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Mike Jennings

Sony Xperia Z Ultra review: first look

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

Sony Xperia Z UltraISO 800Giant smartphones have become a common sight at press launches of late, and the latest to hit the scene is the Sony Xperia Z Ultra. We had the chance to try one out at an event in London today, and first impressions are that it’s a serious contender.

For starters, Sony reckons it’s the slimmest big smartphone on the market. We’re not going to disagree: the Ultra is just 6.5mm thick, yet despite the dimensions, there was no hint of weakness across its aluminium frame and glass rear. It’s a remarkably sturdy piece of kit, and Sony hasn’t just concentrated on making its latest Xperia feel solid – it’s comfortable to hold, too. The brushed aluminium borders aren’t quite as angular as the original Xperia Z, and don’t dig into your palm in quite the same way. Its 212g weight is high for a smartphone, but then we’d expect a little bit of extra heft for a device this big.

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Dell XPS 18 review: first look

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

dellxps1817

The Dell XPS 18 joins the Asus Transformer AiO and the Sony VAIO Tap 20 in the growing portable all-in-one market, and Dell reckons it has the march on its rivals – the XPS is both slimmer and lighter than its competitors.

The XPS 18 is around 20mm thick, and it weighs 2.1kg – making it 300g lighter than the Asus, and less than half as hefty as Sony’s 5.1kg VAIO. That’s especially impressive considering a battery has been crammed in too  - if the XPS 18 can live up to Dell’s claims of five-hour battery life, it will double the Sony’s longevity. (more…)

HTC One review: first look

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

htcone08

HTC hasn’t made a ground-breaking handset in a few years, but first impressions suggest the HTC One is a welcome return to form.

We’ve been hands-on with the new phone, and the One makes a superb first impression. Its body is constructed entirely from aluminium, with two diamond-cut bands that contain the aerials. The good looks are matched with excellent build quality – the 143g device feels as sturdy as anything Apple or Samsung can muster. (more…)

All aboard the PC train case

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

We’re used to seeing dull, monolithic PC cases turn up the PC Pro Labs, so we were more than a little surprised when Lian Li’s PC-CK101 trundled onto our test bench… 20 minutes late.

It might hold a mini-ITX motherboard and include a pair of USB 3 ports, but Lian Li’s latest looks like a train, sounds like a train (although we must confess we’ve added sound effects to our video), and even moves like a train. Unlike most locomotives, though, this one only costs a mere £265.

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AMD Trinity review: first look

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

AMD Trinity APU

This blog has now been updated with additional benchmarks and pricing details. See below for our verdict on AMD Trinity.

We’ve heaped praise on AMD’s Accelerated Processing Units in the past, and it’s clear that the firm is onto a winner by cramming a processor and a Radeon graphics core into the same package – its A8-3870K took home a Recommended award in our last processor Labs.

The next generation of desktop parts is here, and the new chips, codenamed Trinity, are set to offer a better balance of application performance, gaming power and price. AMD’s hoping its APUs take more of a fight to Intel thanks to the inclusion of Bulldozer cores – the same technology that’s currently on show in its FX processors. (more…)

Gigabyte X11 Ultrabook review: first look

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

Gigabyte X11 UltrabookUltrabooks are increasingly slipping into an all-too-familiar blueprint, so it’s good to see some companies trying to push the envelope. Gigabyte’s latest design, the X11, claims to be the world’s lightest 11.6in Ultrabook – and, at less than a kilogram, we’re not going to argue. (more…)

What’s the point of a big PC?

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

Big empty PCBit-tech and Custom PC writer Antony Leather strolled into the Labs the other day and, proud of his work, showed me a system he’d just built for an upcoming feature. It’s an impressively slick machine: Core i5-3570K, Nvidia GeForce GTX 680, 8GB of RAM, a 128GB SSD and a custom water-cooling loop, all put together with the sort of fastidious tidiness you’d expect.

The best bit? It’s the size of a couple of shoeboxes thanks to this case.

It got me thinking. That’s enough power to sweep aside every single PC game on the market: Skyrim with dozens of mods, Starcraft 2’s hundreds of units, Football Manager with every league loaded. It’s enough to play games across a trio of screens, and to run high-end work applications without breaking a sweat.

If that amount of power can be squeezed into such a small PC, along with water-cooling and even room for expansion, what’s the point of full-size towers? (more…)

ZTE Grand X review: first look

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

ZTE Grand XZTE isn’t well known on these shores, as the only handsets we’ve seen from the Chinese firm have been budget efforts like the Skate or Orange-branded devices such as the San Diego. ZTE hopes that’ll change with its Grand X.

First things first: this isn’t a phone to put the Samsung Galaxy S III in its place. For starters, the chipset isn’t anything as powerful as Nvidia’s quad-core Tegra 3 but the weaker, dual-core Tegra 2. There’s also no sign of the hand-stretching panels that now appear in high-end handsets – ZTE has made do with a 4.3in, 540 x 960 screen that’s typically favoured by more modest phones such as the HTC One S and Sony Xperia P. We certainly spotted some pixels, but the screen is bright, vivid and usable. (more…)

Under the hood of Intel’s blueprint for Ultrabooks

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

Intel Ultrabook

Ultrabooks have dominated the laptop landscape since their arrival at the back end of 2011, but we’ve not yet seen any hardware from Intel – until now. It’s sent us its own blueprint for the Ultrabook and, unsurprisingly, it’s the first Ultrabook we’ve seen to include Ivy Bridge – Apple’s MacBook Air notwithstanding.

The chip in question is the Core i5-3427U, and it’s one of Intel’s lesser Ivy Bridge mobile parts: a 1.8GHz stock speed, an HD 4000 graphics core clocked at 350MHz rather than the 650MHz, and with less than half the cache of top-end mobile chips. The “U” at the end of its name is important, too, as it denotes a low-power chip – and its nominal and peak TDPs of 17W and 25W are both far lower than equivalent figures from more powerful Ivy Bridge processors. It’s also the same chip used in the latest MacBook Air refresh. (more…)

Toshiba U840W widescreen Ultrabook review: first look

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

Toshiba U840W Ultrabook

At first glance Toshiba’s latest Ultrabook, the U840W, sounds like many of its rivals: Ivy Bridge processors, 14in screen, and storage provided by a combination of 500GB hard disk and 32GB solid-state cache drive.

One major feature marks the U840W out from every other rival, though: its screen, which boasts a native resolution of 1,792 x 768 and an aspect ratio of 21:9. (more…)

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