Well, it was a long day for the intrepid crew of the good ship Smart App Review, with a long ride up to sunny Birmingham to check out all the latest tech at this years Gadget Show Live.
Was it worth it? Well, yes and no, as there wasn’t an awful lot at the show, app wise, but we did get to check out a lot of the new, top of the range smartphones and tablets.
We first checked in at the Expansys stand where we headed straight for the gaming wonder known as the Sony Xperia Play, and came away pretty impressed. The ‘PlayStation Phone’ is reminiscent of a PSP Go, and it feels great in your hands.
The PlayStation One games (well, Crash Bandicoot, anyway), ran well and controlled extremely well with the digital pad. The Android games that have had the new controls bolted on didn’t feel quite as good, with the touchpad analogue sticks not responsive enough, and the digital pad not feeling right with them. Bruce Lee looks great, however.
The biggest disappointment with this device? No PlayStation Network support at all. Would have been great to earn trophies on it, but I guess it was not to be.
One of the overwhelming themes, at least for mobile devices, was the sheer number of Android based tablets on display at a variety of stands. We had a look at the Motorola Xoom at the NVIDIA stand, and found it to be the best of the Android bunch.
It really feels like a step above any other Android tablet, with a well thought out interface on top of the Android 3.0 Honeycomb goodness underneath. Everything moves very smoothly and the home screens felt uncluttered, and used the space well.
That brings us to the most impressive demonstration at the event. One small round table at the HP stand played host to the full range of new webOS devices. The Pre 2, Pre 3, Veer and TouchPad were all on display, and we managed to get our grubby mitts on all bar the TouchPad, which was strictly off limits.
The Pre 2 has been out for a while, but was at least available to buy at the stand for £360, although the rep said there were further discounts available.
The Veer is tiny, really small, and looks just like a shrunken Pre 2. Surprisingly, it loses none of the speed of its bigger brother, and it felt great to have all that power in such miniature form factor. While the Veer is a great little device, HP will have to work hard at retail to convince people that the combination of small size and real smartphone power is real, as opposed to the Palm Pixi, which struggled to even run webOS, let alone thrive on it. A low price and different case colour options would be two steps in the right direction for this micro machine.
The Pre 3 is a fantastic device, with a screen bigger than an iPhone, a keyboard that seems to be a joy to use, and more power than you will probably ever need. WebOS rocks on this phone, and the back of the device, with a different curve to others in the Pre series, is a lot more comfortable in the hand than expected. It’s a beast of a device, lets just hope that the battery can handle the big screen and 1.4 GHz processor.
The TouchPad was shown to me by a rep, and seems to be a must have gadget. There is a slight negative to get out the way. The gesture area has gone, replaced by a button, which is understandable due to the huge screen, but surely it would have been better to have included one, even if it had to go all the way around the screen. The gesture area is one of webOS’ greatest strengths, and a big differentiator to the iPad.
Other than that, this tablet is the most exciting of all the devices either out or on the horizon. WebOS suits the larger screen down to a tee, with stacking, in particular fitting the screen well.
There is a front facing camera for video chat, but thankfully not one at the back. Rear facing cameras are an absolute waste of time on a tablet, in my opinion. When would you ever use it? It’s like using a hammer to crack a nut.
Overall, I was really impressed with the TouchPad. Now, if HP would only let me buy one…
There was a surprising dearth of Windows Phone 7 devices on show. Expansys and a few others had some on display, but they had no presence that I could see on the Microsoft stand. Sure Microsoft wasn’t here for that, but surely a few on display wouldn’t have hurt?
No presence at all from Apple, not that it mattered, as iPads and iPhones were the platform of choice for companies to show off accessories and propriety apps. Some of the cases were great, particularly for iPad, where there was a few genuinely impressive accessories available. The iPad 2 could be played with in a few places, and felt as thin and light as ever, although it still feels like a very small step forward for Apple.
Best of the show: – HP Pre 3
A beast of a phone, with a great OS, a bigger screen than an iPhone, a whole load of power and a place right at the top of my ‘most wanted’ list.