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Sky Hub

July 17, 2013 by  
Filed under Reviews

Planning to get Sky Fibre? If so, prepare to buy another router.

Score 5/10

 

Pros
Free to new customers
Simple setup
Sleek, minimalist design

Cons
No Gigabit Ethernet
Single band 2.4GHz wireless bgn only
No USB ports to network drives or printers
Weak wireless range & performance
Review Price £69.00

Key Features: 802.11bgn 2.4GHz WiFi; Integrated DSL modem; 4x 10/100 Ethernet ports; WEP, WPA/WPA2 & WPS security

What is the Sky Hub?
The Sky Hub is the router the broadcasting giant supplies with every new connection to its ever-expanding fixed broadband network. Unlike previous Sky routers, which were designed by Netgear, this time Sky claims credit for its design and that its range and performance is a step above routers supplied by other ISPs. With Sky Fibre now unleashed and promising breakneck Internet speeds, it needs to be…

1

Sky Hub – Design
Take the Sky Hub out the box and its inspiration is clear. The white colouring, square shape and rounded corners owe a large debt to Apple’s AirPort Express Base Station. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The matt finish means it isn’t a dust and fingerprint magnet like many other routers and status lights – power, Internet, WPS, wireless and Sky HD – are clearly labelled. In fact, the inclusion of ‘Internet’ as a smiley face symbol is a nice touch as is its ability to detect when Sky HD on-demand services are in use.

Less welcome is where Sky has broken from Apple’s design principles with an off-white finish on one side and the gratuitous, reflective Sky logos on both sides that are stuck on rather than subtly embossed. Where Sky does deserve credit, however, is the Hub integrates both its DSL modem and PSU – the latter meaning no bulky plug or separate power brick and the whole package is highly compact at just 104 x 104 x 54mm and 368g.

 

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Sky Hub – Features
The problem is this immediately sets our Spidey senses tingling. How has the Sky Hub managed to be so compact? Sadly because it is extremely short on features.

What stands out most is the Sky Hub is just a single band (2.4GHz) 802.11n router. This means all wireless activity in a household must share the same bandwidth and the 2.4GHz band also performs more slowly than the 5GHz band, which is a part of dual band routers like Virgin’s new Super Hub and BT’s Home Hub 4 (review coming soon).

Another shock is the Sky Hub lacks Gigabit Ethernet, a standard feature on routers for a number of years now. Instead the Hub has four 10/100 Ethernet ports which means their peak wired speed (100Mbit) is only just above the 76Mbit speeds at which Sky Fibre can operate and will prove a serious bottleneck to wired home networks which can work in excess of well over 300Mbit.

The shortcomings don’t stop there either as Sky has also omitted USB ports which allow printers or external storage to be quickly shared across a network. Sky isn’t alone in this as Virgin’s new Super Hub also omits a USB port, but BT’s Home Hub 2, 3 and 4 all support it and one USB port is common on most third party routers. Indeed, some, such as our current favourite 802.11ac router, the Linksys EA6700, have two USB ports.

Elsewhere the Sky Hub does at least offer WPA/WPA2 and WPS wireless security as well as port forwarding, uPNP and Dynamic DNS, but it isn’t IPv6 compliant – something we hope Sky will add in a future firmware update.

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Sky Hub – Setup
The flip side of such a basic feature set is the Sky Hub is a doddle to set up. Plug in the power and your DSL cable (note Sky supplies just one microfilter), give it a minute to boot, connect to the wireless signal via the password provided on the bottom of the router and you’re ready to go.

Adjusting settings is just as straightforward. The Sky Hub lacks the advanced Cloud platforms launched by Linksys and D-Link, so it is a case of entering 192.168.0.1 in your web browser when connected to the network and logging in with the default username and password (remember to change them).

The Hub’s user interface is basic, but clear with major categories written along the top – Wireless, Security, Maintenance, Advanced, Support – and options are presented in drop down menus. A useful right-sided column gives novices a wordy description of what each section means, though it requires a great deal of scrolling and could’ve been better laid out.

This is a sample, to read about the Sky Hub’s shocking performance, why you may be shortchanged on its 76Mbit Sky Fibre boradband package and what can be done click here to read the full review @ TrustedReviews

Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings. 

 

 

 

 

TR – One Microsoft: 5 reasons why Ballmer’s shake-up will revitalise Microsoft

July 17, 2013 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

The most radical shake-up of Microsoft in a decade should bear fruit.

Last week, under pressure Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced the biggest company-wide reorganisation in his 13 years in charge. He repeatedly stressed the need to become ‘one Microsoft’ saying “we will see our product line holistically, not as a set of islands.”

Having delved through the restructure we think there are strong reasons why the changes may just work…

Reason #1: Platform unity
The old Microsoft was separated by divisions – Windows Phone, Windows, Office, Xbox – whereas now it is separated by function: OS, Apps, Cloud and Devices.

For platforms this means all development will be done by the ‘Operating Systems’ group and developed in unison, regardless of the device the platform will be released on. Working together should see better unification between Windows, Windows Phone, Xbox and any future technologies Microsoft is interested in – such as smartwatches. Common rules for design, integration, navigation and more can be agreed upon from conception.

The Apps, Cloud and Devices groups will operate similarly working towards a single, unified app store, SkyDrive as the save and sync backbone across all products and all hardware devices designed together with complementary principles.

This is hugely ambitious and will take time. Whether it can be achieved is also crucial to Microsoft’s long-term future, but it seems more achievable under the new infrastructure.

Reason #2: Simplification
This applies on both a corporate scale and to end users.

As a corporation Microsoft’s structure now makes more sense. The aforementioned OS, Apps, Cloud and Devices groups will fit into the ‘Engineering’ section, other sections are Marketing, Business Development and Evangelism, Advanced Strategy and Research, Finance, HR, Legal, and COO (which includes sales, tech and field support).

This shows what a behemoth Microsoft is, but it is also easy to grasp and logical with clear chains of command. This is vital for a company whose divisions had been a labyrinth and traditionally competed against rather than worked with one another.

For end users, Ballmer’s stated vision is equally transparent: “One Microsoft, all the time”. This means he expects the creation of Engineering – which will primarily serve consumers – and its grouping by function to produce holistic products. A system whereby knowing how one device operates means you can easily understand others. This is an area where Apple has excelled with the evolution of iOS across iPod, iPhone and iPad product lines.

“Microsoft has the clear opportunity to offer consumers a unified experience across all aspects of their life, whether the screen is a small wearable, a phone, a tablet, an 85in display or other screens and devices we have not yet even imagined,” said Ballmer. Microsoft’s video below shows its future vision of how this may play out.

Watch Microsoft’s vision of the future video:

Reason #3: Leverage
Ok, so it’s one of ‘those’ words, but it’s an apt one in this case. Unity and simplification bring a third key advantage: the ability of more successful products to give leverage to struggling ones. Key for Microsoft in its restructure is seeing Windows give a leg up to Windows Phone.

It is easy to forget how dominant Windows is. For all its criticism Windows 8 sold 100 million licenses in six months while the world’s most successful phone, the iPhone 5, has shipped just over 50 million units in nearly 10 months. Whether licenses or actual sales that’s one heck of a Windows customer base and with an ‘Apps’ division now primed on creating a single, compatible app store between Windows and Windows Phone it greatly incentivises app makers to reconsider the smartphone platform.

Microsoft is looking to leverage a similar effect on its cross-platform voice and messaging services by vertically integrating Skype through Windows, Windows Phone, Xbox and Office. WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Google Hangouts, BBM and iMessage will all be in its crosshairs after Microsoft Messenger faded from relevance.

The same becomes true of SkyDrive when effectively melded into these platforms and gives it a massive boost in facing up to the threat of Dropbox, Google Drive, Amazon Cloud Drive, SugarSync, Box and others.

Reason #4: Nimbleness
Over the last decade Apple and Google have shown Microsoft size shouldn’t mean sluggishness and Ballmer is no longer prepared to use the company’s magnitude as an excuse. “The timeframe for product releases, customer interaction and competitive response is dramatically shorter,” he argues. “As a company, we need to make the right decisions, and make them more quickly”.

To back this up a key part of ‘one Microsoft’ is changing how the company works. From this point onwards each major initiative will have a ‘champion’ who reports directly to Ballmer or his primary advisors and drives cross company integration of the project. It will also mean there is faster feedback on how each initiative is or isn’t working across the whole company. With teams unified by function roll outs can then be made more widely, altered or even scrapped before too much time passes as the big picture is always in place.

A leak on Thursday that major Windows Phone 8 fixes won’t arrive until 2014 shows the size of task Microsoft has here. But failure is not an option.

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Reason #5: New hero products
From Xbox to Surface and its vice-like grip on netbook and Windows Phone specifications, Microsoft has enjoyed increasing influence in hardware and that is only likely to increase following the restructure.

The creation of a dedicated ‘Devices’ group suggests this statement isn’t rocket science, but Microsoft isn’t looking to compete with partners, but rather inspire them. Of course ‘inspiration’ from this no doubt stems from Google’s increasingly popular line of Nexus devices, and teasers for Surface Pro and Surface RT refreshes have already been issued. It is reverse engineering: convince consumers to convince hardware partners.

Surface tablets still have a long way to go in this regard, but this is only the beginning. Talk of a Surface smartphone and Surface watch refuse to die down and rumours Microsoft may and potentially must buy Nokia continue to gather momentum. Now Microsoft has the perfect structure to house it.

And for those still in doubt about Microsoft’s hardware intentions, Ballmer actually let the cat out of the bag last year. In an interview with the BBC he asked and answered the question himself: “Is it fair to say we’re going to do more hardware? Obviously we are.”

…there’s always a BUT
And yet there is always a ‘but’ and with a reorganisation of this scale there are understandably a lot of them.

Most poignant is whether Microsoft can pull it off. Ballmer may well revel in telling people the new company will no longer be “a set of islands” but it has been allowed to exist like this for more than a decade under his rule and such a mammoth cultural change will be hard to implement for a company long seen as stuck in its ways.

Secondly, it could be argued the changes come less out of inspiration and more from desperation as Microsoft watches the PC market enter the longest duration of decline in its history. Meanwhile, talk of product and platform unity has been Apple’s calling card for years, it was the theme of Google I/O 2013 and even Samsung has been converging its phones, tablets, laptops, desktops and TVs for some time now. This all may be brave new territory for Microsoft but it isn’t new to its biggest rivals.

There is also the feeling that this is the last roll of the dice for Ballmer and the new structure solidifies his position when he may not be the best man to execute its grand plans.

4

And yet I think Microsoft deserves the benefit of the doubt. Love or loathe Windows 8 and Windows Phone, they are arguably the most ambitious operating systems on the market and, despite its embarrassing climb down over Xbox One DRM, arguably the Xbox One aims higher than the PS4 even if it’s at the expense of purity. An ambitious, successful Microsoft lets no company sit on its laurels and that is good news even if you favour one of its rivals.

Ballmer’s talk of ‘One Microsoft’ may just enable this and he argues the restructure “will drive us to set shared goals for everything we do”. For Ballmer and Microsoft they have set upon a path which excites, but from which there is no turning back.

Click here to read the original editorial @ TrustedReviews

Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings. 

 

 

 

Linksys EA6700 802.11ac router

July 17, 2013 by  
Filed under Reviews

The EA6500 was already our favourite 802.11ac wireless router, the EA6700 improves upon on it…

Score 9/10

Pros
Blistering 802.11ac & 802.11n 5GHz wireless performance
Smart WiFi the class leading Cloud platform
Subtle, stylish design
USB 3.0 & USB 2.0 ports
Simple, intuitive setup and management

Cons
802.11n 2.4GHz performance could be better
Still expensive
Only four Gigabit Ethernet ports
Review Price £169.00

Key Features: 802.11ac Wireless; 802.11n dual band 5GHz & 2.4GHz wireless; Smart WiFi Cloud platform; SimpleTap NFC device pairing; 1x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0 ; 4x Gigabit Ethernet Ports; WPA / WPA2 & WPS security

What is the Linksys EA6700?
The EA6500 is Linksys’ new flagship 802.11ac wireless router. It replaces the EA6500, Linksys’ previous top of the line model and its first router to support the next generation ac wireless standard.

The EA6500 is our current pick of the 802.11ac routers available, so given the EA6700 will replace it on shop shelves it has big shoes to fill.
1

Linksys EA6700 – Design
From first glance the EA6700 looks identical to its forebear. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Much like a ThinkPad, Linksys’ premium routers have had a consistent design for some time now and the EA6700 retains this same rectangular, wall mountable shape. Plenty of thought is behind it: the matt grey finish resists dust and fingerprints and the metallic band adds to its discrete stylish look and opens up to make space for a ventilation grill.

Interestingly the EA6700 still sports the Cisco logo, despite Cisco selling Linksys to Belkin a few months ago. Belkin has already announced it will keep the Linksys branding, but whether it will also add its own logo to the EA6700 in time is unknown.

The first sign that changes are afoot is along the rear of the EA6700 with the EA6500’s pair of USB 2.0 ports replaced by one USB 2.0 and one welcome USB 3.0. The layout of the ports has also been tweaked. Running left to right you now have USB 3.0, USB 2.0, 4x Gigabit Ethernet ports, an Internet port (for connecting to your modem), a reset pinhole, power socket and power switch.

Previously the USB ports had been sandwiched between the Ethernet ports and power button and the new arrangement makes them more accessible.

2

Linksys EA6700 – Features
Aside from USB 3.0, the EA6700 ticks the same primary boxes as the EA6500. Its headline feature remains its 1300Mbit 802.11ac and this is augmented by 450Mbit 802.11n for the misleading ‘1750Mbit’ figure punted by most ac wireless routers. These bands are powered by six internal 3D antennas with high power amplifiers.

The other talking point with any new Linksys router is the company’s ‘Smart WiFi’ (previously ‘Connect Cloud’). Smart WiFi is a Cloud platform which enables you to access your router from any location by logging in at linksyssmartwifi.com or using the company’s official Android and iOS apps. Smart WiFi lets you remotely add or remove devices on your network, adjust privacy and parental settings, control guest access, prioritise devices or applications, change passwords and even the router SSID and broadcast bands. It also has an API for third party apps and their numbers are growing.

Connect Cloud actually had a contentious launch as it unilaterally imposed itself on all the latest pre-Cloud Linksys routers. But under the Smart WiFi banner it has matured into by far the most attractive, intuitive and powered router control platform currently available. It won’t intimidate technophobes and advanced users can tweak minutiae to their heart’s content.

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Like the the EA6500, the EA6700 also caters for users with NFC enabled devices with a bundled ‘SimpleTap’ card. Just touch the card to your NFC device and it will be automatically connected to the EA6700’s 802.11n 2.4GHz wireless. Why Linksys chose to associate the card with this band is down to prevalence as wireless n 5GHz support still isn’t ubiquitous and of course 802.11ac support right now is rarer still. That said, SimpleTap is a great way to quickly add devices.

Not leaving out the more perfunctory elements, the EA6700 also supports IPv6, Dynamic DNS, port forwarding and there’s even an integrated broadband speed tester.

This is a sample to read about how the EA6700 performs, its value for money and the overall verdict read the full review @ TrustedReviews

Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings.

 

 

 

 

Virgin Media new Super Hub

July 9, 2013 by  
Filed under Reviews

Virgin has high hopes for this update to the infamous Super Hub…

Score 7/10

 

Pros
Impressive 2.4GHz & 5GHz 802.11n performance
Simple setup
Intuitive user interface

Cons
Lacks IPv6 compliance, QoS & Dynamic DNS
Faster 802.11n routers at distance
Should be free to existing as well as new customers
Review Price £50.00

Key Features: Integrated cable modem & wireless router; 2.4GHz & 5GHz dual band wireless; 802.11b/g/n standards; Modem-only mode ; 4x Gigabit Ethernet Ports
Manufacturer: Netgear

What is the Virgin Media new Super Hub?
The latest router from Virgin Media targets the company’s higher speed customers (60Mbit and above) and is the first to offer dual band 2.4GHz and 5GHz wireless support. This is important because 5GHz is a less congested spectrum and allows 5GHz Wi-Fi equipped devices to operate at faster speeds with less interference.

Furthermore the new Super Hub is a vital upgrade after the original Super Hub suffered numerous performance and reliability issues. Like the original, the new Super Hub is made by Netgear, but this time Virgin is confident it is not only bug-free but also the fastest router supplied by an ISP.

 

5GHZ-FRONT-A4-SH

Virgin Media new Super Hub – Design & Features
Routers aren’t famed for their jaw dropping design and the ‘new Super Hub’ (thanks ‘new iPad’) won’t be causing fashionistas to have a rethink. That said its matt black finish and simple curves have an understated elegance and it is solidly constructed. At 215 x 195 x 69mm and 520g it isn’t the most compact router, but it is stable – a vast improvement on the old Super Hub, which perched on a wobbly stand.

The new Super Hub also has far more subtle lighting with LEDs along the front to indicate power, data transmission, broadband status and the operation of 2.4GHz and 5GHz wireless modes. This means Virgin wisely omits the garish glowing Virgin Media logo slapped on the side of the old Super Hub, though both it and the new model can dim or switch off the lights completely.

Far more important than the new Super Hub’s looks, however, is its functionality and in adding dual band Wi-Fi Virgin has effectively stepped into 2011. This isn’t a slight, many ISPs have yet to do this with their routers, but third-party dual band routers have been around for years now and are rapidly moving onto the next generation 802.11ac standard while the new Super Hub is moored in 802.11b/g/n.

There are many reasons 802.11ac routers are desirable, too many to list here at least. Read our feature: 802.11ac vs 802.11n Wi-Fi: what’s the difference? for all the details.

IMG-4324

Still, Virgin is doing its best to eek out every last drop of from 802.11n. It has equipped the new Super Hub with three 5GHz spatial antennas for a theoretical top speed of 450Mbit and there are two 2.4GHz spatial antennas theoretically capable of producing 300Mbit. On paper this puts it ahead of every router supplied by an ISP (including the BT Home Hub 4, which we will be testing soon) and in line with the best third-party 802.11n routers.

Virgin ticks other boxes too: there are four Gigabit Ethernet ports, support for WPS wireless security, MAC filtering, port forwarding and UPnP. You can also set up two guest networks per band each with separate passwords for visitors that keep them off your main network. Should you wish to use a third-party router (for example an 802.11ac router) Virgin also offers a ‘modem mode’ that switches off its Wi-Fi to avoid interference, though when you connect another router it also disables the new Super Hub’s remaining three Ethernet ports.

modem-mode

Despite all this the new Super Hub is far from an A to Z of networking functionality. There are no dynamic DNS settings, no Quality of Service and no parental controls (note Virgin does offer parent controls via its free ‘Virgin Media Security’ software). Surprisingly, the new Super Hub is also not IPv6 compliant, though Virgin Media confirmed this should be corrected in a firmware update.

Needless to say the new Super Hub also lacks a Cloud platform like Linksys’ Smart WiFi or D-Link’s mydlink, which lets you control the router remotely. On the plus side, the new Super Hub can be set to allow Virgin Media technical support to access your router settings, but sensibly this is disabled by default to keep security tight.

This is a sample, to read about the new Super Hub’s performance, value for money and my view on whether you should buy it or not click here to read the full review @ TrustedReviews

Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings.

 

En Voyage – Portable Power (July 2013)

July 8, 2013 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

Every month I write the gadget column for Eva Air’s in-flight magazine. Eva Air is one of the biggest airlines in the Far East.

For July I looked at the pros and cons of convenient gadgets which provide portable power and there are some surprising options available.

Grabs from the magazine as below (click to enlarge). You can read a digital version of the En Voyage July edition here and for a more detailed look at portable power read my TrustedReviews feature: ‘The Next Spec War Must Be Battery Life

2013 - 07 - Portable Power

click to enlarge

Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings.

 

 

En Voyage – Health (June 2013)

July 8, 2013 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

Every month I write the gadget column for Eva Air’s in-flight magazine. Eva Air is one of the biggest airlines in the Far East.

For June I rounded up the latest Health gadgets, arguably the tech sector’s biggest current craze.

Grabs from the magazine as below (click to enlarge). You can read a digital version of En Voyage’s June edition here.

2013 - 06 - Health

click to enlarge

Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings.

 

TR – 802.11ac vs 802.11n – What’s the difference?

July 3, 2013 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

Next generation Wi-Fi is here and it brings huge benefits.

b, g, n, ac… wireless standards haven’t had the most logical of alphabetical progressions, but it has just had the most important.

Last week governing body the Wi-Fi Alliance certified the ‘802.11ac’ standard, paving the way for the mass roll-out of ‘wireless ac’ devices. As this standard is built into routers, laptops, tablets, smartphones, televisions and much more we look at what enhancements it will bring over its predecessor, 802.11n, and whether it is worth getting excited about.

news-828-1 802.11ac Compatibility
The first thing to get out of the way is – like past Wi-Fi standards – 802.11ac is backwards compatible with 802.11b, g and n. This means you can buy an 802.11ac-equipped device and it will work just fine with your existing router. Similarly you can upgrade to an 802.11ac router and it will work happily with all your existing devices. That said you will need both an 802.11ac router and an 802.11ac device to enjoy the standard’s biggest benefits. And those begin with…

802.11ac Speed
With any new wireless technology speed is always the headline-grabbing feature but, as with every wireless standard to date, the figures tossed around can be highly misleading.

1.3 gigabits per second (Gbps) is the speed most commonly cited as the 802.11ac standard. This translates to 166 megabytes per second (MBps) or 1331 megabits per second (Mbps). It is vastly quicker than the 450Mbit per second (0.45Gbps) headline speeds quoted on the highest performing 802.11n routers.

1So wireless ac is roughly 3x as fast as wireless n? No.

These figures are ‘theoretical maximums’ that are never close to being realised in real world scenarios. In our experience wireless n performance tends to top off around 50-150Mbit and our reviews of draft 802.11ac routers have typically found performance to be closer to 250-300Mbit. So 2.5x faster when close to your router is a good rule of thumb (though far more at distance, which we’ll come to shortly).

Happily this gain is likely to increase as 802.11ac devices advance. Wireless 802.11n supports a maximum of four antennas at roughly 100Mbit each, where 802.11ac can support up to eight antennas at over 400Mbit each.

Smaller devices like smartphones tend to fit only a single antenna, but it gets even bigger in tablets (typically two to four antennas) and laptops and televisions (four to eight). In addition no 802.11ac router released so far has packed more than six antennas.

A final point: beware routers claiming speeds of 1,750 Gigabits. It is a marketing ploy where the manufacturer has added the 1.3Gbit theoretical maximum speed of 802.11ac to the 450Mbit theoretical maximum speed of 802.11n. Sneaky.

802.11ac Range
While speed is what will likely sell 802.11ac routers, range is equally important. Here wireless ac excels.

The first point to make is the 802.11ac standard lives entirely in the 5GHz spectrum. While some more modern routers broadcast 802.11n in 5GHz as well as 2.4GHz they remain relatively rare.

Consequently, the 5GHz spectrum tends to be ‘quiet’, meaning much less interference from neighbourhood Wi-Fi. This more than counters the fact that, in lab conditions, 5GHz signals do not actually broadcast as far as 2.4GHz signals. 5GHz is also necessary to support the faster speeds of wireless ac.
beamDiagrams
The second key factor is 802.11ac makes ‘beamforming’ a core part of its spec. Rather than throw out wireless signal equally in all directions, WiFi with beamforming detects where devices are and intensifies the signal in their direction(s).

This technology has been around in proprietary form (it made a huge impact in the D-Link DIR-645), but now it will be inside every 802.11ac router and every 802.11ac device.

The combination of these two technologies is profound. This was most clearly seen with the Linksys EA6500 which hit speeds of 30.2MBps (241.6Mbit) when connecting to a device just two metres away, but still performed at 22.7MBps (181.6Mbit) when 13 metres away with two solid walls in the way. By contrast Linksys’ own EA4500 (identical except being limited to 802.11n) managed 10.6MBps (84.8Mbit) dropping to 2.31MBps (18.48Mbit) under the same conditions.

The real world result is 802.11ac not only enables you to enjoy the fastest 100Mbit (and beyond) fibre optic broadband speeds all over the house, but to enjoy it along with multiple streams of Full HD content, super low latency gaming and blazing fast home networking all at the same time.

802.11ac Availability
Here comes the first caveat. The announcement of the Wi-Fi Alliance’s 802.11ac certification programme means 802.11ac equipped products can now be certified, but that process will take time as thousands of chipsets need to be tested.

Of course some manufacturers have jumped the gun. The 802.11ac routers we have tested are sold as ‘Draft 802.11ac’ products and while many may become certified through a firmware update, it is not guaranteed. Draft 802.11ac products are also not guaranteed to perform optimally with other Draft 802.11ac products – especially between different manufacturers. Certified products are.

The good news is the first certified chipsets are already creeping out and they come from the likes of Intel, Qualcomm, Cisco, Realtek, Marvell, Broadcom and Samsung – manufacturers with extensive networking expertise and who licence their chipsets to others. For example Intel has only one chipset certified – the ‘Dual band Wireless 7260’ – but it is expected to be at the heart of most Haswell-powered Ultrabooks. The most high profile of these to date is the new 2013 MacBook Air.

Air A full list of 802.11ac certified chipsets can be found here

Furthermore, adoption should be fast. The first 802.11ac routers carried a hefty premium, but this has dropped quickly to the point where price shouldn’t be a barrier to anyone keen to hop onto the bandwagon. In addition 802.11ac is extremely efficient and it brings power savings compared to 802.11n, meaning it is ideal for mobile devices. The Samsung Galaxy S4 and Samsung Mega phones already pack wireless ac.

As such, while 802.11ac products are only trickling out at present, it will turn into a tidal wave by early 2014.

Should I wait for 802.11ac?
All of which begs the question: should I now buy any device that isn’t 802.11ac compatible? The short answer is no. If you live alone in a small flat where you have no signal problems 802.11n may serve all your needs, but in larger, multi-user homes and homes with network attached storage the benefits of 802.11ac are simply too good to miss out on. Especially when buying devices you expect to keep for a number of years.

The longer answer is 802.11ac is a revolution that will be hard to actively avoid. Wireless ac will be built into most laptops and phones within the next 12 months and routers will increasingly come with it (though ISPs are typically slow to adopt new standards in the routers they give out, so plug an ac router into theirs and switch off their wireless to get around it).

It will take time and money for your home to be fully 802.11ac compatible, but it will be worth it.

To read the original article on TrustedReviews click here

Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings. 

 

 

 

 

Samsung is damaging the Galaxy S4 brand

July 3, 2013 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

Greed and complacency are catching up with the smartphone giant…

 

 

Customer: “Could I have the Samsung Galaxy please?”
Shop: “Which one?”
Customer: *smugly* “The Galaxy S4 please”
Shop: “S4, S4 Mini, S4 Active or S4 Zoom?”
Customer: “I’ll take an iPhone”

Somewhere Tim Cook is having a chuckle. While Apple has come under increasing pressure for iterative hardware and restricted software, its biggest competitor appears determined to dilute and devalue the very brand that has done all the damage.

Right now ‘Galaxy’ is the only name in the smartphone world that can hold a candle to ‘iPhone’, but it stands on a precipice. 30 Galaxy phones have been released since the original ‘i7500′ was launched three years ago this month. It is joined by 11 Galaxy tablets since the original Galaxy Tab appeared in September 2010.

Next month both lines will increase again. The 8-inch and 10.1-inch versions of the Galaxy Tab 3 will be launched along with the Galaxy S4 Mini and a Galaxy S4 ‘LTE-Advanced’ edition will be released in Russia and Japan before an expected wider international launch. That retailer discussion will become even more comical.
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Greed
Let’s not beat around the bush, this all stems from greed. Samsung has hit upon a cash cow and it is determined to milk every last drop. Furthermore, by and large, greed has been a policy that has paid off.

After modest sales of the original flagship ‘Galaxy S’, things took off with the Galaxy S2. It sold over 40 million units in 20 months. The Galaxy S3 hit that total in just six months and the S4 sold 10 million units in just 27 days – a figure the S3 reached in 50 days.

And yet not all is well. The Galaxy brand has become an near-impenetrable mess, packed full of models ranging from the budget to the bizarre. More to the point, the premium ‘Galaxy S’ brand – the torch to burn down Castle iPhone – is also feeling the strain for the first time. This week Galaxy S4 monthly sales predictions were slashed by a third and the initial reception to the S4 Mini has been less than kind. This comes just a year after the Galaxy S3 Mini met with a similarly lukewarm reception which preceded mediocre sales.

If Samsung has been polluting its Galaxy brand from below, signs are it is now starting the rot from the top.

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Complacency
It all stems from greed’s biggest bedfellow: complacency. 14 months ago the Galaxy S3 was launched into a specifications dominated market. Its combination of power and expandability built upon the S2 and blew rival Android manufacturers out the water.

But its success disguised two significant factors. 1. That in truth it wasn’t a massive upgrade from the S2, and 2. Major Android rivals HTC, Sony and LG were in disarray.

Repeating the trick again with the S4 is proving more difficult. The reception to the S3 Mini hasn’t helped, but rivals are also now able to counter the S4’s horsepower and are going for tangible differentiators such as the luscious unibody aluminium design of the HTC One and waterproofing of the Sony Xperia Z.

Worst of all Samsung is proving its own worst enemy. The aforementioned S4 Mini looks set to damage the S brand in the same way the overpriced, under performing S3 Mini did and Samsung’s insistence that it knows best how to recode an increasingly attractive Android has led to criticism that its calling card TouchWiz software is little more than bloatware.

BBC Watchdog revelations that TouchWiz leaves just 9GB of a 16GB S4’s memory free have added further credence to this.
touchwiz-bloat
Opportunity
The obvious point to make here is, having dominated Android smartphones, Samsung is opening the door to competitors. To an extent that is true. A stunning S4 could’ve dealt a fatal blow to struggling HTC, but instead the One is slowly bringing it back to life. Likewise flaws in the Xperia Z have largely gone unnoticed after Samsung’s headline antics and Sony is gradually rebuilding with the impending Xperia Z Ultra looking to be another step on the road to recovery.

Similarly aggressive Chinese rivals like ZTE and Huawei are now pushing into the premium smartphone sector as well as gaps appear.

That said Galaxy still remains king of the Android market, Samsung will still produce record results in its next few financial quarters and predictably talk of a unibody S4 edition is gathering momentum. Samsung may be making mistakes, but like Apple it has become large enough to survive for a while by being reactive and it isn’t going to be unseated any time soon.

What is in doubt, however, is Samsung’s master plan. The unilateral TouchWiz UI that was going to merge Samsung TVs, tablets, phones and eventually a hop to its Tizen platform to beat Apple at its own game is losing credibility just at a time when increasing demand for stock Android could fracture the whole process.

Samsung wants to be above the risks of platform dependence before Microsoft and Google’s dalliances with hardware become a major focus. Right now it’s blowing it.

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Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings.

 

 

Microsoft must buy Nokia now

July 3, 2013 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

Huawei’s interest in acquiring Nokia is a warning shot Microsoft cannot afford to ignore if it wants Windows Phone to succeed.

Someone at Microsoft give Richard Yu a kiss. This week Huawei’s chatty chairman spoke openly about the possibility of buying Nokia. Typically this isn’t how it works.

Products may leak, but takeovers are shrouded in secrecy and were this one to have gone through, Microsoft could’ve effectively waved goodbye to its smartphone business. It is a shot across the bows the company cannot afford to ignore.

Richard-YuWindows Phone is weak
Richard YuHuawei VP of external affairs Bill Plummer rode to the rescue on Tuesday saying the company “has no plans to acquire Nokia”. But the key part came from Huawei CEO Richard Yu (pictured below) the day before. He recognised the potential in a Nokia purchase yet criticised Windows Phone. He described the OS as “weak” and questioned why it should command a licence fee when Android is free.

The message to Microsoft was clear: the vultures are circling around your largest and sole exclusive partner and it is highly unlikely any would maintain a Windows Phone-only business model. With Microsoft’s OS holding just 1.5 per cent market share globally and other handset makers having treated it with relative ambivalence to date, a Nokia takeover could see the platform die.

Nokia’s Synergy
What’s more Nokia is a hugely appealing target right now. Yu spoke of “some synergies” between Nokia and Huawei, but that would be true for just about every handset maker and potential handset maker on the market today.

Aside from Apple, platforms are not created by handset makers any more and Nokia is a master of innovative, durable hardware. As one of the oldest phone manufacturers it also holds a lorry load of industry patents and – given its recent woes – is criminally undervalued.

In fact so convinced are traders of Nokia’s suitability for a takeover that the company’s stock leapt 11 per cent in a day just on the possibility of Huawei interest.

Furthermore any deal could make sense to Nokia. Far from a one trick pony, the Finnish giant has its reach across many industries – from industrial telecommunications to digital mapping and web services. It is unlikely any would-be suitor would want the whole package, and Nokia could divest itself of its most troublesome arm.

If it isn’t Huawei, then ZTE and Samsung would be equally worthy suitors. A Galaxy S5 with PureView camera technology and Nokia mapping on a Tizen platform could provide the Korean giant with complete independence. Google and even Apple – the latter looking for a reliable, independent, end-to-end supply chain after its much publicised fall out with Samsung – could all join the bidding. Who wouldn’t want Nokia?

Microsoft Must Buy
The answer should also include Microsoft. Rumour has long circled that Microsoft’s exclusive Windows Phone partnership with Nokia was a placeholder for a purchase in the first place. Microsoft testing the water before going all in on to complete a model both Apple and Google (with its purchase of Motorola) can now offer. With reports that Microsoft is in advanced talks about a Nokia takeover, this seems to be true.

With the threat posed to Windows Phone of any rival takeover and the knock-on effects for its ambitious but controversial Windows 8 and Xbox One it surely now can’t afford to stand still. From one perspective Microsoft is on the verge of uniting the most complete cross platform ecosystem in the industry, but from another it is brittle and the threat to any one element could see the rest come crashing down.
stephen-elop-nokia-and-steve-ballmer-microsoft
Can Microsoft Buy?
All of which begs the question: why would Microsoft leave itself so open in the first place? Theories abound that Microsoft knew moving to a single new platform would see the Nokia share price tank, so why not wait as any takeover price would get cheaper – at least until traction was gained.

The flip side to this is Microsoft has hardly been one to preach value in the past. In 2011 it paid $8.5bn for Skype just two years after it had been acquired by investor Silver Lake for $1.9bn. Similarly Microsoft blew $6bn on online advertiser aQuantive in 2007, only to discard most of it in 2009 for just $530m. It also would have paid $44bn for Yahoo! had the Yahoo! board seen sense in 2008. This is a company not usually shy in throwing its money around.

Instead the reason is more likely to be partners. In massaging Windows Phone into the arms of handset makers, Microsoft is desperate not to scare off their fickle affections by diving into the sector itself. Rumours of a Microsoft-branded smartphone have been around for years, but there is a reason why it hasn’t done it. In addition, the move to hardware would necessitate a huge restructure of company operations.

Microsoft Surfacing
Or would it? Early last year I argued Microsoft is turning into Apple and with the launch of its own brand Surface tablets in late 2012, the development of its own, highly controlled app store and locked down Windows Phone UI (no skins here) Microsoft has shown little concern over whose toes it has stepped on – developers, manufacturers or networks.

Even Ballmer admitted to the BBC last year “Is it fair to say we’re going to do more hardware? Obviously we are.”

Microsoft is about to enter a new era. Q4 2013 will see Windows 8.1, refreshed Surface tablets, a significant Windows Phone 8 update and the launch of the Xbox One. Each is critical but fragile and the timing couldn’t be better for the company to make a huge statement of intent.

Microsoft must step up and secure the future of its ecosystem. If it doesn’t the opportunity has never been better for someone to step in and tear it apart.

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Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings.

 

 

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