Archive for February, 2009

Just What Do You Mean By That?

February 19, 2009

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Crashing standard of living

February 19, 2009

Posted Feb 17, 2009 12:53pm EST by Aaron Task in Investing, Recession Related: WMT, WFMI, FDO, ^GSPC, ^DJI, RTH, TGT There’s no question the American consumer is hurting in the face of a burst housing bubble, financial market meltdown and rising unemployment. But “the worst is yet to come,” according to Howard Davidowitz, chairman of Davidowitz & Associates, who believes American’s standard of living is undergoing a “permanent change” – and not for the better as a result of: * An $8 trillion negative wealth effect from declining home values. * A $10 trillion negative wealth effect from weakened capital markets. * A $14 trillion consumer debt load amid “exploding unemployment”, leading to “exploding bankruptcies.” “The average American used to be able to borrow to buy a home, send their kids to a good school [and] buy a car,” Davidowitz says. “A lot of that is gone.” Going forward, the veteran retail industry consultant foresees higher savings rate and people trading down in both the goods and services they buy – as well as their aspirations. The end of rampant consumerism is ultimately a good thing, he says, but the unraveling of an economy built on debt-fueled spending will be painful for years to come.

5630 XpressMusic

February 19, 2009

Most interestingly, the 5630 comes equipped with a powerful 600 MHz ARM 11 CPU. Also, as standard, the 5630 will come with a 4GB MicroSD card in the retail box.  The 5630 will be available on the market sometime in the second quarter of the year, at the price of €199/$256, before taxes and subsidies. A Comes With Music version is set for release sometime after, as well. Tehnical specifications are as follows:

  • Connectivity: Quad-band GSM, GPRS, EDGE, HSUPA, and HSDPA
  • Display: 2.2″, QVGA resolution
  • Camera: 3.2MP, fixed focus lens, Dual LED flash, VGA video recording – 15 FPS
  • Memory: 60MB internal, 4GB MicroSD card in box, MicroSDHC expansion slot
  • Extras: 3.5 mm jack, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, Wi-Fi, FM Radio, with RDS
  • Battery capacity: 860 mAh
  • Dimensions: 112 x 46 x 12 mm
  • Weight: 83 grams

Asus Eee PC 1000HE

February 18, 2009

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What you need to know
We like:

Stunning battery life; impressive keyboard
We don’t like:

No integrated 3G
CNET.co.uk judgement:

We were totally blown away by the Asus Eee PC 1000HE. It has the best battery life of any laptop we’ve ever tested, its keyboard is arguably just as usable as those on larger laptops, and it’s stylish to boot.
Score:

9 Spectacular
Full Review

Reviewed 16 February 2009

The Asus Eee PC 1000HE is a slightly tweaked version of the Eee PC 1000H. The ‘E’ in the name stands for ‘extended’, referring to an improved battery pack that lasts a claimed 9.5 hours. The 1000HE also features a new Intel Atom N280 CPU and a brand new keyboard with isolated keys — changes that make the machine faster and easier to use than equivalent netbooks.

The 1000HE should be available to buy from early April for approximately £360.

Design
The 1000HE looks virtually identical to the other 1000-series netbooks, and that’s no bad thing. It’s an attractive device with gently curved edges, shiny, circular, coin-style hinge edges and minimalist ‘Eee’ branding at the corner of the lid. Being the design obsessives that we are, we would probably have got rid of the glossy, fingerprint-attracting black finish, and somehow squeezed in a larger, 11-inch screen in order to reduce the size of the bezel — but these are minor quibbles.

The first major improvement offered by the 1000HE is its new keyboard, which appears to have been inspired by the Sony Vaio TT or Apple MacBook. The keyboard features isolated keys, meaning each key has a 2mm to 3mm gap between itself and its nearest neighbour. This makes it considerably easier to use than a standard netbook keyboard, on which the keys tend to be more closely grouped. It’s entirely possible to touch type on the 1000HE’s keyboard. The mouse track pad is equally pleasant to use, as it’s larger than those on most other netbooks, and supports multitouch gesture inputs.

Just above the keyboard, Asus provides a row of four shortcut buttons. One of these instantly deactivates the screen backlight, which is only ever useful if you’re desperately trying to hide porn from someone looking over your shoulder. On the other hand, if you’re really anal about battery life, you can hit the button every time you blink. The other three are more useful — one zooms the screen (by changing the resolution), and the remaining two are user-programmable, so you can assign them to launch your favourite applications.

There’s a fairly ordinary arrangement of ports on the 1000HE. The left side is home to Ethernet, USB, microphone and headphone ports, while the right side houses a VGA video output, two additional USBs and a MultiMediaCard/SD card reader. There are no optical drives, digital video outputs or fingerprint readers, but that’s par for the course with a netbook.

Features
The 1000HE is the first machine we’ve seen that uses an Intel Atom N280 CPU. Theoretically, it offers better performance than the near-ubiquitous Atom N270 chips we see in most netbooks, thanks to its faster front-side bus and higher clock speed. The N280’s front-side bus — the system that transfers data between the memory sub-system and the CPU — runs at 667MHz, as opposed to 533MHz in the case of the N270. This boosts the clock speed to 1.66GHz — 600MHz faster than that of the N270.

Don’t expect a massive improvement in performance, though. The 1000HE has the same Intel 945GSE chipset used on previous Eee PCs, and not the new, faster-performing, Atom-specific GN40 chipset announced at the same time as the N280 CPU.

The 1000HE contains 1GB of RAM — again, typical netbook fare — but ships with a large, 160GB hard drive instead of the 80GB unit seen in the 1000H. This should please BitTorrent junkies no end, as the machine is capable of storing approximately 230 standard-definition movies, 40,000 MP3s and a quite ludicrous number of digital images.

The 1000HE retains the 1000H’s 10-inch display, with a native resolution of 1,024×600 pixels, and it’s still relatively good. The horizontal viewing angle is wide enough so that you and a friend can watch a movie next to each other in relative comfort, and it’s not finished in any glossy coating, so it can be used outdoors in direct sunlight without turning into a mirror.

Wireless capabilities remain the same as on the standard 1000-series models. The 1000HE sports 802.11a/g/n compatibility, so it’ll connect to pretty much any Wi-Fi network, although it lacks Bluetooth and integrated 3G. If you want to surf the Web in the absence of a Wi-Fi hotspot, you’ll need to connect it to a compatible mobile phone, or — better still — buy yourself a USB modem.

The 1000HE’s operating system of choice is Windows XP. There are no Linux options available with this particular chassis and battery, but there’s nothing stopping fans of the penguin from installing Linux at their own convenience.

Finally, the 1000HE has the highest-capacity battery of any Eee PC we’ve tested. Its 8,700mAh battery absolutely dwarfs the 6,600mAh cell in the previous 1000-series Eee PCs.

Performance
The N280 CPU inside the 1000HE is slightly quicker than the N270. This difference doesn’t really manifest itself in day-to-day use, since the original 1000-series Eee PCs were pretty nippy anyway, but the 1000HE scored a commendable 1,514 in PCMark05 at a resolution of 1,024×768 pixels.

More impressive was the battery life. The standard Eee PC 1000 lasted a very respectable 3 hours and 56 minutes in Battery Eater’s Classic test, which runs the CPU at full tilt until the battery dies, but this model lasted a whopping 5 hours and 48 minutes. In the less intensive Battery Eater Reader’s test, which simulates reading a text document until the battery dies, the 1000HE’s battery lasted a whopping 10 hours and 32 minutes.

Conclusion
The Asus Eee PC 1000HE is the best netbook so far for people who travel often. Its stunning battery life eclipses that of all its rivals, its keyboard is good enough to touch type with, and it looks good, too. We’re in love, as should you be.

Nokia E63

February 18, 2009

What you need to know
We like:

Qwerty keypad; Wi-Fi
We don’t like:

Lack of HSDPA and GPS
CNET.co.uk judgement:

The Nokia E63 is a good phone that delivers a competent texting and email experience, but it’s E71 predecessor is better, offering more features and greater finesse. If you want a smart phone that stands out from the crowd, however, the colourful E63 is worth checking out

Score:
7.9 Very good
Full Review

Reviewed 17 February 2009

Last year, Nokia announced the E71, a superb phone that provides tonnes of features in a great-looking, compact package. This year, Nokia is launching the E63, a less expensive version of the E71, with a few tweaks here and there. But is it as good? We took the E71 look-alike on the road to see if it delivers as good an experience.

You’ll soon be able to get the E63 for free on a monthly contract with several major networks, or for around £200 SIM-free.

Design
From the front, the E63 looks similar to the E71. There’s a wide screen and a full Qwerty keypad. Unlike the E71, however, the E63 comes in a red or blue plastic casing, instead of a metal one. The E63 is also chunkier, but not so large that it doesn’t fit into a pocket comfortably.

One of our favourite E71 design features is its easy-to-press Qwerty keypad, and we’re glad to report that the E63’s keypad is also a winner, delivering a satisfying typing experience. Each key on the keypad is raised, making them easy to press, and there’s enough space between each key so that you don’t feel too cramped when tapping out long messages. The keypad feels a little less slippery than the E71’s and the thicker design means there’s more phone to hold on to — something you may or may not like.

While it doesn’t have the finesse of the E71, the E63 looks good overall, and it certainly delivers when it comes to messaging. With a more colourful casing, the E63 looks less serious than the E71, and will most probably appeal to you if you want a phone that stands out from the crowd.

Features
You might think that a thicker casing would mean additional space to cram in more features, but the E63 actually has fewer features than its predecessor. There’s no HSDPA (3.5G), no GPS and no infrared. If the lack of those features doesn’t bother you too much, the rest of the E63 delivers an almost identical experience to the E71.

You can browse the Web relatively quickly thanks to the phone’s 3G capability and, if you want a faster experience, the E63 comes with Wi-Fi.

The E63, available in red or blue, is a more colourful alternative to the E71

The E63’s browser lets you see full Web pages, popping up an overview window when you’re scrolling around so that you can see where you are in relation to the rest of the page. We also downloaded the third-party Opera Mini browser onto the E63. That worked really well — we recommend that you try it out too.

Setting up email is fairly straightforward. The E63 supports Microsoft Exchange but doesn’t support Exchange folders, which is very annoying if you need access to them.

A massive improvement on the E71 is the E63’s 3.5mm headphone jack, which lets you plug your own headphones straight in. The E63’s music player has a straightforward interface and supports a variety of formats, including MP3 and AAC. We like that you can search tracks by typing in the one you’re looking for.

When it comes to the E63’s photography capabilities, a 2-megapixel camera delivers okay pictures for small prints and MMS messages, but don’t expect photos to look sharp when you view them on a large screen. In low light, the LED photo light doesn’t illuminate objects very well, and only works properly at close range.

Other noteworthy features include the ability to download podcasts, watch YouTube videos, and listen to FM radio and Internet radio stations. A microSD slot lets you add more memory for storing songs and pictures. Although there’s no GPS, the E63 comes with Nokia Maps and you can hook it up to a Bluetooth GPS receiver if you want.

Performance
Audio during calls sounded clear, with no noticeable muffling or distortion. The loudspeaker is loud enough to use as a temporary hands-free solution but you’re better off using a Bluetooth headset.

Battery life lasted for over a day, but will vary depending on what features you use — using 3G and Wi-Fi will drain the battery more.

Conclusion
Overall, we enjoyed using the Nokia E63, particularly for writing texts and sending emails, but it just doesn’t feel as special as the E71, partly due to its thicker design and plastic casing. We also missed the E71’s built-in GPS and HSDPA, which add that extra oomph. The E63 may be cheaper, but, as the E71 can be had for free on a contract, it’s hard to recommend the E63 over it’s more up-market predecessor.

5630 XpressMusic Slim phone by Nokia

February 14, 2009

February 13, 2009


Expanding its line of music-focused mobile phones, Nokia today announced the 5630 XpressMusic handset. Most may not associate this series with high-end handsets, but the 5630 could challenge that notion and may even be an inexpensive alternative to some E- and N-series devices.

This slim candybar runs the Symbian S60 operating system and comes with so many features it will make you wonder how they kept the dimensions at 112x46x12mm. Connectivity-wise, the 5630 comes with HSDPA as well as HSUPA for high-speed uploads (depending on whether your operator supports this, of course). Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are both included, with the latter supporting A2DP for wireless stereo headsets.

Storage is in the form of microSD cards with a 4GB capacity included in the box. The breadth of features is pretty impressive, rivalling the high-end N- and E-series devices with the only notable absence being GPS. Being an XpressMusic device, it also comes with a standard 3.5mm audio jack so you can plug in your favourite pair of headphones.

Interestingly, the Home screen on the 5630 looks different from other S60 phones. An additional Contacts Bar at the top makes it appear similar to what’s found on the new S60 5th Edition touchscreen phones from Nokia. If this works the same way as the 5800 XpressMusic, you will be able to access all the details of your favourite contacts conveniently from the Home screen.

According to Nokia’s press release, the 5630 will be available in selected markets in Q2. The Nokia Conversations blog states that it will sell for about €199 (AU$390) before taxes and subsidies. About 12,000 to 13,000.

My next phone in the collection. Goodbye Sony Ericsson Walkman.