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After a day of Google I/O announcements, I finally got my hands on a Samsung Galaxy Nexus running the Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) operating system. I found that there are a few things that Google has done right with this update—and a few issues that still need work.

What It Did Right

I compared the Galaxy Nexus running Jelly Bean to my own personal Galaxy Nexus (running Ice Cream Sandwich) and noticed the difference almost immediately. There is basically zero lag when opening applications, and scrolling between different home screens is amazingly smooth. The phone’s user interface looks basically the same, but there have been little animations thrown in that give it a more polished look.

Animations

In Jelly Bean, every time you open an app, you get one of these brief animations that quickly zoom in on the app you just tapped. Is it superfluous? Sure. But it’s the little details like this that make Jelly Bean more pleasant to use. There are a few other minor user interface tweaks, such as bigger, easier-to-tap icons.

The notification tray got a minor facelift, but the important change is in the notifications. You can expand certain notifications by using various two-finger gestures, allowing you to see more information at a glance.

Not all applications support this feature when I tried it out, but all of the pre-installed Google apps work. In fact, while writing this story, I received a Calendar alert telling me that I was going to be late to an event. When I went to the notification bar to see what the alert was concerning, I was able to see the name of the event (part of it anyway), the time and location, as well as a brief note describing the event.

Camera App

The Camera app also gained a few new tricks, with new animations that occur every time you take a picture. Once you’ve taken a few shots, you can swipe the camera screen away to bring up your camera roll and view the images you have in your Gallery. This is much better than what we had in Ice Cream Sandwich, where you had to exit the Camera app to see photos you had previously taken.

Mobile Search

Google went all out when it came to mobile search on Jelly Bean.

You can access the new Google Now page at any time by swiping upwards on the Home icon in the navigation bar. Initially your Google Now page will be very plain, showing you places nearby that you might be interested in visiting as well as the local weather (which it gets by using your phone’s GPS).

The more searches you do on your phone, the more Google Now will meet your needs.

To test this out, I searched for several things related to baseball and a sports section appeared on my Google Now page. If you don’t like a section, you can turn it off from the settings menu. It’s a very visual way of displaying basic information and it worked well–but I feel like it could do more with the information, and I hope Google Now continues to expand.

Voice Search

Voice Search has a much cleaner interface. You can now do voice input when you don’t have a connection, and asking basic questions like “What’s the capitol of Spain?” will bring up a card with an answer to your query.

If you aren’t satisfied with your answer or if you want to know more, you can swipe away to the card to get to the familiar Google Search results screen. I tried asking a few questions and, after Google finally began to recognize my voice, I was able to get answers to almost everything I asked.

What It Did Wrong

While many things in Jelly Bean look and work well, I encountered a few quirks.

I noticed a strange ghosting, particularly while scrolling, that wasn’t present in Ice Cream Sandwich. My guess is that this is the result of several new API’s in Jelly Bean that are meant to smooth out text and graphics (to make them use less memory), but it’s something that’s noticeable when scrolling through webpages and other text-heavy content.

Another problem I found is one that’s plagued Android for some time now: Fragmentation. With so few devices currently on Ice Cream Sandwich–and with many more phones currently waiting for their update–it seems unlikely that most phones out today (aside from the Galaxy Nexus and Nexus S) will get the Jelly Bean update.

You're reading Google Android Jelly Bean Os: A Test Drive

Android 4.2 Jelly Bean Vs Apple Ios 6.1

Let’s start off by comparing the two operating systems’ interfaces.

Navigation

Android 4.2iOS 6.1

Uses Virtual buttons

Virtual buttons change position when switching to landscape or portrait

Virtual buttons change to dots or auto-hide as needed

Virtual buttons placement and style are app dependent

Uses physical Home button

Starting with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, navigation in Android has shifted from physical or capacitive buttons to virtual Back, Home, and Recent Apps keys. These keys are dynamic, rotating when switching orientations, turning into dots when viewing photos, or auto-hiding when watching videos.

Meanwhile, iOS 6.1 doesn’t have virtual keys on a navigation bar. Instead, it has a Back button usually appearing at the upper-left portion of menus. In addition, iOS devices such as the iPhone 5 and the iPad 4 have a navigation bar with only one button — the Home button — which performs multiple functions:

Wake the device

Go back to the main homescreen

Open search page on the homescreen

Launch Siri

Launch volume controls and music player on lockscreen

Open App Switcher

Lockscreen

Android 4.2iOS 6.1

Screen elements shown (top to bottom): centered digital clock, day and date, lock icon, user icons below lock icon (for multi-user feature on tablets only)

Hour digits on clock set in boldface for greater visibility

To unlock, drag lock icon to outer ring

No app shortcuts on outer lock ring

Google Now can be launched from lockscreen by swiping dotted circle upwards

Multiple lockscreens; allows lockscreen widgets; lockscreens can be rearranged

Notification Shade and Quick Settings menu accessible from lockscreen

Camera accessible by swiping right screen edge towards left (for phones only)

Mini music player appears on the lockscreen while playing music

Screen elements shown: status bar on the top edge; time with day and date (without year) below status bar; unlock slider at bottom; Camera icon beside unlock slider (phones only), Photo Frame button beside unlock slider (tablets only)

Slide unlock slider to unlock device

Double tap on Home button brings up music control buttons; music controls at left side and volume slider at right on tablets; music controls and volume slider below music title on phones)

Drag Camera icon upwards to launch Camera app (phones only)

Photo Frame button beside unlock slider (tablets only)

Hold down Home button to activate Siri

Notification Center not accessible on lockscreen

Notifications appear on lockscreen by default; swipe app icon of notification to unlock device and jump to app

Bar for currently playing music appears in center when music is playing

Android 4.2iOS 6.1

Homescreen elements (from top edge to bottom): Status Bar, non-removable Google Search, analog clock, dynamic virtual navigation buttons, Favorites tray (also called the App Dock)

Default Favorites Tray app shortcuts (on phones): Camera, Chrome, App Drawer, Messaging, and Phone

Default Favorites Tray app shortcuts/folder (on tablets): folder for Google apps, Google Chrome, Gmail, Google+, App Drawer, Google Maps, YouTube, Play Music, and Google Play Store

Tablet interface similar to phones

Tap Recent Apps virtual button to view recently used apps

Maximum of 5 homescreens only

Edge of last homescreen glows when attempting to overscroll

Customizable homescreens

Widgets can be placed on homescreen

Homescreen elements (from top edge to bottom): Status Bar, square app icons on homescreen, App Dock, physical Home button

Default App Dock shortcuts (on phone): Phone, Mail, Safari, and Music

Default App Dock shortcuts (on tablet): Safari, Mail, Videos, and Music; can take up to six app shortcuts or folders

Tablet interface similar to phone

Left-most homescreen page for Search; tap Home button to instantly open Search page

Rearrange app icons or group them into folders; long tap icon to enter editing mode

Double tap Home button to access recently used apps (also known as App Switcher)

Tap and hold Home button to launch Siri

Swipe App Switcher to right to access Quick Controls

Can’t use widgets on homescreen

Number bubble appears on app icon to represent notifications

Displays ribbon on newly installed app

Status Bar, Notifications, Toggles

Both platforms employ some form of notification system for alerting users of items that need attention or that need to be acted on.

Android 4.2iOS 6.1

Notification Shade shows digital clock at left; day and date (no year), Clear All Notifications button, and Quick Settings button (on phones only)

Mobile network name displayed at bottom of Notification Shade (on phones only)

Expandable/Collapsible notifications

Notifications grouped by app; swipe left or right to dismiss notifications

Certain notifications are actionable; e.g., missed call notification has buttons for Call Back and Message

Quick Settings accessible by swiping down from right side of Status Bar (tablets only) or swiping down with two fingers from Status Bar (phones only)

Quick Settings menu shows profile photo thumbnail, button for Brightness setting, shortcut to Settings menu, shortcut to Wi-Fi settings (shows SSID), shortcut to Data Usage screen (shows mobile network name), auto rotate button (on tablets only), shortcut to Battery status screen (shows charge in percent), toggle for Airplane Mode, toggle for Bluetooth, and shortcut for creating a bug report (if Power menu bug reports is enabled in Developer options).

Swipe top edge down to open Notification Center

Displays Weather and Stock widgets by default (on phones only)

Notifications grouped by apps; dismiss notifications by tapping X button

Can set Alert style (banners, alerts, or none), choose which notification to display, set the number of items for each app notifications (1, 5, or 10 for phones; 1, 5, 10, 20 for tablets), set unique notification tone for some apps, and view notification on lockscreen

Tap notification to view and launch the app

Facebook and Twitter widgets on the Notification menu

Text Input and Keyboard

Both Jelly Bean and iOS 6 feature simple keyboard apps that offer multilingual support, voice-to-text input, word prediction, and auto-correction. Each of them has something that makes it stand out.

Android 4.2’s keyboard has the following:

Offline voice-to-text feature

Gesture typing (works like Swype)

Next-word selection

Personal dictionary to add your own words or jargon

A small selection of smileys

In iOS 6, you can enjoy the following:

Online voice-to-text feature

Emoji keyboard

Split keyboards on tablets

Custom word shortcuts

Accessibility

Android 4.2 carries over most of the accessibility features from Android 4.0 and Android 4.1, and adds a few more:

TalkBack — provides voice feedback and navigating by swiping gesture with Explore by Touch feature

Magnification gestures — magnifies the screen with swiping gestures

Large text — enlarges font size

Power button ends call — uses the Power button to end calls

Auto-rotate screen — auto-rotates screen orientation

Speak passwords — speaks out your passwords

Accessibility shortcut — instantly accesses accessibility features with a button and touch combo

Text-to-speech — sets text-to-speech output

Touch & hold delay — adjusts touch and hold delay

Enhance web accessibility — installs scripts from Google to make the Web more accessible

VoiceOver – provides voice feedback and notification through gestures

Zoom – increases text size

Large Text – increases text size for Mail, Contacts, Calendars Messages, and Notes

Invert Colors – inverts colors for less eye strain while reading text

Speak Selection – text-to-speech output

Speak Auto-Text – speaks out auto-corrections and auto-capitalizations while typing

For people with hearing losses, the following options are available:

Hearing Aids — connects your device to supported hearing aids

LED Flash for Alerts (on iPhone 5) — flashes the LED flash when receiving new alerts

Mono Audio — enables mono audio and adjust sound balance between the left and right channels

And, for those who have learning or physical and motor disabilities, the following options are available:

Guided Access — keeps the device in one app and control which features are available; triple tap Home button in the app you want to use

Assistive Touch — assists you if you have difficulty touching the screen or if you need an adaptive accessory

Communication Features

Both OSes have communication features that allow you to interact and connect with family and friends.

Backs up contacts data to Google Account

Can also sync contacts from Google+ account

Can store contact info locally on phone

Has separate tabs for Groups, Individual Contacts, and Favorites; swipe to switch tabs

Contacts can be imported, exported, or shared

Different ringtones can be assigned to different contacts

Contact page has shortcuts for dialing, composing SMS, or composing email

Tap contact number or email address to call or send an email to a contact

Backs up contacts data to iCloud

Store contacts locally on tablet and phone

On phones, contacts are merged in the Phone app

Allows importing SIM contacts

Contacts can be synced to different Apple devices via iCloud

Contact page has buttons for sending message, sharing contact, FaceTime, and Add to Favorites; tap on email address to send email and tap number to call contact

Different ringtones can be assigned to different contacts

Preset vibration patterns or personalized vibration patterns (phones only)

Facebook integrated in Contacts and Calendar events

Has separate tabs for Dialer, Call Logs, and People; swipe to switch tabs

Simple Dialer interface; tapping Dial button without entering number brings up last called number

Dialing screen shows contact info and call control buttons (e.g., hangup, loudspeaker, mute, hold, conference call)

Call Logs tab can be filtered to show all calls, only missed calls, only outgoing calls, or only incoming calls

Incoming call screen shows ring icon with shortcuts to answer, decline, or reply with message

Incoming call screen also shows Google Now shortcut (dotted circle)

Has separate tab for Favorites, Recents, Contacts, Keypad, and Voicemail; tap to switch to tabs

Simple Dialer interface

Dialing screen shows contact name and control buttons (e.g., mute, keypad, speakers, add call, FaceTime, contacts, and hang-up button

Recents tab shows history of received and missed calls; list can be filtered to show missed calls

Video call through the Internet with FaceTime

Incoming call screen shows contact info slider to answer call; swipe Phone icon upwards for more options call handling options

Displays SMS and MMS messages sent and received

Can send messages to multiple contacts

Character count indicator appears when message nears 160-character SMS limit; message split into multiple SMS if character limit is reached

Can attach photos, videos, audio, or slideshows to MMS

Messages shown inside text bubble with contact’s picture beside it

Hold down message balloon to copy, forward, lock, delete, or view details of single message

Direct Message widget for frequently messaged contacts can be placed on homescreen

Messaging widget on homescreen shows list of SMS and MMS messages

Cell Broadcast option for receiving emergency alerts (e.g., threats to life or property, child abduction emergency bulletins, etc.) and test broadcasts from the Earthquake Tsunami Warning System and the Commercial Mobile Alert System

Gesture Typing

Messaging widget for lockscreen; shows list of SMS or MMS messages on lockscreen

Can auto-delete old messages when defined limit is reached (default of 500 SMS per conversation and 50 MMS per conversation); maximum limit for either SMS or MMS is 5,000

Displays SMS and MMS messages sent and received

Can send messages to multiple contacts

Character count indicator disabled by default; can be toggled in Settings menu; character counter appears on the 28th character

Can attach Photos and videos to MMS

Messages displayed inside color-coded message balloon

Hold down message balloon to copy text

Can send SMS and MMS to iPhone, iPad, iPod, and Mac via Internet with iMessage

Message notification appears on the lockscreen and Notification Center; can change notification alert style and notification settings

Android 4.2iOS 6.1

Latitude app integrated in Google Maps app, unlike in Android 4.1

New Clock widget design

Includes stopwatch and timer in Clock app

Has Digital Clock widget

Google Play Store is default source of app installations

Sideloading (i.e., installing from unknown sources) allowed but needs to be toggled

App’s APK can be installed through Android Debug Bridge

Requires Google account password before purchasing app

List of required permissions shown before installing app

App uninstallation from App Drawer (i.e., long-tap on shortcut then drag to Uninstall button)

Can clear data, clear cache, force stop, uninstall, and toggle show notification of app (via Apps section in Settings)

App and widget icons arranged in grid inside App Drawer

Separate tabs for apps and widgets in App Drawer

Cannot rearrange apps and widgets in App Drawer

Existing homescreen widgets move automatically to make way for new widgets or shortcuts

Swipe to clear apps on the Recent Apps menu

Removed Google Maps and YouTube apps

Features its very own Maps app; now includes a Report a Problem button

Features Passbook app (phone only)

App Store is primary source of apps

Doesn’t allow sideloading of apps by default

Requires user password before installing app

Asks for permission before running apps

App can be uninstalled from the homescreen by long-pressing on icon and tapping X button on icon; can also uninstall apps from the Usage option, under the General menu in Settings.

Apps arranged in grid on the homescreen

Doesn’t use widgets on homescreen

Apps can be rearranged and moved to different homescreens

Existing apps move automatically when another app icon is placed before it; placing app icon over another automatically creates folder

Apple has removed some apps and added new ones in iOS 6. For instance, Google Maps and YouTube have been removed. Apple has also added its very own Map app and the Passbook app on some devices. Meanwhile, very little has changed in Android 4.2’s bundled apps. The Clock app got a design overhaul, and the Digital Clock widget is brand-new.

Android 4.2 and iOS 6 have their own official repositories for apps: the Google Play Store for Android and the App Store for iOS. Users enjoy secure downloading with Android 4.2’s improved Permissions feature and iOS 6’s password-enabled app installation.

Installing apps is permission-based, but vary on how each OS implements it. In Android, you can view a list of all the required permissions before you install apps on your device. On Apple devices, however, you won’t find a list of permissions on the App Store. A newly installed app will only request permissions when you run it for the first time. Granting access allows the app to run.

Web Browsing and Search

FeaturesGoogle ChromeSafariMultiple tabsunlimited tabsmax 24 tabs on tablets and 8 tabs on phonesTab listyes; tab thumbnails shown as deck of cardsyes; tab thumbnails shown as scrollable tilesDismissing tabs from tab listswipe gesture or tapping on X buttontapping on X buttonPrivate Browsingincognito tabPrivate Browsing option Safari Settings menuOffline Readingpreloaded content can still be accessed even if offlinesaves pages for offline reading (on supported devices)Text scalingyesyes while in Reading ModePluginsnot supportednot supportedInverted renderingnonenoneReader modenoneyesSyncing open tabs to or from other device (e.g., desktop, another phone)yesyesAdd BookmarksyesyesSync Bookmarks from other devicesyesyesFull screen viewnoneyes on some devicesQuick controlsnonenoneMobile version of pageyes; defaultcannot be toggledDesktop version of pageyes; can be toggledcannot be toggled

Search

Each operating system has its own way of locating items and files. Android features the integrated search tool called Google Now while iOS 6 has its own default search app.

Android 4.2iOS 6.1

Google Now

Integrates Google Voice search, Google Goggles, and Google’ other search services

Flashes results in flashcards

Launch Google Now from homescreen, any app screen, or lockscreen

Performs local search for Apps, Chrome, People, and Play Music files

Google Now gets data from your Google Account and automatically flashes results about weather, traffic, flight schedules, and more

Can perform voice commands such as launching apps, composing text, calling contacts, and more

Default search page located as leftmost page of homescreen

Lets you search terms via Web or Wikipedia

Voice-assisted search through Siri

Performs local search (also known as Spotlight); searches for contacts, applications, Music, Podcasts, Videos, Audiobooks, Notes, Events, Mail, Reminders, and Messages

Siri can now provide information on sports leagues, movie reviews and showtimes; shows restaurant information nearby; launch installed apps; can send tweets and update Facebook status; read items on the Notification center; purchase movie tickets via Fandango app (USA only)

Google Now can be accessed in a variety of ways:

Swiping its dedicated icon (dotted circle in the middle of bottom screen edge) on the lockscreen upwards;

Swiping the virtual Home button upwards; or

Tapping the search bar on the homescreen.

You can also enable Voice Search by saying “Google” or tapping the microphone button.

In iOS, you can access the search tool by:

Swiping to the leftmost-most homescreen page; or

Pressing the Home button while on the homescreen.

Swipe gesture on viewfinder to preview images

HDR Mode (on supported devices)

Panoramic shot

Taking photo while recording video

Pinch gestures to zoom in and out

Auto-focus and face detection

Geotagging

Tap and hold on viewfinder to open camera settings

5 Scene Modes and 5 White Balance presets

Time Lapse Recording

Photo Sphere

Changing image and video capture size

Volume keys as shutter buttons

Grids on the viewfinder

Mini preview of recently captured images

Photo Booth (tablets only) for instantly capturing images with preset effects

Photo and Video Gallery

Android 4.2iOS 6.1

Photos stored in Gallery app

Thumbnails sortable according to album, location, time, people, or tags

Swiping image up or down deletes image in Filmstrip View

Cannot move images from one album to another

Images can be set as homescreen wallpaper

Basic image transformations (e.g., rotate and crop) can be performed within Gallery app

Photo Editor shortcut

Photos can be shared via Bluetooth, Google+, Picasa, Gmail, or NFC

Photos stored in Photos app

Tap plus icon at the upper-right corner to add new album

Long-tap photo to copy and paste to another Album

Images can be set as homescreen wallpaper

Basic image transformations (e.g Rotate, Enhance, Red-Eye, and Crop) can be performed within Photo app

Share photos via Mail, Message, Twitter, and Facebook

Enable Photo Stream to store images in iCloud

Share photos with friends with Shared Photo Stream feature

New filters and effects (punch, Vintage, B/W, Bleach, Instant, Latte, Blue, Litho, or X Process)

Custom frames

Photo transformation options (Straighten, Crop, Rotate, or Mirror)

Image colors and value adjustments (Autocolor, Exposure, Vignette, Contrast, Shadows, Vibrance, Sharpness, Curves, Hue, Saturation, and BW Filter)

Media Playback

Select slideshow transition effects (e.g., Origami [tablets], Cube, Ripple, Wipe [tablets], Wipe Across [phones], Wipe Down [phones], and Dissolve)

Play background music

Android 4.2iOS 6.1

Video player integrated in Gallery app

Simple and straightforward video playback controls; includes progress bar and share button

Wireless display

Simple video player integrated in Photos app for playback of recorded videos; has play button, share button, trash bin button, and a progress bar with mini preview of video

Videos app for playing downloaded movies and videos; shows progress bar (without mini preview), scaling button, and playback controls

AirPlay

Playing Music

For playing music, you have the Play Music app in Android 4.2 and the Music app in iOS 6.

Android 4.2iOS 6.1

Stores songs downloaded from Google Play Store

Songs can be copied from PC to phone/tablet via USB connection

Songs displayed according to playlist, artist, album, songs, genres, or recently added

Includes 5-band equalizer and equalizer presets

Create, edit, rename, and delete playlist

Can play music in background

Mini music player appears on Notification Shade and lockscreen

Stores songs downloaded from iTunes

Songs must be copied from PC to iTunes first, then synced to device for songs to be accessible in Music app

Separate tabs for Playlists, Songs, Artists, Albums, and More (Genres, Composers, Sort By Artist [tablets], and Compilations [phones])

Has equalizer presets but need to be toggled in Music section under Settings menu

Equalizer can’t be manually adjusted

Syncs songs with iTunes Match and stores them to cloud; can download songs individually from iCloud

Shake to shuffle feature allows random track playback when shaking phone (works only in Music app on phones)

Create, edit, and delete playlists

Can play music in background

Display current song clip art on lockscreen; double tap Home button to access music controls

Like videos, music in iOS 6.1 can be transferred from the PC to your Apple device via iTunes. Android provides greater flexibility in this regard by allowing you to copy files from the PC by just using a data cable.

Security

Slide, Face Unlock, Pattern, PIN, and Password lockscreen types

Display owner information on the lockscreen

Device encryption

SIM card lock for phones

Prevents installation of apps not from Google Play Store

Built-in app verifier (malware scanner)

Improved list of Android Permissions

More control of premium SMS

Always-on VPN

Hidden Developer Options menu

Security improvements and fixes

password to unlock phone/tablet

choice between 4-digit simple passcode or long-string alphanumeric password

erase data on device after 10 failed attempts

restrict access to some device features and content

sends email confirmation if your Apple account has been used on another device

privacy menu that allows you to view which apps are accessing sensitive data

new Lost Mode feature in Find My iPhone app (locks and flashes your contact number when enabled; you can also remotely erase data and lock the device with the app in iCloud)

cannot install apps not from the iStore

kernel that is difficult to hack

reset the Advertising Identifier

Video Review

Android 4.2iOS 6.1

Uses virtual keys for navigation

Customizable homescreens

Widgets on homescreen and lockscreen

Live wallpapers on homescreen

Uses App Drawer to store apps and widgets

Displays alerts on Notification Menu;

Quick Settings for quick access to Settings options

Twitter and Facebook not integrated by default

Google Play Store

Sideloading allowed

Uses Google services for saving and syncing data to various Android devices

Easy to use and flexible Camera

Developer friendly

Multiple users

Doesn’t use virtual keys

Navigation buttons appear on app screens

chief navigation button is Home button

Apps are instantly accessible right from the homescreen

No homescreen or lockscreen widgets

No live wallpaper

Displays alerts on Notification Center; allows you to place Weather, Stock, Twitter, and Facebook widgets; customizable notification alerts

Twitter and Facebook integrated in the OS

Apple App Store

Sideloading not allowed

Uses Apple’s services for saving and syncing data to various Apple devices; also uses its own Maps app

Easy to use Camera

Doesn’t have options for developers

Doesn’t create unique user profiles

Google Io 2012: Jelly Bean, Nexus 7, Google Glasses And Nexus Q

Google IO 2012: Jelly Bean, Nexus 7, Google Glasses and Nexus Q

Google’s IO 2012 keynote has been and gone, and while the developer event as a whole isn’t over, you can certainly tell where the focus is by what made it onto the opening agenda. I’d already laid out my expectations for IO over at the Google Developers Blog, but there have been some surprises along the way too.Jelly Bean was the obvious inclusion, and Google balanced its enthusiasm about the new Android version from a technological perspective – with encrypted apps and the perfectly named “Project Butter” for smoothing out the UI – with features that will make more of a difference for end-users. The new notifications system should make a major difference to Android usability, meaning you spend less time jumping between apps, while the Google Voice Search should present an interesting challenge to Siri.

I’ll need to spend some proper time with “Google now” before I can decide whether it brings any real worth to the table. Proper understanding of context is sorely missing from the mobile device market- our handsets can do no shortage of tasks, but they still wait for us to instruct them – though there are potentially significant privacy concerns which I think Google will likely be picked up on sooner rather than later.

The Nexus 7 is a double-hitter of a device, the tablet response not only to concerns that Android developers were opting out of slate-scale app creation, but to Amazon’s strongly-selling Kindle Fire. $200 is a very competitive price, without cutting on specifications, and Jelly Bean comes with all the bells and whistles you need for a tablet OS.

Of course, OS support wasn’t what let Honeycomb and Ice Cream Sandwich down, it was the significant absence of any meaningful tablet application support from third-party developers. The Nexus 7’s low price should help get test units into coders’ hands, at least, though it will take more than a fanfare this week to decide whether Android can catch up on larger screen content with Apple’s iPad.

As for the Nexus Q, I’ll take some more convincing on that. $299 is a lot for a device that also needs an Android phone or tablet in order to work, and Google’s awkward presentation didn’t do a particularly good job of explaining why you’d rather have a Nexus Q than, say, an Apple TV, a Sonos system, or even just a cheap DLNA streamer.

The big surprise today was Google Glasses. Sergey Brin’s “surprise” interruption of the IO presentation, sporting Project Glass himself and then summoning a daredevil army of similarly-augmented skydivers, stunt bikers, abseilers and others onto the stage was a masterstroke of entertainment, and you could feel the enthusiasm and excitement in the auditorium. That the segment ended with a pre-order promise – albeit one at a not-inconsiderable $1,500 – was a suitably outlandish high-point, though we’ll have to wait until early 2013 to actually see Google make good on those investments.

Google Glasses are a long way off. More pressing is how the Nexus 7 holds up to the Kindle Fire (and, though it may not be quite a direct competitor, the iPad) and how quickly manufacturers can get Jelly Bean out to existing devices. Google may be putting a new system of early Android update access into place to speed that process for future iterations, but it looks to have come too late for Jelly Bean updates. We’ll have more from Google IO 2012 over the rest of the week.

Make sure to check out SlashGear’s Android hub for our full Google IO 2012 coverage!

Unboxing Nexus 7 and Nexus Q:

Test Drive: 2010 Ford Taurus Sho

The 2010 Ford Taurus SHO reprises a work order first issued in 1989: an austere midsize car outfitted with a hotter engine and stiff suspension, which can carve canyons like an upmarket luxury sled and costs thousands less than such cars from, ahem, Those German Brands. This go-round, Ford’s added bold styling, a comfortable and attractive interior, tons of usable space, a twin-turbo V6, even more lateral grip and quicker responses. The result is a machine greater than the sum of its parts, and the best car Ford’s ever built.

The SHO starts with the latest Taurus, a ground-up redesign based on an updated version of the Volvo-derived D3 platform, a tight set of frameworks that began life underpinning the top-line Volvo S80. Getting the Taurus right was a pet project of Ford CEO Alan Mulally, who apparently knows brand equity when he sees it on a car badge. Turning that equity into respect is his game here.

Unlike the model it replaces, the ’10 Taurus appropriates few design cues from established players, staking out a territory between American-style grand gesture and Japanese figurative discipline. Although, thanks to the now-common automotive slab-sidedness that serves crash standards over aesthetics, you can’t hang your arm out the window while driving. But then, no one’s been able to do that and not look like a complete toolbag since 1973. That low window-to-beltline ratio also hinders visibility at the corners somewhat, but does make the Taurus look as sturdy as a bank vault.

Really, what the new Taurus has that the past two or so generations of Tauruses has not is attitude. And no Taurus has as much attitude as the new SHO.

The original 1989 SHO rose to a degree of prominence among car geeks via a Yamaha-built V6 that apparently fell to earth from motorsports heaven. Created to rev deep into the 8000 rpm range, though detuned so the rest of the Taurus components wouldn’t liquefy, the 3-liter plant turned out a hot for the time 220 horsepower. Paired with Ford’s MTX-IV 5-speed manual, it provided what some magazine editors 20 years ago called “spiritedness.” Translation: It rocked their argyle socks.

The new SHO is likewise an engine-focused proposition, fitted with Ford’s latest EcoBoost V6. That twin-turbo powerplant is the same as the one we tested in the Lincoln MKX. All of 3.5 liters, it produces 365 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque as early as 1,500 rpm. From behind the leather-wrapped wheel, it translates into the kind of spry acceleration normally reserved for European sedans, American muscle cars and model rocketry. The SHO’s all-wheel-drive system means no burnouts, just a leap from zero to fast in a perception-shattering instant. Turbo lag? How totally ’80s.

The EcoBoost is paired perfectly to a new six-speed automatic, which on the SHO comes with Ford’s SelectShift electronics and paddle shifters. That quick-shifting automanual is smooth above all, with software minimizing torque loss between gears.

Also like the original, the 2010 SHO is no slacker in the handling department. The base Taurus gets Ford’s latest combination of front struts and “SR1” rear multi-link suspension. That name is derived from its 1:1 shock absorber ratio, meaning the amount of extension is equal to the amount of compression. Ford reps say this setup offers a sound baseline on which to sport-tune the SHO’s ground control, and more suspension travel to accommodate larger wheels, like the 20 inchers on the SHO I drove recently. As a result, road feel is a balance of control through stiffness and comfort through shock-absorption. Steering is light and brisk, making the big SHO feel smaller and lighter than its 4,015 lbs suggests.

The new Taurus leapfrogs mainstream midsizers like the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Chevy Impala, both in size and price. But for the extra five or so grand, the Taurus feels like a premium car at a $10,000 discount, instead of a decked-out mid-pricer. Big difference. The SHO is all that plus 100 extra horsepower and the stiffened suspension to match. It’s not as off the hook as the 1989 SHO, but rather a new, more refined model aiming to satisfy what the Europeans would call “executive” tastes.

But, then again, the ’80s are over. Let ’em go.

Price as tested: ~$39,000.

Test Drive: 2010 Volkswagen Golf Tdi

After four years off the market in the US, the Golf diesel returns for 2010. Lush acceleration, excellent mileage, new styling cues and a well-considered interior make for an attractive, economical package. Volkswagen

With not quite 50 horsepower at the wheels, the original Volkswagen Rabbit diesel couldn’t hit 125 miles per hour from the barrel of a circus cannon. Yet here we are in the 2010 Golf TDI, outgunning the locals (at least some of them) on a stretch of autobahn near the company’s Wolfsburg headquarters. Not since I found my stash of Kiss solo albums in the attic has 1978 felt so long ago.

Volkswagen’s on-again-off-again production of diesels for the US in the ensuing three decades entered a new “on” phase in 2008 with the reintroduction of the Jetta TDI. This year, the company is returning the diesel Golf TDI (formerly Rabbit, formerly Golf, formerly…) to the US after a four-year absence.

VW phased out its aging Pumpe Düse fuel-injection system — a modular unit that combined a low-pressure pump and injector nozzle in one component — in favor of the latest common-rail direct injection tech. In the new system, a high-pressure fuel rail feeds four precise piezoelectric injectors, improving efficiency and reducing emissions (which also gets help from a particulate filter) to meet standards in all 50 US states. That system also relies on the 2007 introduction of low-sulfur diesel in the US.

The latest TDI engine is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, the same one that arrived stateside last year in the Jetta. Paired with either the smooth-shifting manual or twin-clutch DSG automanual, the new TDI is urbane, quiet and supplies a wave of low-end torque that gives the Golf the lush acceleration feel of a premium-priced six-cylinder, if not the unrelenting shove. That’s a function of the 140-hp engine’s abundant 236 lb-ft of torque between 1,750 and 2,500 rpm.

Visually, the stocky, new Golf — now in its sixth generation — shares the road presence of its pricier European brethren. VW head designer Walter di Silva fittingly calls the Golf’s blocky comportment “monolithic.” The Di Silva gang also penned a new face for the VW brand, which shows up on the Golf in the form of a new, wider dual-bar grille that walks its way into a pair of tapered halogen headlamps. It adds up to a more aggressive, self-assured look. Inside the latest VW/Audi combination of understatement and quality materials wins again.

And then there’s the fuel economy. At 31 mpg (city) and 42 (highway) with the DSG transmission, it’s solidly in hybrid territory.

In Europe, Volkswagen will offer a sportier version of the Golf diesel based on the spry GTI, called the GTD. That model will get a turbocharged and intercooled 170-hp engine with 258 lb-ft of torque. It gets from zero to 60 about a second quicker and costs a few thousands more. Maybe if the standard model makes it over here, diesel will become the next hot performance option. Either way, diesel has aged much more gracefully than Gene Simmons’ cover of Disney’s “When You Wish Upon a Star.” That was just plain embarrassing.

0-60: 8.6 seconds

2010 Volkswagen Golf TDI: Fun, Economy and an Updated Face

After four years off the market in the US, the Golf diesel returns for 2010. Lush acceleration, excellent mileage, new styling cues and a well-considered interior make for an attractive, economical package.

2010 Volkswagen Golf TDI: A “Monolithic” Hatchback

Now in its sixth generation, the latest Golf gets new styling cues that give the hatchback a presence Volkswagen design chief Walter di Silva calls “monolithic.”

2010 Volkswagen Golf TDI: Standard Features

In the US, the Golf TDI comes only with VW’s sport suspension, which is lower and stiffer than that on the base-model Golf. The Golf TDI also comes with 17″ Porto alloy wheels and a touch-screen audio interface with Sirius satellite radio.

2010 Volkswagen Golf TDI: Understated Inside

The interior of the Golf TDI combines typical Volkswagen understatement with quality materials. An optional touch-screen navigation system with 6.5-inch screen and 30 GB hard drive (10GB for navigation, 20GB for audio), WMA / MP3 audio CD playback, DVD playback, an SD memory card slot and a 3.5mm auxiliary input jack costs an extra $1,750.

2010 Volkswagen Golf TDI: The New Diesel

VW phased out its aging Pumpe Düse fuel-injection system — a modular unit that combined a low-pressure pump and injector nozzle in one component — in favor of the latest common-rail direct injection tech. The 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder won’t win the Golf TDI many drag races, but paired with either the smooth-shifting manual or twin-clutch DSG automanual the 140-hp diesel provide a lush acceleration feel. That’s due to the 236 lb-ft of torque between 1,750 and 2,500 rpm.

How To Test A Motherboard

In my 30 years of experience as a computer technician, a motherboard is one of the most challenging components to diagnose due to the number of components connected to it.

If a motherboard fails, you could have blue screens, freezing, beeps, inability to detect USB drives and other hardware, and more.  This guide will teach you how to test a motherboard with a multi-meter before installing other PC parts.

You will need the following tools to complete your motherboard diagnostics testing.

A Phillips screwdriver or power switch jumper

A multimeter to check voltages

A working PSU (Power Supply Unit)

A new CMOS battery if necessary

CPU thermal paste

Set the motherboard on a flat, non-conductive surface such as a wooden table.

Install the processor and apply thermal paste.

Attach the CPU cooler and connect it to the motherboard.

Place at least one RAM module into the slot labeled (DIMM 1). 

Attach the GPU to the motherboard and connect the necessary power connector if necessary. Read your GPU manual to verify.

Plug the ATX 24-pin connector from the PSU (Power Supply) into the motherboard.

Connect the monitor to the HDMI connection on the side of the board for onboard graphics or into the GPU if it’s your primary display.

Plug the PSU power cable into a surge protector or wall outlet.

To turn on the computer, use a power switch jumper, or if you do not have one available, you can even use a screwdriver to complete the power circuit shown above.

After verifying a successful POST, turn the PC off by flipping the switch located on the power supply back to the off position.

If the computer boots to the BIOS, you are good to go. Unplug everything, and install the motherboard into your case and install everything as usual. If your motherboard did not POST, retry the steps again, and if it still fails, contact the motherboard manufacturer and request an RMA to get a new motherboard.

Motherboards can be one of the most stubborn components to diagnose due to the sheer number of tiny parts embedded in them. In my experience, when motherboards fail, they typically will not boot, power on, or anything. The following steps can help narrow down your symptoms.

The Power-On-Self-Test or (POST) happens each time you turn on your computer. If your computer is operating normally, you should continue the startup. If you are unable to complete the POST, then proceed to the next step.

Verify that your motherboard is not shorting out on your case. Verify that you have correctly installed stand-off screws in all the correct screw locations inside the case.

Check your system for possible overheating. Open the case and ensure that there is not dust covering the fans, components, and motherboard. If so, use a can of compressed air found at your local hardware store to clean it.

Listen for beep codes when booting your PC. These beep codes will help you identify the faulty component or issue. For a list of beep codes and what they mean, go here.

Use the BIOS to check for updates, download and install them. If no updates are available, restore or reset your BIOS to reverse all settings to default and restart the computer.

If you still cannot access the BIOS because your computer keeps restarting, Replace the CMOS Battery. If your PC continues into BIOS after battery replacement, your motherboard issues should end. But if they do not, continue diagnosis.

Finally, remove all components other than the CPU, the CPU Cooling Fan, and the RAM. If your motherboard boots and POSTs, you will need to add one piece of hardware at a time until you find the faulty component.

If you cannot diagnose your motherboard with the steps listed above, it is time to use a multimeter. You can purchase one at your local hardware store or on Amazon. This one at Amazon sells for less than $13 and works great.

If you have a multimeter, then you will be able to detect issues with the motherboard easily. Even if you have never used a multimeter in the past, I will walk you step-by-step on how to test your motherboard for component failure.

The first thing you want to look for with the multimeter is a short circuit. These are common issues and can happen when there might be a surge in electricity. Below we will be verifying the AC voltage of the motherboard.

Standard 24pin ATX pin layout

Next, remove the motherboard from the case and refer to the layout picture or this ATX 24-pin chart to find the PINs. Using the red lead, test each of the following: (3,5,7,15,17,18, and 19) must have a 0 reading. Anything else indicates a bad PSU connector.

The last test will require you to remove the ATX power adapter and the CPU from the motherboard. Test the same ATX pins located on the motherboard. Any reading other than 0 means there is a problem with the motherboard connector.

Multimeter

To check DC voltages, follow the steps below. The steps here are slightly different than AC voltages.

If you have found that the motherboard has failed, don’t try repairing it on your own. Even if a repair is successful, improper voltage regulation could destroy everything in your computer. It is always better to have an experienced electronic technician repair the motherboard or replace it than venturing to fix it yourself.

With the computer turned off, carefully probe the back of the connector using the black lead.  It should be in contact with one of the negative pins 15,17,18 or 19, registering a 0 voltage.

Use the red lead to probe and verify the following pins:  Pin 16 (green in color) reading between 3-5 volts and Pin 9 (purple color) reading 5 volts.

Now, start the PC.  Pin 16 (green color) should drop down to 0 volts.  If it doesn’t, this is indicative of a faulty switch.  (Turn off the PC)

Finally, use the red lead on Pin 8 (gray color) should read 5 volts.  Start the computer and press the reset button; now, the voltage will drop down to 0 volts, then go back up to 5 volts.  If not, this is a good indicator that you have a defective RAM slot, and you will need a new motherboard.

FAQs

You don’t have to have a CPU to verify that the motherboard is working and powering connected components like case fans and RGB lighting. I know because I have done this on numerous occasions.

How to test a capacitor on a motherboard?

Unfortunately, there is no way to test the capacitor on a motherboard without removing the capacitor itself. However, you can visually inspect each capacitor for rust, cracks, leaks, or bulges, and this will give you a good idea that the capacitor is damaged.

Can a motherboard be repaired?

A motherboard can be repaired by an experienced electronics technician in many cases and may still be less expensive than a replacement if it is an older PC. If you have to purchase a new motherboard, you may also have to replace the CPU and RAM. 

Is replacing a motherboard worth it?

The fact that the motherboard is responsible for distributing controlled amounts of current throughout the computer and its peripherals makes it very worth it. A failing motherboard could cause surges of current that could potentially destroy your RAM, GPU, CPU, etc. 

What happens if my motherboard is damaged?

If you just purchased your motherboard and it was damaged when you opened it or during installation, it should be under the manufactures warranty. You will need to call the manufacture and request an RMA (Return Merchandise Authorization).

If you have had the motherboard for a long time and it is out of the warranty period, you will need to purchase a new one.

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