Sunday, October 10, 2010

iPhone Review (via cnet)

Pros: Retina Display, Better camera, LED Flash, Front-Camera, Spectacular yet sophisticated design, build quality way better than previous generation, very snappy, 3G speeds are really fast and iOS balances everything, and almost unscratchable

Cons: Cell reception is really spotty, Facetime (for now) works only through WiFi and somewhat a gimmmick, antenna issues do exist though not a big impact it will affects 3G speeds, and batterry still ends up dying by the end of the day through normal use.

Summary: Well I got my iPhone 4 (the black one and the 32GB version) like a week ago. Let me just say that overall, it's spectacular, amazing, and a stellar device. You cannot go wrong with purchasing the device.

First off, the biggest difference of all is really the retina display, some might say the new redesign is but after looking at the display it's really the biggest difference. If the iPhone 4 used the same display as its previous generation (the iPhone 3GS) the only real difference would be design and overall that's not something I would upgrade for. It really makes your photos burst to life, text are really sharp, and it can playback 720p videos it looks amazing. This is the main feature that makes your old iPhone look obsolete, there is no other feature that does that than this.

Anyways, going on with the other parts of the phone, the home button feels a lot more clickier (to me at least), and the rear camera is great, if not amazing. It's one of the best cameras (on a phone) I've used to date, and the interface is nice, simple, and clean. It lets you choose where to auto-focus on and pictures are taken super quickly (in like half a second it's taken). It also has LED Flash which is nice, it helps sometimes but sometimes it might be too bright and there's no options to adjust how bright the flash is but it's alright. The front camera is great, for it's class (a 1.3 Megapixel camera) and best for taking portrait pictures of your self or for FaceTime calls.

The speakers are well mediocore but amazing for only one speaker. Plays a lot louder than my iPhone 3GS and iPhone 3G. Still I recommend using headphones or a speaker. It also comes with two microphones, one on top near the headphone jack and another on the bottom left next to the dock (it's been switched from right to left from the iPhone 3GS). The two microphones have the noise-cancelling feature to give clearer calls and it does work as it should. Amazing but AT&T's service is the only problem sometimes I would get dropped calls (I've had one drop call so far), I transferred from T-Mobile and was surprised how spotty their coverage was (especially in Orlando, FL).

The second best thing about the device is it's new design. It's really beautiful and sophisticated. The build quality is excellent, it's really hard to think about dropping the device while you're holding it. It feels like a luxury device (which it is but just saying you'll have that "I can't believe I'm holding it!!!" feeling). The antenna is used as the foundation of both glass panels which happens to be the silver wraparound on the phone (which explains the three lines). Another thing is the material they use to build this is almost unscratchable, I have yet to scratch the device after a week's use with no case which I could never do with my iPhone 3GS. The circular volume buttons also add a luxurious feeling to the device and in my opinion better to use than the volume rocker on the previous generations. The ringer switch looks a lot nicer too.

Other features like the Apple A4 processor are nice, makes the phone super-snappy, never slowsdown but it's not much faster than my iPhone 3GS especially since they're based on the same processor (both CPU and GPU). The only difference is the A4 has better clock cycles and power management plus the 4 sports 512MB of RAM which is a nice boost especially for graphics-intensive apps though somewhat overkill.

Like I said, AT&T has really spotty coverage on almost every state, you can't go wrong with buying the iPhone 4 but you can with getting AT&T service. It will depend on your location but for me (in Orlando, FL) I use to be on T-Mobile with my iPhone 3GS (Unlocked and only works through EDGE), it worked pretty well especially considering it was on EDGE. With T-Mobile I had 4-5 bars everywhere, never had any dead spots except for like 1 little spot I encountered throughout the whole year I was with them. I transferred from them to AT&T to try out the new iPhone 4 and at first AT&T coverage was great, but later on going throughout all of Orlando (Kisimmee, Downtown, Avalon Park, Winter Park, Altamonte Springs, etc) I always had a variety of 0-1 bars to 3-4 bars but I could never keep a complete 5 bar status. Still despite the bars being low, I could make calls they were very clear, the 3G speeds were extremely fast ranging from 600Kbps to 2Mbps and it was a big difference from EDGE (200Kbps average).

Another thing is FaceTime only works through WiFi making it more of a gimmick than a real feature. I tried it once and it was nice, works great but like I said I might never use it again.

iOS 4 is great, multi-tasking is done pretty well, not true multi-tasking but otherwise it's just what I need. Things work really fast and snappy, but folders are kinda weird (only 12 apps???).

Overall the phone is amazing, get a case to get better reception (and either way you should to protect your investment), and iOS is just fluid, fast, and great.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sansa Clip 1GB/2GB/4GB - New Compact Flash Leader

BACKGROUND: I was in the market for a small MP3 player with primary usage at the gym. I was looking for a rechargeable unit as my previous player ate AAA batteries about every week or so. I considered three options of which the Sansa Clip was one of them. I eliminated the iPod Shuffle due to its cost and lack of display. The other primary contender was the Creative Zen Stone Plus (I rejected the non-Plus model due it its lack of display). I will reference how the Sansa Clip won out throughout the rest of the review.

SET UP: The Sansa Clip is about as simple as it gets in this area. It requires no additional software installation. My home system runs XP SP2 with Windows Media Player 11. When I plugged the player in to charge, it was detected and recognized automatically. I told windows to "Take No Action" as the default behavior when the device connects. This allows me to maintain complete control over the syncing process. My unit charged in about an hour.

MUSIC TRANSFER: You have the option of using simple drag and drop of MP3 files to the device as you would a USB flash drive. However, using Windows Media Player allows you the more advanced feature of playlists. Since I primarily use my MP3 player at the gym, I created multiple playlists for warm up, workout, and cool down. The workout lists are about 90 minutes while the others about 20 minutes. I really liked that I was able to create multiples of each for variety. Right now I have three of each with about 1.5 Gb still remaining to use as I please. Using Windows Media Player, you can sync albums, songs, or playlists as you would with any other device. The Sansa Clip fully supports all of these options so it is a nice low effort, highly functional set up.

SOUND QUALITY: This is an area where the Sansa Clip is pretty impressive. I previously had the Sansa M230, and I can tell a significant difference in sound quality. I am able to hear a lot more detail in the higher ranges (such as high hat cymbals). I am using the headphones that came with the unit, but I would image that higher quality headphones would sound even better. The player also has a series of preset equalizer settings for different music styles as well as one that you can customize.

DISPLAY: This is a distinguisher between the Clip and the Zen Stone Plus. The display is larger and easier to read. The mix of blue and yellow against the black background is also pleasant.

NAVIGATION: The Clip has a normal four button dial that is common to most small MP3 players. With the crisp, clear display it is easy to move around and select music by artist, album, song, or playlist. The only thing that I have noticed that doesn't work quite the way I would like is that if you navigate away from the song that is playing there doesn't seem to be a way to get back to it to see the details of what's playing. This is pretty minor, though, because I do not regularly navigate away from the song that is playing.

FM RADIO: This is about what you would expect from a unit with no external antenna. Strong signals come in clearly, but it is not going to match what you can pick up on your car stereo. This is a nice to have feature for me so it is plenty adequate.

OPTIONS: As I mentioned previously, my primary usage comes at the gym. I had used the song timer to measure the time between reps while lifting weights on my M230. However, the Clip has a power saving feature that shuts off the display after 15 seconds by default. However, you can change this to 30, 45, 60, or 90 seconds which should cover your needs. After adjusting mine, I wake up the display after completing a set. When the display shuts off, it's time for the next set.

USE ON THE GO: This is the other area where the Clip separates itself from the Zen Stone Plus. You can clip the player to your clothes or an arm strap (I use the one that came with my M230). The Zen Stone Plus requires purchase of a separate armband accessory for an additional $15.

COST: At base price, the Zen Stone Plus and Sansa Clip are a push. However if you factor in another $15 for an armband you have a clear winner given the other advantages.

CONCLUSION: The Sansa Clip is now the leader in 1/2/4 Gb small MP3 players. Give it a spin and you won't be disappointed.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Zune 3rd gen - Finally a legit player from Microsoft

The Zune is overall a great product and I would recommend it to anyone. This review makes some comparisons to the iPod Classic because many are familiar with the iPod Classic and are debating between these two often.

Positives for the Zune:
- Sound Quality exceeds that of the Classic, while the classic is good it has too much focus on the low end and really isn't all that great in the mids. The Zune has great balance meaning it plays low/mids/highs exceptionally well, matching the 5th gen iPod in my opinion. [Tested with Bose Around The Ear Headphones, won't be noticed much with cheap/stock ear buds]

- Interface is wild and more modern than other MP3 players. You'll feel like you are in 2008 with the device's interface. You can also customize it, while customization is limited to changing the wallpaper its still something not many other players have. [including the classic]

- The large screen is nice for video..I haven't ran into any pixelation problems that some people report with the resolution of 320 x 240 on that size of the screen..however your mileage may vary. The screen is much better suited than the dinky 2.5 screen that is on the Classic.

- Navigation with the Zune pad is a breeze and better than the Classic. A few reasons being that a) you can press the buttons to adjust volume in your pocket [the classic relies on luck that you can actually get the touch sensitive wheel to respond through your pants], b) the zune pad sticks out from the unit which makes it easier to feel for than the classic which the click wheel is pretty well flush with the unit itself, c) you can navigate with pin point navigation, use the touch function to scroll fast and the click function to get precise.

- Microsoft continues to make improvements to the product like the Zune 3.0 release that adds the FM Radio feature that allows you to add music off the radio to your cart or with wireless download the song directly to your Zune. Clock is introduced [a feature that was lacking that people constantly complained about, MICROSOFT LISTENS!], and the Wifi Marketplace is also introduced which allows you to browse the marketplace wirelessly as well as preview/download songs instantly if you have a Zunepass.

- The software on the PC looks very modern..where as iTunes has virtually remained the same since its release on the PC. The software has the ability to combine albums with a simple drag n drop which allows you to combine singles into their full featured albums with a simple click. Getting Album art is easy as well as track listings for a album if you are missing tag information..if you are missing tag information and the software can't find it, it will give you a drop down list of all albums on the CD and allow you to choose which track is the right one..none listed? No problem you can keep it its current track name. Manual Sync is NOW supported officially, meaning the device can run independently of your Zune Collection. The software can actually work with a external drive, when I tried with iTunes 7.6 it would close by itself. Mixview is nice, you can simply right click a album click mixview to get a view of several related artists to find new music with.

- Zune Pass, almost all the music on the Marketplace supports it..some might be annoyed with the fact you have to pay $15 a month forever unless you want to lose your songs, some might also have a problem with not owning the music or that some songs aren't available for the Zune Pass. I personally think its a great concept and I have absolutely no complaints about paying $15 for all the songs I can download.

- Smudges and scratches might be a problem for some if you are really picky the new gloss front is prone to scratches from metal objects [keys, coins, etc.].

- Its made of plastic which could be taken either a) a good thing because its lighter b) a bad thing because its obviously not as tough.

- Software is still behind when compared to iTunes but improves with every update. Some complaints include, Rating system is a "Like, Don't Like" System giving you very limited options when you find songs that aren't GREAT but are either have to hate it or like it. If you are in a certain spot in your collection and click Marketplace then go back your spot is lost and Zune software returns to the top of your list. The same happens when you are at a certain spot in the marketplace as well, you leave and you end up reseting the marketplace back to home.

- Marketplace layout is very generic and needs some serious tweaking where as the iTunes Store is very precise the layout of the Marketplace is just sloppy, there really isn't much browsing you can do unless the artist is new because when you browse through artists in a specific genre they aren't in alphabetic order they are just scattered about I assume by popularity.

- Premium Earbuds are gone replaced with generic earbuds.

Overall a great alternative to the now dying Classic [which didn't get any upgrades beyond battery and the genius feature..unless you consider the 120GB a upgrade from the 80GB model last year].

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Dyne busts out Tuny 9 and Tuny 11 sexy flash DAPs

We got our pun on with the Tuny 8 from DYNE last year, and now it's been joined by the Tuny 9 and Tuny 11 for a full-on pun extravaganza. The Tuny 9 (pictured) isn't quite as "tuny" as its Tuny 11 sibling (pictured after the break), but with its extra girth it manages 512MB, 1GB and 2GB capacities with a 2-inch 176 x 220 pixel display and 0.55-inches of thickness. There's also 18 hours of battery life -- 8 hours during video playback -- plenty of codec support, FM radio and line-in recording, TV out and Bluetooth. The Tuny 11 is a bit less exciting, with a 1.7-inch 128 x 160 screen, and none of that TV out or Bluetooth nonsense, but it manages the same capacities with a mere 0.3-inches of thickness. The design is nothing incredibly unique, but it's pretty sexy all the same. Unfortunately, we don't have a word on price or availability for either of these, and we probably won't be seeing 'em outside of Korea anytime soon anyways.
From Dapreview

Best Buy - I actually had a good experience with DAP returns! :o

Ok. First things first. Timeout from all the technical mumbo-jumbo for a "consumer relations" experience. So I have had my Zen Vision: M for about 3 months, until it croaked unexpectedly around December 20th. I said fine, at least I got the warranty. So I walk on over to Best Buy and tell them the story. Long story short, after a bit of a hard time (the typical BB return policy), I walk out with a new ZVM. Great. I take that home, plug it in my laptop, the thing doesn’t startup. So I just leave it there, go eat some lunch, come back, and still nothing. Turns out this thing was DOA (dead on arrival). AH! I was angry with BB at this point. I marched back in there and told them the story. It was December 22nd, and there was a HUGE, I mean HUGE customer service line. The customer service reps looked pretty stressed. Bottom Line, I said I’m not going home with another ZVM, two have already been defective. So the girl at the cash, who was just trying to get through the whole line of returns, makes me a sweet offer…pick any DAP I want and if it is less they would even refund the difference! THIS IS NOT PART OF THE WARRANTY. So, knowing my DAPs, I go out and pick up the dreaded, yes dreaded, Ipod 5.5G, s it is the closest competitor to the ZVM. It costs about $60 less, so I use the extra money to get an iSkin silicon case and an FM transmitter…

Moral of the story…return your electronics when there are tons of people in line and the customer service reps are under a lot of stress…their so much easier to deal with!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Wal-Mart Leaks Zune Price

We've got a good idea as to the Zune pricetag, though we're still no closer to a specific launch date. By the time we got to the Zune's product page, the pricing info had been removed, but it can still be spotted in the MP3 player category listing at a lean $284 flat. Of course, Wal-Mart likes to skim as much as they can off the MSRP -- they're charging $147.88 for a 1GB iPod nano instead of Apple's nice round $150 figure -- but a whole $16 shy of the magic $300 number we were expecting Microsoft to hit isn't too shabby. Rumors still abound as to why we still don't have a solid figure from Microsoft on pricing. Some believe it has something to do with the "bombshell" of Apple's recent iPod price drop, so Wal-Mart potentially be off the mark with this $284 of theirs, but we'll give their soon-to-be-fired database lackey the benefit of the doubt.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Zune Official Specs

To wrap it up, here are the official specs and opinions:
  • 4.4 x 2.4 x 0.58-inch footprint (vs 30GB iPod's 4.1 x 2.4 x 0.43-inches, and 80GB iPod's 0.55-inch thickness -- trust us, on a device like this a tenth of an inch is a huge difference)
  • 5.6 ounces (vs iPod's 4.8 and 5.5 ounces for the 30 and 80GB models)
  • WiFi is 802.11b/g, photo is JPEG only (right now)
  • Zunes and their users will have names -- Zunetags -- building off the phenomenal success of Xbox Live model.
  • Faster charge time than an iPod, but still no quoted battery life. It will not be user replaceable.
  • Nope, no price or release on the device or anything Marketplace related -- which they told us yesterday they wouldn't be releasing (yet).

Web Opinions:

  • Zune supposedly won't be taking advantage of the device's video capabiilties by selling TV shows this year, nor will it play Media Center video files (DVR-MS files, we take that to mean).
  • Microsoft went with brown on one of the three Zunes because "artists would and musicians would." We're not going to lie, some of us around here like it (key word: some).
  • Zune will be backing concerts and shows, and is really working with the music influencer angle.
  • The 3x3 DRM layer (share a song for three plays over three days) will supposedly wrap files of any supported type (MP3, AAC, etc.) in DRM during the transfer.
And that's it folks. To tell you the truth, I'll be buying my own personal one in brown, there's just something about that colour!

Zune: The Beast is Here

Not a lot of surprises in the specs department, but they've confirmed the basics we've known for a while, like WiFi, 30GB of HDD, built-in FM, a 3-inch screen and the basic music, pictures and video playback. They also finally let slip the screen res -- an unsurprising QVGA -- and some better news on the codec front: the Zune supports h.264, MP3, AAC and WMA. As for ballyhoo, wireless Zune-to-Zune sharing is where the real action is at, and it works pretty much like we've been hearing: you can share a full-length track with a friend, and they've got three times to listen to it over a three day period, after which they can flag the song for purchase on the Zune Marketplace -- unless they're an unlimited "Zune Pass" subscriber, of course. You can also share playlists and pictures with your buddies, along with what we suppose are "unprotected" homemade recordings.

So far Microsoft isn't mentionin
g Live Anywhere functionality, but they do hint heavily at future software updates to take even better advantage of the wireless capabilities. Of course, it all really comes down to matching your Zune with that snazzy new fall wardrobe of yours, and to that end the Zune comes in black, brown and white. Sadly, Microsoft still won't spill the beans on pricing and availability (other than a vague "this holiday season"), so we'll keep an eye out for that just like always.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Zune Poised to Make First Appearence Tomorrow!

Finally! According to Seattle Weekly, the suits at Redmond are finally ready to unveil their closely-guarded pet project to the world at an invite-only press event, where the WiFi-sportin', video-playin', friend-makin' Zune will have its first public appearance. Since we already know so much, though, what can we really expect to learn at the press conference? Well we'll be looking out for the little things, such as codec and DRM support, definitive pricing and release information, whether or not Bill G will make an appearance in a black turtleneck, and most importantly, what kind of headphones will be bundled in the package -- oh wait, we know that too.

For those of you who missed the specs of Zune, here's what we're expecting:

$299.99 pricetag
Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g) connectivity

30 GB Hard Drive

3.75 inch video LCD

White, Black, and Chocolate Colors

FM Radio
TV output connectivity
Dedicated song download site
DJ Mode (broadcast what you are listening to)

After Apple's disspointing new generation iPods, Zune has a great chance to capitalize and sweep those in dismay from the lackluster new iPod. Not that the iPod isn't good, but when rumours are going around of a new, truly video PMP, an iPhone and such, the old, normal, boring deisgn of the flagship 5.5G iPod just doesn't cut it anymore. Time will tell!

As the Zune release date approaches keep the site bookmarked Ctrl +D for the latest news, information and where to buy Zune for yourself

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Iriver S10 - Redefining Cool

Moments after the new iPods were released, we got wind of the new iRiver S10. We loved the U10 to bits and gushed about the E10. iriver's D-Click interface always gets us flustered… in a good way. Stunningly tiny, it's just 1.9g heavier than the new shuffle And unlike a lot of tiny MP3 players that fluff on the physical controls with Lilliputian buttons, the D-Click system will make navigating plain sailing. But unlike the U10 and E10, there will be no flash or video support on the S10. What iriver seems to be doing here is to export the U10 form factor onto its popular N-series of pendant MP3 players. Good move there. But who will take on the mantle of the new mini fashion queen? The shuffle or the S10? Only time will tell. Watch this space for more details to come.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

New 2G Nano A Nice Improvement

As expected, Apple's hot-selling iPod Nano has been given a big-time update with some flashy colors, new capacities, better displays, better batteries, and new pricing. They all sport an even-thinner aluminum case and are available in (again, mini-like) green, silver, black, blue, and pink. However, the 2GB and 8GB version are available in aluminum and black only, respectively.

As for pricing, $149 for 2GB, $199 for 4GB, and $249 for the 8GB model. Apple says: "Double the storage for the same price," and they're available today. What's more, the new packaging is 52% less volumetric than the old iPod nano, making it "environmentally friendly." Expect to see tons of these on the subway by next week.

Very nice, Apple. It seems that they are taking out the Creative Neeon 2 / MicroPhoto niche with the array of colours. I just can't see anyone taking a significant chunk of Apple's marketshare, at least not until ZUNE arrives...

iPod Shuffle 2G - A Step Up

After the initial dissapointment of the 5.5G, the new 2G shuffle was revealed. After having sold 10 million of the first-gen shuffles, the new model is the size of the iPod radio remote, as if Apple cut the old shuffle in half and shaved some excess of too! It comes in just a 1GB capacity, and sports a shiny new aluminum body with a clip for easy wearability. This thing is truly groundbreaking, an unbelievably small DAP that really must be seen to be believed. Steve's calling it the "world's smallest MP3 player" and hey, who are we to argue? It's available for preorder today and expected to ship with its itty bitty dock and ear buds sometime in October, for the bargain basement price of only $79.

The new 5.5G iPod Arrives...

...And I am dissapointed to say the least. After all the hype and publicity this things been getting, you'd think Apple would offer their customers something new and groundbreaking, similar to what the 1G did a few short years ago. Don't give up hope though, apparantely the "Real" next generation iPod is dropping next year, but I'm not holding my breath. Nevertheless, a few key improvements have been made to the new 5.5G The screen is now 60% brighter, the battery can last up to 3.5 hours during video playback, and the iPod includes new headphones, but otherwise the specs remain the same. As for software, the iPod is finally getting gapless playback, text-based search and brightness controls, along with a whole slew of games. The 'Pod has Bejeweled, Cubis 2, Mahjong, Mini Golf, Pac Man, Tetris, Texas Hold 'Em, Vortex, and Zuma bundled, and you can nab new games for $5 each off of iTunes. Maybe the best news is that Apple is dropping the prices and bumping the storage: you can get a spankin' new 30GB iPod for $250, and the new 80 gigger for $350. No word yet on availability.

Kenwood Adds a Digital Amp to their Media Keg DAP

So if you are familiar with good sound, you'll know that many high quality headphones need a good amp to properly power them, and this doesn't just mean turning the volume up. For those of us who don't wan't to lug around a cMoy or Pav2, Kenwood may have just made our life easier by including a digital amp in their new DAP.

The main difference between this new version and its predecessors is a snazzy new digital amp to boost the audiophile quotient. The 30GB player supports Kenwood's proprietary lossless codec, and can be managed via WMP10 (PlaysForSure is a go) or Kenwood's included software. There's also a new black color, but the case design remains otherwise identical. All that said, we're not likely to see this one in the States anyways -- it should be out in Japan this October for 50,000 Yen (about $430 US).

iBreath, Your iPod-Powered Breathalyzer

You know that people are trying to jump on the iPod bandwagon when someone releases a breathalyzer that connects to the ubiquitous music player. Yes, David Steele Enterprises has just released an iBreath ($50, black or white color), a small device to plug into the dock connector of your iPod. Sticking out of the side of the device is the breathalyzer tube, and within five seconds it'll read out your blood alchohol content level, accurate to within 0.01 BAC -- oh and if that wasn't enough, it doubles as an FM transmitter for your car stereo. Not bad for $50.

Friday, September 08, 2006

New Teclast TL-T29 Media Player is Quite Elegant

The newest portabe media player to come out of China is one from Telecast. This time it's the TL-T29 -- this superslim player measures 2.8 x 1.6 x 0.3 inches, sports a flash drive (1, 2 or 4GB) with a 220 x 176 display and has a whopping 24 hours of audio playback time. No word on price or if you can get it anywhere outside the Zhongguancun district in Beijing, where CNET Asia found it. Maybe if these things were to cross the Pacific, then we'd have some real competition in this sector.

Apple Unveils New Products September 12th

There will be an Apple special event one week from today, on September 12, at 10:00AM Pacific (1:00PM Eastern, 5:00PM GMT) at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in downtown San Francisco -- coinciding exactly with the opening day of the Apple Expo in Paris. Now for those of you keeping score at home, we may or may not see an updated nano a new version of iTunes, a new a new iMac and possibly movie downloads on iTunes. Mark this one on your calender folks.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

New SAFA SS200 Series DAP

The SS220 is a bit of a mystery. In addition to featuring touch-based controls and a built-in speaker, we know it's capable of splashing a range of unspecified video, photo, and text formats up onto its tiny 1.5-inch screen. It also packs in an FM tuner just in case the few reticent GBs of audio dumped to flash can't slake your jones. We know a bit more about the other player -- the SS200 -- a 71 x 48 x 12-mm wafer with a 2-inch, 260k color, 220 x 176 pixel display. The SS200 is capable of 6/8-hours of video/audio playback with support for MP3, WMA, and WAV media formats.

Monday, September 04, 2006

HP's New iPAQ rx4000 Buys into the Widescreen Craze

HP seems to be going after a consumer dollar with this device, with a $300 pricetag, but the specs aren't terrible. The rx4000 features a 2.8-inch screen which runs in landscape or portrait mode, WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity, and is naturally a full-fledged Pocket PC with support for VoIP software and Microsoft Office apps if you're feeling in a productive mood. Of course, the "Mobile Media Companion" moniker reveals the proposed functionality of the device, and between the media player support, nifty scroll wheel and decent screen the rx4000 shouldn't go far wrong there. Unfortunately, HP has so far only announced an October launch in Asia, so there's no telling when or if we might get this little guy in the States. There's also no word on internal storage -- a few gigabytes of flash memory wouldn't go far wrong here -- but we're guessing it isn't anything much if HP has decided not to mention it in their press release.

Sansa Base Station Dock with Remote

Although not ground-breaking, this hyped docking station is a very usable dock and remote for your sansa player. It includes a USB 2.0 and RCA jack, remote control, and a "universal connector" which makes use of the bottom jack on the e200 and c200 players for charging. It'll set you back $70, and willl be available by October in the both the US and Europe.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Creative Zen Vision W: Official Specs

Early reports of this screen have been positive stating that it does not suffer the same poor quality of the Zen Vision, specifically the small viwing angle, and looks more like the brilliant Zen Vision:M screen. The screen itself will be a 4.3” 262k color 480 x 272 LCD screen.The ZVW will step up this resolution to DVD quality resolution (720 X 480) when outputting to your TV.

Judging by the retail prices in Singapore dollars the Zen Vision: W will likely retail around $400 for the 30GB and under $500 for the 60GB version when released to the US, which, as of yet, has no offcial date.

Archos 404 PMP - Stripped Down Version of the 604

Ok, so maybe it wasn't wise to name their next PMP after an internet error code (404). The 404 offers support for MPEG-4 ASP up to 720x480 @ 30fps, WMV9, WM DRM and DivX, although not exclusively stated by Archos. You'll have to settle for viewing on a 3.5-inch 4:3 screen as opposed to the 4.3-inch widescreen display on the 604. However, the 404's smaller screen is lacking in more than size, with a more pixelated image and less vibrant colors than the 604's. Archos also left out a player stand and removable battery, both of which the 604 has. Bottom line: spend the extra fifty bucks and pick up the widscreen, 604 model.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Philips GoGear SA1335 Flash

Philips recently unveiled its new 1GB SA1335 mirror-surfaced flash player. The player provides up to 12 hours of MP3, WAV, or WMA playback on its non-removable lithium polymer battery.

Like most DAPs these days, it comes with an FM tuner, voice recorder, and direct USB 2.0 connectivity (no cable required). Not bad for $100.

Included is a customizable EQ, as well as very respectable sound quality. The GUI interface could use some work, the processor often bogs down and is unresponsive at times. Above all, it doesn't remeber the track you previously played when you turned it off - a bit annoying. A good offering overall.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Philips HP460 vs Audio Technica ATH-FC7

Let the battle of cheap, portable, closed cans rage on! The HP460s, made by Philips, has beautiful detail and midrange for headphones in this price range. The bass is deep, but like most cheap phones, a little sloppy. This leads to clouding of some of the mids, but make no mistake, they're definitely there. Highs are not too tamed, but not shrill either - just the right combination for headphones of this price range. They fit very well on the head, and are quite comfortable for extended listening sessions.

ATH-FC7s, another closed can, typically costs about $10 more at $43. One thing - these things hurt your ears. The pads are too thin, not nearly enough padding. The driver also sits close to your ear, making it uncomfortable for long listening sessions. Bass is definitely overpowering with these cans, more so then the HP460s. Overall it’s just a little "all over the place". On the plus, they are easy to drive at 35 ohms, making it good for portable use.

Overall, the HP460s win out in sound quality and comfort, and the FC7s are just a bit smaller and more portable. Skip the FC7s; go for the HP460s if you can, they're cheaper too!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Video Preview of What Could be the Next Generation "iTalk" - Is this the One?

Rumors of the new wave of next generation ipods have been absolutely storming audio sites and blogs, and there has been some very, very intriguing speculation. Some say it will include a phone, others says wi-fi capability. Either way, it's clear that DAPs will eventually be all-in-one gadgets including internet capabilities.

Anyways, here is one person’s professional rendition of what they believe to be the next generation "iTalk", to drop this fall. Doesn't look far off, in my opinion. Let's here your comments!

DIY: Release the Painful Vice-Like Grip from the AKG K81DJ.

There has been tons of buzz around the new(ish) AKG K81 DJs the last few month. The sound is excellent for the price ($55). And although they cost twice as much as the PX 100s, they are definitely better. The K81s are very clear in addition to having loads of 3-D depth in the sound. The bass is certainly present, but not over-powering as one might think from "DJ" branded headphones (unlike the smaller AKG K 26 P), and have a very nice balance of highs and lows.

The main problem? These cans grip your head like some sort of life-sized vice-grip, and don't let off. Many people have reluctantly returned them because of this major comfort issue. But, albeit with some research, here is how you can release the grip and make these cans much more comfortable.

Mod #1: Stretch the band out to release death-grip!
Step 1: Make sure the pads are facing one another and touching.
Step 2: Pull off the rubber on the headband (pulls back on when done), and reveal the metal band printed with “AKG”.
Step 3: Under the white lettering saying K81DJ on the headband, use both hands on both sides to push each side of the headband towards each other. You’ll notice the metal at the top bending and if you do it excessively forming a little hump.
Step 4: When finished and satisfied, pull the rubber back on from step one, and voila!

Mod #2 – Remove thick foam pads over drivers to open treble and clarity:
Covering the both drivers, there is a very thick foam pad. Problem with this is that it absorbs frequency and muffles the treble and mids of the K81s significantly. So simply remove the foam pads and the clarity will increase greatly, you’ll hear the difference.

Philips Unveils PX100/200 Answer

Philips has been known for only decent quality headphones. Nothing too exuberant or over the top, just good, quality cans. They struck a cord with many music-goers with their HP460 headphones, which I plan to review soon. They have great detail and some prefer them to the coveted AKG K81DJs.

Enough introduction. The Sennheiser Px100 is considered by many as the best cheap portable phone. The clarity of the mids, nice punchy bass, and great highs make the sound wonderful. Philips has released the SHL9500, sporting a remarkably similar look and folding design - except $20 cheaper from most retailers, but don't let the price cloud your judgement. The Px100 is an open phone, not the best for subway rides, whereas te SHL9500 is closed, making it a clear competitor ot the closed, PX200 can. Time will tell if these phones could become the new "flavour of the month".
Buy them for $16.12 from

14-year-old Girl Sues Friend over Missing iPod!

A 14-year old girl in the US has sued her classmate for losing her iPod. Shannon Derrik had lent her iPod to Stephanie Eick, who returned it to her by leaving it on her desk, instead of actually handing it over to her. Someone else obviously flicked it while Shannon wasn’t around, so now she’s suing Stephanie for $475 in damages.

The court in Wheaton, Illinois initially refused to file the case, but eventually, after an amended refiling by Shannon’s mother, it will be tried. We’ll keep updating you on this new trial of the century, so bookmark us right now!

Creative Zen Neeon 2 - Too Little, Too Late?

Available in 1GB, 2GB, and 4GB capacities, the newest Neeons clearly have their sights set on the nano, stepping it up with video on a 128 x 128, 1.5-inch display. Like the Iaudio 6 below, you're also getting an FM radio, voice recorder, and line-in audio capture, plus a very nice 8 hour video bettery life, and respectable 20 hour audio life.

When these Neeons drops in fall, they'll go for $125, $170, or $190, depending on capacity -- not a bad deal, especially for those folks who like personalizing their players with Creative's swappable skins. But with the new nano and sansa dropping this fall and sporting 8GB Flash drives, double the Neeons top capacity, one can't help but think this DAP is too little, too late.

Cowon iAudio 6 - Still Don't Get the Hard-Drive

Cowon has been pumping out great mp3 players lately. One of these is the new Cowon iAudio 6, equipped with a .85" hard drive. This, my friends, I don't understand. In a player of its dimensions, smaller than many flash players (35.6 x 76.1 x 19mm), what is the benefit of having a hard drive with moving parts? Small-sized mp3 players are likely to be tossed in bags, moved around, and exercised with, but Cowon removes this benefit from the iAudio 6. Why, I don’t know. In testing, the buffer time was considerably longer than most any flash player. The price isn't anything cheap either, $224.00 at Newegg for the 4GB.

I suppose it makes up for the lack of flash memory with a plethora of features, including video playback (only 15fps) on its solid 260K colour screen, Voice recording, FM recording, Line-in recording. When tested, the audio quality was above average, driving even larger, more demanding headphones, such as the Grado SR-125s, to very respectable volumes. Battery life is listed as 20hrs, although in testing it got around 15.

The interface bogs down frequently when loading large data, but nevertheless is very good and easy to use. The touch-pad is far too sensitive
and not accurate, I would have liked to seen some tactile controls here. A nice touch, holding the touch pad down in certain areas gives way to user-defined shortcuts...Much like the shortcut button on the ZVM.

Bottom line -
if you can get by the fragility of hard-drive players with moving parts, and can get used to the annoying touch-pad (which will hopefully be improved in a future firmware), the Cowon iAudio 6 is one of the top small-capacity DAPs out there.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

DIY: CMoy Pocket Headphone Amplifier

A headphone amp is simply a smaller power amplifier specifically designed to drive the miniature speakers inside headphones. One of the cheapest, and easiest pocket amps to make yourself is the CMoy. It's a solid starting point for any portable rig, although carrying around extra equipment isn't my cup of tea. Good amps provide enough quality juice ot allow your phones to be driven to their maximum potential, depending on its resistence of course, and give you better sound quality.

The CMoy can be built small enough to fit in a pocket, power supply and all. It's powerful enough to drive very inefficient headphones to thunderous volumes from even weak sources, and it sounds excellent considering that you can build a bare-bones CMoy ampfor just US$20, and a pretty nice amp for under $50. Considering that the cheapest of the worthy commercial amps is $100 and most of them are in the $200+ range, this is a very worthwhile cost difference.

For a full, in-depth tutorial, see the
CMoy Tutorial

These amps can be customized into your own personal favorite casing...

More Next-Gen Ipod Nano Rumours

The Nano has been incredibly popular, but it hasn’t had a new look or updated features since last September, which is an eternity in iPod time. The rumors that have been leaked this time indicate that the refreshed Nano will be introduced at the Worldwide Developer’s Conference(where, incidentally, the iTunes video rental service is also rumored to be appearing). It’s expected that the device will be increased to either 6GB or 8GB, and that they will be available in several colors, including an industrial looking metal alloy case.

Other iPod rumors are abound. Word is the video iPod has been delayed until at least January because of continuing technical glitches. Also, the 5G iPods could be getting a memory boost – perhaps to as much as 80GB.

Meizu M6 Video Preview - Knocks off the Nano?

Ipod has ruled both small and large capacity, flash and hard-drive players, until now. Touted as the next greatest DAP, the Meizu M6 comes over from China this year, sporting video playback as well. The prices don't seem too horrific. $219 for the 4GB, $159 for the 2GB and $139 for the 1GB.

The screen is the same size as that of an iPod video, it has a ridiculous assortment of EQ/SRS functions, comes with a built in FM radio, voice/radio recorder, syncs with Windows Media Player, and the scroll interface is very intuitive. Build quality is good and it doesn't feel cheap. Move over, Mr. Nano.

Rockbox Your Ipod - 3rd Party Firmware

Rockbox developers have come up with a new firmware for most ipods. Rockbox replaces your current ipod firmware, and most evryone considers it to be better. It improves upon the sound - greatly increases sound quality, especially with the included custom EQ. It supports lossles, high quality audio, such as flac, something any audiophile would want. Perhaps the biggest benefit comes to the average user, who can now customize those boring white and blue ipod screens, and add completely new themes and background pictures, truly an amazing feature.

Rockbox is compatible with the following ipods: 5G (Video), 4G (Color/Photo/Grayscale), 3G, Nano 1G, Mini 1G/2G. It is also compatible with the iaudio X5, as well as many Archos mp3 players.

Here's their site:

Koss KSC-75 - Worth 5X the Price.

You could rummage forever through piles of cheap headphones, and even worse find that a dissapointing %95 of those headphones are just that - cheap. The sound is mediocre, probably on par with stock earbuds. Every once in a while, however, a gem comes along. This, my friends, is the Koss KSC75 ($11.00 at amazon) clip-on heaphone.

The KSC75 looks cheap, but it stops there. These suckers can rock! They deliver a full sound, surprising for the size and price. They absolutely destroy the Apple earbuds. The bass is impressive, and commendably tight. The midrange has real body to it. And the highs sound pleasing too. They also improve with a headphone amp, so they even have a little room to grow. I seriously doubt that anything short of $50+ will beat these phones. The have a Grado-like sound, and assuming you aren't the most sound-critical listener, i doubt the average head-bopper will notice any difference. The downside is, like the Grados, they leak out sound - not as much, but still a noticeable amount.

The bottom line is these things are absolutely amazing for the price, buy a couple pairs while they're still cheap on amazon or your local radioshack, there have been some rumours of the KSC75s being disconntinued..NO!

DIY Easy Quarter Mod: Increase the highs of this headphone, many people say this considerably increases the sound quality. Remove the pads, place a quarter in the centre of each one. Grab an exacto-knife (careful!) and cut around the quarter. You now have a quarter-sized hole in the pads, put them back on, and you will see some of the driver screen exposed. Have a listen, they sound even better, in my humble opinion of course!

Grado SR-60: The Best Open Portable Can

The grados simply offer incredibly accurate sound with clear highs and sufficient, but not overpowering, lows. The detail in sound is phenomenal. The listener will enjoy very subtle differences in tone color and dynamic level, and the sound always comes across naturally.

The SR-60s (and SR-80s) are perfect for portable listening devices, such as iPods, because the headphones present the best sound possible for players that lack an amplifier or a powerful driver. More expensive headphones with more power, detail, and precision are just wasted (and in some cases, don't even sounds as good) on portable devices.

Just a word of caution: Grado headphones are "open air." While this contributes to their fantastic sound, be aware that people sitting near you will hear your music. These may not be the best headphones for people on the go. Besides, they are not the most portable headphones anyway, although they do fold flat to fit nicely in a briefcase.

The bottom line: If you are an audiophile who primarily listens to your music on a portable device, these headphones, or perhaps the SR-80s, are the best on the market.

DIY Easy Pad Mod: If you feel uncomfortable wearing these phones for extended periods, go out and buy the yellow (yes yellow) Sennheiser HD414 pads. These plush babies fit right over you SR-60 driver casing, and increase the comfort dramatically for most. The also impact the sound, for the better. The highs sound "right." No sibilance, no shrill highs, just good sounding top end. The sound is slightly muffed but not as much as when the stock comfies are used. To futher the sound quality, perform the Quarter-mod as described above - the sound expands out more, correcting the flaw in the soundstage. The bass is less boomy, and the highs are sweet and well extended.

Iriver Clix: Battling for Flash Supremecy over the Ipod nano, Sansa e200 series.

The iriver Clix is a rebranded version of last year'sirover U10, which offered a groundbreaking new design in an overpriced package. The Clix is physically identical to its predecessor, but its interface has been overhauled, its performance improved, its capacity increased, and its price has dropped substantially. The 2GB model costs $199.99 (list), which is in line with Apple's 2GB Ipod Nano. The player's preloaded Macromedia Flash-based video game set now includes Sudoku. Goodbye, sweet productivity!

At 2.7 by 1.8 by 0.6 inches and 2.5 ounces, the U10 seems a bit bulky, but it's really not any bigger than ultrathin players such as the Samsung Yepp YP-Z5 and the SanDisk Sansa e260—it's just shorter and stockier. There are also a pair of volume buttons along the top and a Smart button (somewhat cryptically labeled with a star) and power button on the right side. The Smart button is customizable from within the Settings menu. You can set it to take you to the main menu, toggle the display orientation between portrait and landscape, play/pause music, shuffle music, or start/stop recording.

Pros: Cool-looking design. Very good sound quality. Lots of extras, including Flash video games. Long battery life.

Click screen can be annoying to use. Nonremovable battery. No lossless compression or support. No included video-conversion software. Video frame rate is only 15 fps.

Bottom Line:
The Clix is a nice player that offers very good audio and photo quality, long battery life, and a host of extras.

Zen Vision W Leaked!

The folks at have posted a pic and details about the rumored Zen Vision:W; this information was actually published in the latest Popular Mechanics magazine. Yes, print media still lives!

Anyway, the W in Zen Vision:W stands for wide screen, as in 4.3 inches and 16:9, compared to the plain old vision's 4:3 3.7-inch screen. Popular Mechanics apparently loves the portable video player ("plays every format we've thrown at it..."), which comes in 30GB ($399) and 60GB ($499) capacities. That's kind of pricey, actually, for a device that doesn't record video (the 30GB Archos 604 costs $350). Still, we're excited to check out the screen and new features, if any. Stay tuned; we're waiting to hear back from Creative.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Synergy and Your Energy - The Best Workout Player / Headphone Combo

Total: $80 - $130, depending on the capacity of the player you choose.

I may as well let you know that I am an avid runner, cyclist, and gym rat. Being such, I have tried out many, and I mean many, different mp3 players and headphones that best suit the average-pro athlete.

Firstly, everyone should know by now that you should NOT use a hard-drive or micro hard-drive player for physical activity (i.e. ipod, zen vision, iaudio X5 etc.), simply because they all have moving parts that are extremely sensitive to movement, and you will break or significantly shorten the life of your player if you exercise with it, not to mention the fact that hard-drive based players are already quite large to workout with.

Player Recommendation: So we come to flash players, but which one? There are literally hundreds in the U.S. and Canada right now, and thousands internationally. After rigorous research and extensive testing, I have come to this conclusion: The Creative Muvo N200 (a.k.a. Zen Nano for 2006) is the perfect exercise player.

Let's examine why. Firstly, it has a simple, extremely easy to navigate, blue backlight, LCD screen that easily allows one-handed operation while not even looking at the player, a must for any athlete. Plus, why pay for colour when the screen is so small, and you will rarely be looking down at it while exercising: leave that for a bigger hard-drive player.

Secondly, it is incredibly small, even with the included belt buckle AND arm strap. That's right, out of the box you have everything you need, assuming you are buying the Muvo N200 (don't quote me on the new Zen Nano). The belt clip and silicone case work incredibly well, and stick on one's shorts very securely, for worry-free exercising. The armband is secure as well, a nice option for those who prefer it to the belt clip. With the silicon case on, I seriously doubt that anything short of someone stomping and jumping on this thing will break it, the case is that rugged. That being said, be careful without the case, these things are not that drop-proof, I dropped a test model and the battery door broke off (Darn! Should've had the case on!).

Lastly, This player has incredible features and battery life, including up to 1gig of storage. Add up an FM tuner, FM recorder, Voice Recorder, Custom and Preset EQ, convenient AAA battery that lasts 15hrs, 22g weight, and excellent sound and you got a hard to beat flash player. Not to mention, it comes in an array of colours sure to please everyone.

Headphone Recommendation: No need to say, the included creative ear buds don't produce the greatest sound, and are uncomfortable to smaller ears. In the exercise realm, there’s pretty much only one headphone that does exercise like non-other, and that is the Sony MDR-A35g S2. Ok, so we see Sony, perhaps not the greatest sound, but indeed very, very good for the sub $20 price tag. And let's face it, no one needs audiophile quality sound when running and exercising where other noises, be it form an annoying guy at the gym, get in the way.

These phones have a unique sweat-resistant design, and it does work. No sweat penetrated my ears during testing, and these are now my number one workout phones. Sound is excellent for the price. It folds up with a 3-hinged design very compactly, but a carrying case would've been nice!.

The unique over-the-head style combined with ear-bud like, but secure, driver casing makes for a very comfortable headphone, one that never fell off during all tests. A nice feature is that these phones have a semi-open design, so you will hear loud horns and people screaming at you to get out of the way of an oncoming car if you decide to cycle with these (Not recommended!).

Where to buy:
So how much will the ultimate workout rig set you back? Not much at all. You can snag the 512mb Muvo N200 up from Amazon for $111, and better yet, the Zen Nano 1gb for $66.00!. Canadians and worldwide, got to your local Best Buy, the N200 ranges from $39.99 to $115.00 - these players are truly a steal at these prices! Ebay is also a good bet.

Get the MDR-A35g S2 headphones for only $11.00 on! Canada and worldwide, get them for around $25.00 at Best Buy, or cheaper at various online shops.

Total: $80 - $130, depending on the capacity of the player you choose.

Zen Vision M - Beyond Music, and the Ipod

The ZVM is arguably the best 30GB DAP on the market today, although the new generation of ipods and Microsoft's "ZUNE", as well as the ZVM 60GB are due this fall, but I won't hold my breath. With a vivid 2.5" 262k color LCD, it’s not only an mp3 player, rather a legitimate video player, unlike the ipod with its less than stellar screen and battery life. I won't list the specs here, because I don't just want to write reviews such as the objective ones other sites write, rather give my own in-depth opinions on why this audio player is the best bang for the buck around.

First, a bummer, no removable battery, although the ZVM's 14 hour long battery life more than makes up for that shortcoming. The colour screen is absolutely mesmerizing, even on just 10% brightness. The ability to customize your wallpaper and menus are a real plus, as the old blue and white ipod menus are getting old, fast.

Newer ZVMs (in the smaller packaging without AC adapter) come with an updated scratch resistant coating. Yes, it's true! Finally a manufacturer takes note that people don't want to be carrying around their DAPs that are all scratched up, although I give credit to Cowen and its I-audio X5, a highly scratch resistant player.

Case and Scratch Protection Recommendations: While they may be scratch resistant, they are not scratch-proof. Your ZVM will get scratched - that is unless you buy a little clear, sticker like film called "Best Skins Ever". It will protect you player, and keep it looking like the day you got it, nice and shiny. Amazing stuff, works beautifully on my player, see picture. It’s very cheap (about $5.00), and should be used at the bare minimum, with no case.
As far as cases go, there are basically two options - silicon and leather / book-style. I won’t bore you with all the filler, so here are the best brands:

Silicon : If silicon is your thing, get the Capdase silicon case, seen right. Although not the most aesthetically pleasing, it is of very high quality, makes the touch-pad considerably easier to use, has a 360 degree rotating belt clip (removable), stylish cutouts. Of course, like all silicon cases, it attracts a bit of dust.

Leather Bookstyle: The clear winner here is the Podsplus Leather Stand case, and yes, the stand is removable. It is of high quality, and has great protection, the only drawback being that it adds a bit of bulk to an already chubby player.

Headphone recommendation (no amp): For a player to be truly portable, it can't encompass the use of a headphone amp (a small ipod-sized device delivering extra power to the headphones. If you don't know, don't worry, it's irrelevant). My personal Favorite is the AKG K81DJ, a closed can. It can be found for about $55-$65 dollars online, and is a very good closed phone for the price. If you want the best sub-$100 open phone, meaning sound will leak out and in (not good for subway, etc., check out the Grado SR-60 for home listening, $69.00). The AKG K81 DJ folds up nicely for traveling, and has tight, accurate bass as well as excellent lows and liquid-like mids. If your used to the crappy stock earphones that come with players these days, you will be pleasently blown away.

Overall: 9/10

Links to buy discussed products (please be sure to bookmark this site as well!)

Where to Buy:
Zen Vision M (30GB)($269.00):
Best Skins Ever ($4.99):
Capdase Silicon Case :
Podsplus Leather Case ($29.99):
AKG K81DJ Headphones ($59.99):
Canada -