Archive for January, 2010

T-Mobile upgrades network to 7.2Mbps

T-Mobile has just upgraded their entire HSPA network to 7.2Mbps.

The 7.2Mbps service is backwards compatible with existing 1.8Mbps and 3.6Mbps HSPA phones.

Add comment January 5th, 2010

Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 coming to Rogers soon

The Android powered Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 is coming to Rogers sometime this quarter. No word on pricing (But based on the specs it won’t be free on a 3 year anytime soon).

It features Sony Ericsson’s UX user interface which sits on top of Android. It’s powered by a 1Ghz snapdragon processor and has a 4″ 854×480 pixel capacitive touch screen made of mineral glass. It has a 8.1megapixel camera and 1GB of built in memory (expandable using SDHC cards).

It features 2 signature applications: Timescape and Mediascape. Timescape lets you manage communication across Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Email and SMS. Mediascape is a picture and video manager that also works with YouTube.

2 comments January 5th, 2010

LG New Chocolate Review

Here’s the LG New Chocolate BL40. It’s an HSPA phone on TELUS. On paper the BL40 is decent; 5 megapixel camera,  4.0″ 800×354 touch screen with multi touch support, WiFi/BT, HTML browser, exchange support, etc. The front has a striking buttonless design and the overall phone is very long and thin unlike most phones – it’s form factor is almost chocolate-like.

Design wise there’s a 3.5mm headphone jack on top. On the left is a button which launches the music player. The right side has a camera shutter button along with volume buttons. There’s a camera with a flash on the back.

While the display causes everyone to take a second look at the new chocolate it has a big flaw. The bezel (the area next to the display) is quite narrow so it’s very difficult hold the BL40 without accidentally having part of your hand touch the display. This problem plagued me through my test process and I was never able to get used to it.

Another problem with the display is that it’s too long (or too tall). Apparently the display has the same aspect ratio as many movies but it’s not like the BL40 is powerhouse when it comes to watching video. In the end I found the display wastes a lot of pixels since most pictures and videos are much narrower so everything ends up being pillarboxed.

The home screen actually has 4 different displays. You can scroll between them by swiping left or right. You get a home screen which contains browser shortcuts, one which has program shortcuts, one with widgets and one with your favourite contacts. You also get 4 program shortcuts to the phone app, phone book, messaging app and the main menu which remain persistent across all 4 home screens. Also persistent across the 4 screens are a multitask button (easily the best thing about LG phones) and a worthless 3D button which allows you to move between the 4 home screens via a 3D cube which is slower than just swiping.

The main menu is LG’s S-Class interface. The S-Class interface looks really cool in pictures but is a headache if you have to use it. Basically, it breaks the main menu into 4 sections, communications, entertainment, utilities and settings. Each section gets a row which scrolls sideways. So if you have a communications-y program you want to access but don’t see you then you have to scroll the communications row sideways. If you rotate the phone into landscape mode then you get 4 rows with 8 icons each. There is no text for the icons when you do this.

As I mentioned earlier you can multitask with the BL40. While it’s a nice feature you can only keep around 3 to 6 apps open at once before you’re forced to close one if you want to open a new one. Despite that it’s still a nice feature.

In portrait mode you use a regular dial pad with T9 to enter test. I don’t have a problem with this since the display is too narrow for an on-screen QWERTY keyboard. In landscape mode there is a QWERTY keyboard. While not terrible I thought it was too short and long to use quickly.

The actual apps themselves aren’t horrible but the design of the BL40 makes them worse than they are.

The browser isn’t lacking in features – in fact it’s pretty competent. First off it can handle HTML webpages, there’s multitouch support so you can zoom in/out using 2 fingers. You get support for tabbed browsing and the phone can switch between landscape and portrait modes.

Anyways feature-wise I don’t have any complaints. The problem is the browser is slow and struggles with large webpages. It can be slow to respond when you’re scrolling. Another problem is that in portrait mode the BL40′s narrow design means text is very small while in landscape mode you have to scroll a lot.

You can tell LG knows people are going to have problems using the BL40 because each time you launch the browser it asks you if you really wanted to launch it. It also asks you if you want to use WiFi or the network – if WiFi was available why would I use the network?

One more problem is the power button. On most phones pressing the power button briefly turns the screen off. On the New Chocolate it just locks the screen so it doesn’t respond to touch, so the screen stays on. The big problem with this is that the screen stays on indefinitely when you do this. So I find myself constantly running out of juice and end up with a very warm phone. If you don’t press the power button the BL40′s screen will turn off eventually.

There is a Google link in the main menu but all it does contain shortcuts to different Google websites like Google Search, Blogger, Google Maps, Google Mail and YouTube. You can view YouTube videos – you go to youtube.com on the browser and then it will open up the videos in the video player.

Picture quality from the 5 megapixel auto focus camera with LED flash is slightly above average for a 5 megapixel camera phone. I did find it tends to blast subjects out (most camera phones do this) and it is a little cumbersome to use. It does have a ton of features including face detection, manual focus, different image size settings, geo-tagging, ISO settings, etc. One thing I hated about the camera is that it has the same problem as the browser were it won’t shut off if you press the power button.

Video records at 640×480 (talk about quality). Video quality is decent.

One area where I was quite surprised was how fast the BL40 is when you’ve connected it to your computer. I was able to copy/read files to a MicroSDHC at the same speed as my computer’s USB card reader. (around 10MB/s).

The image/video viewer is actually quite cool. In landscape mode it organizes items by day; you scroll up and down to change days and left/right to view each day’s photos/videos. Neat!

When viewing your videos the interface is actually pretty cool. Besides being able to move backwards/forward using a slider there are also thumbnails which you can use to move around inside the same video.

The music player has a pretty neat interface in both portrait and landscape mode. There is a 3.5mm headphone jack on top of the BL40.

Apparently the BL40 has Dolby sound. I figured this meant that the BL40 has an awesome built in speaker(s) but I found that the single speaker was very ordinary – it’s not very loud. Turns out it’s just a different sound DSP setting in the music player. There is a built in FM transmitter (as opposed to an FM tuner which the BL40 also has) so you can listen to stuff on the BL40 on your car stereo.

The Phone book works fine – while not included in the box (not mine anyways) you can download software to sync the BL40 with your PC. As far as text messaging goes the SMS client can thread conversations.

There is a built in email client that can handle POP, IMAP and even Exchange mail. I didn’t try the Exchange feature… I assume it’s for email only.

Other programs included on the BL40 are a calculator, unit converter, stopwatch, voice recorder, world clock, memopad, calendar, alarm clock and FM tuner.

RF performance is quite poor. Sound quality is average – it’s not terrible but it’s not great either. Maximum earpiece volume is also average.

At first I hated the New Chocolate. I hated it so much I couldn’t get myself to pick it up. Everytime I picked it up the battery would be dead because I thought I turned the screen off when in fact I didn’t, other times it wouldn’t pick up signal from my carrier.

The BL40 sat on my desk for sometime while I tried to forget it. Still, I gave it some thought every now and then when I finally got it. People will buy the New Chocolate because it’s a cool looking phone. Just like how people bought the original LG Chocolate. The original Chocolate was a horrible phone which was hard to use but it still sold. So that’s the thing, you carry your phone everywhere you go – so it’s important that you like how it looks. Just like how people wear clothes that are too small. It may not be comfortable but they do it anyways.

So if you ask me how I like the LG Chocolate my answer would be ‘It looks cool’.

Howard Chui 01.04.2010

2 comments January 4th, 2010

Some thoughts on Rogers 21.1Mbps service

Where I live the only choice for broadband internet is Rogers cable. When I first moved in you could choose to get DSL via FCI broadband or cable via ACI. Then Rogers bought out FCI followed by ACI and Rogers-ized them. After, they disconnected my house’s demarcation point so I can’t get DSL anymore so my only choice is cable.

Now as far as cellular service goes I get strong Rogers GSM/HSPA and TELUS CDMA service in my house. TELUS HSPA, BELL CDMA/HSPA signal are extremely weak in my house (to the point that phones with poor RF performance get no signal in my house while strong phones with strong RF work intermittently). Wind cuts out just before my house according to their coverage map. So my choices are TELUS CDMA or Rogers.

Now Rogers cable plans go up to a respectable 50Mbps downlink but the uplink maxes out a measly 2Mbps – and you have to pay 100 bucks a month if you want 2Mbps plan. I don’t feel like spending that much coin so I only have the 25/1Mbps plan. 25Mbps is pretty darn fast but the 1Mbps kills me when I’m uploading HD videos to YouTube.

So I got an idea, Rogers new 21.1Mbps service has and uplink speed of up to 5.76Mbps, nearly double their fastest cable plan. I ran out and got a ZTE MF668 21.1Mbps USB modem (AKA the Rogers HSPA+ Rocket Stick) thinking I could get upload speeds of almost 6x faster. Now I realize that mobile plans have much smaller bandwidth allotment but I have 6GB available and I don’t upload THAT much stuff to YouTube.

Anyways I’m faced with a few challenges, first off I actually use Fido and not Rogers. While Rogers owns Fido, Rogers phones are usually locked and  don’t always  work on Fido without first being unlocked. Secondly it’s a slight grey area when it comes to whether I can upload GB’s worth of stuff without getting a huge bill… I’ll find that out soon enough.

It turns out the ZTE MF668 is locked – it asked me for the subsidy code when I stuck a Bell SIM in. Not suprisingly it took a Rogers SIM just fine but the good news is that it also likes my Fido SIM and even comes preloaded with settings for Fido. Just remember to tell the ZTE MF668 to use the Fido settings since it uses the Rogers one by default and won’t connected with them if you’re using Fido. Now I can’t say whether all Rogers ZTE branded MF668′s will work with Fido but the one I bought was.

Now before I start YouTubing I thought I’d run a speedtest at www.speedtest.net.

I don’t get anywhere near 21.1Mbps down but I do get a very respectable 3.18Mbps up. YouTube’s next.

To test, I uploaded a 50 second 1080p video clip that weighs in around 73MB. On my Rogers cable connection with 1Mbps up it took about 10 minutes to upload, that translates to around 120kbps which is pretty much my connections  maximum. That’s a pretty consistent. Speaking of consistency my cable does slow down during the evening when everyone else is on (lately it’s gotten a lot better), so I ran the test during the day. On to the ZTE MF668.

Long story short, the ZTE MF668 didn’t work out. Whenever I tried to upload the video to YouTube the upload would stop and get stuck. I tried it on 2 different computers with the same results. It wasn’t a Firewall/Antivirus problem because the computer I tried it on didn’t have either plus it can upload to YouTube just fine when I switch to WiFi or plug an ethernet cable in.

So, while I was happy that the ZTE MF668 worked with Fido, for me there was little point to it. While it has relatively fast upload speed there’s some strange issue that keeps me from uploading videos to YouTube. I’m going to speak to Rogers to see if they have an explanation and will update this if I hear anything interesting.

*Update* I just tried the same thing with an unlocked Novatel Wireless MC950D USB modem I have lying around. Same thing – it won’t upload.

3 comments January 2nd, 2010

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