quinta-feira, 27 de junho de 2013

Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 series announced; Budget tablets, at most

Samsung announced the third generation of its Galaxy Tab series of tablets, and guess what? they're all designed similarly to the Galaxy S4. The Galaxy Tab 3 7.0, 8.0 and 10.1 are all clearly budget tablets that don't carry any impressive specs. Since the Galaxy Tab 2 series also showed the same low-end trend, I believe Samsung intends to keep the Galaxy Tab line as a budget-conscious one.

Galaxy Tab 3 7.0
The Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 is Samsung's latest 7-incher, and it will be available for a very affordable $199, but even the low price tag doesn't justify its lackluster specifications. The display is specially poor, unfortunately, as it is a TFT with 1024 x 600 resolution, which results in a mediocre 170 pixel density (slightly more than the iPad mini's pixel density, but that's only due to the smaller display). So apart from not providing sharp text, the Tab 3 7.0's display looks like it won't offer vibrant colors and good viewing angles. Internally, this tablet is powered by a 4000 mAh non-removable battery. Almost nothing is known about the SoC at this point. All we know is that the Tab 3 7.0 will be powered by a dual-core 1.2GHz processor, so this tablet won't exactly be a good performer. The design concept is the same as the Galaxy S4, with a glossy plastic back and the 3.15MP camera (capable of 720p video recording) positioned in the top center of the device, and LED flash beside it. On the front there is, on the bottom, the home button and two soft buttons that nearly all Samsung devices have, and on top of the display is the Samsung logo and the 1.3MP front camera. The device isn't very thin, but not thick either, at 9.9mm and is very light at 302g

The Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 is expected to hit shelves later this year, and will be available in Wi-Fi only and 3G versions. The price for the Wi-|Fi only version with a poor 8GB of expandable storage is $199. Honestly, I can't think of any reason why someone would buy this tablet instead of the equally priced, albeit much better specced Nexus 7.

Galaxy Tab 3 8.0
The Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 is considerably better specced than the Tab 3 7.0, with a $299 price tag. Of course, the design, like the Tab 3 7.0, is very similar to the Galaxy S4. The difference between the Tab 3 7.0 and 8.0 is the 8.0 has much thinner lateral bezels to accommodate the larger display, which, by the way, is much more acceptable than the Tab 3 7.0. This 8" display has a higher resolution of 1280 x 800, which results in a 189 pixel density, which is not bad.  The TFT display doesn't sound like it'll boast particularly vibrant colors or wide viewing angles, though. The Tab 3 8.0 is considerably thinner than the Tab 3 7.0 (7.4mm vs 9.9mm), practically as thin as the iPad mini, and is also very light for its size, weighing 314g. This tablet is equipped with two cameras: a rear 5MP camera, with an LED flash and capable of shooting 720p video, and a 1.3MP front-facing camera. The Tab 3 8.0 brings back from the dead the old Exynos 4212 SoC (its only other appearance was in the original Galaxy Note), which is a 45nm based SoC containing two Cortex A9 cores at a slightly higher 1.5GHz clock and (naturally) a Mali-400MP GPU and an unusual 1.5 GB of RAM memory. The battery is slightly larger than the one used in the Tab 3 7.0, being a 4450 mAh unit.

The Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 is expected to debut at the same time as its 7-inch sibling in Q3, the 16 GB version shipping for a $299. It puts this tablet in a good position, as it is comparable to the iPad mini, yet $30 cheaper.

Galaxy Tab 3 10.1
Finally, there's the 10-inch Galaxy Tab 3. This tablet actually distinguishes itself from most Android tablets because it uses Samsung's usual hardware home button and the two capacitive buttons, hence there are no onscreen buttons displayed, which gives the display a cleaner look, and also allows for more screen real estate to be used. This could be a selling point for this tablet.
The Tab 3 10.1, unlike its smaller counterparts, is tailored for use in landscape mode, so its designed Galaxy S4 style, only in landscape. made of the same glossy white plastic, the Tab 10.1 is very thin for its size, measuring 8mm, and it's also extremely light, weighing 510 grams. So this tablet is 1.4mm thinner and an impressive 140g lighter than the latest iPad. However, such a minimalist design comes at a price, for instance, the lackluster display. I mean, 1280 x 800 pixels in a 10.1 inch screen (149ppi) is just far too low for today's standards. Even ASUS' $299 budget tablet has a 1920 x 1200 display. At any rate, in my opinion this is a great deal-breaker for this tablet. The trend has been that OEMs are realizing that tablets aren't good for taking photos, so some latest 10-inchers haven't put any emphasis on their cameras, and this is apparent with the Tab 3 10.1, as its rear facing camera is of 3.15MP with 720p video, and the front-facing camera is a standard 1.3MP. Internally, the Tab 3 10.1 consists of a 6800 mAh battery, which should be well suited for its specs, and in a weird move, Samsung ditched its own Exynos SoCs in favor of an Intel Atom Z2560 SoC, a 32nm based SoC with a dual-core Saltwell CPU (four threads thanks to HT) at 1.6GHz. A PowerVR SGX 544MP2 should offer very good gaming performance, especially with the low resolution of the tablet. The GPU's base clock is of 400MHz, which for this GPU should offer performance somewhere between the iPad 2 and 3 (but because of the lower resolution it could be actually in between the iPad 3 and 4). So this tablet won't win any benchmarks, but it's enough for a decent experience. The Tab 3 10.1 will ship with 1 GB of RAM (less than the Tab 3 8.0, how strange....).

The Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 should debut around Q3, like the rest of the Galaxy Tab 3 line, and it will be available in Q3. It will sell in Wi-Fi only, 3G, and LTE versions, with the 16 GB Wi-Fi only entry level Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 costing $399. Personally, I think Samsung's pricing is pretty bad here, because for $100 less you can get an ASUS tablet with a Full HD display, and for the same price you can get a top end Nexus 10. So, again, I don't see any reason to buy this tablet when there are better specced competitors for the same or even a lower price.

domingo, 16 de junho de 2013

ASUS MeMO Pad 10 FHD and 7 HD: Premium Budget Tablets

Amidst many announcements ASUS made during Computex 2013, most of which were high end, premium devices, a few budget conscious devices were announced as well. ASUS (thankfully) addressed the fact that their low-end tablet range, the MeMO Pads, were far too low-end to make their low price tag worth it. In fact, the new members of the MeMO Pad line, the MeMO Pad 7 HD and the 10 FHD, offer a lot of bang for the buck, keeping the same price as their predecessors ($149 for the 7 HD and $299 for the 10 FHD).

MeMO Pad 7 HD

Definitely an excellent refresh to the original lack-luster MeMO Pad, this new version of the 7-inch tablet discards the Nexus 7-originated rubbery texture in favor of a glossy plastic. Like the previous MeMO Pad, this tablet comes in multiple color options, like a white, pink, yellow and blue version. Apart from that change in the back casing, there doesn't appear to be much change in the design. The ASUS logo below the screen remains, but the bezels (both horizontal and vertical) appear slightly smaller. The display is the same 7" IPS unit from the last MeMO Pad, but it receives a significant bump from 1024 x 600 to a 1280 x 800 resolution, equaling the Nexus 7 with 218ppi. The SoC in the MeMO Pad 7 HD may not be as good as the Nexus 7's Tegra 3, though. A MediaTek SoC with a 1.2GHz quad-core Cortex-A9 CPU and a PowerVR SGX544 GPU powers the 7 HD, with 1GB of RAM memory. While the CPU should be competitive enough (better than the iPad mini's at least), I can't ascertain how good the GPU is (the 544 can have more than one core, and the clock speed is also unknown), but if we assume that it is a single SGX 544 core running at its max clock speed (533MHz), then we can expect performance on par with an iPad 2 (also the iPad mini), so it should be competitive enough. The 7 HD should also be slightly lighter than the iPad mini,weighing 302g, however still considerably thicker (10.8mm). Unlike the Nexus 7, the MeMO Pad has dual cameras: a 5MP piece on the rear, capable of 720p video, and a 1.2MP shooter on the front.

The MeMO Pad 7 HD is expected to launch roughly around July, and will be available in 8 and 16 GB versions. This tablet's greatest advantage over the Nexus 7 is that the 8 GB version ships for just $139, establishing itself and one of the first sub-$150 tablets that is actually decent, spec-wise.

MeMO Pad 10 FHD

ASUS made a pretty decent budget 10" tablet with the original MeMO Pad 10 Smart. It offered a light tablet, a decent display and SoC, all for just $299. In fact, I think this is the cheapest 10-incher around. Now that ASUS is refreshing this tablet with a much better spec-sheet, they managed to make a very good, yet very cheap 10" tablet. Design-wise, the new MeMO Pad 10 doesn't change much. The back has the same layout: dual speakers located on either end of the device (in landscape), an ASUS logo in the center and a camera on the top-center of the device. The back is made of plastic, and will be available in multiple color options (blue, pink and white). The tablet weighs 580g and has practically the same thickness (9.5mm) as the iPad 4. What is impressive about the MeMO Pad 10 FHD, especially for the price, is that, as its name suggests, its display will have Full HD resolution (1920 x 1200). As usual, this tablet's display is an IPS unit, which means great viewing angles. The rear camera is a 5MP unit capable of shooting 1080p video, while the front-facing camera is 1.2MP. This is a very interesting tablet, because it is one of the few Android tablets that have an Intel Atom processor. This tablet, in fact, comes with a Clover Trail+ SoC, hence it should be a good perfomer. This particular SoC (codename Z2560) uses two Saltwell cores running at 1.6GHz (HyperThreading enabled). The GPU is a PowerVR SGX 544MP2 at up to 400MHz, so the gaming performance should be slightly less than that of the iPad 3. The memory consists of 2 GB of RAM with a memory interface of dual-channel LPDDR2-1066 (8.5GB/s), which should be enough to keep framerates smooth, unless you decide to play more complex 3D games.

The MeMO Pad 10 FHD is expected to be available as of Q3 2013, the entry-level 16 GB version being available for just $299, establishing the MeMO Pad 10 as an excellent Android tablet for a very low price.

segunda-feira, 3 de junho de 2013

New ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity Announced At Computex 2013: 1600p Display and NVIDIA Tegra 4 on board

ASUS is announcing a wide variety of mobile devices at its Computex 2013 event, - innovative and quirky alike - together with its latest flagship 10-inch tablet, a refreshed version of the Transformer Pad Infinity. While it doesn't, so far, appear to bring any big change to the Transformer Pad line, and in fact is more of a refresh, as the new Transformer Pad Infinity brings with it a very competitive high-resolution display and what must be the fastest mobile SoC yet.

The new Infinity uses the same kind of display as the last-gen Infinity, that is, a bright Super IPS+ display, however, the new Infinity receives a significant bump in terms of resolution, as it has a resolution of 2560 x 1600 (vs the 1920 x 1200 of the "old" Infinity), and a pixel density of 299ppi (vs 224ppi in the old Infinity), which beats the 264ppi of the iPad 4 and is on par with the Nexus 10's display. There's no data to back this up right now, but based on previous Transformers with the same Super IPS+ display, the display will probably have the same excellent blacks, and also unsurpassed screen brightness which characterizes the Super IPS+ display, which results in very good contrast from these displays. However, ASUS' tablet displays tend to reproduce rather washed out colors. We can't be sure these characteristics of ASUS tablet displays will also be present on the new Infinity, but it's definitely a possibility. Like the old Infinity, the new version will also have its display protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 2.

It's clear now how tablet cameras are really not that important, since ASUS actually downgraded the camera from the old Infinity to the new one (8MP vs 5MP), hence (almost) all modern tablets have 5MP cameras, which only shows how tablets, especially 10-inch ones, aren't adequate for taking pictures and videos.

One very interesting aspect of the new Transformer Pad Infinity is its internals. In fact, it is one of the first devices to use NVIDIA's powerful Tegra 4 System-on-Chip. Basically, it is an SoC built on power efficient 28nm process, which supports an optional Icera 3G/4G modem (hence, we may see an LTE variant of the Infinity). The SoC itself consists of four powerful Cortex A15 cores ticking at 1.9GHz, with an additional low frequency Cortex A15 core for handling light workloads with very little power consumption, with a 2 GB of RAM memory and a memory interface of 32-bit dual-channel DDR3-1899 (17.1 GB/s) and a whopping 72-core GPU. Thanks to the powerful GPU and outstanding memory bandwidth, the Infinity will fare very well with complex 3D games despite its mind blowing resolution.

Last but not least, the new Transformer Pad Infinity, much like every Transformer device preceding it, will have an optional keyboard dock that essentially turns the device into an Android Ultrabook, plus enhances connectivity and battery life. In fact, Pad + Dock combined will have a total battery capacity of 18,000 mAh; much more than the iPad 4's 11,000 (ish) mAh battery.

The Transformer Pad Infinity will be released in the coming months (no specific dates were given though), and so far is confirmed to ship with 32 GB of storage (a 64 GB version is likely to be released too). Pricing is still unknown but the 32 GB version will probably cost $499, corresponding to the last gen Infinity and competitive with other tablets. On paper, the ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity looks like it will place itself ahead of the current top tablets (specifically, the iPad 4 and the Google Nexus 10), or will at least be on par with them, in terms of display, design, performance, etc.