Monthly Archives: June 2014

Engadget Daily: ditching social media, sharpshooting with HUD goggles and more!

Engadget Daily: ditching social media, sharpshooting with HUD goggles and more!

Today, we review Garmin’s new Forerunner 15 sports watch, learn how to escape social media, watch a sniper hit his target while looking in another direction and hear what our readers have to say about the new HTC One. Read on for Engadget’s news highlights from the last 24 hours.

Engadget Daily: ditching social media, sharpshooting with HUD goggles and more!

How to Disappear (almost) Completely: a practical guide

Ever thought of dumping social media for a more private life? In this week’s installment of How to Disappear, Dan Cooper discusses some practical first steps toward going completely off the grid. Disclaimer: it’s incredibly difficult. You can find part one here.

Engadget Daily: ditching social media, sharpshooting with HUD goggles and more!

Watch a sniper nail his target from 500 yards without even ‘looking’ at it

What’s scarier than a regular ole’ sniper? One who doesn’t have to see the target. Armed with a futuristic targeting system and Smith Optics I/O Recon Goggles, this sharpshooter nails a target 500 yards away… while looking in another direction.

Engadget Daily: ditching social media, sharpshooting with HUD goggles and more!

Google will have sole control over the interfaces of Android Auto, Wear and TV

Google’s engineering director David Burke told Ars Technica that the company will retain official control of its new platforms: Android Auto, Wear and TV. Besides providing a consistent experience, this move allows for a much more streamlined update process.

Engadget Daily: ditching social media, sharpshooting with HUD goggles and more!

Garmin Forerunner 15 review: sports watch first, fitness tracker second

If you’re already an athlete or active jogger, Garmin’s new Forerunner 15 might be the fitness accessory you’ve been looking for. At $170 ($200 with the heart rate monitor), this somewhat bulky device combines the functionality of a sports watch with fitness tracking basics.

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Samsung unveils first SSDs with 3D V-NAND memory, but only for enterprise

Samsung unveils first SSDs with 3D V-NAND memory, but only for enterprise

Well, that was quick. Samsung said it was producing the world’s first 3D vertical NAND memory just a week ago, and it has already started building the first SSDs based on that memory. Unfortunately, they’re not meant for the enthusiast crowd: the new 480GB and 960GB drives are instead designed for enterprise-class servers, where V-NAND’s blend of high capacity and reliability makes the most sense. Don’t be too forlorn, however. Samsung promises that the new memory will eventually reach PC-oriented SSDs, which could bring spacious flash storage to a much wider audience.

Show full PR text

Samsung Introduces World’s First 3D V-NAND Based SSD, for Enterprise Applications

Allows the new Samsung SSD to offer nearly 1 terabyte of storage with extremely high reliability

SANTA CLARA, CA – August 13, 2013 – Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., the world leader in advanced memory technology, today introduced the first solid state drive (SSD) based on its industry-leading 3D V-NAND technology. Samsung announced its new SSD, designed for use in enterprise servers and data centers, during a keynote at the Flash Memory Summit 2013 here.

“By applying our 3D V-NAND – which has overcome the formidable hurdle of scaling beyond the 10-nanometer (nm) class*, Samsung is providing its global customers with high density and exceptional reliability, as well as an over 20 percent performance increase and an over 40 percent improvement in power consumption,” said E.S. Jung, executive vice president, semiconductor R&D center at Samsung Electronics and a keynote speaker at the Flash Memory Summit. “As we pioneer a new era of memory technology, we will continue to introduce differentiated green memory products and solutions for the server, mobile and PC markets to help reduce energy waste and to create greater shared value in the enterprise and for consumers.”

Samsung’s V-NAND SSD comes in 960 gigabyte (GB) and 480GB versions. The 960GB version boasts the highest level of performance, offering more than 20 percent increase in sequential and random write speeds by utilizing 64 dies of MLC 3D V-NAND flash, each offering 128 gigabits (Gb) of storage, with a six-gigabit-per-second SATA interface controller. The new V-NAND SSD also offers 35K program erase cycles and is available in a 2.5 inch form factor with x, y and z-heights of 10cm, 7cm and 7mm, which provides server manufacturers with more design flexibility and scalability.

Samsung’s proprietary 3D V-NAND technology achieves manufacturing productivity improvements over twice that of 20nm-class* planar NAND flash, by using cylinder-shaped 3D Charge Trap Flash cell structures and vertical interconnect process technology to link the 24 layers comprising the 3D cell array. During his keynote remarks, EVP E.S. Jung emphasized that “The 3D V-NAND will drive disruptive innovation that can be compared to a Digital Big Bang in the global IT industry, and contribute to much more significant growth in the memory market.”

Samsung will continue to introduce next-generation V-NAND products with enhanced performance to meet diverse customer needs for NAND flash-based storage. These customer focuses will range from large data centers that can realize higher investment potential based on greater performance and energy efficiency to PC applications that place a high priority on cost-effectiveness and high density, further strengthening Samsung’s business competitiveness.

Samsung said it began producing its new V-NAND SSDs earlier this month.

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Emojli is a social network composed entirely of emoji

Emojli is a social network composed entirely of emoji

Social networks love emoji. And those better-than-real-words icons love social networks right back. Emojli is possibly the next step in that blossoming relationship: a social network with “no words, no spam, just emoji.” It hasn’t launched yet, but the iOS-bound network already polices a rigorous picture-only username system. (Apologies, “Monkey Train”, “Fireball” and “Kitty Penguin Space Invader” have already been taken). According to its Twitter feed, registrations passed 10,000 earlier today, although it stresses that there are over 250,000 two-icon combinations out there — let alone even longer usernames. Pointless time-waster, a nonsensical joke, or the future of this connected life? Almost certainly one of the former, but if you want that single emoji character that truly sums you up, you’d best rush along to that registration page immediately.

As one of the founders, Tom Scott, put it:

“Matt and I both came up with the idea and figured if we didn’t build it someone else would. We weren’t sold on it until we came up with the idea that even the usernames should be emoji – at which point we both burst out laughing and decided to build it.”

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Sony VAIO Pro 11 review: finally, a new flagship ultraportable to replace the Z

Sony VAIO Pro 11 review: finally, a new flagship ultraportable to replace the Z

If you’ve ever read the comments section here at Engadget, you know it’s possible to develop a fanatical attachment to a brand. To a specific product, though? And a laptop, of all things? That’s fairly rare. But the VAIO Z wasn’t a common notebook. For years, it was Sony’s flagship ultraportable, with a featherweight design, top-of-the-line specs and a delicious carbon fiber weave. It was the sort of laptop for which techies happily spent $2,000 — and they were ready to plunk down even more money when a new version came out. Then it was discontinued, only to be replaced by mid-range models with lesser specs. There was a clear hole in Sony’s lineup, and diehards were left disappointed, with no clear upgrade path once it came time to retire the ol’ Z.

In a sense, the Z is still dead: to this day, there is no Z series in Sony’s lineup. But there is the new Pro line, and it more or less picks up where the Z left off. (It takes after the business-friendly S series, too.) Starting at $1,150 and available in 11- and 13-inch sizes, these machines use carbon fiber to achieve an even lighter design (under two pounds for the 11-inch model). Both pack fresh Haswell processors, with 1080p screens, NFC and backlit keyboards all standard. As it happens, we’ve been testing the smaller Pro 11 for almost two weeks, so although Sony just announced these machines to the public, we already have a full suite of impressions, benchmarks and hands-on photos ready to go. Join us after the break to see if this is the Z replacement you’ve been waiting for.

Sony VAIO Pro 11 review

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Sony VAIO Pro 11

Pros

  • Exceptionally lightweight
  • Long battery life, sheet battery option
  • 1080p display with great viewing angles
  • Keyboard is improved over the old Z
  • Webcam excels in low light

Cons

  • Keyboard is cramped on this 11-inch model
  • Stiff touch button, flaky trackpad
  • Fan can get loud sometimes

Summary

Sony’s old Z series flagship comes back to life with epic battery life, an even lighter design and a more reasonable price.


Look and feel

Sony VAIO Pro 11 review: finally, a new flagship ultraportable to replace the Z

You can’t appreciate the Pro’s design until you pick it up. You can’t talk about its hardware at all, actually, until you acknowledge how light this thing is.

If you were to examine the Pro through a glass case, it would seem like just another VAIO, except cut down to size. After all, it’s got many of the same visual touches as past models, including a chiclet keyboard, a chrome hinge, a big metal VAIO logo and a glowing green power button, located on the upper-right corner of the keyboard deck. But that’s just the thing: you can’t really appreciate the Pro’s design until you pick it up. You can’t talk about its hardware at all, actually, until you acknowledge how impossibly light this thing is. At 1.92 pounds, Sony claims it’s the world’s lightest touchscreen Ultrabook — in the 11-inch category or otherwise. Regardless of whether that’s true (and we believe it is), the Pro feels utterly insubstantial, but in a good way. Even after Sony’s product team told me the exact weight, I still didn’t immediately appreciate how little it was; when I unboxed my review unit, I heaved it out of the packaging the way I would a 3.5-pound Ultrabook, only to realize gravity wasn’t working against my hands. Sort of like playing a game of tug of war with a child. (Not that I’d know.)

You can imagine what a convenience that is on a day-to-day basis. Not only is it easy to grip in one hand and shuttle from room to room, but I also barely registered a difference when I stuffed it in my backpack along with my regular 13-inch laptop. True to its name, the Pro would be perfect for business travel, where every extra pound amounts to more hassle. In the case of the 11-inch model, the small footprint makes it especially easy to pack inside a bag with other items, though the larger Pro 13 surely makes for a low-maintenance companion as well.

Sony VAIO Pro 11 review: finally, a new flagship ultraportable to replace the Z

Sony mainly attributes that lightness to the materials used, which include carbon fiber on both the lid and chassis, with black and silver as your two color options. The one exception to all this carbon fiber is the brushed-aluminum palm rest, which also happens to be where the machine is at its creakiest. On the black model, at least, it’s also where it picks up the most grease stains, but then again, that’s where we tended to hold the machine. That aluminum area aside, the Pro does a good job masking fingerprints, though we were dismayed to find it’s not immune to scratches. You might want to get yourself a carrying sleeve, then, or maybe put it in the same carry-on as your socks.

Similar to Sony’s new mainstream “Fit” laptops, the Pro has a lid that extends far backward, even slightly past the hinge. Though the cover doesn’t actually hide the hinge in this case, it reaches the desk when it’s all the way open, giving the entire machine a lift. To some extent, that’s just a neat design flourish, this illusion of the chassis “floating” above your desk. But there’s an ergonomic benefit too: the wedge shape makes the keyboard a little more comfortable to type on.

Before we get too sidetracked detailing the typing experience, though, let’s take a look at the ports. Most of the action’s on the right side, where you’ll find two USB 3.0 connections, an HDMI socket and a 3.5mm headphone jack. Over on the left, there’s nothing except for a small vent, which can get quite warm to the touch. (Again, you’re likely to grip this thing by the palm rest in one hand anyway.) And if you think Sony left out the SD slot, fear not: there’s a memory card reader tucked in the underside of the notebook, close to where the touchpad is. All in all, not a bad selection of ports, especially considering it’s an 11-inch system, and a very thin one at that. Heck, we’re even surprised Sony got a full-sized HDMI port in there. The only thing you might crave from time to time is an Ethernet jack, but to be fair, that’s missing from almost every other Ultrabook too.

Keyboard and trackpad

Sony VAIO Pro 11 review: finally, a new flagship ultraportable to replace the Z

Sony says the Pro’s island-style keyboard offers more travel than on the discontinued Z series, which was indeed pretty flat. (At the time, we said typing on it was kind of like walking in flip-flops. You may have noticed we have a thing for analogies around here.) In any case, this new keyboard really does feel cushier than the one we tested two years ago, but again, there was plenty of room for improvement. All told, the difference versus the Z is noticeable, but if you’re coming from any other ultraportable, this might just seem like another shallow Ultrabook keyboard.

If anything, the Pro 11′s small footprint means the individual buttons are small, even for little hands like yours truly’s. We hate to say it, but typing on them feels like a throwback to netbooks, what with their crowded layouts and flimsy underlying panels. (Seriously, get ready to watch the keyboard bend and flex, especially if you’ve got a high wpm rate.) To be fair, no netbook we ever tested had a backlit keyboard. Plus, Sony ensured that all of the major keys (Enter, Backspace, etc.) were generously sized, even if the letter keys had to be kept small. So, while it’s not the most comfortable keyboard we’ve ever used, you could do much worse, especially if this is going to be more of a travel machine than a daily driver. And though we haven’t spent much time with the Pro 13, we suspect the cramping is much less of an issue there, period.

Sony VAIO Pro 11 review: finally, a new flagship ultraportable to replace the Z

After testing the Samsung ATIV Book 7 we had some renewed faith in Windows trackpads: clearly, it’s possible to make one where everything works as it should, without any misfires or phantom clicks. It’s back to the grind with the Pro 11, though: the cursor doesn’t always go where you want it to go, especially in desktop mode. Like other trackpads we’ve tested, it fares better when it comes to multi-touch gestures like pinch-to-zoom and two-finger scrolling; both of those feel like controlled motions and don’t require you to apply too much pressure. Even then, however, it’s possible to make the pinch-to-zoom gesture and end up doing a side scroll instead, so be careful.

Also, the machine didn’t always respond to double-taps when we tried using that gesture to open desktop apps. Instead, we had to resort to double-clicking the touch button, but it’s so stiff we didn’t really want to press it. Hopefully, Sony will at least iron out the driver issues by the time this goes on sale, though it’s too late to fix that shallow touch button, we reckon.

Display

Sony VAIO Pro 11 review: finally, a new flagship ultraportable to replace the Z

At some point along the line — we’re not sure when — Sony got the bright idea to have its various divisions talk to one another. This meant making some PSP games playable on its Android tablets, and putting point-and-shoot-quality cameras inside its phones. And in this case, it meant using some of the same imaging technologies that Sony originally developed for its Bravia televisions. This includes a display with Triluminos backlighting along with a mobile version of its X-Reality processing engine, which you can already find inside select Xperia phones.

In layman’s terms: it looks nice. The 1080p resolution makes everything look crisp, but still eminently readable. Thanks to the IPS technology, too, the already-bright colors keep looking good even as you dip the screen forward or start watching from off to the side. And though the glossy finish does reflect some light, it never interferes with the reading experience. As a bonus, you can manually enable or disable that X-Reality engine, and it actually turns off automatically by default when you unplug the machine, so those great visuals will never come at the expense of battery life.

In a similar vein, all of Sony’s new laptops have CMOS Exmor-R webcams, whose low-light imaging tech comes courtesy of Sony’s imaging division. As you can see in the sample pic below, dimly lit shots don’t escape noise-free, but they sure are a lot brighter than they have any right to be. You probably can’t tell, but yours truly posed for this photo with the lights off, and at dusk, when the sun had all but disappeared.

Sony VAIO Pro 11 review: finally, a new flagship ultraportable to replace the Z

If Sony cut corners anywhere on the Pro 11, it was in audio quality. It’s not that the sound is terrible to listen to — it’s actually quite pleasant — but the intensity is weak. Even at top volume, it couldn’t hold its own in a quiet room with an open window and a few cars passing by outside. Imagine, then, how it’ll fare this summer, with creaky air conditioners and whirring fans carrying on in the background. Obviously, weak volume was to be expected, and it’s not even a dealbreaker. Just make sure you take those conference calls in a quiet (windowless) room.

Performance and battery life


PCMark7 3DMark06 3DMark11 ATTO (top disk speeds)
Sony VAIO Pro 11 (1.8GHz Core i7-4500U, Intel HD 4400) 4,634 N/A

E1,067 / P600 / X183

558 MB/s (reads); 255 MB/s (writes)
Sony VAIO Pro 13 (1.6GHz Intel Core i5-4200U, Intel HD 4400) 4,502 4,413

E1,177 / P636 / X203

1.04 GB/s (reads); 479 MB/s (writes)
Sony VAIO Duo 13 (1.6GHz Core i5-4200U, Intel HD 4400) 4,440 6,047

E1,853 / P975 / X297

546 MB/s (reads); 139 MB/s (writes)
Samsung ATIV Book 7 (1.8GHz Core i5-3337U, Intel HD 4000) 4,418 4,045

E1,081 / P600

626 MB/s (reads); 137 MB/s (writes)
ASUS Transformer Book (1.9GHz Core i7-3517U, Intel HD 4000) 4,414 3,840

E924 / P512 / X177

482 MB/s (reads); 317 MB/s (writes)
Toshiba Kirabook (2.0GHz Core i7-3537U, Intel HD 4000) 5,275 5,272

N/A

553 MB/s (reads); 500 MB/s (writes)
Acer Aspire S7 (1.9GHz Core i7-3517U, Intel HD 4000) 5,011 4,918 E1,035 / P620 / X208 934 MB/s (reads); 686 MB/s (writes)
MSI Slidebook S20 (1.8GHz Core i5-3337U, Intel HD 4000) 4,043 3,944

E1,053 / P578

484 MB/s (reads); 286 MB/s (writes)
ASUS TAICHI 21 (1.9GHz Core i7-3517U, Intel HD 4000) 4,998 4,818 E1,137 / P610 / X201 516 MB/s (reads); 431 MB/s (writes)
Microsoft Surface Pro (1.7GHz Core i5-3317U, Intel HD 4000) 4,673 3,811 E1,019 / P552 526 MB/s (reads); 201 MB/s (writes)
Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 (1.7GHz Core i5-3317U, Intel HD 4000) 4,422 4,415

E917 / P572

278 MB/s (reads); 263 MB/s (writes)
Dell XPS 12 (1.7GHz Core i5-3317U, Intel HD 4000) 4,673 4,520 N/A 516 MB/s (reads); 263 MB/s (writes)

Because we reviewed a pre-production unit, we don’t necessarily see the Pro 11 as a harbinger for other Haswell Ultrabooks. In speed benchmarks, at least, it scored toward the high end of what we’d expect from one of last year’s Ivy Bridge machines — a bit better, but not leaps-and-bounds better. As you’ll see, it’s in the battery life department where the Pro really shines, but then again, Intel always promised Haswell would deliver a significant boost in runtime.

Whether the Pro 11 is representative of Haswell Ultrabooks in general remains to be seen, but we know this: there aren’t any metrics by which the Pro could be considered slow. It boots in seven seconds, which is slightly faster than other Ultrabooks, and its SSD delivers peak read speeds of 558 MB/s, on average. Its average writes of 255 MB/s are respectable too. Throughout, the machine stayed fairly quiet, but the fans definitely pipe up once you get a game rolling, especially at max frame rates. Even then, though, the noise is minimal compared to what we heard on the new Toshiba Kirabook. As for heat, the keyboard area gets warm, especially farther back toward the function keys, but the hottest area is obviously the vent, located on the left side, near the back. Fortunately, it’s easy enough to avoid that spot with your fingers, though you might well feel the heat if you decide to work with this thing in your lap.


Battery life

Sony VAIO Pro 11 6:41
Sony VAIO Duo 13 9:40
Sony VAIO Pro 13 8:24
Acer Iconia W700 7:13
Samsung Series 9 (13-inch, 2012) 7:02
MacBook Air (13-inch, 2012) 6:34 (OS X) / 4:28 (Windows)
Dell XPS 14 6:18
Sony VAIO T13 5:39
Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 5:32
Dell XPS 12 5:30
Samsung Series 5 UltraTouch 5:23
ASUS Zenbook Prime UX31A Touch 5:15
ASUS Zenbook Prime UX51Vz 5:15
Toshiba Satellite U845W 5:13
Toshiba Kirabook 5:12
Toshiba Satellite U845 5:12
Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra M3 5:11
Toshiba Satellite U925t 5:10
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 5:07
Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra M5 5:05
Samsung ATIV Book 7 5:02
ASUS Transformer Book 5:01 (tablet only)
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Touch 5:00
Sony VAIO Duo 11 4:47
Acer Aspire S5 4:35
MSI Slidebook S20 4:34
ASUS Zenbook Prime UX21A 4:19
Acer Aspire S7 (13-inch) 4:18
Acer Aspire S3 4:11
Lenovo ThinkPad Twist 4:09
HP Spectre XT TouchSmart 4:00
Vizio Thin + Light (14-inch, 2012) 3:57
ASUS TAICHI 21 3:54
Microsoft Surface Pro 3:46

If you take a look at that battery life comparison table above, you’ll see the two worst results we’ve logged recently both come from 11-inch devices: the ASUS TAICHI 21 and the Microsoft Surface Pro. In general, too, regardless of screen size, touchscreen PCs have so far yielded pretty dismal runtimes. So, if you throw in a 1080p screen and a smaller chassis with less room for a battery, you can expect particularly weak performance — about four hours on a charge, if that. If we didn’t know better, we’d have expected the Pro 11 to give a similar showing.

Of course, though, we do know better: the Pro isn’t just another first-generation Windows 8 Ultrabook. Nope, this guy ships with a Haswell processor, which promises up to a 50 percent boost in runtime compared with last year’s Ivy Bridge chips. Indeed, we breezed past the four-hour mark, squeezing out an incredible six hours and 41 minutes. And that’s with a Core i7 processor! Imagine what this thing can do with a slightly less heavy-duty Core i5 chip?

Or how about an extended battery? Sony is selling sheet batteries for the Pro 11 and Pro 13, and it promises to double the runtime in both cases. We unfortunately didn’t get to test this, but we’re impressed the option even exists. How many Ultrabooks do you know of that can accommodate two batteries at the same time?

In fact, we’re tempted to recommend the Pro 11 on account of its battery life alone, but the truth is, if every Haswell laptop is supposed to deliver like this, you’re probably better off waiting for other models to come out. After all, if this sort of performance becomes the new normal, you could let other, more subjective factors tip your purchasing decision. You know, like keyboard comfort, or trackpad quality.

Software and warranty

Sony VAIO Pro 11 review: finally, a new flagship ultraportable to replace the Z

It might appear at first glance that the Pro 11 comes stocked with bloatware, if only because the so-called VAIO apps take up two pages on the Start Screen. Indeed, there are a few unexpected additions, like Slacker, iHeartRadio, Hulu Plus, PuzzleTouch, My Daily Clip and Music Maker Jam, but it’s really just that the tiles themselves take up a lot of space. Other than that, you’ll find Sony’s own Album and Music programs, as well as its Socialife aggregator. There’s also a handful of Xbox Live games, including Minesweeper, Solitaire and Taptiles, but we really own count the latter as a true add-on. After all, we can remember a time when Minesweeper came pre-loaded on every Windows PC. It feels like it should be part of the OS, even if it’s not.

Moving on to traditional desktop software, Sony threw in ArtRage Studio, which you’ll actually find on all of Sony’s touchscreen computers this season. Similarly, Sony is bundling its own multimedia suite on every PC going forward, with the full package worth around $200. Finally, the company installed Kaspersky Now as a pre-loaded security solution. Is it more effective than other anti-malware programs? Not for us to say, at least not without some more formal testing. It sure has a lot of pop-ups, though.

Sony VAIO Pro 11 review: finally, a new flagship ultraportable to replace the Z

As you might have assumed, the VAIO Pro comes with a standard one-year warranty, which includes repairs and 24/7 phone support.

Configuration options

While the particular unit we tested is priced at $1,550, the Pro 11 actually starts with a lower MSRP of $1,150. To start, you get a dual-core Haswell Core i5-4200U processor, along with 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. As you can see with our own test machine, it will also be offered with a Core i7-4500U CPU and a bigger 256GB solid-state drive.

If you go with the Pro 13 instead, you’ll get a few more options than you would with the Pro 11. That machine starts at $1,250 with similar specs (a Core i5 CPU, 4GB of RAM, etc.), except the 128GB SSD is a PCI Express drive. In addition, there’s going to be an 8GB RAM option, as well as a 512GB solid-state drive (also PCIe).

The competition

The Pro 11 is launching at the beginning of Computex, an industry conference that’s basically become the premier Ultrabook show. Indeed, we still expect to get hands-on with some new models later on this week, so we suggest you sit tight and see what other companies announce before making any rash purchasing decisions. That said, we’re starting to get a clearer picture of what the marketplace will look like over the coming months.

Starting with Toshiba, the company recently started selling the super-light, 2.9-pound Kirabook, which rocks a 2,560 x 1,440 display and comes standard with specs like 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. Of course, it’s quite a bit bigger and heavier than the Pro 11, and its battery life isn’t nearly as long. There’s an explanation for that, but it also speaks to one of the Kirabook’s biggest weaknesses: it currently ships with Ivy Bridge, and it might be months yet before it gets an upgrade to Haswell. Until it does, that $1,600 starting price (touchscreen not included!) isn’t worth it.

Other than that, we’re coming up short on extra-light Ultrabooks that can compete directly with the Pro series. From what Dell has said so far, it seems none of the machines in its summer lineup are really comparable. And though HP teased a premium Ultrabook, it has a 14-inch display, which makes it a competitor to the Pro 13, perhaps, but not the Pro 11 we’re reviewing today. Plus, HP hasn’t announced full specs for that machine or even given an on-sale date, so for now it doesn’t even fully exist.

Wrap-up

Sony VAIO Pro 11 review: finally, a new flagship ultraportable to replace the Z

Those of you who have been waiting to retire your old Z-series laptops can rest easy. The Pro series improves on the old Z line in almost every way, with an even thinner and lighter design, a more comfortable keyboard and epic battery life. Most importantly, perhaps, Sony’s new flagship Ultrabook comes with a much more reasonable starting price: $1,150, compared with $2,000 or so for the last-generation Z. That’s not just a good deal for a Sony machine; it’s a good deal, period, especially considering it comes standard with both NFC and a 1080p display.

Ultimately, as you probably gathered, we recommend the Pro without hesitation. Well, maybe there’s one thing holding us back: we’re curious to see if all the other Haswell machines deliver similarly long battery life. If they do, that’s not a reason to go with the Pro, per se. It’s also a shame about the Pro’s stiff touchpad — no driver update will fix that. All that said, though, we don’t know of anything in the pipeline that’s quite this thin, this fast, this long-lasting and this reasonably priced.

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Unmanned Mars One mission to blast off with experiments (and ads) in tow

Unmanned Mars One mission to blast off with experiments (and ads) in tow

Mars One announced sometime ago that it plans to scope things out with an unmanned mission before it ships off humans to the red planet in 2025. Today, the non-profit org has finally revealed that mission’s details, and by the looks of it, the unmanned spacecraft could very well carry advertisements to space. Mars One says the vehicle will have seven payloads in all, four of which are scientific experiments that’ll help determine if a human settlement can thrive on the planet by 2025. These payloads include a liquid extractor that’ll attempt to extract water from Martian soil collected by the another payload. There’s also a thin-film solar panel to test if the sun can provide all the energy needs of a human settlement, and a camera system that the org will use to get a live feed of Mars 24/7.

So, where do advertisements come in, you ask? Well, there are still three payloads left, and two of those will go to the highest bidders, because let’s be real here — the company’s end goal isn’t cheap, and a reality show’s profits won’t be enough. Since anyone’s welcome to bid, it’s definitely possible for huge corporations with big advertising plans to snap them up. The last slot, however, is reserved for the Mars One University contest winner. In other words, a university can get a free ride, so long as its proposal (which can be anything from experiments to marketing stunts) garners the most votes from a panel of experts and Mars One’s community members.

If you’re doubting whether all these will ever happen, we don’t blame you. After all, a simple Google search reveals that Mars One remains controversial, and people are still looking for signs that it’s a hoax or a joke. Apparently, though, the org’s already hired Lockheed Martin (who also built NASA’s Phoenix Lander) to make the spacecraft. And besides, an unmanned mission sounds much more doable than sending people on a one-way trip to Mars.

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Sony VAIO Fit 15 review (2013): Sony’s mainstream notebooks get a makeover

Sony VAIO Fit 15 review (2013): Sony's mainstream notebooks get a makeover

And it begins: back-to-school season. Even though some students are still embroiled in finals, and even though Intel has yet to formally launch Haswell, the next few weeks will see multiple PC makers unveiling their summer lineups. First up: Sony. The company just introduced some new mainstream notebooks, dubbed the “Fit” family. These laptops, which replace the current E series and most of the T line, include the lower-end Fit 14E / Fit 15E, which are made of plastic, and the Fit 14 / Fit 15, which step up to a thinner aluminum chassis and optional SSDs. Either way, Sony is standardizing on certain specs across its entire summer lineup, including 1080p displays, backlit keyboards, NFC and Exmor R webcams for better low-light images. We’ve just spent a week testing the Fit 15, which will be available later this month for $700 and up. (The rest of the Fit line starts as low as $550.) Head past the break to see if it’s worth a closer look once it hits store shelves.

Sony VAIO Fit 15 review

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Sony VAIO Fit 15

Pros

  • Good performance, fast boot-up
  • Improved keyboard
  • Attractive design
  • 1080p display and NFC come standard
  • Webcam performs well in low light

Cons

  • Short battery life
  • Narrow viewing angles
  • Heavy compared to some competing models

Summary

The Fit 15 combines a pretty design with impressive specs, solid performance and an improved keyboard.


Look and feel

Sony VAIO Fit 15 review (2013): Sony's mainstream notebooks get a makeover

The Fit is prettier than its predecessor, if not necessarily better-made.

Given that the Fit series is the spiritual successor to the entry-level VAIO E series and the mid-range T line, it’d be reasonable to suppose it ranks somewhere in between, with a design that’s a loose mash-up of the two. In fact, though, it actually consists of two very different notebooks: the Fit E, which replaces the E laptops (natch), and the Fit, whose premium stylings make it most similar to the existing T series.

We’ll put the lower-end Fit E through its paces some other day, but for now, we’re here to tell you the higher-end Fit is prettier than its predecessor, if not necessarily better-made. While the Fit and T series laptops both have brushed-metal lids, the Fit follows up with a matching brushed-aluminum palm rest — a more dapper touch than the T series’ plain magnesium, which could easily be mistaken for plastic. Available in black, silver and pink, it also has an extra-long lid that covers the hinge. To be honest, we’re not sure unsightly hinges were really a problem that needed solving, but we dig the seamless look nonetheless.

What you might appreciate, however, are the hidden fans: they’re not on the sides or even on the bottom, but tucked improbably into the area between the screen and the keyboard. You wouldn’t know they were there unless you knew to look (or if you got the laptop so hot and bothered it started to spew hot air, which is also a possibility). In general, too, the Fit does away with a lot of the decorative extras used to dress up last year’s T series. Gone is the shiny chrome strip along the hinge, along with the plastic band lining the lid. Even on the keyboard deck, there are noticeably fewer buttons, with the only holdovers being the glowing green power button and the VAIO Assist key. (Even that’s less conspicuous, now that the lettering is white instead of red.)

As we hinted, though, a sharper design somehow doesn’t equate to improved durability. One of the first things we noticed about the Fit is that its screen wobbles when you first set the machine down — something the older T15 doesn’t do. There’s also lots of give throughout the machine, from the lid to the hinge area, and it can be particularly tough to ignore when you’re carrying the machine around in your hands.

Sony VAIO Fit 15 review (2013): Sony's mainstream notebooks get a makeover

Before we get in the weeds with our comparisons against the T15, let’s make one thing perfectly clear: the T15 is an Ultrabook, and will continue to be sold for the time being. The Fit 15, meanwhile, is not an Ultrabook but rather, a full-fledged laptop — a more powerful, all-purpose sort of thing. As such, it weighs a good deal more than the T15 (5.73 pounds versus 5.18), though it’s about as thin (0.89 inch, compared with 0.9 inch for the T series). So, it’s a fairly stationary machine, then — the sort of thing you can shuttle from room to room, but will probably keep plugged in most of the time. (And believe us, our battery life results are a testament to that.) Even so, it’s slim enough that you can easily carry it around in the crook of your arm. We’re pretty sure that hidden hinge doesn’t have anything to do with that, but again, a pretty design never hurt.

As you’d expect, because the backside is covered by that oversized lid, all of the ports are located along the right and left edges. Actually, make that the left: the right side is home to a tray-loading DVD burner, with no other sockets or openings sitting nearby. That means the left side is pretty tightly packed. From back to front, you’ve got the power port, an Ethernet jack, HDMI-out, three USB 3.0 ports, a headphone / mic jack, a memory card reader and a Kensington lock slot. Anything else you would have wanted? Because that about checks off everything on our wish list.

Keyboard and trackpad

Sony VAIO Fit 15 review (2013): Sony's mainstream notebooks get a makeover

At first glance, the six-row keyboard on the Fit is nearly identical to the one on the T15: same chiclet-style keys, same lettering on the buttons. The arrangement hasn’t changed much either, except that the Function keys here are tinier, as are the arrow buttons, which now sit flush with the space bar. In general, the new layout is about as wide as the old one, but shorter, partially owing to those shrunken Function buttons. Fortunately, none of the major keys (Shift, etc.) appear to have gotten smaller.

Somehow, though, typing feels a little different, which is strange since the pitch of the keys hasn’t changed, so far as we can tell. Still, Sony clearly did some re-tooling beneath the surface. The buttons here don’t feel shallower, per se, but they are quieter. All told, it’s a comfortable keyboard, though we sometimes found ourselves wishing for a little more travel. Depending on how accustomed you are to number pads, too, you might need some time to adjust to the off-center layout, along with the left-aligned trackpad.

It’s worth repeating that the keyboard here is indeed backlit. Everything in the Fit series is, actually, even the lower-end Fit E models. In fact, everything in Sony’s back-to-school lineup will be backlit, save for all-in-one desktops. And that makes sense: Sony doesn’t dally much in budget machines, and it’d be a pretty big no-no to leave this feature out of higher-end systems.

Sony VAIO Fit 15 review (2013): Sony's mainstream notebooks get a makeover

A laptop with this big a footprint leaves room for a pretty expansive trackpad, and we’re happy to report it generally works reliably. Pinch-to-zoom in the Bing Maps app feels exceptionally controlled, as does two-finger scrolling in IE10. The pad also responds smoothly to the various Windows 8 gestures, like swiping in from the right to expose the Charms Bar.

The problem, as is often the case with Windows touchpads, is that it can be awfully stubborn when it comes to single-finger tracking. Sometimes the cursor didn’t go where we wanted it to, or it came to a halt while we were trying to drag it across the screen. Also, the touch button itself doesn’t offer much give, so even if you do successfully move the cursor, left- and right-clicking can still feel a little labored. In any case, it’s hardly a dealbreaker, especially if the touch drivers are behaving as they’re supposed to.

Display and sound

Sony VAIO Fit 15 review (2013): Sony's mainstream notebooks get a makeover

720p is a thing of the past, at least for Sony.

If you hit Ctrl-F to zero in on mentions of “1,366 x 768,” this is the only instance you’ll find pertaining to the Fit series. With its new generation of laptops, Sony is more or less standardizing on 1,920 x 1,080 resolution, with the one exception being the Fit 14 notebooks, which start at 1,600 x 900. In any event, 720p is a thing of the past, at least for Sony.

As you might expect, the pixel density of a 15-inch display with 1080p resolution isn’t quite as high as on a smaller machine — say, one with an 11- or 13-inch screen. From a desk chair’s distance away, objects like desktop icons tend to look sharp on this LED panel, and videos in particular look great. In general, too, we had no problem watching movies or reading text from slightly off to the side (good news if you plan on hosting a Game of Thrones marathon in your dorm room). We did notice that colors start to wash out as soon as you push the lid forward, so be sure to fiddle with the angle before leaning back to watch a movie.

If you compare specs across the Fit line, you’ll see one of the models has a subwoofer — a first on Sony’s mainstream laptops. Oddly, though, that model is not the premium Fit 15 we’re reviewing here, but rather, the entry-level Fit 15E. Presumably, space constraints were the deciding factor here — the Fit 15 is the one that’s supposed to be slim, which means trade-offs like sound quality are almost a given. In any case, unless your musical tastes skew heavily toward hip-hop, you should be satisfied with the setup here. For one thing, it’s loud — we fired up some big band music with the volume at 61 / 100, and actually cringed at how forceful the sound was. In quiet spaces, we tended to keep the volume around level 15 or 20, which is low compared with most notebooks we test.

Of course, loud sound doesn’t necessarily equate to pleasant sound, but in this case, the quality is fairly balanced too. We enjoyed listening to everything from The Clash to the Les Mis soundtrack to various jazz numbers. There was one Louis Prima track where the nasal horn section slightly overpowered the other instruments, but other than that, it was easy listening on our end.

Sony VAIO Fit 15 review (2013): Sony's mainstream notebooks get a makeover

Normally, we don’t have much to say about the webcams on the laptops we test — it’s not like anyone expects them to produce high-quality images. Or do they? Going forward, every new Sony PC will make use of an Exmor R CMOS sensor (yep, the same one Sony is already using in its digital cameras). In fact, the promise of brighter low-light photos is one of the laptop’s bigger selling points. And to some extent, that’s a gimmick: it’s unlikely you’ll find yourself in a situation where you have no choice but to Skype in the dark. If you do, though, you can expect results like that sample above, which makes it appear as if I were sitting in a room with the lights on (they were, in fact, off).

Performance and battery life


PCMark7 3DMark06 3DMark11 ATTO (top disk speeds)
Sony VAIO Fit 15 (1.8GHz Core i5-3337U, Intel HD 4000) 4,160 5,222

E1215 / P664 / X223

151 MB/s (reads); 89 MB/s (writes)
Sony VAIO T15 (1.8GHz Core i5-3337U, Intel HD 4000) 3,861 5,050

E1099 / P603

114 MB/s (reads); 87 MB/s (writes)

The Fit 15 starts at $700, and goes all the way up to $2,210, so the $949 model we tested falls more toward the low-end range (if a nearly thousand-dollar machine can really be called low-end). For the money, you get a 1.8GHz Core i5-3337U processor (that’s Ivy Bridge), along with 8GB of RAM, a 750GB hard drive and integrated Intel HD 4000 graphics. As you can see, performance is right in line with (if not slightly better than) other machines with the same or similar specs. It slightly outranks a Core i5-enabled T15 in almost every benchmark, though if you peruse our Ultrabook reviews, you’ll see it keeps pace with many Windows 8 ultraportables too. (Well, in everything except disk performance, anyway — most Ultrabooks benefit from all-solid-state storage.)

Predictably, the 750GB hard drive can’t compete with an SSD in either read or write speeds, but the Fit 15 at least manages to pull away from the T15, whose read speeds were, on average, almost 40 MB/s slower. Even more impressive, the Fit 15′s startup times match, second for second, what we’ve been observing on much faster Ultrabooks — in just 11 seconds you should be fully loaded into the Start Screen. That’s par for the course on a $1,200 ultraportable, but not so on a mainstream laptop: the T15 takes closer to 20 seconds to boot up.


Battery life

Sony VAIO Fit 15 3:37
Acer Iconia W700 7:13
Samsung Series 9 (13-inch, 2012) 7:02
MacBook Air (13-inch, 2012) 6:34 (OS X) / 4:28 (Windows)
Dell XPS 14 6:18
Sony VAIO T13 5:39
Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 5:32
Dell XPS 12 5:30
Samsung Series 5 UltraTouch 5:23
ASUS Zenbook Prime UX31A Touch 5:15
ASUS Zenbook Prime UX51Vz 5:15
Toshiba Satellite U845W 5:13
Toshiba Satellite U845 5:12
Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra M3 5:11
Toshiba Satellite U925t 5:10
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 5:07
Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra M5 5:05
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Touch 5:00
Sony VAIO Duo 11 4:47
Acer Aspire S5 4:35
MSI Slidebook S20 4:34
ASUS Zenbook Prime UX21A 4:19
Acer Aspire S7 (13-inch) 4:18
Acer Aspire S3 4:11
Lenovo ThinkPad Twist 4:09
HP Spectre XT TouchSmart 4:00
Vizio Thin + Light (14-inch, 2012) 3:57
ASUS TAICHI 21 3:54
Microsoft Surface Pro 3:46

Sony rates the Fit 15 for up to three hours and 45 minutes, which is on the money, at least according to our tests. The unit we tested lasted through three hours and 37 minutes of video playback (that’s with WiFi on and the brightness fixed at 65 percent). That’s not great for a 15-inch laptop but then again, it’s heavy enough that you’ll likely have it plugged in at your desk most of the time anyway.

Software and warranty

Sony VAIO Fit 15 review (2013): Sony's mainstream notebooks get a makeover

Sony’s bundled apps span the equivalent of eight small tiles on the Start Menu — not exactly a small load here. As on other machines, you’ll find an assortment of third-party programs like Hulu Plus, Slacker Radio, iHeartRadio, My Daily Clip, PuzzleTouch and Intel’s AppUp store. At the same time, Sony’s included a good deal of its own software, including VAIO Update, PlayMemories Home, VAIO Movie Creator, VAIO Control Center and its usual Metro-style apps built just for Windows 8 (that would be Socialife, Music and Album).

Sony also threw in its Imagination Studio package, valued at about $200, which includes ACID Music Studio 9.0, Movie Studio Platinum 12.0, DVD Architect Studio 5.0 and Sound Forge Audio. As it happens, Sony plans to bundle that suite on every new PC it releases this summer, so file that away in the back of your head, even if you decide to hold out for a different model. Finally, wrapping things up, Sony has included ArtRage Studio, which you’ll find on Sony’s other touch-enabled systems too.

The Fit 15, like all Fit models (and all consumer PCs in general), comes with one year of warranty coverage, including 24/7 phone support.

Configuration options

Sony VAIO Fit 15 review (2013): Sony's mainstream notebooks get a makeover

The Fit 15 starts at $700 with a Core i3-3227U processor, 4GB of RAM, integrated Intel HD 4000 graphics and a 500GB 5,400RPM hard drive paired with an 8GB SSD. From there, you can upgrade to a Core i5 or i7 CPU, up to 12GB of RAM and an NVIDIA GeForce GT 735M GPU with either one or two gigs of video memory. If you want more storage space, you can get a 750GB or 1TB drive, also with an 8GB SSD. Or, you can ditch the hybrids entirely and go with a 256GB or 512GB SSD. Other adjustments you can make: getting Windows 8 Pro instead of Windows 8, or choosing a Blu-ray burner over a DVD drive. Technically, that touchscreen is optional, but only on the black model; the pink and silver versions are touch-only.

If you’re looking for something slightly more portable, the 14-inch Fit 14 offers the same specs, but starts at a slightly lower price of $650. While we’re here, it’s also worth going over what the Fit E models have to offer. The two start at $550 and $580, respectively, with a 1,600 x 900 screen on the Fit 14E and a 1080p panel on the Fit 15E. Like the higher-end Fits, they’ll be offered with Core i3, i5 and i7 Ivy Bridge processors, though in this case, there will also be a Pentium CPU offered at the lowest end.

Other specs have been downgraded too: RAM is capped at 8GB, not 12GB, and the standard hard drive offering is a 500GB HDD, with no SSD attached. (You can also get a 750GB or 1TB drive, or a hybrid setup.) As on the higher-end Fit notebooks, Intel HD 4000 graphics are standard, but you can upgrade to discrete (an NVIDIA GeForce GT730M GPU with 1GB or 2GB of VRAM, in this case). Here, too, you can add a Blu-ray drive. As you’d expect, touchscreens aren’t here either, but with these lower-end models you can get a non-touch configuration in either black or white; pink is the only color that’ll be available exclusively with touch.

The competition

Sony VAIO Fit 15 review (2013): Sony's mainstream notebooks get a makeover

If other PC makers refuse to match this, they might well lose, at least in a war of spec sheets.

Within a matter of weeks, almost every PC maker will be refreshing its mainstream laptop lineup with Haswell, if not replacing their existing systems altogether. So, it’d be pointless to attempt a thorough comparison with other machines on the market, given that we’re not quite sure which will be discontinued. That said, we can think of some other mid-range 15-inch systems that came out very recently, which gives us confidence they’ll be available for at least a few months yet.

Starting with Dell, there’s the Inspiron R series, with the 15R ($550 and up) being the most relevant of the bunch. Like the Fit series, it’s highly configurable, with touchscreens, Core i7 processors and 1TB of storage offered at the high end. It’s also significantly lighter than the Fit 15, at 5.12 pounds. Keep in mind, though, that the screen resolution is capped at 1,366 x 768, and the hard drive isn’t paired with an SSD. In terms of specs, then, the Fit 15 is the clear winner, but you might want to keep the Inspiron 15R in mind anyway if you end up shifting your attention to the lower-priced Fit 15E. You can also check out the higher-end Dell XPS 15, but we’re not sure how long it’ll be sold, as it’s already been out for quite a while.

Samsung also recently outed some new models, including the ATIV Book 6, a 15.6-inch system with a Core i7 processor, 8GB of RAM and a 1080p display. Unlike the Fit 15, though, it comes standard with discrete graphics (an AMD Radeon HD 8770M GPU, in this case). It’s also lighter, at 5.18 pounds. All that said, we’re not yet sure how much it will cost here in the US, so for all we know it could be priced a cut above the Fit series. Also, until we test one, we can’t vouch for the claimed 4.7-hour battery life, or say how it compares to the Fit 15′s runtime.

Acer’s also got some hot-off-the-press machines — the new V5 and V7 laptops were unveiled just last week. The difference between the two lines mainly comes down to fit and finish, though both will be offered with 1080p screens and optional discrete graphics, more or less matching what Sony is offering on the higher-end Fits. Keep an eye on these, too — Acer is known for setting low prices in a way that Sony perhaps isn’t.

Wrap-up

Sony VAIO Fit 15 review (2013): Sony's mainstream notebooks get a makeover

Should you buy the VAIO Fit 15? It’s tough to say conclusively, since we still don’t know what other companies like HP and Toshiba are going to sell this summer. We do know this: the Fit 15 kicks off back-to-school season on a strong note. We applaud Sony for standardizing on certain specs, like backlit keyboards and higher-res screens. In fact, if other PC makers refuse to match this, they might lose, at least in a war of spec sheets.

What’s more, the keyboard is a clear improvement over the one on last year’s VAIOs, even if it is still a bit shallow. And hey, who can argue with that 11-second boot time? We already know the Fit 15 offers performance that’s equal to or slightly better what you’ll get from other machines with similar specs; we don’t need to see HP’s new systems to tell you that. As you can see, then, our list of complaints is short, though we do wish battery life were longer (ditto for almost every touchscreen laptop with Ivy Bridge). And the design, while pretty, also suffers from some minor flaws — a little too much give here, a little too much wobble there. Particularly since this isn’t a total slam dunk, you’d be smart to wait a few weeks, if possible, and see what other companies announce. Even then, though, the Fit could be a tough act to follow.

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Twitter’s ‘Buy Now’ shopping button shows up in tweets

Twitter's 'Buy Now' shopping button shows up in tweets

It looks like Twitter”s leaked ‘Buy Now’ button is more than just a proposal, after all. Recode has spotted the button (since yanked) lurking in tweets seen from the mobile app, enticing people into making impulse purchases when browsing their social feeds. While the shopping link was frequently broken, one tipster reports getting a checkout page in-app; apparently, it wouldn’t take long to buy whatever caught your attention. Neither Twitter nor its project collaborator, Fancy.com, are commenting on the inadvertent leak or their future plans. However, the appearance confirms that ‘Buy Now’ has at least made it far enough to become yet another Twitter experiment. The real question is whether or not it will survive beyond that stage — Twitter is known to shelve features in testing if they don’t pan out.

[Image credit: Andrew Burton/Getty Images]

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The Big Picture: Recovering NASA’s flying saucer

The Big Picture: Recovering NASA's flying saucer

Despite Independence Day being right around the corner, what you’re seeing up above shouldn’t get your hopes up about welcoming any aliens to Earth. Besides, everyone knows that the government would likely never release pictures of that sort of thing anyhow. What’s pictured is actually the result of NASA’s first Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) test-flight that took place over the weekend, and the image was captured a few hours after the vessel touched down over the US Navy’s Pacific Missile Test Range. Currently there are plans to test the aerospace outfit’s not-a-UFO at least two more times ahead of its ultimate goal: a trip to Mars.

[Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech]

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‘Reading Rainbow’ is the most popular Kickstarter to date

'Reading Rainbow' is the most popular Kickstarter to date

As it turns out, there are a lot of people who want LeVar Burton teaching kids how to read. The Reading Rainbow remake has just become the most popular Kickstarter project, ever — it broke the record with over 91,600 backers on June 30th. That puts it ahead of legendary efforts like the OUYA game console, the original Pebble smartwatch and the Veronica Mars movie, and it still has roughly two days left to go as of this writing.

Not that Burton and crew are content with those numbers, mind you. To spur additional pledges, they’re offering new perks that include signed art prints and library visits for the bigger spenders. It’s not certain that Reading Rainbow will reach its next big objective of 100,000 backers, but we wouldn’t rule out a last-minute push that puts it over the top. Suffice it to say that anyone hoping to beat LeVar’s final result is going to need a bona fide hit.

Reading Rainbow just crushed the record for most backers ever! https://t.co/A9gyA9uNTT pic.twitter.com/ygsCxomJmb

– Kickstarter (@kickstarter) June 30, 2014

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OUYA’s $99 Android-based gaming console meets Kickstarter goal: $950k in under 12 hours (update: it’s a record)

OUYA's $99 Android-based gaming console meets Kickstarter goal: $950k in under 12 hours (update: it's a record)

The gaming public at large has spoken. In less than 12 hours, Yves Behar’s Android-based OUYA gaming console has reached its lofty funding goal of $950,000 on Kickstarter. To refresh your memory, the $99 system (which was only $95 for 1,000 swift early adopters) packs a Tegra 3 CPU, 8GB of storage, 802.11n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, a USB 2.0 port and an SD card slot — that price also grants you a single controller with a touch sensor. Most notably, the system is aimed at being extremely developer-friendly, having open hardware and software with a push for free-to-play content. There are only about 5,000 units (out of 10,000) (update: that number has been bumped to 20,000, with just under 10k available) left at the $99 price, so feel free to check out our in-depth chat about OUYA with Behar himself here before you head over to Kickstarter. It appears that the traditional business model for gaming consoles just got rocked, and we can’t wait to see the final results.

Update: If you thought that was fast, you’d be right: Kickstarter has confirmed that OUYA achieved the biggest first day ever for one of its hosted projects, and it’s just the eighth project ever to crack the million-dollar mark, joining an esteemed company that includes Double Fine’s upcoming adventure game and the all-time champion, the Pebble smartwatch.

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