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USB 3.0 will crush eSATA, FireWire

Posted by comtech3 on January 14, 2009

January 13, 2009 11:21 AM PST
Posted by Alex Serpo
Intel demonstrated a working version of USB 3.0 at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week. Here’s why it will make eSATA and FireWire obsolete.

When USB 3.0 is expected to hit the market in early 2010, it will have been 10 years since the now ubiquitous USB 2.0 was introduced (April 2000). The current USB 2.0 specification runs at a theoretical maximum speed of 480Mbps, and can supply power (for those looking for the hard details, you can find the USB 2.0 specification here (zip file).

According to the USB Implementers Forum, there were 2 billion USB 2.0 devices shipped in 2006 (one for every three people in the world), and the install base was 6 billion (almost one for every person in the world). In November 2007, the USB Implementers forum announced the USB 3.0 specifications, and Intel officially demonstrated the technology at CES 2009.

Now, the juice: USB 3.0 promises a theoretical maximum rate of 5Gbps, meaning it’s 10 times faster than USB 2.0. USB 3.0 is also full duplex, meaning it can upload and download simultaneously (it’s bi-directional); USB 2.0 is only half duplex.

Put side by side with eSATA and FireWire 800, USB 3.0 is far superior. eSATA, an external connection that runs at the same speed as the internal SATA 1.0 bus, has a maximum theoretical of 3Gbps. This makes USB 3.0 faster than eSATA and about six times faster than FireWire 800 (full duplex at 800Mbps).

USB 3.0 also provides another advantage; while eSATA is faster than FireWire 800, unlike FireWire it cannot supply power. USB 3.0 has the advantage of being faster than both, even while supplying power.

Finally, USB 3.0 has improved power management, meaning that devices can move into idle, suspend, and sleep states. This potentially means more battery life out of laptops and other battery-based USB-supporting devices like cameras and mobile phones.

Of course, there are other factors to consider; the FireWire 3200 standard is also in the works and promises to allow 3.2GHz speeds on existing FireWire 800 hardware. USB 2.0 generally doesn’t meet its theoretical maximum throughput, due to its dependence on hardware and software configuration, where FireWire gets much closer.

It’s hard to say whether USB 3.0’s updated architecture will still use more CPU time than FireWire does.

But in the age of powerful hardware (can anyone say “3.2GHz, quad-core CPUs”?), all of this means that FireWire is still not going to match USB 3.0’s theoretical maximum of 5Gbps.

The ultimate signal that this war has already been won is Apple’s recent decision to ditch FireWire from its consumer line in favor of USB. Previously, Cupertino had been one of FireWire’s greatest advocates. And surely the company will be one of the first to adopt USB 3.0.

All in all, we can’t wait for motherboard manufacturers like Gigabyte and Asus to start supporting the technology and mainstream PC builders like Dell to start integrating it into their products. Bring on the speed.

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Next big PS3 price cut set for April?

Posted by comtech3 on January 14, 2009

January 13, 2009 1:57 PM PST

Posted by David Carnoy

No shocker: more talk of a price drop on the 80GB version of the PS3.

(Credit: Sony)

This rumor’s a little dubious, but several blogs are reporting that Sony plans to cut the PlayStation’s 3’s price tag by $100 in April. That would put the 80GB PS3 at $300. The source: an analyst at Wedbush Morgan who’s also saying that Microsoft will chop $50 off the Xbox 360 Pro around E3 2009 (in June), putting that system at $250.

When it comes to gaming systems, price drops are the equivalent of an economic stimulus plan, and breaking $300 would obviously make the PS3 attractive to a whole new batch of consumers, regardless of poor economic conditions. Price points are price points and things start getting pretty magical when you get under $300 (and in the case of the Xbox 360, $250 is even better).

Naturally, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist–or an analyst at an investment firm–to figure any of this out. And giving yourself a nice four-month buffer to predict a price drop doesn’t exactly impress. But people love to speculate on this sort of stuff, and with word that Sony will report a big $1.1 billion operating loss for 2007/2008 (its first operating loss in 14 years), the pressure’s on Sony to rev up its Playstation 3 franchise for the health of the company and its Blu-ray platform (yes, the PS3 has a built-in Blu-ray player, lest you forgot).

The good news is Sony has a number of highly anticipated exclusive titles coming to the PS3 this year, including Killzone 2, Infamous, Heavy Rain, MAG, God of War 3, Uncharted 2, and MLB 09: The Show. Combine that with a $100 price cut and the PS3 should get a nice jumpstart–whenever it comes. But nothing’s a given these days and clearly Sony has to balance taking a loss on the hardware to spur profits on the software (game) side.

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T-Mobile Shadow makes official appearance

Posted by comtech3 on January 9, 2009

January 8, 2009 7:38 AM PST

Posted by Bonnie Cha

T-Mobile Shadow II

We’ve been hearing rumors about it for a couple of months now, but the T-Mobile Shadow (yep, just the Shadow, not Shadow II) had its officially coming out party on Tuesday night at CES 2009.

Taking over for the original T-Mobile Shadow, the updated version, which was manufactured by HTC, sports a fresh look with curved edges, a shinier face, and comes in two new color combinations: black with burgundy and white with mint. The other major additions are a faster processor (260MHz) and UMA support, so you can now make calls over Wi-Fi using T-Mobile’s HotSpot service.

Aside from those differences, the T-Mobile Shadow is very much like its predecessor. The smartphone features a QVGA non-touch display and a slider design with a SureType-like keypad. Under the hood, it runs Windows Mobile 6.1 Standard Edition and features integrated Bluetooth (stereo Bluetooth supported), Wi-Fi, a 2-megapixel camera, and a microSD expansion slot that supports up to 8GB cards.

Though T-Mobile did not announce an official availability date or pricing, the carrier did say it would be released in the coming weeks and we’re guessing the pricing will be around the $149.99 range. In addition to the Shadow, T-Mobile also added the RIM BlackBerry Curve 8900 to its lineup earlier this week. Good to see some new smartphones at T-Mobile finally.

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Palm calls it a comeback with the Palm Pre

Posted by comtech3 on January 9, 2009

January 8, 2009 12:50 PM PST

Posted by Tom Krazit

Palm’s new Pre, running its WebOS mobile operating system.

(Credit: Corrine Schulze/CNET)

Palm took one giant step toward regaining its position as a relevant mobile computing company with the introduction of the Palm Pre on Thursday.

If you missed out on Ina Fried’s live coverage of Palm’s press conference in Las Vegas at CES, here are a few basic details about the Pre (rhymes with glee). It’s a touch-screen phone with a slide-out keyboard than runs WebOS, Palm’s long-awaited new operating system formerly code-named Nova.

Sprint will be the exclusive launch carrier for the Pre, which comes with Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, a 3.1-inch display, GPS, and 8GBs of storage, among other things. Palm did not announce a price for the Pre, but said it should be available some time in the first half of 2009.

Like the Apple’s iPhone, Palm’s Pre has a single button when the slide-out keyboard is shut. Everything on the screen can be controlled by gestures similar to the ones used on the iPhone, and the homescreen has four icons at the bottom for the most frequently used tasks, such as the phone, e-mail, and calendar.

Unlike the iPhone, it has the aforementioned hardware keyboard, and what appears to be a background notification system for applications. Apple has promised to roll out some sort of background notification system that lets applications send notifications to the user when they are running a different application, but they are well past their deadline of September 2008 for doing so.

We’re awaiting many more details on the Pre, such as what it will cost, how application distribution will work, battery life, and multimedia support. Stay tuned for those.

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Sony teases with mystery laptop

Posted by comtech3 on December 23, 2008

December 22, 2008 11:54 AM PST

Posted by Erica Ogg

Sony Vaio CES laptop

CES 2009 is fast approaching, and rumors of new laptops are everywhere. This week though, the focus is on Sony.

Though enterprising news outlets have dug up hints at new products from the likes of Dell and Lenovo weeks before the big gadget exhibition, Sony is outing itself as having a new portable PC that will “change the way you think about laptops.” A clock counting down the days and hours until January 9, when the new product is scheduled to appear, popped up on Sony’s New Zealand site, as pointed out over the weekend by Engadget.

Putting the teaser in context of the photo of the oddly-shaped Sony device that popped up on the FCC’s Web site two weeks ago, it certainly seems likely that this will be a notebook unlike what others are offering.

But the question is, will it be a Netbook? Sony has been conspicuously absent from the Netbook market among its Windows-wielding brethren. (Apple has held out too, but it’s not price-matching with other PC makers.)

Netbooks have taken off in the past 12 months, moving from a quirky offering from Asus to the form factor that’s giving the PC industry a whiff of hope. All the major manufacturers are on board, and it’s paying off now since the price tags are cheaper than standard notebooks. However, how it will hurt them in the long run (dragging down average prices of notebooks, cannibalizing lower-end laptop models) is still to be determined.

The argument for Sony keeping out of the low-end fray is certainly there. Sony–like Apple–fancies itself a maker of luxury devices and is loath to get into price wars with the likes of Dell and HP. (Of course, it didn’t want to wrestle with the lower-tier Vizio and Westinghouse in LCD TVs either, but the reality of the HDTV market forced Sony’s hand.)

The electronics giant has also objected to the Netbook concept several times publicly. In February, Sony’s head of its Vaio group in the U.S. called the Netbook movement “a race to the bottom,” though by July Sony Electronics President Stan Glasgow refused to confirm or deny plans for such a product.

Most recently, though, a Sony exec in the UK told ZDNet UK that Sony is “not in for the moment” when it comes to Netbooks, clearly not ruling it out completely. Netbooks, are they are now, “are not properly designed for consumer needs,” Nicolas Barendson told ZDNet.

Does that mean that they have an entirely new design that will meet the needs of people looking for a Netbook-like device? Perhaps. But the key will be the price, and low-cost laptops are not Sony’s cup of tea. So if they do edge into Netbook-like territory, expect them to market it like something other than a laptop, and more like another kind of portable consumer device.

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‘SimCity’ arrives on the iPhone

Posted by comtech3 on December 22, 2008

December 18, 2008 7:10 AM PST

To the stable of games for the iPhone, you can now add the legendary SimCity.

Electronic Arts’ city-building game, priced at $9.99, is now available for Apple’s iPhone and iPod Touch devices. Users can take advantage of the touch-screen technology to design and construct their vision of an urban landscape.

SimCity on the iPhone

SimCity on the iPhone.

(Credit: EA Mobile, via Apple’s App Store)

MG Siegler at VentureBeat, who’s had a chance to play with the game for a while, waxed enthusiastic about the touch-screen qualities and more–“SimCity is a very impressive game on the iPhone”–but warned of some lingering bugs from the game’s demo period:

While some of those issues have been fixed–the game runs fairly snappy now, when loaded–I’m experiencing the game crashing and a slowdown in actions like zooming. From the early reviews I’m seeing on SimCity’s App Store page, I’m not alone in experiencing this.

And unfortunately, loading even the more bare-bones previously saved city takes a long time (I’m talking minutes). Maybe for some, that will just add to the nostalgic experience–I remember this was an issue on my old PC back in the day as well. For others, it’ll be annoying.

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Three of the world’s best headphones

Posted by comtech3 on December 19, 2008

December 18, 2008 7:27 AM PST

The Denon headphones

(Credit: Steve Guttenberg)

The Denon AH-D5000, Grado Labs GS-1000, and Ultrasone Edition 9 are all over-the-ear “circumaural” headphones, primarily intended for home use, but that didn’t stop me from plugging them into my iPod.

With its lightweight magnesium frame, real mahogany wood earcups and oh-so soft leather ear pads, the Denon AH-D5000 is a real charmer. It’s the most comfortable headphone I’ve ever used, and Its microfiber low-mass diaphragms deliver lightning-fast, detailed sound. Audiophile mavens who crave visceral mojo will go ga-ga over the AH-D5000. This headphone makes a lot of bass. It was equally accomplished with music and home theater.

For the home theater trials I checked out The Flight of the Phoenix DVD, and the plane crash scene fully exploited the headphones’ dynamic prowess. The AH-D5000’s detailed and airy treble kept my attention glued to the onscreen action.

Plugged into a 4GB iPod Nano rock was acceptable, but the Denon lacked conviction over the Nano. The even more expensive AH-D7000 wasn’t yet available when I wrote this review, hope to get my hands on it soon.

The Grados

(Credit: Steve Guttenberg)

John Grado’s latest and greatest headphone is a break from his past designs. The retro, World War II “cans” look is gone. The GS-1000 is still unmistakably Grado, but with more contemporary styled, hand-crafted mahogany earcups with much larger foam ear pads. The headband is covered in real leather.

As much as I love Grado’s sound, I’ve found previous generations Grado headphones’ comfort level was below par. The GS-1000 is a vast improvement; the larger ear pad’s pressure is low, and the headphones feel light on my head.

Pardon me while I gush over the way GS-1000 clarifies live recordings. The sound seemed to surround me, with a rare ability to resolve depth, just as you would in a concert hall. Ditto for the way this headphone reveals rhythmic underpinnings in rock and jazz CDs. Grados have always been exciting, classical music now sounds more refined. Bass is deep, yet more controlled and precise than ever before.

The GS-1000 worked its magic connected to the Nano. Sure, the cavernous soundstage was especially impressive on Miles Davis/Gil Evans big band albums, but the Nano ran out of juice when I cranked Led Zeppelin.

The Ultrasones

(Credit: Steve Guttenberg)

The Edition 9 is a closed-back design with incredibly soft Ethiopian sheep’s leather ear pads that effectively block outside noise from intruding on your musical bliss. And since the headphones don’t “leak” sound to the outside world you can wear the Edition 9 to bed and listen at a fairly loud level without disturbing your partner.

The gleaming chrome over brass earcups triumphantly announce the Edition 9’s Germanic design flair, and yet the design feels understated. One nitpick: I felt (literally) the ear pads exerted a little too much pressure on my ears, though the pressure will probably lighten after a few months of use.

The sheer weight of the sound tips the tonal balance down, but the midrange and treble are crisp and clear. Led Zeppelin’s first two albums lit up the Edition 9’s heavy metal prowess. Jimmy Page’s guitar thrash was amazing, the spectacle of Robert Plant’s lung-popping vocals loomed large, and John Bonham’s thudding percussion kicked harder than I’ve ever heard over headphones.

Finally, the Edition 9 is super easy to drive, so it really clicked with the Nano, with all sorts of music.

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SlingPlayer coming to BlackBerry phonesSlingPlayer coming to BlackBerry phonesv

Posted by comtech3 on December 19, 2008

December 18, 2008 10:27 AM PST

Posted by Jeff Bakalar

Making good on a promise made at CES 2008, Sling Media has announced that a beta version of the company’s SlingPlayer Mobile software will be available on select BlackBerry smartphones starting December 30.

BlackBerry users who own the Bold, Curve 8900 & 8320, 8820, Pearl Flip 8220, and Pearl 8120 will be able to stream video to their smartphone using a Slingbox device.

The download requires BlackBerry device software 4.5 or higher and will be free for a limited time. We’d imagine once the beta lifts, all users will be required to pay the one-time fee of $30.

Sling Media is recommending a Wi-Fi connection for optimal viewing performance on some of the BlackBerry models (that support it); otherwise, a high-speed data connection will be needed.

Not sure if your device is compatible? Point your BlackBerry browser to http://mobile.slingmedia.com/go/bbcheck and let Sling Media tell you if it is.

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Sprint offers 3G/4G wireless modem for laptops

Posted by comtech3 on December 18, 2008

December 17, 2008 1:28 PM PST

Posted by Marguerite Reardon

Sprint Nextel announced Wednesday that it will start selling dual-mode 3G/4G wireless broadband modems for laptops starting Sunday.

Sprint 3G/4G USB Modem U300

(Credit: Sprint Nextel)

The new device allows users to access both Sprint’s 3G cellular data network and the new 4G WiMax wireless network the company is building as part of the new Clearwire venture.

The modem known as the Sprint 3G/4G USB Modem U300 will use the new 4G Clearwire network with download speeds between 2 Mbps and 4Mbps where that network is available. And when users are out of range of the 4G wireless network, they will automatically be able to access Sprint’s 3G network, which offers average downloads of between 600 Kbps and 1.4 Mbps, according to Sprint.

Sprint launched the 4G WiMax network called Xohm in Baltimore in October, just months before it officially merged its WiMax network with Clearwire’s network. The service will be launched in other markets across the country throughout 2009.

At the Baltimore launch, Sprint’s CEO Dan Hesse promised a wireless data device that would allow users to access both networks for better coverage.

“It will take a while for the new (4G) network to be built ubiquitously,” Hesse said during the Baltimore press event. “And we will have new multimode devices that will use 4G where it’s available, and when it’s not, it will downshift to 3G to provide that ubiquitous data coverage.”

The new wireless modem connects via a standard USB port and costs $149.99 after a $50 mail-in rebate and with a two-year subscription to the wireless data service. The wireless modem will be available through Sprint’s direct business sales force and at most Baltimore-area Sprint stores and select Baltimore-area retailers, the company said. Starting in January, the device will also be available in Baltimore-area Best Buy stores.

The new wireless modem from Sprint will likely be a better deal for most consumers because the service, which costs $79.99 per month, offers the best coverage at the best price.

Several notebook manufacturers, including Acer, Asus, Lenovo, and Toshiba, are including Intel’s WiMax/Wi-Fi module in new laptops, so that users can access the 4G WiMax network. But these devices do not have Sprint’s 3G wireless technology integrated into them. This means that users would have to subscribe to both a 4G WiMax service from Clearwire, which regularly costs $45 per month (a $15 discount is available for the first six months), and Sprint’s 3G wireless service, which costs $59.99 per month, if they wanted wireless broadband service nationwide. And because the 3G and 4G radio frequency technologies aren’t integrated in these laptops, the devices would not seamlessly switch between the 3G and 4G networks.

A Sprint spokesman said the company and its partners will eventually offer embedded dual-mode 3G/4G technology in other devices. But he also pointed out that the laptops that use Intel’s embedded WiMax technology and the dual mode 3G/4G modem are really aimed at different sets of customers.

The embedded laptops are for users who only need high speed wireless access close to home, while the 3G/4G modem is for road warriors who may find themselves far from Baltimore or any of the other WiMax enabled cities.

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Palm to preview Nova OS and first device at CES

Posted by comtech3 on December 16, 2008

December 15, 2008 9:54 AM PST
Posted by Bonnie Cha

It’s been a while since Palm has caused a stir, but the company certainly has people talking with its planned January 8 CES event. As CNET News reporter Tom Krazit reported last week, it’s expected that Palm will preview its new operating system, codenamed Nova, at CES 2009, and the rumors look to be true based on new information from a Business Week article.

According to Peter Burrows at Business Week, Palm will unveil Nova and the first of a family of products in Vegas, but it’s not looking to go after the iPhone or BlackBerry. Instead, Palm Executive Chairman Jon Rubenstein said the goal behind Nova is to create a flexible platform that supports a number of customer needs and to create products that bridge the gap between work-oriented BlackBerrys and the fun-oriented iPhone. Before joining Palm, Rubenstein was the senior vice president for hardware engineering at Apple.

Rubenstein and Palm executives wouldn’t get much more specific about product details, other than that the team hopes to create phones that “make smarter use of data about you.” The company also hopes to release products by mid-2009. I’ll be at the January 8 event, so check back then for the full report and my first impressions

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