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Pioneer launches its 2012 VSX AV receivers lineup, available now starting at $249

Saturday, March 17th, 2012
Pioneer launches its 2012 VSX AV receivers lineup, available now starting at $249
We’ve seen Pioneer stuff its VSX line with 3D and Bluetooth goodness in the past; now, the Japanese outfit is unveiling its 2012 AV receivers portfolio in an attempt to widen its offerings. Starting with the lower-end models, the VSX-522 and VSX-822 are both packing 5.1 surround audio, while the main difference between the two is the lack of AirPlay and Bluetooth on the former. If you are, however, looking to go the premium route, you can snag the VSX-1022 or the top of the line Pioneer VSX-1122 , which will get you 7.1 sound, DLNA, as well as 1080p upscaling. All good for your ears? Ready up your wallet, as you’ll have to drop anywhere from $249 to $599 if you want to add one of these to your setup.

Gallery: Pioneer VSX press shots

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Pioneer launches its 2012 VSX AV receivers lineup, available now starting at $249 originally appeared on Engadget on Sat, 17 Mar 2012 20:34:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Sony grows Cyber-shot family by three with DSC-WX50 and WX70, ultra-thin TX200V

Sunday, January 29th, 2012

Far more svelte than its lengthy product name, the Cyber-shot DSC-TX200V is Sony’s new point-and-shoot flagship, packing an 18.2 megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor, 26mm 5x optical zoom lens, 1080/60p video capture and a 3.3-inch Xtra Fine TruBlack OLED touchscreen. Sony claims that the cam’s BIONZ processor can help it capture stills and video with extremely low noise, and an improved focusing system can deliver speeds of about 0.13 seconds in daylight and 0.25 seconds in lower-light conditions. Its reflective durable housing enables waterproof shooting down to 16 feet, and can protect the camera from dust and freezing temperatures of 14 degrees Fahrenheit.

If price is more important to you than an ultra-thin design and top-of-the-line spec list, then the DSC-WX70 and DSC-WX50 might be of interest. Both cameras include 16.2 megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensors, 25mm 5x optical zoom lenses, 12 megapixel stills during video capture, and 1080/60i HD shooting. There are nine “Picture Effects” options, adopted from the NEX series and also found on the TX200V. Both the WX50 and WX70 have a nearly identical list of features, though the first model includes a 2.7-inch display, compared to a 3-inch touchscreen on the WX70. All three cameras are expected to ship in March in a variety of colors. The TX200V will be available in silver, red and violet finishes with a retail price of $500, while the WX70 and WX50 will run you $230 and $200, respectively. Hit up the press release just past the break for the full list of colors and specs.

Continue reading Sony grows Cyber-shot family by three with DSC-WX50 and WX70, ultra-thin TX200V

Sony grows Cyber-shot family by three with DSC-WX50 and WX70, ultra-thin TX200V originally appeared on Engadget on Sun, 29 Jan 2012 23:00:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Verizon’s HTC ThunderBolt free on contract through January 26th

Friday, January 20th, 2012

Your prayers have been answered if you’ve been looking for a 4G LTE without having to empty out your wallet. Verizon’s first 4G LTE phone, the HTC ThunderBolt, is now free with a two-year contract through January 26th. The ThunnderBolt was first announced last year during the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show and it’s a bit slower than the high-end smartphones on the market today. It offers a 1 GHz Snapdragon chip instead of the dual-core 1.4GHz processor that’s included in top-of-the-line Android devices. However, it’s also equipped with an 8-megapixel camera, a 4.3-inch display with an 800 x 480-pixel resolution and more. With Mobile World Congress right around the corner it’s tough to commit to a two-year contract with a year-old smartphone, but users on a budget might be happy to forgo the bells and whistles in an effort to save a little cash.

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Motorola DROID RAZR review

Monday, November 7th, 2011

The Motorola DROID RAZR is arguably the most exciting Android device to come across my desk in some time, but all the hype in the world doesn’t necessarily mean it deserves to carry the iconic RAZR name. It’s a 4G LTE device that packs in a powerful processor, high resolution display, 16GB of built-in storage, 1080p HD video capture capability and plenty more. But is this Motorola’s best phone since the original RAZR? I have spent the past few days with the Motorola DROID RAZR, so hit the break for my full review.

Hardware / Display / Design

The Motorola DROID RAZR features top-of-the-line specs, and it somehow stuffs it all into one of the thinnest and lightest smartphone cases on the planet. At only 7.1 millimeters thin, this isn’t only the thinnest 4G LTE device in the world, it’s one of the thinnest smartphones period. With a 1.2GHz dual-core TI OMAP processor, a 4.3-inch qHD Super AMOLED display, 1GB of RAM, an 8-megapixel camera with 1080p HD video capture, an LED flash, an HDMI-out port, noise cancellation capabilities, 16GB of built-in storage and a 16GB microSD card pre-installed, this phone is isn’t just competing with other Android devices, it’s crushing them.

As far as the design of the handset, the DROID RAZR looks like the perfect evolution of the DROID family with a beautiful display sandwiched in between tough Gorilla Glass and a metal chassis with Kevlar backing. The edges of the RAZR are angular yet still soft, and the phone blends high gloss finishes with a matte case-back perfectly.

On top of the phone is an HDMI-out port, a microUSB charging and data port, and a 3.5-millimeter headset jack. On the right side is a power on/off/unlock button next to a volume up/down rocker key. On the left side is a small cover that flips down to give you access to the phone’s LTE microSIM card and microSD card. Around back is the 8-megapixel camera, an LED flash and a speaker.

While the display on the DROID RAZR is a 4.3-inch qHD Super AMOLED screen, it still isn’t perfect. It does look better to me than the displays used on the Motorola DROID BIONIC and Motorola DROID 3, but it’s still a PenTile display, and that means that it still has a grainy look no matter how high the resolution is. Colors look very good and are reasonably bright and vivid, though the screen doesn’t compare to the likes of Samsung’s Super AMOLED Plus displays. Touch sensitivity was excellent and incredibly responsive, with the device instantly reacting to every touch event, swipe and drag. On top of the display is Gorilla Glass, so in addition to the phone performing extremely well in the display department, it should be able to hold up to your use and abuse pretty well.

Now, while I love most of the hardware on the Motorola DROID RAZR, there are bound to be some negatives, right?

The smartphone is incredibly thin, but all that technology has to be stuffed in there somehow. How did Motorola fit it all, you ask? This phone incredibly thin but it’s also extremely wide. In addition to a 4.3-inch display, on the upper end of the comfortable spectrum as far as normal non-ape humans are concerned, the RAZR has a lot of empty space on both sides of the screen. That doesn’t count the phone’s actual frame either.

Without measuring, it looks like there’s almost a half inch of space on both sides of the display. This might not sound like a lot, but piled on top of an already huge screen, this makes one-handed use nearly impossible. I can’t even delete an icon off the home screen using one hand since Motorola made the delete area at the top of the display.

When going into the phone app, I can’t even dial a phone number with one hand since the dialer tab is, again, on top of the display and my thumb can’t come close to reaching it. Want to browse the Web? Well, you can’t do it one-handed because your thumb won’t be able to touch the URL entry bar. I can’t even swipe down to bring up the notification drawer using one hand to check unread messages, alerts and other information.

Software

The software running on the Motorola DROID RAZR is almost identical to the last flagship Android device from Verizon Wireless that shipped only seven weeks ago, the Motorola DROID BIONIC. One new feature that is actually very handy is Motorola’s Smart Actions app.

Smart Actions lets you specify different actions for your phone to automatically perform based on locations. I wish my iPhone had this. For instance, I don’t use Bluetooth at all when I’m at home, and I’d love it if my iPhone would turn Bluetooth off to save battery whenever I pulled into the driveway. Well, this works flawlessly on the Motorola DROID RAZR with Smart Actions. In addition to being able to set a wide range of different settings for locations, you can also base these actions on other parameters, like when the phone reaches a certain battery percentage. One of the suggested configurations is to have your display dim, turn off GPS, and turn of background syncing when your phone’s battery is at 20% or lower. Motorola says that with Smart Actions configured, you can extend your RAZR’s battery by up to 30%.

Besides Smart Actions, the DROID RAZR offers FIPS 140-2 validation for email, contacts and calendar giving the RAZR government-grade encryption for those apps in addition to voice and video conferencing. Beyond these few things, the OS and UI on the Motorola DROID RAZR are basically identical to the device before it, and the one before that.

Phone / Speakerphone

Voice calling on this phone is excellent, with calls coming through loud with good low end and clarity. Signal reception was also excellent and I almost always got 4G LTE signal in my home or around town in New York City and parts of Connecticut. Callers could hear me loud and clear.

As far as the speakerphone performance, it was sometimes hard to hear the other party in a conversation. Audio was choppy and I wish the speaker could get louder. Music playback on the speaker was hollow, tinny and distorted, but oddly, it seemed to get louder than it could during a voice call.

All in all, the DROID RAZR is a solid phone for voice calling, though the speakerphone performance fell short.

Battery

The battery on the Motorola DROID RAZR has really impressed me. After using the phone for a few days, I completely forgot about the fact that this a 4G LTE device (in terms of battery performance, not data speeds). For the first time ever, I believe that Verizon’s 4G LTE devices have finally reached the point of being powerful enough in the battery department, and thin enough, to not offer any drawbacks related to 4G compatibility.

The RAZR lasted days as far as standby time is concerned, and even with moderate use, the phone went for almost two days. While the battery isn’t removable, that’s a small price to pay for a device that’s able to run with the best of them.

Accessories

Motorola sent me a boatload of accessories for the DROID RAZR including an external battery (just plug it in and you have an external power supply), a car dock, a multimedia dock and the company’s updated Lapdock 100. The new laptop dock improves upon the original, though it still has issues. For example, Motorola has wisely allowed this new Lapdock to work with a wide variety of Motorola smartphones by having a universal connector that plugs into more than one device. Unfortunately, this design doesn’t actually let you dock the phone. Instead, you can only rest the phone in a cut out in the Lapdock.

For a phone like the RAZR with the ports on the top of the case, you can’t even rest the handset in the Lapdock, so you’re forced to leave it plugged in on the table.

The new laptop dock has two-finger scrolling, a welcome change, though its performance it still pretty terrible and it makes navigation a maddening experience. The keyboard is improved, though key layout and size isn’t optimal, either.

All in all, in my limited usage, Motorola’s webtop concept is still very much a concept and not something I’d ever consider using regularly. It’s easier to just use the phone itself than the clunky laptop-like accessory.

Conclusion

The Motorola DROID RAZR has replaced Samsung’s Galaxy S II as the best Android device I’ve ever used. It’s ridiculously fast, incredibly thin and it runs on the fastest network in the country. It is also the first 4G device to finally show the world that it doesn’t have to be as thick as a brick or have battery life that forces you to invest in 12 chargers.

With a beautiful design, an amazing display and a thin profile that’s packed to the brim with the latest and greatest specs, the Motorola DROID RAZR is absolutely worthy of being Verizon’s flagship device for the holidays. While the physical size of the device is larger than I’d have liked, and one-handed usage can be tricky if you’re not used to the crop of large display’d devices of late, there are way more positives than negatives with the DROID RAZR.

Is it a device worthy of being the new Motorola RAZR? For the most part, I’d say so.

The Motorola DROID RAZR will become available on November 11th at 11:11 a.m. for $299.99 on contract. Verizon is also offering a limited time promotion as far as 4G smartphone data plans are concerned, so a customer who signs up for the 2GB monthly plan for $30 will receive the 4GB data plan, and someone who wants something smaller will be able to add a 300MB data plan to any Verizon Wireless phone for $20 a month.

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Apple iPhone 4S review

Monday, October 17th, 2011

iPhone 4S review

The iPhone 4S is Apple’s top of the line smartphone, but is it just a small upgrade over the iPhone 4 or something entirely different? It looks the same, but does it act the same? New in the iPhone 4S is Siri, Apple’s virtual personal assistant, along with an upgraded camera, twice the speed as far as processing and downloads are concerned, and a redesigned antenna system that also supports global roaming for Verizon and Sprint users. Are these new features enough to upgrade your iPhone 4, though? What about iPhone 3GS owners or maybe even those of you who are stuck using some other smartphone you bought because the salesperson said it was just good as that iPhone your carrier didn’t offer at the time? Read on to find out.

Hardware / Design

The iPhone 4S combines some of the best materials with what is arguably the finest smartphone design on the planet — you don’t even need to see or hold one to know that. Why? Because it’s basically identical to the original iPhone 4 that launched last year in June.

While the iPhone 4S external hardware doesn’t greatly differ from the iPhone 4, there are some subtle and welcome changes. For starters, the iPhone 4S incorporates the updated external antenna design found on the Verizon iPhone 4. Instead of three breaks in the stainless steel middle band that surrounds the handset, there are now four symmetrically placed breaks.

I like this layout better because while Apple’s “Antennagate” issues were exaggerated, it was still a problem at times if you happened to hold the phone in a way that completely smothered the bottom-left corner of the phone. After over a year of consciously and then subconsciously avoiding that spot with my grip, this new antenna design makes me feel a bit more at ease. In fact, I haven’t noticed an issue at all even when purposely applying the death grip across one, two or even all four seams this time around.

There are also a few physical hardware changes like a redesigned home button (mostly from the inside) that should fix reliability issues. While not touted by Apple, I can also tell that there has been a big change with the microphone and speakerphone, but I’ll go into that a little bit later.

The big upgrades with the iPhone 4S are internal. The iPhone 4 wasn’t a slow device by any means; in fact, it performed and felt faster than most other smartphones that had much faster processors thanks to Apple’s complete control over the OS from top to bottom, including the user interface. The iPhone 4S though, is much faster than the iPhone 4 with most tasks, and it offers up seven times the graphics performance of the iPhone 4. Apps open instantly now, there’s no lag whatsoever, web browsing (which was already arguably better than it is on any other mobile device) is even faster now, and gaming on the 4S most certainly has a notable performance increase.

This device, Apple touts, is the first smartphone to incorporate two antennas that is able to switch between them even while on a phone call, offering a superior phone calling experience. This is in addition to being a true world phone for Verizon and newcomer Sprint, who for the first time is offering the iPhone 4S and the previous-generation iPhone 4. In short: Apple made the best smartphone, from a hardware and design perspective, even better.

iOS 5

Apple released iOS 5 as a free upgrade for all iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPad, iPad 2, and third and fourth-generation iPod touch owners. It also ships with the iPhone 4S. The new operating system brings some much needed features and enhancements to the iOS platform to play catch up with competitors, while also leaping beyond other platforms in other areas.

A major pain point in previous versions of iOS, for example, was the notifications system. They were obtrusive, they we’re obstructive, they were so old school. Thankfully iOS 5 brings Notification Center, a new pull-down drawer that features all of your notifications from each and every app you’d like in addition the local weather and stocks courtesy of Apple widgets. Instead of a pop-up making you either dismiss it or read the message, new alerts simply drop down at the very top of your screen, allowing you to continue going about your business while of course letting you go into that specific alert if you’d like. It’s a system we’ve seen before, of course, but it’s better in a lot of ways.

Also new in iOS 5 is iMessage. Apple has finally introduced a messaging service that not only eliminates the need for many text messaging packages and saves you money, but also lets you communicate with any other iOS 5 device including iPad and iPod touch devices without a cellular connection. It’s Apple’s version of BlackBerry Messenger, and while it doesn’t offer the ability to request / deny buddies, or offer advanced features like group calendar sharing, it’s an excellent alternative that seamlessly integrates into the Messages app. By default, Apple will use iMessage, signified by a blue chat bubble as opposed to a green one, allowing you to bypass your carrier’s text message service in order to use Apple’s free one instead. Messages also show if they were delivered or read by the recipient, and you can share photos, videos, your location, contacts, and more over iMessage.

Another big addition to the iOS experience that comes alongside iOS 5 is iCloud, which works hand in hand with the brand new iPhone 4S.

With iCloud, you’re able to stop worrying about syncing your content and let Apple push it instantly to all of your computers and mobile devices. For instance, you can start working on a document in iWork on your computer, pick up your iPad when you’re on the sofa and pick up right where you left off, all without saving, emailing, uploading, or anything. The same thing goes with your media and content. Purchase a song from iTunes or download an app from the App Store and it’s immediately available on your other iOS devices and even in your iTunes library on your computer. iCloud works across third party apps as well so you can put down a game you’re playing on your iPhone, pick up your iPad and resume from the level or place you paused at.

Another major iCloud feature is called Photo Stream. After testing this feature for the last few months, I’m completely in love with it. If you have more than one computer, it used to be difficult to manage an iOS device as data including photos could only be synced with one computer. With Photo Stream, Apple automatically pushes your photos to all of your computers and other iOS devices, and it stores up to 1,000 photos for 30 days. Just grab the photos you want, and drag them to an album on any computer or even make one right from the iPhone 4S itself, and you don’t ever have to worry about syncing your photos again.

Other notable iOS 5 additions include the ability to sync your device to iTunes over Wi-Fi instead of plugging it in, wireless nightly backups to iCloud, and important enhancements to the Mail app like the ability to flag your emails, search all content, mark all as read, and more. Lastly, iOS 5 enables you to use your smartphone or device completely PC-free. This means you don’t need to plug it into a computer to set it up — in fact, you don’t have to use a computer for anything if you don’t want. You can make email boxes on the fly, make photo albums, and even set up and manage your Apple wireless network right from your iOS device.

All in all, iOS 5 brings over 200 new features and changes to the iOS platform and they add up to a dramatic improvement over a user experience that was already phenomenal.

Siri

There are a few words I can think of that can accurately describe Siri: game-changing, mind-blowing, revolutionary, empowering. Is Siri really that big a deal? Yes, and here’s why:

In it’s current iteration as a sassy voice-driven personal assistant, Siri is incredible. It’s by far the best artificial intelligence solution that’s ever been offered to consumers (and I’m sure even to most non-consumers as well). Siri not only can respond to ordinary tasks but it also has the ability to extend beyond the device and pull in information from many sources of information like Wolfram Alpha, Yelp, Wikipedia, and more.

There are many people who won’t understand the fawning over Siri, and following the Apple event earlier this month, a part of me was initially skeptical of Siri’s usefulness beyond the initial novelty when I would play around with it and show it off to friends and family. Then I got in my car and drove somewhere. Texting and driving is terrible, but let’s be honest, most of us glance at our phones or worse when we’re in the car. Siri enabled me to get all of my new text messages and emails, reply to my text messages, check my calendar, move an appointment, create an appointment including inviting someone to the meeting, check the weather, play a specific song, find where a specific friend was in the world (using Apple’s Find My Friends app), and make a few phone calls. I didn’t look at my phone once. Now that’s a game changer.

Siri allows you to have a normal conversation with your phone, and it actually is a tad bit… unsettling at first. Asking your phone to move your 1:00 p.m. calendar appointment to 3:00 p.m., call your mother back, text your friend and tell him that the movie he recommended you see was horrendous, how much 1912 times 451 is, how do I get home, remind me to grab my sunglasses when I leave the office, and how the markets are doing is just ridiculous. I’ve asked Siri her age, what her favorite color is, where she is from, and other personal questions, and each time there’s a personal response, most of the time with slight snark.

Now, Siri does have a few hiccups. It relies on the network, so if you’re using something like Optimum’s Wi-Fi hotspots when you’re out and about, this can cause a little bit of an issue as you switch on and off of Wi-Fi access points since Siri won’t be able to connect to the server when you’re disconnecting. And the few times you’re on an EDGE or 1x network, Siri can take a while instead of coming back with a response almost instantly. There are also some times when Siri will mess up, but I have found that even if you don’t say a few words clearly enough, or Siri doesn’t detect them clearly enough, that most of the time the response will still turn out alright. When Siri misunderstands a word, you can also edit it with a simple tap to ensure an accurate response. Then of course there are the comical times Siri doesn’t get what you’re saying at all, but those luckily don’t happen too much.

In addition to Siri, the personal assistant that lives on your iPhone 4S, you’re also able to dictate text in any text field on the iPhone using the new microphone button on the virtual keyboard. This is very similar to a feature Android has had for years. Fortunately, this works way, way better.

It was rumored that Nuance is powering this feature (and parts of Siri), and I’d believe it as this performs just like the Dragon Dictation iPhone app, but being built-in changes everything. Even with background noise, Siri and voice dictation normally worked flawlessly thanks to the iPhone’s second microphone for noise cancellation. Again, while driving, I didn’t have to check my phone once and I could carry on a perfectly accurate text conversation with someone. It’s incredible. When you think that Apple has labeled this as a beta, and that the system will improve over time, this is going to be the next big revolution as far as computer and device input is concerned. We’re actually starting to live in a world where you can speak naturally to your device and it won’t only understand you, but it will give you a little bit of attitude as well. Imagine something like this in different aspects of technology… what about in your TV? Instead of fumbling for the remote and navigating through those terrible, terrible, cable box interfaces, just tell your TV to tune to ESPN, or record a specific show at a certain time, and it’s done. Think about how bad car navigation and voice control is, even in the best automobiles. This is the start of the next revolution in terms of interacting with a computer, just as a mouse was, just as touch was.

Siri works internationally with five languages and a few localizations, though there are some features that are limited to the U.S. for now. Apple will expand Siri to more regions and languages in 2012.

Camera / Video capture

The camera on the iPhone 4S is the best camera I have ever used on a mobile device.

I remember years ago buying a Sharp GX22 and then GX30 camera phone and being impressed at the quality of photos that the phones could take. The first was a VGA camera phone, but it had a better lens than any other phone on the market, and the second featured a 1-megapixel camera. It was the first time I realized that megapixels weren’t the only thing that mattered as far as photos were concerned.

That’s not to say 8-megapixels isn’t impressive on a smartphone, but it’s what those 8-megapixels can serve up that matters, and on the iPhone 4S, they are the best photos I have seen taken on a non-camera. In fact, the camera is good enough to where I have no longer need to bring an actual camera anywhere I go outside of a dSLR for specific purposes. With face detection (it supports up to 10 people in the same photo) exposure is properly set, with the ability to use the volume up button as a shutter button, you no longer have to go hunting around for the on-screen shutter button, and with new features like grid lines that help you compose a shot even better, the camera on the iPhone 4S is a winner.

That’s not even considering how amazing the iPhone 4s is in low-light situations, or how with the new camera button on the lock screen combined with the speed of the 4S and optics, you can take a photo in under 4 seconds from getting your phone out of your pocket — you won’t ever miss a shot again. Photos can now be taken in rapid succession, and with the ability to edit photos right on the device itself, including red eye removal, cropping, and an auto-enhance feature, the iPhone 4S offers the most compelling camera package on any smartphone or mobile device.

As far as the video camera goes on the iPhone 4S, it’s almost equally as impressive. Finally you’re able to capture full 1080p HD video right from your iPhone, and in addition to crystal clear, full-frame 1080p video, the iPhone 4S offers up something even better: brilliantly, using the gyro built into the device (it can sense the device’s orientation and position on three different axes), video captured with the iPhone 4S is automatically stabilized as it’s taken, eliminating almost all shakes and jagged video. Additionally, using the same noise cancellation techniques that the phone uses for voice calling and for interacting with Siri, audio taken with videos is almost always crisp and clear.

Phone / Speaker

Apple’s iPhones have not ever been excellent phones for voice calling. Blame the networks, blame the radios or blame whatever else you want — voice calls were almost never a good experience. I’m extremely happy that the iPhone 4S finally starts to break that mold.

In terms of radio performance, speed and call quality, I am incredibly impressed. I have more service in more places, fewer dropped calls (just about on par with a phone like a BlackBerry 9700, which runs very well on AT&T’s network) and better call quality. The reason for the change? Well, Apple’s new antenna system is surely a part of it as is the updated software on the device, but I think we have to give some credit to the Qualcomm radio that Apple has finally migrated to. Qualcomm is known for making class-topping chips, and this is a welcome change.

Finally, the speakerphone on the iPhone 4S improves on an already solid experience. It’s not only louder than it was on previous models, but it’s clearer as well, offering call and music audio that’s not distorted or choppy. This improvement most likely has to do with Siri in order to ensure the experience with Apple’s new personal assistant is top-notch and crystal clear, but the improvements trickle down into other areas of the device as well.

Battery

Apple notes that battery life on the iPhone 4S should be comparable to the iPhone 4 even though the smartphone features a dual-core processor with two times the speed and seven times the graphics performance over the previous model. The company also notes that the iPhone 4S will perform better in some key areas, like delivering an extra hour of talk time over 3G than its predecessor. It comes at the cost of one less hour of internet usage over Wi-Fi (10% less), and 33% less standby time. At first these sound like big changes, especially in standby time, but over the last few days I didn’t notice much of a difference in battery performance compared to the iPhone 4.

Conclusion

Apple didn’t introduce a brand new iPhone with a radical new case design, larger display, 4G, or the ability to make you a cup of espresso. What Apple did do is drastically improve upon the company’s most successful smartphone ever — and the most popular smartphone in the world — the iPhone 4.

The iPhone 4S is better in every way possible, including being up to two times faster as far as regular use is concerned. It also features the best camera and video camera on a smartphone ever, drastically improved voice calling performance, global support, downloads up to twice as fast, and Siri, a game-changing virtual personal assistant that is the start of a shift in how we interact with computers and mobile devices.

The iPhone 4S comes at a time when most iPhone 3GS users are coming up for their wireless service renewal. The iPhone 4S isn’t just impressive to an iPhone 3GS owner, it blows the doors off almost any Android alternative (I’d say all, but then I’d fear for my survival), and if you’re big on photography, an on-the-go person who might need an extra hand from your phone, or even require the ability to use your phone internationally if you’re on Verizon or Sprint, the iPhone 4S is a worthy upgrade from any smartphone. Whether it’s an iPhone 3GS or iPhone 4, a feature phone or a BlackBerry, this is the best phone Apple has ever made, and there isn’t another company in the world that could deliver all of these features in such a beautifully designed, tightly integrated, and enjoyable packages.

With the iPhone 4S starting at $199 from each of the three largest carriers in the U.S. (finally), Apple is also making the original iPhone 4 available at only $99 for the 8GB model. Make no mistake, this is the most formidable smartphone tag team that exists on the planet, and while you can’t go wrong with either device, the iPhone 4S really pushes what we can do with mobile devices even further into the future.

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Motorola Droid 3 review

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

The third installment of a trilogy is typically the most satisfying. The Empire Falls, Frodo destroys the ring, Cinderella goes back in time. (Okay, that’s a stretch.) Our protagonist in this tale is the Droid 3, which bears an uncanny resemblance to its dad and granddad– but Verizon’s added a few new components and made some minor design tweaks in attempt to improve the overall experience.

Are these adjustments enough to save the series? The original Droid launched with much fanfare, a device that steered Motorola back onto the path of success from its post-RAZR Hades. It had a refreshing gold-laden design that oozed elegance, top-of-the-line specs for its time, and was the pioneer that helped usher Google’s mobile OS into a new era. Each new iteration has received less attention than the one before, however, and the Droid 3 experienced such a quiet launch that we blinked and almost missed it. No matter, though — as long as the phone can speak for itself, it doesn’t need the confetti to accompany it. But is the third time another charm for the Droid? Or will it be buried by other heavyweights like the Droid Bionic or Samsung Galaxy S II Function? Join us after the break to find out.

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Motorola Droid 3 review originally appeared on Engadget on Thu, 21 Jul 2011 12:00:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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T-Mobile G2x review

Monday, April 18th, 2011

LG hasn’t launched a high-end Android smartphone in the U.S. for some time now — sure, it shipped the Optimus on multiple carriers, and Verizon launched the Ally a few years back, but neither was capable of holding a candle to other first-rate devices. That all changes with the G2x however, which is no doubt LG’s answer to Samsung’s Galaxy S family of smartphones in the United States. Its spec sheet is enough to leave other phones shaking in their boots. Dual-core processor, 4G radio, 1080p video — it has all the trappings of a top-of-the-line handset. I have been using, abusing, and confusing the G2x for the past few days and am ready to levy judgement on LG’s first serious smartphone contender. Want to know if the T-Mobile G2x has what it takes to be your next high-end smartphone? Hit the jump to find out.

Hardware/Display

The G2x packs a serious hardware punch. It has a 4-inch touchscreen display with an 800 x 480-pixel resolution, 1GHz dual-core NVIDIA Tegra 2 processor, 8GB of internal storage, 512MB of RAM, 8-megapixel camera capable of recording 1080p HD video, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1, and HSPA+ radio. The display is bright and crisp, with great contrast and depth — I love how the glass feels like it tapers off at the edges. Colors really pop, and I didn’t have much issue viewing the screen under direct sunlight. I do wish LG included its NOVA AMOLED screen for added color and vibrancy, but the screen, by and large, does not disappoint. One of the device’s biggest strengths lies in its use of NVIDIA’s Tegra 2 chipset. The speedy silicon serves up a generous heaping of killer graphics, but I’ll dive more into that later.

The G2x feels excellent in the hand. It weighs in at 5 ounces, which is just heavy enough without being too light that it feels cheap. Despite offering a large 4-inch screen, the phone doesn’t feel too bulky or large, and it’s thin at 0.43-inches. I love the aesthetics, too; it’s rounded on all corners, and the rear cover has a beautiful copper-colored soft touch finish. There’s an 8-megapixel camera capable of recording 1080p HD video on the back of the phone, accompanied by a metal Google nameplate that adds to the first class look of the device. The front of the phone is also home to a 1.3-megapixel camera designed for video chat, and the HDMI-out port, 3.5mm headphone jack, and power button are all conveniently positioned on the top of the device.

Software

The G2x launched running Android 2.2.2 (Froyo), although LG and T-Mobile have both promised that Android 2.3 Gingerbread is coming in a future update. I won’t go too deep into the operating system — LG thankfully left out any sort of UI customizations — as many of you are likely familiar with the layout of Android 2.2. The capabilities of the dual-core processor are definitely noticeable while moving around the operating system, though. Everything flies and is executed nearly immediately. I never found myself waiting for apps to close and there is no annoying app-lag. This baby just flies and the stock UI means everything looks nice and clean.

The default Android keyboard worked well while pounding out emails and text messages, although I do prefer other custom QWERTY keyboards — such as those on the Motorola ATRIX 4G or HTC’s Android devices — but that’s purely a matter of taste, not something that should dissuade you from buying the device.

Even though the G2x is working with stock Android, there is a bit of bloatware installed. T-Mobile includes its own AppPack software, EA Games, a Highlight news app, and T-Mobile Mall. TeleNav GPS Navigator, T-Mobile TV, and Qik video chat, and NVIDIA’s Tegra Zone have also made their way on to the G2x.

Gaming

We don’t blame you if you’re not a hardware head, especially since the game is constantly changing and new hardware is released all the time. However, as we mentioned before, the G2x comes with NVIDIA’s Tegra 2 processor… and that’s worth talking about. Not only is it a dual-core chip that is blazing fast at 1GHz, it’s also designed to run and render games better, and with more details. So much better, in fact, that NVIDIA has decided to launch its own Tegra Zone game store. It’s been in the Android Market for some time now, but the G2x is the first phone in the U.S. to ship with it pre-installed. There are currently nine titles available and NVIDIA told me it plans to fill out the store with many fresh titles over the next six months. I had a chance to get an early peek at some upcoming titles including Riptide GP, Pinball HD and Galaxy on Fire 2. The games were still unfinished, but there’s a lot to get excited about.

Riptide GP was my favorite of the bunch and totally took me back to my days playing Wave Race 64 on Nintendo 64 — only this time with much better graphics and in the palm of my hands. I’ve also seen an impressive demo of it running on an HDTV, although we weren’t able to test this aspect during our G2x review. Pinball HD was fun if you’re looking for some sharp graphics and a pinball machine on your phone, but I didn’t really see a ton of effects that would require a powerful processor. Galaxy on Fire 2′s effects were insane: I was cruising around firing my lasers, blowing up starships, and watching beautiful explosions without any drop in frame rates — everything looked beautiful and stunning. NVIDIA told me that it works with developers to allow for more detail in games running on Tegra 2 chips, and I’m definitely impressed with what I see so far. Each of these games should be launching in the coming weeks in NVIDIA’s Tegra Zone store.

Phone/Speaker

Test calls made on the G2x were crystal clear. It sounded like I was using a landline phone and I didn’t have any complaints from callers on the other end. I think my biggest gripe is the placement of the volume buttons. They could use some more travel and click, but perhaps that will happen after more usage. Either way, that’s not a deal-breaker.

The speakerphone was loud enough to clearly hear the callers on the other end of my calls. It also sounded pretty good when I started playing a few songs, although it did sound a bit sharp. I can’t think of any phone that sounds great playing music through its integrated loudspeaker, however, so this shouldn’t be a big deal either.

As with some of T-Mobile’s other smartphones, the G2x supports Wi-Fi calling. That means you can place calls over your Wi-Fi network if you’re in an area with poor T-Mobile coverage, but unfortunately it also still consumes your T-Mobile minutes. Multiple test calls over my home Wi-Fi network — which is known for its poor upload speeds — weren’t very good. Voices kept breaking up on the other end, even when I was calling landlines, and I generally found it unusable. As soon as I turned off Wi-Fi calling everything cleared right back up. I didn’t have any issues on other networks, however, so this isn’t a ding against the phone itself, but I haven’t seen this performance issue with T-Mobile’s Wi-Fi calling on my home network before. The moral of the story might just be that you’ll need pretty solid upload speeds in order to make use of this feature.

There’s also a 1.3-megapixel camera on the front of the G2x that can be used for video chats via a gamut of apps available in the Android Market. T-Mobile includes its own T-Mobile Video Chat software, powered by Qik, but don’t get too excited… I’ve found Qik’s video quality to typically be pretty terrible, and I kept getting connection errors on the G2x before calling it quits on the app. I recommend giving Fring a whirl if you’re planning to use the forward-facing camera.

Data

Support for T-Mobile’s HSPA+ “4G” network is offered on the G2x. In New York City, one of T-Mobile’s 4G networks, our average download speed was just shy of 3Mbps and our upload speeds typically hovered around 1.5Mbps — those speeds aren’t bad and are certainly faster than the HSPA+ speeds we’ve seen on AT&T’s “4G” HSPA+ phones. I had 4G signal almost of the time, but the G2x did drop back to 3G in some areas of Manhattan.

Battery Life

The LG G2x packs a 1,500 mAh battery that performed pretty well during my review period. I started using the G2x after a full charge at about noon and after heavy usage, including gaming, surfing the Web, watching some streaming television, checking Twitter and email, and placing phone calls, the phone began to give low battery alerts at 5:45 p.m. That’s about 6 hours of heavy usage, which isn’t that bad. Your mileage will improve with normal moderate or light usage, and should get through a regular day just fine — but I’d definitely pack my charger for any overnight trips. There is a check box to use only 2G data — as opposed to 3G and 4G — which can also help with battery life… if you don’t need high-speed cellular data, of course. Overall I found that the G2x has been one of the better performing Android smartphones when it comes to battery life.

Camera

As I noted earlier, the G2x packs an 8-megapixel camera with a single LED flash that’s capable of recording 1080p HD video. Pictures were crisp and were generally solid in good lighting conditions. I found that the single LED flash consistently blew out my subjects in dark situations, but at least it was good at lighting up a room. The auto-focus did take a second or two to lock onto a target, though, especially in less than ideal lighting.

1080p HD video, on the other hand, was impressive. I filmed cars driving by on the street below and noticed that I was able to clearly make out the street sign across the street after viewing it back on my computer. Some smartphones can struggle when panning while filming HD video, but that wasn’t the case with the G2x — I saw very little pixelation as I panned the camera around. Audio also came through well.

Wrap up

If you’re in the market for a new smartphone on T-Mobile, the G2x will blow your mind compared to its predecessors. At $199.99, it’s priced on a par with other high-end smartphones on T-Mobile, but it packs so much more power. The dual-core processor means this thing screams right out of the box, so you should be future-proofed against more powerful applications and games. Also, T-Mobile’s HSPA+ network offered some solid data speeds, and gaming was a ton of fun. The decent battery life, good call quality, and sharp 8-megapixel camera certainly don’t hurt either. Right now this is the créme de la créme of smartphones on T-Mobile USA.

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Toshiba shows off 2011 HDTVs with the most local dimming LEDs, facial recognition, 3D and more

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

Toshiba’s focus at CES was glasses free 3D displays, but it highlighted more conventional HDTVs today at an event in Rome. Its new TVs and laptops all tie in to Toshiba Places, which sorts out access to different types of apps for video, social networking, music and other areas and is ready to launch this month. Separating Toshiba from the competition is a slew of new technology and the top of the line 55ZL1 model checks all the boxes: Seven core CEVO CPU for image processing, a Pro-LED512 panel that is the world’s first with 512 zones of dimming among 3,072 LEDs, Personal-TV facial recognition that picks up on which user is watching then personalizes to their preferred settings and active shutter 3D glasses.

The edge lit LED VL863 series will come in 47- and 42-inch versions featuring LG’s FPR passive glasses 3D and four pairs of glasses, while the 32- through 46-inch UL863 drops 3D for built-in WiFi and Personal-TV. The SL863 series is the final step down, nixing built-in WiFi. Prices weren’t listed but the new models should be shipping soon, until then you can find more details in the press releases linked below — no word on the US-bound models yet.

Toshiba shows off 2011 HDTVs with the most local dimming LEDs, facial recognition, 3D and more originally appeared on Engadget on Tue, 05 Apr 2011 21:03:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

Permalink   |  sourceZL1, Places, SL, VL, UL  | Email this | Comments

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2011′s new HDTVs from Samsung, Panasonic, LG start to arrive in stores, pricing leaks out

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

After they strut their stuff on the CES runway the only thing left for 2011′s latest & greatest HDTVs to do is take their act on the road and that’s exactly what’s happening. CNET’s David Katzmaier has tweeted about finding a few Samsung and Panasonic models at various retailers already, though as usual it’s the lower end models that are coming in first — if you want a top of the line Panasonic VT30 instead of a 720p 3D Samsung D490 plasma (51-inch, $969), you’ll have to wait. Still, it’s good to ballpark what you’ll have to budget and while HDGuru has followed up on previous Panasonic pricing leaks with MAP and specs for most of Samsung’s line, cj1319 on AVSForum has early details on minimum advertised prices on LG’s Nano LED lit LCDs & plasmas. Check the source links below for all the details,but don’t expect any help from us while you’re scraping together 10 g’s for the 72-inch 72LZ9700 LG LCD pictured above.

2011′s new HDTVs from Samsung, Panasonic, LG start to arrive in stores, pricing leaks out originally appeared on Engadget on Thu, 24 Feb 2011 14:18:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

Permalink @dkatzmaier  |  sourceHDGuru, Samsung PN51D490A1  | Email this | Comments

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Linksys E4200 Dual-Band Router Is Their Newest Top of the Line [Routers]

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

Hitachi’s 7mm-thick hard drives grow to 500GB, keep slimline profile

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

If you can’t beat SSDs (and you can’t, we’ve checked), you might as well try and dress like them by squeezing into the unreasonably low profile of just 7mm. Such must be the reasoning behind Hitachi’s svelte 7mm-thick HDD series, which today gets augmented with a new top-of-the-line drive boasting 500GB of storage room. This single-platter archivist measure 2.5 inches diagonally, but as its Z5K500 product name suggests, it only spins at the tame rate of 5400RPM. The less generously proportioned Z7K320 offers 7200RPM if you’re after more oomph, but it’s most likely that your first real contact with either of these drives will be when you see them built into whatever larger device you’re buying. Like, say, an ultrathin netbook or a PMP that’s eager to swallow your music collection whole.

Continue reading Hitachi’s 7mm-thick hard drives grow to 500GB, keep slimline profile

Hitachi’s 7mm-thick hard drives grow to 500GB, keep slimline profile originally appeared on Engadget on Fri, 17 Dec 2010 02:16:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Roku launches revamped HD, XD, and XDS players, starting at $59

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

We’ve been wondering what Roku had up its sleeve after the FCC leaked the Roku XD and XDS following Apple’s $99 Apple TV announcement, and it looks like those earlier price cuts were just the beginning: the new Roku lineup starts at just $59 for the basic WiFi HD streamer with HDMI and composite outputs. That’s basically impulse-purchase territory if you’re looking for a quick way to get Netflix, Amazon Video on Demand or one of Roku’s 75 other channels on your TV. The $79 Roku XD adds in 1080p streaming support for channels with 1080p content, and the top-of-the-line $99 XDS adds in a USB port for future local playback support, component video and optical audio out, and dual-band 802.11n WiFi. All three boxes share the same new slimmer case, while the XD and XDS get a new sleeker remote with new instant-replay and info buttons. Definitely an intriguing set of upgrades — we’ve been playing with the XDS for a few days, so go check out our full review!

Continue reading Roku launches revamped HD, XD, and XDS players, starting at $59

Roku launches revamped HD, XD, and XDS players, starting at $59 originally appeared on Engadget on Wed, 22 Sep 2010 21:00:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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TomTom Go Live 1000 plus future Magellan units hit FCC

Friday, September 17th, 2010

Surprise surprise, the Webkit interface-packing TomTom Go Live 1000 just hit European shelves earlier this month and now it’s popped up at the FCC complete with a user manual and a posse of mysterious brethren dubbed the GO 1000, GO 7100 and GO LIVE 9100. Clearly the lack of Live in two of the titles implies they won’t feature TomTom’s real-time traffic updates, but it’s still unclear how any will compare to the Go Live 1000′s 4.3-inch capacitive touch screen and 500MHz ARM11 processor hardware– which we experienced mixed results using during our early hands on with a prototype. Two new Magellan models listed as the RoadMate 9020 and 9055 also have surfaced with very few details, however considering their high model numbers we’re guessing they’ll be top of the line devices. Looking at the ruler in the included 9055 photos does roughly hint it has a 5-inch screen though — exciting, we know. There’s also no mention in any of the documentation about new systems to prevent dumb couples from off-roading in the Oregon wilderness. So much for safety in new technology eh?

TomTom Go Live 1000 plus future Magellan units hit FCC originally appeared on Engadget on Sat, 18 Sep 2010 01:36:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

Permalink Electronista  |  sourceFCC Go Live 1000, FCC Magellan 9020 / 9055  | Email this | Comments

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Switched On: Gluts and glory

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

Each week Ross Rubin contributes Switched On, a column about consumer technology.

Before the mass adoption of smartphones in the U.S., many fretted that the heavy subsidization model was feeding a free handset model that would keep Americans hopelessly addicted to basic voice plans and phones optimized for them. The price consumers paid in relation to the value of the handset, it was argued, was hopelessly out of whack. This year, a string of successful smartphones have shown that an increasing percentage of U.S. consumers are willing to pay $200 for a flagship device. On the other hand, there’s still ample evidence that price and value can remain disconnected. And the carriers aren’t making it much easier.

The smartphone surge has been driven in part by a desire to acquire the best and by a response to carrier advertising. However, a recent run-up in advanced smartphones have made it difficult to define a clear top of the line at many carriers, and carriers simply cannot promote them all with the same attention lavished on the iPhone or original Droid. Take the turn of events at Verizon, for example, which in the space of a few months has rolled out the Droid Incredible, Droid X and Droid 2, with the Samsung Fascinate in the wings. At least the first three have been all priced at $199, with strong precedent for the Fascinate coming in at that level. And while AT&T has been a bit more diverse in the operating systems of its recent spate of high-end contenders — the iPhone 4, BlackBerry Torch and Samsung Captivate — they too have all been priced at $199.

Continue reading Switched On: Gluts and glory

Switched On: Gluts and glory originally appeared on Engadget on Sat, 21 Aug 2010 19:30:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Samsung Galaxy S will hit Asia in June, get Froyo later

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

Samsung has just let the cat out of the bag regarding its top of the line Galaxy S, which is set to make its global debut in Asian markets this June. Unsubsidized, this 4-inch beastie will cost you S$1,098 (or around $775), which might be a little on the steep side, but then this is one of only a pair of Super AMOLED handsets on the market and Samsung makes the other one. And in case you want an alternative closer to home, Amazon’s German portal is now listing the Galaxy S for pre-order at €649, which works out to about the same price. The best news from today, however, is probably Samsung’s official confirmation that the phone will be getting an Android 2.2 upgrade at some point in its future. No specifics are given as yet, but we’ll take our Froyo whenever and wherever we can get it.

[Thanks, Rob]

Samsung Galaxy S will hit Asia in June, get Froyo later originally appeared on Engadget on Wed, 26 May 2010 07:51:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

Permalink pocketnow  |  sourceCNET, Amazon.de  | Email this | Comments

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New Core i7, Core i5 mobile processors to debut in HP Envy?

Sunday, May 9th, 2010

Intel’s churning out the mobile chips like nobody’s business — no sooner does it admit the existence of Core i5 and Core i3 ULV CPUs, the chipmaker finds itself with more explaining to do. That’s because dedicated Hewlett-Packard fans just found references three new standard-voltage Core 2010 chips in the service manuals for the new HP Envy 17 and Envy 15 gaming laptops. The i7-840QM appears to be Intel’s new top-of-the-line quad-core CPU, sporting a 1.86GHz clock that turbos up to 3.20GHz (or 3.20MHz, if you believe the above screencap) and 8MB of L3 cache; the i7-740QM is two steps down with 1.73GHz / 2.93 GHz clocks and a 6MB L3 cache; and the i5-450M appears to be indistinguishable from the existing i5-520M with 2.4GHz / 2.93 GHz clocks and 3MB of L3 to help it along. Given the megahertz typo above and the fact that none of these new processors appear anywhere else in the documentation, we wouldn’t be surprised if these specs weren’t rock-solid… but if they are, the new Envy may well live up to its name. Full PDF available below.

[Thanks, Reznov]

New Core i7, Core i5 mobile processors to debut in HP Envy? originally appeared on Engadget on Sun, 09 May 2010 18:38:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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