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Friday, March 28, 2014

Kata i3 Review





After having reviewed a few Kata phones and tablets, I’m curious and excited to see what’s new in their product line. It seems that they are listening to their customers since the i3 gives off a very good first impression. Let’s see if this stunning new phone is not just a pretty face. But first I’ll list down the specs:

Specs:

-          1.3Ghz Quad-Core MT6582
-          5” HD 1280x720 Display
-          Mali-400 GPU
-          1GB RAM
-          16GB Internal Storage (Micro SD Expansion)
-          Wifi/3G/HSPA+/GPS
-          Dual SIM/Dual Standby
-          13MP Back and 5MP front camera
-          Bluetooth 4.0
-          2250mAh Battery
-          Android 4.2.2
-          Free screen protector, Leather Case and Smart SIM
-          Price 8,499 (Promo Price)

Design and Performance

Did I not emphasize enough that I really like the design of this phone? It really is refreshing to see KATA is stepping up their game by offering a more premium-looking product than the competition. While the body is still made out of plastic, it has that “high quality” kind of plastic build. The design has some elements of Sony Xperia but not in a bad copy cat kind of way. Build quality is quite good although I did have a problem with the power button getting stuck. This could be because this demo unit and looks like it has gone through more than a few reviewers like me.  Performance is very snappy and navigating around the phone has no lags. I loaded my favorite apps and games and all of them ran smoothly. Real Racing 2, which is a power hog was a joy to use with just very little lag but still very much playable. The screen is a 5” HD screen with only 294ppi but to be honest, you’ll be hard pressed to notice a difference with a full HD screen. Colors are nice and bright with very good viewing angles. I really like that KATA has included 16GB internal storage as most of the competition only offer 8GB or sometimes even less. Battery life is average and will get you through a day of normal usage. However, a fair amount of game playing will result in a substantial amount of battery consumption. But I guess that’s normal with almost any phone at this price range. I find it weird that the battery is not removable since it has a removable plastic back for access to the SIMs and MicroSD cards seemingly for this purpose.  I’ll post some screen shots and benchmarks below.




Kata i3 vs Note 3

Kata i3 vs Note 3



Camera

Spec-wise, the 13MP back and 5MP front should in theory provide you with good quality photos. But in actual photos, it was just average. Although in good light, I was actually quite pleased. I’m not sure low light is this camera’s forte.  I’ll post some sample photos and you can judge for yourself.


With HDR ON


Front Camera


Verdict

All in all, I’m quite impressed with the i3. It’s mostly all very positive feedback. With only the non- removable battery being the biggest pitfall, for me. Kata has really stepped up their game and as always, seems to give the consumer a little extra for their hard-earned money, like the 16GB of storage, free screen protector and case. If you are looking a phone in this price range, look no further and check out the i3. I for one, can’t wait to see what Kata has in store for us next.

The Good:

-         - Nice Screen
-          -16GB of internal storage
-          -Almost stock Android 4.2.2
-          -Slim Design

The Bad:

-         - Non removable battery with just average battery life

-          -Average camera

Friday, March 14, 2014

Compro TN50W Network Camera Review



It has been an obsession of mine for the past years to find the best home network camera. My job involves a lot of traveling and I always want to be connected to check on the kids. My first IP camera was a Linksys WVC54GA. The next one I got was from CD-R King which didn’t last that long. My last one was a webcam connected to my Sapido Router. While all of them worked, they were not so reliable as I had to use a DNS service. Not to mention the hassle of setting up your router for port forwarding. The first time I heard of an easy-to-set-up network camera is from a company called Dropcam. Their claim is to have the easiest hassle-free set-up and no port forwarding need. The Dropcam is a bit expensive at $150. Not to mention that it is only available for purchase in the U.S. In one of my usual Viramall trips, I chanced upon a network camera which had similar specs to the Dropcam from a company called Compro. After some research, I decided to try my luck and purchased the Compro TN50W.

Specs can be found at http://www.comprousa.com/en/surveillance/product/tn50/index2.html

Design and Features

Design-wise there is really nothing special about the TN50W. It looks like any generic network camera. Definitely not as funky looking as the Dropcam. But then it’s also not as expensive. At Php4,600, it seems like a bargain compared to the $150 or Php6,700 Dropcam.  I also have to mention that Compro makes a wide range of surveillance and network cameras. The TN50W is one of their most basic and entry-level models. Higher models have IR, tilt /pan and other range of features. They literally have one for every budget. One of the features that really persuaded me, aside from the easy set-up is the fact that you could download a companion app for iOS and Android. This is something I have always wanted to try. With the old network cameras I’ve used, I’ve always complained that they should have never been market as a personal consumer product as it was pain to set up and there was no way a non-technical person could possibly figure out port forwarding.  This is the complete opposite of the TN50W. It actually took me less than five minutes to set it up. All you need to do is follow a few simple steps: plug your camera to the router, download the app, take a photo of the QR code at the back of the camera using the app, complete the signup page and that’s it! Another feature I really like is the ability to make 2- way voice calls. One of the first few times I used it, I heard my to kids arguing so I came on the speaker and told them to stop it. The initial shock on their faces upon hearing my voice from out-of-the-blue is priceless. I told them, “Daddy is watching you like a hawk!” Oh, I loved it!










Verdict

While it may seem that I’m all praises for this camera, there are small items that I wish they would improve on like, a wider-angle lens and better speaker volume. Video quality is also limited to VGA. If you decide to get a model that supports HD, remember that your bandwidth will also take a hit. But these are minor problems and I’m really nit picking. Besides, if you want more features you can always get a higher model. Also, I have to note that other manufacturers like D-Link, Linksys and others have their own versions of easy setup network cameras. Overall, I’m really satisfied with the TN50W. It’s reasonably priced with loads of features and it’s very easy to set-up. I can definitely recommend this for anyone who needs to watch over a home or small office.

The Good:

-        - Price
-         -Very easy setup
-         -App for iOS and Android
-         -Ability to record and have up to 4 cameras
-         -Motion sensor

The Bad:

-        - Weak speaker

-         -A wider angle lens would have been better

Logitech Mini Boombox Review



One of the hottest selling consumer electronics gadgets now aside from mobile devices are bluetooth speakers. There are so many of them in the market that it is really difficult to choose the best one. Last year, I posted a review of the Divoom Bluetune Pop which was a great little speaker. It served its purpose of getting better sound from my tablet and phone. This time however, I need something with a little more “Oomph!” I needed to search for a bigger set of portable speakers for less than $100 or Php 4,000. Obviously, that meant leaving out my favorite Bose Soundlink mini which is about $200. I was able to narrow down my list between the Braven 440 and the Logitech UE Mobile Boombox. Both were about Php 3,700 – 4,500 in Greenhills and sound very similar. The Braven did have more features like being water resistant and the ability to use it as a powerbank. However, while I was looking around, I found the Logitech Mini Boombox for Php2,700 which is the older model UE Mobile Boombox before Logitech acquired UE. I figured that since I won’t be using it everyday, I decided to get the Logitech Mini Boombox and save some cash. Let’s see if I made the right choice.

Design and Use

First of all, all three speakers have almost the same size and shape. The Braven and the UE have a more rugged look while the Mini Boombox has a more subtle design with nice looking backlit capacitive touch buttons. Personally, it looks like something you would like to display on your desk. While the other two would look more suited for use at the beach or somewhere outdoors.  All three have speaker phone functionality and have about 10-12 hours of playtime. I was able to test mine for about 11 hours and it still had some charge left.  Bluetooth pairing was fast and simple, although you have to hold down the bluetooth button on the speaker for 4 secs. when pairing to a new device.





Sound Quality and Verdict

This is where it gets tricky. Sound quality is very subjective and to be honest, if you put all three side-by-side and play your tunes at the highest volume, then the Braven 440 and UE actually sound better. I noticed that they had less distortion at max volume and better handling of the higher range. However, I don’t usually play at full volume. In fact, I normally just keep my volume levels at a comfortable 50-80%. At that range the Mini Boombox sounds better and louder with a richer base at least to my ears. I would suggest if you are someone who uses a Bluetooth speaker everyday, then perhaps spending more for the feature-rich Braven 440 might be better buy. But for the occasional user like me, you can save 1000 bucks and get Logitech Mini Boombox as it still sounds really good.

The Good:

-        -  Loud sound with good base
-         - Price
-          -Backlit touch controls

The Bad:
-        
           -  Older model
-         - Case not included
-          -Mini instead of the usual mico UBS charging
-Need to press bluetooth button for 4 secs when pairing a new device
-          -Distorts at max volume

Pebble Smart Watch Review



There are many tech company start-up success stories. The most famous would probably be Apple. They started out building computers in a garage and today they are a multi-billion dollar tech giant. For those of you not familiar with Pebble, their idea was to have a watch that could simply display messages from your smartphone. Initially, they were unable to raise enough funds from investors so they decided to put their hopes as a Kickstarter project trying to raise a capital of $100,000. People loved it so much that they were able to raise more that $10 million and became the most successful kickstarter project to date. To be honest, when they first came out on Kickstarter the idea seemed really cool but it didn't really appeal to me that much.  However, as you will see during the course of my review it is something that grows on you and something you really have to use to appreciate. But before I get ahead of myself, let's look at the specs and see what the Pebble watch really is.

Specs

- 1.26-inch, 144 × 168 pixel e-paper display
- LED backlight
- Optical hard coating for scratch resistance
- Bluetooth 4.0
- 3D accelerometer
- e-compass capable (with future software updates)
- Ambient light sensor
- Processor: ARM Cortex-M3, up to 80MHz
- Operating system: Pebble OS
- Lithium-ion polymer battery
- 5-7 days between charges
- USB charging cable with magnetic connector included
- 5 ATM water resistance
- Case: 52mm L × 36mm W × 11.5mm T Band: 22mm wide
- Weight: 38g / 1.34oz (including standard band)
- US$149

Usability

The Pebble is not the first smartwatch in history nor is it the most technologically advanced. In fact, it doesn't even have a touch screen. What makes Pebble such a success is its simplicity. It has 4 buttons to navigate through its very simple menu systems. It pairs with your iPhone or Android phone through Bluetooth and will show your messages, email, and various notifications on the watch screen. The screen uses an e-ink display similar to ebook readers like the Amazon Kindle. It's screen is nice and bright with good visibility even in direct sunlight. It also has a motion-activated backlight for indoor use. One thing that has led to the success of the Pebble was opening up their software which has created a very large community of active developers. There are now hundreds of apps available, from being able to change watch faces, running apps to being able to control your phones GPS and camera. Really, the possibilities are endless especially now that Pebble has made their own app store including a new software update which consolidates most of the apps that you have had to previously search and install separately.


I designed my own watchface using Pebble Canvas


Works with Runkeeper
Pebble App


Verdict

What Pebble really does best is showing you data from your phone whether it’s a message or information from an app and then you can decide if you need to use your phone. While it may sound counterintuitive, it is something you really need to use to understand and appreciate, then you quickly realize how you managed all along without it. It’s not all good though, the watch once froze up once and all the buttons where unresponsive. I had to wait 5 days for the battery to drain before I could do a reset. However, these seem like bugs that can easily be fixed in a firmware update.

Last January, the Pebble Steel was introduced which is basically a steel version of the watch with a more elegant design albeit a higher US$249 price tag. I have to admit it really does look nice but if you want to use it for outdoors or for sports then you're probably better off getting the plastic Pebble. While I can't recommend it yet for everyone, as this is still generation one of smartwatches, it does have its uses. I can see a huge market for women who usually keep their phones in their bag and have to keep fishing it out. There are 2 drawbacks to having a smart watch. The first, being another device you need to charge (to be fair I've been getting about 5-6 days before needing to recharge) and the another is that I have found it so useful that I have not used any of my other watches for almost three months.


The Good:

- Bright display
- 1 week battery
- Waterproof
- Good selection of Apps and Watch faces

The Bad:

- Design is not for everyone
- Proprietary charging cable
- Limited memory