Posts Tagged ‘Review’

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 ;)

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The lovely low-fi Philips AZ382 CD/radio speaker syste

August 18, 2009

Yeah, I’m usually more into expensive gadgets, like high-end phones. However, now and then I come across a cheap, low-tech piece of electronic equipment that merits a little attention.

Behold the Philps AZ382!

The Philips AX383

The Philips AZ382

Yes, this is the kind of device no one bothers to give a fancy name – like “iPod Nano” or “HTC Magic”. No worries – at least you know very few of the 500 NOK (80 USD) you pay go into branding the unit!

What’s so great about this sound system?

* It has a decent-quality FM radio and a large, reliable-looking antenna to go with it.
* There is a CD player there.
* You can put MP3 and WMA files on a memory stick and play them through the USB port in the front.
* It is small, and thus easy to place.
* It can run on batteries.
* Those speakers produce sound of mediocre quality, but they play pretty loud.
* And, best of all, there is a 3,5 mm mini-jack audio input port on the side! This means you can use those speakers to play from pretty much any audio source you have.

You get all this stuff for a very low price. Currently, this little utilitarian pebble of a low-fi system is playing news over FM in the mornings and podcasts and The Economist from my mobile phone when I’m working in the kitchen. The USB port works, but I haven’t had any use for it, as I prefer the user interface on my phone. Navigating thousands of MP3s through a numerical display is not ideal, but if you populate a memory stick with good stuff and set the player to shuffle, you’re good to go.

Apart from the less than fantastic MP3 user experience (which is really excusable when you consider the price), my only criticism is that the FM tuning dial is a bit too sensitive. In an area with lots of FM transmitters, finding the right one can be a bit tricky. Since the 3,5 mm jack is there, I’ve even sometimes just tuned my Nokia into the desired FM station and hooked that one up instead.

Overall, two thumbs up for the AZ382, my new everyday hero among sound systems and a fabulous example of a device achieving versatility through the use of standards!

Brief review of the Nokia N82 and comparison with the iPhone

December 25, 2007

DSC_7349
About three weeks ago, I received the Nokia N82 in the mail, as a replacement for the Nokia 6300 I had been using. These are the main reasons I went for the N82:

  • Symbian OS combined with plenty of RAM (128 MB) – the amount of RAM was one of the main problems with the previous Symbian phone I used (the E50)
  • Decent 5 megapixlel camera with autofocus and flash
  • Great video camera, 640×480
  • Wifi, 3G and HSDPA
  • Acceptable size for its functionality

To most readers with some knowledge of the iPhone’s specs, it’s probably easy to see why I went with the N82 instead of the iPhone. As I see it, these are the main differentiators between the N82 and the iPhone:

Camera: The N82, with its 5 megapixels, VGA video recording and flash can act as a compact camera when my SLR is out of reach. You can’t do that with 2 megapixels, no autofocus and no flash or camera light.

Wireless connection options: The N82 supports 3G and HSDPA, meaning you can get a theoretical 3 megabits of bandwidth to the phone. The iPhone maxes out at 230 kbits. Also, the iPhone doesn’t support wireless stereo headsets over Bluetooth A2DP.

Openness: On the N82, you can install any Symbian or Java ME application you want to. Personally, I am a big fan of Opera Mini and Google’s mail application.

Media playback: The iPhone synchs easily with your computer (iTunes, that is), and has a huge screen, great for video playback. Getting video onto your N82 is cumbersome in my experience. It is always nice to be able to connect the phone as a USB mass storage device and drag and drop content on it, but that doesn’t take care of video conversion for you. The tools Nokia provide for that purpose are not really a match for iTunes at this point.

User experience: You can do pretty much anything with the N82, but the interface isn’t very impressive. For instance, some screens can be rotated and seen in landscape mode, some cannot (i.e. the Video Centre and the main screen). Also, the traditional phone keypad is no match for the touch screen of the iPhone. In my opinion, the combination of OS X software and the touch screen makes for an unbeatable user experience (or it would, if Apple added a few more real buttons for things like taking a photograph).

Radio: The N82’s got one. I can see no reason why my phone shouldn’t be able to play FM radio, and I enjoy having the option to tap into fresh, unbuffered content whenever I like.

GPS: Having GPS on your phone is just plain neat. Over the last three weeks, I have used it for finding parties twice – not bad, and it is also OK for in-car navigation. I believe the route finder/navigation is only free for the first 90 days, though – not so good. Still – you will be able to use the GPS with third-party apps such as Google Maps.

N82 weaknesses and conclusion
DSC_7343
The N82 is a computer, a camera, a radio, a MP3 player, a GPS, an internet device – stuffed with functionality. On the other hand, the iPhone is very slick phone + media player. It is also good as an internet device, but to me, Mobile Safari is useless outside of WiFi zones – it is too slow and too expensive, whereas using Opera Mini on a N82 results in the web nicely formatted for a small screen and compressed to size that’s healthy for my phonebill.

The N82 does have a few weaknesses.

Transferring media to the phone is slow if you use the Nokia micro-USB cable. It feels more like USB 1.1 than USB 2.0 – I’d estimate that moving over 60 megabytes takes about a minute. Still, as long as I am not transferring huge amounts, I don’t bother with a SD card reader. (I sometimes use Bluetooth to move an album or two of MP3s across – it is perfectly doable if you have the time to spare.)

While we are on media transfers – I would like it to sync with iTunes as well as any iPod can. It seems Nokia is working on this, at least on the Mac platform. I haven’t taken the time to check out their offering yet, but something good is cooking.

The battery life is barely acceptable. If you use it like I do – music and the web en route to work, calling and music while at work interspersed with radio, the occasional photograph on some days and a barrage of video and photography at parties, some wifi while I am at home, you will need to charge it every night.

I expected the phone to work with 8 GB microSDHC cards, but I can’t find confirmation that it works with anything bigger than 4 GB, which is a shame. Update April 2009: My N82 works fine with a Sandisk 8gb MicroSDHC.

The design is inferior to that of the iPhone, although it is not bad. The same goes for the user interface, which is actually quite responsive for a smartphone. I would have liked it to have dedicated buttons for play/pause, next/previous, in addition to buttons for volume up/down, gallery and shutter.

Finally, I have found it to be less stable than it should be. I estimate that I have experienced 2-3 total freezes or soft reboots per week while I have been using this phone. Now, I am probably a pretty extreme user – freezes are most common when I use the GPS as well as the music player while running Opera or the NetFront browser and more in the background, but still – the phone should handle those usage scenarios. (Caveat – I don’t think I have the latest firmware for the phone – haven’t been able to upgrade yet.) Update April 2009: With the latest firmware, my phone is quite stable – on average it crashes once a month, and keep in mind that I’m a heavy user.

If you need (or want ;) ) all the functionality the N82 can offer – it is definitely worth getting. If what you need is a phone and a media player, the iPhone will probably make you a happier person. But I can tell you – when surfing the web, reading the mail, checking out the great, flash-enabled party photos, navigating with GPS and listening to music, all at the same time, using the N82 elevates me to geek nirvana and makes me feel like this is at least May 2008. And that is awesome.