Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Samsung ATIV SmartPC Pro 700T


Microsoft Windows 8 has had mixed reviews; from the positive to the negative and everything in between. There is no question that Microsoft has taken a large bet on the mobile form factor, and Windows 8 is the company's response to the IOS-led mobile computing revolution underway. Most reviews have been lukewarm, and customer adoption has not been as rapid as hoped.


Is this because the software / hardware doesn't work, or is the idea flawed ? Having several Apple devices, I can confidently say that while they're amazing personal and consumer tools, they vary between amusing to downright useless as corporate devices. Three simple things that you can't universally do on an iOS device are;

  1. Correctly view, edit and contribute to a multi-user / versioned document with tracked changes
  2. Consistently view, present and edit a presentation
  3. Export, import or share onto a memory stick any content


While these are simple (and you would think trivial) matters, in a business context they're effectively show stoppers. I bought and played with a Microsoft Surface RT (RT stands for ReTarded), which was silly. The hardware is great, the folding thin keyboard is truly innovative but the lack of an Intel processor makes the app and program ecosystem pretty thin. Enter the mouthful; the Samsung ATIV SmartPC Pro 700T (phew). A i5-based processor, 64GB SSD and built-in 3G modem makes this (large and heavy) tablet and associated keyboard cover quite an interesting beast. I've been using it for about a week now, and some initial thoughts;

  • Windows 8 isn't sure if it wants to be a tablet, or general purpose computing platform (Metro, desktop, and the confusion and lack of cohesion between the two)
  • Windows has a large and solid platform of software that allows you to do almost anything you need
  • USB ports are damn handy, as is an open and standardised set of file systems
  • 64GB is simply not enough storage; even with an additional 16GB MicroSD, disk space is so tight that you just barely make it
  • Windows 8 tablets and devices play nicely with corporate workflow, systems and architecture principles


Windows 8 (and this hardware) are not the prettiest, slickest, fastest or most appealing combo; a MacBook Air or an iPad 4 from a design, weight and general aesthetic perspective kick these offerings into the stratosphere. But as a business tool ? I haven't powered my iPad on since I got this. 


For me, even though I'm going to get ridiculed for it, the Windows 8 tablet is a compelling story.

Bose QC3 headphones

Qc3 si lg

Its very rare that you buy something that does exactly what its supposed to do, and does it so well that it blows all your expectations away. One such device is the Amazon Kindle; does what its supposed to do, and consistently. I'd like to add another to that (very short) list; the Bose QC3 headphones.


Yes, they are very expensive at $350. Yes, they only work when they're powered (i.e. the proprietary battery is charged). But oh yes, they are gorgeous and comfortable to wear (even for hours at a stretch). And oh yes, they sound amazingly neutral (which is rare these days). And oh yes, that battery lasts for ever (more than 16-18 hours). 


It comes in a beautiful hard case (which frankly doesn't look like it'll last very long if you don't care for it), an airline adapter (for those stupid airlines that don't have a standard headphone jack), a charger and a set of "world" adapters that will make the charger work just about anywhere. The only fiddly bit is the cable, which comes either as a standard wired cable, or as an Apple-compatible control set of buttons. On the plus side, its detachable, and on the minus side, they really should consider making these things wireless. Cables, while great for quality, really suck in real world use.


It really is surreal how the minute you put these on and switch the button (there is mercifully only one button on the whole thing), it sounds like all the air has been sucked out of the room and its eerily quiet. On the audio quality front, I can only reference these to the Klipsch Image X10i's in terms of quality and trueness to the recording; if anything, these are slightly bass heavier, but not distractingly so. Mid's and trebles are fairly treated, and overall quality is sublime. They don't get terrifically loud, but because of the design seem to focus the sound into your ears as opposed to bleeding out. And they're open backed, which means a much more neutral sound that doesn't eliminate external noises if they're loud enough.


Are they worth the price tag ? Audio quality and comfort are so subjective, its hard to comment without real-world comparisons. These are so good that comparisons are only for academic purposes, not necessity. it would be interesting to compare these with a pair of AKG 490NC's, which are roughly a third less. The Harmon equivalents that I have tried were so bass heavy (as were the Monster and Beats equivalents), whereas the AKG's are more supposed to be more neutral.


But these Bose; awesome!