When Google launched its first smartphone and called it Nexus there was much hype and anticipation for a smart device that could effectively compete side by side against the IPhone 4. Whilst the interest on the Android operating system continues unabated with analysts predicting Android to become the dominant smartphone OS eclipsing IOS, Windows and any other mobile platform (Symbian being all but dead and WebOS DOA), the success of Nexus remains largely niche. The Nexus has not gained the wide success of the iPhone as the chic phone of the cool masses. Instead Google’s strategic pullout in the direct sale business and limited marketing of the Nexus has relegated it to the realm of the geeks, nerds and experimenters daring to be different.

On 26 June 2011, I opted to get myself a Samsung Galaxy S2. Months earlier I was content to use my BB Torch. Owning an iPhone was never in my radar but having read so much about Android, including the much hyped and anticipated Nexus 3, I was waiting anxiously for a chance to try out an Android phone. So the SGS2 was a welcome replacement for my Torch. To be honest I was still hooting for the Nexus 3 even as I was signing on the dotted line to fork out my hard-earned dough for the SGS2.

Five months later, I was helping a cousin buy a Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 when the store sales clerk said I could trade in my SGS2 for the new Nexus 3 and pay only HK$1,500 for the upgrade. Without thinking (also called impulse buys) I decided to make the trade. But as I headed home that night I realized I was duped into buying the Nexus 3 so early in its Lifecycle.

While the three button device with a curvaceous frame certainly was very appealing I very quickly discovered somethings I’ve grown accustomed to on my SGS2 were missing and I want them on Nexus 3 (more on that later).

The Nexus 3 uses the same curve glass top design concept as the Nexus S (its predecessor).  Somehow Samsung and Google decided not to use Corning Gorilla Glass and instead opted for a no-brand glass top. Does it make it inferior? You be the judge watch this video.

The back cover uses the so-called Hyper Skin finish giving it a nice grip – which I felt was missing with the SGS2. The rest of the body is made entirely of plastic – a let down if you consider how much you have to fork out to get this phone (PRICE).

The Nexus 3 screen is a large 4.65 inch with an HD resolution of 720×1280 pixels and pixel density of 316 ppi. The phone sports a HD Super AMOLED screen using an RGBG PenTile matrix for pixel arrangement. The AMOLED screen means you get high contrast levels, wide viewing angles and very saturated colors, which results is very sharp vivid images.

The Nexus 3 comes with the usual ports, buttons and switches: a standard microUSB charging/sync port, 3.5, headset jack, volume rocker and power key. There is also a three-dot connector on the right side of the device. What’s it for remains a mystery to me. The buttonless glass is partly attributable to the Google Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) OS used on the Nexus 3. The biggest physical let down for me on this phone is the 5MP camera. At a time when 8MP is almost standard, Google allowed Samsung to fit this phone with a mere 5MP camera. That said, this is one of the fastest camera I’ve had the pleasure of using.

Unlike the iPhone which uses static homescreen, on the Nexus you can have widgets as well as apps, meaning you can access features like email, weather, etc., without launching a separate application. Yes this approach adds complexity to the environment and additional system resources. And that is the trade off when you want customizability as that which comes with Android – something lacking on the iPhone. As with the current versions of IOS, you can now create folders where you can group like-minded applications.

On ICS, navigational keys “Back”, “Home” and “Multitasking” form part of the interface. The latter allows you to move back and forth between running applications. The notification dropdown is transparent; plus the addition of the ‘swipe away’ gesture to remove unwanted items.

The Nexus 3 is by far the fastest phone I’ve ever had the pleasure to use. I suspect it may be because the ICS software was optimized for the duo-core TI OMAP 4460 processor running at 1.2 GHz.

The most common apps I’d use with a smartphone are messaging, contacts (People) and calendar. On the Nexus the apps are optimized for clean interface and fast access. The Calendar is swipe-enabled, so you can now use gestures like pinch-to-zoom to get details and swipe between days, weeks and months.

With affordable mobile broadband Web browsing on the smartphone has become a common pre-occupation. On the Nexus 3, browsing is fast and almost flawless. Navigation is fast and browsing even better when the website is optimized for mobile devices. As with the calendar app, scrolling, panning around, zooming in using pinch-to-zoom and double-tap work very smoothly. Did I tell you there is an offline viewing feature for those times when you expect to be out of Internet connection.

The Nexus 3 is built for connectivity, including Wi-Fi b/g/n/a and Bluetooth 3.0, NFC and MHL. I use the NFC feature to scan my Octopus card’s stored value. The Nexus 3 comes with a GPS.

While the Nexus 3 came with a 5MP camera which is disappointing when you consider that many of the high end smartphones are equipped with at least 8MP. The camera interface itself is simple and easy to use, and comes with white balance, exposure and scene modes. Video recording comes with a set of fun face-detection-based effects like Squeeze, Big Eyes, Big Mouth, Big Nose, etc. I particularly like the built-in panorama model – it works very efficiently. The biggest plus for me when it comes to the camera is its shutter speed. It even beats my Canon G1 X – how is that for speed? Word of warning… the continuous auto focus feature sometimes acts up and doesn’t want to shift from one target to another. Outdoor shots are reasonably sharp but low light situations are bad (but most phone cameras and even some dedicated compact cameras do the same thing). The Nexus 3 comes with a tiny flash so don’t expect much.

To complement the camera is Gallery, a photo app with built-in image editor. It comes with some decent tools like adjusting exposure or saturation, fixing the red-eyes, and applying other effects.

Listening to music is nothing average but watching videos is a pleasure largely due to the Super AMOLED screen – at times I think it’s better than some of the TVs I see in the market.

WHAT I DON’T LIKE

Apart from my disappointment with the camera, I’ve discovered an anomaly that exists on the Nexus 3 as it does on the SGS2. The back of the phone around the camera heats up intermittently. I can only attribute it to some software acting up but to date I’ve not discovered what is doing this. Going to Samsung tech support hasn’t been easy either – um sek yin man (no speak English)!

CONCLUSION

This is my first Android phone with no custom interface developed by the vendor that has been the stumbling block to OS upgrades. Having tested Gingerbread earlier on HTC, Dell, Sony Ericsson and Samsung mobile phones, I have to say that ICS is, by far, the best iteration in the Android line.

As of this writing there are newer phones out in the market that still use Gingerbread – for whatever reason I’ve been reading about ICS coming to some existing HTC, Sony Ericsson and Samsung phones but with no definitive dates, I can only say to the owners of these devices: tough!

I promised earlier on that I am not writing this as a tribute to Google or to Samsung. It isn’t! It’s a review of a product – good and bad. In fairness I think I was dupe – to some degree – into buying this phone. Largely because I’m the kind of person who will never be happy with the version of the device I bought. But owning a Google phone is way better than owning a SE or iPhone or HTC – at least the next iteration won’t be six months from release of the previous version. Other vendors produce new models every 4 to 6 months – and that just riles me up! I bought an iPad and three months later Apple released iPad 3. @$^#@%&$^*#!

Technical Spec
OS: Android 4.0.1
Dimension: 135.5 x 67.94 x 8.94 mm
Weight: 135g
Display: 4.65 inches, 720×1280 pixels Super AMOLED, multi-touch capacitative
Sensors: light, proximity, accelerometer, gyroscope, compass, barometer
Battery: 1750mAh
Processor: dual core 1200 MHz TI OMAP 4460

System RAM: 1024MB
Built-in storage: 16GB
Rear-facing camera: 5 megapixel with LED flash
Camcorder: 1920×1080 30 fps
Front-facing camera: 1.3 megapixels
Connectivity: Bluetooth 3.0, 802.11 b/g/n/a with mobile hotspot, micro USB 2.0 and HDMI via micro USB, NFC, MHL, OTA sync
Voice: quad band GSM/UMTS
Data: HSDPA+, HSDPA 14.4 Mbits/s, UMS, HSUPA 5.76 Mbits/s, EDGE
Satellite: GPS, A-GPS
Navigation: Points of Interest, Turn-by-turn navigation, Voice navigation

Photos

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I just read Steve Duplessie’s take on the HDS acquisition of Bluearc. If I had a dollar for every time I read about HDS buying a NAS appliance, I’d still be poor. They tried it a few times with some small OEMs over the years and in most cases the problem was part technology and part a sales issue.

Let’s face it… HDS is used to selling humongosaur-like systems to the very large enterprises who can afford to buy big iron. Much of HDS’ traditional hardware (manufactured by parent Hitachi) is designed around block-based storage (yes, agree with Steve on this).

Unfortunately for HDS, and lucky for NAS-behemoth NetApp, there are still customers out there, even the big ones, who need file storage  because companies still store a lot of information in the form of files – probably a lot more than you feel comfortable with. I have a 1.5TB redundant NAS appliance at home serving the four members of my family. Yes, applications like ERP, CRM and SCM have limited use for NAS systems and will run a lot faster if the database is running off a powerful SAN engine. But for 100% of employees in any company, they will need to store their files in the network somewhere – and a NAS is a perfect place for that.

So back to HDS… why does HDS need a NAS solution? Likely because customers are hinting they need it. But more importantly lacking a NAS  solution gives competitors like NetApp a window to get in and slowly eat through the HDS armor that surrounds Mr Enterprise customer.

Will this ever work for HDS? I think the bigger challenge for HDS is understanding the technology and being able to sell it convincingly.  From history, this is where the rubber meets the road. This is where all those countless NAS technologies that HDS tried to sell got buried. The good news is HDS has had a few years of history selling BlueArc. Now its just a matter of getting the sales people (in Asia) to get moving.

I never intended this to be a gaming review as I haven’t been a regular gamer since after I graduated from college and started working to pay the bills. But I am an avid movie watcher and I do a lot of photo and video editing. So my criteria for a laptop, since I also like to take my work wherever I go, is one that is light and powerful enough for photo and video editing. I’ve experimented with business and multimedia laptops and in all the years I’ve always, always, been disappointed. I’ve tried my hands on Apple, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo (formerly IBM), Sony and Toshiba, and hand in heart I can say in all honesty I can get my work done but I have time spare to watch TV, eat a meal or snack, and in a few cases take a shower (too much info?).

Then I read about Alienware computers – machines built from the ground up for serious gamers. The distinctive “sci-fi” styling, reminding us that we are not alone, together with the flashing logo/ keyboard and what looks like front headlights of the batmobile, give Alienware machines an eerie look if left alone in the dark.

I got a chance to try out the smallest gaming laptop on the planet courtesy of Ogilvy PR in Hong Kong. I was surprised at the simplistic packaging the laptop came in. I was even more surprised at the heft (2 kg) this tiny 11.25″ x 9.19″ x 1.29″ came in with. The magnesium-alloy chassis looks and feels thicker making the business-standard Thinkpad look like a plastic toy in comparison. I actually thought that Alienware machines were built from slabs of steel.

What I Like
Honestly, I didn’t like the keyboard when I saw it on photos. I still didn’t like it when I looked at a unit at the Dell display store in Wanchai. But after spending some time typing and banging away, I just had to shut up. The individual keys hold a traditional shape that is slightly curved in the middle of each key. Key spacing is quite good and each key has the perfect amount of feedback with minimal side travel. Some nights I had to work with the lights out in the bedroom and the LED backlit with transparent key frame were a blessing. You have to be a Trekker to appreciate the futuristic font look of the key labels. More importantly, the support frame beneath the keyboard is rock solid.

For an 11 incher, the Alienware MX11 R3 doesn’t skimp on ports (My work laptop a Dell E4310 has one USB 2.0 and a USB/e-sata combo port). It comes with one USB 2.0 and two USB 3.0 ports, FireWire, a 3-in-1 media card slot, Ethernet, standard audio jack, and two video out options: HDMI and DisplayPort.

What I Don’t Like
Apart from the hefty size-to-weight (pound for pound this is a heavy machine), it also gets reasonably hot underneath despite the backlit fan (very quiet) which tries to desperately cool down the machine. I don’t want to speculate what the laptop would feel like without the fan.

Some reviewers pounce on the glossy display which makes it very difficult to read the screen in the outdoors but you can correct this with one of those anti-glare screen protectors which most laptop owners do anyway to protect their investments. Of course you have to taper it a bit since the overall shape of the display is not exactly rectangular. A more serious problem might be the very narrow viewing sweet spot on the MX11. If you move your head just a little bit you won’t see an completely black screen during dark scenes in a game (also applies when video or photo editing!).

I know this is a gaming machine but why did Alienware decide to be stingy with the Synaptics touchpad? Yes the honeycomb textured surface makes for smooth, controlled finger movement and the buttons are responsive but it’s very small! Note to Alienware engineers – checkout the Macbook Air and learn!

One Other Thing
The MX11 comes pre-installed with Windows 7 Home 64-bit. But the truly important software is the Command Center. The clearly laid out and intuitive user interface allows the case illumination to be adjusted (AlienFX), as well as configuring the power options (AlienFusion), and the touchpad (AlienTouch).

Rumour has it that optical drives are on the way out. Apple appears to spearhead this drive with recent hardware releases missing optical drives. I actually thought the MX11 would have a slot loading drive. But it doesn’t. Do I need one? I actually rarely use the optical drive on my E4310 but it is handy on those occasions when I need to install software from disc, watch a DVD from a disc, or burn a DVD. But I can’t say I’ll be willing to pay extra for it.

The 15″ and 17″ siblings of the MX11 have twin vents on the front of the laptop which is part of the cooling system. I really don’t understand why Alienware technicians decided to forego this feature on the MX11. Maybe it’s an internal design constraint?

Did I mention that the battery is built-in? Laptop aficionados might scowl at this but compared to Apple, Dell understands that the battery is user replaceable. The MX11 has a single massive cover panel for the battery, hard drive, wireless cards and memory slots and uses eight standard Phillips screws for easy disassembly. Current Apple laptops are 100% non-user replaceable so that Apple can charge you a steep price for additional memory or to replace your battery or hard drive. How is that for customer friendly design? Alienware even designed the screws with retention clips so they don’t fall out when unscrewing. Something Steves and Co might want to think about if it truly cares what customers think. Fat chance!

Most reviews I’ve seen of the MX11 point to an odd approach taken with the Klipsch speakers. The downward-firing drivers located on the bottom front end means that the sound can be muffled if you put your laptop on a flat surface. Alienware engineers did include two small sound channels into the chassis to redirect sound forward through the two decorative LED panels on the front but for my money this is not good enough. Of course I shouldn’t complain since most other laptops use tiny speakers making it almost mandatory to keep a pair of headsets ready for those odd moments when you want to listen to music, watch a video or hold a conference call via Skype. MX11 designers included two headphone jacks!

Would I buy an MX11 as my permanent laptop? Pound for pound, the MX11 is true value for money. You get the power typically found in larger, heavier and more expensive machines, yes even against Apple, at a much lower price point. Bravo Dell for finally making Alienware the gaming machine for the masses.

TECH SPEC (At a Glance):
Processor: Intel® Core™ i7-2617M 1.5GHz (2.6GHz w/Turbo Boost, 4MB Cache)
Operating: System Genuine Windows® 7 Home Premium 64bit Multi-Language (Traditional Chinese / English)
Display: 11.6″ (29.5cm) WLED HD (720p) display (WXGA 1366X768)
Graphics: Dual graphics with Intel HD Graphics 3000 and 2.0GB DDR3 NVIDIA GeForce GT 540M
Memory: 8GB DDR3 SDRAM at 1333MHz (upgradeable to 16GB)
Hard Drive: 750GB 7500RPM (upgradeable to 256GB SSD)
Connectivity: Wi-Fi a/b/g/n, 375 Bluetooth, Gigabit Ethernet, integrated SIM card port
Camera: 2.0 Megapixel Camera with dual digital microphones
Battery: 8-cell
Price: HK$11,999 (USD1,548)

Other Review:
Compreviews: http://compreviews.about.com/od/PC-Gaming-Laptops/fr/Alienware-M11x-Spring-2011.htm
Notebook Check: http://www.notebookcheck.net/Review-Alienware-M11x-R3-Gaming-Notebook.51236.0.html
Alienware Video Review

Dell laptops closely mimic the Thinkpad series from Lenovo – they tend to be monochromic from an industrial design perspective. This is particularly true if you look at Dell’s laptops by family (Inspiron, Latitude, XPS and Vostro). Occasionally Dell will venture outside of conventional norm and come up with something that takes it out of its comfort zone (sort of).

The XPS Adamo is one good example. This review, though, is not about the Adamo. Rather it is about the Vostro V130. Dell targets the small business with this series. Small business people tend to want to buy devices that are less on feature and more on style (I think). And while I would think that budgets can be tight, the lack of good, depth of IT knowledge often means that purchases are driven by perception and/or first impressions.

Just before Chinese New Year I was offered to test drive the Dell Vostro V130. My first impression when the laptop was delivered to my office was that this isn’t the Dell laptop that I’ve come to know. I’ve used Dell laptops (Inspiron and Latitude) over eight years and during that period associate the brand with no frills, unimpressive computers.
OBSERVATIONS
The Vostro V130 is not the first Dell laptop to sport a brushed metal alloy (Alloy is a combination of aluminium, zinc and magnesium). The Dell Vostro V130 has a stylish and distinguished look. At 330mm x 16.5-19.7mm x 23mm, this is one of the slimmer of models that has come out of Dell in recent years. The result is a laptop that will turn heads not only with its looks but certainly when viewing 720P quality videos.

I am made to understand that the V130 is one of a new breed of hybrid laptops that stand between conventional laptops (big and heavy) and netbooks (small and under powered). By taking the best of both worlds, hybrids meet the needs of people who travel around constantly for a computing device that will run almost all of their business and entertainment applications without breaking their backs carrying a computer.

One area where Dell chose to deviate from the norm is with the Vostro V130 keyboard. Most other brands and models use the chicklet keyboard favored by Apple. The V130 uses what I can only quess are conventional keys. Touch typists, or just about anyone who types for long periods at a time will appreciate the tactile feedback that the V130 keyboard delivers.


WHAT I LIKE

While I don’t condone the purchase of laptops because they look cool, Apple has certainly made it ‘almost’ a required practice among laptop manufacturers to bring in industrial design talent to design and build laptops that not only perform well but also look good. Executives who have used laptops, Dell’s in particular, will likely give the Vostro V130 a second look particularly if they see the Dell logo.

I had this running on battery and then on AC adapter for a good day and noticed that it stayed relatively cool, even against the Thinkpad X201s that I use at work. I understand that Dell used Intel’s Hyperbaric cooling technology to keep this laptop cool (the chassis is designed to draw in air fro outside to keep the system cool and quiet). It draws in air from the left side and shoots warmer air from the right side.

I do a lot of video editing work and for my money, I found the Vostro V130 sufficiently capable of helping me crunch video interview footage into stories I push online. Certainly, I find very little difference editing videos on the V130 versus the Thinkpad X201s that I use daily. And at nearly half the price, I certainly find the V130 a real bargain (vendor online pricing: X201 is HK$12,288 (after discount); V130 is HK$6,999 (before discount).
WHAT I DON’T LIKE
This is not a light laptop to carry around. The 1.59kg number is certainly deceiving. After a day of moving this laptop around the house and at work, I found it heavy altough it would be unfair to compare it to my work laptop which is a 12″ laptop.

The deal breaker for me with the V130 is the internal six-cell battery which delivers a mere 1.5 hours at full brightness and WiFi operational. At half-brightness, you get 2.5 hours. If the V130 is truly classed as an ultraportable, then it fails miserably in this one aspect – battery life. Whereas most laptops, even the horrendously expensive Apple Macbook Pros, offer battery life starting at 4.5 hours with some even boasting 8 hours. At 1.5 hours, one cannot but wonder what Dell was thinking when they designed this laptop. Is it possible that Dell used an inferior battery supplier or its designers failed to remember the one reason why people buy laptops, to be able to work away from a power source for long periods at a time.

(more…)

On August 16, Dell announced its intention to acquire 3PAR Data, better recognized as one of the early pioneers of virtualized storage. A week HP made a counter offer that ups the bidding war for one of the few remaining storage pureplay startups in the once crowded enterprise storage marketplace.

Why is Dell interested in 3PAR? Dell’s storage business has largely depended on its OEM agreement with EMC (in force until 2013). But its storage buys of the last decade (ConvergeNet Technologies, EquaLogic, Exanet, Ocarina Networks) coupled with its Perot Systems acquisition suggests that Dell has higher ambitions than being a successful reseller of storage boxes that plug and play to its servers. The EquaLogic buy gave it iSCSI SANs (despite Dell having rights to sell EMC Celerra NX4).

For its part, HP has as much interest to keep Dell from acquiring 3PAR. Adding 3PAR to its portfolio puts Dell in the thick of the data center. A serious mid to high-end storage virtualization offering means more opportunities to sell high-end services, and possibly making a serious dent on HP’s ProLiant server and EVA/low-end XP storage business. A 3PAR solution overlaps with some of the XP and EVA so there might be a consolidation. I would not be surprised if HDS will come out the loser since it gives HP one more reason to stop the OEM relationship with the Japanese manufacturer (Rumors of HP trying to buy the system storage business of Hitachi have been playing around for well close to a decade now. So far the Japanese vendor has resisted the offer).

HP with 3PAR also puts the Palo Alto stalwart into serious contention in the cloud storage business, something EMC has been building over the last few years.The latest entrant to the cloud bandwagon is HDS.

The storage industry remains vibrant if not shrinking. The last few brands worth buying, remaining untethered to any system vendor, Brocade and Qlogic. Acquiring Brocade would give HP the ump it needs to up the ante in the storage networking space, seriously putting a rock in front of the Cisco jauggernaut. HP would also do well to buy Qlogic making further inroads into the total server-storage-networking storyline.

If Dell loses 3PAR to HP, the only other target on sight would be Compellent. Not exactly near the possibilities that 3PAR offers to the company. The next battleground is in the software space with backup and recovery solutions a consistent enterprise requirement and for which the choices are aplenty despite Symantec’s dominance. The Veritas acquisition has made Symantec vulnerable to enterprise-grade, low-cost solutions from the likes of Acronis, Commvault and BakBone.

For the moment, the storage market is not the most boring place in the tech industry.

You’ve seen one you’ve seen them all! This used to be my perception of computers – be they servers, desktops, laptops and netbooks. Eight years ago I had the opportunity to visit Nomura Research Institute‘s (NRI) data center in Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo. What amazed me with this visit was the fact that NRI’s data center showcased servers from every major hardware vendor – IBM, HP, Dell and Hitachi servers were spread out in neat rows. What was even more amazing to me was that unless you looked close enough you will find it difficult to distinguish one brand from the other.

Apple’s success following the return to power of Steve Jobs can be attributable to his choice of designer – Jonathan Paul Ive, an English designer and the Senior Vice President of Industrial Design at Apple Inc. You won’t appreciate Ive’s contribution until you equate his name to the iMac, PowerBook G4, MacBook, unibody MacBook Pro, iPod, iPhone and iPad. But this review is not about Ive or Apple. It is about Dell’s recent efforts to get over the perception that the company knows only how to make non-descript computers that resemble other brands’ products. The kind that says “me too”.

Earlier I reviewed the Dell Adamo XPS, which in my view does showcase Dell’s ability to produce coolness at the level of Apple (maybe even better in some cases). In this review, I share my experience with the Dell Adamo Pearl. The Pearl was first introduced at the 2009 Consumer Electronics Show.

And like the XPS, we’ve not seen this series in Asia. I visit the Dell showroom in Wanchai whenever I pass by the Wanchai Computer Mall and all the computers there on display are of the conventional black and black design. It’s no wonder Apple products turn people’s heads.

This should change with the Adamo Pearl. Made of brushed aluminum, the 16.4mm thickness coupled with the rather unique design of the bezel makes for an attractive talking piece. There is no latch to lock the screen but the hinge does hold the screen to the rest of the laptop very securely. Opening the computer reveals a 13.4″ WLED HD widescreen display (1366 x 768 resolution) with edge-to-edge glass (reminiscent of the MacBook Pro). Whereas MacBook Pros are molded from a single aluminum block, the Adamo is housed in an etched anodized aluminum chassis.

The surface around the keyboard is clean of any Microsoft or Intel stickers. But if you turn the Pearl on its bottom, you will find the Microsoft and Intel logos etched into a panel. The backlit keyboard reminds me of the now fasionable chicklet keys you will find on the MacBook and Sony Vaio laptops with one exception – each key is slightly scalloped rather than flat. The metal finish offers a luxury feel. Backlighting means you can type in dim light or total darkness.

The model I tested came pre-installed with Microsoft Vista Home Premium – meaning I couldn’t test the multi-touch trackpad capability (really a shame). But I managed to test drive it in other ways, including watching videos, and, of course, doing some work.

The Pearl uses a 1.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo U9400 ultra low voltage (ULV) processor with 3MB Level 2 Cache on board. I was a little disappointed to discover this baby still uses DDR2 memory chips. My experience with ULV equipped laptops hasn’t been very promising but this baby came installed with a fast 128GB Samsung SSD thin uSATA drive. Combined this explains why bootup was still reasonably fast despite the machine using the dreaded Windows VISTA operating system. At least it was the 64-bit version so the OS can take advantage of the 4GB of RAM on board (32-bit OS versions can only handle up to 3GB RAM).

Most laptops have ports on either side of the chassis. With the exception of a single headphone jack, the sides of the Pearl are clean of any such ports. Two USB 2 ports, a eSATA/USB port, a DisplayPort, a power socket, and an Ethernet port can be found at the back of the Pearl. (more…)

Back in the days when IBM still had a personal computer division, the Thinkpad series (first released in 1992) were targeted at mid- to large enterprises that wanted transportable computers that were rugged, asthetic and had the computing power needed to run most business applications. The classic Thinkpad designed has remained largely unchained over the years. However, the business dynamics of enterprises have changed. Economic downturns and the need for greater cost control have led managers to agree to use other brands as long as they did the job.

This changed in the perception among business executives is one of the reasons why Dell and HP successfully penetrated the enterprise despite being considered of inferior design and manufacture (to date, I still hear executives swear they will never use either brand with reliability cited as the most common reason).

When Lenovo bought the PC division from IBM, the Chinese company (in China they were known as Legend) decided to keep what it saw was a ‘winning’ design formula in the Thinkpad. Lenovo launched less the less pricy, 3000 series to target small businesses as well as consumers. The 3000 (C, N and V) series was eventually discontinued and giving rise to the Ideapad series with a much better aesthetic formfactor to meet a more design-conscious market. The Thinkpad family continued to be sold at a premium and despite new technology and materials, the external design remained the same – staid, boxy, heavy and black. Most executives I see carried their Thinkpad on a carry-case with wheels (that should tell you something).

If Apple Computer were to be credited with changing industry perception about personal computers is that you don’t have to be drab (dressed in black) to be productive, efficient and business-like. In fact you can be all of these and also be cool.

At the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2010, Lenovo decided to give the Thinkpad a facelift. The first two models to come off the show floor were the Thinkpad X100e and the Thinkpad Edge. The X100e is the first netbook for the business executive. I’ve read a number of very positive reviews about the X100e and so did my own review when I was handed the new netbook for a few days of handholding. True to its legacy, the X100e is a laptop with the business executive in mind. It carried everything you ever needed from your laptop at netbook prices. There were only two things I didn’t like about the X100e – weight (it was heavy at 1.36 kg) and the processor that came with the test unit was and AMD Athlon Neo MV-40 was not as energy efficient as the Intel Atom processors (of course the AMD chip has more compute horsepower compared to its Intel counterpart).

In the conventional laptop category, Lenovo launched the Thinkpad Edge, a 13.3″ laptop sporting a new body and new keyboard, while retaining the Thinkpad tradition of rugged, solid design. (more…)