Category Archives: Tablets

Tablets

Nexus 7 (2013) Full Review: Android Revisited

 

After half a decade away, I jump back into Android with the launch of the 2013(2nd gen) Nexus 7. Ive got to say, things have changed! I bought this tablet for a few reasons. First, its damn cheap compared to the Galaxy Tabs(Notes), and Apples iPad Mini. Second, it has the highest pixel density out of all the 7 inch tablets currently. And last, its pure Android without the Samsung bloatware. For $230, its a pretty good deal. Some people think tablets are toys and while they can be good fun, I find them extremely useful for doing quick research, reading articles, and quickly looking up a video. Continue reading Nexus 7 (2013) Full Review: Android Revisited

PlayBook App Review: Files And Folders

Files and Folders

 

One of the most essential apps for the PlayBook is a good file manager. OS2 included a very basic file manager but luckily, the developers(Innovatology) behind Files and Folders decided to give us one that is more modern and featured. Not only is Files and Folders a file manager, but it also syncs files with Dropbox, Box(formerly Box.net), Google Docs, BlackBerry Bridge, and Sugar Sync. Files and Folders is available on the App World for $2.99. Is it worth the money? I put Files and Folders through its paces and give you my take.

Interface

When you first open Files and Folders, you are greeted with a familiar UI. The app allows you to cut, copy, paste, and delete files like a real file manager should. You can view files in a detail(list), icon(grid), and filmstrip(preview). The filmstrip layout is great for folders with many images. You can create new folders and view images in a slideshow. Theres a search function which is handy when you download files and forget where you put them. One of the few things I found missing is the ability to rename files and folders. As far asВ a file manager, it is better than the standard File Manager shipped with OS2. You can view important details like created date and file size.

Files and Folders Detail View
Detail View
Files and Folders Icon View
Icon View
Files and Folders Filmstrip View
Filmstrip View

 

Features

Being a solid file manager is great but you wont(or shouldnt) buy this app just for that reason. The main selling point for me is the ability to browse and manage my files in my Dropbox. When you swipe down the top bezel, you open up the settings and you can set up your Dropbox, Box, Google Docs, and BlackBerry Bridge settings. SugarSync will soon be added to this list. Bluebox and the official Box app lets you manage your files on free apps but having all these services and more in one convenient app is worth the $3 price tag. For example, if I wanted to download some music from my Dropbox onto my PlayBook, I would open Files and Folders, connect to my Dropbox, navigate to the folder, select multiple music files, copy them, and paste it onto my PlayBook. Larger files may take a while but thats an issue with bandwidth, not the app.

OS2 File Manager
OS2 File Manager is basic in comparson
Files and Folders Cloud Options
Cloud services supported

 

A nice extra feature I like about Files and Folders is the ability to send a file via email. Under settings, you can set up a mail server which they help you with by giving you examples(Gmail, Yahoo, etc). Click on a file, scroll down on the left side and click send to. This will open up a box that will let you enter someones email address. Very handy if you want to send yourself a file quickly. The only drawback with this is you are limited to sending 1 file at a time(for now). Another nice touch is the ability to zip a file to reduce space. Like the email feature, you can only zip a single file which defeats the purpose in my opinion.

Files and Folders Email Feature

 

Conclusion

Ive found doing computer tasks like organizing photos and music very easy with Files and Folders. Though its not as powerful as a desktop file manager, it is feature-rich being able to access cloud services. Files and Folders is a solid app. By solid, I mean I havent experienced any crashes or bugs. As far as things Id like to see added is the ability to zip multiple files. Although zipping a single file is good for squeezing extra space, the point of zipping and unzipping is the convenience of a single file. Another thing Id like to see added is the ability to send multiple files via email. Previewing images is cool. It would be a killer addition to be able to preview music/video files within the app. Is this app worth your $3? Yes! As far as a file manager, it is better than the stock OS2 app. With the ability to manage files on cloud services and BlackBerry Bridge, its worth giving up a medium iced coffee for. Although they could have done a better job expanding on zipping and emailing files, I dont take anything away because those are extras. If you could rename files and folders, this app would be perfect for its advertised purpose. The extras make this app that much better.


 

Update:

Files and Folders pushed out version 4.0.2 today on the App World. With this upgrade, you are now able to rename files, star or bookmark folders, added SugarSync support, and adds a nice preview for txt files! One thing noticeably missing is the ability to zip multiple files. Hopefully that will be added in a future update. Check out the slightly updated menu below.

Files and Folders 4

Files and Folders for BlackBerry PlayBook

Files and Folders is a solid file manager that extends its usefulness by giving you access to popular cloud services like Dropbox, Google Docs, Box, and SugarSync. As a true file manager, the only thing missing is lack of renaming folders. All the extras like cloud access, zipping, emailing files, and slideshow makes it easy to forgive the developers. Though these extras can be improved upon, they dont negatively affect the score. Verdict: Buy.

Rating by Set Sar: 4.5 stars
1/2

PlayBook App Review: Blaq

Blaq PlayBook App

Why did RIM ship the PlayBook without an official Twitter app? I dont know and this move has made others wonder too. There is a Twitter icon shipped with the tablet but it is simply a link to open the Twitter site on the PlayBooks browser. Nevertheless, people often never use the stock app. There are a few Twitter apps for the PlayBook but none of them are as good as Blaq,В or so I hear until I decided to try it out myself. I played around with a few free Twitter apps but none of them felt finish. There was always something missing. Since Blaq had the highest ratings out of all the Twitter apps, I bought it. Its available on the App World for $1.99. Is it worth it? Lets find out.

Features

First off, Ive downloaded Tweedless and Lemma. Both are free Twitter clients on the App World and both are good for free apps. One of my biggest complaints about these apps is the inability to upload images. Blaq solves this problem. Not only can you upload images with Blaq, but you can also add multiple accounts, enable native notifications, and enable URL shortening. The last one is especially important since Tweedless does not support it. That can be an issue when you only have 140 characters to post. You can also direct message someone, search hashtags, and view lists. Before I go on, let me say Im just a casual Twitter user(for now). I did find the ability to create lists missing.

В Blaq Timeline

 

User Interface/Performance

The UI of Blaq is nice. I love how the app looks. You have your main timeline on the left side, a quick post box on the top right, and your standard navigation menus on the right bar. Theres an empty space under the post box but it seems to be put there on purpose. It shows half of the Blaqs logo and it looks quite nice. When you click on a tweet, it pops up on a bigger window and gives you the option to reply, retweet, favorite, direct message, and other option like translate. If you want to view more tweets from the user, you have to click on the tweet count. If you want to view the followers, or see who the person is following, you have to click on their followers/following count respectively. This has been a bit cumbersome as there is no border or indication that these values are even clickable. I had to view the help topic to find this out. From here, you can quickly post a tweet by swiping the window down or close it by swiping it to the right.

Blaq Tweet View

 

This is where things get iffy. Sometimes, it would lag and suffer from performance issues. This makes clicking on the tweet counter more frustrating. Also, the timeline does not scroll as smoothly as it should. Its not up to the PlayBooks speed. This is more evident when you are viewing searched timelines. Things that seem like theyre links, such as the bright green @username text, isnt. You would think that it would take you to that users profile but in doesnt. Another issue I have is the previews. Images and webpages are embedded when you click on a tweet. This makes it convenient to stay in the app when a tweet includes an image or a webpage. Sometimes, links/images would load flawlessly but once in a while, it will glitch out and flicker in a white box. I dont have a problem clicking on the link and opening it on the browser but this feature needs to be fixed or shelved until its stable.

 

Final Thoughts

Blaq is a good Twitter client. The developers did a great job adhering to the black theme which is executed well. In terms of the function vs form concept, Blaq leans more towards form. A few UI tweaks will make this a perfect app. Swiping windows to the right seems to conflict with the PlayBooks core function of swiping up to close. A little x would go a long way. Another feature I found missing was the ability to view albums like the web version. We dont normally associate white text as links. Having the profiles green text clickable and a border around tweet counts would make more sense for users to pick up and use. Overall, Blaq is the best Twitter client so far on the PlayBook. Some people would scoff at the idea of paying money for a Twitter app but since most of us got the PlayBook for $199, that leaves us $200 or so to spend on apps. I do believe in spending money on good apps and the $2 price tag on Blaq is justified. As long as the developers continue to update the app, Blaq will continue to be THE Twitter client to have. While were on the subject, follow us on Twitter @set_sar and @lenftw. I find myself using Twitter more with Blaq!

Blaq Image Preview

Blaq for BlackBerry PlayBook

Blaq is the best Twitter app currently on the PlayBook. It features complete timelines, URL shortening, image uploads, hashtag searches, multiple accounts, and the core Twitter functions. While Blaq earns a very high 4.5 stars on the App World, it gets 3.5 from us. 1 star deducted for performance, and half a star for missing features, minor UI issues, and an embed bug. Dont let our critiques sway you away. This sexy client is worth the 2 bucks. Verdict: Buy.

Rating by Set Sar: 3.5 stars
1/2

BlackBerry PlayBook OS2 Review: A Second Look

PlayBook Home Screen

The PlayBook just got a big update this pastВ FebruaryВ 21st, 2012 and Ive had a week to test it out. Theres been a lot of negative press on the PlayBook from the mainstream and sometimes, you just have to take a break from all the drama and just enjoy what you have. Having said that, I was excited about the update. OS2 brings to the PlayBook native email support, updated BlackBerry Bridge, contact and calendar, improved social integration, some design tweaks, updated software keyboard, and an Android emulator built right into the OS. So while some tech reviewers started bashing the OS 5 hours after the launch *cough* Cnet *cough*, I give it a week to let it all boil down and give you my take. Lets begin.

Visual Changes

New App World
New App World

Lets start with the design. OS2 looks almost identical to the original release with a few minor changes. Now, there is a main dock in the top row much like how it is on the BlackBerry smart phone OS. When you expand the app list, the top row remains above and doesnt scroll, like an iframe. This makes it easier to keep your most used apps visible when you quickly need to open them. Now, instead of a list of All, Favorite, Media, Games, and BlackBerry Bridge apps, there is only 2 menus you can customize and they dont have titles. You can add more simply by dragging an app icon over to the edge and you can get as many app screens as you like. The new layout is simplified and logical. If you want to sort apps, you can now do so by creating folders and dragging and dropping app icons into one another. OS2 comes standard with a folder already created called BlackBerry Bridge. Opening the Bridge folder and you will notice that Bridge Browser is missing. RIM decided that having a Bridge Browser and regular Browser was redundant and the new Browser will detect your connection and choose which one is appropriate, giving WiFi top priority. One thing thats minor but noticeable is how apps are switched. When you minimize the apps, the previews are now a bit larger making it easier to peek inside. The close button is also larger.

Browser Reader Mode
Browser Reader Mode

 

Some apps got updated as well. The app world is completely redesigned to give users an easier to use, tablet-oriented experience. There are now bigger Windows Phone 7-like tiles that are used on the Featured, Games, and Apps tab. The Browser adds a reader mode which finds the main content and displays it in a magazine style layout. This comes in handy when you just want to focus on the article and ignore all other distractions like ads.

Native Email Is Here!

PlayBook MessagesOne of the major updates of OS2 is the Messages app. Native email is finally here! This app is almost identical to the Messages app on you BlackBerry smart phone if you own one. It is essentially a unified inbox which stores all you email accounts and sorts it for you without having to jump between browser tabs or different email apps. Unlike the Messages app on you phone, the PlayBook version adds social integration allowing Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn along withВ your regular email accounts. This app is very smooth and responsive. Its basically a supercharged version of the Bridge Messages app. Alongside Messages, the Contacts apps is added which is also a nicer version of contacts on you BlackBerry smart phone. If you have multiple contacts for one person, you can merge them by using links. For example, if I have joe.smith@gmail.com and hes the same person as @JoeIsCool or whatever, I can have that person listed as one contact by opening his profile, and clicking on the chain-link icon at the bottom right and connecting them by clicking add link. When you are viewing a contacts profile, you can quickly email, open their Twitter, view their latest tweets, status on Facebook /LinkedIn, view upcoming meetings and open up Video Chat if they have a PlayBook.

Software Keyboard

The PlayBook got an updated keyboard that adds a number row in certain fields and Swiftkey word suggestion. This feature is nice but the keyboard layout isnt consistent. Swiping up the keyboard with the bottom-left corner gesture brings up the standard keyboard but if you want the one with the numbers at the top, you have to tap a text field that calls for it like an address field or password box. Overall, its a nice addition but it could use some refinement through a small update.

PlayBook Keyboard

 

Calendar Is a Miss

The Calendar app is probably my least favorite addition to OS2. Dont get me wrong. Its a beautiful looking app that allows you to add appointments and sync them with your Gmail but they left out one glaring issue. You cannot sync it with the calendar on your BlackBerry smart phone. Other than looks, I have no need for it. In terms of functionality and practicality, Id rather use the Bridge Calendar. Theres been a trend where users are trying to lower theirВ dependencyВ on Google and while its nice to include this app, not supporting their own proprietary platform is one of those decisions where you gotta scratch your head and say, Why didnt they do it this way?

PlayBook Calendar

 

Android Support

Theres a few more minor updates in apps. The PlayBook now comes standard with a file manager. This file manager, though basic, is a nice addition which gives users a more finished product out of the box. I use Files and Folders as my primary file manager and Id recommend that over anything.В One of the most anticipated addition to OS2 is the support of Android apps. Lots fo people, including myself, were confused about where the player was. It turns out, the Android player/emulator is built right into the OS so theres no need to run an app. Android apps are meant to run seamlessly in the OS without breaking the theme. As far as the surge of Android apps, there are none. At least not yet. You can side-load Android apps but officially, they have to be modified slightly, signed, and submitted by the app developer. Unfortunately, not many Android developers have submitted their apps to the App World. There maybe different reasons for this but the launch of OS2 was not what most users were expecting. Probably the biggest letdown for many users is Netflix saying over Twitter that they are not planning to develop for the PlayBook. Its certainly their right to choose which platform to develop for but this comes after saying that they will have a PlayBook app for OS2. If they didnt want to hire developer to make a native app, they could easily sign their Android app and submit it to the App World.

Bridge Gets Remote Control

Probably the least known but best part of the update are the changes to BlackBerry Bridge. With the new Bridge, you can now use your BlackBerry smart phone as a bluetooth keyboard and mouse with Remote Control. This solves many of my personal problems andВ opinionsВ about tablets. With a proper pointing device and a tactile keyboard, I can now type accurately and use it for production rather than consumption. Most people that replace their laptops with tablets usually have a separate bluetooth keyboard and mouse to get work done. The only problem with that setup is now you have to carry around 2 extra accessories, usually in a case. With Remote Control, I can now use my PlayBook without having to carry extra stuff. This gives the PlayBook a big advantage in terms of portability over the competition. Another nice thing about the new Bridge is the ability to open files from you BlackBerry smart phone on your PlayBook. Lets say you are viewing an image. With the new Bridge, you can select an image on you phone, hit menu, then Open on PlayBook. This works with images, memos, web pages, emails, and contacts. However, it doesnt work with music and videos, probably due to bandwidth issues.

Conclusion

Overall, OS2 is a much needed and welcomed update. Those who have waited a long time may feel disappointed. Especially those that expected a larger library of apps due to the Android player. The update is evolutionaryВ and not revolutionary. I like the changes to the home menu and Remote Control is a killer feature. Those who own a PlayBook but not a BlackBerry smart phone may not get their moneys worth, especially with Remote Control. My least favorite part of this update is Calendar. It stinks. If it could sync with my BlackBerrys calendar, it would be worthwhile. Native email has never been an issue with me. Quite frankly, I dont get why people who own smart phones, a computer, and a tablet, would worry about where they get email. Now its here and no surprise, its no big deal.

 

BlackBerry PlayBook OS2

OS2 brings native email, calendar, contacts, Android app support, a unified inbox, remote control with BlackBerry Bridge, improved software keyboard, and tweaks to the UI. The biggest anticipating to OS2 is the increased app library with Android support. Unfortunately, developers havent jumped on the platform by submitting their apps to the App World. The platform is improving but its up to developers to jump on board.

Rating by Set Sar: 3.5 stars
1/2

BlackBerry PlayBook OS2 Launches With Remote Control and Native Email

BlackBerry PlayBook OS2 Update

The PlayBook just got a big update today with the release of OS2. I woke up and was prompted by my phone to download the new Bridge version 2 when I realized what day it was. It was update day! Went to my PlayBook and there was a software update waiting to be downloaded. The upgrade process was very Ubuntu-like. I was told I had an update and it did all the work for me. I had to use the advanced setups to get all my email accounts going but that was the only initial complaint.

 

Control your PlayBook with your BlackBerry!

BlackBerry Remote ControlOne this I immediately noticed when IВ simultaneouslyВ update Bridge and my PlayBook is Remote Control. Finally, a way to control your PlayBook with the BlackBerry smartphone! This feature works just like a bluetooth mouse and keyboard. Good thing I didnt waste money buying one of those. After the PlayBook update, I had a chance to test drive this feature and it works well. When you use the trackpad, there is a mouse cursor that appears on the PlayBook much like using a computer. This is fantastic. Ive always felt that tablets would stay geared towards consumers without the input accuracy of a keyboard and mouse. Now I can use my PlayBook to type without the clumsiness of the on-screen keyboard. Speaking on on-screen keyboards, the PlayBook updated their software keyboard with additions like predictive text andВ auto-complete.

 

Native Email is here Finally

I wasnt one of those people who complained about native email but its finally here. It took RIM a while to implement this and perhaps the boat has sailed for those that found this to be a deal-breaker but at least we can finally say its here. The native email works just like BlackBerry Messages which groups all your email in one convenient inbox. You can then sort your emails from here. One nice addition is the ability to add social networks to this inbox like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Very cool. Ill be updating my PlayBook review after I spend more time with it. Stay tuned for the link!