Monday, February 25, 2013

Chromebook Pixel review: another impractical marvel from Google


DNP Chromebook Pixel review another impractical marvel

We've had a bit of a love / hate relationship with the Google Chromebook since the first one crossed our laps back in 2011 -- the Samsung Series 5. We loved the concept, but hated the very limited functionality provided by your $500 investment. Since then, the series of barebones laptops has progressed, and so too has the barebones OS they run, leading to our current favorite of the bunch: the 2012 Samsung Chromebook.

In that laptop's review, we concluded that "$249 seems like an appropriate price for this sort of device." So, then, imagine our chagrin when Google unveiled a very similar sort of device, but one that comes with a premium. A very hefty premium. It's a high-end, halo sort of product with incredible build quality, an incredible screen and an incredible price. Is a Chromebook that starts at more than five times the cost of its strongest competition even worth considering? Let's do the math.

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Apple's Mac Sales Grow 31% In January (AAPL)



Here's some slightly good news for Apple.

Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster reports Mac sales were up 31 percent on a year-over-year basis in January, according to the latest NPD data.

Last quarter Apple's earnings missed analyst expectations due partly to significantly worse than expected Mac sales. Apple sold 4.1 million Macs, versus Street expectations of 5 million.

Munster believes Mac sales were up sharply because Apple is catching up to demand. It introduced new iMacs last quarter and it couldn't manufacture enough of them to meet demand. This pop is probably the result of Apple improving production.

As good as this sounds, the Mac business, like the entire PC industry, appears to be in decline. Munster is calling for Mac sales to be down 5 percent on a year-over-year basis for the first quarter of this year.

The Mac business has been affected by the rise of iPad. This hurts Apple inasmuch as it's losing some sales. But, overall, the growth of the iPad is strong enough to offset the decline of the Mac.

The big question for Apple is whether or not the iPad business will be able to fend off the increasingly fierce competition.

See Also: The End! Of The Mac Is Coming And Apple Is Thrilled

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Panasonic's New Sensor Captures 3D Images With a Single Lens


Panasonic's New Sensor Captures 3D Images With a Single LensUsing similar techniques that enable the Nintendo 3DS to display 3D images without the need for special glasses, Panasonic has developed a new image sensor that can capture 3D stills and videos without the need for multiple lenses.

Using lenticular lenses and a layer composed of digital micro lenses to further focus the light hitting the sensor, the system could in theory give any camera 3D capabilities, from expensive DSLRs to cheap point and shoots. And while there is some tomfoolery being done with post-processing to produce the final 3D images, Panasonic claims the depth calculated by its algorithms and the actual depth of objects in the scene only differs by about five percent. And that's presumably going to be improved even further by the time these sensors are rolled out in mobile devices starting some time in 2014.

Panasonic's New Sensor Captures 3D Images With a Single Lens



Asus Padfone Hands On: A Sleek Two-For-One Device That Makes You Pay for Both


Asus Padfone Hands On: A Sleek Two-For-One Device That Makes You Pay for BothIf it were sold without its tablet dock, you might give the Padfone phone a second look all on its own. It's really pretty, after using it for a few minutes, it's just as powerful and smooth as any other flagship Android phone coming out, like the Optimus G Pro or the HTC One.

The phone is fast. Every app loaded up opened like lightning, though the selection was limited due to lack of a connection on the demo units. But it was smooth, and there was no stutter despite Asus's considerable modifications to Android (it's built on 4.1.2). The screen is just as beautiful as you'd expect given the absurd resolution, but the thing that stands out about it is its vibrant color performance. It's just so bright and saturated (it did not seem overly saturated, but we didn't have time to load up pre-shot photos) that it catches your eye, even under hot display lights.

It's also relatively light, and doesn't feel its 5-inch size. It's sort of like the Droid DNA, in that it's huge, yes, but feels somehow less huge than its 5-inch contemporaries. The aluminum build is fairly nice, not top tier industrial design, but ahead of the curve. It's sort of reminiscent of an iPhone 4 crossed with a Zenbook.

The tablet portion of the Padfone is manageable, and not as unwieldy as it could be. It's not as comfortable to hold as a Nexus 10 or an iPad, but still fine for handling as a tablet. We weren't able to get any content loaded up to try reading articles or books, but it seems like it would be adequate, though not ideal. The 16:10 ratio on it is decent for holding in portrait, but the phone being on one side in that alighnemt limits how much you might use it like that.
Asus Padfone Hands On: A Sleek Two-For-One Device That Makes You Pay for Both As for the switching, it was pretty seamless. There's a second or two of hiccup, but it's nothing that worries you as you switch from one device to the other. It's faster than the time it takes to load a second display after plugging it into your laptop, for example. There was no perceptible slowdown going from the phone to the tablet, either, but again, we didn't have access to the really graphically or processor-dependent apps. But given its impressive guts, it would make sense for the performance to be that smooth.

It's really pretty impressive. But for the enormous 1,000 euro price, you could probably buy a Nexus 7, or 10, and the phone of your choice. You'd be missing out on some of the neat features that Asus has here, and also the schtick of having two devices in one, but it's definitely worth thinking about if you're considering this.


Aptina unleashes 1080p and 4K mobile sensors, entire point-and-shoot segment cringes


Aptina unleashes 1080p and 4K mobile sensors, entire pointandshoot segment cringes

Hear that? That's the sound of the entire point-and-shoot camera industry bracing for yet another blow. As smartphone cameras mature, it's becoming ever more difficult to convince consumers to use anything other than their phone outside of special occasions where ILCs or DSLRs are necessary. Aptina has a lot to do with that. Here at Mobile World Congress, the sensor outfit has announced its 12 megapixel and 13 megapixel mobile image sensors, aimed squarely at next-gen flagship phones that ought to be coming out in Q2 or Q3 this year. The smaller 1.1-micron pixel construction is the standout feature, with the AR1230 capable of capturing 4K video at 30fps as well as 1080p video at up to 96fps. The AR1330 throws in electronic image stabilization support at 1080p, while snagging 4K UHD and 4K Cinema formats at 30fps.

Over on the tablet PC / TV front, the AR0261 is a new 1080p-capable sensor that's destined to redefine what a front-facing camera can accomplish. It relies on a 1.4-micron pixel, and should have no issues capturing faces at up to 60fps when using its 720p mode. Furthermore, Aptina promises that this guy can work with applications involving gesture recognition and 3D video capture, but sadly, no OEMs are coming forward just yet with concrete plans to include it.

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Source: Aptina