Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Ramos W30HD Died

Well using my tablet like normal Saturday browsing the internet and doing a couple emails with my Bluetooth keyboard. Nothing really seemed out of the ordinary. Put it on its charger that night and woke up Sunday and nothing. Wouldn't turn on. Tried the reset switch and all the button combinations I could think of. Now my theory is either the cheap US Charger Ramos shipped to me with it died or worse yet something inside the Tablet is shot. Ordered a new charger so I'm waiting for that to arrive, and if that doesn't work, I'll pop it open to see if I can't find anything physically shorted/disconnected inside the Tablet. If not I'm just gonna consider it a paper weight because just emailing with Ramos set my bar pretty low for their customer service so I'm not really expecting them to actually honor a warranty but who knows I might be wrong, and I might give that a try if all else fails.

In the mean time with the Ramos W30HD down, and possibly for the count, strolled into Bestbuy yesterday and picked up an Asus Vivotab RT with the keyboard dock included and I'm hoping to have a review of that in the next coming days. 1st impressions, after only using it for about half a day so far, is I like it a lot. My feelings is most reviews sites are full of themselves when they bash Windows RT for not running like the laptop/desktop Windows 8 versions. If you need legacy apps get a laptop because on your tablet it woud be a pain navigating legacy Windows Apps anyway. Anyway check back periodically and I'll try to update everyone about my Ramos and the fate of it and my new favorite toy the Vivotab.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Ramos W30HD 2/16/2013 Firmware Update Review

So about every other day I would go onto the official Ramos website to check from the source for a new firmware and about every other day I got more and more disappointed that there wasn't an update out. That changed on the 16th. I heard rumors floating about that Ramos was planning on releasing it either on or shortly after the Chinese New Years and they didn't disappoint only about a week later which isn't the worst that I've seen from some well known companies that'll say tomorrow but mean in about 3 months.

Installing the update is somewhat straight forward. You can download it officially here which is the official download link from Ramos or find another mirror that is quicker. I just slowly downloaded mine overnight. Installing the update itself is kind of different, it's definitely my first flashing it their way. You can follow their instructions if you have a translator and or can read it here or follow my simplified one here. It WILL restore your tablet IE wipe everything off of it so make sure to have backups if you need them. It takes about 5-10 minutes depending on your Micro SD card to install it and be warned after you update it you may get two weird lines of pixels near the center of the screen for a few minutes. Ramos says this is normal and it will eventually go away. It did on mine after about 20 minutes of usage.

Alright first and foremost just like I feared this is a minor firmware update not a major one so people hoping for Jelly Bean you are out of luck for now. It keeps 4.0.4 but somewhat fixes the hardware video acceleration. I say somewhat because there are still a few videos that just won't work. In my experience with my Tablet Plex, Youtube and MX Player work as they should but oddly enough Netflix still gives me a black screen and some game cinematics so it's at least progress but still not 100%. Because it's still 4.0.4 there is still an interface lag at least on the stock launcher that hasn't been addressed with Project Butter yet but just like before I use a different launcher from the market and it solves that issue. But with that being said performance has improved. Antutu benchmark score increased by 1389 points to 15658 and Quadrant increased 454 points to 5563 all averaged over 10 runs running the stock firmware update just the Ramos junk disabled and rooted.

They have also appeared to address the battery issues that have cropped up in mine. The meter now properly shows 100% after fully charging it and at least in my preliminary testing battery life has improved around 10-15% after 4 battery tests and I can somewhat tell with my day to day usage it has improved but I'll run a few more tests to get a better average. They also appeared to solved my little issue of every once and a while it just wouldn't charge without the tablet fully powered off haven't ran into it once since updating.

Lastly they have fixed and addressed the issue with the Wifi sleeping while the screen was powered off. They give you 3 options now if never want it on, only when charging or wifi always on with the screen off. I know I didn't touch on this in my first review because I hardly noticed it but after reading on some of the forums I know people were screaming for this to be addressed so kudos for Ramos for listening.

All in all this was definitely a much much much needed update that didn't disappoint. The W30HD still needs work, and shame on Ramos for not releasing the source code because I feel like if the custom rom cookers could get their hands on it, and trust me they want to, this tablet would fly but for now Ramos appears to be holding off and trying to fix things themselves. This is their 1st update and a welcome one that addressed a lot of issues but doesn't fully solve the hardware video acceleration, they more or less put a Bandaid on it because it's still broken in some apps but solved some other big issues with the tablet and I have a little more faith that Ramos will actually deliver the Jelly Bean update like they promised. But exactly when will be anyone's guess. So considering the new update I would give the Ramos W30HD an 8/10 score. It's not perfect yet but it is a step in the right direction but it more or less needs 4.1 to iron out the interface lag and or video hardware acceleration in all the apps.


Ramos W30HD Firmware Update Guide

I'm not responsible for any bricked devices. I will attempt to help you out best way I can if you do run into a problem but as I said I'm not responsible for any bricked devices.

Alright this is a guide that will walk you through how to upgrade your Ramos W30HD Firmware exactly how I did it and it worked perfectly on my W30HD. If you have anything important on the tablet make a backup as this will wipe the tablet clean of all data.

This guide assumes you have your Micro SD already plugged into your computer and ready to go. And speaking of Micro SD cards I used a 16GB Kingston class 8 which worked fine but YMMV concerning cards and or card readers.

1: Download the update either from the official download mirror here or find another speedier mirror. Don't ask me to post it somewhere else because no offense but I can't be bothered I slowly downloaded it overnight so it didn't kill me.

2: Unzip the folder so you should have 3 things within the folder. A folder for Winimage, A .vhd file that says Ramos_xxxxx.vhd and a .doc file.

3: Take the Ramos_xxxxx.vhd file, and if it has any Chinese characters in the name delete them, and move them somewhere out of the folder. I moved mine to the desktop because Winimage doesn't like Chinese Characters so you either have to rename the folder or just move the file.

4: Download WinImage from here and install it. I tried using the bundled Winimage in the download and it didn't work so I just downloaded it from the source.

5: Launch WinImage as an administrator if possibly.

6: Under the Disk menu select "Restore Virtual Hard Disk Image on Physical Drive."

7: Select your Micro SD card. If for some reason it doesn't show up you can try checking the box that says "Include Non removable hard disk(s)." If that doesn't work try a different card and or card reader.

8: Navigate to the Ramos_xxxxxxxx.vhd file wherever you put it and select open. And wait for the disk to be written.

9: Power down the tablet and install the Micro SD card into the slot.

10: While holding the volume up button, which is the 3rd from the left when holding the tablet horizontally, press the power on button and hold both until it shows Updating on the screen. I waited about 10 seconds after it said updating on my screen before releasing anything.

11: Wait for it to be done and it should reset itself and then launch with the fully updated firmware.

After your first boot you may notice 2 lines of pixels and lines around the center part of your screen. Ramos claims this is totally normal and I did have them on mine but they will go away after a while. Mine took about 20 minutes to fully go away.

12: Optional But because it wasn't shown anywhere if your Micro SD card doesn't show it's maximum volume you have to Format it. I used SD Formatter 4 which you can get here to restore the card to it's maximum volume.

13: Optional If you need/want root my old method posted here still works just fine for getting the W30HD rooted.


Saturday, January 19, 2013

Sprint Samsung Galaxy S3 Review

I've had my Sprint Galaxy S3 for over 5 months now and because I wanna review more things on this Blog decided to do a full rundown of it and share my results with it. It's a White 32GB Version and I won't list the entire specs you can get them here. Headline specs are a Dual Core 1.5GHZ Qualcomm MSM8960, 16/32GB Onboard Storage expandable with up to a 64GB MicroSD Card, 2GB Ram, LTE (more on that later), a 4.8" 1280X720 screen, and an Adreno 225 GPU.

I purchased the phone flat out on eBay about 5 or so months ago because I wasn't eligible for an upgrade and my Evo 3D was feeling more and more dated every day. It was a risk buying off eBay and at first it looked like I got scammed. Sprint would not activate it because it was tied to another account while the seller was adamant he bought the phone brand new and never activated it which I somewhat agreed because it came totally un-opened but Sprint just flat out wouldn't touch it. After a lot of calling we finally figured out because he ordered it online as an upgrade Sprint did in fact activate it but his account was in good shape so they let us switch ESN's. YMMV while buying a phone online so take caution out there that's just my story what happened to me but could have been a lot worse IE the phone was stolen or something.

I fell in love with the phone just using it a few seconds after powering it on. It felt just more fluid and responsive over my Evo 3D and the screen is just awesome. With 2GB of Ram and an alright 1.5GHZ Dual Core it takes a lot to slow the Galaxy S3 down and in fact outside of opening like 20 tabs threw Chrome I haven't been able to really make the phone stutter.I'm running the official 4.1.1 Update with Root nothing else added. Quadrant gave it a score of 6019 while Antutu Benchmark gave it a score of 11132 all averaged over 10 runs of each benchmark. The only let down hardware wise is the fact that the international version has the Exynos 4 Quad Core CPU but only 1GB RAM while the Korean version has both the Quad Core and 2GB of RAM so our US version is under powered by comparison. Battery life is good with the exchangeable 2100mAh battery. Under heavy usage like HD Gaming while streaming music I can usually get away with 4 or so hours before it finally bites the dust and more day to day usage with good cell phone signal and browsing the web listening to music I can usually get a full 12 hours out of it so it is rather impressive to me for such a slim phone. While we are on the subject of batteries Samsung showed off wireless charging when it debuted the phone and yet here we are in January with still no official Samsung one, yet there are I think is only one 3rd party that have a wireless charging kit for the S3. This is just a small annoyance but I was really hoping to buy one when I saw it in their debut but I have given up hope Samsung will ever release theirs.

I like the design of the Galaxy S3 with how slim it is so even though it has a fairly large screen it's not too brutal carrying it around in your pocket. Some people don't like the smooth plastic back and coming from an Evo 3D which had a nice textured back it is somewhat of a let down but I learned to live with it. It has a nice 8MP Camera in the back with a LED flash and a 1.9/2MP Camera in the front for video chatting. I don't video chat but I occasionally take pictures with the rear camera and as long as there is a decent amount of light I think it does just a fine job but it won't go replacing my DSLR anytime soon. While it does have a flash I find it rather pointless because it washes out all the pictures at night so I usually only ever use it as a flash light. It has a fairly decently loud speaker beside the flash module on the back of the phone but if you want to use speakerphone you have to basically place the phone screen down because placing it on the back covers the speaker. The phone is pretty durable you can risk dropping it but if it falls on a right spot it will crack like mine has but luckily I had insurance so they replaced it but if it falls on the back like mine has multiple times it does just fine. Lesson here though be careful with your expensive phones!!!

It was released with Android 4.0.4 with Samsung's "TouchWiz" interface on top and while some people don't like Touchwiz I actually really enjoy it. I don't use a lot of the features Touchwiz has but I respect that it has it. Samsung released their official Jellybean update I think in September or November even though Custom modders had it on the device only a few days after it was released. With Jellybean it really made the phone shine with Project Butter making just everything you do with it smooth. My favorite Touchwiz app by far is Samsung's built in video player. It can do everything you have seen it do in the commercials and I just think it's really cool to be able to pop out a video and go do something else while the video is still playing in a box right there on your screen. And that's not to mention that the video player will play nearly any file type I throw at it. Everything else like S-Beam and stuff I haven't really used because I'm the only one of my friends with a S3 so I got no one to tap phones with but I still think it's a neat idea.

And finally here is where we get to the elephant in the room at least for me. This was Sprint's basically "Flagship" LTE Phone yet for the longest time even after the phone's release there was no LTE. And even now they have started rolling out very very very limited markets with a complete rollout by the end of 2013. I'm in Seattle with no LTE signal what so ever and even in the markets there are LTE the speeds aren't exactly as fast as the other big 2. I'm holding out hope that when Sprint does complete it's LTE it will live up to my expectations because being stuck on their 3G is no fun. I'd rather have Dial Up than use Sprint's 3G at times so the phone is really handicapped unless you are on Wifi to do any sort of websurfing and music streaming.

Summing this phone up is hard. It is amazing to actually use while you are on Wifi but frustrating because of Sprint's 3G when you are not. The battery life is good, the screen is gorgeous, and it has plenty of storage with the ability to have even more storage. It could've been faster hardware wise, I don't buy into Samsung's reason that our LTE wouldn't work with the Exynos, but that's just the enthusiast in me wanting the best hardware because honestly the Dual Core and 2GB of Ram gets the job done with whatever you throw at it it's just the lack of Sprint's LTE that is really the disappointing thing.


Saturday, January 5, 2013

Guide To Rooting The Ramos W30HD

Really really easy to Root the Ramos W30HD. Sorry if these instructions come off as condescending but you have to write these things for people totally new to modifying their device. YMMV when doing this and I'm not responsible for any bricked devices.

*UPDATE 2/18/2013* With the new Firmware that was published I can confirm at least on my tablet this root method still works exactly the same without issue on mine.

*UPDATE* If you find that your Gmail does not work afterwards and you don't want to use the built in Email Client you can download this APK either download it from your tablet or onto a SD Card and install it. I can't confirm if my Gmail worked before I rooted my Ramos I never tried it until after I rooted it so I don't know the cause of it not working.

1: Download SuperUser here. It's under ARM Devices. I used 3.2-RC3.

2: Take your Super User Zip File and put it onto a MicroSD Card

3: On the back side of your W30HD on the top is two little notches on a plastic cover. Push up/away from the tablet to reveal the MicroUSB Connector.

4: The slot right next to the Headphone Jack closer to the back side of your tablet is your MicroSD Card Slot. With the name of the card facing the back of the of the tablet and the notched part facing the MicroUSB Connector push the card in.

5: Power the tablet down.

6: Hold the volume up and down buttons at the same time and power on the device while holding them down. You can release everything when you see CWM-Based Recovery at the top.

7: Using your volume Up + Down keys to navigate, navigate till "apply update from external storage" is highlighted then press the power button.

8: Navigate to your Superuser zip for Superuser 3.2 it's Superuser-3.2-RC3-arm-signed.zip and press the power button.

9: Wait for it to complete then select reboot device and press the power button.

10: Congrats you should be rooted. Download Root Check if you want to verify.


Ramos W30HD Review

The Ramos W30HD. The evolution of their popular W30 but with a 1920 x 1200 HD IPS Display. Ever heard of Ramos or their W30/HD?? Yeah me neither but a co-worker got me hooked on the idea of cheap Chinese tablets so I decided to take the plunge and did a lot of research and settled on this, the Ramos W30HD, as the best tablet that would suit my needs but more importantly not break the bank. I'm not going to explain in detail the specs of the Tablet you can get them from the English store here or if you can read Chinese here. Headline specs is Samsung Exynos 4412 Quad Core CPU, Quad Core Mali 400 GPU, 2GB RAM, 32GB Built In Storage and a beautiful 1920 x 1200 IPS Display.

I was a bit skeptical at first handing over my credit card information to a site I had no idea was legit or not, so I bought a pre-paid card from my bank that works the exact same way as a debit card and used that to purchase the Tablet. The store on Ramos is fairly straight forward and they do give you some options while purchasing like the option to add an extended warranty from the standard year long one which is nice but I didn't bother, the only option I chose is express shipping to the US because I wanted the thing in my hands ASAP. I ordered the tablet on 12/30/12 and because of the Holidays in my mind I wasn't really expecting it to arrive by the 2nd week of January at the soonest but to my surprise I was totally wrong. DHL isn't exactly my favorite shipping company in the world that honor goes to UPS although YMMV so to actually receive my tablet on 1/4/13 just blew me away especially because they shipped it on 1/2/13 from China.

The packaging was actually really really good they did a great job protecting their product during shipping. The box and accessories the tablet came with leave a bit to be desired. You get a micro USB cable, 2 little, I think manuals, all in Chinese and your DC adapter to charge the tablet because it doesn't charge over USB and the tablet, at least mine, came dead. After charging it for a good 30 minutes I turned it on and well it wasn't even at 3% battery so 1st impression right off the bat is this thing takes forever to charge but the screen right away is amazing. The 1920 x 1200 screen is really crisp and bright. At full brightness it actually hurts my eyes to look at it so I turned it down to about 50%. The viewing angles are great I don't know the exacts but from some extreme angles the screen didn't completely wash out. Also on the screen I'd like to make a correction to the Ramos website that states it just supports 5 Point touch, but no the Antutu Multi Touch Test showed me 10 points.

The tablet itself though is wonderful. It's really snappy with the Exynos 4412 Quad Core CPU coupled with a Quad Core Mali 400 and 2GB of RAM. It has 32GB of Storage built in and get this a MicroSD slot, which a lot of the big boys in the Tablet space keep forgetting, which accepted my 32GB Sandisk Class 10 but would not read my 64GB MicroSD. It comes with Android 4.0.4 which is alright with a promise to Jelly Bean update "Coming" and I hope really soon because here is the biggest draw back of the tablet so far the video decoding just doesn't work. Youtube greets you with a black screen whenever you try to play a video and same with Netflix and my Plex app. I tried switching on Force GPU Rendering in the developers settings but nothing works. I emailed the real Chinese Tablet site to ask if I possibly got a faulty unit or something to which they replied to me that no and they are aware of the problem and it will be resolved with a firmware update. I wrote back trying to get confirmation if it was the 4.1 update or will it be a minor update but as of this writing they haven't gotten back to me which stinks because I really wanted to like this tablet but I bought it for movies and videos and the things fails to do that. It can play 3D Games just wonderfully the CPU/GPU really shines on the Ramos. I have tried Shadowgun, Dead Trigger and Asphalt which all look and play smoothly just as long as it is rendering 3D. If any of the games, like Dead Trigger, have a video in it you will be seeing a black screen until it is over. Antutu Benchmark gave it a score of 14269 which is just shy of the international version of the Galaxy S3 which shares basically the same internals and Quadrant gave it a score of 5109 which is once again just a little bit behind the Galaxy S3 according to their apps. The battery is really the only hardware thing holding the tablet back. According to Ramos it's a 5400mAh battery which in my eyes is just too small or the battery meter is pointless in the device because just unplugging it and leaving it in standby for an hour it dropped to 92%. I'm in the process of running battery tests to see if it's a case of it's too small, because a lot of other cheap Chinese 10" tablets have 10,000mAh batteries, or the battery meter and will report back in a few days with an answer because I like to run Benchmarks and tests at least 5 times to get a proper average and Battery Tests take a while.

Battery tests complete and here is the rundown. With the tablet set at roughly 50% and with 95% CPU Usage across all cores the tablet finally turned off at consistently around 5 hours +/- 10 minutes. With a more subjective usage like browsing the internet and streaming music from Pandora and watching a few videos in Chrome, which somehow works yet the Youtube App itself won't, it will last 7 and a half hours +/- 20 minutes for me. Now the real kicker is the 0% to 100% charge. With the tablet totally turned off and only turning it on every half hour to check the percentage it took around 9 hours +/- 30 minutes, and with the tablet left on but in standby and checking every 15 minutes it took around 10 hours and 15 minutes +/- 15 minutes. And lastly if you try to play a taxing game while charging the charger Ramos ships with the tablet does not have enough juice to keep it charging so it will lose about 1% battery every 5 to 10 minutes. Something to note about the stock battery meter is just like I feared it can be a bit pointless. A couple times the battery meter would read like 47% even charging all night yet when I restarted the tablet it shot back to 100%. Not sure if it's because the system is still learning the capacity and discharge rate but it is something to keep in mind while using it. I ran the 95% hard usage battery test 10 times to get my average and the more real life battery test I ran 7 times with letting the tablet recharge fully to 100% showing after I restarted it.

Build quality is decent. It's nice and sleek and I love the longer screen compared to my old iPad 3. The back is I think aluminum or some kind of metal or if not it's really nice plastic that does a good job tricking me it's metal but where build quality falls apart lies at the top of the tablet where there is a plastic cover covering the MicroSD and Micro USB ports. It feels flimsy and awkward and doesn't line up perfectly which drives my OCD mad looking at it. And also under the cover you can see basically all the way into the tablet which leaves me to believe dirt, dust, and anything else can easily get inside and cover the Exynos 4412 SoC. But with that being said maybe it was a design choice because during testing the back of the tablet got warm but no where near boil a pot of water hot my iPad 3 got sometimes so maybe they are there for added cooling? There are 3 physical buttons on the tablet in the upper right starting at the top with Power/Lock and then a volume rocker. They lack any real feed back so you don't quite know if you pressed hard enough or not. And on the top edge of the tablet you have 2 pin holes for Mics and your power port for your DC Charger and a headphone jack. It has a 2MP camera in the back and a .3MP camera in the front which both leave a lot more to be desired for the people that would use them but I normally use my DSLR to take pictures instead of holding up a 10" Slate but hey some people care about these kind of things and I'm not a huge Skyper or video caller so both cameras in the tablet will go un-used on mine. It has 1 speaker that is, I guess, loud enough but even when I switch to speakerphone on my S3 it's louder. It's in a weird position on the backside so all the sound is directed away from you especially when you are trying to watch something on the screen so headphones will definitely be your best bet there.

Like I said before it comes with Android 4.0.4 which isn't the latest and greatest but it works just fine minus anything to do with 2D Videos. Ramos pre-loads the tablets with a couple games like Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja and a bunch of Apps with Chinese or Japanese (sorry I don't know the difference) names that can all be deleted. If you press the volume up and down button and power button when the tablet is off it will boot into CWM Recovery which lets you easily root the device which I did by putting a Super User Zip onto a MicroSD and installing it threw CWM.

All in all it's a great, cheap but flawed tablet that has a couple cosmetic issues and one big software issue that is holding it all back. At least the software issue can easily be fixed it's just a matter of if/when they release a firmware update or someone picks up the gauntlet to make a custom Rom based off the Note 2/10.1 as they share the same internals. Trust me I know how much it stinks waiting for a company to get their head out of the sand and give you an update that they promised when they released the device (Yeah I'm looking at you HTC with the Evo 3D). So because of the software fault I'm gonna have to sadly give this tablet a 6/10 for me, but whenever Ramos releases a fix for the video encoding and/or Jelly Bean the score will most definitely go up.