Dell Venue 8 Pro review

Venue 8 ProStepping out of the iOS/Android world again, I’m impressed with all that Dell has to offer. The Venue 8 Pro provides yet another option for people looking for an 8 inch tablet. I’ve used the iPad Mini and Samsung Galaxy Note 8 and have reviewed Lenovo’s Idea Tab as well so this tablet is a welcome change.

It’s hard to say that this tablet is better or worse than an Apple or Samsung product because it’s just different. I’ll admit I haven’t used Windows since XP and there is enough new things to learn with Windows 8 as the Venue 8 Pro’s OS. The 8 inch tablet space is an interesting one too because every major player has one these days with Samsung offering up its Galaxy line in so many forms. Bigger than a smartphone but smaller than full size iPad or a laptop, 8 inch tablet’s can bridge the gap between smartphones and laptops and the Venue 8 Pro does this very well.

Hardware

On the hardware side the Venue 8 Pro offers the following:

  • Intel® Atom™ processor Z3740D with 32GB storage (2MB Cache, up to 1.8GHz Quad-Core)
  • Windows 8.1 (32Bit) English
  • Microsoft® Office Home and Student 2013 Included
  • 8.0 inch IPS Display with HD (WXGA 1280 x 800) resolution with 10-pt capacitive touch
  • 2GB Single Channel DDR3L-RS 1600MHz
  • 32GB eMMC
  • Intel® HD Graphics
  • Dell Wireless 1538 Dual-Band 2×2 802.11n WiFi + Bluetooth® Smart

I love the separate keyboard that ships with the Venue 8 Pro. You can type via the touchscreen but I prefer this little keyboard because it’s small and compact and runs using Bluetooth 4.0.  This will also allow for connection to a compatible mouse, external keyboard or other accessories or sync up some compatible Bluetooth speakers for great sound without the wires.

Dual-band WiFi is also a nice feature of the Venue 8 Pro. It allows you to set up fast, reliable connections to WiFi hotspots around town, on campus or at home. I am not sure if this tablet is cellular network capable like its Samsung and Apple cousins but that is worth investigating.

User Experience

As I mentioned above, Windows 8 is a totally new beast for me. I found myself looking for the Start Menu and the desktop more than anything to get my bearings. From Windows 95 to XP and Server editions of NT and 2000 between, Windows was my go to OS. Switching to Mac wasn’t an easy one at first but going back has been tougher. I tried to get as much use out of this tablet as I could from surfing the web, downloading apps, using Office but I was so lost at some points I could only laugh.

For savvy business professional who still uses Windows and always has you will love this tablet. Compact and easy to carry around and great to take traveling, the Venue 8 Pro will go 9.9 hours before it needs charging. That’s three hours more video watch time on a single charge versus other popular small screen tablets including the  Nexus 77, ARM based 8” Samsung Galaxy Tab 35, Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.

Phantom Glass review

Phantom Glass has the answer to protecting your devices as its a tempered glass screen protector, created with Corning Gorilla Glass, to ensure maximum impact and scratch protection.

What is it?

at .2millimeters thin Phantom Glass features two unique coatings: a silicone nano-adhesion layer, which allows for easy installation while its oleophobic nano-coating that allows fingerprints to wipe off with ease.

Where can I get it?

In development for 2 years, Phantom Glass is available Staples, Future Shop Best Buy in Canada starting this week. It is available for iPhones, iPads, Microsoft’s Surface, and Samsung devices. Vancouverites should also inquire at other stores where they buy their technology as the company was in Vancouver this week hitting up potential vendors.

The company is based in Markham, Ontario and we spoke with Richard Waters, one of the company’s founders about why this is a great buy for smartphone users and techies alike.

“Phantom Glass is super strong, easy to install, impact resistant and has a lifetime warranty. If and when you drop your phone its engineered to break in a way that is safe to the consumer. We stand behind what we have built and will continue to do so.”

For me it’s given my iPhone 4s new life. Switching from the Ballistic case to a cover for the back and Phantom Glass on front, my phone is lighter and brighter. Phantom Glass is so clear and easy to look at that you hardly know it is there. It also cleans easily and has taken a few drops and falls very well.

Waters notes that “We intend to keep company going and build respected brand that’s a go to for consumers and techies alike. We plan maintain retail partnerships and further enhance those relationships rather than sell the company to the highest bidder.”

Keep your eyes peeled for Phantom Glass at your local tech retailer or big box store. If you have the chance to give it a try or put it on your phone do it. You will be glad you did.

Jabra Sport Wireless+ review

Having used the Jabra Sport Wireless+ headphones since February, I have a confession to make. I’m not switching back to regular headphones!

Cutting the headphone cable has been a great move for me as it’s now so easy to listen to music and not be cabled to my Apple devices.

At first it was a challenge trying to hook the headphones on my ears and configure them via bluetooth in my iPhone. Jabra Sport Wireless+ headphones should be charged every 4 hours or so of usage so a few of my workouts have been without music because I have forgotten to charge and have run out of batteries. Sometimes the headphones do fall out of my ears despite the guarantee from Jabra. I haven’t tried switching between the three sizes of ear gels provided as they come with small, medium, and large.

Once you get past these little hiccups it’s smooth sailing with the Jabra Sport Wireless+. The sound is great and both treble and bass are easily noticeable and more than adequate.

Product specifications are always a big part of any technology blog review as well so let’s dive right into those.

Connectivity

  • Wireless Technology: Bluetooth™ for wireless connectivity
  • Supports Bluetooth® version 3.0
  • AVRCP You can control your music from this device when it’s streaming from another device, such as your mobile phone

Music Streaming

  • Device can stream music from a source, such as a Smartphone, Bluetooth enabled laptop, tablet, or MP3 player
  • Omni Directional/noise filter enhances call clarity by eliminating background noise from the office
  • Mute gives you the option to mute/unmute the microphone directly on the device

Battery & Power
 Talk Time

  • 
Talk Time is the most time you can talk before a device runs out of power. The Jabra Sport Wireless+ is up to 4 hours of usage
  • Standby Time: Up to 120 hour(s)
Standby Time is the most time a device can stay powered on

Design

  • Wearing Style: Behind-the-ear
Behind-the-ear wearing style
  • Ear Cushion Type:Large (L) sized ear gels, Medium (M) sized ear gels, Small (S) sized ear gels

Samsung Galaxy S5 launches April 11th in Canada

The Galaxy S5 comes to Canada on April 11th through just about every wireless carrier and it’s likely to be one of the top sellers of the year. With Samsung’s marketing muscle behind it, the Galaxy S brand has become the preeminent Android smartphone on the market.

The devices have been, generally speaking, solid challengers to Apple’s iPhone. The Galaxy S5 continues that tradition, even if there isn’t much about it that’s terribly new or exciting.

Featuring a 5.1-inch Super AMOLED screen, with a resolution of 1080 x 1920 pixels and 432 pixels per inch, the Galaxy S5 has one of the sharpest screens out there. And though it’s still made of plastic, it feels better in the hand than last year’s S4 thanks to a dimpled back cover, a little more weight and corners that are a bit less rounded. By nailing that all-important “hand feel,” Samsung has all of the basics down.

Otherwise, most of what’s new about the Galaxy S5 is incremental, and some of it is questionable, starting with the fingerprint sensor. Samsung’s version works differently 9701849from Apple’s in that you have to swipe your finger down over the home button at the bottom of the phone, rather than just hold it over the button for a microsecond. I wasn’t sure I’d initially like the feature on the iPhone 5S but I quickly became a convert after seeing how quickly and accurately it worked. That’s not the case with the S5. The iPhone’s scanner can pick up your print from many different angles but on the Galaxy S5 your swipe has to be precise, which makes it easy to mess up.

Samsung is opening up the sensor to other app developers so that it can be used for more than just unlocking the phone (PayPal is on board for payments, for example), but I got so frustrated with it that I ended up turning it off. I can’t see too many app developers jumping on board unless this issue is fixed.

The same goes for some of the phone’s S Health tracking functions. The step counter doesn’t appear to be very accurate. I found it often wouldn’t track me while I was walking and then mysteriously add steps while I was sitting at a desk. Moreover, the function needs to be turned on and off, which is a pain to remember (who wants to track the tracker?). Step counting thus seems better suited to an always-on device such as a wristband fitness tracker, like perhaps Samsung’s Gear Fit. I did like the heart-rate sensor on the back of the phone just under the camera – you simply touch your finger to it for a second or two and it tells you how fast your ticker is going.

Samsung has also incorporated some innovative connectivity technology into the Galaxy S5 that combines both cellular and Wi-Fi signals into faster downloads. It’s a nifty addition, but again, it doesn’t seem very practical – or at least not in Canada, where download speeds on both cellular and Wi-Fi are generally pretty good. Indeed, the primary reason to jump onto Wi-Fi with your phone is to avoid using up your precious monthly data allotment, so why you’d want to do that and still use wireless data is puzzling.

I did like some of the new features added to the Galaxy S5′s 16-megapixel camera, with “selective focus” being a particular standout. With the function enabled, you can shoot a close-up subject (less than 50 centimetres away) and get the same blurred background effect that you might with a proper single-lens reflex camera. You can also reverse the blur in “post-production,” with the camera blurring the subject and bringing the background into focus. And, not to be outdone, you can also just simply bring everything into focus.

It works well. Although phones will probably never match the capabilities of full SLR cameras simply because lens and sensors sizes do matter, I continue to be amazed at the improvements being made. The decision to bring along a full, heavy camera on a trip is getting harder to make with each passing iteration of phones.

I’m also a fan of the S5′s “ultra power saving mode,” which shifts the phone’s screen into black-and-white and shuts off all non-essential functions. Only a few necessary apps can be enabled in this mode, including phone, text messages and the Internet browser, although comically, Google+ is somehow among the small handful of available apps. In any event, the mode greatly boosts available battery time – if you turn it on with 10% of your battery power left, you can just about squeeze another full day out of it.

The S5 is also largely water- and dust-proof, able to stay submerged in a meter of water for up to 30 minutes. Some users might find these features handy, but as someone who has never gone swimming with a phone or used one in the heart of a desert, they’re more nice-to-haves than have-to-haves.

And so goes the story of both Samsung’s new flagship device and smartphones in general. Most of the major manufacturers have got the basics right, with further innovation and differentiation really a matter of throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks. The Galaxy S5 gets a couple of these things right while a few of them flop. I’d like to have seen more of the former and less of the latter, but perhaps they’re just iterations that will be improved on with the inevitable Galaxy S6 next year.

This Galaxy S5 review was written by Peter Nowak. To read the original article please click here.

Z30 from Blackberry shows off the Jekyll and Hyde of the company

Blackberry is an interesting case study. As a blogger reviewing its devices, particularly the new Z10 and Q10 earlier this year I was impressed about how the new devices stacked up against Apple and Android devices. The BB10 operating system launched in January of this year was a serious step forward from iOS and Android at the time and Blackberry seemed to be re-establishing its place as a premier smartphone maker.

Launching in Canada one month ago The new Z30 is attempting to carry that torch now and is equally impressive with its large screen and blazing fast speeds on Telus 4G LTE network.  My previous frustrations using the 9360 have all but been erased with these new phones particularly the Z30.

But as a follower of the company formerly known as RIM, I’m still scratching my head as the company continues its downward spiral as one wonders how much longer it will be around. Blackberry faces an uphill battle against waning consumer sentiment and some drastic changes within the manufacturer. I’m guessing Z30 has a lot riding on it given the state of the company now. It’s a great phone that doesn’t disappoint but I wonder how many more of these phones we will see before it’s so long Blackberry.

Screen Size and Battery Power

That aside, I’m going to focus on evaluating this product objectively because the newer z10 and Q10 models were great to Z30use. I’m starting with display because that is a focus of everyone these days, screen size and quality. Samsung users always mock me with my iPhone saying their screens are bigger and better. The BlackBerry Z30 display trumps both the iPhone and the Galaxy S4 in my book. I love this display. So easy to look and the colors are rich and warm. Blackberry lists it as a 5inch screen and that is the largest on any device ever released by the company. Samsung products like the Galaxy Note 3 come in at 5.7 inches but I find those a bit bulky at times. The Z30 gives you the nice screen without the extra bulk.

BlackBerry advertises 25 hours of mixed use battery life. This is further broken down into 18 hours talk time, 16 days standby, 90 hours of audio playback, and 12 hours of video playback. I did use this phone for an hour at a time on my morning commute, moving between apps, the web and phone. I was using the LTE network with a Telus SIM card provided to me and I did not push the battery that hard on this phone.The draw on the battery would be greater if on the outskirts of cell coverage so you should push the battery life to see how the Z30 stands up.

BlackBerry Z30 software

Having used the Z10 and Q10 I’m used to the BB10 software platform which is substantially different from iOS. Having recently upgraded to iOS 7 on my iPhone, I noticed how the “hook” gestures have been nicely lifted for newer versions from BB10.While I wasn’t used to them on the Q10, I must admit i love them now. This hook gesture means that you start from the bottom of the screen and swipe up and to the right. It takes a bit of practice but I could not live without it now. The OS also looks and feels better than Android. I find Android based devices to be the weakest between Blackberry, Apple and Android from a UI standpoint. Blackberry does do this very well, with Apple’s iOS in second. They also have tutorials on gestures that are found on their website.

Typing on the BlackBerry Z30

The QWERTY keyboard was such a huge part of the Blackberry brand for a long time that they released the Q10 to satisfy demand for the traditional physical keyboard. I’ve never needed a physical keyboard to type on any smartphone and I’d rather having a bigger screen to look at while not typing. The Z30 is a lot better I think than the Z10 and Q10 phones for typing and it uses the virtual keyboard. You can also use gesture-heavy typing for deleting earlier words, picking predictions for new ones, or hiding and summoning the keyboard.

BlackBerry 10 apps

While using the Z30 I’ve attempted to load as many of the apps on my iPhone onto any other phone I review. I like to see if I can make a seamless transition to another OS with minimal interruption. The fact that Blackberry lags so far behind iOS and Android is well-known now so there is no need to belabor the point here. There is the option to port apps via Android and I should have explored this option more. I should have pushed a little harder to do this so any comments from people who have done this is welcome.

We know that the popular Instagram isn’t available and I went through an Instagram phase but have begun to use it less and less. Blackberry does offer Facebook, Foursquare, LinkedIn, and Twitter already installed on the Z30 and this is a nice bonus. They tie nicely into the Hub as well and it is great to go straight to the Hub to look at associated messaging.

Mobile Scanner Review: Visioneer RoadWarrior 3

The Visioneer RoadWarrior 3 mobile scanner was a delight to review. It worked as advertised and exceeded my expectations. A compact little unit, the RoadWarrior weighed in at only 380g (13.4 oz) with dimensions of 290*54*38 mm (11.4″*2.2″*1.5″) (W * D * H) making it a truly mobile device. This one can fit easily in your laptop carrying case alongside your other peripherals. In fact no external AC power is required as the unit is USB powered which means no bulky power bricks to lug around.

Find a mobile scanner at Amazon

The RoadWarrior ships with a bunch of software including:

  • PDF Converter: which allows you to create, convert, edit, assemble and securely share PDF files.
  • PaperPort: a fast way to organizae, receipts, expense reports, documents and photos.
  • OmniPage: OCR analysis software which means the ability to create searchable PDF files.
  • OneTouch: automates some processes into a touch of a button to scan your documents to a destination or to a cloud provider such as Evernote.
  • Acuity: helps to improve visual clarity of the scanned document with functions like auto-straighten and auto-rotate.

mobile scanner

 

mobile scanner

 

What I liked about the RoadWarrior

Besides the compact size and weight I really liked the fact that the program automatically prompted me to create an OCR version of the scan. This is super important for me especially as I store a lot of my documents in management systems such as OpenText DM.

I also liked the fact that as soon as the unit grabbed a sheet of paper it just started scanning. It was actually super easy and quick to get scans underway.

mobile scanner

 

What I didn’t like about the RoadWarrior

Personally I thought there was almost too much functionality thrown at me off the bat with all these buttons. I think this is just one of those things you get over with time but it did feel a little overwhelming at first considering my old scanner basically has one button and a couple of fields to fill in.

Also I found the install process a little cumbersome but that could have been because I was using a 7 year old Windows XP computer (actually I can almost guarantee that was the problem). I really need a new Windows computer! Actually my Macs are about the same age so sometime in my future I’m going to be shelling out a small fortune!

mobile scanner

Find a mobile scanner at Amazon

Overall the Visioneer RoadWarrior 3 was pleasant to use and review. I think the pros definitely outweighed the cons and I would have no hesitation recommending this unit to anyone looking for a mobile scanner. If you have any questions, comments or feedback about this little gadget do please leave a comment below! Thanks, Jay

Motorola Moto X: OK Google Now!

At first using the Motorola Moto X didn’t seem much different than any other Android device but when I drilled deeper into the functionality I was pleasantly surprised. On the device I set up my default services including Gmail (Google Account) and Twitter.

As with other Android devices I really like the notifications functionality compared to other smartphone vendors. The notifications are easy to find, read, and dismiss with a swipe of the finger. But one difference I noticed right away was the phone would “glow” with a Twitter icon occasionally. I found that if you pressed the icon more information would become available about the notification and you could even swipe into it to open the app directly.

According to the Motorola press release, this functionality is called Active Display, “Moto X is always ready to tell you what you need to know. Instead of an unhelpful blinking light, Moto X gives you useful info at a glance with Active Display, which appear right on screen.”

But the feature that really got me sold on the device was the voice command. After a quick voice training lesson all it took was saying “okay Google now… ” and the “open Twitter” for example. and it just did what I wanted. I actually found that the Google now voice command was more accurate and responsive than Apple’s Siri. Plus it was less prone to misinterpretation. I think Google has really hit the nail on the head with Google now.

Find smartphones at Amazon

Motorola Moto XAs for the smartphone design I found the Moto X nice to hold and I like the back which is a flat matte design and stuck to my hand nicely. Compared to other smartphones that have a smooth  surface on the back the matte surface makes sense and I felt the device was firmly in hand and not about to slip away.

Another thing I noticed right away about the Moto X was the absence of physical buttons on the face of the smartphone. There is a power button on the right hand side along with volume controls below that but for the most part buttons on the device face are of a virtual nature.

I also appreciated the fast camera access which came when I twisted my wrist a couple of times to activate. The Motorola press release sums it up nicely, “Moto X knows you need a camera, and it’s always ready to go. Just twist your wrist twice and it’s ready. Touch anywhere on the screen, and you’ll get the shot. All in just a few seconds. Continuous shooting capabilities, as well as a ten megapixel camera…” Being a photographer this is a feature I can truly appreciate as I know that if you’re not on top of the action its easy to miss a shot.

The Motorola Moto X ships with Android 4.2 (Jelly Bean) and overall is a hit with me. I wouldn’t  hesitate to recommend this smartphone if you’re in the market for an Android device.