The cobry 2014 Tech Round-Up

As 2014 draws to a close, we thought it would be a good idea to have a look back at some of the best tech-stuff this year brought us, from productivity apps to shiny new devices, helpful tips and tricks and the biggest business stories around!

We’ll start off the round-up with some of our favourite devices of the year, beginning with a must-have; the smartphone.

Smartphones

OnePlus One – Many of you may not have heard of OnePlus, but if you have, you probably know why it’s jumped to the top of our wishlist! The main reason it’s so high is that it provides all the power and functionality as the market-leading phones, but at a fraction of the cost – £229.00. If you’re looking to get your hands on one though, it could take a little patience as availability is still relatively limited. If you want to find out more: http://ow.ly/FxUah

Tablets

There’s been a lot of competition for top spot in the tablet market, and while iPads seem to have been reigning supreme since 2010, it’s another competitor who earns a place under our spotlight today!

Samsung Galaxy Tab S – Samsung has made a big effort at rivaling Apple’s iPads over the past few years, and they’ve managed to get closer than ever in the shape of this Super AMOLED Tab S. Available in either 8.4” or 10.5” it can tick all the boxes with it’s incredible display, great battery life, and a reasonable price tag or around £275. It also boasts an expandable memory, incredibly accurate S Pen and of course access to Google’s ever-growing Play Store. Find out more here: http://ow.ly/FxU4F

2014 has seen a huge rise in the adoption of cloud services, which allows access for everyone to great computing power through simpler and cheaper devices. We want to focus on one example of this which seems to be going from strength to strength; the Chromebook.

Chromebooks and Wearables

HP Chromebook 11 – The Chromebook concept – the idea of a stripped-down laptop centered around a web browser in the form of Google’s Chrome OS – has until now usually been about cheap, commodity computing. But the Chromebook 11 has been able to change that. It feels lightweight and sturdy, with an excellent backlit keyboard. The IPS screen’s colours are rich and vibrant. The design is very clean and friendly, giving it a fresh and simple feel. In short, it feels like a beautifully made, easy to use computer. Plus the fact you’ve only paid around £200 for it makes it that bit sweeter.  Find out more here: http://ow.ly/FCJvf

There’s been leaps and bounds in the development of wearables in 2014, mainly in designs starting to look like something you’d actually want to wear (bonus!). Our favourite of the year manages to combine Android Wear with a sleek, classic style, to the point you may not even recognise it as a smartwatch.

LG G Watch R – Since all the Android Wear smartwatches run the same software, design is an extremely important area when making a buying decision. One advantage of the G Watch R, if you can afford it, is that it actually looks like a real watch that you would want to wear. Whether you like the look or not is a personal matter and a watch is a fashion item so this could immediately put you off buying it. We like the look of the G Watch R and on close inspection, it is actually thinner than most smartwatches available at the moment at 11.4 mm. The watch is also pretty light at 61g which is less than it looks and is completely protected from dust and is water resistant for up to 30 minutes at a maximum depth of one meter. Build quality is good with a stainless steel body – black or silver. Included is a leather strap and you can switch it for any standard 22mm alternative if you want which is good. For more information on prices and specs look here: http://ow.ly/FJ0yX

Streaming Devices

Streaming services have been growing rapidly in popularity, from music on Spotify to movies and TV shows on Netflix. But there are so many options of services and devices it can be hard to know which is best for you. In this section we’re going to look at a comparison between two of the most popular devices; Google’s Chromecast and Nexus Player.

Chromecast is a £30 dongle that turns any TV into a smart TV. In short, it’s a wireless solution to connecting your phone or tablet to your TV via HDMI in order to stream what’s on your screen. To set up Chromecast you simply plug it into a TV’s HDMI port and power it up via USB; The Chromecast then connects to your home Wi-Fi and is controlled via the Chromecast app on your phone (iOS or Android), tablet, PC or laptop. To stream content to your TV, you can either cast whatever is on your screen or stream from the compatible apps. BBC iPlayer, YouTube and Netflix are just a few that support Chromecast. Find out more here: http://ow.ly/FJ6hH

Nexus Player is a new set-top box from Google, which will cost between £79.00 and £99.00 in the UK – if and when it arrives here. Nexus Player is very much a Google version of Amazon’s Fire TV, and a closer rival to Apple TV than it is to Chromecast. Nexus Player has its own user interface, Android TV, which is a custom version of Android 5.0 Lollipop. Android TV is similar to any other smart TV system, but instead of restricting you to just the app stores of Samsung and Sony etc, you can access Google Play apps and media content from all of your devices. The Nexus player isn’t so much a device to be paired with your phone or tablet, rather a device that turns your television into a huge-screen Android computer, which you can then navigate with a dedicated remote control that supports voice search. Find out more here: http://ow.ly/FJ6qh

The main difference between these two devices is the Android TV user interface, which turns the Nexus Player into a proper home-entertainment system, offering personalised recommendations on content you might enjoy; without Android TV, Chromecast is more like a fancy wireless equivalent to an HDMI cable (still pretty cool though).

There’s been plenty of new gadgets, apps, UX and tech developments this year, and a couple of our favourites are listed below.

Generally Good Things

Cardboard Battery

This Tiny Cardboard Battery Is Like A Vitamin For Your Smartphone. Just break off a capsule and plug it into your phone for up to 6 more hours of talk time! More info here – http://ow.ly/FJ6Q7

Digital Notebook

The Adobe Moleskine can beam your sketches to Photoshop. Moleskine and Adobe have partnered on a new Creative Cloud Moleskine notebook. You draw in the book then take a photo with your device, and a vector version of your sketch is then uploaded to your Adobe Creative Cloud account, where it can be edited in Photoshop or Illustrator. Of course, you can use the app without the notebook, but the Moleskine paper offers dots on each page that serve as a frame of reference to remove distortion from less-than-flat paper or a wonky lens. More info here – http://ow.ly/FJ6Ue

Power Tips for Chromebooks

Getting started with a Google Chromebook is very easy, so to is using it for everyday tasks. But to be a power user, you need to get a few hints to learn the best tips, tricks and secrets. Here is a few to get you started: http://ow.ly/FJ7cs

Put it on the tab…

The ‘new tab’ page is probably something you spend a lot more time looking at than you think every day, so why not get some further use out of it than just displaying the new tabs? Here are eight fantastic extensions to enhance, redesign or just see what your “new tab” page can do for you.: http://ow.ly/FJ7mq

A list of lists!

Staying on top of a long to-do list is always a challenge, particularly when working from home surrounded by distractions. Journalism.co.uk have put together a list of apps you can take with you everywhere to help you out every step of the way. – http://ow.ly/FJ7ug