Tag Archive | "lumia"

Discounted Lumia 950 XL is not enough. Analysis and LumiaBook proposal.

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The Lumia 950 XL is 400 Euro in Europe now and offers a lot of hardware and features for the money but is it worth buying or should you completely ignore it? My analysis says ‘move on’ as I struggle to find any type of target customer – and that includes cameraphone fans. What next for Lumia and Windows Mobile? The LumiaBook?

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What can you do with Continuum on the Lumix 950 XL? (Detailed test.)

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Continuum on the Lumia 950 LX is a bit awkward. You think you’re actually using Windows 10 desktop and then the bits of the UI you were expecting aren’t there. Neither are floating apps, Gigabit Ethernet USB dongle support and, the one that keeps catching me out, my taskbar with the Google Chrome icon. It’s not that fast either but here I am. on a Lumia 950 XL connected to my full HD screen, keyboard and mouse via the  docking station writing this article. I’m using the Edge browser access my WordPress back-end and it’s not bad. I’m writing without any sort of latency between key-press and characters appearing on the screen and I feel like I’m using a desktop quality browser. Here, let me grab a screenshot using the Windows key and the Print Screen button on my USB-connected keyboard.

That screenshot was as easy as it is on a Windows PC. As I move to try to right-click on the suggested word corrections I’m met with a block. I can’t find any way to auto-correct the underlined words and now I’m annoyed. Oh wait, there they are, showing up on the bottom of the phone screen, way out of my view and absolutely useless as I have to take a hand off the keyboard to use them.

It’s things like this that will really annoy the average Windows 10 user trying to get to grips with Continuum and that’s not all. Consider the 950 XL, one of the most powerful smartphones on the market, as a poor performer when it comes to desktop operations. Expectations are high as you communicate through what you think is Windows 10 desktop but when things slow down, you feel like you’re on a 2010 netbook. As I start-up Groove Music and Twitter the experience degrades to frustrating. The scroll button on the mouse has stopped working, my background music has stopped too. Groove Music crashed.

I’m using Windows 10 version 10.0.10586 here and I don’t really know if its Windows 10 that’s the problem or the Lumia 950 XL which was heavily criticized for instability when it launched. I’ll carry on. I’ll continue to work through a number of ‘situations’ and report as I go along.

YouTube (Via Edge browser.)

Before I start I save my draft here and check my Internet speed via Speedtest which downloads easily through the Store. It doesn’t open on my desktop screen as it doesn’t support Continuum but having the phone as a second screen allows me to continue writing here as it performs the test. 15 Mbps down, 5 Mbps up. No issues there. Big Buck Bunny at 1080p is quick to load and quick to reach a full buffer and 1080 playback resolution. Perfect. Searching on the YouTube website is quick. The 1080p 60 fps version works smoothly too. At the end of the test I feel like I’m on a slow laptop with a good video decoder, a bit like the experience you get on the cheap Windows 10 tablets, which, it has to be mentioned, are cheaper than this Lumia 950 XL

Google Docs (Via Edge Browser)

As I access Google Docs everything looks OK. I switch quickly between two docs and the web app stops responding. It’s crashed the tab. I try again and discover that the trick is to wait until the document is completely loaded before trying to edit. That can take 10-20 seconds which isn’t good if you’ve got something you want to edit.

Powerpoint with Groove Music

I’m using the Powerpoint Mobile and Groove Music apps and editing a recent Powerpoint. Editing works smoothly (smoother than I expected) as does sideshow playback. Success, at least in this short test. I assume Excel and Word Mobile will work without performance issues on smaller files.

Lumia 950 XL heat.

A quick heat check at this stage reveals something more than skin temperature. It’s getting warm under the 950 XL. I wish I had access to task manager to check CPU usage but that’s not possible. Groove and Tweetium are still running in the background.

Google Analytics.

This very heavy web-based application works well. It’s slower than on my Ultrabook but still usable; possibly faster than a Windows 10 tablet. Impressive. Groove Music still running in the background.

Photo Editing.

I have some problems here. The built-in editing apps don’t support Continuum so my only choice is to pick up the phone and edit using apps there. I try OneDrive in the browser but it’s slow. I give up with the ‘not responding’ tab. This is a big disappointment that I’ll have to track, unless you have tips.

Radio Streaming.

I’m so pleased that TuneIn have finally updated their Windows Store radio streaming app. The old one was broken in a big way but the new one works well. 100% success as I access my favorite streams. 7 streams from my playlist worked quickly and fuss-free.

News reading.

I’ve had some issues with the Bing News app in the past but the curation in my region (English, UK) has improved recently. Nextgen, my choice for RSS feeds, doesn’t work on Continuum. I switch to my Google News account and it’s smoother than I expect.

My apps that don’t work.

I have 71 apps on my Lumia 950 XL. 30 of those don’t support Continuum but of the 41 apps that support continuum only 7 are third-party apps and only 3 of those (TuneIn, Xing and Tweetium) are apps that I believe are truly independant of Microsoft’s partnerships and subsidies. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, for example, are apps that are likely to have been supported by Microsoft. Note that Netflix does not work in Continuum mode. Even Microsoft’s Skype doesn’t work in Continuum although I admit there’s an issue of camera positioning there.

Gaming in Continuum

The only game I’ve downloaded so far is Asphalt 8 Airborne and that doesn’t work on the big screen. As I write this I’m downloading games…

Only three of the top ten games in the Store are PC capable. Candy Crush Soda Saga, one of the ‘PC games’ works on the big screen, the others don’t. There’s no ‘Continuum Enabled’ section of the Store and if you search for “continuum” you’ll find one company, Academ Media, dominating the search results due to titles that include the word ‘continuum’. The games I tried worked but were very basic. Some were fun and at least it’s an indication that someone is working on Continuum-enabled games.

I conclude here with one major recommendation to Microsoft – You need to include a Continuum-enabled filter in the Store.

 

I’m now 2 hours into this article and the Microsoft 950 XL isn’t any warmer than it was an hour ago. It’s being charged as it provides data through the USB-C port and this WordPress browser tab on Edge is stable and working well. No problems with Edge. I noticed some latency as I downloaded a series of 20+ apps but that’s to be expected on this low-end PC.

As I finalise this article everything appears to have locked up. Wait…it’s back. Mouse scrolling wasn’t working and that’s something that has happened again and again through this test across the browser and across Windows Store apps but…

Summary of Continuum.

In my 3 hour test Windows Continuum and Continuum enabled apps worked well. I was really, really annoyed at the lack of photo-editing ability and surprised that Microsoft hasn’t enabled a ‘Continuum enabled’ section in the Windows Store. I was annoyed at the lack of split-screen Continuum apps and, Microsoft, I don’t want to be looking at my phone as part of my desktop UI.

Windows 10 has, in general, a big problem with app quantity and quality and it’s very obvious in Continuum mode where popular apps don’t work.

Final note: I could not find a way to upload camera images via SD card to the 950 XL. These images were uploaded via the WordPress website and it took way too long. Everything you see, however, was created using the Lumia 950 XL in Continuum mode on a Full HD screen with USB keyboard and mouse. It wasn’t a barrier-free experience but faster and smoother than I had expected.

There’s SO MUCH POTENTIAL here but, alas, SO FEW APPS. Performance is easy to solve, The app problem is a bigger one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quad-cores and Windows Mobile. My kit-list, March 2016.

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I’ve been busy. I’ve just uploaded the 60th review for Notebookcheck and I now have to admit that exposure to high-end laptops and high-end smartphones has had an effect on how I approach ultra-mobile PCs.  My work processes have changed too so I now use a slightly different range of computers than I did one year ago. Mobility plays an important part, there’s a Chromebook in the list and I’m still using Windows Mobile, despite being so, so tempted to buy a Sony Xperia Z5.

Here’s my current kit-list. I’d love to hear about yours, and your usage scenario, in the comments below.

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Testing Windows 10 Continuum over Miracast…on a very big screen! Video Demo.

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Testing Windows 10 Continuum has been something I’ve wanted to do since, well, the second it was announced. Today I got to play with the Microsoft Lumia 950 XL and I took the opportunity to get it running over Miracast for a completely wireless Windows 10 Mobile, extended screen experience. For someone like me, interested in highly integrated mobile computers, this was a groundbreaking moment.

Testing Continuum over Miracast. (Video below.)

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Combining Win10, UWP, OneDrive, Continuum, ARM and Intel in one productive demo.

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I demonstrated an interesting setup at an event in Germany this week. It’s a PowerPoint presentation created on an Intel Compute Stick. It’s updated to Windows 10 and running Office Mobile. OneDrive keeps multiple devices in sync and Miracast is used for the presentation. I’ve reproduced the demo in a video below.

Two ‘PCs’ and a wireless receiver.

The Powerpoint app also runs on an Ultrabook and gets updated live after editing on the Compute Stick. I then take a Windows 10 Mobile Lumia (a cheap one) and cast the same file, using the same Windows 10 app, to a big screen. It’s a complex demo but it’s a really interesting one because it shows that you can indeed get productive with a low-end Atom-based stick using Windows 10 Universal apps. It also shows what is going to be possible with Windows 10 Mobile phones when Continuum is available. You might not need the PC at all!

Miracast is used for the wireless display from the phone but with Continuum-enabled phones you’ll also get HDMI or DisplayPort over a USB-C connector. You could also substitute the phone for a pen-enabled tablet if you wanted to annotate. Again, Miracast would be possible if you wanted untethered use.

Universal Apps, cloud-sync and Continuum are going to enable some interesting usage models. Watch the video and let me know your thoughts below.

Devices used:

  • Intel Compute Stick upgraded to Windows 10 (€120)
  • Logitec K400 wireless USB keyboard with trackpad (€30)
  • Actiontec Screenbeam Pro updated to V1.3.4.0 firmware (€60)
  • Lumia 830 running Windows 10 (beta) (€250)
  • Microsoft Powerpoint Mobile. Free.
  • OneDrive cloud-based storage. Free.

UWP and Continuum update. Will current Lumia phones work?

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After learning that the Amtran barebones laptop had been used on-stage at BUILD this year I tracked down the relevant presentation and am pleased that I did.  There’s some really good information about Continuum in there along with some excellent demos.  Important things to note are the Miracast continuum demo, which doesn’t need a physical video connector, and the projection mode, again, something that Miracast is perfect for.  There’s also a Continuum control application that works as a touchpad for a remote screen.

Microsoft already have a set of UWP apps that are available via PCs but as soon as Windows 10 hits smartphones there’s going to be an opportunity to enjoy a new type of ultramobile computing…or is there? Indications are that new smartphone hardware is needed to enable Continuum features.

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Think about the Continuum Laptop.

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Last week I wrote about the Universal Windows Platform (UWP) and how it could drive adoption of the Windows 10 Mobile ‘smartphone’ as a core computing device for all consumer needs, whatever the screen-size or input method. The Lumia 950 rumor and that image of the USB-C dock brought back memories of the Continuum demo at BUILD 2015 and it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see that extending into barebones laptops driven by Windows 10 Mobile devices. At IFA I saw another interesting accessory. It’s not a smartbook but could be a smartphone-book. A phab-book perhaps. OK, I’m still working on the name!

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Lumia 950, UWP and Continuum. Mind-blowing potential.

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Ultramobile computing fans, we have an ARM-based ‘phone’ product here that we need to watch very carefully. The Lumia 950 and 950 XL are likely to be the first Continuum-showcase Windows 10 phones. If you don’t know what Continuum is yet, see this post. The Lumia 950 will connect to a screen via USB-C, while charging, and allow you to run those Universal Apps as large screen optimized experiences. This is what the Universal Windows Platform (UWP) is all about and if developers see the potential here then the apps could really start to flow. Here are my thoughts.

You’re looking at a phone with hidden talent. To distill my explanation into a picture, look at this…

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The $500 do-it-all Mobile Computing Kit. (Acer E11 and Lumia 830 tested.)

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Over the last three weeks I’ve been working with three laptops and a number of phones while travelling across the width of Europe. I sit down here now with just two items. The Nokia Lumia 830 and the Acer E11 are the perfect low-cost partnership for multimedia reporting, weighs just 1500 grams including cables and, thanks to Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, work very well together. The total cost of the setup is just $500.

I had a feeling that the Nokia 830 and the Acer E11 would be perfect for the job I’ve done over the last three weeks. I’ve trained young journalists in Ukraine where their  monthly salary is just $200 and they can afford a low-cost laptop once every 4 years on average. They need to be mobile, connected, secure and multimedia capable and their old netbooks, some even running Windows XP, are due for an update. Chromebooks aren’t capable enough for these journalists so the best option is an 11.6-inch Windows laptop. For images, audio and video the only entry-level option is the Lumia 830.  I also had a Lumia 930 with me but it’s too high-end for the target audience and the quality of the photo/videography on the still 830 beats much of what is used from their existing smartphones. Android is popular mainly due to having the best choice of chat and social networking apps but the Lumia 830 offers all that they need. I also had a Surface Pro 3 and a Chromebook with me but neither of those fits the bill. While the Chromebook is the best option for writing articles from a public hotspot (with HTTPS Everywhere and the Zenmate extension turned on) it can’t handle local image management very well. It’s a no-go when it comes to video too. While the Lumia 830 can trim, sequence and re-encode video clips it’s highly possible that the modern journalist needs more. PGP email encryption and Pidgin Messenger with OTR are also no-go areas on a Chromebook.

This low-cost setup isn’t just about low-income mobile reporters though because it’s a capable set of equipment. It’s simply at a price bracket that wasn’t possible a year ago so it opens up mobile computing to a huge range of people including students, low-income families and people, like myself, that don’t like to overspend on equipment. At about $20 per month over a 2-year period, this $500 setup is something that can even be a secondary ‘on the road’ kit for those that don’t want to be taking their $2000 setup with them. It’s a holiday kit, a train kit, an exhibition kit and training course kit.

Nokia Lumia 830

I’ve been very impressed with the Lumia 830 over the last three weeks. The image and video quality is excellent even if it has noticeably lower quality than the Lumia 925 or 1020 that I’ve also had. There’s a little light bleeding and flaring from off-frame light sources in some cases but the colors seem quite honest and it’s more than good enough for online usage. The flash is slightly lacking so for low-light photography the 1020 would be better but having said that, I was quite happy with the results I had in low-light without flash.

 

Daylight images are also good enough for publication…

And here’s an HDR Photo Camera application shot…

 

Audio quality is good from the microphones and video stability is impressive thanks to the optical stabilizer – a unique feature at this price which makes the Lumia 830 the best full-HD smartphone video camera there is, in my opinion.

Phone reception is spot-on and, once I had tweeked a few settings, I was getting 36-48 hours out of a charge which is better than my Lumia 1020 did. Performance is good  and I had no problems with Web browsing speeds although the sunspider 1.0.2 scores are not class-leading at 1200 ms. Sizing is perfect for me and I like the removable battery and accessable MicroSD card slot. The snap-on rear cover is a little fidgety though.

One area where the Lumias score highly is in mapping and nvaigation. Offline maps are perfect for mobile users without continuous data availability and Here Maps came into its own while checking that our driver was taking a direct route between towns that we visited during our training in Ukraine. Points of interest appeared to be reasonably up to date.

When using public WiFi I like to make use of a VPN service. I’ve used HideIPVPN’s UK  tunnel service and it’s been great. VPNs aren’t stable on this Windows Phone 8 however. I often saw lock-ups while trying to reconnect to WiFi with VPN enabled although once it was working it was stable. Other aspects of security and privacy are controllable but it’s difficult to find all the setting hidden in the Windows 8.1 phone operating system.

I used the OneDrive photo sync capability on Windows 8 Phone and it integrates well with OneDrive usage on Windows 8 laptops meaning you don’t have to connect the phone to get photos once you’ve had enough internet connectivity for images to synchronize. Bluetooth file transfer works well for the occasional shot too and of course you can always connect the USB cable if you need to. It’s that flexibility that helps make Windows a bit more useful than Chromebooks in some situations.

Overall I am really happy with the level of value, performance and quality available from the Lumia 830 and Windows 8 Phone. Prices are around $380 in the USA but much cheaper in the EU with prices in some countries lower than 300 Euro (250 Euro for businesses that don’t pay value-added tax.) UK prices are a little high now at 270 pounds but I expect this to drop to euro pricing levels soon. The Lumia 925 is also dropping in price but given that future operating system updates may not reach that one (consider Windows Phone 10 in 2015) the Lumia 830 is probably the better choice.

Acer Aspire E11 (ES1-111M)

The Lumia 830 was launched as a ‘budget flagship’ phone but the Acer Aspire E11 is nothing more than an entry-level Windows 8 laptop. It’s light  (1.2 KG, the same as a Surface Pro 3 with keyboard cover) and silent but it comes with a few compromises that you need to know about before buying. There’s only 32GB of on-board storage, a cheap plastic casing and a non-IPS 1366×768 screen. I don’t have a problem with any of those ‘issues’ but some might. I occasionally have an issue with the processing power though as the N2840 isn’t really ‘desktop’ capable. Office runs, PowerDirector 12 runs and browsing speed is totally acceptable but if you’re coming from a ‘Core’ laptop you’ll notice the difference. For bloggers and multimedia journalists it will mean that you’ll have to be careful about how you work with video. Fortunately there’s a video trimmer and simple video editor on the Lumia 830 that will help. Image editing on the Lumia makes sense too. The Acer E11 is good enough that it can be used as the place where all the media comes together and I’m happy to say that the keyboard is good enough for long sessions of typing. the touchpad, however, is a little temperamental. It’s locked up on me twice and responsiveness can tail off sometimes. Two-finger scrolling isn’t smooth. Clearly there’s a firmware or driver issue here that needs sorting out.

A full-size SD card slot (not deep enough to hide a card permanently) is provided along with two USB ports (3.0 and 2.0) and a useful Gigabit Ethernet port. A full-size HDMI port provides digital A/V output and Miracast wireless display is supported. Battery life is great – 9 hours in this typing situation. You’ll easily get 6 hour browsing out of this and about the same when watching H.264 videos using the Windows 8 Video player.

Unfortunately there’s no way to upgrade the storage (a more expensive model comes with a 500GB hard drive that could be swapped for an SSD but I’m happy with the extra security of a soldered SSD. I’ve enabled SecureBoot and added a BIOS password that should keep my data safe if the laptop is lost.  The RAM can be upgraded after dismantling the mainboard from the casing. [Video unboxing includes mainboard removal here.] The plastic casing might look cheap but I get the feeling it’s quite rugged and it stays very cool.

 

The Acer E11 certainly has its limits and these can be obvious if Windows 8 is doing some background work with its anti-virus, updates or indexing but once that’s out-of-the-way (the first few days with the E11 were certainly worse than now, 4 weeks on) it’s a smooth experience and well ahead of the sort of laggy experience we had on netbooks of 2008-2010, thanks to a relatively fast eMMC SSD. Remember to keep the system clean of large files though and you might want to limit Windows updates to essential security items only.

100 GB of free OneDrive storage (2 years) was a welcome bonus and once you get used to using OneDrive you probably won’t run into storage issues. I’ve added a 32GB MicroSD card to the Lumia 830 and carry an extra card with me to be sure that I’ve got enough storage for my original source videos. A USB3.0 external SSD drive might be quicker when it comes to transferring data though.

I really like the Acer E11 but it’s not the only option  at the $200 laptop price bracket. I’ve got an HP Stream 11 here (being tested for Notebookcheck) and it’s also looking like a good machine. The ASUS X205 is the other choice in this bracket. It runs a tablet platform and I believe it has disk encryption enabled although I haven’t been able to confirm that. It’s also a quad-core system and might be more powerful in some situations. Single core performance (applicable to web browsing) is higher on the E11 and Stream 11.

If you only have $250 per year to spend on computing and multimedia I can’t think of a better-value way to do it than with a two-year strategy and the Nokia Lumia 830 and the Acer E11. The Lumia offers some of the best 1080p video for the price and you really can do everything on the Acer E11 if you’ve got a little patience. If you don’t have much patience then it’s a big jump up to something with more CPU power. $150 more will take you up to the N3840-powered (4-core) Acer Aspire V3-112P. (with touchscreen.) If you’re ready to take a larger screen size (and weight) then the Acer Aspire V3-371 offers a Core i3 processor and a 13.3-inch screen but the price is well over $400. The other option at this price is the Lenovo Ideatab Miix 2 11 tablet PC with 128GB of storage, a Core i3 and full HD screen. Again though, this is in a different price bracket.

For those that want an Android smartphone instead of a Windows smartphone you haven’t really got much choice because you really need to be looking at a phone with optical stabilizer. The LG G2 is an option but I haven’t tested it fully to be sure that it covers all the ground that the Lumia 830 does.

Stay tuned for my thoughts on the HP Stream 11 (with touchscreen.) The non-touch version of this has been popular at Amazon.com and first thoughts are that it might have a better keyboard and touchpad.

Thanks Nokia for the loan of the Lumia 830 and 930. The E11 was privately purchased.