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All posts tagged "hardware"

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Xoom 2 Gets Looked Over

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Laptop Thoughts News" @ 05:00 PM

"The Xoom 2 is another 10.1-inch widescreen Honeycomb offering, looking to make up for the lost opportunities of its predecessor -- slimmer, faster and certainly packing more vertices. While we put it through its paces, we thought you'd appreciated some close-up shots with what appears to be the final retail model. First impressions? Those corners certainly do help keep it in our hands, and performance seemed suitably speedy."

While Apple may dominate the tablet market, that is not stopping other companies like Samsung and Motorola trying to carve out their own market share. If Apple is not your cup of tea, the Xoom 2 may be your kind of toy productivity tool. The great thing is that we are seeing a wonderful amount of choice when it comes to tablets now, though prices seem to be largely the same for most of these higher end tablets. If only manufacturers would take a lesson from HP and learn that the best way to get sales is to slash prices and sell them for way below cost!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Seagate Momentus XT Hybrid Drive: Near SSD Performance / Much Less Cost

Posted by Michael Knutson in "Laptop Thoughts News" @ 10:00 AM

"Last year, Seagate threw the storage world a curve when it released the original Momentus XT, a 7,200-rpm 250 or 500GB hard drive with the ability to cache your most commonly used files on its 4GB of Flash memory for faster app opens, boots, and other frequent reads. Today, the company announced its next-gen Momentus XT, which ups the capacity to 750GB, the flash memory to 8GB, and the interface to SATA 6Gb/s, all while promising even more intelligent caching."

I've been waiting for these "hybrid drives" to appear on the scene. The first test example shows an improvement opening an Excel spreadsheet from about a minute at first open down to about 6 seconds for subsequent opens of the file. The 8GB cache (flash memory) provides impressive performance from the second open onward, with almost everything being faster than the native drive, but slower than the tested (but much more expensive) SSD. Seagate has reserved space for OS (boot files) caching on the solid state portion of the drive, and it is effective, lowering boot times from over 81 seconds on a 7200 rpm drive, to about 37 seconds. The SSD boot time was about 27 seconds.

Performance aside, looking at cost per gigabyte, the Momentus XT provides a lot of bang for the buck. At $0.33 per GB, it costs more than the plain vanilla test hard drive at $0.19 per GB, but the tested SSD (Samsung 830) drives cost from $1.51 to $1.65 per GB, depending on size. It is very clear that the Momentus XT gives much of the benefit of an SSD drive, at a fraction of the cost. Way to go Seagate!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Engadget Reviews the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus

Posted by Craig Horlacher in "Android News" @ 11:30 AM

"We've already established that the Galaxy Tab 10.1 is a great tablet. Then, just recently, we summarily found that the 1.2-inch smaller Galaxy Tab 8.9 is an even better tablet -- at least for anyone who wants to take their slate places. So, following that logic, the even more petite Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus should be the best of the three, right?"

I'm not a fan of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 because of the lack of MicroSDHC, MicroHDMI, and MicroUSB. The Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus actually adds MicroSDHC so that's cool but it has a 1024x600 screen instead of the 1280x800 screen on the larger models. Keep in mind though, while the resolution is lower the screen is significantly smaller so it actually has a higher dpi then the 10.1 at 170dpi compared to 149dpi on the 10.1 - so it will look sharper at the same distance. The 8.9" model actually has the same dpi as the 7" at 170dpi. One interesting difference is the inclusion of an IR port and software that let you use the Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus as a universal remote. The review shows good performance, thanks to a 1.2GHz processor and 1GB of RAM, and battery life so if you're looking for a 7" tablet you should definitely check it out.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Toshiba Portégé R830: Arguably Better Than an Ultrabook

Posted by Michael Knutson in "Toshiba Laptops & Netbooks" @ 11:00 PMégé_r830_review

"There was a time when Toshiba's line of Portégé business ultraportables was the epitome of sleek utility, particularly in the days of the R500 and R600. Samsung stole some of that show when it released the Series 9 (reviewed here)-the closest a PC has come to a MacBook Air to date. But while the Portégé R830, much like the R700 before it, won't win any design contests, it offers many useful amenities in a very-portable package."

At slightly over 3-pounds and about an inch thick, the R830 (at $1,650) has a faster processor than the Samsung Series 9 and is better performing at most benchmarks. It ships with 4GB RAM, and is upgradable, but the 128GB SSD has a proprietary connector, so it isn't upgradable (yet). One odd configuration blip is that the R830 ships with a 32-bit version of Windows 7 Professional, losing 1GB of memory. The 64-bit version (upgrade) is recommended. The R830 ships with USB 3.0, eSata, and an optical drive, with 7-hour battery runtime. A great road warrior laptop!

Rumor: Lenovo 5-inch LePad (IdeaTab) Tablet

Posted by Michael Knutson in "Other Slates & Tablets" @ 10:30 PM

"No matter how tempting the specs on Lenovo's leaked 10.1-inch tablet are, you might prefer something fairly more portable just for the sake of your regular pockets. Well, it looks like Lenovo's got you covered, too. Freshly delivered from the same anonymous tipster are a stash of photos depicting a dual-core 5-inch Android tablet, which will apparently be marketed under the usual LePad brand in China as well as an upcoming IdeaTab brand for elsewhere (to help differentiate tablets from the IdeaPad laptop line)."

Considering how poorly Dell's 5-inch Streak tablet has done in the marketplace, it's a bit puzzling that Lenovo would consider building their own 5-inch tablet. Could this be actually a (big) phone from Lenovo? All the photos provided in this "leak" were vague at best, with none showing a screen, so, my guess would be that this "tablet" *will* really be a phone. Thoughts, anyone?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

HP Unveils its First Business Ultrabook: Folio 13

Posted by Michael Knutson in "HP Laptops & Netbooks" @ 11:00 AM

"PALO ALTO, Calif., Nov. 16, 2011 - HP today introduced its first business UltrabookTM, which features a thin and light design, strong security options and a responsive solid state hard drive for the ultimate mobile experience. The HP Folio13 also delivers up to 9 hours of battery life, the highest performance available among Ultrabook devices currently on the market."

Looks a bit like a small MacBook Pro, eh? A nice feature set, and, meets one of my requirements, a backlit keyboard. RJ-45 (Ethernet) and USB 3.0 ports are included, and a 128GB SSD is standard. An embedded TPM (security) chip will be included in some models (January 2012), allowing secure authentication and data encryption. With a 13.3-inch BrightView screen, Intel Core processors, and a very good webcam, this 18mm thin ultrabook weighs-in at about 3.3-pounds (~1.5kg). HP's Press Release (see link) stated that the Folio 13 will be available starting December 7th, with prices starting at $899.99. I've been looking for a new Windows laptop, and the Folio may jump to my short list.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus: A Worthy Update

Posted by Michael Knutson in "Other Slates & Tablets" @ 10:00 PM

"The Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus retains its seven-inch display from the first generation Galaxy Tab. Now, upgraded with a dual-core Exynos processor, Android 3.2 Honeycomb operating system, and a number of enhancements thanks to the TouchWiz user interface and some preloaded apps, the Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus refines on the experience that the Galaxy Tab 7 had promised."

Samsung has taken good 7-inch tablet and made it even better: Light; improved but sometimes laggy performance; excellent 1024x600 display that works indoors and outdoors; expandable storage (up to an additional 32GB SDHC); reasonably good cameras that record VGA or 720p HD video; updated Android OS that is actually designed for tablets; and enhanced TouchWiz. Negatives reported are less than stellar battery life, some performance lags in some apps, and slightly confusing design decisions by Samsung. Some bundled apps and some enhancements made by Samsung make for a better user experience. No pricing or availability information was provided, with T-Mobile expected to offer a Wifi + 4G version.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Panasonic Toughpad A1 Coming in Spring 2012

Posted by Michael Knutson in "Other Slates & Tablets" @ 12:00 AM

"The Kindle Fire can bring the heat. But the Toughpad can handle flamethrowers. Panasonic is extending its line of weather-resistant, hard-shelled mobile devices to include Android tablets. Announced today, the Toughpad A1 will sport a 10.1-inch XGA capacative screen and a 1.2-GHz Marvell dual-core processor running Android 2.3 Honeycomb, and will be released in Spring 2012."

I've always been intrigued by Panasonic's series of hardened devices, and the Toughpad A1 is no exception. MIL-STD-810G compliance means that this tablet will be able to withstand drops, water, dust, and extreme temperatures. While very rugged, these devices seem to be always somewhat behind the technology curve, maybe due to the intensive and time-consuming hardening requirements.

The A1 tablet will run Android Honeycomb (not Ice Cream Sandwich), but will have a bundle of high-end features, like a daylight-viewable anti-glare, anti-reflective screen, battery life rated at 10-hours, and additional layers of security. Definitely a niche product, the Toughpad A1 will weigh 2.3-pounds and will be .67-inches thick, twice as heavy and twice as thick as the iPad 2. Not cheap at $1299, but if you need ruggedness, security and durability, this is your tablet.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Barnes & Noble's Nook Tablet Enters the Fray

Posted by Michael Knutson in "Other Slates & Tablets" @ 11:00 PM

"Sitting down? Good. Come November 16th, Amazon's Kindle Fire will have company. We've wrapped our paws around a stash of documents confirming the impending launch of the first bona fide tablet in the Nook line, and lo and behold, the Nook Tablet will end up being a dead-ringer for the Nook Color that already exists."

Interesting news, and pretty inevitable that B&N would take the training wheels off their Color Nook e-reader, with some bumps and boosts in capacity and performance, and voila, the Nook Tablet. Some advantages over its expected competitor, the Kindle Fire: double the RAM; double the memory, 16GB vs. 8GB; and lighter. But, $50 more right now. Are we seeing the birth of a new class of Android tablet, with a highly customized (and mostly hidden) UI?

Improved Nook Simple Touch Now Priced At $99

Posted by Richard Chao in "Digital Home Hardware & Accessories" @ 09:37 PM

"In addition to the new $249 Nook Tablet revealed this morning at a press event in New York City, Barnes & Noble announced a new price drop to $99 and a software update for the Nook Simple Touch eReader."

Part of the Nook Tablet announcement this morning was the release of the Nook Simple Touch E-ink reader. The Simple Touch is an updated version of the Nook Touch. It comes with an improved screen touted by Barnes and Noble as the "most advanced E-ink display" and updated software.

The Simple Touch is now available at for $99, down $40 from $139. This price drop brings the Barnes and Noble's offering in line with the ad supported Kindle Touch E-ink reader. The update is available to older Touch owners and can be found at

Monday, October 31, 2011

New ASUS Tablets (Android and Windows 8) Coming in 2012

Posted by Michael Knutson in "Asus Eee PC Transformer" @ 05:30 PM

"The Transformer Prime, with its quad-core silicon and tasty OS, has rightfully garnered much attention lately. A PowerPoint deck detailing ASUS' Q3 earnings now gives us a peek at its Eee Pad strategy -- confirming the aforementioned Prime's November 9th release date, while also promising two more bot-powered slates in the first quarter of 2012."

Looking at the accompanying information from ASUS, translated into English (somewhere), and then extracted from a German-language site, the news is about an ASUS Transformer Prime, followed by an ASUS PadFone and a variant on the Eee Pad Slider. Two (2) Windows 8 tablets (Eee Slate E121 and the Eee Slate Business B121) are scheduled to be available in the autumn of 2012, giving ASUS two tablet technologies (consumer *and* business) in the marketplace.

The Transformer Prime looks to have NVIDIA's new Tegra 3 quad-core processor, a 10-inch display, 14.5-hour battery run time, and should run Android's newest OS. The current Transformer is a very solid tablet, and these updates should be welcomed by its fans.

ASUS estimates that it will sell roughly 1.8-million tablets in 2011, with an additional estimate of 600K still to be sold/delivered in Q4 2011 in addition to the 1.2-million sold to date. While the news is (and dates are) a bit contradictory in translation, we can expect some new competitors to the iPad from ASUS.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Reminder: Audioengine A5+ Speaker Contest Closes on Friday

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Events" @ 03:00 PM

Just a quick reminder that our giveaway contest to win a set of Audioengine A5+ speakers (valued at $399) wraps up on Friday at noon, so enter now!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Cost / Performance Shootout at the SSD Corral

Posted by Michael Knutson in "Laptop Thoughts Talk" @ 09:00 AM

"It’s no secret that replacing your notebook’s hard drive with a solid state disk can dramatically transform your computing experience. With even last year’s SSDs, tasks such as opening large files or starting bulky applications take mere moments to complete. And if you own a notebook powered by one of Intel’s 2nd Generation Core Series CPUs, you’re in for a whole new world of fast, courtesy of SATA III, a high-speed interface Intel included in its new chipsets starting in 2011."

One of the secrets of enhancing computer performance is to remove bottlenecks, and a few years ago the biggest (and cheapest) way to gain added performance was to add memory. Today, memory seems to be no longer an issue, so we've moved on to the venerable hard drive as the point where data flow slows down. As SSD prices drop, expect to see the hard drive start to go the way of other past drives, and be replaced all or in part by solid state drives. We already are starting to see hybrid (multi-drive) systems, where the boot (OS and programs) drive is an SSD, and day-to-day data is still stored on a spinning drive.

This review tests SATA III SSDs from Samsung, Intel, OCZ and Patriot, and they also do an interesting comparison on cost per gigabyte, ranging from $1.53 (OCZ 240GB) to $2.31 (Intel 120GB). Retail prices are expected to be lower. Their comparison hard drive was a 500GB 7,200rpm model, but at a significantly lower cost per GB. The tests are interesting, and the SSDs perform as expected, with Samsung's 830 winning the shootout (cost today $229 for 128GB and $429 for 256GB).

Please note that these performance tests were done on laptops with Intel's current chipsets (supporting SATA III). Older systems will not see this performance.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Sweet Sound of Quality: Win a Set of $399 Audioengine A5+ Speakers

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Events" @ 09:00 AM

I may be selling these sites and working full time for HTC now, but who says I can't have a little more fun giving away a great prize before I go? Last week I posted about the new Audioengine A5+ powered desktop speakers; the generous folks at Audioengine have offered up a set of these new speakers for a contest. With dual inputs (3.5mm and RCA, the latter of which is easily converted to an addition 3.5mm input with a cable) and a USB charging port, the A5+ speakers are a great companion to an endless variety of devices: desktop computers, laptop computers, tablets, smartphones, and yes, even the humble Zune. Ringing in at $399 USD, these are high-quality speakers that I guarantee will blow you away.

How do you win this contest? Simply post a comment to this discussion thread (one entry per person) telling me what your current audio solution for speakers is and how the Audioengine A5+ speakers will be better. One winner will be randomly selected from amongst all the entries and they'll get to chose either a set of black or white A5+ speakers. Due to the size and weight of this prize, it will only be shipped within the continental USA. The contest will remain open until Friday the 28th at 12 PM mountain time (GMT -7).

Best of luck everyone, and I look forward to reading some interesting entries. :-)

UPDATE: The contest is now over, and the winner is ITforSmallBiz. Thanks to everyone for entering!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus Coming Soon

Posted by Michael Knutson in "Other Slates & Tablets" @ 11:30 AM

"The Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus tablet with Android 3.2 Honeycomb is available for pre-order on Amazon.Eager customers can now place their pre-orders for Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus on Amazon. The device cost $399 for the 16GB model, and $499 for the 32GB version. Shipping dates have not yet been announced."

I think that Samsung will find it tough going competing against the Kindle Fire, especially for twice the price, even though this Wifi-only tablet sports Android 3.2, a 1024x600 touchscreen, front and rear-facing cameras, a 1.2GHz dual-core processor and 1GB of RAM. I travel a lot, and regularly perform (admittedly very unscientific) tallies of the types of devices that I see at airports, on airplanes, in coffee shops and restaurants, etc; and I really haven't seen many 7-inch tablets (Kindle readers, yes), so this market segment has room to grow.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

ASUS Zenbook UX31: Better Than the MacBook Air? No.

Posted by Michael Knutson in "Asus Laptops & Netbooks" @ 06:30 PM

"Windows users don't need to hide in shame whenever they see someone whip out a MacBook Air at the local Starbucks. The ASUS Zenbook UX31 is a slim, stylish Ultrabook that not only packs a robust Core i5 processor and 128GB SSD into its 3-pound unibody aluminum chassis, but a high-res 1600 x 900 display and excellent audio."

Finally, an ultrabook that challenges the MacBook Air (MBA). Higher (1600x900) resolution, but not quite as good with viewing angles. Keyboard is flat, effective, but required harder touches to get keys to register. The large touchpad needs work. Cooling is excellent. Better audio, but the bass vibrates the deck of the UX31. Boot and wake slower than the MBA, but better than other Windows systems. More ports, but some compromises. Processor robust, but topped in the reported benchmarks by the MBA. Graphics performance slightly less than reported by the MBA. Battery life good, but, again, not as good as the MBA. But, starting at $200 less than the MBA, and with a larger screen, my impression is that the hardware is excellent, but that the software (mostly drivers) still needs some work. The MacBook Air still leads, but the competition is narrowing the gap. If I need a Windows laptop, this one definitely goes on my short list.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Kindle Fire Creating Switchers Amongst Manufacturers?

Posted by Michael Knutson in "Other Slates & Tablets" @ 05:30 PM

"Amazon did more than just throw down the gauntlet when it announced its $200 Kindle Fire tablet, the e-tailer may have also scared off some of the competition altogether. Oddly enough, the Kindle Fire might actually help Microsoft increase its presence in the mobile market, as OEMs look to Windows 8-based slates in order to avoid a price war among Android tablets."

Interesting conjecture, that rather than trying to continue to compete in the cut-throat Android tablet space, some manufacturers are considering switching to (building) Windows 8 tablets to target more "business" customers. RIM tried this with the PlayBook, but with a product that was great in concept, but short on execution. Even current Android tablet makers are cutting prices to try to compete with Amazon. But $199?

Dell and HP are two manufacturers mentioned by name, with Dell maybe a real possibility, but HP seems to have totally lost credibility in the market with the TouchPad debacle. Months back, I ordered an HP Slate 500 tablet running Windows 7 when it was announced, but gave up and cancelled my order after they couldn't deliver a tablet more than two months after it was supposedly shipping. And, it was $799, not $199.

The Kindle Fire is going to be a game changer, if Amazon can meet the demand. I've got an iPhone and an iPad, but I ordered one, just because.

Monday, October 17, 2011

HTC Jetstream LTE Tablet coming to Canada on Rogers

Posted by Craig Horlacher in "Android News" @ 11:00 AM

"Available tomorrow to Rogers customers, the HTC Jetstream is the first HTC tablet running on the Android™ 3.1 (Honeycomb) operating system. Beyond blazing speeds, it also boasts a striking design, HTC Scribe™ digital ink technology and the latest in HTC Sense innovation - HTC's unique user experience that puts people at the centre."

HTC and Rogers have officially announced the HTC Jetstream. This nicely loaded Honeycomb tablet will be available in Canada starting tomorrow for $500 on "select three year plans". As far as hardware goes, it has a 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon CPU, 10.1" 1280x800 Super LCD screen, 8MP rear camera, 1.3MP front camera, 1GB of RAM, 32GB of built-in storage and a MicroSDHC card slot. It supports Rogers gsm, HSPA, and LTE. One thing that I really like about it is the fact that it has a 7300mAH battery! That should give some descent battery life. One thing I'm not sure I like is the fact that it has some form of Sense on it and it only has Honeycomb 3.1, not the latest 3.2. While it supports the HTC Scribe stylus it will cost you an extra $80. Follow the "Read more" link to see the full press release.

The Jetstream looks like a very nice Android tablet. I would want to play with the interface a little before picking one up but I like the hardware HTC put in it! What are your thoughts on the HTC Jetstream? Will this be your next Android device?


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Amazon Expects to Ship 5M+ Kindle Fire Tablets in Q4

Posted by Michael Knutson in "Other Slates & Tablets" @ 09:30 AM

"Amazon could be on track to ship as many as 5 million Kindle Fire tablets in the fourth quarter, according to an analyst who tracks the market."

Impressive pre-order numbers bode well for the Kindle Fire tablet. Predictions for sales have already risen from 4M to 5M, according to one analyst. This is a little under half of what Apple expects to ship in the same time period. Apple ships about 12M iPad 2 tablets per quarter, according to this same analyst. Kindle Fire shipping is expected to begin around November 15th. The biggest reported gotcha is a potential shortage of 7-inch displays, with ASUS and HTC also competing for a (currently) limited supply. I've pre-ordered mine, and now we wait!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Windows 8 Tablet Review: Kupa X11

Posted by Michael Knutson in "Other Slates & Tablets" @ 09:00 AM

"Windows 8 tablets are just around the corner but and tablet maker Kupa is showing off the X11 running the upcoming operating systems. It was great to play around with a tablet that has Windows 8 navigation up and running."

Interesting to see Windows 8 and the new Metro UI running (and running pretty well for a prototype) on a tablet. Retailing starting at $699, the 900 gram, 10.1-inch X11 sports an Intel Atom processor, a 1366x768 semi-gloss high-res screen, 2GB RAM, front and rear cameras, a nice collection of ports, and a 64GB SSD. For $999 (or $799 per the video) the X11 adds 3G service, and ups the SSD to 128GB. No details were provided on availability, or on a critical component, battery life. To me, the X11 looked a bit bulky (thick), and a bit unwieldy, but again, it's a prototype, not a finished product. Thoughts?

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