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Hybrid theory: Mix-and-match gadgets
[December 06, 2012]

Hybrid theory: Mix-and-match gadgets

Dec 06, 2012 (Mint - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- The newly launched Samsung Galaxy Camera is the newest hybrid device to reach the Indian market and by Christmas, Sony's Windows 8 tablet/Ultrabook hybrid, Vaio Duo 1, will also be out.

Both looked promising in previews, but the final design has, in both cases, included compromises that will be seen as deal-breakers by at least some users. Despite these shortcomings though, both devices are a positive step in creating entirely new types of hardware.

Sony Vaio Duo 11 The big draw of Windows 8 is that it serves as a bridge between tablets and laptops, with an 11.6-inch touch screen for media consumption and a full-feature operating system with proper keyboard support for content creation.

TECH SPECS CPU -- Core i5 (Ivy Bridge); RAM: 6 GB; Storage: 128 GB; Screen size: 11.6 inches; Touch type: 10point capacitive; Resolution: 1920x1080 pixels; Weight: 1.3kg; Battery life: 4.5 hours; OS: Windows 8 Consumer Edition The screen slides back and up smoothly, and despite looking fragile, feels satisfyingly tough. It props up into a laptop, though the screen does not go all the way back to the edge of the body, so the keyboard is actually a little smaller than you get on most 11-inch laptops. Some space is saved by removing the track pad for the mouse. Instead there is an optical trackball -- much like in a BlackBerry phone -- sitting between the second and third row of keys. While the trackball is easy to use as a pointing device, it's far too sensitive when it comes to registering clicks -- you're often launching apps or clicking on links when you were just trying to move the cursor.

This isn't a big drawback since the entire screen is touch-enabled -- it uses a highly responsive capacitive screen that also looks good, and runs in full HD. It weighs 1.3kg so it's also easy to carry around. In terms of the build, the only quibble is in the design of the slider -- there are some exposed cables which don't look good, and dust will quickly gather in the cavity, making it difficult to clean.

In terms of hardware, it has an i5 CPU, 6 GB of RAM and a 128 GB SSD. You can't customize this, but frankly, that's enough power for most users. One drawback is that there is no dedicated graphics card -- gaming at the highest visual settings is ruled out. With full-sized HDMI and USB 3.0 ports, the machine has many connectivity options, but the battery itself is a let-down.

It lasts for around 4 hours on a single charge; a longer-lasting battery would have made the device thicker and heavier. Most high-end tablets last twice as long so this is really bad considering the price -- Rs.89,990. It's great hardware, but not everyone will find it worth the price, particularly given the short battery life.

Samsung Galaxy Camera Once cameras in phones improved, and the processors in digital cameras became cheaper, it was only a matter of time before someone thought of mixing the two. The Nokia 808 PureView, one such example, tried to create the perfect phone camera. The Samsung Galaxy Camera approaches the same goal (that of the perfect smart camera) from the other direction, and tries to make cameras smarter.

The result is a camera which has a 4.8-inch touch screen instead of a viewfinder, running on Android 4.1. The camera can connect using Wi-Fi or a 3G SIM card, and can be used to mail photos, send them to Facebook or Instagram, or even edit them using different apps, without having to go to a computer.

It offers a good 21X optical zoom, and has a 17 MP sensor. The camera is fairly versatile -- going from full-zoom telephoto shots all the way to extreme macro photography -- and you can set up different shutter speeds and ISO speeds easily.

TECH SPECS CPU: Quad Core 1.4 GHz; RAM: 1 GB; Storage: 8 GB; Screen size: 4.8 inches; Resolution: 1280x720 pixels; Weight: 305g; Battery life: 100150 photos; OS: Android 4.1 Jelly Bean This comes at a small cost to image quality, particularly when taking pictures at higher ISO settings. It's not dramatic, but you'll notice the difference if you're planning on taking a full-page printout of pictures.

The pictures actually look a lot better on the 4.8-inch screen -- which, along with the 1.4 GHz CPU and 1 GB of RAM, makes it an attractive Android device. Since you have access to the Google Play Store, you can install any app you want to -- social networks, e-book readers, games -- though you can't make calls.

Battery life is fairly limited. It comes with a 1650mAh battery, which is rated for 100-150 shots, depending on usage. If you use it to read Web pages or listen to music as well, expect the battery to discharge in just a few hours. Samsung also seems to recognize the problem, and early buyers will get a free battery with the camera, but this is not really a solution.

As a point-and-shoot it's fairly impressive, and looks good too. The added connectivity features do add convenience, but come at the cost of battery life, and also push the price of the camera up to Rs.29,990. If that's a compromise you're comfortable with, this is a fantastic buy. Otherwise, wait for the next generation of smart cameras, or better phone cameras.

___ (c)2012 the Mint (New Delhi) Visit the Mint (New Delhi) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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