CES Las Vegas: The Other Winners - Part 2


Continuing from Part 1, we take a look at two laptops that were showcased in Las Vegas. Here they are:

Tablets/Laptops: Lenovo IdeaPad U1 Hybrid

Lenovo's sleek new notebook is reminiscent of the older clamshell iBooks, or even the Motorola PEBL - in a laptop form. The feature that defines this notebook is the ability to undock its 11.6" screen, making it a Qualcomm Snapdragon - powered tablet. When docked, contact pins at the base activate the Windows 7 OS, and when undocked, Lenovo's Skylight OS (Linux based) takes over the show. At the CES, the Lenovo reps handled the docking demo, which, raises the question on how delicate the process is...only time will tell.

The base of the IdeaPad can function alone as its own Core2 machine (independent of the tablet screen) with the connection of an external monitor, making this a true 2-device machine. Both the screen and base have their own WiFi antennas and batteries, while the tablet also packs 3G and Bluetooth antennas, as well as speakers and a webcam.

The keyboard is reported to be flat and with certain flex, far from the excellent raised keyboards Lenovo is known for. Lenovo has said that the keyboard will be updated before release.

With tablet PCs really making their way back into mainstream in 2009, the Ideapad looks to be a great move forward. If Lenovo can get this right, both in terms of pricing and performance, then the Ideapad will take the market by storm.

Gaming Laptops: Alienware M11x

Alienware laptops are beasts, in terms of power, price and size. At the CES however, Dell (Alienware's Parent company) announced the M11x. The notebook is on the borderline with larger netbooks, with a screen measuring 11.6". Other features include nVidia's new GT335M video card, and the selling price comes in at below $1000 (around R7600 or 720Eur).

According to Dell, the M11x achieve about 6hrs when using the lower-intensity graphics, and around 2hrs when it's hardcore gaming time. The laptop can connect to a range of monitors, boasting DisplayPort, HDMI and VGA ports. The M11x can connect to larger fullHD monitors, and Dell claims that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 will run at more than 30fps in fullHD with settings at HIGH. With COD's intensive graphics, this really is something to be proud of.

The long battery life is achieved with Intel's Core 2 ULV - Ultra Low Voltage - processor (the U7300 to be exact). Compared with other Alienware machines, the M11x is very thin, in fact, overall dimensions aren't very far from the 12.1" EeePC.

Dell says that even though prices start at "below $1000", actual pricing will begin from as low as $799. At that price, the M11x can punch in well above its weight (no pun intended).

What do you think of the new gadgets from CES? Post a comment and let us know.

CES Las Vegas: The Other Winners - Part 1


While Panasonic was wowing the crowds with their 3D screens, other brands were making scoops of their own. Here's some of them:

Home Theater: LG BD590

LG is holding its horses regarding the 3D bandwagon everyone seems to be jumping on, choosing a different route with their new Blu-ray player. The BD590 has a 250GB hard drive onto which you can store your own music collection (ripped from the drive itself or via USB) as well as photos and videos. Here are the main features:

- (the afore mentioned) 250GB Hard Drive for storing multimedia via USB and ripped music

- The ripped music is stored on the hard drive, and with built-in WiFi, all the information is taken care of by Gracenote

- Access to online streaming like Youtube and Picasa

- DLNA compliance - this allows you stream content from a connected computer.

Although the BD590 has no 3D, I feel that LG may have fallen onto something over here. If a person is going 3D, they will definitely need a new 3D-capable TV, 3D Blu-Ray Player and then the 3D movie itself! And, at least in the beginning anyway, 3D movies are going to be fairly scarce. With that in mind, the BD590 should fair reasonably well in 2010.

The People's Choice Award: Intel's Wireless Display Technology

We all know the hassle of connecting up laptops, desktops and the like to the larger plasma or LCD monitors: finding that elusive monitor cable or having to mess about with media formats if you use a media box; easy to work around when you have time, frustrating at best when you have to put something on the big screen for the whole family.

Processor manufacturer Intel aim to take care of these problems with their new Wireless Display Technology - fondly known as "WiDi". What this new technology involves is using a WiDi enabled laptop (a laptop with Intel's new 'Core' range of CPUs) and connecting wirelessly) to an adaptor box that plugs in to any display's HDMI port.

This certainly seems very promising, and, the prospect of gaming from a laptop onto a large monitor without the cable hassle is very appealing...let's just hope that Intel has taken care of potential lag issues that have plagued wireless streaming up to now.

Mobile Phones: Motorola Backflip

Motorola's new Android smartphone, the Backflip, is set to release in Q1/Q2 2010. The device will be available in Europe, Asia, North America and Latin America. (ed: hopefully the phone will be sold in Africa as well).

The phone will come with Android 1.5, which is upgradeable to 2.1 when it releases. Other features include a 5MP camera, 3.5mm (yay) headphone jack, and 2GB memory which can be expanded to 32GB, as well as a full HTML browser.

The Backflip is a quad-band GSM, with support for 850/1900/2100Mhz 3G bands (coincidentally the exact bands that AT&T use), and has WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS capabilities. At first glance, the Backflip is a revised version of the Cliq, but instead of the QWERTY keyboard sliding out, it folds out from underneath, like a book.

Another unique feature is the trackpad (Motorola calls it Backtrack), which is located on the back of the display when the phone is open. It works like a normal keypad, allowing you to work your way through pictures, home screen panes and much more. An interesting concept, but we'll have to see how well it does in the market. Oh, and by the way, the HVGA touchscreen is another way to navigate your way around the phone.

- Part 2 will be dedicated to 2 new laptops that will debut in 2010 -

What do you think of the new gadgets from CES? Post a comment and let us know.

Make your computer look like the iPad


Here's the wallpaper that was featured at the Apple event on Wednesday, where Steve Jobs released the iPad. Credit to Rory Piper from Green Candy for the pic.

Click here to open the image in a larger version. Enjoy!

Hope for Haiti - South Africa's Gift of the Givers support


I have just joined Bloggers Unite, an online organization that encourages bloggers to make aware world issues, and to voice our opinions on major events in the world.

And one such event that has really got the world into motion is the devastating earthquake in Port au Prince, Haiti. Bloggers Unite's objective is to provide information on the disaster, and relief efforts that are underway around the world.

Now, I live in Durban, South Africa, and a great charitable organization exists in my country that has been involved greatly in relief efforts over in Haiti. They're called Gift of the Givers and on 18th January the organization sent a second team of rescue operatives to Port au Prince. The team is carrying with them about R2.5 million worth of heavy equipment to aid relief efforts. Along with the rescuers is a media contingent that will be helping to broadcast information on the current situation there.

Read more about this relief effort from the South African organization here, at their official website.

This post is for the Bloggers Unite event, "Bloggers Unite for Haiti". Byte Lounge is now a member of this website. Read more about the event here.

The iPad: Looking Further


Apple has finally released the much-coveted iPad (which was also, interestingly, rumoured to be called the "iSlate" - but I'll get to that in a moment), and the tech world has been buzzing with opinions and news about this latest iGadget.

There have even been startling reports that the Big Man, Mr Jobs himself, may be stepping down from Apple CEO soon, and that the iPad event may be his penultimate showpiece. But of course, I don't support this theory, as, the way I see it, the iPad is only the beginning.

To understand how this new product is going to play out, we must look back into the last decade, at the dawn of the iPod-era. The release of the popular music player, and its companion service iTunes, led to Apple world domination. And the Cupertino giant was able to achieve this by creating a product that re-invented cool: the iPod made the ugly mp3 player desirable, and we must acknowledge iTunes in part for creating a platform upon which the iPod rode to being successful.

So the iPad, the new cool thing from the fruity company, will certainly make waves when it's released in a few months, as people begin to use the device and see for themselves, first hand, the potential of the tablet.

But there's a few problems that I see Apple having with this device: number one, its name. iPad looks very similar to "iPod", with just one letter changed. This can be a potential technical error that some customers may make when researching this purchase. iSlate, in my opinion, was a cooler name.

Then there's the issue of the device itself. Steve Jobs made a point of first identifying the need for a market for this device, clearly showing its place within the Apple product ranks (between the iPhone and MacBook), and stating that iPad will fill the need for wanting a more powerful device to browse the Internet, yet portable enough to be used almost anywhere, in situations that the traditional laptop may not be viable.

But to most, the iPad just seems like a larger iPod touch, a device with a better interface that just happens to also be able to read books, and on select models, even make VOiP calls over the 3G network.

But we'll only know the fate of the iPad once it's out in the wild, in a few months.

So here's a question to you: will you be buying an iPad? And how would you envision yourself using this tablet-esque computer? Drop us a line in the comments below.

Consumer Electronics Show Las Vegas - The Best in Show


The Panasonic VT25 - let the 3D phenomenon begin. At this year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the main theme was all things in 3 Dimensions, with many of the major TV Screen brands announcing their range of 3D-compatible HDTVs. Panasonic though, made the most noise and caught enough attention.

Panasonic will be the first to launch their version of 3D screens, aiming to hit US markets around April, and soon after for Europe, and then (surprise surprise) later on in the year for Africa. The screen comes in sizes ranging from 54"-65", and truly brings cinema to the home, giving similar effects to the IMAX 3D (albeit on a smaller scale for now).

As with 3D cinema, watching 3D requires special glasses. However, this is where comparisons end. The VT25 uses active shutter technology as opposed to standard polarized 3D glasses, which work by closing off each eye alternately many times per second. The effect is that the brain retains that image for a fraction of a second, and, combined with the image from the opposite eye, 3D imagery is created. Shutter glasses do require power, and that means recharging. Hopefully Panasonic supplies glasses with decent life, it would be quite a shame to recharge halfway through Ice Age 3D. Using shutters, full 1080p HD resolution is maintained for EACH EYE, making the experience just that much more immersive.

That brings us to a small issue. While brands like Toshiba and Samsung have announced that their sets will feature 2D - 3D conversion, Panasonic is having none of it. To experience 3D, you will need all the gear: the TV with glasses, a 3D compatible Blu-ray Player and 3D Blu-ray movie. Patterns of 3 seem to be the idea over here.

Apart from Sony, Panasonic is the only manufacturer that will supply a pair of glasses with their TV sets, which is by no means enough, and there's no telling how much another pair will cost. I wouldn't read too much into this though, with the rate that the technology is progressing, I wouldn't be surprised that soon we will be able to watch 3D without glasses, now wouldn't that be something?

Panasonic has a reputation of delivering the blackest blacks in the business. Not content with that, the company has one-upped itself, introducing a feature called Infinite Black, which aims to deliver great contrasts even in bright conditions.

All things said and done, Panasonic's coup de grace with the VT25 is not 3D. Oh no. Panasonic is looking to quieten plasma critics by dispelling fears about plasma burn-out, and they do that by giving all of their Full HD 3D models a panel life of up to 100,000 hours. Taking an average viewing time of 8 hours a day, that equates to roughly 30 years!

Being an owner of a 3D monitor myself, and having experienced 3D on a small screen, having full HD in each eye is something I cannot wait to experience. 2009 Was all about 3D in the cinema, and 2010 is all about bringing it home. Panasonic has done a great job in getting the attention on them early on.

The CES Las Vegas was not just about 3D screens, there were a few other gems at the show ranging from home energy monitoring to Alienware's 11" gaming laptop. More on them and others in the next post.

Apple's January 26th Event - Byte Lounge coverage


Apple is hosting a media event on January 26th, with the focus being the "mobility space". And judging by the mounting rumours of a certain Apple tablet (or is it "slate"?) computer being developed by the Cuppertino powerhouse, we're expecting Mr. Jobs to take the stage on what's being dubbed "Tablet Tuesday" - 26th January 2010, when the company is expected to announce this killer device.
What's revolutionary about this Apple tablet computer is that, like the iPod before it revolutionised the way we listen to music, watch movies and play games in the last decade, we're expecting this tablet or slate computer to revolutionise the way we read magazines, books, watch DVDs and other high-definition media.

As such, Byte Lounge will be first off-the-mark to let you know what's being announced at the event. I'll also publish my opinions on whatever is released on the 26th. We're going to be one of the few (if only) tech blogs in South Africa and The Netherlands to annonuce the breaking news almost minutes after it happens - even though we're not going to physically be there in California when the Apple engineers take the stage.

You're invited to join us as we witness history in the making, and you too can take part in the conversation by commenting on the stories about the new releases here at Byte Lounge.

In future posts, as we build-up to the event, I'll let you know the international times for when to tune in to the blog - South African, European and American times, that is.

If you're not already doing so, follow the blog through Google Friend Connect by clicking "Follow" on the right. Also follow us on twitter:
Rahul Dowlath: http://twitter.com/RahulDowlath
Nitesh Dowlath: http://twitter.com/LCDRHitman

Witness history in the making. Be sure to stay on Byte Lounge!

EeeVolution - Looking back at the Eee PC


Two years ago, the Eee PC took the market by storm, and is still leading the way today.
It has been just over 2 years since ASUS took the market by surprise and brought upon portable haven. The Eee PC has revolutionized the way we use laptops and has created a niche that we know as the netbook. One measure of its success is how quickly other brands jumped on the bandwagon, brands that include Acer, Samsung, and recently, Sony, to name a few.

The idea of light, compact computers were by no means new in 2007, all of those fell into the category of 'ultraportable' - laptops that crammed power into the smallest case possible. The short-coming was that laptops ended up being phenomenally expensive, making it out of reach to the everyday user.

And that's where ASUS spotted the opportunity. The rest, as they say, is history.

The Eee PC 701 - the original Eee launched in November 2007 - formed the foundation for ASUS to introduce a whole range of products that now include desktop PCs as well as laptops. All products, whatever the shape or size, have been designed in line with the Eee mantra: "technology that makes it easy to learn, work and play".

Available in Linux or Windows XP variants, the 701 was a popular choice for all those who wanted portability without having to take out a second mortgage. It has a 7" screen and uses SSD (solid-state drive) for the ultimate reliability on the road.

Powered by Intel's power-efficient Atom processor, the Eee PC 901 (June 2008) gave users a bigger screen - 8.9" compared with 7" - while still maintaining the same size as the 701. The 901 boasted battery life that could last up to 8 hours when on the move.

Murmurings started in the market though, and ASUS recognized that small keyboards weren't to everybody's liking. Enter the Eee PC 1000, with its 10.1" screen and near-full (~90%) size keyboard. Launched in September 2008, this model proved to be very popular because the model maintained that long-lasting battery life.

The pearlescent finish and higher capacity SSD made the Eee PC S101 the design change that people wanted. The new finish appeals to those wanting to make a serious design statement, without shelling out a fortune for a 'normal' ultraportable machine.

Continuing the trend of moving in new directions, May 2009 brought the Eee PC Seashell 1008HA.
Walking in at under one inch thick, the Seashell uses a new streamlined shape as well as a next-gen Atom processor. One of the impressive features include the range of innovative touches that the touchpad can recognize.

On the modder's market, digitized screens kept popping up, allowing users to convert their current netbooks into touchbooks. It was in ASUS' own interests to ensure that theu don't lose their share of the market. They didn't fail to produce. In July 2009, the Eee PC T91 was launched.The design of the netbook to a big twist with this model, literally. The size of the tablet netbook is similar to that of the original 701. The touch sensitive screen makes it useful for handwritten notes as well a touch-typing.

The one thing that stands out about the whole range of Eee's is that their build quality is top notch. ASUS uses the strongest materials and the greenest of green manufacture processes to ensure their products have a long life and can be recycled at the end. Let's hope that ASUS continues to push out brilliant products in the future.

Google Nexus One: My Thoughts


The web's favourite search giant, Google, has launched their own phone running on their operating system, Android. Ever since the rumours of the OS began circulating way back over two years ago, many speculated that Google would be making their own mobile phone.

So when the company released Android, it was clear that their plan was to create a mobile experience that integrated the Google experience: Gmail, Calendar, Docs - the works, and at the same time capitalise on gaining a huge influx in users to their products.

But the tech community was caught by surprise when the Silicon Valley giant announced that they'd be launching their very own branded phone, which would be manufactured by smartphone maker HTC.

By selling their very own "Google phone", the company has created a device upon which all other Android smartphones are to be benchmarked. Because Google created Android, they're able to push this phone to its limits, creating the optimal user experience. And, as the early reviews of the device go, Andriod 2.1 (the latest version of the mobile system) rocks.

So what's my opinion on the Nexus One, the "Google phone"? Well, I think it's a great addition to the market. It'll force competitors Apple and BlackBerry to really re-look at their mobile products, and to better them for the sake of competition.

It looks good; very sleek and stylish. I particularly like the feature where the trackball lights up in three different colours for indicating whether a text, email or call is coming through. The all-touch screen looks professional, although I'd have preferred to have a slide-out QWERTY keyboard for easier texting.

A cool new feature of the Android 2.1 software is voice-enabled text input. The entire operating system has this feature available, and it essentially allows you to talk into the phone and the device converts the audio into text. It's speech-to-text in all places of the OS. Cool.

Furthermore, the Qualcomm Snapdragon (Qualcomm QSD 8250 1GHz) processor that powers the phone is blindingly fast, and as such, after being experienced by users "in the wild", we're likely to look at getting this processor used in a larger variety of mobile devices, from tablet-like "slate" computers, to other smartphones. Rumour has it that Apple might by using the Snapdragon in their new iSlate (or whatever it's called) - although, earlier reports indicate that Apple's acquisition of PA Semi may lead to the company using their own microchip to power that device.

Google's first attempt at a mobile phone clearly points to the direction the company is headed in the not-too-distant future. I'm really looking forward to what the guys at the Googleplex have in store for us - with Android powering these Google phones, we're in for a treat!

Welcoming Nitesh Dowlath to the Byte Lounge team


Byte Lounge would like to welcome on-board Nitesh Dowlath, the newest member of the Byte Lounge blogging team!

Nitesh has previously helped me in writing a few posts by giving me a "heads-up" on some interesting topics to talk about.

He is an Android user of the touch-friendly HTC Hero, and will be addding his perspective on the Android platform in future posts.

An avid follower of all things tech, he's sure to add some of his own insights into the technology world, and he joins at a time when Byte Lounge has just shifted its focus slightly to cover a wider range of topics, from science to films - adding to the "digital lifestyle" concept that begun this blog.

An interesting note: Nitesh is from The Netherlands, and as such Byte Lounge is now updated from two places on opposite ends of the world! I write from Durban, South Africa, and Nitesh will be updating from Netherlands.

Looking forward to your insights and posts, Nitesh!

3DTV: It's a Gamble, But Awesome Still


(from "Life in Pixels" by Rahul Dowlath)

The CES (Consumer Electronics Show) held recently in Las Vegas, Nevada, had one important and exciting thing coming out of it: the emergence of 3D television in the home-theatre set-up.

This means that we can watch big-budget, sheer-awesomness-exuding, and eye-watrering-it’s-so-beautifully-rendered films like James Cameron’s Avatar in all its 3D glory from the comfort of our living rooms. Sounds good, right? It sure is.

What’s even more exciting is that big-name broadcasters like ESPN and the Discovery Network are planning on broadcasting content in 3D. ESPN even went on to state that they’re planning on broadcasting the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa in 3D.

However, the slight snag with the onset of 3D technology – what some anticipate will be making its way onto store shelves by the end of this year – is that, like the introduction of Sony’s Blu-Ray HD technology, 3DTV will be lacking in the amount of 3D content available for consumption.

However, according to Nic Covey, director of cross-platform insights for The Nielsen Company, “In terms of where the consumer is, over the top is where the action is going to be in 2010,” he said. “That’s what they’re looking for.” So there is in fact consumer interest in this technology; it’s just that the creation of 3D content is expensive, and as such there is not enough available for this to be viable just yet.

ESPN, while showing interest in broadcasting in 3D, still maintains that the creation of such content for live events is going to be expensive. “We need to be able to get 2D and 3D [versions of live sporting events] produced in the same truck,” ESPN’s Chief Technology Officer Chuck Pagano said. “If we have to do side-by-side production, with two crews and two trucks, it could end up being a very long putt for us in terms of making this work economically.”

3DTV is certainly the future of home entertainment, in the same way DVD and surround sound revolutionised the home theatre. It just needs more time to develop. And when that time comes, I will certainly be in line with my 3D goggles in hand ready to get this awesome tech.

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