Laptop Thoughts: News & Reviews on Laptops, Netbooks, Slates, and More.

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All posts tagged "software"

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Samsung Windows 8 Slates: Series 5 and Series 7

Posted by Michael Knutson in "Samsung Laptops & Netbooks" @ 10:30 AM

"We're still a couple of months away from Windows 8 being available, but we're starting to get a pretty good picture of what the first round of devices will look like running the new operating system. Samsung just showed off the upcoming Series 5 and Series 7 Slates - both are tablet and dock combinations that let each device act as a light, thin tablet, and a full-fledged laptop all at once."

Looks like the ASUS Transformer concept (tablet + keyboard SECURELY connected) is going to be a feature in upcoming Windows 8 Slates (Tabtop or Laplet?), at least from Samsung with their Series 5 and Series 7 offerings. The 1366x768 resolution Series 5 will be offered as a tablet-only at $649, or a tablet+keyboard combo at $749, with 2GB RAM and a 64GB SSD. The more robust Series 7 offers full 1080p resolution, 4GB RAM and a 128GB SSD, and will start at $1199. Each device will also ship with Samsung's "S Pen" for onscreen activity. Arrival date is expected to be October 26, 2012, to coincide with Windows 8's arrival. Anyone besides me think that this keyboard looks an awful lot like a MacBookAir? Not a bad thing, in my opinion.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Notes from an iOS User: My Week with a Google Nexus 7

Posted by Michael Knutson in "Android Slates/Tablets & Accessories" @ 01:30 PM

"My first Android experience has been very, very positive, thanks to Google's Nexus 7 and Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean). I received my tablet a week ago, and also received a $25 Google Play credit as an early purchaser. My initial thoughts were that I'd use the tablet primarily as a reader - but it's much more than a Kindle (Fire) replacement."

As a longtime iOS device user, and like most modern device users, I have my biases, and have kept them firmly in mind when using an Android device for the first time. But, maintaining objectivity has been easy with this tablet. I'm guessing that skipping the earlier Android releases have saved me from some amount of frustration, just as skipping earlier iOS versions would have in the iDevice world. The bottom line is that so far I'm not finding much missing from Android.

I have several "must haves," including Banking, Browsing, Calendaring, Contacts, Dropbox, Email, Facebook, Foursquare, Kindle reader, LinkedIn, MS Office-type apps, PDF reader, Search, Skype, Text editing, and Travel apps. All present, and arguably equal to the iOS versions. Not as many app choices from Google Play, but all I need is one of each.

Things that I like so far, in no particular order: Android 4.1.1 - already one patch automatically downloaded to Jelly Bean; Battery life is very good; Customization is as simple as the iPad - the home screen is easy to configure; the display is very, very good - not quite up to the new iPad, but excellent for much less money; Sound quality is good; Security is good - face recognition login authentication can be configured to require a blink, making security stronger; Performance is excellent - I haven't noticed anything crapping out or any lags in performance, at the app or UI level; Shutting down running apps is a breeze, much simpler than iOS; Removing apps is easy; Reading is a breeze on this form factor - no more carpal tunnel holding and reading an iPad. Comfortable to hold and use. Many pros to this device!

Things that are less than stellar (and I admit freely that maybe I just don't know enough about Android yet): Apps on the home screen cannot be ordered or arranged for a whole screen - must be dragged and bumped individually; Setup options are not as rich as iOS; iCloud mail is handled a bit better in iOS, as one would expect; Google Play Store doesn't seem to have an easy way of selecting "tablet-only apps," aside from Staff Picks for Tablets. A pretty short list of cons.

Overall, a very positive experience so far, and, while I'm not dumping my iPad, my Nexus 7 is already getting more use than my earlier small tablets, a Nook tablet and a Kindle Fire, both of which were too restrictive for me, and were sold pretty quickly. For the money (I got the 16GB model), this is a superb tablet, and the Android experience is a pleasure. I like the fact that it is not "carrier specific," so it has none of the bloatware associated with subsidized devices. The Nexus 7 is a keeper!

Friday, July 6, 2012

The ASUS Google Nexus 7: A Performance Beast

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

"Note to all tablet makers not named Asus: This is how you make a 7-inch tablet.

The Nexus 7, the first tablet to wear Google's Nexus brand, sets a new standard for smaller slates, proving that just because it isn't as big as Apple's iPad doesn't mean it can't be just as useful, as fast, or as fun. If you've been on the fence about Android, or tablets in general, this is the tablet you've been waiting for."

Most of the initial hands-on reviews for the wifi-only Nexus 7 are positive, and this one is no exception. The biggest complaint so far has been the lack of tablet applications for Android, so, for example, the user can be "stuck" with up-sized phone apps for popular apps like Facebook and Twitter. The near-IPS quality 1280x800 screen, at about 216ppi, is superb, and the quad-core NVIDIA Tegra 3 coupled with 1GB of RAM and either 8GB or 16GB of storage, is, as the author puts it, a beast. The first Android 4.1 Jelly Bean tablet screams, with none of the earlier OS hiccups, and the price is right, at $199 for 8GB, and $249 for 16GB. Out of the box, the tablet is obviously Google-centric, but can be tweaked, and the full Google Play store is available. Early purchasers (I was one) receive a $25 credit for the store, so I'll be able to add my obligatory "MS Office" equivalent. Shipping is scheduled for mid-July 2012 (I hope) so check back here as we review more real world experiences with the Google Nexus 7 from ASUS.

ARCHOS ELEMENTS 97 carbon Tablet Announced

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

"ARCHOS, an award-winning innovator in consumer electronics, is pleased to introduce the ARCHOS 97 carbon, the first of its new tablet range called "ELEMENTS", an entry-level line up of 7, 8, and 9.7 inch tablets that combine ARCHOS design and engineering with full access to Google PlayTM and a full suite of Google apps at an affordable price."

Interesting to see the new tablets coming to market at consumer-friendly prices. This 9.7-inch tablet sports an IPS screen, plays 1080p HD video, weighs 21.8-ounces, and is 0.45-inches thick. With a 1-GHz processor (no further processor details were available), 1GB RAM, and 16GB storage, the Carbon 97 is running Android Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) 4.0 and is set to debut this July (2012) with a price of $249.99 or less. Interesting to also note that the carbon 97 supports expandable memory via SDHC cards up to 32GB and (or?) USB flash drives from a full-sized USB port. It'll be interesting to see if ARCHOS can crash the tablet party, and give the bigger players some competition at this price point.

Monday, June 4, 2012

ASUS Taichi: Windows 8 Ultrabook -and- Tablet

Posted by Michael Knutson in "Asus Laptops & Netbooks" @ 11:30 PM

"Every once in a while a product comes along which gracefully solves a social problem through technical innovation. Often, you want to show a piece of content — a presentation, a website or maybe even a video — to just one or two people, but you don’t want them starting over your shoulder to look at your laptop screen and you don’t want them to see the IM that popped up from your wife while you were shooting through that PowerPoint deck."

Interesting concept that ASUS is previewing, a Windows 8 Ultrabook that is also a Windows 8 touchscreen tablet. Two screens, each with 1920x1080 resolution. The Ultrabooks will be offered in two sizes: 11.6-inches and 13-inches, both with aluminum chassis. The screens can be mirrored, or run separately, and the "inside" screen apparently has a small window showing what the exterior screen shows. So you can be showing someone a PowerPoint presentation or a video on the outside, while checking email on the inside.

Very little else is known today, other than thin and solid appearance, Intel Ivy Bridge Core processors, and SSD, as journalists were allowed to look but not touch. Looks like "the best of both worlds" may be an option combining keyboard and touch on two screens in an Ultrabook. Metro on the outside touch screen, and desktop on the inside? I haven't been able to garner much enthusiasm for Windows 8 on a "regular" laptop, but this form factor may be a game changer.

A closer look (from

Tuesday, May 29, 2012 Streaming Prime Instant Video to Xbox 360

Posted by Jeff Campbell in "The Competition" @ 01:49 PM

"You can already stream Prime Instant Videos on your Kindle Fire, your PlayStation 3, your Roku, and hundreds of other TVs, Blu-ray players, and set-top boxes. Today, we're excited to announce that the Xbox 360 joins the fold."

About time! And you can also set up a "wait list" much like the que you set up in Netflix. Too bad they don't have it set up for iPad or for Apple TV but at least you can watch it on your Mac. Personally, the more they add to Xbox 360 the happier I get since it means I'm that much closer to getting rid of Dish Network. I'm almost there actually, between this and Hulu + and Apple TV, along with the iPad apps I use I pretty much can get all I want except for sports. And for that I can always go to a bar or a friends house, sports are more fun to watch in groups anyway right?

Monday, May 28, 2012

PicFrame For Making Photo Collages

Posted by Michael Knutson in "Apple Software (OS X)" @ 02:30 PM

"PicFrame helps you combine multiple photos into amazing looking frames that you can save to your computer or share to Facebook. With 34 adjustable frames, rounded corners and plenty of patterns, you will always have a unique look."

I added this to my iPhone a few days ago, and a version is now available for Mac OS X. More from the App Store:

"Since PicFrame was released on the iPhone and iPad we have often been requested to create a Mac version for people to use on their desktop, well here it is! PicFrame on the Mac is just as easy to use, select a frame, drag and drop your photos in, tweak the border size, give the photos rounded corners, add a color or pattern, resize the adjustable frames and save the photo or share it to Facebook.

Main Features:- 34 adjustable frames- Support for up to 5 photos- Rounded corners- Change the border size- Zoom and drag the photos around- Easy color picker for border color- Multiple patterns to use for the border- Ratios 1:1, 3:2, 2:3, 4:3, 3:4, 16:9- High resolution- Share to Facebook- Drag and drop photos into the frame "

Pretty nice for a couple bucks on each platform ... and really, really easy.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Mobile Office Suite for Android Announced: Office Mobile 2012

Posted by Michael Knutson in "Android Software" @ 09:30 AM

"German software vendor SoftMaker today announced the immediate launch of the public beta test of its new mobile office suite SoftMaker Office Mobile 2012 for Android. Boasting impeccable compatibility with Microsoft Office, it is poised to become an excellent choice for demanding users of Android phones and tablets."

A (free-to-try) beta has been announced by SoftMaker, and includes TextMaker word processor, PlanMaker spreadsheet, and SoftMaker Presentations. The suite promises Office 2010 compatibility (docx, pptx and xlsx formats) and will be sold and priced individually, at about 10 Euros (or equivalent dollars) per app. Highlights include: direct PDF export/save; syncing with Dropbox, Evernote and eventually Google Docs; multi-language spell checking that underlines errors in red; supports track changes in a format familiar to MSO users; plays presentations with full transitions and animations; and supports adding TrueType and/or OpenType typefaces. Sounds promising!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Tablets Replacing Laptops? Three Requirements

Posted by Michael Knutson in "Laptop Thoughts Talk" @ 12:30 PM

"With features like LTE connectivity, ultra-high-resolution displays, and laptop-like processing power, tablets have made their way into tens of millions of homes, and they’ve done it seemingly overnight. But despite popularity that borders on ubiquity and specs that edge them ever closer to desktops, it’s a rare house where a tablet has replaced a full-fledged computer. Why is that? Why haven’t more people scrapped their PCs for the sleeker, cheaper tablets?"

Interesting opinions on what it'll take for tablets to (someday) replace laptops. Three basic requirements: more feedback from the tablet for tasks; quicker reflexes - tablet response on touch actions are about 8-10x slower than mouse and keyboard actions; split personality, or a watered-down experience - tablets need to run the processes that laptops run. An additional requirement is that tablets need to be seen as more than luxury devices. When I can pull out my iPad and truly edit an Excel spreadsheet, I'll consider that tablets have arrived.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Ten (10) Windows 8 Advantages Over iPad

Posted by Michael Knutson in "Laptop Thoughts Talk" @ 11:00 AM

"Windows 8 is now available for anyone to download, and it already shows a ton of potential. In fact, Microsoft’s bold new OS, which reminds us a lot of Windows Phone, outshines the iPad in some key areas. Granted, there were things we didn’t like in our Windows 8 Consumer Preview– — and the iPad 3 or iPad HD is just around the corner– — but there’s no question that Apple will soon have a real fight on its hands. Here are the top 10 ways Windows 8 is better than the iPad right now."

A bit of an apples vs oranges comparison here: how about hardware vs hardware, and/or software vs software? Anyway, many of the touted features of Windows 8 will be solid, and will appeal to users looking for more tablet-like behavior from their mainstream computing devices. Whether there will be push-back from users on the major changes is yet to be determined. Much of the criticism that I've heard and read over the last few years regarding Windows vs iOS is that "traditional" users don't want tablet features, so it'll be interesting to follow the next iteration of Windows and its acceptance. I've already heard major griping on the removal (or displacement) of the start button ...

Monday, January 16, 2012

Want to Run Windows on a Mac? You Have Several Options

Posted by Jeff Campbell in "Apple Software (OS X)" @ 01:30 PM

"Despite the Mac's recent gains in market share, Windows is still the dominant operating system, especially in businesses. That means there may be times when you need to run the Microsoft OS: perhaps there's an application your company uses that's only available for Windows, or you're a web developer and you need to test your sites in a true native Windows web browser."

Well, whatever your reasons for running Windows on your Mac, you have many choices. Probably more than you realized, at least that was the feeling I got when I read this article on how to set up your Mac to run Windows. Especially helpful were the comparisons on performance based on which option, which helps immensely when trying to decide which road to travel. What are your thoughts on running Windows on a Mac, and which option(s) do you use?

Friday, January 13, 2012

A Fast, Free Image Viewer: Nexus Image

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Software" @ 11:00 AM

"Nexus Image (no relation to Google or the Nexus line of phones) is a free, sharp-looking image viewer that loads images quickly, displays EXIF information in a transparent overlay, lets you browse images via keyboard shortcuts, and can even dim your desktop to provide a lightbox effect while you browse."

I've tended to use Picasa as my image viewer, or ACDSee's Quick Viewer if I've got it installed on the computer I'm working on, but this looks like a fast, lightweight solution. I took it for a quick spin, and it's indeed fast and has some decent features. On the plus side, you can use a scroll-wheel or track pack to move through images in a folder. Weirdly though, the keyboard arrow keys won't work if the image window is in focus (you need to click on the column of thumbnails for them to work). Minor gripe though - this looks like a winner to me!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Intel Nikiski: An Windows 8 Ultrabook with Tablet Features

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

"During its CES 2012 press conference today, Intel took us on a tour of what might just be the future of the Ultrabook. That future is something the company calls ‘Nikiski’ and it’s a concept that replaces your normal trackpad, with a transparent touchpad, that can double as a gorgeous touchscreen when the Ultrabook is closed."

Pretty cool stuff maybe on the horizon! Operates as a standard notebook (ultrabook class) computer, but the transparent "full-width" touchpad functions as a mini-tablet when the computer is closed and flipped on its back. Email, calendar entries, alerts, etc; can all be handled in the tablet mode, and, when the notebook is opened, whatever is being worked on in "tiles" will be (quickly) active in notebook mode. Of course, this does require Windows 8 and Metro, and the video mentions to audience members to not even think about copying the technology, 'cause it's patented. Seems like an ideal melding of notebook and tablet to me.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Ultrabook Battle: Acer Aspire S3 vs. ASUS UX31E

Posted by Michael Knutson in "Laptop Thoughts Talk" @ 12:00 PM

"When Intel initially put out the idea of the ultrabook as a new type of laptop, I admit harboring plenty of skepticism—isn’t the ultrabook just a gussied up rebranding of an ultraportable? Unfortunately, being a skeptic/cynic has served me well over the years, and so now here I sit in front of two ultrabooks trying to determine a couple of things: which ultrabook is the “best” right now, and are any of them actually worth buying."

A well-done review, that hints that buying a first-generation ultrabook means that some compromises are necessary. For example, both the S3 and the UX31E have decidedly mediocre LCDs, with the ASUS system being brighter, and with better contrast. The SSDs differ greatly in performance. Both have keyboards that are okay, but are not backlit. Performance is best with the ASUS, and it also has better battery life (but also a larger battery). The bottom line is that both of these system are trying to unseat the MacBook Air from the top of the heap, and while neither one really succeeds, the ASUS UX31E comes close. Samsung's S9 also is getting some good reviews, so if it has to be Windows, you'll probably want to look at (and try in-person) all three of these ultrabooks.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

ARCHOS 70b Internet Tablet for $199 in January 2012

Posted by Michael Knutson in "Archos Tablets" @ 09:30 PM

"DENVER, CO – (December 20, 2011) – ARCHOS, an award-winning innovator in consumer electronics, announced today the upcoming availability of the first android 3.2 ‘’Honeycomb’’ tablet under $200, the ARCHOS 70b internet tablet. The new ARCHOS 70b IT is an enhanced version of the ARCHOS 70 IT Gen 8 that features an upgraded capacitive touch screen and a powerful processor at 1.2 GHz."

With Android 3.2 (Honeycomb), 8GB storage, full access to the Android Market, 1024x600 capacitive LCD, and a fair complement of ports, this may be a good buy for those that don't like (or want) the Kindle Fire's training wheels (UI). With "only" 512MB RAM, I don't expect lightning performance, and the lack of details as to the nature of their "powerful processor" is a bit puzzling. I've seen ARCHOS products in retail stores, but haven't had the desire to test one, but the 70b may change my mind. I had a Kindle Fire, but wasn't impressed, and sold it, maybe this will be a better (or real) introduction to Android. Anyone have experience with ARCHOS products?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Can Open Source Save webOS?

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Laptop Thoughts News" @ 03:00 PM

"HP finally revealed the fate of webOS last week, announcing plans to open source the orphaned mobile OS rather than sell it to someone else or simply abandon it. As a fan of the open source model I was pleased to hear this -- it would have been a shame to let webOS die -- but I'm also realistic that opening it up isn't going to suddenly resurrect the OS and put it right back into contention alongside iOS, Android, and Windows Phone."

HP has made some waves with its announcement that it intends on open sourcing webOS. Will is save the beleaguered operating system from death? Possibly. Will it bring it to the forefront? Unlikely. Without strong and major backing, the OS is likely to stay small, and see interest mostly from niche groups. Yes, there are thousands of webOS users out there thanks to the firesale that HP had with its TouchPads, but I have doubts that most consumers really know what they got into, and are just as likely to pick up an Android or iOS device next. That is not a knock against webOS, but that with any product, it needs some backing and marketing in order to get into the minds of consumers, and with HP pushing it, I do not see that happening.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

HTC Flyer Gets Android Honeycomb (3.2) Update

Posted by Michael Knutson in "Other Slates & Tablets" @ 08:00 PM

"Great news if you’re an HTC Flyer user: the Taiwanese smartphone giant has released the Android 3.2 update for its 7-inch tablet. The update weighs in at 210MB and bumps the version of Android from 2.3 Gingerbread up to the proper 3.2 Honeycomb for tablets."

This has been long-awaited, but it's finally here! The Flyer has been a good performer with Android Gingerbread, and should be quite impressive with a true tablet OS. Aside from the enhanced dedicated stylus button, the other buttons become inactive. It'll be interesting to see if the 7-inch form factor catches on after the success of the Kindle Fire.

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?

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