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Opera 9.5 Beta for Windows Mobile Review

The best mobile surfing experience out there?
Back in Feb Opera demo’d their latest Windows Mobile browser to oohs & ahhs from all corners championing it over the iPhone. Sporting a slick fullscreen mode, copy & paste, downloads and image saving, WM users couldn’t wait to get their mitts on it. It’s been a long wait but the beta recently went public. So is it really that much better than the iPhone? Let’s see…

After a straightforward installation and launch Opera 9.5 was happily loading pages over both WiFi and T-Mobile’s EDGE service. The browser fitted rendered pages to fill the whole screen perfectly and from there the finger pointing begins. Swipe up, down, left or right to scroll, double tap any area to zoom and again to zoom back out. The motion as the page moves is beautifully fluid and the zoom renders quickly.

Page loading was slower than my Nokia N810, which also runs Opera, but this is a pre-production version so it’s unfair to make a performance judgement just yet. As a guide over WiFi the NY Times website was half rendered in about 8 seconds and I was able to start swiping/zooming after 25 seconds while the pictures finished loading in the background. When I went to the site a second time, I could start swiping/zooming after about 15 seconds due to caching. Times were about twice as long with EDGE.

There are various display options, including full vs mobile view and screen font size. Images can be blocked to speed up page delivery.
Multiple tabs are also available, although your device’s capabilities will determine how many you can open before running low on memory. Opera 9.5 Mobile is a 8.9MB install which needs to go into main memory for this beta release. However the cache can be put onto a storage card, I allocated 50MB which speeds things up if you visit the same sites regularly.

So from this fully rendered CNet home page, you can zoom into something like this in a second or two…

…and then jump into a story…
…turn on text selection like this…
…and copy the text you want into an email or document just like a normal computer web browser. You can send it directly to someone via SMS as well as the page link, which is even better. You can also send links and images directly via MMS or email. Images and files can be downloaded to main memory or to the storage card for easy portability. Whole pages can be downloaded for offline viewing, for example when in the subway. Hmm, this is sounding like the daddy of convergent mobile internet…
Various other config optionsare included, including the ability to set a cache size. Here’s my 50MB cache in action, if you’re a heavy user you may want to go for more. I’m unaware of any cache limit, my TyTN has a 2GB memory card in it…that kind of cache size might be overkill but you get the idea!
Security options include proper password management.

With the current beta version there are a couple of missing bits, such as ActiveX and Flash so if you want these you might prefer to wait until the full production release. Also bear in mind that this is a beta version so if you do install it on your phone there may be compatibility issues or other freaky things happening – best to backup beforehand just in case!
Overall there’s no smartphone browser I’m aware of which offers such a sweet all round browsing experience. The initial impressions in February were right: where the iPhone’s Safari once led the pack, it’s now in second place. Can’t wait to try the production version…

Neil Berman

Aug 3, 2008 Posted by | Mobile, Reviews, Software | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

HP TX1000z Tablet PC Review

For the past decade consumers have been on the verge of adopting tablet PCs of one form or another. Apart from some early fledgling attempts which gathered little steam, the main thrust came from expensive laptop tablets based upon Windows XP Tablet Edition. Since then Vista has come about with its tablet extensions and new UMPC formats have sprung up such as Samsung’s Q1 to take advantage of them. So is there still a need for full size laptop tablets?

When newer is cheaper

Cue HP’s TX1000z range and recently released TX2000z. This 12.1 inch laptop has an ultraportable tablet format without the price tag associated with the genre. Powered by AMD’s Turion range it should have the horsepower it needs to ease through daily tasks and it’s swivelling screen gives it the all important ‘wow’ factor. It also has handy chassis mounted buttons for quick access to multimedia functions. The Vista Premium TX1000z unit I tested was fitted with a DVD rewriter and 2 GB of RAM, in place of the standard 1 GB.

Groping around

Looking around the laptop everything feels pretty solid, if a little heavy. The battery sticks out at the back, which is a tad ugly, but overall the design is slick. At 4.2 pounds the HP weighs in a fair amount more than my Everex 12 inch laptop. It’s not unbearable but not exactly in keeping with the spirit of the term ultraportable either.

Open the lid and the TX1000z’s keyboard and trackpad layout echo current HP silver and black smart simplicity. The trackpad looks great and has both horizontal and vertical scrolling. The keyboard feels OK; it’s no IBM but it’s perfectly usable.

A webcam stares out from above the screen, which itself looks a little overprotected by a thick bezel. A fingerprint reader and dedicated buttons for screen orientation and multimedia control sit at the sides. The screen joint feels very strong, holding the screen happily at some very bizarre angles.

Around the edges of the chassis are three USB ports, a 5-in-1 card reader, ExpressCard slot, SPDIF output, headphone & microphone ports, ethernet port, S-video and VGA out. Phew! There’s also a remote control in the box.
In use

In use there weren’t too many surprises, with the exception that performance from the 1.9 GHz AMD TL-58 was a little below expectations. My 1.6 GHz Core Duo laptop kept up with it pretty well in general use and surpassed it in almost all Passmark tests…and it only has 1 GB RAM. Most disappointing was the 3D graphics performance, which let’s just say is a good way to make sure you stay productive. The webcam too was average, under-performing against my MacBook in low light.

The Altec Lansing speakers on the other hand were nice and loud, if lacking in bass, and the bright screen is readable even with sun coming onto it through a window.

Is the writing on the wall for the traditional laptop?

Whilst the HP is certainly good value, I’m not sure how the average consumer would really take advantage of the tablet functions. The aspiration of note taking or sharing ideas across a meeting table have long been the promise of tablets, but something like a Samsung Q1 might be the modern day prince-in-waiting to this eventual throne due to its weight. If you have a use in mind for the tablet features then the TX1000z is a good buy. If not then look past the glamor of the swivelling screen and see how it stacks up against more traditional designs.

At the time of writing, the starting price for the HP TX1000z was $899.99 on

Also worth considering (prices correct at time of writing):

Neil Berman

Jan 28, 2008 Posted by | Computing, Hardware, Mobile, Reviews | , , | 1 Comment

CES 2008 News: Laptops & UMPCs

My CES 2008 news update comes in the following sections: Laptops & UMPCs, Home Entertainment, Media Players, Cellphones, Gaming and Trick Technologies. To read all the CES 2008 articles, click here. Details of dates, pricing and specifications described below are given from the best information available at the time of writing and may change at any time at each manufacturer’s discretion.
Laptops & UMPCs Part 1

For Part 2, click here.

In alphabetical order:

Asus came to CES with the R50A, which is a UMPC with a 5.6 inch screen due for release around the middle of 2008.

The R50A features a 1.33 GHz processor, 32 GB solid state drive (SSD), 1024 x 600 pixel widescreen, WiMax option and built-in GPS. It weighs only 520 grams but will face stiff competition from LG’s new UMPC entrant below. The Asus R2H will continue to be available and will be replaced by the R7 later this year. The R7 will retain the 7 inch screen form factor of the current R2.

Asus confirmed that 8 and 8.9 inch versions of the EEE PC are being developed. The current EEE PC was present in all its colors, with no confirmed release dates for either the successor models or Windows XP preloaded versions. Dell had an XPS M1730 World of Warcraft Edition on display with both an onboard Physics Accelerator and Logitech Game Control. The accelerator, previously only seen on their desktop range, enhances gameplay graphics whilst the Game Control gives the player live reporting of key in-game stats at all times. The M1730’s keyboard is backlit for gameplay in dark environments. The Dell XPS M1330 was also on show and continues to be a great looking design.

HTC’s Shift was on display and is due to ship in Q1 in the US or CDMA networks (Sprint and Verizon). The Shift uses an 800 MHz processor complemented by 1 GB RAM, a 7 inch screen and a 40 GB hard drive. The initial cost of the Shift should be around $1400, plus the cost of any subscriber services from the wireless carriers.

Intel said that laptops with embedded Wimax technology will be released in mid-2008.

LG were showing off a prototype UMPC with a 4.8 inch screen and a built in slide out keyboard with trackpad. Powered by a 1.6 GHz Intel Menlow processor, the UMPC was running Vista Home Premium. Also onboard are 1 GB of RAM, a 40 GB hard drive and it all weighs in at just 590 grams. There’s no pricing yet but an LG representative said that production is likely in 2008. In an interesting design cue, the pointer is stored in a tiny lipstick style hard case which dangles off the side of the computer.

New entrant LimePC showed off three pre-production UMPCs of various screen sizes ranging from mid-size down to very small (approx 3 inches or so). All had a Linux distro with a Web 2.0 interface driven by a Power PC triple-core architecture from Freescale. The CPU has a miniscule 2w power consumption. Q2 production was being suggested and sales channels are being worked out as we speak, although no details or pricing are currently available. There were also desktop and living room versions on display.

Microsoft’s ‘Spotlight on Fashion’ show highlighted some Vista laptops at the cutting edge of design. Featured models included Lenovo’s new U110 and the wafer thin Sony Vaio TZ (see top).

Sandisk demonstrated a few proof of concept laptops with solid state drives (SSD) installed. One was an Apple Macbook, which had a 64 GB SSD onboard and booted up in seventeen seconds. The Sandisk representative I spoke to said that he was not aware of any plans to start supplying SSD drives into MacBooks in a production capacity; the prototype on display was solely a concept machine.

Tablet Kiosk had an EO 7300 concept on display, which is a prototype UMPC with modular add-ons. These modules include USB ports and additional batteries. The 7300 concept can accommodate one module on either side of the screen, so two batteries can be fitted simultaneously. The company is currently seeking feedback from the community and hopes to release a production version sometime in Q3 2008. Meanwhile the current EO will shortly be updated to offer a 1.2 GHz VIA processor.

Read more in part 2

See photos and read CES news about: Laptops & UMPCs, Home Entertainment, Media Players, Cellphones, Gaming and Trick Technologies.

To read all the CES 2008 articles, click here.

Neil Berman

Jan 8, 2008 Posted by | Apple, Microsoft, Mobile | , , , , | Leave a comment

Nokia N810 Review

With my Nokia 770 despatched swiftly on eBay, I could switch on my new N810 with an almost clear conscience. The N810 was an impulse upgrade following great first impressions. I think I was one of many, as the tablet ranked #2 in Wired’s December 2007 listing of “Top 10 Gifts We’d Love To Get”. Time to see what it can really do.

What’s in the box?

The slickness of the N810 makes an instant impact. The casing is silver with a brushed chrome color screen surround, buttons fit flush to surfaces and the backlit keyboard glides out smoothly. A built in stand allows the N810 to be used as a close range viewing device on a table. The box also contains a car dashboard holder for using the GPS navigation and a soft pouch. It all looks cool and feels well put together.

What’s it got?

Switching on, the screen is an immediate improvement over the 770. As with the better small devices on today’s market, it’s bright and colors are vivid. Howeve, unlike any ultra-portable computer I’ve used the screen also is genuinely sunlight readable. This is great for working on the move or using as an outdoor GPS navigation device. The idea of working with a laptop in the park is always appealing, but often hindered because nice days in parks tend to involve sunlight. Sunlight is not such a big problem for the N810.

The N810 boots-up in about fifteen seconds into the now familiar Nokia tablet desktop. Status indicators are on the top right and applications are on the left. The user transition from the 770 is seamless. Read about the 770 here.

Loading up the web browser makes the N810 search automatically for a connection. As with the 770, the WiFi search is quick and signal strength is strong. I made a connection straight away and was surfing at full speed in seconds.

The screen resolution is 800 by 480 so the N810 comfortably fits a typical web page across the width of its screen, with the option to specifically ‘fit to width’ if necessary. There is also a full screen mode accessed via a dedicated hardware button. Another dedicated button displays a list of currently open windows/applications for easy window switching.

The sliding keyboard transforms the internet experience on the N810. Whereas the 770 had an iPhone style on-screen keyboard which was fine for a short message here and there, the N810’s dedicated hardware keyboard allows full scale email, blogging and even word processing. Ironically, although the N810’s keyboard is bigger than my HTC TyTN’s, I have found it slower to type on. The keys have a less positive feel and the OS 2008 implementation of word prediction is less user friendly than the Windows Mobile version, which can be used from the keyboard without needing to touch the screen.

There’s a wide range of applications for the Nokia tablet series available for download. A built in software updater also searches for new apps and upgrades. Kudos to Nokia for implementing such a grown-up feature aimed at openly developing the N810’s functionality. This elevates it out of the closed platform space that most small mobile devices occupy and into the wider portable computer space. Skype is now available for the N810, although it does not currently take advantage of the front mounted webcam.

I miss having an office application suite built into the N810, it really seems ripe for it. The extra screen space compared to my TyTN makes it a perfect mobile office tool. Ironically it’s the TyTN which actually has Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint, but due to screen size only Word is of practical everyday use. There are some office applications available for the Nokia tablet platform, but a Maemo port of the StarOffice suite would be perfect.

How does it perform?

In general use the N810 performs pretty briskly. The 400mhz processor powers preloaded applications adequately, although I experienced slowdowns when trying to access multiple websites in multiple browser windows. There is 256Mb of Flash memory, 128Mb of onboard RAM with an extra 128Mb assignable as vitual memory from the 2Gb of onboard storage, which is pretty decent for this type of device. The N810 has not crashed on me yet; when applications have slowed down or gotten confused it has always recovered given time.

The Mozilla based browser handles the majority of sites well, although like Safari on my MacBook there are occasional compatability issues with some sites. I became used to this on my MacBook and just reserved surfing certain sites for my Windows PC. Pages load quickly enough and the N810 can handle certain multimedia content such as YouTube videos happily. Given the software update functionality I hope that browser updates will be possible to keep the N810 up to date.

Launching the map program engages the GPS. In Central Park on a clear day, the built-in antenna took around five minutes to get a fix on my location. Once it knew where I was, the N810 was able to show me the location of WiFi hotspots in the vicinity as well as other points of interest. This is a free service, whilst upgrading to full in-car navigation is an optional cost upgrade.

The points of interest are a great facility and of course GPS mapping is wonderful if you don’t know where you are. I expect though I’m more likely to use Google Maps on my TyTN on a day to day basis as it’s interface and zoom implementation is excellent.

Audio sounds great through both the onboard speakers and 3.5mm headphone socket. To their credit, Nokia squeezed a regular size headphone port into the thin N810. Video runs smoothly and the screen is viewable at pretty acute angles so your friends can watch alongside you using the built-in stand.

The 770 is actually more comfortable to hold than the N810 for prolonged periods. This is partly due to its greater depth and also because on the left of the screen there is more room to rest your hand. With the N810 you really feel like you’re holding a fat-free tablet, with the ‘downside’ that there’s precious little places to hold it! So your hand falls naturally at the back giving support at the edges. The weight of the tablet series has remained pretty constant throughout three generations, with the N810 weighing in at a meager 226 grams.

Battery life is claimed by Nokia to be fourteen standby days or four hours of continuous WiFi usage, which is better than the vast majority of laptops. Various power saving features can be configured, such as screen dimming and WiFi disconnection after periods of inactivity.

The recommended retail price of the N810 is 479.99 dollars but some retailers are listing it for less. Net of my 770 sale it cost me just over 300 bucks, which is pretty good value considering the improvements. The price puts it squarely in Asus EEE PC territory, which offers a whole lot more (potential, size and weight) but also a whole lot less (portability, battery life, sidewalk use).

Overall the N810 has been a superb buy. The keyboard and improved browser transform it from its earlier siblings into one of the most complete ultra-mobile computers ever made. Regular software updates and a growing application suite mean that it should have a good lifespan. Given that it can also double up as an in-car sat nav and use-anywhere media player, it is also great value…which is why Nokia’s USA site currently states it is on back order!

Click here to read the Nokia 770 review

Neil Berman

Dec 4, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Big Brother Eviction: Nokia N810 on order, 770 looking for a home…

Nokia’s third internet tablet hit the stores a few days ago and here it is, running Maemo Linux Internet Tablet 2008.

What does it look and feel like? In a word amazing. Ultra thin and extremely desirable.

The family which started with the 770 and then developed with the N800 now has a big brother in the shape of the N810. Big on features that is, but smaller on size. The N810 is the first in the series to get a super slick slip out keyboard. Yet it feels fantastic in the hand and thinner than its predecessors.

There is 2GB of internal storage and it will also accept Micro SDHC cards for serious memory expansion. GPS and mapping software also come as standard with an optional upgrade available to Waypoint in-car navigation.

The 4.1 inch screen is the same size as the 770 and N800 with an 800 x 480 resolution which allows a good view of web pages. The Mozilla browser has gone through significant updates since the 770 and is now Flash 9 compatible. As a rare feature, the screen is sunlight readable.

With plenty of storage potential, the N810 is multimedia friendly. Initial video tests showed bright and smooth flowing video with solid sound reproduction from the onboard speakers.

Like the N800 there is a built in camera for video calls using Gizmo. The N810 also comes with Skype but it does not seem at this point in time that the cam works for this yet.

And the word ‘yet’ is what this family is all about…These tablets run Linux, so the environment is really open to the user community to do whatever they want with it. Nokia is encouraging developers to build applications for the distro and now that the N810 has a keyboard, I’d expect to see plenty of releases over the coming months. The development forums are alive with excitement over the N810.

Mine is arriving tomorrow; the 770 has been evicted by its (not so) big brother. Watch this space for an N810 interview as soon as I get it into the diary room.

Neil Berman

Nov 30, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

A weight off Q’s mind

James Bond’s Q was capable of many wondrous things, but unlike many of his fictional works, Samsung’s Q1 is a wondrous work of fact. That fact, unfortunately, was that the Q1 Ultra really struggled with Vista.

Going to the Samsung Experience at the TWC a few months back, the painful memory was of a killer device killed by its own CPU/OS combination. The Q1U had a couple of other flaws like the Barbie-small keyboard (see photo) and high price, but the basics like watching smooth video and loading up Control Panel in a reasonable time were scarily lacking. Vista was weighing heavy on its mind.

What a difference a difficult-to-stomach-but-sensible downgrade makes. Now that the Q1U comes with either Windows XP Tablet 2005 or Vista Premium, I decided to take it for another test drive. With XP the Q1U simply flies along. Video is smooth, web pages load quickly and battery life gets a boost to 4.5 hours according to Samsung.

I even gave the thumboard another try which, whilst not as tactile as a Blackberry or my HTC TyTN, does a reasonable job once you get used to it. It’s definitely usable and the Q1U would be a great tool for applications which require mainly mouse manipulation with some text input, such as presentation building. I still haven’t clicked with Dial Keys though!

With XP this is really a device that Q would be proud of; especially now he can watch Bond without freeze frame explosions!

Neil Berman

Sep 18, 2007 Posted by | Microsoft, Mobile | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nokia 770 Review: Use one tablet daily to help surfing addiction

Unpacking my $129 Nokia 770 last week I wondered if this tablet would cure my need for full-size surfing in a pint-sized package. Out of the box and pint-sized turns out to be an overstatement. Weighing in at super featherweight with a flush-fitting hard case, the 770 is slim and slick. The antenna is strong and the full-page widescreen surfing with finger dragging puts the iPhone’s 2-years-later tech to shame.

So why did this Linux-powered tablet never reach stardom? Perhaps because it is a mobile connectivity device without its own mobile connection. The 770 and its latest and greatest sibling, the 800 are dependent mobile devices. If you’re near a hotspot or your cellphone has Bluetooth DUN you’re fine, otherwise you have a paperweight. Why does this matter? Because for the street price of the 800 you can get a Vista powered laptop with the same wifi connectivity and bags more functionality.

So the concept sits in a similar quandry as the UMPCs: They’re too flawed to be principal purchases and they’re too expensive to be successful discretionary purchases at their relative functionality/price points.

But at $129 including shipping for the 770, well that’s a different proposition. The surfing experience is great, you can view full pages really easily and the battery goes for ages.

A cure for addiction? Almost. Something to replace those old magazines on your coffee table? Definitely.

Click here to read the Nokia N810 review

Neil Berman
(Published from my Nokia 770)

Aug 4, 2007 Posted by | Mobile | , , , , | Leave a comment


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