Asus Duet hybrid swaps between Android and Windows with the push of a button

January 14th, 2014 | Edited by | hardware


LAS VEGAS—Asus is adding another dual-OS convertible to its stable. The all-new Transformer Book Duet TD300 is a laptop/tablet convertible that can instantly switch between the Windows 8.1 and Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) operating systems with the push of a button.
The Duet is not a dual-boot device. When you switch operating systems, the first OS goes into a state of hibernation. When you switch back to it, the OS instantly resumes at whatever state you left it in. The Duet is also not a dual-CPU device. The machine will be powered by up to an Intel Core i7 CPU mounted inside the tablet, along with 4GB of low-power DDR3/1600 memory, up to a 128GB SSD, and Bluetooth and 802.11ac Wi-Fi adapters.
The tablet’s IPS touchscreen has native resolution of 1920 by 1080 pixels. The tablet has a microSD slot and a headphone jack, but no USB ports. The keyboard/dock has one USB 3.0 and two USB 2.0 ports, 10/100 mb LAN, a headset jack, and HDMI 1.4. The device also has up to 1TB of mechanical storage. The tablet and keyboard weigh just over 4 pounds combined.


Two (or is that four?) beats three

Asus’s earlier notebook/tablet hybrid—the Transformer Book Trio—can also run either the Windows or Android operating systems. But that device had an Intel Atom processor in its tablet, and an Intel Core processor in its keyboard dock. The tablet had to be removed from the dock to run Android, and it had to be paired with the dock to run Windows. Or you could connect the dock to an external display and run Windows independently of the tablet.
But Asus muddies its own marketing message by describing the Duet as a “quad mode” laptop and tablet. The concept they’re trying to get across is that the device can operate as either a Windows or Android tablet, and it can also operate as either a Windows or Android notebook.
Hmm. Perhaps they should have called it the Quartet.
In any case, Asus has not yet announced pricing or availability for the Transformer Book Duet TD300.


Developers Dish Advice on Building Apps That Will Sell

December 14th, 2013 | Edited by | software


There’s a lot to juggle when developing an app: The expectations of your users, the demands of your boss and a multitude of other facets that need to be weighed — and possibly tossed.
These topics and more were part of a lively discussion during the “App development: the right way to build your tablet app” session at the recent TabletBiz Conference & Expo.
Panelists Andreas Pfeiffer, president of Pfeiffer Consulting; Joe Zeff, president of Joe Zeff Design; and Kevin Kim, co-founder of App Orchard discussed what they’ve learned about the not-so-nascent world of app development.
Zeff said he created Joe Zeff Design to bring current magazines to the iPad. He found Apple’s tablet a natural fit for the publishing industry. “The tablet is the ultimate storytelling device.
He advised, “It comes down to that core capability of that tablet device to present content. Take content that people already like and make it more likeable. Make it something that people want to spend more time with and present opportunities for them to interact with it.”
His work, along with an infectious enthusiasm, has attracted attention beyond the world of publishing. Now Zeff counts JP Morgan and Notre Dame Football among his clients.


Independent Developers Can Be Rock Stars

Kim shared his take on development, specifically on the developers themselves.
“Some of the best, most innovative developers aren’t working in the trenches of corporate America,” he said. Instead, the best ideas are “mostly coming from independent developers. They’re the ones who are pushing the envelope when it comes to technology.”
It turns out, for example, that the pull-to-refresh feature that is now the latest and greatest iCandy on the iPhone didn’t come by way of Cupertino, Calif. Kim said it originally was produced by an independent developer for his client. “Now Apple has made it a default behavior.”
Amusingly, he and his team like to create “quick and dirty” apps when a developers’ ambition may overreach his ability to deliver a seamless user experience. “We say it has to pass the Mom test. Whatever gesture she does [to the screen] is probably the one you should use.”

Don’t Count on Apple’s Help to Make Your App a Hit

And finally, Pfeiffer touched upon problems with Apple’s app store that developers need to be aware of.
“There are 1,000 to 2,000 app submissions a day. The real problem isn’t the distribution, but the promotion. You cannot count on Apple,” he said.
Apple calls out very few apps, and Pfeiffer mentioned a friend whose game was picked as game of the week. However, he asked, “How many are as lucky?” (Technically, 51 others. But we get the point.)
“Apple has a responsibility to inform,” he said, yet Apple has failed to provide a complete and easy-to-browse catalog of their apps, relying on the users to find apps on their own.
“Now the responsibility to reach the users falls directly onto the shoulders of the developers,” he said. “That’s your work, not Apple’s.”
Apple’s seamless user experience — which seems to be in inverse proportion to the bumpy ride of the developer experience — is just something else to consider when developing your next app.


Fifth-generation iPod touch is faster, finer than predecessors

November 21st, 2013 | Edited by | hardware


There’s a new iPod touch on the block and, in many of the ways that most matter, it’s a doozy. While it’s tempting to compare it to a phone-less iPhone 5—particularly given its similar height, weight, thickness, and Lightning connector—the iPod touch is a device intended for a different audience. An audience that skews younger than the iPhone’s and one that desires a cool media and game player that can stand on its own rather than feel like an iPhone’s hobbled sibling. And for this reason, a comparison to the fourth-generation (4G) iPod touch is more apt.
That said, there’s really no comparison. The latest touch—in 32GB (4.5 of 5 rating) and 64GB (4.5 of 5 rating) flavors—is umpteen times better.

Playing outside

To help define exactly what I mean by umpteen, let’s begin with the outside. Like theiPhone 5, the latest iPod touch is taller than the previous model—measuring 4.86 inches  versus the 4G iPod touch’s 4.4 inches. It’s also quite thin at just 0.24 inches thick. And, like the iPhone 5, it’s surprisingly light when you first pick it up. (Though taller than the previous model, it’s almost half an ounce lighter.) A couple of family members picked mine up unbidden and their first remarks were “Wow, it’s taller… and lighter!” So yes, you can feel the difference.
The last iPod touch had severely beveled edges. With those edges, I found it clumsy to feel around for the On/Off and Volume buttons. They invariably seemed a little too far back on the case, which caused me to lift up the left side of the iPod to adjust volume. The edges of the new touch still curve around to the back, but not at such a steep angle. In this case, the buttons feel like they’re perfectly placed. I hit them every time without having to shift the iPod around or look at it. Similarly, with the less-angled bottom edge, the headphone port feels easier to access. With the 4G iPod touch, I felt like I should be inserting the headphone jack diagonally rather than straight in.
And then there’s the Lightning connector (a Lightning-to-USB cable is included in the box). When fumbling with the old-style Dock connector in an ill-lit room on my old iPod touch, I’d try to jack it in the wrong way round at least half the time. Having the new Lightning connector, which goes in regardless of which way the plug’s turned, is a welcome change.
The new iPod touch looks different in another way. Available in gray, silver, pink, yellow, blue, and Product Red, this is the first colorful iPod touch line. Each features a white face save the gray model, which offers the black front that we’re accustomed to on previous models. Colors cover the back and wrap around to the sides. The colors lean toward pastel rather than bold, but they give these iPods a fresh, more playful countenance than their somewhat antiseptic looking predecessors.

Height matters

The iPod’s height makes a difference in a variety of ways. That extra screen space, like with the iPhone 5, allows an additional row of icons on the Home screen, which may mean paging through fewer screens to find your apps.
Apps that have been built to take advantage of the taller screen are just as nice. With the Photos app, for example, you can see six rows of thumbnails instead of four and a half. Pull up the Settings screen and you will find 10 entries on a single screen rather than eight. And then there are the apps written for the larger display that provide more elbow room.
Fire up the Videos app and watch a widescreen movie on both this and the previous iPod touch and you will discover that when viewing a movie in the non-widescreen mode, you actually see more of the image on the new touch—less material is taken away from either side when the top and bottom of the video is expanded to fill the iPod’s screen. Switch back to the widescreen mode and both models show the entire width of the movie, but the new iPod touch’s black bars above and below the video are narrower as the display was designed with widescreen video in mind.
I also found picture taking more comfortable on this taller iPod when snapping shots in landscape orientation. With the older iPod, my hands felt too close together and, invariably, a finger would stray in front of the lens when holding the iPod with the Volume buttons facing up. I didn’t have that problem with the new iPod. My hands spread out a bit more and either because of the weight, the iPod’s dimensions, or a combination of the two, it felt easier to hold the camera and snap the shutter with the Volume Up button.
Some iPhone 5 users may dispute the Apple commercial that claims the average thumb can perfectly traverse the iPhone’s display from top to bottom. I fall into the group that finds comfortably accessing the entire display requires you to edge the device out on your fingers a bit more than previously and angle the device in. It’s not uncomfortable to do this, but one-hand operation does change because of the taller display.


Performance improvements

This fifth-generation iPod touch uses the dual-core A5 processor found in last year’s iPhone. The 4G iPod touch has the older and slower A4 processor. While you will feel no discernible difference between the new iPod’s performance and an iPhone 4S’s, there’s a dramatic difference between this iPod and the last one in regard to snappiness. For instance, starting each iPod from a complete shutdown, the new iPod did so in 21.1 seconds. The 4G model took 32.5 seconds to perform the same task. Apps open more quickly on the new iPod than they do with the older model—GarageBand, for example, loaded noticeably faster on the 5G iPod touch. Graphics performance in games is also improved. And this isn’t simply a matter of stop watches and charts. This is a difference you can feel. Where the old iPod would hiccup, the new one marches on.
The new iPod’s display is also noticeably brighter at its highest setting. Place it side by side with the 4G iPod touch, crank up the brightness on each, and the 4G iPod looks bluer and gloomier in comparison. Unlike with the previous iPod touch, the new one has no auto-brightness switch. I don’t find this to be a loss, as I found the old iPod too dim when auto-brightness was engaged.

What comes around

The 5G iPod touch benefits from some features inherited from the iPhones 4S and 5. Delve into the Camera app, for example, and you’ll spy the HDR and Panorama features found on the iPhone. Siri is also on board this latest iPod, and it works just as well (and I’ll let you be the judge of how well that is) as it does on the iPhone—provided, of course, that you’re connected to a Wi-Fi network. (The iPod touch lacks cellular connectivity, making Siri useless when you’re out and about.) The latest iPod touch also has an LED flash next to the camera on the back.
The 5G iPod touch ships with a variation of Apple’s new EarPods headphones. What makes them different is the lack of an in-line three-button remote control. And that’s too bad. It’s not that the EarPods that contain this remote sound any better. The touch is one of those iPods that cries out for a remote, as many people keep their iPod in their pocket or purse, with the headphones trailing out. And with Siri now part of the package, we’re more likely than ever to talk to our iPod. The last iPod touch didn’t merit anything other than the bare-bones headphones and, in Apple’s eyes, this one apparently doesn’t either. I disagree, and think it’s a bad move on Apple’s part.
We reviewed the EarPods separately and I have little to add other than that they fit my ears far better than the original white Apple earbuds. And like our reviewer, I found their sound okay, but not great.

About those cameras

The 5G iPod touch packs two better cameras than its predecessor, and it shows. The new iPod clearly outshoots the old one. The fourth-generation iPod touch held a 0.7 megapixel camera capable of shooting 1280 by 720 (720p) HD video and 960 by 720 stills. The front-facing camera offered a bare 0.3 megapixels at a resolution of 640 by 480. The new iPod touch houses a 5-megapixel rear-facing camera that shoots 1080p HD video and still images at 2592 by 1936. The front facing camera shoots stills at 1280 by 960 and video at 1280 by 720.
But the improvements are far greater than resolution. The new iPod’s camera reveals far more details, is better in low light, and its color accuracy is a big step forward. The old iPod’s camera tended to drench images with a blue hue and produces very grainy results in low light. Indoor skin tones are warmer with the new iPod, whereas with the 4G iPod they tend toward pink.
The flash isn’t a great help in very low light. It can produce results good enough to embarrass your friends on Facebook, but otherwise tends (like the iPhone) to blow out subjects in a dark setting. It’s better to reserve this feature for fill-flash when you want to brighten up backlit subjects who are standing in a reasonably bright environment.

New and missing

The one wholly new feature on the iPod touch is the wrist strap and the accompanying spring-loaded post for attaching it. Flip the iPod over and you will find, in the lower left corner, a silver disk a little smaller than the head of a thumbtack. Push on it and it pops out slightly. In this position you can slip on the included color-coordinated wrist strap that allows you to dangle the device from your wrist, purse strap, or belt loop. The strap seems plenty sturdy, and I can see it helping to prevent iPods from taking a deadly tumble. It’s something I’m unlikely to use, but Apple makes it easy to ignore. Just leave the post pushed in and treat it as a decoration.
Those seeking the legendary “iPhone without a phone” are as close as they’ve ever been to an iPod touch that matches the capabilities of Apple’s mobile phone, but there are important differences outside the device’s ability to make and receive phone calls. It holds no GPS circuitry so Maps’ turn-by-turn powers are lost on it. And because it can’t communicate over a cellular network, FaceTime conversations are, of course, limited to Wi-Fi.
I mentioned that Siri is dead unless you’re connected to a Wi-Fi network. This seemingly introduces a problem that didn’t exist on the previous iPod touch—spoken music navigation. On the 4G iPod touch, you could press and hold the Home button to initiate voice control. With that control you could tell the iPod what music to play, which was very helpful while driving. If you have Siri switched on, voice control doesn’t work unless you’re connected to a Wi-Fi network. So, if you’re on the road and want to tell your iPod to play a song, you can’t. However, there’s a way around this. Go to Settings > General > Siri, and switch Siri off. Now when you press and hold the Home button, the old Voice Control feature appears, allowing you to play music by command even when not connected to Wi-Fi.
One other thing that’s missing is a $199 price tag on one of these iPod touches. Apple continues to sell the 4G iPod touch in two capacities—16GB for $199 and 32GB for $249. The 5G iPod touch is available in 32GB and 64GB capacities for $299 and $399, respectively. With its new look and continued appeal to younger users (and the parents of these users who’ve relied on avoiding a two-year iPhone commitment for their kid by slipping an iPod touch under the holiday shrubbery instead), that $100 difference may be significant. $200 isn’t cheap, but $300 may be something of a stretch. And frankly, once a kid lays hands on this new touch, they’re unlikely to leap for joy when they unwrap the older model.



November 16th, 2013 | Edited by | hardware


Transforming the Laptop

Change your view of what a computer can do with the VAIO Flip convertible touch PC. Its lightweight, innovative design instantly goes from laptop, to tablet, to viewer mode with a simple flip. Laptop mode features a backlit keyboard and a large clickable touchpad, perfect for working on excel spreadsheets or typing up your latest story. Flip it into tablet mode for quick, convenient access to apps, photos, music and more. Touch, tap and slide your way through the web, or grab the optional Active Pen to write notes and even draw on the screen. Reverse the screen to face outward when you want to watch movies, share your screen or just as a tablet with a convenient stand. Available in three sizes (13.3″, 14″ and 15.5″), VAIO | Flip PC features a Full HD touchscreen display, 4th gen Intel® Core™ processors, optional SSD drive and optional NVIDIA® GeForce®dedicated graphics.

A Stroke of Genius

Use the Active Pen (select models, or sold separately) to write, draw, and tap the touchscreen with effortless precision. With every stroke, the Active Pen captures even the most subtle nuances as you press harder or softer so you can adjust your line. And don’t worry about smearing your work as you write, because the touch sensors turn off when the pen is near the screen so you can write normally and comfortably. With two interchangeable tips that simulate common artistic and design materials, Active Pen
lets you imbue your work with a
unique artistic edge.

Write Naturally

VAIO Paper is a digital notebook and handwriting app that replicates the feeling of natural writing with pen and paper. Using VAIO Paper, you can write on your VAIO PC with your finger or the optional Active Pen to add images and sound that enhance your creative writing and express yourself in ways that you can’t with just pen and paper. It’s easy to use, organize and share your creation via email and other apps.


See an image on the web that would be a great addition to your presentation? Use VAIO Clip to trace or draw a freehand outline using the Active Pen accessory or your finger around the image. With intelligent and automatic edge detection you can quickly crop images in seconds. Then save the clip in the file manager which will automatically store the creation or modify date, the web page URL and tags, too.


Scan and Save

Quickly scan, archive, edit and share documents with the CamScanner app and rear camera on VAIO | Flip 13. Simply snap a photo of a document, letter, bill or even notes jotted on a whiteboard. From there, the image can easily be sent to a note app to edit or add comments of your own. You can also import photos from other sources such as a smartphone or camera and adjust them with CamScanner. Looking for something in particular? Conveniently search for archived files using OCR technology. It recognizes text within PDF documents saving you the hassle of searching through them one-by-one.

Rapid Wake

With Sony’s own Rapid Wake technology, you never have to shut down your computer again. Whether you are done working for the day or just heading out to get some coffee, simply put the PC into sleep mode. Then, when you’re ready to start again, resume in two seconds with your data safe and secure. If you are unplugged, don’t worry about draining your battery. Your PC can stay in sleep mode for days2.

Capture Every Moment

Snap a self-portrait or video chat online – even in dimly-lit rooms thanks to VAIO | Flip PC’s front-facing HD web camera featuring an Exmor R® sensor. Want to take photos and shoot video of the world around you? Select VAIO | Flip PCs feature a rear 8MP camera powered by a Sony Exmor RS® sensor that captures a crisp, bright picture, even when the light is less than perfect.

Unique Sony Sound

ClearAudio+ mode allows you to effortlessly enjoy audio quality that is distinctly Sony. One simple operation activates the perfect sound settings for your music and video. With Sony’s unique sound processing technologies you will hear dynamic bass and soaring highs with less distortion for an unmatched music and movie experience.

Instant Exchange

Effortlessly share to Near Field Communication (NFC) enabled wireless devices with a simple touch. It’s all about wireless sharing that’s so easy, anyone can do it. Share and display websites from your phone on your VAIO laptop. Stream your favorite playlist to a wireless speaker instantly. Take connecting with friends to the next level by sharing web addresses with one touch to their smartphone. NFC makes it all possible, with more fun and less hassle.

Speed Things Up

Boot up faster, launch apps quicker and enjoy enhanced overall performance with cutting edge SSD (Solid State Drive) technology on select models. And of course, since SSD includes no moving parts, you’ll get a more durable storage solution less prone to physical damage.

Included Software Solutions

From keeping your computer in tip-top shape to creating virtual masterpieces, VAIO PCs come pre-installed with helpful software made for getting things done. Keep things running smoothly with VAIO Care™ software – one press to the ASSIST button can effortlessly manage software, identify problems, perform maintenance and more. Create virtual masterpieces with ArtRage® Studio software. Preinstalled on all VAIO touch laptops, its easy-to-use interface puts the fun at your fingertips. Or inspire your inner artist with Sony Imagination Studio™ VAIO Edition – a suite of three powerful creative software applications that comes with select VAIO laptops.


Apple iPad Air

November 14th, 2013 | Edited by | hardware


The iPad Air isn’t a radical break from the iPads before it. It doesn’t watch your gestures or read your fingerprint. But its slimmer build gets it that much closer to the dream of the sheet-of-paper-thin form factor where the hardware disappears, and all that’s left is magic. The Air isn’t magic, of course, but pair it up with some of the many spectacular third-party apps available for iOS, and it’s a step on the path. And like its predecessor, it’s our Editors’ Choice for large-screen tablets.

Physical Design and Wi-Fi

Considerably smaller and lighter than any previous iPad, the Air measures 9.4 by 6.6 by a razor-thin .29 inches (HWD), with a much slimmer bezel on the sides of the screen. (That doesn’t affect usage; the iPad’s touch screen still has excellent thumb rejection.) Tuck the Air into the corner of last year’s model, for instance, and the fourth-generation iPad shows 3/4-inch of bezel off the right side. This iPad also has a flat back, not a convex one like previous models. It comes in Silver (with a white front) or Space Gray (with a black front).
At almost exactly a pound for the Wi-Fi model and a hair heavier (1.05 pounds) for the LTE version, the Air isn’t feather-light. There are lighter large tablets; the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 weighs more than two ounces less, for instance. But it’s airy enough that throwing it into your bag and carrying it all day doesn’t faze you, when it might have with older iPads.
Otherwise, this tablet looks a lot like an iPad. Pretty much all the buttons and features are in the same place as on last year’s model, although the volume rocker has been cracked into separate up and down buttons. I have mixed feelings about the bottom-ported stereo speakers. If you’re listening to music with the iPad flat on a table, it’s much louder than competing tablets with back-ported speakers. But if you’re playing a game or video while holding the tablet in landscape mode, all of the sound pumps out of one side.
The 9.7-inch 2,048-by-1,536 IPS LCD touch screen is bright, but rather reflective. At 264 ppi, it’s at the limit of my eyes’ ability to distinguish the pixels. It doesn’t quite match 2,560-by-1,600 super-sharp tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1$547.99 at, but I don’t think anyone will be dissatisfied with the sharpness here.
The new MIMO antenna improves Wi-Fi reception with the right router. (Yes, Apple’s Airport Extreme fills the bill.) Against an 802.11n Meraki MR16 router connected to our corporate line, I was able to get 30-33Mbps down on the iPad Air versus only 17-18Mbps down on last year’s iPad. That will make a big difference when downloading movies or large files; many high-end games are now over a gigabyte.
Both the Wi-Fi and cellular iPads pack Bluetooth 4.0; only the cellular model includes a GPS radio.
Apple says the iPad Air should last up to 10 hours on Wi-Fi. That’s on a 32.4 watt-hour battery as compared with the previous iPad’s 42 watt-hour cell. In our battery test, which plays a stored video with the screen turned to max brightness, the Air got 6 hours, 14 minutes. (The difference between our result and Apple’s estimate is the screen brightness setting; halve the brightness, and you’ll easily hit that 10 hour mark.) That’s 37 minutes longer than the third and fourth-generation iPads, which had a larger battery, but not as long as the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1, which scored 7 hours, 37 minutes on the same test.


The A7 Processor, Performance, and iOS

Apple’s A7 processor, running at 1.4GHz here, is the most efficient on the market, although it isn’t quite the fastest. If you want a true deep dive into Apple’s unique chip architecture, which ARM has said is at least six months ahead of its competitors, check out AnandTech’s review of the A7. I’m going to focus more on real-life performance.
And that performance is excellent. On the iPad 2 and 3, iMovie in iOS 7 feels genuinely gummy. On the Air, it feels effortless. High-end games like Asphalt 8 and Infinity Blade III render beautifully. Augmented-reality apps update their screens in real time. Yes, there’s only 1GB of RAM on board here, but iOS doesn’t tend to need a lot of RAM because it doesn’t do a lot of multitasking.
We ran a range of cross-platform benchmarks and some iOS apps to illustrate how the Air compares with other top tablets. For Web browsing, the combination of the A7 and Apple’s Safari browser is killer: The iPad outmatched every other tablet we’ve tested on the Browsermark Web browsing benchmark. When I say that, I’m also including the Intel Bay Trail-based Asus Transformer Book T100, which didn’t score as high.
On the GFXMark benchmark, which gauges gaming performance, the A7 pulled 49 frames per second onscreen, which competes well with, but doesn’t top Nvidia Tegra 4 and Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 tablets. On the Geekbench processor benchmark, quad-core processors like Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 800 beat the dual-core A7, but that’s to be expected. Geekbench scales more smoothly with more cores.
If you’re just comparing the Air with other iPads, of course, there’s no contest. I got 13 percent higher Browsermark results than the fourth-generation iPad, and 35 percent better than both the iPad 2 and 3. Graphics frame rates were more than double the iPad 2 and 3. A short 720p movie exported from iMovie in 41 seconds, which is 50 percent faster than on the fourth-gen iPad and three times as fast as on the earlier models.
iOS is still a simple grid of icons that is passionately focused on touch. Read our in-depth iOS 7 review if you want the full details.
Apple’s obsession with touch has resulted in some amazing apps and new ways of doing things, from interactive textbooks to Square’s credit-card processing app. It falls flat for me in only one area, but an important one: traditional productivity. Apple’s Pages and Numbers, while now free with new Apple hardware, are just too visually oriented for a procedural thinker like me, and none of the third-party alternatives measure up to Microsoft Office on Windows tablets.

Camera and Multimedia

As you may know, I am no fan of people who take snapshots with their tablets. I think they look like idiots. But as Apple reminded me, that doesn’t mean there are no good uses for tablet cameras. The iPad’s 1.2-megapixel, 720p front camera works well for video calls, and the 5-megapixel, 1080p rear camera plays a role in scanning, shopping, and augmented reality apps. The Camera app is notoriously simple, with your options limited to HDR, Panorama, Square, or Standard. Samsung’s Galaxy-device kitchen sink camera this ain’t.
The main camera is quite sharp, with a super-quick shutter and good low light performance. It blows out bright skies, which the HDR mode didn’t fix, and shutter speeds flirted with blurring moving objects on a cloudy day in my tests. But take it out of the realm of snapshots and into computer vision, and it’ll be able to recognize things well, especially with an excellent, fast-focusing macro mode that excels at reading text. Video shot in 1080p ratcheted its frame rates down a bit in lower light, from 30 fps outdoors to 27fps inside.
The front camera takes 1.2-MP still shots and records 720p video at 30 frames per second in good light and a very grainy 24 frames per second in low light. Most notably, like all iPad cameras (but unlike, say, the Kindle Fire’s) it’s designed to work with the iPad in portrait mode, and the angle and focal length are perfect for video calling in that orientation. If you hold your iPad in landscape mode, you have to angle it oddly to get your face in the picture.
The iPad Air comes in 16, 32, 64, and 128GB models, starting at $499 and adding $100 each time your double your capacity. The 128GB tablet has 115GB free for your files. Multimedia playback is the same here as with other Apple mobile devices. Natively, the tablet plays anything you sync over from iTunes, whether via USB cable or Wi-Fi; there are (paid) third-party apps to handle music and video formats that the integrated players don’t support. You can throw your video over to a TV using a Lightning to HDMI adapter cable ($49) or wirelessly with Apple TV£77.27 at


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