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blackberry-z10-02.JPGreview-line.JPGName: BlackBerry Z10

Type: BlackBerry 10 Smartphone

Specifications: Click here for full specs

Price as reviewed: Around £480 SIM-free, or free on two year contracts starting at £33 per month

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The first touch-only handset in the new BlackBerry 10 range from the re-christened BlackBerry (formally known as RIM), The BlackBerry Z10 has the weight of a whole company resting on its shoulders. Can it keep pace with the iPhone and Android big boys, and put the BlackBerry brand at the top of the smartphone market once more? Read our review to find out!

review-line.JPGNote: This review is based on our early impressions with the phone during our first few days of use with it. We will add to and update this review if we uncover fresh points of interest, and will be sure to let you know if anything dramatic changes our opinion of the Z10 in the coming days.

Design
blackberry-z10-05.JPGThe BlackBerry Z10 is an attractive, if generic smartphone in terms of its hardware design. A black oblong measuring 130mm x 65.6mm x 9mm, it weighs a comfortable 137.5g in the hand, and has a rubberised, textured backplate on the rear to help you keep a better grip of the phone. A notable bezel sits around the edge the Z10's 4.2-inch screen (running at 1280 x 768 resolution), with the edge bezel used to activate gesture controls that are central to the new BlackBerry 10 OS. At both the top and bottom of the phone are sizeable lips, finished in the same black plastic as the rest of the phone, with a speaker embedded in the top lip and a microphone in the bottom.

Rather than using a unibody design, BlackBerry have opted to make the backplate removable, snapping off and allowing you access to the microSIM tray, a microSD expansion slot for adding as much as 32GB of removable storage to the 16GB built-in, and access to the 1800mAh battery, which means you'll be able to swap out battery packs should you be running low on power and have a spare to hand. On the back of the phone you'll also find an 8MP/1080p camera with single LED flash, an embedded NFC pad and a metallic BlackBerry logo.blackberry-z10-06.JPGThe right hand edge of the reasonably slim phone holds a strip of three physical buttons made of metal, two being volume rockers which sit either side of a central smaller button used for playing and pausing music and activating voice controls when pressed down for a few seconds. blackberry-z10-09.JPGThe left hand edge houses a microUSB port for charging, which can also be used for hooking up to a PC or Mac to add your own media content through the BlackBerry Link software - a pain-free interface for side-loading personal pictures, movie or music libraries onto the Z10. There's also a miniHDMI port alongside the microUSB port, allowing you to display your Z10 screen on a large HDTV. Sadly, no HDMI cable is included, so you'll have to purchase one yourself (although BlackBerry do throw in a free pair of earphones and, quite generously, a nifty red case for the phone in the box).blackberry-z10-08.JPGWhile there's nothing on the bottom edge of the handset, the top edge is where you'll find the metallic power key and a 3.5mm headphone jack. There's also a front-facing 2MP camera up just above the screen.

Looking more closely at the 4.2-inch screen, its 356ppi is breathtakingly sharp, wiping the floor with the Google Nexus 4 (320ppi), the Samsung Galaxy S3 (306ppi) and even the Retina Display of the iPhone 5 (326ppi). It's bright and vibrant, with rich colours. Thanks to high brightness levels, the screen remains clear to see even in sunny conditions.blackberry-z10-15.JPGUnderneath the hood is a 1.5GHz dual-core processor, backed by 2GB of RAM. On paper, this sounds quite under-powered for a top-end, premium device, but in reality serves the Z10 just fine. It appears that the new BlackBerry 10 operating system runs very efficiently - even with flashy fading screen transitions, the handset felt smooth to use and never showed any sign of lag.

As well as NFC connectivity for contactless payments and data sharing between compatible devices, the Z10 also has 4G LTE cellular technology onboard, meaning that if you pop an EE 4G SIM into the handset, you'll benefit from speedy mobile download speeds to rival that of home broadband.

Our intensive testing period with the handset saw the 1800mAh battery hold up well. BlackBerry claim you'll get 10 hours of talk time and 13 days standby time. We'd say these estimations are a little on the generous side, with our battery giving up the ghost by around 3pm after a 6am start. Keep in mind though that we'd hammered the phone all day with calls, Wi-Fi and 4G web-browsing, plenty of camera snaps and video playback, so more moderate use would likely see the battery hold out from dawn through to dusk.

Though a solidly built device, ticking all the 4G and NFC boxes a modern top-tier smartphone requires, the plastic finish feels a little as though RIM are cutting corners, especially when the device is placed next to the luscious design of an iPhone 5. £480 is an expensive SIM-free price, especially when stood up against the incredibly cheap Google Nexus 4, which shares similar specs and a similar finish at a far cheaper £279 asking price for the 16GB variant.

Interface and Apps
blackberry-z10-04.JPGWe've written a huge, 3700-word review on the new BlackBerry 10 operating system, which we conducted with the Z10 handset, and we urge you to check it out by clicking here if you want an in-depth look at the new mobile software on the Z10.

If you've not quite got the time for that, here's a quick overview of what BlackBerry 10 is all about. The Z10 is a touchscreen only phone, a departure from RIM's traditional physical keyboard phones, and the BB10 software it runs reflects this. Using a series of gestures with which to navigate the phone, BB10 lets you swipe from every edge of the display to trigger differing controls. You'll close apps by dragging upwards, access options and settings by swiping downwards, and scroll through to the BlackBerry Hub notifications centre all without ever needing a physical button to press. If you're already familiar with iPhone's iOS or the Android operating system, it's at first a little jarring making the transition. But all controls are intuitive enough to become second nature once you've played with them for a few hours.

As well as a standard app-grid view of applications, BB10 uses an Active Frame view, which pops your eight most recently used apps on the front screen. These small frames are, as their name suggests, active, and offer a glimpse at the information that's constantly updating in the apps they represent. For instance, a recently opened calendar app, when making the jump to the shrunk-down Active View, may display the date of your next appointment, while the music player app would show currently playing album artwork. When combined with the "Peek" view, a swipe-up gesture control that lets you snatch a glance at incoming notifications without closing the app you're currently using, BB10 offers powerful multi-tasking capabilities.blackberry-z10-13.JPG70,000 apps are available to download through the BlackBerry World store, which pales in comparison to the number available to iOS and Android users, but is a solid start for a fledgling platform. Plenty of big name apps are already onboard, including Kindle and Guardian news, but some staples are missing too, including Spotify, Netflix, LoveFilm, and eBay to name but a few. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Foursquare apps come pre-installed, while Evernote functionality is baked into BB10's own "Remember" note taking app. Worryingly, the apps don't look to offer much more than their mobile-browser optimised versions seem to. Let's hope that's not a trend that BB10 developers fall into.

A speedy browser that supports tabs and is intuitively laid out is also onboard, with a great Reader feature that strips the chaff away from websites leaving you with just the text and relevant images. What's less impressive is the Maps app onboard, which offers a barebones 2D view alongside turn-by-turn navigations, but no information on your surroundings beyond traffic information. Based on TomTom maps, at least they're accurate, which is more than can be said for Apple's Maps.

BlackBerry Hub, BBM and messaging
blackberry-z10-11.JPGThe BlackBerry Hub is one of our favourite features of the new BlackBerry 10 operating system, and by extension then, the Z10 handset. It's a unified inbox that pools in messages from numerous sources all into one place, a giant aggregated spot where you'll find any Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, email, SMS and messages from BlackBerry's own BBM service. Accessed by swiping to the virtual "far left" of the device, you can filter the hub to show messages from individual sources (showing, say, only unread messages from a work email account separated from Facebook messages), while all messages, no matter where they've been sourced from can be replied to directly from the hub without having to open up separate corresponding apps.

BBM, or BlackBerry Messaging, has been a standout feature in BlackBerry phones for an age, letting you send free instant messages to other BlackBerry users. BlackBerry recently introduced free voice messaging to the service, and with BB10 the company have added video calling. When in a BBM conversation with a contact, you'll now also be able to start a video call as well as text or voice based messaging. The new BBM functions remain free, making it an inexpensive way to get in touch with pals providing you've got a Wi-Fi connection or data plan to cover the interactions. However, you'll have to have pals with BB10 handsets to take advantage of video calling.

Similarly, BB10 now offers screen sharing, just as you'd find with a remote viewing application on a desktop PC or Mac. With it, you're able to wirelessly share exactly what you're doing on your phone fullscreen on another BB10 user's handset. It looks set to be a great way to collaborate and share between Z10 devices, and providing your data connection is up to scratch, it works with only minimal stuttering.

Contacts and Calling
blackberry-z10-18.pngThe BB10 software onboard the Z10 automatically fills your contacts book with the people it finds in the BlackBerry Hub. This is great a great way of quickly pulling together all your Facebook and Twitter pals, grabbing all their email and home address information, alongside a profile picture, numerous associated phone numbers and social networking feeds. You can of course manually select which sources are pooled into your contacts book too, as well as manually entering new contacts or transferring contacts from a previous smartphone device. It's really nicely done and similar to what HTC have achieved with their Sense UI for Android, with individual contact cards displaying links to social networking profiles (though recent posts are hidden behind a separate tab), with the contacts system even suggesting you connect with a pal if you're both signed up to the same social service but not yet friends on it. You can search through all your contacts, but keep an eye out for duplicates, as the software sometimes fails to unify contact information for the same person pooled from different sources.blackberry-z10-16.JPGThe dialler is a simple white-on-black keypad, making use of large buttons that are easy on the eye and comfortable to tap. Signalling levels remained consistently high, and the phone delivered clear voice to call recipients while providing us with comfortable volume levels from the speaker and clear calls in return.

Media Playback and Gaming Performance
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While you can pop your own videos and music onto the device using the aforementioned BlackBerry Link application on a PC or Mac, the BlackBerry World store is where you'll be able buy new tunes and films.

The music store is well populated and well priced, with albums priced between £5 and £8, and single tracks priced at £1. The film store is lacking many big releases though, such as Avengers Assemble and Amazing Spiderman, while the recent releases that are on offer, such as Prometheus, are far too expensive to buy at £15.99. While the built-in speaker is pleasantly clear and loud and ideal for watching movies with, the screen's sizeable bezel detracts from the otherwise sumptuous nature of the screen. Those plastic lips at the top and bottom of the device do make for great handles in landscape orientation though, meaning your thumbs wont get in the way of whatever you're viewing.

Playback of both music and video is great though. A well considered music app lets you browse cover art and individual tracks within albums easily, with the Active Frame view also showing what's playing. Playing back video has a similarly intuitive library, separating TV shows and movies from your own personal clips recorded with the phone's camera.

Gaming so far has been a little lacklustre bag. While Angry Birds Star Wars is available, the likes of Jetpack Joyride and Where's My Water?, as well as more graphically intensive Gameloft titles such as N.O.V.A. 3 and Asphalt 7, are still missing from the store, set to land soon. We'll let you know how they stack up once they go up for sale.

Still Camera and Video

The Z10 uses an 8MP rear camera sensor with single LED flash that's also capable of shooting 1080p video, and up to 5x digital zoom, controlled by pinching the screen. Shutter speed is fast, and the entire screen can be tapped to capture an image rather than having to tap a specific software shutter button(alternatively you can use the volume rocker to capture a shot). You can also pick a focus spot by intuitively dragging it around the screen. Both video and still image quality, in a range of ambient lighting surroundings were great, picking up details effectively in low-light for still images, while shooting stable, clear video footage.

BB10 also does some other smart things with its camera application, such as Time Shift mode, BlackBerry's take on a burst-shot mode on a digital camera. Snapping a selection of photographs milliseconds apart, Time Shift then presents these photos on a timeline that you can scrub through, picking out individual faces and letting you select the exact moment when everyone was looking their best. It's a little difficult to explain in just words and pictures, so hit the official video from RIM above to see exactly what we mean.

Plenty of editing options are also available, ranging from simple Instagram like creative filters to more advanced brightness, white balance and cropping controls. In a neat touch, there's a preview option that lets you check what an image will look like with any changes before you commit to applying them.

Images, videos and music can all be edited together in the Story Maker application. A smart, simple too, it adds transitions and credits to your curated mixture of pictures and clips, doing all the hard work for you before letting you share the results via email or social networks. It wont cut together Citizen Kane, but it's an incredibly simple way of sharing multiple pieces of media with friends very quickly.

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Verdict:

The BlackBerry Z10 is a good device, but, as the flagship handset for a brand new platform, is it as desirable as, say, an iPhone 5 or Samsung Galaxy S3? In a word, no. There's nothing in particular that presents a massive problem with the Z10, but there isn't anything particularly interesting to write home about either. The build is solid, and expandable storage, 4G and NFC features are often requested by consumers and popped in here, but the overall design isn't very exciting, with the plastic materials used not befitting the £480 price tag. Likewise, the new operating system is smooth to use, has a great messaging system and offers an interesting new take on multitasking through its gesture controls, but lacks killer apps and suffers from some design inconsistencies that can make navigation at times confusing, as detailed in our extensive BB10 review.

The BB10 is worthy of applause in that its OS is ambitious and its feature list substantial. But it won't "wow" anyone sporting a top end iPhone or Android device. And with so much resting on this smartphone's shoulders, that should be cause for concern for BlackBerry.review-line.JPG

3.5/5

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blackberry_10_top-logo.jpgreview-line.JPGName: BB10 / BlackBerry 10 OS

Type: Mobile operating system for BlackBerry devices

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RIM are renamed BlackBerry, and with the company name change comes the launch of BlackBerry 10, the company's great hope for making a dent in the smartphone market dominated by Apple's iPhone and Google's Android OS. It's a unique take on mobile interfaces, and a slick one at that, but is BB10 compelling enough to claw back users from the competition? Read on to find out!

review-line.JPGThough once a major player in the smartphone space, Canadian mobile giants RIM (now re-christened BlackBerry) focussed too long on creating QWERTY-keyboard packing handsets while the market moved towards touchscreen devices. Their outgoing operating system, BlackBerry 7 OS, therefore suffered as RIM attempted to shoehorn touch features into the mix, struggling to populate the BlackBerry App World store with attractive applications.

BlackBerry 10 (hereafter referred to as BB10), announced last year and officially revealed yesterday, marks a line in the sand for the company then, after which there is no turning back. Built from the ground up with touch and gesture controls in mind, it's a "re-designed, re-engineered, re-invented " operating system upon which all of BlackBerry's future smartphone hopes rest. It's packed full of features, some familiar and some unique. We'll be going over the main points in depth here.

Gestures
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BB10 is a touch-focussed OS, meaning that all navigation of the software is controlled by taps and swipes of your finger from the outside edge of the screen. Swiping up from the bottom edge of the screen unlocks the phone and closes applications; swiping down from the top edge opens settings from the home screen and options within apps; swiping from the right edge to the left lets you browse open apps and grid-pages of installed apps from the homescreen, while going from left to right lets you access notifications and messages collected in a unified inbox called the BlackBerry Hub, as well as checking further options once within an app.

It's a mixture of controls that are familiar with those that are new. Swiping down to access settings is similar to what's found in Android, and the pages of apps organised in a grid (showing 16 apps per page), will be familiar to both iOS and Android users. Closing apps with a swipe up takes some getting used to (it's quite easy to do it by mistake when first getting to grips with the OS), but we liked swiping to the side to get a look at our messages.

What's more confusing though is the lack of an obvious, or at least consistent, "back" control within apps. Some offer a virtual button, others require a swipe from left to right from the edge of the screen, some allow for both. It can be frustrating to think you're going back one navigation step, only to realise the gesture you used has thrown you instead back to the homescreen, or simply does nothing. A unified approach to this is something that BlackBerry will have to encourage developers to adopt going forward if we're going to be saved a few headaches.

Despite a few hiccups, it doesn't take too long getting to grips with the BB10 gestures.They're the first step towards setting BB10 aside from the competition, and though there's a slight learning curve for those raised on Android and iOS, it's quite easy to get up to speed with. Sensibly, first time users are greeted with a short tutorial upon first firing up a BB10 handset, and this goes some way to explaining its quirks and unique controls.

Lockscreen
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The BB10 lockscreen by default has a static electric blue graphic as its background, on top of which is laid a few snippets of information for you to check at a glance. These include the date and time, battery levels, connectivity strength with mobile and Wi-Fi networks, as well as how many emails, SMS messages or social networking notifications you have awaiting your attention.

Swiping down from the lockscreen lets you access alarm and night-time settings (letting you switch off audio notification alerts for a restful night's sleep), while swiping up brings you to the BB10 homescreen or list of active apps if you have any open. The lockscreen also has a small camera icon in the bottom right corner, which lets you fire up the snapper without having to scroll through a list of apps first. However, as this requires a few moments to activate, it defeats the purpose of having a quick-launch shortcut here.

Also frustrating is the fact that you cant quickly launch any awaiting notifications from the lockscreen, nor are you offered a preview of any awaiting text messages. There's room for more information to be offered here at a glance.

Homescreen and Active Frames
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After unlocking your phone, you'll be greeted with one of either two views, depending on how you've been using your phone. If you've yet to open any applications, you'll be met with a grid of installed applications, numbering 16 on a page, and spreading across multiple pages that can be swiped through right to left depending on the number of apps you have installed. In this view, BB10 looks much like its Android and iOS counterparts.

However, if you've opened any apps, you'll land on the Active Frames view. It's a cross between a multi-tasking hub and Windows Phone's Active Tile view. You'll be presented with up to eight recently opened applications (showing four tiles at a time onscreen and scrolling down to see the next four), organised by the most recently used sitting at the top. These miniature frames offer a sneak-peek at what's going on in the app they represent, and can offer live information (say, incoming messages) updated as they hit the phone. If you're worried that this is a potential battery and drain, BlackBerry promise that all Active Frames use only minimal power and draw only tiny amounts of data to run. Swipe right from the Active Frame view and you're back in the familiar app grid view.

Underneath both the app grid views and Active Frame views are a trio of static software buttons; one for accessing the phone dialler, one for searching through everything on the phone, and one for accessing the camera. The search tool is particularly useful as it's universal across all functions of the device, letting you search for contacts, settings, apps, notes, calendar schedules, messages and more all from one place. It'll be a godsend for those looking to keep track of BB10 phones packed full of documents, friends and apps.

BlackBerry Hub and Peek View
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BlackBerry Hub is one of our favourite things about BB10. Accessed by swiping through from left to right on the Homescreen or Active Frames view, it's a universal inbox that aggregates all messages from multiple email accounts, social networking feeds, SMS messages, calls and BBM messages.

Swiping to the "far left" (virtually speaking), shows a list of all your incoming messaging sources. Hitting an individual source lets you filter out messages from just one place, allowing you to, for instance, separate out Facebook messages from your Twitter, LinkedIn and email accounts. Opening a message throws it up full screen, with a "Cascade" view letting you drag left to right to reveal again the inbox sitting below. (Cascade view is used throughout the OS, offering different information depending on the app you're in - a file manager for instance could use Cascade view to show all documents housed within a folder while the fullscreen view shows the document you have open).

Hitting individual messages from social networking accounts however doesn't automatically send you to their respective apps. Rather, you're able to reply to messages directly from the BlackBerry Hub. This is a useful time saver, though you'll need to hit an additional "View Post" button should you want to launch each individual app from the hub.

If you get a notification come through while you're in the middle of something else, you can activate the "Peek" view. When in an application, rather than dragging from the bottom to the top of the screen to close the app, you can drag just halfway up to activate Peek view. This shows icons on the left hand side identifying awaiting notifications; when in this view (and without lifting your finger from the screen), you can swipe to the right to quickly jump to the BlackBerry Hub to check the notification, swipe back down to go back to your currently open application if the notification isn't of interest, or swipe all the way up to close both Peek view and the application and move onto something different entirely.

BlackBerry Hub, together with the Peek view and Active Frames, represents a very fluid form of multitasking then. At a glance you can quickly view all the comings and goings of your smartphone, and quickly jump between the information you need from anywhere within the OS. Mastering all the gesture shortcuts may take a little while, but once you do it's a powerful OS that puts you in control.

BlackBerry Balance

The BlackBerry brand is one that has always been known for courting business users thanks to its security and messaging abilities, and BB10 continues this approach with BlackBerry Balance, a feature that allows a BB10 handset to be used for both work and personal use. It's a feature that requires a corporate-activated handset to test (something that we haven't had access to), but we'll describe what the feature offers, and what makes it such a useful tool.

In effect, BlackBerry Balance splits the phone in two, separating work emails, messages, apps and documents from personal ones, keeping all work related information securely locked behind passwords, should you misplace or have the device stolen. BlackBerry Balance is activated by dragging up from the centre of the homescreen, which then presents the option of switching between work and personal profiles, keeping the two completely separated - no files can be shared between each profile, meaning sensitive data stays exactly where it should.

With the growing "BYOD - Bring your own device" trend in the workplace, BB10's one-device-to-rule-them-all approach here will be very attractive to those looking to avoid having to carry multiple devices around at once. You can view the concept in practice on older BlackBerry devices in the video above.

BlackBerry World and Apps
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BlackBerry World acts as the shopping portal for all app, video and music purchases on BB10. Think of it like Apple's App Store and iTunes combined.

It's not the most simple store to navigate - though a scrolling list of editorially chosen apps sits at the top, and a familiar array of best selling apps are listed below, it's difficult to quickly jump to a specific product category that you like. For instance, there's a lack of consistency when hitting the navigation controls - tap the "Categories" button and you'll be presented with options for applications, games and music, but no link to videos, while hitting the "All" button does show video content. The design here could be more economical; I'd rather just have the "All" button rather than the "Categories" button too, especially if the "Categories" button breaks down content into only three broad areas, and fails to even present a whole section of the store at all.

For a brand new platform, BB10 is off to a good start on the app front. Numbering 70,000 in total, big names such as Kindle, Where's My Water?, Jetpack Joyride, Angry Birds, Skype and more all feature. It's nowhere near the hundreds of thousands of apps available on iOS and Android devices (and some very popular apps like Spotify, Netflix and LoveFilm are notable in their absence), but for the most part you should find your app desires covered here.

While the music store seems well populated (at least as far as our searches for obscure indie bands went) and reasonably priced (between £5 and £8 for an album and £1 for a single track), the movie store was missing big titles like The Avengers and Drive, and shows like Mad Men and Game of Thrones. Movie purchases and rentals were expensive too - for £15.99 we could buy the Blu-Ray copy of Prometheus, and get all its added extras as well as a digital copy to boot. BlackBerry may want to rethink this area of the store if they want to take on iTunes, and we'll be keeping a close eye on how they look to court customers here in the future.

What we did like though was the setting screen that allowed us to pick between credit cards and PayPal for our default payment setting. We use PayPal almost exclusively when shopping online, and it was great to see it integrated here.

BBM, video chat and screen sharing

BBM, or BlackBerry Messaging, has been a staple in BlackBerry phones for an age, letting you send free instant messages to other BlackBerry users. BlackBerry recently introduced free voice messaging to the service, and with BB10 the company have added video calling. When in a BBM conversation with a contact, you'll now have the option to fire up a video chat as well as text or voice based messaging. Though it's limited to just BB10 users, the new BBM functions (as with all previous incarnations of BBM) are free, making it an inexpensive way to communicate with pals, providing you've got a Wi-Fi connection or data plan to cover the interactions.

Similarly, BB10 now offers screen sharing, just as you'd find with a remote viewing application on a desktop PC or Mac. With it, you're able to wirelessly share exactly what you're doing on your phone fullscreen on another BB10 user's handset. It looks set to be a great way to collaborate and share over the new devices, and providing your data connection is up to scratch, it's more or less seamless.

Contacts and Dialler
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BB10 automatically populates your contacts book with any contacts associated with the sources you dictate through the BlackBerry Hub. This is great, quickly pulling together all your Facebook and Twitter pals, and tying a profile picture where available automatically too. Of course, all accounts pooled together are optional, so you can keep out those you really call. It's really nicely done, with individual contact cards displaying links to social networking profiles (though recent posts sit beneath a separate tab) and even suggesting you connect with each other if you're both signed up to the same service but not yet linked together. You can search through all your contacts, while adding a new contact is as simple as hitting the "Add+" button at the bottom. It does have a tendency to duplicate contacts though, so you'll have to keep on top of exactly how you organise contacts in your various social networks to avoid duplicates.

The dialler is a standard white-on-black affair, with big buttons that are easy to hit. Simple, and effective.

Browser
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The BB10 browser pops the URL bar at the bottom of the screen - a sensible, easy to reach spot that we wish was used in more mobile browsers. Though Adobe have given up on Flash for mobiles, BlackBerry have managed to nab their support one last time to have Flash baked into the browser here, which is good news, further setting apart BB10 from its Apple counterparts.

Hitting an icon in the bottom right corner throws up options including access to downloaded files, search, bookmark adding and a neat Reader view that strips unnecessary formatting and adverts from a page to just present you with text and images. Hitting the bottom right icon lists open tabs, history and bookmarks.

When browsing, pinch-to-zoom functions can be accessed, while long-pressing on text lets you copy and paste. There's no text reflow though, so if you zoom in close you're going to have to scroll around the page to read everything.

On the whole its a very speedy browser, with pages rendering faster than on the iPhone 5 or comparative Android handsets.

Maps

Mapping on BB10 is provided by default by TCS, using TomTom data. It's a pretty barebones offering when compared to Google Maps, and even Apple's beleaguered Maps app (though it's more accurate than the latter). Offering simple overhead 2D views of maps (no Streetview or 3D views), the mapping app doesn't offer local amenities or business information. What you do get though is accurate directions and turn-by-turn spoken navigation, but it looks aged and lacking in comparison to Google's superb offering.

Keyboard

The touchscreen keyboard offered by BB10 is pretty standard fare, offering soft-keys in a QWERTY array to tap out messages with. Where it differs from the competition is with its predictive text - tapping in a number of letters lets you confirm the the suggested potential next word by hitting the space key, or alternatively by flicking up other small suggested words that float over the keyboard into the body of the text. On paper it's a good idea, but in practice a bit finicky - the floating words are so small it can be hard to read them, let alone accurately flick them to the main body of the text without hitting a letter key below. We found ourselves just sticking to using the main predictive word on the space button rather than fishing out the tiny text in the keyboard. It just kind of gets in the way.

Camera and Time Shift

BB10 also does some interesting things with its camera application. Best of all is Time Shift mode, which acts a bit like a burst-shot mode on a digital camera by snapping a selection of shots at once. Time Shift then presents these photos, shot milliseconds apart, on a timeline that you can scrub through, highlighting individual faces and letting you pick the precise moment where everyone had their best smiles on. It's a little difficult to explain in just words and pictures, so hit the official video from RIM above to see exactly what we mean.

Shots snapped on the new operating system can also have all manner of filters applied, and there are manual controls for editing brightness, white balance and framing styles, as well as crop controls through the Artistic app (itself tied into the Camera app).
Images, videos and music can be pulled together into short clips through the Story Maker app too. It's a neat video creating tool that adds transitions and credits to your curated mixture of pictures and clips, doing all the hard work for you before letting you share the results via email or social networks. You won't be able to make an Oscar contender with it, but it's a nice way of sharing a selection of media quickly hacked together with your pals.

review-line.JPGVerdict:

BB10 succeeds in feeling unique against its strong competition. Though it takes some getting used to, its gesture controls and multitasking chops are comprehensive, and the whole OS flows together well and looks smooth. BlackBerry Hub is a great messaging centre, and the Peek and Active Views work well. The number of apps available is relatively small, but on the most part the quality is good, even if the mapping app leaves a lot to be desired. Media content is a little patchy though with the video store in particular lacking big names, and is overpriced. More frustratingly are the inconsistencies in interface and navigation design. It's frustrating to be struck in an app and be unsure of how best to jump to the area you're looking for next.

This is however the first iteration of the software, and if BlackBerry can move to quickly iron out the creases here with updates, we'd be left with little to complain about.

It's not a bad beginning by any means for BlackBerry, but they're fighting an uphill struggle. Even if you have the best OS in the world (which BB10 regrettably falls short of being) it's hard to convince the average user to learn a new system when they've already got used to one or two others, not to mention the money they may have invested in alternative app stores that will be meaningless here.

It's a promising start, and everything suggests a conscientious approach from BlackBerry. But it's late to the game, and the damage may already be done.review-line.JPG

3.5/5

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This year Comic Relief are bringing its Red Nose Day 2013 advertising to life with augmented reality (AR) technology.

Having enlisted the help of AR app Zappar, people will be able to discover bonus features and videos of Comic Relief's The Fun Raisers, a team of celebrities whose mission is clear: to help the nation do something funny for money.

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If you own a smartphone or tablet, simply download the free app and zap the official Red Nose Day advertising and you'll be taken to a Red Nose Day menu where you can access a number of features. Want to see video footage of singer Jessie J, comedians Lenny Henry and Keith Lemon, Mary Berry, Jason Donovan, Helen Skelton and Miss Piggy from The Muppets? Just zap that! But that's not all. You can also take a photo or create a video with any of The Fun Raisers or pose with a Red Nose and share it with friends and family, and play a game where you can flick the Red Nose at Lenny Henry.

But it is really all about fundraising, and you will also find ideas of how to do so and help raise even more money on the app. Money raised will go to help change the lives of poor, vulnerable and disadvantaged people across the UK and Africa. This year, 2013, marks the 25th anniversary of Red Nose Day which has raised over £600m to date.

Available now on iPhone, iPod and iPad and Android.

This article was originally published on Hippyshopper.

Blackberry Z10white (edit).jpgAs reported yesterday, mobile phone retailer Phones 4u has confirmed it will have an exclusive window on a white version of the BlackBerry Z10 from tomorrow (February 1st, 2013).

To mark the launch, pop princess Pixie Lott will be at the flagship Phones 4u Oxford Street, London store tomorrow from 9am.

Customers and fans can be amongst the first to experience the new BlackBerry Z10, get their hands on some freebies, AND rub shoulders with Pixie Lott herself.

The first fifty customers to purchase the new BlackBerry Z10 at Phones 4u Oxford Street tomorrow will also receive a 64GB BlackBerry PlayBook tablet (available on £36 and above tariffs only).

Our review of the Blackberry Z10 and the new Blackberry 10 operating system will follow later today.


Related stories:

Vodafone and O2 confirm BlackBerry Z10 prices

Blackberry announce Alicia Keys as Global Creative Director

RIM becomes Blackberry

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Today sees the launch of the first mobile network that also helps with conservation, WWF Wildlife Mobile.

The new mobile network will enable people in the UK with a passion for the environment and wildlife to generate funds for conservation projects every time they use their mobile phone - and it won't cost them a penny extra to do so!

The service, in partnership with operator Digital Spring Mobile and Vodafone UK, works on a SIM-only, with cheaper standard Pay As You Go rates than any other major networks and a range of competitive bundles of calls, texts and data. This certainly gives another meaning when talking about 'calls for conservation'.

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How does it work?

Rates are highly competitive; Pay As You Go rates start from 5p minute and customers get double call credit every time they top up. WF Wildlife Mobile also offers great value bundles - Penguin, Aardvark, Hippo or Rhino - giving hundreds of calls and texts and large data allowances starting at just £9.50 per month.

How much will be donated?

Wildlife Mobile will give 10% of the net call revenues for conservation and is open to anyone who has an interest in or a concern for the environment and wants to help. In other words, you don't have to be a WWF member to join the new network and help safeguard the natural world.

How will my calls help with WWF conservation projects?

The hope is that through tapping into something people do every day millions of pounds will be raised for conservation by simply talking to each other. The target is to reach 2 million minutes of call by the end of 2013, all which could make a tangible difference to wildlife:

- A 10 minute call on WWF Wildlife Mobile could pay for six tree seedlings to help restore critical areas of Tiger habitat.

- Just two weeks of regular usage on WWF Wildlife Mobile could cover the costs of a three-person community based anti-poaching patrol in the field for one day, protecting Tigers and Rhinos in Nepal.

WWF's Communications and Fundraising Director, Tobin Aldrich said: "Most people use a mobile phone, so this is an innovative and easy way for people to do their bit for conservation. If you're passionate about the environment and wildlife, it won't cost you anything, to raise vital funds for WWF whilst you use your phone."

To sign up to the new SIM only WWF Wildlife Mobile visit www.wildlifemobile.co.uk.

Article originally published on Hippyshopper.com.

bb10-official-handsets.JPGThe Blackberry Z10 will be available from all network providers (EE, Three, O2 and Vodafone), and in all shops, including Phones4U and Carphone Warehouse, from tomorrow.

The first of Vodafone's '4G-ready' handsets, the new BlackBerry Z10 will be £29 on the £42 a month Vodafone Red Data plan, which comes with unlimited calls and texts as well as 2GB of internet.

It is free on the £47 a month variant of Vodafone Red Data and costs £69 on the Vodafone Red Plan, which offers unlimited calls, unlimited texts and 1GB of internet for £37 a month. All new and upgrading Vodafone pay monthly customers also get as much internet as they want, for whatever they want, for the first three months, with Vodafone Data Test Drive.

For small business customers, the BlackBerry Z10 is available free on Vodafone Red Business from £40.83 (ex VAT) per month.

O2 will be offering the Z10 for free on a £36 per month 24 month tariff for the first two weeks of sale while Carphone Warehouse and Phones4U will also be selling the BlackBerry Z10. Carphone Warehouse will also be offering a limited edition white version for a brief period of time.

keys-bb10.JPGBlackBerry have announced that they've appointed singer-songwriter Alicia Keys as "Global Creative Director".

A recognisable celebrity face to front the new BlackBerry re-branding, Keys admitted to being a lapsed BlackBerry user who had been courted by the new BB10 operating system's social, multitasking and hardware revisions (and, presumably, a shed load of money).

"Me and BlackBerry are dating again," revealed Keys at the BB10 launch today, committing to a new "long-term relationship" with BlackBerry after being wooed by "sexier" smartphones with "more bling" previously.

Alicia Keys' role is the latest in a string of recent celebrity endorsements for tech giants: Lady Gaga shares a similar role at Polaroid, while Will.I.Am acts as Director of Creative Innovation at Intel.

Click here for more on today's BB10 launch, and here for news on the new Z10 and Q10 handsets.

OregonScientificSmartWatch1.jpgOregon Scientific has announced a range of smart sports watches designed specifically for those who want to monitor and share their sporting performances via social media more easily. Two models are currently available: the sSmart SE900 (£129.99) and the sSmart RA900 Adventurer (£179.00)

Both feature a wireless connection for compatibility with your smart phone via a dedicated sports app enabling you to upload data from, say, your bike ride or run directly to your smart phone. They are also both water resistant up to 50 metres.

OregonScientificSmartWatch2.jpgCompatible with various sports accessories, the watches can be used in conjunction with a chest belt (to monitor heart rate) and bike pod to monitor speed, distance and pedal rotations. More advanced is the sSmart Adventurer which also comes with built in motion sensors and a dedicated weather forecast profile using a built in barometer. Whatever next?


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bb10-official-handsets.JPGTwo new handsets from the newly-christened BlackBerry company (formally RIM) have launched alongside the BB10 operating system today. The first BB10 handsets, the BlackBerry Z10 is a full-touch handset, while the BlackBerry Q10 features a physical keyboard too. The BlackBerry Z10 is already confirmed to launch in the UK tomorrow (31/01/13), almost immediately after the launch event.

Today's event saw the two handsets' multitasking capabilities showcased. A "BlackBerry Peek" feature allows users to check incoming notifications while another app is running, activated by a gesture that allows switching on the fly between applications that run simultaneously rather than pausing or being virtualised in the background.

The Z10 and Q10 also make use of the "BlackBerry Hub" feature, a unified inbox for all notifications and emails in one space, keeping social networks and secure email messages pushed to the handsets in real-time. There's no need to launch individual messaging apps to grab new messages on the handsets - all are continuously updated and automatically retrieved (a potential battery drain if it's not an optional feature).

BlackBerry claim the Z10 also has an industry-leading touch-keyboard, letting users "flick" words to the screen that appear as predicted text suggestions, with a swipe-down gesture bringing up symbol keys.

"BlackBerry Balance" features on both the Z10 and Q10 allow users to keep personal and work profiles on a single handset, with security features protecting potentially sensitive files on the work side.

BBM (BlackBerry's own instant messaging service) also gets an update on the BB10 devices, allowing for video calling direct from the messaging app. There's also "BBM Screenshare", allowing users to share in real-time what they are viewing on their own BB10 handsets with fellow BB10 users, similar to a PC's remote desktop sharing apps.

"BlackBerry Remember" acts as BB10's own built-in note saving service, similar to Evernote (itself integrated into the feature), allowing for photos and voice notes to be saved, as well as sharing files from native BB10 apps (such as browser bookmarks and flagged emails).

The handset's camera functionality looks particularly interesting thanks to the "TimeShift" feature, which records multiple images across a number of seconds, letting you slide between the shots in motion, allowing you to select the exact moment you want to save as a still. Built-in image editing with crop functions and image tweaking controls are also built in.

"BlackBerry Story Maker" lets users blend multiple media files (including videos, pictures and music) together, automatically creating a video file with transitions and optional credits from the uploaded files that users can share with friends.

Altogether, the BB10 handsets have access to 70,000 apps at launch, including Kindle, Facebook, Twitter, Where's My Water?, Jetpack Joyride, Angry Birds and Skype, among other leading applications.

We'll have more updates on these new handsets as the afternoon progresses, including confirmed tech specs. Keep refreshing this post for more info as we get it.

bb10-launch-top.JPGAfter a year-long wait, RIM have finally officially launched their BlackBerry 10 operating system, renaming themselves as simply 'BlackBerry' in the process. A bold approach, the re-launch represents the company's big smartphone hopes following years of decline in the face of Apple's iOS and Google's Android smartphone dominance.

Hosting simultaneous worldwide launch events in locations including London, Toronto, Paris, Johannesburg, New York and Dubai, the Canadian handset manufacturer was in boisterous spirits as they sang the praises of their "re-designed, re-engineered, re-invented " mobile software.

A touch gesture-based OS with full multitasking capabilities and multiple profiles letting you switch between business and personal modes, the newly christened BlackBerry look to be courting both their enterprise and consumer customers with a single platform.

"We have definitely been on a journey of transformation" said CEO Thorsten Heins.

"It's been the most challenging year of my career to date, but also the most exhilarating. This is one of the biggest launches in our industry, but today is not the finish line - we're just getting started. Today represents a new day in the history of BlackBerry."

"Hyper-connected socially" Heins described BB10 as a platform for those looking for true multitasking, without being tied to a home button, with BB10 acting as a gateway to a personal "internet of things". BB10 will be able to connect with networked home devices, cars, even medical devices, the CEO claimed.

"With the pace of our industry we knew we had to move our platform forward and innovate," said Kristian Tear, Chief Operating Officer.

"BlackBerry 10 will shake the industry in the same way that the original BlackBerry did a decade ago. This is not just another handset, but a brand new platform that has been re-designed, re-engineered and re-invented."

Will it be enough to rock Android and iPhone dominance at the top of the smartphone pile? It's too early to say. While the software looks sleek, and the hardware lustworthy, it's difficult to say at this point whether BB10 offers enough unique features to best its established rivals. With many tech fans now having bought in to the Android and iOS ecosystems, it may prove difficult for BlackBerry to court new custom, or reclaim lapsed fans. But the showcase so far has been a positive one, and the pre-launch reception so far similarly favourable.

blackberry-world-video-top.pngRIM has beefed up its BlackBerry World online storefront ahead of today's massive BB10 launch, bringing new video content to the iTunes rival alongside music, apps, games and themes for the new line of smartphones.

As it stands, video content is only available through the US and Canadian versions of the store, though RIM have previously promised that the store will open in its entirety to UK customers to coincide with the launch of BlackBerry 10. Probably just a few hours wait until the video store opens in Blighty then. Entertainment content will be initially exclusive to RIM's new BB10 devices too, looking to encourage present BlackBerry owners to upgrade.

So what's on offer then? Nothing to exciting at present - the biggest new release we could spot was Taken 2 for $4.99, while the straight-to-video thrills of Mancation seem ridiculously overpriced at $19.99. TV content fares a little better, with shows like Modern Family and How I Met Your Mother present. It'll do until LoveFilm or Netflix streaming apps launch then we suppose.

Tech Digest will be heading down to the London leg of today's BB10 launch, with the event kicking off at 3pm. We'll be providing up-to-the-minute coverage of all today's launch news this afternoon, but for the time being you can check out the new store by visiting http://appworld.blackberry.com/webstore/.

back-to-the-future-gta-iv.jpgWhat's better than a free-roaming crime sim? How about a free-roaming crime sim in space?

That's one potential idea that's been floating around the HQ of Grand Theft Auto designers RockStar, a new interview with key team members at the development house has revealed.

Replying to a question from French website Ecrans asking whether or not a science fiction version of GTA would ever be a possibility, RockStar boss Dan Houser revealed "We will do it the very second we have an idea."

"One of our strengths is the consistency of the game world," continued Houser.

"We're not necessarily the best writers in the world, but we know how to write a video game.

It's all down to the story though, with RockStar yet to pin down a satisfying angle from which to approach the space-faring genre:

"When we decided to make a Western, it was because we knew we had something to say. We have no interest in going into science fiction for the sake of flying cars and laser guns.

"The best science fiction stories are those that speak about the human condition. So while this idea is very tempting and, by definition, anything's possible in a videogame, we lack the essential thing for the moment: a good reason."

A good reason?? A GOOD REASON??? Like GTA with laser guns isn't good enough reason alone! It's great to hear of the potential for such a title though. With the GTA series now a veteran in the gaming industry, and with new hardware just over the horizon, RockStar will likely be looking now at the possibilities of fresh IPs for the next generation of hardware. As seen with the superb Red Dead Redemption, RockStar know how to mine the very best from cinema and morph their haul into great video game ideas, and the sci-fi genre is full of amazing ideas to delve into. It doesn't have to be a Mass Effect style space epic - just imagine a BladeRunner style L.A Noire sequel. Now THAT'S a game with a good reason.

It's also something that's been explored by the GTA modding community - there's plenty of sci-fi inspired Grand Theft Auto mods for the PC versions of GTA IV and San Andreas, including Star Wars mods and the sweet Back to The Future Delorean you can see in the image at the top of this post.

For the time being though, we're just going to have to make do with a little upcoming title from RockStar called Grand Theft Auto 5.

63673_2011_HW_3_imge15_E3.jpgThings are off to a rough start for Nintendo's next-gen Wii U console. Struggling to hit Nintendo's own sales targets over the Christmas period, the gaming giant has now reduced sales targets from 5.5 million to 4 million by the end of the financial year.

So far 3.06 million Wii U consoles have been sold since the November launch, broken down as 1.32 million Wii U consoles in North America, 830,000 in Japan and 900,000 in Europe.

It leads to a knock on effect for Wii U software too, with Nintendo reducing game sales estimates from 24 million to just 16 million.

Nintendo's other systems, the 3DS, DS and Wii, have all also had their sales predictions lowered, with company-wide sales reduced by 17.3%.

Despite these worries, the company still predicts an end-of-year profit thanks to positive changes in the Yen exchange rate.

"Owing to the fact that the Wii U hardware sales have a negative impact on Nintendo's profits, the operating loss was 5.8 billion yen," Nintendo said.

"As a result of exchange gains totaling 22.2 billion yen due to the depreciation of the yen at the end of calendar year 2012, however, ordinary income was 22.7 billion yen and net income was 14.5 billion yen."

Click here to read our full review of Nintendo's Wii U console.

fujifilm-finepix-s4800.jpgHow much zoom can you get for £150? 30x zoom, according to FujiFilm. That's what you get from their budget FujiFilm FinePix S4800 superzoom camera, revealed this morning.

Packing in a 30x optical zoom lens which offers a 24-720mm equivalent range, the 16MP snapper will let you get up close and personal with far off subjects, and make framing wide-angle scenes easy. If you've got a tiny subject you'd like to capture, there's also a Super Macro mode, letting you shoot crisply just 2cm from the lens at its widest-angle setting.

Built-in image stabilisation prevents too much shaking, even when zoomed into longer focal lengths, achieved by tiny shift movements in the camera.

Wide-angle autofocus can be as fast as 0.3 seconds, while the whole unit fires up in just 1.3 seconds.

Adding to the simple appeal of the camera are auto modes, with six scene settings and a scene recognition mode, automatically setting preferable settings based on your subject and surroundings, alongside as standard array of manual controls if you're looking to get a bit more creative.

720p recording is also available from the S4800, letting you shoot movies, while a 3-inch, 230k-dot LCD screen sits on the rear.

There's a few concessions made to hit that £150 - there's no built-in optical viewfinder, nor lithium-ion rechargeable battery, meaning you'll need to have four AA batteries on hand. But considering the price, it still sounds like a bargain to us.

No word on release date yet, but we'll pass it on as we get it.

CS-N755_top.jpgreview-line.JPGName: Onkyo CR-N755 networked Hi-Fi receiver

Type: Networked Hi-Fi receiver

Review Model Specifications: Click here for full specs

Price: Around £250

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Moving swiftly with the times, Onkyo's CR-N755 Hi-Fi receiver offers a full suite of online audio sources to enjoy. Read on to find out exactly why this forward-thinking receiver should be on your wishlist.

review-line.JPGFrom smartphones to tablets to computers to games consoles, we're spoilt for choice as to where to play our tunes from these days. And with so many of these devices being web connected, there's no end of music streaming and online radio services to take advantage of too. Whereas some home audio brands seem lost in this deluge of networked options, Onkyo has thrown itself headfirst into the new networked era, and the company's CR-N755 is all the better for it.

The CR-N755 ticks pretty much every box you'd want ticked by a modern receiver. As well as standard functionality like a CD player and FM and AM radio tuners, its networked capabilities open up access to all manner of online streaming services, with the receiver also playing nicely with files loaded onto USB sticks or those piped over the air from a DLNA compatible device. Though not included out of the box, you can add on additional Bluetooth and iPhone/iPod docking modules too if your wallet allows for it, letting you blast tracks from all sorts of mobile devices through the CR-N755 too. It's a comprehensive offering.

Though we reviewed the CR-N755 as a standalone unit (priced in the region of £250 depending on the retailer), Onkyo also package the receiver with a pair of their D-055 speakers too for an extra £150 as the CS-N755 mini Hi-Fi system. If you've got a pair of speakers from another brand you're happy with though there's nothing stopping you hooking them up to the lone receiver and saving yourself a bit of cash.CR-N755_front.jpgOnkyo get things off to a good start with the impressive build quality of the CR-N755. Sturdy and stylish (available in both black and brushed aluminium finishes), there's a large volume knob on the left hand side and sizeable scrolling LED display panel to the right, with the slide-out disc tray sitting flush underneath the display. Playback, tone, input and return buttons click satisfyingly in the chassis, while a smaller dial lets you toggle through menu options. Alongside these front-facing controls is also a headphone jack and a USB port (which can also be used for hooking up an iPhone or iPod if you don't fancy nabbing the dock).

Spin the CR-N755 around and you'll find a wealth of connection options including two analogue stereo inputs and a single stereo output, coaxial and optical digital audio inputs, a subwoofer pre-out and a 3.5mm minijack input. A second USB port also sits on the back, presumably intended for Onkyo's UWF-1 wireless LAN adapter or the UBT-1 Bluetooth adapter, seeing as these would likely be left connected rather than having you reach behind the unit every time you're looking to plug a storage device in.

Also on the rear can be found an Ethernet port, which represents our one main gripe with the CR-N755. It's the only out-of-the-box way to get the receiver online, other than grabbing the sold-separately and aforementioned UWF-1 wireless LAN adapter. For a receiver that sees its main draw as internet audio services, we'd have been happy to pay an extra premium for built in Wi-Fi rather than be tethered to a wired connection.

But what a wide selection of internet audio services they are! Onkyo have offered a fine array of tune providers here, including Last.fm, Spotify, Simfy, AUPEO! and MP3tunes, not to mention vTuner which opens the receiver up to untold internet radio stations. Though DAB is omitted, there's little there that isn't covered by this plethora of other services and online stations.CR-N755_Rear.jpgWhat does become a bit of a problem though is menu navigation and text input for these online services. Though all menus can be navigated and login details entered through the receiver's dials and buttons, it's a laborious process. The included remote control is sturdy, comfortable to use and superb for controlling playback, but little better when it comes to setting up the likes of Last.fm. Thankfully, Onkyo offer a free, clean and simple-to-use smartphone app for Android and iPhone users which removes any control clunkiness, making the set-up and browsing processes of internet services much, much more intuitive. However, if you've still yet to jump onboard the smartphone revolution, you're going to have a headache controlling some of the elements on offer here.

Sonically, the CR-N755 is just as impressive as its feature list is long. Packing in a Three-Stage Inverted Darlington amp (the same circuitry found in their A/V kits) the CR-N755 can blast out two 22w channels at incredibly high volume without distorting. A 192kHz/24-bit audio DAC, symmetrical channel layout and gold-plated speaker posts all work together to keep interference to a minimum and to deliver a clear sound, while Phase-matching Bass Boost and Advanced Music Optimizer capabilities mean even compressed digital files sparkle. This all comes together wonderfully, resulting in a deep and warm bass response, dynamic mids and highs that are detailed without ever being harsh and smooth vocals from the default EQ settings. It's a nice, balanced mix, meaning that you'll be unlikely to need to tinker with the tone settings too much.


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The CR-N755 is the modern Hi-Fi receiver done right. Oozing with features and countless audio source options, it's let down only by its lack of a built-in wireless connection. It's only a slight hiccup though in an otherwise comprehensive package, a receiver that sounds and looks as good as it is flexible. Great stuff.review-line.JPG

4.5/5

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office-356-home-premium.pngMicrosoft have today revealed Office 2013 with 365 Home Premium, the latest evolution of the company's massively popular application suite.

Office 2013 and the 365 Home Premium options looks set to be one of the most different instalments of the suite ever to launch. Including desktop staples Outlook, Excel, Word and PowerPoint, it now features online cloud storage and backup of documents, keeping up-to-date copies of files across up to five licensed devices, including PCs, Macs, Windows Phone smartphones and Windows 8 tablets. Documents will also be accessible through a web browser, seeing Microsoft directly challenging Google and their web apps in a space that the search giant has dominated thus far almost unchallenged.

"Today's launch of Office 365 Home Premium marks the next big step in Microsoft's transformation to a devices and services business," said Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft.

"This is so much more than just another release of Office. This is Office reinvented as a consumer cloud service with all the full-featured Office applications people know and love, together with impressive new cloud and social benefits."

Office 365 Home Premium will be available as a subscription service too, letting users access the apps for £7.99 a month or £79.99 a year. Physical editions of the software suite will also be available. You can browse all the options here.

With the software now cloud-based, major updates are expected to land far more regularly than with previous editions of the suite, which have traditionally ran on three-year update cycles.

"This is a major leap forward," said Kurt DelBene, president of the Microsoft Office Division.

"People's needs change rapidly and Office 365 Home Premium will change with them."

The subscription deal is sweetened further with 20GB of SkyDrive storage a month, 60 minutes of international Skype calling credit, with the voice and video calling application making its debut as an Office suite app following Microsoft's purchase of the company back in May 2011.

Click here to check out the Microsoft Office website and grab a 30-day free trial.

ipad-4-gen.jpgApple have confirmed that a new iPad 4 model with 128GB of storage is on its way.

Doubling the previous 64GB storage high that Apple's iPads offered, Apple are looking to court not only consumers with large movie and app libraries (libraries that have grown considerably since the introduction of Retina resolution apps), but also enterprise users and creatives, be they medical personnel saving X-rays to the device, designers working with sizeable 3D CAD projects or musicians crafting the next perfect pop song.

"It's clear that customers around the world love their iPads, and everyday they are finding more great reasons to work, learn and play on their iPads rather than their old PCs," said Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing.

"With twice the storage capacity and an unparalleled selection of over 300,000 native iPad apps, enterprises, educators and artists have even more reasons to use iPad for all their business and personal needs."

Other than the storage space increase though it is business as usual for the iPad 4, sharing the same specs as models with smaller storage capacities. The tablet line last saw an unexpected update land in October 2012.

The 128GB iPad 4 will hit stores on Tuesday 5 February, in black or white. Expect to pay $799 (US), £639 (UK) for the iPad with Wi-Fi model and $929 (US) and £739 (UK) for the iPad with Wi-Fi + Cellular model.

Bought a new iPad? Here are the top thirty apps to download first

nikon-coolpix-p520.jpgTwo new superzoom bridge cameras from Nikon will be snooping their way onto paparazzi wish-lists following today's unveiling of the Nikon Coolpix P520 and Coolpix L820.

Looking first at the P520, it's an 18MP snapper using a BSI CMOS sensor, with a whopping 42x optical zoom lens.

Featuring advanced lens-shift vibration reduction, the P520 offers both full manual and semi-automatic modes. Auto HDR shooting combines two shots at different exposures for richer colours and contrast, while a high speed shooting mode lets you capture 10 images at seven frames per second at a full resolution, or 30 shots at full resolution at one image per second. 99 point Autofocus is included, along with subject tracking auto focus.

On the rear of the camera sits a 3.2 inch 921k dot LCD screen that can tilt and twist for shooting at awkward angles, and the camera also offers full HD video recording along with GPS tracking. An option Wi-Fi dongle for beaming snaps to a smartphone or tablet will also be available at launch.

Expect to pay £399.99 when the P520 launches in February.

Moving on to the Coolpix L820, it's a 30x superzoom aimed more at casual photographers. It features a 16MP backlit CMOS sensor with a 3 inch rear LCD screen, and is designed for easy point-and-shoot image capture thanks to Easy Auto modes and automatic blur and shake compensation.

Portrait mode captures photos when subjects smiles and avoids shooting when a subject blinks, but those smiles may be a little hard to come by considering the L820 is powered by four AA batteries. No word on pricing or availability for the L820 yet, but we'll keep you posted.

iPhone-5-official-12-thumb.pngApple have updated their mobile iOS software for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad to version 6.1, bringing a few slight improvements to the finger-friendly operating system.

iOS 6.1's headlining feature is its improved LTE capabilities, adding 36 additional iPhone carriers and 23 additional iPad carriers with superfast mobile data speeds. EE users (the only network in the UK offering 4G speeds) may find their connection a little more reliable as a result.

Elsewhere, the update brings a handful of minor security tweaks and some improvements to iTunes Match and Siri, including the ability to book cinema tickets using just your voice.

"300 million iPhone, iPad and iPod touch devices on iOS 6 in just five months, it may be the most popular new version of an OS in history," said Philip Schiller, Apple's SVP of Worldwide Marketing.

"iOS 6.1 brings LTE support to more markets around the world, so even more users can enjoy ultrafast Safari browsing, Facetime video calls, iCloud services, and iTunes and App Store downloads."

iOS 6.1 is compatible with iPhone 5, iPhone 4S, iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, iPad (third and fourth generation), iPad mini, iPad 2 and iPod Touch (fourth and fifth generation).

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Anyone catch sight of a too-rude-to-be-named Tubmlr doing the rounds recently, highlighting the empty buzzword-driven culture of agencies? It's pretty hilarious. When you're claiming to be the "apex predator of creative synergy" or "the unicorn of brain harmony" we're going to call BS.

You can stuff your wordplay. We want data. And Adobe want it too. They've put together this short, funny "Metrics not Myths" clip promoting their Adobe Marketing Cloud service, which offers a complete suite of analytics, social, advertising, targeting and web experience management solutions for digital marketeers, with real-time updates on the reach of your campaigns. No more "viral" claims, just the cold, hard numeric facts of your success.

It sure beats having the bull shocked out of you as in the video above! Hit play to give it a look."

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