Monster Tech Technology news and information on your mobile device

21May/11Off

Sony Ericsson Xperia Play Review

This image has no alt text

If you’ve been keeping up with Android news and release dates, you would know that the release of the Sony Xperia Play for Verizon is fast approaching us (May 26th to be exact). While attending Google I/O last week I was actually one of the lucky few who walked away with an Xperia Play. Since then, I’ve been getting loads of messages asking if the phone is worthy of a purchase and/or upgrade. After messing around with the device for about a week now, I am excited to finally bring you my review on Sony’s first gaming smartphone.

I have to say, I haven’t really heard too much buzz about the device other than the fabled PSP Phone that was rumored since before there was an actual PSP. But maybe it has something to do with the fact that the handset is not yet available in the U.S., or possibly because most of the uber-techie Android snobs already have their sights locked on some of the many dual-core options coming out later this year. I have to admit, I was on that boat as well. Don’t let the fact that the Xperia Play comes with a single-core processor dissuade you. I found it snappy and more than capable of handling all the 3D games from the Android Market I could throw at it. Not only that, in the UK version I’m reviewing, Sony’s Timescape UI thrown on top does nothing but enhance the user experience (note- the Verizon version delivers a stock, plain, vanilla Android Google experience). One thing you should know about me, I’ve always preferred the super, chunky monkey, rocky road, chocolate fudge brownie UI’s like that of HTC’s Sense with all the polish and added functionality that comes along with it.

Alright, before we jump into the video, lets start by listing off some quick specs of the phone for those that are curious (and for others to scoff at). It comes pretty much standard with what you expect from a mid-level-ish handset these days. A 4-inch, 800×480 Super LCD display is found on top along with a VGA front facing camera. On the back you have a 5MP camera that focuses and adjusts exposure during the LED flash and delivers perfectly exposed and clear photo snapping. Was very impressed.

Just underneath the handset’s “L and R” gaming buttons, there are 2 stereo speakers tucked away out of sight. Don’t forget the noise cancelling microphone on the back that lets you know Sony Ericsson didn’t cut any corners when it came to features on the device . Inside we find a 1GHz, 2nd generation Snapdragon processor that seems to be aging rather gracefully and a 1500mAh battery that delivers easily 9 hours+ of juice even with light gaming.

On the software side, we see that the handset is running the latest version of Android (for smartphones) 2.3.2 Gingerbread. Sony has also gone on the record as saying their Xperia line of phones will come with easily unlocked bootloaders and even provided links on their website for those that like to tinker around with that kind of stuff. I should also note that although generous of Sony Ericsson to include some free games pre-installed on the device, they CANNOT be uninstalled. This results in far less internal memory on the device for your own apps and games. Couple this with Verizon’s own bloatware and we’re talking maybe about 226MB of internal storage in the end making rooting of the device almost a necessity.

So, for the main event, lets just jump straight into my video review to see how I really felt about the world’s first Android gaming smartphone. Will it be another mid-level snoozer? Or will Sony’s latest offering turn out to be something truly unique in a world of smartphones not suitable for the gaming enthusiast?


Filed under: Android Comments Off
21May/11Off

Sony Ericsson Xperia Play [Video Review] – Get Your Thumbs Ready

This image has no alt text

If you’ve been keeping up with Android news and release dates, you would know that the release of the Sony Xperia Play for Verizon is fast approaching us (May 26th to be exact). While attending Google I/O last week I was actually one of the lucky few who walked away with an Xperia Play. Since then, I’ve been getting loads of messages asking if the phone is worthy of a purchase and/or upgrade. After messing around with the device for about a week now, I am excited to finally bring you my review on Sony’s first gaming smartphone.

I have to say, I haven’t really heard too much buzz about the device other than the fabled PSP Phone that was rumored since before there was an actual PSP. But maybe it has something to do with the fact that the handset is not yet available in the U.S., or possibly because most of the uber-techie Android snobs already have their sights locked on some of the many dual-core options coming out later this year. I have to admit, I was on that boat as well. Don’t let the fact that the Xperia Play comes with a single-core processor dissuade you. I found it snappy and more than capable of handling all the 3D games from the Android Market I could throw at it. Not only that, in the UK version I’m reviewing, Sony’s Timescape UI thrown on top does nothing but enhance the user experience (note- the Verizon version delivers a stock, plain, vanilla Android Google experience). One thing you should know about me, I’ve always preferred the super, chunky monkey, rocky road, chocolate fudge brownie UI’s like that of HTC’s Sense with all the polish and added functionality that comes along with it.

Alright, before we jump into the video, lets start by listing off some quick specs of the phone for those that are curious (and for others to scoff at). It comes pretty much standard with what you expect from a mid-level-ish handset these days. A 4-inch, 800×480 Super LCD display is found on top along with a VGA front facing camera. On the back you have a 5MP camera that focuses and adjusts exposure during the LED flash and delivers perfectly exposed and clear photo snapping. Was very impressed. Just underneath the handset’s “L and R” gaming buttons, there are 2 stereo speakers tucked away out of sight. Don’t forget the noise cancelling microphone on the back that lets you know Sony Ericsson didn’t cut any corners when it came to features on the device . Inside we find a 1GHz, 2nd generation Snapdragon processor that seems to be aging rather gracefully and a 1500mAh battery that delivers easily 9 hours + of juice even with light gaming. On the software side, we see that the handset is running the latest version of Android (for smartphones) 2.3.2 Gingerbread. Sony has also gone on the record as saying their Xperia line of phones will come with easily unlocked bootloaders and even provided links on their website for those that like to tinker around with that kind of stuff.

Now for the main event, lets just jump straight into my video review to see how I really felt about the world’s first Android gaming smartphone. Will it be another mid-level snoozer? Or will Sony’s latest offering turn out to be something truly unique in a world of smartphones not suitable for the gaming enthusiast?


Filed under: Android Comments Off
21May/11Off

Asus Transformers Now In Stock At Best Buy [Update: STILL In Stock]

This image has no alt text

I know you’ve been seeing these posts all week about Asus’ elusive Transformer tablet going on sale at various stores around the net, only for the post to be updated with “Sold Out” before we can even publish.

Well, looks like Best Buy may have received more than 4 units of this hot ticket item. Phandroid reported earlier this week that Asus was planning on upping production of their Tickle Me Elmo tablet. Yesterday, when we found out they were available at Best Buy, we sent out a tweet notifying our followers and like clockwork, the 32GB version sold out in minutes. Upon checking BesyBuy.com this morning, I couldn’t believe my eyes to see that the 16GB version is still available. Of course, I could have been raptured in my sleep and I suppose it’s possible that heaven has a never ending supply of Honeycomb tablets.

Either way, grab your Transformer before they sell out (again) and don’t forget — you can always save yourself some extra moolah by picking up the 16GB version and plopping down $30 for a 16GB micro sd card to shove inside. Thank, gawd for expandable memory!

[Thanks to everyone who sent this in!]


Filed under: Android Comments Off
21May/11Off

Smart Tech Advice: Buy Early, Buy Often

As you know from my columns here on SlashGear, I’m a bit of a technology fanatic. Whether it’s a boring external hard drive or an oh-so-exciting HDTV, I’m always willing to get my hands on the latest and great products tech firms have to offer.

But as of late, I’ve come across a surprisingly large number of people who have taken issue with my mentality on buying tech goodies. They say that buying gadgets too soon is a huge mistake, since the kinks aren’t necessarily worked out just yet. And the idea of buying worthwhile options now makes little sense to them, since they’ll become “obsolete” in no time.

[Image credit: Adam Lederer]

Of course, these arguments aren’t new. There are millions of people out there that find no value in being an early adopter and trying out products before the mainstream does. And the old adage that technology solutions become obsolete before users have the chance to buy them has been around forever.

But I think it’s about time we realize just how foolish those ideas are.

The fact is, being an early adopter nowadays isn’t nearly as troublesome as it was years ago. The vast majority of products today hit store shelves and work as they should. Granted, future software updates deliver more features, but if a consumer has done their research, they’re going to the store to buy a product based on what it can do now, not necessarily what it will do for them in a couple years.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve bought a product at launch, only to find that worries over its functionality have been exaggerated. Yes, I bought an HDTV on launch day. And I did the same with my iPod Dock, smartphone and numerous other products I currently use each and every day. But you know what? I haven’t had any more trouble than someone who bought the respective device a year after I did.

Say what you will about early adopters, but the “risks” involved in being one aren’t nearly as great as they used to be.

As with early adopters, the fear of becoming someone who buys potentially obsolete technologies is lost on me. I will fully admit that the products I buy this year will be bested by something companies release next year. But let’s face it, I’m not forced to buy next year’s update.

To me, not buying a respective device because it will soon be updated is foolish. The fact of the matter is, last year’s model will work quite well, and in most cases, stand up against the current option. So, rather than sit back and wait months for the next big thing, I buy what I need right now. Will it be replaced in a few weeks or a few months? It’s certainly possible. But if I need it now, I see no reason to wait.

So, call me unconventional, but I don’t subscribe to the same buying techniques of many out there. I’m a buy-early-buy-often kind of shopper when it comes to technology.

And I’m not ashamed to say it.


Relevant Entries on SlashGear.com

Smart Tech Advice: Buy Early, Buy Often is written by Don Reisinger & originally posted on SlashGear.
© 2005 - 2011, SlashGear. All right reserved.


Filed under: Tech News Comments Off
21May/11Off

Wherefore Art Thou, TiVo?

Early last year and late in 2009, tech fiends were debating the best product to come out in the first decade of the new millenium. My answer was decisive: TiVo. Not just the DVR in general, I mean, specifically, TiVo. I love TiVo. Tech friends, always quick to correct technical errors, would point out that TiVo actually appeared in 1999, but they did not have to tell me that. I owned one in 1999. I might have been TiVo’s best customer of all time. But this month I shut off my TiVo service and switched to something different.

I did not cut off TiVo because of incompatibility problems, though those do exist. I have eschewed satellite television and IPTV solutions like AT&T U-Verse because they are incompatible with TiVo. I suffered cable service, and I was using cable cards before the cable company installers themselves even knew how to use them. I recently moved to a new apartment, where I had a choice between Time Warner Cable and AT&T U-Verse. After 3 weeks of meditating on the issue, and living without cable TV or wired Internet, I chose U-Verse.

(Disclosure: I work for Samsung in the mobile phones division. We sell stuff on AT&T.)

When my wife and I split, I got the good TiVo. She got the Series 2, I took the TiVo HD. I thought she would live with the non-HD model, but I went to visit one day and sitting above her TV was a shiny new TiVo Premiere. She asked me to help set it up, but I had already returned my cable cards. She needed a professional. Of course the installer showed up without the proper cable cards, and though Time Warner claimed to have scoured the North Texas area, none could be found for half a week.

At first I was jealous. It was a shiny, new black box. The remote was fresh, with no buttons worn down or missing. I couldn’t wait to give it a whirl. Then I noticed the WiFi adapter sitting next to the box. It was the old adapter I had used for my Series 2 and my TiVo HD. It cost a fortune, because the TiVo HD requires a TiVo-branded adapter, which is a scam and a half (maybe there are 3rd party solutions, but I went the easy and lazy route).

I turned on the new TiVo, expecting a shiny, new, modern interface. Nope. Same old interface. The same design I’ve been staring at for years and years. New features, of course, but these are mostly buried in the menus, and not obvious to users. The device didn’t seem to perform any better. There was still a long delay after button presses. Search was unimproved. Season Pass management is still a slog.

The biggest change? TiVo service is now $20 per month. For $20, you mostly get a TV Guide listing. It’s not even 100% correct. It’s especially bad at separating first run shows from reruns on the same channel from syndicated reruns on less-popular networks.

I never bought a TiVo lifetime pass. When I bought my first TiVo, actually a Sony box, I was living paycheck to paycheck in New York City. I couldn’t scrounge the money for a lifetime pass, but I could handle the $12 monthly fee. I’ve been paying the monthly fee ever since, for almost 12 years. When I finally could afford the lifetime plan, I was never convinced TiVo would be around long enough to justify paying in advance. I’m still not convinced.

When I finally cancelled my TiVo service, I was paying 2 monthly fees, one for each TiVo. One was $12, the other was about $16. Almost $30 per month for a TV Guide. You can use TiVo without paying the fee, but you have to manually assign each recording, and they show up in the recorded program menus with a time stamp, not a program name. Too much hassle.

My ex-wife bought her TiVo Premiere for $300. With that ‘subsidized’ price (excuse me, I just threw up a little in my mouth), the user still has to pay $20 per month. You can pay more for the Premiere, and then you get a cheaper monthly plan. But there is no lifetime option any more.

Where to begin? When I was pricing Internet and TV packages, I compared similar offerings from Time Warner and AT&T U-Verse. Time Warner was cheaper, but the difference was less than a hundred dollars over the course of a year, with all of the discounts and premiums thrown in. However, AT&T U-Verse came with a multi-room DVR, while my Time Warner plan involved skipping the provided DVR in favor of my TiVo. The DVR provided by most cable companies is an embarrassment. It’s horrible to use, and I think DVRs would be much more popular, and more highly regarded, if the cable companies spent more than 5 minutes on interface design.

Including the monthly TiVo fees, the cable service is much more expensive. This comparison does not take into account the quality of service. I wasn’t worrying about compression issues with HD programming over IP (U-Verse), or the saturation of users on available modem bandwidth (Cable). I was only thinking about the channels I wanted, and the download speeds I require.

Then there is the hardware. The TiVo Premiere box is huge. It’s about the size of a large gaming console, and much larger than an HTPC that you could buy to perform the same tasks, and much more. There is no WiFi built in. How can that be? I suspect a cynical grab at more money from accessories, which is also why the sliding remote control with a QWERTY keyboard, which is really a necessity for power users, is also an add-on.

The reliance on cable cards would have been a convenient option if the cable companies had played along, but they did not. They charge a similar rental fee for the cards as they do for the box, and getting cards installed properly can be unreliable, depending on your technician. I’ve had the cards installed three times in three states, and only once did a tech get it right on the first try.

Most offensive, though, is the pricing. On TiVo.com, the company prominently promotes generous upgrade pricing for existing users. In fact, TiVo’s prices are higher than Amazon’s. TiVo doesn’t care that I’ve been a member for 12 years. It doesn’t offer any real discount for existing members, even though I would trade in my older hardware for a new box if they would knock $100 off the price. They have even raised the monthly fee, and existing users don’t catch a break on this increase.

TiVo treats its customers like dirt. As an original TiVo owner, I feel like TiVo has been riding my coattails, milking me for all the money I’m willing to shell out without making any significant improvements. There have been no great hardware improvements, no great software design improvements. The logic behind the search and program management systems is horrendous and confusing. TiVo has failed to innovate for the last decade.

This might have been acceptable when there were no better alternatives. For years, TiVo customers could be happy knowing their boxes were better than the DVR offered by the cable company. But a Windows 7 Media Center PC is a great improvement over TiVo. AT&T’s U-Verse seems like a much better interface, with more features to boot, though I’ve only been using it for less than a week.

TiVo, I’m sad to go. I have great affection for my TiVo, in the same way I’ve had great affection for many groundbreaking products over the years. I thought it was the best product of the last decade, even though it was launched before the turn of the century. But it’s still just that, the best product from the last decade. Instead, I want the best product for right now.


Relevant Entries on SlashGear.com

Wherefore Art Thou, TiVo? is written by Philip Berne & originally posted on SlashGear.
© 2005 - 2011, SlashGear. All right reserved.


Filed under: Tech News Comments Off
21May/11Off

HTC Flyer Hands-On and Unboxing [Best Buy]

Behold the next version of the HTC Flyer tablet. As this device rolls out we’re finding many lovely iterations including the one Chris Davies already reviewed here on SlashGear, one we saw at CTIA 2011 by a slightly different name, and now this Best Buy version. This version of the device does not come with the scribe pen in the box, instead you’ll have to purchase it for $79, this device is white and silver like the one we’ve seen already, and it’s time we had a super look at it.

The difference between the first time I saw this device and what we’re seeing now is about 4 months. When I first had a look at it, I remember thinking how awesome it was that HTC was going to make a tablet, that it was smaller than the standard 10.1-inch standard, and what’s that – a pen! This may well have been the tablet I’ve been looking for. One that I can use like a tablet of paper, one that I could store infinite data on via the cloud, features never before seen on a tablet device, and no less than Android 3.0 Honeycomb at launch. And what is this?

[VIDEO PROCESSING]

This is a 7.7 x 4.8 x 0.52 inch Android tablet weighing in at 14.82oz with a 5-megapixel camera on the back, a 1.3-megapixel camera on the front, WiFi b/g/n, Bluetooth 3.0, GPS, an ambient light sensor, g-sensor and a digital compass. There’s a brand new version of Sense, it’s bright, fabulous, and ready to go to work. The scribe pen works like a charm, and you can bet I’m about to bring this thing on a ride through ALL the benchmarks.

But I need your help – I need to know what YOU want to know about this device. You the consumer, you the person who has the most to gain from me doing tests of all types, kinds and sizes. So what’ll it be? What tests do you want me to do? Name them and I’ll perform them!

Furthermore, take a peek at Chris Davies’ review of the Euro edition of this tablet, see how this Best Buy version is up for sale right this second (but secretly,) and see how it might have been possible that the Flyer could have been the tablet given away at Google I/O instead of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 – wowie!

P1100039
P1100040
P1100041
P1100042
P1100044
P1100045
P1100046
P1100047
P1100048
P1100049
P1100050
P1100051
P1100052
P1100053
P1100054
P1100055
P1100056
P1100057
P1100058
P1100059
P1100060


Relevant Entries on SlashGear.com

HTC Flyer Hands-On and Unboxing [Best Buy] is written by Chris Burns & originally posted on SlashGear.
© 2005 - 2011, SlashGear. All right reserved.


Filed under: Tech News Comments Off