Tag Archives: multimedia

Samsung R610 notebook review

REVIEW: Samsung R610 – a new noteworthy notebook

LAPTOPS may have been all the rage in 2008, but now attention has shifted to focus on their slimmer counterparts, namely notebooks and netbooks. It seems that slimness and light-weight mobile devices will always win favour over heftier ones, and none is lighter than the Samsung R610.

Weighing in at around 2.7kgs, the Samsung R610 is part of the latest generation of notebook PCs. It may be the lightest notebook currently available, yet it does have a hefty price-tag (close to R10 000). However, after playing with one for a week I’m confident that you get what you pay for. Let’s take a closer look.

Samsung R610 notebook

Operating system
The Samsung R610 should come equipped with either Windows Vista Ultimate or Windows 7 Ultimate – the latter being the latest operating system to date. If you are currently a Vista user, Windows 7 should be a warm welcome. It is the most user-friendly operating system I have ever experienced and by far the most visually-appealing.

If you shave off what Windows 7 Ultimate would have cost if purchased separately (roughly R2000), the cost of the notebook in question may seem less frightening.

CyberLink DVD Suite
Unlike netbooks (which are specifically designed and optimised for web-browsing and related activity), the Samsung R610 notebook encourages users to engage in multimedia production. It offers a software package called CyberLink DVD Suite, which has great programs such as PowerProducer and PowerDirector, which are all you need for managing data, photos, music, movies, creating DVDs and backing up your content.

What’s the difference between notebooks, netbooks and laptops?

  • LAPTOPS are mobile computers with full-sized keyboards, flip up monitors and space for built in optical or floppy disk storage drives. They are not usually as powerful as desktop PCs.
  • NOTEBOOKS are often referred to as portable “desktop replacement” PCs, which can do as any normal computer can. The latest models have full-sized keyboards as well as relatively large storage drives. In other words, a notebook is a more potent laptop.
  • NETBOOKS are ultra-mobile computers with keyboards smaller than full size and therefore a lot smaller than laptops and notebooks. They are designed and optimised for Internet use and can handle small programs such as MP3 players.

Touchpad
I have never quite managed to get used to using the touchpads on laptops as appose to a standard mouse. I’d rather plug in a mouse even if it’s a miniature one. Unfortunately the touchy bit on the Samsung R610 is smaller than usual and a bit of a nightmare to use. To make matters worse it has a scroll function on the same pad which changes the function of the mouse pointer into a scroller. This is really annoying if you fingertip ventures too far to the right, which will happen unless you’re a veteran laptop user.

I don’t understand why they don’t make the touchpad bigger, or at least separate the scroll function by placing it further away. There seems to be a lot of wasted space alongside the touchpad, which I would call a design flaw.

Keyboard
What often puts a lot of people off ever buying a laptop is the idea that the keyboard is a lot smaller than that of a desktop PC. It’s hard enough trying to operate a cellphone with small keys if you don’t have the slim and nimble fingers of a 13-year-old. However, this is not the case with most notebooks – the keys are simply more compact and just as easy to use as any standard keyboard.

Samsung R610 notebookLaptop keyboards have also taken things a step further by introducing function keys. When pressed, these give certain keys on the keyboard additional functions, such as checking battery life, adjusting monitor settings and managing volume control.

Battery
Battery life may be a second major concern for those considering buying a laptop. While some standard laptops can’t get more than two hours work done before going to bed, the Samsung R610’s battery can last for over three hours.

However, it’s important to note that battery life is relative to what you use your device for. There is a useful function key that makes it easy to monitor how much battery life you have left and I’m confident that it’s reliable enough to keep you entertained on a long trip.

Screen
The Samsung R610 has a sixteen inch HD gloss screen. I treated myself with a huge HD Samsung screen over Christmas last year and have never looked back. The picture quality of Samsung screens is really something to be admired, especially when viewing something recorded in HD. However, even watching low-quality videos on a smaller notebook screen will still look better than expected.

Other features
To be honest I can’t actually think of anything that the Samsung R610 doesn’t have. Apart from the above, it has 4 USB ports (for inserting flash-drives, cameras, external hard-drives or a good old-fashioned mouse), a 3-in-1 SD card slot (for quickly uploading photos), a slot for attaching a camcorder, a DVD drive, micro-phone and headphone holes and an internal 1.3 mega-pixel webcam (great for Skype).

It really has everything you could want in a well-designed notebook that will certainly make a statement. If you’re prepared to spend ten grand I would certainly recommend the Samsung R610. Christmas is right around the corner and prices might even drop during the festive season. It would make a great end of the year treat. Feel free to email me for my address details 🙂

Samsung R610 notebook specs

• Operating System: Windows Vista Home Premium or Windows 7 Ultimate.
Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo Processor T6400 (2.00GHz, 800MHz, 2MB).
System Memory: 3GB (DDR2 / 1GB x 1 + 2GB x 1 ).
LCD: 16” HD (1366 x 768) 16:9 Gloss.
Graphic Processor: nVIDIA GeForce Go 9200M GS; HDMI ouput.
Sound: HD (High Definition) Audio; 4W Stereo Speaker (2W x 2).
Multimedia Player: Play AVStation.
Camera: 1.3MP Web Camera.
Storage: HDD: 250GB (5,400rpm S-ATA).
ODD: Super Multi Dual Layer (S-ATA).
• Connectivity: Wired Ethernet LAN: Gigabit LAN.
Wireless LAN: Intel 802.11a/b/g/n 1 x 2 (MIMO).
Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR; 4 x USB 2.0
• Multi Card Slot: 3-in-1 (SD, SDHC, MMC).
Keyboard: 100 Key (Silver Nano Anti-Bacteria Keyboard).
Battery: standard 6-cell, (up to 3 hours battery-life).
AC Adapter: 90W.
Dimensions: 379.2 x 265.2 x 31.8 — 38.45mm.
Weight: 2.75kg

Related Review: The Samsung NC10 netbook

Lucky Number Seven?

REVIEW: A quick look at the all new Windows 7 operating system

Windows 7IF there is to be any war that is sustained longer than the Iraqi war, it will be the war on Microsoft.

There is a growing group of Windows users who would eagerly take up any opportunity to assassinate Bill Gates for all the pain and frustration that his Microsoft operating systems have caused. The numerous versions of Windows that currently exist attest to the fact that the operating system has never quite been perfected.

Windows Vista is one such version. What was expected to be the crème de la crème of all Windows operating systems — the one version to rule them all — it was met with countless bugs, system crashes, and several instances of users’ pulling out their own hair.

Vista is going down in Windows history as a failed project and we are entering into a new operating system era with the instalment of Windows 7. But we’re going to have to wait a little bit longer.

Windows 7 RC
Microsoft has launched the release candidate (RC) version of its forthcoming Windows 7 operating system. The RC version, which will be available as a free download until July, is the “next-to-final” release of the operating system that will likely replace Windows Vista on most desktops in the coming years.

According to mybroadband.co.za, there is much to like about Windows 7, just as there was much to dislike about Vista when it was first released. The initial impression offered by Windows 7 RC is that of a “lighter” operating system.

Among the complaints about Vista is that it does not work with some software designed for the previous operating system, Windows XP, and that it is it too much for netbooks or older computers to handle.

Gone are the heavy-handed and memory-demanding approaches of Vista in favour of a desktop that is clean and attractive without feeling bloated. In its place is a desktop that feels pared down with just the necessary controls in sight.

Some cool windows 7 concept art 

Performance
A central impression that Windows 7 offers is one of speed – lite-speed in comparison to Vista. Starting with the install, which needs just a handful of clicks and enough time for a cup of coffee, right through to a running desktop, Microsoft has succeeded in getting Windows 7 to feel really nimble.

Running on a desktop PC with 2GB of memory and a dual-core Intel processor running at 2,53GHz, Windows 7 is quick in responding to commands and loading applications.

One of the major drives behind Windows 7 has been to ensure that the operating system boots up and shuts down as fast as possible — something Microsoft has managed to get right. With the growing market for netbooks (ultra-portable laptops), modern operating systems are being designed to take advantage of new processors like Intel’s Atom and startup and shutdown within seconds. Windows 7 RC already boots a lot faster than Windows Vista and, depending on hardware, starts up in similar times as Windows XP.

Desktop appeal
The desktop is not noticeably different to the beta release version of Windows 7 and is still appealing to the eye. It borders on the “minimalist”, but still manages to add to the overall sharp impression.

The most obvious benefit of Windows 7 is the significant reduction in what could be called “interference”. Microsoft has been working on reducing the levels of interference for users by limiting the number of pop-ups and warning notices — a common occurrence in Vista.

This is all to do with the changes to “user account control”, which, instead of constantly popping up warnings of impending doom and danger, are slightly muted and less obtrusive. They’re still there, but definitely not with the same vigour as before.

Windows 7 is currently being tested on netbooks, which are increasingly popular, low-cost mobile computers designed essentially for accessing the Internet and running a few simple programs.

The taskbar in Windows 7 is a great deal better than the taskbar offered by Windows Vista or XP. However, it has a tendency to undermine itself with its own cleverness, something you’ll either love or hate.

For the uninitiated, the taskbar operates as a series of “flyouts”, which are smaller representations of open Windows. They’re pretty and functional, but could be just as effective without the flashy popup windows.

One complaint about the taskbar is that by default the open windows are all crammed together on the taskbar, which can make it messy if you have too many windows open. Fortunately the default settings can be tweaked to “group-open” windows — based on applications when a threshold number has been reached.

The president of Microsoft has made just as many promises as any other. Let’s hope this one sticks to his and that the war on Windows can finally end.

— Original article at: www.mybroadband.co.za

  • THE Windows 7 release candidate (7 RC)version can be downloaded for free until July this year and is available as both a 32-bit and a 64-bit version. The 32-bit version comes in at a little under 2,5GB, while the 64-bit version is a lot bigger at 3,2GB.
  • Interestingly, Microsoft has said that users who download Windows 7 RC will be able to run the software for free until June 2010 before being required to purchase a copy, which is a very long trial period given that Windows 7 Final is expected to be released later this year.
  • Windows 7 RC can be downloaded from http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windows-7/download.aspx

Related article: Windows 7 beefs up multimedia

Would you get with GetMo?

GetMo South Africa — SA’s newly formed multimedia platform, is being dubbed as the country’s first all-in-one online digital entertainment service.

A nationwide live music launch tour (to promote GetMo) was held in August, and saw leading South African artists perform 34 free shows at schools, universities and venues in seven cities across the country.

According to company director, Jehan Mackay, “GetMo offers South Africa a wide range of entertainment including music, movies, mobile content and more. The service is available to both mobile and PC users, making it South Africa’s first multi-platform all-in-one digital entertainment service.”

Getmo logo

There is no doubt that the digital entertainment landscape is changing fast, as are users of mobile and PC products. What GetMo aims to accomplish, according to Mackay, is to give South African’s fast and reliable access to value-for-money digital entertainment anywhere at anytime.

In addition to music and movies, GetMo offers consumers online access to ringtones, graphics, video clips, music videos, games and more, all from the same online service, says Klaus Renkl, GetMo Country Manager for SA.

Yet how good is this service in comparison to existing ones? Although there may not be many others that are uniquely South African and offer as much, who gets to decide who SA’s top artists are? I’m a big appreciator of local content, yet truthfully GetMo just didn’t seem to offer much that excited me.

*The following is from a Q+A with the peeps behind GetMo

CONTENT & QUALITY:
The content available on getmo.com is aggregated from the major music labels, as well other major or independent entertainment content owners and game developers. GetMo claims to be able to support all content types and encourages independent filmmakers, designers, creators and the like to make their content available.

The developers aim to set the highest quality standards, especially when it comes to mobile content. According to Mackay, “we demand the highest technical complexity to ensure that each content item works on each mobile handset”.

PRICING:
Whereas most other digital entertainment services offer a pay-as-you-use model, GetMo includes a unique all-you-can-eat service, which allows customers limitless amounts of entertainment on any device they choose for a constant monthly fee.

Consumers can either look out for various GetMo Club Card options (available free of charge and bundled with other products), purchase items directly via credit card on an item-by-item basis, or purchase GetMo Club Cards which allows unlimited access to content for one or more months.

UNIQUENESS:
What is rather appealing about the GetMo product site is that it offers pre-listening sessions, previews, movie trailers, descriptions and other metadata around the items available. This really helps make informed choices and helps ensure that consumers get exactly what they want.

Perhaps the most unique aspect of GetMo is its use of peer-to-peer distribution technologies, which allows users to share files between each other legally. According to Mackay:

“Our legal P2P (peer-to-peer) technology also allows us to use the individual hard drives of PC owners to help distribute large files more effectively (known as the bittorrent principle). This advanced technology has often been misused for illegal file sharing. However, we have designed and approved a platform that enables a legal service without losing any of the benefits.”

If you have ever heard of a nifty file-sharing program called Bearshare, GetMo uses pretty much the same principle. One is able to choose what files on their PC to share across the internet and is able to download zillions of files from others. It used to be entirely illegal and several existing loopholes allow it to remain so. How GetMo manages (or will mange) to keep it all kosher is something I’m waiting to see.

GRIPES:
I’ve been in possession of a Zen Vision mp4 player for about two weeks now. It comes with an introduction CD which includes a Britney Spears music video and some idea on what the games (which are considered as “mobile”) are like, but has no software. One needs to visit their site to download the required software (i.e. the GetMo media suite), which is a 47 meg download required if one wants to share media files with others across an internet network.

To be honest I haven’t felt the urge to use my GetMo media suite or download anything off the website. I am quite keen to get a few movies though. Unfortunately all the videos available so far are cheap Bollywood productions, which is possibly due to the fact that GetMo South Africa is owned by Arvato Middle East Sales (AMES). I’m not much of a fan of Bollywood.

Otherwise if music videos, ‘mobile’ games, wallpapers and ringtones are what you want, there is quite a good collection of those. I’ve been quite content with using my Zen vision as an mp3 player, flash stick and alarm clock (no software required! It’s all a matter of copy and paste).

I’ve also tried converting my favorite shows and movies into mp4 files to see how those tickle my fancy on the tiny screen without too much success. One can download trial versions of several mp4 converters, but these either only convert the first few minutes of a video file or bomb out after a couple of weeks. The full versions of such converters go for between $25 – $30.

Does anyone know of a free, full-version mp4 converter available for download?? Otherwise I guess it’s back to illegal file-sharing!

For more information visit www.getmo.com

PS: if your in the market for an mp4 player, and have some cash to spend, go for the ipod nano – you won’t regret it!

Witness This (promo video)

MULTIMEDIA is fast becomming the ‘in’ thing in the South African media industry. Media organisations that offer online content in the form of video, podcasts and slideshows on their websites are getting a lot more traffic than those that simply regurgitate text stories with a couple of photographs.

The Natal Witness, although small, is gaining speed in the chase to jump onto the multimedia band-wagon. It’s currently getting a MyVideo channel professioanlly set up by Tristan Owen, and despite being critically under-staffed, we endeavour to bring fresh video content every week for your viewing pleasure.

Below is a fast-paced, action-packed promo video of the sport, music, art, theatre, news and entertainment videos produced for the Witness Online. It hints at what is already available and provides a taste of what is yet to come.

To see the full videos, and more, visit www.witness.co.za.

Witness this promo video: