Archive | April 2012

Proving its worth – Google Music

Google Music just proved why the 5 day+ upload of my music library was worth it:


Loading the music library on my XS when I first got it, I’d dragged and dropped files from my media folder on the network to the windows explorer view. It was only after shifting about half a dozen albums I’d realised my mistake. 


Alas, I then forgot my error, so when reloading the music library on my XS tonight, I found I was missing a couple album. Rather than fart about loading 7 CD’s into iTunes to burn them all again, logged into Google Music and downloaded everything back!


SCORE!

Three weeks inXS

March 2012 is the dawn of a new era,
the NXT era from Sony. First up is the Xperia S, followed by the P
and U handsets in May.
Looking suspiciously like the obelisk
from 2001, the XS is a phone to behold. Massive screen, see-through
notification bar and non-slip, non-shiny finish. The ‘Monolith’
design is supposed to make the product blend in with other toys from
the Sony range and in fairness it does tie in neatly with my Sony home theatre. Very nice.
Anyway, onto the good stuff!
Audibles
The Sony-skinned Music player now
offers in-app editing of tracks, which is pretty cool if some of your
library is mis-labelled. Mine isn’t, as I’m just that fussy, but it’s
still great nonetheless. The redesigned player is much more intuitive
and the EQ settings provided are excellent, though I prefer the XDA
manufactured DSP Manager as it has greater control over shaping your
overall sound.
The headphones supplied with the
headset might not be the most expensive, personally I was a little
disappointed to not find a set of SmartSound earphones in the box,
but they certainly sound the business – even over and above the
now-obsolete LiveSound earphones. (Read HERE
for musings about that little
hiccup).
These earphones deliver the same bassy
punch as the LiveSounds but the quality of the sound, at least to my
ears, appears to be much higher. It’s a crisper, cleaner soundfield
than before; the LiveSounds have punch and plenty of low-end rumble
but they were missing something that’s very present here – detail.
Lots and lots of detail!
Accessibles – Plugging the
phone in
There has been some talk among users of
the S that MTP mode can be a little temperamental. Those of you
expecting to change between MTP and MSC will be disappointed to learn
MSC has disappeared because of the lack of MicroSD support. Some
users have complained about connection issues, personally I never had
any, but you can find a fix HERE from a
colleague in Test Lab.
Loading music onto the phone can take a
while, those of us used to 8GB or 16GB cards will still find it hard
to use 25GB+ of memory, mainly as it takes a very long time
to transfer a massive amount of music. And by long time, I’m talking
overnight. Still, that’s the price to pay for carrying around over
3,500 tracks and once you’ve done it, you only need to mess around
with adding or deleting the occasional album if you’re picky, again,
like me!
USB on the go is presented here but it
can be a little temperamental. Anyone still rocking the Sony Ericsson
USB M2 memory stick/SD micro adaptors, with the green lights? Yeah,
they won’t work on this handset as the stick draws too much power.
Highly annoying as I’ve got THREE of these sticks knocking about.
Cue some grinding of teeth and
grumbling before wandering to the shops and picking up a standard
memory stick – no operating light! – to suit my needs. And suit those
needs it does. Working within the supplied file manager, Astro, the
phone recognised the stick – a 32GB SanDiskUSB Cruzer, if you’re interested – and I could browse at
will, copy files etc.
Where I was really impressed with USB
OTG was the ability to access media from the device. I plugged in my
stick, opened the media file on the stick and was watching a 720p
copy of The Matrix in scant seconds.
Visuals
Which brings me neatly to the 720p HD
screen. I shan’t ramble on too much, suffice to say it’s absolutely
amazing; a plateau-like 4.3” high definition screen that offers
fabulous colours and clarity. Watching films like The Matrix, Super 8
and Toy Story from 720p sources, the onscreen action was rendered
perfectly, even with a lot of motion.
The BRAVIA technology enhances the
colours without slowing anything down picture-wise and renders
everything absolutely stunning – and even more amazing considering
it’s ‘just’ a phone screen! The PS Vita should’ve had this onboard as
standard, opportunity missed there I think!
Snap Happy – The camera
Following on from a stunning screen is
the equally awesome camera. The 12MP camera was introduced with the
Satio back in 2009. The camera itself was great, though it was
saddled with an almighty turd of a phone and was thus something of a
disappointment.
So much so, it’s taken nearly 3 years
for the 12MP function to reappear on a handset. But, it’s back – and
how. Sample pictures taken with the new lens show off fabulous colour
and detail. It’s unfortunate then that the highest quality setting is
presented in 4:3 framing. If you want to take 16:9 photos you’re
going to need to drop a step to 9MP. You win some, you lose some.
This is still a progression though as
on the 2011 Xperia handsets the highest setting – 8MP – was limited
to 4:3, though you could take 16:9 photos on the 6MP setting. There
are other ways to circumvent this limitation and take full frame 16:9
photos at 12MP, namely with Vignette, but I haven’t had chance to
test this out properly yet.
Sony have also thrown in a
lightning-fast quick capture system, which they claim can capture
shots in as little as 1.5 – 2 seconds from a standing start; i.e.
locked screen. They weren’t lying! Quick capture goes like the
clappers! It’s brilliant!
Video recording has improved again,
this time making the jump from 720p to 1080p capture. Remembering
last years’ launch issue
with sound and vision sync on the Arc, I had everything crossed when
I shot some video. I wasn’t disappointed. Video capture works
flawlessly and looks amazing on big screens. Definitely a feature I
will be making use of, especially with a little Hurfling on the way.
Getting to the Core:
The Xperia S is the first Xperia phone
to wield dual-cores. Clocking it at 1.5GHz, the processor is no
slouch and handles pretty much everything I throw at it; including
1080p video recording (which is enabled by having dual-core in the
first place) not to mention the aforementioned 720p video playing
capabilities, streaming tracks from Google Music etc. This is what
makes the XS a great phone, it looks great AND it handles great.
Summaries
Reading all the above, I’m sure by now you’ve figured out the Xperia
S is a pretty awesome phone, and I’ve not even mentioned the new
lockscreen controls for the music player, text messages and other
notifications.

If I were going to grumble it would be about the camera
placement; it should be more central on the phone, especially for a
handset of this size where you’re going to need both hands to shoot
steady video – but you don’t necessarily need to see digits in
frame while doing so!

Edit: I forgot to mention the Xperia S’s Near Field Communication capabilities, namely because Sony forgot to include any NFC tags with the S when it was shipped to me. Shouldn’t really look a gift horse in the mouth, but exactly the same thing happened last year with the launch of the Arc: the HDMI-out was touted as something really special on the handset, but the inital release handsets failed to include that particular cable! And it wasn’t just an isolated incident!

Basic rule of thumb; if you advertise a product as being able to do something – give us the means to actually use it straight out the box without having to scurry to Amazon to buy a simple cable!

Come on Sony, it’s not too difficult a concept to grasp, is it? I mean, it’s like buying an electric whisk, only to find it doesn’t come with any whisks!