hybrid

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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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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As expected, according to IDC, iPad sales declined 13% year-over-year while the tablet market grew 7%. That’s bad for Apple. Part of it is the longer replacement cycle; another is that iPads are not competitive with “good enough” Android tablets that cost substantially less. But this is a story we’ve explored before on the Cornerplay.

What’s more interesting is Windows 2-in-1 hybrid devices, which IDC reports at 4% of the market while pure Windows tablets are just 0.6%. That means 2-in-1s are 87% of all Windows tablets.

While those are tiny numbers, Windows tablets grew 67% in an environment where iPads actually declined. IDC expects this forward momentum to continue, and for Windows to achieve 11% market share by 2018.

What do we think? Predicting technology is like trying to thread a needle on top of a speeding train, but we’re up for the challenge.

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I’ve always liked these kinds of stories on other tech blogs — i.e., what gadgets nerds use on a daily basis — as it gave a “bottom line” that individual reviews of products on loan can’t give. So today I’m sharing what I use and carry, and why.

Smartwatch: Pebble, Moto 360

The Pebble is a great device. Its super solid in a way that Apple is known for; it does what it’s supposed to and it does it well. There are lots of interesting watch faces for it, the battery lasts for days, and it’s good for monitoring notifications and incoming calls. The main downsides are that it’s not particularly attractive or comfortable to wear. The screen has no color and is very low resolution.

I also recently got the Moto 360. A review will go up this Monday or the following Monday, depending on how the weekend goes.

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I used to work in management consulting. We’d travel overseas on Mondays, do work at the client site over the week and return on Fridays. Rinse, repeat, month after month. It was hard to maintain friendships back home this way, and when you’re alone in a foreign city, there wasn’t much else to do but work.

Work consisted of three things: White boarding to brainstorm and debate; Excel spreadsheets, which sometimes got so large and complex we had to turn off the automatic updating of cells; and huge PowerPoint files that could be the client’s 3-year strategic plan.

To do that, we lugged a 15-inch laptop everywhere we went. I don’t know how heavy my bag weighed with the laptop, power adaptor and all the printed files we’d invariably need, but it was like a ton of bricks. Consider how much walking we did in airports, hotels and offices — it was gruelling.

This is a long lead-in for a Surface Pro 3 (SP3) review, but you can see where this is going. For someone working in that kind of job, an SP3 would have been a godsend. It would have changed the quality of my life in a meaningful way, and that is why I always believed in Microsoft’s vision for the Surface.

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I’ve made it plain on this blog that I’m a fan of the Surface concept, despite its flawed unveiling. Yes, the same Surface that lost Microsoft over a billion dollars. This must mean the concept sucks right?

Well, no, it it’s not because the vision is flawed, it’s the execution and timing that weren’t right. The first and second Surface Pros were too early — the hardware wasn’t ready to deliver the vision. The first Surface RT was just plain bad. I thought the Surface 2 was ready for primetime, if not for its Windows RT roots.

Timing aside, I’m a fan of the concept because convergence will happen between laptops and tablets, just like the telephone, camera, MP3 player, GPS navigation and PDA converged into today’s smartphone. Microsoft absolutely has the right idea with the Surface; just a few years’ early.

So, does the Surface Pro 3 do it? I’ll want to use this bad boy for a few weeks before concluding anything. My initial impression is that it falls just short for the mainstream; it’s too expensive and the form factor is a hairline from perfect.

Fortunately, it still hits the mark for someone like me. I’m loving the Surface Pro 3 so far.

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There’s a $350 laptop you can buy that was described in the following way:

Design: Cheap, net-book like design. Entire thing is made of plastic. Palm rest that flexes when you grip it. [2.8 pounds so] weighty compared to the competition. Slightly thicker too.

Display: Poor-quality display. 1,366 x 768 screen [where if you] dip the screen too far forward, everything very quickly becomes washed out.

Keyboard: Underlying panel will bend a bit if you type vigorously enough. If you hit them too gently, you’re likely to suffer some missed key presses. The keyboard probably won’t recognize every single keystroke.

Performance: The performance gains here aren’t so huge.

Battery: 7 hours and 53 minutes of continuous video playback.

Software: Cannot, in good faith, recommend [the OS] to everyone. There will be people…who need the flexibility to install whatever apps they want.

What would you rate this device? Keep that number in mind.

Now here’s another $350 laptop you can compare it to —

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