Archive for the ‘Hardware’ Category

Thoughts on Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro

Posted: February 26, 2015 in Hardware
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Holiday Season 2014. I looked around and had several computers around the house – ones that I seldom used. So cleanup ensued and I sold off a Surface, a Macbook Air & an old HP laptop. All that raised cash had to go towards a new toy, right? My bet – the new Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro! I believe this was one of the best OEM innovation attempts and deserved a look. Primary dev machine continues to be a MacBook Pro – this was to be a side ultrabook for light work and staying connected. Here are my thoughts ..

Specs – 8 GB RAM | Intel Core M | 256 GB SSD | Win 8.1 Pro | 13.3″ QHD+ 3200 x 1800 IPS multitouch display.

Pros:

– It’s bright Orange
– Seriously, the whole laptop is orange from front to back
– Turns heads when used in public
– Beautiful super thin design
– The watch-band like hinge is solid
– The hinge is very flexible in any of the Yoga’s positions
– Responsive Touchscreen
– Super high resolution screen (3200×1800)
– Lots of screen real estate for geeky users
– Lenovo keyboard is crisp & makes for smooth typing
– Keyboard backlighting is soothing
– Rubberized material around keyboard is comfortable for constant touch
– No, it does not ship with SuperFish malware
– While no MacBook touchpad, the Yooga 3 Touchpad is the nicest I’ve seen on any Windows machine
– Charges up quickly
– No dearth of ports despite the thin design
– Yoga 3, while being a full-featured laptop, is exceptionally light
– Sleep & wake up are instantaneous
– Despite your doubts about the Intel Core M processor, performance is good under normal usage
– The iconic 360-degree fold-back Yoga hinge adds to flexibility of use
– Use it in laptop mode 90% of the time
– Reverse stand mode useful in planes as consumption device

Cons:

– Comes loaded with crapware, as expected from OEMs
– Almost enticing to install fresh Windows
– It’s not fanless & makes a slight whining noise at times
– Battery life under normal usage isn’t as great as the competition, but a decent 6+ hours
– Two finger tap to right click isn’t on by default & takes a registry edit to fix
– The display, while high-resolution and crisp, could use a tad more brightness

Overall, happy camper with the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro. Recommended!

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Surface to Surface 2 – The Upgrade!

Posted: February 23, 2014 in Hardware

One snowy February Saturday morning. After about a month of telling myself that I did not need the upgrade from the original Surface RT to the new Surface 2, I gave up. Hey, one needs some cheer during the dreary winters, right? Not that I was unhappy with my original Surface; it was still serving me ok after more than a year of rough use. But the new Surface 2 with all its bells & whistles just seemed irresistible.

PS: For folks like me who desperately try to “justify” the near constant tech gadget crave or the precious device upgrade, BestBuy now seems to have a permanent device trade-in policy (details HERE). The original Surface in good condition, for example, would fetch you a decent $75. Otherwise, there is always Craigslist or eBay that might get you a bit more in consolation.

So, out with the old & in with the new shiny toy. Here are 7 things I absolutely dig about the Surface 2:

  • The screen resolution – this thing alone more than justifies the upgrade. Folks with the Surface Pro know this already, but I’m coming from a paltry 1366×768 resolution on the Surface RT. The Surface 2’s full 1080P 1920×1080 resolution is ridiculously high for a screen that small. The result – more real estate for tiles/desktop & everything is super crisp. Running 3 apps side by side is actually practical & useful. Make sure to follow the steps in Scott Hanselman’s post HERE to get the most of your pixels.
  • The Tegra 4 processor shows its mettle. Almost every app or interaction feels much zippier compared to the somewhat sluggish original Surface RT.
  • I have a generation 1 Surface Type & Touch cover each. Glad that these work seamlessly with the Surface 2 – no new accessories needed.
  • The kickstand going back a second step is very welcome, especially during long flights or when on lap. I remember Jeff Blankenburg & I unboxing the original Surface RT & wishing the kickstand went a little further back – well, now you have it!
  • The magnetic power adapter stills thinks twice before snapping in place, but is way better than the finicky one that came with the original Surface.
  • Battery life – I’m getting 10/11 + hours easy with normal multimedia usage. Let’s just say this is more than handy. Unless I need to fire up Visual Studio, I can get some good productive work done on this baby, all the while the games being just a tap away.
  • The extra OneDrive space & Skype World credits don’t hurt at all 🙂 .

So, if you can spare the extra money, stop thinking & get the upgrade. I’m not repenting ..

Adios!

Thoughts on the HP Envy 17

Posted: June 11, 2011 in Hardware

At the beginning of this year, it was pretty clear that I needed new computing hardware for some much needed oomph.  My company laptop, though not bad, was just falling short of what I was up to. So, a month-long search followed and I finally settled on the HP Envy 17” beast. Make no mistake, it is not the Dad’s computer type machine and I had to forego a bonus, along with a few limbs 🙂

Engadget ran a nice review of the Envy 17 (here).

Here are few of the characteristics that had me drawn:

  • Quad Core I7 @ TB 2.9 GHz – This is not the new Sandy Bridge stuff; but at the beginning of the year, I did not want to wait. Things seem settled now; but initial Sandy Bridge shipments had recalls; so I am at peace with my decision. This processor with the rest of the hardware is a beast. I have thrown everything I had at it; yet does not slow down.
  • 8 GB RAM for heavy development & media.
  • 160 GB SSD + 700 GB regular hard-drive @ 7200 RPM. Here is a number – a well-optimized Windows 7 Ultimate on the SSD does a cold-boot in about 5 seconds, gotta love that!
  • Slot loading CD/DVD drive for sleekness.
  • Massive 17” super crisp display with 1920×1080 full-HD resolution. This was one of core features I was after. Being my development machine, the extra real estate comes in so handy; and just about any media looks stunning.
  • Full metal MacBook style uni-body look. I think the etched metal & the glowing HP logo look cool on the cover. The laptop simply looks exquisite!
  • Array for ports to support all your accessories.
  • Despite few complaints from other owners, I personally like the keyboard. It is well laid out and the backlit keys have just the right sensory feel.
  • The Beats music setup means that the even without any speakers, the computer plays most music with high fidelity & some thump.

Now, despite all this awesomeness, this baby is not for everyone and has a unique audience that loves it despite what others say. Here are few downsides to consider:

  • The laptop itself is rather sleek & not bad for carrying; but the HP power adapter is a brick and your shoulders will not be happy if you have the whole thing around all day. Dell power cords do work; but show intermittent flicker; so not sure if any long-term damage would occur.
  • All the power comes at a little price – what did you think? 🙂 I was very cautious about the heat issues out of the I7; but it is not that bad. The left side of the keyboard does get a little warm compared to the right; but again nothing painful. It is the bottom left of the laptop that gets quite warm with heavy use; and I am not a PC gamer at all. So, while definitely not just a desktop replacement, this baby is not meant for your lap & works best on an even surface.
  • The HP touchpad is better than much of its competition with large glass-like touch surface without the physical left & right buttons. And it does work; but the sensitivity of the multi-touch functions is nowhere close compared to a MacBook. And this is not HP’s fault but that of Synaptics who makes the driver.

That’s about all I had. I personally love how fast & sleek this machine is. I do not have a separate monitor at home & the resolution really helps in making it a wonderful all-round development/main pc.  At the end, you just have to know what you are getting into. Hope this was of interest.

Adios!

It is a rather gloomy rainy spring day here in Ohio. To brighten things up though, our StirTrek Windows Phone 7 application just went live in the Marketplace !! StirTrek is now a super-popular software conference in Columbus and this year, the conference website let us feast on XML/JSon feeds for the data. So, it only made sense to attempt a nice metro WP7 app that sliced & diced information on sessions, speakers, timeslots, tracks etc. Hopefully, attendees find it handy, as we gear up for a even better conference this year. StirTrek also brings back quite a few memories from last year. The wife isn’t home from work yet, so why not pour out my heart in words 🙂

Around 3PM at last year’s StirTrek. I stand a little confused in the hallway trying to decide which session to attend next. Finally made up my mind to go hear William Steele (@wjsteele) from MSFT talk about the upcoming Windows Phone .. boy, was it a good decision! I had always wanted to do mobile & dabbled into a few other platforms in the past. It only made sense working for a solutions company with mobile being hot, right? Somehow though, heart did not permit to simply bite the bullet and dive into iOS or Android, just because their hardware sells. What am I missing? Then, at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Steve B announced Windows Phone — a complete reboot from past generations with Silverlight & XNA runtimes. Hmmm .. I sit up; but details were sketchy. Then MIX 10 happened and the developer CTP tooling was released. How about the best IDE in Visual Studio to write mobile apps for the new platform using familiar C# or VB? There was excitement about the seriously low barrier to get started. I was in the middle of catching up on the MIX recordings when StirTrek came by. I guess at that time, not too many had enough details to talk about Windows Phone .. with the exception being Bill Steele. He did a very nice dance-around of the WP7 features and where the phone/platform stood out. I even remember Bill doing a demo of a from-scratch Tip Calculator .. it was super fun to get started and nothing holding us back! Since then, I have met Bill several times over the past year; and what stands out is his child-like enthusiasm for technology & flying!

So, that was StirTrek last May. Over the next few months, much effort was put in around building the foundations of a developer ecosystem before Windows Phone 7 actually launched in November. This seems to be a complete contrast to other competitors in the Mobile space who keep products & development tools in secrecy until launch. MSFT has always operated on scale; scores of partners producing variety of hardware & thriving developer base. We grow with feedback from the community, right? Windows Phone was to be no exception. There were times last June/July last year where playing with unfinished control sets (like the Bing Maps Silverlight control) made you wonder if you were the only one trying things out & failing. I have gone from those times to now, where it is literally impossible to keep up with all the cool stuff, Nugets & toolkits people are churning out.  This is how a development community thrives & that’s the way it should be.

Talking about evangelism, another person comes to mind .. Jeff Blankenburg (@jeffblankenburg). Yes, we all know him & his passion for technology. But over the last year, I got to see a lot of him personally and genuinely saw the difference caring makes. I was equipped with a prototype Windows Phone as early as last July or August so I could deploy my apps to a real phone. How about this for service .. Jeff dropped by my workplace, with his wife, to deliver a phone I needed urgently for a WP7 presentation! Where else shall I get so much care for developers? Jeff is now a WP7 champion & a huge evangelist for the platform in this region. His “31 days of Windows Phone” (here) serves as a great resource to quickly look something up when developing for the Windows Phone.

Now, what about the product team at Redmond? Are they going to let things slack in the face of huge competition? Thankfully quite the opposite! I want to mention two people whom I really admire — Brandon Watson (@BrandonWatson) & Ben Lower (@benlower). Geeks who love developers. Over the past few months after WP7 launch, there has off course been some harsh criticisms of the platform & the developer experience. I have seen multiple occasions where folks have blogged, essentially saying .. “This is crap ..” And every time, I have seen Brandon Watson reach out and ask ..”Hey, tell us how we can improve?” Now the product team totally need not bother, but they do since they care. I think this is simply awesome! It is through evangelism from the likes of Brandon, Ben, Jamie, Jeff Wilcox etc. that we developers take to heart the commitment towards the future of this platform. It is thoroughly refreshing to see a young product team slogging it out & coming clean on roadblocks like the NoDo update. Dunno about you, but I’m all in.

MIX 11 happened a few days back; and I missed it again (yep, no sponsorship). Not sure why exactly I came to work on Day 2; I was glued all day with Windows Phone goodness being showered. Mango as an update & the developer toolset enhancements are looking really good! We stay hungry for more and to see what the rest of the year means for this platform. While I do the usual custom solutions most times, I now have a unique position in my company. I am now the National Solutions Lead for MSFT Mobility .. sounds big & empty, right 🙂 However, I get to roll out readiness campaigns to make sure fellow geeks are well-fed & then be heavily involved in Sales Push to evangelize the platform and craft WP7 solutions for our clients or deliver mobile web on top of MSFT technology stack. Whatever the year holds, I am excited!

So, long story short .. this is another fanboyish post, right? Does it hurt to be passionate about a platform if you harshly criticize its shortcomings and have a lot of respect for iOS & Android? Sometimes, it is the people you get to work with that makes the difference. Off course, we are behind in the game and folks doubt whether we have a chance. But we have hope and relentless innovation on our side. May be a few Gartner/IDC predictions help, which, even if half true, mean a lot of action for WP7 developers. Like Steve B once said “..we keep coming & coming ..”. So, let’s keep sharing the love, as every developer matters!

Adios

Flick is the new Scroll !

Posted: March 8, 2011 in Hardware, Mobile

It has been a full week now since I started using my Microsoft Arc Touch mouse; about time to write a quick gadget review! This mouse came out of the usual plethora of MSFT design experiments around mice; but looks like nothing else out there & had my attention from the time it was announced. So, pre-order followed and the mouse was delivered right ­in time for the holidays. So, here’s what worked & what didn’t:

Pros:

· The mouse came packed in a shiny unbelievably-thin box.

· Very thin contour for the mouse. About 1-1.5 inches thick & tapering. Let’s just say FLAT.

· Great for travel; super light.

· Super cool that the mouse curls up to the palm’s contour, and that is what turns on the mouse, saving battery otherwise.

· Left & Right clicks work smoothly.

· Tactile feedback on flicks is very nice. So, is inertia on scroll.

· Customizable touch sensitivity makes it easy to make the mouse work to your needs.

· Tapping works nicely for page-up, page-down & middle-click.

· BlueTrack technology makes for very precise pointing.

· Great on long web pages or my methods with 2000 lines of code ..ha ha.

 

Cons:

· Does not seem to move very well on uneven surfaces because of its shape.

· Left & Right clickable areas may seem a little too widely spaced when compared to few other mice in the market.

· The contour will keep palms well stretched. This may not be a bad thing after all; but takes a little getting used to.

· Rear edge is a bit of dust/lint magnet.

 

A more detailed review can be found here:

http://www.crunchgear.com/2010/09/10/review-microsoft-arc-touch-mouse/

In all, small & nifty, with lot of attention to design; but also works as intended.

Enjoy!

 

Luv thy HD7

Posted: March 8, 2011 in Hardware

As the title suggests, I am going to talk about the T-Mobile HTC HD7 Windows Phone 7 today. Quite a mouthful, isn’t it; I will try to convince you that it might just be worth it.

Let us first be clear on goals. This, in no way, is a review of the HD7 or WP7 OS for that matter. I am a huge fan of how fresh Microsoft’s approach has been with Windows Phone 7 OS and the opportunities it presents for developers. And we are only getting started! As for the HD7, there are tons of official reviews online, some of which I shall mention in a bit. This post will simply be about sharing my experiences using the HD7 for a month now and what I like/don’t like. I am doing this at the request of a friend from our National Mobile Steering Committee, since he has folks curious about first-hand experience with HTC’s WP7 offering. In fact, this might be of interest to my fellow Sogetians wanting to tap into our partnership with T-Mobile as a corporate phone.

The HD7 has been reviewed extensively. Two of the gadget sites ran fairly comprehensive reviews as below:

Engadget: http://www.engadget.com/2010/10/20/htc-hd7-review/

Gizmodo: http://gizmodo.com/5684068/htc-hd7-review-size-aint-everything

I’ll let you be the judge on how to interpret the reviews. As for my experiences:

The Good:

· Screen size: I have never had the HD2 or Evo stuff; so HD7’s 4.3” looks gorgeous to me. There have been several occasions where I had skipped picking up even my netbook in HD7’s favor and my last iPhone feels like a kid’s phone in comparison. So, trust me if you may, screen real estate DOES matter.

· Look & Feel: The metal band around and placement of hardware buttons feels natural. As with many other WP7s, the Back/Start/Search buttons being capacitive touch really works with tactile feedback. The curvatures are ergonomic for holding and I personally do not have any issues carrying it around at all times.

· Aesthetics: Don’t know how to describe this; but Windows Phone 7 just feels at home on an HD7. You might sometimes forget that you’re on a phone while using Outlook, Office or Xbox.

· Kickstand: Handy on a plane. Just don’t expect it to withstand any wobble.

· Keyboard: I believe WP7’s keypad is one of the best around and HD7’s size really makes a difference in landscape mode.

· Music Sound Quality: Really nice, even through a Bluetooth headphone.

· HTC Hub: The over-the-top animations can be hit-or-miss; but good to see someone trying buttery smooth effects on a WP7.

The Bad:

· NOTHING! Remember, I am a WP7 fanboy. We should just overlook the flaws; and gloat over!

· Build Quality: HTC does not seem to have used the best materials and some buttons may feel a little flimsy.

· Power Button: With the curved top, this can be hit & miss at times.

· Screen: As crisp as it is, I believe the Samsung Focus’s AMOLED has deeper blacks. Also, viewing angles aren’t always great; but if you’re like me, you would stare straight at your phone.

· The speakers: Neat idea to have them surround the upper & lower parts of the glass display; but they can be dust magnets. Also, HTC seems to have preserved the best for the slide-out Surround.

The Ugly:

· Jealousy of the other fanboys: I told you!

In all, I consider the HD7 to be a solid WP7 device whose size shines over everything else. And heads up advertising: The upcoming Sogeti Hub app we are writing runs gorgeously on the HD7. Do I have you interested? Please drop comments if you may.

Adios