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OnStar Skype and Internet concept

Looking back through my gigabytes of CES footage, I stumbled across this cool vid that I hadn’t previously posted. There was a handsome new shape Buick Lacrosse at Verizon’s booth that OnStar had decked out with all kinds of gadgety funkiness. The Lacrosse had a built-in Verizon’s 4G LTE modem with tricked out software that allowed the navigation screen to pull data from the Internet such as headlines and YouTube vids. Perhaps even more amazing were the exterior cameras that captured a collision to help catch the perp, and an interior camera for live Skype video calling. It’s just a concept for now, but this all looked pretty much ready for primetime. Here’s hoping!

Neil Berman

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Feb 5, 2011 Posted by | CES, Hardware, Mobile, Video Features | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

BlackBerry PlayBook hands-on – Update: Now with video!

BlackBerry PlayBookI just scored some hands-on time with RIM’s answer to the iPad: the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet.  Unlike the larger iPad, the PlayBook sports a 7″ screen but a faster dual core processor.  The tablet’s construction feels good, as we would expect from RIM, and the touchscreen’s responsiveness is great.  The bezel is also active, although it will be interesting to see whether or not this is a good idea after sustained use.  I know I hold my iPad along the bezel all the time, and I wouldn’t want it to respond to my hand movements.  For example, to BlackBerry PlayBook 3bring up the open applications view, you swipe a finger upwards on the PlayBook’s bottom screen bezel.

What I saw was a pre-production unit, but the PlayBook’s performance was impressive.  Multiple applications were open and simultaneously active, even in the task viewer.  I would expect that kind of thing would be a battery destroyer, but it sure looked amazing.  The PlayBook seems to be aimed at either being a home multimedia tablet, or an add-on for a BlackBerry.  There didn’t seem to be a mail client actually on the PlayBook itself, and the BlackBerry rep said that the idea is to go to a browser to view email, or view it through a connected BlackBerry smartphone.

The PlayBook will share the BlackBerry App World, so I guess we might see dedicated email and other messaging apps coming out for the tablet.  However I’d really like to see some dedicated messaging apps, as well as a promise of thousands of apps coming soon for the PlayBook.  It’s launching in March, and if it’s just going to be positioned as an internet tablet with a BlackBerry hook-up, I fear it may get crushed in the consumer space by the iPad, and the wealth of apps that will likely start coming out for Android Honeycomb tablets like the Motorola Xoom.

Here’s the video of what went down…

Neil Berman

Jan 6, 2011 Posted by | CES, Hardware, Mobile, Video Features | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Samsung Epic 4G review: Part 1

Samsung Epic 4G

Epic – that’s a big word. Sprint and Samsung are suggesting that this member of the Galaxy S family is not merely vibrant, fascinating or even captivating. No, they’re saying it’s epic, like the Godzilla of smartphones. That’s a bold claim, especially in such a competitive space. After all, making an epic claim like that could lay you wide open if the device is an epic fail. We held back on asking Sprint for a review unit until the carrier switched on 4G in New York. The network went live a few days ago and here’s our review, so what kind of epic is the Epic 4G?

First impressions of the Epic 4G

The Epic 4G ships in a regular Sprint and Samsung branded box. Inside are an assortment of guides together with wired headphones that serve as a hands-free set, a USB cable and power adaptor. The power adaptor is one of those nice small block designs with a USB port that allows owners to connect the same USB cable as supplied for the Epic 4G’s connection to a computer. That’s a nice touch for travelers and we’d like to see more manufacturers following suit (several already do this).

The Epic 4G itself is a smart-looking device. It’s a Galaxy S device and as such the front surface is an all black glossy affair. The back is matte black with a chrome surround separating the two. Sliding the screen up reveals a landscape keyboard with flat keys bordered by the chrome surround. Some reviewers have commented that the Epic 4G is too plasticky compared to other flagship competitors, but we think the Epic 4G’s look and feel works well, especially with the keyboard exposed. Below the screen, capacitive Menu, Back, Search and Home buttons light up when needed.

There’s a front facing camera for video calling as well as a five megapixel rear camera with LED flash that is also capable of shooting HD video at 720p. Around the sides are a volume rocker, dedicated camera two-stop shutter and power button. The top of the Epic 4G houses the headphone socket and micro-USB charging port. Hidden inside the back plate is a MicroSD card slot, and the Epic 4G ships from Sprint with a 16GB MicroSD card already fitted. While we prefer externally accessible MicroSD card slots, the one on the Epic 4G is accessible without needing to remove the battery although you do of course need to snap off the back plate.

The five row keyboard is fully featured, with a well designed partially staggered Qwerty layout. The Epic 4G sports a dedicated number key row, as well as dedicated cursor arrows and keys replicating the front plate’s Menu, Back, Search and Home buttons. There is also a dedicated key to access emoticons. Symbols are accessed either using the Fn or Sym keys. Samsung have clearly put some good thinking into the keyboard design.

Hiding beneath all of this is a Cortex A8 Hummingbird processor humming along at 1GHz.  There is 512MB RAM and 512MB ROM, WiFi supporting 802.11b/g/n and GPS.  The screen is a Super AMOLED at 800×480 and the whole package weighs in at 155g.  That’s pretty respectable compared to the closest keyboard-bearing competitors; the Epic 4G is 14g lighter than the Motorola Droid 2 and 25g less than the T-Mobile G2.

All that horsepower is driving Android 2.1, with and update to 2.2 believed to be on the way. Samsung has layered its Touch Wiz skin on top of that, and Sprint has added its own apps such as Sprint TV and Navigation that are included in the Simply Everything package.  As with the HTC Evo 4G, Sprint asks for an extra $10 each month to enjoy the privilege of unlimited 4G data (although the equivalent plans still undercut Verizon and AT&T) and the Epic 4G itself costs $249.99 on a new contract after rebates.

If that’s got you all hot and bothered, stay tuned for the rest of the review which is coming soon.  Or if you just can’t hold yourself back, dive into the gallery and sample photos that we shot using the Epic 4G.

Neil Berman

Nov 8, 2010 Posted by | Hardware, Mobile, Reviews, Video Features | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Can the Samsung Epic 4G replace a pocket HD video cam?

While we complete our review of the Samsung Epic 4G, here’s some food for thought.  The Epic 4G can serve as a Sprint 4G mobile hotspot, potentially cutting the need to pay for separate a home internet.  It can handle the general smartphone stuff with ease too.  But does it have the chops to take a pocket HD video cam out of the frame as well?  We tested the Epic 4G’s HD video recorder in various light and motion scenarios and here’s what we discovered…

Remember to choose 720p if you want to watch in HD rather than the default 360/480p.

Neil Berman

Nov 7, 2010 Posted by | Hardware, Mobile, Reviews, Video Features | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Apple iPad Review (update: now with video!)

Apple iPad 32After so much anticipation, the Apple iPad is finally here.  There’s been hype to the heavens on this one, so it’s time to reveal whether the iPad actually delivers now that it’s landed …continue reading

Apr 3, 2010 Posted by | Apple, Hardware, Reviews, Video Features | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Aliph Jawbone ICON review

Jawbone ICON 3The Jawbone ICON is Aliph’s latest Bluetooth headset and comes with quite a family pedigree behind it.  Aliph’s Jawbone range has long been a headline name in the  Bluetooth world, so when Aliph sent us a Jawbone ICON review unit we put it through its paces …continue reading

Mar 26, 2010 Posted by | Hardware, Mobile, Reviews, Video Features | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sprint & Verizon 4G mobile broadband vs iPad 3G

Sprint and Verizon’s marketing aimed at getting iPhone and iPad owners to buy their mobile data plans might not be as wacky as it seems.  The idea of asking us to splurge an extra $59.99 monthly for more mobile data appears to be a wild idea, until you do the iPad math…so let’s do it:

The iPad 3G + AT&T scenario provides one connected device for $29.99 per month at an initial premium of $130 over the WiFi only iPad.

Using Sprint as the competing provider, the offering is multiple connected devices for $59.99 per month and an initial premium of $99.99 for the Sprint Overdrive WiMAX 4G/3G hotspot.

Seems like an easy decision in favor of the iPad 3G option? Perhaps, until you consider that in many US cities the Sprint Overdrive offers up to 6MB download connection speed with unlimited 4G WiMAX usage on up to five devices. That’s fast enough to supplant a home broadband connection for many people.

The average US home broadband cost as of April 2009 is $39 per month. So using the Overdrive in a 4G WiMAX covered city and canceling a home internet connection suddenly has an effective average monthly cost of $20.99. That’s $9 cheaper than an iPad 3G data plan, which of course only provides connectivity to one device and only at 3G speed.

Sprint is aggressively rolling its 4G WiMAX service within the US and its pricing includes unlimited usage, unlike most 3G mobile broadband plans which are capped at 5GB per month. Verizon is busily working on its faster 4G LTE deployment, with no pricing or caps announced as yet.  This may logically become the standard connection method for many consumers or the coming years, just as cellphones have replaced landline phone connections.

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

Mar 24, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Apple, Computing, Mobile, Video Features | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Teknica episode 6: “The Glory Days” – Palm, iPad secrecy and Mac vs PC security

The latest episode of Teknica delves into the secrecy surrounding iPads given to developers, the fall of Palm and Mac vs PC security.

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

Mar 21, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, News, Teknica, Video Features | , , , , , | Leave a comment

theONbutton’s Flash HD video test: Hardware acceleration Mac vs PC

Flash has gained huge amounts of column inches in 2010.  This is mostly because of Apple’s current stance of not including it on the iPad while claiming at the same time that the iPad will be the best way to experience the Web.  Many commentators have disagreed with this statement because Flash is integral to so much online multimedia content.  As we previously explained part of Apple’s contention is that Flash is too processor intensive, which we agree with, and the company is pushing for HTML5 to be more widely adopted as an alternative.  Meanwhile as we also previously explained, Adobe is taking steps to use graphics hardware to accelerate Flash HD video decoding, which promises to allow smooth playback of content on computers with supported graphics cards.  The problem for Apple users is that due to the ongoing sparring between Apple and Adobe …continue reading

Mar 11, 2010 Posted by | Reviews, Software, Video Features | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Plantronics BackBeat 903 Review

Plantronics BackBeat 903 17

What’s under review: Plantronics BackBeat 903 Stereo Bluetooth Headset, MSRP $99.95, current street price approx $60-90

What we like: Excellent sound quality; lightweight and comfortable to wear for extended periods even with glasses; easy to learn controls

What we’d like to change: Can be fiddly to put on intially; we would prefer separate track skip and volume controls

Our verdict: An excellent contender; the BackBeat 903 should be high up on the shortlist of anyone looking for an in-ear stereo Bluetooth headset

Our full review follows the video summary:

Plantronics has plenty of history in the Bluetooth market, including several stereo headsets in its Pulsar 260/590 ranges and the recent Voyager 855 hybrid design.  Plantronics upped the ante in when it paired up (Bluetooth pun intended) with its subsidiary Altec Lansing to release the BackBeat 903 and 906 models.  The BackBeat 903 was subsequently named as a CES Innovations Design and Engineering Awards Honoree in November.  While we had only listened to the BackBeat in noisy environments previously, Plantronics was kind enough to send us a BackBeat 903 so we could spend some quality time getting more acquainted. Continue reading our full Plantronics BackBeat 903 review…

Feb 27, 2010 Posted by | Audio, Hardware, Mobile, Reviews, Video Features | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Tekinca episode 5: The state of the smartphone union

In this week’s Teknica we provide analysis on the smartphone market, as it exits one of the most significant Mobile World Congress show’s of recent times.

Neil Berman

theonbutton.com

Feb 21, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Microsoft, Mobile, Teknica, Video Features | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nokia store New York

If you live in the USA, a Nokia cellphone can be hard to find.  That’s because Nokia phones and American cellphone carriers don’t go together as naturally as, say, Nokia phones and European carriers.  So if you’re a Nokia fanboy in America you’ll definitely want to head over to the company’s flagship store off Fifth Avenue in New York City.  But hey, this ol’ country is vast and it sure is cold in New York these days.  So to save you travelling all the way here, or perhaps from just leaving your warm shoe-box of an NYC apartment, here’s a walkthrough of the store in glorious HD.

Neil Berman

theonbutton.com

Feb 20, 2010 Posted by | Mobile, Video Features | , , , , | Leave a comment

BlueAnt Q1 review

The bluetooth headset market is crowded these days with top brands putting out some great designs. BlueAnt thinks it has something special to offer with the Q1, which won a CES 2010 Innovations Award and boasts voice control.  We put it through its paces to see if it could talk us into setting it above the pack.

What’s in the BlueAnt Q1 box?

The Q1 comes in a smart display case, which BlueAnt ecologically mention can be re-purposed into a vase or other container.  Nice touch.  Inside the box is the headset, a brief guide, earhook, USB cable and charger.

The Q1 feels smart and solid with a brushed black metallic finish.  It may not have the design exuberance of Aliph’s Jawbone, but it still looks sleek and expensive. Read our full review of the BlueAnt Q1…

Feb 18, 2010 Posted by | Hardware, Mobile, Reviews, Video Features | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Windows Phone 7 Series analysis vs iPhone, Android & BlackBerry (update: now with video!)

Windows Phone has been struggling in recent years.  Facing an onslaught from Apple, Google and RIM, many would say that the OS formerly known as Windows Mobile has not even been competing in the current marketplace.  Rumors have been flying around about Microsoft starting from scratch with Windows Phone 7 Series and that’s exactly what they’ve done.  And they’ve done it well. Continue reading our in-depth analysis…

Feb 15, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Apple, Hardware, Microsoft, Mobile, Video Features | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Teknica episode 4: Windows 8 is going to be mind blowing

In this week’s Teknica we catch up on Mobile World Congress, get a glimpse into the energy around Windows 8 and find out how to check up on your internet speed with YouTube Speed Dashboard.  Plus, we reveal the ultimate Apple fanboy accessory.

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

Feb 14, 2010 Posted by | Computing, Gaming, Hardware, Microsoft, Mobile, News, Software, Teknica, Video Features | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Superbowl XLIV: One great game, many great gadget commercials

Congratulations to the New Orleans Saints, who played their hearts out in the second half tonight.  Well done to the Colts as well, who helped to make this Superbowl one of the greats and not only from a sporting point of view…

Superbowls are famous for their commercials, which this year cost up to $3,000,000 (count those zeros) for 30 seconds (just one short zero there).  Apart from various Budweiser spots and a funny Simpsons/Coca-Cola short, this year was notable for concentration of gadget commercials.  As always some were better than others:

Flo TV

This was the first tech commercial and it was a biggie.  It came as a bit of a shock in fact, similar to the effect of the Hulu spot last year.  It was a solid production and clearly conveyed a message of how mobile TV could become embedded in everyday life.

Following that we saw, in no particular order…

Megan Fox playing with the Motorola Devour in a bathtub

A genius of a commercial.  Android, Megan Fox in a bathtub and a comedy plot.  11/10.

Vizio internet enabled TV

I was on the receiving end of a demo of Vizio’s internet enabled TVs at CES in January.  Vizio, like most other TV manufacturers, is serious about TV internet apps and this spot certainly got that message across, along with telling us about their 240Hz capability.  Vizio is currently the number one player in the US market by a wide margin and their commercial was as slick as their recent TV designs.  They’ve come a long way baby.

Prince of Persia movie

If you remember 1980s gaming, you probably remember the game.  The movie trailer was pretty good and I know I’ll inevitably the movie out of nostalgia for the game…just like they planned.

Dante’s Inferno

A forthcoming console game, whose commercial looked pretty exciting.

Google search

I admit I saw this a day early, but hoped it would be more exciting live during a break in the game action.  The spot showed screenshots of Google’s search engine being used very very quickly to find lots of information about places and people.  There was cute a New York-Paris plot which ended in marriage and a baby.  I like these practical demo commercials, which have been popularized by the iPhone.  Hopefully we’ll see more from Google with demonstrations of less commonly used features.

Intel Core i-series processors

An short story about friendship and robotic betrayal.  I really want to go to the Intel cafeteria now to see if those robots are wheeling around the floor.

GoDaddy.com

Certainly suggestive; I’m sure they got plenty of hits on their site as a result.

That’s all folks.  Oh and by the way, I wasn’t joking about Megan Fox in the bathtub…

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

Feb 7, 2010 Posted by | Computing, Hardware, Home Theater, Photo & Video, Mobile, News, Video Features | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Teknica episode 3: A closer looks at the Apple iPad

In this week’s Teknica I take a closer look at Apple’s new iPad, talk about Windows 7 sales and there’s some news about Dell’s upcoming Mini 5 Andoid tablet phone.

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

Jan 30, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Apple, News, Teknica, Video Features | , , , , , | Leave a comment

TEKNICA: Episode 1

Welcome to our new video podcast, TEKNICA (Tech News I Care About).  We’re planning for TEKNICA to be a weekly super-concise roundup of tech news and we want to make it great for you.  Tell us what you think…

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

Jan 18, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, News, Teknica, Video Features | , , , , | Leave a comment

CES 2010 BlackBerry coverage

As you can see from my recent posts I had a busy week at CES.  In addition to all the news I covered below I was also on the BlackBerry beat for BerryReporter.  You can see all my BerryReporter CES posts including videos here.

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

Jan 17, 2010 Posted by | CES, Hardware, Mobile, News, Video Features | , , , | Leave a comment

theONbutton@CES: Asus adds new Republic of Gamers gear

Asus is getting serious about gaming.  Really serious.  To save you reading about just how serious they are, watch this video where Asus’s Product Manager for Republic of Gamers talks me through what’s new for CES 2010.

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

Jan 10, 2010 Posted by | CES, Computing, Gaming, Hardware, News, Video Features | , , , | Leave a comment

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