VW Bulli & iPad


This time it’s called the Volkswagen Bulli, and like its 2001 ancestor, this one is designed to carry on the legacy of the brand’s famous Microbus. This Geneva concept packs a 113-horsepower electric motor drawing power from a lithium-ion battery pack. At full charge, the Bulli is said to be theoretically good for 186 miles before a recharge. When it’s time for more juice, VW says the Bulli can be fully charged in less than an hour.

What a cool concept.

And here’s something even cooler: the iPad controls the stereo, navigation, communications and HVAC. Of course, the iPad is removable.

Nintendo 3DS Teardown: Parallax Barrier 3D


The 3D display of the 3DS seems to be realized by using a “parallax barrier,” which partially blocks light, to show different images to the right and left eyes. However, Nintendo has not disclosed the technologies used for the 3D display. Our assumption has been based on the display properties and the fact that Sharp Corp, which is considered to be one of the suppliers of the 3DS’ panel, developed technologies similar to the ones used for the 3DS.

The 3.53-inch LCD packs a 800×240 pixel format. So 400 horizontal pixels go to your right eye and the other half to your left eye. Nintendo has made it clear that there are health risks to children who are under the age of six. I’m a parent and I don’t think I’ll be giving the Nintendo 3DS to my children. My wife, an optometrist, doesn’t recommend it either.

MacBook Air Display Problem

Some of the newly-introduced MacBook Airs are having display problems: weird colors, vertical lines, and external display connections not working.

User DanRyb:

I ordered a MacBook Air 11″ with 1.6 GHz, 4GB ram and 128GB SSD. Every so often while using it, the screen has a ton of weird colors in vertical lines (extends the whole display) and the entire laptop has frozen. I have to force it off with the power button and reboot it. It happens at random times. Is this a symptom of overheating perhaps? I’ve done some research online and can’t seem to find anyone else experiencing the same issue so I’m thinking I got a bad apple.

The problem of vertical lines seem to be affecting the entire screen. Normally if only a portion of the screen is exhibiting discolored vertical lines the likely cause is a faulty driver IC or a loose connection to the LCD panel. Since the entire screen is affected, the cause might be a defective TCON (timing controller) or loose wiring between the LCD panel and the main board.

User Ibaum:

Ultimately this leads me to the following conclusion: it appears to be a general problem with all new Macbook Airs that the external video signal is pretty bad. Some monitors seem to be more “forgiving” and don’t show any problems (in my tests, Samsung, Apple, and NEC worked pretty okay). If you have one of those, lucky you!

Other monitors (in my tests particularly Eizo and Fujitsu) seem to be less forgiving and show intensive flickering. If you have one of those, bad luck! (Unfortunately, at my workplace we only have Eizos). A replacement Macbook Air will most likely not solve the issue for you!

A logic board replacement by AppleCare didn’t fix it. Also since brands like Samsung have many models all with different LCD panels, chips, connections, etc. your mileage will vary with these ‘safe’ brands. If the external monitor problem is somehow related to the first problem, could it be the GPU.

User schallau:

Tried it with two HP ZR24w monitors using both DisplayPort and VGA cables. Both monitors and both input types exhibited issues. With display port the screen would randomly blank out or half of the screen would flicker. With VGA I would experience artifacts like ghosting of images after a few minutes. This behavior is consistent at any resolution above 1600×1200 (the monitor’s native resolution is 1920×1200).

Higher pixel formats require more bandwidth, which generate more heat. The culprit might be heat but Apple’s engineers would have built into the MacBook Airs some sort of tolerance up to about 100°C. I don’t think there are any solutions out there, but in the mean time, and if you haven’t already, make sure to download and patch your MacBook Airs. The MacBook Air EFI Firmware Update 2.0 is one in particular that should help some of you with display problems:

This update resolves a rare issue where MacBook Air boots or wakes to a black screen or becomes unresponsive. This update is recommended for all 11-inch and 13-inch MacBook Air (late 2010) models.

David Martin at Cult of Mac offers a potential fix by resetting the internal hardware in the MacBook Air. These ultra-thin notebook PCs from Apple are engineering marvels, but for some there seems to be display-related problems that requires Apple’s attention.

Cheaper iPhone

Bernstein Research analyst Toni Sacconaghi, according to Eric Savitz at Forbes:

The analyst says Cook “appeared to reaffirm the notion that Apple is likely to develop lower priced offerings” to expand the market for the iPhone. Cook said the company is planning “clever things” to address the prepaid market, and that Apple did not want its products to be “just for the rich,” and that the company is “not ceding any market.”

The older-generation iPhone 3GS can be had for US$49. But that requires you to be chained to an expensive carrier subscription for two years. A LTE-only data iPhone could do the trick since the voice portion of the cost of owning an iPhone is the largest. Theoretically, a data-only iPhone would not require a separate voice plan. But a quick and simple solution would be to sell the previous-generation iPhone unlocked, for not too much, right now.

OS X Lion: HiDPI Display Modes

Arnold Kim:

Taking cues from iOS, Apple has reportedly built in support for what it calls “HiDPI display modes”. These HiDPI modes allow developers to supply 2x-enlarged images to support double-high resolution displays. Like the iPhone 4’s Retina Display, this means that user interface elements will remain the same size, but everything will be twice the resolution and therefore twice as detailed. For example, instead of a 1440×900 pixel 15″ MacBook Pro, you could have a 2880×1800 pixel 15″ MacBook Pro. All the screen elements would be the same physical size as elements on the 1440×900 display, but with a much higher level of detail. Developers would simply need to provide 2x-resolution images for their user interface elements, just like on the iPhone to support its high resolution Retina display.

Oh, the possibilities! Let’s start from the MacBooks:

  • 11.6-inch MacBook Air: 1366×768 → 2732×1536
  • 13.3-inch MacBook Air: 1440×900 → 2880×1800
  • 13.3-inch MacBook Pro: 1280×800 → 2560×1600
  • 15.4-inch MacBook Pro: 1680×1050 → 3360×2100
  • 17.0-inch MacBook Pro: 1920×1200 → 3840×2400

The iMacs:

  • 21.5-inch iMac: 1920×1080 → 3840×2160
  • 27.0-inch iMac: 2560×1440 → 5120×2880

The 27.0-inch LED Cinema Display would be the same as the 27.0-inch iMac. Maybe this is what Apple paid all that cash for.

iPad 2 & Retina Display

John Brownlee:

The Retina Display was never coming to the iPad 2. It wasn’t feasible when Engadget first wrote about it, and it’s not feasible now: the technology simply hasn’t reached the economy-of-scale necessary to cram Retina Display technology into a $499 tablet. Daring Fireball’s John Gruber agrees. It’s always been bunk, and the soonest anyone should expect a Retina Display in the iPad is in 2012.

Let’s get a few things straight. No one knows whether or not the next iPad will be called the iPad 2. Second, no one really knows for sure if a Retina Display will be inside the next iPad. I doubt that it will, but only Apple and its display suppliers know for sure. And I don’t think it was ever Apple’s plan to cram a Retina Display inside a US$499 version of the next iPad. Whether or not there will be a $499 version of the next iPad, I don’t know, but the Retina Display-equipped iPad would probably sit at the very top of the line and costing quite a bit more than $499. And finally no one, including Brownlee, knows when an iPad with a Retina Display will be coming except for Apple and its display suppliers. It could be this year or next, but my bet is on this year. Read iPad 3.

Motorola Xoom Teardown by iFixit

iFixit, step 17:

LCD and front panel glass are not fused together. That’s great news for folks unfortunate enough to drop their Xooms and crack their glass.

Something that is easily fixable is good, generally speaking. The 10.1-inch 1280×800 TFT LCD used in the Motorola Xoom is not optically bonded to the cover glass. This is good if you need to replace either the LCD or the cover glass. But this is also bad because between the two there is space, whereto dust will eventually enter. Dust can be extremely annoying and unless you have access to a clean room there will always be dust.

Optical lamination of the display to the cover glass, though more expensive and difficult to fix, offers some benefits. First, there is no space for dust to get in. I used to have an iPhone 3G and when dust settled between the cover glass and the LCD I was not happy, to say the least. Second, light refraction is minimized so visual experience is enhanced. The iPhone 4 is a great example of this: the display looks as though it is right there. Third, space between the display and the cover glass is eliminated leading to a reduction of thickness.

Which one is more important: Easily fixable? Better experience? Well, there is a solution that can address both: get rid of the cover glass. But won’t that expose the display to scratches and make it more susceptible to breakage? Hardening the LCD itself is easy and can be done by applying a single film. But the edge-to-edge look is so sexy though. I’d prefer direct access to the display, which will look even better without an extra layer cover glass. And edge-to-edge is a marketing term so far; there isn’t a single gadget where the display goes edge to edge. The elimination of the cover glass would also make the device even thinner. Oh, and quite a bit lighter. And it would be quite easy to fix.

Motorola Xoom Review by Mark Spoonauer

Mark Spoonauer:

As you might imagine, the real focus of attention is the Xoom’s 10.1-inch display (1280 x 800 pixels). We could easily tell that this panel was sharper than the iPad’s 9.7-inch screen (1024 x 768) when we loaded NYTimes.com. The Xoom displayed several more headlines without having to scroll down. Both screens are about as bright, but the Xoom’s screen had a cooler, bluish cast compared to the iPad’s warmer, yellowish tones. However, the IPS screen on the iPad has wider viewing angles, and we noticed that the Xoom’s panel picked up fingerprints faster.

The resolution difference: 149.45PPI on the Xoom versus 132PPI on the iPad. The Xoom, without question, has a higher resolution, in other words pixel density, but it’s surprising the difference in resolution could be so easily detected.

Motorola Xoom Review by Dylan Tweney

Dylan Tweney:

The Xoom has a 10.1-inch screen (measuring 8.5 by 5.25 inches), and it’s as bright and sharp as any other high-end tablet. We did notice a slightly discolored band running down the edge of the screen on one side, but since we can’t compare it to other Xooms yet, we don’t know if this is a problem with our review unit or a more general manufacturing defect.

A discolored band running down the edge of the display? That sounds like a driver IC problem. Andy Ihnatko had problems with color. Maybe the early batch of Motorola Xooms have a display quality control problem.

Motorola Xoom Review by Joshua Topolsky

Joshua Topolsky:

The display on the Xoom is slightly larger than the iPad’s 9.7-inch screen, and higher resolution (1280 x 800 to Apple’s 1024 x 768). The aspect ratio is substantially different as well, meaning that the Xoom feels a lot longer (or taller) than the iPad. In general, we felt portrait use was slightly uncomfortable given the size, but not in any way a dealbreaker. Though the screen does look nice, pixel density seemed to suffer — a situation that was particularly evident when using the Google Books application. Still, the Xoom’s display is more than capable at making game and video content look clear and crisp. One note, however — Motorola’s auto-brightness controls seem a little extreme to us here, forcing us to manually adjust the brightness most of the time. Hopefully a software update will come along which softens the severity with which it dims the screen; it was simply too dark for our tastes.

Resolution, on the Xoom, is 149.45 pixels per inch. And 132PPI on the iPad. Text and images should look more crisp on the Xoom than on the iPad. I almost always turn off auto brightness on all of my gadgets. The reason being that our eyes do a great job of auto-adjusting to our environments. And auto-adjusting to an auto-adjusting display is just extra work.