Monday, 30 November 2009

Nokia E72 - shows Nokia is still in the game

I've been using the new Nokia E72 for a couple of weeks now and overall I'm impressed. The hardware is excellent - the handset form factor feels just right and apart from a couple of Nokia creaks the build quality is good. The metal surround and battery cover means the handset has a solid feel to it.

The qwerty keypad is a big draw for me and as much as I love my iPhone, a touch screen qwerty keypad just isn't as good as 'proper' keys (in my opinion!). The 5MP camera is significantly better than previous E Series cameras, although not in the same league as some N Series devices.

The Optical NaviKey is an interesting new feature for navigating the screen. It takes a bit of getting used to but with some practice it's a nice enhancement to the usual 'click to scroll' function.

The S60 software does seem a bit dated after using the iPhone but it does the job, suitably enhanced with Handy Taskman. The faster processor seems to make a difference, with much speedier performance than on my previous E Series devices.

A couple of nice E63 features (that weren't on the E71) have been carried through - the 3.5 mm headset socket (of course!) and the space bar torch feature.

Overall, I think the E72 is a worthy successor to the E71, especially if a decent qwerty keypad is a must for you.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Monday, 16 November 2009

Yamaha PSG-01S Speakerphone for Skype

Originally posted on The Really Mobile Project.
Last week a nice surprise arrived via courier - the new Yamaha PSG-01S speakerphone for Skype. Described by Yamaha as a ‘Sound Gadget’, the idea behind this device is that it acts as a speakerphone for Skype calls when upright and doubles as stereo speakers when lying on its side.
The Yamaha PSG-01S Speakerphone
The Yamaha PSG-01S Speakerphone
It’s a highly portable device and perfect for packing in your laptop case. The speakerphone has several clever features. When on a Skype call you can lay the device on its side to mute the microphone. The device chimes to warn you when switching from phone to speaker mode. If the device is being used as stereo speakers (listening mode) and a Skype call comes in, turning the device upright allows the call to be answered. The speakerphone has a series of LEDs around the top which indicate the current status; nice idea but not obvious what they mean without referring to the user guide! Everything you’d expect from a quality speakerphone is there - echo cancellation, background noise reduction and support for super wideband audio. The build quality is excellent; it has a solid feel to it and is finished in brushed metal. Connectivity is standard USB2.

Making a call is simple and uses both the Skype client on your PC and the on-hook / off-hook hardware buttons on the speakerphone. Call quality is outstanding and it’s a great enhancement to Skype, especially as an alternative to a headset. However, the one bizarre thing about the Yamaha is the price. The Skype store is selling it for £199.90 and I can’t work out who would pay that price for a speakerphone. It’s undeniably a great bit of kit but that price point seems too high. The quality may well justify the price but I don’t see users paying that sort of premium which is a shame because anyone using the ‘Sound Gadget’ will love it!

The Yamaha PSG-01S is available from the Skype store.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Be Broadband

I've been using Be Broadband for a few months now. They caught my eye as one of only two ISPs offering 'unbundled' ADSL 2+ broadband in my home area and I was keen to see how much difference ADSL2+ makes. ADSL 2+ is marketed as an 'up to 24MB' broadband service but as with all these 'up to' services very, very few people get anywhere near the theoretical maximum.
I have an ADSL Max ('up to 8MB') service on another phone line here and get about 5-6 MB download speed. The Be service gives me 8-10 MB depending on time of day. If I connect my PC directly to the router I can push that up to 12 MB at certain times of the day - using WiFi does have an impact on speed, even when I'm close to the router. At the top end this is not far off the estimated speed for the line and is no doubt influenced by other factors.
A frustrating issue with ADSL broadband is the number of factors that can impact on performance - distance from the telephone exchange, quality of the copper wire between your house and the exchange, internal wiring, other phones and devices plugged into the line, ISP contention ratios, router, ISP line settings. The list sometimes feels like it's endless!
A key quality check with an ISP is their technical support and Be has been very good here. I've discussed a number of points with technical support agents and they have a good understanding of broadband issues and resolutions. Call hold time is negligible; another plus point and the number is freephone.
The broadband provisioning process was excellent, considering it operates within an overall industry framework. The router arrived next day and the service was up and running on the due date a few days later. Order progress is trackable via the customer portal and via SMS.
The router is fairly typical of routers included by ISPs in their broadband packages. It does the job although not surprisingly doesn't give the impression of being in the same league as the sort of router I've bought myself in the past.
Overall I'm a big fan of Be. ADSL2+ does make a difference (for me) and the overall quality of service is excellent (which is not the case for some ISPs). Based on my experiences I would definitely recommend them if you're in the market for broadband.
For anyone who wonders who Be is; they're owned by O2 and also run the O2 fixed line broadband service.

The perils of working at home

With thanks to Sony and Tim Donnelly Smith.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

FREETALK Everyman headset for Skype

Originally posted on The Really Mobile Project.

I’ve used a number of headsets over the years with variable results and recently I’ve been using the FREETALK Everyman headset. The headset has been optimised for Skype which means it supports Skype’s SILK codec and makes it a great choice if you’re a Skype fan.

Freetalk Everyman Headset

The FREETALK Everyman: A portable Skype-capable headset that impresses

The headset is designed to be used when travelling - the earpieces pivot and fold flat, making it reasonably compact so you can slip it in your laptop case. Call quality is excellent and I experienced no problems using the headset. Skype is selling the Everyman for £19.98 in the UK which seems excellent value to me. At that price you can afford to carry it round and if it gets damaged it’s not a complete disaster! Build quality and comfort are good, considering the price point of the headset. I was amazed how light it is and would happily wear it for a couple of hours at a time.

As well as a USB connector, the Everyman has a 3.5 mm connector. I’ve been using this with my iPhone and it works perfectly. Music fades out for calls and it’s a lot more comfortable than using the regular iPhone headset.

So, my verdict is if you’re in the market for an inexpensive headset take a look at the FREETALK Everyman which is available through Skype’s own shop.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Ninite - time saving way to download & install multiple apps

Setting up a new PC is always a time consuming experience, especially finding and downloading all those great free apps you used on your old PC.

Ninite offers a time saving way to download at least some of your favourite apps. On the Ninite web page you select the apps you want and Ninite creates a single download and installation file.

I used Ninite to download a couple of small apps as a test and all worked well. Always great to find something simple that just does what it says it will.

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