After being impressed with the House of Marley’s Redemption Song On-Ear headphones we have now spent some time with their Zion In-Ear head phones. These follow in the same style as the Redemption Song headphones and are made of recycled or renewable materials. They also follow in the trend of being tuned for high quality sound and are designed for use with Apple’s lineup of products (iPad, iPod, iPhone) but will work with just about any media player or smart phone (with a few exceptions). With a price tag of $99.99 we are hoping that these headphones give us the same level of performance that we saw with the Redemption Song. Follow the bouncing ball and sing along as we tell your just how well they perform.
Every now and then in the midst of products that are intended to make your system more powerful or impress your friends we get to play with products that are fun. We found this in a pair of external speakers from a company called Accessory Power. The speakers are designed to look like the heads of animals (in a cute way) and can work with PCs, phones, tablets and pretty much anything with a 1/8-inch speaker jack. In addition to their function as a speaker set they are also intended to bring awareness to endangered species. We were lucky enough to receive two different models for our testing and enjoyment. So let’s take you along as we see if the Accessory Power Gogroove Speaker Pals Panda and Koala sets are worth your time and money.
We have had a couple of products from the House of Marley in the lab and in the whole have found them to be excellent offerings for the price that they go for. The Reggae themed headsets combine renewable materials with exceptional tuning and a great sound. So far we have taken a look at the Zion in ear and the Redemption Song on-ear headsets. Today we have another one of the On-ear style headsets in the lab. This time it is the Stir it Up (Harvest). These have the same price point as the Redemption Song $199.99 so let’s see if they have the same quality in terms of build and sound.
Apple is famous for many things. They are famous for making the iPhone and iPad, they are famous for their never ending stream of patents for things that already exist and last but not least they are famous for making sure that you cannot use their mobile products without their approval. You see if you buy an iDevice your core file system is pretty much locked down. Now there are ways to get into the file system and move things around, but it can get messy and things do not always make the transition intact. The other side of this is that there is no way to add more storage to any of their products. It is not like an Android or Windows based tablet with an SD card slot or USB ports. So what can you do if you bought one of the 16GB non-3G iPads or if you only own the iPad touch? Kingston has an answer for you. Kingston has put their expertise in making flash drives to good use and attached a flash drive to a wireless controller that can also act as a wireless bridge. They are calling it the Wi-Drive and when you pair this up with the WiDrive app from the AppStore you might just have a relatively low cost answer to a lot of people’s needs. So follow along as we take a look at the $180 32GB Wi-Drive on a first generation iPad.
In our second dive into the Non-Apple Tablet market we take a look at one of the more popular Android based tablets available right now. This is the Asus EEE Pad TF101 known more affectionately as the Transformer. This 10.1-inch Tegra 2 sporting device was first shown off at CES earlier this year. It generated quite a bit of interest as it not only works as a tablet but also has an available dock that lets you use it like a small netbook (and get a few extra hours of battery life). The Transformer comes in two flavors; one with 16GB of internal storage and one with 32GB. Other than that they are identical. You get the dual 1GHz Tegra 2 SoC (which features an nVidia GPU core and Cuda Acceleration for Flash) plus 3D SRS surround sound, MicroSD and SD Card readers (the SD card comes with the Dock) and much more. The best part of all of this is that you can get the 16GB Transformer with Dock for only $50 more than an iPad 2 16GB WiFi. Now the question is, is it worth that much and have we found a non-Windows tablet that is anything other than a toy? Read on to find out.
Apple was granted a patent that describes a device with a touch screen that has a screen sticking keys and other accessories, which, among other things, mimics the function joystick. The technology was published under the title "Clickable and tactile buttons for a touch surface" and should enable easy button setup and various other additions to the touch screen.
Blizzard's Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft was available for PC and Mac until now, and as it was mentioned since the start, game finally arrived to the iPad. Android version of the game is also in preparation, whose release date is tentatively scheduled for the second half of this year.
Four days, I lasted four days before I had to go back to Windows 7 on the EEE Slate. I tried to get Hyper-V running but the Core i5 on the system did not want to work the way it should. In the end I have come away with some interesting observations about the state that Microsoft’s next OS is in and where it could be by launch date. The first thing I have to remind everyone is that this is a developer’s preview. It is intended to allow App developers to push out apps for their Metro UI and also to ensure that software and hardware are ready (drivers mostly). By releasing it to the general public Microsoft has done a very smart thing. They are getting the OS out and on the street. People are actually running this as their main OS right now. Now this is all great if you are using something like a Laptop or even a desktop. There truly is very little that Windows 8 cannot do right now. However, when it comes to a tablet… things begin to fall apart. The problem is not that there is no touch screen support; it is that there seems to be no multi-touch support. On the EEE Slate EP 121 under Windows 7 I have multi-touch gestures and greater control. In Windows 8 that is gone. Instead of a two finger tap to right click my only option is touch and hold.
The matter is further complicated by Microsoft’s very immature Metro UI. It looks decent, but you cannot move things around to suit what you want or the layout you want. I do not like everything bunched up on one side on my tablet. I prefer it along the bottom. The Metro UI bunches the Apps and due to their different sizes breaks up any chance of a good flow. The lack of a Home button inside the individual apps is a big problem as well. Once you strip away the Metro UI you are left with a skinned Windows 7. Now I do like the new sharp corners as I think they make the windows look clean and show off a screen’s ability to reproduce good 2D imagery (well more like 2.5D).
The speed of Windows 8 is also very good. I was more than a little surprised to find this developer preview zipping along like it does. Usually at this stage of the game the OS does not feel very complete at all. There are speed issues, driver issues, and worse you name it you will probably run into it. In many cases (unless I have to) I do not really starting playing around with a new OS until it is at least at Beta 2 stage. Here you have things really ironed out and are looking for the little items. It is usually about this time that Microsoft opens up the Customer Preview Program and allows anyone to download the new OS. This early Developer’s Build really feels and performs much more like a Beta 2 than a dev preview.
So to wrap up my experience with Windows 8 on a tablet, I have to say I am impressed with quite a bit of it, but I do feel that this OS needs a LOT more work if it is going to compete head to head with Apple and Google in the tablet market. Sorry Microsoft, pretty Widgets and a cool keyboard is not enough to make it in this market space. You have to come up with something that no one else has or is doing, and as of right now, Windows 8 just does not have it for the Tablet Market. Let’s hope that by launch time these bugs are ironed out and we see a much improved version of Metro UI around August of next year.
For now we will get back to bringing you the news and our regular reviews..
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In talking about Apple (and SIri) over the last couple of days I started to think about what Apple does that is “right”. I know that most of the media and many consumers view almost any Apple product as glorious and Apple can do no wrong. While that is not true there is something important in that mindset and it finally dawned on me why Apple is vital to the future of the computer industry. It is not because they make amazing products with quality second to none.
The fact is they make good products with the same quality as everyone else. If you did not know already every iPhone, iPod and Mac is made by Foxconn over in China. The line that assembles these is very close to the line that builds HP, Dell and others (at least they were the last time I checked). This means that the same level of build quality is present in all of those devices. If you are getting an Apple product there is not some magical line that makes their devices better. The same can be said for the components inside. The A4 and the original A5 found in the iPad2 was not manufactured by Apple it was made by Samsung (which makes the lawsuits very interesting and is another case of Apple biting the hand the fed them). The more recent ones (after April 2011) have been made by TSMC. These are the same guys that make nVidia and AMD GPUs as well as many other ARM processors. Again there is nothing that makes Apple product magically better using either of these companies.
No it is not Apple’s hardware that makes them vital to the tech world. It is also not their software. True the iOS is fast and nimble, just like OSX is. However, it is fast and nimble on a very narrow hardware group. If you take it outside that and manage to get different hardware to work you will find that it is not so quick.
In short terms the thing that makes Apple crucial and an amazing company is this; No one can sell a product like Apple. You just cannot do it. All you have to do is look back at recent history to see what I mean. For example, let’s take the MP3 player. Long before the first iPod hit there was an MP3 Player from Creative called Nomad that pretty much kicked things off. Many other companies came along and put out MP3 players at the same time, even D-Link had one.
In fact the MP3 player looked like it was going to fade away when Apple released the iPod with a new device inside, the Micro Drive from IBM (and later Fujitsu). This meant that while other companies were pushing 16, 32 and 128 MB (yes Megabyte) Apple could put 1-2 GB and more space in their products. Later as these drives grew (and the advent of the 1.8-inch drive) the size of the iPod grew while other companies were barely getting by with the smaller amounts of flash memory. Apple’s product was not all that better, it was primitive with basic controls but it was good looking and offered more from the consumer’s point of view. This was even more true when you combined iTunes and the $0.99 song. Apple showed people that they wanted this product. The iPod became a synonym for MP3 player. You can follow this chain through the iPhone and the iPad. On the day the iPhone launched there were more sophisticated phones and phones with better support. However, the iPhone caught the consumer’s imagination. Suddenly they wanted these products. A touch screen phone? With icons. Wow. Of course there had been touch screen Windows Mobile phones and Palm based phones for years before. Still the smart phone market as an entertainment and business tool did not take off until Apple launched the iPhone. It is the same story with the iPad and now Natural Voice Command. Both of these products have been out for a long time, but Apple has been able to make people WANT them.
So you can criticize Apple for their xenophobic ways, their controlling nature, their reprehensible patent policies and legal team (I know I will). In the same breath, anyone in the tech industry should also be thanking them. Without Apple, so many of the cool toys that we love and want would never survive in the market. We might also still have nothing more than boxy and bulky laptops right next to those terrible unstylish off-white cases that were so popular…
Think about it.
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ZTE has unveiled a tablet bearing the mark V81. It is a device based on Android with an eight inch diagonal screen and a 4:3 aspect ratio. It looks like they won’t let Samsung be the only major company with an 8 inch tablet on the market.