Archive for November, 2008

Hands on: Blackberry Storm

Here’s my High Def hands on with the Blackberry Storm. Please note that my first upload to YouTube didn’t work properly so there’s no HD version yet. I’m re-encoding the video and re-uploading a new version as we speak (same content, just hopefully more YouTube HD friendly).

I had the chance to play with the RIM’s new Blackberry Storm 9530 today. It’s the Telus version. Click more for some pictures.

Probably the most interesting thing about the Storm is how the UI works with the touch screen. Go watch the video to see it in action.

The battery cover has a nice metal finish to it.

The Storm is a world phone so you can use it with a SIM card outside of North America.

Here it is next to the iPhone. They have a similar foot print; the iPhone is a little longer, the Storm is a little thicker.

Here’s the optional charging stand next to a Telus Meerkat. Presumibly the Bell version will have a plus ‘er’ (I’m just kidding).

My first impressions are that I like it. To be honest I wasn’t expecting much so I was pleasently suprised. While I only got to use the Storm for about 15 mins I found the idea being able to touch the screen and or press it to be quite intuitive.

The cutting and pasting is really neat.

Program wise the Storm is very similar to the Bold which is nice since it should be familiar to Blackberry users.

While not as solid as the iPhone the Storm feels better made than the Bold.

Unfortunately I didn’t use the Storm enough to really get a feel for the keyboard.

The screen is very nice. I liked it.

Is it an iPhone killer? Of course not, they’re 2 different devices, both have their strengths and weaknesses. Needless to say the Storm is an interesting enough device that the choice of which one to get really depends on the user and their needs.

6 comments November 25th, 2008

Asus Eee PC 1000h review

Here’s the Asus Eee PC 1000h. A 3lb computer that costs around $500.

The 1000h comes with a 1.6Ghz Intel Atom processor, 1GB of RAM, 160GB 5400 RPM hard drive, 802.11 draft N, a 6 cell battery and Windows XP Home. There are also versions with 40GB SSD and 80GB hard drives. You can also get a white coloured version.

The body is plastic and is covered with a glossy finish which shows fingerprints. It weighs in at 1434g (3.16lbs).

The plastic feels pretty thick so the 1000h feels fairly solid.

The 1000h isn’t particularly thin. The battery is the thickest point. I actually don’t mind this because it makes it easier to hold if you’re walking around. In fact, I thought the best way to carry the 1000h around is just by putting it in a form fitting case and carrying it like I would a binder.

The screen hinge is pretty strong and feels well made. It opens to about 160 degrees.

The included AC adapter is tiny; if you don’t include the cables it’s about half or third the size of my other laptop chargers.  It has an output of 36w compared with 55w to 90w on most larger laptops.

If you want to start over again, get a DVD you can use to bring the 1000h hard drive back to factory specs. You’ll need to find an external optical drive to do this since the 1000h doesn’t come with one. I just disconnected my DVD drive on my desktop and ran a cable to a portable hard drive case and then connected that to the 1000h. Please note, the DVD contains a ghost image which will create 3 partitions on the hard drive; a “c” drive, an empty “d” drive and an EFI partition (more on that later).

On the left are the laptop lock slot, Ethernet port, USB connector and headphone/microphone connectors.

On the right is the power connector, VGA and 2 more USB connectors.

There is no Express card slot. This doesn’t bother me one bit but it may be an issue to some.

The underside has a big door. Behind it are the 2.5″ SATA drive, mini PCIe slot (with a wifi card in it) and a DDR2 SODIMM slot. You can use 9.5mm (standard) 2.5″ SATA drives.

To be honest, the easy to access 2.5″ drive and SODIMM slots (plus availability of cheap 1000 series accessories) are what sold me on the 1000h over other similar netbooks. I had a spare 2.5″ SATA SSD lying around so I was anxious to put it in something.

The screen measures 10.2″ and has a resolution of 1024×600. I was surprised at how bright the display is. I find it very usable indoors at all brightness settings except the lowest one.

Now I’m generally used to screens that are at least 768 pixels high so I had some usability concerns before I got the 1000h. Indeed I initially had some issues but found that adjusting some settings in Windows helped alleviate most of them. The 3 main things I did was switched the start menu to small icons, auto hid the start menu and moved some of my Firefox tool bars around. After these changes, the 600 pixel height doesn’t bother me as much. The only time I really have problems are with some webpages which have pictures which are too tall for the screen.

On top of the screen is a 1.3 megapixel camera. To be honest I never use webcams so I have no idea how good the camera is. I did use it to take one or 2 pics, the image quality wasn’t as horrible as I thought it would be.

The keyboard is not bad, the feel is okay and I was able to touch type on it immediately. Dedicated page up/down/home/end keys would be nice but given the size of the 1000h, I understand why they need to be accessed with a function key.

My only real complain about it is that the right shift key is half width and is to the right of the up key. So, whenever I want to press the right shift, I press up instead. It’s really annoying and despite having the 1000h for a few weeks now I’m still not used to it.

The touchpad is fairly small. There are 2 mouse buttons that have a snazzy metal finish to them. I found them to be too stiff and noisy when you press them.

Another problem I found is that the touchpad is too close to the keyboard – so, when I type, I found myself touching the touchpad a lot.

Speaking of the touchpad, it’s multi touch so you can put 2 fingers on it to scroll through webpages like you would with the touchpad on a Mac. If you want to scroll side ways, you could double tap the touchpad to bring up freehand scrolling (sort of like when you click the wheel on a mouse wheel).

There are 2 speakers on the side of the Eee. They’re surprisingly loud and actually sound pretty good for a laptop. They’re loud enough that I don’t bother using headphones when I exercise on a machine.

Noise wise, I thought the included hard drive (a Seagate 160GB 5400.4) was audible even when idle in a quiet room. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m used to a laptop with an SSD.

There is a built-in cooling fan, while it’s not extremely loud it does have a distinct noise to it. I’d describe it almost as a ‘mooing’ sound.

You get 3 main pieces of software with the 1000h: Eset’s ENOD32 antivirus (I think it’s a version with 3 months of updates), StarOffice 8, EeePC Tray Utility and ‘Super Hybrid Engine’. Super Hybrid Engine is just a piece of software that helps throttle the CPU speed when you’re not using it. It can also overclock it to 1.7ghz when you need that extra 0.1ghz of speed.  The Tray utility is used for switching screen resolutions and turning the camera/WiFi/BT on or off.

For the Bluetooth, Asus includes WIDCOMM 5.5.0.3200. It includes support for A2DP.

Probably the best thing about the 1000h is that it boots up really fast. Most PC’s come with a bios (the black screen that shows you your processor speed, RAM, hard drives, etc. when you boot up). The 1000h has this but it also has an option to use EFI (Intel Mac’s use EFI) which cuts the time from when you press the power button to when Windows actually starts to load down drastically. Basically, when you press the power button, the 1000h almost immediately begins to boot Windows.

I think when I first got the 1000h, it booted up in about 32 seconds – that includes an antivirus program.

Performance is adequate for surfing the web, emailing, word processing, chatting, stuff like that.

If you’re a patient person, you can even do some image editing and stuff like that.

I might add some benchmarks later but to be honest I don’t see much point for a device like the 1000h.

Performance is not adequate for playing most newer games including many flash games, video editing, that sort of thing.

Here’s what I’ve done with my 1000h; I was working out on an elliptical and streaming a DVD over my wifi network and surfing the web while at the same time using remote desktop to chat on my computer upstairs.

The video didn’t skip and the processor hovered around 40% utilization. Given how slow I was expecting the 1000h to be, I was very impressed with this. I was also impressed that the WiFi was stable and fast enough to stream a DVD.

Battery life is always hard to quantify since everyone uses their computer differently but under normal circumstances (surfing the web, emailing with the brightness all the way up and BT and WiFi on) I’d say the 1000h is good for a very useful 5 hours. You can probably get more if you turn the brightness down.

The question I ask myself is: do I want something powerful that I will use less or do I want something that I use more?

While the Eee has a similar price to an entry level laptop, typically these entry level laptops weigh 5 or 6 lbs – so they’re too big and heavy to bring around. The Eee on the other hand is smaller, lighter and for many tasks, fast enough. It’s a trade off; performance or portability. If you can live with the 1000h’s modest performance then you’ll love the portability.

Another thing to consider when it comes to portability is if you can have your computer with you more – you’ll use it more. What good is having a fast computer if it’s not around to be used.

As for the Eee PC specifically, while not without some flaws; the horribly placed right shift key, distinctive fan noise, stiff mouse buttons, somewhat lumpy profile and slightly low resolution display I find it to be a very useful device. It’s a good balance between power and portability. It’s nice having a computer that is small enough to carry around yet is powerful enough that I can actually use it.

What stood out most to me when it comes to the 1000h are it’s bright screen, loud speakers, useful battery life and easy to upgrade hard drive.

Howard Chui
11.24.2008

1 comment November 24th, 2008

Virgin Mobile Curve

It’s offical-Virgin Mobile Canada is now selling the BlackBerry Curve. 

The curve features 2 MP camera, full qwerty, Bluetooth, 1 GB micro SD card.  Buy the Curve now and receive an addition 8 GB micro card and a stereo headset.  Current prices below.

3 year $49.99 (with BB bundle)
2 year $329.99
1 year $379.99
30 day $429.99

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Add comment November 24th, 2008

Curve Appears on VMC Website

The BlackBerry 8330 Curve has found its way to the Virgin Mobile Canada website.

The curve has since been removed but that confirms that it is coming, most likely for the holidays.

Thanks “vynk”.

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Add comment November 23rd, 2008

J.D. Power-Customer Satisfaction

J.D. Power has released its customer satisfaction results for 2008.  The 2008 results for the Wireless category are below.

CANADA
Contract: Koodo Mobile
Prepaid: Virgin Mobile
Mobile Phones: Apple

For the complete list head to J.D. Power website scroll down to “2008 Wireless Ratings” then click one of the three links-Contract/Prepaid/Mobile Phones.

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Add comment November 19th, 2008

Fido Discountinues Three Devices

The new Fido has discontinued three mobile devices-effective immediately.

Sony Ericsson z310a
Sony Ericsson w300i (white)
Samsung Jack (red)

Guess that explains why the Rogers advertisement I received had the Merlot Samsung Jack listed as an exclusive.

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Add comment November 19th, 2008

Nokia e71 coming to Rogers

The e71′s coming to Rogers. check out my review for it here.

Add comment November 17th, 2008

Nokia e71 review

Here’s my review of the metal clad Nokia E71. Nokia’s update to their e61i.

Build quality is excellent. Much of the body is made of metal along with the battery cover. The battery cover clips on (instead of sliding on) and it fits very tightly. The finish is chrome and is an absolute fingerprint magnet. It didn’t bother me (except when I was taking pictures of the e71) but some may not like that. All in all, the e71 feels a lot more expensive than its competitors.

Along with the nice metal body Nokia includes a very nice leather pouch. The pouch is thin so it maintains the e71′s sleek profile.

The keyboard has a pretty good feel and the buttons stick out.

It is however a lot narrower than say a Blackberry Bold or Motorola Q9h – width wise it’s more similar to a Treo. Personally I like typing on wider keyboards but at the same time I prefer carrying around a more narrow one. I also like how it’s easier for me to use a narrower keyboard with one hand. Plus a narrower keyboard makes the e71 easier to hold when I’m using it as a phone. I guess the narrow width has it’s pros and cons, and for me, they’re a wash.

As far as the layout, I don’t have any complaints about the e71′s keyboard. I like the space bar size. The number keys are directly above the space bar which makes dialing numbers slightly easier.

Besides being more narrow, the e71 is also pretty thin, though, really I wouldn’t consider the Bold or the Q9h to be thick.

There are 3 buttons on the right side plus a 2.5mm headset jack – I wish Nokia had put a 3.5mm headphone jack in instead.

There is an infrared port on the left (do people who can afford an e71 still use those?) along with a micro USB connector and micro SDHC slot. The usb and SD card slots have covers which feel like buttons. Shamefully you can’t use the micro USB slot for charging.

There’s a Nokia charging connector at the bottom.

On top is the mono speaker and a power button.

There is a 3.2megapixel autofocus camera on the back with a built-in LED flash and self portrait mirror.

There is one shortcut key to the left of and two to the right of the nav pad. Each button can have 2 functions; you can press it for one function or press and hold it for the other – useful.

The button with the house has the same function as the menu button on other s60 devices. You can press it to bring you back to the home screen or press and hold it to bring up the task switcher.

The screen is nice and bright. It has a resolution of 320×240 which trails the Blackberry Bold’s 480×360.

Features:

The standby screen has a work mode, which by default displays a list of program shortcuts. It also shows a link to your email (including the number of new messages), calendar (including the number of calendar items due today) and the to do list (including the number of outstanding items).

There is also a personal mode which removes the email, calendar and to do list information and has a different set of program shortcuts. This is nice if you’re trying to separate work and home.

The email program supports POP3, IMAP4 and MS exchange. While I didn’t test it, Exchange support pushes emails to your device.

The e71 will search your phonebook if you start typing/dialing from the standby screen. Microsoft Smartphone (now called Windows Mobile Personal) and Blackberries have had this feature for a while.

The phonebook can sync with your computer using Nokia PC Suite. You can also sync it with Ovi (along with your calendar, todo list and a bunch of other stuff) – useful if you’re switching to a different Nokia phone and don’t want to use a computer.

The E series phones are targeted towards business users. Nokia includes VPN software (I didn’t test it because my OpenVPN setup isn’t compatible).

Also loaded is PTT (push to talk), SIP (voip), Instant messaging software.

The SIP works fine. If you’re about to make a call you can press the talk button to phone using the mobile network or you can press in on the navpad to choose to make a SIP call instead.

If you’re setting the SIP client up and can’t get it to work try using this ########@yourprovider.com where the #’s is your username and yourprovider is the address of your SIP provider.

With the built-in Search app, you can search many of the built-in programs as well as the internet for stuff. Music, content, calendar,  messages, email, bookmarks, images, videos, applications, notes, landmarks and active notes.

You get a version of QuickOffice that allows you to create documents on the device. Often times you only get a version that lets you view documents.

There is a useful converter program which can convert weight, volume, distance, etc.

Active Notes is a note taking application where you can insert pictures, video, sound, internet bookmarks, business cards and files into notes. You can insert pics from your phone or take a new one with the camera.

You can even link a note to a phonebook entry so that whenever you call that number, the note will pop up (so you can take notes about the call). Very very smart!

I don’t think Active Notes sync with your computer.

There’s also a regular note application which does sync with your computer (and lacks Active Notes’ cool features).

There is a dictionary program which lets you look words up in other languages and can translate them. You can go online (on the e71) and download dictionaries. Besides showing you the definition of a word it can also read it out to you – sorry people, I didn’t bother trying to see if it would translate swear words.

A word of note though; if you download a dictionary who’s language is NOT supported by the e71 then you’re out of luck. For example, my e71 supports English, French and Spanish – so when I downloaded a Japanese dictionary it just shows squares instead of the characters.

You can read PDF files with the included Acrobat reader. I didn’t find it to be as good as the PDF reader on the Bold. The Bold has a text only mode which makes reading a lot of PDF’s much easier.

There is an option to encrypt the main memory as well as the memory card. To be honest I’m not 100% sure what it does exactly (Besides encrypt things). I encrypted my memory card and put a password on it. When I turned my e71 off/on it didn’t prompt me for a password. When I stuck the card in my computer however the computer couldn’t read it.

The e71 has a voice aid feature which can read certain things to you. It has a sort of sub menu of features which are voice enabled (not all of the e71′s functionality is). It can do stuff like read your messages, read out numbers as you dial them, read out your phonebook. To be honest when I first tried it (when the e71 was fresh out of the box) it worked, later, after everything was setup I tried to get it to read my messages and I got a ran out of memory message.

The music player is similar to the one you’ll find on say the n95. Like most music players you can sort your music by artist, album, genre, etc. You can also view most frequently listened to songs. There is a shortcut to the music player on the standby screen if it’s in personal mode.

Like I mentioned before, there’s no 3.5 mm headphone jack, just a 2.5mm headset jack so you’ll need to find an adapter if you want to use ‘regular’ headphones.

The built-in speaker has adequate volume but it doesn’t sound particularly good.

The camera has a resolution of 3.2 megapixels with a LED flash and self portrait mirror. I’m a little surprised that the e71 doesn’t have a dedicated camera button on the side (most phones have this). To take a picture you press in on the navpad. This is slightly confusing because this button is also used to change camera settings. So, if you change a camera setting and want to take a pic it’s not as intuitive.

Picture quality isn’t that great – I was expecting more after using a Nokia n95 and n95 8GB a lot recently. Despite it’s autofocus I didn’t find pictures to be particularly sharp, they’re also noisier than I expected and the colour was usually off slightly. Still, compared to other camera phones, the e71 is about average.

You can look at your pictures using the gallery app. It’s not the same snazzy gallery app you get on other s60 devices. The one on the e71 is functional but you can only see 3 pictures at a time instead of many more.

Nokia Maps is included. It’s a mapping program that lets you look up POI and addresses for free plus there is free access to maps. You have to pay extra if you want navigation (walking and driving navigation).

Most free mapping programs let you download maps as you need them. What makes Nokia Maps special besides downloading the maps as you need them, you can also hook the e71 up to your computer and download maps so you can save money on data charges. In case you’re wondering, maps for the entire world take up about 3.2GB of space while Canada is 161MB and the US is 896MB. If you’re tight on space, you can choose to only download individual provinces or states; New York is 46MB – very useful.

Browsing is handled by the S60 browser. The S60 browser is one of the better browsers out there. It doesn’t use a proxy so when you view a page, the e71 downloads the entire page.

I did find that the e71 would sometimes close the browser if I switched to a different program to save memory. That really irritated me when it happened. It also seemed to crash a little more than it did on my Nokia n95 8GB.

You also get; podcasting app, radio, voice recognition and a voice recorder.

Performance:

Incoming sound quality is quite good; aside from a slight background hiss (it’s barely noticeable) the e71  is clear and neutral. The e71′s taper sides make it easy to hold in your hand.

Outgoing sound quality is also very good, the microphone is pretty sensitive so you don’t have to talk very loud on it.

Maximum earpiece volume is adequate. The speakerphone isn’t very good. While loud enough it sounds kind of muffled.

RF performance is generally good but I found that it would fluctuate a lot at times – sometimes it would drop down to EDGE from HSDPA for seemingly no reason. Hopefully this will be fixed by a firmware update somewhere down the road.

Conclusions:

Overall I really enjoyed the e71; It fits nicely in your hand and is fast and easy to use. It’s a nice phone to hold.

It feels very well made and is solid. I love the metal body. There is a huge list of features; besides the usual (dual band HSDPA, WiFi, BT, memory card) it also has some less common ones like Active Notes, translator, encryption, talking phone, ability to create office documents, SIP, VPN, among others.

Still it has some shortcomings; the camera is pretty awful, the RF can be wonky at times, no 3.5mm headphone jack (just a 2.5mm) and sometimes the browser closes when it’s in the background.

Howard Chui
11.12.2008

15 comments November 12th, 2008

AT&T Fuze

The HTC Fuze will be making its way to AT&T November 11th.  A document leaked to BGR reveals the news.

Pricing for the device is as follows:
No Term : $499.99
1 Year w/o $50 MIR : $424.99
1 Year w/ $50 MIR : $374.99
2 Year w/o $50 MIR : $349.99

Read the complete document at Boy Genius Report.

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Add comment November 10th, 2008

Pearl Comes to Solo Mobile

Solo Mobile, a division of Bell Mobility, has finally release the BlackBerry Pearl.  The Solo Pearl only comes in on color, white, and features all the good stuff that we have come to expect in a mobile device. A 2.0MP camera, audio and video player, bluetooth, partial qwerty keypad come as standards on the Solo Pearl version 4.5 of BlackBerry’s operating system.  Pricing and rate plans for the Solo BlackBerry are as follows:

3 year: $250
2 year: $300
1 year: $400
30 day: $450
prepaid: $450

Hooking up a BlackBerry plan with get you the device for only $150.

monthly fee

$45

$60

$60

$75

anytime minutes

150

150

400

400

evening/weekends

unlimited (7pm)

unlimited (7pm)

unlimited (7pm)

unlimited (7pm)

extras

2500 texts

2500 texts

2500 texts

2500 texts

e-mail

unlimited

unlimited

unlimited

unlimited

BB messenger

unlimited

unlimited

unlimited

unlimited

BB browsing

n/a

unlimited

n/a

unlimited

Head over to the Solo Mobile website to learn more.

live_strong

Add comment November 8th, 2008

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