Saturday, May 7, 2016

Sony HDR-CX455 HANDYCAM Review

I own several of Sony's previous video cameras, and have been happy with their performance over the years.  My only complaint now has been the 8mm tape and battery standards used then.

My more modern photo cameras, and even my phone can shoot video. Their form factors, internal microphones, and the ergonomics of holding them steady makes them less than ideal (in my opinion) for shooting more than a quick casual video. Rarely do phones or photo cameras come with built-in image stabilization.

A student of mine mentioned that his current digital camera could connect via wifi to his phone for transferring photos he'd shot. This intrigued me to research this current connectivity trend.

Enter the Sony HDR-CX455 Video camera:

This camera is much smaller and lighter than my previous Analog and Digital-8 cameras from Sony, The CX455 weighs 8.55oz with battery and media card installed.  My Digital-8 camera weighs 34.2oz with tape and battery installed. The CX455 is 1/4 the weight of the older Digital-8! The CX455 has a larger/better view screen, runs longer on a battery charge, has better optics, and has many modern features that weren't conceived of 10 years ago.

I can control the CX455 over WiFi from the touch screen on my Sony Tablet. Many other phones and tablets are also supported.  I can see on my tablet what the camera lens sees.  I can zoom in and out from the tablet. I can start and stop video recording from the tablet, and I can take digital photos of what the camera sees.  Anything the camera records will transfer to the tablet.  Although as far as I can tell the tablet application is limited to those controls, the camera itself has many more features.

For those wanting the technical details, these specs are straight from Sony:

  • 3.0" LCD (Touch panel), Wi-Fi/NFC, 8GB memory internal memory, Dual Video Format Recording
  • ZEISS Lens (26.8mm), 30x optical zoom, 60x Clear Image Zoom
  • Full HD with XAVC-S, 9.2MP, Exmor R sensor, Optical steady shot
  • Sony NP-FV50 battery included.  Sony FV70/FV100 batteries are optional for longer recording time between charges. There are also compatible batteries made by other companies that can power this camera. 
  • It has a short on-board USB cable, and comes with a USB extension cable.
  • It also comes with a micro HDMI to HDMI cable for sending recorded content to a connected HDTV. 
  • Dimensions: 3.5 x 4.72 x 6.3 inches
  • microSD card slot for greater recording capacity. 

The optical steady shot feature is excellent at keeping the video steady even when zoomed out all the way (30x). .  Dual format recording means it can record a 1080p version as well as a lower resolution version of the same video at the same time. The lower resolution version is more compressed/compact and intended for posting to the web. You can turn OFF dual recording. 

This camera has time lapse recording capability, but NOT slow motion.

In use I am surprised and impressed by how lightweight this camera is. Flipping out the touch screen turns the camera ON, but you can turn the camera OFF using a button on the camera body. The screen rotates up or down, and even flips to forward facing.  The screen image flips when the screen itself is flipped. 

If you have a phone or tablet that can create a wifi hotspot, then several Sony cameras including the CX455 can be controlled at the same time from that phone or tablet.  I could not get my wifi-only tablet to work with the multi-camera feature, but I could get it to switch back and forth between two CX455s over WiFi. 

Layout of the main camera physical controls, and holding the camera are well thought-out.  The side strap is adjustable to fit most sizes of hands, though only for right-handed holding. The short USB cable hides and stores in the hand strap. 
The Record start/stop button is under your thumb. Wide angle/Zoom is a rocking lever on the top of the camera where my index finger naturally fell upon it. Zooming in and out is variable speed, depending on how far you rock the lever.  .A button for taking a still photo is in front of the zoom rocker, and harder to reach. All these features are duplicated by on-screen icons.
 Unfolding the screen will turn the camera ON.  It also reveals additional controls and ports. One hinged door covers a microphone input and headphone output jack.  Another hinged door reveals the HDMI output jack and the microSD card slot. A Power button, Playback button, and Talk button are next to a speaker hole array. 

On the strap side of the camera you'll find doors hiding a DC-in jack, and a Multi (micro-USB)  port.   
I have yet to shoot anything more than a few test videos and photos with my CX455.  My intent is to record myself using various woodworking tools as examples/demonstration for my college students. I'm pleased so far with the quality of the video and photos I've recorded so far. When I have a few with content worthy of posting on Youtube I'll add links to them here.  

Let me know if there is anything more specific you want to know about this camera from Sony.  I will respond to comments if I have an answer for you.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Samsung Galaxy Player 4.0 Review.

Samsung 4.0 WiFi Player
I have to admit that this media player has me conflicted.  It may be a great device, but it should have been in my hands 4 months ago. I found one at my local BestBuy, and I've been running it through its paces to see what shakes loose.
Included Headphones with Mic
In the box:
  • Nice set of in-ear-monitors (IEMs) that include a microphone on the cord.
  • Micro USB cable.
  • AC power adapter.
  • User Guide.
  • Health & Safety and Warranty Guides.
  • 1200mAh Battery: 36hrs Music play with WiFi and screen off.  5hrs video.  Replacement batteries with greater capacity are supposedly available.
AC to USB Adapter
  • 4.0" 800x480 Super Clear LCD
  • Front Camera: VGA 640 x 480
  • Rear Camera: 3.2 Megapixel
  • FM Radio
  • GPS
  • Haptic (vibration) feedback
  • Bluetooth® 3.0 (added speed and power savings)
  • Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g/n/a)
  • Stereo Speakers
  • MicroSD card slot (under back cover)
  • Volume Rocker
  • Power/Lock button
  • Microphone
  • USB port (under sliding cover)
  • Headphone Jack
Back Off.  Removable battery and MicroSD Slot
Media capability:
  • Music:  The Music app is excellent with easy access to volume control, shuttle controls, shuffle/repeat, lyrics (if available), EQ settings (presets and 2 user settings), full-screen album art (when available), song info including artist, album, song name and track number, song position and length, etc.. There is also a LIST icon to tap to go back to the songs list.  The menu icon will bring up several more options including Add to Quick List, Share Music Via, Add to Playlist, Via Bluetooth/Speakers, Set as Alarm Tone, and More.  Tap "More" and you'll get a Settings and Details option. Settings include Samsung's SoundAlive,  Choices for how the music is sorted, and the option for choosing a graphic to show when no Album Art is available. The Music app claims WAV, MP3, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, WMA (v9), WMA Lossless, and Ogg formats will play. The player also played M4A and FLAC files with no trouble.  The was no left/right balance setting.  The largest negative I can find is that there is no gapless playback. I'm giving music playback an A though.   Just not an A+.
Music: Now Playing
  • FM Radio: The radio app is also well done.  The first time I opened it the app started searching for stations.  When done there were no active frequencies in range of me that were left out, and no frequencies logged that were nothing but static or noise. You can have it output through the headphone (required for antenna) or the onboard speakers.  You can turn it OFF within the app or leave it playing in the background after leaving the app. Volume levels are separate for speakers and headphones. No RDS that I noticed. No FM output via Bluetooth. No Radio recording. That leaves Radio with a B+.
  • Video: Video support is great, supporting any WMV, AVI or MP4 up to 720p that I've tried. The specs claim H.263, H.264, MPEG4, 3GP, WMV (v9), Xvid, and DivX ® formats. The Video app remembers your position in the file when you return to it. Besides the normal shuttle controls, the Menu button brings up Share Video, Details, Via Bluetooth/Speakers, Play Speed, Subtitles, and Settings options. The Settings option includes Repeat, Brightness, Colour tone, and Outdoor visibility. You can resize/stretch video to fill the screen. There is also a toggle for 5.1ch audio although I'm not sure why given the player only has stereo out. Video deserves an A+. 
Video Player
  • Photos: The larger screens get, the better they are for photo display.  This is true for the 4.0" Samsung compared to my previous 3" P2, P3, and M1 players from Samsung. The Gallery app supports JPG, PNG, GIF, and BMP files. Photos are vivid.  Sliding between them is fluid. The included samples look great.  You have Slideshow options, Share options, and Editing options including Crop and Rotate left or right.  You can also delete photos from within the Gallery app. Photos get an A thanks to the great screen. 
  • Cameras: The front facing camera is worthless for anything other than video chat.  Photos taken with it are low resolution (640 x 480) and grainy. The rear camera does a little better, but at 3.2mp isn't up to the images you'll get from most 5mp or 8mp phones these days. The lens is much better than that on the front, so with good light you can take some decent images. There are several settings and options in the Camera app. You have Shooting Mode choices of Single Shot, Smile Shot, Continuous, Panorama, Add me, and Action Shot.  You have Scene choices of Landscape, Portrait, Sports, Night, Party/Indoor, Beach/Snow, Sunset, Dawn, Fall Colour, Firework, Text, Candlelight, and Backlight. You can adjust Exposure Value from -2 to +2 in .5 steps. There is also a long list of Camera settings you might find on Samsung's best consumer cameras. Finally you have tools, which include Guidlines, Review, GPS, Shutter Sound, Storage, and Reset.  You may want to check out a few photography books for information on how to use all these features.  The Rear camera's highest resolution is 2048 x 1536.  There is no flash.  I'm giving the Camera app an A though.  They don't usually come as full-featured as this one.
UI: The user interface is Typical Android Phone.  I'm guessing that if you own a Samsung android phone you'll be right at home. Samsung's TouchWiz additions are nothing more than useful. They include a dock bar that hold 4 apps and is always there no matter which home page you are on. Power shortcuts (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, Sound, and Auto Rotation) also were added to the dropdown notifications list. A long press on the menu icon brings up Search, and a long press on the Home icon brings up a window showing recently used apps and a shortcut to the Task Manager. There are 7 home screens, but Edit in the home screen menu options will let you delete ones you don't use. You can add them back using the same Edit option.  The UI doesn't rotate as the device rotates. For few improvements over their phone UIs, I'll give the UI an Android average C+.  Yes there are widgets and animations and such.  Nothing surprising though.

Apps:  In addition to the Google Android Market, this player also comes with the Samsung Apps application. You can also add the Amazon App Store with relative ease. No need to root or hack this player to gain access to all of Google's apps.  Some unique apps added by Samsung include AllShare, Samsung App(store), and Thinkfree Office.  Several typical android apps (usually social or media related) also appear to have been altered (improved) by Samsung.
Android Market
Impressions:  Light weight. Well built.  Beautiful screen. Great media support.  Good headphones included. The removable battery implies this player could be the last player you'll ever need. Batteries have a limited number of charge cycles, and as such will wear out eventually.  Any player without a removable battery will only last as long as that battery. This player is comfortable to hold although a little slippery. This is an "everything device" you can carry in your pocket. Cameras, Radio, GPS, Skype and Google Talk phone services, in addition to the great media capabilities make this a wonderful alternative to a phone if you don't want to pay that monthly phone service fee.

Conclusions:  Samsung has built a great player here. At $229 for 8gb it is higher but more capable than the $199 8gb iPod Touch.  GPS, FM radio, and a larger screen may be worth the $30 difference. There are other more subtle differences that should help justify that cost. I'm rating the Samsung Galaxy 4.0 a Great Buy. Consider that 9.5 out of 10, with .5 for hoping the price drops to $199.


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Saturday, October 8, 2011

HTC Flyer Review. Is this the best 7" tablet available?

HTC Flyer Lock Screen
The latest generation of tablets and phones have dual-core processors, typically running at 1Ghz. HTC's Flyer has a 1.5Ghz single-core Qualcomm processor. Now that its price has come down to Earth and you can get one for $299 this 7" tablet may well be the best performing tablet in it's price range. The Flyer isn't just an ordinary Android tablet. On top of the regular hardware features most tablets have, HTC has added their Scribe Technology™. You need their normally $79 Pen to take advantage of it, but the Pen can be had for $50 if you shop around.  The 1.5Ghz processor is also unusual, and suffers only to make the Flyer fly. Boot-up time is delightfully brief. Screen reaction is fluid, and apps open quickly.

Inside the box:
  • HTC Flyer
  • USB cable
  • AC Power adapter
  • Quick guide
  • Safety and regulatory guide
  • Call center card (hotline card)
  • Warranty card
  • 7-inch 1024x600 TFT capacitive touch screen.
  • 16GB internal memory, with microSD slot.
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n 2.4GHz.
  • G-sensor, GPS/aGPS, digital compass, ambient light sensor.
  • Rear (5MP) and Front (1.3MP) cameras.
  • Bluetooth 3.0 with A2DP for stereo headsets.
  • MHL port (HDMI-out) and DLNA capability.
  • SRS WOW HD™ surround sound over the dual speakers or headphones.
Dimensions: 7.6875 x 4.8125 x 0.5625 inches.  Weight: 14.7oz  (418g). A little lighter and narrower than the BlackBerry Playbook.
Music: Now Playing
Media Support: I was able to play WMV (540 x 360 ; 960 x 720), MP4 (1280 x 720), and AVI (640 x 480) video files with no problem or dropped frames.  I couldn't find any info on what the resolution limits are or what specific audio and video codec combinations play or won't play.  Among the audio files I could test and would play were WMA, WMA lossless, MP3, AAC, M4A, and WAV. FLAC files wouldn't open.  I had no problems with .JPG photos.
Multi-Page View
User Interface (UI): is typical HTC sense, and almost identical to the Sense UI you'll find on HTC Phones.  I have the HTC Evo 3D, and first boot-up of this Flyer tablet was deja vu.  Rumors are that there is a Honeycomb 3.* update in the works for the Flyer, but for now the UI is very phone-like. It WILL switch from portrait to landscape when the screen is rotated though.  Screen response is quick. A light touch is all that is needed to get a reaction from the screen.  Graphics flow smoothly.  Photos zoom in and out with no delay or sluggishness.   If you pull down the notifications bar at the top of the screen there is a tab for Quick Settings. It include check boxes for Auto Brightness, Auto Rotation, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and a link to All Settings. Very handy. The bottom of the screen has a row of icons that stay there no matter which home page you are on. They can be swapped out for any app or shortcut or web bookmark. A hold of the Home button brings up your 10 most recently used apps to choose from.  A quick double-tap of the Home button (when on the 1st page) brings up an array of all the Home pages.  Tap any one to jump immediately there.  In landscape (horizontal) position the Home pages display in a 3D carousel view.  Nice effect.
Pen Tools
Share your Pen Scribble
Pen:  I ordered the Pen that goes with the Flyer from  Saved roughly $30 over (OK, under)BestBuy's asking price.  The first time you use the pen the tablet will bring up some quick lessons on how to use it. In use a tap on the pen on the screen takes a snapshot of what is displayed, then lets you draw over that image using any of several pens/pencils/brushes and colors. This capability alone makes the Flyer a very useful tool if you need to annotate a drawing or sign a document on the Flyer.  I'm a  design educator and students often email design sketches (as JPG images) to me. This feature will allow me to draw/comment on the images then "Share Via" them back to the student.  The pen is far more accurate for drawing than any capacitive stylus, but it doesn't work as a stylus.  It is only a drawing and high-lighting tool. Still a great feature that only THIS tablet has as far as I know.
Notices Drop-Down
Google News
Reader Widget
Rear Camera and Speaker Slots
Weather Widget
Conclusions:   This is a fantastic tablet (at $299).  Even with no Android 3.? update it is quickly becoming my most productive device.  I can print straight to my Canon WiFi printer from within any app where it makes sense to.  Anything on my screen can be captured then drawn on using the Pen. Essentially screen capture with annotation rolled into one. You could make a pictorial tutorial about any topic that can be displayed on the screen, complete with commentary and notes, then quickly post them all to email or Facebook or even send them via bluetooth to your PC or friend's phone/tablet.   Every other feature is first rate as well. Boot up time is incredibly fast. The cameras work better than most tablet cameras.  WiFi can be set to turn off when the screen times out, for a tremendous boost in battery duration. I get a giddy feeling when I hold this one. At $299 it is a steal.  You want one.  Go get it!


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Monday, October 3, 2011

Amazon's Kindle Fire. Is it Worth $199?

Kindle Fire
It's official.  Amazon has a few new Kindles, and one is the color Android-based Kindle Fire. The press was stunned when the Fire's $199 price was announced.  The hardware specs are competitive but missing a few standard components.  Some estimate 5 million or so will be sold before the end of this year. The Fire isn't the first 7" tablet out there, and it isn't even the cheapest one. has a half dozen 7" tablets available for under $200. You can buy the Maylong 7" tablet for as little as $97.

Here are a few:
So what magic makes the press think Amazon's Fire will sell better than any of these?  Sure, most of these have worse specs than the Fire.  Yet many also have hardware features (Cameras, HDMI-out) the Fire doesn't include. All have WiFi.  All are touchscreen Android tablets.  All run apps including all of Amazon's apps. Lined up spec for spec the Fire doesn't glow for what it can do.  It blushes for what it doesn't do.

So what is the secret?   I'm blaming it on Respect.  Amazon, like Apple, has built up a reputation for treating customers well. They have both simplified the process of buying media and products from them. We respect Apple and we respect Amazon. They are both American originals. We surrender our beliefs to Apple in exchange for designful and productive devices we didn't know we needed. The press and Amazon fans have done the same concerning the Fire. I've pre-ordered mine out of the same respect.

Let's do a reality check though.   The Fire is a first generation device.  Remember the first wedge Kindle?   Original, but far from evolved. The second and later generations were better in every way.  My experience repeatedly demonstrates that 1st generation devices are poor investments. This is more often true for ground-breakers, and Amazon is a ground-breaker. Late comers/Followers can learn from the mistakes made by others.  I expect the second generation Fire to be thinner, faster, and have a few more features than this first gen Fire.  It may also be less expensive.  Previous Kindles have gotten cheaper each year since the first one came out at around $400.

So is the Kindle Fire a good investment?  I'm going to rate it a tentative "yes". From what I can tell the hardware is similar to the Blackberry Playbook. Made by the same manufacturer I'm expecting the Fire to be similarly well-made. The dimensions are a little different, but the details are very similar.  Each specification the Fire lists is equal to or better than the competition. A 1024 x 600 screen when many have 800 x 480 screens. Capacitive multi-touch when many have resistive single-touch input. A dual core processor when many have single core chips.  The Fire will have a liquid user interface (UI) and shouldn't stutter or pixelate displaying movies or photos. The screen will react instantly to your touch, and using it should become a mere extension of your thoughts.   I expect Amazon to do it right.  The Fire should delight the user. Should it not you can certainly expect the 2nd generation to.

Yes,  I believe the new Kindle Fire is worth $199.   The Blackberry Playbook and HTC Flyer are more capable tablets, and at $299 they are also priced proportionally correct given their additional features.  If you think you might want a Fire, don't wait. Reviews will be out before new orders are shipped and you can always cancel should you change your mind.

Comments are welcome.  Feel free to contribute.

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Sunday, October 2, 2011

BlackBerry Playbook Review. Finally a Realistic Price!

BlackBerry PlayBook
With most 10" tablets hovering around the $500 price point it never made sense to me why the major vendors thought they could ask the same for their 7" tablets.  HTC's 7" Flyer is $499. (edit: Oct 1st BestBuy lowered the price of the HTC Flyer to $299).  RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook was $499 until a few days ago when they dropped the price to $299.  The PlayBook finally offers a compelling set of specs and an innovative OS/UI at what is now a reasonable price.
Headphone Jack, Volume and Play, and Power.  Rear Camera on Back.
 - Dimensions: 7.6" x 5.1" x .4" thick. Weighs 0.9 lbs/425g.
 - Cameras: 3mp front.  5mp rear.
 - Touch-Sensitive bezel.
 - Bluetooth DUN, HID, SPP.  A Bluetooth mouse worked, but I failed with Bluetooth keyboards.
 - WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
 - Front-facing Stereo Speakers
 - Two Microphones. Voice Notes sound excellent.
 - Notification LED
 - External Volume rocker
 - External Play/Pause button.
 - Headphone jack.
 - Mini HDMI port.  Full mirroring of the UI on your HDTV.
 - Micro USB port.
Bottom Edge: microHDMI, microUSB, and Dock Port. 
With more features than the upcoming Kindle Fire, the $299 price may be right on track to help RIM sell a few million more of these.  They'll still need more apps in their apps store. Adding the ability to run Android apps will be a step in the right direction even if there are limits on what apps will run.  Updating the Playbook with Email, Contacts, and Calendar app will also go a long way to bring this tablet into the mainstream.

The Playbook is well built and comfortable to hold. It doesn't feel flimsy or squeaky, and the matte-finish rear is both fingerprint-shy and non-slippery.   Tapping on the back only finds a small hollow right in the middle where the logo is, with the rest of the area sounding solid.  I greatly appreciate the play/pause button between the volume + and - buttons on the top edge. The front facing speakers are loud and efficient. The included soft slip-on cover was a nice touch too.

Cons:  No dedicated email app.  No dedicated contacts app. Limited app store compared to Android. The power button is also hard to press when you want to turn the Playbook ON.  Very slow to boot up from the OFF state.
Music App
Media:  Codec support is decent.   AVI, WMV, and MP4 videos play just fine with the stock Video app.  An MKV sample I had would not play.   MP3s, WMAs (+ WMA lossless), AAC and M4A audio files would play.  FLAC files wouldn't.  The Music app allows sorting by Songs, Artists, Albums, and Genres. You can shuffle or play sequentially though a list. There is an on-screen volume slider, progress bar, and full play controls within the app. You also have a dynamic Search function. No Bookmark or Playlist options I could find though.  The video app takes advantage of the Touchscreen capabilities and lets you stretch your video with two-fingers to enlarge or shrink them, as well as pan around the moving video as if it was just a photo. No bookmarking in the video app either, and it won't remember where you left off when you return to a video either.
Video Scene
UI:  I'll give RIM some credit here.  The Playbook's User Interface is original, practical, easy to understand, and fascinating to use.  Far more clever than any iOS or Android device has implemented to date.  I have to believe it was only the high price and missing apps that kept the Playbook from catching on faster.  The price has been corrected now.  Hopefully an Apps update will show up soon.

Summary:  This is a very capable tablet. The $299 price is fair for what you get and what it can do.  Screen reaction is fluid. Media playback is beautiful though not fully-featured. The OS is refreshing compared to Android and iOS, but the missing email app and android app support is a wound that needs repair before I'll recommend this to anyone. Are you listening, RIM?    I'm parking mine until that update shows up. The HTC Flyer is also $299 now, and it's an Android 7" tablet with some useful enhancements.


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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Asus Slider Review. Clever, but Practical?

My Slider arrived via UPS on 9/29/2011. I bought it from as they had it in stock ready for shipping. The box was typical Asus with the tablet in a plastic tray and included accessories stored beneath it. All the glossy surfaces had clear plastic to protect them that you'll get to peel off.  It came with an AC/USB Power Supply, USB cable, warranty card and a User's Manual. "Inspiring Innovation Persistent Perfection" printed on the last two to put you in a good mood.
The Slider came with Android 3.1 installed, but started downloading the 3.2 update as soon as I had it connected to my wifi router. 20 minutes later or so 3.2 was installed. Out of the box and unpeeled the Slider is a thing of beauty. The front, of course, is mostly a big piece of glass. The setting for this glass is a wide bezel that bows out on the ends with a brushed metal edging on the sides and top. A spin around the edge discovers the power button, volume rocker, and microSD slot on the left end.  Asus's docking port and a mini-HDMI port are along the top. The headphone jack and USB port are nicely articulated on the right end. 
That metal edging wraps around to the back where it widens to a 1.375" band across the bottom. A chrome strip seperates the brushed metal from a bronze field with the camera lens centered near the top. The top center edge has a raised lip at the seam between the front and back, with an arrow hinting something will happen if you pull here. Indeed, with a slight lift the front half rotates up to park itself above the newly exposed keyboard. The screen comes on and confronts you.  The screen's resting angle is roughly 38 degrees above horizontal and not further adjustable.
The keyboard keys are smaller than usual, but have a good action and nice feel to them in action. There are a few android-specific keys.  They have included the number keys along the top row. The One and Six have a bright circle around them to provide a visual location aid.  It appears as if it is carved from a bronze ingot, but is likely a high density plastic.  Not the best keyboard for android tablet use, but it is certainly handy.  Folding under the screen as it does leaves the screen exposed.  I'll definitely need a case for this tablet.

Dimensions: 10.75 x 7.1 x .72 inches. 2.21 lbs.  Not light. Not thin.

 - Screen: 10.1" IPS, 10 point multitouch, 1280 x 800, Gorilla Glass Screen.
 - Processor: NVIDIA Tegra 2 dual core mobile processor 1Ghz.
 - Battery: 25W/h Li-Polymer.  Estimated 8hrs between charges.
 - Cameras: 1.2MP front.  5MP rear
 - WLAN: 802.11 b/g/n@2.4GHz
 - Bluetooth: V2.1+EDR
 - Memory: 1GB,
 - Storage: 16GB/32GB + MicroSD card reader (up to 32GB).  12.63GB available when new.
 - Ports: mini-HDMI port, Full size USB 2.0.
 - Single (mono) speaker.
 - Microphone.
 - G-Sensor
 - Light Sensor
 - Gyroscope
 - E-Compass
 - GPS

 - Volume +/- rocker
 - Headphone/Mic jack.
 - Keyboard: Android-specific keys include Home, Back, Search, and Menu.  You also have Brightness up/down, and Wifi & Bluetooth toggles.

Build Quality: Impressive. When folded the top and bottom are a graceful compliment to each other. The front edge chamfers down then tapers to round over the back edge.  The body is a composite of brushed metal, bronze (paint), and a little chrome. Cable connections are nicely articulated from the bottom edge. Buttons are inset yet project just enough to exhibit their function and permit their use. Reset is a button rather than a hole on this tablet. Speakers are a bit muffled when the tablet is closed, but perk up when you lift the screen to reveal two columns of slots as speaker grills. Strong magnets hold the screen down and up.  The user manual warns against leaving your credit cards too close to the Slider.   The lift mechanism is an offset parallelogram.  The exposed face of this brace is a mirror polished rectangle with "ASUS" etched into it. The IPS screen is easy to see from any practical angle.

Media capabilities: AAC, MP3, MIDI, OGG, and WAV music codecs are all listed as supported in the User's Manual. I was also able to play WMA and WMA lossless files, along with FLAC files with no problem straight from the file browser and in the Music app.  H.263/H.264 MPEG4 is the only video codec listed as supported. I was able to play MP4 videos with no trouble.  AVIs played but with pixilation. MWV movies wouldn't open. There are apps available in the Market that will play just about any video though so don't let the limited initial video support disturb you.
Audio output from what sounds like a mono speaker source is limited to middle and upper frequencies. Audio levels only dropped a little with the keyboard closed tablet down. Quality out the headphone jack to good headphones is a pleasure though.  Their "Supreme SRS Sound with max bass response" is a step or two better than the typical android tablet sound quality with no enhancements. I'll warn you to turn the sound down if you've been listening to the onboard speaker when you switch to headphone or you're in for an ear-busting surprise. This tablet can easily get loud enough to drive the most demanding headphones I have.

Asus applications:  ASUS Launcher, MyLibrary, MyNet, MyCloud, ASUS Sync, Asus @Vibe
Other Include Apps: File manager,  Kindle books, Zinio Magazine, PressReader, Polaris Office
Google Apps: GMail, Google Maps, Google Places, Google Navigate, Google Latitude, Android Market, Google Music, Google Videos, Google Books, ...

In use it is a heavy tablet but as capable as any of the competitors out there. Unless you'll always have a horizontal surface to open the keyboard up on, the extra weight is a bit of a penalty to have to carry. Yet if you plan to use the Slider as a laptop/notebook replacement it may be the perfect solution. The included Polaris Office app (word/spreadsheet/presentation) and that keyboard will let you get some serious work done. When folded away you have tablet simplicity behind a beautiful touchscreen to entertain yourself with.  This tablet also has bluetooth and a USB port on the side.  It is easy to add a full-sized keyboard and mouse if you really want to get serious. HDMI-out lets you mirror the android UI onto any HDTV or computer monitor with an HDMI port.  Don't buy it if you only want to check email and play a game of Angry Birds.  Consider it if you were considering a netbook to shrink your travel load.  This has a nicer screen and broader array of uses than any netbook, and you can still get your work done on it for half the carry-on weight. It'll fit perfectly on that seat-back table too.
Conclusions?  I've spent the last few days with my Slider.  It is easier to lug around than my Asus Transformer and it's keyboard dock. Far easier to tote than my notebook PC. It connected quickly and reliably to my home and work WiFi networks. It allowed me to check and reply to my email. I could browse the web when I needed to. I passed the boring moments playing Soduko or Angry Birds on it. That clever keyboard let me work on this review with relative ease.  The screen is great.  The Build is great.  The engineering is clever.  With nothing bad to say and only  the size and weight to pick on I have to give the Asus EEE Slider an A+ Great Buy. It's unique features require a unique user though.  If you fit that description then this is the tablet for you. Don't buy it if you want thin and light.


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Friday, September 23, 2011

Cradle for Sony Tablet S. My Review.

Sony's S Tablet includes the Chumby app, an alarm clock app,  as well as a great TruBlack screen for movie and photo viewing. When you put your tablet on the dock it pops up the choice of Desk Clock, Chumby app, or Gallery.  Laying flat on a table isn't the best position for taking advantage of these features, so Sony has now released a dock to hold the S upright and charge it at the same time. My dock arrived the Sept. 20.  I've had a chance to use it a few days now. 
Desk Clock/Alarm
It doesn't come with an AC adapter of its own. You have to commit the one that came with your tablet or purchase a spare from Sony.  A shame, really, as I had intended to keep the dock at home and take my charger to work so I could top my S off when I wasn't using it.
high angle
low angle

The dock also allows two slightly different support angles. One best for passive viewing functions and the second a better angle if you'll need to tap on the screen repeatedly. Made of a stiff plastic and all black except for the rear support, it does a fine job of holding up the tablet in landscape with the thin edge down. The tablet's charge port aligns with the connection on the dock. You plug your adapter into the bottom. There is no way to use this cradle with the tablet in portait (vertical) mode.  There are no other ports or outputs.
Bottom cable jack.
For $39 this cradle/dock is a useful accessory and fairly priced compared to docks I have purchased for other tablets. I wish it had been more capable (HDMI-out perhaps?) and had come with its own power supply. If you need a cradle for the Sony Tablet S though this is your only choice at the moment, and it is considerably better than a picture stand.
My recommendation?  If you need it get it. It works as advertised. Best recommended for your bedside table.  A great alternative and improvement over the standard alarm clock.


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