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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Casio G-Shock G1200 Review






If I had to make an educated guess, I would say that most gadget freaks are also watch lovers. It stands to reason that the watch is a wearable gadget. From this statement you can tell that I love watches. While it would be nice to collect high-end mechanical watches such as Pateks, Omegas and Rolexes, I am what you may call a practical collector, it all started with Swatch watches back in the eighties. The ability to cram as much technology into such a small device really fascinated me. When talking about these type of watches, there are really just three major brands that come to mind, Citizen, Seiko and Casio.

There are many styles of watches such as divers, pocket, dress, etc., but anything pilot or aviation related really catches my eye. So when Casio decided to make an aviation style G-Shock watch I couldn’t help but get excited.  The first time I saw this watch, I immediately said “I want one”. When they finally announced the pricing, I found it high for a G-Shock. Staring at $250, all the way up to $450 for the limited models. So, I put off buying one for a while. Few months ago, I was walking in the mall and found it on display at Time Depot, I asked the sales lady how much it was. “Sir, on sale for 12T, 12 months zero interest and last unit na yan” She said the three words I did not want to hear, sale, zero interest and last unit. I said nothing and just handed her my credit card.

The last unit they had was the orange model. Since the metal ones where more expensive I was glad they only had this one. The design of this watch is great, perfect as an everyday watch. It’s a "set and forget” watch since it has an atomic solar movement. You never need to change the batteries and never have to worry about setting the time. More on that later.

Here are the specs of the watch:

- Shock Resistant, up to 12G
- 200M Water Resistant
- Touch Solar Power
- Luminous Hands/Markers
- 1/100 Second Chronograph
- Day and Date
- World Time

After using it as an everyday watch for the past few months, I can say, that I never get tired looking at it. The main dial shows you the time, upper right is your second time zone, bottom dial is your 24Hr time and the left dial is for date and mode functions. The main glass is dome shaped and gives it a magnifying effect, which makes reading the small dials a bit more manageable. I wish they had made the second time zone dial bigger. Thankfully, you can easily swap the time between the main and second time zone dials. Setting the 2nd time zone is easy and it’s fun to watch the dials move back and forth. This is the type of watch where you really need to read the manual if you want to use all the other functions. I like that it has no LCD display, like most G-Shock models, it gives it just a little bit more of a formal style. While the dials are bright, it would have been nice if Casio included a backlight, as it is hard to see the smaller dials at night. The strap is nice and wide but for some reason my older and much cheaper G-Shock GW500 has more premium feeling strap.



What I did not know was that Casio sells two versions of the same watch, the GW3000 and the G1200. They look exactly the same except that the latter does not have the multi-band atomic clock feature. This means, it syncs with atomic clocks around the world. Unfortunately, if you look at Casio's website, the range of the atomic clock signal does not reach the Philippines. I was wondering why I couldn’t find any indicator if the update works or not. The only physical difference I could spot was that one had “Multi Band 6” and the other just says “G-Shock” on the top portion of the watch. I’m guessing Casio makes a different version for markets where there is no atomic clock signal, and to be fair I have not been able to update my two other watches here in the Philippines, It does however work when I'm in Japan and in the US. What’s even more strange is that if you do a quick price check on the web, the cost is almost the same for both models. WTF Casio! Why not just sell the same watch? People travel, you know.

Can you spot the difference? GW3000 vs G1200 (taken from Casio's website)



Will I still recommend this watch? Yes, if you don’t need the atomic clock feature buy the G1200. But if you have the means, get the GW3000. If you're looking for an everyday, no fuss “set and forget” watch that you can use at work and also take to the gym, this is it. It's design, function and style is great and will still look good even after years of use.

The Good:

- Design and Function
- Solar Movement
- World Time
- Easy to read day and date

The Bad:

- No backlight
- Strap
- Chronograph indication limited to 24mins
- No Multi-Band Atomic feature if you buy the G1200

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

ALCATEL BLAZE DUO OT-918N REVIEW





Are you in the market for a new smart phone? Android 2.3? Dual SIM? 3G? Less than 10k? Well, you’re in luck, as of this writing there are about five phones you can choose from.


Click on the links for the specs:

1.   Alcatel Blaze Duo OT-918N – P5999 
2.   Cherry Mobile Stellar – P7900 
     3.   LG Optimus Net P698 Dual Sim  - P8990 
     4.   Lenovo A60 – P7990 
     5.    Samsung Galaxy Y Duos – P8999 (Estimate) 

I wanted replace my old Samsung Galaxy 5 with a dual SIM smart phone so when I travel I could just buy a local SIM and pop it in. A few days ago I went to Viramall to get one of these dual SIM bad boys. As luck would have it, Lenovo had a booth on the ground floor, which gave me a chance to play with the A60. It had a nice big 3.5-inch screen, and performance was snappy considering it had only a 650Mhz processor. I was tempted to buy it right there but the hardware buttons and the screen’s viewing angle turned me off.  

Next, I was off to the Samsung show room, but the Galaxy Y Duos was not yet available. According to them (“off the record daw”), it would still be released mid February, and priced about 3K more then the single SIM Galaxy Y. So I just played with the Galaxy Y on display. While performance was good, the resolution and viewing angle was not. However, colors were nicely saturated and touch screen input was quite responsive.  Also typing on the 3-inch screen was challenging. I should note that the Galaxy Y Duos has a slightly larger screen (3.14” vs. 3.0”) and a better camera (3 vs. 2MP).

As much as I wanted to try out the Stellar they did not have a demo unit. I was really looking forward to playing with it since it has the best specs among all the phones. To be honest, I don’t like the design on the Stellar that much. Same problem with LG, no demo unit and the price was pretty high. I do like the design of the Optimus Net.

Finally I found the Alcatel 918N. Only 2 shops had them. I asked if I could try it out and the sales lady at Citilight Telecoms was nice enough to let me have a go at it. Right away I was impressed with the design and build quality, the textured finish was nice and “grippy”.  Performance was actually snappy and the screen quality was even better then the A60 and Galaxy Y. I had to ask the sales lady again “talaga ba p5999 lang ito?” She said the regular price is actually p7999 but Alcatel was having a promo, she did not know when the promo will end. It even comes with charger, earphones, screen protector and 2GB micro SD card. The price was just too hard to refuse, so I paid for it and said “bahala na!”  I wanted to get a case for it, and right away I realized the problem of getting “unknown” phones. No accessories! I was able to find a jelly case for a Samsung Chat S3350 that seemed to fit but I would need to cut holes for the camera and ports. Anyway, it was only P120.

Looks nice and I like the capacitive touch buttons

Textured back makes it nice to hold
iPhone 4, Alcatel 918N & Samsung Galaxy 5

Does the box look familiar?



After my usual unboxing ritual, I could not help but notice how similar the packaging was to my iPhone4. Everything worked right away. I entered my Google account, transferred all my contacts and with in 5 minutes it was up and running. Right away, I can definitely say that performance is a lot better then my old Galaxy 5. Alcatel did not add much to the OS, so you get an almost stock Android experience, as compared to the TouchWiz overlay of Samsung. 

Most of the usual apps like Facebook, web browsing, email etc., all work. And yes, Angry Birds plays pretty well on it. Just don’t expect to play any high-end 3D games. I guess what most people will be interested in is how the dual SIM actually works, so lets focus on that.
Installing both SIMs is a bit tricky because they go on top of each other. Please ready the manual! Basically, both SIMs are active all the time. You can rename each SIM like Work or Personal. You can even color code it. You also have the ability to choose which SIM will be your default  for text, call, and data. Note that  SIM 1 will have 3G, SIM 2 only 2G. So if you’re planning to roam in Japan or Korea, only SIM 1 will work. Before you call or send a text message, you can easily switch between SIMs. If not, then it will use your default SIM settings. You can’t assign a default SIM per contact or contact group so that you won’t make the mistake of sending from the wrong SIM. For example, all “work” contacts will use SIM 1.  However, replies to texts will be received by the corresponding SIM, even if it’s not the default.






As for the camera, photo quality is just ok, nothing to get all excited about. (There are some samples in this post.) It has the usual scene modes, white balance, smile detection and, so on. I was more impressed with the video quality as it records in 480p (720x480, 3gp format), which is better then the QVGA of the Galaxy Y. 
Outdoor shot

Low Light (don't know why there is a green line)



The battery will last you a day of light wifi, 3G and games. The 3G Hotspot feature works, but as with most smart phones you will have to recharge every night. Notwithstanding all these fancy features, call quality is decent. Texting on the 3.2-inch screen is usable but I suggest installing a better keyboard like “Swiftkey X”.

Overall, it’s hard to find faults, especially at this price point. My second choice would have been the Stellar or A60, just for the screen size alone. Sometimes, it really makes you question, is it really worth buying a high-end smart phone costing more than 20K? Why do top manufactures make such expensive phones while the likes of Alcatel can produce something so cheap yet so adequate? We shall see how this phone holds up for the next few months. I really believe that if someone can make a high-end dual SIM phone at about 10-15k, it would be a winner!

The Good:

- Low price
- Nice Design
- Screen quality
- Speedy performance

The Bad:
- No accessories
- Untested tech support
- Not sure if OS will be updated

Sunday, February 5, 2012

CD-R King 32 inch LED TV REVIEW


After 11 years of service I finally decided to retire my old Philips 29″ CRT TV. I was looking for an LCD or LED TV and since it was just going to be used by my kids to watch cartoons and the maids to watch their telenovelas. I just wanted a cheap one. The cheapest “brand name” LCD TV I found was a Sanyo for about 19k. I remembered that CD-R KING had an LCD tv so when I went there I was amazed that the 32″ LCD TV was 11.5K and the LED TV was 12.5k. For a 1k difference, I’m sure you would choose the LED, too. I figured I’ll take the risk and buy it. My old Philips cost 29k and took 2 people to lift the box. This LED TV was about 55% cheaper and I carried it out with one hand. Spec wise, some highlights that stood out were the 3 HDMI ports, Full HD 1080p and, a USB port for photos and videos (more on this later).
 Sometimes buying from CD-R King can be hit or miss, so spending this much money can be quite a risk especially when the box says in big letters “with REMOTE CONTROL”. Gee, I thought to myself, “it better have a remote coz I can’t remember when was the last time a TV was sold without one”. Anyway, after the unboxing and setup I already encountered a design flaw with the position of the ports, (as you can see from the photos) there is a ledge that hinders easy access to the ports. Still not a deal breaker. Playing a 1080p video from my media player video quality was quite good. Admittedly, a Samsung LED TV still has deeper blacks and richer color, but again for the price and intended use…not bad.

Full specs are on the box!

Some ports are not easy to access!
If you are wondering, since it has a USB port, can it be used as a media player? Well, the answer is, “sort of”. It recognized my 500GB external powered HDD and was able to play jpeg, avi and wmv files with out any problems. But it will not recognize mkv files. So you will still need a media player if you want HD video. As for the sound quality, well lets just say… it’s terrible. I’m guessing the small speakers just don’t have enough power and base to produce decent sound. To be fair, most flat screen TVs are ment to be connected to a home theater or sound bar (which by the way they also sell at CD-R King).

Media player does preview but no MKV files for you!
All in all, only time will tell if this is a good buy. It does come with a 2 week replacement and a 1 year service warranty. For the price, I dare you to find a cheaper 32″ LED TV. Now, if only CD-R King were also in the business of making cars…

The Good:

- 3 HDMI Ports
- USB Port
- Price!

The Bad:

- Access to ports
- Poor Sound Quality
- MKV files not supported
- Untested reputation

Note: A reader was right to point out that the resolution is only 1366x768 which means it is only 720p not 1080. I can't believe I overlooked this. It will accept 1080 but will resize it to a lower resolution. I wish manufacturers would stop putting 1080HD to avoid misleading consumers.

Sony Cybershot DSC-TX10 Review




Looking for a small point and shoot camera? Need it to be slim and stylish? Need it to be water and shockproof? Impossible Right? Well your choices are pretty limited. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX10 may be the only one. I have been eyeing this camera since it came out. It replaces the TX-5 which had mixed reviews. I went to the Sony store in Shangri-La mall and they were selling it for 20k (12 months 0%). Amazon was selling it for $310 (Php 13k). The cheapest one I found was for 13.5k at Viramall. Not bad. I almost bought it but decided to wait, and as luck would have it, it went on a one-day sale on Amazon for $169 (Php7K) with free shipping! I can’t believe it was 20k locally, That’s $460! Rip Off! Anyway, I had it shipped to my uncle in the US and got it two weeks later.
After my unboxing ritual, my silver TX-10 with a flat front face and touch screen looked like a cellphone. If you want to read a full review of this camera you can check out other famous review sites. I will focus on the four features which made me get this camera.
1. Form Factor – Fits in Pocket, Small and Stylish
2. Waterproof – Rated up to 5m/16 feet. It’s perfect for the pool and beach, not having to worry about your camera getting wet is a lifesaver.
3. Background Defocus mode – It takes two quick shots and will blur the background making it look like your photo was taken with a DSLR.
4. Dual Record mode – This is probably why I got this camera. The ability to take 3MP stills while recording video. Now you don’t need separate cameras for video and stills.
Overall, the camera is pretty responsive, fast autofocus, great low light performance. Need manual controls? Look elsewhere, this is a pure point and shoot with intelligent scene modes. Touch screen is not as responsive as an iPhone, it’s usable but will not work in the water. So set your settings before you get wet or use the included stylus. Video capture quality is outstanding, up to 1080i, and the 4x zoom works while recording. There is a 1-2 second lag before it starts recording but hopefully, this can be fixed in a firmware update. It has a small battery so expect about 100-150 shots, and will barely last a day of shooting. Just like a smart phone, you will have to recharge every night. While there are a lot of waterproof cameras, most of them look like they were styled by Casio’s G-Shock division. Not necessarily a bad thing if you want a tough rugged look. But if you want a camera you can use at the beach in the morning and take to a wedding in the evening this might be the only one.
             
The Good:
- Style and Size
- Fast autofocus with a nice wide 4x 25-100mm lens
- Dual Record , Sweep Panorama, and 3D modes
The Bad:
- Short battery life
- Touch screen responsiveness
- Limited scene modes

Sapido GR-1222 Wireless Router Review




Need a new Wireless Router? I would guess the first brands that come to mind are Linksys, Netgear, maybe even Trendnet? What about Sapido? Never heard? Actually this relatively unknown Taiwanese brand has been getting popular the past couple of years. They have some of the most unusual features and probably the best “bang for your buck” in the router world. They have a wide range of wireless routers but the one that really caught my eye was the GR-1222 Fun Center Wireless Router. It has full Wireless N 300Mbps and what sets it apart is that it has 2 USB ports where you can plug in the following devices:
  1. USB Hard or Flash Drive (File server or Bittorrent support)
  2. Printer
  3. Webcam
  4. DLNA Device like TV, PS3, Media Players etc.
  5. 3G USB Modem (from Smart, Globe and Sun)
I found it at Viramall for P3300. I was hoping it would be cheaper, anyway I took a chance. What I wanted to do was to setup my own media, file and print server, setup up an internet webcam so I can watch the kids when I’m away and be able to have a backup 3G internet connection in case my DSL goes down. After extensive online research, so far this Sapido seems like the only one that can do it all. It is after all a complicated setup. Could it be done?
Problem 1. Things get complicated:
Getting the router to work was not a problem. Now to setup the webcam. In order to do this you first need to setup a DNS server with a service like TZO or DYNDNS. Then you need to enable Port Forwarding. However, to do this, you need to setup your modem in bridge mode so that your router (and not your modem) will be the one to dial your ISP. Complicated? YES! It took me a week of research just to get it to work.
Problem 2. Webcam Compatibility
I was using an old Genius webcam with my setup, however the video quality was terrible, I bought another one from CD-R King which did not work. I had to exchange it three times and the last one finally worked. But the video would freeze after a few minutes. Finally, I bought an A4Tech webcam and it finally worked.
Problem 3. USB Drive
I tried using a 8GB flash drive to use for downloading torrents. It recognized the drive but would freeze once downloading started. Again after some research, I learned you have to format it under NTFS.
Problem 4. 3G Modem
Ok, this was the least problematic. All I needed was the APN name. I tried it with my SmartBro and it worked. You can even set the number of minutes after your DSL connection fails before it switches to the 3G modem. Nice!
Problem 5. Print Server
This was the last on my list. It took me a while to figure out that it won’t work on my Mac. At lease not on OS X 10.5 or .6. I have not had the chance to try it on Lion. It works fine on Windows and even on my iPad using the “Printing for iPad app”. I guess OS X just does not support print server from this router.
Ok, this post should have started with geek alert. Am I the only one who wants a setup like this? Perhaps. But after a long and complicated setup I can only recommend this router to those who like to experiment and have time to tinker. If you just want a simple wireless router, then you can save time and money and just buy another model or brand. I guess 4 out of 5 is not bad. My only worry now is if this router breaks I’m not sure I have the time and patience to set it up all over again.
The Good:
- Price
- Features
The Bad:
- Tech Support (FAQs not helpful and no reply to my emails)
- Complicated setup to use all the features