Quick review of Twelve South – Compass

Ever since I got the iPad, I’ve been on the look out for a stand. There are a few out on the market but none of them take my fancy either because a) cost too much, b) too clunky, c) too flimsy. That is until I heard of the Compass from Twelve South.

Positive:

  • Good price point at $39.99
  • Solid metal construction
  • Nice packaging
  • Two orientations – Easel and Typing
  • Can be folded into a carry-able shape and size
  • Keep iPad high enough so connector can be attached while use in easel mode
  • Include a travel case

Negative:

  • Heavy due to metal construction
  • Grippy “rubber” not as well-fitted/well-constructed as the metal part.
  • “Rubber” is not grippy enough to hold iPad in place in Typing mode. At least with my iPad, it slides down very slowly until it reaches the desk.

Despite the heavy weight, I’ll definitely take it with me the next time I travel so I won’t need to hold the iPad with my hand to watch videos or read books.

More photos of the Compass on Flickr.

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Weekend with Kindle 2

After watching the FedEx's tracking page like a hawk last week, my Kindle 2 arrived on Thursday just in time for me to take it with me for the Alt.NET weekend in Seattle. The flights between Seattle and Newark allowed me to spend hours reading on the new Kindle. Instead of giving a full hands-on review (plenty can be found on the interweb), I'll give some comparisons with the original Kindle.

Build
Nothing really was wrong with the build quality of the original Kindle. It is light and feel solid, despite the plastic body. But once I laid my hands on the new Kindle, there is really no comparison. The non-wedge shape and the thinness combines with the metal back cover gives Kindle 2 a much higher build quality, much like the original iPhone vs. iPhone 3G. And even though Kindle 2 is lighter than Kindle 1, I feel the new version is much more solidly built. The uniform thickness makes the new Kindle so much easier to hold. The wedge shape of the original almost forces one to hold it in about two ways that don't hurt or tiring. Now I can hold it anyway I want.
Screen
You can see the huge difference in refresh speed between the old and new here. It makes reading on the new Kindle even better experience. There is no more the need to click Next Page just a few seconds before I finish the page to compensate for the slow refresh. Of course, the quicker refresh speed allows the use of the new 5-ways controller. The increased level of grey levels (16 vs. 4) really makes illustrations becomes a viable of the eBook. Previously it depends on how much effort the publishers put it to cater for the 4 levels of grey. Some makes it readable while others make it impossible to decipher.
Buttons
One of the main complain about the original Kindle is the placement of the buttons around the edge. The location makes it almost impossible to not activate a button when picking up the Kindle. The buttons in the new version are now much smaller and rock inward instead of the traditional outward. This means I can pick up or hold the new Kindle without fearing pushing a button by mistake.
UI & Navigation
The new 5-ways controller makes navigating the menu system (which is also re-designed) so much easier than the roller of the original. This also allows highlighting text to work on word by word basis, verses the line only in the original. Another thing is that the new controller is much less noisy to push than the roller. Not a huge deal normally but makes a big difference when reading in bed, next to a sleeping wife!
Battery & Charger
The new battery definitely last longer than the original. Compare to the original Kindle review which also happened during a weekend trip to Seattle, the new Kindle used only 1/3 of the charge vs. 3/4 with similar usage. Lots of people have issue of the non-removable battery in Kindle 2 but I don't feel it would be a problem. May be that's because I rarely have to replace a battery in any of my electronic gadgets. I do like the new charging mechanism though. Instead of a separate charger, the new Kindle uses a USB cable for charging from the computer, or with an adaptor from the main power. And the adaptor is very slight and easy to pack, it reminds me of the design the iPhone 3G adaptor.

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Quick hands on with Canon 50D

Last night I went to a Canon sponsored seminar at Adorama to see the latest DSLR, 50D. I spent about 30 minutes in total playing with it along with various lenses, 70-200 f4 IS, 24-105 L, 24-70 L, 18-200 IS. Here are the features that really tempting me to upgrade from the old, trusty 10D:

Focus
The 9 points focusing is much better than the 10D since all of them are cross type. Even in the dim light of the room, the 50D latched onto sharp focus easily with no hunting. I even tried it on uniform colour wall in the dark corner and the 50D focus with no problem.
Continuous Drive
6.3 fps! Way faster than the 10D's 2.5 fps. And this is with 15 MP both RAW and JPEG, with 17 RAW and 60 JPEG buffer. This is the main feature that would be hugely useful for me, even if only for the once a year surf photographing session I go with Dan.
High ISO Performance
The new CMOS chip and DIGIC 4 processor allows much less noisy photo in high ISO setting, when compared against the 10D, but not 40D. The noise level at 3200 on 50D is approximately the same as 800 on 10D. 2 stops higher! And 12800 is still usable but quite noisy.
LCD and LiveView
The 3" VGA screen beat the crap out of the 1.25" screen on 10D. The LiveView on the LCD looks cool but I doubt I would use it often. What I find useful would be to see LiveView on the computer screen using the USB remote control connection.
Menu
Much better menu system and easier to use, thanks to the large, high resolution LCD. The joystick helps too.
Viewfinder
Nothing special here, apart from it being noticeably brighter than 10D's.
A more detailed review is now up on DPReview.com

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