Friday, February 6, 2009

HTC Shift

HTC Shift Unvield

The lucky lovelies over at managed to acquire (let’s ask no questions) a pre-production HTC Shift for five days, and proceeded to examine it both from the perspective as a compact, Vista-running UMPC and as a large, Windows Mobile-running PDA. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, the Shift although impressive doesn’t manage to succeed 100% in both categories; what is surprising, though, is that it appears HTC have made some bizarre concessions which in certain cases render the Shift less useful than a far cheaper device.

Vista, it seems, has been HTC’s main priority, and in that capacity the Shift functions as expected. With an 800MHz processor and 1GB of RAM it’s never going to be accused of running too fast, but the 40GB drive is healthy and the screen - running at a native 800 x 480 - clear and bright. What’s less impressive is the PDA flipside: the Shift runs a pared down version of Windows Mobile 6 that doesn’t even take advantage of the VGA screen, chopping off the sides with black bars (as in the image above). Similarly bizarre is that while in WM mode the only connectivity method is HSDPA - Bluetooth and WiFi, accessible to Vista, fail to show up in the connectivity manager. That means you could be in your office, surrounded by rich, syrupy WiFi, yet unable to connect because cellular signals don’t reach you.

Of course, it’s possible that one or more of the confusing decisions HTC has made will be changed in the production version; as it is, the Shift looks to be a passable UMPC but not the dual-mode, best-of-both-worlds device we were initially promised.

Serenata music mobile phone

Samsung and Danish Audio equipment manufacturer, Bang & Olufsen have joined forces to bring us the Serenata music mobile phone. They seem to have managed to put together a unique and stylish mobile with music quality that we can just hope lives up to their brand names. This phone is going to be all about the music.

"Since we started our first co-operation with Bang & Olufsen, we have only been confirmed in our belief that both companies share a passion for innovation and consumer-focused technology. Serenata is another example of new ways to think of the mobile phone. I'm proud to say that our customers can see a true innovation of music player and mobile phone as we have opened a new era of mobile phones with Serene two years ago", says Geesung Choi, President of the Telecommunications Network Business in Samsung Electronics.

"We have high expectations to Serenata, as it is a result of our joint vision to constantly push the boundaries, and bring unique and exciting products to our customers", states Torben Ballegaard Sorensen, CEO of Bang & Olufsen.

The Serenata is built as a contrast between cool aluminum and a warm soft touch lacquer that gives an impression of elegance, slimness and craftsmanship. It uses a scroll wheel system for accessing menus and options. And in case you're a first time user of the phone, which you obviously will be, the companies have incorporated a 4 minute simulation to help you get accustomed to the usage of the phone. The Serenata has an integrated loudspeaker system and you can also listen to your tunes via the dedicated stereo EarSet 3. This mobile is capable of reading formats that include MP3, WMA Lossless 9.1, AMR and AAC. It uses an application called BeoPlayer that can access and organize all music files on the PC and transfer them to Serenata. Also through the Samsung PC studio, the users can synchronize the contacts, calendar and to-do list from their computer onto Serenata via Microsoft outlook.

Samsung's Serenata is a GSM handset that is 3.5G enabled with HSDPA connectivity and has 4GB of internal memory. It weighs in at 136g and has a 2.26 inch TFT-LCD display with a resolution of 240 x 240 pixels and 256k colors. It is Bluetooth enabled, although we have no confirmation on if it is A2DP compatible, but judging from the kind of music capabilities and the manufacturers themselves, I'm quite sure it will be. For PC connectivity it uses USB v2.0 high speed.

The price and availability of the Serenata is yet to be disclosed.

Willcom D4 - world’s first Intel Atom powered UMPC and runs Vista

Willcom D4 (aka Sharp-built WS016SH) will be the world’s smallest QWERTY device that is capable of running Windows Vista Home Premium SP1, when it’s making its debut in Japan in June this year.

The Willcom D4 measures only 188 x 84 x 25.9mm and weights 470grams. The little device runs on the Intel 1.3GHz Atom processor, making its size so small, with pretty low power consumption and comparatively better battery conservation.

The Willcom D4 features a sliding / tilting 5-inch, 262k color, LED-backlit 1,024 x 600 touchscreen and a 64-key QWERTY keyboard. It’s got 1GB built-in RAM, a 1.8-inch 40GB disk, 2 megapixel camera, Bluetooth 2.0+EDR, microSD slot, HD audio codec with mono-speaker, n memory.

It comes with the Opera browser and equipped with wireless connectivities including the Japanese PHS (W-SIM) and 802.11b/g WiFi. And there is an optional Bluetooth companion handset that allows you to make calls over W-SIM.

The little device will be sold in Japan for about $1,254 and you’ll get to pay less if you’re willing to be bound by a 2-year contract. Willcom is reportedly experimenting with Android, so this device would possibly be released in an alternate form later this year or early 2009.


The much maligned Nokia 770 is the subject of our next adventure in reviews. In my years of dealing with technology there is one major truism: no electronic product exists (and probably never will) that meets everybody's needs. This couldn't be more true with the Nokia 770. I hold it in high regard but it has some major limitations. But accepting those limitations and working within them I came to appreciate its functionality even more! On my recent trip to Australia I watched 4 complete movies on my "personal DVD player" (a.k.a. the Nokia 770 + ripped DVD's to MPEG-4 format... yes, I own the movies) on one battery charge. I had no less than 12 other passengers lusting over it simply for that functionality.

Physically the Nokia 770 is a solid beast... the buttons feel good and work well (although I rarely use the hard keys on the front... the touch screen takes care of that). The fit and finish of the product, although not glitzy, is clean and simple. No flash but a very sturdy product. I like the cover for the fact that I felt I could man-handle it without worrying about the large screen getting damaged in my briefcase. The screen is stunning. I have done a fair number of slideshows for people and the images really pop off the screen. The dedicated buttons along the top of the product are great.

They allow you to quickly jump to 'full-screen' mode and to zoom in on a picture or web page... which works flawlessly by actually zooming in rather than rescaling the text only. The touchscreen is great.... remind me why more manufacturers don't use touch screens???? They are so intuitive.

I believe that which makes it strong also hampers it's usefulness. Although it came out with a good basic set of applications, given the appealing form factor there has been an outcry for more functionality. There are some incredible apps that have been written by talented people... a media player, a mapper that will work with a GPS signal (although you must supply the map data) and some pretty fun games. The process to acquire these and maintain them are not consumer-ready.

The Good:
This product excels at a few things. It delivers a clean, quick, true web experience over WiFi (except it's flash version is a bit outdated and doesn't play embedded movies e.g. YouTube). It's screen is very clear and pleasant to gaze upon. It handles a nice variety of media (music, videos, pictures) in many popular formats. Its size is a perfect blend of portability yet big enough to see real content. The VoIP functionality is on par with a PC.

On the Fence: Battery life is approximately 7 hours depending on usage and screen brightness (pretty respectable but borderline.... mainly because if standby time from a full battery is about 3 hours.

So don't walk away from it for a couple days and expect much life from it unless it's plugged in. Open source software is exciting but to raise this product out of the niche of useful device to us geeks and a viable contender to the PMP's and UMPC's of the world the software has to be integrated or brain-dead-easy to install (e.g. Mac OSX software update panel). The current system of repositories is intuitive to those familiar with Linux and few others. Using RS-MMC cards is a bit unfortunate as the current trends it either mini-SD or micro-SD. You can buy them on the web but I would rather share cards with other devices.

The Bad:
Viewing Flash and embedded video on web pages isn't keeping pace with the web. To update the OS you have to wipe your entire system (yes, there is a backup utility but COME ON!). Web only accessible over WiFi or a paired Bluetooth phone connected to the internet via GPS (slow, expensive and pairing of even some high end Nokia's was unsuccessful!). Email and IM is tough without an integrated QWERTY keyboard (yes, I have an external Bluetooth keyboard but it's bigger than the product!) Also, in contrast to Nokia's consumer offerings that work very cleanly and reliably... pre- configured out of the box, the Nokia 770 requires a fair amount of hand holding and reading of the website to take full advantage of the product

Bottom line....
I think this is a great product to have sitting on your coffee table or on your jaunt to the local coffee shop to quickly access info from the web without whipping out your laptop or running back crying to your desktop PC.

I give it a 7.5 out of 10 stars. I use mine often and dream of the few tweaks to make it a kick-arse addition to any household and/or mobile lifestyle.

Xda Flint Handheld By O2 For The Education Market

Personally I’m a big fan of handhelds, but I think netbooks are better and these devices already outran them. However, O2 doesn’t think that and they re-branded the HTC Advantage X7510 into the Xda Flint, and now the handheld has a new modern and more stylish design with a detachable keyboard.

The Xda Flint is based on Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional, and it features an angled 5-inch touchscreen, a 3.0-megapixel camera with autofocus and flash, built-in GPS, 16GB of internal flash memory, Wireless LAN 802.11b & g, Bluetooth 2.0, GSM/GPRS/EDGE Quad-band (850/900/1800/1900), and also HSDPA.

According to O2, the Xda Flint is destined for youngsters & education market, as the handheld can read eBooks, take e-notes, and it has access to the Internet. Also, the re-branded Xda Flint supports Microsoft’s Direct Push Email, Internet Explorer, and Opera 9 browser, which were all well optimized for the touchscreen use.

What do you think? Would you choose this type of handheld over a netbook? Well, for there moment there no words about pricing or availability, but I can’t say that I’m not waiting for the Xda Flint to enter on the market.

Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional
Modern, stylish design
Detachable keyboard
Angled 5” screen touch screen
3.0 megapixel color camera with autofocus and flash light
In-Built GPS
MP3 and Video playback
Wireless LAN 802.11b & g
Bluetooth ® V2.0
GSM/GPRS/EDGE Quad-band (850/900/1800/1900)
Supports Microsoft Direct Push Email solution
Internet Explorer and newly-included Opera 9 browser - optimized for touch-screen use
16GB of internal flash memory to hold more files than before

e-Loam F7 UMPC Looks Delicious While Being Functional

It has been a while since I’ve seen an interesting UMPC therefore I’m very glad that I ran onto the Shenzhen e-Loam F7. This handheld has an attractive design, but like always the most important thing about a device is its functionality. The e-Loam F7 UMPC is based on Windows XP, a 1.2GHz VIA C7-M proc, 1GB of RAM, and a 7-inch touchscreen.

The spec list continues with a 0.3-megapixel webcam, WiFi, Bluetooth, 2-in-1 card reader, but I have a couple of doubts regarding the Shenzhen e-Loam F7 – in the product description you can find a “8G BSANISK hard disk” , but I think this is a typo and the handheld features a 80GB hard-drive. The other doubt about the e-Loam F7 UMPC is that I don’t know if it features an optical mouse or not.

I guess there is still enough time to find out about it, and also I would definitely like to hear something about pricing and availability.

Nokia N97 Unvieled

Nokia has just unveiled it’s newest high-end N-series smartphone, the N97. It does have some great features, like the 640×360 3.5-inch touchscreen with tactile feedback, QWERTY keyboard and a slider form-factor.

The N97 features an internal memory of 32GB, expandable to 48GB via it’s microSD memory card slot, it’s connectible via HSDPA and WiFi. The 5 megapixel Carl Zeiss glass camera can capture DVD quality videos at 30fps and take good pictures.

It’s battery can play music for 36 hours continuously, which is good for a smartphone. Unfortunately, like most Nokia cellphones, it does look bulky and it’s really pricy, at almost $700 without taxes and subsidies. Expect the N97 in stores in H1 2009.

Asus eee keyboard

After a not-so-promising start, CES 2009 just kept on getting better and better. I am glad to say this thanks to the Asus HTPC keyboard concept which could represent the best product announcement at the Consumer Electronics Show. Some have called it the “Eee Keyboard”, some have said that this is a netbook, but you can call it “the most functional keyboard ever”.

The Asus HTPC keyboard features a 5-inch built-in display, a 1.6GHz Atom microprocessor, 1GB or RAM, Windows XP Home Edition (yeah, we didn’t understand this either), 16GB or 32GB SSD, Bluetooth 2.0, Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n, Wireless HDMI, 2x USB 2.0, VGA, and headphone and microphone ports.

For the moment we only know that it’s going to be available in the next 3 to 6 months as Asus wants to make sure that there is nothing wrong with their keyboard. The pricing remains undisclosed, but we expect it to be just a little too high. I guess it remains to wait until Asus makes an official annoucement about pricing and availability.