NEW FOR 2013 • EVERY TABLET TESTED
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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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
WELCOME TO TABLETWORLD
Editor Marie Brewis
020 7756 2868 firstname.lastname@example.org
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 email@example.com
CIRCULATION & MARKETING
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
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All contents © IDG 2012.
12 APPLE iOS 6.0 20 GET THE BEST PRICE
WHICH TABLET IS RIGHT FOR YOU?
ANDROID 4.2 JELLY BEAN
4G TABLETS IN THE UK
14 WINDOWS 8 & RT 98 WHAT’S NEXT FOR TABLETS?
WHICH FULL-SIZE TABLET?
WHICH MINI TABLET?
WHICH CHILDREN’S TABLET?
72 APP REVIEWS
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
77 BBC Media Player
78 BBC iPlayer 2.0
81 Google Play Books
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
87 CoPilot Live HD Premium
89 MyScript Notes Mobile
90 Quick Note
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
should I buy?’”
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.
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
next to nothing
to its current
pitch in just
FEATURE Which tablet is right for you?
2013 to be
the year tablet
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?
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
tablet made for the
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
A 7in device is far more
comfortable to hold up
for longer periods than a
10in tablet, such as when
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.
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.
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
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.
has been very
by those lucky
be able to
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.
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.
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
aims to stay
one step ahead
of you, offering
the answers to
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
over who gets
to see what
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.
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
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
for iPhone and
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
to the sidelines
to make way
for a new
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.
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.
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
to boot up
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
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.
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
4G tablets FEATURE
The speed difference
is akin to switching from
3G to Wi-Fi
FEATURE 4G tablets
the mistake of
if you have
you will also
get good 4G
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: ee.co.uk/coverage.
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
SpeedTest.net, 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
about to buy
a new mobile
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.
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
HD and Kindle
to the extent
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
to beat, but
it now has
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.
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
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 play.google.com
great build quality;
low price; Micro
USB charger; latest
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
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.
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
screen; Android 4.2
Jelly Bean; 1.7GHz Exynos
5250 dual-core processor;
Mali T604 graphics; 2GB
RAM; 16GB storage;
NFC; 5Mp, 1.9Mp
cameras; Micro USB;
Micro HDMI; 3.5mm
headphone jack; 33.3Wh
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 apple.com/uk
graphics; latest iOS
design and build
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.
pace is more
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
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.
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
multitouch display with
IPS technology; Apple
iOS 6.0; 1.39GHz
Apple A6X dual-core
processor; 1GB RAM;
Bluetooth 4.0; 3G/4G
LTE; 5Mp iSight rear
camera; 1.2Mp FaceTime
HD front camera,
720p video; 42.5Wh
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 microsoft.com
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
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.
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
you can even
1.3GHz nVidia Tegra
3 quad-core ARM;
2GB RAM; 32/64GB
fl ash storage; 10.6in
802.11a/b/g/n, 2x2 Mimo;
USB 2.0; Micro HDMI;
Microsoft Offi ce Home
& Student 2013 RT
fi xed lithium battery;
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.
RT and Pro
but they vary
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.
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
Microsoft Surface RT vs Pro REVIEWS
the type of
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
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
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
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
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 samsung.com/uk
S Pen stylus;
very fast graphics
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.
need a stylus
or not is
no other 10in
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
1GB RAM; 64GB storage;
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 samsung.com/uk
SD expansion slot;
thinner and lighter
than the iPad;
1080p video capture
images; no flash
We loved the original
10.1, and the Tab
2 is even better, but
there are now better
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.
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.
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.
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
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
● PRICE FROM £370 ● COMPANY ACER ● WEBSITE acer.co.uk
strong battery life;
good image quality;
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.
but these look
screen; Android 4.0 Ice
Cream Sandwich; 1.4GHz
nVidia Tegra 3 T30
quad-core processor; 1GB
RAM; 16/32GB storage;
Bluetooth 2.1; GPS;
This quad-core Android tablet is fast and offers strong battery life,
but it falls down in other areas
● PRICE FROM £271 ● COMPANY TOSHIBA ● WEBSITE toshiba.co.uk
full-size SDXC slot
No 3G version;
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
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
screen; Android 4.0.3 Ice
Cream Sandwich; 1.3GHz
nVidia Tegra 3; 1GB
RAM; 16/32GB storage;
Bluetooth 3.0; 2Mp, 5Mp
cameras; 720p video; GPS;
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 goclever.com
cheap price; decent
9.7in screen; access
to Google Play
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
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.
low price, the
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
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 mydisgo.com
Very good IPS
screen; cheap price;
strong build quality;
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
write off the
Disgo as a
is worth a
IPS screen; Android 4.0
Ice Cream Sandwich;
1.2GHz Cortex A8
processor; 1GB RAM;
16GB storage; 802.11bgn;
2Mp, 0.3Mp cameras;
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
● PRICE £299 ● COMPANY ARCHOS ● WEBSITE archos.com
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
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”
screen; Android 4.0.3 Ice
Cream Sandwich; 1.5GHz
TI Omap 4470 dual-core
SGX54 graphics; 1GB
RAM; 16GB storage;
Bluetooth 4.0; 1.2Mp
camera, 720p video; GPS;
Micro-USB; Micro HDMI;
3.5mm headphone jack;
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 lenovo.com/uk
Flexible design; fast
for an Ultrabook;
speedy startup time;
capable of playing
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
is flexible in
Intel Core i5-3317U
processor; Windows 8; 4GB
RAM; 128GB SSD; 13in
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.
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 tinyurl.com/BestDroidApps.
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
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
as those that
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 play.google.com
the latest Google
Can’t expand the
The best budget tablet
we’ve seen yet, and an
excellent choice if you
don’t want or need a
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.
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
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.
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
ULP GeForce graphics;
1GB RAM; 16/32GB
(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;
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 apple.com/uk
7.9in IPS screen;
fast web browsing
and gaming; slick
OS; 4G LTE;
Low speed score;
4:3 aspect ratio;
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.
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
it can still rub
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.
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.
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)
IPS screen; Apple iOS
6.0; Apple A5 dual-core
processor; 512MB RAM;
with channel bonding;
Bluetooth 4.0; 5Mp rear
camera, 1080p video;
1.2Mp front camera;
3.5mm headphone jack;
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.
on quality, or
is it possible
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.
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 amazon.co.uk
Great value; slick
interface; nice screen
has fewer apps than
Google Play; no
offline movie viewing;
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.
offers 5GB of
up to 250
audio fi les”
KINDLE FIRE HD
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
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;
1.3Mp front camera; mini
HDMI out; micro USB 2.0;
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 uk.nook.com
dock connector; no
We can hardly fault
the hardware, but
the Nook store is
sorely lacking in
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.
HD loads apps
and web pages
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
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
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
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 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 acer.co.uk
micro HDMI port;
up-to-date OS; good
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
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.
is where the
short of the
set by the
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.
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)
screen; Google Android
4.1 Jelly Bean; 1.3GHz
nVidia Tegra 3 quad-core
processor; 1GB RAM; 8GB
storage; ULP GeForce
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;
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 goclever.com
Cheap; can handle
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
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.
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
GoClever Tab A73 REVIEWS
7in capacitive multitouch
Android 4.0.3 (Ice
1GHz Allwinner A10
CPU; 512MB RAM;
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;
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.
able to work
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.
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.
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.
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
is to enable
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 leapfrog.com
300-plus games and
apps; front- and
Requires four A
games and apps
A proper little tablet
with apps and games
that can capture a
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,
would you put
a child quiet
for half an
hour or so
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.
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?
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;
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 fuhu.com
Very good web
browsing and general
performance; safe to
leave with children
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.
leaving a child
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
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
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)
screen; Android 4.0.4 Ice
Cream Sandwich; 1.3GHz
nVidia Tegra 3 quad-core
processor;1GB RAM; 8GB
Bluetooth 3.0; GPS; 2Mp,
720p front camera; 2x
stereo speakers; 3.5mm
headphone jack; microUSB
2.0; microSD (SDHC
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 vtechuk.com
stand; great range of
Not as stylish as
Destined to be a hit
with all kids under
the age of eight, and
a true rival to the
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.
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
make use of
a child is
unlikely to get
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
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.
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;
REVIEWS 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
● PRICE £150 ● COMPANY KURIO ● WEBSITE kurioworld.com
controls; one of the
better tablets to
with a child; tough
design; user profi les
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 mrmen.com. 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 peppapig.com. 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
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;
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 arnovatech.com
Poor camera and
sound quality; naff
apps; interface not
It looks the part,
but a fiddly interface
games means we
can’t recommend the
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
won’t fox a
child for long;
it’s us poor
get lost in
7in (800x480) capacitive
touchscreen; Android 4.0
Ice Cream Sandwich;
1GHz ARM Cortex
A8 processor; 4GB
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 dolphin-browser.com
having in your
Android 2.0.1 or later;
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
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 mozilla.org
This browser is
stable, fast and
reliable, with some
tweaks for Windows
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.
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
none of the
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 bitdefender.co.uk
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;
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.
life – but
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 play.google.com/movies
Google Play Movies
& TV offers a
seamless way for
Android users to
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.
lots of movies
in the Google
releases and a
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.com
available to any
device via its web
interface, but the
mobile app makes
more convenient on
Android 2.2 or later;
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.
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.co.uk
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
Android 2.2 or later;
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
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 bbc.co.uk/iplayer
This should be a
for all iOS device
owners in the UK.
The ability to cache
shows for 30 days
makes it an essential
iOS 5.1 or later;
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.
to watch on
in the past
AmazonMP3 and its integrated Cloud Player can make all your
music available on all your devices
● Price Free ● comPany amaZon ● WeBSiTe amazon.co.uk
its integrated Cloud
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
Android 2.1 or later;
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.
The fi rst music app in the Windows Store, 7digital offers a wealth
of digital audio for your listening pleasure
● PRICE FREE ● COMPANY 7DIGITAL ● WEBSITE 7digital.com
7digital is worth the
free download, but
it has its work cut
out to become the
Windows 8 music
app of choice
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.
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 play.google.com/books
A slick, user-friendly
Google Play Books
works well and
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
in favour of
Photosynth for iPhone is an interactive panorama-capture and -stitching
tool that facilitates easy sharing
● Price Free ● comPany microSoFT ● WeBSiTe photosynth.net
it easy to capture
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.
in an area
with a lot of
with a bland
you may wind
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 autodesk.com
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
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.
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
● PRICE FREE ● COMPANY MAGIX ● WEBSITE magix.com
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
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.
is its ability
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 microsoft.com
This fun app has a
serious side that can
be used to create
cool and interesting
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
a tiny thrill
the first time
Create animated GIFs and Mpeg4 video on your
iPad with the help of Echograph
● Price £2.99 ● comPany ecHoGraPH ● WeBSiTe echographapp.com
not all that different
from similar apps
if you don’t own a
digital SLR or HD
iOS 5.0 or later;
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.
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 copilotlive.com
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;
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
on your device
show you on a
map where it
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 skype.com
This app puts a nice
sheen on Skype’s
being able to snap
the app to one half
of your screen is a
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.
about it with
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 visionobjects.com
does a very good
job of processing
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;
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
from the pack
by focusing on
as its only
form of input”
REVIEWS Quick Note
A quick and easy note-taking and clipboard app for Windows 8 tablets,
Quick Note is worth the free download
● PRICE FREE ● COMPANY DIIGO ● WEBSITE diigo.com
You probably need
a note-taking app
for Windows 8,
and Quick Note is
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
on a tablet is
a killer app
– it certainly
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 icookbook.com
It’s a shame the
ingredients are given
in US measurements,
has a great deal
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.
are ideal for
REVIEWS 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 techsmith.com
This simple tool
can do wonders
to improve your
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.
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 badpiggies.com
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;
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
time the evil
REVIEWS 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 grannysmithgame.com
It really doesn’t
matter that Granny
Smith is difficult,
repetitive, has a
system and offers
only 36 levels;
this game is both
Android 2.3 or later;
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.
30ft to the
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 telltellgames.com
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;
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
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 disney.com
Gnome Village has
heaps of potential,
but it takes too
long to acquire the
you need. If you like
Gnome Village, the
good news is you will
probably be playing
Android 2.2 or later;
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.
into a rather
place to live”
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 halfbrick.com
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;
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
you are, even
with only a
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.
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