TheONbutton Durham Computer Services

Remote IT Support and Computer & Technology Help in Durham, Chapel Hill and Raleigh NC

SonyEricsson Xperia X1 goes for an outing in Knight Rider

If old-skool Knight Rider was about the Hoff and Kitt against the bad guys with Bonnie, Devon and a truck providing trackside support, this week’s upcoming season premiere is slightly different.

Michael, assisted by a Mustang GT500KR embodied Kitt, rolls into action with a battalion of dudes & dudettes in bunkers (including Billy from BSG) and a gazillion gadgets.  Leaving aside Kitt’s transformations into various forms, including the new Ford F150 twin cab, SonyEricsson’s forthcoming Xperia X1 makes a brief appearance.  No panels this time, just the biggest font SMS ever.  I’m pretty sure I also spotted Gateway’s One on someone’s desk sitting unbranded in it’s sleek and shiny black glory; I haven’t seen one of those anywhere since CES in January.

The pilot earlier this year hinted that Kitt would be able to transform into different shapes, growing a rear spoiler at the end of that airing.  This week’s season premiere goes a bit further and there will probably be some mixed opinions; we’re in way out fantasy land with this series.  Works for me…although jumping into the back of an F150 and ending up in the front seat of a Mustang is a big ask for any audience.

You can make up your mind on September 24th or grab it quick at NBC or Hulu.

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

Sep 21, 2008 Posted by | Hardware, Mobile | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Shiny Stereo Stars: Motorola S805 Review

Ban the wires from your bod with these

Ban the wires from your bod with these

I’ll try to keep this short for reasons which will become apparent.  Bluetooth headphones are all the rage at the moment with big hitters like Jabra, Plantronics and Motorola selling several models in different formats. Recent sets have even included a dog tag design.  There have also been some high end designs from the likes of Sony and Motorola. I’ve got my mitts on the Motorola S805 DJ headset, let’s see what its like.

Control buttons are large and easy to press

Control buttons are large and easy to press

First impressions of the Motorola S805

The S805s are closed back style headphones with nice ‘n soft ear pads and a cushioned adjustable head band. The black finish looks smart rather than showy and the fit on my head is snug rather than heavy or tight.

On the left earpiece is a call button and track skip rocker, the right earpiece has a play/pause button, volume rocker and mic. There’s a charging port under the left ear alongside a wired headphone port for use with the supplied 3.5mm adaptor so you can listen to non bluetooth sources. There’s also a semi-hard travel case in the box.

So that means stereo bluetooth audio (A2DP) with playback control (AVRCP), bluetooth hands free with seamless music integration and non-bluetooth wired audio.

Pairing the Motorola S805

Wired headphone port sits next to charging port

Wired headphone port sits next to charging port

Pairing to my HTC S620 was straightforward with the phone detecting both hands free and stereo audio profiles. As with many bluetooth headsets various things started lighting up blue at this point. Thankfully Motorola understood that S805 owners are buying into a sound rather than sci-fi experience, so the cyborg-looking lights can be easily disabled.

Using the Motorola S805

Hands free conversations come through well, with minimal background noise as with most modern bluetooth headsets and voice dialling is also supported.

Music playback just works beautifully.  On my HTC s620 I called up a playlist in Windows Media Player, put the phone in my bag and controlled the rest from the S805s.   Sweet.  Tunes come banging out of these cans so hard you think you’re in a Detroit club. Basslines are solid, treble comes through clearly and I had no dropouts unlike the otherwise excellent Logitech Freepulse.  The S805s even paired to the Freepulse’s headphone output bluetooth transmitter so I was able to watch TV without using the S805’s wired connection.

The soft earpads are comfortable for extended use

The soft earpads are comfortable for extended use

That’s not to say they’re the last word in headphones.  In a wired listening test against my reference Beyer DT250s the Beyers deliver a significantly better performance in terms of frequency reproduction and sound stage.  In a fairer wired test against the more consumer oriented Beyer DT231 Galactic, the S805s come out with a more open and balanced sound stage with clearer highs whilst the Galactics deliver more in the middle and lower frequencies.  Both are easy to listen to without fatigue for decent amounts of time.

For those conscious to protect their hearing, the closed back design provides useful passive background isolation allowing for comfortable low volume listening…and conveniently protects your ears from the cold which is an added bonus for East Coast winters.

The bad news?  They’re DJ-style big cans which is a question of personal taste and they’re bag rather than pocket friendly.

Is the Motorola S805 a stereo star?

The good news?  Overall the S805s are awesome and worth the money as a high-end accessory for any music-loving owner of a stereo bluetooth cellphone.  Fortunately at the time of writing the S805s were available at several retailers for less than the (deep breath) $249 MSRP. In fact I saw them on sale in short supply for a lot less than that at Amazon and Buy.com.  Nuff said, get that plastic armed and ready.

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

Sep 13, 2008 Posted by | Audio, Hardware, Mobile, Reviews | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Apple’s Let’s Rock turns out to be Easy Listening

Excitement was high in the blogosphere ahead of today’s Let’s Rock press conference by Apple.

New MacBooks have been on the rumor mill for some time, as the current black and white 13 inchers still haven’t had a chassis refresh. The subject of an Apple netbook entry continues to inspire imaginations and the initial PR push on enterprise iPhone adoption has gone all but silent.

After a summer of problematic product launches Apple needed something to restore its image to the faithful. It chose to play it safe, avoiding significant launches in favor of evolutionary product updates.

iPod Nanos get thinner (meh) with a larger screen and cover flow (seen it already). The 8GB version is $149, which is about $120 more than a 8GB micro SDHC card if your music phone happens to accept them as legal music hosting tender.

iPhone firmware goes to 2.1, which may mean it just might work this time?

iTunes goes to 8.0 with a new genius (it’s now genius vs guru in the Apple vs Microsoft battleground) feature which intelligently suggests playlists for you (nice, but not sure I’d give away the precious genius title to a single-purpose feature). NBC comes back to play on iTunes, and in HD.

iPod Touch gets revised pricing and a new curvy chassis (meh). An accelerometer gets added, hopefully it’s more reliable than the one in the iPhone.

Has any of this rocked your world? Probably not, Apple is coming out of a difficult summer, so going back to fundamentals with some easy listening may be the best choice. After all music is our life’s foundation as the Pet Shop Boys once said.

Update one day later: Oops I did it again. What has happened to Apple’s quality control…?

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

Sep 9, 2008 Posted by | Apple | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

HTC Excalibur S620 / T-Mobile Dash Review

Brushed aluminum finish looks smart

Brushed aluminum finish looks smart

HTC comes up with some great names for its cellphones. Diamond, Kaiser and Wizard have all figured in their recent line-up. The s620Excalibur looks a bit different from King Arthur’s mythical sword, but can it slay the competition in the same way?

What is the HTC s620?

The HTC s620 is sold in the US as the T-Mobile Dash.

Taking the HTC s620 out of the box it’s immediately obvious that this is one device which looks way better in real life than on the web. The Excalibur screams quality with a brushed aluminum and soft-feel black finish encasing a flush fitting screen. It’s light too at 130 grams. The battery cover hides the SIM and Micro SD card slots. Other specs include a 200MHz processor, WiFi b/g, EDGE (no HSPA unfortunately), Windows Mobile and of course the music loving stereo bluetooth.

Keypad has good tactile feedback

Keypad has good tactile feedback

The controls of the HTC s620

The s620’s Blackberry style keyboard has tightly packed raised keys which illuminate blue when the phone’s backlight is on. The keys on these devices are always a matter of taste, personally I find the key on the s620 are okay with plenty of tactile feedback but inferior to HTC’s own TyTN and Kaiser (AT&T Tilt) with their wider and larger keys. The s620 could also do with a couple more assignable keys. There are ones for email, internet and the camera but I’d also like ones to assign to Windows Media Player, the connections manager and the task manager for easy application switching.

Which leads me to the JOGGR slidy-thing on the right side of the screen is a curious surface, which offers up/down controls as well as two assignable buttons. Some carriers choose to disable this control surface, which to be honest I can understand. It’s a great idea but too easy to brush it accidentally which can be annoying. Once I got the hang of the JOGGR it did become useful, but might be too fiddly to win fans during a five minute in-store test drive. I would have preferred a hardware wheel and buttons.

The screen on the HTC s620

Powering up the s620 illuminates the stunning 2.4 inch screen, which is a joy to use indoors and out.

2.4 inch screen is bright and sharp

2.4 inch screen is bright and sharp

Whilst not readable in direct sunlight, it is possible to use this phone outdoors on a bright day. The flush fitting screen gives a paper flat image, but is also very exposed if the cellphone in jiggling about in a pocket next to some keys. There was a protective belt holster in my box, which is a useful screen preserving accessory.

Running apps on the HTC s620

The version I’m using has Ricky Wyatt’s Windows Mobile 6 ROM with a few added extras taking it to 6.1 spec, such as the newer Windows Live client which does a great job of pushing mails to the device for certain web-based non-POP3 email clients. Another sweet tool on the ROM is an over/underclocking tool for the the 200MHz processor, which allows manually forced power saving and power enhancement.  This is a great addition as most usage only needs 150MHz or so, which helps to extend battery life nicely.  Running the s620 at this speed I was able to listen to music over stereo bluetooth and read the newspapers on AvantGo.

Other tasty morsels in this ROM include Opera Mini which works great on the s620 and Resco Explorer which is a good replacement for File Explorer. I also added Google Maps, which renders extremely quickly on the Excalibur compared to my TyTN and scarily pinpointed my location to within one city block.

Excalibur is size zero thin

Excalibur is size zero thin

The HTC s620 as a stereo Bluetooth media player

The sound performance of the s620 is up to HTC’s usual high standards overall. Sound quality from the earpiece and microphone both seem fine, although the speaker was a bit tinny and unlikely to break any cellphone records for bass response. The stereo bluetooth paired to Logitech’s Freepulse easily and sound quality was exceptionally clear, so you can give those wired headphones back to the twentieth century where they belong.  The USB charging port doubles up as a headphone/hands-free port.  Whilst there are adaptors available to let you use wired 3.5mm phones, you’ll probably prefer to stick with the stereo Bluetooth to avoid dangling wires…after all with a micro sd slot to play with, the s620 could store your entire music collection so you might as well look the business while you’re listening.

Battery life of the HTC s620

Battery life was good, and as always was influenced by the amount of wireless connectivity and data usage. Forcing the screen to dim quickly after periods of inactivity also helped. With mixed usage including some WiFi and EDGE data action, voice calls and listening to music over stereo Bluetooth I got just over one day before the Excalibur asked to be returned to the lake for some juice.

Can the Excalibur slay the competition?

The s620 is certainly a strong Windows Mobile cellphone, nay very strong when paired with some useful added software. At 130 grams with EDGE connectivity it competes directly with RIM’s Blackberry Curve, which ends in a tie for me with RIM’s solid messaging experience battling the huge Windows Mobile application development community. If you do go for the Excalibur though, it’s a worthy sword to have in the armory.

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

Ricky Wyatt’s Excalibur ROM is available at XDA Developers.  I do not recommend flashing a ROM onto your cellphone.  Flashing a ROM onto your cellphone is done entirely at your own risk, can brick your phone, will most likely invalidate your warranty and might lead to a total freak-out if it goes horribly wrong!!

Thanks to Joan & Alan for this one.

Sep 8, 2008 Posted by | Hardware, Mobile, Reviews | , , , , | 1 Comment

MSI Wind / Advent 4211 Review

After a gust of initial promise, the MSI Wind blew into the US market in a flurry of overpricing, stock delays and battery shortages. Whilst the pricing still remains questionable, the stock situation has slowly improved. I managed to spend some time with the Advent 4211 clone in London this week to see if it was a full force tornado or just hot air.

Acer Aspire One on top of MSI Wind

Acer Aspire One on top of MSI Wind

Appearance of the MSI Wind

The Wind is one of the larger netbooks, not quite as ‘notebook looking’ as the Asus EEE 1000 but sizeable nonetheless. Sitting under the Acer Aspire One the MSI Wind shows a centimeter of clearance all round, which is not bad considering it boasts a full inch of extra screen space due to the Wind’s narrower bezel.

As for overall appearance, the MSI Wind looks OK. In Advent 4211 silver plastic guise it misses out on the eye catching looks of the EEE 1000 and Aspire One which are definitely a step ahead in the fashion stakes with their design details.

Keyboard and trackpad of  the MSI Wind

Opening the lid reveals a good size keyboard with a smallish trackpad. The keys themselves sit up high and seem initially stodgy to press. Due to their angled sides they actually have a smaller contact area than the Acer Aspire One, which sit almost flat giving a sleeker look and for me a more reliable typing experience. The Wind’s keyboard is perfectly functional however and would be easy to adapt to. I wasn’t a fan of the right Shift key’s position and there is some empty space where MSI haven’t fully utilized all the available real estate.

The trackpad is responsive enough, but might ideally have been wider. It’s reminiscent of the first EEE PC, which had an even smaller square. The EEE 1000 definitely leads the netbooks in this regard with its lurvely multitouch pad.

Performance of the MSI Wind

The MSI Wind and Advent 4211 ship with Intel’s Atom N270, 1GB RAM, an 80GB hard drive and Windows XP Home, which took just under sixty seconds to boot and turn the egg timer into a full arrow. That’s passable, but this is a bare machine. I expect that once you install a firewall, antivirus, Skype and other apps which load at boot-up you’re probably looking at nearer ninety seconds plus another ten to lock on to a wireless router. By contrast the Linux Aspire One boots in eighteen seconds plus wireless lock-on time.

Once the MSI Wnd is up and running the Atom hustles along speedily enough for general uses with applications loading in acceptable if not lightning time. Again performance on the Aspire One Linux feels snappier with faster application load times. Music sounds reasonable through the built in speakers and the webcam puts in a good performance compared to some of the other current netbooks.

The screen is also nice enough too. I was expecting to be dazzled given early claims about its quality but it’s actually very similar to the Aspire One and EEE 1000 in terms of brightness and clarity, which is still a good thing. I was unable to test DVD playback as I did not have an external drive to hand.

The MSI Wind is well connected with three USB ports, ethernet, VGA, audio in/out and an SD card slot, although it lacks the Acer Aspire One’s second SD slot.

Did the MSI Wind blow me away?

So was I blown off my feet? Not quite. The MSI Wind is a nice netbook, it does everything well but just looks and feels a bit ordinary at $499 for the 3-cell version or a whopping $599 for the 6-cell. By contrast the Acer Aspire One XP is $349 and $449 for the 3 & 6-cell versions respectively and the longer lasting EEE 1000 is yours for $549. Last time I looked the Wind had fallen out of Amazon’s top 100 computing bestsellers, whilst the Acer Aspire One and Asus EEE 1000 were both in the top 5. Until MSI revises its pricing I have a feeling it might stay that way.

Neil Berman

www.thonbutton.com

Gallery:

Sep 6, 2008 Posted by | Computing, Hardware, Mobile, Reviews | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Air India adds free charge

My recent trip in Air India economy turned out to be a sweet experience, not just due to the widescreen seatback screen and on-demand entertainment system.  The airline had also added seatback USB power in my 777, which meant I could charge my PDA and write this on the way home.  Bon voyage, literally.

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

Sep 5, 2008 Posted by | Other Stuff | | Leave a comment

   

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