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Microsoft launches ‘foldable-like’

At Microsoft’s Surface event in New York yesterday, it launched the Surface Duo, a pocket-sized two screened device that runs Windows and Android apps, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Microsoft has entered the foldable race with a different type of foldable called the Surface Duo. It is a pocket sized Windows device that folds like a 360 degree computer and features two screens.

We’ve called it “foldable-like”, because other manufacturers have made screens that actually fold, while this device features two distinct screens with a very small bezel between them. One can think of it as a small laptop that has replaced the keyboard and trackpad with another screen. This approach may just be the most cost-effective approach to getting users on-board with foldable at the right price.

Microsoft says it will be able to run Windows apps as well as Android apps. Its form factor is 5.6-inches per screen, which can be folded back into a one-screen configuration. When fully opened, it becomes an 8.3-inch Windows tablet with multitasking on each screen. The hinge allows it to act like a laptop with a virtual keyboard, or as a stand for watching videos or multitasking. For those who want to take notes, it also supports the Surface Pen stylus.

It will run a new type of Windows 10, called Windows 10X, which is specifically designed for this new category of dual-screen, touch-enabled PC. 

Watch the launch video below to see how this device looks and feels in the various configurations.

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iPhone 11 Pro Max selfie cam scores in top 10

DxOMark has announced the iPhone 11 Pro Max has scored in the top 10 devices in its selfie scores.

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The iPhone 11 Pro Max is Apple’s most recent top-of-the-line smartphone, featuring a large 6.5-inch “Super Retina” XDR OLED display, Apple’s most powerful A13 Bionic chip for processing, 4GB of RAM, IP68-rated sealing for dust/water protection, and Qi wireless charging.

The front-facing camera benefits from a hardware upgrade over previous models, with a higher-resolution 12MP sensor for sharper shots and wide-angle 23mm-equivalent lens. The lens is still fixed-focus, with the same f/2.2 aperture as the lens on the XS Max, but the wider field of view will certainly help fit more into the frame. Other features include smart HDR, and bokeh shots with Apple’s SL (Structured Light) 3D camera doing the depth sensing.

Front-camera video has been upgraded, too, with the iPhone 11 Pro Max now capable of 4K (2160p) capture at either 24/30/60fps frame rates, as well HD (1080p) capture at 30/60/120fps. The video module also benefits from gyroscope-based electronic image stabilisation (gyro-EIS) for theoretically smoother video capture using the front camera.

Key front camera specifications:

  • 12MP-resolution sensor
  • Fixed-focus, 23mm-equivalent f/2.2-aperture lens
  • SL 3D camera
  • Smart HDR
  • Portrait mode with bokeh and depth control
  • 4K 2160p/60fps video

DxOMark provided the following review:

Achieving a DxOMark Selfie Score of 91, the front camera on the iPhone 11 Pro Max offers a nice improvement in image quality over the XS Max, and ranks just inside the top ten in our database. The addition of a wider lens on the new device is a big plus, helping you fit more into the frame and get better compositions in a range of situations. There are other strengths, too, including a higher score for focus, with both faces and backgrounds boasting good detail at a range of distances, and effective bokeh shots when you want to blur the background. Selfies pack plenty of punch outdoors, too, with accurate exposure on faces, and fairly wide dynamic range ensuring well-controlled highlights and skin tones even in very bright conditions.

Colour rendering has been improved on the iPhone 11 Pro Max, too. White balance is typically a little yellow, but the warmer skin tones can be attractive, and good saturation ensures that colours are pleasant and often vivid in outdoor shots. Details are also well preserved, with well-defined facial features in both single and group selfies at close and medium range; and skin tone rendering usually looks natural.

Bokeh shots are also a key strength for the iPhone 11 Pro Max’s selfie shooter, and the strong background blur looks really striking. Apple’s SL 3D camera generally does a good job with depth estimation and subject isolation. A notable area for further development, however, is noise, which is often very prevalent in both indoor and low-light images. Noise has improved slightly since the XS Max, but front-facing cameras from key competitors continue to offer smoother results in low-light conditions.

Video shows some of the same strengths and weaknesses as stills. The lens’s wider field of view, good focus at most distances, and extended depth of field make the iPhone 11 Pro Max’s front camera a much more suitable solution for vlogging compared to previous iterations. Video exposure is also very good, with the inclusion of HDR processing offering a fairly wide dynamic range in bright outdoor lighting conditions, which is still a little rare for video on front cameras. Colour is pleasant when white balance is accurate, and although slight white balance instabilities are evident, the device generally avoids any offensive colour casts. 4K capture also ensures good detail in videos; fine detail is well preserved, especially in outdoor conditions, and the texture-versus-noise compromise is good. Detail and noise in indoor videos is the main opportunity for improvement, however, with a significant loss of detail and strong noise visible in lower light conditions.

Read more about how the scores are calculated on DxOMark’s website.

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New Acer TravelMate convertible coming

The Acer TravelMate Spin B3, which features a flip-over screen and an 11.6″ screen, will launch in April.

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Acer has announced a convertible TravelMate Spin B3 device, intended for the education market. The 11.6-inch notebook comes with enhanced performance and has a sturdy design to protect it from knocks.

The TravelMate Spin B3 features the latest Intel Pentium and Celeron processors, intended to give students the power they need for classroom work. The laptop also complies with the MIL-STD 810G military standard, meaning that it’s strong enough to survive bumps and accidental spills. A pressure-resistant top cover, shock-absorbent rubber bumper and reinforced corners all add to the durability of the device. The notebook can also get students through the school day (up to 12 hours of battery life) on a single charge.

The TravelMate Spin B3 adapts to the demands of a school day via four usage modes: students can write essays in clamshell mode, watch videos or lectures in display mode, make space on a desk in tent mode when they need to work by hand, and make use of tablet mode when they need to write by hand in maths or art class, for example. An optional world-facing camera above the keyboard allows students to capture photos and videos in tablet mode. It includes Wacom AES technology to provide a natural writing experience, and comes with a dockable stylus.

There is an optional battery indicator light on the front cover which enables teachers to see which students’ laptops are low on battery. The devices have anchored keys that are difficult to remove and an easy-fix keyboard, making it convenient for the school’s IT technician to repair.

The laptop comes with: Ethernet, two USB 3.2 Gen 1 ports, an HDMI port and on select models, a fully-functional USB Type-C port that allows for charging, 5GB/s data transfer and connection to external displays.
The TravelMate Spin B3 will be available in April, starting at R4000.

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