Creative Stone

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If you invented a cool gadget, what would you call it?

Why, most of the suitable names have already been taken.

Take for example Creative’s latest player, which is obviously aimed at bringing down the tiny Apple iPod shuffle.

It’s shaped like a rectangular pebble, but Motorola has already taken the name PEBL for its slider handphone.

You could go with adjectives like ‘mini’or ‘micro’- but there are the iPod mini and Creative Zen Micro.

How about the smallest measurement most consumers can spell – nano?

Oops, taken by Apple too.

So Creative has settled on calling its new player the Zen Stone.

If you ask me, that invites too many questions about the state of mind of an MP3 fan on the MRT train.

The Stone’s mission is clear – kill the iPod shuffle by being sold at half ($69) the price of its rival ($138).

Like the shuffle, it has a 1GB capacity and no display.

And while the shuffle comes in five colours, Creative offers six.

The Stone, like all flash-based players, is shock-proof as there are no moving parts – an excellent choice for sporty people.

Navigation through different folders is easy. Just drag and drop files from your computer to the folders you want.

There’s no installation CD in the box, though. But that should be no problem for even the tech-challenged. It will plug and play with any PC without hassle.

You’ll catch the Stone’s one flaw when you plug it into a USB port and start transferring songs.

Songs (and other data) transfer at a slow 0.8MB per second. That means it will take about 20 minutes to change all the songs on the player.

If you’re the type to change playlists often, this may bug you.

Here’s another minor annoyance: It can take up to five seconds for songs to start playing when you start up the gadget.

But the Stone delivers where it matters most – sound quality, which is the Creative players’ strongest suit.

Plug in a good pair of earphones and the player really sings.

The Stone comes in a nice glossy casing that is rather scratch-resistant.

Creative has also rolled out a bunch of colourful accessories like armband holders and keyrings to go with the Stone.

I’m embarrassed to use this cliche, but yes, the Stone reallyrocks.

May 11, 2007 at 12:55 pm Leave a comment

LG Shine

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Korean names are muscling in and in a big way, onto the mobile market with devices that will make the brand conscious think twice seriously. By the end of the month, those who tote Dolce&Gabana (including the phone, that is) will be glad to know they have the chance to add Prada to their collection, thanks to LG and it’s Black Label series.The Prada from LG is under wraps at the moment, but Howard Lee, Managing Director of LG Electronics in Singapore has promised it will appeal to local consumers with its look and also technology on board. Judging by its popularity overseas (it’s one of the most wanted phones in Europe based on sales and sales reservations) and by its looks, the Prada (which apparently comes with its own designer pouch) will be joining the little black dress of many of the well-heeled.

If style and substance is your thing and bearing a label isn’t, then you might take a shine to LG’s Shine.

The latest in the Black Label series comes in two variations, either a 2.5G EDGE or 3.5G HSDPA, so you won’t be let down in terms of speed and communication.

Shine also comes with all the bells and whistles that other device manufacturers are offering consumers, such as auto-focus zoom camera functions (2 megapixel), Bluetooth and external memory expansion (micro SD) to the already hefty 512 MB on board memory.

But what really makes this device stand out is the design of it.

For starters, it breaks away from the dark since, as the MD of LG’s Singapore outfit aptly sums up, “people are naturally drawn to beauty and shiny objects”.

Shine is slim, polished, bright and weighing not very much – everything a smart woman would want – and better yet if the device can reflect that of her ! Men would also appreciate the device as it is an engineering feat, since the phone is fashioned out of stainless steel, making it solid and yet lightweight.

Setting a new standard, the Shine sports a scroll key that allows the user to navigate easily through the programmes which show up very clearly on the large 2.2 inch screen.

What’s nice about the screen too, is that it blends into the body of the phone, so all you see is a shiny surface or “magic mirror” as LG has dubbed it, until the slider is initiated.

The 2.2-inch screen carries a metallic feel and when turned off, you can’t tell that the highly refelctive screen is in fact a screen.Comparing it to other phones on the market, LG Shine’s metal casing made the device a little heavier but the slide remained smooth, thanks to the stainless steel casing.Although the user interface didn’t find favour as a selling point for LG Shine’s, credit was given to the document programs that came with the phone since users can open documents in PDF, Word, PowerPoint and Excel formats.

Available in Korea since late 2006, the Shine continues to see more than 3500 units being sold each day. In Euopre, where the phone has been available in the UK, Germany, France and Belgium, the Shine hit a one million sales mark in just two months, besting the record of its predecessor the Chocolate.

May 10, 2007 at 12:48 pm Leave a comment

O2 Xda Zinc & Graphite

If you don’t like it black, or white, or brightly coloured, and you want more than just a communicator, the O2 family has two new kids on the block, the Graphite and the Zinc. In keeping with their names, the pair sport sleek, brushed silver casings and that is as close to being alike they will get…at least in looks.

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The Xda Zinc is a PDA-phone that has a slide-out keyboard and if it weren’t for the logo on the front and squarish navigation pad, it could be very easily mistaken for Dopod’s C800 or 838.The Zinc is one for the road warriors, packing in everything you’d want and need from the office, except the big desk and receptionist out front. Sitting in a meeting room, you can easily put notes into Microsoft Word by scribbling on the touch screen or typing on the slide-out QWERTY keyboard. It isn’t advisable however, to type with the device placed on the tabletop as the keyboard keys are a little too small to type quickly or comfortably.The keyboard is sensitive enough though, requiring just a light touch if you don’t want extra letters when typing.

You can easily type with the device cradled in your palm and with the keyboard extended to send a quick message, except there is one glitch, the send and menu buttons sit tightly above the keyboard, which means you run the risk of sending half-written messages if you are not too careful . If it’s any consolation, this is a design problem shared with similarly designed PDA phones.

O2 has designed a message centre for the Zinc where users can check at a glance if there is IM, Email, SMS, MMS or RSS waiting to be read, and jump straight to the document waiting to be reviewed.

With a 2.8″ screen that switches to landscape mode when the keyboard is extended, viewing a document, spreadsheet or even photos won’t be a challenge as fonts can be enlarged and made more crisp in appearance, although the 65K-colour TFT-LCD display already provides extremely sharp resolution.

Communication also travels faster on the Zinc thanks to the 3G capabilities. The Xda Zinc is equipped with an Intel Xscale PXA 270 processor running at 520MHz and the Intel Hermon chip allows speedy data transfer. The device also offers Wireless LAN 802.11b+g so users can work or play anytime, anywhere and make video calls as well, with a second VGA camera.

Picture quality is of course much better when the 2 Megapixels CMOS Fixed-focus camera lens is used. Photos which can be modified into black and white or sepia also benefit from the strobe flash to fill in the shadows.

Also bundled into the device is a PDF Viewer, SMS Backup, Voice Commander and a GPRS Monitor. All these and more run seamlessly on the device with 128MB of onboard memory which can be expanded through a Mini SD card.

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The smaller and slimmer brother to the Zinc is the O2 Graphite, a candybar phone that also comes with 128MB onboard memory and is powered by an Intel Xscale PXA 270 Processor at 416MHz and Intel Hermon chip for 3G data processing.

You could say this is the light version of the Zinc and will appeal to those who prefer to carry something different on the weekend but still have back-up if there is an office document that needs to be checked.

The phone is set up to synchronise with the PC to download Microsoft’s Outlook and comes also with a viewer for Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents.

While you may wish that you could create or edit documents on this phone, you’d think twice once you realise that you must contend with the standard phone panel that would make writing a note with more than 40-50 characters, a chore. In addition, the letters and numbers turn near invisible due to the backlight on the phone pad.

Sharing space on the front panel, just above the phone pad is a tiny joy stick that can be best navigated with the thumb. To choose a programme it’s advisable not give in to reflex and thumb the knob, you’ll find more joy if you hit the menu key since the joy stick tends to slip and you end up opening a different programme.

Fortunately, there is a voice commander so you can just tell the phone to do the work for you.

The Graphite’s 2.2 inch TFT LCD display is bright and clear and there’s a pair of cameras, one of which is set up for video calls.

As for picture taking, the 2megapixel camera with flash is easily activated with a side button, but to zoom in to objects will require using the on-screen menu options.

Being truly light, (it weighs just 105g) this is a device you’d want to carry with you if you want a device that comes very close to being a smartphone.

May 9, 2007 at 1:14 pm Leave a comment

Windows Vista & Office 2007 Review

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The world may have embraced Tech in a big way and transformed the Geek from zero to hero, but when it comes to a new operating system, the same old caution sets in. Reception towards the new Windows Vista is not too different from the slow public conversion to Windows XP half a decade ago. Those who say they were right to wait it out then, with the many fixes, patches and eventual roll-out of Service Pack 2 for the XP are singing the same song about Windows Vista despite this being the longest-in-the making Windows OS and intensive testing (more than five million beta versions downloaded and tested worldwide) that has made this the most responsive release yet, from Microsoft.Vista also rolled out on the promise of a more stable, secure and overall enjoyable computing experience. Those who faulted the XP for its many loop holes that made end-users vulnerable to hackers and other malicious attacks, should appreciate the fact that Vista was created from the painful lessons of XP and a promise of a system where security is not easily compromised.In fact, security experts say much of the current popular malware that can infest Windows PCs will have a harder time doing so on Vista. Security vendor Symantec which ran a test by sending about 2,000 malicious code samples to a Vista system found that more than half couldn’t launch and only about six percent managed a full compromise.

Of course, it will be only a matter of time before the attackers work out a way to hit Vista users, hopefully, that time will be a long way off.

Windows Vista comes in four versions – Home Basic, Home Premium, Business and Ultimate.

If you bought a new budget PC or laptop late 2006 or early 2007, your device may have been bundled with the Windows Media Centre instead of Windows XP. That’s close to what you can expect with the no-frills Vista Home Basic that offers Windows security and Internet explorer.

If you were happy running XP Home, then upgrading to Vista Home Premium will have you more than satisfied with the totally new experience in store, such as the 3D flip navigation option which allows you to stack all open files, Meeting Space which allows you to find and connect with friends online to share documents and the Media Centre which can be linked up to the home entertainment (or Xbox 360 console) for a new way to enjoy videos, photos and music.

This is missing, of course, in the Business bundle which has essentials such as back-up features and remote desktop connectivity.

Those who constantly work on their laptops or work both at home and in the office, will want all that’s in the Home and Business OS, and that’s the Ultimate. Apart from letting you have it all, the Ultimate has one extra programme that none of the others have, the BitLocker Drive Encryption programme that protects your data should you lose your device.

Of course the lamest excuse to getting the Ultimate would be that it comes in a stunning black package that really makes it stand out from the rest of the family.

Now, before you dismiss the Home versions, you’ll have to understand that despite the difference in applications, there remain some fundamental features enjoyed in all versions of Vista.

Eye Candy – The first would be the rich interface. Yes, there are many who have said “it’s just like what you’d see on a Mac” and some have gone as far to dub Vista, “Vastly Inferior Software To Apple’s” but the grin will stay on your face when you encounter Vista after the XP and the other earlier Windows operating systems.

There are bright icons to remind you of what’s on the PC and alongside the start button (which remains where you last saw it, in the lower left corner), there is something new, the Search function. This is very handy as all you need to do is to type in the word and every item with that word will pop up, from programme, document or photo on your PC(so you don’t need to remember which drive or folder) to Contact list entry and even items on the Internet.

While that function DID exist in XP, it was limited and worse, a slow and tedious process. Now, the results are almost instantaneous.

Media – Another Vista ‘standard’ is the Media Centre which organizes the Music and Video collections that you have compiled or downloaded, a Photo Gallery and enchanced Movie Maker which allows you to easily upload, fix and transfer photos and videos, even to DVD. What’s even better is, if you made a mistake ‘fixing’ a photo, you can always get back to the original, untouched.

Security – Since security was a major criticism of Windows XP, developers decided to make Vista a more secure platform.

Security isn’t about who or what your keep out, it is also about how the PC is used and so with Vista, parents can set in their kids’ accounts, where they can go on the Net, what they can or cannot see, and also set the day and time for the youngsters’ computing.

There’s also greater in-built security from Windows Defender which monitors changes to the system (which means the presence of malware), a Phishing filter to sniff out bogus websites and stronger defaults in Internet Explorer 7 to prevent the installation of malicious codes and identity theft.

As mentioned earlier, the interface is rich in graphics, so for those who just love being surrounded by those they love, Vista allows you to bring up a stamp-sized Photos Gallery that sits on the desktop alongside other ‘gadgets’ such as a Sunflower clock, calendar and ‘speedometer’ on the amount of RAM your device is taking up with each application being run.

Admittedly, it will take a fraction of your computing time to get used to the fresh interface, but if a kid below age 10 can zoom around without a proper introduction to the new OS, I am sure you can get used to it in a few seconds.

So even if you get the Home Basic, you won’t be terribly short on fun when it comes to computing.

With the Ultimate (as well as Home Premium and Business), you enjoy another element of the rich interface, the Aero, which transforms content not in use into a translucent graphic that’s ‘pushed’ into the background until it’s needed.

My personal experience - What I liked about using Vista was not just the ‘overall look’. While it was definitely more pleasant to the eye, what was nice about this OS was that it was also more intuitive, you didn’t have to guess what was in folders for instance, as there would be little thumbnails to show you that the cryptic-named folder in fact contains photos and scraps of memo.

The ‘gadgets’ that appear on the Sidebar also made things less boring and if you are inclined, you can create your own gadget which can join the many that are already online and free to download.

Resource intensive – The downside is the OS with eye candy is heavy, the Vista Ultimate for instance requires 1GB of system memory and 40GB on your hard drive, while the Home Basic requires 512MB of system memory and 20GB on the hard drive. In both cases, there must be at least 15GB of space on the hard drive before installing Vista.

The Vista will run on either a 32bit or 64bit processor and for the higher end Business and Ultimate, you will need a machine with the newer dual core processors.

Along with the new operating system, the Microsoft group rolled out at the same time, Office 2007.
Like the OS, this has been a long time in the making, sports a new look and feel, and is divided into versions that vary according to how it would be used.

There’s the Home and Student edition, the Standard, Small Business, Professional and Ultimate, and all will have the standard-bearers of the earlier versions of Office, namely Word, Excel and PowerPoint, with two versions of Outlook and a host of new applications scattered among the different versions.

Once again like the new OS, the Ultimate lives up to its name and includes all the programmes available in other suites and then more, which is InfoPath (to create forms) and Groove(a tool that allows teams to collaborate on documents without leaving their desks). Ultimate also has OneNote which is available only in the Home and Student version of Office and helps users to organize different bits of notes kept in the PC.

The Small Business Office will probably satisfy those who bring work home or work off their office laptops, and even the high-end home user. It comes with an enhanced Outlook programme that manages the Calendar, email and contact list, and offers Publisher.

The Professional has the same as Small Business Office but with just one extra component – Access, which is to create and manage databases.

But is it any better, you ask?

Well, the experience is vastly different from the ‘old Office’ which you will be calling the 2003 version just that once you try Office 2007.

The document pages (whether Word, Excel or PowerPoint for instance) will open up with the familiar top task bar, which the people at Microsoft have now dubbed ‘the ribbon’.

Whatever you choose to call it, you’ll find that this is more than a name change.

Rather than a static bar, the 2007 version of the taskbar will change as you change your document, whether it’s a graphic insert or font change. You also get to view what the change will look like before committing to it.

What’s even more impressive is its ‘cleverness’, asking if the document is to be saved as a 2007 version or for an earlier version, which means you can go from Vista PC running Office 2007, to XP machine with Office 2003, without dropping a full stop or any loss in quality, be it font type or background colour.

The other programmes in Office 2007 are just as engaging and smart to use, and don’t require a How-To crash course, even a child who’d learnt how to use Word 2003 in school a few weeks earlier, managed to open up Word 2007 and create a colourful document, without any guidance.

You can install Office 2007 on your XP machine, but be prepared to sacrifice on just a few of the graphical perks that’s supported by Vista and also some space on your system.

Overall, the experience from Vista and Office 2007 is “Wow”.

May 6, 2007 at 7:09 am Leave a comment

About this blog

My 1st post going to be short & sweet. This is not the 1st time i’m blogging (i do have another blog). But i thought i have a spare blog for a different purpose – just plain reviews & more reviews. Nothing fancy.

Hope i can get this up & running asap.

May 6, 2007 at 6:58 am Leave a comment


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