Boy pees on MacBooks
I'm a writer; I don't need all that bulk and power. I download or stream all my movies; I don't need a DVD drive. It's the perfect machine for me.
For the last week, I left my Air on the shelf to try out Samsung's Series 9 laptop.
The concept is the same as the Air: A super-thin, super-portable device with incredible battery life and a solid state drive instead of a traditional hard drive.When comparing specs head-to-head, the Series 9 looks better on paper than the MacBook Air. It has a more advanced processor (Intel Core i5 versus what feels like an ancient Core 2 Duo in the Air) and comes with 4 GB of RAM, standard.
But I noticed little difference between the two machines as far as performance went. Both are super fast thanks to the solid state drive. The Series 9 is a bit slower booting up and shutting down, but that's hardly noticeable.
Solid state drives are still expensive, but its worth the investment for the speed. The Series 9 had no problem launching apps in a jiffy, and didn't choke when I had a bunch running at the same time.
Video looks incredible on the S9's HD display. I downloaded a few HD trailers to test it out, and got some great results. Everything is bright and clear. It's a blast to watch.
Battery life is excellent too. I could get several hours on one charge, and it barely uses any power at all when it's closed or asleep.
My biggest problem was with the touchpad. Samsung borrowed Apple's idea for a singular touchpad that acts as both a button and a multitouch input device. It's nowhere near as smooth as the Air's touchpad. Gestures were difficult to figure out, and I found myself opening links and apps when I didn't mean to. My suggestion: adjust the touchpad's sensitivity settings so it doesn't flip out on you.The Series 9 ships with Windows 7, and thankfully Samsung didn't add too much crapware on top of that. As long as you immediately remove Norton Antivirus, you should be able to avoid all those ridiculous popups begging you for money.
Samsung did add some nice tweaks though for volume controls and Wi-Fi connection that are much better than Windows 7's standard settings.
Other than that, the experience is exactly what you'd expect from a Windows machine. Nothing special to report here.At the end of the day, I still enjoy my MacBook Air more than the Series 9. But that's mostly due to my love of OS X and hatred of all things Windows. If you prefer windows and want an ultra-portable laptop, the Series 9 is a winner.
The only thing that may hold you back. It starts at $1,649.99, which is pretty insane for a Windows laptop. or once, the usually-pricier Mac wins here; the 13-inch Air starts at $1,300
As much as I love gadgets, I still prefer to read books on dead-tree matter instead of a screen. I've never owned an e-reader, and I couldn't get used to reading books on my iPad's bright LCD screen.
So using the Nook Simple Touch is actually the only extended period I've ever spent with an e-reader.It didn't completely sell me on e-reading, but I certainly see the appeal: The Nook is light, displays text that's almost indiscernible from print, and can store about 1,000 books. (That applies to competitors like the Kindle, too.)
Keep on reading for my full reviewThe Nook got a lot of "Oohs" and "Ahs" when Barnes & Noble CEO unveiled the Nook to the press in New York a few weeks ago. It was a lot smaller than we had expected.
While it has the same 6-inch screen you're probably used to on e-readers, the Nook chopped off the physical keyboard in favor of one controlled by touch. The result is a device that looks more square than it should.
I know this sounds superficial, but the Nook's design is really my only major problem with the device. It feels too square, and would be a lot better if it had a more "book-y" size ratio. The newest Kobo pulls that off pretty well.Aesthetics aside, the Nook's killer feature is supposed to be touch. I was glad to see Barnes & Noble finally ditch the keyboard in favor of a touch-based E-Ink display.
The controls work pretty well, but those of you used to the nearly instant response of iOS and Android touchscreen devices will notice a bit of a lag. From the home screen I could easily get to "Two Mississippi" before a new book loaded. There's also a slight delay when typing on the on-screen keyboard.
When reading, you can swipe your finger left or right across the screen to turn the page forward or backward. It feels so natural that I developed my own system when reading: I'd hold the Nook in my right hand and use my thumb to swipe and turn pages.
If swiping isn't your thing, there are buttons on the side for page turning too.
The downside to that speed is you can still see some remnants of text from the previous page. It's barely noticeable, but it's there. But therein lies the trade off with E-Ink screens. You either get faster page turns with leftovers from the previous page, or your screen has to take the extra half a second to completely refresh between pages.
I prefer the former, so the Nook wins here.
And then there's battery life. When Barnes & Noble said it managed to squeeze some incredible battery life out of the Nook, it wasn't lying. My review unit arrived with about a three-quarter charge in the battery. After a week's use, the battery meter has barely twitched.
B&N says you can get two months out of the battery with Wi-Fi off and 30 minutes of use per day. I believe it.
You won't find apps and other cute add-ons here. B&N's purpose was to create a reader for just that: reading. If you want apps along with your Nook, try the Nook Color.
Just like the first Nook, you can download books directly to your reader from Barnes & Noble's online store. You can also subscribe to newspapers and popular magazines that have been optimized for the Nook.But while reading books is fine on the touchscreen, newspapers are a different story. I tried reading a few issues of The New York Times on it, and found myself having to tap around a lot to get to the story I wanted. Hopefully NYT and other publications revamp the design for touch-based readers like this.
The social features are pretty much what you'd expect. You can share what you're reading on Twitter and Facebook, plus lend books to other friends with Nook readers or apps. It's nothing special or groundbreaking, but I do like that you get recommendations from the Nook store based on what your pals are reading.If you want an e-reader to read and only read, definitely. I don't have enough experience to judge whether or not the Nook is better than the Kindle, but many, including Consumer Reports, think it is.
E-readers still haven't hit that $99 sweet spot, but $139 seems more than fair to me for such a great reading experience.
There is one reason to wait though. The Kindle is due for a refresh soon, and it's very possible Amazon will knock our socks off with a fancy new reader. If you can wait, see what Bezos and friends have to offer first
Phew! That felt good to get that off my chest.
I'm not saying that because I've been an iPhone user since 2007, or because the Galaxy Nexus is a dud.
I'm saying that to clear up any misconceptions you may have since I've been gushing about the Galaxy Nexus since the first day Google sent me one to review.
That's not to say it's an awful phone. In fact, I really do love it. I haven't even used my iPhone in more than two weeks. It's just sitting on my dresser, gathering dust as I give the Galaxy Nexus the attention it deserves.
But the Galaxy Nexus still isn't quite on par with the iPhone. It's close. I mean really, really close. But there are still a few make-or-break nuances between the two devices that make me choose the iPhone over the Galaxy Nexus.
However, based on my experience over the last two weeks, I have a strong feeling that I won't be saying the same thing next year unless Apple really manages to wow me with whatever the next iPhone is. As I enter my fifth year as an iPhone user, I'm getting bored. Apple has only made incremental changes to iOS over the years; it still looks and acts a lot like it did in 2007. Meanwhile, Android's improvements seem to add more radical advances with each new version. Ice Cream Sandwich is the biggest leap forward yet.
Keep reading for my full review on the Galaxy Nexus. To be clear, I tested both models: the unlocked GSM version and Verizon's slightly modified LTE version. The latter is the model available in the U.S. for $300 on contract. Generally speaking, the two phones are exactly the same, but I'll be sure to note the key differences when applicable
The large screen also makes typing a whole lot easier and more accurate than it is on the iPhone. With my iPhone, I usually have to switch to landscape mode to give myself more surface area to type on. That's not the case with the Galaxy Nexus. Keeping it in portrait mode is just fine.
The Galaxy Nexus features the same curved glass design that we saw in last year's Nexus S. It's not the most elegant or functional form, but it's still refreshing to see Samsung try something new instead of cranking out clone after clone of the same squarish phone in different screen sizes and processor speeds, while slapping a fancy new name on it.know I complain about this with almost every Samsung phone I review, but I really hate that the Galaxy Nexus is covered in plastic. Just like the Galaxy S II, the Galaxy Nexus has the same flimsy back cover that snaps on and off with these tiny little tabs. I'm glad Samsung gives you the option to remove the battery and swap out the SIM card, but it shouldn't sacrifice build quality for that. Plus, aside from the excellent screen, the rest of the body is encased in plastic. It makes the entire phone feel cheap and not the premium gadget you'd expect to get when you shell out a whopping $300. (Or $750 if you buy the unlocked model.)
There is a slight difference in look and feel between the two Galaxy Nexus models out there. The unlocked GSM model, which can run on T-Mobile or AT&T if you insert your SIM card, is noticeably thinner and lighter than the Verizon model. Since most people in the U.S. will be buying the Verizon version of the Galaxy Nexus, this is important. As a 4G LTE device, Samsung had to include a bigger battery and more room to contain the larger, power hungry parts it needs. (More on battery life later.) The result is a hefty phone. While heavier than the GSM model, the extra weight on the Verizon Galaxy Nexus does make it feel like it's more durable. But it still doesn't accomplish that perfect balance of thinness and build quality that the iPhone has.
As I hinted above, Google has been unleashing loads of improvements on Android with each major new release. Ice Cream Sandwich is the best yet. It's almost a completely reimagined OS from what we saw last year with version 2.3 Gingerbread. This time around, Google married the best parts of Honeycomb for tablets with Gingerbread to bring you the perfect hybrid OS that scales nicely to just about any screen sizeI love that Android now eliminates the need for physical function buttons on phones. Instead, everything can be controlled from the virtual home, back, and multitasking keys that sit in the black taskbar at the bottom of the screen. Those buttons only appear when needed, so if you're watching a video, taking a photo, or playing a full screen game, they won't be in your way.
I also enjoyed Google's new and updated apps for Ice Cream Sandwich such as Gmail, Calendar, and People. Of those, the People app is probably my new favorite. It pulls in all your contacts' information from various social networks like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ and integrates their photos and status updates in one place. Unfortunately, there's no way to link Facebook to the People app, a likely byproduct of the controversy between Google and Facebook over their contact sharing policies.
Speaking of integration, ICS does an amazing job at working with all your favorite services. Unlike iOS, which only has direct Twitter integration, you'll have no problem sharing stuff on everything from Dropbox to Evernote. Just download the app, sign in, and Android does the rest.
Still, after all these years, the biggest drawback to Android, its lack of quality apps, is the one thing that really weighs the OS down. Google is still having a tough time getting developers to make the best apps for Android in addition to iOS, so you're going to have to wait to have all the fun iPhone owners are having. And even when developers do bring their apps to Android, they tend to look a lot uglier than their iOS counterparts. It's getting better, and even Eric Schmidt claims developers will start paying more attention to Android next year. But right now, Android's app ecosystem doesn't even compare to Apple's.
Overall, ICS is Google's best OS to date. And while it still falls short of iOS, you're not going to have trouble doing what you need to. If you want to know more, be sure to read my full review of Ice Cream Sandwich.Now, back to the hardware. One of the biggest selling points of the Galaxy Nexus was its screen. Like all of Samsung's screens, the one on the Galaxy Nexus' screen is bright and clear. Even better, it one-ups the iPhone with its ability to play 720p HD video. It's kind of a pain to get your own videos onto the Galaxy Nexus (more on that later), so I mostly tested HD video playback on streaming sites. It looks damn good.
But the HD playback is the screen's only redeeming quality. When placed side by side with the iPhone's Retina Display, the Galaxy Nexus' screen looks downright grainy in comparison. I'm not sure if this is a design aesthetic with Ice Cream Sandwich, but everything on the Galaxy Nexus has this weird textured look to it, almost as if each screen was printed out on a piece of paper. I suspect this is a feature of the hardware, as the screen captures I took using the phone didn't have that grainy look to it.
Don't get me wrong, the screen isn't awful. The graininess I mentioned is hardly a dealbreaker. Most of you probably won't even notice. Plus watching videos on such a large screen is a delight.
Under the hood, the Verizon Galaxy Nexus ships with 32 GB of storage, which along with Verizon's LTE helps account for that $300 price tag. I wish Samsung would've offered a 16 GB model at a cheaper price, but I guess it's tough to complain about a ton of storage and an incredible 4G network. If you get the unlocked GSM model, you'll be able to get one with 16 GB of storage if you want.
The Galaxy Nexus has 1 GB of RAM plus a 1.2 GHz dual-core processor. That's more than enough power to get you by for gaming, video, browsing, you name it. I had no problem when it came to speed performance in these areas, so go wild.
When it comes to battery life, I can see why Apple and even RIM are waiting to start shipping phones with LTE. The GSM model of the Galaxy Nexus has decent battery life; I was able to get through most days of normal use on one charge. However, Verizon's LTE model is a whole other story. The battery drains so fast, you'll find yourself reaching for the charger or a spare battery at least once per day. I was traveling this week and spent four hours on an airplane with my Galaxy Nexus completely off. I still had to recharge about two hours after I landed. Awful. You're going to be completely up a creek if you don't buy an extra battery for your Galaxy Nexus or keep a charger in your desk at work.
Another drawback is the extremely low sound from the Galaxy Nexus' speaker. Even at maximum volume, it's barely audible. It doesn't help that the speaker is located on the back, so it gets even more muffled when the phone is lying flat on a table. I've already missed several phone calls and even an alarm because I couldn't hear the phone. Not good.
One of my favorite additions to the hardware is the indicator light located at the very bottom of the phone. It's completely invisible when not on, but can display three different colors depending on what kind of notification you have. For example, emails and texts blink white and notifications from Seesmic blink blue. It makes it easy to tell at a glance what you have waiting for you on your phone. I'm sure BlackBerry converts will love this feature.
The camera is good too. It's a bit underpowered at just 5 MP, compared to the 8 MP cameras you'll get in several other top-tier phones, but it still shoots excellent 1080p HD video. Whether or not it's better than the iPhone 4S's video camera is still up for debate but you're hardly going to be disappointed. It's beautiful: