Saturday, July 12, 2008

Portable Technology, Indian Scenario

I was reading an article in a magazine about usage of Internet gathering popularity on portable devices, yes that's true for sure in European countries, USA and south-east Asian countries like Japan and cities like Hong Kong, Singapore.

We are witnessing a flood of mobile handsets being launched every another day and I-phone 3G knocking on Indian shores, however the power of all such high-end devices is rendered useless in India due to never ending delay in the launch of 3G services and handsets with HSDPA technology also available in India, forget watching streaming TV in India at least for another 3 years.

Our so called 'Broadband' services are strangely priced and provided to consumers in India, the basic infrastructure is weak and above that there is a cap to bandwidth which hinders actual growth of Internet, I feel you tube and other video sharing sites have exciting content to offer but I just get let down by the 'streaming' and 'buffering' drama and never feel the fun of having an unlimited connection which drags on playing internet multimedia.

Mobile operators in India have weak customer support for users who want to use mobile internet technologies, since the handset list keeps growing; it becomes more complex for a lay man who has never used a computer to fiddle around with the settings on a high-end mobile device, though he may take all the pride of owning the latest gadget.

Also the data cards available in India today are just good for emailing and casual surfing, they cannot be used for downloads or multimedia browsing on internet, for me mobile internet is just a emergency backup and not a full fledged internet device for me, it's way too inconvenient to type a paragraph on your mobile, whether it be a touch screen phone or a normal high-end mobile phone.

Mobile browsers also are not capable of handling all website displays, their RAM power cannot be compared to a PC, the temporary memory cache gets over flooded very soon, also imagine you took a live video of music concert and try to upload it via you tube application now available on some high-end phones, you would just watch the phone uploading the clip endlessly and miss the concert, probability is that your GPRS or EDGE connection may time out.

I have just given up on my dream of having a properly functional portable internet technology in India as of now, since we have more important issues like poverty, hunger and Inflation to deal with... (Don’t know for how many years.. Sigh!)

The gaming bug in me has being awakened by the arrival of Xbox 360, my wife got this console as a prize from a campaign her team won in the office, I always used to skip buying my favourite games on my PC since the gaming configurations keep going up every time, and I find it useless to keep upgrading my PC ram and processor and graphic card for just gaming, so Xbox 360 came as a blessing for me.

Box Content: Xbox 360 Pro console contains Xbox 360 console, a brick charger, Component HD AV Cable, Ethernet cable, A gaming headset, media remote, one wireless controller, 20 GB HDD, manuals, warranty card, alkaline batteries for remote and wireless controller, I also received two free games along with the console, Viva Pinata and Forza Motor racing 2.

Console Details: Xbox 360 pro console is sleek and can be placed horizontally or vertically, its white in look and has chrome finish on sides, on the front panel you have disc loading tray and two slots for memory units (sold separately), a protected slot having 2 USB ports, on the back you have power connection slot, a Ethernet port, extra USB port, HD AV cable connectivity port, Digital output port (used for digital audio cable).

Configuration: I have a Philips 32TA800 LCD TV which is HD ready, setting up the console is easy and I connected the component HD AV cable to my televisions composite video ports, connected audio output to my Artis S6600 5.1 speakers, I set my TV display to 1080i setting (1920 X 1080 resolution = 2,073,600 pixels) then set the cable option to HDTV mode (it has TV mode as well for playing games on normal televisions), I began my console set up after powering it on, created my Gamer tag (gaming profile), the gaming experience was 'AWESOME'.

Console Navigation: Xbox console has a really cool dashboard which can be customized in terms of colours and you can even keep your preferred images in the dashboard background. It had 5 dashboard blades, Market place, Xbox Live, Games, Media and System these dashboard options are easy to access, you would not require much effort to navigate through them, you also have an option for configuring family settings for games in case you have a child at home and you would not want your child to play certain genre of games.

Console performance: I have begun playing all 6 game titles I have with me ( Viva Pinata, Forza Motorsport racing 2, WWE RAW Vs Smackdown 2008, Army of Two, Marvel Ultimate Alliance, Halo 3), game play clarity on HD mode is 'Amazing', I checked the visual quality on normal TV mode, where the video quality takes a slight hit, still playable in case one does not have a HDTV or HD ready TV. I did not experience any game lag during the game play and graphics delivered by the console are top notch and flawless, playing with wireless controller is fun, you just need to pair the wireless controller once to the console and controller buttons and joysticks are easy to use, you wont end up paining your fingers once you are done gaming, with a great audio and visual clarity the game play becomes immersive, you can also play your own soundtrack in the background while playing a game, this feature is game based.

Beyond Gaming: Xbox 360 pro does not just play games, it has windows media center connectivity option to connect your windows based pc to Xbox, you can dump your existing DVD player since you can view your favourite movies on Xbox, with the latest software upgrade for Xbox you can also view DivX files on Xbox, it allows mp3 playback and movie playback from USB devices as well, surprisingly it would not play a VCD, you can connect your mp3 player, or Ipod, digital camera to play music or view photographs on Xbox, it also provides song ripping option in case you want to load tracks to Xbox hard drive from a music CD, with the media remote you can operate multimedia features easily and even record live TV in case your PC is equipped with TV tuner card is connected to a set-top box.

Xbox Live service: Microsoft offers free silver membership to online service for Xbox 360 called Xbox Live, I connected to this service by connecting the console to my laptop by sharing my wi-fi connection through my router in my other room, I got 1 month trial Gold membership of Xbox Live service, this feature allows you to watch new game trailers, download game demos and participate in live gaming events, download Xbox arcade games, you can also share your gamer achievement score which you keep scoring in different games as you unlock various challenges in a game.

Support & Warranty: Xbox 360 console has being criticized to be a noisy console, heating up fast and the most famous RRoD (Red ring of death) problem most consoles have reported to encounter, but I have observed that my console has no problems with regards to over-heating or being too noisy as I have played games at a stretch for 4-5 hours, in terms of warranty Microsoft offers 3 years warranty against RRoD problem with console replacement and 1 year warranty for other issues. You can be a part of buzzing Xbox forums on Xbox website which offer lot's of tips and tricks to play games from members across the globe, other discussion topics on Xbox.

Why Xbox ?: Its very difficult to choose between two major gaming consoles Xbox 360 & PS3, Nitendo Wii is still not officially released in India, its available through grey market, PS3 is gaining popularity slowly and has less number of game titles as of now which cost mostly near 3000 bucks and above, while Xbox 360 has impressive line up of gaming titles with backward playing compatibility of few Xbox games, apart from that a windows based PC is bound to connect seamlessly with Xbox compared to a PS3, both PS3 and Xbox 360 have their pros and cons, but I am happy with the performance of Xbox which combines features of a gaming and entertainment device. In India Xbox 360 games are available in a range of Rs 999 to Rs 2510.

Why gaming consoles: We all like to play games and spending money on a PC to upgrade graphic card, memory and storage turns out to be an expensive affair which is not affordable every time, Sony PS2 is the largest selling console till date and is still alive and kicking with a huge library of game titles and new games still being churned out for this console, it also happens to be the largest sold console in India, so consoles stand to gain a upper hand due to extended shelf life they enjoy, the flip side to console gaming is expensive game titles, unlike cheaper PC games and pirated game CDs available for PCs, Sony PS2 gained popularity in India because PS2 has a slew of pirated games and this console has being cracked long back, whereas Xbox 360 also has being hacked, the hardware has to be modded, but it voids the warranty, PS3 is still not cracked.(I personally would not encourage hacking your console to play pirated games), so with gaming consoles extending their capabilities to become a complete multimedia device, it makes sense to invest in a gaming console.

So if you are a gaming freak, and would like to enjoy cutting edge graphics Xbox 360 is a good choice, in Pune I have seen retailers selling Xbox 360 at a price of Rs 27,750 and Rs 23,990, some give no free cds, some give 2 free cds(Viva Pinata, Forza Motorsport Racing 2) and some 4 cds (Project Gotham Racing, Yuvraj Singh International Cricket, Viva Pinata, Forza Motorsport Racing 2), check out Planet M store at M.G Road in Pune they have a Halo 3 edition with 4 free CDs for Rs 23,990.