Tag Archive | "review"

More Asus Transformer Prime Videos and Details

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The Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime is shaping up to be a hot seller with its quad-core Tegra 3 CPU/GPU combo and its attachable keyboard. Just a few days ago, our pal Ritchie got his hands on the Transformer Prime and produced a great overview video of the device. Now he’s drilling down the specifics.

Ritchie has fielded a number of questions from folks interested in the Transformer Prime, and prepared a whopping 5 new videos for your viewing pleasure. We’ll drop one here, but if you’d like more, certainly go visit the post over at Ritchie’s Room.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=34REyjGuIis

Huawei MediaPad 7 Honeycomb Tablet Review [video]

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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

ThinkPad Tablet — Owner’s Impressions Series: Part III, Front-End Enhancements [video]

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In this part of the series, I’m going to talk to you about some of the front-end enhancement that Lenovo made to the ThinkPad Tablet,  and I’ll be steering away from digital inking until the next part of the series. One of the main reasons I am doing this is because I knowingly go ga-ga for digital inking, and when it is done even moderately well, I tend to give a device a pass on other areas where it falls short. To try to avoid this, I’ll kind of go through this as if the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet is almost two different devices; today we will cover all of the software topics outside of the inking experience. Before we get started, here’s a recap in case you missed the prior series:

Now then, the first things I want to cover are the additional embellishments to the OS’ front end. Lenovo has added some degree of functionality to the homescreens and the pop-up settings menu in the lower right-hand corner above and beyond what is in stock Honeycomb. Along the top edge of the ThinkPad Tablet’s homescreens, Lenovo placed five indicators (I call them meatballs) that indicate which homescreen you are on. Because there are only five homescreens available on a stock Honeycomb device, I do not think that this enhancement adds that much value, and I rarely need them. However, if the number of homescreens in Honeycomb ever increases, this might be a welcome addition. I will admit that when I am working on a Gingerbread device with seven or more homescreens configured, I can sometimes get lost as to where I am, so maybe I can understand what Lenovo was trying to address when it tacked this on.

The more valuable additions for most people are likely the ones present in the pop-up settings menu. On my other Honeycomb devices, the only controls that surface from this menu are selections for Airplane Mode, Wi-Fi, Screen Brightness, Notifications, and a selection to launch into the full Settings menu. Lenovo has provided some additional selection options on the ThinkPad Tablet to more fully surface the configuration settings that users might want available at their fingertips. In addition to the options mentioned above, the following settings are also available in the ThinkPad Tablet’s pop-up menu:

  • Auto-Rotate Screen
  • GPS
  • Bluetooth
  • Email Sync
  • Attached Display

This is not a bevy of additional controls, however, the addition of these five settings are enough to keep me from diving into the full settings app as frequently as I might with another Honeycomb device. Speaking of the Settings app, there are a number of additional configuration options present in that area as well. I will not go into the details of every single one, as the rabbit-hole of setting on the ThinkPad Tablet can go quite deep. Here are the big ticket items:

  • You can configure use and access to the Microphone and Cameras (I believe that when the ThinkPad Tablet is managed through an Exchange Server, these components can be disabled by IT admins)
  • Data encryption selections are available for both the device and removable SD Cards; on other Honeycomb devices I have only seen encryption available for the device itself
  • Absolute Software provides a LOJACK style security app. The app’s persistence can be enabled or disabled through the settings app
  • The MicroUSB port has discrete permissions settings for various uses, including Charge only, Mount SD Card, Media Transfer Protocol, and Ask on Connection
  • Access to SD Cards can be allowed or disallowed.

I do not use a lot of these. Specifically, I do use the option to disable my ThinkPad Tablet’s microphone and camera when I am in the office in order to ensure that there are no apps that access those components without my express permission. I am sure that corporate users will want to take advantage of the device-level and SD Card encryption. Unfortunately, I have the Absolute Software disabled as it is under suspicion of being one of the apps that never releases the Wi-Fi connection when the device is in standby as discussed in my previous installment in this series.

I will give you the quick run-down on the pre-installed apps. Let me say that just about any pre-installed app that I have received on any Android tablet has gone immediately to the unused apps category. Because I use Android all of the time, I pretty much have a list of apps that I want installed and will use. Pre-installed apps serve to pretty much just get in the way of me getting down to business. That all being said, sometimes I will get around to trying one of these apps out and will discover a gem that actually adds value. I have not hit that point with the ThinkPad Tablet yet, primarily because testing out all of the various ink apps and getting to a point of having a sustainable level of productivity is taking up any time that I could devote to experimenting with some of the ThinkPad Tablet’s pre-installs. So here is the list of pre-installed apps (to the best of my knowledge), although most of these I have never even run before:

  • Absolute
  • Lenovo App Shop
  • ArcSync
  • McAfee Security Suite for Business
  • Citrix
  • eBuddy
  • eReader
  • Mobility Manager
  • mSpot Movies
  • mSpot Music
  • Notes Mobile
  • ooVoo
  • Pocketalk
  • PrinterShare
  • Social Touch
  • USB File Copy

The Citrix client is probably the only one out of this list that I see offering some long-term value to me. The rest of it, as far as I can tell, either mimics an app that is available in the Market and already meets my needs, or is an app that I have not found a need for. I should perhaps be a tad more fair. Absolute, if it is not one of the apps keeping the WiFi antenna on, will be a welcome addition to other often-used apps on my ThinkPad Tablet. I have still not found anything that I am comfortable trying out on my Honeycomb devices to take the place of  Lookout Mobile Security. Unfortunately, that app is only available for Gingerbread devices the last time I checked. So having a security app that provides some ability to reach out and touch a lost device remotely would be a welcome capability. I have not launched McAfee. I went away from using any product from that company and Symantec for security features a long time ago, and I have a staunch that once I launch the app, it will take over certain functions and not allow me to disable it.

This brings me to one of my largest issues with pre-installed apps on Android devices. I understand that, in order to appeal to corporate users, Lenovo felt the need to bake in apps and capability to the ThinkPad Tablet that otherwise might cost an organization to buy on their own. However, I despise the fact that when company’s put these additions on the device, they concurrently remove the ability to uninstall them. This is an issue on all Android devices as just about every manufacturer approaches this area in the same manner, on both tablets and smartphones.

There are a handful of other apps above that I can also see a student or business user taking advantage of. EBuddy if they are still into IM. EReader if, for some reason, they have not already become steeped in the Kindle store or B&N Nook. MSpot Music might be valuable for a user to try out if if they have not already uploaded their music library to Google Music. PrinterShare and USB File Copy might be of use to business users who are not already using other apps to meet the functions those two apps provide. I have found Notes Mobile to be one of my principle go-to apps, but I want to  hold off on that discussions until the inking session.

I guess what I can say, is that the pre-installed apps never get in the way. I cannot recall being forced to use them, or having one of them launch unexpectedly when I called a process from within the browser. In contrast, HTC Sense, for instance, launches HTC’s custom-rolled apps for certain functions when what I want to use is a stock Android app. So, in that vein it could definitely be a worse situation on the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet.

I want to add a few notes on stability and responsiveness of the ThinkPad Tablet’s OS. While the device performed well in the first week or so of use, I have noticed what appears to be a performance hit that has creeped in over the last couple of weeks. The biggest issue is that I have seen more instances of the launcher crashing when I am going back and forth between apps that can only orient in portrait mode and one that I have in landscape. On a tablet that is focused on inking, you can imagine that this is a frequent use-case. It’s annoying, but I cannot say that it slows me down that much. It causes other conerns, though, with regards to inking apps and I will cover that some more during the final post on the ThinkPad Tablet.

The other major performance hit I have experienced is numerous issues when using the Google Music App; this is the version that you update to to enable access to your Google Music Beta account. When using this app on the ThinkPad Tablet, I have experienced multiple lock-ups. The app will move to the next song in a playlist and will lock. I will have no control over the app at that point. I can get back to the homescreen, and I can go in and Force Close the app, fortunately. I am completely reliant on music as background noise whenever I am working on anything, both in the office and at home. In fact, this crash impacts me more than the launcher crash, because it is not just a matter of clearing the alert and getting back to the homescreen again. So, I have taken to using WinAmp for Android, which is meeting my needs well. It is just aggravating that an app that I perceive as being core to working in an Android environment is not available on the device that is becoming my primary business companion device.

That is it for this installment. Stay tuned for the final chapter, which will be devoted to inking apps, inking performance, and practical, real-world use. I do apologize for the fact that I am not a user of Lenovo’s suite of pre-installed apps. If there is one that someone wants me to test, please let me know in the comments. Below, you will find a video where I cover some of the topics covered here.

httpv://youtu.be/c6d8KBnPgAE

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

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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!

LG Revolution Full Review

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DSC_5161Verizon is well on the way launching all 6 of the initial 4G devices on their roadmap. First was the HTC Thunderbolt, then the Samsung Droid Charge, and now LG’s Revolution. I was expecting the LG Revolution to represent a lesser performing and lower cost entry into the 4G-equipped phone sector though it’s actually priced up there with the others, but also performing better than I had expected.

Hardware Tour:

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Specs:

  • Snapdragon CPU @ 1GHz
  • 368MB of RAM
  • 4.3” capacitive touchscreen @ 800×480
  • Android 2.2.2 with Bing search and custom skinning
  • 16GB memory stick included
  • 4G LTE data connectivity
  • 5MP rear-facing camera with flash (720p HD recording)
  • 1.3MP front-facing camera
  • WiFi b/g/n & Bluetooth 3.0
  • 6.06 oz. (5.03”x2.64”x0.52”)

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