Tag Archive | "hdmi"

Acer Misses Update Deadline, Still No 1080p Output from Iconia Tab A500

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Back in May, I called out Acer for launching their Iconia Tab A500 and advertising that it could do 1080p output when it was actually unable to do so at the time of launch. Their self-imposed deadline for releasing an update to fix this has come and gone with no news from the company.

The Iconia A500 launched back in May and has been rather well received. A number of users how now received the Honeycomb 3.1 update, and while it made some nice improvements, it didn’t enable the claimed 1080p output.

Acer noted in some fine print that the device only supported 720p output through its mini-HDMI port at launch, despite claiming that it can do 1080p output in various marketing materials. The fine print went on to say that an update in June would enable the device to push 1080p video – more than doubling the number of pixels of output – through the mini-HDMI port.

June came and went, and so did July. Now we’re into August, and even after the Honeycomb 3.1 update, we still can’t get the A500 to do true 1080p. That same fine print, claiming that an update will arrive in June, is still present on Acer’s site.

We’re trying to get an official response from Acer, but I must say that I’m just about sick and tired of these unfulfilled update-promises. It’s about time Google get’s its update alliance rolling.

Now I’m wondering whether or not Acer is going to try to pull the same stunt with the upcoming Acer Iconia Tab A100.

How to Not Get Ripped off when Shopping for HDMI Cables for Your Gadgets

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hdmiThe age of HDMI is finally upon us. Go to the store and pick up any HDTV and there’s about a 95% change that it’ll have at least one HDMI port. It’s not just TVs either. From the Motorola Atrix to the Acer Iconia Tab, HDMI is being included on a number of devices for connectivity to monitors and HDTVs.

However, as always tends to happen with new technology, people are jacking prices up tremendously (remember when DVD players used to cost $1000)?

Rule #1: Never buy first-party as an accessory.

Case-in-point. Motorola is so kind as to offer you a micro-HDMI cable that’ll go just perfectly with your new Atrix as an accessory on their site. How much do they ask for it? $40! And this is only a three foot long cable. Come on Motorola, surely you can do better.

If you are purchasing a cable (that isn’t proprietary) directly from the company that is also selling your gadgetry, they are likely buying from the same cheap source that you could find offered online and jacking up the prices to pass on to you. Cut out the middle man and go straight to the source.

Rule #2: Buy online.

Heading to your local electronics store is just asking to be ripped off. I’ve seen RadioShack asking $50 for a six-foot HDMI cable! The best you’ll find for a micro-HDMI cable from Best Buy is around $30.

Rule #3: Don’t be fooled by component-speak.

With analog signals, the components that the cables are made out of can arguably affect the quality of the signal as it passes through the cable. Companies like Monster charge some wicked premiums for analog cables that are described as having “patented 24k gold contact 12-cut Turbine connectors for enhanced signal transfer” and “dual solid-core center conductors for deep, tight bass and smooth, natural midrange”. I could dig up a number of debates about whether or not any of those features actually impact the quality of the signal, but do not let them pull this trick on you with the digital data that runs through HDMI cables.

As a digital stream, the data coming out of the other end of an HDMI cable is all-or-nothing. We’re talking ones and zeros here, not analog signals. As the ones and zeros travel through the HDMI cable, it doesn’t matter what material is conducting them, or how many carats gold your connector is plated in; the ones and zeros will still be read as ones and zeros once received, and that’s the beauty of digital signals.

Yes, quality of the cable is important so that you don’t see breakage after a short period of use, but do not let someone talk you up about the quality of the components in the cable and make you think that you’ll be getting better quality or clarity from the signal as it passes through based on materials – this is total BS. (Did I mention that Monster wants $90 for a four-foot HDMI cable?)

Finding Reasonable Prices

Fortunately, it is possible, perhaps even easy, to find a great deal on an HDMI cable. Here are the places I’d check:

Deals.Woot.com – The folks at Woot run a number of sites and you’ve likely seen us calling out relevant gadget deals in the past (no affiliation, we promise). They’ve got a neat site called Deals.Woot which is a community-sourced deal site. In a nutshell, community members point out good deals around the web and everyone benefits. The easiest way to approach looking for an HDMI cable is to simply type “HDMI” in the search box at the top of the page. This’ll show you any currently running deals involving HDMI cables.

For instance, as of this writing, I see a six-foot HDMI cable for $2.39 (likely with a few bucks for shipping). Still, even if shipping was $10, you’d save 76% ($37.61) off of RadioShack’s ridiculous offer!

Unfortunately, because Deals.Woot highlights deals that live and eventually die, you may not find that a micro-HDMI deal is currently being offered. Fortunately, there are other places to look.

This link will take you to Deals.Woot.com with the most recent deal results for “HDMI”.

Amazon.com – Amazon sells name-brand products but also functions as a marketplace for more obscure companies. Competition in the Amazon marketplace keeps everyone honest about their prices and the customer benefits. Remember how Motorola wanted $40 for a three-foot HDMI-to-Micro HDMI cable? One search for “micro HDMI” on Amazon shows a six-foot cable of the same type for $2.85 (including shipping)! That’s a 92% ($37.15) savings which is quite impressive.

This link will take you directly to an up-to-date search of Amazon for “micro HDMI”.

I hope this simple guide will help you not get ripped off on future HDMI purchases. Enjoy your cables and your savings!

Acer Iconia Tab A500 Not Actually Able to Output 1080p… Yet. Update Coming in June to Enable Full HD Output

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Despite pushing the “1080p” line all up and down their press release, it looks like the Acer’s Iconia Tab A500 [tracking page] isn’t actually walking out the door with 1080p capabilities.

According to a tiny footer I’ve discovered on the A500’s official product page, the unit can only currently push 720p video through its mini-HDMI port. However, an update slated for June will allow the A500 to output 1080p, more than 2x the current output resolution.

It’s a good thing that the A500 is using the Nvidia Tegra 2 processor as it is indeed rated to handle 1080p output. Tegra 2 also supports decoding of a pretty impressive list of codecs, but in our testing so far, we’ve found that the A500’s built-in software can only play a very limited number of file-types.

Here’s to hoping that this update promise doesn’t go the way of just about every other promised Android update from carriers or OEMs, you know… the way that they tend to come months later than expected.

There’s no word yet as to whether or not the same update treatment will have to be given to the soon to be released Acer Iconia Tab A100/A101 [tracking page], or if it’ll actually ship with 1080p output capability.

Notion Ink Adam Reviewed, Android 2.3 and Other Changes Coming in an Update

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notion-ink-adam

The Notion Ink Adam [tracking page] may have wow-ed most at the CES 2011 but the proof is always in the pudding once the tablet is truly unleashed for general consumption in the consumer market.

It took a little while, but Engadget’s Sean Hollister managed to get his hands on a unit and wrote a good review on the Adam. From the review feedback, the Adam may not have lived up to expectations as being a perfect technology marriage of form and functionality.

Let’s explore the Adam, shall we?

The Adam has a unique form factor which differentiates it from most uniformly slim-line tablets – it has a rather rounded bulky rear (pictured below).

Notion-Ink-Adam-rear

 

Some may find this rather unsightly but from an ergonomic’s perspective, I think this is a good design as it may allow a good one handed grip when using the Adam in a portrait mode. This is especially important as the Adam weighs in at rather hefty 1.6 pounds and therefore having a good grip whilst single-handedly using it is a must.  Sean mentions the cylindrical rear holding a pair of stereo speakers as well as three-cell battery which makes me wonder if the unit may be possibly top heavy (or bottom depending on which direction you hold it!) when held in a landscape position.

The reviewer wasn’t impressed with the four capacitive touch buttons (pictured above) which are neither backlit or possess haptic feedback.

One thing the Adam has going for it is the plethora of ports, from two full-sized USB ports as well as a HDMI slot that is capable of 1080p display mirroring.  I feel that this is a key feature that distinguishes the Adam as a tablet meant as a serious productivity workhorse or mobile home-theater from a tablet meant soley as a sofa surfing device. I cannot tell you how many times I have been frustrated when someone at work hands me a USB thumb drive and I am unable to transfer files via USB to my Dell Streak 5” nor my Samsung Galaxy Tab 7”!

Another feature which had us all eagerly anticipating the arrival of the Adam is the famed Pixel Qi display.  Unfortunately, the reviewer found that the Adam’s 1024×600 resolution Pixel Qi display was not good, describing the display’s viewing angles as “terrible” with the colors being “a bit washed out”. A saving grace is that the reviewer found the Adam’s Pixel Qi’s reflective mode working well and once the screen backlit is switched off, the screen is viewable even outdoors and conserved hours of battery life.

The reviewer also found the 3.2MP camera’s picture taking capabilities to be unimpressive, describing issues with the autofocus as well as over exposed pictures. Note that the camera is able to swivel front to rear, vice versa.

Under the hood, the Adam sports a dual-core 1Ghz Tegra 250 and the reviewer has found no issues with general performance of the device.

From an operating system perspective, the Adam runs Android 2.2 aka “Froyo” but Notion Ink designed its own user interface known as the Eden UI that provides an innovative-looking PanelView (pictured above) that allows the multiple applications to be open and active on the same homescreen.

Though the hardware issues can’t be fixed through a software update, Notion Ink will be releasing a significant update to the Adam’s software. The update will contain the following:

  • a new e-book client
  • a new Browser (the name of the book client and browser will be released in a separate blog next week)
  • updated Kernel
  • optimally over-clocked Tegra
  • Gingerbread 2.3
  • lots of usability Issues resolved
  • new multi-tasking environment (easier way to manage all tabs and applications)
  • Chords Music Library and Player (Simple and straight Music Player)
  • Video Library and Player
  • DSP support, so now equalizer will work in better way. Soon we are adding more bass boost in the speakers as well (not a part of this update).
  • Flash pre-installed
  • and more

Readers may wonder why the update to Android Gingerbread 2.3 instead of Honeycomb 3.0, the reason being that Google only releases the Honeycomb source code to a selected few partners at this point and Notion Ink isn’t one of them.

The release date of the update is still unannounced at this stage.

Notion has certainly challenged the tablet manufacturer’s norm by designing a tablet that has the capability of replacing a desktop thanks to USB peripheral support. I certainly hope that it is able to rectify the hardware quality issues and deliver the software update in a timely manner.

Here’s Notion Ink Adam Picture Gallery thanks to Engadget!

HDMI-out Test on the Acer Iconia A500 [video]

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I managed to snap off this quick video testing HDMI out on the Acer Iconia A500 [tracking page]. The retail unit doesn’t include a HDMI cable (it requires a mini HDMI connector) so I had to scrounge one up to test it on a monitor. I shot it with the Motorola Atrix [tracking page] so you’ll have to excuse the sometimes shaky video but I was keen to see and share how the HDMI worked. The video test shown is using the Windows 7 sample video “Wildlife” and is a wmv file shot in 720p HD I find it’s quite a good test as it challenges a lot of PC’s to play it without skipping frames. The Atrix, and the Viewsonic Gtab play it without issues. Since the included media player on the A500 couldn’t play the wmv I downloaded, I installed Rockplayer Lite and while it played the file it was very jumpy.

Being able to play videos or view slideshows on a big screen is a great feature for using this tablet in a business setting but unfortunately I wasn’t able to play the architectural render that one of my co-workers needed to show at an afternoon meeting so he had to take the laptop.

If you are interested in the Iconia A500, don’t forget to see Chippy’s extensive testing session and notes!

You might also notice I used the Sniffer file explorer (from the Notion Ink Adam [tracking page]). Since the A500 comes with both a full sized and mini USB connection, which enables simple file transfer and is a great connectivity option for all kinds of USB peripherals, I was surprised and a bit disappointed to find that there was no file explorer included out of the box. I actually installed Sniffer using dropbox so I could access some files for testing off a USB thumb drive. I actually prefer Sniffer over other file explorers as it is intuitive to use and has some nice features I haven’t found on other such as the simple copy and paste functions.

Galaxy Tab HDMI Dock Review

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Dock in action _2_ Sometimes we’re lucky in Europe, sometimes not. With the Galaxy Tab we’re generally lucky because Germany was one of the first countries to get mass-market availability. It’s also one of the first places to get the Galaxy Tab HDMI Docking Station. Model number: ECR-D980

Recommended price is 49,90 Euros but let me just say this now – don’t buy it for that price. Not only is it available for much less (I bought it for 36 Euro) but it simply isn’t worth 50 Euro. It’s nothing much more than a stand and a break-out cable and once you’ve bought the HDMI cable to go with it, you’re looking at a lot of money just to get the digital video signal from one connector to another.

Yes, there’s no HDMI cable included which completely caught me off-guard. I ended up heading out to the local electronics shop where, of course, the lowest cost cable was out of stock. I paid 29 Euro for a mini HDMI to HDMI cable which is again, too much. The other thing you’ll need is the power cable from your original Galaxy Tab because again, it’s not provided and you need it to activate the HDMI port. That means if you want to charge the Tab somewhere other than the dock or use the cable for PC connectivity, you need to remove it from the dock. A royal pain in the arse and certainly not user friendly. The other cable problem has to do with the original USB cable. It’s all of about 50cm long and just doesn’t reach to most plug locations. Samsung have not thought this one through.

One more thing, there’s no 3.5mm audio cable proved either but I guess that won’t surprise you now.

As you’ll see in the images, there are just the three ports on the dock. Mini HDMI, 3.5mm audio and the power cable input. Analogue video is not exposed on the docking port so you’ll have to buy another cable for that (17 Euro street price) which means you’ll have to remove the device from the dock, stop charging and connect the A/V breakout cable. Again, not elegant. The build quality is good and the base-located speaker openings are routed well.

Galaxy Tab Dock Galaxy Tab HDMI Dock (4) Galaxy Tab HDMI Dock (3)

Galaxy Tab HDMI Dock (12) Galaxy Tab HDMI Dock (8) Galaxy Tab HDMI Dock (11)

You can also flip the Tab into landscape mode and use the dock as a stand…

hdmi dock as stand (1)

More images in the Gallery.

Video Playback

Once you’ve got over the cable issue and got things connected up, you’ll see various output styles that depend on device orientation and application control. For example, the home screen flips to fill the screen when you put the device in landscape mode. YouTube plays in full-screen regardless of device orientation. Games, such as Asphalt 5 HD, only show in landscape mode and video playback through the local video player or through the DLNA ‘AllShare’ player always show in full-screen.

I tested the output on two devices. One, an LG digital TV, the other, an LG monitor (both 1080p capable) and got two different results in terms of quality. It also highlighted some audio issues that you need to be aware of.

The LG digital TV worked well and seemed to display in a ‘native’ resolution although there were a few lines missing at the top and bottom of the screen. If the monitor has 1080 vertical resolution and the Tab, 1024, why are there lines missing? There’s some overscan or scaling issue here on my TV. Playback of videos from the local storage was great and a 1080p trailer played just beautifully although without sound due to the lack of AC3 down-conversion. I’ll talk more about that in a minute. Google Earth was fun too although the up-scaling from 1024×600 definitely shows up on-screen! I even tried a racing game. By holding the dock and device in landscape mode you can use the Tab as a controller and watch it on the screen. It’s fun but not that practical with two cables hanging out of the back. Roll-on wireless HDMI because that game/controller scenario could really be something special.

On the second screen, an LG monitor, I got poor results. The screen showed the Tab as a 1080i input at 30fps but the resolution was very poor indeed. The home screen and browser text was pixelated and ugly; The scaling on this device just didn’t work-out, even after checking monitor configuration. For reference, the display is an LG W2261VP as seen here on Amazon. Interestingly, when I played out a 1080p video, the quality was perfect as on the LG TV.

Audio playback

Audio is presented in digital format over the HDMI cable so you have the opportunity to break that out from your TV or HiFi system if supported but it it would have been nice to see an S/PDIF or TOSLINK connector for direct routing to a Hi-Fi system. Sure, many A/V Amps have HDMI inputs now but many (including mine) still use dedicated digital audio connectors. On my LG TV the digital audio pass-through worked and allowed me to connect my home Hi-Fi through an optical digital link.

In the monitor configuration mentioned above you need to be careful about audio because although an analogue audio out put is provided on the dock, this is disabled when HDMI is working. If you are using a monitor without audio subsystem and speakers, you need to make sure that monitor can decode the audio to an analogue audio port or pass it through to another digital audio port.  With a TV, you’ll probably be OK. At least you’ll have built-in speakers and you’re likely to have a digital audio pass-through too.

Multi-channel audio

I experienced a problem with digital audio when you get to surround-sound tracks like AC3 WMA multi-channel or DTS. The Galaxy Tab does not decode these tracks to a stereo track for playback, either on-board or through the HDMI port. It would be OK if the raw digital audio track was simply passed through to the HDMI cable but doesn’t appear to be. There’s no way at all to get a surround soundtrack to an external decoder and this is something that could catch a lot of people out.  The only hope here is that Samsung include this in the next firmware or that I’m an idiot and have missed some configuration somewhere. [It could be that my TV is not passing through the raw digital stream to my Hi-Fi. Let me know if you have a the dock and have success with raw multi-channel digital audio pass-through]

Powerpoint Presentation

The ThinkFree Office presentation software outputs in landscape mode only which means that although the HDMI output is always full-screen, you’ll have to rotate the HDMI dock through 90 degrees for on-Tab viewing. I tested a demo presentation with an image and default transition and although the transition wasn’t smooth (see performance issue below) it was acceptable and interesting to see. A downloaded PPT with no transitions, worked well.

Bedside dock problem

The main reason for me buying the dock (apart from testing it for Carrypad) was to use it as a bedside dock. It would be an easy way to charge and an easy way to bring my media server content up to the TV I occasionally use. I also wanted to hook up some mini speakers for music. The problem is that as long as the HDMI cable is connected and there is some form of connection at the other end, the backlight stays on. If your TV completely disconnects the HDMI (and any terminating resistance I that I suspect is being detected) then it might work for you because unplugging the HDMI cable turns the backlight off but if you’re not lucky, the backlight stays on. Even at low levels it’s too much for many people and in my situation, i’ll have to leave the HDMI cable disconnected until needed. That’s not what I call user-friendly! A ‘bedside’ app that fixed these problems would be perfect. Timed profiles, easy access to alarms, backlight off (or very low-light clock) and other features would make it perfect.

Performance issues

Plugging in the HDMI cable affects performance. It’s easy to see. The UI goes choppy and things take longer to operate. For video playback, the Galaxy Tab screen is frozen so there’s no real issue there but you’ll notice it in mirrored-screen scenarios. Although this is a noticeable issue, it hasn’t affected the way I wanted to use the dock for A/V operations. If you’re thinking of anything like PowerPoint presentations (from ThinkFree Office for example)  then there is a slight smoothness hit.

Remote PMP using DLNA

If you have the mini-HDMI cable though and are confident that you have content in the right format and a TV that will work then the dock could make a really nice and good-value remote video playback unit. I’ve been testing out various DLNA solutions and although Windows Vista media server doesn’t work and Twonky Media Server (on Vista) isn’t working 100% with the Tab,  I’ve been getting better results from a pure Windows 7 solution although not without the occasional problem. In a working set-up it makes quite a tidy remote media player using the provided ‘AllShare’ application. Note that large libraries take a long time to show on the AllShare application and don’t appear to be cached for future use.

Dock in action (9) Dock in action (4) Dock in action (11)

Dock in action (2) Dock in action Dock in action (1)

Click to enlarge. More images in the Gallery.

Round-Up

For most people, I don’t think the HDMI dock is worth it. If it was 30 euro with a cable then, yes. If it was 35 Euro with a cable and power adapter – a must-buy but I’d recommend waiting for price drops or and aftermarket solution before going ahead unless you have a specific need that is covered above.

However well it works out though, I’ll probably always be reminded of the poor power cable solution and that 20 euro HDMI cable I had to buy and when those surround-soundtracks don’t play, I’ll be annoyed all over again. The HDMI dock hasn’t really worked out for me yet. Be careful when you make your purchase because it might not work out for you too.

Advent Vega; Sold Out.

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advent_vega3We’ve already had an Advent Vega [tracking page] order cancelled due to high demand but its looking increasing like new stock isn’t going to arrive before Christmas.

Its no surprise really, at £250 its cheaper than many of the alternatives like the Viewsonic Viewpad 7 (£400) and the Samsung Galaxy Tab (£449) and yet for your money you still get a good specification. With Android 2.2, nVidia Tegra 2 dual-core 1GHz CPU, WiFi, 512MB RAM, 4GB expandable microSD storage and a multi-touch capacitive 10.1” display, its certainly no slouch.

The early reviews are as we expected, good hardware but the lack of Google applications and access to the market leave the device feeling bare. I’ve also seen several mentions of user interface lag and keyboard freezes which result in several letters being pressed instead of just the one.

Luckily both of the above can be remedied with a little work and the help of MoDaCo.

Until we can finally get hold of a unit for review ourselves you can keep your need for more information in check with the following reviews;

PCPro / TechRadar

The gallery and tracking page are also now online so you can compare the Advent with its competition and if your interested in the Vega, follow @adventvega for the latest information and stock updates.

Dell Mini 5 Dock Shows Its Face

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mini 5 dock Or perhaps we should say base? Anyway, a Greek site has turned up the first look at the Dell Mini 5’s dock. The dock has HDMI out as well as USB port (likely to power the unit and transfer files from a computer) The Mini 5 [Product page] will be able to do 720p video as stated and demonstrated at MWC earlier in the week and the HDMI will help you get that to an HDTV. There is a rather peculiar video, on said Greek site, in which we get a look at the sleek dock. Unfortunately the camera doesn’t get up close and personal.

Hopefully the dock is either very inexpensive (bundled with the unit perhaps?) or offers some sort of functionality that hasn’t yet been revealed. It seems silly not have built HDMI directly into the device, but perhaps Dell is trying to squeeze some extra money out of those that want to use the device as a portable HD player.

via Engadget

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