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Samsung Series 9 Ultrabook: Will This Be the "Real" Macbook Air Killer?

Series 9 notebook from Samsung has an amazing Duralumin (aircraft grade aluminum) unibody with a total thickness of just half an inch. That might just fit inside a brown paper envelope.  Samsung is setting the bar for the new ultrabook class, although Samsung doesn’t like the “ultrabook” moniker, we’ll just let it be the Samsung Series 9 notebook to make them happy.

It’s powered by a hefty Intel Core i5 processor and comes with USB 2.0, USB 3.0, and an SD Card slot. As shown, it has a 13.3 inch matte screen sporting a 1600×900 resolution and weight of just 2.5 pounds. Original Series 9 notebooks had 2.8 pounds, even if it was outfitted with plastics here and there instead of the aluminum unibody shell like here.

What was not shown off was their 15-inch version of the same notebook.  Described as the fitting the same form factor, this model sports the same 1600×900 resolution. But with a bigger screen brings more weight, it’s still just 3.3 pounds, and the thickness is still that awesome half of an inch.

This new generation of Samsung’s Series 9 notebooks may try to suck air out of Apple’s MacBook Air. But they will need to improve on a few things before that ever happens, for one: battery life of these Samsung models is still a mere 3 hours compared to the Air’s 6 hours. Pricing of $1399 for 13.3 inch model and $1499 for 15 inch model could be just a $100 or so less than equally equipped MacBook Air, which could prove insufficient incentive to buy Samsung Series 9 notebook instead of the Mac OS X totting Air. 

Malicious Android Virus Spreading Through Legitimate Apps

Heads up Android users: Symantec has just identified a certain nasty bug going around targeting Android devices, hiding inside legitimate apps. Dubbed Android.Counterclank, Symantec says the bug is a bot-like threat that can receive commands to trigger certain actions, as well as steal information on any device it’s in. 

This particularly nasty piece of malware is currently the biggest distribution of any malware identified so far this year, meaning it’s currently spreading like wildfire. Symantec has helpfully provided a list of applications that this bug has been riding in, so if you have downloaded ANY of the apps below, it’d be best if you uninstall the app and do a wipe on your device. Another way to identify if this bug is currently residing in your phone is the  presence of a Search icon above on the home screen, and if there are two instances of an app running when you open it.

Tips on Buying Laptops for Kids

These days, a paper based A4 notebook for your child at school is so out of fashion. What he or she needs is a laptop, but which one do you choose? Ntombezinhle Modiselle of Intel provides some advice.

Whether your child is starting high school or is well into their tertiary education, a new computer or an upgrade if they’ve had it for more than four years should top their list of back-to-school necessities for the myriad of tangible benefits.  But which one do you pick from the dazzling array of new technology available? 

Buying the right machine is not that all that simple for us non-techy parents. To make the best purchase for your child you need to consider how it will be used for the next four years and consider all areas of functionality.

Entry level laptops are perfectly sufficient for primary school learners who only need basic computing functions - but keep in mind that it takes a maximum of four years to outgrow technology completely, and lately even faster.

Older students will benefit more from a faster device with more memory, better graphics and sound, which will allow them to create media-rich content along with homework activities such as charts and graphs, write reports and do research. Teenagers will also of course be excited and engage with the ‘fun’ side of using a laptop, like downloading music and movies and play games.

Before hitting the shops to buy back to school computing devices, consider the following tips:

Broadband bundles

Over the last few years, South Africa is awash with bundled broadband product deals. Data service providers typically offer a PC, laptop or Netbook with a standard data bundle. These packages are an affordable way for any South African parent to purchase a computing devise equipped with a good broadband service.


We all want our kids to have the edge by giving them access to the best technology – both at school and beyond. We want them to access information whenever they want to. Problem is, we’re terrified of letting them roam free on the internet. There are products such as a Vodacom 3G card which is embedded with parental control, specifically designed to help parents keep their kids safe online and protect them from being exposed to illegal and inappropriate adult content.  Solutions such as these let you, as a parent, block any inappropriate or adult content such as gambling, violence and sexually-based content at no extra cost, for your peace of mind. It is therefore worthwhile to check with your service provider if they offer it.

Software packages for learning

Make sure the computer you buy has enough memory and processing power to download a host of excellent educational software packages such as Microsoft Learning Suite or LeapFrog’s LeapPad software. Kids can have hours of educational fun by using applications such as Bing Maps to do online searches, MovieMaker to make movies or documentaries, Songsmith to record their self-written songs and StickySorter to organise brainstorm notes. Not only does this enhance their educational independence it also makes learning fun.


Face it, the best feature about a laptop is that you can carry it with you to places – campus, school, even on holiday to finish that project ahead of time. If your child needs to carry it around extensively, I suggest that you consider a laptop with a solid-state drive (SSD), as opposed to a traditional hard-disk drive (HDD). A laptop with a SSD is more durable, quieter and faster.

Primary school learners may benefit from the smaller Netbook because they won’t necessarily mind the compromise in functionality. If functionality is high on your wish-list, rather invest in a PC that will give you that performance.

The Ultrabook is the star attraction in the portability category this year, boasting features such as being ultra-thin, ultra-light, an impressive battery life, more power efficient than any other device and having impressive processing capabilities. Your kids will love you for not only getting them the best technology available to date, but its stylish look is a hit too.
Memory, processor speed and hard drive space

A general rule of thumb to share when it comes to processing speed, memory and hard drive space is to buy the computer with the most memory and storage space you can afford, with the fastest processor you can afford. The best on the market right now will be outdated in two years.


Your child is sure to spend hours surfing the internet doing research and will be using software that requires higher-end (and lately, built-in) graphic cards. If the majority of children are anything like mine, they will eventually want to do some gaming with friends in their spare time.

Ports, slots and extras

Make a list of all accessories needing a slot on the machine itself, and look for a device to match your needs. Remember, a smaller laptop means fewer items can be plugged in. But make sure at least one USB 3.0 port is present. Your child will thank you for the enhanced speed, which is 10 times faster than older devices with the 2.0 version.


This may seem insignificant, but being able to go back to the vendor who offered an extended warrantee may prove a godsend should something go wrong. Peace of mind is everything, especially if your 19 year old is living on campus, away from your watchful eye.

Samsung Galaxy S III: Future Quad Core Processor-Powered Smartphone

Samsung had to think big when planning the next in their “S” series line of Android smartphones to keep up with the rich traditions already established by the Galaxy S, S II and the Galaxy Note.   It seems that Galaxy S3 will indeed be a monster, powered by a Quad-Core chipset capable of speeds in the range of 1.6 GHz. The picture gets even more enticing with industry expert Eldar Murtazin claiming through Twitter that he has got his hands on an S III and is bowled over by what it offers.

While mortals get to look at S III in a month or so when it gets unveiled at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, Murtazin is apparently taking the newbie from Samsung through its paces. Of course, you guys will have to wait till you get to taste the Ice Cream Sandwich-run S III, signs suggesting that the smartphone will be launched first in the US, but not before April this year.

Mutazin’s tweet says the S III will have a 12MP camera and not a 16MP one as rumored earlier. It is not clear at the moment whether Samsung would stick with its tendency to stretch the screen (going by the size of Nexus and Note). Most probably the HD interface of the S III will be slightly bigger than S II, but not exactly in the range of Note, which should make it a fun device to have.

Top 5 Gaming-Performance Laptops

When it comes to playing PC games, portability is often sacrificed. The true monster machines are almost always burly desktops.

But that doesn't mean all is lost for gamers who want to be able to take their systems on the road. While mobile graphics chips aren't quite as advanced as their desktop counterparts, some can still push polygons at an incredible pace.
That power comes at a premium, though. For a variety of budgets, here are five worth considering.

Budget Options:

Acer Aspire TimelineX AS3830TG-6431 

The name's a nightmare, but this is one of the most powerful thin laptops on the market -- and one of the best choices if you plan to do a lot of gaming on the go.
It's packed with a speedy i5 processor and weights less than 5 pounds. The screen size is a bit smaller than most, coming in at just over 13 inches, but with a fantastic price of under $800, that could be a compromise you can live with. 

Dell Inspiron

Seriously? Seriously. If you're on a tight budget, grabbing an Inspiron is one of your most affordable options.
Though Dell's popular laptop model isn't specifically made for gaming, it's equipped with second generation Intel Core processors, giving it plenty of speed. Screen size goes up to a roomy 17 inches, but also have 14- and 15-inch options if you're looking for something that's a little more portable. They even come with customizable outer shells, letting you put your own stamp on your rig.
But the real reason to care? The price. They start as low as $499, though you'll need to spend a bit more than that to make it a viable gaming rig. Still, for under $850, you can get a fast machine with a big screen that can handle today's most demanding games.

Pricey Options:

Origin PC EON17-S

Boasting great graphics and easy overclocking, Origin's flagship laptop is extremely customizable and lets gamers tweak things to the tiniest detail. And seeing as people who own screamingly fast gaming desktop rigs often like to build them themselves, that's a big bonus.
Origin systems are often compared to Alienware -- that's understandable, as former Alienware employees founded the company. Like that brand, though, you'll pay dearly for the speed. The EON 17-S starts at nearly $1,700 and can run as high as $3,600. 

Alienware M18X

Alienware has long been one of the biggest names in gaming PCs, so it's not surprising that the company knows how to make a blazingly fast gaming laptop, too. The M18X boasts an 18-inch screen, an Intel Core i7 chip (the fastest on the market today) and oodles of configuration options, letting you decide exactly what you want in your system.
The downside? It's bulky, chunky and isn't exactly sleek in its aesthetic design. Plus, the M18X will cost you a few months rent. Prices start at $1,999 and can range all the way up to more than $5,000. 

'Coming Soon' Option:

Razer Blade

Certainly the coolest named gaming laptop in this bunch, the Blade has yet to hit shelves, but it has plenty of people curious.
Razer, generally known as a maker of gaming peripherals and mice, announced its first laptop last August, then went silent. The device was on display at CES this year, though, and the company was giving demos to select media outlets. Razer has replaced the touchpad with a screen and eight LED keys, which can be configured however a gamer wants (and can even be used as a small second screen). The system lacks an optical drive, though it does have a hefty 256 GB SSD hard drive. It also comes with a price tag of over $2,700.

Sony Tablets Powered by Android 4.0: A Must Wait Update this "Spring"

Sony Tablet S and Tablet P will soon upgrade its OS into the latest Android Version 4.0; also known as "Ice Cream Sandwich" to its tablet portfolio this spring – which is the first time the company has actually named a time frame for the update.

Before, Sony would only confirm a 'coming soon' but at an event in London, a spokesperson for the company said that ICS would be hitting both the Sony Tablet S and Sony Tablet P in the spring and at the same time.

This means that the tablets will be getting Ice Cream Sandwich around the same time as Sony's phone portfolio.

Cream of the tablet crop
Sony also said that both tablets would be getting a new update in the near future which would bring Microsoft Office functionality but the company didn't actually dwell on what this update would entail.

Sony also showed off its PlayStation Certified gaming platform on the Tablet S and announced that it has now made it compatible with a PlayStation controller.

This means that you don't have to use the on-screen controls for the games on the PlayStation Store.

This is something that OnLive has been trialling as well and by all accounts using a physical controller with your tablet makes the gaming experience a whole lot better – as long as you have a stand for your tablet that is.

At the event, Sony was upbeat about its rather late assault on the tablet market. It reckoned that it had the biggest selling Android tablet over this period but was reticent to give out any numbers.

Android Protection's Latest Updated Version

Kaspersky Lab has announced an update of its Android security solution - Kaspersky Mobile Security Lite. The updated version features new Anti-Virus Lite functionality aimed at better protection against the growing number of malicious programs aimed at the Android platform.

Anti-Virus Lite is an easy-to-use tool that performs on-demand checks of newly downloaded Android programs. This new feature implements Kaspersky Lab Cloud Security Scanner technology, which uses the cloud-based Kaspersky Security Network to react quickly against threats as they emerge. Users of Kaspersky Mobile Security Lite are advised to scan all new programs using Anti-Virus Lite in order to ensure the safety of personal data.

The paid-for version – highly recommended for those who are especially concerned about the security of their smartphone – offers advanced features to fight malware, block unwanted calls and messages, remotely control a smartphone in case it is lost or stolen, and hide sensitive data. The fully functional anti-virus feature also automatically scans all new apps, blocking those deemed malicious.

By upgrading to the paid-for version of the product one gets the anti-theft module with added features, for instance, SIM Watch, which can remotely block a phone as soon as the SIM card is removed. The Privacy function also becomes available; this enables telephone log records, SMS folder contents and other similar information to be hidden from third parties.

Both the updated Kaspersky Mobile Security Lite and the paid-for version of the product are available in 13 languages. The retail price of the paid-for version in your region can be found on the Android Market.

Apple Burst Though Sales Records

Apple yesterday announced record sales of iPhones, iPads and Macs, with only iPods declining in sales. And lurking beneath the results was a new trend: international sales now dominate.

These results compare to revenue of $26.74 billion and net quarterly profit of $6 billion, or $6.43 per diluted share, in the year-ago quarter. Gross margin was 44.7 percent compared to 38.5 percent in the year-ago quarter. International sales accounted for 58 percent of the quarter’s revenue.

The Company sold 37.04 million iPhones in the quarter, representing 128 percent unit growth over the year-ago quarter. Apple sold 15.43 million iPads during the quarter, a 111 percent unit increase over the year-ago quarter. The Company sold 5.2 million Macs during the quarter, a 26 percent unit increase over the year-ago quarter. Apple sold 15.4 million iPods, a 21 percent unit decline from the year-ago quarter.

“We’re thrilled with our outstanding results and record-breaking sales of iPhones, iPads and Macs,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “Apple’s momentum is incredibly strong, and we have some amazing new products in the pipeline.”

“We are very happy to have generated over $17.5 billion in cash flow from operations during the December quarter,” said Peter Oppenheimer, Apple’s CFO. “Looking ahead to the second fiscal quarter of 2012, which will span 13 weeks, we expect revenue of about $32.5 billion and we expect diluted earnings per share of about $8.50.” 

Lenovo IdeaTab S2 Runned By Android Ice Cream Sandwich

How does a 1.27 pound tablet/netbook hybrid running Android 4.0 ICS sound to you? That’s what you get with Lenovo’s new IdeaTab S2. The lightweight tablet features a 10-inch display and a user experience that Lenovo describes as “flawless”.

Official specifications are as follows:

  • Processor: Qualcomm 8x60A/8960 1.5 GHz Dual Krait processor
  • OS: Android Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0
  • Display: 10.1″ 1280×800 IPS screen display
  • Memory: 1GB LP-DDR2 memory
  • Storage: 16GB/32GB/64GB storage; 64GB ssd
  • Communication Standards: WLAN 802.11b/g/n , BT 2.1+EDR , GPS/AGPS connectivity, Integrated front (1.3M HD) & back (8M+AF+LED+flash) mounted webcam
  • Connectors: 17pin Docking conn.( micro USB compatible ), micro SD, Micro HDMI ,SIM card (only for 3G), 3.5mm Audio Jack, optional keyboard dock
  • Camera: Integrated front (1.3M HD) & back (5M+AF+LED+flash) mounted webcam
  • Weight:1.27 pounds (580g)
  • Dimensions: 8.69mm x 10.1”

Like the Asus Transformer Prime, it is a tablet that also has a very sophisticated docking station that gives users a netbook experience as well. The dock for the S2 features 2 USB ports, a flash card reader, and a secondary battery which Lenovo claims gives the device a total of 20 hours of battery life.

On paper at least the Asus Transformer Prime does have a bit more power under the hood, but with Android ICS and 3G, the Lenovo certainly holds its own.

Lenovo’s success with the IdeaTab S2 versus models like the Prime will end up boiling down to price point and what exactly a user is looking to get out of their tablet. Still, it’s nice to see more and more of these tablet hybrid technologies arriving to the market.

Huawei Ascend P1 S: The Thinnest Smartphone So Far

It seems it is time for the ultra-thin Motorola Droid RAZR to pass on the torch for the world’s thinnest smartphone. The new Huawei Ascend P1 S pushes the boundaries of thin at just 6.68mm, versus the 7.1mm size of the Droid RAZR. The P1 S just marginally beats out the new waterproof Fujitsu Arrow, which is only 6.7mm in thickness.

From a design standpoint it looks very similar to Samsung’s Galaxy S devices, actually. As for the brand Hauwei, yes, it’s not typically pushed on larger carriers but is often found on budget networks or pay-as-you go packages.

This impossibly thin smartphone runs Android 4.0 ICS, has a 4.3-inch super AMOLED display (540×960 resolution), a 1.5GHz TI OMAP 4460 processor, 1GB of RAM, 8MG capera, a 1.3 front facing camera, HDMI out, and a 1800 maH battery.

There currently isn’t any firm information regarding release date or pricing, though it is expected to release sometime in Q2 of 2012.
We also know that the phone will come in metallic black, ceramic white and cherry blossom pink; the P1 S will also debut beside the P1, which offers the same specs but is a bit thicker at 7.69mm.

Acer to launch Windows 8 Ultrabooks in 2012

We'll be seeing Windows 8 Ultrabooks in the second half of this year and Acer will be among the first to produce them.

According to Acer's CEO J.T. Wang, they predicting that they will be mainstream during the next two years.

"By Q2 this year we will have four models of Ultrabook [on the market]. More will come when next generation Windows launches in the second half [of 2012] we will launch another wave of Ultrabook product line," said J.T. Wang, who also lamented the poor economic outlook for 2012.

The company announced the Acer Aspire S5 today to complement the already-launched Aspire S3. Acer also revealed the Aspire Timeline Ultra, the first Ultrabook-spec machines to feature an optical drive.

Wang also said that he expected Ultrabooks to form a considerable part of Acer's sales this year.

"We estimate this year that 25-35 per cent of Acer [notebook products] will be Ultrabook. In the next two years we will make Ultrabook a mainstream [product] and we will cover all customers and all segments."

Wang also said he expects the next generation of Windows to make a difference across all device categories, helped by Windows 8's compatibility with ARM processors.

"We see a lot of opportunities can be created…we see a lot of [ways to capitalise on these in the] second half of this year."


Lenovo ThinkPad: A Tablet to Think About

The new version of Android, 4.0 or Ice Cream Sandwich, comes with a slogan that must appear wishful thinking to users of earlier versions: "Enchant me. Simplify my life. Make me awesome." While some tablets using earlier versions of Android, like the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and HTC Flyer do indeed enchant, they still have to discover the second two parts of the slogan.

Can the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet, running Honeycomb – Android 3.1 –  enchant?
The Lenovo brand is certainly a rarity in being enchanting in the notebook  arena. Its ThinkPad X1 notebook, described as the thinnest business laptop on the market, offered enterprise users the same sexy look and feel as well as portability that tends to be associated only with ultrabooks like the MacBook Air. On top of that, Lenovo asserted, it passed such stringent military tests, it could be used in any environment.

Lenovo South Africa’s country manager, Henry Ferreira, appropriately described the X1 as “the ultimate do machine for users who lead the economy by getting things done quickly, efficiently, anywhere, anytime”.

However, Lenovo’s first tablet, the IdeaPad Tablet K1, couldn’t claim the same accolades. When Lenovo launched it in South Africa last year, it did so with little fanfare, and it seemed to dim the brand’s notebook legacy.

Aesthetic judgement, differentiation in look and feel
The ThinkPad is a different breed of tablet, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. Two things stand out, and the most obvious is its size. At 10.1”, it may not have the largest screen of any tablet we’ve seen. As tablets go, it simply looks big, and begs the question of whether a more functional ultrabook wouldn’t be a better choice. And with a thickness of 0.6” (14.5mm), it is almost twice as – let’s not mince words here – fat as its main competitors.

You also can’t miss the four control buttons, below the screen in portrait mode.  Along with a wide bevel, they add to the impression both of size and functionality, again suggesting that this tablet really wanted to be a notebook when it grew up.

How effective are the control buttons – hardware, software, on-off?
The first sign of trouble is the Power button.  It is almost hidden away, in a recess on the top right hand side of the device. Once you find it – and in the dark that is not a certainty even once you’ve used it for a while – you have to hold it down firmly for around 10 seconds before it provides the feedback buzz that tells you the device is going to turn on. In other words, the time it takes other tablets to boot up, is required merely to switch this one on. Those with big fingers might find even this task beyond them.

The four control buttons have great potential: Home, Return, Browser and Aspect Lock (to prevent it slipping from portrait to landscape mode when you don’t want it happening) are all fairly standard. However, they need a determined click to get them to respond, and the Return button sometimes doesn’t respond at all. Replace it with a Power button that responds instantly, and half the pains that come with this device will disappear.

The virtual control buttons include Home, Return, Open Apps and, err, Open Apps buttons. Clearly, a user interface engineer somewhere has difficulty openeing apps.

Can you comfortably hold it in one hand and operate it in the other? i.e. a weight test
When you say 750g (average between 3G and non-3G version), it doesn’t sound like much. In a tablet, it is not the sound you want to hear. This is not merely heavier than any other tablet we’ve tried, it takes the weight test to a new level. Unless you are regularly doing weight training, there is no way you could use this on the run, holding it in one hand and navigating or typing with the other.

How responsive is the device in interactive tasks?
The ThinkPad gets its fuel from a Tegra 2 dual-core 1GHz processor and 1GB of memory. This is just enough to ensure it is smooth and responsive during interactive tasks. It handled both undemanding and demanding games, ranging from Angry Birds (pre-installed) to Lane Splitter, with little noticeable lag in the former, but a suspicion of catching you unawares in the latter. Where precision timing is needed, it doesn’t have quite the edge, but you’d have to be alert to notice.

How well does it perform when it comes to multi-tasking?
A virtual menu button on the bottom left of the screen, alongside the virtual Home button, calls up all currently running apps. In truth, it is a button to show all open windows, but the result is the same. Open windows appear in a stacked menu format on the left of the screen, which also allow you to close these windows by clicking the X in the corner of each image in the menu.

A virtual control button at the bottom centre of the screen allows for a form of managing multitasking. It is really intended for highlighting favourites, but before you’ve set your favourites, by default it shows most recent apps used. Aside from looking like a cross between the BlackBerry and WhatsApp logos, it sometimes needs two taps to bring up a carousel of open apps on the right side of the screen. These can be clicked to open any apps in current use.  

A context-related in-app settings button appears alongside the virtual buttons once any app is opened, much as with any Android tablet.
The device handles multiple open apps with ease and without apparent memory challenges.

Can it replace a PC or laptop? Does it make your life easier?
The ThinkPad tablet is unnecessarily complicated for a device that is meant to represent simplified computing. Aside from the button array discussed below, the slots and ports present a number of problems. A full-sized USB port is placed on the left side of the device, as the sole feature on the left edge. The micro-USB port, on the other hand, is crammed in between an HDMI and power port along the bottom – which in turn reside alongside a headphone jack on one side and, on the other, a port door that needs especially long nails to open. If you get the door open, you’re rewarded with an SD slot and 3G SIM slot. 

It’s not as if there’s no space on the other edges: the Power button is the solo feature on the right hand edge, and two volume buttons are the lone arrangements along the top.

The software arrangement starts with an opening window showing the Lenovo Launch Zone, which comprises four major categories of content or applications, both Launch Zone and general tablet settings widgets and a browser widget in the centre. The core function widgets here, Watch, Listen and Read, link to apps related to those functions.

Confusingly, it offers both a Lenovo App Shop and the Android Market, with little indication of which is best or most appropriate, and the Lenovo version offering little benefit over the standard alternative.

Pre-installed apps include a trial version of McAfee Security – an approach already discredited in the laptop world. However, it makes up for this with Docs To Go and a file manager called USB File Copy, which facilitates moving files between the tablet and its storage options. It is also pre-loaded with Amazon Kindle, Zinio, Movie Studio and Google Maps, among other, providing a satisfying honeymoon experience when starting out with the device.

The real difference comes in when you add the optional keyboard folio case. This is an almost seamless approach to turning the tablet into a laptop. The connection is via the USB port, which may appear to explain why the port is by itself on the bottom of the tablet. However, the case also blocks access to the SD port. It does keep the micro-USB port open for both charging and file transfer, so it is something of a compromise, but not the most sensible approach.

The main problem, when using it in keyboard mode, is that what was a heavy tablet now becomes a heavy notebook. Most ultrabooks will give this combo a run for its money.

How’s the battery life?
It offers 8 hours, and delivers 8 hours. That’s not as good as those leading brands; just fair enough for an average.

Innovations and unique features
Aside from offering all the features and ports a tablet should, the most innovative features are the seamless integration of the keyboard folio case, and slot for an optional digital pen. If you take up the latter option, you will be using a DuoSense digitizer, a battery-charged digital pen that integrates easily with the tablet. The main problem here is that the only native app that can take advantage of it is the Notes Mobile note-taker – and it operates only in portrait mode. 

Apple iPad3 for As Low As $299 This 2012?

According to sources of the Taiwanese tech website, there will be two versions of the 2012 iPad, which some are already calling iPad3; One targeting the high-end segment while the other is in the midrange price category. The two new iPad models, they say, will both run on an Apple A6 processor - with yet to be disclosed features - but the high-end model will come with a high resolution screen (2048x1536) and the mid-tier model will sport the same display as iPad 2 (1024x768). 

But the more interesting bit has to do with the pricing scheme for the mid-level iPad.

If you notice, the price schedule of Apple's tablet has been the same since the release of the first generation iPad in 2010. The most affordable Wifi-only variant starts at $499 with the price going up to $829 for the most expensive 3G variant.

While it isn't definite yet, 16GB, 32GB and 64GB Wifi-only versions of the 2012 midrange iPad are expected to sell for only $299, $349 and $399, respectively. Such aggressive pricing strategy, researchers say, could seriously affect sales and prices of similar products by competitors, including Amazon Kindle, which currently sells for $199.

iPhone 4S VS iPhone4: Quick Review

Gadget kicks off the new year with a new format for phone reviews, First out of the starting blocks is the new Apple iPhone 4S.

Apple fans make many excuses for the iPhone 4S, mainly insisting that it is indeed a significant step up from the 4, and Apple never promised a 5, and there’s nothing wrong with incremental improvements, and millions are lining up to buy the 4S. 

All of which is true, but it doesn’t change the fact that the hype machine that is normally so kind to Apple, let the brand down this time. Apple usually rides the tide of expectation leading up to a new product launch, and then delivers in spades. This time it did nothing to manage those expectations, and the result was a let-down to all but those already converted. The company and its evangelists put a beligerent face on it, blaming the ignorant media for creating heightened expectations. Naturally, when it worked in their favour in the past, there had been nary a word of blame.

That is still relevant because the 4S is a great phone, but suffers by comparison with the assumed leap forward that the 5 was supposed to represent. Simply because there had been such a long wait for the new version – almost 16 months from the launch of the 4 – a mere refinement of the old version would naturally result in many opting to wait a little longer for the next really big thing.

So much for the hype. What about the phone itself? We put it through Gadget’s new Task Test to see if the long wait has been worthwhile. 

General look and feel 
(aesthetic judgement, differentiation in look and feel)
It looks exactly the same as the iPhone 4. After using them side by side, we had to check the apps on each phone to figure out which was which. Eventually, we noticed the identifying mark: a ridge next to the earphone jack.

After spending more than a year with the 4, and continually comparing it with newer phones, one limitation cropped up immediately: the screen size is beginning to look decidedly pokey at 3.5”. As a result, the phone itself sends the message that it is waiting for a new look and feel. However, the iPhone 4 design remains iconic and satisfying, and still leaves most other phones playing catch-up.

(Weight and size, ability to slip into a pocket unnoticed)
The phone is compact, but beginning to show its size in a thin-obsessed world. Remember when the iPhone was regarded as the last word in slim design? You’re older than you imagine.

General performance
(speed, responsiveness, multi-tasking)
The 4S uses the Apple 5 dual-core processor built by Samsung for the iPad, along with the improved iOS 5 operating system. As a result, it delivers among the finest performances to be had on a smartphone. It downloads and installs apps seamlessly, browsing is faster than its already nifty predecessor, and the double-tap on the control button to bring up active apps provides a semblance of multi-tasking. It is simply superb. 

Life as we know it 
(How’s the battery life?)
The iPhone 4 battery had among the worst performances of any phone on the market. The 4S, at launch, was even worse, due to poor energy management of the operating system. The new iOS 5 sorted out that problem, and does give the 4S slightly better battery life than its predecessor. But don’t venture our for a full day’s work without a charger or back-up.

Vision of the future 
(picture, video and browsing quality)
The phone’s Retina Display remains lovely. However, there is just not enough of it, and maneuvering your way round the screen for finicky tasks can be frustrating.  Under the hood, though, there has been a major tune-up. The phone now supports full HD, allowing video recording in 1080p, as opposed to 720p on the iPhone 4.

Music and video are separated into different icons, addressing an irritation of the 4. The browser remains one of the best in cellphones anywhere, but the limited screen size is beginning to count against it.

Talk to me 
(quality of audio)
Siri The Killer App is, outside the USA, more like the Concussion App, as you hit the phone against your head in frustration. For most purposes, you would need to activate location services – a privacy issue avoided by many, although, of course, not by 4Square exhibitionists.

It remains a mystery why so many insisted Siri would change the future of phones; it is still in beta, meaning there are numerous limitations; and most other smartphones can approximate it with apps like Vlingo, although they aren’t as well integrated with the phone. Oh yes, it talks back to you. Mostly, you will find yourself using it as a novelty and to get a gasp (or laugh) at parties. But redefine the smartphone? Get real.

The quality of voice calls is rather average, and will probably encourage many a user to default to text messaging of one kind or another. 

Message in a bottle 
(range, speed and efficiency of messaging solutions)
Talking of which, iMessage is a vast improvement on what went before, which was essentially relying on third party apps like WhatsApp. In effect, it takes on the BBM on the BlackBerry, allowing unlimited threaded text chats for the cost of the data you use to send those few characters. In other words, it costs next to nothing. It is compatible across any iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch using iOS 5, allows integration of photos, videos and contact, and simply looks great. Its real strength lies in the fact that it can default to SMS or MMS when you send a message to someone using a non-Apple phone. Like BBM, it is instant, but it is so much more.

Keep control 
(How effective are hardware and software controls?)
Die-hard fans sing the praises of the single control button, but new users will find it frustrating at first, as they look for ways of calling up additional options in an app. The virtual keyboard is also too small – thanks again to that pokey screen – to allow efficient typing of anything longer than a brief message. Great for instant messaging, terrible for longer e-mails. At the same time, however, the classic simplicity of the iPhone’s controls does set it apart, and has set the tone for many competitors, who are increasingly attempting to emulate it.

The new "NEW" 
(innovations , unique features)
The camera, an 8 Megapixel monster, is magnificent. A wide f/2.4 aperture lens gives better performance in low light, and its improved ability to autofocus and control colour makes the iPhone 4 look silly. It has more options, including HDR, better cropping and colour-correction, video stablisation and a camera shortcut from the phone’s locked status, similar to that offered on the Motorola Razr. Yes, Apple has been playing catch-up in the camera department, so these are not innovations, but really a case of finally coming to the party.

In terms of storage capacity, the 64GB option (cheaper versions come in 16GB and 32GB) means the phone becomes a true storage device in its own right. That’s important and useful for those who can’t get the iCloud working for them, or don’t want that heavy data overhang in countries like South Africa where the cost of mobile data remains prohibitive. 

The phone comes with two antennae built into the casing, and it defaults to the better signal regardless of how you’re holding the device. No more PR disasters around dropped signals here.

Here are the brief specification comparison of iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 4s:

If you already have an iPhone 4, you’re missing little here. Siri is so US-oriented, it’s like a bad joke on foreigners. You can also upgrade your 4 to iOS 5, so you won’t notice too many differences in the new device. For you, the long wait for the iPhone 5 continues.

However, if you don’t own an iPhone and you’ve been pining for one, there will be few regrets with acquiring the new model. If photo quality is a deal-breaker, this phone will indeed take you to your happy place.

Say Hello to the iPhone SJ

As we anxiously await any kind of formal announcement from Apple about a true iPhone 5 successor to the current iPhone 4S, we turn to the various design studios on the web for insights and inspirations. Here is one such example.

The iPhone SJ is the vision of Antonio De Rosa from ADR Studio in Italy. Of course, this is not at all sanctioned or endorsed by the team in Cupertino, but it could give us a glimpse into what the next iPhone will bring. For starters, this is decidedly thinner than the iPhone 4S, seemingly putting this iDevice in the same slimness league as the new Motorola RAZR Android phone, for example.

The overall design, though, appears to be roughly similar to the iPhone 4S, only squished down. The physical home button, from what I can tell, is still there. The display has gone virtually edge-to-edge, though, and it’s a “totally glass capacitive screen on a polycarbonate lightweight body.” The copy accompanying the concept images also tell us there is a “new core” and a “new camera,” but doesn’t go into any further detail. I imagine the real iPhone 5 will have an Apple A6 (or similar) chip, whatever that means.

What do you think? Is this what the next generation iPhone will look like? What would you change?

Playstation Vita sales tumble, beaten by original PSP in Japan

If what's happening to Sony's Playstation Vita in Japan is any indication as to how it might fare once it's released in the U.S., Sony might want to consider a backup plan.

Despite strong first week sales of about 325,000, the new portable is dropping off quickly. Only 72,500 units were sold in its second week, followed by third week sales of just 42,600, according to sales tracking group MediaCreate.

That dropped the Vita to a dismal fourth place finish for the week ending January 1, trailing the Nintendo 3DS, Sony Playstation 3, and perhaps most damning, the seven year-old original PSP, which moved 63,000 units over the same period.

The tech-heavy handheld system  is set to launch in the U.S. on February 22 for $249 (a $299 3G model will also be available), the same launch price as Nintendo's once-troubled 3DS. That handheld is now ruling the Japanese charts and performed well in the U.S. in December on the strength of several high-profile software releases. A 3DS price cut in September is also widely credited with spurring sales, though Sony has yet to announce any similar cuts prior to the Vita's stateside launch.

No Vita games were included in the week's Top 20 software chart, either, although Sony chalks that up to the system's reliance on digitally downloadable games, which don't register as retail releases.

Last year wasn't great for the Japanese game industry in general, which experienced an 8% drop in revenue largely due to declining software sales.
Here's the full Japanese hardware sales rundown for the week ending January 1, with the prior week listed in parentheses:

  1. 3DS: 197,952 (482,200)
  2. PS3: 67,199 (75,943)
  3. PSP: 62,746 (101,121)
  4. PS Vita: 42,648 (72,479)
  5. Wii: 33,208 (91,176)
  6. DSi XL: 3,356 (8,470)
  7. Xbox 360: 2,453 (4,245)
  8. DSi: 2,418 (5,894)
  9. PS2: 1,659 (1,582)
  10. DS Lite: 28 (32)

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