Saturday, March 31, 2012

Should you buy a 3G tablet?

A year ago I would have said no if you already had a smartphone on a data connection. The reason was back than all we had were time based 3G internet or Php1,200 unlimited plans. Time based 3G is not really suitable for Android, Apple, BlackBerry and Windows smartphones which really cannot utilize all their features unless connected to the internet. Maintain two Php1,200 gets really expensive.

Since you needed a unlimited plan for your phone to really use it as a smartphone, the tablet was best used on WiFi. Still, hot spot hunting is a pain.

Things have changed since than. Globe Telecom and Smart Communications offer volume based data plans. 

Globe Telecom has very nice volume based data plans, unfortunately they are available only to postpaid subscribers. 
  • Php99 for 50 MB for 30 days
  • Php299 for 300 MB for 30 days
  • Php499 for 1 GB for 30 days
Smart volume plans are as follows:
  • Php300 for 250 MB for 30 days
  • Php500 for 500 MB for 30 days
  • Php750 for 1 GB for 30 days
  • Php995 for 2GB for 30 days
Smarts plans cost more, but are available both on pre-paid and post paid.

With volume data plans you can get volume data plans for both your tablet and smartphone or get a unlimited plan on one device and a volume data plan on a smartphone. 
There are some activities that consume large amounts of data, like downloading or uploading video, music, pictures and apps and even web browsing. But if you use data for email, social networking (with data friendly apps), running instant messengers, getting weather updates, navigation (it is advisable to cache maps using WiFi), checking for nearby restaurants and movie schedules and reading the news, 250-500 MB should be enough for the typical user. Volume data is enough on smartphones, especially if you already have a tablet.

The tablet would what you are more likely to be use while web browsing or watching streaming video, so I would get the unlimited data plan on the tablet. In addition, the tablet makes a better hot spot than a phone which you can use as a WiFi route for a laptop or even your phone. If you use your phone as a WiFi hotspot, you run the risk of running down your battery even faster. If you phone battery goes low, your communications goes out. A tablet, well if the battery runs down it runs down.

Looking a 3G tablet in this light, it can be your portable computer and a portable router, basically a super sized "MyFi" device.

A second try at the Smartbook?

In 2009 Qualcomm announced the Smartbook, which was essentially a ARM based laptop with built in 3G and GPS. Smartbooks would have all day battery life, ultra thin and weigh in at a light 2 pounds.

Lenovo Skylight - One of the first Smartbook concept designs.

The first Qualcomm initiative failed the main reason being the absence of a viable operating system. But things are changing. Windows is coming to ARM before the end of the year. While Microsoft is working hard with manufacturers to come out with a successful Windows 8 tablet launch before the end of the year, PCWorlds reports Qualcomm is trying to revive its Smartbook.

What could these be like? Think 11.6-inch MacBook Air or Asus Zenbook X21type laptops, running Windows 8 and priced at about Php20,000 or so.  Most likely these would be touchscreen devices too.

While Apple has said they have tried touchscreen on laptops and Steve Jobs said in 2010: “We’ve done tons of user testing on this, and it turns out it doesn’t work. Touch surfaces don’t want to be vertical." 

Apple seems to have changed its mind on this, with Apple's own smart covers highlighting the ability to adjust the angle of the Apple iPad  for greater utility. 

Many would say the Smartbook already exists, with the successful Tegra powered Asus Transformer series, and in that sense they would be correct. 

By October 2012 we will be seeing one of these running Windows 8.

But I think there is still room for the Smartbook. I really do not value the ability to separate the tablet from the keyboard dock. By keeping the two together, you could move the battery back to the base of the unit, giving it better balance. It would also be nice to see this concept in larger 11 to 13 inch sizes.

Will Facebook intergration and navigation make Nokia and HTC Windows Phone a hit in the Philippines?

The killer feature of Windows Phone 7.5 for the Philippines is the best Facebook integration of any mobile operating system. The killer application which Nokia phones have is Nokia Drive, Nokia's free navigation app provides offline turn-by-turn Navigation. Google Maps on Android and Apple iPhones provide online voice guided turn by turn navigation in many countries, the Philippines is not one of them. In the Philippines Google Maps does provide turn by turn navigation but it not voice guided. This makes it useful enough for planning route before starting a trip, but unless you have a co-pilot in the car, it is awkward, and even dangerous to use once driving. 

HTC in a move to match Nokia's offering HTC is now offering offline voice guided turn by turn navigation through it free Locations app. The HTC Locations app uses TomTom maps. Fortunately, TomTom maps covers the Philippines. 

While the top of the line Windows Phones hardware cannot match the latest Android phones in terms of hardware and are still far behind the Android and the iPhone in term of the  app ecosystem, this does give it a killer feature which Android and iPhones do not provide unless you are willing to spend a few thousand pesos Navigation software. 

The question is, will having the best Facebook integration and the best free Navigation services for the Philippines make Nokia and HTC Windows Phones a hit in the Philippines?

Update. While the HTC Locations app is free and works well for navigation, the Philippine map is only free for one month. After that you have to pay for it at US$5 a month, US$20 a year or US$30 for unlimited use. Also the database of establishments appears to be outdated and displays only a few establishment. I have to thank the Windows Phone users group at TipidCP for the feedback.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Is it time to upgrade your two year old phone? A look at the first half of 2010.

Most carriers lock you in for two years, and a smartphone is acknowledge to have a two year life cycle by most people. Lets examine this and see how true this is. If you purchased a top of the line smartphone in Q1 or Q2 of 2010, it was a bit tricky. If you bought a Windows Mobile device or a Nokia or other Symbian phone, the Windows Phone 7 which replaced Windows Mobile and which Nokia adopted as their next generation platform pretty much brought your devices to an early end of life in terms of functionality. 

A Nokia N97 or N900, while still being fairly impressive hardware wise, just do not have the kind of app support that would make a user happy. As impressive as the hardware is on a HTC HD2 or Samsung Omnia i8000, Windows Mobile has been dead in the water for over a year now. 

Apple has done it fine in supporting this phone.
The hardware was just  not cutting edge enough when released.
Some do fare better than others. On the Apple side, getting an iPhone at this time two years ago was probably the worst time to get one. An iPhone 3GS with its mid-resolution 320 x 480 display and nearly useless 2 MP camera was good in 2009 when it was released, the iPhone 4 released in June 2010 with the 640 x 960 display and decent 5 MP camera would have made me want to upgrade ASAP. Still, it will run the latest version of iOS so you cannot blame Apple for lack of support. It was just that in 2010 smartphone hardware would make a dramatic leap forward. If I still have one of these now, I would consider it worth the money, but would really consider an upgrade at this point. 

Still looks current today for a BlackBerry. Still that might tell
you more about how little progress they have made rather than how good the phone is.

If you have happened to get a BlackBerry Bold 9700, newer BlackBerry's have improved, but I would not replace my Bold 9700 with a newer BlackBerry. If you like QWERTY messengers, the newer models really do not look all that compelling. I would either wait till the next generation of BB 10 phones, or if you could give up BlackBerry services and the physical QWERTY keyboard, I would go with a new Android, iOS or Windows Phone device. Still the BlackBerry Bold 9700 was a top of the line phone, which has proven to be worth its hefty asking price.  

Released six months after the Apple iPhone 3GS,
the Nexus One incorporated pretty much all the cutting edge hardware
 available (except for coming with a mediocre camera). This keeps it a viable choice till today.

On the Android side of things you would have the Motorola Milestone, Google Nexus One, HTC Desire or Sony Ericsson Xperia X10. The Nexus One, Desire and Xperia X10 with their 3.7-inch to 4-inch WVGA displays, 1 GHz processors and 512 MB of RAM they actually match the specifications of a mid-level Android phone today. Among these the the Xperia X10 feels the most current with a 4-inch screen and 8MP camera. The Milestone will still do, but the 256MB of RAM will give problems in some games that could otherwise run fine with its processor and display. Still that is only an issue for a few.

While none of these former Android flagships have been upgraded to Android 4.0, they all now run Android 2.3 and can run 99%+ of the Android apps. Only some demanding games which need dual core processors are out of reach. I would probably hold on to these phones a bit longer and jump straight to a quad-core or Qualcomm Krait before upgrading.

Most flagship phones available in the market two years ago, except for those whose operating systems have gone the way of the Dodo, still make reasonable propositions for continued use today.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Best deal on a Windows Phone 7 device: HTC 7 Mozart v. Nokia Lumia 800 v. Nokia Lumia 710

We now have the Windows smartphones with support from carriers. Smart Communications has the circa 2010 HTC 7 Mozart and Nokia Lumia 710. Globe Telecom has the most desirable Windows phone device, with the Nokia Lumia 800. 

All three Windows Phones have a 3.7-inch 480 x 800 displays, with the main distinctions being internal storage and the camera. The Nokia Lumia 800 with it 8 MP camera with the Carl Zeiss lens and 16 GB of internal storage is the best phone among the three. 

HTC 7 Mozart. Despite being the oldest there is nothing really wrong with the HTC 7 Mozart, but being offered free at Smart's Data Plan 3000 and All-in Plan 2500, it has to compete with much better hardware. At Unlimited Data Plan 3000 the Apple iPhone 4 32 GB looks like a much better choice, and at All-in Plan 2500 the HTC Sensation XE also is much more compelling than the HTC 7 Mozart.  

The HTC 7 Mozart is no longer available from HTC dealers, but on the grey market you can find it for Php12,350 from Widget City. While this comes with a service warranty rather than an HTC parts and service warranty, it is priced low enough to recommend even without an official warranty. 

Nokia Lumia 800.

April 18, 2012 update: Globe Telecom has revised the Nokia Lumia 800 pricing. It is now free a Plan 1799.

The Nokia Lumia 800 is the best of the three Windows Phone devices, but the plans are less compelling. It is offered free at Globe's Unli Surf Combo 2499, same as the Apple iPhone 4S 16 GB. At Unli Surf Combo Plan 1799, the iPhone 4S 16 GB would actually cost less, at Php4,800 versus Php7,200 for the iPhone 4S.

The problem is that we do not recommend Globe Unli Surf Combo Plan 2499. Instead we feel that Globe Unli Surf Combo is the sweet spot on Globe Data Plans. Rather than Pay 2499 a month a get a free phone, I would rather get Unli Surf Plan 1799 and add one of the Globe unlimited text, call or text and call boosters.  This would give you a monthly service fee of Php2,148 to Php2,398 a month and pay a small cash out for the phone. This would give a better value for money proposition Globe Unli Surf Combo Plan 2499 in order opinion.

The problem is if you agree with this proposition, the iPhone 4S look like a better deal at Php4,800 rather than a Nokia Lumia 800 at Php7,200. The iPhone 4S does have better specifications and more apps available. At My Super Plan, the Nokia Lumia 800 is much cheaper than an iPhone, but without a substantial (300-500 MB a month or so volume data plan) a smartphone really is not all that smart. Basically, without a unlimited or volume data plan you will turn most the phones features off and turn them on manually like you would do with a laptop when you want to check something.  So when we look at the Globe Nokia Lumia 800, we look at it with how good an option it is a Globe 999 plans. 

First lets look at the Globe Nokia Lumia 800 on a Unli Surf Combo Plan 999. At this plan you pay Php500 a month for the phone for two years, bringing up you monthly bill to Php1,499. That gets you unlimited data but you pay for all your calls and SMS. Make 2-3 minutes of calls per day and send out 10 SMS messages and you are now up to about Php2,200 a month which makes our Plan 199 + Booster option a better deal.

Second lets look at the Globe Nokia Lumia 800 on a My Super Plan Plan 999.  At this plan you pay Php500 a month for the phone for two years, bringing up you monthly bill to Php1,499. If I add 300 MB of data a month, and your bill goes up to Php1799. 300 MB of data is enough to keep your phone running 24/7 on 3G with data efficient apps and if you do not do any web browsing and uploading of pictures. Adding 1 GB of data will be enough. Even on our unlimited data plans on two phones which are connected 24/7 to 3G an getting email, with instant messengers enabled and getting social networking  updates, we really never go back over 1 GB a month. If you plan to use your mobile phone as a modem for a personal computer, 1 GB wont be enough though.  In any event  bring up the bill to Php1,998 a month.

Nokia Lumia 710. Smart is offering the Nokia Lumia 710 is being offered at Php450 a month for two years on its Special Edition Data Plan 1000. This is a pretty good plan:

- 500 minutes calls to Smart and TNT number.
- 500 SMS to all networks.
- 1 GB of data.

Your month bill will be Php1,450 a month and if you are willing to keep you calls within Smart network, use SMS to communicate with Globe and Sun subscribers, you should be able to keep your bill to Php1,450 a month.

The Winner? After considering plans, we thing the best deal on a new Windows Phone 7 device is the Nokia Lumia 710 from Smart. 

As nice as the Nokia Lumia 800 is, once we start looking at Plans which cost Php2,000 a month the Apple iPhone 4S, Samsung Galaxy Nexus and Samsung Galaxy Note are what we recommend instead.

April 18, 2012 update: Given the the Nokia Lumia 800 is now available from Globe Telecom at Plan 1799 that with unlimited data and 800 minutes consumable, we would think that it is an equally  good choice as the Nokia Lumia 710 from Smart Communications. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Nokai Lumia 710 available for pre-order from Smart Communications

Smart unveiled the details of its plan/pricing for it Nokia Lumia 710. The phone will cost you Php450 a month for two years (Total = Php10,800) with Smart's Special Edition Data Plan:
  • 1 GB of Data
  • 500 SMS to all networks
  • 500 minutes of voices calls within the Smart/TNT network.
You can pre-order the phone at this link.

The Samsung Galaxy Note is hot: Five million shipped in five months

When we first saw the Samsung Galaxy Note, we had a lot of reservations. While we loved the 5.3-inch 800 x 1280 Super AMOLED display, we felt it was a bit too big to be a smartphone. As a handheld gaming device we did like 178 gram weight compared to a 7-inch tablet which weighs twice as much. We loved the fact that it came with a stylus. Still we were not sure whether this phone cum hand held tablet had a place in the market, especially after the modest sales of the Dell Streak.

With 5 million shipped it looks like while Samsung has been having a hard time gaining traction in the tablet market, they have successful created a new category, the Note (or "phablet" as other have labeled it).

At Php29,000 or free at Smart Data Plan 2000 it does offer a lot of phone (and a little of tablet) for the money

Sony Xperia S - The new king of the Android Hill?

The Sony Xperia S will be hitting store shelves shortly and it has a fairly impressive kit, missing only the quad-core processor most flagship Android will be sporting this year.

Quick Specs:
  • Operating system: Android 2.3 Gingerbread with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich committed
  • Display: 4.3-inch (1280 x 720 pixel resolution) 
  • Processor: Dual-core 1.5GHz on a  Snapdragon MSM8260 chipset
  • Graphics: Adreno 220 GPU
  • RAM: 1GB
  • Storage: 32GB non-expandable
  • Primary camera: 12-megapixel Exmor-R
  • Secondary camera: 1.3-megapixel secondary
  • Video: 1080p HD recording at 30fps
  • 3G Data: HSDPA, 14.4 Mbps; HSUPA, 5.8 Mbps
  • WiFi: 802.11 b/g/n
  • Bluetooth: Yes, w/ A2DP
  • HDMI out: Yes
  • GPS: Yes
  • Battery: Li-Ion 1750mAh
  • MSRP: Php27,990
The main competitor for the Xperia S is the Google/Samsung Galaxy Nexus both featuring the latest Android phone standard, the 1280 x 720 pixel resolution display. From a price standpoint the Sony Xperia S is prices at Php27,990 unlocked as opposed to the Smart locked Php31,200 Galaxy Nexus. 

Despite sporting a lower price, it comes with a better camera, double the internal storage of the Galaxy Nexus and has HDMI out. The Xperia S is also not as slim as the ultra slim 8.9 mm of the Galaxy Nexus but overall is a handier package.
  • Xperia S: 128 x 64 x 10.6 mm 
  • Galaxy Nexus: 135.5 x 67.9 x 8.9 mm
The Google Nexus has a larger 4.65-inch display, but part of that screen is occupied by the on-screen buttons so it is not really much larger than the 4.3-inch display on the Xperia S which has dedicated capacitive buttons. The main advantage of the Galaxy Nexus in the display is not size, but the power saving nature of the Super AMOLED display on the Galaxy  Nexus

The Galaxy Nexus also supports HSDPA+ 21.1 Mbps connectivity as against the slower 14.4 Mbps connectivity of the Xperia S. The Galaxy Nexus runs Android 4.0, while the Xperia S still runs Android 2.3. An update to Android 4.0 for the Xperia S is promised. Finally, we do prefer user replaceable batters, like the one on the Galaxy Nexus.

Comparing the Xperia S and the Galaxy Nexus, neither one dominates the other. We also have no word yet on carrier plans for the Xperia S. But those wanting a unlocked phone will of course prefer the Xperia S, and it does not hurt that it is cheaper unlocked the the Galaxy Nexus locked. The 32 GB or storage and 12 MP camera are also very hard to ignore. If I had to pick one of these two, I would go with the Xperia S. I don't mind waiting for software updates but a software update cannot double phone storage and improve a camera.

As against older models like the Samsung  Galaxy S II, the 1280 x 720 pixel resolution display, 32 GB of storage and 12 MP camera will make it a better choice even if the Galaxy S II is 2K cheaper. 

720p is the new standard for Android flagships and with the coming of the Xperia S, we wont be recommending Android flagship phones without it. When the Galaxy Nexus came out we, had a 720p display but had to make compromises with a decent 5 MP camera with 16 GB of non-expandable storage. While I love the 720p display, the Galaxy S II had key advantages in the form of substantially better camera and 16 GB of expandable storage (up to 48 GB with a MicroSD card). The Xperia S gives us the 720p display with less compromises on storage and with camera than can match the excellent 8 MP shooter on the Galaxy S II.

Apple iPhone 4S versus Nokia Lumia 800 @Globe

April 18, 2012 update: Globe Telecom has revised the Nokia Lumia 800 pricing. It is now free a Plan 1799.

Globe Telecom is now offering both the Apple iPhone 4S and the Nokia Lumia 800 to its subscribers. The iPhone 4S runs on iOS and comes with iCloud. The Lumia 800 runs on Windows Phone 7.5 with Sky Drive for cloud storage. These two phones are similar in terms of size catering to those wanting a mid-sized phone. Both phones are also offered free at Globe's Plan 2499. With similar sizes and pricing, the phones directly compete with each other. Which of these two mobile is best for you? 

Display.  The iPhone 4S has a 3.5-inch IPS display with a 640 x 960 pixel resolution. The Lumia 800 has a larger 3.7-inch screen with a lower 480 x 800 resolution. The Lumia 800 uses AMOLED technology to power its display.

Winner: Draw. While the higher of the iPhone 4S is great, the larger display of the Lumia 800 is actually more functional in my book.

Power. The iPhone 4S is powered by a dual core 800 MHz Cortex-A9 processor,  PowerVR SGX543MP2 graphics processing unit and 512 MB of RAM. The Lumia 800 has comes with a single core processor, though clocked at a higher 1.4 GHz, with Adreno 205 graphics an 512 MB of RAM.

Winner: iPhone 4S. While the faster single core may actually be faster than the lower clocked dual core in some tasks. The PowerVR graphics of the iPhone 4S is faster than the Adreno graphics of the Lumia 800. In the end it really does not matter, both phones and their software being optimized for their hardware. Still we would give the edge to the iPhone because it can do 1080p video recording and playback, while the Lumia 800 is limited to 720p.

Storage. The iPhone 4S comes in 16 GB, 32 GB and 64 GB variants. The Lumia 800 is only offered with 16 GB. The storage of both phones is non expandable. 
Winner: iPhone 4S gives options for more storage. The Lumia 800 does not.

Camera. Both phones comes with 8 MP primary camera's. As mentioned earlier, only the iPhone 4S can do 1080p video recording, the Lumia 800 being limited to 720p.The Lumia 800 has a dual LED flash, while the iPhone 4S has a single LED flash. Only the iPhone 4S comes with a front camera. 

Winner: iPhone 4S. It can recorded higher quality video and does a better job on still too.

Connectivity. In this regard both phones disappoint a bit, since they support circa 2010 HSDPA 14.4 Mbps connectivity and not the faster HSPA+ 21,1 Mbps standard you see on the top Android phones. 

Winner: Draw.

Social Networking Integration. The iOS 5 on the iPhone 4S integrates Twitter into the OS. Windows 7.5 on the Lumia 800 integrated Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn in its People Hub (i.e. Contacts). You can even create Facebook "Groups" in the People Hub to better manage your FaceBook updates/ FaceBook Messaging is even integrated into the Windows 7.5 SMS application.

Winner: Lumia 800. Windows Phone 7.5 leads all when it comes to Social Networking Integration. 

Navigation. For Navigation the iPhone 4S relies of Google Maps and Navigation. While this is great, it lacks two things. It does not work with 3G active and it does not offer voice guided turn-by-turn navigation in the Philippines. The Lumai 800 comes with NDrive which works just using GPS and is voice guided.

Winner: Lumia 800. NDrive works  better in the Philippines. 

App stores. There are over 425,000 apps for the iPhone. There are over 70,000 apps for Windows Phone 7.5. While 70,000 apps should have been enough, there are still some major titles missing. 
Winner: iPhone 4S. More is still better.

Pricing. Pricing varies with the Plan type.

Unli Surf Combo 2499

-Both free. 

Unli Surf Combo 1799 

- iPhone 4S: Php4,800
- The Lumia 800: Php7,420
Unli Surf Combo 999

- iPhone 4S: Php23,976
- The Lumia 800: Php12,000

My Super Plan  2499

- iPhone 4S: Php10,800
- The Lumia 800: Free

My Super Plan  1799

- iPhone 4S: Php17,499
- The Lumia 800: Php7,200

My Super Plan  999

- iPhone 4S: Php23,976
- The Lumia 800: Php12,000

Summary. Ultimately the iPhone 4S offers more better hardware and more apps, although it is really only in gaming where the more apps counts, The Lumia 800 offers better social networking and navigation . 

Globe seems to be positioning the iPhone 4S as a much better choice at the Unli Surf Combo 1799 and 2499 plans where it won't cost you more than a Lumia 800. On My Super Plan, or are at Unli Surf Combo Plan 999 the Lumia 800 comes in 10K+ cheaper and becomes a better value for money proposition.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Alcatel One Touch Glory X 918N

Alcatel has launched a variant of its One Touch Glory 918N Android smartphone. The Alcatel One Touch Glory 918N is an entry level Android 2.3 smartphone which combines a decent 3.2-inch, 320 x 480 pixel resolution display, with its dual sim capability, all for a very reasonable Php5,990. The new version is the Glory X, which basically is the same phone with interchangeable cases. Each phones comes with one black case and one colored case. This does make the phone a tad bit larger and increases the price to Php6,199.

I prefer the matte rubbery finish of the plain Glory over the glossy cases of the Glory X. But if you want something with a bit more flash, the Glory X is the one for you. Might also save you the need to buy a protective case for the phone since you can always swap the second case when it starts to show excessive wear and tear.

Alcatel One Touch Sapphire HD 995

Alcatel is moving upmarket with its Android phones with the announcement of the Alcatel One Touch Sapphire HD 995. This phone is slated to hit the market in April. The Alcatel Sapphire HD packs a 4.3-inch WVGA (480 x 800) display, 512 MB of RAM paired with a 1.4 GHz processor on a Qualcomm MSM8255 chipset,  1 GB of user storage, a 5 MP camera with a LED flash, 720p video recording, HDMI out and HSDPA 14.4 mbps connectivity. The main issue we have is that for a newly released phone it comes with Android 2.3.5 (Gingerbread) instead of Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich). We have no word on whether this phone will get an update to Android 4.0.

Priced at Php13,999, this phone competes at the mid-level with the LG Optimus Black, Sony Ericsson Xperia neo V and the soon to be released Huawei Honor. This segments is getting rather crowded.  The Php13,999 Huawei Honor looks like it will dethrone the LG Optimus Black from our best smartphones list. The Sony Ericsson Xperia neo V still offers good value since it is scheduled to be updated to Android 4.0  and being the cheapest at a bit over Php12,000.  The Alcatel Sapphire HD still stands out in this crowded market by offering the largest screen in the at the price range, at 4.3-inches.

Commentary on PCWorlds: "Not So Hot: New iPad Heat Levels Comparable to Android Tablets"

Everyone has been testing the temperatures which the new third generation Apple iPad can reach. PCWorld has conducted its own set of tests in the article "Not So Hot: New iPad Heat Levels Comparable to Android Tablets", comparing the new iPad with the iPad 2 and two Android tablets.

PCWorlds take on it is that it is no big deal since a lot of electronic devices run that hot, like laptops for example. We would have to disagree with PCWorld. They compared the new iPad which ran at 97 degrees Fahrenheit with a Apple MacBook Pro which run at 108 degrees Fahrenheit and Toshiba R700 which ran at 112 degrees Fahrenheit. With all due respect to PCWorld, these two are not typical of most laptops. 

The MacBook Pro really does hit high temps near the exhaust, a review by LaptopMag of the current model shows it running at 109 degrees Fahrenheit. But that is not the typical level of heat you can expect from an a laptop, the MacBook Pro's do hit higher temperatures than your typical laptop.

LaptopMag tests of the Apple MacBook Air show the 11-inch version hitting a top temp of 97 degrees Fahrenheit and the 13-inch version hitting a top temp of 95 degrees Fahrenheit.  More pedestrian offerings like the low cost 11.6-inch AMD E-450 powered Lenovo ThinkPad X130e was tested by LaptopMag to run at 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Dell's XPS 13 Ultrabook was tested to hit 93 degrees Fahrenheit

Basically, saying something is not hot, because several other electronic devices run hotter does not make much sense. The MacBook Pro's and Toshiba R700 are not par for the course for laptops. They are on the hotter end of the scale.

The PCWorld article also fails to acknowledge that MacBook Pro's and Toshiba R700 are actively cooled with a fan which diverts the heat from the processor and other components to an exhaust vent. In the case of tablets, they are passively cooled so that the heat stay right on top of the processor, graphics processing, unit memory and other components.

Another issue is PCWorld concludes the new iPads temps are "comparable" to Android Tablets. Titles of articles can be misleading, and "Not So Hot: New iPad Heat Levels Comparable to Android Tablets" looks misleading to me. 

Looking at PCWorlds own chart above, would show that this conclusion is wrong. The Transformer Prime runs substantially cooler  than the new iPad, and if you average the results (79-80-98F versus 85-92-97F) so does the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 LTE. Actually, the Android Tablets temps are more in line with that of the iPad 2. Looks at the figures when operating (playing a game). At one point on the device the Galaxy Tab 10.1 was measured to be 1 degree Fahrenheit higher than the new iPad, and this appears to be the basis of the articles statement. But the Galaxy Tab 10.1 it was cooler by 6 and 12 degrees on the other surfaces of the tablet measured. 

The new Third Generation iPad runs substantially hotter than the previous iPad version, and so far no one has tested a tablet that runs hotter. The heat generated by the iPad 2 may be an issue or may not be an issue. Only time will tell. The new iPad won't melt in your hands, or burn up on its own, but the additional heat will degrade its battery and components faster than previous tablets. How fast it deteriorates is really the question.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Nokia Lumia 800 now on pre-order from Globe Telecom

Unfortunately, it looks like it might be tough going for the Nokia Lumia 800. The phone is being offered for free at Plan 2499, which is the same plan at which the Apple iPhone 4S is offered for free. At lower plans, it actually cost more than the iPhone 4S. 

April 18, 2012 update: Globe Telecom has revised the Nokia Lumia 800 pricing. It is now free a Plan 1799.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook

A few years ago Dell built some of the best notebooks in the market. The D-series notebooks were solid business machines which could rivaled or bested Lenovo's Thinkpads. The Dell XPS were on the cutting edge of notebook design and performance. And then, there were the amazing Dell Adamo laptops. But something happened along the way, and the Dell brand started to become stale and boring. That is about to change. With the new Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook, Dell is back.

The Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook has a 13.3-inch display, like most other of the new Intel powered Utlrabooks. Let's get three things out of the way. The Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook does not have a 1600 x 900 high resolution display like the Asus  Zenbook, but a more typical 1366 x 768 display. It also does not have a SD Card reader, unlike most of its competitors. Last, it has a mini display port instead of a more convenient HDMI port. If you can get past those three things, it may be the best Ultrabook for you.

Size. The Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook is a 13.3-inch laptop in the frame of a 12.5-inch laptop. Combined with a typical weight of of 2.99 pounds, we think this makes the Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook the most portable of the bunch.

Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook -12.4 x 8.1 x 0.71 inches
Asus Zenbook UX31 - 13.3 x 8.9 x 0.73 inches 
Lenovo IdeaPad U300s - 12.8 x 8.5 x 0.59 inches
13-inch MacBook Air - 12.8 x 8.95 x 0.68 inches

Dell achieve the size reduction by putting a slimmer bezel around the display.

Materials. Most Ultrabooks have aped Apple's design for the MacBook Air and in so doing adopted it flaws. The all Aluminum look may be sexy, but it is easily scratched. Ever wonder my there are so many notebook protection skins and cases being sold at Apple stores? Well that is why. The aluminum palm rests also discolor over time and can get chilly when being used in a cold environment. Dell decided to use magnesium  for the palm rest and trackpad, which feels much more comfortable than the aluminum we see most Ultrabooks sporting these days. The remainder of laptop is built with aluminum and magnesium alloy.

Also there is no need to get a screen protector for the Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook . The display is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass. In terms of the premium quality of the materials used to build this laptop, it is second to none. 

Basic specifications. The based model comes with the following specifications:

Processor - Intel Core i5-2467M (1.6 GHz with Turbo Boost to 2.3 GHz)
Graphics - Intel HD 3000
RAM - 4 GB
Storage - 128 GB SSD
Operating System - Windows 7 Home Premium
Keyboard - Backlit
Webcam - Yes
USB 3.0 - Yes

Price: Php59,990

Two upgraded models are available.

256 GB SSD - Php71,990

256 GB SSD plus Core i7-2367M - Php79,990

Nokia Lumia 710 coming to Smart Communications

Smart Communications is adding the Nokia Lumia 710 to its mobile phone line-up. There are no details yet as to what plans and pricing the Nokia Lumia 710 will be offered at, but it appears the Lumia 710 will be a Smart exclusive.

The Nokia Lumia 710 is a mid-level Windows Phone 7.5 device. It has a 3.7-inch screen, a 1.4 GHz processor and a 5 MP camera with a LED flash.

Take three on the new iPad's heat issues

GSM Arena conducted some heat tests on the new Third Generation Apple iPad which pretty much confirms the findings of Consumer Reports. The new iPad runs much hotter than the iPad 2 and can get toasty under intensive use.

GSM Arena tests

Tests conducted with ambient temperature of 22°C 

Idle Display on:

iPad 2 - 29.7°C
New iPad - 34.6°C

Running processor intensive applications:

iPad 2 - 30.3°C
New iPad - 35.9°C

Running graphics intensive applications (1024 x 768 applications):

iPad 2 - 31.7°C
New iPad - 38.3°C

Running graphics intensive applications (2048 x 1536 applications - Infinity Blade II):

iPad 2 - Not tested
New iPad - 44.4°C

Consequences of the the higher operating temperatures:

1. With substantially higher operating temperatures the new iPad wont be as durable as the older one. In the same way that opening a door cause wear and tear on a door hinge, heat results in wear and tear on electronics. The more heat, the faster an electronic component is likely to fail.

2. Higher operating temperatures also causes batteries to deteriorate faster. While both the iPad 2 and the new iPad are rated as having the same 10-hour battery life, the new iPad battery will deteriorate faster the the iPad 2. 

I would not recommend buying an iPad 3 right away. I would wait for feedback from other Philippine users. The Consumer Reports and GSM Arena tests were conducted with an ambient or room temperature of 22°C.  That average temperature in Metro Manila is 27.7°C. Whether the new iPad will stand up well to local conditions remain to be seen. 

On the other hand, if you had your sights set on the iPad 2, you get a Php5,000 discount on the WiFi models, a higher Php6,000 discount on 3G models and get to defer payments over 6-12 months. The new iPad does not run faster. If anything it is a tad bit slower. Check out the side by side comparison hear. Pretty much all the additional speed brought by the graphics processing unit and additional RAM are needed to be able to run the high resolution 2048 x 1536 display. At the same time the iPad 2 would seem to be the better engineered model.

If you plan to use an iPad for viewing high resolution photos or HD video, the higher resolution screen might be worth the additional heat. For other uses, like web browsing or eBook reading, the higher resolution display only really offers additional eye candy. For gaming it is a toss up. Games should look better an the higher resolution display, but this use is also when the heat issue becomes a bigger problem.

Isn't more hear inevitable with more power?

The A5x chip on the new iPad still uses the same 45 nanometer process as the previous A5 and A4 chips. The Nvidia Tegra 3 uses a 40 nanometer process while Qualcomms S4 uses the 28 nanometer process. Less nanometers means less power requirements, so more power can be produced at lower wattages.

We do expect to see a new Apple chip either in the next iPhone or the next iPad built using a new A6 chip with built on a 28-32 nanometer process. This will provide the needed power to run the new iPad's 2048 x 1536 display, without needing so much power and consequently, it will run much cooler.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Huawei U8860 Honor

Huawei has officially launched the U8860 Honor in the Philippines. The Huawei H8860 Honor is a 4-inch Android smartphone, and currently runs Android 2.3, but an Upgrade to Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) has been promised. Priced at Php13,999 it directly competes with the LG Optimus Black. Does the Honor have what it takes to beat the Optimus Black? We this the answer to that is a yes. While the Honor and the Optimus Black match up closely specifications wise, the Honor has one big Ace up its sleeve, the phone packs a whopping 1930 mAh battery. That is almost 30% bigger than that of the Optimus Black, and other similarly sized smartphones for that matter.

In addition, the Honor has a faster processor and higher megapixel camera than the Optimus Black.  The phone also comes with Huawei's Cloud+ service which comes with an unprecedented 160 GB 16 GB of cloud storage. Huawei Cloud+ highlights one thing, Huawei is no longer contended with manufacturing cheap smartphones and is entering the big leagues, pairing its hardware with proprietary services.

The Huwaei Honor looks like a phone worth looking at for those in the market for a mid-priced smarpthone.

Huawei H8860 Honor quick specs:

Display: 4-inch (480 x 854 pixel resolution)
Storage: 1 GB storage expandable to via a MicSD card, 16 GB cloud storage, 4 GB ROM
RAM: 512 MB
Processor: Single core 1.4 GHz scorpion
Graphics: Adreno 205
Primary Camera: 8 MP, 720p video
Secondary Camera: 2 MP
HSDPA connectivity: HSDPA 14.4 Mbps

Friday, March 23, 2012

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Flash is dead... sort of

March is a amazing month for people who love wristwatches. BaselWorld, the worlds biggest watch and jewelry show is held this month every year (April in 2013 though). Visiting the websites of my favorite watch brand on my laptop was a bit disappointing.

Going to the Rolex website resulted in a webpage telling me I needed flash.

If you visit the same site, with a browser which does not support Flash like the Metro Internet Explorer, this is what you see instead, a notice that you need to install Flash.

Going to the Oris website, Flash is still needed.

Oris does have a alternative portal for HTML only browsers.

Okay, maybe it is just the watch companies that are slow to transition, but some tech sites still have not started the migration.

HTML only browser yields this:

Flash is dead, or rather dying, but it looks like it will be a long death. Fortunately, I can still install Adobe Flash on my MacBook Air, although I set it to only load flash when on demand. 

Third Generation Apple iPad and iPad 2 video review by TechRadar


View more video from TechRadar at this link

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

More information on third generation Apple iPad "overheating"

Laptopmag conducted temperature tests on several tablets:
  • Apple iPad 2 - A5 (dual core processor and dual core SGX543MP2 graphics processing unit)
  • Third generation Apple iPad - A5x (dual core processor and quad core SGX543MP4 graphics processing unit)
  • Asus Transformer Prime - Nvidia Tegra 3 (quad core processor, 12-core GeForce GPU)
  • Motorola XYBOARD 8.2 - TI OMAP 4430 (dual core processor, PowerVR540 graphics)

Heat was measure after 15 minutes of video streaming and gaming. Heat was also measured in after loading 50 websites. The results were as follows:
  • Apple iPad 2 -  29 °C to 33 °C
  • Third generation Apple iPad - 33 °C to 38 °C
  • Asus Transformer Prime -30 °C to 37 °C
  • Motorola XYBOARD 8.2 - 32 °C to 33 °C 

What was surprising is that the third generation iPad runs hotter while browsing the web, than the iPad 2 would while doing intensive gaming.

We do not know what the ambient temps were at the Laptopmag labs. 

Consumer Reports did its own test running Infinity Blade on the third generation iPad.

Ambient Room Temperature - 22 °C
iPad 2 temperature after running Infinity Blade for 45 minutes (WiFi on) - 38 °C
Third generation iPad temperature after running Infinity Blade for 45 minutes (WiFi on 4G off) - 45 °C

As I write this, I checked the Ambient Temperature in Metro Manila today. On a cloudy day it is 31 °C.

We will follow this issue.

Third generation Apple iPad "overheating" issue

When we learned that new third generation Apple iPad had a 70% larger battery to maintain the iPad's 2 ten hour battery life, we knew that the new A5x dual core processor with the on-chip quad core graphics would run hotter than the older A5 chip. The new display seems to be a bit brighter than the old one too. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure it out, that since the new chip and display consume 70% more power, than the new iPad will run hotter than the iPad 2.

ifixits' tear down of the Apple iPad revealed a cover for the A5x chip which is most likely a heat sink, given that there is thermal paste under the cover. The purpose of a heat sink is to transfer heat from the processor to the heat sink. This heat sink was not present on the A5, so Apple did make a change in the design to account for the additional heat.

It started with a few reviews noticing that the new iPad ran hotter than the iPad 2, several reports in forums and than The Verge reported that Dutch website has taken an infrared camera to the new iPad and revealed that it ran 5.3 degrees hotter than the iPad 2 when running the GLBenchmark. noted that the hottest part of the device was the lower right corner where the processor is located.

Apple has responded and said that the device runs within Apple's thermal specifications. This could be more of an issue once the third generation iPad 3 is released in the Philippines given that the ambient temperatures in the Philippines are pretty high (will get back to that in a bit). iPad overheating issues are not new. There were complaints even about the original iPad. So it is not something to get all excited about. 

Some users report the issue, some do not. There is a reason for that. An electronic device runs a few degrees hotter than ambient or room temperature. In other words if a device runs at 30 degrees Celsius when the room temperature is 24 degrees, it would run at about 40 degrees if the room temp is 34 degrees. Excessive heat can also result from the misapplication of thermal paste (putting too much makes the heat sink less effective).  Whether the current issue is limited to particular devices, is in the design or even is an issue at all, all we can do now is keep an eye on the reports, and wait and see.

We have more information at this link.

Budget ultraportable buyers guide

Choosing which low cost ultraportable to buy is difficult. There are simply so many options in the market. I do have some favorites:

Php15,990 - Asus Eee PC X101CH with Windows 7 Starter

Pros - It is a thin 0.86 inches and a light 2.2 pounds.

Cons - It is really a netbook with a 10.1-inch, 1024 x 600 resolution display and cramped keyboard. The Atom N2600 processor really is not faster than the dual core netbooks you have been using the past two years, but it can now play HD video. RAM limited to 1 GB.

Php18,900 - Samsung NP305U1A with Windows 7 Home Basic

Pros - AMD Fusion E-450 accelerated processing unit gives true ULV like power and the 11.6-inch display has the industry standard 1366 x 768 resolution. Lightest of the AMD Fusion E-450 laptops at 2.7 pounds, with a slim bezel around the display giving it the size more like a 10-inch laptop. Decent 4000 mAh battery.

Cons - Smaller form factor means smaller keys, and I just cannot get to liking the keyboard on this unit. AMD Radeon 6310 graphics instead of the 6320 graphics usually paired with E-450's.

Php21,500 - HP Pavilion DM1-4000AU with Windows 7 Home Basic

Pros - The right price. No compromise 11.6-inch AMD Fusion E-450 laptop packing with the expected AMD Radeon 6320 graphics with Beats Audio as a bonus. Decent 4400 mAh battery.

Cons -  A bit heavy at 3.4 pounds. Now comes with Windows 7 Starter. The E-450 version of the Asus Eee PC 1215B could actually be better, but that laptop comes in so many configurations both C-60 and E-450 version, and with either Radeon 6250, 6310 and 6320 graphics, and with or without USB 3.0 so it becomes hard to recommend since the buyer may buy the wrong set-up. If you are diligent about checking every component, check it out.

Php19,500 - Lenovo ThinkPad EDGE e125 with DOS (so about Php24,250 with Windows 7 Home Basic 64-bit)

Pros - Like the HP DM1 but lighter (3.1 pounds) and thinner (0.93-inches) with a better keyboard. If you plan to run Linux, it comes without an operating system so it become a great deal.

Cons - If you plan to install Windows, it gets kind of expensive compared to the HP DM1. 

I type a lot and don't mind using Linux so....

With give the edge to the Lenovo ThinkPad


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Asus Eee PC X101CH - Finally, a Cedar Trail netbook worth buying

The main benefit of the new Cedar Trail Atoms is not power. Sure they can play HD video, but they are a lot slower than their AMD Fusion E-450 and C-60 counterparts in terms of video performance. The Atom N2800 processor runs almost as fast as that of an AMD Fusion E-450, but lags far behind in graphics power. Similarly, the Atom N2600 runs about as fast as an AMD Fusion C-60 in terms of pure processing, but lags far behind in the graphics department.

The main advantage of the Cedar Trail as against the AMD Fusion is they run cooler and hence can be placed in devices with smaller form factors:

  • AMD Fusion E-450 - 18 W Thermal design point
  • AMD Fusion C-60 - 9 W TDP
  • Intel Atom N2800 - 6.5 W TDP
  • Intel Atom N2600 - 3.5 W TDP

When the new Atom netbooks came out, they came in the same old netbook chassis capable of running the hotter old dual core Atom Pineview processors. Well, Asus has changed this with the new Asus Eee PC X101CH.

The Asus Eee PC X101 is not new. It was offered last year running single core Atoms. Thanks to the Cedar Trail, it now has dual core power. 

Quick Specs:

Display: 10.1-inch (1024 x 600 pixel resolution)
Processor: Intel Atom N2600 (dual core 1.6 GHz)
RAM: 1 GB (not upgradeable)
Storage: 320GB hard drive
Wireless: WiFi and Bluetooth 3.0
Notable Ports: USB 2.0 and HDMI out
Card Reader: Yes
Webcam: Yes
Battery: 3-cell rated at 5 hours (3-4 hours real world use).


With Windows 7 Starter - Php15,990
With DOS - Php13,990

Why buy this device? Portability. This device is a small 10.3″ x 7.1″ x 0.86″ and weighs in at just 2.2 pounds.

Personally, on the small low cost laptops, I have taken a preference to the Lenovo ThinkPad EDGE e125. Best keyboard in the 11.6-inch world. But the ThinkPad EDGE e125 costs 6K more and weighs all of 0.9 pounds more. 

Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus for free from Globe Telecom Data Plan 1799

Globe Telecom is now offering the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus for free, at Unli Surf Combo Plan 1799 on a two year contract. To avail of this offer you have to apple for it online.
The device. The Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus is a 7-inch Android tablet with full phone and SMS functionality. It runs Android 3.2 (Honeycomb). The screen resolution is 1024 x 600.  

It is a fairly fast device running on dual core 1.2 GHz processors, MAL-400MP graphics and 1 GB of RAM. It also comes with 16 GB of internal storage, which can be expanded to up to 80 GB through a MicroSD card.  It supports HSDPA+ 21.1, which will allow it to take full advantage of Globe Telecom fast HSDPA network.

Feature wise, it offers what you expect with WiFi, Bluetooth and 3.15 megapixel camera at the back and a 2 MP at the front. The tablet can also be used a WiFi hotspot. The only real disappointment is the absence of 1080p video recording, but it does do 720p video recording. 

The plan.
With Unli Surf Combo Plan 1799, you get:

    •  Unlimited Mobile Surfing
    •  P800 consumable amount
    •  Option to choose 3 from any of the following freebies 

A – Free Calls and Texts to GLOBE/TM (10-minute calls and 200 SMS)
B – Free Calls and Texts to other networks (5-minute calls and 25 SMS)
C – Free International Calls and Texts to 10 destinations (20-minute IDD and 10 SMS)
E – Free Unlimited Calls and Texts to one (1) Globe/TM number

Quad-core processor and on-chip LTE confirmed for Galaxy S III

GSMArena citing a Samsung executive confirms that quad-core processor on an Exynos chipset and on-chip LTE confirmed for Galaxy S III. The fact that the Galaxy S III will have a quad core processor on an Exynos chipset is not news. This is a given. That Samsung has managed to integrated LTE on chip is the interesting part about this revelation.

Nvidia Tegra 3 does not support LTE modems, which is why the the Tegra 3 quad core HTC One X, is being released as a dual core version with LTE for some markets as the HTC One XL. Looks like Samsung is about to one up HTC again in area with LTE markets. With a Super AMOLED display being a certainty in the Samsung Galaxy S III, it looks like the Galaxy S III will probably be able to outclass HTC's best this year again unless something goes horribly wrong with the quad-core processor.

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