Digital Thingamajigs
Get the scoop on the latest mobile and handheld devices, high-tech gadgets, phones, gaming devices and more as well as computer-related tips and tricks. Keep up with tech trends, gaming software and check out some of the newest innovations that are turning heads in the electronics industry.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Kindle Fire revealed

The wait is over. Amazon has finally announced its highly rumored tablet PC, called the Kindle Fire, which is to be released just in time for Christmas at under $200.

So, what about all the hype? Is it an iPad killer? Probably not.  Is it a great deal? No doubt about it.

It’s hard to call a product with stripped-down features such as the Fire an iPad killer, but I don’t think that’s what Amazon is going for here.
Instead of competing directly with Apple’s iPad, Amazon’s strategy is to create a lower-priced tier of tablet PCs and dominate that market. And their strategy might work.

The Kindle Fire has several great features, but it’s also missing many features that are now standard on the iPad 2, such as 3G, cameras, GPS, Bluetooth and a large storage capacity.

The screen is also much smaller at 7 inches, compared with Apple’s 10 inches.

Another disappointment is the lack of Amazon Prime. Before the announcement, it was highly rumored that a purchase of the Kindle Fire would come with a one-year subscription to Amazon’s premier Prime service, which gives subscribers free, two-day shipping, $3.99 one-day shipping and access to Amazon’s ever-growing library of online TV and movie streaming content.

The service is $79 a year and would have made the $199 absolutely unbeatable.

Still, what the tablet lacks in features, it more than makes up for in price. At $199, the Kindle Fire will sell like the proverbial hot cake. And the reported 1GHz dual-core processor, 512 MB of RAM and 8 GB of storage will be enough to give tablet junkies their fix.

And although it probably won’t be the iPad killer everyone was predicting, the interesting thing to watch will be how the non-Apple tablet makers — Barnes & Noble, Acer, Samsung — will respond.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Droid Bionic reviewed

The Droid Bionic will be released Thursday, Sept. 8.

I recently had a chance to get my hands on the highly anticipated Droid Bionic by Motorola and was pleasantly surprised. The Bionic — which is set to be released on Thursday, Sept. 8 — is a high-tech monster that contains some of the latest and greatest technology available in smartphones today, including Verizon's 4G technology.

Bionic: First impressions
Nothing special grabs your attention at first glance of the Bionic. The phone contains the same cookie-cutter design as other candy-bar style smartphones, with a large, 4.3-inch screen and the usual four-button layout at the bottom for "menu," "home," "back" and "search." After flipping the phone over, however, I did notice some features I had not seen in a smartphone before. More on that later.

The Bionic's rubber back feels nice in your hand.

The Droid Bionic comes with what is now a standard 4.3-inch display. What's nice, however, is that the Bionic's resolution, 540 X 960, is starting to chip away at the dominance Apple's iPhone 4 has had on screen resolution.

The phone comes with a qHD display, which stands for "quarter high-definition." In other words, this phone puts out a resolution 1/4 of what an HDTV would put out. That may not sound like much, but when you think about the size comparison, it's quite impressive: Your phone is nowhere near 1/4 the size of a standard HDTV screen — however, that's the kind of resolution you get with the phone. I will honestly say that the display's clarity is still not on par with the iPhone 4's retina technology, but this phone gets it close — 100 pixels close as a matter of fact: The 540 X 960 resolution is only 100 pixels smaller than the iPhone, which stands at 640 X 960.

Although it's a touch shy of iPhone's
retina display resolution, photos do
have more contrast and better tone.
Even though Bionic's clarity is a touch shy of the iPhone, I will say that picture quality is slightly better. Colors seem brighter and more saturated and the phone seems to display truer blacks than the iPhone with richer contrast. So, what the Bionic may be lacking in clarity it makes up for in color tone. I can't say the picture is as impressive as Samsung's Droid Charge, but it's close.

One of the things that does stand out about the phone is the back side of the Bionic. The back is made up of a hard rubber that makes handling the Bionic comfortable. It feels — and looks — much better than the plastic back of the Droid Charge. 

The 8 megapixel camera is bigger
than most smartphone cameras.
Another thing you'll notice different about the back of the phone is the camera, which appears to have a larger lens than most other smartphones. The Bionic's camera features an 8 megapixel resolution and built-in dual LED flash. Most of the photos I took with the camera were high quality. The camera does have a nice macro mode, however, I did notice some strange lens flare artifacts (see image) when taking photos outside with the camera, which could have been caused by fog on the lens, but was odd nonetheless. The phone also produces video at true high-definition quality with a 1080p resolution.

Night photos demonstrated an odd lens flare effect,
 which was strange, but could have been caused
 by a foggy lens.

The Bionic comes with Android 2.3.4 installed, a 16GB SD card along with 8GB of built-in storage for plenty of space to save photos and numerous other features, such as built-in Wi-Fi, GPS, built-in face-detection, geo-tagging and more. As is becoming standard with Android phones, the Droid Bionic also features a mini-HDMI port for outputting video to a high-defition TV or computer monitor. 

The Bionic comes pre-loaded with Android's 2.3.4, which offers some nice features, such as double-tap feature for the home button, which displays all current pages on the screen at once for easier navigation. There is also social networking integrated into the phone, which displays your friends' recent Facebook images right on your phone's screen. And a task manager is included to help manage the multi-tasking features of the phone.

Setting up my email, social networking and Netflix accounts were all a breeze. And with the built-in dual-core 1GHz ARM Cortex-A9 processor, everything runs much smoother and a lot quicker than with any other phone I've used.

Final thoughts
The Bionic is aptly named as it features some of the best and latest technology available in almost every aspect of its operation from the 1080p video and high-resolution display to the dual 1GHz processor. The giant screen gives you plenty of real estate to watch your latest Netflix releases or chat with friends, and the rubber back gives a very comfortable feel to the phone. And other than some weird effects with some of my photos, the Bionic performed well in almost every aspect. 

If you're an Android person or a Verizon subscriber, then this phone will suit you well. If you're an Apple person and thinking of switching over to an Android phone, but have been holding out for better screen resolutions, then the Bionic could be the phone.