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Google have made a change to Gmail, and we're not entirely sure how best to report it. Read on to find out more.

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The Good Version The Bad Version
Google have added a clever little feature to Gmail this morning, which makes adding photos even easier. If you're a user of the automatic Google+ back-up on your phone, then now not only are your pictures auto-uploaded to the cloud when you take them, but now they can be directly linked to Gmail - making it easier than ever to import them.

The update makes a lot of sense - after all, our photos are probably already sat on Google's servers, and having to search through a jumbled hard disk for them, and then have the pain of uploading them all can be a pain.

The upgrade will apparently work for both individual photos and albums, and should be appearing on Gmail (desktop version) over the next 24 hours during a staggered roll-out of the new feature.


Not content with buying suspicious drone and robotics companies, Google has taken another step towards the dark side today - by forcing yet more Google+ integration down our throats.

Despite the fact that nobody likes or uses Google+, the company are continuing to push it front and centre, this time by deliberately infecting Gmail. The new update makes use of Google's already intrusive "Google+ auto-upload" feature, which automatically uploads your photos to the ailing service without you getting to say so.

Even if we ignore the potential privacy implications (do you really want all of your pictures uploaded for the NSA to look through?), it means Google can claim yet more Google+ activity to keep their "monthly active Google+ users" announcements propped up.

The new feature, which has been viciously inserted onto the Gmail compose window makes it even easier to force Google+ on your friends - you can share photos and albums directly from the service, rather than having to upload your own files from your computer.

Surely it can't be long until Mountain View are forcing us to syncronise our toilet activities with Google+, in order to let us view YouTube videos?

With more of a squeak than a fanfare, last week saw the official launch of Google's Chromecast in the UK. The HDMI dongle, that plugs into your TV, looks set to compete with the likes of Apple TV, Amazon's forthcoming set-top-box, as well as the established games consoles in the battle for the living room. But Google, I think, has one massive advantage: the user interface.

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On paper, Google should be facing an uphill battle. Playstation and Xbox are long established in the living room, and are many, many times more powerful than a little video streaming device. Similarly, even compared to the Apple TV, Chromecast is underpowered - being little more than a modified Chrome OS. All it can do is receive commands from another device, and load up the video streams it is commanded to.

Where I think Google have an advantage is in terms of the user interface. Think about how you interact with other devices: Xbox and Playstation require a controller - which is great if you're shooting your way through a warzone... but less good for browsing content (we've all long experienced the pain of entering text with a controller). Similarly, Apple's TV remote is just directional buttons, alongside play and pause. Roku and other competitors are similar too.

What Google have, which is unique at the moment, is the assumption that 'second screen' is very much the default way to operate. The only way Chromecast can be controlled is by using a secondary device - a phone, a tablet or a computer to send content to the TV. And when it's on TV, you can play/pause/etc using the controls on your device.

This makes infinitely more sense. Now we're no longer in a world of 4 TV channels, having a tablet screen for navigation means we can enter search terms and browse easily - without fiddling around with sub-optimal controller or remote. And it works brilliantly - there's no faffing about with menus on the TV screen and you can find your next video whilst watching the current one, creating a seamless viewing experience.

By using the tools we already have, Google have just created a system that works infinitely better than all of the Kinect voice and motion controls in the world. Of course - the other companies aren't blind to it - with iOS devices and Smartglass and so on providing similar functionality... but none of it is quite so simple as one button in a toolbar sending the video to TV.

The other genius in Chromecast is only just starting to be realised. It is built on an open platform - with Google releasing a software developers kit (SDK), to enable coders to integrate Chromecast into their own apps. Because at heart the Chromecast is running Chrome OS and a HTML5 browser - making building stuff nice and easy.

This means that unlike, say, Xbox apps, it is relatively straightforward to code in support for Chromecast - and given the openness of the SDK, it means there won't be a painful approval process for each and every supported video streaming website. For example, the Xbox YouTube app, and the Xbox Netflix app are both separate apps, that would have to be built and approved by Microsoft separately. By comparison, for Chromecast, YouTube and Netflix's coders just have to tell the Chromecast dongle to load a particular webpage.

So expect a lot of websites to start supporting Chromecast imminently. The SDK was only opened up in February - shortly before the UK release, which is why at the moment we're limited to a handful of websites... but the flood will eventually come.

From my own completely unscientific observations, it appears Chromecast is already selling well. On the day of launch, I went to a branch of PC World to pick one up and the promotional cardboard stand by the checkout was already empty - luckily I had one reserved. And why did I buy one? I've already got plenty of gadgets that can play video on my TV, but for £30? I thought I couldn't really go wrong - as millions of other consumers will no doubt agree.

So expect Chromecast to be a huge success. The only question now is a philosophical one: is the "second screen" the tablet... or is it the TV?

Google's daily Doodle today is unusual, in that is overtly political. The regular special graphics are usually celebrating people who are uncontroversial - birthdays of the long dead and the like. Today though, on the day of the Sochi Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony they've gone for Russia's jugular. The Doodle is a rainbow of winter sports, which when clicked displays a quote from the Olympic Charter - a clear protest against Russia's depressingly regressive attitude to gay rights. But will it make an impact in Russia?

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For most of the world, Google is an essential tool - I know I'm not alone in saying I couldn't live without Google search and their suite of services, from Gmail to Calendar to the dear-departed Google Reader (I'm still only just managing to hold it together). But for some countries - it's a different story. Take a look at this map from Pew Research of the most popular websites in different countries:

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If you can't read the key - red is Google, blue is Facebook and that long orange stripe across the top, representing Russia represents a website you've probably never heard of: Yandex.

That's right - whilst Google over here command something like 90%+ of all searches, with Bing a distant second - in Russia, things are much more competitive.

Yandex is Russia's biggest website, and biggest search engine by a long way - with something like a 60% market share.

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So what does this mean? It might not be seen by quite as many people as you might hope.

Don't get me wrong - Google are still a big player in Russia - Google.ru and Google.com are both in the top 10 websites according to measurement firm Alexa, but for many users they'll sail by, seeing only whatever Yandex have on their homepage. Sadly Yandex, as a Russian company are probably fairly unlikely to speak out, lest they feel Putin's wrath.

Still - it's a bold move by Google and somewhat uncharacteristic. Despite the immense power of being the default homepage for millions of people around the world, they rarely use their power to advocate particular political positions. The last such usage was probably during the 'blackout' protest against the proposed American SOPA law, which saw many websites shut their doors for the day - though Google only went with the clever logo.

It'll be interesting to see if there's any blowback on this from the Russian regime. Though increasingly totalitarian, Russia isn't well known for blocking websites for political reasons (unlike say, the Chinese government - though they do block some) - but a big embarrassment like this on Putin's big day, during the launch of his big personal project? He ain't going to be happy.

Over the next few months, Google Chromecast support will be added to literally everything. Last night Google announced they were opening up the Software Development Kit (SDK) to enable anyone to integrate the clever device into their apps and websites.

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Chromecast was released last year and is essentially a small dongle that plugs into a spare HDMI socket on your TV (and is powered over USB). Once setup, it provides an easy way to stream video and other content to your TV.

For example - if browsing YouTube on your computer or tablet, you can hit a button and send it straight to the TV for communal viewing. Unlike simply plugging your computer into your TV like a monitor, Chromecast will play the content natively - using an embedded variant of Chrome OS - meaning, that you can close the laptop lid and continue to view independently on the TV.

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Until now, the technology has been mostly restricted to Google services like YouTube, and a tiny handful of partners - basically Netflix and a couple of others. With the release of the SDK though it should be straightforward for developers to add Chromecast support to their own apps - so don't be surprised in the next few months we start seeing many other websites and apps support it - which is great news as the Chromecast is arguably one of the cheapest ways to get digital content on the TV, with a dongle costing somewhere in the region of £40.

It's not entirely clear if it is going to entirely open season on Chromecast support or if Google will retain control on who exactly will be allowed to support it (ie: will the more nefarious websites be able to support the Chromecasting of pirated material?), but here's hoping they remain at least as open as Google Play - so that users aren't restricted to a walled garden of Google approved services.

We'll let you know when any significant apps add Chromecast support.

Google have this morning announced that they've bought themselves a new toy: a British artificial intelligence firm called DeepMind. According to the International Business Times, they paid a massive $400m (or £242m) for it. Just what are they planning?

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This comes only weeks after Google picked up another company, Boston Dynamics, who specialise in robotics technology - one of eight similar acquisitions in the last year. What could possibly go wrong?

DeepMind describe what they do as "We combine the best techniques from machine learning and systems neuroscience to build powerful general-purpose learning algorithms." and say that their "first commercial applications are in simulations, e-commerce and games" - and the speculation is that the first applications for this new acquisition is going to be to improve Google's search and prediction algorithms.

So let's put this all together: Google know all about us, including our schedules and our locations, own a robotics company and have now invested in artificial intelligence. If I were Sarah Connor, I'd be getting a bit worried.

Still - perhaps there's a more innocent recommendation. Maybe they're just planning to build thousands of robots with artificial intelligence to prop up Google+, in lieu of any actual humans wanting to use it?

Top Gear's Stig takes on Google Street View

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Google Streetview has previously taken us to all sorts of unusual locations - from the Large Hadron Collider to the bottom of the oceans - and now it has expanded even further, to an airfield in Surrey.

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This isn't just any old airfield though - it's perhaps better known as the Top Gear test track, which is a place that people who inexplicably like to applaud cars go. To celebrate the addition, TopGear and Google have released the below video showing a Google Streetview car taking on the best member of the Top Gear cast, The Stig (he's the best because he can't talk) driving a Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG. It isn't hugely surprising who wins.

If you'd like to click around yourself you can do so here - just start muttering about why climate change isn't real because it's a bit cold today, and the full Top Gear experience will be complete.

Google Now coming to desktops via Chrome

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Google Now, the clever cards that seem to know what you're doing before you do are coming to Mac and Windows computers via Google's Chrome browser, according to reports on the Google Operating System blog.

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Google Now has been available for mobile for a while now - forming part of the Google Search app for iPhone, and also available on Google's own Android operating system. The way it works is by looking through all of the data that Google has on you - your emails, your calendar and so on, and displaying relevant information in a timely fashion through little pop-up "cards".

For example - if you've got a flight confirmation email in your inbox then Google will figure out all of the details from it - then just before your flight pop up with a reminder to get to the airport, complete with routing options on the fastest way to get there.

Similarly, it can do everything from remind you of friends' birthdays, to sports scores to track parcels.

According to the blog, this feature is included with the latest developer-only overnight build of Chrome - nicknamed Chrome Canary (34.0.1788). This strongly suggests that it will eventually be rolled out in the normal version of Chrome used by you and I - once they've finished testing it. Apparently it will even appear as a notification icon on your taskbar in Windows or menu bar on Mac, so you can receive Now notification even when not in your browser.

We're not sure when this will finally go live - but will update you when we do.

This news follows hot on the heels of more Chrome news - in which Google seem to be trying to take control over Windows 8. Couple this with today's news and it certainly seems as though Google have desktop in their sights.

5 Google Glass Apps We Want To See

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Hopefully next year we'll finally manage to get our hands on Google Glass. Since it's announcement it has only been available for developers to build apps for... but 2014 could be the breakout year. With that in mind - here's five apps we'd like to see on Glass!

quick-office-900-80.JPGIf only having a smartphone or tablet to hand is your current excuse for shying away from Office software duties while away from your desk, you better start getting your skiving thinking cap on - Google have announced that their nifty Quickoffice application suite for editing and creating Microsoft Office documents is now available absolutely free.

Now costing nothing to download from both Google's own Play Store and Apple's App Store, it had previously been available for free only to subscribers to Google's Apps service, a subscription which started at £33 a year, per user.

Sweetening the deal further, Google will be throwing in an extra 10GB of storage on their cloud-based Google Drive for all those that download and sign in to the app with their Google accounts by September 26.

Fully compatible with all Microsoft Office files, Quickoffice also integrates with Google's own Google Docs, Sheets and Slides services, giving you cloud-based access to all your files, wherever you may be. The download now also comes with a raft of new features, including the ability to create .zip folders and viewable charts in Powerpoint and excel files.

The move seems to see Google attempting to retain users who may be tempted away by Windows Phone 8's built-in Office editing functionality, and Apple's recent announcement that the iWork app suite would be offered up for free with all new iOS devices.

android-4.4-kitkat-1-big.jpgThe launch window for Google's next Android operating system upgrade has been revealed by a somewhat unlikely source - chocolatiers Nestle.

Following the reveal that Android 4.4's desert-themed nickname would be KitKat in homage to the Nestle treat, tech fans have flooded the company's Facebook page in order to try to glean information on the reworked OS's launch. And Nestle Germany have obliged; responding to one users request for KitKat launch info, a Nestle representative replied "Kit Kat Hi Tim, Android 4.4 KIT KAT ist ab Oktober verfügbar," or "Android 4.4 KitKat is available from October" in English.

The post rings well with rumours of an October 14 launch date for the operating system.

Do Nestle have the inside track on the launch date, or is this merely a company rep speculating based on the same rumours we've heard? Who knows. One thing is for certain though - October is increasingly looking like the month we'll get full confirmation of the KitKat release and likely the Nexus 4 successor it will lead with.

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Today's Google Doodle features a frame-by-frame sketch of Brazilian footballer Leonidas da Silva performing a 'bicycle kick' on what would have been his 100th birthday.

Check it out here: 

https://www.google.co.uk/search?site&q=Leonidas+da+Silva&oi=ddle&ct=leonidas_da_silvas_100th_birthday-2024005-hp

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google-nexus-4.jpgA double-whammy of goodies on offer from Google UK today. As well as being the official UK sales launch date of the company's new Nexus 7, the search giants are also knocking massive chunk off the price of the still-impressive Nexus 4 handset.

Looking first at the new tablet, there are two versions of the 2013 edition of the Nexus 7 on sale. A 16GB model will set you back £199, while the 32GB model is a reasonable £239. There's no delivery charge either (likely to combat the high street stores already selling the tablet too). It's looking a great slate for the price - click here for our full specs run-down.

On top of that, the Nexus 4 smartphone is now down to just £159 for the 8GB model and £199 for the 16GB model, making one of the best bargains in mobile tech even better.

rosie-and-jim.jpgThe UK's canal system, the waterways of choice for riverboaters and creepy kids' TV puppet shows alike, are to be mapped for Google's Street View service.

Initiated by the UK Canal and Rivers Trust, Google have offered up one of their rare Trekker Street View backpacks to the Trust's members. Weighing 40lbs, the four-foot tall backpack houses a 360-degree camera and lets a person carry out on foot what Google's Street View vans do on roads, allowing for otherwise-inaccessible areas to be mapped. It's the first time one has been used in the UK, having previously been used to map locations like the Grand Canyon.

"We're delighted to be the first people in the UK to get the Trekker on our backs - it's fantastic that our 200-year old network is being given a different lease of life thanks to cutting edge, 21st-century technology," said Wendy Hawk, corporate partnerships manager of the Canal & River Trust.

"The footage we get will allow millions of people from all over the world to see our canals, rivers and towpaths, and will hopefully encourage some people to make a trip to see them."

Google's Pascale Milite added: "We hope to help boost the discovery of and make these historical canals accessible to more people in the UK and across the world through Street View technology."

Google and the Trust are hoping to map 100 miles of canals and waterways, kicking off at London's Regents Canal later this week.

moto-x-top.jpgGoogle may be looking to Motorola, not LG, to make the Google Nexus 5 smartphone, the successor to the LG-built Google Nexus 4.

That's according to reliable Android pundit Taylor Wimberly, formerly of AndroidandMe.

"Motorola will release a Nexus smartphone in Q4 (that is not the Moto X)," says Wimberly on his Google+ page, as picke up by the AndroidCommunity site.

Keeping his sources close to his chest, can Wimberly's claims be trusted? There's certainly reason to believe so.

With Motorola now owned by Google, there's a strong link between the two companies, with Motorola now seen as the hardware test bed for Google's grand ideas. With the companies tied so closely together, it's a safe bet to assume Motorola are intimately involved with Google's future smartphone plans.

There's also the precedent set by the Nexus line in the past - Google have had no qualms about shifting the Nexus build duties between a number of companies, including LG, Samsung and HTC. It wouldn't be unheard of for them to shift it to another company again.

And yet, if you look at Motorola's expected product schedule at the moment, it's already incredibly busy. A Motorola Nexus 5 in Q4 would come hot on the heels of last week's Moto X (pictured above) reveal, not to mention the line of Droid handsets the company are working on for Verizon in the states. This one could swing either way.

RELATED:
Motorola Moto X officially revealed: Specs, features, pricing and release date

ASUS, the company Google have signed on to manufacture their own-branded Nexus 7 tablets, have confirmed that the Nexus 7 2 tablets will launch in the UK on August 28.

The sequel to one of the most popular of 7-inch Android tablets, the NExus 7 2 was revealed on July 24, and went on sale in the US just six days later. Thankfully, it looks as though citizens of Blighty haven't had to wait much longer to get their hands on it either.

Stacking up favourably against the competition, the Nexus 7 2 will be avaialble in two configurations - a £199 16GB Wi-Fi model and a £239 32GB Wi-Fi edition.

Packing in a full HD 1920 x 1200 display, the Nexus 7 2, it's the sharpest 7-inch tablet on the market, and is powered by a speedy 1.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro processor. 2GB of RAM also features, double that found in the original Nexus 7.

As well as hitting high street retailers at the end of the month, expect to be able to purchase the tablet direct from the Google Play store.

RELATED:
Google Nexus 7 2 vs Apple iPad Mini vs Amazon Kindle Fire HD

google-play-music-all-access.jpgGoogle Play Music All Access is now available to UK music fans, as well as a whole host of other European countries.

First launched for US users back in May at the search giant's annual Google I/O conference, All Access is Google's attempt to secure a footing in the burgeoning music streaming market, currently dominated by Spotify, with other services including Xbox Music, Pandora and 7Digital.

As well as the UK, Australia, Austria, Belgium, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Portugal and Spain have now all gained access to the service.

All Access works as part of Google's Play Music store, offering millions of tracks to be streamed from the search king's servers. Discovery tools are also included, offering up recommendations on what to listen to next based on your listening habits.

Listeners can also turn any song into a "radio station", with the service intelligently creating an endless playlist of songs based around the artist and track you've selected, with each song hopefully complementing your original choice.

Offering a 30-day free trial to users, those who sign up to the Google service before 15 September will only have to pay £7.99 a month for access to the streaming platform. After that, the price raises to the standard £9.99.

Google Play Music All Access can be used from a desktop PC or Mac, through an Android phone or tablet, or through other devices web browsers. An iOS app for Apple users is said to be in the works.

Android 4.3 revealed to have 4K support

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android-big-top.jpgAndroid 4.3, the latest version of Google's mobile operating system revealed this week alongside the Nexus 7 2 tablet, will support 4K video.

Uncovered in the source code of the latest revision, it seems Google future-proofing their mobile output. While there isn't currently a mobile or tablet running at a 4K resolution, Google's software will be well placed to supports such screens when the hardware eventually, inevitably makes its way to mobile.

Currently, the Android tablet with the highest resolution is the Google Nexus 10 tablet, built by Samsung, sporting a resolution of 2560 x 1600. With 1080p the new mobile standard, it's expected that UHD mobile devices are to be the next logical battleground for mobile hardware makers.

What's potentially more interesting though is the potential for Android to make its way into 4K television screens. With Google TV and the newly launched Chromecast, Google still haven't given up the fight for a spot in your living room as well as your pocket. This new feature of Android again keeps the operating system flexible for any manufacturer who may be considering a smart, Android-connected 4K television.

RELATED:
Google Nexus 7 2 vs Apple iPad Mini vs Amazon Kindle Fire HD

nexus-7-2-compare-top.jpgreview-line.JPGGoogle's original Nexus 7 tablet was the finest slice of pocketable Android you could buy upon release, offering a strong spec sheet at an affordable price. A year on and we now have its successor, the Google Nexus 7 2, boosting the specs and keeping the price relatively low.

It enters a market however now brimming with superb seven inch tablet devices, with major competition from the well-received Apple iPad Mini to Amazon's Kindle Fire HD.

The Google Nexus 7 2 is looking a fine tablet, and the Amazon and Apple rivals have already established themselves as great, worthy tablet purchases. So which should you be laying down the cash on? We put the three tablets head-to-head in this spec sheet showdown as we await our full final review verdict on the Google Nexus 7 2.

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Design
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Apple iPad Mini

Much like an iPod touch but blown up to 7.9 inches in size, the iPad Mini is a real looker. A diminutive iPad or oversized iPod Touch depending on how you look at it, the aluminium-built tablet still keeps Apple's exacting build quality standards. Its dimensions measure 200mm x 134.7mm x 7.2mm, with the tablet weighing just 308 grams. As is standard with Apple mobile products, a single Home button sits on the bottom edge of the bezel, with a video conferencing camera up top. With a thinner bezel on the sides and a curved back, it'll fit nicely into one hand. A 5MP camera sits on the rear.

Google Nexus 7 2

Google's Nexus 7 2 tablet measures 7 inches across (200×114×8.65 mm), and is still built in partnership with ASUS. Thinner and lighter than its predecessor at 290g for the Wi-Fi version (299g with a cellular connection), it's the lightest tablet on this list and is a clean refinement of last year's model. Fitting nicely in one hand and finished with a matte black plastic coating, a black bezel around the screen gives room to rest fingers, without impeding the size of the actual display. A scratch resistant Corning glass display should go some way to protecting the device from bumps and scrapes, and while its casing is built from plastic rather than the metal build found in iPad models, its grip-textured black backing looks to offer the same premium feel as its predecessor. This year's model also introduces stereo speakers to the design, as well as a rear 5MP camera capable of 1080p recording.

Amazon Kindle Fire HD

The Amazon Kindle Fire HD is a little smaller in height than the Nexus 7 2 at 193 mm x 137 mm x 10.3 mm, and considerably heavier at 395 grams. Again, it fits nicely in one hand, but has a slightly wider black bezel than we'd usually hope for. Gorilla Glass protects the screen from scrapes, and though built from black rubberised plastic, the casing still looks good and feels solidly put together.

Hardware
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Apple iPad Mini

Under the hood of the iPad Mini you'll find an Apple A5 dual-core processor, the same as is found in the full size iPad 2, but not as speedy as the brand-spanking new A6X chip in the just-unveiled iPad 4th generation. This should be perfect for watching high-definition video and scrolling through web pages and 2D apps, though intensive 3D gaming apps that run smoothly on the newest full-size iPads may not work at all.

Both Wi-Fi and 4G connectivity is available in the iPad Mini, meaning that even if you're away from a Wi-Fi connection, you'll still be able to get speedy web access on the tablet over a mobile connection. In the UK, EE offer 4G mobile connections, and they're not too outlandishly priced; expect a £5 to £10 premium per month over standard 3G connections.

Two cameras feature on the iPad Mini, a 5MP iSight Camera on the rear and a 720p HD Facetime camera for video calling up front. Apple's imaging technology tends to be pretty good, so expect good results from the rear camera for still photos. You'll still look a pillock using a tablet-sized device as a camera.

Sadly, the Retina Display doesn't make it into the iPad Mini. The 7.9 inch display runs at a relatively low 1024x768 resolution, with a 163ppi. That's lower than all the other tablets on this list, and disappointing considering Apple's pedigree in this field.

Other features include an accelerometer, Bluetooth, GPS and gyroscope, but there's no NFC contactless data transfer option, one of the tech industry's current most-wanted features.

Google Nexus 7 2

The Nexus 7 2 uses a stonking 1.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro 8064 processor, with an Adreno 320 GPU that should allow games and apps to run buttery smooth.

Wi-Fi connectivity is built in, with a 4G option on the way, a point sorely missing from last year's model and a welcome introduction here.

A microphone and front-facing camera is available for video calling, and the Nexus 7 2 now also sports a 5MP rear camera, capable of 1080p video capture - again, a feature missing from last year's edition.

Perhaps most striking of all though will be the improvements made to the screen. The 7-inch tablet now sports a 1920 x 1200 resolution display, giving it a super-sharp 323ppi, making it the sharpest tablet in its class.

Other features include an accelerometer, GPS, magnetometer and gyroscope. NFC connectivity is available too, letting you use the Android Beam feature to touch two devices together to share information and files. This year's model also introduces Qi wireless charging, letting you power up the tablet without reaching for a wired charger.

Amazon Kindle Fire HD

The Kindle Fire HD uses a 1.2GHz dual-core processor. That's fine for basic web browsing and apps that aren't too graphically intensive, but 3D games can struggle to keep consistent frame rates. For most tableting tasks though, it shouldn't be a problem; watching 720p video for instance is great.

Wi-Fi connectivity is built in, but there's no 3G or 4G option here seeing the tablet lose ground to its Apple and Google competition, meaning you'll again need to be near a Wi-Fi network or public hotspot to access web features.

A microphone and front-facing HD camera is available for video calling, but there's no rear-camera. That's not necessarily a bad thing seeing how ridiculous you look taking a photo on a tablet.

A 1280x800 screen offers up a 216ppi. It's not as sharp as the latest Nexus tablet, but it's still a crisp display; colours are vibrant and black deep, making this easily one of the better 7-inch tablet screens on the market.

Other sensors include an accelerometer and gyroscope, as well as Bluetooth connectivity a microUSB connection and a handy micro-HDMI connection for pushing videos and pictures to a big screen, a great feature missing from the other tablets here.

Interface and Apps
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Apple iPad Mini

iOS 6 sits in Apple's iPad Mini, and it's wonderfully designed. While not as customisable as Google's Android, it's easy on the eye and incredibly easy to use; put an iPad Mini in a tech novice's hands and they'll figure out how to work it in minutes.

iOS 6 is Apple's most current mobile operating system. It puts software known as apps into a grid of icons. Simply tapping them fires them up. Apps can be dragged on top of each other to create folders, or spread across multiple homescreens. Notifications such as email alerts and social networking updates can be accessed by dragging a toolbar down from the top of the screen. It's all very simple and intuitive.

Apps can be purchased from Apple's App Store. Seeing as they invented the whole concept of mobile "Apps" as we know them today, it's unsurprising that their's is the most comprehensive offering on this list. Over 700,000 apps are available to iPad Mini users, 275,000 of which are optimised for the iPad Mini. Be it gaming apps, educational apps, photography apps, music or reference, the App Store's wares are of a consistently high standard. "There's an App for everything" to coin Apple's phrase, but its pretty much true, and plenty of them are free too.

Google Nexus 7 2

Being a Google-branded device, the Nexus 7 2 is obviously be going to use Android, the search giant's own mobile operating system, as the base of its software. The Nexus 7 2 brings with it the launch of Android version 4.3, which introduces multi-user restricted profiles, better Bluetooth power management, OpenGL/ES 3.0, and notification access that will let you push content to another connected device - say a smart watch of Google Glass headset, for instance.

Android is a great operating system, and it's here in its "vanilla" version, unsullied by bloatware or design changes that other manufacturers sometimes lay on top of Google's open OS.

As well as the afore-mentioned Android Beam NFC functionality, Android has plenty working in its favour. Multiple homescreens can be totally customised, with intuitive "long presses" letting you add app shortcuts across the device. There are also resizeable Live Widgets available through Android; these are larger icons spread across the homescreens that offer live updating information at a glance. These may come in the form of condensed Twitter or Facebook feeds, email inboxes or weather reports, for example. It's a great looking OS and incredibly flexible, though it's slightly more complex than Apple's iOS, which idiot-proofs all access to settings and customisation options. Tech tinkerers will get the most from Android.

Apps come courtesy of Google's Play Store. There are over 1 million apps available through the store, and unlike Apple, Google are open to more wacky (sometimes dubious) submissions. While this makes it slightly more prone to attracting hackers and unsavoury apps, there are also loads of really incredible apps for unlocking the full potential of your hardware. The standard of Android apps has greatly improved in recent times; whether you're a gamer, a reader, someone hunting news stories or recipes, a photographer or a blogger, there's something for everyone. Many are free too, and few cost more than £3 or so. When it comes to mapping, Google's Maps app, included here for free, is far and away the best solution, particularly in comparison to the woeful Apple Maps.

Amazon Kindle Fire HD

A heavily-altered version of Google's Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich OS is installed on the Kindle Fire HD. Clearly directed at encouraging you to buy content from Amazon's online stores, it's not very customisable at all, and not always a pleasant experience to use.

On the main screen a central carrousel of your most recently used apps, books, videos and magazines can be spun through. Once you settle on one, a row appears below that suggests similar content that other users have bought. A search bar sits at the top of the screen, while a list of categorised sections houses similar content together below that. It's easy to find what you want, though the connected content stores are often slow to load, and don't make great use of the screen real estate on offer to display the information you need.

Despite being an Android device, the Kindle Fire HD has its own Android app store. This is bad, not because it doesn't work or isn't easy to navigate, but because it offers far less apps than the standard Google Play Store does. You'll still get all the big names (Twitter, Facebook, Angry Birds etc), but there's just not as much to chose from. Gamers may want to look elsewhere regardless; the dual-core processor isn't quite up to the task of playing more advanced Android games.

Video
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Apple iPad Mini

If you're familiar with Apple's iTunes store then you'll be right at home downloading movies and TV shows on the iPad Mini. A gigantic catalogue of films in both standard definition and high definition can be both rented and bought from the store. New releases in HD quality are usually about £13.99, and standard definition films about £9.99. The quality of films on iTunes is top notch; if you can buy it online or in your local HMV, chances are you'll find it on iTunes. It's a shame the screen resolution is lower than on a regular sized iPad, though with the screen significantly smaller, it'll still be very easy on the eye.

Transferring your own content onto an iPad can be bit troublesome, as you have to connect to a Mac or PC and use the desktop iTunes software to manage your content. It can be picky about which file formats it accepts, so it may be worth investing in some file format conversion software or hunting down a reliable one online.

Regardless, the App Store has loads of great movie streaming apps, including LOVEFiLM and Netflix. Movie buffs will be spoiled for choice.

Google Nexus 7 2

The default option for getting movies and TV shows onto the Google Nexus 7 2 is Google's Play Movies store. Here you can rent movies, or if you live in the US TV shows too. New releases are never more than £3.49 for standard definition or £4.49 for HD content. There's a good selection of movies from across the ages (though there's a bias towards newer blockbusters), and the improved display of the Nexus 7 2 paired with the stereo speakers promises to be a lush viewing experience.

As well as easily adding your own personal video collection from a PC over the included microUSB connection, the Google Play app store has access to many other video playing and streaming apps, such as Netflix. There are plenty of options for film fans here.

Amazon Kindle Fire HD

Through the Amazon Prime one-month trial that comes with the tablet (usually £49 a year with a host of other benefits), you get unlimited access to the Amazon Instant Video collection, offering Netflix style streaming. Searching for content is easy and the library is robust. If you're a LOVEFiLM Instant subscriber, you also get "X-Ray" features with movies, which hooks up to the IMDB movie fact database and overlays key details over the action. There are less movie options available to Kindle Fire HD users, but what's on offer here is of a high standard, in terms of both titles and the way they're presented.

Also, the speakers on the Kindle Fire HD are superb, loud enough for a few friends to comfortably cram around the screen and have listen. Though not as sharp as the Nexus 7 2, contrast levels are deep and colours incredibly vibrant on the Kindle Fire HD. Visually and sonically, we expect it to hold its own against Google's latest.

Books
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Apple iPad Mini

iBooks is your portal to literature on the iPad Mini. It offers 1.5 million books (many of which are free) and arranges them in an attractive bookshelf-style library. Text can be resized to suit your preference, with books slightly cheaper than their paper-and-print counterparts.

iCloud features mean that if you own another Apple device, like an iPhone, you can read on one device and pick up on another exactly where you left off on the other device. The new version of iBooks launched tonight also offers continuos scrolling as an option if you'd rather read your books as one long document, and adds Twitter and Facebook sharing of your favourite quotations and passages.

If you're after newspapers of magazines, Newstand is your app of choice, letting you add subscriptions to many major publications, automatically downloading new issues as they become available. Many publishers put most effort into the iPad versions of their magazines, making for the most interactive and visually appealing versions available in any medium. The same goes for comics, with a really love selection of apps available for fans of the superhero's medium of choice.

Google Nexus 7 2

As with Play Movies, there's the Play Books app for literature on the Nexus 7 2. It's an easily navigated store, broken down into categories and highlighting new releases or popular collections or seasonal genres. There are plenty of free classic books on the store, while new releases are pretty much a match for other outlets, and usually a few quid cheaper than the paper versions. Magazines are available through the Google Play Magazines app too, offering subscriptions and back issues. They look great, with full screen, colourful photography. Books come in open ePub and PDF formats, which work with most devices other than the Kindle eReaders.

Again, the Google Play Store houses plenty of other reading material, from Amazon's own excellent Kindle app to comic book readers form the likes of Marvel and DC, as well as standalone single book apps.

Reading on the Google Nexus 7 was comfortable, and we see no reason why it won't be even better on the Nexus 7 2's improved screen; many apps offer adjustable text sizes and the backlight makes it good for reading in the dark, though it's not a patch on how comfortable it is to read an e-Ink eReader or regular paperback.

Amazon Kindle Fire HD

Amazon's Kindle Fire HD is probably the best option if you're into your books of the three tablets compared here. Tapping into the extensive Kindle book store, you've got nearly a million books on offer, the majority of which are under £3.99 and many free too. Kindle (AZW), TXT, PDF, unprotected MOBI and PRC files formats are handled natively, and there's also support for Audible Enhanced format (AAX), DOC and DOCX formats through other apps. Whispersync technology keeps all your bookmarks and last page read in books tracked across devices; if you read on a smartphone or Kindle eReader as well as the Kindle Fire HD, you'll go back to the right point as soon as you pick up the next device.

Amazon Prime members also get access to the Kindle Owner's Lending Library, letting you "rent" 180,000 titles for free, with no due dates. You'll get one book a month, with a one month free trial for Amazon Prime with the Kindle Fire HD. Prime subscriptions cost £49 a year, and adds unlimited free one-day delivery to all your physical Amazon.co.uk orders as well as other benefits.

150 magazines are available through the Kindle Fire HD too, including Vogue, GQ and Vanity Fair, as well as newspapers such as the Guardian. Subscriptions are uniformly cheaper than print editions and look great on the vibrant screen.

Storage
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Apple iPad Mini

16GB, 32GB and 64GB versions of the iPad Mini are available, offering a nice spread of storage options for all budgets. However, with the size of iOS apps skyrocketing since the introduction of the Retina Display, you're best to grab the 32GB version at the very least. There's no microSD expansion on offer here either; once you've bought it that's all the physical storage space you're ever going to get.

If you need more storage space, you're going to have to find a cloud storage provider. We'd suggest Dropbox (being free and offering the easiest ways to expand your storage space without spending an extra penny), though Apple's iCloud may be more up your street, particularly if you regularly use other Apple products. 5GB of iCloud storage comes as free, but for a fee that can be expanded to as much as 50GB.

Google Nexus 7

The Google Nexus 7 2 will come in 16GB and 32GB versions. You can of course supplement storage with a cloud-based solution. We'd suggest Dropbox which is free, and offers plenty of ways to easily boost the amount of storage space you're initially given for free too as well as premium options. There's of course Google's Drive option too, if you prefer to keep all your Google branded products nestled together.

Amazon Kindle Fire HD

16GB and 32GB versions of the Kindle Fire HD are available, and all models are well priced for the storage they offer. Again, there's no microSD slot here, so you'll need to supplement storage with a cloud service. Amazon offer unlimited free cloud storage space for any item you buy from their stores and limited storage space for your personal files, though we'd still recommend Dropbox for your own files.

Battery Life
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Apple iPad Mini

You'll get 10 hours of web browsing, video viewing or music playback from the iPad Mini, or 9 hours if you're connected to a cellular network. From our experience with other iPads, that's a pretty trustworthy estimate, and pretty much as good as it gets in tablet land.

Google Nexus 7

Google quote 9 hours of HD video playback for the Nexus 7 2's 3,950mAh battery. That's above average and commendable, though we'd like to put it through its paces before wholly recommending it.

Amazon Kindle Fire HD

the Kindle Fire HD offers 11 quoted hours of reading, surfing the web on Wi-Fi, watching video, or listening to music. Again that's above average and a good amount of time, but as Amazon admits, that'll vary depending on your usage.

Price

Apple iPad Mini

In the UK the iPad Mini Wi-Fi sells for £269 for the 16GB model, £349 for the 32GB model and £429 for the 64GB model. Pop £100 onto the end of each of those prices if you want a version with a 4G connection.

Google Nexus 7

The new Nexus 7 2 will ship in the UK from September 13, and is set to cost £199.99 for the 16GB Wi-Fi only version and £239.99 for the 32GB version. A 4G variant has been announced, but no pricing or network details have been revealed for UK users yet. Even for the Wi-Fi only version alone that's a significant jump up in price from the original Nexus 7 tablet, though still represents good value for money given the spec sheet.

Amazon Kindle Fire HD

Amazon have a slightly different approach to pricing the Kindle Fire HD, offering a slightly cheaper version that pops the odd advert onto the lock screen. The ad-supported version costs £159 for the 16GB version and £199 for the 32GB version. These adverts aren't intrusive, so if you're counting the pennies, this shouldn't be too much of a problem.

If you cant handle adverts of any kind, the ad-free 16GB version costs £169, with the 32GB set at £209. Whichever version you go for, the Amazon Kindle Fire HD is cheap as chips.
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WINNER: Google Nexus 7 2
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Two years running, we expect the Nexus 7 2 to retain its crown as the king of 7-inch tablets. Making improvements across the board, and only slightly increasing the price, it's looking set to be a lovely device.

It's not as cheap as the Kindle Fire HD, and considerably more expensive than the original Nexus 7, but offers a far better, open software experience through vanilla Android 4.3,. It's also still cheaper than Apple's iPad Mini, despite packing in a screen that makes Apple's little tablet seem a little lacklustre.

With a 4G cellular connection now also offered it now matches the iPad Mini in this regard and wipes the floor with the Wi-Fi only Kindle Fire HD, as well as offering a useful NFC option, and a far more streamlined way of getting your own content onto the tablet over USB.

Of course, Apple's App Store remains the pack leader, but Google's Play Store is now of a comparably high standard, as are its media content and books stores. Amazon's App Store really lets it down in this regard, as does its pushy commerce-driven interface, though it still sports the best bookshop of the three.

It remains a close run race though. While the Kindle Fire HD now seems to be falling behind the pack, having an affinity for iOS or Android will likely swing it for most users towards either the iPad Mini or Nexus 7 2. Those comfortable with Android though will find a significantly improved tablet awaiting them in the form of the Nexus 7 2 however.
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Google Chromecast.jpgIt wasn't just a new upgraded Nexus tablet complete with Android 4.3 (the latest iteration of the Jelly Bean flavour of Google's mobile operating system) which Google launched today. Also announced was a new TV dongle, designed to compete with Apple TV.

Called Chromecast, the dongle plugs into a television's HDMI port, and allows users to stream media from smartphones, tablets and computers. It will launch immediately in the US for $35 but international launches haven't yet been confirmed.

Unlike other similar devices, such as Apple TV, with Chromecast the media is streamed from the cloud, rather than from the mobile device itself. The emphasis is very much on streaming clips from services such as YouTube and Netflix via a far cheaper device.

Of course this isn't the first time that Google has tried to break into the TV industry (a move many critics believe is an attempt to exploit TV's strong advertising revenues) . It released a £200 set-top box with Sony which was poorly received.

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Google have a glitzy New York launch event lined up tonight, where the search giants are almost certainly going to be lifting the covers off the much-leaked Nexus 7 2 tablet, as well as giving us our first official glimpse of Android 4.3.

And you can watch it all right here! The event kicks off at 5pm GMT (9am PT), and can be streamed from start to finish from that time in the video above.

Also keep an eye out for a re-vamped Nexus Q streaming system, and likely some new details on Google Glass to boot.

And they may have to make up all of tonight's surprise too, seeing as Best Buy jumped the gun and spilled the beans on all the Nexus 7 2's core specifications.

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