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The QWERTY Contenders

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In today's touchscreen-or-bust age, are the days of the full-QWERTY phones numbered? Not if you see the latest sliders from the Nokia's and HTC's stables – the E7 and Desire Z. Now while these two may have a slide-out keyboard in common, there's little else that they share, and I pit them against each other to see which one comes out on top! 


Nokia E7
Nokia's design team is on a roll since the N8, rolling out the E7 with similar design cues. In a sense, the E7 is a larger N8, packing in the same Symbian^3 platform, but trading off the N8's awesome camera for a larger, better display and a full QWERTY keyboard.  

Form Factor/Build Quality: To be able to fit a keyboard into a device this thin itself is part of the E7's charm, and the sturdy aluminum shell and Gorilla Glass display outclasses the Z's part-metal, part-plastic finish. At 180 grams, the Z is heavier, but only just. 

Screen: The E7 edges ahead of the Desire Z's 3.7-inch, 480x800 pixel capacitive LCD touchscreen with a 4-inch AMOLED screen packed with Nokia's ClearBlack Display technology, which allows for richer colors and better outdoor visibility. The Z has a higher resolution screen with a crisper display though. 

Camera: The E7 is destined to live in the N8's shadow in this department, after forsaking the Carl Zeiss branding and the 12-megapixel sensor for a 8-megapixel fixed focus (no autofocus) unit. This was a strange choice in the camera department, seeing how popular the N8 got thanks to its camera – an autofocus camera on the E7 is really what the doctor ordered. Saving grace for the E7 – the Z's 5 megapixels auto-focus, LED flash doesn't fare better in shooting everyday pics, so I'd go with the numbers here. Both cameras let you use a number different settings and effects, and there's an onboard photo editor too, but this one came down to just how good a picture each shot. 

Multimedia Playback: The Symbian^3 video player handles H.263/H.264/AVC MP4, plus DivX, WMV and many other formats, plus there's HDMI-out to broadcast to your TV direct. Z's portfolio is capable but doesn't top this.

HTC Desire Z
Take the successful HTC Desire and bolt on a keyboard, and you get a phone that's every bit usable and fun as any of today's Android touchscreen wonders, with a keyboard for those who get the heebie-jeebies from typing on a touchscreen. 

Keyboard: While the feel of the keyboard is better on the E7 (and the keys are larger), the Z scores higher thanks to a slider mechanism that's smoother to operate and access. Over time and frequent use though, the E7's slider feels more solid and less likely to become loose. Also, I personally prefer the angle that the Z adopts, involves less craning of the neck. Tough one to call, this is something that you'll have to see for yourself in the store. 

User Interface: Even with the revamped touch-friendly Symbian^3 user interface, it isn't a patch on the HTC Sense UI. Sure, it may be familiar to lifetime Nokia users, but that's about it. No competition here, move along.

Platform: You can start listing features that Android 2.2 supports vis-à-vis equivalent stuff on Symbian^3, but the truth is that Android is a platform that's got an eye on the future, while Symbian is, sadly, shackled to the past. It's past its prime, and makes modern devices like the N8 and the E7 just look plain bad. An aside to HTC, please upgrade the Z to 2.3 post haste!  

Apps: While Nokia is making the right noises for apps on Symbian^3, it's getting drowned out in the din of over 150,000 applications available for the Android segment. Consumer and developer interest levels in the Android platform are much higher, which means new apps will come faster to Android than Symbian. 

Storage: Hmm. 16GB built-in on the E7 vs 1.5 expandable to 33.5 on the Z. No brainer - score one for the Z on pure numbers, more so if you're a media junkie who must have a ton of stuff to watch and listen to on their phones.

Winner: On specs and design, the E7, but (more critically) on experience, the Desire Z. 
HTC Desire Z: Price: Rs. 25,590 (http://bit.ly/iGpiGv)
Nokia E7: Price: Rs. 29,999 (http://bit.ly/kYQuT7)











 Repeated Perfection
If it ain't broke…don't fix it. Apple's MacBook Pro range of laptops follow this design philosophy year after year, and still manage to remain the thinnest, most streamlined laptops in their class. Most of the changes in the 2011 variant are under the hood, including the latest second-generation quad-core Intel Core CPUs, and automatic graphics switching technology which recognises which apps or tasks require a heavy-duty dedicated graphics chip, and which can work with the built-in low-power graphics. In this iteration though, Apple's chosen the AMD Radeon 6750M chip over the Nvidia offerings, and the performance numbers bear that out. It's no surprise that this multimedia powerhouse still doesn't ship with Blu-ray drives which can be seen on some of the competition these days – Apple isn't clearly not ready to accept Blu-ray as a standard, preferring high-definition internet downloads instead.
 
Yet, this laptop leads the way in another standard – the MacBook Pros now ship with Thunderbolt, an input/output technology from Intel (codenamed Light Peak). When connected to a Thunderbolt-equipped peripheral, transfer rates can hit a theoretical 10Gbps, that's roughly 21 times the speed of USB 2.0 and twice that of USB 3.0. It's a little like taking a 4-lane expressway when the rest of the world is using a 1-lane road. Trouble is, Thunderbolt peripherals like external displays and storage disks are hard to come by, and are prohibitively priced for the moment. The possibilities though are mouthwatering – the ability to play four uncompressed HD video streams off a hard disk, or to transfer a DVD movie (4.7GB) in a matter of seconds just reminds me just how slow our current generation of devices are.
 
Net net, you have strong CPU and graphics updates, a new HD webcam for  great construction and battery life - what's not to like in the new MacBook Pros?
 
URL: http://bit.ly/mFHrO2
Price: 13 inch models start at Rs 69,900










Game For Change
Portable gaming is set to turn a corner with the Nintendo 3DS, and accessory makers are out with devices that extend the system's notoriously short battery life already. The Hyperkin Powerplus slips on to the back of the console without obstructing the 3DS' cartridge port, SD card and game controls, while adding an extra 1800mAh to the device's standard 1300mAh battery. Plus you get an LED indicator letting you how much juice you have on tap. Watch out for my full review of the 3DS next week!
 
URL: http://bit.ly/k7Odvb
Price: $19.99


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