Archive for January 2008

Nokia E90 Communicator

January 25, 2008

Many moons ago, a laptop, a cell phone, and a cinder block got together for a hot three-way love fest. The product of this freaky, sweaty, and possibly illegal union? The Nokia E90 communicator — a device with some serious identity issues, but also one with some serious talent too.

Let’s be up front about it: this monstrous device at 7.4 ounces and 5.2 x 2.24 x 0.79 inches is not attractive in the slightest. In fact, the unappealing shell and sheer physical size make it a colossal pain in the ass to lug around in public. Clearly, the E90 is made to fit in briefcases—not skinny hipster jeans. Business folks and texting junkies, though, will love the full QWERTY keyboard, a feature that makes composing legalese missives, or elaborate IMs a relatively painless process. (Ever try tapping out a Google doc on the iPhone’s touch screen? Yeesh.) But even more appealing is the impressive palette of functions Nokia manages to cram into the beast: a 3.2 megapixel camera with flash and autofocus, 640 x 480 video resolution at 30fps, 3G compatibility, Wi-Fi, infrared, and Bluetooth connectivity, a voice recorder, GPS Navigation, push-to-talk, both Flash and (scoff) Real Player

 

No, it’s not going to tuck you into bed at night, and we’re guessing it won’t get you chicks either (really though, what gadget does?) but the E90 is definitely a good choice for those who want laptop functionality dressed up in the guise of a cell phone

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Tannoy i30 iPod Speaker System

January 25, 2008

Tannoy’s latest speaker system is actually kinda sexy. Well as sexy as a speaker system can get. First off, the clever packaging makes for a fascinating unboxing experience nearly on par with an Apple product — the power cords and peripherals come in two simple black boxes labeled “the kit” and “the bits.” The i30 (nestled beneath the kits and bits) is silky smooth and glossy black with a rounded behind. Five dock adapters plus a 3.5mm jack ensure that every generation of iPod is compatible with the dock. Operation is simple: and there are no buttons that you have to worry about not pushing—simply plug it into the wall, dock your iPod, and press play. Our one major beef? The remote. It’s a cheap plastic temperamental little thing that only works occasionally from a few feet away. But that’s not a deal breaker. The i30 is still a great choice for those who need a chic bedroom accessory that also happens to deliver rich, room filling audio.

$400, tannoydigital.com

The MacBook Air: A toy with no Promise?

January 24, 2008

Over the course of the past week, I decided to wait before making my final decision on whether or not I believed Apple’s new MacBook Air would be a success or not. After evaluating the state of the ultraportable market historically (poor) and the specs Apple is doling out with this device, it seems almost too obvious that very few people will be willing to buy this junker

Let’s face it–the MacBook Air is nothing more than a gimmick to make people believe Apple is a trendsetter that knows the best way to bring “cool” products to the masses. But what everyone seems to forget is that this company already has a slew of “cool” products and there’s no need for something that’s underpowered and overpriced. 

Suffice it to say, the MacBook Air is nothing more than a toy that has no promise and will flounder in stores. Why you ask?

It’s simple.

 First off, let’s look at Apple’s current stable of notebooks. The company offers the MacBook, which is slim and small in its own right and features the same size screen as the Air. Not only that, but it sports far superior specs and is only 0.32-inches thicker than the Air when comparing them at their thickest points. Oh, and let’s not forget that it only weighs 2 pounds more and starts at $1099, compared to the Air’s $1799 pricetag. 

On the other side of things, Apple’s MacBook Pro is built with the power user in mind and although it’s much bigger than the Air, its entry-level price is just $200 more.So let me get this straight–I can have a Mac that’s barely thinner than its brother, underpowered, but admittedly “cooler” for an additional $700? Now let’s be honest–who in their right mind would spend an additional $700 on a device just because it looks nicer?Now, I know that some Apple zealots are screaming right now saying that it’s all about portability and it’s not meant to be the workhorse the other MacBooks are, but if you’re telling me that you can’t carry a MacBook around because it’s too big and too heavy, you might want to see a doctor. 

Another problem that Steve Jobs failed to address during his keynote speech is, who in the world is going to buy this toy? My guess: the diehard Apple fanboy and people with enough money in the bank that they don’t mind spending $1799 on a product they’ll use in their car or at coffee shops.

 Beyond those two groups, who else is really buying this thing? Can anyone honestly say that the average consumer will run down to their local Apple store, excited to get their hands on their first Mac, and choose the Air over the MacBook if they’re looking for something small?I can hear it now: “Hold on, so what you’re saying is that I can get a much faster and better-equipped computer that’s barely larger for $700 less? Where’s the cash register?”

And while I don’t think the lack of an optical drive is a big deal by any means, think of the average person just looking to get their hands on a Mac and listening to others tell them how it “just works.” How will they feel when they get the Air home, try to install Office and realize the optical drive is missing? Sure, they can go through the trouble of connecting to another computer in the home and pop the disc into that drive, but doesn’t it significantly reduce the allure of having a device that “just works”? 

Of course, it doesn’t quite end there. So far, ultraportable sales have been flat, to say the least, and aside from a few bursts in sales every now and then, the ultraportable market is not the best to enter if a company is looking to increase its market share and turn a profit.So why did Apple decide to get in on the ultraportable game? More than likely, it’s because the company thinks it can do no wrong. And who can tell Steve he can? Not only has the iPod been an unbridled success, but the iPhone is selling extremely well and Mac sales have never been stronger. B

ut for the first time in years, Jobs and company has committed a blunder that could have enormous consequences. Not only is the MacBook Air a glorified toy that won’t be used by the vast majority of consumers, it’s overpriced and lacking any significant benefit of ownership other than its looks and multi-touch trackpad. If you’re looking for portability, save $700 and buy the MacBook. If you’re looking to spend money, go the extra mile and find yourself a MacBook Pro. Suffice it to say, there’s no need for the MacBook Air.

FINALLY…Drobo Gets Networks

January 24, 2008

The Drobo storage device has always intrigued me as a backup server that is smarter and more flexible than the RAID box you would typically cobble together with an old PC. But without network ability it seemed like half a product: powerful storage logic shackled to lame connectivity. That’s largely been fixed with the launch of DroboShare, a companion piece for the Drobo server that allows it to be network-attached.

DroboShare is a pricey add-on at $199, but it has gigabit Ethernet and is compatible with NTFS, HFS+, EXT3, and FAT32 file architectures, the last a nice addition we lamented the absence of in our original review. Support for a maximum 8TB capacity can be accomplished today by using two separate Drobo units loaded with four 1TB drives each and connecting both to a single DroboShare.  

DroboShare is almost there. For the price, it should have pre-n Wi-Fi built in, as well. I mean come on, this is basically a gigabit NIC, USB 2.0 chip and a little firmware to translate four drive formats. That ain’t $200. And it should have a more elegant way to connect to the Drobo than a USB jumper cable. But like Apple, Sonos, and B&O, the Drobo folks are trying to harvest a cult, not a value-aware consumer. If you are sophisticated enough to appreciate the qualities of Drobo architecture you should also crave networked storage, so I imagine DroboShare will be a hit. For now, my home-built RAID boxes are working very well.

 

Turn an old notebook hard drive into a USB drive for $10.99

January 24, 2008

So you pulled that cramped old 40GB hard drive out of your notebook and replaced it with 160GB of storage goodness. Ever wonder what you should do with the leftover drive? Simple: Stick it in an enclosure and use it as a portable USB hard drive.

You supply the drive; Meritline.com has an enclosure for just $10.99 shipped (after entering coupon code HW1971413OFF, which expires 1/25). It’s compatible with all 2.5-inch IDE and SATA drives, and it includes both IDE and SATA external interfaces (cables, too). You also get a carrying case and a little screwdriver for opening and closing the enclosure. The drive itself gets powered by the interface, so there’s no need for an AC adapter. For 11 bucks you can get yourself a terrific little portable hard drive for transferring files, on-the-fly backups, and so on. Sweet.  

Harvey Diamond…Blog Creator & Administrator

January 24, 2008

Hey Everyone!

Harvey Diamond here, and I’m back from a nice looooong break from the blog.
 
Have you become frustrated with what’s going on in the tech game?   It seems that many manufacturers are often doing one of two things:

 (1) They either rush to release products and software before their competitor(s) and therefore, don’t take the time to test it and make sure it’s really up to par, or…

(2) They don’t bother creating and selling quality products because they feel most people will quickly buy a newer product before they get a chance to realize how much the old one sucks!  Either way, don’t fear – we still have quite a few companies that take the time to provide quality and innovative products. – the kind of things savvy, and even not-so-savvy consumers can depend on.  I’m here to update you on it all.
 
I know I’ve kept you all waiting long enough, so don’t hesitate to delve into these latest tasty tech topics….

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Logitech diNovo Mini

January 24, 2008

The Logitech diNovo Mini is a Media Center remote control that features a full QWERTY keyboard and looks good on the coffee table

 

The big keyboard is much cooler than typing on the numeric pad of the remote, but it looks bad on the coffee table. Heck, even the MCE remote looks kind of ugly.

Then the diNovo Mini came. Closed, it looks like a pebble that looks good even in a minimalist loft… Open it and there is a full QWERTY keyboard, a directional pad and a few Media Center buttons. It is neat, comfy in the hand and functional. The directional pad has two modes (switchable via a button): directional pad for navigating menus or touch pad to emulate the mouse.

After trying it, I can say that I like it a lot, and I have no problem saying that anyone that uses a keyboard and a mouse on a semi-regular basis should take a look at the diNovo Mini.