Dienstag, 10. September 2013

IFA 2013 Impressions

This year at IFA was fun again, of course. But somehow it was less interesting compared to last year. I guess, this was because it seemed that anyone had the same on their booths. Last year, there where different focusses at the vendors, competing for your attention. Last year we had improved LED/LCD's, AMOLED's, TrueLED at Sony and 4K and glasses free 3D at Toshiba.
This year, mostly everybody had 'the worlds first 4K/UHD AMOLED', sometimes curved, and thats it. And interestingly, anyone showed that they can do ultra smooth panning. This problems finally seems to be solved and many vendors demonstrated this. Probably, the average built-in CPU is now fast enough of handling this.


Samsung showed 'the worlds largest Samsung UHD TV' with 110'' ...


... and the world's first ...

curved UHD OLED TV (according to Samsung).

But also, surprise, surprise, a 'bread-and-butter' UHD OLED TV.

We could play around with the Samsung Galaxy Gear, a companion device to some newer Galaxy Smartphones/Phablets and shot some really ugly photos with it ;-)

Besides from that, the Samsung booth was a little uninspiring, showing many of the same. I was looking for  a high spec notebook, but all I found were tablets and ultrabooks. They showed some of their NX cameras, but compared to Sony's NEX lineup, the NX lineup is a joke.

Trying to get Android into the business smartphone sector, Blackberry leaves a gap here, they had some expert stands with their Knox technology, making it possible to seperate private and business data on the same smartphone with some remote device management features. From my point of view the most interesting aspect of Samsungs booth.

Samsung also showed some improvement for their Plasma-TV lineup, but they are still not on par with Panasonic. So as long as Samsung sales their Plasmas for the same price as Panasonic, there is no point in buying one. But it is good to see, that some vendors are keeping up on Plasma as long as it takes for AMOLED to be available in moderate prices.


Of course, TCL also had the ...

... world largest UHD 3D TV


Toshiba upgraded their engine for UHD, now calling it CEVO4K capable of 4K upscaling of FullHD material.

Right before IFA, Toshiba announced 'the worlds first UHD TV below EUR 3000,-', but had no information on that model. They showed conventional LCD TV's with LED backlight, but with 4K resolution.

Toshiba demonstrated, that they where one of those vendors who solved the mistery of flicker free pan shots. Overall, the pictures looked very natural on Toshiba's TV's, compared to the over-punchy looking Samsungs. But due to conventional LED backlight, the 84'' modell hat problems with homogeneous lightning.


Of course, Panasonic has a much broader offering than the average home entertainment vendors.

For example, Panasonic showed their latest top end electric shaver. This thing is great, it went absolutely smooth over my face and I never heave been shaved that good by an electrical shaver.

I liked their new coffee machine. Just insert coffee, water and milk if needed. Then choose what you want on the touch screen and that's it. The cappuccino really tasted great.

Of course, Panasonic showed their excellent Plasma-TV lineup, this year with modell line number 60. So it is the GT60, VT60 and new top model ZT60. Every year, when it seemes that Plasma technology could not get even better, Panasonic brings a refined line up raising the bar a little further.

Panasonic also was one of the vendors showing that they have solved the flickering pan shot problem, showing a wall of flowers scrolling through the screen at high speed without the slightest flickering.

Interestingly, they also showed conventional LCD/LED screens with 4K resolution and amazing contrasts and blacks.


Sony also had the world's first 4K OLED TV ;-)

But Sony also offered a 4K video download service with some preload movies on a device looking like a big disc.

At least the 4K demo videos showed great detail.

And Sony showed their PS4, out of contest as Microsoft wasn't there to show the XBox.


LG also showed a wide line up ...

... with conventional IPS 4K displays

The 84'' model showed an enormous level of detail.

Of course, LG was also world's first with 'the worlds largest 77'' curved UHD OLED TV' (does this mean, that all the other 77'' TV's are smaller? ;-)

Especiall with LG's flicker free Cinema 3D technology, the picture quality is absolutely amazing. The 3D effect is that good, that I got the feeling that the screen is a window which I could just open.

Next to excellent picture quality, LG showed some nice classical picture frames around their screens. In addition with a screen saver showings classical paintings, you could save the money for your next Rembrandt ;-)

LG also showed their new top notch smartphone G2 with full HD display and all mechanical controls moved to the back. The idea is not bad, but I am not sure if I would get used to it. Unfortunately, the G2 only has non expandable built in storage, which is a no-go for me.

Like Samsungs Galaxy S4, the G2 can be equipped with a flip cover with a square hole in it. Closing this cover, the G2 switches to a minimal mode showing a collection of clocks, lets you do phone calls or use the music player without opening the cover.

As last year, LG showed the same XXXLarge 3D video wall ...

... but it was less impressive as last year mostly because they showed a different video which just was not so good.

And my personal best of show award goes to ...

... one of the cheapest gadgets. The new high end Panasonic shaver is absolutely amazing. Just the price tag of about EUR 300,- for the shaver and additional EUR 80,- for the charging/cleaning station keeps me from immediately buying it.

Donnerstag, 29. August 2013

#switch to WP8: start unexpensive with the Lumia 800

After the fail with the overpriced, I thought I get started into the WP8 ecosystem with something unexpensive instead. So I bought a used Lumia 800 on Amazon for only EUR 156,- so I could not do anything wrong with that.
I really love Nokias fabula design language, like the N8, N9 and also the Lumia 800. But I was really surprised, how great the Lumia 800 looks in reality. It is an absolute gorgeous device which easily matches the design and quality of the latest iPhones. Personally, I absolutely prefer the Lumia 800's design over the iPhone 4/5 and any Android device I ever saw, but this is a matter of taste. Pictures can not tell how good the 800 looks in reality. The curved screen, the materials. This is my personal favorite, period. I am not a friend of linking advertising videos from vendors, but this video shows, that the great design of the Lumia 800 did not came accidentially:

It feels a little heavy in my hands, as I am used to the bigger but lighter Samsung Galaxy S2. But the S2's little weight comes for the price of a cheap plastic body, compared to the Lumias polycarbonate unibody. In fact, it has exactly the same weight as the iPhone 4, which comes with a slightly smaller display. 

After switching it on, the next surprise is the quality of the display. In 2013, a 800*480 3,7'' display would excite no one. But it's brilliance really amazes me. I know AMOLED displays from my Galaxy S and S2 smartphones, but Nokias ClearBlack AMOLED is the best I saw. 
Comparing the displays of the iPhone 4, the Galaxy S2 and the Lumia 800, the iPhone has the weakest offering, not bad but not exciting at all. Just a bread-and-butter display. When I had my first Samsung SuperAMOLED smartphone, it had this 'Wow' effect on me. And the S2's display is still a great one, but comparing it side-to-side to Nokia's ClearBlack AMOLED looks definitely better. They black is even darker then on the S2 and everything looks even crisper, probably due to the higher dpi on the 800. And there is another effect which is hard to describe and can not be shown on a photo. On the 800, it looks like the graphics are directly on the surface, whereas on the S2 it is more like the graphics are below a piece of glass. On the other hand, the S2's display is singnificantly larger, thogh it does not show more information as both devices share the same resolution. Anyways this is a comparison on a very high level, only the iPhone's screen falls short.
From the hardware point of view, I absolutely fell in love with the Lumia 800. So let's take a look at the software. 

I started installing some of my favorite apps like Evernote, Audible, Kindle, Shazam and others and have been very satisfied having my standard environment also on Windows Phone. The Audible app on WP looks even better then the ones on Android and iOS (UPDATE: with the summer 2013 update, the Android version got a UI overhaul and is now on the same level as the WP8 version. Only the iOS variant still falls short). There is no Amazon.com mp3 store for WP8, but maybe I will get used to Nokia music instead?

Overall I really like Windows Phone's clear UI paradigm, and I love how slick it runs even on such a moderate powered device. I like, how the left/right-swipes are used to switch pages or tabs in apps. So everything looks good until now.

It was late in the evening when I finished the setup of the Lumia. So I wanted to setup an alarm for the morning and to to bed. And as I am used to on my Android phone, I wanted to wakeup with my favorite radio station via internet radio. But to my surprise, I needed to stay up a little longer than I have planned, because this took some time for resarch. In the end I found out, that there is not a single internet radio alarm clock for Windows Phone. There is radio.de, which at least gives a short blip at the alarm time but I wanted it to play my favorite station. There are several radio alarm clocks for Android like Radio Alarm, which I am using. But none for Windows Phone, this is the first time I met the App Gap. How hard could it be to write an internet radio app with an alarm clock.

The next morning when I drove to the office, I tested the new Here Drive beta. I know some Nokia fans, who just buy Nokia phones just for their great included navigation. To be honest, I have never been a fan of Nokias navigation software. It always felt short in comparison.

And then my negative list grew that fast, that I immediately quitted testing. Most apps I needed were non-existent or so much worse than their iOS or Android counterparts. So I sent the beautiful Lumia 800 back and ended the Windows phone experiment. Maybe I try again in a few years, but for now I stay with the Android.

Dienstag, 27. August 2013

WP 8 first try: Lumia 820

I decided to start with the Lumia 820 first, it looked like a good descision. A more than average specified Hardware with a 1,5 GHz dual core CPU that should be more than enough for any of my use cases. Nokias ClearBlack AMOLED screens are absolutely stunning and a 4.3' screen is big enough for me, though my Galaxy S3 already has a larger 4,8' screen. With 8GB internal storage and the option for up to 64 GB micro SDHC storage, I should have more than enough space for all my media which I like to have with me when I am on the road.
What I didn't know was, that the additional SD card storage can only be used for my own media which I might sync with the device. But it is not available for apps, so all data from apps like maps, podcatchers, Kindle, Audible have to fit into the internal storage. And this is only about 6GB, because the System already takes about 1,9GB. OK, I could have found out that before buying, if I had done some research. But this is so stupid, that I had never expected that.

But this is not the only drawback. In my intro, I wrote that I absolutely love Nokias design language. Especially their fabula design models like the good old N8, but also the Lumia 800 and 900. To make it short: the 820 has absolutely nothing of that. I ordered it in black, because I need a business device and that might be a bad decision. Without the logo, nothing gives the idea that this is a Nokia Lumia device. It's unstructured black back just looks cheap and overall it looks bulky. I payed EUR 420,- for it, but it looks like a low end plastic device which might costs the half of its price. And with a weight of 160g, it is quite heavy to. At this time, a competing Galaxy S3 was available for about EUR 380,-.
Nokia is probably the only Smartphone maker, who really takes care about the camera. But the 820's shooter is only average, on par with Android cameras in the sub 300,- EUR range. For that price, I expected more.
To be fair, Windows Phone 8 runs very smooth on this device. This was what I expected, because WP8 already runs fast on lower specified single core devices.
The next morning I decided not to give it a try. Overall I was disappointed by the Lumia 820. For less than, say, EUR 280,-, it might be a good enough device for many. But it is not worth more than EUR 400,- in my opinion, so I sent it back.

Samstag, 9. März 2013

Trying to #switch to Windows Phone 8 ... my review

What I always missed on Android were high quality devices with high quality extras and ecosystem. You'll get everything somewhere for Android, but it is sometimes a little messy. And the lack of widely accepted styleguides lets every app look like an app for a different system.
Apples iOS and the apps for it are much more consistent, but the Apple ecosystem is much too tigth for me, iOS is too feature-less and I don't find a fitting device in Apple's one-size-fits-all strategy. I hate to buy internal memory for an absurd price just because the manufacurer denies the usage of cheap SD-cards.

So could the Windows Phone ecosystem be the golden path in the middle, between Androids anarchy and Apple's jailhouse? I am highly attracted by Nokias ecosystem around it's Lumia line with wireless chargers, speakers and so on. I like their design language and their software extras. And I like Microsofts clean and clear modern UI (former Metro UI) design language. So why not give it a try? I decided to get a Windows phone device and try it to use it as my main device for some weeks.

Here is my review: