The Samsung Galaxy Note: Phone or Tablet?

Is it a tablet? Or is it a phone?

That’s the tagline on billboards advertising the new Samsung Galaxy Note. When the company selling a product expresses uncertainly about what exactly their product is, you know you are dealing with something different.

Indeed, the Samsung Note really is something different—a new hybrid product that’s both an oversized phone and an undersized tablet. The phonelet weighs 6.3 ounces (178 grams) and has a 5.3-inch display—more than the largest smartphone and less than the smallest tablet. The Android operating system, powered by 1.4GHz dual-core processor, is capable of doing anything Samsung Galaxy tablets are (and then some). And it makes phone calls with all the functionality of a high-end Samsung smartphone.

So does the Samsung Galaxy Note deliver the best features of a tablet and a smartphone? Or is it the worst of both worlds? Spot Cool Stuff takes a look:

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The Best Tablet Computers For Kids
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Software makers have long known that children love playing with tablet computers. To wit: the innumerable apps they’ve written for them. More recently, Hardware makers have been catching on. And so an increasing number of tablet computers are coming to market designed especially with kids (and kid online safety) in mind.

Kids tablet computers break down into two basic groups: Those that run a proprietary operating system and those that run on Android. Proprietary systems tend to be cheaper and the more kid-friendly (since all the software is designed for kids from the bottom up). Android-based tablets tend to be more powerful, more expandable and have the possibility of doubling as a parent’s tablet computer.

In general, Spot Cool Stuff recommends choosing a proprietary tablet for younger kids (eg under 5 or 6 years old) and an Android for older ones. Our top recommendations in both categories:

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The World’s Cheapest Tablet Computer

As the number of tablet computer models available to consumers explodes it makes sense that prices would drop. But a tablet for the bargain price of US$35!? That’s now the reality—if you happen to be a student in India and qualify for a subsidy. But even for the rest of us, we live in the world of sub-$80 tablets.

When Amazon announced their new line of Kindles, the basic model prices out at $79! Of course, that price is for more of an eBook reader. What about a true tablet of the sort that runs Android, a tablet on which you can watch movies, surf the web and play Angry Birds? Those can be found within an $80 budget too.

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Amazon Re-Kindled

Online super seller Amazon announced today a completely revised line-up of their Kindle family of eBook readers and tablet computers. The announcement included good news for nearly everyone (except perhaps Apple—we’ll get to that in a bit).

For the thrifty, there’s the new entry-level Kindle that can be had for a mere US$79. For the tech savvy and lovers of iPads, the colorful Kindle Fire holds out the promise of being a full fledged tablet computer. For fans of the current Kindles, you get a more powerful model called the Kindle Touch that will be available with 3G or without 3G.

Our overview of each:

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7 Tips For Extending Your Laptop’s Battery Life
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Laptops are the epitome of convenience and mobile work efficiency. And that makes battery life an especially key feature to consider when shopping for laptops—nobody wants to find themselves out of power.

Nearly every computer manufacturer advertizes their laptops as having X hours of battery life. That can be useful number when comparing one to another during the buying process. But a laptop’s battery life isn’t like its weight or screen size—a static, easily quantifiable figure. Your real-life battery performance is greatly affected by how you use your laptop. The good news being that you can take an active role in extending the hours of laptop time you can get between charges.

Here are seven simple tips for doing exactly that:

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Goodbye MacBook.
Hello New MacBook Air & Lion OS.
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Apple today announced updates to the MacBook Air, the company’s cool-looking, ultraportable netbook. What got less attention is Apple’s co-incidental decision to discontinue the MacBook.

No, no, not the popular and powerful MacBook Pro (one of which is being used to type these very words—see our review on how to best configure a new MacBook Pro for your purposes). The MacBook Pro lives on. But the MacBook—Apple’s plasticy, entry level laptop—does not.

The change means that Apple’s lightest laptop is new also its cheapest. Prices for the new 11″ Apple MacBook Air will start at US$999 retail, a bit less at discounters like and MacMall.

The major updates to the MacBook Air:

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Google Chromebook Comparison:
Acer vs Samsung
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Microsoft and Apple, watch out. Google is taking direct aim at you with their Chromebooks—laptops than run the Google-controlled Chrome operating system.

Unlike computers that operate Microsoft Windows or the Mac OS or even Linux, Chromebooks are not designed to run a lot of software stored locally on a hard drive. Instead, Chromebooks link up to Google’s (and other’s) online services. The applications Chromebooks run, the data they produce and the files they use, it is all stored on internet servers collectively known as “the cloud.”

Chromebooks’ approach is a semi-radical move away from hard drive-based personal computers. Naturally, it comes with pros and cons:

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The Return of the Commodore 64
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Nearly every American male who is today a 40-ish-year-old geek was, sometime in the 1980s, a 14-ish-year-old computer geek. Which means that nearly every 40-year old American male computer geek, at one point in the ’80s, coveted a Commodore 64.

For those not of a certain age, it might seem incomprehensible that a computer with a mere 64 KB of RAM and a graphics chip capable of handling a total of 16 colors could be considered the height of technology. Yet, in 1982 it was exactly that. Amazingly, to this day the Commodore 64 is still the best selling single model of home computer in history.

So to all those whose most cherished childhood Christmas memory involved running downstairs and finding a Commdore 64 under the tree, we have some very cool news: a new version of the Commodore 64 is now for sale!

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