Monday, January 31, 2011

January 2011 budget Android smartphone buyers guide

Update: We have an updated budget Android buyers guide at this link.

We have updated our list of budget Google Android smartphones. Not many changes. We dropped the units which won't be getting at least Android 2.2 (Froyo) and added a physical QWERTY option. Android 2.2 is important since it allows you to install apps in the MicroSD card and not just the main memory.

1. LG Optimus One P500

If you asked the techies, this phone is bar none, the best budget Android phone in the market. With a low Php12,490 retail price and running on the Android 2.2 (Froyo) with a Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) upgrade promised, this phone promises to both light in the pocket and to be current till the end of 2011.

It comes with a 3.2 inch TFT capacitive touchscreen display with 320 x 480 pixel resolution, which is good as you get in a budget Android. It has a 600MHz processor, 512MB of RAM and 170MB of internal storage. For the camera, it has a 3.2MP autofocus camera. Connectivity options are the expected: GPRS, EDGE,  HSDPA, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g, Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP, a microUSB port and as well as a built in GPS transceiver with A-GPS support. All-in-all not a bad package. What you do not get is flash support and even a operating system upgrade will not change that, the Optimus One's processor does not support flash.

2. HTC Wildfire 

The other popular choice is the HTC Wildfire. It now sells for Php14,000 with an HTC warranty. 

It has a 3.2 inch TFT capacitive touchscreen display with a 240 x 320 pixels screen resolution which is the main point against it. Resolution is a lower than that provided by the Optimus One. The Wildfire runs on Android 2.1 (Eclair). It is upgradeable to Android 2.2. No word yet on Android 2.3. It is powered by a 528 MHz Qualcomm processor and has 384 MB of RAM. Internal storage is 512MB. Internal storage can be increased via a MicroSD slot. It has all the standard connectivity I would need: GPRS, EDGE,  HSDPA, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g, Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP, a microUSB port and as well as a built in GPS transceiver with A-GPS support. Basically, the Optimus One appears to match or beats the Wildfire on all fronts at a lower price.

There are some reasons good reasons choose the Wildfire instead. It has a decent camera, a 5 MP autofocus unit with a LED flash. The led flash plus the casing and building quality makes it look and feel more like a high end phone. Also, there is the HTC Sense UI, which is our favorite UI mod for Android.

3. Samsung Galaxy 5 i5503

The Samsung Galaxy i5503 has adequate specifications for a budget Android. It runs Android 2.1 (Cupcake) powered by 600 MHz processor and 170MB of internal storage, which can be expanded via a MicroSD slot. It has all the standard connectivity I would need: GPRS, EDGE,  HSDPA, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g, Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP, a microUSB port and as well as a built in GPS transceiver with A-GPS support. It weakest point is it has the smallest screen in the bunch, with a 2.8 inch TFT capacitive touchscreen display with 240 x 320 pixel resolution. It does support multi-touch. 

It really is no match for the Optimus One or Wildfire, but priced at Php9,190, and selling as low as Php8,800, it does make it a much cheaper option, and cheaper is always a good option to have. Also, we expect it to get an update to Android 2.2.

4. Samsung Galaxy 551. A good budget option for those wanting to get a physical QWERTY keyboard is the Samsung Galaxy 551, priced at Php13,490 the Galaxy 551 is a budget priced phone as Android smartphones go. It is current though, running Android 2.2 and equipped with a 3.2 inch 400 x 240 resolution screen and powered by a 667MHz processor.

The main drawback of this choice only has 256MB of RAM is less than that of the Optimus One and the Wildfire, and cannot match the graphics performance of those two units either.

Around the Web - iPad, Android PS Games and MacBook Air

Laptopmag tries to answer the question: Can the iPad replace your PC? You can find out here.

Sony is giving Google Android Phones and Tablets  a PlayStation Games Store. Smartphones and tablet PCs running Google Android 2.3 and above are to be given access to a PlayStation Store, as well as the 'PlayStation Suite.' This means Android phone users will be able to play PlayStation One and 'PlayStation quality' games, according to Sony. You can read the rest of the Article at PCWorld.

Looking for an ultraportable laptop. has an article on the 11.6-inch MacBook Air.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Chrome poised to become the top web browser in the Philippines

Internet Explorer is still the most commonly used web browser used on personal computers, based on data recorded on websites monitored StatCounter. Internet Explorer has 55% of the worldwide market. In the Philippines, it is a very different story with Mozilla's Firefox having been the top browser used in the country since StatCounter started recording these statistics in December 2008.

However, Google's Chrome browser is poised to take the lead. Since December 2009, usage of Firefox by personal computer users in the feelings has been on the steep decline, with Google's Chrome browser eating into Firefox's and Internet Explorer's user base. Have made the move to Chrome myself about a year ago, I can understand. It feels lighter and faster, and has a nice clean interface.

With Firefox having a 44% (down from 49% three months ago) share and Chrome now at 39% (up from 31% three months ago), should the current trend continue,  Chrome will be the most used web browser in the Philippines in the next three months.

Around the web: The sun rises on Android

PCMag reports that Google will launch Android 3.0, codenamed Honeycomb, on February 2, 2011. A lot of the tech elite have already gotten invites. This operating system is optimized for tablets. I guess we will be seeing the Motorola Xoom and Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 soon.

Is Nokia considering releasing Android powered phones? I think they are. TechRadar reported the Nokia CEO Stephen Elop said "In addition to great device experiences we must build, capitalise and/or join a competitive ecosystem?" "Capitzlise" sound like make Meego work. "Join a competitive ecosystem" sounds like adopting Android or even Windows Phone 7. has the scoop on a new service by Sun Cellular, the i-Messenger chat service. Reads about it here.

Happy weekend.

Friday, January 28, 2011

January 2011 10-inch netbook buyers guide

A lot has changed since wrote our last 10.1-inch netbook buyers guide. Last time out, we recommended the Asus Eee PC 1005PEM at a price of Php21,995. This time around, our recommendation takes 10-inch netbooks into new highs in terms of performance and new lows in terms of price. Ironically, the price drop did not come because of tablets, but by the entry of a new netbook platform, the AMD Fusion.

Our pick is the Acer Aspire One 522. The Aspire One 522 has a high definition 1280 x 720 screen, and an AMD Fusion platform to back it up. The high resolution screen should make for a better web browsing experience and will allow you to view 720p HD content in its native resolution. The AMD C-50 APU inside will also play 1080p content without a hitch, but will scale down the image to fit the 720p screen. It also has HDMI out, so you can plug it into your LCD TV. The Aspire One 522 should make a decent gaming box too. How much for all this? Php17,990, and at the price you can spread payments over 12-months.

Is there still are reason to buy a Intel Atom powered netbook? In a word, yes. The Aspire One 522 is rated to have a 5-hour battery life. While we need to wait for a someone to put one to a test, in real world use, it is safe to expect about four. 

Our previous pick, the Asus Eee PC 1005PEM is still a good option for those who are willing to accept the lower resolution 1024 x 600 screen and give up the ability to display HD content. It is really only suited for web browsing and typing documents, but it will do it for eight hours straight. It's price has dropped to Php17,490. That's 4.5K less than two months ago

If you are willing to give up the high resolution screen and performance, and our willing to give up 20% in processing power, the Samsung N150-JPOCPH looks good at Php15,900. You loose the dual core N550 processor for a single core N455 processor and sake Php1.5K. Honestly, we don't think most people will notice the difference in speed.

Cheapest option? You should be able to find a eMachines eMD350 for about Php11,000 without an operating system, and for about Php12,900 with Windows 7 installed. With a 3-cell battery you will get 4-hours battery life.

In the end, the Aspire One 522 is by far the best choice.

Update on Windows Phone 7

GSM Arena reports that Microsoft has sold 2 million Windows Phone 7 licenses in the three months since the phones release. While that may sound like a lot, it actually is a poor showing. There are at least eleven Windows Phone 7 models in the market. Two million units divided by ten models means that a manufacturer would have been fortunate to sell 200,000 units of one model in three months.

In the same period, Nokia's sold about 6 million Symbian^3 OS mobile phones, Apple sold about 16 million of its iPhones and the number of Android equipped phones was about 27 million. So the two million may sound like a lot, but it is far from a successful launch. This number should be taken into perspective though. With the high end hardware specification, Windows Phone 7 units are all in the higher price ranges, unlike Android and Symbian that compete in a wider market.

The Windows App store is doing better, with now 7,000 apps available and growing at 100 apps per day. It will be interesting to see that growth can accelerate, but it looks like 50,000 by the end of the year seems very feasible.

You have to really give credit to Microsoft with coming out with a Mobile OS that offers something really different from the competition in terms of the interface, which in my opinion occupies the middle ground between Android and iOS.

Windows Phone 7 owners I have talked to are happy with their phones. A good update, and the inevitably lower prices for phones that meet Windows Phone 7 specifications, might be all it needs to take off.  The market is crowded though but with Microsoft backing, this one might just make it.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Around the Web - Apple, Apple KiIlers and Apple

Engadget reports that Duetsche Bank ditches the BlackBerry for the iPhone. I am not too surprised. 2011 is the iOS and Android year.  RIM needs to get QNX to the market fast.

Villman's has stocks of the Lenovo IdeaPad U260, one of the MacBook Air "killers" hitting the market. It is an interesting enough offering from Lenovo, with a 12.5-inch (yep 12.5-inch) screen. It maximum thickness is just 0.70 inches, just 0.02 inches thicker than the 2010 Macbook Air's, and a 3 pounds it weighs just 0.1 pound more than larger 13.3-inch Macbook Air. 

Price Php44,900, with an i3-330UM processor inside. A bit on the high side if you ask us. Our favorite MacBook Air alternative is the 11.6-inch 3 pound Acer TimelineX 1830T which can be had for as low us Php28,500 and give 6 hours of battery life. 

Laptop Mag has a reviewed of the IdeaPad U260 (i5 version) here. Quick take. Beautiful laptop but the battery runs dry in 4 hours, the U260's Intel HD Graphics cannot match the MacBook Air Nvidia graphics, and temps can hit 107F near the vents.
Laptop Mag also reviewed the new Asus U36J, another reputed MacBook Air killer. Asus confirmed the units are incoming to the Philippines, but we have been able to find one on the shelf yet. This has a 13.3-inch screen, is 0.76 inches thick and weighs in a 3.8 pounds. 

Okay is it a bit on heavy side to be considered a MacBook Air killer. But with an Intel i5 inside and Nvidia Optimus with Nvidia's G310M graphics, plus a battery that runs over 6 hours, it makes a good alternative. Given the slim design, temps can run hot, as high as 110F. 

How much? Our guess is Php49,990 to Php54,990. You can read Laptop Mag's review here. reports that Apple is now the third largest PC Manufacturer in the world going past Dell and Lenovo, and Acer does not look to safe in second place.

Love Apple, hate Apple, it must be conceded with the iPad, iPhone, App Stores and the MacBook  Airs, Apple has been charting the direction of the mobile industry for the past three years.  We should not forget Asus and the netbook and Google and it's services and Android OS. Between those three companies, they brought mobile to where it is today.

Oh, and by the way. Happy birthday iPad. Things will never be the same again.

Around the Web - iOS, OSX and Android

GSM Arena has reported that Rovio's The Angry Birds: Seasons expansion will be getting another episode, this time dedicated to Valentine’s day. It is pretty sure that Apple iOS will be getting it first. I wonder if it is coming to Android. We don't have Mighty Eagle yet. You can read the rest of the article here

Microsoft is offering a thirty (30) day trial of Office 2011 for Mac, and the Philippines is included. After the trial you can opt to buy it  of US$119.99 for the student version. If you only need one license this is a lot cheaper than the Php9,240 being charged for the three license Boxed Home and Student Edition at authorized retailers.  Even if you need 3 licenses, the family pack is still only US$149.99 when purchased online. If you need the business version, after trial you can buy it for US$199.99. That is likewise a lot cheaper than the Php12,040 for the retail box version.  Click here to apply for a trail version.

It is not all apple. Some good news for Android tablet owners, the Android Developers Blog reports that Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) is optimized to run on either single- or dual-core processors, so that applications run with the best possible performance. So there, you have it from the horse's mouth.

Smart Communications HTC 7 Mozart Promo

Smart Communications has revived its HTC 7 Mozart Promo until April 30, 2011. The details of the promo can be found at this link.

I just noticed that at Smart Gold Plan 500 you have to add Php27,000 for the HTC 7 Mozart. At Smart Gold Plan 800 and you have to add Php24,000. At Smart Gold Plan 1200 and you have to add Php21,000. At Smart Gold Data Plan 1500 you have to add Php19,000.  The HTC 7 Mozart from the following authorized dealer with an official HTC Warranty only costs Php24,000 from CMK Cellphones.

Not much of a carrier subsidy from Smart Communications. For the 19K-27K cash out for the phone, we really would recommend an open line HTC 7 Mozart or a HTC Desire and avoid the two year lock-in. The Desire is not just Php21,500 with a HTC Warranty.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Globe Telecom Super Surf Promo

Globe Telecom has a Super Surf Promo which runs from now until April 30, 2011. Super Surf is an add on to Globe Telecom postpaid plans which gives you unlimited internet access through your mobile phone. Thanks to for the heads up.

Super Surf: The perfect add-on to your Globe iPhone

From Globe's website: Super Surf addresses the need for affordable and reasonable rates for data services. This is a new add-on data plan that offers unlimited chatting, downloading, emailing and surfing wherever you go. 

Super Surf is available as a Regular offer and BlackBerry offer. For BlackBerry, Super Surf allows subscribers to enjoy unlimited surfing, emailing, chatting, social networking on the BlackBerry APN only. Subscribers on Super Surf for BlackBerry cannot do video streaming and tethering. Should subs stream and tether, they will be charged on top of their subscription P0.15 per kb.

Archos 4.3-inch, 7-inch and 10.1-inch tablets

I have seen Archos Tablets for sale intermittently, but now they are available at a major retailer. Villman Computers has four Archos Tablets on stock: A 10.1-inch model, a 4.3-inch model and a 7-inch model. In many respects they are all similar. They are all Android's running on Froyo, all powered by a 1GHz Arm Cortex A8 processors, all have capacitative screens, all support HD (720p) playback and have good connectivity and interface  options with WiFi, USB 2.0 and HDMI out, and have a front facing camera. But each provides a slightly different package for different needs.

The Archos A43 has a 4.3-inch 854 x 480 screen. It is the camcorder of the bunch and can do 720p video capture and has 16GB of flash storage plus a MicroSD card slot. The larger Archos A70 8GB sports a 7-inch  800 x 480 display and 8GB of flash memory plus a MicroSD card slot. The A70 250GB has the same 7-inch screen but storage is provided by a 250GB SATA drive. The biggest of the bunch is the A101, with a 10-inch 1024 x 600 screen and flash 16GB of storage plus a MicroSD card slot.

They provide a nice range of options, but they there is a big "but". Since none of the tablet are 3G capable, they have no SIM cards, which means no access to the Android market, at least for now. You will be limited to downloading apps from the AppsLib market.  There is a way to get the Android Market apps though. You can use Google to search for the apps you want, download them, and install them yourself. You just need an app installer app, which you can find in Appslib.


  • Archos A43 - Php12,998
  • Archos A70 8GB - Php16,488
  • Archose A70 250GB - Php17,988
  • Archos A101 -Php19,988 
The 20K price of the 10.1-inch Archos 101 screams add 4K and buy an Apple iPad 16GB WiFi.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Cherry Mobile Superion 7-inch tablet

Being a Philippine based blog I should really spend some more time looking at Cherry Mobile's products. Cherry Mobile is a Philippine based mobile communications company which sells mobile phones manufactured by third parts under the Cherry Mobile brand. 

One of their more interesting products is a 7-inch tablet with full phone capabilities, called the Superion. Launched last October 2010, and hitting the shelves in the same month, it's Php19,990 selling price was pretty fair at the time. With the official launch of the Apple iPad in the Philippine last December 17, 2010, the 20K price is looking a bit less inviting. These days Superion will cost you Php18,990, which is Php1,000 less than it price at launch. That places it about 5K less than the cheapest Apple iPad and 9K less than the Samsung Galaxy Tab.

Lest take a quick look at the Cherry Mobile Superion specifications:
  • Android OS 2.2
  • Quadband GSM, 850/900/1900/2100
  • Triband UMTS 900/1900/2100
  • 7" WVGA Capacitive Touchscreen
  • Qualcomm MSM 7227 600 MHz Processor
  • 512MB ROM, 512MB RAM
  • Expandable memory up to 32GB
  • 3G/HSDPA Connectivity
  • WiFi
  • Bluetooth
  • Standard Mini USB 2.0
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • G-Sensor
  • Ambient Light Sensor
  • Google Mobile Services (Gmail, Maps, Marketplace)
  • 3 megapixels with Auto-Focus (Back)
  • VGA Camera (Front)

Two specification really stand out, the Qualcomm MSM 7227 600 MHz Processor and the internal memory of just 512MB, although it comes bundles with a 4GB MicroSD card. Both the iPad a 1GHz processors and at least 16GB of internal storage. Given the higher specification of the Apple iPad, the 5K difference in price seems more than worth it.

But there are some things to consider, the entry level iPad does not have 3G. A 3G enable iPad will cost you all of Php30,990. Basically, the Apple iPad price only looks close if you do not care about 3G connectivity.

A better comparison would be to the similarly sized Samsung Galaxy Tab. While both a similar sized and have similar features, the Galaxy Tab has a higher resolution 1024 x 600 screen, versus the Superion's 800 x 480 screen. The Galaxy Tab case 16GB or internal storage while Superion comes with a 4GB Micro MicoSD card for storage. Finally, the Galaxy Tab has the highly regarded 1GHz Hummingbird processor. You also get Samsung's excellent TouchWIZ interface.

Still you have to remember there is a 9K difference in the price. The Superion also has a better package with a Bluetooth headset, carrying case and screen protector which has a value of at least 2K.

What is our take? If you do not care about the 3G capability and the 10-inch size does not bother you, it really is worth your money to add the additional 5K an get Apple's iPad. With its 600Mhz processor and 800 x 480 screen resolution the Superion will not be able to run intensive Android Apps which will be developed for tablets hence it will have a short product life. It can easily Angry Birds and run many other Android mobile phone games and apps. There will be new Apple iPad in the market in a few months, but if you buy the current one, we expect it can keep you happy enough for the next two years or so and skip the next iPad release.

If you do care about 3G connectivity it is priced at just two-thirds the priced of its rivals, even without considering the additional bundled accessories.  Would I get one? Right now, despite the price advantage, I would say get an iPad or Galaxy Tab or wait. This one just looks like it will be obsolete really soon.

For the Php18,990, I would forget about getting a 7-inch screen tablet and get the Cherry Magnum HD 4.1-inch screen 1GHz Snapdragon Android smartphone. Basically, other than the much smaller screen there is nothing the Superion can do which the Magnum can do. And honestly, with just a 800 x 480 resolution, I really would rather have the smaller screen.

Still, for those who want a larger screen, it is a compelling option price wise. You can look at the following reviews to help you decide:

You may also want to take a look at the current Cherry Mobile Android line-up (and see what the Magnum HD device we are talking about is) at Purple Pieces. They have better front, back and side images there, than even the Cherry Mobile site.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Lower cost Atom Netbooks: Acer Aspire One D255-2CKK

With the release of by Acer of the AMD Fusion powered Aspire One D522 at Php17,900 it was pretty much certain that lower cost Intel Atom netbooks would follow. Acer has also released the Acer Aspire One D255-2CKK.

Quick Specs:
    • Screen: 10.1" 1024 x 600 WSVGA LED backlit TFT LCD screen
    • Processor: Intel Atom N450 (1.66GHz, 512KB L2 cache, 667MHz FSB)
    • Graphics: Intel GMA3150 Graphics with 64MB of dedicate video
    • Memory: 1GB DDR2 Memory
    • Storage: 250 GB SATA Hard Drive and a SD card reader
    • Optical drive: None
    • Connectivity: Wifi b/g/n; Bluetooth; USB (x3); VGA Port; Ethernet Port
    • Dimensions: 9.8 x 6.7 x 1-1.1 inches
    • Battery: 6-cell (4400 mAh)
    • Weight: 2.4 lbs.
    There are two model available, a DOS version priced at Php13,999 and one with Windows 7 Starter installed at Php17,999. 

    We recommend the DOS version, and just have it bundled with an OEM copy of Windows 7 Starter which is priced at Php1,999. This makes the total cost with Windows Php15,998. Or better yet, why not try Ubuntu Linux and maximize your savings.  

    Sunday, January 23, 2011

    Can I blog on a tablet?

    I have edited blog posts from my Windows Mobile 6.5 phone using the standard desktop interface. Writing an entire post from my phone its something I have not been able to do. I decided I would try to do it from a tablet, specifically a Samsung Galaxy Tablet. Using the default browser I had a problem straight of the bat. I wrote the title to this post using the default browser of the Galaxy Tab. But once I got to the body I could not get the virtual keyboard to pop up. However by clicking the "Edit HTML" tab I managed to get the virtual keyboard to pop up.

    While I am not yet an expert with Swype, writing with Swype can probably be as fast as a physical QWERTY keyboard once you get used to it. Although with a device this large some words require a wide sweep. A smaller keyboard would be better for Swype.

    On the default browser, some of th editing options don't appear (no option to justify paragraphs by way of example), but the option to upload and insert pictures does. Unfortunately, it does not work. I fired up Opera Mini and Opera Mobile but still no luck.

    Will try again in a few days with another browser and see if I get a better result. All for now.

    Janaury 2011 11" to 12.1" Ultraportable Notebook Buyers Guide

    Eleven to twelve inch ultraportables offer a good balance of cost, portability and performance. The most important thing about the 11-inch of larger form factor for a laptop is that it allows for the use of a full size keyboard, which aides in typing comfort. Ultimately, this is the part of the laptop you interact with most.

    Before making our recommendations, we need to lay down some baseline parameter what it a good ultraportable today. With screen sizes of 11" to 12.1", the laptop should:
    • Not weight more than 3.5 pounds; 
    • At least 4 hours of battery life while web-browsing on WiFi, at that weight;
    • Have a processor more powerful than the latest dual core Atoms.
    • Full sized keyboard.
    1. Acer Aspire TimelineX 1830T. The 11.6" Acer Aspire TimelineX 1830T is the lowest priced option in this round-up. I While this product is not yet widely released priced at Acer Concept stores at Php32,500 (available at 12 months zero interest), you can get it for as low as Php28,500 if you are willing to pay cash.

    Quick Specs:
    • Screen: 11.6" HD 1366 x 768 (WXGA) high-brightness (200-nit) Acer CineCrystal LED-backlit TFT LCD screen
    • O.S.: Windows 7 Home Basic 64-bit
    • Processor: Intel Core i3-380UM (1.33GHz, 3MB cache)
    • Graphics: Intel HD Graphics with 128MB dedicated memory (up to 768 shared memory)
    • Memory: 2GB DDR3 Memory
    • Storage: 250GB SATA Hard Drive and a SD card reader
    • Optical drive: None
    • Connectivity: Wifi b/g/n; Bluetooth; USB (x3); VGA Port; HDMI Port; Ethernet Port
    • Dimensions: 11.2 x 8 x 1-1.1 inches
    • Battery: 6-cell (5800 mAh)
    • Weight: 3 lbs.
    This Acer 1830T is virtually identical to the Gateway EC19C10i but is has a lower power Intel Core i3-380UM processor and a smaller 250GB hard drive.  

    2. Gateway EC19C10i. The Gateway EC19C10i is actually an Acer 1830T sold under the Gateway brand, Acer having bought Gateway. Since our last round-up, the price of Gateway EC19C10i has gone down from Php37,990 to Php34,999. In addition it now comes with a free external optical drive or 320GB portable hard drive.

    This 11.6-inch laptop has never been laking specifications wise. With an Intel Core i3-430UM (1.20GHz with turbo boost up to 1.73GHz, 3MB cache) it is the most powerful ultraportable in this round-up. Backed by Intel Graphics with 128MB of dedicated memory and 2GB of RAM, it will do pretty much everything you expect to do in an 11.6" laptop. The combination will even allow for some degree of 3D gaming. In terms of endurance, the six cell 4400 mAh battery is good for 4 hours of real world use.

    Quick Specs:
      • Screen: 11.6" HD 1366 x 768 (WXGA) high-brightness (200-nit) Acer CineCrystal LED-backlit TFT LCD screen
      • O.S.: Windows 7 Home Basic 64-bit
      • Processor: Intel Core i3-430UM (1.20GHz with turbo boost up to 1.73GHz, 3MB cache)
      • Graphics: Intel HD Graphics with 128MB dedicated memory (up to 768 shared memory)
      • Memory: 2GB DDR3 Memory
      • Storage: 320GB SATA Hard Drive and a SD card reader
      • Optical drive: None
      • Connectivity: Wifi b/g/n; Bluetooth; USB (x3); VGA Port; HDMI Port; Ethernet Port
      • Dimensions: 11.2 x 8 x 1-1.1 inches
      • Battery: 6-cell (4400 mAh)
      • Weight: 3 lbs.
      Build quality is average, but it is fairly well designed. The laptop feels solidly built with just a bit of flex on the center of lid and keyboard. The lid is designed with a pattern pretty much making it impervious to fingerprints.  Ergonomically, the keyboard is comfortable to use although the touchpad is a tad to small in our opinion.

      The  Gateway EC19C10i is that it is only 1.1" thick at its thickest  point, and weighs in at just 3 pounds.

      Lets look at the other options available.

      3. Apple 11.6" MacBook Air. Its an Apple so do not expect it to be cheap, but at only Php51,990 the price is surprisingly reasonable. 

      Quick Specs:
          • Screen: 11.6" HD 1366 x 768 (WXGA) LED-backlit TFT LCD screen
          • O.S.: Mac OS 10.6
          • Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo 1.4GHz
          • Graphics: Nvidia GeForce 320M (share memory)
          • Memory: 2GB DDR3 Memory
          • Storage: 64GD Solid State Drive
          • Optical drive: None
          • Connectivity: Wifi b/g/n; Bluetooth; USB (x2); Apple Mini Display Port
          • Dimensions: 11.8 x 7.56 x 0.68 inches
          • Battery: 5 hour battery
          • Weight: 2.3 lbs.
          At 0.68 inches at the thickest pounds and 2.3 pounds in weight, nothing else can touch it right now in terms of portability. With its aluminum unibody it is the best looking among the bunch. So should you shell out you Php51K right away? Yes and no. There are some drawbacks to consider.

          The 11.6" MacBook Air 1.40 GHz core 2 Duo is actually a modified for Apple Intel SU9400 which makes it the slowest among the options available here in sheer processing power by about 20%. It does have the best graphics in the bunch with its Nvidia GeForce 320M graphics card. The 64GD Solid State Drive, will launch applications fast, making the system appear to be faster than it is. We love SSD's. On the other hand the 64GB storage only leaves you with about 40GB after installing an Office Suite. Upgrading to a 128GB SSD is an option, but will cost another Php10K. We recommend that of you decide on this one, you should simply get an external USB hard drive for this model. Battery life is the advertised 5 hours is less than the Gateway and Ace by about an hour.

          In the end, the 11.6" MacBook Air is the slowest in the models we looked at, offers the least storage and battery life is on the lower end of the scale. Why consider it? At 2.3 pounds is the lightest of our selections, has the best touch pad, and lets face it, its a Mac.

          4. Sony Vaio Y. I have been interested in the 11.6-inch Sony Vaio Y since I heard that an 11.6-inch model had been released in Japan. The Y series is Sony's lower end business laptop. When the 11.6-inch Vaio Y finally arrived on Philippine shores, it was is priced at Php47,900. At that price, we really could not recommend it. In a span of a bit over a month, its price has been drastically reduced to Php39,996.

          Here are the quick specifications:  
          • Screen: 11.6" HD 1366 x 768 (WXGA) LED-backlit TFT LCD screen
          • O.S.: Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
          • Processor: Intel Core i3-380M (1.33GHz, 3MB cache)
          • Graphics: Intel HD Graphics
          • Memory: 2GB DDR3 Memory
          • Storage: 320GB SATA Hard Drive with SD Card and Memory Stick readers
          • Optical drive: None
          • Connectivity: WiFi, LAN and Bluetooth
          • Ports: HDMI, Analogue RGB, Mini D-Sub 15 pin ans USB (x3) 
          • Dimensions: 11.4 x 8 x 1.0-1.3 inches
          • Battery: 4-cell (4 hours)
          • Weight: 3.2 lbs.
          Except for the larger hard drive, the hardware specifications are similar to the Gateway. The Gateway though has several advantages. The Gateway weighs in at 3 pounds with a 6-cell battery. The Sony weighs in at 3.2 pounds despite coming with a smaller 4-cell battery. The end result is that the Gateway has a more powerful processor, is lighter and has 2 hours more battery life.

          Why recommend it at all? It has a better keyboard and touch pad than the Gateway, and overall a better build quality. Plus it's a Vaio.  It is the kind of thing you would not mind flipping open at a corporate board meeting. Not as flashy as an Apple, not as pedestrian as a Gateway or Acer. Well, unless you buy the red one.

          In sum. In the end we have four on this list. Value for money, the Acer and the Gateway are the best value for money options in the market right now. The Apple is the lightest of the bunch. We were not sure whether to include the Sony Vaio, but in the end decided to include it as it has the same kind of exclusive appeal an Apple does, and is still cheaper.

          Saturday, January 22, 2011

          Is the netbook dead?

          The debate on the death of the netbook has been on for some time. Recently, raised the issue again, this time in the light of the imminent release of more tablets into the market.

          The real netbook killer. Intel Core i3 inside. 11.6-inch 1366 x 768 screen at less than 30K.
          And soon, to be cheaper.
          It is a simple question to answer. Are netbooks dead. No, not yet. But soon. Not for the reasons people think though.

          First, even without tablets, the netbook was causing its own demise. Three years ago, the cheapest laptops had 14-inch or 15-inch screen. Larger laptops costs more, and smaller ones much more. If you wanted a 3-pound laptop back than, well you had to spend a Php100K. Than came two things which changed this entire paradigm. First was the netbook, small underpowered laptops for less than Php30K and than the Consumer Ultra Low Voltage processors.

          The netbook made is harder for manufacturers to sell. I still remember in 2008 when Lenovo launched its 11.1-inch U110, and a few months later released its first netbook, the S-10, the S-10 was a poor mans version of the U110. How much cheaper, 1/4th the price.

          Than you have the CULV. Intel use to divert some of their finest chips not to make the fastest processors, but to undervolt them so they could fit into small laptops which could not provide adequate cooling or ordinary mobile chips. Intel production improved so they could pretty much start mass producing these low voltage chips, which they called CULV's. The current Intel processors are so efficient that they do not even need to use CULV's or ULV processors on larger ultraportables anymore.

          So basically, the demand for netbooks created the cheaper ultraportable. If you look at the market today, a Intel Core i3 powered Acer Aspire 1830T at Php29,500 is the higher end alternative to a Acer Netbook at Php20-23K. The price gap now for a true ultraportable laptop versus a netbook is smaller.

          Second, the netbook was made for content consumption. Sure it has a physical keyboard, but those keyboards which are 90 to 93% the size of a full-sized keyboard are not that comfortable in use. So why not drop they keyboard altogether. There, you have the tablet.

          Well, it is not as simple as that. Netbooks were launched into a world where mobile internet had become accessible, and a mobile device was needed. What Intel failed to do was to provide a platform that would sustain its creation through the advent of the HD era. Netbooks cannot play the HD content that the web has to offer. There is the Nvida Optimus graphics, but this meant a larger form factor and size, and a much higher price.

          Tablets provided better multimedia and better gaming capabilities. The netbooks have the keyboard, but tablets, despite being lower powered devices had the graphics power and are much lighter than than netbook.

          Can you still call the AMD Fusion netbooks "netbooks". In graphics power
          they blow away Intel HD graphics.

          So what happens to the netbooks now? It moves forward or dies. Enter AMD's Fusion which can play 1080p HD and should make a decent gaming platform. This is really the killer blow, the low powered low cost web browsing platform is no more. The netbook will now evolve into a low cost laptop. In the end, it is really not the end of netbooks, they have evolved to the point that it is hard to distinguish what is netbook from a ultraportable laptop. But the era of the Atom with its outdated GMA3150 graphics is over.

          Will the tablet kill the demand for low cost 10.1-inch to 12.1-inch laptops. The answer is of course not? Now whether you call them netbooks or something else the demand for small laptops will always exist. Some of us still do need the keyboard. 

          Besides... it won't be long before you can play Starcarft 2 in your "netbook".

          The case for 7-inch tablets

          Kevin C. Tofel, of GigaOM wrote an article entitled Why I Just Dumped the iPad (Hint: Size Matters).
          "Like a surrogate child carried in the womb and then given to loving parents, I just sold the iPad I’ve owned for the last nine months. Don’t get me wrong: there’s much to admire about the iPad with its long battery life, touch-optimized user interface and support for thousands of excellent applications. The problem is that I simply don’t use it any more. Actually, let me re-phrase that: I stopped using the iPad about a month ago, after I bought a 7-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab running Google Android."
          You can read the rest of the Article at this link.

          I also belong to the camp which thinks the 7-inch tablet is a better choice, simply because it is a much easier to carry around which we discussed in a previous post here.

          Friday, January 21, 2011

          The Acer Aspire One 522 hits the store shelves at the promised Php17,990

          The Acer Aspire One 522 is really here. Not announced, not launched. It's in the store shelves. This changes everything again. :) 

          The Acer Aspire One 522 is the first netbook powered by AMD's C-50 Accelerated Processing Unit. The AMD C-50 APU, is a dual-core processor clocked at 1.0GHz rated with only 9W TDP. The chip integrates a Radeon HD 6250 graphics processing clocked at 280MHz and supports DirectX 11. This allows the netbook to play HD content.

          To match is graphics prowess Acer fitted a high resolution 10.1-inch 720P (1280 x 720) screen on the Acer Aspire One 522. The unit comes spec' with a 2GB of RAM, Wireless b/g/n and Bluetooth 3.0. Most importantly, it has HDMI out. 

          An Atom N550 killer, HD capable, 3D gaming capable netbook at Php17,990. At it 18K price it comes with Windows 7 Starter and a sleeve. Actually its only Php17,982 at Villmans and at 12-months zero interest to boot.

          The netbook is dead? You have a tablet already? We have Fusion. Bring it on.

          @Acer. #Thumbsup!

          Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) will be a tablet only OS

          We were expecting to see a fork in the road in Google Android development with Android 2.x continuing to be used in single core devices and Android 3.x being used in dual core devices. It appears, screen size and resolution, and not processing speed, is what will result in the fork in development. 

          Motorola's Xoom will run Android 3.0
 reports that for the near future Android 3.0 will be a tablet only operating system. This will have a UI optimized to work with larger 10-inch screens with a 1280 x 720 resolution, like Motorola's Xoom. For mobile phones, Android 2.3, and later 2.x releases will continue to be the Android OS used. 

          Thursday, January 20, 2011

          The Media Tablet, Tablet PC and eReader defined

          I was reading the International Data Corporation's Press Release on tablet sales figures. What I found more interesting is how IDC classifies tablets. IDC classifies tablets into three categories:

          1. Media tablets - Media tablets are tablet form factor devices with color displays larger than 5 inches and smaller than 14 inches, running lightweight operating systems (such as Apple's iOS and Google's Android OS) and can be based on either x86 or ARM processors.
          2. Tablet PC's - Tablet PCs run full PC operating systems (such as Windows 7 or Linux) and are based on x86 processors.
          3. eReaders - Single purpose–focused devices.
          Anyway, we should not ignore the sales report...

          "Looking forward, IDC expects the media tablet market to finish 2010 at nearly 17 million units, and forecasts 44.6 million will ship in 2011, with the U.S. representing nearly 40% of the total. In 2012, IDC forecasts worldwide shipments of 70.8 million units. Growth in 2011 and beyond will be driven by device vendors introducing media tablets based on Android and other operating systems, as well as price and feature competition and strong demand in both the consumer and commercial segments."

          Wednesday, January 19, 2011

          Bye bye netbooks?

 reported that according to Acer Taiwan sales manager Lu Bing-hsian "tablet launches will begin a gradual replacement of Acer's small laptop-style netbook computers, in line with market demands." Looking for further info on this news, I found a NetworkWorld report which further quoted Lu Bing-hsian "They are aimed at phasing out netbooks," he said. "That’s the direction of the market."

          Acer New Tablet... Wow

          "The Taiwan-based computer giant will keep making netbooks, adding to its millions sold to date, but it will stick to simple models and manufacture fewer than in years past as tablets gain popularity, he said."

          So it is not bye bye... but what everyone has been expecting. Lower netbooks sales. I myself after having purchased a netbooks in 2008 and 2009, move to a ultraportable in 2010. Ultraportable prices have gone down enough for me not to resort to a netbook as an alternative to an ultraportable laptop.

          January 20, 2011 update: PCMagazine reported that Acer on Wednesday denied that it is phasing out netbooks in favor of tablets, claiming that tablets are "just another piece of the mosaic." According to the PCMag report:

          "Acer recognizes that the computer market is changing. As PCs are no longer only used to create content but are more and more becoming consumption tools, new devices and new form factors are appearing," the company said. "This means the range of devices available to users is getting wider and tablets are just another piece of the mosaic. Therefore, they will find their space next to netbooks and notebooks." 

          Why Windows needs to get in the tablet space ASAP

          Microsoft has made a lot of noise about its next operating system, Windows 8 being compatible with ARM processors. At this point in time, I really do not think Microsoft has a clue as to how slim down their next operating system to fit into lower powered machines. But they want us to know they will be there. They are really telling us, to wait and they will provide us a Windows solution in the tablet space too. Don't migrate, we will be there soon. Why is this so important to Microsoft?

          No one really loves Windows, and to be fair no one really loves an operating system. It is what we can run on the operating system which makes it important. I am not a power user. The most important software for me is a office suite, a web browser and a photo editor. For 2010 I actually use three different operating systems. Since I migrated to OpenOffice seven years ago, which is compatible with Windows, Mac OS and Linux I get the same functionality and interface on my word processor and spreadsheet creator whatever platform I am on. I use Google's Chrome as a web browser on Windows and Linux, and kept Safari on the Mac, but going between the two browsers is no big deal. The main difference is where the Google search box and bookmarks are located. For photo editing, I use Kodak's Easy Share software and on Windows, Shot Photo Manager and the GIMP Image Editor on Linux and iPhoto on the Mac. Notably, all the software I use is free license, except for iPhoto, but that came pre-installed in my MacBook Air. But like I said, I am not a power user.

          For others, whether running business software or an avid gamer, sooner or later they will want to install something which only runs on Windows. Windows having have and held the biggest market share in the desktop and laptop space for more than a decade, most software is developed for it. It is the software in the market which maintains Windows dominance, and not Windows itself. 

          Microsoft has sallied forth Window Phone 7, despite the nearly incredible odds this platform faces. And they will launch a tablet compatible OS too. They are defending their turf. Mobile phone operating systems became tablet operating systems, and I suspect will find themselves in small netbooks soon too. I would be in the market for a 11.6-inch Apple A5 Chip. They could use the extra space for a really big battery and give us 15-20 hours of real world battery life. I can be equally productive with iWorks. 

          So as more and more App's are designed for iOS and Android, and as smartphones migrate from pocket computers to handheld PC's and tablet get more powerful, you may come to realize all the software you need run on iOS or Android... and you may realize you do not need Windows anymore.

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