music to your ears - Here`s How

music to your ears - Here`s How
Tech Trends
What’s in store
for 2012
Vol.11 No.1
Digital Art
David Hockney’s
drawings
Hard Copy
Printing from
your smartphone
Mirrorless Magic
Four compact
cams reviewed
Lifestyle technology made easy
MUSIC TO
YOUR EARS
Our favourite
audiophile
headphones
INSIDE
• gear
• gadgets
• home theatre
• cameras
• audio
• ¾at panel
• wireless
• reviews
YOURS TO KEEP!
DISPLAY UNTIL JULY 10, 2012
www.hereshow.ca
PM40015963
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LM8600
P210
Optimus LTE
Easy To Use
Easy To Connect
Easy To Enjoy
The LG Magic Remote Voice lets you easily
navigate your favourite Smart TV content,
using Motion, Gesture, Scrollwheel, and
Voice Recognition. Universal Search
allows you to search for content across the
entire Smart TV platform by simply using
your voice and the built-in microphone on
the Magic Remote Voice.
With LG’s Smart Share Plus, connecting to
your digital devices has never been easier.
Effortlessly browse through your Photos,
Movies, and Music on your LG Smart
TV from any DLNA compatible device
in your home.
Netflix™ and YouTube™ are just the
beginning. With Canadian content
providers like Cineplex™, The KARAOKE
Channel™, TOU.TV™, and The National
Film Board of Canada™, there is always
something to enjoy on the LG Smart TV.
1
Third party services depicted may be changed, removed, or interrupted, without notice, and LG makes no representation or warranty that
any content or service will remain available for any period of time. Internet connection & subscriptions required and sold separately.
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LM8600
CINEMA GLASSES
Comfortable 3D
Immersive 3D
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Lightweight - Glasses weigh almost half
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We all know the best way to enjoy a 3D
movie is at the Cinema, with its expansive
screen that has no frame. Now, there’s a
TV that brings the same, cinematic viewing
experience to your home, designed with
pure inspiration and technology.
LG’s 3D WORLD provides you with a wealth
of 3D content, including 3D movies, sports,
music videos, educational clips, and even
games!
Battery-Free - Never worry about
recharging your LG Cinema 3D glasses.
Affordable - 4 to 6 LG Cinema 3D
glasses come included and additional
glasses are very affordable.
*2010 LG LED Active 3D TVs
For a small percentage of the population, the viewing of stereoscopic 3D video technology may cause discomfort such as headaches, dizziness or nausea.
If you experience any symptoms, discontinue using the 3D functionality and contact your health care provider.
4 to 6 Cinema 3D glasses provided. Additional Cinema 3D glasses sold separately.
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LG.com
Mobile Friendly
5/7/12 10:04 AM
Editor’s Note
HERE’S HOW!
Lifestyle technology made easy
www.hereshow.ca
PUBLISHER
Bob Grierson
ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER/
EDITORIAL DIRECTOR
John Thomson ext 225
[email protected]
VICE PRESIDENT, SALES
Mary Thomson-Grierson ext 226
[email protected]
NATIONAL SALES MANAGER
Damien Donnelly ext 231
[email protected]
EDITOR
Gordon Brockhouse ext 227
[email protected]
Creative and Connected
p4
With this issue, we welcome a new regular contributor. Based in Toronto, Daniel Baird writes on art, culture
and ideas for Walrus Magazine, Reader’s Digest and Canadian Art. For HERE’S HOW!, Daniel will write pro½les of artists and musicians who use technology in innovative, creative ways.
In this issue, Daniel pro½les the renowned British artist David Hockney. Four years ago, Hockney took to
drawing on an iPhone, and e-mailing his creations to friends around the world. He was 70 years old at the
time.Two years later, Hockney migrated to the iPad.
Last year,Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum hosted Fresh Flowers, an exhibit of Hockney’s iPhone and iPad
drawings.This was the collection’s ½rst showing on this side of the Atlantic.Viewing this wonderful exhibit
was a highlight of my Christmas break.
To preserve the original luminosity of Hockney’s drawings, they were exhibited on iPads and iPod
touches, rather than as printouts.Visitors could also view projected animations of the works being created,
stroke-by-stroke. All these devices were networked and had live e-mail addresses, making it possible for
Hockney to send new drawings if he so wished.The museum didn’t even have Wi-Fi before the exhibit.
Technology vendors continue to offer new ways to share pictures, movies and documents. Nowadays,
just about everything is networked, and has an app to run it. In this issue, you can read about a Nikon
DSLR that lets photographers send photos to an Android smartphone, and control the camera from the
phone.
In “Here’s What’s Hot,” we cover new technology products that will appear in 2012. A common theme is
connectivity. For 2012, almost all HDTVs and audio systems are networked. Users can beam content from
a tablet to a TV, or send video from the TV to the tablet.They can store their photos, videos and music on
Internet cloud services, and access them anywhere, on almost any device, from a smartphone to a largescreen TV. Drivers can get social media updates on their dashboards.
Network connectivity has given rise to a myriad of online video and music options. In “Entertainment
by the Byte,” Gerry Blackwell tries out several of these services. It’s a mixed bag. Network glitches can
sometimes cause freezes. In some cases, the range of content available to Canadian subscribers is limited.
And there are many services that aren’t even available in Canada.
More than any factor, the iPod has inspired a renaissance in headphone listening, not just on the go, but at
home as well. We’ll have headphone review features in every issue during 2012.This issue, in “Music to Your
Ears,” we look at ½ve audiophile headphones designed for home listening.
Interestingly, given the fact that Hockney’s drawings were exhibited on mobile devices, printing options
for smartphones and tablets are fairly limited. As Frank Lenk points out in “Hard Copy,” getting printouts
from a mobile device is more challenging than it should be at this juncture, especially for Android devices.
In “Mirrorless Magic,” you can read reviews by Peter Burian of superb Compact System Cameras from
Fuji½lm, Panasonic, Pentax and Sony.
Also on a photographic note, we’re reviving our popular Photo Opportunity Contest.You’ll ½nd rules
and regulations on page 41, so get out and get shooting.
Enjoy the issue! HH
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ASSISTANT EDITOR
Adam Grant ext 223
[email protected]
CONTRIBUTING EDITORS
Daniel Baird, Gerry Blackwell,
Peter K. Burian,Ted Kritsonis,
Frank Lenk, Deena Waisberg,
Gene Wilburn, Cover Photography
John Thomson
CREATIVE DIRECTOR
Erik Devantier ext 228
[email protected]
OFFICE MANAGER
Jeanette Bottoni ext 221
[email protected]
HERE’S HOW! welcomes letters to
the editor and editorial suggestions.
Please contact [email protected]
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© Copyright 2012. HERE’S HOW! is published
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HERE’S HOW! is the sister publication of
Marketnews Magazine, Canada’s Consumer
Technology Business Journal for thirty years.
Publications mail Registration Number 40015963.
5/7/12 10:04 AM
80” SHARP AQUOS® TV.
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BIG IS TOO SMALL A WORD FOR IT.
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Introducing our largest LED backlit LCD TV yet, featuring built-in Wi-Fi, smart apps, spectacular
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TVs
80” (diagonal) screen size. TV screens shown to scale.
*
Leading big screen market share based on The NPD Group Canada 2011 calendar year sales for TVs with screen size of 60” or greater
©2012 Sharp Electronics Corporation. Sharp, AQUOS, and all related trademarks are trademarks or registered trademarks of Sharp Corporation and/or its affiliated companies.
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Contents
Editor’s Note ...........................................................................................................................................4
Creative and Connected
Short Bits .......................................................................................................................................................8
High-tech news, trends and products.
Here’s What’s Hot ....................................................................................................................14
Technology Trends: Gordon Brockhouse looks at the hottest products for 2012.
These include pencil-thin HDTVs; great-sounding digital audio gear; new tablets
and smartphones; car components that bring social media to the dashboard; and
cameras that blend the best of past and future. Almost everything is networked,
and has an app to run it.
Home Audio Hands-on: Audiophile headphones from AKG, Denon, Grado,
Monster and Sennheiser, reviewed by Gordon Brockhouse.
Contents
Music to Your Ears .....................................................................................................................24
Making Pictures...............................................................................................................................32
Digital Culture: Daniel Baird pro½les British artist David Hockney, whose iPad
and iPhone drawings were exhibited at Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum last fall.
Hard Copy ..................................................................................................................................................38
Personal Technology: By now, printing from mobile devices should be a solved
problem. But as Frank Lenk points out, it’s much more challenging than printing
from a PC.
Put it on Paper.....................................................................................................................................................43
Five printers that work with smartphones and tablets.
Photo Opportunity ...................................................................................................................41
Here’s how to enter our next photo contest.
p6
Mirrorless Magic.............................................................................................................................44
Digital Imaging Hands-on: Peter Burian reviews leading-edge Compact System
Cameras from Fuj½lm, Panasonic, Pentax and Panasonic.
Entertainment by the Byte ......................................................................................52
Network Entertainment: Gerry Blackwell checks out online services that deliver
movies and music to TVs, game consoles, PCs, tablets and smartphones.
Not Available Here ..........................................................................................................................................57
Americans have much more choice when it comes to online entertainment.
Here’s what we’re missing.
Keep Your Cool ................................................................................................................................58
Object of Desire: John Thomson has his eye on an innovative LG fridge that
cools a bottle of wine in eight minutes and a provides quick access to the door
compartments.
About the Cover
When you can buy a set of earbuds for ½ve bucks, why would anyone spend
$500 on a set of audiophile headphones? The answer is simple: the sound.
A good headphone setup can deliver musical experiences as satisfying as a
speaker-based system costing 10 times as much. For reviews on ½ve audiophile
headphones, see “Music to Your Ears” on page 24.
Online Only
You’ll ½nd lots more great technology coverage at www.hereshow.ca.
Hot Hardware
Archived reviews from past issues, plus never-before-published reviews of new
home-theatre, imaging and wireless products. Watch for a review of Olympus’
retro-styled E-M5 Compact System Camera.
Photo Tip of the Week
Every Friday, Peter Burian shares ideas on taking better pictures.
Travel Tech
Every Monday, Gerry Blackwell covers innovative products and services for
travellers.
Adam’s App of the Week
Reviews of mobile apps by Adam Grant.
Plus online columns from Frank Lenk and Ted Kritsonis; the Gadget Talk Blog;
high-tech news as it breaks; and much, much more.
14
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13
32
p7
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26
45
38
52
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Short Bits
llllllllllll The Big Picture
Sharp is the only company offering 70- and 80-inch
TVs, and the company says you don’t need a big
room to enjoy a TV that big.The ideal viewing
distance is 1.5 times the diagonal screen size; this
translates to 10 feet for an 80-inch set.The LC80LE844U is the Sharp’s ½rst 80-inch TV with
Quattron technology, which adds yellow pixels to
the standard red-green-blue mix.This extends the
range of colours the TV can produce, Sharp says:
not just yellows and golds, but Caribbean blues and
greens as well. Other features include a slim-bezel
design, 3D capability, 240Hz video processing to
minimize motion blur, and built-in Wi-Fi. $6,500.
www.sharp.ca
Super Sharp lllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll
p8
Nikon’s new D3200 has a 24.2-megapixel sensor, the highest resolution for an
entry-level consumer DSLR. It’s also the ½rst camera that’s compatible with
Nikon’s WU-1 wireless mobile adapter, which lets users share images and
control the camera from an Android device running Nikon’s free Wireless
Mobile app. In addition to 24.2MP stills, the D3200 can capture Full HD video,
with continuous autofocus. Other features include three-inch 921,000-dot
LCD, jack for an external stereo microphone, and a built-in camera guide.
Available in red or black. $750 with 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 VR image-stabilized lens.
www.nikon.ca
Angry Birds Space was downloaded 50 million times
in the 35 days following its March 22 release.
Rovio
lllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll Watch Your Weight
The Withings Wi-Fi Body Scale measures your lean and fat body mass every time you
weigh yourself, and calculates Body Mass Index. Results are sent via Wi-Fi to a Web
dashboard, which can track up to eight users in a family.You can access the dashboard from
any Web browser, or from an Android or Apple mobile device running the Withings app.
Users can track their results over time, and share them with a doctor or trainer. $160.
www.withings.com/en/bodyscale
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Short Bits
llllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll Run Free!
The Jabra Sport hands-free stereo headset features a behind-the-ear design that keeps the headset
in place while you work out. It comes with a free download of the Endomondo Sport Tracker app for
iOS, Android and BlackBerry devices.The app tracks speed, distance and lap time; and gives updates
of your workout status through your headset. Users can view past running routes on the smartphone’s screen.The Sport can connect wirelessly with any Bluetooth device for music playback and
telephony, and also has a built-in FM radio. Users can answer and end calls, pause and play music,
adjust volume, skip tracks and choose FM stations by touching buttons on the headset. $100.
www.jabra.com
I Scream, lllllllllllllllllll
You Scream
Cuisinart’s Pure Indulgence Frozen Yogurt-Ice Cream & Sorbet
Maker lets you create your favourite frozen desert at home,
using the ingredients and toppings you like best.The unit
makes up to two quarts of ice cream, sorbet or frozen yogurt
in 25 minutes.The double-insulated bowl freezes ingredients
evenly for smooth and creamy results. $75.
www.cuisinart.ca
p9
lllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll Carry it All
Lowepro’s Event Messenger 150 bag can carry a small DSLR or Compact System Camera,
plus extra lenses.There’s also a padded pocket for holding a tablet. On the front, under a
zippered ¾ap, are pockets for a smartphone, memory cards, pen, and camera accessories
like ½lters.The dual-¾ap design lets you secure the bag’s contents with fasteners, or fold the
fasteners under the ¾ap for quick, quiet access to the bag’s contents. $69.
www.lowepro.com/eventmessenger
Every minute
of the day, 60 hours
worth of video is
uploaded to
YouTube.
YouTube
Make a Masterpiece lllllllllllllllllllllll
The Nomad Compose dual-tip stylus is designed for drawing on a tablet with an app like Brushes or Art
Rage. One of the tips works like an artist’s paintbrush; it has bristles made from a blend of natural and
synthetic ½bres. On the other end is a 0.05-inch Glide Bevel Tip, made from the same material.
The Nomad Compose is available in versions with 0.4- or 0.7-inch brush tips. $42.
www.nomadbrush.com
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Short Bits
Mix it Up llllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll
Breville’s BJB840XL Juice and Blend comes with two heads: one for juicing and
the other for blending.You can attach either to the unit’s motorized base.The
juicer is better for processing harder fruits and vegetables, while the blender is
better for softer ones like bananas and berries, and for making smoothies and
soups. $450.
lllllllll
www.breville.ca
p10
Ring Tunes
Swann’s MP3 DJ Doorbell can play your favourite music
whenever someone comes to the door. A push-button
switch that attaches to your door communicates wirelessly
with a battery-operated speaker that can be mounted
on a wall or placed on a shelf. When someone rings the
doorbell, the speaker plays music stored on an SD
memory card.There’s also a USB port. Using supplied
software, you can program the doorbell to play
a speci½c section of a song. $55.
www.swann.com
lllllllllllllll Party Time
Yamaha’s PDX-11 portable sound
system lets you enjoy digital music just
about anywhere.You can connect an
iPod or iPhone to the top-mounted
dock, or connect a portable music player
to the 3.5mm jack. Sound is produced
by a two-way speaker, with four-inch
woofer and 1.4-inch tweeter.The PDX11 will play for eight hours from a set of
six “AA” alkaline batteries; and can also
be powered from AC. Available in black,
dark blue, green and white. $150.
www.yamaha.ca
lllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll Go for a Ride
The LiveRider cycling computer from New Potato Technologies uses a motion
sensor that measures wheel speed and pedal cadence. It communicates this information wirelessly to a dongle that ½ts into the 30-pin connector of an iPhone
or iPod touch, which sits in a supplied handlebar bracket. With the LiveRider app,
riders can view average and maximum speeds, calories burned, distance travelled
and other data.There’s also a Chase Rider function that lets users store their best
rides, and then try to better their performance. $100.
www.newpotatotech.com/LiveRider
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5/7/12 10:04 AM
Remove the boundaries from your
home entertainment experience.
L6200- 3D Smart TV Series
42”, 47“, 55” sizes available
EXCITE 10 LE - Tablet
The Toshiba L6200U series takes your home entertainment outside the edges of your
screen. This latest Passive 3D TV features a thin bezel Aero Design™, enabling out of this
world 3D entertainment to blend in with your surroundings. Equipped with the new
TRAC interactivity for Android™ powered tablets and smartphones, a simple to use
Media Guide that transcends online and traditional content providers. Being out of
bounds has never been so exciting or so easy.
facebook.com/toshibaca
twitter.com/toshibacanada
toshiba.ca
*Not all services are available in all geographical locations. Additional subscription/bandwidth changes may apply.
The simulation presented is only provided to exemplify the nature of the features offered by Toshiba 3D LED TV. The actual impact of the 3D technologies on a particular image will vary.
Toshiba has made every effort at the time of publication to ensure the accuracy of the information provided herein but cannot be responsible for typography photography or other errors. © 2012 Toshiba of Canada Limited.
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Short Bits
Perfect Cube lllllllllllllllllllllllllllll
LG’s ND8520 speaker dock looks like a black-and-grey Rubik’s Cube. Its topmounted dock can accept an iPod, iPhone and even an iPad.You can also use AirPlay to stream music wirelessly to the ND8520 from an iOS device or an iTunes
library on a Mac or PC. Sound is produced by side-mounted stereo speakers and
a downward-½ring woofer. $350.
www.lg.ca.
At the end of 2011, the number of Canadian households subscribing
to a digital TV service surpassed 10 million for the ½rst time ever.
Boon Dog Professional Services
lllllllllllllllllllllllll Beat the Traffic
Kenwood’s DNX6990HD in-dash navigation/entertainment system has built-in
NAVTEQ Traf½c.The system provides free real-time traf½c updates for 90
North American cities and surrounding areas, including Quebec, Montreal, Ottawa,Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver. If there’s an accident, construction work or traf½c jam on your route, the system will let you know and suggest
alternatives.The Garmin navigation system suggests routes based on historical
traf½c data and your driving patterns.Turn-by-turn instructions are complemented by Lane Assist and Junction View on the 6.1-inch screen. Users can play
music from iPod or iPhone, while displaying album art on the screen, from a
USB drive, or from a wireless device via Bluetooth.The built-in Bluetooth handsfree speakerphone, supplied by Parrot, supports voice dialing and phonebook
transfer.The unit has a back-up camera input; and an optional interface for using
the volume and radio controls on your steering wheel is also available. Ampli½er
power is rated at 4x50 watts. $1,200.
p12
www.kenwood.ca
Music For You lllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll
PSB is a Canadian speaker brand with an international reputation. Now the company has introduced its ½rst headphones: the M4U
(Music For You).The design goal was to deliver an experience comparable to high-quality loudspeakers in a good listening room, says
Paul Barton, PSB’s chief engineer. When you’re travelling or commuting, you can use the M4U in noise-cancelling mode to counteract
ambient noise. Unlike many noise-cancelling ’phones, the M4U will play music when the batteries run out. Just switch it to passive
mode, and it works like a conventional headphone.There’s also an active mode,
which engages the built-in ampli½er, but does not apply noise cancellation.
The headphones fold together for transporting in the supplied travel case.
HERE’S HOW! will have a review of the M4U and four other noise-cancelling
headphones in our next issue. $400.
www.psbspeakers.com
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Air Guitar
lllllllllllllllll
Short Bits
With its faux-wood front panel, setting stand and rotary volume knob, Panasonic’s SCGT07 compact sound system simulates the look of a classic electric guitar.The SC-GT07
features AirPlay technology, so it can play music streamed from an Apple device or iTunes
library over a home network. Between the stereo bamboo speakers is an iPod/iPhone
dock that pulls digital sound off the player.The player can be rotated to horizontal con½guration for video playback. $200.
p13
Tablet ownership in North American and Europe will increase by 200% over
the next two years. Global tablet sales will reach 232 million units by 2016.
Futuresource Computing
llllllllll
www.panasonic.ca
Go Deep
llllllll
Toshiba’s L6200 LED-illuminated LCD HDTVs feature passive
Real 3D technology.To watch 3D content, viewers wear inexpensive polarizing glasses instead of battery-operated active-shutter
LCD glasses.The new TVs feature a slim-bezel design, and have
built-in Wi-Fi, so viewers can access IPTV services like Net¾ix,
YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.The MediaGuide feature lets you
search for your favourite shows, while MediaShare lets you stream
video, photos and music to the TV from other devices on your
home network.There’s also a free app that for controlling the
television from a smartphone or tablet. Available in 42-, 47- and
55-inch versions for $1,200, $1,400 and $1,800 respectively.
www.toshiba.ca
Power Play
Not only is Pioneer’s Elite SC-68 9.2-channel AV receiver well connected, it’s energy-ef½cient. Rated at 9x140 watts, the THX Ultra 2-certi½ed receiver employs
Pioneer’s Digital Class D(3) ampli½cation, which uses 44% less power than the ampli½ers in last year’s SC-series receivers.The SC-68 can serve as the hub of a wholehouse entertainment system, sending audio and video to many as four independent zones. Its front-panel USB port will play songs from an attached iPhone, iPad or
iPod while showing cover art on your TV screen. On the back is a USB port connected to a 192kHz/32-bit asynchronous digital-to-analog converter, for ultra-highresolution playback of digital music ½les from a PC or Mac.The SC-68 also supports AirPlay, and you can control the receiver using Pioneer’s iControlAV2012 app for
Android devices, iPhone and iPad. Other network-entertainment features include vTuner Internet radio and DLNA 1.5 certi½cation, so you can stream content from
a Windows 7 PC or Android smartphone. Available in July for $2,499.
www.pioneerelectronics.ca
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Technology Trends
p14
Here’s What’s Hot
2012’s top technology trends
by Gordon Brockhouse
The technology world never stands still; and it won’t
in 2012.The ½rst few months have already had lots
of big announcements: Apple’s new iPad, with its
gorgeous Retina display; new AirPlay receivers from
Denon, Pioneer and Yamaha; super-thin OLED TVs; a
huge array of Internet-connected TVs; ultrabook PCs,
new tablets, fancy appliances, and all kinds of camera
gear. Everything is networked, and almost everything
has an app to run it.
New TV Technologies
LCD televisions (including LED-illuminated models)
are now the dominant display technology, but plasma
remains important, especially among movie-loving
HH50.indd 14
videophiles. During 2012, we’ll see the introduction
of another TV technology: OLED (organic lightemitting diode).
OLED displays are self-emitting. Each pixel contains an organic (carbon-based) material that emits
light when an electrical signal is applied.The bene½ts
of OLED include completely deep blacks (no light at
all is emitted from black pixels); much faster response
time than LCD; and incredibly thin design (because
there’s no backlight). But there are questions about
consistency of colour over time.
Small OLED displays are used in cell phones and
digital cameras; but other than an 11-inch model that
Sony sold from 2004 to 2007, OLED technology has
not been used for TVs. At the Consumer Electronics
Show in Las Vegas in January, Samsung and LG both
showed 55-inch OLED TVs..
Samsung’s OLED TV has separate red, green and
blue diodes for each pixel; consequently, no colour
½lter is needed.The OLED TVs at Samsung’s CES
exhibit looked stunning, with fabulous colour, detail
and depth.The product is drop-dead gorgeous when
it’s off as well. It weighs 12kg, and is 7.6mm deep.
No word yet on pricing, but it should be available in
Canada by early summer.
The same superlatives apply to LG’s OLED TV,
which uses a white OLED light source coupled to an
RGB colour ½lter. Frank Lee, Senior Manager, Public
Affairs and Corporate Sponsorship at LG Electronics
Canada Inc., says this approach makes LG’s OLED
television “really ef½cient to manufacture.” Internet
buzz speculated that LG’s 55” OLED TV would
5/7/12 10:04 AM
Technology Trends
retail for $8,000 to $9,000. “The bulk of prices being
quoted online are incorrect,” Lee told HERE’S HOW!.
“There is not going to be sticker shock.” As to availability, “We’re looking at mid-year.”
The big Japanese TV makers aren’t standing still.
Back in January Sony showed a prototype 55”
Crystal LED television, whose picture is made up of
six million ultra-½ne LEDs.The operating principle is
similar to OLED, except that the LEDs are inorganic
(non-carbon-based), which could result in improved
stability. Again, the picture looked amazing, with deep
blacks, wonderful colour and amazing detail even in
fast-moving subjects. No word at all on availability;
Sony made it clear that this is a prototype.
Bigger, Sharper TVs
Last spring, Sharp Electronics launched a 70-inch TV,
then the largest LCD on the market, and followed
up with an 80-incher in the fall. Sharp has broadened
its 80-inch lineup for 2012, including a new Quattron
model. Sharp’s Quattron TVs add yellow pixels to
the standard red-green-blue (RGB) mix.This expands
the range of colours the TV can produce, and also
increases picture brightness.
Other TV makers are introducing bigger screens.
Samsung will offer a 75-inch model in its premium
E8000 series. LG will introduce an 84-inch “ultrade½nition”TV in late 2012, with 4K2K resolution.
That’s 3,840x2,160 pixels, four times as many as on a
standard HD set.The rationale is that higher resolution is needed on larger screens. Sharp and Toshiba
also demonstrated 4K2K displays at CES.
Sharp’s 4K2K TV uses proprietary ICC (Integrated
Cognitive Creation) processing to upconvert HD
video to 4K2K. Even from 10 feet, the advantages
At CES, Sony showed a prototype 55-inch Crystal LED television, whose picture is made up of six million
ultra-fine LEDs.The picture looked amazing, with deep blacks, wonderful colour and amazing detail
even in fast-moving subjects.
over a standard HD set of the same size were quite
obvious, though not night-and-day.There was more
texture, better gradation of tones and colours, and
a greater sense of depth. I had exactly the same
impression in a side-by-side comparison of HD and
4K2K televisions at the Toshiba exhibit.
TV resolution doesn’t stop at 4K2K. Sharp also
showed an 85-inch 8K LCD panel running native
8K content shot in Japan with an 8K camera.The
TV’s (and camera’s) resolution of 7,680x4,320 pixels
translates into an astonishing 33 megapixels, for
LG Canada plans to bring its ultra-thin 55-inch OLED TV to market around mid-year. “There is not going
to be sticker shock,” promises company spokesperson Frank Lee.
HH50.indd 15
pictures that look absolutely ½lm-like.This was strictly
a technological demonstration.
Prettier – On and Off p15
Interesting as OLED and 4K2K are, LCD and plasma
will remain the displays of choice for a long time to
come.TV makers continue to re½ne their LCD and
plasma designs.
Samsung’s ¾agship E8000 (8-series) LED-edgelit
LCDs have incredibly thin bezels, and new microdimming processing that divides the screen into
4,608 quadrants, then dynamically adjusts brightness,
contrast and sharpness separately for each. Light
output of the edge-mounted LEDs is also controlled
dynamically and independently to suit picture content.
LG’s top-of-the-line L9600 LCDs for 2012 will
have bezels that are a mere 1mm wide; and the TVs
are 28mm deep – just over an inch.Yet these are
full-array backlit designs with local dimming.This is
achieved through Nano LED technology, in which
the LEDs are embedded into a custom-developed
½lm in the panel itself.
Sharp’s top-of-the-line 9-series Aquos LCDs for
2012 will incorporate technology from the company’s Elite-branded TVs, launched late last year to
wide acclaim. Available in 60-, 70- and 80-inch sizes,
they’re full-array LED-backlit models with micro dimming and HDR (High Dynamic Range) processing.
HDR operates in the same way as the very effective
Intelligent Variable Contrast (IVC) feature on the
Elite televisions.
Plasma is evolving too. In 2011, Panasonic’s VT30
and GT30 series plasmas received wide critical acclaim.
On this year’s VT50 plasmas, 2500 Focus Field Drive
divides each frame into 1/2500-second sub½elds.
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Technology Trends
LG’s top-of-the-line LCDs for 2012 will have bezels that are a mere 1mm wide; and the TVs are 28mm
deep – just over an inch.Yet these are full-array backlit designs with local dimming.
p16
Along with new phosphors and new drive technology, this improves 3D performance and resolution of
moving objects. Light output has been increased by 50
per cent, and black performance has been markedly
improved, as has immunity to screen re¾ections.
that make for good 3D imagery, such as fast panel
response, also improve the 2D experience. But
here’s an additional twist: two-person videogames
in which the players each see a different image. LG
is offering this capability on its Cinema 3D TVs for
2012. When playing a two-person console game,
viewers put the TV into 3D mode, and use the TV’s
menus to select the formatting used by the game
(side-by-side or top-and-bottom). Special gaming
glasses available from LG have identical lenses over
the left and right eyes.The glasses for Player 1 block
out the image for Player 2, and vice-versa. Instead
of a split screen showing truncated versions of
the screens for both players, the two players see
a full-screen image for their character.They cannot
see their opponent’s character, thus preserving the
element of surprise. I’ve seen this capability demonstrated with Call of Duty: Black Ops on an Xbox 360.
It worked perfectly.
Panasonic made a major 3D content announcement earlier this year. NBC will carry 200 hours of
the 2012 Summer Olympics in 3D. Coverage will
include the opening and closing ceremonies, as well
as marquee events. Unfortunately, Canada’s Olympic
Broadcast Media Consortium (co-owned by Bell and
Rogers) has declined to pick up the 3D coverage. If
NBC af½liates in border cities broadcast 3D Olympic
coverage on digital subchannels., Canadian viewers
close to the border might be able to see this content. But it’s unlikely that Canadian cable and satellite
service would carry these subchannels, so viewers
would have to receive them over the air.
The Third Dimension
While 3D hasn’t been the runaway success that
TV manufacturers hoped it would be, it certainly
has appeal. And it still has box-of½ce cachet: witness
the ½ve Academy Awards for Martin Scorsese’s 3D
fantasy Hugo.
3D HDTV technology continues to improve.
Some of the improvements are incremental, as
in active-shutter glasses getting lighter and more
comfortable. Introduced last year, LG’s Cinema 3D
televisions use light, inexpensive polarizing glasses.
Another possible (and welcome) development for
eyeglass wearers like me: clip-ons!.
Of course, the holy grail of 3D is glasses-free viewing.Toshiba already has glasses-free 3D notebooks,
and has demonstrated full-blown 3D HDTVs.The
company says it will ship glasses-free 47- and 55-inch
4K2K displays this year. In demonstrations of the
technology, I haven’t found the 3D effects as compelling as sets that use glasses (active or passive).
Sony says it will introduce a glasses-free 3D VAIO
notebook that uses face-tracking to converge the 3D
image for the viewer “some time this year.” At CES
2012, Sony also showed two prototype glasses-free
3D televisions: a 24-inch HD model and a 46-inch
4K2K screen.These have evolved beyond the glassesfree prototypes Sony showed at a year earlier, with a
broader sweet spot and less rolling of the 3D image.
As many have pointed out, many of the features
HH50.indd 16
Samsung’s flagship E8000 LED TVs have incredibly thin bezels, and new micro-dimming processing that
divides the screen into 4,608 quadrants, and dynamically adjusts brightness, contrast and sharpness
separately for each.
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Technology Trends
Smarter TVs
More and more TVs have network connections so
they can watch Net¾ix movies and YouTube videos
on their big-screen TVs, or get Facebook and Twitter
updates. Manufacturers continue to beef up their
IPTV (Internet television) features. Central to all
companies’TV strategies is integration with other
devices, notably smartphones and tablets.
This year, 90 per cent of Panasonic’s TV models
have network capability, and some models now
have Web-browsing. And 2012 models will feature
Web Smoother processing, to reduce blur on video
obtained over the Web.
Panasonic is also adding to its suite of services.To
features like Facebook,YouTube and Twitter, it’s adding
Flixster video-on-demand (not available in Canada)
and Myspace TV. Myspace buddies can watch the
same show and share comments in realtime. “Now
we no longer have to crowd around the same TV
to experience it together,” said Myspace Co-owner
Justin Timberlake during his appearance at Panasonic’s
CES press conference. It will be interesting to see
what kind of adoption this gets. Given the fragmentation of TV audiences, I think it’s a pretty big stretch.
One very appealing feature is the ability to carry
on a Skype video call in one window, while watching
video in another. In the past, Panasonic’s Skype app
ran full-screen.
Panasonic is launching Android and Apple iOS
apps that let users control 2012 Viera televisions
from a smartphone or tablet.They can even use
their device to enter text into a browser or app.
Users will also be able to beam videos and photos
to their television from an Apple or Android device;
and go in the opposite direction, sending video over
a home network to a tablet.
Online content is central to Sony’s strategy for
2012.The Sony Entertainment Network (SEN) will
be available not just on Sony TVs, but Blu-ray players,
PlayStation 3 consoles, tablets, Android phones and
from a Web browser.Video Unlimited, one of the
SEN services, is already available in Canada (see
“Entertainment by the Byte,” in this issue). Sony’s
2012 TVs will have a dedicated SEN button for onekey access to Sony’s Entertainment Network (there’s
also a Net¾ix button).
LG’s Smart TV software has received a major
facelift; browsing capability (with support for HTML
5 and Flash 10) is offered in about half the line.The
interface is less cluttered and response is faster than
last year. Users can now search for video content
across services, such as Net¾ix,YouTube and cable
TV, without having to use the browser.
LG also has iOS and Android apps, allowing the TV
to be controlled from a tablet or smartphone. Not
only can viewers transmit content like photos to the
TV from a mobile device, they can shift playback of
TV programming from the TV to a tablet.
HH50.indd 17
Samsung’s 8000 series of Plasma TVs for 2012 feature an enhanced Smart TV platform, which allows
users to use voice and gestures.
Samsung has also beefed up its Smart TV interface.
For 2012, premium televisions have a dual-core
processor, which allows multiple apps to be open
simultaneously. For example, a viewer could be
watching a Net¾ix movie, go to the browser, and
then resume the movie without having to relaunch
Net¾ix. Uniquely, 2012 models will have slot on the
back to support new features and performance
enhancements by upgrading the processor.
Samsung continues to court developers and add
Smart TV apps to its Smart TV suite.These include a
½tness app that syncs to a wireless scale and smartphones, children’s educational content, and Angry
Birds animated shorts.
In the 2011 iteration of Smart TV, Samsung’s All
Share feature enabled users to pull content from
DLNA devices connected to the same home network as the TV.This year, All Share Play extends that
capability beyond the local network. Users can pull
content from a PC on the Internet on which they’ve
installed All Share Play software. In addition, purchasers of Samsung Smart TVs receive an account to the
Sugar Sync cloud service, complete with 5GB of free
storage space; and the TVs will apps that let them
pull content from their Sugar Sync accounts.
Samsung is also launching an Android app called
Browser Share, which lets users send Web pages
from a mobile device to the TV screen.They can use
the smartphone as a mouse substitute, pointing it
at the area of the screen they want to select, and as
a keyboard. Browser Share is compatible with any
Samsung Smart TV.
All models in Sharp’s 2012 Aquos lineup have builtin Wi-Fi. In 2012, Sharp will launch a revamped suite
of IPTV features called SmartCentral. Services include
Net¾ix, CinemaNow,YouTube, Skype, Facebook and
Hulu Plus (the last service isn’t available in Canada).
Up to four family members will be able to customize their SmartCentral screen, so that the functions
they use most are front-and-centre after they log in.
All models will support Beamzit, a free app for iOS
and Android that lets users beam photos, music and
video to the TV from a smartphone or tablet.
p17
Body Language
Since Steve Jobs’ death last fall, there has been widespread speculation that Apple would get into the TV
market.The expectation was that an Apple television
would have a completely new interface, built around
voice and gestures, with some intelligence along
the lines of the Siri feature on the iPhone 4S.The
speculation has gathered momentum earlier this
year, fueled by news that Apple has met with Bell
and Rogers to discuss content for a purported “iTV.”
Also driving Apple TV rumours was the purchase by
Foxconn, a major Apple supplier, of a 46.5 per cent
stake in Sharp’s LCD factory in Sakai, Japan.
Whether and whenever Apple gets into the TV
business, it won’t be the ½rst company to support
voice and gesture control.
Premium Samsung TVs for 2012 have built-in cameras that can be used for Skype video calling, but also
for gesture and voice control.Viewers can wave their
hands to navigate through Smart TV menus, then
clench their ½sts to launch an app. And they can use
voice commands to turn the TV on and off, or enter
the Smart TV menu.The TVs use face recognition to
log in individual family members, so that the Smart
Hub home page is customized for that person. Samsung says it will provide APIs (application program
5/8/12 12:00 PM
Technology Trends
Toshiba, which has also demonstrated voice and
gesture control, says these features aren’t ready for
prime time. It will wait until they’re more robust
before launching them.
Android’s Arrived
Like previous Toshiba tablets, the ultra-slim Excite
X10 excels in connectivity. In addition to a micro
USB connector, it has a micro HDMI port for
connecting to an HDTV, as well as a micro SD
memory-card slot.
p18
interfaces) to developers targeting its Smart TV
platform, so that they can exploit voice and gesture.
LG has also developed TVs with voice and gesture
input. Gestures are detected by a camera on top of
the TV. Users will be able to swipe through menu
pages or launch apps with hand gestures.They’ll also
be able to use a microphone in LG’s new Magic
Remote S for entering text, such as search terms.
Like the current Magic Remote, the Magic Remote S
also allows free-form movement and navigation on
LG’s Smart TV suite, much like a mouse or trackpad
on a computer.
Sony is adding voice and gesture to its Google TV
offering. For 2012, some Sony TVs will come with a
touchscreen remote that has a QWERTY keyboard
for entering text, a microphone for conducting voice
searches, and three-axis control for navigation.
With their voice and gesture support, have
established TV manufacturers ½red an pre-emptive
shot across Apple’s bow? This is a pretty sophisticated function, and the track records of TV makers
with software-driven user interfaces have been
mixed. Will gesture and voice make it easier to use
IPTV features, or will viewers ½nd these methods of
control frustrating? Will these features be widely supported, or will they work on only a few apps? Early
signs are mixed.
Samsung demonstrated voice and gesture control
on its 2012 E8000 plasma TV at its Toronto dealer
show in March. Gesture controls seemed to work
well, but voice was less reliable.There were many
occasions when the presenter had to repeat commands before the TV responded.
LG says it will not implement gesture control
on the TVs it is selling in Canada during 2012. It is
implementing voice, but only for some functions, like
conducting Web searches through Bing or looking
for ½les on the local network via DLNA. But voice
can’t be used inside applications, for example searching for a YouTube video. Nor can it be used for TV
operations, like adjusting volume.
HH50.indd 18
With its 5.3-inch Super AMOLED high-definition
screen, the Samsung Galaxy Note bridges the
divide between tablets and smartphones.
Support for Android devices not just in TVs, but in
other products as well, con½rms the arrival of Android as a serious alternative to Apple devices.This
year, there’s a deluge of Android devices, both tablets
and smartphones.
The big news on the Android front is “Ice Cream
Sandwich” (ICS),Version 4 of Google’s Mobile OS.
Ice Cream Sandwich is a uni½ed operating system
for Android smartphones and tablets.This makes it
easier for developers to create apps for both classes
of devices, and it gives users a more consistent
experience on tablets and smartphones.
Toshiba’s new Excite X10 tablet runs Ice Cream
Sandwich out of the box. Available in 16GB and
32GB versions for $550 and $600 respectively,
the Excite X10 has a 10.1-inch screen swathed in
Corning Gorilla Glass. Like previous Toshiba tablets,
the X10 excels in connectivity. In addition to a micro
USB connector, it has a micro HDMI port for connecting to an HDTV, as well as a micro SD memorycard slot. It’s more powerful and de½nitely prettier
than past models, sporting an ultra-slim aluminumand-glass design.
The big story about Acer’s Iconia Tab A200 is
price. By leaving out frills like a rear-facing camera
(how many people take photos with a tablet?), Acer
shaved the price down to $350.That’s for a 16GB
model with 10.1-inch screen. It will ship with Android
3.2 Honeycomb, but Acer says a free upgrade to Ice
Cream Sandwich will be available shortly.
Lenovo offers a neat accessory for its IdeaTab
S2: a keyboard dock that integrates tightly into the
Pioneer’s App Radio 2 lets users receive Facebook and Twitter updates through their car speakers, and control
select navigation, traffic-information and music-streaming apps running on Apple and Android smartphones.
5/7/12 10:04 AM
Technology Trends
Kenwood’s Music Control app lets users browse and play music files on Apple and Android devices connected to its latest CD/receivers, such as the KDC-BT952HD.
10.1-inch tablet, making it fee like an ultra-portable
notebook.The keyboard dock has its own battery,
which combined with the tablet’s battery allows for
20 hours of runtime per charge.
One of the most interesting new Android
phones is Samsung’s Galaxy Note. With its 5.3-inch
Super AMOLED high-de½nition screen, the Note
bridges the divide between tablets and smartphones. Many people will ½nd the Galaxy Note
a bit big for voice (unless they’re using it with a
hands-free headset); but the extra screen real
estate is welcome for video and Web-sur½ng – and
for drawing. The Galaxy Note comes with a digital
stylus and a couple of sketching apps.
New Android products notwithstanding, Apple
continues to dominate the tablet space.The New
iPad, launched in early March, will surely cement
its lead.The standout feature is the high-resolution
Retina display. Shortly after the launch, we published
reviews of the New iPad on our Website.
Mobile Apps
The growing number of Android devices is driving a
growth in Android apps. As noted in the Smart TV
section above,TV manufacturers are adding features
that let Android devices stream content to their
televisions.
We’re seeing the same in automotive products.
Arriving in April for $499, Pioneer’s App Radio 2 lets
users receive Facebook and Twitter updates through
their car speakers, and control select navigation,
traf½c-information and music-streaming apps.These
features require the use of the free App Radio 2 app
running on a mobile device connected to the radio.
The ½rst-generation App Radio worked with Apple
iOS devices; this year iOS and Android are both
supported. Similar features are available on two new
in-dash navigation systems from Pioneer.
Kenwood has launched an Android version of its
Kenwood Music Control app, which lets users browse
and play music ½les on a mobile device connected to
its latest CD/receivers. An Apple iOS version of the
app is already available.
HH50.indd 19
In the automotive space, applications go beyond
entertainment. Escort has Android and Apple iOS
apps that work with its SmartCord Live radar/laser
detectors, to map the location of speed traps and
safety alerts.
With the momentum that Android is generating
in the smartphone market, we can expect this trend
to continue throughout the year. Over the past few
years, all kinds of manufacturers have developed
apps that work with their products, either for sending information to an iPhone or iPad, or allowing
control from the device.You can bet
these manufacturers are working on
Android apps.
Walkman Z is an Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) media
player, featuring Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity,
micro HDMI output and 4.3-inch LCD touchscreen.
It’s now available in Canada: $300 for a 16GB model,
and $350 for the 32GB version. What does the
Walkman Z have going for it in a market dominated
by Apple? “It’s the Android-ness,” responded Sony of
Canada spokesperson Brent de Waal to my query.
Sony is moving on another front as well. It has just
launched Music Unlimited, its all-you-can-eat music
subscription service, in Canada.The service works
on a variety of devices, including the Walkman Z,
Sony Tablet S, Bravia HDTVs, PlayStation 3 console,
Android phones and PCs (iPhone support is in the
works, Sony says).
But given Apple’s long history and huge market
lead in digital music, the vast majority of third-party
music products are designed for Apple devices.
Klipsch has announced two really unusual digital
music systems. Due to ship late this year or in early
2013, the Klipsch Console looks like the one-piece
stereos that dominated living rooms in the 1960s
and early ’70s.The Console, which will be handbuilt in Hope, Ark., has 1,200 watts of ampli½cation
powering dual 10-inch woofers and horn-loaded
p19
Digital Music
One market where Apple retains
a massive lead is in digital music.
Is that lead unassailable? Android
smartphones are outselling
Apple iPhones in North America;
and surely many owners of those
devices want an easy way to purchase and listen to music.
Sony’s Walkman was the iconic portable
music player long before the iPod; and now Sony is
resurrecting its Walkman sub-brand yet again.The
Looking like a downsized and funked-up publicaddress speaker system, the Klipsch Stadium
features AirPlay.
In addition to an iPhone/iPod dock, Samsung’s beautiful
DA-E750 music system has a dock for Samsung Galaxy devices.
The high-gloss wood cabinet houses stereo two-way speakers,
and a hybrid tube/solid-state amplifier.
5/7/12 10:04 AM
Visit yamaha.ca for details.
HH50.indd 20
5/7/12 10:04 AM
Professional control over the soundscape.
Yamaha has long been dedicated to helping
artists excite and move people through live and
recorded performances. Now we’ve used this
experience and technological expertise to create
the very finest AV receivers, which can create the
highest quality surround sound fields.
HH50.indd 21
5/7/12 10:05 AM
Technology Trends
three companies offer apps that let users control the
receiver using a mobile device. Pioneer and Yamaha
both have full-screen tablet versions of their control
apps.These offer extra features, and also make some
functions, like Internet radio, easier to use.
Hot Headphones
p22
Rapper Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson has introduced a line of headphones under the SMS brand. Jackson is
owner and CEO of the company.
tweeters; plus HDMI and USB connectivity, and AirPlay. According to Klipsch, the Console can produce
120dB, about the same as a live rock concert.
The Klipsch Stadium looks like a downsized
and funked-up rock-concert speaker. Featuring
built-in support for Apple’s AirPlay technology, the Stadium has one-inch horn-loaded
tweeters and three-inch horn-loaded
midrange drivers on either side,
matched to internal 5.25-inch woofers.
It will be available later this year for
$1,499.
Samsung’s gorgeous DA-E750
music system straddles the iOS
and Android worlds. It has an
iPhone/iPod dock, but also
a dock for Samsung Galaxy
devices.The high-gloss wood
cabinet houses stereo two-way
speakers, with a woofer and
dome tweeter on either side,
and an ampli½er with a vacuum tube.
The tube adds to the retro looks, though
I’m not sure what its role is (I assume it’s
in the preamp stage). Docking isn’t the
only form of connectivity.The DA-E750 has a USB
input; Bluetooth for receiving sound wirelessly from
smartphones and tablets; and AllPlay and AllShare for
receiving content from DLNA-compliant
devices like Windows 7 PCs over a
home network.The DA-E750 will
arrive in Canada in May or June;
tentative retail price is $699.
Apple has cemented a
place in the home theatre as
well. Except for entry-level
models, all the 2012
AV receivers from
Denon, Pioneer
and Yamaha have
AirPlay capability, and a lot of
other networking features
as well.These
include Internet
radio and DLNA certi½cation; the latter allows users
to stream content from DLNA devices like
Android smartphones and Windows 7 PCs. All
The new Sennsheiser HD 700 headphones incorporate technology from the company’s flagship model, the
HD 800, including angled drivers that broaden the soundstage and vented magnets to cut distortion.
HH50.indd 22
For many listeners, digital music means headphones.
Celebrity tie-ins are big part of this business, with
endorsements coming from Dr. Dre, Lou Reed,
Ludacris, Nick Cannon and others.
Award-winning rapper Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson
actually owns a headphone company: SMS Audio.
Jackson is the company’s owner, CEO and face. At
the top of the SMS line is the wireless Sync by 50
over-the-ear headphones.These use Kleer wireless
technology to send music from a wireless transmitter that connects to the headphone output of your
music player. It has speci½ed range of 50 feet, and can
sync up to four users from one source.The Sync will
retail for about $400.
Among audiophiles, one of the most anticipated
new headphones is Sennheiser’s HD 700. Like the
Sennheiser’s ¾agship HD 800, the HD 700 is an
open circumaural design, with ear cups that direct
sound to the ear from a slight forward angle, thus
providing a larger soundstage and delivering more
of an “outside-the-head” experience. Holes in the
transducer’s magnet reduce backward air pressure
on the diaphragm, drastically reducing distortion. As
with the HD 800, the transducer on the HD 700
is mounted in a stainless steel gauze, whose shape
enhances control of the diaphragm’s motion. Expect
to pay about a grand for these high-end ’phones.
Sony has introduced a broad new range of in-ear
’phones for 2012.The most intriguing is the XBANC85D, billed as “the world’s smallest and lightest
Lenovo’s IdeaPad Yoga is a thin and light notebook
that turns a full 360 degrees to become a tablet.
It’s a prototype right now, but may foreshadow
what’s to come when Windows 8 launches later
this year.
5/7/12 10:05 AM
Technology Trends
turns a full 360 degrees to become
a tablet. Only a prototype right now,
the Yoga is thin and light enough to
be an ultrabook, but a little big and
heavy to be a tablet. Final specs won’t
be revealed until Microsoft lifts the curtain on Windows 8. As for a price point,
Lenovo would only say that it’s aiming in
the ballpark of $1,200.
Creative
Cameras
The top and palmrest of HP’s Envy 14 Spectre
ultrabook category are both covered with a layer
of Gorilla Glass, creating a very elegant look.
digital noise-cancelling headphones.”There’s no external box; the battery and processor are built right into
the in-ear element. Sony rates battery life at 20 hours
per charge, and says the phone’s DSP cuts ambient
noise by 97.5 per cent.They retail for $500.
Ultrabooks
Given the tablet craze, it might be tempting to write
off notebooks. In fact, super-slim notebook PCs, or
ultrabooks, are being introduced by many companies.
Dell,Toshiba and Acer all offer ultrabook models
18mm or less in thickness.
One standout is Samsung’s gorgeous Series 9
notebooks.Their single-shell aluminum bodies are
only half an inch thick, and have sandblasted ½nishes
to resist ½ngerprints.The 13.3- and 15-inch models
both have 1600x900-pixel matte displays.
HP’s Envy 14 Spectre ($1,400) is another interesting take on the ultrabook category, primarily because
the top and palmrest are both covered with a layer
of Gorilla Glass.This adds weight, but also creates a
very elegant look.
Lenovo’s Yoga may foreshadow what’s to come
when Windows 8 launches later this year.The 13.3inch IdeaPad Yoga is a thin and light notebook that
The most interesting developments in the digital
photography space are in mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras, also a big category last year.
Fuji½lm’s X-Pro1, with large APS-C 16-megapixel
sensor and unique hybrid/optical view½nder, features
gorgeous range½nder-like retro styling.You can read
a full review of the X-Pro1 in this issue.There are
currently three lenses for the X-Pro1: the 18mm
f/2 R wide-angle lens, 35mm f/1.4 R lens and 60mm
f/2.4 R Macro lens. Coming later this year is a 14mm
super-wide-angle and 18-72mm f/4 standard zoom.
On the roadmap for 2013 are a 28mm f/2.8 pancake lens, 23mm f/2 wide-angle, 70-200mm f/4 OIS
telephoto zoom and 12-24mm f/4 wide-angle zoom.
Olympus is taking its own trip down memory
lane with the OM-D series of Micro Four Thirds
cameras.These are modeled on the OM 35mm
SLRs from the 1970s and ’80s. Olympus’ 35mm
SLRs were unusually compact, and so is the E-M5,
the ½rst model in the OM-D series. Under the hood,
it’s all 21st century.The E-M5 has a 16MP CMOS
sensor, 1.44-million-pixel electronic view½nder, tilting
three-inch AMOLED touchscreen, weather-sealed
construction, and ½ve-axis sensor-shift image-stabilization system. It’s said to have faster autofocus than
any camera in its class, and can capture full-resolution
images at a blazing 9.2 frames per second.The E-M5
is just starting to ship in Canada: $1,000 for the body,
or $1,300 with a weather-sealed 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3
zoom lens. We have just obtained a sample, and will
have a full review on our Website by the time you
Olympus’ E-M5 features styling reminiscent of the
company’s 35mm SLRs from the 1970s and ’80s.
It has ultra-fast autofocus, weatherproof construction, tilting AMOLED screen and high-resolution
electronic viewfinder.
read this.
Pentax is taking the opposite direction cosmetically with its new K-01 mirrorless camera.The design
by the eclectic Australian industrial designer Marc
Newson has been described as “one part MoMA
exhibit, one part toy camera and two parts Ikea.”
The black-and-yellow version in particular looks very
radical. But in one very important aspect, the K-01
looks back to the past. It’s the ½rst mirrorless camera
to use an existing SLR lens mount; it will accept “25
million K-mount lenses spanning decades.”You can
read a full review in this issue.
Canon remains the only big camera maker without a mirrorless interchangeable-lens system. But its
new PowerShot G1 X has a large 1.5-inch 14.3MP
sensor. With its large pixels, the sensor has excellent
light-gathering capability, and hence excellent lowlight performance, which is an important bene½t of
DSLRs and mirrorless cameras.The PowerShot G1
X also features a 4x zoom lens (28-112mm equivalent) and three-inch 922,000-dot swiveling LCD. Its
$800 price tag is comparable to mid-line mirrorless
cameras and entry-level DSLRs.
p23
Just the Beginning
Like most new AV receivers for 2012,Yamaha’s RX-V573 has many network-entertainment features,
including support for Apple’s AirPlay music-streaming technology and DLNA certification. It works with
Yamaha’s AV Controller app for Android and Apple iOS devices.
HH50.indd 23
This is just a small taste of what’s ahead technologically in 2012.This year, we’ll see fridges that can keep
track of your food and send shopping lists to a
smartphone; robotic vacuums that can be operated
from a tablet or phone; and washing machines that
send alerts to your TV or phone, telling you its time
to transfer the load to the dryer.
We’ll be covering these stories throughout 2012.
In fact, we’re already testing many of the products
described in this article. Stay tuned to this magazine,
and to www.hereshow.ca
Additional reporting by Peter Burian, Adam Grant, Ted
Kritsonis and Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla HH
5/8/12 12:34 PM
p24
MUSIC TO YOUR EARS
Five audiophile
headphones
put to the test
By Gordon Brockhouse
When you can buy a pair of earbuds on an airplane for ½ve bucks, why would
anyone spend $500 on a set of high-quality headphones? And several hundred
more on an ampli½er to drive them?
The answer, of course, is the sound. With good headphones, you hear details,
textures and nuances of expression that get lost on cheap ’phones. Instruments
and voices sound much more natural. Bass is deeper, with lots of impact; yet
still well de½ned.Treble is extended, but not screechy. On cheap ’phones, quiet
sounds get buried; loud sounds get compressed or distorted; and subtle changes
in loudness simply don’t come across. On audiophile headphones, dynamics are
in½nitely better, on both a macro and micro level.Transients are fast and snappy,
instead of smeared.
The iPod rejuvenated people’s interest in music, and created a headphone
boom in the process. Along the way, there’s been a renaissance in headphone
HH50.indd 24
listening at home.You can enjoy your music late at night; and you can do so in a
small space uncluttered by speakers and other paraphernalia.
If spending several hundred dollars on a headphone setup seems extravagant,
consider the following: In terms of tonal accuracy, dynamics and detail, a good
headphone setup can rival a high-end speaker-based system that costs tens of
thousands of dollars.True, with headphones the sound is inside your head (or
around it), instead of “out there” as it is with loudspeakers (or in a live performance). And you’re tied down by a cable. But with headphones, the sound isn’t
coloured by the acoustics of your listening room. And you get an up-close experience that is hard to attain with speakers.Think of it as being on stage with the
performers, rather than 10 or 20 rows back.
How we tested: This is the ½rst in a series of features on headphones. In
later installments, we’ll test noise-cancelling phones that are ideal for travel and
commuting, and Bluetooth stereo headphones that can be used for music and
telephony.
5/7/12 10:05 AM
Headphones
select the source you want to listen to with a button on the front.There’s also a
large, very smooth volume control on the front, and a single headphone jack.
For playback of digital audio ½les (some lossless, and AAC-encoded), I connected my MacBook Air to the HA-160DS’s USB input, which supports playback
of high-resolution digital audio ½les: up to 96kHz/24 bits. For CD and SACD playback, I connected the digital audio output of my Denon DBP-1611UD universal
Blu-ray player to the Burson’s coaxial input, which supports digital streams to
192kHz/24 bits.
When you connect a computer to the HA-160DS’s USB input, the computer’s
internal audio circuitry is bypassed.That means ampli½cation and digital-to-analog
conversion are performed away from the electrically noisy interior of a computer.
The Burson’s circuitry is leagues better than the audio circuitry inside a computer.
Compared to the headphone output of a computer, the HA-160DS is far quieter,
allowing subtle details to emerge; and far more responsive, so that the music has
much more energy.
Many ampli½ers and receivers have headphone jacks. But instead of a dedicated
headphone amp, they typically use the speaker output, coupled to a resistor to
reduce volume. Compared to the headphone output of my Denon AVR-4311CI
AV receiver, the Burson was noticeably quieter.Transients were faster. Brass instruments had more zip; piano had more body and energy.
There is a small, vibrant industry dedicated to headphone ampli½ers, ranging
from tiny portable models for use with MP3 players, to large two-piece tabletop
units that use vacuum tubes.This is a subject of its own.The subject here is the
sound of the ½ve headphones under test.
The lineup: All ½ve headphones are over-the-ear models, and quite large, making them more suitable for home listening than on-the-go.That’s mainly a matter
of size; but it can also be challenging getting enough volume from a mobile device.
The lineup included two closed-back models: the Denon AH-D5000 ($699)
and Monster Beats Pro ($449).There were three open-back models: the AKG
Q701 ($399), Grado PS500 ($599) and Sennheiser HD-650 ($599).
As a general rule, closed-back ’phones provide more isolation from external
noise, and deliver greater bass impact. Open-back models generally produce
more spacious sound with better soundstaging. But their open design lets in
more room sounds (making them less suitable for noisy environments); and they
leak sound more, so that your music is audible to other people in the room.
While all these phones are all very satisfying in their own ways, their aural
personalities are quite different.
p25
AKG Q701
Burson Audio HA-160DS headphone amplifier (directly above): “Compared
to the headphone output of a computer, the HA-160DS is far quieter, allowing subtle details to emerge; and it’s much more responsive, so that the
music has greater energy and impact.”
For this article, I’m focusing on audiophile headphones for home listening.
Accordingly, I listened from home sources.These included CDs and Super Audio
CDs from my music collection, and digital ½les in the iTunes library on my MacBook Air. Program material included solo piano, orchestral, jazz, male and female
vocal, and instrumental.
So that I could extract every bit of performance from the ½ve ’phones under
test, I used a dedicated headphone ampli½er: Burson Audio’s HA-160DS ($890).
Made in Australia, this beautifully built component combines a digital-to-analog
converter (DAC) and solid-state headphone ampli½er in one chassis. On the
back are analog stereo input jacks, plus a coaxial digital input for connecting a CD
player or other digital source, and a USB input for connecting a computer.You
HH50.indd 25
AKG is an Austrian company that makes microphones as well as headphones.
Like many headphones these days, the AKG Q701 has a celebrity tie-in.The “Q”
in the model name is the clue: they’re endorsed by legendary producer and jazz
artist Quincy Jones.
These large over-the-ear ’phones have a funky design that suits the Quincy
Jones tie-in; they’re available with white, black or lime-green earcups. All three
versions have black headbands with lime-green stitching, and come with two
detachable lime-green cables (one 3m and the other 6m) that connect to the left
earcup. Both cables have 3.5mm mini headphone plugs; but a high-quality 1/4-inch
adapter is included.
Technical features include ¾at-wire voice coils and two-layer diaphragms.These
features result in fast transient response, deep bass and extended highs, AKG says.
While large, the Q701 is not heavy. At 235g, they’re the lightest of these ½ve
headphones.The weight is evenly distributed by the padded leather headband,
metal arches, and soft velour earpads.These features make the Q701 very comfortable to wear, even for long stretches of listening.
Those stretches were very satisfying indeed.The piano sound in Keith Jarrett’s
1976 Sapporo concert (from the Sun Bear Concerts) had lovely delicacy, but also
lots of drive and energy. The same was true of a fabulous recording of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue by Dominican jazz pianist Michel Camilo. While the strings
5/7/12 10:05 AM
Headphones
AKG Q701: “The hallmarks of the Q701’s sound are transparency and
subtlety.These ’phones excel at revealing nuances of musical expression.”
p26
in the orchestral accompaniment were wonderfully transparent, in some passages
they sounded a bit thin.
On “Ganges Delta Blues” from Ry Cooder’s and V.M. Bhatt’s collaboration
album A Meeting by the River, the stringed instruments had great attack and
de½nition, without being biting; bass percussion was solid, though not as visceral as
the other ’phones.
Lisa Papineau’s expressive soprano voice singing “The Here and After” on Jun
Miyake’s album Stolen from Strangers was superbly natural (the best of these headphones); and the instrumental accompaniment was equally good.The bass and
percussion had satisfying impact, and the strings sounded breathy and transparent.
The Q701 revealed all the stands and timbres in the quirky instrumentation on
Bahamut by Hazmat Modine.
In short, the hallmarks of the Q701’s sound are transparency and subtlety.
These ’phones excel at revealing nuances of musical expression.
AKG Q701
PLUS
• Transparent, detailed sound
• Very comfortable
MINUS
• Less bass impact than competing models
NUTS & BOLTS
Design: Semi-open back circumaural
Technology: Flat-wire voice coil, “varimotion” two-layer diaphragm,
neodymium magnet
Sensitivity: 105dB @ 1 volt
Impedance: 62 ohms
Cable: 3m, 6m
Weight: 235g
Price: $399
Website: us.akg.com
HH50.indd 26
On the AKG Q701, Lisa Papineau’s expressive soprano voice singing “The
Here and After” was superbly natural.The bass and percussion had satisfying
impact, and the strings sounded breathy and transparent.
Denon AH-D5000
These closed-back ’phones are distinguished by their dark mahogany earcups,
which Denon says adds warmth to the sound.They house drivers with micro½ber diaphragms; these improve detail and delicacy, Denon says.There’s a rear
vent that Denon calls an “Acoustic Optimizer” to adjust pressure in front of and
behind the diaphragm.
A three-metre audiophile-grade cable extends from both earcups; and terminates in a 3.5mm mini connector. A 1/4-inch adapter is supplied.
The AH-D5000 weighs in at 370g, making it the heaviest of this group. But
these ’phones are comfortable to wear.Their ear cushions are made of a highquality leather material.The leather headband and magnesium frame distribute
the weight evenly; and the grip of the ’phones against the ear is very gentle.
The loose grip means that the AH-D5000 doesn’t seal out external noise as
other closed-back ’phones. While the sound is more inside-the-head than openback headphones, there’s good space between instruments.
I loved the fast, dynamic sound of Michel Camilo’s piano on his wonderful
recording of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.The string basses had great slap and
impact; the clarinet and muted trumpet had loads of personality; but there was a
bit of edginess in the upper strings.
Similarly, the piano sound in Keith Jarrett’s Sapporo Concert was a little clangy
(this recording is a bit edgy-sounding); but it had loads of drive and energy.
Ry Cooder’s and V.M. Bhatt’s unique instrumental sounds in “Ganges Delta
Blues” from A Meeting by the River, a fusion of delta blues and classical Indian, had
great drive and energy, without ever becoming edgy.
On “The Here and After” from Jun Miyake’s album Stolen from Strangers, the
string bass and percussion had great depth and impact without being in the least
overbearing. Strings were very natural. Lisa Papineau’s voice, however, sounded
very slightly papery.
I was blown away by Bahamut by the New York-based blues/jazz/world fusion
group Hazmat Modine. Wade Schuman’s growly vocals were completely convinc-
5/7/12 10:05 AM
HH50.indd 27
5/7/12 10:05 AM
Headphones
Grado PS500
Based in Brooklyn, N.Y, Grado Labs makes headphones with a very distinctive
look and sound. All its full-size ’phones look like radio headsets from the 1940s. I
haven’t met anyone who doesn’t love their retro styling.
The PS500 is from Grado’s Professional Range.The drivers are set in a mahogany enclosure, with an aluminum outer shell to dampen vibrations.The hybrid
air chamber behind the driver is vented by a wire-mesh grille on the outside of
each earcup.
Like other Grado ’phones, the PS500 is a supra-aural design, sitting on top of
your ears instead of around them.That characteristic, and the open design, means
the PS500 isn’t very effective at blocking out external sounds. And the Grados
leak sound, so people around you will hear what you’re hearing.
The PS500 has the same slightly coarse sponge earcups used on other Grados.
After some acclimatization, I found them quite comfortable, though less so than
the other models reviewed here.The thick Y-shaped cable, which connects to
both earcups, is only 1.75m long; so you’ll be pretty closely tethered to whatever
device it’s connected to.The cable terminates in a 1/4-inch phone plug. If you
want to use the PS500 with a portable device, you’ll have to buy a 3.5mm mini
adapter, because none is supplied.
Denon AH-D5000
PLUS
• Wonderfully involving dynamic sound
• Great bass impact and extension
p28
MINUS
• Sounds a bit edgy on some material
Denon AH-D5000: “A wonderfully involving set of headphones, with excellent
bass, lots of drive and energy, and great dynamics.They’re loads of fun to
listen to.”
ing; and the wonderful group of instruments (especially the bass line from the
tuba) had gobs of colour and personality.
The Denon AH-D5000 is a wonderfully involving set of headphones, with
excellent bass extension and impact, good extension up top, lots of drive and
energy, and great dynamics.They’re loads of fun to listen to.
NUTS & BOLTS
Design: Closed-back circumaural with mahogany earcups, magnesium
frame, leather headband
Technology: 50mm dynamic driver with micro½ber diaphgram and
neodymium magnet
Sensitivity: 108dB/mW
Impedance: 25 ohms
Cable: 3m
Weight: 370g
Price: $699
Website: www.denon.ca
Through the Denon AH-D5000, the eclectic group of instruments on Bahamut by the New York-based blues/jazz/world fusion
group Hazmat Modine had gobs of colour and personality.Wade Schuman’s growly vocals were completely convincing.
HH50.indd 28
5/7/12 10:05 AM
Headphones
Grado ’phones are known
for their drive and
energy, or to use
a favourite term
of headphone
reviewers: Pace,
Rhythm and
Timing (PRaT).
The PS500 has
a re½ned and
revealing version
of the Grado
house sound.
The Grado
sound came
through loud and
clear on all the
music I listened
to. Keith Jarrett’s
Sapporo Concert
had tons of energy,
but also sounded a bit
harsh.The same was true of
Michel Camilo’s fabulous rendering
of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue; it
was brash and exciting.
Grado PS500: “The Grado house
sound is tremendously exciting,
Harshness was not an issue with
but can be a bit brash. It’s a
Bahamut by blues/jazz/world fusion group
strong flavour, but those who
Hazmat Modine. On this recording, the
love it really love it.”
drive and energy of the Grado sound was
just perfect. Wade Schuman’s vocals and fabulous harmonica playing just jumped
out of these lively ’phones, as did the rest of this eclectic mix of instruments.
I had the same experience with A Meeting by the River, a fusion of delta blues
and classical Indian music by Ry Cooder and V.M. Bhatt. In “Ganges Delta Blues,”
the PS500 really accentuated the attack of the instruments, without making them
sound edgy.
It shouldn’t take a long audition to ½gure out if the PS500 is the right headphone for you. It comes down to the Grado house sound, which to some ears is
tremendously exciting, and to others is a little too brash. It’s a strong ¾avour, but
those who love it really love it.
Grado PS500
PLUS
• Great drive and energy
• Wonderful retro cosmetics
MINUS
• Can sound over-bright
• Short cable
NUTS & BOLTS
Design: Supra-aural dynamic open-air with leather headband, foam
earcups
Technology: Single matched drivers (to 0.5dB) with vented diaphragm
Sensitivity: 98dB @ 1mW
Impedance: 32 ohms
Cable: 1.75m
Weight: 240g
Price: $599
Website: www.gradolabs.com
HH50.indd 29
Monster Beats Pro
Celebrity tie-ins have been a big part of Monster’s success in the headphone market, starting with rapper and music producer Dr. Dre. Available in black and white
½nishes, the Beats Pro is the top of Monster’s Beats By Dr. Dre lineup.They’re supplied with a distinctive rose-red cable that terminates in a 3.5mm mini headphone
jack. A threaded 1/4-inch adapter jack is also included, as is a touring case.
Build quality is superb, with an aluminum frame, and leather ear cushions and
headband.The Beats Pro sit tightly on the listener’s head, but aren’t uncomfortable.The tight ½t and closed design provide very good isolation.
Fitting the “Pro” designation, the Beats Pro has a couple of unique features for
DJ and home recording applications.The earcups can ¾ip upward, allowing DJs
to monitor the mix with one ear and the room with the other.You can plug the
cable can plug into either earcup – or both.The second arrangement allows you
to daisychain the ’phones, useful if two people want to monitor the same mix, or
just listen to the same music.
The sound is pretty well what you’d expect given the Dre tie-in.The bass is
absolutely visceral, deep and well controlled.There’s no bloat or boom. But there
is some congestion in the midrange and treble. For the intended audience, this
balance will be ideal.The effect is like listening to live music, but music where all
the voices and instruments are ampli½ed.The appeal of the Beats sound for some
genres (hip-hop and house for example) is obvious.
But it extends to other forms as well.
For example, the string bass and
percussion instruments in “The
Here and After” from Jun Miyake’
album Stolen from Strangers, had
tremendous impact and clarity.
The reproduction of the mids
and highs suited the electric
guitars and keyboards, but
the strings sounded a
little truncated, and Lisa
Papineau’s voice sounded
a little nasal.
A great recording
by jazz pianist Michel
Camilo of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue
sounded somewhat brash
and congested on orchestral
Monster Beats Pro: “The sound is what you’d
passages. I thought the piano
expect given the Dr. Dre tie-in. It’s like live
lacked body and energy. On
music, but music where all the voices and
this recording, these ’phones
p29
instruments are amplified.”
Monster Beats Pro
PLUS
• Deep, visceral bass
• Superb build quality
MINUS
• Can sound a little brash and congested
NUTS & BOLTS
Design: Closed-back, with ¾ip-up earcups
Impedance: 40 ohms
Cable: 1.8m (extends to 2m)
Price: $449
Website: beatsbydrdre.com
5/7/12 11:08 AM
Headphones
sounded loud but not dynamic.
“Ganges Delta Blues” from Ry Cooder’s and V.M. Bhatt’s fusion album A Meeting
by the River worked really well on these ’phones.The deep sounds of the goblet
drum were really impressive, visceral without becoming boomy. Cooder’s bottleneck guitar and Bhatt’s slide-guitar-like mohan vida had plenty of edge and detail.
The kick drum and tuba in Bahamut by the blues/jazz/world fusion group
Hazmat Modine were really impressive. While the other instruments also
sounded ½ne, they were not reproduced at the same caliber as the other phones.
This is another brand with a distinct house sound. For bass-heads, there’s probably nothing better. For music fans who love loud ampli½ed concerts and clubs,
these could be the perfect headphones.
Sennheiser HD 650
p30
For many years, this was Sennheiser’s top headphone.The German company
now has a couple has a couple of newer ¾agship models: the HD800 at $1,599
and HD700 at $999; but the HD 650 remains in the line, and has become a classic among audiophiles.
While well built, the HD 650 is cosmetically less distinctive than the other
’phones reviewed here.That’s not to say that the glossy black and grey ½nish is
unattractive, just understated.
The open-back earcups have mesh grilles at the back.The earcups have velour
cushions, and there’s a velour cushion on the headband as well.The ½t is rather
tight at ½rst, but loosens up over time. Once I became used to the HD 650, I had
no problem wearing it for long listening sessions.
The sound is produced by drivers with silk diaphragms, lightweight aluminum
voice coils and iron-neodymium magnets. Speci½ed harmonic distortion is 0.05%,
which is very unusually low. A Y-shaped Kevlar-covered cable attaches to both
earcups. It terminates in a 1/4” plug. Along with a hard carrying case, a 3.5mm
mini adapter is supplied.
Compared to the other ’phones reviewed here, the HD 650 can seem a little
dark-sounding at ½rst. In fact, it has excellent detail and sparkle. I’d characterize
the HD 650 as neutral rather than dark.The low distortion
makes it eminently listenable, and an excellent phone
with all types of music.
Through the HD 650, Michel Camilo’s jazzy
rendering of Gerswhin’s Rhapsody in Blue sounded
gloriously natural. I could hear every strand of orchestral sound, and every nuance of expression
in the piano.The strings were transparent
and detailed.
Keith Jarrett’s piano in the Sapporo Concert didn’t have quite
as much sparkle or energy as the
Denon phones, but it sounded
less clangy and more musical.
I loved the way the HD 650
presented the musical strands
and eclectic mix of instruments
in Bahamut by Hazmat Modine.
Wade Schuman’s harmonica and
bluesy voice were perfect, wonderfully involving with no colouration.
The instrumental colours
in Ry Cooder’s and V.M.
Sennheiser HD 650:
Bhatt’s impromptu
“Neutrality and musicality
blues/Indian fusion
are these headphones’ most
album A Meeting
notable characteristics.They
by the River were
partner beautifully with all
kinds of music.”
very natural, with
HH50.indd 30
Through the Sennheiser HD 650, Michel Camilo’s jazzy rendering of
Gerswhin’s Rhapsody in Blue sounded gloriously natural. Every strand of
orchestral sound and every nuance of expression in the piano were
beautifully reproduced.
excellent attack and detail on the stringed instruments, and good impact on the
goblet drum. Again, the sound wasn’t quite as exciting as Denons, but it seemed
subtler and more accurate.
The bass and percussion in “The Here and After” from Jun Miyake’s Stolen from
Strangers were thrilling, with great slap and impact, and the strings of the Bulgarian
Symphony Orchestra were both transparent and substantial. Lisa Papineau’s voice
sounded very slightly nasal though.
Neutrality and musicality are these headphones’ most notable characteristics.
They partner beautifully with all kinds of music.
Conclusion
There’s a lot to like about all these headphones. My two favourites were the
Sennheiser HD 650 and Denon AH-D500.The HD 650 is a little smoother and
sublter, the D5000 a little more involving and exciting. It’s basically a coin toss.
The other three headphones reviewed here have huge fan bases, which
doesn’t surprise me at all.The AKG Q701 may be the lowest price of this group
of headphones, but it de½nitely belongs. It delivers wonderfully transparent, detailed sound.The PS500 has Grado’s signature high-energy sound, but with extra
re½nement and control. Fans of bass-heavy genres like hip-hop and electronic will
love the visceral impact of the Beats Pro. HH
Sennheiser HD650
PLUS
• Accurate, neutral sound wears very well
• Very comfortable
MINUS
• Plain-Jane cosmetics
NUTS & BOLTS
Design: Open-back circumaural headphone
Technology: Silk diaphragms, lightweight aluminum voice coils, and
iron-neodymium magnets
Sensitivity: 103dB @ 1V
Impedance: 300 ohms
Cable: 3m
Weight: 260g
Price: $599
Website: www.sennheiser.ca
5/7/12 11:08 AM
HH50.indd 31
5/7/12 10:05 AM
Digital Culture
David Hockney’s
iPhone and iPad
drawings
By Daniel Baird
p32
At rush hour, the King streetcar in downtown Toronto is packed with young professionals decked out
for a day in the of½ce. Most of them hutch silently
over one mobile device or another, busily texting colleagues or scrolling through e-mails. Almost no one
ever gazes up from the glowing screens.
One morning, I noticed a young woman doing
something that struck me as unusual; she was drawing on her iPhone. Phone cupped in the palm of one
hand, she used her index ½nger to trace and smear
violet and green lines on the little screen until they
turned into a clumsily rendered, garishly ugly face.
She was, I thought, sketching parodies of the other
passengers. She might have been e-mailing them to
friends as well.
When renowned 74-year-old British artist David
Hockney ½rst saw his friend Lawrence Weschler’s
new iPhone back in 2008, he snatched it and started
playing with it.That is a typical reaction: iPhones may
be useful tools, but they are also enchanting toys.
Hockney immediately bought an iPhone of his own.
It wasn’t long before he discovered the user-friendly
and remarkably sophisticated Brushes app, and began
e-mailing bright drawings to a small circle of friends
the moment they were ½nished.
One of those friends was Hockney’s former
studio assistant from the 1980s, the New York-based
curator and writer Charlie Scheips. As it happened,
Scheips had been talking with Pierre Bergé of the
Fondation Pierre Bergé/Yves Saint Laurent about
organizing a Hockney show at their new exhibition
space at the former Yves Saint Laurent headquarters in Paris. When Scheips suggested exhibiting the
For David Hockney, one appeal of drawing on an iPad or iPhone is the immediacy of it. “It’s always in
my pocket; there’s no thrashing about, scrambling for the right colour,” he says. “One can get to work
immediately.There’s this wonderful impromptu quality, this freshness, to the activity.”
Photo by Charlie Scheips
HH50.indd 32
iPhone drawings to Hockney during a visit to his
Yorkshire studio, the artist was enthusiastic; and after
giving a formal presentation to Bergé and his colleagues in Paris, Bergé was thrilled by the prospect
of mounting a major exhibition of works previously
seen only by the artist’s closest friends.
“I didn’t want to do just a show of printouts,”
Scheips told me. “I wanted to retain the intimacy of
the original context in which the work was actually
made.Then in the middle of all this the iPad came
out, and David started drawing on that. It has a much
bigger screen and is easier to use. One of the novel
features of Brushes for the iPad is that you can blow
the images up and animate them, so of course we
wanted to use that feature as well.”
Scheips brought in his friend, the American architect Ali Tayar, to design an installation that, as Scheips
put it, “didn’t just look like an Apple store, but more
like David’s studio in Yorkshire.” In the end, the
exhibit included 100 iPhone drawings displayed on
iPod touches, 100 iPad drawings displayed on iPads,
as well as large-scale animations of recent drawings.
Opening at the Fondation Pierre Bergé/Yves Saint
Laurent in Paris as Fleurs Fraîches in the fall of 2010, it
was re-titled as David Hockney: Me Draw on iPad for a
run at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark through the summer of 2011, and was on view
as Fresh Flowers at the Institute for Contemporary
Culture at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto
from October 8, 2011 to January 1, 2012.This was its
½rst showing on this side of the Atlantic.
It might seem strange that an immensely successful artist in his mid-70s, who is largely known as a
½gurative painter, would suddenly take to working on
devices like the iPhone and iPad. Before buying his
iPhone, Hockney barely used e-mail. One reason an
artist of Hockney’s calibre likes drawing with Brushes
is undoubtedly the same reason the young woman
on the King streetcar liked doodling with it on her
way to work: it’s as easy to use as a box of crayons
and pad of paper; and the results are immediate
and disarmingly beautiful. “I used to help David work
with Photoshop on some things,” Hockney’s technical
assistant, Jonathan Wilkinson, told me, “but that was
too powerful a tool for him. With Brushes, he doesn’t
really need me at all. He can just do it by himself.”
Brushes not only allows one to draw with a variety
of thicknesses and quality of lines, it also allows one
to overlay colours at different levels of opacity and
transparency, the subtle, high-key gradients of colour
resembling pastels, only more radiant.
“When I was giving tours of the show,” Francisco Alvarez, managing director of the Institute for
Contemporary Culture, told me, “I would show
people how easy it is to make a pretty picture using
this technology.You can master it in an afternoon. If
you’re someone like me, you fool around with it for
a couple of hours, quickly reach the limits of your
creativity and get bored. If you’re a real artist like
5/7/12 10:05 AM
David Hockney, you’ll spend endless hours exploring
the limits of the medium.”
Sketching is an important part of Hockney’s
creative process. For years, he has had suits custommade with pockets for his sketchpad, pen, pencil
and crayons.The new technology has an additional
advantage for him. “It’s always in my pocket; there’s
no thrashing about, scrambling for the right colour,”
he told Weschler, whose book True To Life: TwentyFive Years of Conversations with David Hockney was
published in 2008. “One can get to work immediately.There’s this wonderful impromptu quality, this
freshness, to the activity; and when it’s over, best of
all, there’s no mess, no cleanup.You just turn off the
machine. Or, even better, you hit send and your little
cohort of friends around the world gets to experience a similar immediacy.”
London to L.A.
David Hockney was born into a working-class family
in Bradford, West Yorkshire, England, in 1937. He was
a precocious draughtsman as a child. By the time
he was 11 years old, he knew he wanted to be an
artist, which for a kid from his background in postwar
England meant making holiday cards and posters.
Hockney wasn’t really exposed to serious modern
and contemporary art until he entered the Royal
College of Art in London in 1957. Among his fellow
students was the American transplant Ron Kitaj, who
along with Hockney would come to be regarded as
one of most signi½cant British artists of his generation. While the Royal College remained a staunchly
traditional art school going back to the 18th century
(drawing from nude models was required), Hockney
arrived in London at a moment of aesthetic upheaval: the centre of the art world had moved from
In David Hockney’s “Untitled 28 May 2010, No. 3,” created on an iPad using the Brushes app and
included in a recent exhibit at Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum, a lamp rains light down on an open
notebook in a darkened room, the pre-dawn sky beyond the window a deep blue, clouds catching the
first phosphorescent traces of light. © David Hockney
Untitled, 22 July 2010, No. 2, iPad Drawing.
© David Hockney
Untitled, 11 January 2011, iPad Drawing.
© David Hockney
HH50.indd 33
p33
Untitled, 22 July 2010, No. 1, iPad Drawing.
© David Hockney
5/7/12 10:05 AM
Digital Culture
Europe to New York, and from traditional painting
and drawing of the kind Pablo Picasso and Henri
Matisse practiced to various kinds of abstraction and
what came to be called Pop Art. Willem de Kooning,
Mark Rothko and Barnet Newman were creating
immense abstract paintings; Robert Rauschenberg
was constructing art works out of whatever he
could ½nd in the junk shops of lower Manhattan;
Andy Warhol’s soup cans were just around the
corner.
Hockney began to ½nd success almost immediately upon leaving the Royal College, exhibiting ½rst
in London, and then in New York and Los Angeles.
His ½rst mature canvases make clear his ambivalent
relationship toward the dominant artistic trends of
his moment.They are also remarkably frank about his
homosexuality. In “We Two Boys Together Clinging”
(1961), an oil painting on board whose title comes
from a Walt Whitman poem, two red rectangular
shapes with stick legs and tentacles running between
them are set in the middle of the canvas, the title
of the painting scrawled like graf½ti above them. In
“Adhesiveness” (1960), two blocky red and orange
shapes adhere to one another in the foreground, and
behind them is a sweep of chalky grey and pink, the
lines and textures sensuous and atmospheric.
Hockney’s dalliance with American-style abstract
painting (one can see the in¾uence of de Kooning in
the gestures in both “We Two Boys Together Clinging” and “Adhesiveness”) was brief. For Hockney,
paintings need to be directly about something; and,
as with old masters like Rembrandt van Rijn, there
has to be a balance between form and content. By
the mid-1960s, the style for which Hockney is best
known had emerged. He was also spending increasing amounts of time in Los Angeles.
In “Pictures of a Hollywood Swimming Pool”
(1964), a work in acrylic paint on canvas, ribbons
of blue depict the undulating pool water, stains of
blue pine trees just behind it; on one side, a bright
blue staircase leads up to the blank entrance of a
modernist house. In “Peter Getting Out of Nick’s
Pool” (1966), Peter stands naked thigh-deep in the
shallows facing the house’s austere façade, windows
covered with slatted blinds, the eave painted a bright
canary yellow.The pool recedes from the lower
edge of the canvas, its cool blues contrasting sharply
with the ripe ¾esh-tones of Peter’s body. In “A Lawn
Being Sprinkled” (1967), bright green grass recedes
from the foreground; while pale, cone-shaped mists
of water spraying up from sprinkler heads; in the
background is a garage, a palm tree, and an inscrutable, eggshell blue California sky.
Hockney’s work of the 1960s and 1970s may have
been traditional; but it was also formally resourceful,
a distillation of modernist techniques from Edouard
Manet and Paul Cézanne through the work of the
abstract expressionists.The forms are intensely compressed, the picture plane ¾attened and immediate,
the colours saturated and often bleeding directly into
the weave of the canvas.
By the 1980s, Hockney’s work had become
increasingly elaborate, even baroque. In “Nichols
Canyon” (1980), the hills roil in bright greens and
blues, spotted with cypress trees and palms; and in
“The Sea at Malibu” (1988), the waves are like great
blue ramps and pyramids, higher and more powerful
than the coastal hills.
At the same time, Hockney was developing a new
body of work in an entirely new medium: photography. Hockney had been taking snapshots of his trips
across the United States and Europe since the 1960s.
Untitled, 9 July 2010, iPad Drawing.
© David Hockney
Untitled, 12 June 2010, No. 2, iPad Drawing.
© David Hockney
Untitled, 10 June 2010, iPad Drawing.
© David Hockney
The Fresh Flowers exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum was the first public showing in North America
of David Hockney’s iPad and iPhone art.The images were shown on working iPads and iPod touches.
There were also larger projected images, showing animations of the work being created.
p34
HH50.indd 34
5/7/12 10:05 AM
But his interest in photography as an art, as a way of
making pictures as he would put it, is more speci½c,
experimental, and ultimately critical.
For Hockney, the decline in the kind of ½gurative
painting is associated with the rise of photography;
and this, he claims, is based on an overestimation of
the power of photography. “In a sense when people
say painting is dying, I think it’s the other way around;
photography is dying,” he writes in his autobiographical essay David Hockney by David Hockney. “I think
that photography has let us down in that it is not
what we thought it was. It is something good, but
it’s not the answer, it’s not a totally acceptable way
of making pictures, and certainly it must never be
allowed to be the only one; it’s too mechanical, too
devoid of life.”
For the immense photo collage “Pearblossom
Highway, 11th-18th April 1986” (1986), Hockney
assembled hundreds of colour snapshots of a
stretch of highway in California’s Mojave desert
into a single, panoramic composition, seen from
a slightly elevated point of view, each individual
photograph sharply in focus. The result is a picture
that is curiously brittle and disjointed, as though
it might collapse back into its parts like a house
of cards. Crucially, it is self-evidently not a desert
highway as experienced by a particular human
being, or by any human being at all, but rather
instants, scores of them, registered anonymously
by a piece of technology. Painting and drawing and
art in general for Hockney, by contrast, are about
lived experience.
p35
Ars Technica
When Charlie Scheips commented to me that,
“David has always been interested in technology,”
Untitled, iPad Drawing. © David Hockney
Untitled, 20 May 2010, iPad Drawing.
© David Hockney
Untitled, 25 November 2010, No. 2, iPad Drawing.
© David Hockney
HH50.indd 35
Untitled, 29 June 2009, iPhone Drawing.
© David Hockney
5/8/12 12:00 PM
^^^HJTLTHKLJVT
(JTL4HKL(SSYPNO[ZYLZLY]LK
;/,56,
:6-;76<*/
a stylish and colourful solution
to protect your camera, iPod,
phone or other device.
;/,
:[email protected]
:3,,=,
complements the
sleekness of Apple's iPads.
;/,-033469,
/(9+*(:,
its distinctive quilted exterior and
colourful styling make it a crowd
stand-out while protecting your
camera or smart phone.
HH50.indd 36
;/,:30*2*(:,
for in-case protection or to protect
your iPad™ while on-the-go.
5/8/12 12:01 PM
Digital Culture
Francisco Alvarez, Managing Director of the
Institute for Contemporary Culture, Royal Ontario
Museum: “When I was giving tours of the show,
I would show people how easy it is to make a
pretty picture using this technology. If you’re
someone like me, you quickly reach the limits of
your creativity. If you’re a real artist like David
Hockney, you’ll spend endless hours exploring the
limits of the medium.”
he obviously didn’t mean that Hockney was an
inveterate tech geek who likes playing with gadgets.
He meant that Hockney has always had a fascination
with, and a voracious appetite for, different ways of
making pictures.
The history of art has always been a history of
techniques and technologies, some of which were
kept under wraps as trade secrets by artists and
their studios.These days, when we associate “technology” with the high-tech advances of our own era,
it is easy to forget that oil painting on canvas was an
invention of the 15th century, just as inkjet printers
capable of producing large-format photographs of
the kind that made Canadian artist Jeff Wall famous
were an invention of the late 20th century. Both
were technological advances that had a signi½cant
impact on how art was made.
Over the course of his career, Hockney has made
pictures in countless mediums: oil paintings, acrylic
paintings, drawings with everything one could possibly draw with (coloured pencils, crayons, pastels,
charcoal, watercolours), lithography, etching and
photography. He has made pictures of pools out of
coloured pulped paper; he has made designs on a
BMW; for a while he was obsessed with the possibilities inherent in fax machines and photocopiers.
In 2001, Hockney published an elaborately
researched and controversial art history book, Secret
HH50.indd 37
Knowledge, in which he argued that perspectival
painting did not emerge in the Italian Renaissance as
a result of artists’ increasing knowledge of mathematics, but rather among low-country Flemish artists like
Jan van Eycke who were, he claims, using optical aids
like concave mirrors.
And then there are the iPhone and iPad drawings, as well as the recent videos of the Yorkshire
countryside that appear in a major exhibition of his
recent work at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, which opened on January 22. David Hockney
is a restless and inquisitive man. Irrespective of his
medium, he invariably returns to classical themes:
the portrait, the still life and (increasingly) landscapes;
and to his unparalleled use of colour: the cool, clean
blues of the 1960s, the luxuriant, edible purples and
reds and yellows of his more recent work. Hockney
may be the ½nest colourist since Matisse.
Hockney’s most recent landscapes are massive
and cinematic; the Royal Academy show is tellingly
called A Bigger Picture. In “Winter Timber” (2009), 15
separate canvases ½t together into a single, seamless
composition, lengths of timber receding back along a
lush purple roadside, the stand of trees following the
road on either side a ghostly, hallucinatory blue.
Of necessity, the iPhone and iPad drawings are
more intimate.They are sketches, entries in a visual
diary, and are untitled except for the date on which
they were made.The iPhone drawing “Untitled 24
May 2010 No. 1” features a glass on a table with two
lush, long-stemmed pink roses; through the window
behind one can see a blue sky with traces of pink
cloud. In another, a vase of ¾owers is set in shadow
in front of a window thrumming with rising dawn,
a band of foggy pink sunlight at the bottom of the
window frame.
Because of their larger screens, and because he
can use a stylus rather than his ½ngers, the iPad
drawings are more complex. In “Untitled 28 May
2010, No. 3,” for example, a lamp rains light down
on an open notebook in a darkened room, the
pre-dawn sky beyond the window a deep blue,
clouds catching the ½rst phosphorescent traces of
light. “Untitled 17 June 2010” has morning sun shining
through the red and purple slats of a window blind,
and a magical drawing also from 2010 is of a ¾owercovered forest ¾oor, the tree trunk in the center a
bright moss green.
One of the appealing things about the Brushes
app for iPad, as Scheips pointed out, is its playback
feature, where the individual marks and gestures and
erasures that constitute a drawing can be played
back in sequence as a video.The Royal Ontario
Museum exhibition contained blown-up projections
of numerous drawings in which one can literally
observe the drawing coming into existence. As in
French ½lmmaker Georges Henri-Clouzot’s groundbreaking 1956 documentary, The Mystery of Picasso,
in which the viewer watches Picasso paint through a
transparent scrim, the animated videos of Hockney’s
drawings do not so much allow one to grasp the
source of his creativity (that inevitably remains a
mystery) as marvel at the uncanny spontaneity and
¾uidity of the drawing: a mark here, a squiggle there,
a broad smear; then suddenly, trees, light-½lled sky,
rippling water. Each stroke feels like something anyone could do on an iPhone or iPad at home or on
a streetcar.Yet you can’t; and though you watch the
video over and over as though looking for the trick
of it, it soon becomes clear that you are watching the
con½dent hand of a master.
It was important for Scheips to retain the original
luminosity of the drawings, which is why screens
were not placed over the iPod touches and iPads
used in the exhibition.This posed some challenges
for the staff at the Royal Ontario Museum. “All of the
iPod touches and iPads had a live feed and individual
e-mail addresses, so David could send in new drawings if he wanted,” Alvarez told me. “This meant that
people visiting the exhibit could actually use them
if they wanted. Someone would touch the screen
and stand there watching a video of himself, and we
would have to send someone down to reset it.”
Mishaps aside, Fresh Flowers served as the occasion
for a much-needed technological upgrade at the
Royal Ontario Museum. “We’re really interested in
new technologies and the ways they affect different
aspects of everyday life,” Alvarez said. “And it’s also
important for how we think about the museum.
We’re always look for ways to get interesting people
to come to the museum, and we think having
downloadable apps is one way to do that. Before the
Hockney show, we didn’t even have Wi-Fi.”
While Hockney has shown no interest in selling
the iPhone and iPad drawings either to institutions or
individuals, doing so would pose unusual problems
for the experts who address the often-convoluted
½nancial side of contemporary art. Readily reproducible mediums like photography are priced by creating
limited-edition prints. But the iPhone and iPad drawings are digital ½les whose nature is to circulate freely;
and most of them have been gleefully circulated by
Hockney himself. Part of the charm of these drawings is their accessibility, freshness and uncomplicated
beauty. As Alvarez observes, that’s one of the reasons
the exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum was so
enthusiastically received by audiences who might
not ordinarily attend a contemporary art show.
The drawings are luminous notes about the visual
world, jotted down and sent off in real time, like the
text messages one sees people compulsively writing
wherever they happen to be standing.
Hockney had always wanted to draw the dawn,
and now he can draw it rising over the North
Atlantic from his bed, looking out the window of his
house; and his friends in London, New York, and Los
Angeles can get these images one after another until
the sun is too bright to look at. HH
p37
5/7/12 10:05 AM
Personal Technology
Printing from
smartphones
and tablets
p38
By Frank Lenk
It’s been said that the era of the personal computer is over, and that mobile
devices such as smartphones and tablets are taking over. Slick and useful as these
gadgets are, they still lack some of the amenities we take for granted on desktop
and laptop computers.
One of the de½ciencies is almost too obvious.Try to get a printout of what you
see on the screen, and you’ll suddenly realize what a frontier environment tablets
and smartphones really are.
On even the lightest and cheapest portable computer, pretty much anything
you can see, you can print. But on a tablet or smartphone, there’s no File … Print
command (no File menu at all).These devices can take photos, download ½les,
create spreadsheets. But when it comes to printing them out, things get a bit
awkward.
In fact, there are ways to print, but they don’t necessarily work the way you
expect. And they certainly come with some limitations you won’t expect. Let’s
look ½rst at how the two major mobile operating systems handle printing, and
then at how printer manufacturers are approaching the problem.
Apple iOS
Having kicked off the tablet craze, it ½gures that Apple would be ahead when it
comes to printing. It also kind of ½gures that Apple’s solution would involve buying a new printer.
On the newest versions of iOS, there actually is a Print command.You’ll generally ½nd it on the Share menu; for example, in Safari, Notes and Photos. But you
won’t ½nd it in every app. As far as I could tell, it’s absent in Contacts, Calendar,
Reminders, Music, App Store or Maps.
In Pages, the word processor, there’s a “Share and Print” option on the little
‘wrench’ menu, and a Print item under that. A further sub-menu lets you to set the
number of copies, enable or disable double-sided printing, and select a printer.
HH50.indd 38
The AirPrint function works seamlessly via Wi-Fi; and with supported apps, it
did indeed produce clean printouts in my tests, quickly and reliably. However, I was
surprised at how little control it offered, compared to a Mac or Windows PC.
For example, AirPrint won’t let you print a designated range of pages (other
than with a few speci½c ½le types, such as certain PDFs). None of the apps I tried
let me control image size, or margins. Or set colour versus black-and-white, or
high-quality versus draft mode. All I could do was set the number of copies, and
single- versus double-sided output.
When Apple launched AirPrint, it promised “no setup, no con½guration, no
printer drivers and no software to download.” Apple did not promise: “No new
hardware to buy.” In fact, AirPrint will work only with new printers that explicitly
incorporate this proprietary technology.
To be sure, the number of compatible models is growing rapidly. Apple’s support site lists printers from Brother, Canon, Epson, HP and Lexmark. But only two
of the ½ve printers in this roundup appeared as options in the Print menu on
the iPad: the HP Envy 110 and Epson Artisan 837. No luck with the new Brother
MFC-J835DW multifunction inkjet or the older Brother HL-4070CDW laser, the
Canon PIXMA MG8120, nor the Samsung SCX-3405 laser.
There are unof½cial hacks that promise to make AirPrint work with any printer
that’s shared via Mac or Windows. On the Mac, the main options are AirPrint
Hacktivator (free, at various places on the Net), or Printopia (a $20 purchase from
www.ecamm.com). On Windows, you’ll need install the newest iTunes, then run
one of several third-party installers (e.g. from jaxov.com). If they do work for you,
these software solutions will require leaving the host computer running, with
extra background processes running on it.
Android
If the printing is somewhat constrained on Apple iOS, it’s disastrously dysfunctional on Android. After four major versions, there’s no sign at all of system-level
print support.
5/7/12 10:05 AM
Personal Technology
I tested using two devices: a Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 LTE, and an early sample
of the new Galaxy Nexus. Both are superb devices.The LTE is just a bit smaller
than the usual 10-inch tablet, hence lighter and handier.The Nexus, on the other
hand, is wider than the usual smartphone, but thinner: a perfect con½guration for
anyone who prefers a slightly bigger screen. It came with Google’s latest Android
version 4 (“Ice Cream Sandwich”).
Although Android was powerful, usable and reliable on both devices, printing
was not among its features.The Galaxy 8.9 LTE did include several bundled apps
that had a Print command, but they all produced the same response: “Can only
print on Samsung printer.”
Undeterred, I obtained an actual Samsung printer: the SCX-3405SFW
Monochrome Laser Multifunction. And sure enough, once I had it connected to
my Wi-Fi network, printing did work. I still got the warning message, but pressing
Continue produced crisp, accurately formatted pages, from apps including the
default Web browser, Polaris Office, image Gallery, and Memo text editor.
Google’s only solution for Android printing was far less satisfactory. Cloud Print
sends documents from your device to a supported printer by way of Google’s
servers somewhere out in cyberspace.This would likely be very cool when
you’re on the road, but it’s pretty silly when you’re at home looking across the
room at your printer.
Cloud Print puts you through quite an extensive setup process. It makes
installing a printer’s software disc in Windows or Mac OS seem like a miracle of
user-friendliness. I used the Hewlett-Packard Envy 110 for this test, because it’s
about the most advanced printer so far in its approach to the Internet.
First, I used the Web Services menu on the printer itself to print an info sheet.
Then I needed to create an account on HP’s ePrint Center, and “Add a Printer”
by entering the 13-character identifying code on the info sheet.Then I assigned
an e-mail address for the printer ([email protected]), and set it to accept
e-mail only from authorized addresses, in this case, the one I’d provided in setting
up my ePrint account.
On the Google Cloud Print site I entered the printer’s e-mail address, and
was told “Printer added successfully.”There’s an option to send a test print, and
the printer responded to this almost immediately, producing a greyscale cartoon
depicting the cloud printing process.
I was informed that I could now “print almost any ½le you have on your
phone… and much more!” Apparently, I could also print from any Android app
that supports the “Share to…” feature.
The latest version of iOS lets you print wirelessly from an iPhone, iPad or
iPod touch. But you need an AirPrint-capable printer for this feature to work.
HH50.indd 39
To enable printing from an Android device on an HP Envy 110, the author
created an account in HP’s ePrint Centre, then assigned an e-mail address
for the printer. But before printing, he also had to install a cloud-printing app
on the mobile device.
p39
Well, not quite. I had yet to enable Cloud Print on the Galaxy Tab 8.9 LTE.To
my amazement, this required installation of one of several commercial third-party
apps. For example, PrinterShare by Mobile Dynamix, which will run you $12.95.
Or Cloud Print by one Paulo Fernandes, which at least works in an ad-supported
mode without cash up front.
Printing a Web page from Firefox on the Samsung LTE, via Paulo’s Cloud Print
app, I was offered four options. Printing the page directly, or downloading and
then printing it, were both marked “experimental,” and in fact did not seem to
work.The “recommended” options involved ½rst turning the page into a PDF ½le
(with or without “a newspaper look”), then printing it.The conversion process
took a few seconds. After that, it was a couple of minutes before the HP Envy
woke up and got busy. Web pages printed well enough, barring a minor font error on one site.
Cloud Print did give me some control. I could choose Fast Draft, Best or
Normal modes on the HP Envy, as well as two greyscale modes in addition to full
colour. I could also manage multiple printers on my Google Cloud Print account.
But still no way to print just page 3 of a long Web layout. (Or to print from the
various apps that wanted to talk only to a Samsung printer.)
I was also left feeling rather violated by all the privacy I’d had to give up to the
“cloud” process. For example, HP’s policy regarding collection of my personal
information allows its use to “measure performance of marketing initiatives, ads,
and Websites powered by another company on HP’s behalf.” Google’s privacy
policy spans dozens of interactive pages, none of which seems to actually talk
about Cloud Print.
On top of this, Cloud Print (the app) demanded access to my Google account
“now and in the future.” It also turned out to use a third-party Web service for
its PDF conversion, whose privacy policy allows for release of user documents “to
comply with legal process,” for example.
Perhaps if you’re already posting the intimate details of your private life to
Facebook and Twitter, Cloud Print won’t seem much of a concern. Still, I think
5/7/12 10:05 AM
Personal Technology
Cloud printing apps give short shrift to user privacy. One app requires users
to grant access to their account settings and consent to the release of their
documents to third parties.
p40
everyone has certain documents in their lives that they’d be uncomfortable having spread all over cyberspace in this manner.
Cloud Print does work. And yes, it lets you print from anywhere there’s
Internet, to any printer you register with the service. But it’s convoluted and
awkward, and still doesn’t give you much control over the output. E-mailing print
jobs to HP’s ePrint has some limitations (on document size, for example), but is a
lot more convenient to set up, and doesn’t send your content on quite as long a
trek. Neither is any substitute for actual system-level printing support.
Manufacturer Apps
By far the best solutions I found for printing from either iOS or Android were the
little custom apps created by the printer manufacturers themselves.
You generally need to run these apps on their own, then load the saved document, as opposed to printing documents directly from the apps that created it.
But some newer apps, such as the Firefox Web browser (on Android, at least;
Apple’s developer agreement won’t allow it on iOS), seem able to load manufacturer’s printer apps as needed.
The Share menu in Firefox displayed 10 options, including things like e-mail,
Gmail, Cloud Print… and most of the manufacturer’s print apps that I eventually
installed. Selecting one of the latter would load the app with the page ready to
go.That takes us back full-circle, with the printer app acting almost like a driver
would on Mac or Windows.
All the printer apps I tried are available in largely identical versions for iOS and
Android.
HP ePrint Home & Business: Launching HP ePrint Home and Business displays a
Settings menu that lets you track usage and manage enabled printers. It also lets
you open your Photo Albums or Documents.The iOS version looks nicer, and
also lets you open a Web Browser for printing.
The app lets you print the most common ½le types: Microsoft Word, PowerPoint
and Excel ½les; plain-text (TXT) ½les; Adobe Acrobat (PDF) ½les; simple Web
pages (HTML); and several common types of images (BMP, JPG, PNG, GIF and
TIFF). When previewing image ½les, you can set a cropping box to output just
part of the image.
ePrint was even willing to deal with non-copy-protected ePub books on my
Samsung tablet; but it didn’t offer me the option to print just one page. It was the
whole book, or nothing.
Firefox allowed me to invoke ePrint Home&Biz from its Share menu, but pages
did not display and could not be printed. In fairness, this was a pre-release version
of Firefox; but it did work with the Epson and Brother apps. Hopefully, this situa-
HH50.indd 40
tion will improve as ePrint and Firefox get updated.
Epson iPrint: On either iOS or Android, Epson’s iPrint app opened with a
menu that lets you access Photos, Saved Documents, Online Storage, Web Page
Print or Scan. iPrint offered the option of printing only certain pages in a job, and
tweaking printer colour and contrast settings. It could even show how much of
each ink was left, and do printhead cleaning and nozzle check.
iPrint did need to re-open Web pages for printing, even if I’d just left them in
the browser. However, it worked well with the Print option in Firefox, allowing me
to print pages as I browsed. Pages did take a little while to ½nish loading in iPrint,
for some reason, but output was ½ne.
Scanning worked well, once I realized that you have to have a memory card or
USB stick inserted into the printer, even though the scan is beamed directly to
the tablet.You can save the image in a folder on the tablet, open it in an installed
app, or send it to online services like Evernote, Google Docs, Dropbox or Box.
Brother iPrint&Scan: On Android, Brother iPrint&Scan offers four options:
Photo Print, PDF Print, Web Page Print and Scan.These operated very much the
same way as those in the Epson app, except that the delay in loading Web pages
was absent. On iOS, you get a Photo Albums menu, that lets you access saved
images.
iPrint&Scan had no trouble detecting both my older Brother HL-4070CDW
laser and the new MFC-J835DW multifunction inkjet obtained for this article.The
laser isn’t even wireless; it’s shared on the home network via Ethernet.
From the Print Preview screen, you can access settings for Paper Size, Layout
and number of Copies. On Android, there’s a handy two-in-one layout option,
that places reduced-page images side-by-side on a single sheet of paper.You can
also enable double-sided printing, with pages arranged to ¾ip along either the
long or short edge. (Oddly, this worked only with the older HL-4070CDW laser,
even though both Brother printers supported duplexing.)
One particularly complex PDF ½le did fail to render properly on the MFCJ835DW, and printed with extraneous coloured bars. Also, I got an error message
with long PDFs, informing me that the app has a 20-page limit. On the other
hand, most fancy PDFs with mixed text and charts printed quickly, with the same
quality you’d expect when printing from a desktop.
Canon Easy-PhotoPrint: Like the others, Canon’s printing app works more or
less the same on both iOS and Android, though, like the others, the iOS app has
had a bit of extra eye-appeal, including nice background designs and roundedlook buttons.
Epson’s iPrint app lets you print photos, documents and Web pages on
supported Epson printers.You can also check printer status and supplies
from your mobile device.
5/7/12 10:05 AM
ENTER OUR PHOTO CONTEST!
Here’s your opportunity to show off your digital photography skills.
We want to include your best shots in the next issue of HERE’S HOW!, and
on the HERE’S HOW! Website; and we have some great prizes for the winners.
2 Grand Prizes!
Sony’s NEX-5N delivers the image quality and versatility of a DSLR, but
can fit in your pocket. This compact interchangeable-lens camera can
capture 16.1-megapixel stills and Full HD 1080p video. With speeds up
to 10 frames per second, it’s great for action photography. The DSLRsized Exmor HD CMOS sensor produces great pictures, even in challenging low-light situations. The high-resolution 3” rear LCD can be tilted
for low-angle or overhead shooting. Creative options include 2D and 3D
Sweep Panorama. Prize includes 18-55mm standard-zoom lens.
2 Runner-Up Prizes!
Sony’s Cyber-shot DSC-WX50 has a 16.2-megapixel sensor EXMOR-R
sensor and Carl Zeiss 5x zoom lens with Optical SteadyShot. For action
photography, the WX50 can capture stills at 10 frames per second; it
can also record Full HD 1080i video. For portraits, the WX50 has features like Face Detection, Blink Detection and Soft Skin mode.
To enter our 41st Photo Opportunity Contest, you can burn your image to
a CD, and mail it to the address at the right on this page. Or send your
image to [email protected] as an e-mail attachment. Images
must be high enough resolution to be reproduced in this magazine (at
least 1600x1200 pixels). Only one submission per person please. Include your name, postal address, e-mail address and phone number, and
a note describing how you made the image, including the type of camera.
To be eligible for our next contest, entries must be received by 9:30 a.m.
EDT on June 25, 2012. Now get out there and take your best shot!
HH50.indd 41
To view past winners, visit...
www.hereshow.ca/photocontest/index
Full contest rules are posted at www.hereshow.ca
701 Evans Ave., Suite 102, Toronto, Ontario M9C 1A3
e-mail: [email protected]
5/7/12 10:05 AM
Personal Technology
Others: There are certainly other apps I didn’t have a chance to test. For example, Lexmark has a Mobile Printing app for both iOS and Android. It’s supposed
to work with “most Lexmark laser printers introduced since 2005,” as well as the
new Lexmark Pro715 or Pro915 multifunction inkjets.
When it comes to less-mainstream tablets and smartphones, you may be out
of luck.There are no Brother or Epson apps for the BlackBerry PlayBook, for example.There’s an HP app, but it’s only for sending jobs to commercial storefront
locations, not your own printer. If you have a recent HP printer, you can e-mail
print jobs from your BlackBerry (or any device) using HP’s ePrint functionality, as
described above.
Out of curiosity, I did try installing the Brother MFC-J835DW Windows driver
on one of my PCs. As I expected, this allowed me to print from every application on the system, including several ancient ones I still use, which pre-date the
Brother by a decade, and the current version of Windows by almost as much.
The Brother software also included a comprehensive control panel that gave me
endless control over the printer’s many options.
In short, the comparison between desktop driver and the little one-½le-at-atime printer apps was dramatic (and, of course, not unique to Brother). Manufacturer’s apps do a nice job of printing from your tablet or smartphone, but they’re
still a far cry from the full capability you’ll get on a personal computer.
Conclusion
p42
Easy-PhotoPrint does just about what the name implies. It lets you select images
saved on the device, and print them. It also lets you scan to JPG or PDF, and then
print the results. Settings include type and size of paper, as well as bordered or
borderless. But Easy-PhotoPrint doesn’t tackle any of your text-based documents.
Nor did it show up in the Share menu of Firefox.
Samsung Mobile Print: Samsung’s Mobile Print app, which we managed to
include only at the last minute, actually ran ahead of the pack in some ways. On
Android, it displays six icons: Gallery, Google Docs, Web Page, Documents, Facebook, and Twitter. As you’d expect, each lets you print from the respective source.
Images and complex PDF ½les took quite some time in preparation on the
tablet, but emerged from the printer almost instantly once transmission started.
Samsung Mobile Print even lets you print selected pages from a long document,
by checking little green boxes in the preview.
Scanning was similarly smooth.You have the opportunity to do a quick Preview
scan, then scan at full resolution to a ½le on your device.
On iOS, the app looks more elegant, and offers slightly different options.You can
print items from the Clipboard, for example. And there’s an extensive Help menu.
It’s obvious that printing from mobile devices is at a very peculiar juncture.There
are lots of good options, but no perfect ones.
If you’re not already hooked on all things “i,” printing is clearly one more item in
the plus column of the iPhone or iPad. As long as you’re ready to shell out for a
new printer, and don’t demand full desktop-style printing control, AirPrint will give
you easy and reliable output.
Google’s Cloud Print on the other hand, is at best an embarrassing reminder of
what should be, after four major releases of Android, a solved problem. It raises
endless privacy concerns, without making the process either simple or particularly
functional.The only real point in its favour is the ability to print from a remote
location.
On both iOS and Android, the apps provided by printer makers are a very
good option.They’re not quite as seamless as AirPrint, but most do offer more
control, and all are much more likely to work with older printers.They also enable options such as scanning, which AirPrint isn’t intended to cover.
It remains to be seen how Microsoft will handle printing in Windows 8, due late
this year. Microsoft has suggested that tablets may run the same version of the OS
as desktops or laptops. If so, they should be able to load Windows printer drivers,
which would be a huge breakthrough for serious business or graphics users.
For now, portable devices such as smartphones and tablets are a great substitute for paper. But they’re not yet an ideal way of producing paper output on
those occasions when it really is desired. HH
HP Envy 110: “The biggest attraction is HP’s ePrint capability, which lets
you e-mail documents or images directly to the printer from any device with
e-mail functionality.”
Epson Artisan 837: “A great workhorse, for both photo and all-round
home-office work, with excellent print quality and very handy double-sided
printing.”
Canon’s Easy-PhotoPrint app lets users print images and scanned PDFs to a
supported Canon printer from a mobile device, and also scan to their device.
HH50.indd 42
5/7/12 10:05 AM
Personal Technology
PUT IT ON PAPER
Five printers that work
with mobile devices
Although we were mainly interested in their ability to print from mobile devices,
it’s worth a word or two about the printers themselves.
HP Envy 110: The HP Envy 110 ($300) was the most compact of the models
tested: low and rectangular, with no protrusions.The LCD display and paper
catcher both emerge automatically when needed. (Very entertaining, if you have
cats.) It uses two ink cartridges, black and a cyan-magenta-yellow combo.The
scanner has no document feeder.
Wi-Fi Protected Setup actually worked, for once. I just pushed the WPS button
on the printer and then the one on the router.
Of course, the biggest attraction is HP’s ePrint capability, which not only works
with services like Google’s Cloud Print, but also lets you e-mail documents or images directly to the printer from any device with e-mail functionality. Another neat
feature is the ability to download apps that let you print directly from Websites
including Snap½sh and Photobucket, or even Disney and Martha Stewart.
Epson Artisan 837: The Epson Artisan 837 ($299) was the largest unit, partly
because of the document feeder on top, the duplexer on the back, and the full
six-colour printing engine inside.This would be a great workhorse, for both photo
and all-round home-of½ce work.
WPS con½guration didn’t succeed, so I had to enter my 20-digit password
using the Aritsan’s phone-style on-screen keypad. Once connected, though,
everything worked ¾awlessly, with excellent print quality and very handy doublesided printing.
Brother MFC-J835DW: The Brother MFC-J835DW ($150) comes across as a
very practical device. It’s got a document feeder, and was the only inkjet I looked
at with real physical buttons, including a full telephone keypad for faxing. (Do
people still do that?)
Printing uses the traditional four ink cartridges: cyan, magenta, yellow and black.
Nonetheless, photo output was excellent. Although it lacks the downloadable
apps of the HP Envy, the MFC-J835DW can connect to Picasa, Flickr, Google Docs,
Facebook and even Dropbox. I had no trouble browsing and printing Flickr images.
Canon PIXMA MG8120: This is a full six-colour printer, clearly oriented
towards photo printing. It does include a scanner, but not a document feeder. Like
the others in this review, it’s a big black oblong, but the LCD display is uniquely
positioned in the middle of the top deck.
The MG8120 didn’t offer WPS. It displayed the available networks, and let me
type in my password. It then warned that it had detected two networks with the
same name, and required me to pick the MAC (hardware) address of my access
point, something I’d never needed to know before. After that, however, the connection was solid, and printing and scanning were quick and reliable. Image quality,
as you’d expect, was top-notch.
Samsung SCX-3405FW: Priced at $200, this multifunction device seemed the
poor relation in this roundup: a laser among inkjets, monochrome rather than
colour. But it performed admirably in its own way, operating quietly and quickly,
producing excellent black-and-white pages, and razor-sharp colour scans.
Its only real failing lay in setup. WPS failed to connect, and entering a W-Fi
password on its tiny, non-backlit, single-line display was a daunting prospect.
Fortunately, I discovered that it could generate an eight-digit WPS PIN number.
Entering this on my router did the trick.
The SCX-3405FW also includes Wi-Fi Direct, a new standard that lets devices
connect to each other without going through a router or access point.This
showed up as a printing option in Firefox on Android, but unfortunately, while the
connection was made, printing would stall and never complete. Standard Wi-Fi
looks like the way to go, for now. HH
HH50.indd 43
Brother MFC-J835DW: “A very practical device. It’s got a document feeder
and real physical buttons, including a full telephone keypad for faxing.”
p43
Canon PIXMA MG8120: “This six-colour printer is clearly oriented towards
photo printing. Printing and scanning were quick and reliable. Image quality
was top-notch.”
Samsung SCX-3405FW: “It performed admirably, operating quietly and
quickly, producing excellent black-and-white pages, and razor-sharp colour
scans.”
5/7/12 10:05 AM
MIRRORLESS
MAGIC
p44
Four leading-edge
interchangeable-lens
cameras put
to the test
by Peter K. Burian
Over the past few issues, we’ve tested Compact
System Cameras (CSCs) from Nikon, Olympus,
Panasonic, Samsung and Sony. All these “mirrorless”
cameras accept interchangeable lenses and can be
surprisingly fast and versatile, just like a digital SLR.
But they’re much more portable, because they
eliminate the re¾ex mirror and the pentaprism
charactertistic of SLRs.
For this issue, we decided to test four cameras, all
loaded with features for serious photography and at
least 16-megapixel resolution.These include the latest and greatest from Fuji½lm, Panasonic, Pentax and
Sony. A ½fth camera, Olympus’ E-M5, arrived just as
this issue went to press. We’ll have a review on our
Website by the time this issue appears.
Sony NEX-7
Sony’s top-of-the line NEX model resembles a
point-and-shoot digicam, but it’s actually a 24.3MP
camera with a wealth of capabilities. In spite of its
small size, the NEX-7 has tank-like construction. It
features a pop-up ¾ash, plus a hot shoe for a full-size
Sony ¾ash.
The electronic view½nder (EVF) is built-in; it’s
not an extra-cost option as with many competing
cameras.The EVF boasts 2.36-million-dot resolution
HH50.indd 44
As this series shows, Sony NEX-7’s Auto HDR mode is very useful in high contrast lighting for a significant improvement in shadow detail and some improvement in highlight detail.The camera offers many
options for adjusting the intensity of the effect; maximum intensity was used with the top-most image,
taken at ISO 1600. Photos by Peter K. Burian
5/7/12 10:05 AM
Digital Imaging Hands-on
and provides a bright, contrasty display, even in dark
locations. It’s perfect except for one drawback: under
high-contrast lighting, shadow areas in the view½nder
tend to be too dark.There’s also a three-inch LCD
with ultra-high 921,6000-dot resolution, and it can be
tilted into any desired position. Its 16:9 display area is
the perfect shape for HD videos, but the display area
is a bit small when shooting still photos.
Designed to satisfy serious photo enthusiasts, this
camera offers capabilities such as very effective Auto
HDR (for great highlight and shadow detail), a 10fps
continuous drive option, a versatile 25-point AF system and full HD video. Because it employs an oversized 23.5x15.6mm sensor, the pixels are adequately
large for ½ne quality, even though there are 24 million
on the chip. While not exactly tiny, the NEX zoom
lenses are gorgeous with aluminum barrels.
Features and operation: The NEX-7 offers 13 picture styles that produce entirely different looks, each
with overrides for sharpness, saturation and contrast.
Eleven special-effects modes are also available; most
offer overrides to vary the effect. Sweep Panorama
mode, with 3D if desired, is one of my favourite
features.This mode ½res many JPEGs while you pan
the camera, then stitches them into a single long
23MP photo with an extremely wide angle of view.
The JPEGs are merged seamlessly, and exposure is
adjusted for a pleasing overall effect.
While there are not many external controls, the
NEX-7 features three input dials with an entirely
new Tri-Navi interface.The function of each dial depends on the shooting mode that’s being used, and
the rear dial has several different purposes.The dials
are used in conjunction with a navigation function
button on the camera’s top panel. It’s impossible to
describe NEX-7 operation brie¾y, since it’s entirely
different than any camera I have ever used. Some
people will be frustrated at ½rst, but after a half hour
with the owner’s manual and a few days of use, it
should no longer seem complicated.
Movie mode: The NEX-7 would be ideal for anyone serious about video.You can record HD movies
in P, A, S or M mode; and many overrides including
special effects can be set before shooting. During
actual recording, it’s possible to change the aperture,
shutter speed and ISO. Autofocus in Movie mode
is fast and continuous, useful for tracking subjects
moving toward the camera in daylight. Stereo sound
is available with the built-in mic or an external mic.
The camera can produce gorgeous Full HD 1080p
clips at 60fps in AVCHD 2 format, useful for smooth
videos of fast-moving action. For other situations,
the 24fps option (or 29.97fps in MPEG-4 format)
provides a more pleasing cinematic effect.
Accessories: In addition to optional ¾ash units,
lens adapters and an external mic, Sony currently
offers seven E-mount NEX lenses. Others are in
development.There’s a basic adapter (LA-EA1) for
using Sony A-mount DSLR lenses with manual focus
HH50.indd 45
only, and a new (LA-EA2) adapter that allows for fast
phase-detection autofocus with very effective tracking AF for action photography.
Speed and quality: The NEX-7 is fast in all aspects.
Pre-focus and the camera will take a photo instantly
after you press the shutter-release button.The
25-point autofocus system is lightning-fast outdoors.
The Continuous AF mode had no dif½culty tracking
cyclists approaching my position. In dark locations,
autofocus does slow, taking up to a second, but it’s
faster with subjects close to the camera.
Switch to Speed Priority Continuous drive mode,
and you can shoot at a blazing 10fps at 24.3MP, for
up to 18 Large/Fine JPEGs. Exposure and focus are
locked for the ½rst frame; but in my tests, exposure
was usually ½ne for all of the photos.The lack of
continued focusing was sometimes a drawback.This
high-speed drive mode is ideal for shooting a series
of a golf swings or changing facial expressions, but
not for subjects approaching the camera. For those
types of action photos, use the conventional 3fps
drive mode with continuous tracking autofocus.
The NEX-7 produces images that should satisfy
the most serious photographer; but for higher sharpness, you might want to set the in-camera control
to +1. When using the default picture style, without
overrides, my images were clear and colourful, but a
bit cool (bluish) in daylight. I preferred the warmer
colour balance provided with Cloudy Day WB. Like
most cameras, this one tended to underexpose
light-toned scenes; that’s easily prevented with +2/3
exposure compensation.
At ISO 100 to 400, intricate details are extremely
well de½ned; the huge JPEGs are suitable for 16x24-
Sony NEX-7: “This is a highly desirable takeanywhere camera in terms of feature set, classy
styling, great speed and fine image quality.”
inch prints. Images made at ISO 800 and 1600 look
great too, quite smooth and colourful. After some
Smart Sharpening in Photoshop, I was able to make
very ½ne 13x19-inch prints from my best JPEGs.
At ISO 3200, there’s some slight blotchiness, but
letter-size prints are still very good. For better results
at high ISO, switch to the Hand-held Twilight Scene
mode or the Anti Motion Blur mode.The camera
will record six JPEGs in a series and align them to
minimize the effect of any camera shake. It then
composites the six JPEGs into one, discarding most
of the noise data.This technology is very successful,
providing ISO 4000 images that resemble JPEGs
made at ISO 800.
p45
Sony NEX-7
PLUS
• Excellent electronic view½nder & LCD screen
• 10fps drive mode at 24MP
• Superb high-ISO quality with special modes
MINUS
• Few external controls; unusual Tri Navi operation
• 16:9 LCD provides a smaller display area for still photos
• Expensive, but the EVF is not an extra-cost accessory
NUTS & BOLTS
Sensor/processor: HD CMOS, 24.3MP effective (6,000x4,000 pixels); BIONZ
Capture modes: JPEG, RAW, RAW+JPEG, AVCHD 2.0 or MPEG-4 to 1080p
Lenses: All E-mount; A-mount lenses with optional adapter
LCD/viewfinder: Tilting 3” 921,000-dot touchscreen; built-in 2.36-million-dot EVF
Operating modes: iAuto, P, A, S, M, 8 Scene modes, High Speed Priority (for high ISO), Anti Motion Blur,
Sweep and 3D Sweep Panorama, Movie
Features: Built-in ¾ash and hot shoe, many ¾ash modes; ISO 50 to 16,000; 13 picture style modes with
overrides; 11 special-effects modes; many other overrides; Continuous Drive to 3fps, or 10 fps with
focus/exposure locked; electronic level gauge; 25-point AF with many options; sensor cleaner; stereo
mic with Dolby or optional external mic
High-tech amenities: Live histogram, Dynamic Range Optimizer and Auto HDR with intensity adjustment,
Defocus for automatic depth-of-½eld control, Hand-held Twilight mode (for high ISO)
Power: Rechargeable Li-ion battery for 430 shots
Storage: SD/SDHC/SDXC or Memory Stick Pro Duo card
Size: 120 x 67 x 43 mm (w/h/d, body only)
Weight: 353g (body only, with battery)
Price: $1,200 (body only); $1,400 (with Sony 18-55mm OSS f/3.5-5.6 standard-zoom lens)
Website: www.sonystyle.ca
5/7/12 10:05 AM
Digital Imaging Hands-on
Conclusion: This is a highly desirable takeanywhere camera in terms of feature set, classy
styling, great speed and ½ne image quality, but it is
expensive.That’s understandable considering the
magnesium alloy construction, pro-grade electronic
view½nder and 24.3MP sensor. In spite of its unusual
control interface, the NEX-7 would be a ½ne choice
as a second camera for DSLR owners. Families will
probably want to check out the more affordable
NEX-5N ($700 with 18-55mm standard-zoom lens).
Panasonic Lumix
DMC-GX1
p46
Much smaller than Lumix G cameras with built-in
electronic view½nders, the GX1 with its rugged
metal body and protruding handgrip resembles a
high-end ½xed-lens digicam. In terms of speci½cations
and external controls, this camera targets the experienced photographer, but will also appeal to novices.
Especially in the Intelligent Auto modes, it’s easy to
get great photos. In iA+ mode, the GX1 provides
control over depth-of-½eld, exposure and white balance, without the need for any technical knowledge.
The three-inch 460,000-dot LCD provides a clear,
crisp display in all lighting conditions, and allows for
touchscreen operation, which will de½nitely appeal to
some users.There’s a pop-up ¾ash, and also a hot shoe
for using a more powerful external ¾ash.The GX1 is
the ½rst camera to accept Panasonic’s ultra-high resolution electronic view½nder, the DMV-LVF2 ($250).
It’s also the ½rst camera that’s available with
Panasonic’s new 14-42mm GX PZ Mega OIS lens.
When powered off, the PZ lens retracts, making the
camera-and-lens combination very pocketable. As
the PZ designation indicates, zooming is motorized,
activated with the lens or a touchscreen control.
This allows for smooth, silent zooming, which is very
desirable in Movie mode. When the camera is set
for manual focus, another lever activates motorized
focus adjustment. A second PZ lens is also available,
the 45-175mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH telephoto zoom, also
Especially with the very compact 12-42mm PZ lens, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1 is much smaller and
lighter than DSLR equipment for great portability.This is great for vacations, and also for hiking, cycling or walking
long distances.This picture was taken using the GX1 during a beach holiday in Mexico. Photo by Peter K. Burian
with a built-in image stabilizer.
Features and operation: The G1X is equipped
with a wealth of DSLR-style modes, functions and
overrides, including a new level gauge for guidance
in keeping the camera perfectly straight. Amenities
include Intelligent Resolution, for very crisp JPEGs;
23-point autofocus with Continuous, Face Recognition and Tracking options; as well as Intelligent options for ISO, dynamic range and resolution (actually
selective sharpening). Seven picture style modes are
available, each with overrides for contrast, sharpness
and colour saturation.There’s also a Creative Control
mode with eight ½lters for special effects.
The Venus Engine FHD processor provides reliable
autofocus in conjunction with the camera’s Light
Speed AF system. For maximum simplicity, select one
of the 17 subject-speci½c Scene modes, including
Soft Skin for ¾attering portraits; or switch to iA or
iA+ mode.The latter will select a suitable Scene
mode, detect faces, minimize motion blur, improve
highlight/shadow detail and provide intelligent
resolution.The iA+ mode is an ideal choice, since it
employs “intelligent” technology but allows for using
essential overrides when desired.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1: “Thanks to its moderately large sensor and advanced processor, the GX1
is quite competitive with entry-level DLSRs in speed and image quality.”
HH50.indd 46
Movie mode: The G1X can record beautiful 1080i
videos at 60fps in AVCHD format, or up to 30fps in
the more software-friendly MP4 format, with Dolby
stereo. But the G1X does not accept an external mic.
You can shoot videos in any of 11 Scene modes or
take over control by pre-setting the aperture or shutter speed and using overrides such as exposure compensation, picture style or creative ½lters. In iA+ mode,
the aperture can be changed during actual recording
using the simpli½ed Defocus (depth-of-½eld) control.
Continuous autofocus and even Tracking AF are available. I used the new PZ lenses for smooth zooms and
found that autofocus was fast in Movie mode.
Controls and operation: Certain aspects of
operation can be achieved via the pressure-sensitive
touchscreen. For example, you can point at an area
that should be in sharpest focus, move the grid lines,
activate zooming with a PZ lens, and take a photo,
all with touchscreen control. In iA+ modes, sliders
are available for adjusting the amount of background
defocus (blur), colour rendition and brightness. In
Playback mode, swipe your ½nger to move between
photos and tap the screen to enlarge an image; you
can also delete one or more photos if desired.
It’s also worth dragging and dropping your favourite
functions to the Q. Menu.That will minimize the need
to access the full ½ve-section menu with its numerous
items, some not exactly intuitive.The touchscreen feature works smoothly, thanks to a well-implemented
interface. But I preferred to use conventional controls,
including two customizable buttons.
Accessories: In addition to the electronic view½nder and several optional ¾ash units, Panasonic currently markets 14 lenses, many with a built-in Mega
OIS stabilizer.The system includes one lens for 3D
capture and two with motorized zooming. Adapters
for mounting lenses from other systems (including
Four Thirds DSLRs) are also available.
Speed and quality: The Lumix GX1 is very fast to
start up, focus and process images. It can shoot numerous JPEGs at 3fps, or at a full 4.2fps in high-speed
mode.There is one drawback to shooting at 4.2fps:
5/7/12 10:05 AM
HH50.indd 47
5/7/12 10:05 AM
Digital Imaging Hands-on
p48
the view½nder displays the last photo that was taken,
not a real-time live view of the subject.That made
it dif½cult to keep animals moving across my line
of vision properly framed, but was not a problem
in many other types of situations.The 20fps drive
option can be useful for recording a long series, but
resolution is much lower at 4MP; focus and exposure
are locked at the ½rst frame.
Autofocus is very fast outdoors. It was quite fast
inside a shopping mall, taking roughly half a second,
but (like any AF system) very slow in a dark theatre.
Outdoors, the system was quite effective in tracking
the motion of animals approaching the camera at
the Muskoka Wildlife Centre.
During testing in P mode and Natural Picture
Style without overrides, my JPEGs exhibited nicely
saturated colours and snappy contrast, but were a
bit soft. I recommend activating Intelligent Resolution
for automatic selective smoothing and sharpening of
various parts of an image.The accuracy of skin tones
was best in Portrait Scene mode or with the Portrait
picture style.The GX1 tended to underexpose lighttoned scenes.That was easy to prevent with a bit
of plus exposure compensation; but it’s essential to
avoid excessively bright highlight areas by activating
the Intelligent Dynamic Range feature.
My best ISO 160 to ISO 400 photos are very
smooth, with crisply de½ned detail; they’re suitable
for 16x20-inch prints. At ISO 800 and 1600, the images exhibit little digital noise. Colours are still quite
rich and details are well resolved; my JPEGs made
nice 11x15-inch glossies. At ISO 3200, the images
are grainier, but exhibit adequate detail for very nice
letter-size prints.
Fujifilm X-Pro1: “If you’re looking for a prestigious photographic tool with an excellent viewfinder, unusually sharp lenses and superlative image quality, this may be the system for you.”
Conclusion: Thanks to its moderately large
17.3x13mm sensor and advanced processor, the
GX1 is quite competitive with many entry-level
DLSRs in speed and image quality up to ISO 1600.
However, when shooting very fast action moving at
erratic speeds, a DSLR’s autofocus system is more
effective in tracking the motion.This Lumix camera
offers the best of both worlds in terms of controls:
familiar buttons and dials for long-time photographers, and touchscreen for those who appreciate
this newer method.
For a relatively affordable camera (especially
with the conventional kit lens), the Lumix DMCG3 is a ½ne performer in many aspects, including
autofocus in both photo and movie modes. The
Power Zoom lenses are more expensive than the
conventional lenses, so you might want to stick to
conventional G-series lenses unless you frequently
shoot videos.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1
PLUS
MINUS
• Both touchscreen and conventional controls
• Few image-enhancing tools in Playback mode
• Ideal for serious shooters but also ½ne for novices
• Skin tones are best in Portrait modes
• Very impressive intelligent technology and iA+ mode • LCD screen cannot be tilted or rotated
NUTS & BOLTS
Sensor/processor: LiveMOS, 16MP effective (4,592x3,448 pixels);Venus Engine FHD
Capture modes: JPEG, RAW, RAW+JPEG, 1080p in AVCHD or MP4
Lenses: All Micro Four-Thirds; Four-Thirds lenses with adapter
LCD/viewfinder: 3” 460,000-dot touchscreen; optional 1.44-million-dot EVF; optional optical ½nder
Operating modes: iA or iA+, P, A, S, M, Creative Control (8 special-effects ½lters), 17 Scene modes, Movie
Features: Built-in ¾ash and hot shoe with many ¾ash modes; ISO 160-12,800; 7 Picture Style modes, each
with overrides; many other overrides; Live View grid lines and level gauge; Continuous Drive to 4.2fps, or
20fps at 4MP; 23-point AF with many AF option; dust reduction system; stereo mic with wind-cut,
4 audio levels and Dolby coding
High-tech amenities: Live histogram, Dynamic Range control, touchscreen interface; many Intelligent
features; digital teleconverter; Peripheral Defocus for automatic depth-of-½eld control; re-size, cropping
etc. in Playback mode
Power: Rechargeable Li-ion battery for 300 shots
Storage: SD/SDHC/SDXC card
Size: 116 x 68 x 39 mm (w/h/d, body only)
Weight: 413g (body only, with battery)
Price: $750 (body only); $850 (with Lumix G 14-42mm OIS standard-zoom lens); $1,000
(with X PZ 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS power-zoom lens)
Website: www.panasonic.ca
HH50.indd 48
Fujifilm X-Pro1
Resembling a classic range½nder camera, the 16.3MP
X-Pro1 is equipped with mechanical shutter-speed
and exposure-compensation dials, and even a shutter release button that’s threaded for a mechanical
cable release.The interchangeable lenses feature
conventional aperture and focus rings. But this model
also includes many digital features and a great deal of
cutting-edge technology.
The magnesium alloy body is quite large and hefty,
and its three-inch LCD provides an impressive display
with 1.23-million-dot resolution.The hybrid view½nder
can be switched from an all-glass optical to an electronic ½nder with 1.44-million-dot resolution.There’s
no diopter correction dial; but otherwise this amenity
works well. Instead of built-in ¾ash, the hot shoe accepts an optional ¾ash, including the small EP-X20.
Controls and operation: Because of the mechanical controls, there’s no mode selector dial. If you
want to use P mode, set both shutter-speed dial and
the lens’ aperture ring to A. For aperture-priority,
set a desired aperture with the mechanical ring. For
shutter-priority mode, set the lens ring to A and set
a desired shutter speed. For manual operation set an
aperture and shutter speed with guidance from the
light meter.
The X-Pro1 is also equipped with the typical
electronic buttons, a single input dial and a four-way
controller thumb pad.There’s also a Q button that
activates a sub-menu of the most frequently used
functions. For setting more advanced options, there’s
a well organized multi-page menu.
The electronic view½nder (EVF) works exactly as
you would expect; but you can also ¾ip a switch and
change it to range½nder-style optical, with electronic
data displays. Because you do not view the subject
through the lens, there can be some framing inaccuracy, but that’s noticeable only in close focusing.
Electronic frame lines are available to approximate
the boundaries of the image area. For critically accurate framing, it’s worth switching back to the EVF.
Features and technology: Under the rugged
retro-style exterior, there’s a large (15.8x23.6mm)
5/7/12 10:05 AM
Digital Imaging Hands-on
Thanks to its new sensor technology and sharp wide-aperture lenses, the Fujfilm X-Pro1 can capture
images with superb detail. Photo by Peter Burian.
and entirely new X-Trans CMOS sensor chip with a
colour ½lter array that’s practically immune to moiré
or false colour. Other cameras use a low-pass (antialiasing) ½lter to prevent moiré, and that can cause
some blurring of intricate details.That’s not necessary
with the X-Pro1, so the images exhibit extra crispness. And the new EXR Pro processor eliminates any
artefacts to ensure clean images.
Aside from the omission of Auto and Scene
modes, this is a well-equipped camera, with a
49-point autofocus system, three light-metering
patterns, dynamic range expansion options, and the
usual White Balance options.There’s also an easyto-use Panorama mode, a multi-exposure function,
and 10 picture styles, called “½lm-simulation modes.”
These aim to replicate the look of certain Fuji ½lms,
both colour and black-and-white. Overrides are
available in each mode for aspects such as saturation,
sharpness and tonal gradation.
Movie mode: Accessed using a Drive mode, video
capture is available at up to Full HD (1,920x1,080
pixels) at 24fps with stereo sound.The built-in
microphone picks up the noise of camera operation;
surprisingly there’s no jack for an external mic. Only
the electronic view½nder or Live View can be used
in video capture. Autofocus is always continuous,
though not very fast; but manual focus can be used
instead.The WB, aperture, ½lm-simulation mode,
exposure compensation and the focus mode can
be pre-set before recording; and this arrangement
should be ½ne for all but serious video enthusiasts.
The Full HD movie quality is excellent, thanks partly
to the high-grade lenses.
Accessories: In addition to EF ¾ash units, you’ll
½nd three gorgeous, high-grade Fujinon lenses with
aperture rings: the 18mm f/2, 35mm f/1.4, and 60mm
f/2.4 Macro.They’re not equipped with an image stabilizer. On the roadmap are standard, wide-angle and
telephoto zooms, along with two more wide-angle
HH50.indd 49
prime lenses.There will also be an adapter that will
accept Leica M lenses, though with manual focus only.
Speed and quality: The X-Pro1 starts up in a half
second in Quick Start mode, and can ½re 24 large/
½ne JPEGs (with a fast Class 10 memory card) at
6fps before slowing down. In JPEG capture, processing is very fast; it’s slower in RAW capture, but I was
able to keep shooting while data was being written
to the memory card. Autofocus was acceptably
fast outdoors, and remained reliable in low light,
especially with wide-angle lenses. Continuous AF was
able to track a person walking toward the camera;
but could not keep up with an action subject. Manual
focus worked well, but was a tad slow to respond to
a rotation of the ring.
The 10 ½lm-simulation modes were very useful for
achieving various effects in colour or monochrome.
The Standard option produced slightly dull pics, but
the Velvia mode provided sharp, richly saturated
JPEGs with high sharpness and snappy contrast.The
intelligent light-metering system often produced accurate exposures; occasionally, I needed to use -2/3
compensation to prevent overly bright images. Auto
WB usually worked well; but on overcast days, the
Cloudy WB option was necessary to avoid a cool
(bluish) colour balance.
My best ISO 200 to 400 JPEGs exhibit incredibly
high de½nition of the most intricate detail, perhaps
because there’s no low-pass ½lter.They’re suitable for
superb prints 16x24 inches and larger. At higher ISO,
the images remain surprisingly clean. Well-exposed
JPEGs made at ISO 3200 produced very good
11x15-inch prints; and ISO 6400 was suitable for
decent letter-size prints. While the NEX-7 is even
better at very high ISO when used in its special night
modes, the X-Pro1 was my favourite camera in very
dark locations in conventional shooting modes.
Conclusion: The X-Pro 1 will primarily appeal
those who have used older 35mm SLRs or want
classic styling. Of course, considering the size, weight
and price, including $600 to $650 for each lens, it’s
not for everyone. Until at least one zoom becomes
available, this is likely to be a niche camera. But if
you’re a discriminating photographer looking for a
prestigious photographic tool with an excellent view½nder, unusually sharp lenses and superlative image
quality, this may be the system for you.
p49
Fujifilm X-Pro1
PLUS
• Well designed optical and electronic view½nder
• Gorgeous retro styling; some conventional controls
• New sensor technology maximizes image quality
MINUS
• Few lenses initially; none with an image stabilizer
• No Auto, Scene or special-effects modes
• Analog-style operating sequences not for everyone
NUTS & BOLTS
Sensor/processor: X-Trans CMOS, 16.3MP effective (4,896x3,264 pixels); EXR Pro engine
Capture modes: JPEG, RAW, RAW+JPEG, 1080p .MOV
Lenses: XF series; with a future adapter, Leica M with manual focus only; 1.5x factor
LCD/viewfinder: 3” 1.23-million-dot LCD; hybrid view½nder, optical with bright frame and data displays
with 90% scene coverage or 1.44-million-dot EVF with 100% coverage
Operating modes: P, A, S, M, Panorama, Movie
Features: Hot shoe for accessory ¾ash and several ¾ash modes; ISO 200-6400 (ISO 100 to 25,600 with
expansion); 10 ½lm-simulation modes each with overrides, many other overrides; Continuous Drive to
6fps; 49-point AF with Single Shot and Continuous AF options; electronic manual focus; dust reduction
system, stereo microphone
High-tech amenities: Live histogram, dynamic range expansion, Silent mode, depth-of-½eld preview,
electronic level display, RAW modi½cation and conversion in playback mode, HDMI out
Power: Rechargeable Li-ion battery for 300 shots
Storage: SD/SDHC/SDXC, including UHS-I card
Size: 140 x 82 x 43 mm (h/w/d, body only)
Weight: 450g (body only, with battery)
Price: $1,700 (body only)
Website: www.fuji½lm.ca
5/7/12 10:05 AM
Digital Imaging Hands-on
Pentax K-01
p50
The ½rst mirrorless camera designed speci½cally
for use with DSLR lenses, the 16.3MP Pentax K-01
features the familiar K-mount. It’s ideal for use with
Pentax AF lenses; but also accepts older manualfocus models, with some limitations.The other
signi½cant aspect is the bold styling, created by the
eclectic Australian designer Marc Newson.
In some respects however, it’s much like the Pentax K-5 DSLR.The K-01 is equipped with a similar
23.7x15.7mm sensor, similar controls, and many of
the same features. Because it was designed to accept
the large K-mount lenses, the body is thicker than
average for a Compact System Camera. In fact, the
K-01 is similar to small DSLRs in size and weight,
in spite of its small handgrip and the omission of a
re¾ex mirror and view½nder.
The body includes an aluminum frame with some
components made of polycarbonate and a few of
metal; the grip and other end of the body are covered in rubber. Built-in ¾ash is standard, but there’s
also a hot shoe for external ¾ash. On the back is a
non-tilting three-inch 920,000-dot LCD. Like Pentax
DSLRs, the K-01 has a built-in image stabilizer that
works with any lens.
Features and technology: The K-01 employs a
new PRIME M processor that provides bene½ts in
video capture and in the speed of image display,
playback and processing.The new autofocus system
includes an 81-point sensor; the user can select any
desired point or allow the camera to do so. If you
want to focus manually, you’ll apprecaite the focuspeaking mode, which clearly delineates areas that are
sharp in the LCD display.
The K-01 offers a full range of manual, semiautomatic and fully automatic modes, overrides and
extras for creative photographers.These include a
multiple-exposure mode, and an improved HDR
mode (for maximum highlight and shadow detail)
that can be used without a tripod. However the
HDR effects are stylized with very high saturation.
Many special effects are available in JPEG capture
and also later, in playback mode for adding a creative
touch. Naturally, you’ll also ½nd a wide range of
picture styles for entirely different effects; overrides
for aspects such as the level of sharpness, contrast
and saturation are available for each style.
Controls and operation: The handgrip barely
protrudes, but it’s rubberized for a good grip.The
K-01 is equipped with an oversized mode selector
dial, input dial and on/off switch.The buttons are
logically placed and well marked; and the menu is
well laid out, with Pentax’s familiar tabs and menu
items. In truth, you won’t often need to access the
menu, because the INFO button allows for changing
settings in a full 14 functions. Overall, the camera’s
interface is excellent, although the rubber covers
over the various ports are ½ddly to open and close.
HH50.indd 50
Pentax K-01: “A well-equipped camera with great versatility, this camera would be the most logical
choice in the mirrorless category for anyone who owns Pentax-mount lenses.”
The large LCD provides a clear, crisp display with
brightness and colour adjustment. Like any monitor,
it’s dif½cult to use on bright days. Since it cannot be
tilted to minimize re¾ections, and because there’s
no view½nder (built-in or optional), the K-01 can be
frustrating to use in bright light.
Movie mode: The K-01 is preferable to the Pentax
DSLRs in video capture, since it offers a higher
framing rate (30fps at 1080p and 60fps at 720p) and
the newer H.264/MPEG-4 AVC compression, which
is more space-ef½cient than Motion JPEG. It also
provides autofocus in Movie mode, plus many overrides and control of the aperture or shutter speed
while recording. Autofocus is available only while the
AF button is depressed, and it’s slow. I prefered to
set focus manually before recording, and then hope
that I would not need to adjust it while shooting. HD
movie quality is excellent; stereo sound is captured,
with the in-camera mic or an optional remote mic.
Accessories: The K-01 is compatible with all autofocus DA lenses. Older K-mount lenses can be used
too, with manual focus and some limitations. Add an
optional adapter and the camera will accept some
screw-mount lenses, with limitations as to available
features. Pentax’s new DA 40mm f/2.8XS lens is tiny,
less than 1cm long, and weighs only 52g. It’s noisier
when focusing than some others in the DA line, but
not annoyingly so. Several AF-FGZ ¾ash units are
available, and the K-01 supports most of their hightech functions, though not Wireless Remote Flash.
Speed and quality: The K-01 starts up quickly,
especially when the start-up screen is disabled in the
Settings menu. It responds almost instantly to a touch
of the shutter-release button, and can ½re JPEGs
at 6fps, though only for six shots.The speed then
slows to 3fps, but you can take numerous photos
in a series. In RAW or RAW+JPEG mode, the top
speed is 3fps.The new processor speeds up the time
required to write data to the memory card, so the
camera is usually ready to take another burst of photos. When maximum processing speed was essential,
I disabled the shadow/highlight correction (dynamic
range expansion) and the lens distortion correction
items in the menu.
Pentax K-01
PLUS
MINUS
• Very versatile in both photo and movie modes
• Large/heavy, especially with larger lenses
• Improved processor and light-metering system
• 6fps speed only for a few shots; slows to 3fps
• Many automatic, manual and special-effects modes • Some autofocus issues, especially with tele-zooms
NUTS & BOLTS
Sensor/processor: 16.3MP CMOS (4,928x3,264 pixels); PRIME M
Capture modes: RAW, JPEG, RAW+JPEG; MP4 (AVC H.264) Motion JPEG
Lenses: K-AF; manual-focus lenses with limitations; 1.5x factor
LCD/viewfinder: Fixed 3” 921,000-dot screen with Live View; no view½nder or option to add one
Operating modes: AUTO, P, A, S, M, 19 Scene modes, Multiple Exposure and HDR; Movie to full HD
Features: Built-in ¾ash, hot shoe, image stabilizer, AF-assist lamp and stereo mic; accepts remote mic;
many overrides; 6fps drive mode, 3fps in RAW capture; 81-point AF, several AF modes; automatic
sensor cleaner; ISO 100-25600; 11 picture styles with overrides; 7 special-effects ½lters
High-tech amenities: Dynamic range expansion; interval shooting option; Focus Peaking; 9 JPEG
modi½cation tools in Playback; HDMI output
Power: Rechargeable Li-ion for 500 shots
Storage: SD/SDHC/SDXC, including UHS-I card
Size: 121 x 79 x 59 mm (w/h/d, body only)
Weight: 560g (body only, with battery)
Price: $750, body only; $900 with 40mm f/2.8 XS lens
Website: www.pentax.ca
5/7/12 10:05 AM
Digital Imaging Hands-on
When I used the tiny 40mm f/2.8 XS lens in
daylight, autofocus was quite quick, but it slowed
noticeably in dark locations. With nearby subjects,
the built-in focus-assist lamp was useful, so AF was
reliable, though not very quick. Face Detection AF
worked very well, especially outdoors. Autofocus
slowed noticeably with the entry-level 50-200mm
f/4-5.6 telephoto zoom. As well, there’s no AF option
designed to continuously track the motion of an
action subject approaching the camera. Because of
these aspects, the K-01 is not the best choice for
sports photography, and is most suitable with wideangle to 50mm lenses.
This Pentax camera produced clear, crisp, colourful
JPEGs in the standard Bright picture style, especially
with Sharpness set to +1. Underexposure was common, especially with light-toned subjects, but that was
easy to prevent with +2/3 exposure compensation.
Auto WB worked well, except on dark overcast
days when the balance was slightly blue. Especially
when made with the ½ne 40mm f/2.8 lens, my best
low-ISO images were suitable for superb 16x24-inch
prints, while ISO 800 shots allowed me to make very
nice 11x15-inch prints. Even the ISO 1600 and 3200
levels produced surprisingly clean JPEGs that made
for good, or decent, letter-size prints, respectively.
In most aspects of image quality, the K-01 is slightly
better than the highly rated Pentax K-5.
Conclusion: Aside from the size, it’s the unique
styling that sets this Pentax camera apart. Particularly
in yellow, it seems a bit dramatic for most tastes; but
in black it’s quite handsome, except for the three
oversized silver aluminum controls.The K-01 is a
well-equipped camera with great versatility even in
Movie mode; it’s convenient to operate and capable
of making gorgeous images.This camera would be
the most logical choice in the mirrorless category for
anyone who already owns Pentax mount lenses.
The Bottom Line
All of these mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras
are very desirable. If you want a DSLR-like experience, you might choose the Pentax K-01 or Fuji
X-Pro 1; also check out our online review of the
Olympus E-M5. If maximum portability is important,
check out the Lumix GX1 or the Sony NEX-7.The
latter offers 24MP resolution and a built-in electronic
view½nder; so it is more expensive, but still surprisingly compact. Of course, some of Panasonic’s lenses
are smaller than Sony’s, especially the 14-42mm
PZ zoom. Both cameras are packed with high-tech
features as well as many overrides, but you’ll need
to decide whether you prefer the GX1’s typical
controls or the NEX-7’s entirely new user interface.
For anyone who already owns K-mount lenses,
especially those with autofocus, the Pentax K-01
would be a logical choice, in spite of its larger size.
Except for autofocus speed, it’s comparable to the
K-5 DSLR in terms of versatility and image quality.
But if you’re the type who will want to buy several
types of new lenses, you’ll ½nd the greatest variety in
the Panasonic and Olympus systems; that’s because
both accept the Micro Four Thirds lenses of either
brand.
Long-time shooters who appreciate traditional
styling will love the Fuji½lm camera. Its hybrid view½nder is a de½nite bene½t too, although it will likely
be only electronic with ultra-wide or telephoto
zooms.The X-Pro1 also provides the best possible
image quality at very high ISO, important if you often
shoot in low light without a tripod.
While the mirrorless cameras are approaching
some DSLRs in terms of speed and versatility, the
larger cameras do have some advantages.These
include more reliable autofocus for sports photography, a familiar optical view½nder, and (in some
brands) a much wider range of lenses and accessories. Still, mirrorless systems are steadily increasing in popularity. Regardless of your own interests,
experience and intentions, the smaller cameras are
well worth checking out. HH
p51
As this photo taken in Charleston, S.C. illustrates, even with default settings, the Pentax K-01 produces images with wide dynamic range and rich colours.
Photo by Peter Burian.
HH50.indd 51
5/7/12 10:05 AM
Entertainment by the Byte
p52
COMPARING ONLINE
VIDEO AND MUSIC SERVICES
by Gerry Blackwell
Electronic entertainment is undergoing a sea change.The transformation is by no
means complete, but we can see the shape of things to come. Everything, eventually, will be delivered over the Internet, wherever and whenever you want it.
Today, you can stream or download almost any content from the Internet: not
just to a PC or Mac, but to smartphones and tablets, game consoles, Blu-ray players, Net-connected TVs and devices such as Apple TV that feed digital signals to a
TV or AV receiver.
The effects are already being felt. Online video services such as Net¾ix, iTunes
and CinemaNow have effectively killed the video rental business, with the two
largest chains in Canada, Blockbuster and Rogers, closing shop.
Over-the-air radio stations and record stores have been under siege for
more than a decade by online competitors such as iTunes. Record stores have
dwindled drastically in number and size as a result.
Television networks, meanwhile, are experimenting with delivering complete
episodes via browser-based applications and dedicated smartphone and tablet
apps, mostly for free with advertising.
Is all of this change for the better? The jury is still out. We looked at the major
Net entertainment options available in Canada and found them impressive in
some respects, but far from perfect. Moreover, two counter-revolutionary forces
may keep the jury out on network entertainment for some time.
One is the complex system of licensing agreements between entertainment
HH50.indd 52
producers and providers, which means providers won’t necessarily be able to sell
or rent you the content you want at a price you’d like to pay.
The second limiter: download caps imposed by the Internet service provider
oligopoly in Canada.This makes consuming network entertainment less attractive
than it is elsewhere.
So, quite a few caveats, but let’s look at what’s on offer.
iTunes Store
Apple’s iTunes Store is the online equivalent of a Blockbuster video rental store,
except it also offers music,TV programming, music videos and other electronic
content, including mobile apps.
Even if you don’t buy from the iTunes store, chances are you’re familiar with
iTunes software (Mac, PC, iOS devices) as a media organizer and player.The
iTunes store is also accessible through Apple TV, the company’s Wi-Fi network
media player, which connects to a TV via a HDMI cable and pulls content from
local drives and the Internet.
Content: The Canadian iTunes store offers less video content than its U.S.
counterpart, although the disparity isn’t as great as with some other services.
Prices to buy individual songs from commercially released albums and EPs
range from 69¢ to $1.29; albums start at $10.99.
You can buy individual TV episodes, typically for $2.49, sometimes with a choice
between standard-de½nition (SD) and high-de½nition (HD), and rent many, from
99¢. iTunes also sells complete season packages, and “season passes” that let buy-
5/7/12 10:05 AM
Network Entertainment
ers immediately download already-aired shows from a current season and then
download others as they’re added to the store.
Most movies are available to rent or buy. Often, they’re available in SD or HD.
Current mainstream movies (iTunes has many but not all available titles) rent for
$4.99 in SD, $5.99 in HD, and sell for $19.99 in SD, $24.99 in HD.
If you rent a movie or show from iTunes on a computer or iOS device, it
downloads and you have 30 days to start viewing it before it expires, after which
it’s unplayable. Once you start watching it, you have 24 hours to ½nish movies, 48
hours with TV shows before they expire.
User experience: Some people dislike iTunes, the software, mainly because of
the way it dictates how you can use and manage content. For example, iTunes
doesn’t let you transfer your own content from a mobile device back to a PC.
(It’s possible to do it with a third-party app.) And the only way to move content
downloaded from the iTunes store to other devices is using iTunes software.
As a window on the store, iTunes is a great-looking and generally fairly intuitive
interface, although some clickable buttons are too small.The service is occasionally slow to respond. And download speed is variable, and sometimes very slow.
In my testing, downloading a two-hour HD movie with my Rogers Extreme
Internet service (up to 24Mbps download speed), took close to four hours: considerably longer than the 54 to 72 minutes the iTunes Support Website suggests
it should. On the other hand, downloading a 44-minute HD TV show to an iPad
took minutes.
Content quality: Unlike streaming services such as Net¾ix, with iTunes, buyers
and renters download content to their computer hard drive or iOS device, so
they avoid many of the problems with streaming: pixilation, stuttering, freezing.
That said, it is possible to start watching or listening to iTunes content before it
has completely downloaded; it will stop when it has played everything downloaded, and start again when it has downloaded more.
Music from iTunes is delivered as 256-kilobit-per-second (Kbps) compressed
½les in the AAC format.This is signi½cantly better than the 128Kbps AAC tracks
originally offered by iTunes, but still lower quality than a CD (although the differences likely won’t be noticeable on the mobile devices and earbud headphones
that most iTunes customers use).
Video data is also compressed. A one hour, 47 minute HD movie is 3.61GB.
To most eyes, it will look as good as a standard DVD, but not quite as good as a
Blu-ray Disc.
iPad: The iPad iTunes app is in many ways friendlier and more intuitive than the
computer version.You can purchase items and download them directly to the
device. When you next sync with a host computer, content downloaded from
iTunes to the device will be backed up to the iTunes Media Library on your PC
Apple’s Canadian iTunes store has a huge selection of movies,TV shows and
music.While the video selection is not as extensive as the U.S., the disparity
is lower than with other services.
HH50.indd 53
or Mac.The iPad in particular is a terri½c medium for viewing video. Downloaded
HD content looks outstanding.
Apple TV: There is one exception to the iTunes download-not-streamed
rule: the Apple TV, which has no built-in storage. Previously purchased or rented
iTunes content is available on the Apple TV (once you sign into an iTunes account
in the device’s setup section).You can stream it from the Internet. Or if you have
Home Sharing activated on Apple TV and in iTunes on computers on the network, you can stream already-downloaded content from another device on your
own network.
Especially when streaming from the Internet, you may be subject to the same
kinds of problems that plague other streaming services.Video froze on several
occasions during one iTunes viewing session with the Apple TV when streaming
from the Internet.You can also buy or rent new content from the Apple TV, in
which case, it’s streamed from the Internet, but can later be downloaded to a
computer or iOS device.
Netflix
Unlike iTunes, Net¾ix is a subscription streaming video service. Subscribers
choose the content they want from a library, click Play, and it begins streaming
almost immediately to whichever device they’re using. And Net¾ix is available on
many different devices.Video is never stored on a user’s device.
The ¾at fee gives subscribers access to all available content, which includes
movies and television series. New material is added, and older material dropped,
all the time. An important consideration is whether there will be enough of the
right kind of content to make the subscription worthwhile.The only way to really
know for sure is to sign up for the free month of service.
Content: Because of licensing issues, Net¾ix offers far less content in Canada
than it does in the U.S. According to InstantWatcher, a Website set up to help
Net¾ix users browse the library and queue content, there are only about 1,300
streaming titles available from Net¾ix in Canada, about 450 in HD, compared to
over 14,000 titles, 3,300 in HD, in the U.S.
For consumers accustomed to renting virtually any movie on DVD as soon as
it’s released, the selection will disappoint. Many mainstream titles never make it to
Net¾ix, and never right away, especially in Canada.The library is top-heavy with B
movies, straight-to-DVD titles and older fare.
This is not to say there are no current quality movies. When we displayed all
comedies, the only title in the ½rst 40 that had received any critical notice was
Woody Allen’s You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger from 2010.
A similar experiment using the drama genre, turned up a few more notable
½lms, including 127 Hours, Of Gods and Men, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps and
Another Year – none of them mainstream Hollywood hits. And the ½rst 40 titles
included mostly obscure material such as Chillar Party, 7 Khoon Maaf, White Irish
Drinkers and The Myth of the American Sleepover.
Subscribers looking for an alternative to cable- and satellite-TV will also be
disappointed.This is not Hulu, the U.S.-only service that aggregates streaming
episodes, including current episodes, from network sites around the Web. Net¾ix
in Canada offers some quality shows, including Bones, United States of Tara, Being
Erica, The Big C and Mad Men, but not the latest episodes.
All of this sounds fairly damning. But Net¾ix costs only $7.99 a month. And you
can ½nd hidden gems like The Big C, the excellent cable-channel “comedy” starring Oscar-winner Laura Linney as a 40-ish woman confronting terminal cancer,
or Sherlock, a stylish English miniseries with Sherlock Holmes characters cleverly
transposed to modern times.
Net¾ix is perhaps best for those who don’t keep very current with their movie
and TV watching, or like to re-watch old favourites. For example, if you liked The
Rockford Files, the 1970s detective show featuring James Garner, Net¾ix lets you
view all six seasons, 163 episodes in all.
User interface: It is possible to view Net¾ix in a Web browser on a PC. But
the service is also available on several network-connected devices. I tried it on an
p53
5/7/12 10:05 AM
Network Entertainment
Netflix’s streaming video service
costs $7.99 a month.You can watch
as many TV shows and movies as
you want, but the selection is limited.
Image quality is generally good,
but pixilation and freezing can be
problems.
p54
iPad, Apple TV, Sony Blu-ray player and Sony PlayStation 3 game console. It’s also
available on some smartphones and TVs.
The user interface is similar on all devices.The default gallery view shows
thumbnails of movie posters arrayed across the screen, with a small selection visible in each of several categories. Net¾ix shows you what you’ve viewed recently,
as well as selections of the most recently added titles and the most popular on
Facebook. And it makes suggestions based on your previous viewing: sometimes
useful, mostly not.
Net¾ix mainly organizes content by genres such as drama and comedy, and
sub-genres such as cult comedies and mockumentaries. (TV shows is also a
genre.) You can display “all” titles in a genre and scroll/page through them in gallery view, or show them in a list, sortable by title, year of release, maturity level or
viewer ratings. Or search on titles, actors and directors.
Video quality: Video quality across all devices is poorer now than it was when
Net¾ix ½rst launched in Canada. Early in 2011, the company reduced streaming
bitrates, the major determinant of video quality, to accommodate the download
caps imposed by most Canadian Internet services.
Subscribers can now choose good, better or best quality, with bitrates ranging
from 300Kbps to 1 gigabit per second (Gbps), or up to 2.3Gbps for HD content.
This is down from a maximum of 5Gbps for HD when the service launched.
Even at the lower bitrates, image quality is at least acceptable and can be very
good. And with video quality set to best, HD content is superb. But in my testing,
there were many instances, especially in the evening, when playback repeatedly
stopped. Sometimes the problem cleared up on its own, sometimes I stopped
watching in frustration.This happened at least three times over a period of a few
weeks. Net¾ix ignored my request for information and help.
It was not a problem with local network congestion; there was virtually no
other activity on the network at the time.That leaves two possible explanations:
Net¾ix’s servers were busy, or there was congestion on the neighbourhood link
to my Rogers Internet service.
Given that exactly the same behaviour occurred with Sony’s Video Unlimited
service and at the same time of day, during evening prime time, it seems likely to
be the latter.This exonerates Net¾ix, perhaps, but is no less troubling. Is it worth
subscribing if the service is unreliable for any reason?
At other times, only occasionally and usually for much briefer periods, the image would become pixilated or choppy, while the audio continued, and then clear
HH50.indd 54
on its own.This is fairly common for any network-based video service.
Devices: Net¾ix works well on an iPad.You download the free app from the
App Store. Content automatically plays full screen and looks good, although
images do appear pixilated with the default video quality whenever there’s fast
motion or panning.
The service also works well on Apple TV. Net¾ix appears as a menu item
in the device’s user interface under the Internet heading. After you key in your
username and password on the ½rst use (a tedious process using the simple
Apple TV remote control), the service starts without your having to log in on
subsequent uses.Video automatically displays full-screen and generally looks good.
The experiences with the Sony Blu-ray player and game console are similar.
Net¾ix appears as a menu item in the device’s user interface.There is also a
dedicated button for Net¾ix on the Blu-ray player remote.The user interface is
neither as attractive nor as intuitive as Apple TV, however. For example, on content description pages, text summaries are unnecessarily con½ned to two lines
at the bottom of the screen and, although the text indicates there are multiple
additional pages, I was never able to ½gure out how to scroll through them.
Playback quality of 2.3Gbps Net¾ix HD content on the Sony Bravia KDL40EX720 ($900), a 1080p 3D-capable HD set, was stunning, except when the
video stopped.
Sony Video Unlimited
Sony Video Unlimited is a movie and TV rental/purchase service that works with
Sony devices, including HDTVs, Blu-ray players, home-theatre systems, computers,
game consoles and Sony’s SMPN100 network media player and new Androidpowered Tablet S.
Content: Sony marketing literature claims the service offers “the latest releases
and select classic favourites from every major studio.” It was dif½cult to evaluate
the quality and quantity of content, because it’s presented differently on different
devices. A Sony spokesperson said the movie selection in Canada was almost
identical to the U.S. service. But at the time of writing, the service in Canada
appeared to offer more “classic favourites” than new releases.There are de½nitely
fewer TV titles available in this country due to licensing issues.
When viewed on a Blu-ray player, the Video Unlimited New Releases category
included 54 titles, of which few were mainstream hits. Most appeared to be
direct-to-DVD titles: I’m Not Jesus Mommy, Pool Boys, A Good Old Fashioned Orgy,
etc. A couple were shorts or trailers.
But on the Tablet S, a New Arrivals category showed a different, smaller
selection, including mainstream hits such as The Help, The Debt and Mr. Popper’s
Penguins, none of which appeared in the New Releases section on the Blu-ray
player, although The Help did appear on the Blu-ray Video Unlimited home page.
All the movies I checked rented for $4.99 for SD, $5.99 for HD (when available), including older material such as All The President’s Men (1976) and Ben Hur
(1959), and even the short features. (It’s worth noting that the Video Unlimited
rental library also includes some material available on Net¾ix, such as Oscarnominated Black Swan from 2010.)
Purchase prices are more variable, with current titles selling for $19.99 in SD,
older titles for $14.99. On the devices I tested (Blu-ray player,Tablet S), it appeared not to be possible to buy any content in HD, although it was possible to
rent content in HD on the Blu-ray player.
TV titles can only be purchased, so don’t appear on devices such as Blu-ray
players. Several hundred titles are available. Most, to my non-TV-watching eye,
were unfamiliar, but lots of mainstream hits were there as well. Multiple seasons
of some are on offer. But with some, such as Gray’s Anatomy, you can only buy
episodes from the latest season.TV episodes sell for $1.99 each, even “classic”
series such as the egregious 1960s sci-½ show Lost in Space.
Video quality: Sony Video Unlimited’s HD streams looked brilliant, especially
on the Bravia EX720. SD streams on the Tablet S were more than adequate for
viewing on the 10-inch screen.
5/7/12 10:05 AM
Network Entertainment
Sony’s Video Unlimited Service is available on a variety of Sony products, including Bravia televisions, Blu-ray players, PlayStation 3 consoles and the new
Tablet S. Depending on the device, you can buy or rent movies, in standardor high-definition.
As with Net¾ix, playback, for whatever reason, was unreliable. It would sometimes repeatedly stop, apparently for rebuffering (loading more video data into
memory), during a single extended viewing session.
User experience: With the Sony Blu-ray player I tested,Video Unlimited appeared under the Video heading in the home screen menu. On the Tablet S, an
icon for the Video Unlimited app appears on the home screen.
You ½rst have to activate each device you’re going to use on your Video
Unlimited account, and may have to enter the ½ve-digit activation code on the
device when logging in, as well as username and password – which is irritating. If
you already have a PlayStation Store account, you can use it for Video Unlimited.
The user experience is not as slick as iTunes, and especially when using it
across multiple devices. It’s partly little things such as the absence of an automatic
completion feature when typing search terms. In iTunes, titles begin to appear in a
pop-up menu as you type; as soon as you see the one you want you can select it.
The user interface is often quite different from one platform to another, which
can be confusing. Some of this is unavoidable.The Tablet S has a touchscreen
interface, while on a Blu-ray player, you use a TV-style remote control to navigate
menus on a TV screen. And since Blu-ray players have no onboard storage, making it impossible to buy items, it makes sense not to show a purchase option for
movies or to show TV titles at all. But some other differences, such as those in
menu structure, library organization and movie titles, are perfectly avoidable.
There appears to be no automatic synchronization across devices. A movie
rental initiated on a Blu-ray player remains available on the Blu-ray player for 30
days, but does not appear on a Tablet S activated on the same account.
CinemaNow does now have over 1,500 HD titles, the same in Canada as in
the U.S., according to a company spokesperson. But it is only available for purchase or rental on “second-generation Intel Core processor-based PCs with Intel
Insider technology.” My test system apparently does not have this technology, as I
was unable to ½nd any HD content.
The only content available without the latest Intel technology, which CinemaNow calls “premium” quality, is encoded at about the same resolution/compression level as iTunes SD. A two-hour movie ½le is about 1.5GB.
Prices to buy current mainstream movies are about the same as iTunes SD
movies ($19.99), although slightly older movies are available for $14.99 and
$11.99. Much older and B-grade material is sold at even lower prices. Current
mainstream movies rent for $4.99.
TV shows, only available to buy, mostly sell for the same $2.49 for individual
episodes of mainstream shows as on iTunes. Some are sold in season packages.
The 10-episode 2010 season of the series It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia sells for
$29.98, for example.
User experience: I was not able to test CinemaNow on a non-computer device. On a computer, the browser interface is adequate. But as with other services,
it wants to push the latest, the most popular, the recommended titles; although
you can also browse through all titles in a genre or search by title, actor, etc.
When renting, CinemaNow gives you the choice of downloading content or
watching it streamed. In light of the potential problems streaming video from the Internet, this is an excellent option.To download rented or purchased material, though,
you need to install a digital rights management (DRM) application from Roxio.
On my Core i5-based PC with the (nominally) 20Mbps Rogers Extreme
Internet service, download speeds hovered around 1.2Mbps at non-peak periods.
It took about 25 minutes to download a 1.5GB movie ½le, but the RoxioNow app
said I could start watching without fear of stoppages after a few minutes.You can
keep rental content on your hard drive for up to 30 days.
p55
NHL GameCenter Live
If you’re a die-hard hockey fan, the NHL’s GameCenter Live is a great deal. (Major
League Baseball offers a similar deal with MLB.tv, which I was not able to test.)
With the NHL service, you pay $169 or less for an entire season (the price goes
down depending on when in the season you subscribe). For that, you get every
game broadcast, but with some crucial exceptions.
CinemaNow
Launched in Canada by electronics retailer Best Buy in August 2011, CinemaNow
is similar to Sony Video Unlimited. It offers purchase or rental of movies and a
relatively few TV shows, but no music or other content.
Like the Sony service, it works “out of the box” with several non-computer devices, including Internet-connected TVs, Blu-ray players and home-theatre systems
from Samsung; and TVs from Panasonic. However, CinemaNow does not work
with iOS or other mobile devices.
Content: As of late December, CinemaNow Canada had 2,785 movies to buy,
1,900 to rent, and 64 TV titles (most with multiple episodes).The U.S. service,
meanwhile, has over 10,000 titles. In the U.S., CinemaNow claims that movie
titles are available as soon as they’re released on DVD.This does not appear to
be the case with the Canadian service. In fact, it appears to have fewer current
mainstream movies than iTunes.
HH50.indd 55
CinemaNow launched its Canadian online video service last fall. Selection is
still limited. By year-end, it had 2,785 movies available for download.
5/7/12 10:05 AM
Network Entertainment
Audio Services
NHL Game Center Live is an attractive service for watching games outside
of your local area, or keeping up with your team on road trips. But it blacks
out games that are being televised in your local area.
p56
“Locally broadcast” games are blacked out.That means any game that is shown
on a television channel you can get in your area, whether or not you get it.This
means GameCenter Live is no substitute for conventional TV; quite deliberately,
since the NHL relies heavily on revenue from television rights. But it’s great if you
want to watch games not available on TV in your area, or if you want to watch
your local team when away from home.
User experience: GameCenter Live is available on a variety of hardware platforms, including iPad, iPhone/iPod touch, Android devices, Apple TV, PlayStation,
Roku media players, and Internet-connected TVs from LG, Panasonic, Samsung
and Vizio.
I tested it on the iPad and Apple TV.You have to download and install the free
iPad app and then sign in with a username and password. With Apple TV, GameCenter Live automatically appears as a menu item in the Internet menu on the
homescreen, and is available once you sign in.
The interfaces are slightly different; but both organize material by date.You can
scroll forward in the calendar to see games coming up and scroll back to access
recordings of past games. (This includes blacked-out games 48 hours after they
½nish.) When a game is on live, clicking it in the schedule or clicking a camera icon
beside the listing begins streaming.
Full-game recordings are not available on the iPad, but are on computer and
on the Apple TV. “Condensed game” recordings that last about 10 or 15 minutes
with highlights and notable plays are available on the iPad.
When watching live or recorded games, viewers can pause and rewind, and
with recordings, fast-forward. GameCenter also allows you to view a second
game picture-in-picture without leaving your main game.
Video quality: This is a crucial consideration. When streaming over the Internet,
the kinds of playback problems likely to arise – jerkiness, pixilation, blockiness –
are most noticeable when there is fast motion in the content, which is most of
the time in hockey.
Video quality was surprisingly good in my testing, on both iPad and Apple TV. It
appeared as good as broadcast HD. I did detect slight, almost subliminal jerkiness
in some streams, and streams did sometimes very brie¾y become pixilated or
stop for a second before restarting.
I saw nothing like the problems I experienced with Net¾ix and Sony Video
Unlimited, but if the problem with those services was in fact with my Rogers
Internet service, playback may be equally subject to disruption at certain times.
HH50.indd 56
The Internet delivers a myriad of interesting new ways to purchase and consume
music, a few of which are available in Canada.The premier online outlet for music
is iTunes (see above).
Rdio: Pronounced “ar-dee-oh,” Rdio is a subscription music service that
streams music on demand from a vast catalogue. A Web subscription, which gives
unlimited access from a computer, either using a browser or free downloadable
app, costs $4.99 a month.
An Unlimited subscription, $9.99 a month, also lets you sync music to a mobile
device (iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone 7) for of¾ine listening (music
is stored in temporary ½les that can only be played by the Rdio app), and also
stream it through Roku and Sonos digital music players to a stereo system.
The catalogue is very comprehensive, with more albums being added all the
time. While the emphasis is on popular genres, Rdio also includes impressive
classical and jazz collections. If you want to listen to the latest Black Eyed Peas or
Mumford & Sons album, or even the latest release from classical star Lang Lang,
or some old Beatles or Dylan tune you’d forgotten about, it’s probably on Rdio.
The interface, similar on all platforms, does not allow you to browse by genre,
however.The Browse menu includes New Releases,Top Charts and Recommendations (generated automatically based on your past activity).You can search by
artist, album or song.
One of Rdio’s big differentiators is its social-media components.You can see
who else has added an album or song to their collection.You can share the music
you’re listening to with others. And you can follow “in¾uencers”: professional
reviewers and other music heads, to ½nd out what they’re listening to.
So what’s the catch? Some would say, none. But those who care about the way
their music sounds may be disappointed. Rdio doesn’t publicize the bitrate it uses
to stream music, other than to say it’s “CD-quality.”This means little, as 128Kbps
MP3 is sometimes termed “CD-quality.” (It’s not even close.) Contributors to
Rdio discussion forums say it’s better than 128Kbps, but not as good as 192Kbps.
That sounds about right. Some of it is listenable, some sounds harsh and ¾at.
But I’m accustomed to listening to lossless music ½les through a mid-range stereo
system. If you’re used to listening to 128Kbps on an iPod, it should be ½ne.The
iPad app I tried worked well. Syncing was smooth and fast: less than a minute for
an album over Wi-Fi. But the music didn’t sound particularly good to my ears.
Slacker: Slacker Personal Radio is a free ad-supported radio service delivered
over the Internet with DJ-programmed radio stations that play only one genre
or sub-genre of music.The paid Slacker services ($3.99 a month for Plus, $9.99
a month for Premium) eliminate the ads and add other features, including the
Rdio’s music-subscription service lets you listen to a vast catalogue of music
on demand over the Internet.The Unlimited option lets you sync music to a
mobile device for off-line listening.
5/7/12 10:05 AM
Network Entertainment
NOT AVAILABLE HERE
Americans have many more options when it comes to network entertainment. Here’s a small selection of what we’re missing.
VIDEO SERVICES
Slacker Personal Radio features DJ-programmed radio stations that play
specific music genres. It’s available on PCs, a variety of home AV components,
and on iOS, Android, BlackBerry and Windows mobile devices.
ability to skip through songs, sync playlists to a mobile device, listen to stations devoted to a single artist, and play speci½c songs and albums on demand (Premium
only for the last).
As with Rdio, you can use a browser interface or download a computer application (PC/Mac) or mobile app (iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone 7,
Nokia, Palm, Windows Mobile). Also like Rdio, Slacker lets you access the service
via home music players, including Sony, Acoustic Research, Sonos and Logitech
(Squeezebox) products.
The music catalogue Slacker draws from in the U.S. includes over eight million
tracks, but not all are available in Canada.The company won’t say how many are
available in Canada, but insists it’s comparable with competing services such as
Rdio. It is also dif½cult to get information about bitrates;The consensus among
Web forum participants is that it’s 128Kbps, at best.
I tested Slacker on iPad, PC and through a Logitech Squeezebox wireless
media player on my stereo system. Some 128Kbps Internet radio streams can
be listenable, even if not great quality; CBC Radio 2’s Jazz and Classical stations
are cases in point. I found some of the Slacker streams listenable when played
through my Squeezebox. Others: not so much. On an iPad or PC, few sounded
much better than AM radio-quality, even when using good-quality headphones.
HDtracks: HDtracks is an online audiophile music store, so more like iTunes
than Slacker or Rdio. It sells music to download in a variety of formats, including
uncompressed AIFF, lossless compressed FLAC, 320Kbps MP3 and high-de½nition
(88.2kHz/24-bit to 192kHz/24-bit) FLAC ½les. While impressive, the selection is
nowhere near as comprehensive as iTunes or Rdio; and only some titles are available in high-resolution formats.
Prices vary widely depending on format and title. I purchased three albums in
different genres, all in FLAC (lossless) format: a recently remastered high-resolution (88.2/24) version of the Rolling Stones’ 1970s classic Let It Bleed ($19.98);
Concord On A Summer Night, a 2006 live album from jazz pianist Dave Brubeck in
88.2/24 high-resolution ($17.98); and a recent CD-resolution album of Schubert
string quartets from the Kodály Quartet ($11.98).
At iTunes, for standard 256Kbps versions, the same albums cost $9.99, $4.99
and $7.99. Do the HDtracks ½les sound better?
I wasn’t able to do side-by-side comparisons, but the Stones album didn’t
sound signi½cantly better to me than other music of similar genre and era that
I’ve ripped from regular CDs in lossless format.The Brubeck title did sound quite
a bit better, with a more expansive and realistic sound stage.
HDtracks downloads include album art and, unlike iTunes, liner notes for most
albums.The ½les also come with no Digital Rights Management (DRM) restrictions, so you can use them as freely as you’d use ½les ripped from your own CDs.
Note that not all formats work with all devices or programs. AIFF ½les, for
example, will work with iTunes, but the FLAC formats will not (unless you add
a plug-in).The highest-de½nition ½les will only work with some media player
programs and music players. HH
HH50.indd 57
Hulu, video on demand. Hulu aggregates content
from many sources. Includes mostly TV programs,
including current episodes, but also movies. Some
free content, also paid subscriptions that activate Hulu on tablets and
smartphones. Available only in the U.S. and Japan.
Amazon Instant Video, video-on-demand service with 100,000 movies
and TV programs, including current episodes. Amazon Prime is a Net¾ixlike subscription service that provides 10,000 of the titles at no per-item
charge.
Vudu, movies on demand. Supports multiple devices
including Xbox, iPad, Blu-ray players and TVs. Claims
to get new releases faster than competitors.
AUDIO SERVICES
Rhapsody, a subscription music service similar to
Rdio, with over 750,000 subscribers (in the U.S.
only) and a catalogue of more than 11 million songs.
p57
Napster, the iconic digital music store/service that started out as a pirate
site, went legit after crushing lawsuits, as a paid subscription service.Was
available in Canada, no longer is. Rhapsody is in the process of acquiring
Napster.
Amazon.com’s Music Store has 18 million MP3 tracks available for purchase and download. But the service is open only to U.S. customers.
Pandora Radio is a subscription service with 800,000
tracks in its library. Users can search by artist or title,
after which the service plays songs with similar attributes; or listen to “stations” that focus on a particular
genre. Available in free ad-supported or fee-based
ad-free versions.
Spotify is a subscription services with 15 million
tracks from major and indepdendent labels. Users can
search for songs, or use the Radio feature, which creates playlists based on genre or decade.There are also
artist stations that focus on speci½c musicians.
WORKAROUNDS
If you can’t bear to live without these and many other U.S.-only services,
you could use a proxy service that spoofs the service provider into thinking you’re in the U.S.
One example is the free (ad-supported) Hotspot Shield. Don’t count
on it working well; signals have to travel from the content provider to
the proxy server, then to you, which means more chance of delays and
degraded quality. HH
5/7/12 10:05 AM
Object of Desire
p58
Keep Your Cool
Kitchen appliances used to be utilitarian tools that did what you expected; keep food cold, heat it up, and clean the dishes. As long as they didn’t break down, we rarely
thought about appliances.Then came stainless steel, followed by gas ranges that looked more suited to a commercial kitchen than your home. Appliances moved from
the back burner, and became a visible statement of your cooking and hosting skills.
These cosmetic changes started more than a decade ago. Below their shiny surfaces, appliances really started changing when consumers became aware of operational costs, fueled by Energy Star ratings. Now, energy ef½ciency is almost a given. People are looking for new features that will make their time in the kitchen easier and
more fun.
LG’s premium fridges for 2012 exemplify this trend. For 2012, LG is offering 36-inch fridges with massive 31-cubic-foot internal capacity, accomplished by using superthin vacuum panels instead of traditional insulating products. Door-mounted ice-makers free up another cubic foot inside the freezer. Interior compartments are ½tted
with cool LED lighting. Some models have a Blast Chiller that moves cold air from the freezer into a special compartment in the fridge, allowing you to chill a bottle
of wine in under eight minutes. My favourite new feature is the clever door-in-door design, found on model LFX31945ST. A secondary door provides quick access to
items stored in door compartments, without exposing the entire fridge to room air. How cool is that!
– John Thomson
HH50.indd 58
5/7/12 10:05 AM
HH50.indd 59
5/7/12 10:05 AM
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HH50.indd 60
5/7/12 10:05 AM
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