Those that know me know I have a saying … I don’t know what enough is but I sure know what not enough is! Insert your favorite obsession here The topic of this post … battery life. A partial rant.
I can’t speak for everyone but I know as my phone has become more and more capable I have used it to do more and more. 5 years ago surfing the web on a mobile device was almost unheard of. Videos had to be specially encoded to play on phones. All that has changed. Surfing on a modern quad core Android phone like my S3 is a treat limited primarily by the screen size. Video playback (and even output to HDMI) just works and without conversion. As we do more and more we push the edges of our batteries. Unfortunately manufacturers are more obsessed with thickness than making a device you can actually go through a day with. Now lugging around a big heavy phone/battery isn’t pleasant but neither is sitting at a restaurant pulling the back off your phone to change up the battery. And this is if you can even change the battery. A number of newer phones are sealed and you can not change the battery (something I consider to be a deal breaker). So why do phone manufacturers rarely offer extended batteries? And when they do they are slight improvements? I have to admit I don’t get it. For most devices I end up carrying a spare battery all the time.
For my old iPhone I had a Mophie. And while the concept still exists for a number of devices the price on the Mophie is high. Running around $100. There are a number of Mophie like products out there but when you read the reviews you find out they only marginally improved the battery life and no where near what they should have given the size of the extra battery. I’ve bought other aftermarket batteries and found them rarely to live up to the capcity they are suppose to have.
I’m a bit of an accessory guy. I buy stuff such as cases, extra batteries, external chargers etc for my gadgets. This time around for my S3 I looked and found everything I wanted on Amazon.ca. In the past I’ve got them from ebay. A lot of the items on Amazon that I bought come from the US or tell you how long they are going to take to get to you so your not stuck waiting a month as is typical with stuff coming from China.
So one of the items I saw was this Anker® 4400mAh Li-ion Battery. It was reasonably priced, and shipped to me very quickly. So I gave it a try. I was skeptical that it would do what it said.
The battery is simply two batteries glued together (or so it looks). There’s a good amount of empty space inside the cavity. It’s a shame they can’t make use of it, but that would require them to design a custom battery which would be more expensive. They also include a new back for the phone to accommodate the bulge. The new back cover is well designed. They left it thin at the top, and bevelled it near the camera to avoid getting in the way of the camera. Grabbing it at the top where it’s thin is nice. On the bottom they angled it in from the edge of the phone so my docking station still fits. The battery is VERY tight in the cavity of the phone. Almost too tight. With the back off I have had the battery pop back out of the phone. Once it’s all together the phone is notably heavier and thicker, the price you have to pay for having this whopper of battery. The default battery is 2100 MaH so this one ought to be double!
Android devices do not make measuring power consumption or in this case battery consumption easy. There are no sensors to pick up battery current so one is left using the % battery left. I use a program called Battery graph to chart battery draw. To measure the amount of battery consumed I leave the phone in standby. Try hard not to touch it and try and turn off auto event things so that I can get as accurate a power draw as possible. Since the error in your measurement is going to be +- 2% (that’s as granular as Android shows you) you need to get a reasonable amount of data to make the error less significant. And that was a challenge for this measurement. I had to leave the phone for 2 days to get enough data. What I measured was an improvement from projected stand by battery life from 82.2 hours using the battery that came with the phone to a whopping 208 hours with the Anker or an improvement of 2.5 times the original! So if I take 2100 MaH as the original this one measures in at 5314 MaH. So not only does it live up to what it should be it’s even better! Now the original battery may not have been up to what it should be but the salient point here is this … this battery lives up to what it is suppose to be, at least twice the original battery! Very impressive.
It’s worth noting that the amount of current the phone passes to the battery does not change because it’s a bigger battery. So this means it will take longer to charge.
And I have to say, in using it you really do feel the better battery life. For once I don’t find myself glued to a power cable. The weight is noticeable. It will be up to you as to whether it’s worth it to you or not. But for the money this is a great deal!
|Seconds||% change||% per hr||Batt life||% data Error|
|Estimated size||5314.107 MaH|
I’ve been researching these Atom powered Windows 8 tablets for a bit now. I last posted about the new Windows tablets and discovered the Atom category of tablets I didn’t even know existed. It’s really hard to figure out whether these Atom powered devices are going to be good enough for your needs (vs a Core i3/I5) without actually buying one and trying it. So after all my research I jumped in.
So my must haves were:
- NOT Windows RT . That way I have compatibility across the board.
- USB on the go support for use with keyboard/mouse/data stick, preferrably a full size port. Has to be possible to use it while charging.
- HDMI output preferrably using a standard connector
- microSD slot (or SD slot).
- ability to choose to add a docking station/keyboard
- a pen would be nice but not a must for me, I’m not sure how much I’d use it.
Being an atom all these devices are ALL limited to USB2, 32bit Windows 8, and 2G of storage. It’s a platform limitation.
Some info on the atom used in all these devices or if you’d rather directly from the horses … Intel. Or the complete data sheet for your reading pleasure . Yes I’m an engineer.
What am I trying to do with this device?
Surf the web, do emails, watch 1080p movies including on a large screen, maybe some ebook reading. Basically replace my ageing Dell Lattitude D620 that overheats, is noisy and heavy on my lap.
So there were three devices I looked at. None are Windows RT
I really like the feel of this device. From an ultra portable it is light (580g) and small (10.1″ display). A very pleasant experience. If I was only ever going to use this as a tablet this would be hands down my choice. An excellent travel companion. BUT it got thrown out for a number of reasons. First and foremost there are only two ports on the device. A microHDMI port (I think it’s proprietary, maybe a pigtail?) and microUSB port that doubles as the charging port. This means your either doing USB OTG or charging. Right off the bat this rules it out. It means I can’t use a USB data stick and have it plugged in at the same time. Second the microUSB means you would need a USB OTG pigtail (comes with it) to connect anything. A pain. And lastly there is no chance of a docking station. So keyboard and mouse will be by bluetooth. So using this on my lap as a laptop replacement is going to be clumsy. Something I learned with my Android tablet. Price is very good. Battery is suppose to be 6760mAH which they claim will yield up to 8.5 hours. Overall a nice device but not something I could live with, it won’t meet my needs.
Acer Iconia W510
This device also has a 10.1 display but comes with a keyboard/dock (optionally). Without the dock it is also 580g, 1260g with. The keyboard/dock have an additional battery in it to give even better battery life jumping from 2540 mAH up to 5080 mAH giving you 9 and 18 hours of battery life! It also has a full size USB port as well as a power connector making it almost complete as a dock (no HDMI, it’s on the tablet). The device appears to be well made with Gorilla glass up front and lots of aluminium to protect the device. Ports are good with micro USB (you get the USB OTG pigtail with the device), microHDMI and microSD slot. Reading reviews the device gets absolutely slammed for a keyboard that is so small it’s hard to use, a trackpoint that is completely unusable, and oddly one reviewer noted very poor performance on the built in 64G of flash. I mean REALLY bad. I only saw this on one report so no idea if it is true or not. But it was enough to scare me off. That and I am concerned that the smaller screen may not meet my needs for the main purpose of the device, a laptop replacement.
This was the one I chose:
This device is much larger at 11.6″ display and 761g. The overall device is very plasticy. It’s not going to be anywhere near as impressive in the hand, or as durable as the other two. Battery size is 4080 mAH which they claim will yield up to 10 hours. I got 9 hours on my first day. I find it odd how such a large variation in battery size between these three seem to have little to no bearing on battery life. Maybe how they test it. Who knows. The device is VERY responsive. Actually all three were. The screens respond well to touch. I have to say the experience on the tablets finally finds a home where Metro actually makes some sense. While you need to relearn how you do things it is actually reasonably fluid! Panning, zooming, browsing are actually quite a pleasant experience. Movie playback so far is quite reasonable even 1080p movies but HD really depends on the encode. I found heavily compressed ones were a little less than perfect.
Physically the device has a microSD slot, a full size USB port (on the top of the unit making it convenient), a standard microHDMI connector, standard 3.5 mm audio plug and a proprietary round power plug. Because these are all standard there is next to nothing in the box. A power adapter and a few manuals. That’s it. From a button point of view the unit has a volume up/down, rotation lock, windows button, and a power button.
Speaking of the power adapter we come to one of my dislikes about the device. This round barrel plug is proprietary, doesn’t feel that good when you plug it in, and doesn’t put out enough juice to charge this up quickly. I wonder how long this plug is going to last. I guess we will see. I would have preferred a standard micro USB charger. But you can’t always get what you want
It was shocking even to me the number of upgrades that were needed to the device. Windows updates, Samsung updates, Driver updates. It seemed to go on for quite a while. And the unfortunate thing is that this device is extraordinarily slow when it’s installing anything. Updates etc. And to make matters worse plug a new device in for the first time and this is an absolutely painful experience that will tax even the most patient person. Think 5-10 mins to install new drivers. And amusingly if it goes into standby the install process halts. So if you have a long install like updating Windows for the first be sure and change the power settings to stay on so it actually will complete! And the updates just keep coming. Which seems to imply that Samsung is VERY active at resolving issues customers are having. A very good sign, but also a statement of just how new these devices really are. Samsung have done a nice job of including a software update tool that updates everything all in one. Drivers, BIOS, Windows etc. Very nice!
This device has the fastest of the 3 tablets 1.8GHZ Atom Vs 1.5 for the other 2. Not sure how much of a difference it makes. But heh it can’t hurt right
I’ve played around with HDMI output on countless Android phones and tablets and while they work and are usable they just aren’t perfect. Playback of MP4 videos on a dual core device is touchy, sometimes the HDMI doesn’t start, problems with screen orientation and turning off, it just isn’t there as a perfect solution. And I’ve spent a good deal of time (and money) trying to make this work.
I am positively thrilled with HDMI on this device. I might even go so far as to say shocked. The HDMI monitor shows up as a second monitor and you can set it up anyway you want. Including full 1080p video. It’s crisp, smooth and just plain works. I set the HDMI output as the only monitor so that way movies being played, XBMC whatever just go there. And it is amazing.
On some of the devices the keyboard dock has a spare battery. Not in this one. The dock has a VERY usable keyboard that has nice feel and placement. Like any laptop keyboard it takes some getting use to with the different layout but it’s quite good. It includes a trackpoint, and while I’m not a lover of trackpoints, it works fine. I wish more would adopt the IBM style pointer stick. I prefer it, am quite good with it and it takes up less space. I know I am in the minority here. It also has two full size USB ports and a power port. The mating system between the tablet and dock is quite good and rigid. It is well designed, well built and solid. Even more so than the tablet iself. You can then use this device like a netbook. I have to say I love this accessory. The device is almost like two totally different devices with and without it. Without the dock the tablet gets used with the touch interface. With this attached it’s just like a netbook with a keyboard you can actually type on! The dock sells as a $100 model increment, or $129 from Samsung as an add on. I highly recommend this accessory. Love it. The dock isn’t light, I couldn’t find the spec for it, but it does add some weight to the device for sure. Probably almost the same weight as the device itself.
This device comes with a limited 64G of internal storage. You need to be aware that this is shared with Windows. So when it boots your looking at around 30G free. I immediately removed Norton Internet security (and added back Windows Defender that is built into Windows 8), Microsoft Office Trial and Adobe Acrobat. The device seemed more sluggish with Norton there. Samsung included the version of Adobe reader that includes all languages taking over 400MB Vs the <20MB single language edition. Bits are bits. And they are precious on this device.
Now there is a microSD slot that you can use that includes support for exFAT, FAT32 and NTFS. 64G cards are supported (yes I tried it), so that means SDXC, as are class 10 cards. So this ought to be compatible with larger cards as they become available. Now Windows recognizes the microSD card as a removable device. This is worth noting because it means you can not use it (by default) for program storage. Oddly Windows Video/Picture/Music libraries will NOT allow you to add removable storage. This is a bizarre over sight and dramatically limits how the microSD card can be used. This also means the built in Video/Picture/Music apps can’t be used for content on the micro SD card. You also won’t be able to share out the content on the uSD card to your homegroup. The help file for windows says explicitly: What type of locations can be included in libraries? “On removable media (such as a CD or DVD), or a network-attached storage (NAS) device … No.” Bizarre. I even tried creating a symbolic link and it still said it wasn’t allowed So I finally found the solution. You go into disk management (under computer management) and delete the drive letter. Then create a directory on the C drive. Then mount the SD card under this blank drive letter and your done! You can then also use it to install programs but be aware that uSD cards are quite a bit slower than internal storage. Also since you no longer have the ability to do safe removes your probably going to want to be careful about removing the card especially if there is anything important on it. Maybe even only remove it when the device is powered off. As a reference my class 10 card yelds about 21MB/s Vs 70 MB/s for the internal storage. So if you choose to use uSD storage for programs you need to be aware of the speed difference.
Speaking of Homegroup, in spite of being on a network where a home group existed Windows created a new one with the Microsoft logon and ignored the existing one. Without asking. Fortunately this was easily fixed by removing it from new homegroup and then added it to the existing one. Still odd behaviour in a world where we are suppose to be sharing everything.
Connectivity options for this device are very good. The full windows this device runs opens up a world of possibilities Android can only dream of. I added my USB Media center remote and it worked like a charm. Add in the HDMI output and this device works just fine as a media device. Oddly it won't let me add Windows Media center to it. I have no idea why.
Tethering worked perfectly for my S3 for both Bluetooth and WIFI. Once paired you can initiate the Bluetooth tethering (assuming you have enabled it on the phone, and remember this reset each and every time after a reboot, lastly remember bluetooth ends up limiting the connection to 1MB/s) by right clicking on top of the phone in the devices and selecting connect using access point. For some reason USB tethering would not work. It never got an IP address. And by the way turning on USB tethering turns off MTP file level access to the phone from the tablet. An Android limitation. Bluetooth is tethering is slower but has better power consumption.
Metro (the name for the tiled interface of Windows 8) works well with this tablet. Frankly IMHO it demands a touch screen. I am TOTALLY shocked how many vendors are completely ignoring Metro. Google, facebook etc. The positive is that you can run normal non Metro apps on this device (unlike Windows RT devices where you can not). There isn’t even a way to display basic information like battery status and time of day in a tile.
One of the things I never did with Android is internet banking. I frankly don’t trust the platform. No anti virus and a market place filled with adware programs. This is paranoia I do admit. But none the less it’s my paranoia. Might as well own it. No issues on this device (for me). It’s a PC!
The Windows key at the bottom will also wakew up the device. This is good and bad. It’s convenient but it also leads to the device waking up when in a case. Unfortunately I don’t see a way to turn this off. Shame the button isn’t more depressed so that doesn’t happen accidentally, but this admittedly is a nit pick.
Windows 8 really wants to use a Windows live account for logon. It’s amusing Android needs a Google account. If you don’t use a Windows live account each MS ap from games to the Store etc will want you to enter the account. Not exactly convenient. So I gave in and am using a Live account. I did encounter one limitation of this, Skype has integrated sign on with that account and no way to over ride it. I have a Skype account from before it was part of MS so the two aren’t coupled. So you need to go onto your Skype account on the website and link these accounts.
The US version of this device includes an S-Pen (and a place to put it) and a digitizer (no idea if there is a premium for it). Sadly the Canadian version does not. And I tried my capacitive pen that works fine on my S3 and no joy that won’t work either. A shame. Not sure how much I’d use it, but a shame to not have the option.
Specs say this device has a GPS. The MS Maps aps seemed to be able to make some use of it and I found an app in the Store that would talk to it and get location but oddly not elevation so no idea if this is somehow a limited GPS or what? And no idea what other aps might be able to make use of it. I tried a bluetooth GPS but got nowhere with it.
The Windows 8 Metro Kindle app is nice and works nicely on touch but I can’t seem to find a way to side load my own content. So the easy solution to that is to install the Windows 7 desktop app where content can easily be added.
XBMC presented a number of challenges. First it wouldn’t play at all (distorted video playback). I found an article that explained how to fix this by disabling DXVA2 and enabling DXVA. This helped. But for some reason XBMC was always rescaling the movies to play full screen and choking on that. So a 720p movie played badly on a 1080 screen. Audio came out of the laptop instead of the HDMI port so that too had to be changed. All in all there were a lot off issues with XBMC. Movie playback from within XBMC was some times jerky while the same file would play fine using the native video player. So XBMC is less than perfect. Somewhat expected.
I’ve read that some models of these devices do not sleep properly when the display is closed on the keyboard. This one works perfectly and sleeps and resume as it should.
WiFi caps out at 4.5 MB/s Vs 5.6MB/s on my other laptop in the same situation. Oddly it linked in at only 65Mb/s even when right next to the access point, while my other laptop linked in at 100 Mb/s quite a distance from the router. The SDIO implementation of the WIFI could be a limiting factor to the speed of WIFI. According to this article theoretical max of SDIO is 100Mb/s while proactically it’s more like 40Mb/s. This could be a limiter in things like tethered LTE connections.
I measured 60-70MB/s off the internal storage (I had trouble getting a stable performance number). While not horrible it’s not as good as it could be. Likely limited by the chipset eMMC interface at 100MB/s.
In the end I really like the device. As you delve into the design you come to realize the compromises that were made for this format and the implications they have. You have to decide for yourself whether this device will do what you want it to. I ended up finding no hands down show stoppers that made me return this device. All the while knowing there is a faster, more competent device out there (Surface pro and the like) albeit at a much higher price, lower battery life and heavier. What this device does is offer reasonable performance, light(er) weight, and better battery life. Given I have this device I have no idea if/why I would choose an Android tablet other than the better portability of a 7″. I can really see these carving out a niche for themselves. I can’t wait to see when more of them hit the market, even more innovation and prices come down!
Ok, I have to say, to date my Samsung S2 I727R is by far the best all round phone I’ve had to date! The Nexus 4 is smoother but with no Sd slot, no LTE, and no removable battery it wasn’t one I would make my every day phone. The S2 is super fast on the network side but the dual core processor while quick, get’s taxed with heavy browsing and MP4 videos. The Nexus 4′s quad core made me envious … The reality is a well rounded device requires a fast data connection and a fast processor to create a great experience.
When the S3 was first announced I have to say I was a bit perturbed. North Americans got LTE but lost the quad core. So to me the S3 was more like an S2.1. So when I got a chance on ebay to scoop an international edition on ebay I pounced on it. The phone came to me by way of Vodaphone in Ireland. The manufacturer part number is GT-I9300MBDBTU. Now I knew right off the bat I would be giving up on LTE, a sad compromise but I have to say I have been turning LTE off on the S2 due to it’s impact on battery life. So first up the compromise, might as well get this out of the way up front. LTE speeds on the S2 ranged all the way up to 470001/17457 (up/down) with an average of roughly 22K down. 3G/4G speeds on the S3 ranged all the way up to 9107/2709 (up/down) with an average of roughly 3500K. So quite a price to pay in data rates. Outside of bragging rights I’m not sure how much this will impact the “feel” of the device.
Let’s start with physical comparison to the S2:
70.6 x 136.6 x 8.6 millimetres 133g 4.8″ screen 720x1280p Vs (SIII)
69.9 x 130.9 x 9.39 millimetres 132g 4.5″ screen 480x800p (SII)
So the size is fairly similar with a slightly larger screen and higher resolution. The battery on the S3 is 2100 mAh vs 1850 on the S2.
The processor on the S3 is quad 1.4G, the S2 is a dual 1.5G.
Front and back cameras are identical to the S2 from a specs point of view. Here is a good article about the camera in the S3 and all the work Samsung has put into the camera software.
After playing with the Note 2 last, I am pleasantly surprised just how Note 2 like this device is, and that’s a compliment. The front buttons, the advanced features, up to date OS (Android 4.1.2). All are freshened beyond that of the S2. This includes support for Allshare Play, Split screen, face recognition for rotate and auto dim, Page buddies, updated Samsung keyboard etc. None of which have come to the S2. Samsung have even publicly stated that where possible new features brought out on the S4 will be brought to the S3 and the Note 2. Rogers NFC payment system has also been announced as coming to the S3 and Note 2. These are considered the flagship devices (for now). So there are benefits to being on the flagship! I’ve also compared this S3 to my buds S3 from Mobilicity and this one is WAY more up to date with Note 2 like features.
The S3 includes support for standard USB OTG cables (and mice/flash drives) but Samsung changed the MHL cable for the S3/Note 2 used for HDMI out. The new connector from the phone is suppose to allow you to do USB OTG and HDMI at the same time, a nice option! Oddly, Samsung never released a cable to allow you to do that. So I have no idea why they changed the connector. Samsung do offer a converter from the new pin out on the S3 to the old MHL adapter. Samsung sell this conenctor for $9.99 but almost every reseller I found that had it wanted a whopping $49.99 for it. WTF? More details about the MHL connector can be found here. The phone can not power HDMI without plugging in the charge cable so HDMI and USB OTG at the same time is out. (Yes I tried it to be sure). I found a number of non Samsung S3 MHL cables around. I bought one only to find it wouldn’t plug in correctly, bought another that was suppose to be a genuine Samsung but wasn’t and finally found a genuine Samsung one at Futureshop (the Source also had it). The Non Samsung one would repeatedly have difficulty keeping the unit charged while on HDMI. On the S2 when the battery was in need of charging, and the processor was pushed an error dialogue would come up and say charging paused due to over heating. It was irritating. On this phone with the 3rd party MHL cable the battery just stopped charging. I’ve tried it with high current 2A chargers and nothing changes it. When you push this phone on HDMI the charging stops or slows down. With the genuine Samsung HDMI cable it happens less but still seem to happen. At least on the Samsung cable when you let the phone rest a bit charging resumes. Oddly the phone does not seem all that hot when it does it. So I have no idea what is going on. This seems, yet again, to be poorly implemented. On the positive side the S3 when plugged into HDMI asks about whether it’s stereo or surround! Nice a first! The S2 and my Samsung tablet never did that.
Speaking of HDMI out there are two obvious things you need from a phone or tablet when connected to HDMI. First is don’t turn the screen off. Second is rotate into landscape. Why is this so hard to even think of? Well the S3 actually does one of the two, it keeps the screen on. Of course the third thing is a dream but onscreen buttons would be nice. Motorola got that right. I wonder sometimes if I am the ONLY person on the planet that does HDMI out on my phone/tablet?
I’m shocked how inconsistently keyboard and mice are implemented even within the Samsung line. In this case they actually got it somewhat right. On an Android keyboard all the special keys work (home, options, search etc). Right mouse buttons finally does something, in this case it is the equivalent of a back which can come in handy. I wish it would do a proper right mouse button but heh. We can’t always get what we want Interestingly enough in 2X an RDP program right mouse button actually works. First time for this in a long time. Even the roller ball on the mouse does a proper select down. Woohoo. This really comes in handy when using it with an HDMI screen. Same is true of USB OTG connected mice by the way.
Much has been written about the update camera and gallery aps. So I decided to delve into it a bit. I found the links above talking a lot about the camera upgrades. Some of them are very nice. But let’s never forget the optics in almost any camera on a phone don’t even come close to even a point and shoot camera. Without optics little can be done. That said I played around with the gallery ap. This is a heavy ap and takes a bit to even start up. One of the new features is the ability to tag people in the pictures. As you tag more and more of the same person the ap starts to guess who the person is. Of course if you make a mistake tagging or it keeps tagging it incorrectly it’s a little bit of a hassle. Ok so I’ve tagged people in the photo now what? Well it would seem that you would want this tagging to carry forward to facebook tagging (yes I tried it). It doesn’t. Ok well maybe the tag comes down in the EXIF data for use in other programs. It doesn’t (yes I checked). Ok well maybe I can search for all pictures with a particular person in it on the phone? Nope can’t do that either. So what exactly is the point of tagging people in the pictures? I have no frigging clue. And printing of pictures only works to Samsung printers. No idea the details of what that exactly means or what is supported. And how about printing to web sources? They added that in Vista days. Nope can’t do that either. The camera includes Geotagging (a nice feature) and when your looking at the picture it does display where the picture was taken, so at least is that. So it would seem the gallery ap still has some room for improvement.
The video ap for some absolutely bizarre reason attempts to show an in motion thumbnail of each video. Talk about heavy. And it makes this app seem very sluggish to respond. Silly ..
Allshare play is one of the new features of the device. It is an enhanced DLNA client IMHO. One of the nice features is you can get at your Allshare play content over the internet. So you can get at your pictures, movies, music by loading an allshare client on the PC at home. This actually works reasonably well. Limited of course by the upload speed of your home connection (not to mention a good cell signal and a plan with reasonable data). And don’t forget to turn off (global warming be damned ) sleep mode on your PC
Split screen is a nice feature brought about on the Note 2. It allows you to put two programs up on the screen at the same time. This is a bit clumsy to get working but once setup works fine. And for cutting and pasting between two apps is handy. Programs have to support this split screen. On this smaller screen it’s not of a lot of use but it does work and is smooth.
Page buddies is a neat idea that adds contextual customizable home screens. So for example when you plug in a set of headphone a new homescreen gets added that includes a list of programs you might use on headphones. A neat idea. I would like even more of these!
The S3 does not come with a pen but it does come with a number of the pen friendly programs like S Memo, Paper Artist etc. The capacitive pen I bought does work reasonably well on the S3 and is only limited by the size of the screen. Although I must say I am not sure how much I will ever use this.
Bluetooth audio connections like a number of the past devices I’ve played with is hit and miss. Sometimes it connects effortless. Then there are times I need to initiate it from the phone. And still other times it will not connect without rebooting the phone. I can’t believe this many years later we are still dealing with unreliable bluetooth. This is even with a Samsung HS3000 headset. So even with one of their own devices. My Ford Sync has the same issues. Some days these issues just make me want to scream. Other days I just give up and put the radio on Speaking of radio this has an FM radio in it. Something I never use. But maybe I should explore.
Kies Air is a neat program to allow you to control your phone remotely from a PC over WIFI. Samsung are improving the ap but it still is buggy, unreliable, and clumsy to use. You have to start it manually each and every time and permit the client. Samsung … some attention hear please. I really would love to have this feature JUST WORK. So I use 3CX instead. It allows me to send SMS messages through the phone from a PC. I have people in my life I communicate with through SMS.
Battery life is one of those things there just ain’t never enough of. I haven’t done a detailed bench mark test of this phones battery performance but let’s just say it sure isn’t better than the S2 in spite of no LTE and in spite of the fact the battery is better. 7 hours of battery life is about what I get before it’s dead most days.
One of the perks of being on a HUGELY popular device is there are lots of accessories for the S3 on ebay and Amazon that are reasonably priced. This includes spare batteries, chargers, cases etc. Oddly Samsung made a car holder for the S2 but not one for S3.
Performance on this phone is good. It’s not as zippy as a Nexus 4. It’s weighted down by the Samsung customizations IMHO. But point this phone at a web site and it performs very well. Probably the best so far. Pauses with the phone are few and far between. The quad core really sings. It also does a great job on MP4 videos. Having the extra power of the quad core really is nice.
I could go on and on about the unique features that Samsung have innovated on. I am thoroughly impressed with the dedication and resources that Samsung are devoting too Android. They really are continuing to move the platform forward at a brisk pace.
The screen on this phone is a little bigger than the S2. I have to say I notice it. When I have to reach up to the top corners of the screen I am really reaching or sliding the phone in my hand to get at the corners. Android really needs to rethink having to reach all four corners of the screen all the while increasing the size of the devices.
I have to say the S3 is hands down a SIGNIFICANT improvement over the S2. More than I had expected. If it weren’t for the loss of LTE the phone would be a complete across the board step forward. I’m starting to sound like a broken record but this is hands down the best phone I’ve played with to date. It’s funny, the more and more functionality that gets added to the phone, the more I use it for. The larger screen means I use my tablet less. Especially when my tablet is a dual core and noticeably slower than this phone. I can’t wait to see the S4.
There’s a funny line that says benchmarks never lie, and only liars use benchmarks. On that foul note here is a comparison between ther performance on the S2 vs the performance on the international S3.
A while back every hand held device used a stylus (or pen) to interface with them. Along came the iPhone and changed everything over to finger friendly easier to use world. The screen changed to capacitive touch screen to make them more responsive and friendly to fingers. But frankly to do this the screens became less accurate. Now along come devices like the Note, Note 2, Microsoft Surface and thus reemerges the pen. I used the pen on the Note 2 for taking notes and it works well. So this got me thinking about a pen. And subsequently I’ve heard other talk about them as well. So I did some digging and thought I’d share some research.
There a lots of pens out there that are designed to work with the capacitive touch screen that is found on almost all of today’s modern phones and tablets. Don’t get fooled (or excited), if your phone did not come with a pen it may or may not work with one of these pens. So be careful not too spend too much money on a pen only to discover your phone either won’t see it at all or is so inaccurate it’s unusable. It all comes down to the design decisions that were made when they made phones/tablets finger friendly. For devices like the Note 2 etc they have added a digitizer. This digitizer adds back the ability to accurately detect a pen. You will notice the head on these pens is small and fine, almost like … well a pen. If your phone didn’t come with a pen, guess what, no digitizer.
So to get around this there are capacitive friendly pens on the market. The first thing you will notice is that instead of a thin fine head they have a fat, foam like head. They almost look like a magic marker. The finer the head the more likely it is that it may not work. A fatter tip is what is needed for a capacitive screen to pick them up. So this makes them a lot harder to use to make notes or doodle. Just how fat they need to be is going to be a combination of the pen and your phone. So again don’t run out and spend a ton of cash on a pen that may not work. I bought a iKross one on Amazon.
This one has a finer tip and looks a lot more like a normal pen. I was hoping for one that had a normal pen in it so I would have a reason to carry it around but I didn’t find one I liked at a price I was willing to pay. This one arrived. First off it has some odd spring like rattle coming from it. Odd. No idea if they are all like it or if this is a manufacturing defect. So I pulled out my S3 and tried it with S Memo. The same ap Samsung add onto the Note 2. Thanks for adding it Samsung. So I start using it. Sure enough it works. I can use it to select things. I can use it to take notes. The feel is a lot like writing with a fat magic marker (particularly so when in landscape mode for some odd reason) Vs writing with a fine pen. So the writing is legible but not fabulous. I also tried playing with the Smasung keyboard’s ability to convert hand writing into text. This is clumsy at best. For some odd reason Samsung did not automatically put a space in between writing words when you pause. So you have to manually keep hitting the space bar. And writing recognition is not fabulous. You will spend a bit of time correcting anything it gets wrong which generally means this is far less than an efficient way to enter text. So all in all it works. How much use of this I will make I will have to see. Do I bother carrying it, how soon until I loose it (remember there is no where on the phone to store it), and if (or more like when) I loose it, would I replace it. Time will tell. I’d love to use it to be able to take notes rather than carry a pad of paper which I currently do.
As an interesting aside, the back and options buttons on the S3, S2 and Note 2 all ignore the pen (even the pen that came with the note 2). So you will need to shuffle the pen out of the way and use your fingers.
So next up I thought I’d try it with my Samsung Galaxy Tab 7 Plus. Not a chance. It was completely ignored. Pooh. I had thought it would be useful on the larger screen. So last up I pulled out my S2 and here it was also ignored.
Update: I also tried this on my friends Blackberry Z10 and it also completely ignored this pen.
So the lesson here is if you buy a pen, be leery. It may or may not work at all.
A while back I bought one of these cards on ebay and I have no idea whether the card was defective or what but I had no end of issues with it. So this time around I was uber paranoid when working with it.
The first thing you need to know is any cards beyond 32G are a new standard called SDXC. Your device may or may not support it. This includes card readers, cameras, phones, tablets etc. Before you buy one of these cards be sure you can use it.
As with any flash card the first thing I like to do is run a thorough test of the card using H2Testw. What this does is write a unique pattern to the entire card and then read/verify it back off. This confirms the card is the size it says it is and that it is not defective. There have been waves of fake cards on ebay. It will also tell you the speed of the card.
This particular one got 14MB/s write and 41 MB/s read. The card is a class 10 so this is in line with what it ought to get. Each class is good for 1MB/s so a class 10 ought to get 10 MB/s as a minimum.
The card came formatted as eXFAT. While fine for Windows some versions of Android can’t read it. Happily my S3 with Android 4.1.2 can read eXFAT. A welcome surprise! If yours can not you will need the dos format command with the option /fs:fat32 and don’t forget the /q or your in for a long wait to format the card. And I mean REALLY long. Almost 2 hours. I know cause I forgot the /q . Interestingly after waiting over 2 hours Windows 7 informed me the card is too big for FAT32 and failed to format it. Guess it’s good that the S3 supports ExFAT. The S3 can even format the 64G and does so with ExFAT as the default. It created the drive with 128K allocation size. A little wasteful when my 32G card had an allocation size was 16K. By comparsion my 30G of content consumed 421M more with the larger allocation unit. With the 4K allocation size the same content occupied 38M less.
I played around with allocation size and measured performance. I tried it at 4K, 16K, 128K and 1024K and it made little difference. At most it made 7% difference with the larger block size being faster. 128K was the fastest. So for the sake of saving space, cause every bit counts, I am going to go with 16K ExFAT, almost as fast and reasonable data waste. (Raw data was 4K 31733, 16K 33920, 128K 34009, 1024K 33870 all are MB per sec measured using Checker).
My Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7 GT-P6210 running Android 4.04 does not support ExFAT so won’t work with the 64G My Samsung S2 I727R running Android 4.1.2 did support exFAT!
Here’s the Wikipedia article on eXFAT. One of the main benefits of exFAT for me is breaking the age old barrier that FAT32 has, a max file size of 4G. This is problematic for hidef 720/1080p movies. Yay, at last a solution! NTFS is still not supported on Android 4.1.2 on my S3, sadly. And permissions are not supported on Win 7 on eXFAT. Not an issue when the card will be used in Android but still worth noting.
So that`s about it. I finally almost a year later have a 64G card working in my phone, all ready for more content! Is there ever enough
There are lots of tablet out there. I own a Samsung Galaxy Tab 7 Plus Android tablet and love it. Ultimate in portability and my travel companion any time I’m away from home. But most tablets have become an additional device. Not something that has replaced anything. iPads don’t really interest me, primarily because I HATE there content management system, better known to most as iTunes. I use an FTP/SFTP server to manage my content along with AndFTP and BotSync on android. Why would I want to connect my tablet (or phone for that matter) to a PC to add content (music, movies, pictures etc)?
Enter the Windows tablet. Now IMHO Microsoft have done the world a disservice. There are three types of Windows Tablets on the market today. Windows RT (that use phone like processors, think Snap Dragon etc) and Windows Pro Tablets that use either standard desktop processors (core i3 and i5) or less powerful (but better battery life) Atom processors. Now the brand Atom is not new. They were all the rage in netbooks. Anyone that owned one of these devices eventually ran into there many limitations. They sucked at multimedia, were limited in Ram and while they could run a lot of programs they did them poorly. According to CPU Benchmark the atom processors have the processing power of a Pentium III A little more about the Atom processor. An interesting quote from that Wikipedia page: The performance of a single core Atom is about half that of a Pentium M of the same clock rate. For example, the Atom N270 (1.60 GHz) … deliver around 3300 MIPS and 2.1 GFLOPS in standard benchmarks, compared to 7400 MIPS and 3.9 GFLOPS for the similarly clocked (1.73 GHz) Pentium M 740..
This article does a great job of comparing the new Atom to the older Atom. The newer one has much faster video, and about 20% faster processor. Atom by the way runs only Windows 8 32bit, only support USB 2 (not 3), and is limited to 2G of memory.
Windows RT tablets do not run standard Windows programs. Frankly if I wanted a device that ran custom programs, and wouldn’t replace my desktop I would be reaching for Android. So I don’t really see the market segment for them. And the market is HUGELY confused by RT. I know I was.
Windows RT does not support flash, does not support Firefox, or chrome or other programs (out of the box). So compatibility with web sites is going to be a hit miss thing.
Windows 8 brought about the idea of Metro, a touch screen interface. Frankly on non touchscreen devices Metro is a nuisance. The idea of taking an interface that looks more at home and putting it on a laptop or a server perplexes me. But add a touch screen and Metro serves a purpose particularly for the less computer literate. Make it more approachable.
Enter the Microsoft Windows Surface Pro as well as others. Now this is an interesting concept. Now the idea of a Windows tablet isn’t new. Back in XP days there were a couple of them out there, but they predated the iPad and let’s face it the Apple invented this market and they went no where. A windows tablet has the possibility of doing it all. Replacing your laptop, replacing your desktop and maybe even replacing your tablet. A tall order.
I’ve briefly touched a Windows Surface Pro at a demo area. It’s an impressive device. It is heavier and thicker than any iPad or Android tablet. But the added functionality makes it worthwhile. IMHO. So what to look for? Well to start off focus on processor. If it’s not a core I3 or Core I5 you know it’s more than likely an RT (or a slow in the case of Atom) device with limited functionality and compatibility. Look for Bluetooth as you will use this to wirelessly connect a keyboard and mouse. Especially if you attach the device to an HDMI monitor. Speaking of which look for an HDMI connector so you can output to a big display. WIFI is a given. A microSD slot would come in handy for taking photos from your camera. At least 1 USB port preferably USB 3 would round out the compliment of ports. You need to for adding USB flash drives or a USB data stick.
I visited my local futureshop and found three companies. First the Microsoft Surface Pro (the Surface without the Pro is the RT one). The keyboard and power connector are pulled into the device by magnets. Similar to the Apple MacBooks. The keyboard detaches easily leaving you with the tablet. The base model is $899, keyboard is another $129. The base model comes with a 64G SSD drive. You need to be aware that this 64G is also occupied by the OS. Another reason why an SD slot and a USB port are very helpful. You can go up to a 128G model for another $100. It comes with a pen that can be used to navigate as well as to doodle, take notes etc. It’s a proper digitizer so it should be pretty accurate but I didn’t play with it. Not sure what the hand writing recognition is like either. It has a USB port, microHDMI port, microSD slot. The device is well laid out and has a bright and vivid screen. The keyboard includes a glide point and attaches securely to the tablet. There’s a stand on the back to prop up the device, albeit at one angle. All in all this is a beautiful design. The device is slick, responsive and nice to hold. It’s a little on the heavy side and not ultraportable but very nice and would be a perfect travel companion. The only physical difference I could see between the Surface and the Surface pro was the addition of vents out the top of the tablet to cool the Core i5 processor. It’s silent, but I’m not sure if there is a fan in it that might come on if needed.
The second is a Acer Iconia W700. This device first caught my eye at $749 including a keyboard for the 64G model. I checked and after the OS is loaded there’s about 34G free. It’s powered by a Core I3 processor on the lower end model. The core i3 ought to give you better battery life and less heat. There is an upper model that is $849 that has a Core i5 processor. The unit has a USB port as well as a microHDMI port but no uSD slot. A miss for sure. It does have bluetooth and WIFI. The design is good with a little more of a metalic feel to it than the surface pro. It’s a bit heavier. It comes with a bluetooth kayboard that has a slot than when the tablet is inserted into the case it sits in. It’s not the most rigid of designs but it seems like it would work. The nice case would make it easy to carry too. All in all I like this unit. At $150+$129 (it includes a keyboard, the MS does not) less than the MS it’s a much more attractive price point. Futureshop had it on sale at $699 which is when I first saw it. The screen is bright and vivid and again seemed very responsive. There is no pen available for this device so if that’s something you may use then this device is out. The keyboard does not have a glide point so you may need to add a mouse.
The last one Futureshop had was a Samsung Ativ 700T. This device is thinner than the other two. Looking a lot more like a traditional tablet, albeit a bit heavier. It comes with 128G of storage and comes in at a whopping price of $1299 but includes both a keyboard and a pen. Once again there’s a digitizer so the pen should be fairly usable, if that’s something you would use. It comes with a USB port, microHDMI port, Core i5 processor, and a miroSD slot. The keyboard is more firmly attached to the tablet and reminded me more of the Asus Transformer approach and includes a glide point. With the keyboard attached this looks more like a traditional notebook. Pop it out and it looks more like a traditional tablet. The keyboard includes the power cable as well as USB ports. The only miss for this being the perfect dock would be the fact that the HDMI port is on the tablet instead of the base. I can’t say a lot more about this device because they didn’t have one to play with but spec wise it looks impressive and even exciting. Although I have to say the price was really up there. In touching this device I think Samsung have out done Microsoft. It`s much more of a all round desktop functional equivalent.
There are a couple things that positively shock me about this market segment right now. First and foremost is the small number of devices/players out there to choose from. Where are market leaders like IBM, HP, ASUS? And this leads to the second, the price. With little competition the premium over a laptop is staggering. A comparable laptop with touch would be around $499 and would have more expandability, albeit less portable. Even to the cheapest that’s a $250 or 50% premium. And lastly I am totally shocked right now there are no models with integrated cell radios for data? This particular one seems bizarre to me.
Update: I did find an Atom based Samsung 500T with an integrated AT&T LTE radio in it. But still have not seen a Core I3 or i5 based one.
I think these devices are the most exciting thing to hit the PC market place in a long time. It’s been very stagnant. I will eventually buy one of these form factor devices. I really do like it. The question right now is one of … when. It’s early days, the Surface Pro has only been on the market since Feb.
I got a chance to do a mini review of the 9900 a while back but the device wasn’t mine so I wasn’t able to do an in depth review. This time the device is mine to pillage This device was originally announced August 2011. With the Z10 now out there this is by no means the flagship.
From a physical point of view this is a solid well made device. It feels very good in the hand. I like the look along with the chrome around the outside The keyboard like most BBs is one of the best in the business. The device also has a convenience key (which you can map to anything you want), a volume up and down, and a power button. On the bottom are two contacts for meeting up with a dock of some sort (I assume). It uses a standard micro USB port (which was pretty tolerant of almost any charger) and a standard headphone jack. On the top is a multi color notification LED which I love and miss on my Samsung S2. Although it does constantly flash green when it is on the cell network. A little irritating, especially at night. Fortunately this can easily be turned off (Under Options, Display, Screen display, LED Coverage off). The notification LED makes it easy to see when there is anything needing your attention. All in all a nice compliment of buttons. I wish Android devices would add a few buttons back. The back of this device is a solid piece of plastic. Unlike so many other devices where you think you are going to break the back when you remove it, your more likely to break a nail opening the back it’s that solid!
This device is limited by the carriers desire to preserve their revenue stream IMHO. To get this device to do emails you need a BIS account. To get a BIS account you need a blackberry based SIM account with your carrier. Without this the device is limited to data access for things like the web and apps (but not email). They’ve even eliminated the native Gmail ap (which was awful anyway). Unfortunately that also means the Gmail priority inbox is not possible on this device. I miss that feature. It means that you are bothered any time a mail comes in whether they are important or not.
Once you have a Blackberry enabled SIM account with a BIS account you can get yourself moving. On BB7 (the OS on this device) RIM have included a wizard to setup as many internet email accounts as you wish. The way these work is the BIS server talks to your email accounts, pulls down emails and then pushes them down to your device. This works well and does not require any approvals from your administrator. Corporate BES accounts are done by your administrator. I was going from one BB to another and I was able to do the device Enterprise activation on my own without contacting the admin. The wizard simply informed me it was moving the account from the one device to the new one. You can only have one at a time. My friend Jeff helped to understand how this all worked. Thanks Jeff!
Unlocking this phone was simple and quick. Insert a SIM from a different provider and the phone comes up and asks if you want to enter the unlock code. It was readily available cheap on ebay. However if the SIM you add in does not have a blackberry account tied to it, your mail will stop flowing. You can still make and receive calls, text message, and browse the web. But BIS/BES email and BBM all stop flowing. That’s both in and out.
Mail is the bread and butter of this device and it does it well. Additionally you have BB messenger, and of course text messages rounding it all out. Communicating with the keyboard on this device is a treat when compared with on screen keyboards that eventually drive you nuts with their silly auto correct. The optical mouse and touch screen make using this device quite efficient!
Startup on this device is a tad on the slow side. Fortunately you do it VERY in frequently. From time to you end up needing to pull that battery. The uSD slot for example for some odd reason requires you to remove the battery insuring changing the card is something you will not do commonly. A dumb design. One of the few I can say on this device.
The screen on this device is one of the best seen on a BB yet (other than the Z10). Bright, vivid, fast and crisp. On a BB RIM have included the ability to control the font. And this changes the font pretty much everywhere. Something Android could learn a lesson from. The screen is a touch screen which I really love. You can only imagine how many times without even thinking on my 8830 I would reach up and touch the screen only to end up thinking DOH. Well done and long over due. Sensitivity is good as is responsiveness.
This is the last generation of devices from RIM before the introduction of QNX as the operating system. The processor on this phone is a single core 1.2GHZ. This at a time when devices are dual and quad core. Responsiveness is good but there are these occasional times when the phone just seems to hiccup. Patience eventually is rewarded by the phone coming back to sprightly existence. The operating system has been long in need of a rewrite. QNX is their solution. That said RIM have done what they can to bring this device forward with some multi media functionality given the limitations of the device. The small screen means watching movies on this puppy is NOT going to be a rewarding experience. And of course HDMI out is just not happening. I put in a 32G card with music movies and pictures and it took a while to scan the card for content and gave little to no feedback of what it was doing. Try and playback content before it’s done scanning and it’s going to be jerky. Movie playback of XVID was ok, but jerky from time to time, mostly while it was still scanning the card for conetnt. If you want to watch movies for this device I suspect it’s best to re-encode them for a smaller screen. The music player was fine with good support for tagging. The music was organized by artists, songs, albums, and genres. The player is basic with no support for song recognition, no additional info on the artist or album, no internet streaming support etc. There is a Slacker Radio ap in the mix however which worked fine. Music and video all automatically imported, oddly pictures did not.
The device comes with 6G of built in storage and supported a class 10 32GuSD card so there’s reasonable amounts of storage.
Smartphones are all about the apps. Blackberries for me are on the edge, I don’t really think of them as Smart phones and certainly not superphones in comparison to Android. They just can’t hold there own even from a spec point of view. Or at least before the Z10s. The first thing you need to figure out is what are the apps you are going to loose if your coming from Android or iPhone. Blackberry has the least of the three from an ap point of view. There maybe alternative aps you can live with, or maybe not.
The web browser on this device is hands down the best browser ever on a berry (Other than the Z10). That said, BBs have have the worst mobile browser out there. The pan and zoom work well enough. The small screen (a trade off for having the keyboard) is an obvious limitation as is the slow network speeds and the slow processor. There’s no flash support, but that’s not really a surprise. None the less a nice step forward.
Another consideration when choosing blackberry, particularly if it’s an enterprise blackberry is what aps does your organization block. Companies can decide what is acceptable and unacceptable use. So for example a number of organizations block the facebook ap.
The 9900 is one of the few devices currently approved for use with Rogers suretapp. It’s an NFC based wireless payment system. Sadly my SIM card is Bell not Rogers so it won’t work. So yet again NFC ain’t NFG
I use Bluetooth tethering between my Android phone and tablet and it works well. The 9900 can Bluetooth tether to a playbook, sadly it can not bluetooth tether to either my Android tablet or my Android phone. Wifi tethering works fine, but I did find the radio on the 9900 slow in comparison to my other devices. Max I saw 1-3Mb/s Vs 3-7 I get on my other devices like my S2. Now according to pdadb.net the 9900 supports CSD, GPRS, EDGE, UMTS, HSDPA, HSUPA while the S2 says it supports GPRS, EDGE, UMTS, HSDPA, HSUPA, HSPA+ so HSPA+ is missing on the 9900 which would explain the speed difference.
BBs have been well known for their battery life. Mutliple days off a charge are not uncommon. Well not with this one. Getting a day out of it is easy, a day and maybe a night but multiple days would be unlikely at best. And that’s without even playing games.
Standard bluetooth keyboards and mice don’t work at all. The link but then do nothing.
As a whole IMHO prior to the Z10 this is the best BB ever and a HUGE improvement over my relic 8830. Now comes the killer question, could I live only with this device? Well the slow network speeds is a limiter. The browser is still not as good as Android. The inability to do any form of email off of a blackberry plan is a HUGE limiter. I can see why they fixed this on the Z10. It really has been a long time coming. But the big killer is right now I have 101 apps loaded on my S2. Now I can live without a number of them and if I REALLY had to I could probably find replacements for some of them. But in the end the motivator just isn’t there to abandon Android. Even though I positively love the keyboard
For a complete list of specs Check out pdadb.net
I got a chance to play with a Note 2 that my friend Lance bought. Thanks Lance! It’s a I317M model from Bell running Android 4.1.2. The number one question I have with this device is to decide if there is such a thing as too big from a screen point of view. At 5.5 inches it’s big. There’s one limitation of Android. The OS requires you to be able to get to the top of the screen to reach the notifications as well as at the bottom for the home/settings/back buttons. So what this means is you need to be able to get both the top and the bottom which is challenging when you have that large of a screen. The unit itself is slippery on the back so as you shuffle the device in your hand you are at risk of dropping it.
Lets start with the physicals. As mentioned the back of the unit is VERY slippery. Fortunately there are tons of accessories including cases cheap on ebay and Amazon. The unit is rather replete of buttons as most modern phones are. It has a power button that they have lowered to make it easier to reach with your thunb as well as volume buttons also lowered. I wish the power button was easier to find in the dark such as making it rough. On the front of the phone below the screen are backlit soft buttons for back and options as well as a hard button for home. And thus comes one of my first rubs with this as well as a couple other Samsung (and other) phones. These buttons belong as on screen buttons. That way they rotate with the screen and can be used with a mouse for example when connected to an HDMI monitor. The home button for me is a throw back to trying to look like an iPhone. Interestingly you can power the device on by pressing the home button. A nice convenience. The back lighting on the options and back button turn off to quickly for me by default so I changed it to always on (anytime the screen is). Makes it easier to use. I guess you would get use to where each button is if you used it long enough.
The back of this phone is removable but it is a flimsy piece of plastic that feels like your going to break it when you remove it. Behind the door is the micro SIM slot, micro SD slot as well as the removable whopping 3100MaH battery (that’s about double most phones!). For me these two features, removable battery and a micro SD slot. So many new phones these days have neither. If there was no other reason to accept this big phone, the big battery is a pretty, well … big one In addition the phone has a multi color notification LED. Yay, I’m so glad to have this back. So many phones have removed a notification LED and I really miss it. The micro SD card can be removed without taking the battery out. That’s about it for the physicals.
Carrying this puppy is an interesting challenge. In your front pocket you look like a geek, especially if the phone gets side ways in your pocket. Belt cases just aren’t happening. Shirt pockets risk falling out if you bend over. Back pocket risks you sitting on it. Breast pockets work fine if your wearing some form of a jacket. So all in all it’s challenging.
The screen on this device is big 5.5″, bright and responsive at 720 x 1280 resolution. The processor is a quad core 1.6G which is perfect. Android does a great job of utilizing multi cores and the quad core devices I’ve played with are very smooth. The phone has 11G of storage available after it’s loaded for apps and content. The mount point of this ends up being the default storage location which is great. There is a limitation this imposes though. The SD card is mounted in an alternate path extSdCard which some programs like Google Music, Google Movies and others can not make use of. So you will need to keep an eye on your storage and where things are being stored or you will find yourself out of space. Oddly Samsung has removed the ability to move aps to the SD card on the Note 2.
The S3 and Note 2 are considered current flagships (along with the new S4) in the Samsung line. Samsung have publicly stated that features in the S4 will trickle down in the future into these two devices. Recently it was announced that Rogers Sure tap (an NFC payment system) will be expanded to include the Note 2 and S3! So being on the Note 2 (for now) means you have some future moving forward.
Apps load is typical Samsung touchwiz. The soft buttons on the bottom can be customized to anything you like including folders. The Music player is same as on the S2 with limited enhancements. No song recognition, no music/artist detailed information or links etc. DLNA is integrated as it is on the S2. Contacts, calendar, gallery are all standard Samsung and are all quite good. Drop box is supported out of the box although personally I prefer Sugarsync.
Samsung have again stripped out the default Android keyboard. A shame because it’s not bad. As usual though my favorite is still Swiftkey flow.
Samsung have done some nice work with the camera. It focuses quickly and even has a burst shooting mode. All the usuals are here including geo tagging, full HD video etc.
There are two versions of Swiftkey Flow, my favorite on screen keyboard for Android. One for Tablets and one for Phones. The Tablet one pulls the keys over to the side closer to the thumbs in landscape mode. The screen on the note 2 is just big enough to take advantage of this feature!
I’ve never had so much difficulty unlocking a phone. I’ve unlocked many. First I got some guy on ebay that was selling freely available info on how to unlock it for free (which doesn’t work on this device, and refused to refund me), then I got a guy who’s Bell unlock program had stopped working (he refunded me), then I went to a web site Cellunlocker.net who’s unlock code didn’t work and he wanted me to reflash the ROM to an older version he knew worked and refused to refund me when I didn’t want to do that. I would avoid Cellunlocker.net by the way, they say they have a 100 Satisfaction guarantee but clearly they do not, and no morals either. In the end I gave up and left it locked.
Android does an amazing job of using the processors when needed. On a dual core playback of X264 MP4s is less than perfect. On the quad core it plays perfectly. The Note 2 is not the smoothest device I’ve played with. That distinction goes to the Nexus 4. When the additional processing power isn’t needed the core idles well, saving precious battery power.
A new feature called Multi window allows you to have two supported aps on the screen at the same time. It allows you to make better use of the larger screen and makes it easy to copy and paste between aps. Press and hold the back button to start multi window. The list of supported aps include Email, gallery, Chrome, Internet Browser, Polaris Office, S Note, Gtalk, Video player, You Tube, Gmail messaging and maps. A very nice feature. You can even resize how much of the screen goes to each ap.
Samsung offer a terrific service for a number of their phones, this one included. It’s called Samsung Dive. It allows you to track your device (if you loose it), ring the device so you can find it. You can lock the device and even wipe it remotely. It’s a wonderful add to the device.
This device has HDMI out but it does not use the same MHL cable that the S2 uses. It seems that Samsung changed it for the Note 2 and S3 to include both the ability to do both USB OTG as well as HDMI out at the same time. I’ve ordered a cable to try it but don’t have it yet. Like most Android devices the home screen does not rotate into Landscape mode automatically. Particularly problematic with and HDMI device. I use Ultimate Rotation to get around this. If you buy a docking station you will want one that has landscape orientation.
One of the new features of the Note family is the pen. You can add a pen to lot of other screens but they aren’t very accurate making them difficult to impossible to use to draw or write. The S-Pen on the Note 2 is sensitive and accurate and usable like a normal pen. Now you can use it for drawing but honestly I have zero artistic abilities. I mean zero. You can also use the S-Pen to create actions scroll and the like but I can’t imagine taking a pen out just for this. Frankly the idea of a pen is a throw back to the days of Windows Mobile 2003 when you couldn’t do anything without a stylus. Back before everything became finger friendly. The S-Pen Note is a neat ap to allow you to take notes. A nice replacement for a pen and paper. I think this is actually quite useful in the right situations. The pages are broken into distinct length pages. I would have liked an infinite length page but oh well. Once entered you can try and convert it (dependant on how neat your writing is) or save it as a doodle. The doodle can then be sent as a jpg file or saved for future editing. The question in my mind is how much would I actually use this? And how long before I loose the pen If this feature were available on a smaller device like say the S3 this might be even more interesting.
Browsing on this device is really a pleasant experience. Smooth scrolling, nice big screen, fast network. All in all quite a happy place to be if there is no tablet nearby.
Phones these days are all about the accessories. The Note 2 has been embraced by Samsung and the after market. There’s lots out there from car docks, desk docks, cases, spare batteries etc. And fairly reasonably priced. You will be able to trick your device out!
So in the end it comes down to a personal trade off. The first thing you have to ask yourself is, how important is one handed operation? While not impossible to do stuff with one hand it’s challenging at best. Second can you endure the physical size and weight of this device. For me personally the answer would be no. I would prefer when I want the bigger screen to carry my 7″ tablet. The device is stunning. Well designed. Limited oopsies. I just wouldn’t buy one because of size.
The other day one of my buds Sean posted on his facebook that his S2 got the Jelly Bean update. I checked mine for an over the air (OTA) update and it was not showing ready. So I connected up to Kies (Samsungs PC based tool) and it did say the update was available. No idea why the OTA was not. So I went ahead and proceeded. My firmware install failed which left me concerned I might have lost the phone. Fortunately Samsung through Kies included an Emergency recovery function. Even though I had to power off the device in the middle of the firmware update the device was still fine. I was impressed. In the end the issue turned out to be a bad micro USB cable. But it did point out a few things I did wrong. Here are some suggestions:
First don’t start a firmware update when you are time limited. 1/2 an hour maybe the amount of time to complete the firmware update if all goes well, but if you have to do something else like an emergency recovery you need to allow time for that. Second forward your phone before you start the process. That way you don’t miss calls while the update is in process. Third remove the SIM before you start the process. That way worse case you can slip it into another phone while you do the update. And lastly backup aps data. A number of aps have the ability to backup there setups, or there data. By saving them you won’t loose all the time and data if everything goes really badly.
Ok now onto the update. Once I got past the install woes I was greeted with a fresh new UI. The device looks and feels a lot more like an S3 now. Of course I always considered the S3 an S2.1 because in Canada we didn’t get the quad core. All homescreens were deleted and had to be re-setup. Not sure if this was because of my woes or if this happened to everyone.
Overall the device feels even more smooth, slick and responsive. Everything is a little more instantaneous. Which is saying a lot because it already was a smooth device. They have also added some nice animations to things like homescreen and ap menu changes.
Bluetooth tethering is still around and for me it is more stable. On Ice Cream Sandwich this use to disconnect frequently. It still turns off bluetooth tethering after each reboot. No idea why they insist on doing this. My Ford Sync bluetooth connection still does not support reading the text messages off the phone and still doesn’t show the song playing. Pooh. Reliability on the bluetooth seems about the same as before. Sometimes it just doesn’t connect.
AllShare (Samsung’s DLNA ap) is gone and they have now integrated the DLNA features into the music, video and gallery aps. I think this is a good step forward.
WIFI direct is still here (yay) and works fine.
The bottom icon bars are now customizable (they weren’t on ICS) which is a welcome improvement. And these can even be folders! Folders work smoother in that they open only to the size they need to rather than the whole screen as it did before.
The calendar ap is MUCH nicer than before. The music ap now includes a freshened UI and a folder view.
There is no mirror cast support. This seems to be common for this not to be included.
Google Now is oddly missing and can’t be added. Personally I have found Google Now to be a total yawner so I’m not too bothered by this omission.
Update: I found google now. It’s in a different place than on the Nexus. Press and hold the home button. Then you will see a little Google g there in the middle. Press it and there you go Google Now. I’m still unimpressed by it
SamsungDive now includes support for the S2, another welcome improvement! This includes find my device, ring my device, the ability to remotely call forward (in case you forgot your phone at home), complete remote wiping etc. Wow. This is a welcome add! You need to add your Samsung account (or register one if you haven’t already) for this to work.
The lock screen can now be a lot more customizable including support for weather, news ticker, owner info and more. Another welcome improvement.
HDMI has not really changed much. It detects the HDMI cable, announces it does but doesn’t change the screen rotation to landscape. Hopefully this is a little more reliable. In the past it would take a reboot to get HDMI working.
Overall this is a superb upgrade. I applaud Samsung for continuing to support this fabulous device. The S2 is currently one of my favortie phones to date!
Quite a while back my friend Aaron put me onto XBMC but at the time I was underwhelmed. I just couldn’t get it to do what I wanted. I’ve used Windows media center for a long time and with the addition of Media browser provides a rich content environment for seeing what movies are. But this has become increasingly unstable, complex and troublesome so I thought I would explore XBMC again. One of the nice things about XBMC is that it is now available on Android as well as other platforms. So I could use one common interface amongst many desperate devices, a PC, a laptop, a phone, a tablet etc. This has the potential to simplify life. So with this in mind I chose to give XBMC a try again.
Setup of XBMC takes some patience. For me a number of the things that XBMC has as defaults are at best not what I would choose. So you need to take some time to figure out what you want. On the positive side the interface is the same across platforms so once you figure it out you can do the same on all your devices.
The first thing you need to do is add content (videos, music, pictures etc), don’t forget to add both local content as well as network content. It doesn’t add local by default. In my home my content is behind Windows file shares, and then divided into directories. XBMC actually handles this arrangement well. You go into system file manager and add each of the separate file shares you have. The android version includes support for Windows file shares (SMB). Once you’ve added sources you then go into videos (pictures and music), files and add the specific directories that contain movies, and TV shows (as well as music). It’s best to have the TV shows and movies in separate directories so you can define the scraper for each area. Once you’ve added a video directory you next need to tell it the content type (movies, TV etc) and then choose a scraper. A scraper will go out and based on directory names attempt to find descriptions of the content. What’s the name of the movie, who’s in it, what’s the genre etc. This takes a bit of time, especially if your library is big. So be patient. The directories should be named according to the IMDB title or if there are special characters you can use the index number you see in the URL bar TTxxxx for example. The menu on the left side of the screen once you go into your movies (or TV shows) allows you to choose what you want to be displayed. The default is list but change it to what you want to get the look you want with the info you want displayed. Once you get this setup it is a rich environment with everything you need to know what is there and what you want to watch. TV shows should be divided into folders for seasons below the show. Season 1 etc. XBMC even supports DLNA client and server functionality once you’ve enabled it in system, settings, services, uPNP.
XBMC by default does not allow you to delete content once watched but this can easily be changed in system settings, appearance, file lists, allow renaming and deletion. From there you bring up the context menu and select remove from library and it will prompt you if you want to delete the files. For me this is a must for cleanliness. You can also allow XBMC to keep track of what’s watched.
Now if all this isn’t enough to make you go wow, they have a repository they have created called fusion. Fusion is not there by default but is easily added on all platforms. There’s lots of instructions out there for how to add fusion so I’m not going to replicate them here. Fusion allows you to stream content. Everything from movies, to TV etc. Fusion takes some patience. I found Icefilms one of the better ones inside fusion. It’s not perfect but when it works it can totally replace the need to download stuff. There’s one thing I wish for is the media content info to go with the content. So rather than look at a list of movies tell me what the movie is. Same thing it does for local content. If it did this it would be a total multi media piece of heaven. Even without this it really is great. Adding Fusion is challenging (the interface in this area is aweful with this small keyboard that is impossible without a mouse especially on small touch screens).
Controlling XBMC is a bit challenging. My windows media center remote works to some extent but you can’t enter names by T9 like interface the way you can in Windows media center. So a keyboard and mouse (especially wireless) comes in handy. If nothing else at setup time. There is an Android ap to remotely control XBMC but you need to go into system, settings, services webserver as well as remote control.
Add to all this goodness that there are now inexpensive Android on a stick devices that you can add to any HDMI TV and you have a cheap media content rich environment over WIFI.
So this time around I have been much more impressed with XBMC.
- Anker® 4400mAh Li-ion Battery for the Samsung i9300 S3
- Samsung XE500t Atom Powered Windows 8 Tablet review
- Samsung I9300 S3 international review
- Capacitive pens
- 64G Sandisk uSDXC card review
- Windows Tablets Acer Iconia W700-6670 mini review
- Blackberry Bold touch 9900 review
- Samsung Note 2 Review
- S2 Jelly Bean upgrade
- XBMC mini review
- Llama Android Ap review
- Nexus 10 Review