Amazon Kindle sets world (well UK) on Fire

After snubbing the UK for some of its recent releases, Amazon finally extended a warm embrace to the British Isles and in fact over compensated with a slew of exciting announcements for anyone trapped on this godforsaken isle.

Kindle-Fire-HD

Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD
The Kindle Fire has been a states-side smash for the past year and a beefed up version of the 7-inch tablet is now coming to Blighty with a faster processor, twice the memory and longer battery life for a ridiculously low £129.

As if that wasn’t enough, the brand spanking new Kindle Fire HD is also coming to these shores. Adding an customised HD display, super fast wifi and more powerful processing whilst delivering 11 hours of battery life, and 16 GB of storage is pretty impressive. The Kindle Fire HD is only £159 so it’s not exactly breaking the bank either. The 7-inch tablet space is really heating up, and Apple are becoming increasingly conspicuous by their absence (although to be fair they are doing just fine as is).

“Not only does Kindle Fire HD feature the most advanced hardware, it’s also a service. When combined with our enormous content ecosystem, unmatched cross-platform interoperability, and standard-setting customer service, we hope people will agree that Kindle Fire HD is the best 7” tablet available anywhere, at any price.”
Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com Founder and CEO

The Kindles aren’t just about hardware and they have a few nice touches built into the software as well. X-Ray adds one of the best features of XBMC to the tablet world, harnessing the power of IMDb so you can eradicate all those “wait … who’s that guy … what was he in?? … it’s thingy … from Game of Thrones” moments. I have a lot of those moments. X-Ray is also available for books and with a single tap, readers can see all the passages throughout a book that mention ideas, fictional characters, historical figures, places or topics that interest them, as well as more detailed descriptions from Wikipedia and Shelfari, Amazon’s community-powered encyclopaedia for book lovers.

Old-fashioned Kindles
And if you just want the old-fashioned reading experience all-new (old) Kindle features 15% faster page turns and weighs just 170 grams. And it’s so cheap. Having a some-frills entry point experience into the world of ebooks for just £70 is pretty amazing.

But wait … there’s more
Amazon also announced that it will create more than 2,000 permanent jobs over the next two years with the opening of three new fulfilment centres in the UK. And up to 3,000 temporary jobs will also be created at the three new fulfilment centres during the Christmas peak period.

Best e-readers for the summer holidays

If you’re travelling this summer, an e-reader is an essential companion. Instead of cramming your suitcase full of books, an e-reader can save your valuable luggage space. The average e-reader can hold at least 1,000 books at a time, so you’ll never be stuck for something to read.

Kindle-Touch

Amazon Kindle

The Amazon Kindle is the most popular e-reader on the market. Buyers have a choice of model, ranging from the basic Kindle, to the Kindle Touch with 3G. The Amazon Kindle Store has millions of free and paid books, as well as newspaper and magazine subscriptions, and Kindles support MOBI and PDF documents. Weighing in at less than 370 grams, and small enough to fit into your pocket, the Kindle is the perfect companion to a long journey.

The Kindle is available from £89.

Sony Reader

Billed as the ‘world’s lightest ebook reader’, the Sony Reader is perfect for anyone who wants to go digital, but doesn’t want a Kindle. The Sony Reader has a 6-inch screen, and stores up to 1,200 books or documents, including EPUB and PDF formats.

The Sony Reader retails for £120.

Kobo

The Kobo comes in three different models: the Kobo Vox, Kobo Touch and Kobo Wifi. The Kobo Vox offers coloured books, a multi-media screen, and access to Google Play, while the other models use E ink. Books start at 99p.

The Kobo e-reader range is available from £59.99.

Bookeen Cybook Opus eReader

The Bookeen Cybook Opus e-reader is perfect for both novice and experienced digital readers. With  5-inch screen, 1GB memory (enough to hold up to 1,000 books), and up to two weeks battery life, the Bookeen Cybook Opus e-reader has something for everyone.

The Bookeen Cybook Opus eReader retails at £109.98.

iPad

The Apple iPad isn’t technically an e-reader, but it’s still worth a mention on this list. As one of the leading tablets on the market, the iPad is designed for people who want to be able to work and play on the go. The built-in iBooks app gives users access to a huge range of free and paid books that you can download directly into your iBooks library. The iPad doesn’t have E ink, and instead uses a backlit screen, but the device is compatible with a variety of formats, especially when using apps like Stanza.

The iPad is available from £329.

Make Mum’s day with a gadget gift

Okay people, here’s the deal when it comes to Mothers’ Day. Little kids can get away with a hand drawn card and a clay candle holder made at school, but bigger people need to put some effort in.

So, if you’re a husband or partner, or a son or daughter who’s earning their own way in the world, get your mum something decent this Mother’s Day.

Here’s a few ideas for mums who like to get a bit technical…

Concrete-Hook-Case

Concrete Hook Case

Only just launched are these stylish Concrete Hook cases, to protect her laptop. Made from finest Italian leather with a padded suede lining, there are are four colourways to choose from. Forest Green Grey with purple blue lining; Antelope Brown with Cobalt blue lining; Red Brown with black lining, and Charcoal black with orange lining. They feature chrome and aluminium fasteners and offer a choice of three types of handles in various lengths. The handles are attached to the chrome corners using specially manufactured carbine hooks.

Price: £149

Stockists: www.concretecases.com

Opus

Opus Luxury Aroma Diffusing Clock

Mum’s bedroom fills with calming soft light, and the sounds of nature soothe her as she inhales the aroma of fresh coffee. Now that makes a change from the alarm clock clanging, the dogs barking to be fed and the whiff of sports socks from the laundry basket. Home fragrance brand MadeByZen has come up with the Opus, a diffuser and alarm clock, which uses light, sound and fragrance for a really different wake-up experience. According to sleep specialists, being woken by a loud alarm clock can cause undue stress on the body. The best way to wake up is to be gently roused using natural light and sounds. The Opus combines the ancient practice of aromatherapy with modern technology, mimicking a natural wake-up pattern incorporating ‘sunrise’ and natural sounds, as well as subtle fragrance options. It also acts as a mini humidifier, ioniser and air purifier, enhancing the air quality of your home.

The Opus comes in black or white with a large choice fragrance oils at £3.99 each.

Price: £79.99

Stockists: www.madebyzen.com

Folding-Plug

Mu Folding Plug connector

Mums may seem like Mary Poppins sometimes, with bags that just keep on giving – ask a mum for biscuits, drinks, tissues, plasters – you name it, it’s probably in her handbag somewhere. But there comes a point when those bags can just not stretch any more. So if mum needs to plug in her phone when she’s at work, or on holiday, there’s a rather clever folding plug that has just come onto the market. The MU Folding Plug takes up 70% less space than your average plug and the recent launch is a USB adaptor for smartphones. The other clever thing is that the plug pins are folded away so are less likely to scratch your phone’s screen or anything else you have in your bag.

We’ve tried one out and it’s a terribly clever design, plus it comes in a very attractive box that will look good for a gift – our only gripe is that it comes in the now ubiquitous white, which we find shows up the dirt.

A tablet optimized plug and a power cord are to launch later this year.

Price: £25

Stockist: www.themu.co.uk

RoboD

RoboStir

Does your mum always complain she needs more hands? Then give her some for Mothers Day! The RoboStir is a nifty gizmo that can stir stews, soups and sauces for you, while you’re chopping, kneading, or sitting down with the paper.

I am notorious for burning pans, because I put the dinner on and then wander off and carry on working (the pitfalls of working at home), so this little gadget seemed to be just what I needed to save myself yet more burned pans.

Tripod

Just a point – you’re not to leave it unattended, so you should stay in the kitchen while it’s stirring – it’s simple to use, and fits over most average-size pans. It will cope with reasonably light sauces, such as baked beans and a light cheese sauce, but don’t expect to use it on anything too heavy.

If your mum cooks a lot and seems to do a lot of juggling, it might be worth the £14-odd quid for a novelty present.

Price: £14.95

Stockist: www.gizoo.co.uk

Roku

Roku XS streaming platform

If your mum doesn’t have a PC (or more likely can never get near one) how about treating her to the Roku, a streaming platform that provides 80 channels of online entertainment content including on-demand films from Netflix and BBC iPlayer to almost any TV without the need for a PC. A Netflix subscription will give access to unlimited films. If she’s feeling generous, she might even use it to keep the kids entertained over the holidays (while she gets a bit of ‘me’ time!).

Price: £99.99

Stockist: www.amazon.co.uk

Archos

Archos 70d eReader

I’m a bit of a luddite when it comes to eReaders and books. I like a nice book, with proper paper pages and printed with ink. BUT after a particularly dull journey on the District Line last week, I was wishing I had one, as I’d finished my book on the way into London. With an eReader, you’ve always got another book at your fingertips, so I decided to put the latest Archos 70d eReader to the test to see if busy mums might fancy one for Mother’s Day.

It’s really light, at 280g, which is good in some ways, but it does feel a tad flimsy – and you’ll need to buy a cover for it if it’s going to get flung in a bag (which is pretty likely). You should get around eight hours out of a full charge, which is not bad either.

At a tad under 60 quid, it’s pretty cheap – 30 pounds less than a Kindle, so if you can’t afford one of those, and your mum isn’t too demanding about her gadgets this could be a good choice. It’s simple to use, has a 7in TFT colour screen, and can also be used for playing video, music and viewing photos players and the 4GB of onboard memory is expandable by up to 16GB thanks to the microSD slots.

Price: £59.99

Stockist: http://www.archos.com/

Kobo Touch eReader review: An unobtrusive reading experience

Not many consumer electronics devices get away with a backside that looks like your Grandma’s quilt. Like a grandparent, however, it’s not the aesthetic that counts for the Kobo eReader, but the stories it tells. And the Kobo tells stories very well.

Kobo-Touch-eReader

Looking beyond the quilting, the Kobo Touch interface is both simple and simply beautiful. Turn it on and you’re greeted with the covers of your most recent books, so that you’re just one tap (it’s touchscreen!) away from your stories.

Opening a book will take you to your last opened page, with tabs to the left or right of the screen scrolling you through the pages. You can also make a swiping gesture to change page, if you’re fixed on the tablet experience.

The fact that the Kobo uses a touchscreen means that, combined with the unit’s matte -white finish, you’re faced with an extremely unobtrusive reading experience. You’ll only find two buttons on the device – and only one on the front. It boats a 6″ Pearl e-ink display – the very same one you’ll find on the Amazon Kindle and the Sony Reader series, so there’s no disparity there.

Hold your finger on a word and you’ll bring up an iPhone-style selection cursor, which then allows you to save your highlighted section, add a note, look up the definition, translate the word or search the book for another occurrence. We found that this was much better that using the Kindle’s d-pad to look up words, but the touchscreen was sometimes unreliable and highlighted the wrong area. Annoying.

You can also share it on Facebook, although we didn’t feel inclined to share our reading progress.

A tap on the centre of the screen brings up the options menu, where you can access the built-in dictionary, translation tools, search the book, view your annotations or jump to the table of contents. You can also access the device’s settings and – uniquely – change the font.

While other devices let you change fonts on the device, the Kobo actually allows you to add a new font to the eReader when you plug it into your computer. Simply create a “fonts” folder on the unit and draw your favourite TrueTypes onto the system, then select it from the menu. You can also edit font size, line spacing, margins and justification.

There are three main navigation options, Library, Store or Reading Life. Library lets you see your books, news & magus, previews and your shortlisted items, while the store lets you download books through the devices wifi from the Kobo store. There are also free eBooks, top picks and a search option.

Reading Life is the most interesting feature, however, as it shows you your reading stats and awards. We thought that the awards were a bit of a pointless gameification addition for people who want to boast about their reading achievements on Facebook, but really enjoyed browsing our reading stats.

For your current books, you can see how long your average reading session is, as well as the total hours you’ve spent reading and the number of pages turned. You can also see the number of books you’ve finished, your total time spent reading and the percentage of your library you’ve finished.

The Kobo supports EPUB, PDF, MOBI, KPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, TIFF, TXT, HTML, RTF, CBZ and CBR, with a 2GB storage capacity and a microSD slot for a 32GB card.

Ted Baker and Proporta Kindle 3 Covers

As aphorisms go, “You can’t judge a book by its cover” is a classic. Until aphorisms catch up with the more age, you can however judge a Kindle owner by their cover, so for the fashion conscious book lovers among you Ted Baker have once again teamed up with accessory experts Proporta, this time to release a set of swanky Kindle covers.

Proporta-Kindle-3

We’d looked at one of their previous collaborations here where they had formed a tag-team to make fancy looking iPhone cases.

This time they have more literary aspiration and protect your Kindle 3 from the elements. The case is faux-leather and we saw in in both black and white. There’s a discreet metal button on the bottom right hand corner that serves not function other than to look cool.

On the inside cover is a little sleeve for random scraps of paper but it’s very tight so it’s literally just for a scrap or two.

In contrast with the wrinkled inner lining, the inside has a smooth lining that is very, very shiny and a little like a house of fun mirror. The black case has a purple inner lining and the white case has what I can only describe as pink gold.

There’s also a lovely unique designer Ted Baker floral lining that looks fabulous but that will be hidden 99% of the time by your Kindle 3. But it is very pretty.

Your kindle is held snugly in place and the case adds very little weight to your reading experience. All the ports are also free and unobstructed so it’s easy to charge your Kindle with power or books.

Want to get your hands on one? Yours for about £45 from Proporta or Amazon

Kindle Tuff Luv cover review

We look at a lot of iPad cases here at Latest Gadget, so many in fact that it’s easy to forget that other competing devices need just as much protection from the bumps and bashes that every day life provides. One such device, is Amazon’s hugely successful Kindle. I’ve had a Kindle 3 in the house for about 7 months and it’s a testament to its durability that it’s still in one piece – its light-weight form factor means I’m constantly throwing it around or tossing it on the table like one of its paper counterparts. It’s survived despite my best efforts but with a range of cases available why take that chance?

Kindle-Cover-with-Light

One such case is the stylish and well-designed Tuff-Luv case, which has a lovely high-quality feel to it, in part because it is made from high quality 100% genuine Napa leather and the real stitching with which it is hand stitched (backed by a lifetime workmanship guarantee). The real leather exterior is extremely comfortable to hold, perfect for long-London tube journeys, but also feel pretty secure – I’d happily drop my Kindle (from a low height like a chair) with the Tuff Luv on without freaking out too much. The case also features a specially designed magnetic-fastening flap to ensure the case is firmly closed when not in use. Another feature is an integrated document and penholder allowing you to carry round small sheets of paper and scribble on them.

Unlike their flashier tablet counterparts, Kindles and e-readers in general, are no fun in the dark, without the assistance of a bed-side light of sorts. The Tuff Luv Kindle cover comes with a powerful, LED directional reading light, which allows you to use your Kindle in the dark wherever you are. The light provides up to 72 hours of light with the included batteries and includes a built-in reflector cone, which increases brightness by up to 30%.

Plus it’s a lovely green. A range of Kindle covers with lights are available from Gear Zap now. They have regular Kindle covers too.

CES 2011: Golla cases and bags for your gadgets

If Santa was good to you this Christmas and bought you a new phone or even iPad it is time to start thinking accessories. So by now you have got to grips with it and you want a new case. When you have something as valuable as the iPad you need something stylish and functional to carry it around. A quality bag or case which does not fall apart on you after 2 weeks can sometimes be hard to find. Golla have cases and bags for iPhones, eReaders, cameras and laptops and they announced their 2011 range at CES 2011. Here are some the best.

Golla

Golla introduce the G-bag in 5 colours with the grey being my favourite with the stylish design. With a magnetic flap, it’s easy to open and close. A G-bag can be used for an iPad or laptop using the padded compartment. The straps can be folded away so they no longer drag on the floor. Golla show their flair for design with the laptop bags as they have a dedicated laptop compartment with velcro fastening to keep it in place. They also come with a screen cloth to keep your laptop clean. There are several more compartments to keep your accessories, keys and wallet. The designs tend to be letters or floral designs on the flap and will suit men and women. A lot of the new designs are in denim as it seems to be the rage, good for a more casual look.

If you a new DSLR camera, then how about camera bag? Golla’s cam bags are padded and two removable walls in the bags to provide extra space when needed. They come in 3 sizes and the large cam bag has extra slots for memory cards, outside pockets for ease and a top handle to carry when your shoulder hurts. The small size is for compact cameras.

The new range of cases for mobile phones has been given an extra pocket which is perfect for storing earphones or loose change. Some of the cases have a carabiner attached which is useful for sporty people as you can clip it to your bag or belt. The new Golla collection will be available from April in Currys and phone retailers.

Fnacbook eReader: Kindle and Sony eReader’s secret lovechild?

If you think it’s a two-horse eReader race, you clearly haven’t been reading widely enough. Or in French. The Fnacbook Touch is a new eReader from France’s bigger bookstore chain, aiming to out-do the Kindle and the Sony Reader.

If you’ve been paying attention to the current eReader giants, you’ll notice some similarities with the Fnacbook. There’s the six-inch E-Ink screen. Wi-fi. 3G. And touchscreen technology.

fnacbook

Cynical readers might suggest that the Fnacbook has just stolen the features of the other two devices and combined them to form some sort of mega reading device. Whether they did or not, we’re certainly not complaining.

If you do have plagiarism complaints, aim them at Sagem – the company who actually manufactured the device. Its original name was “Binder”, designed to be sold as a white-label good for other companies. Fnac is just the first company to put its own brand on it.

When compared with its obvious Kindle inspiration, the device stacks up pretty nicely. There’s 2GB of internal storage (half that of the Kindle), but a microSD option for expanding beyond the 12,000-capacity book storage.

It also plays back the same range of files as the Amazon gadget: TXT, Epub, PDF, HTML, JPEG, PNG, BMP and MP3 files. Obvious, Amazon Kindle files aren’t supported.

It’s the same width as the Kindle, a tiny amount thicker (2mm) and about 40mm shorter – thanks to removal of an physical keyboard. It weighs 240g.

We haven’t got our hands on one yet, but one of the reasons for the Sony Reader’s cost was the special infrared touchscreen, which allowed finger input without compromising the reading experience.

We’re hoping this technology has been used on the Fnacbook, otherwise you’ll essentially be buying a worse reading experience.

The Fnacbook will launch with around 80,000 titles available (all French), at around 20-30% less than their paper editions. Despite growing at around 5 – 10% a month, the retailer hasn’t yet managed to match Amazon’s 400,000 books.

However, they are building iPhone and Android apps to allow cross-platform reading. Expect the former to be out in November, while the Android one should follow along in early 2011.

If you’re are bored of Kindle – Fnacbook comparisons, there’s only one more. Fnac is even offering its own version of “Whispanet”, allowing free downloads to the reader over 3G in Franc, using SFR’s network.

The Fnacbook will be released on November 10th, at 199 euros.