Toshiba Android Tablet AT200: A Closer Look

After the popularity and interest in our video (that can be found below) and the article on how Toshiba have stopped selling the AT200 in Australia, which you can read here Toshiba Android Tablet AT200 Ends Before it Begins, we thought we’d take a closer look at Toshiba’s new slimline tablet, as it will still be available around the world for some time.

Toshiba Android Tablet AT200

Just released globally, the Toshiba AT200 sets new standards in lightness and thinness for tablet devices.

Toshiba love being able to set new records and try new products that are a little left of centre.  Although some products aren’t successful in the mainstream, like the Libretto W100 Dual touch screen device, they do point to a company willing to take some risks to push the envelope.

The Toshiba Android Tablet AT200 is such a product. To call it the Ultrabook of the tablet world might be taking it a little far, but it does seem to go hand in hand with theZ830 as a companion in the thin and light mobile computing category, read that article here Toshiba Satellite Z830 Ultrabook First Look . At only 535 grams and 7.7mm it is currently the world’s thinnest and lightest tablet, matching the boasts of its Ultrabook sibling.

The overall design is of two slivers of silver being sandwiched together, with a black line running the entire way around the middle of the edge, except for the buttons and ports. It’s a stylish design and seems to be inspired in some part by its Ultrabook, with no tapering, just a consistent thickness all around.

The back plate has a metal finish with the Toshiba logo embedded, just in case there was any question as to what brand this eye catching tablet was. The back panel also holds the 5 megapixel camera. The front camera is 2MP.

What a great business model Gorilla Glass has now, becoming the go-to company for scratch and impact resistant display. The AT200’s 1280 x 800 display is protected by the Corning company’s mobile/tablet product.

Toshiba have kept the controls and ports very minimal but still manage to provide all the necessary outputs to satisfy most needs. The connection on the bottom of the tablet is for power and connection to a PC via USB, and the proprietary cable comes in the box.

It probably would have been easier to avoid duplicating the onboard connectivity of their previous 10.1”, the AT100, but they’ve gone all out and retained a full set of outputs.

The left hand side contains all the connections I mentioned earlier – headphone jack, micro USB, Micro HDMI and Micro SD. It is interesting that Toshiba can provide such a comprehensive connection suite in a product with such dimensions, beating both the iPad 2 and Tab 10.1, both of which offer only a single proprietary connection that can be accessed with various add-on cables.

Interestingly, the Toshiba Android Tablet AT200 uses a Texas Instruments dual core processor, which is comparable to the Tegra 2 or A5 processor used in iPads and other Android tablets. This may mean that another tablet with Tegra 3 may be on the drawing board down the track.

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Software-wise, the Toshiba is still rocking the Android 3.2 Honeycomb OS, and no word on upgrades just yet. Given the amount of exposure Ice Cream Sandwich is getting now, read our article here Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich on a Tablet. I’m sure this question of ICS upgrade will be on the lips of any prospective AT200 owner.

In line with their pedigree in the commercial and enterprise space, rather than focusing on entertainment, Toshiba have included a few productivity apps. This includes Thinkfree Office for Word, Excel and Powerpoint compatibility; Splashtop for remote desktop access, a file manager (which surprisingly some tablets still don’t have out of the box), the popular Evernote and McAfee security.

When you look at the types of apps on board and the styling of the Toshiba Android Tablet AT200, you do get a sense that this is more of an executive’s secondary or third device rather than a casual gaming and entertainment tablet. The absence of Ice Cream Sandwich may turn some users off, but we’ll ask Toshiba for an update on that and come back with details when available.

In case you missed it the first time around, here’s our video of the Toshiba Android Tablet AT200:

What do you think of the AT200 from Toshiba?

Toshiba Android Tablet AT200 Ends Before It Begins

Toshiba Australia very kindly sent us a shiny new Android tablet to play with and we produced a segment, as seen below, and liked a lot about this new tablet. The Toshiba Android Tablet AT200 is the thinnest and lightest 10.1” tablet in the market, beating all other tablets on thinness and weight. The AT200 has its own look and feel that separates it from its competitors.

However, late Friday we were informed that as of this week, the Toshiba Android Tablet AT200 was going “End of Life” in Australia. This meant no more units would be brought into the country to sell.

Coincidentally (or perhaps not), Samsung also announced a fairly sizeable price reduction across the board for its 10.1 Galaxy Tab range, which now puts it at $100 under Apple’s iPad, you can read that article here Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Price Drop .

The AT200 was originally pegged at $579 for its 16GB Wi-Fi only model, which would have put it directly up against the iPad, and $100 more than the repositioned Samsung.

The Toshiba Android Tablet AT200 was, on paper, a pretty likeable machine. It weighed only 535 grams and was 7.7mm thin, eclipsing any other current tablet. Like its predecessor, it managed to retain a comprehensive set of connections -– headphone jack, Micro USB, Micro HDMI and Micro SD.

Toshiba Android Tablet AT200

The Toshiba Android Tablet AT200 offered great connectivity and a sharp looking body.

It also had a pretty inclusive set of software on its Honeycomb OS. This included Thinkfree Office, Splashtop for remote desktop access, a file manager, Evernote for spontaneous information gathering and McAfee security. One uncertain factor was when it would be upgraded to Android 4.0.

Our understanding is that the Toshiba Android Tablet AT200 is still alive and well in other regions around the world, so it appears to be a local decision not to continue this model on this continent. The Australian market is sometimes used as a litmus test for new products and technology for vendors as it’s fairly isolated and we’re a proud bunch of early adopters. This could indicate a subtle shift in Toshiba’s overall strategy in the tablet space.

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So where could Toshiba be heading, given this was a benchmark product in form factor at the very least? My initial guess is a ramp up to develop a strong Windows 8 tablet as part of its overall Windows ecosystem offer.

Toshiba released a touch screen all-in-one model last year, so they now have desktops, notebooks, Ultrabooks, and potentially tablets that would put them in a healthy position to offer Windows 8 across virtually all device types, except for mobile phones. Given Toshiba’s strength in the Australian market, such a strategy could be extremely beneficial.

After all, Android has evolved from the mobile platform whereas Windows has developed from a desktop/server platform, giving it a very different set of development challenges. Given Toshiba’s long history supporting Windows as its dominant operating system, there is no doubt they will come out with a strong offer at the launch of Windows 8.

The Toshiba Android Tablet AT200 cancellation and Samsung’s price move are two significant news events in one weekend for tablets. We are still to see the iPad 3 resolve into a real product from the conjecture and rumour that is feeding the hype before the announcement.

It’s going to be a real interesting few months for the tablet industry.  We will see more Tegra 3 products released, ICS deployed and upgraded on more machines, and the new iPad 3 awake from its secret slumber. In the second half of the year, Microsoft will make its move with partners like Toshiba champing at the bit to get into the market with Windows 8 on multiple hardware options.

Watch the video below or read our article on the Toshiba Android Tablet AT200 a Closer Look for more information.

Does Toshiba’s announcement change your mind about Android, and are you waiting for Windows 8 on a tablet?

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Price Drop

Here in Australia, Samsung have officially moved price on their entire Galaxy Tab 10.1 range this weekend, with the 16GB Wi-Fi model now only $479 RRP. Here’s the new Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 price repositions at RRP levels across the range:

  • 16GB Wi-Fi only: $479
  • 64GB Wi-Fi only: $699
  • 16GB Wi-Fi/3G: $629
  • 64GB Wi-Fi/3G: $829

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 price is now pegged $100 below the comparative iPad models in both capacity and Wi-Fi/3G respects. This looks to be a move to continue the momentum gained through the media-supported hype around the Tab 10.1 and the legal stoushes with Apple here and overseas.

Once the Tab 10.1 was allowed to be released in Australia, Samsung embarked on a massive publicity campaign, complete with cheeky advertising callouts, including the phrase “The Tablet Apple Tried to Stop”, capitalising on the court’s decision to lift the ban on selling the Galaxy Tab 10.1 until the final verdict was decided.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 price has just come down in Australia.

Samsung's advertising directly referenced their legal battles with Apple. Even without their own campaign, the amount of exposure the Tab 10.1 received was massive.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 price drop can also be seen in context of other hardware offers in the Android tablet territory, and actually makes sense when comparing like-for-like systems.

Take, for example, the Asus Transformer Prime, the only tablet in the market with the Tegra 3 processor today. The RRP for the 64GB version of the Prime is $899. From the RRP of $699 for the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 price, one could add $100 for the addition of the keyboard dock, and a further $100 for the Tegra 3 processor upgrade.

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Of course, there are other market forces and activities hanging in the air that may begin to coalesce in the next few weeks. Rumours are building around a possible iPad 3 announcement, and Samsung themselves appear to have a new 10.1” model, the Galaxy Note 10.1 which looks to combine the functionality of the current Galaxy Note with the screen size and dimensions of the Tab 10.1. Given the number of units sold of the Note, and the development of S-pen based Apps, a 10.1 version of the Note could be very interesting and open the “creative mobile” market even further.

For now, we have the price drops which should stimulate sales of the 10.1 Galaxy Tab, and we’ll keep our eyes peeled for more information on new models as they are announced.

Have you been holding off for a drop of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 price, and does this announcement get you over the line to become a Galaxy Tab owner? Let us know your thoughts below.

Chrome for Android Comes Without Flash Support

Whether it’s on a smartphone or a tablet, the quality of the online browsing experience is critical to the success of any mobile device. Chrome for Android aims to become the optimum browser for Android devices. However, as we pointed out in our previous article, Chrome for Android comes without Flash support in its Beta state, and none is planned.

This development (or lack thereof in this case) was also commented on by  Adobe. They mentioned continued development of the PC-based Flash product, and their contribution to HTML5. That in effect is a surrender to the market shift away from their long-standing plug-in.

Is it such a big deal that this browser is throwing the towel in so early? After all, even the stock browser supports Flash, and we made a tongue-in-cheek video pointing this out when comparing it to the iPad. Today we could very well re-shoot that video, only this time with two Android tablets: one running the stock browser and the other running Chrome for Android that doesn’t support Flash.

Chrome for Android Comes Without Flash Support

No, this is not an iPad screenshot, it's a Transformer Prime showing the world that Chrome for Android comes without Flash support.

When we step away from the issue and look at it a little more objectively, Flash is still very much reliant on localised drivers and plug-ins to provide an online experience. In this day and age that combination does seem to be a little old-fashioned. With all things moving to online storage, cloud services and less dependence on the specs of notebooks (take Ultrabooks) and tablets (which are stripped down compared to any PC of note), HTML5 seems to be the best solution.

Chrome for Android comes without Flash support, but will enable HTML5 authors and developers to create rich, interactive environments that will be transferable to any device, regardless of their plug in. After all, why should we need to download an app for Adobe Flash Player  just to see a website in its entirety on an Android device?

The very nature of the functionality of Chrome for Android is to connect seamlessly with your desktop experience. With no plug-ins and instant access to open tabs, the shift is very much in the favor of HTML5, the fact that Chrome for Android comes without Flash support seems to be a short term issue.

Apple did indeed bring this topic to a head. It’s encouraging to see the entire mobile platform converging on a single standard for the benefit of all mobile browser users, regardless of which ecosystem they have invested in.

Chrome on Android Using the Asus Transformer Prime

Earlier this week Google released the beta version of Chrome on Android, fulfilling a commitment to provide a seamless link between the desktop and mobile browsing experience.

Here’s our video showing you some great cross-device activities that, up until now, haven’t been possible, and it’s exciting to see them in action.

At this stage only 12 countries, including Australia, have been given access to the beta version of Chrome on Android, and it is limited to mobile and tablet devices with the Android 4 and above OS. In Australia, that really only gives the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and the Asus Transformer Prime the opportunity to show off this new browser. We are lucky enough to have a Prime tablet at our disposal, so we can show this off in tablet mode to you.

 

Chrome on Android menu system

The menu for the Chrome beta for Android browser, which includes "Other devices", a hint at the cross-device power of this internet browser.

The intention is for Google to move its stock browser over to Chrome on Android once beta testing has been completed, and if the initial experience is any indication, it’s a good move.

First up, the browser asks for your gmail account details to sign you in, as a large portion of the features involves utilising synching with your desktop browser. If you currently don’t use Chrome and do own a Nexus or Transformer Prime, I’d suggest you move over immediately to at least see what this has to offer.

Once you’ve signed in, make sure you’re also signed in over on your Chrome Desktop browser, because this is where the fun really begins.

Once you use the Chrome on Android beta browser a few times, one thing becomes very obvious – that Google is looking to provide a completely seamless browsing experience regardless of what device you are on. Whatever bookmarks you currently have on your desktop are immediately pushed to your tablet, and any changes you make are also moved across.

Chrome on Android Desktop and Local bookmarks

You can see the bookmarks above for both local and synched content within the Chrome beta browser.

But that’s not all. The synching also brings across your browsing history, so any websites you visit regularly will come up in priority to other search results. It’s uncanny, opening this browser for the first time and it knows what you are entering in the Omnibox.

What’s an Omnibox, I hear you ask? It’s the box in Chrome where you enter the URL, but can also be used for search terms. No more looking for a Google search box, just type right in the omnibox and you’ll get taken to the website of your choice or be presented with a list of options based on your search term. Those that use Chrome on desktop will be used to this feature, but it’s the sudden “awareness” of your new device using Chrome on Android that makes it a little spooky.

 

Chrome for Android Browsing Spooky Geen Android

Does it get any spookier than this Chrome eyed little Green Android?

Synching is one thing, but how about transferring all your open tabs on your desktop to your tablet? When you open a new tab, there are three rectangular buttons at the middle bottom: Most Visited, Bookmarks and Other Devices.

Most visited appears to be a more localised history. Bookmarks are split into Desktop, Other and Mobile bookmarks. Opening the Desktop bookmarks folder presents all the bookmarks from your desktop.

“Other devices” presents the currently open tabs from other Chrome browsers that you are currently signed into. However, instead of just duplicating all the tabs, it shows the pages in a list form so you can choose which ones you want to open. This is a great feature if you are on your desktop searching for movie times or restaurants and want to continue that exploration while you are at large.

Chrome on Android open tabs from desktop

Here you can see open tabs from the Toshiba PC, and a webpage that has been pushed to the tablet.

Another feature is the Chrome to Mobile feature, which ensures the page you were on is sent to your device even if you shut your current sessions down or have to power off your PC. Just install the free Chrome to Mobile app onto your desktop browser, and a small phone icon will now appear on the right hand side of the Omnibox. Press the icon, and a dialogue box will ask you to confirm which device to push to.

The next time you open your Chrome browser on your tablet, the page will be there waiting for you under the “Other Devices” area. This is a much quicker way of sending links, going browser to browser instead of going from the browser, to sending an email, receiving the email and pressing a link that opens in a browser – everything happens within Chrome.

Chrome is known for its “Incognito” option, and it is replicated here, and the overlapping squares and “Spy vs Spy” icon on the left hand side makes sure you don’t forget which browser you are in.

Chrome on Android incognito browsing

Incognito mode opens another window with all incognito tabs gathered, with easy switching between both modes.

The last thing I will mention here is voice search, another icon on the right hand side of the omnibox that, once pressed, will display a microphone for you to verbalise your search request. It seemed to be intelligent enough to pick up the basic phrases we threw at it, but given it is a beta version I’m sure it’s a feature they are working on to be polished by the time the final version is released.

Chrome for Android Browsing Voice Search Windows

Search by speaking is now available. Voice search is a highly competitive domain and Google need to deliver a polished product.

The initial impression of the beta version of Chrome on Android is very positive, and given this is the foundation for their stock browser once users provide feedback and bugs are ironed out, the idea of always-connected, always-on takes another step forward. Web browsing is a huge part of what we do on devices, and to have an uninterrupted experience between the difference physical screens we use is a very compelling reason to move to Chrome, both from a tablet and a desktop perspective.

Have you tried out Chrome beta on an Android mobile or tablet, and what are your thoughts? Are there any other scenarios that you’d like us to test? Let us know in the comments area below.

Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich on a Tablet

When we first reviewed the ASUS Transformer Prime late last year, the promise of an upgrade to Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich was just that – a promise. When the Prime finally arrived, there was a fair bit of anticipation but also apprehension that the upgrade would come down the pipeline anytime soon.

However, the new Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich upgrade, was deployed very quickly and this was probably in no small part due to some issues the Prime was reportedly having, by many users, when in Wi-Fi mode.

And it looks like it was a big coup by Asus – The Motorola Xoom, which announced OS upgrades for its Wi-Fi version of its tablet, was pipped at the line by Asus in getting the Android 4.0 upgrade into the hands of its Prime owners. As such, it’s worth taking a look at some of the new features to be seen on the Prime that are specific to the new Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich update.

Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich Homepage Screen Shot on the ASUS Transformer Prime

The new Android 4.0 brings more usability and ease of use to an ever-improving tablet OS.

Firstly, tablets running Android 4.0 have taken a leaf from Apple’s book and placed a shortcut to the camera straight on the lock screen. Swipe right to unlock, swipe left to enter the camera. We’ll be posting some samples of both video and image capture off the 8MP back camera in the next couple of days so you can see the quality of the camera – and it is pretty decent, with 1080p video recording.

It looks like the 3G vs Wi-fi debate has Google’s attention, as Android 4.0 now comes with a Data Usage screen in the setting area, where you can track how much bandwidth has been consumed by week, and by which applications. This feature is a great way to monitor your mobile internet usage, especially if you are using 3G tethering.

Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich Data Usage Screen Shot on the ASUS Transformer Prime

Keep track of your new Android tablet's data use by week detailing each app's contribution to the overall bandwidth usage.

Speaking of data usage, the Browser has had some changes to it as well. One of the most welcome changes is the ability to request the desktop version of the site you are in if it has automatically taken you to the m.website.com, because it was recognising Android as a mobile browser.

However, with the screen size and flash support, many sites are worth visiting in their rich desktop version. A new touch gesture based browser is also available to trial in the labs area of the browser, keep a look out for a video covering this in more detail to be uploaded soon or better yet subscribe to our YouTube channel at Ritchie’s Room TV.

Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich Lab Browser Screen Shot on an ASUS Transformer Prime

Comprehensive browser options including desktop website version request. A mobile site just looks wrong on a 10 inch screen.

Widgets used to be treated very differently to Apps, in that they would be found in a fairly convoluted way via the home screen and there was no way to see more than a few widgets at a time. Now, the widgets live in the same place as the apps for easy management, with the new Android 4.0 recognising the different formats and placing them in separate categories.

Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich Widgets Screen Shot on the ASUS Transformer Prime

Apps and Widgets, living together in perfect harmony as part of the new Android OS.

As with the last OS update, the App store icon is placed for easy access on the top right hand corner in the apps screen, and widgets are easily size-adjusted to suit your homepage layout. The native contacts app has been renamed and upgraded to “People”, with more social networking integration. This seems a little Windows Phone-ish but is a good upgrade so you can see dynamic feed updates on your friends.

App management has always been a bit of a bug bear for Android. There are a lot of tools on the market that help with task killing, but a native app manager would always be preferable. Now, with the Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich iteration, it’s finally here.

All you need to do to shut down an app is press the recent apps icon on the bottom left hand corner, and swipe an app to the right. That will shut the application down and take it off the recent apps list.

This is way easier than any previous method and beats Apples iOS in terms of simplicity – no extended presses or physical buttons, just home page, recent apps and swipe. You’ll see an example of that in the video below.

If you’ve been using Honeycomb, then you will find the new Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich full of practical improvements. It’s not so much a departure as a welcome progression, and shows Android setting itself up as a serious contender in the Tablet OS wars that will explode later this year.

I’m sure there will be further tweaks before then, and we’ll report on them as well. In the meantime, here’s the video that shows some of those new Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich features I mentioned above.

 

Do you think you’ll use some of these new features and which ones interest you most? We’d love to hear your thoughts below.

Transformer Prime Wi-Fi Speedtest vs iPad 2

If there’s one thing we love here at Ritchie’s Room, it’s generating and joining in a discussion. The Transformer Prime from Asus has been a lightning rod for hundreds of comments and quite rigorous discussion around various issues.

Initially it was the hype around the Prime as it was the first Android tablet to incorporate the Tegra 3 processor. Then, as demand started to rise and stock was nowhere to be seen, floods of complaints started to flow on both our site and other forums. Finally the Prime made it into the hands of users, only to have one major feature, GPS, stricken from the specifications sheet due to poor performance.

The fast upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich seemed to temper the passions that were flaring in the initial stages, and from some of the accounts we have received, it appears to have addressed most of the issues.

One particular issue that still reared its ugly head was Wi-fi performance on the Asus tablet. Some users complained of low Wi-Fi signal strength and others of generally poor download speeds which affected browser experience.

A few days ago we decided to shoot a very basic piece for YouTube simply showing the signal strength in bars on the Prime and iPad 2, as a comparison. The signal strength was quite high on the Prime, and a tad lower on the iPad 2.

However, we received lot of comments about using a download monitor program to see what the real world differences were in Wi-Fi performance. We ended up with the Speedtest.net app and installed that on both the Prime and the iPad 2, and ran the test in the exactly the same location just seconds apart from each other. We then took both around the house, wondering in and out of rooms for a few minutes. We had some very interesting results.

Would the Speedtest App resolve the Wifi performance issue for the Transformer Prime once and for all?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First, the speedtest in the Studio room. In the same location, seconds after one another, there was very little separating the Apple and Asus models – a few milliseconds difference for Pings, virtually the same download speed, and the Prime came out on top in upload speed by o.1Mbps or so.

After we filmed that, we walked around, getting further and further away from our filming location. In each area where we ran the tests, the results were wildly different even if the units were both side by side and didn’t move when we ran a second batch just to see a repeat of the test in that area.

To give you an idea, we moved the two tablets to a room that was three double brick walls removed from our studio, and both the Prime and iPad recorded download speeds of anything from 6Mbps all the way to 18Mbps, which is what we were getting when we were metres away from the router.

In the end we decided to leave the results of the further-distance speedtests out of the video segment because they were so wildly varying and could have been a consequence of a number of factors. In the controlled environment, the iPad 2 and Prime were neck and neck, and we repeated that test a few times with very little discrepancy to give ourselves a decent level of confidence.

However, the distance tests were fraught with fluctuations of the Wi-Fi signal that could have been affected by the environment, the wireless network or the wireless hardware built-in to the Prime and iPad 2.

All we can say is that based on the tests that we ran today, the results showed no real difference in the Wi-Fi performance between the best selling tablet in the market and the most advanced tablet in the market.

Here’s the Speedtest.net video we produced today (if you can’t see the video yet, we’re still uploading):

 

And here’s the original basic wireless signal test video that we released a few days ago:

 

Now that you’ve seen these tests, here’s a question for you: Does any of it help you make up your mind about the wireless performance of the Prime? Or is the Wi-fi performance of a tablet too hard to judge given all the other factors that might come into play?

Please feel free to comment below and we’d love to hear your opinion on this topic.

CES 2012: Samsung Galaxy Note Smartphone

One of the more intriguing products to come out of the CES was one that has already been released overseas  but hasn’t yet seen the light of day in either the US or Australia. This was the new Samsung phone, the Galaxy Note, a Smartphone that straddles the space between phone and tablet – and does it very well.

For creative types and business people on the go, the Galaxy Note could be the answer to Multiple Device Syndrome.

Sales in the regions where it’s been released has now reached over 1 million units, so it certainly has found success so far in Europe, India and parts of Asia. With the Note expecting to be released early this year in the States and Australia, it was worth visiting the Samsung stands to have a look.

Samsung’s stand was massive at the CES, and a large portion of it was devoted to the Galaxy Note – there must have been over two dozen working units for people to play with. In addition to the stand, Samsung had set up a separate booth in another area of the convention centre where freehand artists were using Galaxy Notes to sketch up caricatures of attendees. I would have loved to have done that just for this article, but the line was unbelievably long.

So what makes this new Samsung phone so different that it has captivated such an audience? To start with, there is no tablet or Smartphone quite like it. From the screen to the stylus, it has managed to position itself away from any direct competition and sell itself on unique propositions.

Depending on how you look at it/use it, it’s either the largest mobile phone in the world, or the world’s smallest tablet. The screen size, at 5.3 inches, actually negates the need for a secondary device when you’re out and about. This is because the actual quality of the display is enhanced by the very first HD Super AMOLED screen on the market.

We had a play with the Galaxy Note at the Samsung stand at the CES and the two things that stood out for me were the physical dimensions of the Note as well as the emphasis on the stylus. The stylus is key to Samsung’s marketing of the Note, and they are building a whole sswap of apps designed specifically to take advantage of the Stylus, which actually hides away in the Note when not in use.

The stylus reintroduces a way of using a phone/tablet that hasn’t been seen since Palm Pilots were all the rage. However, the screen resolutions and applications that are available these days make the Note a compelling product for those you might call “creatively mobile”. That is, those that like to doodle away and design or edit and enjoy these activities even while on the go.

The stylus can be used for many different things, from freehand drawing, word recognition, editing and cropping, and a whole bunch more depending on the app. I can envisage powerful business reasons to use this new Samsung phone with this tool as well – I’d love to be able to highlight images or phrases on a document and visually communicate this to my contacts instead of typing/describing what I need.

Advertising briefs, presentation drafts and proposals can all be shared with better visual understanding of what needs to be achieved. Fit out a marketing team with these and they’ll never look back. So to me, the business potential for the Note is enormous once people understand how to take advantage of the tools, and the apps that are being rolled out.

The only uncertainty factor in my mind is the first thing that struck me when I first laid eyes on one:  would I really carry such a large device around as my main phone all the time? Compared to an iPhone, it’s gigantic, and next to a Galaxy S II it still appears oversized. I can see the benefits of the screen size – for reading documents, browsing the web, even for entertainment such as gaming and video watching, it combines all the features of a Smartphone and a tablet. But would I handle such a large device in my pocket all day, everyday?

That question will have to be left until we get a sample back here in Australia to test and report back. Until then, here are two short videos on the Galaxy Note from the Samsung stand at CES.

This one shows some of the functionality of the Note, particularly using the Stylus:

 

This video shows the video playback of the Galaxy Note:

 

We look forward to a more in depth review when a Note becomes available to us. In the meantime, tell us what you think… would you hand in your small smartphone and large tablet for a mid-sized smartphone that has tablet functionality and other enhanced features?

CES 2012: Asus Transformer Prime TF700 Series

The second iteration of the Transformer has barely been released to market, and Asus have the latest version to show us, named the TF700 series.

Better resolution screen, front and back webcams and designed back cover... the new Transformer Prime TF700 series.

It’s important to note that the TF700 is still a fair few months away from market, and it’s really only the form factor that has been locked down with any certainty. Asus could not confirm the processor or other performance specs and there could be some intriguing reasons this is staying on the low down for the time being.

My guess? Given Microsoft’s announcement at their final CES keynote a few days ago, Asus may be testing the Windows 8 platform on the ARM architecture, which has previously not been compatible with the upcoming OS, and there may indeed be multiple configurations of this series, as the “series” name does hint at.

So what are the differences between the just-released Prime and the TF700 series? To start with, an improved screen resolution, 1920 x 1080, for a full high definition experience with a very high pixel density, which should theoretically ramp up the visual quality even further.

The webcams are also being upgraded to 8MP for the back camera and 2MP for the front. The front one will be particularly appreciated for webchats. There’s not much more we know about this new TF700 series.

The Transformer Prime captured the imagination of the tablet market, and there is still passionate discussion over on our Question and Answer page, particularly now that the Ice Cream Sandwich update has been deployed in some regions.

We are still keen to help our readers with some of the issues you’ve experienced on the Prime, so keep that chat going and we’ll be getting our hands on a Prime on our return to Australia so we can test and provide.

In the meantime, here’s a taste of what’s to come in the coming months for Asus:

 

What are your thoughts on the new Prime?

Asus Transformer Prime Bootloader LOCKED!

We’d like to welcome our first guest writer, Andy Stetson, to Ritchie’s Room. Andy has been a frequent contributor to the comments section of the Transformer Prime articles, and when he offered to contribute more formally to the site after he received his Prime, we were very excited to have Andy on board. I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of Andy’s articles in the future. In the meantime, Andy will be here to discuss and reply to your comments in the spirit of our website. Enjoy!

If you recently purchased the Asus Transformer Prime, and are eager to start loading some custom ROMs on it, grab a Snickers, because it may be a while. Some developers over at XDA have found the bootloader to be locked and encrypted with 128-bit AES Encryption.

What this means to the development community is that only firmware that has been signed by Asus will be able to be installed, that is until the bootloader is unlocked, or a backdoor has been found, like 2nd-Init for some Motorola devices. No overclocking, No Ubuntu, No possibility of Windows 8.

You may be asking, “What can we do about this?”. If you recall a while back, there was an uprising toward HTC for unlocked bootloaders, and it worked, as they now have a tool for unlocking bootloaders for all devices released since September, as well as a few older devices. Below are a few places where you can voice your opinion to Asus.

Sound off on their Facebook Wall
Assault with Tweets
Email Customer Support

And finally, Sign the “Asus: Unlock OUR Bootloader Transformer Prime” Petition

Sound off in the comments below and let us know what you think!

Multiple Sources: Rootzwiki, AndroidPolice, Engadget, Gizmodo