So RIM – the company behind the BlackBerry and its line of products – finally managed to ship the BlackBerry Playbook. The reviews have been flying, with most of them falling into two categories: BlackBerry fan sites that are heralding the device as a great gadget for BlackBerry fans with a few fatal flaws; and other tech sites without the same BlackBerry focus that are putting more of a fine point on its flaws and suggesting people wait until those flaws are fixed.
PC Mag‘s review is in the latter half, as are most of the reviews on the Web – and the best ones, I think. The PlayBook got pretty “meh” reviews from most people partially because it won’t get email unless it’s paired with a BlackBerry phone, it’s buggy and quirky, its apps aren’t really well designed just yet, and there’s no video chat even though there’s a front-facing camera.
All of these issues are ones that RIM could fix easily though, but they had a difficult enough time actually getting the PlayBook to market – it was announced way back in 2010 and is only now being brought to market, and PC Mag is right: in that same time period Apple brought the iPad 2 to bear and Motorola brought the Xoom to bear and there have been a number of other Android tablets with more features even if they’re generally cruddy. RIM was just too slow to really make a huge splash here.
Still, time will tell whether or not users can look past the issues or have faith in RIM that they can fix them in a timely fashion. In the interim, head over to PC Mag and see what they think – maybe it’ll inform which tablet you buy.
One thing Steve Jobs made a fuss about when he was on stage announcing the iPad 2 was the case that Apple had specifically designed for it. It magnetically attaches to the back of the device, doesn’t kill the slim profile, isn’t a bulky sleeve or rigid case to go around it, and it still serves as a stand when you want to prop the device up. Jobs was really impressed by the case, and of course he would be – it’s an Apple product.
Still, is it actually a good case? Is it a must-buy with your iPad 2? Well PC Mag went hands-on to find out, and their results are intriguing. It’s good, but not perfect, a solid case for the money, but not the only option on the market. Plus, it does have its drawbacks – like not protecting the rear of the case at all. Still, it does some things really well that make it an excellent choice if you’re looking for something to protect your shiny new iPad 2.
Head on over and check out the full review – it’s worth a read, especially if you’re planning on getting an iPad 2 tomorrow.
The beauty of PC Mag’s “How to Buy the Right Headphones” series is that the team there keeps updating the piece every year with new models, updated features, and more things you should think about before you run out and buy a pair of headphones for your digital music player or even your cell phone – this year’s roundup has some of the best headphones that the team has ever seen, and has boiled down some of the things you should remember to four basic types of headphones: earphones, headphones, noise-cancelling, and wireless.
The piece has some tips to remember for each type, and what you can expect in terms of audio quality when it comes to each and how much you can expect to pay when it comes time to lay down your credit card for a shiny new set.
One important thing to remember though is that cheap doesn’t always mean bad, depending on who you go with: sometimes some very affordable earphones in the sub-$100 range sound really really good, and you don’t need to go all out and drop $2-300 on a pair of noise isolating brand name earphones to get good audio quality – especially when your source audio is garbage anyway.
PC Mag has released their list of the Best Products of 2010, and among those included in the list are these lovely mobile headphones above, the Bowers and Wilkins P5 mobile headphones! Also on the list? Of course, the Apple iPad, with an honorable mention going to the Samsung Galaxy Tab, lots of great laptops from Dell and Lenovo, the Core i5 iMac, a few sleek desktops, and much much more.
Head on over to see the whole list – it’ll make holiday shopping much easier if you’re looking for a slam dunk gift that your recipient will really appreciate.
The wait is over, G1 owners – the successor to the Android phone that (pretty much) started it all is finally here, and it’s available on T-Mobile: the T-Mobile G2 is out in the wild and available to order. T-Mobile had to take down pre-orders for the device due to overwhelming demand, but you can pre-order again now and head to your local T-Mobile store to see if they have any in stock (they likely won’t.)
Still, the G2 is likely the single Android device on the market with more Google apps and services stuffed into it than any other, partially because of Google’s partnership with HTC, and partly because Google is looking to the G2 to become it’s de-facto replacement for the Nexus One, what everyone had up to this point referred to as Google “flagship” phone for Android fans and developers.
The reviews of the G2 are out as well, and they’re largely positive, noting heavily that Google has loaded this puppy with tons of apps and features….that you can’t uninstall if you don’t want them. That amounts to bloatware; even if it’s from the company that made the OS and not the wireless carrier. Additionally, rumor is brewing that if you try to root the G2, it’ll reboot itself and auto-install stock Android back on itself to keep you from having root-level access to the device. It’ll only be a matter of time before that little problem is fixed with a custom app, but in the interim it looks like Google wants a little more control over how this device is used than previous Android devices.
It’s important to note that while we all love Android (myself included,) and lots of people tout it as a truly “open” mobile operating system, that openness is only really to the extent of Google’s will and desire to keep it open. If Google decided one day to clamp the jaws shut on Android, they could – and would have every legal right – to do so. They won’t, most likely, but it will be interesting to see where they go from here, and whether the control exerted over the G2 becomes commonplace on Android devices.
Internet Explorer 9 just came out today, and the fine folks at PC Mag have taken it for a test drive and churned out a hands-on review of Microsoft’s latest volley into the browser wars. I would do the same, but unfortunately at the office I’m chained to Windows XP, so I’ll have to wait for later when I get back to my Vista PC, since only folks running Windows Vista or Windows 7 will be able to run Internet Explorer 9.
So far, early impressions of the IE9 beta are favorable, noting its support for pinning Web sites like apps to the taskbar in Windows 7, the clean and minimized interface, and its highly improved speed, catching up with other browsers like Chrome and the Firefox 4 beta. IE 9 also lays in HTML5 functionality, and while it’s still one of the least standards-compliant browsers and still mis-renders a number of sites, it represents a good step forward for Microsoft, who’s looking to improve Internet Explorer’s image.
Head over to PC Mag to see tons of screenshots from the new browser, and read more about what’s hot and what’s not in the beta!
When I ran down the announcements from Apple’s big music event last week, I specifically mentioned that we’d have to take a wait-and-see approach to the new iPod models, specifically the untested and unproven new iPod Nano, which ditched the clickwheel entirely for a completely square, all-touch screen design with controls on the outer rim.
Now, PC Mag has weighed in on the new iPod Touch, the new iPod Nano, and the new iPod Shuffle:
The new iPod Touch fared incredibly well – far better than I expected from the model, and represents a pretty big step forward from the previous generation. All of the best features from the iPhone 4 are in the new iPod Touch, including the front-facing camera and the compatibility with FaceTime for real-time chat, HD video camera and still camera on the back, all in a smaller form factor with iOS 4.1′s speed and updates. It’s still just as good a media player as it’s ever been, and with the new Retina display it’s just as good a gaming machine as well. It’s incredibly pricey, which normally docks it a few points, but the PC Mag editors liked it enough to give it 5/5 stars and the Editor’s Choice award, which is pretty remarkable. I have an original iPod Touch and never really saw a need to upgrade aside from the fact that the newer models had a speaker where the original iPod Touch did not, but now I’m sorely tempted.
Predictably, the new iPod Shuffle did well enough, the addition of on-body controls and the lower price point for the storage makes it a great value for people looking for a dead-simple non-nonsense music player, but it’s still difficult to really recommend when there are other players on the market near the same price point that have displays on-board. I get what Apple is doing here though – they want to make low-end music players something of a commodity: something you can clip to your shirt and if you lose it you won’t be heartbroken – you’ll simply buy another. The moment you put a screen on it, you feel like it’s a little fancier. Still, it’s regrettable.
Perhaps most surprisingly, the new iPod Nano didn’t fare well at all, only 2.5/5 stars – the new tiny Nano with a touch-screen failed to impress, and the features that Apple took away from the device in order to fufill their vision for it just seemed to outweigh the benefits. Like a number of observers – myself included – noted on the day of the launch, the fact that apple stripped the device of its video camera and changed the form factor could be a harbinger that the Nano just isn’t what it used to be, and not only did they remove the camera, the square screen can’t display video of any type, or even Apple’s own Cover Flow for selecting media to play, which every generation of Nano used to be able to do.
I haven’t laid hands on the devices yet, but PC Mag’s reviews are usually spot on, and I don’t just say that because I freelance for them – I say that because the buying decisions I’ve made in light of their reviews tend to be accurate in my experience.
Still, nothing can hide my appointment over the iPod Nano – I understand that Apple wanted a smaller device with a touch screen, but sometimes it seems that Apple forgets that overall they’re giving their customers a device with less value overall, even if it meets a technological or generational vision that they have for their devices. Then again, some people would argue that this is the story of Apple in general, from computers to phones to media players, but I’m not someone who would agree with that across all product lines – even if I do think they’ve done it before in specific cases.
One of the things I’ve spent the past couple of weeks working on has been a comprehensive roundup of some of the summer’s hottest new keyboards, including models from Logitech, Microsoft, Eclipse, and Matias. Logitech’s new Fantasy Collection is affordable, attractive, and aimed at people who want to personalize their workspaces without shelling out a ton of money. Microsoft’s new Arc Special Edition is a media center keyboard with sharp looks, a nice curved design (perfect for lap and couch use) and a tiny receiver, the Matias USB Keyboard + Smartphone Stand comes with a space to rest your phone and a powered USB hub, and the high tech Eclipse Litetouch Keyboard offers sharp looks and a high tech LCD keypad on the right side of the keyboard with customizable function buttons!
I tested each one of the keyboards over the course of several months, and when all was said and done, I had some pretty strong opinions about them all – some of the more than others. Head over to check out the review and leave me a comment either here or there: I’m curious to hear what you think!
I caught wind of this amazing review over at Gizmodo from my CIO at my day job – he highlighted the fact that it’s a hilarious gadget, not just because it’s trying to be everything to everyone who might buy it, but because it’s a perfect example of what happens when you get someone who wants to cram as much stuff into the same device as possible and then sell it as probably the one feature it’s not the best at.
Personally, looking over Giz’s review, the D-Link DIR-685 – Wireless Storage Photo Frame isn’t a bad product, it’s just a little over the top. The powerhouse comes with a 4-port switch in it, a wireless router that sports 802.11 N, serves as network storage, an iTunes server, an FTP server, a media server of all types, and that’s just some of its highlight features.
It’s pricey, but not as much as some other products like it that do less (although they may do fewer things better) and it’s definitely less expensive than buying a bunch of different devices to do everything that this one does. It’s not the kind of “wireless photo frame” you’ll sit on your coffee table, unless you really like super-tiny photos; it’s probably the kind you’ll set on your desk in a home office and have it cycle through photos of your family or pets or something.
Still, I’m with Giz on this one – it’s one of those products that reminds you that sometimes engineers are still out there designing products, and while it may look at first glance like a case of classic over-engineering (okay, maybe at second or third glance too), it’s not a bad product for what it does. Maybe it’s trouble is that D-Link’s marketing department simply doesn’t have a catchphrase or a buzzword that describes what it is as a product yet.
So unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past week, the Apple iPad was released last week, and it’s been the talk of not just the tech world, but actually of many major news outlets. Because I adore the crew at PC Mag, I’ll give props to their full review of the Apple iPad, which is critical but overall finds good things about the product and that – as I figured – it’s an excellent launching point for an industry.
Admittedly, I was skeptical of the product when it was announced, but like with many Apple products, once it’s out and available and people are using it, it becomes more attractive just as you see the possibilities when others use it and third-party developers start building applications and useful tools, utilities, and games for it. So far, the iPad has been a ridiculous success, selling over 700,000 on launch weekend, and so far almost all of the reviews have been positive.
But it’s not the launch of the iPad I really wanted to cover – it’s really the story of one analyst at PC Mag who I know and trust personally, Zach Honig. He made a point to be mindful during his first 24 hours with the iPad, and jot down his thoughts and feelings about the device and using it as almost a laptop replacement. His results? Mixed, of course – the iPad really isn’t a full-on laptop or desktop replacement, but for most things it really can keep you more mobile than your desktop computer and less hassle than your laptop.
Head on over to read all of his thoughts: