Quantcast
Latest StoriesTablets
    The Best iPad Stylus Today

    This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a list of the best technology to buy. Read the full article below at TheWirecutter.com

    We spent 10 hours testing a total of 11 iPad styluses with a graphic designer and independently arrived at the same conclusion: The best stylus for most people is Adonit's newly redesigned Jot Pro ($30). The Jot Pro's unique clear plastic plastic tip allows for precise input; it doesn't block the iPad's screen like other rubber-tipped styluses so you can see what you're drawing as you draw. It's also comfortable to hold, and a number of small details, such as a spring-loaded tip that better mimics the feel of pen on paper, make the overall experience a pleasure.

    How We Decided

    You want a stylus with enough weight and glide to move freely, but with enough friction to be predictable. The idea is to replicate the feeling of pen on paper. We tested each stylus by navigating a maze, tracing the alphabet, sketching a variety of items, and tapping around a tablet. After our initial assessment, we started all over again, testing the pens in a different order to reduce any chance that becoming acclimated to a stylus might have skewed the results.

    Tested In-Depth: Microsoft Surface 3 Review

    We loved using the Surface Pro 3 as a primary laptop, though it was a little too big to use with the stylus as a portable digital notepad. The new Surface 3, though, hits a lot of sweet spots for power and portability. We sit down to discuss its use of Intel's latest Atom processor, the new form factor, and how it stacks up against dedicated laptops and tablets.

    WWDC 2015: Apple's Announcement Round-Up

    Apple annual developer conference, WWDC, started today, and the company just finished its keynote address announcing updates for Mac OS, iOS, and WatchOS for the rest of the year. We followed along with liveblogs and the livestream, and will be discussing the news in this week's podcast. Until then, here are the major product and service announcements that came from Tim Cook and his team at Apple.

    Photo credit: Apple

    Mac OS X updates came first. The next version of Mac is called OS X El Capitan. Notable changes include Safari pinned bookmarks and tab management, Spotlight accepting natural language searches, and new mission control windows management--a la window snapping in Windows. Performance is supposed to be 1.4X that of Yosemite. Metal--Apple's low-level rendering engine--moves to OS X and secures Adobe adoption for much faster rendering. El Capitan is available to devs today and will be released for free in the fall.

    On the iOS front, the big iOS 9 update lies with Siri, which gets a feature called Proactive Assistant. This is Apple's version of Google Now, and will take information from Mail, Calendar, and other apps to give you notifications about context-relevant events. It'll also be more context-aware for tasks, like playing audiobooks vs. music when you get in a car. Siri and iOS Spotlight look better integrated, with a new API for deep linked search within iOS apps. This will all be data kept on your phone, and not sent to Apple's data centers or linked to Apple ID. Maps gets transit directions in select cities to start. A new News app is like Apple's version of Flipboard, but apparently with no ads. Photos and Notes apps get updated too, along with the default keyboard.

    Testing: Duet Display for iPad and Mac OS

    For the past few days, I've been testing an iOS tool called Duet Display. Eric Cheng of DJI clued me in on the $15 app, and it's one of the more interesting and useful iPad utilities I've used so far. Simply, it allows you to use any iPad--whether it's an old 30-pin or current Lightning cable model--as a second screen for your Mac or PC. Yep, it's platform agnostic, and the desktop client is free. Using a 9.7-inch or 7.9-inch tablet as your secondary monitor may not sound like a great idea, and it's not something I would use on a regular basis. But since I keep both a laptop and my iPad in my backpack for most places I go, this is something that may have a lot of utility for frequent work travel.

    The ability to use an iPad as a second display isn't new--iOS apps like Air Display have granted that ability for years. But those apps rely on a tethered or shared Wi-Fi connection, which limits the quality and responsiveness of the extended display image. The host computer is essentially sending compressed video over to the iPad, and that requires a lot of bandwidth. Duet Display uses a wired connection, so the only limiting factor is the host computer's ability to render and compress a desktop to send over the cable (Duet Display is admittedly a bit of a CPU and power hog, if you're running on laptop power). I was impressed by how good the desktop on my iPad Mini looked, and how responsive the cursor was as I moved windows between screens. It's not exactly zero lag, but darn close.

    The State of Digital Comics

    The latest episode of The Verge's "Top Shelf" series is a great dive into the state of digital comics. Hosts Arielle Duhaime-Ross and Ross Miller interview Understanding Comics author Scott McCloud and comics app makers at Comixology and Symbolia to discuss the state of the medium. As a comics fan who still prefers reading physical graphic novels over comics on phones and tablets, I really enjoyed this!

    Microsoft Announces Atom-Based Surface 3 Tablet

    Even though Windows 10 isn't coming out until later this year, Microsoft is launching a new Surface tablet next month. This isn't the follow up to the Surface Pro 3 that I liked so much last year, nor is it a new ARM-based RT tablet like the Surface 2. Instead, it's simply called Surface 3, and it'll run a full version of Windows 8.1 (upgradable to Windows 10). What separates it from the Surface Pro lines is its processor: Surface 3 is equipped with Intel's Atom x7 Z8700 CPU, which is clocked at 1.6GHz and turbos to 2.4GHz. Atom has come a long way since its netbook days, and Cherry Trail just launched earlier this year. The advantages of using an X86-based SoC mean Surface 3 can run a fully-capable version of Windows, while keeping power down to as low as 2 watts in "Scenario Design Power". That gives Surface 3 a claimed battery life of 10 hours, while keeping the weight and thickness below Surface 2 RT's specs. Along with a new hardware platform is the use of a 3:2 display (like the Surface Pro 3), with a 1920x1280 touchscreen, and an N-trig pressure sensitive digitizer. Unfortunately, the Surface Pro 3's versatile hinge doesn't make it to this model--this hinge only snaps to three positions.

    The interesting thing for me is what this may indicate about the next-generation Surface Pro model. Surface Pro 4 will presumably come out before the end of the year and make a great Windows 10 launch device. But Microsoft can go either the Broadwell U route for hardware (a direct follow-up for the Haswell chips in the current Surface Pro 3) or Core M/Broadwell-Y, which is what's in laptops like the Lenovo Yoga Pro 3 and Apple's upcoming MacBook. My hope is that Microsoft will use Broadwell U chips for that model, given the ultra-low power needs are somewhat satisfied with this Surface 3. But my gut says that they'll design Surface Pro 4 around Core M to take advantage of its low power consumption, at the cost of performance. Given my experience with Broadwell U vs. Y, I'm much more inclined to buy a Broadwell U-based laptop if it's going to be my dedicated computer. We'll just have to wait and see.

    Surface 3 will ship in May, and starts at $500 for 64GB of storage or $600 for 128GB and twice the RAM. LTE models will also be available for $100 more.

    Android Tablet Roundup: Which Tablet Is Right for You?

    Android tablets are going through an interesting transition right now. We're seeing the first few hints of 64-bit support, 4:3 screens, and some powerful gaming features. However, these products are still imperfect. I don't think there's such a thing as the perfect Android tablet for everyone right now, but there are a few good ones that might work well for you.

    Let's check out all the top tablets on the market and see what they all have going for them.

    Nexus 9

    If you like having access to the latest software and dig the 4:3 form factor, the Nexus 9 might be an appealing option. This tablet runs on a Denver dual-core Nvidia Tegra K1 chip with 2GB of RAM and 16-32GB of storage. The centerpiece is clearly the screen, which is above average compared to most Android tablets. It's an 8.9-inch LCD with a resolution of 2048x1536, just like the iPad. At 8.9-inches, a widescreen tablet would be awkward to use in portrait orientation, but the the N9 is quite comfy.

    The Nexus 9 runs Android 5.0/5.1 Lollipop without any OEM junk added. This is Android as Google intended with updates more or less guaranteed for at least two years. The Nexus 9 might fall back to second priority in a year or so when new devices come out, but you won't be left to rot on an old version of Android within the expected life of this tablet. There are also full system images for the Nexus 9 and an unlockable bootloader, making for easy modding (and fixing your mistakes so you don't end up with a brick).

    I think the biggest knock against the Nexus 9 is that the build quality simply isn't where it needs to be for a $400 and up tablet. The buttons are a little mushy, the soft touch plastic feels a little cheap, and it's slightly heavy. More recent production runs of the Nexus 9 are much more solid. It still takes a weirdly long time to charge, though.

    More problematic is the state of the Nexus 9's software. It's overall a better experience than many Android tablets, but the N9 still stutters and hangs more than it should. Nvidia's Denver CPU core has a lot of power, but it seems like it's not being fully harnessed in the N9. Hopefully a future software update gives this tablet the extra boost it needs to be a better experience.

    The Nexus 9 is a good tablet, but it's pricey. If you can find one on sale, it might be a good buy. Even if you can't the form factor makes it worth considering.

    Tested In-Depth: Dell Venue 8 7000 Android Tablet

    Dell's new tablet isn't just one of the best-designed tablets we've used, it's our new favorite Android tablet. We discuss how the thin bezel and high-resolution OLED display affects content consumption, the differences between ARM and x86 on Android, and expected battery life for today's tablets.

    In Brief: Tactus’ Shapeshifting Keys for Your Tablet

    Touchscreen keyboards on our smartphones and tablets are totally serviceable, but there are still people who prefer the tactile response of physical keys. For example, if you have long nails, it's still easier to type on a Blackberry than it is on a small touchscreen. One technology that may give users the best of both worlds is transforming screens, which spring pronounced keys on command for typing, but can lay flush when not in use. Tactus Technology has the first consumer product using this kind of technology, in an iPad mini case called Phorm. As Wired explains, Phorm's pop-up keys are like small bubbles embedded in a thin transparent panel (akin to a screen protector). Switching it on pumps microfluids into those bubbles, propping them up for tactile typing. The whole process is hydraulic--it doesn't require batteries because the switch to activate these buttons is basically a pump on the back of the iPad case. And while Tactus' products will initially be tablet and smartphone cases, they're also experimenting with making their own tablets with integrated transforming screens for more than just key typing.

    Norman
    Testing: Dell Venue 8 7000 Tablet

    Last week, I wrote about some of the products that we missed seeing at CES, but would get hands-on time with to test soon. One of them was Dell's new Venue 8 7000 tablet (terrible name, agreed), which attracted a lot of attention for its thin-bezel design and use of Intel's latest Atom processor to run Android. This tablet was actually released alongside CES, and I received mine late last week. While I'll be using and testing it for several more weeks before we shoot a video review, I wanted to share some initial thoughts, as well as get some feedback from you guys who also use Android tablets.

    So first, the design of this tablet. Ever since the very first iPhone was released in 2007, users and device designers have been trying to figure out what to make about the bezel around a touchscreen. It's generally considered that the narrower the bezel around a screen the better, though the absence of a sizeable bezel changes the way you can hold a phone or tablet. Case in point, the slimmer bezels on the iPad Mini change the practical ways to comfortably orient and grip that tablet as compared to the full-sized iPad. With the Venue 8 7000, Dell's designers have decided that an 8-inch tablet can work best without much bezel on three of its sizes, and an extended "chin" to pack hardware at the bottom. It's a striking design for sure.

    Compared to the iPad Mini, the Venue 8 7000 looks futuristic. The 8.4-inch 2560x1600 screen has a 16:10 aspect ratio, so it's actually less wide than the Mini's. Even including its left and right bezel, Dell's tablet almost fits within the confines of the Mini's screen. The "forehead" bezel of the Venue is the same width as the sides', and the uniformity of bezel space around the top of the tablet is very visually pleasing. While reading a Kindle book, flipping through photos, and browsing webpages, I felt a little more connected to the content on the Venue than on the iPad--the tablet feels more like a window for digital content than any other smartphone or tablet I've previously used. It's a peculiar distinction, but that's the psychological power of thin bezels.

    Ergonomically, the Venue 8 7000 is comfortable to use, too. I was afraid that the thick "chin" at the bottom would limit how I could hold this tablet--and it does, in that it's best used in portrait orientation with the fat bezel at the bottom. But its size and weight made holding the tablet with one hand or gripping with two at the bottom very usable. At 6mm thick and .66 pounds, it's very comparable to the iPad Mini--the slight thickness advantage isn't all that noticeable. The only complaint I have so far is that gripping the bottom of the tablet, as when for thumb typing, can obscure part of the speakers--which aren't great to begin with. The headphone jack is on the bottom left, which is what I used for most of my time with the tablet so far.

    12 Days of Tested Christmas: Anker 5-Port USB Charger

    For the fifth day of Tested Christmas, Will shares his solution for charging all his mobile devices at his desk and nightstand. Instead of using multiple wall warts and chargers, he uses a single 5-port USB charger that can power phones tablets, and other USB devices at their fastest charging speeds.

    Testing: Google Nexus 9 Android Tablet

    Google's Nexus 9 is a big departure from past Android tablets in several ways, not least of which that it has a 4:3 aspect ratio. It's also a 64-bit tablet with a more premium price point. There's no followup to the 2013 Nexus 7 with its low price. A lot of the early reviews were mixed, but does the N9 seem better after a few updates? I've been living with the Nexus 9 as my main tablet for the last few weeks, so let's figure it out.

    Design and Build Quality

    You've probably heard it said many times that the Nexus 9 bears a striking resemblance to a scaled up Nexus 5. Well, that's definitely true. The back is made of the same soft touch plastic as Google's 2013 flagship phone. The rim around the edge is made of aluminum, though. It seems like there's some variation in how that plastic back sits. Some units have a little bit off give as the plastic pops out from the frame in the middle. This isn't an issue in my unit, and I suspect it won't happen on newly manufactured tablets. Even in the worst cases, it doesn't seem like a structural issue, just annoying.

    The buttons are positioned on the right side (in portrait mode) and they aren't awesome. I'm not sure why so many OEMs have trouble getting buttons right, but it happens all the time. The N9's buttons are mushy and have low travel. On some units, they are almost flush with the side of the tablet. Mine isn't that bad, all things considered. It could be better, though. It's sounding like newer tablets aren't suffering from this particular defect.

    The question you have to ask is, does the Nexus 9 feel premium? The unsatisfying answer is "kind of." The device itself is solid and doesn't flex. It feels dense, but not too heavy. The buttons are definitely a sticking point and the back will be divisive. I really like soft touch surfaces, myself. I'll take a soft touch plastic device over metal any day--they're just easier to hold. It does get fingerprint-y, but that's the price you pay.

    Google says the nexus 9 is 7.95mm thick, but I feel like that might be a tiny bit generous. It's still definitely under 10mm and it seems better balanced than most tablets. Overall, the Nexus 9 doesn't quite feel like a $399 tablet. That's not to say it feels lousy, or anything.

    Tested In-Depth: Apple iPad Air 2

    Apple has two new iPads out this year, but only one of them is a significant update to the last generation. Surprisingly, it's the iPad Air 2, which improves on last year's model in both size, weight, and performance. We sit down to discuss in-depth the differences between the current slate of iPads, and show you where GPU improvements are most noticeable.

    Tested In-Depth: Amazon Kindle Voyage

    How much more improvement do current ebook readers need? We sit down to show off all the new features in Amazon's latest Kindle, the $200 Voyage, and compare it with the Paperwhite model. We discuss whether the high-DPI screen makes a difference for reading books, and if exisiting Kindle owners should upgrade.

    In Brief: iPad Air 2 Has Tri-Core CPU, 2GB of RAM

    The first reviews of Apple's new iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3 went online yesterday, and they're looking mostly positive. The consensus on the Mini seems to be that it's not worth the $100 premium over the now-$400 Mini 2, just for TouchID and the gold color option. But the improvements made to the iPad Air line is pretty significant. iPad Air 2 is Apple's first tablet with a tri-core SoC, the A8X. It's not just a clock speed bump over the iPhone 6's A8, and synthetic benchmarks peg performance far above the latest iPhones in both single-core and multi-core usage. iPad Air 2 is also Apple's first iOS device with 2GB of RAM. According to some reviewers, it's as fast an old MacBook Air (at least for web browsing). Those devices aren't really comparable, since their core users buy them for very different reasons and usage scenarios. While I'm not excited for the new Mini, nor am in the market for a new full-size iPad, I think it looks promising as an upgrade for my parents' 3rd-generation iPad (the heavy one that got the Retina display). They can't stand the small screen of the Mini, and will appreciate the sub-1 pound weight of the new Air 2. But the best thing for them is that they will be able to get 128GB of storage at the previous 64GB price--essential for photos. They're the kind of people who use their iPads as their sole computers, and never delete or move photos off of them. My guess is that there are a lot of iPad users who fall into that category too.

    Norman
    Amazon Announces Kindle Voyage, Updates to Kindle Family

    Well these new Kindles arrived much sooner than expected. Fresh on the heels of the Kindle Voyage leaks on Amazon Germany and Japan--which indicated a Nov 4th release date--Amazon has announced the new generation of Kindle e-book readers. A whole lot of them. On the e-ink side, there's a new entry-level touch model that starts at $80 (with no paperwhite, but a new processor), an updated Paperwhite with double the storage starting at $120, and of course the leaked Kindle Voyage, which starts at $200.

    Voyage has a Paperwhite lit screen, with a high-resolution 300ppi display that's flush to the bezel. Early hands-on reports indicate that text does indeed look much sharper on the Voyage than the 212ppi Kindles. Of course, resolution is only part of the story--readability has a lot to do with typography chose and font rendering techniques. Voyage's front-lighting is also now adaptive based on ambient light (as well as being 40% brighter), and the reader comes with a free 3G connection for downloading books.

    On the Kindle Fire Android-based tablet side, Amazon has again lowered the floor for pricing with a $100 6-inch model, a $140 7-inch model, and kid-friendly models starting at $150. A new high-end HDX model starts at $380, but has a 2560x1600 8.9-inch display that's lighter than the iPad Air and adaptive backlighting to better simulate the effect of reading on paper. These Kindle Fires run a new version of Fire OS, dubbed Sangria, based on Android KitKat.

    We've pre-ordered the new Kindle Voyage and Paperwhite models and will be testing and reviewing them when they arrive in late October.

    In Brief: Amazon May Launch New Kindles on Nov 4th

    For the past six years, Amazon has followed a pretty regular annual schedule of updating its popular Kindle e-book reader. The past few updates, including two generations of Paperwhite, have brought relatively minor improvements--faster processors for page turning, higher contrast in its e-ink display, and lighter formfactors. We've been waiting for a big leap in Kindle, and that may not come this year. The Verge is reporting that Amazon has accidentally listed this year's Kindle refresh on its German site. Dubbed the Kindle Voyage, it would still be a 6-inch black and white e-ink reader, but with a higher resolution display reaching 300 ppi (up from 212 ppi). A leaked page on Amazon Japan shows the new reader's dimensions and weight to be smaller and lighter than the Paperwhite 2 as well. Still no color display.

    Norman
    Testing: Surface Pro 3 and Shield Tablet's Styli

    Two things struck me while testing the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 and Nvidia's Shield Tablet, devices I ended up really liking. Both are ostensibly tablets, but the way I used each of them differed from how I used my iPad Mini. First, I rarely used held either of them like a notepad, with one or two hands gripping the sides. Most of the time, I had the Surface propped up in its "canvas" position using its kickstand on a flat surface, and kept the Shield Tablet propped up on a small makeshift kickstand as well. They were tabletop computers, not handheld ones. Second, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed using the stylus on each of these devices, and not necessarily as writing instruments. For both the Surface and the Shield Tablet, the stylus actually became a second navigational tool, used to swipe through the home screen and browse the web. These use cases became as intuitive as touch pointing and gestures--still the primary physical for iPads. And it made me think about how much Apple is limiting the potential of its iPads by staunchly sticking to touch.

    Let's start with the Surface Pro 3, which has an active stylus. As I said in our video, my limited digital drawing abilities don't allow me to discern the difference between the Wacom-based digitizer used in the last Surface Pro and the N-Trig one used here. What matters to me isn't degrees of pressure sensitivity, it's accuracy and latency. And the Surface Pro 3's stylus was completely sufficient for note-taking in OneNote--my chicken scratch handwriting looked on-screen like they would have on paper. The ability to manipulate those scribbles as vectors and use the stylus to crop/copy/paste images with annotations made those notes more useful than the ones in my paper notebook after having made my jots.

    But my favorite way to use the Surface Pro 3's stylus was actually as an extension of my fingers on the touchscreen. On the Windows desktop, the stylus became a proxy for my mouse cursor. Even with Windows' improved touch tracking for tapping small buttons, the one thing that touch can't facilitate is a cursor hover. With the active stylus, I could hover the tip over the screen and see where the cursor is before making a pinpointed tap. Even when I had I mouse connected to the Surface, I would use the Stylus in combination with my fingers to browse the web--tapping Chrome's UI and scrolling with the pen and easily still pinching to zoom on pages with my fingers. That complementary use of fingers and stylus felt completely natural. Much like how I've found touchscreens to be a delightful complement to the primary keyboard and mouse interface on a laptop, I've found the stylus to be an intuitive complementary input method to finger touch on tablets. You can have the cake and eat it too.

    The only thing I wish is that Microsoft could have found a better way to store the stylus to the Surface Pro 3. In past versions of the Surface Pro, the stylus stuck magnetically to the side of the device, attached to its charging port, actually. It wasn't particularly secure, and meant that you had to remove the stylus to charge the Surface. On the Surface Pro 3, the stylus has no docking port--only a sleeve on the type keyboard accessory to slip into. I realize that given the thickness of the stylus and the densely packed design of the tablet's guts, there's no space for a recessed stylus dock. It's the problem that Steve Jobs bemoaned when mandating a touch-only interface on the iPad, but not an impossible task. Lenovo's ThinkPad 2, for example, is a hybrid device with a built-in stylus dock.