Samsung Galaxy S: How Does It Measure Up to the Competition?

This spring, Samsung introduced the Samsung Galaxy S, a super Android smartphone to rival the HTC EVO 4G, the various Droids (both Motorola's and HTC's) and of course, the iPhone 4. Versions of the Galaxy S will be making its way to U.S. shores this summer in four different form factors to all four major U.S. carriers. I was lucky enough to get my hands on the original European Galaxy S and did some quick side-by-side comparisons with the other hot phones of the summer.

Design and Display

When I first picked up the Galaxy S, I was amazed with how thin and lightweight it was. I was also surprised by how familiar it looked. The design is actually very iPhone 3GS-like with an all black, shiny plastic body and minimal buttons on the phone's face. It is thinner than both the EVO 4G and the Droid X measuring 0.39-inches thick, but slightly beefier than the ultra-slim 0.37-inch iPhone 4. It is the lightest of the bunch, weighing a scant 4.2


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Samsung N230 Netbook Promises 13.5 Hours of Battery Life

Samsung announced a new netbook model today in the N230. At first blush, it doesn't seem like anything particularly special: a 10.1-inch screen with a resolution of 1024 by 600, Intel Atom N450 or N470 CPU, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, and a weight of around 2.2 pounds. The eye-catching part is the company's claim that this netbook will last for 13.5 hours on a single charge. How is it achieving such astounding battery life from a regular Windows-running netbook? Samsung talks about their efficient LED display and "proprietary Enhanced Battery Life (EBL) solutions" in its press release, but upon closer examination we can see what's really going on...

The N230 netbook has a high, but not especially amazing, battery life of 7 hours with the standard battery. The 13.5 hour claim comes when you use the optional 65 watt-hour long-life battery. Samsung doesn't say exactly what this battery will do to the netbook's bulk or weight. Still, this is an impressive feat, if the real battery life is anywhere close to Samsung's claims. We have tested netbooks with extended batteries before, and none have quite come close to that sort of runtime. Then again, we often find the battery life claims of manufacturers to be a bit...optimistic...compared to our lab tests.

Samsung says the N230 is available now and should cost around $400, but we haven't seen it pop up on our favorite shopping sites just yet.

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Another Apple iPhone 4 Flaw: A Glitchy Proximity Sensor

It happened to me on my first phone call with the new Apple iPhone 4: The display screen flashed on during the call, and I managed to inadvertently put the call onto speaker. Twice.

Now, I could crack a joke about having a talented cheek, but this isn't a joking matter: I never had these problems with my iPhone 3G or iPhone 3GS. I didn't feel as if I was holding the phone any differently; I even paid close attention over the course of subsequent e-mails, and confirmed I wasn't doing anything different.

What I did notice as the weekend wore on, however, was this was not a one-off occurrence. I regularly activated the touchscreen during a call. Typically, I managed to activate the keypad (and subsequently dialed numbers), mute button, or speaker; sometimes I ended up going into the contacts screen, or activating FaceTime (which in turn gave me an error message, given that I wasn't on Wi-Fi).

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HP Envy 14 Now Available for Order

Back in early May, we wrote about the slew of new notebooks announced by HP. Some lines received bigger updates than others, but one of my favorites of the bunch was the Envy 14. Set to replace the end-of-life Envy 13, the new Envy notebooks clearly take their visual cues from Apple's MacBook Pro line. The new Envys are not only slick and pretty, but sport some pretty great hardware. Though the entry price of $1,099 for the 14-inch model is a little hard to swallow in a market where everyone wants a $599 notebook that does everything, it's worth noting that you get a lot more bang for the buck,hardware-wise, than a comparable MacBook Pro.

Consider that the 13" MacBook Pro starts at $1,199. For that extra $100, you get a similar CPU (2.4 GHz Core 2 Duo compared to the 2.4 GHz Core i3-370M in the Envy 14), equal RAM (4GB), a smaller hard drive (250GB vs. 320GB), and quite inferior graphics (GeForce 320M with 256MB of shared memory vs. Mobility Radeon 5650 with 1GB dedicated graphics memory). Oh, and the Envy has a higher-res screen as well (1600x900 vs. 1280x800), but then again, it's a little bit bigger. Choose enough upgrades to boost the price to the next-best MacBook Pro (the $1,499 13-inch model) and the difference in specs tilts even more heavily in the Envy 14's favor.

Of course, a good laptop is more than the sum of its hardware specs, and we haven't had a chance to review the Envy 14 just yet. We're anxious to put it through its paces and you'll see a review here as soon as we can. If you want to jump in before our review, you can order an Envy 14 from the HP store.

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Does the iPhone 4 Really Have a "Retina Display"? (Updated)

[Updated 06/11/10, see below]

Dr. Raymond Soneira runs DisplayMate Technologies, which makes software to test display quality. He has a PhD in Theoretical Physics from Princeton University, and was a Long-Term Member of the Einstein Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. (Read Dr. Soneira's Bio.) He also knows more about digital displays than just about anyone I know - and I know some pretty tech-savvy folks. This morning, Dr. Soneira shot me an interesting email regarding the so-called "Retina Display" of the iPhone 4. To clarify: a retina display is one whose resolution meets or exceeds the maximum resolution the human retina is capable of resolving, assuming perfect vision.

This is a bit tricky, since the eye doesn't have "pixels" and the resolution required to match the human eye's capability depends on the distance from your eye to the display. If you sit four feet away from a 50" 1080p television, you'll see pixels. If you sit 100 feet away, you won't. The distance between any two visual elements is a matter of how many pixels per "arc degree" of vision it covers. Dr. Soniera's email, in full and unedited, is as follows.

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Alienware M11x gets Core i5, i7 Upgrade and Nvidia Optimus Tech

Few gaming laptops have charmed us as much as the Alienware M11x. It's a bit bulky compared to other 11.6-inch ultraportable laptops, but absolutely tiny compared to most laptops designed for gaming. It's overclocked Core 2 Duo SU7300 processor and GeForce 335M mobile graphics chip give it the muscle needed to truly play all the latest games at high settings. With most notebooks that size, you have to turn the settings down pretty far to get decent performance. The big eight-cell prismatic battery gives it over 7 hours of working time in our tests, as long as you flip the switchable graphics over to the Intel integrated GPU.

Now, our favorite ultraportable gaming machine is getting even better. Starting later this month, the M11x will swap out the Core 2 Duo processor in favor of ultra-low voltage versions of Intel's Core i5 and Core i7. These chips won't have their default clock speeds raised, as the current version does, but these CPUs feature Intel's Turbo Boost technology that automatically overclocks the chips in certain situations. Alienware representatives tell us to expect a significant performance increase. Battery life should range from "the same" to "maybe 15 or 20 minutes less", depending on how you use the system.

The existing M11x features manual switchable graphics, where you enter a special keystroke to switch between Intel's low-performance but battery-friendly integrated graphics and the high-performance GeForce 335M discrete GPU. The new version will include the fantastic Nvidia Optimus technology, which automatically and invisibly switches between the two based on what application you're running.

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BOKU Announces In-App Mobile Payments for Android

The mobile payments race has heated up with the announcement by BOKU of its new Paymo in-app mobile payment service for Android smartphones. Paymo allows developers to easily incorporate an payment API into apps which charges purchases directly to the phone user's mobile carrier account. These purchases, such as a subscription renewal or new levels in a game, will show up as items on the user's monthly phone bill.

Paymo even works with prepaid and unlocked phones. It deducts charges from the prepaid balance, and if funds are insufficient the purchase will simply be declined. This opens up a whole new revenue source for app developers, as the Paymo system does not require the purchaser to have a contract or a credit card.

However, there is a potential fly in the ointment: carriers typically charge substantial fees-sometimes as high as 30 percent-as brokers of this type of service. Has BOKU managed to talk the carriers down from this greedy practice? If so it would be an achievement worth celebrating.

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