Asus VivoTab Smart (Intel Atom, Windows 8)

The VivoTab Smart  is a tablet PC running full Windows 8 on an Intel Atom (Clover Trail) processor.  It compares in size to a Microsoft Surface RT device although it is actually  slightly smaller (same screen dimensions) and feels lighter in the hand (which I wasn’t expecting). The specs say that the Asus is 580g which compares favourably to the Surface RT at 676g and iPad 3 at 652g.  An optional keyboard acts as a stand and effectively turns the device into a Laptop – a surprisingly useful feature that is missing from the Surface and many other tablet devices.  (As I write this the keyboard section is currently undergoing a re-design before being shipped).

First Impressions

My first impressions of the device are very favourable.  I had originally thought that it would be ‘too underpowered’ for any developer related activities (I use Visual Studio a lot) but looking at the internal benchmarks  the performance looks conquerable to my ‘old’ PDC laptop (see below) so out of interest I have installed Visual Studio (+ Advertising SDK + Azure Mobile Services) and opened and compiled/run a few of my own Windows 8 Apps and found no great issues with performance.  A welcome surprise!  (Don’t get me wrong – this is not the device to buy if you are wanting to do development but it might just do very well for short periods of time or in an emergency!)

The Basics

Anyone with an interest should look up the full specifications on line but all the basics are covered – mini HDMI, Micro SD and Mini USB are all present, as are physical buttons for Volume and Windows itself.  I paired the device with a Microsoft ‘wedge’ mouse which performed flawlessly and being Bluetooth, this kept things nice & tidy.  My understanding is that the optional keyboard/dock, as well as increasing longevity with its built in second battery, also has additional full sized USB ports.  Without the dock the battery life is specked around 10 hours, which is very respectable for an Intel based device and shows how far they have come with their own low-power chips.

I was pleasantly surprised that charging duties are supplied via a standard Micro USB cable, definitely an improvement on the Surface which has it’s own bespoke (and somewhat fiddly) magnetic power attachment cord.

Storage wise the Asus is respectable with 64GB.  I also flipped out a 64GB Micro SD card from my main development machine and used it without any issues in the Asus (effectively upping the storage to 120GB total).

Happily Asus haven’t gone overboard with ‘bloat ware’ and I found the few additional bits and pieces that they supplied to be quite useful.  Asus also features as a category within the Windows Store with some useful suggestions as well as a few bespoke Asus Apps.

Size Comparison

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Asus above and my wife’s Surface RT below

Performance Comparisons

Asus Vivo Tab

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Acer 1420P “PDC Laptop – 2009” Intel Centrino Duo / 8GB Ram

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Samsung “BUILD” Slate  (Intel  i5 / 4GB Ram)

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So spec wise the Asus is not that far removed from devices that I have used quite recently for development work, and I am thinking that it might be worthwhile for short spells away from home and/or ‘light dev. work’ – an unexpected bonus (especially as I do not have access to a Surface Pro).  That said I found I lamented the fact that the RAM (2GB) is not easily upgradeable (?) as I feel this could have made an even greater difference.

Incidentally I fitted the Acer with a fast  SSD otherwise I believe the hard drive rating would be below that of the Asus!

Who is it for?

I would say that anyone who likes PC’s but wants an iPad would do well to look at this device as an alternative.  It runs all legacy and new PC software as well as the new Windows 8 Apps making it an attractive proposition over a Surface RT (though that comes bundled with the latest version of Office, which is not to be sniffed at).

Accessories

I am looking forward to trying this device out with its’ keyboard dock and will update this post once I have it.

Because the ASUS only has a ‘mini USB’ without it’s keyboard attached I picked up this from Amazon which allows full size USB accessories to be utilised (I have not had reason to use it yet):

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B005GI2VMG/ref=oh_details_o00_s00_i00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

The Microsoft wedge mouse is also a great partner for this device as it doesn’t require a dongle: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B005GI2VMG/ref=oh_details_o00_s00_i00?ie=UTF8&psc=1 (currently discounted down to £35.00 which is a great price)


Finally a big thank you to Marsha at Future Publishing, Paul Lo and to all the other guys at Microsoft involved in ‘Creative Bloq’!  For reasons I won’t go into this ‘win’ provided me with a lift on what was otherwise one of the worst days of my life!


Kindle Fire–UK Unboxing and Setup

Having received my Kindle Fire this morning I took a few pics of the packaging and began the setup process.  Early days but everything has been very smooth so far.

The Packaging

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Setup

WP_000083After connecting to my PC using the USB cable I proceeded to go through the setup screens which all went smoothly. 

I was prompted for a firmware update which I accepted – this took around 10 minutes to download and a couple more minutes to install and verify (all of which completed without any intervention required)

SUCCESS!

Initial Use

1. I connected the device via USB to my laptop and copied across a couple of PDF books that I had on my Laptop Hard Drive.  These then appeared in the browser on the Kindle Fire Home Screen and also within the ‘books’ menu.  SUCCESS!

2. I connected to the store and proceeded to purchase the Kindle Daily deal (“Punishment” by Anne Holt – 99c).  I was prompted to enter my login details for Amazon again – which I did.  For delivery I chose the option to ‘register a new Kindle’.  this involved choosing a name for the device and entering it’s serial number (which I got from the tools menu).  I then hit continue and was prompted for payment details as per normal.

I waited a few minutes then check the home screen for the book …. nothing has appeared as I write this approx. 1 hour later (my Amazon account says that the item is ‘pending’)

UPDATE: I found I could download the book to my PC and transfer it to the Fire via USB without any issues.

UPDATE 2 My Magazine subscription (99c for PC Magazine) got delivered after an hour or two so it looks like it is working but perhaps a little tardy …

3. While I was waiting I clicked on the Facebook icon on the home screen and entered my Facebook details.  This took me to what appeared to be the standard Facebook web site – very serviceable, but a little disappointing (?) 

4. Next up I clicked on another Home screen icon called ‘Pulse’.  This promised to ‘bring all my favorite websites together’.  This appears to be a very nice little RSS aggregator with a sweet  and responsive UI. SUCCESS!

APPS

The Fire has its own bookshelf of apps and mine shows 15 with pre-installed shortcuts (Including the Amazon, Pulse and Facebook apps that I have already touched on).  I clicked on the following to investigate a little further:

Weather Channel

WP_000084The app is free and downloaded in a matter of seconds.  On launch I was prompted for a location and was able to type in “Gloucester UK”.  All the functionality presented appeared to work fine in the UK UK 

 

 

 

Quick Office

WP_000085I was quickly able to register with a number of online providers including  DropBox and Google Docs.  I have an ‘old’ Google docs account and was able to open a simple spreadsheet from 2006 without any issues.

 

 

 

Comics

WP_000086WP_000087Again, a very quick install.  After accepting the licensing agreements screen I was presented with a number of comics for purchase.  I chose one of the ‘free’ comics to test out the functionality: ‘The Walking dead’  Issue 1.  After a painless registration process (why were my details not pre-populated?).  I proceeded with the download which took a matter of seconds.  The app provides it’s own reader which made flipping through the pages of the comic an enjoyable experience.

Video Streaming

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There appears to be a wealth of video content available and while I didn’t try and download any full length films the trailers certainly looked good and definitely very watchable on this form factor. I can see this device being used as a multi-media version of the existing ink based readers (which was I guess the thinking behind this device all along)

(EARLY) CONCLUSION

I was a little surprised how well the Fire operated from within the UK and this perhaps bodes well for an early release on these shores? 

It is impossible to do justice to this device in such a short review but while still only having had a couple of hours use the device looks like a knockout and sets the bar very high for devices at this price point.

Worth mentioning that while there will be those working feverishly on unlocking this device, I am not sure I would personally want to run full blow Android – it’s so nice to use such a simple and functional interface and get access to 90% of what I want so easily – well done Amazon!

(Secondary conclusion – better get some work done)

UPDATE:  Although I could view all apps in the Amazon app store (which appears to be large and not unlike the standard Android store) I wasn’t able to download anything from there using my UK Amazon linked credit card. “The Amazon App Store is not yet available in your region”

Sony Bloggie 3D vs LG Optimus 3D vs HTC EVO 3D

Anyone that knows me appreciates that I am an all round geek, and have had an interest in 3d cameras, devices and paraphernalia for more time than I care to mention.  So I was especially excited to get my hands on these devices, albeit only for a short period of time.  It will come as no surprise that my interest in these devices was in their potential as a 24/7 ‘back pocket’ device for taking 3D video and photographs.

So I don’t intend doing a particularly scientific test, nor reproducing technical specs (which are available elsewhere) but I thought it might be useful to compare some real world video and images taken at the same location, at the same time, using each devices’ default HD settings (with apologies for the rather overcast weather).

Video Quality

Sony Bloggie 3D

NB The Bloggie is the only camera to support full 1080p 3D video.

For 3d viewing options watch in YouTube.

HTC EVO 3D

For 3d viewing options watch in YouTube.

LG Optimus 3D

For 3d viewing options watch in YouTube.

Conclusion

Having has some chance to play with all 3 devices here is my general conclusion.

If all you want is a tidy and petite 3D Video and stills camera to carry about for everyday use then the Bloggie, with it’s superior 1080p resolution and dedicated/simplistic functionality wins out.

If you need a combined 3d camera and phone my personal preference is the LG Optimus 3D though in all honesty there is little to choose between the two devices (In fact I would be tempted to go for whichever gave me the best price on the day)

(This post is a work in progress)

FastHosts Dedicated Virtual Servers

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Followed up on this tweet and got a free dedicated virtual server from Fasthosts.!

Up and running in half an hour: – Check it out – MultiTouch Spot the Difference 

Looks to be a nice operation with the call Centre running just down the road from me in Gloucester.

How cool is that?

http://FastHosts.co.uk

Fasthosts
Discovery House
154 Southgate Street
Gloucester
GL1 2EX
United KingdomSales helpline
+44 (0)844 583 0777Facsimile
0844 583 0780
(+44 1452 304242)Email sales
sales@fasthosts.co.uk

Silverlight Hosting

I thought it would be cool to use my silverlight hosting account to show some of the photos of the Remix event in Madrid.
 
New to Silverlight I thought I would kick off with something pretty easy and I took the code for the ‘Silverlight Surface’ demo app and proceeded to modify the background to include thew Madrid Remix logo, and replace the photos with some I took of the event itself (and the surrounding area).  A matter of minutes later (OK about an hour or two including software installs) I was up and running with my own localised app.  It works like a dream and I set about uploading it up to my silverlight account. 
 
Well, I seem to have hit a wall as try as i might i cannot get the bits uploaded.  Possibly there is an incompatibility somewhere, or maybe I just havn’t got the manifest file configured correctly (I’ve tried everything I can think of).  No more time to spare on this as I have a lot to gen up on … and so little time …
 
<edit> Finally sussed it: http://webservicesuk.com/remix.html </edit>
 
The Madrid Sky Clip photo makes a nice windows background …