Best of Computex 2013

Asus-Transformer

Running until June 8, Taiwan’s largest consumer electronics show Computex is taking place this week with over 1,700 exhibitors showing off their wares – here’s what caught our eye.

Asus unveiled yet more post-pc devices, with their newly announced Transformer Book Trio. It’s the world’s first three-in-one mobile device. The device has a detachable 11.6-inch display and comes with dual operating systems. The device can switch from Windows 8 notebook to Android tablet to Windows 8 desktop – a world first for a hybrid tablet/notebook.

The Transformer Book Trio switches easily between operating systems to give users access to over 700,000 Android apps on Google’s Play Store and access to 50,000 Windows apps from Microsoft’s app store.

Despite running two different operating systems, ASUS has spent a lot time making switching between the two systems a pain-free as possible, allowing users to sync data or continue to surf the web when moving from notebook to tablet mode.

The PC station comes with an Intel Core i7 processor, full QWERTY keyboard, 750GB of internal storage and, when the tablet is detached it can be connected to an external display for us as a full desktop PC. The PC dock serves as a charger for the tablet so to extend its battery life, whilst, the tablet-side of the device features a 2.0 GHz Intel Atom processor, 16:9 full HD 1920 x 1080 screen and up to 64GB internal flash storage.

Sonotar-Smart-Watch

Sonostar e-ink watches

Wearable technology is likely to be big growth industry in the coming years, with everyone from Apple and Google looking into the burgeoning technology. E Ink, the company behind the screen technology for a variety of e-readers including Amazon’s Kindle, announced a brand-new e-ink display and collaboration with Sonostar for a second-screen watch that connects to your smartphone or tablet.

E ink’s new 1.73-inch touchscreen display comes with resolution of 320 x 240 and is capable of producing 16 levels of greyscale. Obviously e-ink screens aren’t colour screens. And while this might seem like a massive oversight, e-ink technology actually has several benefits over colour screens. The technology is incredibly frugal when it comes to power consumption compared to coloured screens, and they’re a lot easier to read in direct sunlight compared to normal colour screens.

The Sonostar Smart Watch connects to either your iPhone or Android device using Bluetooth, and displays information on calls, messages, social networking updates, and emails. Also, the screen is flexible which means the watch face doesn’t have to be flat, allowing Sonostar to craft a watch that better matches the curve of your arm.

The Sonostar Smart Watch is set to be released sometime after the summer, and has been priced at £100 for either the black or white models.

Nvidia-Project-Shield

Project Shield, Nvidia

Chipset maker Nvidia were at Computex, too, showing off their new handheld Android-powered games console: Shield (yes, they’re dropping the “project” part from the name). Shield consists of a console game controller with a flip-up display housing a pin sharp 5-inch, 720p, multi-touch display.

Powering Shield is Nvidia’s Tegra 4 mobile processor with a quad-core CPU, 72 GPU cores, and 2GB of RAM. The handheld also carries 16GB of onboard storage and features GPS, Bluetooth 3.0, a mini-HDMI output, micro-USB 2.0, a microSD storage slot for memory expansion, and an 3.5 mm stereo headphone jack. Shield runs Android 4.2.1 Jelly Bean and can play both Tegra-optimised and regular Android games – as well as having access to Android’s 700,000 non-gaming apps. Nvidia has said it’s working on streaming your favorite PC games to Shield, too, including titles from Steam in the near future.

Asus-Monitor

ASUS Ultra HD PC screen

At Computex ASUS showcased the world’s first Ultra HD PC monitors. The new 31.5-inch monitor costs a not unreasonable £2,500 and comes with a staggering resolution of 3,840 x 2,160 – four times as many pixels as a standard 1080p PC monitor. The company is also going to be prepping a 39-inch version too. ASUS expects to begin shipping the 31.5-inch model in June, with its big brother will follow sometime in Q3.

Acer-Phone

Acer Iconia W3

Acer were at Computex and are the first company to unveil a smaller form factor Windows 8 tablet. The 8-inch Iconia W3 comes with a 1280 x 800 display. On the tablet-side of things there’s front- and rear-facing two-megapixel cameras, plus connectivity through Bluetooth 4.0 and micro-USB.

The Iconia is packing impressive specs considering its size; there’s an Intel dual-core 1.8GHz Atom Z2760 processor, and the choice of either 32 or 64GB of internal storage, which can supplemented via the tablet’s microSD expansion slot. There’s also a built-in micro-HDMI for outputting the screen onto larger screens.

Amazon Kindle 3 review roundup

Amazon has announce that the newest version of its famous Kindle e-reader device will be hitting the (virtual) shelves on August 27th. At £109 for a Wi-Fi device, and £149 for 3G + Wi-Fi, the reading device is certainly one of the most affordable readers available – but is it better than a book? We’ve scoured the web to find out if the Kindle really is the droid we’ve been looking for.

Kindle-Roundup

The first stop on the Kindle-trail was Amazon’s own website – no-one has laid-out the merits of the new device better than them:

  • All-New, High-Contrast E-Ink Screen – 50% better contrast than any other e-reader
  • Read in Bright Sunlight – No glare
  • New and Improved Fonts – New crisper, darker fonts
  • New Sleek Design – 21% smaller body while keeping the same 6″ size reading area
  • 17% Lighter – Only 241 grams, weighs less than a paperback
  • Battery Life of One Month – A single charge lasts up to one month with wireless off
  • Double the Storage – Up to 3,500 books
  • Built-In Wi-Fi – Connect at home or on the road
  • Books in 60 Seconds – Download books anytime, anywhere
  • 20% Faster Page Turns – Seamless reading
  • Enhanced PDF Reader – With dictionary lookup, notes, and highlights
  • New WebKit-Based Browser – Browse the web over Wi-Fi (experimental)

Outside of these mainstream enhancements, i-Reader Review has revealed 22 interesting things about the Kindle 3, the most interesting of which are:

  1. There’s a microphone on the Kindle 3
  2. Kindle 3 and Kindle WiFi support CJK fonts and Cyrillic fonts
  3. There’s now an Audible section in the Kindle Store. Audible audiobooks can only be downloaded when you’re using WiFi – else you can download to your PC and transfer to Kindle.
  4. Pressing Alt + any character in the top row gives you a number (Alt+Q = 1 and so on). Numbers are also accessible via the SYM key. Removing the numbers row is a terrible decision.
  5. The speakers are now on the top left and the top right of the back of your Kindle 3.
  6. The back is now texturised rubber for a better grip.
  7. There’s a ‘View Downloading Items’ option in the Menu of your Kindle 3 Home Page that will display what items are being downloaded and their download progress. This is pretty cool.
  8. The Kindle 3 Experimental Web Browser supports JavaScript, SSL, and cookies but not Flash or Java Applets.

CrunchGear have shed some light on the use of the microphone, announcing it will be used for a “new voice navigation option”.

The real insight comes from the good people over at Engadget, who actually managed to get their hands on the new handheld. The feedback is mainly positive, reporting that “the Kindle is still very much the reading device you know and love (or hate, depending on your preferences). The build quality and materials used did seem slightly more polished than the previous version, and we really liked the new, more subtle rocker. We can also attest to screen refreshes and overall navigation feeling noticeably more responsive and snappy compared with the previous generation.”

The people at PC Advisor, however, are even  more generous, claiming that the new device is “is unlike any other e-book reader [they’ve] handled before” and that “its lighter weight and its more compact design [gives] a more pleasing experience than with earlier models. The unit felt very balanced in-hand, and the buttons felt like they were in convenient, ergonomic places (more on that in a moment).” The conclusion is that it’s “a winner poised to top the pack.”

Other details have been also been revealed by CNN, including the Kindle’s code-name: Shasta. They also noted Amazon’s intentions for the device, by quoting Amazon’s VP of Kindle content, Russ Grandinetti: “It’s like running shoes. If I’m going five miles, I put on a pair that are designed for running and will be supportive, not my Chucks.”

ZDNET’s have managed to cover it twice already, with one blogger claiming that, “$139 was enough to make me sit up and take notice, though, and give some more serious thought to what it would take for Kindles to start really adding value”, while another announced the “Amazon Kindle will be the sole survivor of the eReader Apocalypse”.

It seems that from various hands-on tests, Amazon’s claims are true: the new Kindle is better than its predecessor in every way. And as a dedicated ebook reader, its stiffest competition was probably its older self – with newer readers, such as the Nook, underwhelming critics.

For everyone who wants a media-rich, iPad-clone, however, the Kindle is still not (and never tried to be) an alternative – sorry, you’ll still have to fork out over £500 and buy Apple.

Even students might think twice about this one – sure, it can post book extracts to Facebook and Twitter (possibly pretentious?), but without a touchscreen or stylus annotation system, it’ll only provide half the experience of a regular textbook.

For me, however, the £109 cost and positive reviews have sold me. The sheer number of out-of-copyright books that can be downloaded for free means that it’ll have paid for itself in about twenty reads. For standard books it seems that the new Kindle is finally ready to take over the bookshelf.