Subject: Mobile | July 5, 2013 - 08:00 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: smartphone, sch-s738c, Samsung, just delivered, galaxy centura, android 4.0.4
Just Delivered is a new section of PC Perspective where we share some of the goodies that pass through our labs that may or may not see a review, but are pretty cool none the less.
Find the Galaxy Centura on Amazon!
I recently decided to move away from AT&T and try out a Straight Talk plan on the recommendation of friends. Moving to Straight Talk also meant getting a new phone though, because when I went to Straight Talk last month AT&T compatible SIM cards were still not available.
Long story short, I ended up getting the Samsung Galaxy Centura smart phone and Straight Talk's $45/month no-contract offering, which is around half of what I was paying AT&T! The phone itself cost $100.
The Samsung Galaxy Centura is smartphone that operates on Verizon's network and runs Android 4.0.4. Not the latest and greatest Android, but Samsung has not "blessed" the phone with its TouchWiz UI and a nice step up from the Samsung Infuse 4G's Android 2.3 OS that Samsung never bothered updating further (heh).
The Samsung Galaxy Centura is model number SCH-S738C (GP). It measures 4.44" (H) x 2.4" (W) x 0.45" (D) and weighs 4.4 ounces. The front of the phone features a 3.5" 262K TFT touchscreen with a resolution of 320 x 480. A small speaker grill and Tracfone logo sit at the top, while a Samsung logo and three capacitive buttons sit below the screen. The buttons are menu, home, and back. The front of the phone is black and surrounded by a glossy blue bezel that also matches the battery door.
The back of the phone has another Samsung logo, a speaker grill, and a 3MP camera capable of shooting 3MP stills and 640 x 480 video. The back of the phone comes off and doubles as the battery door. Samsung has put several clips along the edges to hold it in place, and may actually be a bit too secure as it can be hard to get the door off.
A standard 3.5mm headphone jack is located at the top of the phone, a power button is located on teh right side, and two volume buttons are located on the left edge. The bottom edge includes a micro-USB connector.
Internally, the Galaxy Centura features a Qualcomm MSM7625A SoC with a single core Snapdragon S1 processor (45nm, Cortex-A5) clocked at 800 Mhz, an Adreno 200 GPU, and a CDMA cellular radio. Additionally, the SoC is paired with 512MB of RAM, 4GB of internal storage (expandable by a microSD card under the battery door), and a decent 3.7V, 5.55 Wh, 1500 mAh battery. Other internal hardware includes an accelerometer, GPS, Bluetooth radio, and Wi-Fi radio. I am not as familiar with CDMA as GSM, but the Centura operates on Verizon's equivalent to AT&T's 3G network for data and vocie (though not at the same time). It is currently connected to Verizon's EVDO Rev. A:8 network. As far as network data speed, the fastest results I have been able to get, as measured by speedtest.net, are 1,276 kbps down and 487 kbps up.
While it had no problems running Android games at decent frame rates, 3DMark mobile pushed it to its limits. It scored 536 in the Ice Storm benchmark and 281 in the Ice Storm Extreme benchmark, for example. Unfortunately, this 3DMark app was not available when I had the Infuse 4G so I am not able to offer up comparison results.
Now that the specifications and pricing is out of the way, I can talk a bit about first impressions. I have been using the smartphone for a couple of weeks now, and it is a fairly solid device, especially considering the price of the hardware (and the monthly plan is cheap too). It is noticeably slower at some tasks than my old Samsung Infuse, but that is to be expected with slower-clocked hardware. With that said, performance was actually much better than I expected it to be. The phone is able to run apps and games without issue, though when multi-tasking the game frame-rate starts to dip. Switching between applications (especially with a game running) is not as snappy as with my Infuse, but not terribly slow either. I'm not sure if it's the newer version of Android or not, but the software side of things seems to work well on this hardware.
The physical smartphone is plastic, but it feels well built. Admittedly, I have dropped my new phone quite a few more times than I would have liked (heh), but it has held up really well. It has not yet gone plastic to concrete yet though. Dropping it on tile and carpet has not caused any issues, however. When holding the phone and using the touchscreen, there is no creaking of the battery door and it seems to stand up to pressure without problems. With that said, I do have one complaint about the physical hardware, and that is that when holding the phone in the landscape position, the end of the back cover next to the speaker grill gives too much and makes a creaking noise when pressed in (say, when playing a racing game). That is the only area that exhibits that issue, however. It is likely due to the fact that Samsung carved out a bit internally for the microSD card and speaker underneath the back cover on the phone itself whereas the rest of the phone's back cover fits snugly to the back of the phone.
Overall, I'm happy with the phone, it gets excellent signal where I live now and is a good Android (albeit 4.0.4) experience for only $100 for the hardware. If you are off contract right now and thinking about switching to one of the many MVNOs (and live in an area with good Verizon coverage), I'd recommend trying out the Samsung Galaxy Centura from what I've experienced thus far. It is not the latest or fastest hardware by far, but it has great price/performance.
Subject: Mobile | July 5, 2013 - 05:39 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: wi-fi direct, evernote, blackberry, BB10.2, BB10
BlackBerry, the company formerly known as RIM, is continuing to work on improving its BB 10 mobile operating system. In fact, version 10.2 adds a number of relatively minor, but rather useful, new features.
Leaked screenshots of a development build show that BlackBerry has added Wi-Fi Direct support, for example. Wi-Fi direct operates like the legacy ad-hoc mode in that it does not require a wireless access point. It allows devices to form a wireless link directly, and this wireless link can be in addition to the BlackBerry 10-powered phone's traditional infrastructure mode Wi-Fi connection between it and your home router. File sharing and printing are the main use cases for this technology.
The new build also includes a native Evernote application, a tweaked settings panel with an App Manager option to kill unruly apps, and the ability to add subscribed-to calendars to the BlackBerry Hub.
Finally, the leaked screenshots revealed what could be the best new feature in that build 10.2.0.483 adds so-called actionable notifications. This functionality allows you to respond to BBMs or other notifications from the notification itself, and without having to switch to the app. These quick-reply notifications are bound to be very useful!
My first smartphone was a BB device (Bold 9000), and while I have since moved into the land of Android devices (with a quick stop at Maemo), BB10 looks interesting and is something that I've been watching since its release. I hope that BlackBerry is able to pull it together and move forward with new devices and its latest mobile OS attempt.
For more juicy BlackBerry 10 details, keep an eye on the BB 10.2 leaked screenshot thread over at CrackBerry Forums!
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | July 2, 2013 - 03:22 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: RIM, financial results, blackberry, BES10, BB10
BlackBerry (the company formerly known as RIM) recently posted its financial report detailing performance in the first fiscal quarter 2014. Unfortunately, it did not perform nearly as well as investors hoped. BlackBerry experienced increases in quarterly revenue and units shipped, but it still ended up with a hefty operating loss.
Specifically, at the end of fiscal Q1 2014, BlackBerry reported revenue of $3.1 billion with 6.8 million devices shipped and an operating loss of $84 million. The $3.1 billion in revenue is a 15% increase versus the previous quarter ($2.9 billion) and a 9% increase YoY (year over year). Despite the operating loss (which is actually an improvement over the $518 million operating loss in the previous year), BlackBerry still managed to ship 6.8 million units, which is 13% increase versus the previous quarter. BlackBerry did not detail how many of those devices where BB10 devices, but it is estimated to be 2.7 million of the 6.8 million devices shippped versus 1 million BB10 devices shipped in the previous quarter. At least BB10 is gaining some small amount of traction. Among those BlackBerry devices shipped in Q1'14, the company did state that it shipped 100,000 BlackBerry PlayBook tablets.
Speaking of the PlayBook, the company had to break its promise to users with the statement that it would not be providing an update for the tablets to its latest BlackBerry 10 operating system. The reason given was that the company ran into performance issued on the PlayBook hardware when attempting to get BB10 running, and because they were not able to get it running smoothly they are not giong to release any update after all.
Needless to say, investors where not pleased with the performance of the company or of BlackBerry 10 which (despite being an interesting mobile OS) has not caught on like many had hoped. Instead, the BlackBerry OS is reported to occupy fourth place in the market behind Android, iOS, and even Windows Phone. BlackBerry's stock price dropped as much as 26% following the release of the financial report, according to GSMArena.
According to the company, the following quarter will see improvements, but it will still be operating at a loss. BlackBerry will continue to forge ahead with BlackBerry 10 OS and the accompanying hardware. The company will further development of BlackBerry 10, BlackBerry Enterprise Services (BES) 10, and a cross-platform version of its BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) social messaging client. Handsets are going to be the focus with no new tablets. Finally, BlackBerry is going to continue focusing on cost cutting and company streamlining efforts to reduce overhead and other expenses.
The full financial report is available here on the BlackBerry website.
It is not all bad news. BlackBerry still has a fighting chance and I hope they can turn things around and make the new BlackBerry a success. What do you think about BlackBerry's performance so far this year/ Have you seen any BB devices being used instead of the typical iPhone or Android handset?
Subject: Mobile | July 1, 2013 - 08:00 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: windows 8 tablet, windows 8, Surface Pro, microsoft, 256GB
A recent product listing at CDW indicates that Microsoft is adding a new Surface Pro tablet SKU to its existing lineup of 10.6" tablets. The new SKU ups the storage ante to a 256GB solid state drive.
The Surface Pro tablet is otherwise identical to the existing Surface Pros, however. Specifications include an Intel Core i5 3317U processor with HD 4000 graphics, 4GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, and a 10.6" 1080p display wrapped in a magnesium chassis.
The 256GB model continues to run Windows 8 Pro, which means that users will have a bit more than 200GB to play around with after Windows, Office, and a few apps are installed.
The 256GB Surface Pro will cost $1,199.99, which means that the extra 128GB of storage comes at a $200 premium over the existing 128GB Surface Pro ($999.99).
Personally I find the Surface Pro to be too expensive for my taste, especially when $1,200 does not even get me a physical keyboard. I would rather grab one of those Windows 8 convertible tablets I've covered recently. On the other hand, if you are using the Surface Pro for business and you need as much built-in storage as possible, at least the new Surface Pro SKU with 256GB SSD is an option now.
Subject: Mobile | June 28, 2013 - 06:09 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: gaming, humble bundle
If you are unaware of the Humble Bundle then you have really let yourself down as a gamer, while you won't find AAA titles in the bundles you will find a wide variety of quality games at a price you get to choose. The latest bundle that was assembled comes with support for a new platform to the bundle, Android 6. Overclockers Club are not totally in love with the games offered in this bundle but with the extra games available for those tossing in about $5.00 or more you still get a great value and support charity as well. Check out their overview of the bundle, or just head straight to the Bundle page and pick up a selection of cross-platform games.
"Overall the Humble Bundle with Android 6 is not the strongest bundle we have seen, but certainly has its strengths. It is hard to see why you would not want to get at least the base games, while the two BTA titles may only be worth the few dollars more to a smaller group of you. No matter how you look at it though, the bundle is a great deal and even if it had only one strong title, it would be a great deal. If additional BTA titles are added at the halfway point, as typically happens, the bundle will only get better."
Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:
- Samsung Galaxy S4 Active @ The Inquirer
- BlackBerry Q10 (AT&T) Review @ TechReviewSource
- Sony Xperia Z Ultra hands-on @ The Inquirer
- HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S 4 Google Play edition @ AnandTech
- Sony Xperia Z Ultra 6.4 inch – hands on preview @ Hardware.info
- Huawei Ascend P6 hands-on @ The Inquirer
- Nokia Lumia 925 @ The Inquirer
- HP Slate 7 Review @ TechReviewSource
- For Android Tablets, Big is Back @ Linux.com
- Lenovo IdeaPad S405 Review @ TechReviewSource
- Kingston MobileLite Wireless @ Kitguru
- Luxa2 H1 Premium Mobile Holder @ LanOC Reviews
- Sandberg PowerBar 4400mAh Portable Battery @ NikKTech
- Anker Astro Slim2 4500mAh Power Bank Review @ Legit Reviews
- Patriot Aero 1TB Wireless Mobile Drive @ Legion Hardware
- Wi Reader and Wi Reader Pro @ LanOC Reviews
- Samsung Chromebook XE303C12 review: Pure essence @ Hardware.info
- Samsung ATIV Book 8 review: deluxe powerhouse @ Hardware.info
- Apple MacBook Air 13-inch (Mid-2013) Review @ TechReviewSource
- MSI GT60 2OD-026US Review @ TechReviewSource
- MSI GT70 Dragon Edition Notebook Review: Haswell and the GTX 780M @ AnandTech
- Acer Aspire R7-571-6858 Review @ TechReviewSource
- Samsung ATIV Book 5 Review @ TechReviewSource
- MSI GE40-2OC Dragon Eyes Laptop @ kitguru
- Dell Inspiron 15 and 15z @ Hardware.info
Subject: General Tech, Mobile, Shows and Expos | June 28, 2013 - 02:05 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: BUILD, BUILD 2013, internet explorer, IE11, Windows 7
Windows 8.1 will be bundled with Microsoft's latest web browser, Internet Explorer 11. The line of browsers, starting with Internet Explorer 9, are very competent offerings which approach and eclipse many competitors. Microsoft has made some errors since then, breaking standards for personal gain, but their recent efforts in supporting W3C – and even arch-nemesis Khronos – displays genuine good faith.
HTML5 Developer Tools rivalling even Mozilla and Google
But Windows XP never surpassed Internet Explorer 8, and apart from glitch and vulnerability fixes, Windows 7 is in almost exactly the same state as the day Windows 8 shipped. Internet Explorer 10 made it to the platform, late and reluctantly, along with severely neutered back-ports of Windows 8 DirectX enhancements. The platform update was welcome, but lacks the importance of a full service pack.
More importantly, the hesitation to bring IE10 to Windows 7 suggested that it would be the last first-party web browser the platform would see.
Not true, apparently. During their Build conference, Engadget claims to have spoke with a Microsoft representative who confirmed Windows 7 will receive the latest Internet Explorer. This is good news for every user of IE and every web designer with a cool WebGL implementation but is held back by browser market share concerns.
Honestly, my main concern is with the future of Internet Explorer, 12 and beyond. I am encouraged by the recent effort by Microsoft, but with Windows RT demanding for every browser to be built atop Internet Explorer, it better keep up or we are screwed. The web browser might be our operating system in the near future, applications should not be held back by the least of all possible platforms – be it Internet Explorer, Webkit, or any other dominant browser.
Of course, I should note that Engadget was not being specific with their source, so some grain of salts would be wise until it ships.
Subject: Mobile | June 24, 2013 - 02:01 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: windows 8, Samsung, office 2013, haswell, atom z2760, ativ tab 3, ativ q, ativ, android 4.2.2
Late last week, Samsung announced new hardware at an event in London. Among the products shown off, Samsung unveiled the 10.1" ATIV Tab 3 and the 13.3" ATIV Q Convertible notebook. Both machines are x86-64 and run the full version of Windows 8.
Samsung ATIV Q
The ATIV Q is the premium device, with Intel's latest Haswell processor, a high resolution display on a unique sliding hinge design, and a thin ultra-portable form factor. The 13" convertible notebook is 14mm thick and weighs about 2.8 pounds. The system features an impressive 13" touchscreen display with a resolution of 3200 x 1800 (275 PPI) and 178-degree viewing angles.
The ATIV Q has a unique sliding hinge design that allows the display to lay flat in slate tablet mode, held above the keyboard parallel to the keyboard, and in laptop mode with the display snapped to the top of the keyboard and at an angle. The display further supports the company's S-Pen stylus. In order to maintain the 14mm thick figure, Samsung has packed the processor and some of the other internals into the display hinge rather than the traditional placement in the laptop's base (under the keyboard). The hinge also hosts USB 3.0 and mini-HDMI ports. Here's hoping the build quality is good and the hinge is sturdy as having the internals packed into the hinge is a risky proposition.
Other IO (located around the laptop's base) includes USB, power, and Ethernet jacks. Note that the ATIV Q does not have a touch pad. Users will need to use the eraser point or the touchscreen to navigate.
Internally, the ATIV Q features an Intel Core i5 CPU with HD 4400 graphics, 4GB of RAM, a 128GB SSD, and a battery that is reportedly capable of delivery 9 hours of normal usage. The integrated HD 4400 graphics will not get you much, but it is just barely enough to run older games at around 30 FPS at 1280 x 1024 and reduced quality settings according to reviews of systems with similar specs around the net.
On the software side of things, the ATIV Q runs the full version of Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system. Samsung is also bundling the PC with a virtualized installation of Android 4.2.2 that runs on top of -- and can share files with -- Windows 8. Users can access and run traditional Windows applications, Windows 8 (Metro/Modern UI/Whatever It is Called This Week) apps, and applications from the Google Play store. The WIndows 8 and Android OSes further share folders such that files can be shared between them. Application shortcuts for the Android apps can also reportedly be linked to from the Windows 8 Start Screen.
ATIV Tab 3
The ATIV Tab 3 was also announced at the Samsung event in London. This device is a 10.1" tablet measuring 8.2mm thick and weighing 550g (approximately 1.21 lbs). It is powered by an Intel Atom Z2760 SoC, 2GB of RAM, and 64GB of internal storage. The 10.1" display has a resolution of 1366 x 768. Samsung is reportedly including a battery rated at 10 hours of usage. The system supports microSD cards for expansion, which is good because there is not going to be much storage space left for user-space files after the OS and bundled programs.
The ATIV Tab 3 comes with the full version of Windows 8 and the full version of Microsoft Office 2013.
Pricing and availability for the two new ATIV tablets has not yet been announced. The Q is a tablet to watch out of for though. So long as the build quality is there, I think it will be popular with those fans of convertible notebooks (of which I am one).
Introduction and Design
As headlines mount championing the supposed shift toward tablets for the average consumer, PC manufacturers continue to devise clever hybrid solutions to try and lure those who are on the fence toward more traditional machines. Along with last year’s IdeaPad Yoga 13 and ThinkPad Twist, Lenovo shortly thereafter launched the smallest of the bunch, an 11.6” convertible tablet PC with a 5-point touch 720p IPS display.
Unlike its newer, more powerful counterpart, the Yoga 11S, it runs Windows RT and features an NVIDIA Tegra 3 Quad-Core system on a chip (SoC). There are pros and cons to this configuration in contrast to the 11S. For starters, the lower-voltage, fanless design of the 11 guarantees superior battery life (something which we’ll cover in detail in just a bit). It’s also consequently (slightly) smaller and lighter than the 11S, which gains a hair on height and weighs around a quarter pound more. But, as you’re probably aware, Windows RT also doesn’t qualify as a fully-functional version of Windows—and, in fact, the Yoga 11’s versatility is constrained by the relatively meager selection of apps available on the Windows Store. The other obvious difference is architecture and chipset, where the Yoga 11’s phone- and tablet-grade ARM-based NVIDIA Tegra 3 is replaced on the 11S by Intel Core Ivy Bridge ULV processors.
But let’s forget about that for a moment. What it all boils down to is that these two machines, while similar in terms of design, are different enough (both in terms of specs and price) to warrant a choice between them based on your intended use. The IdeaPad Yoga 11 configuration we reviewed can currently be found for around $570 at retailers such as Amazon and Newegg. In terms of its innards:
If it looks an awful lot like the specs of your latest smartphone, that’s probably because it is. The Yoga 11 banks on the fact that such ARM-based SoCs have become powerful enough to run a modern personal computer comfortably—and by combining the strengths of an efficient, low-power chipset with the body of a notebook, it reaps benefits from both categories. Of course, there are trade-offs involved, starting with the 2 GB memory ceiling of the chipset and extending to the aforementioned limitations of Windows RT. So the ultimate question is, once those trade-offs are considered, is the Yoga 11 still worth the investment?
Apple has seen a healthy boost in computer sales and adoption since the transition to Intel-based platforms in 2006, but the MacBook line has far and away been the biggest benefactor. Apple has come a long way both from an engineering standpoint and consumer satisfaction point since the long retired iBook and PowerBook lines. This is especially evident when you look at their current product lineup, and products like the 11” MacBook Air.
Even though it may not be the most popular opinion around here, I have been a Mac user since 2005 with the original Mac Mini, and I have used a MacBook as my primary computer since 2008. I switched to the 11” MacBook Air when it came out in 2011, and experienced the growing pains of using a low power platform as my main computer.
While I still have a desktop for the occasional video that I edit at home, or game I manage to find time to play, the majority of my day involves being portable. Both in class and at the office, and I quickly grew to appreciate the 11” form factor, as well as the portability it offers. However, I was quite dissatisfied with the performance and battery life that my ageing ultraportable offered. Desperate for improvements, I decided to see what two generations worth of Intel engineering afforded, and picked up the new Haswell-based 11” MacBook Air.
Since the redesign of the MacBook Air in 2010, the overall look and feel has stayed virtually the same. While the Mini DisplayPort connector on the side became a Thunderbolt connector in 2011, things are still pretty much the same.
In this way, the 2013 MacBook Air should provide no surprises. The one visual difference I can notice involves upgrading the microphone on the left side to a stereo array, causing there to be two grilles this time, instead of one. However, the faults I found in the past with the MacBook Air have nothing to do with the aesthetics or build quality of the device, so I am not too disappointed by the design stagnation.
From an industrial design perspective, everything about this notebook feels familiar to me, which is a positive. I still believe that Apple’s trackpad implementation is the best I've used, and the backlit chiclet keyboard they have been using for years is a good compromise between thickness and key travel.
Kepler-based Mobile GPUs
Late last month, just before the tech world blew up from the mess that is Computex, NVIDIA announced a new line of mobility discrete graphics parts under the GTX 700M series label. At the time we simply posted some news and specifications about the new products but left performance evaluation for a later time. Today we have that for the highest end offering, the GeForce GTX 780M.
As with most mobility GPU releases it seems, the GTX 700M series is not really a new GPU and only offers cursory feature improvements. Based completely on the Kepler line of parts, the GTX 700M will range from 1536 CUDA cores on the GTX 780M to 768 cores on the GTX 760M.
The flagship GTX 780M is essentially a desktop GTX 680 card in a mobile form factor with lower clock speeds. With 1536 CUDA cores running at 823 MHz and boosting to higher speeds depending on the notebook configuration, a 256-bit memory controller running at 5 GHz, the GTX 780M will likely be the fastest mobile GPU you can buy. (And we’ll be testing that in the coming pages.)
The GTX 760M, 765M and 770M offering ranges of performance that scale down to 768 cores at 657 MHz. NVIDIA claims we’ll see the GTX 760M in systems as small as 14-in and below with weights at 2kg or so from vendors like MSI and Acer. For Ultrabooks and thinner machines you’ll have to step down to smaller, less power hungry GPUs like the GT 750 and 740 but even then we expect NVIDIA to have much faster gaming performance than the Haswell-based processor graphics.
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