Reviews

By October 12, 2009 Read More →

Sony Ericsson W395 Review

The Sony Ericsson W395 was first announced back in February this year and is part of the Walkman family. Is it a worthy music device though?

W395-angled-right

W395

What’s in the box:

  • Handset
  • Battery
  • Charger
  • USB Cable
  • Headphones
  • Manual/Warranty

 

Sony Ericsson W395 Specification:

 

  • Dimensions – 96 x 47 x 14.9mm
  • Weight – 96g
  • Display TFT 256 colours
  • Speakerphone with stereo speakers
  • Internal Memory – 10mb
  • External Memory – Memory stick micro, up to 4Gb
  • GPRS
  • Edge
  • Bluetooth V2 with A2DP
  • Camera – 2MP
  • Video Recording
  • SMS, EMS, MMS, Email, IM
  • Browser – WAP/2.0 xHTML, HTML (openwave), RSS Reader
  • Radio – Stereo FM with RDS
  • Games
  • Java
  • Battery – Stand-by up to 480 hrs, Talk Time up to 8 hours.

 

General:

 

The top of the W395 contains only the memory card slot.

W395-top

Top

On the left is just the Charging port.

W395-left

Left Side

The right hand side houses the up/down volume rocker and also the camera key.

W395-right

Right Side

The back of the device has only the camera as a feature but it also has some nice logos!

W395-back

Back Side

The front of the device is where the action is at.

W395-front
Front

 

Highlights:

  • Easy to use
  • Lightweight
  • Flashing Purple Light!

 

Lowlights:

  • No 3G/Wi-Fi
  • Bad music sound Quality

 

Review:

To be honest I have never been a huge fan of Sony Ericssons but that doesn’t mean I wont give this device a honest review. The handset certainly feels nice in the hand, extremely lightweight and well balanced when in its open position. Build quality feels reasonable although the battery cover does feel a little flimsy.

The keys on the front of the device are nice and easy to use. They are evenly spaced making light work of finding the one you want without looking at the device. The centre key is surrounded by a D-Pad which has a nice purple light set behind it. Looks great in the dark!

As expected there are dedicated music keys. The one on the top left takes you straight into your music folder to allow you to choose a track and the other music key, bottom left, drops you into the music player itself. The music quality using the stereo speakers is certainly loud and of not bad quality. The purple light flashes when music is played, cool! With the headphones plugged in I was a bit disappointed. The quality was not great. In fact it was worse than most other phones I have tried and that’s a lot! Considering this is meant to be a music device its a bit of a poor show. The headphones may contribute to the bad sound but as Sony Ericsson insist on using there own USB connecter thingy I could not try the device with my own headphones. Also the headphone connector is massive and adds a good bit of bulk to the width of the device. Pretty flashing lights though!

For those of you that like to listen to the radio on a mobile device you wont be disappointed as the W395 has one and it works fine, although the sound quality isn’t great.

The camera was to be as expected, not great. With no flash low light images are a no no.

Text messaging was fairly painless. The number pad on the phone is nice. The buttons are raised in the centre and dip on the edges to help guide you across them when speed texting.

Connectivity is a bit limited. No 3G or Wi-Fi means web browsing is slow and using the browser on the device felt like I had gone back in time about five years.

There are some quite nice applications in the organizer section. The calendar is decent and creating events is simple. As expected there is also an alarm clock, stopwatch, timer, tasks and calculator.

One feature that I wasn’t expecting to find on this device was flight mode. Good job Sony Ericsson – the kids can play there music on the plane.

 

Conclusion:

Overall I think the target market for this device is most defiantly children. If having never owned a mobile before then this is not a bad choice. At under £60.00 on pay as you go its reasonable and it must be popular as I found it for sale with all four major UK networks.

My main overall reservations about the W395 were that it just felt a bit dated and although its a Walkman phone the music quality was not what I expected. I’m sure you get what you pay for and it just happens to be that this is a low end device.

Posted in: Reviews
By October 2, 2009 Read More →

Hisense 1080p HD Media Player Review

The Hisense  HD Media Player is a simple proposition really, it lets you browse your media without needing a PC running in order to do so.

Hisense 1080p Media Player

Your media can be on USB keys/drives or on your network as this little box says it can handle them all – lets find out.

 

What’s in the box

  • Hisense Media Player
  • Remote control (with batteries)
  • Power cable
  • UK adapter
  • Composite AV cable
  • Component cable (according to manual, though not in our review box)

Specification

  • HOST: CPU MIPS 400Mhz CPU
  • Flash memory: 16MB
  • SDRAM: DDR2 128MB
  • Video codec:
    -MPEG1
    -MPEG-2 up to 1080P
    -MPEG-4 (720P/1080i/1080P) ,Xvid
    -H.264 up to 1080P
    -WMV9/VC-1 up to 1080P
    -RealNetworks(RM/RMVB)8/9/10 up to 1920*720(720P)
    -Flash Video
  • Audio codec:
    -MPEG-1 Layers I,II and III and MPEG-2
    -LPCM,ADPCM,FLAC,AAC,WAV,and OGG Vorbis
    -DTS HD Master Audio,LBR
    -Dolby digital Plus,TrueHD
    -RA1/RA-cook/RA-lossless WMA/WMA Pro
  • Photo: HD JPEG,BMP,TIFF,PNG,DNG
  • Video/Audio output:
    -Video YPBPR / HDMI out
    -Audio RCA stereo out(L/R)
    -S/PDIF
  • Network: RJ45 for Ethernet x 1
  • USB port: USB 2.0 x 2
  • Power supply: AC 100~240V / 50~60Hz, DC12V,2A
  • Dimension: 210 x 170 x 32mm
  • Weight: 315g

 

General

Tradition dictates that a quick tour around the outside is the first thing we should do.

Hisense 1080p Media Player front view 

Not much to report on the front view, just an led that lights up in the center. Red if the unit is off, green if the unit is on.

Hisense 1080p Media Player left view

On the left hand side we find two USB 2.0 ports. You can’t really tell from the picture above, but they are recessed slightly into the body of the casing. Not enough to make them completely inaccessible, more to make them ‘discrete’

Hisense-back

Around the back is where we will find all the connections. From left to right – Component RGB, audio left + right, S/PDIF audio out, HDMI, RJ45 Network and power in.

 

There is nothing on the right hand side so we’ll skip that and show you the remote.

Hisense-remote

We’ll be discussing this further in a minute.

 

Highlights

  • It happily handled most media that I threw at it
  • Up-scaling is very watchable

 

Lowlights

  • Remote
  • Interface

 

Review

The first thing that struck me about the Hisense HD Media Player as I took it out of the box was its weight. It’s as light as the proverbial feather. I suspect the connections on the rear are the only thing making the box the size it is – at this weight there can’t be an awful lot in there. Not to say that the resulting package is large, it’s not – it’s footprint being just slightly larger than a DVD box.

 

Setup couldn’t really be any simpler – just connect the power and your choice of output cable – I went with HDMI as it saves messing with audio and video separately.

Whilst mentioning the setup, I must just say that the UK power adapter included in the box is the ugliest thing I’ve seen in a long time. Most devices these days have ‘clip-in’ pieces for the basic power adapter ‘lump’, allowing you to select the one applicable to your region. The Hisense HD Media Player does not, it comes with a fixed two prong adapter which you then connect into a UK convertor plug – it’s very like a black moulded version of a travel adapter and not very pretty at all.

 

Anyway, back to the functionality.

On first ‘boot’ you are greeted with the Hisense logo and then the main menu screen – all in Chinese. A quick press of the setup button on the remote and a fairly obvious guess let me quickly change everything to English. (Curiously the button is marked ‘Setup’ on the remote, yet it’s called ‘Settings’ within the menu itself). The manual enclosed in our review box was also Chinese.

Once everything was in a language I could understand, the settings menus, though fairly basic, seem to offer most of the things that the average user is going to want to control.

‘Audio’ settings are a choice of RAW or LPCM output.

‘Video’ settings has some more options on hand. You can change aspect ratio (also changeable on the fly with the remote), the brightness and contrast (and yes I was surprised to see these being changeable within the unit itself instead of having to change the TV itself), Digital Noise Reduction on or off, and finally, the selection of resolution that you want to output at – ranging from basic NTSC or PAL all the way up to 1080p.

‘Network’ settings allow you to set the IP of the box by connecting to a DHCP or else you can give it a fixed IP, entering the IP, Subnet and Default Gateway yourself – which is the only reason for the remote having number keys as far as I can tell.

‘System’ settings allows you to change the menu language, text encoding, update the firmware or do a reset to default settings.

The final sub-menu is ‘Other’ which is primarily used to change the settings for automated slideshows of images – timing can be set from Off up to 2 minutes, transitions can be set to a single personal choice or set to random, background music can be on or off. There are additional settings in here for Resume Play, Movie Preview and Screen Saver.

 

So once you’ve finished fiddling with all the settings you can get on with actually looking at your media.

 

The browser interface for media selection is best described as ‘functional’. It’s not all bells and whistles, it just does the job. The presentation is really just a list of files and folders, which you can limit to be just photos, just movies, just audio or all media that it recognises. Alongside the list is a preview frame, and guess what, that’s a preview of the media file currently selected – if Movie Preview is set to On in the settings, then it will actually start to play a movie file in there, otherwise it’s only actually used for images and to tell you the file size and encoding of the media in question.

 

Once you choose your media it will ‘play’. Images will behave as a slideshow as per your settings, music will play within the browser and movies will play fullscreen.

Not really much else to say on images – it handles large JPG’s just fine and that’s likely to be it’s main use (it doesn’t like RGBA PNG’s, displaying the alpha as either on or off instead of 256 levels). You can zoom and pan around the current image, but everything else is really controlled by the slideshow settings.

Audio playback is very basic, there are no visualisers or anything fancy, it just plays the file. Don’t think this is going to be a common use tho, more of an easy thing for the engineers to add as all the MP3 decoding is already in place for the movies.

So, onto the primary use for the box – video playback.

I tried DivX, XVid, MPEG and MOV files that I had to hand, ranging from low resolution all the way up to full 1080p HD and the Hisense HD Media Player handled them all easily. I was outputting at 1080p 60Hz with Digital Noise Reduction turned on and I never saw a glitch, all the sound was in-sync – just exactly what you’d expect the player to do really.

When a video is playing you can fast forward and fast rewind up to 32 times normal speed – though there is no slow-mo functionality which surprised me a little. I imagine that it’s something they could add with a firmware patch, but out of the box it’s not there. You can also skip to the previous or next video in the current folder with a single button press.

You can change the video ‘zoom’ settings with a press of the remote whilst playing as well, so if your videos include 4:3 and 16:9 you can always find a setting that best shows the video in question.

You can also change the audio output settings on the fly as well – not something most people are going to use, but it’s nice that it’s there as an option.

The only other real option during playback is an information bar that you can call up to see some basic information about the movie you are playing – how many minutes into the file you are and the number of files in the current directory. It doesn’t tell you how many remaining minutes, which is frustrating if you are used to that sort of functionality from other media players (as I am).

So that’s a quick rundown of how everything works, what did I actually think of the player.

First off, I’d like to say that the hardware in the player itself seems to be very capable of the job that it’s asked to do. Apart from RGBA PNG’s, everything else I tried worked just fine – and I was very happy with the upscaling and DNR in general.

I was able to play videos off USB keys and over the network without any real problems. The only time I saw anything not working was when I connected to a Buffalo drive over the network. It didn’t seem to be able to retrieve the file information, so it couldn’t tell me the file size and encoding as it did with other sources – but it would play them just fine. On the same drive it didn’t like me selecting the Buffalo ‘filing system’ instead of the raw folder structure, it just hung, but once I went back to the raw folders things were fine.

The remote is the first thing that lets  the player down. It’s a very basic thing, on first look it reminded me of a remote control for ceiling fans or those really cheap VOIP ‘phones’. The keys themselves feel nasty as they are obviously just buttons directly onto ‘switches’, there is no softness in the tactile experience. On top of that sometimes a button press selects a different option, so you can be watching a video and press a button to fast forward and it will pause or completely stop the playback – it’s not a bug that happens every single time, but it happens enough to become very annoying very quickly. The shape is also very boxy, nothing at all to make it nice to hold.

In general the remote feels cheap and as that is a large part of the user experience it’s going to taint your thoughts on the player itself.

Another important part of the experience is the user interface, and again this was disappointingly basic.

The settings menus are fine, but the browser where you are going to spend the majority of your time is about as basic as it comes – it literally is just a file and folder list, there are no thumbnail previews within that folder for example, you only see a preview of the currently selected item. A little more effort here would make a huge difference to the user experience. To be fair, in general you can indeed get to all your media but to navigate up and down through folder structures feels a little laboured and is certainly not helped by the remote itself. The actual selection of a file can take a moment, as whilst it let’s you browse up and down the list as fast as you wish, it insists on checking the file information before it will let you select play – which leads to more frustration if you as you want to get to your files.

All this is a shame really as the actual player itself is very capable of doing the playback.

 

Conclusion

I’ve used the Hisense HD Media Player for about a week now and I think it’s a shame that the unit is let down by it’s user experience.

When it’s actually playing the media it does the job in fine fashion, but the second you actually want to do something the interface and remote really start to get on your nerves.

The problems I’ve described above could be fixed with a new remote and a better thought out interface, but as it stands the player is a little frustrating to use.

Posted in: Reviews
By October 1, 2009 Read More →

O2 XDA Venn review

Introduction

The Venn is one of the latest XDA’s from O2. A Windows Mobile 6.1, dual sliding phone with built in QWERTY keyboard. Could this be a contender in the business class of phones?

The O2 XDA Venn

The O2 XDA Venn

 

The Venn has been on sale for a while in the USA as the Pantech Matrix Pro on the AT&T network and is also known as the Pantech Mustang 2. For those of you unfamiliar with the Pantech or the Venn it has a unique trick up its sleeve in that it has a dual slide action with both a numeric keypad and and full QWERTY keypad.

 

What’s in the box?

  • AC travel charger
  • Battery
  • Headset
  • USB cable
  • Quick start guide
  • CD Full user manual
  • Fabric sleeve

Have a look also at Matt’s O2 XDA Venn unboxing video.

O2 XDA Venn Specification:

  • Windows Mobile 6.1 Standard
  • Qualcomm 528mHz CPU
  • 128MB RAM
  • 256MB ROM
  • 2.4" QVGA (240×320) transflective display
  • Quad Band
  • GPRS, EDGE, 3G, HSDPA, HSUPA
  • Bluetooth 2.0
  • MicroSD memory card support
  • 2.0 megapixel camera
  • GPS(?)
  • Weight: Dimensions: 106 x 51 x 21mm (H x W x D)

General

Front: LCD Display, menu buttons, phone speaker

venn_front

Rear: Battery compartment, camera, loud speaker

Left side: Volume controls, REC button, QWERTY flip

venn_left

Keyboard/keypad:

venn_keyboard venn_keypad

Right side: Camera button, charging port

venn_right

Bottom: Keypad flip, microSD slot

venn_bottom venn_bottom_open

Highlights

  • Very good battery life
  • Dual sliding
  • Looks
  • Solid, robust feel

Lowlights

  • Bulky
  • No WiFi
  • microSD card slot difficult to insert card
  • No camera flash
  • Non standard charger/data connector

Review

When I first saw the Venn, I couldn’t help but think it was a bit on the bulky side but with a nice blue metallic Motorola-esque finish. The keypad sprung up with a nice solid action to reveal the flush fitted keys. The keyboard also opens with the same reassuring robustness. The raised keys are nicely spaced out, slightly larger than my Blackberry Bold, and with some spacing between each key. I tried to insert my microSD card into the covered port at the bottom of the unit, and ended up having to ask my wife to get it to lock as my fingernails were just too short. The charger/data port is not of the mini USB design so you will have to add another cable to your collection.

In its closed form, it is a thick device but it also has a stealthy factor, with its metallic paint and smooth lines, it is quite an attractive phone. The Windows Mobile is an established, reliable platform which is simple to use without too many of the thrills, you wont find anything like Touch Flo here. The camera is average as far as 2MP goes but 2MP really doesn’t cut it these days where 5, 8 and 12MP camera phones are becoming the norm and I don’t think that saying "it’s a business phone" is a resonalbe excuse either. A flash would have been nice too.

My biggest gripe with the phone was the lack of WiFi. I thought that something like that would have been standard, especially as it is trying to sell itself to the business market.

The battery life is really good, stated at 5 hours talk and 250 hours standby, this is a very good selling point as most of the ‘all singing, all dancing’ phones tend to suck the battery dry a lot quicker. I think 250 hours is optimistic for day to day use, but I have not needed to charge it for 3 days and that is very good going.

Matt did mention GPS in his unboxing video and there is mention of GPS in the specification online (depending on which you read) however I can find no evidence of GPS on the Venn that we reviewed here. I can only assume that the Pantech Matrix Pro has GPS and that some of the specs. listed elsewhere online have not been updated to reflect the UK hardware. If anyone else can confirm this then let us know!

 

Software

Being Windows Mobile you do have access to the Microsoft office software, internet explorer and mediaplayer (the sound from which is pretty good). It makes the transition from your desktop to your phone an easy one.

Conclusion

A good texting/emailing device for the Windows Mobile lovers, with a very good battery. This might not be as good as the blackberry’s for emails, the iphone’s for toys or better at taking pictures than the 5-8MP phones out there, but as an all rounder it fairs well. All in all, a robust phone on a robust platform.

 

Review by: Gary

Posted in: Reviews
By September 29, 2009 Read More →

Samsung i7500 Galaxy Review

Samsung’s first Android device which was initially released in Germany is now available here in the UK. It has certainly got some stiff competition as HTC’s Hero is now well established and getting pretty good reviews all round. Does the Galaxy stand a chance against the other Android devices already on the market or is it worth waiting for a forthcoming one?

 Galaxy_angled_left

Samsung i7500 Galaxy

 

What’s in the box:

  • Handset
  • Battery
  • Pouch/Case
  • Charger
  • Earphones
  • USB Cable
  • Software

The Ten Second Review:

Device: Samsung i7500 Galaxy

Price: £435.99

Summary: An Android device sporting a 5MP camera, WiFi, GPS and a 3.2 OLED display.

Best of: WiFi, GPS, OLED Screen

Worst of: Unlock Key, Function Buttons

Samsung i7500 Galaxy Specification:

Samsung GT-I7500 Galaxy specification:
Dimensions:- 115 x 56 x 11.9mm
Battery:- Capacity: 1500 mAh
Display:- 320 x 480 pixels/3.2 inch AMOLED Display
Network:- GSM: 850/900/1800/1900 (Quad-Band) / HSDPA (7.2Mbps)
Camera:- 5 mega-pixels (auto-focus)
Power LED Flash
Video:- Video Streaming
Music:- Supported formats: MP3, AAC, eAAC+ & WMA
Messaging:- SMS / MMS (with video) / E-mail (POP3, SMTP, IMAP4, GMail) / Instant Messaging (Google Talk)
Memory:- 8GB (internal) / microSDHC (external)
Connectivity:- microUSB / 3.5mm AV connector
Bluetooth (2.0)
Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11b/g)
Navigation:- AGPS / Google Maps / Google Street View / Google Latitude
Features:- YouTube / Google Calender / Google Search

 

General:

The top of the Galaxy houses the USB port and also the 3.5mm headset jack.

Galaxy_top

Galaxy Top

 

The front contains send/end keys, a menu key on the left, a back button and a home button on the right. In the centre is the D-Pad.

Galaxy_keys

The Galaxy’s keys

 

The left side contains only the up/down volume rocker.

Galaxy_left

Left side

 

On the right can be found the unlock button as well as the camera button.

Galaxy_right

Right side

 

On the back of the device is the speaker grill at the base and the camera and flash at the top.

Galaxy_back

The back of the Galaxy

 

 

Highlights:

  • WiFi
  • Camera
  • OLED Display

Lowlights:

  • Unlock Button
  • Bad key positioning

 

Review:

I was really looking forward to getting the Galaxy for review as I have had very limited time to use Android devices. Luckily I have a friend who has a HTC Hero and I have been able to have a good go, so I guess I will be comparing the Galaxy against the Hero as well as other operating systems.

Straight out of the box the Galaxy felt great in the hand. Like the Samsung Jet its plastic back cover is super shiny and feels well made. Once turned on and the screen kicks into life the device looked amazing. The OLED display really is so crisp and bright. I’m sure its only a matter of time until other manufactures are also using the same screens. On the forum one question I was asked was how easy the screen was to see in bright conditions. To be honest compared to my Windows devices I would say its on par. Neither are fantastic but I have managed.

Unlike the HTC Hero, the Galaxy runs the standard Android user interface like on the HTC Magic and T-Mobile G1. This consists of three home screens which are all totally customisable. By holding down a point on the screen a menu pops up which allows you to add shortcuts, widgets, folders or change wallpaper. These options are great as it allows you to only have the stuff you really use on the homescreens.

At the top of the homescreen is the notification bar. It also houses important information such as signal strength, battery life and the time, however if you get a notification such as a sms or voicemail a symbol will appear in this bar. To access the information you grab the bar with your finger or thumb and drag it down. This will open the notification bar into a full screen page giving to quick access to messages etc.

At the bottom of the screen is a grey tab button with an arrow on it. By sliding this arrow up it opens the main menu. Again the menu looks great as the icons are on a black background which really makes the coloured icons stand out. I had one major problem with the menu though. I was missing the Android Market icon (Androids app store). So, I thought that it must be located somewhere deeper in the menus but I was wrong. It was not on the handset full stop! I contacted Matt about this and he emailed Samsung who actually phoned him and discussed the problem. They kindly agreed to find out how to resolve the issue and get back to him. Did they call back – NO. Shame on you Samsung. So I now have an Android device which I can not customise with app’s from Android Market. Kind of defeats the whole point of buying the device if you ask me. Although O2 are selling the handset we have failed to actually locate a store that has a Galaxy in stock. So will the retail version have the Android market or not, or have all the handsets gone back to Samsung to be fixed???

 

Although the Galaxy looks a nice design I don’t think that the buttons on the front of the handset are very user friendly. The left hand side is okay but on the right they have squeezed an extra button in (the home key). It just feels like these buttons are a bit to close together and using one handed feels a little bit odd.  The other button which got really on my nerves is the lock key on the right hand side of the phone. Each time I wanted to do something I had to hold down the lock key for about three/four seconds which when picking the phone up dozens of times a day gets rather frustrating. Most other touch screen devices I have used have had a simple on screen unlock which takes a quarter of the time to complete. I also wasn’t too keen on the D-Pad. Although it does its job I didn’t like it as much as the track ball on the HTC Hero and to be truthful im not sure either handset actually need this feature as its so easy to change screens using the screen itself.

 

On to a positive feature, the camera. Although the cameras interface is not the best and using the soft keys to get through the menus is a pain, the camera takes good pictures. Outdoors, the pictures are as good as any other 5mp camera phone and indoors the flash does a brilliant job. The quality is without doubt good enough for printing. The video feature also is pretty good but like most phones it looks great on the device but not so hot once on a computer!

 

Listening to MP3s was also positive. The Metallica test was a huge success! The speaker is fairly loud but listening with the Samsung earphones was fantastic and I would say on par with my ipod. Samsung have always made a good job of there earphones, in my opinion, and they supply these ones with several of there handsets which is good news for music fans. With 8Gb of storage the Galaxy will hold a massive amount of music tracks.

The music interface is also very nice on the Galaxy with simple large on screen buttons. In addition to the album coverwork being displayed also the artist, album and song title are shown.

One thing that does concern me though is the lack of Bluetooth file transfer. Im not sure why this has been left out but I believe its an Android thing. Im sure this will change in time.

With a nice big screen web browsing has to be one of the Galaxy’s selling points and Samsung have not let us down. The OLED screen makes viewing images amazing and although there is no pinch zooming the onscreen zoom options are simple pimple!

A nice feature with the browser is multi tabbing. You can have four tabs open at a time and with a click of the menu button you can see all four tabs on one page, quarter screen, giving you the easiest way to choose which page you wish to return to.

Like most browsers there are numerous settings options such as choosing text size, blocking images, remember passwords and blocking pop ups.

A good browser all round!

 

Messaging is fine and dandy on the Galaxy. As the phone is an Android device you can easily import GMail contacts and there is a separate app for using GMail. Alternatively you can use any email address and the Galaxy will automatically detect the settings. I set up my Yahoo account and it worked just fine. Typing on the Galaxy is a bit tight in portrait mode but in landscape its relatively easy. The added haptic feedback is a nice touch. I am used to a physical keyboard but I soon picked up typing on the Galaxy and although not as fast as on my Touch Pro2 I surprised myself.

 

The Galaxy comes with a couple of nice app’s pre-installed. The first being google maps, which seems to be standard now on smartphones and secondly a YouTube client. Both worked well and its a shame I couldn’t download any others!

 

Conclusion:

So do I like the Galaxy as much as the Hero – No, and I cant see many people disagreeing with me once they have used both. It does what its meant to do and it does it well but its just not as nice. I was bitterly disappointed with Samsung’s failure to sort out the Android Market issue and had I been able to download other app’s then maybe the race would have been a bit closer.

Its still early days for Android and the best is yet to come but at the moment the Hero is still in the lead, for the time being at least.

If you have any questions regarding this handset please use the forum and I will do my best to answer.

 

Review by: James

Posted in: Reviews
By September 27, 2009 Read More →

i-gotU GT-120 Review

The i-gotU GT-120 from Mobile Action is a GPS logger and receiver which you use in conjunction with your camera for geotagging your photos.

i-gotu GT-120 The i-gotU GT-120 from Mobile Action

You may have seen a few reviews in the past on tracyandmatt.co.uk of photo geotagging devices. Well, I think I may have been given the tiniest one out there to try out! Good timing really as I’m off to Spain for a week so perfect to try this out!

 

What’s in the box?

  • i-gotU GT-120
  • USB cable (Proprietary connection to the device)
  • Mini-CD with software and manual
GT-120_packet2 The i-gotU GT-120 – packaging

 

i-gotU GT120 Specifications:

  • Dimensions: 44.5 x 28.5 x 13 mm
  • Weight: 20g
  • SiRF StarIII 65nm GPS low power chipset
  • Built-in GPS patch antenna
  • 16M flash memory to store 65,000 way points
  • Built-in 230mAh Lithium-ion battery
  • 2 LEDs for on/off/charge/logging status status indication
  • Average acquisition time: Cold start: < 35 seconds
  • USB 1.1cable for charging and PC connect
  • Operation temperature: -10 to + 50 degrees centigrade

System requirements:

  • PC with Windows 2000, XP, Vista
  • PC with USB 1.1 or 2.0

 

General:

This is such a simple device with just a proprietary USB connection on the bottom of the i-gotU GT-120 and the button on the front of it.

i-gotu_bottom  The i-gotU GT-120 from Mobile Action

 

Highlights:

  • Size – small and lightweight
  • Simple to use
  • Water resistant

Lowlights:

  • Can take some time to locate GPS signal

 

Review:

Although I’ve seen geotagging devices I’ve never used one before. The i-gotU GT120 looks simple to use from the outset.

The software “@Trip” needs to be installed. You can get this off the Mobile Action’s site as well which is handy if you lose the mini CD. The installation is pretty quick and the software looks quite straight forward, but I’ll come back to this later in the review.

To switch the i-gotU GT12 on you just hold down the button until you see a blue light appear and flash on the front of the device (you can’t see when it’s not on as it’s located under the plastic). Now, here is my only moan about the device – you may have to wait a minute or two. or three.(you get the idea) until the device fixes on a GPS signal (and you have to be outside – but this is normal). You’ll see when the GPS signal has been found as a red light will then start to flash along with the blue one.

This is where I got confused! Any one who has used one of these before will be laughing at me now! I was convinced that there was more to it – Like pressing the button when you take a photo to track that specific position or something – but no, that was it! It logs data roughly every 5 seconds to track your movements. simple huh?!

To switch it off you just hold the button down again until the red light flashes a few times on its own.

 

The next step is to upload the data from it to your pc using the USB cable.

The software isn’t the most exciting looking but it is easy to use.

atrip2 @Trip software for the i-gotU GT120

Uploading the data only takes a few clicks. The ‘Import’ button at the top left opens another window with an import wizard which guides you through the process. Once the data is uploaded you will then be able to see the tracked data. Google maps are used with this application.

Of course, this is then where your photos come into it. Any photos can be added to the map. The clever part is how they are positioned in the right place on the map. The i-gotU GT120 tracks the time when logging the GPS data. The software then synchronises the time that the picture was taken against the data tracks of the GPS information and then places your pictures accordingly on the map.

There are a few map interfaces. One of them is a sport view, where speed, trip time, total distance, etc are added to a bar at the bottom.

 

Conclusion:

My only real complaint was that it can take quite a time to fix on a GPS signal when you switch it on. This became annoying if i found something that I wasted to take a picture of quickly and the device was switched off.

But, otherwise, the small and lightweight i-gotU GT-120 from Mobile Action definitely impressed me!

Review by: Emma

Posted in: Reviews
By September 22, 2009 Read More →

Viliv S5 Premium 3G review

Introduction

A while ago now, Matt produced an unboxing video for the first UMPC review device we’ve had for some time. Ultra Mobile PC’s have seen their market shrink rapidly in the face of cheaper and cheaper netbooks on one side, and feature rich mobile devices.

So can Viliv provide me with a reason to use a UMPC again?

The Viliv S5 Premium 3G

The Viliv S5 Premium 3G

 

Viliv S5 premium 3G specification:

  • Viliv S5
  • CPU type: Intel Atom (Silverthorne)
  • CPU speed: 1300 Mhz
  • Graphics: Intel GMA 500
  • OS: Windows XP Home
  • Display Size: 4.8" 1024 X 600
  • Hard Disk: 30 GB
  • Battery capacity: 23 (Wh)
  • Weight: 395gm / 13.9 oz.
  • Size (w/h/d mm): 154/84/24 mm
  • Physical Interfaces
    USB2.0
    Docking connector
    Line-out / Headphone (3.5mm)
    Mini USB 2.0 (client)
  • Wireless Interfaces
    802.11b/g
    BT2.0
    3G option
  • Additional Specs and Accessories (can vary)
    GPS

Have a look at Matt’s Viliv S5 unboxing video to see the product in more detail and to see what other accessories are supplied.

 

General

My first impressions were very positive. I’d never heard of Viliv, but the packaging was on a par with any of the big name device manufactures, and really did make me sit up and think "hmm… this looks impressive kit". My positive vibes continued when I took a first look at the device itself – sorry Matt, I must have missed that unboxing video!

In the box there’s a couple of quick start guides, one of which basically details the XP setup process (its installed, but you need to do that stage with the annoying music for yourself). The second quick guide is a list of hardware button combos which control how the on screen keyboards work, how to enter the BIOS, and a rescue option if things go wrong!

Under the device itself, complete with mini stylus on a lanyard, there is an AC adaptor, a set of industrial looking ear phones, and yet another "quick start guide", but one which looks more like a decent manual for the device.

That pretty much completes the boxed product, so we’ll move onto the unit itself. Its actually very impressive. I was never a fan of UMPCs but when I saw the S5 I was staggered by the size of it. It is still big, but it will genuinely fit quite easily in a jacket pocket, and unlike most similar devices, it is genuinely portable. The device has a matt finish throughout, and looks exceptionally good.

The front of the screen houses the large 4.8" screen centred horizontally, with a 5 way joystick on the left side, located above a ‘Menu’ button – more on that later. To the right of the screen there’s another 3 buttons – ‘OK’, ‘C’ (for cancel) and a strange icon on a button that has a few uses – but primarily brings up the on screen keyboard. To the extreme left and right of the front panel, are small but decent quality stereo speakers. The Viliv logo and ‘ULTRA PC PMP’ is seen at the bottom edge of the touch screen.

Front view of the Viliv S5 with its 'plectrum' stylus

Front view of the Viliv S5 with its ‘plectrum’ stylus

 

Moving to the top edge, and there are hardware buttons for volume control and a ear phone socket. There’s also a small tab, which on closer inspection, and a bit of pushing and pulling, turned out to be hiding a telescopic aerial. I was quite exited by this, but having read the manual it turns out its a "DMB Aerial"… and only useful in Korea 🙁 Boo Hiss!

Viliv S5 top view

Viliv S5 top view

 

The bottom edge is just home to a couple of heat dissipating grills, and the back is equally as plain as it consists of a huge slab of battery pack! Removing the battery allows access to the USIM socket.

Viliv S5 bottom view

Viliv S5 bottom view

 

On the left side, there is a rubber cover over a selection of input and output ports. Firstly there is a ‘multi-i/o’ socket which apparently outputs video via a selection of cables. A bit disappointing there is no standard port, but its always difficult on small devices. Theres also a full size USB port, and microusb to connect to a computer. The device is seen as a removable storage device, but the manual does insist – in bold – that you should read the manual first. I didn’t bother, and I’m still alive to tell the tale.

There is also a reset button under the cover, but the AC power socket is located just down from the cover.

Viliv S5 left side

Viliv S5 left side

 

The right hand side houses the power switch (lock, off, on), and the battery release slider.

Viliv S5 right side

Viliv S5 right side

The battery takes up the whole of the back of the unit and has a simple ‘Viliv’ logo on the back. Removing the battery reveals the SIM card slot for 3G connectivity.

The back of the Viliv S5

The back of the Viliv S5

The back of the Viliv S5

Highlights

  • High-res small screen. Clear vibrant and ultra sharp, accurate touchscreen and easy on the eyes.
  • Atom processor – it might be aging somewhat now in netbooks, but its a beast in devices like this

Lowlights

  • Minor software issues. Touch keyboard software could do with an update
  • Size – I don’t have an answer to the problem, but its still a little bit big!

 

Review

The device actually powers on very quickly – which is not bad going for XP, and you arrive swiftly at the desktop. Our review device came with a desktop full of apps. Some appear to still be in testing – “Mobile Partner” for example. You also get the usual office trial, and either Viliv, or a previous reviewer had installed all the Windows Live apps. Google Earth and a number of other popular apps were included.

There’s a start menu replacement app called the ‘Viliv Cube’ – which is nice enough, but oddly only shows the app names rather than the nice shortcut names. For example “winword.exe” rather than Word 2007.

The hardware Menu button though, oddly defaults to the built in Windows Start Menu. I don’t like these silly menu replacement systems, so it suits me, but it seems odd that Viliv don’t have it using their own software.

So I moved on and connected the device onto my wireless network. A painless experience, but thats often the case as long as you use the built in Windows Wireless Zero Configuration tool, rather than any manufacturer tools! Firefox and Internet Explorer were installed, so I went ahead and launched Firefox.

I pressed the keyboard button on the right hand side, and up popped a semi-transparent touch keyboard. This is shown on top of the bottom portion of the screen, which is generally a nice idea. However I did spot a potential flaw. If you open up the keyboard and begin typing a web address, the firefox history bar drops down on top of the keyboard, rendering it a bit useless.

That was pretty disappointing but having spoke to Viliv they did point out that I can install a number of open source and paid-for touch-screen keyboard systems. These are compatible with Windows – and indeed other operating systems – and are of various qualities. The built-in keyboard does however work fairly brilliantly elsewhere. You can actually write or edit a document on this with ease.

In fact that brings us neatly onto the screen. On such a tiny device, a resolution of up to 1024×768 is pretty impressive. Annoyingly the resolutions don’t all seem to match the aspect ratio of the screen. I eventually realized the best resolution to use was actually 1024×600 – which is still massive for such a small screen. However, text is still readable, and the screen and touch keyboard both make the device extremely usable on the move.

The usability extends beyond the touch screen though – the Viliv comes with a stylus as well, which might not be the most earth shattering news you’ve heard today, but… its on a strap! Moving on anyway… there’s also the joystick/jog dial control, which makes moving around buttons and fields within dialog boxes very quick, and very easy. No need to hit the button with your finger or the stylus, so once again Viliv have added to the usability of the device very well.

The battery life was also mightily impressive considering the size of the screen, and the built in hardware – which includes GPS and Bluetooth.

In terms of the built in GPS I can report that the hardware performs quite well. There is an option to download updated AGPS data which certainly helps with a GPS fix. Having used it at home I can can get a GPS fix even while sitting indoors. Where the problem with GPS lies is in the SatNav software that’s available for the PC. There are lots of titles out there that will work quite happily with the Viliv, Google Earth for example works just fine. The problem I found is that many of the turn-by-turn SatNav products out there do not have UK maps available. The only ‘big name’ product out there that has a UK map is Garmin Mobile PC – but that’s for another review – the Viliv itself works fine!

 

Conclusion

Viliv have really gone to town on the S5 and come up with something that could be quite special. The software package is a little bit rough around the edges, but the hardware itself is fantastic. Software, of course, is fairly easy to fix anyway and an alternative keyboard might be a cheap fix as well.

I really didn’t think I’d get on with an UMPC device, but as soon as I opened the box I was impressed with the build quality of the kit, and the styling. I realise this is a small market, but if you are after a UMPC, go get this one!

 

Review by: Mark

Posted in: Reviews
By September 21, 2009 Read More →

Asus Eee PC T91 review

Introduction

When you think of compact laptops, Asus is one of the names that will spring to mind, having a track record of affordable, decent netbooks. Now they have increased their arsenal with the T91, their first touchscreen netbook/tablet. Weighing up all its features, can this unit be as popular as some of its older brothers and sisters?

The Asus Eee PC T91

The Asus Eee PC T91

What’s in the box?

  • The Asus Eee PC T91
  • Battery
  • Charger & Cable
  • Manual & Warranty Card
  • Recovery CD/DVD

Take a look at Matt’s Asus T91 unboxing video for more.


Asus Eee Pc T91 Specification

  • Operating System Genuine Windows® XP Home
  • Display 8.9" LED-backlit / Resistive Touch Panel
  • CPU Intel® Atom Z520
  • Chipset Intel® US15W
  • LAN Onboard 10/100 Mbps Fast Ethernet controller
  • Wireless Data Networking WLAN: 802.11b/g/n
  • Bluetooth V2.1
  • Memory 1GB (DDR2)
  • Storage 16GB Solid State Drive + 16GB SD Card
  • Interface 1 x VGA port (D-sub 15-pin for external monitor)
  • 2 x USB 2.0 ports
  • 1 x LAN RJ-45
  • 2 x audio jacks: Headphone / Mic-in
  • Camera 0.3 M Pixel
  • Reader 3-in-1 MMC, SD, SDHC flash card slot
  • Audio Hi-definition audio CODEC
  • Built-in high quality stereo speakers
  • Digital Array Mic
  • Battery Life Li-Polymer battery, 5hrs**
  • Dimensions 225mm (W) x 164mm (D) x 25.2 ~ 28.4mm (H)
  • Weight 0.96kg


General

At a glance:-

Left side:

Memory expander, USB 2.0 and power socket

t91_left

Right side:

Ethernet socket, USB 2.0, microphone and headphone socket, stylus compartment.

t91_right

Front:

SD Memory card slot

t91_front

Rear:

VGA connector

Display:

Power switch, Touch Gate button, built in array microphone and camera and power, battery, wireless and caps lock led.

t91_tablet

Bottom:

Reset switch, memory compartment.


Highlights

  • Solid build
  • Flip screen which turns the netbook into a tablet PC
  • 5 Hour battery lifeBuilt in microphone and webcam

Lowlights

  • Touchscreen responsiveness (minor issue but had to balance out the pros and cons a bit more)
  • No removable battery pack


Review

From a looks point of view, I really like the T91, with its piano black finish and glossy screen, it emits an air of quality and professionalism. Coupled with the included padded ‘purse’ they have made an effort to make this look like a machine with a much higher price tag. The padded bag just goes to show the thought that Asus put into their products, whether you use it or not, I think the addition of this makes a difference in a world where most accessories are usually extra.

When you switch it on, it loads at a decent speed into Windows XP Home edition. It was an emotional reunion with my old friend XP! By calibrating the stylus by touching 9 points on the screen, the stylus is easy to use and accurate. As well as the standard XP screen there are 2 other screens hidden away until needed. The main one being Touch Gate, a graphical user interface designed for use with the touchscreen. This brings up larger icons, allowing you to use the stylus to do things like surf the net, use it as a calculator or write memos to yourself. I think more people will stick to the standard XP interface but it is nice to have different options. A small point I noticed is that the button below the screen which either launches Touch Gate or rotates the screen, when in Touch Gate mode will only allow the screen to be flipped 180° as opposed to 90° in XP mode.

The memo function did allow me to see how responsive the touchscreen was; I found it a little on the slow side but nothing that was a major issue. I think left handed people would find it easier as (correct me if I am wrong) they tend to write with their hand above the pen whereas right handed people right with their hand below. This made a difference on the touchscreen for me, as I kept resting my palm on the screen which overrided the contact with the stylus and jumped it to my palm. Again, with a little bit of practice (and less laziness) I think this would be easy to overcome. You can see an example of the memo pad in the screenshot. I would like to reiterate that I needed a bit more practice with the unit, which is my reason for having such atrocious handwriting.

screen1

The 1.33ghz Atom processor is more than capable of performing basic tasks which you would expect from a netbook, combined with 1gb of memory and a 16GB solid state drive with the ability to increase this capacity via SDHC slots, the whole package is really appealing. Asus do state that an additional 20GB storage facility is available online on their EEE internet storage site but I think that with current ISP upload speeds it might not be a strong selling point, but would be a good place for storing small, important files, as opposed to large photo albums. The lack of CD-ROM drive is both appreciated, due to size constraints, but also not a major issue with external ones available cheaply. This also applies to external hard drives, if you do find yourself filling up the internal drive quickly. I neat design idea was to put a USB 2.0 port on either side of the unit instead of bunching them up on the same side.

Like Matt, I too am a fan of the glossy touchscreen. Not only does it add to the streamlined, state of the art look but it also detracts people from using their fingers as a stylus, which has a lovely weighty feel to it. Outdoor use might get harder with the reflections and brightness but I think that if this did pose a problem to someone, there are options which could overcome this. The screen swivels into place with a solid, robust action and is able to be rotated by 90°, perfect when used in tablet form. Not the brightest of screens, but still easy to see and probably contributes towards the battery life. Asus have also added a built in camera and microphone which is another nice addition especially considering one of the main usages of this would be web related.

t91_hinge

Conclusion

As an affordable touchscreen netbook I found the Asus T91 to be very good, I can see these being popular, especially in certain industries, i.e. for drawing floorplans, auditing, stock taking, or even for day to day internet surfing with the added benefit of being able to replace some of the basic laptops available. The keyboard is compact but usable, and the 5 hour battery life is sufficient for a machine of this calibre, but would have been nice to be able to remove the battery and replace it when out on long journeys, but this is a minor issue as most people can get to a power source quite easily nowadays.

In summary, I can’t fault this netbook. It has all the requirements for day to day internet use, as well as some nice features which move it beyond basic surfing. I think this is a nice looking, affordable unit which can be proud to wear the Asus Eee PC badge.

 

Review by: Gary

Posted in: Reviews
By September 19, 2009 Read More →

CoPilot Live 8 Review

Introduction:

CoPilot has been around for some years now and so I thought I would test out there latest version and compare it with some other mobile navigation applications. The big question though is will it be as good as TomTom?

CoPilot Live 8 Review

CoPilot Live 8

I have been using sat nav since the very first TomTom was released, and I still cringe when I think that I paid over £500 for that first one!

Over the last few years I have used three TomTom stand alone devices, TomTom navigator and Nav n Go IGO8 on a Windows Mobile Device. Due to my job I spend on average five hours a day driving and each day to a different location, so I thought I would be the perfect person to give CoPilot a decent review.

Key Features:

  • Lane Guidance at junctions
  • Guidance in tunnels
  • Turn after turn indicator (display shows next two turns)
  • Speed limit alerts
  • POI’s
  • Live traffic information (subscription required)
  • Live search
  • Livelink location sharing
  • Weather
  • Fuel prices

Highlights:

  • Superb Map Display
  • Big selection of features

Lowlights:

  • Non QWERTY Keyboard
  • Rather Complicated Volume Controls

CoPilot Live 8 Review:

I downloaded Copilot for my winmo device and at £25.99 for the UK & Ireland map CoPilot Live 8 is an absolute bargain. The new TomTom version for the iphone is £59.99 so lets see if the cheaper option is better than the trusted market leader.

At present CoPilot is available for Windows Mobile, Iphone and Android devices. With the surge of Android devices creeping onto the market CoPilot will cover a huge number of handsets over the next twelve months.

Turning the CoPilot on for the first time I was pleasantly surprised how colourful the software was. Initially you are greeted with a small menu overlaying the map to enable quick navigation.

Launch Menu

CoPilot launch menu

As you will see in the picture above this menu allows for easy access to My Places, Settings, Mode (driving, walking etc) as well as Destination which dives straight into navigating to a new location.

The “My Places” option gives you a choice of four options for quick access to your favourite and recent destinations and using this section was smooth and simple.

My Places

My Places

Selecting “Destination” from the initial menu is where you enter a new location and this is where it gets a little tricky! As you will see in the picture below there are several options here but the “Address” one will be the most commonly used.

Selecting Destination

Selecting “Destination”

Actually entering the address on CoPilot has been a little disappointing, although if you have not used sat nav before you will not have the same frustration that I do. That frustration is that the input keypad on CoPilot is not QWERTY and there is no option (that I can find) to change it. I use a QWERTY keypad on not only my computers but also on my phone and having to then use something different takes me a hell of a lot longer to enter the text. All other sat nav software I have tried, including some free ones that use a data connection, have either a standard QWERTY key pad or at least the option of one.

Key Pad

CoPilot Key Pad

As with all the other sat nav’s available CoPilot lets you change most options, such as map styles/colours, map display and points of interest.

POIs Map Styles

POI’s & Map Styles

The POI’s were as good as on TomTom and the Safety alerts were just as reliable. You will see above there is a speed limit warning  option. I though to myself “great, this will come in handy on the motorway”, however the highest speed I managed to set it for was 30MPH so as you can imagine it was extremely annoying alerting me whenever I reached 31 MPH.

The other major issue I had with the Copilot was how hard it was to mute the volume. Most of the time when I am driving I don’t like to listen to the spoken instructions and I rely on the map and onscreen prompts. Although CoPilot can be muted it takes seven screen taps to do and then return back to the map and this did my head in. Every time I restarted CoPilot I had to do the seven screen taps once more.

The most important feature with any sat nav has to be the reliability of getting you to your destination correctly and the CoPilot has not let me down once. I must admit it has taken me on a few routes that I know TomTom would not have but I got there and quickly, whether I input the full address or just the postcode.

My favourite feature of CoPilot has to be the actual display when navigating. Not only do I love the map colours but also the layout of the onscreen information.

Everything seems to be in the right place and they have managed to fit a lot onto a relatively small display (depending on handset).

As you will see below the CoPilot offers lane guidance which is a nice feature and really comes in handy when you don’t know where you are going!

CoPilot Navigation Display

Copilot Navigation Display

Conclusion:

So, how does CoPilot Live 8 compare to its rivals?

In terms of navigation it is certainly as good and at that super low retail price its sure to do pretty well.

Will I be continuing to use it as my daily sat nav – No. I actually got my TomTom back out today and this was only due to the keyboard and volume issues I had. If these were rectified I would probably stick with the CoPilot.

A good effort CoPilot and I look forward to new versions in the years to come.

Posted by: James

Posted in: GPS/Sat Nav, Reviews
Tags:
By September 18, 2009 Read More →

Sony Ericsson W205 review

The W205 from Sony Ericsson is a Walkman phone with all the features you would expect from the great brand of Sony Ericsson but can almost be described a trimmed down version and before you go thinking this a bad thing when I say trimmed down I also include the price in that statement.

The Sony Ericsson W205

The Sony Ericsson W205

What’s in the box?

Actually, not a lot! The box is not only tiny but also mostly empty.

  • The W205 Handset
  • Battery
  • Mains Charger
  • Manual and Warranty Card

Check out Matt’s Sony Ericsson W205 unboxing video for a closer look at the handset.

 

Sony Ericsson W205 specification:

  • Network: GSM / GPRS 900/1800
  • Display: TFT, 1,8-inch, the resolution of 128×260 pixels, 65 thousand colors
  • Camera: 1.3 MP, 2.2-fold digital zoom, video recording
  • Memory: built-5Mb, slot for memory cards Memory Stick Micro (M2) up to 2 GB
  • Communications: Bluetooth, USB
  • Audio: supported formats MP3/AAC, player Walkman, FM-radio with RDS, stereo headset
  • Battery life: during a call up to 9 hours, standby up to 425 hours of music listening mode: up to 13.5 hours
  • Dimensions: 92x47x16, 4 mm
  • Weight: 96 g

 

 

General

Looks wise the W205 is not a bad looking device with all the standard Walkman styling seen on many other devices in the Sony Ericsson range. Build quality does leave a little to be desired the W205 does give away its low price tag in this respect, the slider feels very flimsy and the phone itself is very light and has a distinct plastic feel to it.

The front of the device has allot going for a modern day mobile phone but not so much for the Walkman series. The standard Walkman control circle is present for quick and easy playback controls which also doubles as menu navigation. To the right of this are a menu quick launch button, call control and cancel. On the left is a further quick launch button along with call control and a shortcut key. When open the W205 reveals a standard numeric keypad with a rubberised feel.

Sony Ericsson W205 front view

Sony Ericsson W205 front view

 

The left side of the device houses that large Sony Ericsson propitiatory connector and a two way volume rocker which as with other Sony Ericsson devices can also be used to check the status of things such as battery life and general information about the phone.

Sony Ericsson W205 left side

Sony Ericsson W205 left side

 

The right of the device is very bare indeed and located on this side the W205 is a solitary M2 memory card input which is housed under the plastic cover towards the top of the mobile phone.

Sony Ericsson W205 right side

Sony Ericsson W205 right side

 

The back of W205 has a matt black throughout and as well as this the 1.3 megapixel camera which is well places at the top of the device.

Sony Ericsson W205 back view

Sony Ericsson W205 back view

Highlights and Lowlights
+ Low Price
+ Battery Life
– Poor Camera Quality
– Limited Memory Support


Review

The W205 from Sony Ericsson further increases the already staggeringly large mobile phone collection other wise and more affectionately referred to as the Walkman range.

Style wise the W205 is what I would refer to as practical and functional, it is certainly not award winning but is not a phone you will be desperate to keep hidden away under the table the whole time. As I mentioned earlier the build quality does give the phones low value away somewhat, the slider feels very strange in that it is not spring loaded as with many others and often you will find yourself having to manually slide it as often it only moves a small amount at a time which sounds like a very strange and obscure criticism but it is something which you will certainly notice when using the phone. The keypad has a rubber feel to it and although the keys are not technically individual they are fairly sized and should not cause a problem even for the biggest of hands.

The navigational menu is the standard Sony Ericsson menu which will be familiar to all of you with previous experience with Sony Ericsson devices or indeed anyone who has read a previous Sony Ericsson mobile review. Navigation is done using the four way playback control control which is simple enough however given the small screen size space is certainly at a premium when browsing a list such as contacts or music.

The W205 is capable of basic web browsing however with no 3G connectivity and given the screen size it can become more of a challenge and seems more trouble than it’s worth.

The W205 despite its price does have the capability to be as good as its more expensive and greater featured older cousins however it just feels like at certain points it is being held back. One of the most important factors when it comes to a modern MP3 player is storage, and more importantly large storage. And this is the first sticking point for the W205 it does support additional memory support via M2 memory card however only supports up to 2GB of memory which by today’s standards is below par and especially for those MP3 and music enthusiasts. That said as given the price the W205 is likely to be targeted at the less die hard music fan and more for those looking for a cheaper option than a dedicated high spec MP3 player while combining it with a fairly well featured Sony Ericsson mobile phone.

The device does come shipped with a set of standard Sony Ericsson in ear headphones which are not always ideal however also included is the adapter required for you to use any headphones with 3.5mm head phone jack, connection to the W205 through the head phone adapter is done via Sony Ericsson’s unnecessarily large and somewhat clumsy and poorly place propitiatory connector. The phones in built speakers are not great quality but this is something that does improve considerably when using the W205 with headphones. Navigating your way through the W205’s music menus is similar to that on other Walkman devices, if unfamiliar with these is basically involves scrolling through your tracks by either artist, song, titles etc. Although navigation is not what you would describe as difficult it is not perfect and could I feel be slightly improved to make it a little more user friendly.

The W205 features an FM radio and the ever helpful track ID is also present.

Camera wise the W205 did disappoint me somewhat, there is no forward facing camera meaning no video calls and the main camera is the now rare sight of a 1.3 Megapixel camera which is not the best quality I have seen even at this resolution, not helped by the W205’s small screen and disappointing resolution. The Camera does come with a few features such as night mode, scene mode and a few effects however none really bring the W205 up to speed with other mobiles of a similar price on the market today and with no flash or focus of any kind the camera becomes more of an after thought from Sony as appose to a feature at the forefront of their thinking. The W205 is also capable of taking short video clips which performs better than I expected given the phones problems with still images. Playback of either photos or video on the W205 is not what I would describe as a pleasure and dare I say for fear of sounding like a broken record this is due mainly to the devices small screen.

In terms of features the W205 doesn’t do badly given its low price, the phone has bluetooth connectivity allowing for quick and easy transfer of files and also offers the the generic organiser type functions including the basic calculator, notes and calender however besides this the W205 does lack the more current features many have come to expect from a modern day mobile phone but this is something that can be forgiven of a device with a low price tag.
Practicality wise the W205 is Size: 92 x 47 x 16.4 mm and weights 96 grams, battery life is quoted at a talk time of up to 9 hours and around 425 hours standby, for music playback the W205 can be expected to last approximately 13 and ½ hours which given its small size I found somewhat impressive.

w205_angled_open

 

Conclusion

Overall the W205 came as a bit of a reappointment, it just seems like Sony Ericsson have held back and yes of course price will have paid a big part in this however I fell that they should have equipped it with fully functioning features rather than going for volume and letting quality fall short. That said I do commend Sony Ericsson on their attempts in cutting down packaging and presenting the W205 in a stylish and modern way. While not a bad phone the W205 does leave a bit to be desired but for the average user who has little need for more high end connectivity etc. the W205 with its low cost should be ideal.

 

Review by: Nick

Posted in: Reviews
By September 17, 2009 Read More →

Blackberry Curve 8520 Review

The Blackberry Curve 8520 (codename Gemini) is the latest device to be released by RIM and it is supposedly a low end handset. However, there are a couple of things which I personally prefer over the popular Curve 8900. Read on to find out what they are……

Blackberry Curve 8520

Blackberry Curve 8520

The ten second review:

Device: Blackberry Curve 8520

Summary: A low end messaging device but does it so well.

Best of: BlackBerry email, WiFi, Superb Keypad.

Worst of: No 3G, No GPS

Price: £224.25

What’s in the box?

  • Device
  • Battery
  • Charger
  • Headset
  • USB Cable
  • Software
  • Manual/Quick start guide

Have a look at Matt’s BlackBerry Curve 8520 unboxing video for more

Blackberry Curve 8520 Gemini Specification:

  • Dimensions:- 109 x 60 x 13.9mm
  • Weight: 106g
  • Battery:- Talk Time: 4.5 hrs / Standby Time: 408 hrs
  • Display:- 320 x 240 pixels/2.46″
  • Network:- GSM: 850/900/1800/1900 (Quad-Band)
  • Camera:- 2 mega-pixels (auto-focus)
  • Video:- Supported formats: MP4, 3GP, H.264, & WMV
  • Music:- Supported formats: MP3, AAC, eAAC+ & WMA
  • Messaging:- SMS / MMS / E-mail (POP3, SMTP, IMAP4, BlackBerry, MS Exchange)
  • Instant Messaging (MSN)
  • Memory:- 256 MB (internal) / microSDHC (external)
  • Navigation:- BlackBerry Maps
  • Security:- Remote Lock / Device and memory card encryption
  • Features :- Optical Pad, Dedicated Media Keys

General

The top of the device contains some rather nice media function keys.

Blackberry Curve 8520 Top View

Curve 8520 Top View

The left side of the phone houses the USB port, 3.5 mm headset jack and also the voice dialling activation key.

Blackberry Curve 8520 Left Side

Curve 8520 Left Side

The up/down volume rocker and a dedicated camera key can be found on the right side.

Blackberry Curve 8520 Right Side

Curve 8520 Right Side

The back of the Blackberry houses only the camera lens.

8520 Back View

Curve 8520 Back View

The front of the handset looks just like you would expect a Blackberry to look.

Blackberry Curve 8520 Front View

Curve 8520 Front

Highlights:

  • Optical Trackpad
  • Blackberry email

Lowlights

  • No 3G
  • No GPS
  • No Camera Flash

Review:

Dubbed as a low end device the Blackberry Curve 8520 is similar to the Curve 8900 in many ways but it is just missing a few things. The main features missing are no GPS, smaller battery and the camera is 2mp compared to 3.15mp on the 8900.

However, this will clearly make the phone cheaper to buy and I think it could do very well as a pay as you go device. It is listed as coming soon as PAYG on the Orange website.

Never owning a Blackberry before I was pretty excited about getting this latest addition to the Blackberry family. I particularly wanted to see what all the hype was about as just a few weeks ago RIM was named as the fastest growing company in the world with its profits up 84% over the last three years!

There is no doubt that the 8520 is a nice looking device. Its pure black, unlike the Curve 8900 which has a silver band around its casing, and oozes the fact that it a Blackberry hardcore messaging device.

It’s smooth and shiny and if it could talk it would probably be saying “Hey, check me out ladies!”

It’s slightly lighter in weight than the Curve 8900 and certainly feels it. So lightweight in fact that it feels a bit toy like. The battery cover in particular feels cheap and I wonder how it will be over months and months of daily handling.

So how did I find using the Blackberry operating system for the first time? It was really simple and I would imagine that is one of the things that attracts and keep Blackberry customers.

There was nothing too complicated and navigating the menus was smooth.

Speaking of navigation, the Curve 8520 has a small feature which sets it apart from the popular previous Curves and the Bold. It doesn’t have a trackball. Instead it has an optical trackpad. Although these have been used by other manufactures for a while I believe this is RIMs first and I think they have made a good choice. When I knew I was getting the 8520 to review I popped down to my local Orange Retail store to have a quick play with the Curve 8900. Not in any great depth but I just wanted to get a feel for the trackball as I knew I would have to compare it with the trackpad.

Now which is better will certainly come down to personal choice but I defiantly would go for the trackpad. I have subsequently had a go on a friends 8900 and again much preferred the pad over the ball.

The speed that the trackpad works can be altered which is nice.

Another thing I was very impressed with was the screen. It’s nice and bright and the images are crisp and bold. In addition, viewing photos that have been taken with the camera look really colourful and bright.

Probably the most important aspect of the device is the keyboard.

8520 Keyboard

The Blackberry Curve 8520 Keyboard

With any messaging device the quality and layout of the keys are paramount. Luckily RIM have made a fantastic job of the 8520. The keys are of a decent size and there is just the right amount of spacing between them. Not only do you feel a click when you press any of the keys but you can also hear it as well which is a feature I like.

Compared to other devices I would say that the keyboard on the 8520 is pretty near the top of the pile. The keys are smaller than on a Blackberry Bold but bigger than on several Palm devices still on the market, including the forthcoming Palm Pre. A few months ago I reviewed the HTC Snap and gave its keyboard a super review. In my opinion I found typing slightly better on the Snap but there is nothing wrong with the 8520 and I was able to compose messages pretty much mistake free. The device allows for easy one handed use as well as two handed which will suit some people. I’m a big fan of slide out keyboards so using the smaller front facing ones is always a bit of a challenge for me!

On to the camera. At 2mp it is never going to be great but as I said earlier, viewing photos on the device is good. Once the photos were on my computer they were actually better than I thought they would be. Still a little grainy but for 2mp not bad at all.

I don’t think that buyers of this device are going to have the camera at the top of there required features list.

Listening to music through the speaker was reasonable. The speaker is fairly loud but a little “tinny” and this made the “Metallica test” not so good. Once the Blackberry headphones were plugged in, this improved things but using my own headphones was better. The supplied ones also look and feel really cheap.

Web browsing on a non touch handset is never something I look forward too but the 8520 was not bad at all. The optical trackpad controls an onscreen mouse arrow and the experience was better than on similar devices. The web pages were a little slow to load and using the menu to select bookmarks etc was also more hassle than on a touch screen device but if you are going to own one of these phones you will soon adjust.

The 8520 does have WiFi but lacks 3G which is a real shame.

The main reason to buy a Blackberry has to be for email. I had a slight problem setting up my email on the device. I couldn’t. After several hours researching on the internet how to do so I discovered that I needed to register the device with my network provider. I didn’t want to use the Blackberry server, just my pop3 yahoo account but that wasn’t easy. After speaking with Orange they told me that the only way they could do it would be for me to sign up for Blackberry Services at a cost of just over four pounds a month. Now normally this would not be an issue but in order for them to do this they would need to remove my existing data package of 500mb and replace it with the Blackberry one (250mb). I didn’t want them touching my existing package as last time they did they forgot to put it back on and I had a bill for £900.00! Of course they credited me but I didn’t want the hassle so I told them I wouldn’t bother.

So, I have not been able to use the email feature myself but I do have a little story about my friend Phil. A few weeks ago Phil came to the end of his mobile contract and decided to switch carriers and get a HTC Hero on Orange. He was pretty happy with the device but eventually decided to order a Blackberry Curve 8900 from O2 to compare and then send one device back. His exact words to me on Sunday were “The Hero is a much better device in nearly everyway but there is just something about the Blackberry”. So the Hero went back and he is more than happy with his Blackberry and the dozens of emails he sends from it everyday.

If your bored don’t worry, that’s the end of the story!

Conclusion:

The Blackberry 8520 is without doubt a decent device. I think it will have a limited market though as it is lacking a few features compared to the Curve 8900, however the new trackpad may just swing it for some people.

I’m sure that the network providers that release it as a PAYG handset will do relatively well with sales but that will obviously be dependant on price.

In this review I have covered the main features/selling points of the device but if you have any questions please feel free to ask using the forum. I will have the device for another week so please register on the forum and I will do my best to answer your questions.

Review by: James

Posted in: Phones, Reviews
Tags: , ,
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