Introduction, Design and Ergonomics
The tablet market is starting to heat up. After a long period of dominance by the iPad and its long line of Android imitators, we have new competitors looking to spoil the tablet world order. On the high-end we have the incoming volley of buff Tegra 3 based products, and on the low end with have the Kindle Fire, a simple $199 tablet that seems to prefer that its users don’t think for a second about the hardware inside.
That’s actually a bit odd, because the hardware inside is at least competitive. Though priced $300 less than the cheapest iPad 2, the Fire offers a dual core processor at the same clock speed of 1 GHz. It also provides 512MB of RAM and 8GB of storage, neither of which will blow away competitors, but all of which is competitive. While the 7” size of the Fire means there is simply less tablet to build, it’s impressive that Amazon has managed to cram reasonably impressive hardware into one of the cheapest Android tablets on the market today.
Hardware is only a small part of equation, however. Amazon really intends the Fire to be a portal to its world of services, which includes ebooks, streaming video, apps and much more. This is very much a walled garden, even more so than Apple’s iPad, and for it to work the spoils of the garden need to be damn good. Let’s see if $200 is really a good value given that users must buy into Amazon’s services as well.
Subject: Mobile | November 9, 2011 - 01:00 AM | Matt Smith
Tagged: tegra 3, tegra, tablet, quad-core, kal-el, eee pad, asus, Android
ASUS Eee Pad Prime
Rumors have been swirling around the ASUS Prime tablet and dock, successors to the popular ASUS Eee Pad Transformer, for months. Today, many of those rumors can rest, as ASUS has taken the wraps off the tablet's official specifications.
The big story for enthusiasts is the tablet’s NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core processor. Provided that the product makes its anticipated December release (the exact date has yet to be announced), this will be the first tablet to hit the market with Tegra 3 as well as the first Android tablet to sport a quad-core. You can read some more details that Ryan discussed about Tegra 3 and its five (5?!?) cores, by checking out this post from September.
NVIDIA Kal-El / Tegra 3 Processor
As the follow-up to the Transformer, the Prime offers many of the same features including the keyboard dock. However, the Prime is improved across the board. The tablet is just 8.3 millimeters thin, making it the thinnest tablet on the market (the next thinnest is the 8.6mm Galaxy Tab 10.1, while the iPad 2 is 8.8mm). Weight has been reduced to 586 grams (1.29 lbs), down from 680. The rear-facing camera now sports an 8MP sensor, the battery in both the tablet and the optional dock is slightly larger, and base storage is now 32GB, with a 64GB model available as an optional upgrade. Even the display has been improved via a new brightness enhancement function that promises to make the tablet easier to use in sunlight.
Even the design has been upgraded. Unlike the Transformer, which has a plastic back, the Prime has a “spun metallic” finish. It will be available in amethyst gray and champagne gold.
The battery tests from ASUS put the Prime at 12 hours of life on its own and 18 hours with the keyboard dock while playing back 720p video with all ports enabled and the screen brightness at 60 nits.
Despite all of these improvements, the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer will not be going away. In fact, it will be remaining at its current price. Instead, the Prime is entering the market as a “premium” product built to compete directly with the iPad 2 and Galaxy Tab 10.1. The base Prime model with 32GBs of storage is $499, while the 64GB model is $599. As with the original, purchasing the optional keyboard dock will set you back another $149.
ASUS claims that the Prime will in fact ship with Android 3.2 in its initial release with an over-the-air updated to 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) as soon as it has been "optimized, tested and approved". They weren't willing to put a date or time frame on that release but they are planning on using the 4.0 OS revision at the launch event coming in December; that seems to indicate to us we may have it in time for CES in January 2012.
When PC Perspective reviewed the Transformer, I called it “the best Android tablet on the market today.” The thinner, lighter, more powerful Prime should be a significant improvement to an already excellent product. My only concerns were with the dock itself, which was sometimes finicky and added a fair amount of bulk. It’ll be interesting to see if the Prime can address those concerns.
Subject: General Tech | November 7, 2011 - 10:38 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: tablet, nook, kindle fire, ereader, ebook, barnes & noble
Hot on the heels of the Kindle Fire announcement, Barnes & Noble is readying it’s own touchscreen tablet and ebook reader. Set to officially launch November 17th, the new Nook tablet is very similar to the Kindle Fire in physical dimensions; however, the hardware and software are a bit different. The new Nook Tablet measures 8.1” x 5” x .48” thick and will retail for $249 USD. It is currently available for pre-order now.
Weighing in at 14.1 ounces, the new tablet runs a customized version of Google’s Android operating system using some decent hardware. On the outside the gray colored chassis sports a 7” VividView IPS touchscreen display with a resolution of 1024 x 600 pixels (169 PPI). A 3.5 mm headphone jack, mono speaker, charging port, and microSD card slot are located along the edges of the tablet along with a microphone.
Powering the Nook Tablet is a Texas Instruments OMAP4 dual core processor running at 1 GHz and 1 GB of system RAM. Along with 16 GB of built in memory (expandable with up to a 32 GB microSD card.), the new Nook is trying to double up on the specifications of the Kindle Fire which has a single core TI OMAP 4 and 512 MB system RAM. In fact, the marketing documentation that was leaked last week clearly shows the company heavily pushing the increased hardware. The Nook Tablet also features Wi-Fi (no 3G connection), and a claimed battery life of up to 4 hours playing video with the Wi-Fi on or 11.5 hours of reading with Wi-Fi off. A slew of applications are included on the device for email, web browsing, Hulu plus, Netflix, and several other content providers.
The tablet supports the following formats:
E-Books and Documents: EPUB, PDF, XLS, DOC, PPT, TXT, DOCM, XLSM, PPTM, PPSX, PPSM, DOCX, XLX, PPTX
Video: MP4, SWF, 3GP, 3G2, MKV, WEBM, H.264, MPEG-4, H.263, VP8
Photo: JPG< GIF, PNG, BMP
Audio: MP3, MP4, AAC, AMR, WAV, OGG
The marketing materials heavily pit the Nook Tablet against the Kindle Fire, even going so far as to dig at the Amazon Silk browser for privacy concerns that B&N’s tablet doesn’t have. What’s interesting is that the Nook isn’t being compared to other Android tablets. On the other hand, the Kindle Fire is the first Android tablet to be a successful launch even before the device has launched so it is only natural for Barnes & Noble to try to emulate that success and to heavily compare their product to the Kindle Fire. The customized nature of both the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet really help to differentiate themselves from all the other vanilla Android tablets and are likely a cornerstone to the success.
On a personal level, my friends had never heard of the Transformer, Xoom, or Dell Streak but they knew just as much as I did about the Kindle Fire and jumped at the chance to pre-order it. Both the Nook Tablet and Kindle Fire are set to officially launch this month, so it will be interesting to see how it shakes out as far as market share and whether or not the extra $50 for better hardware of the Nook will outweigh the Amazon juggernaut’s ecosystem (the app store, marketplace, kindle library, etc).
What do you think is more important in this customized 7” tablet/ereader market?
UPDATE: Amazon is now stating that the Kindle Fire is running a dual core processor, not the single core I mentioned above.
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | November 6, 2011 - 08:32 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: tablet, slate 2, psg, hp, business, atom
Not long after HP reconsidered spinning off the PC manufacturing arm of the company, it has begun prepping two new business computers. The new PCs are aimed at business, education, healthcare, and government users and include a tablet and notebook. Specifically, HP is releasing the HP Slate 2 tablet computer and a lightweight notebook dubbed the HP 3115m.
The HP Slate 2 is a dark gray and silver accented slate style tablet computer weighing in at 1.5 lbs and a 8.9” (diagonal) screen. Running Windows 7, the computer offers both pen and touch input using its capacitive multi-touch display. To make up for the absence of a hardware keyboard, HP is including a new Swype keyboard application which will likely be well received as a notable improvement over the default Windows 7 on screen keyboard. As it is aimed at business users, several security enhancements are baked in, including a TPM (Trusted Platform Module) chip, HP ProtectTools, and Computrace Pro BIOS level security software.
On the hardware side of things, the HP tablet is powered by an Intel Atom Z670 processor and a mSATA compatible SSD. A front facing VGA camera is available for video conferencing, and a second 3 MP (megapixel) camera is located on the back providing photo and video capture. Further, the tablet features SRS Premium Sound, Wi-Fi, Ethernet, Bluetooth, optional 3G mobile broadband, an SD card slot, and USB 2.0 ports. HP is further designing a docking station, integrated Bluetooth keyboard tablet case, and a Point of Sale (POS) attachment that adds a magnetic card reader to the tablet for processing credit card payments.
For those that would prefer a hardware keyboard instead of a tablet PC, HP is also releasing a lightweight notebook. The company claims that the new HP 3115m laptop will offer up to 11.5 hours of battery life. The PC features a 11.6” LED-backlit HD display, an HP webcam, and Beats Audio. Powering the laptop is a AMD E450 dual core Fusion APU. The APU features AMD Radeon HD 6320 graphics hardware, which should easily meet the needs of road warriors and business professionals.
Both the HP Slate 2 and 3115m will be available later this month. The HP Slate 2 will be available worldwide towards the end of the month while the 3115m will be available November 11th in North and South America only. More photos can be found here.
Subject: General Tech | November 1, 2011 - 12:11 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: asus, netbook, tablet, ultrabook
ASUS seems to be sitting in a very nice place in the market, with several flavours of 'killer' products, so that which ever ends up winning the form factor battle ASUS will come out with a profit. In this high tech game of rock, paper, scissors we have The Ultrabook, with their newly released Zenbook, The Netbook, their Eee series being the best known and The Tablet, being that nice looking Eee Pad Transformer. They even still sell laptops for those who prefer to exercise their arms and core. Which ever form factor becomes dominant ASUS already has a model out now, with new ones on the way, which explains the 11% growth in profit they recorded this quarter.
One major benefit ASUS has with these smaller form factors is that they all use flash memory for long term storage. With the devastation hitting Thailand as flood waters cover homes and businesses, the tech world also watches the stocks of platter based HDDs plummet. In fact ASUS reported to The Inquirer that they expect to be out of hard drives by the end of the month. That will only effect the larger form factors, ASUS may still hit the 1.8 million tablets shipped target that they are aiming for by the end of 2011.
"ASUS managed a slight increase in profit for the third quarter of this year, despite the global slowdown in PC sales.
ASUS is still shipping notebooks, but has also been strong in netbooks and has launched its own fondleslab range, all siblings to its popular Eee PC netbook, led by the Eee Pad Transformer, but to eventually include the Eee Memo, Slider and Slate."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Intel 8-core server Atom gets a name and date @ SemiAccurate
- "Devil Robber" Trojan Infects Macs, Leeches Their GPUs for Bitcoin Profit @ DailyTech
- How to make sure your computer (and the internet) survives a nuclear holocaust @ ExtremeTech
- Google search and Gmail users can block advertisers @ The Inquirer
- Weekly Giveaway #14: BitFenix Outlaw Chassis @ eTeknix
Subject: General Tech | November 1, 2011 - 08:25 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: windows 8, tablet, software, kal-el, hardware, Android
With Asus’ previous tablets being a success, the company has decided to push forward with four new tablets that are slated to debut next year. The new tablets will join the ranks of the Transformer and soon to be released Transformer Prime tablets under the Asus Eee Pad lineup. Of the four new devices, two tablets will be running Google’s Android OS (Operating System) while the remaining two tablets will run Microsoft’s Windows 8 OS.
The two tablets running Android are slated for release in the first quarter of 2012. While Asus has not released any specific hardware specifications, they will likely be powered by the quad core Nvidia Kal-El ARM processor like the upcoming Asus Transformer Prime (or the Kal-El’s successor).
On the other hand, quarter 3 of 2012 will see the release of two tablets running Windows 8. Interestingly, Intel’s Ivy Bridge processors are also supposed to launch in 2012, which would make for a nice match of technology. Whether we'll see Ivy Bridge powered tablets; however, will depend on how soon Ivy Bridge launches and how quickly Asus can turn around and roll out a product designed around it.
The marketing speak in the above slides indicates that at least the marketing department is excited about the prospect of what they have dubbed hero products. They are striving to win mind share and achieve a “perfect” product. Whether they will achieve that or not remains to be seen; however, having more Windows 8 tablets isn’t a bad thing! More information can be had here.
Are you still holding out for your “perfect” tablet, and if so what are you looking/waiting to see from a tablet?
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | October 25, 2011 - 10:17 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: windows 8, webOS, touchpad, tablet, slate, hp
The HP Touchpad was tablet that ran HP's WebOS mobile operating system. It was also a tablet with an extremely short lifespan, one that was ended long before its time according to the sentiments of many enthusiasts. The tablet's demise was a casualty of the company's former CEO Léo Apotheker getting rid of HP's PC division, and it started going for fire sale prices only a few weeks after its initial release.
There may yet be hope for the tablet, however. According to Fox News, an HP employee has told them that a team within the company is playing around with the (not so) dead HP Touchpad tablets by replacing the WebOS operating system with Windows 8 Developer Preview.
It seems as though the idea of a Windows powered slate may be something that HP is willing to try out. Although slates nor convertible tablets have never really caught on (at least in the US) due to Windows not being the most touch friendly interface, with the rise in popularity of tablets and Microsoft beginning to put a bit more care into a touch friendly UI, HP may be weighing the odds of a Windows 8 powered slate computer. If; however, HP goes ahead with the previous plans to ditch the PC division, the idea of a HP Touchpad reincarnation may be moot anyway.
If the souce turns out to be true; however, there may be hope for a new HP Touchpad in the future sans WebOS. Do you think HP will go ahead with the plan to follow in the footsteps of IBM, or will it give its PC division and(/or) touchpad tablet line a second chance?
Introduction and Design
Tablets may be the darling of the tech industry, but they’ve also received their fair share of criticism as well. One of the most consistent barbs throw towards them is the tablet’s inability to serve as a competent platform for content creature. While it’s technically possible to write a document or edit an image on a tablet, it’s certainly not enjoyable.
Part of the problem is the lack of a keyboard and mouse. Touchscreens are beautiful and intuitive, but they’re not precise. While third-party cases and docks have tried to solve this issue, they’re often both clunky and expensive.
It’s little surprise that a tablet designed specifically to work in conjunction with a keyboard dock has hit the market, but it is surprising that the first such device comes from ASUS, a company with relatively little experience building mobile products. The Eee Pad Transformer is already the second-best selling tablet on the market (after the iPad, of course) and reports indicate sales are constrained by supply rather than demand. What is it that has made the Transformer a quick success?
Subject: General Tech | August 22, 2011 - 11:56 AM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: ultrabook, tablet, windows 8, microsoft, Intel
Two contrasting opinions appeared this morning on the internet, concerned with not only the future of mobile computing in a possibly post-PC market but also touching on the impact Microsoft's Windows 8 could have on that choice. DigiTimes has a report from Wistron, an original design manufacturer based in Taiwan, which is concerned with the ultrabook. They see the coming year as dominated by the contentious ultrabook platform which Intel has been talking up recently. The company managed US$21.1B in revenue last year, so they are neither a small player nor uninformed about the industry. That does leave one wondering how they plan on making a profit if the bill of materials is as high as some manufacturers have claimed. Still, that is where the manufacturer sees Windows 8 making the most difference to the market.
Ars Technica sees a different path for Microsoft to take, one that would be very different from the theory discussed by DigiTimes and very different from anything Microsoft has previously done. In this article, Ars suggests that the PC market is at a standstill because we have hit a post-PC market thanks to the tablet. While Microsoft has always considered the tablet to be a PC in a different form factor, Apple and other successful tablet marketers have visualized a completely different model. While Apple may have taken it to the most extreme, with no visible OS nor even a USB connector so you can transfer files directly from a camera or thumbdrive, nor hook up a wired peripheral. Other manufacturers have taken a less extreme approach but still hide the OS and have removed associated tasks like driver installation. That is very different from Microsoft's version of a tablet or phone which runs a trimmed down but still very recognizable OS and tends not to sell very well.
The question becomes one of design incompatibility; if Microsoft wants to release a Windows 8 which emulates the successful tablet OSes of the competition it will have to design something so different from their past OSes that it would be unrecognizable as a PC. In order to hide the OS and offload applications onto the cloud to make a perfect tablet the design choices would limit the effectiveness of Win8 as a PC OS. On the flip side, if they choose to design for the Ultrabook, risky in that we still have yet to hear the end of the pricing issues, the OS will be much lighter than previous versions but will still have a recognizable file system, the ability to update or customize drivers and all the other features common to netbooks through laptops. It will however not be a successful tablet OS, as history has shown with the failures of Microsoft's tablets and phones, some of which died before every being released.
The one thing that they can't do is try to make Windows 8 do both service as a laptop and a tablet OS. If they go that way, users on both sides of the divide will likely lose as you end up with an OS not customizable enough to do duty on a more powerful notebook or desktop. As well, it will have an interface which is similar to previous attempts by Microsoft to sell tablets which to this date have all failed against the competition.
"The launch of ultrabooks and Microsoft's Windows 8 OS will serve as growth drivers for the notebook industry in 2012, according to Simon Lin, chairman of Taiwan-based notebook ODM Wistron.
Shipments of ultrabooks will account for 10-20% of Wistron's total notebook shipments in 2012, Lin estimated.
Despite current economic turbulence touched off by debt issues in Europe and the US, Wistron's target to ship 30 million notebooks in 2011 remains unchanged, said Lin, who added that notebook Wistron's shipments will grow by a single-digit rate sequentially in the third and fourth quarters.
However, the company has slashed its LCD TV shipment target for the year to 8.5 million units, from 10 million units projected previously, while also scaling down the target for mobile devices from 10-12 million units to nine million.
Wistron has reported net profits of NT$4.5 billion (US$154.77 million) for the first half of 2011, down 20.44% from a year earlier. The earnings translated into an EPS of NT$2.28 for the six-month period."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- .NET Framework "1935 Error" Cripples Some Users' Office, IE9 Installs @ DailyTech
- And the Bulldozer die size is…….. @ SemiAccurate
- FPGA bitcoin miner is probably the most power efficient. @ Hack a Day
- Linux 3.1 Kernel Draws More Power With Another Regression @ Phoronix
- McAfee defends against Kaspersky's Shady RAT alarmist jibe @ The Inquirer
- Asus Black Diamond RT-N56U Router and USB-N13 Adapter Review @ OCIA
- Google Launches Identity Verification Badge Scheme @ Slashdot
- Video: Shocking [Jack] into submission with High Voltage @ Hack a Day
- Skype buys communications firm Groupme @ The Inquirer
- The TR Podcast 94: Dorm PCs and playing with blocks
- Real World Labs And Antec Joint Contest
- Cooler Master Silencio, GX 550 and Sentinal Giveaway @ XSReviews
Introduction, Design and Ergonomics
Courtesy of Samsung
Samsung's first product to make a splash into the Android tablet market was the original 7" Tab, and while its performance numbers were on par with other similar tablets produced in 2010, it left many consumers wanting more multimedia, gaming, and productivity features like what was available with Apple's iPad and iPad2. Many vendors, including Samsung, were dealing the same issues and challenges associated with the lack of tablet support in Android-based games and applications because Android's SDK only comes in one flavor for general mobile devices, not tablets with larger displays.
Courtesy of Samsung
After hearing feedback from consumers and hardware reviewers, Samsung completely redesigned the Tab 10.1 to accommodate users eager for enhanced video and gaming capabilities that take advantage of modern technologies like Android's latest Honeycomb OS and NVIDIA's Tegra 2 processor that support higher resolution displays beyond 1024x768 (the Tab 10.1's display runs at 1280x800). They also gave the Tab 10.1 a slimmer profile that is comparable to the iPad2. The Tab 10.1 can be purchased for around $499 for the 16GB version and $599 for the 32GB version, which is also on par with its Apple counterparts. We are reviewing the 16GB version to check out all the new features in Honeycomb and see what surprises Samsung included with the Tab 10.1 that justify the $500 price tag.