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If we were basing this on looks alone, the Yoga 13 wouldn’t do very well. That’s not because the Yoga 13 is a bad looking computer, it’s just that the silver ultrabook look is getting a little old these days. With the Yoga 13, you’ve got a silver chassis on the top on bottom, which is accompanied by black trim along the sides. It looks good, but it’s been done plenty of times before. I would have liked to have seen Lenovo take a chance with some color, but then again I can see why it didn’t – after all, silver is a pretty good neutral color, and the last thing a manufacturer wants is for consumers to be hung up on colors, of all things. If you’re shooting for as many people as possible, neutral colors are better.
On the left side of the device is where you’ll find a full-size HDMI port, a USB 3.0 port, a standard 3.5mm headphone jack, and the volume buttons for when you’re using the machine in tablet mode. On the front, we’ve got the One Key Recovery button, which is standard on most Lenovo laptops these days, as well as the power button and a battery indicator. Finishing off with the right side, we have the power jack – which for some reason is yellow – a USB 2.0 port, a 2-in-1 card slot (SD and MMC) and the screen lock button. The screen lock button prevents the screen from changing orientation, which I think is definitely a handy thing to have around. One thing that’s worth noting is that there isn’t an Ethernet port present on the Yoga 13. That means it’ll be Wi-Fi or bust if you decide to pick one up, so keep that in mind.
Opening the computer up, we’ve got a really nice looking 13.3-inch display, which features a Windows 8 button that you can pretty to quickly get back to the Start screen, and the keyboard. Here’s where the Yoga 13 deviates from the boring old silver notebook scheme, as the keyboard and trackpad are entirely black. It actually looks sharp and goes well with the screen, but there’s one small problem: by making the entire keyboard black, it can be kind of hard to see in low light settings. That’s especially true since there isn’t any backlighting to speak of on the Yoga 13. You’ll want to use this is a well-lit area if you know you’ll need to be looking at the keyboard, though this won’t be much of an issue for folks who know a keyboard as well as I know the lyrics to Will Smith’s Wild Wild West (trust me, I know them).
Next up is stand mode, which has the user folding the screen back and flipping the machine over so that it rests on its keyboard. This mode seems best-suited for getting the keyboard out of the way to watch movies. I’m tempted to argue that it isn’t the best choice for playing games and instances when you’ll be using the touch screen a lot, as it doesn’t take much pressure to get the screen to fold back even further.
Then we have tent mode, which is my personal favorite. In tent mode, you’ll fold the screen over even further and then flip the computer on its ends so that it forms something resembling a tent when it’s resting on a surface. This would be another good choice for watching movies, but it’s also a better choice for gaming than stand mode is due to the fact that the screen will be much more stable in tent mode. Lenovo has also specifically suggested that it would be good for using in the kitchen – perhaps reading a recipe on your Yoga 13 as you cook, and while I think that’s an excellent idea, I have to be honest and say that I didn’t test this sort of application (I’m not much of a chef, to tell the truth).
There’s also another cause for concern when using the Yoga 13 in tablet mode: the exhaust vents run along the back edge of the system. When you’ve got the Yoga 13 folded up in tablet mode, the bottom edge of the screen is pressed up against the exhaust vents. It isn’t normally a problem as there’s still plenty of room for air to come in and escape, but if you’re doing something that’s making the computer’s fans work hard, you’ll definitely feel some heat at the bottom of the screen. That’s a bit worrying, though again, I didn’t run into any problems in testing – the computer ran cool enough, and it never got to the point where the warm air caused any issues with the screen.
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If the design suits you, the Inspiron 11-3147 fills both its tablet and laptop roles well at an attractive price.
Dell’s Inspiron 11 3000 series is a hybrid whose obvious competition is the extremely similar Lenovo Yoga 2 11. Both are touchscreen tablet/laptop hybrids whose two halves pivot 360 degrees to achieve multiple configurations. But while they closely resemble each other in many ways, the Inspiron 11 series 3000 outperforms and outlasts the Yoga 2 11, and it does so for a bit less money.
The real decision you need to make is whether the design is right for you.
Dell also sells an otherwise identical model with a slightly slower Celeron N2830 processor for $399. You’ll find two other models on Dell’s website, but the only differences are the bundling of an external Bluetooth speaker on one, and a longer service contract/warranty on the other.
The Inspiron 11 can be set up four ways: Clamshell, presentation, tablet, and (as shown here) tent mode
No matter the price point, the real decision you need to make is whether the design is right for you. The 2-in-1 form factor fills both the laptop and tablet roles, and this one is big enough to house a larger battery that can drive faster components. The downside is that you’re saddled with the weight of the keyboard when you use it as a tablet.
Dell considers the Inspiron 11’s 3.1 pounds to be lightweight, but that’s a lot of bulk to wield when using it as a tablet.
Using a hard drive, versus an SSD, is part of the way Dell keeps the price of the Inspiron 11 3000 series low, but it also results in slower performance. I immediately checked how easy it would be to swap in an SSD, as well as replace the internal 43-watt-hour battery. The unit’s bottom panel comes off to reveal both, as well as the other slots, after the removal of nine screws.
You might think the three across the middle are captive. They’re not, so remove them before you pull the panel off or risk watching them fly across the room. There are also pressure-fit tabs, so a bit of energetic spudging (that’s a technical term for prying with a plastic tool or fingernail along the seams) is required to pop the panel off.
Dell’s Inspiron 11 is ever-so-slightly faster than HP’s Pavilion x360 and Lenovo’s Yoga 2 11 (thanks to an ever-so-slightly faster Pentium processor).
Dell delivers much better battery life HP and Lenovo, but Toshiba whips all three.
Gaming-wise, the Inspiron 11-3147 might do okay with simple HTML types, but it won’t handle modern standalone titles. It managed only 11 frames per second in BioShock Infinite at 1024×768 using low image detail. But you don’t buy a convertible to game, and you probably don’t want the kids wasting time with such pursuits when they should be studying.
Even though the Dell Inspiron 11 3000 series is a better deal overall, the Lenovo Yoga 2 11’s somewhat sleeker design will likely win its share of buys. I always recommend kicking the tires in person before deciding which you want to own. If you want something faster or with greater screen resolution, shop the Pro variant of the Yoga 2, with its Core processors.
The Lenovo Flex 20 makes a lot of compromises to achieve its light weight and low price. Most people would be better off saving a little more cash to buy a machine they won’t outgrow so quickly.
PC manufacturers seem convinced that everyone wants a Windows tablet, be it 8 inches or big enough to double as a TV tray. The larger models are effectively all-in-one PCs that can lie flat to allow several people to interact with the touchscreen at once.
The spring-loaded hinge on the Lenovo Flex 20’s back panel allows you to position it at nearly any angle, including completely flat.
The Flex 20’s specs read more like those of a bargain-basement cheapie than of a machine you’d expect to play games on. Powering the Flex 20 are a dual-core fourth-generation Intel Core i3-4010U processor, integrated Intel HD 4400 Graphics, just 4GB of DDR3/1600 memory, and a 500GB mechanical hard drive that spins its platters at 5400 rpm. The saddest spec of all is the screen resolution of 1600 by 900 pixels—a 19.5-inch IPS display needs 1080p.
Perhaps Lenovo’s engineers don’t want you to reduce the Flex 20’s portability by hanging too many devices from it. But to provide just two USB ports? Really?
The performance is what you’d expect of a machine with such specs. The Flex 20 managed to post a WorldBench 8.1 score of just 78. That’s 22 percent slower than the benchmark results of our reference all-in-one desktop, an Acer Aspire U A5600U-UB13 powered by a third-gen Intel Core i5-3230M. The 27-inch Horizon, meanwhile, delivered a WorldBench 8.1 score of 111. And Dell’s XPS 18 Touch—another all-in-one tablet/hybrid—scored an impressive 171 (with the assistance of its 32GB SSD cache drive).
The Lenovo Flex 20’s battery life is very good, but the machine turned in an otherwise disappointing benchmark performance.
What does that mean for family game night? A lot of waiting. Lenovo created a custom interface called Aura, designing it in a ring so that users can control the tablet from any side of the screen. Launching a game in Aura left me on a blank screen long enough for me to start wondering whether the game was actually launching or if the whole thing had crashed (which it did, on occasion).
Battery life is adequate for a quick evening of gaming. The Flex 20 lasted 3 hours, 25 minutes playing high-def video in our run-down tests, which means the kids could grab it for movie night—and considering that it’s just 7.7 pounds, they could probably get it to their room without your help. Gaming will eat that up a little faster: In our tests, 2 hours of play left the battery with a 25 percent reserve.
The machine has no memory card reader, no HDMI input or video-out, and no optical drive.
Lenovo offers some interesting wireless accessories to enhance the Flex 20’s gaming capabilities: joysticks (which attach to the touchscreen with suction cups), air-hockey strikers (small paddles that glide over the touchscreen), and the E-Dice (a die that tells the computer which side is up after a roll). Unlike with the Horizon, you must purchase the Flex 20 accessories separately: A package with one pair of joysticks and one pair of strikers costs $50, and the E-Dice costs $60. A wireless mouse and keyboard are included with the PC.
Resolution of 1600 by 900 on a 19.5-inch IPS display is another letdown.
After the Flex 20 failed to win me over during family game night, I set it up in my office to serve as an all-in-one desktop. It wasn’t so great in that role either. Of all the computers I’ve tested, none has had a problem connecting to my Wi-Fi router two floors below. The Flex 20 couldn’t hold a connection.It’s priced about right
The idea of a touchscreen all-in-one that you can lay flat on a table is relatively new, so manufacturers are still looking for the right balance of performance, price, portability, and features. Lenovo went all out with the Horizon and then scaled back with the Flex 20. I think the company scaled back too far. Even with the lower-resolution screen, the Core i3 processor isn’t enough to support fluid tabletop gaming, which is where such machines should excel.
The ThinkPad 25 is delivered in a special edition box which, once opened, reveals a tiny history of the ThinkPad booklet. The packaging is black and red outside and in, save the special edition ThinkPad 25 logo, which of course references the original IBM from the lid of the first ThinkPad.
ABOVE: A box with some thought put into it, made for ThinkPad 25. BELOW: A few more elements in the box, including replacement/alternate red nubs!
Inside the ThinkPad is a similarly simple color pallet, including black, white, the triple red, blue, green, and a few lighter blue accents. This could have gone so wrong – but it didn’t. The industrial design of this device could have referenced all the design elements that’ve dated themselves out of reference worthiness – but they didn’t.
Instead, the ThinkPad 25 does exactly what we’d hoped Lenovo would do. That is to keep all the best and most missed features from the original ThinkPad. They’ve put these pieces in to a notebook that retains its own unique identity while it benefits from a modern processor, display, memory, storage, audio, and connectivity.
The display on this ThinkPad 25 is 14-inches diagonally with full HD resolution. That’s 1920 x 1080 pixels using IPS LCD technology. This screen also has multitouch capabilities (it’s a touchscreen, as it were) – meaning you can make use of tap-friendly apps and games on the fly if you wish. Or, if you have a toddler in the house, they can wreak havoc all the more easily – lucky you!
The best part about this display is not its resolution (because it’s pretty baseline), but its antiglare covering. Where the vast majority of laptops in the world today stubbornly stick with glass that reflects light directly into their users’ eyes regularly, Lenovo’s implementation of antiglare hardware here makes the device feel a lot more breathable.
ABOVE and BELOW: Two sides of the ThinkPad 25 – a device of many, many ports. So many ports you’re not going to know what to do with them all – but you’ll appreciate having nonetheless.
Along the edges of this notebook are 3x USB 3.0 ports – the beginning of the generous amount of ports that fly directly in the face of the many 3, 2, and even 1-port notebooks of the modern age. This notebook also has 1x USB-C port with Intel Thunderbolt 3 technology for super fast transfers of all manner of data.
There’s a single full-sized HDMI port to connect to large displays. There’ a single headphone port, too – it’s even a Combo Audio Jack, just as it aught to be. Amongst the ports there’s a 4-in-1 (SD, MMC, SDHC, SDXC) memory card reader – something the MacBook Pro used to have, but does no longer. Of all the ports on this machine, that’s the one I appreciate the most.
Connectivity inside includes RJ45 Gigabit Ethernet, able to make the most of internet speeds the original ThinkPad couldn’t possibly conceive of. What would this sort of speed be used for back then, anyway, downloading photos so tiny they could never realistically be used outside of a computer screen environment?
The camera above the display is decent, as far as laptop cameras go. It does seem as though this component has fallen by the wayside with most laptop-makers – but Lenovo’s implemented a camera that’s good enough for the basics. The audio – with dual array microphones and background noise reduction – is top notch.
This camera (with its infra-red tech included) allows the user to log in to the notebook with their face, using Windows Hello facial recognition. That feature worked fairly swiftly and reliably – though I had the best luck with the fingerprint scanner. The scanner sits to the lower-right-hand side of the keyboard, out of the way when not needed and well placed for initial login. This notebook also features vPro remote management and dTPM encryption onboard.
The ThinkPad 25 we’ve got here has Windows 10 Pro onboard with a 7th-gen Intel Core i7-7500U (2.7Ghz, 4MB) processor. It also features an NVIDIA GeForce 940MX 2GB GDDR5 GPU. Also inside is 16GB DDR4 RAM as well as 512 GB PCIe SSD for data storage.
In the benchmarking application GeekBench 4, Lenovo’s ThinkPad 25 served up a score of 4140 for single-core and 7900 for multi-core, with a compute score of 16,781. Rolling with a 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited score of around 113,000 on average, this machine’s use of the NVIDIA 940MX GPU makes certain it’s tight for any non-mega-gaming-intensive tasks this machine might need to perform. Cinebench score averages hovered around 370, while Handbrake came in at around 1:59.
Audio on this machine is automatically enhanced with Dolby tuning technology. The sound feels decent and can very likely fill the needs of the average user without issue. This isn’t the laptop you’ll want to use as a speaker for a wild rumpus, but watching movies at home at a low volume in bed will be entirely reasonable.
The keyboard is truly a conundrum for me as I’ve switched formats so many times over the past couple of decades. The keyboard style this notebook works with has keys that ride the edge between “just right” and “just too far apart”. Once I get to typing, after a while I get used to the new grooves. But every time I start, I have to readjust my expectations for key placement.
The arrangement of the keys on the keyboard feels odd for me because I’ve not used a ThinkPad in a while. The feel of the keys, on the other hand, is great. Each key push is a soft bump against the base, and flying through words and paragraphs is comfortable again. Nothing like the modern nonsense that is typing on a touchscreen.
The touchpad is 3.9-inches by 2.2-inches, and it feels decent. Gone are the days in which a Windows laptop’s touchpad could make or break the experience – now we’re in a space there material matters. This touchpad has mylar up top, which is both comfortable and has remained both clean and accurate through the time I’ve reviewed this device.
Battery life on this machine with its default 3-cell battery in use isn’t especially good. It’ll last a whole airplane flight a few states over, but don’t expect it to last on a trip from Minnesota to Rome. Lenovo does have an optional 6-cell extended battery for $140 – which I recommend you get if you’re going to buy this notebook right out the gate.
Or, since this ThinkPad 25 uses Lenovo’s PowerBridge connector tech, buy a few extra batteries. You can switch them out without shutting down the computer – no sweat. Grab a whole handful of batteries and you’ll be totally fine on an extended flight – provided you’re somehow able to convince security that you have a bunch of batteries for a good reason.
The Lenovo Flex 6 14 boasts peppy productivity performance, a discrete GPU and solid battery life for a relatively budget price, but it also comes saddled with a dim screen and iffy graphics.
One of the cheapest thin-and-light convertibles we’ve tested to pack in a quad-core 8th-generation Intel CPU, the Lenovo Flex 6 14 boasts peppy productivity performance and solid battery life for a relatively budget price. Unfortunately, the Flex comes saddled with a dim screen and iffy graphics, disappointing given the system’s discrete Nvidia graphics core. If you don’t care about gaming or photo editing and you’re on a budget, the Flex might be worth considering, but if you’re shopping for true graphics power in an ultraportable, look elsewhere (perhaps at the Asus ZenBook 13 ).Price and configuration
The Flex’s $800 price tag is pretty good on paper—and indeed, it’s among the cheapest 2-in-1 systems we’ve tested with an 8th-generation Intel CPU.
Adam Patrick Murray/IDG
The Lenovo Flex 6 14’s slim shell looks plain but professional.
For example, the Asus ZenBook Flip 14, a similar 14-inch convertible with the same Core i5-8250U processor and only integrated Intel graphics has a list of $900, while you could drop more than $1,800 on Lenovo’s premium, Core i5-8250U-powered ThinkPad X1 Yoga.
Then again, if you want to save cash by choosing the Lenovo Flex 6 14, you’ll have to put up with some compromises. Read on.Design
Measuring 12.9 x 9 x 0.7 inches and weighing in at about 3.75 pounds (or four pounds if you include the compact, 7-ounce AC adapter), the onyx-black Flex 6 14 is slim and light enough to fall into the ultraportable category, although it’s a tad heavier and thicker than some of its pricier competitors.
The Flex’s durable plastic shell looks plain but professional, with a just a small Lenovo logo on the edge of the gently tapered lid. A brushed aluminum palm rest sits inside. The matte surface of the Flex’s lid resists fingerprints but (not unusually) tends to attract oily hand smudges.
Adam Patrick Murray/IDG
You can tent the Lenovo Flex 6 14 in a V-shape, sit it keyboard-down with its screen tilted back, or swivel its display all the way around for tablet use.Display
The Lenovo Flex 6 14’s Full-HD display looks reasonably sharp and vivid on its own, but it pales—quite literally—in comparison when you stack it up against other, brighter laptops screens. We measured the maximum brightness in the center of the screen at 224 nits (or candelas), which falls somewhat short of our 250-nit low-water mark for comfortable indoor viewing. While you can view the display relatively easily in an office setting, don’t be surprised if you find yourself squinting at the screen when outdoors or near a bright window.
The Flex’s touch display responded smoothly to my taps and swipes, and it also boasts pen support. You can snag Lenovo’s Active Pen, complete with 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity and a plastic USB pen holder, for $40.Keyboard, trackpad, speakers and extras
Adam Patrick Murray/IDG
The Lenovo 6 14’s backlit keyboard feels roomy, with keys that boast a tactile bump halfway through each keystroke.
Just beneath the bottom-right corner of the keyboard sits the Flex’s fingerprint reader, which lets you unlock your Windows profile and open Windows Hello-compliant apps with a single touch. I used the fingerprint reader throughout my testing and rarely had any problems.
The Lenovo Flex 6 14’s bottom-firing Harman Kardon speakers are a tiny cut above your average laptop speakers, but they’re still pretty (and unsurprisingly) iffy. While I enjoyed the wide separation between the left and right stereo channels, details were a bit muddy, bass was virtually non-existent, and the sound wasn’t that loud even after cranking the volume all the way up. That’s all pretty typical as far as laptop speakers go, but don’t get your hopes up because of the Harman Kardon brand name.Ports
The Lenovo Flex 6 14’s collection of ports is solid, but nothing special. On the left side, you get barrel-shaped charging port, a full HDMI video port, the first of two USB 3.0 Type A ports, a single USB 3.0 Type C port, and a combo audio jack.
Adam Patrick Murray/IDG
The Lenovo Flex 6 14’s left-side ports include a full HDMI port, a USB 3.0 Type A port, a USB 3.0 Type C port, and a combo audio jack.
On the right sits a Kensington lock slot, a second USB 3.0 Type A port, an SD card reader, and the power button.
Adam Patrick Murray/IDG
Right-side ports on the Lenovo Flex 6 14 include USB 3.0 Type A and an SD card reader, but no Thunderbolt 3.
Overall, that’s a perfectly respectable collection of ports, although we’re bummed by the lack of Thunderbolt 3 ports, likely a concession to the Flex’s budget price tag.General performance PCMark 8 Professional Work
PC Mark Work 8 Conventional should be a breeze for a quad-core Core i5-8250U such as the Lenovo Flex 6 14 sports, and it is, making it well-qualified for mainstream productivity applications.
Unsurprisingly, the Flex 6 14 passed our PCMark 8 test with room to spare, easily besting the 2,000 mark that we deem the minimum for smooth Office performance, as well as notching a result that’s in line with competing 2-in-1 ultraportables.HandBrake
While PCMark 8 is a benchmark at which even cheaper dual-core laptops can excel, our next test is another story. By using the free HandBrake utility to convert a 30GB MKV video file into an MP4 file, we can get a pretty good idea of how a given laptop beats the head under a prolonged and crushing CPU load.
The Lenovo Flex 6 14 probably took a little longer to finish the HandBrake encode because of thermal throttling as the CPU heated up.Cinebench
While Handbrake puts a heavy strain on a CPU for about an hour or more, our processor-intensive Cinebench test (which involves rendering a 3D image in real time) lasts mere minutes, giving us a better understanding of how a laptop handles short bursts of stress.
The Cinebench CPU test showed that the Lenovo Flex 6 14 can hold its own in single-threaded applications. In multi-threaded applications (the longer bar), it once again restrained itself for the sake of thermals, but not by much.3DMark Sky Diver
An $800 ultraportable with a discrete graphics core: That’s the promise of the Lenovo Flex 6 14, and on paper, the prospect sounds enticing. In practice, however, we were fairly underwhelmed by the Flex’s graphics performance.
With its discrete GeForce MX130 GPU, we expected more from the Lenovo Flex 6 14 in gaming benchmarks. The convertible appears to be holding back to control thermals.
We ran the Sky Diver benchmark multiple times just to be sure. Even the Flex 6 14’s very best scores (about 4,020, only twice out of 10 tries) still came in somewhat below what we saw in competing convertibles with integrated graphics, and way behind a recent laptop (the Asus ZenBook 13) with MX150 graphics.
The Flex 6 14’s disappointing Sky Diver performance could simply be a thermals issue, and indeed, we noticed the system briefly slamming the brakes (via power-limit throttling) on the CPU about a minute or so into the test as internal temperatures began to mount.
While discrete mobile graphics cards like the MX130 are intended more for boosting photo and video editing rather than playing games, we went ahead and fired up a few gaming favorites. The Tomb Raider reboot from 2013, for example, only gave us a woeful 4.4 frames per second with the graphics settings maxed out, or just 22.8 fps on the lowest graphics settings. Meanwhile, we had to dial down Fortnite all the way to the lowest settings (including painfully blocky visuals) just to maintain a steady 30 fps.Battery life
The Lenovo Flex 6 14’s 7.5 hours of battery life brings up the rear compared to similar competition, though to be fair, some do have larger batteries.
The Lenovo Flex 6 14’s average battery drain result of 441 minutes (roughly 7.5 hours) isn’t bad considering its 45 watt-hour battery, and it’s comparable to another 8th-generation convertible with a similar-sized battery, the Samsung Notebook 7 Spin. Other systems in our comparison chart boast more battery capacity.Conclusion
Sure, it’s amazing that you can now snag an ultraportable 2-in-1 with a quad-core Intel CPU and discrete GPU for just $800, but the Lenovo Flex 6 14’s dim screen and disappointing graphics performance count as major drawbacks.
Look beyond hardware and aesthetics, though: Tango functionality is star of this show. If you’ve not been following the Google-developed computer vision technology from its skunkworks origins back in 2014, it’s effectively a system by which a device can figure out where it is in the world without relying on GPS. The Phab 2 Pro gets three different sensors on the back of the phone to accomplish what Tango requires: from top to bottom, a 16-megapixel RGB camera, a depth camera, and finally a motion sensor.
These three sensors work in tandem to visually track the space you’re in, from that calculate your movements, and thus make sure that using AR Tango apps is as smooth as possible. For the most part, they’re successful with that, and motion tracking on the Phab 2 Pro is a noticeable step above what you’ll find in, say, Pokemon GO or the few augmented reality games offered on the Nintendo 3DS.
The Phab 2 Pro clearly has the hardware it needs to do augmented reality well – for now at least – but the issue of being an early adopter is present here all the same: at the moment, there just isn’t much being offered in the way of Tango apps. It’s a problem every new technology faces, and hopefully the level of excitement surrounding Tango means that we’ll be able to quickly move past this sparse stage in the platform’s life.
There are, of course, some bright spots. One of the coolest apps is Dinosaurs Among Us from the American Museum of Natural History. In it, you can pull up 3D models of dinosaurs and see them – through the Phab 2 Pro’s display – in the real world. The angular models are in no way realistic, which the museum has previously said is because we’re still not 100-percent sure what real dinosaurs looked like, but they’re detailed enough to give you a solid idea of the different species.
You aren’t just limited to looking at models of these dinosaurs though, as you can pull up tappable points on each dinosaur’s body to read facts about that species and how it lived. As a kid, I was an absolute fanatic when it came to dinosaurs, so this app is just plain awesome. There are only four types featured in the app for now – Archaeopteryx, Caudipteryx, Omithomimus, and Velociraptor – but there’s plenty of scope for adding more models later on down the road.
For instance, most of these dinosaurs are small-to-medium-sized, with Ornithomimus standing roughly eye level with humans. What would be really impressive is if we could get models of larger dinosaurs such as Tyrannosaurus or Brachiosaurus added to the app. Seeing AR models of these prehistoric beasts within our real-world surroundings would give us a true sense of their massive size, and if nothing else, it could be a good learning tool for kids who aren’t growing up with movies like Jurassic Park to spark their interest.
Another app that shows off the utility of augmented reality is WayfairView. With it, you can select from hundreds of different home furnishings and decor items, and place them in your home: when you hold the Phab 2 Pro up and look at its display, you see the virtual item correctly scaled in your actual room. This gives you a good idea of what will work with your existing decor and what won’t, and presents one of the first clever uses for augmented reality beyond gaming.
I’m not a fan of furniture shopping in general, but I found myself playing around with WayfairView nonetheless. You can browser Wayfair’s sizable catalog or narrow down your search to a specific type of item – barstools, for example. Then you simply select an item from the search results and it’s unpacked right in front of you. From there, you can reposition it to find the perfect placement, take a picture to send to other people involved in making furniture decisions, or add the item to your cart if you know it’s something you must have.
The app works well – better than I expected, in fact. When you have an item highlighted on screen, you’re presented with its dimensions, allowing you to take more precise measurements to know for sure that it’ll fit. The price for each item is also listed on screen, and changes as you select different items. Rotating and placing items in augmented reality is easy and intuitive, so hats off to Wayfair for giving us an early example of AR done correctly.
There are, of course, a number of AR games to pick from, and one I was drawn to is a Unity title called Raise. Developed by IguanaBee, you can think of Raise as a Tamagotchi pet for 2024. You’re introduced to a virtual pet that you’ll need to feed, play with, and otherwise keep happy, but the major difference is that this pet is placed in your own world instead of one that’s entirely digital.
It’s an interesting app, though it can be difficult to get a handle on the controls as first. It’s also very much a mobile game, requiring you to earn coins to progress. Considering it’s being offered for free, though, that isn’t entirely surprising.
Even though Raise isn’t unique in its approach – we’ve had pet raising simulations on many platforms in the past – AR does give it a certain depth that other implementations of the idea lack. Assuming Tango and AR in general take off, we’ll likely see a lot of that, with developers taking tried and true gaming formulas and moving them into the real world to add an extra touch of realism.
Though the list of AR experiences you’ll have with Tango is short for now, the platform as a whole is still something I’m excited about. The problem we have at the moment is that apps, while good, deal in situational niches and mostly rely on novelty. There’s nothing that really strikes me as truly must-have today, even though there are plenty of fun experiences to be had with Tango in its current state.
It’s going to take us a little while to get there, too. Augmented reality is still a largely untouched sector, so it’s going to take developers some time to become comfortable making apps and games for it. Until that happens, we’re likely to just see more games – which can be tiring to play when you need to consistently hold the phone in a certain position – and apps that focus more on utility – handy, but not necessarily something that will see frequent use.
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