Archive for the Products Category

Review: Rogers Home Phone

Posted in Products with tags on September 2, 2014 by itnerd

When my wife and I made the move to Rogers, we moved our home phone service to them. Now I have reviewed Rogers Home Phone back in 2010. But now that I had it full time, I figured that I should update the review.

The first thing that I need to update is the hardware that Rogers installs in your home. When I test drove it a few years ago, you got a very big and bulky box. These days, this is what you get.

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You get this device as part of the deal. It’s thin and light and looks stylish.

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At the back of this device you get 2 phone jacks on the left, USB and Ethernet ports for an unknown purpose as well as a connector for your Rogers cable line.

IMG_0409 This is a access cover that houses the backup battery that powers your home phone in the event of a power failure. It is replaceable. More on this battery in a bit.

Installation was easy and only took minutes. The Rogers tech that came out ran a separate cable line to the box and I connected my phone. He then did some work on his laptop and we had home phone. When I did some test calls, I found the call quality to be slightly better than what I was used to. For example, with my previous phone service I had difficulty hearing people who were calling us to be buzzed into our condo. With Rogers Home Phone, I found I had a much easier time hearing them. Bottom line, call quality is not an issue.

Now Rogers Home Phone has some unique features:

  • TV Call Display: When someone calls in, you see a pop up at the bottom of the screen with the number and name. You can then use your Rogers remote control to send the caller to voice mail, clear the pop up, or choose options.
  • Home And Away Voice Mail is a feature that has three options:
    • Voicemail to Text enables your home phone voicemail to be sent to your mobile device as a MMS. Receive MMS messages and listen to the audio file or read the transcribed text.
    • You can manage voice mail in a similar manner as Apple’s Visual Voicemail. You can also receive your voicemail messages on your mobile device as MMS.
    • You can have up to 5 mailboxes
    • You can see prompts that you have voice mail on your TV.
  • You can get call logs as well as see if you have voice mail on your TV.
  • Home And Away Online Manager: You can forward your calls, change your ring settings and manage your phone privacy settings from any computer with Internet access.

That’s on top of a number of features that you can choose from. You also get a variety of long distance plans to choose from whether you need to call in North America or someplace else on Earth.

Are there any downsides to Rogers Home Phone? There’s one that you have to take into account. Unlike Bell Home Phone service which has power coming through the phone line even in a blackout, Rogers Home Phone requires a battery backup to keep the phone going in the event of a blackout. You can expect the battery to last 5 hours and it is replaceable. For some people, that might be an issue. In my case, it was a factor. But I overcame that by using  an APC BackUPS 650 uninterruptible power supply as I have a number of them lying around. Given that the device that powers Rogers Home Phone draws 0.5 amps, I should be able to stretch another 45 minutes or more before things go dead.

Rogers Home Phone has a number of plans that start at $34.41 a month and depending on the plan you can choose the features and long distance plans that suit your needs. Though you might be able to do better if you bundle your services. Thus it pays to spend some time with a Rogers call centre representative to see what kind of deal that you can work out. If you compare what Rogers offers with what Bell offers, Rogers is cheaper and you have more features to choose from. If you can get Rogers Home Phone in your area, it is worth looking at for your Home Phone needs.

Review: Alcatel Onetouch Pop 8

Posted in Products with tags , on August 29, 2014 by itnerd

Today we have the second of two Alcatel devices from Telus. This one is the Onetouch Pop 8 which is a 8″ tablet running Android. Here’s the specs it comes with:

  • 8″ 1280 x 800 IPS screen
  • 1.3GHz quad core processor
  • 1GB of RAM
  • 4GB of storage upgradeable to 64GB with a MicroSD card
  • HSPA+
  • 802.11 A/B/G/N WiFi
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean
  • 2 MP rear camera
  • 0.3 MP front camera

Now 8″ for a tablet is an interesting size for me as I find it a nice size that is not too big and not too small. It’s easy to hold in my hand. The 8″ 1280 x 800 IPS screen is bright and sharp. While it does attract fingerprints, they don’t interfere with ability to view the screen. The back does not appear to be removable. So the SIM card and the MicroSD card have to go into the sides of the tablet. The protective flaps that cover those two card slots on both sides come with an unorthodox design. They are completely flush with the metal rim around the phone, with only a small “pimple” protruding at their upper parts. The tablet comes with a tool that allows you to flip the flaps open which is the same as the Onetouch Idol X+. My suggestion would be to never lose that tool. It felt solid in my hand and well built.

The OneTouch Pop 8 runs on Android 4.2 Jelly Bean with a light and minimalist custom skin on top. It’s flat like iOS 7 and Alcatel’s changes are cosmetic and enhance the look of the user interface. There are also little touches like the e-mail setup wizard which is easier to use than most. In daily use, just navigating around the interface and running basic apps like browser and email, it runs fairly smoothly, almost without a stutter. However, since this tablet has HSPA+, don’t expect to set the world on fire when it comes to mobile Internet connectivity. I managed to get 5.12 Mbps downstream and 1.78 upstream on the Telus network which isn’t bad.

Now, let’s make it clear. The Alcatel OneTouch Pop 8 is not a camera-centric device. It does feature a barebones 2-megapixel main camera, and a 0.3-megapixel front camera. With that in mind, I headed out to Pearson Airport to see what they could do. First, let’s look at the still pictures. Click the picture to see it a full resolution:

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It is on the blurry side, but it’s not bad. Now let’s look at the video which maxes out at 1080p. Set the video at full screen and 1080p:

As you can see, the video is kind of blurry. Thus it makes this camera better suited for video chats rather than being a camera replacement.

The OneTouch Pop 8 battery that is not user removable. I managed to get six hours out of a charge which is not bad. But it’s at least a couple of hours off the iPad Mini with Retina display. Having said that, I don’t think the target audience who are budget minded users will care. Speaking of budgets, expect to budget $0 on a two year term or $240 outright to get one from Telus. If you’re in the market for an affordable tablet that gives you the ability to use WiFi and HSPA+, the Alcatel OneTouch Pop 8 is certainly worth a look.

 

Review: Alcatel Onetouch Idol X+

Posted in Products with tags , on August 28, 2014 by itnerd

Telus this week supplied me a pair of devices from Alcatel. The one I was writing about today is the Onetouch Idol X+ smartphone. Now Alcatel is a name that you might not be familiar with. But Alcatel-Lucent is a massive French telecom company that’s a more of a player than most people realize. They have interests in networking hardware, IP technologies, software, and services. Oh, and they make mobile phones too.

Here’s what the Onetouch Idol X+ is running under the hood:

  • 5” IPS 1920 X 1080 screen
  • 2GHz 8-core processor
  • 2 GB of RAM
  • 16GB Storage expandable to 64GB via a MicroSD slot
  • 802.11 A/B/G/N WiFi
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • 13 MP Rear camera
  • 2MP Front camera
  • HSPA+

The Onetouch Idol X+ is plastic with a metal ring around the edges. It’s easy to hold for the most part and it looks classy and feels solid. The back does not appear to be removable. So the SIM card and the MicroSD card have to go into the sides of the phone. The protective flaps that cover those two card slots on both sides come with an unorthodox design. They are completely flush with the metal rim around the phone, with only a small “pimple” protruding at their upper parts. The phone comes with a tool that allows you to flip the flaps open. My suggestion would be to never lose it. The 5” 1080×1920  is pretty bright and has an anti-reflection coating. So when I used it outside, I didn’t get any annoying reflections. Though it did wash out in bright light. The display is also very sharp which is something that I did not expect.

Alcatel supplies a OneTouch Android interface overlay on top of 4.2.2 Jelly Bean with the Idol X+. It’s flat like iOS 7 and Alcatel’s changes are cosmetic and enhance the look of the user interface. There are also little touches like the e-mail setup wizard which is easier to use than most. It’s also fast. The 8 core processor is quick. The interface is fluid, and the phone ran any app thrown at it, including heavy 3D games. I was impressed. However, the phone is a HSPA+ phone. Which means that it’s not going to be speedy when it comes to mobile data. I got  5.61 Mbps downstream and 2.17 upstream on the Telus network which isn’t bad.

Now when it comes to the camera, it’s top shelf on paper. The rear camera is a 13 MP shooter which also does 1080P video. The camera interface allows one to customize the camera to suit their needs in a variety of ways. But it is still simple to use for someone who wants to point and shoot. To find out how well it works, it meant a trip out to Pearson Airport. So, here’s the still pictures for you to look at. Click it to see it at full resolution:

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The detail level in the photo is exceptional. Now here’s the video. Set it to full screen and 1080p:

Although it did have auto focus issues, the video is sharp.

The Onetouch Idol X+ is a real winner on the battery front as well. I got almost two days before I had to recharge. That’s impressive by any standard. What’s even more impressive is the price. It’s $0 on a 2 year term and $350 outright which is an outstanding price. Alcatel has come to the table with almost the perfect smartphone. The lack of LTE connectivity is the only area where it falls short, but other than that, I cannot find anything negative to say about it. If you’re looking for a smartphone, and you don’t want to spend a lot, take a look at the Onetouch Idol X+.

Tomorrow, I’ll be reviewing Alcatel Onetouch Idol Pop8 tablet. Stay tuned!

First Look: Kobo Aura H20

Posted in Products with tags on August 26, 2014 by itnerd

My wife and I attended a Kobo press event tonight in Downtown Toronto that allowed us to get up close and personal with the new Kobo Aura H20 eReader. What makes this eReader different than anything else on the market is this:

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It’s waterproof. As in IP67 certified waterproof. That means you can keep it underwater (no more than 1 meter) for up to 30 minutes with the port cover closed.

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Here’s a look at it on dry land. The screen which is a 6.8” Carta E Ink HD infrared touchscreen with a resolution of 1430 x 1080, 265 dpi. I found it to be very sharp when I was reading The Hunger Games on it. It was also easy to read regardless of the lighting conditions. So I don’t think you’ll have a problem reading books on it indoors or outdoors. It comes with 4GB of RAM and it’s expandable to 32GB so you can store all the books you want. Plus it has 802.11 B/G/N WiFi as well as Micro USB so that you can add to your digital library. As for battery life, it tops out at two months. That’s not a misprint.

My wife and I both test drove it and we both liked it. My wife in particular who reads a lot and isn’t a fan of eReaders because she prefers the feel of paper books was quickly converted to the other side because of how light it was, how sharp the screen is, and the fact that it was waterproof. The latter was a big selling point for her as it meant that she could read anywhere. In the hot tub, on the beach, while taking a bubble bath among other places.

The Aura H20 will retail for $179 CDN online and in-store, starting October 1st in Canada, the US, the UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, and Spain with more countries to follow. Beginning tomorrow, select retailers will offer pre-orders, and as of September 1st, pre-orders will be available at Kobo.com in Canada, the US, and the UK.

Review: ZTE Grand X

Posted in Products with tags , on August 25, 2014 by itnerd

ZTE isn’t a phone company that you’re likely familiar with. But they aren’t small. ZTE is one of the top five largest smartphone manufacturers in its home market of China and in the top ten worldwide. They’ve come to Canada with the Grand X on the Bell network. Let’s see if they’ve come to play with the big boys like Motorola.

Here’s what it comes to table with:

  • Quad Core 1.2 GHz CPU
  • Android 4.3 Jelly Bean
  • 5″ 1280×720 220 PPI screen with Gorilla Glass
  • 1 GB RAM and 1.3 GB of storage which is expandable up to 32 GB via a MicroSD slot
  • 5 MP Auto focus rear camera with flash
  • 1 MP front camera
  • 802.11 b/g/n
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • HSPA with a max speed of 21 Mbps

The phone is largely plastic. But it feels solid in my hands. The back is easily removable and so it the battery which is a good thing. It’s fairly thin and easy to hold in my hand. Though fitting it in your pocket may be a bit of a stretch. The screen is very sharp which is something that I didn’t expect from a phone that’s in the budget category. Neither is the fact fingerprints on the screen don’t affect the viewing quality. It comes with a largely stock version of Android Jelly Bean. Other than the addition of some Bell apps, it really seems that ZTE hasn’t done much to it. That’s a formula that will work for them. Just ask Motorola with the Moto G and Moto G LTE. Users will find it easy to adapt to. Plus with the quad core processor it is reasonably quick. However, because it’s a HSPA phone, it’s not quick when it comes to mobile data. Using Speedtest.net, I got an average of 4.45 Mbps downstream and 2.70 Mbps upstream on Bell’s network. However, someone who is buying a phone at this price point isn’t going to care. Plus, the’ll likely leverage WiFi as well.

Now when it comes to the camera, it’s a 5 MP shooter. The user interface for the camera is well thought through giving you a surprising level of control. You can customize ISO, white balance exposure and contrast among other items. That’s something that I wasn’t expecting from a phone that’s classified as a budget phone. It also does 720p video. So to test both out, I went to Pearson Airport to photograph planes landing. First, here are the stills. Click the picture to see it at full resolution:

IMG_20140824_145138

For a 5 MP camera. It’s pretty good. Now here’s the video. Set it to full screen and 720p resolution:

It was pretty decent though it did have problems trying to keep the focus perfect when tracking the plane. Still, I think for most people, this will be fine as long as you don’t take action videos.

Finally there’s battery life. I got just over a day of usage which is very good as that’s what you want from a phone regardless of what price point it’s at.

What’s the bottom line? The ZTE Grand X brings a quad core processor and lean implementation of Android along with a decent camera and decent battery life to the budget phone market. It’s $0 on a 2 year plan or $149 outright. Clearly, ZTE is serious about playing in the budget end of the market and you should take a look of them if you’re in the market for a smartphone at that end of the market. Also, Motorola might want to keep an eye on them as well as ZTE is clearly going after their turf.

In Depth: Lorax

Posted in Products with tags on August 23, 2014 by itnerd

There’s a new app made by a Toronto based company that’s got my attention. Called Lorax, it’s a an app which is available for Android and iOS that allows you to leave your cash at home and instead use it to pay for your coffee or dinner.

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Payments are completely secure as they use the Lucova platform which is PCI compliant. But it goes further than that. The other thing that Lorax does is gives participating businesses info about customers who use the app. When a Lorax customer enters a participating business, they are immediately identified by staff members, greeted by name and informed about their recent purchasing history with the business.

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Plus these customers get access to exclusive offers. Talk about being treated like a VIP. The other thing that you can do with the app is use it to help discover all sorts of businesses in your neighbourhood that you perhaps didn’t know existed.

I test drove the iOS version of the app today and I found it to be very intuitive and smooth to use. Paying was very easy. After entering my credit card details into the app, I went to a restaurant that I found using the app. When it came time to pay up, the barkeep was able to charge me via the app. I got the notification on my iPhone and confirmed the payment. Quick and painless. You can’t ask for anything more on that front.

So far, a number of businesses in Toronto’s Fashion District have signed up with Lorax and the company will be expanding to other areas in Toronto soon. I look forward to that as I really think this app can be a game changer. I’d keep an eye on it.

 

Review: LG G3

Posted in Products with tags , on August 22, 2014 by itnerd

When I reviewed the LG G2 last year, I thought it would be competitive with the top smartphones out there. But it did have a few shortcomings with the camera being at the top of the list. But that was last October. Today we have the LG G3 which was supplied to me by Rogers. which as far as I am concerned is a big improvement over the G2.

LG has a absolutely beautiful phone in the form of the G3. It’s thin and light and has a stunningly gorgeous 5.5″ 2560 x 1440 IPS display. Having said that, it is very prone to attracting fingerprints though so you’ll need to keep a microfiber cloth handy. It also tends to wash out in sunlight. The back is removable and so is the battery which is a good thing. It feels very solid in your hand and is easy to hold. It may fit into your pants pocket, but I would suggest that you carry it in something such as a man purse or put it into a coat pocket. The rear volume/power button combination has returned on the G3. It works because your finger land naturally on them. They’ve tweaked the design though as each button has a more defined feel which is welcome by yours truly.

Here’s a quick look at the specs:

  • LG customized Android 4.4.2 KitKat
  • 5.5″ 2560×1440 pixel IPS display
  • 2.5Ghz quad core processor
  • 3GB RAM
  • 32GB internal storage expandable via a microSD slot up to 128GB
  • 13MP rear camera w/ Laser Auto Focus + dual-tone flash
  • 2.1MP front-facing camera
  • 4K video capture

One of the cool things that LG has done is come up with a cool way to unlock your phone which is included in LG KnockOn. It allows users to use a combination of taps to unlock the phone with a PIN as a backup option. It’s cool once you get the hang of it. It also allows you to double-tap anywhere on the screen to cycle power, and on the status bar at any time to turn it off, even when in third-party apps. I’ll also give LG credit for having a flat (as in iOS 7) look for their implementation of Android. A couple of Quick-branded apps make an appearance such as QuickMemo+ and QuickRemote, are present. There are other tweaks as well that I think that you’ll like that Rogers has supplied. They’ve brought apps for Rogers One Number, City TV, My Rogers, Anyplace TV among other apps to the G3. One thing that you’ll notice is that this phone is quick. It is easily on par with the Samsung Galaxy S5 when it comes to opening apps and moving between them. Another area that you’ll notice the speed is on Rogers LTE network. It clocked in at an average of 56.07 Mbps downstream and 11.58 Mbps upstream which means that you will not be starved for speed when surfing.

The camera is improved over the G2 that I reviewed last October. On that phone, the phone auto-focused constantly when I tested the video functions. That’s gone on the G3 for the most part. But I am getting ahead of myself. I should show you what the still pictures at 13MP looks like. As usual, I took a trip down to Pearson Airport to take pictures and videos of planes landing. Click on the pictures to see them at full resolution:

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The quality is very good and I will note that it has an autofocus function that is easily on par with the Samsung Galaxy S5. In other words, it was quick to focus. Very quick. Now the video was shot at 4K resolution. So you want to set the video to full screen and set it to 4K to see how good the video quality is.

Now I will note that there was some autofocusing, but it was not even close to being as bad as the G2 because it autofocuses very, very quickly. Kudos to LG for improving that. I should note a couple of things about the camera. First, the user interface for the camera is very simple and straightforward. Anyone can use that interface to tweak the camera to suit their needs. Second, if you’re into taking selfies, the G3 has a neat feature that allows you to take a selfie by using gestures.

Finally, there’s battery life. I got just over a day and a half of battery life before I had to recharge. The G3 does have a few tricks like screen dimming that will help to stretch this which is a good thing. But the bottom line is that the battery life on the G3 is right up there with the class leaders.

What’s my bottom line? The G3 is certainly an improvement over the G2. It’s got a great screen, good battery life, an improved camera, and lots of speed. It’s $79.99 on a 2 year plan or $599 outright at Rogers. That’s very competitive with most of its competition. Speaking of competition, the only competition that I can see for the G3 is the Samsung Galaxy S5. If you’re considering the S5, you need to take a look the LG G3 as well and you very well may end up going home with it.

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