Canon Ixus 300 HS Review

The Canon Ixus 300 HS is one pretty interesting point-and-shoot camera. It slightly departs from the usual Ixus look and combines both form and function in such a relatively small compact camera. Full review of the Ixus 300 HS after the jump.

The Ixus 300 HS comes in a variety of colors but the review unit that we used is the red one. The camera body is mostly built in steel with a glossy bright-red finish and a combination of sharp and curved edges that reminds me of a red-hot Ferrari.

Canon Ixus 300HS
10-megapixel 1/2.3″ CMOS sensor
28-105mm (35mm equivalent)
3.8x optical zoom
f/2.0 – f/5.3
720p HD video
Image Stabilization
ISO 125 – 3200
15 secs. – 1/2500 sec. shutter speed

If you’ve tried or owned an Ixus before, the Ixus 300 HS is mostly similar in terms of UI and controls plus a few added features here and there. It wasn’t hard to master and figure out where to go to achieve certain settings but it wasn’t too easy either.

There are no manual controls in here unlike the LX3 but for a point-and-shoot camera, the auto mode can do the job just as well.

Controls are found on the top side with the on/off button, a switch for still or video and the zoom dial. The large screen at the back takes most of the space leaving a little room for the Function dial, play and menu buttons.

Photo quality ranges from good to great and I pretty much liked how it handles macro shots at very close range. Images looked natural and vivid. That f/2.0 is great for low-light and a nicer or shallower depth-of-field.

You can see more of the sample photos in the gallery here.

The built-in image stabilization greatly helps reduce the blurring in some cases and especially when shooting moving objects.

The Ixus 300 HS also has a couple of fancy shots to choose from including this miniature effect (like this one). Here are several shots I took using this effect.

The fish-eye effect is also nice but doesn’t produce really great results probably because the lens isn’t very wide (28mm) enough. I think this effect is dependent on the subject and the relative distance to really capture that cool effect. It’s actually the 240fps video @ 320×240 and hi-speed burst at 8.4 shots/sec that I wasn’t able to test out.

The 720p video capture take some pretty good footages — video is clean and sharp. Works smoothly even when zooming in or out of a subject. See sample YouTube clip below.

The Canon Ixus 300 HS using an SD card slot placed at the bottom of the unit beside the battery compartment. The unit does not have an internal storage and it seems Canon no longer includes a free card out of the box (although it’s usually just 16 or 32MB).

I’ve been a fan of the Ixus line of point-and-shoot cameras by Canon since I bought my first Ixus 30 many years ago. The Canon Ixus 300 HS relived that same excitement I had back then — it has a good combination of features and performance wrapped in a nice packaging and I think it’s well worth the Php24,950 price tag (though that Php17k price in one of them Multiply stores makes it bargain).

toshiba satellite pro p300 review

As the desktop replacement notebook market fills up, the Toshiba Satellite Pro P300 (PSPCDA-00L00D) finds itself either matched or outpaced in almost every respect: from aesthetics and performance to multimedia features and value. In fact, the Pro P300’s only saving graces are its excellent keyboard and its relatively large dual hard drives.
When lifting the screen of the P300, two words come to mind: “big” and “boring”. While this isn’t a problem for business users preferring functionality over style, it’s odd that the same company that brought out the very stylish and powerful has now presented such a dull and dreary option.
Using the Pro P300 was easy and comfortable thanks to the generous full-sized keyboard and number pad, as well as the speedy internal components.
In terms of performance, the P300 is a good notebook thanks to its strong hardware. A 2.53GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9400 processor runs the show with 4GB of DDR2 RAM. It should be noted, however, that the 32-bit versions of Windows Vista Business and Windows XP provided with the Toshiba aren’t able to properly use all 4GB, leaving around 1GB wasted.
More impressive are the two 320GB hard drives, which spin at 5400rpm and provide more than enough space for most users. It’s also more storage space than most notebooks provide, even when they’re as big as the P300. The 17in screen with a native resolution of 1440 x 900 also works well, providing vivid colour reproduction.
In our iTunes test, where we strain the CPU by converting 53min of WAV files into 192Kbps MP3s, the strength of the T9400 shone through with an excellent time of 1min 10sec. This was slightly slower than what we were expecting, but still indicative of a fast processor. Due to a software malfunction, our WorldBench 6 tests were unable to complete the Autodesk 3D rendering benchmarks, and this explains the relatively low score of 83.
The ATI Mobility Radeon HD3650 was able to produce a 3DMark06 score of 3901, which indicates an ability to play older games like Half Life 2 and F.E.A.R. at medium settings, but an inability to churn through newer DirectX 10 titles such as Crysis.
Sadly, this is where we have to start mentioning the similarly priced laptops that blow the P300 straight out of the water. Although NEC’s is just $70 more, it offers an identical CPU along with a 3DMark06 score of 5881.
The Satellite comes with a range of expansion options. Toshiba’s four 'Sleep and Charge' USB 2.0 ports are brilliant, offering power to USB-based devices such as MP3 players without the need to power on the entire computer. One of these doubles as an e-SATA port, letting users connect to a range of products, such as external hard drives, at very high speeds. The lack of an HDMI port is puzzling, given the widespread adoption of the connection. Fortunately there is an S-video out port and a D-sub port for connecting to older external displays.
Toshiba, the main promoter of HD-DVD, stubbornly refuses to surrender against Sony’s Blu-ray format and provides dual-layer DVD-RW optical drives across its range. In the up and coming entertainment series of notebooks Toshiba partially negates this by including built-in FM radio and DVB-T tuners, but they have strangely left both out in the P300.
In contrast, the afore-mentioned NEC has both a Blu-ray player and an HDMI port while other laptops like Dell’s skip the Blu-ray player in favour of TV tuner cards. While these features aren’t essential to business notebooks, the added extras never hurt — especially when the prices are practically identical.
Given that the P300 is a desktop replacement equipped with a 17in screen, it’s no surprise that the unit is fairly heavy. Weighing in at 3.45kg without the power supply, the package is 4.2kg all up making it a back-breaking effort to move around. When we ran our battery rundown test by looping a DVD movie the Pro P300 held out for 81 minutes. This isn’t a particularly good result: it will cut short the majority of feature length films just before the climax.
In terms of network connectivity, the Toshiba offers the latest options with 802.11n wireless and Gigabit Ethernet built in, along with Bluetooth 2.1 for users with compatible accessories.

Toshiba Satellite E200 review

Toshiba’s new line of laptops include this Special Edition Satellite E200 running an Intel Core i5 processor and comes complete with all the bells and whistles. Check out our full review below.

The Satellite E200 is supposed to be under the category of thin-and-light notebooks and though I agree with the thin part, I don’t think the 2.24kg weight is something we can call light.

The laptop has a glossy finish all over, from the lid cover to the body and the palm rests with some pattern underneath. The body is a bit thick at the base and tapers off towards the front giving it somewhat of a clam-shell look.

The full-sized keyboard features large island-type keys and is a bit flushed to the left leaving a small area on the right side for a touch panel to control volume and LCD brightness. The keyboard is also back-lit and automatically activates when typing on the keys.

Its got a wide enough trackpad with a textured surface to separate it from the palm rest. The click buttons are positioned at the front edge and also tapers off which makes it a little harder to use at times.

The numerous ports are peppered around the sides but barely fits due to the thin design — an HDMI port, eSATA, USB ports and multi-card reader.

The 14-inch transflective display is bright and crisp with a resolution of 1366×768 pixels. The glare and fingerprint smudges that’s attracted by the screen is very common to glossy displays; that and the entire surface of the laptop too.

The specs on this rig is above average to great, depending on where you are coming from — starting off with the trio of the CPU + GPU + RAM. See complete specifications below.

Toshiba Satellite E200 specs:
Intel Core i5 520M @ 2.4GHz (2 cores, 4 threads)
4GB Dual-Channel DDR3 RAM
NVidia GeForce 310M 512MB RAM
WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
Bluetooth 2.1
HDMI port
eSATA port
2 x USB 2.0 ports
5-in-1 card reader
6-cell Li-Ion battery
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit

The thin design might have also prompted Toshiba to use a slot-loading optical drive to fit the body.

Performance is impressive with the Core i5 520M getting a sub-score of 6.7 on Windows Experience Index. The system got an over-all base score of 5.0 taken from the graphics card.

Results of PassMark benchmarks are as follows:

PassMark Performance Test:
CPU Mark: 2751.9
2D Graphics Mark: 271.0
3D Graphics Mark: 285.0
Memory Mark: 1024.2
Disk Mark: 396.8
PassMark Rating: 938.5

Been using the unit to play Starcraft 2 and I’m doing just fine with medium to medium-high settings. As for battery life, I am able to pull off close to about 4 hours on this unit running on Eco Mode but regular use can easily drop that to just over 2 hours. BatteryBar gives it a 3 and three-quarters of an hour rating.

The Toshiba Satellite E200 Special Edition comes in a nice, attractive design, good built and pretty decent specs. It’s not something you’d like to carry around because of the weight but it will pass as a good workhorse machine. I’m just not sure if a lot of people will be willing to shell out the funds once they discover the price tag that comes along with it.

Estimated retail price in stores is about Php75,000. A bit way above the usual price of other brands in this configuration but Toshiba’s additional touch in the design and built of the unit might convince a few folks to pick this one over the others.

The Nikon Coolpix P500 Camera

The Nikon Coolpix P500 is a camera that offers a user so many fine features, but is it really worth the price? The p500 is a 12 Megapixel camera outfitted with an advanced CMOS sensor, an ISO range of 160 to 3200, and it has a native resolution equaling 4000p x 3000p. Its viewfinder is the 921K, 3.0 LCD display with articulating functions. It is offered with 102MB of onboard memory, it can record and make.MOV files, and it has a high speed USB connection. This camera also comes with an HDMI port for peripheral connections, and it is bundled with the Nikon ViewNX 2 CD-ROM. Of course, the latter features are only scratching the surface on what this camera can do.
The Nikon Coolpix P500 comes in with red or black camera body. The camera comes with a tripod mount, a rechargeable battery, a user's guide, and the camera body. It weighs 494 grams and measures 116mm x 84mm x 103mm. Inside the camera is a ½.3 CMOS sensor. The exterior of the camera sports a 36Z zoom lens with a 23mm to 810mm focal length. The camera is built with a memory card slot for SDHC, SDXC, and SD storage cards.
This camera has four different aspect ratios, allows for the capture of stills in 11 different resolutions, and it has a continuous shooting feature that captures 8 frames every second. The Nikon Coolpix P500 has 15-30, 120-30, 60-30, and 240 movie frame rates, and it can capture audio for movies too. This camera comes with an autofocus assist light, autofocus features, an optical view finder and an LCD display measuring three inches wide. It has seven white balance features, four metering modes; shutter and aperture priority, and full manual exposure. This camera has four different self timer settings, a built in flash, six flash settings, and plenty of connectivity.
The Nikon Coolpix P500 is a device compatible with an array of operating systems. This device works with Windows XP®, Windows 7®, Windows Vista®, and Macintosh 10.4.11® or greater. It has a PAL and an NTSC video mode, a powerful lithium ion battery, and this camera offers up intuitive operations. You can make panoramic images with this device and it offers up nineteen scene modes for automatic picture taking. In camera editing features make this device extra flexible. With a single charge of the battery you can take up to 200 stills. This device works wonderfully not matter what the subject matter, lighting, or angle.
The Nikon Coolpix P500 is moderately priced considering all that it offers. This camera is great for capturing high action movie clips or for capturing those very special, unrepeatable moments. This device is great for macro close ups, easy panoramic captures, video recording or continuous shooting. Its superior focus, fast processor, and impeccable design make this camera one that is great for an amateur or adept photographer. An assessment of all of this camera's functions clearly marks it as a camera worthy of your small, initial investment.

Asus UL20FT Review

When I first saw the Asus UL20FT, it immediately got my attention with its black, brushed-metal body and solid construction giving it an elegant look. Being an upgrade to the Asus UL20 series, it now comes with a Core i3 CPU. See our full review after the jump.

The UL20FT is the newest 12.1″ notebook in Asus’ ultraportable category. It’s the more streamlined and better designed cousin of the Eee PC 12xx series. We reviewed the Asus UL20 before and I’d encourage you to read over it for some perspective.

This unit has a certain heft to it which makes sense since the lid cover is made up of aluminum instead of just hard polymer. The matte finish on the inside spreads from the palm rest all the way around. The body looks thin since it somewhat tapers at the edges but not the thinnest we’ve seen in this category (IMO, still under 1-inch thick though).

The full-sized keyboard features chiclet-type keys that are well-spaced and comfortable to use. The trackpad area is a bit small (contiguous with the palm-rest and the only demarcation are small pimple-holes that provides some friction to the touch). The clicker buttons are not separated between the left and the right button.

Just like the old UL20 model, the clickers are very hard and cumbersome to use, bordering on being really useless. After about a month of regular use, it makes that creaking sound when I press it down.

The display screen is glossy and produces a nice crisp and bright display at 1366×768 pixel resolution. As usual, the shiny surface attracts a lot of smudges and finger prints as well a glare when used outdoors or against bright light sources.

Powered by an ultra-mobile Core i3 330UM processor (with no Turbo Boost feature), it only runs at a low 1.2GHz dual-core but breezes thru all the load. I’ve gone ahead and upgraded the HDD to 500GB and the RAM to 4GB but the original specs of the notebook is as follows:

Asus UL20FT-1A
12.1″ display @ 1366×768
Intel Core i3 330UM ULV @ 1.2GHz
4GB DDR3 RAM (up from 2GB stock)
500GB HDD (up from 320GB stock)
Intel Graphics Media Accelerator HD
WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
Bluetooth 2.0
HDMI port
3 x USB 2.0 ports
Card Reader
Windows 7 Home Premium

Improvements over the old UL series is the inclusion of an HDMI port and a much better and louder built-in speakers.

Windows Experience Index gives it a nice sub-score of 5.4 for the Core i3 processor while the Intel HD Graphics got a 4.7 on gaming sub-score.

For an ultraportable and a 1.2GHz Core i3 processor, the system performs nicely and runs smoothly. No problem with HD videos and even with streaming 1080p YouTube HD. Was even able to install and play Starcraft 2 albeit with the settings all on low (the graphics was certainly the bottleneck).

The battery is only rated at 4400mAh (just like the old UL series) and thus could not give us more than average battery life. I was able push it to just a little over 4 hours at power-saving mode but on regular use, it’s somewhere around 3 hours or so. IMO, this is the biggest drawback of the unit. Would have been great if Asus placed in at least a 5600mAh battery. That would have given us 5 to 6 hours on a single charge.

The Asus UL20FT is a promising notebook in the ultraportable category. The Core i3 processor, design and solid build quality are its best points but the shortcomings (battery life and trackpad) somewhat spoils the excitement. The unti is not officially released in the Philippines but if it ever will, I suspect the price range would be somewhere between Php30k and Php35k (just saw the equivalent Acer TimelineX with similar specs selling for Php32k in stores).

Nokia 700, 701, 500 and dual-SIM 101 out and priced

Nokia’s new line-up of smartphones is now out in stores and selling in Nokia Stores — the Noka 700 and Nokia 701, the Nokia 500 and another dual-SIM Nokia 101.

The Nokia 701 is an 11mm full touchscreen handset with 3.5″ IPS-LCD display running on a 1 GHz processor (pretty much the same design as the Nokia C7).

Nokia 701 specs:
3.5″ IPS LCD display @ 360×640 pixels
Clear Black Display (CBD)
Gorilla Glass Display
1GHz processor
8 GB storage
up to 32GB via microSD
HSDPA 14.4Mbps, HSUPA 5.76Mbps
WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
Bluetooth 3.0 with EDR, A2DP
8MP fixed-focus camera with dual-LED flash
Video recording 720p @ 30fps
GPS w/ aGPS support
NFC support
FM radio tuner with RDS
Symbian Belle OS
Li-Ion 1300mAh battery

Suggested retail price: Php15,990

The Nokia 700 and 701 were both announced back in August.

Nokia 700 specs:
3.2″ AMOLED display @ 360×640 pixels
Clear Black Display (CBD)
Gorilla Glass Display
1GHz processor
2 GB storage
up to 32GB via microSD
HSDPA 14.4Mbps, HSUPA 5.76Mbps
WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
Bluetooth 3.0 with EDR, A2DP
5MP fixed-focus camera with LED flash
Video recording 720p @ 30fps
GPS w/ aGPS support
NFC support
FM radio tuner with RDS
Symbian Belle OS
Li-Ion 1080mAh battery

Suggested retail price: Php14,490

The Nokia 500 is an entry-level smartphone with 5MP camera, a 1GHz processor running Symbian Anna. Suggested retail price of the Nokia 500 is Php9,290.

Asus Eee Pad Transformer now available

A lot of you folks are wondering when Asus’ much-acclaimed tablet, the Eee Pad Transformer, is coming to town. Well, Asus Philippines recently announced that you can buy this tablet
starting this Wednesday, July 20.
as early as today in major malls around Metro Manila.
The Eee Pad 16GB (tablet only) will go for Php22,995.
While the Eee Pad Transformer 16GB (with keyboard dock) will go for Php29,995.

The Asus Eee Pad Transformer is not only a tablet for entertainment, but also for productivity and creativity. Powered by Nvidia Tegra 2 dual-core processor, this Android 3.1 Honeycomb tablet has a unique mobile dock. That’s a full QWERTY keyboard and touch pad with multiple I/O ports 2 USB slots, mini HDMI and HDMI ports, Micro SD and SD slots.
This is the tablet for content creation, social communication, HD media playback and smooth realistic game play. If you are currently looking for a tablet for media consumption and mobile productivity, the Eee Pad Transformer is it. This is probably the 10-inch Android tablet to beat.

Cherry Mobile Magnum 2X goes dual-core

Cherry Mobile is once again challenging the local market by introducing the most affordable dual-core Android smartphone in the Philippines with the Magnum 2X (an upgrade of the Magnum HD).

Cherry Mobile Magnum 2X specs:
3.8″ capacitive display @ 480×800 pixels*
1.0 GHz NVvidia Tegra 2 dual-core processor
8GB internal storage
up to 32GB via microSD
512MB RAM*
5MP rear camera & VGA front-facing camera
WiFi 802.11 b,g/n, WiFi hotspot
Bluetooth 2.1
GPS w/ aGPS support*
Android 2.2 Froyo (upgradable to Android 2.3)
Some of the information above were not revealed (ones in asterisk) by Cherry Mobile but a little digging gave us more details. Not diea if this can play full HD videos but since it’s an NVidia chip, it most probably can. The display size is smaller compared to the 4.1″ of the first Magnum HD.

Noontec V8 MovieHome Media Player Review

 We had a good two weeks with the Noontec Media Player MovieHome V8. It’s a totally new media player to me but having used and played with a lot of similar ones before, it was fairly easy to familiarize myself with the device. Check out our full review after the jump.

There are a number of models in the Noontec line-up and the MovieHome V8 NAS is the newest of the lot (launched back in June with a local distributor bringing the unit to the Philippines just this month).

The manufacturer (Noontec) is based in Shenzen, China and has been making a lot of media players for years including a recently launched Android Gingerbread-based Smart TV HD Player.

The player looks like a cross between one of those black and slim DVD players and the PS3 with its combination of glossy and sand-paper finish.

The Noontec V8 houses an internal storage using a 2.5″ or 3.5″ HDD with capacities of up to 3TB. You can transfer movies into the drive via a USB 3.0 cable or directly download files straight into the client. The drive bay can be easily opened from the front when you install a HDD (no need to unscrew any of the metal panels).

That somewhat justifies the larger than usual size of the player compared to the ones we used before.

You can also connect an external drive, NAS, or SD card on any of the ports built into the player. There’s a single HDMI port at the back to connect to your TV or, if you have an analog display, use the S-Video sockets.

The SD card reader is on the right side and can read media card with up to 8GB in capacity (not sure why it’s limited to that size but it could probably be fixed with a firmware update).

There’s a Gigabit LAN port as well to connect the player to the network although an optional WiFi dongle can be hooked to one of the USB 2.0 ports if you want wireless connection. The LED display up front also provides helpful info about the media you are currently playing.

The Noontec V8 reads just about any of the more common file for movies (including Bluray ISO), music and photos. And the HDD doesn’t need any special formatting as it supports FAT32 and NTFS.

    Video decoding: MPEG 1/2/4, Xvid, H.264,VC-1, RM/RMVB
    Audio formats: APE, MP3, WMA, WAV, AAC, OGG, FLAC, Dolby Digital, DTS Digital
    Audio codec: MP3, WMA, WAV, OGG, AAC, LPCM, FLAC, AC3
    Photo file format: JPG, JPEG, BMP, PNG, TIFF, GIF

One issue I had was that the manual that came with it is all in Chinese. Luckily, you can download a copy of the English Manual from their website.

The UI is very simple and easy to understand and use. It’s fast and responsive even when the list of titles on the catalog is quite long. It’s a minor feature but I really liked the idea of having a background wallpaper that you can customize on the screen.

Setting up the device to the network was pretty easy and straightforward via the LAN port. I haven’t tried the WiFi since it will need the optional, dedicated dongle to go with it. The Gigabit connection (1,000Mbps) is a huge plus factor when you’re transferring large files across your network. If not, you can still use the USB 3.0 port for really fast file transfers.

The Noontec V8 also comes with a Bittorent client so you can download movies straight into the internal HDD. The interface of the client needs a little bit more work though — it’s not that user-friendly (I keep coming back to the Chinese manual). In any case, it does the work as expected and as long as it can download torrents on its own, that’s fine by me.

Movie playback is fast and smooth with support for full HD 1080p videos. No lags or noticeable choking of video streams. Video output is great and the player renders them without any degradation (tried it on a 42-inch LCD TV and worked flawlessly).

The LED display in the front does help in providing media information of the file I am playing (as well as the elapsed time).

The remote control looks good, has a solid build and easy to use and operate. I wish they added backlit keys so one can use them even in the dark.

The Noontec Media Player MovieHome V8 has a suggested retail price of Php7,799 but they’re offering it for Php6,999 as an introductory price (HDD sold separately).

Not a bad price for a pretty capable device — biggest advantage is the USB 3.0, Gigabit LAN and Bittorent client.

Don’t know which stores carry these players but you can email for inquiries (will update once I get them).

Sony Vaio E Review

The Sony Vaio E is among the newest line of laptops from Sony which sports the newer Intel Core i5 processors and came in a variety of colors.

The review unit that we got was this marine-blue (metallic teal, they say) one with a clear-coat layer on top of subtle patterns starting from the lid all the way to the palm rest.

This 14-inch model of the Vaio E is relatively large and heavy — not meant to be carried around a lot but really intended to be mostly on the desk. The Vaio logo somewhats floats and casts a small shadow on the lid.

There are a plethora of ports and slots peppered around the sides of the unit — 3 USB 2.0, LAN, HDMI, eSATA, VGA, SD card and HG Duo slots. Even the WiFi has its own physical switch while the DVD drive is placed on the right side of the unit.

The full-sized keyboard features chiclet-type keys, typical of a Vaio laptop, and spaced considerably apart from each other. The recessed trackpad is fairly-sized and has a textured surface (more like pimpled) in contrast with the smooth palm rest while the left and right click buttons are separated.

The 14-inch glossy display is bright and crisp with 8 levels of brightness you can set to control screen contrast and power consumption. However, the glossy display is also prone to glare in the outdoors or against bright light sources.

The speakers are lined up across the entire length of the laptop just above the keyboard. The speaker volume is somewhere between mid to high and although there’s a noticeable lack of bass on the system, it’s very usable when watching movies.

The Vaio E is powered by an Intel Core i5 520M processor (2 cores, 4 threads) running at a base clock speed of 2.4GHz but can go up to 2.93GHz via Turbo Boost.

Graphics is provided by an ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5650 with 1GB GDDR3 which is a mid-class DirectX11 GPU that is capable of running graphics-intensive games. Add to that a 4GB DDR3 RAM and you have a pretty decent all-around workhorse for a laptop (see complete specs here).

Windows Experience Index gives it a base score of 5.7 with the CPU getting a nice high sub-score of 6.7. Battery life suffers due to the discreet graphics card and the powerful CPU — we only get just over 2 hours on a single full charge. BatteryBar gives it about 2.5 hours with the 6-cell 5600mAh Li-Ion battery. If Sony added a switchable graphics feature using at least an Intel HD, it would have helped in power-saving mode.

The unit also comes with an Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6200 AGN so it is capable of doing Intel Wireless Display.

The Sony Vaio E comes pre-installed with a 64-bit Windows 7 Home Premium and retails for Php76,999 which puts it the the top of the heap (in terms of price point) among Core i5 laptops in the market.

Canon Powershot S95 Review

After using the Canon Powershot S95 for about a month, I believe I have finally found the ideal point-and-shoot replacement to my dSLR. I am now more confident to take this on long trips instead of my Canon 7D. Check out the full review of the Powershot S95 after the jump.

As a successor to the S90, the Powershot S95 has a similar build and construction, only a bit smaller this time and with several enhancements and additional features to boot.

The Canon S95 comes in a compact, no-fuss, matte-black metal casing reminiscent of the popular Ixus line (just a little thicker). Feels solid on the hands and has that nice grip — not too small or too big.

All the familiar controls are found on the top and the right side of the back panel. Long-time Canon users will not have any hard time familiarizing themselves to the controls and menu. The ring at the base of the lens controls settings for ISO, exposure, white balance or even manual focus (much like the lens barrel of an SLR) while the Function knob can be dialed to set the aperture. There’s a ring function button at the top, beside the Power button, to activate that.

Perhaps the most interesting feature of the S95 is the 28-105mm lens that has a maximum aperture of f/2.0. It’s not the widest in its class (there’s the 24mm of the LX3) but it takes really crisp and vivid shots. The high aperture opening also makes for better depth of field and works wonders even on low light conditions.

Here’s a quick slideshow of some of the photos I took using the S95:

The camera also sports a number of built-in effects, one of which is the miniaturization which I really liked. The effect is more dramatic if you’re positioned in a very elevated place (like a 10th floor building) and your subject is shot from above.

I also liked the Color Swap and the Color Accent (uses a picker to swap colors of subjects or mute everything else except a chosen color). Here’s a sample of a Color Accent using red.

There’s also an HDR effect but I found the output not that impressive. That or I just can’t get a good subject environment to test it with. The benefits of the HS system is not very evident but I found taking macro shots much easier and more accurate.

Camera performance ranges from good to exceptional — fast shutter speed, good focusing and a really nice combination of high ISO and large aperture opening allows for both creative shots and high-quality photos. The manual controls is really a bonus but I found the presets and custom settings more than adequate for most of my needs.

Video recording is also great at 720p HD although I found the lack of auto-focus in this mode a little disappointing.

The built-in flash pops from the top left side when needed although I rarely use it. Perhaps, one of the shortcomings of the S95 is the low-capacity Li-Ion battery. At just 1000mAh, it wouldn’t last you the whole day. I’d recommend getting a second and high-capacity battery (there’s a 2350mAh 3rd-party battery that costs about Php3,000).

Key features of the Canon S95:
10-megapixel CCD sensor
HS System
28-105mm F2.0-4.9
28mm wide, 3.8x zoom, Hybrid IS
lens control ring, full manual & RAW shots
3-inch PureColor II G LCD
720p HD movies, HDMI
High Dynamic Range (HDR) mode
Multi-Aspect Shooting

The Canon Powershot S95 came in with a suggested retail price of Php27,950 but it has already gone down. Some sellers are offering it for as low as Php18,000. Got mine in Funan IT Mall in Singapore back in October for about the same price and came with an 8GB SD card. The S95 is a must-buy for those who are looking for an all-around point-and-shoot camera — just make sure you get a good deal for it. And don’t forget the extra batteries.

Lenovo IdeaPad S10-3t Review

Lenovo’s got one of the most good-looking tablet netbooks to date. The IdeaPad S10-3t combines a light weight and small netbook form factor and the performance of the new Intel Pine Trail platform at an affordable price. Check out our full review after the jump.
Lenovo added some eye-candy with the design of the netbook, starting with a wallpaper-style imprint on the lid. They did this with the 2nd iteration of S10-2 before. The glossy finish is still a fingerprint-magnet but the colorful prints somewhat helped hide the smudges.

Unlike most other netbooks out there, the S10-3t (including its sibling, the S10-3) seems wider in terms of physical dimensions. That gives a perception that the display has an aspect ratio of 16:9 instead of the usual 4:3.
With close inspection though, the screen size is almost similar to the regular ones (minus a couple of millimeters in the height). The wider aspect ratio can be attributed to the fact the Lenovo shaved off about a centimeter or two off of the palm rest and added about an inch in the width.

To achieve this, Lenovo had to reduce the size of the trackpad. The left and right clickers were removed and are now integrated into the trackpad (similar to what Apple did with the new Macbooks). However, with the reduced area of the trackpad and the clickers integrated into it, the usability has been affected. Multiple-finger gestures like left-click and drag becomes harder and cumbersome most of the time (an external mouse would be best to remedy this).

In the tablet mode, the S10-3t has a dedicated button on the left side of the panel that allows you to switch the screen orientation (at 90, 180, 270 and 360 degrees). That is paired with two more buttons for sound mute and another one for launching the custom UI. The webcam is placed on the upper right side while the power button just below it along with a power lock. The extra bezel space on the side provides better grip in portrait mode.
Another dedicated button is allocated for NaturalTouch, Lenovo’s custom UI that sits on top of Windows used for navigating thru videos, photos, music and eBooks, among others.

Unlike previous tablet notebooks that have resistive touch screens and require a stylus, the S10-3t has a capacitive one and works just fine with multiple finger gestures. We ran Google Earth on the system and it worked fine. However, there are noticeable lags once in a while (I believe upgrading the RAM to 2GB should help fix that). The 250GB HDD and WiFi 802.11n are already satisfactory to complete the specs.

As for the performance of the netbook, Windows Experience Index gives it a score of 2.3 which is similar to the scores of previous Atom-based netbooks. However, the improvement in the sub-score were more prominent with the graphics performance.

I think the only other disappointment in the unit is the battery life. BatteryBar shows a battery life of around 2.75 hours on a single charge from the 2100mAh Li-Ion battery. I believe there’s a 6-cell or 8-cell battery for this model but Lenovo has not returned back my question on its availability and price.

The IdeaPad S10-3t makes for an interesting netbook primarily because of the tablet form factor and multi-touch screen. Can’t expect much from performance since it’s still an Atom-based system but for the price, Php29,990, it’s well worth it. I’d suggest to bump the RAM to 2GB and look for an option to upgrade to that 8-cell battery pack.

LG Chocolate BL40 Review

The LG Chocolate BL40 Black Label Series is LG’s newest multimedia phone. This extra-tall candy bar touchscreen phone makes a great first impression but is it all skin-deep? Check out our full review after the jump.
The most prominent feature of the LG BL40 is its slim and tall form-factor, a character that easily gets a lot of attention in public.
The phone is pretty sexy — slim and tall with a glossy black finish all around. With a dimension of 128mm x 51mm x 10.9mm, it’s got an odd form-factor usually gets a mixed first impression. It’s a little on the heavy side but that’s because they used glass and metal in the body, except for the back cover which is plastic. See

The lock screen can be unlock via swiping the wallpaper upwards or clicking the power button once. However, I find it easier to go from sleep mode to active mode by clicking on the music button (wake up) and swiping the wallpaper up (unlock).
The front side does not even have any physical buttons at all (and confuses a lot of people when you hand it to them for the first time). On top is the power button and 3.5mm jack and at the mic is at the bottom end. The left side has the latch-type slot for the micro-USB port and a dedicated music button while the right side has the volume control and dedicated camera button.

Inside the LG Chocolate BL40 is the familiar S-Class UI which we’ve seen and tried in the LG Arena and LG Crystal. Most of the time, it responds quite well and runs smoothly except on some occasions when you feel a bit of lag. Aside from the rotating 3D cube that serves up 4 desktop panels, you can pull down a quick menu by tapping the top edge of the screen. The quick menu gives you access to most common functions such as WiFi, Bluetooth and Alarm controls as well a Profiles, Calendar and Events.

The strength of the LG Chocolate is really with multimedia. The 21:9 widescreen aspect ratio and 800×345 pixel resolution produces some form of cinematic viewing experience on a smaller scale. You’ll especially notice this when watching widescreen movies (not much with photos though, unless they’re panoramic shots).
Coupled with the FM Transmitter function (LG Arena has this too), you can also broadcast the audio of your movies to your FM stereo or car stereo to get that enhanced viewing/listening experience. The earpiece doubles as a speaker in front and puts up good sound quality with enough volume for open playback.

The display is bright, crisp and renders videos and photos very nicely. Last time I’ve seen this nice a display was with the Zune HD sporting an OLED display. The multi-touch works well with flipping and stretching/zooming around photos although the accelerometer doesn’t quite often catch up the handset orientation. Did I mention that since it’s shiny all over, expect a lot of smudges and fingerprints on the device too?

The built-in camera has a 5MP resolution and takes decent photos. However, video recording quality isn’t even close to decent which is a little odd since the LG Arena and LG Crystal takes decent to nice videos. Okay, so the two others take HQ videos while this one is only SD quality @ 640×480 pixels. The iPod Nano takes a much better videos, IMO.

The photos are a little washed out but the macro shot looked nice.
The built-in browser is decent and simple but with support for multiple windows (tabs) and runs Flash natively. Rendering pages on the screen at the vertical position is cramped but you get the full screen view at the horizontal position, thanks to that 800 pixel resolution. Access via WiFi and 3G is fast but not that very impressive. The battery is only rated at 1000mAh but lasts a full two days on normal use.
LG tried to emulate some sort of multi-tasking function so you can run various applications all at once on top of the running widgets but one can easily hit that limit (which tops at around 4 or 5 running apps). Not enough RAM perhaps — which is probably why they added a huge “End All” button in the task menu (fair enough).

There are a number of features on the handset that LG could have improved on:
Processing Power. While most of the tasks and functions are quite responsive, there’s a noticeable delay or lag when running multiple tasks. This is pretty common to most phones (and even on Android handsets) but the unit sometimes feels a little underpowered.

Apps and Games. While there are a dozen or so Java games pre-installed in the handset (mostly developed by LG Electronics), the rest are just demo games. These are pretty nice games similar to what you’d find in the Wii or iPhone but the selection isn’t that expansive. The apps are also sparse — only had GMail, Google Maps and WisePilot for LG. LG should do their own app store soon.

Usability Issues. While I really liked the form factor, there were some minor usability features that I sometimes find uncomfortable. This usually happens when the confirmation button (OK, Send, etc.) is placed on the top of the UI which forces you to navigate using both hands instead of one. The virtual alpha-numeric keys are cramped but that’s compensated with the nice and widely-spaced full qwerty keyboard on the horizontal orientation.

The LG BL40 is one feature-packed and capable handset. It’s a nice addition or upgrade to LG’s previous touchscreen handsets like the Arena and Crystal. With a piano-black, glossy finish and red accents at the top and bottom end, I’d say the LG Chocolate Black Label Series 40 (LG BL40) was specifically created for the ladies. Owning one of these is more of a fashion statement than anything else. As for the price tag, it costs as much as the LG Crystal at Php27,900.

Macbook Air 11.6″ Review

Apple’s been touting the 2010 Macbook Air as the thinnest and lightest notebook ever. With the 11.6″ MBA out in stores and an entry-level unit coming in at Php52k, it’s actually one of the most affordable Macbook in Apple’s line-up. Check out our full review after the jump.

macbook air

The original Macbook Air almost got me, but the size and the prohibitive price was something I could not chew on. This is practically my first full review of any Macbook line so I don’t have any priors to compare it with. I have had short encounters with previous versions of Macbooks, Snow Leopard, and even applications like Aperture. They never really attracted me much to go and make the switch.

As such, I this that this purchase was prompted by the form-factor and system build rather than the Apple logo. That should put me in a safe position to objectively review the unit. Besides, I got it for a discounted price of Php45,000 at iStudio just to sweeten the deal.

Just like any other aluminum unibody Macbook, the new Macbook Air has a pretty solid build quality. The super-thin body might give it an impression that it’s fragile but on the contrary, it’s surprisingly sturdy and tough. I think it can handle some serious load or pressure with the aluminum body. I would not hazard a drop test but from the looks of it, the device can handle a good beating.

The Air is almost completely built out of aluminum — from the lid cover, to the bezel and keyboard panel and down to the bottom end. The display lid is lined with a thin strip of black rubber to serve as cushion when you close the lid while the bottom end has four large circular pieces of rubber padding on each corner. I was actually not expecting any screws in here (as the term unibody gives an impression it’s screw-less) but turns out around 10 small pieces of them are buried neatly around the back.

The full-sized keyboard features chiclet-type keys, a standard for all MacBooks, which are comfortable to use especially when you’re touch-typing (it’s the typical Macbook keyboard). The arrow keys at the bottom right corner are much smaller though and are cramped close to each other. The trackpad is large and easy to use; and also spacious enough for two-finger scrolling. One has to get used to the entire surface as the clicker though.

The Macbook Air addresses a specific need for a specific type of users. It’s not an end-all, be-all solution for an ultraportable computing device but it has great advantages as well as some shortcomings too.

The device is among the lightest we’ve used in the sub-notebook category. There’s the Core 2 Duo Acer Timeline that’s under 3lbs with the same 11.6″ form factor; and the Sony Vaio X which is ultra-thin but underpowered by an Atom Z processor and then the Vaio P which is the smallest and lightest but does not hold enough battery power to last 3 hours.

The 11.6″ Macbook Air fits somewhere in the middle — it’s very light at under 2lbs., good enough screen size and resolution at 1366×768, ultra-thin so you don’t need much extra space for it, enough processing power for HD video playback and other semi-intensive tasks and pretty good battery life which lasts between 4 to 5 hours on normal use (although one can easily extend that to 6 to 6.5 hours when not connected to the internet but I rarely do that on this machine).

It’s got its shortcomings as well, mostly due to the fact that Apple had to compromise some features over the form factor. For one, it doesn’t have a built-in LAN port so if you travel a lot, you might encounter the need to hook up to one when WiFi is not available. There’s not VGA or HDMI port either but all those extras can still be had if you get the appropriate accessories or adaptors for them (and that will cost you extra money too). It comes with the newer display port though.

As a long-time Windows-only user, I must admit there’s some learning-curve when shifting to a Mac. I realized it’s not that big of a deal although for those who missed the comforts of a Windows UI, one can always dual-boot using Bootcamp or run Parallels Desktop for Mac just to get to that familiar Windows environment.

The MBA’s internal specification isn’t that very impressive considering they used an old Intel chip (a 1.4GHz Core 2 Duo SU 9400) instead of the faster and newer Coe i3 series. However, they’ve paired it with an NVidia GeForce 320M which is a decent graphics chip. That might seem like to good strike of balance between the CPU and GPU although I personally would have preferred a Core i3 380UM 1.4GHz with its built-in Intel HD Graphics. The latter combination might have helped extend the battery life a little longer too.

Storage is also another problem. The base configuration only comes with 64GB of SSD. That’s pretty small when netbooks these days come with 250Gb or 320GB storage. Upgrading to 128GB SSD is very expensive (~Php10,000) so the only work-around is to bring an external/portable USB HDD. The absence of a SD card reader is worth noting especially if you also own and use a camera a lot.

I have not clocked the boot time of other Mac laptops before but with this one, I’m pretty impressed with the 15 seconds of cold boot. Sleep mode to wake-up is like almost instant too (1 or 2 seconds tops). I haven’t encountered this kind of performance in any laptop before. I think it has got to do with the embedded SSD in the board. I’m really curious how it would perform in a Windows environment too (mostly the scores on Windows Experience Index). I’ll reserve that on another post and share my findings.

With a retail price of Php51,999, the Macbook Air 11.6″ is still on the expensive end of the price spectrum but I’d argue that it’s not the system build that you’re paying for but rather more on the design and engineering. The closest comparison I can think of is the Atom-powered Vaio X at Php65k. In my opinion, the 11.6″ Macbook Air is well worth the investment.

What is a telephoto lens?

If asked the question above, what would you say the answer is? Is it:
a) A lens with a focal length greater than 200mm?
b) A lens which can change it's focal length?
c) A lens whose physical length is less than the focal length?

I expect most of you will go for answer "A" but you'd be wrong. In real terms, anything with a focal length over 200mm is termed a telephoto lens in common parlance...but, there is a clue in the fact that you often find lenses shorter than 200mm refered to as telelphotos. So what are they talking about?

Well, the answer lies in techie talk.

According to the Canon Lens Work book, a telephoto lens is defined as follows:
With general photographic lenses, the overall length of a lens (the distance from the apex of the front lens element to the focal plane) is longer than its focal length. This is not usually the case with lenses of particularly long focal length, however, since using a normal lens construction would result in a very large unwieldy lens. To keep the size of such a lens manageable while still providing a long focal length, a concave (negative) lens assembly is placed behind the main convex (positive) lens which is shorter than its focal length. Lenses of this type are called telephoto lenses. In a telephoto lens, the second principal point is located in front of the frontmost lens element.

Translated into simple terms, a telephoto lens is one that has a physical length (from the front lens element to the the focal plane) which is less than its stated focal length.

A telephoto lens is a camera lens designed to enable people to take long focal length pictures using a lens with an actual length which is shorter than the focal length. For example, a 400mm telephoto lens is not in fact 400mm long, unlike a conventional 400mm lens. There are a number of reasons why people might want to use a telephoto lens, ranging from the need to have a camera which is easier to handle but still capable of long focal length images to a desire to take advantage of specific traits of telephoto lenses.
When people hear the phrase “telephoto lens,” they often think of an extremely long camera lens. Some telephoto lenses are quite long, but this is not necessarily so, and long lenses aren't always telephoto lenses. This term refers to a lens of a very specific construction, not a particular length.
In a telephoto lens, there is a lens element at the front of the camera just as there is with other cameras, but there is a second element in the back of the lens in front of the film which acts to magnify the front lens. This second element effectively increases the focal length of the camera by making it seem as though the first lens is further away than it really is. Historically, a telephoto effect was sometimes accomplished with the use of lenses positioned in front of an optical instrument, but today the structure is built right into the lens.