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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Panasonic LF1 Review



This Christmas season has been really busy and again it’s been a while since my last review. This time I was looking for a good and pocketable digital camera with WiFi and I finally narrowed my choices between the Canon S120/S110 and this Panasonic LF1. The LF1 is a bit older and as a result you can find better deals for it. Let’s see if I made the right choice.

Specs:

Image Sensor: 12.1 million effective pixels.
Metering: Multi zone, centre-weighted, spot.
Lens: Leica DC Vario-Summicron f2.0-5.9/6.0-42.8mm (28-200mm as 35 SLR equivalent).
Exposure Modes: Auto, Program AE, shutter and aperture priority, manual.
Sensor Size: 15mm CMOS.
Shutter Speed (stills): 60 to 1/4000 second.
Continuous Shooting: 10 fps.
Memory: SD/SDHC/SDXC plus 87MB internal memory.
Image Sizes (pixels): Stills: 4000×3000 to 640×360.
Movies: 1920×1080, 1280×720, 1440×1080 and 640×480.
Viewfinder: 7.6cm LCD screen (920,000 pixels).
File Formats: JPEG, RAW, JPEG+RAW, MPO (3D), AVCHD, MPEG4.
Colour Space: sRGB, Adobe RGB.
ISO Sensitivity: Auto, 80 to 12800 (with boost).
Interface: USB 2.0, HDMI mini, WiFi.
Power: Rechargeable lithium ion battery, DC input.
Dimensions: 103x62x28 WHDmm.
Weight: 192 g (inc battery).

Design and Features:

The LF1 is about a year old but still it has most features you will find in recent 2014 camera. One of the requirements I needed was the ability to connect the camera with my phone or tablet via WiFi. With the LF1, it’s quite easy using NFC and the downloadable app for iOS and Android. The design of the LF1 is very similar with the Canon S110/S120 range as they both have a compact square design with a function ring in front. They also both use a larger than normal 1/1.7 inch sensor which does improve on low light performance. In fact, it uses the exact same sensor as Panasonic’s LX7 with the only difference of the lens. While the Canon and LX7 have a wider aperture, the LF1 has the benefit of a very useful 28-200mm zoom range. One of the unique selling points of this camera is its built-in EVF which is almost unheard of in this size of camera. It’s not the biggest and brightest but it’s still quite useful to have.







Performance and image quality

As a premium compact camera, the image quality of LF1 does not disappoint. The images are nice and clean even when shooting at a higher ISO. Focusing is quite fast and good enough for capturing active kids or pets. You get full manual control and a nice selection of filters and effects with “toy” mode being my favorite. You can even shoot in RAW for better image quality and control. I do wish it has a brighter aperture at full zoom but I guess that’s the price you have to pay for useful zoom range. The EVF is not the most pleasant to use but it’s there and very useful in bright sunlight and when you want to save on battery. In fact, battery life was better than I expected but one thing that really irritated me was the proprietary charging port that Panasonic uses.








Verdict

Overall, I was very happy with my decision to get the LF1. I got what I wanted which was good image quality and the ability to connect to my phone. I do wish it has a brighter aperture and top end of the zoom but like I mentioned, that’s a compromise get the 28-200mm range. Also the proprietary charging cable is a bit annoying because that’s another cable I need to bring with me. It just gets to me because it looks so much like a micro USB and I just can’t figure out why Panasonic didn’t just use one. Still, this camera may be a bit old and you won’t have to look hard to get it at a good price.

The good:

-          Good image quality and performance
-          Useful 28-200mm zoom
-          EVF
-          WiFi and NFC
-          Full manual control

The bad:

-          Proprietary charging cable
-          EVF resolution

-          Slow aperture and top end of zoom 
e    Easy to accidentally press power button

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Last minute gift ideas for the holidays

Need last minute gifts for the techie in your life? Here are some ideas and they are all available online from Lazada.com and Zalora.com:

1. Powerbank


2. Memory Cards

3. Selfie Pod

4. Dash Cam

5. Watches



Happy Holidays from Techamuna.com!







Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Bose SoundLink Color Review


Don’t look now, but I bought another bluetooth speaker. Fresh from my review of the Divoom Onbeat 500 I still can’t believe it but I ended up buying another bluetooth speaker. This time I ended up getting newly-released Bose SoundLink Color. This is my fourth bluetooth speaker to date. But after hearing the sound from the Color I just had to get it. Let’s see if, in this case, four’s a charm.

Specs:

  • -          Bluetooth wireless connectivity
  • -          Voice prompts for pairing
  • -          8 hrs battery life
  • -          USB charging
  • -          5 colors
  • -          1.25 lbs
  • -          US$129.95


Design:

At first glance the SoundLink color does not look like your typical Bose-designed product. First of all, it’s made of plastic and comes in 5 different colors. Don’t worry though because the plastic material does not feel cheap and as a result it’s even lighter than the SoundLink Mini. If you’re looking for portability then I would choose this over the Mini. Also having a choice of colors is nice. Personally, I like the black and red one.





SoundLink Color vs Samsung Galaxy Note 3


Features and Sound Quality:

One of my biggest gripes and the reason I never bought the SoundLink Mini was because of the proprietary charger that you had to use. If you’re using it for travel the last thing you want is an extra bulky charger. It seems Bose listened to its customers and they finally included a standard USB to Micro USB charger which means I can use the same charger as my phone or tablet.  They also increased the battery life to 8hours (Mini has only 6 hours). Other interesting new features are the voice prompts and the ability to remember the last 8 devices. This is quite useful when sharing the speakers with friends.

All of these new features are great but in the end it’s really all about sound quality and I must say that it is very good considering its size and reasonable price (well I say reasonable compared to other Bose products). Comparing it to my Divoom Onbeat 500 at low volume it’s hard to notice much difference but as you increase the volume you will clearly hear the SoundLink Color start to pull away. It definitely has a richer base, the mids and highs are more defined and vocals are a lot clearer. To be fair, the cost of the Divoom is half the price so it’s still a good buy considering. Now compared to the SoundLink Mini it’s very hard to notice much difference but the Mini does have slightly punchier base but that doesn’t mean the Color feels lacking. It still has that Bose signature base punch. Vocals on the Color at least to my ears seems clearer compared on the Mini.

Verdict:

If you are looking for a portable Bluetooth speaker at the US$100-150 range then this should be on the top of your list. Bose really did a great job in bringing its signature quality sound down to this price level. The Mini still sounds slightly better but it is also 35% more expensive. If you factor in the better battery life and the USB charging I would still choose the Color over the Mini.

The Good:

  • -          Signature Bose sound quality
  • -          USB charging
  • -          Price


The Bad:

  • -          8 hrs battery life is good but competitors are already at 10-15 hrs
  • -          No case included
  • -          No NFC
  • -          No speaker phone function

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Asus MeMo Pad 8 Review (ME-181C)


Asus had been on a new product streak lately with their ZenFone and MeMo Pad series. Locally, they announced the MeMo Pad 7 but have not announced the MeMo Pad 8. But I was able to get the 8 from Amazon, so again let’s list down and specs and see if I liked it.

Specs:

·         AndroidTM 4.4
·          8" LED Backlight WXGA (1280x800) Screen
  IPS Panel with 10 finger multi-touch support
·          Intel® Atom™ Z3745 Quad-Core, 1.33 GHz
·         1GB RAM
·         16GB eMMC
5GB Life Time ASUS Webstorage Space
  with an additional 11GB for the first year
·         WLAN802.11 b/g/n
Bluetooth V4.0
·          2 MP Front Camera ( 720p Video Recording )
5 MP Rear Camera with Auto focus( 1080p Video Recording )
·          Stereo Speakers with SonicMaster technology
·          1x Micro USB
 1 × 2-in-1 Audio Jack (Headphone / Mic-in) 
       1 × Micro SD Card Reader,up to 64GB
·           G-Sensor
·           9 hours; 15.2Wh Li-polymer Battery *3
 GPS & GLONASS

Design and Performance:

I think Asus has really done an amazing  job in terms of design for the new MeMo Pad line. Just to make sure there's no confusion, the models I’m referring here are the newer ones based on the Intel Atom processor. The older models are based on a different processor. I really like the slim design of this tablet. It’s light and can easily be held in one hand. The back is made of a textured plastic material which feels grippy and also less prone to fingerprints. Asus actually also makes a 7-inch model with very similar design and specs and with only minor differences like cameras, etc.

MeMo Pad 8 vs Note 3



This time Asus decied to go with am Intel Atom processor instead of the usual Mediatek or Qualcom. I think Intel has been very aggressive in their pricing as even Acer, Lenovo and Dell have decided to use Intel. Perfromance is actually very good. The benchmarks alone will blow you away. Though all they really do is give a picture of how it compares to other devices. I had no problems using my usual apps and games as most of them ran rather fast. When I say most of them, I mean about 95% of the apps I used worked well. There are still a few apps and games that would either hang or would not load at all. An example is the game, Edge of Tomorrow. I’m guessing it has something to do with the Intel chipset. However, to be fair I received about 3 system updates since I got this tablet so I’m hoping Asus will fix the bugs soon. The screen is 1280x800 IPS which is vivid and bright and with very good viewing angles. Do I wish it had a full HD screen, yes of course, but you have to realize that Asus had to cut some corners to make its price point. On the upside, it probabaly performs better as the processor does not have to work so hard. Battery life is also great. Asus claims 9 hours and so far, I’m getting pretty close to that number.









Verdict:

There are many choices when it comes to Android tablets and more and more manufacturers seem to be using Intel as their choice of processor.  In the end, it all comes down to price versus performance. For the price, it’s really hard to beat the Memo Pad series. In fact, the best bang for your buck is the MeMo Pad 7 which sells on Amazon for just US$125 and that’s the 16GB. For some strange  reason Asus Philippines only sells the MeMo Pad 7 locally  for Php 6,995 but it has only 8GB of memory. For US$150 it’s still hard to beat the Asus MeMo Pad 8.

The Good:

-         Price and Performance
-         Slim and light
-         Battery life
-         Nice IPS screen
-         Loud speakers

The Bad:

-         Some app compatibility issues
-         Screen is not full HD

-         New model coming soon

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Acer Iconia W4 Review


When deciding between tablets, the obvious choice might be an Android or an iPad. There's actually another choice. It might come as a surprise that it's a Windows tablet. I’m not talking about Windows Phone or RT but a copy of full blown Windows 8.1.  There are a few Windows tablets out in the market made by Dell, Asus, Lenovo and Toshiba. I decided to go with the Acer Iconia W4.  Aside from being one of the cheapest, it has additional unique features. Let’s list down the specs and see if I made the right decision.

Specs:

-         Intel Atom Z3740 Quad-Core Processor 1.3Ghz
-         2GB RAM
-         32 OR 64GB Flash Memory
-         8 Inch IPS LCD 1280X800 Screen
-         5MP Rear and 2MP front cameras
-         WIFI B/G/N AND Bluetooth
-         Mini HDMI port
-         Micro SD expansion slot
-         4960mAh Battery
-         Windows 8.1 OS
-         Microsoft Office Student Edition 2013
-         US$199 (32GB) $250 (64GB) on Amazon
-         About Php14,000 locally for the 32GB model but comes with a free Bluetooth keyboard    case

Design and Performance:

First of all, I have to admit that among the other 8-inch Windows tablet, the Acer is not the smallest or the nicest-looking. But it does make up for it in other ways which I will get into later. However, despite being the biggest, it’s still quite compact and since most of us end up getting cases for our tablets anyway, looks don’t really matter that much when the tablet's covered up. The screen is an IPS 1280x800 resolution which is starting to show its age by 2014 standards. To be fair, all 8-inch Windows tablets in this class have the same resolution. Thankfully, it’s an IPS screen which is nice and bright with very good viewing angles which is a huge improvement over last year’s W3. Performance has also been improved by the Atom Z3740 processor which is nice and zippy with really great battery life. I’m getting about 8 plus hours. Most people ask me how the performance of the new Atom processor is, given that the first thing you think of when you mention Atom is “Netbook”. I have to say I’m really quite surprised. Especially if you stick to native Windows 8 apps, everything is quite fast and fluid. In fact, you can even do some light gaming. However, Windows 8.1 as a full tablet operating system is a whole other review all together. Let’s just say it really needs a lot of work and is quite behind iOS and Android. But like I said, stick to native Windows 8 apps then it’s really not that bad.  In fact, I was quite surprised by the number of app selections as most of the apps I regularly use are available on the Windows store.







One of the unique features of this Acer (why you would choose this over other tablets) is its mini HDMI port which allows you to connect to a TV or Monitor. Pair it up with a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse and you’ve got yourself a desktop PC. With the free Microsoft Office that comes with it you can be very productive with this little machine. While you may be tempted to get the 32GB model, I would suggest you spend the extra cash for the 64GB as Windows takes about 15GB. Plus you have to account for the large Windows updates you’ll be doing regularly. As for the camera it’s just okay. But it's only because I’m usually less critical on tablet cameras as compared to those on a phone. I’ll still post some sample shots and you can be the judge.
Windows uses about 13GB (including Acer bloatware)

W4 vs iPad Mini


  
Sample photo 

Verdict:

This is where it gets complicated. I think an 8-inch Windows tablet targets a very specific user. If you are the person who likes to browse the web, read books, plays games then you're probably better off with an iPad or Android tablet. You will have a better experience and a wider selection of apps made specifically for tablets.

So why would you want a tablet like this? Well, if you have specific programs that only work with Windows or if you really need the full Microsoft Office then this just might be for you. This tablet only costs $199 for the 32GB version and remember it comes with a free copy of Office which itself costs $140 that means technically, you are only paying $59.  That is a fantastic value and one of the reasons I got this tablet. In fact, just to prove my point I’m writing this review on this tablet and all the way to posting which I would normally do on my laptop.

The Good:

-        Fast Processor
-        Good battery life
-         Bright IPS screen
-         Mini HDMI port
-         Free copy of Microsoft Office
-         Price

The Bad:

-         Relatively low res screen
-         Windows needs to be more tablet friendly
-         Camera
-         Soft speakers

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Cherry Mobile Pulse Mini Review



It’s been a while since I reviewed any phones and now I finally get to review the Pulse Mini. Surprisingly, this is my first time to review a Cherry Mobile phone. A few weeks ago, Cherry Mobile announced the release of the Pulse and the Pulse Mini. The Pulse is a higher-end offering with an Octa-Core chip while the Mini is more of a budget offering with just a Dual-Core chip but at an affordable price of just Php 2,799.  Let’s list down the specs and see if this budget smart phone is really worth it.

Specs:

- 1Ghz MTK 6572 Dual Core
-Android 4.2 Jellybean
-Dual SIM / Dual Standby
-5MP Camera/ VGA Front Camera
-4.0-inch Capacitive WVGA IPS Touchscreen
-ROM: 4GB RAM: 512MB
-3.5mm Stereo Audio Jack
-HSPA+
-WiFi/GPS/AGPS/Bluetooth
-Expandable Micro SD up to 32GB
-w/ Double Tap to wake feature (to be confirmed)
-1300 mAh Battery
- 15month warranty
-Price: Php 2,799

Design, Features and Performance:

When I first saw the press shots of this phone, I couldn’t help but notice that it had a very slim profile. But after seeing the actual unit, it is really just the rounded back that gives it the illusion. It’s an all-plastic construction but to be honest, at this price range, the fit and finish is quite acceptable and I do like the way the capacitive buttons light up.






One of the benefits of improving technology is that you get to see stuff that used to be exclusive to more expensive products finally trickle down to more affordable offering. One of the most surprising feature of the Pulse Mini is the IPS screen. It really makes quite a difference when you’re using the phone. While the rest of the specs might be you would expect at this price range, because of the screen’s better color and viewing angles, it gives you a more enjoyable experience than what you would expect. The performance of the Dual-Core processor is just average and while playing some games like Temple Run, Zombie Killer, SOD and Bubble Shoot showed  acceptable gameplay performance. As long as you keep it to casual games then you should be fine. Navigating around the device was also quite fluid and with minimal lag, however I can’t help but imagine how much better it would have been if they had installed Kitkat OS instead of Jellybean.

Dual SIM management is your standard Android affair. However, I like that both SIMs support 3G and you just need to select which one to use. SIM 1 is Micro and SIM 2 is standard size.  Battery performance might be an issue for some as the 1300mAh was down to 60% after using  it for about 30 minutes. Granted I was doing demanding stuff like Benchmarks and heavy game testing. Photo quality is not one of this phone’s strengths. I could not seem to get it to auto- focus. The video seems to be limited to 640x480 resolution even at the highest setting. I’ll post sample photos, videos and benchmarks below.


















VGA Front camera


Verdict:

I have to say that it is quite difficult to choose a phone from Cherry Mobile’s line up. You have to be very careful in looking at the specs. For example, the Pulse Mini is Php2,799 but the Life 2 with a Quad Core processor is Php 2,999. You could easily pick other models like the Ruby, Marble, etc., all of which are just a few hundred pesos from each other.  I really don’t know how Cherry keeps track of all these models and I can only imagine it must be an inventory nightmare. But the real killer specs on the Pulse Mini is the IPS screen. It really does make a difference. However, if you have the extra cash to spare, I would suggest the Flare 3 at Php 3,999 as  it does seem to offer the best bang for your buck.

The Good:

-        - IPS Screen
-        - Dual SIM and HSPA+
-         - Capacitive Buttons look nice

The Bad:

-         - 1300mAh Battery

-         - Jelly Bean OS not KitKat