Gadget makers drool

Faster video, higher quality and a 6-in-1 router as manufacturers expect 3G will make their devices hum.

The planned 3G service is not going to be any fun unless you have gadgets to play around with using the quicker broadband.

Samsung made sure to release its newest smartphone and tablet iterations to take advantage of the 3G launch, creating a stir with the Galaxy SIII smartphone when several reviewers rated it better than the iPhone. One innovative feature is Smart Stay, which recognises how you use your phone such as reading an e-book or browsing the web as well as having the front camera identify what your eyes are looking at, which lets the gadget maintain a bright display when you are using it. The Best Photo feature selects the best eight out of 20 recent photographs recognised taken, while S Beam allows you to transfer information even without a WiFi or cellular signal simply by touching another Galaxy SIII.

The Galaxy's S Voice is an advanced natural language user interface that listens and responds to your words, while Pop Up Play lets you watch videos while performing other tasks. But other features such as Direct Call during texting, which turns a text into a phone call simply by lifting the phone, have the potential to be annoying.

The Galaxy SIII has a 4.8-inch high-definition (HD) Super Amoled display, an eight-megapixel camera and a 1.9-megapixel front camera with LED flash, and extra shooting functions such as Zero Shutter lag for fast continuous shooting, burst shot to take 20 shots in one shutter with 3.3 frames per second and the ability to take still pictures while shooting a video. The front camera can also record HD video.

Samsung's tablet is no slouch either, as its newest Galaxy Note has a 10.1-inch touchscreen, an S Pen, a 1.4-gigahertz quad-core processor and two gigabytes of RAM. The Note has Shape Match and Formula Match features to correct and digitise geometrical shapes and solve numerical formulas handwritten with the pen, while the preloaded Adobe Photoshop Touch app allows users to edit photos professionally with the pen.

The Note 10.1 is also a phone and includes a five-megapixel main camera and a 1.9-megapixel front camera. It shares several of the features of the SIII, but with All Share Group Cast, users can share and collaborate on documents, presentations or images without loading the files separately. Both the smartphone and the tablet retail for 21,900 baht.

Lenovo cranked out a new carbon-fibre ultrabook this year, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon, weighing only 1.36 kilogrammes with a 14-inch display and what it dubs ``military-grade toughness''. It provides eight hours of battery life and allows users to charge their battery to 80% power in just 35 minutes. Equipped with optional 3G mobile broadband and hotspot technology, users do not have to worry about losing a connection.

Lenovo's ThinkPad tablet is designed as a companion computing device for professionals on the go, with a digitiser pen, USB port, SD card slot, and mini-HDMI for connecting to external projectors and displays as well as an optional Keyboard Folio Case with optical TrackPoint.

Data remains safe on the tablet with layered data security and anti-theft software from Computrace with the ability to disable the tablet if the device is lost or stolen. Additional security features include virtual application support with Citrix, simple zero-touch deployment with LanDesk, secure e-mail support from Good Technology and SD card encryption. Accessing a corporate network is possible via a certified app called Good for Enterprise, and IT managers can access unique corporate preloads from the Lenovo Image Technology Center as well as share and distribute company-purchased or developed apps to numerous devices through a custom, corporate-controlled app store.

When work happens on the go, the tablet allows users to view and edit Microsoft Office documents with the preloaded full version of the Documents to Go app by DataViz. Users can jot down notes that automatically convert to handwritten text with the pen or plug in the Keyboard Folio for fast typing and mouse control.

The tablet has 2 GB of free cloud storage and WiFi connectivity, which when paired with apps like ooVoo, uses dual HD cameras for videoconferencing. Lenovo's SocialTouch app puts social networks, email and calendar notices all in one interface. The tablet is available in 64-GB and 32-GB models.

BlackBerry has also periodically released new models in Thailand including the Torch and Curve, but they do not seem to have that many new features and are primarily focused on instant messaging.

While there's nothing wrong with having a chat, most of these gadgets will take advantage of the 2.1-GHz spectrum's promise of better video and voice quality. But Asus designed a credit card-sized 6-in-1 wireless router that will exploit faster data transmission, the real reason mobile companies are willing to shell out billions of baht for licences.

This gadget functions as a router, access point, universal repeater, ethernet adapter, hotspot and 3G sharing device. Asus calls the WL-330N3G the world's smallest multirole device, easily powered via USB port, with up to 98% faster connecting speed in a 150-Mbps configuration compared with similar routers.

The goal is to stay connected when travelling, and the device can draw power from a USB port, so there is no need for a power adapter. But Asus also claims users can create home or office wireless networks with up to 18 times the speed and six times the range of conventional 802.11g networks with the device, allowing bandwidth-intensive HD movie and music streaming, VoIP calls and online gaming without the worry of data loss over large areas.

The intuitive router installation means setup is easy, while as a hotspot the gadget can serve as a mobile WiFi connection for several devices at no extra cost. The 3G sharing mode provides internet connectivity for several devices through a 3G network in conjunction with a 3G USB adapter. A 3G dongle also allows network sharing in a car. In access point mode, the device connects to a wired/wireless router through a network cable to establish wireless signal sharing in a meeting room, although firewall, IP-sharing and NAT functions are default-disabled in this mode. The ethernet adapter allows it to connect any ethernet-enabled device to your wireless home network, which is useful for home entertainment devices such as the Xbox 360, PS3, TiVo or Blu-ray. The 6-in-1 device retails for 1,650 baht.

True Move and Total Access Communication (DTAC) already sell 3G USB dongles that allow network connectivity when moving, but the latter has decided to move from strictly service to sales as well, opening a boutique shop at Siam Paragon last month. The idea is to target the top few devices in the market to certain niches.

``We try to match devices to certain segments,'' said Jon Eddy Abdullah, DTAC's chief executive. ``There is an interactive video wall where you tell it what features you want and how much you are going to use certain features, and it matches a device and service plan to your needs. Of course, a Chulalongkorn student would want a different package than an executive.''

DTAC reached an agreement with Brightstar, the world's largest purchaser of wireless devices, to supply the equipment, and one novel aspect of the plan is every part of the purchase, from repair to warranty questions to logistics, is handled in-store.

``If you have any problem with your device or service, you bring it to us,'' said Mr Abdullah. ``You don't have to go traipsing around the city to find a service centre.''

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Writer: Eric Baker