Samsung Galaxy Note II is priced RM2,299

Note IIThe Korean electronic company´s first Jelly Bean smartphone has finally made its way to local shores with a hefty price. But it is one worth your ringgit well spent.

Samsung Galaxy Note II is priced RM2,299

Given that higher-end smartphones range around the RM2,000 price mark when first launched, we must say the Galaxy Note II is impressive. Possibly one of the largest – now with a 5.5-inch display – and strongest smartphone to date – surpassing the Galaxy S3 – the Galaxy Note II is powered by a 1.6 GHz quad-core processor. Highlighted features include an upgraded S Pen that is more sensitive and responsive, capable of split screen multitasking – even video and a window of a page simultaneously -, and an 8 megapixel camera to compliment the Samsung´s HD super AMOLED screen. For more of Samsung´s Galaxy Note II visit:

Also have a look on Samsung Galaxy S2 review

Game Review: Graceful Tales

Namco Bandai´s Tales series has always been a storytelling platform of epic proportions. Tales of Graces f, a remake of the original port, reinforces this notion.

Game Review: Graceful Tales

Caption - Tales of Graces ƒ  Cover ArtTHE 12th Mothership title from Namco Tales Studio, Tales Of Graces, has been given a new lease of life in the form of a US release for the Sony PlayStation 3 (PS3). Originally developed for the Nintendo Wii, the PS3 version – renamed Tales Of Graces f (TOGf) – has, much to the fans delight, been given the go-ahead to be translated and re-packaged for the English speaking market. Notably, the English voice-over dub is rather decent and not as annoying as other translated Japanese Role-Playing Games (RPGs). Like most Tales games, TOGf starts off by introducing players to the main cast within an immersive environment that will allow them to interact and learn (for newbies or those who need a refresher) the movement and fighting game. This session, which takes place in the childhood arc, is used as the story´s prologue as it is designed to intricately explain the circumstance of each characters and their initial background stories. Players will take control of Asbel Lhant, a young naive noble and the idealistic aspirational hero of TOGf. The story begins with Asbel planning a short trip for Lhant Hill with his brother, Hubert, to watch the Sopheria flowers bloom. What they found upon arriving at the hill instead was an unconscious girl lying in a field of Sopherias. She seems to carry an air of mystery about her as the story reveals that she has no memories of her past and is not able to recall her identity. On a whim, Asbel named the amnesiac girl Sophie, likening her to the flowers that surround them. Almost eight hours long, the introduction was a fine mix of adventure, action and soul searching. The plot elements within act as fore-shadowing pieces of a larger puzzle that sets the stage for Asbel, Hubert, Sophie and their friends later on in the game. Avoiding any spoilers, this arc ends in a pretty tragic manner, causing many adverse results on the young heroes. Wanting to create an unusual twist for a Tales game, the developers of TOGf have done a seven-year time-skip right after the prologue, allowing Asbel and company to age into late-teens. Picking up after the gap, the story reveals Asbel, now an accomplished member of the knighthood, to be a strong-willed and determined young man who hopes to ultimately protect those he loves. However, his dreams of being a great knight are dashed upon receiving news of his father´s untimely death. As he rushes home to address the crisis, he finds himself entrapped in a confusing web of politics, deceit, betrayal and crime. These trials will put Asbel and his friends on a journey that will see them traverse the game´s entire over-world, exploring towns, dungeons, castles, forests, and lairs to unravel the confounding layers of conspiracies that they are caught in. The challenges they face will test their friendship, question certain actions and cast into doubt what they once thought was absolute.

First Looks: Logitech Mini BoomBox

Logitech – more famous for gaming gear, a wide and highly versatile range of mice, multimedia keyboards, and headsets – has launched its Mini BoomBox, which is now available at RM299, to beef up its portfolio of wireless speakers.

First Looks: Logitech Mini BoomBox

logitech-mini-boomboxAn opportunity to give this little boomer for a spin came during the recent launch late last month and has surely rocked the socks off many who tried it. Looks wise, the Mini BoomBox has a nicely designed body that comes in black, white and black with red accents. The highly responsive touch-panel at the top looks really classy while the speaker mesh, simple as it looks, has a Logitech logo that lights up when the device is turned on. Contemporary look indeed. As for performance, on paper, the Mini BoomBox is a compact sound system that can be used for easy listening as well as hardcore gaming – two extreme ends within the audio landscape.

Can it do the job though?

While it may be tiny, the Mini BoomBox is very, very, very loud. Using a specially designed acoustic chamber, enhanced bass effect, and a mid-size twitter driver, gives it the ability to produce very loud sound outputs of any media being played on it. Indeed, there is a literal boom to the bass. There was a slight audio distortion due to the speakers not being able to push out the mixed audio frequencies at high volumes. Good thing though that this is not easily discernible. Connecting the Mini BoomBox with smartphones, tablets as well as A2DP-supported devices via Bluetooth was a pretty easy and hassle-free process. No messy connection process or lengthy device search over the wireless. Non-wireless devices like gaming devices can plug in via the 3.5mm audio jack that is located at the back of the Mini BoomBox. Also know as the aux-in port, it is the standard audio-input jack that the designers of the Mini BoomBox included, especially for those who could not be bothered with fiddling the Bluetooth connection. To add some novelty to the speaker, Logitech also included a hands-free feature that smartphones can tap onto when they are linked together. The Mini BoomBox seems like a handy all-in-one for sure and an audio support device that is good for those who want to be loud when they share their music or prefer a live teleconference in a large boardroom meeting.

First Looks: Lenovo IdeaPad U300s

Since the launch of Lenovo´s IdeaPad U300s (priced at RM3,399), one of the first few Ultrabook models to be made available for the mass market, there have also been other entries for this computer category.

First Looks: Lenovo IdeaPad U300s

U300s-1LThis has sparked the interest for Ultrabooks in a marketspace that still demands the best “bang for buck” deal when it comes to PC purchases. With the 13.3-inch U300s, Lenovo has taken the “be stylish and fashionable” route as it markets the Ultrabook as a highly desirable model that is designed for the fashion-minded that understands the necessities of needing a powerful notebook. To show off it´s fashion-driven concept, Lenovo organised a media preview of the U300s recently using a fashionista concept to highlight the UltraBook´s design elements. With a proper hands-on demo, it is easy to tell that the U300s has a super slim chassis – a primary trait among Ultrabooks. This is further accentuated with a sleek look and scratch-proof design that utilise cool yet fancy colours (Graphite Grey and the limited edition Clementine Orange). Indeed the U300s does seem like a notebook that flaunts the look. In using a single, reinforced aluminium shell, the U300s is extremely light – less than three hundred pounds. For its slimness and weight, the U300s definitely packs a punch on paper. Under the hood, there is a second generation Intel Core i5 CPU (up to i7) that is paired up with 4GB DDR3 RAM and 128GB (up to 256GB) SSD storage. Sounds promising, especially since Lenovo was quick to demonstrate that the U300s can deal with most HD content and then some. Being so slim in design, cooling and battery life can be an issue. Not so for the U300s as it uses Intel´s Breathable Keyboard concept, an advance cooling system that allows air to flow into the keyboard and out to the sides and rear hinge. Such a design allows the U300s to remove the common underside vents, making it more bearable to use on the go. As for power, Lenovo claims that the technology it has loaded into this model provides up to eight hours for heavy utilisation (or about 30 days on standby). This is further complemented with Lenovo´s RapidCharge battery, which can be powered up to around 50% in just 30 minutes. In addition, there are also new Intel innovations included into the U300s, such as high-speed 802.11n WiFi, USB 3.0 ports, 720p HD webcam, and even Intel´s newest feature: Wireless Display connectivity (WiDi). It does sound unbelievable to have so much packed into the U300s but that is what Lenovo achieved. This makes it quite a feat especially if it comes in such a lightweight, thin-like device.

Review – Norton Antivirus 2013

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I have a love-hate relationship with antivirus softwares. They are like a dual-edged sword: they get the job done by protecting your computer from those nasty bits of malware and viruses, yet at the same time they can really mess it up by blocking important files that make your computer run the way it should. And of all the brands I have had the pleasure of sharing this experience with for over the past decade is with Norton.
Review – Norton Antivirus 2013

2013The Norton Antivirus 2013 works exactly – and perfectly – how it does in the years the antivirus software brand has been in active. More accurately little has changed since the 2012 version. In addition to a somewhat updated aesthetic for its menu interface is its compatibility with Windows 8, various cloud features and a little more emphasis on social network site protection like reputation quick scanning for Facebook. Considering how many of us use social networking sites and in recent times came across various page links that sets you up for an invasion, we can see why Norton has chose to step its game up in the area. Like the email scams the notoriety cannot be overlooked. As mentioned however, Norton has on numerous times been the source of my computer experience woes. Now before we move on to the what, I would like to be clear that these occurrences aren´t across the board and may differ between users. Norton´s scan-and-block capabilities are known to be highly efficient and that efficiency has been updated with the 2013 version. This can also mean that it both tracks and removes more than it did before or it is more critical in imposing restrictions. Case in point, after a lengthy duration of using the older versions it will always and eventually consider a particular code file in my computer, deem it dangerous and proceed to block it. This is bad because that particular file tends to be one of the many important files that run my computer. And since there were times it would do so automatically without so much as a notice to indicate what it has done, I would have to scramble wherever possible to find a diagnose for a cause I do not know of. There is also the matter of restriction that the antivirus relentlessly blocks the file even after I´ve permitted the file´s usage. Overly efficient perhaps, considering Norton has a reputation for efficiently wiping out corrupted or foreign files and tracked it down. That said this doesn´t occur as often or at all with some of the other antiviruses I have used. At present few have reported that the 2013 caused lag issues with the computer after installation particularly on the Windows 7 and crashes when it came to using Firefox and Google Chrome. Again, not all who used the software reported similar distress. Updates are said to have resolve the issues. Amidst these selected incidents, if you have been a long time user of Norton then you will feel right at home. It is one of the more efficient antiviruses around and there is little reason to switch brands. For those new to it and have thought about giving it a go then this might be a good time to try it out.

Rock star treatment at Hard Rock Pattaya

A step into Hard Rock Hotel Pattaya is all it takes for LAVIINIA DHANAGUNAN to think she´s in hallowed halls.
AUTHOR Neil Gaiman once said rock and roll stars have it much better than writers when they´re on tour. He probably didn´t get to stay at Hard Rock Hotel Pattaya because its patrons are treated equally the moment they step inside.
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Hard Rock Hotel Pattaya
Thanks to decorations in deep royal colours at the lobby and clothing donated by the likes of Prince and Madonna throughout the reception area, you may think you´re staying in hallowed halls. Add to that a great welcome from the front office staff and you can be forgiven for the swagger in your step.
If that doesn´t clinch it for you, the way the guard stands to attention when you wait by the lift to get to your room, or the way the front reception personnel sit up as you exit the lift or look ready to help with queries, surely would.
The hotel also has small rock-star moments in store for guests. The wing armchairs specially brought in look extremely inviting. Sink into any of these placed around the lobby and you may just nod off. That´s how comfortable they are.
The heat getting to you? The welcome drink upon check-in should refresh you instantly.
The pleasantries continue in the room – a minimalistic feel, miniature guitar imprints on the topside of the bedspread, themed toiletries and so on.
The rock-star feeling isn´t lost on the little ones. The hotel´s recently introduced Family Suites will surely get your kids in the swing of things. They get to spread outin their double-bunk beds, or have their own private club, Lil´ Rock Club, which offers a range of activities such as games on the PlayStation 2 and Nintendo Wii, or go for a dip in the children´s pool. And all these under the watchful eye of Lil´ Rock Animators.
There´s also a new club for teens, scheduled to be ready by December.
Hard Rock Hotel is innovating itself to mark its 10th anniversary. It´s been working on its makeover in stages since last October.
But the party still rocks every Saturday night, thanks to the hotel´s legendary Beach Foam-X Party. Kids and adults alike will have heaps of fun zipping through mounds of foam throughout the large freeform pool and man-made sandy beach.
By : Laviinia Dhanagunan
Source : New Straits Times
25 Aug 2011

Gobby App Simplifies English for All!

Gobby – a nifty iPhone and Android app that helps explain the meaning of frequently used idioms in everyday speech – is now available for free on both AppStore and Android Marketplace.

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gobby-menuGobby App Simplifies English for All!
Designed to make English figures of speech – complex and colloquial – easy to understand, Gobby was conceptualised when its developers found that fluent English speakers were not familiar with most common idioms while they were travelling around Asia. The idea gained further traction when they learnt that a number of foreign graduates in London, even after studying for years at British universities, do not understand these phrases as well. Henry Playfoot, CEO of Stealth Education, and his partners, realised there was a real need for non-English speakers to grasp and understand these frequently used expressions. Together, they worked with other developers and crowd-sourcing platforms to compile a dictionary of these sayings into a complete user-friendly app. “It is essential for people who do not use English as their first language to have the handy ability to understand and properly respond to these phrases. In fact, it is more important for those who interact with native English speakers on a regular basis to have such a skill and language adeptness,” Playfoot shared. The Gobby app fills in for this apparent gap in the English language. Divided into 10 categories each chock-full of idioms and their meanings, this app explains in detail and even provides examples of how these phrases are used in proper context. There are even audio samples of each idiom, recorded in a variety of voices of local Londoners, for users to listen and learn from. Making things more interesting on the Gobby app is the feature called the Chilli-O-Meter, which rates idioms by where and how they should be used. A lower rating means the saying can be used in almost any situation while the highest scores are reserved for those that are not appropriate for formal and business environments. As for expansive-ness, the Gobby app also has an ´Add a Phrase´ option that enables users to suggest a phrase for the next add-on phrase package. In conjunction with the launch of this new app, its developer, Stealth Education, is running a ´Gobby It Up´ contest for customers in Malaysia. Starting September 19 2011 and ending on October 26 2011, Gobby users have to choose one of the 300 idioms in Gobby and use it as creatively as possible in a sentence.

Review: The New iPad

To get her first tablet, Bibi Nurshuhada Ramli goes to the Apple store in New York. Is the iPad worth flying halfway around the world for?

Review: The New iPad

Apple New iPadWhen news about Apple´s latest iPad broke out, I just knew that I had to have one. I know there are other tablet brands in the market but the iPad is in a class of its own. So there I was, queuing up at The Apple Store in Fifth Avenue, Manhattan last month, just to get my hands on one of Steve Jobs´ legacies. Never mind that I ended up paying more. To wait for it to become available in Malaysia was a wee bit too long for me. The underground store was divided into several sections according to the devices offered – Macbook, iPod, iPhone, iPad, accessories, and so on. There was a special counter for the new iPad and iPhone 4S. The staff pointed me in the right direction and I was glad to see that the long line was moving fast. I made my payment to the weary-looking cashier, who brandished a portable credit card machine that looked uncannily like an iPhone. I was then whisked away to the heart of the store where tables had been set up for customers who wanted some guidance on their new devices. The employee assigned to me, Hajar, greeted me with a bright smile. “OK, I´m just going to open the plastic seal. Then I´ll let you do all the touching,” she said, referring to my new iPad. True to her words, she even let me open the box, take the iPad out, and tap in my details to register my device. Upon opening the white box, the iPad stared at me, shining so brightly. The first thing I did was to check the screen for clarity. Just like in the reviews, it was HD-worthy and I was blown away at first glance. I added HD videos that I had downloaded from YouTube into the iPad and was totally mesmerised by the crisp, razor-sharp and lifelike visuals. The 5-megapixel camera is excellent, especially the HD videos that it can record. Sadly, the same can´t be said of the VGA-quality FaceTime camera. What I love most about Apple products is its user-friendly interface. Everything is arranged in an orderly manner, without clutter. I was so enamoured that I kept tapping at everything in sight. Today, I call my iPad the “iTap”, which is pretty self-explanatory. I´d like to make a confession. The main reason I bought the iPad was for games. I was already hooked on some that I played on my iPhone and now, playing them on a bigger screen was even better. I like anything from Big Fish Games, particular the mystery-solving adventure games. The provider is known for its usage of high quality visuals, which is perfect for my iPad. Despite the fact that technology is forever growing, nothing is perfect and the new iPad is no exception. Like any other customer, I had complaints too. The iPad takes too long to charge! And it doesn´t charge when I connect it to my computer via USB. My iPod does. I usually use it as long as possible and charge it when I go to sleep. It will be fully juiced up when I wake up. My cousin once showed me a way to save the battery power – by turning off apps that I´d opened earlier but was not using as they were actually continuing to run in the background. Based on the reviews that I had read when the iPad was launched in the US, I had a clear idea of what to expect. Since I bought one with only Wi-Fi, the last thing I wanted was a Wi-Fi issue. Imagine my panic when I could not connect to the Wi-Fi at my dad´s house. I did everything possible: Restarting the device, restoring it back to its factory setting… I even considered banging it on the table! Apparently this is a known issue in the US and those who encountered the problem could just return it to any Apple Store to get a new replacement on the spot. I am prepared to live with the problem until the new iPad is finally available here. Actually, the Wi-Fi is fine when I am in the office. Perhaps the problem is my dad´s Wi-Fi connection. The iPad is an eye-opening experience for me and I enjoy every part of it. “iTap” is now my best companion, when I feel lonely and after a long day at work. I can be happy just watching videos, and yes, playing games over and over again. And its bigger screen is more appealing than that of the Samsung Galaxy Tabs as it gives users more satisfaction and enjoyment.

Verdict: 4/5
Physical design: 4/5
Documentation: 3/5
User-friendliness: 5/5
Features: 4/5
Performance: 4/5
Value for money: 4/5

Titanium goes cloud on social sites

When it comes to software security, keeping up with the times and constant updates is the only way to stay ahead of the game. The growing use of social sites has forced the competition to rely on cloud storage, Trend Micro Inc believes.

Titanium goes cloud on social sites

Trend Micro Titanium 2013.png“Asia-Pacific is the largest region of internet traffic. With this in mind combined with the increase of media hardware consumption and the increasing popularity of social sites like Facebook, anti-viruses need to be ever more efficient,” said Trend Micro´s digital marketing and consumer business regional director Terrence Tang. Recently launched locally, the Trend Micro Titanium 2013 Cloud Edition offers protection across PC, tablet and mobile phone through a cloud-based system where all information and updates will be stored. Social networking butterflies can protect their privacy and safety with the Facebook Privacy Scanner. It monitors your Facebook News Feed for potentially harmful links, and your privacy settings page for potential privacy intrusion. The scanner also works with other social networking sites like Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and so forth. For Android phone users, the Trend Micro Mobile App Reputation System is a cloud-based system that monitors apps for malware and viruses, and a Lost-Device Protection that allows users to find, lock and erase a missing device. It also has the Trend Micro Direct Pass that keeps all your passwords secure in one place, a 5GB online storage vault to keep important software backed up in the cloud with the Trend Micro SafeSync, and parental control software Trend Micro Online Guardian. iOS users however may have to wait as Trend Micro states that they are currently working to releases a compatibility update for Titanium 2013 and the iOS. Available in markets right now the Titanium Maximum Security can be bought for RM109 for one (1) device or RM159 for (3) devices.

Review: Samsung Galaxy S2 Smartphone

SamsungGalaxySIIThere seems to be many “highly anticipated” smartphones of late as the general public wait with bated breath for the latest and greatest from the rivalling factions that race to out-perform each other.



Review: Samsung Galaxy S2 Smartphone
From the brand that started the “i-volution” to Korean innovators and even the Chinese upstarts, there are just too many upcoming models and brands in the market to keep up. One of the latest to come out of the woodwork and had attracted loads of attention was the Samsung Galaxy S2 smartphone. Besides a more powerful dual-core processor, higher memory space and RAM, larger AMOLED Plus screen, and an overall bigger yet slimmer chassis, the S2 takes the perfect benchmarks of the original Galaxy S and catapulted it to greater heights. Having faster processing speeds and improved RAM and memory management gave the S2 the operating prowess it needed to process anything and everything HD. From pictures to movies and everything in between (this includes raw HD), the Super AMOLED Plus touch-screen displays it all in amazing colours and detail, giving users a great reason to stare at the S2 all day. Complementing the great display and HD rendering abilities of the S2 is its audio-playback capabilities. In this case, this new device from Samsung is able to recognise and process lossless formats as well, which includes AAC+ and FLAC. This is to ensure that the Full HD videos being played on the S2 also have the best sound quality. The S2’s basic features were excellent and showed no sign of performance lag even when multiple apps were used. Incoming calls were crisp and clear while the loudspeaker, which was located on the bottom underside, did not disappoint as it is able to produce exceptional sound clarity. Apps, both light- and heavy-weights, loaded on the fly with no problems whatsoever.

Messaging on the S2 was a pretty interesting affair, after taking some time to get used to the soft-keyboard, as it offers a variety of messaging features and writing options. While it is easy for anyone to quickly adapt to the soft-keys of the S2, the keyboard layout could definitely be better in terms of spacing and location of common punctuations. The location and need for extra steps to access certain punctuations slightly hampered the overall usability of the soft-keyboard.

In terms of multimedia capabilities, the S2 has it all in spades! Besides its HD-playback and recording capabilities, Samsung’s most powerful smartphone yet (not including the powerful devices that are being introduced at an upcoming mobile expo) has a very capable camera with LED flash, enhanced web-multimedia capabilities, innovative integrated app hubs, and improved in-built apps that come pre-installed in the device.

The 8MP camera with LED flash is a personal favourite and did no wrong throughout its rigorous tests, producing decent results overall for macro, dark, and day-time shoots. As for the integrated app hubs, which are divided into four categories: music, social, readers, and games, work best for those who need a simple yet intuitive app management system.

The in-built apps were a dream to use, such as the integrated task manager and wireless connectivity suite that the S2 utilises. However, the frequently used apps bar at the bottom of the Home area tends to disappear if a few heavy apps are left running for too long. It could be a bug as it is only this S2 review unit that seems to be experiencing such a problem.

Like all smartphones, the S2 runs very hot, very quickly. Thankfully, the mesh back-plate and super-slim chassis helps with dissipating heat pretty quickly. If this was not implemented in the design, many would have dropped it like a real hot-potato!

Whatever faults it has, the Samsung Galaxy S2 is still one smartphone that can, and has many times over, taken on the market´s current best. This, of course, includes the brand that uses an i-prefix on its devices. In fact, it is safe to declare this device as the one to beat in terms of performance, offerings, and capabilities…for now.

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