PlayStation Vita plays it smart with phone-like UI, we go hands-on

We’ve handled the PlayStation Vita often enough to know our way around its lightweight chassis and petite thumbsticks, but whenever we’ve tried to explore the handheld’s underlying user interface, event staff played interference. Developers at a recent Vita Hill Social Club event were much less shy, however, and let us poke and swipe through the Vita’s menu with hardly a shrug.

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PlayStation Vita plays it smart with phone-like UI, we go hands-on originally appeared on Engadget on Tue, 13 Dec 2011 09:10:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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First Look: Motorola’s Xoom Sequel, The Xyboard Tablet

Motorola’s Xyboard tablet is the follow-up to its Xoom tablet. Image: Jon Snyder/

Motorola is taking another shot at the tablet game with the Droid Xyboard, the company’s latest Android device to hit Verizon stores. After getting our hands on one this afternoon, we found that it’s a solid, well-performing slate that’s easy on the eyes. Too bad it has such a stupid name.

The 4G Xyboard is Motorola’s follow-up to its pricey, not terribly popular Xoom tablet, which was released in February. Available in 8.2-inch and 10.1-inch versions, the Honeycomb-powered Xyboard enters the market hot on the heels of the super-hot Kindle Fire. It’s on sale today for $430 (for the 8.2-inch) or $530 (for the 10.1-inch) with a two-year contract from Verizon, with options for 16GB or 32GB of memory on the smaller version, and up to 64GB on the larger one.

The first thing that struck me about the Xyboard is its industrial design. Rather than being perfectly rectangular in shape, the 8.2-inch slate has clipped corners, which actually makes it fit more comfortably when you hold it one-handed. The back, too, shows some stylistic creativity. A rubberized outer rim houses a power button and volume rocker, while centered in the back of the tablet is a sheet of dark gray brushed metal held in place by six visible screws. Think robot chic.

The positioning of the device’s only two buttons makes for a clean appearance, but leaves your fingers searching when it’s time to crank up the volume or send it to sleep. The 8.2-inch size, however, is a great compromise between the 7-inch ‘tweeners and 10-inch stunners. It’s small enough to wield in one hand with ease (the 0.86-pound weight helps with that too), yet large enough that watching a full-screen, HD YouTube video or a movie on Netflix is pleasant. Pair that with Verizon’s 4G speeds, and you’ve got great streaming video quality.

The overall experience is smooth, an improvement over many of the past buggy iterations of Honeycomb (perhaps the longer lead time gave Google the room to stabilize). Powered by a dual-core 1.2GHz processor with 1GB of RAM, app loading times are reasonably swift, and swiping from one screen to another on its Honeycomb interface is stutter-free.

Unlike HTC and Samsung devices, it’s not overly skinned, so you can actually experience the Android OS for what it is, rather than a bogged down, bloated mess. The Xyboard will be eligible for an Ice Cream Sandwich upgrade at some point in the future, but for now, it runs Honeycomb very well.

Both the 8.2- and 10.1-inch models have a 1280 x 800 resolution display. After turning up the brightness from auto to full, the tablet’s battery life dropped from around 20 percent to around 5 percent in less than an hour, so it looks like you’ll need to be conscious of your 4G and brightness settings if you don’t want your tablet to die on you quickly.

If you’re one of those people who likes to take pictures with their tablet (read: you are a dork), the Xyboard has a 5-megapixel back-facing camera and a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera on its face. The rear camera’s quality is relatively sub-par compared to what you’d get from other comparable cameras, and definitely shoddier compared to the 8-megapixel standard of most 2011 handsets. The colors are bright and close to true to life, but the overall image lacks sharpness. The camera does have some variable settings though, for white balance, color effects, and scene mode. Video quality was also just ‘meh’: a video taken indoors at the Wired offices was noticeably grainy.

Overall, the Xyboard seems like a decent tablet. The slate looks slick and feels good in your hands, and is powerful enough to provide a successful tablet experience. It’s a bit of a shame that it’s shipping with Honeycomb instead of ICS, but that’s certainly not a deal breaker. What’s a real shame, though, is that it’s available now, and not six months ago.

Look for the full review on Wired Reviews in the coming weeks.

The Xyboard features clipped corners and a more hardware focused rear design. Image: Jon Snyder/

Sphero goes up for pre-order, ready to roll its way into your heart

Our favorite iOS / Android-controlled toy ball is coming soon to an annoyed cat near you. You can pre-order Sphero now for $130 through Amazon, and it’ll start shipping in December, just in time to remotely find its way into a stocking or two.

Sphero goes up for pre-order, ready to roll its way into your heart originally appeared on Engadget on Wed, 02 Nov 2011 02:27:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Logitech’s Mini Boombox is a $99 Bluetooth speaker, we go hands-on (video)

$99? For a portable speaker? Yup, that was our reaction too — especially when the Mini Boombox’s larger sibling boasts four times as many drivers (eight instead of two) and costs just $50 extra. But then we gave this more suitcase-friendly version a whirl and discovered that it’s actually loud and balanced enough to do some justice to your tunes while you’re on the move. In fact, it could well make a smarter purchase than those $30 speakers you keep buying in airports and then deliberately losing. It’s available from the end of this month, works with any A2DP Bluetooth-equipped smartphone or tablet and incorporates a mic for handling calls — plus its rechargeable battery is claimed to last up to ten hours. Ears-on video and a quick round of ‘name that tune’ right after the break, along with the full PR.

Continue reading Logitech’s Mini Boombox is a $99 Bluetooth speaker, we go hands-on (video)

Logitech’s Mini Boombox is a $99 Bluetooth speaker, we go hands-on (video) originally appeared on Engadget on Tue, 01 Nov 2011 20:01:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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GarageBand for iPhone: First Hands-On Impressions

Get ready, street musicians: Today Apple released its popular music-making app GarageBand for the iPhone. Now you can jam away on a set of onscreen drums, or strum a touch-based Smart Guitar, to compose musical masterpieces wherever you may be.

The slimmed-down iPhone app has all the features of the iPad app: a multi-touch interface with Smart Instruments (to piece together pre-assembled musical bits) and Touch Instruments (for those who want to play and record their own instrumental tracks). You can also record vocal tracks using the device’s built-in mic, and (with the help of an adapter) plug an electric guitar directly into your iDevice and record tunes through GarageBand’s amp and stompbox effects.

In total, GarageBand helps you knock out impromptu jam sessions, all without having to lug around a bunch of equipment.

Naturally, the iPhone version of GarageBand is shrunk down for a 3.5-inch screen.  My app experience on an iPhone 4 was smooth, without any force quits or stutters. And, not surprisingly, it was fun to tap away at the onscreen keyboard and drum set using only my thumbs. I made a complete (albeit heinous-sounding) song in a matter of minutes. So, if you’re looking for a solid music-making app to jot down song ideas or even create passable tunes while you’re wiling away time on your evening commute, GarageBand is the answer.

GarageBand was first launched as a Mac application, and later ported to the iPad with the launch of the iPad 2 in March 2011. “This is no toy,” Steve Jobs said of GarageBand on the iPad. “This is something you can use for real work.” Since then, a number of enterprising companies have released capacitive touch tools, such as guitar picks and drum sticks, that you can use with the app.

The iPhone version of Garage Band is, like the iPad counterpart, a big download. At over 501 MB, it took me at least five minutes over a Wi-Fi connection to complete the installation.

The app opens quickly, and operates only in landscape mode. Navigation is intuitive, and will be familiar to anyone who’s ever used similar music-making and recording software.

You select an instrument to play, adjust settings like reverb and echo if you’re not happy with the app’s defaults, and then tap away at a virtual instrument interface, hitting the record button if you’re ready to commit your work to, er, memory. Most of the instruments and tools look identical to their iPad counterparts, but there are a few small variations, such as in the piano, which has only eight keys instead of 15.

In the upper right-hand corner of the app, you’ll find an icon that lets you make adjustments to a single track, section or song. In the upper left-hand corner, you can click for a pop-over menu that will take you back to the songs or instruments panel, or let you swap between different forms of your current instrument (like for the piano, you can choose between options like Grand Piano, Smooth Clav, Classic Rock Organ, or Electric Piano).

Next to that there’s an icon that lets you switch from instrument view to song editing view. The editing view shows each of your recorded tracks so far, with opportunities to adjust, edit and loop sections.

Using Smart Instruments is a sure-fire way to create a song that doesn’t sound like it was hacked out by a team of rabid baboons. In this respect, GarageBand succeeds as a music-making device for people with no musical training whatsoever.

But what if you have musical experience — is GarageBand for iPhone a legitimate composition device? Not necessarily, as the app’s puny user interface is quite cramped. Still, this is an iPhone app, after all, and anyone using it to create music should be well aware that the premium music-making experience will be found on an iPad.

As with the iPad version, you can record and combine up to eight tracks, and then export to GarageBand or Logic Pro on the Mac for a bit more polishing. You can also share your iPhone-made masterpieces via iTunes or e-mail.

The app is a welcome addition to any mildly creative person’s iPhone or iPod touch. GarageBand is $5 and is now available for iPhone 3GS and up, 3rd and 4th gen iPod touches, and iPads.

Images: Ariel Zambelich/Wired

Canon S100 hands-on (video)

Canon Powershot S100

We managed to sneak in a bit of hands-on time with the Powershot S100 here at PhotoPlus in Manhattan.The followup to Canon’s S95 is a fairly slick point-and-shoot. It’s not the most compact camera in its space, but the new Powershot is surprisingly lightweight. It’s got a healthy 12.1 megapixel CMOS sensor with improved low-light performance and a 5x optical zoom, the latter of which could certainly do with a bump. The S100 captures 1080p HD video and sports a convenient, dedicated movie button (no switching modes here). The high-end point-and-shoot doesn’t pack too many surprises, but it certainly seems like a worthy successor to the highly-regarded S95. Sadly, Canon still wouldn’t commit to a firm release date, only saying that it’s due out in November for around $430.

Terrence O’Brien contributed to this report.

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Canon S100 hands-on (video) originally appeared on Engadget on Thu, 27 Oct 2011 13:14:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Rotor Concept HPQ-1 quadcopter eyes-on (video)

Rotor Concept Inc.

We’re here at the PhotoPlus show in New York, and as usual, the stranger products are being showcased on the outskirts of the show. A company called Rotor Concept out of Southern California was showing off the HPQ-1, a quadcopter designed to lug around your digital camera.The copter itself is surprisingly quiet and steady, the latter of which is no doubt helped out by the presence of four propellers and advanced stabilization system (put the controller down and it will automatically hold its position).

The HPQ-1 can hold payloads of up to 12 ounces, so users can use standard digital cameras to live stream events or a pair of smaller shooters to capture arial 3D clips. According to the company, SWAT teams are looking into using the product for surveillance. The other recommended usage? Weddings, of course. The copter can reach a max altitude of 2,000 feet and has a theoretical maximum flight radius of up to a mile. It’s available now for an MSRP of $899. Peep a quick video after the break.

Terrence O’Brien contributed to this report.

Continue reading Rotor Concept HPQ-1 quadcopter eyes-on (video)

Rotor Concept HPQ-1 quadcopter eyes-on (video) originally appeared on Engadget on Thu, 27 Oct 2011 12:36:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Future Nokia phones repellent, says water (video)

Nokia’s latest “super” hydrophobic coating doesn’t take half-measures. This new technology binds a layer of nanotech magic to the surface of its devices that literally bounces liquids away. Although we’ve been told the nanotubes at work here are most effective with water, other liquids (and smudgy fingerprints) should also find the treated surface difficult to latch onto. Due to the thinness of this waterproofing solution, a spokesperson told us here at Nokia World that even the inner workings of a phone could be treated in the same way. No more incidents in the bathroom? Count us in. Check the video after the break for some slo-mo water slippage.

Zach Honig contributed to this report.

Continue reading Future Nokia phones repellent, says water (video)

Future Nokia phones repellent, says water (video) originally appeared on Engadget on Thu, 27 Oct 2011 11:23:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Nokia Drive with MirrorLink on Toyota Touch Life hands-on (video)

Just a few meters from the entrance to Nokia World at London’s sprawling ExCel Exhibition Centre, we found a Toyota iQ compact with Nokia branding on the door. And in the dash was Toyota’s new Touch Life smartphone integration system, complete with Nokia Drive compatibility and display mirroring via MirrorLink. In addition to mirroring your Symbian Belle (or MeeGo) display on the 7-inch touchscreen, Touch Life also provides a driver-friendly interface, including enormous icons to control music playback, or to place calls to contacts by tapping their name and photo, or by using the jumbo telephone keypad. It also integrates with the Nokia Drive app, with a very simple (and also oversized) navigation interface. The concept is simple: access basic smartphone functions as you drive while limiting distractions. While you’re parked, you’ll have unrestricted access to your phone’s interface, but non-critical features are disabled as you drive.

The demo unit we saw is still a few months away from hitting production, so there were a few hiccups. After connecting the Nokia 701 to the system, the smartphone’s display appeared on the in-dash screen within a few seconds. We had full access to all of the phone’s features until shifting into drive, when a much simpler screen popped up, with Call, Drive and Music modules. Everything worked rather seamlessly until we neared the end of the demo, when an “Enjoy the sound while driving” message appeared on screen, where the navigation window had been just a moment before. There isn’t a firm release date in place, and the demo unit only appears to work with Symbian Belle at the moment — though MeeGo support (and likely Windows Phone as well) will be available after launch. Jump past the break to see how it works from behind the wheel.

Continue reading Nokia Drive with MirrorLink on Toyota Touch Life hands-on (video)

Nokia Drive with MirrorLink on Toyota Touch Life hands-on (video) originally appeared on Engadget on Thu, 27 Oct 2011 11:02:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Nokia Lumia 800 unboxed: we shed some light on what’s inside

We managed to grab enough time with the Lumia 800‘s retail innards here at Nokia World, revealing some welcome extras including a flexible rubberized case for that affectionate lump of polycarbonate. The requisite data cable, power adapter and headset are all accounted for inside the packaging, which is covered in shots of this dark, not-so-mysterious phone. It’s all a bit more vibrant than the packaging of its other 2011 phone, but is still coated in that unmistakable Nokia blue. We expect to get our excitable digits on a review model very — very — soon, but until then check out more shots of what we can expect to get alongside Nokia’s premier Windows Phone handset.

Nokia Lumia 800 unboxed: we shed some light on what’s inside originally appeared on Engadget on Thu, 27 Oct 2011 09:34:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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