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BW Businessworld

The Smarter Generation

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Samsung Wave 2
With Android based smartphones literally coming out of the woodwork these days, one would think a ‘hatke' OS with a fresh perspective would be more than welcome. But does the Wave II, a refresh of Samsung's original Wave smartphone based on the Bada platform, do enough?

It's clear that Samsung is hedging its bets with Bada, with its Galaxy S and Nexus S Android handsets doing pretty well for themselves. Make no mistake though, there's a lot going on in terms of specs for the Wave II. A 1 GHz processor, the usual bevy of connectivity features and a 5-megapixel camera with 720p video recording – the Wave II isn't lacking per se, but doesn't up the specs ante significantly like its predecessor did. It retains the aluminum chassis, but is a lot easier to handle with its bigger form factor. No radical design changes here – the Wave II has similar layout of controls as the original Wave, and at 123 x 59.8 x 11.8 mm, the Wave II is still pretty compact and pocket-friendly while retaining the semi-premium heft to it.

What's disappointing (but not surprising given global shortages) is that Samsung chose to kit the Wave II with a 3.7 inch 480x800 pixel Super Clear LCD screen, instead of the Super AMOLED variety that the original Wave had. Sure, the new Wave's sunlight legibility is still pretty good, but with the Galaxy S, we've seen just how good the color reproduction and contrast levels can get with the Super AMOLED, so it will be missed on the Wave II. Blame it on Samsung supplying ever diminishing Super AMOLED screens to their Android lineup.

How then does the latest Bada version 1.2 fare as a smartphone OS? It checks all the boxes of a modern mobile OS – you get excellent social network integration with the address book, a home screen with widgets capabilities and excellent multimedia playback capabilities. The TouchWiz interface is now standard across their Bada and Android lines, so there is an element of familiarity in the interface. Look closely, and you'll see certain OS elements borrowing from Android as well, which isn't a bad thing in itself. Native apps are nice, but as a smartphone contender, it's really third party apps that can swing the decision for me. The Bada OS offers a native application repository, called Samsung Apps, which is very similar to the Android market in organisation. Third party apps are available but significantly fewer in number and variety than the competing platforms, plus only the base Samsung apps can multitask (this issue should be sorted out in Bada 2.0, due this summer).

Without the bundle of apps that one is used to on other platforms, the Wave II comes across as a pricey feature phone on steroids, rather than a complete smartphone. If you demand even a little bit more from your smartphone, look the Android way, for now at least. It's good to see Samsung persist with Bada though, and if it becomes the platform for their mid-level touch phones in the future and gets some developer support along the way, its purpose would have been met.

Rating: 7/10
Price: Rs 20,319

Dell Venue Smartphones
Dell's foray into smartphones just took a serious leap into the category of contenders with the launch of the Venue Android smartphone. Don't confuse this with their Venue Pro handset though, which is a Windows Phone 7 device.

To begin with, the phone feels really pleasant in the hand, and the small styling touches in terms of the chrome sides and curved edges give this phone oodles of class. This is out and out one of the most premium ‘feeling' phones in the Android segment, it's that good in the hand. The front of the device is dominated by the subtly curved 4.1-inch 480x800 pixel AMOLED capacitive screen with the tough Gorilla Glass display. Clarity on this screen is excellent, but I couldn't help but feel the brightness was a little sub-par, more so under direct sunlight. There's a slight curve to the screen, which makes it easier (for some folks I spoke to) to swipe across the screen. That said, the touchscreen is responsive, and the phone offers both Swype and Android virtual keyboards.

With the Venue packing Android 2.2 with a custom Dell ‘Stage' overlay, the UI looks good and adds in a number of customisations such as the inclusion of large widgets – to show you your favourite contacts, twitter feeds etc - that can be placed on one of the seven homescreens. If you've seen the Dell Streak, the UI is consistent with that device. It's fairly easy to use as an interface, but lacks the intuitiveness in some places that I've seen on some of other Android phones. Give me the stock Android experience any day, personally.

Using the device, there is an ever-so-occasional but very noticeable lag when you're swiping through the user interface, and that's a little strange considering this phone runs a 1 Ghz Snapdragon processor. For multimedia, the Dell Venue sports an 8MP autofocus camera complemented by an LED flash and can also record 720p videos. Picture quality was average, though.

Keep in mind, like many large screened Android handsets, this too struggles to keep up at the end of a long day, and a battery charger or a second battery is advised for heavy users. I'd like to see this move up to the current Android 2.3 Gingerbread version soon to better my recommendation – 2.2 is so 2010, really.

Rating: 8/10
Price: Rs 29,990


Kingston's HyperX Max 3.0
Portable drives that use flash memory storage aren't moving large volumes yet, what with the rather princely premium they command over their hard drive based counterparts. Kingston's HyperX Max 3.0 external USB 3.0 doesn't really fix the pricing issue, but gets other aspects spot on. It's smart looking, encased in a sleek blue aluminum housing and about the size of an iPod. The supplied cable works with the newer fast USB 3.0 ports as well as the older 2.0 ports, and an activity light indicates as much.

But it's really in everyday use that you see the value of this device. If you've ever transferred a large amount of data to or from an external USB drive, you'll know how painfully sluggish the USB 2.0 standard really is. With 3.0, you get roughly eight to ten times the data transfer, and newer laptops and motherboards are finally waking up to the standard. You can even pick up USB 3.0 add-on cards available to upgrade older machines.

So when you plug the HyperX Max 3.0 into a USB 2.0 port, the drive is comparable to fast external hard drives, but it really sings when connected to a machine with a USB 3.0 port. It is exceedingly fast, transferring multi-gigabyte files in around a minute and snappier still in daily use. Sample this - advertised transfer speeds claim 195MBytes/sec read speed and 160MBytes/sec write, and averaging from my tests, I saw sequential read and write speeds topping out at 180-190MBytes/s and 170MBytes/sec, so you're getting what you're paying for. Plus, it's quiet and resistant to knocks and bangs, but, as we all know, comes with a massive downside - the price. At this moment, this is not for the average buyer, more for the pro video or photo guys, who need a lot of fast portable storage.

Rating: 8/10
Price: 64GB: Rs 7,500, 128GB: Rs 12,500, 256GB: Rs 27,999

Speeding Ahead
No, this is not a router-cum-windmill that you will need a strong breeze to power! The Logitec new LAN-WH450N/GR wireless router actually sports a tri-antenna design which the manufacturer claims lets the router achieve speeds of up to 450Mbps when using compatible devices. For those with wired networks, this baby supports high speed Gigabit Ethernet and all the standard security mechanisms. Plus, have you seen how futuristic it looks?
Price: $230

technocool at kanwar dot net