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Gopiharan Perinpam

Gopiharan Perinpam
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a guy next-door; loves people with a smile; in love with gadgets & new media; nexus user; undergrad student; a public servant by choice & profession.

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Pros: Solid design and build, Touch screen along with pre-installed Windows 8, good performance thanks to 4th Generation processor, Exceptional battery life.

Cons: The reflective screen is not great for outdoor performance, port placements could have been better, No dedicated graphics card.

The Dell Inspiron series has been around here for sometime. It is one of the widely used and loved series of Dell laptops. Dell’s mantra has been simple; produce mid-level computers that suit the budget of the average consumer. They have indeed seen great success in this line.

 

But Dell has refreshed the Inspiron line up as of late and the latest edition of the series comes with Intel’s 4th generation processors dubbed as Haswell; successors to Intel’s Ivy Bridge range. We have got our hands on the Dell Inspiron 5537 model which combines the power of Dell and Intel with a touch-enabled screen that is made for Microsoft’s Windows 8.

The front view (pic courtesy Dell.com)

The front view (pic courtesy Dell.com)

So how does the Inspiron 15R 5537 deliver? Has Dell done a grave mistake by omitting dedicated graphics? Does it lives up to the Haswell hype and eliminate the need of a dedicated graphics card? Are the 4th generation processors better power-managers? Let’s have a look!

 

Specifications first

 

Our review device (Inspiron 15R 5537) comes with the Intel Core i5-4200U Processor, from the latest 4th Generation Haswell series. Intel also has models like Core i3-4010U and Core i7-4500U in the market. At first glance we’re surprised that there’s no dedicated Graphics unit. But processor also has integrated Intel HD Graphics 4400. In Intel’s own words, “Intel’s HD graphics together with Intel Core processor brings you a vibrant visual experience without the cost of a separate graphics card”

Features at a glance

Features at a glance

 

The Inspiron 5537 has a Seagate 750GB hard drive (5400 RPM, 690+ GB usable) along with 6GB of DDR3 memory (5.7+ GB usable, can be upgraded upto 16GB). The laptop has a 15.6” HD multi touch-enabled display  that gives a pleasurable experience in using the pre-installed 64-bit edition of Windows 8.

 

The looks

 

The Inspiron 5537 is not distinctively different from it’s predecessor models when it comes to looks. But Dell has done a great job in making it thinner and lighter than the previous models. Also the use of Aluminium blended plastic materials for the chassis gives a much deserved premium look to the latest Inspiron. This is notable because the previous Inspirons had that cheap-plastic look for a great extend. The shiny Dell logo on the back of the lid adds some class. The lid, the wrist rest and the keyboard tray have this great looking “brushed-metal” pattern on them which really gives better looks.

Inspiron 5537: Brushed metal pattern on the lid surface adds a premium look.

Inspiron 5537: Brushed metal pattern on the lid surface adds a premium look.

 

Overall look of the exterior is metallic and rigid. You will probably need to use both your hands to open the lid thanks to the tight hinges that connect. So be extra cautious when you are on the move in a vehicle and need to open the laptop with one hand, while having a soft drink or your mobile phone on the other hand.

 

The laptop isn't very thin. It doesn't look bulky either.

The laptop isn’t very thin. It doesn’t look bulky either.

The Inspiron 5537 is not noticeably thin or light. But it definitely is thinner and lighter than the previous models in the series.

 

Display

 

The display is touch enabled

The display is touch enabled

The 15.6” display (1366 x 768 pixels) is a pleasure to use. No, it is not an extraordinary display. It is rather average when it comes to pixel density. But it is a touch enabled display that goes hand in hand with Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system experience. Well, it is natural to doubt how a touch screen display would come handy on a full size laptop of this kind, that has a built-in full keyboard. But the response times are really swift that you will fall in love with the display immediately. To add to that, apps like “Fresh paint” take the touch screen experience to a different level.

Apps like Fresh Paint redefine things you can do with a touch screen

Apps like Fresh Paint redefine things you can do with a touch screen

 

Disappointing part of the display? The glossy touchscreen is very reflective. Reflective to the level that you may not see what’s on the screen (or whether the screen is ON) while using it outdoors. This part was one of the most annoying things I encountered while using the device.

If you can see my old bicycle in the reflection; then you know what I mean.

If you can see my old bicycle in the reflection; then you know what I mean.

I, sometimes, end up tilting the screen to reduce the reflections. Another let down is that the display is prone to fingerprints. But keep in mind, this is intended for a mid range market and isn’t intended for gamers and professional graphic designers. (I’m neither one of them and I’ve always seen most designers using Apple computers over any other brand. ;) ). So, the display is not entirely bad either.

The reflective screen may not be perfect for outdoor use.

The reflective screen may not be perfect for outdoor use.

Was trying to impress my editor. Realized I can't even do decent coloring work.

Was trying to impress my editor. Realized I can’t even do decent coloring work.

Keyboard and Touchpad

 

The keyboard is nice, I have no complaints.

The keyboard is nice, I have no complaints.

The Inspiron 15R 5537 comes with a full island-style keyboard with the number pad on the right. That’s not surprising for a 15.6” model. The flat-top keys are perfectly sized. The larger right-shift key is a welcome addition. But that also makes the already small arrow keys look even smaller. They typing experience is great including the accuracy level. I have no complaints there except few warnings: The keyboard is not back-lit. Well, after all back-lit keyboards are individual preferences. Also, it’s advisable to watch out for dust accumulating in between the keys. (Although it was not a problem during the few days I used the unit)

I wish the arrow keys were larger. The large right shift key is great though.

I wish the arrow keys were larger. The large right shift key is great though.

The default onscreen keyboard

The default onscreen keyboard

It's always good to have a full numeric keyboard.

It’s always good to have a full numeric keyboard.

 

I love the matte surface of the touchpad

I love the matte surface of the touchpad

I love the touch-pad on this device. It is one of the best I have seen in recent times on a device of this category. (I’m looking at you HP) The matte surface means no stickiness in sight and the multi-touch gestures work just fine.

The touchpad along with mouse buttons.

The touchpad along with mouse buttons.

The dedicated mouse buttons have the brushed metal look inline with the wrist pad areas. Dell also provides a built in application to control everything from the sensitivity to the gestures on the touch-pad. Sometimes you can’t hate the bloatwares. :)

Connectivity

 

The Inspiron 15R has 4 USB ports. But only two of them are USB 3.0 compatible. That may not be an issue with the average user but it’s high time laptop manufacturers focus on high speed options only.

The left side. USB 3.0 for the win.

The left side. USB 3.0 for the win.

 

Also Dell has done a disappointing job by placing 3 of the 4 USB ports on one (left) side. You ask me why? Well, that brings up a situation where only two of the ports can be used simultaneously (if you use a regular Kingston pen-drive and regular HSPA modems or dongles as they are widely known). I would have loved them to place two ports each on either sides leaving considerable amount of space in between adjoining ports to make lives easy. One USB 2.0

port sits alone on the right side along with the DVD burner and the Kensington Security Slot (a.k.a Kensington lock).

 

Another confusing addition (at least for me) is the outdated Ethernet port on the left along with USB ports. On the good side, Dell has managed to add an HDMI port on the left side. Overall the connectivity options are adequate except I would have loved better placement.

Power socket along with the air vent (pic courtesy Dell.com)

Power socket along with the air vent (pic courtesy Dell.com)

The single audio jack, power socket and the air vent are the rest that make up the (already crowded) left side.

Suddenly the USB port in the middle becomes unusable

Suddenly the USB port in the middle becomes unusable

 

You’re bound to miss the card reader which has been placed on the front side just below the mouse button area. But, assuming the card readers are used less frequently, there’s nothing to complain about the placement.

Even the slimmest design can't have it's space. Bad.

Even the slimmest design can’t have it’s space. Bad.

 

The WiFi card used here is  the “Dell Wireless 1705” (from Atheros to be specific). Along with 2.4 GHz networks and the 802.11 b/g/n transmission support, it also provides support to Bluetooth 4.0.

The old fella; placed with the cool kids

The old fella; placed with the cool kids

Another hardware feature you may fail to notice is the stereo speakers in the front (or rather bottom). Even though I had my initial doubts about the speaker placement and how it will affect the sound quality, I was indeed impressed by the output. The advertised “Waves maxxAudio” (Dell Audio) application provides options to control the audio output along with equalizer options. This helps to make maximum use out of the audio components. The integrated webcam on the front panel makes the system complete.

Card reader. You'll miss it at first glance.

Card reader. You’ll miss it at first glance.

The DVD writer. The companion for the lone USB port.

The DVD writer. The companion for the lone USB port.

The lone USB port on the right.

The lone USB port on the right.

 

 

Speaker grills at the bottom. They are good.

Speaker grills at the bottom. They are good.

Battery Life

 

What makes the Haswell processors unique? When Intel introduced the processors, they claimed that the ultra low-voltage Haswell processors will be 20 times more power efficient at idle than the existing ones. They also claimed it to be the greatest battery life increase in the Intel history.

 

Now the question. Does it live up to the hype? It does, without any doubt. Seriously, the best part of using the Inspiron 15R 5537 was the battery life. I could use it moderately for a full day (till 11pm) and it will still have 10% battery life which is exceptional. A heavy user can easily get up to 8 hours of battery life without much trouble. That equals at least 3 to 4 movies back to back.

View of the bottom. Two speaker grills on either side. Card reader in the middle.

View of the bottom. Two speaker grills on either side. Card reader in the middle.

Side-view of the 15R 5537 (Pic courtesy Dell.com)

Side-view of the 15R 5537 (Pic courtesy Dell.com)

 

Final Verdict

The Dell Inspiron 15R 5537 is an all rounder. It does live up to the expectations from a mid-range laptop intended for regular day to day use. Some of the features may well require some improvements but the exceptional battery life and built quality outshines the negatives.

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Colombo International Book Fair 2013, happening for the 15th consecutive year, is around the corner. Well, to be exact, the week-long event begins tomorrow (14th September 2013).

I can recall some of my experience at previous events where you visit the crowded BMICH complex and get the printed guide at the entrance to go through the confusing map to locate our favorite bookshop. And when you finally do so and go in search of the book you had planned to buy and end up disappointed. Looking at the crowd you then re-consider even checking out another bookshop. Luckily that won’t be the case this time around. The Colombo International Book Fair or CIBF as it is known, has got smarter with a smartphone guide, in the form of an Android app!

How Does It Work?

The all new Android app can be downloaded for free on Google Play. It works on any device running Android version 2.2 and above. At around 3.6 MB of size, this little app aims to function as a virtual guide throughout the event. You will require a working data connection to  access certain sections of the app.

Menu Categories

Menu Categories

A simple UI welcomes you when you open the app. You get four different menu categories on the home-screen. The first option is “Books”. This is a very useful section that gives details about the books available at the fair. You can view the book cover, a small description about the book , price and the publisher or the bookshop where you can find the book at the fair. This section is still in the early stages of development so the content (number of books listed) is limited for now. But the creators of the app have informed that books and other content will be updated on a daily basis.

 

Books Menu

Books Menu

The second section titled “Stalls” is a database of all the participating bookshops and publishers. You can either browse through the list or do a quick search to find the bookshop you are looking for. Click on the name of a bookshop and you will be directed to the floor plan with the location of the bookshop marked and highlighted. It’s an extremely useful feature to locate bookshops in such a large venue.

The “Map” menu, as the name suggests, provides the detailed maps/plans of all the exhibition floors. The “Events” menu lists all the special events along with date and time,including book launches happening throughout the week at the venue.

 

Floor Plan

Floor Plan

The CIBF -2013 app is a need of the hour and it’s timely release will make it widely used during this year’s event. Future updates of the app are expected to add information on utility facilities available at the venue for the visitors including sanitary facilities and parking spaces. The upcoming updates will also concentrate on languages and maps and will add details of more books. This commendable effort will continue for the upcoming book fairs as well. Users can submit their feedback & suggestions about the app and the event by clicking the icon provided on the top right corner of the app.

Events Schedule

Events Schedule

The app is developed by Cinnamon Information Technologies (PVT) Ltd. Sri Lanka Book Publishers Association is the content partner while Digit Magazine is the online partner.

You can download this useful application for free on Google Play.

 

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Reward schemes or loyalty programmes are nothing new to Sri Lanka. We have had various merchants and service providers offering different schemes to impress their customers. Even the ‘meter taxi’ operators have reward schemes these days. In some cases customers get entitled for the programs automatically (E.g Dialog Star Points). In some reward schemes customers are required to make a small initial investment (to cover the cost of a plastic card?)(E.g reward schemes from shopping chains like Arpico and Nolimit). There are also schemes that require the customer to be in an elite group. Take for example Dialog’s priority membership and the Club Vision categories.

Etisalat is the latest entrant to come up with a “unique” reward scheme for their loyal customers. Etisalat, being one of the top players in the Sri Lankan telecommunications scene, and with growing speculations that they might actually acquire the Sri Lankan arm of Bharti Airtel, might be making the correct move to show their customers that they care.

They have named the scheme “Epic Rewards” – an “opt-in” programme for their customers. The official launch was held last Wednesday (28th August) at Galadari Hotel,Colombo and the diGIT team was there to cover the event.

How does Epic Rewards work?

Epic Rewards is about “Rings”. Rings are what you earn in Epic Rewards (just like you earn “points” with most other schemes) but the difference here is that the “Rings” do not have a monetary value. This, I am saying because in most other schemes 1 point is equivalent to 1 rupee.

Why hasn’t Etisalat defined a value for the Rings?

They have let the merchants decide the value for the Rings. So each offer you get with the scheme will have a different value for the “Rings”. For example one of the partner merchants may require the customer to redeem 50 Rings to get a 10 percent discount on the bill whereas another merchant may require the customer to redeem 100 Rings to get Rs.1000 discount on the listed item. So this scheme is more flexible from the merchant’s perspective.

Who is entitled & how does one get enrolled?

Both postpay and prepaid customers of Etisalat are entitled for the Epic rewards scheme. Customers have various methods to join the programme. They can either

1) Dial the 7272 IVR code or

2) Enter the #7272# USSD code on their phone or

3) Contact the Etisalat call center on 123 or 0722 123 123 or

4) Walk into one of the flagship stores – to join the Epic Rewards programme.

Speaking at the launch event, Etisalat Senior Manager – Prepaid Marketing & Customer Loyalty, Shameel Bishri explained that they actually did a vast market research among merchants and their customers to understand what they actually wanted from a reward scheme and what, in their opinion was lacking in the existing reward schemes of different players.

With the outcome, Etisalat has defined five categories in which the Epic rewards offers will be given. They are ,

1- Fashion & Entertainment

2- Travel & Leisure

3- Sports & Health

4- Dining & Household

5- Business & Learning

The customer is given a chance to select any 3 of the above categories as his or her preference. While I was wondering why they had to limit the offering as such, Etisalat feels that this way, it is beneficial for the customer to choose the offers that actually matter to him/her the most. Etisalat feels this will also give the customer a more personalized experience compared to other schemes that sometimes offer irrelevant offers. Etisalat also tells us that the customer will be given the opportunity to change the categories of his interest after joining the scheme.

Etisalat has also defined 3 achievement levels to the scheme. This has been done to serve the “elite” customers (who spend more on the network) with some extra benefits. The following chart explains how this works. Depending on their average spending for the past 6 months, the Rings are multiplied to those who have higher usage.

Membership

Membership Categories are defined by customer’s average usage for the last 6 months (pic courtesy Etisalat.lk)

How does one earn Rings?

a) All Etisalat customers who register for the service will get an initial number of “Rings”  to welcome them to Epic rewards. The number of welcome Rings will also depend on the duration the customer had spent with the network. The following chart explains this aspect of the scheme. The more time you have been with Etisalat, the more welcome Rings you receive:

Duration spent with the Network

Rings

6 months

25

1 Year

30

2 Years

40

3 Years

50

4 Years

60

5 Years

100

Above 5 Years

150

b) The members will also receive 20 Rings every 3 months for staying with Etisalat, from the time of registering for Epic rewards. (That is 80 Rings per year).

c) Customers earn Rings when they make payments or reload of minimum Rs.50 to their accounts. A payment or reload of 50 rupees is entitled for 5 Rings. A payment of Rs.100 will earn you 15 Rings. The following chart explains how this works. Also note, if you are a silver or gold member, the number of rigs you earn will get multiplied.

Number of Rings earned for the payment (pic courtesy Etisalat.lk)

Number of Rings earned for the payment (pic courtesy Etisalat.lk)

For example a green member who makes a payment of Rs.2675 will receive 395 Rings. The following chart gives a detailed explanation:

Rs.2000 (1000 x 2)

150 x 2 = 300 Rings

Rs.500

75 x 1 = 75 Rings

Rs.100

15 x 1 = 15 Rings

Rs. 50

5 x 1 = 5 Rings

Rs. 25

0 Rings

Total = Rs.2675

395 Rings

If the said customer was a Gold member, the Rings will get doubled. He will earn 790 Rings..

d) Additionally, members get 10 Rings every month for paying their bill in full and before the due date. Bonus Rings are also awarded during special promotions run by Etisalat.

e) Further to the above, any customer who purchases mobile phones or internet equipment from Etisalat also will receive Rings for the amount they spent. More details on the number of Rings will be updated soon.

How does one burn Rings and is there any expiry date?

Etisalat says that the members will be notified about offers for their selected categories via SMS, email and voice. (Sounds like spam? Well, you get offers). The said messages will have the details of the offers and the required number of Rings to be redeemed to be entitled for the offer. Customers can then proceed to make the transaction.

The best part of the Epic Rewards is that the Rings do not have an expiry date. Which means the Rings can be accumulated over time and used at once. This also gives an opportunity even for the customer with the lowest usage to earn Rings over a long period and enjoy the offers.

Another notable feature is that you are not required to keep any number of Rings as non-redeemable base points. All Rings that are earned can be redeemed. Customers will be able to check their balance Rings via the #7272# USSD code. We do think that Etisalat should work on a smartphone app or a web-based dashboard (through Etisalat MyPage maybe?) for the user to manage Rings conveniently. This service could also have a list of available offers too. It’s a suggestion from our end.

Can you transfer the Rings?

People obviously get this question when they want to redeem Rings. Can the Rings be transferred between different numbers/ people? No they can’t. Whatever the Rings a customer earns is valid only for his number. What if the customer has more than one connection under his name and want to accumulate the Rings in those accounts in order to redeem? Well, as of now that is not possible. But we assume Etisalat is working on it. We will update this article once such option is confirmed.

An option for the customer to nominate one of his numbers as primary and receive/transfer all Rings earned from his other numbers too to the primary one will be a useful feature in our opinion. Over to you Etisalat!

Where to redeem the Rings?

To start with, Etisalat has partnered with around 40 merchants (including all 5 categories) compared to Star Points scheme (same concept but differently executed by Dialog for a long time) that has hundreds of merchants now. In their defense, Etisalat has just started the scheme and they focus more on quality and relevance instead of quantity. The merchants have their outlets spread across the country though. Customers will be required to provide their mobile number to the merchants at the time of redemption. I am guessing they will have a USSD / SMS based portal to process the transaction.

Commenting on the Epic Rewards merchant network, CEO of Direct Solutions, Priyanga Hapugalle said: “A number of benefits that would benefit Epic Rewards members were kept in mind when selecting merchant partners. These included the island wide branch networks so that the members have easy access, special services and products that are relevant to member preferences and special offers during seasonal times throughout the year. In addition, merchants will be approached on a regular basis and encouraged to create offers that would be highly attractive to Epic Rewards members.” Apart from non-expiration of Epic Rings, another unique factor of the scheme according to Etisalat is the ability of members to move up the value table to increase the value of their Rings.

Some of Etisalat’s selected merchants are from Central province and some of the big chains (Arpico, Singer) are spread across the country. Etisalat said they are focusing to make the offers easily accessible to any of their customers around the island. Etisalat also noted that they have selected not only large merchants but also SMEs. Some well known names include Fashion Bug, No limit, DSI, LBN, Jetwing, JKH Hotels, Singer mega, Arpico, Asiri Hospitals, Metropolitan, Expographic and Vijitha Yapa books. Adding to our earlier suggestion, a smartphone app or a web interface with a list of merchants and the offers available with them, can be a welcome addition.

Etisalat has also planned to organize special events for their Epic Rewards members in the future.  Special seats at key sports events, fashion shows or music shows, reduced price entry to business conferences and events, special travel tickets for religious pilgrimages and weekend breaks at beach festival are few such planned events according to Etisalat.

Bottom line is Epic Rewards scheme is a welcome addition for Etisalat’s 4 million+ customer base. The success of the programme will definitely depend on how convenient it is to earn and burn Rings. It will also depend on the relevance of the offers to the customer’s lifestyle. Luckily Etisalat seem to be focusing to keep the scheme as relevant as possible to different sectors of their customer base. We will start to see the outcome when the scheme is launched later this month. We at Digit have tried to answer almost all your questions relating to the scheme (so that you do not have to call and wait on the ever-busy hotlines to clarify your doubts). Watch out this space for more updates when the programme is launched to public.

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Mashable’s fourth annual Social Media Day is being celebrated in Colombo today (30th June 2013) at Park Street Mews in partnership with Etisalat Sri Lanka. Social Media Day was launched in 2010 as a way to recognize the digital revolution happening right before our eyes.

250 socially active folks were invited for the event which is happening for the 3rd time in Colombo. Stay tuned to this page for live updates in case you are not able to attend in person. An interesting agenda has been set up:

Agenda

  • Networking session and refreshments
  • Mashable CEO welcome video
  • “If only your Press Release could talk!” by Angelo Fernando
  • Social Media for Social Good by Manjula Dissanayake Founder Educate Lanka
  • Panel Discussion – Social Media in Sri Lanka Moderated by Isura Silva
  • Ukku Banda VS Hichchi Malli – Video Blogging Session by Kushan and Srimal

Pictures from the event are on our facebook page here

Event covered video is attached below.

Live updates from the event: