Unveiled at the very start of this year's Mobile World Congress, the PadFone Infinity is a new and improved version of the two-in-one concept that Asus first launched a couple of years ago.
If you're not already familiar with the Asus PadFone, then you may be surprised to learn that it's an Android smartphone that slips into a docking station with a 10.1" screen, effectively turning it into an Android tablet. The processor, memory and OS are all onboard the smartphone. The tablet part is basically just a docking station with a bigger screen and a few extra connectors.
Asus has taken the PadFone Infinity up a step compared with its two predecessors by loading the smartphone with a 5" IPS display with Full HD resolution (1920 x 1080 pixels) and a sleek brushed aluminium casing. The processor is a latest-gen 1.7 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S600 and there's 2 GB of RAM. This latest PadFone joins the firm's other "Full HD" mobile device, Transformer Pad Infinity TF700, in its Infinity product range.
The brushed aluminium casing has an excellent finish
The phone will be available with 32 GB or 64 GB of onboard memory, plus 50 GB of cloud-based storage.
The docking station has a 10.1" screen that's also based on IPS technology. Its resolution is just over Full HD at 1920 x 1200 pixels.
Asus is sticking to a fairly plain Android 4.1 interface with a few added wallpapers and apps.
The PadFone has a 13-Megapixel rear-facing camera with LED flash for photos and 1080p video. There's a second, front-facing 2-Megapixel camera for video chat. The phone runs on a 2400 mAh battery and boasts 4G LTE support, as well as Wi-Fi a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0 and NFC.
We managed to check out the PadFone Infinity and its tablet dock live in the flesh on the Asus stand at MWC 2013, and we were even more impressed than with the PadFone and PadFone 2, which were already pretty darn sleek. The smartphone is nice to handle in spite of its bigger screen and the product finish is excellent.
A micro-USB connector on the bottom edge of the smartphone links it to the tablet docking station.
The smartphone slides into the docking station's slot vertically like in the PadFone 2, rather than using a horizontal compartment as seen in the original PadFone.
Switching to tablet mode is therefore quick and easy, and the tablet is ready to go straight away with no boot or lag time. Plus, from what we saw, the OS seemed to run just as smoothly in tablet mode as in the stand-alone smartphone.
The smartphone fits perfectly into the dock and the tablet can be handled freely with no fear of the mobile dropping out. The tablet docking station is very slim, but the PadFone Infinity smartphone does add a bump to the back of its casing.
On the whole, the PadFone Infinity certainly has the capacity to impress, but we can't help thinking that it's worth more than that. In fact, we'd quite like to see Asus sell the smartphone separately, as it's a nicely designed device that has plenty of qualities.
Asus is initially due to launch the PadFone Infinity in the US in April for $999. No prices or release dates have been announced for Europe yet. And as attractive as this concept may be, it's no doubt a bit tricky for stores to market and sell, as it ultimately remains rather nebulous in the eyes of the general public.
As well as making webcams for the consumer market, Logitech also makes models for business users. The BCC950 ConferenceCam is one such model.
This 1080p Full HD webcam has motorised pan, tilt and zoom functions and is aimed at professionals and small businesses looking for a quick, easy-to-use and affordable solution for video-conferencing.
> Read The Full Review: Logitech BCC950 ConferenceCam
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As well as making webcams for the consumer market, Logitech also makes models for business users. The BCC950 ConferenceCam is one such model. This 1080p Full HD webcam has motorised pan, tilt and zoom functions and is aimed at professionals and small businesses looking for a quick, easy-to-use and affordable..
Logitech BCC950 ConferenceCam
Believe it or not, Samsung isn't the only one venturing into the no man's land that separates the tablet from the smartphone. At Mobile World Congress the Asus FonePad has joined the phablet ranks with the Galaxy Note 8.0 at a highly competitive price: £179!
Asus is one cheeky monkey. Last year it released the PadFone, a smartphone you can insert into a 10.1-inch display and use as an Android tablet. Now the Taiwanese brand has reversed the name and—almost—the concept with its new FonePad, a 7-inch tablet with an integrated phone function. It's the same basic concept Samsung came up with in 2010 for the first Galaxy Tab, a 7-inch tablet that doubled as a phone.
On the surface, Asus is aping a formula it knows well, and that it knows works: the Nexus 7, which it built for Google last year. The only real changes to the body are the brushed metal back and the removable top, which hides the micro-SIM and microSD slots.
But on the inside, instead of a Tegra 3 processor it's a 1.2 GHz Intel Atom Z2420 single-core SoC, with 1 GB of RAM. The display is an IPS panel with 1280 x 800 resolution (just like the Nexus 7) and the battery has almost the same capacity, 4,270 mAh (the Nexus 7's is 4,325 mAh).
The image above is a little deceiving: the US version of the FonePad will have the 3-Megapixel rear camera you see here, but it appears the European version will not. Instead it will just have the front-facing 1.2-Mpx webcam.
Of course, it's too early to say whether Asus' idea of using an Atom Z2420 processor instead of a Tegra 3 is a good idea or not, but after spending a few minutes with the FonePad, we can say that the OS ran nice and smoothly and that the materials and overall build are great. It's light (340 grammes) and easy to hold with one hand. Then again, as far as the body is concerned, it's not like it was a Herculean task for Asus to rebuild the Nexus 7 with just a few minor modifications.
The phone interface is a no-nonsense kind of deal, with just the number keys and tabs for contacts, history and favourites. The FonePad also does text messages.
Asus has been vague about when the FonePad will be released. We can clearly expect to see it sometime this year, but rumour has it it might be out in Europe by this summer. Coincidentally, that might land just around the same time as the still-hypothetical Asus/Google Full HD Nexus 7 (rumoured to be priced similarly to the current Nexus 7).
If that's the case, Asus might want to launch the FonePad as quickly as possible, given that it will have its own low-cost powerhouse to contend with, with little more than a phone function in its arsenal... Not to mention the fact that the CPU/GPU duo will make for good responsiveness, but not good gaming (as shown in some of the benchmark results circulating around the net).
Although first announced at the CES trade fair back in January, Alcatel has brought its Idol Ultra smartphone to this year's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, where we managed to get a closer look at it.
One key selling point for the One Touch Idol Ultra is its super-slim design. In fact, at just 6.45 mm thick, Alcatel is billing the Idol Ultra as the "world's slimmest smartphone."
But that particular and often-touted claim should always be taken with a pinch of salt, as it can be based on different criteria, specs and product categories. ZTE's Grand S, for example, promises to be "the world's slimmest" 1080p Full HD smartphone at 6.9 mm thick. Plus, the ZTE Athena is announced at just 6.2 mm. It's a bit of a minefield!
The One Touch Idol Ultra is quite a light phone to handle. It weighs 115 grammes and measures 134.4 x 68.5 mm, bringing it close in size to Sony's Xperia Z. The rear casing is made from plastic but it doesn't feel like this phone could slip out of your hand easily.
The Idol Ultra runs on a 1.2 GHz dual-core processor, 1 GB of RAM and has 16 GB of internal storage. In terms of pure power, this model therefore isn't quite on par with the Alcatel Scribe HD. It ships with Android 4.1(Jelly Bean) with no custom interface over the top.
This handset has a 4.7" AMOLED screen with 1280 x 720 pixels, which makes for 312 pixels per inch. Although a Gorilla Glass finish was initially announced, Alcatel's reps told us that this hasn't been used in the final model. However, the screen does still get an oleophobic (oil-resistant) coating.
In action, the Idol Ultra's AMOLED sometimes felt a bit like one of the dummy screens often used in display models, with an image that looked very "cosmetic". But that's just a personal first impression. We'll find out more about actual screen quality when we get a closer look at this handset in our labs.
There's a rear-facing 8-Megapixel camera with LED flash for photos and 720p video, as well as a front-facing 1.3-Megapixel webcam for video chat.
The Idol Ultra doesn't have 4G LTE support, but it does boast 3G, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, as well as a GPS and NFC. Connections comprise a micro-USB port and a 3.5 mm audio jack with adapter, but there's unfortunately no sign of a microSD card slot.
The Alcatel One Touch Idol Ultra will be available in a choice of six bright, Lumia-style colours and is primarily aimed 25-35 year olds in search of a trendy-looking mobile.
The One Touch Idol Ultra comes in single- and dual-SIM versions, although it's not yet clear if and when this model is due to land in the UK.
Nvidia is billing its new GeForce GTX Titan as just that: a titan. Titanic both in price (it costs roughly £820) and in quality (it has an excellent build, choice materials and, of course, killer specs), does it really merit such a whopping price tag? Does it really blow the..
Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan
Today we're reviewing a mammoth of a GPU, the Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan.
Nvidia is billing its new GeForce GTX Titan as just that: a titan. Titanic both in price (it costs roughly £850) and in quality (it has an excellent build, choice materials and, of course, killer specs), does it really merit such a whopping price tag? Does it really blow the competition out of the water?
> Read the full review: Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan
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Alongside the bargain-priced Liquid Z2 Duo, Acer is showing off a slightly higher-spec entry-level smartphone at MWC 2013. The Liquid E1 Duo has a dual-core processor, a 4.5" IPS screen and is due to sell for €200 (approx. £175) compared with €119 (approx. £105) for the Z2.
With the Liquid Z2 Duo and the Liquid E1 Duo, Acer is seeking to make a new name for itself in the entry-level/mid-range smartphone market. The E1 is a dual-SIM Android 4.1 Jelly Bean handset with a 4.5" IPS screen (which should ensure wide viewing angles), a 1 GHz dual-core MediaTek processor, 1 GB of RAM and 4 GB of internal memory that can be expanded via the microSD card slot.
The screen has qHD resolution of 960 x 540 pixels and there's a 5-Megapixel camera with LED flash for photos and 720p HD video, as well as a front-facing VGA webcam. The Liquid E1 Duo has Wi-Fi b/g/n, Bluetooth 3.0 EDR and a GPS.
The phone has a couple of stereo speakers on the back, which seemed pretty powerful when we tried them out, even though we were testing them in a noisy environment. Acer has also teamed up with DTS to load the Liquid E1 Duo with DTS Sound technology to maximize the phone's acoustic power.
During our brief hands-on with this mobile on Acer's MWC stand, the OS seemed to run smoothly and the IPS screen seemed to have nice, wide viewing angles.
The Liquid E1 Duo looks set to rival the likes of the LG Optimus L7 Series II in the entry-level/mid-range market.
Acer has added a selection of its own functions to Android 4.1 in this phone. The most interesting of the lot has got to be Float Caller (see below), which displays the details of an incoming call in a small pop-up interactive window rather than cutting you off from whatever you're doing to display the call full-screen. This floating window lets you answer or cut off the call, or even send a pre-written text message to the caller. Handy stuff!