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23 Dec 12 Hands on: The 5.9-inch Android smartphone ‘Karbonn A30′

If you thought Samsung’s Galaxy Note 2 was big, what would you say about Karbonn’s latest phablet Karbonn A30, which comes with a 5.9 inch screen? The phone is really big, though in the hand it does fit as well as the Note 2.

However, at Rs 11,500 it is really something to look out for. So when we got a chance to get an exclusive hands on of the phone we couldn’t refuse the offer. The device, incidentally, is available at

Karbonn A30 is based on Android 4.0 and offers dual SIM connectivity and all the sensors that you normally expect from an Android phone. Here is what we felt about the device after spending a couple of hours with it.

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Karbonn A30 is based on Android 4.0 and offers dual SIM connectivity and all the sensors that you normally expect from an Android phone.

Hands on: The 5.9-inch Android smartphone 'Karbonn A30'


The phone is big, though it’s not a 7 inch tablet and can still be used like a phone without being an embarrassment. It measures 165 x 90 x 10 mm, which makes it not very bulky.

It is just about 10 mm wider than Samsung Galaxy Note 2 and about 0.6 mm thicker and 14 mm longer. However, the downside is its weight, which, at approximately 260 grams, makes it the heaviest phone in the market. The device comes with a very fine textured leather case, though it is white in colour, which makes it easy to soil.

However, it looks elegant and not very flashy. The USB port is at the bottom and there is a 3.5 mm jack on top. The power/lock button is located on the right side, which makes it easier to operate.

The button would have been difficult to reach had it been at the top as the phone is quite a bit longer than its nearest rival. The volume rocker is placed on the left side. The back cover gets a matte finish (in case of a leather cover it is finished in aluminium,) making it easier to grip. When you put on the leather cover, you can hold the phone like a small book, making it really easy to hold with one hand and operate with the other.

A large size, however, means that single-handed operation is not a good option. Inside the cover you have the battery, two SIM slots and a micro SD card slot, for which you do not need to remove the battery. The quality of the plastic is good, with just the right amount of flex to avoid cracks in case the phone is dropped (we did not drop it, and therefore can’t testify to this).


Karbonn has used a WVGA (800 x 480 pixel) resolution screen, which is fairly standard across budget tablets and phablets with very few exceptions getting higher resolution. The display’s brightness is good and so is the colour reproduction and sharpness, and though it is not the best it is certainly not something that we can complain about, given the kind of screen real estate it offers at such a remarkable price.

Karbonn has also stated that it has used a toughened glass that is scratch resistant, though it is not Gorilla Glass.


The tablet has a 1 GHz dual core processor coupled with 512 MB of RAM. The processor offers decent speeds, although a 1 GB RAM would have done better justice to the processor’s power. We played Temple Run on the phone and it worked just great, with no lag at all. However, the device we used was a new one and was not yet loaded with apps and user data, which means that the RAM was still mostly free.

Once the user starts to load the phone with apps, the RAM will tend to run out faster, slowing down the device. There are very few phones in the budget category that offer anything more than 512 MB RAM and therefore it doesn’t take away anything from this phone. A smart user who chooses apps well and deletes useless apps regularly will be able to get decent performance from the phone.


Karbonn has put in an 8 megapixel camera along with a single LED flash at the back, and a 1.3 megapixel camera in the front. The camera, though, gets grainy while used in low light when you zoom into a picture. Other than that the picture quality of the phone was above average as compared with phones like Micromax Canvas 2 A110 and other budget phones with 8 megapixel shooters.

The colour reproduction and sharpness levels were good and in small rooms the flash worked well so that even in low light the pictures were reasonably good. The front camera is good for video calls and for taking self portraits to be used on Facebook etc, though they would be unfit for printing.


The phone gets a 2500 mAh battery, which is required given its large display. We tried to drain the battery in the two hours that we had the phone for, and we managed to drain only about 10 per cent, which indicates an average battery life of one and a half days.

However, we will wait to get the phone for a longer period to better assess its battery life.


In the limited time we had the phone for we were impressed with Karbonn’s effort. It is a pocketable device that offers a tablet-like screen. The phone is price well and offers all the bells and whistles that you expect from an Android phone, with connectivity features like 3G, WiFi, Bluetooth and micro USB. You get 2 GB usable internal memory and 32 GB expandable memory. The quality of the product is also good.

On the downside the phone is slightly heavy, and would have been better if it had slightly more RAM. Even with these two drawbacks the phone is well worth considering, but do first take the dummy in your hand and decide if it fits well in your palm before you buy the phone.

We will publish a full review once we get the phone in our office. In the meantime we can only say it feels good, though long term performance is something we still need to access. If you want to buy this phone you can do so at

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23 Dec 12 Budget-friendly Acer Iconia B1-A71 to compete with $99 Nexus tablet

New Delhi: It appears that Acer too wants a share of the budget-friendly tablet market; a leak on GLBenchmark has revealed some of the specifications of a tablet known as Acer Iconia B1-A71. This tablet will compete directly with the rumoured budget offering from Asus, which is codenamed ME172V and tipped to be a Nexus tablet.

The Acer Iconia B1-A71 has recently been cleared by the Federal Communications Commission and this tablet is believed to make its debut at the Consumer Electronics Show slated to take place in January 2013.

From the GLBenchmark, a few details of the device have been revealed such as it will run on Android 4.1.2 and will feature a screen size of 1024 x 552 pixels which would translate it to an actual display size of 1024 x 600 pixels with a pixel density of 169 ppi. The processor noted here is 1.2GHz dual-core and the GPU is PowerVR SGX 531.

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The Acer Iconia B1-A71 is believed to make its debut at the Consumer Electronics Show slated to take place in January 2013.

Budget-friendly Acer Iconia B1-A71 to compete with $99 Nexus tablet

According to a post on, this 7-inch offering from Acer will also come equipped with 512MB of RAM, 8GB of storage, a microSD card slot for storage expansion, GPS and Bluetooth 4.0. The thread also features some press shots of the tablet giving us a preview of what it will look like once it gets officially unveiled.

It appears that the budget Nexus from Asus, the ME172V, will face some serious competition from the likes of the Acer Iconia B1-A71.

For those of you who do not know what the Asus Me172V is about, it is a tablet that is believed to be a Nexus branded device with a 7-inch form factor. The tablet will come in black and white colour variants and will be priced between $129 to $149.

This is a bit more expensive than the previously perceived price tag of $99. This low end tablet from Asus will feature a 7-inch screen with a resolution of 1024 x 600 pixels with a TN panel rather than an IPS panel, which means viewing angles will not be as great.

The device now is believed to sport a VIA WM8950 chipset featuring a single Cortex-A9 core and Mali-400 GPU along with 1GB of RAM. The internal memory found here is said to be 16GB and as far as camera optics are concerned, the device will feature a 1.3MP camera.

The last leak surrounding the $99 Nexus tablet came via a photograph on Picasa where a device from Asus, which goes by the codename ME172V, had made an appearance in the EXIF data. The EXIF data revealed that the resolution of the device is 1280 x 720 pixels. Apart from the features mentioned above, nothing else was revealed.

In the benchmark that had appeared earlier this month, the Asus ME172V featured a 1GHz processor and a display with a resolution of 1025 x 600 pixels. The benchmark also revealed that it featured a Mali 400 GPU and runs on Android 4.1.1.

There was no word on the number of cores found on the tablet, but if this device is to be categorised in the sub-$100 price range, we suspect it will be powered by a single-core processor.

It now appears that a trend is slowly building where devices get revealed in benchmarks to create some hype before manufacturers actually take to the stage to announce its wares. However, at next year’s CES, we may see two potential competitors go head to head in the battle of the budget-friendly tablets.

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18 Dec 12 What the Galaxy Camera should have been

What would a full HD display on a smartphone look like? When will the wait for affordable 1TB solid state drives come to an end? How about a super zoom camera in a smartphone, or the other way around? Such are the topics that we often discuss while we are sipping on steaming hot chai at the stall right outside our office, so it wasn’t all that surprising to see Samsung come out with the Galaxy Camera. On the day it arrived in our test lab, I couldn’t wait to unpack it and try all the features.

Simply put, it's the Samsung Galaxy S II with a huge lens popped in minus support for making calls

Simply put, it’s the Samsung Galaxy S III with a huge lens popped in, minus support for making calls



I clearly remember Shayne’s expression when I asked him how he found the Galaxy Camera after he had come back from the launch event. “It’s oversized,” he insisted. At that time, I thought he was exaggerating, but on unpacking it, I felt even that was an understatement. At 129 x 71 cm, it’s a lot broader and taller than most travel zoom digital cameras or even compact mirrorless cameras. And on top of that, the massive 21x zoom lens that sticks out about half an inch from the body reduces portability even further. In no way is it designed to be carried in the pocket! Samsung should have provided eyelets on the sides to attach a neck strap, but that too is missing. A 4-inch display (Super AMOLED would have been nice to have) and a completely retracting lens would have gone a long way in shrinking the design and making it pocketable. But then, it would be challenging to offer a quad-core processor, 1GB of RAM, graphics processor, 8GB of on-board storage, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and 3G capabilities along with the guts of a super-zoom camera in a compact package.

Still, I imagined that there would be limitless possibilities with such a lavish feature set. It’s clear that Samsung wants to offer a camera that goes beyond just allowing you to share your photos wirelessly and upload them on social networks—something that doesn’t require the specifications of such a high-end smartphone. To me, the Galaxy Camera comes across as a super-zoom camera jammed into the body of the Galaxy S III. The functionalities of the camera are delivered by the camera app, which when run is supposed to give users the feel of a high-end camera. Instead, it actually feels like a high-end smartphone running a camera app, even if the user interface of the camera is top notch.

Virtual dials in the manual and semi-manual modes

Virtual dials in the manual and semi-manual modes



Now, at Rs 29,900, for which you could buy a DSLR or an enthusiast-class super-zoom (such as the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS), it’s fair to expect stellar photo quality. But sadly, the Galaxy Camera doesn’t deliver on its core functionality—the quality of photos it takes isn’t impressive at all. It’s incredible as a mobile Internet device and portable media player—I feel the latter should have been the secondary aspect and not the other way around. If you ask me which device comes closest to or is better than the Galaxy Camera, I’d say it’s the Nokia PureView 808. It takes much better photos, and more importantly, it fits in the pocket!

From a technological standpoint, the Galaxy Camera is by far the smartest camera available. It was only possible for Samsung to conjure it up because it knows how to build high-end smartphones and digital cameras—it’s just a matter of converging technologies. It’s an over-enthusiastic concept, and the need to go in for it isn’t justified unless you’re a social networking or a photo sharing buff—it’s certainly not for enthusiasts, or for that matter, even amateurs. Things would have been different had the price been under Rs 20,000 or if the quality of photos was DSLR-like. For me, a better balance would have been a compact mirrorless interchangeable lens camera with some of the features of Galaxy Camera (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 3G support, GPS, social networking and at least 8GB of built-in storage), all built around a regular camera interface. Rather than the awkward Galaxy Camera, this fantasy device could make waves in the market.

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16 Dec 12 Samsung Galaxy S III to be available for $49.99 from Best Buy on December 16

Samsung Galaxy S III Marble White

Best Buy has been the source of several Samsung Galaxy S III sales in the past, and this weekend the retailer is planning to kick off yet another promotion. On Sunday, December 16, Best Buy will be offering the 16GB Samsung Galaxy S III for $49.99 with a two-year contract on ATT, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon. The deal will be available at Best Buy and Best Buy Mobile stores nationwide and will only be good on December 16.

The Samsung Galaxy S III began hitting U.S. carriers this past summer and features a spec sheet that includes a 4.8-inch 1280×720 HD Super AMOLED display, 8-megapixel rear camera, 1.9-megapixel front-facing shooter and a microSD slot for added storage. These four carrier models were all recently updated to Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, which includes Google Now and its information cards as well as Project Butter for a smoother experience throughout the OS.

All of those features make the Galaxy S III (which is still in the top five of both the People’s Choice and Editor’s Choice lists in PhoneDog’s Official Smartphone Rankings) a worthwhile consideration for anyone in the market for a new smartphone, especially at Best Buy’s promotional $49.99 price. If you’re thinking about taking advantage of this offer tomorrow, give us a shout in the comments below!


One Day Special: Best Buy Offers Samsung Galaxy S® III for $49 on Sunday, Dec. 16

Best Buy will be bringing back a popular Black Friday offer to consumers for one day – this Sunday, Dec. 16 – when Best Buy and Best Buy Mobile stores nationwide reduce the price of the Samsung Galaxy S III 16GB model to $49.99.

For this one day, customers will be able to save $150 with a two-year activation on Sprint, Verizon, ATT and T-Mobile and stay connected with what is arguably one of the hottest Android™ smartphones on the market.

The Samsung Galaxy S III features Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich), a 4.8″ HD Super AMOLED™ touchscreen display, Qualcomm Snapdragon™ S4 1.5 GHz dual core CPU and 2GB of internal RAM. Customers can choose between two popular colors – Pebble Blue and Marble White (additional colors available online).

Best Buy offers consumers the ability to compare and choose between any carrier, any phone and any plan with lots of unbiased advice at all Best Buy and Best Buy Mobile stores. In addition, Best Buy offers an array of services aimed at improving customers’ experience, including Walk Out Working, Upgrade Checker, Happy 24, and a full assortment of accessories for customers to protect and personalize their new mobile devices.

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16 Dec 12 James Love: Google’s New Chrome Operating System

Yesterday I received a Samsung laptop computer running Google’s Chrome OS. This is the new $249 Chromebook with an SSD drive, 2 gigs of RAM, an 11.6 inch 1366 x 768 pixels screen, and the 1.7 GHz Exynos 5200 processor. The laptop weighs 2.4 pounds and has a nice usable keyboard and a well implemented trackpad. There is also the option of a model with 2 years of 3G (limited) data from Verizon, for just $329. Both of the new Samsung models* are chronically sold out and hard to find (some resellers are getting $100 to $150 over the suggested retail price). While the Samsung hardware is surprisingly nice for the money, the real story is the new Google OS.

What Google has done with Chrome OS is to create a serious mass market operating system for desktop computers, from Linux. It is surprising that this has taken so long to happen, and also somewhat surprising that Google has positioned the OS as something for small screen computers mostly on the cloud, when the OS could easily be implemented (and maybe it will) for a wider range of devices and uses. The immediate impact will to make it hard to justify buying the 11.6 inch Mac Air, which starts at $999. But the OS is good enough to make much larger inroads into the desktop computing market. It is more than a thin client, with enough off-line functionality to make most users happy, and the early Chromebooks show that it is possible to have very tight integration between the Linux software and hardware.

I have been using several different desktop and laptop computers, mostly running the Ubuntu distribution of Linux, and also occasionally using a computer running the Apple OSX or Microsoft’s Windows. As much as I like Ubuntu, it seems unlikely to make serious inroads into the Apple or Microsoft desktop OS markets, at least for the foreseeable future. But the Chrome OS is unlike any other desktop Linux distribution. It makes the Apple OSX seem complicated, and anyone, and I mean anyone, can pick one up and use it right away.

I like having an 11.6 to 13 inch computer for travel, and its nice to have something that is light (a real “laptop”) and fits in the space for economy seats on an airplane or in the cramped space you have at a conference, and which has a good battery life. But I would also like to see this OS implemented in a 14 or 15 inch ultrabook hardware configuration, with a bit more hefty processor and more ram and diskspace. When that happens, both Apple and Microsoft will have to deal with some big changes in their business models.

* There some other hardware options from Samsung and Acer, including a new $199 laptop from Acer and a Samsung Chromebox, which requires external monitors and keyboard.

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04 Jun 12 ViewSonic VCD22 22-inch Android Smart Display hands-on

ViewSonic VCD22 22inch Android Smart Display handson

Call it what you will: a 22-inch Android tablet or an ARM-based desktop. Whatever nomenclature you prefer, this much is true: the Viewsonic VCD22 is an odd bird. Though it looks like just another all-in-one desktop, it packs a TI OMAP processor and runs Android 4.0, making it one of the largest mother-loving slates we’ve ever seen. With a starting price of $479, Gigabyte is hoping budget-minded families will snap it up, or maybe schools looking for a simple system to host interactive lessons for the kiddies. Is this ultimately a better option for classrooms than that new Chromebox we reviewed this week? We’ll save that debate for another day but for now, we’ve got hands-on photos and video of this guy in action. Meet us past the break for a closer look.

Where else would we begin this hands-on but with that 22-inch display? The resolution is 1920 x 1080, which is about what you’d expect on a machine this size, and with a price this low. Though it doesn’t have IPS to improve the viewing angles, we actually had no problem following along with an onscreen demonstration while standing a few feet away, and off to the side. That bodes well for schools that are thinking of installing these in classrooms.

Lying underneath that slim frame is an ARM processor — not exactly what you’d expect to find inside an all-in-one desktop. That chip is part of TI’s dual-core OMAP 4000 series, and it’s helped by 1GB of RAM. As modest as those specs sound, they’re plenty sufficient for powering Ice Cream Sandwich, so far as we can tell. The screen responded very smoothly to our various taps and swipes, and the machine was quick to launch and minimize apps.

From a software standpoint, that is Android 4.0, as we mentioned, though it’s still not clear to what extent Gigabyte is going to customize the snot out of it. The demo unit we saw had lots of widgets peppering the home screen, including some tailored toward kids and families. Still, Android fans will appreciate that the core OS itself has remained unchanged; it’s just more cluttered than your Nexus handset. A company rep also told us that Gigabyte plans on bundling the machine with educational apps such as audio story books, but that might well vary depending on whether the system is being sold to schools or individual consumers.

Zach Honig contributed to this report.

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03 Jun 12 Product Review: HTC’s Android 4.0 phones are not identical twins

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It seems there is a new crop of Android phones every few months, which is great if you’re in the market for a new phone.

I got separate pitches from ATT and T-Mobile a few weeks ago about new phones from HTC.

First, T-Mobile sent me the HTC One S, which arrived promptly and sat on my desk for a week.

Then ATT sent me an email about its HTC One X. I read that email on my iPhone when I was away from the office and quickly replied that I had that same phone from T-Mobile.

It seems I was mistaken.

The phones look similar, cost the same and share a lot of the same features, but there are differences internally and externally.

The One S from T-Mobile retails for $199 with a two-year contract and after a $50 mail-in rebate.

Anchored by a 4.3-inch Super AMOLED touch screen, the One S has a 1.5 GHz dual-core Snapdragon processor with 16 gigabytes of internal storage and 1 gigabyte of RAM.

The screen resolution is 960 x 540 pixels.

The body of the One S is aluminum, is 7.8 mm thick and weighs just 4.22 ounces.

The One S has two cameras — an 8-megapixel rear camera with a 28 mm f/2.0 wide-angle lens that captures 1080p HD video, and a lower-resolution camera on the front for video chats.

The One S was the first phone I’ve seen with Beats Audio, a sound-enhancement software to “enrich” the listening experience.

The One S runs on T-Mobile’s 4G network and is the first T-Mobile phone to ship with Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich).

PROS: metal body, slim, fast network, Android 4.0

CONS: no card slot for extra storage; the screen resolution could be better

BOTTOM LINE: a good phone for the money

The One X, offered by ATT, is the big brother to the One S in that it sports a larger display and a slightly larger battery.

With a polycarbonate body, the One X is 8.9 mm thick and weighs 4.6 ounces. The display resolution is 1280 x 720 pixels.

The One X also has a 1.5 GHz dual-core processor.

The phone has the same 8-megapixel rear camera as the One S, but it has a slightly better 1.3-megapixel front camera.

The X also has 16 gigabytes of storage and 1 gigabyte of RAM, and runs Android 4.0.

Neither phone has an external slot for extra storage.

The One X also has Beats Audio enhancement.

The One X features NFC (near field communication), which allows the phone to support Android Beam or Google Wallet, two technologies for device-to-device data transfer. Think of it as a way for the phone to act like a credit card.

Both phones can act as a Wi-Fi hotspot for other devices.

I used the One X as my Internet connection for a weeklong business trip and found the 4G LTE network to be very fast.

I did have to hunt for the setting that disconnected the Wi-Fi hotspot after a few minutes of inactivity, but once I did, the One X had more than enough battery power to last an entire day of surfing with my laptop and iPad.

The One X is $199 with a new two-year contract and a qualifying data plan.

PROS: screen size, NFC, fast 4G LTE, Android 4.0

CONS: no card slot for extra storage

BOTTOM LINE: This is a flagship phone for ATT. One of the better choices for Android devices.



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01 Jun 12 Taking the (Med)Field: UK’s First Intel/Android Phone

It’s all kicking off at the low end of the smartphone market. Next week sees the release in the UK not only of the Nokia Lumia 610 (my review here), but the Orange San Diego – continuing Orange’s tradition of giving their own-branded phones – usually solid lowish-end models such as the  ZTEBlade – the telephonic equivalent of names usually claimed by professional gamblers or exotic dancers.

Intel inside – the Orange San Diego

The San Diego was codenamed “Santa Clara”, from which one can discern the most interesting thing about it – this is the first phone most western users will see running on an Intel chip. In global terms, it follows on the heels of the India’s Lava Xolo 900 and the Lenovo LePhone 800 in China. The San Diego and the Xolo 900 are based on the Intel reference model, so look similar and have similar internals: a 1.6 GHz Atom “Medfield” Z2460 processor (single core), 1GB of RAM, 16GB of non-expandable internal storage and a 4.03 inch screen with 1024×600 resolution. The camera offers 8MP, as is by now traditional, and shoots 1080p video, which can be exported to larger screens through a mini HDMI port. There is also a 1.3MP front-facing camera; one can confidently assume that Skype compatibility, unlike the Lumia 610, is unlikely to be an issue. The phone also supports not just NFC short-range data exchange but also HSPA+ high speed data access, which we will eventually probably give up on telling marketeers not to call 4G.

Cheap as chips?

The attention-grabbing part is the price: Orange will be offering the San Diego for just under £200 (roughly $300, although phone pricing doesn’t really exchange like that) as a pay-as-you-go phone, throwing in 250MB of data per month for the first year, and free on monhtly plans starting from £15.50. This sounds like terrible news for Nokia, in particular, which is launching a thicker, less aesthetically iPhone-litelike, smaller-screened low-end smartphone  at about the same time. What will prevent the San Diego from crushing all it surveys?

Core questions

Most visibly, it will ship with Android 2.3.7 (Gingerbread) – an upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich is promised, but not until October – and, honestly, any timescale a mobile operator provides for an Android upgrade should be treated with a soupcon of the salty stuff. So, users should resign themselves to a good spell of late 2010′s hottest operating system.

[I'm just going to pretend that I didn't hear you use "range" as a verb meaning "include in our range", Jules from Orange. Cool? Cool.]
Orange promise to arrange the San Diego. In neat rows. On its shelves.

Further, the Atom processor in phones is something of an unknown quantity. According to Orange, 70% of apps in the Google Play store will play nicely with Android on x86 architecture – which means that 30%, representing over 150,000 apps, will not. As Intel low-power chips appear in more devices, more app producers will optimize for them, and the big players (who make the most desirable apps) are likely to catch up quickly. However, a phone not being able to run the app you need is a real issue, and may give some buyers pause. Also, the chip’s real-world performance remains a largely unknown quantity. Intel have traditionally wrestled with the power consumption of their architecture in tablets and other small devices: the promised fortnight of standby time for the San Diego sounds impressive, but for most users whether it gets through a day without a charge will be of more concern. Finally, the hardware in the San Diego is a level of modernity ahead of the Lumia 610 – not just the novel system-on-a-chip, but the higher-end camera, higher-resolution screen and larger RAM and storage. It should keep its value higher for longer – good for eBay sellers, not so good for market penetration over time.

It also, not to put too fine a point on it, needs to overcome the reputation of carrier-branded phones as low-end, cheap alternatives. Despite promising specs, description of the hardware is lightweight and “plasticky” may be cause for concern – although at the price a little corner-cutting is inevitable, and better a thin plastic back than a mayfly battery.

The Orange San Diego launches on the 6 June in the UK, with a two-day promotional event in London’s South Bank. Technology watchers will no doubt be following Intel’s first foray inside the mobile phone market of the Western market with interest.



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31 May 12 Samsung to launch new Chromebooks as Google updates open source Chrome OS

Samsung will launch two new Chrome OS-based computers this week, a laptop and a desktop that have been designed to be significantly faster and more versatile than previous models.

Along with the new Samsung machines, Google is announcing enhancements to Chrome OS and Google Apps, including tight integration with Google Drive and the ability to edit Google Docs documents offline.

Chrome OS-based machines began shipping commercially about a year ago from Samsung and Acer. Although the machines haven’t exactly taken the PC market by storm, Google is satisfied with the progress so far.

“We’re very happy with where we are. We strongly believe in the vision we articulated last year,” said Caesar Sengupta, product management director, Chrome OS.

Referred to generically as “Chromebooks,” these machines and the Chrome OS were designed to be used primarily while connected to the internet and for online applications.

According to Sengupta, Google and its partners haven’t pushed Chromebooks aggressively, so they have been bought primarily by early adopters, whose feedback has been closely listened to.

“We’re at a point where, from the user-experience point of view, we’re starting to be happy with it and we’re now ready to take the next step in this journey,” he said.

That next step includes broadening the roster of hardware partners, as well as making the machines more widely available. The new Samsung models will be available online today in the UK, and they will be for sale also at select Best Buy stores in the US in June.

Samsung Series 5 Wireless Chromebook

At the software level, the new machines will feature what Google calls an “apps-centric user interface” that will feature, for example, a simplified app launcher, the ability to have multiple windows open for multitasking and support for screen sizes ranging from 11 inches to 30 inches.

Coming later will be a tight integration with the Google Drive cloud storage service, as well as the ability to edit Google Docs documents when the machine is offline. When available, this Google Docs offline editing feature will be available to all Google Docs users, not just people who buy these new Samsung machines.

Other new features include a more sophisticated media player, as well as a native photo editor and uploader, and enhanced video streaming options for YouTube, Netflix and other such sites.

Forrester analyst Frank Gillett said the combination of the Chrome OS update, the improved devices from Samsung and the integration with Google Drive amounts to “a credible basic computing offering”.

“The new Chromebook and Chromebox are now capable enough to meet the needs of individuals and employees that need access to browser-based services and applications for use cases such as schools, retail, call centre, and temporary field sites in range of mobile data or Wifi,” Gillett said.

The Chrome OS machines will not displace existing computers quickly, but they will gain increasing consideration from individuals and businesses as they make their next buying decisions, he said.

“With Apple and Microsoft both delivering new operating system versions this year, buyers face more choice in PC OS experiences than ever. The simplicity and low costs of Chrome OS devices will be appealing to enough buyers with narrow needs that Google will continue to develop and invest in Chrome OS,” Gillett said.

An open question is whether hardware manufacturers will be happy with producing relatively low-priced products that probably deliver thin margins, he said, speculating that Google is likely to be providing some kind of financial guarantees to ensure the OEMs are happy with revenues and profits on these devices.

Samsung’s Chromebook Series 5 550 laptop has a 12.1-inch display (1280×800) and weighs 3.3 pounds, and its battery lasts for six hours of continuous usage, or six-and-a-half days in standby mode. It has an Intel Celeron 867 dual-core processor running at a clock speed of 1.3GHz, 4G bytes of RAM and a built-in, dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n antenna and a Gigabit Ethernet port. A 3G modem is optional.

The machine, which will also have two USB 2.0 ports, a 4-in-1 memory card slot and a DisplayPort++ Output compatible with HDMI, DVI and VGA, will cost $449 (£289) for the Wi-Fi-only version and $549 (£353) for the 3G models.

Meanwhile, the desktop, called Samsung Chromebox Series 3, has an Intel Celeron B840 dual-core processor running at a clock speed of 1.9GHz, 4G bytes of RAM, a built-in, dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n antenna and a Gigabit Ethernet port. It also features six USB 2.0 ports, a DVI single link output, a 2x DisplayPort++ Output compatible with HDMI, DVI and VGA, and compatibility with Bluetooth 3.0 technology. It costs $329 (£211) and doesn’t include a monitor, keyboard or mouse.

Compared with the first-generation Chromebooks, the Samsung laptop is two-and-a-half times faster, while the desktop is three-and-a-half times faster, according to Google. They boot up in seven seconds and five seconds, respectively. First-generation Chromebooks use Intel Atom chips.

Beyond the consumer market, Google and its partners also pitch Chrome machines to businesses and educational institutions. So far, more than 500 schools have bought Chromebooks, while business customers include retailer Dillard’s and Mollen Clinics.

In their first iteration, these machines have been sold to schools and businesses using per user/per month pricing, but now they will be sold under the more conventional per-machine, one-time payment model, plus a one-time fee for the online IT management console, around-the-clock phone technical support and hardware warranty that are provided to these customers.

Thus, business and education customers will pay the suggested retail price for each machine, plus a one-time fee of $150 (businesses) or $30 (schools) per machine for the management console, support and warranty. The IT management controls have been enhanced with new features like auto-update controls and new reporting capabilities.

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30 May 12 Chrome OS lives: New Chromebook and 'Chromebox' debut

10 hrs.

Google / Samsung

Hot on the heels of the new version of Chrome OS come two new pieces of hardware from Samsung: an updated Series 5 Chromebook and a “Chromebox,” which Google is hoping will sell as a low-cost desktop or media device. The new gear won’t be toppling any empires, but it is handsome and possibly practical.

The new Series 5 550 laptop isn’t any bigger, but adds much-needed horsepower in the form of a new Intel Core processor and 4GB of RAM. It also has an improved webcam and a much more modern video-out port: the new one will work with HDMI, DVI or VGA, which means it should be easy as pie to connect to a monitor or TV.

Google / Samsung

There’s been a significant but not drastic redesign: more squared-off corners, a handsome slate finish,and an aluminum palm rest. The trackpad has been “built from the ground up” for the new laptop.

Unfortunately the improved processor results in a slightly lower running time: 6 hours versus 8.5 on the old Series 5. And the build changes have added a third of a pound to the weight; it’s now 3.3 pounds. But the trade-off is almost certainly worth it. It’s available now for $449.

The Chromebox is a “compact, powerful and versatile desktop perfect for the home or office.” It’s a bit underpowered compared to most tower desktops, but the price is right at $349. It too has a new Intel Core processor and 4GB of RAM, but it also has three display ports (good for multiple monitors or connecting to a TV) and a ton of USB ports.


Shipping with the new hardware is the new version of Chrome OS, which features a more desktop-like interface complete with task bar and desktop. They’re adding deep support for Google Drive as well, including offline access, so your files will be available whether you’re online or not.

Google is constantly updating the software, and new features are already on the way. But the addition of more up-to-date hardware makes the Chrome OS device family a bit more realistic for budget-minded buyers. More information can be found at Google’s blog post.

Devin Coldewey is a
contributing writer for His personal website is

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