Vivo's all-screen NEX goes dual-display to ditch the pop-up camera

While Vivo is still a largely exotic brand for many of us, you may remember it as the first manufacturer to both tease and release a truly bezel-less smartphone. And of course, Vivo’s NEX S gained extra street cred thanks to its pop-up selfie camera plus in-display fingerprint reader. Just months later, the Chinese company is back with a follow-up model dubbed NEX Dual Display Edition, and as the name implies, it packs a screen on both sides of the phone, just so that it can ditch the pop-up camera — a cool but physically vulnerable feature — while still avoiding the notch on the main screen.

Gallery: Vivo NEX Dual Display Edition hands-on | 6 Photos

The idea here is that you can stick to that sweet bezel-less display for your everyday tasks, but when it comes to selfies or video calls, simply flip the phone over to make use of the 12-megapixel main camera ( f/1.79, Sony IMX363 CMOS), along with the smaller screen below it. Both the 6.39-inch and 5.49-inch AMOLED touchscreens pack a 1080p resolution, which is lower than those Quad HD offerings from others but still plentiful for most users.

Sadly for Vivo, it’s not the first company to realize this concept. The Nubia X from late October also makes use of a secondary display for selfie purposes as well as personalization and adding game controls (think rear touchpad), but it uses a smaller 5.1-inch OLED panel with a lower 720p resolution instead. So Vivo still wins here, at least on paper; and yes, its new NEX supports those use cases for its rear display as well.

It’s also pretty easy to switch between the two screens on this NEX: You can either pull out the control center from the bottom and tap the shortcut at the bottom right, or enable the three-finger gesture in settings and drag from left edge of either screen. Still, I personally prefer the dual-fingerprint-reader implementation on the Nubia X, but that’s obviously not an option on Vivo’s device.

Lunar Ring on the Vivo NEX Dual Display Edition

In addition to the 12-megapixel camera, 2-megapixel assistive camera (for bokeh and enabling “Super Night Mode”) plus the usual LED flash, the NEX Dual Display Edition offers a Lunar Ring, which acts as a selfie soft light surrounding these cameras. The top half consists of 16 LEDs, whereas the lower part overlapping the rear display uses the AMOLED pixels to produce the light. This is supposed to offer prettier selfies as it spreads the light more evenly, and it also doubles as a notification light.

Needless to say, the camera comes with many dedicated software features, including the usual AI face beautification and face shaping. Interestingly, it can even do body shaping if you’re very conscious of yourself.

Mirror Mode capture on Vivo NEX Dual Display Edition

To take full advantage of the secondary screen, there’s a Mirror Mode which is self-explanatory: While you’re taking photos of a person using this phone, the rear display shows a live view of the subject — just like a mirror — which allows him or her to adjust pose where necessary. There’s also a Pose Director mode which uses the rear display to show pose suggestions picked from Vivo’s image library.

Another unique feature here is the Time Of Flight 3D camera, which is used for faster (0.35 seconds) and more secure (300,000 dots) facial recognition and enhanced facial beautification. It also serves as an AR measuring tool — much like what Google’s Project Tango touted back in the days.

Nubia X and Vivo NEX Dual Display Edition

The rest of this Android 9.0 phone is very much what you would expect from a standard flagship, but with a whopping 10GB RAM. You get the usual Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chipset, 128GB internal storage, a 3,500mAh battery (a bummer compared to the NEX S’ 4,000mAh; but you do get 22.5W fast charging) and, again, an in-display fingerprint reader — now at its fifth generation which unlocks in 0.29 seconds. Hi-fi enthusiasts may also appreciate the integrated AK4377A 32-bit audio DAC chip from Asahi Kasei Microdevices, but we won’t know for sure until we get hold of a unit.

Alas, there’s still no NFC. One possible reason is that Vivo is pushing the use case of QR code-based mobile payment using its rear display, meaning you won’t have to flip the phone around. In other words, there’s less justification for NFC-based mobile payment methods, let alone the additional manufacturing costs.

As with most Chinese smartphones, Vivo’s NEX Dual Display Edition is also a dual nano SIM device, but it’s sadly lacking support for most of the US LTE bands, so phone importers should bear this in mind. As for the rest of you, you can either grab either a “polar blue” or “nebula purple” unit in China from December 29th for 4,998 yuan (about $725), or wait until the international version (blue only) hits the markets in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore in the very near future.

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Texas will soon provide inmates with 3D-printed dentures


Eshma via Getty Images

Texas prisons were notorious for denying inmates access to dentures, because chewing isn’t considered a medical necessity. That might no longer be the case in the near future, all thanks to 3D printing. Starting in the spring, the state’s prison system will start providing toothless inmates with 3D-printed dentures, according to Houston Chronicle. It’ll avoid the need to transport prisoners to dental facilities across the state, since technicians can simply scan the mouth of the inmate and then send the images to the 3D printing facility. The process will take weeks instead of months, cutting down wait times significantly.

The move was spurred by a Houston Chronicle report from September, which shed light on how Texas inmates need to be underweight or suffering from other medical complications to be able to secure a set of dentures. Some had their remaining teeth removed after being promised a set, finding out later on that they wouldn’t be able to get one. Toothless inmates are forced to drink pureed food or to give their gums a workout.

Texas officials changed the system’s policy after the exposé, promising more dentures and more reasonable rules. Prison spokesperson Jeremy Desel said authorities believe 3D printing “will be the most efficient and cost-effective solution” to the problem, seeing as there’s an increasing number of elderly offenders within the system. While the state will have to purchase the 3D printing system for between $50,000 to $100,000, each set of dentures will only cost it $50.

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Walmart opens its first online store in Japan


Wakako Iguchi/Nikkei

Walmart has opened its first online store in Japan with the help of local e-commerce giant Rakuten. Over 1,200 items will be available to Japanese customers on the “Walmart Rakuten Ichiba Store,” including clothing, outdoor items and toys from US brands. It marks the latest step in the duo’s strategic alliance, announced in January, which also spans an online grocery delivery service in Japan and the sale of e-readers, audiobooks and e-books from Rakuten-owned Kobo in the US.

The new store is hosted on the Rakuten Ichiba digital “shopping mall” — the country’s largest e-commerce site. Walmart will fulfil orders in the US and ship them directly to customers in Japan, with shipping, duties, and taxes bundled into the product price. It’s also tapping its subsidiary Seiyu GK, a local supermarket chain that also handles its online grocery service, to provide customer support.

The move is clearly Walmart’s latest play to capture more of the Japanese e-commerce market, which is estimated to be worth 16.5 trillion yen ($148 billion) per year. While rival Amazon has found success in the country, Walmart still appears to be floundering. In July, Japan’s Nikkei reported it was scouting buyers for Seiyu as it looked to shift its international business with investments in China and India. Walmart refused to comment on the rumors.

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Amazon All-new Kindle Paperwhite review (2018): The best just got better

Amazon’s All-new Kindle Paperwhite comes along just in time. While we’ve loved prior versions, the e-reader hasn’t changed much since its debut in 2012, aside from incremental upgrades such as better front-lighting, additional storage and a few software tweaks. Its most recent version, from 2015, was losing ground to similarly priced competitors such as the Kobo Clara HD.

With the All-new Kindle Paperwhite, Amazon’s not only managed to catch up to the competition, it’s lapped them. The new e-reader’s premium features, reasonable price, and wide variety of content make it the best e-reader for most people.

Note: This review is part of our roundup of the best e-readers. and the best Kindles. Check out those stories for details about competing products and how we tested them. 

All-new Kindle Paperwhite specs, features, price

The All-new Kindle Paperwhite lives up to its name with a raft of innovations. Before we dive into the review experience, here are the main details. The version of the All-new Kindle Paperwhite we reviewed was the ad-free 32GB model with LTE.  

Storage: 8GB or 32GB (a $20 option)

Display: 6-inch Paperwhite with E Ink Carta and five white LEDs, 300ppi,16-level grayscale.

Dimensions: 6.6 x 4.6 x 0.3 inches

Weight: 6.4 to 6.8 ounces, depending on features

Connectivity: All models come with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. The 32GB models offer Wi-Fi plus free LTE (a $52.50 option). 

Battery life: Up to 6 weeks on a single charge

Special Offers: Save about $15 if you submit to ads, or pay about $15 if you don’t. 

amazon kindle paperwhite without special offers Melissa Riofrio/IDG

The Customizer page is where you choose your Kindle Paperwhite options, such as storage, connectivity, and Special Offers.

All-new Kindle Paperwhite prices via Amazon vary depending on storage amount, connectivity choices, and whether you choose the Special Offers discount. All these options are available in the Customizer screen that appears after you add the device to your shopping cart.

Currently the least-expensive model is the 8GB version with Wi-Fi and the Special Offers discount, for $100. The fully tricked-out All-New Kindle Paperwhite we reviewed, with 32GB, Wi-Fi plus LTE, and no Special Offers discount, currently costs $187.49. Go to the All-New Kindle Paperwhite product page on Amazon to see other configurations and prices.  

Design

2018pw water Séamus Bellamy

With its refined, waterproof design, the 2018 Kindle Paperwhite is a great choice for poolside adventures.

The All-new Kindle Paperwhite is noticeably lighter than its predecessor (at 6.4 to 6.8 ounces) and just a hair slimmer. The reductions make the Paperwhite more comfortable to hold during marathon-long reading sessions.

Here’s the bad news: Any of the cases you may have bought for your old Paperwhite won’t fit the new model. Amazon sells its own cases for the All-new Paperwhite, starting with a basic water-resistant fabric cover for $30Remove non-product link (multiple colors available), a midpriced leather cover for $40Remove non-product link, or a premium leather cover for $60Remove non-product link. When paired with Amazon’s $60 premium leather case, the all-new Kindle Paperwhite wakes from hibernation or goes to sleep whenever the case’s cover is opened or closed, respectively. Third-party cases such as the Infiland Kindle Paperwhite 2018 CaseRemove non-product link (available on Amazon) start well below $10. 

One of the frustrating things about the Kindle Paperwhite’s previous design was its recessed display. It made swiping difficult at times and was almost guaranteed to trap sand, crumbs and other debris along the seam between the bezel and touchscreen. The All-new Kindle Paperwhite still has bezels, but they’re flush with its display. This new design gives the device a sleek, premium aesthetic and significantly improves the user experience. Swiping across its touchscreen is easier than it was with previous generations of the device.

As with the last-generation Paperwhite, the 2018 model comes sporting a 6-inch HD E Carta E Ink display with a pixel density of 300ppi. That’s geek-speak for “text on the display is crisp and looks great.”

To make reading easy on your eyes no matter how bright or dim the lights where you’re reading may be, the all-new Kindle Paperwhite is front-lit by five white LEDs. I found its front lighting was more or less consistent from edge to edge of the display. However, it’s no match for the exceptional quality of lighting you get with the 12 white LEDs on the pricier 2017 Kindle Oasis. Unlike the Kindle Oasis or the now-discontinued Kindle Voyage, the All-new Kindle Paperwhite lacks an ambient light sensor—so you’ll have to tweak its illumination level yourself.

The All-new Kindle Paperwhite is waterproof—a first for the Paperwhite line. With its IPX8 rating, it can survive in two meters of water for up to an hour at a time. This means that, for the first time, it’s possible to take your All-new Kindle Paperwhite to the beach, into the bathtub, or poolside with a light heart. That said, using the device while it’s wet is less than ideal. As with the 2017 Kindle Oasis, the All-new Kindle Paperwhite’s operating system makes it possible to turn off touch input, lest its touchscreen mistake a splash of water for user input.

2018pw audible Séamus Bellamy

Connect a Bluetooth speaker or a set of Bluetooth headphones and you’ve got everything you need to enjoy an audiobook.

Also unlike the Oasis, the All-new Kindle Paperwhite lacks page-turn buttons. Amazon’s UI designers try to get around this by allowing you to swipe horizontally across the display to turn the pages of whatever you’re reading. This works pretty reliably, provided your hands and the device’s display are dry enough. Get either too wet, and the touch interface can’t be relied upon to get the job done. Given that stepping up to a Kindle Oasis from a Paperwhite will cost, at a minimum, an additional $130, this compromise will most likely be one that most people are willing to bear.

The All-new Kindle Paperwhite comes packing Bluetooth connectivity, bringing it in line with the Kindle Oasis and Amazon’s entry-level Kindle e-reader. Pair a Bluetooth speaker or set of headphones with the device, and you’re ready to listen Audible audio content. 

Audiobooks take up a lot more storage space than .Mobi files or PDFs do, however, which is why the All-new Kindle Paperwhite comes with a base storage of 8GB—double that of the 2015 model. A 32GB upgrade is available.

E books and audio books purchased from the Kindle Store or Audible can be transferred to device via Amazon’s Whispersync service. It’s also possible, as with other Kindles, to sideload content via USB or email it to the device using it’s email address. When browsing the Kindle Store, updating your Goodreads profile or syncing your reading progress with the cloud, the All-new Kindle Paperwhite connects to the Internet using Wi-Fi. If you want 4G LTE connectivity as well, you’ll have to fork over for a 32GB version of the device.

Amazon promises ‘weeks’ of battery life, and that’s no exaggeration. An E Ink display sips delicately at battery power, especially compared to the way an iPhone or Pixel Slate guzzles juice. However, how many weeks its battery will last depends on your reading habits: display brightness, how often you prefer your pages to be refreshed, and whether you power down or put your Kindle to sleep between uses. Bluetooth will suck the life out of your batteries far quicker than Whispersync via Wi-Fi ever could. The same goes for 4G LTE.

The version of the All-new Kindle Paperwhite that I tested had LTE. With its display lighting kept at 50 percent (dipping down to 15-20 percent while reading in bed), Wi-Fi/LTE switched on and listening to perhaps 30 minutes of audio per day, I found that the device lasted me just under eight days before I had to charge it. This was long enough to read Warren Elli’s Normal novella, and about 80 percent of Timothy Snyder’s The Road to Unfreedom—not bad, all things considered.

User Experience

If you’ve used a Kindle e-reader in the past few years, you’ll find Amazon’s user interface hasn’t changed much, except for the better. Tweaks to customize fonts, line spacing, and other text presentation options have been placed front and center with Page Display. Accessing it is a tap of the Papwerwhite’s touchscreen away. The same goes for shortcuts to Amazon’s Kindle Store, GoodReads, and the quick-access pane for the Paperwhite’s illumination, Bluetooth, sync, and Airplane Mode settings. Readers can quickly scan pages or skip to a specific page with a few taps and swipes. More granular control of the device’s settings, any highlighted sections or notes you may have made while reading or information about a given book and its writer can all be had via the Menu button in the top-right corner of the device’s Quick Settings bar.

For those who have never used a Kindle e-reader before, picking up the basics with the Paperwhite is easy as Amazon provides a number of tips for using the device the first time it is turned on. It’s one of the least intimidating tech experiences around.

The Bottom Line

With its refined, waterproof design, Bluetooth connectivity, beefed-up storage options and reasonable price, the All-new Kindle Paperwhite is a outstanding upgrade to what was already a fabulous device.

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Best e-readers for digital-book lovers


With so many models to choose from, it’s hard to believe there are only two major players in this space. Don’t worry, we’ll help you find just the right model.

best e readers

Rob Shultz

Table of Contents

Folks used to think that e-readers would relegate traditional paper books to the scrapyard of the past and destroy the publishing industry as we knew it. But, in the time since the first Kindle e-reader was unveiled in 2007, the dire declarations of what effect the devices might have on our reading habits and on publishers have given way to widespread acceptance from industry wonks and bookworms alike, for one simple reason: E-readers are pretty great.

Lightweight, easily readable in direct sunlight or, on models equipped with a built-in backlight, in the dead of night, an e-reader is an excellent choice for browsing periodicals, documents, comic books, and of course, books. Most are capable of storing thousands of books—and with power-efficient E Ink displays, word aficionados can typically read for weeks at a time before their device’s battery will need to topping off. These are all great features but, as they’re all features that most e-readers share, choosing which device to buy can be daunting. Don’t worry, we’re here to help you find the device that suits your needs. We’ve assembled reviews of the most popular e-readers on the market today—as well as some you might not have heard of that deserve your attention.

The buying advice you’ll find here is the culmination of months of research and hands-on testing, reinforced by years of experience in hardware journalism and a profound love of reading. We hope you’ll enjoy our in-depth reviews, but if you’re just looking for a quick buying advice, you’ll find our top two picks—and a money-is-no-object recommendation below. Prefer to do your own research? Scroll down to the features we think you should look for in an e-reader.

The best e-reader for most people: Amazon All-new Kindle Paperwhite (2018)

With the All-new Kindle Paperwhite (available on Amazon), Amazon’s not only managed to catch up to the competition like the Kobo Clara HD, it’s lapped them. The new e-reader’s premium features, reasonable price, and wide variety of content make it the best e-reader for most people. Read our full review.

When you buy a Kindle Paperwhite, you’re not just getting a piece of hardware—you’re investing in access to the largest ecosystem of downloadable text content in the world.Every Kindle owner can access Amazon’s massive online store full of electronic books, magazines, newspapers, and periodicals. That’s something no other e-reader company comes close to competing. Voracious readers can also opt for a subscription to Kindle Unlimited, which provides unlimited monthly access to more than 1.4 million titles. If you’re an Amazon Prime member, you’ll be able to borrow books from the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library or from Amazon Prime Reading

Runner-up best e-reader: Kobo Clara HD

Kobo’s Clara HD (available from Rakuten Kobo) appeared at a time when Amazon’s Kindle Paperwhite was getting long in the tooth. While the All-New Paperwhite has caught up in features and design, the Clara HD is still a strong competitior, especially if you want to stay free of Amazon’s clutches. The content you lose if you forsake Amazon is the Clara HD’s only major challenge. Read our review.

Best luxury e-reader: Amazon Kindle Oasis 2017

Note: We’ve transitioned our e-reader coverage to PCWorld, starting with this 4.5-star review of the Amazon Kindle Oasis (2017 model). When price is no object, the Kindle Oasis is the e-reader to buy. While it doesn’t have the large display of Kobo’s Aura One, the Oasis provides luxury in the form of choice and brilliant industrial design.

With built in 3G and Wi-Fi connectivity, you can download read books and periodicals on the Oasis’ bright, high-resolution display just about anywhere you go. The Oasis is the lightest e-reader we’ve tested so far, yet can still hold enough power to allow you to read for weeks at a time.

Runner-up luxury e-reader: Kobo Aura One

The Kobo Aura One is a big e-reader with a 7.8-inch, 300 ppi display and twice as much storage as any product we reviewed. We weren’t impressed with its backlight, which the manufacturer claims doesn’t emit the type of blue light that can interrupt sleep cycles, and you can’t get 3G connectivity with any of the Kobo products, but the Kobo Aura One left us happy in every other respect.

Features to look for in an e-reader

When we evaluate e-readers, experience has taught us that there are a few features an electronic reading slab should have to be a winner. To make your search for a great e-reader as pain-free as possible, you’ll want to consider the following:

Backlight You can use an e-reader with an adjustable backlight in almost any environment. The light will illuminate the text, but it won’t disturb others around you (including your bed partner). It’s a feature that adds cost to the e-reader, but we think it’s essential to having a good user experience.

Battery life and charging Part of the appeal of an e-ink reading device, especially when compared to a smartphone or tablet, is how little power it takes to display text and images. If you run across an e-reader that provides less than a few weeks of use before it needs to be recharged, keep running. When the time comes to top off your e-reader’s battery, you shouldn’t have to deal with proprietary cables, AC adapters, or charging docks, either. Look for a device that recharges and/or syncs with your computer via micro USB.

Build quality Owning a piece of technology that’s so light and thin you scarcely remember that it’s in your backpack until you pull it out to use it is a win—but only if its svelte profile and heft don’t come at the cost of durability. We’re not saying that your e-reader should be built like a tank, but it should be able to stand up to the casual abuse it’ll suffer by being knocked around in a purse, backpack, the backseat of a car, or if it’s accidentally knocked off your bedside table.

Connectivity An internet connection delivers the most convenient means of downloading new reading material and connecting to online resources such as dictionaries. Most people find Wi-Fi to be good enough, and every e-reader will have a Wi-Fi adapter onboard, but a 3G connection is a luxury you’ll appreciate every time you’re in the car, on the bus, and anywhere else you can’t log into Wi-Fi. Sure, you could create a hotspot on your phone and connect your e-reader to that, but you’ll never have to think about it if your e-reader is equipped with 3G. Yes, you’ll pay more up front for this option—like we said, it’s a luxury—but that includes the ongoing cost of service for the life of the e-reader.

Content The best e-reader is little more than an expensive paperweight if it doesn’t connect you to vast variety of reading material. This can come through a couple of different channels. Most people will top off their device with fresh reading materials from a well-stocked online store, such as the ones offered by Kobo, Amazon, and Apple’s iBook Store (for Apple products only.) Choose an e-reader that supports a wide range of electronic publishing formats and you’ll be able to draw from a nearly endless supply of free publications via public libraries and other sources.

DRM The acronym stands for digital rights management, it’s a technology designed to protect intellectual property—such as digital books—from being copied and shared.

On-device storage An e-reader typically won’t allow you to download files other than reading material—or in some cases, audio content—so you won’t need the expansive storage that you’d want with a digital audio player, a tablet, or even a smartphone. That said, you’ll want to be able to store a ton of books, magazines, and other publications when you don’t have access to the internet. An e-reader with three or four gigabytes of internal storage is capable of holding thousands of novel-length publications. You’ll also find that some devices come with expandable storage, which can come in dead handy if your reading habits include perusing large PDF files or listening to audio books.

User experience A number of factors will impact an e-reader’s user experience. Resolution is the most important—the higher the better, so as to eliminate jagged edges on letters. Variable font size support, so that you can make the text optimal size for your eyesight. An adjustable backlight, so you can dial it in for the room you’re in or let the device automatically find the right balance between optimal brightness and battery life. A user interface that makes it easy to navigate the book, turn pages, buy new books, make annotations, and share passages with friends.

Our e-reader reviews

We’ve pulled together eight e-reader reviews for this story, and we’ll add new products to the list as they become available (and remove models as they reach end of life). A note about the prices of the Amazon e-readers: You can remove Amazon’s ads from a Kindle’s lock screen before or after you order it. It will cost you $20 either way. The 3G option, of course, must be specified when you order the product, it cannot be added after delivery. That adds $70 the price tag.

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