Personal technology

Chris Nuttall

First impressions of HP’s Envy x2 when the company showed it to the media last year were that this appeared to be the best of the first wave of Windows 8 laptop/tablet convertibles.

But spending some time with this hybrid device since it was launched last month, I find the x2 highlights how convertibles do not necessarily offer the best of both worlds, but can often represent unsatisfying compromises. Read more

Chris Nuttall

Small, square, sub-$100 black boxes dominate streaming internet-television devices in the US, in the shape of Apple TV and Roku’s LT, XS, XD and HD boxes.

There’s no shame then in Western Digital imitating this successful formula in launching today the WD TV Play - the latest variation of its WD TV lineup of content-streaming set-top boxes. Read more

Chris Nuttall

Video chat is becoming more sophisticated and social, with developers working out how better to combine media streams and groups of friends in online conversation.

Rabbit, which launches in beta today on Macs, was designed by game developers and introduces more visually appealing video chatrooms and easier ways to connect with friends. Glide, which debuted at Macworld last week, offers a video group walkie-talkie service on the iPhone. Both are free to download and use. Read more

Chris Nuttall

Microsoft’s Surface Windows 8 Pro tablet is on sale from Saturday, costing 50 per cent more than its equivalent Windows RT forerunner – from $900 rather than $600 in the US for the 64Gb versions.

At first glance, the two look identical in their size and dark titanium design, but Microsoft is providing quite a few more features for the money. Whether they are enough to justify this price for a tablet is debatable. A review after the jump. Read more

BlackBerry 10Research In Motion unveils the BlackBerry 10 today amid the greatest degree of anticipation and scrutiny in the company’s history. At events in New York, Toronto and London, the Canadian manufacturer is launching a new operating system and two smartphones.

The company and CEO Thorsten Heins are betting it will secure RIM’s future – and even its survival – in a tough marketplace where it has lost share to Apple’s iPhone and Android-based devices. Read more

Amazon chief executive Jeff BezosMicrosoft recently opened a store near my home in the San Francisco Bay Area, marking the occasion with a concert in the car park by Kelly Clarkson, the first American Idol talent show winner, and an appearance by a famous American football player – Jerry Rice of the San Francisco 49ers. I had not seen such a local commotion since another famous football player, George Best, opened a fish-and-chip shop in my home town near Manchester around 1970. All this fuss, just for piles of boxed copies of Windows, I thought.

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Astell & KernWhile the iPod and iTunes dominate portable players, some users consider the music’s sound quality to be less than stellar. This has opened up a niche for rivals to offer higher-fidelity recordings on higher-end devices. This week, a look at one such player, also a PC appendage and an app audio upgrade.

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Chris Nuttall

What it is: ION’s second-generation point-of-view action camera, the Air Pro 2

Key points: 14Mp sensor, 180-degree lens and the addition of a microphone in-jack are the main improvements to the Air Pro, which retains its basic design and features, such as vibrating when it is turned on and its body being watertight, obviating the need for an extra waterproof case. Read more

Chris Nuttall

What it is: The PowerShot N - a point-and-shoot camera from Canon with a radical new design.

Key points: Very compact and lightweight with an 8x optical zoom, 12.1Mp sensor, 28mm wide-angle lens, tilt-touch LCD panel and Full HD video capability. The unusual feature is two rings on the lens are used for operating the shutter and the zoom. The camera’s Creative Shot mode analyses a photo taken and offers you five different versions of it, using various filters, crops and focuses. A “mobile device connect” button activates Wi-Fi, turning it into a hotspot and allowing a mobile device such as a tablet or laptop to connect to it and download photos. An app is available. Read more

Chris Nuttall

What it is: Cambridge Consultants, the product development company that helped create the first round tea bag, has come up with a prototype pod-based tea maker called the Tê.

Key points: Hot water is drawn into a brewing chamber where a pod containing tea has been placed on a spindle and will begin to spin, pulling water in, mixing it with the tea leaves and then forcing it out through small holes in the side of the pod. (See video below) This dispenses an excellent cup of tea in just two minutes. Read more

Dr.Dre

With millions of record sales under his belt and a glittering career producing albums for stars such as Eminem and 50 Cent, Dr Dre is lauded within the music industry as a hip-hop pioneer.

The consumer electronics industry has come to hold him in similar esteem, judging by the rash of imitators of Beats by Dre, the headphones company he co-founded, showcasing their wares at this week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

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When Steve Jobs unveiled the original iPhone six years ago this week, he did it not alongside the rest of the gadget world in Las Vegas at the Consumer Electronics Show, but at the Macworld event in San Francisco.

By 2013, Microsoft, Amazon and Google have all joined Apple in shunning CES. Yet even without the market’s leaders, mobile technology dominated CES 2013.

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CES

International CES – the major annual show for the consumer electronics industry in Las Vegas – gave us the first sight this week of new televisions, smartphones, computers and a wealth of other products. As CES shows products often far in advance of launch, pricing and availability for many of them is still vague or unknown, but here’s the highlights of what to look out for in trends and gadgets in the coming year.

Huge TVs with prices to match, yet showing the smallest of details, were most-talked-about at CES and are likely to be least-seen about the living room for years to come. In a night of big numbers, I went up 64 floors to see Toshiba’s 84in L9300 UHD TV unveiled in a Las Vegas hotel’s rooftop restaurant, before crossing over to a lounge where Samsung showed its 85in S9 4K UHD TV . The head of Samsung TV told me they had a 110in one, but it would not fit in the elevator.

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LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 07: Qualcomm Inc., Chairman and CEO Dr. Paul E. Jacobs speaks during a keynote address at the 2013 International CES at The Venetian on January 7, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada. CES, the world's largest annual consumer technology trade show, runs from January 8-11 and is expected to feature 3,100 exhibitors showing off their latest products and services to about 150,000 attendees. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)

Qualcomm’s “Born Mobile” sign towers over other billboards; its booth is one of the biggest and its chief executive delivered the main keynote speech, with appearances by music and film celebrities and even Sesame Street’s Big Bird.

For a company that has traditionally avoided the limelight and not emphasised its brand in its customers’ products, the world’s biggest maker of mobile chips by shipments appears to be using this year’s international Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas as its coming-out party.

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Surging mobile sales drove earnings at Samsung Electronics to another record, despite competition from Apple’s iPhone 5. The FT’s Simon Mundy reports from Seoul on how Samsung beat analysts’ forecasts and how the company is positioned.

Sony is calling its new smartphone, launched at this week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, a ‘super phone’, winding the clock back to the time of super models, super cars and when the Japanese group ruled the high-end electronics market. Daniel Thomas, telecoms correspondent, says the device is grown-up but far from revolutionary.

Chris Nuttall

Sony has announced new TVs, content and distribution services for the Ultra HD standard it refers to as 4K, where screens have four times the number of pixels as the current Full HD standard.

At its press conference at the International CES consumer electronics show here in Las Vegas on Monday, it also showed a prototype TV where 4K was combined with another hot technology – OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diodes) – although the demonstration failed. Read more

Chris Nuttall

Our highlights from the 2013 International CES in Las Vegas (January 6 -11).

What it is: LG kicked off the CES press day with its news conference and announcements on OLED, Ultra HD and Smart TVs

Key points: A 55in OLED TV will finally go on sale; an 84in Ultra HD TV is on the way; LG’s smart TV lineup features an improved interface, better voice and gesture controls and new apps including a Verizon FiOS one that gives access to 75 live channels. Its plasma lineup is being reduced from five to three models and CCFLs – the old screen lighting technology for LCDs – are gone, with LG just using LED from now on. Three new screen sizes for Google TV models are being introduced, increasing the offering to five. Read more

There are few better views in Las Vegas than the neon-sparkling Strip by night from the panoramic windows of a 64th floor restaurant, but Toshiba diverted eyes on Sunday to an equally engrossing sight, with its unveiling of an 84-inch “Ultra HD” TV atop the Mandalay Bay Hotel.

Dancing models, luscious foliage, scenes of natural beauty dazzled like a Vegas show on the huge screen. The clarity of the picture was amazing; the colours were rich and vibrant. But the price was unmentionable.

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Chris Nuttall

We pick our highlights of the product unveilings, bringing you the essential news from the 2013 International CES in Las Vegas (January 6 -11).

What it is: Roku has added six new TV partners that will use its streaming stick with their sets and announced new content, bringing its internet-streaming offering to more than 700 channels.

Key points: Coby Electronics, Harman Kardon, HiSense, TCL, Voxx and Westinghouse join eight other “Roku-ready” partners that will integrate its streaming service through the stick that fits in an MHL-enabled HDMI port. Fourteen new channel apps are being announced including Blockbuster on Demand movies and live TV channels Fox Now and Time Warner Cable TV, the latter offering up to 300 live TV channels Read more