Reviews

Hardware preview: Apple iPad 2

Apple iPad 2

The new iPad 2 will become available on March 11th (see a neat video from Apple introducing it). In my post about the original iPad, I said the following:

“In spite of the failures of their predecessors, I think Apple will pull this off. I think the iPad will be very successful.”

I’m glad to see that I was right. Not that I had anything to do with the success of the device. The credit goes entirely to Apple, and to the people who bought it and used it so well.

I got to watch the March 2 keynote today (a few days later). Much to my surprise, Steve Jobs was on stage to present it. I was very glad to see him able to stand up and hold a meeting, given all the tabloid rumors about him — though I have to say he was skinny as a board. Thank goodness he’s still around. I hope he gets better, and continues to be around for a few more decades.

Here’s a quick summary of the salient features of the iPad 2:

  • 33% thinner than the original iPad (0.34″), and lighter (1.33 lbs)
  • Comes in both black and white finishes
  • Dual-core A5 chip, up to 2x faster
  • Graphics are up to 9x faster
  • Same great 10-hour battery life
  • Same 1024×768 display
  • 2 cameras (front and back) for video or photos, in HD
  • Magnetic smart cover designed specifically for it
  • Instant on
  • AirPlay to your TV via Apple TV
  • Video mirroring (up to 1080p) via $39 cable
  • AirPrint

My only disappointment with the iPad 2 is that it doesn’t have a Retina Display. Word on the grapevine is that they’re still difficult to make in that size. Who knows… It would have been nice if this iPad had it. Still, I believe iPad 3 will have a Retina Display.

iPad 2 Measurements

iPad 2 A5 Chip

I am however very glad to see that the iPad 2 does have a video camera — and not just one, but two. In my review of the original iPad, I said this:

“It’s very likely the next gen iPad will have a video camera, and it will have iChat as well.”

Glad to see I was right on that count as well. It was, after all, a logical step.

Facetime on iPad 2

iPad 2 Smart Cover Line-up

Smart Cover for iPad 2

There are some new accessories for the iPad 2, which will be offered in addition to the ones designed for the original iPad.

  • The Smart Cover, naturally, which comes in 10 colors, 5 of them polyurethane and 5 leather, as seen above (see the Smart Cover in action in this video)
  • The Digital AV Adapter provides an HDMI-out port with video and audio routed to it, in addition to a 30-pin connector which lets you charge the iPad while playing content to an HDTV
  • The iPad 2 Dock is designed for the thinner iPad 2, and also works with Digital AV Adapter

iPad 2 Dock

Of course, given that the iPad has Bluetooth, you can stick it in a dock and use the Apple Wireless Keyboard to type on it.

Apple Wireless Keyboard

The Smart Cover is so nicely designed.

iPad 2 Smart Cover (1)

iPad 2 Smart Cover (2)

iPad 2 Smart Cover (3)

The Digital AV Adapter will make it so easy to display content from the iPad on an HDTV.

iPad 2 Digital AV Adapter

iPad 2 Video Mirroring

iPad 2 Airplay

The iPad 2 will come in 16GB, 32GB and 64GB models, as well as WiFi-only or WiFi+3G (GSM or CDMA) models. My guess is that iPad 3 will have a combined 4G GSM/CDMA chip, eliminating the need to offer separate 3G models. The pricing grid for the various models (there are 18 possible models, given that there are two color finishes and two 3G providers), goes as follows:

  • WiFi-only: $499/16GB, $599/32GB, $699/64GB (black or white finish)
  • WiFi + 3G: $629/16GB, $729/32GB, $829/64GB (black or white finish, AT&T/Verizon)

Images used courtesy of Apple Computer, Inc.

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Lists

Three cool jacket designs

Here are three innovative jacket designs.

Jacket with inflatable hood by Rahel Ritchie

Not yet in production, but I think it’s very cool. It’s got a built-in pillow so you can sleep while traveling.

jacket-with-inflatable-hood-1

jacket-with-inflatable-hood-2

jacket-with-inflatable-hood-3

[via LikeCool and Rahel Ritchie]

RuckJack

“Rucksack? Jacket? You decide.” Another neat convertible jacket design, this one turns into a rucksack, and it’s not expensive. Price is between £46-56.

ruckjack

[via LikeCool]

Vessel 3-in-1 jacket by Justin Gargasz

This innovative jacket is not only a backpack but also a tent!

vessel-3-in-1-jacket-1

vessel-3-in-1-jacket-2

vessel-3-in-1-jacket-3

[via The Design Blog]

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Reviews

Hardware preview: Apple iPad

Today, Apple launched the iPad, their long-awaited version of the tablet computer. In spite of the failures of their predecessors, I think Apple will pull this off. I think the iPad will be very successful. In case you haven’t gotten your iPad fix yet, grab a cup of tea and sit down, this post is loaded with photos of the iPad and its accessories.

As I mentioned yesterday, I wrote a post in September of last year, where I unwittingly described the functionality of the iPad. I was actually focusing on the need for what I called a portable Apple TV, a device that bridged the gap between an iPod and a laptop, and that’s exactly what the iPad is. Let me quote myself:

Clearly, Apple has the technological know-how to put together a really nice Apple TV that’s not yet another box tethered to a TV in the living room, but a display with integrated speakers and the circuitry that allows it to get on my network and access media from various drives, or to play the media I sync to it through iTunes, or to download media from the Internet.

Just think, with a nice LED screen of about 13-17 inches, a touch screen, plenty of onboard storage, a good battery, WiFi, Bluetooth, and speakers, they could have an amazing device that I could take with me wherever I decide to sit in the house or in the yard. I could take it in bed and watch movies without draining my already tired laptop battery, I could take it outside on the patio at night to watch stuff there, etc.

Apple already has all of this technology. Why don’t they put it together?

Wouldn’t you know it, someone at Apple must have seen my post… I’m kidding, naturally — the iPad has likely been in development for at least a year, so it’s not like I had much to do with the iPad’s invention — but it’s nice to see that my hunch, or at least my perception of a need in the marketplace for a product like the iPad, was right.

What does the iPad do? It can:

  • Browse the web
  • Read and send email
  • Enjoy photos
  • Watch video
  • Listen to music
  • Play games
  • Read e-books
  • Basically, anything but any real work 🙂

I may be wrong about that last capability though. Here’s what Apple says:

“Apple also introduced a new version of iWork® for iPad, the first desktop-class productivity suite designed specifically for Multi-Touch. With Pages®, Keynote® and Numbers® you can create beautifully formatted documents, stunning presentations with animations and transitions, and spreadsheets with charts, functions and formulas. The three apps will be available separately through the App Store for $9.99 each.”

So who knows, we may be able to get some work done on the iPad after all, if we’re not too tempted to watch movies or read books on it.

Before we get too awestruck with all of the awesome things the iPad can do, it’s important to note two of its capabilities. I’ll let Apple explain:

“iPad is powered by A4, Apple’s next-generation system-on-a-chip. Designed by Apple, the new A4 chip provides exceptional processor and graphics performance along with long battery life of up to 10 hours. Apple’s advanced chemistry and Adaptive Charging technology deliver up to 1,000 charge cycles without a significant decrease in battery capacity over a typical five year lifespan.”

Apple has not only developed new battery technology which is already in use on its laptops and now, on the iPad, but, and I think this is huge, they’ve now developed a new chip, called the A4. Since when do they have the technology to develop computer chips? I thought they always outsourced that function, to Intel, and before that, to PowerPC. Now they’re making chips? Wow. And since this new chip is called the A4, are we to assume there’s an A3, or A2, or A1, or more importantly, an A5, or an A6, or A7? Where were they used, and where will they be used?

Let’s look at the iPad’s exterior. It is a gorgeous device, incredibly thin, made of aluminum and glass.

It comes in two models: Wifi-only, and WiFi + 3G. The only difference (on the exterior) between the two models is a bit of extra weight for the 3G model (1.6 lbs. vs 1.5 lbs.), and the presence of the 3G antenna, which looks like a black strip at the top.

Height: 9.56 inches (242.8 mm)
Width: 7.47 inches (189.7 mm)
Depth: 0.5 inch (13.4 mm)
Weight: 1.5 pounds (.68 kg) Wi-Fi model; 1.6 pounds (.73 kg) Wi-Fi + 3G model

One thing I’m not clear on is whether the 3G version of the iPad will require the AT&T network, or whether it will be “unlocked” for use on any 3G network. I’m certainly not keen to use AT&T’s network, for reasons with stem directly out of my personal experiences and my parents’ personal experiences with their horrible customer service.

Let’s move on and look at the display. I was hoping to see a larger-size device, but as things stand, the screen is 9.7″ across, at 1024 x 768 resolution. What does compensate for the somewhat smaller screen is the ppi (pixels per inch) spec, which is 132 — almost double the 72 ppi of standard displays. The display uses a technology called IPS (in-plane switching) which allows for a wide, 178° viewing angle.

When I look at the TV and Video specs, I’m glad to see that it will also output 1024 x 768 to an external display with the aid of a dock to VGA adapter, and that it will output SD and better-than-SD video (480i/480p and 576i/576p) to a TV with an Apple Composite A/V cable. More than that, it can play 720p (HD) video, which was expected and was the right thing to do.

“H.264 video up to 720p, 30 frames per second, Main Profile level 3.1 with AAC-LC audio up to 160 Kbps, 48kHz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4, and .mov file formats; MPEG-4 video, up to 2.5 Mbps, 640 by 480 pixels, 30 frames per second, Simple Profile with AAC-LC audio up to 160 Kbps, 48kHz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4, and .mov file formats. “

The iPad’s power adapter is rated at 10W according to the specs, which is great in my book. It means it’s a very efficient device. Think about it, what you basically get with the iPad is an HD TV which you can take to bed with you, and which only consumes 10W when plugged in. Have you even looked at your HDTV’s power usage lately? Even the most efficient LCD displays consume more than 100W, and if you look at how much plasma displays consume, you’ll want to run away.

The iPad can open most of the usual file formats, as is expected since it will have its own version of iWork, but does that mean we’ll get a Finder, with a Home folder for our account? After all, if we’re going to work with documents, we’ll need a place to save them and access them.

“Viewable document types: .jpg, .tiff, .gif (images); .doc and .docx (Microsoft Word); .htm and .html (web pages); .key (Keynote); .numbers (Numbers); .pages (Pages); .pdf (Preview and Adobe Acrobat); .ppt and .pptx (Microsoft PowerPoint); .txt (text); .rtf (rich text format); .vcf (contact information); .xls and .xlsx (Microsoft Excel).”

This becomes an even more important question if we consider the iPad accessories, among which we find the Keyboard Dock, which clearly allows one to use the iPad as a lightweight computer. If it’s going to be used as such, we’ll definitely need a Home folder, with a Documents folder and other such usual amenities to keep our stuff. And will these documents get synced with the documents on our home machine? Furthermore, if we’ll download our emails onto it, will they automatically get synced with Mail on our laptops and desktops?

There’s also a regular dock, which lets the iPad charge and holds it upright, so you can watch movies unhindered.

I like the camera connection kit, which lets you download photos from your digital camera either through a USB cable, or with an SD card reader. That’s a smart and elegant solution.

The iPad case is great, too. It’s wonderful for carrying the iPad about, and for travel, as it turns into a stand that lets you watch movies without needing to hold the iPad in your hand.

All of this exterior beauty wouldn’t be much without interior smarts and looks that match it to a tee. Here’s where Apple’s advantage really comes into play. Since they make both the hardware and the software, they can marry the two so well that they act as one. There’s never any doubt that a button you press on an Apple machine doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do, because it was made specifically for that reason and there’s a part of the code on the machine written specifically for it. On the iPad, I can see that significant thought and effort was put forth to design the software UI around the look of the hardware, to make the two act as one, and it’s a success. Have a look at how well each of the iPad’s purposed uses is represented by the software written for those uses.

Photos on the iPad:

Maps on the iPad. Can you believe how gorgeous those maps look on the iPad, and how cool it is to manipulate them (zoom, pan, annotate) on that large multi-touch display?

iBooks on the iPad. The Kindle’s battery may last longer, but can you argue with color?

iCal on the iPad. It’s just gorgeous, much more than its counterpart in OS X. Why doesn’t it look this good on my MBP?

Contacts on the iPad. Very cool.

Notes on the iPad. I’m going to love taking notes now, even more so than on my iPod Touch.

There is one disappointment. I expected an iSight video camera on the iPad, and there isn’t one. I’m not sure why. Possibly for the same reason the iPod Nano got a video camera last year instead of getting it one or two years prior to that. It’s very likely the next gen iPad will have a video camera, and it will have iChat as well.

Still, the iPad is a fantastic device, and it exceeded my expectations in many ways. I’d love to know what you think of it.

iPad will be available in late March, worldwide, for a suggested retail price of $499 (US) for the 16GB model, $599 (US) for the 32GB model, and $699 (US) for the 64GB model. The Wi-Fi + 3G models of iPad will be available in April in the US and selected countries for a suggested retail price of $629 (US) for the 16GB model, $729 (US) for the 32GB model and $829 (US) for the 64GB model. International pricing and worldwide availability will be announced at a later date.

The video from the Keynote iPad launch is available here, and the iPad overview video is available here.

Photos used courtesy of Apple.

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Reviews

Flickr launches People in Photos

Flickr launched a new feature they call People in Photos a few hours ago, on October 21, 2009. It lets you tag people in your photos or in your contacts’ photos. I guess it was only a matter of time before this happened. While Riya and iPhoto went the route of computer-aided facial recognition, which is a pretty cool feature indeed but processor-intensive, Facebook and now Flickr have gone the more low cost route of letting members manually tag people in their photos.

At any rate, the process is easy and real-time. You start typing in some identifier for a person you want to identify in a photo, such as a name or screen name or email address, the database of members is searched live, and you’re presented with a drop-down list of people that narrows down with each letter you type. Pretty cool. Flickr also went the extra mile and included the ability to let you determine who can add you to photos, and who can add people to your photos. Very nice touch there.

I added my wife and myself to a couple of photos where we appear, and took the following screenshots to show you what the new feature looks like. The only reason I noticed it is because I logged into my Recent Activity page a few minutes ago and saw a small change in the options, as you can see below.

flickr-people-in-photos-1

The option to add people to a photo is located in the sidebar, below the photostream and groups thumbnails and above the tags.

flickr-people-in-photos-2

As soon as I got done tagging my wife and I in the photos, I got an email from Flickr where they explained the new feature to me and allowed me to set the privacy options I mentioned above.

flickr-people-in-photos-3

Like I said, pretty cool implementation, user-friendly, too, and it was something that was bound to happen sooner rather than later. There’s also a post on Flickr’s official blog announcing the feature launch.

What I’d like to know now is if Flickr can read the iPhoto person tags and somehow match them up with Flickr members, so that photos uploaded to Flickr from iPhoto get people-tagged automatically. Or is that the next step down the road?

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Comfortable by Frankel

This is a song called “Comfortable” by a West Coast folk/pop band called Frankel. Courtesy of Elliot Glass, who’s been going out and recording various cool bands in their homes, as they play laid-back versions of their songs. There are more videos like this at Elliot’s Vimeo account. Know what else is cool? Frankel’s latest CD is available in vinyl on their website. You can listen to more Frankel songs on their MySpace page.

I like the clarity of the song (voice and music both), and the unexpected twists in the melody. I also like the video’s color grading.

http://vimeo.com/5939849
Frankel – “Comfortable” from elliot glass on Vimeo.

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iQ font – turning driving into writing

Two typographers (Pierre & Damien), a software designer (Zachary Lieberman) and a race car driver (Stef van Campenhoudt) collaborated to create a font with a car. The result is called the iQ font, and it’s available for download.

iQ font – When driving becomes writing / Full making of from wireless on Vimeo.

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Ce Soir by Monogrenade

Stop-motion music video from a Montreal band called Monogrenade, for a song called “Ce Soir”, from the EP entitled “Le saveur de fruits”.

Monogrenade – Ce Soir (HD) from Monogrenade on Vimeo.

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Gadget Monday – May 4, 2009

Here is this week’s list of seven cool gadgets. Sorry I couldn’t publish a Gadget Monday edition last week; my schedule was too hectic to accommodate the several hours of research and preparation that are required for each one of these posts. 

Sea-Doo Seascooter Explorer

Made for scuba divers, the Seascooter Explorer will pull you through the water at speeds up to 3.3 mph. It has a three-stage speed control, it can dive up to 160 feet, and it’s powered by a rechargeable electric battery that lasts up to two hours. It looks like it’d be fun and easy to use. See the demo video. You can get one for $640

seascooter-explorer-1

seascooter-explorer-2

seascooter-explorer-3

Lunocet

As long as I’m talking about scuba gear, here’s another cool gadget, the Lunocet. It’s a dolphin-inspired fin for divers that will supposedly allow you to swim at speeds of up to 8 mph underwater. That’s a pretty hefty claim. There’s a demo video on YouTube. I don’t know, with a fin that big, it looks to me like it’d be pretty easy to get muscle cramps if you’re not well trained, and with both feet stuck together onto the fin, you’d be hard-pressed to surface quickly. But, if you know what you’re doing, it should be a pretty cool toy, albeit at the substantial price of $975

lunocet

[via LikeCool and Lunocet]

Pelican 0450 Mobile Tool Chest

I love tools, and this mobile tool chest from Pelican has me drooling. It’s tough, stackable, can hold up to 150 lbs. of tools, has all sorts of fancy features like pressure equalization valves and the ability to keep tools in place even when it’s turned over, and more. It is somewhat expensive though, at $500. 

pelican-0450-mobile-tool-chest-1

pelican-0450-mobile-tool-chest-2

pelican-0450-mobile-tool-chest-3

[via LikeCool]

Rainxchange Rain Barrel by Aquascape

This decorative rain barrel looks great and has a built-in planter on top as well as a spout on its side. It’s an easy way to save money on your water bills and keep your garden irrigated. 

rainxchange-rain-barrel-1

rainxchange-rain-barrel-2

[via The Design Blog and Aquascape]

Foldable Director’s Chair

This director’s chair folds up into a messenger bag. It’s available from Hammacher Schlemmer for $130. 

messenger-bag-directors-chair

[via The Design Blog]

2D to 3D Coat Tree by Andie Olive

This 2D coat tree is essentially a sticker you place on your wall. It comes with a few hooks that you can install into the wall at specific points where they’re masked by the design, essentially turning the sticker into a usable coat tree. It’s a neat idea, but the price is well-peppered at $109. I guess you’re paying for the design, not the hardware, which is minimal indeed. 

2d-to-3d-coat-tree

[via LikeCool]

Brugo Travel Mug

This special mug has a separate top compartment that fills up when you tip the mug, allowing you to cool a small portion of the liquid inside the mug before you drink it. It’s a neat idea. You tilt it, then sip it. There’s a demo video that shows you how this works. It sells for $20. 

brugo-mug

[via TrustyPony]

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Glad to see Nabaztag is still around

It’s coming up on three years since my original review of the Nabaztag. In 2006, it was just getting introduced to the US market. It was a new product from France, and the editors of the “I Want That! Tech Toys” show on HGTV approached me to see if I wanted to review it. I said yes, because the concept intrigued me, and I wasn’t disappointed. I thought it was a pretty cool gadget, in spite of the learning curve involved in setting it up.

nabaztag-1

nabaztag-2

A few months after being taped, the segment featuring the Nabaztag aired on HGTV. The rabbit did just fine, but I was way too serious. Note to self for the next TV interview: lighten up!

In December of that year, Violet (the makers of the Nabaztag) launched the new Nabaztag:tag, which could read RFID tags, had a built-in motion sensor, and could do a bunch more things. Since then, they’ve been busy improving the Nabaztag experience and introducing new things, like the Mir:ror, an inexpensive RFID reader ($50) that works in conjunction with RFID stamps (they call them ztamp:s) to do all kinds of neat things, like tell you the weather, update your Facebook status automatically, read books to your children, etc.

I have to say the new Nabaztag:tag looks a lot better than my original 1st gen Nabaztag. It has a shiny white finish and a better user interface. It’s probably easier to configure, too. I had some issues getting mine to go on the Internet back when I did the original review, which were thankfully sorted out.

All in all, I’m glad to see a product I reviewed and found cool is still around. Kudos to Violet!

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Gadget Monday – April 20, 2009

Here are this week’s seven cool gadgets.

LG Viewty Smart Mobile Phone

The LG Viewty Smart (LG-GC900) smartphone comes with a touchscreen, 8-megapixel camera, and all the other goodies you’d expect from a late-generation mobile phone, such as a 3-inch WVGA screen with 800×480 pixels of crystal-clear resolution, 7.2 Mbps HSDPA and WiFi, 1½GB of internal memory and up to 32GB of expandable memory, and it is only 12.4mm thick. That’s thinner than a standard sheet of drywall, for those of you familiar with construction. It’s less than ¾ the width of my Nokia N95 smartphone. No pricing information is available yet. LG says the phone will first be available in European markets first.

LG Viewty Smart (LG-GC900) Smartphone - 3

LG Viewty Smart (LG-GC900) Smartphone - 1

LG Viewty Smart (LG-GC900) Smartphone - 2

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v= j3odfmQze_4

[via LikeCool and LG]

Video camera pen from Hammacher Schlemmer

Available for $130 from Hammacher Schlemmer, this nifty pen records up to 2½ hours of color video at a resolution of 352×288 pixels. It stores the video (AVI format) on its 4GB internal memory, and it interfaces with a computer through its built-in USB connector, which can also be used to recharge its lithium battery by plugging it into an outlet via the included adapter. Best of all, it also writes, and the ink sticks are refillable.

video-camera-pen-2

[via TrustyPony and Hammacher Schlemmer]

Acrylic Cowboy open computer case

This is a precision-drilled acrylic board, onto which you can install the usual components that go inside a computer, such as a motherboard, video card, power supply, CD-ROM and hard drive. The kick is that everything’s out in the open so it can be easily serviced. Nice concept, but somewhat pricy at $76 bucks, no?

acrylic-cowboy-1

acrylic-cowboy-2

acrylic-cowboy-3

[via LikeCool and Geek Stuff 4 U]

Braille E-Book Reader

This is only a concept, but if it gets made, it’ll let blind people read books via the device’s special surface, which can change to reproduce Braille letters through electromagnetic impulses. Very cool.

braille-e-book

[via The Design Blog]

Bird Dispenser by Curro Claret

A very clever design for an automatic bird dispenser! The cutting board has pre-drilled holes through which crumbs from your sliced bread fall and collect into a dispenser for your pet bird. Love it!

bird-dispenser

[via LikeCool]

Battery Snaps

For $5, you get a cool little top that snaps onto a regular 9-volt battery to give you an instant flashlight. It has an on/off switch and comes with its own 9-volt battery, ready to go.

battery-snaps

[via LikeCool and Perpetual Kid]

DrinKlip Cup Holder

A sturdy clip that attaches to the edge of your desk and holds your cup. Very nice!

drinklip-cup-holder

[via LikeCool]

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