Posted by Jason Dunn in "Samsung Laptops & Netbooks" @ 08:00 AM
Samsung's Series 9 laptop (here's my unboxing) presents the most serious challenge to the success of the Macbook Air thus far - as long as you're not one of those people who has to run OS X. As someone who ran Windows 7 on a Macbook Air for two weeks, I can say that while it's workable, there are enough differences with the keyboard that it can be hard to adjust. Given a couple of months, I probably could have made the shift, but when I started using the Series 9, there was no need to adapt: I could type normally (well, except for that ridiculous tiny left shift key) and the size/weight on the Series 9 felt virtually identical to the Macbook Air I had. Read more...
Posted by Jason Dunn in "Apple iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad" @ 08:00 AM
This is my review of the Vaja Libretto Limited Edition leather cases for the iPad 2. The leather colour/style is "Mamut", and yes, it's as gorgeous as it looks. Ringing in at $190 USD, this is a premium-brand, luxury case. It's designed for someone who cares as much about how good the case looks as what it actually does. Thankfully, the Vaja case delivers good functionality along with the distinctive look. It lacks a second angle, but is otherwise similar to many other cases out there - it's basically the leather materials and hand-made approach that sets Vaja cases apart from the mass-manufactured cases you're probably used to.
The biggest thing to be aware of is that a case made of leather is going to wear and get "character" over time - nicks, scratches, tears, etc. It will look worn in a matter of months, so you don't buy a case like this expecting it to have the "looks the same as it always does" durability that a synthetic case does. As long as you're aware of that, I have no hesitation recommending this case - it's beautiful, unique-looking, and has the basic functionality you want in an iPad 2 case.
Jason Dunn owns and operates Thoughts Media Inc., a company dedicated to creating the best in online communities. He enjoys photography, mobile devices, blogging, digital media content creation/editing, and pretty much all technology. He lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada with his lovely wife, his wonderful son Logan, and his sometimes obedient dog. He's anxiously awaiting for Nikon to release a successor to his somewhat long-in-the-tooth D300.
Do you enjoy using new hardware, software and accessories, then sharing your experience with others? Then join us on the Thoughts Media Review Team! We're looking for individuals who find it fun to test new gear and give their honest opinions about the experience. It's a volunteer role with some great perks. Interested? Then click here for more information.
Posted by Jason Dunn in "Samsung Laptops & Netbooks" @ 07:00 AM
This is a three-part unboxing and first impressions video of the Samsung Series 9 laptop; the 900X3A-A02CA model to be precise. It's on loan to me from Samsung Canada for a couple of weeks, so I'm putting it through its paces. This is a thin and light laptop that goes head to head with the Macbook Air, though it costs a pretty penny doing so. Is it worth the extreme price premium? It's unusual to talk about Apple having a less expensive product than the competition, but you can't escape the numbers: a maxed out Macbook Air 13 in Canada with a 256 GB SSD, 2.13 Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo, 4 GB of RAM, and the Ethernet dongle, would cost me $1878. This Series 9 with a 256 GB SSD, a 1.4 Ghz Core i5 second-gen (Sandry Bridge) CPU, 8 GB of RAM, and the Ethernet dongle included, rings in at $2399. That's a 28% price premium. Yes, the Series 9 comes with twice the RAM and a better CPU, but the Air has a better GPU. Read more...
"The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 is an 8.6mm thin Android 3.1 Honeycomb tablet. As its name suggests, it features a 10.1-inch display that offers 1280 x 800 pixel resolution. The version seen in this video is the 16GB Wi-Fi only white model, but 32GB and gray versions are also available and 3G-capable Tabs will be on the market eventually."
Samsung really did an excellent job on the hardware on the Galaxy Tab 10.1 - it looks superb and is incredibly thin - but I'm personally disappointed that this product doesn't have a microSD card slot. Removable storage is one of the key advantages of Android, so it's curious that Samsung wouldn't include that. They might have had to sacrifice it in order to go head to head with the thinness of the iPad 2. Check out the video for all the details.
Posted by Jason Dunn in "Motorola XOOM" @ 07:30 AM
This is a head to head comparison video between the Android 3.0 Honeycomb-based Motorola XOOM and the iOS 4-based Apple iPad 2. Each tablet has pros and cons, and I discuss my findings after using both of them for a while. Chime in with your own thoughts!
Here's the rundown on the hardware: this version of the XOOM has 32 GB of storage and no integrated 3G/4G; like other XOOMs, it has 1 GB of RAM, a microSD card slot (that unfortunately doesn't work right now), Bluetooth 2.1, 802.11b/g/n WiFi, a 5 megapixel rear camera with dual xeon flashes, and a 2 megapixel front camera. The 10.1 inch screen is 1280 x 800 resolution, and there's a 3.5mm headphone jack - along with a microHDMI connector for video out, and a microUSB connector for synchronization. It has a special power connector though and won't charge over USB. It weighs in at 681 grams (1.5 pounds), and is 249 mm across, 168mm tall, and 12.9mm thin.
Posted by Jason Dunn in "Other Slates & Tablets" @ 07:00 AM
Last week I picked up a Motorola XOOM WiFi edition. The XOOM was announced with much fanfare at CES 2011, and while it was heralded as the best hope for challenging the juggernaut that is the iPad, a few things have soured since then.
First, that when Motorola first shipped the device through Verizon in the USA, it would cost a hefty $800 if you got it without a Verizon contract - but you couldn't use the WiFi on it until you paid for at least one month of Verizon's data service (which was $50 or so, making the price $850). What? Yeah, exactly! Then it was revealed that the XOOM would start to ship without the ability to play back Flash, which was one of the original advantages over the iPad - you can download Flash now of course, but at launch this key element was missing. The first tablet to offer 4G would also only offer it after the user shipped it back to Motorola for a hardware upgrade - oh, and the microSD card slot still doesn't work to this day (a future firmware upgrade will fix that). More than a few negatives!
In Canada the XOOM is $599, Flash is available in the marketplace, and lacks the cellular radio, so there's no need to ship it back. So, other than the non-functional microSD card slot, the XOOM I bought is in slightly better shape right out of the gate than the XOOM people bought from Verizon in February. Read more...
Posted by Jason Dunn in "HP Laptops & Netbooks" @ 11:30 AM
Above is part one of an unboxing and first impressions video of the HP Pavilion dm1z laptop [affiliate]. It was one of the first laptops to ship using the new AMD Fusion APU. It features an AMD Dual-Core Processor E-350 (1.6GHz, 1MB L2 Cache) and an AMD Radeon HD 6310M Discrete-Class Graphics chip for the GPU. This model I purchased from HP came with Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit, 3 GB of RAM, a 320 GB 7200 RPM hard drive, a six-cell battery, an 11.6 inch display (1366 x 768 resolution), a Webcam with integrated microphone, 802.11b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth. It has no internal CD/DVD drive: you need to buy an external, USB-based drive to load CDs or DVDs. Part two after the break.
Posted by Jason Dunn in "Samsung Laptops & Netbooks" @ 08:00 AM
This is my review video of the Samsung QX410-J01 (you can check out my unboxing and first impressions here). The QX410 has a 14 inch screen, running at a disappointing 1366 x 768 resolution (1440 x 900 is my ideal resolution at 13 to 14 inches). It packs a lot of power in the CPU/GPU department: it uses an Intel Core i5 CPU running at 2.53 Ghz with turbo boost up to 2.8 Ghz. It has an NVIDIA GeForce 310M GPU with 512 MB of dedicated RAM. Other hardware includes 4 GB of DDR3 RAM, a 640 GB 5400rpm hard drive, a DVD/CD burner, gigabit Ethernet port, memory card reader (SD), 802.11b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth, a Webcam with built-in microphone, HDMI output. The laptop runs Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit.
The materials of the laptop are impressive though - the lid is a brushed aluminium and the overall feel of the materials is one of quality. It's not quite at the level of a Macbook Air/Pro, but it's close. Read more...
Posted by Jason Dunn in "Samsung Laptops & Netbooks" @ 08:00 AM
This is an unboxing and first impressions video of the Samsung QX410-J01. The QX410 has a 14 inch screen, running at a disappointing 1366 x 768 resolution. It packs a lot of power in the CPU/GPU department: it uses an Intel Core i5 CPU running at 2.53 Ghz with turbo boost up to 2.8 Ghz. It has an NVIDIA GeForce 310M GPU with 512 MB of dedicated RAM. Other hardware includes 4 GB of DDR3 RAM, a 640 GB 5400rpm hard drive, a DVD/CD burner, gigabit Ethernet port, memory card reader (SD), 802.11b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth, a Webcam with built-in microphone, HDMI output. The laptop runs Windows 7 Home Premium. Read more...
Posted by Jason Dunn in "Apple Laptops" @ 01:30 PM
This is my review video of the Macbook Air 13 (2010 model). This version has the 2.16 Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo CPU, 4 GB RAM, 256 GB SSD, NVIDIA GeForce 320M GPU, Bluetooth, 802.11b/g/n WiFi. It has no CD/DVD drive. The unboxing video can be found here; I kept this laptop for the full two weeks before returning it to Apple. Returning it was a hard decision, because there were so many things I liked about the Macbook Air. Read more...
"Last night FedEx dropped off Google's first Chrome OS notebook. The Cr-48 isn't going to be sold to consumers, but the story here is software, not hardware. Manufacturers like Acer will likely mix things up in 2011, but for now we have a pretty straight forward device in terms of hardware and software. This is the first part of a multi-part Cr-48 review series."
My friend Xavier did a great job tackling every part of the Cr-48 - the hardware, the software, the overall experience, and some of the challenges that Google has to overcome with selling a product like this. We'll see if the hardware designs by Google's OEM partners are sexy enough to go up against the Windows netbooks on the market - but the biggest hurdle is the whole "cloud" aspect. I know we're moving in that direction, but is the market ready for a device like this? Would you buy one if it was netbook-priced?
"Toshiba has recently presented a new netbook which we were able to do a hands on with at their 25th anniversary press conference here in Taipei. The Mini NB250 which is already available for purchase online with a starting price of $290. In the inside of the Toshiba Mini NB250 netbook you can find an Atom N455 processor, 1GB of DDR3 RAM memory, a graphics card powered by a GMA 3150, and a hard-drive that has 250GB of storage capacity. The screen size with LED backlight measures 10.1-inches and provides a resolution of 1024×600 pixels, and the usual extras include WiFi, a multi-touch trackpad, a few USB ports, and a memory card reader. There are two models that differ on the battery, while a 3-cell battery can last 4 hours, a 6-cell battery can go up to 8 hours."
Boy, the netbook market is sure boring now, isn't it? I'm generally bullish on netbooks in general - I don't buy the ridiculous "the netbook is dead" stories being bounced around the blogosphere lately - but I can't argue that netbooks are at all exciting lately. Huge numbers of people have bought netbooks in the past few years, and they're not going to upgrade them until something more exciting comes along - that's the main reason why sales are slowing down.
We've seen the CPUs inch forward slightly, but ATI or NVIDIA based GPUs are far and few between...I imagine this due to cost factors. So you end up the majority of netbooks sticking with the craptastic integrated Intel GPUs, capped at 1 GB of RAM, and using mechanical hard drives because SSDs are too expensive. Battery life is one of the few differentiating features, but for many users, four to five hours is enough. Design materials tend to be ho-hum as well, again due to cost. So the netbook is in a hard place. What's the last netbook that you got excited about?
Posted by Jason Dunn in "HP Laptops & Netbooks" @ 07:00 AM
This is my review video of the HP tm2 laptop [affiliate] - also known as a tablet PC because of the touch screen, though it's worth pointing out that HP doesn't use that term anymore. My unboxing and first impressions video is here if you haven't already watched it. The exact model I'm reviewing is the 1070ca, on loan to me for a few weeks from HP Canada. The exact model and configuration will change depending on where you are in the world, but the basics are the same. Read more...