Tech Retrospect: PlayStation 4 and iPad Mini Retina get real

Miss a few stories this week? We'll get you up to speed with this rundown of all the biggest tech news of the week.

Tim Stevens Former editor at large for CNET Cars
Tim Stevens got his start writing professionally while still in school in the mid '90s, and since then has covered topics ranging from business process management to video game development to automotive technology.
Tim Stevens
4 min read

Gamers rejoice: the new consoles are finally here! Well, one of them is, anyway. You're going to have to wait a week for the other one. After coming to the party about a year after Microsoft in the last generation, Sony is first out of the gate with the PlayStation 4. Reviews dropped earlier this week, including our own, and for once there seems to be a general consensus among them: great hardware, but don't bother rushing out to buy one just yet. Sony has lined up a decent selection of launch titles, but unless you're a Killzone addict, there just isn't an awful lot to get excited about here.

Still, the future is quite bright indeed for the company's latest gaming iteration. I had the chance to sit down with the PS4's lead architect Mark Cerny to talk about the difference between this console and its predecessor, and I was quite impressed by the difference in approach and mindset this time. Cerny's focus was on creating a powerful yet accessible and affordable console -- goals that all seemingly got lost in the development of the company's last machine. After more or less writing off the PS3 myself, I'm actually quite eager to see what devs can do with the PS4. That said, I'm also quite eager to run some laps in Forza on the Xbox One.

Sarah Tew/CNET

iPad Mini with Retina Display

The other big release this week was the surprise delivery of the iPad Mini with Retina Display, which arrived with little fanfare despite a lot of anticipation. Or perhaps I'm projecting my own anticipation. The big story is of course the display, which is 2,048x1,536 pixels, making it among the highest-resolution small tablets on the market. However, the performance boost from the A7 is equally notable, blowing away the benchmark scores from last year and delivering better battery life all the while -- over 14 hours on our standard rundown test. That's a lot of longevity from such a little guy.

The Mini did get a little thicker and a little heavier on its way to Retinaville, but the difference is so slight that you'll need to have more-sensitive digits than I to detect it. So, then, there's really no compromise -- other than cost. At $399 the new Mini is quite a bit more expensive than before, but the good news is the old one sticks around at a very fair $299. If you have the extra scratch, I'd recommend getting the pixels. It's not like your eyesight is getting any better.

Samsung v. Apple all over again

Yet another Samsung v. Apple trial is in the works, a bit of a do-over from last year's trial that saw Apple win more than $1 billion. The findings of that lawsuit are not in doubt, only the damages. Shara Tibken has the rundown on what's at stake in this trial, and if you want to know what's happening in real time, follow her on Twitter: @sharatibken.

Joe Belfiore's gets IE

Microsoft's Joe Belfiore, who has become one of the most recognizable faces of Windows Phone at Microsoft, this week got a new and perhaps even more challenging responsibility: Internet Explorer. It's unclear exactly what his new duties will include at the helm of Microsoft's storied browser, and indeed whether he'll be giving up any responsibility of the phone side of things. With Nokia coming onboard and the significant amount of mobile expertise contained therein, I wouldn't be surprised if we saw a bit of a shift on that front.

Coin could simplify your wallet

There was plenty of buzz surrounding a new startup this week called Coin. It's basically a high-tech credit card replicator and, unlike those skimmers that have been used for nefarious means over the decades, this one's used for good. The idea is that you swipe in your credit cards and any rewards cards with magnetic strips and then carry around Coin instead. When it's time to pay for something, you select the virtual card and Coin replicates it. In theory, you could de-Costanza your wallet quite effectively with one of these, but even though the price is quite attractive (just $50 to start), this is the sort of thing I'll pass on until version 2.0. I'm not sure I'd trust it enough to leave all my cards at home just yet.

Thumbs down for YouTube's new comments

There has also been no shortage of chatter about YouTube's new Google+-based commenting platform. As keenly summarized in the above video (politely titled "YouTube is a completely functional site programmed by competent people"), the new system is lacking some functionality that users of the site have come to expect over the years. It also seems to be worse at detecting spam and hate speech, and is generally not getting a very warm reception. YouTube is saying things will improve, but that it ain't switching back, regardless of how many signatures this Change.org petition achieves.

Josh Miller/CNET

HTC One Max at Sprint for $250

HTC's humongous One Max lands on Sprint today for $250 on-contract. The 5.9-inch hunk of a phone is similar to the HTC One in many ways, adding a fingerprint sensor on the back and a microSD card slot on the side. Also, girth.

Moto G is just $179 off-contract

Meanwhile, Motorola uncovered the Moto G, a 4.5-inch smartphone that costs just $179 off-contract for an 8GB model -- $199 to step up to 16GB. (Pay the extra $20: there's no storage expansion.) It lacks some features and performance of the recent Moto X, but it's significantly cheaper.

Lady Gaga takes flight

Finally, I leave you with a clip of Lady Gaga's Volantis, which she called the "world's first flying dress." I'd call it an overgrown UAV with just enough cargo capacity for a single pop star, but when the worlds of art, fashion, and fluid dynamics collide, who are we to debate semantics?