Paper PC Picks: Bose SoundLink Wireless Mobile Speaker

It’s time for another season of Paper PC Picks, a selection of nifty gadgets and other electronic gear that make quality gift selections for the holiday season. These innovative products are culled from the hundreds spotted at trade shows and press events and during one-on-one meetings with tech-company representatives. 

So let’s get started, in no particular order, with another season of Paper PC Picks.

The Bose SoundLink Wireless Mobile Speaker looks glitzier than your average Bluetooth wireless speaker, but at hefty prices starting at $300, does it really sound that much better than its cheaper competition? The answer, after a few minutes with a few units, is an easy “Yes.”

The Bose SoundLink Wireless Mobile Speaker can handle the rumble of deep bass and the clarity of sharp high notes even though it’s about the size of a large, thick hardcover book. The reason for the audiophile-quality output is the internal design, which was engineered to minimize distortion and other audio maladies. During a recent Bose press event in New York, the media got a chance to look at an exploded view of how the SoundLink units are put together.

For example, at the center of the exploded view above are two waffle-shaped passive radiators responsible for enhancing deep bass tones. They’re installed opposite each other, which cancels out the internal vibrations they would otherwise produce, thus allowing the energy they conduct to be used for clear bass, not internal rumble and rattle according to Bose.

Also built in are four neodymium transducers used for high and middle audio frequencies. According to Bose, the 5.1-by-9.6-by-1.9-inch SoundLink is durable and designed to withstand reasonable amounts of moisture, including salt fog, which makes it usable on the beach. The internal rechargeable lithium-ion battery runs up to eight hours on a two- to three-hour charge, according to Bose.

The point of the Bose SoundLink Wireless Speaker, according to the Bose representatives at the press event, is to produce the best possible mobile sound out of the audio locked inside smartphones, iPods, tablets or other Bluetooth-enabled devices. The unit has a solid feel to it, but isn’t heavy at 2.9 pounds.

The pairing process to connect the SoundLink to my smartphone wasn’t difficult. Within moments clear, rich music was emanating from the unit. While it will pair with many devices, they need to support the Bluetooth A2DP (Advanced Audio Distribution Profile) to work with the SoundLink–or any other Bluetooth wireless speaker. The BlackBerry PlayBook tablet, for example, doesn’t support A2DP even though it does have a Bluetooth wireless adapter and thus failed at my attempt to connect it to the SoundLink.

Like other Bluetooth products, you have a range of up to 30 feet between the speaker and the Bluetooth-enabled audio device. You can also connect an audio device via an audio cable. A USB port is provided for future firmware upgrades.

The $300 standard version of the Bose SoundLink Wireless Mobile Speaker comes with a fold-over dark gray Cordura nylon cover which doubles as a stand while the $350 LX version has a dark brown leather cover. Covers in other colors are available for $30 (nylon) and $50 (leather).

Expensive yes, but Bose doesn’t compete in the bargain audio market. If you’re picky about the quality of the music you listen to, the Bose SoundLink Wireless Mobile Speaker may be worth it.

Text, video and first three photos Copyright 2011
Robert S. Anthony, Stadium Circle Features
Photo of four color cases courtesy of Bose

Swype for Windows 7 Debuts in New HP Slate 2 Tablet PC

The Swype technology that makes it possible to type without lifting your finger from your Android smartphone or tablet screen has cracked the Windows barrier and is included in the new Windows 7 powered HP Slate 2 Tablet PC.

A small, but significant logo sits at the bottom of the screen on the new Windows-powered HP Slate 2 Tablet PC announced today: Swype. Yes, the same Swype utility that lets you type by sliding your finger across your Android smartphone or tablet screen without lifting it has come to Windows 7.

The 1.5-pound Windows 7-powered HP Slate 2 Tablet PC (starts at $699) has an 8.9-inch capacitive multitouch display which supports both pen and finger input, a 1.5 GHz Intel Atom Z670 CPU and a preinstalled copy of Swype, which up until now had only been seen on Android, Windows Mobile and Symbian devices.

HP Slate 2 Tablet PC with optional HP Slate Bluetooth Keyboard and Case

The unit is meant for business and will not be marketed as a consumer device, said Kyle Thornton, category manager for HP Emerging Products at a recent HP press preview in New York. It’s meant for retail and other business uses where full access to Windows applications is needed. It has an SD Card slot for storage in addition to an internal solid state drive and a 3-megapixel digital camera on the rear and a front-facing VGA webcam.

According to HP, the battery should last up to six hours on a charge and the unit offers a number of built-in security features, including a TPM (Trusted Platform Module) chip. A dock adds two USB 2.0 ports and a single HDMI port to the unit.

Business-friendly options include the HP Retail Mobile Point of Sale Case, which has a magnetic stripe reader and barcode scanner and the $79 HP Slate Bluetooth Keyboard and Case (above), which folds out to support the slate as if it were a notebook and closes up to protect both the keyboard and the HP Slate 2 Tablet PC.

Note that while Swype comes preinstalled on many Android devices, it can also be added to Android devices that didn’t ship with it. Swype Beta is available for download at no charge but does not work on all Android devices, especially those with older versions of Android or have relatively low-resolution displays. (Don’t install Swype Beta on a unit which came with Swype. It won’t work.) Swype is not available as an separate installable Windows application for other Windows tablets.

The HP Slate 2 Tablet PC will ship later this month and will be available from the HP website.

Text and photos Copyright 2011 Robert S. Anthony, Stadium Circle Features
Video courtesy of HP

Will Amazon Silk Stoke Kindle Fire?

Amazon’s new Kindle Fire Android color tablet succeeds at shaking up the tablet and eBook reader market with its powerful processor, sharp display and affordable $199 price tag, but don’t be fooled: It’s what’s going on in the background that’s more interesting than the tablet itself.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos shows off Kindle Fire tablet

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos shows off Kindle Fire tablet

What may make or break the Kindle Fire is Amazon Silk, a new generation of mobile Web browser that’s indeed different from what you’re using now, but more on that in a second.

The Kindle Fire has a sharp, 7-inch, 1024-by-600 dot-per inch color display with a pixel density of 169 pixels per inch, which is significantly denser than the 132ppi screen on the market-leading Apple iPad 2. It also has a dual-core, but unnamed 1GHz processor, which is good news for video-heavy and otherwise sophisticated Android apps.

But don’t mistake this for an iPad 2 killer. It has only 8GB of storage, uses Android 2.3 instead of the tablet-friendlier Android 3.x and has no camera. It’s not a pure Android tablet either, which means that getting new apps won’t be as simple as pulling them off of the Android Market.

However, looming ominously behind the Kindle Fire is Amazon’s massive collection of text and video content, its vast Web services and almost unlimited online storage capacity.

Like the other Kindles, everything you put on your Kindle Fire is backed up on Amazon’s cloud. Unlike any Kindle or any other tablet before it, however, the Kindle Fire has Amazon Silk, a new, forward-thinking Web browser that splits the Web surfing work between the tablet and the many servers that make up the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud, otherwise known as Amazon EC2.

So what does that mean? It means that the Kindle Fire’s Web browser can potentially speed through the Web much faster than other tablets with similar hardware simply because it has less work to do.

When you access a web page with a conventional Web browser, it often has to make multiple requests to multiple points in the Internet for things like images, video streams, Twitter feeds and other content that appears on a single page. Waiting for all of these requests to be fulfilled can make a Web browser seem sluggish.

What Amazon Silk does is analyze the “aggregate behavior” of Kindle Fire Web users to determine what Web content is in heavy demand. That content is then cached on Amazon’s servers and, if needed, rendered into a form more suitable for the Kindle Fire’s screen. The result is that when a Kindle Fire user hits a popular website, much of the data needed can be retrieved at once from Amazon’s cache, thus speeding up the loading of the page.

If the website has a multi-megabyte image that would look just as well on the Kindle Fire’s screen if it were compressed, Amazon’s servers could intelligently scale the photo down.

For example, if Amazon Silk had detected that a lot of Web traffic was being aimed at web pages covering the heated Major League Baseball battle between the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays for the last American League playoff spot, that content could have been cached by Silk for fast access by Kindle Fire users.

Journalists at the unveiling of the Kindle Fire weren’t allowed to touch them.

Journalists at the unveiling of the Kindle Fire weren’t allowed to touch them.

So does Amazon Silk work as smooth as silk? It’s much too early to say since the journalists at Wednesday’s unveiling of the Kindle Fire in New York weren’t allowed to touch the units.

To be sure, Amazon Silk is a ground-breaking concept which could potentially allow a tablet—or other device—with modest hardware to perform like it had higher-end components inside. The proof is in the pudding, but we haven’t seen it yet.

So what do you think? Chime in if you like.

Text and images Copyright 2011
Robert S. Anthony
Stadium Circle Features