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Monday, January 9, 2012

returned the BlackBerry PlayBook & PS Vita non-excitement

Sigh... just got back from returning the 32GB Blackberry PlayBook. It's a great device, if only it played my videos better.... I was really on the fence about taking it back, part of me wanted to be past the 14 day return limit that Staples has.... but in the end, as much as I like the PlayBook, I'm not sure I *needed* it. Between my Toshiba NB205 netbook & HP Touchpad, those needs are fairly well met. Not to mention the browsers I have on my HTC Legend phone, PSP/PSPgo, and 3DS. None of those last 3 devices have particularly robust internet browsers-- certainly not as good as the PlayBooks-- but at least they have the basic functionality.

One thing that I really noticed about the PlayBook & the HP TouchPad is that flicking around a webpage is easier on the TouchPad. It scrolls more smoothly. When I'm websurfing with either device, I like to lightly "cast off" with my finger to move the page slowly down. If the screen was a lake, and the webpage a raft (my finger being a pole I guess) the HP Touchpad makes webpages glide along it. The PlayBook felt more resistive; I had to actually push the page a lot more to get it to move. It's a small thing but it is a big part of the overall experience. I also like how the TouchPad changes portrait/landscape orientation a little easier than the PlayBook-- but sometimes the TouchPad changes TOO easily, it's over-sensitive. So there are advantages & drawbacks to either styles.

My next big gadget purchase is going to be the PS Vita in mid-February.... and yeah, I'm "excited" for it, but I'm kinda not, y'know? I don't feel that frenzy that I felt in anticipation of past console launches or big game releases. I remember how I could not wait for the 3DS launch. This time around, I dunno. There aren't any huge PS Vita launch games that I'm super-excited for. the device itself looks nice, I know it has added touch functionality but... it looks pretty much exactly like a PSP-1000. An IGN writer wrote an article where he took his PS Vita out in public & nobody noticed. THAT'S BECAUSE IT LOOKS LIKE A FRIGGIN' PSP. Everybody has seen a PSP before, why would they care? You'd have to stare directly at it to notice the differences, and who does that when they're walking by? Even I would be hard-pressed to notice it... and I DO stare at people playing PSPs-- I always want to know what model it is & what they're playing.

So yeah, the Vita feels like it's 2005 all over again. That's not good for 2012.

When it gets closer to launch I'll probably be more jazzed. At this point in time, I'm just.... meh.


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Blackberry PlayBook

So I took the bait on Xmas eve, and ordered a Blackberry Playbook 32GB tablet from Staples online. But I don't think I'm keeping it....

The price point at $250.00 is fairly ok... and what I read about it seemed like it's a fairly solid tablet. I enjoy my HP TouchPad a lot but sometimes it is a bit big, especially when I take it out with me. With the case, it weighs in around 2lbs, which is close to my netbook weight. 2lbs may not sound like a lot, but when you're talking portability, trust me it is a consideration.

The Blackberry PlayBook definitely has a nice form factor. It's 7" as opposed to the TouchPad's 10", and it's very thin. On the bottom edge, there's the memory storage size (32GB) a micro HDMI port for output to an HDTV, a micro USB port, and a proprietary 3-pin port for a dock(?) One of the small issues with the micro USB port is that it's not shaped like most and you have to be careful to plug in the USB cable the right way. Usually the shape of the port shows me which way to plug it in.

The top edge has a headphone jack, power button and volume/play buttons. It's good to have hardware buttons but on the PlayBook I prefer to put it into sleep mode just using the onscreen buttons.

What's really great about coming out of sleep mode is all you need to do is swipe from bezel to bezel (either up/down or side/side) So I only need the power button to turn on the PlayBook from a full turned-off mode.

The back is a very simple soft touch rubber. Resists fingerprints but can pick up lint. It feels very comfortable though.

I love the thinness and simple design. However, the PlayBook is quite heavy considering its size. I suppose it's not unreasonable for it to weigh almost 1 lb, but when you look at the size and thinness of it, it looks like it should weigh less. So it can be a bit of a burden to hold for long periods... but the HP TouchPad weighs about 2x so....

I may not be a typical tablet user, my needs are fairly simple. I want a tablet for internet browsing, photos, music, videos and apps.

The Blackberry Playbook does most of these very well. The interface is very similar to the HP TouchPad's WebOS: apps close into a window view, you scroll horizontally between them, there's good multi-tasking.

My big problem with the Blackberry PlayBook is videos. I record videos in simple profile MP4 format, usually 368 x 208. Suited for PSP playback, but they also play very well on my HTC Legend phone and HP TouchPad. But on the PlayBook the videos are very pixelated. My videos look better on my TouchPad which has only a slightly higher resolution, but a bigger screen. Videos should look better on the PlayBook because of the smaller screen. I'm not sure if RIM is using a not very good MP4 decoder for video playback or what.... it makes me sad that my videos look so crappy on this thing.....

I really want to love the Blackberry PlayBook-- in fact I actually DO love a lot about it. Just not videos. That's not the most important part of a tablet but it is a major one for me. It's such a shame. So I think, with great reluctance, that I have to return it....... hopefully I can find a 7" tablet that will better fit my needs...... but there is also the PS Vita coming which will suck up as much $$$ as the PlayBook so maybe I need to just save up for that.


Monday, January 2, 2012

Wii sound issue

I just downloaded Super Mario Kart for the Wii Virtual Console.... it's fun. Cashed in some Club Nintendo coins. I definitely have a love/hate relationship with the Mario Kart & Mario franchise in general. I slammed Mario Kart 7, but I have to admit I'm still playing it a lot.

It's interesting to see how the franchise began in Super Mario Kart, even though it can be hard to look at.... I wonder how gamers in the 1990's managed to keep their eyes from getting wrecked....

Anyway, this post is more about a Wii issue that I've been having for awhile but since I haven't turned on my Wii for a long time I didn't think about how persistant it is. Sometimes when I go back to the Wii Menu, the sound becomes all scratchy. I'm pretty sure this issue popped up after a recent update. It's kind of annoying. just another example of what I hate about firmware updates, especially FORCED firmware updates. This is a problem that stretches across different platforms, from Nintendo to Sony to Apple & so many companies.... it could be one of the biggest gadget problems to consumers. We need to be more aware of what companies are doing to our products & hold them more accountable to any damage they might do.