26
Jul 11

Testing Takes Time


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Like Rob, I’ve been off the grid a bit lately, both figuratively and literally. A few weeks ago, I was blessed with the near-simultaneous delivery of two external batteries! One was an elusive Electrovaya PowerPad95. The new-old-stock battery represents the original design, with the percentage charge and SOH (State of Health) displays. It’s about a year old, but unused; its SOH is 100%. The battery was sold to me by a fellow tablet enthusiast when he found out that Electrovaya didn’t make an adapter tip for his particular tablet. That’s not a problem for me since I can make any kind of adapter cable that I need (and that’s what I’m doing now).

The other battery is a Tekkeon myPowerALL 3450i R2, literally just off the boat from overseas. I happened to be on the phone with the Tekkeon rep when the crate was delivered and ordered one on the spot. Kismet? Maybe.

However, this coincidence had a consequence; prepping a battery and testing its endurance in an operational setting takes a LONG time. Doing it for two batteries takes more than twice the time! The good news (for me!) is that I’m finally getting close to the point where I can compose my user reviews. Both batteries work well with the Electrovaya making a particularly good impression. If only PowerPads were available!

Anyway, stay tuned; there’s more to come…!

PS: Yes, the PowerPad is a peculiar shade of blue. But it grows on you.

24
Jul 11

Been Quiet The Past Few Weeks


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Sorry for the quietness the past few weeks. There’s been stuff going on at home, and I’ve been heads down on an important project. Except for spending a little time in Google+, I have not been following the mobile tech news closely.  About the only thing that has caught my eye of late was reading how Microsoft viewed the tablet as a PC and would not be coming out with tablet version of Windows Phone 7. Some things never change, do they?

I start my new job with the NJCAA on August 1 and am trying to get a lot of stuff done between now and then. In the mean time, bare with me, and I’ll pick up posting again in the next couple of weeks. Meanwhile, if you want to follow me on Google +, head over and add me to your favorite circle.

05
Jul 11

Cregle PenBook Tablet Makes an Appearance


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Ever heard of the Cregle PenBook Tablet? Me neither. TechRadar, though, posted a link to their tablet and it looks pretty interesting (albeit a bit on the slow side):

  • Intel Atom Z530 1.6ghz
  • 1gb ram, 2gb max
  • 1D touch bar x 2 To specify functions such as control brightness, page up/down, and others
  • 16/32gb ssd
  • 10.1″ 1024x 600 digitizer. No word on what type of digitizer is supported, but the pen looks nice.
  • Windows 7
  • Battery life: 6 hours. Supports replaceable battery

 

No word on pricing or availability. I have inquired about a review unit.

 

 

 

02
Jul 11

Best and Worst Feature on TouchPad


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My favorite feature in the touchpad is Just Type, which allows the user to create content first, then worry about what application to open it with. for example, I can start typing a status update and then choose whether to send it to Facebook or Spam, create an email, etc.

Ironically, my least favorite feature is the touch keyboard. I am experiencing a lot of misspellings due to the neighboring key being accidentally pressed. It feels like an adjustment to a sensitivity level is needed. There are some pluses to the keyboard, like adjusting the size and the number row, though.

02
Jul 11

HP TouchPad In Hand


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I received my HP TouchPad yesterday and, so far, I have really been enjoying it a lot. It doesn’t quite answer the “would I buy this over an iPad” question, but it is very close. Out of the box, the TouchPad comes with a cleaning cloth and USB based power adapter. I also bought the dock, cover, and bluetooth keyboard.

There are plenty of reviews out there, so I won’t be offering up a full review, but here are things I really like, along with some items that need further work.

  • Full Browser support – I’m typing this in the web-based WordPress tool and have full access to the editing toolbar. The same experience is available via Google Docs. For me, this is a huge improvement over Safari in iOS and Android’s browser. I can’t upload photos using the wp-admin image uploader which wasn’t too surprising – disappointing, but not surprising. The experience isn’t perfect, but much better than Safari on iOS.
  • Application switching using Card View feels faster and more natural than iOS and Android Honeycomb.
  • Photos has a seamless hook in to my Facebook photo library.
  • Just Type allows me to begin creating a Memo, tweet, facebook status, calendar event, or Email without launching the application first.
  • Bluetooth keyboard is very, very nice with built-in keys to launch the Card View, notifications, and spacebar to instantly wake the TouchPad from sleep. There is a slight lag from typing before the text appears on the screen, but am hopeful that this will get addressed in future updates
  • The on-screen keyboard is also nice, with a row dedicated to numbers, as well as an option to make the keyboard different sizes. I have found the large size works best for me. While I’m getting used to the on-screen keyboard, I am noticing more accidental spelling errors due to pressing the wrong key.
  • There is a little bit of lag in application loading and a general sluggishness to the OS that doesn’t quite line up with the expectations of the processor. HP needs to fix this on their next system software update.
  • I like the ability to make panes within an application full-screen. For example, I can view an email with a list of other emails on the left, or type the slider icon and make the email full-screen, and then easiliy switch back. The Facebook application makes full use of this capability and is a great UI improvement over iOS and Android Honeycomb.
  • The definite downfall right now is the lack of TouchPad specific applications. I installed Evernote, but  running that in a Pre-type screen is not even worth it.

I’ll be using the TouchPad as my primary mobile device over the next several weeks and will continue reporting back on my experience. For now, I’m very hopeful about the future of WebOS and devices that the platform will show up on. For now, I wouldn’t recommend it over the iPad, but that recommendation may change in a matter of months.

30
Jun 11

External Battery Update


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The Tekkeon MyPower All Plus 3450i R2 – About $200

For those of us who own power-hungry devices like the Asus EP121, an external battery certainly seems like a desirable option, especially when compared to other possibilities like a really long extension cord.

Sure would be nice if you could actually buy one somewhere, but in recent months the battery suppliers have been chronically out of stock.

As most readers probably know, the terrible Japanese earthquake and tsunami didn’t just ravage those people’s lives; it also crippled some significant segments of Japan’s electronics industry. Apparently, the lithium battery and control electronics segments were hard hit and as a result large external batteries of the type required for mobile computing have been in short supply. As far as I can tell, the drought generally continues, with most US suppliers simply guessing at when their next shipment from overseas might arrive.

I recently checked in with a few suppliers and thought I’d share what I know:

<> Electrovaya PowerPad 95 and 130: US Electrovaya is expecting a new stock of PowerPad 130′s ( here ), but each time I ask them about an anticipated availability date, it’s always 3 to 6 weeks in the future. I suspect that they really have no clue. They blame the delay on “parts shortages.” They are also not sure if the PowerPad 95 will be restocked or not. For those looking for a compatible adapter tip for the Asus EP121, I have finally confirmed that the PowerPad series does NOT have a compatible tip (but a “Frankencable” should be possible; I should know in a few days).

<> Tekkeon MyPower All: By coincidence, I happened to be on the phone with Tekkeon customer service (Thursday, 30 Jun 11) when they received a new shipment of batteries! They said that many of them would be used to fill back orders, but they thought that some would still be available for sale. The site is showing “out of stock” this evening ( here ), so my advice is to call the sales number and ask directly. It worked for me! Tekkeon has a compatible tip for the EP121 (order PA-L30, $2.95).

<> Amstron MEDXP-140: Amstron was going to be my back-up choice, but that is now unnecessary. The MEDXP-140 is a flat, rectangular form factor battery like the PowerPad. It is a bit on the heavy and expensive side, though, as it is intended for use in doctor’s offices. Still, 140 WHrs is a pretty impressive capacity. Amstron sells through distributors; the MEDXP-140 is in stock at VoltDepot.com ( here ). The supplied adapter tips should fit many popular tablets / laptops, but none of them look like they fit the EP121.

<> The Battery Geeks Mobile Freedom Power: MFP models are powerful (130 WHrs, 200 WHrs) but also very expensive. They are currently available at The Battery Geeks website ( here ) but they also are frequently shown as “out of stock.” I would definitely try to contact them before attempting to make a purchase. There are several adapter tips provided with the battery, and other optional tips available, but there is not much information about any them, so that’s another reason to call first. Tip “C” may be compatible with the EP121, but you’ll have to ask.

If you need substantial power on the go, one of these batteries might serve you well but remember that they provide their best operating life only if they are used regularly. For the best recent comparison of all of these batteries, and more, see this recent article at TomsHardware.com ( here )

29
Jun 11

Fujitsu Q550 Reviewed, Found Bitter Tasting


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GBM’s Sumocat has reviewed the Fujitsu Q550 and found the experience to be quite bitter tasting.

Check it out.

28
Jun 11

CL900 and Q550 – All Things Equal in Rugged Tablet Land?


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When doing a spec comparison between the Fujitsu Q550 and the Motion CL900, I was surprised to learn that the Fujitsu Q550 met the MIL-STD-810G spec, which means that it must hold up to a 2′ drop test on to plywood over concrete, and still remain functional. Motion’s CL900 also adheres to the MIL-STD-810G spec, but as Motion recently pointed out to me, not everything is equal in rugged tablet land.

According to Fujitsu’s spec sheet on the Q550, it did indeed pass the 2′ drop test, but mechanical damage was observed. However, as illustrated in this video, Motion’s CL900 sustained a drop from 4′ with no mechanical damage.

Looks like that $375 price premium might have some benefit for those needing premium rugged support while also being light and attractive in design.

What are your rugged needs as you look at tablets for your personal and business needs?

 

24
Jun 11

Motion Computing CL900 vs Fujitsu Q550 – Which One Would You Purchase?


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John, a reader, is asking a great question that I thought I would throw out to rest of the readers:

I’m guessing there are others who may also be considering the Motion CL900 or the Fujitsu Q550. Do you think that may be the case? The issue is, the CL900 I might purchase costs in the range of $1225.00 and the Q550 costs about $850.00, a difference of about $375.00. So, what to do?

The two units are in many ways very similar tablet pcs. Both are: 10.1″, capacitive touch and active pen-based N-trig digitizers, 62 gb SSD, 2gb ram, Atom z670 processor, 8 hour battery life, both rugged spec at MIL-STD-810G, etc. However there are some differences.

Here was my response

John – the main differences I can tell are:

1) CL900 has a pen silo for the pen
2) CL900 has gorilla glass
3) Q550 has removable battery
4) Q550 has programmable application hardware buttons
5) Q550 is $375 less

Update: Mark, a reader, correctly pointed out that both tablets are rugged as they both meet the same MIL-STD-810G spec. Similarity noted above and list corrected.

With some other minor differences here and there, in most other areas, they are equal tablets.  Given the above and my own needs, I would likely opt for the Q550, save the money, gain application hardware buttons, as well as a removable battery.

How would you advise John? What other differences should John consider that I didn’t note above? Which one would you purchase?

 

24
Jun 11

Motion Computing CL900 – Tablet Usage


 | 5 Comments

I noted in my first post about the Motion Computing CL900 Tablet PC that it was designed for tablet users and gave an example of the pen silo. So how else does the CL900 hold up for day-in and day-out tablet usage?

Holding The Tablet

Holding the CL900 feels really good. It is light, has rounded corners, and provides ample space around the screen to grasp it without accidentally launching a program. The CL900 was designed to be rugged, but it doesn’t feel like one of the typical rugged tablets out there that are thick and weigh a ton. Motion did not compromise one bit in the design aesthetics of this tablet.

New CL900 users will find the CL900 friendly to the fingers. The tablet never got hot, or even warm for that matter. In addition, I had to work hard to even hear the fan. Motion has come along way since the LS800 overheating days.

Rotation

The CL900 automatically rotates 270 degrees: primary and secondary portrait, and primary landscape.  I have found the automatic rotation to be a tad on the sensitive side and found myself wishing I could manually control when I wanted to rotate the screen. Automatic rotation can be turned off through a system tray setting; however, outside of opening the Motion Dashboard, there is not a hardware button or software shortcut to manually rotate the screen. The CL900 includes ExTOUCH, an application launcher that resides on the side of the screen that would be perfect for a rotation shortcut.   I also found the rotation to be a  little laggy. Most Windows tablets suffer from this problem so it isn’t an issue isolated to the CL900. I guess I’m so used to the seamless screen rotation of the iPad that I’ve gotten spoiled.

Buttons

As I mentioned above, the CL900 only has three rubberized buttons: power, CTRL – ALT – Delete, and battery indicator. The power button is slightly recessed, decreasing the likelyhood of accidentally sending the tablet into sleep mode. Tablet hardware button support was not installed, so the CTRL-ALT-DEL key cannot be reprogrammed for other purposes. Previous Motion tablets had ample hardware buttons that could be programmed for whatever purpose the user needed: rotating, taking a picture, launching an application, etc. I’d like to see more hardware buttons in the next release of the CL900

Handwriting

I’ve already provided a video and commentary of the handwriting experience on the CL900. I guess you could say, I’m becoming more of a N-trig each day. It is clear that N-trig has been listening to their customers and they are making strides at improving their digitizer with each new generation of hardware. Switching between touch and pen is becoming more natural than with previous N-trig based tablets. Overall, I’m very pleased with the handwriting experience and would have no qualms using the CL900 to take notes.

However, my biggest negative with the handwriting is with the noise as the pen makes contact with the screen. As I mentioned in the handwriting article, the pen-to-screen noise is much quieter than the Slate 500, but it is definitely noticeable and nowhere near as quiet as Wacom-based tablets. A prototype pen I’ve been using makes it even more quieter, so there is hope in the experience getting better. This pen will be released in the fall. My conversations with N-trig have also indicated the additional pens are being developed to make experience even quieter, and advances in their digitizer should help even more.

At first glance, the pop-out pen silo would appear not to hold up well to continual opening and closing over several years. However, the more I’ve used the tablet, the pen silo actually feels quite sturdy and is at an angle that makes breakage quite difficult. It is clear that Motion took this issue into account when designing the CL900 to be rugged.  Kudos to Motion for holding firm on making the pop-out pen silo a key design feature. Unlike other tablet manufacturers, Motion didn’t leave tablet users high and dry when it comes to the pen.

Outdoor Visibility and Viewing Angles

I tested the CL900 in bright sunlight and did not have any problems at all in viewing the screen, launching applications, and taking notes. It was so good, in fact, that the CL900 put the iPad to shame. In addition, I found the viewing angles to be very good.

I didn’t have enough guts to try scratching the Corning Gorilla Glass, but I trust Motion enough that when they tell me it is scratch-resistant, I believe them.

Although fingerprints don’t show while the tablet is turned on, the screen does show fingerprints pretty badly when the tablet is turned off or while in sleep mode. That said, the fingerprint issue is greatly improved over previous Motion tablets.

Recommendations

With regards to tablet usage, how would I improve the CL900?

  • Add more hardware buttons and allow them to be programmable. This would make launching a camera application, rotating the screen, etc more accessible. The ExTOUCH application is nice, but it doesn’t compare to hardware buttons and it isn’t configurable in that regard either.
  • Make the rotation less sensitive
  • Even though a case with a built-in stand can be purchased, I would suggest integrating a prop-up stand into the back of the tablet. I’ve been begging Motion for years to do this with all of their tablets, but they have yet to integrate that feature into their hardware design. Even a cover as thin as the iPad Smart Cover would do the trick.
  • Continue working with N-trig on making the pens quieter. A tablet user needs to be able to take handwritten notes as quietly as they do on paper.
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