the A73 manages to scroll between

the Android home screens smoothly, it's a different story when browsing the

web. As with the Kurio 7, it's a frustrating experience waiting several seconds for

Google Maps to redraw every time you scroll or zoom. The BBC website took an

unacceptable 20 seconds to load.

The SunSpider JavaScript test reveals just how slow the A73 is: it took a

foot-tapping 13,528ms to complete the benchmark, when Google's Nexus 7 is

done in just 1,665ms. The Kurio 7 was considerably quicker with 3,913ms.

Gaming performance is better, thanks to the Mali 400 graphics chip. This had

no problems running Angry Birds, so it's fine for casual gaming.

“If you have

a really tight

budget for a

7in tablet, the

Tab A73 is

bound to look


Design and build

Build quality is decent, although it's all too easy to press the power button when

you're holding the A73 as it's near the top-right corner. Similarly, the speaker is in

the wrong place. At the bottom of the right-hand edge, your hand covers it when

holding the tablet in landscape mode.

As well as 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth is built in, but there's no GPS receiver.

Optionally, you can use the mini USB port for a 3G dongle. There's no rear

camera, and the front-facing VGA camera is good only for video calls.

The screen suffers from the same narrow viewing angles as the Kurio's in

portrait mode, and the low resolution is noticeable, with text appearing blocky or

blurry next to the Nexus 7. Again, it's slightly more acceptable at this price, but in

absolute terms, it's a poor screen.

Video and battery life

Videos, however, play fl awlessly and look pretty good on the A73. Given that it

weighs only 350g, it's comfortable to hold while watching a TV show on the train,

for example. The only problem is the relatively dim and refl ective screen. The

tablet had no problems playing our 1080p H.264 video, and was happy to output

this via HDMI to our full-HD TV.

Battery life from the small-capacity 3,200mAh battery is unsurprisingly short.

It did, however, live up to GoClever's claims, lasting just over four hours when

playing our looped 1080p video.

GoClever hasn't messed around with Android much, so you get a vanilla

Ice Cream Sandwich interface and, importantly, access to the Google Play

store. Google Maps, Gmail and Latitude are preinstalled.

If you have a really tight budget for a 7in tablet, the Tab A73 is bound to look

tempting. It's best at playing videos and games, and worst at web browsing, due

to the poor screen and terrible performance. It's wise to spend more on a

better-performing tablet.

GoClever Tab A73 REVIEWS


7in capacitive multitouch

screen (800x480);

Android 4.0.3 (Ice

Cream Sandwich);

1GHz Allwinner A10


4GB storage; microSD;

802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi; 3G

via optional USB dongle;

0.3Mp front camera;

1080p video playback;

Mini USB; Mini HDMI;

3.5mm headphone jack;

195x122x11mm; 350g


BUYING ADVICE Children’s tablets

Which children’s tablet?

If you don’t want your children hogging your pride and joy, there are tablets out

there designed specifically for a younger audience. These slates can protect them

from the dangers of the web, and keep them entertained


Kids these days are digital natives. Tapping a screen is second nature and

they'll probably be able to work your iPad before they can read and write.

There are lots of tablets designed for kids and, as well as being a

fun toy to play with, they can also be great educational tools.

The quality of children's tablets varies enormously, though, so it pays to know

what to look for. Although specifications play a part, it's important to get a device

that can withstand rough handling: kids and fragile technology don't mix well.

You'll also need something that's responsive, has content appropriate to the

child's age and has an app store with well-priced apps.


One of the factors that makes a tablet responsive is the processor. You can't

tell by the gigahertz ratings how quick it is in the real world. A responsive

touchscreen is the other main factor. When a child taps a button it should

respond immediately, otherwise frustration will quickly set in. In both cases,

only expert- and user reviews can give you this information.

One disadvantage of most children’s tablets is that they have screens with

poor viewing angles, unlike an iPad or other tablet with an IPS screen. Some

are better than others, though. Again, check reviews before you buy.

Also look for a tablet that comes with a rubber bumper, as it's bound to be

dropped on a regular basis. The nabi 2 and Kurio 7 include these in the box.

“Kids will

probably be

able to work

your iPad

before they

can read

and write”

Kid Mode lets children

play their favourite

Android games, read

stories and paint pictures,

but there’s no way to

accidentally buy anything,

delete your emails or

access another app

Battery life is important, since you don't want to end up with a tablet that

lasts only a couple of hours before needing to be connected to the mains or a

new set of batteries. In the latter case, rechargeable batteries are advisable.

Cameras are included on most tablets, but not all. If you want a tablet to

double as a digital camera and camcorder, look for one with a rear-facing camera.

Front-facing cameras are good only for self-portraits and video chat.

Finally, check the ports and controls. Tablets that lack hardware volume

buttons are frustrating, and look for an HDMI output if you want to be able to

hook the device up to a big-screen TV.


Most children’s tablets are based on Android, but don't provide access to

Google's Play store. Typically, you’ll be restricted to the manufacturer's own store,

which may have a limited selection of apps and games, and they're usually more

expensive than similar apps in Google's store.

The software that comes preloaded is also important, since it determines

how much play time your child will get from the tablet before you have to start

spending more money to keep them entertained.

Another thing to look for is a web browser that restricts which sites they can

visit, and includes other parental controls for limiting their usage.

Parental controls

If you opt for a standard tablet for your child, you should be aware that your

kids will be able to access pretty much all the content you might have blocked

on a desktop PC or laptop. An easy way to restrict internet access and any other

communication is to enable flight mode before you give the device to your child.

Savvy kids will easily work out how to disable this, however.

iOS tablets

Apple has added to iOS some parental controls, but they will apply to anyone

who uses the iPad. To set up an iPad for your kids to use, tap Settings, General,

Restrictions. You’ll have to enter a PIN to enable restrictions.

You can disable certain built-in apps such as Safari, but you can restrict other

apps only by their age rating (or disallow access entirely). Similarly, you can

restrict films by age, TV shows by those rated Caution and music or podcasts

with explicit content. You will also probably want to disable location services for

social-networking apps. There are lots of other privacy settings that prevent apps

from accessing your data, and you can disable multiplayer games and the adding of

new friends in Game Center. It’s sensible to disable in-app purchases, as well

as the ability to install apps.

Safari itself has no parental controls, but you can disable it and install

another browser, such as AVG’s free Family Safety.

New in iOS 6.0 is Guided Access. This in effect disables all hardware

buttons once an app has been opened, preventing kids from accessing

anything else. You’ll find the setting in General, Accessibility.

Android tablets

Google’s Android OS doesn’t have much in the way of parental

controls, although its Google Play app store does offer content

filtering. Launch Google Play, then press the Menu button and choose

Settings, Content filtering. You can allow apps rated for low, medium

or high maturity.

This goes some way to preventing kids from downloading

inappropriate apps, but there are many alternative apps you can

install that do a more thorough job.

Consider the free Kid Mode app. This lets kids play their

favourite Android games, read stories and paint pictures, but

there’s no way to accidentally buy anything, delete your emails

or access another app. We also recommend the parental-control

apps from Kaspersky, Norton and the popular Funamo.

Children’s tablets BUYING ADVICE

“An easy way

to restrict

internet access

and other


is to enable

flight mode”


REVIEWS LeapFrog LeapPad2 Explorer

LeapFrog LeapPad2 Explorer

The LeapFrog LeapPad2 Explorer is a great tablet for kids, stuffed with

fun and educational games and apps targeted at the younger market

● Price £89 ● comPany LeaPFroG ● WeBSiTe


Educational benefits;

relatively stylish,

tough design;

300-plus games and

apps; front- and

rear-facing cameras


Requires four A

batteries; expensive

games and apps


A proper little tablet

with apps and games

that can capture a

child’s imagination



Our crack team of kid reviewers couldn't wait to get their hands on the

children's tablet from LeapFrog. If grown men and women can get

over-excited about the prospect of a new iPad or Samsung Galaxy smartphone,

just imagine the bed-wetting anticipation of children hearing about updates to

their favourite gadget toys.

The original Leapfrog LeapPad Explorer was one of the big hits around the

2011 Christmas tree, and won various Mum’s awards. We loved its kid-friendly

size, rounded edges, and range of educational and fun apps.

It’s no iPad, but that’s a good thing for many reasons. Here are some: the iPad

is too big for smaller hands; the iPad links to the bad, mad world of the internet;

kids on iPads keep demanding new apps; iPads are expensive; iPads break easier;

sometimes you want to use your own iPad yourself…

Now the LeapPad2 is out, six-year-old Lexi was jumping up and down in

anticipation. She loves the iPad, but she likes the LeapPad just as much – maybe

because it was made for her.

One of the great things about the LeapPad is its stylish design. While it's not

monochrome-cool like most tablets, it isn't overly garish or kiddy. Of course,

some kids prefer chunkier, brighter colours, and the more stylish LeapPad looks

might not bother a child in search of some tech-app fun.

Leapfrog puts the intended LeapPad age range as three- to nine years. We

think an eight- or nine-year-old would find this sort of device a bit too toy-like,

“What price

would you put

on keeping

a child quiet

for half an

hour or so

every now

and again?”

but it’s a great alternative to an adult tablet for three- to

seven-year-olds. Lexi can swap between LeapPad and iPad

without thinking either is better than the other.

The LeapPad looks similar to the original version. It

has a roomy 5in screen that fits better into smaller hands

and weighs a lot less than a full-size slate.

What’s new?

The LeapPad2 now includes two still- and video

cameras, each at a higher resolution than that of the

original LeapPad. It features a faster processor,

better memory capability, and improved battery life.

In place of the original’s 0.3Mp rear-facing camera

the LeapPad2 boasts 2Mp cameras front and back.

Several apps make use of these, and kids love taking

photos of their friends and families for use in various

games. With the new front-facing camera they can take

photos of themselves without asking for assistance, too.

The internal storage has doubled from 2- to 4GB, and

the processor has received a speed bump from 400- to

500MHz. That extra storage capacity is handy for new

apps that include video functionality, and 2Mp photos take

up more space than those shot by a 0.3Mp camera.

As before, you control the action using either your finger

or the included stylus on the LeapPad’s touchscreen. The stylus

slots into the side of the tablet, and is attached by a cord so it doesn’t get lost.

The tablet is powered by four AA batteries, so we recommend you invest in

a decent battery charger. An optional rechargeable battery pack costs £29, but

it works only with the LeapPad2; a decent

universal battery charger is a better bet.

Battery life runs to nine hours.

As there’s no Wi-Fi connectivity you'll have

to tether the LeapPad2 to your computer to

download new games, and offload photos.


As well as a bunch of preloaded software

and the 300-plus compatible apps and games,

you get two more – Cartoon Creativity and

Art Studio – when you register online.

There’s a heavy Disney tie-in with several of the games and creative apps.

Disney Animation Artist was a big hit with Lexi, who enjoyed drawing Mickey

Mouse and friends with clear instructions and helpful hints.

Also from Disney is a Brave e-book, based on the Pixar movie. The LeapPad’s

e-books are designed to improve word recognition and reading basics.

The games and creative activities are audibly and visually explained, so it won't

take long for a child to become engrossed in each app or game.

One great feature of the LeapPad is that it automatically adjusts the learning

to each child, asking more challenging questions as their skills develop, and most

games feature several difficulty levels.

Game and app prices start at £3.50, up to £7.50. But what price would you

put on keeping a child quiet for half an hour or so every now and again?

Bottom line

We loved the original LeapPad and this is a great update, with improved hardware

and a bunch of new games and apps. Kids don’t seem to mind that it's a lot less

sophisticated than a full-size tablet, viewing it as another type of gadget altogether.

It’s a better size for children than such devices, with software that captures their

imagination just as well. A definite hit for kids aged three to seven.

LeapFrog LeapPad2 Explorer REVIEWS


Suitable for 3-9

years; 500MHz LF

2000 processor; 4GB

storage; 5in (480x272)

touchscreen; stylus; 2Mp

front- and rear-facing

cameras; 4x AA batteries

required; up to nine hours

claimed battery life;

267x64x292mm; 950g


REVIEWS Fuhu nabi 2

Fuhu nabi 2

This Etch A Sketch lookalike is an Android tablet from California-based

Fuhu. Packing a quad-core Tegra 3 CPU, it’s not your average kids’ toy

● Price £150 ● comPany FUHU ● WeBSiTe


Very good web

browsing and general

performance; safe to

leave with children

unsupervised; tough,

non-toxic build


US-centric software;

poor viewing angles;

no access to Google



Easily the best kids’

tablet we’ve seen, but

it needs Anglicising



California-based Fuhu makes some bold claims about its nabi 2 kids' tablet,

which bears a passing resemblance to an Etch A Sketch. The firm is so

confident in its abilities that it compares it to an iPad 2, Kurio 7 and LeapPad2.

A look at the specs and these claims seem plausible: the nabi 2 has a quadcore

Tegra 3, just like the Nexus 7. Performance should be no problem then.

It also has a silicone bumper, similar to the Kurio's, except that it's food-grade,

which means it's non-toxic. The nabi 2 can withstand drops on to even concrete.

There's 8GB of storage, a microSD slot for adding more, plus micro USB and

mini HDMI ports. You also get a front-facing 2Mp camera and a pair of speakers.

The 7in screen is the first sign of weakness. It has a 1024x600 resolution,

which is a step up from the Kurio 7 (800x480), but a step below the Nexus 7

(1280x800). In practice, things feel cramped only when browsing the web.

Viewing angles are very poor when the tablet is held in landscape mode.


Fuhu claims the nabi 2 comes with £120 of software. Plenty of games (including

learning games) are preloaded, which will keep kids amused for hours. Too many,

though, are 'lite' or 'starter' versions that nag you to upgrade, including the

painting program, which should be a mainstay of any children's tablet.

As well as full versions of Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja HD, you also get eight

games optimised for the Tegra graphics chip, which will appeal to older kids.

“We’d have

no issues

leaving a child


with the

nabi 2”



MeeGenius includes

30 e-books. There's also a

Chore List app, and in the Mommy/

Daddy mode you can edit the days on

which each chore must be completed. It's a

good motivator for kids, since they earn nabi coins

that can be used in the Treasure Box app to buy new

content. Apps here are occasionally on sale, so kids can

learn how best to spend their 'money'.

Yet more apps include Spinlets+ Music and Spinlets+ TV. Music is like iTunes

for kids, while TV is a streaming service with around 700 hours of kids TV shows.

Fooz Kids includes a set of educational games, plus curated links to websites,

videos and crafts. During testing we found a few of the craft links were broken,

but were impressed at how quickly the nabi's support team updated them.

Through the Fooz Kids website, or the Parental Dashboard on the nabi 2 itself,

you can manage what’s available. You can do the same with apps and games.

Fooz Kids is unmistakably American, but we're assured it will soon be

Anglicised so it refers to the UK Key Stages rather than Kindergarten, grades

and 'math' (and hopefully Mommy will sprout a 'u' and drop the 'o').

The nabi 2 comes with the Maxthon web browser. This provides a whitelist of

websites kids can visit, to which you can add sites you’re comfortable with them

viewing. The browser is reasonably quick, and could handle Flash-based websites

and videos. We'd have no issues leaving a child unsupervised with the nabi 2.

More apps and games can be bought through the App Zone store, which has a

limited choice. It's relatively easy to add Amazon's Appstore, but not Google Play.

You get 2GB of free online storage with nabi Cloud. You can upload music,

videos and photos to the service, which are then automatically downloaded to

the nabi 2. It's also possible to sync camera photos, downloaded apps and more

from the nabi 2 to your computer when you install the Sync software.

The nabi 2 has a strange-looking rear panel, but the 15 squares are for the

so-called Kinabis – letters and other characters that kids can attach to

personalise their tablet. Currently, you can buy the alphabet for £25; soon

you'll also be able to buy individual letters.

Other accessories include coloured bumpers, backpacks, headphones

(with volume limiting), screen protectors and branded character packs.


In terms of performance, the nabi 2 is great. It's fast for playing games and

browsing websites. In the SunSpider Javascript test it scored 1,678ms, similar to

the Nexus 7. It outperformed that tablet in Geekbench, managing 1,551 against its

1,452. Graphics performance was reasonable at 16fps, a couple of frames

per second slower than the Nexus 7. And compared with the Kurio 7, the nabi

2 is a powerhouse. The Kurio could muster only 363 in Geekbench 2, and took

3,913ms to complete the SunSpider JavaScript test.

The nabi 2's battery life is also better than the Kurio's, but it's still not the

best. It lasted just over eight hours in our video-looping test at full brightness,

although you'll typically see less than this with more general use – especially

playing the Tegra-optimised games. The battery took three hours to recharge.

Fuhu nabi 2 REVIEWS


7in (1024x768, 169ppi)

capacitive multitouch

screen; Android 4.0.4 Ice

Cream Sandwich; 1.3GHz

nVidia Tegra 3 quad-core

processor;1GB RAM; 8GB

storage; 802.11b/g/n;

Bluetooth 3.0; GPS; 2Mp,

720p front camera; 2x

stereo speakers; 3.5mm

headphone jack; microUSB

2.0; microSD (SDHC

compatible); mini-HDMI;

non-removable battery;

221x154x29mm; 610g


REVIEWS VTech InnoTab 2

VTech InnoTab 2

VTech’s update to its children’s tablet adds a rotating camera,

a microphone and a raft of kids’ apps, games and content

● Price £84 ● comPany VTecH ● WeBSiTe


Rotating camera;

microphone; pull-out

stand; great range of

software available;

expandable storage;



Not as stylish as

LeapPad; toy-like


Destined to be a hit

with all kids under

the age of eight, and

a true rival to the

LeapFrog LeapPad



In the run up to Christmas 2011 the InnoTab and LeapFrog LeapPad sold out

in toy shops across the country as parents snatched up these most popular

new kids’ gadget gifts. Now VTech has updated its children’s tablet with the

InnoTab 2, just weeks after Leapfrog’s new LeapPad2 hit the shelves. It costs

£84, and is available in blue or pink models.

What’s new

The InnoTab 2 improves on the original InnoTab in several significant ways.

The most noticeable change is to the camera, now a 1.3Mp rotating model that

lets kids quickly and easily switch from shooting a self-portrait to a snap of

someone or something else – a popular feature of VTech’s Kidizoom camera.

Kids can take their own picture, use the editing suite to add special effects,

and then use that photo in various games and apps.

We love the rotating camera, which feels robust enough to take a mauling.

There’ll likely be a few mistaken pictures of the user’s face until the child (or

parent) gets the hang of it, but it’s a neat idea that gets around the problem of

taking photos of things and yourself.

Kids didn’t really care about the lack of clarity in images, so this snapper is

ample for their needs. Finally, the InnoTab is a real contender against the LeapPad.

The VTech InnoTab 2 also features a built-in microphone for enhanced

gameplay and video recording. Children love the multimedia features of these

“Apps and

games that

make use of

tablet features

offer skills

a child is

unlikely to get

without some

help from



tablets, and it’s what should differentiate

a tablet from other forms of kids’ play.

Nothing’s better for a child’s creative

play learning than a pad of paper and

some pens and pencils, and parents are

rightly wary about replacing these with

an app for drawing and colouring in. But

apps and games that truly make use of

tablet features such as still/video cameras

and microphones offer skills a child is

unlikely to get without some help from

kid-friendly technology.

It’s not just educational, of course.

Everything’s wrapped up in fun. The

Camera app, for instance, lets you add

wacky effects to pictures by clicking on

the Wand icon in the top left corner.

The InnoTab 2 looks much like the

first InnoTab, with a 5in screen, and it’s

equipped with a video player, art studio,

tilt sensor for motion gameplay, MP3

music player, e-reader, calendar, friends

list and notes app.

We like the InnoTab 2’s pull-out stand,

which means the tablet doesn’t have to

be held by the child all the time.

The InnoTab 2’s internal 2GB

memory is up from the original version’s

paltry 128MB, and can be expanded via

its built-in SD card memory reader. While the LeapPad 2 has twice this capacity,

it lacks this opportunity to add external memory.

Each InnoTab 2 can be personalised for up to four users with photo wallpaper,

a username and avatar, a voice greeting and typed greeting.

Games and apps

The new children’s tablet comes with a software cartridge ‘Read, Play & Create’

featuring three apps: an e-book ‘What’s That Noise’, colouring art app Colour &

Pop, and augmented reality-game Alien Rescue.

Also preinstalled: Face Race, a motion-sensitive tightrope-walking game;

and Art Studio, which you receive upon registering the device.

The InnoTab 2 also comes with two free games tokens. When you install the

VTech Learning Lodge Navigator on your computer you can download two of

a large range of games, normally priced around £3. This is also where you buy,

download and transfer apps and games (from 99p) to your InnoTab.

VTech has launched a range of new InnoTab software cartridges (sold

separately), including Pixar’s latest Brave, Hello Kitty, Thomas & Friends and

Jake and the Neverland Pirates. These cartridges are priced at £19.99, and each

includes an animated e-book, three learning games and two creative activities.

To further differentiate it from the LeapFrog offering, VTech has signed

partnership agreements that will give InnoTab owners access to a library of

videos or TV programmes, mini e-books and music content.

Age range

The VTech InnoTab 2, like the LeapPad2, is aimed at three- to nine-year-olds.

Three-year-olds won’t have much problem playing with the tablet, but children

over seven or eight might find it little toy-like. The LeapPad is more stylish than

the InnoTab, and smaller too, despite also boasting a 5in screen.

An Apple iPad or iPod touch might suit the older child, or any of the latest 7in

Android tablets would be suitable. Note, though, that such tablets have access to

the internet, and so you should consider setting child-friendly restrictions.

VTech InnoTab 2 REVIEWS


5in screen; 2GB storage;

1.3Mp rotating camera;

SD slot; 4x AA batteries;

30x60x280mm; 720g



Kurio 7

Described as ‘the ultimate Android tablet for families’, the Kurio 7 offers

plain old Android 4.0 for adults and curated user profi les for kids



Decent parental

controls; one of the

better tablets to

leave unsupervised

with a child; tough

design; user profi les


Slow processor;

poor battery life


Only the hardware

holds back what

would otherwise have

been a great tablet

for all the family



On paper, the Kurio 7 almost lives up to its tagline as ‘the ultimate Android

tablet for families’. It has a customised interface and preloaded content for

children, full controls and access to the Android Ice Cream Sandwich interface for

parents, web and content fi ltering, plus a protective rubber bumper.

Turn on the device and you’re guided through creating user profi les, choosing

age-appropriate content fi lters and specifying which apps can be accessed. You can

also state at which times the device can be used by a particular user, and for how

long. A global control lets you set a start and end time for each day, too.

Although none would break the bank if you were to buy them from Google

Play, it’s good to see Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, Fruit Ninja, World of Goo,

Doodle Jump and Where’s My Water? preinstalled. Separate Boys Colour and

Girls Colour apps are also decent, while MeeGenius includes 20 books that are

read aloud, with words highlighted on the page to help your child learn to read.

Other apps are less impressive. Preinstalled Mr Nussbaum games look as

though they were made in the 1980s, and present basic arithmetic puzzles that

don’t reward kids for doing well.

Although the Kurio 7 supports Flash, some kids’ websites wouldn’t correctly

load, such as It also failed to play video on the popular Channel 5

Milkshake site. Plus, the low resolution means that most sites don’t display

properly, such as The tablet’s slow processor can’t really handle

these Flash-based sites anyway, and they run extremely slowly.

Kurio provides its own web browser and sensibly uses Google’s SafeSearch for

Kids, which provides reasonable protection when searching. If a questionable link

does appears in the results, Kurio’s content fi lter will usually kick in and block the

site. The Kurio 7 is one of the better tablets to leave unsupervised with children.

At this price, comparisons with Google’s Nexus 7 are inevitable. The Kurio has

a lower screen resolution, but it’s the poor quality of the display that’s the real

problem, with limited viewing angles. The slower processor means websites take

an age to load. The Kurio 7’s battery life is also short.

“The Kurio 7

is one of the

better tablets

to leave


with children”


7in (800x480) capacitive

multitouch screen; Android

4.0.3 Ice Cream Sandwich;

1.2GHz Allwinner A10

single-core processor; Mali

400 graphics; 1GB RAM;

4GB storage; microSD;

802.11b/g/n; 0.3Mp, 2Mp

cameras, 720p video;

Mini-USB; Mini HDMI;

3.5mm headphone jack;

195x122x11mm; 352g

Arnova childpad

The ChildPad is a 7in Android tablet that’s aimed at kids, with built-in

parental controls and access to a wide range of Android apps and games

● Price £99 ● comPany arnoVa TecH ● WeBSiTe


Parental controls;

full Android

interface; cheap;

capacitive screen


Poor camera and

sound quality; naff

apps; interface not

very child-friendly


It looks the part,

but a fiddly interface

and sub-standard

games means we

can’t recommend the

Arnova ChildPad


The Arnova ChildPad is a 7in tablet running Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich

that’s marketed specifically at kids. It differs from other children’s tablets in

that it’s a proper tablet running Android, with the ability to run Android apps,

browse the web, and so on. This, of course, brings its own concerns for parents

– worries that didn’t all go away after testing the ChildPad.

The 7in size suits small hands. It’s about the same shape and size as the

LeapPad and InnoTab, and it isn't too heavy, at 380g. It looks and feels simple and

clean, with a blue band around the screen, and all blue non-slip rubberised back.

The 800x480 screen is fine, and displays photos and videos at an acceptable

standard. Unlike many similar tablets that use resistive screens, this is a capacitive

panel, making the ChildPad more responsive and even better value at £99.

The ChildPad comes with a 0.3Mp camera. It’s okay for quick snaps, but not

for anything you’d want to keep. The camera’s front-facing position is great for

self-portraits, but the picture viewer and controls’ placing on the same side as

the lens makes it difficult to take photos of anything else.

The sound quality is a little too quiet on some apps. There’s a headphone

jack so parents and others nearby can be spared the annoying noises many

games and apps pump out, but there’s no volume control.

Whereas the LeapPad and InnoTab have big child-friendly buttons, the

ChildPad has fiddly little things. The interface and clunky navigation won’t fox

a child for long; it’s us poor adults who get lost in technology…

Around 30 apps are preinstalled, including the ever-popular Angry Birds, but

the ChildPad is let down with a bunch of mainly poor preinstalled examples.

A third-party Kids App Store (AppsLib) offers 10,000 apps, books, comics,

multimedia, sports apps and more. Thankfully, purchases are PIN-protected.

The ChildPad comes with a six-month version of Mobile Parental Filter,

which costs £19.98 per year thereafter. It verifies websites as your children

browse, blocking inappropriate content. In our tests the filter was good, but

not watertight. Whitelists let you approve only the sites you want, however.

Arnova ChildPad REVIEWS

“The interface

and clunky


won’t fox a

child for long;

it’s us poor

adults who

get lost in



7in (800x480) capacitive

touchscreen; Android 4.0

Ice Cream Sandwich;

1GHz ARM Cortex

A8 processor; 4GB

storage; microSDHC;

223x142x12.2mm; 380g


REVIEWS Dolphin Browser 8


Dolphin Browser 8

Dolphin Browser is not only voice- and gesture-enabled,

but one of the faster web browsers we tested for Android

● Price Free ● comPany DoLPHin ● WeBSiTe


A feature-packed

browser that’s

certainly worth

having in your




Android 2.0.1 or later;

4.1MB storage


Dolphin Browser is a fast web browser that adds a host of features and

add-ons to browsing. As well as its intuitive interface, Dolphin Browser

supports voice- and gesture-based navigation. It also supports the LastPass

password manager and syncs to Google bookmarks a la Chrome. And, for those

whose hardware lacks the functionality, Dolphin has a built-in screengrab taker.

We found the Dolphin Browser perfectly zippy as we browsed around the

internet on our Nexus 7 and Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablets.

Indeed, on the Nexus 7 tablet at least, Dolphin Browser was faster at

completing the SunSpider 0.9.1 test. Using Dolphin on the Nexus 7 the test

was completed in an average of 1,536ms, compared with 1,706ms using Google

Chrome. Dolphin was marginally slower on the Tab 10.1 when compared with

the native Android Browser, this time at 2,483ms versus 2,338ms.

Dolphin Browser has a simple UI. There’s tabbed browsing via a ‘+’ sign that

sits in the top right corner of the screen. Swiping across the top lets you quickly

whizz through all the open tabs, and opening a new tab reveals the familiar sight

of Speed Dial, Opera’s visual representation of bookmarks. Swiping in from

the left pushes in the browser window and brings up bookmarks and browser

history. Swipe in from the right to see Add-ons and Themes.

Hit the Add-ons button and you gain access to a plethora of free add-ons and

apps for Dolphin Browser. Using Dolphin Connect, for instance, you can sync

bookmarks and custom gestures across all devices running Dolphin Browser.

Two key functions are gesture- and voice-enabled navigation. Gestures lets you

draw symbols to perform actions once you’ve tapped the Dolphin in the bottom

left of the screen. Once enabled, drawing an ‘N’ opens a new tab, for instance.

Also under the Dolphin symbol is Sonar: Dolphin’s voice-enabled navigation

feature. In our tests it was exactly as useful and accurate as you might expect

from using other voice controlled navigation aids (not very).


adds a host

of features

and add-ons

to browsing”


Mozilla Firefox

Plumping for a Windows tablet doesn’t mean you’re stuck

with Internet Explorer – Firefox is also worth a look

● Price Free ● comPany moZiLLa ● WeBSiTe


This browser is

stable, fast and

reliable, with some

interesting new

tweaks for Windows



Windows 8

Firefox for Windows 8 is in effect two web browsers: the desktop version

that looks and feels much the same as your current Firefox, and a new

finger-friendly Modern UI Windows app. They are, of course, the same program,

but separated by Windows 8’s split personality on desktop PCs and laptops.

In desktop mode Firefox recorded the same scores in the SunSpider JavaScript

test as did Firefox 16.0, completing the test in around 200ms. But the Modern UI

app didn’t fare so well, and recorded 260ms on average. In our real-world web

browsing we didn’t notice the difference.

Firefox for Windows 8 is stable on both a PC and a tablet, and we saw none of

the memory-hogging behaviour of which Mozilla’s browser is sometimes accused.

There are some interesting UI changes consistent in both modes. New tabs

offer a three-column view of your bookmarks, with recent history and downloads

presented as tiles in a style similar to Windows 8 itself. On top you’ll find a

unified bar for URLs and searches.

When you’re on a web page, Firefox switches to a full-screen view without the

URL bar or any options – it’s not dissimilar to Internet Explorer 10.0’s approach.

You have to right-click to bring up the address bar, and right-click again to show

all open tabs. Use a touchscreen and swiping does the same job.

You can configure the browser to show the address bar and all tabs at all

times, but it’s worth persevering – sites look great without what Microsoft refers

to as the ‘chrome’ that clutters up modern browsers.

Right-clicking/swiping down also brings up a few other options in Firefox’s

bottom menu bar. You can jump to the downloads list, find a specific word,

open a page on the desktop, zoom in or out, create a bookmark, or pin the

page to the Windows Start screen.

Firefox’s new interface features play nicely with Windows 8, but that speed

differential between the desktop version and Modern UI app worries us.

Mozilla Firefox REVIEWS

“We saw

none of the



of which


browser is




REVIEWS Bitdefender Power Tune-Up


Bitdefender Power Tune-Up

If you can’t bear to put down your new tablet, you’ll want a free app that can

help you squeeze the most juice out of its battery. Step forward, Bitdefender

● Price Free ● comPany BiTDeFenDer ● WeBSiTe


Many of its tools

are found within

Android, but Power

Tune-Up puts them

all in one place for

easy access. It won’t

hurt your device, and

may help prolong

battery life and clean

up junk files, but

don’t expect miracles



Android 2.2 or later;

1.8MB storage


Battery life is the Achilles heel of many full-featured tablets. Bitdefender Power

Tune-Up claims to help with this issue, and help it does – but don’t expect

miracles. The key benefit of Power Tune-Up’s Battery Saver is that it allows you

deep levels of customisation. You can request notifications when the battery is

draining, or put your device into low power settings during the night-time hours,

or even when the battery is below 30 percent charged.

You can also select from a long list of Device Options, switching on or off

functions such as haptic feedback, Bluetooth and mobile network traffic. These

are functions you can access elsewhere on your device, but here they are all in

one place, and as you make changes a time meter at the top of the screen tells

you how long it feels your device will now last without charge.

Oddly, within the Custom options in ‘Battery Saver’, you can also see what

apps are using RAM, as well as how much RAM is in use, and how much of your

CPU is being utilised, by which apps. This is all useful stuff in a free app, and it is

beautifully designed to be easy to use and intuitive. But bear in mind that Android

has a pretty good task manager all of its own.

The next option is ‘Analyze’. Here you can schedule a cache cleaner, and

analyse and clean up your tablet’s onboard storage, or expansion card. Hit

Analyze and the app will scan your device, showing you how much space can

be saved by cleaning up the data.

On our well-used Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 we were told that we could save

up to 677.12MB on the onboard storage, and 44.82MB on our SD card. This was

an intriguing result, given that it hasn’t got an SD card slot. The process lasted a

few short seconds, and Power Tune-Up cleaned 324.34MB from our storage.

The Data Meter allows you to set your tariff’s cellular data limit, and the

date at which it is reset. You can schedule warnings as you get near the limit,

or even switch off 3G capability.



claims to

help prolong


life – but

don’t expect


Google Play Movies & TV REVIEWS


Google Play Movies & TV

This is Google’s answer to Apple’s iTunes, helping you to find and rent

movies for playback on your Android tablet

● Price Free ● comPany GooGLe ● WeBSiTe


Google Play Movies

& TV offers a

seamless way for

Android users to

watch high-quality

movies. A great app



Android 2.2 or later

Google Play Movies & TV operates as a window into the Google Play store,

allowing you to rent movies, which can be streamed or downloaded via a

web page or Android device, and view video from other sources

The app is compatible with Android 3.2 tablets or later, and comes preloaded

on most. It is a video player, meaning you can play your own video files through

the app, but it’s principally a player for movies you rent and a means of helping

you to find new movies to watch. The movies themselves can be found on

Google Play, and then downloaded to or streamed and viewed with the app.

The Personal Videos tab displays videos you create using your Android tablet,

as well as any videos that you copy over to your device. Unfortunately, it’s by no

means the most versatile video player for Android. You’ll need another third-party

app to play QuickTime movies, for instance.

More fun can be had via the Movies tab. Here you’ll find self-explanatory

sections entitled My Rentals and My Movies. These display all your recent Google

Play movie rentals, as well as any films you’ve purchased from Google Play.

Each movie entry includes artwork and information, as well as whether you

have downloaded it and how long you have left to watch it. Rentals cost from

£1.49 to £3.49 in standard-definition, up to around £4.49 for new HD releases.

There are lots of movies in the Google Play store, including recent Hollywood

releases and a good number of classics. Once you’ve rented a movie you can view

it on various devices. Watching online is straightforward; simply sign in to your

Google account and you can watch just as you would on your Android device.

You have to watch rented movies within 30 days of making the purchase, and

once you start watching you have 48 hours in which to finish it. During this time

you can watch the film multiple times.

We tried streaming Transformers and found the quality perfectly adequate,

but our office’s flaky Wi-Fi meant playback was at times jerky.

“There are

lots of movies

in the Google

Play store,




releases and a

good number

of classics”





There are all sorts of services for catching up on the TV programmes you’ve

missed; TVCatchup lets you get a look-in at what’s currently on the box

● Price Free ● comPany TVcaTcHUP ● WeBSiTe


TVCatchup is

available to any

device via its web

interface, but the

mobile app makes

accessing freeto-air

TV content

more convenient on

smaller screens



Android 2.2 or later;

1.4MB storage


TVCatchup is a free online streaming service that brings live free-to-air TV

content from more than 50 channels to any web-connected device.

You’ll need a TV licence to watch programmes on your tablet or smartphone,

and it’s advisable to connect via Wi-Fi, too. If you are using 3G, watch you don’t

go over your data allowance and incur a hefty charge on your bill.

iPad users have had access to a dedicated TVCatchup app for years now,

whereas Android fans have had to use the full desktop version of the site. That’s

fine for large-screen tablets, but the interface can be much more difficult to

navigate on smaller slates and smartphones, and there are only so many pauses

for buffering you can take before you lose track of what’s going on.

There are advantages to using the full desktop site, such as the seven-day

programme guide, forums, adjustable video resolution and aspect ratio and an

onscreen volume slider. But the app is far more mobile-device-friendly, with

static rather than video ads that can be immediately closed and a scrollable list

that shows what’s on now and next on each available channel. A lower playback

resolution offers an inferior image, but fewer buffering breaks.

You can still switch the aspect ratio by tapping the screen during playback,

but you’ll need to exit a channel to view the TV Guide. The lack of a seven-day

forecast is of little importance, since you’re likely to view content on the move

via TVCatchup only when a programme is screening that you can’t bear to miss.

An advantage of the app is that you bypass login. There’s no need to panic if

‘EastEnders’ is starting and you can’t remember your password – fire up the app,

pick a channel, close the ad and you’re done.

We’d like to see an option to improve the picture quality over a Wi-Fi

connection, and a brief synopsis of current programmes wouldn’t go amiss.

We already use this excellent free service to get our telly fix on the move,

but the mobile app makes doing so far more convenient on smaller screens.

“Get freeto-air


content from

more than

50 channels

on any webconnected



BBC Media Player

With support for Flash removed from the latest versions of Android, you’ll

need this free tool to enjoy content from BBC’s iPlayer catch-up TV service

● Price Free ● comPany BBc ● WeBSiTe


BBC Media Player

is unobtrusive, free,

and it works. This

means that iPlayer

is available to most

Android users, and

that can only be a

good thing



Android 2.2 or later;

9.2MB storage

BBC Media Player is a player for the BBC’s video and audio content that works

on Android smartphones and tablets.

At first glance you may question why BBC Media Player app exists. You’d be

right to. The answer lies - like so many questions of digital media playback on

mobile devices - in the torturous saga otherwise known as ‘Flash’. Adobe recently

stopped supporting its Flash Player plug-in for Android, which meant that the

all-important iPlayer service was left high and dry.

In steps BBC Media Player to play iPlayer content. This means you have to

install iPlayer as well as Media Player, which seems like a retrograde step. But

when you consider the bounty of great free content to which the iPlayer offers

access it feels like a small price to play.

BBC Media Player is also an in between solution. It exists to provide access

to BBC content for those using Android 4.1 Jelly Bean on their smartphones or

tablets, as well as those on older versions of Android, specifically 2.3 Gingerbread.

Thus the majority of Android smartphones and Android tablets is covered. BBC

Media Player also works for both the iPlayer website as well as via this app, meets

the Beeb’s stringent security obligations, and minimises the change to the current

infrastructure. (It’s a pain to have to install it, but it works seamlessly.)

There’s not a great deal to notice here. When you boot Media Player you

go into a splash screen that encourages you to launch iPlayer. Do so and iPlayer

launches. To all intents and purposes you are using iPlayer as before, but the

Media Player is the shell within which you are operating. This shouldn’t have too

much of an impact on battery life - on our Nexus 7 the two apps in concert used

around 5MB or RAM, and were seen by the device as a single process. This is, in

essence, the same as happened in the good old days.

The BBC promises that other applications and websites will follow, making

Media Player more than just an iPlayer enabler.

BBC Media Player REVIEWS




supporting its

Flash plug-in

for Android,

which meant

iPlayer was

left high

and dry”


REVIEWS BBC iPlayer 2.0


BBC iPlayer 2.0

This updated version of the Beeb’s iPlayer app brings to the iPad and

iPad mini the ability to download over Wi-Fi and cache programmes

● Price Free ● comPany BBc ● WeBSiTe


This should be a

stock download

for all iOS device

owners in the UK.

The ability to cache

shows for 30 days

makes it an essential

travel companion



iOS 5.1 or later;

19.1MB storage


The BBC iPlayer 2.0 app for iPhone and iPad introduces a great new feature:

Wi-Fi downloads. This enables you to download television programs via

Wi-Fi and store them locally on your iOS device.

Ever since the BBC iPlayer app launched in 2011 (and prior to that the BBC’s

compelling iOS-optimised website), it’s been a great source of content for iPad

owners. With its large catalogue of television programs and radio shows, all

streamed without commercials, the BBC iPlayer app enables you to watch on the

move any show broadcast in the past seven days.

The last update to BBC iPlayer finally enabled users to stream television

shows over a 3G connection, removing the requirement to be connected to a

Wi-Fi router. This made the app much more mobile, but the quality when using a

3G connection leaves something to be desired.

Enter the latest update with its newfound ability to download programs and

cache them locally on an iOS device for up to 30 days. Downloading is a simple

enough process: click the Download button below the main player window and

it’ll locally store the program. You can then click Play when you’re out and about

and it’ll load the cached version rather than attempt a 3G download.

The implementation is pretty good. You can request to download a program

while browsing in 3G, and it’ll wait until a Wi-Fi connection is present before

starting the download. You can start watching shows while they are downloading,

and you can always still watch shows in 3G when on the move and wait for a

Wi-Fi download when you return. Programs download only when the app is

open, however, and it doesn’t initiate downloads in the background.

An option in the BBC iPlayer app Settings enables you to choose between

Standard and Higher Quality Downloads. This typically doubles the amount of

space (and consequently time required to download each episode), but it does

deliver noticeably higher-quality video playback.

“BBC iPlayer

enables you

to watch on

the move

any show


in the past

seven days”



AmazonMP3 and its integrated Cloud Player can make all your

music available on all your devices

● Price Free ● comPany amaZon ● WeBSiTe


AmazonMP3 and

its integrated Cloud

Player service

offer a huge library

of audio and a

staggering amount of

free online storage,

allowing you to tie

your music library

to your Amazon

account rather than

your device



Android 2.1 or later;

7.8MB storage

Akin to Apple’s iTunes Match, Amazon Cloud Player is a new service in the

UK that lets you store your digital music library in the cloud for access

from any device. In essence, it’s a digital music store that lets you purchase

reasonably priced DRM-free MP3s on the move from your tablet or smartphone.

You can use the Search function to hunt down a particular song, album or

artist, or browse Bestsellers, New Releases and Genres. You can also play a

sample of each tune to ensure it’s what you’re after.

There are a few differences between browsing the store via the AmazonMP3

app and through the desktop site. In particular, you won’t find any tracks offered

free for download without searching for them by name, nor any other special

offers. Of course, you can continue to buy tracks on your PC or laptop and then

also play them on your smartphone or tablet.

Purchased tracks are added to Cloud Player rather than downloaded to

your device, unless you’ve selected automatic downloads in the Settings menu.

However, it’s simple enough to click a download button within Cloud Player

so the tracks are available offline, and it’s possible to configure the app to

ensure they take place over Wi-Fi only. To toggle between Cloud Player and the

AmazonMP3 store you simply tap the arrow at the top right of the screen.

Any music you’ve ever purchased from AmazonMP3 is added to Cloud Player

on first use. It can also scan your iTunes and Windows Media Player libraries to

match your music to tracks held in its library; these are added to Cloud Player in

256Kbps audio format. It’s free to add up to 250 tracks; thereafter, Cloud Player

Premium costs £21.99 per year and supports up to 250,000 tracks. Few people

will find Cloud Player’s storage capacity restrictive.

With a selection of audio now in Cloud Player, the app serves not only

to make tracks available on any web-connected computer, but on any iOS or

Android device with the AmazonMP3 app installed.



people will

find Cloud






REVIEWS 7digital



The fi rst music app in the Windows Store, 7digital offers a wealth

of digital audio for your listening pleasure



7digital is worth the

free download, but

it has its work cut

out to become the

Windows 8 music

app of choice



Windows 8


7digital contains a wealth of digital music. Its installation from the Windows

Store took longer than any other app – but that equates to just a few minutes,

given the speed with which most Windows 8 apps are downloaded and installed.

During the process we were warned that 7digital required access to our Samsung

Series 7 Slate’s web connection, which seems reasonable.

It’s worth pointing out that there is a dedicated ‘Music’ app in Windows 8 –

a portal for the 30 million tracks Microsoft claims are contained in Xbox Music.

7digital has its work cut out to become the Windows 8 music app of choice.

Once you open the app you’ll be met with a very familiar scene. 7digital has

stuck rigidly to Microsoft’s Modern UI stylings, and the 7digital app comprises a

series of tiles. Each tile is an album or a track, represented by artwork. The tiles

are grouped into only four categories: New Releases, Your Music, Charts, and Sale.

Each section on the face of it contains only a handful of releases, but a View

all button takes you through to further listings. Like all Windows 8 apps, however,

there are Search and Share options, and it is the former that will help you to

fi nd tracks. In 7digital this works well. Search for an artist or track and you are

presented with a variety of results that match or partially match the search term.

According to 7digital the Windows 8 app provides access to some 20 million

music tracks. You would think this plenty but, as with all digital music stores, you

won’t fi nd everything you are looking for.

New Releases is self-explanatory: a collection of the latest music releases.

Your Music showcases songs you have purchased, and allows you to set up

playlists. Charts shows off the most popular Albums and Tracks in separate charts,

and the Sale is a quick way to grab a bargain.

Any track you buy is automatically added to your cloud-based 7digital Locker

for access on other devices or through a web browser. Favourite artists and

albums can also be ‘pinned’ to the Windows 8 UI and shared with friends.

“7digital has

stuck rigidly

to Microsoft’s

Modern UI



Google Play Books

Play Books is Google’s e-reader app for Android devices, but can

it compete with Amazon’s Kindle app?

● Price Free ● comPany GooGLe ● WeBSiTe


A slick, user-friendly

e-reading app,

Google Play Books

works well and

looks good



Varies with device

Google’s desire to get people spending in its Play Store is illustrated by the

consumer-friendly nature of its media apps. The challenge here for Google

is to persuade Android tablet-toting bookworms that they can eschew Amazon’s

Kindle apps and hardware in favour of Google’s own e-reader app, and buy books

from the Play Store, rather than Amazon.

It succeeds to a point: the Play Books app offers much the same experience as

Amazon’s Kindle app. But for those who use Kindle e-reader devices and Android

phones, there’s no benefit to having multiple apps that can’t talk to each other.

Play Books comes preinstalled on the Nexus 7, along with a free Jeffrey Archer

book. All new users of Google Play Books also get the more palatable Alice’s

Adventures in Wonderland, Pride and Prejudice, and Great Expectations.

Open up the Play Books app and you will see these books, and any others you

have purchased, displayed as book cover tiles. Books that are available for offline

reading are marked by a blue dot. To remove a book from your library, Jeffrey

Archer or otherwise, press and hold down on the book cover in your library and

select ‘Remove from this device’ or ‘Remove from Library’.

To add more books to your library you simply hit the shop icon at the top of

the app and browse those on Google Play. You can search by title or author, what

with Google being something of an expert on search.

It’s impossible to say how it compares with Amazon’s vast repository of books,

but there is no reason why you couldn’t install both apps on your tablet. The cost

of books is broadly the same: around £7 for a new release.

To start or resume reading a book, you simply tap on the cover. Should you

wish to read the next page you tap the right side of the screen, or swipe from

right to left. You can change the font and line height, and adjust the brightness.

You can set books to be available to read offline, too, which is a critical option

when by default Play Books is intended as a cloud service.

Google Play Books REVIEWS

“Google must





to eschew


Kindle apps

and hardware

in favour of

its own”


REVIEWS Photosynth



Photosynth for iPhone is an interactive panorama-capture and -stitching

tool that facilitates easy sharing

● Price Free ● comPany microSoFT ● WeBSiTe


Photosynth makes

it easy to capture


panoramas, which

can aid your memory

long after you’ve

returned from a trip



iOS 4.2 or later


Photosynth started life as a high-end computational demonstration at Microsoft

Research and the University of Washington. The first demos involved selecting

publicly posted photos taken by dozens or thousands of people of a popular

destination, such as Notre Dame in Paris. The software would assemble the

varying views into a browsable three-dimensional model. It was breathtaking.

The technology has since developed into a Windows-only desktop program that

can both create these kinds of models and more conventional panoramas. The

panorama feature by itself makes up the free Photosynth for iOS.

The steps Photosynth uses to create a panorama are among the easiest,

and provide some of the best results. Tap a camera icon at the bottom of the

screen, orient the iOS device in portrait or landscape mode, then tap to begin.

Photosynth uses a rectangle with a centred dot to indicate the area being

captured. From where the first image is captured, the app paints edges using

dotted lines to show what’s missing.

Move the camera around, keeping it in the same plane of motion, not rotating

it slightly or tipping it forward or backward, and the app tries to capture new

portions automatically. The app beeps when you pan to an area that it can add

to the existing panorama, at which point, if you hold still, the app snaps a shot by

itself. If it’s a little off-kilter, you can tap to force a capture.

The algorithm relies on identifiable features, and if you’re taking shots in an

area with a lot of motion or with a bland or smooth appearance, you may wind

up frustrated. The app provides good feedback when things are going right and

some advice when you’re outside its parameters.

The results don’t allow tweaking. Whatever the Photosynth algorithm

comes up with is what you get, and in testing that’s typically just fine.

When you tap Done, the app rapidly stitches together the frames. The

resulting image may then be shared, emailed, or saved to the Camera Roll.

“If you’re

taking shots

in an area

with a lot of

motion or

with a bland

or smooth


you may wind

up frustrated”

Autodesk Sketchbook Express REVIEWS


Autodesk Sketchbook Express

Sketchbook Express is an easy-to-use drawing tool for Windows 8,

which lends itself well to touchscreen computing

● Price Free ● comPany aUToDeSK ● WeBSiTe


Sketchbook Express

is fun to use, but it

lacks a zoom feature,

Add a straight-line

tool and the option

to save favourite

colours, and we’d be




Windows 8

Touchscreen computing lends itself very well to graphics use and this drawing

app is one of the simplest to use, having only a limited toolset.

The Windows 8 flavour of Autodesk Sketchbook Express may not come with

any instructions, but is simple enough to work out how to use. Autodesk has kept

the number of tools to a minimum, allowing you to experiment – start drawing

freehand, click on the colour wheel to change to another shade and you’re off.

Dragging your mouse across a narrower shade selection lets you be more precise

about the shade you want, but you can’t save your favourites to return to later.

Clicking on the red arrow in the tool palette cancels the last stroke, and multiple

undos are supported. Helpfully, you can reinstate deleted etchings, too.

Autodesk Sketchbook Express’s standard blank canvas can be changed for

vertically or horizontally symmetrical ones. Pens can be swapped by clicking on

the paintbrush icon and choosing a pencil, airbrush or eraser. Line weights are

adjusted via a circular brush size icon in this Windows 8 app; click and hold the

mouse button, then drag to make your brush larger or smaller. You can’t create

brush strokes of less than five pixels across, though, and there’s no zoom if you’re

using a non-touchscreen computer.

It’s rather tricky to draw accurately using a mouse and trackpad alone –

we installed a Wacom graphics tablet to use Autodesk Sketchbook Express.

Even so, most of our drawings came out looking rather wonky. We would have

appreciated functions such as a straight-line tool, a grid view and the ability

to save an object and then move it elsewhere onscreen while we worked on

another area of our drawing.

There are no options in Sketchbook Express to import existing graphics or to

use shapes included within the app. Text isn’t supported either, so you’ll need to

save the image and open it in Word or another graphics app if you want to add a

caption, for example. Images can be saved as either PNGs or Jpegs.

“Most of

our drawings

came out

looking rather



REVIEWS Magix Camera MX


Magix Camera MX

It might be free, but Camera MX is a very good image-capture, -organising

and -editing app that can really help your photos stand out from the crowd



Whether you want

to capture, organise,

edit or share your

pictures and video,

this is an incredibly

useful app that

includes 500MB of

online storage for

your creations



Varies with device


Magix Camera MX Android is a free image-capture, -editing and -organising

app. A recent update has extended its functionality to include video

recording and trimming, and added new effects, borders and picture structures,

plus Magic Cube, which adds effects to your photos at random.

Magix Camera MX is accessible through two app shortcuts. Tap the ‘One

shot cam’ icon to quickly launch the app and immediately take a snap; you can

then apply effects or enter the editing booth to adjust the image. The other app

shortcut takes you to the main application: Camera MX; tap this to launch the

camera and either compose a shot in image mode or toggle on the new videorecording

mode, open the Media Manager or access your Online Album, through

which you can showcase your media online with 500MB of free storage.

The neat thing about Camera MX is its ability to apply effects at the

composition stage, allowing you to preview how your image will look before

you press the shutter. You can apply an Auto optimization fi lter, or select from a

plethora of presets, including Lomo, Orton, Red Glow, Drawing, Refl ect and 8-bit.

New effects include Tilt-shift, HDR, Colour Splash, and Little Planet, plus you

can now adjust their impact using a slider. You can add a border and overlay to

your image, then tap the FX+ button to save the combined effect as a preset.

Effects can also be applied after the event where, unlike Instagram, Magix

offers a wide range of image adjustments. White balance, brightness, saturation,

colour temperature, contrast and mask blurring tweaks are available, and you

can not only crop and rotate images, but create mirrored versions and adjust

the horizontal alignment. Most are easily controlled using sliders, and there’s a

multiple-undo feature if you later regret your changes.

The Media Manager is basic, but it does the job. Images can be scaled for

sharing – the available options depend on the apps you’ve installed. A slideshow

feature lets you tweak the display duration and transitions, and add music.

“The neat

thing about

Camera MX

is its ability

to apply

effects at the




Microsoft Fresh Paint

This fun, beautifully built app shows off the creative possibilities of Windows

on a tablet. Paint for Windows 8 this is not, however

● Price Free ● comPany microSoFT ● WeBSiTe


This fun app has a

serious side that can

be used to create

cool and interesting




Windows 8

Fresh Paint is very simple, and it really requires a touchscreen to be of any use.

But it is fun and beautifully built, and it shows off the creative possibilities of

the tablet format. If you’re looking for the equivalent of Paint, however, this is not

it. This is a much more sophisticated creative environment.

Fresh Paint is a painting simulator for Windows 8. It’s great for casual use, and

sophisticated enough for creating art. At the top of the painting screen is a range

of brushes, crayons, a pencil, a blender and an eraser. The palette is brilliant, with a

selection of swatches, a bowl of ‘water’ and a mixing area with which you can mix

up colour for use with the brushes.

Cleaning your brush is fun, as it turns the water the colour of the paint you

dumped in it. That’s the frivolous fun side of Fresh Paint.

A ribbon at the bottom of the screen allows you to dry or centre your

artwork, as well as offering Undo, Redo, New and Save As options. When you

click into the Fresh Paint canvas to paint, the options disappear, but you can

recall them by swiping from the top or bottom of the screen.

There’s a mixture of fun and serious artistic capabilities about Fresh Paint

that appeals. You can just pick up a brush and slap some paint about, or mix and

stain exactly the right shades. The ways in which colours interact is very realistic

– you’ll get a tiny thrill the first time two strokes run into each other and smear

together to produce a different shade.

Used by hand Fresh Paint is fun, but a stylus adds precision. Mouse use is

possible, but really this is an app for touchscreen devices. The way brush strokes

are rendered is very realistic, allowing talented artists to achieve precision in

their work, and useless hacks to have fun.

If you have a Windows 8 device with a touchscreen, give Fresh Paint a try.

It’s a fun app with a serious side that can be used to create cool and interesting

artwork. And it’s free.

Microsoft Fresh Paint REVIEWS

“You’ll get

a tiny thrill

the first time

two strokes

run into

each other

and smear

to produce

a different



REVIEWS Echograph



Create animated GIFs and Mpeg4 video on your

iPad with the help of Echograph

● Price £2.99 ● comPany ecHoGraPH ● WeBSiTe


Echograph is

well-designed and

user-friendly, but

not all that different

from similar apps

if you don’t own a

digital SLR or HD




iOS 5.0 or later;

42MB storage


In an eternal quest to become the next big thing in social media, many iOS

developers have tried to do for video what Instagram has done for still

photography. But this endeavour can get tiresome, and sometimes the impulse to

produce high-quality results trumps the desire to generate shareable content.

Echograph, a photography app for the iPad, which allows you to create

animated GIFs and MPEG 4 video, might seem like another Cinemagram (and, in

theory, it is), but Echograph distinguishes itself as a more professionally oriented

program. Rather than touting its social-networking features, it focuses on helping

users create high-quality cinemagraphs. For the most part, it does this very well.

The term cinemagraph refers to still shots that contain some moving

elements. Usually, they’re published in GIF format, at a higher resolution than

most viral GIFs that populate the internet. Echograph calls its GIFs echographs,.

Echograph is at its most beautiful with high-resolution video, shot from a

digital SLR or HD videocam. You’ll definitely need to use a tripod when shooting,

since the program offers no anti-shake correction. You can use video recorded

by your iPad, but that defeats the purpose of creating higher-quality results.

Once you’ve selected a video, you must clip it to five seconds or less. The

trimming function isn’t that intuitive, and Echograph never tells you the amount

of time you’re currently using. Instead, the bottom bar tells you how far you’ve

gone over the five-second time limit.

At the next screen, drag along the bottom bar and select the still image you

want to use. A blue tint will appear. You can paint over areas where you want

movement to show, using three fingers to adjust your brush size. You can see a

live preview of your echograph by tapping the eye button.

When exported as a GIF, echographs assume a palpably grittier effect, but

that’s natural to the format. Mpeg4 echographs are much crisper, but they won’t

play with that fun looping effect.



on helping

users create



CoPilot Live HD Premium REVIEWS


CoPilot Live HD Premium

CoPilot Live HD Premium is a classy satnav app that works

with Apple Maps on the iPad and iPad mini

● Price £34.99 ● comPany coPiLoT ● WeBSiTe


Apple Maps doesn’t

take a lot of beating

right now, but

CoPilot Live HD

Premium earns its

keep in iOS 6.0 for

its strong navigation

and offline map




iOS 4.3 or later;

315MB storage

Apple hasn’t covered itself in glory by replacing Google Maps with its

own cartography in iOS 6.0. Refinements will undoubtedly appear, but

in the meantime there’s a market for a reliable offline mapping system, as

well as one that can help guide you to your destination using turn-by-turn

navigation. CoPilot was quick to declare itself primed for iOS 6.0 use, and

complements rather than replaces the native Apple Maps.

The updated version of this powerful software takes advantage of the

iPhone 5’s elongated screen, but it also runs on Apple’s tablets. It’s invaluable

to be able to choose how much space on your device you’re willing to devote

to the maps. This setup also ensure you’re getting the most up-to-date mapping

data. Once installed there are options for European regions or the whole

geography, plus a separate, slightly cheaper UK & Ireland only version.

Transport options run from car and motorbike to bicycle, pedestrian

or RV, plus there are toll road and ferry avoidance options.

CoPilot can direct you to a friend’s house based on their address in your

Contacts list, search for POIs, use Google Local Search items and enter

specific street names. There’s a Petrol Station Finder, too.

Our favourite feature is the PhotoNav. Click on a photo stored on your

device and, provided that Location Services were active when you snapped the

shot, it will instantly show you on a map where it was taken.

Maps and verbal directions are clear, with the standard list/map and 2D/3D

choices. Route recalculation when you miss a turn is pretty swift, but be sure

to check you’ve still got a strong GPS signal before performing a U-turn during

rush hour. The default route preview is achingly slow, although sometimes

there’s an option to speed it up.

CoPilot has long been a favourite satnav app due to its clear maps and great

value. In iOS 6.0 it earns its keep for both navigation and offline map viewing.

“Click on a

photo stored

on your device

and CoPilot

will instantly

show you on a

map where it

was taken”





Windows 8’s Snap screen feature is a boon for apps such as Skype,

letting you get on with your work as you chatter away

● Price Free ● comPany SKyPe ● WeBSiTe


This app puts a nice

Windows 8-style

sheen on Skype’s

already great

functionality, while

being able to snap

the app to one half

of your screen is a




Windows 8


Skype has a killer feature in Windows 8: Snap screen. This means you can

continue a Skype call with the righthand panel of your display, and get on

with something else in the remaining space. You could, for instance, watch a

programme on BBC iPlayer while chatting about it with a friend.

Importantly, apart from giving the interface a Modern UI facelift, the core

video and audio calling functions have been left largely alone. By default video

calls take up the full screen. You can select to have text chat on the right, too.

In our tests on all devices audio and visual quality was good.

The design is typically Windows 8: big square panes of simple tones. Chunky

icons are plonked just where you’d expect so that Skype is comfortable to work

with regardless of whether you’re using a touchscreen, touchpad or mouse.

Bespoke Windows 8 touch gestures include dragging down from the top

of the screen to see recent conversations, and dragging down and holding to

move and snap your Skype pane.

Windows Live Messenger is integrated into this Skype app, which is a nice

touch. And the app is coded in such a way that if it is running, but not actually

doing anything, it doesn’t take any of your processing power.

There are some minor niggles: the notifications can be annoying. If you aren’t

using Skype, getting a message from the app can be useful. If you have just finished

a conversation you probably don’t need to be notified about it all over again, but

that’s what happens as soon as you leave the app.

Also, presumably in an effort to prevent power and CPU draw, the app doesn’t

run in the background when you are doing other things. Switch back to Skype

and the messages come pouring in.

Skype for Windows 8 puts a nice, Windows 8-style sheen on to Skype’s

already great functionality. Being able to snap Skype to one half of your screen

and use the other for a different task is a boon.

“You could

watch a

programme on

BBC iPlayer

while chatting

about it with

a friend”


MyScript Notes Mobile

This handwriting-recognition app for iOS may appeal to

those who prefer writing to typing

● Price £5.49 ● comPany ViSion oBJecTS ● WeBSiTe


MyScript Notes

does a very good

job of processing

handwritten input,

but we can still type

much faster than we

can write, so it may

not be a practical

app for all situations



iOS 5.0 or later;

15.9MB storage

On one hand, MyScript Notes Mobile from Vision Objects is yet another

of the growing number of iOS note-taking apps. However, it attempts to

separate itself from the pack by focusing on handwriting as its only form of input.

As you might guess, notes that you create with MyScript Notes are stored

inside notebooks. You can have multiple notebooks, either by starting them

from scratch or by importing shared notebooks from iTunes or Dropbox. Each

notebook is assigned a default language, which is relevant if you choose to

convert any of your handwritten text to editable text. One language is installed

with the app by default, but you can easily activate more languages as needed.

The app clearly shows its bias toward handwritten input with its spartan set of

tools: a pen, an eraser and a selection tool. The pen tool lets you write (or draw)

with your finger or stylus using a variety of line styles and colours. For drawing,

having a transparency option would also be nice. Input is very smooth on a Retina

screen, but seems less precise on older tablets.

For those who like to rest their hands on the screen while writing or drawing,

MyScript Notes provides a useful wrist shield that you can drag up from the

bottom of the screen. This automatically moves down as you’re writing.

You can also add images to your notes pages, either directly from your camera

or via your iPad’s photo library. You can move and resize, and even rotate and

proportionally resize them, but there’s no apparent way to crop or group images.

New pages can be added to a notebook in two ways: you can navigate to the

last page and then swipe to a new page, or you can use the Page Navigator, which

provides a thumbnail view of your entire notebook.

MyScript Notes lets you work in either portrait or landscape mode. Portrait

mode gives you the ability to see an entire page at once, but if you prefer working

in landscape mode you can use two fingers to scroll around the page; there’s no

way to reduce the view to fit the screen.

MyScript Notes Mobile REVIEWS


Notes Mobile

attempts to

separate itself

from the pack

by focusing on


as its only

form of input”


REVIEWS Quick Note


Quick Note

A quick and easy note-taking and clipboard app for Windows 8 tablets,

Quick Note is worth the free download



You probably need

a note-taking app

for Windows 8,

and Quick Note is

probably it



Windows 8


Quick Note covers one of the app gaps that Windows 8 is going to have to

fi ll in order to become a proper portable OS for PC, laptop and tablet –

that of lightweight note taker and clipboard. You can use it as a simple notepad, to

record your to-do lists, and as a place in which to clip interesting web tidbits.

The ability to jot down simple notes is one of the principle benefi ts of

tablet PCs. The ability to organise and search such notes can be a killer app – it

certainly beats paper and pen. Even on a static desktop PC, a digital to-do list is

a lot more useful (and less ugly) than a scrap of paper. Windows 8 has no native

note-taker, and although Word 2013 can be used for this task, that’s very much in

sledgehammer and nut territory. Made by Diigo, Quick Note is a simple, free app

that fulfi ls an important purpose.

Open up Quick Note and it looks exactly like the native Notes app for iOS –

like a brown and yellow jotting pad. You can create and edit notes from within the

app, or right-click to take notes.

Quick Note lets you attach notes to your home screen, which will be useful.

A single click could take you from booting to to-do list, for example. And bearing

in mind that Windows ultraportable laptops and tablets are designed to remain

always on and in sleep mode, this could be a quick action.

You can also simply click to add web content to notes. And if your device

allows it, you can jot down notes with a stylus or pen, and the Quick Note app

will recognise them. To an extent (editing your notes is at least straightforward).

As with all Windows 8 apps, there is a Share menu in the Charms. This

allows you to mail notes or ‘share’ them via Quick Note (in essence, this simply

duplicates the note). We can’t imagine too many occasions wherein you would

need to share a note via social media, but it would be nice to have the option.

It’s simple and easy to use, and it’s free. You probably need a note-taking app

for Windows 8, and Quick Note is probably it.

“The ability to

organise and

search notes

on a tablet is

a killer app

– it certainly

beats pen

and paper”



iCookbook is a recipes app for Windows 8. It’s free and updates

automatically, but is this Windows 8 app worth an install?

● Price Free ● comPany icooKBooK ● WeBSiTe


It’s a shame the

ingredients are given

in US measurements,

because iCookbook

has a great deal

of potential



Windows 8

ICookbook for Windows 8 is bound to include something that will tempt you

into donning your chef’s hat and start cooking up a storm. Although iCookbook

is free, it is listed in the Windows Store as a trial version. At the time of writing

the app offered just under 1,500 recipes, but it’s updated all the time.

Each recipe has a large photo, a difficulty rating and an indication of how

many portions it makes. The ingredients are given in US measurements, though,

and while there’s a unit-conversion tool you can’t customise iCookbook so

that it displays measurements in your chosen format. The other aspect that

doesn’t work well is the side-scrolling design.

Navigation is optimised for a Windows 8 tablet or a touchscreen laptop or

PC. Holding down the right arrow key on a laptop keyboard is currently the only

option, and this works very slowly and only in some sections of the app.

Better is the fact you can leave iCookbook and have it return to the recipe

page you left. Recently viewed recipes and any you mark as favourites appear in

panes on the opening screen. The search option is not fully implemented, but you

can view by dish and then by ingredient, theme, occasion and cuisine type.

There are, however, no ‘lighter choices’ such as healthy eating, diabetic,

vegetarian or wheat-free either. There is a salad section, but the 55 recipes

here are anything but dainty.

iCookbook has a great deal of potential and the navigation issues will be

sorted out once touchscreen Windows computing is the norm, while the huge

photo visuals and large type are ideal for at-a-glance consultation in the kitchen.

A search option, healthier foodstuffs and measurements in the user’s preferred

units will vastly improve this app.

iCookbook is automatically updated with new recipes, and offers difficulty

ratings for recipes, but the ingredients are in US measurements, and the

side-scrolling design is flawed.

iCookbook REVIEWS

“Huge photo

visuals and

large type

are ideal for



in the



REVIEWS Coach’s Eye


Coach’s Eye

If you can’t understand why you hook your 3-wood or keep hitting the net

with your forehand, Coach’s Eye might just be all the tuition you need

● Price £3.13 ● comPany TecHSmiTH ● WeBSiTe


This simple tool

can do wonders

to improve your

sporting prowess



Varies with device


Coach’s Eye lets you film your sporting performance using your phone or

tablet, then watch it back in super-slow motion on a large screen. Useful

annotations can help you understand why you hook your 3-wood or keep

hitting the net with your forehand.

Technology is making available to everyone facilities that were previously

restricted by expense to professionals. No longer do you need a video suite to

record your tennis serve or golf swing.

Coach’s Eye builds on that capability: it’s a simple-to-use app for any

smartphone or tablet. By recording and reviewing, you can break down an action

you repeatedly perform in the hope of improving your technique.

Coach’s Eye mainly involves using your device’s camera to record clips of

sporting performance. You can then watch the footage on a larger screen.

A couple of killer features make it worth using over your built-in video

recorder. The first is Slow-motion review. Using a flywheel you can scroll through

video at a snail’s pace, nudging forward and backward in tiny increments of time

to precisely evaluate where your practised golf stroke became a manic hacking

slice. And to help you pick out the spot where things started going wrong, you

can annotate film footage.

So many repeated sporting actions require stability that simply being able

to draw a straight line from head to toe can point out flaws in technique. You

can annotate video with more than lines, however. Arrows, circles, squares

and freehand drawing allow you to measure how far from ideal your strokes

and swings are. If you’re the coach in this scenario, you can even record audio

over the top of the footage.

Coach’s Eye is a simple-to-use tool that just might help you improve your

sporting prowess. For £3.13 it’s a must-have for those with the potential to go

places, and those for whom all the gear is as important as having any idea.

“By recording

and reviewing,

you can

break down

an action in

the hope of




Rovio Bad Piggies

From the makers of mobile-gaming hit Angry Birds comes Bad Piggies,

but you’ll do far more here than aim, shoot and cross your fingers

● Price Free ● comPany roVio ● WeBSiTe


Bad Piggies is not

just another carbon

copy of Angry Birds,

and requires more

skill than simply

aim, shoot and

cross your fingers.

If you can stand the

frustration, it’ll keep

you entertained for a

long time to come



Android 2.2 or later;

34MB storage

Bad Piggies is the latest hit mobile game from Rovio, developer of the hugely

successful Angry Birds franchise. We’ve all bought into Rovio’s loveable

characters, from Yellow Bird the dive-bomber to Big Brother Bird who

demolishes everything in his way, plus the macaws, bulldogs, toucans, parrots,

marmosets and more, introduced in later episodes. But arguably the most

important character is the one who features in every level: the egg-stealing Bad

Piggy. It’s high time the evil green swines got their own spin-off series.

Unlike Angry Birds, in which you must fire avian missiles to take out Bad

Piggies, there is no such violence in this sequel. Having found a map telling them

exactly where to find the Angry Birds’ eggs, the Bad Piggies have managed to lose

said map in Piggy Island. King Pig has ordered his minions to recover the map, and

you collect a single scrap of this vital information with each level you complete.

You must build a contraption comprising propellant devices, wheels, springs,

TNT, balloons, umbrellas, engines, sand bags, fizzy pop and more. The resulting

vehicle should let you navigate the level while manoeuvring obstacles, getting your

Bad Piggy to the finishing line and a step closer to victory in Rovio’s mobile war.

You are given a grid of varying sizes in which to build your vehicle; each

part takes up one square, and the only requirement is that the Bad Piggy sits

somewhere within. As you progress the available parts become more plentiful and

complex; you must also accommodate in your travel plans the giant King Pig.

There is no single right way to build your cart: several combinations might get

you to the end of a level, although not all will allow you to do so with no damage

and within a certain amount of time. The game is made more difficult by your

need to control your vehicle throughout the level, toggling on and off the engine,

opening an umbrella or popping a balloon with precise timing. With you in the

driving seat from start to finish, Bad Piggies is more concerned with timing and

skill than it is sheer luck.

Rovio Bad Piggies REVIEWS

“It’s high

time the evil

green swines

got their

own spin-off



REVIEWS Granny Smith


Granny Smith

This physics-driven racing game from Mediocre offers fantastic visuals

and spectacular stunts across three hand-crafted worlds

● Price 83p ● comPany meDiocre ● WeBSiTe


It really doesn’t

matter that Granny

Smith is difficult,

repetitive, has a

meaningless scoring

system and offers

only 36 levels;

this game is both

gorgeous and




Android 2.3 or later;

20MB storage


Granny Smith is a physics-driven racing game from Mediocre, whose 36

hand-crafted levels are anything but. The game offers fantastic visuals and

spectacular stunts across three worlds. Smash windows, burst through fences,

tear up gardens, dash through shopping centres, and use your cane to swing

from pillar to post as you race to beat the thief to your green apples.

Granny Smith is no ordinary granny: she can rollerskate, somersault through

the air, drop 30ft to the ground… and get back up. You can equip her with a

helmet, banana peels and baseballs to help her outwit the apple thief and blast

through obstructions. Two faster characters can also be unlocked.

There are just two controls, grab and jump, which fall naturally under your

left and right thumbs. We really wanted an accelerate button, too.

Timing is key to avoid landing in a crumpled mess and losing the money

you’ve picked up throughout a level. You’re also awarded points for landing

granny firmly on two feet following a jump.

The coins scattered across each level let you buy booby traps, unlock

characters and skip the more challenging levels; they also help to point

out the correct path through each environment.

The aim is to collect the three apples in each level, although progression

through the game is not dependent on this or the number of points scored.

The greater challenge is in crossing the finishing line.

The learning curve is steep, and the game can feel repetitive, but it has charm

by the bucketload. At the end of each level you can watch a retro-style replay,

which truly captures the look of desperation in granny’s eyes as she seeks out

her apples… and pain, as she faceplants time after time.

It really doesn’t matter that Granny Smith is difficult, repetitive, has a

meaningless scoring system and offers only 36 levels; this game is both gorgeous

and charming. Well worth the download.


Smith can



through the

air, drop

30ft to the

ground... and

get back up”


The Walking Dead

Can’t wait for the second half of Season 3? The Walking Dead brings the

hit zombie outbreak TV show to iOS devices

● Price £2.99 ● comPany TeLLTeLLGameS ● WeBSiTe


This is more than

just a point-and-click

game, with gore

and drama in equal

measures. It’s also a

lot of fun to play



iOS 4.2 or later;

331MB storage

The Walking Dead is an acclaimed comic book series and TV show about

survivors dealing with a zombie outbreak in the American South. It’s about

human relationships, the strain put on these bonds by the need to survive, and

the fact that the walking dead might not be the most monstrous things stumbling

around this planet. These aspects of the comic series are all handled with equal

grace by seasoned adventure-game developer Telltale Games.

While the adventure genre is somewhat worn, The Walking Dead is more

than a point-and-click game. You’ll face quick-time action events where timing

is paramount, you’ll need to execute precise gestures, and you’ll converse with

other characters. Using the iPad touchscreen, you can also drag your character

around the environment, revealing other objects or people to interact with.

This last mechanic is perhaps the clunkiest part of The Walking Dead as your

character handles it about as well as an animated corpse. Thankfully, Telltale buries

this mechanic by not making it the central aspect of gameplay.

The controls aren’t butter, but that fits with the game’s conceit. You are not

an unstoppable hero with a Special Forces background. You’re a University of

Georgia employee named Lee. The game doesn’t give you any kind of introduction

to the what and how of the universe, and so you’re like Lee – vulnerable, unsure

of your surroundings, and just trying to stay alive in the chaos that surrounds you.

It’s effective and scary. The soundtrack and voice-acting are especially well done,

with believable zombie noises, gunfire and some smart dialogue.

If you’re hoping that The Walking Dead is another first-person shooter with a

high body count, you’ll be disappointed. The game is all about choice – and often

under duress. You’ll have to make split-second decisions, not only on responses to

questions, but who to save, who to shoot, and where to go. These decisions have

immediate impact on the story and may backfire on you.

Be warned: this game is gory. Don’t give this to your five-year-old.

The Walking Dead REVIEWS

“The walking

dead might

not be

the most




around this



REVIEWS Disney Gnome Village


Disney Gnome Village

This Enchanted Wood has magical appeal to everyone from young kids

to adults looking for a way to kill time

● Price Free ● comPany DiSney ● WeBSiTe


Gnome Village has

heaps of potential,

but it takes too

long to acquire the

building materials

you need. If you like

Gnome Village, the

good news is you will

probably be playing

it forever



Android 2.2 or later;

13MB storage


Disney’s Gnome Village is a delightfully simple building game that’s similar to

Facebook’s GnomeTown. It places you in a small clearing in the depths of

the Enchanted Forest. You’re tasked with saving the forest critters, defeating the

Evil Gnome, and re-building Gnome Village. Machetes can be used to explore the

village boundaries, with the natural resources and pieces of litter you find along

the way critical to the completion of quests that let you progress in the game.

Having built yourself a place to live from the remains of the Gnome King’s

abode, abandoned when he went into hiding, you’ll want to decorate it with

flowers from the market. You then set about rescuing Botkin the Bunny from his

cage, in which he was cruelly trapped by the Evil Gnome.

Turns out Botkin’s friends Snickers and Snackers met the same unfortunate

fate, and they, too, need rescuing. Clearly, Botkin, Snickers and Snackers will need

somewhere to call home, and almost before you know it Gnome Village is turning

into a rather handsome place to live.

The raw materials required to start building Gnome Village don’t just grow on

trees, of course. Rather, they’re hidden under toadstools, mushrooms, acorns, pine

cones, piles of leaves and Dandelions. You’ll have to start clearing away the debris

to gather what you need.

As with everything in Gnome Village, this requires no more input than a simple

tap on the item in question. You don’t need to understand what you’re supposed

to be doing, you just tap things and stuff happens. For younger kids that’s ideal,

but the lack of any real challenge means progression through the game has be fast

to keep things entertaining. And that’s where Gnome Village falls down.

If there’s one thing this game will teach your child it’s patience. Whether they’ll

understand they need to wait 24 hours to harvest a blackberry bush, or eight

hours to forge a single machete is another matter. Most likely they’ll get fed up

with seeing the ‘All your helpers are busy’ message splashed across the screen.


before you

know it

Gnome Village

is turning

into a rather


place to live”


Jetpack Joyride

This popular iOS running game is now on Android, with mission-driven

progression and character customisation providing hours of gameplay

● Price Free ● comPany HaLFBricK STUDioS ● WeBSiTe


With heaps of

gadgets, utilities and

new outfits to buy,

Jetpack Joyride is

the game you’ll think

you’ve completed but

keep on playing



Android 2.2 or later;

30MB storage

Halfbrick Studios’ popular iOS running game Jetpack Joyride has finally made

its way to Google Play. Mission-driven progression and a range of crazy

gadgets, jetpacks, vehicles, achievements and character customisation add replay

value to the simple controls and repetitive nature of this endless journey.

Unlike other games of its type, in which you must run, and run, and run, until

eventually you die, Barry Steakfries is able to use a jetpack to fly over zappers

and bullets, and to help him collect coins scattered throughout the game.

Vehicles are accessible at certain points within the game, including our

personal favourite, the fire-breathing dragon affectionately known as Mr Cuddles.

Spin tokens are collected where available, which can be used in a fruit machine

at the end of the game to win such things as an extra life, coins, free spins and a

range of small- to large blasts that add to that all-important distance figure.

You simply tap the screen to jump, or tap and hold to fly; gravity sorts you out

when it’s time to head back down to earth. The need to use just a single finger

or thumb makes Jetpack Joyride simple to play wherever you are, even with only

one hand. Given that a game this simple could quickly become boring, Halfbrick

Studios has a number of tricks up its sleeve to help keep things fresh.

First up are challenges. Three missions are offered at a time, which you take as

long to complete as you need. This is handy: although some, such as high-fiving 15

scientists, involve no more than brushing past them, others are more tricky, and

have you diving into death’s path to score near-misses with missiles and zappers.

We enjoyed completing the challenges, but very quickly completed the game.

However, once you’ve completed Jetpack Joyride you can start over, and in doing

so win the ‘A man, my son’ achievement. There are plenty of other achievements to

unlock, including ‘Crackling’, in which you must blow up a flying pig with a missile.

Hang on a minute, a flying pig? This is one of the many, many gadgets on which

you can spend the coins you collect.

Jetpack Joyride REVIEWS


Joyride is

simple to

play wherever

you are, even

with only a

single hand”


BACK PAGE What’s next for tablets?

What’s next for tablets?

In 2013 expect to find spectacular screens, increasingly speedy quad-core

processors, lashings of RAM, even cheaper prices and 4G connectivity


In 2013, no doubt we'll see tablets with spectacular screens, increasingly speedy

quad-core processors, lashings of RAM and, thanks to the advent of subsidised

tablets from Google, Barnes & Noble and Amazon, even cheaper prices. But one

new technology we're expecting to appear this year is support for super-fast 4G

connectivity. Currently, only the iPad and iPad mini support 4G LTE in the UK.

We’ve seen truly impressive 4G performance in tests, which can match or

even beat your home-broadband connection in both upload and download speed.

In the real world it’s unlikely you’ll see the circa-40Mbps speeds we were able to

enjoy before EE made public its 4G network, but there’s a good chance of you

being able to access a connection that’s between five and 10 times faster than 3G.

That’s assuming you live or work in one of the 16 cities in which 4G is available.

OM4G! How much data?

However, we were surprised by EE’s 4G tariffs. The pricing was always going to

be high, but we didn’t expect to see such meagre data allowances. It’s absurd that

a 500MB plan even exists. With a 4G connection running at 10Mbps, you’d burn

through that in seven minutes.

Yet EE suggests you wind down on your commute home by streaming

a film. Given the faster connection, you’d probably want to stream it in HD.

That’s 3.2Mbps if you’re streaming from BBC iPlayer, so a typical two-hour

film would use just under 3GB of data.

Oddly, EE offers only 8GB of data per month with its top package, which

costs an eye-watering £56 per month (or £66 if you want a 12- rather than

24-month contract). There’s no unlimited data option.

EE hasn’t explained this decision, and is putting out mixed messages about how

it expects people to use 4G. It likens 4G to a high-speed train, claiming that you’ll

cover the same distance per journey (or use the same amount of bandwidth

per activity), but in less time. But EE also says you can play games, watch TV and

stream HD movies on the go.

The point of having fast mobile broadband is to enable on the move the

sort of activities you would previously have enjoyed only over Wi-Fi. Until the

data limits are brought into line with home-broadband packages, streaming

‘The Apprentice’ in HD will remain an unaffordable luxury.

“You’ll cover

the same

distance per

journey, but

in less time”


Get 3D on your

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Protect your


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PCA COVER 208 digital.indd 1 22/08/2012 10:10


6 months





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ISSUE 208 NOV 2012

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ISSUE 207 OCT 2012

PCA COVER 207 DIGITAL.indd 1 26/07/2012 11:17

28 pages of tips & tricks

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PCA COVER 209 digital.indd 1 27/09/2012 10:38

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