Asus EeePad Transformer

I came to know of the EeePad Transformer’s existence in Brunei via Goh De No’s article in the Brunei Times last week. The Transformer is an Android tablet but also a ‘laptop/notebook’ with the keyboard dock that adds functionality to make this an interesting device.

Specifications

  • Android 3.1 (according to Goh De No in the Brunei Times article)
  • 10.1" IPS screen at resolution of 1280×800
  • NVIDIA® Tegra™ 2
  • 1GB RAM
  • microSD card slot
  • miniHDMI
  • Keyboard Dock provides
    • keyboard + trackpad
    • 2 x USB 2.0
    • 1 x full size card Reader (MMC/SD/SDHC)
    • added battery to charge the slate

More specification details at: ASUS’s Transformer page

Price: B$899 for the 16GB version with the keyboard dock at C.F. King in Kiulap (no non-bundled price available)

Android 3.2 is available to this device via the Transformer’s download page and thus adds better functionality and compatibility with applications developed for phones with the new ‘zoom’ mode. This should scale applications up just like the iPad does for iPhone apps. While phone apps should install and run on Honeycomb tablets, the layout may look weird or even broken and this feature should resolve it.

While I’m saddened that CF King did not offer a price without the keyboard dock, the Transformer is a device that can have some productivity uses with the keyboard dock which allows the device to be used for up to 16 hours (the other 8 hours in the day can be used for sleep!). Damien from Carrypad is actually trying to use the Transformer as an enterprise productivity device and I’m curious to see the outcome of his experiment. Coincidentally he has just posted an article about week 1 of the Transformer usage.

Another thing interesting about the Transformer is that it will have a dongle to convert the HDMI to VGA output: a great tool if you wish to use it for presentations on the move, as VGA is still much more compatible and widely available on projectors. I believe this is the only other tablet besides the iPad that has VGA output and is something I would recommend for teachers or anybody else who gives presentations and wants to have a minimal yet functional setup with them.

Read full reviews of the Transformer at LaptopMag, AnandTech, Carrypad (Part 2 here) and Engadget. If you’re interested in the device I suggest heading down to CF King and have a go at the device. One of their staff, Poh, is a nice and friendly guy there, I’m sure he could help you out.

For other innovating / whacky tablets from ASUS keep a look out for the 10" Eee Pad Slider, 7" Eee Pad MeMO 3D or the 10" pad and 4.3 phone that make up the Padfone. One thing is for sure, none of ASUS Android tablets are typical. As the fore father of the netbook with the Eee PC I salute you!

Gadgets can be Cheaper in Brunei

We all hear of how people go overseas to buy gadgets as they are cheaper overseas. While that could most typically be true, it is important to point out there things can be cheaper in Brunei. Thanks to online retailers we can even check the prices in the comfort of our own room. Below are a 2 devices I found cheaper in Brunei than in Singapore.

While these may be outliers it is worth a shot to check prices to get the best deal. Below are the few places I check with respect to phone prices and if you guys have any others do leave them in the comments.

P.S. Getting devices overseas, while at times cheaper, can also be an inconvenience if something goes wrong and you want it replaced / repaired. Manufacturers warranties should be fine and could be brought into a local branch if they exist in Brunei. If not you may have to go back to the shop you bought it from or send it to a manufacturer overseas adding to inconvenience.

The HTC Flyer

We managed to get our hands on the HTC Flyer at Yappe Computer, Serusop, and it seems like a good 7″ Android Tablet: an alternative to the older Galaxy Tab. It’s selling for B$859 (cash price) / B$886 (credit card price) for the 32GB model.


(YouTube link to video)

Specifications

  • 7″ 1024×600 multi-touch capacitive screen
  • Stylus for use with the active digitizer screen
  • Android 2.3 with Sense 2.1
  • 1.5GHz CPU
  • 32GB storage (~7GB available for apps, ~20GB available as storage)
  • 1GB RAM
  • microSD card slot
  • 5MP rear camera with auto focus (no flash)
  • 1.3MP front facing camera
  • Standard micro-USB (no HDMI out)
  • Wifi: 802.11 b/g/n
  • Bluetooth 3.0
  • Audio supported formats:
    • Playback: .aac, .amr, .ogg, .m4a, .mid, .mp3, .wav, .wma (Windows Media Audio 9)
    • Recording: .amr, .aac
  • Video supported formats:
    • Playback: .3gp, .3g2, .mp4, .wmv (Windows Media Video 9), .avi (MP4 ASP and MP3), .xvid (MP4 ASP and MP3)
    • Recording: .3gp
  • Battery: 4000 mAh
  • Supports Adobe Flash

(Specifications from HTC Flyer Website, GSM Arena)

Notes on the Stylus

  • works in apps that support it otherwise touching the screen takes a screenshot that you can annotate
  • cannot be used to ‘touch’ all controls / buttons only digitizer palette brought up by touching the icon with the digitizer (not your finger)
  • requires a single AAAA (yes 4 As) battery which I have not seen in shops
  • has 2 buttons: 1 highlights text, other erases

Bundled HTC Apps

  • Notes application syncs to Evernote and allows infinite vertical scrolling. Allows text input, photo embedding, handwriting annotation as well as voice dictation
  • Reader application is a reading app linked with Kobo for in app purchasing
  • Watch application allows renting and buying of movies (but doesn’t seem available in Brunei, thus can only watch previews/trailers)

Other Notes
While it is a 7″ Gingerbread (2.3) tablet instead of Honeycomb (3.x, which is the tablet optimized version of Android) it seems to be the better choice at the moment as apps will run on it with the only issue may be the way it looks. Currently is only one 7″ Honeycomb tablet: the Acer Iconia Tab A100 and it was released yesterday. It is the first device to have Android 3.2 which is supposed to provide better support for 7″ tablets compared to the regular bigger 10″ Honeycomb tablets. However there seem to be some force close issues and app incompatibilities reported by This Is My Next and ZDnet (i.e. more work for the developer to fix problems).

On the entertainment side it supports 720p video playback, supports quite a few file formats and codecs but there is no HDMI output unless you get the dock to use with the extended microUSB connector on the flyer. The HTC Watch app is a nice feature but not being available here makes it of no use. For office use, there is support for Microsoft Office documents that allows editing with normal text entry and even the stylus (however, not all file formats are editable). Battery life seems a bit mixed with the Engadget review being impressed by it while TechRadar and CNET UK rated it has having bad battery life. BGR and Android Central give it decent battery life with typical use of 2 days per charge.

Summary
While I wished they didn’t remove the calling ability of the device, the usability of the pen to annotate and take notes is pretty appealing. A good alternative to the Galaxy Tab if you don’t plan to use it for calling. Smaller and more portable than an iPad it is made more for mobility. The main reason to get this device is the active digitizer and stylus combo or if you just wish for a tablet faster than the Galaxy Tab whose age is showing. Nice to see HTC innovate with the Flyer and hope to see more with the upcoming Puccini, their shot at the 10″ tablet category.

Creating a Brunei Apple App Store Account Without a Credit Card

As mentioned in our episode of Corner Geeks 8: The Brunei Apple App Store, the video below documents how to create a Brunei account without a credit card.

Do note:

  1. not all apps seem available (e.g. WhatsApp) but most seem there.
  2. no music / movies / TV shows available
  3. AV mentioned that they currently selling Brunei iTune gift cards

The gist of the process:

  1. Load the App Store in iTunes
  2. Search for a free app (e.g. Angry Birds)
  3. Download the free app
  4. Sign up from the dialog box
  5. Select "None" as a "Payment Method" section during the registration

I still think getting a US iTunes Account is still the best option as it is completely unrestricted. You can create a US account without a credit card, using the same method above but select US instead of Brunei. You will need to buy gift cards online though, and I have bought iTune gift cards from both PC Game Supply and Jerry Cards with good results so thus far. See which works best for you and join the ecosystem that has yet to be rivaled (especially outside the US).

Sony Ericsson Xperia Mini Pro – a Great Budget Android Phone?

Among my usual habits, I will check availability and prices of phones on Incomm and I was surprised to see the Xperia Mini Pro going for B$378.

This phone seems to be a phone I would buy, if I didn’t buy my LG Optimus One, as a great budget Android phone which seems to have the least compromises. Check out the video that I managed to get at Incomm as I played with the device.

Notable Specifications

  • Android 2.3 Gingerbread: the current major version of Android of phones
  • Connectivity: 3G (HSDPA 7.2Mbps, HSUPA 5.76Mbps), WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1
  • 3" HVGA (320×480) screen: a bit small in size but good resolution that is widely supported by all apps
  • Slide out landscape QWERTY keyboard
  • 1GHz Snapdragon CPU with Adreno 205 GPU
  • 512MB RAM
  • 400MB for apps (according to GSM Arena): a bit small but acceptable for a budget phone and sadly (for Arc users) it is the same amount as the Arc based on Sony’s specs which says up to 320MB (Arc vs Mini Pro)
  • 5MP rear camera with autofocus, flash and 720p video recording (auto focus while recording video, recorded in mp4 encoded with h264, aac)
  • VGA front facing camera for video calls
  • Supports Adobe Flash
  • Plays 720p videos (mp4 encoded with h264,aac)
  • Can open PDFs and Microsoft Office documents (doc,docs,xls,xlsx,ppt,pptx)
  • microSD support up to 32GB
  • 1200mAh battery

Full specifications at Sony Ericsson or GSM Arena

I really like that this budget phone seems to have practically no compromises for a budget phone: there doesn’t seem to be any major show stoppers. Most budget phones will have no front facing cameras and won’t have cameras that can record 720p. A budget phone won’t have a keyboard nor a 1GHz CPU. The CPU couple with a GPU and sufficient RAM should ensure this device is smooth and usable for the regular user.

The main issue is the small 3" size of the screen (iPhone: 3.5", Optimus One & Wildfire S: 3.2", Galaxy Mini: 3.14"): a small size coupled with a high resolution may make some text small to read and will make using the onscreen keyboard a bit difficult. Thankfully there is a physical keyboard on the Xperia Mini that should help alleviate this (as long as the keyboard is good and usable). Also the smaller 1200mAh battery (vs 1500mAh of the Optimus One) may give it less battery life, but that also depends on the amount of work being done: with a better CPU, the same amount of work may require less energy from the Xperia Mini. I guess we’ll just have to wait for more in-depth reviews with battery life scores and this is the main unknown factor at the moment. Another compromise would possible be the UMTS frequency band support with it only being dual (900/2100) or triband (800/1900/2100) depending on where it is purchased but I don’t think this will affect many. Most of these issues/compromises are acceptable for a budget device.

With that said, I think I could tentatively highly recommend this phone to users but only after they take a look at it and try to use the keyboard and check to see if the text is too small on the device; and also after some battery life tests are published – all the features are of no use if the battery life is bad. From my use with it, the screen and text size seem fine but my fat thumbs did have a bit of an issue with typing. It could play 720p video, Flash video and even edit office documents. Overall a snappy device and I’m just very impressed at what Sony Ericsson managed to pack on this device hitting all the right check boxes giving the user minimal compromises. Great job Sony Ericsson, now improve your higher end devices!

Sample Photos (note front camera was covered with a thin plastic film):

Sample Video from rear camera:

B-Mobile Launches ‘Multi-SIM’ Service

It has finally happened, we have a Multi-SIM service here in Brunei thanks to B-Mobile (Read the Borneo Bulletin article at Brudirect). Multi-SIM basically allows you to clone your SIM card to put in another device. This is great for people with 3G enabled devices: e.g. iPad 3G, Galaxy Tab, etc and want to be able to make calls / use data on those devices without having to sign up for another phone number or resorting to the tedious task of switching SIM cards.

There is a monthly subscription fee of $8 per SIM card and there are 3 configurations of the service:

  1. Multi IMSI i.e. primary SIM rings only;
  2. Simultaneously i.e. both primary and secondary SIMS ring at the same time; and,
  3. Orderly i.e. primary rings first. If rejected, busy, switched off or not answered, then the secondary will ring.

Multi-SIM is applicable for the following plans:

Sadly multi-SIM is not applicable for plans with unlimited data (e.g. Postpaid ZOOM $60 Unlimited & Post-paid Smart plan $65). There is no mention of OMNI users but since it’s an unlimited plan, I presume that it will not be supported either. I guess B-Mobile is worried that people will subscribe to the multi-SIM service and use the SIMs in an unlimited data fashion and thus would congest the network.

As an a subscriber to OMNI, I hope B-Mobile could consider another plan for users with unlimited data plans: single SIM get you unlimited data, multi-SIM gets a cap (of perhaps 200GB free beyond which they will pay per amount used as the non-unlimited data plans pay). This would at least give users with unlimited data plans an option to subscribe to this multi-SIM service and not be left out with the convenience that it brings.

So now with B-Mobile supporting this, I wonder if DST will follow

Corner Geeks 8: The Brunei Apple App Store

Play

A ‘live’ / non-Skype Corner Geeks recording this week as I sat down with @mfirdaus as we discussed the Brunei Apple App Store while also passing him the InstallESD.dmg file for Lion. We hope that this is the start of more services being opened to Brunei and perhaps a legal way for people to get music, movies and TV shows in the future.

Show Notes

  • Apple brings the iOS and Mac App Store to 33 new territories, including Brunei!
  • We can register with a Brunei Credit Card
  • AV Electronics, the premium reseller of Apple products, says they aren’t currently selling Brunei iTunes gift cards
  • Registration without a credit card is possible with the same hack/work around to register a US account without a credit card (try download a free app in the App Store and create an account from there)
  • Brunei just has an App Store, not a full iTunes store with Music / Movies / TV Shows
  • Not all apps available in the iOS App Store: e.g. WhatsApp (could be developer’s setting when publishing app or some other unknown restrictions)
  • Prices shown in store are in US dollars
  • App ratings are reset meaning Brunei apps could make it to the recommended list
  • Sources for US gift cards: PC Game Supply / Jerry Cards (I have bought once from each of these sellers before and can verify that they work)

Live Stream Setup for Ran8adidas

So a couple of weeks back we had the honour of live streaming of Ran8adidas (the 8th year anniversary celebrations of Ranoadidas.com) at the International Convention Center (ICC). We share with you how we managed to get mobile video in the field with the ability to add overlays and mix the audio source with any audio source while at the same time live streaming and recording it.


(Watch on YouTube)

Watch the recorded video from this setup at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/ran8adidas

Our Setup:

  1. WebCamera for iOS (US$2.99) running on an iPod Touch or iPhone to act as video and audio sources out in the field
  2. Mobiola WebCamera (free) on the streaming computer to retrieve video and audio from the iOS device (they show up as webcam video and microphone audio devices)
  3. 3G modem used as an Internet connection
  4. OS X’s Internet sharing to ensure the iOS device and the computer are on the same network
  5. CamTwist (free) to add overlays and text
  6. MacBook Pro line-in port to receive sound from the mixer
  7. A USB sound card to be used as audio out for monitoring
  8. Soundflower was used as extra audio devices to aid the transfer of audio from audio sources to audio outputs
  9. LadioCast (free) for audio mixer/switching between mixer and iOS device audio
  10. uStream.tv (free) to stream and record the live video and audio

Other notes:

  • The video quality wasn’t great and it was a trade-off between faster frame rates vs better image quality and resolution which were limited factors of the WebCamera application (192×144 vs 480×360, but I’m not sure to measure the frame rate). We decided on better image quality as it would be made worse by the spotty 3G connection
  • We tried using uStream Producer (free) but it was inconsistent as it dropped after 30 seconds. I wonder if this could be due to the 3G reception.
  • If you have an Android device you can use IP WebCam (free) to stream the video and audio from the device to a computer. I used 2 different instances of VLC (free) to play the video and audio. The video could then be captured using CamTwist and the audio controlled with LadioCast
  • We experimented with PocketCam for iOS ($4.99) paried together with the PocketControl (free) client software but the delay in video and audio was too great, ~10 seconds.
  • Alternatives to CamTwist (OSX) are ManyCam (Windows / OSX) and WebCam Studio for GNU/Linux (Linux) but CamTwist has quite a few nifty features and would recommend it

Huawei Ideos S7 Overview

I managed to stumble upon the Huawei IDEOS S7 at Yappe IT Store in Serusop selling for B$399 (cash price) and when recording the video below I noticed that quite a few of them have already been bought. Check out the video giving an overview of the device

Specifications

  • CPU: 750 MHz Qualcomm Snapdragon (source: UMPCportal as we forgot to check the processor but it seemed decent enough)
  • GPU: Adreno 200
  • 7″ 800×480 (WVGA) Capactive Multi-Touch Screen
  • Android 2.2 with custom launcher
  • Front and Rear facing 2 megapixel cameras that record in CIF (352×288)
  • 8GB storage (7.51GB available but 116MB for apps)
  • 3G Enabled (standard SIM) with dialer (can make calls and text)
  • Can run Flash (installed from Market)
  • Upto 720p HD playback of mp4 (h264, aac), wmv files
  • Device seems rooted by default (Superuser was installed after factory reset)
  • Connectivity options: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GPS, microSD card slot, docking port, 3.5mm headset
  • Other hardware details: Kickstand, Removable battery, Optical trackpad

Pros

  • Budget price B$399: great budget device for a 7″ tablet and phone with calling ability
  • Able to run Flash for a fuller web experience (put settings as ‘On-Demand’ for better performance)
  • Android 2.2 thus you can do mobile tethering (share 3G via Wi-Fi)
  • Rooted
  • Cold boot / Restarts in about 1 minute
  • Decent Performance: it did not seem sluggish or noticeable slow but there were times where it took multiple touches to get the device to respond (could be also due to the plastic film on the device screen)

Cons

  • Only 116MB free for apps
  • A few default apps are landscape oriented and don’t rotate if device is in portrait mode
  • No Office software to read Word/Excel/Powerpoint files (doc/docx/xls/xlsx/ppt/pptx)
  • Battery life may be bad (based on Telstra T-Touch Tab reviews it only has 3-4 hours of typical use: CNET Australia, PC World Australia, Sydney Morning Herald. The T-Touch Tab is a rebranded Huawei S7 but has slightly different hardware)

I doubt this will get any future upgrades because it is an older model and Huawei is releasing an S7 Slim and also the recently announced Media Pad. The main issue with the device will be the battery life: having a removable battery aids it but then you will have to buy another battery and external charger to keep it running. I was contemplating on the device and using it as a mobile hotspot with my b-mobile Zoom! SIM card and using it as a tablet for reading and on the go computing. However with the possible battery life issues, the best bet for my use case is still the Samsung Galaxy Tab which will cost about B$250 more but you get better hardware and a better overall experience. But having said that, I believe this is the cheapest 3G and Flash enabled Android tablet in Brunei. If you’re looking for a budget all-in-one phone and tablet device, and don’t mind the possible battery life issues, this is a good deal.

A First Look at the Acer Iconia Tab A500

The Acer Iconia Tab A500 is the first Honeycomb tablet I’ve seen here in Brunei and is the first proper 10″ Android tablet. As with most Android tablets the specs are somewhat typical: 10″ (1280×800) with dual cameras running on the nVidia Tegra2. @mfirdaus and I managed to play around with the device for over an hour and below is the video overview we took of it. Below the video are further thoughts of the device and sample photos and videos from the device itself.


(watch on YouTube)

Full specifications (from Concepts and Acer specification pages)

  • Android Honeycomb(3.0)
  • 10.1” (1280×800) HD Touchscreen
  • 10.24″ x 7″ x 0.52″
  • 10 points Capacitive Multitouch screen
  • 1Ghz nVidia Tegra2 Dual Core processor
  • 32GB built-in capacity
  • Dual Camera (2mp front, 5mp back)
  • GPS, E-Compass, 6-axis Gyroscope G-sensor (auto rotation)
  • Long life 3260mAh x 2 battery
  • Dual display (HDMI output) (micro HDMI port)
  • microUSB expansion slot (up to 32gb)
  • Physical USB port (Full-sized USB port)
  • Dolby Mobile dual speakers
  • Acer Clear.fi app
  • Acer Social Jogger app
  • Acer Photo Browser app
  • Preloaded games (NFS Shift, Let’s Golf, Hero of Sparta)

Weight & Size
I have always thought 10″ tablets were a bit bigger than an iPad but in fact they are similar sizes: The A500 is longer and thicker but narrower than an iPad 2 (A500: 26cm x 17.7cm x 1.33cm, iPad2: 24.1cm x 18.6cm x 0.88cm). However the A500 is relatively heavy at 765g (iPad 2 is 601g), thus if you’re holding on the device it can get tiring.

Screen
The 10″ screen was responsive and we didn’t feel at real / noticeable / annoying lag or unresponsiveness. At a resolution of 1280×800, that is the same resolution as a lot of 13″ or 14″ laptops and is of higher resolution compared to an iPad: this means when browsing you should see more content. Speaking of browsing, with the great browser which has tabs and the ability to install Flash, this would make a great web browsing device.

Honeycomb and Apps
Refer to the previous post on A First Taste of Honeycomb (Android 3.0): in short there are not many apps optimized for Honeycomb and the large screen, but regular apps can still run.

Connectivity
The killer hardware features are the microSD card slot, full sized USB port and micro HDMI.

The microSD card slot enables you to add storage without buying a new device. If you’re on a budget, just buy the lowest capacity device and add microSD cards for your media (do note that microSD cards could be slower than internal storage on device, but is probably cheaper and can be transferred to other devices in the future).

The full sized USB port means you can connect a regular USB keyboard to the device and start typing straight away if you really need to type out of an email / do word processing. This will easily make the A500 into a productivity device with the proper applications. The USB port also means that you can copy files to and from a regular thumb drive like a regular computer which is a great feature. I’ve heard that USB card readers do not work, but I have no confirmation on this.

The micro HDMI port means you can connect the device to a projector / HDTV with display mirroring (display on both device and projector/TV). While this is a great option, I still think an iPad 2 trumps with the VGA dongle because VGA is still very widely used and HDMI is not. For people wishing to use the device for presentations, I would think an iPad 2 with the VGA dongle would be much easier to work with. I don’t believe there is an easy way to convert an HDMI signal to VGA without an external box, which means added cost and added items to bring.

Cameras
The front facing camera is a 2 megapixel while the rear camera is 5 megapixels (and also has a flash) however the picture and sound quality wasn’t stellar: samples below. Do note that the device was covered with clear plastic which would affect both the video and audio quality but I wouldn’t expect quality to be much better than what we got. Audio quality is pretty disappointing. Photos are stored in JPG format while videos in 3GP (H264/AAC).

Photos (jpg)

  • Rear: 5 megapixels (2592 × 1944)

  • Front: 2 megapixels (1600 × 1200)

Videos (3gp format with H264 video and AAC audio)

Battery Life
We could not take the device home to test the battery life of the device but below lists battery tests from other reviews but most reviews say you can easily get an full days worth without issue.

Price
At B$728, the 32GB A500 is priced cheaper than a 32GB iPad 2 (B$798), but do note that a 16GB iPad 2 is cheaper (B$668). IMHO Concepts should have brought in the 16GB version of the Iconia Tab to undercut all iPad 2 prices because with most Android tablets you can add expansion via microSD cards.

Summary
As a consumer device, this is a great device for web browsing, reading and watching movies. If you have TVs/monitors with HDMI input, this is a possible media center device with a purchase of a microHDMI to HDMI cable or a microHDMI to standard HDMI converter. As an office device, this is a viable option is you have HDMI monitors / projectors. The USB port option is great for using external keyboards and transferring of files. Overall Honeycomb is still maturing and is hard to convince people with an Android tablet unless there is a particular function that they need/want that is available on Android or a specific tablet as the iPad, with iOS, has the advantage of apps. Would I get one myself? I doubt so, as I’m looking more of a 7″ device with USB host, VGA out (highly unlikely thus maybe HDMI out) and possibly 3G to wirelessly tether via a wireless hotspot so I may even look out for the Iconia Tab A100 which is a 7″ version that is coming out in a couple of months.

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