gadgets

I don’t normally think much of clones, but the Remix Ultra from Jide is intriguing.

Let’s get it out of the way: it’s basically a rip-off of the Surface, right down to the aesthetics, adjustable kickstand, thin detachable keyboard cover, location of SD card and ports, etc. Even the software looks the same.

Fortunately, there are two key differences that can validate the Remix Ultra’s existence. The first is that the tablet is based on Android and with a custom launcher that’s designed for productivity. The second is price.

I’m in the middle of testing a Lenovo Yoga Pro 2 Tablet and, there’s no sugar coating it, Android is terrible for tablets right now and especially for productivity use cases.

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I used to be an active Kickstarter, having backed Pebble, the Buccaneer, a couple games and a bunch of other things. However, I didn’t back a single project in 2014 after realizing most will get horribly delayed and/or fall way short of what was promised. It makes more sense to simply wait for products to be ready and buy then.

The Dash by Bragi was one project I nearly gave into last year. I’ve mentioned them before on this blog. They’re essentially wireless Bluetooth earbuds with touch controls, microphone and fitness tracking. They look pretty sweet, and unsurprisingly Bragi received plenty of funding.

Engadget was able to get a hands-on with The Dash at CES and apparently they are for real: they look as advertised, touch controls work and they don’t fall out of your ears. The author says they will start shipping next month to the earliest backers.

I don’t know how good they are going to be, but let’s plan for the worse and hope for the best. Let’s assume The Dash is going to be a classic example of trying to do too many things and nothing well. If that’s the case, I know exactly what I would have cut: everything but the music and microphone.

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Let’s talk about the new, 12-inch MacBook Air. Typically, I don’t comment on speculation but 9to5mac seems confident about their information. Anyway, this isn’t about the MacBook Air per se and more on how Apple is still willing to take big risks — which is fantastic — and about their view on computing.

Here’s the quick rundown on those MacBook Air rumors:

  • 12-inch display in an extremely compact design
  • One USB Type-C port, one headphone port and…that’s it for ports
  • Smaller than standard keyboard
  • Trackpad has no mechanical key

The Type-C port, in addition to its typical USB functionality, is also capable of powering the laptop and driving displays. The thinking is that one port will be used for all those things and via hub when needed.

This is a risky design. The Type-C port will break easy compatibility with accessories, similar to the lightning port for iPhone and iPad, and will surely piss some people off. The smaller keyboard may annoy Apple lifers. Removing the mechanical key on the trackpad means the likelihood that a touch is misinterpreted as a tap is higher.

So why do it?

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2015 will be an exciting year for fans of 2-in-1 devices — i.e., hybrid convertibles that double as both laptop and tablet. Driving it are Intel’s new line of chips, which broadly offer a significantly better performance-to-power ratio. This means you can get reasonably performing PCs that don’t require fans, so designs can be thinner and lighter and have longer battery life.

As companies announce new devices that take advantage of the new chips at CES (happening right now), I’ll be zeroing in on one key metric: weight.

If you’ve been reading this blog, you know I believe the right form factor for a 2-in-1 is as large of a display as possible given a maximum weight of 1.5 pounds. Above that threshold, the tablet part of a 2-in-1 is heavy to hold with one hand as the other taps the screen.

2-in-1s have not yet achieved mainstream success because limitations of technology meant they were either too slow, too heavy or too short on battery life. Hopefully, this year, manufacturers get it right.

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I just returned from a holiday in Japan, a country with a fascinating culture for electronics. My biggest takeaway is how mainstream gadgets are in Japan; unlike most other countries, there seems to be electronics stores at every corner, with average, everyday kind of people shopping there.

The first impression you get from visiting one is the barrage of colors and signs that beset you. Check out one below:

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Here’s a hardware feature that doesn’t receive much publicity but which I’ve come to heavily appreciate: the Surface Pro’s AC adapter. The main reason is the USB slot on the adapter itself.

Whenever I travel, I don’t like carrying more than one plug converter and feel bad asking for more from the hotel — the USB slot on the power adapter solves that. The AC adapter charges the Surface and the USB slot simultaneously charges my smartphone, and it seems to charge just as quickly as it would normally.

Genius feature! If it gets shouted about enough, hopefully other manufacturers will follow.

 

One of the big smartphone trends this year is the “selfie” phone. HTC, Lumia, Sony, Huawei and many others all have at least one marketed that way.

I suspect that my initial reaction is like many of yours: scoffing dismissal. I’m now a convert however, and completely understand why this market might actually be large.

Sure, apps like Snapchat and Bolt encourage quick shots as ways of communicating, so the front facing camera is more valuable.

But it’s more than that, and it all comes down to this one tool: the selfie stick.

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