Attack of the Tablets


There isn’t a single week in the last few months when there is no news related to tablet PCs. Till last year, any news on new tablet PCs was responded with loud *yawn*. But now, even the tininest of news on tablet PCs is exciting. Let’s take a look at why this landscape shift happened.

The Past:

TabletPC was popularly seen as convertible laptop where the display of a laptop rested on a swivel hinge. The display can be rotated and slammed onto the base and used like a notepad/tablet. But there is a problem with this type of implementation. These devices are still bulky and hard to hold in one hand, lacked ease of use due to the dependency on stylus. And the OS used to be regular desktop OS with slight improvements. In the end, neither the hardware nor the software was not optimized for touch. To make it easy, let me compare a HP tablet PC with ipad.

HP-TouchSmart-tm2t-Multi-touch-Tablet-PC

HP Touchsmart tm2t is one of the latest convertible tablet and it weights 1.9kgs. ipad on the other hand weighs 0.68kg. While tm2t was 1.18” thick, ipad is .5” thick. Though tm3t tablet comes with capacitive touch display, the UI is not so well optimized for touch, expect for few HP’s Touchsmart apps. This is similar to Symbian S60v5 on 5800XM. These operating systems were designed with keyboards and mouse in mind and what you get for touch input is very limited when compared to tablets like ipad or Galaxy Tab. As a result, the tablet PC industry never picked up and was largely ignored by end-users.

Lenovo, on the other hand came up with interesting design but again, the UI was a flop. Lenovo IdeaPad U1 looks like a normal laptop but instead of using a swivel hinge, this laptop had detachable display unit. Interesting part here is that the display unit has snapdragon processor and Skylight OS that can do basic tasks like browsing, music, pictures. In this case, the concept was good but UI was too limited and the touch response was just average. The end result is that people ignored this concept like every other tablet PC.

lenovo-ideapad-u1-hybrid

One aspect which most of the software and hardware companies ignored is User Interface. And it was Apple again that showed the way forward for tablets. Instead of slapping an OS that is meant for notebooks/desktops on to ipad, they used the UI that is designed for touch displays (iOS). Though initially people (including me) said that this is a bad move, in the end, it worked better than earlier implementations of a full fledged OS.

The Present:

The release of iPad generated lot of renewed interesting among companies. The reason is that with iPad like devices, the whole ecosystem evolves at a rapid pace. Buyers look at the device as a premium living room device, hence pay a premium price. It doesn’t stop here. Users start buying applications designed for these tablets, pay for subscription music and movie services, buy content like music and movies and eBooks. And the more they spend on content, the tighter they are bound to the ecosystem. And by implementing OS wide advertising, there is lot of revenue that can be generated.

So, let’s take a look at the few tablets that have created lot of buzz in the industry.

iPad

ipad

When it comes to designing mobile devices, Apple has been ahead of competition and they got it right with their very first try. Apple, instead of designing a tablet that can replace laptop as desktop, designed ipad to be a living room device that sits between a desktop and laptop. It’s a fun device, not a workhorse and you cannot use it as the only computing device unless all you need is multimedia device with internet connectivity. The gamble to use iOS instead of OS X on ipad paid off brilliantly. While all the earlier tablets were having notebook hardware, Apple went in a different direction. A4 chip (based on ARM’s architecture), flash drive, wi-fi/3G, multi-touch, 10hr battery life, half an inch thick. These are the design elements that are seen in smartphones. In short, ipad is ipod Touch with bigger display and 3G connectivity(optional).

Cisco Cius:

Since the rise of iPad, many companies have started to look to Android for challenging iPad/iOS. Cisco took the same path but their implementation of Android tablet is purely business centric. This is how it looks like:

cisco-cius-android-tablet-1

Confused, right?

In Cisco’s words,  “Cisco Cius is an ultra-portable, mobile collaboration business tablet that offers access to essential business applications and technologies”. This device actually comes in two parts.

Cisco Cius lift[3]

  • Base station which acts like a desk phone and has USB and Bluetooth connectivity to take external keyboard and mouse. Acts like a base for the tablet for video conferencing and telephonic activities.
  • Detachable tablet with 7” TFT touch display, 802.11b/g/n, 3G, 720p video through Cisco Telepresence conferencing, virtual desktop client and runs Android operating system with access to marketplace applications. Good thing is that this unit weight just half a KG making it one of the lightest tablets. It comes with 32Gb of flash memory and is powered by Atom processor.

Cius also support applications like WebEx, Cisco AnyConnect VPN Client, Unified Communication. There is not much known about this device. If you can to know more about this device, you can check the following pages:

Samsung Galaxy Tab:

SGT

This arguably is the most talked about tablet right now. There were few Android tablets that were released earlier like Archos 10 but they never got the media/public attention. The Samsung Galaxy smartphone lineup has been a hit among consumers and when Samsung announced Galaxy Tab, it got immediate media attention. And why not. The device is sleek and has functionality that can envy Apple loyalists. While the size of the device makes it easier to carry around, features like GSM, 3G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, EDGE makes the device rich in connectivity.  Unlike iPad, one can download content like movies and music to this device and enjoy playback on-the-fly.  7″ capacitive touch display, 16/32GB internal memory and option to increase storage using micro SD, front and rear cameras, powerful Cortex A8 based processor, DivX,FullHD . There is no doubt that this tablet is one of the most feature rich tablets. Had it come with a bigger display (10″ at least), it would’ve been perfect replacement for those low-end laptops. The only concern is how good Android 2.2 is for tablet style usage. Google made is clear that the OS is not meant for tablets yet. The future looks really good for this tablet now, given that the only competition will be iPad.

Blackberry PlayBook:

blackberry playbook

Playbook is a tablet to be released in 2011 by RIM. A surprise announcement that happened in last week of September, this tablet runs new Blackberry Tablet OS, which is based on popular QNX operating system. Specification is very similar to what Galaxy Tab has. 7” multi-touch display, front and rear camera, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, true multi tasking HDMI. The most interesting h/w is the dual core Cortex A9 processor, capable of high of processing power. Coupled with true Unix OS, this device is capable to go head-on against iPad and Galaxy Tab and with right amount of marketing, can take sizeable market share. Not to forget that this device has out-of-the-box compatibility with Blackberry Enterprise Server, making it a favorite tablet for those who rely on Blackberry smartphones for on-the-go computing.

Notion Ink Adam:

adam-from-notion

This could be the tablet that could open doors for ‘Made in India’ gadgets. Designed by a startup company “Notion Ink’, the sleek and sexy looking Adam tablet is unique in it’s own way. A 10.1” Pixel Qi transflective display gives near e-ink like reading experience and in normal mode, it acts like an LCD display. Thanks to Tegra 2 processing unit, this device is capable of delivering 1080p connect to HDTV via HDMI. After many delays, the tablet can be expected to enter the market early 2011. Another interesting design is use of 180 degree swivel camera  instead of having two camera. Thanks to this design, video conferencing and chat can be done using high resolution camera instead of 1.3mp or VGA camera that is used in other tablets. Other interesting features include track pad, sleek design, USB port, 3G, micro SD slot.

The Future:

  • Netbooks: The effect of iPad is already seen on netbooks. The inflow of these tablets will have even bigger impact on netbook sales, eventually taking them out of market. Reason is that though these devices are limited in functionality, they are evolving very fast and by end of 2011, should have full functionality that netbooks have and will be far more powerful and efficient than netbooks. There would be no effect on laptop and desktop market though as the difference in functionality between tablets and laptops is very high.
  • eBook reader: More number of tablets with Pixel Qi like displays will also effect sales of eBook readers as people won’t need to buy a device just for the sake of reading books.
  • Publishing industry/print media: With leading publishers like WSJ and NYT embracing digital distribution lines recently,  tablets are set to be the de-facto medium for publishing industry. Gone will be the days when you have to wait for the newspaper delivery in the morning. all you will need to do is open the respective news application and enjoy interactive news reading with links to live/recorded video/audio.
  • Streaming Media: Most of the tablets coming out now have powerful hardware that can play 1080p videos on big screen TVs with ease. With internet speeds getting better and better, one can stream FullHD movies and TV shows to HDTV using tablets.
  • Classroom: This would be a huge relief to those kids who stuff so much into their school bags that it can be used for weightlifting. Gone will be those days. Instead of carrying a dozen textbooks and dozen notebooks, students can carry a single tablet filled with eBooks, making it a perfect eLearning companion

With the desktop market shrinking every year and laptop market crowded with big brands like Dell, HP, Toshiba, many brands had no other option but to search for new product lines. Best example here would be Samsung. Their laptop and netbook line never picked up due to the heavy competition from companies like Acer, Dell, HP, ASUS. Now, their Galaxy Tab is one of the early entrants in to the tabletPC market which is showing lot of promise. The only competition that they will have is from Apple till companies like Blackberry, Dell jump in. And by then, Samsung will have large market share, which they can keep by innovating new products.  The future looks bright for Tablets and only time will tell who will rule this new market.

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Maemo 5 Review Part 1 (home screen, contacts, texting, calling)


This is in continuation to the N900 review that I posted earlier (https://bandla.wordpress.com/2010/03/02/nokia-n900-first-impressions/). The history of Maemo 5 and N900 was explained in short in the earlier review. I will be diving straight into the review of Maemo 5 this time.

Home Screen and customization:

This is how the Maemo home screen looks like. Similar to Linux desktop, Maemo 5 has 4 home screens which are totally customizable. After some customization, here is how my Maemo home screens look like:

You can move around by swiping across the display (horizontally). These home screens are tied in panoramic view which means swiping right from Screen 1 takes you to Screen 4 and swiping left from Screen 4 takes you to Screen 1. And the action is very slick and fluid without any lag while swiping. Even when there are handful apps were running, there seems to be no lag here.Unlike Symbian home screen, there is no limit to what you can put on  Maemo Home screen.

On the top left corner, there is an icon that takes you to Symbian styled menus. At the centre of top bar, there is digital clock, Signal, battery level, online status indicator and Network provider name.

So, how to customize the home screen? A tap on the screen (anywhere) shows a gear style icon at the top

A tap on this icon opens up customization mode and top menu gives couple of customizations options.

home screen customization

Shown below is the snapshot of Home screen’s Top Menu.

These are the operations that you can do from Desktop Menu:

  1. Remove existing icons of apps from Home Screens. Each icon has “x” on top right corner clicking on which removes the icon from home screen.

    home screen customization

  2. Move icons around the four Home Screens. Holding an icon and dragging it horizontally across moves it to adjacent home screen. This is one action that is not as fluid as seen in iphone OS. Sometimes to move the icon across two screen, I had to drop the icon in adjacent home screen and move again.
  3. Add shortcuts for installed apps. As shown below, clicking on ‘add shortcut’ gives a list of all the apps that are not yet added to home screen. This means that once the app is added to home screen, it is removed from the ‘add shortcut’ menu.

    homescreen add shortcut

  4. Add contacts. Contact home screen icons can be used to call or text.
  5. Add bookmarks.
  6. Add Widgets. Not many widgets are available right now for Maemo 5. Weather and pedometer widgets are my favourites though and they work very well and show real time data very well. Do remember that having widgets that connect to data networks for real time info (RSS feed, weather apps etc) can reduce battery life.

    homescreen add widget

  7. Change Background and Themes
  8. Manage views. This options lets you select how many home screens you can have. Do remember that once you uncheck a home screen, the icons on that home screen will be cleaned up too. To be precise, those icons will not be moved to adjacent home screens. You need to add those icons again to any of the remaining home screens and enabling the home screen will not bring back the configuration done before deactivating the home screen. Instead, it gives you a clean home screen. So, in this mode, do be careful in what you are doing as a wrong touch can make you pull your hair out. The following snapshot shows the views setup window. A tap on tick mark disables the respective home screen on desktop.

One problem that I have noticed here is that while in customization mode, it is not possible to move across screens, which I would consider as a simple design flaw that can be fixed. To move to next home screen, I have come close customization mode and move to home screen and go to customization mode again. Now that the number of apps are minimal, this is not much of a pain but when I have a huge list of apps added to home screens, it can be a pain to do the reorganizing of apps. Also, a pop up asking whether to remove the icon from home screen when ‘x’ is clicked would have been a nice option to have. Reason is that sometimes, I used to click on ‘close app’ accidentally while selecting the icon to move.

While in Home screen, the top menu doesn’t show any drop down menu but instead shows a cluster of tiny icons, clicking on which you will get the options to change settings like Profile, Availability, Internet connection, Alarms etc and the following snapshot is self explanatory.

Clocks & Alarms: selecting this options shows the following menu from where you can add/edit alarms, set world clocks and change time/date and timezone. From this menu, you can add or remove alarms, set world clocks and change date/time for the phone. Extremely easy to use inteface which is catchy too.

Profile: Not much options here. All you can do is on/off vibrate, change profile to General or Silent.

Internet Connection: Swap between wifi networks and 3G/GSM networks

Availability: changing this will change your status in networks like Gtalk and skype. Also, you can enable GPS here to allow others to know where you are all the time as long as the option is enabled. But this can drain the battery real fast.

Conversations/Messaging:

This is one area where N900 really excels. Accounts from Ovi, Skype, Gtalk, Jabber and SIP can be integrated into messaging section.

Conversations are sorted based on names instead of timeline. This makes it easier to continue texting with buddies or to search for old texts. As you can see from above snapshot, in converstations mainpage, youc an see the threads going on and also tabs to send new SMS or new Instant Message (IM). The left column helps you identify whether the conversation is IM or SMS conversation. Yellow (letter style) icon denotes SMS based conversation and white color icon denotes IM based conversation. For IM conversations, right column shows the current status of your buddy (offline, online, idle), account type (gtalk,skype etc) and photo. The centre column lists buddy name and last message sent/received. All in all a very well though out design.

When in conversation mode, top menu lets you change settings, add accounts and delete conversations and send IM.To come out of the menu, just tap on greyed out area on the display and you will be back into conversations list.

Thanks to the qwerty keypad, large screen and intuitive conversations UI, Texting and IM has never been easier. The below two snapshots shows writing IM and writing text.

convesations with a buddy is sorted in timeline mode as shown below:

This makes it very easy to track your conversations (be it on IM or through SMS) very easy. Actually, it’s lot lot better when compared to Nokia’s own Symbian SMS center.

Accounts: This section allows you to control you accounts and add/remove accounts. Would have loved to see more accounts here like Yahoo and MSN. All you need to do is to select the type of account that you want to add and provide respective userid and password. And all your IM contacts from the account will be listed in IM contacts.

Following snapshots will  give a brief idea on how easy it is to setup IM account in conversations:

1) Select new from accounts menu

2) Select gtalk account from list of available account types

2) Add username and password and you are done setting up new account

The above snapshot shows contacts list in conversations. ‘0dummy1’ is phone contact on SIM and “devaraj N” is IM contact.

Contacts:

This is how the Contacts menu looks like.

Since I have not added pictures to any contacts, a blue icon is showing in far right column which will usually show the picture of contact. From the top menu,  you can do tasks like Adding or removing contacts, import and export contacts, add/remove groups etc. The contacts can be sorted based on Name or history of conversations and surprisingly, based on current online status :). If you have added Gtalk or other IM ids for the contact, the right column will show whether the contact is online in any of the networks or not. The amount of detail that can be added to contacts here is overwhelming.

To edit contact detail, click on the drop down menu showing contacts name and select Edit. There are many other options like Merge/delete/send contact.

The following is snapshot of Contact’s top menu from where you can add or remove contacts, group contacts, add your information, export/import contacts and change settings:

You can keep your detail like phone number etc under ‘my information’ which you can use to send a e-business card to your buddies

Adding a new contact is fairly simple and can be initiated from top menu. You can add the following fields to a contact:

  1. Name
  2. Mobile
  3. Wired Line
  4. Email, webpage
  5. Gtalk, Jabber, Ovi, SIP, Skype ids
  6. GPS pointed Address (home and work)
  7. Gender, nickname and job title
  8. Birthday
  9. Note

The basic add new contact windows gives you option to add contact name, mobile number and email but you can lot more info by clicking on “add field” tab and here are few snapshots of what fields are available to add:

Isn’t it a truckload of info that you can add to your contacts/buddies? You never need to look elsewhere to find ways to communicate with your buddies.

From the contact menu, you can click on communication history to see the complete history of texts/call/IMs done with this contact and continue a conversation or call from there.

When compared to older Symbian Contacts menu, the amount of options and customization in Maemo 5 is simply mind-blowing. Though there is whole lot of information that can be added to the contacts list, everything is so simple that it takes no time at all to get used to. However I search, I am not able to find any drawbacks or design flaws in this section.  There is no need to install different IM clients or apps to reach your buddy. Everything is put in one place and  hats off to the Maemo team for this. I would rate this 100/100!

Calling:

Clicking on “make a call” icon shows a list of recent calls (incoming,outgoing and missed) and two tabs to open Dial Pad or Contacts list.

This is how Maemo’s dial pad looks like:

Taskbar shows “Phone” top menu from where you can clear timers, calls and set accelerometer settings for Call section and let add accounts like Gtalk and Skype for VoIP dialing.

In the Dial Pad, you can select whether you want the call type to be a Skype/gtalk call or a Cellular call. Can’t stop saying this again and again but integrating social networking and VoIP wherever possible is a really good option to have in Dial Page.

One surprise here is that selecting a contact shows you option to either call using GSM network or using VoIP (skype).

This is how the incall windows looks like and as usual, the options are pretty simple. loudspeaker on/off, mic mute, dial pad and end the call. The top menu “call” lets you initiate a new call or merge calls.

To be Continued … (app manager, browser, camera, multitasking, calendar, media player, photo manager, conclusion).

Nokia N900 First Impressions


Before I start the review, would like the thank WOMWorld for sending the device for a two week trial. It has been an amazing first week using this device.

WOMWorld: http://www.womworld.com/nokia/

A peek into history:

It would be surprising for some if I say that N900 is not the first of it’s kind from Nokia. N900 was more of evolution from a series of devices that were released by Nokia since 2006. These devices were more popularly known as MID (Mobile Internet Devices) and known as Nokia’s Internet Tablet.

N770:

This was the first ever internet tablet (MID) released by Nokia in November 2006. Powered by TI OMAP 1710 252MHz processor and 64MB of RAM, 128MB Flash memory, this device had a 4.13″ (800×480 px) touchscreen display and connects using Wifi. Also, supported bluetooth and MMC cards for memory expansion. This was the first device from Nokia running Maemo OS and was priced 360$ at release.

N800:

The second Internet Tablet from Nokia, powered by 400MHz OMAP 2420 processor. Had 128 MiB of RAM and 256 MiB of flash memory. Display was 4.1″ touch display  (800×480 px at 225 ppi). Being an Internet Tablet, N800 needed wifi to connect to network. Also supported USB and bluetooth. Ran Nokia Internet OS2007 and priced at 399$ during release.

N810 and N810 Wi-Max edition:

The third and most probably last of the wifi Internet Tablet from Nokia is powered by 400MHz OMAP 2420 processor. Had 128 MiB of RAM and 256 MiB of flash memory. Display was 4.1″ touch display  (800×480 px at 225 ppi). Being an Internet Tablet, N800 needed wifi to connect to network. Also supported USB and bluetooth. Ran Maemo OS 4 and priced at 399$ during release. The next iteration was N810 Wi-max edition that was able to use Wi-Max networks.

One major problem with all these three devices was that, being internet devices, relied heavily on Wi-fi to connect to internet and if I am correct, wi-fi was not a popular choice for network until 2009. These MIDs were ahead of time. Still, when in public, the most preferred way to connect to internet is using 3G or EDGE network.

Symbian OS:

Symbian has been part of Nokia family for more than a decade, since 1998 to be precise. Though it was a great OS, since the dawn of touchscreen smartphones, Symbian is fast losing it’s grip on smartphone OS market. The reason is simple. Symbian is designed to work on non-touch devices and though Nokia released Symbian S60 5th edition, it was never as fluid and intuitive as it’s competition.

Maemo 5:

Maemo is Debian Linux based smartphone OS developed by Nokia for its Internet Tablets and later evolved into smarphone OS. The first version of Maemo was OS2005 and later versions were OS2006, OS2007, OS2008, Maemo 5. I will discuss more on Maemo 5 later.

Now let’s kick into the actual part.

N900:

N900 is top of the line N-series device released by Nokia in November 2009. This is the first Nokia Smartphone that moved from Symbian. Current version runs Maemo 5. It was a good move by Nokia to evolve it’s Internet Tablet range into a full fledged smartphone.

Specification:

Display
  • 3.5 inch touch-sensitive widescreen display
  • 800 × 480 pixel resolution
Keys and input method
  • Full QWERTY tactile keyboard
  • Full QWERTY onscreen keyboard
Processor and 3D accelerator

TI OMAP 3430: ARM Cortex-A8 600 MHz, PowerVR SGX with OpenGL ES 2.0 support

Memory

Up to 1GB of application memory (256 MB RAM, 768 MB virtual memory)

Size and weight
Volume:
Approx 113cc
Dimensions:
110.9 × 59.8 × 18 (19.55 at thickest part) mm
Weight:
Approx 181g
Mass memory
  • 32 GB internal storage
  • Store up to 7000 MP3 songs or 40 hours of high-quality video
  • Up to 16 GB of additional storage with an external microSD card
Connectivity
  • 3.5mm AV connector
  • TV out (PAL/NTSC) with Nokia Video Connectivity Cable
  • Micro-USB connector, High-Speed USB 2.0
  • Bluetooth v2.1 including support for stereo headsets
  • Integrated FM transmitter
  • Integrated GPS with A-GPS
GPS
  • Integrated GPS, Assisted-GPS, and Cell-based receivers
  • Pre-loaded Ovi Maps application
  • Automatic geotagging
Camera
  • 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
Video
  • 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
  • FR, EFR, WCDMA, and GSM AMR
Operating system

Maemo 5 software on Linux

Web browsing
  • Maemo browser powered by Mozilla technology
  • Adobe Flash™ 9.4 support
  • Full screen browsing
Applications
  • Maemo Browser
  • Phone
  • Conversations
  • Contacts
  • Camera
  • Photos
  • Media player
  • Email
  • Calendar
  • Ovi Maps
  • Clock
  • Notes
  • Calculator
  • PDF reader
  • File manager
  • RSS reader
  • Sketch
  • Games
  • Widgets
  • Application manager for downloads
Gaming
  • Bounce
  • Chess
  • Mahjong
Battery

BL-5J 1320mAh

Color

Black

What’s in the package:

Phone

USB charger. It is good to see that N900 can charge through USB.You can use either the USB cable (connecting to PC/laptop) or the bundled charger to charge N900.

If you want to use your regular Nokia charger, an adapter is included in the package that connects older chargers to phone’s USB socket.

TV-Out cable

3.5mm in–ear headset

USB Cable

naresh cam 267

BL-5J battery. This is the same battery found in 5800XM and is powerful enough for long run.

naresh cam 227

Three pairs of earbuds

Soft cloth for cleaning

Manual

Design:

Face of N900 is dominated by 3.5” 16M color display

Above the display, there is notification LED, proximity sensor, front facing VGA camera for video calling and earpiece. The phone has a glossy metallic border that attracts lot of fingerprints and is prone to scratches.

The display slides up to reveal a three row qwerty keypad.

N900 Top

The top of the design has volume rocker, power on, camera buttons along with IR port.

N900 bottom

Bottom of the device is clean. No ports or keys.

N900 right

Right side of the device is fully loaded. Nokia has crammed in a right speaker, lock/unlock slider, 3.5mm jack, microphone and slot for stylus.

There is one problem here. In my opinion, the 3.5mm port is awkwardly placed on the right side. Given that this device is mostly used in landscape mode, it is very difficult to hold the device if I connect headphones will long 3.5mm jack. It tends to get in the way of my index and middle fingers, making it very uncomfortable to use. would’ve been lot better if 3.5mm port was placed at the top of the device. between power and camera keys.

N900 left

There is left speaker and mircoUSB port on the left side.

N900 rear 1

At the rear, there is a 5mp camera with sliding lens cover and a kickstand. Overall the design is pretty simple.

How the device feels in hand:

Blocky, very very blocky. And sturdy, rock solid. I felt that the device is heavier and thicker than it should be. Be it in pocket or in hand, I can feel the weight, which I am not comfortable with. Main reason for the blocky design would be the huge display and slider qwerty keypad. Still, it would’ve been much better if the phone was 5mm thinner at least. But then once I started using the phone, I forgot about the weight, bulky/blocky design. There is something in this phone that makes me use it for everything.

Display:

The 3.5” 16M color display supporting 800×480 pixels is a screamer. This is one of the best displays that I have seen in high end mobiles and it trumps my 5800XM’s display by a wide margin. Movie watching is a real pleasure on this phone. The contrast and brightness levels were excellent. There was no problem is using the phone outdoors in bright sunlight. The outdoor visibility is impressive and Equally impressive is the way that this phone displays photos. Full points for the display quality. The real fun is when it is dark. The display looks so good in dark that I don’t want to turn the lights back on!<<picture with phone playing videos>>

Touch:

Nokia opted for resistive touch instead of superior capacitive touch in N900. Lack of capacitive touch ( and multi touch) shows while swiping through home screens and while using a browser. It’s much easier to do pinch than to draw circles on screen to zoom in/out. I do hope that Nokia goes for capacitive touch in N900’s successor.

When compared to other resistive touch phones, N900’s touch accuracy and response is much better, especially when compared to that of 5800XM. The need for stylus is much less thanks to superior touch response and qwerty keypad.

Keypad:

There are two ways one can use the keypad. one is the slider qwerty and the other is touch keypad. Touch keypad is disabled by default and need to be enabled to use. I will be concentrating on the qwerty slider keypad as I never really liked the onscreen keypad of N900.

Keypad left

keypad right

They keypad is three row qwerty slider with white backlight. Slider mechanism is very smooth and doesn’t feel loose or jerky. Also, do note that the slider does not have tilt like that in N97. The backlighting was uniform and easy on eyes.

Though the keys are thin, they are well placed and easy to type. It would have been great if the keypad had four rows as the slider can go much farther out. As a result, I had to regularly use Shift and Fn keys to type special characters and numbers. double tapping Fn key locks the keypad in function keys mode and only the special characters/numbers engraved in blue will be active. Another click on Fn key sets the default mode. Same is the case with “Shift” key which enables keypad to use keys “ ; “ “ :” and uppercase characters to be used instead of “.” “,” and lower case.

Overall experience with the qwerty is pleasing and earns my thumbs up!

Audio features/quality:

The included in-ear buds suck. Worse thing is that there is no remote with audio controls like the one bundled with 5800XM. And the earbuds are very poorly designed and they never tend to stay intact. If you get this phone, make sure that you dump the bundled earphones and get better ones. I don’t really care about the bundled earphones as those who purchase this phone will be least interested in them and always stick to 3rd party earphones/headphones. For those who are interested in using bundled earphones, well, you are going to have a really hard time using them 🙂

The audio output, when Sennhieser CX180 was used, is excellent and definitely among the best in smartphones. And it’s certainly better than that in 5800XM but falls a bit short of PMPs audio quality. Tried various genres like Indi pop, bollywood music, Indian classics, pop, rock and audio output was pretty flat and exactly the way I wanted it to be. With 32Gb onboard and such an amazing audio quality, this phone will be a hit in music centric buyers.

Add to that the option to have FM Transmitter, which means you start playing songs, turn on the FM transmitter and have others enjoy your pesonal FM radio station 🙂

Video features/quality:

Thanks to the high resolution display, watching movies on this was a pleasure. The colors were vivid and treat to watch. Thanks to Maemo, I was able to get DivX support by installing a simple plugin and also, I have option to install linux based media players like mplayer and Mediabox media centre. UI and applications part will be covered later in detail. The kickstand helps while watching videos. As shown in the pictures below, N900 can be rested at an angle using the kickstand so that you need not hold the device in hands all the while video is playing.

Connectivity:

This is another area where the phone excels. Wi-Fi, 3G, EDGE, GPRS, Bluetooth, IR. You name it, N900 has it. This is one thing that was lacking in Nokia MIDs. Thanks to the wide range of connectivity options, you can always be connected to friends and family. And switching between networks is very easy as shown in the picture below.

Al I need to do is click on the icon next to time (showing network status/signal), and tap on “Internet Connection” tab. This will list available wireless networks (wifi, EDGE etc) and once the right network is picked and password entered, you are in.Like most other Nokia phones, N900 signal reception is top notch. After all it’s a Nokia phone and this is what Nokia does best. Even in  an elevator and in basement, the signal strength was pretty good and never died.

Performance:

Though the Cortex A8 is a powerful processor, there is a lag that happens when doing multitasking. Sometimes, I felt that a snapdragon or A9 would’ve been much better for Maemo 5. This lag happens especially when playing music and switching to/fro web browser and media player. Cortex A8 and 1Gb of memory should be good enough for decent multitasking that does not include applications that require high processing power.

The real hero here is Maemo 5 and it is the UI that gives breathtaking experience. A detailed review on Maemo 5 will be posted soon.

To be continued.. (User Interface, camera, maps and more)

Before I start the review, would like the thank WOMWorld for sending the device for a two week trial. It has been an amazing first week using a device that I may not be able to purchase ever.

WOMWorld: http://www.womworld.com/nokia/

A peek into history:

It would be surprising for some if I say that N900 is not the first of it’s kind from Nokia. N900 was more of evolution from a series of devices that were released by Nokia since 2006. These devices were more popularly known as MID (Mobile Internet Devices) and known as Nokia’s Internet Tablet.

N770:

This was the first ever internet tablet (MID) released by Nokia in November 2006. Powered by TI OMAP 1710 252MHz processor and 64MB of RAM, 128MB Flash memory, this device had a 4.13″ (800×480 px) touchscreen display and connects using Wifi. Also, supported bluetooth and MMC cards for memory expansion. This was the first device from Nokia running Maemo OS and was priced 360$ at release.

N800:

The second Internet Tablet from Nokia, powered by 400MHz OMAP 2420 processor. Had 128 MB of RAM and 256 MB of flash memory. Display was 4.1″ touch display  (800×480 px at 225 ppi). Being an Internet Tablet, N800 needed wifi to connect to network. Also supported USB and bluetooth. Ran Nokia Internet OS2007 and priced at 399$ during release.

N810 and N810 Wi-Max edition:

The third and most probably last of the wifi Internet Tablet from Nokia is powered by 400MHz OMAP 2420 processor. Had 128 MiB of RAM and 256 MiB of flash memory. Display was 4.1″ touch display  (800×480 px at 225 ppi). Being an Internet Tablet, N800 needed Wi-FI to connect to network. Also supported USB and bluetooth. Ran Maemo OS 4 and priced at 399$ during release. The next iteration was N810 wi-max edition that was able to use Wi-Max networks.

One major problem with all these three devices was that, being internet devices, relied heavily on Wi-fi to connect to internet and if I am correct, wi-fi was not a popular choice for network until 2009. These MIDs were ahead of time. Still, when in public, the most preferred way to connect to internet is using 3G or EDGE network.

Symbian OS:

Symbian has been part of Nokia family for more than a decade, since 1998 to be precise. Though it was a great OS, since the dawn of touchscreen smartphones, Symbian is fast losing it’s grip on smartphone OS market. The reason is simple. Symbian is designed to work on non-touch devices and though Nokia released Symbian S60 5th edition, it was never as fluid and intuitive as it’s competition.

Maemo 5:

Maemo is Debian Linux based smartphone OS developed by Nokia for its Internet Tablets and later evolved into smarphone OS. The first version of Maemo was OS2005 and later versions were OS2006, OS2007, OS2008, Maemo 5. I will discuss more on Maemo 5 later.

N900:

N900 is top of the line N-series device released by Nokia in November 2009. This is the first Nokia Smartphone that moved from Symbian. Current version runs Maemo 5. It was a good move by Nokia to evolve it’s Internet Tablet range into a full fledged smartphone.

Specification:

Display
  • 3.5 inch touch-sensitive widescreen display
  • 800 × 480 pixel resolution
Keys and input method
  • Full QWERTY tactile keyboard
  • Full QWERTY onscreen keyboard
Processor and 3D accelerator

TI OMAP 3430: ARM Cortex-A8 600 MHz, PowerVR SGX with OpenGL ES 2.0 support

Memory

Up to 1GB of application memory (256 MB RAM, 768 MB virtual memory)

Size and weight
Volume:
Approx 113cc
Dimensions:
110.9 × 59.8 × 18 (19.55 at thickest part) mm
Weight:
Approx 181g
Mass memory
  • 32 GB internal storage
  • Store up to 7000 MP3 songs or 40 hours of high-quality video
  • Up to 16 GB of additional storage with an external microSD card
Connectivity
  • 3.5mm AV connector
  • TV out (PAL/NTSC) with Nokia Video Connectivity Cable
  • Micro-USB connector, High-Speed USB 2.0
  • Bluetooth v2.1 including support for stereo headsets
  • Integrated FM transmitter
  • Integrated GPS with A-GPS
GPS
  • Integrated GPS, Assisted-GPS, and Cell-based receivers
  • Pre-loaded Ovi Maps application
  • Automatic geotagging
Camera
  • 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
Video
  • 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
  • FR, EFR, WCDMA, and GSM AMR
Operating system

Maemo 5 software on Linux

Web browsing
  • Maemo browser powered by Mozilla technology
  • Adobe Flash™ 9.4 support
  • Full screen browsing
Applications
  • Maemo Browser
  • Phone
  • Conversations
  • Contacts
  • Camera
  • Photos
  • Media player
  • Email
  • Calendar
  • Ovi Maps
  • Clock
  • Notes
  • Calculator
  • PDF reader
  • File manager
  • RSS reader
  • Sketch
  • Games
  • Widgets
  • Application manager for downloads
Gaming
  • Bounce
  • Chess
  • Mahjong
Battery

BL-5J 1320mAh

Color

Black

What’s in the box
  • Nokia N900
  • Nokia Battery (BL-5J)
  • Nokia High Efficiency Charger (AC-10)
  • Nokia Stereo Headset (WH-205)
  • Video out cable (CA-75U)
  • Nokia charger adaptor (CA-146C)
  • Cleaning cloth

The Retail package:

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What’s in the package:

Phone

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USB charger: It is good to see that N900 can charge through USB.You can use either the USB cable (connecting to PC/laptop) or the bundled charger to charge N900.

If you want to use your regular Nokia charger, an adapter is included in the package that connects older chargers to phone’s USB socket.

TV-Out cable

3.5mm in–ear headset

USB Cable

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BL-5J battery. This is the same battery found in 5800XM and is powerful enough for long run.

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Three pairs of earbuds

Soft cloth for cleaning

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Manual

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Design:

Face of N900 is dominated by 3.5” 16M color display

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Above the display, there is notification LED, proximity sensor, front facing VGA camera for video calling and earpiece. The phone has a glossy metallic border that attracts lot of fingerprints and is prone to scratches.

The display slides up to reveal a three row qwerty keypad.

N900 Top

The top of the design has volume rocker, power on, camera buttons along with IR port.

N900 bottom

Bottom of the device is clean. No ports or keys.

N900 right

Right side of the device is fully loaded. Nokia has crammed in a right speaker, lock/unlock slider, 3.5mm jack, microphone and slot for stylus.

There is one problem here. In my opinion, the 3.5mm port is awkwardly placed on the right side. Given that this device is mostly used in landscape mode, it is very difficult to hold the device if I connect headphones will long 3.5mm jack. It tends to get in the way of my index and middle fingers, making it very uncomfortable to use. would’ve been lot better if 3.5mm port was placed at the top of the device. between power and camera keys.

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N900 left

There is left speaker and mircoUSB port on the left side of N900.

N900 rear 1

At the rear, there is a 5mp camera with sliding lens cover and a kickstand. Overall the design is pretty simple.

How the device feels in hand:

Blocky, very very blocky. And sturdy, rock solid. I felt that the device is heavier and thicker than it should be. Be it in pocket or in hand, I can feel the weight, which I am not comfortable with. Main reason for the blocky design would be the huge display and slider qwerty keypad. Still, it would’ve been much better if the phone was 5mm thinner at least. But then once I started using the phone, I forgot about the weight, bulky/blocky design. There is something in this phone that makes me use it for everything.

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Display:

The 3.5” 16M color display supporting 800×480 pixels is a screamer. This is one of the best displays that I have seen in high end mobiles and it trumps my 5800XM’s display by a wide margin. Movie watching is a real pleasure on this phone. The contrast and brightness levels were excellent. There was no problem is using the phone outdoors in bright sunlight. The outdoor visibility is impressive and Equally impressive is the way that this phone displays photos. Full points for the display quality. The real fun is when it is dark. The display looks so good in dark that I don’t want to turn the lights back on!

Touch:

Nokia opted for resistive touch instead of superior capacitive touch in N900. Lack of capacitive touch ( and multi touch) shows while swiping through home screens and while using a browser. It’s much easier to do pinch than to draw circles on screen to zoom in/out. I do hope that Nokia goes for capacitive touch in N900’s successor.

When compared to other resistive touch phones, N900’s touch accuracy and response is much better, especially when compared to that of 5800XM. The need for stylus is much less thanks to superior touch response and qwerty keypad.

Keypad:

There are two ways one can use the keypad. one is the slider qwerty and the other is touch keypad. Touch keypad is disabled by default and need to be enabled to use. I will be concentrating on the qwerty slider keypad as I never really liked the onscreen keypad of N900. naresh cam 244

Keypad left keypad right

They keypad is three row qwerty slider with white backlight. Slider mechanism is very smooth and doesn’t feel loose or jerky. Also, do note that the slider does not have tilt like that in N97. The backlighting is uniform and easy on eyes.

IMG_2683

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Though the keys are thin, they are well placed and easy to type. It would have been great if the keypad had four rows as the slider can go much farther out. As a result, I had to regularly use Shift and Fn keys to type special characters and numbers. double tapping Fn key locks the keypad in function keys mode and only the special characters/numbers engraved in blue will be active. Another click on Fn key sets the default mode. Same is the case with “Shift” key which enables keypad to use keys “ ; “ “ :” and uppercase characters to be used instead of “.” “,” and lower case.

Overall experience with the qwerty is pleasing and earns my thumbs up!

Audio features/quality:

The included in-ear buds suck. Worse thing is that there is no remote with audio controls like the one bundled with 5800XM. And the earbuds are very poorly designed and they never tend to stay intact. If you get this phone, make sure that you dump the bundled earphones and get better ones. I don’t really care about the bundled earphones as those who purchase this phone will be least interested in them and always stick to 3rd party earphones/headphones. For those who are interested in using bundled earphones, well, you are going to have a really hard time using them 🙂

The audio output, when Sennhieser CX180 was used, is excellent and definitely among the best in smartphones. And it’s certainly better than that in 5800XM but falls a bit short of PMPs audio quality. Tried various genres like Indi pop, bollywood music, Indian classics, pop, rock and audio output was pretty flat and exactly the way I wanted it to be. With 32Gb onboard and such an amazing audio quality, this phone will be a hit in music centric buyers.

Add to that the option to have FM Transmitter, which means you start playing songs, turn on the FM transmitter and have others enjoy your pesonal FM radio station 🙂

Video features/quality:

Thanks to the high resolution display, watching movies on this was a pleasure. The colors were vivid and treat to watch. Thanks to Maemo, I was able to get DivX support by installing a simple plugin and also, I have option to install linux based media players like mplayer and Mediabox media centre. UI and applications part will be covered later in detail. The kickstand helps while watching videos. As shown in the pictures below, N900 can be rested at an angle using the kickstand so that you need not hold the device in hands all the while video is playing.

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Connectivity:

This is another area where the phone excels. Wi-Fi, 3G, EDGE, GPRS, Bluetooth, IR. You name it, N900 has it. This is one thing that was lacking in Nokia MIDs. Thanks to the wide range of connectivity options, you can always be connected to friends and family. And switching between networks is very easy as shown in the picture below.

Al I need to do is click on the icon next to time (showing network status/signal), and tap on “Internet Connection” tab. This will list available wireless networks (wifi, EDGE etc) and once the right network is picked and password entered, you are in.

Screenshot-20100306-163045 Screenshot-20100306-203657 Screenshot-20100306-203650

Like most other Nokia phones, N900 signal reception is top notch. After all it’s a Nokia phone and this is what Nokia does best. Even in  an elevator and in basement, the signal strength was pretty good and never died.

Performance:

Though the Cortex A8 is a powerful processor, there is a lag that happens when doing multitasking. Sometimes, I felt that a snapdragon or A9 would’ve been much better for Maemo 5. This lag happens especially when playing music and switching to/fro web browser and media player. Cortex A8 and 1Gb of memory should be good enough for decent multitasking that does not include applications that require high processing power.

The real hero here is Maemo 5 and the hardware is nothing special when compared to that in other phones. Stay tuned for a detailed review on Maemo 5 soon.

To be continued.. (User Interface, camera, maps and more)

Tech-Com HD LCD SSD-TV-724 TV Tuner review


Recently, I decided to move to linux. However I tried, I was not able to get TV to work on linux (using internet PCI tv tuner). And since I don’t want to keep Windows just for TV watching, thought of purchasing a budget TV tuner box that I can connect to LCD and that support widescreen output.

I went to a local dealer and first purchased Zippys TV Tuner box which was pathetic with really bad quality and the quality was so bad that I returned it immediately. Here are few pictures of this card:

Next I went for Tech-Com SSD-TV-724 TV as the dealer promised that he will take back this card if it does not work well.

Paid 1500 rupees for this card, which I think it a bit high but there was not many options here.

Features:

  • Full channel scan, support PAL-DK/I or PAL-BG/I or NTSC system of cableTV and air TV
  • Output resolution up to: (4:3) 800*600*60Hz, 800*600*75Hz, 1024*768*60Hz, 1024*768*75Hz, 1280*1024*60Hz, 1280*1024*75Hz (16:9) 1280*720*60Hz, 1280*720*75Hz, 1600*900*60Hz (16:10) 1440*900*60Hz, 1440*900*75Hz, 1680*1050*60Hz
  • Preview all Programs in 4,9 or 16 pictures
  • Picture in picture function, display the picture of TV program on the computer desktop
  • Full functional remote control, OSD dispalying and very convenient operating with VIDEO, S-VIDEO interfaces, capable of connecting with camera, VCD or TV game console
  •  Support Video Out Function 

Package:

 

 Package Content:

Tuner box:

 

S-Video to composite connector (input):

 

Remote:

 

VGA to S-Video connector (input):

 

3.5mm audio connector:

 

Stand for Tuner box:

 

Ports on Tuner:

 

  1. Power input (DC, 5V)
  2. VGA Out
  3. S-Video In (using S-video to VGA cable from PC)
  4. Audio out
  5. Line In
  6. S-Video Out/in (AV input from DVD/VCD player or AV output to LCD or S-Video input from DVD/VCD player)
  7. Audio In
  8. Analogue TV In (to connect antenna cable)
Menu:

 

The navigation menu is on the top of the box. With four navidation keys, one menu key and one power key, it was very easy to use.
How to use with digital TV and LCD:

 

As shown in the above pic, I have used S-Video to Composite connector for Video and VGA connector to connect to LCD. Audio cable is connected to Aux-In of MX-5021 and so is not visible in this picture.
Remote:
As is the case with most of the entry level Tuners, the remote is very basic and works with two AAA batteries. Couldn’t test this remote more as I am using satellite TV and all I need to use the remote for is to turn on the tuner card.
OSD:
On Screen Menu too was easy to use. Here are few pics of the same:

 

 

 

 

Thanks to the easy OSD, I was able to setup Video input settings and display quality in a matter of minutes.
Performance:
Since this is a budget TV Tuner box, I didn’t expect much from this but the picture quality is just okay.

 

 

At default setting, video looks very dull and I have to increase brightness, contrast and sharpness to get some decent color quality. One problem with this card is that the card always turns on in TV mode and have to set to AV mode.
Rating:
Build: 6/10
Features: 8/10
Ease of use: 8/10
Performance: 6/10
VFM: 7/10
Overall: 7/10
Conclusion:
If your budget is strictly inside 1500 rupees, this is a very good buy. Models from brands like Avermedia, Leadtek  are available above 2k price range and offer much better quality.

Acer 5738z review


Last weekend, my friend wanted to purchase a new laptop and his requirement was:

•Budget: 30k maximum
•Usage: internet surfing, SAS and movie playback
•Brand preference: Dell, Lenovo and Acer
•Display size: at the max 15.6”
•HDD: the more the better
•RAM: DDR3
•Processor: No preference
•OS: no OS as he already has windows xp license to use.

The options that we had in mind were:
1) Acer Aspire 5738z
2) Lenovo G550-2958G7Qv
3) Dell Inspiron 15
4) Acer Aspire 5738G

While I stayed back at home going through different options, my friend went to stores like e-zone and Croma to check the build quality and usability of these models. After some thought, he decided to go for Acer 5738Z.

The payment was paid at Acer’s showroom at BDA Complex, HSR Layout, Bengalooru. And the delivery was promised to be done by 6pm the same day. He went to pick up the laptop at 6pm.
You can check the specifications of each of these models from the respective companies website.

For now, I will be concentrating on Acer Aspire 5738. First the specifications for the laptop:

Specifications:
• Intel® Pentium® dual-core mobile processor T4200 with up to 1 MB L2 Cache, supporting Intel® 64 architecture
• Mobile Intel® GL40 Express Chipset
• 3GB DDR3 RAM
• 320 GB HDD S-ATA hard disc drive
• 8X DVD-Super Multi double-layer drive
• 5-in-1 card reader
• 15.6″ HD 1366 x 768 pixel resolution, high-brightness (220-nit) Acer CineCrystal™ LED-backlit TFT LCD, supporting simultaneous multi-window viewing via Acer GridVista™
• Intel® Graphics Media Accelerator 4500M (Intel® GMA 4500M) with up to 1759 MB of Intel® Dynamic Video Memory Technology 5.0 (64 MB of dedicated video memory, up to 1695 MB of shared system memory*), supporting Microsoft® DirectX® 10
• Dolby®-optimized surround sound system with two built-in stereo speakers
• Acer InviLink™ 802.11b/g Wi-Fi CERTIFIED® network connection, supporting Acer SignalUp™ wireless technology
• 56K ITU V.92 modem with PTT approval; Wake-on-Ring ready
• Gigabit Ethernet; Wake-on-LAN ready
• Bluetooth® 2.0+EDR (Enhanced Data Rate)
• 4x USB 2.0 ports
• HDMI™ port with HDCP support
• 1x external display (VGA) port
• 1x Headphone/speaker/line-out jack with S/PDIF support
• 1x Microphone-in jack
• 1x Line-in jack
• 1x Modem (RJ-11) port
• 1x Ethernet (RJ-45) port
• 1x DC-in jack for AC adapter
• 48.8 W (6-cell) Li-ion battery pack
• 103-/104-/107-key keyboard, with inverted “T” cursor layout, 1.8 mm (minimum) key travel
• Multi-gesture touchpad pointing device, supporting:
• Circular-motion scrolling
• Pinch-action zoom
• Page flip
• Acer Bio-Protection fingerprint reader
• Easy-launch keys: Acer Backup, WLAN, volume up/down, touchpad
• 383 (W) x 250 (D) x 26/37 (H) mm (15.1 x 9.9 x 1.03/1.5 inches)
• 2.8 kg (6.16 lbs.) with 6-cell battery pack
• One-year International Travellers Warranty (ITW)

Design:

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5738z comes with Acer gemstone style dark blue glossy lid which is a fingerprint magnet. My friend decided to keep the protective cover for some more time as it doesn’t obstruct anything. At the center is Acer logo. The top view definitely looks good, pretty solid for a 27k laptop.

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The left side has power connector, LAN, HDMI, VGA, two USB, 3 audio ports (line in, line out, S/PDIF).

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Front side is very clean with only the latch to open the lid.Also the bottom part of the laptop curves up making the laptop look thinner.

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On the right side, we have a kensington lock port, RJ-45, optical drive and two USB drives.

Keypad and touchpad:

This is where 5738z really shines. Thanks to a 16:9, the laptop had to be extra wide and Acer cleverly managed to put in a full sized keypad.

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yes, this one comes with Num Pad too. The keys are flat and are very comfortable to type. The only downside with the keypad is really really tiny arrow keys.

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There are few extra keys:
1) turn wi-fi on/off
2) turn bluetooth on/off
3) volume rocker
4) Low power mode
5) one key am not sure what it does.

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The power on/off button looks really cool with cool blue led strip.

I have mixed feelings about the touch pad. It is not clear whether the touchpad will accept gestures or not but it certainly is not good. The main problem with touchpad is that it is recessed into the keypad and then ever you are typing, your palm goes on to the touchpad and suddenly you will be typing somewhere else in the window. This is very frustrating. All that you can do is click on the “touchpad off” button whenever you are going to type and then turn it back on once the typing is over. Also, the touchpad button are totally pathetic. You need to press them really hard and it can be good exercise to your fingers.

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My suggestion here is to turn off touchpad completely and use a mouse. That will keep you away from constant frustration.

Few photos of the keypad for your reference:

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Build quality:

At first, by the looks, it looked like this laptop is made out of cheap platic but the build quality is good, especially the frame that supports LCD. Even when I press the side frame, there is no disturbance on the LCD. Good to see Acer going for matte palm rest unlike many manufacturers going for glossy and shiny palm rest. This way, we can keep the palmrest less dirty and also, the build quality is so strong that you fell like you are putting your palm on a strong solid surface and it doesn’t feel like plastic.
The only problem here being the quality of the extra button as I said earlier in the review.

Display:

This laptop comes with a 15.6″ display and has 16:9 aspect ratio. Acer says that this is LED backlit display but I do not see any difference between this and Dell Inspiron 1520’s CFL backlit display. Display looks gorgeous, especially when watching movies. No more black bars.
The integrated webcam for this model is “Acer Crystal Eye” webcam. Acer says that this webcam is optmized for night use. I didn’t get time to test this and I don’t think it will be just like those entry level webcams.

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At an odd angle, the display looks darker. When kept beside Dell Inspiron 1520, the display of 5738z looks smaller but is significantly wider due to the 16:9 aspect ratio.

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Wireless:

This laptop has 802.11 b/g/n wifi and bluetooth capability. It’s is really good to see 802.11N in a sub 30k laptop. The problem though is that the wireless antenna’s strength is a bit weak. We were sitting in bed room and were using Dell Inspiron, Acer 4520 and this laptop and there was regular packet loss and slowness on this and Inspiron and 4520 never had any issue with signal strenght and no packet loss.

Performance:

superPi was the only test that I could run for now on this laptop

SuperPI:

1M 27.828
2M 1.10.110

I felt that these are pretty okay values for a Pentium dual core based laptop that is for non-gaming and non-AV-editing usage.

Operating System:

The laptop came with some unknown distribution of linux that was developed in Taiwan. It couldn’t even boot into GUI mode neither could it get to Shell. boot up was stuck at some NFS errors. So, we quickly erased the HDD using fdisk 🙂

Windows XP installation was very fast and the OS too is pretty fast. Soon, we will try the windows 7 RC to check compatibility and driver stability.

Conclusion:

Thought there were few issues with this laptop, overall it’s a true VFM laptop and is highly recommended for those who are looking for sub 30k laptop that is only used for multimedia and internet use.

Features: 7/10
Build: 7/10
display: 7/10
performance: 6/10
wireless: 5/10
Value: 9/10

Note: If you want to install windows XP, you have to change the SATA HDD mode to IDE from AHCI or else winxp will give BSOD during installation