Archive for the ‘Mp3’ category

Tannoy i30 iPod Speaker System

January 25, 2008

Tannoy’s latest speaker system is actually kinda sexy. Well as sexy as a speaker system can get. First off, the clever packaging makes for a fascinating unboxing experience nearly on par with an Apple product — the power cords and peripherals come in two simple black boxes labeled “the kit” and “the bits.” The i30 (nestled beneath the kits and bits) is silky smooth and glossy black with a rounded behind. Five dock adapters plus a 3.5mm jack ensure that every generation of iPod is compatible with the dock. Operation is simple: and there are no buttons that you have to worry about not pushing—simply plug it into the wall, dock your iPod, and press play. Our one major beef? The remote. It’s a cheap plastic temperamental little thing that only works occasionally from a few feet away. But that’s not a deal breaker. The i30 is still a great choice for those who need a chic bedroom accessory that also happens to deliver rich, room filling audio.

$400, tannoydigital.com

Sony Mylo 2

January 24, 2008

With the “Put the fun of a PC in your pocket” tag line, Sony is going after the “young adults” crowd. The company thinks that there are not many devices that would allow students to have good “mobile entertainment” (as defined below), without paying an expensive wireless subscription fee. This is true and that’s the idea behind the Mylo 2.

Although the original Mylo did not have the success that was hoped by its maker, Sony has learned a lot, and it designed the Mylo 2 to address the weaknesses of the first one. In this review, we will put the Mylo 2 to the test and share our thoughts with you. Feel free to ask questions, share your opinion or write your review (if you own the Mylo 2) in the comments section at the bottom of the article page. Every device is engineered to solve a problem, and the Mylo 2 has been built to provide “good” mobile entertainment and communications. For Sony, that means:

  • Desktop-like web browsing
    • Including Flash games and web video
  • Good email support
  • Broad instant messaging support
  • Social Networks
  • VoIP

Improvements over the first Mylo

Mylo

Mylo 2

   

WiFi B (11Mbps)

WiFi G (54Mbps)

320×240 display

800×480 touch display

No back-lit keyboard

Back-lit Keyboard

No camera

1.3 Megapixel Camera

No customization

Removable faceplate

No file upload/download

File upload/download supported

No widgets

Widgets supported

No RSS

Intgrated RSS reader

$349

$299

 

5.16 x 0.82 x 2.55″

Physical description

First, let’s take a quick look at the device too see how it looks and what are its physical properties and functionalities. Mylo 2 has about the same size than its predecessor. It is slightly on the bulky side, and is even larger than a Nokia N93i, but it is a definitely a pocket device. [photo gallery]A few user interface (UI) elements are visible from the outside: a joystick on the right provides 4 directions + click on the left side of the screen. A microphone is located on the right. On each side of the display, there are a few touch elements:

  • Options: the equivalent of a “menu”
  • Disp: toggles the application UI elements (menus, buttons) to reduce the clutter on the screen
  • Back: go back to the previous screen
  • Info: opens a “task manager” to switch from one application to the next
  • Mylo: brings you to a Netvibes-looking page that contains Widgets
  • Home: back to the main menu

QWERTY keyboard

The keyboard slider feels solid, much more than most smartphones that I have seen, except for the i-mate 9502. The keys are flat, but surprisingly they have a good tactile feedback. The key spacing is large enough to avoid mistyping issues common to smaller keyboards. Finally, it is a backlit keyboard, which is indispensable when texting in dark conditions. Overall, I am happy with it.

 

The display is the computer

Someone I know used to say that, and it applies very well to the Mylo 2: You will immediately notice how awesome the display is, thanks to its 800×480 resolution – that’s 2.5 times the number of pixels of the iPhone’s display! (which has 480×320 pixels). With such a screen, “Desktop PC web browsing experience” starts to be true. The text on websites is readable without zooming in and out, but if you want to, it is possible to zoom. This unbelievably crisp display is the most important asset of the Mylo 2, in my opinion, and I can only hope to see more devices with a similar screen in the near future.

Computer Sync

The Mylo 2 connects to a computer as a USB Mass Storage device (like a Flash drive), or by using the Media Transfer Protocol (MTP), a protocol used by Windows Media 10 and above to access Media Players. Both protocols are mutually exclusive and in this review, we used USB Mass Storage.

Applications

Instant Messaging

Instant messaging is very well integrated in the Mylo 2. Four major IM clients are supported (AIM, Skype, YIM, Google Talk) and although MSN isn’t in the list, you can still chat with your MSN buddies from an Yahoo IM account, if you have one. All the IM clients have a similar user interface, which is convenient and consistent. I noticed that it is not always possible to filter-out the contacts that are not online, and that can be annoying if you have many of IM contacts.

RSS

A basic RSS reader has been included, and although it shows the headlines, it does not provide a preview/excerpt. You will have to follow the link and open the web browser to read the content. It is something that needs improvement. At the moment, I would still like to use Google Reader instead.

Web

Overall, the web browser is good. We have tested several popular sites like CNN, Facebook, MySpace, Yahoo, Google Maps, Digg and … Ubergizmo 🙂 Everything worked fine, without needing to zoom. Unfortunately, the current browser does not work with Google Reader and Google Docs. The server returned an “unsupported browser” error. That is probably due to the Javascript support, but it is just my guess.

Flash seems to be fully supported we tested YouTube and MetaCafe. Both worked fine, even if the video playback wasn’t as smooth as on a desktop PC.

Although it is mostly OK, links are sometimes hard to click on because of the small size of the characters (when no zoom is applied). It would be necessary to improve this in the future.

Music

A powerful device like the Mylo 2 can certainly play music files. I quickly dropped a few MP3 files via USB and voila. The volume was plenty loud (there’s an option to protect from hearing damages in the settings) and the sound quality is good. The sound quality is probably limited by the default earphones, but the point is that the Mylo 2 sounds like a good MP3 player. It supports MP3, AAC, WMA and ATRAC.

The Mylo 2 does not have a standard jack (!), so you will have to use the adapter found in the box. This adds additional cable clutter, unfortunately.

VoIP

Placing calls with Skype worked like a breeze, much better than on my Windows Mobile phone, for sure. It is best to use earphones because the speaker is a little weak even when you are indoors. With earphones, it works really well and it is comparable at what you would get on a PC. (The Mylo 2 had 3/3 bars of WiFi reception when I tried)

Photos ViewingIf you have some room to spare, you can copy your favorite photos to the Mylo 2. Given how good the screen is, this device is a very good photo viewer. There is no need to re-scale high-resolution photos. We tried to view a 1728×1152 photo and the Mylo 2 did a very good job at downscaling the photo to the native screen resolution. However, a 3504×2336 photo was deemed “unsupported” by the viewer application.

Camera

The 1.3 Megapixel camera will produce photos that are comparable to a cellphone camera – probably because it is a cellphone camera. At the moment, I have not been able to record movies, and I don’t know if there is a plan to support movie recording when the Mylo 2 launches.

Video Replay

The videos provided by default in the Mylo 2 were encoded in Mpeg4, 320×240, 29.97FPS, AAC audio 48Khz, Stereo. They play smoothly, although during fast action sequences, I could see compression artifacts. I wonder if the Mylo 2 could play Memory Stick movies originally intended for the Sony PSP. I’ll have to get back to you on that. Right now, you can expect video too look like the standard 320×240 videos on an iPod.

Text Editor

The integrated text editor works like Windows Notepad. It is simple and does not support formatting, but having a notepad is always a good idea for a QWERTY device

 

Homepage

The “Mylo” button in the (vertical) middle-right of the screen brings the user to a “home page” that looks like Netvibes or iGoogle. Third party applications can be installed, and it is not yet clear if Sony will tightly control the widget application distribution. What we can say is that Widgets are downloadable from the web, or installed from a Memory Stick card.

Developers: Sony will create a developer website and provide an SDK, we will keep an eye on the announcement, and we will let you know. This has not been confirmed to us, but because you can download a widget from your PC, it doesn not look like Sony is going to try to have a tight control over the applications.

 Networking

The Mylo 2 can connect to WiFi G networks. This is quite an improvement over the WiFi B featured in the first Mylo. The main drawback with WiFi is how scarce free hotspot are (remember, Mylo 2 was trying to avoid the data subscription fee). To avoid this, Sony Mylo 2 customers will have a free access to Wayport’s WiFi network that includes 9000 McDonald’s, hotels, airports and other venues. (wayport.net)

WiFi LAN

WiFi is easy to configure. By default, the Mylo 2 scanned and connected to an unprotected network, which is probably the best behavior if you are outside of your home. If you want to connect to a particular network, you just have to enter the Network settings, choose a network and enter the password. We tried it with a WEP-protected network and it worked.

WiFi AdHoc

The Mylo 2 can also be connected with other Mylo 2 to form a peer-to-peer network. That would allow a user to listen to someone else’s music wirelessly. We do not have more than one Mylo 2, so right now, we can’t tell you how well it works, but it is reasonable to expect it to work well.

Update 1/14:This section was based on an early unit and documentation and we have since learned that the AdHoc feature has been removed from The Mylo 2 (codenamed COM-2)

Storage

There is 1GB of built-in memory, and it is possible to extend the storage by using a Memory Stick flash card (about $50 for 4GB, 8GB is the largest capacity today).

Battery life

The Mylo 2 uses a 3.7V, 1200mAh battery. After 24 hours of playing and testing it (not continuously), Less than half of the battery remained. I would say about 30%. That’s equivalent to a busy day of use (for me), in my opinion.

Accessories

  • Charging Cradle
  • Color FacePlate
  • AC Adapter
  • Extra battery and charger kit
  • Screen Protector

Conclusion

I was not very excited by the first Mylo, but I have to admit that the Mylo 2 is a nice surprise. Technically, the display is brilliant and the device fulfills its goal. Creating a mobile device requires a concerted effort between hardware, software and design teams is really hard to pull off. The Mylo 2 brings a solution for having a better mobile entertainment, without paying hundreds of dollars in subscription pr year (for a slower network). The idea of cutting a deal with Wayport is excellent, because accessibility is WiFi’s weak point.

Sony has done a tremendous step forward from the original Mylo and now, we will see if consumers want to buy a connected device that is not a phone. I’m definitely not in the 18-22 group anymore, so it’s hard to guess. Although the cost of ownership of a Mylo 2 can be an order of magnitude less than using a “fruity phone” (over a couple of years), the “cool” factor of the competition should not be underestimated. Again, feel free to share your thoughts, questions and review in the comments section.

Note: this review was done with an engineering sample that uses a development version of the firmware. While I did notice that some function were slow, like the YouTube (flash) videos, I’ll reserve my judgment for now. Potential buyers should pay attention to the performance when the Mylo 2 comes on the market. We will try to follow-up as things unfold.

 

Availability: End of January 2008, $299

The Cowon Q5W

January 23, 2008

The Cowon Q5W is a portable media player with a stunning 5-inch touch-screen display and built-in Wi-Fi capabilities. I tested a model with an internal 40GB hard drive that sells for a hefty $550 (as of 12/19/2007). A 60GB version is also available, but even that could offer too little storage if you want to carry a lot of video.

For an extra $200, you can add an optional GPS-navigation-enabled docking station. The player slots into the dock, which then plugs into your car cigarette lighter and uses an FM transmitter to speak driving directions (and, if desired, play music) through the car radio.The screen nearly fills the whole front of the device, which is only 0.8 inch thick and measures 5.5 inches wide by 3.5 inches tall. It feels surprisingly heavy, but it’s easy enough to tote in a coat pocket or a purse. The only physical controls are the on/off switch and volume buttons. Using the touch-screen interface, however, you can make light work of everyday tasks, such as listening to music, tuning the built-in FM radio, and watching video. Mostly you use your thumbs to browse the menus, occasionally tapping selections with a finger. You can also use the small included stylus (stored in the edge of the player) for greater accuracy or for more complex tasks, such as selecting from a long list of MP3s. 

For more detailed operations, you exit Cowon’s user-interface shell and use the player’s outdated Windows CE 5.0 operating system (Windows CE 6.0 has been out for more than a year). Unfortunately, this includes tasks you’ll want to do often, such as surfing the Web in Internet Explorer, setting up Wi-Fi, copying files over the network, and copying files to/from USB devices. Here you definitely need the stylus for selecting items in tiny dialog boxes and typing on the virtual keyboard. 

Video looked impressively sharp and colorful on the 800-by-400-pixel display, especially when I played wide-screen-format DivX-encoded movies. Motion was very smooth, and the picture was visible from a wide angle. The device scored poorly in our lab audio tests, and the included earbuds are basic at best–though with some adjustment of the on-screen graphic equalizer, I was able to get acceptable sound through my own headphones. You can record voice notes with the built-in microphone, but the player lacks the ability to capture video as a DVR can (and as the rival Archos 605 WiFi can); the Q5W also cannot record from the FM tuner (a common function in audio players with built-in FM tuners, including Cowon’s own iAudio 7). 

I hooked up the Q5W to the component inputs on my HDTV using the included cable (which also provides a lower-quality composite connection for older TVs). Picture quality was good–similar to that of a standard DVD–and the digital audio sounded great through my receiver. For watching across the room, Cowon supplies a small infrared remote control, but the scant documentation (a short printed Quick Guide and an inadequate user guide on the software CD) neglects to explain how to use it. Learning how to work the menus took me some time, and certain buttons remain a mystery. It doesn’t help that some operations are a little sluggish, so determining whether a button push has had any effect is often difficult. 

The Q5W has a USB miniport for syncing with a PC (using Windows Media Player, Windows Explorer, or the supplied Cowon Media Center software). The second USB port should be a hit with photographers, because it lets you archive images from a digital camera, and it allows you to transfer files to and from a USB thumb drive. The device lacks any sort of media card slot, though. 

The Cowon Q5W works well enough for listening to music and watching video, but you’ll need patience and some technical savvy to achieve more complex tasks, such as loading content over a secure wireless network. While the player has much potential, it feels less refined than the cheaper Archos 605 WiFi.

iRiver W7 MP3 player hankers for directions

January 22, 2008

Now here’s something you don’t see everyday: an MP3 player with GPS capabilities. The new iRiver W7, one of a slew of devices the company has on display at CES 2008, doesn’t come with a built-in GPS antenna. Rather, you have the option to buy a car mount cradle that adds the functionality. The fact that the antenna is part of the cradle and not the player is actually quite compelling: it means the player can stay relatively compact and impressively thin for pocketability during “on-the-go” use, while still offering a handy navigational feature for the car. Sure, more than a handful of cell phones offer built-in GPS features, but the W7’s 3-inch touch screen puts most phones’ screens to shame.

iRiver doesn’t skimp out on the multimedia features, either. The W7 supports music, video, photos, text, and Flash games. There’s also an FM tuner (not that you’d need that in the car), an E-Dictionary, and a microSD card slot for adding more memory. The player will come in two flash memory options: 4GB and 8GB. 

The W7 is due out in the U.S. at the end of Q1 or the beginning of Q2, and pricing has yet to be determined for the States. Let’s just hope the European price tag of 175 Euros for the 4GB and 215 Euros for the 8GB isn’t something to go by, because that’s going to make it one pricey player–current conversions put that at $257 and $315, respectively.

iRiver puts a new Spinn on the user interface

January 22, 2008

As if to prove that it’s not even close to backing out of the MP3 player market, iRiver debuted a whopping 12 new MP3 players at this year’s CES. The company also introduced a sweet-looking, multifunctional home entertainment system as well as three E-Dictionary products and two GPS devices. Naturally, not all of the gadgets are available in the U.S., but it’s still an impressive feat given the relatively small size of the company.

It was hard to narrow it down, but I think my favorite is the Spinn, which is still under development and–sadly–may not make it to the States. This compact media player features a unique spinning hinge that lets you “flip” pages on the screen (a la the iPhone) and otherwise easily navigate the device using just one hand. If nothing else, you’ve gotta hand it to iRiver for its ability to think up innovative interfaces. And actually, the overall design of the Spinn is quite attractive. It’s sleek and slim with a mostly brushed-silver finish, and the 3.2-inch WQVGA screen (featuring a 480×272 pixel resolution) looks nice. In addition to music, video, and photo support, this player will offer a built-in FM tuner, voice recording, a text viewer and dictionary, support for Flash games, and the ability to receive DMB content (in the regions where it is available). The Spinn will even have integrated stereo Bluetooth functionality for those who prefer to do their listening sans wires. As iRiver is undecided on whether this player will make it to the U.S. market, there’s no pricing at this time, but we do know that it’s set to come in three capacities: 4GB, 8GB, and 16GB.

Toshiba Gigabeat U103 with 24 Colors

August 25, 2007

Making a considerable splash in the color palette by all standards, Toshiba’s next DAP to join the Gigabeat U series offers an assortment of 24 colors.

 In the same fashion as previously added models to the U series, the advancement is purely cosmetic, but the U103 succeeds in producing a striking change from the black and silver of the U102 and U202

 Drawing its inspiration from culture and tradition of Japan, the color range of the U103 has been designed to reflect an observation of harmony in an environment. To confirm the assumption you may have already made: the Toshiba Gigabeat U103 only has plans to be released in Japan, where is will sell for an equivalent of $115.  By: Travis Booysen

Oppo’s Slim PMP

August 25, 2007

The latest creation from Oppo reveals an exceptionally attractive design, as it measures only 0.27 inches thick, and contains a 2.4-inch TFT screen which spans the majority of its face, alongside a level touchpad. Proving to be equally impressive as the appearance of the Blast is its ability to handle a large variety of music (MP3, WMA, APE, and FLAC), image (JPG, BMP, GIF, and animated GIF), and video (MP4, AVI, XviD, and FLV) formats. 

 It is not common to come across a portable media player with the ability to play flash video on a comfortably sized screen with an expandable microSD slot all in such an easily pocketable form. The finer details have yet to be revealed, such as pricing, storage, and battery life, but when the Oppo Blast becomes available it is unlikely that it will be shipped anywhere outside of Asia.