Scott's Column
MacBook Air or UltraBook, iPad Apps and Games

August 1, 2012
By Scott Lewis

This month is crowded with iPad information. Even as I start with UltraBooks or a MacBook Air... it is based on me already having an iPad and not knowing if I want a laptop. Hope you enjoy some iPad info.

Current Topics:

MacBook Air or UltraBook

The latest update to the MacBook Air includes a 1,440 x 900 display and a 1.8-GHz Core i5 "Ivy Bridge" processor, which mainly provides better integrated graphics performance. This should be a help to the Air as it does not have a discreet graphics processor. You also get 4GB of RAM and arguably an industry leading seven hours of battery life. With 128 GB of storage the price is $1,199.

So... you get the same old, same old. A minor upgrade at best, but with a $100 drop in price.

A couple of days after the MacBook Air update was announced I saw this on Apple's web site:

Refurbished MacBook Air 1.7GHz dual-core Intel Core i5, Originally released July 2011, 13.3-inch (diagonal) high-resolution LED-backlit glossy widescreen display, 4GB memory, 128GB flash storage.

The price... $929. This is an UltraBook killer. And I would have a hard time justifying the extra cost for the latest MacBook Air at $270 more.

As for UltraBooks... I have not seen anything that replaces my two main choices so far. I really like the Toshiba Z835. The version at Best Buy for $799 would be good enough if it had a better touch pad. At 2.47 lbs... it is so light I can forgive it its cheap feeling. On the other side is the HP Folio 13. Walmart was selling a version of this for $899. At 3.2 lbs... that is a bit more than the MacBook Air (2.97 lbs.) and feels almost heavy next to the Toshiba. But would I care?

Of special note... Microsoft has started a Signature Program where you can buy select computers from Microsoft. These will come with a "pure" Windows install. Essentially they will be without bloatware that manufacturers put on new computers. Microsoft's site had an HP Folio 13 listed for $899. This might be the way to go to make for a more pleasant experience.

I came across a Vizio Ultrabook on Walmart's web site. The basics go like this: VIZIO Silver 14" Thin + Light CT14-A1 Laptop PC with Intel Core i5, 1600 x 900 Display with a weight of 3.39 lbs. This was listed for $948. WOW! I really like the resolution and size of that screen. That is the sweet spot in my mind. I have not see this in person anywhere, nor read a review of any kind. But it looks promising... if a tad heavy. But it is larger that most Ultrabooks with the 14" screen so I can forgive the weight.

Note: I just saw a review of this on CNet, but did not have time to read it prior to publishing this column.

Since I do not need a laptop... and it will take a couple of months of use of my iPad to determine if I even want a laptop... right now the scales are leaning heavily toward a refurbished MacBook Air if I get anything. If I decide the want and the need come together I will look at this some more. Hopefully we will see some serious improvements from the Windows based laptops as Intel's Ivy Bridge processors make their rounds, and Windows 8 comes on the scene.

Right now though... I am spending way too much time with my iPad to give this much thought.


iPad Games & Apps

Last month I mentioned PlainText and AV Player HD. Those are still highly recommended. I use AV Player HD a few times a week. I only use the Apple Video App to watch Video Podcasts I bring over from iTunes. But that is likely to change. I am not thrilled with the way iTunes handles Podcasts and I will be looking for something else. I'll report on that when I figure it out.

I find Flipboard and USA Today to be perfectly good apps for reading on a Sunday morning with a cup of coffee. I am sure there are other news apps out there, but I like these two and I do not like CNN or NPR. So I see little reason to change.

I have to give a huge THANK YOU to Motor Trend Magazine. They provide the iPad Digital Edition free to paid subscribers of the paper version. YEA!!! Car and Driver... shame on you for not doing this. I have been a Car and Driver subscriber non-stop since the fall of 1980. Motor Trend I let come and go. But now Motor Trend is tops for this. You do have to go through the trouble of downloading each issue. Not a big deal, but important if you plan to do reading when you do not have a an Internet connection. I mainly use Motor Trend on the iPad this way.

Here's hoping that the publisher of Motor Trend also extends the free iPad version to its other publications. I have also been reading Hot Rod and Car Craft for over 30 years... and would love to get those digitally with my print subscriptions. And Popular Hot Rodding too... I think they are all under the same publisher now.

IMDB is... of course... the de facto app for the iPad. This is truly what a tablet is for. When I watch a TV show or Movie in the living room I can immediately look up what I am watching to jog my memory of where I have seen an actor before. I love it!!!!

Games - You knew this was coming. I am a freak for Poker. I wish I had a couple hundred grand in the bank that I could take a leave of absence from my day job to try my hand at playing poker for a living. That is not likely to happen, so... I play as cheaply as I can. I visit some local venues around town with a friend of mine and play for points. It is free... and the more drinks and food you buy the more chips you get. Since I am a cheapskate... I just buy a few beers for the entire evening. The place I usually go they give you about 2,000 in chips... and 2,000 each time you buy a beer. I sat down one night and a guy ordered three shots of the "special" that earned him 5,000 in chips per drink. So he started with 17,000 to my 4,000. Yikes! I outlasted him and went on to take second place for the night. Not bad. But is it good enough to win when real money is on the line??? Who knows.

So... I love playing poker on my iPad. I spent a few days trying to find a good poker game. Let me start with the worst...

Casino for iPad sucks. And I bought this for $1.99. It is a HORRIBLE GAME. DO NOT DOWNLOAD. IT WAS A WASTE OF MY MONEY!

Poker for iPad is by the same developer as Casino for iPad... and it sucks just as bad. This game I paid $3.99 for. DO NOT BUY IT!

Playscreen Poker - This is another HORRIBLE GAME. DO NOT DOWNLOAD.

Zynga Poker - This is a free app... and it is excellent for the price. The only problem I really have with this game is that it is online only. Overall I find I play this one more than any of the others. You can play in "cash" tables.. where you can come and go as you like. You can also play in single table and multi-table tournaments. All of these have varying chip levels to start. So you can play at the cheap table all you like... or risk more of your chips in higher stakes games. Remember, there is no real gambling allowed in the United States.. so all you are doing is playing for fake money/chips. All-in-all this is my favorite online poker game on the iPad... so far.

Pokerist - This is also called Texas Poker by Pokerist. It is a free app and it plays similar to Zynga. It is much less cartoony, and the cards are pretty small. So small they are a little hard to see... especially when other things on screen can slightly cover a card's value. Again, this is an online only game. Pokerist forces you into a table based on your current amount of chips. I can't find a way to enter lower value games... should I not want to risk a huge amount of my chips. Overall this is acceptable, but I like Zynga Poker more.

WSOP Hold'em - This requires a story. I bought the WSOP Hold'em game for my Android Phone... back in 2010. My son also bought it for our iPod Touch. The iPod Touch is now mine... since I paid for half of it and my son now has an iPhone. I really liked this version of the WSOP Hold'em game. I play it all the time on the iPod... since it fits in my pocket. I play it during meetings at work, and when standing in line... or just about anytime.

When I got my iPad I went to find WSOP Hold'em and it was nowhere to be found. I read that there was a WSOP Poker HD game for the iPad. But it was not available in the App Store. Nothing. I read that it was pulled from the US App Store. A coupe of weeks after settling in with Zynga as my Go To Poker app... WSOP released an all new WSOP Poker game for the iPad. A free app this time (remember, we bought it for our smaller devices).

The new game is a complete rip off of Zynga. It looks more cartoony than Zynga, and has much fewer playing options. It just doesn't seem worth it to put a lot of time into this game. And... it is ONLINE ONLY. The old game had both online and offline playing. The new app is online only. Crap!!!!!!!!

I don't recommend downloading this game. Get Zynga instead.

9-in-1 Poker - Another $3.99 game. Yes... I paid for this game. It is very slow. You have to manually start each game. Not a big deal, but it could be better. The slider for setting the amount of your bet is the WORST on screen control I have ever experienced. It takes forever to work, and it is not responsive to boot. However, this game is an offline poker game. To play online you have to buy Texas Poker VIP for $14.99 YIKES!!!! Don't download.

Casino - This for $1.99. I wish I could get a refund for this HORRIBLE GAME. DO NOT DOWNLOAD IT. IT IS A WASTE OF MONEY!

Texas Hold'em for iPad for $1.99. This is exactly the same game as the Texas Hold'em inside of 9-in-1 Poker. I do not mean like it... it is the exact same game. The exact same controls, the exact same graphics, even the exact same faces on the IA players. It is the same. Don't bother with it.

Enough with Poker... until next month. On with other games.

Real Racing HD - $4.99 - Of course, being a car nut I love a good racing game. So far I have only bought this one. It is pretty good, but I can't seem to pull myself away from playing poker long enough to really get into this game. I should have more in the future.

Angry Bird Rio & Angry Bird Space - I know, what a conformist. I bought these... and actually like them. I played Angry Birds Rio on my Android Phone. It was pretty slow and frustrating. On the iPad it is a pleasure. There is little I can say about these games. They are popular for a reason.

Rage HD - I purchased this game because I saw it on a lot of lists online. So far I am having a very hard time with it. It is a decent FPS (First Person Shooter), but it bothers me too. You are on a fixed track, which is both good and bad. Good in that you can just follow along and shoot stuff. Bad in that you don't get enough time to shoot everything you need to. Like playing FPS games on the XBox 360 I have a hard time with the controls. I really like FPS games on a PC with a keyboard and mouse. I just need to give this game some more time.



Next month I will have more on... you guessed it... the iPad.