Archive for May, 2008

Nokia BH-201 Bluetooth Headset Review

It used to be that Bluetooth headsets were geeky toys that very few people used. The growing concern of talking while driving plus the fact that they’ve come down drastically in price has now made headsets a common sight.

Here’s Nokia’s BH-201. It’s a small somewhat stylish headset.

Size-wise the 201 is similar to other headsets – it’s about as small as you want it to be. Any smaller and it gets difficult to use.

There is a small status LED on the inward facing side. I like that it’s small and faces that direction, since it’s more subtle. Unless you’re at a Star Trek convention some don’t find it fashionable to walk around with something glowing in their ear.

There are 3 buttons, a volume rocker switch that moves back to front, an answer button on the outward facing side and a power button on the inward facing side. You can put a lanyard through a hole on the back.

The 201 attaches to your ear using a soft rubber ring that fits just outside the ear canal. It’s fairly easy to put on and doesn’t fatigue your ear that badly.

In my ear, the 201 fits quite securely. Headsets that fit securely are great if you have an active life style (when you run for the bus, run to catch taxi’s, etc.) but they also tend to be more noticeable to the wearer. I found myself adjusting it every couple of hours.

I paired the headset with my Motorola RAZR2 V9. A phone with pretty good sound quality.

Sound quality is okay. I thought it was slightly harsh sounding but it’s not bad. Volume-wise the outgoing was a little on the quiet side; you’ll have to talk up. Incoming was also a little too quiet for my taste.

To test static, I put the headset on my right ear and held my phone with my left hand while I walked around swinging my arms. There was a little bit of static. As long as you keep your phone still (in your pockets) you should be fine static-wise.

Over all the Nokia is about average to slightly above average. I like its subtle design and sensible button layout. It’s easy to put on/remove and has a fairly secure fit plus it’s reasonably comfortable to wear. The fly in the ointment is it’s low volume levels.

Howard Chui
05.29.2008

Discuss at HowardForums.

Add comment May 29th, 2008

Motorola RAZR2 V9 review

The Motorola V3 was one of the best selling mobile phones in history. By 2006, Motorola had sold over 50 Million units of the V3 and its variants. It was a breakthrough in mobile phone design due to its ultra slim, sleek and minimalistic approach to what a handset should be. This industry leading accomplishment in space saving technology has proven a massive success with consumers and has made the V3 one of the most popular phone models ever.

When Howard first handed me the phone, I was very surprised by how the phone was weighted. It has the presence of a luxury watch.

The battery door of the V9 has a rubber paint finish and is very soft and smooth to sight and touch, yet it also provides a good grip. The phone itself has a very nice finish to it with a very rich and luxurious shine. The sides of the phone are textured so you don’t have to be afraid of the phone slipping out of your hand. First impressions are very important and the V9 knows this, it is very luxurious, sublime and poised. When you look at it, it demands your attention; it demands to be taken seriously.

When you first lay eyes on the V9 you can’t help but notice the large external screen coming in just shy of 2.0”. Flip it open and you’re welcomed by a nicely-sized 2.2” internal screen. The V9 is equipped with a 3G WCDMA/HSDPA chip allowing for high-speed connectivity which allows for high data speeds and lower latency which is a welcomed feature to those who would like to use the Video Calling feature.

Speaking of Video Calling, a 2.0 Megapixel Camera is planted onto the V9 and sports a modest 8x Digital Zoom.

As expected from modern phones, the V9 also has a Bluetooth (with EDR 2+) connectivity; the neat thing about Bluetooth connectivity in the V9 is that it supports A2DP thus allowing for users to listen to music through a Bluetooth headset.

Going back to how the phone looks and feel; flipping open the phone is a very familiar sight to the V9’s older brother (the V3). The V9 has a very similar keyboard to the first RAZR. Flat and made out of a thin sheet of metal. In the past I’ve heard and read mixed reviews about the keys on the V3 and I actually lean on the negative side as I sort of dislike the keys.

They’re very flat and do not provide me with enough tactile response or feedback that I prefer and receive from other keypads. It’s lacking that certain “click” factor when I press the buttons. The worst of the buttons is the ‘up’ button the navigation pad. It seems to have less travel than the other 3 direction buttons. The centre directional pad has a very strange texture which reminds me of the bottom of a non-stick cooking skillet. Having said that, the keypad is engraved with numbers and symbols, making it some-what easy for those with impaired vision to make phone calls. A word of advice, driving and texting does not count as being vision impaired and taking advantage of the engraved keypad is HIGHLY DISCOURAGED when using this phone or any other phones for that matter.

Five external keys are embedded onto the phone with 3 on the left side and 2 on the right. They function as volume adjustment keys; one functions as a shutter button when the camera feature is activated, two function as ringer-style switchers, and one functions as an external key lock toggle. Anyways, you can read all of that in the manual.

At the time when I was taking notes down to write this review I had a very busy week. I had a lot of errands around Toronto and the GTA. I had to drop off my defective camera over at Mississauga, geek-lunch in downtown Toronto, going around and about at the Northern part of Toronto and into Richmond Hill. I was either on public transportation or in the case of the Northern areas of the GTA, I was driving. It was a very hectic week but it was also the perfect week to test the phone’s reception performance. Overall and as has been my experience with Motorola phones, the V9’s reception is great and I had no problems with it.

Perhaps the most notable network connectivity performance out of the V9 is its 3G connectivity. It’s strong and it’s seamless when it comes to hopping from one cell broadcast tower to another. It’s marvelous and it out performs most of the Smartphones I have. I remember a few particular instances where the HTC TyTN II would lose its 3G connectivity when I walked or drove past certain areas in Toronto.

While we’re on the subject of 3G, I have to mention one thing that stuck out as a major negative: it really impacts the battery life of the V9. I’m only able to get about 3/4 day’s worth of battery life with the 3G turned on which includes a mildly long conversation (2 to 3 hrs) followed by a continued long conversation over SMS.

I decided to call up a good friend of mine on his land-line and use him as a test subject. I was surprised by how brilliant, clear, and un-filtered the incoming sound quality was. But it doesn’t end there, when I asked several people how I sounded through the V9 some said I sounded crystal clear! It possesses the sound-quality of a land-line phone. Both the incoming and outgoing sound are processed in such a way that eliminates unwanted noise pitches allowing your communication with the other person to remain clear, crisp and very pleasant, which remains a rare result even in this day and age. It’s all thanks to the new technology called the Crystal Talk that Motorola has developed. But it’s not all cute kittens and puppies as turning on the speaker phone yields nothing but at best very average results. Most of the time it’s terrible and the person comes out sounding like a rocker with strep throat.

When comparing image results between camera phones and a real point and shoot camera, the photos that come out from most mobile phones’ cameras are never really quality photos. They’re more like noisy artifacts that contain some bits of shapes and sometimes the faces of people. The V9 is not an exception to that. The photos that come out of the V9’s camera are decent for a camera phone but nothing overly impressive in comparison to real cameras.

I was pleasantly surprised that Motorola has a new music player for the v9 (I haven’t seen it before on a Synergy phone anyways). It’s under the ‘Media Finder’ program. From the Media Finder program you can also view your pictures, videos, listen to ringtones and change wallpapers. You can control the music player from the external display along with the standby display. There are 3 touch buttons on the bottom of the external display.

Perhaps the best thing about the v9 is that it comes with Opera Mini. Opera mini is a fantastic solution for a device with the v9′s form factor and limitations. You can use it to browse full websites with ease.

I’m an OS X user and at the time of writing I’m running OS X 10.5.2 which has iSync 3.0 (build: 568.0). The kindest thing I can say about the connectivity to my Macs (I have a Mac Pro, and a Macbook Pro) is it’s not quite finished. But the blame is on Apple for neglecting iSync and not providing the much needed update for newer or more recent phones. However, I’m not about let some big iFruit company prevent me from syncing my calendar, contacts, and files with the V9.

I decided to write up a small iSync plug-in for the V9. I looked up on Google for how to write my own plug-in for the V9. It’s pretty time consuming and troublesome but in the end I did manage to get my syncing done, well… sort of. Now, I’m not sure if I botched some code or if it’s a limitation in iSync but I am unable to sync my calendar or perform a file transfer through Bluetooth. The only syncing that I can confirm to be working is contact syncing. So, if you’re a Mac OS X user, you’ve been warned but you might have better luck than I do.

Like most Rogers phones the v9 ships with some Rogers customizations. They’re not that great; probably the worst thing is their Vision software. While I don’t mind how Rogers prices Vision having a Vision app is a step down from using the apps that are integrated into the v9 (such as the music player).

When I first found out that the v9 was a Synergy phone I’ll be honest; I was pretty disappointed because I think it’s inferior to their newer Linux Java OS. I happen to also have a loaner RAZR2 V8 that’s running the most recent Linux and JAVA OS and indeed, it’s much more robust and faster. That said Synergy on the v9 isn’t that bad. The gave it a decent music player, Opera Mini plus the interface is blazingly fast. The text entry is still slightly unintuitive (if you’re not used to a Motorola phone).

The hardware is pretty good, it lives up to its predecessor and surpasses it.

Jason Bourne
05.25.08

Discuss at HowardForums.com

4 comments May 25th, 2008

Blackberry Bold Video

Here the Blackberry Bold video:

FYI, the extra ‘button’ on each side is for the cradle.

11 comments May 21st, 2008

Blackberry Bold Preview

Okay, here it is; our very brief preview of the new Blackberry Bold AKA Blackberry 9000 AKA Meteor.

Our Bold is a preproduction unit. Things might change from now till when production units are available.

Compared to the previous series the 9000 brings all the various 8000 special features like GPS, WiFi, camera and puts it all in one device. You also get HSDPA (3G), a higher resolution display, faster processor, more user storage space (1GB), 3.5mm stereo jack (standard size so you can use your iPod’s headphones), external memory card slot (not internal) along with an extra side button and a possibly iPhone inspired look (I think of the look as ‘iBerry’).

Software-wise you get the latest version Blackberry OS 4.6. The most notable features of 4.6 is a more modern looking browser, new menu skin (it has animated menu icons and is more readable text because it’s high contrast).

Here’s the tour: If you look at the edges the Bold looks just like an iPhone except instead of being chromed (shiny) it’s a matte finish. The keys are very similar to the 8800 except they’re slightly flatter and have a bit more travel to them. I also found that I was less likely to accidentally press neighboring keys on the Bold – I’m not sure why. The trackball feels about the same.

On the left side there’s a hole for the left speaker a 3.5mm headphone jack, mini USB connector, voice recognition (convenience) key and Micro SD card slot. The last ‘button’ is for the cradle.

The right side has the other speaker, the other cradle connector, camera button (convenience key) and volume buttons.

On top you get a mute button, the power button has migrated to the END key (for better or for worse, probably for better since it was kind of confusing to have 2 identical feeling buttons on top).

The bottom has the microphone and rear cover release key. I’m not sure what the other hole is for

The screen has a resolution of 480×320 which is noticably sharper than the 8800′s 320×240. Text is crisper, that sort of thing. The finish on the screen cover is more matte and doesn’t reflect as much light. It’s also noticeably brighter. It reminds of the first gen (current gen) iPhone.

The plastics used in the Bold feel a little cheaper than the 8800′s. One difference though is that the Bold will have a pleather back (or so I’ve been told – the one I have is just regular plastic). The Bold’s also slightly lighter which makes it feel less substantial. Their footprint’s are about the same, though the Bold has more curves.

Out going sound quality is terrific. Incoming doesn’t have much his but it’s slightly muddy sounding. Hopefully this will fixed in the production version.

The speaker is really loud and has reasonable fidelity.

Software wise the menu’s look has been updated. The new browser renders pages like they would on a desktop computer. Aside from those 2 changes the Bold doesn’t feel all that different.

RF wise the Bold is noticeably better than the 8800. It’s able to place and hold onto calls where the 8800 can’t. Sound quality is also noticeably better. What’s great is this Bold is a pre-production unit so RF and sound quality might get even better (who knows?).

It’s too soon to conclude much but really with the exception of the build quality (which is slightly worse) the Bold is a noticeable improvement in almost every aspect.

We’ll have some more pictures and possibly a video later so stay tuned.

31 comments May 20th, 2008

Blackberry Bold Preview coming

More pics to come.

1 comment May 20th, 2008

RIM launches new BlackBerry Bold

Here’s the BlackBerry Bold AKA the 9000. Besides a different look it has:

  • 480×320 display
  • faster 624Mhz processor
  • 1GB memory + Micro SDHC slot
  • Tri-band HSDPA
  • 802.11abg WiFi
  • GPS
  • speaker independent voice dial
  • 1500mAh battery
  • included Documents to Go (lets you edit Office files)
  • improved web browser
  • 2 megapixel camera with flash

Read more at:

http://www.blackberry.com/blackberrybold/360/

and

http://press.rim.com/release.jsp?id=1562

5 comments May 12th, 2008

Rogers launches Nokia n95 8GB

The Nokia n95 8GB is a great phone. If you’re Canadian and been itching for a carrier branded version complete with carrier customizations your wait is over.

Rogers just announced that they’re going to be carrying the n95 8GB. It’s going to be 399.99 on a 3 year (not sure if that’s on a Vision plan) or 599.99 straight up. The n95 8GB will be locked to Rogers.

One of the data plans available for it is 20 bucks a month, unlimited on device browsing (using Nokia’s terrific s60 browser), 2500SMS, “100′s” of MMS (the Rogers guy’s words) and unlimited web email. If you sign up on a 3 year then you also get unlimited Vision. The $7 unlimited on device browsing plan is also available.

If you add your own apps or use the Nokia email client (for POP or iMAP) then data is billed per kb (so don’t use your Slingbox unless you have WiFi). I asked how they can differentiate between the different types of data. One guy said they use deep packet inspection (the same thing Rogers uses to throttle bittorrent).

There are the typical Rogers customizations; separate Vision app, Music store that doesn’t work with the built-in music player, that sort of thing. It also appears to come with Telenav (which you have to pay to use) – Nokia’s mapping program is also available.

While I’m not thrilled with the customizations, I’m lukewarm about the plans. The data plans are incredibly limiting but the n95 has a pretty good browser so that makes things a little easier to bear.

2 comments May 2nd, 2008


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