Saturday, April 30, 2011

Smart Awesome Tablet

SMART Communications is offering a new low cost Android tablet, the 7-inch Froyo powered (Anroid 2.2) tablet bundled with its Smart Bro package. The tablet is the ZTE V9 with a suggested retail price of P12,795.

Offered under a prepaid subscription, Smart offering the ZTE V9 at six months zero interest. The tablet comes with a Smart Bro prepaid SIM with five days of unlimited internet browsing.

The tablet has WiFi and 3G connectivity, and can be used to send SMS and make voice calls. The 7-inch screen has a 800 x 450 resolution. The biggest drawback is that the screen is resistive, and not capacitative. Be sure to try one before buying. I think most will find the resistive screen a deal breaker.

Friday, April 29, 2011

We are off DISQUS

On April 6, 2011 which switched to DISQUS for posting comments on this blog. Since than, there seem to have been less comments... so we are back to the default blogger system. 

The Apple iPad 2 is now in the Philippine online Apple Store

The Apple iPad 2 is now at the online Apple Store (Philippines), which means you can probably pick one up at the closest Apple retailer in a few hours when the stores open. Prices are expected, same as the Apple iPad release prices last year.

Ubuntu 11.04 is out!

Ubuntu 11.04, and it new controversial interface is out. The older version, Ubuntu 10.10 is supported with updates for another year for those who do not want to upgrade yet. I have been using Ubuntu 10.10 since December on my Windows laptop. After five months without Windows, I cannot say I miss it much. 

Never tried Ubuntu? You can download and install it on a USB disk without affecting your current Windows or OSX installation.

Google releases and official Google Docs app

One thing which has been missing for a long time is a official an Google Android app for Google Documents. We have had GDocs ad My Docs - Google Docs which allows you to access your Google Documents account and that lets us access and edit your documents and spreadsheets from your Android smartphone. But the has been no official Google app.

Google has released their own official Docs app. The app, called Google Docs is compatible with Android 2.1 software and above. You can upload files from your smartphone, open attachments from email, and take a pictures of a book or magazine and upload the text from it as an editable Google Doc. That last feature still appears to need some work. The app has  a widget that includes buttons to create a new document or launch a starred file.

Head on to the Android Market and give it a try... like more Android apps, it is free.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

What do you think of touchscreen QWERTY messenger phones?

Two form factors have emerged as the predominant smartphone designs today. The touchscreen, most popularly represented by Apple iPhone, and the QWERTY messenger phone, which is mostly associated with BlackBerry. 

BlackBerry will be releasing touchscreen versions of its popular bold and curve phones. Samsung has released an Android QWERTY messenger, the Samsung Galaxy Pro S7510 which can be found for Php12,350 at CMK Cellphones.

I used a QWERTY messenger phone for almost five (5) years. Earlier this year I moved on to a touchscreen phone. It was a hard decision. I can type blazingly fast on a QWERTY messenger and no touchscreen could come close no matter how much I practiced. In the end, I chose a large screen 4.3-inch unit, a HTC Desire HD, since I was having trouble typing "fast" on smaller 3.5-inch and 3.7-inch screens.  A case of clumsy thumbs I guess since the smaller size seems to suit most users.  In the end, I went back to typing in portrait mode using the HTC Compact keyboard (which looks like BlackBerry's Suretype keyboard), and that seems to be the best solution for me.

The slider (HTC Desire Z and Samsung Galaxy 551) is something I looked at as an option. But, I do not like the phones with large moving parts, and the balance of a slider makes it harder to use on the mov. In the end, I do not even use my touchscreen phone on landscape mode so that made the slider something I would not feel comfortable with. If one of this touchscreen QWERTY messengers had been available, I think I may have given them a very long look.

The main drawback is of course, with a fixed physical keyboard, you have small 2.4 to 2.6 inch screens. The main advantage (which is true for touchscreen sliders) is you do not share your screen with a keyboard, and you have a keyboard with nice tactile feedback.

I am married to my Desire HD for two years so I am not going to checking out one of these touchscreen QWERTY messenger phones. What do you think? Is the touchscreen QWERTY messenger phone a excellent marriage of two worlds, or a useless compromise of two excellent designs. Would love to hear from you.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Why I am not big on tablets

My HTC Desire HD is by far the most expensive phone I have ever purchased and is by far the best smartphone I have ever owned. It has relegated my laptop to a typewriter, something I use to upload large files to the web and a mass storage device. Still it will not replace my laptop. A tablet would not replace my laptop either. And that is why I am not big on tablets. It still won't replace my laptop, and it won't replace my smartphone. Two devices is enough for me (well actually I have three devices the third being a second laptop, a nearly four year old HP Compaq 6510b the is not worth selling and refuses to die on me). 

I got my wife a Samsung Galaxy Tab last January. Earlier this month her nearly two year old Nokia E75 died. Instead of getting another smartphone to replace the E75, she opted for a dual SIM feature phone. Call and text from the feature phone, while the tablet takes care of email, mobile web browsing, instant messaging and acts as an organizer. The tablet keeps her laptop at home, but she still needs a computer.

What I am saying is that, if you get a tablet, you still need another PC. If you have a desktop, never decided to get a laptop, I think a Tablet makes a nice add-on. If on the other hand you have a laptop or even a humble netbook, your tablet probably wont replace either device. Instead of buying a tablet and a cheap laptop, a higher priced laptop might be more advisable.  

I also think 10-inch tablets are the wrong way to go. A 10-inch tablet is a device you use on a table, and not while walking around or standing up. So why not a laptop instead? Apple iPad sales figures say I am wrong. But I am not sure how much of that is because it is an Apple, or because it is the cheapest Apple "persoanl computer" alternative. If Apple ever offered a US$499 iOS or MacOSX netbook, I think that would sell really well too. Maybe even better.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Apple iPad 2 at your local Power Mac stores by April 29 reports that the Apple iPad 2 will be on sale at the local Power Mac Center by April 29. Retail price is expected to be at approximately Php24K for the 16GB WiFi only model. Same as the price at the local launch of the original iPad in the Philippine in December 2010.

If you are in the market for a 10-inch tablet, this is the one to buy.

Update: And Yugatech reports... that the Philippine iPad 2 release, is on hold until further notice.

Update 2: Ang Yugatech reports... that the April 29 launch date is confirmed.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Asus throws down the gauntlet

By launching Asus Eee Pad Transformer at US$399, Asus "has put other companies on notice. Anyone releasing a tablet above $400 will now really have to justify the premium" --- Laptop Magazine.

The Transformer is part tablet, part netbook. Lets look at the tablet part first.  Every tablet today will be compared as against the Apple iPad 2. 

At US$399 the Transformer is priced US$100 lower than the iPad 2. For that price you get a 10.1-inch tablet which weighs in at 1.4 pounds, making almost as light as the 1.33 pound Apple iPad 2. At 0.5 inches tick, the Transformer is nowhere as thin as the iPad 2.

With a 1280 x 800 IPS display, 1GHz Nvidia Tegra 2, 1GB of RAM and 16GB of storage it matches up well to the hardware found in the iPad 2. The iPad 2 should provide more graphics punch, while the Transformer would have more grunt for serious multitasking and number crunching.   

The Transformer can be plug directly into portable USB hard drives and has a SD Card reader. This means that it can replace your personal computer. The Apple iPad is really an accessory to another computer relying on cloud storage or being connected to another computer in order to expand storage.

An this is where the difference lies. While the iPad is a multimedia tablet, the Transformer tries to replace your PC. For another US$149 Asus will sell you a dock that converts the Transformer into a touchscreen laptop. The dock also comes with a battery which will extend the 8 hour battery life of the tablet by another 3 hours. Unlike the awkward physical keyboards for the iPad and Samsung Galaxy Tab, the Transformer dock really converts it into a laptop.

The main advantage of the iPad 2 is the app environment. There are every few Honeycomb optimized Apps at the present time, about 62. The iPad has 1000 times that number optimized for the tablet. That alone can justify the price difference. The Apple brand also carries more prestige in ownership.

Time will tell how popular Asus entry into the tablet market it will be. But this could be the next evolutionary step for tablets, and netbooks as well. 

Around the Web: PlayBook, Arc and Gingerbread

Work has kept my away from blogging, and in the fast paced mobile device arena, a lot happens in a week. 

PlayBook. The BlackBerry PlayBook is out abroad. No word when it is coming to the Philippines. But since the the local RIM distributer took the pains to demo one to, we assume it will be coming at some point in time. Price should be the same as the expected price for the entry level Apple iPad 2. 

The scoop on this one is simple. If you use a BlackBerry phone and BlackBerry email services, you may want to consider this. For everyone else, the Apple iPad 2 is a better option. The reality right now is the only local options are the older Apple iPad "1" and the Samsung Galaxy Tab, both of which are not available at reduced prices. 

Arc. We are not ready to update our smartphone buyers guide, but if we did so right now, we would put the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc at the top of the list. It is not the best value for money option, but with a excellent camera, a 4.2-inch screen and decent internals it offers the most well rounded package. Plus TechRadar has named the Arc the best smartphone in the world.  That influences us a lot too...

Basically, every other phone has some part that does not work as well as it should or is missing. The HTC Desire HD has a 8MP camera, which might as well be a 5MP unit with a dual LED flash that often does not adjust correctly to the situation. The Samsung Galaxy S, well it has no flash at all. The Arc puts everything together in a package where the user won't feel like anything is missing. 

Gingerbread for the Ace. GSM Arena reports that it looks like the Samsung Galaxy Ace is getting Gingerbread. 

Monday, April 18, 2011

Is there a Tablet Market?

An interesting point was raised in a PCMag article on the BlackBerry Playbook

Still, when I pressed him on the missing e-mail functionality, he had to acknowledge that that was a problem. He like others I spoke to there, believe that RIM is going to roll out a series of rapid-fire updates to address all of these issues. But then he said something to me that made me realize what a tough spot all tablet manufacturers, besides Apple, are in.
"I'm still not certain there is a tablet market." He said.
"What do you mean? Of course there is. Look at the iPad"
"No, I mean, I'm not sure there is a tablet market, instead of just an iPad market"
In other words, what if RIM, Motorola, Acer, Toshiba, HP and others are chasing something that doesn't even exist? What if consumers simply want to buy an Apple iPad and not "a tablet?"
Is there a tablet market? The proof of the existence of the tablet market, is the tremendously successful sales of Apple's iPad and the size of the netbook market, which the tablet is supposed to replace. These two matters need to be examined. 

iPad sales. Using iPad sales as a gauge for the existence of a large tablet market should be taken with some caution. Despite the large volume of iPad's sold, you have to look at it in the perspective of an Apple user. For several years there was nothing sitting sitting between a a iPhone and 13-inch MacBook. While the MacBook Air was designed to bridge this gap, its price point made unlikely that someone would buy both a MacBook Pro and a MacBook Air. There has long been a clamor for a lower cost Mac OS type device which would afford Mac users a familiar interface on a highly portable device lower cost device.  Apple choose to fill this gap with the iPad. Had Apple released a netbook at half the price of their entry level MacBook, I think that would have sold really well too.

Windows users are probably less likely to feel that they have a void the needs filling. A variety of small and light Windows based machine have always been available. iPad sales might only be a good indicator of a demand for a lower cost portable device with a Mac user friendly interface, 

Lets face it, there is also a segment who simply wants to buy any device with an Apple on it. iPad sales could also be an indicator of the demand for a low cost Apple devices.

Netbook market. The premise goes this way: There is a netbook market, no one really likes netbooks and the tablet is what everyone has been waiting for to replace it.

Okay, there is no netbook market. Even the name netbook is really just a marketing thing. A netbook is really just a low powered low priced laptop. The low powered part is not even necessarily true these days. The netbook market is really just the ultraportable laptop market. Make cheaper laptops and you will reach a larger market.  If you dropped the prices of the 10 to 11-inch Intel ultraportables by half, the netbook market would be gone just like that. A person selects a 10-inch "netbook" because it is cheaper than 10 to 11-inch Intel laptop. It is not an independent market segment. 

A June 2009 NPD study found that 60% of netbook buyers never take their netbooks out of the house. This really seems to indicate that the netbook market is really just the market for cheaper computers and not even for cheaper portable devices.

So, the question is, will we give up our ultraportable laptops for tablets? If the answer is yes, than there is a tablet market. If not, the tablet market may be smaller than people think.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Lenovo Thinkpad X201i

The Lenovo Thinkpad X201i finally finds its way to the Philippine consumer market. A bit of a rant. My only complaint with the local Lenovo distro, is that when it comes to Thinkpad's, it looks like they are only offered to the regular consumer six months to one year after they are available abroad. 

The Lenovo Thinkpad X201i is Lenovo's high end business grade 12.1-inc (WXGA TFT 1280x800) ultraportable, competing with the like of the Apple MacBook Air. While its 1.4-inch thickness is not MacBook Air like, it's 3.4 pound weight puts it in the same category. In March 2010, when it was released, its  Intel Core i5 460M 2.53GHz processor, 4GB DDR3 Memory,  Intel HD Graphics would have made it a truly wonderful high end ultraportable. 

Today, we get this for Php62,900, while the rest of the world is getting the new for 2011 Thinkpad X220 with Sandy Bridge and a higher resolution screen. The X220 is also cheaper at launch than the X201 was last year. Nice laptop, one year too late and higher than the newer X220 is abroad. Pass for me. 

HTC Desire S is now available @ CMK Cellphones, lower prices for other HTC Phones

HTC Mozart is now available for just Php20,500

The HTC Desire S is being offered by CMK Cellphones at a price of Php22,300, which is Php1,200 less than the price we previously reported. Coinciding with the availability of the Desire S CMK Cellphones dropped the prices on several other HTC Models:

HTC Desire HD (Android) - Old price: Php24,000 ---> New price: Php23,500
HTC Desire Z (Android) - Old price: Php22,000 ---> New price: Php21,500
HTC Mozart (Windows Phone 7) - Old price: Php22,000 ---> New price: Php20,500
HTC Desire (Android) - Old price: Php19,500  ---> New price: Php19,000

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Smart Communications HTC Desire S and Sony Ericsson Arc Promo

Am a bit busy these days, so I cannot spent much time posting, but I could not ignore this one. Smart Communications is now offering the HTC Desire S at pre-order at either Smart Gold Data Plan 2000 or Smart Gold Plan 2500. The Sony Ericsson Arc is being offered at pre-order at either Smart Gold Data Plan 3000 or Smart Gold Plan 2500.

It's raining gingerbreads at Smart and if you are in the market for a new phone, I recommend you get one of these on a data plan. I have had a few billing issues on the Smart Gold Unlimited Data Plan, which you can read about here... but so far, it is not a deal breaker.The pre-order period runs from April 9-18, 2011.

Monday, April 11, 2011

PC QR Code Generator

If you are looking for a way to creat QR codes or Quick Response specific matrix barcodes from your personal computer, QR Droid has a webpage that will allow you to do that here: QR Code Generator. It is a free service. If you are not yet familiar with how QR codes work, fire up your phones bar code reader or Google Googles and point the camera to the image below. It will lead you to one of my other blogs.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

HTC Desire S is now available @ Top Electronics

The HTC Desire S, one of HTC new for 2011 smartphones is now available at Top Electronics. As per the posted specifications the HTC Desire S will have:

* Android 2.3 Gingerbread

* Aluminum Unibody Casing

* 3.7" SLCD Touchscreen 480×800 pixels, 16.7M Colors

* Qualcomm 1GHZ MSM8255 
* 1.1GB Internal, 768MB RAM
* HSDPA, 14.4 Mbps; HSUPA, 5.76 Mbps connectivity, along with Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, DLNA, Wi-Fi hotspot, Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP, EDR capabilities
* 5MP w/ autofocus, flash, geotagging, face detection/VGA Front camera
* 720p video recording and playback
* HTC Sense 3.0

The price is listed at Php23,500, which places it at 1K less than the HTC Desire HD at Php24,500. 

The Desire S basically upgrades the Desire to Desire HD specifications by giving it a aluminum unibody casing and the same Qualcomm 1GHz MSM8255 processor, Adreno 205 graphical processing unit and 768MB of RAM which powers the HTC Desire HD. The HTC Desire S also gets the same touch sensitive controls used in the Desire HD, instead of physical buttons.

The HTC Desire HD a still has more internal storage, more bundled storage and a higher resolution camera and, of course, the larger 4.3-inch screen versus the smaller 3.7-inch screen of the Desire S.

Screen: 4.3-inch for the Desire HD versus 3.7-inch for the Desire S
Internal storage: 1.5GB for the Desire HD versus 1.1GB for the Desire S
Bundled storage: 8GB MicroSD for the Desire HD versus 2GB MicroSD for the Desire S
Camera: 8MP for the Desire HD versus 8MP for the Desire S

In fairness, the HTC Desire S is no meant to replace the Desire HD as its top of the line HTC phone in the Philippines. The Desire S has some key advantages though, a S-LCD screen (the Desire HD has a plain LCD screen), a bigger battery (1450 mAh for the Desire S versus 1230 mAh for the Desire HD) and a secondary camera.

The HTC Desire S comes with Gingerbread 2.3, but that will  be coming to Desire HD owners in the next two months.

For now, it is really the larger screen versus the front camera and larger battery. Pick your poison. Either is a great choice.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Turning a technological corner

If you asked me to choose between my laptop and my smartphone I would not really be able to give up either device. But with todays 4-inch plus smartphones and powerful processors and graphical processing unit, I feel like I am turning a technological corner. My HTC Desire HD still cannot replace my computer, but it has advanced enough so I could (not that I would) give up a laptop and settle for a desktop. I really carry my laptop less and less frequently when in the field. Still, I do prefer to lug a laptop between the home and office, rather than have a desktop at each place.  Also laptop does not really cost more than a desktop these days. The computer has been relegated to the role of a tool I use to type documents and to blog. I can imagine that someone whose work did not involve preparing long documents would find even less use for a computer these days.

Newer, more powerful laptop interest me less and less. Pretty much any laptop today will do. I look less at the specifications and more at the keyboard, trackpad and case. Good ergonomic and solidly built, and I could care less whether it had a humble AMD Fusion or a mighty Intel Core i7 inside. The HTC Desire HD cost me 90% more than my previous smartphone acquisition (well actually my wife bought my previous smartphone for me), but next time I buy one I definitely will also be buying on the high end of the spectrum. I wonder if that is just me, or if we will see more consumers spending a bit less on their computers and a bit more on their handheld computers. Tablets will also draw away more money for computer sales, though after being amazed with them for a few months, I really have little interest left in a tablet. The only way I would use one, is if someone gave me one. But I do not see myself buying a tablet... well not at least until it can replace my laptop.

Windows Phone 7 to be No. 2 by 2015?

Gartner predicts Windows Phone 7 will overtake Apple's iPhone in market share and being number two behind Android by 2015:  

This prediction coincides with IDC's own prediction which also find Windows Phone 7 going past iOS and being the second most popular OS by 2015.

While many look at these figures with disbelief, the predictions do make sense. Unless Apple releases a cheaper iPhone it looks like their market share has plateaued. Apple iPhone market share is already amazingly high, with almost 1-in-6 smartphones being an iPhone. You have to consider that Apple does not have any mid-level or budget offering.

As for Windows Phone 7, it does not carry any of the baggage of the Windows desktop operating system. Windows Phone 7 runs fast and has a truly evolutionary Metro user interface. It slow adoption is really because it launched into a market with two established competitors. Had it launched a year earlier, things might have been different. Also like, Apple's iOS there are no mid-level and budget Windows Phone 7 units.  As 1GHz processor make the transition from high end to mid-level phones you should see Windows Phone 7 market share increase. 

The partnership with Nokia will boost Windows Phone 7 sales too. While you wont see Nokia Windows Phone 7 devices in quantity till 2012, one should not discount that fact the many Nokia buyers do not buy it because of the operating system, but simply because it is a Nokia. If only one in four Nokia buyers moves from Nokia-Symbian to Nokia-WP7, Windows Phone 7 will be a serious player by 2012. A predicting what will happen in 2015... that seems a bit too long in the smartphone market. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

We are now on DISQUS

A reader recommended that I use Disqus for my blog, so here it is. The only drawback, is the current 100 comments already made no longer appear on the blog, bit lets see how this system works out.

Could someone post a comment so I can see how this thing works :)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Gingerbread lands in the Philippines - The Sony Ericsson XPERIA Arc X12 is here

The Sony Ericsson XPERIA Arc X12 is now available in the Philippines. It is the first Android 2.3 Phone to be officially offered in the Philippines. The XPERIA Arc is priced at Php26,300, which is a fair price for what it offers. It has a large 4.2-inch 480 x 854 pixel resolution screen, a 1GHz Scorpion processor, Adreno 205 GPU, Qualcomm MSM8255 Snapdragon with 512MB of RAM and 320MB of internal storage with a 8GB SD card included. The Arc comes with an 8MP autofocus shooter with a LED flash, which can do 720p video recording at a smooth 30 fps.  

With its large screen it is likely to be compared with the HTC Desire HD. Both have the same 1GHz Scorpion processor, Adreno 205 GPU and Qualcomm MSM8255 Snapdragon chipset. The Desire HD is priced lower at Php24,500m has a slightly larger 4.3-inch screen, more RAM at 768MB and more internal storage at 1.5GB (both come with 8GB MicroSD Cards). The Arc has a much better camera (even if both have 8MP units), a slightly higher resolution screen (480 x 854 versus 480 x 800) and a larger battery (1500 mAh versus 1230 mAh). The camera being the biggest plus point in its favor as against the Desire HD.

It is not a dual core phone, but it is Gingerbread with an excellent camera (rare for an Android). That should be enough to convince many to pull out their wallets. Want more information before buying? Check out the review of the XPERIA Arc at GSMArena.

Samsung Notebook 900X3A - SammyAir

The Samsung Series 9 is now available in the Philippines. Specifically the model sold here is the  Samsung Notebook 900X3A which has the following specifications:

  • Screen: 13.3" HD 1366 x 768 (WXGA) Superbright Plus (400-nit) LED-backlit TFT LCD screen
  • O.S.: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
  • Processor: Intel Core i5-2537M (1.4GHz with turbo boost up to 2.3GHz, 3MB cache)
  • Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 3000
  • Memory: 4GB DDR3 Memory
  • Storage: 128GB Solid State Drive and a SD card reader
  • Optical drive: None
  • Connectivity: Wifi b/g/n; Bluetooth; USB 3.0 (x1); USB 2.0 (x1); HDMI Port
  • Dimensions: 12.9 x 8.9 x 0.62-0.64 inches
  • Battery: 6-cell (6300 mAh)
  • Weight: 2.88 lbs.

Okay, something like this is not going to be cheap. Priced at Php79,999 it is priced about right for what it offers. We need to do a head-to-head with the MacBook Air soon. Laptop Magazine has a review of the Samsung Notebook Series 9 here.

Nokia E7 - Priced out of the market has posted a review of Nokia's new, but long delayed, E7 recommending that "If you're a die-hard Nokia-fanatic however and you feel comfortable with the OS, then by all means, go for the E7. If you're prepared to jump off the platform however, check out the others." We don't do reviews. Other than the review, you might want to take a look at GSMArena's take on this smartphone.

We really have to take issue with the price. Priced at Php32,000 (but which can be found for as low as Php28,300) it is the second most expensive phone available in the Philippine market, next to Apple's iPhone. It is also priced Php10K more than it's N8 sibling. 

The E7 gives you a larger 4-inch screen (but with the same 360 x 640 resolution), a physical keyboard, but looses the MicroSD Card slot and amazing 12MP camera with a Carl Zeiss lens on the N8. Worse, the E7 comes with a fixed focus camera. For a phone priced a 32K that is just wrong.  As compared to its own sibling the N8,  the E7 is the most expensive 0.5-inches of additional screen and has the most expensive physical keyboard in the market.

For those who want a touchscreen with a physical QWERTY keyboard, the HTC Desire Z available at Php22,500 is the best deal in the market right now. The nearly two year old Motorola Milestone can match the specification of the Nokia E7, and available at less than Php20K is also a better option than the E7. Even the expensive BlackBerry Torch looks like a bargain beside the E7.

With Symbian S^3 on its way out, it is hard to recommend the Nokia E7. It's hardware make it impossible.  A 680MHz processor, 256MB of RAM and 360 x 640 screen resolution does not justify the price. Never mind if Symbian S^3 runs well enough on these specifications. Nokia is just charging too much for what they are offering.
Basically, it is priced badly, even in comparison with other Nokia products. This is too bad, because a physical keyboard does correct a lot of the things that are "wrong" with Symbian S^3. Symbian still has what I think is one of the best SMS and email notification and calendar preview systems. At Php18~20K, it might have been a very interesting proposition. 

Sunday, April 3, 2011

2011 Q2 budget ultraportable laptop buyers guide

2011 brings us the new Intel Sandy Bridge and AMD Fusion platforms which bring all kinds of goodies to laptops, but the one thing that interest us most is the focus on better graphics for lower cost laptops. The new Sandy Bridge powered MacBook Pro's and Acer Aspire 4750G's are making things start to look interesting in the thin-and-light category. Still the new offerings are pretty thin. A couple of new AMD Fusion based ultraportables give new options in the under 4-pound category, but for the most part, ultraportable shoppers will still be looking mostly at 2010 models. The newer  ultraportables, like the U36 reviewed by last January, still cannot be found in the store shelves.   

With a focus on better deals, while waiting for newer models, we are going to take a look at the best ultraportable options under Php35,000. All the models featured have sufficient power for business and multimedia use, and will even allow for some degree of 3D gaming.

Powerful portable - Gateway EC19C10i. The most powerful low cost ultraportable in the market is the 11.6-inch ultraportable. Originally prices at Php37,990, has gone down to  to Php34,999 bundled with a external optical drive or 320GB portable hard drive. 

The Gateway EC19C10i is powered by an Intel Core i3-430UM which runs at 1.20GHz, with turbo boost up to 1.73GHz, and a 3MB cache. Backed by Intel Graphics with 128MB of dedicated memory and 2GB of RAM it is the most powerful ultraportable available at under Php35K, Actually you could spend twice as much and still not get a more powerful 3 pound unit.

In terms of endurance, the six cell 4400 mAh battery is good for 4 hours of real world use, which is the weakest part of the package. The 11.6-inch form factor also allows for a full sized keyboard. The combination of power and portability make the Gateway EC19C10i the best option for those looking for the most bang for the buck, at the cost of endurance.

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.
    Portable daily driver - Acer Aspire TimelineX 3820T. While a 11.6-inch unit which is the smallest size that can accommodate a full size keyboard is a good choice for a daily carry unit, a light 13-inch laptop might be a more balanced solution being light enough for daily carry with a larger screen and track pad.

    The Acer Aspire TimelineX 3820T originally priced at Php34,900 now comes at a lower price of Php31,999. The unit is still bundled with an external optical drive. The new lower price actually comes with higher specifications, the current model sporting a fast Intel Core i3-380M processor and a larger 500 GB hard drive.

    Weighing in at just under 4 pounds and with a battery good for almost 6 hours of use, this is the poor man's version of a MacBook Pro.

    Quick Specs:
        • Screen: 13.3" HD 1366 x 768 (WXGA) high-brightness (200-nit) Acer CineCrysta LED-backlit TFT LCD screen
        • O.S.: Windows 7 Home Basic 64-bit
        • Processor: Intel Core i3-380M (2.53GHz, 3MB cache)
        • Graphics: Intel HD Graphics with 128MB dedicated memory (up to 768 shared memory)
        • Memory: 2GB DDR3 Memory
        • Storage: 500GB SATA Hard Drive
        • Optical drive: None
        • Dimensions: 12.8 x 9.3 x 0.9-1.0 inches
        • Battery: 6-cell 
        • Weight: 3.9 lbs.

        Value option - Acer Aspire TimelineX 1830T. Another 11.6-inch option is the Acer Aspire TimelineX 1830T. The Acer 1830T is nearly identical to the Gateway EC19C10i, Gateway being a subsidiary of Acer. While both the 1830T and the EC19C10i are sold with Intel Core i3, i5 and i7 processors, in the Philippines the Gateway EC19C10i is offered with an i5, while the Acer 1830T is offered with a i3. 

        The Acer 1830T sells at Php29,500, which is more than 5K less than the Gateway EC19C10i. Other than the slower processor, you also get a smaller 250GB hard drive. Between the two, I would take the Acer 1830T since it 5800 mAH battery should give you an additional two hours in battery life.  

        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.  

        Business Chic - Sony Vaio YB. The Sony Vaio YB is powered by a AMD Fusion E350 which has a dual core 1.6GHz processor and ATI 6310 graphics. It's AMD processor is no match for the Intel i3 found in the Acer Aspire 1830T, but its ATI 6310 is more powerful than the Intel HD graphics of the 1830T. At Php26,990 is the cheapest Sony laptop. It price does not make it a value for money option, but it does carry the prestigious Vaio branding.

        Other than the price, the 4-cell (3500 mAh) battery has less capacity than our other options and but should be enough to provide the promised 4 hour battery life. The battery is the biggest chink in its armor. Still, it is a very nicely built unit, and is the best looking unit in our round-up. That will be enough to convince many to buy it.  

        Quick Specs:
          • Screen: 11.6" HD 1366 x 768 (WXGA) LED-backlit TFT LCD screen
          • O.S.: Windows 7 Starter
          • Processor: AMD Dual Core E350 (1.60GHz, 1MB cache)
          • Graphics: AMD Radeon HD 6310
          • 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 (3500 mAh)
          • Weight: 3.2 lbs.

          Budget choice - HP Pavilion DM1 - 3016AU The HP Pavillon DM1 can be had for as low Php21,500 preloaded and has similar specifications as the pricier Sony Vaio YB. It also comes loaded with a higher version of Windows, with Windows 7 Home Basic and comes with a 6-cell battery. It makes it a excellent option for some looking for a capable but low cost ultraportable. Where it disappoints is build quality and weight. 

          Quick Specs:
            • Screen: 11.6" HD 1366 x 768 (WXGA) LED-backlit TFT LCD screen
            • O.S.: Windows 7 Starter
            • Processor: AMD Dual Core E350 (1.60GHz, 1MB cache)
            • Graphics: AMD Radeon HD 6310
            • 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 8.4 x 0.83-1.2 inches
            • Battery: 6-cell 
            • Weight: 3.5 lbs.

            Friday, April 1, 2011

            April 2011 Smartphone buyers guide

            Prices updated on April 7, 2011

            The dual core phone are not here yet...,

            No high end phones...

            We are not recommending you buy anything over Php25,000 unless it comes with two cores. Right now, we have nothing to recommend.

            Best mid-range smartphones in the market - Samsung Galaxy S i9000 and SL i9003 and the HTC Desire

            1. Samsung Galaxy S i9000. With Php30,990 Samsung Galaxy i9000 now being availale at Php23,250 it knocks our favorite HTC Desire HD off our list. The Desire HD has further gone down in price, now at just Php24,000. Buth the Desire HD's 4.3-inch screen and 768MB of RAM is not enough to beat the 4-inch Super AMOLED display, superior SuperVR graphics and the 16GB of internal storage of the Galaxy S. The Galaxy S biggest weakness is that it has no flash for the camera, which is kind of perplexing for such an expensive phone, but since the Desire HD's camera is nothing to crow about, this won't save it either. 

            And yes, this phone is getting Gingerbread. 

            2. Samsung Galaxy SL i9003. The Samsung Galaxy SL i9003, the lower end replacement of the Samsung Galaxy S, is still an amazing phone and our second best choice. Available now an evewn lower for a price of Php18,700 this is the best value for money proposition smartphone right now, bar none. 

            The Galaxy SL has a 4-inch capacitative touchscreen with 480 x 800 pixel resolution S-LCD  screen The screen is protected by the near scratch proof Gorilla Glass. Inside, the Galaxy SL i9003 is powered by a 1GHz Cortex A8 centrial processing unit and PowerVR SGX530 graphical processing unit. Basically, it is a Samsung Galaxy S with no AMOLED display and a slower GPU at a much lower price.

            Despite being a new release, it unfortunately still comes installed with Froyo (Android 2.2) instead of Gingerbread. The Galaxy SL 5MP camera is decent and can take 720p video, but like the Galaxy S still has no flash. The case is still made of plastic. The missing flash and all plastic case, will not stop it from becoming the best mid level Android, and the vest value smartphone in the market right now.

            3. HTC Desire. The HTC Desire is an Android powered smartphone with a 3.7-inch screen and is powered by a first generation 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor and equipped with 512GB of RAM. This phone is the oldest model on our list. 

            It also come equipped with a 5MP camera with a LED flash. It is regarded by many as the best smartphone for 2010The HTC Desire is running Android 2.2, Froyo. But HTC has committed to give this phone a Gingerbread update by June 2011 so the phone will be current for 2011.

            At the lower price of Php19,500 price with a HTC warranty, we think it is still a viable option despite, the lower priced Samsung Galaxy SL i9003. But make no mistake about it, the Samsung Galaxy SL i9003 is the better deal. You should only consider the HTC Desire if you really need to have a flash with your camera and if you really like the HTC Sense UI. If not, get the Samsung Galaxy SL i9003.

            Best budget smartphones in the market - Samsung Galaxy Ace, LG Optimus One P500 and Samsung Galaxy Mini

            The budget class just got much more interesting.

            1. The Samsung S5830 Galaxy Ace. The Galaxy Ace combines a 3.5 inch 320 x 480 screen with a low Php13,990 asking price. Inside is an 800MHz ARM 11 processor and Adreno 200 GPU. The ARM 11 processor means no flash support in the browser. Internal storage is a scant 158MB but you do get a 2GB MicroSD card with the package.  You get all the usual wireless connections. At the back, you get a 5MP auto focus camera with a LED flash.  It runs Android 2.2, Froyo, and not the latest Gingerbread release. But this is the budget category after all.

            But lets go back again... it has a 3.5 inch screen. That is the same size as many of the higher end phones in the market. With touchscreen phones, screen size is everything. With the 3.5 inch screen, this budget phone does not scream cheap.

            2. HTC Wildfire. At the new price of much lower price pf Php12,000 the HTC Wildfire makes our list.  The HTC Wildfire has a 3.2 inch TFT capacitive touchscreen display with a 240 x 320 pixels screen resolution. The lower screen resolution is the main point against it, with both the Samsung Galaxy Ace and LG Optimus One having crisper displays. The Wildfire runs also still runs on Android 2.1 (Eclair), but is upgradeable to Android 2.2. 

            Inside it does have the best processor if the budget class. The Wildfire is powered by a 528 MHz Qualcomm processor, which is slower than the ones found in the Galaxy Ace and Optimus One, but this is actually a higher class processor. Clock speed is not everything. The 528 MHz Qualcomm supports flash, and this is the only budget phone which supports flash in the browser. It has a good amount of RAM at  384 MB. Internal storage is also the highest at 512MB. Another good reason choose the Wildfire is the camera. It has a decent camera, a 5 MP auto focus unit with a LED flash. The led flash plus the nicely built case and building quality makes it look and feel more like a high end phone. 

            3. LG Optimus One P500. For Php11,000 you get a phone running Android 2.2 (Froyo), with a 3.2 inch capacitive touchscreen display with 320 x 480 pixel resolution, a 600MHz ARM 11 processor, 419MB 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 micro USB port and as well as a built in GPS transceiver with A-GPS support. All-in-all not a bad package, for 11K. 

            4. Samsung Galaxy Mini. Nothing great here. A 3.15-inch 240 x 320 screen, a 600MHz ARM 11 processor and Adreno 200 GPU. Internal storage is a scant 160MB but you do get a 2GB MicroSD card with the package.  You get all the usual wireless connections. At the back, you get a 3.15MP fixed focus camera.  It runs Android 2.2, Froyo...

            Not a lot to get excited about, but more than enough for the Php8,990 asking price... this thing will fly out of the shelves. There are a lot of 2.8-inch offering coming out in the market at less than 8K. But with the Mini at just 1K more, we recommend going for the larger 3.15-inch screen. 

            Need a physical QWERTY keyboard?

            Some of us cannot make the transition to pure touchscreen, and the manufacturers are happy to meet our needs:

            1. HTC Desire Z.  HTC offers a 3.7-inch Android with one killer feature, a phyical keyboard with an innovative z-hinge. While some have felt that the z-hinge may be flimsy, so far no horror stories have come up about someone breaking one. The z-hinge is innovative because instead of sliding the keyboard straight out which results in a flat keyboard, it "lifts" the phone over the keyboard allowing for raised keys. Basically, is it is the best slide out keyboard I have ever tried.

            Equipped with a 3.7 inch 480 x 800 resolution screen, a 800MHz Qualcomm processor and 512GB or RAM and 1.5GB of memory with a bundled 8GB MicroSD card. The price of this one varies wildly from seller to seller. But you can find it Php22,000 with an official HTC Warranty. 

            The screen is smaller than the Desire HD or Galaxy S, but since the keyboard does not clutter the screen, it does give you more effective real-estate.

            2. Samsung Galaxy 551. Another physical QWERTY option is the Samsung Galaxy 551, priced at Php11,900, 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 and 256MB of RAM.

            BlackBerry users

            A smartphone is only as good as the services supporting it, if you rely on BlackBerry services...

            BlackBerry Curve 9300. A QWERTY messenger is still todays standard for a business phone, and BlackBerry's still make the best messaging phones. BlackBerry's top of the line QWERTY messaging phone is the Bold and the Torch. The Bold and Torch would set you back between 21,000 to Php28,000. Priced at Php12,950, the Curve is the best choice. You lose the higher resolution screen, get a lower end camera and a host of other features. But the BlackBerry Curve 9300 will allow you to avail of the BES or BIS service, or avail of the BlackBerry Messaging and Social plans offered by local service providers. Basically, that is what you get a Blackberry for. Its 90% of a Blackberry Bold, at 60% of the price.

            If you want to spend more, it is probably best to just save the difference, and buy the BlackBerry PlayBook when it comes out in April. The PlayBook will make a nice companion to your Curve. 

            Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...