The tbreak awards are coming

January 7, 2013 by  
Filed under Articles, Features, Industry

It goes without saying that we get to play with a lot of cool gadgets and components, and, every year technology keep getting faster, smarter and better. 2012 was no different.

With the arrival of Microsoft’s Windows 8, we saw touch technology move from smartphone and tablets to laptops and desktops with incredibly flexible designs. On the mobile side, Nokia showed that it still has what it takes to design killer hardware while the iPhone continued to push design boundaries and Samsung continued to excel with their Galaxy line of Smartphones in every way. With cameras, we saw the introduction of full frame sensors at affordable prices while speakers produced music that amazed us.

Things weren’t much different on the components side either. We saw Intel launch their new generation of Ivy Bridge Processors while AMD showed us levels of performances with integrated graphics that were only present on dedicated GPUs. NVIDIA also continued to push technology with their Kepler series of GPUs providing a faster yet more power-friendly solution.

All in all, 2012 was an insanely fun year for technology enthusiasts. Now that it has ended, it was time for the tbreak gang to get together and decide which products and events made a dent in the tech universe. With the sheer number of outstanding products, it was very hard for us to pick the crème de la crème and after hours of bicker fighting and name calling, we finally settled on what became the nominations for the tbreak awards for 2012.

The full list of nominees and categories can be viewed on our website however, this year we decided to go big and hold a private event honoring the companies that made these amazing products for us to use. With a little help from our friends at Jumbo, on the 8th of January, the Who’s Who of the tech industry will descend on Emirates Towers. And we will have the incredibly hard task of choosing the best from 2012.

UPDATE: Winners announced!

Behind the wheel of a Smart car

January 7, 2013 by  
Filed under Car Tech, Reviews, Spotlight

Of all the things that we receive at t-break, there’s one thing that I steer (pun intended) clear of, and that’s cars. I have zero knowledge of what’s under a car’s hood, or what horsepower is or even how to change a car tire. Seriously, when it comes to cars I’m truly a fish out of water. As a point, when it came time for me to buy my first car, I walked into the Nissan showroom, pointed at a blue Tiida, and had this conversation:

Me: I’ll take that one please.
Salesman: Good Sir – would you like to take it for a test drive first?
Me: Oh yeah, I guess that’s a good idea.

So I drive my car purely for practical reasons – I don’t want to upgrade its speaker systems or fiddle with the suspension or make it glow in the dark. I just need my car to get me from point A to point B, and that’s it. I guess that’s what made me a prime candidate to drive the Smart car for a few days. I had seen the tiny car a few times on the roads, mostly due to them being imported on the grey market. But it was only after a friend of mine was tweeting about driving the car around the city did I rekindle my interest in checking out this fun little car. A couple of tweets later and I was sitting behind the wheel of a shiny red Smart car.

It’s somewhat remarkable that despite looking rather tiny from the outside, the Smart is surprisingly roomy inside. I’m 6ft 2”, and I was able to sit comfortably in the driver’s seat without my knees hitting the steering wheel or sitting awkwardly. The seats can be adjusted to accommodate most drivers, and the seats are raised slightly as safety feature should the car be involved in a collision. There’s also a glass roof with a manual cover that you can slide back to let some of the awesome Dubai sunshine in.

My Smart car was one of the basic models, so it had just the essentials (like four tires and a steering wheel). There’s a 6-preset radio system with a USB input for mp3 players, but this can be upgraded to a slightly better music system with CD player etc. The center of the dashboard contains the AC controls as well as a small clock and the tachometer. Behind the steering wheel is the speedometer as well as controls for the lights and windscreen.

Driving the Smart car at first was a bit tricky for me, since the gearbox is not fully automatic. This meant that I had to manually shift gears up or down using either the gear stick or the paddle shifters. I found using the gear stick much easier because trying to change gears with the paddle shifters when you’re making a turn was a bit tricky, simply because I wasn’t used to it. But after a few hours of practice I was able to change gears flawlessly, much to the amazement of our resident petrol-head, Taimoor. The brakes on the Smart car do need some time to get use to – they require a substantial amount of force to be applied to slow the car down. The boot of the Smart car is roomy enough to accommodate a decent amount of shopping, but don’t be looking so pack your IKEA furniture in there. Fuel economy in the Smart was quite impressive. For a full tank of AED 55, I was able to get just over 420km of mileage.

So how does the Smart car actually feel when on the roads? Given its tiny size, the first thing I notice about the Smart car is just how quickly it can accelerate forward. At first I was a little bit terrified of this, but I was able to adjust my driving to accommodate for the quick pick-up. Driving around the city was certainly an interesting experience for two reasons. Firstly, people made it a point to pull up alongside the Smart car and take a good, long look at it (one lady even rolled down her passenger window and took a photo). The other thing is because the car is so small and lightweight, it’s a cinch to swap lanes or squeeze through some of the narrow streets of Bur Dubai or Sharjah. At high speeds I did feel a bit uneasy when turning because the car was able to make tighter turns than my Tiida, but it never felt like it would swerve away. The only major concern I had was when I drove the Smart car during a sandstorm with strong winds. The car’s light body make it a challenge to drive in high winds, and I had to hold on to the steering wheel tightly to prevent the car from drifting into the next lane.

The biggest asset of course with the Smart car had to be with parking. On the day I received it I had a client meeting in the bowels of Dubai Internet City, a place where I rarely find proper parking. To my absolute delight, I found a parking space that I could certainly not have squeezed in my Tiida, but the Smart car effortlessly slid into place without any hiccups.

Even though the Smart car is small and compact, it does have some unique safety features that are worth mentioning. Though large portions of the car’s body are made from durable plastic, the actual frame of the car is made from highly durable steel shell that is designed to absorb impact in the event of a collision. There are also driver-side and passenger airbags, as well as anti-swerve technologies and anti-lock braking systems. For such a small car, there’s certainly a lot of engineering hidden behind that cute exterior.

The Smart car isn’t yet officially available here, though there are forces at work studying if it would be viable to launch the car in the UAE. In other countries such as Europe,Jordan, andBeirut, the Smart car has sold well and is the perfect car for narrow roads and winding streets. Pricing isn’t available either, but I would say that a range of about AED 40-42k would be a good starting point for an entry level Smart car. Granted this won’t be a car designed for families with kids (or shopaholics), but as a ‘people-mover’, the Smart car is a joy to drive around the city, and certainly turns heads while doing so.

iPhone Mini could arrive next year, analysts predict

January 7, 2013 by  
Filed under Articles, News

Though Apple is still a major heavyweight in the smartphone market with their huge selling iPhone, one could argue that their reign is definitely crumbling with major competitors outmatching them in terms of specifications and even quality. One of their biggest competitors is Samsung, who has gained a major market share with their Galaxy phones in the past two years and their sales figures are higher in total than the iPhone and have a loyal fanbase of their own. What does Apple need to do? According to them, a cheaper iPhone may be the end of the problem.

At least that’s what Strategy Analytics analyst Neil Mawston believes. Apparently, Apple has realised that the reason Samsung is outselling them is because they play to a larger market with a wide variety of phones for each price point. Hence, Apple is going to develop their own cheaper iPhone Mini that will attempt to recapture some of that market that slipped away from them, but this is unlikely to happen this year. He tells CNET:

“We believe Apple will have to launch an ‘iPhone Mini’ at some point over the next three years to address the hundreds of millions of prepaid users worldwide that cannot afford the current iPhone. The iPhone 5 is growing fast and profitably right now, so there is limited incentive for Apple to launch a profit-squeezing ‘iPhone Mini’ this year. We expect the ‘iPhone Mini’ to be more likely next year, in 2014, when Apple’s penetration of the global postpaid smartphone market will be nearing saturation and Apple will be forced to discover fresh growth streams elsewhere.”

While all this is a rumor at this point, it’s not too unbelievable to see Apple take this course to not lose out on the smartphone market. With Samsung getting ready to unleash their S4 this year among other phones, Apple needs to step things up and innovate if they want to avoid the route Nokia and RIM took back in their day and lost in the process.

What do you think?

Toshiba AT300SE

January 7, 2013 by  
Filed under Product of the Week

The AT300SE features the eagerly awaited Android 4.1, Jelly Bean platform and the NVIDIA® Tegra® 3 quad core processor. With a 10.1” display, the AT300SE weighs in at a mere 642 grams and even with its ultra thin profile of 10.5mm, it is well connected with Micro-SD and Micro-USB – making transfer and viewing of content a breeze. It is further enhanced by Google Play with over 675,000 apps.

Check out our review to see what makes the Toshiba AT300SE so great.

Windows RT reportedly jailbroken

January 7, 2013 by  
Filed under News

When Microsoft first announced Windows RT, many users were somewhat confused. Here was a version of the Windows OS that looked just like Windows, but wouldn’t run regular Windows programs. Trying to install a Windows program on a Windows RT device just results in an error, unless you’re installing a program from the Windows App Store.

So it was just a matter of time before someone dug deep enough to try and get past this security block. And sure enough, that day is today. A post over at security-focused blog Surfsec details how unsigned desktop applications can be run on Windows RT. What’s even more interesting is that it seem Windows RT is more than capable of running regular apps; Microsoft simply setup a block to stop regular applications from being installed on RT. The post elaborates on this, saying:

“Windows RT is a clean port of Windows 8. They are the same thing and MSFT enforces Code Integrity to artificially separate these platforms. It does not stop pirates from modifying store apps (and their license checks) because store apps are the only things that can actually run unsigned. The fact that this method works on Windows 8 as well shows how similar the systems are. You can even enforce Code Integrity on Windows 8 to see what Windows RT feels like! The decision to ban traditional desktop applications was not a technical one, but a bad marketing decision. Windows RT needs the Win32 ecosystem to strengthen its position as a productivity tool. There are enough “consumption” tablets already.”

You can read the entire blog post here.

Steambox to Release This Year

January 7, 2013 by  
Filed under News

Valve engineer Ben Krasnow has apparently confirmed that the company’s PC-based gaming console called Steambox will release this year. German site scooped up the important bits during a conference attended by Krasnow.

Krasnow confirmed that, as expected, the Steambox will be Linux-based. Valve CEO Gabe Newell previously said that despite being hosted on an open-source operating system, the console itself will be closed.

In addition, Krasnow also suggested “cool” new hardware that Valve may show or release this year.

“The Hardware Lab also has a few secret projects that will be published in 2013. We have a good group of electronic and mechanical engineers, and we look forward to “build some cool stuff.” Krasnov said (this is a rough German translation).

Valve had spoken against the “frustrating” lack of innovation in PC hardware, so it wouldn’t be too surprising if the company comes out with a completely new way to control or interact with games.

It is being said that the console will be announced during The Game Developers Conference, which will be held from March 25-29. It will easily be one of the most exciting announcements in GDC history, if true.


Thanks, Gamechup.

NVIDIA unveils ‘Project Shield’ Android Handheld

January 7, 2013 by  
Filed under News

At CES 2013, NVIDIA unveiled its first venture into the gaming handheld market with Project Shield, 5-inch “pure” Android gaming device that can not only play Android games but also stream any PC game to it.

Boasting a “console-grade” game controller and an impressive 5-10 hour battery life, Project Shield can push 720p graphics, as well as 4K video and games straight to an external display. Project Shield will sport NVIDIA’s new Tegra 4 mobile processor, which the company claims is six times faster than Tegra 3. The chip can fuel resolution of upto 2560×1600 and 1080p at 120Hz. It’s also the first Tegra to support 4G LTE and use ARM’s new Cortex A15 architecture.

The handheld will be customizable through its back panel, which will allow various skins to appiled. This is where the “Sheild” part of the name comes from. The back panel also carries an HDMI port, microSD slot, and a 3.5mm jack.

The most interesting part about the handheld is that it can stream any PC game via Wi-Fi, including Steam titles. This will only be possible if the user has an NVIDIA GeForce GPU in their PC. Users can also play their PC games on any TV through the HDMI port without actually being near to the PC, as long as a Wi-Fi connection exists. This is a great Wii U like solution for users who may want to play their games away from their PC, or do not want to build a separate PC to play it on their TV.

There is no word on pricing or availability, but NVIDIA has said that the device still needs a bit of polish before it’s ready for release.

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