All posts in “Tablets”

Crowdfunded reMarkable e-paper tablet ships on August 29


The idea of using technology to replicate the simplicity and versatility of paper is an enduring one, but no device has nailed it just yet. That may change with the reMarkable, a unique and ambitious tablet that aims to do what paper does, but better. And four years after the concept was first proposed (although less than a year after crowdfunding), the team is finally shipping its first devices on August 29.

You could be forgiven for mistaking the reMarkable for one of these cryptogadgets that solicit some hype, make some promises, maybe load up on money and then disappear forever. But the team is dedicated and seems extremely interested in their own device, a surprisingly uncommon occurrence.

They’re still working on it, so the first recipients may have to exercise a little more patience. I’ll keep that in mind when I test it out, too. But the main thing, and the part the team has spent the most time on, is the feel and basic function. I’ll be able to report on that within a few minutes of unboxing.

How tablets are transforming the lives of young refugees in sub-Saharan Africa

Fugia is only a teenager, but her sense of ambition is tangible. Just 15 years old, she has plans to be a doctor, and she understands education is the surest path to achieving her dream.

But getting an education isn’t easy. Fugia, whose parents are Somalian, is a refugee growing up in Kakuma, the largest refugee camp in existence, located in Kenya. Both logistical and cultural obstacles have prevented her from learning.

“This community of ours was not supporting the girls’ education,” she says of the camp, explaining that girls who went to school were often called “prostitutes” who don’t actually learn anything.

But there’s one thing helping her change the narrative: tablets. 

“It’s only education that can bring us out of the dark.”

Fugia convinced her mother of the benefits of education by showing her a photo of a tablet, explaining how the devices could help them find advice on a wide range of challenges. She can and even Google tips to help pass exams.

Now, a new initiative is using tablet technology to help Fugia and millions of refugee children like her gain a free education.

The Vodafone Foundation announced its Instant Schools for Africa program on Wednesday—a tablet-based education initiative providing free, unlimited access to online educational materials for young people and teachers. Developed with Learning Equality, a leading nonprofit provider of open-source educational technology, the program launched in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Mozambique, and Tanzania.

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To allow for widespread access, the primary and secondary school materials (both global and local in scope) are available without any mobile data charges. Videos and web pages are all optimized to work over low-bandwidth connections, and will also be available offline when internet access isn’t possible.

“From refugee camps to remote parts of Africa with few schools, connectivity gives children the opportunity for a better future.”

Instant Schools for Africa already helps 43,000 young refugees each month, according to the Vodafone Foundation, and the goal is to reach 3 million refugees by the year 2025. The organization is working with the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to deliver tablets and teaching resources to refugee camps. It will also support children across Africa, especially those in rural regions who don’t go to school.

There are currently more than 6 million school-age refugees in the world, but 3.7 million still don’t have access to education. The average period of time spent in a refugee camp is about 20 years. Meanwhile, sub-Saharan Africa has the lowest rate of primary school enrollment globally. A staggering 34 million of the 57 million out-of-school, primary age children in the world live in this region, caused in part by cultural norms and remote locations. 

“From refugee camps to remote parts of Africa with few schools, connectivity gives children the opportunity for a better future,” Andrew Dunnett, director of the Vodafone Foundation, said in a statement.

“Instant Schools for Africa has the potential to transform the lives of millions of children excluded from education, giving them free access to the same materials used by children in developed markets to help them achieve their ambitions,” he said.

A similar initiative, Vodacom e-School, has proven successful for 215,000 children in South Africa. 

Sasha, 17, escaped an arranged marriage and fled to Kenya, where she now takes part in the Instant Schools for Africa program in the Kakuma camp.

Sasha, 17, escaped an arranged marriage and fled to Kenya, where she now takes part in the Instant Schools for Africa program in the Kakuma camp.

Image: Sala Lewis / Vodafone Foundation

Vodafone released a series of videos to show the impact of the program on young people’s lives, including Fugia. The series also features 16-year-old Jediva, who was abducted by a man in South Sudan and escaped, and Sasha, 17, who escaped an arranged marriage in Burundi so she could attend school. There’s also David, 21, from South Sudan, who’s earning his university degree completely online.

All four of them live in the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya.

“This opportunity is very rare for many people, especially for us here in the camp,” Fugia says in the video detailing her story. “It’s a right. It’s like oxygen for us. A person can never live without oxygen.”

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Fugia’s passion for learning about medicine and science goes deeper than education. She lives with a heart condition, and showed her mother something on her tablet about the circulatory system.

“Continue learning,” her mother told her. “Maybe one day you’ll be able to cure yourself and other people.”

Instant Schools for Africa has the potential to transform young people’s lives, offering them opportunities many refugees and children in remote regions (especially girls) don’t usually have. Such resources can offer them a better future.

Most of the girls Fugia knows at Kakuma all believe the same thing now: “It’s only education that can bring us out of the dark.”

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This hot MacBook replacement is from a company you’ve never heard of

Laptops are hot fire once again.

Microsoft announced its first laptop, the Surface Laptop, earlier this month, and now Huawei, the world’s third-largest phone manufacturer, is getting into Windows 10 laptops, too.

Though Huawei is known mostly for its budget and midrange phones (more recently with its Honor sub-brand) in the U.S., the Chinese tech giant has made more concerted efforts to be seen as a premium device maker.

The company’s flagship P10 phone sits with the best Android phones. Hell, Huawei’s even hired former “Get a Mac” actor Justin Long to push its products.

Last year, Huawei dipped its toes into the PC world with its MateBook 2-in-1 Surface Pro competitor. It was a decent device, but like all first tries it had its shortcomings such as poor battery life.

Huawei’s new MateBook X — the company’s first clamshell laptop — is aimed squarely at Apple’s entire MacBook lineup. 

Thinner than MacBook

Image: huawei

More ports than MacBook

The MateBook X has two USB-C ports and a headphone jack.

The MateBook X has two USB-C ports and a headphone jack.

Image: huawei

Like its flagship phones, the MateBook X has a unibody aluminum design and is built for thinness and lightness. The 13-inch laptop measures just 0.49 inches at its thickest point — thinner than the MacBook (0.52 inches) and MacBook Pro (0.59 inches). It only weighs 2.31 pounds compared to the MacBook Pro’s 3.02 pounds.

Thin as the laptop is, it’s still plenty powerful inside. The 13-inch non-touchscreen IPS display is made of Corning Gorilla Glass and boasts a 2,160 x 1,440 resolution. And, yes, the keyboard’s backlit.

Image: huawei

Under the hood, it’s packing a fanless 7th-generation “Kaby Lake” Intel Core i5 or i7 processors, Intel HD Graphics 620, 4GB or 8GB of RAM, and 256GB or 512GB of SSD storage. Huawei also claims up to 10 hours of battery life for watching 1080p-resolution video. There’s also Dolby Atmos Sound inside.

For ports, the MateBook X has two USB-C ports, a power button that doubles as fingerprint sensor (fancy!), and a headphone jack. In the U.S., Huawei’s including the MateDock 2, which includes a full-sized USB port, USB-C, VGA, and HDMI port. Also bundled is a USB to USB-C dongle.

I haven’t seen the laptop in person so I can’t say how the device feels. But if the old MateBook tablet and Huawei’s excellent industrial design for its phones are any indication, the MateBook X could be the laptop to keep any eye on when it launches this summer. Plus, it comes in rose gold. Hopefully the price is lower than a MacBook, too.

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Huawei MateBook D

Huawei MateBook D

Image: huawei

The MateBook X isn’t Huawei’s only laptop. Alongside the 13-incher is a the MateBook D, a 15.6-inch Windows 10 laptop.

While not quite as premium as the MateBook X, the MateBook D is still a decent machine with an all-aluminum body, a full HD resolution display, a discrete graphics card, and a full range of ports.

No dongles needed on this laptop!

No dongles needed on this laptop!

Image: huawei

Specs for the MateBook D include seventh-gen Kaby Lake Intel Core i5 or i7 processors, up to 16GB of RAM, up to 1TB of storage with several configurations split combining a traditional hard drive and SSD, and discrete graphics (up to Nvidia 940MX). Battery life is pegged at around 8.5 hours of local video playback.

The MateBook D has two USB 3.0 ports, one USB 2.0 port, a headphone jack, and an HDMI port.

The MateBook D ships this summer. Pricing is also TBD.

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The MateBook E.

The MateBook E.

Image: huawei

In addition to the new laptops, Huawei’s also updated its 2-in-1 to the MateBook E. 

The new 2-in-1 has the same 12-inch screen as the old one, but this time around the 1080p screen’s been upgraded to 2K (2,160 x 1,440) resolution. 

Performance gets a boost across the board with seventh-gen Intel Core m3 or Core i7 processors, up to 8GB of RAM, and up to 512GB of SSD storage. The company advertises up to 9 hours of video playback.

Huawei says it’s also improved the 2-in-1’s less noticeable features; the magnetic connector for the keyboard is stronger thanks to a reduction in pins from seven to three, and the included folio case is adjustable from 10 degrees to 160 degrees, compared to the original folio case’s three angles.

The MateBook E also ships this summer with pricing TBD.

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Fire sale: Amazon updates tablets and lowers prices

One out of every three tablets sold last quarter was an Amazon tablet.

It’s a stat Amazon’s General Manager for Fire Tablets Kevin Keith cites when explaining why the company is doubling down on ultra-affordable tablets with lower prices, better features, and more design options.

Even as the tablet category shrinks, Amazon is making gains with its Android-based tablets, said Keith, and part of that success is due to “premium products at non-premium prices.”

It may also be because, at one point, Amazon was selling a Fire Tablet six-pack for $250.

The company no longer sells bundles like that, but the 8 GB, $49, 7-inch Fire tablet that made it possible is still going strong.

On Wednesday, Amazon introduced a new, thinner (by 1mm) and lighter Fire 7. The screen resolution is unchanged, but, Keith contends, has improved clarity.

It will also handle connectivity better, with new, dual band Wi-Fi. It’s available in black, blue, red, and yellow.

Amazon also updated its 8-inch Fire HD 8 with a slightly new design. Screen resolution (1280×800), battery life (12 hours) and CPU (Quad-core 1.3 Ghz) are all the same as on the previous HD 8, The price, however, dropped to $79.99 (down from $89.99).

The Amazon Fire 7 Kids Edition in Blue

The Amazon Fire 7 Kids Edition in Blue

Image: Amazon

The Fire 7 also forms the basis for Amazon’s other popular, entry-level tablet offering, the Kids Edition Tablets.

Those devices have thick, colorful bumpers, a 2-year guarantee and 1-year subscription to FreeTime Unlimited, a kid-friendly content and app offering. The 16 GB model starts at $99.99.

There’s also now a larger Fire HD 8 Kids Edition. It starts at $129.99 for a 32 GB model and includes all the Kids Edition essentials like the bumper, guarantee, and FreeTime Unlimited.

Amazon also announced that it’s finally bringing the Alexa digital assistant tablet experience to UK customers on new devices and as an update for older Fire tablets.

Both the Fire HD 8 and Fire 7 include Alexa, but neither of the updated tablets, which ship on June 7, support Alexa’s new calling feature.  

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HP’s new Elite x2 might as well be the Surface Pro 5 that Microsoft won’t sell

With Microsoft seemingly uninterested in releasing a new 2-in-1 Surface Pro, other PC makers like HP are stepping in to fill the void.

HP’s Elite x2 1012 G2 (yeah it’s a mouthful) is the latest Surface Pro clone and it packs quite the punch.

You want premium looks in a thin and light package? The Elite x2’s got it. The aluminum tablet’s thinner than a Surface Pro 4 at 0.36 inches thick.

You want a bright and sharp screen? The Elite x2’s got it. The 12.3-inch touchscreen is larger than its 11.6-inch predecessor and the resolution’s identical to the Surface Pro 4’s: 2,736 x 1,824.

You want lots of power? Good, because the Elite x2’s got that as well. Powering Windows 10 are seventh-generation Intel Core i5 or i7 processors with Intel HD Graphics 620, 16GB of RAM, and up to 512GB of SSD storage.

You want lots of ports? Perfect, because the Elite x2’s got all the ones you need, including a USB-C 3.1 Thunderbolt port, full-sized USB 3.0 port (because nobody likes being in #donglehell), a SIM card slot for cellular connectivity, microSD card slot, and a headphone jack.

You want to take photos with a tablet? Hey, we’re not gonna judge you. The Elite x2’s got a 5-megapixel shooter on the front and an 8-megapixels camera on the back with LED flash.

You want nice sound? Compared to the previous Elite x2, the new one’s got front-facing stereo speakers that direct sound towards you and not away from you. HP says the speakers are also designed to enhance bass.

What about top notch security to lock down all your precious memes work documents? You guessed it, this baby’s got a fingerprint sensor on the back and an IR camera on the front for face authentication.

Add on the sturdy Collaboration Keyboard with its backlit keys and loop for the Active Pen stylus and you’ve got yourself a solid laptop replacement to bang out that term paper, compile that quarterly report, or create the next Deviantart masterpiece.

HP’s new 2-in-1 sounds like a whole lot of win. That said, we’ve gotta wait to see how much it’ll cost before we hand out any awards.

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