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 isn’t that good for video and photo experiences but for reading, it’s getting better every time I see it.
Power-saving, daylight readable and now with touch and sidelight. Here’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. Not only are we seeing good performance but Intel are telling us that the efficiency is in the leading class too. The most impressive figure on the article? 1W browsing. That’s with screen-on and 3G-on. 1 WATT! Intel are now able to control a ‘PC’ to the point where everything turns off except the parts required. That doesn’t mean that Intel will be competitive in all areas though. Like Ultrabooks, the platform is likely to have a high ‘dynamic range’ 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 wasn’t around to benefit from Medfield. I’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 – 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 isn’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 what’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 won’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 Intel’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, the Transformer Prime micro-site still shows the “Prime is Coming” teaser text. Though we already know most of what there is to know about the Transformer Prime, the official product page gives us the first official list of specs as well a the user manual of the upcoming Tegra 3 tablet.
The launch of the official page may indicate that a Transformer Prime release date is not far off.
We can also finally see the two colors (Champagne Gold, and Amethyst Grey) that the Transformer Prime will be available in, thanks to some new photos:
Though most of us glaze over gadget manuals, I’ve come to find that there are occasionally great tidbits to be found within. Thus, I’ve done you the courtesy of pulling out some of the good nuggets from the Transformer Prime manual so that you don’t have to.
From the manual we can see that you won’t get anything too exciting out of the box, which comes with nothing but the Transformer Prime itself, a USB charger, regional wall adapter, docking-to-USB connector, manual, and warranty card. And yes, you read that correctly — the keyboard is not included standard, it’s an accessory that will cost you $149.
The manual also tells us that the trackpad on the keyboard dock has two defined areas that will function as left and right mouse clicks. This will surely be handy for VPN applications (like the built-in ‘My Desktop’) and make the Transformer Prime even more capable of functioning like a full-blown computer:
Among other keyboard shortcuts, pressing the Fn-key along with the Up or Down arrow keys will jump to the top or bottom of a given page respectively.
We can also peek at some of the customizations that Asus has made to Honeycomb which runs on the Transformer Prime. Most interesting among the adjustments to the quick-settings panel. There is a special screen-brightness button that you can press to boost the screen-brightness for better outdoor readability. There’s also a performance toggle which can switch between Power Saving, Balanced, and Normal modes. It’s unclear whether or not these settings will impact the clock speed of the Tegra 3 hardware or simply adjust some of the system settings such as screen timeout and background app updates:
For the original Asus Eee Pad Transformer, one of the popular tweaks was to download a widget that would independently display the battery life of the tablet and the keyboard; by default the system only specified the overall battery levels. This time around, Asus is adding that funtionality out of the box. Thanks to the Asus Battery Level widget, you’ll be able to see the charge of the keyboard and the tablet without having to download any third-party applications or widgets. In addition to the widget, you’ll be able to see the battery levels on the notification bar and in the quick-settings panel.
If you’re curious about the supported media formats for encoding and decoding on the Transformer Prime and Tegra 3, the manual gives us full details:
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 another included app which will be handy for your document editing needs. You can hook up your Google Docs or Box.net account to the app for some cloud storage action. It supports the following:
Asus is including the SuperNote app which will let you take hand-written and typed notes, completed with photos, audio recordings, and more. Without an active digitizer and stylus this seems somewhat out of place, but I suppose this will be enjoyed by those who can get along with capacitive styli.
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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 €520 now (inclusive near 20% private sales tax) which is €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 isn’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 shouldn’t really be comparing against a 7” device because if you want convergence at 5” 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 you’ve lost your phone and tablet for the morning hours. But that’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 effect…
The sub-pixel smoothing (and anti-aliasing I guess) results in some harsh jaggies. Here’s the Galaxy Tab…
But it’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 can’t see this effect unless you’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. That’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. It’s good enough.
One thing I instantly noticed was the ability to use the device one-handed. It’s not perfect – a little unstable reaching over for the menu button or top left (for right-handers) but it’s possible to, carefully, do most things. I didn’t try swype but I suspect it would work OK with the thumb – 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, it’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 isn’t going to return the best dual-core performance figures and a Sunspider test result of 3238 (Galaxy Tab with 2.3.5 = 7450) isn’t as good as I’d expect. A real-world browsing test showed a slight speed improvement over the Galaxy Tab but nothing really significant. You’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 there’s more overhead.
It’s interesting to know how Nils is using the Note. I’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 he’s got no desire for a UMPC now. In some situations, he’s doing more on his Galaxy Note than he would be on a UMPC. He’s using it at University for note-taking in an interesting way. He says he cant ‘write’ 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. Here’s the result….
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. That’s something you can’t do on a 7”er although you’ll lose masses of screen real-estate in the mode. As the Note is only 180gm, it’s almost unnoticeable in portrait mode too.
The Pen, Annotations and Handwriting Recognition
You’ll see the pen being used for annotation and handwriting input in the video below. Although I don’t think it has the level of pen integration that the HTC Flyer has, because the pen is stowed, it’s probably more useful. Annotating an image or screenshot is easy and fun. I’m sure you can add ‘send to PDF’ via a third party app or share. See the video below though for more on the pen, touch, multitouch and gestures. I think you’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 €12 apparently.
Swipe across top to brighten/dim the backlight
What an excellent bit of kit the Samsung Galaxy Note is and it’s the best converged phone/mid/tablet that I’ve ever tested. When Ice Cream Sandwich comes along, it gets even better! I wasn’t a big fan of converged phone/tablet products before this hands-on with the Samsung Galaxy Note and although I still think it’s risky (and battery-draining) to put all your eggs in one basket, I’d certainly be happy to take a Galaxy Note and to hand over my Nokia N8 and Galaxy Tab. I’d miss the N8’s camera for sure and wouldn’t find the Note as comfortable to type on, but I think I’d get over it, especially as I’d be getting a phone and a tablet for around €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.
I managed to get a Huawei Mediapad for a few weeks to trial. I only managed to get a few hours in with the device today and snap off a couple of low res pictures from my phone but I’ll follow up with an in-depth overview and some high quality photos in a few days. In the meantime if you have any tests you want me to run on the Huawei Mediapad leave a comment and I’ll see what I can do.
I compared it to an iPad 2 and like the Galaxy Tab found it to be roughly half the size of the Apple unit. The unit is pocketable, just, but cargo pant-pocketable none the less.
The screen is great — sharp, bright, and very responsive. The device itself is nicely built and feels solid in the hand. The Huawei MediaPad is heavier than the Galaxy Tab but it feels like the same form factor so if you are happy with the size and feel of the Galaxy Tab you’ll likely be happy with the MediaPad too.
I don’t have a lot of apps installed yet and not a lot of media on it to slow it down but I was pleasantly surprised by how fast it is. Everything is snappy and very responsive. Apps open fast, media plays almost instantly and overall the processor doesn’t seem to struggle with anything.
If the pricing comes in at the right level, I think this device will sell very well.
Chippy is also looking forward to the Huawei MediaPad, and is actually considering trading up his much-used and loved Galaxy Tab for it. Though the tab has treated him well for over a year, Chippy says that he’s overdue for the benefits of Honeycomb in a 7″ form-factor. The upcoming dual-core Galaxy Tab Plus is likely to be a potent competitor to the Huawei MediaPad, especially when it comes to availability.
We’re really looking forward to Archos’ new G9 tablets, their inexpensive price and unique features are going make them a welcomed addition to the world of Honeycomb tablets.
As Charbax of ARMdevices.net shows us, the TI OMAP 4460 found in the G9 tablets will run at different speeds depending upon the capacity (and the price) of the tablet that you purchase.
When Archos first announced the Archos 80 G9 and the 101 G9, they were said to eventually be available in 8/16/250GB capacities, while other specs would remain the same. However, at IDF they are now showing that the 8GB variant of both models will run at 1GHz instead of 1.5GHz.
The lower capacity makes sense to bring down the price even further and offer additional choice to customers. What I don’t quite understand is the lower clock speed. As far as I can tell, the 8GB model of the 80 and 101 is still running the same CPU as the 16/250GB models. Feel free to correct me on this, but I can’t think of any additional fee that would be incurred to use a different clock speed on the CPU, so I have to wonder why they are lowering the speed on the 8GB variants.
My best theory is that Archos wants the more expensive models to be the most appealing, and give an additional incentive for going with one of the higher capacity units. If that’s the case, I can’t help but feel like they’re artificially giving users of the 8GB variants the shaft, though I’m hoping there is something less dubious behind it.
Archos confirmed US pricing for the 16GB variants of the 80 and 101 back when they were first announced; $270 and $349 respectively, and we should see the other models officially priced soon. Charbax has the official EU prices for all models here. The G9 80 and 101 will become available at the end of September, according to Archos.
Chippy is on the IDF show floor and we’ll see if he can get this question about the CPU speed answered for us.
Though Sony’s Tablet S has been known about for months now, today they finally unveiled official specifications for the device. While weight isn’t the spec that everyone jumps at immediately, it’s certainly an important factor for a large 10” tablet. Sony says that their Tablet S is just 595 grams, which makes it the second lightest of the top 12 tablets, right between the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and the Apple iPad 2 (with the Tab 10.1 being the lightest) – quite impressive considering that the Tablet S design isn’t as thin as many of the other tablets on the market because of it’s interesting folded shape, though it should count itself lucky to be considered a 10″ tablet when the screen is actually only 9.4″. Have a look at how the top 12 ten inch-category tablets compare:
I would love to be able to say that tablets are getting lighter as time goes on, but as you can see, there are four Honeycomb tablets that were released after the first (the Xoom) that are actually heavier (though the Eee Pad Slider sort of has an excuse!).
The Tablet S is only about 1% lighter than the iPad 2, but Sony designed it with that funky shape specifically to make it feel lighter in one hand by grouping the weight on one side and reducing leverage again your hand. I’d be curious to see how much torque the iPad 2 puts on a hand vs. the Tablet S.
Offering Sony Playstation compatibility, film and music stores this is something quite unique, especially for Europe. The prices are obviously set to be competitive and to bring as many people.into those stores as possible.
[ Posted via the Galaxy Tab. Ultra-Mobile at IFA 2011. For more IFA coverage, follow me on Twitter. @Chippy ]
Update: There’s been an important new development to this story. See here.
Tomorrow (September 1st) the AndyPad and AndyPad Pro, new low-cost entries into the Android tablet world, are launching. The devices are already attractive thanks to their low price and now they’ve become a much more serious contender thanks to official Android Market access, a fact which Verticool (the company behind the AndyPad) has shared exclusively with Carrypad.
The AndyPad will run you €129 ($186 USD) and feature a 7” resistive touchscreen @ 800×480, a front camera, 8GB of storage, and Android 2.3. Full specs here.
The AndyPad Pro gives you a more modern tablet experience with a 7” capacitive touchscreen @ 1024×600, front and rear cameras, 16GB of storage, bluetooth, and Android 2.3 as well for €179 ($258). Full specs here.
Both devices are WiFi-only and have a 1.2GHz Cortex A8 CPU which Verticool says will 1080p output through HDMI.
The inclusion of official Android Market access means that users of the AndyPad and AndyPad Pro will be able to use many of the great Google applications that make Android… well… Android. Gmail, YouTube, Maps, and more should all make an appearance on the device. You’ll also be able to download apps from the Market as you see fit so you’ll be able to get your fill of Angry Birds, or any of the other 250,000+ available applications.
I’ve been inspired by Jerry to make the move to using only the Asus Eeepad transformer at work. I’ll be using only my Atrix and Eee Pad Transformer for all business related activities, no PC at all. I am passing my Vaio down to my wife to replace an old netbook and the budget doesn’t stretch to a new laptop. Actually it’s pretty slim pickings trying to find a true replacement to the Vaio TT anyway at the moment.
My needs are similar to Jerry’s actually in that I have a new baby on the way, a new house, a netbook past its expiry date and recent purchases of both the Eee Pad Transformer and the Atrix + lapdock.
As I mentioned before I considered a MacBook Air, another Vaio, or perhaps a Windows tablet; cost, portability and battery life are all competing priorities for me. So following Jerry’s lead I thought: why not see if either (or better yet, both!) of us can do it.
This has partly been facilitated by work putting in some software that will allow me to access email and my work calendar on my Android devices, natively rather than having to use webmail or some remote access solution. In the wider enterprise world it’s proving hard for IT to resist the demands of business bringing in iPhones and various tablets. My workplace is no exception so we kicked off a project to put in a solution to meet the mobile needs of our workforce. One of the key requirements was to work across all platforms which was great because even though iOS products outnumber others 5 to 1, those of us with Android devices can now connect to business systems including email.
Today was day one and it was fairly successful. Polaris Office worked well for Word documents and the PowerPoint I needed to edit. Evernote is my business app of choice for meeting notes, tasking and brain dumps and I used Thinking Space and sent the mindmap to Evernote as a picture so that I can keep evrything organised and in the one place. I occassionally felt a pang for a laptop but I think this was separation anxiety as there was no actually need for it in al the work I did today. Let’s see how it goes tomorrow.
The wait is officially over. Today, Acer announced that the Acer Iconia Tab 100, the first 7” Honeycomb tablet, is available in the US today and will be coming to Canada next month. It haven’t yet found it officially listed for sale on the site of any major retailers (or even on Acer’s own site), but I’d expect it to start popping up later today
Speaking of money; it was unclear which capacity the $300 price-point that we heard originally was intended for. Now we’ve got that information officially. Acer is offering an 8GB and 16GB variant of the device. The 8GB has an MSRP of $329 USD and though $329 USD is only $324 CAD, Acer lists the CAD MSRP as $349. For the 16GB version, the MSRP is $349 USD and $399 CAD.
These low initial prices are great as we’ll likely see them come down further relatively soon.
Another good thing is that the Iconia A100 will be shipped with the latest Honeycomb 3.2 installed, which means that, at least for now, customers will be able to enjoy the latest and great version of the OS and not have to worry about whether or not they’ll receive timely updates… yet.
I’m still concerned as to whether or not Acer is lying again about the 1080p support on the A100, as they did with the Iconia A500. At launch, Acer claimed that the A500 would be able to do 1080p output even though it actually couldn’t. They promised an update that was supposed to hit in June to include the functionality, but that never came, and to my knowledge, still hasn’t. The press release for the A100 claims 1080p output capability, just like the A500 situation. Time will tell whether or not they are lying again.