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Field Trip – iPad Mini, Mac Book Pro Retina, Kindle Fire HD, Nokia Lumia 822

Just took a Field Trip to the Verizon and Best Buy stores after lunch today, I’m going to call these posts Field Trips because I have to go out and play with new tech. Some of the main things I played with at the store were the iPad Mini, MacBook Pro with Retina display, Kindle Fire HD, and Nokia Lumia 822. I also played with some of the ASUS gaming laptops and a dead Samsung Chromebook.

While these aren’t the best settings for playing with them because I could not spend a lot of time playing and they were tethered to the display I did my best just playing with them. I also would like to get some of these in as review units or if some donations come in for a specific product I would review it also.

iPad Mini looks nice and would be a great smaller screen iPad if you don’t already have the newer full size iPad, I wouldn’t think you would need both. Check out the full mini review.

Mac Book Pro with Retina Display is a very powerful laptop computer, and with the higher resolution screen it looked nice but is it going to be worth the extra $500 or so for that nicer screen. I liked how it worked and had the older model side by side and couldn’t see much difference other than the Retina had more contrast, I’m sure more using it from the older model you may see a difference. Read the full mini review for more.

Kindle Fire HD is a good device for consuming Amazon content but it doesn’t seem as powerful as a Nexus 7 that I am use to. More in the mini review.

Nokia Lumia 822 is one of the flagship Windows Phone 8 devices while it has smooth operation and looked good, Windows Phone 8 seemed empty and just lacking in non-core apps even from a display model. See what I saw in the mini review.

Those are the big ones I played with but I did look over some other devices such as the ASUS gaming laptop that had good specs and all the keyboard was kind of clunky and seemed overpriced for what I could get a Mac Book for almost the same specs. I also don’t like Windows 8 all that much on a non-tablet or touch screen.

The Samsung Chromebook was set up kind of off to the side in an under equipped display that only had one left in a box that looked like it was taped closed after being opened at Best Buy I wanted to see it work but the system said click to start but I only got a spinning indicator and even after trying to power cycle it nothing came up so I left not knowing how things will work on that system. Too bad because I wanted to know how the system performed but bad displays will not sell these even with a low price tag.
New Apple MacBook Pro with Retina Display

Amazon Kindle Fire HD 7” and 8.9” 4G LTE

The new updated version of the Amazon Kindle Fire was announced today; this includes an update to last year’s Kindle Fire, the Kindle Fire HD in a 7″ and 8.9″ that is in a WIFI and 4G LTE version. They also updated the software to add things like X-Ray IMDB people look up when watching movies, Wikipedia and YouTube videos when looking at words in text.

They spent some time in the announcement talking about how fast the OMAP4 processer with built in graphics engine. The display on the 8.9″ is an HD 254 ppi 1920×1200 pixel resolution, and on the 7″ has a resolution of 1280×800 pixels. Amazon also talked about how good the WIFI is that includes both 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz radio systems with MIMO technology to use two antennas to boost reception depending on what antenna is getting the best signal. As for battery life they claim 11 hours on the 7″ Kindle Fire HD.

Few extra things they included was an HD front camera, HDMI out, Bluetooth, updated email and calendar applications, Wispersync for games to keep location in the game and scores. The Dolby dual stereo speakers are supposed give great audio sound to make watching videos better.

The 4G service is kind of cool but kind of limited; it costs $49.99 a year, and includes 250MB of data a month. It also includes 20GB of Cloud Drive storage and a $10 Amazon Appstore credit.

Fire HD 8.9″ 4G LTE Fire HD 8.9″ Fire HD Fire
32GB $499 16GB $299 16GB $199 8GB $159
64GB $599 32GB $369 32GB $249
Ships November 20 2012 Ships November 20 2012 Ships September 14 2012 Ships September 14 2012

Nook Color & Nook Tablet Price Cut

Barns & Noble just posted new lower prices for their Nook Color and Nook Tablet. These 7-inch tablets are built using Android OS and have a good amount of power for reading books, watching streaming video and playing music. This lower price is most likely a response to slowing sales of the now lower powered tablet and the introduction of new tablets such as the Google Nexus 7 and Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0. This also follows reports of Amazon Kindle Fire sales dropping off.

If you’re looking for a cheaper reading tablet the prices are now $159 for the Nook Color, $199 for the 16GB and $179 for the 8GB version of the Nook Color. But I would say you may just want to spend the extra or the same amount on a Nexus 7 and get more power and the full and new Android 4.1.

Google Nexus 7 Hands On

Got my Nexus 7 a few hours ago and after spending some time with it I am very impressed with the performance and how nice of a device it is. First thinking after getting it out of the box, and no I didn’t have the hard time that every unboxing video seemed to show about how the box was a hard thing to open, I turned it on and it was saying I had only 6% battery. That is kind of a bummer because you will spend a long time waiting for it to charge up, after about 2 hours charging on my old Nexus One charger I am only at 32%, and it will charge my Galaxy Nexus in about 1 ½ hours. It may be faster now that I’m using the supplied charger.

As for the software you will have to update a lot of the stock apps right away, and there is an Android 4.1.1 update that you will need to do, but will have to wait until you get your device to above 25% battery. If you are an Android user already you will probably have a set of apps to install this takes time because you end up scrolling through a list of every app you have installed on any device using the Play Store to get the ones you want. I got a lot of news and reading apps loaded along with some video apps such as Netflix and Hulu along with my music apps like DI.FM and SKY.FM.

Because I got it from the Play Store I got a $25 credit that showed up in my email after I logged into the Nexus 7. It also came with Transformers: Dark of the Moon as a free movie to show how it works, and it streamed easy and fast over my Cable Internet connection. It also came with some magazines that you can look at. The Popular Science that they give you was nice, you can go to a page and then zoom in on a piece of text and it makes it look good, or you can just read the text in a different layout without the images though.

I did open the Kindle book app and look it over, it was nice on the bigger screen I have used it on a phone but didn’t seem to want to read much because it was a lot of page scrolling and not much reading, and on my big ASUS EP121 Windows Tablet it was nice but too big and heavy, but I did like it on the Nexus 7. As for Google Books I loaded the manual but it was spending a lot of time loading the next page trying to scroll though the book, that problem went away after letting it finish downloading the book.

Using apps like Flipboard and Currents was nice to read news and articles. Also using Chrome as a web browser was nice because it displayed content like a desktop but easily zoomed in when the text was too small to read easy. Google+ is also optimized for a tablet experience but Facebook was just an expanded mobile version.
The sound from the speaker was ok for watching YouTube and having some music playing but wasn’t that good that you wouldn’t want to have some headphones for longer listening sessions. The microphone was able to pick up my speech to text input easy enough using the Google Now cards and search. As for the camera you don’t get a full Camera app, but you can install other camera apps or use one called “Camera Launcher for Nexus 7” that will add an icon to use the Jelly Bean camera. Also some camera apps such as Camera ZOOM FX won’t install. The quality of the camera was ok and only good enough for video chat and things like that any ways.

As an update to the battery charging make sure you use the supplied charger it took me 45 minutes to work through this article and I went from 32% to 51% in the time I started to getting to this point, so the charge time isn’t that bad with the right charger.

Overall I like the Nexus 7 and expect to have lots of fun with it, I think I’ll get a case for it, Amazon.com had a few that have the magnets to make it wakeup and sleep depending on if the cover is open or closed like the iPad “not so” magic cover that only cost $20. So if you were thinking of getting a Nexus 7 go ahead and get it, the price is right at $199 and the hardware is good!

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