A week in reviews: 5 - 9 May
May Day Bank Holiday behind us and it's a tech-tastic week full of gadgets. We've crossed the English Channel to take stock of Huawei's latest Ascend P7 smartphone over in Paris, while across the Atlantic its finally the turn of our American friends to take delivery of the Sony PS Vita Slim handheld console.
As the summer sun begins to peek out from behind the clouds it's photo-taking season too, with a variety of cameras on their way. This week we've reviewed two major models, the Canon PowerShot G1 X MkII and Samsung's brand new lens mount NX Mini.
We've also been going in deep with Samsung's latest wearables, the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo smartwatches. With Tizen running things rather than an Android-based operating system, are these second-generation devices worthy replacements of the original Galaxy Gear, or with Android Wear based competitors on their way from various other manufacturers is Samsung missing the mark?
Finally we've been taking a look at the Toshiba Kira, a laptop with a significant specification and gorgeous 2560 x 1440 resolution screen. Is it the Windows 8.1 equivalent of the MacBook Pro or does a hefty asking price hold it back from its full potential?
Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II review
Quick review: Faster, leaner, meaner: the Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II represents a considerable overhaul to the series. The premium build, dual lens rings, considerable customisation, sharp lens and raft of improvements compared to the first generation model see the Canon fill a gap somewhere between the Sony RX100 II and the Sony RX1. It's expensive and bulky, but it's ace.
Pros: DSLR quality images, sturdy build, great new lens, physical lens control rings, autofocus speed and macro focus improvements, considerable customisation
Cons: Super expensive, now no viewfinder for the price, autofocus not ample for professional continuous AF, some controls seem fussy, a bit chunky, widest aperture no good for macro wide-angle shots
Full article: Canon G1 X II review
Samsung Gear 2 review
Quick review: The Samsung Gear 2 offers a whole range of functionality and it is impressive what Samsung has packed into this wearable device. As a watch we like the design, the slick navigation, and the display is bright, vibrant and responsive. But we're left with the feeling that this is Samsung showing what can be done, not necessarily providing what's wanted. The more affordable Gear 2 Neo might be plasticky, but arrives at a price point more worthy of consideration in our view, while Android Gear is imminent and could cause big problems for Samsung's "Samsung only" setup.
Pros: Nice looking premium design, stacked full of features, customisable user interface, great display
Cons: Locked to Samsung devices, battery life isn't great, Gear 2 Neo undercuts price, might be obsolete due to Android Wear devices, sports features aren't executed as well as sportswatches
Full article: Samsung Gear review
Samsung Gear 2 Neo review
Quick review: The Gear 2 Neo is much like the Gear 2 (above), albeit built in plastic and minus the camera. It's also £80 less and it's this affordable price point which makes it a more accessible device.
Pros: Beautiful display, good notifications options, looks good, easy to use, comfortable to wear, reasonable price
Cons: Lack of apps, limited compatibility, wrist flicking response a little slow, average battery life
Full article: Samsung Gear Neo review
Samsung NX Mini review
Quick review: The Samsung NX Mini represents a risk. In addition to the existing NX series, the Mini delivers a brand new NX-M lens mount to match with the Mini's 1-inch sensor. It's a lot like the Nikon 1 series of compact system camera, albeit more affordable - and that's what makes it compelling. There are hardly any lenses available just yet (just two), but the strength of the NX Mini lies in the ability to use it as a compact camera alternative: leave the 9mm lens (24mm equivalent) attached to the front and you've got a solid snapper.
Pros: Stills and video quality, build quality, it’s cute, small lens system, responsive touchscreen, keenly priced
Cons: We’d happily swap the selfie feature for a more versatile screen hinge, we miss the iFN lens features, new lens system is risky
Full article: Samsung NX Mini review
Toshiba Kira review
Quick review: The Kira's star of the show is its 2560 x 1440 widescreen display. It not only looks great but has exceptional viewing angles and this one feature puts the Toshiba of many of its competitors. But its the subtle details that stall the Kira; it never quite achieves on its spectacular promise. The whistle of fan noise can be irksome and the design doesn't sing to the tune of £1300 as much as it could. A little more polish and refinement and the Kira could be a glittering example of a laptop. For now it lays the groundwork to what we suspect will be a great device in its second generation format.
Pros: Fabulous screen, lots of power potential, quality materials in construction, decent battery life
Cons: Fan noise, pricey, small size keys, no discrete graphics, falls short of design potential, lacklustre audio
Full article: Toshiba Kirabook review
Sony PS Vita Slim review
Quick review: The PS Vita Slim lands in the US with Borderlands 2 bundled in for its $200 price point. Here in the UK we've had the Slim for a couple of months and think it's far stronger than the 2012 original. Why? Because the PlayStation 4 is out and Remote Play - using the Vita for on-the-go PS4 gaming - makes for a strong device. However, if you already own the original Vita then there's not much to upgrade for. The PS Vita Slim is a great device that's now stronger than ever, but one that's still somewhat limited in its appeal.
Pros: Lighter, thinner, micro USB charging, 1GB storage, Remote Play with PS4 is great
Cons: LCD rather than OLED screen, no 3G version in UK
Price: £180 / $200 US launch
Full article: Sony PlayStation Vita Slim review