Thank you Mr Mobile Solar Power Charger

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mobile solar charger, originally uploaded by benaston.

I had a nice surprise in the post this week – a couple of mobile solar power chargers from .

At first I was a bit sceptical as to whether or not they’d actually work but they’re great. There’s a decent 6000Mah battery in it so when fully charged this bad boy can charge your phone 3 times or a tablet up to 75%. It’s perfect for sticking in your bag to ensure you’re never out of juice when you’re on the move.

The larger capacity battery takes quite a lengthy 48hrs to charge in bright sunlight but only 8hrs to charge plugged into the wall. This dual charging ability means it’s easy to top it up before you head out somewhere and then when you’re on the move you can keep topping it up with the sun!

If you’re someone who consistently finds themselves with a dead phone, out of juice, you should get one of these here.


Nexus 7 – the new tablet from Google

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Just when I thought I’d decided that I was going to buy the Microsoft Surface tablet, Google (kind of expectedly) have popped out the little nugget – the Google Nexus 7, made by Asus.

What makes Google’s Nexus 7 different?

What makes it unique is that it’s cheap. Really cheap. At $200 (for the 8gb version) it’s cheap enough to compete with Amazon’s Kindle Fire, but it’s got much better specs.

But it’s not just cheap and powerful, it’s also got Google’s latest version of it’s Android OS – 4.1 Jelly Bean, a nifty upgrade from Ice Cream Sandwich. This flavour of Android is quicker, saves on battery life, has a new camera app, better ‘actionable’ notifications and just looks a bit prettier.

And it’s got Google Now

This looks pretty cool. Google Now is s a bit creepy but using your GPS co-ordinates it provides predictive information when you need it so you can be one step ahead.

For example it can tell you today’s weather before you start your day, how much traffic to expect before you leave for work,  your flight information, or your favourite team’s score while they’re playing. The information is all displayed on ‘Cards’ which appear throughout the day at the moment you need them. Clever stuff!

The verdict

It wasn’t what I thought I wanted – it’s got a small screen, and with a quad core processor, the downside is that the battery seems a little wimpy. But it’s so cheap. So yes, I’ve just pre-ordered. Whoop.

Full Google Nexus 7 Specs


  • 7” 1280×800 HD display (216 ppi)
  • Back-lit IPS display
  • Scratch-resistant Corning glass
  • 1.2MP front-facing camera


  • 340 grams


  • 8 or 16 GB internal storage
  • 1 GB RAM


  • 4325 mAh (Up to 8 hours of active use)


  • Quad-core Tegra 3 processor


  • 198.5 x 120 x 10.45mm


  • WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
  • Bluetooth


  • Micro USB


  • Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean)


  • Microphone
  • NFC (Android Beam)
  • Accelerometer
  • GPS
  • Magnetometer
  • Gyroscope

Microsoft launches Surface Tablet – a Windows 8 iPad beater?

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You can check out more flash marketing shizzle on their microsite here: 

Microsoft launches Surface tablets

For a long time Microsoft has focussed on just making the software and letting other peple make the hardware. They faired pretty well with their peripherals and struck gold with the Xbox, but have also had more than their fair share of failures with the Zune and Kin.

So their announcement that they’ll sell their own Microsoft-branded Windows 8 tablets under the Surface badge is a pretty big deal and a big change in direction.

Of course, being Microsoft, it’s not altogether simple – they’re launching not just one, but two products, both which look pretty much the same – the Surface RT, and the Surface Windows 8 Pro.

The two Surface tablets – Windows RT and Windows 8 Pro

Surface for Windows RT is pretty much a straight iPad alternative that will run Windows 8 apps, but not your full on Windows programs.  It comes in 32GB and 64GB models and is set to be priced competitively against the iPad and ARM-based Android tablets, around $300.

The Pro is a tablet and a Intel PC that will be able to run programs too. It’s available in two flavours; 64GB and 128GB models which will be priced on par with Ultrabook-class PCs – probably $800+. But this one I’m not so excited about. If I want to do some serious work, I’d prefer a laptop with all the connectivity, power and storage I need.

What makes Microsoft Surface different than an iPad?

For starters, it’s got a multi-touch keyboard and trackpad built into Touch Cover so you can type really quickly on it. It’s got a load of built in connectivity, HDMI, microSD and USB 2.0 ports so you can plug things in without needing a load of extra special Apple connectors.

And it’s got Microsoft’s Digital ink technology so drawing and writing is responsive and accurate. Sweet.

The verdict

Umm, well right now, I haven’t actually tried one. But I’ve been playing around with Microsoft’s recent releases, the Windows 8 Beta (which I’m a big fan of) and I’m pretty hooked on my Nokia Lumia 800 Windows 7 Mobile . They’re definitely heading in the right direction with their new consistent GUI across all the platforms.

Good hardware was always going to be the big challenge for Windows 8 so it’s nice to see Microsoft taking on the challenge and (like they did with Xbox) making sure things are built properly.

Ultimately though, I think it’ll come down to price. Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich tablets are great and now at less than $200, very affordable. The question will be whether Apple fanboys will continue to pay $500 for their iPads or they’ll see a credible alternative in the Windows Surface tablets.

But yes please, I’d like a Surface.

Microsoft Surface Gallery

Full Surface tablet specs

Surface for Windows RT tablet

  • Processor: NVIDIA Tegra-based ARM chip
  • Weight: 676 grams
  • Thickness: 9.3 millimeters
  • Display: 10.6-inch ClearType HD capactive touchpanel
  • Battery: 31.5Wh
  • I/O: microSD, USB 2.0, Micro HD Video, 2×2 MIMO antennae
  • Software: Windows RT + Office Home & Student 2013 RT
  • Accessories: Touch Cover, Type Cover, VaporMg Case & Stand
  • Capacity: 32GB / 64GB
  • Availability: “Around” the Windows 8 launch (fall 2012)
  • Pricing: To be determined

Surface for Windows 8 Pro tablet

  • Processor: Intel Core i5 (Ivy Bridge)
  • Weight: 903 grams
  • Thickness: 13.5 millimeters
  • Display: 10.6-inch ClearType Full HD (1080p) capactive touchpanel
  • Battery: 42Wh
  • I/O: microSDXC, USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort, 2×2 MIMO antennae
  • Software: Windows 8 Pro
  • Accessories: Touch Cover, Type Cover, VaporMg Case & Stand, Pen with Palm Block
  • Capacity: 64GB / 128GB
  • Availability: “Three months after” the Windows 8 launch this fall
  • Pricing: To be determined


Me and my Lumia
a review of the Nokia Lumia 800

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Nokia Lumia 800 review, originally uploaded by benaston.

Although in the pre-smart phone era, I’d always loved my Nokia phones, I’d become a bit disenchanted with them and was pretty firmly attached to my Android HTC Desire on Android. But seeing as Nokia gave me one of their shiny new Windows 7 phones, the Nokia Lumia 800, I thought I’d give them another try.

Nokia Lumia 800 – what’s good?

So after a month long road test, what’s good about the Nokia Lumia 800? From the outside, it’s pretty. In your hand it feels as solid as an old school 6310 – it’s got a cool curved with a unibody design – carved out of a single polycarbonate shell (so even when it’s scratched it’ll retain its colour). It feels robust, like you could drop it and it’d still work. What’s more, it’s got Gorilla Glass  which means is lightweight, and highly damage-resistant meaning you don’t have to stick any of those stupid screen protectors on your phone to keep it looking shiny and new.

And it’s pretty on the inside too. If you’re at all familiar with the Microsoft Windows 8 or Zune interfaces, you’ll immediately feel at home. The interactive experience is based around sliding screens which allows for lots of white space in design – it all looks very sleek compared to the Android platform and a lot more interesting than iOS. The boundaries between content and apps and contacts are blurred too, with the ability to ‘pin’ anything you want quick access to on your homescreen. Whether it’s a favourite picture, e-ticket or contact, you just pin it on the screen so it’s quick and easy to access.

From a user’s perspective, integration is great across your social and messaging platforms: messages and communication are centred around your contacts and groups of people, rather than through a specific programme. The Windows Mobile platform aggregates your messages, feeds and updates for you, so that you don’t have to delve into all your different apps to stay updated.

What’s more, Nokia have thrown in some good software too – their Nokia Drive app allows you to download maps of the entire planet to your phone, so that you don’t have to use data on the go, giving you sat nav wherever you are. And the Windows Skydrive gives you 25gb of cloud based free storage, so you can access all your important stuff on the move. You’ll find all the big apps that you’ll want have got Windows Mobile versions too  – Spotify, Twitter, Facebook, Evernote, Trip Advisor and yes, Angry Birds – it’s all there and it looks a lot prettier than it does on Android or iOS.

So what’s not so good? From an aesthetic design perspective, it’s all good – no complaints on that at all. But I’m not sure about the lack of certain features. In terms of storage, 16gb is good, as is a 25gb SkyDrive, but I’m not sure that it makes up for the lack of micro SD slot – it’s a major omission that reduces its ability to be your primary music playing device. And one thing I’ll miss on the Nokia Lumia 800 is the ability to swap batteries in and out when you’re running low on juice.

Nokia Lumia 800 – what’s bad?

On the inside, I’m not convinced about the Windows 8 homescreen tile design; it’s too restrictive, it seems they’ve elevated form too far above function. I can see how it would be great on a desktop or  tablet, but on a phone, the tiles (and the persistent clock) take up too much real estate; you find yourself having to do a lot of scrolling. The same goes for viewing all your apps, you have to do a lot of scrolling to get to the bottom of your alphabetically ordered apps; there’s no way to reorder them. Annoying.

I was also hoping for a bit more from the camera, with a Carl Zeiss lens, I was expecting some really sweet pictures – they’re ok, but just a bit average, especially when using the video camera. Hopefully though, with the almost weekly firmware updates this will soon get started. My final niggle is with the lack of Google integration – MSN, Facbook, Twitter etc are all integrated beautifully, but you can’t help but feel that they could have tried a bit harder by allowing Google Maps (and Latitude) and Flickr integration into the platform; those things work, it’s just all a bit awkward.

Verdict – Nokia Lumia 800

This is a good phone though, I like it. It feels like a significantly different from Android or iOS. From a software perspective, it’s got a bit of a way to go but with Nokia’s incessant software updates, I think this is going to get better and better. This is definitely more than just an also-ran platform, the Nokia Lumia 800 is in the major league.


Berg’s Little Printer

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The Little Printer is definitely on my Christmas list – a new, tiny, cloud based physical printer that prints ‘publications’ – your customised snippets of information on demand. You configure Little Printer from your phone, and already they’ve teamed up to get content from Arup, foursquare, Google, the Guardian, and Nike to supply content.

I love things which reconnect the digital and physical world; connecting products to the Web lets them become smarter and friendlier. Paper doesn’t run out of battery – you can stick to the fridge or tuck it in your wallet. You can scribble on it or tear it and give it to a friend.