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Michael J. Christensen RSS Feed (Palatine, IL)
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Panasonic VIERA TC-P55VT50 55-Inch 1080p Full HD 3D Plasma TV (2012 Model)
Panasonic VIERA TC-P55VT50 55-Inch 1080p Full HD 3D Plasma TV (2012 Model)

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Plasma- Comcast almost made me return this, June 24, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Prior to purchasing this set, I was fortunate enough to own the PZ700 50" Panasonic Plasma from 2007, which Consumer Reports named the best flat panel TV they ever tested. I loved this set, but after reading some overwhelmingly positive reviews and a sweet price point from Amazon, I decided to take the plunge. Certainly not an easy decision, given my love for the PZ700. After some early frustrations, I can say without question, the upgrade was a worthy one.

So what has Panasonic done right with their flagship plasma series in the last five years? Here's my take:

First the obvious; the set is a lot lighter! My old Panny was a monster clocking in at just under 100 lbs, but this one weighs about 66lbs with the stand. The set has a very elegant look with a black border that is about an inch wide, and a silver bezel on the outside which is about a quarter of an inch. On the back, the set sports inputs for 4 HDMI, 3 USB, 1 PC, and 1 component/analog input. There's also inputs for cable coax, digital audio out, and ethernet. Interesting how Panasonic has completely de-prioritized the component/analog settings. My old set had 3, this has one. Also, if you use a component cable, Panasonic has included an adapter which you plug all 5 cables into, with a tiny plug that goes to the TV. Certainly a con to take note of if you have a lot of component/analog devices.

Video is a nice step forward; additional detail in high def viewing is readily apparent; imperfections on people's faces can be seen with much greater clarity; blacks, while very good on the PZ700, are much inkier and darn near perfect now. Colors are accurate and pop in a way my older, dimmer set could not. Let me mention my favorite enhancement; the set is MUCH better than my old one at shielding glare. I have a tall lamp in the corner of my house that I refuse to move. Problem is, it situates itself on the top right corner of the screen. While I can still see it through the TV, the glare is reduced to such a level that I don't even notice it's there most of the time.

3D viewing: a nice feature, but still pretty gimmicky (and costly). Not a lot of adult content out there, as most 3D movies are kids movies. I have viewed 3D versions of Avatar and Toy Story 3, and although the set does a commendable job, I do find 3D viewing to be a bit straining on the eyes. Certainly not a fault of the set, as it produces a quality 3D image, but I don't believe 3D will truly take off until manufacturers find a way to ditch the glasses. It also doesn't help that Panasonic does not include any glasses here, and they're $50 a pop.

Audio: quite frankly, not as good as my previous set. Some reviewers have complained about it sounding a bit tunnel-like, and while listening to some baseball broadcasts, I would agree; but overall, I think it sounds respectable. It's a speaker/size trade-off; in order to keep a slim profile, Panasonic needed to install smaller speakers. My old set had around 3 inches of black space on each side to accommodate the larger speakers- this one has just over an inch on each side. I believe the tv speakers fill my room quite nicely, but I have a small place. Those with larger living room environments will surely want to complement with some home theater.

Ok, let me get my Comcast detesting rant out of the way. Those who are blessed and do not use Comcast, feel free to skip this paragraph. I hook up three devices to my set -a Comcast DVR, Panny Blu-Ray, and PS3, all via HDMI. However, I would say about 80% of my viewing is for cable. That said, I was having some serious buyer's remorse with this set, later determining it was of course, Comcast's fault. When I first set this up, I was primarily watching cable. And my early impressions were dwelling on an inconsistent image. Still pictures with little movement looked amazing. But a number of background images either looked blurry or pixelated, and motion fluidity was less than desirable. An analogy would liken this to my brief stint in PC gaming; buying a computer with a great display and video card, but with no processing power to move the action along as it pushes the CPU. Long story short, cable viewing was a big step down from my old set, which was previously connected via component. But alas, I started to get wise, because when I watched blu-ray in 1080p, there was nary a picture problem to be found. With the aid of some Google research, I came up with the following for Comcast users who connect via HDMI: power your DVR off, then press the menu button. Go to "HDMI/YPbPr Output" and change to 720p. That's it, problem solved on cable viewing! No more pixelation or focus issues. The downside, of course, is that you're no longer viewing the maximum resolution your new TV can accept. But in my humble opinion, 720p looks nearly as good as 1080p, and certainly better when the Comcast crapbox is involved.

Some more setup pointers. When adjusting your picture settings, use Custom. The presets like THX bright room can give you a decent start, but if you like to do some armchair calibrating, use Custom. What I painfully discovered, is that even if you have the same settings on two different modes (i.e. THX Cinema and THX Bright Room), the picture will look drastically different! If you want to experiment, adjust THX Cinema to have the same exact picture settings as THX Bright Room; you'll discover that THX Cinema will still have a much dimmer image.

I don't mess with the additional picture settings too much, but I'd recommend changing these two: change HD size to "Size 2" from Aspect Adjustments as this will display the entire image. Also, I recommend going to Advanced Picture and adjusting the motion smoother down to "weak." Panny states that this setting reduces motion blur, but I was having some movement stuttering problems with this setting on medium.

Finally, a word on Viera Connect. This set has built-in wireless internet for viewing "channels" such as Amazon, Netflix, MLB TV, Skype, and Facebook. I have checked out the first three mentioned and the performance is pretty good. I like that Panasonic has updated this set with a respectable processor, as navigating around Netflix and Amazon VOD is much snappier than their dreadfully slow blu ray players. A word for those with dual band routers. My experience has been that this set will show BOTH bands when you do a scan for wireless network. And my unprofessional diagnosis is that when your router decides to use the other band (as mine frequently does), the Panny will drop your current connection, and you will be forced to select the other band (and re-enter a password if your network is encrypted). Once I connect and use a channel, streaming works very well, but if I exit Viera and try to come back in, I get a connection error message. Feel free to contact Panny support on this one, but after harassing them, I've been told it's a known issue; the set needs to figure out that there's two bands, but one network, and accommodate them simultaneously; hopefully, this will be addressed in short order with a firmware update.

Kudos to Panasonic for offering flagship quality performance at a competitive price point. Sound and Viera Connect quibbles aside, the VT50 offers superior value.

Edit: thanks to all for your Comcast suggestions. I understand many of you have a decent 1080p setup. I actually have a newer model DVR, model # RNG200N that Paul mentioned. I'd be interested to hear from other users with this box, and whether you have a video beef when 1080p resolution is used. Also, my router is a Linksys 4500.
Comment Comments (7) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 25, 2012 3:02 PM PDT


Bulova Fairmont Chiming Mantel Clock
Bulova Fairmont Chiming Mantel Clock
Offered by OrangeOnions
Price: $149.99

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent clock, one drawback, May 14, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I purchased this clock to replace a weather clock on my mantel which ate batteries like they were pez. The clock is beautifully made, completely quiet (provided you turn down the chiming volume all the way), and has a large, easy to read display. Easily a 5 star item, if not for one annoyance: the face of the clock is a reflection magnet. If you have a light on anywhere in your home, chances are it will reflect through this clock. I have moved it around to try and get a glare-free view, without much success. However, the clock's bold, elegant appearance and excellent Amazon price more than make up for it.

One note of advice. The clock takes a single C battery which is not included. As most people do not have C batteries lying around, be sure to pick these up prior to ordering :)
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 15, 2011 8:58 PM PDT


Kindle Keyboard, Wi-Fi, 6" E Ink Display
Kindle Keyboard, Wi-Fi, 6" E Ink Display
19 used & new from $64.95

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Refined and affordable- my favorite e-reading device, September 19, 2010
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
As an owner of a Kindle 2 and an iPad, I was a bit skeptical about the utility of the new Kindle. I had since gifted my previous Kindle to my niece, and was enjoying the reading app on my iPad exclusively. So with much skepticism, I decided to give Amazon's third gen reader a try, with the caveat that it had better impress the heck out of me to upstage the Kindle iPad app's reading experience. Somewhat to my surprise, it has. Even though the screen is smaller, the third gen Kindle has a lot of upside. And at a new low price (I opted for the Wifi only), it's a terrific value. Without getting into all the additional iPad functionality (which it should have for the additional asking price), I will try to compare the reading experience of the iPad to the Kindle.

Kindle Advantages:
-The screen is truly more conducive to long reading sessions. Amazon has beefed up the contrast from last gen's model and it makes a huge difference. I liked the Kindle 2, but was disappointed in its skimpy contrast, even in decent lighting. Not so with the Kindle 3. Text is inky dark, and a joy to consume, even in areas that do not have ideal light conditions. By contrast, when you're reading on the iPad, it's like reading a computer screen. While I've never had problems with eyestrain, I don't find the bright backlit glow as accommodating, especially after working with computer screens all day.
- Form factor- the Kindle's reduced size is perfect for holding. While the bottom of the iPad will inevitably need to be rested on a surface or your lap at some point, the Kindle can be held up by one hand and suspended for long periods. In short, due to the minimal weight and size, there's a ton of comfortable reading positions.

Kindle Disadvantages:
-Operating zippiness- if you need to look up the definition of a word on the iPad, you just touch and hold it. Since the Kindle lacks touch screen functionality, you will need to use the arrows to locate the word. Also, I've noticed some lag as the Kindle searches in the dictionary to bring up the definition. While Amazon has made some nice strides to speed up the Kindle's os responsiveness, there's still some delay when doing page turns, looking up words, highlighting, etc. The iPad is super fast at all these.
-Low light reading scenarios- as stated before, the Kindle has made a remarkable improvement to get the contrast as dark as e-ink technology can provide. But this technology has the inherent disadvantage of requiring light. You cannot read your Kindle in the dark, and you will not enjoy reading it where there's poor light. Amazon has thoughtfully included a backlit case as an option, but at $60, it diminishes the low cost advantage somewhat.

While the latest Kindle is far from perfect, Amazon has found a compelling cost/value ratio. Considering that not long ago, Kindle 2's were retailing for $300, the lower price points will surely bring e-readers even further into mainstream consumption. And now that the Kindle has beautiful dark contrast, a slick refined form factor, and reasonably fast operating speeds, I can't recommend it enough as the best e-reading alternative out there.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 20, 2010 4:52 AM PDT


Speck Products CandyShell Case for iPhone 3G/3GS - Black/Gray
Speck Products CandyShell Case for iPhone 3G/3GS - Black/Gray

35 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My search for an iPhone case is finally over, October 27, 2009
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I will do a review by comparison, because I've spent a ridiculous amount of time and money on iPhone cases trying to find the right one. Here's my exposure to other cases I've bought, and why I think Speck has the best case.

Ifrogz Luxe: The Luxe has a nice two-tone look, but the plastic protecting the iPhone is of very low quality. The coloring on the back of the case easily wears off upon daily use. Even worse, the tabs on the plastic that snap the two pieces into place will frequently break, rendering this case by far the least durable of the ones I've tried.

SwitchEasy Rebel Serpent: This is a nice-looking one piece heavy duty case- almost too heavy duty though, as it detracts from the phone's sleekness. Although the silicone is high quality, my biggest problem with this case is aesthetics. The case does not form fit the iPhone, as you can see uneven slivers of chrome at the bottom left and right of it when in use.

Incase Slider: Like the Luxe, this is a two piece case that snaps together. I was almost sold on this case sans two issues: one, if you put any pressure on the bottom of the phone where the two pieces snap into place, you'll hear an annoying plastic squeaking sound. Also, as many reviewers have argued, the case is very hard on the bezel of the iPhone. If you're constantly removing it, there's a lot of friction when sliding off the bottom portion. Some have complained about scratches on the bezel.

Which brings me to the Speck Candyshell. This case is closest to the Rebel Serpent in design. It's a one piece fit, but unlike the Rebel, it does not add a lot of bulk to the phone, and it looks darn slick front and back. The entire chrome bezel on the front is visible and perfectly aligned. There's a gray strip around the outer border of the case that complements the black and silver portions of the phone nicely.

The volume and sleep buttons of the phone are covered by gray plastic. Like the Rebel, there's some tactile goodness lost when pressing these buttons through the plastic, so if you prefer a cover that doesn't protect the buttons (like the Luxe and Slider), you may want to look at a different case.

Three more tiny nitpicks: The ring/silent switch, while protected nicely, is difficult to get to if you have fat fingers (like me). Second, the material is a black putty-like plastic, and while I have no qualms about its quality, if you have oily fingers, it can absorb some moisture, giving the back of the case a sticky feeling at times. Finally, the case is not very flexible, so it can be a pain if you have to remove it. I don't see this being a problem with all my iPhone docks/cables working perfectly without having to remove the case.

Minor nitpicks aside, Speck does almost everything right: sleek looks, form fitting design, high quality materials- after a long search, I have finally found my case.


Logitech V470 Bluetooth Cordless Laser Mouse (Blue)
Logitech V470 Bluetooth Cordless Laser Mouse (Blue)
2 used & new from $35.00

4.0 out of 5 stars What you'd expect from Logitech- a good, competent mouse, August 10, 2009
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I'm beginning to think I should invest in Logitech. I now own a Logitech remote, portable ipod speakers, and now this. My previous mouse was also a Logitech, which I loved. There were two reasons I decided on upgrading to a bluetooth mouse. One, as a Macbook owner, I've come to expect a lack of USB ports (my notebook only includes two), so I wanted to free one USB up. Second, I thought the idea of "shortcuts" for mouse commands was handy.

Upon using this mouse for a week, I am comfortable with it as a permanent replacement for my old USB model. The first thing I was pleasantly surprised with is the color. For whatever reason, the picture on Amazon paints it as an ugly turquoise. The mouse I received is more of a medium blue. I guess if I held it up to a really bright light, it might look more like the product image, but it looks better than the pics.

Once you install the packaged CD, you'll have access to the Logitech Control Center (from the Settings icon on Macs). Here you'll be able to map specific command shortcuts to the scroll wheel, a left/right tilt, and a middle click on the mouse. This is my favorite feature. I was able to assign a zoom out to the left tilt and a zoom in to the right tilt of this gadget. This works wonderfully when surfing the web; I only wish it worked for other Mac apps (for example, it will not zoom emails on Mac Mail).

Performance and battery life are very good with a caveat. Probably not Logitech's fault, but I'm still not 100% sold on Bluetooth's wonky responsiveness. For example, if you leave your mouse still for a few seconds, and then move it, you'll notice that the cursor "skips" for a second as it picks up the bluetooth signal. I also had an instance where my computer was in sleep mode, but when I started to use it, my cursor was permanently jittery as I moved my mouse (a reboot solved this). Note that once you keep your mouse moving, it will precisely move where you want it to without any skipping.

Despite the slight laggy responsiveness of the cursor (which goes with the Bluetooth territory), I recommend this mouse for users that want a full wireless experience. However, if you don't mind the usage of one of your computer's USB ports, it's probably not worth it to switch technologies; and you'll avoid the bluetooth lagginess described above.


D-Link ADSL2/2+ Modem/Wireless Router
D-Link ADSL2/2+ Modem/Wireless Router
7 used & new from $70.00

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great modem & router- saved me from returning my Mac, July 29, 2009
I purchased the D-Link combo modem & router out of necessity. I had just made the switch from PC to Mac, and was enjoying the Macbook, except for one glaring issue. My internet was severely hampered by constant DSL signal drops from my 2Wire modem. I don't know if 2Wire (AT&T) or Apple is to blame for the incompatibility, but I do know that I spent numerous hours resetting Safari, adjusting network connections, performing Plist resets, and talking to Apple and AT&T support (the later of which is worthless).

So as a last ditch effort, to try and salvage a decent internet experience, I found a google posting that mentioned this router as a solution to terrible AT&T DSL/Mac performance. This terrific router has made all the difference. NO DSL drops, no laggy website loading. Just a great little $89 solution (a steal at this price, but even cheaper on Amazon).

My one small complaint has been mentioned in other reviews: it's not the easiest thing to set up. If you're a Mac user, throw away the install disk, as it's worthless. Being a computer novice, it was essential to talk to support. They weren't overly friendly (i.e. "kissing up"), but they seemed to do a fairly competent job. Better than friendly and incompetent. If I want that, I'll contact AT&T. Anyway, I was up and running with a wireless network in 15 minutes, but it took another 40 with support to get a WPA encrypted network set up. However, now that I have it set up correctly, it runs like a dream. Highly recommended for DSL Mac users that are having signal issues with their 2Wire.


Apple MacBook Pro MC118LL/A 15.4-Inch Laptop
Apple MacBook Pro MC118LL/A 15.4-Inch Laptop
19 used & new from $509.00

86 of 96 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Compelling alternative to PC, July 27, 2009
After installing a Trend Micro update and bricking my PC (which I was later able to remedy after 8+ hours of system restores and firewall modifications), I had enough and decided I was done with Microsoft. I have been using the Macbook Pro 15 for a little under a week, and so far, I'm pleased that I made the switch. Obviously, there's a pretty steep premium on Macbook Pros, so I'll try to cover the items that make it worth the extra coin, as well as some annoyances I've encountered as a first time Mac user.

Here are some benefits:

+ Beautiful 15" widescreen display. I'm coming from a 17" PC, and since the display was a bit more squared, I don't feel that the screen size decrease is too noticeable

+ Much lighter than PC. At 5.5 lbs, it's easier to carry around than similarly sized PC's

+ Super fast power up and power off. I would say it takes between 30-40 seconds to power on, and less than 10 seconds to shut down- outstanding

+ Robust battery life. It's rated at 7 hours. This time will vary depending on your usage, but it's about right if you don't jack the brightness and surf too heavily

+ Refined, gestured trackpad. If you want to scroll, just swipe with two fingers- to select options or webpages, a single tap on the trackpad will accomplish this. Also nice is the ability to zoom webpages a la ipod touch/iphone pinching. I wish you could save a zoom setting to default on Safari though

+ No crashes, except for internet surfing (more on that later)

+ Love the preinstalled iPhoto application it comes with to view and edit photos

+ No problems with spyware, viruses, or crappy, obtrusive antispyware (i.e. Trend Micro) to combat it

+ Outstanding customer support (and I've used them a lot so far!)

And now for the not so good:

- If you want word processing/spreadsheet functionality, you're pretty much stuck with plunking down $100 for Microsoft Office. You could use alternatives like iWork, but with most people using the Office standard, it makes sense for compatibility purposes. No generic preinstalled word processing software, Apple?

- The learning curve (if you're a long-time PC user). The menus and interface that Macs use are pretty well laid out, but it's a pain to relearn where some items are. Example, you're in Mail and you'd like to add an email folder. The solution? Select "New Mailbox." I'm sure most PC users were scratching their heads with that solution

- There's no "maximize" function on the windows. It will save your settings once you resize everything, but if you want a window to take up the screen, you'll be doing some manual dragging to get them the way you want

- Not enough ports. Here's an example. Let's say you have a usb mouse, you're listening to iTunes from your iPod, and you're saving backup data to a USB drive as you're working in MS Word. Well, that's one too many usb apps, so you'll have to constantly unplug everything to accommodate your needs

- No number pad. Now I realize this does not affect a large percentage of users, but I'm a finance guy, and work in Excel a lot. Not putting a number pad on the keyboard is reasonable, but what is not reasonable, is offering no first/third party solutions for a USB/Bluetooth numpad. Props to anyone that can find such an accessory

- A bit tricky to port your iTunes media from PC to Mac. You'll be contacting support on this one, trust me

- Too many extra charges from Apple. $350 for 3 years of support, $99 per year of storage backup. Considering what we're paying for Macbooks, you'd think Apple would cut us a break on some of the "extras"

- Here's my biggest gripe. I have had SERIOUS stability issues with my Macbook and 2Wire DSL AT&T modem/router working together. I originally had a problem with Airport dropping my signal (fixed it with a Google search). Then, I had numerous problems with "Broadband Link Not Established Errors" from my 2Wire modem. Again, I was able to find a posting online which allowed my to turn 2Wire notification messages off, resolving this. So after numerous Google searches, and tech support from Apple and AT&T, my internet is pretty stable, but still not great. I'm still having issues where common websites will not load without stopping the request and clicking the reload button. Some users have had these stability issues resolved by purchasing the Airport Extreme Router, but at $179, this is not a cheap solution. I've had none of these internet problems running other devices from 2Wire. I'm not sure who is at fault, but my gut tells me that Apple did not go out of their way to make their Macbooks overly friendly with 2Wire's network. I feel like Apple should send me a partial rebate for all the hard research I've put in to get a stable connection

So is it worth it to switch to Mac? In a word, yes. Although they're certainly more expensive, 13" models are available at $1,200 which provide decent value. New Mac users will certainly notice an increased level of refinement and simplicity when they make the switch. Overall, a very nice laptop that would easily merit a 5 star rating, if not for the terrible 2Wire compatibility issues.

8/5/09 update:

My 2Wire modem continued to error out and reset itself while surfing webpages. The DSL and Internet lights would flash red, and my internet would disconnect for 20 seconds every time this happened. I finally found a solution to this problem. Not thrilled about the extra $89, but my internet experience is finally stable. The product I picked up is the D-Link ADSL2/2+ Modem/Wireless Router combo. I also reviewed this product on Amazon.

The D-Link is highly recommended for AT&T DSL users with Mac/2Wire compatibility issues.
Comment Comments (23) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 6, 2010 3:52 PM PST


Kindle DX Wireless Reading Device (9.7" Display, U.S. Wireless)
Kindle DX Wireless Reading Device (9.7" Display, U.S. Wireless)
9 used & new from $198.58

39 of 43 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Overall, a solid e-book reader, June 11, 2009
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I am a first time e-book reader who has not sampled Kindle 1 or Kindle 2, so I'll try to give a fresh perspective on the Kindle DX. I purchased this device mostly because I'm a self proclaimed gadget geek, but also because I have limited bookshelf space and loved the concept of downloading a book at a moment's notice. So, with a grain of salt, I decided to take the rather pricey plunge and splurged for the DX. Here are my impressions:

Firstly, the display on the Kindle is beautiful. There was a screen message to charge my Kindle when I unpacked it that I assumed was pre-printed. I kept looking for the plastic cover to peel off when I realized this was the actual screen ink! I can see why long-time Kindle users praise the unit for allowing them to enjoy reading with excellent clarity and minimal eye strain.

I looked at the Sony E-reader as a possible purchase, but what did it for me was the convenience with which the user can download a book. I've found a decent assortment of books that cannot yet be ordered in Kindle format, but for the most part, the Kindle Store has a good selection across the board. I also appreciate the cost savings per book (although I would probably have to purchase 100+ books to come out ahead!) Kudos to Amazon for supplying its own Whispernet network, that does not obligate the user to find a Wifi hotspot to download a book. The notion of impulsively downloading a book to read while on vacation was very tempting to me. By contrast, the Sony reader requires you to download books directly from the internet.

Amazon has done a lot of good things with their second gen reader. The button layout is simple and effective. There's an oversized button for page turns, a smaller one for previous page, and a home button for showing all your downloads. Below this, there's a menu button, a back button, and a five way joystick/button interface for navigation. Below the screeen, there's a full qwerty keyboard. When you read a book, the Kindle remembers your spot when you return, so no problems juggling multiple books you're reading at the same time. It's also reassuring to know that all books are saved to Amazon's server, and can be re-downloaded for free at any time.

Any book you read can be adjusted for font size. As someone who may need glasses in the near future, I preferred to increase font size one notch above the default. Also a cool addition to the DX is the ability to expand the left and right margins of the screen, so less words are visible per line. On any page, you can bookmark it in entirety, highlight a portion of it, or make note annotations. All your bookmarks and annotations can be quickly referenced from the menu.

Native PDF support is a nice option. Plugging your kindle into your computer, and feeding it PDF files is a pretty straightforward copy/paste procedure. However, there's some drawbacks to viewing PDF files on the Kindle. First, it does not allow you to adjust text size. I downloaded a PDF of my car's user manual, and the text was very tiny. You can get around this by turning the Kindle sideways, but I noticed that if I continually paged through from this perspective, the Kindle started to include partial pages of the PDF. So for example, portions of page 7 & 8 were displayed at the same time.

Also, speaking of screen rotation, I must say that the Kindle is not always good at recognizing a rotation. As an ipod touch user, the screen rotation recognition on the ipod is considerably more responsive. Quite a few times, I had to rotate the Kindle back and forth to get it to recognize the correct perspective.

Here's some additional grievances: while I probably won't be doing a considerable amount of typing, the keyboard itself does not have very good tactile feedback. Also, it's a bit of an inconvenience to hold down the "alt" key or "shift" key whenever you wish to type numbers or caps.

I also wish the general responsiveness of the Kindle was a bit quicker. Page turns have a bit of lag; not a dealbreaker, but still a bit of a pause. Also, when scrolling through links in the Kindle Store, or highlighting text, the cursor is often very slow to respond. Maybe Amazon could have devoted more memory to the operating system's zippiness, because it needs to lay off the decaf and get caffeinated.

Some DX owners have complained about the lack of a left side button layout. While this doesn't bother me that much (I'm right handed), I don't see why Amazon removed the left side of buttons present on both sides of the Kindle 2. Yeah, you can rotate it 180 degrees if you're a lefty, but are you supposed to type upside down? Additionally, considering the hefty price, there's some innovations that have been left on the cutting room floor that need to be implemented. A color display for one. Even more so, why not include a backlight as an option? You should be able to read your Kindle in a dimly lit room, period. If the backlight contributes to eye strain like Amazon says, make it a toggle option. For these scenarios, I'll be using my ipod touch with Kindle app, as it has a backlight.

All in all, I'm satisfied with my first e-book reader. The Kindle DX could benefit from a bit of refinement, but the core reading experience is quite good. Beautiful dark ink display, operating simplicity, super battery life, and downloading ease make this gadget a winner. Is it worth the price? Personally, I think $489 is a bit much, but it definitely has its audience: those that love to read, professionals that are exposed to a lot of document viewing, and students that don't like heavy backpacks. Oh yeah, and gadget geeks like me.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 24, 2010 4:25 PM PDT


LG BD 390 Network Blu-ray Disc Player (2009 Model)
LG BD 390 Network Blu-ray Disc Player (2009 Model)
2 used & new from $72.05

15 of 28 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Great concept, but execution is lacking- avoid like the plague!, June 4, 2009
I picked up this player after reading an overwhelmingly positive review from CNET. From a feature standpoint, this unit has everything I was looking for. Built in wifi (no crappy Samsung dongles, or the required archaic ethernet cord connections), onboard memory, super fast operating speed, and Netflix streaming. I'll start with the positives.

The unit's aesthetics are quite appealing. It has a nice, swanky, upscale look to it, and looks even slicker than its $399 price tag. As advertised, the load times on blu ray movies are terrific. Setting up wifi was also a breeze, and allowed me to quickly update the firmware. Netflix streaming was executed well. I didn't like that you had to add movies to your queue from your computer only (as opposed to browsing titles online directly from the unit), but this is still a nice feature to have if you're a Netflix subscriber. I kept getting error messages when accessing Cinema Now, but this is not a big deal if you use Netflix. Also, this unit deserves credit for displaying a nice looking picture on blu rays as well as DVD's. There's also a really slick scan mode that lets you jump to any part in the movie by using only your menu arrow keys from the remote (works great when programmed to a universal remote).

With all these pluses, why the two star rating? Where do I begin? Let's start with the remote. Without question, this is the cheapest, most thoughtlessly designed remote I've ever seen for such an expensive player. The button layout is uninspired, and there's a crappy, hard-to-slide compartment for TV commands on the bottom. On my remote, I wasn't able to get any of the commands to work initially. I later figured out that the copper ends of the battery compartment were not pressed against the battery properly. So if I manually pushed the battery up into the copper, the remote worked fine. Thank goodness for universal remotes. Not a good start, LG.

Next up is audio. I listen to the majority of movies through my TV (via HDMI from the player directly to the TV). I also pass an optical cable from the DVD into my receiver for movie listening through the stereo (about an 80/20 TV speaker/stereo split). While this unit had no problems passing sound through both outputs, I could not get my TV speakers to play movies loudly enough. I went to the audio setup and tried every combination of settings to get sound to play at a sufficient level, but nothing I did would allow movies to be played with any sense of fullness from my TV speakers, even with the TV volume set at maximum. I never had any sound loudness issues with my Sony BDP-S350 player.

And now for the two issues that killed this player for me: first, I noticed while watching several movies that the audio was not synching with the actors' mouth movements. While watching Major League on blu ray for example, I noticed that the ballplayers' lips would move a split second before the sound would output. Again, I tried adjusting all setup options to remedy this, with unsuccessful results. This became extremely distracting, and ruined my enjoyment of the movie. I did not notice this issue at all watching the same movie on my Sony.

Second, and most unforgiving, the player refused to play my blu ray copy of The Wrestler. It would attempt to load for 30 seconds, and eject the movie. This happened after repeated attempts. I wonder what other titles this player will not play. I popped it right into my Sony player, and it played immediately. Maybe LG will fix these compatibility issues with a future firmware update, but I refuse to wait until they do. Needless to say, I returned this player shortly after testing it.

I'm pleased to see that LG has incorporated features that should have been standard in players for a long time; built-in wireless for profile 2.0 discs (which access online content called "blu ray live") is an essential feature. And incorporating Netflix streaming should be a given (this means you Sony and Panasonic). I would also like to see "resume play" allowable in all players, regardless of whether the blu ray software supports it. Losing your spot in a movie by pressing "stop" is a ridiculous shortcoming of the format, and now that players are incorporating onboard memory, disc resetting should become a relic. However, despite LG's attempt to release a feature packed unit, audio and lip synching issues, as well as disc compatibility issues make this player a bust.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 3, 2009 5:32 PM PDT


Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3 10MP Digital Camera with 12x Wide Angle MEGA Optical Image Stabilized Zoom and 3 inch LCD (Silver)
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3 10MP Digital Camera with 12x Wide Angle MEGA Optical Image Stabilized Zoom and 3 inch LCD (Silver)

896 of 925 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 3rd time's a charm- a standing "O" for the ZS3!, April 28, 2009
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I have owned two prior digital cameras- the first was a Canon that took good pictures, but was too bulky to pocket around and required AA batteries to power it. The second was a Sony CyberShot DSC-W150 that took crappy, blurry pictures in low light. Needless to say, I felt an upgrade was in order.

So I'm going on an east coast trip next month. My buddy and I are avid baseball fans. One problem: as we do not always have great seats, taking close-up pictures of ballplayers is a real pain with 99% of the compact point and shoots out there. This is because the camera's size will only allow it 5X optical zoom. You can combine this with digital zooming, but I don't need to tell you how terrible and pixilated this looks. Thus my conundrum. So I really wanted a compact, pocketable camera with a long range optical lens, without having to lug around an expensive digital SLR.

Enter the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3. When I read the specs on it, I was in awe. 10 megapixel, 12X OPTICAL zoom. Here's the sweetest part about the zoom- if you planning to use smaller prints (i.e. 4X6), you can quickly adjust the camera's Megapixel (MP) count from 10 to 7, 5, and 3 to yield maximum OPTICAL zooms of 14.3, 17.1, and 21.4 respectably, without much loss of detail on such prints. I wish Panasonic would have allowed the camera to adjust the MP count automatically as you zoom, but it's not too much trouble to change the MP settings manually from the quick menu.

Another great feature: the camera's screen is beautiful at 460,000 pixels, twice the count as the rival Canon Powershot SX200 IS (more on that camera later). From the moment you view your first picture, you'll quickly notice how much sharper photos look on this camera. It's a nice convenience to view photos on the camera in a manner closer to the quality that will actually be seen when you're viewing them on the computer (and ultimately printing them).

I also want to give Panasonic kudos for the build quality and compactness of this camera. The ZS3 is a replacement for the popular TZ5 model, which was 9MP and 10X Optical Zoom. So they increased the resolution, and added a wider range lens, and REDUCED the size by .4 cubic inches. Specifications aside, I was more than pleased that this camera will comfortably fit inside my jeans pocket. It's a bit bulkier than an ultracompact for sure, but not objectionably so. Note that the SX200 is a full 2.0 cubic inches thicker, another reason I passed on the Canon. Here's a few more reasons the Canon falls short: the Canon has a cheesy looking popup flash that sticks out at the top of the camera, whether you're using flash or not (bad design decision). It has less rated battery life than the Lumix. Also, when shooting video, the Canon does NOT allow you to use optical zooming.

Photo quality on the Lumix is excellent, although I've only snapped samples around my place so far. However, I've taken quite a few pictures at low light, and at maximum zoom levels to try to get a bad shot. So far, there's none to be found. I'll put this through its paces more when I travel next month, but I'm extremely pleased so far. As for video shooting, I've sampled it a bit, and it seems pretty solid. The camera gives you the choice of shooting video in its touted AVCHD Lite format (ideal for watching it on your TV in HD with an optional mini to standard HDMI cable), or JPEG if you prefer to email video clips to friends. This year's model also added stereo sound on video playback versus last year's monaural effort. One thing I found a bit strange, was the incredibly slow zooming when shooting video. I guess Panasonic was trying to give the user a more controlled, deliberate zoom, but unlike the snappy photo zooming, it's a bit slow for my liking.

Some other minor quibbles: The dial that controls the shooting mode is extremely loose. If you lightly rub it against anything (a camera bag, your pocket), there's a good chance it will shift. When you turn the camera on, it will digitally tell you what mode you're in, but it's still annoying when it happens by accident. Second, when making a quick zoom on an object, it will appear blurry on the camera's screen until the shutter button is pressed. There are modes to continually focus the object when zooming, but this drains the camera's battery life more rapidly. It would be nice if this feature was incorporated automatically without any such sacrifice.

Also, I'm not a huge fan of the included PhotofunStudio software bundled with this camera, as there are other, more compelling programs to view, edit, and print photos (I like Canon's Zoombrowser program better). Finally, this is not the camera to buy if you're into manual controls. There's a ton of preset scenes that can be used (nighttime, portrait, baby, sunset, food, etc.), and you can adjust items like flash, white balance, and max ISO level, but this is meant to be a simple point and shoot for casual photographers. Note that the Lumix has an intelligent auto mode (IA) that will analyze the shooting conditions and pick the right scene, flash, and exposure without any adjustments by the user. This camera screams simplicity, but there's enough tweaking on the Normal and Scene modes to keep the vast majority of amateur photographers happy.

Regardless of these nitpicks, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3 is an awesome camera, unbeatable for those that want the best of both worlds- a great zoom lens and compact body. It's a bit pricey at $399, but you're getting quite a lot of camera for your hard earned dollars. I have no doubt that my third digital camera is a terrific buy and a long-term staple for my travels.
Comment Comments (48) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 26, 2010 1:20 PM PDT


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