Saturday, June 30, 2012

HTC One S - Does it have a niche in the Philippine market?

Update article - HTC has finally launched the last of their One series phones in the Philippines,  the HTC One S. The launched was met with excitement the information given was that the Philippines would be getting the HTC One S equipped with the Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor and Adreno 225 graphics. The dual core "Kraits" can trade blows with the quad core Exynos on the Galaxy S III and is overall faster than the quad-core Tegra 3 on the HTC One X.

Unfortunately, the initial information was wrong and the HTC One S models being sold here comes equipped Qualcomm Snapdragon S3 processor with Adreno 220 graphics. 

Essentially, this makes the One S a slimmer upgraded version of last years HTC Sensation XE. The hardware changes are as follows:

  • The Qualcomm S3 in the One S is clocked 200 MHz higher than on the Sensation XE. 
  • The One S has a full 1 GB of RAM, 256 MB more than the Sensation XE. 
  • Instead of the S-LCD qHD (540 x 960) display on the Sensation, the One S has a qHD Super AMOLED display. 
  • The One S has 16 GB of internal storage (about 10 GB user available) while the Sensation XE has 1.1 GB expandable to 33 GB via a Micro SD card.
  • Both have 8 MP camera, but the HTC One S has a much better camera.
  • The Sensation XE comes with a Beats headset. The One S comes with HTC branded headset. 

While we are disappointed with the Philippines getting the Qualcomm S3 version of the HTC One S, it does have some substantial upgrades over the HTC Sensation XE.

The problem is with a suggested retail price of Php26,990 the price comes really close to Sony's Xperia S. On the shelves the Xperia S will cost you a few hundred less than the One S. An this is a problem. The Xperia S has a 4.3-inch display, like the One S, but the Xperia S is a HD display (720 x 1280). The Xperia S also comes with 32 GB of internal storage, 25 GB of which is user available, which is 2.5x more than the user available storage on the One S.

Last years Galaxy S II actually is also a better choice than the HTC One S. The Galaxy S II outclassed in terms of speed and power, and the HTC Sensation and Sensation XE, and it continues to outclass the One S. The 4.3-inch display on the Galaxy S II is a Super AMOLED Plus display. The 16 GB internal storage in the Galaxy S II is user expandable via a MicroSD card.

At about Php20,000, the HTC One S would be a fair enough proposition, but at Php25,000 to Php26,990 it is just a too expensive for what it offers.

Friday, June 29, 2012

HTC One S and Desire V & C pricing

Yugatech has gotten the scoop on the pricing of the HTC One S, Desire V and Desire C.

HTC One S - Php26,990
HTC Desire V - Php16,990
HTC Desire C - Php10,990

The best news is Yugatech has been able to confirm that the Philippines in getting the HTC One S with a Qualcomm S4 and the dual core Krait processor! The less exciting HTC Desire C is the notable in its own way, being the cheapest out of the box Android 4.0 phone in the market. 

Official launch is still hour away, but Yugatech got its information straight from the horse mouth. 

11.6-inch Sony Vaio E (E11115EG) - Solid budget ultraportable

Together with the 11.6-inch Sony Vaio T11 Ultrabook, Sony launched a low cost 11.6-inch ultraportable in the Sony Vaio E11115EG. At 1.25-inches at the thickest point and weighing at 3.32 poinds, the Sony Vaio E11115EG is a reasonably portable package which retails at just Php23,990. 

This looks like a replacement for the Sony Vaio YB. Instead of the AMD E-450 Accelerated Processing Unit you find in similarly priced 11.6-inch budget ultraportables, you have the AMD E2-1800 Accelerated Processor. The AMD E2-1800 Accelerated Processor which has a dual core 1.7 GHz processor and AMD Radeon HD 7340 graphics is just a bit faster than the older AMD E-450. Good enough for basic office work, like typing documents and preparing spreadsheets and presentations, and web browsing. It will play full HD video, and even a bit of 3D gaming. 

What makes the Sony Vaio E11115EG interesting is it adds a USB 3.0 port, which is now becoming standard on new laptops, but is not all that common with laptops available on the shelves. It also has all the typical connectivity options you expect, including WiFi, Bluetooth and an HDMI port.

Other than that, the Sony Vaio E11115EG comes has the typical 1366 x 768 screen resolution, 2 GB of RAM, a 320 GB hard drive, a 4000 mAh battery and Windows 7 Home Basic (64-bit) which is just par for the course. Upgrading the RAM to 4GB would be a worthwhile additional expense.

Designed to appeal to a younger crowd, the Sony Vaio E11115EG also comes in white and pink.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Premium 11.6-inch Ultraportables: Sony Vaio T11 (SVT11113) versus 11.6-inch MacBook Air

While there have been plenty of 13.3-inch and large Ultrabooks designed to compete with Apple's popular MacBook Air laptops (Apple does not like its MacBook Air series being referred to as Ultrabooks), the 11.6-inch battlefield has been pretty barren. You had two 11.6-inch MacBook Air offerings and the 11.6-inch Asus UX21 Zenbook. With the 11.6-inch MacBook Air notebooks having migrated to Ivy Bridge, and the new Zenbook's still incoming, Apple had that field alone for a few days. Now enters Sony's own offering in this arena, the 11.6-inch Sony Vaio T11.

Price. Neither of these two offerings is cheap. The price of the entry level 11.6-inch MacBook Air with a 64 GB of flash storage has gone down to Php47,990. This makes it the cheapest MacBook ever. Still 64 GB of storage, will leave you with just over 30 GB of storage after you install some basic software, like an office suite. For 5K more, at Php52,990 you can get the same 11.6-inch MacBook Air with 128 GB of flash storage. This model seems like the better choice to me. The 128 GB model is really worth the additional money.

Sony Vaio T11

The Sony T11 comes in at the same Php47,990 price of the cheaper of the two 11.6-inch MacBook Airs. But at this price you can actually get it at 12-months zero interest. Pay cash or make a straight payment trough a credit card and you can get about 10% off on the retail price. This would make the Sony Vaio T11 Php4K to Php9K cheaper than either MacBook.

Operating systems. The Apple, or course runs Max OSX, the Sony run on Windows 7 Home Premium. If you are not open to both operating systems, well that should decide which of this two is for you. You can install Windows on a MacBook, but I really think dual booting with boot camp is a waste of money. If you use Windows apps, but a Windows laptop.  

Storage. Ultimately, if you are looking for a premium 11.6-inch slim ultraportable, right now there are really just these two. The deciding factor for most buyers I think will be home much storage they want. The 11.6-inch Apple MacBook Air has two storage options, 64 GB and 128 GB of flash storage. The Sony Vaio T comes with a 500 GB conventional hard drive with a 32 GB SSD for cache (hybrid drive). Flash storage makes it more battery efficient, is lighter and loads apps and files store on the flash storage faster. The 320 GB hard drive on the Sony Vaio T11 offers much more space, and has a 32 GB SSD cache for quick resume from sleep and quick launching of frequently used apps.

If I was picking between a 128 GB SSD and a 320 GB hybrid hard drive, I would pick the 128 GB SSD. But I am only using 70GB on my current hard drive so 128 GB gives me sufficient headroom for a few more years. I think this will be a subjective choice.

11.6-inch Apple MacBook Air

Portability. The Apple MacBook Air is impressively thing at just 0.68-inches at its thickest point. There are thinner laptops now, but really at this point, who cares. The Sony Vaio T is a bit flabbier at 0.71-inches. Visually, the MacBook Air looks a lot thinner because of its wedge shape casing.

The MacBook Air  though is much lighter at 2.38 pounds, while the Sony Vaio T11 comes in at 3.04 pounds. The conventional hard drive and larger case make up the weight difference.

Battery life. The 11.6-inch MacBook Air has a 5 hour battery life. The Sony Vaio T11 comes in at 4.5 hours. Not much difference, but 30 minutes is 30 minutes.

Other specifications a very similar. Both laptops come with 1.7 GHz dual-core Intel Core i5-3317U processors and 4 GB of RAM. Both have 11.6-inch (1366 x 768 displays). Both comes with USB 3.0 ports, WiFi, Bluetooth and the other trimmings you expect to find in a laptop these days. Both do not have optical drives.

What does the MacBook Air have over the Sony Vaio T11? A fair bit, actually. The 11.6-inch MacBook Air has a back-lit keyboard and a Thunderbolt port. Back-lit keyboard is a big plus. Thunderbolt storage, theres is little use of that for now.  We also like the 11.6-inch MacBooks keyboard a bit better, and the right shift key is full sized, unlike the reduced size one found on the Sony Vaio T.  

What does the Sony Vaio T11 have over the MacBook Air? A lot actually. The Sony Vaio T11 has a HDMI port. With the MacBook you get a Mini Display Port which needs an adapter to plug into your LCD TV. The Sony Vaio T only needs a HDMI cable. You also get an SD Card reader, something you do not get in the 11.6-inch MacBook Air. 

It also has a full sized LAN port. WOW. Seriously, does anyone still use these things?  

The thing we like most about the Sony Vaio T11 is that there is a standard laptop with a access panel at the bottom which makes it easy to remove and replace the battery when it gets older, and upgrade the memory. The Sony Vaio T11 comes with 1 4GB dimm soldered on with one empty RAM slot. Upgrading this to 8 GB is easy. You cannot upgrade the MacBook Air's RAM after purchase. I am not sure if it is possible to replace the hard drive from in there though.

Verdict. No winners or lossers here. Both fine choices. The MacBook Air costs more and gives you faster flash storage. The Sony Vaio T11 cost less and gives you 4 to 8 times the storage, but using a hybrid drive. 

The Current State of the Android Ecosystem

Google released the following information on the Android ecosytem at I/O12:

  • 400 million Android devices sold.
  • 1 million Android devices activated per day.
  • 600 million apps in the Android app store (Google Play).
  • 20 billion installs from the Android app store.

Asus Nexus 7 Tablet Now Official

The first official image of the Asus Nexus 7 has been released at Google Play.

The specifications for the tablet are as follows:
  • Android 4.1
  • 7” 1280x800 HD display (216 ppi) back-lit IPS display
  • Scratch-resistant Corning glass
  • WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
  • 8/16 GB internal storage
  • 1 GB RAM
  • Quad-core Tegra 3 processor
  • 12-Core GPU
  • 1.2MP front-facing camera
  • NFC (Android Beam)
  • Accelerometer
  • GPS
  • Magnetometer
  • Gyroscope
  • 198.5 x 120 x 10.45mm
  • 340g
  • Bluetooth
  • Micro USB
  • Microphone
  • 4325 mAh battery (up to 8 hours of active use)
Price starts at US$199 for the 8 GB version. US$250 for the 16 GB version.  You get a US$25 credit which you can spend at the Google Play store. Effectively, the Nexus 7 costs you as little as US$174.

Pre-order up today. The bad news, well it is just the US, Canada, UK and Australia for now.

The new Nexus 7 tablet does not have any ground braking hardware. It really is a platform used to highlight the new Android 4.1 features:

  • Smoother UI. The Android UI now runs a 60 frames per second.
  • Low system requirements. It is even being released for the single core Google Nexus S.
  • Chrome Browser is now the default web browser.
  • Offline voice dictation/voice typing
  • Google Beam allows you to send photos and videos to another Android device. Pairing of the devices can be done by taping the two together.
  • Improve notifications bar which allows notifications to be expanded to show more information.
  • Improved search bar.
  • Improve voice search.
  • Features Google Now, which provided contextual search without having to search. Google Now give you relevant information based on time, your location, calendar and other information (a bit creepy).
  • Smart app updates. Instead of downloading the entire app to update, you will only have to download the changes in the APK.
  • App encryption to prevent app piracy.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Samsung NP535U3C A01PH - The "Ultrabook" breaks the 30k barrier...

Samsung's new NP535U3C-A01PH is priced at Php29,900. At that price it undercuts the cheapest Ultrabook by 10K.

The Samsung NP535U3C-A01PH laptop has a 13.3-inch HD (1366 x 768) display fitted into a Ultrabook like case which is just 0.69-inches thick at the thickest point (yup, just like a MacBook Air) and weighs in at a light 3.35 pounds. But it is technically not an Ultrabook. Inside it does not have an Intel processor or a SSD or hybrid drive. Instead it is powered by a AMD dual-core A6-4455M Accelerated Processor. This cool running chips (17W TDP) runs at 2.1 GHz and can boost its speed to up to 2.6 GHz on demand. Graphics is provided by a on chip AMD Radeon HD7500G graphics processor.

While the AMD dual-core A6-4455M Accelerated Processor cannot compete with the latest Intel ultra mobile processors found in Ultrabooks, it is fast enough for the typical task an ultraportable computer is used for like running Office, web browsing, playing full HD video and even some 3D gaming. The Samsung NP535U3C-A01PH also comes with a sufficient amount of RAM and storage. The supplied RAM is 4GB, with storage being supplied via a 500 GB hard drive. Connectivity options are what you expect with WiFi, Bluetooth, HDMI out, and despite its slim case, Samsung even managed to include a full sized LAN port.  It has one USB 3.0 port and 2 USB 2.0 ports. 

Keeping the Samsung NP535U3C-A01PH running is a 4400 mAh battery which can provide up to 5 hours of battery life based on MobileMark tests scores. What else? Windows 7 Home Basic (64-bit) comes pre-installed and it comes in brown and pink.*

Except for the absence of a USB 3.0 port, it is one nicely package laptop.  For the asking price of Php29,900, and at that price you can get it on 12-months deferred payment at that price, it looks like a really good deal. Buy it for cash and you can get 6-10% of the retail price.     

*Article updated on July 4, 2012 (Revision on battery an operating system installed).
*Article updated on July 5, 2012 (Revision on USB 3.0 port).

Why Smart Unlimited Data Plan Users get billed additional charges for "Facebook Mobile App Unli"?

For more than a year and a half Smart Unlimited Data Plan users have been reporting getting additional charges every month for Facebook Mobile App Unli, at the rate of Php10 (after VAT). Since the subscriber is on a unlimited data plan, users have been asking why they have been charged additional data charges. Some even reported being able to get bill reversals.

Allan Cruzado, a member of TipidPC has discovered what causes this charges which he explained in the TipidPC Smart Unified Users Thread as follows:
"after 2 months of monitoring i can finally confirm kung bakit tayo nachacharge ng FB mobile app unli. yong charges mangyayari everytime na mag login tayo ng new FB account. yong apr-may billing ko walang fb mobile charges kasi di ko ginalaw yong logged in account. then on may-june period i intentionally logged in 2 accounts and i got 2 counts of fb mobile. i did the same also on my consumable postpaid plan, nacharge din ako ng 1 count of fb mobile app. 
i wanted to call smart for the last time and give them this information. unfortunately i am still out of the country and will be back next weekend maybe. i want to hear their side why we (unlidata plan subscribers) need to be charged with this and last chance for them to fix the problem if its really invalid charges before filing a formal complaint to the NTC. 
i hope everybody having the same complaint will join us on this. if you are under UnliData Plan and getting FB Mobile App Unli charges, then please join us on this complaint. hindi po Php10 lang ang pinaglalaban natin dito kundi yong miyon-milyong piso na kinita ng smart mula sa ating mga ignoranteng subscribers. imagine 1 million subs at Php 10 each, that's an easy 10 million. if we will do nothing now because its only php10 on our side then this daylight robbery by smart will just continue."

Given my own experience with two phones Smart Unlimited Data Plans this seems to be correct. In outline form this is how it appears to work.

  1. When you sign-in to Facebook from any app, whether on the mobile web browser, the official Facebook app, or a third part app like Flipboard, you will get charged Php10 which is recorded in your statement as Facebook Mobile App Unli. When are you considered to have signed in? Whenever you have been asked to give your Facebook user name and password by any app or website, it counted as a Facebook sign-in.
  2. If you keep the web browser of app signed-in, you can view the feed, post updates or check-in without incurring additional charges. If you keep the app signed-in you can keep using Facebook for   days, weeks or months without additional charges.
  3. If you sign-out of Facebook in the web browsers or app,  or an update to the app requires a new log-in,  than you will be charged again Php10.

This looks like a glitch in Smart's billing system, which they have not fixed. Smarts billing system counts sign-in by Smart postpaid users as availing of their 24 unlimited Facebook access service. 

To avoid the additional billing for now, best I can recommend is sign-in to Facebook only while on WiFi. After signing in, you can continue to use it even while on 3G or GPRS.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Ivy Bridge Portables: Sony Vaio S SVS13116FG

Yesterday, we took a look at Apple's new entry level MacBook Pro and the new Samsung  NP540U4C S03 "Ultrabook". The Samsung NP530U4C S03 was lighter, sports a more desirable Core i7 processor, is lighter, cheaper and overall looks like a better choice.  The is another worthy Ivy Bridge contender in this category, our longtime favorite, the Sony Vaio S series. 

Sony Vaio S SVS13116FG. The Sony Vaio S has been upgraded with a new Ivy Bridge processor, the 2.5 GHz Intel Core i5-3210M processor. This is the same processor found on the entry Apple MacBook Pro. Like the MacBook Pro, it has an a 13.3-inch display (but with a higher 1366 x 768 resolution). It also has an optical drive.

The question is, does it offer anything more which will allow it to beat the Samsung NP530U4C S03?

The Sony Vaio S is the lightest of the three, being at 3.8 pounds. For graphics, that Sony Vaio S has the standard Intel HD Graphics 4000 plus a nVidia GeForce GT 640M LE with 1 GB of dedicated video memory. So it does a better job than the entry level MacBook Pro in matching the Samsung NP530U4C S03 in term of processing and graphics power.

Still, the Sony Vaio S falls short in other categories, offering less RAM, at 4 GB, and coming with a smaller 640 GB hard drive as compared with the Samsung NP530U4C S03

The Sony Vaio S also cost more, Php59,900 with Windows 7 Premium (64-bit) pre-installed. You can get 10% off the price for cash and straight credit card purchases, making it 4K more expensive than the Samsung NP530U4C S03. 

So our recommendation is pretty much the same as with the Apple MacBook Pro. If you need an optical drive, the Sony Vaio S SVS13116FG is a better choice than the Samsung NP530U4C S03, and a much better choice than the entry level Apple MacBook Pro. If not, the The Samsung NP530U4C S03 is lighter, sports a more desirable Core i7 processor, is lighter, cheaper and overall a better choice.

One caveat. If you are willing to spend Php7,999 more, you can get a slice battery for the Sony Vaio S, which doubles its battery life to 12-hours. This 4-6 hours longer than its Apple and Samsung rivals. Considering this, at 50K the Samsung NP530U4C S03 is a better value for money option. But if you are will to spend about 62K, the Sony Vaio S SVS13116FG becomes a very compelling option.

Video demo of Windows Phone 7.8 and 8 start screen

Ivy Bridge Portables: 13-inch MacBook Pro (2012) and the Samsung NP530U4C S03

Earlier we took a look at a pair of very portable 13-inch laptops, an Apple MacBook Air and Samsung Series 5. Those needing a bit more power and will to lug around a but more weight might want to consider the MacBook Pro or the 14-inch Samsung Series 5 instead.

This article is a continuation of the previous one. To read it in context, visit the previous article at this link

MacBook Pro. The MacBook Pro design is getting a bit out dated. What used to be a slim and light laptop when the design was originally released is looking heavy by today's standards. The entry level 13-inch MacBook Pro sells for the same price as the 13-inch MacBook Air.

As compared to the 13-inch MacBook Air, the 13-inch MacBook Pro seems to be a bad choice at first glance. The MacBook Pro has a lower resolution 1280 x 800 display as compared to the sharper 1440 x 900 resolution of the MacBook Air. At 4.5 pounds, the MacBook Pro weighs 50% more than the 3 pound MacBook Air.

Still, the entry level 13-inch MacBook Pro has some trick up it sleeve. It still has an optical drive and a LAN port. Something disappearing in many of today laptops. The MacBook Pro has a faster Intel Core i5 processor as compared to the MacBook Air (2.5 GHz versus 1.8 GHz). The RAM on a MacBook Pro can be upgraded after purchase. RAM upgrades on the MacBook Air have to be done before purchase.  

The entry level MacBook Pro also has more storage. The entry level 13-inch MacBook Pro has a 500 GB hard drive which is a lot bigger than the 128 SSD storage on the entry level 13-inch MacBook Air, but that is really a plus and a minus. One offers more space. The other one is faster and more power efficient. Cabled connectivity includes a Thunderbolt Port, and USB 3.0.

If you want a little more power than the 13-inch MacBook Air, or need an optical drive on the road, the 13-inch MacBook Pro is a viable alternative. Otherwise, I would recommend the 13-inch MacBook Air. 

Samsung NP530U4C S03. Samsung though is offering another very viable alternative for mobile users needing more power than the typical Ultrabook. This a large notebook, with a 14-inch, 1366 x 768 resolution display. Still, weighing in a 4.05 pounds it is actually much lighter than the 13-inch MacBook Pro.

The Samsung NP530U4C S03 is a 14-inch Intel Core i7-3157UM (1.9 GHz) powered laptop. For graphics, it has the standard Intel on board graphics plus a nVidia GeForce GT 620M with 1 GB of dedicated RAM. It also offers 6 GB of RAM, which is 2 GB more than what comes with the entry level 13-inch MacBook Air or Pro, or its own Series 5 13-inch sibling. Storage is 1 TB, with a 24 GB SSD used for sleep and hibernation. Cabled connectivity includes a HDMI Port, and USB 3.0.

All this comes in a package which costs just Php54,900 with Windows 7 Premium (64-bit) pre-installed. The price is just 3K less than the Apple MacBook Pro, but pay cash or make a straight payment through a credit card and you will get a discount on the price making the difference all of 8K.

The Core i7 on the Samsung NP530U4C S03 processor runs slower than the Core i5 on the MacBook Pro, but has a larger cache. Which of the two is faster depends on the task. Given a choice between the two, I would prefer the cooler running Core-i7 UM processor on the Samsung.

The Samsung NP530U4C S03 does not have an optical drive, and those that want one should consider the 13-inch MacBook Pro instead. Other than that, the Samsung NP530U4C S03 offers NVIDIA gaming grade graphics and double the storage of the 13-inch MacBook Pro, for less money and in a lighter package.

Ivy Bridge Ultraportable: 13-inch Apple MacBook Air (128 GB) versus the Samsung NP530U3C A02

The Ivy Bridge Ultrabooks are starting to roll in with the Apple MacBook Air and the Samsung Series 5's. In a move that appears to be designed to challenge the onslaught of Windows Ultrabooks, Apple has made deep cuts into the prices of its MacBook Air line-up. In particular the new 13-inch Apple MacBook Air notebooks Php6,000 yo Php7,000 cheaper than last years models. Is the price cut enough to stop Windows Ultrabook in their tracks? You decide.

13-inch Apple MacBook Air. Is one nice piece of equipment, which mates a sufficient amount of power in portable and light frame. The 13-inch entry level MacBook Air packs a Intel Core i5 (1.8 GHz) dual core processor and 4 GB of RAM. The laptop sports a 13.3-inch display with a 1440 x 900 pixel resolution in a slim 0.68-inches case, which weighs in a just under 3 pounds. Battery life is up to 7 hours.

The main point of contention is the benefit of the SSD. I use a MacBook Air and am sold with SSD's. It allows for the operating system to boot, resume and shutdown quickly. Applications load fast. The drawback is cost. The entry level 13-inch MacBook Air comes with 128 GB of storage, which many do not consider enough.

Price for all this? Php57,990. This is a really good price. Just three years ago, this type of laptop would cost you over 100K.

Samsung NP530U3C A02. The Samsung NP530U3C A02 is one of the new breed of hydrid Ultrabooks. It is slim and light, but uses a conventional hard drive mated with an 24 GB SSD. The SSD is used for and allows for quick resume from sleep and hibernation, but for other tasks you have an old fashioned rotating disk hard drive. 

The Samsung NP530U3C A02 has a 13.3-inch display with a 1366 x 768 resolution, in a slim 0.69-inch frame weighing in at a heavier 3.2 pounds. The conventional hard drive accounts for the additional weight.  Inside you a Intel Core i5-3317UM (1.7 GHz) dual core processor and 4 GB of RAM. Storage is 500 GB, provided by a conventional but slim hard drive. Battery life is just about 6 hours.

Price? Php42,900.

Operating system. We wont be discussing the benefits of the operating system. Both work well, with Windows having a much larger ecosystem of compatible software than Mac OSX. If you prefer one OS or the other, there is no point choosing between these two.

Price. The most important factor to consider is price. The Samsung NP530U3C A02 is 15K cheaper than the 13-inch MacBook Air. Both have enough power to do what you expect from an Ultrabook, so if you are looking for the value for money option, well the Samsung easily takes that crown.

The Samsung is the value for money option. No surprise there.

Storage. I prefer SSD drives. They are faster, lighter and more energy efficient. I rely a lot on cloud storage and could live with 128 GB, but my own MacBook Air has a 256 GB SSD). You can get the MacBook Air with a 256 GB SSD, but that adds another 15K to the cost. Both laptops have SD Card slots.

In terms of storage, some would prefer the 128 GB SSD on the MacBook Air. I suspect that more buyers will prefer the the 500 GB on the Samsung NP530U3C A02.  Both laptops have SD Card slots.

Unless 128 GB storage is enough for you the Samsung NP530U3C A02 is probably the better choice.

The MacBook does have a few bell's and whistles. The 13-inch MacBook Air sports a higher resolution display. This is both a plus and a minus. While the higher resolution display offers more real estate, I still feel that Mac OSX is still designed to work optimally with the 1280 x 800 resolution. Some elements of the desktop looks a bit small to my eyes on the 1440 x 900 display on the MacBook Air. Both laptops have USB ports, but only the MacBook Air has a Thunderbolt port. At present, Thunderbolt technology is of little practical value.

The MacBook Air also features a back-lit keyboard. Something that can be useful when working in darker environments.

The most compelling feature of the 13-inch MacBook Air over the Samsung NP530U3C A02 is the back-lit keyboard.

The Samsung NP530U3C A02 has some advantages of its own. The Samsung NP530U3C A02 has a full sized LAN port and is bundled with a VGA port dongle. I do not think many users will really appreciate these, unless you rely on legacy hardware.

The Samsung NP530U3C A02 does have a HDMI port, which will allow you to plug it directly into you HD LCD TV. The MacBook Air needs an HDMI adapter in order for it to be able to plug into a LCD TV. Apple looks like it will be adopting the HDMI port as standard in the future, its "retina" display MacBook Pro having an HDMI port.

The most compelling feature of the Samsung NP530U3C A02 over the 13-inch MacBook Air is the HDMI port.

Out take. It is hard to argue with a 15K price difference. If you need more than 128GB of storage,  that will be an additional cost for an external hard drive, high capacity SD card or a full-on SSD upgrade. The 13-inch MacBook Air is a beautiful piece of hardware. When it came out in late 2010, at 63K than seemed to be a bargain. Now, two years later, at even 8K less, there are much cheaper alternatives.

If you are looking at value for money, Samsung NP530U3C A02 is it. If you prefer the 13-inch MacBook Air, the reality is that SSD drives are expensive. If you want the SSD, the MacBook Air is well priced when compared to other Ultrabooks with a 128GB SSD.

If you are looking for something with a bit more power, you may want to take a look at the Apple MacBook Pro and Samsung NP530U4C S03 at this link.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Apple stops claiming Mac is virus proof - It is high time you get some protection.

"Apple quietly quits claiming that its Mac OS X is virus proof" reports GSM Arena

The change regards the marketing messages on Apple’s website, which highlight the qualities of the Mac operating system. The overly confident “It doesn’t get PC viruses” statement has been replaced by a rather more humble “It is built to be safe”. Also, the “Safeguard your data. By doing nothing” slogan has been replace with “Safety. Built in.” You can check out the difference between the two descriptions in the image below.

Image from Sophos

I think it is high time that you get some Anti-Virus protection on your Mac, if you still have not gotten one. Just a few months ago, 670,000 computers were affected by malware, 98% of them running Apple's Mac OSX.

Sophos Anti-Virus for Mac Home Edition has been installed on my MacBook Air for eighteen months now. It quietly works in the background, so I do not even know that it is there. Given how much Sophos' enterprise oriented anti-virus costs, I am pretty amazed they have a Mac OSX version for free.

Another free solution is Avast Ant-Virus for Mac. 

I have not tried Avast's Mac OSX software. I am very happy with the Sophos' offering and really so no reason to switch. If you try the avast! Free Anti-Virus for Mac, feedback would really be appreciated. Two free apps by well regarded companies. I really do not see any reason why you should not run one of this two security suites. 

Why Windows Phone 8 is a Good Thing

HTC's soon to be obsolete HD7. But it has had a good run. At almost two years old, it can still slug it out toe-to-toe with the best Windows Phone 7.5 devices.

Many articles have been written the past few days lamenting Microsoft dropping support for all Windows Phone 7.5 devices with the upcoming Windows Phone 8 operating system. Microsoft may have lacked a bit of foresight with Windows Phone 7 creating an operating system on the Windows CE kernel which resulted in an operating system with limited hardware support. The result was after launching some pretty impressive phones late in 2010, the next generation of Windows Phone handsets in 2011 and the first half of 2012, are really just minor upgrades of the original Windows Phone 7 devices. 

Microsoft made a mistake. It happens. So now you have Windows Phone 8, built on the NT kernel. Windows Phone 8 will be able to run on the latest hardware the manufacturers can offer, and can continue to add more features taking advantage of the faster hardware.

But Windows Phone 8 is actually a good thing even for current Windows Phone handset owners. If you bought a HTC HD7, HTC Mozart, HTC Thropy, Samsung Focus or Samsung Focus flash in 2010 or 2011, are you really looking forward to your next Windows Phone having a single core processor and a WVGA (480 x 800) display.

Buyers of newer devices like the HTC Titan series, HTC Radar, Samsung Focus 2 or the Nokia Lumia devices might feel a bit different for now. Having phone become obsolete in less than a year will not make anyone happy. But even those owners would not want to upgrade to a single core WVGA device in 2014. 

The current Windows Phone 7.5 devices won't stop running because Windows Phone 8 is released. You still have access to the 100,000 apps in the Windows Marketplace. The will be apps that will not run on current devices sooner or later, as apps are developed specifically for Windows Phone 8 or are designed with higher minimum hardware requirements. 

This is not all that different from the Android 2.3 to Android 4.0 transition. Maybe Android phones sold in the market still run Android 2.3. Android 4.0 requires at least 512 MB of RAM. Some phones do not have this much RAM.

There is one caveat though. There are plenty of Android 2.3.6 phones already in the wild, and phones on this version of Android are still being manufactured and sold. Android developers know this and will continue to support Android 2.3.6 compatibility for the next two years or so. Android 2.3.6 supports multi-core processing and multitasking so developers will not be severely constrained in what they can build while maintaining backwards compatibility. 

If the Windows Phone 8 launch results in a slow adoption of the new platform than you can expect developers to continue to support Windows Phone 7.5 (later 7.8) devices and make a slow transition to Windows Phone 8. 

On the other hand, if Windows Phone 8 is a stellar success, there are not all that many Windows Phone 7.5 devices in the wild right now. Windows Phone app developers in order to maintain app compatibility with Windows Phone 7.5 have to forego multi-processor support, or the ability to run in the background, or come out with two versions. With the small number of Windows Phone 7.5 devices in the market, it might not be worth the effort. A successful Windows Phone 8 launch could see more phones being sold in one month, than Windows Phone 7 has seen in its entire life. If this happens, the  efforts at making new apps, backward compatible to Windows Phone 7.5 devices could end rather quickly.

So Windows Phone 8 is a good thing. But Windows Phone 8 is also a very good reason not to buy a Windows Phone 7.5 device now.

Sony Vaio T11 and T13 Ultrabooks Priced

Sony is launching its Vaio T11 and T13 Ultrabooks in the Philippines. The Sony Vaio T11 has a 11.6-inch display, while the T13 has a larger 13.3-inch display. The specifications on the Sony Vaio T13 specifications are as follows:

Windows Home Premium (64-bit)
1366 x 768 display resolution
Intel Core i5-3317U (1.7 GHz / 2.6 GHz with Turbo Boost)
Intel HD 4000 graphics
320 GB Hard Driver + 32 GD SSD
Memory Stick DUO slot
SD Card slot
USB 3.0/USB 2.0 port
Bluetooth 4.0
4050 mAh
12.72 x 8.90 x 0.71 inches
3.5 pounds

The 13.3-inch Sony Vaio T13 is priced at Php49,990, with the 11.6-inch Sony Vaio T11 is prices at Php47,990.  We do not have the specifications on the Sony Vaio T11 but, given its price we expect it to be almost identical to the Sony Vaio T13. 

The prices are a bit higher than we expected given that these laptops sell for about US$799 to US$899 abroad. Unlike other Ultrabooks the Sony Vaio T11 and T13 have RAM access panel at the bottom of the case as well as removable batteries. In design they are really more like thin versions of traditional laptops rather than Ultrabooks, which sacrifice these things to maintain their girt. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Free Twitter Access from Globe Telecom

Globe Telecom is offering free Twitter via for its prepaid users from June 20 until July 31, 2012.

In order to avail of the free service on your Globe Prepaid or TM phone, simply text FREE TWITTER to 8888 in order to register. You may start browsing and enjoy the free Twitter service once an SMS confirmation has been received. Remember if you click links to third party sites, this will result in additional data charges at the rate of Php5 for every 15 minutes. You must have P1 remaining balance in order to register to FREE TWITTER.

HTC's Smartphone Roadmap for the Second Half of 2012

Windows for October. For the next three months HTC will be hard at work preparing for the launch of its first Windows Phone 8 devices.  Like the Android based One series, three HTC Windows Phone 8 devices are reportedly in the works. Two phones are reportedly slated for release in October.

The entry-level phone is dubbed the HTC Rio features a 4-inch WVGA (480 x 800) display and be powered by a new lower cost Qualcomm Snapdragon S4.  The Qualcomm’s MSM8227 in the HTC Rio will have a 1 GHz dual-core Krait processor, Adreno 305 graphics supports dual channel HSDPA. The HTC Rio is reported to come with just 14.4 Mbps 3G connectivity. As the entry level offering it will be modestly equipped with 512MB of RAM and a 5MP camera. 

The higher end phone to be released in October is being called, for now, the HTC Accord. The HTC Accord will have 4.3-inch 720p (720 x 1280) display and a  more powerful Qualcomm S4, a faster dual core Krait processor, have 1 GB of RAM and an 8MP camera. There are not details yet on what chipset will be used for this phone.

Krait 4 Christmas. HTC and Qualcomm have a long relationship. The only HTC phone not built on Qualcomm silicon is the Tegra 3 based international version of the HTC One X. Qualcomm is reportedly releasing Qualcomm APQ8064, which will host a quad-core Krait, and HTC is prepping two phones to usher in the new monsters entry into the market.
Given that dual core Qualcomm S4 devices are as fast as the quad-core competition, a quad-core Krait should be awesomely powerful.

HTC is prepping for the release of a pair of quad-core Kraits towards the end of the year, an Android phone and a Windows Phone 8 device. The Android varaint is presently being referred to as the HTC One XXL. The Windows Phone 8 version is being called the Zenith. Both phones will come with 4.7-inch 720p (720 x 1280) displays, 2 GB's of RAM and 8 MP cameras. 

None of these phones have been officially announced, but the leaks would appear to be accurate.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Samsung Galaxy Ace 2 I8160

Will it get ICS? That is the question. Samsung has a nice piece of hardware in its Samsung Galaxy Ace 2 I8160. For a phone which we found for sale at Php14,590 it has a decently large 3.8-inch display with a WVGA resolution (480 x 800). It is pretty decent behind the display too, with a dual-core 800MHz processor and Mali-400MP graphics on a NovaThor chipset. It has a decent amount of RAM at 768MB. More than some of its more expensive rivals.

Internal storage is 4 GB, expandable via a MicroSD card. Internal storage is enough so it should not be an issue. This phone has the same 5 MP camera on the Samsung Galaxy Ace of last year, and it is one pretty decent camera. The Samsung Galaxy Ace 2 has a front cam and can also capture 720p video. 

Take off the back cover and you get a 1500mAh battery, which is a very decent size for this type of phone. All-in-all, the Samsung Galaxy Ace 2 has some very good hardware tucked in its 10.5 mm thin body for its 15K asking price.

The only question is, will this phone get an update to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich? A video advertisement of the Samsung Galaxy Ace 2 seems to indicate it will, but there has been no official announcement from Samsung.

We suggest waiting before buying this one. Nice kit for the money. But if it joins the Samsung Galaxy SL, Galaxy W and Galaxy S Advance in the category of great-hardware-for-the-money, but-not-updated-to-the-current-operating-system, than it wont feel life a good deal after all.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Huawei Ascend Y200 - Pocket and Mini-Optimus killer?

I am not too fond of recommending phones which run Android 2.3, Gingerbread these days, especially those that will not be updated. But there are exceptions to every rule. Meet the Huawei Ascend Y200, priced at Php5,490.

This price puts it into competition with phones like the Samsung Galaxy Pocket and the Optimus L3. The Pocket has a tiny 2.8-inch display. The L3 a bigger 3.2-inch display. Both the Pocket and the L3 have a low 240 x 320 resolution. The Huawei Ascend has a larger 3.5-inch IPS display with a higher 320 x 480 resolution.

The downside, the Huawei Ascend Y200 is designed like a 2010 Android with 512 MB ROM, so we do not expect it to have more than 200 MB of user available memory. It also comes with 256MB of RAM. The Samsung Galaxy Pocket and the Optimus L3 are a little more current internally with 1GB or more of internal storage and 384MB of RAM. While the storage on all three phones can be expanded via MicroSD card, some apps cannot be moved to the SDCard. The other specifications of these three phones are similar. 

None of these three phones will be upgraded to Googles latest and greatest Android 4.0.

Which would I pick. Well I would always go for the larger display, so it would be the Huawei Ascend Y200 for me. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Windows Phone 8 is here! What happens to Windows Phone 7.5

So it is official. Existing Windows Phone devices will not be upgradeable to Windows Phone 8. Instead they will received an update to Windows Phone 7.8. When the Windows Phone 8 devices are released later this year, it will bring the platform at parity with its Android and Apple iOS counterparts with support for multi-core processors and more modern graphics chips which will bring faster performance, support for HD displays and improve multi-tasking. There are many more things being integrated and improved by Windows Phone 8. But there is really no rush discussing that now. There will be plenty of time to look at the new phones when they are released towards the end of the year.

More pressing is, what does this all mean for Windows 7.5 devices. Current Windows Phones will get  select Windows Phone 8 features, but all that has been confirmed so far is the new home screen.

Owners of the Windows Phone 7 devices are satisfied with their experience. The Windows Phone 7 devices officially released in the Philippines in 2010, the HTC HD7 and the HTC Mozart, got a minor update, a major update in Windows Phone 7.5, and will get one last feature update. 

Buyers of the HTC Radar released in 2011 will be a little disappointed. This midrange device gets Windows a minor update to Windows Phone 7.8, while its Android counterpart, the HTC Desire S will be getting one major update in Android 4.0. Still some midrange Android phones will not be getting the Android 4.0 update (I am looking at you, Samsung... cough... Galaxy SL... cough... Galaxy W... cough Galaxy S Advance). So in the mid-range, you can say that getting the next major update for a device is still lottery draw (well if you buy a Samsung or Windows Phone). 

Buyers of the newly released Nokia Lumia 610 and 710, which are entry level, and lower mid-range smartphones will probably accept that getting updates for less expensive phones is something they should not expect (Unless you bought a Sony. Sony has updated almost all of its entire 2011 Xperia line-up).  

Nokia Lumia 800 and 900 buyers. The Lumia 800 became available in April 2012, with the Lumia 900 being available a month later. In six months, both these phones fall under the category of legacy devices, joining Symbian and Meego handsets.

I think this has eroded the credibility of the Windows Phone platform.

A bit too deja vu. Buyers of Windows Phone 6.5 Professional devices, like the legendary HTC HD2 which featured unprecedented hardware for its time, felt abandoned when they found out the Microsoft would not be updating their phones to Windows Phone 7. Having the same situation repeat itself two years later with phones like the Nokia Lumia 800 and 900, and HTC's Titan and Titan II, will feel a bit to deja vu.

Smoke by Windows Phone 8.  Microsoft sponsored a much publicized campaign to highlight that a smartphone need not have cutting edge hardware if it is a Windows Phone. After months of convincing you that  hardware which was cutting edge two years ago, can still cut it today... well Microsoft now tells you your hardware is not cutting edge enough. 

The biggest loser here is Nokia. LG and ZTE opted out of the Windows Phone device arena. Huawei still has to release one. HTC and Samsung will dispose of their current stock at fire sale prices, continue selling Android phones, and prepare for the next generation of Windows Phone 8 devices.

Ask a HTC or Samsung executive about it, and they will shrug their shoulders and say there was nothing they could do about it. Neither company actually spent much time Marketing their Windows Phone 7.5 devices. Samsung did not officially release a Windows Phone device in the Philippines. The last Windows Phone device officially released by HTC in the Philippines was in 2011, with the HTC Radar.

For Nokia, is is a different story.

Nokia's name is tarnished. Nokia launched the Nokia Lumia 900, headlining that the "Smartphone Beta Test is Over". It turns out, with the announcement of Windows Phone 8 the beta test is over. The problem is, the Nokia Lumia 900 and 800 are part of the beta test.

What will Nokia sell until October. Nokia has no Android phones to sell till October or November. It will have to marker and sell Windows 7.5 and Windows 7.8. Ironically, Nokia is used to this. It is now the official repository of almost all the worlds dead Smartphone operating systems: Symbian, Meego and Windows Phone 7.8. It has no choice but to sell a phone based on a operating system quickly fading into obsolescence.

Every Nokia phone sold in the next four or five months, runs the risk of losing goodwill. Every buyer may feel that he or she was misinformed when the buyer learns that the nice shiny device in his or her hands, was obsolete at the time of purchase. How can buyers not notice when in four of five months, Nokia advertises their new and better devices.

In the end, it is all up to the app developers. You now have two versions of the Windows Phone operating system. Windows Phone 7.x based on the Windows CE kernel and Windows Phone 8 based on the NT Kernel. For buyers, Windows Phone 8 is a few months away. For app developers they get the new API's (developer tools) for Windows Phone 8 now.

If developers start coding their apps for Windows Phone 8 they probably wont be compatible with current phones. Windows Phone 7.5 apps will run on Windows Phone 8 devices, so developers can continue to code on the old API's. But that means they wont be able to take advantage of multi-core processing. I do not want to venture a guess on how this will go. 

Worse part is, Nokia still needs Windows Phone 7.8 even after October. Just six days ago, Nokia announced its battle plan. Nokia CEO Stephen Elop announced "We need to compete with Android aggressively. The low end price point war is an important part of that."

With Windows Phone 8 requiring dual core processors as a minimum requirement, while Android phones can get by on single core processors, it will be hard for Nokia to compete at the entry level unless they continue to build Windows 7.8 devices even after October 2012.

Nokia had confirmed to PCMag, that Windows Phone 7 devices will continue to be sold by Nokia, even after Windows Phone 8 is released.

Microsoft just gave Windows Phone 7.5 owners a stereo. One person I was chatting with on Google+ likened it this way. Apple with iOS 6 is giving the update even to its iPhone 3GS of 2009. Sure you loose a lot of features that are available only on newer iPhones. Microsoft is giving the new start screen to Windows Phone 7.5 owners via Windows 7.8. So Apple gives its old "cars" and new engine, minus the stereo. Microsoft gives its not so old cars a stereo, but does not give you the new engine.

Others will point at Android 2.3.6 devices in the market today and say Microsoft's move is not so different. Android 2.3.6 devices are on the same kernel as Android 4.0 devices. Some apps which require newer features in Android 4.0 wont run. But that situation is milder than Windows Phone's fragmentation where the Windows Phone 7.8 devices will be running on the Windows CE kernel (think Windows 98) while Windows Phone devices will be running on the NT Kernel (think Windows XP/Vista/7).

Microsoft situation is more like RIM and it BlackBerry. When BlackBerry 10 is released it will leave all current BlackBerry phones in its dust. When Windows Phone 8 comes out, it will leave all existing Windows Phones its legacy to a failed two year experiment.

Acer Aspire S5 391-73514G12kk Ultrabook

Acer new Aspire S5 ultrabook is now available in the Philippines. At Php64,900 is is a pretty expensive offering, but is does come with a very decent kit. It has all the bells and whistles one expects.

Quick Specifications:

Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit
13.3-inch display (1366 x 768 resolution)
Intel Core i7-3517U processor (4 MB L3 cache, 1.90GHz with Turbo Boost up to 3.0GHz)
Intel HD Graphics 4000 with 128 MB of dedicated system memory
4 GB of RAM
128 GB SSD
2-in-1 card reader (SD, MMC)
34 Wh Li-polymer battery pack (6 hours of battery life)
12.77 x 8.95 x 0.44/0.59 inches
2.87 lbs.
HD Web cam,
Thunderbolt port
Two USB 3.0 ports
HDMI out
The question everyone will ask of course, is it better than the 13-inch MacBook Air. Since the Acer Aspire S5 comes with 128 GB or storage, it should be compared to the entry level 13-inch MacBook Air. 

The entry level 13-inch MacBook Air sells for Php57,990, which is all of 7K less. That us a substantial price difference. The MacBook Air also comes with a higher resolution display (1440 x 900), an hour longer of battery life and all the bells and whistles you expect from a modern laptop (USB 3.0, Thunderbolt).

Now the Acer Aspire S5 has some advantages, coming with a faster Intel Core i7 processor, against the Core i5 unit on the MacBook Air. The Acer Aspire S5 also has an HDMI port. It is also a bit thinner, actually the thinnest Ultrabook in the world, but at this point, who really cares. 

The Acer Aspire S5 also conceals the ports under flip covers. I am not sure if I am to crazy about having more moving parts.

If you want the Intel Core i7 processor or prefer Windows, than this is the better choice. For my money, I would go with the entry level 13-inch MacBook Air. It is funny when an Apple is the value for money choice, but that is where it stands.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Summer Solistice sale at Google Play - Discounted apps!

In celebration of the longest day of the year, the Summer Solistice, Google is have a sale on selected apps:
  •     Jamie's 20 Minute meals
  •     Draw Something
  •     Blue Hat, Green hat
  •     Shazam Encore
  •     mSecure
  •     Mini Motor Racing
  •     Order & Chaos Online
  •     Clouds & Sheep Premium
  •     Alarm Clock by doubleTwist
  •     NBA Jam
  •     RepliGo PDF Reader
  •     Guns'n'Glory WW2
  •     Flight Track
  •     Moo, Baa, La La La!
  •     Mass Effect: Infiltrator
  •     Grand Theft Auto III
The sale is only for one day, so grab then while they are hot. View the apps on sale at Google Play at this link.

Smart expands its PISO SALE line-up

Php500 a month + Php1 = Great Deal

Smart is offering some older units in its expanded "Piso Sale". From June 18 to 25, 2012 you can get any of the following devices.

All-in Plan 1800

  • Apple iPhone 4 (8GB)   
  • Nokia E7
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab P7500

Recommendation: Pick of the lot is the Apple iPhone 4. If you plan to avail of unlimited data might as well go with Data Plan 2000 and get the Apple iPhone 4S by shelling out Php2,500. But if you do not want a data plan, the iPhone 4 is a pretty decent offering at this price.

All-In Plan 1200

  • Apple iPhone 3GS (8GB)
  • Nokia E5 

All-In Plan 800

  • Nokia N9 (16GB/64BG) 

Recommendation: The Nokia N9 is a steal at this plan, and a better choice that the phones at Plan 1200. The Apple iPhone 3GS and Nokia E5 are really obsolescent devices.
All-in Plan 500

  • HTC Mozart
  • Samsung Wave II S8530
  • Nokia E72

Recommendation: Not a bad deal for an HTC Mozart.

Smart offers dual sim Lenovo A65 Android smartphone

Smart Communcations is offering a new Lenovo dual SIM Android phone, the Lenovo A65.

The phone has a decently sized 3.5-inch display with a 320 x 480 resolution. It is powered by a single core 800 MHz processor, on a Mediatek chip, and 256 MB or RAM. At present the phone runs Android 2.3 (Gingerbread), and given the 256 MB of RAM and processor, we do not expect it to be upgraded to Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich). The other specifications of this phone are not all that interesting.

The main draw of this phone is its dual SIM (dual standby) capability. I am not sure if one SIM slow is unlocked though. I have queried Smart, but I still do not have a response. Curiously enough, the phone is bundled with a broadband SIM, with Php100 load consumable within 30 days. It makes we think that both SIM slots may be locked. 

The asking price is a decent Php5,490. This would be a good deal if at least one SIM slot is unlocked.

If anybody happens to check on this, please comment here.

Samsung Series 9 Ultrabook - 15-inch ultraportable

Intel's OEM partners have been thankfully liberal about how they interpret the terms Ultrabook. Now, even 15-inch laptops can be considered portable. Samsung has launched its Series 9 Ultrabook in the Philippines. This 15-inch laptop weighs in at just under 3.5 pounds. At 0.58 inches thick, it is also slimmer than most other Ultrabooks and the MacBook Air.

Quick specifications:

Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) 
15-inch display (1600 x 900)
Intel Core i5-3317U (1.7GHz, 3MB cache) "Ivy Bridge" processor 
Intel HD Graphics 4000
8GB DDR3 memory
1.3-megapixel web cam
802.11 a/b/g/n, LAN, Bluetooth 4.0
micro HDMI port, 
LAN port via dongle 
2x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0
4-in-1 card reader
8-cell Li-Po battery (up to 10 hours)
Suggested retail price: Php76,900

Samsung has done a lot to make this 15-inch laptop smaller than it sounds. A thin bezel around the display results in this laptop being just 14-inches wide. Just a bit wider than a typical 14-inch laptop. With a SSD on board, it can boot Windows in just under 10 seconds.

A Php76,900 is priced about 4K higher than the top of the line (off-the shelf) 13-inch MacBook Air, but the Samsung Series 9 Ultrabook does come with double the RAM and a higher resolution display.

It comes in matte silver and matter black, the latter being decidedly more corporate looking.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Surface by Microsoft

Microsoft can be cool after all.

The Microsoft Surface Tablet - Post-PC computing redefined

Microsoft announced its Surface tablet, and I was in awe. The tablet which will comes with two operating systems. The first is a Windows RT which will run on Nvidia's ARM based Tegra 3 processor. The second version is a Windows 8 which will run on x86 processor (Intel and AMD). 

Watching the presentation, Microsoft should have call Windows RT, Windows RWT: Really Well Designed. The Microsoft Surface tablet is so well designed I really had to spend a lot of time contemplating every aspect of its design.

Microsoft's Surface can look cool...
... or corporate.

Screen resolution. The Microsoft Surface has a 10.6-inch full HD display. Meaning is has a 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution. I am sure the first comment from Apple iPad owners is that it is not as "resolutionary" as the 2048 x 1536 display on the latest iPad. But the 1920 x 1080 display is actually the more practical resolution, which means it plays HD content full screen, whereas the "resolutionary" iPad will more than a third of its display when playing HD content. 

The choice of the 1920 x 1080 resolution, also means that it will perfectly mate with your HD TV should you decided to plug your Surface into it.

Errata: The Windows 8 version has a full HD display (1920 x 1080). The Windows RT version has a HD display (1366 x 768). The 1366 x 768 display resolution is based on Microsoft's mininum specifications for Windows RT.

Screen size. Unlike Apple and Google Android tablets, the keyboard is not an afterthought. Microsoft chose a 10.6-inch display with a 16:9 aspect ratio. This makes is a bit wider than Android tablets with a 10.1-inch tablets with the same 16:9 aspect ratio and the iPad with a 9.7-inch display with a 4:3 aspect ratio.

This would allow for a wider, more comfortable keyboard to designed for the Surface.

Keyboard. The surface will eventually come with two keyboards. One with a standard shallow tactile keyboard, like you find on the Asus Transformer Prime or an Ultrabook PC. The other, the really amazing one, are the 3 mm and 5 mm thick soft touch keyboard, which doubles as a screen protector case. While not allowing much play, this should be much more comfortable than typing on a glass screen. Also being so flat, it also place yours hands in a more comfortable typing positing than your typical laptop.

 Kickstand. Some Android phones and tablets have incorporated kickstands for a long time. Microsoft improved on this with a full length kickstand which should be more stable or sturdy than the kickstands you find on Android models.

The kickstand also solves the issue of the keyboard dock having to be heavy enough to hold the table in place.

Construction. Microsoft did not go with plastic, a material which is a good choice for a mobile device, but often despised by buyers. It did not go with aluminum. While shinny aluminum products are very popular with buyers, they are very prone to scratches, hence all the MacBook and iPad protection cases which make your thin and light device, thicker and heavier.

Microsoft chose Magnesium, something used by sturdy ThinkPads and high end Sony laptops for some time now. Microsoft's magnesium case may be a bit different though, and the process has been dubbed VaporMg. There should be little need to protect the back of this tablet.

The display is protected by Gorilla Glass, and will also be protect by the Surface innovative soft touch keyboard cover.

The end result is that the ARM version of this tablet is 9.3 mm thick and weighs 1.5 pounds. This is actually a bit thinner and about the same weight as the current iPad. The x 86 version will be substantially thicker and heavier, at 13.5 mm and a bit under two pounds.

Stylus. In addition to the keyboard, the Microsoft Surface is also equipped with a stylus, which really is necessary to make a tablet a serious productivity device instead of one for content consumption.

Storage and ports. The ARM version of Surface comes with either 32 or 64 GB of storage, expandable via a MicroSD card, and two USB 2.0 ports. The x86 version comes with either 64 or 128 GB of storage, expandable via a MicroSDXC card, and two USB 2.0 ports.

For connecting to external monitors, the ARM version comes with a Micro HDMI port, with the x86 version comes with a Mini Display Port.

Windows 8. Many have complained about how the Windows 8 interface looks like on a traditional laptop or desktop. Imagining the same interface on a 10.6-inch, full HD display, and it all starts to make sense.

Availability, pricing and others. Microsoft did not make a definite statements on availability and pricing. We expect the Surface to launch together with Windows 8 this October. We do not expect it to be cheap, but in my opinion, it does not have to be. There are still a lot of things to consider like battery life and performance of the ARM version, but so far it all looks really good.

Post-PC redefined. Apple said the iPad heralded the end of the Post-PC era. Microsoft has redefined, or maybe more accurately, defined the Post-PC era. 

The iPad and Android tablets are really third devices. They are not going to replace you PC unless you really do not need on for productive work. Some, like the Asus Transformer series try. 

The Microsoft Surface is a full PC and tablet replacement. The device comes with a two USB ports which we are pretty sure will interface with all types of peripherals, as well as a port for plugging into external monitors or your HD TV. Basically, the Microsoft Surface is designed to replace your tablet, laptop and desktop. 

On the road you will use it with the stylus and soft touch keyboard. At home it will be mated to a HD TV and a Bluetooth keyboard, while plugged into your external hard drive. 

The new iPad may have been "resolutionary". I think the Microsoft Surface is revolutionary. It does not only put the iPad on notice, but should send a tingling sensation up the spine of Ultrabook makers too. 

I cannot wait and see how Windows Phone 8 fits into all this.

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