Monthly Archives: December 2009

Chris Nuttall

You may be only aware of Amazon’s Kindle and Sony’s Reader, but there are now more than 45 e-reader models available worldwide, according to E Ink, the dominant technology provider for their displays.

More are expected in the coming year, including ones with smaller, pocketable displays, colour and different ways of producing the paper-like screens, the Emerging Display Technologies Conference in Silicon Valley heard this week.

(This post was first published on September 5 2009) Read more

Chris Nuttall

A new e-reader entrant is pitching itself as cheaper, lighter and more open than Amazon’s Kindle or Sony’s Reader, and with a larger selection of titles.

The Cool-er is the brainchild of Neil Jones, an avid reader and entrepreneur, whose company is based, appropriately, in Reading, in the UK.

(This review was first posted on May 14 2009) Read more

Chris Nuttall

Televisions were the most popular electronics items over the Thanksgiving weekend in the US, with consumers attracted by cheap prices rather than compelling features.

Vizio, currently the number one LCD HDTV brand in the US, says it sold 280,000 sets last week, up 40 per cent on the previous year’s figures.Retailers cut prices by around 22 per cent for the week – the most promoted TVs were 32-inch LCDs, cut to an average $369 from $490, according to the iSuppli research firm.

The third category in our seasonal look at the year’s essential gadgets is internet-enabled TVs, which do carry a premium, although there are plenty of set-top devices that add the internet to your TV without the need for an integrated set (see a selection of our reviews below this post). Read more

Chris Nuttall

With streaming Netflix movies now available on TV screens through the Xbox, PlayStation 3, Tivo, several Blu-ray players and LG HDTVs, the little Roku set-top box, which became one of the first Netflix streamers 18 months ago, is in need of some differentiation.

That came today with the launch of 10 free channels on the box, which sells for as little as $80.
Pandora radio, Facebook and Flickr photos, FrameChannel feeds, MobileTribe social networking and video from Blip.TV, Mediafly, Motionbox, Revision 3 and TWiT make up the lineup.

(This review was first published on November 23 2009) Read more

Chris Nuttall

While Apple figures out what to do with its languishing Apple TVit quietly dropped its 40Gb model on Monday leaving only the 160Gb version – there are plenty of other contenders scrapping to bring networked content to the big living-room screen.

Among them – FreeAgent Theater+, announced by Seagate today as an improved version of the unit it launched only six months ago.

(This review was first published on September 15 2009) Read more

Chris Nuttall

Another day, another internet box bringing content to the television.

A day after Roku announced it was adding Amazon’s Video on Demand to its $99 box, another Silicon Valley company, ZillionTV,  has unveiled its own device and content partners including the big five Hollywood studios.

(This post was first published on March 5 2009) Read more

Richard Waters

Rupert Murdoch is enough of a newsman to know this: if you start a public row, you might as well cash in on it in your own publications.

Today’s Wall Street Journal gives Eric Schmidt the space to defend himself against some of the accusations that Murdoch and his underlings have been hurling at Google recently. Read more

Chris Nuttall

Data centres are the modern version of the original mainframe computers, taking up vast amounts of space, with racks and racks of servers delivering high-performance computing.

As any engineer will tell you, a mobile phone now has more processing power than a room-filling mainframe of old, with its cost and electricity consumption infinitely leaner.

On Wednesday, Intel showed off a new 48-core chip that could crunch the size of data centres down in a similar way, describing it as a “‘single-chip cloud computer’ that rethinks many of the approaches used in today’s designs for laptops, PCs and servers.” Read more

David Gelles

That didn’t take long. It was just in mid-September that Facebook said it had reached 300m users (and was cashflow positive, to boot).

Now comes news that the social networking behemoth has added another 50m users just in time for the holidays. With 350m users, Facebook is now firmly entrenched as the fourth-largest property on the web (after Google, Microsoft and Yahoo, respectively).

Having achieved this massive scale, Facebook is contending with a new host of challenges. Read more

Chris Nuttall

Music achieved higher fidelity, greater portability and came packaged in cooler designs in 2009.

Olive stepped sound quality up a notch with its Opus Number 4 and 4HD server, streaming 24-bit files.  Redesigned Walkmans from Sony and Zunes from Microsoft featured better sound, screens and interfaces. Sonos made whole-house audio more affordable with its S5 and there were some extraordinary iPod docks launched, such as the B&W Zeppelin (pictured).

In our second category of essential gadgets for 2009, Paul Taylor’s summary of the best digital music systems is after the jump (dollars and hearts represent value for money and desirability, out of five). We’re also republishing our reviews from earlier this year of the Sonos S5, Olive Opus and X Series Walkman. Read more

Chris Nuttall

The DRM music struggle has been largely won for consumers – even Apple now lets you download and move your music around freely, compared to its former restrictions.

So, onto the next battle. The MP3 is no longer our friend, fellow music lovers, we must fight for a better quality listen.

(This review was originally published on July 22 2009) Read more

Chris Nuttall

Sony lost the portable media player battle to Apple and the iPod some time ago, but its latest Walkman, launched in the US on Wednesday, does suggest the Japanese company can still occupy a significant niche.

The X-Series Walkman does not try to match the App-tastic iPhone and iPod touch, apart from one significant US-only application, but instead attacks the audio and video Achilles’ heel of those devices.

(This review was originally published on May 14 2009) Read more

Chris Nuttall

Sonos, maker of wireless multi-room music systems that most people can’t afford,  now has a one-room option that may seem a bargain to iPhone and iPod touch users.

The Zoneplayer S5, available worldwide from today, costs $400 in the US and can be controlled by a free app available for the Apple devices.

(** This review was originally published on November 10 2009) Read more

Chris Nuttall

Jack Dorsey, the creator of Twitter, has moved from simplified blogging to a simplified payments side-project,  with the launch of the start-up, Square.

In typical Twitter style, Dorsey announced the company with a tweet rather than a press release today:

“Announcing our new company, called @Square, which I’m thrilled to be a part of: http://squareup.com,” he wrote, in 99 characters. Read more

Richard Waters

Choosing the technology that best suits your life can be a full time job. And these days, it’s not just a matter of deciphering the bits and bytes or picking the coolest gadget: the best software and Web applications, or the availability of games and other digital content, are often key to determining the overall experience.

From Android to ZillionTV, there is so much to learn. Read more

Chris Nuttall

What were the must-have gadgets of 2009? We thought we’d launch this personal tech section of the blog with our recommendations on the year’s best devices.

Over the next two weeks,  we’ll look at ten different categories, from eReaders to pico projectors, from the best audio experiences to cameras and camcorders.

Smartphones have made the biggest impact this year and, after the jump, are the thoughts of personal tech correspondent Paul Taylor on the best of them (Dollars and hearts represent value for money and desirability, out of five) . We’re also looking at the rise of Android and republishing our reviews of the latest smartphones – the Motorola Droid and Palm Pixi. Read more

Richard Waters

Picking a smartphone based on its operating system might seem a strange thing to do. But this year’s emergence of Google’ Android and Palm’s WebOS as worthy rivals of the iPhone OS was a handy reminder of the increasing importance of software in determining user experience, and a direct challenge to the traditional powers of the smartphone business: Nokia, Microsoft and Research in Motion.

Of the new software platforms, Android remains the most intriguing. I was among the doubters before the first handset hit the streets. But almost to my own surprise I now find I’ve ditched my BlackBerry (something I never thought I’d do) and count myself an Android user (version 1.5 of the software, on an HTC handset). Read more