Review Post 1

April 25th, 2009

The A1100 has a well-made plastic body with no creaks or moving seams. The right side bulges a bit to create a hand grip, and the camera’s 4X zoom lens retracts until it is more-or-less flush with the camera’s body. At 3.7 by 2.5 by 1.2 inches, the camera may feel bulky in some pockets; and because it uses two AA batteries, it’s heavier than cameras that work with a proprietary rechargeable battery. But the A1100 is still small enough to slip easily it into a coat pocket or bag. It comes in four colors: blue, green, gray, and pink.

In PC World Test Center testing, the PowerShot A1100 IS fired off 146 shots before the batteries needed replacing-a surprisingly small number for a point-and-shoot camera with a small LCD screen.

On the back of the camera, you’ll find a 2.5-inch LCD screen and a set of controls. The top of the camera houses the power button, the mode dial, and the shutter/zoom control. Canon did a good job of standardizing the control layout and the on-screen interfaces across its point-and-shoot line, so the time you spend learning the A1100 should serve you well if you ever try to operate another Canon point-and-shoot.

The A1100 provides an assortment of automatic features. From the mode dial, you can choose between Auto mode, Program mode, Movie mode, and various scene modes. In Auto mode, the camera makes every critical exposure and setting choice for you; in Program mode, it lets you manually toggle flash use and adjust ISO, white balance, and other settings. Though the camera lacks true aperture priority and manual modes, it does permit you to adjust exposure compensation.

The A1100’s scene modes are your best option for getting good results in tricky situations with this camera. From its Mode dial, you can select from five scene modes-or choose SCN, which enables you to consider additional scene modes listed in an on-screen menu.

The A1100 comes with three light meters, but it eschews complex features such as focusing modes. The camera’s automatic focus works very well. Pressing the Face Detection button on the camera’s back causes the camera to focus automatically on faces in your scene; like most such mechanisms, the A1100’s works well in good light, but can be frustrating to deal with in lower light.

The camera’s 4X zoom lens captures images across a range from fairly wide to surprisingly telephoto, and the lens has good optical stabilization (meaning that it includes special mechanics to counteract hand shakiness). The A1100 also offers an exceptional macro mode. With it, you can get to within 1.2 inches of your subject; and it even works with the camera’s video mode, which shoots attractive 640-by-480 video with sound.

The camera’s 2.5-inch LCD screen looked slightly washed out, making fine details in brightly lit areas harder to see, especially in bright daylight. The optical viewfinder is most welcome in situations where viewing the LCD screen is difficult, though it does show only about 85 percent of the final image.

Review Post 2

April 25th, 2009

This week we spotted three hot Sony Ericsson camera phones file into the FCC database, namely the C903 Cyber-shot, the CS8 Cyber-shot, and the W995 Walkman. The C903 Cyber-shot is a 5-megapixel shooter, while both the CS8 and the W995 sport 8.1-megapixel lenses. The W995 also marks the first Sony Ericsson phone we’ve seen with a 3.5-mm headset jack, which we’re definitely happy to see. Not really sure which carriers these phones will end up with, but we’re definitely excited to see more high-end camera phones come our way.

Because the FCC has to certify every phone sold in the United States, not to mention test its digital SAR rating, the agency’s online database offers a lot of sneak peeks to those who dig. And to save you the trouble, Crave has combed through the database for you. Here are a selection of filings from the past week on new and upcoming cell phones. Click through to read the full report.

Huawei G5720
LG GB230
Samsung B5702C
Samsung S5600
Samsung SCH-B309
Samsung SCH-S279
Sony Ericsson C903 Cyber-shot
Sony Ericsson CS8 Cyber-shot
Sony Ericsson W995
Sharp 933SH
Sharp 934SH
Sharp SH-06A
ZTE F260

Review Post 3

April 25th, 2009

Dell’s luxury notebook, the Adamo, is spunky-I’ll give it that. The up-and-comer packs on ports…and takes some not-so-subtle jabs at Apple’s MacBook Air. Neither company really positions its ultraslim ultraportable as a high-performance hot rod. Heck, both of them eschew optical drives to stay lean and mean. But they’re both expensive-very, very expensive.

The MacBook Air is the cagey vet. Since it first showed up on the scene, it has improved its game by providing better processors and an honest-to-goodness graphics card, nVidia’s GeForce 9400M. That means it can actually play some games-not many, but some.

The Air we last reviewed offered a 1.86GHz Core 2 Duo CPU and 2GB of RAM, and scored a 78 in WorldBench 6. In our battery-life tests, the Air survived for about 2.5 hours before sputtering out. It can accommodate a 120GB hard disk (our more-expensive model came with a 128GB solid-state drive). But then, of course, there’s the dreaded “Apple Tax” (but, really, that tax is up for debate): These machines range in price from $1799 to $2499.

The Dell Adamo, on the other hand, offers lesser parts and…charges…more? Really? Maybe we should rename it the “Adamo Tax.” Let’s go over this. Dell’s high-style PCs cost between $1999 and $2699. The Adamo maxes out at a 1.4GHz CPU but compensates with 4GB of RAM to handle a 64-bit version of Windows Vista Home Premium. Supposedly its battery will last 5 hours in tests, if we’re to believe promotional materials. In our internal battery life tests, it lasted 4 hours. Still, that’s way better than how the MacBook Air fared. But, not much of a surprise, the Adamo got slapped around by our PC WorldBench 6 suite: It scored a 64. As far as ultraportable performance goes, it’s sad. Very sad. That’s probably the biggest mark against the Adamo, up front. But other features in a laptop are worth consideration besides horsepower.

For starters, a nice display. You get a little bit of a glare from the glossy coating, but this screen is worth it. The Adamo offers edge-to-edge glass that’s securely locked into place on the 13.4-inch screen. Its WLED display one-ups the Air’s with a 1366-by-768-pixel resolution (translation: 720p-friendly). Initial tests show that the screen looks pretty sharp. But one thing I keep being drawn to is the obviously Mac-esque shortcut bar that sits on the desktop. It provides clean, quick links to all the main apps you’d use on the computer. And it’s easily customizable.

One editor here refers to the little dip in the middle of the wide keys as “finger buckets.” The fancy-pants Dell marketspeak for it is “scalloped keys.” Whatever. The point is, the keys are flat-ish and wide, as I’ve grown to love on a number of laptops (the HP Mini 1000 being among them), and they have a little lip for your fingers to rest in. The Adamo also finds room to accommodate a couple of multimedia shortcut keys next to the power button. The only drawback is that making out some of the keys without the ambient backlighting turned on is a little difficult.

The Adamo’s touchpad borders on the average side. It’s not bad by any stretch; the buttons are firmly in place and give the right amount of pressure. Like the Apple laptops, this Dell model provides some multitouch functionality as well.

And Dell gets it right with the number of I/O options on this machine. The Adamo has two USB ports, ethernet and headphone jacks, one eSATA connector, one DisplayPort, and a user-accessible SIM-card slot for WWAN service.

Of course, there’s the design itself. As slim as the Adamo is (13 by 9.5 by 0.65 inches and weighing 4 pounds), it’s still a bit boxy. Hey, that’s not a knock. After all, just about every laptop is a little on the square side (even Macs, until pretty recently). The dotted grillwork on the back pops, and the two-tone top makes the Adamo look more like a fashion accessory than most laptops on the scene do. And for that, I must give Dell some props. I see where they are going with the Adamo, and while I can’t exactly recommend it for computing power, it makes up for it (a little) in sex appeal. However, I’m looking forward more to whatever Dell has in mind for the Adamo 2. Or the Eve. Or whatever they call it.

Review Post 4

April 25th, 2009

In a question and answer session with financial analysts during Wednesday’s second quarter earnings call, Apple COO Tim Cook revealed that iPod touch sales have “more than doubled year over year.” Combined, iPhone and iPod touch sales total about 37 million units.

Cook called that combined number an “enormous platform for developers,” adding that with the recent changes introduced with Apple’s iPhone 3.0 SDK, which went beta in March and is expected to be released to customers this summer, Apple and its development partners will soon “unleash a whole new level of innovation that keeps Apple years ahead of everyone else.”

In a later question, Cook again referred to the iPod touch, calling it “a runaway hit” whose success is “clearly driven by the App Store.” To that end, Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer indicated that one of the reasons the iPod touch has been so successful is as a games device.

“All genres [on the App Store] are very popular,” said Oppenheimer, “but games are quite popular. That’s one of the reasons the iPod touch has been such a success.”

Overall, Apple continues to steamroll the competition when it comes to marketshare for digital music players. A recent report from NPD shows that Apple maintains more than 70 percent of the market in the United States alone, and continues to gain share in worldwide markets year-over-year.

In his preamble, Oppenheimer said the App Store now totals more than 35,000 applications.

Cook said that Apple expects to sell its one billionth application on the App Store sometime on Thursday, April 23rd — only nine months after the store first went online to sell software to iPhone and iPod touch users.

Review Post 5

April 25th, 2009

Apple has upped its claim for the iPhone’s battery life, now saying the touchscreen smart phone will offer an eight-hour talk time. It’s also decided to ship the machine with a glass front in a bid to beat the scratches spotted by so many early iPod Nano buyers.

Apple iPhone
Apple’s iPhone: will it fall on its glass?

Both changes undoubtedly come from real-world testing and the development work that’s gone into the iPhone hardware since Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the handset in January. Comments allegedly made by folk who’d had their hands on the iPhone earlier this year highlighted issues with both battery life and screen resilience, and Apple’s statement today certainly lends verisimilitude to those claims.

So what’s changed? Apple originally had the iPhone’s single-charge longevity down as five hours’ talk time, video playback time and web browsing time, and 16 hours’ music playback. Today’s revised figures up those number by up to 60 per cent: eight hours’ talk time, six hours’ browsing time, seven hours’ video playback and 24 hours’ music listening.

It’s all highly theoretical, of course, as were Apple’s original numbers. We’re sure, under lab conditions, with the screen dimmed right down, the iPhone can deliver those new figures, but if the handset actually delivers them in the real world, it’ll be the first smart phone that ever did match the promised spec.

As Apple admits: “All Battery claims are dependent upon network configuration and many other factors; actual results may vary.”

Apple now has a better idea how many iPhones it’s going to sell, and punching that into the company’s humungous iPhone Excel spreadsheet reveals it can afford to fit a pricier, “optical-quality glass” panel on the front and either a bigger or a more advanced battery without too many negative effects.

Or it’s simply decided it can’t risk the reputation of a $600 handset on such factors and is taking the hit.

Apple iPhone
Apple’s iPhone: slim but now with a jucier battery

The iPhone goes on sale in the US next week.

Review Post 6

April 25th, 2009

We just got our grubby, oily hands all over this pristine, all glass and aluminum MacBook. We sullied it on your behalf, but our initial impressions mostly positive: it’s small, incredibly, ridiculously solid feeling, and we actually don’t hate the all-clicking trackpad much at all. (If your thumb muscle memory makes you click at the bottom where the button used to be, it works and feels pretty much the same.) Of course, the glare of the glass screen is a MAJOR issue for us, and will be pretty much forever. There’s just no way we’ll be able to love it, so our eyes will be peeled for after-market add-ons to cut that down a bit. But in terms of the rest, it’s pretty clear this is the best MacBook — and best mainstream consumer laptop — Apple’s made to date.