Tag Archives: tablet

iPad mini: First look

iPad mini: First look

Apple’s iPad Mini will bring a lot more excitement and a little more confusion to the holiday shopping season.

It only takes a few minutes playing with the iPad mini to realize the scaled-down tablet computer will be a sure-fire hit with longtime Apple disciples and potential converts who’ve been looking for a more affordable entree into the mobile computing market.

With a 7.9-inch screen, the iPad mini is perfectly sized to be stuffed in Christmas stockings. Recipients who will discover the pleasure and convenience of being able to take pictures, surf the Web, watch video, read books and listen to music on an exquisitely designed device that’s pancake thin.

As enticing as that all sounds, the iPad mini also causes a dilemma, albeit a pleasant one.

The new option will make it even more difficult for holiday shoppers to figure out which mobile device to buy for their loved ones -or for themselves.

I felt the pangs of indecision within a few minutes of picking up the iPad mini for the first time.

As the company usually does at its product unveilings, Apple Inc. only provided reporters with limited, strictly supervised access to the iPad mini on Tuesday. That meant I could only experiment with it for about 15 minutes, but as an experienced user of the iPad 2, I could quickly see that the smaller tablet does just about everything its bigger brethren does.

Even though the mini’s screen is 1.8 inches smaller than the standard iPad, the movie “The Avengers” looked lush, even in a side-by-side comparison with the larger tablet. When I pulled up the latest issue of the New Yorker, I didn’t have to strain to see the text or pictures on the smaller screen. A quick check of other websites verified that the mini’s screen isn’t so tiny that it’s going to cause a lot of squinting. After I took a very crisp picture of another reporter testing out a mini, I decided to email it to her to test how easy it was to use the keyboard on the smaller screen. No problem there. Best of all, the iPad Mini can be held in one hand and is about half the weight of the larger iPad.

Apple-ipad-mini-review-635.jpg

The Mini worked so much like my standard iPad that it immediately caused me to have second thoughts about a decision I thought I had already made. I like my iPad 2 a lot, but it’s just too big to carry with me wherever I am. But there have been times I really wish I had it with me, like when I spot something that would make a great picture or when I’ve needed to check something on the Web. For various reasons, I didn’t want a smartphone that would require a data plan, so I had my mind set on buying the latest iPod Touch, which has an iPhone-size screen and superb camera.

Now, the iPad mini has me vacillating. Apple isn’t making it easier with its pricing strategy. The latest iPod Touch with 32 gigabytes sells for $299. An iPad Mini with 16 gigabytes of storage sells for $329. I’m tempted.

Like others who will no doubt be weighing the same decision, I’ll have to make up my mind. Do I want something that can fit in my one of pant pockets like the Touch? For starters, it comes in more colors than the black-or-white Mini and offers more storage capacity for a cheaper price.

Or do I want to pay a little more for another tablet computer that can slip into a coat pocket and offer a richer experience with a screen nearly two times larger than the new Touch?

The iPad mini is so mighty that I can’t believe the iPad 2 will be on the market too much longer. The iPad 2’s $399 price now looks like too much, given that the iPad mini can do just about everything it does on a slightly smaller screen. The iPad 2 still may have some appeal for people who want a larger tablet at a lower price the newest iPads, but I can’t see too many consumers buying Apple’s second-generation tablet now that the mini is available.

Consumers who aren’t set on buying one of Apple’s devices will have even more choices to make. The iPad mini is clearly aimed at siphoning sales away from the Nexus 7 tablet that Google Inc. began selling four months ago and the longer-established Kindle Fire from Amazon.com Inc. Figuring out which one is best-suited for you (or that special someone on your shopping list) will likely come down to weighing price against performance.

Amazon is sells a Kindle Fire HD with 16 gigabytes of storage and 7-inch screen for $199 and a similarly sized Nexus 7 goes for $249. That means an iPad mini will cost $80 to $130 more, a price that Apple believes is justified because it boasts more features, such as front and back cameras. The mini’s reliance on aluminum instead of plastic for its exterior also makes it look more stylish and more enjoyable to hold.

If the speculation on technology blogs pans out, Google might make things even more interesting and dizzying for holiday shoppers by introducing a $99 version of the Nexus 7 in the coming weeks.

 

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iBall Slide i7218 review

iBall Slide i7218 review

iBall had launched a tablet device in September 2011 and now the company has launched a revamped version of its Slide with i7218. The newer version of the device runs on Android 2.3 though the user interface is similar to Honeycomb.

The i7218 is cheaper than its predecessor, as it comes with the price tag of Rs. 11,999 and will be competing with the likes of Reliance Tab 3G. When switched on, the device greets you with “Get ready to enjoy the ride”, so let’s try and find out how is the ride of the new iBall Slide i7218.

Hardware/ Design
In terms of design, the 7-inch tablet is made primarily of plastic and has a metal-based side casing. Unlike the previous model’s box like design, this one has a curved and lighter body. At the back is a 2.0 MP camera, with the speakers. The front has a VGA camera on the top and three capacitive touch control buttons on the right.

On the right side, is a Micro-USB port, a mini HDMI port, a USB port, 3.5 mm headphone jack and an external slot for a microSD card. The top panel also houses a power button, volume control and a reset button. The device is loaded with a 1 GHz ARM Cortex Processor. The USB port can be used to connect dongle or an external flash drive. Overall the design and hardware is apt for the purpose, price and usage of this tablet.

slide-2.jpg

Display
The 7-inch TFT display claims to have a resolution of 800 X 480 pixels. In terms of brightness levels, it’s a little dim. The dim levels turn out to be a little troublesome while using this tablet in sunlight. But indoors the tablet provides a comfortable display.

Software/ Interface
Slide has a user interface similar to that in Honeycomb. Several elements of both Gingerbread and Honeycomb have been combined to bring about the UI skin for the tablet. However, it uses a stock animation while switching windows.

Moving on to preloaded apps, the device has few to offer.First up, is an app called the iReader. It is not just similar to Apple’s iBook app in terms of names but even in interface. The app helps ones in reading eBooks and it offers support to TXT and PSB files. The interface is smooth and replicates iBook’s page turn animation. But on downside, it does not support PDF files.

Another app that comes pre-installed is ApkInstall, which reads all APK files in the memory and gives you the option to install the applications. Other apps include Google Maps, File Manager and UT Player. The device also has the option of accessing portable Internet, by connecting a dongle via the USB port.

Camera
The device offers a 2MP primary camera at the back and a VGA camera in the front. The camera does not offer zoom and the quality of the images produced is nothing to rave about. On the video front, the video output turns out to be just about average.

camera.jpg

Performance/ Battery life
In terms of performance, this tablet will surely test of patience and it would not be wrong to say that this iBall slide offers a rather troublesome ride. It took about 35 seconds for this tablet to boot up and about 5 seconds to wake from its sleep.

There is a persistent lag on the touch front and the processor takes its own time to process any and every request. When we tried watching a movie, the application crashed mid-way. And in the time that we spent with this tablet during the course of this review, there were several such crashes.

Keyboard is cramped in horizontal view as the keys are small in height and extra wide. When kept vertical, the dimensions of the keyboard keys might be comfortable but the size and the weight of the device make it difficult to type. Thus, typing in any form is a bit difficult with this device.

For first time use, the only way to purchase applications is through a tiny icon in the top right corner for the Android Market. It is only later on, that it updates the application and upgrades it to the Play Store. Thankfully, Play Store finds a spot amongst the regular Android Applications apart from the tiny icon on the top.

Internet browsing is smooth over Wi-Fi. The screen size is comfortable for the same. Sound output is decent. However the battery backup could have been better though. 15 minutes spent on YouTube drained the battery to almost half. Once the battery is completely discharged, you require at least 6 hours for bringing it back to its full capacity.

Verdict
The budget Android tablets market is currently exploding in India and there seems to be a new tablet being announced almost every month. In such a scenario, it will be difficult for iBall to create a market for itself with Slide i7218. The strengths of this tablet are that it has a well-rounded design and comes with a Honeycomb like UI on board, unlike the other Android tablets in this price range that are purely Gingerbread. However, with the performance lags and poor touch response this is not the tablet that you would want to lay your hands on.

Pros

  • Design

Cons

  • Poor touch screen response
  • Persistent lag
  • Cramped keyboard

Ratings (out of 5)
Design: 3
Display: 2.5
Performance: 2
Software: 3
Battery Life: 2
Value for Money: 2.5
Camera: 2
Ecosystem: 3

Overall: 2.5

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Review: Reliance 3G Tab

Review: Reliance 3G Tab

There seems to be no end in sight for the Tablet frenzy. After the iPad 2 and the Android Honeycomb armada, here is Reliance’s latest 7-inch, 3G tablet which runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread and comes bundled with a multitude of 3G plans. At the outset we have to say that for a change this one does not follow the monotonous similarity of all the other Android tablets. Lets see if this one breaks the ice with the Indian masses.


Packaging and Content
Reliance gives us the standard set of goodies including the power cable, the USB cable, the 4-gigabyte memory card and also a pair of super-cheap headphones. But yes, headphones. Apple, are you reading this? If Reliance can, so can you – give us headphones with the iPad!


Hardware and Styling
At Rs 12,999, this is not the cheap Chinese built tablet one would expect. Even though its clearly ‘made in China’ courtesy ZTE, its at the higher end of the spectrum. With its brushed aluminum like plastic finish in the rear, the device indisputably feels well built. Interestingly, the rear casing is removable which means we can access the 3400 mAh battery, alongside the Reliance sim-card slot and the MicroSD memory-card slot. We also get the 2-megapixel camera in the rear end of the device.
The front-end of the device welcomes us with 7-inch capacitive touch display along with the three Android touch buttons and the VGA front camera, which facilitates video chats.
On the right hand side, we get the customary volume rocker and the unusually placed power button which has clearly borrowed from Samsung. Actually, the Reliance 3G tablet can easily be mistaken for the original 7-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab, the only difference being the finish in the rear.
On the top, we get the standard 3.5 mm audio jack and the bottom houses the micro-USB port. Besides these both the top and bottom have a speaker modules.


Interface
We get impression that this tablet was designed more as a means to promote Reliance’s 3G network. The only way that is going to happen is if the users have a decent interface at their disposal, and stock Android pretty much offers exactly that. Unfortunately, someone at Reliance thought that they could out-do Google and build a better user interface. Bad idea guys, even premier smartphone manufactures like Samsung and HTC haven’t come up with anything better than vanilla Android.
The moment we powered the device up we were at the mercy of the unwholesome Android skin Reliance has specially developed for it.
Funnily, for the first 15 minutes we were wondering if the device had a resistive display or a capacitive one, which was Reliance’s claim. After struggling with a below par touchscreen response we lost patience and decided to install LauncherPro which is the best third party Android skin available. The moment LauncherPro was ready the tablet became a pleasant device to use.
Apparently, the Reliance skin was consuming so much of processing power from the device that it was left almost unusable for any other task.
If you have been reading our reviews, you will know we are not big fans of Android skinning, even from companies like HTC who deliver the very good HTC Sense UI, and here’s why.
Android skinning never works, as the best Android is the one delivered by Google – it is fast, smooth and intuitive. Skinning slows down the device, it clutters the user interface and rarely adds any functionality that stock Android does not have.
This is a direct indictment of the Android ecosystem where OEMs have the license to pollute the software and pass on any bloat-ware to the consumer in the name of differentiations and marketing. Hopefully, this will change in the near future.
Lets be clear out here – we are not saying that the 3G tablet is a bad device, actually the reality is quite the opposite. What we hate is Reliance’s decision to pollute the OS with their skin just for the sake of pushing the Reliance brand. Make no mistake, that’s what it is. They may claim that their user interface is unique but it is not. It does not add even one bit of functionality to the device that is not already available on stock Android.


Multimedia
Multimedia is normally a tablet device’s forte as the tablet form-factor is optimized for multimedia consumption. The Reliance tab is designed for this purpose only.
As the device runs on Android 2.3 Gingerbread it is as adept as any other Android smartphone on the market when it comes down to multimedia.Admittedly, it tends to get a tad slow but hey, it costs Rs 12,999. That price won’t get you any dual core goodies and we don’t think many will care, either.
For music we get the stock Android music player. Despite the lack of the visual flamboyance of an iTunes-style cover flow interface, it’s very functional and easy to understand. It organizes one’s music pretty neatly. One can easily sort out assorted music according to Artists, Albums, and Genre or even according to the song name. A built-in equalizer would have been great, but, again, the price bracket doesn’t allow.
Oh well. We’re probably suffering from the Samsung Galaxy Tab blues, which is higher up on the tablet food chain.
For video, we have the standard Android Video player, and also a myriad of free alternatives making the rounds of Android Market. The video player is a pretty barebones experience. No HD video playback, which is a bummer, but HD video playback does require at least an 1GHz processor. Besides this, the device handled most of the standard video formats pretty well, though one would do well to shut down all apps before starting a video.
We should also mention that the display does not boast of a very high resolution and can look bland at times.
Reliance did not mention the exact resolution of the display but we are assuming it to be below 1024×600.
Reliance has added dual cameras – a 2-megapixel snapper in the rear and a VGA resolution one for video chats. Our summation was not very good. They produce some disastrous pictures filled with noise, grain, poor colour and so on. We can actually write a whole other article just on the cons of the cameras. To tell the truth, a 2004 Sony Ericsson S700i could click better pictures. But yes, you will at least get the bragging rights and the VGA front camera will be more than adequate for video chats. We are guessing Skype will come in handy.


PC Sync and Market
This is one area where the device excels. PC sync as with all Android devices is quite painless courtesy Google Contacts. The moment we popped open the Reliance tab we logged into our Gmail ID and eureka! we had all our contacts.
As far as Android Market goes, we do get a wholesome selection of apps to choose from, as this is an Android 2.3 Gingerbread device. Some 300,000 apps are at our disposal so be rest assured you will be playing around with the device for a long time.


Essential Apps
While Reliance added its skin on the Android interface, they thankfully did not install any bloat-ware on the device. The device could hardly stand on its feet with the Reliance skin, with multiple apps it would have been dead on arrival. In spite of this, we do see some Reliance apps such the Rworld which is basically an app linked to their network services and Reliance Mobile TV. The Mobile TV app is basically a spin-off of the one for the iOS. We must say this is quite a handy app as it streams most of the major TV channels on subscription. The streaming quality is pretty good and utilizes the Reliance 3G connection to its fullest. Reliance must be hoping for such services to catch the fancy of the middle-class as they unlikely to make much money on the device itself because of low margins. The one place they can cash in is on their 3G network, and basically they are hoping that the 3G Tablet will act as a catalyst for the 3G market, still at a nascent stage and riddled by poor connectivity and expensive data charges.


Performance
Lets be clear – this isn’t the fastest tablet around. Reliance also claims this device features 512MB of RAM but they don’t mention clock speed or the processor type. We believe it is a processor from the ARM cortex A8 family clocked at 800 MHz which is more than adequate for day-to-day tasks, though we must admit it’s not ideal for multi-tasking.
The device was pretty snappy once we got rid of the Reliance embellishments, but we ran our standard tests to make sure.
So we started with Quadrant and guess what, it crashed. The same happened with Linpack and Benchmark Pi. This was pretty disappointing, but we are assuming this happened because the processor was not supported by the benchmarks.
The only test we managed to run successfully was the web-based Rightware Browsermark test. The results were not very encouraging with a paltry score of 15646. In real-world testing, things were quite different as web pages rendered quickly and we did not encounter many flash problems. Suffice to say we were more than satisfied with the performance.
When it came down to battery life the device lasted around 6 hours, which included constant 3G usage, some phone calls and multimedia consumption. This was quite impressive considering the battery in question is a 3400 mAh.
Another noteworthy mention is the loudspeaker, which handled duties while we used the device as a phone and it also came in handy when we listened to some music. It was loud and clear most of the time. Normally, Chinese tablet manufactures employ their cost cutting tactics in areas such as this but,thankfully, the Reliance 3G tablet does not suffer from this syndrome.


Verdict
There is a lot to like about the Reliance 3G tablet including decent build quality and a fairly functional feature set. Once we couple these features and the Rs 12,999 starting price tag with the myriad of 3G plans the offer becomes tastier. Clearl,y this device is not meant to be a workhorse. As a multimedia consumption hub the device fits the bill perfectly.
One has to admit the Reliance Tab has the potential to open up the 3G market in the country.

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Review: ViewPad 10 features Windows and Android

Review: ViewPad 10 features Windows and Android

Viewsonic’s new tablet has a unique solution for consumers who are still clinging to Microsoft’s Windows, even as Google’s Android operating system gains traction: It offers both.
The ViewPad 10 is a dual-boot unit. It can launch either Windows 7 or Android as you start the computer.


Out of the box, the specs are impressive. The ViewPad has a 10.1-inch display, which is larger than the iPad’s 9.7 inches. It weighs less than two pounds, has built in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth and is stuffed with a relatively fast Intel 1.66 GHz processor. It costs $599 for the 16-gigabyte version, and $679 for double the memory.
The ViewPad has a built-in camera. The resolution is just 1.3 megapixels, well short of what the iPhone and other smartphones offer. So, don’t expect great images.
The device also features a mini VGA port, a standard audio jack, two USB ports and a MicroSD card slot. It’s pretty full-featured for a tablet.
The computer comes with Windows 7 Home Premium installed, and I updated the test unit with version 2.2 of Android, also known as Froyo.
I spent some time with Android first, as I was already familiar with that environment as an owner of an Android-powered phone from HTC. The ViewPad didn’t present as rich an experience as the phone, primarily because the graphical interface that presents the shortcuts, widgets and navigation on the tablet isn’t as advanced as those on smartphones. HTC’s smooth “Sense” environment for phones, for example, is among the best-of-breed for presenting the Android tools and apps.


Moreover, the apps shortcut on the tablet didn’t present the full offering of apps available on Google’s Android Market. Instead, it took me to a much smaller selection at something called “AndAppStore.” A direct link to the full slate of those Market apps would have been better, but the device appears to be hamstrung.
Google does not allow the Android Market to be pre-installed on Android 2.2 tablets with screen sizes larger than seven inches. And Viewsonic has no current plans to update the ViewPad beyond that version of the operating system. So there’s an impasse that leaves the ViewPad wanting.
You could try to install a more recent version of Android, such as Honeycomb, on your own. But it requires advanced technological skills, and there’s no guarantee from the manufacturer or Google that the ViewPad will perform well.
Once apps are launched, they work as expected. They’re quick to start up and easy to use. But most apps for Android are designed for a smaller display, not something as large as the ViewPad. The 10.1-inch display size, in most cases for me, was wasted on the Android side of this dual-boot device.


The better half of the ViewPad is Windows 7.
It ran fast and was pretty intuitive about responding to the right icons, scroll bars and objects on the display that I was trying to touch. It was a new experience for me to navigate the Web in Firefox by swiping across the screen. It fared well – better than surfing for content on the Android side.
When it came to more intricate programs, interacting with the tablet was challenging.
You could try to edit photos with Adobe Photoshop for Windows, but you’d be making the task much harder than it would be in a traditional mouse and cursor environment. Trust me, I tried.
Every erroneous tap propelled me into a wrong window or menu that had to be backed out of and started over. The first thing that came to my mind was to undo an action with “CTRL+Z”, but the keyboard wasn’t there unless I swiped it onto the screen from its little hidden perch in a corner of the display.


I’ll leave Photoshop, and a few other detail oriented tasks, for traditional computers with real keyboards. Tablets, at this stage, are better for content consumption than content creation.
Despite my success with a variety of Windows experiences (movie watching, Gawker reading, Flickr photo browsing and Facebook time-crushing) the tablet experience begs for apps. Better apps. Finger-friendly apps.
Browsers work to deliver this content, but full-fledged apps brewed up especially for human digits work better. They’re designed with bigger touchable regions and fewer (if any) tiny scrolling controllers.
It’s swell of Microsoft to make Windows 7 touch-friendly, but the company needs to fashion a tablet-specific version of its operating system to compete with Android and iOS.
Is dual-boot for the tablet worth it? Not really at this point. Android is best left to phones. But with a few improvements or perhaps a dedicated tablet operating system, Windows will fit in quite nicely in this growing computer segment.

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The UNITEK 3-In-1 Connector will let you leave your laptop at home

UNITEK 3-In-1

The one thing that will weigh my bag down the most is my laptop. It is a monstrosity, but using a phone or tablet for work outside of the office just isn’t going to cut it. Opening up a laptop and setting to work anywhere is just too easy. You could make it work on your phone, but that would require opening an app, losing half of your screen to a keyboard, and you would have to use your fingers instead of a track pad or mouse, and that just doesn’t feel right.

If you like the portability of your phone, but wish you had the keyboard and mouse aspect of your laptop, then you might like having the UNITEK 3-In-1 Connector around. This is a smartphone stand that will allow you to connect three USB devices. There’s also a built-in SD card reader. The On-The-Go function will allow you to connect a flash drive, USB keyboard, or mouse to your phone.

This was meant for microUSB smartphones, but can charge your iPhone or tablet. It can act as a stand for smartphones up to 8”, and if it is not being used as a work station, this can charge three USB devices at once when plugged in. It’s plug-and-play, and supports Windows 7, 8, Vista, XP, 2000, Linux, and Mac. You will need to be near an outlet when using this $55 device. This is a great idea, but it comes with the annoyance of needing to find enough space to set everything up. You’ll have to balance out the ease of use versus the extra weight you’d have to carry with a laptop.

 

UNITEK 3-In-1