Test driving Samsung’s new 28-inch 4K UHD monitor

Samsung U28D590D 4K UHD 28-inch monitor

An important item on my tech shopping list is an ultra high definition (UHD) monitor to go with the new desktop PC I’m planning to buy for the home office. So when Samsung UK’s PR agency asked me if I’d like to test drive Samsung’s new 28-inch LED UHD monitor just launched in the UK, why would I say no?

And so late last month, a big box arrived containing a brand new Samsung U28D590D 4K UHD monitor manufactured in May 2014, a sticker on the back said. And it’s been the primary display screen connected to my Dell home office desktop PC for the past few weeks. It’s certified for Windows 8 (the Dell mine is connected to runs Windows 7).

One key thing to mention straightaway – this is not a touch-screen monitor.

Here’s a quick summary of what I noted and was particularly impressed with from the moment I hooked it up to the PC:

It’s simplicity itself to set up. Unpack from the box, peel off all the protecting plastic film, affix the stand, connect to the graphics card port on your PC, plug in the mains lead, turn it on. Your PC or Mac will recognise it and set up a monitor driver. You should then install the specific Samsung monitor driver for this model that comes on a CD or let your operating system find it online. That’s basically it to get started.

One preparatory step I did take beforehand was to update the graphics card driver on the PC. It has an Nvidia card installed and, if you run a Windows PC, it’s always a good idea to have the latest WHQL-approved driver whatever brand of card you have.

The screen resolution is fabulous even if you can’t get the full 4K UHD experience and have to settle for what your PC and graphics card is able to support, which will likely be full high definition (FHD, also known as 1080p), the native resolution of many modern LCD or LED monitors, typically 1980 pixels wide by 1200 pixels high for a 24-inch monitor (which is the size of the AOC LED FHD  monitor I have that the Samsung replaces).

Absolutely gorgeous colours – a billion, says Samsung, if it runs at 4K UHD resolution if you connect with the DisplayPort 1.2 interface – along with crisp and clear graduation of colours and shades of grey. This is the best I’ve ever seen on any monitor.

4K UHD is stunning compared to FHD – rich, vibrant colours and four times the resolution. The peacock picture below tries to illustrate this to show the difference in colours and resolution between FHD and UHD.

FHD vs 4K UHD

Screen refresh is literally instantaneous with no visible pauses or juddery imaging, which is what you might expect to experience if running a program, watching a movie or playing a game that is extreme in its demands of the graphics processing system and memory of your computer. This is where a powerful graphics card with a fast GPU and lots of video memory is important, along with a DisplayPort interface ideally, or an HDMI port to connect the monitor to the PC. (The Samsung monitor has one DisplayPort interface and two HDMI ports, both to the version 1.4 HDMI standard. I’m currently connected via HDMI.)

That works on a similar principle you may already be familiar with on televisions – you need the biggest bandwidth connection between the TV and, say, an Xbox or even your cable TV box to pump the significant amount of audio-visual data at the highest speed you can get. Hence DisplayPort or HDMI, both far superior for this than the typical DVI ports you find on most computer monitors (and many TVs).

I haven’t yet played any contemporary games with this monitor, but I have watched quite a few movies, both on high-definition Blu-ray disc and streaming via Netflix, as well as live TV from the BBC and catch-up TV via iPlayer. In every case, the viewing experience has been an awesome one with smooth, crisp and clear images that make the most of the monitor’s capabilities (plus the PC’s processor and memory,  graphics card and HDMI connection, as well as a pretty good 154Mbps wired broadband internet connection).

And I’ve created, edited and watched a fair number of PowerPoint presentations. The ones I create tend to have lots of graphics, mainly screenshots, so saving content and displaying it can be quite resource-heavy on the computer’s graphics system. With this monitor, it’s a breeze with hardly a lag in screen refresh when I open up a typical 80-meg PowerPoint deck.

In case you’re wondering what’s the big deal about UHD and 4K, let’s address that.

UHD means that the monitor can display content at 3840 pixels wide by 2160 pixels tall resolution, which is four times as many pixels as full high definition (FHD), the resolution typically at 1920×1080. The American Consumer Electronics Association has a great definition of both terms of direct relevance when it comes to computer monitors like this Samsung one.

Okay, I suspect some of you reading this may be at the start of eyes glazing about now. To me, what’s important is that this monitor delivers on the essential elements of resolution, colours and screen refresh times that combine to make a terrific experience whether you’re playing TitanFall, watching House of Cards on Netflix or making a fabulous PowerPoint deck.

So here are some key features:

  • UHD resolution 3840×2160 pixels - 4 times the resolution of Full HD
  • 1 millisecond response time – that’s almost instantaneous
  • Minimalist design
  • Display port interface plus 2 HDMI 1.4 ports
  • UHD upscaling – great when watching HD video
  • Game Mode for a terrific gaming experience

I’ve not yet explored everything this monitor is capable of – things like picture-in-picture, picture-by-picture (two PCs connected to the single monitor to see the desktops of both simultaneously on one screen that’s divided into two), or game mode (detects the changes in scenes, enhances the colour and alters the screen’s contrast to make dark spots darker and light spots lighter so you can see all the action at all times).

Picture-by-picture: two PCs connected to the single monitor

Such experiences are still awaiting me in the coming months.

In summary, the Samsung U28D590D 4K UHD monitor is an excellent display device. Its sleek minimalistic design fits my expectation of a piece of advanced technology that I like to have on my desk. It’s beautifully made and looks pretty good.

The U28D590D is on sale in the UK now (Amazon UK has it at around £460) and you can see it soon in retailers like PC World. Its feature set pits it extremely well amongst competing products from the likes of Dell, Asus and AOC whose similar-spec UHD monitors cost more, significantly so in some cases.

On the Samsung UK website:

With Nomad, you’ll always find juice

ChargeCard

The bane of contemporary mobile life is your smartphone running out of juice sooner than you expect (what many would undoubtedly see as a classic ‘First World problem‘).

It usually happens to me at a conference or other event when I’m using my device a lot for tweets and pics and sharing them online, and there’s no nearby power outlet; or, more typically, I don’t have a charging cable with me that I can plug into a PC’s USB port.

So when the good folk at Nomad in California asked me if I’d like to try out their ChargeCard and ChargeKey micro USB cables, I was more than happy to say yes. Here’s what each device is –

  • ChargeCard: A thin smartphone cable in a credit-card-sized format casing that’s designed to fit into even the slimmest wallet.
  • ChargeKey: A key-shaped smartphone cable that fits onto your keychain.

They work like normal cables for charging the battery and syncing your phone – in both cases, you plug one end into a computer’s USB port and the other end into your mobile device. There are versions for iPhones and for other devices that use the near-ubiquitous micro USB standard connector (almost everyone else). As all of my mobile devices are Android, I chose the micro USB versions.

The package from Nomad arrived just before Easter so I’ve had a chance to try out both devices. They work better than I expected.

As the photos here show, you plug the micro USB connector into your phone, and the end of the charging cable into a USB port on your computer.

ChargeCard

Above is the ChargeCard connected to my Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone, plugged in to a USB port on the side of my Toshiba laptop.

As you can see, the cable connector plugged in to the laptop’s USB port looks like (and is) a very flexible rubber-and-silicon material that’s built in to the more rigid hard plastic of the credit card-sized casing.

Below is the ChargeKey on a keyring with my car key.

ChargeKey

As the ChargeCard image above shows, the connector part of each device is amazingly flexible – here below is what the ChargeKey looks like with the S4 connected to the laptop’s USB port.

ChargeKey

Note how twisted the connector cable is. It’s designed to cope with that, Nomad says, and it connects and works fine. It’s an issue you encounter with many mobile devices and charging/sync cables where each connector only fits one way, so you can end up with some contortions such as you see here.

At least part of the equation will be fixed as and when the new reversible USB connector standard makes its way into the cables and connectors we’ll see and use in the coming years when new reversible-connection USB ports get built in to PCs and other devices.

I’ve now ditched all but one of the USB cables that had homes in my various bags and that usually got tangled up in something. Having one is for the time when you can’t use either of the Nomad products – no flat surface, for instance, or it’s just too awkward, so a long cable may well serve you better.

For me, by far the most comfortable-looking of Nomad’s two devices is the ChargeCard. But both are very good and would likely serve different needs. I’m not sure keeping the ChargeKey on a carkey ring such as I have is best – it’s a bit awkward aligning the various devices on a table. I find the ChargeCard to be a better bet for that.

Still, both of these devices are really great. Did I mention sync? Not only do they charge your device, but also they let you synchronize data on your device with what’s on your computer, if you have it set up for that and if that’s what you want to do. Otherwise, they’re devices that enable you to charge up your battery – and very good ones for that purpose.

The built quality is outstanding, a best-practice example of innovative design and manufacturing – and great examples of the kind of flexible wearable technology that’s beginning to emerge: imagine the wiring within the twistable connector in each of Nomad’s devices that does its job no matter how twisted the connection, so to speak.

I did wonder about how exposed the connectors are – how easily might they potentially suffer damage without covers? Nomad addresses that one in a credible set of FAQ on their website. So I’m reassured.

And I like Nomad’s philosophy:

[...] We’re focused on building simple solutions to simple problems, problems that shouldn’t slow us or you down. ChargeCard and ChargeKey are just the start of our modern, minimalist, mobility movement.

Nomad began as a Kickstarter-backed project, exceeding its fund-raising goal by a factor of more than three. It became fully funded in August 2012.

Nomad sells the ChargeCard and the ChargeKey for $29 each in the US, with discounted pricing on quantity orders and referring a friend. They also have an affiliate program (I haven’t joined that so no links here are affiliate links). There’s good news if you’re in the UK – as well as in Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Spain – as you can buy either device from Amazon and get your purchase quickly.

Products that get you juice. What’s not to like?

FIR Book Review: Age of Context by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel

Age of ContextAge of Context: Mobile, Sensors, Data and the Future of Privacy explores the convergence of five technological factors – mobile, social media, data, sensors and location – and their present and future impact on everything from commerce to medicine to transportation.

FIR co-hosts Neville Hobson and Shel Holtz review the book in the context of an earlier FIR interview we conducted with the authors, and two book launch events including one in London in which Neville recorded Robert and Shel’s presentation as an FIR Speakers & Speeches podcast.

Listen Now:

Get this Podcast:

Age of Context: Mobile, Data, Sensors and the Future of Privacy by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel.

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
248 pages (print edition)
Published: September 5, 2013
Price: US: $22.49 (print edition), $10.43 (Kindle edition); UK: £13.55 (print edition), £6.43 (Kindle edition).

About the Authors

Robert ScobleRobert Scoble is an American blogger, technical evangelist, and author. As a startup liaison for Rackspace, the Open Cloud Computing Company, he travels the world looking for what’s happening on the bleeding edge of technology.

Robert has interviewed thousands of executives and technology innovators, and reports for Building 43 and in social media.

He is the co-author, with Forbes columnist Shel Israel, of Age of Context. Their previous book, Naked Conversations: How Blogs are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with Customers, published in 2006, has been called a watershed work in introducing business to social media.

Shel IsraelShel Israel helps businesses tell their stories in engaging ways, as a writer, consultant and presentation coach.

He is the author and co-author of five books including Age of Context – his latest book, co-written with Robert Scoble and released in September 2013 – Naked Conversations and Twitterville.

Shel currently writes the Contextual Beat column for Forbes.com. Previously he has contributed to BusinessWeek, Dow Jones, Fast Company and American Express Open Forum.

FIR Community on Google+Share your comments or questions about this podcast, or suggestions for future reviews, in the online FIR Podcast Community on Google+.

You can also send us instant voicemail via SpeakPipe, right from the FIR website. Or, call the Comment Line at +1 415 895 2971 (North America), +44 20 3239 9082 (Europe), or Skype: fircomments. You can tweet us: @FIRpodcast. And you can email us at fircomments@gmail.com. If you wish, you can email your comments, questions and suggestions as MP3 file attachments (max. 3 minutes / 5Mb attachment, please!). We’ll be happy to see how we can include your audio contribution in a show.

To receive all For Immediate Release podcasts including the weekly Hobson and Holtz Report, subscribe to the full RSS feed.

This FIR Book Review podcast is brought to you with Lawrence Ragan Communications, serving communicators worldwide for 35 years. Information: www.ragan.com.

(Cross-posted from For Immediate Release, Shel’s and my podcast blog.)

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Increase your computer satisfaction with Soluto’s anti-frustration service

PC boot times

One of the banes of modern computer life is booting up, the process that happens to your computer when you switch it on.

On my office desktop computer running 64-bit Windows 7 Ultimate, it takes well over five minutes from the moment I turn the machine on to the moment when realistically I can start using it.

That’s well over the average time in the UK – and significantly more than the global average – according to Soluto, an Israeli software and web service company whose business is all about improving boot times (and some other things).

The lengthy start-up typically increases over time as you add and remove programs, fiddle with things, misconfigure other things, tweak this and that, and maybe add or remove some hardware.

It’s one reason why I tend to start over with everything about once a year, savouring the first week or so after a fresh install when things take just a couple of minutes to be ready for you.

Today, though, I’m enjoying getting to the PC in less than three minutes after turning it on instead of the more than five minutes I’ve resigned myself to each time until another fresh install thanks to Soluto.

What Soluto does when you first use it is analyse your computer’s start up, looking at every program and service that runs when the computer is booting up to determine the most efficient and optimum way all of those things work together, to get your machine in a ready-to-use state in the shortest practical time.

Then each time you boot your machine, Soluto’s monitoring gets to know your computer better, making further recommendations on programs or services you can remove from boot, delay running until the bootup procedures are complete, or leave in the process.

Soluto

It can all add up to significant time saving. In my case, Soluto’s getting-to-know-your-PC procedure has now got me to the state of a ready machine in less than two minutes, a further one minute improvement from its initial use yesterday, about six bootups ago as I speed up the learning process.

It’s done it, basically, by sorting out the kinds of things that are tricky for you to do unless you are very knowledgeable about your device’s inner workings and know exactly how to tune every program, app or service that runs on bootup.

I’ve not uninstalled anything – often a route you go down when you experience a slow computer – or stopped using a program. All that’s happened is the computer start-up procedure has now become much more efficient in three ways:

  1. I’ve removed many apps from the bootup process entirely (31 in fact) based largely on Soluto’s guidance and the generic metrics they show on what other users do, saving over 3 minutes;
  2. Essential apps and services – mostly related to the computer’s operating system and connected hardware devices – run as normal during boot up; and
  3. Other programs I need but not until the computer’s completed booting-up are delayed until after that point.

I first heard about Soluto in early 2011 when it launched in beta. I tried it then and was impressed even though it was indeed beta. Today, it’s evolved impressively into a tool that, in my experience, works well and is one you can have confidence in using.

Soluto’s database in the cloud grows over time as more users share their experiences. I can see how it could especially help inexperienced users in guiding them on choosing what to boot, what to tweak and what to skip.

The service does a lot more than tune-up your computer’s boot process, though. Here’s Soluto’s full list:

What can you do with Soluto?

  • Manage multiple PCs from anywhere.
  • Shorten PC boot time and get your PC started fast.
  • See which apps are crashing and hogging CPU.
  • Remotely install and configure useful apps like Skype and Dropbox.
  • Customize your default browser, homepage, and search engine.
  • Keep your PC up-to-date with silent software updates.
  • Catch hardware issues before they cause problems.
  • Defrag and clear disk space to keep things running smooth and fast.
  • Help others get more out of their PCs too.

Whether you use just one or perhaps a handful of computers – a desktop and a couple of laptops, for instance – or you administer a network embracing iPhones and iPads as well, Soluto has an option with different plans ranging from a free one (the one I’m currently using) for managing up to 3 devices to the enterprise-level of up to 200 devices.

If you want to save time every time you start up your device – desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone – Soluto might have a solution for you.

Now I need to change my early-morning custom of making a pot of tea while the office desktop computer boots up. There’s no time any more!

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Getting to know the Olympus LS-14 and LS-12

Olympus LS-14

As a podcaster, I’m interested in portable digital audio recorders as tools that I can use to record interviews, for example, when out and about.

So when I hear about a new portable audio-recording device on the market, I’m curious to know how it might fare as a device for use such as mine. That’s the situation in the case of the recorder you see pictured here, an Olympus LS-14 recently launched in the UK.

As a company, Olympus is pretty well known for its professional cameras. I remember owning an Olympus 35mm SLR camera many years ago when photography was a keen interest of mine.

During the past few years, though, Olympus has featured prominently in mainstream media not for its cool products but for the ousting of its whistle-blowing British CEO precipitating a fraud and false accounting scandal that wiped 75 percent off its stock market valuation in one of the biggest and most durable business scandals in the history of corporate Japan.

Notwithstanding such an assault on its corporate reputation, Olympus continues to bring products to market that excite its customers and attract positive attention (and sales).

I’d count Olympus’ wide range of audio products – from dictation systems to high-end audio recorders – firmly in that area, and the LS-14 is a great example of a product that excites.

Olympus sent me the LS-14 along with its lesser-spec sibling, the LS-12, to get to know and review them. Both devices are pitched by Olympus primarily at musicians. My focus, though, is using them and reviewing them from the perspective of a podcaster – someone who will record voice rather than music.

Here’s an example of what a voice recording sounds like in a short clip I recorded on the LS-14:

The original was recorded in uncompressed WAV format (one of the recording formats the device supports); all I’ve done prior to saving it as an MP3 is run the WAV through Levelator, then save it as an MP3 in Adobe Audition. No editing.

How will they stack up? As I mention in the clip, I plan to review these devices on  their own merits rather than in comparison to any other device I use or have used.

First, though, I’m getting to know them. Review to come soon.

Do you use either of these devices or other Olympus digital audio recorders? If you’re willing to share your thoughts, I’d love to know what you think.

See (listen) also:

Get things done even faster on EE 4G

Need for Speed

Since I started using EE’s 4G cellular service last December courtesy of EE and the ambassador programme I’m participating in, the one thing that constantly impresses me is simply how fast it is so that you can get things done, well, faster.

Uploading Instagram photos and videos, status updates on Twitter or Facebook, opening a file in your Dropbox, streaming a TV show with iPlayer… you can do all of these things on your 4G mobile device when you’re out and about with the same confidence of having a great experience as you expect to have when you’re connected to your home/office broadband network or high-speed wifi.

EE started rolling out its 4G service last October, and says it’s currently available in 85 towns and cities across the country, offering 4G access to more than 55 percent of the UK population. EE adds that its 4G network is on track to cover 98 percent of the population by the end of 2014.

Last April, EE doubled the speed of its 4G network across some of the UK with headline 4G speeds of 80Mbps or more, making its service very competitive indeed in speed terms to high-speed cable broadband and wifi.

Today, July 4, EE is doubling speeds again with more double-speed 4G in twelve cities – Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Derby, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Nottingham and Sheffield.

The company says that this latest double-speed 4G will see EE’s network reach a theoretical maximum top speed of 150Mbps – that’s much faster than typical cable broadband speeds – and will double the current average speeds to 24-30Mbps, giving the UK a 4G network that’s unequalled in Europe, faster than mobile networks in the US and Japan, and equal to the best in South Korea.

It’s good news for existing 4G customers in the cities where the new double speed is rolling out as you’ll get the faster service at no additional cost, says EE.

And that’s not all.

In its announcement yesterday, EE also announced a raft of new 4G-related and other services:

To meet the growing needs of customers and allow them to realise the potential of 4G and Fibre broadband, EE will launch a pioneering range of new services on 17th July, making it as simple and as easy as possible for people to access EE’s superfast network:

  • The UK’s first Shared 4GEE Plans, allowing customers to connect up to five separate devices to one 4GEE plan. Customers will receive one bill for all of their devices on their Shared plan, providing greater convenience and value.
  • The UK’s first range of Pay As You Go 4GEE Mobile Broadband Plans for customers who want the convenience of superfast speeds on tablets or laptops without a monthly contract.
  • Cash on Tap, in partnership with MasterCard – a quick, secure and convenient way for customers to make payments via their mobile.
  • EE will also be launching the Bright Box 2 wireless router for Fibre broadband customers later this summer. The Bright Box 2 is designed to offer a stronger Wi-Fi signal and less drop-off in speed when a customer moves around, as well as plug and play set up.

Read the details in EE’s press release: EE Launches Next Generation Services On World’s Fastest Network.

EE will soon lose its position as the only provider of 4G services in the UK when other UK mobile operators – Vodafone, O2 and Three – start rolling out their 4G services over the next few months.

Until then, you have one 4G network on which you can get things done really fast almost wherever you are – and even faster in one of those twelve cities with double speed.

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