Category Archives: Gadgets

Is the Blackberry Passport the ugliest phone ever?

I’m not quite sure what Blackberry were thinking with their curious new smartphone, the Passport. The device is a strange looking little thing with a screen aspect not commonly used in todays smartphones. Furthermore, the Passport may just be the ugliest smartphone I have ever laid my eyes on. I’m just clueless as to what Blackberry were thinking.

The new device is based around a decent sized 4.5 inch IPS display with a resolution of 1440 x 1440. This equates to a brilliantly sharp 453 pixels per inch (PPI). When you compare this to the 326 PPI of the iPhone 6 you can understand just how sharp this is. The display is really very good and is one of the smartphones best features.

Actually, talking about the other specifications, these are also rather good. The device features a speedy Snapdragon 801 Quad Core processor clocked at 2.26GHZ and even has 3GB of RAM. Furthermore, in the optics department we have a 13MP snapper which features optical image stabilisation.

What has to let the device down then is the peculiar design. As already mentioned the screen aspect is rather unconventional with a ratio of 1:1, and the device itself is pretty huge. It definitely falls into the phablet category with a width of 3.5 inches. In comparison, this is wider than even the Samsung Galaxy Note 3. From what we understand however the build quality is pretty good with a stainless steel rim running around the edges and a soft touch plastic battery cover on the back. Blackberry have also done away with their traditional 4 row keyboard and have opted for 3 rows. Its still full QWERTY but commentators are stating it feels rather squashed.

The Passport comes running Blackberry OS 10.3 with the Amazon App store pre-installed. Here lies a problem as you will not have access to the Google Play Store. Although the Amazon App store is now pretty comprehensive, you will still struggle to find some of your favourite games.

So whilst the Blackberry Passport has excellent specs and a great camera, the design is going to make it difficult to use. Can you imagine trying to squeeze this massive square into you pocket? It certainly isn’t going to be comfortable! Certainly not suitable for skinny jeans. The screen aspect is also going to make certain games and Apps feel awkward. That said, for business functionaltiy such as viewing and editing documents, it should be excellent. And it is indeed the business audience which Blackberry are targeting with this device.

With specs this good and a market leading display, I do wonder why Blackberry didn’t try to make a more universally appealing device. Although I appreciate that they have struggled to crack the domestic smartphone market and as such are clearly attempting to win back their traditional business customers.

So is the Blackberry Passport the ugliest smartphone on the planet? Possibly, although I imagine its rather like marmite – you either love it or you hate it!

Do I want one? Absolutely not…… actually I sort of love it.

Image from Trustedreviews.com

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Google Glass available in the UK for a mere £1000

At long last Googles popular Glass hardware is available in the UK through Googles Explorer program.

Google Glass initially went on sale In the US back in 2012 but this was strictly invite only.

If you want to look like a complete burke then Google Glass is now yours for a mere £1000. Google have pointed out that Glass is still in its prototype stage and as such would love your feedback.

Heres some feedback: Its too expensive!

For those of you not familiar with Google Glass, it is in essence a lightweight frame which sits over the eyeglass. It acts as like a head up display (HUD), and in addition to making you look truly awesome, you will be able to access the internet, browse maps and much more.

Virtual Reality: Is it finally time?

I find the concept of consumer Virtual reality (VR) really exciting. To me what makes gaming more immersive and engaging is the attention to detail and the resulting sense of reality. The more immersed I feel, the better the experience. The result of gaming consoles becoming more powerful in recent years has resulted in contemporary video games feeling much more realistic and engaging. Modern day graphics processors have really pushed the boundaries of what we though possible and we are now entering a new age of realism.

3D technology was the last craze which was slated as taking things to the next level. Modern hardware was capable of rendering games in 3D but whilst the technology became largely affordable, it next quite took off as we had hoped. Having personally built my own 3D gaming PC I was amazed the first time I donned my bulky active shutter glasses and played Battlefield. It was a mesmerisingly beautiful experience and for the first time ever I felt as though I was actually within the virtual environment.

3D Vision

This initial excitement soon gave way to apathy, however as eventually I realised that the 3D experience was far from a relaxing one. The concept of putting the uncomfortable glasses on every time I wanted to play Battlefield became a bit of a barrier to my gaming experience. After a few months I just stopped using them. My problem is that I’m a casual gamer. I play computer games when I get a bit of frown time and ultimately I just want to sit down with a game and relax.

Whilst 3D goggles aren’t too much of an inconvenience, I just found that I tended not to bother with them. The 3D experience was not a relaxing one and I found I had to be really in the mood to want to play. Unfortunately I think many people had the same issue which is why the consumer 3D experience never really took off.

Now whilst I find the concept of virtual reality gaming particularly exciting, I do wonder whether my personal experience will be similar to that of 3D. Virtual reality is a logical progression when it comes to making gaming more engaging. The idea of feeling completely immersed in a fully 3D virtual word is frankly astounding. My fear however is that the virtual reality experience will struggle to become mainstream, as has previously been the case. Can the technology truly become cheap enough for mass consumption? And, will the experience ever be refined enough to keep us wanting more?

The concept of virtual reality is nothing new. Actually, the technology has been around since 60’s. Back then however VR tech took up entire rooms and was grossly expensive. Furthermore, the tech was largely used by the military for simulation purposes and was by no means a mainstream experience. There were many advances in the tech over the following two decades but it was not until the 90’s when we started to become obsessed with the concept of virtual reality. We were promised that a new generation of powerful gaming hardware would bring VR to the masses but ultimately it never did. The technology of the day was still expensive and as such struggled to become commercially viable.Virtual Boy

Nintendo had a crack at virtual reality in 1995 with the release of the Virtual Boy. Although the system differed to what we expect today, it did go some way in creating a unique gaming experience which was at least available to the masses. Unfortunately the system was a commercial flop. This was largely attributed to its high price and the discomfort that the system caused. Moreover, in order to keep costs down, Nintendo opted to use a rather limiting red monochromatic display as opposed to a full colour one. This coupled with poor design ergonomics made for a pretty uncomfortable, nausea inducing experience.

 

Fortunately today advances in technology have meant that consumer VR is much closer to reality. Modern day games consoles are far superior to those of the 90’s and capable of outputting some serious horse power. Furthermore, thanks mainly to Oculus and Sony, a lot of time and money has gone into developing consumer VR systems capable of finally making the tech mainstream.

It was a relatively unknown company called Oculus VR that first reignited our passion for virtual reality with the development of the Rift gaming headset. The Rift started off in life as a kickstarted project. Oculus hoped to obtain enough funding on kickstarted to see the project through but ultimately didn’t expect to make any profit. Fortunately for Oculus however thousands of people shared their passion for consumer VR and pledged almost two and a half million dollars in funding. As such the Rift was born.

Oculus Rift

Although the initial Rift prototype incorporated a low resolution display and was plagued with motion blur issues, the latest version sports a beautiful 1080p OLED display and an external camera capable of detecting the position of the head. The current Rift system is looking incredibly promising and looks to offer a very polished VR experience. Rather controversially, Oculus were acquired by Facebook in March this year for a massive $2 billion! Supporters of Oculus we’re furious and accuse Oculus of “selling out”.

Earlier this year Sony also caused a stir by announcing that they too had been developing a consumer based VR headset known as Morpheus. Morpheus is an immersive 3D headset which features a full HD LCD display and will connect to the PS4 via HDMI and USB. It also offers a 90 degrees field of view and links in with the Playstation camera for motion control. Sony state that at this stage the headset is only a prototype and by no means reflects the final design. Clearly a lot of consideration has gone into the current setup however with Sony claiming that Morpheus is designed for comfort and has good ventilation factored in to prevent the lenses steaming up. Project Morpheus

What is also interesting is that Samsung are also now known to be developing their own virtual reality interface for their high end smartphones. It later came to light via Engadget that this is in fact a joint project between Oculus and Samsung. This mutually beneficial arrangement will allow Samsung access to Oculus’ mobile software development kit, with Oculus having access to Samsung’s OLED technology in return. Samsung’s VR system will not be a standalone device but rather a VR interface to your smartphone.

Whilst consumer based VR systems are looking likely to take the word by storm, there is that concern that we have been here before. That VR craze of the mid 90’s (largely inspired by the infamous movie – Lawnmower man) did gather a lot of momentum but of course our expectations were too high and the technology just couldn’t deliver. The VR systems of the time were bulky, uncomfortable and expensive and frankly not what we expected. As such people quickly lost interest in the idea of VR.

It is arguably unfair, however to draw parallels with the past. Things are certainly different today. The technology has come a long way from the bulky underpowered systems of the 90’s. The current VR craze – heavily inspired by Oculus and Sony – is again gathering a huge amount of momentum. The VR gaming headsets being presented today promise to deliver, and I for one am inclined to believe the hype. I really hope this is the time for VR to finally become a commercial success but I still have some concerns.

The technology has to be truly affordable to be successful commercially. It’s no use if only a select few can afford to invest in VR headsets. Furthermore the systems have to be comfortable and easy to use. It is well known that both Rift and Morpheus have had some comfort issues that need assessing. At the end of the day, if I come back from a hard day at work and need a little down time, the last thing I want to do it strap some bulky uncomfortable headset to my head. If it causes me any discomfort at all I wont want to use it.

There is also the motion sickness issue. The VR experience is quite an intense one and renowned for being a little taxing. Again, if this issue is not overcome then I can see VR being a bit of a gimmick with no real long term potential. The experience has to feel refined and it has to make me want to come back for more.

I really hope consumer VR becomes a mainstream experience, I just don’t want it to feel taxing.

Meet the first mobile Steam Machine.

You may remember back at CES 2014 when Valve announced its initial Steam Machines partners. These were 12 third party hardware developers charged with creating very unique desktop based PC’s which would run on Valve’s Steam OS. Well now a new developer has entered the lineup with the first handheld based console.

Currently codenamed ‘SteamBoy Project’ and developed by SteamBoy Machine Team, the new handheld console is due to be released in 2015 and strongly resembles the current Steam Controller prototype. The console consist of two signature round trackpads, a 5 inch 16:9 touchscreen and 4 action buttons similar to those found on the Xbox 360 controller.

The SteamBoy Machine Team told The Escapist that whilst the exact hardware specifications are yet to be decided, the device is likely to include a quad core processor, 4GB RAM and 32GB of external memory. They have stated that the new handheld device will not be as powerful as the desktop machines, but they draw parallels between this and how the Playstation 4 compares to the PS Vita for example. They go on to claim that it should be capable of playing most of the Steam OS games.

The SteamBoy will be capable of streaming games, like its desktop cousins, and will be compatible with WIFI and 3G networks.

SteamBoy

For the YouTube sneak-peek check: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UM63RuEhgHU

 

Source: http://www.escapistmagazine.com

The future of virtual reality: Project Morphius

Today Sony have officially announced their new virtual reality headset ‘Project Morphius’. It seems previous rumours surrounding this were spot on as Sony confirmed this has been 3 years in development.

Morphius is an immersive 3D headset which features a full HD LCD display and will connect to the PS4 via HDMI and USB. It also offers a 90 degrees field of view and links in with the Playstation camera for motion control. Sony have said that at this stage the headset is only a prototype and is by no means the final design. Clearly a lot of consideration has gone into the current setup however with Sony stating that it it is designed to be comfortable and has good ventilation factored in to prevent the lenses steaming up.

It seems Sony are working with developers to ensure there will be plenty of content at release. When that will be however nobody knows.

Virtual Reality systems have never really been commercially successful in the past which is unfortunate because the concept has so much potential, particularly with todays modern gaming machines. Sony are clearly psyched about Project Morphius, and so they should be – it looks brilliant!

Meet the stunning Moto 360

In line with Google’s announcement regarding its new wearables OS Android Wear, Motorola have showcased the smartwatch to rule them all.

The Moto 360 will be one of the first smartwatches to run on the new mobile OS and has been showed off in one of Google’s promo videos. The new premium looking device features a traditional looking round digital watch face and features gesture based notifications. According to Motorola these notifications will all be delivered through ‘the twist of a wrist’.

Motorola has promised that when the smartwatch is released in summer it come in a range of styles and include a choice of leather of metal straps.

In what has been a mostly disappointing line up of smartwatches thus far, the Moto 360 may well be the most beautiful device yet!

Moto360_Macro_alt1_with+text

Android Wear goes official

Today Google announced it was getting involved in the wearables scene by means of their new, super mobile operating system – Android Wear.  Google Wear is designed specifically for smartwatches and the company has released a couple of promo videos showcasing what looks like a sweet and intuitive user interface. The new OS will feature initially on smartwatches designed by Motorola and LG, and from what has been seen so far both look pretty damn amazing!

Looking after all your fitness needs, Android Wear will display distance, speed and time information and will feature Google maps. Another key feature will be Google Now which will allow users to easily access functions via voice command. This will be an ‘always listening experience’ and users can access instant relevant information with the voice command ‘Ok Google’.

From what we have seen of Google Wear it looks pretty amazing. It may be exactly what the wearable’s market has been waiting for.

Source: Google

Amazon’s uninspired game controller leaks

Amazon-game-controller-2

 

Rumours of Amazon’s possibly up and coming set top games console have been ramped up in light of recent internet leaks.

Images leaked on the interweb showing what can only be described as a rather uninspired and dull looking games controller have led some to believe that the release of an accompanying games console is imminent.

The gamepad which is clad in dull looking black plastic features two analog sticks, a traditional directional pad, 4 games buttons and a further 4 Android-esque function buttons. There are also some media playback buttons on the lower edge and the controller features 6 led lights. What is certain is that this is no where near as revolutionary and cool looking as Valves SteamMachines controller. As pointed out by many online commentators, the design is suspiciously similar to the wireless ‘OnLine’ gamepad.

No much is know about the accompanying console, or in fact wether there actually is one! If there is however it will likely link in with the current trend in online streaming and utilise Amazons catalogue of online material. Wether it will be a powerhouse console to take on the likes of the Xbox One and PS4, I doubt it. Considering Amazons current commitment to Android I would hazard a guess that this will be what the console will be running on.

We will have to wait and see what happens.

Source: Engadget

Xbox One gets UK price cut

The Xbox One has hardly been out five minutes but it has already seen a price cut of £30 in the UK.

The super-console is now available for £399 placing it more in line with Sonys £349 Playstation 4. To seal the deal Microsoft are also including a copy of Titanfall. Although still slightly more expensive than the PS4, the Xbox One does come with the amazing Kinect sensor.

Initial sales stats suggest the PS4 is outselling the Xbox One but this recent announcement from Microsoft may change that.

Alienware joins the Steam Machines line up

Arriving very late to CES 2014, Alienware have showcased their final Steam Machines design. True to Alienware’s super cool design philosophy, the Steam Machine is sure to be popular amongst consumers.

Based vey much on Alienware’s popular X51 micro gaming PC, the final design is smaller than both the PS4 and Xbox One and likely to pack a real punch. Although the machine showcased at CES had no internals, the Alienware Steam Machine is likely to sport a powerful Intel CPU and an independent Nvidia graphics card. Many of the other Steam Machines showcased at CES feature Intel processors with integrated graphics so this could give Alienware a real edge.

The Alienware Steam Machine is a brilliant example of what a living room gaming PC’s should look like. Providing Alienware can deliver with the hardware and Valve with the software, The Alienware Steam Machine could really threaten console gaming and take a large chunk out of the gaming market. Valves user base of 65 million people coupled with Alienware’s cutting edge design presents a real winning formulae. The Alienware Steam Machine is the one to watch.

Playstation Now arrives

Sony have officially announced Playstation Now. The subscription based streaming service will allow users to stream Playstation games to their PSP, PS4, smartphone, tablet and even smart TV. Although Playstation Now comes as no real surprise, the range of supported platforms was pleasantly received.

Due to be launched in the summer, Playstation Now is still in the development stage. That said, it has been very well received at CES with users noting fast lag free gaming. Playstation Now is great in that it allows people who do not have access to the necessary hardware to access Playstation games. It gives PS4 owners access to the backlog of PS3 games, but for people who do not own Sonys latest console it gives them access to gaming by other means, i.e. through their smart TV.

Cloud gaming means that the computing side of things is done a server so the gaming experience can be streamed straight to a compatible device. We expect great things from Playstation Now. Stay tuned for further developments.

Say hello to the Pebble Steel

Smartwatches are all the rage at the minute and if you have read our smartwatch guide you will be familiar with the massively popular Pebble. The Pebble was a huge success and considered the most popular smartwatch to buy. You’d have to sell one of your arms to get one though. 

One of the criticisms of the original Pebble was its all plastic design. It just didn’t feel like a premium product. Well now Pebble are remedying this with the introduction of the much slicker and robust looking Pebble Steel. The steel retains the specifications of the original Pebble but has a vastly improved design. 

The old Pebble will still be available at $149 with the Steel coming in at $249. The extra hundred dollars brings a much more premium all stainless steel design, a choice of stainless steel or leather strap and much more conventional styling. The Pebble Steel will be launched at the end of January in line with the new app store.

Pebble Steel

Valve’s 12 Steam Machines partners.

As a massive fan of PC gaming I am always interested to learn more about Steam’s up and coming Steam Machines. We already know that Valve have developed their own test hardware which 300 beta users have already received. We were also aware of 2 third party Steam machines in development by iBuyPower and Digital Storm. However Engadget are reporting that there are now 12 known third party supporters of Steam Machines. These are: Alienware, Falcon Northwest, iBuyPower, CyberPowerPC, Origin PC, Gigabyte, Materiel.net, Webhallen, Alternate, Next, Zotac and Scan Computers.

We can expect to see examples of all the above over the next few days.

Source: Engadget

MetaWatch launch new range of smartwatches.

The SmartWatch company MetaWatch have just announced ‘Meta’, a new brand of ultra cool premium smartwatches. Where is previous MetaWatches have been accused of being ugly, the ex fossil engineers at MetaWatch have designed the Meta range with both functionality and aesthetics in mind.

The new Meta range of watches have been designed by Frank Nuovo (formally of Nokia and Vertu) so we can expect a lot of attention to quality and detail. The Meta range will sport high quality e-ink type displays making for good sunlight legibility and see of use.

Check out our smart watch guide: http://livelystate.com/2013/12/07/smartwatch-guide/Image and story from The Verge

The Meta line – Image and story from The Verge

Source: The Verge

NVIDIA announces new K1 mobile processor

Nvidia have just announced their latest mobile processor the Tegra K1. The Tegra K1 uses the same Kepler architecture as Nvidia’s desktop GPU’s and sports 192 Kuda graphics cores. Nvidia claim that their new super processor is twice as fast as the Apple A7 found in the iPhone 5s and iPad Air. It will also be available in 32 and 64bit versions. Nvidia have also announced that Epic games will be bringing its unreal 4 engine to the K1. Expect to see the K1 used in domestic products sometime this year.

Head over to The Verge for a hands on video: http://www.theverge.com/2014/1/6/5278192/nvidia-tegra-k1-prototype-hands-on-video

Nvidia's latest Tegra K1 with 192 Cuda cores
Nvidia’s latest Tegra K1 with 192 Cuda cores