Thursday, April 28, 2011

Tablets Devices

Years ago, back in the early days of Windows XP, the PC and Notebook market attempted to introduce us to the concept of Tablet PCs. It was an idea that simply proved to be too early for the technology. It was simply too expensive to be practical.

Today, with the advent of iOS and Android, Tablets have reappeared, bigger, better, faster and more well rounded than ever and—now that the technology has caught up—with reasonable prices.

But a new problem has appeared. Where Tablet PCs in the past combined digitizer and touchscreen technology, this new age of the Tablet PC has done away with the digitizer.

While touchscreen is great for basic navigation, typing, and finger painting blurry smears, it completely lacks the precision needed for writing and drawing. Now, the majority of people will probably never need a digitizer, but for the market where tablets become most useful the digitizer is a key element.

Tablets are the ideal design for artists, but without the digitizer they’re useless. For non-artists, a tablets vs a notebook computer isn’t as large difference. There’s certainly improved portability with a tablet regardless of the user, but the very name tablet speaks of artists.

I can only hope with the renewed vigor in the Tablet PC market that companies will bring back the digitizer. Until they do, I don’t see myself bothering with replacing my laptop.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

...Kinect (XBox 360)

Kinect - XBox 360
Quality: 5 of 5
Usability: 4 of 5
Overall: 4 of 5
This was honestly a hard product to review.

The Kinect is of course Microsoft's attempt to compete with the Wii and Playstation Move systems. And If one were to limit it to that kind of thinking, it could almost be considered a failure. With no buttons to click, your actions are limited solely to what your body can do.

So, it's a good thing we're not going to do that. The Kinect has advantages in gameplay that the Wii and Playstation Move just can't accomplish in their current states.

We'll start with a few of the cons.
Menu navigation is a bit awkward at first, but gets easier with practice. Repeated use of the Kinect ID feature under different lighting conditions and with different clothing on helps considerably.

Which brings up another con. The Kinect doesn't track well initially, it needs to be trained for each person several times using Kinect ID. Once it's been trained enough, however, it's able to track with pretty decent precision.

The Kinect uses quite a bit of floor space. It says it can work with just 6ft of space, but it had trouble in our living room with this much space. I had to move things around until I had about 8ft just to get it working. I would recommend having about 10ft, especially if you want to use any of the fitness games. The problem is, it needs to be able to see your entire face and your feet in-frame at all times to work properly.

And on to the pros!
With the Kinect, I've found that I'm actually interested in my exercise routines now. I get good, immediate feedback on both my current activity as well as my overall progress. I don't have to find and drive to a gym or pay the high monthly fees just for cardio and toning. I still recommend a gym and professional trainer for strength training, because the equipment needed for that takes up considerably more space and is quite a bit more expensive as well.

While the menu systems aren't always very intuitive, game play itself is very natural in most cases. If you want to jump, you jump. If you want to lean, you lean. And so on.

The Kinect Adventures that comes with the Kinect is mediocre, but most of the other mini game packs are fun, especially with friends or family. EA Sports Active 2 and Your Shape are both well made, although each has its own quirks, but they keep things interesting and are designed by people who know fitness.

Surprisingly, considering it's a Microsoft hardware product, the Kinect (and the new XBox 360s [s is for slim I assume, but it's not really slimmer, just smaller]) are extremely well built. They're sturdy and have a solid feel, the Kinect moves smoothly and silently, and the new XBox 360 has a much improved disc drive and cooling system.

All told, I definitely think the Kinect is a worthwhile purchase. It seems a bit gimmicky at first glance, but it works, and that's what really matters.