After all the Clovertrail testing last week the plans to take a consumer tablet to MWC took a turn at the last minute. The Fujitsu Q702 turned up for testing and it bumped itself to the top of the list based on some amazing specs; the first and most important of which is a total 70Wh battery with 44Wh of that as a replaceable in the base. Hot-swap goodness!
Depending on your stance, this Fujitu Q702 is either a 11.6â€ ultra mobile PC â€“ a tablet that weighs 850gm and includes a full Core i5 platform, or an Ultrabook when docked.
At 1700 Euro this is not something you buy without thought but here are a few things that might tempt you.
Â Matt capacitive display with digitizer and pen (stowed on base)
3G (Sierra Wireless Gobi with GPS)
Fingerprint reader, VPro and TPM
Full SD, Full Gig E. Full HDMI, Full VGA, Four USB ports
The Acer Iconia Tab has been here for over a month now. Bought as a Clovertrail test device it has turned into a surprisingly usable and flexible ultra-mobile PC. The Acer W510 might be using the same Atom core as netbooks did but the package here is far more than that both in terms of computing and usage flexibility. Read on for the full review of the Acer Iconia W510 and a summary of where this ground-breaking style of smart and ultra mobile PC fits into the market.
Iâ€™ve never been a big fan of tablet PCs. A UMPC with 5-7â€ screen, yes but the classic tablet pc with digitizer and 11.6 or greater screen size was too awkward for me, Too heavy to hold in one hand, with poor battery life andÂ screen input limited to a pen with a focus on handwriting, was far from my idea of fun or productivity. The Lenovo IdeaTab Lynx, an 11.6â€ tablet PC is a completely different story however and is easily the best 11.6â€ tablet PC Iâ€™ve used, and that includes the original Samsung XE700, a well-crafted tablet PC with Core CPU and a digitizer. The Lenovo Ideatab runs Windows on an Intel Atom platform.
Now Iâ€™m not saying that the Lenovo IdeaTab Lynx is the best 11.6â€ tablet and I know thereâ€™s a huge difference between this and a pro-level Core-based tablet with Digitizer and handwriting input. I must also say that I havenâ€™t fully tested any of the new Core-based Win 8 tablets yet but the Lynx is working well for me and I feel it hits a very nice sweet-spot in the market. Weight, size, price, features, touch, OS. The Lynx is well-balanced and while it’s not going to be a winning consumer tablet, I bet it finds a lot of friends. The Lynx I have here is the 64GB/2GB model which is retailing in my locale for 55o Euro. I only picked it up yesterday but I’ve given it some serious testing over the last 24hrs.
The 11.6â€ tablet designÂ is very much a productivity-first design, especially when you can add a comfortable keyboard to the mix. At 635gm (1.4 pounds) it’s light enough to serve as a consumption device too though. In portrait mode it really feels like you’ve got the future of the newspaper in your hand. Seriously, if 11.6″ tablets hit 500gm I bet we’ll have another hot segment on our hands. This is the coffee-table tablet!
Is Atom good enough for the job of productivity? It depends on your definition of productivity but itâ€™s fair to say that itâ€™s not going to be good enough for most people as a daily drive for office-type activites. For me, however, thereâ€™s an exciting mix of capability here. As a blogger that writes, and writes, and edits sub-2MB images with the occasional YouTube video edit in 720p, this could really work for me, especially given the battery life and always-on capability. Iâ€™d add HSPDA for my ideal mobile blogging setup and a full-size SD card slot would be a dream but this could work out better than a 10â€ Windows 8 device. I can think of a lot more customers that would get good value out of the Lynx too, not least the long-distance traveler; Having Windows behind the entertaining Metro/Modern/Win 8 Store is perfect for that scenario.
Hereâ€™s how Iâ€™m using it right now (see image) because I havenâ€™t got the keyboard dock yet. That comes next week.
Hereâ€™s a rundown of the device itself.
Screen. Bright, not incredibly punchy in terms of color but is IPS which is a must on a tablet. 1366×768 is OK for me but I know that many would expect more. For reading, there would be an advantage with 1600×900 of course.
Build. Strong. No flex. No creaks. Plastic back feels a bit cheap. One thing I must point out is that the edges are not smoothly chamfered which could have given the use a more comfortable experience. If the Lynx was any heavier it would have been a serious negative point.
Ports/features: No rear cam. Micro ports could be a pain (usb, hdmi, sd on the tablet.) Speakers are loud, not brilliant quality. Dual-array mic.Â There’s a micro-USB to USB converter included and you can plug in a micro-USB charger which seems strange considering it’s a host port. Check out the unboxing video, below,Â for a closer look at the ports.
Software: Apart from a Norton package (removed immediately) and a Sugar Sync service (Acer cloud sync) itâ€™s refreshingly free of additional software.
As for performance, you shouldnâ€™t expect much difference between Clovertrail tablets due to the high level of integration inside – due to Connected Standby requirements. (Always on.) The Lenovo IdeaTab Lynx does, however, beat the Acer W510 on PCMark7 purely because the eMMC write speeds are a little faster. On every other benchmark the two devices were almost exactly the same. The WiFi appears very slightly weaker on the Lynx which is a disappointment. It has the same Broadcom WiFi chipset as the Acer but I was hoping for better antenna design. In general the WiFi is relatively weak.
All Clovertrail Windows 8 tablets are always-on capable but this one has a nice little trick because the micro USB port on the underside can be used to charge the device. This also serves as the docking port so clearly the dock will charge the tablet whenever it is connected â€“ a battery-to-battery charging setup that wastes quite a bit of energy. Iâ€™ve just connected in a pocket USB charger which can deliver 1000mA and the device is just managing to charge at a very very slow rate. I doubt itâ€™s pulling the full 1A available. This is the first time Iâ€™ve ever charged a PC from a smartphone power pack. You can also see Iâ€™m using a Bluetooth keyboard. Total cost was about 55 Euro for the charger and keyboard. The Lenovo Lynx keyboard costs 155 Euro! One other advantage to this charging setup is the extremely small and light charger which delivers 5.2V up to 2000ma, similar to some tablet chargers. I love this idea of Micro-USB charging.
Iâ€™m not sure youâ€™d need this charger during a full day out though because battery life is as good as Iâ€™ve seen on the Acer W510. Iâ€™m sitting here typing with WiFi on, Bluetooth on and screen-on in about 2.5W of usage â€“ enough for about 10 hours typing from the tablet battery alone. Based on what Iâ€™ve measured on Clovertrail before, youâ€™ll struggle to get less than 6hrs battery life from the tablet. Video playback with WiFi off should run for over 10hrs if I have my maths right.
A quick word on Clovertrail performance now. Itâ€™s Atom, as we know it. Itâ€™s not a powerful compute platform but it returns a full and accurate web experience faster than most Android tablets. The graphics performance has been pumped up a little over previous generatios too; I was surprised how smooth a game of Reckless Racing was from the Windows 8 store. Audio playback and video playback hardware is included along with accelerated video encode. Youâ€™ll get about 2X the render performance that you saw on Netbooks which brings short 720p clips into scope at around 1X real-time rendering.
The SSD is not a SATA drive on any of the Clovertrail tablets as Clovertrail only supports eMMC which is usually soldered-on just as it is on Android tablets and the iPad speeds arenâ€™t stellar but itâ€™s acceptable, rugged, silent and efficient. 75MB max read, 33MB max write (sequential.) Oh, on noise â€“ there isnâ€™t any. No fan here!
Iâ€™ll leave it there for now and hand-over to you for questions. The keyboard dock will arrive some time next week and Iâ€™m really looking forward to that because if the keyboard is typical Lenovo style, Iâ€™m going to get on very well with it!
According to a couple of online source the HP Envy x2 should start shipping soon. An offer starting in Japan today promises delivery starting from the 27th December (some reports say 21st) and in Germany a couple of retailers have listed the same timeframe.
Hector, a guest poster and CloverTrail Windows 8 tablet owner has another post for us today. Heâ€™s been looking at navigation applications in Windows 8 on his Samsung ATIV SmartPC 500T. Donâ€™t forget to subscribe to Hectors YouTube channel here. Follow him on Twitter here and check out his blog here. Thanks Hector!
This is the feature that weâ€™ve been waiting for â€“ low power states in Windows that match what you might see on a smartphone. Always on! Personally I think itâ€™s a feature that Intel havenâ€™t promoted well enough, possibly because it makes Ultrabooks look a little old fashioned.
The new low power states have been available in hardware since Moorestown chipsets were available and you can experience them in action in Android tablets and smartphones running on Intel but in the world of Windows PCs, only the CloverTrail platform /Windows 8 offers this new level of of idle efficiency. It means youâ€™ll get a big improvement in battery life and the possibility of always-on action.
In the last 24hrs Iâ€™ve had feedback from a user in Germany that proves itâ€™s working.
Starting from 9th November in the US youâ€™ll be able to buy a Windows 8 PC, a full Windows 8 PC, that weighs just 1.27lb / 658gm â€“ lighter than the good old handheld UMPC favorite, the Viliv X70EM and lighter than any full-size iPad.Â The Acer Iconia W510, part of the Acer Iconia W5 Series, runs a dual-core 1.5Ghz Clover Trail CPU with turbo boost to 1.8Ghz, a newer GPU, 32BG of solid-state storage, an optional keyboard dock, a claimed 9hrs of battery life and a 1366×768 IPS multitouch capacitive touchscreen. The Viliv X70EX started at about $600/ The Acer Iconia W510 starts at $499. In Europe youâ€™ll get the dock thrown in for a total of 500 Euro.
Letâ€™s take a closer look at the W510 and think about what it says about the state of ultra mobile PCs in 2012
Surface is out and the reviews are in. Most reviewers seem impressed; Many worry about the lack of apps.
From tomorrow youâ€™ll be able to fill that app-gap with a product sector that Iâ€™m more excited about than a Chromebook on ARM, a Nexus 7 3G or a convertible Ultrabook.
Atom-based PCs donâ€™t exactly bring up images of advanced computing but since the netbooks died a few important things have happened. A very new and very advanced power engine, a new operating system and a break-out from the rather restrictive specifications, prices constraints and designs of the simple netbook category.
Iâ€™ve read a lot of negative press about the Windows 8 user experience recently which seems to focus on a â€˜problemâ€™ created by having two user interfaces that will confuse users. I just donâ€™t see that issue. Sure, there will be some new things to learn, every new system has a learning curve, but I donâ€™t see huge barriers in Windows 8.
Today Iâ€™m working on a Windows 8 Tablet. Iâ€™m working, which means Iâ€™ve got a keyboard, a mouse and a large screen in front of me.
Windows booted quickly on this Atom-based tablet PC (ExoPC) and because I just wanted to do some Chrome work and write this post I went straight to the desktop by clicking â€˜Desktop.â€™ It works like any laptop or desktop.
Iâ€™ve been in â€˜desktopâ€™ all the time Iâ€™ve had my bum on my seat (apart from taking a few images) and as you would expect, Metro is not causing me any problems. I can switch to it very easily by dragging the mouse to the top left, bottom left corner or pressing the Windows key, Alt-Tab and other methods that didnâ€™t take me too long to work out. If you want to use Windows 8 like you used Windows 7 thereâ€™s no issue.
If you end up in Metro through inquisitiveness or accident you can either hit the ESC or Windows key to toggle to the last application, Alt-Tab to see a list of running programs, use the programs list accessed from pointing to the top-left corner of the screen or I can hit that big icon in front of me that says â€˜Desktop.â€™
On my keyboard I even have an Alt-Tab button that looks like a set of Windows, a media button that starts Media Player (in the Desktop) or I can even just start typing â€œdesktopâ€ and Iâ€™ll be shown the shortcut to hit. If in doubt, press the Windows key and start typing. Word, Desktop, Mail, Photo, Music, Help. You can even type the name of a file or a setting. They all work! If you donâ€™t have a keyboard, swipe from right and press the search button.
How simple do people actually need this to be to be convinced that if you want the Desktop itâ€™s there and if you want to do stuff when you donâ€™t have a keyboard, thereâ€™s a new interface that can really help. You can get going on day 1, and start discovering after youâ€™ve read your email!
Windows 8 is not a Fischer Price toy or a gaming console, itâ€™s a rich operating system that can help you get things done like few other operating systems can, either with keyboard and mouse or with a finger. Some people may take a few minutes to understand this idea but isnâ€™t that just normal, and worth the time, for a rich operating system?
As I tool a look at the MSI booth at CeBIT yesterday I couldnâ€™t stop myself from getting a little hands-on with the Windpad 110W. AMD Fusion-based and equiped with a nice optical mouse pointer and full SD card slot itâ€™s a tablet design that could rally benefit from the next-gen OS and platforms.
The MSI rep nods and smiles and I talk about 1366×768 and Windows 8, as we discuss the reason for having a mouse pointer in a 1KG tablet and how Windows 8 + Clover Trail W with a fast SSD could really bring usable low-cost productive tablets to end-users.
MSI wonâ€™t say anything about new products but theyâ€™re clearly thinking about this. In tact, I got the impression that theyâ€™re more interested in Windows tablets than in Ultrabooks which they tell me are not going to be broguth to the market until they have taken a longer term look at the Ultrabook market.
Itâ€™s a blast from 2011 to play with the Windpad again but I think that weâ€™re going to see more of this later this year. Tablets, convertibles and, my favorite, the detachable Atom-powered Win8/Android screen and Intel Core-driven keyboard base station, all in under 1.5KG!
Qualcomm gave us an update on Mirasol this morning. If you remember, Mirasol is a daylight-readable (transflective) display technology with color. The screen refresh rate and colour depth isnâ€™t that good for video and photo experiences but for reading, itâ€™s getting better every time I see it.
Power-saving, daylight readable and now with touch and sidelight. Hereâ€™s an video in which I give you an update about timescales for mass production. (Expect products in 2013.)
When I tested an Intel Menlow-based MID in July 2008 and saw the PC architecture streaming music into a browser-player running at 2.8W I knew Intel were on the right track. Two years later with their next-gen architecture, Moorestown, they tackled the standby power drain and managed to get it into a phone. I had exclusive hands-on and although the device was hot and eventually deemed uncompetitive, it was clear to see where this was heading. This week at CES I put my hand on the back of an Intel Medfield-based smartphone and felt nothing. No heat! On the front, I saw a quick user experience and when I tested Sunspider I saw an impressive result of 1290ms, with Android 2.x.
Over at AnandTech, meanwhile, Anand has been discussing more details about the performance and energy consumption figures.Â Not only are we seeing good performance but Intel are telling us that the efficiency is in the leading class too.Â The most impressive figure on the article? 1W browsing. Thatâ€™s with screen-on and 3G-on. 1 WATT! Intel are now able to control a â€˜PCâ€™ to the point where everything turns off except the parts required. That doesnâ€™t mean that Intel will be competitive in all areas though. Like Ultrabooks, the platform is likely to have a high â€˜dynamic rangeâ€™ and probably a higher system thermal design characteristic but if the work that Intel have done on Android is solid, that may not be a problem.
What a shame though that Meego wasnâ€™t around to benefit from Medfield. Iâ€™m sure there are Meego devices in the Intel labs working just fine and I’m sure that Tizen is likely to re-surface too (My bet â€“ Samsung + Intel + Tizen make an announcement at MWC) but it would have been nice to see Intel’s Meego work result in a product. I wonder how Nokia are feeling at this point? With the N9 having been a success and the figures on Medfield/Android looking good, Intel may get sweet revenge!
What Intel need now are product partners and platform advantages. Being competitive isnâ€™t going to be enough to make the best product in the market so this is where 1080p hardware encoding, hardware-based image processing, Wireless-Display, McAfee and other technologies come into play. Intel Insider (for securely streaming first-run movies) and integrated radios, hardware encryption and of course, Intel’s silicon process advantage. if you consider how far Intel have come in the last 4 years, look at their technology portfolio and think about whatâ€™s going to happen in the next two years there should be no doubt that Intel will be playing, and possibly leading in the years to come.
I wonâ€™t discount Cortex A15 and similar ARM architectures and we must not forget that ARMv8 is going to be feeding in after a few years but Intelâ€™s position with Medfield now enables it to go and court some of its biggest customers for phones, tablets, set-top boxes and more and that partner ecosystem could be the real advantage for Intel.
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, theÂ TransformerÂ 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.
We can also finally see the two colors (Champagne Gold, andÂ Amethyst Grey) that the Transformer Prime will be available in, thanks to some new photos:
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,Â regionalÂ 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 theÂ keyboardÂ 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 otherÂ keyboardÂ 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 theÂ customizations thatÂ 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:
HE-AACv2 (Enhanced AAC+)
WAV linear PCM
WMA Pro LBR
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 anotherÂ includedÂ 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 anÂ activeÂ 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.
Ritchie says that the Super IPS+ display looks great, and this will be an upgrade over the original Transformer’s regular IPS display, while retaining the durable Gorilla Glass. Asus added a display brightness boosting function to the Transformer Prime which is intended for better viewing during outside use.
Tegra 3′s performance is also in full force; it appears as though it can handle 720p and 1080p video with no problems. That could make the Transformer Prime a great portable home-theater (thanks to the micro-HDMI port), with the only problem being the relatively weak Android codec support. I’m curious to know how well the Transformer Prime can handle software video decoding that comes along with some third-party applications.
The unit itself is slimmer and lighter than the iPad 2, and attached with the keyboard, the Transformer Prime is rated to run for 18 hours which is pretty awesome.
Unless there are any unforseen issues leading up to it’s launch, the Transformer Prime is certainly setting the new bar for Android tablets, and I would go as far to say that Apple better pay attention as well. The Transformer Prime has nearly everything one could want in a tablet today except for a little Ice Cream Sandwich action.
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”.
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 GalaxyÂ 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 haveÂ Gorilla Glass screen as unfortunatelyÂ 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! Â I’d highly recommend a screen protector and a case as the first accessories you buy.Â 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.
Moving on to the device, I tested the cameras and I was pleasantly surprised by the rear facing camera.Â 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 MiceÂ
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.
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.
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 forÂ enterpriseÂ 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 needÂ 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.
The Samsung Galaxy Note has been available for a while here in Europe so it made sense to get some more hands-on time with it. My first hands-on at IFA was done just minutes after it was announced and I have to admit, there were lots of key features I knew nothing about. The video hands-on was a bit of a mess!!
This time I had 3 hours, an owner and a decent video camera for you!
Note: The street price in Europe is as low as â‚¬520 now (inclusive near 20% private sales tax) which is â‚¬180 less than the MRRP.
First-impressions were excellent. This is a class-leading Android 2.3 device with convergence, productivity and mobility at its heart, great battery life, a good camera, quality screen and, in my opinion, a good price. The Ice on the cake is of course the news that it will get Ice Cream Sandwich in 2012 (Q1) that will bring out the best of the dual-core CPU and add some key features that, by now, quite a few people will be missing in Android 2.3
Unfortunately, for the Honeycomb-experienced, version 2.3 of Android makes it appear a little dated and the speed isnâ€™t what I would have expected with my 1yr old Galaxy Tab not far behind in the browsing tests we did but I suppose we shouldnâ€™t really be comparing against a 7â€ device because if you want convergence at 5â€ this is probably the best choice on the market.
I have a personal problem with convergent devices in that, especially when they are this fast, you tend to use them too much and find yourself struggling with 15% or less battery life in the final part of the day. Forget to charge it overnight and youâ€™ve lost your phone and tablet for the morning hours. But thatâ€™s just me.
I had a very long chat with the owner, Nils (@thunderstrom99 on Twitter) and took a lot of notes. Firstly I want to tell you about the screen. It uses a PenTile Matrix screen which screen afficionados will know as a sub-optimal technology. OK, when you take a macro picture and zoom-in, you can see the effectâ€¦
The sub-pixel smoothing (and anti-aliasing I guess) results in some harsh jaggies. Hereâ€™s the Galaxy Tabâ€¦
But itâ€™s a non-issue for most people because those two images are blown-up to the same size. In reality, the Note has a higher pixel density and you simply canâ€™t see this effect unless youâ€™re tuned-in with near-perfect vision. As someone that can detect out-of-phase stereo speakers by ear, yes, I know there are some people out there that will have a major issue with this but the reality for most people, including myself, is more like this:
Click the image to see the original. On the right is, to my eye, a better reading experience. Thatâ€™s the Note. [The PenTile screen tends to have some strange hues when viewed off-center. See more images in the gallery]
Outdoors the brightness is nothing to write home about but the viewing angles and glass clarity are better than my Galaxy Tab. Itâ€™s good enough.
One thing I instantly noticed was the ability to use the device one-handed. Itâ€™s not perfect – a little unstable reaching over for the menu button or top left (for right-handers) but itâ€™s possible to, carefully, do most things. I didnâ€™t try swype but I suspect it would work OK with the thumb â€“ an important mobility advantage over tablets.
I took a fairly detailed look at the battery graph and asked Nils what he was getting in terms of real-world usage. It looks like a full 8hrs heavy use is possible which would equate to a standard days use of 10-15 hours in my opinion. As a phone, itâ€™s not ideal. As a tablet, not bad at all. You have to decide how that fits your usage scenario.
On to performance. Android 2.3 isnâ€™t going to return the best dual-core performance figures and a Sunspider test result of 3238 (Galaxy Tab with 2.3.5 = 7450) isnâ€™t as good as Iâ€™d expect. A real-world browsing test showed a slight speed improvement over the Galaxy Tab but nothing really significant. Youâ€™ll see it in the video below.
One point of note here though is that the Note is quite capable of some heavy multitasking and loading without it impacting the fluidity of the experience. 1GB of RAM and faster CPU cores mean thereâ€™s more overhead.
Itâ€™s interesting to know how Nils is using the Note. Iâ€™ve been in contact with him for about a year after he made enquiries about a UMPC. It turns out that the Note is satisfying all his requirements and heâ€™s got no desire for a UMPC now. In some situations, heâ€™s doing more on his Galaxy Note than he would be on a UMPC. Heâ€™s using it at University for note-taking in an interesting way. He says he cant â€˜writeâ€™ notes about his physics lectures because it makes more sense to take a picture and annotate it. He showed me a few graphs and diagrams on a whiteboard. Yup, that makes sense!
A chat with a a Galaxy Note owner
I took the chance to record 10 minutes of Q&A with Nils. Hereâ€™s the resultâ€¦.
Is the on-screen keyboard good? Yes. We did a little speed test between the Galaxy Tab and the Galaxy Note. We swapped devices and did the same test. We were better on our own keyboards but the difference was minimal indicating that the Note could be used for some portrait-mode typing. For a bigger typing experience, obviously the Note can be held in landscape mose and still used successfully. Thatâ€™s something you canâ€™t do on a 7â€er although youâ€™ll lose masses of screen real-estate in the mode. As the Note is only 180gm, itâ€™s almost unnoticeable in portrait mode too.
The Pen, Annotations and Handwriting Recognition
Youâ€™ll see the pen being used for annotation and handwriting input in the video below. Although I donâ€™t think it has the level of pen integration that the HTC Flyer has, because the pen is stowed, itâ€™s probably more useful. Annotating an image or screenshot is easy and fun. Iâ€™m sure you can add â€˜send to PDFâ€™ via a third party app or share. See the video below though for more on the pen, touch, multitouch and gestures. I think youâ€™ll like it.
A few other notes
Sound quality: OK
Gestures for mute and screenshot: Useful
Minute amounts of color banding noticed in a video: Potentially annoying for video purists
MHL port for MicroUSB cable provides charging and HDMI out. Excellent choice. HDMI cable is about â‚¬12 apparently.
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What an excellent bit of kit the Samsung Galaxy Note is and it’s the best converged phone/mid/tablet that Iâ€™ve ever tested. When Ice Cream Sandwich comes along, it gets even better! I wasnâ€™t a big fan of converged phone/tablet products before this hands-on with the Samsung Galaxy Note and although I still think itâ€™s risky (and battery-draining) to put all your eggs in one basket, Iâ€™d certainly be happy to take a Galaxy Note and to hand over my Nokia N8 and Galaxy Tab. Iâ€™d miss the N8â€™s camera for sure and wouldnâ€™t find the Note as comfortable to type on, but I think Iâ€™d get over it, especially as I’d be getting a phone and a tablet for around â‚¬520
The model tested here is the Samsung GT-N7000
Full specifications in the database along with links to other reviews, articles and our full Gallery.