Five things to expect from AMD’s Carrizo chips

Carrizo promises big gains in power efficiency and better graphics, according
to AMD. Agam Shah picks out the five most important aspects of Carrizo

he PC market has stabilized lately,
but that hasn’t done much for AMD,
whose PC processor shipments are
in decline. The company hopes to recover
momentum this year with a new laptop chip
coming soon code-named Carrizo.

It recently provided technical details
about Carrizo at an IEEE chip conference.
Here’s some of the information we gleaned.

1 Carrizo will launch in the second
quarter of 2015, so laptops with the
chip should be available soon after that.
They’ll appear initially in lower-end and
mainstream systems, which should get a
bit thinner and lighter as a result. AMD
didn’t announce any prices, but the
laptops will likely be a bit cheaper than
Intel-based systems with comparable chips.

AMD says Carrizo will offer
unprecedented gains in power efficiency.

in part thanks to fine-grained power
management between the chip’s CPU and
GPU. It has also added technology that
can adjust the voltage up or down more
efficiently, with less power wasted in the
process. The efficiency gains will be most
apparent for basic tasks and less so when
playing games or watching video. It didn’t
give specific battery life projections; we’ll
have to wait for launch time to get those.

3 The chip should provide a significant
boost in graphics performance, long one
of AMD’s strengths. Laptops will comfortably
play 4K video, though you’ll probably
still want a separate graphics card for 4K
gaming, which requires a lot more oomph.
The integrated GPU in a top-end Carrizo
chip will have eight cores that can operate
simultaneously, an improvement from six
on the current Kaveri generation. On-chip
accelerators render 4K video using the H.265
(also called HEVC) format.

4 Gains in CPU performance will be more
limited, which means you’ll notice less
improvement for applications that aren’t
graphics intensive. Previous new chips have
seen instructions per clock cycle increase
as much as 30 percent, but the CPU in

Carrizo, which is code-named Excavator,
will offer improvements in the single digits.
AMD says it focused on power efficiency
over performance: the CPU core uses 40
percent less power than its predecessor,
the vendor says. Carrizo also supports
the Heterogeneous System Architecture
1.0 specification, which is supposed to do
a better job balancing execution between
computing resources.

5 A minor but important detail is Carrizo’s
support for DirectX 12, which will drive
gaming on Windows 10 PCs. AMD wouldn’t
provide much information about the chip
beyond its architectural details, but software
drivers are being developed for the new
Windows OS. Microsoft uses AMD chips in the
Xbox One, so software and hardware gains in
that platform could find their way into AMD-
powered PCs, said Jim McGregor, principal
analyst at Tirias Research. \E\

May 2015 23


ZTE Blade S6


No, it’s not the iPhone 6s
come early. This is ZTE’s
latest smartphone, which
looks similar to its Apple-
flavoured rival. Appearances
aside, the price tag is low
and it’s the first phone
we’ve seen with a Qualcomm
Snapdragon 615 octa-core
processor. Also on the spec
sheet are 4G LTE support and
a Bin HD screen.

£169 inc VAT

More new products online:

24 May 2015


Streaming sticks like Google’s Chromecast are
now a familiar sight but Hannspree has fitted
an entire PC inside one. This is a fully functional
Windows 8.1 PC that fits in the palm of your
hand and will plug into a TV or monitor via
HDMI. Inside is an Intel Atom processor, 2GB of
RAM and 32GB of storage.

£139 inc VAT



An HDMI stick is cool but what about a complete
PC inside a mouse? The Mouse-Box is exactly that
and is eguipped with a 1.4GHz guad-core ARM
Cortex processor, Micro-HDMI port, Wi-Fi and a

Lenovo building its first prototype ARM server

here’s a growing interest in
developing ARM servers as a
power-efficient alternative to
systems based on Intel’s processors. Lenovo
is the latest hardware vendor to test the
concept with a prototype system.

It’s building the server together with
the UK-based Science and Technology
Facilities Council. The project aims to see if
it’s possible to scale up system performance
while keeping power draw in check.

Low-power ARM chips are used in most
smartphones and tablets, and server makers
hope they will bring higher levels of power
efficiency to servers as well. Data centre
servers, especially those supporting cloud
services and applications, are handling
increasing processing burdens. Companies
such as Facebook and Google that run huge
data centres are interested in ARM servers
as a route to lower electricity bills.

The Chinese company is the last of
the top three server makers to get in on
the ARM game. HP already offers ARM
processors for its Moonshot dense server,
while Dell is still experimenting with the
architecture in its servers.

Lenovo is using 64-bit ARM processors
in a NextScale system, which was first
developed by IBM but then turned over to the
Chinese server company as part of the x86
server portfolio sale in 2014. The NextScale
rack-scale server – which competes with
HP’s Moonshot – was originally built in late
2013 around low-power x86 chips, but has
been expanded to include a water-cooling
system and Intel’s Xeon chips.

The goal of the prototype ARM server
is to drive up performance-per-pound
and performance-per-watt compared
to traditional server design methods

deployed today, explained Doug Augustine,
a Lenovo spokesman.

The ARM server is optimised for
specific uses like web search, caching
and cloud, Augustine said.

The NextScale can hold up to 12 ARM-
based server boards, or 1152 processing
cores. Lenovo is using Cavium’s ThunderX
system-on-chips, which includes ethernet,
memory, I/O and other key interfaces.

Each ARM chip has up to 48 cores, and can
operate at a freguency of up to 2.5GHz.

Besides Cavium, AppliedMicro,

AMD, Broadcom, and others
are supplying chips for
ARM servers.

Lenovo today sells

only servers with x86 chips from Intel. It

doesn’t view ARM servers as a high-volume
opportunity at the moment, Augustine said.

Intel today holds more than 90
percent market share in servers, and
even ARM server chip vendors like AMD
have admitted it may take many years
before the chips are widely adopted in
data centres. But an effort is underway to
raise awareness about the chips’ benefits
and to develop compatible software.

Lenovo’s project is a positive sign for
ARM, said Jim McGregor, principal analyst
at Tirias Research. Qualcomm said late
last year that it is developing ARM-based
server chips, and momentum behind the
architecture is only growing, he said. “It’s
going to make the server environment
more competitive, that’s what everyone is
waiting for,” McGregor added. “It’s just a
guestion of how long it’s going to take.”

The market for ARM in the enterprise
will only take off when the ecosystem that
rides on it is built, Lenovo’s Augustine said.
OS, hypervisors, compilers, performance
optimizers, file systems, and the like are
just starting to be put in place, he said.

Many Linux applications are already
compatible with ARM server chips, and
Oracle’s Java supports the architecture.
Microsoft is said to be building a version of
Windows Server for ARM processors. \E\

Microsoft pushes Office on to Android and iOS

Microsoft has stepped up its push to get Office on to all tablets and smartphones, reports Mikael Ricknas 

I s we report on page 7, Microsoft 
has made its Word, Excel and 
I PowerPoint apps for Google's 
Android OS generally available. It has 
also released new Outlook apps for 
Android and Apple's iOS. 

All three Office apps are available for 
download from Google's Play store. The 
launch is a part of Microsoft's strategy to 
become more cross-platform friendly across 
its entire portfolio of apps and services. 

That there is an interest was illustrated 
when the company launched Office apps for 
Apple's iPads in March 2014. Plus, the preview 
versions for Android were downloaded 
250,000 times, according to Microsoft. 

The Android versions of Word, Excel 
and PowerPoint have inherited the touch- 
friendly look and feel of the iOS versions. 
Large touch points make it easy for even 
the fattest of fingers to navigate commands, 
Microsoft said in a blog post. 

For Microsoft, the apps are step in the 
right directions as it tries to appease Android 
users. "While the company is playing catch 
up to Google in the Android tablet space, it's 
stepped on the pedal and isn't far behind. 

It just needs to keep cranking out the 
features and honing in on making its cloud 
performance rapid and reliable," Greenbot 
said in a generally positive hands-on review 
of the final versions. 

All three apps are compatible with 
Android 4.4, also known as KitKat. They 
also work on tablets running Android 5.0 or 
Lollipop, but there will be no official support 
until Microsoft puts out a software update. 
The apps also reguire an ARM processor 
until Microsoft puts out an update for Intel 
processors, which will come within a quarter. 

For consumers, basic functionality for 
creating and editing documents is free as 
long as their tablet isn't bigger than lO.lin, 
while premium features require an Office 
365 subscription. Those who own a tablet 
with a screen size greater than lO.lin - 
such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab S, which 
has a 10.5in screen - need an Office 365 
subscription to use the apps. 

For commercial use, employees will 
need an Office 365 subscription for 
editing as well as premium features. 

Outlook update 

Microsoft also announced the release of 
Outlook for iOS and a preview of Outlook 
for Android. The iOS version of Outlook is 
ahead of the Android edition in terms of 

B / U T A 
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To •ovrrtlRatc lonKer-jcrm trendy wc «Rain turned to customer research to determine why consumers 
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label, Microsoft said in a blog post. 

The apps offer customizable swipe 
gestures, allowing users to swipe right or 
left to take actions like archive, delete, 
move, flag, mark as read or unread. 

There is also predictive search and a 
calendar that's available within the app, 
according to Microsoft. 

The apps separate emails using two tabs 
- Focused and Other. Important mails are 

meant to appear in the Focused inbox, while 
the rest remain accessible under the Other 
tab. The users interfaces are adaptive to fit 
better on larger devices like the iPad and 
Android tablets. 

The launch is a result of Microsoft's 
acquisition of Acompli at the end of 2014, 
which was sign that the company had finally 
decided to take Outlook on smartphones 
and tablets seriously. The apps released 
on Thursday will replace OWA for iPhones, 
iPads and Android as well as the Outlook, 
com Android app. \E\

Slow Android Wear sales underline challenges Google and its partners face

Mikael Ricknas sees hardware constraints and lack of good reasons to buy holding back Android wearables

he Android smart watch’s time
may not yet have come: despite
heavy promotion of Android Wear,
Google’s hardware partners, including
Motorola Mobility, Samsung and LG,
shipped only 720,000 devices in 2014.

With the arrival of products such as
Motorola’s Moto 360, the smartwatch market
was expected to take off, but data from
market research company Canalys shows
that consumers are still far from convinced
that they need to buy one. “Android
Wear will need to improve significantly in
the future, and we believe it will do so,”
explained Daniel Matte, analyst at Canalys.

Those improvements have to happen
across the board, including a better
user interface and improved battery life,
according to Francisco Jeronimo, research
director for European mobile devices at IDG.
“I use a lot of mobile devices, and found the
Android Wear interface difficult to learn. And
when I finally had learned how to use it, I
really didn’t like the experience,” he said.

Battery life is also a concern, and one
that can’t be easily solved. The arrival of
customized chipsets will help but that can’t
change the size of smartwatches, which
means you can only use a small battery.

Some vendors are also tripping up both
themselves and users with their design
choices. For example, users of Samsung’s

smartwatches need a cradle to fill an empty
battery, instead of plugging a charger
directly into the device. That just adds an
extra level of complexity for users.

However, the biggest obstacle is that
Google, vendors and application developers
haven’t come up with a reason why
consumers should invest in an Android Wear
smartwatch. With these shortcomings it
hasn’t been able to dominate the smartwatch
market in the way that Google’s platform has
taken over smartphones.

Rival Pebble shipped a total of one million
units from its 2013 launch through to the end
of 2014. Continual software updates, more
apps in its app store and price cuts in the

autumn helped maintain strong sales in the
second half of 2014, according to Canalys.

But all eyes are now on Apple and its
Watch, which is scheduled to go on sale in
April. Jeronimo goes so far as to say the
future of smartwatches now rests on Apple’s
shoulders. “If Apple can’t get it right it may
kill the category, because if Apple can’t
succeed which company can.”

Apple’s CEO Tim Cook seems convinced
the Watch can deliver, saying that users
will find enough features to not be able to
live without one, he said this week. Just as
the company changed the markets for MP3
players, smartphones and tablets, Apple’s
Watch will change the smartwatch market. \E\

18 May 2015

I’m bored of the Apple Watch

We’ve had to wait for so long for the Apple Watch to arrive that i’m bored of it already

pple first unveiled the Apple Watch
at a special event in September
I 2014, but it won’t be available to
buy until the spring of this year, according to
CEO Tim Cook, and that might not even be
in the UK. So that’s a wait of at least eight
months, which to me seems like far, far too
long. The Apple Watch is old news already,
and I haven’t even tried it yet.

I completely understand why Apple
wanted to unveil the Apple Watch last
year, even though it wasn’t ready to go
on sale yet. Wearables were all-the-rage
already and Apple wasn’t seen to be in the
market, so the company wanted to make
sure everyone knew that it was working
on something amazing that has the
potential to shake things up a bit, even if
that wouldn’t be until mid-2015.

But even then I felt like Apple was a
bit late to the game, and who’s to say that
the Apple Watch is going to do what the
iPod did to MP3 players and the iPad did to
tablets? For one, rivals including Samsung,
LG, Google, HTC, Sony and Motorola have
launched very successful smartphones in the
past year, boosting Android’s smartphone
market share to more than 80 percent (iOS
is less than 12 percent). And, of course, the
Apple Watch won’t work with Android.

Apple’s rivals have made big efforts with
their many different smartwatches and yet
none of those have taken off in the way I

expect they’d hoped. I don’t know anyone
with a smartwatch aside from some tech
journalists in the office (they don’t count
– they’re paid to wear them), and I’ve seen
only one out in the wild in the past two years.

Apple must be confident that its
smartwatch is going to change things,
and make us all want to be seen wearing a
wrist-mounted computer, but right now I’m
struggling to share that confidence myself.

Even Apple founder Steve Wozniak lacks
enthusiasm for the Apple Watch. Woz himself
has owned several smartwatches already,
but he’s already got rid of them, because
he found himself going back to his phone
regularly for the larger display. According
to Woz, the Apple Watch is just a “luxury
fitness band,” and with a price tag that starts
at £300 and could reach all the way up to
£3,000, luxury is certainly accurate.

Rivals from the likes of Motorola, LG, Sony
and Samsung are generally under £300, and
some are under £200, including the brilliant
LG G Watch R and the Motorola Moto 360.

So it’s going to be expensive, potentially
not as useful as everyone might hope, and
it’s only going to work with 12 percent of the
smartphone market. Plus, as it was unveiled
so long ago, we’ve had plenty of time to
think long and hard about whether or not
we should buy an Apple Watch.

We now know that we’ll have to charge
it every single day, we’ve had more time

to realise that smartwatches are not as
awesome as we’d imagined, and we’ve had
plenty of time to take a look at the Apple
Watch’s rivals and pick them apart to see
how they compare.

If we’d been kept in the dark about the
Apple Watch, we could have continued to
enjoy speculating over how amazing it would
be. It might have prevented those who really
do want a smartwatch from buying one
from the competition just in case the Apple
Watch blew them all out of the water. And
we wouldn’t have examined every detail of
the Apple Watch and discovered its downfalls
long before we’ve even got it in our hands.

What’s more, we’ve stopped talking about
it. When the Apple Watch was unveiled,
everyone was nattering and the buzz
surrounding it was perfect for an imminent
launch. But eight months later is far from
imminent. Now, that buzz has died down
to nearly nothing, because everyone’s said
everything they want to say about it.

I hope I’m wrong, and that I get excited
about the Apple Watch again when it arrives
in April, and that everyone else does too.

But right now. I’m just bored of waiting. E\

Email security is everyone’s job

You don’t ever deserve to get hacked, but you can help yourself to stay secure

ecently, I awoke to the musical
chiming of multiple text
I messages. They came from a
variety of people, all concerned.

Some of them were worried that I was
lost without cash or papers, in Turkey (of
all places). But most were worried that my
email had been hacked. In fact, it was my
parents’ email account that had been hacked
for the second time in a fortnight. And the
email that was being sent from their account
carried my name and contained one of those
phishing messages asking the recipient to
send money. (For the record: if ever I need
urgent help, I won’t send an email. Any more
than I’d send a postcard or a carrier pigeon.)

This kind of account hack is annoying,
but not unusual. And it’s not personal: but
the personal nature of the message makes
it feel that way.

My (pretty tech savvy) mother asked me
why ‘they’ would be targeting her. Of course
no-one is targeting anyone, it is just that
my parents’ entirely reasonable tech habits
leave them open to this kind of attack. I know
that my folks have unguessable passwords,
but my Dad likes to forward on round-robin
emails containing jokes or ‘warnings’ about

the latest scams. And although they have
security software installed, they both access
their shared email from multiple laptops,
without always being entirely vigilant about
scanning and updating those devices.

None of this renders them worthy of
blame, but it is why everyone in their inbox
woke up to the ‘news’ that I was desperate
for money, ligging around outside a kebab
shop by the Bosphorus.

How not to get hacked

You need to be disciplined to respect the
pitfalls of using email. Email as a medium
has to be treated with the same attention
to nuance as is letter writing. And I seem
to remember being told repeatedly by
children’s TV presenters in the 1980s that
chain letters were a bad thing.

This is not new information, but if you
don’t know the individual who originated a
message, you shouldn’t open it, never mind
pass it on. This is how spammers find out
live email addresses, and by forwarding such
emails, you are exposing your friends and
family to attack. Clicking the links contained
within such emails is also the way that much
malware is installed: the kind of malware that

hacks your emails and uses your PC as part
of a botnet to send out spam.

Anyone can be taken in by phishing
and social engineering. Literally, anyone.
There is no point being smug about it. But
disciplining yourself to ignore forwards and
mail from strangers will help you avoid it.

And for the times when you are caught out,
as well as changing your email password you
need to make sure that the computers from
which you access your email have not been
compromised. A deep scan with up to date
security software is reguired.

I’m certain this is what happened to the
older Egans. The initial hack would have
been a social engineering trick – one of them
will have clicked a link on an email forward.
They dutifully changed the password, but the
infection was deeply rooted on one of their
PCs. And so the spam rose again, and I was
banished to the gateway between east and
west. Lucky I like Turkish food. E\

Windows 10’s success is guaranteed

Everyone’s going to love Windows 10 and Microsoft is going to rule the world forever. Probably

he history of Windows in terms of
user popularity is the very definition
of peaks and troughs. Ever since
Windows 95 the platform that is part of so
many people’s lives has been loved or barely
tolerated, but rarely anything in between.

And Microsoft seems to have settled into a
binary habit of reaching for the stars with
an initial, unpopular release, and then fixing
the problems with the follow up.

Windows 95’s great leap forward was
an over promise of epic proportions,
fixed in Windows 98. The Windows 2000/

Me epic fail was resolved in the shape
of the now beloved Windows XP. When
Vista proved to be a shocking mass of
feature bloat, security woes and instability,
Microsoft released ‘Windows 7’ (in essence
Windows Vista, but no longer broken).

Throughout this period Microsoft
was able to charge for the upgrade, with
diminishing levels of success. Each time it
was offering either a potentially exciting
new feature set, or the resolution of
problems with the current install.

Not about software upgrades

The main game is not software upgrades, of
course. Up until the Vista debacle every new
Windows launch kickstarted the hardware
buying cycle, and that is where Microsoft
really cashes in on Windows. And the fact
that a new Windows no longer means a field
day for PC makers has less to do with the
guality of the operating system, and more
to do with the longevity of hardware, and
the creeping (and then gushing) success
of smartphones and tablets. We just don’t
replace our PCs and laptops anything like
as often, regardless of what version of
Windows we have.

So now that Windows 8 is largely disliked,
and Windows 10 is intended to resolve those
problems, Microsoft has made the sensible
decision to offer the upgrade for free. If you
are a Windows 7 or Windows 8 user you
can upgrade your PC, laptop, tablet or even
smartphone to Windows 10. Hurrah!

It is typical of Microsoft that – without
elegance – it has landed on the correct
commercial strategy here. This is the
organisation that first worked out how to
get rich from software, after all.

The fact is that even if some people could
have been persuaded to buy an upgrade to
Windows 10, it would have been a relatively
insignificant financial bump for Microsoft.

It makes its real money from OEM sales of
hardware, as well as Office and enterprise

software. For Windows 10 to be a success, it
needs the software to drive hardware sales.
And who is the best at using software to
drive hardware sales?

Why it is Apple, which also gives away its
operating system upgrades.

Driving sales the Apple way

Apple learnt not so long ago that if you
allow people to upgrade for free they will
tend to do it. This means that most of your
user community is on the same platform.
This in turn makes it easier for third-
party software and peripherals makers to
upgrade their products, which increases
the rate at which older hardware becomes
‘obsolete’. (Not obsolete at all, of course,
just marginally more painful to use: if
you can’t get printer drivers, and your
favourite game no longer works, you may
decide it is time to upgrade.)

For Microsoft the potential gains here are
bigger, too. It has a wider range of products
to shift: everything from cheap laptops to
workstations, from tablets, hybrids and
ultraportables to smartphones and games
consoles. And, yes, its own music, movies and
games stores, and in Xbox Live its own social
network. The more people Microsoft can
get using Windows 10 the more opportunity
it has to turn them on to the benefits of
buying additional Windows-using devices,
as well as upgrading their current gadgets.

There are plenty of people who will
tell you that Microsoft and/or Windows
is doomed. It’s possible they are correct,
but I disagree. I think that Microsoft has a
great history of making piles of cash from
objectively inferior products, and Windows
10 is far from the worst of those (I tend to

think it will be a neat piece of code, but that
is my personal view).

Windows 10: you love it

The early evidence backs me up. Before the
recent Windows 10 event we asked readers
of the PC Acfv/sor website whether they
intended to install the beta of Windows 10.
Yes, these are tech savvy early adopters,
but 29 percent of the almost 3,000
respondents said that they did intend to do
so. A further 26 percent said they would
be waiting until the final Windows 10 code
and then installing that, and 17 percent
said they would wait to learn more about it.
Remember this is before we knew it would
be a free upgrade. At least 55 percent,
and potentially more than 70 percent were
already good to go with Windows 10.

Fast forward beyond the launch and we
asked readers in which of the new features
they were interested in. Only 11 percent of the
(so-far) 2,000 respondents said they weren’t
interested in the new features of Windows
10, and a staggering 71 percent said that they
liked the fact the upgrade is going to be free.
It’s hard to argue with that price.

We’re set to see huge uptake of Windows
10 across myriad types of device. And that
in time will lead to a massive hardware
upgrade cycle. Microsoft will never again
enjoy the dominance that it has seen
at times in the past decade, but with
Windows 10 it is very far from dead. E\

The Ubuntu phone is doomed

Why the Ubuntu phone can’t compete with the big boys

I buntu OS for phones was
announced in January 2013, over
I two years ago, and the device
is only just conning to market. In fact, it
was confirmed in 2011 that the OS would
support smartphones, tablets, TVs and
smart screens. Nevertheless, the first
Ubuntu phone has at long last arrived, but
I don’t think it’s going to succeed.

Of course, there will be hard core fans of
Ubuntu who will be desperate to get their
hands on the device. The first flash sale
was only about half way through when the
device became out of stock, but we could be
talking very small numbers here. I wouldn’t
be surprised if the number available was
deliberately low in an attempt to create
hype and demand. Something ‘sold out’
must be popular mustn’t it?

Beyond the Ubuntu fans (and I welcome
your comments), I don’t think that the
Ubuntu phone(s) will make a dent on the
already saturated and heavily contested
smartphone market. Here are the four key
reasons behind my opinion.


Let’s start with price. The first Ubuntu
phone is the BO Aguaris E4.5 Ubuntu
Edition and it costs €169 (£124).

Initially, the idea of an Ubuntu phone
undercutting other devices on the market
sounded like a great idea. However, it’s taken
so long to launch the phone that this price
tag no longer seems attractive. It’s cheap,
sure, and free shipping and a bundled case
seem attractive but the phones available
for under £150 are seriously good now
(some of them) so the competition is stiff.

A phone can’t simply be cheap anymore,
it’s got to tick a number of boxes to be
worth buying and I’ll explain how it can’t
match up to rivals below.


Ubuntu is a well-known brand, but I think
the firm is going to struggle to get the
average consumer to buy into an unknown
smartphone brand in BO – in the UK at
least. I review smartphones for a living and
I barely know anything about the company.
It’s in the top 10 in Spain according to
Strategy Analytics, but that doesn’t count
for much elsewhere.

Consumers in the UK have struggled to
accept new brands such as Huawei and ZTE,
preferring instead to stick with what they
know in the likes of Apple, Samsung, Sony
and HTC to name just four. Recently, we’ve

seen Huawei launching devices under a new
‘Honor’ brand to try and solve this problem.

Ubuntu using BO as the manufacturing
partner presents a huge barrier for
consumers to get over.


Although there may be more Ubuntu phones
in the future, I can only compare the Aguaris
E4.5 Ubuntu Edition with rivals for now.

For starters, this is one boringly ugly
block of a phone with chunky bezels and
nothing of interest whatsoever. Design is
important for a very personal device such as
a smartphone, and things get worse when
you start to compare the hardware on offer
with the best of the budget market.

The BO Aguaris E4.5 has reasonable
specifications for the price, and while I
applaud the inclusion of an 8Mp rear camera
and microSD card slot, one of the best
budget smartphone around at the moment is
the Moto G 4G and it comes out on top.

Motorola’s budget smartphone is a similar
price and although some specs are the same
and the rear camera is a lower resolution, it
comes with a higher resolution screen and
that all important 4G LTE support.


For some, having Ubuntu will be a massive
lure and the main reason to buy this phone
(or future devices running the OS). For
those people. I’m glad the launch has finally

arrived; I hope you get your hands on one
and I hope you enjoy it.

The wider smartphone market, however,
is a different story. You probably don’t
need me to tell you how established iOS
and Android are. Even Microsoft is finding
it hard to compete with its Windows Phone
operating system, so is there room for a
fourth mobile OS? There are a few vying for
that spot including Tizen, Jolla and Firefox,
but the short answer is no.

There may be some interesting software
features like navigation but Ubuntu has no
established app store. Apps are seriously
important and there’s limited developer
support to make things worse.


For a few fans, the long wait for the Ubuntu
phone is over, but the firm has taken
such a long time to reach the market that
competition is far too fierce to make any
real impact. The device looks uninteresting,
isn’t cheap enough to undercut budget
Android and Windows Phone enough,
can’t compete on specs (namely 4G) and
doesn’t have enough on the software side
to convince users to switch. \E\

old Android phone

Bought a new phone but the old one works fine? Martyn 
Casserly reveals what to do with your original device 

Music player 

One of the most popular ways to recycle an old 
phone is to strip off all the apps and turn it into a 
dedicated music player. Doing this means it can 
then be used in a dock at home, which will also 
power the unit if its aging battery is struggling, or 
via a bluetooth speaker system. With streaming 
services so widely available you don’t even need 
that much storage as long as you have an internet 
connection. Fancy a small juke box in the kitchen? 
Now you have one. Alternatively you can use an old 
phone as your portable MP3 player at the gym or 
when you’re out running, thus avoiding damaging 
that expensive new handset in the rain. 




Alarm clock 

There are a wealth of alarm clock apps on the 
Google Play Store that will transform your old 
handset into a bedside companion. Simply put the 
unit on a stand, plug it in, and you’ll have a clock 
that can wake you up with your favourite tunes, 
news on the weather outside, or leave you alone 
after you hit the snooze button. 

Try My Alarm Clock Free on the Google Play 
Store ( 

Baby monitor 

If you have young children then you’ll know that 
baby monitors can be somewhat pricey and basic 
in what they can actually do. By using an app like 
Baby Monitor & Alarm you can turn an old phone 
into something that can not only monitor the sound 
in your little one’s room, but also alert you of any 




disturbances, and play either the baby’s favourite 
song or a recording of your voice to keep it calm 
until you can get to the room. 

Try Baby Monitor & Alarm on the Google Play 
Store ( 

Remote control 

Many handsets have an infrared ‘blaster’, which 
means they can be used as remote controls for 
your TV, Blu-ray, streaming, or satellite devices. The 
Google Play Store is filled with various remote apps, 
and you can even download the official Sony app to 
turn your phone into a controller for the PS4. 

Try Sure Universal Remote on the Google Play 
Store ( 

Security camera 

With home automation becoming increasingly 
popular, you might be surprised to know that old 
Android phones can now be used as surveillance 
cameras for when you’re out of the house. Services 
such as Manything allow you to stream live video 
feeds from your old phone to your new one, set up 
motion detection features, and send voice messages 
to comfort pets at home or warn off robbers. 

Try Manything ( 

Dash cam 

Dash cams have grown in popularity in recent years 
as they offer the chance to settle driving disputes 
by providing recorded video of any accidents, while 
also lowering insurance premiums. Android phones 
are a great alternative to expensive, dedicated units, 
especially when paired with apps like DailyRoads 


Voyager. Most have the ability 
to record HD video, alongside 
GPS tracking, and with the 
apps you can even check live 
video feeds of roads on your 
journey to see if the weather or 
traffic should be avoided. 

Try DailyRoads Voyager 
in the Google Play Store 

Offline satnav 

Maps are one of the 
most useful features on a 
smartphone. Thankfully you 
don’t need a data connection 
any more if you want to 
use them on an old phone, 
as Google Maps lets you 
download areas and then get 
navigation to your destination, all while offline. So 
if you want a quick, free navigation tool for your bike 
- this will do the job nicely. 

Give it to charity 

There are a great many charities who take mobile 
phones as donations. This allows them, depending 
on their focus, to either empower people in 
developing nations with communications devices, 
or salvage parts for money that can be used in 
life-saving projects. If your phone is sitting in a 
drawer somewhere, why not think about donating 
it today? You’ll save a little clutter and make 
someone else’s life a bit better. 

Review: Meizu M3 Note


Meizu M3 Note

£142 inc VAT

W e’ve been looking forward to testing a
Meizu phone for a while and, although
the M3 Note is impressive for the
money, it’s not a patch on the similar Xiaomi
Redmi Note 3. We weight up the pros and cons
of the Meizu M3 Note, and put it head to head
against the Redmi Note 3.

Our M3 Note was supplied by GearBest, which
charges £142.50 with free shipping to the UK. (Note
that you may have to pay import duty.) Conversely,
GearBest stocks the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 for
£116.76, which offers even better value still.




These are both Chinese phones and, as such,
you’ll find some preinstalled Chinese-language
apps (all of which can be uninstalled) and in our
experience you will get some notifications you
can’t read. This isn’t a major issue, since you can
still preinstall any English-language apps you wish
to use, but you will need to install Google Play
first. Of all the Chinese phones we have tested,
it’s fair to say the Xiaomi and Meizu are the least
well adapted for UK consumers (which is totally
fair enough, since they aren’t officially sold here).
However, they’re also among the nicest…


Given its sub-£150 price, the M3 Note has a great
build. It’s crafted from 6000-Series Aluminium
alloy, with a unibody design that feels tough and
well-made. A 2.5D glass screen lies flush, as
does the rear camera sensor, and rounded edges
make the phablet feel relatively comfortable in
the hand, given its size.

It still feels a little chunky, though, at 8.2mm and
163g, but this we can forgive given the generous
4100mAh battery (long runtime is a huge plus
point) and large 5.5in full-HD screen. It’s a few
millimetres taller than the Redmi Note 3, which puts
its fingerprint scanner on the rear, whereas here it’s
built into the physical home button.

There are no back or recents buttons, though,
which we found incredibly difficult to get our heads
around, and a feature of iPhones that we strongly
dislike. It is possible to activate a Smart Touch
floating button that can be customised to offer
these options, but it’s really not the same thing.




Aside from this you’ll find everything where you
would expect, from the power button and volume
rocker on the right edge to the Dual-SIM tray on
the left and headphone jack on top. One area
the Meizu gets one up on the Xiaomi is with the
bottom-facing speakers (the Redmi places this on
the rear), with two grilles sitting either side of the
Micro-USB port.

Full-HD panels of this size aren’t overly common
in budget phones, and even budget Chinese
phablets will often specify only HD screens. It
matches the Redmi Note 3 with a 1920×1080-pixel
resolution, which equates to a crystal clear 403ppi.
Brightness is pretty good at 450cd/m 2 , colours
realistic and viewing angles good. It’s not an
edge-to-edge screen, but the side bezels are slim.
In common with the Redmi Note 3 you’ll see a thin
black line bordering the screen.





Meizu fits its M3 Note with an octa-core Helio P10
processor, 2GB of RAM and a Mali-T860 GPU.

This combination isn’t as fast as the Xiaomi’s Helio
X10 and PowerVR Rogue G2600 GPU, either on
paper or in our benchmarks, although the Meizu
feels pretty nippy in real-world use without any
particularly noticeable lag.

Our only slight irritation was the pop-up that
appeared every time we opened a new app for
the first time, although technically this is a good
thing because it ensures that you deal with app
permissions properly.

We ran both phones through our usual
benchmarks and found performance from the
Meizu M3 Note that will be fine for most users.

In terms of general processing performance it
managed 2710 points in the multi-core component
of Geekbench 3, and 39,886 points in AnTuTu 3D.

For graphics we run GFXBench, and here
the Meizu recorded 13fps in T-Rex and 5.3fps in
Manhattan. This is really nothing to get excited
about, and suggests the Note won’t handle
anything too intense on the gaming front.

However, its large screen is ideal for watching
video, and the Meizu is more than capable of this.

JetStream is used to test JavaScript
performance, and here the M3 Note recorded
22.809. Again, not a brilliant score, but not at all
bad for a budget Android phone.

Where this phone really stands out is in battery
life. Meizu claims two-day life from the 4100mAh
non-removable battery, and we wouldn’t suggest
otherwise – the battery percentage indicator just




doesn’t budge. At 92 percent (having used the
phone all morning) it reported 42 hours 20 minutes
remaining, so you’re unlikely to need to carry a




power bank here. Our only gripe is that this huge
battery doesn’t support fast charge, so you will
want to leave it for a full overnight charge.

The Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 has a 4000mAh
battery, so the two should be fairly similar in terms
of performance. In the Geekbench 3 battery life
test we recorded eight hours 29 minutes with a
score of 5093 points from the Meizu. It isn’t the
best we’ve seen but it is very good.

For storage you get 16GB built in, and given the
price of this phone it’s difficult to complain. With
only Google Play installed we found we had 9.16GB
of that 16GB available. Unlike the Xiaomi, Meizu
does provide a microSD slot, although adding
one means you will need to sacrifice the Dual-
SIM functionality, since it shares the same slot as
the second SIM. Without a microSD card the M3
Note will accept two Nano-SIMs, which is handy if
you want a single phone for work and play, or are
going abroad and wish to use a local SIM.


While the Meizu will accept two SIMs, it’s important
to note that neither slot supports the 800MHz 4G
LTE band in the UK. This rules out 02 customers
and those of other mobile operators who piggyback
its network, such as Giffgaff. These people will still
be able to get 3G on the M3 Note, but won’t benefit
from the Wi-Fi-like speeds of LTE for browsing.

This is also true of the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3, and
when buying from China you should always check
whether a phone is supported by your network.

We’ve already mentioned that the Meizu M3
Note has a fingerprint scanner, and we were




impressed by how fast it operates and how easily it
recognises your finger. We like the Xiaomi’s rear-
mounted approach, where it falls naturally under
your finger when you pick up the phone, but here
you don’t even really need to think about it.

Aside from the fact there’s no support for
NFC, connectivity options are fairly standard. You
get 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS and
GLONASS. Xiaomi takes the lead here, though,
with 802.11ac Wi-Fi and an IR blaster.


In common with its Xiaomi rival, the Meizu M3 Note
features a 5Mp, f/2.0 front camera and a 13Mp, f/2.2
rear camera with PDAF and a two-tone flash. It can
record 1080p video from either camera, although it
isn’t immediately obvious how to enter video mode
and we found the resulting footage rather jerky.



That’s because, as we’ll come to next, this phone
is preinstalled with the Flyme 2.1 Ul, a custom
overlay for Android 5.1 Lollipop. The camera app is
one of the places you’ll really notice the difference
from standard Android, although it seems to have
many of the same options. The volume rocker can
act as a dedicated shutter button, while holding
down the capture button operates a burst mode.
Camera modes include Auto, Manual, Video,

Beauty, Panorama, Light field, Slow video, Macro
and, interestingly, Gif.

You can see a couple of our test shots of the St
Pancras Renaissance Hotel (shot from our seventh-
floor office roof terrace) above. The first is shot in
Auto mode and the second with HDR. The photos





look pretty good on the phone itself, but viewed
at full size on a PC the lack of image stabilisation
is obvious and a huge of detail has been lost from
the immense blurring. HDR mode improves thing
infinitely, but this certainly isn’t a phone we’d
recommend for its camera and, again, the Xiaomi
outshines it.


As we mentioned, the Meizu M3 Note runs
Flyme 2.1 OS, which is a custom version of (old)
Android Lollipop 5.1. Many of the apps that come
preinstalled are Chinese, but you can uninstall
anything that isn’t shown on the first home screen –
which is, incidentally, also your app tray in another




unhappy iPhone similarity, though this we can
deal with better than the missing back and recent
buttons. (That Smart Touch floating button just
doesn’t cut it for us.)

There are apps for everything you might expect
to see from Google on a standard Android phone,
from a Map app to an actual App Store, which
means you will double up if you also want to install
Google’s apps. It’s the same story with the Xiaomi
phone, by the way, although it’s not as easy to
uninstall the preinstalled Chinese apps on that
phone and we instead had to hide some of them
away in a folder.

At this point it’s import to note that Google Play
is not preinstalled (although in our case when
bought from GearBest it was and later stopped
working, leading us to resort to a factory reset).
However, installing Google Play is as simple as
launching the App Store on the M3 Note, searching
for Google Installer and installing it. Then click
Open and again tap Install. When you attempt to
launch Google Play you’ll be prompted to add your
Google account details.

Some things have moved around in the
Settings menu, which confused us at first but we
suspect you would become accustomed to this
fairly quickly. For example, Storage is found under
About phone (makes sense, we guess), and it’s
in here that you’ll find the backup and restore or
factory reset options.

You’ll also find some additional options in the
Settings menu, such as do not disturb- and easy
modes, plus a personalisation menu that lets you
play around with themes, wallpapers and fonts.


Various customisable gestures, such as the ability
to wake the phone with a double-tap or draw a
letter onscreen to wake the phone and launch an
app of your choice, are found under Accessibility,
Gesture wakeup.

Holding down the home button can also
activate Smart Voice, which we guess is a bit
like Siri, except it’s Chinese and didn’t understand
what we were saying to it.


The Meizu M3 Note is a great phone, with
outstanding battery life and a nice metal unibody
design, but it isn’t a patch on the Xiaomi Redmi
Note 3, which is faster and comes with a better
camera, more up-to-date software and, importantly,
a cheaper price tag. That said, it’s difficult for us
to recommend to UK users (particularly novice
UK users) the Meizu M3 Note over other budget




Chinese smartphones we’ve tested, given that
Google Play is not preinstalled and so much of it
has not been adapted from Chinese.


• 5.5in full-HD (1920×1080, 403ppi) LTPS display

• Android 5.1 with Flyme 5.1 Ul

• Octa-core Helio P10 processor

• Mali-T860 GPU


• 16GB storage

• 13Mp, f/2.2 rear camera with two-tone flash

• 5Mp, f/2.0 front camera

• Dual-SIM dual-standby

• FDD-LTE bands 1800/2100/2600MHz

• 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi

• Bluetooth 4.0


• Fingerprint scanner

• 4100mAh battery, non-removable

• Charges over Micro-USB

• 3.5mm headphone jack

• 153.6×75. 5×8.2mm

• 163g