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BlackBerry Flips Out

Following on from BlackBerry’s dominance of the corporate market, RIM has recently been turning its attention to retail consumers.  RIM is positioning its BlackBerry Curve and Bold as complete work/play devices and the Pearl Flip 8220 under review here goes in a different direction; it’s a BlackBerry for those who want a cellphone which doesn’t looks like a BlackBerry.

Compact for a BlackBerry

The Flip’s compact form is made possible by RIM’s two-letters-on-a-key Qwerty system, called SureType.  The keyboard allows the Flip to be very compact, although the base is quite thick.  The clamshell flip design means that the screen also has to be smaller than a regular BlackBerry.  The familiar BlackBerry trackball is also present.  Closing the phone reveals a good looking lid housing the camera and exterior screen.  This is definitely the Flip’s best angle.

What’s it like in use?

In use, I really noticed the reduction in screen size.  Where the Curve is good for email and the Pearl is just fine, the Flip requires a lot of scrolling to view long messages.  But it does work, and if you prefer SMS or short instant messages to email, then the screen would not be a problem.

The keypad is responsive and SureType works well for me.  The trackball is mounted a bit low for my liking though.  There’s just not enough contact area compared to the Pearl and as a result large amounts of scrolling can turn into hard work.

The Flip’s internet browser loaded mobile sites fairly slowly and when a page is ready the trackball performs as a useful mouse pointer.  The map application was even slower unfortunately, almost to the point of being unusable.

Call quality was fine and the Flip has bluetooth for headset hook-ups.

Should you get one?

The BlackBerry Flip is pretty on the outside and sometimes frustrating on the inside.  It is definitely a compromise, but it looks great and if for a light data user it might be a good call.

Neil Berman

Oct 26, 2008 Posted by | Hardware, Mobile, Reviews | , , , | Leave a comment

Speaking Of Glossy Screens…

Here’s one that got it right:

This, for all you daywalkers, is a MSI Wind in full-on sunlight.  And here is how it compares with a glossy-screened Acer Aspire One (which is switched on, honestly):

…and with some general non-sunny window reflections:

…and compared directly to the Wind below with non-sunny reflections.  It’s worth noting that the Aspire One actually has a really nice LED backlit screen, it’s just that the Wind has the best screen I’ve ever seen on a notebook.

The Wind works if you’re a daywalker – and it’s also a little cheaper than one particular newly-announced-glossy-screened laptop.  Ye pays yer money…

Neil Berman

Oct 15, 2008 Posted by | Apple, Mobile | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Early Report Card: New MacBook & MacBook Pro


Trick new trackpad looks lush.  I never used the button on mine anyway…bring on the finger contortions.

Thinner MacBook looks great

New GPUs should be cracking

Price drop for white chassis is welcome 

Needs Improvement

Price rise to $1599 for the top end MacBook doesn’t sit well with the sinking economy

Glossy screens are awful.  At home, in the sun, on the plane unless you’re an isle seat lover.

$1299 buys less CPU power than $999…?

New MBP’s wide black screen bezel put to shame by old MBP

Need to log-off to change video modes eh…?  Sony does it better with Vista.  Now that’s a bag of hurt.

Pictures to follow in due course…

Neil Berman

Oct 14, 2008 Posted by | Apple | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chevy Camaro looks awesome in NBC’s ‘My Own Worst Enemy’

Tonight’s premiere of My Own Worst Enemy on NBC sent a message to the Mustangs & Challengers on the street…the Camaro is on its way and it looks fantastic.

Neil Berman

Oct 13, 2008 Posted by | Other Stuff | , , | Leave a comment

Times have changed since King Arthur’s Roundtable

Is this the answer to travel expenses which accounting departments have been waiting for?

Is this the answer to travel expenses which accounting departments have been waiting for?


As the economy falters and technology gets cheaper, voice and video conferencing become even more appealing.

Conference calls, the ever present enabler of virtual teams, are great.  They allow coworkers from around the world to work together more easily, aid flexible working hours across timezones and, in the consumer market, help families get together through apps like Skype.

Conference calls, the ever present confuser of global communications, can also be problematic.  They can result in mixed messages and confusion, often because you can’t see the other participants who, (to make matters worse) could be muted or away from the phone.

Videoconferencing systems aim to alleviate this, normally with a screen mounted camera pointing at a room of participants.  Whilst this gives a picture, it can be a struggle to enjoy clear engagement with everyone in the room.  More sophisticated systems such as HP’s Halo try to ‘put’ virtual participants in the same custom built room at significant cost – Halo installations start at $249,000 plus running expenses.

Cue the Microsoft Roundtable. This curious looking device aims to provide a more active videoconferencing experience at a reasonable price.

Fortunately it’s the Roundtable doing the active bit, not you.  Whilst the base resembles a typical conference phone design with mics pointing in different directions, it’s at the top that things get interesting.

Cameras mounted at the base of the mirrors can be directed automatically at talking participants

Cameras mounted at the base of the mirrors can be directed automatically at talking participants

Hiding under the dust cover are cameras pointing at angled mirrors.  This means that from a central location the Roundtable can get a good 360 view.  Better still, the cameras are motorized so they can be directed at individual participants.  Killer app?  The Roundtable can focus the screen image on whoever is talking.  Sweet.

In practise it works really well, operating as the daddy of all webcams when paired up with Office Communicator 2007 or the 2007 version of Office Live Meeting.  Speech and video over IP came through clearly on the occasions I’ve seen it in action and the directional cameras are an elegant solution to the ‘everyone face the screen’ problem.

It’s still fairly expensive at $3000 but compared to air travel for a couple of team members it represents a collaboration upgrade to business class for the whole group.  So look out for this coming to a meeting room near your cubicle soon if your company can afford it.  Question is for the benefits it brings to virtual teamworking, can companies afford not to?

Neil Berman

Oct 10, 2008 Posted by | Hardware, Microsoft, Reviews | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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