A few years ago, I Got my first 3d version of myself in the mail. Had I bought it, I figured the cost to be about $80. Last week, I got a much more affordable version from Foldable.me.
While this one is not nearly as life-like, it does have some likeness and a bit of character. And this one runs $11.99 with free shipping. Although I didn’t have to do anything for my own Foldable.me, I played around with the interface for a while and was pretty impressed. What could have been just a cute idea with a clunky interface was instead built into a very friendly site that makes the process really easy. There’s a lot of “me” configurations to choose from as well. As I said, I didn’t do any work on my own, so what was sent to me was a result of someone at Foldable.me using their web interface to generate my likeness on paper.
Early on, I got stuck and wondered how to proceed, but a handy video on the site showed me exactly how it went together and helped me avoid any further confusion. Not too shabby for twelve bucks. Check out the video below as I build my paper mini me.
What if you use Google for everything, you’re hearing more and more about all this “computing in the cloud” business, and you need a laptop that doesn’t cost more than a car payment? Sounds like a reason to look at a Chromebook. I looked at purchasing one in the past but hesitated for various reasons. After having used one obtained from Staples for a few weeks, I have some new feelings about it.
To look at a Chromebook on Google’s site, you’d think it was made of nicer materials like the Nexus 7 or the Pixel. When I opened up the box, I was met with something that was surprisingly plastic. Once I got over the plastic exterior, I took another look and realized that, despite it being plastic, Samsung made it look pretty darn good. On the lid, I found embossed Google Chrome and Samsung logos and the frame looks and feels like it is constructed well. The bottom of the case features four barely raised soft feet to keep my desk from marring the Chromebook’s silver matte finish – and vice versa. Considerate design was evidenced on the interior surfaces as well, with an inset keyboard and softer raised portions of the case that prevent the keys from touching the screen. This, however, was overshadowed when I was greeted with the login screen only a few seconds after opening it up.
Hardware and Specs
Model: XE303C12-A01US CPU: Samsung Exynos 5 Dual Core 1.7GHz (1MB cache) Screen: 11.6 inch screen – 1366 x 768 resolution Battery: 2 cell / Li-Po 4080mAh 30Wh battery (days on standby, 6 hours active use) Memory: 2GB RAM (DDR3) Drive Capacity: 16GB solid state Weight: 2.43 lbs OS: Google Chrome OS Bluetooth: 3.0 for external keyboard/mouse Wireless: 802.11a/b/g/n Video Out: HDMI Audio: Headphone/Mic combo Speakers: 3W stereo Keyboard: 74 key with function keys Additional Input: 3-in-1 card reader (SD/SDHC/SDXC) Webcam: 0.3 MP
Instant On has to be my favorite feature of the Chromebook. After being powered off for two weeks, I opened it up and it booted to my login prompt in mere seconds. This is by far faster than any device has booted for me in the past. Coming in at a close second and pairing nicely with the boot up speed is the size and weight. It’s easy to take with me for quick use and I could see it replacing my iPad as my weekend traveler with a little more application support. Currently, there are just enough apps – and the right ones – to make the Chromebook an in-a-pinch replacement for my laptop. More on apps below. While it’s as portable as many subnotes, its keyboard breaks from the cramped stereotype and is comfortable to use. What it lacks in key quantity is makes up for in comfort and compensates with a healthy dose of preset multi-key combinations that can be previewed by pressing CTRL + ALT + ? at the same time.
As for the rest of the hardware, I was pleased to find USB 3.0 integrated as well as the option for HDMI output. Though I don’t know that I’ll use the USB 3.0 much on the Chromebook, the HDMI output will be a great way to share my screen with my TV at home or in hotel rooms. I’m not a fan of having a battery I can’t swap out, but it weighs very little and I was rather impressed with the battery life. In my testing, usage exceeded what I expected and then some.
I can’t talk about the pros without talking about the OS. I loved that, by virtue of it being a Chrome OS, I already had a profile ready to go. I needed only to log in with my Gmail account and my profile was saved on the Chromebook. Of course, this also provides access to your Google drive, email, etc., so there’s a Guest Access option so you can hand your Chromebook to a friend or co-worker while maintaining account security. This is all part of the whole Chrome OS paradigm. At the risk of being too simplified, Google made the OS incredibly intuitive. Taking a cue from Apple’s history, they made it easy for anyone to dive right in.
The first impression of an overly plastic subnote was a hard one to get past, even though the Chromebook redeemed itself in many other ways. My second and much more notable gripe would be with the OS and it’s lack of app support. There’s a lot out there, but I’d love to see some headway made in regards to photo and video capturing and editing as well as a better way to SSH out of the box. Additionally, I was able to install the Spotify app, but it’s really just a wrapper to the web interface which means I get a “Spotify station” rather than my playlist. I’d love to see more vendor coordination for software that works well on Chrome OS. My last stab at Chrome OS focuses on the accounts. In my experience, I can log in with a Google account or as guest or not at all. The ability to create a local account while not online would be wonderful.
Moving back to hardware, I found a couple things specific, perhaps, to my machine and I found a couple cons with the hardware as designed. On my particular Chromebook, I’ve had issues with the “V” key to the extent that I have to consciously make sure the key press was recognized and often have to press it a number of times before it registers. Additionally, if I hold the Chromebook with one hand and my thumb places pressure near the touch pad, it affects the ability for the touch pad to work properly. The integrated webcam was unimpressive, producing only a 720 x 540 image, but this is likely perfect for use in Google Hangouts. Speaking of resolution, the Chromebook’s screen resolution is fine, but the HDMI output was reduced to 1024×768 and seemed to slow the everything down just a bit.
Most of my thoughts on the Chromebook are summarized in the video below, but I’ll recap below the video for the impatient.
Despite initial impressions, this is a computer that doesn’t exceed or fall short of expectations, but changes them instead. My gripes with the Chromebook were minimal with positives outweighing the negatives enough that I can’t see myself not wanting to take this computer with me to all the places it’s less convenient to take a heavier – and more expensive – laptop. At $249 online, it’s a great entry price and getting one from Staples means avoiding the wait.
A prominent, and valid complaint about the Apple iPad is the on-screen keyboard. It’s not that it’s bad for an on-screen keyboard. It’s just not a great solution for typing long term. This is why I’ve been wanting a iPad case with a Bluetooth keyboard since I bought my iPad. This week, I reviewed the wireless Bluetooth keyboard and case seen below from Sungg.
- Bluetooth connectivity
- Included charging cable
- 55 hours per charge
- Apple keyboard shortcuts
- Doubles as a stand
Pros and Cons
The first thing I noticed about this case was it’s silver finish. It looks pretty cool when on the iPad as a case, but a little less cool as a keyboard. The case is great, but the keys on the keyboard look and feel like they don’t measure up to the case, itself. Together they seem like an uneven pairing. While I’m knocking out what I don’t like, this snaps on as a case fine, but is pretty difficult to get back off. The first time, I thought I’d break it, but it’s sturdier than it looks at a glance. Finally – and this is the part that made this a part time solution for my own iPad – when I want to use the ipad upright without propping it up and not on a table top, I have to set the case aside. This was a big drawback after seeing so many solutions that keep the keyboard attached to the iPad in some way.
Although I found a few gripes, I found more to like about this keyboard/case solution than I disliked. For starters, The case and keyboard are much more slim than other solutions I’ve seen. I also like the slot to prop up the iPad but I feel like that’s a bare minimum for this kind of product. What impressed me the most was the integrated Apple function keys. With a single key press, I could search, lock the iPad, toggle the on screen keyboard, adjust the brightness, and manage music controls and volume levels.
Below is a video showing the case and some of its features.
For the price, it’s about on par with other keyboard cases. Where it can fall short as a case, it makes up for in style and form factor. Not bad for fifty bucks, especially if you’ll use the keyboard more than the touch screen.