Tag Archive | "browser"

Acer Iconia Tab A500 And Honeycomb 3.1 in Productivity Test

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I’ve had Honeycomb 3.1 on the Acer Iconia Tab A500 for a week now and as I did with the Compaq Airlife and Toshiba AC100 last year, looking for signs that a smartbook is finally happening. The signs are there, yes, but there’s still a long way to go.

Check out a similar A500 productivity test by Jerry at Carrypad

I predicted that 2011 would be the year we would finally see ARM/Android devices move into productivity scenarios and it looks like the ASUS Transformer has achieved that with many recommending it as one of the best Honeycomb tablets out there. With its weight and price though it loses two features that the Toshiba AC100 had going for it but we’re moving in the right direction with the core operating system and that’s more important than weight and price right now.

Let me talk about a few of those core features in relation to my testing on the A500.

Keyboard / mouse support

Not only does the full-size USB port on the A500 support a keyboard but it supports USB hubs, hard drives, USB sticks and mouse pointers. With the core operating system being keyboard and mouse ‘aware’, there’s a surprisingly smooth transition from desktop OS. Double-click to select a word works although there are clear limitations when it comes to drag and drop, especially between windows. It’s something I do a lot with text and images as a blogger. Importantly it seems to be stable and relaible too. Keyboard and mouse continues to be an important input and control mechanism for nearly everyone so let’s hope this gets improved.

Browser

That keyboard and mouse support extends to the browser too. The tab button switches to the next input field for example and you can scroll within a box without the whole screen scrolling with it but there are still critical issues. Input fields are hit-and-miss and my personal test of using the WordPress back-end, a complex web application, fails misserably. That’s an ExoPC in the image above with the A500 off to the side! Mouse-over functions aren’t working 100%, input fields are an issue and drop-down menus appear randomly in the WordPress back-end. Stability seems reasonable but you’re looking at a content consumption browser, not a full web experience. Firefox doesn’t do any better. Mouse-over still doesn’t seem to work and using the WordPress back-end I couldn’t even enter text or resize the Ajax input field.  I’m seeing similar brick walls in other complex web applications too.

The performance when browsing web-app pages is also noticeably slower than on a netbook, to the point where it becomes annoying.  Netbooks aren’t fast but in most cases, they’re acceptable. The wordpress back-end takes seconds longer on the A500 and tests patience. Sunspider is 150% as fast on a N450 single-core netbook than on the dual-core A500! (13ooms on ExoPC vs 2300ms on A500.) Genera processor power is still an issue on ARM devices. A 1.5Ghz dual-core or a 1Ghz quad core solution should be high on your list if you want to test productivity on devices like the A500 in the next round.

For those of you needing the full web experience, I can tell you now that you don’t need to read any further. Honeycomb is a fail in that respect.

Acer Iconia A500 information page. Includes links to reviews, gallery, articles, alternatives.

On the bright side, progress is being made and yes, many people don’t need web apps. Here are some of the improvements I’ve noticed,

  • Rotating homescreen works in portrait mode. Small but welcome change.
  • Re-sizeable widgets really help improve information flow on home screens. A major advantage and in my opinion, a real lock-in feature.
  • Stability improvements help but I’m still seeing more app crashes on the A500 than I do on the Galaxy Tab 7. Windows 7 on a netbook is way, way better in comparison.
  • English language support. A problem with the German version of the A500 I bought – it now has English language support. Not many people will have noticed this issue!
  • USB support for hard drives, hubs, keyboard, mouse, USB drives works well.
  • Browser now supports desktop user-agent for viewing full versions of websites.
  • UI speed and smoothness improvements.
  • Additional apps – Kobo reader, LumiRead, Zinio Reader, Movie Studio.
  • In general, battery life on the A500 has always been very good along with the screen quality.

So we’re at a place where the experience is better than Toshiba AC100 but still a way away from productivity use. The browser and stability need to be improved along with a general improvement in speed and in applications which doesn’t seem to have happened in the last months. Honeycomb isn’t getting enough growth to spur developers to write Honeycomb applications yet and that’s a major worry because it is falling further behind the iPad and if it remains that way, there’s little incentive to write apps for it until Android 2.x and 3.x versions are merged in Ice Cream Sandwich.

One other thing – there’s that Movie Studio application. I’ll try and write a little more detail about it in another post because I’ve just edited a 720p video made on the Nokia N8 with it. It wasn’t a nice experience!

How long until it works?

For some, it works well enough today, for others, Android will never have the feature-set required because Honeycomb doesn’t aim to cover all niche scenarios. It’s a consumer, mass-market operating system designed to help Google make money through advertising in its applications. We musn’t forget that the core OS is actually free although there’s clearly quite an expense involved in getting it suited and booted for the consumer.

For many, Android is getting close. We are seeing adoption in productivity scenarios already and the more apps that appear, the less the browser is required and the less of an issue that browser becomes.

For me, Android is probably a year away from being production ready. I look to the iPad to see how the video software and hardware works well together, how stability is less of an issue and how quality, stable applications solve more and more requirements.  I’ll be looking to test Android on a smartbook or large format tablet in the next round which we should expect to be readily available in early 2012.

Now, does anyone want to buy my A500?

Milestone, N900, Omnia Pro in Side-By-Side Photos.

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Last week I had the chance to check out the Milestone, the GSM version of the Motorola Droid. With its powerful processor and what I call a ‘dynamic’ operating system (which basically means you can load up apps and mess around with fun widgets) it is definitely a leading light in the web-centric smartphone for me. I own an Omnia Pro and I’ve got the N900 here as a test device so although I only had a short time with the Milestone I managed to take a quick set of photos which I’ve put into the gallery.

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Full Motorola Milestone Gallery here.

The Milestone is noticeably thinner in the pocket but you don’t quite get the keyboard experience that you do on the Omnia Pro and N900. While the N900 keyboard is small, it’s very well designed and offers good key separation feeling and feedback.

The advantages of the capacitive screen can’t be ignored though. I loved the light-touch and haptic feedback and the rugged glass front is going to be a huge advantage over time. I’m really not interested in having my smartphone screen look like something on a Nintendo DS!

I also took the Archos 5 Internet tablet and compared a couple of websites. Its easy to see how you lose effective space on a small screen. Fonts have to be big enough to read so looks what happens when you do that…

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Motorola Milestone and Archos 5 Internet tablet. Both running Android. Both 800×480.

Smartphones are getting really good at providing a solid web experience but with physical issues like this, it leaves the door open for dedicated devices that can provide a much more comfortable experience.

Next week i should be getting an HTC HD2 to test for a week. I’ve had a quick session with one and the screen is incredible but it’s extremely expensive and leans towards the business user. I can’t see too many ‘normal’ people buying one to be honest but we’ll see. I’ll be doing some videos and am planning a live vodcast with JKKMobile. We’ll let you know as soon as we have a date and time for it.

Opera Next. The next generation of mobile browsing?

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Update 18.: It’s Opera Mobile 5 Beta. I’m testing on an Omnia Pro right now. Fast, good features. No complaints yet! Have you tested it?

It’s a question that Opera is going to answer very soon. The next generation in mobile browsing. There are few clues from Opera as to what it could be but Will Park of Into Mobile has had a preview and he says that the headline will soon make sense. The puzzle is gradually being completed (the image is being completed) as time goes on at the Opera teaser site. Right now you can see the right-edge of a device being held in two hands. The ‘alt’ text for the image is ‘Opera Next.’

operanextgen

Is it going to be a new Opera Mini or Mobile product and what features would take it to the next level? Opera has already pushed the boundaries with their proxy, widget and sync features so what could be next? Touch friendly UI? Flash 9.5?

Support for more operating systems (Android has been promised) would be good but that’s hardly groundbreaking. How about location-enabled browsing? will the next Opera Mobile or Opera Mini app include the Geo API? Will Park says that there are clues in the teaser page and references ‘source code.’

Personally I think we’re looking at Opera Unite for Mobile based on what I read at GigaOM last week.

If Opera reveal one piece of the puzzle per day, we’re looking at a completed picture on Monday 28th September.

Google Chrome OS. Round-Up, Podcasts, Thoughts.

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chrome_logo On the 7th July, Google announced that they are developing an operating system called ‘Google Chrome OS.’

“Google Chrome OS is an open source, lightweight operating system that will initially be targeted at netbooks. Later this year we will open-source its code, and netbooks running Google Chrome OS will be available for consumers in the second half of 2010.”

“…redesigning the underlying security architecture of the OS so that users don’t have to deal with viruses, malware and security updates”

“..Google Chrome running within a new windowing system”

“…Google Chrome OS will run on both x86 as well as ARM chips.”

The world of Internet journalism went mad and Techmeme lit up as a result of the announcement. Thousands of blogs responded too. It was quite an interesting response for what is essentially another Linux distro. Perhaps it reflects the desire for a real consumer-level alternative out there. It certainly proves the power of the Google brand and that could be the most important aspect of the whole product.

Read the full story

Thoughts on proxy browsers.

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This post is based on some notes I made in 2008. Following the release of the Opera 10 ‘Turbo’ preview client and the announcement of Opera Mobile 9.7 with ‘Turbo’ (Proxy) option I thought it would make sense to publish the notes.

turboOpera 10 preview with ‘Turbo’ Option

Disadvantages of Proxy-based browsers

  • Scalability. Size of server farm. Global distribution?
  • Business model – Pay-for browser or will the operator ‘tweak’ advertising? Carrier controlled server farm? Free value-added service by carriers?
  • Security. SSL terminates at proxy?
  • Privacy. Data mining and sale of data. Police access to browsing records.
  • High latency
  • Accuracy can’t be guaranteed
  • Single point of failure
  • Net neutrality – You lose geo targeted advertising and content.
  • Geographic focused content (geo-restricted content could leak E.g. Hulu. Geo targeting fails)
  • Plugins (in-line WMV, flash 10 etc)

Advantages of Proxy browsers

  • Far more efficient bandwidth utilisation
  • Reduced time to display full content (on lower bandwidths)
  • Lower client processor requirement (battery life saving)
  • Content reorganisation for the target screen.
  • Easy to implements system-wide safe browsing controls. (Can also be regarded as a walled-garden and marked as a ‘disadvantage’)

Legal question. Are proxy services republishing content with modification? How can content owners be sure their content (including ads) is presented as they wanted it? Can they prevent proxy services from using their content?

List of proxy browsers.

I’m a fan of both proxy and client-based browsers and as such, a browser like Opera 10 with the ‘Turbo’ option really interests me. It would save data when I’m roaming or on a limited data plan and would speed up the display of information when in low bandwidth or on low-cpu situations. For the smartphone or MIDs based on ARM, the Opera Mobile solution with ‘Turbo’ (option again) seems to be perfect too. I also like the idea of an intro-level unlimited browsing service that can be tacked on to a users cellphone account for little-to-no cost thus introducing people to the advantages of having the Internet in your pocket. As a content producer i’m a bit worried that my geo-targeting will suffer but if it introduces people to the idea of Internet on the go, I’m more than happy.

Turbo-Enabled Opera 10 Preview Available

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I love the community we have here.  Just 60 minutes after posting about Opera Mobile 9.7 and mentioning that it would be interesting to have a desktop version with Turbo, Hrundik drops a comment in to say “Opera Turbo preview for desktop is already available.”

And sure enough, there it is in Opera Labs for Windows, Mac and Linux.

ultra mobile PC users, this is something you have to have in your toolkit. Turbo Mode is going to save you bandwidth (if you’re on a restricted data plan) and speed up your browsing (if you’re on a slower connection.) I think it’s also going to reduce the CPU usage on rendering pages as the ‘Turbo’ servers do most of the work.

I’m off to do some testing. If you’ve already discovered Turbo-enabled Opera 10 preview, let us know how your testing went.

Opera. Turbo-Charged and LiMo luvin!

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I just wanted to round-up a couple of Opera-related news items that have come through the wires over the last few days. The first is an announcement about a ‘Opera Turbo’ and the second is an announcement that Opera are joining LiMo.

The Opera Turbo announcement is one I’ve been waiting for ever since the 9.6 SDK announcement way back at IBC in September. It’s OBML support, now renamed and re-marketed as Opera Turbo. At least I think it is! OBML is the process/protocol that Opera Mini uses and all the diagrams and descriptions point to the same methodology although the OBML acronym isn’t actually mentioned anywhere in the documentation.

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What it means is that you could have one program for both WLAN and WWAN-based usage. If you find yourself in a 2.5G area or your data is being charged on a per-byte basic you can just switch to turbo mode and carry on with your familiar browser using a compressed, proxied service. The best of both worlds!

More details on Turbo in this white paper. (PDF) Press Release

The second announcement came today and informs us all that Opera has joined LiMo the Linux-based mobile software foundation (who also made announcements today.)

Opera Software today announced that it has joined the swelling ranks of mobile Linux leaders in the LiMo Foundation. Opera has a long history in developing its browser for the Linux platform and by joining this mobile Linux community the company hopes to contribute to the advancement of open and accessible mobile phone technology.

Opera’s ‘One Web’ vision revolves around the hope for a single, pervasive Internet, available to anyone, anywhere. By working closely with LiMo, Opera can ensure absolute compatibility with this platform, enabling easier development and faster time-to-market. Together, Opera and LiMo plan to nurture richer services, better user experiences and more affordable devices in the mobile industry by adhering to open standards-based development.

Joining LiMo might not exclude them from joining other organisations but it certainly sends a strong message out to Moblin and OHA.

Press release.

WM Smartphones get a Full Web Bashing.

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wmphones Gizmodo have just completed a browsing speed and accuracy test with three high-end windows mobile devices using Pocket IE and Opera 9.5. The results should hardly be a surprise. There isn’t a single reasonable result among them with page load times well over a minute in many cases and very few of the devices rendering the pages well.

In the test, Gizmodo used the Sony Xperia, HTC Fuze, Samsung Omnia and Samsung Epix. Some of the newest WM-based phones you can buy.

Opera 9.5 appears to have turned in a better level of quality and speed than Pocket IE but there’s still a bunch of ‘fails’ in there which would turn off anyone thinking of relying on the given combo.

We’ve done similar tests here in the past which have proven that, on average, with some of the best ARM-based devices you can find and under good conditions, average page load times are twice as long when compared to on low-end ultra mobile PCs. We’ve even done some extensive Opera Mobile 9.5 testing and can confirm that while it does render well, it needs a lot more horsepower underneath it than the average smartphone can provide. Nothing in the smartphone world, including the iPhone, comes close to the speed and accuracy of even the lowest-level ultra mobile PC or Intel-based MID so once again I hear myself saying; If you or your business relies on fast, accurate access to Web-based resources through a browser, don’t risk problems or waste time by using a sub-standard solution. Don’t try and push everything onto one device. Buy a dedicated device. If not for the speed and quality, do it to preserve battery life for your important voice calls!

Take a read of the article and the HUGE bashing that WM gets from author, Matt Buchanan. Its a fun read!

Source: Gizmodo Via Friendfeed

Save battery life, time, the world! Use a script blocker.

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Admittedly, its not difficult to imagine a scenario where less CPU cycles result in less power drain and this method isn’t going to magically extend your battery life by much but its nice to see the theory tested to the extreme.

SecTheory.com took a notebook PC, a couple of browsers and measured the battery drain on the Top 100 Alexa sites. They then took the worst offenders, that is, the ones that took the most power drain, and blocked script and ads using NoScript and AdBlock Plus. The results were quite significant. On a Dell Inspiron B130 notebook, with a 1.5GHz Celeron M processor and 1 Gig of ram, running fully patched Windows XP SP2, the power consumption when browsing the worst offending sites dropped by 11W, a 20% reduction. If its a 25W TDP CPU we’re talking about here, I can believe the results because browsing website has grown to be a very CPU intensive task.

The effect would be much less on netbooks and UMPCs but I would expect the same test to save 1W average which is about 10% – about 15 minutes for a device with a standard battery. Of course, its not really normal to be picking the worst offending sites and continuously hitting them either. Under normal browsing use, you probably wouldn’t notice any difference but there’s something else you need to be aware of.

Script not only takes CPU and battery life, it takes time. Time to execute, render and in some cases, time to fetch the remote code. By disabling script you significantly improve browsing speeds on low power devices and by definition, you save battery life. I tried it a few weeks ago with the noscript plugin and I’ve seen many comments on UMPCPortal from users that also use the technique. It really works! You lock yourself out of application sites like Google reader initially but it doesn’t take any effort to enable exceptions for these sites as you go along. No more hung page loads waiting for remote sites to time out. No more of those terribly annoying auto-start video ads that make browsing on a low-end PC a misery. There’s even an improvement in security. Its a win-win-win!

Try it. Install the noscript plugin and see how you get on. Yes, I risk killing all of my advertising income if everyone does this on all their devices and I’m sure there are bloggers out there that will read this and cringe but I trust you’ll only use it on your netbooks and umpcs and put the exception in for your favorite sites! Long live the choice between simple html and web2.0!

Source: Sectheory.com

Aigo MID. Browsing and Video Experience.

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As you might have seen from the initial hands-on review, the Aigo MID brings a new level of Internet browsing to the pocket.

The results beat a previously tested set smartphones and other pocketable ‘Internet’ devices by an average 9 seconds per page. In terms of Internet browsing performance, it blows the N800/N810 out of the water and even the iPhone only averages 20 seconds per page over WiFi. [Aigo averages 12 seconds] The only pocketable device that gets close is the new Archos 5 with an average, over a similar set of tests, of 15 seconds.

It does pretty well on video playback too with higher-bitrate files really taking advantage of the high-quality screen. Its just a shame that the media software is so basic. In my opinion, Video, Search and Browsing are the most important elements of a MID’s capabilities so lets see how the Aigo P8860 performs. Videos and notes below…

Read the full story

Pocket Internet Explorer 6. Another Browser with no Hardware!

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pie Its nice to see that we might not have to wait too long for a better browser as part of Windows Mobile but is this going to be another case of ‘nice software, shame about the hardware?’ I say that because it was the conclusion I came to with Opera 9.5 a while back. The accuracy, UI and features were vastly improved but the bottle-kneck is the processor. There’s really no way around it. To convert todays very complex html, script and media that arrives through your Internet connection into a useable screen of information takes a lot of transistor switching. ARM9 and ARM11-based devices just don’t have that power. ARM Cortex and Atom do.

Show me a ‘Pocket PC’ a-la HTC Universal (left) with a 4.5″ 800×480 screen, 3G and Wifi, WM6, 5-hour online battery life, running on a a Cortex A8 core and we can talk. The Archos 5 does a fairly speedy job. The Open Pandora device too so we know there’s no hardware limitations. It’s just a case of putting the right software with the right hardware!

Source: Download Squad

Archos 5 browser speed shows promise.

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‘Faster over fuller’ is the expression Jenn uses to describe how consumers want their browsing experience and I tend to agree. Personally I want Firefox 3+add-ons for my browser as it’s long my most important piece of software but I’m not most consumers. A consumer MID doesn’t need to be 100% FIE for most people but it does need to be close.

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The browser on the Archos 5 is, relative to existing consumer and smartphone-based browsers, a big step forward in the eyes of most people that have tested it so it’s nice to confirm it with some stats. Jenn has lined-up the Archos 5, the iPhone 3G and the Nokia N810 in a browser speed test and overall, you’re seeing page load times 1.5 times faster than an iPhone 3G  and about 1.8 times faster than a Nokia N810. But is it fast enough? MIDs and low-end UMPCs are likely to beat these times and return more accurate results but does the difference really matter?

What we’re seeing here is proof of, not just a fast new Archos device, but how the ARM Cortex core could improve the Internet experience. In this case, the ARM core is sitting on the Ti OMAP platform but Ti aren’t the only people using it. Intel really do need to watch their backs in this territory now because they’re not fighting against relatively small companies like AMD and VIA here, they’re fighting against the huge ARM ecosystem and they certainly know a thing or two about mobile hardware and software.

Read about the 3-way test at Pocketables.