Photowalk With the Asus Zenfone Zoom

Vijay from iClickd had invited us for a Photowalk around Ulsoor Lake a little while back. That was the perfect time to try out the capabilities of the Asus Zenfone Zoom phone with it’s 3x optical zoom. We started off the walk at around 7am, a great time to catch some great photos, the lighting of the rising sun and the looks of a fresh day. During the day, Vijay took us though tips on photography and how to look at the same scene from a different perspective.

Zenfone Zoom

If you haven’t heard of the Zenfone Zoom, it’s an android phone with a 13 Megapixel camera with Optical Image Stabilization in which they even managed to include a  3x Optical Zoom (and 12x Digital zoom). It’s also got a Laser aided autofocus, which helps in getting a really quick focus on the scene. If you’re looking for the snaps taken with the optical zoom, take a look at the ones with the birds. I didn’t enable the digital zoom option during this photowalk.

Zenfone Zoom Camera Bump

The phone itself features a premium feel leather back, with a bump around the camera at the back. This is probably there to house the optical zoom mechanics.  Asus has managed to do the impossible by adding a the zoom functionality without the retractible lenses, which helps keep the phone’s profile relatively slim.

How does it perform?

Before we go to the Image capture samples, here’s my quick thoughts on the Zenfone Zoom.

  • Great Optics, average execution. While the camera features great optics from Hoya and the optical zoom, I found that the camera’s sensor and the software tuning of the images lacks in quality. This is especially true when you zoom into an image you’ve taken.
  • Hangs at times. During the photo walk I experienced the camera hanging a few times. In some cases, quitting the camera app and force closing it fixed it. Twice I had to reboot the phone to get the camera to work, since launching the camera brought up a black screen in those cases.
  • Slow Camera App in Low Light Conditions. While taking photos in low light conditions, the camera interface starts to stutter and starts acting quite slow in focussing and clicking snaps. You end up missing the subject or the they move by the time the camera gets into action.

Since most of the problem I faced were software based, I’m hoping that Asus brings out an update in the near future to fixe these nagging issues.

Image Samples

Top 5 Windows 8 tablets – A new dawn for the Post-PC Age

Microsoft Trusts its Competitors with its Future – A new dawn for the Post-PC Age

Windows 8 tablet PCs will shortly be hitting the shelves. So, which is model is going to blow the market away? The prices are out, so let the game commence! Here are our top 5. Keep an eye out for a desktop touting as a tablet.

Microsoft’s Surface
Microsoft’s Surface tablet PC completely changes the way we think about keyboards…kinda

1. Microsoft Surface. A beautiful piece of kit, the Surface is Microsoft’s best attempt at revolutionizing the tablet so far. With a magnesium chassis, a ClearType HD display and an awesome fold-out reimagining of that most archaic of peripherals, the keyboard, Microsoft may have played a blinder. Reviews are positive, and pricing seems competitive, starting at $599 for the basic 32GB model. Unlike Apple’s iPad, the Surface has upgradeable memory —you can whack an SD card in the back and boost your memory straight out. Brilliant.

The HP Envy x2 is pretty, but somehow familiar

2. HP Envy x2. The first hybrid tablet-cum-ultrabook device on our list, the HP Envy x2 is clearly designed to provoke a deadly sin in all who behold it. With a massive 64GB starting SSD, HP’s sleek new machine has been accused of copying the Apple MacBook Air, with its brushed aluminium shell and rounded corners. The Envy x2 looks like a strong competitor: boasting Beats Audio speakers, NFC support and a gorgeous IPS display. There’s always the fear, though, that HP may fall foul of the Cupertino patent machine. One for a wait-and-see approach.

Lenovo’s ThinkPad is designed with business and travel in mind

3. Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2. Showcasing Intel’s signature tablet PC processor, the Atom Clover Trail, Lenovo’s ThinkPad has met with critical acclaim. It’s solidly built, spec-ed up to the rim, and includes a full version of Office 2013 at launch. Though the price tag puts it at the upper end of the category, it would not be paying over the odds for this extremely powerful tablet

The Vivo Tab RT is a mere 10.6” across

4. Asus Vivo Tab RT. We’ve not yet mentioned a Windows RT tablet PC in this run-down, but here’s one worth the mention. The little brother to the Asus Vivo Tab, the Vivo Tab RT features a fairly standard hybrid ultrabook detachable keyboard, an Nvidia Tegra 3 graphics chip and a Super IPS+ panel with a resolution of 1366×768, just tipping it into the ‘HD Ready’ category. And, because, it’s ARM-powered and running RT, the Vivo Tab RT comes bundled with Office 2013. Priced to sell at $599.99
This is one of the most interesting Windows RT machines to watch. Its success or failure may well be depend on Microsoft’s ability to acquire a mobile ecosystem full of customers.

The VAIO Tap 20 can be angled to virtually any inclination you want

5. Sony VAIO Tap 20. Perhaps unimpressed with the competition’s attempts to combine tablet and laptop into hybrid ultrabooks, Sony have instead tried to create and all-in-one desktop computer in a single touch-screen device. It’s got a cool stand – there’s something you don’t hear often in computer reviews – and it is a big old piece of kit that could easily serve as a family media hub. The 1TB hard drive it packs is, therefore, to be expected. But, is its lack of mobility stuck just a little too far in the past?


Author Bio:

This article is written by Louise Miller. Louise graduated from LSE in 2011 with an MA in engineering and is now working as a freelance web designer. She loves blogging about tech and social media in her free time, especially all things Android.

Nexus 7 tablet to hit Indian markets in November


In a press event for the launch of the Padfone and the Transformer Tab, Asus folks unofficially mentioned during a Q&A session that the Nexus 7 tablets could hit the Indian markets some time in November.

They didn’t comment on the indicative pricing of the device, but did mention that they’d announce the pricing by the end of October. The US pricing for the base model of the Nexus 7 is $199 ( approximately Rs. 10749, based on the currency rates of this writing). With taxes and levies, it should retail for around Rs. 13-15,000 by our estimates.

Also we don’t know if this is going to be the Google branded Nexus 7 tablet or an Asus branded equivalent device for the Indian market. We’ll have more details on this closer to the lauch when Asus announces the Nexus 7 for India. In the mean while, the Nexus 7 is unofficially available from online retailers for prices more than Rs. 16,000, which are devices acquired from countries where the Nexus 7 is currently available, and shipping times of over of 2-3 weeks.

I’m currently using the Nexus 7 and will have a review of the device in the coming week or two. So stay tuned for the review. For more details and specs of the Nexus 7, head over to this link.

Asus launches the Padfone, a unique 3-in-one device in India for Rs. 64,999

At a press event yesterday, Asus officially launched the latest in their range of tablets here in India. They launched the Padfone, which is a Phone, Tablet and a Netbook all rolled into one and the Transformer Tab TF300G, a 3G enabled tablet with a keyboard dock which extends the tablet’s battery life.

The Padfone is a unique product from Asus which acts as an Android phone, which when docked to the Padfone station becomes a 10.1″ tablet. This when docked with the Padfone station Dock, features a full keyboard with a multi-touch trackpad making this combo a netbook. In the last configuration, you can get up to 102 hours of talk time on your phone, since the tablet and the keyboard have separate batteries which is used to charge the phone while it’s docked.

More about the Padfone right after this video of an awesome Laser show from the launch event.

The Asus Padfone

The Asus Padfone is a premium range device from Asus, which is an Android Phone which docks into a tablet for a bigger display and extended battery charger. Their package also features a keyboard dock, which provides a physical keyboard and even more battery backup for your phone. That’s a lot of batteries – The phone comes with a 1520 mAh battery, the tablet (or the PadFone station, as Asus calls it) has a 24.4 Watt-hour battery, and the keyboard dock (The Padfone Station Dock) features 24.4 Watt-hour battery. All these put together gives your phone a whopping 102 hours of talktime.

The phone features a 4.3 inch qHD display (960 x 540), 1GB of RAM, 32GB of internal memory, a Qualcomm dualcore 1.5GHz  processor, 8MP rear camera & a 0.3 MP front camera. The phone runs on Android’s Ice Cream Sandwich. When the phone is docked into the docking station in the tablet, the display from the phone is dynamically switched over to the 10.1″ screen, with a resolution of 1280 x 800. During this switch all your apps continue from where you left it on the phone, so you can continue that video and game from the phone to the tablet. During the event they demoed a video being played on the tablet and when the phone was undocked, the video oh the phone continued playing from where it left off while viewing it on the tablet.

The keyboard dock  along with additional USB connectors and card reader to extend the onboard storage or transfer data in and out of your phone. Along with this Asus is also throwing in a Bluetooth Stylus in their bundle. The Stylus allows to receive calls when your phone is docked into the tablet, apart from using it to draw, sketch or write on the tablet.

“Today’s introduction of PadFone will be an utmost expansion of our users’ world where they will enjoy, achieve and save categorically. It is an alluring proof to substantiate our prime focus on the mastery of technological innovation and design perfection. We are assertive that PadFone will touch customers’ heart in terms of incredible product, incredible design, incredible quality and incredible service,” Mr. Alex Huang, Managing Director, System Business Group, Asus India said.

Asus Padfone Specs

The Padfone pricing in India

Asus is planning on selling the Padfone package in India for an MRP of Rs. 64,999. This includes the phone, tablet, the keyboard dock and the bluetooth Stylus.

What do we think?

The Asus Padfone is on the pricier side of the spectrum. You have to make a choice to use the phone + tablet from Asus. Since tablet doesn’t function unless the phone is docked in, it’s not like buying two different devices, but extending the same device. So the kids or others at home can’t play on the tablet while you’re out using the phone.

If you’re  like me, who ends up doing quite a lot of my communication and some of my work on the phone or tablet, the bigger screen and a physical keyboard for the phone, when I need to type out on docs, email and blog posts, is an added advantage.  The additional battery backups from the tablet and the keyboard dock is also an excellent option when travelling. I don’t know about answering calls on the stylus though, even though it sounds cool in the geek world.

Would I pay a the premium cost this tablet commands? I’d say, probably not. Asus may get a little more traction with sales of the Padfone  if they de-couple the devices and sold the phone+tablet separately at a lower cost, so people could get that without the keyboard dock and the stylus.

The Padfone Launch Video

Android Releases at MWC 2012

As is usually the case at Major Tech Trade Shows, there was a huge number of Android Devices announced or showcased at Mobile World Congress 2012. There were a few interesting ones showcased though, and we’ll try to cover that in this post.

Image Via: Official Google Mobile Blog

HTC

HTC hasn’t really been able to hold onto their top position as an Android Device manufacturer (Android was launched on a HTC Device, the G1, as was the Nexus Program, with the Nexus One). Part of this was attributed to the number of devices they launched, the other part being attributed to HTC Sense. Sense was a big add on initially when Android as such wasn’t fully featured, but later versions were clunky and slowed down the phones. HTC has acknowledged both these issues and their response at MWC was the HTC One series, with Sense 4. There’ll be fewer devices released with the focus being on Quality. Thus far, the One series consists of just 3 devices, the One X, One S, One V. Thankfully, all of them run Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich.

One X

 

The One X is the flagship device. It’s a unibody Polycarbonate device (like the Lumia 800/900), has a 1.5 GHz Quad Core Nvidia Tegra 3 processor, a 4.7″ Super LCD2 720p Display and a 8MP f2.0 Camera. HTC’s trying really hard to sell the cameras on the One series; the camera starts up in 0.7s and A/F takes 0.2s. To do all this, the phone has a separate image processor. You can record video at upto 1080p at 30FPS, and take photos while recording videos. Oh, and there’s Beats by Dr. Dre audio. The LTE version (US only) will be sold with a Dual Core Snapdragon S4 Processor.

One S

The One S is the Midrange Device here, which should work well for people who don’t want a massive screen. It’s got a 4.3″ qHD  display, the same BSI 8MP camera as the One X, a 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 dual core processor, and has a Ceramic Metal outer shell that’s made using a process called Microarc Oxidation. And Beats by Dr. Dre Audio.

One V

 The One V is the “Low End” device. It’s based on the design of the HTC Legend (which a lot of people loved). There’s a 3.7″ WVGA display, a 1GHz single core CPU, a 5MP BSI f2.0 Camera. Yes, it has Beats by Dr. Dre Audio.

All the HTC phones should be available worldwide by April this year.

LG

LG hasn’t been doing well either (by any stretch of the imagination). They were the first to launch a Dual Core Device, the Optimus 2x (G2x in the US), but that didn’t do too well. Their UI was cartoonish and their update schedules were way off. They showcased a whole bunch of devices at MWC, but there’re two that kinda stood out (for better and for worse).

Optimus 4X HD

Image Via: Clove.co.uk

The Optimus 4X HD is the sequel to the Optimus 2x (obviously), and as the name implies, has a 1.5GHz Nvidia Tegra 3 Quad Core Processor and a 4.7″ 720p IPS display. It has an 8MP rear camera and a 1.3MP front facing camera. Thankfully, it’s running Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) and an updated UI which doesn’t look all that cartoonish. Clove reports that it’ll be out by June.

Optimus Vu

 The Optimus Vu was the other LG phone that stood out, though not necessarily in a very good manner. It’s another Phablet, similar to the Samsung Galaxy Note. However, the 5″ display 1024 x 768 display has a weird 4:3 aspect ratio, making it wider and shorter than the Note. It has a 1.5 GHz dual core Qualcomm Processor, an 8MP rear camera and a 1.3MP front facing camera and 32GB of storage. It also has a stylus, but unlike the note and it’s Wacom digitizer, the Optimus Vu just utilizes a standard capacitive stylus. Oh, and it’s running Android 2.3.

Asus

Padfone

The Asus Padfone has been in the works for over a year now. It’s been showcased before, and people thought it would turn out to be just vapour-ware. Well, it’s finally out, and this is the wackiest device there ever has been (and in a very good way). What it is, is a phone that goes into a dock that becomes a tablet that goes into a dock that becomes a netbook like the Transformer.  It’s got a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 dual core 1.5GHz processor, a 4.3″ qHD Super Amoled Display and an 8MP f2.2 Camera. As you can see in the Image Above (and the video below), it goes into what they call a “Padfone Station”, and that turns it into a 10.1″ 1280×800 display Tablet, which also has a battery. The Station is just a tablet shell. The Transformer bit doesn’t end there either; there’s a keyboard dock, just like the Transformer, which the Station goes into. And now you have a netbook. With even more battery (gotta have more battery). Oh, that’s not all either. There’s a stylus (just another normal capacitive stylus) that doubles as as bluetooth headset when the phone is in the station! Now that’s a true transformer. It’s running ICS, but there’s no mention of availability or cost.

Samsung

Samsung’s been going strong of late, and while they had previously launched both the Galaxy S and the SII at MWC, they didn’t have a massive presence this year. The rumoured Galaxy SIII wasn’t announced there, but they did showcase a few tablets and phones. Two stood out though.

Galaxy Beam

By itself, the Beam is a standard mid-range device (oh how the mid-range definition has changed over the years). It’s got a 4″ WVGA screen, a 1GHz dual core processor, 5MP camera and runs Android 2.3. But it does have an LED Pico Projector built into the phone. It isn’t the first phone with a Pico Projector that Samsung has released; the original Beam was launched in 2010 and ran Eclair (Android 2.1).

Galaxy Note 10.1

The Note 10.1 has a 1.4 Ghz Dual Core Exynos Processor, a 1280×800 screen, and a Wacom Digitizer. It’s basically, the Galaxy Note with a larger screen. And it’s definitely a Tablet. Again, thankfully, it runs Android 4.0 (but has TouchWiz). It’s also got a HSPA Radio (3G), upto 64 GB of storage with Micro SD expansion, and has  Adobe Photoshop Touch and Adobe Ideas optimized for use with the S-Pen, bundled in.

Huawei

Huawei is currently in the position HTC was in a few years ago; Moving from an ODM to a Brand. As such, they’re pushing really hard with their new Android 4.0 Devices. They’ve also worked on their own processor, just like Samsung, and they say it’s the fastest Quad-Core device around.

Ascend D Quad

The Ascend D Quad (and the XL) is their brand new Flagship device. It’s got a 4.5″ 720P screen, Huawei’s own Quad Core Processor at 1.2/1.5GHz, 8MP BSI camera and runs Android 4.0. The D Quad has a 1850 mAh battery (the XL has a 2500 mAh battery), but Huawei says their proprietary power management system increases battery life by upto 30% compared to industry average by adjusting power consumption according to usage needs. That’s something that needs to be tested in real life use. There’s no mention of shipping, availability or pricing as of now, but it does look like a good device.

 

So that’s it for now. We’ll have more MWC posts once we get our photos and videos up. Meanwhile, check out our other posts from MWC 2012, here, here and here.

 

ASUS Eee Pad Transformer TF101 – Android Tablet Reviewed

With the abundance in range of tablets on offer these days, you can say one is somewhat spoilt for choice when making a decision. Adding to this, Android clearly has a staggering variety in this department, what with almost every electronics manufacturer looking to release an Android tablet nowadays. So it is only fitting that Asus – the company that gave birth to the netbook – would seek to put out an Android tablet into a forte it knows well.
Enter the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer – a sleek piece of hardware that ‘transforms from a glossy slab of tablet technology to that all too familiar design of the notebook we’ve come to appreciate; all this with minimum fiddling on the keyboard dock (Yup, you guessed right – the dock was a bit of a sore point, but we’ll get to that in a minute).
For you impatient lot, here’s a quick rundown of the technical specifications:

  • Dimensions:  271mm x 175mm x 12.95mm
  • Display : 10.1 inch IPS (1280 x 800)
  • Weight : 675g
  • Processor : 1GHz NVIDIA Tegra 2 (2x Cortex A9) SoC
  • Operating system: Android Honeycomb 3.2
  • Storage: 16GB + microSD card
  • Battery Life: 10 hrs (+ 6.5 hrs with keyboard dock)
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-fi (802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n)
  • Pricing: $399 ($429 including keyboard dock)

The Build

The overall build of the tablet is quite solid with a single sheet of glass covering the IPS LCD, a 1.2-megapixel front-facing camera and an ambient light sensor. Surrounding the 20mm black bezel is a strip of bronzed metal which gives the Transformer a distinct sense of quality. Also housed on this strip are the usual suspects – a well-placed power/lock button, volume rocker, microSD card slot, mini HDMI 1.3a port, mic/headphone jack, stereo speakers on the lower left and right edges respectively (although don’t expect to bring the house down with these) and a proprietary connector along with coupling holes for the keyboard dock at the bottom. A 5.0-megapixel rear-facing camera and the customary ASUS logo bring up the back panel, which features a somewhat striking etched, geometric pattern oddly reminiscent of the internalized Honeycomb OS.

The OS

Google’s OS for tablets – Honeycomb, has been well-documented since its release. Although a bit clunkier than Apple’s iOS in terms of overall layout and organization, it still easily manages to hold its own. The interface is almost a breeze to work with in terms of customizations and little things like the email, location and weather widgets that blend in seamlessly with wallpapers/skins. ASUS’ on-screen keyboard also has some nifty shortcuts and tweaks that might make life easier for some (or not). Other custom services include MyCloud – ASUS’ cloud computing initiative, which bundles three portals to help carry your world wherever you go. Also included is Polaris Office, a Movie Studio app and a bunch of reader app’s among other freebies. At the time of writing, the review piece was running the latest version of the Android tablet OS, Honeycomb 3.2 – some of the new features included screen compatibility for fixed-sized apps, media sync from SD card and some subtle performance optimisations among other revisions to its predecessor.

As mentioned before, with the range of Android tablets on offer these days, tablet manufacturers are always looking for some kind of unique selling point. This holds more true due to the fact that most Android tablets are packing near-identical innards.

The Keyboard Dock

So it would seem natural that ASUS would try to position a product that offered the convenience and portability of a tablet along with the functionality of a netbook.  A detachable keyboard, as that USP, provides some reason for excitement. The attachment bears a netbook-sized QWERTY keyboard (with several Honeycomb-specific keys), a surprisingly large trackpad, and a hinge where the tablet docks. The build of the keyboard attachment is exactly the same as the tablet itself and the sides here are adorned by two USB 2.0 ports, an SD card slot and that familiar proprietary connector. Why you ask? Well, the docking station has its own rechargeable battery, which ASUS claim adds an additional 6.5 hours to the overall battery life. All this sounds well impressive but we’re now going to come back to that kick in the shin – docking the tablet to the keyboard is an absolute skirmish! On more than a few occasions you’ll find yourself blindly shoving the tablet into the docking station, with their union only being hinted by the little silver tab clicking into place – if not, a deceiving ‘fit’ might lead to heartaches not even Criss Angel will be able to fix with all his magic tricks! But the pros of this attachment easily outweigh the cons, making it a worthy sidekick to the tablet against its able-bodied Android competitors.

The Camera

The Asus Tablet comes with two cameras, a front facing 1.2 Megapixel camera and a rear 5 Megapixel camera. You can use the frontfacing one for video chat using Skype and other apps. The rear 5 MP camera is a disappointment though, the quality of the images is not up to the mark, and forget video capture, the best you can get is some jerky videos, not worth the effort. But then I don’t see many people holding up a 10 inch tablet and moving around clicking too many snaps or videos.

Hardware Connectors

This is where the Asus Transformer does gain some plus points over other tablets. The tablet itself comes with the following connectors:

  • A MicroSD card slot
  • HDMI connector
  • Headphone jack which also works as a microphone input
The Keyboard dock extends the tablet’s capability by providing these options
  • 2 x USB 2.0 connectors, which supports USB OTG (On-the-Go), this lets you connect your mouse, USB drives and other devices to your tablet, as long as they don’t draw too much power from the device
  • A card reader  (MMC/SD/SDHC) for you to slam in your cards from your Camera to directly copy photos or media to the tablet.
These options make the tablet almost as powerful as your general netbook. Which is a good thing for people on the go. You don’t really have to carry another netbook along with you on your travel, this baby should take care of most ( or all) of your computing and connectivity needs.

The Final Word

Well, let’s face it – it’s definitey no iPad-killer.. Even with the flash support trump card, a sparse Honeycomb OS will find itself playing catch-up with the hardware for sometime to come. However, if you can get to grips with this fact and move on then you have a fabulous piece of technology that’s a joy to work/play around with. And so what if it’s not the ‘next big thing’ you’ve been looking out for? A high-quality IPS display, superiour design, excellent keyboard integration and value for money ($399 is definitely one of the cheapest, the dock sets you back another $150) easily set this apart from it’s closest competitors; and for this it gets a well-deserved 8/10 from us. Optimus & prime’d!

If you’re planning on getting one, here’s the Amazon link to the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer TF101 Tablet and the Asus Keyboard/Docking Station for Eee Pad Transformer. For more information about the product, check the Asus Site.

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