Mark Zuckerberg spills on Google, China, Steve Jobs, and the Facebook IPO

In an interview with Charlie Rose, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg were relatively open books on persisting questions regarding the company's place in Silicon Valley and future aspirations.
Facebook’s CEO and COO, Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg, appeared on Charlie Rose last night to discuss the social network’s evolution and their respective leadership roles. While we’ve all heard Facebook’s mission statement and professions of connecting the world time and time again, both executives were surprisingly candid about a number of subjects.

Facebook’s potential IPO

“We’ve made this implicit promise to our investors and to our employees that by compensating them with equity and by giving them equity, that at some point we’re going to make that equity worth something publicly and liquidity, in a liquid way. Now, the promise isn’t that we’re going to do it on any kind of short-term time horizon. The promise is that we’re going to build this company so that it’s great over the long term, right. And that we’re always making these decisions for the long term, but at some point we’ll do that.” – Mark Zuckerberg
“It’s—honestly, it’s not something I spend a lot of time on a day-to-day basis thinking about it now.”– MZ

Facebook and China

“That’s not something we’re working on or focused on right now because it’s not a decision we have to make.” – Sheryl Sandberg
“But since, for right now, we’re not available, and we don’t have an immediate path to become available, it’s not—these are not policy decisions we have to make.” – MZ

Facebook vs. Google

“You know, when I think about this, if you compare Facebook and Google to, you know, most of the world, right, to other companies in other industries, they’re actually in some ways, incredibly similar. They are founder-led… Silicon Valley based technology companies that… [are] driven by engineering. They’re very similar.” –SS
“Google is fundamentally about, you know, algorithms and machine burning.” –SS
“I mean, people like to talk about war. You know, there are a lot of ways in which the companies actually work together. There are real competitions in there. But I don’t think that this is going to b the type of situation where there’s one company that wins all the stuff.” –MZ
“I mean, I think, you know, Google, I think in some ways, is more competitive and certainly is trying to build their own little version of Facebook. But you know, when I look at Amazon and Apple and I see companies who are extremely aligned with us.” – MZ

The Facebook platform

“Our goal is not to build a platform; it’s to be across all of them.” – MZ
“There’s one thing that I think is most important to Facebook, which is that we are focused on doing one thing incredibly well. We only really want to do one thing. Connect the world.” – SS
“Building games is really hard and…and what we’re doing is really hard. And we think that we’re better off focusing on this piece. I think that building a great game service is really hard. Building a great music service is really hard. Building a great movie service is really hard. And we just believe that an independent entrepreneur will always beat a division of a big company which is why we think that the strategy of these other companies trying to do everything themselves will inevitably be less successful than an ecosystem where you have someone like Facebook trying to build the core product to help people connect and them independent great companies that are only focused on one or two things doing those things really well.” – MZ

On Steve Jobs

“I mean, he—he’s amazing. He was amazing. I mean, he—I had a lot of question for him on how to build a team around you that’s focused on building as high quality and good things as you are. How to keep an organization focused, right, when I think the tendency for larger companies is to try to fray and go into all these different areas. Yeah, I mean a lot just on the aesthetics and kind of mission orientation of companies. I mean, Apple is a company that is so focused on just building products for their customers and their users.  And I think we connected a lot on this level of, okay, Facebook has this mission that’s really more than just trying to build a company that has market cap or a value. It’s like we’re trying to do this thing in the world. And I don’t know, a lot of it I just think we connected on that level.” – MZ

Discover what’s tracking your Internet activity with these Web apps

Check out these free tools that reveal who and what is looking at your Web activity - and what you can do about it.
There’s an app for everything–including protecting yourself from apps. Sure, the cyclical nature of giving something access to your information in order to see what else you’ve given your information to is enough to make anyone think that we’re firmly caught in the Internet’s crosshairs and it’s too late to get out unscathed.
And these aren’t exactly fail-safe options. Electronic Frontier Federation’s activism director Rainey Reitman explains that studies have proven these types of applications only work if you know how to use them–what’s more is that you’re never 100-percent safe. “What consumers need is a simple way to protect themselves online that doesn’t involve finding, installing, and maintaining a slew of third party apps,” she says.
Until that day comes, we think it’s better to educate yourself and get proactive rather than stay complacent. Check out these applications that go under the hood to reveal what’s going on when you’re scouring the Web. 


Like other applications, Reppler has to be given access to your various social networking sites before it can assess what they are doing to your reputation. And accordingly, it’s going to want to be made privy to what feel like personal details. If you’re able to surmount that mental hurdle, however, you can get a revealing look at what your social sites say about you.

Men engage in more ‘risky online behavior’ than women, study shows

Men are significantly more likely than women to post their location online, and accept friend requests from strangers, a new study from security firm Bitdefender shows.

Be careful out there, guys. According to a new study conducted by Internet security firmBitdefender, men are more likely to fall victim to data theft on social networks like Facebook and Twitter than women.

In the survey, Bitdefender interviewed 1,649 men and women from the US and the UK about their social media habits. The study found that 64.2 percent of women always reject friend requests from users they do not know. Men only reject requests from strangers 55.4 percent of the time.

Additionally, 24.5 percent of men make it possible to search for their accounts, while only 16 percent of women do so. And a near equal amount of men (25.6 percent) share their location on social networks, while 21.8 percent of women make their location known.

The study also found that American men are slightly more likely than men in the UK to engage is this type of “risky online behavior,” which makes those who do any of the things listed above more vulnerable to data theft.

“Men expose themselves to risks more than women, especially when accepting friendship from unknown persons,” said George Petre, Bitdefender Senior Social Media Security Researcher, in a statement. “On a positive note, the survey also showed that only about a quarter of users are willing to share their location on social networks, which makes location disclosure an important privacy concern for all users. However, most social network applications, especially the mobile ones, are designed to share this information by default, which opens the door to embarrassing if not truly dangerous situations.”

As we reported earlier this week, a team of researchers at the University of British Columbia Vancouver was able to “steal” 46,500 email addresses, and more than 14,500 home addresses from Facebook users by friending them with accounts run by “socialbots.” A socialbot can be purchased for about $29. In addition, another report found that posting your location online isn’t just used for data theft, but also by four out of five thieves looking to break into homes when people are away.

So remember: posting your location online is a terrible idea. And so is accepting friend requests from strangers. Don’t do either, if you want to keep your identity protected.

Call of Duty: Elite down, but not out

Since its Monday release, the Call of Duty: Elite service has struggled to cope with the demand from gamers, prompting developer Beachhead Studios to increase the server capacity.

When a major new title is released that features a heavily integrated online mode, you almost expect that something will go wrong as the proverbial gremlins in the machine are captured and killed by red eyed, slightly crazed developers that are under enough pressure to turn coal into diamonds. When Battlefield 3 launched, the online multiplayer faced several hurdles—on Xbox 360 the game was inaccessible for several hours on launch day. These launch day issues aren’t ideal by any means, but they happen.

With yesterday’s launch of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 going relatively glitch free, Infinity Ward (and Raven Software) no doubt breathed a healthy sigh of relief. The Call of Duty series has had experience dealing with massive opening day traffic over the last few years, so Activision was prepared for the surge of online activity, and Modern Warfare 3 seemed to hold up well. Call of Duty: Elite, however, did not fair quite as well.

Millions of gamers that have attempted to connect their accounts to the Elite service have met with a handful of error messages. Sometimes the service connects but cannot access any data, other times it cannot connect at all. The reason isn’t surprising—there is simply too much traffic.

In response, developer Beachhead has issued a statement regarding the outages, “Registration requests for our new live service Call of Duty ELITE are exceeding even our most optimistic expectations, which is creating a bottleneck and some players have not been able to register,” Chacko Sonny, studio head for Beachhead said in a statement

“We have already registered hundreds of thousands of players and we are working around the clock to increase our capacity as quickly as possible.”

The Call of Duty: Elite service offers both a free and premium service that tracks your Call of Duty activity. Although the service is mostly inaccessible at the moment, Sonny did confirm that your data is being recorded and will be available as soon as the service is.

According to the Elite twitter feed, Beachhead is adding four times the server capacity, so hopefully the service will be up and running later today or tomorrow at the latest. Beachhead also claimed that we can expect more information on an Android and iOS Elite app later today.

Brit’s musical marriage proposal on train becomes Internet hit

Lucy Rogers thought it was going to be just another train ride home from work last Tuesday. She couldn't have been more wrong. Boyfriend Adam King had something special lined up, and a video of the event has quickly become a YouTube hit.

Getting down on one knee to propose to your girlfriend is certainly a romantic gesture, but doing it on a commuter train while a choir in the train carriage sings Bill Withers’ Lovely Day is something else altogether – especially when the woman being proposed to isn’t expecting it (the proposal or the choir).

But that’s exactly how Brit Adam King proposed to girlfriend Lucy Rogers last week, and a video of the event has quickly become an Internet sensation, getting nearly 800,000 views on YouTube in just a few days.

Thanks to some meticulous planning by 35-year-old Adam, as well as the help of his choir, the Adam Street Singers, Lucy had absolutely no idea what was about to happen as she travelled home from work last week on a north London train.

The start of the video shows a familiar enough train scene – passengers are reading newspapers or lost in their phones. Then someone starts to sing. And then someone else joins in. Within a short time, the entire Adam Street Singers choir is in full flow, belting out Withers’ timeless hit.

It ends with Adam on one knee asking Lucy to marry him. Once she’d stopped crying (or was she laughing?), she said yes. This must have come as a great relief to Adam because for a moment it’s hard to tell which way it’s going to go.

“It was amazing. When people started singing I didn’t realise it was for me,” Lucy, 26, told the BBC. “We’ve been going out for a long time but I didn’t realise he was going to propose.”

The video (you can watch it below) of the proposal was emailed to friends and quickly became a viral hit.

JVC HD Everio GZ-HM860 Review

The JVC HD Everio GZ-HM860 puts handheld HD video cams to shame, but still can’t match the photo quality of far cheaper still cams.

Looking for a high-quality HD camcorder? If you’re serious about home videos, JVC’s GZ-HM860 delivers smooth, high-res video right about on par with its lofty price tag, but falls short when doubling as a still cam.

Features and Design

Cameras by the ton take HD videos, even Full HD 1080p at 30fps. And yet, and yet…those that do it really well are few and far between. For simply taking high-def movies, nothing tops a camcorder. Why? In this Swiss Army Knife world of CE, that’s what they’re meant to do — not make calls, send email, browse the Web or play Angry Birds. Enter the new $749 JVC GZ-HM860 HD Memory camcorder designed to capture movies.

The HM860 is one sophisticated-looking device. Peer at it from the side and it looks like the back of smartphone (see photos). This piano-black casing is actually part of the 3.5-inch touchscreen LCD. Check out the other side, and rather than a virtual keyboard, you’ll find the rest of the camcorder, which is extremely compact considering it has a 10x optical zoom. It measures 2.2 x 2.5 x 4.7 (W x H x D, in inches) and weighs 12.5 ounces including the battery. Overall, the GZ-HM860 has style, is small and easy to carry.

Given smartphones are as important to many as breathing, JVC has paid a bit of homage to the trend by adding Bluetooth to the HM860. This lets you send movies and stills from the camcorder to your smartphone at reduced resolution so you can post them quickly to friends. Your phone can even act as a remote. Naturally all this good stuff depends on compatibility with your specific phone. Our Droid paired fairly easily.

The front is dominated by the 10x optical zoom with its auto lens cover. The JVC GT lens is part of one of our favorite camcorder trends—it starts off at fairly wide angle for great group shots and landscapes. Typical camcorders are around 42mm. In this case the f/1.2 glass has a range of 29.5mm to 295mm in video mode, 29.7mm to 297mm for 4:3 stills. This extra width really expands your creative options. Beyond artistic considerations, you’ll also find a small LED light, a flash and stereo speakers as you look head-on.

On the right side are the adjustable Velcro strap and two compartments. One is for DC-in while the other has A/V and component outs. As an aside: Why is any company putting A/V outs — even component — on camcorders with mini HDMI connections? Worse yet, manufacturers still include A/V cables in their kits. Who in 2011, especially someone buying a $749 Full HD camcorder, would use this? It’s a total waste of resources.

The top of this very clean-lined camcorder has a zoom toggle switch, a shutter button for snapping stills and an AF key. This one gives access to touch priority Auto Exposure/Auto Focus options such as face tracking or choosing a specific focus spot. The same key is used for 2D-3D conversion on the more expensive $949 HM960 (its LCD is also auto stereoscopic for viewing 3D without glasses).

Flip open the LCD on the left side of the HM860 and you’ll see a beautiful 3.5-inch touchscreen with no buttons at all on the bezel; you’ll make almost all of your adjustments tapping the screen. It’s rated a very fine 920K pixels and works well under almost all light conditions, including direct sunshine. Yet like any touchscreen, keep a lens cloth nearby to remove smudgy fingerprints.

On the body itself are just a few buttons: i.Auto/manual shooting, power/info which shows remaining battery life, movie/still and user. This last one lets you pick parameters to adjust and these options change depending on the mode you’re in. You also find a speaker, as well as USB and mini HDMI outs.

The back of the made-in-Malaysia HM860 has a slot for the supplied lithium-ion battery, which fits neatly in position rather than sticking out. The record button is here as well. On the bottom, you’ll find a metal tripod mount and a slot for SDHC/SDXC cards; it accepts up to 64GB SDXC media. You really don’t need any when starting out, since the camcorder has 16GB of internal memory. This is good for 80 minutes of UXP 1080/60p video or 2,200 top-resolution stills. Definitely use at least Class 6 cards if you need extra storage.

What’s in the box

The GZ-HM860 comes with an AC adaptor, remote as well as USB, A/V and mini HDMI cables. You also get a an Easy Start Guide and a Basic User Guide (40 pages in English). The supplied battery only lasts for 40 minutes per CIPA, which means less time in the real world as you zoom and take flash photos. A spare definitely makes sense, as this camcorder charges the battery in-camera, effectively putting you out of action. The kit also comes with a CD-ROM with Everio MediaBrowser 3BE for handling files and burning discs.

Performance and use

It seems like Backside Illuminated CMOS chips are everywhere these days, including Cracker Jack boxes. Not really, of course, but this sensor has made huge inroads in 2011 in digicams and camcorders. We recently reviewed the Nikon P500 featuring a 12-megapixel version. Here it’s 10.2-megapixels, so not only do you get high-resolution video but stills as well. But just as we said about the P500, imaging devices are a lot more than chips, so let’s have at it.

After charging the battery and popping in an 8GB Class 10 SDXC card, it was time to start shooting. One of the cool things about camcorders with built-in flash memory is the fact you can choose where you want your content saved. We had video go to flash, stills to the card. As usual, we started in i.Auto and then switched to manual in movie and still modes. Once done, we watched our efforts on a 50-inch plasma via HDMI, made prints and did some pixel peeping on the monitor.

Before getting into the results we’ll state the GZ-HM860 is simple to operate as a point-and-shoot — or as complex as most users of this level of camcorder would dare go. The camcorder starts up relatively quickly (about four seconds) and you’re good to go. Importantly, the zoom travels very smoothly throughout the entire focal range; we never engage the digital zoom as quality drops once you go beyond physical limitations (10x here). The 29.5mm opening is lots of fun, especially when shooting indoors, since you don’t have back through a wall in order to capture a family gathering. Your landscapes also take on a completely different feel with the enhanced wide angle.

Let’s deal with the touchscreen, since this is how you’ll interact with your camcorder most of the time — beyond zooming and pressing record. Although it’s not as elegant as an iPad, JVC should be commended for a job well done. Icons were quite understandable for the most part, and a quick tap or check of the Basic User Guide deciphered unusual ones such as the “S” in the top left of the screen. This stood for your Smile shutter options. Unlike an iPad, the HM860 primarily uses taps to move through menu pages rather than swipes. This worked well, but the next gen should definitely be more tablet-like — especially for playback. Even Microsoft is embracing swipes and touch controls with Windows 8, so JVC should also make the transition. This is more of a suggestion rather than a serious knock.

The videos deliver the quality you’d expect from a $749 camcorder with a 10-megapixel CMOS chip: They were excellent. We took the HM860 to the mountains to escape the heat wave, recording lots of trees, foliage, flowers, friends and so on. You’ll be quite happy with the results. The UXP clips on a 50-inch screen were very good with spot-on colors and little digital noise. We also shot footage indoors in low light and the results were more than acceptable. The lens has a wide f/1.2 aperture, one of the reasons for the solid results. We recorded a lit candle in a dark room, a tough test. Here, the built-in light kicked in and the results were poor; the LED made the candle and nearby flower arrangement look absolutely ghoulish. The moment we saw this, we disabled the light and the results were far better. In other words, turn off the light. Period. We have another problem this camcorder. For the price it does not have optical image stabilization (OIS). Although it took care of most of the shakes, OIS delivers smoother results.

As for the stills, sad to say we’ve yet to review a recent camcorder that takes top-tier photographs. Most of the fault lies with the fact the HM860 does not have an AF Assist lamp. Shooting in dim light without a strong contrasty edge with i.Auto is a disappointment. Yet with enough light, your results will be much better. For those who are comfortable with manual controls, opt for manual focus.You can perform loads of other adjustments in manual mode as well. Overall color was accurate, but there was a lot of digital noise even at lower ISOs. Were they all worthy of the delete pile? No, but don’t expect the performance of a quality point-and-shoot that has an AF Assist lamp.


As we mentioned way back in the beginning, if you’re serious about taking high-quality videos, check out the JVC HD Everio GZ-HM860. No question it’s expensive, but the results under the right conditions on a big, flat panel screen are quite good. Unfortunately the stills are not in the same league. Outside with plenty of sunshine you’ll be OK, but a $250 Canon ELPH takes far better photos. Given the hefty price and other issues detailed, it’s hard to give the HM860 an unreserved recommendation.


Full HD video (1080/60p)
10.6-megapixel BSI CMOS chip
3.5-inch touch screen LCD
Takes 11-megapixel photos

No optical image stabilization
No AF Assist lamp
LED light is useless

Olympus XZ-1 Review

Review: The Olympus XZ-1 digital camera offers aspiring photographers a chance to step up to better image quality and manual controls, without all the bulk and expense of a full DSLR.

The XZ-1 is a new addition to the Olympus lineup, and packages the power of a DSLR into…well, almost point-and-shoot size. While the device might be a little much for some pockets (not all) to handle, its capability and simplicity should at the very least cause pause before your next camera purchase.

Unlike some Micro-Four-Thirds or even beginner DSLRs, there’s nothing intimidating about the make and mold of the XZ-1. That said, novices might find themselves relying on its iAuto settings before rushing into any of its manual capabilities. But once you get there, you’ll be happy you took the plunge.

Olympus also outfits the XZ-1 with a highly capably OLED display, and of course, a wide-angle lens that can step up to just about any dimly lit scenario.

Features and design

Our first impression of the XZ-1 is how sleek and compact the wide-angle camera feels. Its chassis is very reminiscent of the Nikon CoolPix P300. It’s remarkable that manufacturers are able to fit extremely capable lenses onto such discreet bodies, and looks alone will tell you the XZ-1 is a pocket cam. However, put one in the palm of your hand and you’ll immediately understand you’re dealing with a real machine. The camera has some heft (but not bulk) to it, something new photographers might shy away from but enthusiasts will find to be a comforting indication of quality. Just to give you an idea, the XZ-1 weighs in at just under 10-ounces, and units from Olympus’ entry-level digicams usually come in around four to six ounces. If you’re a fan of all things thinner, lighter, and smaller and in the market for a wide angle camera, you might be leaning toward something like the CoolPix P300 (6.7-ounces), but we personally like a little bit of weight when using compact DLSRs for manual shooting.

While we’re being shallow, we should address the fact that the XZ-1 comes in white and black. We’re fans of both options: The white is inarguably eye-catching, but there’s the all-business look to the matte black.

Onto more important things. The XZ-1 measures 110.6mm x 64.8mm x 42.3 mm (width x height x depth) and offers shooters a nice, wide 3-inch OLED display. The OLED screen gives photographers a clearer, sharper, more contrasted image – and its resolution of 610,000 pixels doesn’t hurt either. The functions are simple to master, with a dedicated power butter and shutter, a top dial for adjusting your manual settings as well as selecting iAuto, auto-scene options, and built-art filters. On the camera’s back panel, you have your dedicated video recording button, playback function, and turning dial for determining shutter and aperture manually, as well as a host of other settings. This dial also serves as your navigator for scrolling through photos.

The flash is manual only: Experienced shooters will appreciate a camera that doesn’t self-determine when to light up a setting and newbies might find themselves momentarily confused, but in general this is an appreciated feature of the camera. It also comes with a hot shoe attachment.

The design is simple without being obnoxiously minimalistic, and transitional learners will be able to use the manual settings without feeling alienated by a crowded screen. DSLR loyalists will of course find the lack of a viewfinder with all the settings annoying, but sacrifices have to made when using a compact camera – and that’s one of them.

What’s in the box

In addition to the XZ-1 itself, Olympus includes a lithium ion battery, USB cable, AV cable, USB-AC adapter, the various required straps and lens caps, and a setup CD.

Olympus PEN E-PL2 Review

Review: When it comes to Micro Four Thirds cameras, the Olympus E-PL2 is a top choice. The image quality and size make it easy to use, and shooters have stunning photos that don’t require computer editing.

The latest model in Olympus’ Micro Four Thirds PEN line up continues to appeal to novices ready for a more technical experience. Like the E-PL1, the E-PL2 serves as a stepping stone for photographers who have mastered the pocket point-and-shoot, but are wary of big-body DSLR investments. The E-PL2 begins where its predecessor left off, and still includes the 12.3-megapixel, high-speed Live MOS image sensor found in the more professional Olympus E-30 and E-620 DSLRs. Entry-level shooters will be satisfied with expanded features and sharpened capabilities packed into a similarly stylish and conveniently modified body.

Features and design

We saw a lot of this design at CES: camera bodies in multiple hues with vintage, retro feels. It’s inarguably cool, and anyone impressed by the massive array of colors Canon and Nikon offer in their point and shoots will be happy that the step up in camera performance doesn’t necessarily eliminate color choice. Olympus offers the E-PL2 in black, silver, red and white.

For more experienced photographers, the specifics behind the E-PL2’s ergonomics might matter more. The E-PL2 measures 115.4 mm x 72.7 mm and offers a 3-inch LCD screen, which is both larger than last year’s 2.7-incher, and has double the resolution (460K versus 230K). It’s slightly slimmer than its predecessor, weighing in at approximately 12 ounces. Just to give you an idea, the Nikon D700 weighs 35 ounces, and the Canon PowerShot S95 weighs six ounces.

Olympus told us that the updated model is better suited for one-handed shooting (some complained the E-PL1 wasn’t particularly easy to hold), and the power button has been altered. On the E-PL1, it was nearly identical to the shutter button, and now has been redesigned to prevent accidentally shutting it off or on by being more discreetly built in. The pop-up flash, hot shoe, mic, and mode dial (which remains unchanged) still sit on top.

The screen upgrade is fairly important, since without a viewfinder, photographers are entirely reliant on the 3-inch LCD to shoot in Manual, or use the menu options at all. Anyone familiar with a DSLR might initially struggle with operating the controls, but it just takes some getting used to.

What’s in the box

In addition to your camera, Olympus includes a battery and charger, combined USB and RCA video cable, shoulder strap, Olympus software, and a Micro Four Thirds M. Zuiko 14-42mm zoom kit lens.

Review: When it comes to Micro Four Thirds cameras, the Olympus E-PL2 is a top choice. The image quality and size make it easy to use, and shooters have stunning photos that don’t require computer editing.

Performance and use

We tested the camera at multiple ISO levels and compared it to the Nikon D3100’s performance. To be fair, the Nikon is a horse of a different color and costs about $100 more than the E-PL2. That said, it seems important to compare the PEN series to its big brother DSLRs (especially since it’s similarly priced to some).

Before we get too technical, there are some concrete reasons why less experienced photographers will like this camera. Its size and feel fit somewhere between pocket-sized point-and-shoots and DSLRs requiring their own bags. You definitely can’t sling it around your wrist, but it’s still lightweight enough that it’s not a hassle to carry around.

The E-PL2 also features an expanded array of auto controls and built-in filters. These were hot additions at CES this year, but Olympus may have done it best with the E-PL2. It has more scene-select modes to choose from, and the built-in filters vary in quality (the Dramatic Tone was pretty cool, but the Soft Focus wasn’t great). Overall, the filters looked less amateur than many competitors’. Maybe most importantly, the iAuto setting delivers great results: It focuses quickly and has a fast shutter. Also worth mentioning is the impressive color balance in auto mode, largely thanks to the E-PL2’s new processor, it takes photo saturation and noise reduction up a notch.

On to the technicalities. We shot the E-PL2 and the D3100 at their highest ISO capabilities – 6400 and 12800, respectively. While we don’t advocate shooting at this setting (the images are pretty grainy), the E-PL2 held its own against the D3100. The Nikon DSLR’s focus and shutter are inarguably faster than the E-PL2’s, but that’s the nature of the beast when you pit these two against each other, so it’s not terribly important. We tested both all the way down to ISO 200, and while the Olympus performed well and definitely delivered for a camera of its capabilities, the Nikon’s image was more detailed and had more contrast. We want to stress again that these cameras aren’t marketed against each other, the comparison just serves as a point of reference.

We also compared their abilities to shoot outdoors and dual image stabilization functions – and the E-PL2 impressed. The images were just as clear and crisp as the Nikon’s. Zooming into the photos later proved the D3100’s were slightly cleaner, but nothing significant. The only instance the DSLR really bested the Micro Four Thirds device was in low-light settings. In a quick elevator photo shoot, the E-PL2 produced some fairly orange photos, although they were still passable. Nikon’s were definitely more on target with hue and saturation.

There’s a dedicated button for video recording, and we were able to capture high quality video. You can also capture stills while in recording mode, definitely a bonus, and the Live Guide feature lets you edit contrast and tone live before shooting. The camera shoots HD in 720p and while you have the added novelty of shooting in any of the art filters. It can hold its own with other digital camera/camcorder duos, but it’s pretty clear this isn’t the primary function of the E-PL2.


The E-PL2 is an enjoyable and convenient camera. That said, it’s also a difficult purchase to justify. Budding photographers might like this transitional approach, but those planning to expand their repertoire past a Micro Four Thirds and onto fully-equipped DSLRs will have to take the $600 plunge. That’s $100 more than last year’s E-PL1, which we already criticized for being too expensive. The problem is compounded by how fast you may outgrow the PEN series: Users really serious about photography could find themselves ready for something like Nikon’s D700 in no time, which means you’re looking at another pricey investment.

When it comes to Micro Four Thirds cameras, the E-PL2 is a top choice. The image quality and size make it easy to use, and shooters have stunning photos that don’t require computer editing (unless of course, you’re the type that needs to put your pictures through that process). Really, our only issue with it is the pricing, and that doesn’t reflect on the capabilities of the E-PL2.


Stylish body and nice size
Low-noise images
Quality upgrades for the built-in filters and scene selectors
iAuto delivers impressive results

Nearly as expensive as a capable DSLR
No view finder
Could be underwhelming for experts, overwhelming for beginners

Olympus E-P3 Review

The Olympus E-P3 brings the PEN series of Micro-Four-Thirds cameras forward with faster shooting, more customization, and an OLED touchscreen.

The E-P3 is Olympus’ latest update to its PEN series of Micro-Four-Thirds cameras. At first glance, it looks so similar to its predecessors that you might not even know it’s a new model. But some subtle design differences are no match for the internal upgrades Olympus has made. A faster, more creative, and incredibly customizable experience is packaged within the E-P3. But while it’s incredibly fun to use and produces great results, a price tag footed firmly in DSLR territory should give pause to would-be buyers.

Features and design

The E-P3 has the same look and feel as the rest of Olympus’ PEN lineup, but the company has made the camera even more customizable this year. An optional faux leather grip can securely be screwed onto the chassis. That might sound cheap, but it feels solid and there’s no noticeable void on the camera if you choose to leave it off. So if you like the vintage-feel of the PEN lineup, then go right ahead and screw the grip on. If you like the gunmetal, all-black body, forget it.

The EP-3 also has a few other upgrades for this year. The manual flash has been redesigned. Olympus told us that engineers and designers collaborated to keep that slightly sloping line of the series, and this time it’s a bit sleeker. The camera is more compact than the E-PL2, the last PEN series release, but otherwise has an extremely similar feel. In general, the body updates are pretty subtle and will probably only make an impression on true fans of the PEN series. Otherwise, the average consumer will likely see a slightly more compact model. We did, however, get a chance to use the E-PL2 and compare it for sizing purposes, and the E-P3 definitely felt slimmed down.

Other outside upgrades include an additional mode dial on the back of the camera, which just offers one more way to paw through the manual options. Most of the big differences, however, are on the inside. Olympus has outfitted the E-P3 with an upgraded sensor and processor that blow its former models out of the water. Its 12.3-megapixel live MOS sensor may be the same size as other units, but it now features Fine Detail Processing Technology, which means crisper images. While that’s all well and good, the TruePic VI Image processor is the update we’re most excited about. The E-P3 packs two processors: One to improve the camera’s speed while in use, and another to process images more quickly.

Olympus also bumped up its ISO sensitivity to 12,800. But all those improvements and tweaks seem small compared to the real draw: This is Olympus’ first touchscreen camera. The E-P3 feaures a 3-inch, 614K pixel OLED touchscreen. The screen also has anti-fingerprint technology so that gorgeous glass isn’t completely marred by your hands seconds into use.

What’s in the box

The E-P3 comes in black, white, and silver and includes the kit lens, USB cables, video cable, BLS-1 Li-Ion battery pack, Li-Ion battery charger, shoulder strap, CD-ROM, and user manuals. It will be available August 2011.

Performance and use

Like our other experiences with the PEN series, the Micro-Four-Thirds camera blows point-and-shoots out of the water and can’t quite compare to DSLRs in a couple departments. It still can’t quite compare to DSLRs when it comes to shooting in low light (we compared it to the Canon Rebel Eos XTI), but we’re happy to report some improved specs mean it did perform better than previous units.

First and foremost, the E-P3 is fast. Really fast. It’s speed is comparable to some DSLRs thanks to the new TruePic IV processor, as well as its new AF system, which has gone from 11 target points to 35. Focus locking is also much faster, as is communication between the body and lens in general. Olympus also cut shutter lag in half for its PEN series with the E-P3, which was possibly the most notable speed upgrade. There is also an option for really putting the thing to use and cutting out the blank screen time between playback and your next photo. We tried it out and you could barely blink between takes. Pair that with improved AF and the PEN has some heightened sports and motion possibilities.

Olympus has really pushed the PEN series as highly capable video recording devices, and the E-P3 is no exception. We actually felt that this camera focused better during recording, something that irked us a little when shooting in iAuto with the E-PL2. It shoots in 1080i HD video and stereo AVCHD or AVI formats, and the ability to use the art filters in movie mode is a nice addition.

On that subject, more and more high-end cameras are including some sort of built-in art filters, to varying degrees of success. It’s a difficult to gauge how interested consumers are in this feature: Advanced photographers likely defer to Photoshop or other software for their editing purposes, and many of the users who are attracted to these pre-installed options likely aren’t willing to pay the price tag. But Olympus does it right with the E-P3 by offering a slew of customizations for the art filters. While the PEN series already had a heavy helping of these editors, now you can adjust the white balance, saturation, contrast…the list goes on. During our testing, it made usage a lot more natural, and convinced us stray from manual shooting occasionally.

The E-P3 also now includes a feature users have been asking for since it first introduced its very first PEN camera. Users can now take a picture and the camera will process it in a variety of art filters of your choosing. So if you want that landscape photo in Dramatic, Cross Process, and Sepia, you can do that in just one take.

Using manual was also more intuitive with the E-P3, thanks mainly to the extra mode dial. A common photographer frustration with compact DSLRs or Micro-Four-Thirds is trying to efficiently navigate the camera’s manual settings. But Olympus has rearranged the exterior control layout and redesigned the software user interface to speed the process up. The new rotational dial lets you adjust settings without deferring to the main menu and working your way back. True, this means there are more things to get used to, but the setup simply allows for what seems like endless customization. The learning curve isn’t too steep, but there’s so much to explore when it comes to manual settings that you won’t outgrow this camera too quickly.

Now, the touchscreen. We have mixed feelings: In general, there’s something that just feels wrong about a touchscreen on a DSLR or Micro-Four-Thirds camera. It seems like it’s just for fun and play and should be used for the types of photos you take with point-and-shoots. While we weren’t drawn to using it, however, this is likely to become a more standard option for cameras of all varieties and Olympus deserves a nod for going out on a small but notable limb and implementing the technology. The 3-inch screen is also beautiful and the touchscreen was responsive. The touchscreen also allowed us to choose focus points, which was a surprisingly impressive feature. And in the spirit of getting on board with big steps forward in technology, the E-P3 also features 3D shooting.

The screen held up decently well in bright light, but there were some overcast moments when we found ourselves squinting while trying to capture an image. Which brings us to the still missing feature that purists will continue to be frustrated by: The lack of a viewfinder. Olympus has attachable viewfinders if you want the option, but there are many who aren’t satisfied with an accessory and lobby for the feature in additional to a screen. If that’s you, then continue to hold your breath…we guess. Obviously a built-in viewfinder would be a bonus, but we’re honestly getting used to the lack thereof in everything besides big-bodied DSLRs.

As far as feel goes, the E-P3 was a comfortable camera to sling around our neck and move ably with. We were shooting in Alaska this week, and the E-P3 was anything but cumbersome, in fact it felt even more portable than its predecessors. It’s undeniably fun, not only because of creative options but because we could exercise more advanced photo skills.


Here’s the kicker: The E-P3 is $899.99. That’s a steep price to pay for a Micro-Four-Thirds, which some consider a hobby camera. It’s hard to justify spending this much on anything that you won’t be using as a professional device, but there are a few things that could sway those considering such a purchase. The fact that Olympus has seriously invested to bring its PEN series up to speed — literally — is impressive. Looking at it, you might not think it’s all that different than the rest of the lineup, but the E-P3 packs a serious punch, a much more serious punch than its predecessors.


Incredibly high speed
Touchscreen and 3D shooting
Endless customization options, and new hardware for improved, quicker manual use
User-friendly in-camera UI
Stylish look and comfortable feel

Still no viewfinder
Price comparable to many DSLRs
Shooting in low-lighting remains tricky, but improved

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Review

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 comes as close as any Android tablet has to matching Apple’s iPad, and even does some things better.

The iPad 2 is currently the gold standard for tablets. It’s thin, responsive, and arguably the best looking tablet on the market. Samsung isn’t happy about this, or the fact that the iPad commands an overwhelming majority of the tablet market in the U.S. and abroad. Samsung first introduced its Galaxy Tab 10.1 in February, but after Apple debuted the razor-thin iPad 2, a redesigned and much thinner Galaxy Tab debuted in March at CTIA. The goal was to match or exceed the iPad 2 in all physical ways. The 10.1 was even tweaked again in April to achieve this ambitious goal. They say to beat the man, you gotta be the man. For the day, Samsung is certainly the man. The Galaxy Tab 10.1 is the closest an Android tablet has gotten to matching the iPad in design, weight, and thinness. In some categories, it actually exceeds Apple’s standards.


Samsung isn’t ready to change anything about the tablet form factor, but the 10.1 does perfect it. The final design measures 0.34 inches thick — exactly the thickness of the iPad 2, and a huge improvement over thicker units like the Acer Iconia Tab A500 and Motorola Xoom. Better still, it is actually a bit lighter than the iPad and about half a pound lighter than any other tablet, allowing you to more easily hold the 10.1-inch touchscreen with one hand.

Samsung achieves this thin, lightweight design by cutting a few corners. The 1280 x 800 pixel screen has a wide viewing angle and is still made from Gorilla Glass, with a little less than an inch of black bezel surrounding it, but Samsung has opted to produce much of the unit out of plastic. Replacing the aluminum frame of the iPad is a lighter plastic shell that’s been painted silver to hide its origins. Likewise, the back of the unit, which used to be black, is now covered in a slick white plastic, which tends to get a bit slippery and take on smudges rather easily. Smudges aside, every Galaxy Tab 10.1 comes in all three tech colors: black, silver, and white. Indecisive potential iPad buyers who can’t decide on black or white need not look any further. Samsung is offering all in one.

All-in-one is the motto for ports as well. While most tablets come with a MicroSD slot, micro HDMI, microUSB, and sometimes (thank you Iconia Tab) a full USB port, the Galaxy Tab 10.1 offers none of these. Instead, Samsung has opted for an iPad-like universal port on the bottom (landscape) of the unit. Using this port and separately sold adapters, you can connect most anything you desire. Samsung includes a USB adapter. While we aren’t currently hooking a lot up to our tablets, Android 3.1 does allow your tablet to operate as a USB host for devices like cameras, printers, and keyboards. So if you have lofty connectivity goals, be prepared to shell out a bit extra for the necessary dongles.

A power button and volume rocker adorn the top of the unit, which defaults to landscape. Both are well placed and easy to press, which is a good thing, as you’ll be using the volume a bit more often because of the unit’s twin outward facing speakers, plenty powerful for a tiny tablet and definitely better than the rear-facing speakers on most tablets. After all, who wants their speakers muffled by whatever surface the tablet’s sitting on? A stereo jack is also located up top, if you prefer headphones.

Android 3.1 (Honeycomb)

The Galaxy Tab 10.1 is almost a pure Google experience, but Samsung has made a few minor alterations, most of them with good intent. For one, they’ve been listening to Android users complain about the keyboard, and have included a more iOS-like standard Samsung keyboard as default with the 10.1. Gone also are the oddly huge widgets Samsung showed off at CTIA this year, which didn’t seem to add much but slowed the OS down considerably.

In addition to keeping things simple, Samsung’s tablet comes with Android 3.1 (Honeycomb), a much-needed upgrade to Google’s first tablet OS, which shipped on the Xoom in March. The new version looks almost identical, but is streamlined in some small ways, all of which make the experience more enjoyable. While we’re still not huge fans of the Tron-like color palette, the addition of USB host support, resizable widgets, better Wi-Fi networking, support for gamepads, and better support for keyboards is nice. YouTube and other standard Google applications appear to have been tweaked as well, which is nice.

Overall, we found the Galaxy Tab 10.1 desktop to be ever so slightly slower than the Motorola Xoom, which may be the best performing tablet when upgraded to 3.1. This is odd, since both the Xoom and Galaxy Tab 10.1 run very similar specs. The 10.1 runs on a dual-core 1GHz Nvidia Tegra 2 processor, has 1GB of RAM, and comes with either 16GB ($499) or 32GB ($599) of internal storage.

Apps and web

There is very little bloatware on the Galaxy Tab 10.1. Samsung has packed in a few apps, like Pulse Reader, Music Hub, QuickOffice, and a Samsung Apps store, but they’re non-intrusive and useful for those interested. The Samsung Apps store is a bit odd, though. Unlike HTC’s app store, this does not connect up with the Android Market. Instead, you download apps straight from Samsung’s store. Currently there are only five apps and three games available from the store, all of which are already on the Android Market. Until Samsung offers some benefit to downloading from its own app store, we recommend sticking with Google’s, as it should have every app you need. Amazon’s app store has some good exclusive games as well, like offerings from PopCap Games (makers of Bejeweled, Chuzzle, Peggle, etc).

Android 3.1 is also supposed to come with an enhanced browser. We encountered fewer crashes and slowdowns, but we’re still wondering when the Android team will give up and let the Chrome team make their browser. The Android browser is currently as good as anything else out there, but once Microsoft readies Internet Explorer 10 for mobile next year, Google may have some trouble keeping pace.


The Galaxy Tab comes with a 3.0-megapixel rear camera with autofocus, flash and a 2-megapixel front camera (without autofocus or a flash). Though the rear camera is weaker than many of its competitors, including the Xoom, it manages to pick up a lot more color than Motorola’s tablet. Overall, it seems to work well, but Samsung’s custom Camera App is slow at autofocusing and lacks a zoom function at all. It also doesn’t show the Honeycomb menu buttons, which tells us that it may have been ported from Samsung’s Android phones without proper customization.

However, the loss of zoom doesn’t hurt as much after you try out Google’s new Movie Studio app, which offers basic cutting and splicing capabilities, allowing you to easily edit together short movies from your tablet. Though its likely missing a ton of features professional movie editors would demand, its easy to lay down some scenes, transitions, and an audio track. For 90 percent of people, this is more than enough. Movie Studio comes preloaded.

Battery life

Battery life is a problem on all tablets and phones, but the Galaxy Tab 10.1 keeps up with the best of them, offering about 10 hours of intense use before needing a recharge, comparable to the iPad or any other tablet. We haven’t compared it to another tablet side-by-side for 10 hours straight, but found that Android 3.1 seems to manage resources a bit better than its predecessor. Combined with Samsung’s 7000mAh battery, which has 500mAh more capacity than the Xoom, we have nothing to complain about.


Samsung’s redesigned Galaxy Tab 10.1 might be the best Android tablet around. It is as thin as the iPad 2, and weighs less than any other 10.1-inch tablet. At the same time, it packs a dual-core Tegra 2 processor, a gigabyte of RAM, has an autofocus 3-megapixel camera, outward-facing stereo speakers, and Android 3.1 to boot. Unfortunately, it does have a plastic casing, you’ll have to deal with its one proprietary communications port, and there is no microSD or micro USB support, but at $499 for a 16GB Wi-Fi model, it costs about the same as Apple’s tablet, which has similar restrictions.

Samsung knows its enemy and has targeted the competition quite clearly. The Galaxy Tab 10.1 fixes most of the form factor issues we’ve had with previous Android tablets, making it the best alternative to Apple’s iPad.


Thin and lightweight
Wide viewing angle
Outward-facing stereo speakers
Competitive spec sheet
Android 3.1 included
10 full hours of battery

No micro USB or microSD
Dongles required for extra devices
Camera app needs work
Plastic shell with slippery back plate

Lenovo IdeaPad K1 Review

Review: The IdeaPad K1, Lenovo's first Android Honeycomb tablet, does mostly everything well but offers nothing exceptional to set it apart from a crowded Android tablet market.

Since buying IBM’s computer business in 2005, Lenovo has slowly crept its way into the U.S. market by staying on top of computer trends and delivering reliable devices with the old, brick-like styling IBM made famous. Not anymore. With the blooming of the tablet market, Lenovo is spreading its wings a bit. The IdeaPad K1 is the manufacturer’s first Android Honeycomb tablet, and one of its first aimed at the casual user. Though it has some interesting, albeit light, UI modifications, the K1 completely blends in to the pile of Honeycomb devices on shelves today, for better and worse.

Design & Feel

The first thing you’ll notice when you look at the K1 is that it’s big. This isn’t the largest 10.1-inch Android tablet out there, but it’s high on the list with large rounded corners that bring its total dimensions to 10.4 inches long, 7.4 inches tall, and 0.5 inches thick. It’s also pretty heavy at 27.2 oz, or a couple ounces heavier than the Toshiba Thrive, HP TouchPad, and Acer Iconia Tab A500. We’d like to say that appearances and weight are deceiving, but this tablet feels as heavy and large as it is. If there is ever an IdeaPad K2, we hope it sheds some excess fat.

Causing much of this weight is a heavy metal frame with a spray-paint-like sparkly silver coating on it, somewhat resembling the metal on the original iPad. On the back of the tablet is a plastic shell – we haven’t figured out a way to remove this, but it certainly feels flimsy and cheap. Lenovo sells the K1 in multiple colors (ours is red). This plastic back also attracts some fingerprints, but it’s nowhere near as bad as the HP TouchPad’s back or the screen of the Toshiba Thrive.

Like all Android Honeycomb tablets, the K1 can be held in landscape or vertical orientations, but Lenovo’s placement of key objects on the tablet show that it favors landscape. The front-facing camera is centered if you hold the tablet in landscape mode and the rear camera is hardly usable unless you’re holding the device horizontally (it’s in the bottom right corner if you hold it vertically). The charging port is also on the bottom of a landscape orientation.

Although Honeycomb does not require it, Lenovo has opted to include an iPad-like face button on the K1, exactly where the iPad’s is (center, bottom in vertical orientation). This button is mostly useless, but we do like how it’s touch sensitive. If you swipe your thumb over it to the left, it works as the Back button. This is more useful when in landscape as your thumbs naturally land right about where the button is. We accidentally backed out of a few webpages before we realized what was going on, but once we understood it, the button worked nicely to our advantage.

Finally, let’s get to the buttons. Most of the controls are on the left side of the tablet, if held in landscape mode. Starting from the top, the built-in microphone hole, power button, volume rocker, screen orientation lock switch, and microSD slot cover the side. We didn’t have much trouble using these controls, though the power button and volume keys are somewhat small. On the bottom is a big proprietary charging/docking port, an audio jack, and a Micro HDMI port. We’re not sure why the audio jack is on the bottom, but it’s an odd, if inoffensive location. The charge port bothers us though. Its location is fine, but there is no snap or hold to the charger. So when you plug in the tablet to charge, it has no grip on the charging connector. This sounds minor, but it’s also a minor thing that Lenovo has no business messing up. Users want to know for sure that their tablet is charging when they plug it in. Having a firm lock to the port is a basic thing. Come on, Lenovo. Also, why is there no microUSB or full-size USB port? Connecting this thing to a computer will be tough.

Specs & Power

This section will be brief because the IdeaPad K1 runs on the exact same specs that every Android Honeycomb tablet seems to run, from the Motorola Xoom through today. The K1 is powered by a 1GHz dual-core Nvidia Tegra 2 processor, has 1GB of RAM, 32GB of internal storage, operates on Android 3.1 (Honeycomb), has a 5MP rear camera, has a 2MP front camera, and its 10.1-inch IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen has a resolution of 1280×800 pixels. In other words, it’s completely ordinary.

Operating System: Android 3.1 (Honeycomb)

Lenovo is one of the first manufacturers to really tinker with Android Honeycomb, though its modifications are, well, modest. Sadly, these modifications have already delayed the implementation of Android 3.2 on the device. Every time a manufacturer messes with Android to add their own styling, it takes them time to fix up their modifications whenever Google releases a new version of Android. This results in delays for users that often last many months.

Lenovo has changed the style of the Back, Home, and multitasking buttons and added its own: a favorite’s button that brings up a touch carousel of six apps that you select. While the carousel works well enough, it’s a bit awkward and unneeded, as any favorite apps you have can easily be put on one of the five home screens. It also looks hideous because most apps don’t have the images to support it, instead showing a gray box with a tiny “Netflix” (or whatever app) icon. Strangely, Lenovo didn’t restyle the default Honeycomb clock, creating an inconsistent look to the tablet.

The other big changes Lenovo made were in the area of widgets. There are a half dozen or so new widgets–some helpful, others ugly. The big home screen widget is the most visible of them. It allows you to choose one app for each category of consumption–email, book, audio, and video—and open them at your leisure. It also has a big browser and a volume toggle. While we like the idea of this widget, we didn’t end up using it much because it’s a bit unintuitive and operates a bit strangely. Lenovo’s social widget is in a similar boat.

Other tiny changes are sprinkled around like how the multitasking tray now has an X over each item, allowing you to easily exit old apps to clear memory. The modified keyboard is also much nicer than Google’s.

Apps & Web

Like all Android Honeycomb tablets, the IdeaPad K1 has access to the hundreds of thousands of Android Market apps, though the selection of tablet-specific apps is still quite limited. Still, there is plenty to tinker around with. The selection of apps pre-installed onto the K1 is impressive. These aren’t just bloatware; they are usable apps and if you don’t like them, you can actually uninstall them – a luxury smartphone owners don’t get these days. Angry Birds HD, Galaxy on Fire 2, Drawing Pad, an e-reader bookshelf app, a file manager, Documents To Go, Amazon Kindle, Accuweather, ArcSync, Netflix, Slacker, mSpot, PrinterShare, and a bunch of simple card games by Hardwood including Spades, Backgammon, Euchre, Hearts, and Solitaire. Lenovo’s App Shop has some decent productivity apps as well.

Lenovo has stuck with the standard Android browser for the Web, which is good and bad. It’s a decent tablet browser, but it loads many Websites in mobile mode and doesn’t handle Adobe Flash particularly well (though, what does). We hope Google plans to let the Chrome team make an Android browser soon. There are some other browsers on the Android Market, like Firefox, but most have their own sets of flaws.


Lenovo has packed a 5MP rear camera and 2MP front-facing camera, which is pretty standard. The K1 also uses Google’s default camera app, which does the job, but has no frills. Its autofocus is slow and you cannot select what you’d like to focus on before you snap your picture. Expect some fairly washed out, drab pictures. Still, with Google+ Hangouts now supporting mobile devices, we look forward to actually using our tablets for some video calls, so it’s nice that the front camera is up to the task.

We are also pleased that Lenovo has included an LED flash on the rear camera. It’s not going to revolutionize your night photography, but it could help out in a pinch. And if you’re taking pictures or video (the K1 can record at 720p) with your tablet, you really are in a pinch. Get a real camera, if you can afford it. Or use an HTC/Samsung phone if you can’t.

Battery Life

Lenovo claims that its 7400 mAh lithium ion battery can achieve a battery life of about 9 hours, which is mostly in line with our experience. We did not drain down the battery to get a hard number, but estimate that you should be able to get 6-8 hours of use on a regular charge and more time if you use the standby mode. This is pretty average for Android tablets, but still a bit lower than the Apple iPad, which leads the pack on battery life.


If you’re looking for an affordable 10.1-inch tablet, the Lenovo IdeaPad K1 is not the cheapest tablet, but at about $450, it does come in at less than most other 32GB models. The K1 is a bit too heavy and large for its own good, and Lenovo’s Android modifications are a mixed bag, but there is nothing particularly offensive about the design, specs, or operation of the device. It’s just nothing special, which might be the biggest knock against it. Everything is merely OK. Except, of course, for the silly charging port; we really wish it snapped in better.


Good pre-loaded apps
Good price for 32GB of storage
Lenovo App Shop good for productivity apps
Physical Back button works well

Heavy & big
No microUSB port
Crappy charging port
Android UI modifications are ugly
Plastic backplate is hollow & attracts fingerprints

Nikon D40 Review

The Nikon D40, which we review, comes in at a great price of under $600 for the camera and the lens. This camera is great for those looking to get into the D-SLR game.


Because of cameras like the new Nikon D40, industry pundits expect close to 2 million D-SLRs will be purchased in 2007. Because of its $599 price—with lens—it nicely bridges the gap between high-quality point-and-shoot digicams and those who want to take their photography one step beyond–and also don’t want to go broke.

Nikon caused quite a stir in December 2006 when the D40 arrived. Nikon typically goes for the higher end and feels consumers should pay a bit more for its uptown brand. I cut my teeth on the fabled Nikon F2 35mm camera back in the day and always have a soft spot for the company. But there are limits. There’s no reason to spend a bundle on a D-SLR when the 8MP Canon Digital Rebel XT and 6MP Pentax K100D are around for under $600. In a turnaround, Nikon met the competition head-on with the 6.1-megapixel D40. And this camera is clearly targeted to D-SLR newbies unlike the recently reviewed Pentax K10D. Should you go for this one or set your sights a bit higher? Let’s find out…

Features and Design

Nothing surprising here. The all-black D40 looks like every other D-SLR out there other than the Nikon logo just below the auto pop-up flash. Anyone looking for something special design-wise won’t find it here. Utilitarian is the best descriptor. This camera is rather lightweight, tipping the scales at 27.4 ounces including supplied lens, battery, strap and card. Surprisingly, the Canon XTi feels much more substantial even though it only weighs an ounce more. And it weighs four ounces less than the D80; Nikon had to strip some features in order to hit the sub-$600 price for this “Made In Thailand” camera. Simply put: it does not have the feel or build of other D-SLRs recently reviewed such as the Canon Digital Rebel XTi, Sony alpha or Pentax K10D. It also doesn’t cost as much as those cameras; figure around a $200 premium for the Canon and Sony. And don’t forget Olympus has an 8MP D-SLR too that goes for less than $600 with a lens (the somewhat long-in-the-tooth E-500).

Like all D-SLRs, the front of the D40 is dominated by the supplied lens. In this case it’s an AF-S Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 GII ED that’s really a 27-82.55mm lens (35mm equivalent) due to the 1.5x digital factor. Note to owners of Nikon lenses—this camera supports only AF-S and AF-I models. Auto focus will not work with other Nikon lenses such as Type G or D Nikkors so if you have any other glass, forget this one and look further upstream for the D50 and beyond. As we said earlier, this D-SLR is geared for first-time buyers who probably do not have a lens collection. Obviously this lack of backwards compatibility is not an issue for them.

On the front you find an AF Assist lamp (a very good thing), an infrared receiver for an optional remote and a lens release button. The top is pretty plain vanilla too. There’s a hot shoe for optional flashes, the mode dial and on the pistol grip, the on/off power switch, shutter and buttons for Info and exposure compensation. The mode dial gives you access to the various shooting options ranging from point-and-shoot Auto, Manual, aperture- and shutter priority as well as a few Scene modes such as Portrait, Sports and Child.

Like every other 2007 D-SLR, the D40 has a 2.5-inch LCD screen to check your settings, move through the menus and to review your shots. It’s rated 230K pixels, a solid number. Surrounding the screen are the basic controls—playback, menu, delete, and zoom in. There’s also a key labeled “i” that gives access to some very handy menus. And depending on your setting, it will show sample thumbnail images so you can make the adjustments that fit your subject. This “show-and-tell” is very informative and nicely implemented. As we said earlier, this is a D-SLR for first-timers and Nikon has done a nice job of hand-holding. On the back you also find the four-way controller with OK set button, a jog wheel to speed through menu adjustments and an AE/AF Lock button. And like all D-SLRs, the viewfinder has a diopter control.

There’s not much on the sides: the right has a compartment for SD and larger capacity SDHC cards while the left has the USB and video outs; video out lets you watch images on your TV. There are keys to adjust the flash and the self timer/Function. On the bottom is the battery compartment that slips into the pistol grip; the battery is rated a solid 470 shots per the CIPA standard.

The D40 comes with a basic kit including the body, lens, strap, quick charger and battery. It’s also supplied with a nicely written and illustrated 126-page owner’s manual and a CD ROM with Nikon PictureProject 1.7 software. PictureProject handles downloads, editing as well as conversion of NEF files, Nikon’s proprietary Camera RAW option.

Image Courtesy of Nikon

Testing and Use

Having primarily used 10-megapixel D-SLRs over the past months, I was very curious how this 6MP camera would hold up. After charging the battery it was time to power up and start shooting. As to be expected, the camera was ready to go in less than two seconds. Nikon is to be commended for a very easy-to-understand status display that pops up on the LCD. It has something found on no other camera—a graphic display showing the aperture opening. Newbies may think this is just an image of a cool-looking circle but a brief time with the owner’s manual will get them up to speed. Whether they’ll do anything with it other than “ooh” and “ah” is a question for market researchers. I liked it and it’s a good indication how the company designed this camera for first-timers.

The Nikon D40 is a compact, lightweight D-SLR that feels much less substantial than more expensive models even though it’s only a couple of ounces less. That said it has a comfortable feel and a logical control layout. The mode dial offers quick access to popular scene modes (portrait, landscape, flash off and others). There are also the usual aperture- and shutter priority, manual and program modes for those who want to experiment once they get the feel of the camera.

Nikon D40 LCD Display

For first-timers, Nikon offers a number of aids such as Assist Images that let you know if the setting you chose is appropriate for that photo. There’s also a very cool Info screen available on the 2.5-inch LCD monitor. When you check White Balance, for example, a small thumbnail image shows a typical photo used with that setting so you can make the right choice. The same holds true for ISO (200-1600), type of focus, metering and so on. This is very helpful and Nikon should be applauded for helping photographers take the step from point-and-shoot to a D-SLR. The D40 also has a number of in-camera editing programs such as D-Lighting that brightens dark photos, red-eye reduction and cropping.

I started shooting in Auto then moved to the various Scene and Manual modes. We recently had an ice storm that coated bushes and trees with a shimmering layer. I used branches and shrubs as subjects while crunching around the neighborhood. Focusing was quick and accurate, even with just a 3-point AF system (others have 9 or more). The camera saved images to the SD (or SDHC) card with little hesitation and can shoot continuously for 2.5 frames per second up to 100 shots, compared to quicker speeds and greater capacity than other more expensive D-SLRs. I shot similar images using the D40 and Canon Rebel XTi. I could really tell the difference in response switching between the two (the Canon felt like a machine gun compared to a semi-automatic rifle).

After testing the D40 with the kit lens and making 8.5×11 prints, I have to give the camera solid marks. Is it as capable as the Pentax K10D? No, but that camera is $400 more. The D40 delivered accurate colors that were quite pleasing and my prints showed little noise, However since these are 6MP files, I wouldn’t feel confident making larger prints or doing any severe cropping. Remember: you shouldn’t be seduced by megapixels alone since the D40 takes quality images even though it’s “only” 6.1-megapixels.

Image Courtesy of D40


The Nikon D40 is a good camera for the money. Photo quality is better than acceptable, in fact, it’s downright fine, especially the 8.5×11 prints I turned out. It’s clearly targeted for first-timer D-SLR buyers who do not have any legacy lenses. If you are one of them, you might give it strong consideration. However, the camera is not as responsive as cameras such as the 10MP Canon Digital Rebel XTi or Sony alpha but those will cost close to $200 more. If you want a more robust camera, I’d spring for the extra green. And if you own Nikon lenses that don’t work with this camera, check out the D70s or D80. Still the D40 will fill most of your photographic needs if you’re taking the leap from point-and-shoot to a “real” camera.


• Compact, lightweight, easy to handle
• Good, solid images
• Excellent help menus
• Built-in AF Assist lamp


• Only 2.5 frames per second
• Limited backwards lens compatibility for auto focus
• Uses proprietary RAW program (NEF)