Saturday, October 16, 2010

Samsung Transform - Sub-par hardware in a pretty package.

Just finished reading the review on Engadget of the Samsung Transform, a "mid-end" Android phone launching on Sprint that shares a lot of similarities with my Epic 4G on the surface. But as the review notes, hardware performance is pretty terrible. And that's not surprising since the Samsung S3C6410 inside is an ARM11 chip that was released in 2008.

That's some pretty tired hardware chugging underneath the surface of the Transform, almost comparable to the hardware in the Droid Eris. The problem is, the hardware in the Eris was called old when it launched nearly a year ago. We shouldn't be seeing ARM11 chips anymore. We're almost 2 generations ahead of that tech. 

Keep in mind that Cortex-A8 chips are way faster MHz for MHz than the ARM11 chips. The 667 MHz processor in the Transform accomplishes the same amount of instructions per second as a Cortex-A8 running at 417 MHz. On top of that, Cortex-A8's ARMv7 architecture accomplishes more with less instructions than the Transform's ARMv6. 

In short, the 550 MHz Cortex-A8 processor in the original Droid (which launched almost a year ago) kicks the pants off this chip. And that's not even going into graphics processing power, where the Mali-200 GPU in the Transform doesn't fare any better.

Releasing phones like this is not healthy for Android, which is moving in a direction that requires phones with better hardware, not stuff that's nearly 3 years old. The new JIT compiler in FroYo (Android 2.2) will allow this chip to perform at least reasonably well by boosting average CPU performance over 4 times. This seems to be the only possible justification that Sprint might have used to launch this phone. Unfortunately, they've made one major oversight; it won't help the miserable performance of the GPU.

Here's hoping this isn't a trend. Improvements to Android's compiler should not be used as an excuse to launching obsolete hardware.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Red handed...

So I caught the guy who had been breaking into cars in my driveway, again and again back in April. No, it wasn't with the home surveillance system I set up (and still have yet to write up a How To on). My webcam did not have a separate IR filter like most do, and I'd been unsuccessful in getting it to be able to see anything in the dark, when the guy had been sneaking into the driveway. No, I've just been keeping my car locked and telling myself that I'll get around to getting up a night-vision camera set up.

I'll start at the beginning. Sunday, Lynn and I took our daughter out on the Wayne County Apple-tasting tour. Wayne County is kind of like the "rural farmland" in Monroe County's backyard, but has a lot of fruit orchards and wine vineyards due to the proximity of Lake Ontario, which provides a lot of moisture. It was a long but exciting day as we trekked across the county to visit various farm markets and vineyards (though we had to avoid more than a few sips of wine). We arrived home and collapsed in the house. An hour or so passed before Lynn realized she'd left her new Blackberry in the car, so I went out the back door to get it. That's when I met our thief. Read past the break for the full story.

Monday, October 4, 2010

An Epic upgrade...

As you may have guessed, I've gone and gotten an Epic 4G from Sprint, which I'm currently taking for a trial run.

Sprint's network has definitely proven to be a bit more spotty than Verizon's, but not unbearably so. I've been spoiled on Verizon. 4G coverage is actually reasonably good, even if the speeds still don't compare to the WiFi connection I have when at home.

I've had the phone for almost 3 weeks now (yeah... sorry for not mentioning anything earlier, life has been busy), so I'm coming up on the end of my trial run. I think I'll be sticking with Sprint, though the network may prove to test my patience.

I'm not going to rattle on too long about the phone, there's dozens of reviews on the web that'll tell you about the Epic 4G. All I can say is that it definitely meets my expectations and is an excellent piece of hardware. It is not, however without its faults, as Samsung's build quality issues do show through. In the first couple of days I got the phone, sometimes the capacitive Menu button would spontaneously and repeatedly act as if it had been touched, even if I wasn't touching it. Other times it would not respond at all. I found that the device was running a pre-production ROM, and had to manually update it. Once I did, I immediately got an OTA update and the problem disappeared. Perhaps Sprint should take the blame for that one. There are also a few very thin gaps (fractions of a millimeter) between the glass on the front and the bezel, which already are gathering small amounts of dust.

But the complaints are few when compared to the great things I have to say about this device. The screen is amazingly bright, colorful, and responsive. Tilt and acceleration sensors are very accurate. Battery life is good, all things considered. I've had no issues with the GPS since the updates have come through. Front camera works right in the main camera app (Self-Portrait option) and the slide-out keyboard has a nice spring open, feels solid, and the keys themselves are well spaced and have excellent response and travel.

The phone is zippy, but does hit an occasional snag. I'm hoping Froyo works this out of the system with the new JIT compiler, though the problem ultimately likely lies with the I/O bug that plagues the Galaxy S line. I know that the XDA developers have produced a fix for the Captivate, hopefully we'll see one soon for the Epic.

As for Samsung's UI, I've played around with a couple custom home launchers and themes but I keep finding myself coming back to TouchWiz. It might not be pretty, but it does get the job done. Perhaps I'll get rid of it when I get around to rooting my phone, but I've got my 7 homescreens already organized at this point and I'm perfectly fine with the way it looks.

I'll leave things at that for the time being. I'll have further things to write about regarding the phone and Android in general in the coming week, so stay tuned... I'll try to do a better job of keeping my blog up to date, I promise!