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Asus Taichi starts to flow in November, pricing gets specific

Asus Taichi starts to flow in November, pricing gets specific

Asus' duel-screen tablet/notebook creations, dubbed the Taichi (like the mellow martial art), is set to come out this November.

Asus dropped the news during a New York City event Tuesday, along with revelations about a plethora of Windows 8 devices.

Along with a release date, Asus also revealed the pricing model for a trio of devices. The base unit will run $1,299 (£815 /AU$1266) for a 128GB solid state drive, $1,499 (£940 /AU$1461) for 256GB and $1,599 (£1,003/AU$1,558) for the same space but with an upgraded processor.

Those drives, by the way, are non-upgradable.

The specs

All the Taichis will feature full 1920 x 1080, 11.6-inch HD screens, on both sides.

Asus has kept the tablets light as well, with each weighing 1.25 kg (about 2.75 pounds) and tapering the profile to 3 millimeters thin.

The two lower priced models each have Intel Core i5-3317U processors. The priciest version gets pumped up with an Intel Core i7-3517U processor.

The three versions also share Intel HD 4000 graphics, 4GB of RAM and two USB 3.0 ports.

Also part of the offerings are a mic and two cameras: a 5MP one with 1080p video recording and a second 720p camera. The battery should last about five hours as well.

With our powers combine...

The Taichi stands out because it's a true blend of a notebook and a tablet. It's not just a tablet with a keyboard port. Users can close it and use it like any other multi-touch screen slate.

They can also open it and use it like a notebook, just with back-to-back screens. The two screens can be used simultaneously for presentations or spaced out movie watching.

The notebook/tablet combo is also well suited to take advantage of Windows 8's touch-friendly operating system.

Release when?

What's more, rumors previously indicated the Taichi would come out this week to coincide with the new operating system's launch, but it looks like we'll have to settle for pricing information.

ASUS didn't give an exact date for the release, though a company representative told TechRadar the Taichi will be available globally in November.

Until then, you can check out our hands on review of the Taichi for more details.

Apple updates iBooks and iBooks Author at iPad mini launch

Apple updates iBooks and iBooks Author at iPad mini launch

Apple has released a new version of the iBooks application and store, and has enhanced the iBooks Author tool for the creation of digital textbooks.

The updates were revealed by CEO Tim Cook during the iPad mini launch Tuesday and are already available to download from the App Store.

The revamped iBooks 3 app features a new "continuous rolling" reading option, which means if users flick the screen with their fingers, words will progress as they do when scrolling up and down a web page.

iBooks is now better integrated with iCloud, Cook explained, meaning every title customers have purchased now resides on their bookshelf.

Users can download titles by tapping the cover as they already can with previously purchased apps, music and movies.

Easier sharing and more languages

New sharing options were also introduced, allowing users to post passages from books to Facebook and Twitter, while the app now supports over 40 languages, including vertical text in Chinese.

"The pages move from left to right just as you'd expect... if you're Japanese," quipped Cook during the unveiling.

The company said it now has 1.5 million books available to download from the store, while 400 million titles have now been downloaded by users in just over two years since the launch.

Textbook updates also easier

The iBooks Author refresh makes it easier for publishers to create multi-touch digital textbooks, bringing new templates, custom fonts and rendered mathematical expressions and formulas.

Better still, publishers can now push textbook updates directly to the user without the need to re-download the title, which is great for continually changing school curriculums.

The iBooks Author update is also available now and remains free to download.

Optus ends, Telstra begins Boost Mobile partnership

Optus ends, Telstra begins Boost Mobile partnership

After a 12 year relationship, Optus has announced it will no longer be offering services through its youth portal, Boost mobile, from 20 January 2013.

In related news, Telstra has announced it will begin a new retail alliance with Boost Mobile, starting next year.

It may sound confusing, but it's not. Optus, which began licensing the Boost mobile brand back in 2000 as a way to reach out to the youth market, has decided to focus its prepaid strategy on its own products.

Current Boost customers will still have access to their current plans when the rollover happens, although they will fall under the Optus prepaid umbrella.

Optus claims the decision to end the 12-year relationship was brought about by the maturing mobile market, and is an attempt to give Optus greater control of the complete customer experience under the Optus prepaid brand.

Telstra targets youth

The end of the Optus partnership has opened the door for Telstra - generally seen as a premium priced service - to target the youth market through a new partnership with the Boost brand.

According to a Telstra spokesperson, boost will continue to market its products, offers and devices under its own brand. They will just be delivered through the Telstra network.

There's no word yet on whether the pricing structure will change under the Telstra arrangement, although given the differences between Optus and Telstra's prepaid offerings, there will likely be some adjustment when Boost joines Telstra early next year.

In Depth: iPad mini: 10 things you need to know

In Depth: iPad mini: 10 things you need to know

It's been rumoured for a long time, but it's finally here: the iPad mini exists and it's coming to an Apple Store near you. Smaller than a standard iPad but noticeably bigger than a seven-inch Android tablet, it's the most affordable iPad yet - but will it appeal to you? Here's what you need to know.

1. The iPad mini release date is Nov. 2

We expected the iPad mini to ship in plenty of time for Christmas, and Apple didn't disappoint: the Wi-Fi model will start shipping for delivery on the Nov.2, with the LTE version coming along a few weeks later in late November. Apple will start accepting iPad mini orders on the Oct. 26.

2. The iPad mini price is $329

Prices are slightly higher than anticipated, but it's still the cheapest iPad yet: the Wi-Fi version of the iPad mini starts at $329(GB£269, AU$369) for the 16GB model, rising to $429 (GB£349, AU$479) for the 32GB model and $659(GB£429,AU$589) for the 64GB. As you'd expect the mobile broadband version is more expensive: it's $459(GB£369,AU$509) for 16GB, $559(£449,AU$619) for 32GB and $659(£529,AU$729) for 64GB.

3. The iPad mini screen size is 7.9 inches

Apple clearly believes that seven inches is a little too small for a tablet: the iPad mini has a 7.9-inch backlit IPS display running at a resolution of 1024x768. That gives it the same resolution as an iPad 2, so while it isn't a retina display the smaller screen means it should look much sharper than the iPad 2. The overall dimensions of the iPad mini are 200mm high, 134.7mm wide and 7.2mm deep, and the entire package weighs a titchy 308g.

By keeping the same screen resolution as the iPad 2, the iPad mini will be able to run iPad apps without any horrible rescaling or black bars - and as Phil Schiller showed far more often than was strictly necessary, it delivers significantly more screen real estate than a typical seven-inch device.

4. The iPad mini specifications are similar to the iPad 2

While the fourth generation iPad gets an A6X processor, the iPad mini sports something a bit older: an A5, the same dual-core processor you'll find in the iPad 2 and iPhone 4S. That isn't the very latest Apple processor, but as we know from our iPad 2 it's more than capable of handling even the most demanding apps - and it doesn't need an enormous battery to keep it running.

5. The iPad mini is black, but also white

Rumours of multi-coloured iPad minis proved incorrect: as with its big brother, the iPad mini comes in a choice of white or black, although while the normal iPad has a plain metal back the iPad mini has iPhone 5-style silver and black back covers. Perhaps we'll see multi-coloured cases in next year's inevitable second-gen model.

6. The iPad mini does 4G LTE

Like the iPhone 5, the iPad mini has different versions for different LTE bands: model A1455 will do LTE bands 1, 3, 5, 13 and 25, and model A1454 will work on LTE bands 4 and 7. That means for U.K. users, its model A1455: band 3 is the 1800MHz frequency used by Everything Everywhere's 4G LTE network.

7. You can use it as a camera without embarrassment

The iPad mini has a front-facing 1.2MP camera for FaceTime calls and a 5MP rear-facing camera for still shooting and 1080p HD video recording, and that smaller case won't look as silly when you try and shoot photos with it. There's no flash but the sensor has backside illumination and an f/2.4 aperture for low-light shooting.

8. The iPad mini wireless is dual-band

Both the Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi+Cellular versions of the iPad mini benefit from dual-band Wi-Fi, with support for 802.11a/b/g wireless and 802.11n on both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequency bands. All iPad minis also get Bluetooth 4.0 for low-power connections to accessories and peripherals.

9. The iPad mini battery is good for all-day use

One of the best things about the iPad is its all-day battery life, and the iPad mini touts 10 hours of battery life from its 16.3-watt-hour lithium polymer battery. On mobile data, Apple reckons you'll get nine hours of web browsing.

10. The iPad mini has a lightning connector

Not a big surprise, we know, but the iPad mini has the same tiny Lightning connector as the iPhone 5 so you'll need an adapter if your existing accessories expect a Dock connector.

Hands-on review: iPad mini

Hands-on review: iPad mini

Getting hands-on with the iPad mini could just as easily be called a "hand-on" since it's so easy to hold one-handed, and tap with the other. The first thing you notice when you pick it up is just how thin and light it is. With a smooth aluminum back, you feel like you could flip it like a coin, or spin it on your palm. It's as thin as a pencil and as light as a legal-size pad of paper - both nearly insignificant feeling objects.

iPad mini review

You can grip the iPad mini with a couple of fingers on the bottom, or even stretch your hand across the back like you're holding an iPhone 5 or iPod touch. It's 5.3 inches (13.5 centimeters) wide, and feels nicely balanced at 7.87 inches (20cm) high.

iPad mini review

It's just 0.68 pounds (308 grams), slightly heavier at 0.69 pounds (312 grams) if you opt for the cellular version. We were so tempted to just start flipping it in the air like a pancake, that's how light it feels. This makes it even better as an e-reader than the larger iPad models, since you can hold the iPad mini in one hand for much longer before feeling fatigued.

The aluminum back meets the glass front at a super-shiny, diamond-polished chamfer reminiscent of the one on the new iPhone. The white version is stunning, with a matte silver back, and the black version's charcoal aluminum back matches the black iPhone 5 perfectly.

iPad mini review

The iPad mini has an 4:3 aspect ratio, different than the 16:9 ratio preferred by the Google Nexus 7 and Amazon Kindle Fire HD. The wider screen (holding it in portrait orientation) gives you more room for content. Apple's Phil Schiller gleefully compared the iPad mini's 7.9-inch screen to the Nexus 7's 7-inch screen, pointing out how the iPad mini's viewing area is 40 percent larger when you hold it in portrait, and a whopping 67 percent larger in landscape orientation.

iPad mini review

The iPad mini's 1024x768-pixel screen is 163 pixels per inch, the same pixel density as an iPhone 3GS. It's also the same pixel dimensions as iPad 2 and the original iPad, so all of the existing iPad apps can run natively, no scaling or waiting for developers to push out updates.

In our testing, we noticed that typing on the smaller onscreen buttons and keys will take a bit of getting used to. They're smaller than on the large iPad, of course, but still tappable. The buttons you're aiming at aren't any smaller than they'd be on an iPhone or iPod touch, but since they appear on a larger screen than either of those devices have, they feel even smaller. Everything down to the app icons on the Home screen are smaller than on the big iPad, even as they float in a 4x5 grid with generous space around them.

iPad mini review

At one point, an Apple rep demonstrating the iPad mini had to try a few times to hit a Back button at the top-left of the interface, but to be fair, he was holding the iPad mini a fair distance from his body so journalists could see and photograph him using it. The thin bezels on either side of the screen (when held in portrait) give you enough of an area to grip while still minimizing how far your fingers will have to stretch to reach the screen's edges. The screen is bright and bold, with deep blacks and sharp text although it's not quite Retina quality.

We tested the front camera's 720p FaceTime calling over Wi-Fi to see if looked much sharper than on an iPad 2. (The front camera also takes 1.2-megapixel stills, and the rear camera takes 5-megapixel stills and records 1080p video.) The call streamed without lag and we could even hear each other over the crowd noise, but due to the poor lighting, the image still looked grainy, not like the glamour shots Apple uses in its advertising.

The iPad mini we played with was Wi-Fi only - like its bigger sibling as well as the iPhone 5 and new iPod touch, it has dual-band 802.11n at 2.4GHz and 5GHz, plus Bluetooth 4.0. The LTE version (a $130 extra) will work with 20 carriers around the world. Its dual-core A5 chip might be the same as in the $399 iPad 2 (introduced in 2011 and still on sale) although it's possible Apple added more RAM, since the iPad mini supports Siri, and the iPad 2 (which has 512MB of RAM) doesn't.

iPad mini review

Naturally, the small iPad mini sports Apple's new Lightning connector, which can be inserted facing either direction and locks into place with a satisfying click. Apple's Lightning adapters will let you connect a VGA display or projector ($49), a digital display or projector with HDMI ($49), a USB camera ($29), or an SD card ($29), and Apple also offers a $29 Lightning to 30-pin adapter and spare Lightning to USB cables for $19 (one cable comes with the iPad mini).

Preorders begin this Friday, Oct. 26. iPad mini starts at $329 for 16GB Wi-Fi only. 32GB and 64GB versions are $429 and $529, and you can add LTE cellular for $130 extra. Wi-Fi versions start shipping Nov. 2, and the LTE versions two weeks later. Its size and weight let it compete with smaller e-readers, while its power and access to the full ecosystem of iPad apps make it a capable, extremely portable tablet, too.

Early verdict

The smaller touch targets take some getting used to on the iPad mini, although they're not any smaller than on an iPhone. What's more, $329 for the 16GB Wi-Fi only version is significantly more than the 16GB Kindle Fire HD ($199), or 16GB Google Nexus 7 ($249).

However, the iPad mini runs native apps, has a whopping 10 hours of batter life, and is extremely light and portable. It's also comfortable to hold for long periods of time and won't lead to wrist fatigue when you're watching a movie. The 4:3 aspect ratio also allows you to fit more on the screen when you're reading or surfing the web, which is a boon for 7-inch tablet fans.


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