Tag Archive | "honeycomb"

The State of Android Tablets (2011): A Survey of Thoughts From Carrypad Staff

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


prednisone perscription

At the beginning of the year, if you would have told me that, by the summer, there would be a dozen different Android tablets available for order from reliable, first tier manufacturers, I would have told you to get outta town. We were likely all desensitized to the constant stream of news that seemingly had the same message: “Company X announced the Y Tablet today. It features blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah. No information was released on a launch date or pricing.” It had gotten to the point that I immediately went to the bottom of any announcement of a tablet-device, and if it had the standard blurb about no launch date or word on pricing, I did not read the article.

Flash-forward to the present. That standard blurb I mentioned above is something that we are seeing several times a day now. The difference is that with each instance of an announcement, there is a level of confidence that we are actually reading a press statement about a device that will be delivered to the market and will not just become vaporware. A year ago, this was not the case. I regarded almost every announcement of an Android tablet as a veritable Chupacabra that I would never actually see. Now, launch events for tablets and the equally interesting Android OS updates are major media events, commanding the undivided attention of the journalists in attendance, and the readers reading the live-blogs in real time or catching up on the ensuing hands-on later in the day. Keeping up with the state of the tablet market is now almost a hobby in and of itself.

As we head into the closing month of this watershed year in the tablet industry, with still more compelling Android tablets promised to hit retail before we turn the corner into 2012, I have been reflecting on the past year and pondering what is yet to come. I have a few ideas of what the recent past has meant, and what the future might hold. Not convinced that there is any way that I could possibly have all of the answers, I engaged my fellow editors and contributors from Carrypad in a dialogue on the topic. We each took a shot at answering three key questions that we felt were critical things to consider and might very well define the picture of the Android tablet market today. Each writer answered the questions in-the-blind, unaware of the answers from the others. Please join us in this dialogue and post your thoughts on our perspectives, as well as your own original thoughts on this subject in the comments below.

Many pundits talk about the belief that there is no tablet market, there is just an iPad market, and the other manufacturers are just flailing, trying to tread water in a marketplace that does not exist. Are they right? If not, what do Google and its hardware partners need to do in order to compete for consumer dollars and a place as the the second or third screen in users’ personal computing kits?

  • Ben: Apple definitely created an iPad market, not a tablet market. You can see this easily with many of the capacitive-only Windows slates that are trying to pull a “me too” move, but are absolutely failing when it comes to user adoption. Trying to shoe-horn a touch (finger only) keyboardless experience onto a Windows machine is just silly. That’s not to say that there isn’t room for Android, but at the moment, Google has a product for geeks, while Apple has a product for everyone (including geeks). I often look at it this way: iOS and Android are comparable, but Android needs heavy customization out of the box to be brought up to the level of iOS usability. Because of this, the iPad dominates the mainstream (probably more so in the US than other places). There’s also something to be said about app-quality and system stability. The competition between the iPad and Android tablets is absolutely healthy for consumers, and it’s great to see the wide range of computing-styles that are offered by Android devices. If the iPad was the only game in town, they’d stagnate (in some regards they have), but thanks to Android, Apple has to be ever vigilant, and vice-versa.
  • Damian: There has been a tablet market, although small, for many years before the iPad. Many of the readers of Carrypad will have had windows tablets since the old days of Windows XP Tablet Edition, which was officially released in 2001. The tablet market then was mostly a business or enterprise market and you’d have to credit the iPad with launching the mass scale consumer tablet market for an easy to use consumption device. The iPad dominates the consumer consumption market but Android tablets are gaining ground. Both still can’t quite make it as an enterprise device and the first one that cracks that will have an advantage. With rumours of Microsoft Office being developed for the consumer tablet OS’s this might be the tipping point. I think adding a stylus that works well changes the equation considerably and a well implemented, pen driven solution (ideally running Office) that allows users to create, in a common, accessible format, will boost the Android tablet market share.
  • Jerry: I don’t think these guys (the pundits) are right. There are some 6 million plus Android tablet devices in operation, and that constitutes a market to me. It took a long time for Android to gain traction in the smartphone market, with the G1 being just interesting, but things really started taking off with the arrival of the original Droid on Verizon. For Google and its partners to push more adoption, I am not sure if the saturation tactic that was has worked in the smartphone market is going to work for tablets. I think general consumers will be compelled by more content. Android has a great hook with its one-source approach to aggregating access to all content mediums via your single Google account. But they need a better library in Google books, a music source for procuring music (Blast it! I drafted this before the Google Music launch), and further integration with Google TV. It would be a huge plus if I could be watching an episode of a show on my tablet, and then have my stopping place synced with a GoogleTV device to continue watching the content from the same place… and for there to be worthwhile, current TV content.
  • Chippy: In terms of tablets there really is only an iPad market at the moment. Android tablets remain a niche, rather geeky option. The reason has nothing to do with hardware design or OS, it’s to do with the apps. There simply aren’t enough devices out there to justify any serious large-screen/fragments-enabled quality developement work. By my estimate there are between 10 and 15 million Android tablet devices out there. Some 5″, some 7″ and some 10″ devices, some running Android 2.x and some 3.x. The effort required to make a quality app across this fragmented product base is too big for the potential returns. For this to change, the number of fragments-enabled devices out there needs to grow considerably. ICS will help slowly during 2012 but for Android to stimulate major development work, soon, it needs a breakthrough product. The Kindle Fire could have been that product but with its 2.x OS it won’t stimulate the important use of fragments. 2012 looks like another difficult year for Android tablet apps.

The pundits also say that fragmentation of the Android OS is a key detractor from the product category gaining ground, not only in the tablet market but across smartphones as well. How do you define fragmentation, or do you feel it does not really exist? There is also a discussion of ecosystems and its criticality in the mobile market. How do you define a mobile ecosystem, or do you think this factor does not exist, or is not as relevant as some suggest.

  • Ben: “Fragmentation” is not an issue inherent to Adroid, but rather a desire of Android device manufacturers. Apple only markets one line of phones and one line of tablets, and at any given time, there is only one model that is considered the flagship device. For Android, any number of phone/tablet makers may have comparable devices, so how can they ‘differenatiate’ (aka fragment) their devices to appeal to customers over their competitor’s devices? The answer often comes in adding custom skins, pre-baking in selected applications and services (some of which may be unique to a given device). This means that the specific experience between tablets is somewhat different. Depending upon the hardware, you might not be able to see the same applications in the Android Market because not all applications are supported on all Android tablet hardware. If a non-techie user buys an Android tablet and enjoys using a specific application that comes with it, they may be surprised to find that when they get a new tablet, that application is not available for it. The only way to avoid this issue is for the user to understand the way this ecosystem works, but that can’t be expected of non-techie users. When it comes to the iPad, you can expect the latest iPad to be capable of running every iPad app (and iPhone app for that matter) that’s ever been made. Furthermore, because all apps are made with the top-end hardware in mind, you can expect any app available to run well if you have the current generation of iPad or iPhone.
  • Damian: I think fragmentation, which I define as multiple hardware manufacturers making different spec’d devices and different implementations of the same OS, is a major factor in consumer uptake of Android tablets, not smartphones. The Android phones need to act as a phone first, then web consumption device, then app using, game playing devices. They usually don’t tend to be used as a consumer of complex media or producer of enterprise content. The phones have different hardware for sure but the manufacturers seem  to be doing a good job of making sure their hardware works in most scenarios, i.e. plays all the media formats it needs to, opens pdf’s and documents when attached to email, renders different websites, etc. The tablet space is more complex and the fragmentation hurts it more. Some devices have full sized USB, some devices have SD card slots, some devices have docks, some devices play all of the video formats and some don’t. This is where the split of the manufacturers seems to hurt most. It’s frustrating when one video plays well on your android phone but not on your tablet. Aren’t they both Android? A website looks great on your Android tablet but when you send the link to anther Android tablet it breaks. Sure you can download a new browser which is one of Android’s strengths but it’s also a hassle. If you see something on one iPad it will work on another iPad – that’s the advantage of controlling the whole ecosystem, both hardware and software.
  • Jerry: I do not think fragmentation exists in the way that I hear a lot of other journalists discuss it. I do not agree that that skinning Android is a form of fragmentation, and the discussion about any difference from the baseline version of Android being fragmentation seems to be a very conservative view. I do not think these perspectives are so close to the reality, and I do not classify mods like HTC Sense or skins like TouchWiz as examples of fragmentation. Where we were as recent as a year ago, there were many new phones being sold that were already whole baselines behind. In other words, tablets and phones were being released with Android 1.6 when Froyo was already out:  that’s an example of fragmentation. More so when those devices were immediately abandoned and never saw updates to a 2.x version of Android, that was also an example of fragmentation. It is the analog to Windows XP laptops being sold when Windows 7 was already out, and then those laptops not supporting  a path forward to Windows 7.  Android is open source, and variety in deployments should be expected, just the same as we expect it with LINUX. Yes, ecosystems are important.  I define ecosystems as a collection of hardware, connectivity, and services, without which, the hardware as a standalone device would offer very little value.  They are obviously important for smartphones, and they are perhaps even more important for tablets. The tablet by itself represents very little functionality. It is only in combination with its network connection, app store or market, and back-end cloud services (email, contacts management, plug-ins to social networks, content availability, and online profiles) that a tablet becomes useful. Amazon’s Kindle Fire has a better fighting chance of being a viable competitor than the Nook Tablet because it brings a kitchen sink of content availability via  its ecosystem and consolidation of that content in one repository channel. The Nook Tablet will have to be configured with several accounts to have access to the same volume of content, and then the content will be available via a spread across multiple channels.
  • Chippy: Fragmentation is a real issue when it comes to developing apps which, in turn, affect the value of the whole Android product range. ICS is the right step, almost a first step, in removing some of the fragmentation but we must not forget that screen sizes, processing capabilities, and sensors all cost development and testing time and are part of the fragmentation problem. ICS development will remain focused on handsets first until the numbers rise significantly. The screen-size/platform fragmentation will remain in the Android ecosystem so Google has to make it as easy as possible to develop. That means fast, quality dev tools and emulators.

What are your current Android devices of choice (tablets and smartphones)? What is your projected next Android acquisition and why? What are your thoughts on Android Tablets as media consumption devices versus their utility for productivity?

  • Ben: I haven’t yet found an Android smartphone or tablet that has quite cut it for me, but I also feel like I have no need for a tablet at the moment, it is too redundant between my smartphone and laptop. It’s quite possible to get done work on tablets, regardless of the platform, but it really comes down to the applications and how well they run on the hardware.
  • Damian: The Asus Eee Pad Transformer with keyboard dock is my current tablet but I am in the market to pick up for an Asus Eee Pad Slider. I don’t need the extra battery life the keyboard dock gives me and I don’t want the extra weight either but I love having the ability to use a full keyboard. What I’d like is a touch screen with a full keyboard when I need it without having to carry around a dock or external keyboard and this is what the Slider gives me. I’m also relatively happy with the build quality and Android implementation that Asus did. The Slider has a full sized USB port – killer feature on a tablet. If you want to provide a level of productivity capability at any volume and have a chance in the enterprise market, manufacturers need to make tablets with a keyboard and possibly a stylus – there I’ve said it start the flames :). I run a Motorola Atrix 4G for business and personal use and it is the best phone I have had to date. I sold an iPhone for the Nokia N900 and the Nokia for the Atrix and I have never looked back. Fantastic hardware coupled with a great implementation of Android and cool, very functional accessories make this a very productive and useful phone. I have yet to defeat the phone with any media format or file type and I credit Motorola with doing a great job of implementing Android and a fantastic out of the box Android experience.
  • Jerry: My current kit includes an HTC Evo 3D as my primary smartphone and a Samsung Nexus S 4G as my secondary, both on Sprint. My tablet kit consists of the Lenovo Thinkpad Tablet 16GB, the Acer Iconia Tab A500 16GB, and the Motorola Xoom 3G. The two phones break even as far as the one of choice. I like the stock Android load on the Nexus, and I prefer the display over the one on the Evo 3D. But I like the Evo for its faster processor and speed, and the availability of the 3D camera. Amongst the tablets, while I like them all, my ThinkPad is the device I carry with me every day and I love the utility of digital inking on it over using a capacitive stylus with the Xoom or Iconia. When I originally drafted this, I thought my next acquisition was going to be a Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9. I mainly wanted it to replace my iPad, which recently died, with  a smaller form-factor option for increased portability. Instead I grabbed a Kindle Fire. It is a lot easier to grab and carry than some of my 10″ devices. I have access to the right amount of my cloud services and content that it makes sense for me to grab it as I head out the door probably about 50% of the time. My initial hour after waking in the AM is spent using the Kindle Fire to read content, communicate with friends, colleagues, and co-workers, and plan out events for the day.
  • Chippy: 15 minutes before writing this sentence I was given an iPad 2. Let’s see what happens in the following weeks but I’m currently writing this text on the Galaxy Tab 7 and I suspect that my mobile productivity will remain in this 7″ space due to size and ease of thumb-typing. Currently that means an Android-based solution. I don’t use an Android phone because of short battery life and poor cameras. Yes, I was locked-in by a test of a Nokia N8 which I still think is a fantastic cam/phone. I’m currently looking at the Galaxy Tab 7 Plus and Galaxy Tab 7.7 as a future upgrade possibility but I may wait for proven Ice Cream Sandwich products first as, to be honest, the Galaxy Tab 7 is still working well for me as a productivity, media consumption, reading and social networking device, despite still running a 2.x build of Android.

Amazon Kindle Fire: Owner’s Impressions and 13 Apps for Getting Things Done

Tags: , , , , , , ,


I have only had my Amazon Kindle Fire for about four days. I have admittedly spent a lot of that time in my Amazon account on a PC setting up my account to access more services and content channels than I have been using in the past. I have also not had much time to put a lot of these apps through their paces on the Fire, but my initial checkouts indicate that they are as useful as they are on my other Android devices, so we wanted to make sure that other users or potential Kindle Fire buyers know that they are out there.

A bit of preamble as to why I have this thing in the first place. After a brief recovery, my iPad’s critical display fault resurfaced, rendering it useless. There are a few options out there for replacing it for $299 and up; mine is a 1st generation 64GB 3G + WiFi model. In order to replace it at the same level of capability, the options move to the higher end of the price spectrum. Truth is, I felt like right now was a bad time to replace it with either a refurbished 1st gen iPad or an iPad 2, with a potential iPad 3 within six months of announcement. Perhaps more importantly, as I surveyed the other gadgets at my disposal, I questioned whether I needed another 10″ tablet in any flavor of mobile OS. The Kindle Fire was an inexpensive choice, and I had already fallen in gadget-love with my Kindle 3 that I had picked up over the summer. At $199, the Kindle Fire is just outside the impulse buy window. Picking one up meant not giving up much in terms of any future purchase opportunities.

For initial setup, I used a method that I typically employ in using another device already in my mobile kit as a reference configuration. In this case, I used my Spring HTC Evo 3D, and spent a couple of night after work plumbing the Amazon App Market for all of my Android Apps or suitable substitutes. I could have tracked down the .apk’s for each app, but I do not know that doing so would have been any less time-consuming than searching for them on Amazon. And while side loading the apps would have been a good way to exercise my freedom, I wanted to at least make an attempt at using the device as Amazon envisioned. If I can use it with the vendors constraints, than general consumers should be fine with it, and enthusiasts can determine how much they will have to go over in order to tailor it to their needs.

I have 56 apps loaded on the Kindle Fire right now. Here the top productivity and utility apps that I felt were essential to have onboard. Where pricing information is indicated, it is always in reference to pricing on Amazon:

13 Kindle Fire Productivity Apps

AK NotePad [free] - AK NotePad does not do much other than act as a no-muss, no-fuss text editor. I do a lot of writing in this app, anywhere from starting my blog posts to simple notes on home maintenance projects and sysadmin projects. I use this app on every Android device that I own, and was quite happy to find it available on Amazon for the Kindle Fire.

Battery Percentage Status Icon Alert [$0.99] - I always insist on being able to see my battery percentage without having to drill all the way down into the Settings menu on an Android device. This app does not implement the status view as optimally as I would like. In my other Android apps, the percentage is visible in the alert area of the display. On the Kindle Fire, you have to open the Alerts menu in order to see it. Still, that is a single drill-down versus the 3-step process to get to it via the stock Android method.

CalenGoo [$2.99] - In the wake of making my decision to procure the Fire, I have been on a few boards and seen comments on debating the value of the Kindle Fire. One of the big ones is the Blackberry Playbook versus the Kindle Fire argument, and I have seen Fire proponents claim the Fire’s advantage of having native email, calendar, contacts, and notes. Well, for calendar and notes, I do not know what native apps were supposed to be on my Kindle Fire, but I did not find them before I decided to just get CalenGoo. The app syncs with my Google Calendar and even syncs with my Calendar Task list. It also displays both my personal calendar as well as the one my wife and I share. In fact, it has several display options that the stock Android Calendar apps (both the Gingerbread version and the Honeycomb version) do not provide. I will likely be switching all my Android devices over to this app for my Google Calendar needs.

Colornote [free] – I suspect that just about every Android user is familiar with this app, as it comes pre-installed on many Android devices. Of particular note is that the recent updates have added a calendar view for your notes so that you can make them specific to a date. The big advantage of that feature is to then make a date specific widget on your homepage, but, admittedly, the Kindle Fire does not allow widgets on the homescreen. Still, this is a great app for making checklists and taking general notes.

Documents-to-Go Full – There are a couple of reasons why you will need an office suite on your Kindle Fire if you are going to use it for document editing on the go. The main reason is, well, so that you can do document editing on the go, if you feel that is a use-case you need the Fire to fulfill. The other reason is because Google Docs and DropBox do not exist in the Amazon App Store. So I put Documents-to-Go Full on my Fire, as I do on every Android device. I needed it anyway to meet the first need I mentioned. But I also use it if I need to access my Google Docs from the device. (the Main App which only allows you view documents is free; $14.99 for the full version, and I could not find a way to use my registry key that I have for the license that I purchased from the Android Marketplace to use on the Kindle Fire, although I did not spend a lot of time trying and I reckon that there’s some way).

ES File Explorer [free] – Surprisingly, it is compatible with the Kindle Fire and appears to work the same as it would on any other Android device. I half expected that Amazon would not want you to have visibility on the Fire’s folder structures, but that is thankfully not the case. ES File Explorer is an essential utility if you want to store files in areas other than the defaults that other apps select for you.

Evernote [free] – I have not signed into my account on the Fire yet, but this app was available on Amazon, and indicates that it is compatible with the Fire. I tend to keep my online research notes in here, article ideas, thoughts on tech and any forum posts I write that I think might be good content for a later article.

Note Everything [free / $3.99 for Pro] - I do not know that we will ever see anything like the desktop version of Microsoft’s OneNote for Android, but in its absence, Note Everything does a decent job of allowing you to organize notes and encapsulate them in different folders to reduce your in-app clutter. (Free for the baseline app; $3.99 for the Pro version; I normally run the Pro version, but I am not certain what the differences are between it and the base version I am running on the Kindle Fire yet)

Office Calculator [free / $1.69 for Pro] - Another thing that the Fire is missing is a built-in Calculator. This one does the trick. (Free – I am running this version; $1.69 for the Pro version)

QuickOffice PRO [included / $9.99 for Pro] – The non-pro version comes per-installed on the Fire. The Pro version can be used to access your DropBox account. (Free or $9.99 for the Pro version)

Read It Later [$1.49] – A Kindle Fire client for accessing your Read it Later account.

SpringPad [free] – As important to me as Evernote; possibly more so. I primarily use this for some of the same duties that I mentioned I use Evernote for. But sometimes, Springpad is faster, and so there are some notes and files that I retain there.

The Weather Channel and AccuWeather - I counted this as one for purposes of the title, because I am pretty sure that one of them was pre-installed on the Fire when I bought it. There is nothing much to say about either of these apps, other than that they both do what they need to, which is admittedly not much!

So that is the quick and dirty…grab these apps if you plan on doing anything more on your Kindle Fire than just consuming content. I will admit that not being able to attach an external keyboard puts a dent in my gadget M.O. of trying to see how much productivity I can achieve out of any device. I will also admit that my current assessment is that the Kindle Fire, for me, will be an uber-eReader or uber-PDA, falling short of full tablet utility. Without being able to attach keyboards, mice, and external monitors, the Fire will be the center of my reading experience, but only short duration productivity stints. I would not take off on travel like I did for the Thanksgiving break carrying the Kindle Fire as my productivity device; the lowest end I will go to for that would be something like my Acer Iconia Tab A500, which is what I took along with a USB keyboard and wireless mouse. However, I am completely confident walking out of the house for a day trip or with a laptop stuffed in a bag knowing that I can work and read from the Kindle Fire while in transit and leave the laptop to rest until I get to my destination.

Addendum:

Let me close out with a few words on a couple of the controversies surrounding the Kindle Fire. On the debate of Kindle Fire versus the Nook Tablet, I was driven by my poor experiences with the Barnes and Noble website service layer and its linkages to the Nook, a component of that term that everyone keeps using…ecosystem. During the time that I owned my Nook, I was locked out of my account 3 times, and in each instance, I received no indication from the website that the reason I could not log in or make a purchase was because my account had been locked. When this happened for the third time (and when I was on travel to-boot) I lost my patience for it. It will be a long time before I am ready to tether myself back to my Barnes and Noble account and a corresponding device. On the choice between Playbook versus the Kindle Fire; I was very interested in the productivity I could get out of the Playbook. However, I was not confident in the level of app support and being able to find everything I needed. I was also not confident in the degree of support RIM will be able to provide at all. Spending an extra $100 to get a Playbook (my local stores are out of the 16GB for $199 model), that may or may not ever see the 2.0 OS update or BBX, was a sketchy proposition. As a long-term investment, I felt confident that Amazon was not going to cast aside the Kindle Fire and remove support for it any time soon.

For my other thoughts on other debates surrounding the Kindle Fire, I am attaching my comment post to a Boy Genius Report article that ran near the end of last week. The article reports on a study conducted by a market analysis firm, which tracked ad impression counts for the Kindle Fire during the weeks covering its launch through the week ending after the Thanksgiving holiday. Because the number of ad hits dropped off during the days following Thanksgiving, the firm drew the conclusion that most buyers of the tablet had become unenthusiastic about the device after the initial purchase window. The analyst further goes on to say that, because the Kindle Fire does not have all of the same features as the iPad, that it cannot compete in the tablet market, and that consumers want devices that have the same feature-set as Apple’s tablet. My response frames a lot of how I perceive the utility of the Kindle Fire, and what type of user I think the device is good for.

Comment Response to Amazon Kindle Fire already cooling off, study suggests:

 “A very questionable study with conclusions drawn based on very limited data points. And what else besides price-point would “fall inline with consumer demand”? If it was features or specs, then it would seem that a lot more Android devices would be getting sold. I believe that tablet vendors have tried to compete with the iPad by going toe-to-toe on features and specs, or by even trying to clearly exceed the iPad on features and specs, and have encountered very little success. As one commenter indicated below, this a classic case of drawing a conclusion from a single metric and then extrapolating its relevance as if it was conclusive evidence of a definitive trend.

In the first few days with a Kindle Fire, I have spent all of my time in apps and pulling down content locally to the device and consuming it there. I have not spent anytime in the browser, yet I have essentially used no other mobile OS devices but the Kindle Fire. So I have expended many hours of usage, none of which would have contributed to this metric.

My belief is that users are employing the Kindle Fire as a device that receives all of its content through Amazon and in-app data streams. I believe users are more likely to buy digital magazines or newspapers than go to those publications’ websites via the Silk browser. This allows them to consume that content on the go, in an entirely encapsulated experience, without continuing dependency on connectivity once the download is complete. I also believe that Kindle Fire users are using the devices to do very specific things in very specific apps, and are not plunking down on a couch and engaging in general web surfing sessions for extended periods of time. A 7″ display would seem to lend itself to relatively brief surfing sessions of somewhat constrained and previously bookmarked websites.

I do not believe that ad impressions is the right metric to estimate Kindle Fire usage. It is designed to meet a different overall CONOP than other tablets. Just because it is in a Slate form-factor does not mean that its degree of attraction to consumers can be measured using the same metrics and subjective assessments that can be applied to other Slate form-factor devices. I do not believe that trying to compare the Kindle Fire to the iPad is an apples-to-apples comparison (no pun intended); a perspective that a surprisingly large portion of the tech analysis and tech media population seem to not be considering.

A more effective metric I think would be to look at the amount of content being purchased from Amazon either directly from Kindle Fire units, and/or the amount of sales growth in the Amazon App store, regardless of point-of-purchase (I have selected a lot of apps for the Kindle Fire via my PC, and then sync’d and installed those purchases to the Kindle Fire).

And I think the original analysts ending conclusion is just way off. Amazon is not trying to “truly compete in the tablet market”; at least not in the way it has been defined so far this year. And basing the win-lose assessment on what perceived consumer demand is…I do not know how anyone could assume to define this effectively. There was little to no concrete demand for a slate-style, media consumption device before the iPad’s arrival. There were a very small number of us who used TabletPCs and UMPCs, and the rest of the world who looked at us and the slate form-factor in general like we were crazy. Most consumers bought the iPad in droves without being able to effectively articulate how they were even planning on using it, or what use-cases they thought its capabilities would satisfy. What I think the Kindle Fire is trying to do is to provide a low-cost device, that has above crap-tablet level specs, and provides a 1-stop, integrated, homogeneous consumption channel for content. I can do pretty much everything that my Kindle Fire can do on my iPad, Xoom, Iconia A500, or Thinkpad Tablet. But in order to do it I have to have several different accounts, launch multiple apps from different vendors that get updated in different increments…you get the point…those experiences are very non-cohesive. And once I start moving, many of them become dependent on continuous connectivity.

I have an iPad, my wife has one, and our friends have them. But the way I use mine is vastly different than the minimal use-cases they employ theirs for. I believe that 80 – 90% of the use-cases that the average consumer would use an iPad for, can be met with a device like the Kindle Fire that provides that 1-stop shopping experience, that is highly reliable, and provides support and reach-back if you make a purchase and encounter problems, and can act as a single trusted-agent. Metrics that define those experiences are the ones that I think would be more relevant to look at than ad hits. You cannot make sweeping, broad, all encompassing assessments based off of singular data points.

I think if analysts are going to assess the indicators of Kindle Fire purchases and their impact, maybe one angle that needs to be looked at is how many consumers will see the $200 Kindle Fire as meeting their minimum need and preventing the need to step up to a $500 iPad? Certainly an argument can be made that the $500 iPad is more capable, but the more relevant question seems to be whether or not consumers perceive that they need that extra $300 worth of capability, or if the $200 package will be good enough. My regrets for voicing an opposing opinion.

- Vr/Zeuxidamas.”

Hands-On With the Sony Tablet P Android Clamshell

Tags: , , , , ,


From Sony Tablet P

Thanks to Al Sutton of Funky Android at Droidcon NL in Holland this week I got a lot of hands-on time with a retail version of the Sony Tablet P that has just arrived on the shelves in the UK. It’s the Psion 5-like dual-screen Android clamshell that I found quite exciting at IFA in Sept. It may look strange but there’s some nice mobile usability features tucked inside. Sony have done a reasonable job of optimizing Sony apps and gaming capabilities for the screen but there are some issues with standard apps and text input which mean the Sony Tablet P may only be interesting for people wanting the Sony media and gaming experience.

Obviously the clamshell form factor brings a natural screen protector into play which improves ruggedness. There’s also an interesting 12wh removable battery, a fantastic screen, a fast processor, Honeycomb build (with possible, not promised, upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich) and a useful 5-row on screen keyboard.

drug prednisone

From Sony Tablet P

In terms of size and weight it feels a little bit dense but it’s about the same weight as a Samsung Galaxy Tab. It fits into most pockets for short term transport but it’s very thick indeed. Its design certainly doesn’t shout ‘manly’ either.

Although there’s a gap between the screens I found myself ignoring it when reading content. It was great to see a full readable version of Carrypad across the screens and the Tablet P could make an interesting page-per-view reading device. The split screens bring a little issue when dragging across two screens. When the contact is lost the dragged item gets dropped.

From Sony Tablet P

Thumbing is possible in portrait or landscape but I didn’t find it as easy as the Galaxy Tab in portrait mode and the sharp corners dig into your hand. Angling the screen closer to 90 degrees allows a level of table-toppecking but there’s no haptics and its a little hit-and-miss. You certainly won’t enjoy inputting large amounts of text in this way. Again, I find a 7″ portaint-mode Thumbing experience to be much more comfortable.

From Sony Tablet P

I tested a number of apps and was impressed with the amounts of content being presented to me but many apps default into a single screen view. Using Honeycomb’s stretch feature apps are encouraged to spread across with screens. This isn’t always successful though. Google Reader refused to expand and crashed at every attempt. I saw other apps doing this too. This is a critical problem.

From Sony Tablet P

Having a removeable battery is a real advantage to the ultra-mobile user. Battery life looked, after a few hours of testing, very similar to that of the Galaxy Tab 7 – 6hrs screen-on usage over an active period of 12 hrs. It’s not quite all-day capable if you’re relying on this for some productivity.

From Sony Tablet P

Other notes:

  • The Sony Tablet P is not phone-capable but 3G version (4Gb storage) is just under 500 UK pounds
  • Speaker quality is very poor
  • Brightness and viewing angles on screen are excellent
  • No games tested – this is a key feature of the device.
  • Content catalogue not available from on this UK model tested in NL – This is another key feature of the device.

Summary

The Sony Tablet P is an interesting mobile device with some unique and useful features but text input was a little clumsy due to an uncomfortable thumbing grip and lack of haptics. Desktop-pecking is possible, but not efficient.  It seems that gaming could be the only serious unique feature here and I haven’t tested it. If that part of the device works well it’s the entertainment user that is the only type of user that really needs to take a close look at the Sony Tablet P. The reading experience was good and the Tablet P is easy to hold but the weight needs to come down a bit to match some of the best reader-capable tablets. Others looking for a more mobile all-round Android experience may find more pleasure in the Samsung Galaxy Note or 7″ Android slates.

 Gallery

Sony Tablet P

Transformer Prime Official Page Leaks Early. Manual, Details, Source Code Revealed

Tags: , , , , , , ,


The Transformer Prime is still not featured on the front page of Asus.com, and a support page hasn’t gone live yet, but if you’re sneaky, you can find the Transformer Prime’s official product page on Asus’ website.

It would appear as though the product page has gone live earlier than intended as Asus is still advertising for the original Eee Pad Transformer on the front page of their site. Additionally, the Transformer Prime micro-site still shows the “Prime is Coming” teaser text. Though we already know most of what there is to know about the Transformer Prime, the official product page gives us the first official list of specs as well a the user manual of the upcoming Tegra 3 tablet.

The launch of the official page may indicate that a Transformer Prime release date is not far off.

Don’t miss the Prime first look hands-on video from Ritchie’s Room.

Colors

We can also finally see the two colors (Champagne Gold, and Amethyst Grey) that the Transformer Prime will be available in, thanks to some new photos:

Manual

Though most of us glaze over gadget manuals, I’ve come to find that there are occasionally great tidbits to be found within. Thus, I’ve done you the courtesy of pulling out some of the good nuggets from the Transformer Prime manual so that you don’t have to.

From the manual we can see that you won’t get anything too exciting out of the box, which comes with nothing but the Transformer Prime itself, a USB charger, regional wall adapter, docking-to-USB connector, manual, and warranty card. And yes, you read that correctly — the keyboard is not included standard, it’s an accessory that will cost you $149.

The manual also tells us that the trackpad on the keyboard dock has two defined areas that will function as left and right mouse clicks. This will surely be handy for VPN applications (like the built-in ‘My Desktop’) and make the Transformer Prime even more capable of functioning like a full-blown computer:

Among other keyboard shortcuts, pressing the Fn-key along with the Up or Down arrow keys will jump to the top or bottom of a given page respectively.

We can also peek at some of the customizations that Asus has made to Honeycomb which runs on the Transformer Prime. Most interesting among the adjustments to the quick-settings panel. There is a special screen-brightness button that you can press to boost the screen-brightness for better outdoor readability. There’s also a performance toggle which can switch between Power Saving, Balanced, and Normal modes. It’s unclear whether or not these settings will impact the clock speed of the Tegra 3 hardware or simply adjust some of the system settings such as screen timeout and background app updates:

For the original Asus Eee Pad Transformer, one of the popular tweaks was to download a widget that would independently display the battery life of the tablet and the keyboard; by default the system only specified the overall battery levels. This time around, Asus is adding that funtionality out of the box. Thanks to the Asus Battery Level widget, you’ll be able to see the charge of the keyboard and the tablet without having to download any third-party applications or widgets. In addition to the widget, you’ll be able to see the battery levels on the notification bar and in the quick-settings panel.

 

If you’re curious about the supported media formats for encoding and decoding on the Transformer Prime and Tegra 3, the manual gives us full details:

  • Decoding (audio)
    • AAC LC/LTP
    • HE-AACv1 (AAC+)
    • HE-AACv2 (Enhanced AAC+)
    • AMR-NB
    • AMR-WB
    • MP3
    • FLAC
    • MIDI
    • PCM/WAVE
    • Vorbis
    • WAV a-law/mu-law
    • WAV linear PCM
    • WMA 10
    • WMA Lossless
    • WMA Pro LBR
  • Decoding (video)
    • H.263
    • H.264
    • MPEG-4
    • VC-1/WMV
    • VP8
  • Encoding (audio)
    • AAC LC/LPT
    • AMR-NB
    • AMR-WB
  • Encoding (video)
    • H.263
    • H.264
    • MPEG-4
The Transformer Prime comes with the MyLibrary app which seeks to compile all of your eBook into one place (something you’ve probably been longing for if you’re like me and have eBooks across Amazon, Google, and more). MyLibary supports ePub, PDF, and TXT and has your typical page-turning interface on a sepia background.
If you are thinking about using your Transformer Prime for enterprise work, Polaris Office is another included app which will be handy for your document editing needs. You can hook up your Google Docs or Box.net account to the app for some cloud storage action. It supports the following:

Asus is including the SuperNote app which will let you take hand-written and typed notes, completed with photos, audio recordings, and more. Without an active digitizer and stylus this seems somewhat out of place, but I suppose this will be enjoyed by those who can get along with capacitive styli.

Source Code

In the download section of the official Transformer Prime product page is a section called ‘Source Code’. This 89.9MB file is presumably the Transformer Prime’s software image, and might be useful for those hacksters over at the XDA Developer Forums.

Pricing for the Transformer Prime starts at $499 (+$149 if you want the dock) but the release date has not yet been announced.

Huawei MediaPad 7 Honeycomb Tablet Review [video]

Tags: , , , , , ,


I recently got my hands on a trial Huawei MediaPad 7 and over the last week I have been using it instead of my Eee Pad Transformer to see how it stacks up in the workplace.

The screen is one of the Huawei MediPad 7′s strongest features. It’s a 7” capacitive touchscreen with a resolution of 1280×800 and is IPS. It’s bright and produces colors well and is perfect for photos and videos but is also great for reading text. E-books look fantastic and the text jumps off the “page”.

Build quality

Firstly I am impressed with the look and feel of the MediaPad 7 and it seems to be very well made. The materials are first rate and the fit and finish equal to any other high grade tablet I’ve used. The device feels solid in the hand and it’s ergonomically easy to hold. The MediaPad7 feels a bit heavier than the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7 (380g vs. 391g) and this may have an impact if you intend to carry it around a lot or hold it for extended periods while reading or watching videos.

Personally I like the smaller form factor but with a high resolution screen and the 7″ size if you don’t have good eyesight you may struggle with the MediaPad 7.

The Cracked Screen

I found out the hard way that the MediaPad doesn’t have Gorilla Glass screen as unfortunately my Son dropped the tablet and it landed screen first and slid a bit. It scratched badly and has a crack running edge to edge across the top of the screen. And this from a drop onto a wood floor from a height of less than 2 feet!  I’d highly recommend a screen protector and a case as the first accessories you buy. Personally I don’t like screen protectors and haven’t fitted any of my devices with one and the Eee Pad, for example, hasn’t got a scratch on it. I don’t know whether it was just bad luck or a soft screen but this scratching is the worst I’ve ever had on a tablet or phone screen and it didn’t take that much of a fall. YMMV as it could also have been a freaky perfect storm of impact and angle.

Cameras

Moving on to the device, I tested the cameras and I was pleasantly surprised by the rear facing camera.  It’s a 5 megapixel camera and just using the standard Android camera interface it handles low light well and the image looked nice and crisp. This photo of a teddy Bear was taken in the middle of the loungeroom with filtered light from a window about 10 feet away and there’s little grain in the image. The front facing camera is 1.3 megapixels and also handled room-only lighting easily. Under low light the MediaPad 7 performed as well as any of the other Android cameras I’ve tested and so would be fine for video conferencing or VOIP calls.

Test image from Huawei Mediapad camera

Keyboards and Mice 

Periperals like my portable Bluetooth keyboard and mice setup worked fine. I couldn’t connect any USB devices or drives because the MediaPad 7 doesn’t have a full-sized USB port, so this was untested.

Battery life

Huawei claims 6 hours for the battery and this feels right to me. I didn’t run any formal benchmarks on the battery but I could easily get through the day and night using it and have 25% left in the battery when I plugged it in at night. I had WiFi and Bluetoth on, auto brightness, and default screen time-out and sleep settings. My ‘all day’ is from 7 am to midnight usually. The MediaPad 7 will do well for active all-day use.

Overall

I liked the Huawei MediaPad 7. Cracked screen aside, the Medipad 7 is well made, fast, has a great screen, and is very portable. With the right accessories, like a good case and a keyboard, it could work OK in an enterprise environment (of course with the standard Android limitations) but the lack of a full size USB port hamstrings the MediaPad 7 for enterprise work. This may be the tradeoff you have to make to get a 7″ form-factor so you need to asses whether the ability to connect drives or peripherals via USB is a real need for you. I prefer the 10″ screen tablets for work but a 7″ is great for portability and as a quick around-the-house consumption device. I’d consider the Huawei MediPad 7 if it’s priced correctly — stay tuned for pricing announcements which should be coming soon from Huawei.

Video

Huawei MediaPad 7" Honeycomb Tablet Hands-on

Tags: , , , , , ,


I managed to get a Huawei Mediapad for a few weeks to trial. I only managed to get a few hours in with the device today and snap off a couple of low res pictures from my phone but I’ll follow up with an in-depth overview and some high quality photos in a few days. In the meantime if you have any tests you want me to run on the Huawei MediaPad leave a comment and I’ll see what I can do.

clomid for males

Before I give you a few quick thoughts, you can find full specs at the Huawei MediaPad tracking page in our mobile device database.

huawei mediapad

I compared it to an iPad 2 and like the Galaxy Tab found it to be roughly half the size of the Apple unit. The unit is pocketable, just, but cargo pant-pocketable none the less.

The screen is great — sharp, bright, and very responsive. The device itself is nicely built and feels solid in the hand. The Huawei MediaPad is heavier than the Galaxy Tab but it feels like the same form factor so if you are happy with the size and feel of the Galaxy Tab you’ll likely be happy with the MediaPad too.

I don’t have a lot of apps installed yet and not a lot of media on it to slow it down but I was pleasantly surprised by how fast it is. Everything is snappy and very responsive. Apps open fast, media plays almost instantly and overall the processor doesn’t seem to struggle with anything.

If the pricing comes in at the right level, I think this device will sell very well.


Chippy is also looking forward to the Huawei MediaPad, and is actually considering trading up his much-used and loved Galaxy Tab for it. Though the tab has treated him well for over a year, Chippy says that he’s overdue for the benefits of Honeycomb in a 7″ form-factor. The upcoming dual-core Galaxy Tab Plus is likely to be a potent competitor to the Huawei MediaPad, especially when it comes to availability.

Huawei MediaPad Visits the FCC

Tags: , , ,


Pocketables points out that the Huawei MediaPad, which Chippy plans on purchasing, has made its way through the FCC, likely on it’s way to a US release.

After skimming the relevant FCC documents, it appears as though this is a WiFi-only version of the MediaPad, though Pocketables thinks we may see a carrier-tied version of the Huawei MediaPad at some point.

The Huawei MediaPad has already been made available for sale in a number of other countries and is one of only a few 7″ Honeycomb tablets yet available or announced. Others include Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 7.7 (and Galaxy Tab 7 Plus), the Toshiba Thrive 7, Acer’s Iconia Tab A100, and a few lesser known tablets.

ThinkPad Tablet — Owner’s Impressions Series: Part II, Connections and Ports

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,


Today’s focus for the Thinkpad Tablet series is on ports and connectors. I wanted to take some time to let everyone know the results of some of the testing I have been doing on the Lenovo Thinkpad Tablet and how it compares to some of the other tablets that are available. In the first installment we covered hardware, and mostly from a static perspective; how the tablet looks and feels. Today we will start getting into the functional aspects of the device.

HDMI Output

The first connection I tested on the Thinkpad Tablet was the mini-HDMI output, located on the right-hand side of the device. In what might be regarded as a strange choice, Lenovo elected to go with mini-HDMI as the form-factor for the ThinkPad Tablet’s video output. This is in contrast to most other tablets these days that are deploying with micro-HDMI (or full HDMI in the case of the Toshiba Thrive 10). Adapters for the latter form-factor are pretty abundant, as not only tablets, but some high-end and very popular smartphones also use this connector-type. Mini-HDMI is a little less prevalent, although adapters can also be found online easily and inexpensively. Luckily, when I ordered an HDMI cable kit for my Acer Iconia Tab A500 a couple of months ago, a mini-HDMI adapter, which I have not needed until now, came with it.

I ran a test using both the Lenovo Thinkpad Tablet and the Acer Iconia Tab A500 and neither sent 1080p output to either of two displays. I first tested with a Samsung 50″ Plasma TV. To see if I would get the same results, I also tested by sending the output of each tablet to my 23″ Acer H233H monitor over HDMI. In each case I attempted playback of 1080p content. And in each case, the content was only rendered in 720p. I am re-running some of these tests using different content before I declare this issue closed, but for the time being, test results indicate that neither the ThinkPad Tablet or the Iconia A500 output in 1080p, as each manufacturer claims that they do. This has been a known issue with the Acer Iconia Tab A500 for some time. However, I am very surprised that Lenovo would claim a spec that their ThinkPad Tablet was not achieving. In the case of the Acer Iconia Tab A500, other journalists have corroborated my test results. I am reaching out to Lenovo to see if they have a statement on the issue, and once this Owner’s Impressions series is complete, I will check the other sites and forums to see if they are finding the same issue.

Headphones and Audio

I am a background music junkie and so I have been using the ThinkPad Tablet with my Bose TriPort Earbuds just about every day. I have not come across any issues with the headphone port so far. The audio is not significantly better or worse than audio I have listened to on other tablets. Because I do not have a high-bar for audio quality, I did not run comparison tests against the A500 and Xoom. Stick around for the whole series though, because there are some issues that could effect your audio enjoyment which will be discussed in the next installment.

Micro-USB, Charging, and Battery Life

The micro-USB connector is the first place where we find ourselves in the swamp with some issues with the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet. The good thing about the device is that it charges over micro-USB. Just about every other Android tablet has a proprietary connector for the power supply, and the micro-USB connector on those devices is only used to establish a data connection to a host PC. The ThinkPad Tablet uses a micro-USB-to-full-USB cable to the power supply for charging. The cable detaches from the wall wart to provide the aforementioned data connection. There are a lot of different ways that you can configure how the micro-USB port can be used; a topic we will get into in the next installment on OS Customization and ThinkPad Tablet Apps. The main point to take away for this section of the series is that you can use the connection from a PC to charge the device. This makes so much sense, and it has really aggravated me to carry a laptop on travel, and then have to carry a charger for a tablet, when I can charge all of my other mobile devices via the laptop’s USB ports.

However, there are issues with charging the ThinkPad Tablet. There is a belief that there are some apps continuously communicate over the devices WiFi antenna and never allow it to power down. When this occurs after the screen times out, power continues to drain from the battery. You can determine if this is occurring by turning the device over and checking the red LED that sits above the “i” in the ThinkPad badge on the rear panel. There is also a belief that this was occurring at the device’s launch when it was connected to certain D-link routers. A software update supposedly addressed this issue, however the issue persists, and is being attributed to apps. At any rate, if the LED remains on when the display has timed out, and the device should be in standby, the recharge rate is incredibly slow when using the stock charger. The first night with my device, I charged it overnight and was only at 88% when it was time for me to leave the following morning, after some 8 hours of charging.

I am not sure that I believe the current assessment that this is due to certain apps. I am not running anything unique on the ThinkPad Tablet that I do not run on at least one other Android device, if not several, and those devices do not have this problem. So my feeling is that if there are certain apps that are doing this to this tablet specifically, it is due to an interaction with something that Lenovo customized in this specific device, not due to the apps themselves. At any rate, there are several work-arounds to contend with this. There is pretty steady discussion on this topic in the Lenovo support forums, as well as in reviews threads on Amazon and other online vendors. Most users should be ok if they set the wireless antenna to power down whenever the display is off. My problem with this fix was that for the first couple of days with the device, I could not find that setting. It is not in the same place that it is on every other Honeycomb device that I have used, so I set other configuration settings in lieu of this one step, and for a time, I did not want to change them since I had it working the way it was. I am just getting around to trying to back some of those changes out to see if the WiFi work-around will be enough in and of itself.

In the meantime, my personal configuration settings have made the constant LED-on condition go away, and the device charges normally. I get a full-day’s work out of the device (easily). Right now, battery power is reporting out at 49% and Juice Plotter, which has proven very accurate, shows 8 hours and 15 minutes of use remaining. Lenovo also states that the ThinkPad Tablet charges faster when placed in the dock, which is an add-on that the company sells for $69.99 and currently shows a 4-week-plus shipping date. For some reason, this accessory only shows up as a bundled add-on when ordering the tablet, and not available for stand-alone purchase. I have started to keep a 3rd-party generic micro-USB charger made by TomTom at work and it has worked fine so far. A word of warning: despite the fact that the ThinkPad Tablet can be “cured” of the egregiously slow charging speeds with a work-around, the fact is that micro-USB is still a slower charging delivery mechanism than a direct, dedicated power connector would be. Therefore, even with the LED symptom work-around, the TPT still charges slower than other tablets with proprietary direct and dedicated power connections.

SD Card Slot

There have been no issues that have surfaced while using the SD card slot. I use an SD-to-micro-SD memory card adapter with several micro-SD cards. I have not had the opportunity to test the SIM slot. I will take Lenovo’s word for it that the SIM card port does not work.

USB Port

As is the case with some of the other Android tablets sporting a full-sized USB port, that connection is the star of the ThinkPad Tablet’s utility. I have been able to use USB hubs, mice, keyboards, and thumb drives with the tablet. I have not tried my 32GB PNY thumb drive, but several 4GB drives have worked with aplomb. I use ES File Explorer as my file browser and management app on the ThinkPad Tablet, and it continues to meet all of my needs. The unit comes with a pre-installed file browser app directly from Lenovo, but I have not used it as I use ES File Explorer on all of my Android devices.

Summary Opinions – Connections and Ports

Overall, the connections and ports on the Lenovo Thinkpad Tablet leave me pretty satisfied, with some caveats:

  • As I mentioned in the first article in this series, I would have preferred both an SD card slot, and a micro-SD port. I realize that there is a cost advantage to producing the same chassis for all variants of the ThinkPad Tablet, but it seems like Lenovo could have made the WiFi versions with a micro-SD slot in the place of the useless SIM card port.
  • I am a fan of the microUSB port being used for charging, and I am willing to take the slower charging speed for this increased utility.
  • The decision to go with a mini-HDMI port over a micro or full-HDMI port leaves me a little miffed, but I do not connect to HDMI that often. The main problem is that with an adapter and an HDMI cable hanging out of the side, the combination tends to sag in the port because it is was machined with too much tolerance, leaving a fit that is not that tight. So the cable and adapter sag, placing strain on the connections. Maybe it will not cause any issues with the connection over time, but any gadgeteer out there is likely not a fan of seeing a lot of connection or cable-strain being applied to their device.

Sidebar – Accessories (or the lack thereof)

I wanted to include some info on accessories as we are about to move into focusing on software after this post. Probably the most disappointing thing to me loosely associated with ports and connectors is not directly attributed to the device itself, but the dearth of accessories available for the ThinkPad Tablet at this point. At the time I purchased it, I could not even find screen protectors cut specifically for the device, so I modified one that I ordered for the Toshiba Thrive 10. There are the type that use a spray-on application to seal the screen protector to the tablet, but I am back to not trusting in the concept of deliberately putting a fluid on an electronic device.

I would love to be able to place my ThinkPad Tablet in the Lenovo Dock at work, but I am not willing to pony up cash for a 4 week wait period, and right now you cannot order just the dock from Lenovo. The Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet Keyboard Folio Case also has a 4 week wait period, and also cannot be ordered direct from Lenovo by itself. There are a few vendors that list the Keyboard Folio and the Dock as an item for sale, but almost none of them actually show the items as confirmed in-stock.

The Tablet Pen is available as a stand-alone purchase for for $39.99 but shows a shipping wait of 10 days. Anyway, I would recommend that if you want the pen, get it up front with the tablet. Purchased as a bundle, the pen adds $30 to the Lenovo price vice the $40 price as a stand-alone purchase. However, you can also easily find the 32GB ThinkPad Tablet with the pen for $30 $70 less (I ordered mine from TigerDirect for $569.99 – they are even cheaper now at $529.99) than the Lenovo price for the ThinkPad Tablet without the pen (Lenovo sells the tablet $569 without the pen, and charges another $30 to bundle the pen and tablet together) at other online vendors carrying the device. The Thinkpad Tablet Folio case is available for $49.99, for order by itself, and shows a 10-day delay from order to shipping. In my opinion, $50 is too much to spend on a folio case. For the time being, I am using the folio case that I ordered for the Toshiba Thrive. It is not a perfect fit, but it gets the job done. I also purchased a generic hard-shell carrying case for 10″ tablets to use as an alternate that provides some degree of protection for the TPT when I am walking around the plant.

Stay turned for further impressions coming over the next few days!

Toshiba Thrive 7 Launching in Early December With HD Display [Photos]

Tags: , , ,


toshiba thrive 7Toshiba is announcing the Thrive 7 today, a 7″ Honeycomb tablet which is the second addition to the Thrive series. Toshiba described the Thrive 7 as a smaller version of the Thrive 10 and it will feature that same grip-friendly back. The Thrive 10 is a ‘utility’ tablet of sorts, featuring a range of full-sized ports. I was hoping that the Thrive 7 would retain these full-sized ports, but unfortunately they had to be shrunk to their smaller counterparts in order to fit inside of the Thrive 7.

While other 7″ Honeycomb tablets have so far been released with 1024×600 screens, the Thrive 7 has been fitted with a 1280×800 LED backlit display. Honeycomb 3.2 is installed out of the box.

The Thrive 7 uses that familiar Nvidia Tegra 2 platform that most Honeycomb tablets are using today, which means you’ll find a 1GHz dual-core Cortex A9 CPU and 1GB of RAM inside. As for ports, the tablet hides micro-HDMI, mini-USB, and MicroSD away underneath a dust-cover. I thought an error had been made when I heard mention of mini-USB (instead of micro), but we’ve double checked and it is confirmed that the Thrive 7 has a mini-USB port instead of micro-USB. Why Toshiba went with mini-USB instead of micro-USB is unclear. However, you will be able to charge through the mini-USB port, or through the docking connector on the bottom. I think I speak for most of us when I say it would have been awesome to see full-sized HDMI/USB/SD on the Thrive 7, but I suppose they couldn’t cram all of that in the chassis of the 7″ form-factor.

In addition to the aforementioned ports, you’ll find a volume rocker, lock/power button, and rotation-lock switch on the Thrive 7, just like the Thrive 10. There’s also a 2MP front facing camera and a 5MP rear sensor.

At 11mm thick and 399 grams, the Thrive 7 won’t be the thinnest or lightest tablet on the market, but it’s trimmed way down compared to the Thrive 10 which is 16mm thick and weighs in at 725 grams. 16/32GB capacities will be offered. Though the Thrive 7 is focused on mobility, Toshiba says it has no plans at the moment for a 3G version of the unit.

Toshiba will be offering a range of cases for the tablet, including one which will allow the device to be propped up in both landscape and portrait modes. To make use of the docking connector (not found on the Thrive 10), Toshiba is readying a sort of multimedia dock which will play nicely with a Bluetooth keyboard that will also be offered with the device.

Pricing will be revealed closer to launch, which is planned for early December.

ThinkPad Tablet — Owner’s Impressions Series: Part I, Hardware

Tags: , , , , ,


The Thinkpad Tablet is not going to be for everyone. I mention that now because, over the next few days, my postings on the Lenovo Thinkpad Tablet may make it sound like the coming of the Holy Grail of gadgets. I am a particular type of user and, for me, this device mates very well with many of my use-cases. in fact, in many ways, this is the device that I have been waiting for for years. So much so that, with three other tablets in the house, I am hard pressed to figure out if I am willing to spend days using the other tablets and letting the Thinkpad sit. I may just have to go to using the Thinkpad Tablet all of the time.

The Thinkpad Tablet arrives on the back-end of a week of tablet troubles. I originally purchased an Acer Iconia Tab A100 to fill the space of a 7″ device in my kit, and replace my Dell Streak 7. The A100 functioned for a few days and then failed, areas of its display no longer accepting input. I RMAed it for a Toshiba Thrive, hoping to leverage the added connectivity of the full-sized ports. Despite applying all Toshiba updates, the device was unusable after a full night of testing and configuration. It would sometimes not wake up from sleep, or it would wake up, but the WiFi antenna would not power back up, or it would not go to standby when I pressed the power button. That device I sent back as an RMA as well.

So, I will admit that my impressions of the Thinkpad may also be colored by this rash of poor tablet quality that I have been recently exposed to. And that is one reason why this is not titled as a review. I have been working on the Thinkpad Tablet for about four days total. These are my first days’ impressions of the device, which I hope to provide updates to after a month or so of use, as well as follow-on long-term reports.

The Thinkpad Tablet is not a lithe device. It will not be winning any awards for svelteness. That being said, while its understandable that people are enamored with the 11mm thickness of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, I consider that device flimsy and not something I personally want to throw in my bag every day. I do like the feel of the Xoom and the Acer Iconia Tab A500, and the Thinkpad has some similarities to both of those devices. Throughout this part of the first impressions series, by the way, we will be doing a lot of comparisons between the Thinkpad Tablet, the Xoom, and the A500, as I have used all of these.

The entire back of the Thinkpad Tablet is rubberized, much like the majority of the back of the Xoom. The back provides a small degree of additional grip, which I always like in a device. It gives me more confidence that the device will not wind up on the floor. The Thinkpad Tablet feels like it is a little lighter than the Iconia Tab A500 to me, despite the fact that the Iconia’s list weight is about 0.05 pounds less than the Thinkpad’s. The Xoom supposedly weighs in at the same weight as the Iconia Tab, and also feels heavier than the Thinkpad to me. I believe this has a lot to do with weight distribution and the ergonmics of the designs. Regardless, when you get down to it, with a 0.05 pound weight difference between the Thinkpad and the other two devices, it should not make a big difference to anyone.

I know that a lot of people don’t like the Xoom’s placement of the lock/power button, but having used several Android tablets, it is my favorite placement for a power button because it limits the frequency with which a user accidently hits the button and wakes the device up or sends it to standby. This is especially true when inserting or removing a tablet from a case. I routinely hit the power button on the Thinkpad taking it in and out of bags. The Iconia A500′s power button is on the side and has a very small surface area, so hitting it accidently is pretty unlikely. The Thinkpad Tablet’s sits on the top left-hand corner. Not a show-stopper, obviously, but occasionally annoying when you also have a Xoom that has a comparatively better design.

The left-side of the Thinkpad Tablet is populated with just the two nubs for Volume Up and Down. The right-hand side has the majority of the ports: Headphones, MicroUSB, HDMI, and the dock connector. Hidden underneath a pop-out port cover are the slots for the SD Card and the SIM Card. As far as I have been able to ascertain, the SIM Card slot on my model does not do anything and will not allow 3G communications. While I like the full-size SD Card slot, I would have preferred another slot dedicated for MicroSD; as it is now, you have to use a MicroSD-to-SD adapter if you have MicroSD cards laying around that you want to use. Initially, this feels like an inconvenience to me because I cannot simply grab a spare microSD card and insert it into the Thinkpad Tablet sans adapter. I may come to see this as a convenience later, as this setup does mean that I just pull out the card-in-a-card and insert it directly into one of my laptop’s card reader port if I want to swap files between the two.

The bottom edge of the tablet has a sliding port cover, which reveals a full-sized USB port. Accompanying the USB port is the device’s single speaker. There is a cubby in the lower-left-hand corner of the back panel for the stylus (yes it’s an active digitizer). The cubby is notched for retention, but it does not have the more secure feel that a spring-tension retention mechanism does. Of course, with no mechanical, moving parts, it also means not having to worry about something else to break. So far, the stylus has remained securely snug in the cubby when I have had it placed there.

For the chassis design, I would give the ThinkPad Tablet an average to above-average rating. I would have preferred stereo speakers, like my other two Android tablets have. I understand this is a business device, but I would still have preferred better audio for watching presentations or iTunes University lectures. I previously mentioned my on-the-fence perspective of the SD card slot. And I would have preferred the Power Button to be located elsewhere. But I love the feel of the back of the device, its weight and overall size. The Thinkpad Tablet is thicker than the Xoom, but the Xoom concentrates a lot of its weight in the center, which sometimes causes a strain when holding that tablet one-handed at the outside edges for a long period of time. The ThinkPad Tablet distributes all of its weight evenly. It also has a lot of bezel, which normally would be undesirable. However, for inking, it is nice to have ample area to hold the tablet without coming into contact with the screen. The shape of the ThinkPad Tablet makes it the one device that has some closest to feeling like writing or working on a paper notepad for me, and that makes a difference when we get to talking about inking later on.

In side-by-side comparisons, I give the nod to the Thinkpad Tablet’s display. The A500, however, has the brightest display. I tested this by pulling up a wallpaper of a riff on the Atari logo, which shows 5 bands of different colors on a black background. I then took the ThinkPad Tablet, Xoom, and A500 and laid them side-by-side with this image on their screens, and the Honeycomb pop-up menu surfaced, as well, so I could some some contrast. I compared the image across the displays. I then zoomed in until the screen was primarily taken up by a very large area of black and the yellow stripe of the logo. While observing the images, I had the display brightness set at maximum and Auto off. As mentioned, in terms of sheer brightness, the A500 seemed to come out on top. When it came to looking at the zoomed image, the ThinkPad Tablet had the best color saturation of the yellow stripe, the deepest blacks, and the best contrast. The display also features Corning Gorilla Glass. This technology is now so prevalent, that I am starting to look askance at any device that does not come with it.

There are four hardware buttons on the right edge of the Thinkpad Tablet’s front panel. I use these buttons infrequently, but I also do not find them intrusive. Kudos to Lenovo for putting in a button that locks the auto-rotation, instead of having to do the normal two-step drill-down to access the lock-screen rotation option.

OK, that’s it for the hardware impressions and comments on the chassis. Over the next week, we will go over connections and ports, Android customizations and software performance, and finally we will wrap-up with the digital ink experience. This will also give me a few more days to work on the device on the job, where I have used it to replace my Acer Iconia Tab A500 as my primary business companion. Stay tuned!

Galaxy Tab 7.7 Moves Through FCC, Eradicates Reports That it Wouldn’t Reach the US

Tags: , , , , , ,


samsung galaxy tab 7.7Samsung’s upcoming Galaxy Tab 7.7 was announced at IFA 2011 at the very beginning of this month. Many were excited to hear about the high density Super AMOLED Plus display and the 1.4GHz dual-core CPU. Given the excitement, and the popularity of the original Galaxy Tab 7 in the US, it’s surprising that we saw reports that the Galaxy Tab 7.7 might not become available in the US. Fortunately, we can now say with confidence that the Galaxy Tab 7.7 will be reaching US shores, thanks to the FCC.

Engadget dug up the FCC filing, and while not much detail is revealed, we can see some simple diagrams (click through to Engadget to see), along with the the logo that will be printed on the back of the device, which indicates that the particular model going through the FCC is WiFi-only. Separate testing will need to be done on a model that features WLAN connectivity.

The original report of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 (and the Galaxy Note) not coming to the US came from GottaBeMobile. The information came from a Samsung representative who said that there were “no plans” for launching the Tab 7.7 (and the Galaxy Note) in the US. It’s understandable how this could have been interpreted as Samsung effectively saying that these devices wouldn’t be coming to the US, but it seems clear in hindsight that the rep was referring to the fact that US plans were not yet made, finalized, or otherwise ready to be commented on. Saying that there a “no plans” is a pretty silly way to say that if you ask me!

Miscommunication is never fun, but I’m happy that it was merely that, rather than Samsung actually deciding not to launch both the Galaxy Tab 7.7 and the Galaxy Note in the states.

Though the Galaxy Note hasn’t yet cropped up in the FCC, we’ve been expecting to see it in the US at some point, and the Galaxy Tab 7.7 filing gives us confidence that it will eventually become available in the region..

Intel Medfield tablet running Honeycomb spotted at IDF

Tags: , , ,


image

No details.  No name.

Intel just showed us a tablet running Honeycomb at the main keynote of the Intel Developer Forum this morning.

All they said was that it was running on Medfield. Looks like Android is becoming the focus for Intel tablets.

We’re in the keynote now and will try and bring you more soon.



Top 10 Ultra Mobile PCs

Featured Report