In the never-ending battle of the tech giants, 2018 has most certainly been the year of the bevel or indeed lack of bevel. TV’s have become almost bevel-less, transforming from boring black rectangles that have been slowly consuming our living rooms to ambient wall furniture which can now disguise itself as the wall-covering it once blighted like some kind of digital chameleon.
In our hands, the swift removal of bevels from around our curved smart phone screens has introduced us to the ‘notch’ as manufacturers desperately seek new ways to hide fingerprint readers and front facing cameras. Along with these gadgets, we now see the same happening with computer screens, laptops and of course the 2-in-1 or convertible touchscreen notebook / tablet devices.
The Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 is just one of those devices, a beautifully sleek device with the almost bevel-less screen in the form of Dell’s own ‘InfinityEdge’ display and a power packed Intel Core i7 processer and SSD drive.
The XPS 13 2-in-1 is a convertible laptop which with the help of Windows 10 converts into a 13” tablet by simply folding away the keyboard and transforming into a lovely device to please artists or note-takers alike.
The 2-in-1 comes in a nicely branded black soft-touch box. Inside you find the laptop with its lid and base polished aluminium with embossed Dell logo in the centre. Opening the lid to expose the keyboard and screen isn’t quite as graceful as other laptops due to the lack of weight, but this is a small issue as once revealed, it provides a very pleasant view for owners.
The keyboard is nicely recessed, typing is very tactile and feels high quality with a good sized touch pad below. Surrounding the keyboard and touchpad is what looks a feels like carbon fibre, this this looks really nice and gives good grip when ‘manipulating’ the device, but is also a bit of a fingerprint magnet. There is also a fingerprint reader for use with Microsoft Hello.
Now down to the display itself, which I have to admit is absolutely stunning! Dell have gone for a gloss glass screen which makes colours rich and vibrant, blacks are… well black as they should be with no obvious backlight ruining your viewing experience. My unit was a 1920 x 1080 FHD screen, but there is also a 3200 x 1800 model giving even greater clarity. The screen is also multi-touch (10 touch points) capable and for artists the Dell Active Pen can also be used which is sold separately.
Powering the device is the 7th generation Intel Core i7 running at 1.60Ghz along with 8Gb of memory and a 240Gb Solid State Drive (SSD), as expected the machine runs very quickly indeed with almost instantaneous boot up and excellent performance. Running Adobe Photoshop was a breeze and I can imagine with the Dell Active Pen would provide an excellent environment for artists.
As the machine runs on Windows 10 Home Edition, the majority of owners will be familiar with finding their way around the system and with a device designed to work directly with this software, the journey is relatively painless.
If you are looking to plug in your peripherals, you will find that the XPS 13 2-in-1 has now joined the USB Type C charging club and thus has no traditional USB ports other than using an adapter. Thus, you have 2 USB-C ports for connectivity or charging the device, a Micro SD port for transferring data, a display port connector, a Thunderbolt™ 3.0 connector and headset jack port. The frustration of losing the standard ports we have all grown used to can be easily remedied by after-market adapters.
Dell have yet again produced a high quality machine which sits right up there with other manufacturers hardware. It would be very useful for business people who need to work from remote locations or whilst commuting and I’m pretty sure that a few lucky students would also benefit from using it.
Starting at around £1150, the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 is by no way an entry level device, but if you are look for a very nicely designed notebook or tablet, then buying a 2-in-1 may well be your solution.
In the lead up to the East West Road Trip in October I was looking for a smartphone to enable me to document the trip both with photographs and video and was particularly keen to live stream the video where possible.
Initially I was looking to live-stream the trip using a 360° camera, unfortunately this didn’t come off and I was faced with a last-minute race to find an alternative literally 2 days before we were departing!
Fortunately, I was offered the Sony Xperia XZ1 phone with 30gb of data from EE. This solved by data anxiety problems immediately and having used Sony Xperia devices in the past, I was confident they would step up to the plate with image and video quality.
Sony are an extremely well-established tech companies, in fact for many years they were ‘the’ tech company of choice and it’s no secret the mobile phone market is dominated by two other big tech brands, so I was interested to see how the XZ1 would differentiate itself in an ultra-competitive industry.
Out of the box, the Sony XZ1 is a sleek, smooth, black device, with Gorilla Glass 5 front facing glass and deep black aluminium at the back, a departure from the super-sized XZ Premium from earlier in the year which was covered from and rear in glass. With dimensions of 5.83″ x 2.87″ with a thickness of 7.4mm, this is not the most gigantic handset and its smooth edges make it comfortable to hold, although it is very smooth, so hold on tight! Aside from black, the device is also available in Moonlit Blue, Warm Silver and Venus Pink, so plenty of choice.
The phone is preloaded with the Google Android™ O (or Oreo) operating system and Sony have been very sensitive by not trashing the ideals of the OS by avoiding in the addition of their own ‘enhancements’ in the most part.
The phone packs a very bright 5.2″ TRILUMINOS™ display driven by BRAVIA® TV technology given HDR compatible playback X-Reality™ producing 138% of standard display colour spectrum, the companies experience in the display market really comes through. The display is noticeably brighter and colour more natural that other phone displays and playing HDR video from YouTube, Netflix or Amazon Prime is incredible. X-Reality™ intelligently removes noise and from videos produces exquisite results, it really is impressive. Some people would criticise the use of a Full HD screen HDR screen instead of the perceived standard of UHD and above, but I would beg to differ, having tried both UHD and 4K mobile devices, I see no real benefits, even when using VR Goggles.
The beating heart inside of the device is provided by a Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 835 Processor, positioning the phone in the same bracket at the competition. In addition, storage comes as 4GB of RAM and 64 GB of super-fast UFS internal memory with support for an addition of a up to 256GB micro SDXC. It’s pleasing that support for additional memory has been included with the phone, although it’s quite fiddly adding and removing both Sim card and SD cards with the phone, but on the plus side it’s very accessible. It should be noted that around 9.5GB is used up by preinstalled firmware and applications.
The phone is powered by a 2700 mAh battery, featuring Smart Stamina 3.0 and Qnovo Adaptive Charging which prolongs the life of the battery by ensuring it is charged quickly and safely with the addition of Qualcomm® Quick Charge™ 3.0. I’ve come across battery charge management in the past with electric cars and particularly the Tesla Model S, this too allows for quick charging, but upon reaching around 80% full, charging speed is tapered off to ensure the lifetime of the battery. Sony does a similar job with the Xperia XZ1 by intelligently noting owners charge habits and adjusting the charge rate of the phone if for instance you are sleeping and don’t begin using your phone until 7.15am. It is also possible to use the phone to charge other devices using an Android OTG adapter, but in fairness mobile phone battery is at such a premium that use of it for anything other than for the phone itself is rare.
With normal use the phone easily provides a days use with something left over at the end and this will be using all of the phones features, even some of the cooler ones which I will talk about later. Charging is provided by a Qualcomm® Quick Charge™ 3.0 charger and USB Type C socket.
Moving on the the front and rear cameras, Sony has yet again infused the phone with their high quality optics and sensors. The rear facing 9MP Motion Eye™ camera with 1/ 2.3” Exmor RS™ with 1.22μm pixel pitch. The lens is a 25 mm wide G Lens F2.0. Sony again use their own BIONZ™ for mobile image-processing engine to give superb results. There’s a ton of features such as Predictive Capture (motion / smile), Autofocus burst, x8 Digital Zoom, HDR Photo, 0.6 sec Quick Launch & Capture, Predictive Hybrid Autofocus, Anti-distortion shutter, Triple image sensing technology, SteadyShot™ with Intelligent Active Mode (5-axis stablisation) and 4K recording at 30fps.
However, the ‘pièce de résistance’ is the inclusion of a 960 fps Super slow motion video capture. This is achieved by the inclusion of addition hardware installed directly into the camera sensor in the form of hyper fast dynamic memory which allows for raw footage to be saved directly into the sensor and then drip feed and standard speed back to the standard hardware. Due to the colossal amount of power required to pulling 960 frames per second, the sensor only actually captures .18 of a second at 720hd, stretching it to around 6 seconds of footage.
This is called Motion Eye technology and personally I’m looking forward to seeing how this develops for the future, because it’s really impressive. As expected, you need bags of light to capture at this speed, so it works best outside in daylight, I also noticed light flicker in my office due to the refresh rate of our lights. Normal lighting does not cause his problem though.
The front facing camera is a saner 13MP 1/ 3.06” Exmor RS™ for mobile image sensor with 22mm wide angle lens at F2.0, again Sony includes it’s proprietary SteadyShot™ 5-axis stablization technology.
There is one simply AMAZING feature included with the XZ1 which is the 3D Capture mode. This uses software developed by Sony, utilising both processor and camera to allow you to 3D scan objects, share them and even have them 3D printed. It takes a little practice and Sony actively limit the modes available to give you time to get used to simple scans until you are ready to scan ‘freehand’. My initial results were ok, but I soon became adept in scanning some great objects, from peoples’ faces, heads, food and any other object I could think of. This is a tipping point in this industry, no longer do you need super expensive scanners and solutions, you can now use your Sony Xperia XZ1 (and now XZ Premium) to scan 3d objects. It truly is incredible.
Sony has chosen to stick with traditional Xperia design, this means that the trend of big screens and no bezels isn’t a feature of this phone, instead the phone packs stereo speakers at top and bottom of the phone which in landscape mode gives supreme stereo sound, making use of the Qualcomm® aptX™ HD audio features, the phone can ‘upscale’ lower quality audio to a near uncompressed sound when streaming across Bluetooth. There are a host of other features such as High-Resolution Audio, DSEE HX™, LDAC, Digital Noise Cancelling, Clear Audio+, S-Force Front Surround, Stereo Recording and Sony’s Virtual Phones technology. The speaker volume has also been increased by 50% over previous models.
Gaming wise, the phone is going to be able to handle pretty much everything thrown at it at the moment due to it’s highest end spec, but also included is PS4 integration using Remote Play. this allows you to connect to your own PS4 remotely and play your installed games, you can even pair a PS4 gamepad if that appeals.
The phone retails at £599 off contract, but at the time of writing there are some pretty appealing deals including some nice add-ons, but in the UK you are still looking above £50 per month for two years and more if you want better data allowance.
Although the XZ1 doesn’t pack the 4K display of the XZ Premium, the screen is quite possibly richer, especially in HDR mode, the sound it great and performance very very quick. In a world where it is perceived we only have two choices, Sony have yet again produced a solid handset capable of sitting amongst the best.
I did end up streaming a fair amount using the Sony Xperia XZ1 during and after the trip and found it to be a very capable device and coupled with an effectively limitless amount of data, it worked well.
On a side note, EE’s 4G network is very impressive and we were able to live stream both through Glencoe and arriving at Ardnamurchan, they pretty much had us covered.
I was sitting in my office in Martlesham on the 10th July 2017 chatting to a colleague about Tesla cars. The conversation had started after he noticed the framed artists sketch hanging on my wall.
I have driven a number of Tesla Model S cars in the past from the excitable P85+ to the ‘Insane’ P85D. They are very exciting cars to drive, not just because they are fully electric and pack extremely powerful single gear motors, but because you feel your are riding on the coattails of automotive history, participating in an irreversible shift change in motorvehicle technology. It’s very exciting!
The conversation moved on the the Model X and Model 3, Tesla’s entries in to the SUV and ‘affordable’ markets. The Model X has recently appeared in the UK, the Model 3 is two years away from being available. We continued to chat for the rest of lunch, but the seed was planted.
That evening I wrote an email to Tesla’s press office requesting the loan of a Model X for review. Nothing specific, simply available dates.
The next day I received a reply from Tesla, it’s explained that things were very busy with the Model X, but the 5th and 6th of October was available for a test drive, did that suit? I puzzled for a while, in the past I had been loaned vehicles for a little longer, to give me time to get to know the vehicle, two days seemed a bit short to get a proper review in place. So, I followed up with an email, requesting a little longer.
I quickly received a reply from Tesla asking what my plans were? OK, good question, time to put on my thinking cap.
15 July 2017
My initial idea was driving from Lands End to John O’Groats, but after a little bit of Googling, I discovered that this had already been done in a Tesla and well documented on YouTube, there was nothing original to achieve in travelling down this this ‘road’.
But wait a minute! Was there? I live about 40 minutes from Ness Point, the most easterly point in the UK. Nestled in Lowestoft, Ness Point at first glance seemed a little unloved. Some thought and effort has been made to build a stone circle, with plaques showing distances to well known points in the UK. It’s quite nice, but the surroundings aren’t that impressive, but it seemed like the obvious starting point for a challenge and wasn’t too far from home.
Now to find the most westerly point of the UK.
Ardnamurchan Lighthouse sits on the most westerly mainland point of the UK accessible by a short ferry ride at Corran and a two hour drive along single track roads across an extinct volcano. There even appeared to be a ‘rapid’ charge point a few miles away at Kichoan Pier, which would set a challenge outside of Tesla’s ‘Supercharger’ network.
The plan was hatched, but it was just the beginning.
The human race has always been fascinated by the stars in the sky. From guiding themselves across the seas, planning the harvests or daydreaming about visiting far away planets, we spend a great deal of our time thinking about the stars and planets.
It is fascinating to think that we have only really begun to understand the Universe in the last 50 years and continue to be humbled by our place its vastness and the influence it still continues to holds on us.
So, when I was contacted by the makers of Cosmic Watch, I was intrigued on how an app was going to give me a much deeper understanding of our solar system and the movement of the planets and celestial bodies.
To start with, Cosmic Watch is a really good looking mobile application, with an incredibly slick, but simple to operate user experience. This is an app that can be any one of many things, from world clock, searching for planetary positions to finding Astrology Star Sign and it’s relation to those constellations at your time of birth.
Any astrophysicist worth his salt will tell you that the study of our Universe is not simply the study of ‘space’, it is also the study of ‘time’, this is conveniently called ‘Space-Time’. It’s called this because everything in our Universe is moving and thus “In physics, spacetime is any mathematical model that combines space and time into a single interwoven continuum.”.
In order to understand and track the stars and planets we need to understand Space-Time in order to be able to find the positions of the planets and stars at any given point in the past and the future.
Cosmic Clock can provide this information using a 3d user experience which places our planet Earth in the centre of everything, not as a step backwards in our understand, but in fact to help us understand our place in the Universe. It does this both effortlessly and beautifully.
Cosmic Clock has three main modes:
World Clock – For time keeping around the globe
Astronomy – For viewing the constellations and planets
Astrology – The study of the position of the stars and their perceived influence on us and our daily lives.
To navigate any of these modes you use buttons on the left hand side of the screen, with additional buttons placed at the base of the screen to control how the information is displayed.
Swiping the screen causes everything to rotate in 3d around the Earth, you can also pinch to zoom in order to see a particular place in detail.
In clock mode, you can actually use your phone or tablet as a desktop clock, just make sure you connect it to a charger first. You also need to switch off ‘sleep’ mode to keep the screen on. This is a fascinating view as it shows the Earth in real time including the approaching sunrise or sunset.
Astronomy mode display the stars and planets with added labels. You can speed up, freeze or reverse time to find out the exact position of celestial bodies as specific times.
Astrology mode shows the plants and stars using their traditional symbols and signs of the zodiac. It’s very detailed if this kind of thing interests you.
Throughout all of these modes, there are a myriad of different settings available to allow you to display the cosmos in pretty much any conceivable fashion and it’s certainly extremely interesting to use.
The app makes use of the internal sensors or your phone and tablet including the compass. This helps you align the display of the app with the actual night sky and makes the experience fascinating as rather than guessing the position of a planet, you can accurately predict when it will be in the sky.
If the stars and planets interest you, Cosmic Watch will provide you with a fascinating insight into the Solar System and wider Universe and it an absolute MUST PURCHASE and at £4.99 it is worth every penny.
You can purchase Cosmic Watch for iOS here or Android here
With the UK launch of the Nokia 3310, I talk to Mark Murphy at BBC Radio Suffolk about the nostalgia behind one of the most popular mobile phones of the last 20 years.
The original Nokia 3310 is without doubt an iconic mobile handset and in it’s original form which went on to sell 126,000,000 units.
Following the licensing of the ‘Nokia’ phone brand to HMD, four new phones, including three running Android, namely the Nokia 3, Nokia 4 and Nokia 5 are to be launched.
Alongside these modern smartphones see’s the reborn Nokia 3310.
The handset is described as ‘a modern classic reborn’, retaining the durability and insane standby time of the original. Available in four distinctive colours and with a price tag of £49, expect the 3310 to be popular again.
Don’t forget to listen in to the stream to find our more!
Smartphone use behind the wheel is a BIG problem, with 31% of drivers admitting to handling their phones whilst driving in 2016 according to the RAC (Up from 8% in 2014).
It seems no amount of fixed penalty fines or danger of accidents can stop people from tinkering with their devices when they should be concentrating on driving.
I have myself been a guest on a fair number of radio phone-ins where this was discussed all including the question,”Surely, there is a way of blocking phone use behind the wheel?”
It seems the answer to this problem lies with a technology that was invented almost 200 years ago by Michael Faraday and later developed by Benjamin Franklin. Yes, the ‘Faraday Cage’, otherwise used to protect engineers working on power-lines, is now being adopted by Nissan GB to try and help reduce smartphone distraction at the wheel.
The ‘Nissan Signal Shield‘ is a compartment which sits in the arm rest of the Nissan Juke and when a phone is placed within this compartment, it blocks ALL the phones incoming and outgoing cellular, Bluetooth and WiFi connections.
It’s all based on the principle of the Faraday cage, with conductive material, such as wire mesh, blocking the electromagnetic fields around the phone.
When an electronic device, like a smartphone, is placed inside, any incoming electromagnetic signals – such as cellular or Bluetooth data – are distributed across the cage’s external conducting material and so prevented from reaching the device.
This all allows the driver to make a choice about whether they want to completely eliminate the distractions of text messages and multiple notifications arriving on their smartphones whilst they drive and allow them to concentrate on driving safe.
Smartphone use has become habitual and having the temptation of checking phones every few minutes removed seems like a great idea and brings to mind the old saying ‘out of site, out of mind’.
The Nissan Signal Shield concept provides optional connectivity, giving drivers the choice between being able to contact and be contacted from the road, or creating a ‘phone-free’ space and time. It means a digital detox and a drive that’s free of incoming distractions.
If drivers want to listen to music or podcasts stored on their smartphone, they can still connect to the car’s entertainment system via the USB or auxiliary ports. The device will maintain wired connectivity even when in the Nissan Signal Shield compartment.
To restore your phone’s communication, you simply open the arm rest and all is back working again.
Alex Smith, Managing Director, Nissan Motor GB Ltd. said; “Nissan produces some of the safest cars on the road today, but we are always looking at new ways to improve the wellbeing of our customers. Mobile phone use at the wheel is a growing concern across the automotive industry, and indeed society, particularly with the high number of ‘pushed’ communications, such as texts, social media notifications and app alerts that tempt drivers to reach for their devices.”
“The Nissan Signal Shield concept presents one possible solution for giving drivers the choice to remove all smartphone distractions while driving. This is about delivering more control at the wheel, not less. Some drivers are immune to the activity of their smartphone, but for those who struggle to ignore the beeps and pings, this concept provides a simple solution in this very ‘connected’ world we live in.”
RAC road safety spokesman Pete Williams said: “Our research shows that handheld phone use by drivers has reached epidemic proportions. As mobile phone technology has advanced significantly many people have become addicted to them. However, the use of a handheld phone when driving represents both a physical and mental distraction and it has been illegal since 2003.”
“The Nissan Signal Shield is a good example of a technology that can help drivers be phone smart. For those who can’t avoid the temptation, this simple but pretty clever tech gives them a valuable mobile-free zone. We are asking all drivers to make a personal commitment not to use a handheld phone at the wheel by visiting www.bephonesmart.uk and sharing their promise with their friends and family.”