Asus ZenBook UX305: looks good, but is there substance?

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It’s ultra slim line. It’s aimed at professionals on the go, and it weighs just 1.2kg. The Asus ZenBook UX305 certainly sounds like it could have potential for those who work on the move, but what to the critics think?

When it comes to laptops, CNET isn’t always the forthcoming in sounding the merits. When therefore the technology review site use several complementary adjectives to describe a new gadget, we are compelled to sit up and read on.

In their hands on review of the UX305, CNET says they were impressed by the ZenBook’s slim frame, which, measuring just 12.3 mm thick and weighing a mere 2.6 pounds, is one of the slimmest laptops going.

Furthermore, with its all-aluminium frame, the UX305 both looks and feels “like a luxurious piece of kit,” continue CNET.

With an Intel Core M processor and 8GB of RAM inside its skinny frame, there should be plenty of oomph to keep Windows 8.1 “ticking along nicely,” CNET continues.

Will it impress amidst the business lounge elite?

Whilst impressed by its slightness and memory, assets that CNET believe will be attractive to business users on the go, the review’s only doubt is whether or not the UX305 will look the part when pulled out of a briefcase in a business lounge.

Throwing another view of the design of the ZenBook, the Ultra Book Review of the UX305 deems the device as sleek-looking, keeping the familiar lines of Zenbooks but with the added intrigue of concentric circle patterns on the lid and bevelled sides on the darker finishing but chromed elements on the white one. Sounds like Asus have at least tried to provide some intricacy on the UX305’s design.

On a less positive note, the Ultra Book Review is quick to point out that the UX305’s footprint seems to be pretty similar as the UX301 and, asides its being slimmer, there is nothing particularly new to shout about with the UX305.

Fan-less hardware

The pros of the Asus ZenBook according to this review are it strong and beautiful build, packed with a great matte display, its fan-less hardware and that it’s fast enough for everyday use.

Its cons are the fact it’s void of a backlit keyboard, it can get a tad overheated, its Wi-Fi is a little slow and the trackpad is prone to glitches.

Pocket Lint is quick to point out the Asus ZenBook UX305’s price – £649.99.

The technology site seem impressed with the device’s 128GB solid state disk drive and its resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels.

On the downside, Pocket Lint seems a little disappointed that despite being available to two colours – a silky-smooth Ceramic Alloy shade and an Obsidian Stone with ZenBook’s signature spun-metal finish, the UK only has the latter version!

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All in all, if you’re after a lightweight and fairly stylish ZenBook that has all-day battery and powerful productivity and you are willing to part with £650, with the Asus ZenBook UX305 you could be on to a winner.

Review round up: HP Chromebook 14

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Its “eye-popping” colours are the first thing Engadget mentions in its hands on review of the new HP Chromebook 14. Citing the aesthetical merits (particularly the colour) of a new gadget first and foremost makes one suspiciously dubious about the inner-capabilities of a product’s guts. However, as these “eye-popping” colours include Ocean Turquoise, Coral Peach and Snow White, perhaps we’re being a little cynical.

Despite being described by Engadget as having a “toy-like” exterior, given the storm of attention the Chromebook 14 has ignited, it seems unlikely that its appearance is the only aspect that is worth mentioning.

Being powered by an Intel processor based on the Haswell microarchitecture, the Chromebook 14 offers super-fast internet speeds giving users the ability to tackle multiple tasks while on the go – apparently. What’s more with optional 4G, enhanced connectivity is also achievable.

One common theme the hands on reviewers of the online techno press distinguish as an HP Chromebook 14 asset is the device’s larger than average keys. After all, claim Pocket-lint, “size makes for a decent typing experience.”

Talking about size, owning a 14-inch screen, the Chromebook 14 is large for Chromebook standards. Of course large typically denotes heaviness, although weighing 1.8kgs and being 21mm thick when in closed position, the Chromebook 14 doesn’t seem to be particularly fat and overweight though definitely not slender and lightweight. While Pocket-lint is quick to criticise the HP Chromebook 14 for having a large screen that fails to deliver a resolution beyond its smaller rivals, Broadway World commends it large display as “providing the immersive web experience and superb visual enjoyment that customer’s desire.”

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Chromebook 14 comes in a variety of colours

It has to be said that speed and fluidity are components modern portable computer consumers crave. Due to the high demand for fluidness and fastness, the HP Chromebook 14’s automatic software updates that help maintain fluidity is a component of the product that has been widely picked up on.

Having easy access to content while on the go is another popular requirement of modern computing. With 100GB of free storage on Google Drive for two years, plus users being able to visit the Chrome Web Store in order to customise their Chromebook 14 by installing apps, this device certainly appears to be content accessible-friendly.

As Pocket-lint summarises, the HP Chromebook 14 isn’t a revelation, although its glossy plastic finish in “eye-popping” colours has certainly sparked interest and discussion.

The pricing and timing of its launch is one aspect of the Chromebook 14 that has remains comparatively low-key on the reviews and is a characteristic that more than warrants remark – Starting at £249.00 and being expected to be available in at the HP UK store and at select retailers in the UK in November, this exceptionally colourful and “Toys R Us” resonant gadget is likely to be a popular gift this Christmas.

 

Booq Boa Squeeze Backpack: Can I Fit It?

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Much like a rapper who gets to shout a closing line triumphantly, drop the mic and then swagger off the I really just want to type “I love this bag”, drop a microphone and saunter off into the distance. Unfortunately I’m expected to provide a little bit more content then that but the Booq Boa Squeeze is an amazing backpack. It’s light, and lacking in bulk yet has the capacity to carry the incredibly amounts of tat I haul around London daily.

Like most Booq bags, the Boa Squeeze has a strong denier nylon exterior with water-repellent coating and contrasting water-repelling interior with rip-stop lining. After a seemingly never-ending rainy streak in London I found this ridiculously comforting.

The ergonomically designed shoulder straps are great at distributing heavy weight. I’ve been using my Boa Squeeze to cycle across town with my absurdly heavy D-Locks and the rest of my biking supplies without noticing the strain. The air mesh back padding is also comfortably and allows heat to escape, although it won’t work miracles.

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Booq have been generous with pockets and the Boa Squeeze has tonnes of the things. Two outer easy-access pockets are made from non-scratch neoprene and have little storage flaps so you can also keep things organised. There’s a zipped pocket up top designed to slip a smartphone into and a shallow pocket at the front of the bag, primarily designed to show off just how many pockets the Boa Squeeze has.

Once you delve inside the fun continues. The densely padded interior laptop compartment has been lined with soft Nylex to keep your gear safe and scratch-free. e interior’s main compartment zips open to allow access to four lining slip pockets, one zipper pocket, one stretch mesh pocket, and a Velcro flapped laptop compartment. The Boa Squeeze is specifically tailored to better fit Apple-specific products but obviously it can carry anything

The Boa squeeze comes in a smooth graphite colour with a soft herringbone fabric interior and is available for £113.95 from Booq.

Acer Aspire R7: Lifestyle Laptop Computing

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Despite Windows 8’s poor sales, there’s never been a better time to invest in a new laptop computer. With the new operating system, Microsoft has gone to great lengths to make Windows more of a lifestyle product by introducing touch capabilities and a completely new user interface, and this week Acer has just launched a notebook that really makes Windows 8 a compelling alternative to a MacBook and Mac OS. At a glitzy New York press launch, Acer unveiled a slew of new notebooks specifically designed for Windows 8. The top-of-the-range model is the Aspire R7.

Spec-wise the R7 is no slouch as well as the Full HD 1920×1080 touchscreen display, there’s a Intel Core i5 processor, up to 12GB of memory, up to 1TB hard drive, or up to 256GB SSD and a full-size backlit keyboard. It also includes a volume control button, HDMI port, SD card reader, audio jacks, three USB ports, WiFi, Bluetooth and a convenient converter port supporting VGA, RJ45 and USB.
The R7’s main selling point, apart from the impressive specs, is a clever hinge that allows the screen to be moved into 4 differing positions so you can really utilise the high definition touchscreen to it fullest.

Ezel mode is the most interesting and allows you to pull display closer, removing the need to reach across the laptop to use the touch screen. By pulling the display closer, switching between touchscreen, keyboard and touchpad is as seamlessly as you can get on Windows 8.

Notebook mode is pretty self-explanatory: it allows you to slide the display behind the keyboard for a traditional notebook setup.
If you flip the screen over into display mode and it’s positioned perfectly for watching a movie, showing photos or giving a presentation. With Acer’s proven dual-torque design, the screen flips easily yet remains rigid when touched.

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Pad Mode allows you to pull the touchscreen down and lay it on top of the keyboard with the screen facing up – essentially it turns the R7 into a rather bulky iPad. But the ergonomic 4-degree tilting angle makes it perfect for browsing, writing or playing casual touch games.

The R7’s impressive specs are also complemented with a decent sound system courtesy of Dolby Home Theater and four 8-watt speakers. Due to its transformative design, Acer has cleverly made sure the audio channels automatically reverse when switching modes, so stereo sound is always perfect no matter which way you use the notebook.

In addition, Acer also relocated the dual microphones to the front and at the base of the notebook below the keyboard. This provides for the best voice sound quality, and enhances the aesthetics of the touchscreen without have unnecessary speakers holes spoiling the design.

The Acer Aspire R7 is available in June with a starting price of £899.

So Apple have been busy: Skinny iMacs, Retina MacBooks and the fun-sized iPad Mini

There was a great article in Ars Technica about the problem’s Apple have been having with their once legendary secrecy, with their every expanding supply chain creating holes in their airtight veil of mystery. I know the feeling. There was a genuine excitement to Apple launches of yesteryear, where new products would be a genuine surprise and the big reveal of “one more thing” could send bloggers into a flurry.

However the before and after from last night’s “a little more to show you event” is pretty much identical. I had the same complaint after last month’s iPhone 5 announcement. Nevertheless, whilst Apple might be slipping in terms of security, their engineering game is still pretty tight.

iMac
I’m writing this on what is now the old 27″ iMac and boy does it look chunky. Once (about 14 hours ago) it was a svelte dream-machine and the cornerstone of my home office, it has now been rudely superseded by the ridiculously thin new iMacs, which are 80% thinner than the flabby beast before me. The screen is also directly bonded to the underlying IPS panel, with less bezel and less glare, as well as less weight (I had to carry an old iMac through Stratford in the middle of the London Olympics so I can appreciate this the most). There’s also a cool new Fusion Drive that combines solid state and spinning hard drive technology, monitoring usage to make sure your resources are appropriately managed.

Mac Mini
I have a hard-working Mac Mini stowed under my TV, working it’s little socks off as a media server, with SickBeard, SABnzb and Plex all playing nicely together to deliver a futuristic viewing experience. Last night’s update crams the baby Mac with 2.5GHz dual-core Intel Ivy Bridge i5 with 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive, or a 2.3GHz quad-core Ivy Bridge i7 with 4GB of RAM and a 1TB hard drive. Faster ram, more CPU and more storage are all welcome additions and now Mac Minis are packing Ivy Bridge there is the welcome addition of USB3.0 and Thunderbolt. Pricing remains remarkably cheap for a Mac.

MacBook
The 15″ Retina MacBook Pro was an instant object of desire when it was unveiled in June and now those of us with slightly smaller backpacks can join the Retina party. The 13″ Retina MacBook Pro also gets some Ivy Bridge love and an all-around spec bump, with its connectivity options (USB3, thunderbolt etc), brought well and truly into the modern age.

iPad
Have a “new” iPad? Not anymore as the iPad 3 has been upgraded 6 months in with a faster A6X processor, annoying (yet ultimately useful) Lightening port, and an upgraded LTE chip that should be compatible with more networks.

iPad mini
Of course the star of the show was the iPad mini, Apple’s take on the mini tablet. Apple aren’t the first company to enter this space, but to be fair, they are never the first company to enter pretty much any arena, instead carefully biding their time, before swooping in. If only people had saved their “just a big iPhone” snipes for the iPad Mini it might have been more apropos. Using a 7.9 inch display the iPad Mini is cleverly sized so that existing iPad apps can run without stretching and so that the there is a little bit more room on the screen than it’s 7″ Android competitors. It’s obviously smaller and lighter than the regular iPad and should be able to be comfortably held with one hand. The internals feature slightly older tech – the chipset matches the iPhone 4S and the iPad 2 – and there’s an HD camera on the front for FaceTime and a 5 MP camera on the back for God knows what. Apple are promising the same 10 hour battery life found on full-sized iPads.

You’ll be hearing far more about all these devices over the coming months.

Form and function: Four of the best new laptop bags

Remember when laptop bags used to suck? Really drab looking affairs that screamed “I’m carrying a laptop” and were only slightly more stylish than the comically out of date bags that “businessmen” used to carry around Old Threadneedle street.

Well all that has changed. Laptops are no longer the sole preserve of nerds, and indeed nerd-dom is no longer the sole preserve of people who actually know thing. Both nerds and laptop bags are at the height of fashion (or if not the height, certainly stand taller than they did in my day).

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Crosskase Fusion

If you’re a modern individual you’re probably wearing any number of metaphorical hats and appreciate technology that is equally flexible. The Crosskase Fusion bag features three bag styles within one compact package – messenger, tote and rucksack. The bag uses Ballistic Nylon construction, inner padding and an exterior flap to ensure items are well protected from the elements and theft.

Available now in black or silver, the Fusion is priced at £79.99 inc VAT from www.crosskase.com, Apple and Amazon.

STM-nomad

STM nomad

Leading Australian bag manufacturer, STM Bags have released the nomad, a cool looking shoulder bag, complete with a removable laptop sleeve that fits most 11′, 13′ and 15′ laptops and smaller tablets. The nomad has an external zipper pocket to secure valuables and multiple organiser pockets for pens, keys, cords, cables and accessories.

The nomad is available from Stmbags.com with prices starting from £95.

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CrossKase Solar 15

Battery power is a simple but oh so essential component of the modern gadget and it’s always amusing to see the desperation creep across the faces of iPhone users as the evening draws to a close and they wonder if their devices will have enough power to guide them home. The CrossKase Solar 15 is a sturdy 25 litre backpack with built-in solar panels to charge all your gadgets on the go. Priced at £139.99 it is available now from www.crosskase.com, Apple and Amazon.co.uk

For more detail on the CrossKase Solar check out our article here.

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toffee messenger satchel

If you want to be ultra fancy then there’s always the toffee messenger satchel, which is one of the best looking laptop bags we looked at. Also from Australia, the toffee bags are available in black or tan luxurious top-grain leather, or black or khaki premium 18-ounce canvas with genuine leather detailing – I said they were ultra fancy.

The messenger satchel is available in black or tan top-grain leather priced at £199.95, or 18-ounce canvas in khaki or black, priced at £139.95. Dimensions suit a 13” MacBook Air/Pro or Ultrabook. Check out www.toffeecases.com

ThinkPad X1 Carbon: Business Sense

Lenovo have released the latest model in their ThinkPad range, the X1 Carbon. Designed with the business user in mind, the ThinkPad’s build arguably rivals that of the Apple Macbook Air.

With its slimline appearance, tough exterior, and impressive specs, the ThinkPad is likely to wow Windows business users as a portable, high-performance machine.

ThinkPad-X1

Tech Specs

At only 0.7 inches in thickness, and weighing in at just 3lbs, despite its 14-inch screen, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon also boasts an Intel Core i7 processor, 256GB storage and up to 8GB RAM. Inclusion of the Lenovo RapidCharge system means you can experience up to five hours’ battery life on just a 35-minute charge. A full charge can last around seven hours.

The 720p HD webcam is perfect for conference calls, while the dual-array microphone and keyboard noise suppression provide you with maximum sound quality, and minimum interference.

Although it is a business-orientated machine, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon caters for your leisure needs too. Built-in Dolby Home Theater v4, and Intel HD 4000 integrated graphics, provide you with a high quality entertainment experience.

The ThinkPad X1 Carbon is also security-conscious, containing a fingerprint reader, as well as TPM and BIOS encryption.

Connectivity

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon has built-in 3G capability, so you can gain contract-free access to the 3G network when you need it. The machine also comes with Mobile Hotspot technology.

Features

Users can manage their data on the X1 Carbon remotely using Intel vPro technology. This helps streamline common IT functions and uses encryption and password protection to keep data safe.

The ThinkPad’s keyboard is backlit, with two different brightness settings. The keyboard also contains Lenovo’s uniquely-shaped keys, which are designed to minimize typing errors.

Size

The computer’s carbon fibre shell contributes to its minimal weight, but doesn’t compromise on the laptop’s durability: it’s as strong as aluminium, but a third of the weight.

The small, light-weight frame does produce some drawbacks, similar to those experienced with the Macbook Air. For example, the machine doesn’t have a wired Ethernet port or a user-replaceable battery. It does, however, have a USB drive and the machine comes with a separate Ethernet USB dongle.

Price

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon is set for release on 21st August. Retail prices are expected to start at around £1,000.

Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga: A novel twist

Yoga is all the rage these days, particularly in London I hasten to add where my recent stay in Clapham was complemented with a gruelling 7am session of Bikram ‘Hot’ Yoga – with a hangover! Yep yoga has firmly established itself as a reputable method of enhancing suppleness and wellbeing, so much so in fact that even technology is getting in on the yoga act, in the guise of the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga.

Lenovo-Yoga

This memorably titled ultrabook caused quite a stir at this year’s CES apparently, and given it’s innovate bendy qualities, it’s no surprise. It may open as a normal notebook but in featuring a 360 degrees dual-hinged design the IdeaPad Yoga can be flipped 360 degrees backwards and be transformed into a tablet!

Once in tablet mode users have full control of a 13.1-inch 1600 x 900 touch screen, which apparently allows 10-point capacity touch. Asides ‘bending’ in the same way a yoga instructor bends her – or his – body bewilderingly effortlessly, to transform from being a bog-standard ultrabook into a flat tablet, Lenovo’s Yoga can also be positioned in ‘tent’ mode, thus creating a handy viewing stand.

This multiple-guised ultrabook is powered by Intel Core processor, supports up to 8GB of RAM, and up to a 256GB SSD and has been designed to take full advantage of Windows 8. But what I personally like the sound of is that the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga has an eight hour battery life.

Despite being incredibly thin, measuring at a mere 16.9 mm depth, those lucky tech journalists who have been lucky enough to have had a hands on peep at the IdeaPad Yoga assure us that its fully rotating hinge feels strong and robust.

While the online tech-world is unable to share its enthusiasm towards Lenovo’s new convertible ultra-innovative ultrabook – given that almost every tech site from Algeria to America has dedicated a feature about it – two criticisms about this yoga-sculpted device have surfaced. Firstly that as the screen doesn’t fold over the keyboard, keys may get scuffed when the machine in lay down and secondly that the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga isn’t expected to be launched until later this year!