$250 Chromebook

$250 is a very good price point for a light laptop for basic email/web surfing/document editing.  It’s not a full feature laptop with a full OS, that is one reason the price point is the same as a 7″ Android tablet.  It’s fairly full featured hardware wise.  Web cam, USB ports, card reader and a 16GB Flash drive for storage.   This $250 laptop is a good second system.  I have a big desktop with a Drobo for storage, picture editing and other higher end functions.  For the cost of the Nexus 7, you can get a real keyboard and better monitor.  I’ve been using tablets, both iOS and Android for years, but I keep coming back to a device with a real keyboard for content creation.

For another $80, you can get a 3G version of this Chromebook, which is important if you are going to be using this device on the road.  It really does require Internet access to be entirely useful.

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Hidden “feature” in Apple Lighting cable

One of the major changes in the new iPhone 5 is the new 8 pin “Lighting” cable instead of the 30 pin cable used in all iPhone and iPad devices previously.

Now the general purpose computer that you can make phone calls on (i.e. the iPhone 5) comes with a Lighting cable, but odds are you are going to need at least one spare.  No problem if you don’t mind paying Apple $19 for a spare cable.  If that is a bit pricy for you, you may have to wait.

According to one cable manufacture that has done a tear down of a Lighting cable, Apple has put an authentication chip in the cable (which is doing D2A conversion as well).  So beware of any third party “Lighting compatible” cables for a while.  I’m betting this can be cracked, but it may be a few months before its done and third party cables start hitting the market.

If you are laying out the cash for the Darth Vader phone, part with another $19 and get a spare cable.  You’ll need it.  I’ve been considering a dual 1.0/2.1 amp car charger anyway, so can I could charge both my Nexus 7 and an iPhone at the same time.  I could charge my iPhone straight from the car’s USB port, but the Sync system treats its as an MP3 player and tries to index it, which screws with the Bluetooth streaming (are you paying attention Ford?), so it’s easier to use a car charger  plugged into a power point (the former cigarette lighter socket).    The care would probably do the same thing to the Nexus 7, but I don’t keep much music on that (lots of music on the iPhone anyway).

Ok, back to the cable, you can get a 30 pin to Lighting adapter.  Apple sells one for $29.  Again, off the bat, I’m not sure I would trust any third party adapter for  a while.  Not until some early adopters spring for them and start sharing their success/failure rate.

Google enters the 7″ tablet market

Bladerunner may have given us the Nexus 6, but Google is delivering on the Nexus 7.

Before you get your hopes up, the Nexus 7 is a 7″ android based tablet.  Supposed to be available in July 2012.

There is a comparison chart over at gdgt that compares it to the other two important players in the 7″ tablet market, the Amazon Kindle Fire and the Barnes & Noble Color Nook.  There are some gaps in the data on that chart, most of which can be filled with a quick search.

For a more detailed peek under the hood of the Nexus 7, try the PCMag review.  Here are some key features. It will be running Android 4.1, not a feature reduced in house version of Android like the Fire or Nook.  It has a Quad core CPU with a 12 core GPU.  That is a lot more horse power than you get with the Kindle Fire.  The Nexus 7 screen resolution is a bit better, 1280 x 800 opposed to the Fire’s 1024 x 600 and it has double the RAM as well.  The Nexus 7 also has a built in camera in addition to Bluetooth, both features lacking in the Fire & Nook.  What the Nexus 7 doesn’t have is  speakers or a microphone.  It does have a 3.5mm audio jack, which is the only port besides the MicroUSB port.  That’s right, no SD slot.  The Nexus does come in two flavors, one with 8 Gig of storage for $199 and a 16 Gig version for $249.   For comparison, the Kindle Fire also has 8 Gig, and no SD slot.  The Color Nook is the only one that has a SD slot for additional storage.  Given that both Amazon & Google have extensive Cloud storage solutions, I’m not surprised by the lack of the SD slot.

I’ve used the Kindle Fire before, and I liked it.  However, if I had to put down $199 (plus tax) of my money for a 7″ tablet, I would go with the Google Nexus 7.

Update: The MIT Tech Review has their review of the Nexus 7 up.  According to them it does have a speaker.

Kindle Fire Review

I recently got my hands on a Kindle Fire, Amazon’s 7″ Android tablet. I can see why they are selling like the preverbal hotcakes. For $200 you get an Android tablet that is optimized for the Amazon eco-system.

The screen is sharp, and the text clear. It’s still not an e-ink display, so if all you want to do is read books, you are better off with one of the other Kindle devices. They are cheaper and easier on the eyes for prolonged reading.

The Fire is also WiFi only. No cell carrier based updates and also, no Bluetooth. So no add on keyboards or wireless headsets.  There is a headset jack, and stereo speakers.   You’ll probably want to use headphones or ear buds, but the audio is good enough through the speakers for casual use.

It has just one button, everything else, including volume/mute requires multiple touches to the screen to adjust. The screen is also a fingerprint magnet. Possibly worse than first gen iPads. Bad enough were I started carrying a stylus I had picked up to draw on the iPad with to use *all the time* on the Fire.  The screen is very crisp and the video quality is quite good, so I don’t want to be staring through fingerprints to see that picture quality.

I’ve heard one review consistently that I have to agree with. For content formatted for the 7″ screen, it looks great! Other content, not so much. Streaming video from Amazon in landscape is large and sharp! I’ve loaded some video content and the gallery player only plays it in portrait mode, so I’ve got landscape formatted video playing in the middle third of the portrait mode screen. Definitely sub-optimal. Browsing the web is not as clean as it is with a larger screen (an iPad for example). I found myself constantly having to drag the screen focus in order to read the end of a line.

The Amazon Android App store is ok, but definitely limited.

Bottom line, if you are already invested in the Amazon eco-system, and just want to read books & magazines, and watch videos from Amazon, then is a very well spent $200.

If you want more flexible device in order to see more of the Internet than what Amazon provides, then you are better off with a tablet with a 10″ screen, with either a more open version of Android or Apple iOS.

Lowest cost Android tablet on the market

Currently I would have to say that title belongs to the Nook.  Ya, ya…Barnes & Noble tells you it that it just an ebook reader, but it’s running a crippled version of Android that you can root pretty easily.

It’s pretty straightforward, and you can find just about everything you need at nookDevs. Once you are done, you can load multiple ebook readers, including B&N’s android app!

Downside, no camera and no Bluetooth.

Upside, no monthly service fees!

Disclaimer: In case this wasn’t obviously clear, rooting your Nook is not warranty friendly.

Mucking with Android

I’ve started to muck with Android. Details to follow.

Not a jetpack

The Martin “Jetpack” actually uses two ducted fans powered by a gasoline engine.

On the plus side, a 30 minute flight time with a max speed of 97 kph (60 mph). That gives it a one way range of about 30 miles (48 kilometers).  That is a lot better than the 30 second average flight time of an actual jet pack.