It`s an S Pen! It`s a Stylus!

It`s an S Pen! It`s a Stylus!
081712 #53
LENOVO’S
THINKPAD X1
SLIMS
DOWN
VIZIO
ENTERS THE
ULTRABOOK
MARKET
+
AMERICA
EMBRACES
THE MIGHTY
WIND
It’s an S Pen! It’s a Stylus!
BUT IS IT ENOUGH TO SET THE
GALAXY NOTE 10.1 APART FROM
THE COMPETITION?
ISSUE 53
DISTRO
08.17.12 ENTER
EL
EDITOR’S
LETTER
Note the
New Way
By Tim Stevens
TABLE OF CONTENTS
FORUM
ESC
MW
EYES ON
Bang & Olufsen
Beolit 12
SO E
VISUALIZED
Siemens B75
Quantum Blade
Q&A
Red Hat’s
Chris Moody
Whatchoo Got Under the Hood?
By Joshua Fruhlinger
WS
HANDS ON
BlackBerry
PlayBook
4G LTE and
Klipsch’s New
Lines
WEEKLY STAT
Americans
Embrace the
Mighty Wind
By Jon Turi
RR
REC READING
Rudy Rucker’s
Complete
Stories and
More
By Donald
Melanson
G-Shock and ThinkPad
By Ross Rubin
Carriers, Let Customers
Choose Their Own Phones
By Jon Fingas
REVIEW
Lenovo
ThinkPad X1
Carbon
By Tim
Stevens
Vizio
Thin + Light
By Dana
Wollman
Galaxy
Note 10.1
By Joseph
Volpe
IRL
IRL
HTC One S,
Columbia GPS
Pal and Eton
Ruckus Solar
REHASHED
New Tablets,
New Toilets and
a Judicial Sense
of Humor
TM
TIME MACHINES
Smart
Beginnings
On the Cover:
Photograph by
Will Lipman
NOTE THE
NEW WAY
W
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08.17.12
When Samsung launched a
smartphone with a screen greater than
five inches across, a lot of tech pundits
were quick to write the thing off. It’s a
phone form factor that Dell had tried
and failed to make stick before with the
Streak, but this week it’s clear Samsung
is having the last laugh. The company
proudly presented a figure of 10 million
units sold worldwide, which isn’t quite
blockbuster territory, but is very strong
sales for a device that defies succinct
categorization — “smartphone” doesn’t
quite work and “phablet” is just difficult to say with a straight face.
Samsung dropped this choice nugget of news on us at the unveiling of its
Note 10.1, a tablet whose full review
you can read in this very issue. It’s the
stylus S Pen-having version of its 10inch predecessor, a sort of beautiful
offspring of the Galaxy Note and Galaxy
Tab 10.1, packing a 1.4GHz quad-core
CPU, up to 32GB of internal storage
and microSD expansion. The only slight
disappointment is a 1,280 x 800 LCD,
somewhat pixel-sparse in these heady,
high-def days, but a $500 MSRP for
the 16GB version at least has it in the
same ballpark as the competition.
EDITOR’S
LETTER
Samsung also unveiled an LTEhaving version of the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0,
Verizon-bound and shipping now. It’s
still running Android 4.0 on a meager
8GB of internal storage, powered by a
slightly faster 1.2GHz dual-core CPU
and selling for $350 — no contract required. That’s a fair bit less expensive
than many LTE-equipped tablets that
we’ve seen before (like the Galaxy Tab
7.7, which launched in March for $500
on contract) and a sign that perhaps
tablet makers and wireless providers
are finally learning how much people
are — and aren’t — willing to pay for a
WWAN-equipped slate.
Also more affordable is the entire
suite of Nook devices, Barnes & Noble is
lowering the top-shelf 16GB Nook Tablet to $199 (from $249), the 8GB version to $179 (from $199) and the Nook
Color to $149. So, you can now get a
Nook with more storage than the Nexus
7 for the same money. Any takers?
The RTM (release to manufacturing)
version of Windows 8 was released officially to developers this week — and
anyone else with an MSDN subscription.
As the name implies, this is the version
of the OS that will be shipping this Octo-
DISTRO
08.17.12
ber, with no further changes expected. It
is, of course, always possible that Microsoft will push out an update to be applied
immediately after install, but any subsequent improvements will be minor.
And what’s changed in RTM from the
release preview? Not a whole lot, really. The Bing app has made its full appearance, there are some performance
and customization improvements and ...
that’s about it, really. If you were holding
out for the Start Button to make a dramatic, last minute return prior to release,
it’s now officially time to give up all hope.
It’s gone, friends, gone.
HTC, after releasing the hugely impressive One X, has been seen to be floundering a bit, its most recent financial report showing a startling decline in sales.
CEO Peter Chou fired off a missive to his
employees, asking for them to “kill bureaucracy” and “follow rules and criteria,
but don’t let small things kill the major
goals.” Basically, to be more agile. Rallying cries in the form of corporate memos
rarely inspire much esprit de corps, but if
it results in an even better One next time,
we’ll consider that a victory.
The latest console sales numbers
came in via NPD, and Microsoft is still
ruling the roost with the Xbox 360,
which came just one percentage point
short of owning a full half of the console gaming market share. That on its
own is impressive, but if you look at the
bigger picture — hardware sales overall
down 32 percent, game sales down 23
— it’s clear to see that the traditional
EDITOR’S
LETTER
games industry is hurting. Those new
consoles can’t come soon enough — and
in my humble opinion, fall of 2013 is
not soon enough for Sony and MS.
Finally, the Curiosity Rover received
the mother of all OTA updates this
week, a “brain transplant” designed to
get the thing ready to drive about. Basically, you know, to make the thing rove.
It’s still expected to stay stationary for
another week or so, acting all touristy
and taking a bunch more pictures before finally branching out and exploring
its surroundings. Thankfully, we all get
to go along for the ride.
In this week’s Distro we’ll be bringing you Joseph Volpe’s full review of the
Note 10.1, in which you’ll learn whether
a stylus really lets you do more with a
tablet. We also have Dana’s take on the
Vizio Thin + Light Ultrabook and my
own review of Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1
Carbon. For editorials, Ross Rubin has
ThinkPad on the brain too in his latest
Switched On, Joshua Fruhlinger talks
about changing gadget habits and Jon
Fingas challenges carriers to let users choose their own phones. All that
plus Red Hat’s Chris Moody does Q&A
and we have another IRL installment.
Would you like to know more? You
know what to do.
tim stevens
editor-in-chief,
engadget
ENTER
DISTRO
08.17.12
EYES-ON
BANG & OLUFSEN
BEOLIT 12
Tap for detail
CUT THE CORD
NICE
GRILL
BANGING SOUND
Looking something akin to a picnic basket, this
portable Bang and Olufsen audio player is a
throwback to the company’s Beolit transistor radios
from the 1960s. The system’s designer, Cecilie Manz,
focused on simplicity and quality materials, like
Italian leather and perforated aluminum, giving the
retro system a contemporary twist.
PHOTOGRAPHS BY WILL LIPMAN
THE DAMAGE
$800
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08.17.12
HANDS-ON
ENTER
PRICING:
$550 CAN ($554 US)
Click on
AVAILABILITY:
product
NOW AVAILABLE (CAN)
names to
read full
THE BREAKDOWN:
stories
THE ADDITION OF 4G LTE
MAKES THE PLAYBOOK QUITE
SPEEDY, BUT IT STILL LACKS A
COMPELLING APP SELECTION.
BLACKBERRY
PLAYBOOK 4G LTE
RIM’s attempts to get a cellular-equipped
version of the BlackBerry PlayBook have been
troubled, to say the least. The company signaled its intentions last February, only to
watch as carriers backed off. A year and a half
later, we finally have an LTE version, and with
a faster 1.5GHz processor to boot. If you’re
looking for cosmetic differences, they’ll be
tough to find. About the only conspicuous
change since the original is the presence of a
micro-SIM slot tucked just behind the ports at
the bottom. The new PlayBook will be a disappointment for display quality aficionados that
would like RIM to move past the 1,024 x 600
screen we saw last year.
We tried the PlayBook on Rogers’ network in
Ottawa, and it was not just fast, but consistently fast: multiple tests saw 20Mbps downstream
and 6Mbps upstream. The 1.5GHz processor
does indeed make a difference. RIM’s interface
is just a little bit more fluid, apps are smoother,
games like Need For Speed: Undercover are just
a bit faster. Where we noticed the clock speed
hike was in browsing — and by a
wide margin. It’s faster than not
only the WiFi PlayBook but the
iPad, the Nexus 7, the Galaxy Tab 2
7.0 and even the quad-core Galaxy
S III smartphone.
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08.17.12
ENTER
KLIPSCH
IMAGE ONE
SERIES
Klipsch has gone ahead and unveiled its
revamped Image One on-ear set. The new Image One is acoustically similar to its predecessor, but now it has a more stylish and robust
design. Notably, the headphones only have a
single cable leading into the left earcup and
it’s also of the flat variety to prevent tangling.
The earcups can still fold flat, but now they
can fold into the headband as well. Klipsch
has decided to finally enter the wireless headphone game by offering a $250 Bluetoothequipped variant. This version looks nearly
identical, with the subtle tweak of having the
playback and volume controls positioned as
buttons on the outside of the right earcup.
We’re happy to report that both versions
felt and sounded identical. The new earpads
HANDS-ON
PRICING:
$150-$250
AVAILABILITY:
AUGUST
THE BREAKDOWN: DESIGN
IMPROVEMENTS AND A
BLUETOOTH VARIANT KICK THE
SERIES UP A NOTCH WITH A
HEAVY DOSE OF BASS.
simply contoured with our ears
much better than the original
model, making for a more comfortable experience. We’d be remiss not to point out that the level
of noise-isolation seems to be
improved as well. Let’s talk audio
quality. From what we could tell
standing in Irving Plaza’s bustling
balcony, both sounded identical
just as Klipsch claimed. Without
any EQ applied, the bass department muddied up the rest of the
mix in songs. Once we slightly
bumped up the 4 and 14kHz treble
frequencies in Google Music, however, the veil was essentially lifted.
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08.17.12
ENTER
HANDS-ON
KLIPSCH
IMAGE S4I
(II), S4A (II)
AND X7I
PRICING:
AVAILABILITY:
$150-$250
AUGUST
THE BREAKDOWN:
THE S4 (II) SERIES TWEAKS THE DESIGN
WHILE RETAINING SOUND QUALITY AND
THE X7I COVERS THE MID-RANGE.
Klipsch recently revealed its new $200
Image X7i and a trio of Image S4 (II) series inears. Being that all of the S4 (II) models are
acoustically identical, we specifically used the
iPhone-focused S4i and Android-purposed
S4A. Although the button layout is different
for both models, the casings are essentially
the same and a bit chunkier than that of our
OG S4i. Sound quality is warm with a pleasant amount of chunky bass that doesn’t overwhelm. Furthermore, the headphones are still
using Klipsch’s super comfy oval-shaped silicone tips, which also helped drown the bustling balcony around us admirably.
Moving along to the X7i, we’re not sure we’d
choose it over the S4 (II) models. The X7i’s
balanced-armature drivers deliver a flatter response and cleaner sound than the S4s, but
as we experienced with the X10i, it might not
sound or feel like a drastic improvement to most
for the price. This editor found the treble to be
much too bright for his tastes — especially with
rock and pop tracks, it became quite jarring un-
less we toned it down with Google
Music’s EQ. Because of the tiny
size, however, we had to jam them
oddly far into our ear canals to
get a tight seal no matter which
tips we used. Outside of the earpieces, the cabling is identical to
that of the S4i.
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WEEKLY
STAT
ENTER
Americans Embrace the Mighty Wind
Up until the early ‘90s, wind power had found meager footing around Califor-
nia, but little traction in the rest of the country. Now, that appears to be changing.
According to the DOE’s Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy division, the US is
harnessing more wind power than ever across 40 states. It’s also on its way to meeting the department’s 2008 goal of using wind power to supply 20 percent (300,000
megawatts) of the nation’s energy by 2030. While California led the crowd in 1999,
with a capacity of 1,616 megawatts, Texas is now out in front with a capacity of
10,377 megawatts last year. Meanwhile, areas like Washington and Illinois went from
zero output in 1999 to about 2,600 megawatts a piece in 2011. In total, we’ve seen
wind energy output grow by 27 percent over last year. — Jon Turi
INSTALLED WIND CAPACITY BY STATE
Based on data gathered by the US
Department of Energy
1999
CALIFORNIA
1,616 MW
2011
DISTRO
08.17.12
RECOMMENDED
READING
ENTER
Rucker’s
collected
short stories
are now free
in HTML.
Rudy Rucker’s
Complete Stories
Transreal Books
RUDY RUCKER PHOTOGRAPH BY EDWARD MARRITZ
CREDIT_TK
If you’re a fan of science fiction, particularly of
the cyberpunk variety, there’s a good chance you’ve discovered the works of Rudy Rucker at some point in your
reading life. Best known for his Philip K. Dick awardwinning “Ware” series (Software, Wetware, Freeware and
Realware), Rucker is also a prolific writer of short stories,
all of which have been collected in his Complete Stories ebook (also released as two paperback volumes). That was
first published in April and made available through the
usual outlets for the bargain price of $6, but Rucker recently went one step further. He’s made the whole thing
available (in HTML format only) on his website for free —
“for purposes of SF vitality, and as a kind of promotional
move,” as he puts it. In addition to his solo efforts, the
collection also includes his collaborations with the likes
of Bruce Sterling, Marc Laidlaw and John Shirley, and it
provides a fascinating look at the evolution of Rucker’s
writing and the ideas he’s tackled — in his introduction,
he suggests “you might do well to start reading somewhere towards the middle.” — Don Melanson
The Surprising, Stealth
Rebirth of the American Arcade
By Kyle Orland
Ars Technica
Jam-packed arcades may now
be nothing more than the stuff
of nostalgia for most gamers of a
certain age, but they aren’t gone
completely. As Kyle Orland reports
in this piece for Ars Technica,
they’ve actually been starting
to make something of a small
comeback, and in some cases are
finding success by mixing alcohol
and vintage games to cater to that
older nostalgic crowd.
Cyborg America: Inside
the Strange New World of
Basement Body Hackers
By Ben Popper
The Verge
The cybernetic implants of science
fiction are no doubt still quite a
ways off, but that hasn’t stopped
some folks from trying to grasp a bit
of that future today. As Ben Popper
explains in this in-depth piece for
The Verge, that not only includes
well-known researchers like Kevin
Warwick, but so-called biohackers,
or “grinders,” who are quite literally
taking things into their own hands.
How Weibo Is Changing China
By Mary Kay Magistad
YaleGlobal Online
Twitter and Facebook may not
have a presence in China, but the
country does have its own massive
social network: Sina’s Weibo, a
3-year-old microblogging service
with more than 300 million users.
Like other social networks, it’s
fostered some degree of societal
change in the country but, as Mary
Kay Magistad notes here, those
changes have also come with some
considerable limitations, including
government monitoring and
outright censorship.
Click on
headlines
to read full
stories
WHATCHOO
GOT UNDER
THE HOOD?
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08.17.12
FORUM
I
THIS IS THE
MODEM WORLD
BY JOSHUA FRUHLINGER
I JUST BOUGHT A NEW CAR. I chose an automatic transmission. I know, I know. In order to
really appreciate driving, one must have three
pedals and be in complete control of his torque
curve. ¶ But I do love driving and can hold my
own in a conversation about horsepower,
suspensions and cold-air intakes. As for working
on cars, I could change my oil, but nothing more.
In my teens, I drove a manual 1980 VW Rabbit
that I took from Orange County to LA and back
again almost every weekend. I loved the car, but
after years of stop-and-go, my clutch leg grew
giant-sized, like a crab. I promised myself to
never sit in traffic in a manual transmission again.
So now I have a nice new car with
an automatic transmission. The funny
thing, though, is that technology has
made automatics more efficient and
faster than manuals. Tiptronics with
paddle shifters are now the stuff of supercars; computers dial in peak shift
points with manual overrides to give
control back to the driver.
My car is complex and there is little
chance that I will ever work on it myself. If I want to tweak performance,
I’ll have its ECU computer flashed to
deliver more horsepower. My car is a
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08.17.12
FORUM
MODEM
WORLD
The writing is on the wall, my solderwielding friends: digital grease
monkeys are being marginalized just
like car junkies have been.
closed gadget — there’s nothing of use
to me under the hood. Heck, it doesn’t
even have a dipstick — the digital dash
displays oil levels.
But it drives like a dream.
The other day, a friend was romancing about the control he has over his
home-built computer: He overclocks,
swaps GPUs, installs cooling units and,
like a car enthusiast, manually tweaks
his machine to his specs. It’s a beautiful
thing. His computer has a clutch.
To me, that’s a lot of work. I want
to browse the web, play some games,
watch some videos, maybe get some
work done and do whatever it is I want
to do with my gadgets. I’m okay with
cases that don’t open as long as the device runs well.
Some are still tinkerers, their heads
hovering over motherboards on Saturday afternoons in order to squeeze out
more performance while the rest of us
are out there just speeding along.
But the writing is on the wall, my
solder-wielding friends: digital grease
monkeys are being marginalized just
like car junkies have been. First, we
lost external drives. Back in the day,
we daisy-chained floppies on serial
ports and stacked SCSI hard drives.
Then we lost floppy drives when hard
drive prices dropped and CD-ROM
drives became standard as methods
of input. Now the optical drive is
gasping its final breath as download
speeds make physical media redundant. We can’t even access the batteries in many of the major laptops and
smartphones on the market.
Some of us are chronic clutch-riders
and tweakers while the rest of us are
happy to worry about less. In 20 years,
will there be some dark underground
crawling with nerds who still build
their own computers, who overclock
machines from the 2000s and call them
classics like some delicious scene from
a William Gibson novel?
Imagine a day in 2034 when a future
one of us, hanging out in the back room
of a battery recycling center, says, “Just
picked up a 2012 Acer Aspire. Needs
a new USB controller but runs Guild
Wars like a dream.”
Let’s hope so. That would be cool.
G-SHOCK
AND
THINKPAD
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08.17.12
SWITCHED
ON
FORUM
I
BY ROSS RUBIN
In mature, competitive markets
flooded in products, many brands come
and go. Last week, though, two companies came to New York City to celebrate
milestone anniversaries of their electronic products. Lenovo celebrated the
20th anniversary of the ThinkPad as
Casio marked the 30th anniversary of
the G-Shock watch. The notebook PC
remains among the most versatile and
complex devices consumers use today
while the watch one of the simplest.
Yet, some commonality between these
two products may include lessons for
other technology products that wish to
remain around for decades.
DURABILITY
Perhaps one aid to building brands that
last is building products that actually
last. Both companies pointed out the
toughness of their products. Indeed, the
idea behind G-Shock was to build “an
unbreakable watch” and the company
continues to roll out new approaches to
protect its timepieces against impact,
vibration and centrifugal force. Casio
executives showed off all kinds of watch-
torture devices, including a live demonstration in which it survived being shot
out of a watch cannon. (Warning: Do not
try this with your watch cannon at home.)
It’s been a while since we’ve seen
Lenovo ads highlight the ThinkPad’s “roll
cage” and other safety measures as it has
played up its “For those who do” campaign. While ruggedness isn’t quite as intrinsic to its laptop, Lenovo relied instead
on anecdotes about the ThinkPad’s resilience. A guest speaker noted that seven
of them were subject to the harsh environment, cramped accommodations, and
sometimes the wandering limbs of rookie
astronauts on the Space Shuttle.
DESIGN
Many years ago, the designer of an early
smartwatch defended the girth of the
wearable device by noting that bulky
watches were “in.” He was referring
primarily to the G-Shock, which not
only has several distinctive facades,
but also has branched out into a BabyG sub-brand as well as collaborations
with several designers. A Casio presentation mentioned one collector who has
over 200 Casio G-Shocks. That’s a lot
for a watch designed not to break.
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08.17.12
ESC
The ThinkPad sub-brand is so strong
that it has even survived a corporate
adoption from a parent (IBM) that was
once synonymous with PCs. Lenovo
went into more depth about the design of
its ThinkPad, including its well-regarded
keyboard and signature TrackPoint — a
user-input device once offered by several
Windows laptop makers including Dell
and Toshiba, but for which Lenovo is now
the main champion among major brands.
Lenovo even talked about the meaning of
the color black, which it identified with
power and sex, and the decision to put
the angled ThinkPad logo in the corner
of the lid, a contrast to the central placement used by rivals
Of course, no discussion of ThinkPad design history would be complete
without mentioning the “Butterfly”
expanding keyboard on the ThinkPad
701C which, despite landing a space in
the permanent collection in the New
York’s Museum of Modern Art, was
never implemented on another model
as screen sizes grew. It’s surprising that
Lenovo or a licensee hasn’t sought to
bring it back in this era of 7-inch tablets and smartphones.
DEVELOPMENT
While the watch and the notebook have
become staples in many of our lives, new
converged devices are challenging their
role supremacy. Casio and Lenovo embraced their role of brand caretakers to
show that their products won’t rest on
their legacy. The rise of smartphones,
SWITCHED
ON
all of which can relay the time among
so much other pertinent information,
has made the wristwatch more about
fashion than function. In response, a
string of smartwatches from companies
such as Pebble, MetaWatch and Cookoo
have attracted funding via Kickstarter.
These watches connect to smartphones
and sometimes use advanced displays to
show a host of glanceable data.
Casio, too, is hopping on the Bluetooth bandwagon with its forthcoming
GB6900, but its connected watch will
retain the same display as current GShocks, relying on its paired partner for
more mundane tasks such as automatic
resetting of time depending on the time
zone and alerts for when the watch gets
out of range from the smartphone, hinting that one may have left it behind.
As for Lenovo, the tablet threatens
to disrupt several of the ThinkPad’s
characteristics such as its TrackPoint
and keyboard (as well as the software
library advantages it enjoys supporting
Windows). But there was no grousing
about Surface as Lenovo unveiled its
next ThinkPad tablet, which will support Windows 8. Rather, it teased hybrid products in the wings.
The G-Shock GB6900 Bluetooth
watch and the ThinkPad Tablet 2 with
Windows 8 both represent relatively
low-risk plays for the venerable brands.
Whether they are enough to keep both
product lines growing as their categories are under siege is a drama that will
play out in the decades to come.
CARRIERS, LET
CUSTOMERS
CHOOSE THEIR
OWN PHONES
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FORUM
EDITORIAL
R
BY JON FINGAS
CREDIT_TK
REMEMBER WHAT THE EXPERIENCE OF
shopping for a gadget was like at big-box stores
years ago? Whatever your actual needs were,
the store clerks would invariably steer you towards whatever they were getting a commission to sell, or whatever scratched their personal itch. Why would you even go to a store
if you knew you would never get an honest answer? The problem was bad enough for Apple
in the 1990s, when Macs were often relegated
to a dark corner alongside the Ethernet cables, that the company started up
its own retail chain. It didn’t get better for most of us until outlets like Best
Buy backed off and sometimes made it
a point to advertise commission-free
staff. Today, while it’s tough to completely escape personal bias and the occasional exception to the rule, it’s more
likely than not that a modern general
electronics store will give you a decent
shot at buying what you really want.
But just try buying a cellphone at a carrier store today.
Jeff Stern recently recounted a telling experience from overhearing multiple sales pitches at a carrier store
— a Verizon store, but it might as well
have been AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile
or any other US provider. Employees
were not only pushing the Galaxy S III
(an admittedly fine phone) to the ex-
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08.17.12
FORUM
EDITORIAL
The companies almost always
have an agenda to push, whether it’s
the network or the phone du jour.
tent of ignoring virtually everything
else, they were actively steering customers away from alternatives with
claims that had little connection to
reality. It’s not just an isolated personal anecdote, either. CNN saw a similar pattern emerge this spring where
Verizon staff members were steering
customers away from the iPhone by
name, primarily as it doesn’t have 4G
to its credit. That’s no doubt a stronger argument to make to a customer,
but it loses credibility when the carrier is “really pushing 4G” instead
of choosing what’s best for the user,
as one floor worker implied. What if
buyers were content with 3G but had
huge iTunes collections? We’ve had
our own experiences of the sort — this
writer overheard a few cringe-worthy
statements from workers at a Rogers
store in Canada just this past week.
Carriers will swear up and down
that they only have the customer’s
best interests at heart, and that staff
will gladly point us to any device if it
makes the most sense. But they don’t,
and they won’t. The companies almost always have an agenda to push,
whether it’s the network or the phone
du jour. Never mind theories about
commissions; carriers publicly discuss
“hero” phones that are expected to
generate a large slice of the revenue for
the next quarter, whether it’s a Galaxy,
iPhone or Lumia. How would they not
bend over backwards to pump up sales
of those models as much as possible?
And if that’s not the guiding principle
in a given situation, we’ve all seen
staff members who were either undertrained, had a chip on their shoulder
or both. They’re selling the corporate
line or letting personal desires (and
grudges) overrule their better judgment. It’s that old big-box experience,
all over again.
It’s time that carriers take a cue
from the past and stop playing favorites. No commissions. No quotas. No
seeding staff with only one device or
pitching another solely because it uses
a new network feature. Train clerks to
know as many devices and platforms
as possible, and make sure that they
really are asking what the customer
wants rather than finding excuses to
steer the sale towards a predefined
conclusion. Yes, carriers can still have
their special store displays and dis-
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Strong sales
in the long
term more
often come
organically ...
they’re rarely
the result of a
momentary
carrier hustle.
counts. They just shouldn’t place so
much faith in one or two devices that
they feel forced to bend the truth to
close a sale.
The irony is carriers themselves
have occasionally been burned by this
retail strategy. We’re all familiar with
AT&T’s “iPhone, iPhone, iPhone”
mantra from 2007 through 2010. After
telling virtually every shopper walking through the door that they should
buy from Apple, AT&T shouldn’t be
shocked that most of its Android devices, later BlackBerry models and (so
far) Windows Phones still have trouble
getting much momentum. Store hype
only works to a certain point, too. Verizon couldn’t make people buy the
EDITORIAL
lackluster BlackBerry Storm for very
long beyond launch day; all of Sprint’s
early store openings couldn’t give the
EVO 3D the same blockbuster results
as the EVO 4G. Strong sales in the long
term more often come organically, either from months of anticipation or
the word-of-mouth from new owners.
They’re rarely the result of a momentary carrier hustle.
Going to a more hands-off approach
does mean a greater risk of overstock
on phones that simply won’t sell, but
then again, so does making a bad bet
on a flagship phone. Letting customers guide the conversation and choose
their own phones isn’t just about giving customers the control they should
have had all along. For carriers, it’s
a way to learn what customers really
want. What good is it if a customer
buys a bad phone (or more of a phone
than necessary) and comes back to return it a week later? It’s true that anyone reading this is likely the technically inclined person who would make the
right choice, but we all know someone
who was clearly pressured by a store
representative into making a mistake
while we weren’t there to catch it. If
we are happy with the retail experience, it’s that much more likely that
our friends and family will be as well.
On that fateful day when anyone can go
into a carrier store and expect reasonably unbiased help, they’ll feel more
welcome to come back — and that’s
helpful for everyone.
REVIEW
CONTENTS
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Lenovo
ThinkPad X1
Carbon
Vizio
Thin + Light
(14-Inch,
2012)
Samsung
Galaxy Note
10.1
REVIEW
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LENOVO THINKPAD
X1 CARBON
T
The storied ThinkPad line has just turned 20
The Lenovo ThinkPad
X1 Carbon has made
the next pro-tool in
the businessman’s
arsenal, but does
it meet the high
standards of
success?
By Tim Stevens
and, over all those years, the brand has established
itself as something that (mostly) successfully
straddles the line between boring corporate accessory and classy consumer choice. Stoic is an apt
term for the machines and, through those two decades, they’ve only gotten better and better — well,
most of the time, anyway.
Welcome, then, to what is the latest and, therefore, what should be the best: the $1,499 ThinkPad X1 Carbon. It’s an evolution of last year’s X1,
thinner and lighter than that pre-Ultrabook de-
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LENOVO THINKPAD
X1 CARBON
spite having a larger display. The Carbon
moniker here not only describes this machine’s matte black exterior but also applies to the woven and resin-impregnated
composite structure within, delivering
a rare mix of light weight, svelte dimensions and durable construction. It’s a
wonder to behold but can it improve on
the previous ThinkPad X1’s shortcomings? There’s only one way to find out.
LOOK AND FEEL
Lenovo has deployed many a wedgeshaped stealth fighter in the past, but
the new X1 Carbon takes the cake as
the cleanest design we’ve yet seen in
a ThinkPad. It has few vents and grills
and other visually distracting features,
all kept to a minimum to deliver a
monotone, minimalist appearance —
and, presumably, a minimal radar signature, too. Closed, the laptop is just
0.71 inches (18mm) thick at
The Carbon
flexes
its sleek,
minimalist
physique.
REVIEW
The X1 Carbon has
few vents and grills
and other visually
distracting features,
all kept to a minimum
to deliver a monotone,
minimalist appearance
— and, presumably,
a minimal radar
signature, too.
the rear, slinking down to 0.31 inches
(8mm) at the front, a taper that’s accentuated when typing thanks to rubber pads that are slightly thicker at the
rear than the front, making the keyboard just a few degrees more willing.
It’s light, too, at three pounds
(1.36kg), making this
the thinnest and lightest ThinkPad ever.
Not content with that,
Lenovo goes so far as
to call it the “thinnest and lightest business Ultrabook on the
market” and, while we
don’t feel like drawing arbitrary classifications to determine
which of the many,
many Ultrabooks are
intended for profes-
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X1 CARBON
REVIEW
The matte black design is unmistakable ThinkPad,
angular shapes and monotone lines everywhere.
sionals, we’re happy to report that the X1
Carbon doesn’t overwhelm with either its
heft or its breadth.
Despite the lightness and the thinness this machine feels incredibly stout.
Though there is some flex if you twist
hard enough, the laptop’s carbon fiber
chassis never feels flimsy. The keyboard
tray is remarkably rigid, not bending even
for typists with particularly heavy fingers,
and, like last year’s X1, it’s able to survive eight MIL-SPEC tests. That means
humidity, drops, temperature, vibration
and even sand won’t be an issue. It comes
with a three-year warranty, but it’s always good to know you won’t be expecting to use it.
The matte black design is unmistakable ThinkPad, angular shapes and
monotone lines everywhere, but it’s interesting to note that those angles have
been softened somewhat. Where sharp
edges are traditionally the norm, they are
subtly more rounded here. You don’t really notice it until you get the X1 in your
hands and carry it around for a bit, but
the slightly rounded edges, plus the softtouch coating, makes this a very comfortable laptop to actually use in your
lap — much more so than many metal
Ultrabooks, including the MacBook Air,
whose sharp front lip can do a number on
sensitive wrists.
Other than the optional SIM slot, lo-
cated around back on 3G-equipped models, all the ports on the X1 are on the left
and the right sides of the machine. On
the right, starting at the back, you’ll find
a Kensington Security Slot, a USB 3.0
port, Mini DisplayPort, a 3.5mm headphone jack and an SD card reader. Move
to the left and, at the rear, you’ll find a
new-style rectangular power plug, the
vent for the (nearly silent) CPU fan, a
USB 2.0 port and the ThinkPad’s patented wireless switch, which instantly kills
all transmitters and receivers in the machine to extend your battery life. Think of
it as a physical airplane mode toggle, your
best friend when desperately trying to
put the finishing touches on your proposal while the battery life indicator down in
the taskbar is showing single digits.
Somewhat annoyingly, only that USB
port on the right is of the SuperSpeed variety, and there’s no visual differentiation
between this one and the lowly 2.0 port
on the other side, other than a tiny, gray
“SS” silkscreened nearby. You’ll just have
to remember. And, we couldn’t help but
think the big, rectangular power plug is a
bit of a step backward from the traditional round ones. It’s slightly harder to line
up and insert but, more troubling, it’s
the same height as a USB port, meaning
if you’re blindly trying to find a home for
your thumb drive you might find yourself
trying to jam it in the wrong place. Both
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If you’re blindly trying
to find a home for
your thumb drive you
might find yourself
trying to jam it in the
wrong place.
issues, we might add, that go away with a
bit of familiarity.
The latch-free lid closes securely, but
opens easily. It has a slight lip on it, so
you won’t struggle to separate it from
the lower half, and the hinge allows the
display to open fully flat if you’re so inclined, which gives you maximum opportunity to ogle the keyboard and trackpad,
which we’ll describe in just a moment.
Beneath that and situated
On the right
you’ll find the
SuperSpeed
port marked
by an “SS.”
REVIEW
to the right, in its traditional location, is
the fingerprint scanner, which as ever lets
you power on the laptop and log straight
into Windows with just a single swipe of
your digit of choice. Why more laptops
don’t offer this we’ll never know.
In the lid is a 14-inch, 1,600 x 900
display with a bezel thin enough to let
this laptop’s dimensions (13.03 x 8.9 x
0.74-inches) match those of what before would be considered a 13-inch size.
But, there’s still enough space above to
insert the 720p webcam, which does a
fair but unremarkable job of capturing
your countenance for the world to see.
Even in bright lighting there’s plenty of
grain on display, but it’s good enough
you won’t feel the need to pack along an
external camera.
You will need to pack the external
Ethernet adapter, as there’s no room for
one within the chassis, but at least Lenovo was thoughtful
enough to include one
in the box.
KEYBOARD AND
TRACKPAD
The traditional wide,
spacious keys found
on ThinkPads have
been retired, replaced
by the island-style
arrangement found in
the new X1. It’s basically the same layout
that we found in the
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REVIEW
You’ll never have a doubt about whether
or not you properly hit each and every letter
in that ridiculously complicated password
corporate policy dictates.
ThinkPad X230 so we won’t detail all the
minutiae here, but suffice to say this is a
great layout that is both comfortable and
responsive.
The keys are widely spaced, which
will take a little adjusting to for those
coming from older ThinkPads, but their
curvature and texture make them very
finger-friendly, and they still have that
distinctive tension and “thock” feeling
when depressed, resulting in
The new
Carbon X1
has upgraded
to islandstyle keys.
some stellar feedback. You’ll never have a
doubt about whether or not you properly
hit each and every letter in that ridiculously complicated password corporate
policy dictates.
There are two stages of backlighting, manually cycled by holding the Fn
key and rapping on the space bar. The
audio control buttons, one each for muting the speakers and the microphone,
plus the volume rocker, have been moved
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X1 CARBON
Speed typists who
hate to leave their
home keys will
definitely appreciate
the presence of this
pointing device just to
the left of their right
index finger.
back up to the top of the keyboard after
a brief dalliance on the right side in the
older X1. There, too, lies the configurable
ThinkVantage button, which is black
rather than its traditional blue.
With that, the bright crimson pointing stick is the main dash of color to be
found in the keyboard, and it provides a
visual and tactile highlight for the machine. Despite nearly everyone else on
the planet embracing trackpads, Lenovo
won’t give up on you, TrackPoint, and
we’re glad for it. The shape here is the
common Soft Dome variety, a cushy and
comfortable surface that doesn’t get in
the way while typing. Quite to the contrary, speed typists who hate to leave
their home keys will definitely appreciate
the presence of this pointing device just
to the left of their right index finger, three
buttons just slightly above their thumb.
But, for those times when a trackpad
is required, the X1 Carbon has a very good
one. It’s 37 percent larger than that found
in the earlier X1, a glass unit that’s happy
REVIEW
to let fingers slide without much resistance. The button-free Synaptics unit is
very responsive for the simple stuff, like
two-finger scrolling and telling the difference between left- and right-clicks,
and even more complicated gestures are
well-handled, like four-finger application
switching and pinch-zooming. It’s among
the most responsive we’ve yet used on an
Ultrabook.
DISPLAY AND SOUND
If there’s a fault to be found in the X1
Carbon it lies here: the LCD panel that
you’ll be staring at just about whenever
you use this thing. On paper the 14-inch
unit has it where it counts, clocking in
with a 1,600 x 900 resolution. But, dig a
little deeper and you’ll find a few reasons
to be disappointed.
The first time you look at the panel
you’ll notice what seems to be an excessively high dot pitch — that is to say,
there’s a lot of space between pixels. If
you have reasonably fresh eyes you’ll easily be able to pick out the subtle dark
lines that define the edges of pixels. Even
if your eyes are perhaps a bit more tired,
you’ll be able to see that the whites have
a bit of a gray hue to them. This is more
noticeable even than on machines with
lower-resolution displays, like that on the
MacBook Air.
Maximum brightness here is 300 nits,
a figure that’s a bit underwhelming. It’s a
fair bit dimmer than the Samsung Series
9, for example, which clocks in at 400,
and outdoor visibility in bright sunlight
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X1 CARBON
The speakers
emit sound
through
slits on the
bottom side.
blocks those channels, and the sound gets
a bit more muted — but even then it’s
plenty loud. Bass and tonal quality are on
the poor side, but that’s par for the Ultrabook course.
PERFORMANCE
is virtually impossible here. But, Lenovo
kindly opted for a matte display, ditching
the glossy Gorilla Glass found in the prior
X1. Sure, we’ve given up some aspect of
durability, but we’ll take that in exchange
for the drastic reduction in eye strain
when working in glare-riddled offices.
Viewing angles are adequate, but far
from stellar. You can sway side-to-side
for quite a ways before you start to notice
any visual effects, but wander too far up
or down and the contrast quickly drops
off. You’ll need to keep the display perfectly aligned to get the most out of this
screen, something that fold-flat hinge
makes easy enough, even if you’re hanging from the ceiling.
The speakers are positioned on the
bottom of the unit, shooting out of tiny
slits angled to either side, echoing off of
whatever surface you’ve set the laptop
on to create a wider sound field than you
might think possible out of such a svelte
machine. When placed on a hard surface
the effect is indeed quite compelling,
with surprisingly loud playback and clear
channel separation. Set the machine on
a pillow or your lap, anything soft that
REVIEW
There are three possible CPUs for you to
select, all sprung from Intel’s verdant Ivy
Bridge. Ours has the middle specification,
a 1.8GHz Core i5-3427U with 3MB of L3
cache and a 1,333MHz FSB, all matched
with 4GB of RAM and the HD Graphics
4000 integrated GPU. As such it’s hardly
a gaming machine, but it’s playable in a
pinch — we saw about 25fps in Call of
Duty IV at 1,024 x 768 on default settings. When cranking through the benchmarks we noted a substantial amount of
heat pumping out of the left side of the
laptop, which became uncomfortably
warm. It did, however, stay almost perfectly silent.
Gaming and graphics benchmarks are
definitely outside of the intended applications of this machine, though, a laptop that’s rather more likely to be found
running a PPT than an FPS. In that kind
of application the laptop performs quite
well. Intel’s latest chips offer a huge boost
over their 2011 predecessors, and indeed
this X1 is far faster than that X1, its PCMark Vantage scores about 50 percent
higher. Indeed, looking at the gamut of
Ultrabooks, the X1 Carbon slots in about
where you’d expect it to given its CPU
configuration, and you can pretty well
guess where the higher-spec, 2.0GHz
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X1 CARBON
REVIEW
PCMARK
VANTAGE
BENCHMARK
3DMARK06
LENOVO THINKPAD X1 CARBON (1.8GHZ INTEL CORE I5-3427U,
INTEL HD GRAPHICS 4000)
11738
WOULD NOT
RUN
LENOVO THINKPAD X1 (2.5GHZ CORE I5-2410M,
INTEL HD GRAPHICS 3000)
7787
3726
VIZIO THIN + LIGHT (14-INCH, 1.9GHZ CORE I7-3517U, INTEL HD
GRAPHICS 4000)
13525
5443
ACER ASPIRE TIMELINE ULTRA M5 (481TG-6814, 1.7GHZ INTEL
CORE I5-3317U, INTEL HD GRAPHICS 4000 / NVIDIA GEFORCE
GT640M LE 1GB)
7395
9821
ACER ASPIRE S5 (1.9GHZ CORE I7-3517U, INTEL HD GRAPHICS 4000)
12895
5071
SAMSUNG SERIES 9 (13-INCH, 2012, 1.7GHZ INTEL CORE I5-3317U,
INTEL HD GRAPHICS 4000)
8624
5155
MACBOOK AIR (2012, 1.8GHZ CORE I5, INTEL HD GRAPHICS 4000)
13469
5827
ASUS ZENBOOK PRIME UX21A (IVY BRIDGE CORE I7 PROCESSOR,
INTEL HD GRAPHICS 4000)
10333
4550
SAMSUNG SERIES 9 (15-INCH, 2012, 1.6GHZ CORE I5-2467M,
INTEL HD GRAPHICS 3000)
10580
4171
LENOVO IDEAPAD U310 (1.7GHZ CORE I5-3317U, INTEL HD GRAPHICS
4000)
8345
4549
LENOVO THINKPAD X230 (2.6GHZ CORE I5-3320M,
INTEL HD GRAPHICS 4000)
8234
4891
SONY VAIO T13 (1.7GHZ CORE I5-3317U, INTEL HD GRAPHICS 4000)
8189
3847
NOTE: HIGHER SCORES ARE BETTER
Core i7 version would place, too.
Disk I/O is of course another thing,
and we were not left wanting. Though of
a rather limited size, just 128GB, our X1
Carbon’s SSD averaged 510 MB/s (reads)
and 339 MB/s (writes), which on the read
side at least is right up there with the
latest MacBook Air’s chart-topping 551
MB/s. That’ll have your latest quarterly
presentation loaded in no time — or all
your favorite Quake mods. It also helps
deliver a very respectable 21-second
bootup from cold.
BATTERY LIFE
On our standard battery rundown test,
which entails looping a video with
WiFi enabled, the X1 managed just
over five hours before depleting its last
mAh. That’s on the underwhelming
side of average, with many Ivy Bridge
Ultrabooks pushing one or two hours
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X1 CARBON
BENCHMARK
PCMARK
VANTAGE
LENOVO THINKPAD X1 CARBON
5:07
SAMSUNG SERIES 9 (15-INCH, 2012)
7:29
LENOVO THINKPAD X230
7:19
SAMSUNG SERIES 9 (13-INCH, 2012)
7:02
MACBOOK AIR (13-INCH, 2012)
6:34 (OS X)
/ 4:28
(WINDOWS)
DELL XPS 14
6:18
HP FOLIO 13
6:08
HP ENVY SLEEKBOOK 6Z
5:51
TOSHIBA PORTEGE Z835
5:49
SONY VAIO T13
5;39
MACBOOK AIR (13-INCH, 2011)
5:32 (OSX)
/ 4:12
(WINDOWS)
HP ENVY 14 SPECTRE
5:30
TOSHIBA SATELLITE U845W
5:13
ACER ASPIRE TIMELINE ULTRA M3
5:11
LENOVO IDEAPAD U300S
5:08
SAMSUNG SERIES 5 ULTRABOOK
(14-INCH, 2012)
5:06
ACER ASPIRE TIMELINE ULTRA M5
5:05
DELL XPS 13
4;58
LENOVO IDEAPAD U310
4:57
ACER ASPIRE S5
4:35
SAMSUNG SERIES 9 (13-INCH, 2011)
4;20
ASUS ZENBOOK PRIME UX21A
4:19
ACER ASPIRE S3
4:11
VIZIO THIN + LIGHT (14-INCH)
3:57
REVIEW
longer. Lenovo promises up to six and a
half hours of battery life for the X1 Carbon, and we think it could manage that
with the wireless switch set in silent
mode. Unfortunately, Lenovo isn’t offering an external battery slice for the
X1 Carbon, and we don’t see any connectors on the bottom that would enable them to add one in the future.
It’s not all about longevity, though,
and Lenovo is proud of the X1 Carbon’s
RapidCharge technology. We’ve seen that
before and it, as ever, works well here.
Lenovo promises five hours of battery life
can be added in just 30 minutes of charging, though a full charge will take another
hour. Still, for a quick airport top-off before they call your boarding zone, that’s
quite handy.
SOFTWARE AND WARRANTY
Lenovo kindly kept the X1 Carbon’s SSD
free of most bloatware — a good thing
since there’s only 128GB to work with.
The only real annoying bit we found was
Norton Internet Security, which seemed
to pop up a frightening message about
our computer being unprotected every
few minutes. There’s a 30-day free trial
but we’re guessing it won’t take you
nearly that long to uninstall this bit of
nagware. There’s a link to a free trial of
Microsoft Office, but you’ll need to download that yourself.
Other than that, there’s the usual
ThinkVantage suite of apps and Lenovo’s
SimpleTap application, which gives a
finger-friendly grid of launching apps, not
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X1 CARBON
REVIEW
Lenovo kindly kept
the X1 Carbon’s SSD
free of most bloatware
— a good thing since
there’s only 128GB to
work with.
wholly unlike Launchpad on OS X. This is
of limited use on a touchscreen-free machine like the X1, but could be more of a
help in the upcoming IdeaPad Yoga.
Again, there’s a three-year warranty
here, which is a nice bit of reassurance.
CONFIGURATION OPTIONS
Though the unit we tested will run you
$1,499, the X1 Carbon starts at a hundred
dollars less, with a more modest Core i53317U processor, clocked at 1.7GHz instead of 1.8GHz. If you wanted to upgrade
from the model we reviewed, you could
pay $1,649 for a unit with the same processor, but 256GB in solid-state storage.
Want 256 gigs and a Core i7 CPU? You’re
looking at $1,849. Regardless, these all
come with 4GB of RAM and Intel’s HD
4000 graphics. The resolution and warranty, too, remain the same.
All pre-configured models other than
the base $1,399 unit include an Ericsson
H5321gw HSPA+ WWAN and GPS module. It supports 21Mbps HSPA+ connectivity — once you’ve brought your own
SIM. As of now there’s no way to configure the higher-end X1 Carbon models
Pop in your
own SIM and
enjoy 21Mbps
HSPA+
connectivity.
without this module, which is partly why
those prices we listed are a bit higher
than many others. But, expect to save
about a hundred bucks by omitting this if
and when Lenovo starts offering build-toorder units.
THE COMPETITION
Until HP ships the EliteBook Folio sometime this fall, the X1 Carbon won’t have
much competition from other high-end
Ultrabooks aimed at the business set.
For now, then, we may as well compare
the X1 to other premium ultraportables.
Among them, our reigning favorite might
be the Samsung Series 9 ($1,300 and
up), which is thinner than even the average Ultrabook, has a bright, matte, 1,600
x 900 screen and lasts an impressive seven hours on a charge. (It’s also gorgeous,
but then again, ThinkPad diehards will
be more inclined to love the X1’s understated lines.)
It’s a similar story for the 13-inch
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REVIEW
A fingerprint
scanner
allows onetouch boot
and logins.
MacBook Air ($1,200 and up), which
offers about six and a half hours of runtime and happens to have one of the most
comfortable keyboard-and-trackpad
combos around. On a practical note, it’s
configurable with up to 8GB of RAM and
512GB of solid-state storage — a rarity for
machines in this class. The biggest tradeoff, perhaps, is that screen: with a 1,440 x
900 pixel count it’s crisper than average,
but still doesn’t offer the pixel count that
Lenovo (or Samsung, or ASUS or HP...)
has to offer.
Speaking of ASUS, we just got our
hands on the new $1,099 Zenbook Prime
UX31A and while there’s lots to love (fast
performance, a pretty design, much-improved keyboard and 1080p IPS display)
its trackpad was awfully jumpy, even after multiple driver updates.
If you don’t mind spending $1,400
on a laptop and can suffer a little extra
weight, you might want to check out the
HP Envy 14 Spectre — it’s a bit heavy
for a 14-inch Ultrabook, but we love its
glass-and-metal design, tactile keyboard
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and rich 1,600 x 900 display. Bonus: it
includes a generous two-year warranty
and comes pre-loaded with full copies of
Adobe Photoshop Elements and Adobe
Premiere Elements.
Dell’s XPS 14 falls into a similar vein,
with its 1,600 x 900 display, and it costs
less, at $1,100. It’s also one of the few
bigger-screen Ultrabooks that actually
justifies its heft with long battery life
(nearly six and a half hours, in this case).
Oh, and if you read our review of the
REVIEW
smaller XPS 13, you’ll be glad to know
Dell fine-tuned the trackpad too.
Lastly, given how expensive the X1
Carbon is, it’s worth mentioning the
Sony VAIO Z, even if it isn’t technically an Ultrabook (these are standardvoltage processors, don’tcha know
— quad-core ones, even). At $1,600,
it has a thin, 0.66-inch-thick chassis
(also made from carbon fiber) and it
comes standard with 8GB of RAM and
a 1080p display. Interestingly,
At 300 nits,
the screen
is hard to
see in direct
sunlight.
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X1 CARBON
the drives are arranged in a fast (but
risk-prone) RAID 0 configuration, and
you can get up to 512GB of storage, as
with the MacBook Air. The real hook,
though, is the external Power Media
Dock, which houses a discrete GPU and
optical drive. That’ll set you back an
extra $400, so start counting your pennies if that’s of interest.
But, before we sign off, we’ll again
point out that the X1 Carbon’s pricing
includes an HSPA+ WWAN module in
all but the base configuration, something
you can’t often find in an Ultrabook.
WRAP-UP
So, is the Lenovo X1 Carbon the ultimate Ultrabook? Not quite. Its display
is merely fair, as is its battery life, and
it’s far from the cheapest choice out
there. Those things are definite marks
against, but if you can get past them
this is a fundamentally impressive ma-
REVIEW
chine. It is properly thin and light and
yet has none of the flimsy feeling that
some of its competition offers. It also
manages to be legitimately comfortable
in the hand or on your lap, a description that similarly can’t be applied to
every other razor-thin machine.
This makes it a very consumerfriendly machine with a decidedly professional price-point and, with HSPA+
available across almost the entire range,
it offers pro-level connectivity too. If
you’re looking for a durable, fast Ultrabook that won’t weigh down your
bag — and that won’t scream “look at
me!” while you’re checking in from the
coffee shop — this is absolutely it.
Dana Wollman contributed to this review.
Tim Stevens is Editor-in-chief at Engadget, a lifelong gamer, a wanna-be racer,
and a born Vermonter.
BOTTOMLINE
LENOVO
THINKPAD X1
CARBON
$1,399+
PROS
• D urable,
lightweight
chassis
Solid performance
Great keyboard
and trackpad
HSPA+
connectivity
•
•
•
CONS
• M iddling display
and battery life
High cost
•
BOTTOMLINE
Lenovo’s X1 Carbon
is the thinnest and
lightest ThinkPad
yet and, while it
isn’t the cheapest
Ultrabook on the
market, it’s among
the best.
REVIEW
DISTRO
08.17.12
VIZIO THIN + LIGHT
(14-INCH, 2012)
N
Nine months ago, Vizio didn’t make laptops.
Vizio’s Thin + Light
enters the Ultrabook
arena with some
major specs and a
swagger to match,
but is there an
Achilles’ heel to this
up-and-comer?
By Dana Wollman
Now, it’s seemingly all our readers are writing in
about. The company, best known for its valuepriced TVs, is expanding into the PC market,
with a collection of all-in-ones and thin-andlight notebooks. So why have we been getting so
many emails asking when the heck we’re going
to publish a review? After all, it’s not like shoppers have any shortage of choice when it comes
to Windows computers.
The answer: Vizio is taking the same approach
with PCs that it does with televisions, which is to
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say it’s offering impressive specs while
undercutting its competitors. Case in
point: all of Vizio’s laptops have a fullmetal design, solid-state drive, zero
bloatware and a minimum screen resolution of 1,600 x 900. And yes, that even
applies to the lowest-end notebook,
which goes for $900. Can you see now
where this would be a tempting deal
for folks who’d like to avoid spending
$1,100-plus on an Ultrabook? Well, for
those of you who’ve been curious, we’ve
been testing Vizio’s 14-inch Thin + Light,
and are now ready to unleash that review
you’ve been waiting for. Read on to see if
this rookie computer is as good as it looks
on paper.
LOOK AND FEEL
For a company just entering the PC
market, Vizio got a lot right on its first
try. For starters, its Thin + Light notebooks are fashioned almost completely
out of aluminum — even on the bottom
side, an area where other laptop makers
often settle for plastic. What’s more, that
bottom surface has a rubbery, soft-touch
coating that makes it comfortable to hold,
and comfortable to rest on your legs (hey,
it’s shorts season). In general, too, Vizio
went easy on the garish embellishments
and used just a handful of subtle flourishes to give the laptop some personality. These include beveled edges on the
lid and chassis, a glowing Vizio logo on
the cover and a power adapter that glows
green or orange, depending on the charging status.
REVIEW
Vizio got a lot right
on its first try.
Pick it up and the system feels
about as nice as it looks. There isn’t
any creak or hollowness in the palm
rest, and when you set the laptop down,
the lid doesn’t wobble, as is the case
with other notebooks we’ve tested. At
3.39 pounds, it’s also fairly light, at
least as far as 14-inch Ultrabooks go.
(This might be a good time to clarify
that Vizio is calling this a thin-andlight and not an Ultrabook, but if all
we’re talking about are thin, portable
The Thin +
Light laptop
has a sleek
aluminum
style.
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machines, then tomato, tomahto.) Our
only request would have been for Vizio
to squeeze a few more ports into the
0.67-inch-thick frame, or maybe even
experiment with a slightly thicker chassis. On board, you’ll find two USB 3.0
ports, HDMI-out and a 3.5mm headphone jack. That’s a good start, but on a
machine this size we would’ve expected
to see a few more ports – namely, an
Ethernet jack and an SD card reader.
KEYBOARD AND TRACKPAD
It’s at this point that perhaps Vizio got
carried away in its attempts to reinvent
the PC. The Thin + Light’s keyboard is
an odd specimen, with flat-top keys that
almost blend into one another. Were it
not for some slight beveling between the
keys, you’d have a hard time telling one
key from the other without looking down
at your fingers. Indeed, it took us a day or
so to master the cramped
The small,
layout, but eventuglitchy
touchpad
ally we started noticwas a bit of a
letdown.
ing fewer errors in
our typing. Still, even
once we got the hang
of it, we noticed that
the keys didn’t always
register our presses.
We had this problem
with the space bar a
few times, and also
with the arrow keys
(it doesn’t help that
the up and down ones
are especially tiny). If
REVIEW
there’s one saving grace, though, it’s that
the Enter, Backspace and Shift keys are
pretty oversized, so it’s at least easy to hit
those buttons square on the nose.
Hardly a dealbreaker, but it’s worth
noting that these keys aren’t backlit.
According to Vizio reps, the engineers
were concerned that a backlit keyboard
would increase the thickness of the laptop, and most backlit keyboard suffer
from unsightly light bleed anyway. That
said, the company is apparently considering backlighting for future models.
The Thin + Light’s touchpad is a
little small compared to what you’ll find
on other modern laptops, but it’s still
sufficient for two-fingered scrolling and
pinch-to-zoom. The problem is, the pad
just doesn’t work very reliably, even after some early driver updates. For one,
the touchpad offers a good deal of resistance, and moving the cursor where you
want it to go can be a challenge: some-
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It looks nice,
but the keys
are cramped
and there’s
no backlight.
times it stops short on the
screen, and occasionally it moves in a
different direction entirely. There were
a few vexing instances in which the
cursor randomly jumped to a different
part of the screen while we were typing,
forcing us to backtrack and delete unwanted characters before carrying on.
At other times, too, the pad mistook left
clicks for right ones.
For what it’s worth, Vizio reps seem
aware of the Thin + Light’s early trackpad issues and promise a driver update is
coming sometime in the next few weeks.
Still, the pad is frustrating enough to use
as is that we can’t see ourselves giving
this laptop a hearty recommendation until Vizio figures it out.
DISPLAY AND SOUND
The amazing thing about using the
Vizio Thin + Light for the first time is
that if you thought you resigned your-
REVIEW
self to a gardenvariety 1,366 x 768
display, you’d think
this was the best HD
display you’d ever
seen. In fact, Vizio’s
engineers were apparently as disgusted
by these lower-resolution screens as
you guys were, and
decided that at the
very least, its laptops
would have a 1,600
x 900 pixel count.
(The higher-end configurations have
1080p panels.) And while we’ve tested
many a 1,366 x 768 laptop and survived, you really can tell the difference
here. This is much crisper than what
you’d typically get at this, or any price.
Just keep in mind that because this
is a typical TN panel (as opposed to
an IPS one) the viewing angles aren’t
going to be anything special. Depending on how harshly lit your surroundings are, you could probably get away
with crowding around the laptop and
watching a movie from friends, even
if it meant one of you would have to
watch at an off-angle. Naturally, the
whites are a little less white from the
sides, but it’s still easy enough to make
out whatever’s on screen. You’ll have a
little less luck if you dip the screen forward, though: we even found it difficult
to type this review unless the screen
was positioned at an upright angle.
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REVIEW
They didn’t
skimp on
pixels with
the 1,600 x
900 screen.
We’ll say this about the
sound: the volume is appreciably loud.
It’s louder, certainly, than the ASUS
Zenbook Prime UX31A, which we happened to be testing at the same time.
As for quality, though, the sound is almost indistinguishable from other laptops, which is to say it’s tinny and constrained, but probably good enough for
a listening party of one.
PERFORMANCE
For the purposes of this review, we tested
Vizio’s top-of-the-line configuration,
with a 1.9GHz Core i7 processor, Intel HD
4000 graphics, 4GB of RAM and a 256GB
SSD made by Toshiba. Particularly since
we don’t test many Core i7 Ultrabooks
around here, it’s not surprising that the
Thin + Light delivers some of the fastest performance we’ve seen. Its score of
13,525 in PCMark Vantage is actually the
highest we’ve seen in this class of computer, though it does seem a bit peculiar
that it’s almost the same score we got
from a Core i5-powered MacBook Air.
We would have expected the delta to be
even bigger, any differences in SSDs notwithstanding. Still, we’ll never complain
about this kind of performance, which includes 553 MB/s read speeds, 530 MB/s
writes and an 18-second startup time.
Graphics-wise, the Thin + Light
scored 5,443 in 3DMark06, which is at
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REVIEW
PCMARK
VANTAGE
3DMARK06
VIZIO THIN + LIGHT (14-INCH, 1.9GHZ CORE I7-3517U, INTEL HD
GRAPHICS 4000)
13,525
5,443
ACER ASPIRE TIMELINE ULTRA M5 (481TG-6814, 1.7GHZ INTEL CORE I53317U, INTEL HD GRAPHICS 4000 / NVIDIA GEFORCE GT640M LE 1GB)
7,395
9,821
ACER ASPIRE S5 (1.9GHZ CORE I7-3517U, INTEL HD GRAPHICS 4000)
12,895
5,071
SAMSUNG SERIES 9 (13-INCH, 2012, 1.7GHZ INTEL CORE I5-3317U,
INTEL HD GRAPHICS 4000)
8,624
5,155
MACBOOK AIR (2012, 1.8GHZ CORE I5, INTEL HD GRAPHICS 4000)
13,469
5,827
ASUS ZENBOOK UX31E (1.7GHZ CORE I5-2557M, INTEL HD GRAPHICS
3000)
10,508
4,209
ASUS ZENBOOK PRIME UX21A (IVY BRIDGE CORE I7 PROCESSOR,
INTEL HD GRAPHICS 4000)
10,333
4,550
LENOVO IDEAPAD U300S (1.8GHZ CORE I7-2677M,
INTEL HD GRAPHICS 3000)
9,939
3,651
SAMSUNG SERIES 9 (15-INCH, 2012, 1.6GHZ CORE I5-2467M,
INTEL HD GRAPHICS 3000)
10,580
4,171
LENOVO IDEAPAD U310 (1.7GHZ CORE I5-3317U,
INTEL HD GRAPHICS 4000)
8,345
4,549
LENOVO THINKPAD X230 (2.6GHZ CORE I5-3320M,
INTEL HD GRAPHICS 4000)
8,234
4,891
SONY VAIO T13 (1.7GHZ CORE I5-3317U, INTEL HD GRAPHICS 4000)
8,189
3,847
BENCHMARK
the high end of what we’ve been seeing
from Ivy Bridge laptops with integrated
graphics. Still, without a discrete GPU,
even the best Ivy Bridge machines struggle with gaming — this guy couldn’t even
break 30 frames per second in Call of
Duty 4, and that was with the default settings (1,024 x 768 resolution).
BATTERY LIFE
Oh dear. It’s never a good thing when
a company promises its 14-inch laptop
will last five and a half hours, tops. Indeed, the Thin + Light didn’t make it
nearly that long in our video rundown
test, dying out after less than four hours.
Granted, our particular battery life test
is taxing, much more so than the MobileMark benchmark Vizio uses in its testing
labs. Still, pretty much every 14-inch Ultrabook we’ve tested, from the HP Envy
14 Spectre to the Samsung Series 5 to the
Acer Aspire M5, has lasted five hours,
if not more. Suffice to say, that’s not ac-
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LAPTOP
BATTERY
LIFE
VIZIO THIN + LIGHT (14-INCH)
3:57
SAMSUNG SERIES 9 (15-INCH, 2012)
7:29
LENOVO THINKPAD X230
7:19
SAMSUNG SERIES 9 (13-INCH, 2012)
7:02
MACBOOK AIR (13-INCH, 2012)
6:34
(OS X) / 4:28
(WINDOWS)
HP FOLIO 13
6:08
HP ENVY SLEEKBOOK 6Z
5:51
TOSHIBA PORTEGE Z835
5:49
ASUS ZENBOOK UX31E (2011)
5:41
SONY VAIO T13
5:39
MACBOOK AIR (13-INCH, 2011)
5:32
(OS X) / 4:12
(WINDOWS)
HP ENVY 14 SPECTRE
5:30
TOSHIBA SATELLITE U845W
5:13
ACER ASPIRE TIMELINE ULTRA M3
5:11
LENOVO IDEAPAD U300S
5:08
SAMSUNG SERIES 5 ULTRABOOK
(14-INCH, 2012)
5:06
ACER ASPIRE TIMELINE ULTRA M5
5:05
DELL XPS 13
4:58
LENOVO IDEAPAD U310
4:57
DELL XPS 14Z
4:54
ACER ASPIRE S5
4:35
SAMSUNG SERIES 9 (13-INCH, 2011)
4:20
ASUS ZENBOOK PRIME UX21A
4:19
ACER ASPIRE S3
4:11
REVIEW
ceptable for a product that was built to
be mobile, and that should have room for
a larger battery.
SOFTWARE AND WARRANTY
Even more than that high-resolution
display or all-metal chassis, this is how
Vizio decided to one-up all those seasoned laptop makers. Every unit ships
with Signature, a clean, crapware-free
image of Windows that was approved
by Microsoft (and obviously Microsoft
doesn’t want Windows to be known for
its bloat, so it has a clear motivation to
keep the junk out). Indeed, you won’t
find any third-party software other than
Adobe Reader.
Other than that, it’s Microsoft Office
Starter edition, which you’ll find on every
copy of Windows; Microsoft Security Essentials; and Skype, which is, of course,
now a part of the Microsoft family as
well. Naturally, even if there were a long
list of third-party programs, we could’ve
uninstalled each and every one of them.
But there’s something to be said for booting up a computer for the first time and
loading up a near-blank desktop. It makes
you wonder when Dell and HP and Acer
and every other PC maker will get with
the program.
There is one unorthodox thing about
Vizio’s PCs, and that’s that you can use a
function key — excuse us, the V-Key — to
launch certain multimedia sites, such as
Netflix or Amazon Instant Video. That
key is actually just the F1 button with
Vizio’s logo painted on it, and when you
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hit it for the first time you’ll be taken to a
browser-based setup. (See? Even Vizio’s
own application doesn’t eat up precious
megabytes on your hard drive.) All told,
it’s a harmless little gimmick, but it’s also
not terribly useful. It would seem that
Vizio wanted to tie in these streaming
services as a way of calling attention to
its TV know-how, but if you ask us, the
company already did that by including
such a lovely display.
The Thin + Light has a one-year
warranty, which is typical for a consumer PC, regardless of the price.
CONFIGURATION OPTIONS
Though the unit we tested would cost you
$1,200 if you were to buy it off Vizio’s
website, the laptop actually starts at
$900, with a Core i3 processor, four gigs
of RAM and a 128GB SSD. For $950, you
get a Core i5 CPU instead, but otherwise
the specs are the same. That means if you
want 256GB of storage, the $1,200 Core
i7 model is your only
option. Regardless of
which one you pick,
you’ll get a 1,600 x
900 screen and Intel’s
HD 4000 graphics.
It’s a similar deal
for the 15.6-inch
Thin + Light, which
starts at $950 and
goes up to $1,250.
Here, too, there’s
a Core i3, i5 and i7
configuration, and
REVIEW
you’ll need to go with the highest-end
model to get those 256 gigs of storage.
In the case of these 15-inch machines,
though, the screen resolution is 1,920 x
1,080, not 1,600 x 900.
THE COMPETITION
A laptop with an all-metal design,
SSD and a 1,600 x 900 screen begs
comparison with other high-end
thin-and-lights, don’tcha think?
Spec-wise, at least, the Thin + Light
is aggressively priced. Whereas the
Core i5 version costs $950, for instance, the ASUS UX31A with a Core
i5 CPU and 128GB SSD goes for about
$1,100. Still, specs aren’t everything,
are they? Having tested both laptops, we can say that even though the
UX31A also suffers from trackpad issues, it does have a more comfortable
keyboard, and also lasts longer on a
charge. Meanwhile, the performance
is similar, the design is
There’s some
serious build
quality here;
no creaks or
flex.
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equally sharp and the IPS screen has a
higher resolution, so there’s an argument to be made that there’s an upside to paying $150 more for it.
Ditto for the MacBook Air, which
costs $200 more, but offers a superior
keyboard, trackpad and battery life.
Sure, the pixel count is 1,440 x 900,
but as we’ve tried to demonstrate, a
higher-res screen isn’t much consolation when the computer has some serious usability flaws.
WRAP-UP
We wanted to love Vizio’s underdog
first laptop, and we did when we first
took it out of the box. Despite having
never made a PC before, the company
managed to put out something truly
beautiful, with a sharp screen, solid
build quality, fast performance and
a completely clean version of Windows. We applaud the implicit chal-
REVIEW
lenge to the HPs and Dells of the industry, which have gotten sloppy with
some of their designs, and still load
up computers with bloatware, thinking consumers won’t put up a fight.
Unfortunately, though, Vizio still has
a good deal to learn about building
PCs, and its inexperience shows in
the jumpy trackpad, uncomfortable
keyboard and wretchedly short battery life. We suspect the company
will have plenty of fodder when it returns to the drawing board to plan its
next generation of laptops. For now,
though, we’re hesitant to recommend
the Thin + Light series based solely
on looks, price or specs — after all, a
$900 MSRP doesn’t make this thing
any easier to use.
Dana Wollman is Reviews Editor at
Engadget, a marathoner, lover of puns
and a native Brooklynite.
BOTTOMLINE
VIZIO THIN
+ LIGHT
(14-INCH, 2012)
$900+
PROS
• L ovely all-metal
design
Crisp 1,600 x 900
screen
Fast performance
•
•
CONS
• S hort battery life
• Jumpy trackpad,
uncomfortable
keyboard
No SD slot
•
BOTTOMLINE
Vizio’s first
laptop offers fast
performance and
zero bloatware in an
attractive package,
but it’s marred
by some serious
usability flaws.
REVIEW
DISTRO
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SAMSUNG GALAXY
NOTE 10.1
C
Consider it the fallout from a decade-plus
The S Pen-wielding
Galaxy Note 10.1
underwent a massive
makeover following
its debut. But did
Samsung’s overhaul
go too far?
By Joseph Volpe
of reality TV, but our made-by-the-masses approach has expanded into new territory: technology R&D. Or so Samsung’s very public handling
of the Galaxy Note 10.1 would have us believe.
Thrust into an American Idol-like spotlight at
Mobile World Congress earlier this year, the
still-unfinished slate, a follow-up to the penenabled Galaxy Note phone, was forced to perform for hordes of skeptical insiders. Sure, there
was raw talent on display and we could see the
promise of this 10-inch contender (we said as
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SAMSUNG GALAXY
NOTE 10.1
much in our exhaustive preview), but it
was also clear the company was testing
consumer waters, fishing for a vote of
confidence before continuing down the
development track.
Does this make Samsung’s latest flagship the Kelly Clarkson of the tablet category? It’s an apt analogy, if you think
about it: Kelly wants to be country, the
Note 10.1 wants to be a pro-designer tool,
but neither is allowed. Why? Well, simply put, products sell better when they’re
made more palatable for a wider range of
tastes. Which is why the company used
MWC to gauge popular opinion before
molding its untested product into something with a broader appeal. Ultimately,
that meant a drastic makeover: since
MWC, the Note 10.1 has received a slot
for that S-Pen, streamlined software, a
quad-core Exynos 4 chip and two storage
The Note’s
post-MWC
makeover
included an S
Pen slot.
REVIEW
configurations: 16GB / 32GB, priced at
$499 and $549, respectively.
So it now has more horsepower under the hood, that much is assured, but is
that chip enough to boost the Note 10.1’s
mass appeal? Will savvy shoppers be able
to forgive that relatively low-res 1,280 x
800 display? Will its Wacom digitizer elevate this slate past its more generic Android and iOS rivals? Or will that feature
hamper its widespread appeal, attracting
mainly creative professionals? Let’s find
out if the Note 10.1 can succeed as the
multitasking everyman’s go-to tablet.
HARDWARE
For better or worse, Samsung’s sticking
to the durability of its signature plastic
enclosures. Brushed aluminum backs, it
would seem, are for other OEMs. So if
premium builds are tops on your check-
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NOTE 10.1
list, you can safely
stop reading now. In
its prototype form,
the Note 10.1 felt like
a luxury item, thanks
to its matte enclosure
(then gunmetal gray).
But in a surprising reversal of course, that
subdued finish has
since vanished, only
to be replaced with
the same sort of glossy
backing used on the
OG 10.1. It’s no small
wonder that the company made this
change, given its bloated lineup of nearidentical tablets. This is an Android slate
that calls attention to itself, though it
might not be the right kind.
There’s no two ways about it: the Note
10.1 looks and feels kind of cheap. Starting with our most serious complaint, it’s
prone to the squeaks and creaks of inferior budget devices, which is definitely not
something you’d associate with a $499
product — let alone a flagship. Despite
our protestations, though, this is Samsung’s M.O. But, as with the company’s
other halo product, the Galaxy S III, we
ultimately decided it’s best to make peace
with this lack of design flair and instead
try to appreciate the feature set that
makes it a stand-out device.
Back when it was still in development, the Note 10.1 had one glaring flaw:
the lack of an S-Pen slot. That oversight’s
since been remedied and as a result, the
REVIEW
Samsung
swappped a
matte gray
enclosure for
a glossy rear.
chassis is a tad wider at 0.35 x
7.1 x 10.3 inches (8.9 x 180.4 x 261.6mm),
allowing it to accommodate that housing
along the bottom right edge. On the surface, that’s about that’s about the extent
of the tablet’s alterations (take note: the
HSPA+ global version adds a SIM slot for
voice and data use).
The arrangement of its ports and
hardware keys have remained unchanged,
matching the layout on the Galaxy Tab 2
10.1. There’s a proprietary charging slot
on the bottom edge, a dual-speaker setup
flanking the screen and a power button,
volume rocker, microSD slot (supporting cards up to 64GB), an IR blaster and
3.5mm headphone jack up top. Around
back, the Note 10.1 is completely blank,
showcasing only Samsung’s logo. You
will, however, find a silver strip along
the upper half of the lid, which houses
the 5-megapixel rear camera (up from 3
megapixels when it was first announced)
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NOTE 10.1
and a single LED flash. As for the module’s companion 1.9-megapixel front-facer, it sits above the display along with an
ambient sensor.
Perhaps the most important changes
here are the ones Samsung made to the
Note 10.1’s internals. Whereas it was announced with a dual-core CPU, the company’s swapped that out for the more
powerful quad-core Exynos 4 clocked
at 1.4GHz — and what a difference four
cores makes. To complement this processing might, Samsung threw in a
healthy 2GB RAM and a 7,000mAh battery to keep the experience afloat. We’ll
delve deeper into the performance later
on, but rest assured this tab can take
whatever you throw at it and then some.
So the overall construction holds
fast to the tried-and-true approach of
Samsung devices past, but how does it
feel in hand? Well, considering its dimensions have expanded, it still feels
reassuringly light and manageable.
Weighing 1.31lbs (0.6kg), it’s comfortable to hold in one hand while you grip
the S-Pen in the other, though the edges could do with a bit of softening.
And how about that S-Pen? Has it
seen an evolution? Are there any additional bells and whistles packed into it?
Does its oblong shape make for a natural
fit in-hand? Well, yes, no and sorta kinda. Allow us to elaborate. For all its girth,
the S-Pen still feels as light as a feather
— and that’s not necessarily a good thing.
Like the tablet itself, the pen conveys an
inferior and ultimately disposable feel.
REVIEW
For what it’s worth, there’s a well-placed
function button located on the side of the
pen that’s easy to find with your finger. If
that’s not impressive enough, Samsung
will sell two additional pens — one with
an eraser tip and the other a larger holster for a more natural grip.
Ding, ding, ding. That’s how many
times the bell should ring to count out
the Note 10.1’s 1,280 x 800 TFT LCD
display. Samsung obviously made a compromise to keep costs down, but there’s
really no reason for the company to have
settled on such a middling display. When
we previewed the tablet it was a work in
progress, so the forgettable display was
easier to forgive — Apple’s new iPad had
just seen a public launch, leaving Samsung plenty of time to rejigger its part
list and potentially bump that screen to
1,920 x 1,200 resolution. Yet, the company didn’t and we remain confused.
Still, it’s a serviceable panel: its
colors are balanced (helped by a Dynamic and Movie mode) and viewing
angles are sharp, though the screen
does fall prey to a little washout and
glare. Mainly, we’re frustrated by the
tab’s pixel density, and we can’t imagine graphic designers and other creative
types will be impressed either.
PERFORMANCE
AND MULTITASKING
The guts of the Note 10.1 should be a
source of pride for Samsung’s engineers, and nowhere is this more evident
than in the tablet’s slick multiscreen
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NOTE 10.1
implementation (more on this in a moment). But while anecdotal software
impressions can paint an abstract picture of what’s happening under the
hood, benchmarks lay out a blueprint
for what’s truly possible, and hint
at what potential might be lying untapped. Since the tab’s spec list is an
uneven mix, we pitted it against a range
of contemporary Android slates that
share some of the same traits — be it a
similar resolution, multi-core CPU or
Android 4.0 as an OS. In this instance,
many of the rivals
we selected — Acer’s
Iconia Tab A700,
ASUS’ Transformer Pad TF300 and
Transformer Pad Infinity TF700 — pack
Tegra 3 internals.
(The dual-core Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 does
not.) Yet, despite being armed with such
considerable horsepower, none proved a
fair match for Samsung’s proprietary
chipset. That’s not
to say the Note 10.1
notched undisputed wins across the
board; we logged a
Putting
marginal AnTuTu
the Note’s
multitasking
loss and a Nenacapabilities
to the test.
mark result that
put in on par with
REVIEW
all those Tegra 3 tablets we mentioned.
So about that multiscreen option. This
feature, which wasn’t demoed on the original model announced at MWC, affords a
convenient split-screen view. All told, you
can choose from six apps — S Note, Gallery,
Video, Browser, Polaris Office and Email.
But the multitasking fun doesn’t end there:
power users can load a pop-up video player
on the upper half of the screen, call up various of mini apps from an onscreen shortcut
or drag and drop clipboard content from
the browser or Gallery to S Note and Polar-
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NOTE 10.1
REVIEW
BENCHMARK
SAMSUNG
GALAXY
NOTE 10.1
ACER
ICONIA TAB
A700
ASUS
TRANSFORMER
PAD INFINITY
TF700
QUADRANT
5,695
3,311
4,685
3,695
2,602
LINPACK SINGLETHREAD
56.6
43.3
N/A
41.7
35.6
LINPACK MULTITHREAD
160.3
94
N/A
89.83
61.3
NENAMARK 1 (FPS)
60
60.8
N/A
60.3
29.5
NENAMARK 2 (FPS)
58.5
37.9
N/A
46.9
19
VELLAMO
2,394
1,283
1,475
1,320
WOULD
NOT RUN
ANTUTU
11,962
10,499
12,027
N/A
N/A
SUNSPIDER 0.9.1 (MS)
1,193
1,970
2,012
2,120
2,222
GLBENCHMARK EGYPT
OFFSCREEN (FPS)
97
59
75
N/A
N/A
CF-BENCH
13,157
11,567
7,874
N/A
N/A
ASUS
TRANSFORMER
PAD TF300
SAMSUNG
GALAXY
TAB 2 10.1
SUNSPIDER: LOWER SCORES ARE BETTER
is Office. During our testing, we launched
as many as eight apps simultaneously,
which appeared to have no detrimental
effect on video playback and only slightly
hampered the slate’s overall response time.
In real-world usage, you’d be hard-pressed
to find a scenario where such extreme multitasking is even necessary, and we suspect
that workhorse potential will satisfy even
the most discerning power users.
As you might expect, the Note 10.1 delivers consistently solid performance unless burdened with an unrealistic workload.
All told, the tablet delivers a snappy, fluid
experience, which happily doesn’t include
many jarring transitions.
BATTERY LIFE
The Note 10.1 comes in two flavors:
HSPA+ and WiFi-only (the former is already available at online retailers like
Negri Electronics). For now, at least, only
the WiFi version will be available in the
US. So while we can’t say how long the
tab will last when tethered to an alwayson 3G connection, we can speak to the
longevity of the WiFi-only variant. As
it happens, this is the same 7,000mAh
battery used in the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1,
except here it’s tasked with supporting a
quad-core processor. How does it fare?
With light to moderate use, it’s easy to
spread one full charge cycle over the span
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NOTE 10.1
BATTERY LIFE
SAMSUNG GALAXY NOTE 10.1
8:00
SAMSUNG GALAXY TAB 7.7
12:01
APPLE IPAD 2
10:26
ACER ICONIA TAB A510
10:23
ASUS EEE PAD
TRANSFORMER PRIME
10:17 / 16:34
(KEYBOARD
DOCK)
SAMSUNG GALAXY TAB 10.1
9:55
APPLE IPAD (2012)
9:52 (HSPA)
/ 9:37 (LTE)
APPLE IPAD
9:33
ASUS TRANSFORMER PAD
INFINITY TF700
9:25
MOTOROLA XOOM 2
8:57
SAMSUNG GALAXY TAB 2 (10.1)
8:56
HP TOUCHPAD
8:33
ASUS TRANSFORMER PAD TF300
8:29 / 12:04
(KEYBOARD
DOCK)
ACER ICONIA TAB A700
8:22
ACER ICONIA TAB A200
8:16
SAMSUNG GALAXY TAB 7.0 PLUS
8:09
AMAZON KINDLE FIRE
7:42
GALAXY TAB 2 7.0
7:38
ACER ICONIA TAB A500
6:55
of three days — that’s with some casual
browsing, streaming video consumption,
social media monitoring and brief phototaking. But for as long as the device might
last you in the real world, it’s also excep-
REVIEW
tionally slow to recharge, so plan accordingly and don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Under the duress of our more formal
battery rundown test, which entails
looping a video off local storage with
the screen brightness fixed at 50 percent, the Note 10.1 held out for a solid
eight hours. Again, bear in mind that
figure represents the strain of both the
Exynos 4 and the 10-inch 1,280 x 800
screen. Had Samsung chosen to boost
the display quality to full HD, this realworld result would have depreciated
even further, forcing the company to go
with a bigger battery and a weightier
tablet. Even so, this showing places the
Note 10.1 far down on the tablet totem
pole, smack dab between the Kindle
Fire and Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus — not exactly a flattering comparison.
SOFTWARE AND S PEN APPS
In a perfect world, the Note 10.1 would
hit retail running Jelly Bean right out
of the box. That’s our dream scenario
for this and every other Android device, but as we’ve grudgingly come to
accept, most manufacturers want to
put their individual stamp on Google’s
unified operating system. And so, we’re
faced with a skinned version of Ice
Cream Sandwich, now bumped to 4.0.4
and predictably cloaked in Samsung’s
TouchWiz UX. Purists shouldn’t have
much difficulty acclimating to this particular overlay as it’s actually quite
light, though it is stocked up with 21
pre-loaded apps — Kno, Barnes & Noble
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NOTE 10.1
Nook, Netflix, Peel Smart Remote and
Dropbox, just to name a few. Samsung
assures us an upgrade to Android 4.1
will arrive sometime this year, so expect more concrete news on that front
in the coming months.
To speak of Ice Cream Sandwich’s
ins and outs is to rehash yesterday’s
news. With that in mind, we won’t retread such familiar territory. Instead,
let’s focus on what Samsung’s done
to optimize the tablet for that S-Pen.
From the moment you retrieve the stylus from its in-shell holder, a vertical
mini-menu slides out from the screen’s
right edge displaying five optimized applications and a settings option. This
shortcuts toolbar is customizable in
that you can have a certain
Photoshop
Touch
interface for
the Galaxy
Note 10.1.
REVIEW
app open when you remove the pen
from its slot. Right now, only five applications are designed to take specific
advantage of this functionality: S Note,
S Planner, Crayon Physics, Photoshop
Touch and Polaris Office. And, as with
the Galaxy Note phone, the S-Pen can
also be used to take screenshots (just
long-press the function button while
touching the pen to the screen).
Samsung’s already made the S-Pen’s
SDK available to developers, so there’s
a chance the Note 10.1 could find much
richer support in the future. Realistically, though, users will have to make
do with Samsung’s curated software
suite or use S Suggest (the company’s
recommendation engine) to find other optimized apps. So what’s really
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SAMSUNG GALAXY
NOTE 10.1
changed since we last saw Note 10.1 in
March? For starters, the S-Pen’s sensitivity level has been increased to an
impressive 1,024 degrees of pressure.
You won’t have much need for such
nuanced touch support with general
use, but fire up PS Touch or S Note and
you’ll begin to appreciate the precision.
The same goes for the tablet’s palm
rejection — the ability for the slate to
detect stylus input while your hand
rests on the screen. This, too, has been
refined since we took that earlier build
for a spin.
Optimized app support would seem
to be the logical means to effect successful S-Pen implementation throughout the slate, but Samsung’s taken it
one step further, tossing in the mouselike ability to hover (aided
Giving the
S Pen’s
improved
sensitivity a
go in S Note.
REVIEW
by an optional icon setting) and trigger
dropdown menus when browsing web
sites. It’s a small flourish, but one that
catapults the Note 10.1 past other devices, transforming it into a bona fide
productivity tool.
Much has been said about the Note
10.1’s inclusion of PS Touch, an app
that normally costs $10 in Google’s Play
store. Though it’s a pared-down version
of the full desktop program used by
pros, it does offer a robust suite of tools
that should please pros and amateurs
alike. Samsung’s worked closely with
Adobe to hone the app so that firsttimers adjusting to stylus-guided navigation will find the experience intuitive.
To that end, there’s a collection of tutorials ready to hand-hold newbs through
the post-production process.
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Notably absent, however, is Adobe’s
other Photoshop-like companion app,
Ideas. Even odder, it was installed on
the pre-production model we first saw
at MWC and then tested in our preview.
Fortunately, its absence won’t negatively affect users, as that app is basically a
distilled version of PS Touch, just with
fewer practical applications. We’re not
sad to see it go, and we also won’t miss
S Memo, another pre-release app that’s
been kicked to the curb. Like Ideas,
Memo was more or less a redundancy,
a sandboxed version
of S Note that had no
reason for existing on
its own. Unlike Ideas,
however, Samsung
chose to fold S Memo
into S Note as a template option — exactly where it always
belonged.
Otherwise, the
majority of S Note’s
functions have stayed
the same. Users can
still choose from an
assortment of pen
options, brush sizes
and colors for handwriting-based input
or opt for text-based
input using the
S Note’s
onscreen keyboard
improved
equation
which, thanks to
functionality
on display.
the company’s
tweaking, is now
REVIEW
offered in three layouts: traditional
QWERTY; Floating, which permits users to adjust its onscreen placement;
and Split, Samsung’s take on a thumb
keyboard. Menu options are present
to export your creations in .pdf, .jpg,
.snb or text format and send via email,
Dropbox, Bluetooth or WiFi Direct.
Handwriting recognition on the Note
10.1 is leaps and bounds ahead of where
it was the last time we tested this thing.
Much to our delight, the tablet’s software was able to correctly make sense
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SAMSUNG GALAXY
NOTE 10.1
of our illegible cursive, translating our
chickenscratch into proper text. Take
the time to write neatly in print and
you’ll find no fault with the slate’s powers of comprehension. Even the shape
function has been enhanced so that it
now more consistently rearranges sloppy geometric figures into appropriate
configurations.
But the most noticeable and welcome
improvement is actually the mathematical function, of all things. Users that input
equations into the slate will be presented
with a search option on the upper half of
the screen, thanks to a partnership with
Wolfram Alpha. Select that, and the Note
10.1 immediately segues into multiscreen
mode, pulling up the browser and displaying a list of responses tailored to that specific query. Again, it’s a minute touch, but
on the whole, it helps
to elevate this SamIt produces
sung slate above its
some stellar
shots,
run-of-the-mill Anbut not
consistently.
droid competition.
CAMERA
The Note 10.1 should
not be your go-to
for photography or
at least, not the device you rely on for
fleeting moments of
inspiration. No, this
slate’s rear 5-megapixel module doesn’t
handle impromptu
image capture with
REVIEW
any sense of skill. It’s actually downright frustrating with its focusing
difficulties and the considerable lag
between the moment you trigger the
onscreen shutter button and the final
result. During our photographic walkabout in downtown New York City, we
found ourselves snapping several takes
of the exact same image and never quite
landing on a still that met our expectations. Also, the tab’s lack of a full HD
screen is extremely apparent here, as it
led us to believe on more than one occasion that the images we’d shot were
of inferior quality. That wasn’t totally
the case, as our final batch of 2,560 x
1,920 shots did turn up some aboveaverage pictures with an acceptable
level of detail and depth of field. On the
whole, though, photos tended to have a
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SAMSUNG GALAXY
NOTE 10.1
blurry quality — softly lit and filtered,
despite the abundant outdoor lighting.
The included camera UI is no different than that of other Samsung-branded tablets and smartphones, though
it does offer up Share shot and Buddy
photo share — two smart functions that
debuted on the Galaxy S III and which
send photos to other devices via WiFi
Direct. Aside from those new settings,
the rest is your usual assortment of
scene and shooting modes, toggles for
ISO, white balance and exposure, as
well as a panorama option.
The 720p video capture mode yields
similarly half-baked results. Playback
suffers from similar hazy image quality
and also appears quite shaky due to a
lack of image stabilization. Our audio,
for the most part, was distinct, if a tad
muffled, but then again we happened to
catch a reprieve from the crush of surrounding traffic.
THE COMPETITION
Starting at $499, Samsung’s base
Note 10.1 model seems a reasonable enough buy when you factor in
the addition of the S-Pen, PS Touch,
Exynos 4 processor and 16GB of storage. That is, until you cast a glance at
other Android tablets of equal cost,
like ASUS’ Transformer Infinity Pad
TF700, which boasts a crisper 1,920
x 1,200 display, double the storage
(32GB) and a quad-core Tegra 3 CPU.
That across-the-board spec bump
alone should give you pause consid-
REVIEW
ering these dueling slates both run
skinned ICS and are separated by a
stylus alone. But shift your gaze to yet
another similar Google-fied offering,
Acer’s Iconia Tab A700, and the path
to purchase becomes fuzzier, as that
tablet manages to offer the same topshelf specs at $50 less — an excellent
proposition that, again, lacks only a
built-in digitizer.
What about the iPad? Indeed, Apple’s
tidy iOS ecosystem is where most consumers will instinctively want to invest
their dollars based on the tab’s nighubiquitous market death grip. And we’d
be hard pressed to direct their attention
otherwise since Cupertino’s newest tablet iteration lays claim to the best panel
available today — a 2,048 x 1,536 Retina
display — and bears the same $499 pricing for a 16GB configuration.
Laid out plainly as this, the Samsung
Galaxy Note 10.1’s case as a compelling
tablet alternative is unavoidably weak.
For consumers who, arguably, already
own a primary PC, laying down that
chunk of cash for the company’s latest requires a hefty commitment to the S-Pen.
Really, it’s the tablet’s only differentiating
factor and one we’re not convinced ordinary households will find lust-worthy.
Had the company slapped on a different
build and gone just one step up in the
resolution department, we could see this
being a fair fight. As it is, the Note 10.1
succeeds as an early adopter platform —
an attractive option for diehard fans of
the original Note.
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NOTE 10.1
WRAP-UP
It’s been a long time — six months, to be
exact — since Samsung first gave birth to
the Galaxy Note 10.1. Our initial reaction
was one of intrigue; a risky bet we were
eager to see play out in final form, especially given stiff competition from various
quad-core competitors. So, does the Note
10.1 manage to overcome its well-matched
rivals and carve out its own spot in the
crowded tablet space? Ultimately, no matter how deftly executed and streamlined
the S-Pen experience may be, this tab still
feels like a niche device, especially since
the suite of compatible applications is still
pretty small. This is the sort of purchase
early adopters and creative professionals
are likely to make based on their familiarity
with Android and the additional flexibility
afforded by that stylus.
Yes, it’s neat to have access to apps
like PS Touch and S Note or even tinker with that newly baked multi-screen
functionality, but we suspect that won’t
REVIEW
be enough to sway average consumers.
People creating content (read: the very
segment Samsung’s going after) are already well-served by traditional PCs,
mice, keyboards and Wacom pads and
again, the Note 10.1 doesn’t have that
many optimized apps in its own right.
At $499, meanwhile, there are a host of
other tablets with sharper displays, equal
or greater built-in storage and quad-core
CPUs. To seal the deal and move units off
shelves, Samsung should’ve priced the
Note 10.1 at about $100 less. Instead, it
stands on even retail ground with higherend rivals, forcing you, the consumer, to
choose between the finger and the pen.
Special thanks to Negri Electronics for
loaning us an HSPA+ unit.
Zach Honig contributed to this review.
Joseph Volpe is ambiguously ethnic. He
is also an Associate Editor at Engadget.
BOTTOMLINE
SAMSUNG
GALAXY
NOTE 10.1
$499
PROS
• F ine-tuned S Pen
experience
Smooth
performance
Multiscreen
function
allows for true
simultaneous
multi-tasking
CONS
• B uild quality feels
cheap
Unimpressive
screen resolution
A little too pricey
•
•
•
•
BOTTOMLINE
Samsung’s Galaxy
Note 10.1 aims to
be all things to
everyone, but ends
up painting itself
into an S Pen niche.
ESC
IMAGES COURTESY OF SIEMENS
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SIEMENS B75
QUANTUM BLADE
VISUALIZED
ESC
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CHRIS MOODY
RED HAT’S SENIOR
MARKETING MANAGER
discusses his love for the
original Nintendo, throwing
video game controllers and
forced sleep habits.
What gadget do you depend on most?
My Verizon Galaxy Nexus (please
give me Jelly Bean). I’m falling in
love with my Nexus 7 too, but depend on the Galaxy Nexus for work
and personal use extensively.
Which do you look back upon
most fondly?
Nintendo. I rented games to my
neighborhood when I was 5 years
old and my Dad and I alternated
playing The Legend of Zelda (gold
cartridge) since he worked third
shift until we beat it. That system
Q&A
stayed on for weeks straight and
was a big part of my life growing up.
Which company does the most to push
the industry?
Besides the obvious Apple and
Google mentions, we’re doing incredible things at Red Hat and I’m
a huge advocate of open source
and the power of group think. That
love of community has drawn me
to Kickstarter, as “normal” people
are guiding product decisions. I’m
pumped to see what OUYA does
with their $5+ million.
What is your operating system
of choice?
Android for mobile, Linux for work
and OS X for personal use.
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Q&A
ESC
“I vividly remember playing
Kung Fu on the NES and
throwing the controller at
the television.”
What are your favorite gadget names?
Super Nintendo (such a great adjective) and Dreamcast.
What are your least favorite?
Wii and The New iPad (while brilliant because everyone refers to it
as the new iPad, it struck me as a
little “meh”).
Which app do you depend on most?
Netflix — we cut cable and watch 95
percent of our content through this
wonderful app on our Roku at home.
just clean them up a little, get rid of
the eraser dust and you’re golden. No
scratches there.
What is your earliest gadget memory?
I had Atari, but I vividly remember playing Kung Fu on the NES
and throwing the controller at the
television (the ones with the really thick glass) every time I died.
Luckily, I was able to beat the game
before chipping the industrialgrade glass on those TVs. I still can
hear that “ting” sound in my head.
What technological advancement do
you most admire?
Broadband internet. While dramatically improving still, dial-up was
really painful if you think about it.
Which do you most despise?
What traits do you most deplore in a
smartphone?
Huge battery drain, bloatware, restrictive configurations.
Which do you most admire?
Form factor, battery life, openness
/ flexibility and speed.
What is your idea of the perfect device?
The original Nintendo. What other
device can see performance improvements by blowing in it (quick cartridge repair)? It is also extremely
easy to repair cartridges with a small
screwdriver and a white eraser —
The speed of innovation. I hate buying a cutting-edge device and then
feeling outdated a month later.
What fault are you most tolerant
of in a gadget?
I don’t mind random crashes as
much as most. I install tons of
apps and use my devices extensively and grant some forgiveness
in that category.
Which are you most intolerant of?
Flawed form factor. I have huge
hands and can’t stand feeling like
I’m fumbling around with some-
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Q&A
ESC
thing. That’s one reason I’m in love
with the Nexus 7. The form factor
is pretty close to perfect.
When has your smartphone been of the
most help?
I sold a great Garmin GPS thanks
to Google Maps. I love never feeling lost thanks to a smartphone.
Google Now is proving pretty brilliant too because it tells me if I
need to leave earlier for work based
on my normal route. Small and incremental improvements to normal
daily tasks are much appreciated.
What device do you covet most?
Philips 58-inch Cinema 21:9 Platinum 58PFL9955H — my flatscreens are all over 4 years old
now. I want this in my stocking
for Christmas.
If you could change one thing about
your phone what would it be?
I want updates as soon as they are
available. It irks me that there are
delays depending on your carrier.
I love Verizon’s service, but I want
Jelly Bean without legal debates,
carrier delays or extensive launch
plans. I’ll deal with a few bugs instead of waiting months.
“I love Verizon’s service,
but I want Jelly Bean
without legal debates.”
What does being connected
mean to you?
Always being available to communicate (voice, text, data, whatever). I’d venture to say that
40-hour work weeks in an actual
office are becoming more commonplace because everyone is
connected and tackling tasks at
home or on the road as needed.
Most of us are guilty of assigning
certain tasks to complete at home
based on the amount of concentration required. Being connected
is changing the personal / professional life balance dramatically. It
takes more effort to disconnect.
When are you least likely to reply
to an email?
2AM to 7AM. I used to power
through most of these hours, but
having a little man at home and a
wife of two years has helped me to
ease into a longer disconnect period.
When did you last disconnect?
Last night at 10:30PM. My wife
is brilliant. We’ve grown accustomed to sleeping with white
noise and my phone on the other
side of the room is the “perfect location” for the noise.
Once we’re settled in, my device
morphs into a white noise machine forcing me to disconnect.
She outsmarted me there and
turned it into a good habit.
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HTC ONE S
Columbia
GPS Pal
Eton
Rukus
Solar
THE ONE S IS THE middle child
of HTC’s family, and we often
treat it that way. It doesn’t get
much love next to the superstar
One X, and it doesn’t have the
One V’s price edge. And yet, after
getting the chance to use a One S
on Bell for several weeks, it seems
to me it’s very nearly the champion of the trio.
It’s all in the shape. As much
as the One X earns its stripes, it
can be more than a bit unwieldy
to use one-handed. The One S is a
minor miracle in that regard: it’s
one of the few “big” phones where
a thumb can still reach every important part of the display without
some hand acrobatics. It’s a cliché
of phone reviews to say a device
feels “good in the hand,” but I’m
just being honest here.
In North
America, where
the One S and
One X have to
share the same
processor, the
One S isn’t even
a step back in
performance —
it’s still brisk,
and HSPA+ data
IRL
IN REAL LIFE is an
ongoing feature where
we talk about the
gadgets, apps and toys
we’re using in real life.
is plenty speedy. Sense 4.0 continues to be a favorite non-stock
Android interface through its tendency to let Google’s built-in features shine while improving those
areas that really need it, like the
apps for the camera and regular
e-mail. Occasional focusing quirks
aside, the 8-megapixel rear camera in question remains a champion for its low-light abilities and
its raw speed.
About the only thing keeping
the One S from being an absolute
hero is, you guessed it, that AMOLED display. It’s not as bad as
some would have you think; if you
were told that all other phones
had vanished from the face of the
Earth, you’d probably be very content to use HTC’s mid-range model. Still, it’s clear that HTC’s race
to make the One S as thin as possible came at a price. The Droid
Incredible 4G LTE actually has an
advantage in using an LCD that’s
already sharp combined with a
smaller screen that better serves
the 960 x 540 resolution. If HTC
could improve this one component
without hurting anything else, the
One S would be nigh-on ideal.
—Jon Fingas
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ESC
IRL
COLUMBIA
GPS PAL
HTC
One S
Eton
Rukus
Solar
IT SORT OF FEELS AS IF tracking
apps are a dime a dozen — particularly in Apple’s App Store — but
Columbia’s GPS Pal just wouldn’t
get out of my thoughts. It’s a company I’ve been happy with over
the years and the UI immediately
struck me as one that was way too
nicely done to be coming from a
clothing company. The real question, naturally, is this: can a company that makes outdoor gear also
program apps?
GPS Pal is free on iOS and Android, and is meant to track runs,
hikes, kayaking excursions and any
other outdoor adventure. So long
as you have a GPS signal, you can
track your movements and elevation changes. It also keeps tabs on
a few other vital factors, including
overall time, distance traveled and
speed — just what you’d expect
from a “Portable Activity Log.”
Unlike My Tracks for Android this
one doesn’t map out your elevation change over time. If you aren’t
a hardcore statistics nerd, it probably won’t bother you much.
I really love the apps ability to
easily take a photo or video midjourney, and that it will geotag my
media and then beautifully assemble a pinned map. It also allows you to easily flip through your
newly assembled slideshow, and
you can even sync it with the company’s website so you never lose
trip data. Naturally, you’ll be able
to share trips on Facebook or Twitter, and the presentation there is
equally nice. After 200-plus ratings in the App Store, it’s sitting at
an impressive 4 stars. Battery drain
was minimal on my kayaking trip
in Fairbanks and honestly, you’ll be
hard-pressed to beat it for free. And
hey, if you have both an Android
phone and an iPhone, you’ll be able
to enjoy the same UI on both. Kudos, Columbia. —Darren Murph
DISTRO
08.17.12
IRL
ESC
ETON
RUKUS SOLAR
HTC
One S
Columbia
GPS Pal
IF YOU’RE OUT IN THE SUMMER
and want to inflict your musical
tastes on the neighbors without
too much fuss, then Eton’s Rukus
Solar might be for you. A hefty
photovoltaic panel sits across a
pair of tube speakers that’ll happily slurp down power to juice
a battery rated for eight hours.
Connecting over Bluetooth or
3.5mm audio jack, it’ll fill a decently sized back garden (or small
hall), while a USB port on the
underside will let you refill your
phone / tablet with nought but
Superman’s power source. That
said, it didn’t take too kindly
to the traditional (“wet”) English
summer, only charging when in
direct sunlight.
My wife and I used the
speakers to discreetly practice
our wedding dance in a variety
of acoustically unfriendly locations, and each time the speakers came through. While not the
most bass-heavy device you’ll
ever experience, it does a reasonable job with the variety of
genres (and gadget-related TV
shows) I watched with it. It’s
also sturdily built and that e-ink
screen remains visible in both
evening dim and under the summer sun. My only trouble is that
I’d feel too ashamed to subject
other beach-goers to my musical
selections — so perhaps I’ll just
use it in the garden.
—Dan Cooper
DISTRO
08.17.12
REHASHED
ESC
The week that was
in 140 characters or less.
NEW TABLETS, NEW TOILETS AND
A JUDICIAL SENSE OF HUMOR
@inafried
Lighthearted moment. Only one
flash drive available for both
#Apple and Samsung lawyers.
Judge Koh suggests they share
@Gartenberg
Kickstarter has evolved to the
point where it’s now just a way to
pass the risk of tenuous ideas to
consumers who don’t know better.
@fromedome
@rossrubin
Too bad the Galaxy Note tablet
doesn’t outsize its category like
the smartphone does because I
could use a 23” tablet.
@BillGates
The modern toilet
Not sure I
like the idea was invented in 1775
and we promptly
that Google
now owns stopped innovating…
until today.
my name.
THE STRIP
BY DUSTIN HARBIN
DISTRO
08.17.12
ESC
WHAT IS THIS?
TIME
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Contributing Editors Kevin Wong, Mat Smith, James Trew,
Daniel Cooper, Edgar Alvarez, Dante Cesa, Anthony
Verrecchio, Steve Dent, Jamie Rigg, Jason Hidalgo,
John Browning, Alexis Santos
Senior European Editor Sharif Sakr
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Guest Columnist Ludwig Kietzmann
Photographer
Will Lipman
Cartoonist
Dustin Harbin
AOL MOBILE
Head of Ux and Design David Robinson
Creative Director Jeremy LaCroix
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Designers
Eve Binder, Susana Soares, Troy Dunham
Design Production Manager Peter K. Niceberg
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Scott Tury
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Mike Levine, Ron Anderson, Terence Worley,
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