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Samsung Epix SGH-i907 – Blackjack’s big brother is an Ace

Samsung’s Blackjack II recently topped Consumer Report’s January 2009 smartphone ratings, beating both the iPhone and G1.  So this as unsung hero gets its due reward it’s time to check out its new big brother, the Epix.

Looking around the Samsung Epix SGH-i907

The Epix shares a family resemblance with the Blackjack and has a traditional keyboard below screen layout.  Samsung Epix ScreenThe keyboard can be extensively customized to give instant access to your favorite applications, which is great for people who like instant access rather than wading through screens or menus to find applications.  Soft keys sit under the large 320×320 haptic and touch sensitive screen and a volume rocker is on the left side.  The Epix feels good to hold, slightly heavier than the Blackjack II at 4.4oz, but lighter than the iPhone, G1 and Fuze.

On the media front, the rear houses a decent 2MP camera which also takes videos.  Unfortunately there is no flash or light.  There is a proprietary charging/headphone port, but the Epix offers stereo bluetooth connectivity so having annoying wires dangling around is not really a concern.  If you must stay wired in to satisfy some kind of 20th century nostalgia then there is an adaptor in the box.

The optical trackpad and other specs of the Samsung Epix SGH-i907

The real innovation of the Epix lives in the middle of the front of the phone – there’s an optical trackpad to aid one-handed use…and it’s awesome.

Samsung Epix Optical TrackpadThe trackpad is similar to the design on Samsung’s Omnia, but the superior placement on the Epix makes it an amazingly efficient way to navigate.  Steer with thumb impulses, click with a press and hold down to display context sensitive menus.  Sweet.  Precision is so good that the stylus is unlikely to get much use.  The trackpad can also be converted to a four way directional pad if desired.

The Epix is a powerhouse compared to the BlackjackII, packing a 624MHz processor, 25MB ROM and 128MB RAM.  It also has expansion capability via now-cheap MicroSD cards up to 32GB to satisfy your thirst for home videos/music/photos/applications.  The MicroSD slot is on the right hand side of the phone for easy access.

A big contributor to the total weight of the phone is the battery, and being a 3G device with a fast CPU the Epix needs need all the juice it can get.  In my mixed tests of light surfing, background IM, stereo bluetooth in transit and a limited amount of calls, the Epix easily managed a full day and two might be possible with bluetooth off.  Beyond that a charge will be required.

Using the Samsung Epix SGH-i907

The Epix ships with Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional, which means you get Office Mobile, Windows Media Player and Windows Live.  In addition to Messenger the phone also has IM clients for AIM and Yahoo and you can install third party applications to give access to more services.

Google Maps, AvantGo and Skype were one-click installs as were Opera Mobile and Skyfire to provide options for the aging Internet Explorer.  The Epix is easily powerful enough to run several applications simultaneously.  Samsung Epix CameraI had no difficulty sync’ing 1,500 AvantGo pages whilst walking down the street streaming music over bluetooth with IM and email active in the background.

The Epix can be used to access AT&T’s Cellular Video service.  So if you have the right plan or are prepared to pay then you get access to news, sports and entertainment from the likes of CNN, ESPN and Comedy Central.  The quality is pretty good as long as you are in an area with good 3G coverage.

The Epix has WiFi b/g is onboard, which is useful for Skype but for most other applications AT&T’s 3G network proved almost as fast.  The Epix can be tethered for use as a modem if you have the appropriate data plan.  There’s also GPS onboard.

What’s not so hot about the Samsung Epix SGH-i907

What didn’t I like about the Epix?  Well although the screen is big it pales in comparison to the resolution of the HTC Touch Pro’s, but then so do most other cellphone screens at the moment.  Squeezing VGA (and beyond) resolution into cellphone screens is definitely the way forward.

The 2MP camera takes good shots and videos were also good enough for occasional usage, but 3-5MP is quickly becoming the norm.  I don’t see any need for cellphones to replicate the compact camera megapixel wars (although this is inevitable) but Samsung should roll out the higher quality cameras now present in some of its other top end phones.

Whilst we are on the wish list, although 3G cellphones need big batteries it would still be nice to get back to the Blackjack II’s weight.

Is the Samsung Epix SGH-i907 a smart phone?

In summary the Epix is a great smartphone whose powers of endearment outweigh its ordinary appearance.  It’s an Ace follow-up to the Blackjack II.

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

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Dec 30, 2008 Posted by | Hardware, Mobile, Reviews | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

iMac Sales Plunge, Apple Slashes Refurb Macbook Air to $1,149

It’s been a week that Apple fans will want to forget.  NPD reported that Apple sales for November were flat year on year whilst Windows PCs gained 7%, iMac sales collapsed by 38% whilst Windows desktops fell only 15% and Apple announced that the company will stop attending Macworld after the 2009 show.  Apple laptop sales rose 22% compared to 15% for Windows laptops.

mb-air

What does this mean for Apple?  Most likely something needs to be done…and pretty fast.  Apple has responded by slashing prices of its refurbished models, a move likely aimed at removing the carrying costs of old inventory.  Macbook Airs are available for $1,149 on Apple’s US website at the time of writing.  Deep reductions are offered across other lines as well and online stores are offering serious discounts on new models.  After a while this discounting could erode the premium perception of the brand and hurt Apple retail store sales, which are typically made at full price.

Netbooks captured the the public's imagination in 2008

Netbooks captured the the public's imagination in 2008

This may be a short term band-aid to improve working capital, but Apple needs to look deeper at its product line and offer models at prices which relate to the current economy.  The company has been too late in coming to the Netbook market, which exploded with colossal growth this year following the arrival of the Asus EEE in late 2007.  Apple needs a Netbook quickly, and it will need to compete with the quality of the MSI Wind, Acer Aspire One and Asus EEE range, which all sell for around $300-400.

Steve Jobs said that “We don’t know how to build a sub-$500 computer that is not a piece of junk.”  Well Apple might have to learn how.  Five hundred dollars is now premium Netbook territory as prices have been falling throughout 2008.

I expect that if Apple enters the market they would choose the $600-800 range with a couple of configurations.  They need this because Macbooks are no longer the coolest laptops to pull out of your bag…Netbooks are.  A glance at the Amazon bestseller list shows Netbooks occupying slots which Macbooks used to live in. 

The MSI Wind Netbook was one of the most hotly anticipated products of 2008. Can Apple introduce its own competitor to stop the rising Windows sales?

The MSI Wind Netbook was one of the most hotly anticipated products of 2008. Can Apple introduce its own competitor to stop the rising Windows sales?

Whilst Macbooks used to be the laptop of choice for Manhattan coffee shop outings, Netbooks now get the curious admiring looks.  In an America looking to downsize cars, energy usage and spending, Netbooks are the Prius of today’s laptop showroom.

Clearly the slowdown in the economy has affected Apple as a seller of premium products.  It also seems that Apple’s negative advertising campaign throughout 2008 against PCs may have not had the positive sales effect Apple was hoping for.  In fact the plunging iMac sales figures indicate that Apple might have done better through a positive campaign promoting the benefits of the iMac compared to Windows desktops.  It may be that consumers simply were unable to identify a positive value of spending the extra bucks on an iMac, which is a classic outcome of a negative advertising campaign, unless the competing product is seen as truly worthless.  Clearly not the case in this instance as iMac sales plunged 23% more than Windows desktop sales.

Whilst I think Apple will pull through, it needs to revitalize its line-up to be attractive in today’s economy.  And hopefully that revitalization effort will give us reasons to buy Macs, instead of reasons not to buy PCs.  I want to want Macs for good reasons, not because I’m told the competition is bad.

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

Dec 18, 2008 Posted by | Apple, Hardware, Microsoft, News | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sony promises to increase prices, meanwhile Dell offers PS3 for $319.99

PS3 Dell HomeNow here’s a good holiday deal.  If you’ve been waiting for Sony to drop the price of the PS3 you may need to wait a little longer.  But…if you head on over to Dell’s US website pretty sharpish you can snag one for 20% off for a limited time.  Not sure if that will help Sony catch the monthly sales of 2 MILLION Wiis shipped in November alone, 360 Controller and Plantronics Headsetbut it might help prolong the PS3’s agony a little longer…especially as how it was crushed 2 to 1 by the XBox 360 and 5 to 1 by the Wii last month.  NPD’s reported sales figures for Nov were Wii: 2,040k units, Xbox 360: 836k units, PS3: 378k units.

Interestingly the ratio of Xbox 360 sales to PS3 in October was 1.87 to 1, whilst in November the 360 pulled ahead to 2.21 to 1, probably due to the price cut.  Microsoft clearly doesn’t need to do much to ward off the PS3 anymore, rather it seems to have it’s eyes on the Wii’s spot instead…although I can’t see it happening in this console generation.  It’s sure turned out different to the way we all thought back in 2005 though, the Playstation franchise needs something big now and these days Sony is in big trouble.

Back on the home front, I’ve been nurturing an ever-growing addiction to Halo 3 on the XBox 360.  I have trendnetbeen joining the faithful army of online Spartans and when I say army, think mass hordes…there are typically 250-300,000 Halo 3 gamers online each evening, US time.

Helping to make all this happen for me is a new Trendnet router.  Epix and FuzeReplacing a Trendnet 108mbps b/g, this 300mbps b/g/n speed demon has gigabit ethernet and flies along with rock-like stability.  Installation was a breeze, but pretty please Trendnet next time add a MAC address import feature; typing in all those addresses gets tiring!

I’ve also been giving the new HTC Touch Pro (at&t Fuze, the one the half gig ROM and 288mb RAM) and Samsung i907 (at&t Epix, the one with the optical mouse) a good workout recently…reviews to follow shortly.  Suffice to say they’re not too shabby.

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

Dec 13, 2008 Posted by | Analysis, Gaming, Hardware | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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