This week in Mobile News Manor #7: Blade and Ferrari

This is a peek into a technology writer’s home office, aka Mobile News Manor, discussing gadgets, apps, best practices using same, and ebooks. This week was a laptop kind of week.
Written by James Kendrick, Contributor

One of the primary benefits of being a technology writer is the ability to work in my home office, aka Mobile News Manor (MNM). It is a bustling place, with evaluation gadgets constantly arriving and going back to the vendors. As part of my daily work I spend a fair bit of time testing these gadgets for review, and also looking at new apps for various platforms to streamline my work methods.

This column is my look back each week to share pertinent experiences that I believe you might find useful. There is no telling what you might find in this column, but you’ll definitely get a feel for what it is like testing gadgets for a living. Welcome to the Manor.

Gadgets of the week

This week I played with the Identity Tab Android tablet from Enspert that is being sold by importer Dynamism. I spent a fair bit of time evaluating the hardware, as the software is not the final shipping version that is due any day now. It will ship with Android 2.2 including access to the Android Market, and right now it's running version 2.1 without the access.

The hardware is top-notch, which is very surprising for a "budget" Android tablet. The aluminum case is reminiscent of the iPad, with a miniHDMI port thrown in. I'm not sure why you'd need the HDMI port, given the display resolution of 800x480 which is lower than I'd like, but it's there in any event.

The lack of the shipping software brought one thing home in my testing; without the Android Market a tablet is not very useful. Sure you can still get apps installed with a bit of effort, but it's not a fluid experience and I would never recommend a tablet without Market access preinstalled.

Don't miss the photo tour of the Identity Tab

No new gadgets arrived in the Manor so I spent a fair bit of time using various laptops. There is always a good number of laptops sitting around (8 currently), and it is fun to grab one and go. This week I frequently used one of the smallest of the lot, the Viliv S10 Blade convertible netbook. I was impressed anew just how small this laptop is while being more capable than other netbooks.

The Viliv S10 I used has a dual-core Atom processor, typical netbook fare, but it clocks in at 2 GHz. This is beefier than most netbooks and coupled with the 32GB SSD turns in good performance. It is as small and light as can be, yet capable of production work due to a decent keyboard and good operating performance. It fits in my little field bag for day trips which is icing on the cake.

The S10 has an unusual 10.1-inch swivel screen that turns the netbook into a multitouch Windows 7 tablet. It is a unique touchscreen in that it is resistive and not capacitive, but the digitizer used is indistinguishable from a capacitive display. The advantage to using the resistive digitizer is the ability to use the S10 with a regular (non-active) stylus. There is a small telescoping stylus that pulls out of the side of the device for such use. This can come in handy even though the touchscreen works well with the fingers given the high resolution (1366x768) display. Things can be very tiny on the display and hard to tap without a stylus.

I get a solid 7.5 hours of battery life using the S10 Blade, so it is a decent all-day laptop. It's not the fastest notebook, but it is a super-portable laptop that is a good traveling companion. I notice that Dynamism still sells the S10 Blade, and while its model has a 1.6 GHz dual-core processor, it has a bigger 64GB SSD.

This week I also used the Acer Ferrari One quite a bit and find I still like this laptop a lot. The AMD processor doesn't get sterling battery life (about 4 hours) but it is a real screamer for a 11.6-inch laptop. It has a good keyboard for heavy writing and is wonderful for day trips as it also fits in my little field bag.

The AMD processor is coupled with discrete graphics that makes the Ferrari purr doing heavy lifting. There is no task I throw at the Ferrari One that is doesn't handle with ease, a rarity among notebooks so small.

Apps of the Manor

This week was more focused on hardware than apps, so I didn't find any new ones to share. I did get the itch to put a custom ROM on the Galaxy Tab, as Gingerbread is starting to appear for it. Unfortunately, these custom ROMs are pretty much limited to the GSM version of the Tab, and not the CDMA model from Sprint (and Verizon) like mine. I doubt that ROM developers will produce one for CDMA, due to its smaller user base; I'll have to make due with the stock Samsung/Sprint ROM, but that's not giving up much. The Galaxy Tab is still the most heavily used device in the Manor.

E-book of the week

This week I continued the Rho Agenda science fiction series with the second book, Immune by Richard Phillips. Immune continues the story of three teenagers who discover an alien ship in a New Mexico cave. The three continue discovering technology on the ship, which augments their natural abilities in unexpected ways. Throw in a bunch of bad guys trying to do the trio harm and you have a fast-paced adventure that is engaging.


You've shared my week at Mobile News Manor and I hope you picked up something useful to take away with you. I'll be back with the column next week, same bat time, same bat channel. See you then.

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