Microsoft to Unveil Surface 2 and Pro 2: What You Need to Know?

Surface tablet

We did a short review on Surface RT tablets earlier in the blog. We also checked out Surface Pro, and their performance. Also, Surface RT is a tablet quite different from what you expect from a Windows tablet, and as a result they failed in the market. With these said, Microsoft has sent out invitations for an event in NYC on , where they will unveil the next generation of the tablets—Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2. Let’s check out what you can expect from these tablets.

Also, there is the rumored Surface Mini that may be unveiled too.

Basically, a few things that we have been able to confirm about these tablets are these: NVidia Tegra 4 processor on RT; Intel Haswell processor on Surface Pro 2; 1080p HD screen; two-step kickstand that helps maintain orientation on uneven surfaces; a battery-powered keyboard cover, known as power cover; an upgrade to RAM to about 4 GB or so; Windows RT 8.1 on Surface 2 tablet.

What’s Wrong With Surface RT?

Earlier when Surface RT was released, it had Windows RT operating system, and that was one of the prime reasons why the tablet failed. The problem with Win RT is that it is a special tablet operating system without the capability to run any of regular desktop Windows applications. Windows 8 that comes on Surface Pro is the regular Windows desktop operating system that is capable of running any Windows application that works on other versions of Windows, such as Win 7 and Vista.

Dell XPS 10 and Surface RT are two of the tablets that run Windows RT. The problem with Windows RT is that Microsoft doesn’t have enough apps to support the platform. The manufacturers like Asus are not enthusiastic about the platform and they have decided to stop creating tablets based on Windows RT.

In order to find the number of apps on Windows RT platform, you can go to the Metro Scanner. Right now, it is showing 115,863 apps. This is an improvement from about 44,000 apps in February this year. However, considering Android and iOS have nearly a million apps, this is not commendable. Also, Windows RT platform has all sorts of crappy apps there are.

Also, Microsoft is not being honest and clear about their products and operating systems. Microsoft’s website on Windows RT and Windows 8 for instance shows up all kinds of tablets. It is extremely useful if you are getting a tablet with Microsoft Windows 8 operating system, the desktop version. Some of these tablets include Acer Aspire R7, latest Asus Vivo Tab, Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga, HP Envy Touchsmart Sleekbook, Dell Latitude 10, and Surface Pro. However, in a Microsoft website, these tablets are shown along with Windows RT-based Surface RT and Dell XPS 10. It is a tricky way that Microsoft is trying to sell off the remaining uncalled-for Surface RT tablets.

Make absolutely sure that you buy only Windows 8 tablets, and not Windows RT tablets.

Let me say again this: Surface Pro is a good tablet to buy, in fact one of the best. Surface RT is a bad tablet to buy, in fact one of the worst. You will not find it clear by simply visiting Microsoft’s website, okay? So, beware!

Another shady approach from Microsoft at besting iPad: In this page, Microsoft is comparing iPad 4 with Windows RT tablets, including Surface RT. This is a classic example of how companies only compare the features that they have got better on their products. The comparison takes only a few aspects—display size, thinness, presence of a keyboard, battery life, cloud storage given, price, presence of Microsoft software, and weirdly enough printing.

Click to enlarge iPad comparison

In those aspects, Microsoft’s Surface RT is slightly on par with iPad, while other tablets in the range that run Windows 8 operating system are on par or better. The comparison does not mention any other aspects, such as the awesome app store of Apple where there are a million apps for iPad, the Retina Display that is much better than Surface RT’s regular display, the lightning fast Lightning connector, 3G/LTE capability, Apple’s specially made A6X CPU that adds to the performance, and the highly secure iOS 6.

On any day, iPad is a better product than Surface RT. However, if the competition is with Windows 8 tablets, iPad will fail bitterly. Hence, if you are trying to buy a good tablet, I would suggest you go with one that runs Windows 8. iPad could be a second choice.

Upcoming Surface

With the upcoming Surface 2 tablet, Microsoft will not be using the ‘RT’ trademark. It will be called ‘Surface 2’ only. The issue is that this will further confuse the customers. It is fortunate that other manufacturers are not supporting the Windows RT platform. While Microsoft has a way to make the desktop operating system work on tablets and a third operating system to work on mobile phones, there is absolutely no need for RT.

Windows Phone operating system already has over 170,000 apps, and they are useful on your Windows smartphone. Windows 8 has its own applications for the desktop, and they are all useful. We know it because we have been using them for nearly two decades. Windows RT neither has the apps nor the necessary support. It is hence not required in today’s market. What Microsoft should have done is not refreshing the Surface RT line at all.

Speaking from a consumer’s point of view, Windows RT is not an operating system with a bright future as Windows Phone’s. It is bound to die out. Also, creating inconspicuous campaigns to sell off remaining Surface RT tablets along with regular Windows tablets will create lack of confidence among customers with Microsoft products. This is going to be bad for everybody.

Upcoming Surface 2 is not a substantially good upgrade to existing Surface RT considering the available specs. Talking about Surface Pro, however, it is going to contain a latest Windows 8 OS, possibly with the Blue update. The Power Cover that comes as an accessory will enhance the battery life of both tablets.

Power cover on Surface

Another news given by WSJ is that Microsoft is working on a mini version of Surface, known as Surface Mini. It is expected to take on Nexus 7, Kindle Fire HD, and iPad Mini.

Conclusion

For the next Surface line, I strongly suggest you look for Surface Pro 2 and see if it is priced right for purchasing. If a tablet is running Windows RT, you are better off not thinking about it twice. Price is another important concern. Surface RT is good for a purchase for a price point of let’s say 299 dollars.

[Image: Neowin]

Acer Aspire R7: Is It a Great Tablet PC to Buy In the Current Market?

In the last few hours, I was engrossed in all kinds of thoughts and skepticisms about the latest tablet PC from Acer, Aspire R7. The tablet computer runs Windows 8 and comes with what most people call a ‘weird design’. However, is that really the case? How good or bad this new product really is? Let’s find out through this article.

The First Impressions on the Design

 

I looked through almost all of the first look reviews I could lay my hands on. Most of them talk about one most important aspect of this tablet PC—its design. Acer Aspire R7 as you can see here in this image is a weirdly designed tablet PC. It is neither a tablet, nor a laptop, nor a PC. Still, it works as all of them. R7 comes with an aluminum unibody design that has a hinge known as ‘Ezel hinge’.

With the help of the hinge, this computer can take four different shapes, you know kind of like Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga. Aspire R7 has one of the best design innovations that we got to see in Windows 8 computers. The four different modes of R7 are shown here—laptop mode, Ezel mode, pad mode, and display mode.

Laptop mode of R7

 

R7 in Ezel mode

 

R7 in pad mode

 

Display mode of R7

 

With the laptop mode, it is no different from another laptop, such as your Apple MacBook Pro. It is slightly lighter than MacBook Pro though. It can be carried around just like any other tablet PC, and not a regular tablet. R7 is definitely heavier than any tablet out there, and with more powerful parts you can’t expect it to be light as well.

The Ezel hinge takes the computer to a mode in which the display comes closer to the keypad, making it look sort of like your Surface tablet. At this time, it is easy to use both the keypad and the touch screen. Many reviewers are worried that it doesn’t provide enough space to rest the hands while typing. Let me ask you, would you rather have it with unnecessary hand-rest region to make it bulkier and unappealing? If not, just understand this is indeed the correct design.

In the display mode, you can turn the screen around and show what you are working on to the person facing you. This is perfect for working professionals as well as people having coffee together.

Ezel hinge

 

Another important aspect of the design is the placement of the track pad. It is assumed widely that the track pad should be placed below the keypad, and that is the custom followed on most of the laptops and notebooks out there. Acer on the other hand has decided to go differently here, and with good reason. The track pad is right above the keypad and you have access to it only in the laptop mode. If you are in the Ezel mode or tablet mode, forget about the track pad.

placement of track pad on R7

 

Although people say this is a weird placement for the track pad, there is no reason why this is not logical. On a tablet computer, how often do you use the track pad anyway?

In essence, I believe there is no ground to the general criticism and skepticism toward this particular design. Some people mix it with genuine concern, while most of our reviewers have learnt to mix skepticism in anything they review.

Here is a video that gives a neat first look at R7, thanks to Forbes.com:

The Technical Specifications

 

Let’s analyze the technical aspects of Aspire R7.

Feature Value
Display 15.6 inches; Full HD 1926×1080 px; 178 degree viewing angle
Processor Intel Core i5 1.8 GHz Turbo Boost up to 2.8 GHz
RAM 6 GB
Storage 500 GB SATA + 24 GB SSD
Graphics Integrated Intel HD 4000
Sound Digital Dolby with 8-watt speakers
Ports & Other Features 3 USB 3.0; HDMI; Micro SD slot; BlueTooth; Convertor port for Ethernet, VGA, or USB; Wireless receiver; Kensington lock port
Dimensions Height 37.6 cm (14.83 inch)
Width 25.45 cm (10.02 in)
Depth 2-2.84 cm   (0.81-1.12 in)
Weight 2.4 kg (5.29 lb)

 

We have not yet got the full technical specs of the computer. It is clear that with Core i5 processor and 6 GB RAM, the computer is well in place to take advantage of the high end software programs out there. It is pretty much a severe competitor to other mid-range laptops like MacBook Pro and MacBook Air.

R7 in Tablet Mode

 

When you place Aspire R7 in tablet mode, you are essentially making it into sort of a folded magazine style, which was first introduced by Sony through its older tablets. That design did not quite catch on.

On the other hand, Aspire R7 with the Ezel hinge cannot fully sit on top of the keypad to make it into a perfect tablet. The important thing is it is not required to do that to look and feel aesthetic to most people. The computer still works perfectly and is quite apt in that position to work on as a tablet.

Moving R7 into tablet mode

 

In the tablet mode, you get to work with one of the largest touch screens out there. As expected, Windows 8, a powerful desktop operating system, has made its mark in the PC world, and it has caused design innovation from a number of OEMs out there. Acer is one among them. Dell, Lenovo, HP, Samsung, Toshiba, etc., have come up with their own Windows 8 devices with different design patterns. Microsoft itself has manufactured its own product, Surface Pro, which is an amazing tablet PC.

Acer R7 Price and Availability

 

As per the latest news, the price is expected to be 999 USD, and R7 will ship to the US market by . Pre-order from Acer or Best Buy.

This tablet PC is priced lower than your MacBook Air, and it has better configuration than MacBook Air, which starts at 999 dollars. Also, R7 has the touch screen, not available with Apple laptops. In general, it is a better product than other major tablets and mid-range laptops in the market.

Conclusion

 

I have always believed in designs that are inspired from our own body language. How we interact with the objects of our world should be used to design virtual user interfaces that will in turn be successful. This is the reason why touch screen gestures and voice commands have become popular. Voice is one of the most sought after input methods despite prevailing inaccuracies in recording and deciphering a command.

In the case of R7, the hinge design is quite different from the other products in the market (some of which were mentioned in the article we published earlier linked above), and this is one of the most innovative designs that I have got to see in the recent times. Hence, our recommendation for this product is a strong pro. We know we love it, and so we suppose you will too.

Aspire pre-order is available already at Acer store or Best Buy.

[Image: DigitalTrends; Engadget; Gizmodo; CNET]

What Is Wrong With Microsoft Windows RT Tablets That They Are Not Selling?

Windows RT operating system

We know about Surface tablet running Windows RT (Run Time), the ARM-specific Windows operating system that works on tablets. We have looked at the differences it has with Windows 8 regular. Windows RT is a tablet operating system, and hence doesn’t have the capability to install and run regular Windows applications. In one of the recent talks, NVidia’s co-founder and chief, Jen-Hsun Huang expressed disappointment over the sales of Windows RT tablets powered by NVidia Tegra processor.

NVidia has reason to talk about the sales of Windows RT devices. Three major Windows RT tablets—Microsoft Surface RT, Asus VivoTab RT, and Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11 are powered by NVidia’s Tegra 3 SoC.

Microsoft Surface RT

 

In another recent press conference, JK Shin, co-CEO of Samsung Electronics told to the WSJ:

Smartphones and tablets based on Microsoft’s Windows operating system aren’t selling very well. There is a preference in the market for Android. In Europe, we’re also seeing lackluster demand for Windows-based products.

Exactly how badly are Windows devices selling? I tried to do an analysis here are the findings.

Microsoft Failed to Explain the Differences

 

In an investigation conducted by the Verge, they found out how inadequately trained Microsoft’s store employees were about Windows RT and 8. To this date, most of the customers of Windows RT Surface tablets believe that Windows RT is just a toned-down version of Windows 8. You know, like how Windows 7 Ultimate has two more features than Windows 7 Professional!

One thing that we have told over and over again through various posts including our difference between RT and 8 article is that Windows RT is entirely different from Windows 8. If you are buying a Surface RT thinking about a touch-screen computer to run your desktop programs, you will be disappointed. Microsoft’s store wont’ tell you this, because those guys don’t have a clue.

From the beginning, Microsoft really failed to explain this to the customers, and look what happened! Sales went down cruelly for MS.

The chief of Windows, Steven Sinofsky had promised back during the time of the release of Surface RT that the differences between both operating systems would be told to the customers in an understandable way. That did not happen. And in Nov, 2012, the long-time veteran, Sinofsky went out of Microsoft, kind of leaving the company defenseless, I would say.

IHS ISuppli reported that less than a million Surface RT tablets were actually sold in the market. The exact sales figures should be around 680,000 to 750,000 only. Other important aspects mentioned by the market research company were that the return rate of Surface RT tablets was higher than usual and that the OEMs were becoming less enthusiastic about the operating system.

Surface RT Is Priced High

 

In our technology market, only a few companies are allowed to set high prices and still retain its command on the market. Apple is one such company. Microsoft is definitely not a company that can set high prices on its products, although they are great. Surface RT is not a great device, but it is sold at a high price, while the manufacturing cost is only 283 dollars. In that article also, we mentioned that RT is not Windows.

Surface RT’s capabilities as a tablet doesn’t let it command such a high price, especially since all of its working apps come through Microsoft’s app store, which has a tiny selection of apps.

Microsoft has no place in the tablet market in fact. This is the tablet market sales figures as given by research firm IDC.

Manufacturer 2012 4th quarter # of shipments Market Share (Q4 2012) Notes
Apple (iPad & Mini) 22.9 million 43.6 % All tablets running iOS
Samsung 7.9 million 15.1 % All tablet running Android
Amazon 6 million 11.5 % Tablets running Android (customized)
Asus 3.1 million 5.8 % Android and Windows RT and Windows 8
Barnes & Noble 1 million 1.9 % Android
Others 11.6 million 22.1 % Android & Windows

 

First of all, through this particular table of sales figures, we can’t say how many Windows RT tablets have been sold. One thing is certain though: Apple has sold more than 22 times Surface RT. There are other manufacturers making tablets based on Windows RT. In fact, there are five tablets based on RT—Asus Vivo Tab RT, Dell XPS 10, Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11, Samsung Ativ, and Microsoft Surface RT.

Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga

 

Dell hasn’t sold many of its XPS 10 tablets. XPS (Xtreme Performance System) is a popular brand under Dell that sells laptops and desktops, and I own one of them. Windows RT, however, on XPS 10 probably tainted the brand at best.

Windows RT Doesn’t Have Many Apps

 

Wanted to know how many apps are available for your Windows RT device? By the last scan done by MetroStore scanner, on , there are 49,328 apps in the Windows store.

Out of them, there are only 1820 productivity apps. This doesn’t come anywhere close to Apple’s app store which caters to iPad 4 and Mini, containing over 800,000 apps, of which nearly 300,000 are specifically optimized for the iPad.

Windows RT devices are not as productive as iPad or any Android tablet.

In this page, detailing the differences between Surface RT and Surface Pro, Microsoft does speak about the app limitations of Windows RT, but as we mentioned above, this is not how you reach out to the customers. On the other hand, Surface Pro runs the full Windows 8 operating system and is thus capable of running all kind of Windows applications, and it is also one of the best and most productive tablet computers you can buy.

Microsoft’s Stronghold

 

Microsoft has a stronghold on the device design, and it imposes this on all OEMs wanting to manufacture devices based on Win RT. Due to this stronghold, Texas Instruments, HP, and Toshiba declined to make tablets with Windows RT. Acer also thought it apt not to make a tablet based on RT. Samsung released its tablet called Ativ to the UK market, and canceled the release to the US. In another report, Samsung also did stop its Ativ tablet shipping to Germany, due to as you guessed it, weak demand!

In Conclusion

 

I would like to mention a pet peeve of mine to this list. Windows “RT” is not really a beautiful, catchy name to give to that operating system. There is more than one operating system that Microsoft released in the past that were not quite popular and had the not-so-catchy name. Windows ME is one, and so is Windows CE. Win XP on the other hand has a catchy name and has revolutionized the PC market.

Microsoft’s other operating systems, Windows Phone and Windows 8 are also not quite selling as expected. Here is a Gartner study giving the operating system activations over the years. It clearly tells the story. Click the image to enlarge.

Gartner study of operating system activations

 

Leave out unsuccessful operating systems—Bada, Symbian, and even BlackBerry. Look at the difference in number of activations that Microsoft is achieving in comparison to iOS and Android. Although there is probably a steady growth, it is not really a positive growth.

We may look at the other Windows operating systems in another article. Right now, it is definitely a state of concern for Microsoft as the operating systems are its major revenue source.

Is It Worth the Buy: Sony Xperia Tablet Z, the World’s Thinnest Tablet

Sony has been making and marketing tablets since . The Japanese tech giant made an entry into the Android tablet world with Sony Tablet S with the folded-newspaper design and Tablet P having two 5.5 inch displays.

The entry however has not been quite profitable for Sony. Here is IDC’s global market share of tablets up until the fourth quarter of 2012, and in the statistic, Sony doesn’t even have its name.

Tablets world market share

Apple and Samsung are the only OEMs turning any real profit out of tablet business. In these extreme conditions, Sony is coming up with a new tablet, Xperia Tablet Z. Xperia Tablet Z has been unveiled officially in the Mobile World Congress, Barcelona yesterday. Just as Sony’s upcoming flagship, Xperia Z smartphone, Tablet Z is also waterproof. Let’s check out the new tablet from Sony and see whether it can be a really good buy or not, based on the available data.

Technical Specifications

First of all, let’s check out the technical specifications of Xperia Tablet Z. Here is a comparison between Tablet Z and iPad 4th generation, the most ruthless competitor to the Sony tablet.

Tablet Sony Xperia Tablet Z Apple iPad 4
Display LCD TFT IPS 10.1 inches with Mobile BRAVIA engine 2 LCD TFT IPS 9.7 inches
Resolution 1920×1200 (224 ppi) 2048×1536 (264 ppi, trademarked as Retina)
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro quad-core 1.5 GHz Apple A6X (dual-core) 1.4 GHz
Graphics card Adreno 320 PowerVR SGX554MP4
Memory 2 GB 1 GB
Storage 16/32 GB; MicroSD up to 64 GB 16/32/64/128 GB
Camera 8 MP equipped with Exmor R sensor; 2.2 MP 5 MP; 1.2 MP
Operating System Android 4.1 Jelly Bean (4.2 available soon) Apple iOS 6
Battery Li-Po 6000 mAh Li-Po 11,560 mAh
Connectivity 4G LTE Cat 3 (100 Mbps download, 50 Mbps upload)
HSPA+ 42 Mbps
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n
Bluetooth 4.0
NFC
MicroUSB
LTE (73 Mbps download)
HSPA+ 42 Mbps
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n
Bluetooth 4.0
Lightning connector
Body dimensions Height 266 mm (10.47 in) Height 241.2 mm (9.5 in)
Width 172 mm (6.77 in) Width 185.7 mm (7.31 in)
Depth 6.9 mm (0.27 in) Depth 9.4 mm (0.37 in)
Weight 495 g (1.09 lb) Weight 662 g (1.46 lb)
The Price 16 GB $ 499 16 GB $499 (Wi-Fi) – $629 (Cellular)
32 GB $599 – $729
32 GB $ 599 64 GB $699 – $ 829
128 GB $799 – $ 929

Basically, the new Sony tablet can be regarded as one of the toughest competitors to Apple iPad. With its faster Snapdragon S4 Pro processor, 2GB RAM, slightly bigger screen, and bigger camera, it has what it takes to entice the current tablet buyers. Let’s check out the details of the tablet.

The Build

Xperia Tablet Z is simply the thinnest tablet in the world. At only 6.9 mm, it is thinner than the iPad Mini, which stands at 7.2 mm. It is slightly heavier than iPad Mini, but lighter than the bigger iPad. This makes Xperia Tablet Z an amazingly portable large tablet. Among large tablets, it is the lightest for the time being.

Xperia Tablet Z, just as most of Sony’s smartphones and tablets, is made from plastic and doesn’t inspire us in terms of build quality. In comparison to iPad, iPad Mini, and Nexus 7, Tablet Z would feel cheap in your hands. Build quality is one of the areas that Sony still has to work on. However, Sony insists the tablet is built from high quality materials and is one of the sturdiest they have ever come up with.

Tablet Z is waterproof and dustproof with Ingress Protection (IP) rating of 55 and 57. That means it has very good protection against dust (although not totally protected) and can be immersed up to about 3 feet under water.

Tablet Z in water

Sony doesn’t say anything about the protection on the front glass. It doesn’t mention whether it is using Gorilla Glass for protection or not. Sony, however, uses Gorilla Glass for protecting a few of the BRAVIA TVs it ships.

The Performance

The processor that comes in Tablet Z is Snapdragon S4 Pro, based on Qualcomm’s own Krait microarchitecture (based on ARMv7 instruction set, but different from ARM Cortex-A9 microarchitecture, which is found on other major tablet processors). Snapdragon has been benchmarked to be one of the fastest among tablet and smartphone processors. Qualcomm is also the leading provider of LTE baseband chips, and as we will see later, Xperia Tablet Z is LTE-capable.

The Snapdragon S4 Pro APQ8064 processor found in Tablet Z was announced way back in 2011’s Mobile World Congress. This SoC has successfully powered a number of devices in these two years, and some of them are Google Nexus 4, LG Optimus G, HTC Droid DNA, etc. This processor has scored above 2000 points in Geekbench results, and iPad 4’s Apple A6X CPU has scored only 1776 points.

The RAM is 2 GB, which is better than most of the tablets and smartphones out there today. This also adds to Tablet Z’s performance.

Tablet Z includes a smaller battery of 6000 mAh only. It doesn’t compare well with other tablets in the market, iPad with 11,560 mAh, Google Nexus 10 with 9000 mAh, and Galaxy Note 10.1 with 7000 mAh. However, Sony has an app running on the tablet called Battery STAMINA mode that Sony says will make all the difference.

Sony must have high hopes on the Battery STAMINA to ship such a small battery with such a big tablet. We will get to see how the battery performs once the reviews come up.

The Display

The display resolution of Tablet Z is 1920×1200, which at the size of the display gives 224 ppi of pixel density. iPad 4 on the other hand gives 264 ppi, which is better known as Retina Display. In this, Sony tablet is inferior, but the display on Tablet Z uses Sony’s trademarked BRAVIA engine, which is a high performance software renderer that brings out better quality pictures.

These images were found in a Sony blog talking about the BRAVIA engine 2.

Sony mobile BRAVIA engine 2

 

Sony mobile BRAVIA engine 2 comparison

In response to Apple’s Retina Display, Sony calls Tablet Z’s display ‘Reality Display’, which according to Engadget is pretty identical.

The same technology comes in other Sony phones as well—Xperia Z, Xperia ZL, etc.

Connectivity Features

Xperia Z has great connectivity features. It has both LTE and Wi-Fi versions, and LTE supports category 3 with maximum download speeds of up to 100 Mbps. Xperia Tablet Z should be the first tablet to incorporate LTE cat 3 connectivity. It is the same kind of connectivity features available in other major smartphones like iPhone 5, Lumia 920, and Samsung Galaxy S3. None of the other tablets have the connectivity features like Xperia Tablet Z.

Generally, tablets come with only Wi-Fi connectivity, in which you have to connect the tablet to a nearby Wi-Fi hotspot in order to browse the Internet. A few of the tablets also come with data connectivity options like 3G, HSPA+, and LTE. Tablet Z has connectivity features like a smartphone. This is one aspect in which it is different from all of the other tablets.

Besides that, Tablet Z comes with NFC capability. You may have already read about the amazing applications of NFC, which will make this tablet special. Sony ships an app called One-Touch with Tablet Z; using this app, users can transfer media to other Sony devices that support NFC.

Also, it includes an Infrared Blaster, as found in Sony’s own Xperia Tablet S. Hence, controlling Sony’s TVs using Tablet Z as a remote control will not be a problem.

Android Jelly Bean & Multimedia Features

Xperia Tablet Z ships with Android Jelly Bean 4.1 preinstalled. Sony has given confirmation that the tablet will soon receive Jelly Bean 4.2 update. The latest available version of the operating system is 4.2.2 in Google Nexus devices.

Sony enriches the tablet with its own specific apps and multimedia features. Sony has told us the apps like Walkman, Movies, and Album will be available in Tablet Z. There is a feature called Music Unlimited that provides access to over 18 million songs, and another feature called Video Unlimited gives access to over 100,000 movies and TV shows. Integration to Facebook social network is also full-fledged.

Other Features

Sony ships two cameras with this tablet—main 8 MP and front-facing 2.2 MP. Both cameras are capable of capturing Full HD videos and images at 1080p. Sony has equipped the camera with its own trademarked Exmor R sensor. Exmor R is Sony’s CMOS sensor that makes the camera bring in more light to make the image pretty clear even in dim lit situations. Exmor R is the mobile-friendly version of Exmor, which is the CMOS sensor technology Sony uses on its DSLR cameras.

Remember that Sony Xperia Z smartphone uses a similar sensor known as Exmor RS, which is an upgraded version of Exmor R. Xperia Z smartphone should have slightly better camera performance than Tablet Z. As a side note, you should read about HTC’s One smartphone, in which HTC is coming up with a technology called UltraPixel that will bring in more light to the pictures. Another advanced camera in the mobile world now belongs to Nokia Lumia 920, which has PureView technology and is said to be the best camera in the industry.

There are two storage-based models in Tablet Z—16 GB version and 32 GB version. The price varies accordingly. 16 GB version is priced at 499 dollars, while the 32 GB version comes for 599 dollars, priced exactly like the iPad.

Tablet Z also has a MicroSD slot that can convert the storage to up to 64 GB.

Conclusion

Sony Tablet Z, as far as specifications go, is an amazing tablet. It is priced a little heavily at exactly the same price as Apple iPad. Sony Xperia Tablet Z has a better processor, much better form factor, slightly larger display, better connectivity options, better compatibility, better performance, etc., as compared to Apple iPad. iPad on the other hand has a well-established app ecosystem, much better build quality, and a super-fast operating system that works really well with its hardware.

Tablet Z in MWC

We will have to actually see Tablet Z in action before we can make a decision. For the time being, our recommendation is to wait till the device comes to the market (expected around ) and gets reviewed before making a purchase decision. We actually need to analyze these key areas—battery, camera, display, and performance. If they are also stunning, Xperia Z will be a really good tablet to buy.

[Image: Statista, Gizmag, Digitalversus]

Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 Tablet: Is It Worth to Buy?

;”>Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0
Right when you were confused as to which small tablet to buy, here is Samsung with Note 8.0, the mid-range S-pen-included version of the popular Note series. You probably know about Note II and Note 10.1, the other two in the Galaxy Note family. While Note II has carved a special niche for itself in the form of a phablet, Note 10.1 hasn’t quite been a favorite.

The specialty of Notes is the added S-pen for note-taking. Note 8.0 is no different. Also, with an 8 inch slim screen, it takes Apple iPad Mini head on; we were not fond of iPad Mini from the beginning anyway. Galaxy Note 8.0 was launched in the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

Here is a look at the device, thanks to Engadget:

In this article, let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of Galaxy Note 8.0 and see whether it is a good buy or not.

Technical Specifications

 

Here are the announced tech specs of the device. When it actually comes out, the specifications could change. Here I have, a comparison of Galaxy Note 8.0 with the competing tablets—Apple iPad Mini and Google Nexus 7.

Feature
Galaxy Note 8.0

Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0

iPad Mini

Apple iPad Mini

Nexus 7

Google Nexus 7

Display 8 inch LCD LCD IPS 7.9 inches LCD IPS 7 inch
Resolution 1280×800 px; 189 ppi 1024×768; 162 ppi 1280×800; 216 ppi
Processor Samsung Exynos
quad-core1.6 GHz based on ARM Cortex-A9
Apple A5 (dual-core) 1 GHz based on ARM Cortex-A9 NVidia Tegra 3 1.3 GHz (ARM Cortex-A9)
Operating System Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean iOS 6 Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean update available
RAM 2 GB 512 MB 1 GB
Camera 5 MP; 1.3 MP 5 MP 1.2 MP
Storage 16/32 GB 16/32/64 GB 16/32 GB
Battery 4600 mAh 4440 mAh 4325 mAh
Connectivity Wi-Fi & 3G (HSPA+ 21 Mbps);
3G model not available in the US
Wi-Fi & cellular separate versions Wi-Fi only
Other connectivity features Bluetooth 4.0
USB 2.0
NFC
Lightning connector with USB adaptor
Bluetooth 4.0
Bluetooth
Micro USB
NFC
Body Dimensions Height 210.82 mm (8.3 in) Height 200 mm (7.87 in) Height 198.5 mm (7.81 in)
Width 134.62 mm (5.3 in) Width 134.7 mm (5.3 in) Width 120 mm (4.72 in)
Depth 7.62 mm (0.3 in) Depth 7.2 mm (0.28 in) Depth 10.5 mm (0.41 in)
Weight 337.35 g (11.9 oz) Weight 312 g (11.01 oz) Weight 340 g (11.99 oz)

 

As per the technical specifications, Galaxy Note 8 is clearly ahead of the competition in the form of Asus’s Nexus 7 and Apple iPad Mini.

The Design

 

I don’t know if it is due to the lawsuit between Apple and Samsung, which caused Samsung to design Galaxy S3 differently (for humans), that the design of Note 8 also looks weirdly similar to S3, a slightly larger S3 to be exact. It still has the rim-width resembling the iPad. The design is not quite different from the existing tablets. The robustness of the body is only on the top of the display, which is covered with Corning Gorilla Glass 2.


[Short Update]

We had a comment from one of our readers about the presence of Gorilla glass on Note 8. We inquired Samsung itself about this, and got the confirmation that Note 8 (N5110) does have Gorilla Glass. Here is the tweet from Samsung support:

 


 

The back is made by Samsung’s “trademarked” cheap plastic.

Although the tablet has the largest display of the three mentioned, it weighs slightly less than Google Nexus 7, and it is a good thing. With wider rim, it is easier to hold without blocking the display. All in all, there is nothing awe-inspiring about this tablet. It is just your regular note, only in a medium form.

The Performance

 

Exynos is a power-packed processor. It is one of the best among the tablet processors out there today. Nexus 10 tablet running Exynos 5 performs better than Apple iPad 4, which has Apple A6X SoC (based on Swift architecture). Current Note 8 probably has Exynos 4412 SoC that comes on other devices like Galaxy S3, Note 10, etc.

However, on Nexus 10, Samsung has included the more recent power-packed processor, Exynos 5 (5250). It performs like a stud, and comes one notch above iPad (4th gen).

In Geekbench benchmarking results, Nexus 7 (with Tegra 3) gets scores above 1400 and Apple iPad Mini (which includes the A5 chip based on Cortex-A9 that shipped with iPad 2) has scores in 750 range. Galaxy Note 8, which includes the same processor as Note II, is expected to score nearer to 2000 points.

Hence, in terms of performance, Galaxy Note 8 should be the best of the three. Here is a Geekbench comparison chart between some major tablets:

Tablet and processor Geekbench score
Google Nexus 10 (Exynos 5250 Cortex-A15) 2433
Samsung  Galaxy Note II (Exynos quad-core 1.6 GHz) 1924
Apple iPad 4th gen (Apple A6X dual-core 1.4 GHz) 1775
Asus Nexus 7 (NVidia Tegra 3 Cortex-A9) 1481
Apple iPad Mini (dual-core Apple A5 1 GHz) 755

 

Another important aspect about Note 8’s processor is that it still is based on Cortex-A9 microarchitecture, which has recently been replaced by Cortex-A15. The upcoming processor, NVidia Tegra 4 and Samsung’s own Exynos 5 will include Cortex-A15 core. It is hence a disappointment that Note 8 still has Cortex-A9, while Samsung’s own Nexus 10 has a Cortex-A15 processor.

Other Aspects

 

The display of Note 8 is regular LCD backlit with probably the Super PLS technology Samsung has been promoting on other devices, Note 10 and Nexus 10. Samsung hasn’t supplied Super AMOLED on a screen larger than 5.3 inches yet. The display should be comparable to LCD IPS on iPad Mini and Nexus 7, although the iPad Mini has a ridiculously low pixel density out of the three tablets.

Note 8.0 runs Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean operating system. As you can see Nexus 7 is already leading with 4.2.2 version. Since Nexus is a Google tablet, the latest version of the operating system is naturally available to it first. Samsung has implemented the TouchWiz overlay on Note 8, and it involves better multi-tasking features.

Note 8 also includes the largest of batteries among 8 inch tablets. With that 4600 mAh battery, you can probably keep the charge longer than the other tablets.

As usual, Note 8 comes with the S-pen, Samsung’s own note-taking pen that comes with all of Note devices. Note II with the S-pen have in fact been one of the favorite devices out there, although we mentioned earlier that you should wait till a better upgrade gets released.

An improvement in Note 8 is that the S-pen can now operate the menu buttons at the bottom. The tablet has a number of apps to take advantage of the pen, and you may know them if you are familiar with other Notes. Air View, S Note, Easy Clip, Idea Sketch, Shape Match, etc., are some of them.

Air View on Note 2

 

Galaxy Note 2 Popup Note

 

Another aspect is connectivity. If you are expecting to insert a SIM into this tablet, you should be in the right country. In the US, only Wi-Fi version is available.

Also, the current Note 8 doesn’t include LTE capabilities, and it has no tie-up with Qualcomm that manufactures LTE baseband for other Samsung devices like Galaxy S3. The 3G version with only 21 Mbps download limit is available in other countries, where the LTE is probably not popular.

Build Quality

 

Build quality of Samsung devices has not been great. A fall from a feet above ground could break them. In our list of most durable phones, none of the Samsung devices were featured due to this. Note 8 is no different. It has regular plastic back and thin Gorilla Glass protection on the front screen.

It is however not ideal to compare build quality of tablets, which you are less likely to drop than a smartphone. In build quality, Nexus 7 and iPad Mini are better than Note 8.

The Price

 

We don’t know the price yet. However, in order to compete in the market with other low-cost tablets, and the awfully pricey and yet popular iPad Mini, Galaxy Note 8 has to be perfectly priced.


[Update]

Galaxy Note 8 has been released to the US market for a starting price of 399 dollars for the 16 GB version. The device has been found in Best Buy, Amazon.


 

Note 10 had received positive reviews, although when it came to sales, Nexus 10, which has an amazingly better performance, did take the lead. In a world with two almost similar tablets, who do you think will come up on the top? Only the better performing one (excluding all Apple products, of course).

In this comparison between 7 inch tablets, price is an important factor. People purchase medium tablets if the price is right. iPad Mini is the only device that doesn’t honor this philosophy. It is priced anywhere between 329 to 659 dollars based on the configuration. This is ridiculously higher than Nexus 10, which starts at 399.

There is nothing in iPad Mini’s hardware to justify that kind of price.

When it comes to pricing, there are two major competitors to Note 8—Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD, both of which retail at around 199 dollars. Note 8 definitely has better features and hardware specs than Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD, but it has to work on the pricing to come on top. The failure of Note 10 was only due to the price, which at around 550 dollars was slightly higher than Nexus 10’s.

Conclusion

 

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 will be released to a great competition. There is a rumor of iPad Mini 2 that may include a Retina display. Price is an important factor that decides the success of Note 8. On any day, Note 8 will be a better purchase than Apple iPad Mini. Our recommendation, hence, is go ahead, buy Note 8 when it comes to the market by April-June time.

[Image source: AndroidTapp, AllThingsD, TechnologyTell]