Tuesday, November 29, 2011

How To Make Instant Hot Ice

I just stumbled across this interesting video which shows hot to make instant hot ice.

All that you need for this experiment is water, a pan, a small tray and Sodium Acetate. Dissolve the Sodium Acetate into boiling water until saturation. Then pour the liquid into a glass and cool it in the fridge. After the liquid become cool, pour it in to the tray.
Then, just touch the liquid and see the magic.
Watch the amazing video below.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Is Charging Your Gadget Overnight Waste Of Energy?

A six gadget charger
A six gadget chargerMany times we leave our gadgets Mobile phones, PDAs, MP3 players, Cameras, Laptops etc with charger plugged in overnight. Lets check if this is a major waste of energy..
What happens if you leave the mobile phone plugged in all night?
According to measurements from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the average cell phone draws 3.68 watts of power from the outlet while it’s charging and 2.24 watts when charged. Let’s take the worst-case scenario and assume that you’re over-juicing a charged battery for the entire night. Leave the average phone plugged in for eight unnecessary hours, and it’ll use about 0.018 kilowatt-hours of electricity. Do that every night for a week, and the figure rises to 0.13 kWh; every night for a year, and you’re looking at a grand total of 6.5 kWh of electricity.
What if you leave your phone charger plugged in all the time, even when the phone itself isn’t attached—how much vampire power would that suck up? Again using the Berkeley Lab figures, if the average charger is plugged in for the entire 8,760 hours of the year, it’ll use about 2.3 kWh of electricity.
Your iPod or Zune probably isn’t worth worrying too much about, either: According to Chris Calwell, the founder of energy efficiency consulting firm Ecos, digital music players only draw about 0.25 to 0.4 watts when fully charged.
What about laptops? If you got yours in the last few years, it may not be much of a nighttime energy hog. According to figures from the University of Pennsylvania’s IT department—which looked at several laptops purchased between 2005 and 2009—today’s laptops draw between one to three watts when switched off but plugged in, and roughly the same amount in sleep mode. That puts them in about the same ballpark as cell phones. A laptop that’s idle, but not asleep, will draw closer to 15 to 20 watts.
Given that the average American’s residential electricity consumption is more than 4,000 kWh each year (PDF), the Lantern doesn’t think that a handful of kilowatt-hours are worth much tossing and turning. You could do way more for the planet, for example, by swapping out a single incandescent light bulb in your home for a compact fluorescent one; as the Lantern pointed out in a previous column, that simple action alone can save 126 kWh a year. Plus, charging your gadgets while you sleep has the added benefit of shifting a tiny fraction of your energy usage from the daytime, when demand is highest, to the nighttime, making things just a bit easier on your local grid.
As Cambridge professor David MacKay notes in his book Sustainable Energy—Without the Hot Air, obsessively unplugging your charger is like “bailing the Titanic with a teaspoon.” By all means, do it, he says, “but please be aware how tiny a gesture it is.” (He goes on to note that, according to his calculations, keeping your phone charger unplugged for a year saves as much energy as skipping a single hot bath.)
Read more at the source of this article.

Philippines’ Ex-President Is Arrested on Fraud Charges

MANILA — The former president of the PhilippinesGloria Macapagal Arroyo, was arrested in her hospital room on Friday on charges of election fraud, her lawyer said, after days of dramatic struggle with the government over whether she would be allowed to leave the country for medical treatment.
Pat Roque/Associated Press
A senior police official announced details of the arrest warrant outside the hospital near Manila where Mrs. Arroyo will remain.
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Gloria Macapagal Arroyo
Police officers at the hospital said that Mrs. Arroyo would not be taken to the police station and would be held in custody in her hospital room, one of her lawyers said.
Mrs. Arroyo, 64, says she suffers from a bone ailment that requires medical treatment unavailable in the Philippines.
But government officials have blocked her from leaving, saying they feared the former president, who has denied any wrongdoing, might be seeking to flee the country to avoid facing possible court cases over election fraud and corruption.
The very public drama began last week when the government of President Benigno S. Aquino III denied her request to travel and offered to bring foreign specialists into the country to treat her.
Mrs. Arroyo then sought a decision from the Supreme Court. The court ruled in her favor, saying that she was free to go. But the government ignored the court’s ruling and officials turned her and her husband away at the airport, where she arrived in a wheelchair and wearing a head and neck brace.
Then on Friday, election fraud charges were filed in the Pasay City Regional Trial Court in Manila. A Supreme Court spokesman, Jose Midas Marquez, said that nullified the Supreme Court’s ruling that Mrs. Arroyo could leave the country.
Earlier in the week, Ferdinand Topacio, the lawyer for Mrs. Arroyo’s husband, said in a television interview that he was so confident that his clients would return if allowed to leave that he would have one of his testicles removed if they did not.
After the arrest warrant was issued on Friday, Edwin Lacierda, a presidential spokesman, said: “The order in the Pasay court has allowed Attorney Topacio to save his family jewels.”
Friday’s charges stem from allegations that Mrs. Arroyo, who left office last year and was subsequently elected to Congress, tampered with the results of congressional elections in 2007. A conviction could result in a sentence of 40 years to life in prison.
Mrs. Arroyo also faces separate accusations that she diverted government money for use in her campaign. The corruption complaints are under investigation and could result in formal charges.
Mr. Aquino, her successor, was elected in 2010 on an anticorruption platform. He has said repeatedly that Mrs. Arroyo should publicly address the widespread accusations of corruption and vote-rigging against her.
Mrs. Arroyo had herself supported the trial and prosecution of her predecessor, Joseph Estrada, on corruption charges. He was sentenced to life in prison, but she later pardoned him.
Raul Lambino, a lawyer for Mrs. Arroyo, said that he expected the case to be dismissed quickly because, he argued, the regional trial court where the charges were filed does not have jurisdiction over a former president. A special high-level court, known as theSandiganbayan, is supposed to handle charges of corruption against senior government officials, he said.
“They filed these charges in this court simply as a matter of expediency in order to obtain the arrest warrant,” Mr. Lambino said. “We are confident that the higher court will dismiss this action swiftly. This is a clear violation of the president’s human rights by this government.”
The former president’s husband, Jose Miguel Arroyo, issued a statement saying his wife had been “railroaded” with invalid charges filed in haste in the lower court in order to block her from traveling overseas. “This is a sad day for due process,” he said in a statement.
Mr. Lacierda, the presidential spokesman, dismissed the criticism, saying, “It’s always a sad day when they lose.”

Nokia Unveils Its First Linux Phone N900

Nokia's First Linux Phone N900

Nokia's First Linux Phone N900
Nokia unveiled N900, its first smart phone running on Linux software, aiming at improving its offering at the top end of the market.
The Nokia N900 runs on theLinux-based Maeme 5 software, featuring true multitasking with applications as well as Web browsing with Adobe Flash support.
Nokia’s workhorse Symbian operating system controls half of the smartphone market volume — more than its rivals Apple, Research in Motion and Google put together. Nokia said Linux would work well in parallel with Symbian in its high-end product range.
“As Nokia announces the software platform that will drive its future services aspirations it created a dedicated solutions unit — the challenge will be to ensure that all these elements work in harmony in the face of fierce competition from Apple and Google,” said Ben Wood, head of research at CCS Insight.
The new N900 model, with cellular connection, touch screen and slide-out keyboard, will retail for around $712, excluding subsidies and taxes.
Nokia also unveiled a new Solutions business unit, which aims to better tie together its phone operations and new mobile Internet services offering.
Technical details of N900:
3.5 inch touch-sensitive widescreen display
800 × 480 pixel resolution
Web browsing:
Maemo browser powered by Mozilla technology
Adobe Flash™ 9.4 support
Full screen browsing
5 megapixel camera (2584 × 1938 pixels)
Image formats: JPEG
CMOS sensor, Carl Zeiss optics, Tessar lens
3 × digital zoom
Autofocus with assist light and two-stage capture key
Dual LED flash
Full-screen viewfinder
Photo editor on device
TV out (PAL/NTSC) with Nokia Video Connectivity Cable (CA-75U, included in box) or WLAN/UPnP
Landscape (horizontal) orientation
Capture modes: Automatic, portrait, video, macro, landscape, action
Wide aspect ratio 16:9 (WVGA)
Video recording file format: .mp4; codec: MPEG-4
Video recording at up to 848 × 480 pixels (WVGA) and up to 25fps
Video playback file formats: .mp4, .avi, .wmv, .3gp; codecs: H.264, MPEG-4, Xvid, WMV, H.263
Music and audio playback:
Maemo media player
Music playback file formats: .wav, .mp3, .AAC, .eAAC, .wma, .m4a
Built-in FM transmitter
Ring tones: .wav, .mp3, .AAC, .eAAC, .wma, .m4a
Digital stereo microphone

Credits to TechPark

Researchers Build Bionic Eye That Could Give You Superhuman Vision

Bionic EyeMovie characters from the Terminator to the Bionic Woman use bionic eyes to zoom in on far-off scenes, have useful facts pop into their field of view, or create virtual crosshairs. Off the screen, virtual displays have been proposed for more practical purposes — visual aids to help vision-impaired people, holographic driving control panels and even as a way to surf the Web on the go.
The device to make this happen may be familiar. Engineers at the University of Washington have for the first time used manufacturing techniques at microscopic scales to combine a flexible, biologically safe contact lens with an imprinted electronic circuit and lights.
“Looking through a completed lens, you would see what the display is generating superimposed on the world outside,” said Babak Parviz, a UW assistant professor of electrical engineering. “This is a very small step toward that goal, but I think it’s extremely promising.” The results were presented today at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ international conference on Micro Electro Mechanical Systems by Harvey Ho, a former graduate student of Parviz’s now working at Sandia National Laboratories in Livermore, Calif. Other co-authors are Ehsan Saeedi and Samuel Kim in the UW’s electrical engineering department and Tueng Shen in the UW Medical Center’s ophthalmology department.
There are many possible uses for virtual displays. Drivers or pilots could see a vehicle’s speed projected onto the windshield. Video-game companies could use the contact lenses to completely immerse players in a virtual world without restricting their range of motion. And for communications, people on the go could surf the Internet on a midair virtual display screen that only they would be able to see.
The prototype device contains an electric circuit as well as red light-emitting diodes for a display, though it does not yet light up. The lenses were tested on rabbits for up to 20 minutes and the animals showed no adverse effects.
A full-fledged display won’t be available for a while, but a version that has a basic display with just a few pixels could be operational “fairly quickly,” according to Parviz.

A Neurochip That Can Communicate With Brain

The University of Calgary, Faculty of Medicine scientists who proved it is possible to cultivate a network of brain cells that reconnect on a silicon chip—or the brain on a microchip—have developed new technology that monitors brain cell activity at a resolution never achieved before.

Developed with the National Research Council Canada (NRC), the new silicon chips are also simpler to use, which will help future understanding of how brain cells work under normal conditions and permit drug discoveries for a variety of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Naweed Syed's lab cultivated brain cells on a microchip.
Naweed Syed's lab cultivated brain cells on a microchip.
The new technology from the lab of Naweed Syed, in collaboration with the NRC, is published online this month in the journal, Biomedical Devices.
“This technical breakthrough means we can track subtle changes in brain activity at the level of ion channels and synaptic potentials, which are also the most suitable target sites for drug development in neurodegenerative diseases and neuropsychological disorders,” says Syed, professor and head of the Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy, member of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute and advisor to the Vice President Research on Biomedical Engineering Initiative of the U of C.
The new neurochips are also automated, meaning that anyone can learn to place individual brain cells on them. Previously it took years of training to learn how to record ion channel activity from brain cells, and it was only possible to monitor one or two cells simultaneously. Now, larger networks of cells can be placed on a chip and observed in minute detail, allowing the analysis of several brain cells networking and performing automatic, large-scale drug screening for various brain dysfunctions.
This new technology has the potential to help scientists in a variety of fields and on a variety of research projects. Gerald Zamponi, professor and head of the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, and member of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute, says, “This technology can likely be scaled up such that it will become a novel tool for medium throughput drug screening, in addition to its usefulness for basic biomedical research”.

Royal Society Makes 350 Years Of Sciene Papers Freely Available Online

BBC reports that the world’s oldest scientific academy, the Royal Society, has made its historical journal, which includes over 8000 scientific papers, permanently free to access online.

You can reach all the old journal articles from this page at the Royal Society by selecting a journal and going to past issues.”
Royal Society Science
Over the centuries, many important scientific discoveries have been published in the Philosophical Transactions
The plague, the Great Fire of London and even the imprisonment of its editor – just a few of the early setbacks that hit the Royal Society’s early editions of the Philosophical Transactions. But against the odds the publication, which first appeared in 1665, survived. Its archives offer a fascinating window on the history of scientific progress over the last few centuries.
Nestling amongst illustrious papers by Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin are some undiscovered gems from the dawn of the scientific revolution, including gruesome tales of students being struck by lightning and experimental blood transfusions.
Galileo's sketches of the moon from the Starry Messenger, 1610

Monday, November 21, 2011

Nokia X7 Review

The Nokia X7 first showed up in the Transformers 3 Movie to intrigue the public and it looks like it’s kinda working well for them. Read our full review of the Nokia X7 below.
The handset was announced back in April and arrived in the Philippines before the end of June (we first saw it at the Nokia Communication 2011 in Singapore on that same month).

People will always remember this as the phone that Sam Witwicky used in the 3rd installation of the Transformers Movie. As such, the X7 has that Autobot influence to it.
The X7-00 replaces the X6 in the Nokia Xseries (music and multimedia-centric handset) and among the first in its class to run on Symbian Anna.

The handset has a unique, almost polygonal design and none of the usual curved or straight corners. There are grills in each of the four corners which looks like they’re for speakers but only the one at the bottom actually have them.
The X7 has this unibody construction that’s very similar to the Nokia N8 and the Nokia E7. Pretty solid, metallic body with an integrated battery (yes, it’s not user-replaceable). The back side is curved all the way to the sides which gives it a good, cold grip when held in one hand.
Here’s a quick familiarization video so you’re more acquainted with the hardware:

The looks of the X7 is rather odd and its design is more of an acquired taste — either you’ll like it or you don’t. I initially didn’t like the way it looked from the rendered images back then but after using it and holding it, the device certainly gives a pretty good impression — brushed-metal back panel, large AMOLED display and solid metallic construction.
At 11.9mm on the side, you think it’s a little thicker than the usual smartphones but it feels very thin, thanks to that curved edges at the back (did the same wonders to the iPhone 3G years ago).

The microSD card slot and SIM card slots are all tucked on the left side. There’s a weird mechanism to open the latch for the SIM card which took me some time to figure out (it wasn’t very easy to pry open the first time around but worked well after that).

At the top end, the microUSB port and trapezoidal power button flanks the 3.5mm audio port in the center. The volume rocker is on the right side along with the dedicated camera button. The X7′s 2-tone color comes with a combination of brushed-metal and matte finish.
The problem with a fully curved back, and this is from experience, is that it’s pretty hard to use the dedicated camera button when taking photos as your finger tends to slide off in the landscape position (I find myself using the virtual shutter button instead).

Up in the front is the large 4-inch AMOLED screen protected by a Gorilla Glass display. Below that is a thin strip for the Home button. The screen resolution is 640×360 which is a little low for its size (making video playback a bit smoothed-out) but the deep, dark contrast and rich colors of the AMOLED display makes up for it.

Music playback is clear and crisp when the volume is just right but can be pretty loud at the top end. It’s also good that the speakers are up front, facing towards 4-o’clock and 8-o’clock angle, instead of the back or bottom where they usually place it in other handsets.
The X7 also sports a dedicated graphics processor with OpenGL 2.0 (for 3D graphics) so gaming on the device is pretty good. They got Alphalt 5 and Galaxy on Fire (which maximizes the use of the touchscreen and the accelerometer) pre-installed in my unit but you can download more games from the Ovi Store anytime. I would say gaming experience is pretty close to that of the iPod Touch.

Like the Nokia E6, the Nokia X7 also comes with the latest Symbian Anna OS. It has three scrollable homescreens you can customize with a number of live widgets, icons and other shortcuts. Symbian Anna is more fluid, organized and functional although the home-screen scrolling is still jerky and not very smooth as we saw in the video earlier.
The built-in browser is fast and renders pages quite well. Doesn’t seem to load some Javascripts though and there’s a still some usability issues in there (like URL input and page scrolling). In fairness, Flash loads pretty well as well as Youtube with it’s HTML5 video player.

Like the Nokia N8, we were expecting the camera to perform really well — both in stills and video. It actually did not disappoint. Photos are clear, fairly crisp and well saturated. It can even handle low-light conditions just fine. The shutter isn’t as fast as the N8 but it’s good enough for most still shots.
Here are sample photos taken at default settings.

Video recording at 720p (@ 25fps) is also very good although in some clips you will notice a little smoothing of the images. It’s got 3x digital zoom for video and 2x for photo. The rear camera also has a dedicated microphone so you will notice that the captured sound is also pretty clear.
Here are some clips we took using the 8MP camera:
Note: Some footages were taken at 480p while others are in 720p in this collection of clips.
Nokia did a pretty good job on this one even if it’s not as great as the Nokia N8. My issue is with that camera button that’s pretty hard to use. The other one would be the fixed focus on the lens — no luck at close up shots on this one.

The virtual keyboard on the X7 is pretty decent — the keys are a little cramped in portrait mode but very good in landscape. You also get some sort of haptic feedback when typing the screen so that’s a plus on usability. If you have a hard time using the qwerty layout in portrait, you can always switch to the more familiar alpha-numeric layout.
The device also features Bluetooth 3.0 but transfer speed over to my Macbook Air (which has Bluetooth 4.0) only peaked at around 115KB/s. I believe this one does not have the “+ HS” feature in it.
Nokia X7-00 specs:
4-inch AMOLED screen @ 360×640 pixels
Gorilla Glass Display
680MHz ARM 11 processor
Broadcom BCM2727 GPU
up to 32GB via microSD
HSDPA 10.2 Mbps, HSUPA 2 Mbps
WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
Bluetooth 3.0 w/ A2DP
8MP fixed-focus camera with dual LED flash
FM Radio tuner
GPS w/ aGPS support
Li-Ion battery 1200mAh
With normal day to day use, we were able to squeeze up to 3 days on the Nokia X7 and can still do up to 4 if you turn off 3G and WiFi. In any case, Nokia really knows how to optimize battery life with their handsets.

The Nokia X7 came out late June with a suggested retail price of Php21,275 but it has since gone down to the Php19k range in some stores. The package comes with a USB On-the-Go cable, a microUSB charger and a really nice in-ear earphones.
It’s actually in the same price range as the year-old Nokia N8 so I have this feeling people might still prefer the N8 over it — unless of course you’re after the multimedia features (which isn’t any much different either). Nevertheless, people will look back at this and remember it as the Transformer phone.

Credits to YugaTech

BlackBerry Playbook Review

We’re all too familiar with Android tablets and the iPad so when we were introduced to the BlackBerry Playbook with its own mobile operating system, we paused for a while to re-think the UI, navigation and over-all usability. Read our full review of RIM’s BlackBerry Playbook after the jump.

RIM’s approach to a tablet is something that’s thin, light and very portable that’s why they invested in a 7-inch form factor instead of the more popular 10-incher segment. Of course, that’s not to say they might put up a bigger tablet in the future once this one pans out.
This move has its inherent benefits as well as disadvantages, depending on each individual case use. Larger tablets are more attractive to folks that look bigger screen real-estate whenever they want to watch movies, browse the web or play games. However, they are oftentimes heavy and bulky to carry around.

Like many other 7-inch tablets, the Blackberry Playbook offers a more jacket-pocket friendly mobile device (or for the ladies, the usual hand or clutch bag) light enough not to be too cumbersome for all-day use.
At first look, the Playbook does have that impression that it’s just a well-crafted digital picture frame. The glossy all-glass front panel and the simple, squarish design that’s devoid of any buttons or accent is the obvious culprit. The thick black bezel around the sides adds to the same impression.

On the top end, there’s a very small silver-metal power button beside the volume control and media playback (play/pause button) and at the far right, the 3.5mm audio port. At the bottom end are ports for the micro-USB and mini-HDMI. The absence of a micro-SD port is disappointing but how else can RIM sell the 32GB and 64GB variants if they’d include it, right? (That’s the same strategy Apple did with the iPad).
The tablet is very thin at just 9.7mm and weighs around 0.9lbs. It’s actually thinner than any other BlackBerry smartphone RIM has ever produced. The display crisp and bright and the screen is very responsive to the touch.

The Playbook runs on it’s own operating system, the BlackBerry Tablet OS, which is based on the QNX Neutrino OS. RIM will also be migrating to QNX with the upcoming BlackBerry OS 7 for their smartphones (with the upcoming BB Bold 9900).
IMO, the Blackberry Tablet OS truly represents what multi-tasking should be done on a tablet — applications actively run simultaneously on the screen and in the background. That means you can play Need for Speed while loading a YouTube video on a browser in the background and watch a movie at the same time. Oh wait, you can actually record videos with its 5MP camera in full HD while still doing all those.

The Playbook actually allows you 3 levels of application behavior — Showcase (all applications are active and never pause in the background, Default (an application in active in the background until another application goes fullscreen and Paused (all applications are paused in the background and activated when tapped). This setting helps you conserve power on the tablet.
The Playbook’s navigation relies on the edges of the screen (the bezel part) and gestures from that end activates several menus and controls the panels/windows for individual apps that’s running in the background.

It could be confusing at times but once you get the hang of it, works like a charm. The UI, while intuitive and elegant, could be a little challenging to some age group (my 7 year old niece had no problem navigating the iPad but I’m pretty sure he’ll easily get lost with the Playbook).
Central to the usability of a tablet is the collection of apps available to it. RIM has the BlackBerry App World for some time now but the number of available apps seems to be a bit lacking. Most of the basic apps are there — a native Facebook app, a couple of paid Twitter apps (Blackbird & Blaq at $1.99 each), the FourPlay app for FourSquare, Bluebox as a DropBox client and a few more. Prepare to shell out a couple of bucks to get the useful ones.

Compared to the Android Market and the iTunes App store, the BlackBerry App World pales in comparison. However, RIM is said to be working a software that will allow Android apps to be installed and run on the Playbook.
RIM BlackBerry Playbook
7″ capacitive display @ 1024×600 pixel
1GHz dual-core CPU
16GB, 32GB, 64GB internal storage
5MP rear camera
3MP front-facing camera
1080p Full HD video recording
HDMI port
micro-USB port
WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
Bluetooth 2.1
BlackBerry Tablet OS

Unlike some tablets that offer a WiFi+3G variant, the Playbook is available in WiFi only models. What RIM did was introduce a built-in feature called BlackBerry Bridge — a wireless Bluetooth connection between your Blackberry phone and Playbook so you can connect to the internet using your phone’s 3G network. It also activates access to native email, calendar and BB Messenger. Would have been a nice idea but also crippling to many others who don’t own a Blackberry phone (gives us the impression that RIM made the Playbook for BlackBerry users only).

Here are some really nice features I found native to the BlackBerry Playbook:
  • WiFi Sharing. Allows the Playbook to share files and folders over local WiFi network so transferring movies, documents and music is very fast & easy.
  • Internet Tethering. You can connect the Playbook to any phone via Bluetooth and be able to use the phone’s 3G to connect to the internet (tried it with a Nokia E6 and t’was very easy; no need for Joikuspot).
  • Application Behavior. As mentioned earlier, this sets how applications behave in the background.

Movie and music playback on the BB Playbook is really good — movies run smoothly at 720p but you can hook it up to an external TV via HDMI for full HD 1080p playback. The speakers are placed smack in the front, right along the sides so the audio is directly straight to you (most other tablets put the speakers at the bottom or the back so the sound is often times muted or obstructed).
The built-in browser is pretty slick, fast and renders pages very well. It can even play YouTube HD at the full 1080p resolution and FarmVille for Facebook right on the browser.

Battery life is actually impressive for its size. The 5300mAh built-in Li-Ion battery can play about 6 hours of videos (that’s around 3 full movies) while browsing the web over WiFi on a single full charge.
The 5MP rear camera on the Playbook is arguably the best one I’ve tried on a tablet. It takes very decent stills and 720p videos. Here are sample photos and videos taken using the Playbook.

Don’t forget to tick the 720p video settings on YouTube.

The BlackBerry Playbook is a very promising tablet and is something worth waiting for. Simple, yet elegant design, sleek form factor, ideal weight and size, a powerful processor and flexible multi-tasking OS plus a selection of storage options up to 64GB. Its got its own share of shortcomings like the native BlackBerry features and the selection of apps in the BlackBerry App World (the BlackBerry Bridge is a useful feature when you’re already using a BlackBerry handset).
If RIM can really make Android Apps work on the Playbook, that would be awesome. RIM is also working on a software update to allow native applications (mail, calendar, etc) to work even without the BB Bridge.

The Playbook is not yet officially released in the Philippines but we’ve got word it might land in the country by end of July or probably early August. Globe Telecom is said to be the exclusive distributor of the tablet. The Playbook starting price is $499 for the 16GB model (it’s Php22k in Singapore so I’m guessing Php25k to Php27k here)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

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Saturday, November 19, 2011

BlackBerry Bold 9900 Review

RIM’s newest flagship smartphone is the BlackBerry Bold 9900, sometimes also referred to as the BlackBerry Bold Touch. RIM’s back with a fresh new Bold that’s undoubtedly the best BlackBerry RIM has ever made. Read on and see our full review of the Bold 9900 after the jump.

I have to admit that I have not been a huge fan of the BlackBerry — have not bought one before either and the only time I get to use them is when I get a review unit to use for 2 weeks to a couple of months.
Having tried the Bold 9900 has rekindled my love for full-qwerty smartphones. It reminded me of how much I liked the Samsung BlackJack & Nokia E71 when I first bought them many years ago.

I have long since moved to bigger screens and full touch interface. The BlackBerry Bold 9900 is the total opposite — full qwerty (the physical kind) and relatively small screen. But allow me to take the case of the Bold — because, at the end of the day, either you’re the full touchscreen type of person or the full-qwerty keypad type.
In some ways, the Bold 9900 did not really depart from the usual design mantra of RIM. It’s classic and elegant, ergonomic for fast texters and does the job as you’d expect from any BlackBerry device.

Yes it’s thinner, it’s faster and it’s bolder.
If you’ve tried any of the previous models of BlackBerry handsets, you’d agree that they needed a little work-out to trim down their waistline. The Bold 9900 did just that — it’s fit and sexy, not the thinnest of all the smartphones but definitely the thinnest among the BBs.
The design is minimalistic yet elegant — a metallic silver lining along a curved edge, power button on top, volume control (with pause/play in the middle) on the right side along with a dedicated camera button, microUSB port on the left along with the 3.5mm audio jack, and camera with flash at the back.

The back panel’s got a chiseled edge with what could be polished glass and transparent, embossed polymer covering a woven pattern on the battery lid. Great idea putting a nice piece of solid hard glass on top of the camera and flash — helps keep the scratches off the lens and makes it easier to clean the smudge off when you want to take photos later.
The SIM card and microSD card slots are both found under the battery compartment. There are no speaker grills to speak of but seems like the sound is coming from the battery compartment and the little latch to open the lid serves as a small opening for the speakers.

Up at the front, the 2.8-inch display seems very small but that’s what you get when you compromise in favor of a physical keyboard. Nevertheless, the screen looks great with very high pixel density of 286ppi (the iPhone 4 has 330ppi while the SGS2 has 217ppi) — rich, vivid colors and images are crisp and clear. It’s got very good viewing angles as well, perhaps in the 178-degrees range.
The usual touch panel menus are found just below the screen with the optical trackpad right in the middle. Between the touch screen and the optical trackpad, I found it was way easier for me to navigate using the latter.

The full-qwerty keypad on the Bold 9900 is probably the best keypad I’ve ever used on any handset. It’s soft, easy to type on and the keys are chiseled in such a way that it fits very well with both your opposing thumbs. No individual keys are alike as they are shaped and fitted to the contours of a curved layout.
Performance of the Bold Touch 9900 has improved a lot compared to the previous model, thanks to the powerful 1.2GHz processor and the generous 768MB RAM. And since BB 7 OS has also improved, this added to a better user experience. The UI is very responsive, apps load fairly quick, HD video playback is smooth and web browsing is generally fast with efficient page rendering (no Flash support though).
The 5MP camera on the Bold 9900 is surprisingly good — takes decent to very good pictures even if it’s just fixed focused, and fairly quick in between shots. I’d say it’s pretty much in the same league as the Nokia E6 in terms of quality. The downside is that in might not perform as well on low-light environments and close-up subjects.

The video is also pretty good at 720p although the footages are noticeably over-sharpened. See sample video taken with the handset below — sharp, good frame-rates and well saturated. The camera quality really reminds me of the one used on the BlackBerry Playbook though I’d say the one on the Bold is a better shooter. The dedicated camera button is a bit awkward to use but it beats any on-screen, touch shutter anytime.

BlackBerry Bold 9900 specs:
• 2.8″ capacitive touch screen display @ 640×480, 287 dpi resolution
• QWERTY keyboard, optical trackpad
• 1.2 GHz processor
• 768 MB RAM
• 8GB on-board memory,
• microSD slot supporting up to 32GB
• NFC technology
• 5MP camera w/ 720p HD video recording
• Orientation Sensor (Accelerometer)
• Digital Compass (Magnetometer)
• Proximity Sensor
• GPS with aGPS support
• Dual-Band WiFi 802.11 b/g/n @ 2.4 GHz and 802.11 a/n @ 5GHz
• Bluetooth 2.1+EDR
• 1230 mAh Li-Ion battery
• BlackBerry 7 OS
The BlackBerry 7 OS has definitely added a bit of enhancement coming from the previous OS. The navigation and UI might seem a little confusing at first (especially if you’re a new user) but you will soon find it pretty easy to use. Sometimes though, you get too much options you feel like drowning in menu options. But if you’re already a BlackBerry user, you’re in familiar territory.

Availability of apps is something a lot of people consider when getting a smartphone and luckily, the BlackBerry App World has enough of them for you to download. A total of about 14,000 apps listed on the App World should be enough, right?
The top apps I’d download on any other smartphones are there — Twitter, FourSquare, Facebook, Dropbox. There are games as well but I noticed most of the apps here are paid instead of free. I guess developers think BB users can afford to buy apps than most other smartphone users.

The NFC feature is cool to have but because there aren’t any NFC-capable devices/services around to pair it with, it remains just that — a nice, un-usable feature.
Call quality is very good but the audio is just average (as mentioned earlier, the speaker was positioned at the back beneath the battery lid.) The absence of an FM tuner isn’t a biggie but some might still want that feature in their handsets.
Battery life is decent, not the very best, but is expected of any BlackBerry Bold before it. If you’re not heavy on the apps, it will last you 2 to 3 days of regular use. Just wondered why they didn’t bump it to at least 1500mAh though.

The BlackBerry Bold 9900 isn’t perfect — it’s obviously targeted to a niche group of people, those who prefer functionality, speed and organization more than gaming, multimedia and screen real estate.
It will be hard to sell the Bold 9900 to someone who’s used to large screens and virtual keypads but it’s an easy sell, and I’d even dare say, a top choice for those looking at a qwerty smartphone. That, plus the fact that BBM still rules in some segment of the market.

When RIM said that the BlackBerry Bold 9900 is the best BlackBerry they’ve ever made, I’d easily agree and say yes. But that nod practically ends there. If you’re not into the BIS and BBM, there’s the cheaper Nokia E6, the HTC Chacha and the Samsung Galaxy Pro.
The handset is out in the market with a suggested retail price of Php31,690 and was released last week (some stores sell unlocked units for as low as Php28,500). I’d suggest getting it with a postpaid plan so it’s free or subsidized.