Saturday, October 31, 2009

Upcoming Nintendo Wii & DS Games For NZ.

By Benedict Wee

Nintendo and their 3rd party developers have just announced a list of upcoming games to hit the US, Japan and Europe. Since we belong to the latter group (God knows why), I've only posted the dates from the PAL region to save us the grief of knowing how much faster the the rest of the world will be getting their games.

First party DS titles:
  • Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story 9th October 2009
  • Nintendo presents: Style Boutique 23rd October 2009
  • Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Sky 20th November 2009
  • The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks 11th December 2010
  • Pokemon HeartGold Version 2010
  • Pokemon SoulSilver Version 2010
  • WarioWare D.I.Y TBA
First party Wii titles:
  • Wii Fit Plus 30th October 2009
  • New Super Mario Bros. Wii 20th November 2009
  • Endless Ocean 2 (tentative title) 2010
  • Sin and Punishment 2 (tentative title) 2010
  • Super Mario Galaxy 2 (tentative title) 2010
  • Metroid: Other M (tentative title) 2010
Third party Wii and DS titles:

Bear in mind that game titles and the release dates are subject to change.


Friday, October 30, 2009

HTC Touch Pro2: First Impressions (Update: with video)

By Benedict Wee

The courier dropped by with Telecom NZ's HTC Touch Pro2 to test out for the upcoming issue of In Business so I thought I'd post some first impressions of the phone here before doing a full in-depth review:

12.05 pm : Package just arrived. Opened it up. Cool HTC box with an XT Network sticker on the top right hand corner.

12.10 pm : Opened the box, contents inside include:
  • The HTC Touch Pro2 smartphone
  • A USB wire (that charges the phone and connects to the PC)
  • A USB socket charger
  • A Leather case (Kinda ugly one at that)
  • Mini-USB headphones
  • A Battery
  • An extra stylus
  • A screen protector (Nice. It's considerate of them to include one, being a touchscreen phone an all.)
12.15 pm: Phone feels solid and bulky, but in a good way. Makes you feel very business-like. Its size and shape betray its weight as it is pretty light (178.5g).

12.30 pm: Fiddled with the back cover in an attempt to put the battery in. Gave up and consulted the manual. Finally got the cover open and turned on the phone.

12.35 pm: The initial start-up is pretty slow but it's expected as Windows Mobile phones take some time to load when you first turn it on.

12.36 pm: Phone's up and running. Wow, TouchFlo runs really smoothly, no lag whatsoever. Graphics are crystal clear despite the reflective screen (which seems to catch my image every time I take a photo/video of the mobile).

12.45 pm: Physical keyboard slides out with a solid "click". Keys immediately light up and the screen is automatically adjusted to landscape mode. Tilting the screen upwards feels natural, turns the phone into a mini-notebook which is pretty neat. Typing on the physical keyboard feels good, keys are soft yet responsive.

1.00 pm: Testing out the XT network with the browser and Youtube application. Sites and videos are loaded fast enough to be considered near-broadband speeds. I'm pretty impressed.

2.00 pm: Just realized that I have not used the stylus at all. The HTC TouchFlo user interface is pretty amazing, everything is finger friendly (even the virtual keyboard) and transitions from one program to the other are seamless, you wouldn't know the phone is running Windows Mobile if not for the logo on the Start bar located at top left corner of the screen.

First Impressions Summary:
So far, I'm loving this smartphone. Though many would discount its size and shape, it is good to remember that the Touch Pro2 was designed with business professionals in mind. I can't see college students nor your average-kiwi wanting to own one of these but I do think that this phone could be a shining statement of individuality and style for those working in the CBD area where BlackBerries are commonly found.

Look out for my full review next week.

LG's Android Smartphone Pics and Vids Revealed, Comes With Mascots.

By Benedict Wee

LG has just launched the official site of their first Android smartphone, complete with the company's own personal touch of the mobile OS. While HTC phones use Sense, Motorola's CLIQ has Motoblur, leaving LG with.. euro-centric puppet mascots, each representing a social networking capability.

Not much else is known about the LG Gw620 (a.k.a Eve) except it's a slide-out keyboard-type phone similar to Motorola's CLIQ, but I'm guessing that an official announcement can't be too far behind since the site is already up.


Can't Read Eric Cartman's Poker Face.

By Benedict Wee

Last night's episode of South Park (broadcasted in the US) featured the ever-psychotic Eric Cartman singing Lady Gaga's "Poker Face" on Rock Band.

Now while I hate anything and everything that has to do with the singer and her inane music, I will concede that Eric does a fine job of singing the aforementioned song and it managed to produce a chuckle or two from me when I was watching the clip.

"Poker Face" isn't available on Rock Band though, but it should be. Think of the Cartmans of the world belting out that horrid song and you'll get your Halloween ring tone right there.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Nintendo Announces Newer, Bigger-Screened DSi.

By Benedict Wee

Whispers of a big screen DSi have been circulating throughout the internet since early last week and today, Nintendo confirmed the rumors at a press conference in Tokyo by announcing the revised version of its handheld; the DSi LL.

Nintendo's newest handheld will have a screen that is 93% larger than the DS lite's and -according to Nintendo- is targeted towards those who use their handhelds for internet browsing and to playback music. I'm guessing this is for everyone else who's sick and tired at looking at tiny screens while gaming too.

The DSi LL is packaged with two styli; a short one that fits into the handheld and a bigger, pen-looking one which I guess is for home use. The handheld will also come with 3 DSiWare titles pre-installed; humanities and sciences brain training games and DS Easy Dictionary.

The DSi LL will be released on November 21st in Japan, retailing at 20,000 Yen/NZ$305 and will come in Dark Brown, Wine Red and Natural White colors.


Telecom XT: New Phones, Broadband Plans &.. Ye Gods! Do We Finally Get Unlimited Texting?!

By Benedict Wee

It's good to know that the squiggly 5 year-old drawing isn't the only thing Telecom NZ decided to revamp in their recent overhaul.

In a press release yesterday, the telco announced that they were introducing 'Non-Stop Text', an unlimited texting add-on for their XT network that allows you to send as many texts as you want to any network for NZ$12 a month. The catch to this offer is that you got to sign up for the add-on by the 31st of January 2010 and it'll only last till 31st January 2011. (Link to site here).

This would mark Telecom NZ's return fire in the mobile war, specifically at 2Degrees who introduced any-network texting and calling at 9 cents a message and 44 cents a min respectively when they first launched.

No word on Vodafone's response to Telecom's new add-on, though I wouldn't hold my breath when it comes to them offering a similar promotion. I once had a debate about the lack of an unlimited plan on their blog and Paul (Vodafone's PR guy) responded by saying to the effect that we do not get the luxury of unlimited options in New Zealand. There were also some issues that he failed to comment on too.

The next announcement Telecom talked about was new mobile broadband rates for notebooks.

The details are as follows:
Prepaid - NZ$99 for a T-Stick Modem with SIM and 500MB data to use within the calendar month.

Postpaid - A free T-Stick Modem with 8GB of data at NZ$70 per month (NZ$80 if you're not a Telecom broadband customer) on a 24 month contract.

Postpaid - NZ$150 for a Turbo T-Stick Modem (at a fast 21Mbps) on a 24 month contract.
The last and not-so-interesting bit of the release is their latest offering of new mobiles; the Sony Ericsson Anio U10a (NZ$999) and the Samsung S6700 (NZ$499). Both of which are way too expensive and which lack any decent specs worth mentioning.

It looks like Telecom has decided to finally offer affordable services mobile-wise which the rest of the world has been enjoying for awhile now, although it would great if they'd also come up with better phones at more competitive prices (I could get an Android-run HTC tattoo for NZ$577 locally). Here's hoping competition would cause this to happen soon.

Telecom NZ - Press Release

Verizon US Unveils Motorola Droid And Its Sexy Android 2.0

By Benedict Wee

Well that didn't take long. Just after Google's official confirmation of the Android 2.0 update, US telco Verizon has announced its two firsts; their first Android smartphone available on their network and the first phone internationally to use Google's newest mobile OS.

The Motorola Droid is a slide-out QWERTY keyboard mobile which runs on an ARM Cortex A8 600 MHz processor and comes with 3G& WiFi connections, a 5MP Camera with DVD-quality (720x480 pixels @24fps) video recording and a 3.5mm headphone jack. Its 3.7-inch screen has a high 854x480 (267ppi) resolution which displays crystal clear graphics that beat the iPhone 3GS' 163ppi.

The Droid goes on sale on November 6th and will retail for US$200/NZ$275 with a 2-year contract after a US$100/NZ$135 mail-in rebate.


RIP GPS Companies; Google Introduces Maps Navigation.

By Benedict Wee

Not content to rob large conglomerates of search engines (Google Search), email (Gmail), mobile operating systems (Android), browsers (Chrome) and mobile calls (Google Voice), Google has announced Maps Navigation; a turn-by-turn navigation add-on application for Google Maps.

Here are some of its major features -

* It's a Free Service: Where once you had to pay a subscription fee (around US$100/NZ$135) to GPS companies like TomTom and Garmin in addition to purchasing the GPS device, Google's Maps Navigation is not only free, but it doesn't use ad support for revenue as well.

* Text/voice input: You can either choose to type down or give voice commands to your destination.

* Traffic view: The ability to see which road is congested via green/yellow/red color codes.

* Offline support: Maps are cached along your route to the destination so there is no worry of losing your connection midway though the journey.

* Always updated maps: Map data is constantly updated automatically without prompt.

* Multiple views and layers: Being a Google Map application, you can switch between Street, Satellite and Terrain views while points of interests like landmarks will be visible with layer support. Expect to see Google Latitude integrated with the service in the near future, making it easy to pick someone up without them having to give you the exact location.

* Point to destination: If you spot a landmark or a specific place that you want to travel to you can just point to the location on the map without needing to reenter the address.

Google Maps Navigation is currently in beta and will only be available on Android 2.0 (for now) but seeing as the mobile OS appears on any gadget with a screen, expect to see budget GPS sets running Android popping up in stores in the near future.


Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers Rocks Bon Jovi.

By Benedict Wee

Japanese Role-Playing Games (JRPGs) have a long standing tradition of J-pop artists singing the game's soundtrack but FFCC: The Crystal Bearers does something different by featuring legendary rock band Bon Jovi providing the official theme song of the game.

The track - We Weren't Born To Follow - is from their latest album; The Circle due out November 10. An appropriate song as the game's narrative is about a mercenary born with magical abilities which gets him (and those possessing similar powers) ostracized by the general populace. Incidentally, the protagonist does look like a young Jon Bon Jovi too.

The Japanese ads for the game feature the theme song but for the benefit of those who are easily distracted by the million-and-one things going on in the clips above I've provided the official music video below:

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers hits Japanese/US Wiis this year while PAL regions (read: us) will only get it in February 2010.

Android 2.0: Now With Video.

By Benedict Wee

Google has just released the official video of Android 2.0, showcasing features we already knew about in BGR's sneak preview as well as introducing new ones such as two-way sync support, a Bluetooth API for local connection activity like multi-player gaming and searchable SMS.

As we speak, the SDK for 2.0 is available for developers to tinker around with so expect to see Android's next major update hitting smartphones as early as december. Pretty awesome stuff.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Internet Speed/Cost Chart Shows We're Faster Than Australia But More Expensive.

By Benedict Wee

Shown here is a chart of the 20 top nations in the ITIF Broadband Rankings compared by cost, speed and broadband penetration rate.

Average speed-wise, we seemed to have lost out to first world nations like the US, Canada, UK and a big portion of Europe, coming up in 22nd place though we fared better than those across the Tasman.

Australia does beat in price however, and so does most of the rest of the world as we fall into the $10-20 price per month category for 1mbps.

Despite the high cost, it's good to see that we've got a healthy broadband penetration rate, coming up to the 80% mark alongside Australia and the UK.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Create Your Own Comic With Marvel.

By Benedict Wee

If you've got a lot of time on your hands (me), and love comic books (also me), you could try your hand out at Marvel's Create Your Own Comic application on their Superhero Squad site.

The app is primarily designed for kids to play around with but that shouldn't stop the budding comic book writer in you to explore the realms of comic creation and your work can be saved as a PDF file which makes it easy to hock to your friends and family.

Here's what I did:


Leaked Video Of Dell's Shiny Mini-Tablet.

By Benedict Wee

A leaked video of Dell's prototype Android tablet has made its way to Vietnamese tech site Calling itself the Streak, the device boasts a 5-inch touchscreen, 3G and WiFi connections, a 5MP camera with dual LED flash, a front-facing camera, microSD card slot and a 1300mAh battery.

Although not particularly pocket-friendly, the Streak looks portable (read: thin and light) enough to carry around with you, though its shiny finish does seem like it'll be fingerprint magnet. Something in matte might be nice.

Other details of the Streak remain scant, let's just hope it comes with an affordable price tag when it launches as the only other Android tablet in the market is pretty pricey.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Symphony Of Phones Doing Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture Is Wicked Cool.

By Benedict Wee

Vodafone's new ad is a perfect example of how you merge the old world with the new.

I may hate everything about the way they do things, but I have to admit they really know how to make great advertisements when they want to.

It also helps when you love classical music.


Android-run Alex e-Reader Shown On Video.

By Benedict Wee

Right. So after getting burned by both Amazon and Barnes & Noble for not making their e-readers available to New Zealand we're left looking at the smaller companies to give us our e-book fix.

Spring Design's Alex is next in the line of e-readers that I'm hoping will reach our shores. Its specifications are pretty decent and judging from the video below it looks like Alex's bottom screen runs on a full Android OS which integrates with the top screen really well.


Barnes & Noble e-Reader Called Nook, Costs US$260. We Don't Get It Either. (Update)

By Benedict Wee

Barnes & Noble have just revealed their e-reader in the US, joining the soon-to-be-over-saturated market of e-book devices announced in the past couple of weeks.

The Nook is equipped dual screens; a 6-inch E ink display for reading and a 3.5-inch touchscreen color LCD for navigation. Other specifications of the device include 3G & WiFi connections, 2GB internal memory, a microSD card slot and a 3.5mm headphone jack.

Unique features of the e-reader include bookmarking, highlighting passages and note taking support and the ability to lend books to other Nooks for up to 14 days.

Unfortunately, the lack of Android makes the purchase of the Nook a deal breaker for me as stuff like web browsing and video playback are features that I would like in my e-reader so currently my money is pointed at Spring Design's Alex at the moment.

Update: Hey it turns out it DOES run Android! Though it does not specifically mention what features (i.e. Market, browser, video player) of the OS it does.

Update 2: Just like the Kindle, the Nook isn't available to New Zealand either. Poo.


Price Check: New Apple Products.

By Benedict Wee

21.5-inch screen, 500GB HDD, NVIDIA 9400M graphics -
21.5-inch screen , 1TB HDD, ATI Radeon HD 4670 graphics - US$1499/NZ$2005
27-inch screen, 1TB HDD, ATI Radeon HD 4670 graphics -
27-inch screen, Quad-Core, 1TB HDD, ATI Radeon HD 4850 graphics - US$1999/NZ$2673

21.5-inch screen, 500GB HDD, NVIDIA 9400M graphics -
21.5-inch screen , 1TB HDD, ATI Radeon HD 4670 graphics -
27-inch screen, 1TB HDD, ATI Radeon HD 4670 graphics -
27-inch screen, Quad-Core, 1TB HDD, ATI Radeon HD 4850 graphics - NZ$3399

2.26GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 250GB HDD, 2GB DDR3, NVIDIA 9400M graphics - $US999/NZ$1336

2.26GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 250GB HDD, 2GB DDR3, NVIDIA 9400M graphics - NZ$1669

Mac minis
2.26GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 2GB RAM, 160GB HDD, 8x SuperDrive, NVIDIA 9400M graphics -
2.53GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 4GB RAM, 320GB HDD, 8x SuperDrive, NVIDIA 9400M graphics -
2.53GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 4GB RAM, 2x 500GB HDD, NVIDIA 9400M graphics -

2.26GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 2GB RAM, 160GB HDD, 8x SuperDrive, NVIDIA 9400M graphics -
2.53GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 4GB RAM, 320GB HDD, 8x SuperDrive, NVIDIA 9400M graphics -
2.53GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 4GB RAM, 2x 500GB HDD, NVIDIA 9400M graphics -
NZ$ 1749

Magic Mouse


Apple Remote



New Apple Stuff: Macbooks, iMacs, Minis, Mice & Remotes.

By Benedict Wee

Apple has announced a slew of next-gen computers and accessories today starting with new iMacs which come in 21.5 and 27-inch screen options.

The new iMac allows you to fit in 4 RAM modules (for a maximum of 16GB memory) and comes with a choice of Core 2 Duo (3.06 GHz) or Core i5/i7 (2.66/2.80 GHz) quad-core processor options. Its design has been changed from a plastic back and metal front to a unibody one which means the whole body is covered in a metal chassis. Prices range from US$1199 to US$2000.

Next up is the new Mac Minis. Apple has removed the optical drive in favor of two 500GB HDDs and it runs on a 2.53GHz Core 2 Duo processor on 4GB of RAM and GeForce 9400M graphics. The new Mac Mini will run Snow Leopard Server and set you back US$1000 though cheaper options can go as low as US$599.

The new US$1000 MacBook comes with a rubberized bottom, a multitouch trackpad, LED backlighting, a non-replaceable battery and its internal specs have been improved to a 2.26 GHz processor with 250GB disk space. Its 2GB DDR2 RAM has also been upgraded to a DDR3 one which provides faster memory.

Now on to accessories. The infinitely frustrating Mighty Mouse has been replaced with the Magic Mouse which comes with a sleek aluminum base and a smooth multitouch top. No more getting that stupid trackball dirty (which in turn, causes the scrolling to not work). Instead, navigation such as flipping, 360-dregree scrolling and clicking is done with finger gestures on the touchpad. The US$69 Magic Mouse runs on AA batteries and is supposed to last for 4 months before having to change them (the batteries, not the mouse. Though you never know with Apple products).

Finally, the new Apple Remote comes with a new design and costs US$19.

Will update the actual cost of Apple's new line of products in Kiwi dollars soon.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

enTourage eDGe: Dumb Name, Cool Netbook/e-Reader Hybrid.

By Benedict Wee

If you think a 3.5-inch screen is too small to run Android ala Spring Design's Alex e-reader then perhaps this portable is for you.

Part Microsoft Courier/part e-reader/part Android netbook, the enTourage eDGe looks like a giant Nintendo DSi, except both are touchscreens and one isn't in color. On the left of the gadget, we have a 9.7-inch screen e-paper display where PDFs and ePub files are automatically opened to and on the right, a 10.1-inch 1024x600 resolution screen with Android.

Other specifications of the eDGe include 3GB of internal memory, an SD card slot, WiFi & 3G connections, Bluetooh, 2 USB ports, audio (MP3)& video (MP4,3GP) playback and a 3.5mm headphone jack.

The device gets shipped in February next year and will set you back US$490/NZ$650, unless you want a different color other than midnight blue then it's US$40 more.

enTourage eDGe website.