Life on Planet Samsung

I brought a new family home this Christmas.  As a very Apple friendly household you could have expected some consternation when I showed up with a bunch of Samsung’s latest hot products. Don’t worry though folks, in the true spirit of the season, there was peace on earth and good will to all platforms.

Yes, so, while Breakfast is on it’s Summer recess, I’ve been testing out the latest Samsung family of products.  The new toys are the Series 5 Ultrabook, the Galaxy Note 2 and the shiny new Galaxy Camera.    While I’ve grown to know and love them individually, some of them are going to be harder to return than others when the loan period expires next week.  Check out my comments below to see what I thought.

Samsung Family Gathering

Happy Family: The Samsung Series 5 Ultrabook, Galaxy Note 2, Galaxy Camera and (reviewers own) Galaxy S3.

The Series 5 Touch Ultrabook is a high performance PC sporting a touch-screen that allows it to really take advantage of the new Windows operating system.  If you’d like the full specs you can view all of the nuggety details here on the Samsung site.

To begin with I wasn’t sold on the idea of a touch screen laptop, but when I ran a photo slideshow for a work function I found the touch screen control added a new dimension to the “theatre” of a presentation.  Battery life was excellent clocking in at a good 4-5 hours.  That’s much better than my own work laptop (a 3yr old HP Elitebook 8530p which struggles to hit 90 mins on on one charge).

I did find that the battery heated the bottom of the case quite quickly and establishing a WiFi connection was patchy at times (it felt like the digital equivalent of getting on a racehorse, a bit tricky to do but once in the saddle you began a fast and exhilarating ride).

Reports from the States suggest the sales of hardware sporting Windows 8 are falling behind expectations.  Personally I like the OS and expect more devices like the Series 5 to really showcase it’s attributes, especially to a business audience.

I briefly tested the Note 2 Smartphone slash Tablet before taking it on TV in December.  Spending a bit more time with it, I appreciated the software as much as I did the large screen. However when the Jelly Bean 4.1.1 update rolled out for the Galaxy S3, I put the Note 2 down and failed to return to it.  It’s selling pretty well though if recent accounts are correct.

The final product proved to be a revelation.  At the press launch in Sydney in December, journalists seemed to politely tolerate the announcement of the Galaxy Camera before settling in to hear the “real” news about the launch of the Galaxy Note 2 smartphone.

In actual fact, the Galaxy Camera should be grabbing the headlines.  It’s a strange looking beast.  Several times I have been asked whether the camera is a case or some kind of attachment for my phone. That’s because that is what it looks like – a zoom lens camera clipped onto the front of a smartphone.  It’s not ugly, but it is different.

Galaxy Camera - one out of the box

I took a lot of photos with it. I loved the 21x zoom (you can see its effects here or below) and  enjoyed having the ability to post pics to my social network of choice immediately via WiFi or 3G (with additional SIM).  Because it’s essentially an Android tablet, you can also download apps to your hearts content, including the most popular photo apps such as Instagram.

I’ve read plenty of reviews since and the consensus seems to be ‘shop around before buying’.  With an in-store price of between $720 and $860, there are a lot of good cameras to consider in or around this price range.  Which camera you end up buying will depend on your own specific needs and circumstances.  Having said that, the connectivity and innovation contained within the Galaxy Camera will almost certainly make it a  popular choice amongst the social-sharing generation.

No snooping - 21 x zoom

Samsung Galaxy Note 2 launch

An impressive event all round. Expect the Galaxy Note 2 in New Zealand around the last week of November. Approximately $1100.  TBC.

Looking for NZ pricing details. Here’s me in the meantime.



I don’t know who these people are. Ricki-Lee? Sam Sparro? Okay.

We’ve had the galaxy camera and ativ range. Now for the main event.

Todd Sampson there.

Getting interesting now. That’s a big stage.






Live from the halls of industry in Sydney.

Galaxy SIII (S3) Hands On Review

What’s the old saying? When it rains, it pours? Well, at the moment we are experiencing a deluge of super spec’d up smartphones.  Mere weeks after the HTC One X hit the market the new Samsung Galaxy S3 has swooped into view.

For those of you who don’t know, the previous version of the Galaxy (the S2) was just about the only phone that managed to keep up with the all powerful iPhone.  20 million units of the S2 were shipped in it’s life cycle – and Samsung are expecting 30m unit sales for the S3.  That may sound like a tall order but you’ll be pleased to know that they have already clocked up 9m pre-orders before it goes on sale in the middle of this week.

A limited number of test units made their way into New Zealand this week and I’ve been lucky enough to have one for the past 24 hours.  Many, many blogs have already benchmarked the S3 technically (links below) so I decided to put it through some “real world” tests.

First up – The Ponsonby Road Media Lunch test.  As you know, this is a critical test. There is absolutely no point in owning a high end smartphone if it doesn’t get envious stares when placed on the table in front of you during lunch.

At lunch, the S3 was on the table for 1m 20seconds before I was asked “is that the the new Samsung?” Not a bad start given the phone has a fairly sleek profile.  The phone was then passed around a group of smartphone users (four iPhone and one Galaxy 1st generation owners). The general consensus was 1. It’s lighter than you expect. 2. It’s big (meaning larger in physical terms than an iPhone). 3. It looks great (screen resolution) and finally 4. It’s “nice”. Phew, social embarrassment neatly avoided.

Later, having had a chance to use a few of the features I drew a few more conclusions. I like the size of the phone.  The 4.8 inch screen displays rich content so nicely the S3 is a must have on my gadget shopping list. (read on below)

Click the image to view the review on

The next feature I tested was the dual wifi ability.  The phone has the ability to pull two signals down from a wifi router and provide a smoother faster stream of video content.

The guys at Samsung suggested I try out a Youtube test and have a “race” between the S3 and my iPhone 4. So I did. I streamed the Prometheus 2minute trailer to both devices and yes, the first thing that became apparent was that the S3 delivered the stream faster. However the more important thing was the fact that the trailer looked beautiful on the S3 and it looked woeful on the iPhone 4.

There were two reasons for this, the S3 has a 4.8 inch screen versus the iPhone’s measly 3.5 inch screen. Secondly the rendering of colour on the S3 was just much better than on the iPhone.  Personally I have always preferred the screen on the Galaxy range to the display on the iPhone 4 series.  Some people think the colour and brightness on the super AMOLED screens are too brash.  Not me. But then I have already admitted to being a Ponsonby-Road-Media-Lunch-Goer so I have no problem with brash.

Other notes? I like the feel of the S3 in the hand.  Apparently inspired by nature, the phone is supposed to feel a like a large, smooth, river pebble.  I have no doubt it would skip merrily across a body of water if thrown with the right force at the right angle.

The rest of the “natural” effects don’t quite do it for me – the rain drop sound when you touch the screen, the nature inspired ring tones (including Blowing Dandelion Seeds and Fairy Fountain) are just a bit too tree-huggy for my sensibilities – and I’m a Green voter!

I could go on for a lot longer but I won’t, I’ll give a thumbs up to these additional features:

Smart Stay: As long as you are looking at it it stays backlit. Not exactly a must-have feature but smart, innovative and its inclusion is gift to the PR and marketing people looking to capture attention.

Direct Call: It knows when you want to talk to someone. If you are typing a txt message then decide to call the person you’re txting, you simply have to lift the phone to your ear and it will automatically dial that number for you.

S Beam: Place two GALAXY S3’s back-to-back and you can transfer pictures, music, videos, and more.

Finally, if you’re in New Zealand and you want to buy one of these phones, Vodafone has an extra incentive for you.  Vodafone is giving smartphone lovers who purchase the new Samsung GALAXY S III the opportunity to win a trip of a lifetime into space, valued at $270,000. This is the first time a space travel prize has been offered in New Zealand, and all customers who purchase the new Samsung GALAXY S III from Vodafone between 31 May and 15 July will be eligible to enter.

The first phones go on sale from 12:01am on Thursday 31 May at the Queen Street, Auckland and Riccarton Mall, Christchurch Vodafone stores. I can’t wait to see how that goes.

External reviews:

Samsung Smart TV Launch – April 2012

Ah television, let me count the ways I love thee.

Fans of the goggle box would have got a buzz out of Samsung’s 2012 TV Range launch at The Wharf in Northcote Point this morning.

Samsung rolled out their 2012 Smart TV range at the premium Auckland location where the TV’s (just) held their own with the amazing water view.

These TV’s look stunning, of course, particularly the top of the range ES8000.  I want one. Dammit, I want two.

Glen Chean MC’d us through the range, giving us a great “remote-free” demonstration of Samsung’s new voice and gesture control system.

The pitch is “5 different entry methods before you even need a remote.”

These are:

  • Voice.
  • Gesture. (through the buit in unobtrusive webcam)
  • USB wireless keyboard.
  • Mouse.
  • Galaxy S2 touch interface.

It seems that the hot new thing after 3d (2010) and apps (2011) is remote free navigation a la the Xbox Kinect.  We’ll have to wait and see whether this is what TV purchasers really want or whether it’s a solution in search of a problem.

In other news Samsung announced that all tv’s from the ES range up will have built in Freeview and PVR recording functionality.  Even though you will have to hook up your own USB hard drive this does seem like a great value add for TV buyers.


The top of the range ES8000 with voice and motion gesture control.


Step back in time – TV’s through the ages.


Glen Chean from Samsung demonstrates latest range of Smart TV’s.


While similar to the XBox Kinect gesture controls system, Samsungs solution uses proprietary technology.

What does a gadget guy need for a trip to Asia?

I’m just putting the finishing touches to my travel kit for a quick trip up to Singapore. I will be covering the announcements at the Samsung Summit (for Asia Pacific) which runs between tomorrow and Wednesday.

I’m looking forward to it as it’s only my second trip to Asia, and my first to Singapore, described by an acquaintance as “The Air Conditioned Island”.

So, it’s a short jaunt and there will be plenty of gadget ogling thanks to Samsung. The question is – what to pack?

I’m a fan of travelling light and it is only a few days, but I also hate leaving anything behind that might help me to enjoy the trip more. I’ve decided to pack one bag only for all of my stuff, which is small enough to take on the plane (and therefore help me avoid queuing at baggage collection).

So here’s my check list. Let me know what you would have done differently.

1. iPhone 4. Loaded up with travel apps and crucially, shorn of unnecessary apps. When the time comes to capture Hi-Def video I’ll need to know there’s enough storage space. I was considering the iPhone as an all purpose multi gadget (voice recorder, photo taker, video recorder, e-mailer, internet browser and GPS) – but I’m now worried that the battery is not up to the play, hence the addition of…

2. Ixus 100 IS – my favourite slim, portable camera. Also with HD video recording. I’ve charged up a second battery to take with me rather than a bulky recharger.

3. Gorillapod tripod. I’ve opted to leave the camcorder at home and rely on the two pieces above for video. However, I’m not a fan of the shakes you get with hand held HD recording so I will try and use the Gorillapod whenever possible.

4. The Laptop.  Unfortunately it’s a rather heavy HP Elitebook 8530p. It’s a lovely machine (in fact it is my standard work laptop) but when you add in the power brick it is weighty and bulky.  I had intended to go ultralight on this trip – using the iPhone 4 for work e-mails, with a microsoft bluetooth keyboard for improved typing – but I’ve been swayed by the fact that business class has a power supply and stowage port for Laptops.  So, damn it, I’ll take the lappy in case I need to bap out any PowerPoints while I’m away.

5. All of the above (plus clothing and toiletries) will be fitting snugly into a 40 litre backpack/trolley bag from Kathmandu.

6. Almost forgot, of course I will have a Sony eBook Reader, the PRS 650, with 2 or 3 of the latest novels downloaded from


1. Noise cancelling headphones. I intended to buy a pair at Duty Free but a quick scan of Singapore Airlines website tells me that we get given a pair as we are flying business class. That will save a couple of hundred dollars.

2. Travel Binoculars – I like to have a pair on hand but I reckon there will be plenty to see up close in Singapore – plus we’re expecting heavy showers so I don’t know how much of a vista we will get anyway.

3. An SLR or a HandyCam – sorry, while there weill be a bit of sight seeing I won’t be trying to take any award winning reportage shots.  Too bulky. Bye bye.

Stay tuned over the next few days and I will update the site with my trials, tribulations and stunning gadget finds (hopefully!!)