I apologise for the lateness of this article, the weather looked like it was going to be nice over the Easter weekend (and it was wasn’t it!) so I took a trip down to Devon. Anyway, AJ, Akardo and I all went to The Gadget Show Live at the NEC this year.
This is my take.
The Live Show itself was probably the highlight of the day… But as it wasn’t really about gadgets that is not what I am going to write about, because as fun as it was what I really went to see were the exhibits. Now I don’t know if it is the economic climate but there did not seem to be a huge amount of innovation since last year. The main thing that had changed was that netbooks had been replaced with tablets following the unfathomable success of Apple’s iPad. The selection of 3D TV’s and their quality had not changed at all over the year, so I will hereby link you to last years article here (also AJ wants to write a piece on them later so I can’t steal his thunder there).
So, Android tablets, iPad killers? Of course they are, but which one should you get?
At the top end are the NVidia Tegra 2 powered tablets; the Motorola Xoom, LG G-Slate, Acer Aconia A500 and ASUS EEE Pad Transformer (Tegra 2 also powers what they are calling “super phones” from both Motorola and LG).These are all the direct competitors with the iPad and are priced as such, the Acer is the cheapest of the four I mentioned here, but after using their products before I would not touch it. They are all pretty much the same in terms of spec and all run Android 3.0. The one that stands out is the ASUS as in addition to the touch screen it also has a physical keyboard which sadly I didn’t get to look at. Anyway, NVidia have a very good site here which has a bunch of information on each of them. Personally, at these prices, I could not justify buying what is essentially a toy, and before you tell me you do work on your iPad, you know full well that you would be far more productive if you used your laptop instead. Don’t get me wrong, these are really nice devices and if I was given one I would in no way turn it down (well maybe the Acer), but I am really unsure why tablets have taken off in such a big way.
In the midrange you get the tablets from Elonex, which like the Netbooks they had last year, I wouldn’t want to recommend. They were cheap, I’ll give you that, but it showed as half of the ones on display did not seem to be functioning correctly. I know, I know, you get what you pay for, but a tablet is not a vital gadget by any means so if you can’t afford (or justify) the cost of one of the better ones the you really are better off going without as you will regret the sacrifice of quality and power if you get one of the cheap ones.
I also noticed that the gap between ebook readers and tablets is getting smaller, Prestigio were even trying to market their top ebook reader as an Android tablet, but with a resistive touch screen, a 600MHz CPU and Android 2.1 it is quite a compromise to get the cost down that low. The lack of E Ink on the more tablet like ebook readers would also really put me off using them for reading books, TFT is not as nice to read on and next to useless outside. I will be waiting until Amazon release a colour (E Ink) Kindle before I will consider replacing my Kindle 3.
On to other things now, and next up is the the Parrot AR.Drone. A remote helicopter that is controlled by your iOS device and beams video back to it. I know what you are thinking, “But Jon, you hate Apple and iOS devices in particular”. This is true but as a result of my hate I have some additional information not found on the website as I asked the question. An Android version is in the works and is apparently working so should be near release. Though I would not buy the thing on this information (as you never know if a project like this will be put on hold) if you are feeling particularly adventurous they have released the API so you could in theory write a controller for anything with WiFi capability.
A couple duffers now, the first was on a stand with the huge tag-line “Amaze your eyes!”. On the stand was a device from vuzix, I’ll admit I was amazed, I was amazed that a company would be trying to sell tech that needed to be posted back to 1995 to be relevant. The resolution on their consumer eye wear was so low as to make the supposed 3D effects unnoticeable, I genuinely believe the glasses I tried out in PCWorld playing Heretic in the mid 90s were (while more bulky and expensive) of about the same quality, and even if it wasn’t there was not 15 years of improvement there.
Second on my list of “why did they make that” products is the IDAPT charger. Don’t get me wrong, I like the idea of only needing one charger, but this is not the way to do it. The way to do it is to have every manufacture of portable electronics (OK, so this won’t work with laptops and the like, they need much more power than the likes of phones) to agree on a voltage and connector type (5V and micro USB would be ideal, as fortunately several phone manufactures have gone with this now) and for them to stick with it. Unfortunately Apple like their own stupid connector and the current agreement only applies to mobile phones (though the Kindle 3 uses micro USB) but with any luck the IDAPT will be obsolete in a couple years.
Nintendo had their exhibit in the Game Zone and I was fortunate to get to it early as the queue got very, very long. They were of course showing off their latest portable, the 3DS. As I bought one my self a week prior to the show I won’t say too much about it as I intend to write a full review soon, but it was still well worth my time going in there as they had a large number of the launch titles available to try (Super Street Fighter IV 3D was notable for its absence) and I have even bought another game for it since I got back as a result.
And finally the rest. The Dragon Naturally Speaking demo was marred when the chap demonstrating it used the word “shift”, he was very quick to say “scratch that” though… Despite this slip up the software has clearly improved since I last saw it though and is far better than the built in speech recognition in Windows 7. I bought a product called Touchscreen Kleen, I think it is the cloth more than the fluid, but all I can say is my glasses have never been so clean, even the stuff I got from Specsavers does not get them as clean so well.
And I leave you with a video of Ortis performing Europe’s Final Countdown in the live show (not recorded by me, I was too busy laughing).