Reviews of other stuff

reviews of anything not with its own review category

ipad 2

iPad 2 Pre-Review

10

Here it is: my black and white, cut to the chase pre-review of the iPad 2.

I call it a pre-review since I have played with one several times (various Apple stores), I don’t own one yet.

I will give a full review when I do.

In the meantime, here’s the B&W pre-review:

Whats good about it The same stuff as made the first gen IPad great – user interface, battery life, etc.  (Read this line again, it’s important).
What’s improved Speed, low res camera x 2.  Oh, and it’s thinner.
What’s missing Everything that’s missing from the first gen iPad (assuming you thought it was missing in the first place that is), except for a camera
Should I upgrade from the 1st gen iPad? Probably not.  But then again you probably shouldn’t do lots of things.
Is it better than the 1st gen iPad Yes.  For sure
Is it the best tablet on the market Yep (in my opinion).
How does it FEEL? VERY fast, and light (I know it’s not much lighter, but thin makes if feel light).
What else? The iPad smart cover is SOOOO cool.   And no, it doesn’t work with the 1st gen iPad.
Tell me more Ummm, no.  This is the black and white version.  Read some online iPad 2 review, like this one

Btw, I ordered one.  Did it online, coz while the queues in San Fran were down to 4 hours (ie get up at 5am, and get one at 9am) by the time I left there a few weeks ago, it was still easier for me to click some buttons and then have a full warranty in my home country.  I’ll sell my iPad 1 for maybe half what I paid for the iPad 2, so all in all costs me $600 to upgrade.

Black and White Version: iPad 2 is faster, and thinner, and sexier.  A step up, but an evolution, not a revolution.

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VW-Golf-R

Golf-R – review 2 weeks in

47

Here’s my updated Golf-R review (now that I own one)

I got the car two weeks ago, but waiting until I had 1,500km or so on the clock, under a variety of conditions and roads, so I could comment in some depth.

Firstly, let’s cut to the chase: This is ONE AWESOME CAR! The gear box rocks, the performance and handling is confidence inspiring, and the production quality is top class.  Car is very well appointed with extras, and things like iPod integration (for music) and iPhone integration (for phone) is very usable.

I suggest you read my 1st review of the Golf-R in New Zealand if you haven’t already done so. It has lots of commentary on it, as well as a comparison with the Scirocco-R.

Also some other useful links in case you want more info:

In this post I am going to make some specific further comments on:

  • The DSG gear box
  • The whole value proposition of this car, and how the competition lines up
  • Why I bought one (which may help to answer the question is it the car for you?)
  • The extras on the car (the ones you get, and the ones you pay for)
  • The bad – surely there must be some?

Before I start, the Golf-R has recently been named by TopGear UK as the hotest hatch for 2010. Not a bad wee award to win!  It also wins the somewhat less prestigious, but IMO far more important award of the 2011 best car in the world (according to me). I’ll explain why below.

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Thai Airways – black and white review

9

I hadn’t flown on Thai Airways (Thai Airways International) for a while, and recently flew them twice – one a 5 hour flight and one an 11 hour flight back to NZ.  Like AirNZ they are a member of star alliance network.

Here’s my cut to the chase, black and white review on them:

Thai Airways Review

Overall Rating Four stars (out of five)
Seat pitch in economy class Better than most (I think there is an two inches compared to most – were were on a 777-ER – check this site out for full details of leg room in economy here).
Food Good.  Tasty, good options.
Service Very good – friendly and accessible
Entertainment Good – par for the course these days with a few dozen movies, a few dozen TV shows of various genres and all on demand (you can start and stop it when you like).
Lounge Good.  Not as good as Koru in NZ – but few are.  Enuf food and drinks (and variety of)  Very clean and open and light.

Overall one of the better airlines I have flown on.  The extra inch or two in economy class makes all the difference when you are flying for 11 hours on a flight.

Black and White Version: Thai Airlines gets the tick.  I’d fly with them again.

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(Random) stuff I like

4

Here’s a wee list of stuff I like, in no particular order:

That is all.

Black and White Version: I like stuff, I just listed some of it.

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$14 for a movie and a glass of wine (oh, and they flew me back from Sydney too)

6

I was asked recently when I came back from a Sydney trip by one of the nice immigration NZ staff “So why did you go to Sydney”.  My reply was easy “Because it was $14″.  She smiled, stamped my passport and wrote a big “T” on my customs/immigration form.  I think “T” was the It’s OK this one inst too dodgy or whatever code they were using for the day, but I digress.  The real story is in the movie and the glass of wine.

Anyway, lots of people ask me how I get such cheap deal.  Easy, I look for em, and book em when I see them.  This one was told to me by a friend, so I booked it that day, and then later that night I was out with a mate (Cameron) who asked the same question, so I showed him on my iPad at the time there were still more left, on other weekends, so I booked one with him too (yep @ $14 each way I will go a few times!).

Anyway .. so for $14 it was seat only (no luggage, no food, no movie) but a nice seat, entertainment (TV, games etc) and all the tea, coffee and water I could drink.  On check in they put me in 1B – which on an AirNZ Airbus is still an old business class (BC) seat.  Since there is no business class anymore you just get a nicer seat.  Anyway, I figured that movies might just be on for all BC seats, and sure enuf it was, so I watched the A-Team (good crappy Hollywood action movie).  I also got a nice glass of vino thanks to my smile (yep it works sometimes), and so for $14 I watched a movie, got a glass of vino, and someone flew me to Sydney.

My overall review of AirNZ’s new service on the trans tasman is a solid Good, but its not quite polished yet, since I find lots of crew are a tad confused with what the whole thing means.  I saw one cabin crew gives drinks to 5 rows before he realised it was only supposed to be for those with the Works or Works+, but hey it happens.  Overall AirNZ rocks, it does lots of cool innovative things, but like so many things, things do take time, so I will re-review this in a few months.

Black and White Version: You can still get a movie and a glass of wine for under $15 in NZ.  Oh, and they might even fly you to Sydney for free while you are at it :-)

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iPad four months in (a review)

1

I have now been using an iPad for over four months now.  My initial iPad review can be found here, but here’s a summary of my thoughts four months on (the back and white, cut to the chase, version)

This post if a follow on from my Black and White take on iPhone 4 and iPad in NZ.

So anyway .. on to the post: (more…)

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tick

Awesome iPhone App – Consume

3

I recently downloaded a free iPhone app Consume.

I have to say – it rocks!

It allows you to get real time updates on any mobile account, broadband account, and even track couriers in any one of 18 countries (with over 200 providers)

I added my Vodafone OZ pre-pay iPad sim, my Virgin OZ pre-pay mobile sim, my NZ Slingshot home broadband, my US T-mobile pre-pay sim all in around 20 seconds each.  The only two I have issues with are Vodafone and Teleocm in NZ.  The later because I can’t access ANY online data about usage since my connection is thru Gen-i and (for now), there is no way of checking usage online for any Geni-i accounts.  Vodafone NZ wont work for me, but I have no idea why.

Example of what the app shows:

Anyway .. it’s works very well, giving things like “MB/day” left for any broadband plan with a cap, and will even tell you if you are tracking to go over your data cap when its part way through the month.  For pre-pay it will show $, and also any free things left (like 2-Degrees free texts).   Given that it’s free I have to say – get it and try it!

Their web site reports that an iPad version of Consume is coming – and the images look great already!  You can also read another (positive) review of Consume here

Update 30th August 2010: It gets better – this app even does things like Flybuys and OneCard (for non kiwis these are both loyalty programmes in NZ) and even does tracking of Apple orders.   As James pointed out, it does Airline Frequent Flyer programmes too!

Update 11th Sept 2010: I got Vodafone working finally.  Appears Voda had something wrong at their end.  So now the only one not working is XT (any of my sims) since I am with Gen-i.  Might swap a sim to a simple pre-pay and see if it works.

Black and White Version: Consume for iPhone rocks!  Get it.

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Now that’s how you do an iPad app for a newspaper NZ Herald (and how not to do it AirNZ!)

7

The NZ Herald released its iPad app a few weeks back.  And I have to say, it rocks.

They got so much right, where others screw up, such as:

  • Easy to use interface.  It fully uses the iPad and its screen.
  • Formatting is consistent – all articles are in a small box, with categories at the top.  When you click on the story it opens up a window, which starts with a pic then scrolls through page(s) of the text.
  • No premium/free distinction – it’s all just there
  • It’s all FREE (so many get this wrong – I will no longer pay for simple access to info that others provide for free)
  • Even the ads are cool – check out the Merc at at the start – it makes you WANT to watch it

The even get this bit right, and have a YouTube version of their add so people like me can post it:

Another good News iPad app is the USA today App (I think you need a US based iTunes account to install it).  Not QUITE as good as the NZ Herald one – but still free, and easy to navigate.

Where newspapers go wrong

Where MOST newspapers go wrong is they try to bring their old business model online. Their model USED to be write stuff people want to read, mix in some ads and then sell the product to the readers. The online mindset says I want the stuff for free, and if you won’t give it to me I will get it somewhere else, or just download it for free anyway. Their old model had high set up cost (the article writing and production) PLUS a variable cost of production (printing, postage etc).  Their new model has a high(ish) fixed cost (although a lot of it is setting up the template/look) and then an almost zero variable cost (the cost of 10,000 people reading an online version is almost the same as 10 people).  But newspapers keep trying to change for content, where the rationale for doing so (the variable cost of each reader) is no longer there.  They can get HEAPS of readers by getting REAL good content, and as a result of more readers, charge even more for advertising, all while having no extra costs each time someone reads/downloads it.  Simple really, so why do so many Newspapers get this so wrong?  No idea really, I think they are just a dead technology waiting to die, and just don’t get the opportunity that’s there.  I actually think their window is closing here.  Right now they still have lots of customers, they can leavergae off this by marketing their online offering (the free one – like NZ Herald) and build a new business online.   However, as time goes on they will have less and less readers, and their will be more (competitors) alternatives online.  In time the window off opportunity will have closed, and they wont have any leaverage to use.

Another ‘how not to do it’ story

While on the subject of how to do it (or in this case NOT) – I see AIrNZ made their Kiaora Magazine (the one you get on the plane) as an iPhone/iPad app.  Cool I think, novel even.  But where they screwed up is they went and charged for it.  The App is free, but each issue need to be paid for ($NZ 5.29 I think).  What were they thinking? Here’s my thoughts on this:

  • The mag is free when you fly (they say Take me, I am free)
  • The cost of putting it online in any form has a (moderately high) fixed cost only (no variable cost for each copy, unlike printed copies)
  • The mag is full of advertising
  • I think few people will pay for the app
  • They COULD have had a premium for advertising coz of increased readers, but instead will unlikely even get back their fixed cost investment
  • They could have even had online only adds, targeting say technology or higher end travel (these people have more disposable money)
  • Such a lost opportunity for AirNZ
  • They will probably pull the plug in a year or less saying “not enough readers”

Looks like I am not alone here, most people think the fee from AIrNZ is a joke.

Black and White Version: Some people get how to use new technology, some don’t.  Well done NZ Herald, silly billy AirNZ.

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NZ map

iPad – XT, Vodafone and 2Degrees comparision

23

Well the iPad is out in NZ now (although the Apple NZ site still shows Notify Me at the top right for where the Order Now button should be as spotted 1st by Lance Wiggs).  Anyway, in addition to this meaning that I now won’t get swamped by people when I pull the iPad out in public, it does mean many of the NZ telcos have also released micro sims and also iPad data plans.  So here’s the round up.

iPad summary for New Zealand across telcos

For each item, any clear winner is marked in green, with any clear last place network marked in red (blue is for hyperlinks, so ignore that colour!)

2Degrees

XT (Telecom)

Vodafone

3G network

Next week

(only have coverage in 50% of NZ)

Coverage Map

Yes, full

Coverage Map

Yes, but not 3G in all of NZ for the iPad1

Coverage Map

Micro Sims

Available now Available now Available now

Data Plans

(pre-pay)

$6 for 50MB2

2Degrees iPad Data plans here

500MB – $29.95 (1GB is $59.90)

2GB – $59.95 (4GB is $89.90)

4GB – $79.95 (8GB is $109.90)

XT Pre-Pay Data Plans here See note 3


250MB – $20

3GB – $50

Vodafone iPad Data Plans here See note 4

Data Plans

(contract)

Not yet available

500MB – $29.95

2GB – $49.95/$59.95

4GB – $69.95/79.95

XT Contract Data Plans here See note 5

No idea.  Some other voda plans MAY work, but remember some plans are “add ons” only (meaning is has to be added onto an existing Phone Plan, no a stand alone data plan.

Price of Micro Sim

Free to swap, or $20 with $20 credit.

Prepaid $29.95 / Postpaid $19.95 (free on open term 500MB plan)

Free according to the web site (but $6.95 postage)

Data charges special conditions

30 Days Expiry on pre-pay

Charges full amount each month when used at all.

PREPAY: 30 Day expiry for pre-pay.  Offers special 10c/MB until hit cap, and also $29.95 in a month to double data

CONTRACT: Can do the “double up” for $29.95 (see note 5)

30 Days Expiry on Pre-Pay

Charges full amount each month when used at all.


Notes
  1. See this post for why XT is full 3G for the iPad (and iPhone 3Gs/3G) where as Vodafone is not.  Or check for yourself by comparing coverage on XT with coverage on Vodafone and coverage on 2Degrees or this speed test between XT and Voda on an iPad in NZ
  2. 2Degrees data all expires 30 days after purchase.  50c/MB over 50MB.
  3. XT pre-pay charges 10c per MB capped at rate you set (e.g. if on 2GB then capped at $59.95)  Then for a further $29.95 your data doubles (so 2GB goes to 4) and then its 10c/MB after that.  These “double up” rates are show in brackets in the table above.  All XT rates are the same as other mobile devices.  A reminder some plans on XT are add ons only, meaning they can only be added onto an existing phone plan (i.e. not for data only devices like the iPad)
  4. For Vodafone, these are special iPad only plans.  In theory one might be able to use any of Vodafone’s data plans, but their web site implies that these are the only plans avail, so I am listing these only.  Remember, like XT, some plans are add ons only, meaning they can only be added onto an existing phone plan (i.e. not for data only devices like the iPad)
  5. XT rates for 2GB and 4GB contract are reduced by $10 if Home/Business broadband plan.  The table above shows this.  Also they offer the same “$29.95 for to double data for the month” as they do with Pre-Pay.

My recommendations on plans (updated 26th July 2010)

For light users:

  • The 29.95 XT pre-pay plan is best.
  • If you only use 20MB, that’s 10cx20 = $2, if you use 100MB, that’s $10, and so on up to 295MB (anything between 295MB and 500MB is $29.95).

For heavy users:

  • The XT 2GB plan (on pre-pay or contract, whatever is easier for you).   The double up to 4GB for a further $29.95 makes this plan very flexible (and good value).     Same apples to the 4GB plan – but I would be hard pressed to use 4GB, let alone 8GB, on an iPad.
  • If you insist on Vodafone and are only in the major metros most of the time, their 3GB for $50 plan is quite good, but know that Vodafone does NOT have a 3G network in all of NZ, and that even where it does XT is heaps faster most of the time.

UPDATE 27th July 2010:

Check out my new iPad pricing graphs for data here – it shows all the cross over points right up to 10GB or all pre-pay plans.

Other useful related links


Black and White Version: XT is still the way to go for the iPad (better coverage, and better conditions on plans) but at least there is a choice of three carriers now.

Update 26th July 2010: Made some corrections in line comments below – thanks Reuben! Removed some XT casual plans, and updated notes on XT and Voda.

Updated 29th July 2010: Updated 2Degrees info on micro-sim availability and pricing.


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tick

iOS4 review and info for New Zealand

3

Apple released iOS4 a few days ago world wide. (not to be confused with the iPhone 4, which is only available in the US at the moment, and in NZ from July).

Since the name (and philosophy) of this blog is white and black, let’s cut to the chase: It’s good.  I like it.  Much better.  Well done.  B+ even, but not yet quite right, and a bit un-Apple-like.

For the record, I am using iOS4 on an iPhone 3Gs (I have an iPad, but iOS4 isn’t available on that till “the fall 2010″ according to Apple).  For us in NZ that means Spring (so September/October?).  To upgrade you need iTunes 9.2 (the new version) and an iPhone 3G or 3Gs.  Later generation iPod touches can support iOS4 too, but I don’t write about those, so Google it if you wanna know more on the iPod stuff.  Also the 3G only supports certain features of iOS4 (list found here).

Quick tips: It’s very easy to upgrade and your apps and data appear to stay put (mine did anyway).  But remember to back up everything before you start this to be safe (ie plug it into a computer and fire up iTunes, back up and also transfer all apps etc).

(more…)

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