News from the world of thin and portable.
These are the Samsung Galaxy Note reviews you’ll ever want to read, watch or listen to. By the time you finish reading and watching all these videos and reviews, you’ll be the local expert on all things Galaxy Note. That’s bound to be enough to decide whether you want to go hands-on on the phablet or not.
Let’s dig in!
Video Reviews and other kinds of eye-candy
Looking for a quick in-and-out video review of the Galaxy Note? Los Angeles times gets it right in just 2.5 minutes. The video covers enough to push you off the fence.
Fell in Samsung’s backyard? Then set aside half an hour for this video review. You can sort of listen to it in the background if you don’t actually have 30 minutes to watch it. For the impatient: Browsing capabilities shown starting at 22 minutes. With a phablet this big, all that counts is browsing, right?
You just can’t wait to see what gaming is like on the Samsung Note, can you? Oh, you can… Okay. Anyway, this video takes you through a few popular Android games.
Would you read instead?
Dominating first impressions of the Galaxy Note’s smartphone/tablet bridging form is its monstrous and vibrant 5.3-inch 1280 x 800p HD Super AMOLED display.
T3′s Luke Johnson gives a rather favorable quick glance. There is no need for anything else than his review to know if you’ll dip more than your big toe in the pool.
[...] you probably won’t be surprised to hear that I consider the Note more of a shrunken-down tablet than an outsized phone, in spite of its ability to take calls.
The Verge delivers on pictures, digs elbow deep into the guts of the software and generally leaves no stone unturned. I absolutely love reading their pieces, this Samsung Galaxy Note (AT&T LTE) review is no exception.
Data, Hacks, ROMs and Tricks
You want to know everything, eh? Alright then.
Lesser known features, tricks in video format for budding Note wizards.
Samsung Galaxy Note N7000 User Manual (all 192 pages of the PDF) for those looking for some obscure tidbit of information.
I hope you find what you are looking for.
Strictly speaking, an Ultrabook is a mainstream oriented ultra-portable laptop as defined by Intel. Ultrabooks come with a screen-size between 11.6″ and 13.3″ with 14 and 15-inch models making their appearance in the news recently.
The purpose of an Ultrabook is to let you get work done while on the go, keeping weight under or around 3 lbs for superb portability, battery-life around 6-hours for superb mobility. Laptops in this category usually don’t have an optical-drive just like netbooks, but come with strong dual-core processors unlike netbooks.
That much for the textbook explanation, let’s get on with the real purpose of these things.
Intel behind every puppet…
You don’t have to be a keen-eyed IT professional to have seen a Macbook Air. In fact, your parents probably can identify one. It’s that common. Main-stream, even. Macbook Airs have been dominating the ultra-portable workstation market segment for at least three years now. The processor is strong enough to get things done, the battery is good enough to get you through most of the day. Not to mention the staple wedge-shaped razor-thin design that makes it so easy to spot.
Intel sells 100% of the processors used in Apple Macbook Airs.
There are two feasible ways for Intel to sell more processors and the related controller chips. The unfeasible way would be to squeeze AMD (the closest competitor) even harder in the value laptop segment, where it still has a sliver of a market-share.
The two proper ways Intel can take towards more sales are to either push Apple’s cart and help them sell more Macbook Airs or define a category of its own. The latter requires Intel to team up with Windows PC manufacturers. Send every laptop maker against each other and Apple, and make record profits by moving more low-voltage chips than ever before. At least that’s the plan if they’ve got one.
It doesn’t matter which Ultrabook sells the best as long as it sells and Intel gets to manufacture and make a healthy profit on the most expensive part: the processor (and the North-Bridge chip, wireless-controller chips, graphics chip etcetera).
Apple as the model
Whether you like or hate everything Apple, you have to admit Ultrabooks bear an uncanny resemblance to the 2011 MacBook Air 13″. Same wedge-shaped silhouette, same proportions. Some even go as far as trying to copy the spacious, buttonless trackpad. Look at the keyboard, and you can identify other points where some laptop makers turned to Apple for inspiration. I wouldn’t bet that my mom can tell an Asus UX31E from a Macbook Air, and she’s quite a power user compared to her peers.
It is super obvious in some cases, like the one mentioned above, not so obvious where the laptop maker took the effort to differentiate, like Lenovo and its U300S.
Why would I buy an Ultrabook instead of the Air, then?
Because of money.
Most of the Ultrabooks cost less than the entry-level 13-inch Macbook Air, yet bring in the same Solid-State Drive storage space, the same amount of memory and the same processor-performance. Sometimes not just the same performance, but the exact same CPU model that is used in the Air.
What justifies the higher cost, then? Interestingly enough, it’s not as simple as ‘branding’. Apple’s trackpad and keyboard have been making their rounds in various Apple portables for years. The buttonless trackpad debuted in 2010 Macbook Pros, the keyboard has been around for even longer than that. Both the keyboard and the trackpad have been through revisions, and the end product is better polished than anything else on the market right now. It isn’t just subjective opinion either, many Ultrabook owners complain about their trackpads and keyboard.
Apple doesn’t skimp on build-quality. Edges are perfectly matched. Hinges don’t wobble, the screen stays firmly put. No squeaking from plastic parts, because there aren’t stretches of plastic used anywhere in the computer.
That’s not to say the Macbook Air is the perfect Ultrabook or even clearly superior per dollar. It’s to say it could be a decent attempt if it was an Ultrabook to begin with. By definition it isn’t — it doesn’t run Windows by default, but it can –, which is why it’s an honorary entrant.
So if you’d rather not pay $1,500 for a souped-up Air, but want a notebook that’s still slim and light, yet powerful enough for rudimentary Photoshop tasks or games, you probably want an Ultrabook. They can be had between $800 and $1200 depending on the type of storage –HDD or SSD–, processor, memory, screen and a couple of other factors.
‘Ultrabooks are still good to have around’, nodded the consumer.
Those of you who made it this far might think I’m a nutjob of an Apple fanatic, but that’s not true. I like a notebook that’s given the proper attention to quality is all. Which brings us to my point: the reason why it is important to have as many Ultrabooks on the market as possible.
The more options there are, the harder laptop-makers must try to stay on the ball. The more fierce the competition, the better the product is you get for your money. If Apple deems the situation uncomfortable enough, they’ll be pushed for better products as well. If it wasn’t for Ultrabooks, the Macbook Air would have no match, no competition. And we know where that moves price tags…
I like to see competition when it means that manufacturers can’t widen their profit-margins at your expense. If they can’t higher profits through innovation they’re waiting to be overtaken by the brands that can.
Put simply, the more Ultrabooks there are, the cheaper you get quality and performance for your money.
There are signs of this already. Samsung Series 9 ultrabook is going to creep up on Apple’s turf, going for a very similar target audience.
Lenovo will try to hammer its U300S between ultrabooks and 13″ laptops, while keeping it within Intel’s specifications.
Acer looks to adopt Thunderbolt in its S5 ultraportable, a port only found on Apple laptops at the moment.
HP experiments with the very resistant gorilla-glass all around its Spectre 14.
If innovation is not a good thing, I don’t know what is.
Even if the beginning needs to be a blatant-rip off of an existing product.
photo by thiloleibelt. Thank you!
Toshiba is on the roll today. Satellite U840 arrived without much fanfare earlier, now the manufacturer announces they’re taking over the tablet market in the UK with Excite X10 renamed to AT200. Android tablet market, that is.
Hardware-wise the device looks decent, if not promising. A 1.2 GHz Texas Instrument ARM chip keeps up with the tasks at hand. Screen resolution remains 1280 x 800 stretched over 10.1″. Toshiba included 1GB of operating RAM for smooth running.
Flash storage capacity starts at 16GB and goes all the way up to twice that in all of one step.
Photographers won’t pick it up just for the back-facing camera, everyone else will do fine with the 5MP sensor. 1.3MP looks forward to when you want to video chat.
There is nothing to really hate about the hardware setup and the chassis isn’t likely to ruin the chances of the tablet either. Brushed metal all around, with a flat bottom. I like it quite a lot, regardless the fact that the whole thing is just 7.7mm thick. Thin or not, I like the way it looks.
Only if Toshiba didn’t settle with Honeycomb for the operating system. Ice Cream Sandwich has been available for months and should have been used accordingly. Toshiba expects to roll out an ICS update shortly. With the track record of certain manufacturers that actively endorse and make use of Android, I wouldn’t bet a significant amount on it coming as if it was a top priority.
Pricing roughly follows that of the iPad 2, getting your mind off of £399 for the 16GB version, helping you out by putting £449 to good use for the 32GB model.
That said, the tablet still looks fun to use with enough horsepower to get you through the day. Or Breaking Bad episode.
Whichever comes first.
Here we are. Discussing Ultrabooks, because you figured you’d give them a shot. Nothing wrong with that, Ultrabooks are great for a wide array of things. They’re fast enough. They’re light enough. They’re portable enough and just as importantly, they usually don’t pull your bank account to a poorly lit alley.
Most models go between $800 and $1300 with a couple of exceptions. High-spec models, that’s right, you’ve guessed it.
Manufacturers don’t simply release a one-size-fits-all notebook. If they go into the trouble of designing a chassis, a motherboard and a marketing campaign, chances are they won’t stop until they’ve defined –and sold, of course– two or three tiers. Rungs on the ladder of overlapping target auidences.
The cheapest one is put in the windows to bring in the masses. They can go and say, “Hey, look at our product, it retails for $799 and change”. Once you’re on the hook, they try and sell you on the stronger processor, more spacious storage or the exclusive three-years volcano damage coverage.
Fact is, you don’t need them.
What is that?
You want the decked-out setup now that you’re paying good money?
Seldom is the high-spec model the better option…
You see, the logic you’re following is spotless. When I shell out $1,000 for a laptop, I intend to use it for a good number of years, too. That requires quality. That requires longevity.
More money means more processing power and higher-quality parts; the laptop runs out of steam later, which in turn allows you to save some dough on the long-run by not upgrading every eighteen months.
The problem is that you are getting the same quality regardless of the spec. Both the premium and the Best Buy edition come with the same hinges. Same chassis, same keyboard, same trackpad.
The difference tends to be a stronger processor, more memory and a bigger hard-disk drive. Or SSD in the case of Ultrabooks.
Let’s take the best selling Ultrabook for example. Asus sells three Zenbook UX31E setups. The bare-ass (they fondly refer to it as UX31E-DH52) version has an Intel i5-2557M CPU, 4 GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD.
The first notch above base-camp is called the UX31E-DH53 and gets you the same exact setup except for 256GBs of SSD instead of 128GB. You may justify the bigger SSD by saying your apps just don’t fit 128GB no matter how you slice it. Fair enough. Most people can, on the other hand, make 128GB work and if not, there are 1TB External HDDs for mind-bogglingly low amounts of cash. (The tiny WD Passport USB 3.0 version sells for $130 give or take).
I trust you can decide whether you absolutely must have 256GB inside your Ultrabook or can get away with half the capacity and a price tag more friendly to the tune of $300.
Now, there is the premium model Asus calls UX31E-DH72. It does have an Intel i7-2667M processor and the aforementioned bump to the bigger Solid-State Drive. Again, same 4GB ram, same trackpad, same battery, same screen and very same chassis. The price difference between the nude UX31E and the GT-Turbo-Racing UX31E is somewhere between $450 and $500 depending on whom you ask.
$500 gets you 128GB extra SSD storage and an i7 CPU instead of i5. There is no small SSD + i7 setup if you were wondering.
Is the souped-up version worth the difference?
I don’t see why it would. If you take a look at what figures the two available processor options pull in terms of benchmarks, you can conclude that the two are functionally identical. As in, you can’t tell which is which if they put the two in front of you and slap you on the wrists every time you try to open System Preferences.
Which brings us to my point. If you can work around having the smaller SSD, even if by using an external HDD, do it and don’t pay 30-50% extra. A 50% premium in case of a laptop looks ugly. $500 ugly.
Instead of moving vertically — up the rungs of the upgrade ladder –, I say you might want to consider going horizontally. Why not? If the model you’re looking at doesn’t fit your needs, go see if another brand produces something that does.
The model you’re looking at meets your expectations, but fails on build quality? Don’t even think about going for the premium model. It’s bound to be the same thing, only with more power inside. Other manufacturers might have taken other features seriously.
You know, the trackpad for starters.
ASUS Zenbook UX31E sells for $999 at the time of writing and happens to be best-seller Ultrabook on Amazon.
Photo from HighTechDad. Thank You!
Lenovo U300e may seem like the value version of the very similar U300s. Which it basically is. Still, a cheap Ultrabook never goes to waste, especially in a market segment, where every dollar makes a difference. And in the sub-$1,000 ultraportable market segment it does.
This article covers known specifications of the U300e. For everything else Ultrabook related there is the Knowledge base.
Update 13/02/2012: Lenovo begins selling the U300e in Singapore, consequently releases more information about the model. Exact CPU models are now known (and they’re Sandy Bridge sadly), so is pricing, availability and chassis material. Claimed battery life shrunk to 7 hours from the previous 8 hours. Weight starts from 3.48 lbs (1,580g) with 4-cell battery instead of the estimated 3 lbs (1,350g).
1GB/2GB 1066/1333 MHz DDR3 (Max. 4GB due to 1 available SO-DIMM slot)
500GB/750GB/1TB HDD (5,400/7,200rpm). 32/64 GB SSD optional
59 Wh, 4-Cell, ~7 hours
from 3.48 lbs (1,580g)
Ports and Connectivity
Audio jack (audio out, mic input combo), wireless lan, RJ-45 gigabit ethernet, 2x USB 2.0, 1x USB 3.0, HDMI output, bluetooth antenna installed, PCI Express mini card slot (supports Intel 1030n card)
“it has the same [as the U300s] aluminum chassis, comfortable keyboard and sprawling trackpad,” engadget.com
13.3″ 1366×768 (>220 nits, glossy)
Available in Singapore on 13th Feb 2012. Worldwide availability soon.
Entry Point Price
SG$ 1,299 (~US$ 1,030) until March, SG$ 1,499 (~US$1,190) normally (with i5. 500GB HDD and 4GB RAM)
i3 +2GB RAM + 500GB model expected to stay under $1,000
Photo from priceinfoworld.com. Thank You!
I firmly believe that Acer’s Aspire S5 can do some damage if the company doesn’t mess up too badly on the build quality. If the trench-work is where it’s supposed to be to compete with LG’s and Lenovo’s products, Acer’s S5 has the chance to become a unique player amongst Ultrabooks. Thinner than thin enough, faster than fast enough. And thunderbolt. Can’t stop loving that.
Anyway. Those of you, who are interested in technical details of the Acer Aspire S5, read on. Everyone else: I suggest you head over to the Ultrabook Knowledge Base for a wider view over the Ultrabook landscape. Specs below are not nearly final and will probably change. Let me know if you hear anything that’s not noted here.
Intel Ivy Bridge | 1.70 GHz | Unknown
4GB (8GB Max.)
Unknown – SSD
2.97 lbs (1,347g)
Ports and Connectivity
Audio jack, 802.11 wireless, 2x USB, HDMI, Thunderbolt
“[...] the S5 is much improved, with clickier keys and much more depth to the key wells. We’ve noticed an across-the-board improvement in key travel in several of the ultrabooks we’ve tried, which is a very welcome change.” arstechnica.com
Expected before Q2 2012
Entry Point Price
Photo belongs to the superb Cnet. Thank you.
Lenovo took a step back from U300s and Ultrabooks in general when it designed the IdeaPad Yoga 13. It is arguably the most interesting take on Intel’s Ultrabook blueprint. With a 13″ touchscreen and a keyboard that can be hidden behind the screen, Lenovo may hit the nail squarely on the head by filling a previously neglected market segment.
When does Lenovo intend to release this interesting piece of technology? No-one knows for sure, but I took the initiative and collected tech specs that are available at the moment. They may change. Probably will, too, so don’t be surprised when Yoga doesn’t turn out the way we’re expecting it to.
For the more comprehensive list of Ultrabook tech specs, see the Ultrabook Knowledge Base.
Intel Ivy Bridge | Unknown
Up to 8GB
3.1 lbs (1,406g)
Unknown + soft-touch plastic
Ports and Connectivity
audio jack, wireless, HDMI -out. Sporadic information subject to change until final release.
“the YOGA 13 can also be positioned with the keyboard area flat against the desk” gizmag.com
No word on keyboard quality yet.
Unknown, but after Microsoft releases Windows 8
Entry Point Price
The photo belongs to ktbradford.com. Thank you!
I published the Ultrabook Knowledge Base a couple days back. That article collects tech specs of most –if not all– relevant Ultrabooks available today or in the near future. This follow-up piece focuses on the HP Envy 14 Ultrabook (or HP Spectre) to give you a better overview of this specific model.
Those of you, who would rather compare different Ultrabooks, please follow the link above.
Everyone else feel free to use data below. I made reasonably sure that information presented below meshes with reality. If it happens not to,
rip my head off use the comment section below.
4GB (Max 8GB)
128GB SSD + 1 SSD slot
3.95 lbs (1,792g)
Scratch-resistant glass lid and palmrest, aluminum
Ports and Connectivity
Audio jack, 802.11 (presumably b/g/n) wireless + WiDi (wireless display), RJ-45 ethernet, USB 2.0, USB 3.0, HDMI output, mini Displayport, NFC
“Unlike so many other Ultrabooks we’ve tested, the keys feel pillowy, and are backed by a sturdy panel, to boot.” engadget.com
14″ 1600×900 (gorilla glass)
To be sold in the US from 8th of February 2012
Entry Point Price
$1,400 / 1,200 GBP
Photo from golem.de. Thank you!
The Samsung Series 9 Ultrabook is coming. It’s in the pipelines with an estimated release date of 27th of February. With its matte 1600×900 screen and price tag just a hair under $1,400 the upcoming flagship of Ultrabooks is going to stick out of the bunch.
To order information the ‘other way around’, check out the Ultrabook Knowledge Base I compiled a few days back.
Everyone else, read away below.
4GB DDR3 (Max. 8GB)
2.5 lbs (1,134g)
Ports and Connectivity
Audio jack (audio out, mic input combo), 802.11 b/g/n wireless, RJ-45 gigabit ethernet, USB 2.0, 1x USB 3.0, sd memory card reader, microHDMI, Bluetooth 3.0
“The full-chiclet keyboard is very well-sized, easy and comfortable to use and the keys are well-spaced and feel very nice and smooth. It is also backlit, [...]” ultrabookreview.com
13.3″ 1600×900 (400 nit, matte)
Announced on CES 2011, to be available from 27th of February, 2012.
Entry Point Price
$1,399.99 (13.3″), $1,499.99 (15″)
The photo property of anandtech.com. Thank you!