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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.


- 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
-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


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

Friday, August 22, 2014

TP-Link PowerLine Extender Kit Review TL-WPA281KIT

Not being able to get a good signal when your router is just in the next room is one of the biggest mysteries of WiFi. Take my case for example, I live in a condo and I have a relatively good WiFi Router (TP-Link Archer C7 AC, also reviewed here) which I place in my living room. But I only get one bar of signal in my bedroom. I have tried using a wireless range extender but the problem with that is proper placement always seems to be a guessing game. After much research, I decided to try getting a powerline range extender. Basically, what it does is use your home’s electrical wiring to send data, just as if you would run a LAN cable throughout your home. Let's list down the specs and see if this ingenious device actually works.
  • Wireless-N 802.11n for fast wireless speeds and 802.11b/g backwards compatible.
  • HomePlug AV standard compliant, high-speed data transfer rate of up to 200Mbps, enough for HD video
  • Super Small Design with a new exterior, blends in completely in front of any power outlet
  • Up to 300 meters range over the household power circuit for better performance through walls or across floors
  • Easy Plug and Play operation, No configuration required
  • Patented Power-Saving Mode automatically reduces power consumption by up to 65%*
  • Establish a 128-bit AES encryption to secure powerline communications simply by pressing the Pair button on the adapter
  • Built-in QoS assures the quality of bandwidth sensitive applications such as voice, video and online games
  • Supports IGMP managed multicast IP transmission, optimises IPTV streaming
  • A wide range of plug type including EU, UK, AU and US ensures that it can be used nearly all over the world
  • Price Php 2,800.00

After reading a lot of reviews (and some horror stories) about using Powerline routers, I decided to take the plunge and get one. One of my biggest worries was that it would not work in a condominium as most reviews mostly mention houses. Another problem worth mentioning is that depending on how your house's wiring is done it may or may not work. One good thing I had going was that the store I bought if from allowed a 3-day change item policy if it did not work. After reading through the instructions, it seemed quite straightforward and easy. In fact, almost as simple as plug and play. You have to plug the transmitting unit to an electrical outlet near your router and then plug it using a LAN cable to your router. Next, plug your receiving unit to the room where you want and after pressing the pairing button it should work. Unfortunately, mine did not. After repeating the steps, still nothing. I tried going online and followed the trouble shooting tips on the support page. Still nothing. After about one hour, I was ready to give up and conclude that my condo's wiring was not compatible. I decided to give it one more try by pressing the hard reset button and start from scratch. Lo and behold, it worked! It paired up immediately and I was getting fully signal bars in my bedroom.
The model I got only has a speed of 200/Mbs to your router but 300/Mbs within WiFi range of your range extender. If you need faster speed, TP-Link does have other models but a higher price. You can even add another range extender if you have another room with poor signal. This is definitely the best way to improve your WiFi signal coverage in your home. When it works, it is very easy and simple to do. My only suggestion is to get some sort of exchange policy in the event your home's electrical system is not compatible.

The good:
- Works as advertised
- Easy and simple to install (when it works)

The bad:
- More expensive then regular range extenders

- Not compatible with all home wiring systems

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Creative SBS A120 Speaker Review

It's been a while since I posted a review, as I've been busy with my day job. But I do have some reviews lined up in the coming weeks. One of my latest purchases is the Creative Labs SBS A120 Multimedia Speakers. With all the craze of Bluetooth speakers, one could easily dismiss a pair of plain old speakers especially one at this very affordable sub Php1000 price. While I'm very happy with my Divoom On-Beat 500 (which I also reviewed) I just needed a pair of speakers to improve the sound of my TV and Laptop, and I’m pleasantly surprised with this bargain purchase. Let's list down the specs:
System Configuration
- 2.1 system (4W Sub and 2.5 W Satellite with 75db signal to noise ratio)
- Connector Type
- Stereo Jack
- Wired Remote Control

Design and Sound Quality

First off, let's get one thing clear. This is a pair of budget speakers so don't expect Bose level of quality. With that said, I’m quite impressed with how Creative Labs was able to sell something like this at such a low price. The design is your typical 2.1 sound set up but quality and finish is actually quite good and it looks like it can last a few years of use. The only thing I noticed is that the cloth speaker cover could get easily punctured and that it is a bit of a dust magnet. My expectations were really low so I was quite impressed with the sound quality that I bought it right away after testing it. It has a good amount of base although I found the mids and highs a bit lacking but still quite good given the price. Connectors are standard but what I really liked was the included computer mouse-looking wired remote that really comes in handy when trying to adjust the volume quickly.

While this may not be the best sounding speakers out there, it is probably the best sounding for its price. I was able to get it for Php 850 but I've seen some deals for as low as Php 699. And at that price it is an absolute buy if only to improve the sound quality of your PC or even your TV. I hope Creative will make future models with built-in Bluetooth and even if they double the price, it would still be a winner.

The Good:
- Price
- Sound Quality
- Wired volume remote

The Bad:

- speaker covers are dust magnets