Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Rapid Review volume one

I was going to call this another Accessories Galore title, but I realize at least one item isn't an accessory, so I've decided to call it Rapid Reviews since they're mostly bite size three to four paragraph reviews on various things. Also, nothing here is exactly specific. A lot of what I review are things I purchase on clearance or on sale at various places. However, the majority of it will be tech related considering that's my niche. Starting off...

Philips GoGear Mix 4 GB MP3 Player

MP3 players haven't been on my itinerary since I made a push towards smartphones and integrating all my tech into one device. However, I did come across this little guy in the clearance section of Meijer's for $7.50. Because of its extraordinarily cheap cost, I figured what the hell. So how is it?

Well, surprisingly good. I have quite a few good experiences with Philips products in the past (barring the abysmal Fidelio app for Android) and I'm happy to say that the GoGear Mix excels in the most important aspect: sound quality. Indeed, even with my cheap JVC Flats headphones, the results are very full with the aptly named Full Sound boost on and the volume near max. It also has an FM Radio and voice recorder built in as well which adds to the value of it. Adding songs was as simple as drag and drop which means it can also function as a flash drive in a pinch. 

The screen is easy to read and displays a multitude of information including song title, album title, artist, battery life, and more. The screen obviously doesn't allow for album artwork, but that's not a knock against this little player considering its stripped down nature. Another thing I loved was the simple popping the cap off to not only add music, but charge as well. This relieves me of having to keep another charger/cord on hand. The battery life is rated at 13 hours and this is about right (a newer model has twice the battery with about the same features).

The only gripes I have are the lack of a clip to hold it on a shirt or pocket and the recently played function never seems to work. I also had the device freeze up once requiring me to hit the small reset button on the back, but on the whole the player is stable. There is also no memory expansion, but 4 GB should provide around 700-900 songs which can be anywhere between 30-60 hours of music depending on length and size of files. 

Overall, if you're looking for a bare-bones cheap player for yourself or a family member this is it. It's small, simple, and good sounding. Mine was 75% off, making it $30 retail which is what you can find it for on eBay right now. 

Pros: Simple and effective player, very cost effective, decent battery life, FM radio and voice recorder are bonuses, no messy cords to deal with, excellent sound for cost.

Cons: No clip, Recently played function never works correctly, no memory expansion.

Final Grade: A-

Logitech Wireless Boombox 

Here's a beast I've been wanting ever since I seen it hit clearance at Target. Much like my Mini Boombox I wrote about in an earlier post, this is an older model of wireless boombox by Logitech (it has since been replaced by the UE Boombox). I managed to get this on the cheap after waiting it out at Target for $60. 

First off, it's a bit unwieldy to say the least. Not that I don't like the design, truthfully I think it's a nice curvy design that I prefer. However, while this is wireless and powered by a battery for on the go, this isn't like the Mini Boombox that fits easily inside a backpack. This speaker is really more designed for around the home or perhaps a camping trip.

Disregarding that however, this speaker sounds phenomenal. The sound is crystal clear across the board with no muddy sounds or distortion at higher volumes. It has solid bass response without going overboard. I've read that the bass can vibrate the foot (the little pop out stand in the back), but I've yet to personally experience this (probably because I don't max the speaker all the time). Like its little brother, sound trends a little more towards the treble which I prefer for listening to lyrics in my songs. Pairing was also very simple and quick. With two tweeters, two woofers, and four passive radiators, this thing is a lot of bang for the buck even at twice the cost which is generally what you find it for on Amazon.

There are a few downsides to the speaker though. First off, it uses a proprietary connector like you find on most stationary electronics. This means you're not going to be charging it with your cell phone charger unless you have some sort of adapter. The battery is rated for 6 hours and I assume that's correct. However, I'll have to do more extensive testing to determine if that's right. The battery is Nickel-Metal Hydride instead of the more popular Lithium Ion/Polymer variants. While NiMH batteries can contain nearly the same level of power as Li-Ion for size, they rapidly lose charge, often losing the entire charge within the span of a month of non-use so you'll want to either keep it charged or charge it before you head out to ensure good battery life. Thankfully, the battery is replaceable unlike the Mini Boombox and retails for $11 on Amazon.

Finally, like the Mini Boombox, this speaker doesn't come with a case to hold the speaker, power supply, and aux cable. Unlike the Mini Boombox, this thing is so large that finding a case is going to be difficult. There's an official case on Amazon for about $20, but they're scarce, so I'll probably have to improvise like I did with the Mini Boombox.

Pros: Excellent sound quality, great value for cost, battery is replaceable and cheap, easy to pair.

Cons: Proprietary charger, NiMH battery loses charge faster than Li-Ion, difficult to find a case for.

Final Grade: B+

Motorola Digital Photo Frame (Model: MF601)

Another deal I found from Target, this little frame cost $15. It's a 6" 480 x 800 pixel screen. One of the features that drew me to it was the calendar/clock function in addition to presenting photos. Setup takes a little work with the directional pad, back, and home buttons on the base, but isn't too difficult. The frame also uses a standard CR2032 battery to maintain the time in case power is lost which is a nice, but not essential feature. 

Pictures displayed are crisp in comparison to most digital photo frames which tend to have resolutions of 480 x 234 (or nearly the same as the 4.3" PSP game system). Colors are accurate, but contrast seems too high. A minor feature that's almost unnoticeable is a light sensor that adjusts brightness depending on the light in the room. It's a unique feature I haven't seen in any other digital photo frames as far as I know. 

There are a couple of negatives though. First off, the pictures themselves need to be in the corresponding orientation. Trying to display a landscape photo in portrait mode causes the frame to cut off a great deal of the photo providing you a zoomed in view of one section. Even some portrait pictures will suffer this fate depending on how large they are. Overall, the frame has poor scaling. Aside from that, there's no accelerometer so any switching between modes must be done manually.

Overall, this photo frame is decent for its cost (normally around $50). The SD card slot holds up to 32 GB which is tens of thousands of photos. Its thin profile helps it fit just about anywhere provided you can overlook a couple of minor things.

Pros: Slim design, hi-res screen compared to similar competitors, calendar/clock option to go with photos, automatic brightness adjustment, up to 32 GB card sizes, battery backup for clock.

Cons: Contrast is high, scales photos poorly at times, no accelerometer, may be considered small to some people.

Final Grade: B

That's it for now. I'll be back sometime soon with some more things I find lying around stores.