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MANY people who still want to have a computer opt to buy a cheaper model to save on cost and perhaps leave some mo re for other items to buy. Red Fox is now one of the cheaper brand names in the desktop and notebook PC market that can appeal to a wider range of buyers. However, its first foray in the ânetbookâ business through its AMD Geode-powere d Wizbook was a difficult one, especially when it left out certain features tha t would normally be found in other models, especially a webcam. But the first batch of Wizbook LX800 can take pride in having the longest batte ry life for a netbook since it uses a 3-cell 2200 milliampere-hour (mAh) batter y that allows the Wizbook LX800 and the lower model LX700 to last for at least four hours. But after six months, Red Fox started offering the Wizbook 1020i, which is usin g the Intel Atom processor. Incidentally, the 1020i is actually the LX800 with an Atom processor, plus additional 512 megabytes of memory to make it 1 gigabyt e. It also comes with a webcam and a more powerful 4000 mAh 6-cell battery. The Wizbook 1020i also comes in Linpus Linux or Microsoft Windows XP . The model reviewed by INQUIRER.NET is the Linpus Linux version of Wizbook. Th is new model seems to be a better choice than the first batch of Wizbook models though there are still kinks. Design and construction The Wizbook 1020i is basically the Wizbook LX800 with a few more bells and whis tles. Apart from the upgrades mentioned, the new model now has a third USB port and a larger 80 Gb hard disk drive. The 1020i also comes in three colors: red, black and a two-tone red and black model. The 1020i also weighs slightly heavier than previous models at 1.2 kilograms bu t is lightweight when compared to other models in the 10-inch class. The plasti c bezel protecting the 1020i is smooth and shiny and the red model looks partic ularly noticeable with its bright red tone. It also has a 0.3 megapixel webcam; a low-end unit by many standards but still works as the screen itself is not big enough to render high-quality videos. Screen and keyboard The screen is 10.2-inches and offer s a 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio. This works well when playing videos in widesc reen. Using the Linux settings the 1020i can execute resolutions of up to 1024x 600. Red Fox says this is the maximum resolution even when using Microsoft Wind ows XP. It is also particularly bright for a small screen though it can be redu ced via hotkeys. The keyboard is a feature of the 1020i that Red Fox needs to be addressed. Even at 80-percent keyboard size, the layout is still problematic. Two Windows butt ons occupy too much space, forcing designers to make the spacebar smaller and t hus harder to press. The Enter button is also harder to press because of the Ho me button that has taken some space. The user will likely press the Home button instead of the Enter button using this current keyboard layout. Video and audio playback An integrated player in this device plays video and audio files. Most music fil e formats are supported but some video files are not. Thus you still need to in stall additional codecs to play these other formats. For instance, âWMVâ and âA VIâ video files failed to play on the Linpus Linux and so a separate Linux play er and all necessary codecs had to be installed. Linpus Linux also does not support âFLVâ video format. Youtube videos would not run on Linpus Linux, and again, th e latest Adobe Flash videos have to be downloaded. However, it would run much b etter on Windows XP. Audio was also an issue for The Wizbook 1020i. There were two stereo speakers b ut the power output is barely 1.2 watts, which produced âmono auralâ sound. Hav ing a stereo speaker, however, is not a big deal since most users would rather use a pair of earphones when playing music or viewing videos. Battery and connectivity If there is one thing that the 1020i can be proud of, it is the battery. A 6-ce ll 4000 mAh battery is not yet a standard among netbooks and Red Fox is one of the few vendors that has been using it. When running on Linux, the 1020i can ru n for over four hours (but not more than five hours), even while playing videos and browsing the Internet. Battery life can be reduced if the Wizbook 1020i ru ns on Windows XP. Like the previous models, the 1020i has a Wifi receiver. Linpus Linux allows fo r easy connectivity although it might require some getting used to especially f or those not familiar with a Linux interface. If wireless connectivity is not a vailable, the 1020i can also connect to the Web through the ever-reliable RJ-45 jack. Verdict The Red Fox Wizbook 1020i is one of the most basic Atom-powered netbooks. Red F ox has removed a few features, which is not necessary. But Red Fox still retain s a good level of usability for users. Despite some kinks, the Wizbook 1020i is a good alternative to more expensive netbooks in the 10-inch category. Besides , who can beat its P19,900 price tag. Full specficiations Intel Atom Processor 1600MHz, 32KB L1 Cache, 512KB L2 Cache 10.2" Screen, 16:9 Screen Format, 1024x600 Resolution Built-in 0.3 megapixel webcam 1 gigabyte memory 80GB hard disk drive LAN Slot RJ-45, Wifi 802.11b/g PCMCIA Slot SD/MMC/MS card reader Built-In Stereo Speakers, 2x1.0W Headphone/Microphone ports Three USB ports 4000mAh battery pack. Dimensions: 254x189x39mm Weight:1.25 kilograms
HEREâs somet hing for the fashion-addict but budget-conscious users. Motorola has a range of phone models that cater to a broad market spectrum but it is primarily known for its ROKR and RAZR models nowadays because of their fa shion-minded designs and solid construction. Motorola can also be credited for making the first "flip phone" the StarTAC way back in the mid-90s. From then on, Motorola has been leveraging on fashionable design but sometimes sacrificing functionality. While it has been chased after by Nokia, Samsung and Sony Ericsson in many of t he segments that it once dominated over, Motorola is still holding on its own i n the entry-level phone space by extensively introducing a host of models that are just about dirt cheap as any other brand. Some of these phones can be bough t for no less than P4,000. Though it is being closely followed by other brands, such as Sony Ericsson, Motorola still dominates the "super entry-level" phone category. Among the cheapest of the cheap are Motorola's ZN200 and the W388, which cost b etween P3,500 and P7,000. The W388 in particular is one of Motorola's cheapest while the mid-level ZN200 is a several steps behind the MOTOSLVR series. W388 for the classy masses The W388 is simply a consumer entry-level ph one. While some of the other mobile brands still hark about making phones that are cheap with good design, the W388 is already successful in that department. The phone is particularly small, at just about 109 millimeters in length and 14 millimeters in thickness. It also weighs barely 100 grams. Motorola's music-orientation is also evident on the W388 as there are readily a vailable music buttons. The upper left button has a musical note icon that when pressed, leads the user to the music segment of the phone. The four-way keypad also controls the music segment of the phone as it has the forward, back, volu me, play/pause buttons that are used when playing music. The use of the four-wa y button as a music controller is nothing new but the W388 executes it pretty w ell. Music and other files can also be stored in its shared 7.5 megabyte internal me mory but it can be expanded with a microSD card up to 2 gigabytes, thereby expa nding content-saving capabilities. However, this device can only play music fil es. No video can run on it. Because it is targeted at basic users, the W 388's graphical user interface has only but the barest of bare essentials. It h as the standard calculator, alarm clock, stopwatch and SMS messaging. Internet access is also available on the W388, by way of an integrated Internet browser and a Google client but because of the limited screen size, low resolu tion (128 kb by 160 kb), and the lack of a 3G platform (it only uses GSM and al though it claims to be HTML-ready its EDGE capabilities are very limited) makes it less of a useful Internet-ready phone. Still, the W388 boasts of Motorola's CrystalTalk sound feature, which allows fo r clearer sounds when making calls or listening to music. This device also has a 2-megapixel camera. The camera control interface does no t do much with photos. But having a camera seems a nifty add-on to an otherwise very basic mobile phone. ZN200: For the budget conscious but a bit fancier If not the W388, a user may try something a bit better looking with slightly better graphics and applications. The ZN200 is one such device. One of the few Motorola slider models, the ZN200 is still considered an entry-level phone due to some downgraded features, notably its In ternet capabilities. For one, the ZN200 is almost the same size as the W388 but is noticeably heavie r at 115 grams. Of course, it becomes longer when the keypad is fully exposed f rom underneath the device. The button and alphanumeric keypad layout is very mi nimalist; the keypad is actually integrated into one plastic part but it is not difficult to access the numbers. Even the call/power and left/right menu butto ns are integrated into a similar manner. Unlike the W388 which relies on the filename of the MP3 music file to help iden tify it, the ZN200 uses the file's ID3 tag, which separates the song's title, t he musician, the album and the genre. This is helpful when navigating through t housands of music files. The ZN200 also has an integrated 2-megapi xel camera, which can be used for video recording. The ZN200 can zoom eight tim es than the W388's 4 times zoom but the quality is quite degraded and since the ZN200 doesn't have an image stabilizer, photo taking or video recording at the maximum zoom can be wobbly if not downright difficult. Nevertheless, the 220x176 pixel resolution LCD screen is better, allowing for s harper photo and video viewing. Because the phone has EDGE connectivity, the ZN 200 can view HTML and WAP sites better but still with limited features. Surprisingly, the ZN200 can only accommodate microSD cards of up to 2 Gb. This is despite some older generation of entry-level multimedia phones that are able to accommodate at least 4 Gb. Fewer new phones that accommodate microSD cards are using less than 4 Gb of capacity. On the other hand, it has a 30 megabyte i nternal memory which stores quite a number of short videos and medium-quality p hotos. One nifty feature of the ZN200 is an incoming message indicator on top of the s creen. When a message (either SMS or if email is set up on the phone) is receiv ed, an image of an envelope lights up. This is useful for users who put their p hones in their chest pocket and when phones are on silent mode and without the vibrating feature. On the other hand, the ZN200 has some speed issues. Trying to access files on t he microSD card is slow. A fraction of a second from the time a button is press ed to the time the screen refreshes is already noticeable. Even when typing a m essage, the screen would put in the letter pressed after a small fraction of a second. While it is not exactly a major concern, this slow reaction time could be a bit annoying for users. Battery life As mentioned earlier, the Motorola ZN200 and W388 are entry-le vel phones with limited functionalities. Because these models do not have large LCD screens and have basic applications installed, battery life for both phone s is better than other models in the same class. Both phones use 810 milliamper e-hour (mAh) batteries. On standby mode, both phones can last from three to fou r days. Even when used for calls, both phones can last for at least 48 hours on one full charge. Charging also takes less than one hour. This is appealing for users who are always on the go and do not have time for charging an electronic device. Verdict Motorola has successfully introduced entry-level phones that cater to fashion a ddicts with a very limited budget. There are kinks on both phones, notably on t heir graphical user interface, small expandable memory capacity, and slow react ion time, but at least they still look good. For now, Motorola is finding its w ay into the hands of the many Filipinos who like to look good without spending so much.
CONSUMER product manager for Sennheiser Electronics Asia Edwin Leong shows INQU IRER.net multimedia reporter Lawrence Casiraya how the MX-W1 wireless earphones work. The earphones operate via Bluetooth and features Kleer technology that p roduces uncompressed audio. < param name="src" value="http://download.cdnetworks.us/cdnetworks/mediaplayer.sw f" />
By Lawrence Casiraya INQUIRER.net SONY Ericsson definitely made some improvements in the design of its latest Wal kman phone but what caught me outright was its sort of rugged styling. Or maybe because the review unit they gave us was army green in color, which deviates a bit from the candy-color of previous Walkman phones. The quad-band W902 is a bit bigger than previous Walkman phones (the W880, for example). It has a slightly bigger 2.2-inch screen but is definitely thicker. A t around 100 grams, it weighs good enough for a steadier grip than the W880. Music and camera controls are conveniently located in the right side of the pho ne, and since the W902 is thicker, it feels more stable to fiddle around the bu ttons with your thumb. It also makes taking pictures (or recording video) a bit more stable when you t ilt the phone to its side. Those with less nimble fingers, however, may still f ind it cumbersome and like what I experienced with the W880, itâs more convenie nt to just press the center button when takings pictures. Also, unlike the other side which has a smoother finish, notice the criss-cross pattern on this side. Iâm not sure whether this is on purpose, whether itâs me ant to make oneâs grip more stable when using the camera. As mentioned, the other side has a smoother finish, but nothing smooth about So ny Ericsson insisting on its proprietary earphone jack, unlike most smart phone s that have standard 3.5mm slots. The W902, though, comes bundled with an adapter cable in which you can either c onnect the supplied earphones or any other standard earphones. In short, this phone isnât too earphone-friendly. If you must insist on using y our favorite earphones (like the one you probably use on your iPod), you have t o live with another dangling cable. Not pretty. The sound quality, though, is excellent like previous Walkman phones. Whatâs not too hate, though, is the pixel boost: the W902 comes with a 5-megapi xel camera (with autofocus) that takes better pictures than previous Walkman ph ones. It also has an LED light. Overall, not bad for a non-Cybershot model. The top button can be easily confused for an on/off button. Itâs actually a sho rtcut when you want to play music. Speaking of, the W902âs speaker (the sound comes from that small circle near th e base) plays decently without the earphones. The buttons in the keypad are spaced just enough to type SMS comfortably. The c all/clear/erase buttons are conveniently located in those three circles in the middle. Overall, save for the 5-megapixel camera, there is not much innovation in terms of function. Avid Walkman phone users, however, may welcome the W902âs design. Suggested retail price is P25,000 and this comes bundled with an 8GB memory st ick with USB adapter. Purchase of any Sony Ericsson Walkman model from now until Dec 15 entitles the buyer to a free Eraserheads: The Reunion concert CD. The CD will be initi ally available only through this Sony Ericsson-Sony BMG partnership. Other fans will have to wait awhile for the albu m's commercial release.
By Alexander Villafania INQUIRER.net THEY'RE small, fast and inexpensive. They're also among the first truly ultramo bile PCs that are based on the new Intel Atom processor. We test them side by s ide to see which comes out the best in the litter. Not surprising, they're all made in Taiwan. MSI, Asus and Acer are among the strongest Asian computer brands in the market today. They are also among the least expensive compared to more established Wes tern brands like HP and Dell. When Asus introduced the Eee PC in 2007, it point ed to a new direction that few computer manufacturers dared to go: small form f actors notebook. Among, if not the first, true ultramobile PC (UMPC) is the Toshiba Libretto, wh ich used an Intel Pentium processor, a Microsoft Windows operating system and a hard disk drive. Its small size, equally small keyboard (about 60 percent of a full size keyboard), and less than 1 kilogram weight made it appealing to peop le who wanted mobility. However, it was priced much higher than a full-size lap top. Since then, many manufacturers have attempted to create small form-factor notebooks at less than stellar prices but most opted to go for powerful electro nic personal digital assistants. The archetypal RIM Blackberry also led to a re volution of PC-like mobile devices, which pushed back motivation to create UMPC s. However, Asus's Eee PC generated a huge demand in the market that some manufact urers have started going small. MSI, Redfox, Blue, HP, and Acer took notice and launched their own UMPCs. Via and AMD also got into the fray as it tried to go after Intel's Celeron processor. Intel eventually moved on to develop the Atom . In mid-2008, notebook manufacturers like MSI and Asus took the plunge and imm ediately deployed their first Atom-based "netbooks," as Intel would have wanted to call them. For this review, we test the Asus Eee PC 1000H, the first generation Acer Aspir e One and the MSI Wind, three of the first UMPCs that incorporate the Intel Ato m. However the Acer Aspire One will be given a different set of tests since the unit provided by Acer did not include Microsoft Windows XP and a hard disk. We 'll get to that later. Configuration The Asus Eee PC 1000H is the third generation of Eee PCs but is the second to h ave an Intel Atom-based processor (the first one was the Eee PC 901) at 1.6 Gig ahertz. This UMPC comes with a configuration of 1 Gigabyte RAM module, an 80 Gb 2.5-inch laptop hard disk (the first model to have a hard disk as previous mod els used solid state drives), and Windows XP operating system. This UMPC's scre en is 10.2 inches, which makes it easier to view Windows. The MSI Wind comes with similar hardware and software configuration as the Eee PC: 1.6 GHz Atom processor, 80 Gb hard disk drive partitioned to 40 Gb each, 1 Gb RAM, a 10-inch LCD screen, and Windows XP operating system. The Acer Aspire One, the first UMPC from Acer, is much closer to the original c onfiguration of the Eee PC 701. Other than its 1.6 GHz Atom processor, the Aspi re One uses an 8 Gb SSD, 512 megabyte RAM module, a fairly smaller 8.9-inch mon itor and a Linpus Linux operating system. Acer will be launching a Windows XP v ersion of the Aspire One that will be more competitive with the MSI Wind and Ee e PC 1000H soon. Dimensions, weight Size and weight is a major consideration when it comes to UMPCs. Of the three, the Acer Aspire One is the smallest at 170 millimeter (width) by 249 mm (depth) by 29 mm (height). It also has an 8.9-inch screen. It is lighter at just about 0.900 kilograms. The gleaming plastic surface of the Aspire One also makes it more appealing compared to the three Atom UMPCs, giving it a stur dy look. However, the plastic is also prone to hand smudges, which become obvio us when handled by moist hands. Even the dark screen is prone to smudges so use rs would need soft cloths to constantly wipe clean the entire unit. Meanwhile, the MSI Wind is larger due to its 10-inch screen. It is 180 mm by 26 0 mm by 19 mm, and weighs 1.18 kg. Its entire body is made of plastic although the top cover has a much thicker plastic surface to protect the LCD components. The unit INQUIRER.net tested also comes in pink color! Not surprising, the once small Asus Eee PC 1000H is now noticeably bigger and h eavier. Its "vital statistics" are 265.9 mm by 191.3 mm by 38.1 mm. It weighs 1 .450 kg due to a standard 6-cell battery pack. Keyboard, screen, and webcam Despite the varying dimensions of these three UMPCs, there are minute differenc es in the keyboard sizes of each. The Eee PC and the MSI Wind keyboard have the largest key sizes at about 98 percent ratio to a full-size keyboard. This is f ollowed by the Acer Aspire One at 95 percent keyboard size -- this is despite h aving smaller dimensions, the Aspire One managed to fully utilize the entire le ngth of the lower half of the notebook. Using almost normal-sized keys is a boo n for most users. Keyboard size is often an issue among users, even those used to detachable keyboard for pocket PCs or handheld devices. The LCD screens of each UMPCs differ. The Aspire One had the smallest at 8.9-in ches, but it was the brightest at the highest settings. However, there is a not iceable flicker when we tried it at lower the brightness levels. Acer has alrea dy released a BIOS that can solve this problem but this can be a problem especi ally for ordinary users who do not know how to âflashâ their BIOS. Too bad beca use units like these are supposed to be for people who do no want to do anythin g with little notebooks other than work or play with it and not bother with its configuration. The Asus Eee PC 1000H and the MSI Wind share nearly the same screen size. The E ee PC has a slightly bigger screen size at 10.2-inches, while the MSI Wind uses a 10-inch LCD screen. Both handle resolutions at 1024x600 pixels but the Eee P C has a better brightness control scheme than the Wind. All three units come with webcams but with different resolutions. Both Eee PC a nd MSI Wind use a 1.3 megapixel webcam, while the Acer Aspire One only uses a 0 .3 megapixel webcam. While this does not pose any problems for users especially those using it for Yahoo! chat or other similar applications, some users might want to use bigger webcam screen sizes that does not compromise quality of res olution. Graphics and sound The Intel Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA) 950 is the primary graphics processo r for the MSI Wind, Asus Eee PC 1000H, and Acer Aspire One. The GMA 950 is laud able for being equally power-efficient as the Intel Atom processor. However, li ke all components intended for low-power consumption, this graphics processor h as its shortcomings. This is not a graphics accelerator meant for gaming. The o nly games that would run here are casual online Flash games. Then again, few wo uld want to play any MMORPGs on a small screen, right? The three UMPCs do not have major differences when it comes to the quality of t heir graphics but they show distinction in sound quality. Of the three, the Eee PC uses a Dolby Digital logo. However, this does not mean that the Eee PCâs so und is any better than the Wind or the Aspire One. All three can execute left-a nd-right stereo sound. Unless you're a big fan of audio hardware and applicatio ns, there is little distinction among the three units. Surprisingly, the MSI Wi nd had the loudest sound without the crackling noise common among small form factor devices. Nevertheless, they all have respectable audio output. Connectivity In terms of connectivity, the most complete is the Eee PC 1000 H. It has the st andard 10/100 megabit LAN port, Bluetooth and the latest 802.11N wireless fidel ity (WiFi) support, otherwise known as Wireless N. This is not a WiFi standard yet but can already be integrated into existing wireless local area devices. Th e Wireless N has a maximum bitrate of 248 megabits per second. Compare this to the Wifi A, B and G, which have maximum bitrates of 54 Mbits, 11 Mbits, and 54 , Mbits, respectively, the Wireless N can allow more users to access a single W iFi base station (if integrated with Wireless N) and download or upload more da ta from Internet at faster speeds. On the other hand, the MSI Wind and Acer Aspire One support 802.11 B/G WiFi con nectivity. The Aspire One does not have any Bluetooth connectivity but the Wind only features Bluetooth in the Windows XP version. Battery life The challenge of most UMPCs is battery life. They should last longer than their bigger notebook cousins. Asus, Acer and MSI use 6-cell battery variants for th eir UMPC models. Most notebooks today only use 3-cell batteries. Having a 6-cel l battery doubles the time you can use a notebook without plugging into a power outlet. When put in a UMPC that uses low-power processors, 6-cell batteries ca n ideally run much longer. The MSI Wind and Asus Eee PC 1000H 1000 were tested with all their wireless con nectivity switched on while running video files on continuous loop. The hiberna te modes were also set to off and LCD screens were also set to active during th is test. The Wind ran for about 1 hour and 48 minutes while the Eee PC 1000H ra n for a slightly shorter period of 1 hour and 35 minutes. Some might scoff at t he shorter running time but remember that both Wind and Eee PC have hard disks, which are moving parts that drain your batteries. Having a UMPC that allows us ers to work without the need for wires and power cables is a plus. On the other hand, the Aspire One's running time is slightly longer than the tw o; as it operated for approximately 2 hours with WiFi active and the unit conne cted to the Internet while a video file plays in continuous loop. The hibernate mode was also turned off. The running time for Aspire One proved longer becaus e it uses a solid state drive instead of the regular hard drives. Solid state d rives do not have moving parts and thus consume lower energy, giving the Aspire One longer operating time. The Aspire One is only using a 3-cell battery. Verdict The MSI Wind and Asus Eeee PC 1000H clearly have an advantage over the Acer Asp ire One in terms of additional features. The MSI Wind and Eee PC 1000 are neari ng the functionalities of traditional 12-inch or 13-inch notebooks. However, th ey have gone beyond the principle of the UMPCs when they integrated hard disks and bigger screens. These features have made them bulkier now since they have g one beyond the 1 kilogram threshold. The Aspire One has that advantage (NOTE: A cer is also releasing a hard disk based variant of the Aspire One with a 6-cell battery pack) but it does not have Windows XP, which is familiar to most users . With that in mind, it will be harder to predict which one of the three Intel At om-based UMPCs will dominate the market. In fact, it seems that it's better now for the UMPC consumer since they have a wider choice based on their needs. The bout for the best UMPC in the market won't end yet until the next group of UMP C manufacturers, especially Dell and Lenovo, come into play. For now, it will b e dependent on the user's preferences that will decide which of the three is co nsidered the best UMPC available in the local market.

MotoROKR rocks softly

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By Alexander Villafania INQUIRER.net MOTOR OLA is keen on making impressions last when designing their phones. This starte d a couple years ago when they introduced the ROKR, RAZR series and SLVER serie s. Then they started having partnerships with several audio hardware manufacturers to complement their strategy in the mobile phone business. Motorola focused so much on design that the accessories had to look as good as the phones. That's not a surprise considering that in a cutthroat business like the mobile phone-m usic player hybrid manufacturing, the one with the most fashionable design wins . The MotoROKR series maybe the brand's most prolific model as it caters to music enthusiasts. It competes directly with Sony Ericsson's Walkman series and the Nokia N series. The latest in the ROKR series is the E8 and is a huge departure from the previous designs, particularly the E6 and Z6 models. This time, Motor ola went back to the drawing board to create an entirely new ROKR, in the hopes of reigniting the enthusiasm for their music phones. At first glance, one might think the MotoROKR E8 is a new brand ; none of the basic designs of even Motorola's previous generation of "brick" m obile phones were integrated into the E8, save for the familiar âMâ logo of the company. In fact, the phone doesn't look like a phone when it's turned off or when it is in idle mode. It is totally black and the front part is covered in t empered glass. The sides are in navy blue chrome finish while the back is rubbe rized dark blue aluminum. It is quite visible even with such a dark color schem e because it is wider than most phones at 115 millimeters though it is thinner at 10.6 mm. Perhaps because of the use of tempered glass and the chrome finish, the unit is noticeably heavier at approximately 100 grams. It feels solid to t he touch and doesn't seem to have any moving parts inside. FastScroll and ModeShift An obvious design feature of the MotoROKR E8 is the semi-spheri cal navigator ring in the middle of the unit, as well as little nubs, like the ones used in Braille documents, lined up across its lower half. These nubs and the middle navigator (what Motorola calls FastScroll Navigator) actually hide a ll of the touch-sensitive controls of the phone, which appear as backlit letter s and numbers. Another feature is the ModeShift, which is just shifting the function of the ph one. In active mode, the user can do just about anything that can be done on a mobile phone, such as write text or multimedia messages, view files, play mobil e phone games, among other things. But with a press of a button (the lit music note on the left side), the phone becomes a handheld music player, which shows only the basic music functions (play, pause, next/previous song, shuffle and lo op). The other button functions become invisible and will become visible again when the Back button is pressed. But even with a supposed touch-sensitive keypad, a firm press is required on ea ch of the buttons and only a miniscule vibration indicates that a successful pr ess was made. This is a far cry from the tactile feel of pressing real buttons and it does require quite a learning curve. But once users get past the vibrati on indicator instead of the tactile feel, it becomes as easy as using an ordina ry phone. Music function And because it is a music phone, it should work as well or e ven better than its competitors in the same market. When the ModeShift transfor ms the E8's controls from phone to music player the screen's interface is also transformed and actually looks similar to the Apple iPod's iTunes user interfac e. It would be most certain that anyone who owns an E8 will have already owned an iPod so using the E8's music controls will be easy. As expected, the sound is superb when using its headset and what makes it bette r is that it uses a 3.5 mm standard stereo jack allowing for a variety of stere o headsets, including those with noise-canceling functions, to be plugged in. E ven when using the loudspeaker the MotoROKR E8's sound quality is not diminishe d. But because the speaker is a small slit it cannot go as loud as a Sony Erics son Walkman phone, like the W910i, which uses larger speaker drivers. Neverthel ess, the E8 speakers are powerful enough to be heard inside small spaces, such as cars. It is also good enough when using for phone calls (even the microphone can pick up the user's voice, provided it is situated directly in front). At 2 Gigabytes internal memory, the MotoROKR E8 can save an average of 1,000 so ngs in MP3 format. But it can triple its capacity by installing a 4 Gb microSD memory card. The bad part here is that the card has to be installed inside the unit and even with the card slot being placed just above the battery, the batte ry itself has to be removed from its compartment just to insert the small micro SD card. Nevertheless, the advantage of having a memory card inside the cover o f the phone is that it has less chance of being accidentally removed. Camera and other functions Of course, even as a music phone, the MotoROKR E8 features a 2-megabyte digital camera at the back, which takes basic but respectable photos. Incidentally, it doesn't have a flash but this may be because of the emphasis on this model's m usic player functions. Still, it wouldn't hurt to put in an extra flash. It also has an FM radio tuner but it has to be activated using a headset, which serves as its antenna. On the other hand, few actually ever use their phones' FM tuner if they already have loads of MP3s in their phones. The E8 also sports an A2DP Bluetooth connectivity that allows it to connect to other Bluetooth devices, including headsets with stereo control functions. It c an also transmit sound to Bluetooth loudspeakers and transfer various files als o via Bluetooth wireless technology. Cellular connectivity is through its quad-band GPRS/EDGE capability. Although i t doesn't have WiFi, it can still access the Internet via cellular networks. Th e company claims that it supports full HTML websites but the browser forcibly t ries to fit all of the content in a small screen, which causes some sites to lo ok tight. The sites are still functional but scrolling down large webpages can be daunting. Overall, the MotoROKR E8 is a sudden but welcome change in the ROKR phone famil y. Its revolutionary touch-screen keypad function is a potential hot seller esp ecially with users who are bored with the tactile feel of separate keys. It doe s require some getting used to but a little practice will do just the trick. So und is good but not as great as the competing models from Sony Ericsson. Anothe r good thing with the MotoROKR is its somewhat longer battery life, which can l ast up to two days without charging and while using its music functions.
By Alex Villafania INQUIRER.net QUEZO N City, Philippines -- There are few devices that make life easier to bear. Som e are heavily marketed but are totally useless. Others have become technology i cons with a cult following. Then there's the Flip. At first glance the Flip, a video recording device, does not call too much atte ntion to itself. It is the size of the most basic digital camera and weighs jus t as much. Its lens is at the front and the LCD is no bigger than 1.4 inches, d iagonally. The control buttons are bland. Only the large red âRecordâ button is most prominent. The power button is on one side and a sliding switch flips out a spring-loaded USB dongle. This is as basic as any device could get. But then, it is that basic design that makes the Flip a worthwhile device. This is one gadget that is purpose-built for the video-shooting buff and one that d eserves a lot of praise from video bloggers and digital home video enthusiasts. The USB dongle to its side can be plugged in to a PC and the device can be reco gnized as a USB storage device. There is no need for device drivers. Without fa ncy on-the-fly video setup, the Flip is just what its name truly makes it: with the flip of a finger, the device is on and the user can start taking videos. Created by startup electronics firm Pure Digital in 2006, the Flip has already earned a fan base, which other manufacturers of cheap digital cameras â and eve n the more established brands â would wish they had. It is so popular that it became a best selling electronic device in Amazon.com It is so easy to use that literally, a third grade student can take it out and start shooting videos. The Flip's appeal is largely on its ease-of-use: the only buttons available in this unit are the PLAY button on the left side, a DELETE button on the right, a nd the four-way D-pad that controls the audio, change of saved videos, and the red RECORD button. Only the single lens and the small speakers can be seen on t he front of the unit. The lens does not have optical zoom but it has a 4x optic al zoom. The device's basic model comes with a 1 gigabyte flash memory that can save up to a n hour of videos at 640x480 pixel resolution and at 30 frames per second, which is good enough for taking home videos. The videos are recorded as MPEG-4 files, which do not take too much space. It c an be easily edited or converted into other video format like DIVX, WMV and AVI . The Flip-recorded videos are not too grainy, even if they are recorded in low resolutions. Blowing the recorded videos to full screen will not show too much pixilation. This is largely because the 30-frame per second recording speed co mpensates for the pixilation (take note that some LCD TVs can only go as high a s 24-frames per second to run videos). Incidentally, the sound recording is quite decent, provided the subject is no f arther than four feet away. It does record periphery sound. But the user must h old the device near the subject to provide good audio pick up. Video clips can be transferred straight to a PC through a USB dongle that flips out of the device. The PC will recognize the device as a large capacity flash memory disc upon installation. No need for a software driver to make it run. Vi deos can be played right off the Flip or copied to a hard disk or even burned t o a blank CD or DVD. Because the Flip uses a small LCD screen and has no moving parts, battery consumption w ill not become an issue, even with just two AA batteries. However, it is recomm ended that no less than 2500 mAh batteries be used to ensure that the Flip woul d not run out of juice even after 40 minutes of recording. Despite its basic design the Flip also has its own accessories, such as underwa ter casings, tripod, and an attachment for a bicycle helmet. These are good acc essories that will definitely widen the usability and the camera shots you can do using the Flip. The Flip is a nice device. Unfortunately, the device I tested was never bought from the Philippines but was brought by my Canadian professor Kim Kierans who h as been using it to capture so-called âKodak moments.â According to her, the device cost around 100 US dollars (4,500 pesos), making i t a cheap alternative to the more expensive and overly high-tech video recordin g devices out there.
By Alex Villafania INQUIRER.net MANILA, Philippines -- Laptop manufacturing firms from Taiwan are trying to out do Asustek in the sub-notebook category. Some of them are trying to steer clear from being labeled "Eee PC wannabes" but far from being successful and that's what they really are. On the one hand, the Eee PC isn't the first in the market but it was the one th at truly set the standards with the sub-notebook genre with PC-like capabilitie s packed in a small frame. These features include wireless fidelity (wifi) supp ort, Bluetooth, and the ability to run a power-hungry operating system with an underpowered processor. It also uses a solid state drive â a thumb drive chip, if you will, that is embedded inside a device no bigger than a school notebook. A relatively obscure brand Blue and another color-competing brand RedFox are tr ying to seduce the Eee PC buyer with their own sub-notebook models. Both are kn own for making inexpensive laptops (RedFox also makes gaming desktop PCs) and a re more likely to have an edge in the same market as the Eee PC. The Blue H1 and the RedFox Wizbook have been somewhat "upgraded" to run better and faster than the previous Eee PC 701 model. However, given the release of th e relatively newer Eee PC 900, it seems that the H1 and the Wizbook might find it somewhat more difficult to compete with Asustek's baby. Design The Blue H1 has good design features. The upper shell is a smooth, shiny plasti c cover with a silver plastic bezel. Its battery sticks out a bit from below bu t only because it uses an extended battery. The extra bulk in the battery actua lly serves as a lateral foot that keeps the laptop's bottom raised. While some users might scoff at this awkward position, it serves a more utilitarian purpos e since it is meant for air to flow smoothly out of the bottom. On the right side (facing the laptop) are two USB ports placed slightly apart t o ensure that thick USB plugs would fit snugly, as well as the LAN port and mod em. The power button is also on the right side. Meanwhile, located on the left side of the Blue H1 are the VGA port power plug and the microphone and headset ports. A multi-card reader is somewhat hidden un derneath the lower part of the device, just below and slightly to the left of t he track pad. The RedFox Wizbook 800 looks bulkier even if this sub-notebook is supposed to b e in the same size category (the Wizbook also comes with a 10-inch model). But just like the Blue H1, the Wizbook also uses a smooth and shiny plastic shell t hat completely overlaps the inner part of the screen. The left side houses the VGA port, two USB ports, the multi-card reader, and headset plugs. The LAN port is at the back of the device, along with an extended battery, which is awkward ly sticking out of the back like a tongue. The right side only has a PCMCIA car d slot, which gives the Wizbook an edge over the H1. While the PCMCIA card is o ld, it still allows for expansion devices, such as extra four-port USB and even a 3G antenna card. Powering up the Wizbook also means pressing a tiny quarter-inch button on the u pper right side above the keyboard. Screen and keyboard If there are any specific design areas that one should consider about sub-noteb ooks, these are the keyboard and the screen. The Blue H1 has a 7-inch screen while the Wizbook sports a bigger 8-inch screen . Both can only provide up to 800 by 600 pixels, which is good enough if you li ke looking into small screens. At higher resolutions and the texts or images in the screen gets smaller, thus adding to the strain of looking at small screens . But the H1's 7-inch screen wastes a lot of space as it leaves nearly two inch es of nothing but plastic on either side of the screen, while the lower portion has two speakers that sound more mono than stereo. If only the Blue added an e xtra inch to their screen, it would have made the H1 look better. Nonetheless, both the Blue and the Wizbook share equally good backlighting for screens of their size and the backlighting strength can be adjusted through the operating system. The keyboard on both the H1 and Wizbook are small, almost the size of the one u sed by the Eee PC. They both share almost the same layout except for the âEnter â button â the one on the H1 takes up only two standard key spaces, while the W izbook eats up three. Although space is constrained in these sub-notebooks, having a bigger âEnterâ b utton has its advantages, especially when trying to enter URLs (web addresses) in Internet browsers. Personally, I'm sensitive with using touchpads and almost never use them largel y because they lack the tactile feel of a two-button mouse. But because these s ub-notebooks are designed for quick work, users are forced to make use of the t ouchpad. Not surprisingly, both the Wizbook 800 and the H1's touchpad work belo w par. The H1's keypad is the tiniest I've found in the sub-notebook space, bar ely two inches in width. The left-and-right buttons are also far off below the m and can barely be pressed. Thank goodness the double-tap feature of the H1âs touchpad works efficiently. On the other hand, the Wizbook's touchpad is bigger and the left-and-right butt on layout fits the width of the touchpad. The double tap feature works well but there is a mild sensitivity issue even at normal settings. Nevertheless, the s mall touchpad still does its job well. Connectivity Apart from the modem and LAN ports of the Wizbook 800 and the H1 (the Wizbook h as no modem, by the way) both devices also come with standard wireless connecti vity using WiFi. The factory settings have these wireless connectivity settings activated but they can be turned off through the operating system. While activ e, both devices serve their purpose well by finding available public WiFi hotsp ots to connect. Connection is a breeze, thanks to wireless connectivity applications that come with them. If these are not available, WiFi accessibility can still be set usin g the operating system, preferably Windows XP. Connecting to WiFi through the H1's Windows XP is easy but isn't as much as I c ould say for the Wizbook. It takes a bit of learning and doesn't always connect as it requires some manual inputting of proxy codes. However, when this is set up, the Wizbook could match the H1 in speed and distance. The biggest surprise for both the Wizbook 800 and the H1 are their lack of Blue tooth wireless connectivity. Sure, few people actually use the Bluetooth functi ons of their laptops but because the H1 and the Wizbook only have two USB ports each, a wireless connection for other devices could be very useful (the two US B ports can be for an external mouse and hard disk). But the H1 has as edge over the Wizbook: the Blue has a web camera while the Wi zbook doesn't. It's another surprise because users of these devices almost alwa ys use their webcam for chat. As explained by the product manager of Wizbook du ring one conversation, their product is targeted at a different market. Still, it would have helped if the Wizbook had a webcam. Performance testing Both the H1 and the Wizbook 800 can be installed with just about every kind of operating system that would run normally on a notebook computer. The Wizbook ha d a pre-installed Linux operating system while the H1 had Windows XP. Their sta rtup is just about 15 seconds though this could considerably get longer as more applications are installed. Of course, Windows XP is more familiar to most users so it's just logical to fo cus a bit more on the Linux-powered Wizbook 800. While software availability can be a problem, the Wizbook and other similar dev ices are built to be used for quick and easy document editing, browsing and cha t. Luckily, the Linux operating system in the Wizbook has pre-installed Firefox web browser and NeoShine Office (an open source alternative to Microsoft Offic e), which are more than enough to justify the use of a small notebook. The H1 o nly uses Windows XP Home, which means users have to install other applications to fully utilize its features. All other applications ran smooth on both the H1 and the Wizbook. However, beca use Windows has a lot more support, it can accommodate other file types for pla ying videos and audio. It was harder for the Wizbook to find applications that could run file types that is not familiar with in default settings. Incidentally, the battery life for both the H1 and the Wizbook is almost true t o what its packaging says. The Blue H1 could run for four hours at standard mod e (no peripherals attached, Wifi disabled), while the Wizbook could last three hours. But when both are attached with USB peripherals and WiFi is activated, t he battery is drained at half the time. However, both still last longer than on e hour (or at least two hours when other peripherals are removed and only the W iFi antenna is active) compared with other laptops. Blue H1 Via Esther 1.0 Gigahertz processor 1 Gigabyte DDR 7-inch WXGA LCD monitor (800x480 pixels) 40 Gb hard disk Built-in speakers 2 USB ports 10/100Mbps LAN 802.11 b/g wireless LAN Multicard reader, web camera Price: 16,995 pesos (Linux operating system), 21,995 pesos (Microsoft Windows XP Home) Red Fox Wizbook 800 AMD LX700, 400MHz 512 megabytes DDR 8-inch WXGA LCD (800x480) 20 Gb hard disk. Built-in speakers (downward firing) 2 USB ports 10/10Mbps LAN 802.11 b/g wireless LAN PCMCIA slot Multicard reader Price: 16,000 pesos

Mini with a punch

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By Alex Villafania INQUIRER.net THE ASIAN brands were the first to start the subnotebook revolution but n ow that the market seems to be more acceptable, US brand HP wants a piece of th e action, and so they introduced the HP 2133 Mini-Note PC. Design There are certainly several aspects of the Mini-Note that other subnotebooks do n't have; one in particular is design. The Asus Eee PC, the Blue H1 and the Red Fox Wizbook didn't bother much regarding aesthetics so they left their own sub notebooks looking a lot like toys. HP put some effort with the design and easil y, the HP Mini-Note is a standout. Its body has an aluminum finish. The entire device, save for the screen area, is in metallic gray, which gives it a tough i ndustrial look. There are no other objects protruding from the body, though an extended battery could give it some bulk, especially when it is placed on top o f a desk. The Mini-Note has one of the sleekest designs yet in the subnotebook segment, m atched only by the Asus Eee PC's simplistic design. From afar, the Mini-Note lo oks like nothing more than an aluminum case for small paper notebooks. Even the ports and switches are neatly tucked in around the sides of the unit. Truth be told, it might actually look boring to some people. But that's where the borin g part ends. Keyboard, screen and speakers Upon opening up the unit, the very first things that the user will notice are t he larger LCD screen at 8.9 inches, the two speaker sets on either side of the screen, and the surprisingly normal-size keyboard, which covers just about the entire frame of the lower half of the unit. According to HP, the keyboard is ab out 92 percent the size of regular desktop keyboards. These features are not fo und in any of the subnotebooks from other brands. The keyboard is perhaps the most tactile of all the keyboards in the same categ ory. Because of its size, it becomes appealing to hardcore desktop users or tho se that have huge hands. In other subnotebooks the keys are 2/3 the size of reg ular keyboards, which makes it difficult for most people to type with. Likewise, the 8.9-inch screen is also particularly bright and can render images at around 1280x768 pixels, nearly as high as 15-inch LCD monitors. If that's not enough, the LCD is covered in clear glass, lessening the chances of damagin g the soft panel. There is a downside to the use of a glass cover though as it could reflect light coming from the front of the screen. Even when the backligh t is set to high, more powerful light sources can cause glare on the screen, wh ich can give migraine sufferers a bit of a headache. The speakers on either side of the screens are also a plus factor for getting a Mini-Note as these are the most powerful in this category. It is also one of the few subnotebooks that have the audio on either side of th e screen and taking up much of the space, thus avoiding empty and useless space . Connectivity and battery life The unit comes with two USB ports one on either side, a LAN port to the right s ide of the unit, an ExpressCard slot (one of the few subnotebooks to actually i ncorporate it), and an SD card reader just below the ExpressCard slot. It is already a given that the Mini-Note's LAN port can easily access the Internet via a LAN cable attached to an office network. Nevertheless, it is also incorporated with 802.11a/b/g wifi and Bluetooth conne ctivity. These can be toggled on or off either through the software or by a sli ding a switch on the front side. One slide will light up blue, indicating that Bluetooth is active, while an orange light means that its WiFi has been activat ed. Incidentally, the power button is also on the front side of the device and is also a sliding switch to match the design of the unit. However, not surprisingly, switching on wifi or Bluetooth will significantly dr ain the Mini-Note's three-cell battery. When used on standard mode (all connect ivity turned off, no USB attachments) the Mini-Note can stand for a minimum of one hour and 20 minutes. If external devices such as an external hard disk an d mouse are attached, the power is drained within 40 minutes. Same goes when al l connectivity functions are powered up, along with external peripherals. Of co urse this is understandable considering the Mini-Note is focused more on a nich e market of basic users than the power user. Perhaps the Mini-Note would have a longer battery life if its battery is the six-cell version. System performance A major surprise however, is the Mini-Note's speed. It's already a fact that a processor that runs faster than 1 gigahertz can operate fast. The same should h old true for the Mini-Note because it runs a Via C7 processor running at 1.2 GH z, in addition to a 2 GB RAM. However, the Mini-Note has a problem running an operating system, particularly Microsoft Windows Vista Business. It took a full one minute and 20 seconds for Windows Vista to appear. Here's a video I took. Indeed, Vista is a system hog so it's a disappointment that the company did not include the more outdated but less system-heavy Windows XP operating system. H P does have a reason though for not installing Windows XP primarily because Mic rosoft had announced that it is ramping down support for their previous Windows product. I was somewhat challenged by the idea of installing Windows XP on the test unit just to see if it would run, though my curiosity was not satisfied. Likewise, the Mini-Note (or is it Windows Vista?) has problems playing videos, particularly files encoded in .MOV and .AVI formats. Try watching a video on st reaming video sites on the Mini-Note and you'll see a significant lag, even wit h a broadband connection. Heat problem The most significant downside to having a Mini-Note is heat that becomes uncomf ortable and could become a concern the longer it operates. This is the first ti me that a subnotebook could heat up like this. Temperatures could rise up to 40 degrees Celsius, which is particularly h ot by computer standards. Curiously, it is known that some manufacturers overtl y use aluminum casings as part of their product designs to help reduce heat fro m inside a notebook body to be drawn out of the aerated side. I've sent an e-ma il to HP's headquarters in the US to ask about the heat problem though the comp any has not responded as of this writing. I would still give HP the benefit of the doubt regarding the heat issue as for sure, the company tested out the device before finally releasing it. Conclusion So far, HP seems able to match Asus in the subnotebook space, especially as it incorporated many design features on the Mini-Note not present in other brands. Noteworthy are the larger keyboard, a bigger and brighter LCD screen, better s tereo speakers, ExpressCard slot, and large hard disk drive (120 GB). However, its main flaw will be its slow processor and the heat, which becomes u ncomfortable -- scary even -- when used on a person's lap. It's also understandable that HP would not use Windows XP on the Mini-Note sinc e Microsoft announced that it will not support their old product in the future. It is curious, however, to note that HP did not even consider using an underpo wered Intel Celeron processor, which seems to be more stable than a Via process or, unless it was sure that a Via C7 1.2 Ghz processor can handle the processin g requirements of an OS like Windows Vista. Honestly, it is slow and is no diff erent from running Vista on an ordinary laptop. Perhaps the company just couldn't wait until Intel comes out with its Atom proc essor for machines similar to the Mini-Note and Eee PC. Perhaps it doesn't want to be beaten in the subnotebook market by Asus or any other brand. Or perhaps it's a calculated risk by HP to release a product like the Mini-Note to whet the appetite of the subnotebook market unt il it comes out with a better model in the future. Nevertheless, the Mini-Note will enjoy quite a buzz among mini-laptop enthusiasts. HP Mini-Note 2133 Processor: Via C7 1.2 Ghz Memory: 2 GB RAM Hard Disk: 120 GB hard disk space with integrated 4 GB solid state drive Sound and webcam: Two front-firing stereo speakers and webcam Connectivity: 802.11 a/b/g wifi, Bluetooth, LAN, 2 USB ports, SD card reader, ExpressCard port Software: Suse Linux or Microsoft Windows Vista Weight: 1.27 kilograms (2.8 lbs)
By Alex Villafania INQUIRER.net IT'S just over an inch bigger than the first model but it still is a tiny thing and it works really well. Asus really took the ultramobile PC (UMPC) business by storm (though technicall y the Asus Eee PC is not a UMPC). Worldwide, the Taiwanese firm had wanted to t arget a very specific niche market and did not intend to land itself into the m ass PC market. Instead, it made a name for itself, even farther from its succes s as a motherboard maker and basically boosted the idea that a UMPC is a viable product. The company launched the first Eee PC (model 701) in the middle of 20 07. Few thought that a solid-state drive (SSD) could present itself as a replac ement for mechanical hard disks, especially with the upper limit of 8 gigabytes , which was relatively small capacity at the time. But since then, it became ob vious that SSDs would spur manufacturers to integrate SSDs into their own noteb ooks. Now there are copycats of other UMPCs using SSDs but with almost nothing coming close to the Eee PC. Blame it on being mesmerized by a fully working notebook on such a small scale but as long as it actually worked then it's fine by me. B esides, the first Eee PC was pretty cheap (at least P16,000 for the 4-gigabyte model) and it worked quite well even with just a Linux operating system. A few tweaks and it could even be installed with a Microsoft Windows XP operating sys tem though it was a bit risky as the remaining space on a 4GB SSD might not be able to fully accommodate any other application. Out-of-the-box feel Those familiar with, or who own a previous Asus Eee PC model, will feel right a t home with the new Eee PC 900 model. The box containing the Eee PC is nothing spectacular but the contents are neatly tucked inside. The Eee PC comes with it s charger, an application CD, its manuals and the battery pack. If you're the n ostalgic type, you'd want to keep the box but I suppose that's impractical beca use keeping a clunky box defeats purpose of buying a UMPC. The Eee PC 900 comes in two colors: black and pearl white. For this review, Asu s provided the white version. It's surprising how differences in color can affe ct how one perceives the Eee PC 900: is it for girls or for boys? Regardless, b oth have the same functions and form. The Eee PC 900 also comes in two models: the 12 GB SSD with Windows OS and the 20 GB with a Linux OS. One would wonder why the 12GB only uses Windows and the 20 GB doesn't. The target market of the Eee PC might not bother to get the 20GB because they need Windows This hardware is slightly larger than the Eee PC 700 series, at 225 millimeters x 165 mm x 35 mm. Still, it is small enough to fit in a bag. Even ladies' bags or children's bags would do well for the Eee PC 900. Asus claims that their ne w model is tough enough to survive a three-foot drop, which could happen more r egularly because how light the notebook is (barely 1 kilogram). Better be caref ul not to accidentally drop the bag where the Eee PC is stored. Playing with it Using the Windows XP version Eee PC 900 can be summed up in two things: it's ve ry portable and works like a breeze. Even the robust system requirements of Win dows doesn't affect the device's operations. People who have used Windows XP kn ow how notorious it is during startup. But with the Eee PC 900, the startup is just around 15 seconds, or nearly half the time Windows XP loads on an ordinary notebook. This is because of the use of an underclocked 900 Megahertz Intel Ce leron processor and a 1GB memory module, which essentially speeds up operations . This is coupled by the fact that the SSD has a faster load time compared to o rdinary hard disks. Not surprisingly the Eee PC does slow down a bit when applications are being in stalled and these become active during startup. Instant messaging applications such as Yahoo! Messenger, which install on Windows' startup applications list, have to be turned off to lessen the slowdown. It is recommended that users opt for customized installation instead of automatic installation. A user can cradle the Eee PC in one hand and type away with the other. The keys are nearly a third smaller than in a full-sized keyboard and some of the keys are not placed as they should be. It does take some getting used to especially for touch typing. It's actually easier to use just three fingers on each hand a s there's a tendency for fingers to bump each other while pressing some keys. Normally, people would find it hard typing even with two hands on the Eee PC bu t the point of having the device is to have a secondary notebook instead of lug ging around a huge laptop. While the Eee PC may have all the basic laptop funct ions, and then some, it is still primarily for quick document editing, Internet browsing and chat. Nevertheless, there are still some advanced functions that it could do. One in particular is video editing. Using software such as Solveig MM AVI Trimmer and MPEG Streamclip, I was able to edit and convert videos on th e Eee PC. However, there was a noticeable lag but it was not enough to cause co ncern. In fact, while I was splicing videos together, I was already uploading o ne of them to a media sharing site. Larger screen, louder speaker A major improvement of the Eee PC 900 over the Eee PC 700 series is a larger LC D screen at 8.9 inches, about 1-inch longer diagonally. It is also brighter and has better resolution. Whereas the Eee PC 700 could only render up to 800x480 pixels, the Eee PC 900 can render 1024x600 pixels, or about 1 megapixels. This is just about the same quality as many 32-inch LCD TVs. Because of the larger s creen and better resolution, it becomes a treat to actually use the Eee PC 900 for watching video files. Depending on the available video software and codecs installed that have to be installed separately, the Eee PC 900 can view AVI, MP EG and MPEG-4, MOV and WMV files. The video quality on its screen is not top no tch but users might still be able to enjoy watching a few homemade or downloade d videos for a while. The size of this model doesn't hide the fact that it's louder than many other n otebooks. In fact, it can turn up the volume high enough to be heard within 50 feet. The speakers are hidden beneath the unit but that doesn't muffle the volu me. The only drawback is that the speakers, despite being touted as stereo, do not sound that good compared to other basic notebooks. A better-sounding earpho ne or headset can be plugged into an audio jack on the left side (facing screen ), which is also joined by a microphone jack. Incidentally, the loud, monotone-sounding speaker is best used when using the E ee PC 900 to make voice-over-IP calls, whether though Skype or Yahoo! Messenger . The audio is pretty clear but nothing too fancy and the built-in microphone c an capture even ambient sounds but only in front of it. According to Asus, the VOIP calls can work well with the Eee PC's webcam functions (a 1.3 megapixel we bcam is on top of the screen). Surprisingly, there are some problems using the VOIP functions along with a two-way video call, which can be noticed in Yahoo! Messenger. This may be because of my Internet bandwidth or some limitations wit h Windows XP or even because of the low 1GB memory. I had no way to compare its performance with the Linux version for two-way video calls and VOIP. Hopefully , it's a problem of the software and not the hardware. Battery life Battery life has always been the main weakness of all handheld devices and the Eee PC 900 is no exception. It still uses the same 4-cell battery pack that giv es only a maximum of 2.5 hours operational period, with all the wireless connec tivity and USB devices turned off or removed (it has up to 3 USB slots, one con veniently placed on the right side for a USB mouse and the other two on the opp osite side for external peripherals). If the wifi receiver is turned on, the un it could last at exactly an hour. An external USB device, especially a 2.5-inch hard disk, would significantly af fect battery life as it drains power through its USB connection. Normally, it w ould take nearly 40 minutes before the battery runs out when an external disk d rive is connected. It would have been truly a treat if the Eee PC 900 used the much more energy-efficient 6-cell battery. However, a longer-lasting battery me ans using a larger and heavier battery pack, which may not be the most efficien t way to go. Regardless, a user can just bring out the Eee PC 900's power suppl y cable and plug it into a wall socket. The power cable itself isn't that big a nd can be mistaken for another toy. Overall, the Asus Eee PC 900 is a reliable piece of equipment for those looking to do nitty-gritty work on the road or anywhere else. It's not among the bigge r laptops in the market and cannot do much of the same work that other notebook s do, yet it serves its purpose for specific target markets. Asus says its prim ary market includes ladies, students and those needing secondary laptops, but t he Eee PC 900 can be used by anyone. They just need to get past the P24,990 selling price. If so, they're better off with this one.



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