Archive for September, 2011

The most energizing gadget of 2011 – a review of the New Trent 11000 mAh battery pack

September 17, 2011
I love gadgets. Gadgets need battery power, and the most cutting-edge gadgets sometimes need a lot of it. As a heavy user of my Samsung Galaxy S II, I’ve often had to recharge my phone in the afternoon, particularly on days where I use it for tracking workouts, listening to music and shooting video.A power outlet isn’t always available, however. Previously, I’ve tried using a Philips 1500 mAh reserve battery unit, outputting 350 milliwatts. I’ve used it  to recharge my Nokia N82 and, later on, a HTC Desire. It worked OK with the N82, but barely delivered enough power to sustain the battery level on the HTC. Also, the total amount of power in practice equated to less than one full charge on the HTC.

I mostly stopped using the Philips device – just not worth it – but I’ve been on the lookout for a replacement. This is it!

NEW Trent 11000 mAh
The “NEW Trent” battery has a lousy name and isn’t exactly widely marketed, but has a claimed capacity of 11000 mAh (!!), good reviews on Amazon.co.uk and outputs 1000 miliwatts. In practice, I’ve found that it can charge my SGS II about 3 times – ie a real life capacity of somewhere around 1650 * 3 mAh. And it charges fast – about as fast as a wall charger!The Trent itself charges from a wall socket – unfortunately not via a USB interface – and takes about 5-6 hours to reach full capacity. You can see a rough estimate of the current battery level on the main on-button – it has 1-3 LEDs indicating the level. It is not very accurate – one it hits 1 LED left, you’d better recharge the unit.

Operation is easy – plug in a USB cable, press and hold the “on”-button for a second, and power is flowing!

I would have liked to see a more accurate battery level readout and a USB interface for charging the unit itself, but apart from that, I love this big little battery to bits. It’s always with me when I’m out and about, and has enabled me to video/snap photos/surf/whatever innumerable times when the phone battery itself has run dry. And thanks to the USB interface, it can charge plenty of different devices.

It’s worth noting that New Trent has released new models with two USB ports and different power levels (500/1000 mw), so doing some product research here is a good idea. I can vouch for the general concept as well as the brand, that’s for sure.

PS: The phone was out of juice when I needed to take the photo above – thankfully the New Trent was available ;)

Review: Jabra Halo Bluetooth stereo headset

September 3, 2011

Summary
If you listen a lot to web radio or podcasts when commuting, shopping, walking and similar, this headset is a good choice. It is not ideal for music and extensive phone calls.

Intro
I’ve had the Halo for about six months now. I got it as a replacement for my Koss PortaPros, which I have been using as my standard headphones when walking to/from work, listening to music at work and listening to music/podcasts when commuting. The Halo cost me about 800 NOK /150 USD. My aim was to avoid wire tangles and getting more use of the Bluetooth functionality on my phone. I also hoped to be able to use them for handsfree calling, as they include a microphone.

The headset


The Halo has a somewhat plasticky construction. They fold together, and the folding mechanism serves as an on/off switch. When you “open” them, they turn on and look for the BT unit they are paired to. I haven’t tried pairing with more than 1 unit at once.

On the inside of the head band, one light indicates BT activity and one light flashes to indicate low battery. The right speaker unit has a button on the outside, which can be used to play/pause playback (works in most Android music/podcasting programs I’ve tried), to accept a call, and to speed-dial the last person you talked to by pressing it twice rapidly. Sound volume is controlled by sliding a finger up or down the speaker unit – works well! – and skipping to the next or previous track can be done by double tapping on the upper or lower part. It’s a little bit tricky to hit the right spot for next/previous.

The construction doesn’t feel sturdy, and initially I was worried about the headset breaking, but I haven’t had any problems. I do try to avoid leaving them at the very bottom of the bag.

In use
The Halo is light and comfortable to wear. An added bonus for me was that, unlike the PortaPros, they don’t catch in my hair when I take them off.

When turned on, they quickly connect to the unit they are paired to, in my case a Samsung Galaxy S II. If no BT unit is available to connect to, you might have to turn the Halo off, enable BT on your phone, and turn it back on to connect. I thought I might be able to use the button on the right hand side to make a connection, but no luck.

Battery life seems to be about 10 hours of sound playback. I haven’t really tracked this closely – I just try to remember to charge them every now and then, and battery life hasn’t been a concern. The fact that the Halo charges over microUSB is a big plus.

Not having wires is great. No tangling into luggage or bags, no plug protruding from the mobile phone when it’s in my pocket, no work administrating the one metre long PortaPro wire when moving around.

The Halo works pretty well for exercise – except that the inside of the headband has a comfortable textile material which will absorb sweat easily. That makes me reluctant to use them when running.

Sound quality
This is my only major objection to this headset. I hoped it would be able to fully replace my PortaPros, but when it comes to dedicated music listening, they just can’t compete. In noisy surroundings – like on the bus – where the sound from any semi-open headset would be degraded by the sounds from the environment – sound quality feels tolerable. But if you sit in a quiet office space, like I normally do when listening to music, it’s not good enough. Consequently I bring my PortaPros with me for music listening. It is possible to use a cable to connect the Halo via 3,5mm jack instead of over Bluetooth, but as the PortaPros are a little more comfortable over a long timespan and have better sound quality even when the Halo is wired, I bring those instead of extra wires for the Halo.

Phone calls
Phone calls sound great – that is, if you are the one using the Halo. The other party tends to complain that the sound from the microphone is too weak, and if the other party is in a noisy environment, I most often use the handset itself for the call. Fortunately, the Halo can be enabled/disabled from the in-call menu.

Conclusion
On the go, I mostly listen to podcasts and streaming radio, and I don’t do a lot of phone calls. The Halo thus fits my needs quite well, and if your usage pattern is similar to mine, I recommend it. I do hope to see a future edition with better audio quality and improved microphone performance.