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Plantronics BackBeat 903 Review

Plantronics BackBeat 903 17

What’s under review: Plantronics BackBeat 903 Stereo Bluetooth Headset, MSRP $99.95, current street price approx $60-90

What we like: Excellent sound quality; lightweight and comfortable to wear for extended periods even with glasses; easy to learn controls

What we’d like to change: Can be fiddly to put on intially; we would prefer separate track skip and volume controls

Our verdict: An excellent contender; the BackBeat 903 should be high up on the shortlist of anyone looking for an in-ear stereo Bluetooth headset

Our full review follows the video summary:

Plantronics has plenty of history in the Bluetooth market, including several stereo headsets in its Pulsar 260/590 ranges and the recent Voyager 855 hybrid design.  Plantronics upped the ante in when it paired up (Bluetooth pun intended) with its subsidiary Altec Lansing to release the BackBeat 903 and 906 models.  The BackBeat 903 was subsequently named as a CES Innovations Design and Engineering Awards Honoree in November.  While we had only listened to the BackBeat in noisy environments previously, Plantronics was kind enough to send us a BackBeat 903 so we could spend some quality time getting more acquainted. Continue reading our full Plantronics BackBeat 903 review…

Feb 27, 2010 Posted by | Audio, Hardware, Mobile, Reviews, Video Features | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Flash 10.1 Beta 3 brings GPU acceleration to GMA500 netbooks

MSI X320

The MSI X320 will benefit from the GMA500 support

There’s a funny dynamic going on in the world of Flash which, let’s remember is used by almost the whole world.  On the one hand the likes of Apple are trying to encourage the world away from Flash because it is a processor hog and towards HTML5 instead.  While on the other hand Adobe is demonstrably working to make Flash HD video run better on lesser hardware by enabling …continue reading

Feb 24, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, News | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

PMA 2010 News

Sony DSC-TX5

PMA means new cameras

In our ongoing quest for perfection in photography we look towards PMA 2010 this week, which is the annual industry show for photo and video professionals. This is traditionally the time of year for news, product announcements and Samsung TL500new releases in the phot and video market. Our PMA picks so far are Sony’s presentation of its new waterproof DSC-TX5 in a block of ice, the new Samsung TL500 with its f/1.8 lens and the first hands-on look at the Fujifilm HS10 which sports a 30x optical zoom with manual focus.

PMA means making a wish list

On our PMA wish list is a compact digital camera with DSLR photo quality, 1080p video and an external microphone input. Something like the Fuji F200EXR meeting the Kodak Zi8 with an added helping of the Panasonic LX3 for maximum tweakability.   Perhaps an impossible device a few years ago but hopefully a real one either this year or next.

PMA mean bargains on outgoing cameras

It’s also a good time for consumers to seek out good deals on outgoing models such as our favorite compact superzoom, the Panasonic ZS3. We recently spotted the ZS3 for as low as $220, which is way down from Panasonic’s MSRP of $399. So go out there and find a bargain, the economy still needs your help!

Neil Berman

Feb 22, 2010 Posted by | Home Theater, Photo & Video, News | , , , | Leave a comment

Tekinca episode 5: The state of the smartphone union

In this week’s Teknica we provide analysis on the smartphone market, as it exits one of the most significant Mobile World Congress show’s of recent times.

Neil Berman

Feb 21, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Microsoft, Mobile, Teknica, Video Features | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nokia store New York

If you live in the USA, a Nokia cellphone can be hard to find.  That’s because Nokia phones and American cellphone carriers don’t go together as naturally as, say, Nokia phones and European carriers.  So if you’re a Nokia fanboy in America you’ll definitely want to head over to the company’s flagship store off Fifth Avenue in New York City.  But hey, this ol’ country is vast and it sure is cold in New York these days.  So to save you travelling all the way here, or perhaps from just leaving your warm shoe-box of an NYC apartment, here’s a walkthrough of the store in glorious HD.

Neil Berman

Feb 20, 2010 Posted by | Mobile, Video Features | , , , , | Leave a comment

BlueAnt Q1 review

The bluetooth headset market is crowded these days with top brands putting out some great designs. BlueAnt thinks it has something special to offer with the Q1, which won a CES 2010 Innovations Award and boasts voice control.  We put it through its paces to see if it could talk us into setting it above the pack.

What’s in the BlueAnt Q1 box?

The Q1 comes in a smart display case, which BlueAnt ecologically mention can be re-purposed into a vase or other container.  Nice touch.  Inside the box is the headset, a brief guide, earhook, USB cable and charger.

The Q1 feels smart and solid with a brushed black metallic finish.  It may not have the design exuberance of Aliph’s Jawbone, but it still looks sleek and expensive. Read our full review of the BlueAnt Q1…

Feb 18, 2010 Posted by | Hardware, Mobile, Reviews, Video Features | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Android gets Flash

The Apple Flash issue came to the fore recently when  Steve Jobs announced the iPad and today Google dropped a flash bomb on Cupertino by adding Flash to Android.

As we and much of the world noted recently, the iPhone and subsequent Apple devices running its OS such as the iPod Touch and iPad do not support Flash.  This means that they need special apps to access certain internet media content like YouTube videos and many websites just don’t work on those devices.  Windows Phone 7, announced on Monday, will also initially ship without Flash support.  Today however Google announced that Flash 10.1 will be available for Android, setting up the platform to offer a unique feature set in the smartphone market.

We know that Flash can be a resource hog on full power computers, sometimes causing Macs to crash, so I was curious to see how fluid the experience would be.  So I was pleasantly surprised to find this demo of a Motorola Droid running Flash videos on YouTube in a browser perfectly, and even managing to switch from portrait to landscape without missing a beat.  Can iPhone and Windows Phone 7 really afford to sit this one out?

Neil Berman

Feb 17, 2010 Posted by | Mobile, News, Software | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Windows Phone 7 Series analysis vs iPhone, Android & BlackBerry (update: now with video!)

Windows Phone has been struggling in recent years.  Facing an onslaught from Apple, Google and RIM, many would say that the OS formerly known as Windows Mobile has not even been competing in the current marketplace.  Rumors have been flying around about Microsoft starting from scratch with Windows Phone 7 Series and that’s exactly what they’ve done.  And they’ve done it well. Continue reading our in-depth analysis…

Feb 15, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Apple, Hardware, Microsoft, Mobile, Video Features | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Teknica episode 4: Windows 8 is going to be mind blowing

In this week’s Teknica we catch up on Mobile World Congress, get a glimpse into the energy around Windows 8 and find out how to check up on your internet speed with YouTube Speed Dashboard.  Plus, we reveal the ultimate Apple fanboy accessory.

Neil Berman

Feb 14, 2010 Posted by | Computing, Gaming, Hardware, Microsoft, Mobile, News, Software, Teknica, Video Features | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

YouTube Speed Dashboard tells you if you’re getting what you’re paying for

Google has been aiming to get us going full speed on the Internet and its latest initiative on YouTube is another part of that effort.  YouTube Speed Dashboard analyzes your download speed over time and shows comparatives to other users of your ISP as well as cohabitants of your city, state, country and planet.  It’s certainly interesting to see how download speed can fluctuate between different days, although we don’t know too much about how the analysis is being constructed.  For example what happens if you don’t watch any YouTube videos on a given day; is that day recorded as zero MB/s or hopefully just discounted from the analysis?  Judging by the chart above we clearly have no such worries as it looks like we watch plenty of content!  So do our readers in fact, who just hit 40,000 views of our videos.

In any case it’s really cool to see how you’re doing, and gives you some firepower to use in a phone call to your ISP if you believe you’re being shortchanged.  Check out your own results at YouTube Speed Dashboard.

Neil Berman

Feb 13, 2010 Posted by | Computing, News, Software | , , , | Leave a comment

Skullcandy creates one-offs for NBA All-Stars

Skullcandy has come out with some tricked out cans in commemoration of Sunday’s NBA All Star game.  The personalized headgear, which feature one-touch muting, left or right side cabling and a closed back design was handed to each player.  So if you’re reading this wondering where to get a pair, you’re probably not in the game line-up.  No word yet on whether these will go on general sale, but it sure would be cool to see them on the shelves of my local electronics emporium.

Neil Berman

Feb 13, 2010 Posted by | Audio, Hardware, Mobile, News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Building a Windows Media Center HTPC

In January 2009 I started running the Windows 7 Beta followed later in the year by the Release Candidate on my trusty old Pentium 4 living room PC.  In October to coincide with the Windows 7 launch I brought that computer into the modern age but decided to wait a few months to collect my thoughts before sharing the experience. Continue reading about building a Windows Media Center HTPC…

Feb 13, 2010 Posted by | Computing, Guides, Hardware, Home Theater, Photo & Video, Microsoft | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Superbowl XLIV: One great game, many great gadget commercials

Congratulations to the New Orleans Saints, who played their hearts out in the second half tonight.  Well done to the Colts as well, who helped to make this Superbowl one of the greats and not only from a sporting point of view…

Superbowls are famous for their commercials, which this year cost up to $3,000,000 (count those zeros) for 30 seconds (just one short zero there).  Apart from various Budweiser spots and a funny Simpsons/Coca-Cola short, this year was notable for concentration of gadget commercials.  As always some were better than others:

Flo TV

This was the first tech commercial and it was a biggie.  It came as a bit of a shock in fact, similar to the effect of the Hulu spot last year.  It was a solid production and clearly conveyed a message of how mobile TV could become embedded in everyday life.

Following that we saw, in no particular order…

Megan Fox playing with the Motorola Devour in a bathtub

A genius of a commercial.  Android, Megan Fox in a bathtub and a comedy plot.  11/10.

Vizio internet enabled TV

I was on the receiving end of a demo of Vizio’s internet enabled TVs at CES in January.  Vizio, like most other TV manufacturers, is serious about TV internet apps and this spot certainly got that message across, along with telling us about their 240Hz capability.  Vizio is currently the number one player in the US market by a wide margin and their commercial was as slick as their recent TV designs.  They’ve come a long way baby.

Prince of Persia movie

If you remember 1980s gaming, you probably remember the game.  The movie trailer was pretty good and I know I’ll inevitably the movie out of nostalgia for the game…just like they planned.

Dante’s Inferno

A forthcoming console game, whose commercial looked pretty exciting.

Google search

I admit I saw this a day early, but hoped it would be more exciting live during a break in the game action.  The spot showed screenshots of Google’s search engine being used very very quickly to find lots of information about places and people.  There was cute a New York-Paris plot which ended in marriage and a baby.  I like these practical demo commercials, which have been popularized by the iPhone.  Hopefully we’ll see more from Google with demonstrations of less commonly used features.

Intel Core i-series processors

An short story about friendship and robotic betrayal.  I really want to go to the Intel cafeteria now to see if those robots are wheeling around the floor.

Certainly suggestive; I’m sure they got plenty of hits on their site as a result.

That’s all folks.  Oh and by the way, I wasn’t joking about Megan Fox in the bathtub…

Neil Berman

Feb 7, 2010 Posted by | Computing, Hardware, Home Theater, Photo & Video, Mobile, News, Video Features | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New fragility vs used solidity: Part 2 – Dell Latitude E4300 review

This is the second part of this two piece article, looking at two laptops which make a lot of sense as used buys.  In this final part we’ll look at Dell’s sleek Latitude E4300.

What’s awesome: Super-fast Intel 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo; magnesium alloy chassis feels very solid; exceptional keyboard action and optional backlit keyboard; optional Latitude ON instant boot.

What blows: Screen is bright but washes out quickly at vertical angles …continue reading

Feb 4, 2010 Posted by | Computing, Hardware, Reviews | , , , | Leave a comment

Traveling without a laptop is Citrix’s Nirvana

Laptops are a great invention, but aren’t we just always looking for something a bit more handy? Like perhaps freeing up a hand by carrying a computer in your pocket instead of in a laptop bag? Well Citrix and OK Labs have been making some noise about their Nirvana project recently which aims to do exactly that.

In a world where desktops are done and smartphones are encroaching upon laptops, Nirvana turns the smartphone paradigm into a go-anywhere conduit for a Xen virtual desktop. What does this mean?

Citrix’s Xen Desktop allows a client to run a virtual desktop with full Windows functionality, which actually resides on a remote server. The client is normally a thin client, laptop or desktop but with Nirvana the client is a pocket smartphone. When you want to work, just sit at a screen and plug in. How cool is that! Continue reading…

Feb 3, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Computing, Hardware, Mobile | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New fragility vs used solidity: Part 1 – Lenovo U110 review

Oh the netbook craze! I’ve been through a few of them and they’ve all been great. It goes without saying that they have their limitations though and are challenged by anything requiring decent horsepower, like playing HD video.  The new Intel ULV powered ultra-portables in the $500-700 range are a step up, but even they aren’t powerhouses if you create media as much as you consume it.  They’re also sometimes a little fragile compared to some premium offerings. Continue reading…

Feb 3, 2010 Posted by | Computing, Hardware, Mobile, Reviews | , , , | Leave a comment

iPad, Flash and HTML5: What’s it all about?

Since the iPad announcement last week, much discussion has focused upon the iPad’s lack of Flash support. So what is Flash and why are people getting so upset?

What is Flash?

Flash is a hugely popular a software technology which many websites use for animations, video and other multimedia services like music streaming. According to its producer, Adobe, Flash is used by almost …continue reading

Feb 2, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Apple, Software | , , , , | 6 Comments


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