Friday, July 27, 2012

Lenovo IdeaCentre A720 review

Key Features

  • 27in, 1920 x 1080, MVA screen with glass front
  • 10-point capacitive touch, height-adjustable, folds flat
  • Quad-core Core i7 CPU, 8GB of RAM, SSD/HDD combinations
  • HDMI in/out, Wi-Fi N, Bluetooth, USB 3.0
  • Blu-ray, 720p webcam

Lenovo IdeaCentre A720 – Intro, Design and Adjustability

Lenovo IdeaCentre A720
Lenovo IdeaCentre A720
Lenovo IdeaCentre A720
Lenovo IdeaCentre A720

We’ve only just finished looking at the HP Z1, which is pretty much the pinnacle of all-in-one PCs. However, if you don’t have £1,700 plus change burning a hole in your pocket, you don’t want a beast that weighs over 20kg, or indeed if you want an all-in-one (AIO) with touch, it’s not for you. In that case, the Lenovo IdeaCentre A720 might be just the slim, sleek and frankly gorgeous AIO PC you’re after.

As you may know, an AIO PC is essentially a computer integrated into a display, making for a convenient single unit. The disadvantages are that these machines usually use laptop parts, lack upgrade potential (the Z1 is the only exception here) and demand a premium over buying a similarly performing machine with separate monitor.

With that out of the way, how does the IdeaCentre A720 hold up? Well, Lenovo has made this 27in all-in-one something special. Its screen may not be the 2,560 x 1,440 IPS affair found on the 27in iMac and HP Z1, as Lenovo has opted for a Full HD MVA panel instead, but everything else certainly impresses.

To begin with, that ‘frameless’, glass-fronted display supports simultaneous 10-point multi-touch – unlike most touch-enabled all-in-one PCs so far, which merely support two points. It’s mounted on one of the most elegant, flexible chassis we’ve seen, which allows the A720 to fold flatter than any other AIO – giving you a comfortable touch position.

The A720 is also backed by some pretty impressive specs, from its quad-core Core i7 processor and dedicated GeForce graphics, to 8GB of RAM as standard, an optional Blu-ray drive, and digital TV tuner.

Design & Build
The Lenovo IdeaCentre A720 is hailed as the world’s slimmest 27 inch all-in-one, and based on what we’ve seen and the screen’s sub-30mm thinness, we certainly wouldn’t argue – though Lenovo does ‘cheat’ just a little by integrating many of the gubbins into the PC’s base, and by giving its A7-series a massive external power brick.

Still, there’s no denying that the design is truly special, with beautifully sleek, minimalist lines. Thanks to its entire chassis consisting of flawless anodised aluminium, it’s reminiscent of nothing so much as Apple’s own 27in iMac, but the design here is both more flexible and more convenient. Lenovo has also gone for similar ‘unibody’ appeal, and only where the A720’s leg touches its base and display rear will you find a seam.

Build quality is, in a word, great. There’s a bit of give at the rear of the screen, but this is the only minor downer on a machine that otherwise feels every inch as premium as it looks.

Like the HP Z1, Lenovo’s AIO PC can fold completely flat so that the screen is horizontal, but not only does the A720 have multi-touch to make the most of this, it’s also far easier to actually make the adjustments.

In fact, it requires just one hand to push the screen down and out or to fold it down altogether. So not only does the A720 go beyond offering height adjustment, it does so with finesse to complement its looks. All of which makes it quite simply the most flexible all-in-one we’ve yet seen.

Lenovo IdeaCentre A720
Lenovo IdeaCentre A720
Lenovo IdeaCentre A720
Lenovo IdeaCentre A720
The IdeaCentre A720 doesn’t skimp on connections, and they’re all easily accessible in the unit’s base. On the right are both HDMI in- and outputs, for hooking up external devices like consoles/tablets etc or for playing back content on a second monitor/your TV, along with a speedy USB 3.0 port. On the left you’ll find the slot-loading Blu-ray drive with physical eject button and multi-format SD card reader.

The rear hosts the rest of the connectivity, with a TV antenna jack, headphone and microphone jacks, a second USB 3.0 port, twin USB 2.0 ports, and a Gigabit Ethernet jack along with the power socket and Kensington lock slot. Wi-Fi N and Bluetooth 3.0 are on hand for wireless duties.

Like most all-in-one PCs, the A720 comes with its own bundled wireless keyboard and mouse. Usually, these included peripherals are at best instantly forgettable, but thankfully that’s not the case here.

While the ambidextrous mouse is not particularly impressive, it looks the part, features notched feedback on its broad, rubberised scroll wheel and, best of all, uses a laser sensor rather than the usual optical affairs. It requires a single AA battery which can be replaced with a rechargeable model, and stores the micro USB dongle that connects both it and the keyboard inside its battery compartment.

The keyboard, meanwhile, is one of the more attractive non-Apple models we’ve encountered. Made from strong, lightly textured silver plastic that superbly matches the chassis’ aluminium contrasted by black keys, it certainly looks the part. Even its unusual battery cover has been carefully thought out to minimise negative visual impact.

It didn’t quite supply the supreme typing experience we’ve come to expect from Lenovo products, but was nonetheless very usable, with its concave-shaped keys helping to guide your fingertips.

There’s also a generic Windows remote, which can be used to control the IdeaCentre A720’s media and TV functionality. It’s comfy in the hand but uses inconvenient cell batteries.

The Lenovo IdeaCentre A720 has a large, physical power button on its left side, and a range of white LED-illuminated touch controls in its lower bezel. From the left we have a handy ‘button’ for turning the screen off, an input selector, shortcut to preset touch-based launchers, volume and screen brightness controls.

They’re easy to find in the dark as the ‘screen on/off’ button is constantly backlit, and the others light up if you press anywhere to its left. They’re all reasonably responsive, and if you dislike them the keyboard and remote both offer volume controls.

Lenovo IdeaCentre A720
Lenovo IdeaCentre A720
Lenovo IdeaCentre A720
Add caption
Lenovo IdeaCentre A720
Oh how it pains us that Lenovo went for an ‘ordinary’ 1,920 x 1,080 resolution for this otherwise so premium 27in all-in-one. Everything from its design and specs to its touch implementation is great if not class-leading, but compared to the 2,560 x 1,440 IPS displays found on most of its rivals, its screen just doesn’t cut it.

Mind you, the MVA panel Lenovo uses is still vastly superior to the TN panels found in many budget displays and AIO PCs. Only a little colour shift prevents viewing angles from being flawless, dark detailing is superb, blacks are deep and colours vibrant. Backlighting too is very even and there’s no sign of bleed.

However, the glass coating brings with it the inevitable reflections, and a ‘mere’ Full HD resolution on a display this size makes things look a little grainy up close. Still, these are failings of the finish and resolution rather than anything to do with the screen’s quality.

Good sound seems to be becoming the norm on ever more laptops and all-in-one computers, and the IdeaCentre A720 is no exception. Lenovo has integrated some reasonably powerful stereo speakers in the base that produce a clean and detailed soundstage with a bit of body.

Though they’re not a patch on those of the HP Z1 due to underwhelming bass and lower maximum volume, on the plus side they don’t distort either.

It’s probably fair to say that most premium AIO PCs sport touch, but not like Lenovo’s IdeaCentre A7 series. The majority, such as the HP TouchSmart family, use infra-red based sensors set in the screen’s bezel. This means you can use anything as a pointing device, from your finger to a banana or toothpick. However, it doesn’t properly support multi-touch and isn’t quite as responsive as the capacitive touch generally found on phones and tablets.

Capacitive is exactly what the A720 uses to great effect, supporting up to 10 fingers at once – great for collaborative projects, finger-painting, and local multiplayer gaming. The low resolution helps here as even the smallest buttons are large enough to press by default.

Of the TouchSmart 610, we said it was the first all-in-one where touch made sense due to its ability to fold nearly flat. Well, taking this a step further and throwing in capacitive tech, the A720 is the first AIO PC where touch is a real pleasure rather than merely functional. We could touch this thing all day…

And it’s not just its ability to effortlessly fold flat, essentially turning it into a giant tablet. It’s also that Lenovo has provided a software touch suite of apps and interfaces that actually makes using your fingers a lot of fun. Classics such as Angry Birds are pre-installed, as are multi-player titles like Wong and Air Hockey that will result in many a wasted hour with friends. There’s even an eye-toy-like mini games collection that uses the 720p webcam. Suffice to say we haven’t had as much fun on lunch breaks in quite a while.

Windows 7 is pretty usable, but the A720 will really come into its own with Windows 8, which has been designed for touch. It’s an upgrade that should only set you back less than £15, and will be fully supported by Lenovo.

Lenovo IdeaCentre A720
Lenovo IdeaCentre A720
Lenovo IdeaCentre A720
Lenovo IdeaCentre A720
Lenovo has certainly gone for an impressive base spec, with the headliner being a quad-core Intel ‘Ivy Bridge’ Core i7-3610QM. This CPU runs at 2.3GHz by default but will turbo clock up to 3.3GHz, and supports hyper-threading for up to eight virtual cores. Though it won’t match the power of its desktop counterparts, it’ll happily chomp through most things you’d care to throw at it.

PCMark 07
General: 2615
Entertainment: 2793

It’s backed by a whopping 8GB of RAM, which should be plenty even for power users. For storage, meanwhile, there’s a 750GB hard drive. This can be upgraded (when buying direct from Lenovo) to a 64GB SSD with 1TB HDD for speedier boots and general performance.

Graphics are not as impressive as the rest of the spec, but the dedicated GeForce GT630 with 2GB of RAM does let you play 3D games at decent settings. Sticking to our standard test settings, the IdeaCentre A720 breezed through Stalker, and even at the screen’s native 1080p it was still smoothly playable.

TrackMania Nations Forever (average fps, 720p, Medium Detail)

S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Call of Pripyat (average fps, 720p, Medium Detail)

Frankly, with the Lenovo IdeaCentre A720 you’re getting a lot of beautifully designed PC for £1,300 (MSRP). Sure, the specs, screen quality and upgradeability pale compared to the HP Z1, but that beast’s a lot more expensive for anywhere near as powerful a configuration, isn’t as slim or pretty, and doesn’t offer touch.

The Apple iMac 27-inch, meanwhile, will set you back around £1,500 for a slightly inferior configuration. And though the 2,560 x 1,440 screen will blow Lenovo’s effort out of the water, you’re also losing touch and height adjustability, not to mention lovely extras like a Blu-ray drive. Overall then, the A720 is a bit of a bargain for a more ‘fun’ machine, especially when compared to PC rivals like the Toshiba Qosmio DX730.


This gorgeous, slim yet powerful 27in all-in-one PC is the first to make touch not just practical but a pleasure, thanks to its 10-point capacitive MVA touch screen, ability to fold completely flat, and genuinely fun bundled software. It’s also height adjustable and stuffed with connectivity, and its sleek, unibody aluminium chassis makes it a great style rival for the 27-inch iMac. Only its 1,920 x 1,080 screen resolution disappoints – but really, it’s the only way to play angry birds. 

Friday, July 20, 2012


Small, compact smartphones are becoming a rare sight on carrier shelves these days. Indeed, much of today's cellular buzz centers around big-screened mobile machines such as Samsung's ubiquitous Galaxy S III, the HTC One X, or its Sprint variant, the HTC Evo 4G LTE. Yet there's still a place for phones of tiny stature, especially if they're well-crafted like HTC's One V. Sculpted from one piece of aluminum and shamelessly sporting a curved chin, this handset surely will turn heads. The $129.99 HTC One V for U.S. Cellular isn't outrageously priced, either, but it is saddled by a weak processor and slow 3G data.


Part of HTC's past success has stemmed from having the courage to craft phones with daring designs. A classic example was the HTC Legend, which was carved from a single block of aluminum. The HTC One V furthers the Legend's high-class looks by flaunting its unibody aluminum chassis.

Colored in a silvery champagne gray, the One V's metal surface is matte, possessing an almost almost sandpaperlike roughness. Like its big brother the HTC One S, the handset's texture absorbs moisture, repels fingerprints, and provides a sure grip.

The HTC One V takes another design element from the Legend playbook, a distinctive curved chin at the base of the phone. Love it or hate it, the One V's sloping bottom edge helps it stand out in a world filled with basic flat slabs.
The One V has a chin reminiscent of the HTC Legend and the older HTC Hero.

With softly rounded edges and compact size, the One V's small stature also makes it an oddity. Compared with the massive 4.7- and 4.8-inch-screened monsters now flooding the market, the HTC One V's 3.7-inch, 800x480-pixel-resolution LCD screen feels practically lilliputian.

Despite its minute size, the display produces accurate colors and wide viewing angles. It doesn't get as bright or render images as sharply as the HTC One X. That said, the One V's screen doesn't oversaturate and distort colors like the Samsung Galaxy S Aviator's 4.3-inch Super AMOLED (800x400) display.
The HTC One V sports a small 3.7-inch (800x480-pixel) LCD screen that produces accurate colors and wide viewing angles.

Measuring 4.74 inches tall by 2.35 inches wide by 0.36 inch thick, this device is tiny enough to use one-handed and slide into pockets without drama. It's been a long time since I could say that about any new Android phone save the HTC Droid Incredible 4G LTE. At a hair over 4 ounces, the One V shouldn't weigh you down either.

HTC keeps the One V's ports and buttons to a minimum. On top you'll find a power key and 3.5mm headphone jack. The right side houses a long, thin volume rocker while the handset's left side contains a Micro-USB port. Three capacitive buttons for back, home, and recent programs sit below the screen. Keep in mind the phone lacks a front-facing camera for video chats.
A back compartment holds a microSD card slot for adding additional memory storage.

As the lowest phone in HTC's One series lineup, the HTC One V doesn't come equipped with the same powerful components that grace the One X and One S. Even so, the handset runs the same modern software, including Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and HTC's Sense 4 user interface layered over it.
Designed to be less intrusive than previous Sense versions, Sense 4 skips many of the fancy graphics effects, such as the perpetually spinning 3D carousel of home screens and in-your-face weather graphics.

To unlock the phone either flick a virtual ring from the bottom of the screen to the center, or drag icons into the ring to quick-launch major phone functions. Pulling the camera symbol inside the ring for example powers up the One V's imaging system to snap pictures and shoot video without navigating through menus. Other lock-screen shortcuts include the Web browser, text messaging, and phone dialer.
Use quick-launch icons to unlock the phone.

As on the HTC One S, and HTC One X, you have seven home screens to choose from, each ready to populate with app shortcuts and animated widgets. You'll find HTC's classic weather clock front and center on the main screen. One difference though is that tapping the widget's digital readout launches a world clock that lists capital city times in basic text, not the slick 3D globe visual found on the One X and One S.

Hitting the weather portion of the clock does pull up a detailed forecast but the One V lacks the graphics-heavy weather wallpaper that the One X and One S have as an option. On those phones it displays animations in the background and on the lock screen corresponding to current atmospheric conditions.

The bottom of each home screen contains a tab with the same four quick-launch icons shown on the lock screen. I definitely appreciate being able to swap these icons for others or even create and add folders holding multiple app icons. Changes made here are also reflected on the lock screen and placing application shortcuts on top of one another creates a folder.

Sense enhances the browser too, with a Pure Content Reader view that removes ads and displays only the text of a selected Web page. You can also select pages and video to bookmark for later enjoyment offline.

Tapping into the power of Android, the One V has the usual allotment of Google services installed, including Gmail, Google+, and Navigation, plus the Play Store for downloading apps from a catalog of over 700,000 titles. Additionally, Play serves up digital books, movies, games, and music to purchase. I couldn't find HTC's Watch app, however, which hawks its own library of TV shows and movies for rental or purchase.
Easily create folders for neatly storing app shortcuts on any of the One V's home screens.

Useful third-party software on the One V includes the Kindle e-book reader, the Audible audiobook subscription service, and TuneIn Internet radio (a personal favorite). U.S. Cellular injects the phone with its own selection of apps, such as Daily Perks for news and weather, and Mobile TV, which offers both live programming and full TV episodes and movies. Like similar services from other carriers, the service costs an extra $9.99 per month and is clearly designed to burn through your data minutes since it won't work over Wi-Fi.


HTC makes big bones about its One series phone's camera prowess. All three handsets (the One X, One S, and One V) rely on special electronics to improve speed and performance. As with the One X and One S, I found my One V test unit to focus on subjects quickly and capture pictures nearly instantly.

Of course, the One V's 5-megapixel shooter has lower resolution than the 8-megapixel sensors found in many of today's high-end smartphones. As a result, the camera produced images that were comparatively soft and lacked crisp detail. Indoor still-life shots weren't as clear as I would like either. On the whole they were dark and colors didn't have much punch. For example, the Samsung Galaxy S Aviator snapped crisper and more pleasing still-life images.
Still-life shots were soft but color accurate.

The HTC One V, however, managed to perform well in low lighting. Thanks to its BSI (Back Side Illuminated) sensor and quick auto focus, I was able to shoot pictures of fast-moving children -- something that gives many phone cameras trouble.
The One V was able to capture rowdy kids in low light.

Video performance was less inspiring, though, and the One V had a hard time keeping subjects in focus. Similarly, despite its claim to capturing video in 720p HD quality, movies I made were grainy and soft. To be fair, due to recent stormy New York weather, I recorded my test videos and images indoors and without strong lighting. I'll reserve final judgement until I can use the camera under better conditions.

Frequent phone photographers will certainly appreciate the HTC One V's feature-packed camera though. Just like the One X and One S, the handset's camera app boasts a wide range of shooting modes, scene settings, and fun filters. You can also fire off multiple shots continuously by pressing and holding the shutter icon on the screen, and you can nab stills while the video camera is rolling.


Just because HTC qualifies the HTC One V as a One series handset doesn't mean you should expect it to offer blazing application performance. Driving the One V's Android 4.0.3 operating system is an underpowered single-core 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S2 processor. As a result, the phone felt a bit slow on the uptake. Menus and applications appeared and opened without much delay but I did experience some hesitation on the One V's part.

Every so often the device would stutter while I swiped through various home screens, especially if the One V was preoccupied performing other tasks simultaneously such as downloading apps or syncing e-mail.

Linpack benchmark tests confirmed the One V's pokey processing with the phone notching a low score of 33.6 MFLOPs (Single-Thread) completed in a long 2.5 seconds. Still, that was enough to beat the Samsung Galaxy S Aviator's showing of 16.2 MFLOPs (5.17 seconds). HTC's top-of-the-line One X, however, turned in a nimble 99.3 MFLOPs (0.84 seconds) on the same test.

One bright spot is the HTC One V's call quality. When I tested it on the U.S. Cellular phone in New York, it was roaming on Sprint's CDMA voice network. Callers described my voice as extremely clear, almost pristine with no static, compression, or other audio artifacts. To my ears, voices piped through the phone's earpiece were warm, rich, and loud. Additionally, while the speakerphone doesn't produce much volume, I could easily hear people even in a medium-size conference room.

Don't expect much in the way of fast data throughput though. The HTC One V for U.S. Cellular is strictly a 3G device. Downloads I measured with the phone roaming on Sprint's network in New York barely cracked an average of 1Mbps (1.06Mbps to be exact). Upload speeds were slow as well, coming in on average at 0.61Mbps.

The HTC One V's 1,500mAh battery lasted decently long during anecdotal battery drain tests. The handset played an HD video file continuously for 6 hours and 4 minutes. By comparison, the HTC One X clung on for 6 hours and 35 minutes in the same situation.


For $129.99, the HTC One V certainly has a price that isn't unreasonably high considering its solid mix of features. It also has a distinctive style, and a premium unibody design that stands out from the crowd. That said, $99.99 would be a much more attractive price for this phone considering its outdated processor and lack of a swift 4G connection. I recommend spending a little more cash and splurging for Samsung's latest superphone, the $199.99 Galaxy S III. While we haven't reviewed the U.S. Cellular version, based on our reviews of the device on four other carriers it offers a truly impressive Android experience. I'm talking a massive screen, 4G LTE data where you can get it, plus a nimble dual-core processor...the clear choice for die-hard Android fans. For those who don't need all that horsepower and prefer a more compact size, the HTC One V is a sensible alternative.

Laugh Louder: This iOS app helps you search for live comedy shows around the UK

There’s no shortage of apps that profess to help you find the best things going on around you at any one time. But if you want to drown out all the noise, and only access the information that matters to you, then that’s where niche apps such as this can help.

You’re not looking for music, cabaret, fine dining or fancy cocktails. No, you want to laugh at some comedy nearby, which is where Laugh Louder could come to the rescue.

Our initial doubts about this app soon disappeared after ten seconds of tinkering, as a fair selection of local London comedy gigs were offered with just a few clicks.

a9 520x378 Laugh Louder: This iOS app helps you search for live comedy shows around the UK
Laugh Louder iPhone App

When you first launch the app, you’ll be asked if it can access your location – I clicked yes, so it would automatically throw up local shindigs for me.

You can sort by date or location, and when you click on each event, it lets you see profiles of the performers in question, and book tickets by guiding you to the venue’s box office.

c2 Laugh Louder: This iOS app helps you search for live comedy shows around the UK
Laugh Louder iPhone App

You can also search by comedian. An alphabetically-ordered list gives you full profiles on hundreds of comedians, with their associated tour dates around the country. And a Google-powered map lets you visualize gigs in your vicinity.

b5 Laugh Louder: This iOS app helps you search for live comedy shows around the UK
Laugh Louder iPhone App

The ‘Your Favourites’ section lets your store your top gag-artists too, so you quickly access information on any upcoming performance.

We’re told that all the gigs are uploaded manually, with some added by the Laugh Louder team, and others added by promoters – with more signing-up every day.

While gigs are listed from around the country, London seems to have the most content by quite some way. I checked the ‘What’s On’ section for Edinburgh whilst in town, and it had a mere two listed for three weeks away.

That said, the app has real potential to grow. It has been nicely designed, and the content at the time of writing is decent, if a little London-centric.

Chameleon for Android is going to arrive in early August and is already running on Android 4.1 Jelly Bean

Chameleon homescreen for Android tablets Kickstarter project
Chameleon homescreen for Android tablets Kickstarter project   

Some good news for those who pledged to back the Chameleon project on Kickstarter — a project update has been posted and it is looking like a release will be coming fairly soon. According the a recently posted video, the Chameleon home screen replacement app will be released (for those who pledged) in early-August. The release will be beta and it will be available by way of Google Play. The timeframe was left as “beginning of August” however it was noted that backers will be sent an email with instructions on how to download and how to get things set-up. Bottom line, if you backed the Chameleon project on Kickstarter — be on the lookout for an email. Otherwise, the Chameleon app is already running on Jelly Bean. More specifically, it is running on the Google Nexus 7 tablet.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Checkmark, the location-based reminder app for iPhone is now available

CheckMark App for iPhone

There is a new reminder app for the iPhone called Checkmark. We were pretty excited about this app back then since it promised to offer the ability to create location-based reminders. Well, Checkmark for iPhone has just been released and is now available from the App Store for just $0.99. And like we told you before, the app will let you create two types of reminders. You’ll see this by way of a navigation scheme for the app. So when you fire up Checkmark, you’ll have two main screens – Where and When. Obviously, Where is for location based reminders which if you select will display another screen with 3×3 grid of icons representing your most visited places. These icons can be re-organized to suit your likings. One nice feature of the app is the fact that reminders are triggered whenever you have reached a location or have departed from one. You can even trigger the reminder for a specific time before or after you’ve arrived at a location. It all works automatically. That all being said, I’m yet to discover what other features and functionality the app offers. Maybe in a couple of days I’d soon find out as I put the app on a daily usage. Have you downloaded the app? Tell us how you find it so far because the app has been generating some accolades from those who’ve used it.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

25 (more) awesome iPhone tips and tricks

 What's the only thing better than 25 ways to master your iPhone? 25 more.

In case you missed our first round-up of 25 assorted iPhone tips and tricks, be sure to read these simple ways you can get more out of your smartphone investment.

In the first post we covered everything from how to dry out a wet iPhone and fixing those dang "autocorrect" issues to using the phone cord to take a picture (and why) and making your own ringtone without having to pay your carrier.

And now we've got another 25 awesome things to try with your iPhone, many of which you weren't aware of.

And hey, if you have any tips of your own to share, be sure to leave them in the Comments section at the bottom — so you can get credit where it's due.

Here we go:

Turn iBooks into audio books: Like most smartphones, the iPhone has a number of accessibility options. One feature is called VoiceOver and it can read aloud any text on the screen. While designed primarily for the seeing impaired, anyone can take advantage of this feature if they want to turn an e-book into an audiobook. Now you can listen while commuting to and from work, while closing your eyes in bed or when jogging down the street. To activate it, go to Settings, then General, followed by Accessibility. Finally, swipe to change VoiceOver from Off to On. You'll also be able to tweak settings, such as the speed of voice reading to you. She sounds like the voice of Siri, by the way.

Quick access a draft email: You probably know you can start an email and save it as a draft to finish or review at a later time -- if not, when you're typing an email, tap Cancel and then select Save Draft — but here's a super quick way to access your message draft when you're ready to continue working on it: Open up the Mail app, touch and hold the Compose button (the icon of the small pencil in the square) and after a second or two it'll automatically take you to your last saved message draft. Neat, huh? Otherwise, you need to open Mail, select the email account, select Drafts and then find the message.

Send multiple photos at the same time: To send multiple photos to the same contact (say, in an email or iMessage), open the Photos app and then tap on an album, such as Camera Roll. Now tap the Select icon in the top right of your iPhone screen. Now you can tap to choose any photo you'd like to send to someone. Once you've selected the desired pics, tap Share in the bottom right of the screen and you'll have three options: Email, Message or Print.

Tell Siri the entire email: iPhone 4S owners probably go through a lengthy back-and-forth with Siri just to compose an email. Most people say the person's name and then, when prompted, the subject line, and finally, the body of the email. But did you know you can do it all in one fell swoop? For example, hold down the home button and say "Remind my wife about the party and say don't forget to pick up a bottle of red wine tonight." Siri will know who your spouse is (or will ask you once) and place that in the To: field, and because you said "about" the party, Siri knows you want that in the Subject (Re:) field. You also said "and say," which places words you said after that into the body of the email. This will all save you time.

Close open apps to save battery life: Make sure apps you're no longer using are not open and draining the battery. Do this by double-tapping the Home button and you'll see all the recently used apps running in the background along the bottom of your phone -- such as a GPS app you no longer need because you've reached your destination. Press and hold an icon and they'll all jiggle, which means you can tap the X to close the open apps at the bottom of your iPhone.

Tweet from any app: If you scour comments and message boards on the web you'll find iPhone users who complain the integrated Twitter support isn't working for them. Chances are it's because they didn't know they had to sign in first — but it's only required once. Go to Settings on your iPhone, select Twitter (look for the little white bird on a blue background) and enter your Twitter handle (or email) and password. Now, you can tweet directly from apps like Safari, Photos, Camera, Maps and YouTube. Also remember that you can start typing a friend's Twitter handle and the iPhone will autocomplete the rest.

Undo the Bluetooth "ignore" command: If you've ever paired Bluetooth products with your iPhone then you're likely aware you can also choose to "Ignore This Device." There are different reasons why you'd want to do this, but sometimes you tap this option accidentally or you might change your mind after the fact. Now you won't see the wireless gadget you want to pair with. What to do? To have it show up on the list again, simply turn off your iPhone by pressing and holding the power button (on top of the phone) for a few seconds and then swipe to shut down. When you boot back up again you'll see the Bluetooth device you previously ignored.

Siri can handle Facebook, Twitter: The iO6 update will add native Facebook and Twitter support this fall, but until then, you can still use your voice to tweet or update your status. It involves setting up these popular social networking services to work with text messaging. For Facebook, text the word "hello" to 32665 (which spells FBOOK on a traditional keypad). You'll get an automated reply on your phone with a link to click to finish the setup. Finally, add the short code to your address book and rename it "Facebook." Now you can tell Siri "Text Facebook," followed by your status update. It's the same process for Twitter, as you'll want to enable mobile updates by sending a short code to Twitter. Then you'll add the short code to your Contacts, name it "Twitter" and then instruct Siri to send a message there. To get going, text the word "start" to 40404 (U.S.) or 21212 (Canada).

Lock the screen orientation: Does it drive you nuts to have the iPhone screen flip around when you rotate the phone? You can prevent this from happening if you have no desire to swap between portrait and landscape view. Simply choose the orientation you prefer by tilting the device and then double-click the Home button. This will bring up the multitasking interface at the bottom of the iPhone. Now swipe from left to right and you'll see a "portrait orientation lock" icon at the very left of this string of apps (it has a circular arrow on the icon). Tap it once to lock your orientation and you'll see a padlock appear. Turn it off by tapping it again.

Add PDFs to iBooks: You don't need to spend money on apps that let you read Adobe PDF (Portable Document Format) files. Instead, if you get a PDF as an attachment in an email, or see one on a website in Safari (or another iPhone browser), simply press and hold the PDF icon or link and you'll see an option appear called "Open in iBooks." Select this and you'll be able to read the PDF in the iBooks app. In fact, all your PDFs will now be stored here. Simply tap the word Books in the iBooks app (top, center of screen) and now select PDFs to see them all on the virtual bookshelf. You can delete them from this screen, too, if desired.

Master the keyboard: In the first 25 Awesome iPhone Tricks post we cover how to add your own shortcuts and quickly accept or refuse autocorrect suggestions. But here's a few other keyboard related tips: tap the space bar twice and the iPhone will add a period and capitalize the next word; quickly capitalize a word by pressing on the Shift (arrow) button and dragging your finger to the first letter of the word; to enter a number or symbol quickly, touch and hold, then select the key you want (lifting your finger returns you to the alphabet keyboard); and touch and hold a letter to reveal a list of special characters, such as à, á, â, ä, æ, ã and å, when you press and hold on "a." Hey, now you can type "Mötley Crüe" properly.

Siri is a verbal calculator, too: You might know Siri on iPhone 4S can give you facts and definitions on-demand but "she" can also solve math problems for you, too (this is where students, off for the summer say "so NOW you tell me"). Just give Siri a verbal task, be it addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, equations or fractions — and you'll see (not hear) the answer on the screen. Better yet, this is very handy when figuring out tip at a restaurant. For example, say you're out with three friends and the bill comes to $300. You can ask Siri something like "What's a 20 percent tip on $300, for four people?" and Siri will tell you everyone owes $15.

Swipe to delete messages: This one is pretty simple, but you'd be surprised how many people do it the longer way: to delete an unwanted email, text message or voicemail without opening them, just swipe across the message from right to left when you see it in list view and tap the red Delete button. Instead, many iPhone users waste time by opening up each and every message and tapping the small trash can at the bottom of the screen. On a related note, you can delete unwanted emails in bulk rather than deleting one at a time: In your Inbox, simply click the Edit button and check off the emails you want to delete with your finger and then choose Delete.

Tap to focus the camera: Those who regularly use the iPhone as a camera might know this simple trick: When you're snapping photos or shooting video on your iPhone — and seeing the subject on your screen as you line up the shot -- tap the screen where you want to iPhone to focus and it'll adjust the exposure and white balance automatically for that area. For example, you might want your friend's face in perfect focus or might opt for a more artsy shot of the sushi they're holding in their chopsticks by focusing the camera on the food. You get the idea.

Manage your camera time: Here's another tip when using the camera. Unless you're running out of room, never delete unwanted photos from your iPhone when you're out. Why? You really don't know what the photo looks like until you see it much bigger on a computer monitor (it may be better than you think and/or fixable with software). Plus, spending time deleting photos on your smartphone right after you took them means you might miss an awesome shot because you're not paying attention. And finally, deleting photos and videos off your iPhone unnecessarily drains the battery.

Add folders to the dock: Since iOS 4, you've been able to create a folder to store many similar apps on your home screen — this helps you better group your programs and find them easier. (Just press and hold an app until they squiggle, then drag and drop it onto another app). But did you know you could also create folders and add them to your dock at the bottom of the iPhone? Once you've got your folders created — and you can create or edit the name for the folder by pressing and holding the icon — simply drag it to the bottom of the iPhone screen for easy access. You can only have four icons at a time, so you might gave to move one there to your homescreen to make room.

Hold your iPhone like a camera: If you don`t like take a photo on your iPhone by pressing the virtual shutter button on the screen — after all, it's not the most comfortable and could cause the iPhone to shake when you snap the picture — then remember you can now take a photo by pressing the volume button on the side of your iPhone, which will be on top — in the same place as a shutter button on a regular camera!

Preview that picture: On a related note, if you want to preview the photo you just took, just drag your finger from left to right in the Camera app for a preview. Most people will tap the icon in the lower-left of the screen and open up the photos manually. If you haven't taken any photos or videos lately, swipe from left to right in the Camera app will start to show your Camera Roll, from newest to oldest, as you continue to swipe along.

Easily control your music: When you're listening to music on your iPhone and using the earbuds that shipped with them, you might be aware you can press once on the small controller in the middle of the headphone cord to pause the music, and press again to play. But did you know you could quickly double tap to skip to the next song and triple-tap to listen to the previous song? Also, iPhone 4S users can use Siri to play music, such as saying "Play Jay Z" or "Play other music like this" or "Play playlist workout mix."

Quickly add a calendar entry: You might've noticed when reading an email in the Mail app it'll automatically underline anything related to date and time. For example, you're typing to your buddy something like "Don't forget we're hooking up for drinks on Friday afternoon." iPhone will detect this is a date or time and will convert it to a link -- your friend will see "on Friday afternoon" underlined and in blue — and they could tap the link to add the event to their calendar.

Sync it all: Computer? What computer? You need not connect your iPhone to your PC or Mac every again if you activate the iCloud service. Automatically back-up your iPhone information to iCloud by going to Settings, iCloud and finally Storage and Back-Up. Also, be sure to select what gets synched over Wi-Fi (or if you prefer, 3G, too, though be aware of data costs). You can choose to sync Mail, Contacts, Calendars, Reminders, Bookmarks, Notes, Photos and more. You get 5GB of free storage through iCloud, but can pay for more if you like. Also, while here, activate "Find My iPhone" so you can track your phone if missing or stolen.

Enable restrictions: Whether it's on your iPhone or your child's iPod touch or iPad, you can block inappropriate content from your kids (such as music with explicit lyrics), prevent them from buying apps (or in-app purchases) and block YouTube, Safari, FaceTime and more. To enable restrictions — and then customize what they're able to access -- go to Settings, General, Restrictions and tap "Enable Restrictions." You will first be promoted to select a 4-digit passcode before choosing which content and apps can be accessed.

Delete your memory-hogging apps: Beginning with the iOS 5 update, you can see how much space your apps are taking up on your iPhone and delete them from your device — even a bunch at once. To do this, tap Settings, followed by General and finally, Usage. From here you'll see a list of all your apps and their file size. If you see that Max Payne game is 1.3 Gigabytes and you don't play it anymore, tap to delete it. You can always reinstall it later of via iCloud, App Store or your computer.

Save battery by turning off "pushed" data: Another way to prolong battery performance is to off push notifications in email, instant messaging and other applications that constantly ping a server to push real-time notifications to your smartphone. That is, if you don't need to know this kind of information right away. In Settings, select the option that says Mail, Contacts and Calendars, tap "Fetch New Data" and change it from Push to Every 30 Minutes, Hourly or Manually.

Turn on the "Emoji" (emotions) keyboard: Ever notice how some of your friends have cute little emoticons in their emails or text messages. You know, like a little yellow face with hearts for eyes, teddy bears, Christmas trees, and so on? By default, your iPhone doesn't give you access to these emotions and other graphics — but it is stored on your phone and ready when you are. To enable the Emoji keyboard, go to Settings, then General and finally Keyboard. Once inside, tap International Keyboards and "add" new keyboard. Select "Emoji." Now, when typing an email or text, tap the globe key near the space bar for these new options. Tap it again to return back to English.

Motorola Atrix HD arrives on AT&T

Motorola Atrix HD

When it comes to the world of smartphones, right now the market can be said to be fragmented into three different groups – the Windows Phone platform is one of them, occupying a minority spot, while the other two would be the Android operating system from Google as well as iOS from Apple. AT&T’s latest offering, the Motorola Atrix HD, is clearly part of the Android camp, where from this Sunday onwards, it will be made available in all AT&T channels for $99.99 a pop. Do not be charmed by the relatively low price point at first glance, as it would mean you will have to agree with a new two-year agreement.

Still, that would be better than purchasing a phone outright as an unlocked model, since you would have to get a data and voice line for the phone anyways. Not only that, if you are already a regular of AT&T for so many years, why not continue the trend and stick to the Motorola Atrix HD for a couple more years? Let us take a closer look at what the Motorola Atrix HD is able to offer underneath the hood in the extended post, shall we?

It goes without saying that the Motorola Atrix HD is the latest addition to Motorola’s Atrix family, where it measures an incredibly thin 8.4mm, but do not think that this is fragile at any time. After all, this puppy is made out of Kevlar, the same kind of material used for bullet proof vests, making it incredibly stable in any situation. Apart from that, the Motorola Atrix HD will also feature a high-tech, invisible nano-coating that doubles up as a splash guard for the outer shell as well as for the electrical circuit boards within.
Owners of the Motorola Atrix HD might find the smartphone to be worth their while thanks to the pre-loaded SMARTACTIONS, which is a free app from Motorola which actually suggests ways to automatically change your phone’s settings throughout the day in order to let you fall into a comfortable routine. For instance, should you place the Motorola ATRIX HD in the Vehicle Navigation Dock accessory and enable Drive Smart, it will automatically send the handset into vehicle mode, reading out any of your text messages, in addition to sending auto-replies to incoming calls and texts while delivering turn-by-turn navigation.

Other hardware specifications include a vibrant 4.5-inch HD ColorBoost display, an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera with 1080p HD video recording capabilities, and a front-facing 720p HD camera. This will be an Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich powered device, so you need not fret about not having the latest operating system version, that’s for sure.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Whys, Wherefores and Whens of an iPad Mini

The Whys, Wherefores and Whens of an iPad Mini
iPad Mini

The prospect of an iPad Mini has once again bubbled up to the surface following the debut of Google's Nexus 7 tablet -- as well as a great deal of chatter from the supply chain. A Mini, said Creative Strategies' Ben Bajarin, would actually represent the evolution of the iPod. "If that's the thinking, it makes sense to price it at a little more than the iPod now but below the iPad," he said. The only barrier to Apple introducing a smaller version of the iPad in the near future appears to be the objections of its deceased cofounder Steve Jobs. That seems to be the gathering consensus of opinion on the Net, as what was once an airy rumor has now become a virtual inevitability in the opinions of several market analysts.

Apple's supply chain, which in recent times has become as leaky as a tissue tanker, has confirmed to news outlets like The Wall Street Journal and to stock analysts that components are being stockpiled for a smaller iPad to be shipped in time for the 2012 holiday season.

"From what I've gathered from a number of folks in the supply chain and a number of analysts I know who track those things, Apple is serious about coming to market with the product," Ben Bajarin, a principal with Creative Strategies, told MacNewsWorld.

"It's difficult to hide what's happening on the supply chain side," he added, "and the amount of information coming from the supply chain guys are pointing in that direction."

Powerful Market Strategy

Bob O'Donnell, IDC's research vice president for clients and displays, also believes an iPad Mini is in the works. "The whole Asian supply chain is already working away on that product, " he told MacNewsWorld. "It seems to be well on its way."

In some regions in the world, like Asia, he explained smaller tablets are more popular. "If you're on a Tokyo subway, a 10-inch iPad is too big," he said. "So a seven-inch product makes a lot more sense."

A smaller iPad also makes sense as a market strategy, he aded. "This will allow Apple to hit a lower price point and extend the range of people who can afford an iPad," he explained.

"There's a tremendous opportunity for Apple to extend its reach, to extend its presence, to extend its domination in the tablet market by offering a seven-inch product," he noted.

Still Charging Premium Prices

While pricing would still be above competing seven-inch tablets -- perhaps US$249 versus $199 for a Google Nexus 7 or Amazon Kindle Fire -- the iPad Mini would have premium features its competitors don't have, the analysts maintained.

"An iPad Mini would have the incredible ecosystem that the full-sized iPad has, which the other seven-inch tablets don't have," O'Donnell observed.

In addition, the Mini would likely have a Retina display. "That's one of those things that lets you get away with pricing it higher than the Kindle Fire or the Nexus 7," added Bajarin of Creative Strategies.
However, the Mini will have more in common with those slates than it will with its big brother, Bajarin contended. "A seven-inch iPad is not going to be an 'iPad' even if they call it that," he declared.
"A 10-inch tablet is a general-purpose tablet -- you can do a lot things with it," he continued, "whereas a 7-inch tablet is really much more focused on pure media entertainment.

'Small Is the New Big'

A Mini, he maintained, would actually represent the evolution of the iPod. "If that's the thinking, it makes sense to price it at a little more than the iPod now but below the iPad," he said.

If Apple introduces a Mini, it will cannibalize some of the market for the full-sized tablet, Brian White an analyst with Topeka Capital Markets, maintained in a research note released Thursday.

"We would expect the cannibalization of the current iPad by the 'iPad Mini' to be relatively minor and potentially in a range of just 10-20 percent," he wrote, "while the market opportunity could eventually be larger for the 'iPad Mini' given the growth trends in developing countries.

"Although we would expect the 'iPad Mini' to have a lower margin profile versus the current iPad, the magnitude of the difference will largely depend on what features are left out of the smaller iPad, and thus the gap could be relatively minor," he added.

After shrinking the iPad, Apple may think about shrinking the iPhone, maintained Global Equities Research analyst Trip Chowdry. "Small is the new big," he told MacNewsWorld. "I would not be surprised to see in addition to an iPad Mini, an iPhone Mini." 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

New Fujitsu 14-inch LIFEBOOK U772 Ultrabook and 13.3-inch UH572 Ultrabook

Fujitsu has released two new LIFEBOOK Ultrabooks, the 14-inch LIFEBOOK U772 Ultrabook designed for business professionals and the 13.3-inch LIFEBOOK UH572 Ultrabook for consumers.

The 14-inch LIFEBOOK U772 Ultrabook starts at $1,149, and it comes powered by an Intel Core i5 or Intel Core i7 processor with Intel Turbo Boost Technology. It features a WXGA HD Crystal View display with edge-to-edge viewing and support for an optional port replicator for docking or connecting the ultrabook to an external monitor, mouse and/or keyboard. The LIFEBOOK U772 is slim at .69-inches, weighs 3.15 pounds, and it offers fast boot-up and about 7 hours of battery life.

Starting at $999, the LIFEBOOK UH572 Ultrabook is powered by an Intel Core i5 processor with Turbo Boost Technology, and this one measures .71" thin, weighs 3.5 pounds and deliversabout  6 hours of battery life. It offers the latest Intel WiDi (Wireless Display), wirelessly stream to the TV, and an HDMI port to connect to a larger HDTV.

These new Fujitsu LIFEBOOK Ultrabooks systems also feature:
- Fast-wake with Intel Rapid Start Technology
- Intel HD Graphics 4000
- High-definition webcam
- 3 USB ports and HDMI port
- SD Card Reader
- Up to 500 GB HDD with 32GB cache or up to 256GB SSD (LIFEBOOK U772 Ultrabook)
- Up to 500 GB 5400rpm S-ATA HDD with 32 GB cache (LIFEBOOK UH572 Ultrabook)
- Microsoft Windows 7

New MacBook Pro, Air prices get slash treatment at Best Buy

Best Buy didn't waste any time cutting prices on new MacBooks. The least expensive Air now starts at $949.99.
MacBook Pro with 15.4-inch Retina display.
MacBook Pro with Retina display
MacBook Pro with 15.4-inch Retina display.
(Credit: Apple)
Best Buy was quick to discount the newest MacBooks, offering savings up to $140 over the weekend.
The biggest discount is on the $2,799.99 Retina Pro with 8GB of memory and a 512MB solid-state drive (Model: MC976LL/A). That is off $140 to $2,659.99.

The least expensive Retina Pro dropped to $2,089.99 (Model: MC975LL/A), shaving $110 off the regular price (see image below).

New MacBook Airs got cut too. The $999.99 Air (Model: MD223LL/A) fell to $949.99, off $50.
The latest MacBooks feature Intel's new "Ivy Bridge" third-generation i series processors with upgraded HD 4000 graphics silicon and USB 3.0 ports, among other new features.

The newest additions to the MacBook Pro family also get a 2880-by-1800 pixel density Retina display and an Nvidia GeForce GT 650M graphics chip, among other features.

Models with discounts listed as of Sunday evening PT are only available for in-store pickup. And note that Best Buy prices change frequently so these discounts could vanish at any time.