Tag Archive | "ipad"

iPad Pro 9.7 testing, UMPC style.

Like the time I tested my first UMPC in 2006 this iPad Pro 9.7 is giving me goosebumps. 682 grants of powerful tablet and keyboard with LTE and 256 GB of SSD. This setup costs about the same too. 1368 Euros after tax / $1178 in the USA. Holy cow it’s expensive, but because this is a loaner, I’m still smiling.

I’m still testing too so I can’t give you a definitive answer on whether it’s the best ultra mobile PC out there right now but I like the keyboard design, the camera (finally up there with smartphone quality) and the size. Portrait typing [this part] is easy due to the size and weight. The onscreen keyboard is great too, but you already knew that didn’t you!

Can I connect a USB drive and transfer files? No, because I don’t have the Lightning port adopter but then again I’ve just been testing the Samsung TabPro S and because I didn’t have a USB-C adapter I couldn’t do the same! The image below was transferred via iCloud Web on my PC.

The iPad Pro 9.7 is the first Apple product I’ve ever been interested in so I’m really looking forward to testing it over the next week. Battery life is going to be important and I’ll try and work out just how much of an ultra-mobile nut you need to be before it becomes ‘value.’ I’ll be installing Office apps, testing the LTE and enjoying the amazing camera.

I’m sure many of you out there have the iPad Pro already. If you’ve been using it on-the-go, let me know how the experience has been for you.

And finally. After just this short amount of time I’m into that keyboard and finding it amazing. You see, Steve Jobs, you can make a good ultra-mobile tablet product with a pen and keyboard.

iPad Pro 9.7 is an impressive ultra-mobile PC.

truer_blue_hardware_screen_largeThe iPad Pro 9.7. I had to laugh a little when I saw it on the Apple event stream. Pen, keyboard, ultramobile and ‘the future of PCs.’ Maybe. Maybe not. Over the years of writing at UMPCPortal there’s one thing that’s for certain – 10-inch screen sizes don’t work well for keyboards and therefore don’t fulfill the full set of user requirements for a PC.Despite that, the iPad Pro 9.7 is one pretty impressive UMPC. At 437 grams it’s potentially one of the most powerful ‘PCs’ per kilo you can buy.

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The State of Android Tablets in 2011. A Survey

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.

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Minecraft Pocket Edition for iOS Now Available on iPhone and iPad

Minecraft Pocket Edition was released officially for Android a few weeks back, but Mojang, the company behind the popular indie game, had been ever silent about the iOS version. All we really knew was that they were working on it. Well it seems that Mojang was planning on launching the iOS version at the Minecon event that’s being held today and tomorrow, but they put Minecraft Pocket Edition for iOS up on the App Store ahead of time to ensure that it would be readily available at the time of the announcement. They should have known that their ravenous Minecraft fans would spot it in an instant!

Minecon is an event being held in Las Vegas by Mojang this weekend to celebrate the launch of the desktop version of Minecraft. “Launch?”, I hear you say, “but I thought Minecraft already sold over 4 million copies?” And thus the popularity of Minecraft becomes clear. Mojang has indeed sold in excess of 4 million copies of Minecraft prior to the game’s official launch. The game has been in a beta state for many months, seeing slow and continues updates from Mojang, and now what they’re calling the ‘launch’ version of the game is being released at Minecon, today, in fact.

After numerous knockoffs, copy-cats, and fakes that have reached the App Store, the real Minecraft Pocket Edition for iOS is now available for download. You can download it right here for $6.99 as a universal app that works on the iPad and iPhone. On Android, Minecraft Pocket Edition has a free demo, and I expect to see a similar demo come to iOS in due time.

Both versions of Minecraft Pocket Edition for Android and iOS are still in the beta stage,  much like the desktop version once was. Mojang plans to regularly update these versions until they reach a level that they deem worthy of calling the launch version. At the moment, Minecraft Pocket edition doesn’t support the exact same gameplay, and is certainly harder to control through a touchscreen than with a mouse and keyboard, but the charm certainly remains.

If you haven’t played Minecraft before, I would recommend trying the desktop version of the game first. Minecraft Pocket Edition seems, to me, to be more of a ‘you can play it on the go if you can’t get enough of it’ sort of app, rather than an app that works flawlessly on a touchscreen. Not to say it doesn’t run well, but let’s face it, the game was designed to be played with a mouse and keyboard, and that’s how it plays best.

Limited multiplayer support exists in Minecraft Pocket Edition and is thankfully cross-compatible between iOS and Android, but unfortunately the Pocket Editions won’t work with the desktop version. In order to build and explore in the same world with friends, you must be on the same WiFi network.

Don’t know what Minecraft is? Well, it’s tough to explain because it’s a lot of different things for a lot of different people. For some, it’s like a virtual lego builder. For others, it’s an unlimited and randomly generated world for exploring. If any video could, this one seems to capture it well:


I remember when I first started playing Minecraft. I was thankful that there was no iOS version, because I knew I’d get no work done if I could play Minecraft on my phone. Unfortunately, I’ve no longer got any place to hide.

Powerocks Stone 3 Full-Speed USB Power-Pack for iPad and Galaxy Tab

The Powerocks Stone 3 portable power pack for iPad and Galaxy Tab solves a problem. It’s all very well having a common interface for charging but when people break the specs it becomes less useful. The iPad and Galaxy Tab charge using very high currents through a USB port that excedes the capability of the USB port you’ll find on nearly all laptops and PCs which means you generally have to carry the mains charger around with you. I found a portable power pack at IFA that supplies the correct current to allow full-speed charing on the go and it works. At least with the Galaxy Tab I tested with it.

There’s no European distributor for the Stone 3 yet so you’ll have to keep your eyes open for availability. Alternatively, wait a while because I’ve got a unit coming from Znex. The Power-Pack IP is said to do the same so i’m looking forward to testing one that’s available right now.

Here’s a video and you’ll find some images below that.

What Mobile Operating Systems Can’t Do

I’ve been trying to use mobile operating systems for productive and full-computing scenarios for years and although things are getting better by the day, there are still major issues to be solved. Even the latest tailored hardware and software solutions are littered with unexpected restrictions, bugs, showstoppers and even costs. As I continue to test devices like the Acer Iconia Tab A500 and iPad I am making a list of functions that I can perform on a desktop operating system but not on a consumer or mobile operating system that you might find in a tablet. You’ll find an early ‘issues’ list here.  I’m largely talking about Android or IOS here.

The issues fall into 3 categories.

  • Issues that are a result of hardware. This varies between platforms and is also sometimes dependant on drivers and software. E.g. Bluetooth support. Many of these issues are dropping away as ARM platforms evolve, some of these issues are because of the design requirements (battery, size, heat)
  • Issues that are a result of operating restrictions. Operating systems will evolve but each evolution is taking 6 months to 1 year.
  • Issues that are there simply because the third party software may not have been written yet.

The latter category is one we can ignore. If tablets or other devices based on mobile operating systems are successful, the software will come. Lets look at the other two categories though.

Hardware Issues

  • Video editing software and hardware. While software may exist, the CPU, hardware encoders and possible GPU acceleration may not be in place. The only exception is the ipad2, iphone4 and Ios which use the capabilities of the A4 chip very well. It may be quite a while before generic cross-platform solutions appear.
  • USB host support. In some cases the platform only supports USB client. This affect many devices people commonly use like webcams, printers, video capture cards and many other device you’ll find in the high-street PC store.
  • Keyboards on tablets. Arguable that this isn’t neccesary if you’ve already chosen a tablet but we’ll leave it in the list for discussions sake.
  • High-capacity storage. 100+GB support is often required by those dealing with media.
  • Other interfaces such as serial (often used for control and data collection) pci-express. USB based solutions can solve this if the drivers are built into the operating system.
  • Extendable GPUs through docking stations or modules
  • General processing power (CPU)

Operating system issues

  • Extended languages and keyboard support
  • External screen capability. This includes extended desktop and multiple interface support. Also needed in the OS
  • Drag and drop (of selected text, audio, image, file, video.)
  • Bluetooth stack. Software is generally the issue here and it’s usually an operating system issue.
  • Full web experience including mouse-over support. Some third party software may fix this is mouse or other pointer support is provided by the OS.
  • Multi-user support with associated security mechanisms. Generally a core operating system issue.
  • Extending device support through installable, pluggable drivers.
  • Extended IP stack to support routing, multiple.interfaces and other IP features like file sharing protocols. This can be implemented in third party software.
  • Multiple sound module support for live audio performances with pre-fade. This is also a hardware issue.

3rd party software

For discussions sake, i’ve included a few software issues here.

  • Offline blogging tools. A third party software issue that will get solved in time. (I’m impressed with the progress of Blogsy on the iPad)
  • Office suites. Third party issue although core format support, encryption, media handling, drag and drop / copy paste, synchronization support can be due to operating system. Again, IOS is probably leading the way here.
  • Full feature browsers. (Mouse-over support in the OS could be needed here too)
  • Software development tools. 3rd party issue that also requires keyboard, mouse and often, external / extended screen support too.


Having listed a bunch of items above, we have to now ask ourselves whether they are important and if they are, are they likely to be fixed. Certainly the web browser issues are serious, the CPU power issues are too where the operating system runs on an ARM design and you have to think carefully about multi-user and expansion through third party devices on USB. That’s a big market! Issues like IP stack, multiple audio modules and extended screen are less important. Third party software issues will solve themselves as devices move into different markets and the customer-based there becomes big enough to support the creation and support of the software. As for the hardware issues, don’t expect 500GB storage soon but do look for alternative storage solutions via local or remote wireless connections.

What about that keyboard though? Is it still an issue? For many operations, it’s a barrier. Tablets are popular now but is there still a desire for a keyboard. I’m sitting in front of a tablet writing this post now only because it’s got a full keyboard attached.

My gaps

I want a mobile video editing system with blogging client and full browser capabilities. The video encoding hardware on the iPad has shown breakthrough capabilities in iMovie for the price and size . Keyboard input is important though so I would want a robust keyboard solution. Offline blogging tools are required. Full browser too. The ipad2 + keyboard is getting very close to a usable solution for me but it still has showstoppers. Cabled internet for high-speed video upload, full browser with flash, mouse-over, side-by-side windows for drag and drop, external screen, ability to edit non-iphone videos in iMovie. I’m still a huge proponent of the smartbook and hope that we see more work going into these because that’s where I see most of the gaps being filled for me. Windows 8 could be the stepping stone to an interesting smartbook / convertible / slider design. Like the TX100 perhaps!

Your Gaps

What are the ‘gaps’ that you see between a full computing solution and a consumer mobile OS solution.

Ultra Mobile Video Editing Part 3 – ARM Solutions with iPad2 and Nokia N8

In Part 1 of this series we put aside the idea of ARM-based video editing based on the requirement for higher levels of CPU processing power and tight coupling of hardware and software. Two very interesting solutions have just appeared that could dovetail together as an ARM-based solution  and possibly enable 720p video editing on-the-go. Even if you haven’t got an iPad2, some new software for the Nokia N8 will enable netbook-level H.264 editing.


Last week Apple launched the iPad2 and it turns out that it’s quite the performer in terms of rendering 720p videos through the iMovie application. Based on the measurements we can only assume it’s got a hardware H.264 encoder that iMovie is using to speed up the encoding process. Because of the CPU and GPU inprovements, the editing process looks smooth too. You won’t be able to do b-roll cutaways but I bet you’ll see that included in the next iMovie release for iOS.

This morning I’ve also learnt about a new camera application for the Nokia N8 which enables 480p H.264 recording and continuous auto-focus. As I write this I’m rendering a titled, cross-faded 480p video taken with the CameraPro N8 application in Windows Live Movie Maker. It was a smooth editing process which might surprise some of you because I’m using a netbook to do it.

Put the two together and, if iMovie can import and work with Nokia N8 videos (they are .mp4 files containing H.264 videos but there are some interesting advanced settings in the CameraPro app that can teak bitrates, codecs and sizes) then you might have the most flexible, ultra-mobile video camera, editing and posting solution yet. The iPad2 weighs 600gm (possibly 630gm for the 3G version) and the Nokia N8 weighs 135gm. That’s an amazing, seriously amazing sub 800gm, 1.7lbs and the total cost of both, with 3G, is under 1000 Euro. 720p-capable, 480p when on-the-go and direct posting to YouTube.

Ongoing and outstanding: Does the iPad2 import videos from the Nokia N8 and can iMovie work with the imported videos without conversion? One would need to connect the N8 via the camera connection kit either via USB or by removing the Micro-SD card, slotting it into an SD card adaptor. I’m waiting to have this confirmed. I’m hoping that this author has the answer soon.

Even if the Nokia N8 files don’t work with the iPad, it enables netbook usage which opens up the user to more software options. Windows Live Movie Maker can handle the 480p files without re-rendering for editing and output a 480p WMV file at a time ratio of 3.24 mins per minute of video rendered. For clips of 5 mins or less, as are many mobile videos, this is acceptable.

Here’s a 480p video posted directly from the N8 to YouTube via Pixelpipe. It was a 92MB upload and the bitrate was just over 3Mbps. It would make sense to try this at 2.5Mbps and via a service that posts direct to the YouTube API to cut down time and failure-points.

Obviously you should watch this in HQ and at full-frame size.

Here’s the same source video edited in Windows Live Movie Maker with titles and crossfades. The output format from Movie Maker is WMV which means there could be some degradation in quality as the file is converted back to H.264 at YouTube. Update: I see some frame-rate and smoothness issues. You too?

I used the Acer Aspire One 522 for this and the rendering time ratio was 3.24:1 (3 mins 15s per minute of video)

As a camera, the N8 just keeps on getting better and with developers continuing to write specialized apps for it you wonder why there aren’t many other good quality internet and app-enabled cameras around. It’s these sort of enhancements that just aren’t possible on closed-firmware dedicated cameras.

I plan to buy a 3G-enabled iPad2 when they become available here in Europe but I’m sure others are going to test out the N8/iPad2 combo beforehand. When they do, I’ll try and link the information in below. If you know of any articles or videos on the subject, please feel free to link them in the comments below (one URL per comment otherwise the comment is held for approval.)

Looking Back at the iPad2 Media Scramble

We’ve been strangely quiet on Carrypad over the last two weeks. First of all there was CeBIT where we focused heavily on netbooks and pro-mobile products over at UMPCPortal and then the iPad2 hit the streets. We had some discussions internally about whether to buy one for our review but it was clear to us that there would be a hundred or more reviews out in the first week so we’ve held back and enjoyed the show.

Availability of the iPad2 turned out to be tighter than expected. Surprise surprise! Online orders were only permitted on launch day and the lead-time for delivery has been stretching out beyond two weeks. Early adopters hate having to wait; Bloggers, journalists, software developers and competitors can’t wait so with supplies of entry level models limited in the stores, it was no surprise that buyers queued and some people, possibly one-in-ten, have spent more than they had planned.

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A Look at the Tablet Spectrum with Shanzai.com

shanzaitabs I like these guys, and not just because they’ve got a load of cool tech to play with! Shanzai.com appear to have some good contacts in the trade and a lot of experience with the market over there in the East. I’m almost in agreement with them on the ideal tablet size too. You may have a different opinion but check their article and video below before you make a decision.

iPad vs Galaxy Tab and Dumb Ratings

I’ve got a set of 17 criteria that I’m developing for use when I review devices and I thought it would be an interesting exercise to put the iPad and the Galaxy Tab together to see which one wins on this set of criteria.

As you can see, the Galaxy Tab is the winner. End of story.

Or is it?

The totally dumb thing about this result and most other static ‘ratings’ systems is that every user approaches a device from a different angle. No-one wants every feature in equal measure and the simple reason the Tab is (only just) the winner is because it shines in the mobility and phone/video category. Some users just don’t care about that so if you take those ratings away, the iPad is the winner. The winner shown above is with ‘all things equal’ and won’t help anyone choose a device.

With that in mind I’ve created an interactive tool (hat-tip to  Bryan Cryer for the javascript and Steve Litchfield for the inspiration) that puts your desires first and allows you to ‘weight’ my scores in each category.. If you aren’t interested in gaming, give it a low weighting and the scores will adjust giving you a different result. Try it…it’s fun!

Product chooser – Apple iPad vs Galaxy Tab

For average viewer ratings and a chance to put your own scores in, you can use this version of the tool.

Note: The tool is still being developed and I reserve the right to refine my scores for devices.

I realise that my categorisations aren’t flawless and that my scores could also be in error so for that, I ask for your trust that I’ve refined the categories well and know my stuff when if comes to evaluating a device. If you don’t trust my reviewing skills, don’t use the tool! It would also be impractical and unworkable to break out 20 or 30 categories for each and every feature. Your suggestions during this Alpha phase are welcome though.

Here’s some more detail about the categories.

  • Battery life – Working battery life, standby, always-on. Relative to size and best in class.
  • Connectivity – Hard, radio connectivity. USB, BT, ports, wifi, 3g, removable storage.
  • Screen quality – DPI, brightness, reflectivity, colour considered here.
  • Portability – How light/small is this to carry, hand-hold. pocket.
  • Storage – Based on a combination of speed and size
  • Internet Experience – From WAP to desktop quality. Speed, quality, usability considered. (Connectivity is a separate consideration)
  • Touch User Interface – Quality, speed, flexibility
  • Processing power – Including co-processors. Compared to best of breed (at time of rating.)
  • Text Input – Quality relative to size. Covers keyboard quality, size, engineering, features, flexibility, options
  • Social Networking – Considers the tendency for the device to be getting the best/widest/newest selection of social networking apps
  • Productivity – Includes PIM, sync, remote working and standard office apps.
  • Ruggedness – Suitability for mobile work
  • Application availability – How easy is it to find quality apps? Rates store, freeware, ease of finding and installing
  • A/V/P experience – Combination of video playback, video connectivity, audio components, cam, webcam. A/V/P=audio, video, photo
  • Gaming and entertainment – Considers 3D graphics support, CPU speed, games availability, controls, content availability, flexibility.
  • Phone and Video Comms – Considers GSM voice, SMS, to multi-video video conferencing
  • Location services – GPS hardware, maps, social and navigation software, apps, always on.

The Question Marks That Remain over Q4 Tablets.

smartdevices Bob Morris, head of the mobile computing division at ARM, is telling us that the Dell Streak is just the first in a line of more tablets that will arrive from various vendors in time for Christmas. I guess if anyone should have the inside info on this it’s Bob so it’s a good sign.

We’re clearly looking at Android as the de-facto Q4/Q1 2011 operating system solution for most of these tablets and although Froyo with Flash 10.1 is a great starting point, there’s still a significant number of big question marks that keep me sceptical. I know Nvidia, ARM and others have talked about waiting for Flash and ‘fall’ but there’s more to it than that.

How about Google Market? This is becoming more secretive than Adsense or Google’s Search algorithm and one wonders just how much money Google are now making from it. The Dell Streak got Market by being a large well-branded company that effectively designed a Android smartphone but what about the others? Every device that didn’t have marketplace/Gmail/contacts/maps so far has been highlighted as an incomplete Android product. Sideloading and 3rd party app stores aren’t the fix either. The second problem is that there needs to be a new suite of >=WVGA, large screen (mdpi-large in Android speak) apps before the first reviews start otherwise the whole Android tablet ecosystem will be tainted with poor early reviews. Bad news never seems to fade from search engine results so Google needs to re-build their app suite for mdpi-large (or even mdpi-maxi as ‘large’ only goes to 5.8 inch screens.) If Android is to have a chance at getting more productive applications in the store (as Apple have already done) Google also need to give developers a chance to prepare new versions of their apps. That can only happen if Google stimulates the developers by announcing Android 3.0 or a new phase of tablet-focused work. Give us a sign Google. Apple gave some devs a three-month head start before the product was launched. Although this was a restricted program, it was instrumental in creating a good day-1, week-1 buzz.

Link: Overview of tablets available, announced and expected

If I was an Android Tablet OEM right now I’d be considering waiting for even more than the above.

  • Cheaper Cortex A9 platforms and proven Android hardware builds. Cortex A8 is still good enough but to make a serious marketing splash, dual-core A9 is now needed.
  • Clarification on what the hell is going on with Chrome OS (touchscreen support looks likely)
  • Concrete information about Android 3.0 (Apps suite, developer take-up, information about ARM-optimised kernels)
  • IDF (Sept) and MeeGo 1.1 (Oct) (To asses competing product timescales)

Racing to get a product out for Christmas sales could be too risky and the whole ‘smart’ tablet market could suffer if a big name gets it wrong. Like you, I want products NOW but i have the feeling that the iPad will be a year old before we see any serious competitors.

Lightweight and Mobile-Focused 3G Netbooks (And Alternatives.)

Long-gone are the days where netbooks were available at the 1KG mark. The Asus 901, Acer A150. Classic 1KG, 8.9 inch netbooks that worked well as mobile-focused PCs for getting things done almost anywhere. The EeePC 901GO was arguably one of the best mobile bargains around at the time, at least in Europe. No hard drive, sub 1KG, 3G and a great price. Oh how things have changed. All we seem to see now are 10-12 inch devices at 1.2KG or more with moving hard drives. The 800gm-1KG mark is now a specialist segment.

If you take a long hard look though and are prepared to relax your requirements a little there are a few gems hidden in there that would work well for ultra-mobile fans so I’ve taken a long look at the netbook segment, spoken to a few people (thanks Avram and Sascha) and come up with a shortlist for you. I’ve also taken a look above and below the netbook segment to give you a few alternative options.


Ultra Mobile devices need to be feature-rich, rugged and connected. They are the Swiss army knives of PCs that need to be ready for anything. Getting the best productivity out of any situation is important. 12 inch devices give great comfortable real-estate. 10 inch devices can be good value. 7 inch devices get right under the 1KG mark. Here are some other important features.

  • No Hard Drive. Ideally you don’t want any moving parts at all in a mobile PC. Hard drives and fans can fail or get damaged and even rotating screen hinges need to be thought about very carefully. If an SSD doesn’t come as standard, I’ve looked at the upgrade possibilities.
  • Bright screen. Matt finish. 10 – 12 inch for comfortable productivity. 7-10 inch for lighter weight.
  • 3G, Wi-Fi-N and BT 2.x (but not self-upgrade unless the antenna is pre-installed)
  • Long battery life (6+hrs)
  • Lightweight PSU, Car Kit
  • Other useful options – GPS, memory upgrades. Case
  • Latest CPU technology.
  • Weight – 1KG or less. (I’ve looked at devices up to about 1.2KG here.)

The Netbook Shortlist

Based around the 10 inch form factor, these are the gems that I’ve managed to dig out. Of the 400+ devices that I’ve searched through, these match the requirements the best. Quite amazing that there are really only this many that I would class as truly mobile devices. Note, these devices may not appear in your local market (and there may be others in your local market that I haven’t seen – please lets us know if you find one.)

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Dell Latitude E7440
14.0" Intel Core i5-4200U
HP Chromebook 11 G3
11.6" Intel Celeron N2830
Viliv S5
4.8" Intel Atom (Silverthorne)
GPD Pocket 2
7.0" Intel Core m3-8100Y
Toshiba Portege Z930
13.3" Intel Core i5 3427U
GPD Win 2
6.0" Intel m3 7Y30
Acer Aspire Switch 10
10.1" Intel Atom Z3745
Lenovo Ideapad Flex 10
10.1" Intel Celeron N2806
Acer Aspire E11 ES1
11.6" Intel Celeron N2840
HP Elitebook 820 G2
12.5" Intel Core i5 5300U