• Samsung Galaxy Nexus with Ice Cream Sandwich hands-on (video)

    The Galaxy Nexus (formerly referred to as the Nexus Prime) carries on the Nexus torch in spectacular fashion, and we've just spent a few quality moments with one here at the launch event. Design-wise, it's clear that the Nexus S DNA is here, though the rear reminds us most of the Galaxy S II. Those who abhor physical buttons will also be delighted, and while we'd gotten used to the whole Power + Home for a screenshot on the GSII, Power + Volume Down works just fine on this fellow.......

  • Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich now official, tons of enhancements

    PSHax member - Google has taken the stage in Hong Kong to make the next version of Android OS, nicknamed Ice Cream Sandwich, a thing of reality. Better known as Android 4.0, the update offers a massive redesign to the user interface and adds a plethora of new features. Some of the highlights include an NFC-enabled feature called Android Beam, offline search in Gmail, new lock screen features and a fancy unlocking method called "Face Unlock," which uses facial recognition to ensure strangers can't use your phone without permission. Ice Cream Sandwich also includes enhancements in.....

  • Motorola RAZR to get updated to Ice Cream Sandwich in early 2012

    Mutricy mentioned that while the company's new flagship device was designed for Gingerbread, plans have been set to introduce the latest version of Android in the start of 2012, with a more precise date naturally on its way. Given past experience, however, it's probable that the unbranded version of the device will get the refresh ahead of the Droid RAZR on Verizon, so US users may need to exercise a wee bit of patience here. Regardless, it's time for the competition to step up......

  • HTC Rezound render resoundingly revealed- wait next November 10th

    Hark! The first renders of the HTC Rezound have appeared online, thanks to some of the device's cases going up for pre-order. You can see that, like the Sensation XE, the phone has red-glowing soft keys -- a bit of a departure from HTC's traditionally conservative design language. If you recall, the phone formerly called Vigor is said to have a 4.3-inch screen, a dual-core 1.5GHz processor, 1GB RAM, Beats Audio and an 8MP rear camera.....

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Sure, you could enjoy Android on your PC through dual-booting or virtualization, but the folks at Socketeq have whipped up yet another alternative: a port of Mountain View's mobile OS, fittingly dubbed WindowsAndroid, that runs natively on the Windows kernel (under Vista, 7 and 8) instead of Linux. Not only does the operating system run speedily since its free of virtualization chains, but it serves up the appropriate tablet or smartphone UI based on window size, and plays nice with keyboards and mice, too boot. Socketeq's solution serves up the full Android experience, but you'll have to separately flash the Google apps that typically come baked in, according to Android Police. Ice Cream Sandwich is the freshest flavor of Android to have undergone the kernel-replacement treatment, and it's currently being offered as a free "first-try" download at the source.

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It was great while it lasted, but the days of users legally unlocking their own phones is over. Back in October of last year, the Library of Congress added an exemption to the DMCA to allow folks to free their new phones for 90 days. That three month window has now closed. Of course, carriers are still free to offer unlocked handsets themselves, and some will also unlock them for you as long as certain conditions are met. "Legacy" or used handsets purchased before today can still be unlocked without any finger-wagging from federal courts.

So, what does this mean exactly? Well, Electronic Frontier Foundation attorney Mitch Stoltz told us, "What's happening is not that the Copyright Office is declaring unlocking to be illegal, but rather that they're taking away a shield that unlockers could use in court if they get sued." This does make lawsuits much more likely according to him, but it's still up to the courts to decide the actual legality of phone unlocking. Indeed, it's a grim day for those who want true freedom over their own devices. Stoltz said to us, "This shows just how absurd the Digital Millennium Copyright Act is: a law that was supposed to stop the breaking of digital locks on copyrighted materials has led to the Librarian of Congress trying to regulate the used cellphone market."


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One of the big questions about Jolla's new Sailfish OS would be ecosystem. I mean it is hard enough to get the average consumer to switch OS's alone but, if you are missing their favorite apps you have no shot at all. So what did Jolla do to bridge this gap? They made their OS Android and MeeGo app compatible.

While I didn't see the entire Sailfish presentation there was a mention that Sailfish will not only be able to run the apps made for Nokia's N9 but also it should be able to run Android apps. This is a HUGE win for consumers it automatically puts an entire world of apps at their disposal from the get go.

This shouldn't come as much of a shock to the tech world as it was always rumored that he Nokia N9 could run Android apps if the right software was made. Sadly however this software never came and the N9 is stuck with the limited apps made for Nokia version of the MeeGo OS.

Knowing that Jolla's phones can now run a wide variety of apps does this make anyone take a second (or first) look at this new OS?

Enjoy the preview:


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Opera introduced a new approach to pay-as-you-go mobile data today, but unless you currently live in Malaysia, you'll only be able to read of the latest advancement. Known as the Opera Web Pass, the service is geared to those without data plans and allows users to purchase short term access from their local carrier. In its current form, mobile providers are given the flexibility to determine which subscriptions to offer, such as an hour or day of internet use, or even quick access to individual apps like Facebook or Google+. Naturally, the service could also be a great value for travelers. For its part, Opera insists that Web Pass should be extremely easy for carriers to implement with their servers. For the time being, however, Opera Web Pass is currently only available to subscribers of DiGi Telecommunications, which partnered with the Norwegian company to develop and test its service.


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PPSSPP is written in C++, and translates PSP CPU instructions directly into optimized x86, x64 and (soon) ARM machine code, using an efficient JIT compiler.

PPSSPP can thus run on quite low-spec hardware, including stronger Android phones and tablets, as long as there's support for OpenGL ES 2.0.


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So what is the GT-B9150? It is a 5.3-inch sAMOLED HD Dual display device that runs Android and will likely officially be called the 'Samsung Galaxy Q'. The rumor mill suggest it will run on an EXYNOS 5250 processor and will have 2GB of RAM. Other specs are believed to be an 8MP back cam, a 2MP front cam, NFC, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and a 3500mAh battery.

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Asus Memo 370T believe to be a predessor of Nexus 7. With the same specs and design, it is a Nexus 7 plus HDMI, Bluetooth, microSD slot, rear 8MP camera etc. By now, you hopefully already know about the ASUS MeMO 370T. On paper, the MeMO 370T is a spec’d out 7-inch slate that features nVidia’s powerful Tegra 3 quad-core system on a chip. This tablet screams top-of-the-line, yet ASUS will offer the tablet to consumer for $250. Why would they price this thing so low, you ask

In short, ASUS simply gets it. They understand that consumers want tablets, perhaps to even replace their laptops, but they don’t want them at laptop prices. Instead, consumers largely see tablets as cooler netbooks, and are looking to spend between $200 and $400 on these devices. Of course, the $500 and up iPad/iPad2 have bucked this tradition, but Apple has a long history of pricing themselves at the very high end of the market (or above), and still selling a multitude of devices to their fanbase.

The biggest reason Android tablet sales haven’t taken off is because they’ve been priced to compete with iPads instead of netbooks. Amazon proved this when they launched the Kindle Fire, the $200 eReader tablet hybrid that in 2 months has sold as many or more units than all previous Android tablets combined. HP’s Touchpad tablets sold out in minutes when they were dropped to $100-150 in HP’s inventory eliminating fire-sale. The $250 Nook Tablet has proven no slouch either, making Barnes and Noble’s nook line one of their most profitable divisions.

In order for tablet makers (including Apple) to compete, they’re going to have to continue to offer tablets for less, a point ASUS has certainly taken to heart with the MeMO 370T. The launch of the MeMO 370T was likely the biggest and best surprise of CES 2012, and we’re happy to see companies starting to offer powerful tablets at incredibly affordable prices. We hope to see this trend continue; in fact, we think it has to continue if Android tablet sales are ever going to take off.

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At long last, the iPhone 5. We just got our hands on Apple's latest smartphone following its unveiling in San Francisco, and suffice it to say, it's a beautiful thing. Some might say we've been waiting for this moment since October 4th of last year, but another crowd may say that the real next-gen iPhone has been on the burner for much longer. Indeed, this is the first iPhone since June of 2010 to showcase an entirely new design, but it's obvious that Apple's not going to deviate far when it comes to aesthetics.

Apple followers will aptly recall Steve Jobs' quote in July of 2010 -- you know, that one about "no one" wanting a big phone, with current CEO Tim Cook seated just feet from Steve as the phrase was uttered. Now, however, Apple's inching ever closer to that very realm, with an elongated 4-inch display that enables new apps to take advantage of more pixels (1,136 x 640), while legacy apps can still operate within a familiar space. The phone itself doesn't feel too much different than the iPhone 4 and 4S; yes, it's a bit taller, but by keeping the width the same, you'll utilize a very familiar grasp to hold it.

In typical Apple fashion, even the finest details have been worked over tirelessly. The metal feels downright elegant to the touch, and the same line we've said time and time again applies here: there's no doubting the premium fit and finish when you clutch one of these things. Yeah, the headphone port's now on the bottom, but avid iPod touch users shouldn't have too much trouble adjusting.

The rest of the leaks, by and large, were proven correct. High-speed LTE is being included in an iPhone for the first time, and the new Dock Connector is indeed smaller. Arguably, that's the change that'll cause the most headaches for longtime iDevice users -- if you've purchased an automobile, a speaker dock, or any of the other zillion iReady products in the past half-decade, you'll need to pony up for an adapter to make things work properly.

Apple's made this one lighter than before, and while the outgoing flagship never really felt heavy, this one feels impressively light. After all, it's both taller and lighter. The display -- which meets sRGB color specification -- now has an integrated touch layer, and Apple's not holding back when it calls it the "world's most advanced display." Sure enough, it looks beautiful. Of course, displays across the industry have been becoming increasingly sexy to look at, and Apple's newest most certainly pops when you ogle it. Is it better than the 4S? For sure, but it doesn't make the 4S' panel look dated by any means. The anti-glare measures implemented are highly appreciated, too.

The new A6 chip, in typical Apple style, hasn't revealed itself in terms of raw tech specs. But at a glance, it's definitely quicker than the chip in the 4S. Much like the speed increases between the iPhone 4 and 4S (and before that, the iPhone 3G vs. iPhone 3GS), they won't take you by storm right away. But, use it for half an hour and you'll have a hard time going back to a slower chip. The transitions are smoother, switching between apps is a bit quicker and everything just generally feels incrementally faster.

We'll be grabbing video and putting some of the new iOS 6-specific additions to the test, but for now, feel free to cast judgment on the design after peeking the gallery above.

iPhone 5 Full Apple keynote September 2012


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It was only this past spring that Nokia crashed onto the US smartphone scene to stake its claim and make inroads into consumers' minds and hearts. Now, just five months later, the Finnish company's poised to overtake the buzz of its fledgling, former Windows Phone flagship, with what many consider to be a true high-end contender: the Lumia 920.

As one of the first Windows Phone 8 devices to be officially announced, this device augments Espoo's line with a larger, curved 4.5-inch PureMotion HD+ display, dual-core 1.5GHz Snapdragon S4 CPU, 2,000mAh battery, NFC, integrated wireless charging and an 8-megapixel rear PureView camera capable of 1080p video. The display packs WXGA (1,280 x 768) resolution, is 25 percent brighter than the next best panel on the market and it's the fastest LCD that Nokia has ever shipped on a smartphone. What's more, the screen also boasts what Nokia calls "Super Sensitive Touch," which promises to let you use it even when wearing gloves or mitts.

As you can tell from its humpless back, this PureView is not that of the 41-megapixel variety -- it's merely all about the branding, as the moniker will now ring synonymous with "high-end cameras." Despite that fall from 808 grace, Nokia's Head of Imaging Damian Dinning has assured detractors the magic is in what's done with the optics and pixels and not sheer gargantuan sampling size. To wit, the 920 employs a "floating lens," which, in layman's terms, translates into hardware image stabilization and also packs impressive low-light capabilities -- an area the company's seems squarely focused upon.

In a true return to form, the 920 also hearkens back to the Lumia that started it all, opting for the "sinuous tapering" that debuted on the 800 with glass edges that blend gently into the polycarbonate hull. Unfortunately, not all of that design language has made the transition, given its chassis now appears glossier and more polished, distancing itself from that premium matte finish. Still, as looks go, the handset's keeping to its 900 origins, appearing nigh indistinct from its predecessor save for that attention-grabbing mellow yellow hue.And as a bonus, Nokia's imbued the device with integrated wireless charging, based on the Qi standard, which corroborates those leaks we saw just last week. The Lumia 920 will arrive in pentaband LTE and HSPA+ variants and both are expected to ship "in selected markets" later this year.


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It was 10 months ago that we had a doppelgänger in our midst. Amazon unleashed the Kindle Fire to the world and we spent much of the beginning of our review comparing and contrasting it to the (even then a bit long-in-the-tooth) BlackBerry PlayBook. Now, it's the Kindle Fire HD and it quite handily addresses nearly every concern that we had with the original Fire. It's thinner, lighter, faster and, yes, better looking. It's a huge step forward from that which came before and yet it still follows very much in the footsteps of its predecessor, existing as a physical portal to a digital marketplace with an alluring selection of premium content. Is it enough of an improvement to topple our current king of budget tablets, the Nexus 7? You'll just have to read on to find out.


To borrow a bit of cigarette marketing, the Kindle Fire HD has come a long way, baby. Where the Fire is square, dark and decidedly slab-like, the Fire HD is... well, it still isn't a knockout in the styling department, but it is at least considerably more visually appealing. The angular edges from before have been banished, replaced by a profile that curves up to meet a few millimeters worth of flat surface that then curves back again to meet the glass up top. That surface is indeed made of Corning's Gorilla Glass, so you can probably do without a protector, and it covers a 7-inch panel, the same size as before. (The 8.9-inch model won't arrive until later this year.)

The Kindle Fire HD measures in at 7.6 x 5.4 x 0.4 inches (193 x 137 x 10.3mm). That's slightly (3mm) wider, noticeably (17mm) taller and fractionally (1.1mm) thinner than the Fire. In other words, it occupies roughly the same dimensions, but the taper on the back surface does a compelling job of making this feel thinner. It's slightly lighter, too, weighing in at 395g (13.9oz) compared to the OG machine's 413g.

The overall design remains understated; visually, a sea of soft-touch matte black will be your overwhelming impression here. But, with that comes an air of sophistication. The Amazon logo is still subtly printed on the back, a dark shade of gray stamped atop the darker exterior. You may be visually assaulted by Amazon branding at every turn once you switch the device on, but the exterior at least is reasonably clean.

Across the back runs a slightly polished metal band, the lone bit of stylistic indulgence here. It spans the width of the tablet, running from one speaker to the other and, along the way, has the word "kindle" embossed. Yes, there are two speakers here, one for each of your ears in the natural way. Both are covered in a lined grille that makes us think of the radiator inlets on a Ferrari Testarossa, though that might be entirely due to the prevalence of said car on the walls of this author's childhood bedroom.

Take a tour around the edges of the device and you'll find a far more comprehensive selection of buttons and ports than in the original Fire, a big step forward that shows Amazon listens to criticism. This is a tablet clearly designed to be held in a landscape orientation when enjoying media, and held thusly, you'll find micro-USB and micro-HDMI ports on the bottom. The USB port is used for charging or file transfers, though you can also email files to your device (via the custom address each Kindle is assigned) or upload them through the Cloud Player service. The HDMI output is a very welcome addition and enables pushing all those high-def movie downloads straight to your HDTV, should you be so inclined.

The left side of the device has nothing to offer, while the top has a small microphone. On the right is found the 3.5mm headphone jack, positioned atop a volume rocker and power button. This physical volume control is also new compared to the Fire, which asked you to hop into the UI whenever you wanted to turn up the jams -- or the Audibles, as it were. This is far more convenient, but we found all the physical controls to be very hard to find by touch. The power button in particular is virtually intangible: tapered and flush. You'll need to flip the tablet around to find it for at least your first week of ownership. The volume rocker, at least, has two slight protrusions to set it apart.


There are two storage options for the 7-inch Kindle Fire HD: 16GB for $199 or 32GB for $249. Opt for the smaller and you'll have about 12.6GB of space at your disposal, while the larger offers 26.9GB. Otherwise the two are identical, both using a 1.2GHz dual-core TI OMAP4460 processor. Amazon doesn't quote the amount of RAM, but a system check shows 752MB.

There's no 3G / 4G option on the 7-inch Fire HD; you'll need to step up to the forthcoming 8.9-inch model for that -- and pay an extra $200, too. So, we're stuck with WiFi, but not just any WiFi. Jeff Bezos spent about five minutes of the Kindle Fire HD's coming out party to espouse the virtues of MIMO connectivity. That's multiple-input multiple-output if you're not hep with the lingo, basically meaning the tablet can both send and receive data simultaneously over its pair of antennas.

In theory, if you're sending and receiving a lot of data this means you'll receive better overall throughput. The dual antennas will also mean higher overall signal strength, and compared to a few other Android devices we had kicking about (a Nexus 7 and a Motorola Droid RAZR M), the Kindle Fire HD was easily the best of the bunch. We loaded up the Wifi Analyzer app on all three and the Kindle consistently had a 10 to 15dBm stronger signal, and was able to keep that signal farther away from the router than either of the other two.

Display and speakers

If you hadn't guessed by the name, the Kindle Fire HD takes the tablet series into the world of high-definition. It's a 1,280 x 800 IPS LCD that, like its sadly lower-res predecessor, offers solid brightness and contrast mixed with wide viewing angles. It looks very good indeed and, with greater-than-720p resolution, can finally do all that HD content in the Amazon store justice. That said, with that HDMI output you also can push that content digitally to whatever other display you want.

The HD also steps up to stereo speakers and Amazon is making a big deal about this being one of the few (if not the only) tablets offering Dolby Digital Plus. In theory that means better and broader support for digital compression algorithms, as well as other fun and largely useless stuff like virtual surround sound. We'll let you, the reader, decide how important virtual surround is to your listening enjoyment, but overall we didn't find the speakers themselves to be particularly impressive in terms of their acoustic delivery.

In fact their sound is distinctly on the tinny side, as one might expect given the size, but they are respectably loud and, frankly, it's a refreshing change to have two of the things. Here they're well-positioned so that you get maximum stereo separation when watching a movie or playing a game and we found that they work well even when covered by your hands. That, too, isn't something that can be said for the sound ports on other slabs.

Performance and battery life

The Kindle Fire HD may only get a 200MHz boost in performance over the Kindle Fire that came before it, but it feels considerably quicker than that. The media-focused UI customization that the previous tablet couldn't really handle is far more responsive now. That main carousel of content and apps and websites that is the trademark of the Fire series no longer has fits and stops and stutters -- but there are still some sluggish moments, particularly when reading comic books. We spent a fair bit of time admiring Frank Miller's "Batman: The Dark Knight Returns" and couldn't help noticing the uneven rate with which the pages turn. But that didn't stop us from being glad we have access to such a wide swath of the DC back catalog.

Web pages load quickly, the latest version of the remote-rendering Silk browser beginning to live up to its name, but it still doesn't beat a standard browser in either initial rendering time or fluidity of pinch-zooming. The Chrome browser on the Nexus 7 rendered every page we threw at it faster than the Fire HD, all without relying on any fancy off-site rendering techniques. Of course, the purported beauty of Silk is that it'll just get faster the more people that use it, but we never quite saw that come to pass with the last version, and we don't have particularly high hopes about this one picking up in speed.

As with the last Fire, we didn't have much luck running specific Android benchmarks, but the SunSpider JavaScript browser test gave us an average score of 1,767ms. That's nearly 700ms faster than the previous Fire and almost identical to the Nexus 7's 1,785ms.

When it comes to battery life Amazon says you can expect 11 hours of normal usage, and in our typical battery rundown test (with a looping video, WiFi on and the display set to a fixed brightness) we scored about an hour short of that. Nine hours and 57 minutes, to be exact -- eight minutes more than the Nexus 7 managed on the same test. Yet again, a near-identical score and well within the top-tier of tablets.


Much of the appeal -- or the annoyance, depending on your perspective -- of the Kindle Fire series comes with its heavily content-focused user interface sitting atop Android. This time around it's Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich that's been given the treatment and, in general, things are much improved for it.


The Kindle Fire HD is still built around the main carousel of content that was introduced with the Fire. It's largely unchanged but, thankfully, so much smoother than before. That carousel offers one-stop access to all your books, music, movies, apps and even websites, all presented in LIFO (last in, first out) order so your most recent selections are right there at the top.

Beneath the main cycle of icons is another sequence of smaller ones that changes dynamically based on what is highlighted above. Hover over an app and it will offer a selection of apps that "Customers Also Bought." Stop at a certain book and it will show you some other novels that people have also bought. The same can be said for movies, music albums, even magazines. Finally, at the very bottom of the screen can be found a few rows of small text. Look closely and you'll that this too is an advertisement.

If you're looking to buy something but don't know what, the Kindle Fire HD would love to help.


The basic reading interface is largely unchanged from what we've seen before, which is just fine by us -- ain't broke, don't fix it and whatnot. A swipe or a tap takes you from page to page and there are plenty of options for changing font (still just six), color (black on white, brown on sepia or white on black) and margins. Taking notes is as easy as dragging a finger across text and sharing anything to Twitter or Facebook is similarly simple. Just figured out who the murderer is? Feel free to issue a tweet right from that climactic page and spoil the book for all your friends.

The big addition here is Amazon's Immersion Reading service. Now, when you purchase a textual book that's also offered in Audible format you'll be given the option of adding the voice narration for a few bucks more. When these two mediums combine you can play the narration while you read the text and the word being spoken will be highlighted on the tablet as it's said.

This is an experience that's said to increase reading comprehension, but more importantly, it means you can pick up right where you left off -- whether you left off listening in the car or reading in bed. That's thanks to Whispersync for Voice, which is currently rolling out to Audible's various mobile apps. With that you can listen on any supported device and have your current position follow you wherever you are. We tried this with the recently updated Android app and it worked perfectly, dropping us into the book right where the Audible recording left off.


Amazon includes OfficeSuite for opening your average Office-type productivity applications, which again you can email right to your Kindle if you like. There are also new email, calendar and contacts apps that deliver a fair bit more usability than with the previous Fire. We plugged in a Gmail account and the tablet quickly sucked down our recent email, with labels, and within a minute or so we were fighting the good fight of the inbox bulge anew.

The calendar and contacts apps are similarly workable, but serious productivity-hounds will find them somewhat lightweight. For example, you can't tap on an address in a calendar invite to get directions there, can't view calendars shared with you in Gmail and, should you forget to enter an event without a name, it just says "Cannot create an empty event" and discards all of your changes. You do, at least, get reminder notifications pushed into the status bar to alert you of your upcoming conference call.


We also received Amazon's leather case for the Kindle, which costs $44.99 and handily consumes your tablet on all sides. It's is available in a variety of mostly tame colors, the exception being the still somewhat subdued yellow we received. It provides easy access to all ports and buttons, cut-outs for the speakers and, best of all, has a magnetic flap that locks the screen when you close it.

Amazon also offers a $19.99 ($9.99 if you buy it with a Kindle) charging adapter for the thing, as you'll get only the micro-USB cable in the box. Yes, you can charge it up through any standard USB charger, but you'll need a higher-spec charger like this one (or any of the dozens of iPad chargers) to do so at maximum speed -- about four hours from empty to full by Amazon's reckoning.

And then there's the best accessory of all: $15 to turn off Offers. Amazon hasn't enabled this feature yet so we weren't able to try it ourselves, but given the prevalence of advertising beating you over the head everywhere you look in this thing, it might just be worth it.

The competition

When the original Kindle Fire launched, there wasn't an awful lot to compare it to. After all, 7-inch tablets were rare and those priced at $200 were largely, well, junk. That's certainly changed, but the most direct competition for the Kindle Fire HD is its predecessor, now informally called the Kindle Fire SD. It's largely the same device as before, still rocking the PlayBook-esque exterior and limping along with just 8GB of storage, but it now features a similar 1.2GHz processor as that found in the HD. And, it's considerably cheaper at $159.

For that $40 here you get twice the storage and a lot more pixels to gaze at, which we think is well worth the increase in cost. But, honestly, if you're swaying well to the casual side and will be doing some simple gaming, surfing and reading -- maybe looking at a tablet for a child -- the Kindle Fire SD is a really good value.

If, on the other hand, you're someone who is leaning more toward the power user side, you're probably wondering how this stacks up against the $199 Google Nexus 7. When we reviewed that, we called it the best $200 tablet you can buy and now, a few months later, we still think that's true. But it's close. Really close. For the same money the Fire HD gives you twice the storage, proper stereo speakers, HDMI output and better WiFi performance. Plus, there's an amazing wealth of premium content always at your fingertips -- you'll never want for something to watch, read or listen to.
But, we'd still take the Nexus 7. All that content can't make up for the distinctly limited offerings in Amazon's Appstore, most notably the first-party Google apps. Gmail and Google Maps alone add significant value to the Nexus 7, and then there's Amazon's heavy-handed Android customization. While the Fire HD is far more responsive than the Fire was before it, it doesn't compare to the feeling of raw, uncompromised Jelly Bean.

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In 2008, when the Eee PC was revolutionizing the computing world and driving every manufacturer to make cheaper and smaller laptops, Sony washed its hands of the whole thing. The "race to the bottom," the company said, would profoundly impact the industry, killing profit margins and flooding the market with cheap, terrible machines. Sony was wrong, its stance lasting about a year before joining the competition with its own VAIO W.

Four years on we're buying better laptops than ever before and, with the netbook class now more or less dead, that downward competition seems to have shifted to the tablet front. A flood of cheap, truly awful slates preceded Amazon's Kindle Fire, the $200 tablet from a major brand that looks to have been the proper catalyst in plunging prices. The latest challenger to enter the competition is ASUS, partnering with Google to create the first Nexus tablet, a device that not only will amaze with its MSRP, but with its quality. It's called the Nexus 7, it too is $200, and it's better than Amazon's offering in every way but one.

Though that low cost is the big talking point about this tablet, you'd certainly never know it just by holding the thing. Okay, so there's more polycarbonate than panache here, but the design of the Nexus 7 feels reasonably high-end, starting with that rubberized back. Yes, it is rubber, but it's very nicely textured, nice enough to fool one tech journalist into thinking it was leather.

No cow shed its skin to cover the back of this tablet, of that we can assure you, but the dimpled pattern here is not unlike the sort you might find on leather-wrapped racecar steering wheels. While there's no MOMO logo to be found, the feel is much the same and, we presume, rather more durable. There are two other logos to be found, though, starting with the Nexus branding embossed in big letters on the top, with a much smaller ASUS graphic on the bottom. That's it, though: understated and sophisticated. Just how we like it. (Even the FCC logo and other noise are on a piece of plastic you can easily peel off.) There's also no camera lens poking out here, as the 1.2-megapixel shooter up front is all you get.
Nexus 7 vs. Galaxy Tab 7.7 vs. Galaxy Tab 2 7.0

Move further down toward the bottom of the back and you'll find the device's single speaker. It's a slit that runs roughly two-thirds of the way across the back, centered and sitting about a half-inch above the bottom -- which is, by the way, where you'll find the tablet's only ports. Centered down there is a micro-USB connector and, to the far right side when looking at the display, the 3.5mm headphone jack. That's it. Thankfully, ASUS's proprietary connector found on the Transformer tablets doesn't make an appearance here, but neither do we get a dedicated HDMI output, which is a bit of a bummer.

Display and sound

Budget tablets typically make the biggest sacrifices on the display front, and certainly the 1,024 x 600 resolution on the Kindle Fire feels a bit constricting at this point. Not so with the Nexus 7, which is fronted by a very nice 1,280 x 800 IPS panel rated at 400 nits of brightness. While more pixels is always better -- the new iPad and its Retina display having made us yearn for ridiculously high resolutions in all our devices -- WXGA feels perfectly adequate here. Text is rendered very well and 720p videos look great.

Much of that, though, is thanks to the other, less quantifiable aspects of the screen. Viewing angles are top-notch, with contrast staying strong regardless of which side you're coming from. And, it's plenty bright, too, a properly nice screen that, like everything else here, is just a little nicer than you'd expect given the cost.

Audio, however, isn't exactly fighting above its class. The speakers integrated in the back and peeking out through a slender slit toward the bottom deliver a decent amount of sound that isn't too unpleasant to listen to. It passes the "loud enough to fill a hotel room" test but the quality at those levels will leave you reaching for your earbuds.

Performance and battery life

When Jen-Hsun Huang teased Tegra 3-powered tablets would drop under $200 this summer he obviously knew what was coming, but what we didn't know was just how far back those tablets would have to be scaled to make that price point. If you've been reading all the way through to here (and we love you for it) you'll know we haven't yet found a real compromise made to achieve that price. Compromises will not be found in this section, either.

Okay, so a 35-second boot time does leave a little bit to be desired, but once you're inside the OS, applications load quickly and respond briskly, even graphics-heavy ones like the Google Play magazine app. Webpages are rendered promptly and swiping through them is snappy. Sure, there are the occasional stutters and hiccups here that even a coating of Butter doesn't completely eliminate, but we've experienced those with even the top-shelf tablets, like the recent Transformer Pad Infinity TF700 with its 1.7GHz version of the Tegra 3 processor.

In fact, if benchmarks are to be believed, this little guy actually performs better than its bigger brothers. SunSpider tests, which look at JavaScript rendering speeds in the new Chrome browser, were completed on average in a relatively speedy 1,785ms. The tablet burned through Vellamo with an average score of 1,650 and notched 11,713 in CF-Bench. Only the Quadrant score was on the low side compared to the much higher-priced competition, coming in at 3,501. Since there were plenty of people freaking out about the new iPad getting warm when gaming and doing other intensive tasks we'll point out briefly that the Nexus 7 was noticeably increasing in temperature as these benchmarks cooked away. But, at no point did it become disconcertingly hot. Just a little toasty. And of course a tablet is only good for as long as you can use the thing, and we were quite impressed by the longevity here. We came within spitting distance of 10 hours on a charge using out standard rundown test, which has the tablet connected on WiFi and looping a video endlessly. That's very, very good for a budget 7-incher and bests many bigger, more expensive slates.


The Nexus 7 is the first device shipping with Android 4.1. We'll defer to our full review of Jelly Bean for full impressions, as it's far too much to get into here, but there are a few aspects of the latest additions to Android that are worth pointing out.

Like those magazine subscriptions we mentioned above, for example. The Play Magazines app is a perfectly respectable reader that has a great selection of content and very smooth performance. While pinch-to-zoom is quite fluid, thanks to the reasonably high-res screen you won't necessarily have to do so as often as you might on the Fire. That's because text is clear and readable if you still have the eyesight to match -- though should you want something a bit easier to parse there's a handy text view.

In terms of pricing, though, we found many magazines to be slightly more expensive here than they are on the Fire. Music, too, tends to cost a dollar or two more per album than what Amazon offers in its MP3 download store. Thankfully, since all that music is DRM-free, there's nothing stopping you from loading up your tablet with what you've bought elsewhere. Nothing, at least, other than the somewhat limited amount of internal storage.

And then, of course, there's the new stock browser, Chrome. Not a lot has changed since our first impressions a few months ago, so it's still a nice step up from the boring, old Browser app on previous versions of Android. Rendering performance is generally good, and the ability to import open tabs from a desktop browsing session is very handy, indeed. You can finally uninstall that ancient Chrome to Phone plugin.


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NVidia, Samsung, you can keep your Tegra 3 and Exynos. There’s a new champion in the Android world of tablets. There are people that only settle for the best products, so if you’re after the fastest tablet running Android you’re in luck: Qualcomm has the answer for you with the Snapdragon S4 Pro Mobile Development Platform (MDP) tablet. So how fast it is? Let’s just say that there is no Exynos or Tegra 3 that can keep up with this "evil" creation from Qualcomm.

A quad-core 1.5Ghz Krait CPU powers the tablet, together with 2GB of RAM and the Adreno 320 GPU, making for an incredibly fast system. A 13 megapixel camera with 1080p video recording, meanwhile, runs the show on the back. The tablet comes with Android 4.0.4 out of the box, but a Jelly Bean upgrade is not out of the question.

Currently, the tablet is being labeled as an "MDP," which means that it only targets developers. That should come as no surprise to anyone if we’re going to be seeing the Snapdragon S4 Pro chipset in future smartphones and tablets from known manufacturers.

So what should we expect from the Qualcomm chipset? The Snapdragon S4 Pro is targeted at smartphones and tablets, being available as both dual- and quad-core Krait CPUs with an Adreno 320 GPU. 1080p video recording and an up to a 20 megapixel camera is supported. The biggest news comes from 4G LTE support: quad core CPU and LTE wasn’t a popular combination due to the lack of support from chipset manufacturers.

So what’s the damage? BSQUARE has the tablet on offer for $1,299, which is a rather shocking price for consumers, but Qualcomm is aiming at developers and vendors to buy this tablet, which is only logical considering that it’s an MDP tablet.

The dual-core Snapdragon S4 that’s available today in the very popular Samsung Galaxy SIII and HTC One X (One XL internationally) when not paired with a battery-hogging LTE radio is an excellent performer in terms of endurance, with the quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro likely to offer similar performance when it comes to battery life.

Is it the cheapest tablet around? No, but it’s the fastest, and its point today is to show manufacturers and platform developers what it’s capable of.

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