Samsung Series 7 Slate PC: First Look

In October, Samsung will be releasing their latest offering in the tablet/slate space, unaffected by legal wrangling. Samsung provided an evaluation unit of the upcoming Series 7 Slate PC for a few fun hours, and I walked away quite impressed with what they have been able to do with a Windows-based tablet.

Not just another tablet... The Series 7 Slate PC

With Ultrabooks being all the rage, Apple continuing to dominate the tablet market and Android-based tablets showing real innovation, this product definitely needs to have some stand-out features to cut through the noise from all the other computing offerings.

I think this slate device from Samsung not only competes nicely against the incumbents, but keeping in mind what Windows 8 has in store next year, sets the benchmark for a solid out-of-the-box Windows solution.

Series 7 Slate on dock.

The specifications actually sound very Ultrabook-ish. A low voltage Intel i5 processor, the same as the one used in some Ultrabooks, with 64GB or 128GB SSD capacity, 4GB of RAM and a choice between Premium and Professional operating systems. The local Australian versions haven’t been confirmed yet. Just like the Ultrabooks, there is no dedicated graphics, relying on the Intel HD Graphics to handle all the video processing requirements.

The screen is a bright (400 nit) 11.6” LCD with a 1366 x768 widescreen resolution. Wireless is naturally built-in, as is Bluetooth for connection to keyboards and other devices. There’s a front and back camera with 2MP and 3MP sizes respectively.

All in the box... Dock, keyboard and stylus come with the Series 7 Slate.

However, the specs are only one part of the story. This is easily the best looking, easy to carry Windows tablet I’ve played with so far. The metal finish across the entire body is striking and would stand out from existing tablets. Those who purchase with design and style in their criteria would be turning their heads in this slate’s direction. The capacitive screen is very responsive, presumably carrying on from Samsung’s experience in previous tablets and smartphones.

Light and thin come to mind as well, with the unit weighing only 860 grams and a tad under 13mm thick.


There’s enough connectivity to satisfy most users on the actual tablet, with Micro-SD card, micro-HDMI, full-size USB and headphone input all present along with the dock connector. Other buttons include power, volume and orientation-lock.

Series 7 profile showing USB flap, headphone input, volume, HDMI and power.

Windows 7 has never been a serious contender in the touch-based environment. Smartly, there is an active electromagnetic pen included, which makes much more sense for standard windows operation. The pen can be floated slightly above the screen and still be detected by the display.


If you want a more touch-friendly interface, Samsung does include a Touch Launcher program, which is essentially a skin for selected programs to be grouped within a one-touch, slide based environment. It’s a small but cool program that gives a degree of familiarity to those already using tablets.

Touch-based program launcher on t he Series 7 Slate.

On that topic, Samsung have deliberately called this a “slate”, with no mention of tablets, and it seems that its target market is not the app-based content consuming market – this is definitely a product you would create documents on first, and use as a casual touch screen device second.

Full PC performance when you need it.

The dock and Bluetooth keyboard are included in the box as well. The dock provides charging, Ethernet, USB 2.0, headphone and HDMI outputs, while the slim, metallic keyboard provides a very real notebook feel while the tablet is docked.


And this is the attraction – while docked, the Series 7 Slate offers a high performance PC, perhaps hooked up to a larger HD monitor. Out of the dock and on the road, it’s still capable of running all of the Windows applications you need but in a truly portable form factor. This is no netbook-level Windows tablet. The slate has a claimed 7 hours battery life but I didn’t have it long enough to confirm that.

Rear of the Series 7 Slate showing 3MP camera and dock connectivity.

From the short experience I had, it’s easily one of the best Windows 7 executions of a tablet form factor yet. The stylus may be anachronistic to some but makes total sense in a Windows environment, until Windows 8 arrives sometime next year.

An example of Series 7 Touch Launch programs - the Recipe app.

The Series 7 Slate will be priced at similar levels to some of its Ultrabook cousins, but if local sales of the Asus EP121 Windows Slate are any indication, there is a market for those who need to hold on to their Windows-based applications and this complete package may be just the ticket.

Would you consider the Slate as your next PC purchase? How would you be using it?

Asus UX31 Ultrabook: First Look

Intel’s new line up of low voltage Core Processors have given rise to a new generation of notebooks, which will start to see the light of day from this October onwards. I’ve had an opportunity to have some hands-on time with an upcoming model from Asus, who have been displaying a fair bit of innovation in the tablet area and look set to continue that trend with this new range.

New breed... the UX31 Ultrabook.

“Thin and light” is the war cry for Ultrabooks, and the Asus UX31, one of the new breed of mobile PCs about to be unleashed to an unsuspecting public, can add “metallic” to that anthem. This is a very industrial-looking piece of tech, from its brushed metal lid to its ultra-thin wedged front and rather sharp corners.

No fingerprints... The UX31 doesn't attract marks and dust like some glossy finishes.

The Asus UX31 was handed to me in a smart looking leather envelope, which seemed incomprehensible to be carrying a notebook of any sort. The envelope itself has a magnet embedded in both the body and fold-over, keeping the package well protected until the dramatic opening, revealing an extremely thin metal Ultrabook.

The Asus Ultrabook travels in style.

The leather slip case was light with the Ultrabook inside, and the UX31 feels as if it should be a little heavier given the physical materials it is wrapped in. The unit is only 1.1kg, extremely light for a notebook of this size, and you really notice its lack of weight when it’s open and operating in the palm of one hand.

Classy...Low tech leather and high tech metal metal make a great combination

The front edge is so thin – 3mm – that Asus have smartly added a small protruding lip at the centre of the lid for easy opening. The unit then increases in thickness to its rear, reaching only 17mm at its peak – still very thin.

Thin profile... the UX31 in side profile showing USB and SD card slot.

From standby, the UX31 bounces into life in a blink, and the bright 13.3” screen displays a 1600 x 900 resolution, higher than some larger screen counterparts. The expected array of status LED is missing, with only tiny white LEDs embedded in the caps lock, Wi-Fi function key and in the power key, which has been integrated into the keyboard layout.

Sparseness is the theme for this Ultrabook, with a small but useful amount of connections. On the left hand side there is the SD/MMC card slot, headphone jack and USB 2.0 port. On the right hand side are all the new-tech connections: Micro HDMI, Mini Displayport and USB 3.0 plus the small power socket.

Digital and high speed connections are welcome on the UX31.

As more components become compressed into smaller and thinner form factors, issues like heating need innovative solutions. Asus have placed its ventilation at the back of the keyboard, just below the screen. The use of the low voltage Core i7 quad core processor and SSD storage also assists in keeping heat down.

Vents at the back of the keyboard help minimise heat.

Video playback was smooth and non-jittery, and it seemed to be able to handle high bit rate content very well. The sound element was interesting – what it lacked in depth, the UX31 made up in stereo separation. Effects and musical instruments were very discernible and seemed to be coming from more than two directions.

Brushed aluminuim and island keys with a full size touchpad. The speakers are positioned between the keyboard and the screen.

For those that have never heard the term “unibody” before, the UX31 is a good example of unibody design and construction. The Asus Ultrabook uses single sheets of material, in this case aluminium, to form a minimalist, almost hollowed-out appearance to ensure a rigid casework. Rigidity and stiffness are more important than ever, with evermore streamlined and sleek designs produced due to the nature of Intel’s Ultrabook criteria. With the advent of Ultrabooks, unibody designs will become much more prevalent in the coming months.

The undercarriage of the UX31... a great unibody execution.

After spending a few hours with the UX31, it’s funny how quickly you get used to the form factor – my trusty notebook that I’m writing this article on looks and feels positively chunky after handling the Ultrabook.

Consider for a moment the advances that had to occur to get us to a point where a product like the Asus Ultrabook could be produced – high speed transfer via USB, reliable solid state drives, low voltage processors, lightweight casework materials, and overhauled cooling designs. Traditional PC makers can be that little less traditional and a bit more edgy with these new products that are as much about lifestyle and self-image as they are about performance and design.

This is one technology bump I can see catching on.

JVC GC-PX10A Hybrid Camera – First Look

Recently I watched an engrossing television series called “Invisible Worlds” from BBC, where slow-motion cameras captured events that are usually outside of the human eye’s ability to see. When JVC mentioned their new camera to me that could shoot video at 250 frames a second, I immediately thought of the possibilities of recreating some of those slow-motion shots.

JVC's Hybrid camera... the best of both worlds?

As you may be aware from previous posts, I’m a huge advocate for getting people involved in digital photography, particularly making the plunge from a “point and shoot” pocket camera into an entry level DSLR. I think it’s a very rewarding hobby, where you can take a scene right in front of you and compose your own creative image that will be unique to anyone else’s.

DLSRs are becoming more accessible through lowering price points, and the firmware on some cameras are quite comprehensive in their guides and tips to create that perfect shot. The fact that DSLRs also happen to make quite good video segments has not been lost on reviewers or customers, and I’m betting that DSLRs are being used more now for short video pieces, be it for holidays, events or other spur-of-the-moment occasions. We even use one for our product segment productions.

On the other hand, camcorders have been losing pace due to this and other changes in the industry. JVC, who have a strong camcorder offering from basic flash to 3D camcorders, just announced a new product they call the “hybrid camera”, and gave me a sneak preview of their upcoming model in this range called the GC-PX10. This model displays some real innovation, which provides JVC with a defining point of difference.

Konica Minotla HD Lens with 10x optical zoom, 19x with no image degradation. Bird watching anyone?

The best way to describe this model is as a camera that records such high quality video that you can extract any frame of the video and use that as a digital still image. The technology behind this is JVC’s “Falconbrid” engine.

This processor records video at 36Mbps, in full high definition 1920 x 1080p, at 50 frames a second. The still images are equivalent to 2 megapixels, more than enough for basic photo printing.

If you want to take actual photos, then the camera utilises the same engine to produce high quality images with long burst shots. In 2½ seconds you can have 130 shots at a decent size of 8 megapixels.

Top left button above shutter release button is for selecting high speed burst shots. Top right button is for changing video resolution.

If you wind down the resolution, you can film 250 frames a second for 2 hours. Such a high frame rate lets you create some creative slow motion effects, or perhaps study the motion of an athlete or movements of a fast animal.

To round out the specs, the camera also comes with a 10x optical zoom and ISO6400, for good low light performance, and a 3” touch screen LCD for easy access to functions.

This camera would appeal to sports enthusiasts and outdoor hobbyists who are always looking to capture that one “perfect” shot. With this camera, the user simply keeps shooting video without the need to react in any one instant. The image they are looking for can be selected at leisure after the fact.

Unfortunately the sample I was given to play with was preloaded with the Japanese language setting, but I did manage to try some rudimentary settings. One of the camera-like features is the mode dial, which gives more control than a standard camcorder. The aperture priority for example, produced some nice background blur.

Mode dial, inspired by dedicated digital still cameras, aims to give camera users a familiar platform to work from.

The design is an interesting amalgamation of a camcorder and digital still camera, with an extended panel for a more camera-like grip and shot-taking. In fact, there are two separate active buttons, one for video recording (thumb), and one for still shots (index finger). It is possible to use both in tandem, as you can take reference still shots at an 8 megapixel size while recording video.

Red record button and front shot button are both easily activated with one hand.

Having HDMI on board means an easy connection to most large size TVs, as mini-HDMI cables are very common these days, and you’ll retain the original quality straight from the source.

Connectivity includes Headphone output, mic input, USB, and HDMI.

I’m keen to take this for a decent whirl, and I’ve been told there will be a chance to play with a local version very soon. I’m very interested in the slo-mo feature as well as seeing what the quality of the still captures from the video content is like.

So, a question to you… what kind of scenes would you like to see in slow-motion? The most creative and interesting idea (within practical limits!) will be produced and posted as part of a future update for this article.

Would you consider this hybrid model in place of a DSLR or ultrazoom still camera? Feel free to leave your comments below.

Acer Iconia A100 Honeycomb Tablet – First Look

In a couple of weeks, Acer will be releasing their latest Honeycomb tablet, the Iconia A100. This model was shown off at their tablet launch earlier in the year, but at that stage only had Froyo (Android 2.2) on board.

Honeycomb now available in bite-sized packages!

I’ve had a chance to look at a sample this week, and although the software is a beta build (as Acer has warned me up front), it was still good to have a play with the latest in major manufacturer Honeycomb releases.

Acer were one of the very first to release a Honeycomb tablet, and they’ve succeeded in setting another milestone with the A100 being the first 7 inch Honeycomb tablet.

The A100 compared to the Samsung Galaxy S II. Note the physical home button on the bottom panel.

Spec wise, it follows other Honeycomb tablets by using the now-familiar Tegra 2 processor by Nvidia. The sample shown here has 8GB storage with 1GB RAM and it appears they will have a 3G variant as well as higher capacity models available. The capacitive screen has a 1024 x 600 resolution, lower than its 10” brethren.

Even though it’s a much smaller model, it still retains many of the inputs and outputs that made the original Iconia a very user-friendly model, with Micro HDMI, Micro SD, Micro USB (see a pattern here?) as well as standard 3.5mm jack for headphones, a pretty comprehensive connectivity suite considering its size.

HDMI, USB, docking port, power and speakers

The A100 is also the first to come with Android 3.2 pre-loaded, which means a few improvements for both end users and app developers. Firstly, this update actually allows apps to be compatible and optimised to different sized tablets, so it’s a welcome update for this 7 inch model. Also, SD card support has been improved, with apps being able to access content directly from the SD card. Sounds sensible, but it has been an issue for some tablets up to this point. Then there’s the app zooming feature, which handles non-honeycomb apps in a much better way to fill the screen without looking stretched or highly pixelated.

Back to the tablet itself, from a design point of view it’s definitely small and light enough to carry in one hand for long periods of time. This size tablet does lend itself more to being carried in a small handbag or even a jacket pocket. Unfortunately the cameras weren’t operational on this model but they are 2MP on front and 5MP on back. I’m sure we’ll be revisiting this at a later stage.

Camera and wave pattern on back panel.

Flash content on websites worked well; I visited the video section of the website and was able to play videos directly on the page, one of the big drawcards for Android.

Flash video playback was quite smooth.

Google Body, one of the first Honeycomb apps to appear on the Android Marketplace, presented and responded well to zooming and rotating. The AccuWeather app seemed to have some issues with resizing to fit the smaller screen, but as Acer did explain that this was very much a preproduction unit, I’ll take another look when a retail unit becomes available.

Do 7 inch tablets have a place among all the other mobile entertainment and communication alternatives we have? At the right price in comparison to 10 inch models, I think they do. They are more mobile as opposed to portable, and offer a good screen size for reading, are very easy to carry and hold for extended periods, and are a better gaming/movie watching experience than a smaller smartphone. As with anything else in this category, content is king, and I’m sure we’ll see manufacturers and developers come up with some enticing reasons to use a 7 inch tablet in addition to a smartphone, which many would argue is really a smaller version of a tablet in function.

Full back panel of the A100.

While I haven’t had the opportunity to take the A100 solidly through its paces yet, it is another indication of the diversity that Android can bring to the table when it comes to hardware design and size.

Are you interested in a 7 inch tablet? Would you buy one for yourself, or as a gift for someone else? Feel free to comment below.

Asus Eee Pad Slider Honeycomb Tablet – First Look

(Update: The release date of the Slider appears to have slipped to early October, according to Asus)

The success of the Eee Pad Transformer from Asus has really driven home the concept of innovation driving sales in an increasingly competitive market. The idea of a tablet that functions as a netbook with detachable keyboard may at first seem counter-intuitive, but Asus has been struggling to keep up with global demand. That extra functionality has resonated with customers looking to enter the tablet generation but want to retain some degree of familiarity with traditional mobile devices.

In a short while, Asus will be releasing their new tablet concept called the “Slider”. Asus Australia were kind enough to leave one with me to have a play, and after only a little while with the unit, I’m pretty excited about the impending launch.

From a specification perspective, it meets all the criteria fit for a Honeycomb tablet – the NVIDIA Tegra 2 dual core processor, 1GB RAM, 10.1″ screen with a 1280 x 800 pixel resolution, and a choice of either 16GB or 32GB capacities. It also comes out the door with Android 3.1 preloaded, so it’s current right out of the box. Asus have also mentioned that it will be upgradeable to Android 3.2 when that update is released.

The retail packaging is as we’ve come to expect from Asus, and the first surprise is a premium-looking satchel case sitting on top of the actual Slider. I’m not sure if this part of the package or whether it’s an accessory, but it looks quite classy and is a snug fit for the tablet.

Underneath is the slider itself, with the obligatory power supply and USB cable. There was no other documentation with this sample but I’m sure there will be some with the final retail pack.

Onto the Slider itself: this is another tablet that is most natural when held in landscape position, which seems to be one of the most common differentiators for Android tablets vs the iPad. The front 1.2 megapixel webcam is at the top centre, with a small arrow pointing upwards, hinting at the enhanced functionality the Slider offers. The two tone back panel works well in terms of styling, and the 5 megapixel camera sits upper centre.

Moving around the Asus Eee Pad, we see some welcome input and output ports. A full-sized USB and headphone jack are situated on the right hand side, and on the opposite side a Micro SD card slot, volume controls and power buttons are laid out. On the top are a mini-HDMI output and an eMMC slot, which can handle an additional 16GB or 32GB card.

USB port, headphone jack and Speaker Grill

Next to the iPad2 the Slider is both longer and thicker. However, most tablets don’t seem to be competing with Apple on design aesthetics – the amount of accessibility available without the need for adapters is another compelling reason to consider many of the Android tablets on offer. And of course, the additional thickness on the Slider in particular belies the final but ultimate differentiating feature – the slide-out keyboard.

As mentioned before, Asus have made the idea of a keyboard-attached tablet attractive, not only because of the obvious increased usage for document creation, but also some of the Android-specific shortcuts created on the keyboard. The Slider turns the original Transformer on its head: instead of a netbook form factor that becomes a standalone tablet, this is a tablet that reveals a keyboard/stand. And it’s a crucial difference because of the way I can imagine this tablet used.

The sliding motion to bring the keyboard out is a very smooth action, much better than the original prototype I had been privy to a few months ago. Using one index finger to lift the top panel where the arrow is above the front webcam, you then use your other hand’s thumb to push the bottom of the panel upwards, and once you pass the threshold, the spring loaded mechanism assists to take the panel all the way back until the entire keyboard is exposed.

Once slid out, the screen is fixed in one position; there are no angles to select unlike the Transformer. This is similar to many cases that include a tongue to raise the case into a display position, and I don’t think it’s a big issue.

Comparing the keyboard-open look between the Transformer and the Slider, the biggest difference is the missing touchpad and palm rest area on the Slider. However, after using the Slider I can see how this is actually a positive. On the Transformer, while the keyboard dock is attached you still feel a slight habit to use the touchpad and buttons. On an Android OS this can be quite unnatural, as you have to switch to a one-click mindset for selecting files, opening apps etc., and change that mindset back again when back on a standard notebook.

With the Slider however, two things become clear after some use. Firstly, after a while I did get used to using the combination of screen gestures and the keyboard in tandem, and soon was typing on the keyboard, as well as selecting files and commands on screen, quite intuitively. Secondly, the proximity of the screen in comparison to the edge of the keyboard actually lends itself to retaining the touch interaction. This will be a major attraction to the Slider in my view – the casual reveal and hiding of the keyboard means there’s more scenarios where the tablet will be sitting in Slider mode but without the keyboard even used. It’s almost like a mini-all-in-one.

The sound quality is also enhanced in Slider mode. The grill on the front makes it appear that the sound is funnelled through the front, but in fact there are small slots either side of the centre bracket that pump the music out – a little muffled in Tablet mode, the sound is clear and crisp when given space to breathe.

The IPS screen is the same as the Transformer’s – a bright, detailed and wide-angled display that presents information and movies on screen with clarity and decent response. As I’ve mentioned before in regards to other Android Honeycomb tablets, the widescreen panel really does lend itself to better quality movie watching, as the screen ratio is much closer to the filmmaker’s intended presentation.

Just as Apple has an “i” in front of each of its major products and services, Asus have adopted the “My” moniker when it comes to its extra offerings. Mynet is a DLNA-standard interface that connects to other shared devices to push and pull content – music, movies, photos. MyCloud is the Asus version of online data storage, and registering when you purchase your Slider will get you one year’s worth of unlimited storage at no charge.

MyLibrary is an ebook manager, and MyZine is a widget that rotates through your selected folder of photos and shows weather at a glance, unopened emails, calendar appointments, books, last music played, and the last website you visited. None of these services are deal breakers on their own, but they do add up to some compelling features over and above the standard Honeycomb.

That brings me to the closing thoughts of this review. The Android platform for mobile phones has proven to be a worthy competitor against the incumbents, and there is word that Android updates in the near future will bring the smartphone and tablet products even closer. The Android tablet platform is still evolving from a very early stage, but even now it is showing encouraging signs of being able to offer meaningful differences and experiences that can capture the consumer’s imagination and decision-making mindset.

Developers are adding to the list of available Honeycomb-optimised applications on a daily basis, and manufacturers are thinking outside of the square to enhance their tablet beyond a screen with webcam and speakers. Not only are tablet manufacturers competing against the entrenched market leader who has what some might call a captive audience, but they are also competing against each other for the remaining slice of the valuable tablet market. This is a great example of intense competition driving innovation and integrating new features in a short period of time.

The Asus Eee Pad Slider is part of that innovative push. With the slide-out keyboard, comprehensive ports and additional software, this could be a compelling alternative for customers who are looking for connectivity and tactile keyboard input on demand.

What are your thoughts? Do the Slider’s features impress you? Will you be in line to buy one later this month?

Connecting Your Home to Entertainment

Media players have been around for quite some time now, and they’ve taken many different forms over the years. At one point, we thought that the Windows Media Centre would take centre stage in our lounge room, but people just didn’t like the idea of having to boot up their DVD player. I don’t really blame them either.

After the “desktop in a DVD box” idea disappeared, we then saw media players start to take off from storage and network vendors, and from a rudimentary and humble beginning, they have evolved into powerful, connected devices designed not just to play, but truly deliver entertainment around the house.

One of the first media players we ever sold at Bing Lee was the Iomega Screenplay, and its interface was as crude as you could get. It was basically a file management system using a font from the 80s. But it didn’t matter, because it just worked. It was unobstrusively small, firmware could be easily upgraded via USB to update the codec compatibility, and it even had HDMI out, to match the inputs of the growing number of LCD and Plasma TVs.

One of the secrets to designing a good device that sits in the lounge room is to “hide the software”. All users want to experience is a smooth, non-buggy front end that you can navigate without referring to the manual every time you want to go from videos to music or change the input port.

The litmus test for me? If a family member starts to use the remote control without actually looking at it, then we have a winner. Who looks at the remote when changing the TV volume or channel? Media players need to be that easy, that intuitive.

Playing content in a hassle-free manner is one thing. If you can share it, and not have to make physical copies for each room to watch, even better. Network-attached storage, or NAS drives as they’re commonly known, have really begun to show promise as a consumer-level product. These days, you don’t need to know about IP addresses or advanced networking mysteries, just load the software and you’ll get a browser-based dashboard to change settings, security levels, etc. You’ll even get a shortcut to your drive’s location for easy transfers.

The new Western Digital NAS models are moving away from commercial storage functionality to be more entertainment-focused, with DLNA support, which many TVs now offer, and easy detection by other media playing devices including PS3 and Xbox 360. They will even deliver photos to an iPhone or iPad via an app no matter where you are in the world. The WD media players are no slouches either, with HDMI, 1080p output, and a pretty comprehensive format support.

The connected home is no longer just a catchphrase or throwaway line – we’re here, even though it’s probably still an open secret to many. Here’s the segment we produced for Bing Lee to help bring that secret out into the open. Check out how far media players and network drives have come.

Have you taken the step towards a connected home? What’s your experience been like? Feel free to comment below.

Acer A500 Iconia Tablet – Unboxing and Overview

Acer were the first to release a Honeycomb tablet to the general retail market, and as I mentioned in a previous blog post, they set the benchmark for the type of inputs and outputs one could previously only wish for on a tablet – mini and full size USB, HDMI, and SD Card slot are all built into the body of the A500.

One comment that I’ve noticed lately from customers is the lack of embedded 3G in the Iconia, as opposed to some of the other tablets now available in the market, particularly those offered by telcos. One thing many people don’t realise is that if they own a late model iPhone or Android phone, and have updated to the latest phone firmware, they can now take advantage of their phone’s 3G internet connection by turning on the personal hotspot function.

This allows the Iconia to find the phone as a Wi-Fi access point, and use the phone’s plan for any browsing or downloads through the tablet. Many people have a home landline account, home internet account and a 3G phone account, and don’t want yet another plan – this is an easy way to share the bandwidth available on your smartphone.

During the filming of the unboxing video that we produced for Bing Lee, we tried streaming video via a phone hotspot, and there was some buffering at the beginning of the clip but it played smoothly after that – we did have full signal strength so I’m sure that helped. Of course, you wouldn’t always be streaming video, other online activities would include downloading email, browsing the net, and using apps that require online updates.

So, who out there has been using an Acer Iconia, and how has your experience been with it so far? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Here’s the unboxing video:

HP DM1 Notebook Unboxing

If you recall from our previous Toshiba netbook unboxing, we came away quite impressed with the combination of performance and portability in such a small machine. One of the key components in that model was the new C-series APU, part of the new Fusion range from AMD.

Given the high marks for that model, we were just as eager to spend some one-on-one time with HP’s new DM1 notebook with the second Fusion product to be released from AMD, called the E series. The E-350 chip is also an Accelerated Processing Unit or APU, combining the graphics and CPU onto one die. I must say, as a product that straddles the space between a netbook and a full-sized notebook, we walked away nodding our head in approval yet again.

Brian Slattery, Australia’s country manager for AMD, is an excitable guy, and I couldn’t help but ask for his thoughts on the new HP. This is what he said:

“Although the dm1 is great for a variety of users, I’ve been carrying it for the past few weeks as my primary business PC. I’m usually on the road, in-and-out of meetings all day. The battery life on the dm1 is fantastic – I head out before 9, get home after 6 and don’t even bother to bring my power cables with me. I enjoy watching Bing Lee YouTube videos on my big screen at home using the HDMI out as well.”

Of course, don’t take just Brian’s word for it, here’s an in-depth walkthrough of this AMD-based notebook that we produced for Bing Lee. If you’re looking for a netbook-sized solution with the grunt of a decent notebook, then you should definitely consider the DM1 from HP:

Asus Eee Pad Transformer – First Look

We’ve had a look at quite a few different tablets over the past few months, and now we’ve managed to get hold of the new Eee Pad Transformer, which will be released in Australia in the next month or so. It’s definitely an interesting product that will appeal to users who are looking for a richly featured tablet that also like the flexibility of a physical keyboard.

Who would have imagined there'd be an Android lurking undereath this case?

This product is quite different to the Samsung Slider PC that we had a look at a few weeks back. The Asus Transformer is a 32GB Android Honeycomb tablet with a detachable keyboard. The keyboard has a dock-type feature set, including memory card slot, 2 full size USB ports with nifty magnetic covers, and an additional battery that adds a further 8 hours to the 8 hours already available on the screen portion. 16 hours of battery life is more than enough for even the most demanding power user. Beryl from Asus tells me the keyboard actually charges the tablet to ensure optimum battery life.

A netbook by any other name...

When the tablet is docked, the Transformer looks, for all intents and purposes, just like a premium netbook, although with some odd keyboard symbols that relate to the Android OS. The home and search buttons are placed next to the space bar on the left, and the menu drop down button is on the right of the space bar. The back button is on the upper left and sleep button is on the upper right. I actually became quite adept at using these shortcuts after a while; they seemed to become natural extensions of the tablet when you found the need to use a keyboard.

Using a full QWERTY keyboard with Android? It makes more sense than you think.

Having the keyboard is great when typing out blogs, emails or spreadsheets, or anything that is text heavy that may be cumbersome on a tablet without a tactile keyboard. The Transformer comes with Polaris Office preloaded, so it’s quite easy to edit and create Microsoft Office compatible docs, which is when the keyboard would be most in demand.

Onto the tablet itself. I must admit, I had a child’s pleasure in running around the office showing off the Transformer as a netbook, then waiting for my audience’s reaction as I coolly detached the tablet from the keyboard – I managed to get a few “ooohs” and “aaaahs”. Okay, so I also rehearsed the action to milk it to the maximum.

Insert Autobot transformation sounds here.

But in all seriousness, the undocking and docking action is pretty firm, and once it’s locked in the tablet’s not going anywhere. One thing Asus has done well is use a consistent design around the bezel to hide the fact that the tablet has this function, with three slots on the bottom of the tablet the only hint of the possibility.

The only time I've been happy to see my PC in 2 pieces.

As a stand-alone tablet, which will be sold in the 16GB capacity without a dock, it is pretty strong in the features department. The tablet has mini-HDMI output with 1080p output, Micro SD slot, headphone jack and multi-purpose connector for charging, USB connection and docking. It also has two cameras, 1.2MP front and 5MP on the back.

From an Android Honeycomb execution, this model appears to tick all the boxes in terms of speed and touch responsiveness, and Beryl also told me that there is an Asus Honeycomb skin that may appear on the retail model as well, to provide more functionality and a slicker look and feel. More on that when we plant our eyes on it.

Is that an embedded Flash video on a tablet browser? You betcha.

The Transformer is a great example of the shift that we’re going to see in the PC market over the coming months. The device looks like a netbook, even acts like one to a certain extent, and then reveals its strengths as a full-fledged tablet device. If you’re not sure if you want a touchscreen tablet or a netbook, but really want something portable and intuitive to use, the Transformer will be one worth considering.

Acer “Iconia” Android Honeycomb Tablet – First Look

We had our first chance to get up close and personal with Acer’s slim and shiny new tablet-based products amongst the bulky, low-tech relics of our country’s seafaring history within the Maritime Musuem at Darling Harbour, Sydney. Acer are serious about this category and had many variations on show – a 5 inch smart phone, a 7 inch and 10 inch Honeycomb tablet, a 10 inch Windows 7 netbook with detachable touch screen, and a dual 14″ touch screen notebook that deserves a blog piece on its own.

Mr Touchbook, we'll be coming back to have a closer look at you soon.

The product that we’re focussing on in this blog is the one that Acer will be launching as their first foray into the highly prized tablet market. This one is the A500, a 10″ tablet with the Android 3.0 operating system. This is exciting for us, as it’s the first iteration of the tablet-specific OS from Google that we’re playing with.

Looks kinda nice even when it's turned off.

First, the product itself. It weighs 700 grams and feels quite sturdy and solid in the hands. Acer have definitely not tried to emulate the iPad design, with a more notebook inspired form – it actually appears like a monitor off a classy netbook, which isn’t a bad thing. It has a nice streamlined design that keeps the overall aesthetic simple and easy to handle. In landscape, the top and bottom edges are framed by a brushed metal finish that continues all the way around the back, where the logo sits in centre.

Speakers, Camera and all-important Logo.

To the right of the logo is the 5MP camera that is also capable of taking 720p video. At the top of the unit are the volume controls and orientation lock. Next to them are the micro SD card and 3G slot, the latter of which is available if the model is a 3G variant.

Instant storage expansion - just add a dash of SD.

There are plenty of I/O ports – on the right there is a full sized and mini-USB port, on the bottom a docking connector for an upcoming accessory that charges and connects to other devices. On the left hand side there is a headphone jack and a mini-HDMI. The front frame also encases a front facing 2MP camera. The capacitive screen is bright and smoothly responsive.

To make it easy for users to start using the Iconia without delay, Acer have designed a group of 4 areas where there are preloaded apps and more can be added. These are labelled eReading, Game Zone, Multimedia, and Social Network, these being the most obvious groupings for common activities on the tablet. The plus sign on each page allows you to add more apps into each area as you see fit.

Acer's own customised grouping system - simple and attractive.

Now, the big question, how does Android 3.0 perform on the 10″ Iconia? Honeycomb, as Android 3.0 is commonly known, is an exciting alternative to the benchmark tablet system. As an environment to manage apps, which is really what you want in a tablet offering, Honeycomb is highly customisable. Widgets are a defining feature for this version of Android, with enough landscape for many of your favourite widgets, which are similar to those on a desktop, offering dynamic, updated information in small, bite-sized panels.

What Honeycomb is all about - making it your own.

At the time of publication, there were still only a small but growing number of tablet-specific apps on the Android marketplace. Developers have most likely been waiting for Android and manufacturers to release new products so they can see some return in creating these new apps. So far, I’ve tried a few – Flixster, CNN News, Google Body and DrawFree. They all make good use of the screen real estate and are intuitive in layout and touch-use.

Great - another reason to ignore eating and showering. Who needs to watch movies when you can read about them all day?

Of course, tablet apps are huge business for Apple, and the massive installed consumer base they have means developers are falling over themselves to deliver apps of every kind. As the likes of Acer, Asus, Toshiba and others begin to roll out their Android tablet products, we should see a snowball effect in tablet-optimised apps to deliver even more value to users.

Android 3.0 opens up a huge world of possibilities for different form factors, OS skins and customisation that will provide users with choice and innovation. Each manufacturer has an opportunity to make a big technology statement here, not just for development’s sake, but for the customer’s touch screen experience. Acer are first out of the gates and it’s an impressive start to a year of Honeycomb launches.

We’ll be doing a full unboxing demo video of the Acer A500 Iconia in the near future, so thanks for reading and we’ll be back soon.