gadgets

So Nvidia announced its Shield Tablet, an 8-inch, 1920×1200 display with two front-facing speakers priced at $300.  But the real cost is $400 as you’ll want to get the $60 controller and $40 kickstand cover; both specifically made for Shield.

What’s special about this tablet is that it has a beastly Tegra K1 processor, which on paper destroys the iPad Air and other Android tablets.  As you might have guessed, this is a tablet made for gaming.

Should you get it?  I guess if you like games and in the market for a small Android tablet…sure?  The price is fair for what it can do.  The endorsement is not ringing however because I’m not sure what problem this solves — most high end tablets today are plenty powerful for games — and because I think the 8-inch screen size is just too small for a gaming tablet.

Read Full Article

The narrative is that Chromebooks are disrupting Windows PCs.  Forbes: “Here’s why Microsoft is worried about Google Chromebooks.” The Verge: “The Chromebook is just a better device.” WSJ: “Google’s winning over some businesses.” The Street: “Why Google’s Chromebook is better than Windows, Mac and Android.”

Let’s run with the assumption that Chromebooks are doing well and compete with laptop PCs. Advocates claim non-tech savvy consumers choose Chromebooks for generally three reasons: 1) simplicity, 2) low maintenance and 3) easy usage in its fast start-up times. I disagree. People with low computing needs don’t buy Chromebooks because they are a better experience; they buy them because of PRICE.

Read Full Article

A story made the rounds a few days ago about Microsoft battling Chromebooks with two cheap Windows PCs. It’s good that Microsoft is taking Chromebooks seriously. It should. It’s a device people with low computing needs might deem good enough. It’s a capable device for mail, web browsing and light office work; and for most people, that’s all they ever need. All for $200 to $350.

But you know what else is excellent for low computing needs? Tablets, which have already been eating into the PC market for years for precisely that reason. If Chromebooks didn’t exist today, I suspect more tablets would have been sold in its place instead of Ultrabooks.

The only thing Chromebooks share with laptops is a keyboard. When your grandparents’ old creaky laptop dies, will you buy them a $200 Chromebook or a $24 keyboard to pair with the $500 iPad they already know how to use?

Got a big deliverable tomorrow so today’s entry is going to be short.  Saw an article about this Android Wear app from Minuum that got me doing a face palm:

Nooooo!!  Talk about taking one step forward, two steps back.  Who will ever need to type on a tiny screen?  Use voice, it’s multiple times faster and probably nearly as accurate.  And if you’ve got something embarrassing and need to type — the 1 out of 100 times that happens — use your phone.

The easiest thing to do with a new medium is to apply what works in the old.  Unfortunately that’s rarely the path to greatness.

You’re the most valuable technology company in the world.  What do you do?

  1. Launch a fashion accessory
  2. Extend from your core competency to a new, adjacent category
  3. Neither

How many raised their hands for 1?  Yet, that’s what a lot of smart people seem to be advocating for Apple and the iWatch.  Anthony Kosner of Forbes is the latest to sing this chorus.

How do you convince the mass of consumers to consider an iWatch to be a necessary accessory for 21st century life? Make it a fashion-forward, celebrity-endorsed object of desire. Make it aspirational (to use the technical marketing term.) And then, once its value and exclusivity is established, transform it into an “attainable luxury,” much like the iPhone has become. From this perspective, Apple’s fashion executives have a lot to do. To start with Pruniaux, perhaps Apple now intends to sell the iWatch through the same retail channels as luxury watches like TAG Heuer—Tourneau and high-end department stores.

Hmm.  I don’t think anyone will deny that brand is a big part of Apple’s success; Apple products are desirable and aspirational.  However, while fashion is always a differentiating factor for Apple, it’s never been the point.

Read Full Article

Want to play vintage console games on your big screen TV, but don’t want vintage, bulky consoles in your living room?  If you have an Android phone, you can now do so for merely $55.  Here’s how.

First, you’ll need a $35 Chromecast, an HDMI device you plug into your TV which allows your TV screen to mirror your Android phone.  This capability is limited to select phones but that should expand in the future.  Unfortunately, my Moto G isn’t capable of mirroring via Chromecast, so I don’t know if there’s lag between what’s on the phone and on TV.  For those of you who can test it, please leave a comment about your experience!

Next, download an emulator app like Super GNES ($4 for the pro version).  We won’t talk about how you, uh, acquire ROMs (basically, Super Nintendo game software), but you can find them easily on the Internet and they are mostly free.

Read Full Article

The LG G Watch will launch next week, and the Samsung Gear Live soon after.  These are the first two Android Wear watches.  Which should you buy?

If the initial press reviews are anything to go by, the answer is neither.  Everyone seems to think the Moto 360 would be the best of the three launching this summer, but that Android Wear’s potential has yet to be fulfilled.

The Verge:

I like a lot of things about Android Wear, and a few things about the Gear Live and G Watch. I like that they’ve made me look at my phone less. They’re simple, inoffensive devices that do their jobs well. And at $199 and $229, respectively, they’re a relatively affordable way to get a first taste at our wearable future. If I were buying one today, I’d buy the Gear Live: I like the design, I like the screen. But neither current model inspires any attachment, any excitement, any reaction at all. They’re just empty vessels for Android Wear, not devices I’m proud to display on my arm. And that’s the wrong approach.

The Verge rates the Samsung Gear Live a paltry 6.8 and the LG G Watch a 6.6.

Read Full Article

Thurrott is reporting at Winsupersite that Microsoft is readying it’s wearable device.  It’s allegedly more fitness tracker like the Samsung Gear Fit than smartwatch, and the big news is that it’ll work with iOS, Android and of course Windows Phone.

This doesn’t leave me excited for Microsoft, however.  The Redmond company wisely pulled its Surface mini product because the device didn’t do much beyond the competition; and of course, we don’t have the full picture yet, but based on Thurrott’s report it doesn’t look like Microsoft’s fitness tracker will be anything special either.

My sources tell me instead that Microsoft will this fall release a Samsung Gear Fit-like fitness band that will display smart phone-based notifications, just like the current and rumored watches and other wearables. So that’s the first bit of rumor busting: It’s a wristband, not a watch. . .The focus, however, is the same as with Samsung Gear and similar fitness bands: Using multiple sensors, it will track your fitness—steps, calories burned, heart rate, and the like—throughout the day and interoperate with apps on mobile phones.

So, it’ll be like the Samsung Gear Fit, which has yet to take the market by a storm after selling a paltry 250,000 units despite huge advertising.  (By comparison, Microsoft’s much criticized Surface line sold about 750,000 units the last three months.)

Read Full Article

Nine months after the 3-year warranty expired, my 46-inch Samsung LED TV died.  I paid $2,200 for it and it was Samsung’s flagship TV at the time.  The picture quality was great but the TV suffered many problems: the panel was replaced three times, it had major backlight bleeding (who cares about deep blacks when there’s clouding?) and the optical audio port was busted.

It was an expensive TV and lasted less than four years.  It made me wonder whether instead of purchasing a $2,200 flagship TV every four years, I should just spend $1,000 on a mid-level TV every two.  With the way technology advances, the mid-level experience two years from now might be better than the flagship experience today.  I’d save money and average out to comparable viewing quality.

And so I purchased a Sharp Aquos 50LE450M online for an astonishingly cheap $720.  Yes, you read that correctly, a 50-inch, 1080P LED TV for $720 from a respected Japanese brand.  It was also only released in 2013.  I couldn’t find any reviews of it as the TV appears to be specially made for developing markets.  Sibling Sharp TVs with similar model numbers did have middling reviews, which by definition I was prepared to accept.  Plus, this is from Sharp so it can’t be that bad right?

Read Full Article

You’ve probably heard of the Amazon Fire phone by now.  If you haven’t, see Engadget’s hands-on here.  It’s an interesting effort by Amazon, about packaging the company’s services in an integrated and attractive manner.  It’s what Google does with the Nexus program, Microsoft with Surface, and Apple with pretty much all their products.  As The Verge articulates:

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced his company’s first smartphone in Seattle on Wednesday, the Fire Phone, by first turning to a curiously ironic metaphor: a bucket of water. “You can fill a bucket with an eyedropper, if the bucket doesn’t leak,” Bezos said, striving to convey Amazon’s success at getting and keeping customers for its Prime subscription service. Now those Prime customers have a new reason to immerse themselves deeper into Amazon’s bucket of devices and services: a smartphone designed just for them.

There are a four things special about the Fire: Dynamic Perspective, Firefly, Mayday and camera with unlimited photo cloud storage, but the only things that matter — Firefly, Mayday, unlimited cloud storage — are not even hardware based.

If Amazon chooses to keep the Firefly exclusive to the Fire, it would mark a big strategy change.  My bet is Amazon will stay open and have its services available everywhere, and therefore will eventually port Firefly to other smartphones.  Because of that, I wouldn’t recommend what’s otherwise a pedestrian if not gimmicky phone in the Amazon Fire.  Unless it’s for that non-techie relative who just needs Mayday.

Read Full Article