Category: Product Review

Product Review–Sony SRS-BTM8 Portable Bluetooth speaker

Introduction

I am reviewing the Sony SRS-BTM8 Bluetooth speaker which is one of the newer Bluetooth speakers optimised for that music-filled smartphone, tablet or Ultrabook. Here, it allows you to use your NFC-equipped Android smartphone or tablet to facilitate “touch-and-go” setup for that device as well as an easy-to-access pair-up button for other Bluetooth devices.

Sony SRS-BTM8 Portable Bluetooth Speaker

Price

The unit itself:

RRP including tax: AUD$129

Connections

Input Count as for a device
Audio Line Input
(connect a tape deck, CD player, etc)
1 x 3.5mm stereo
Digital Audio Input Bluetooth wireless

Speakers

Output Power 2W RMS Stereo
Speaker Layout 1 2″ (50mm) full range speaker

The unit itself

The Sony SRS-BTM8 Bluetooth speaker system can work on 4 AA batteries which are installed underneath the unit, or the supplied AC adaptor. Here, it supports orthodox power arrangement for portable audio equipment where the AC power is more about avoiding the need to compromise battery runtime or allow the unit to run with batteries. The fact that this unit can run on regular batteries can mean that you can safely use it in the bathroom or by the pool.

Useability

Sony SRS-BTM8 Portable Bluetooth speaker controls

Controls located across the top of the Bluetooth speaker. Also where you touch your NFC-capable Android phone when you set it up with the speaker.

The near-field-communication setup routine works as expected with the Sony NFC setup ap. But you have to hold the phone or other device to the speaker until the connection procedure is finished, which is indicated by a blue light that glows steadily.

Here, it paired up quickly with my Samsung Galaxy Note II phone. I also tried to pair it up with an iPhone using the standard pairing routine and this was very simple, thanks to the “pairing” button.

As well, I wanted to find out whether this speaker can be reinstated to an existing device without you needing to pair up the device again, a problem I have noticed with some Bluetooth speakers, car stereos and other devices that I have had to help people out with. Here, it didn’t take long for the Sony speaker to reinstate itself with my phone once I used the “connect” function on my phone’s Android user interface.

Like with most Bluetooth speaker systems, you can press this Sony unit in to service as a handsfree speakerphone for your smartphone or Skype-equipped computer. Here, this can come in handy for group calls or if you just want the ability to answer that call while you are undertaking another activity.

There is also a 3.5mm line-input jack that you can use to connect that Discman, DAB portable radio, cassette Walkman or music-full iPod Classic to keep those tunes flowing.

Of course, all the controls are located across the top for volume adjustment and control of Bluetooth devices, including call management when serving as a speakerphone. This makes it easier to locate all the controls when using the speaker such as in a bathroom.

Sound quality

The Sony SRS-BTM8 speaker sound like a small radio yet is able to provide some bass in to the sound mix. It also provides a sound that is more room-filling than the speakers that are typically integrated in a smartphone, tablet or small laptop.

Other usage notes

A teenager who lives with us tried the speaker with his music-filled iPhone and found that it worked well for bedroom or bathroom use and was impressed with the sound for the product’s class.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

Sony could have this as the base product for a variant that has a built-in broadcast radio tuner i.e. as a Bluetooth-equipped portable radio.

As well, Windows and Android could have native support for NFC-assisted Bluetooth and Wi-Fi Direct setup so there isn’t a need to download applications to set up these devices using Near Field Communication pairing.

Conclusion

I would recommend this as an alternative to a small boombox when you want to use it to amplify the sound from a smartphone, tablet or Ultrabook. As I mentioned before, it would come in handy with use by the pool, in the bathroom or in the kitchen due to the fact that it runs on batteries.

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Product Review–Toshiba Satellite P870 multimedia laptop computer

Introduction

I am reviewing the Toshiba Satellite P870 which is a 17” desktop-replacement laptop that has a lot of features and expectations of a modest fully-equipped desktop in a laptop chassis. It is the first of its kind that I have reviewed that comes with Windows 8 but the lack of a touchscreen doesn’t really do the operating system justice.

There are some variants of this model including one variant that has all the multimedia fruit such as 16Gb system RAM, 1.5Tb hard-disk storage with 8Gb solid-state caching, a 1080p screen and a full Blu-Ray burner.

Toshiba Satellite P870 desktop-replacement laptop

Price
– this configuration
RRP AUD$1599
Form factor Regular laptop
Processor Intel Ivy Bridge i7-3630M
RAM 8Gb
extra cost:
16Gb
red with graphics
Secondary storage 1 Tb hard disk,
extra cost:
1.5Tb hard disk
1 Tb with 8Gb SSD cache
1.5Tb with 8Gb SSD cache
Blu-Ray ROM / DVD burner, SD card reader
Extra cost:
Blu-Ray burner
Display Subsystem NVIDIA Geforce GT 630M 3D discrete graphics + Intel HD4000 integrated graphics 2Gb discrete display memory
Screen 17” widescreen
(1600×900)

extra cost:
17” widescreen (1080p)
LED backlit LCD
Broadcast Reception Extra cost:
digital / analog TV tuner
Audio Subsystem Intel HD audio
Audio Improvements Harman-Kardon speakers
Network Wi-Fi 802.11g/n
Ethernet Gigabit Ethernet
Bluetooth 4.0 Smart Ready
Connectivity USB 3 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 2.0 with Sleep and Charge
Video VGA, HDMI
Audio 3.5mm audio input, 3.5mm audio output, digital output via HDMI
Operating System on supplied configuration Windows 8
Windows Experience Index – this configuration Overall:5.9 Graphics: 6.5
Advanced Graphics:6.5

The computer itself

Aesthetics and Build Quality

There is a lot of use of the aluminium panelling around the Toshiba Satellite P870’s keyboard escutcheon and palm rest as well as on the back of the lid. This provides for a use experience that feels more cool to the touch and less sweaty.

I have noticed the durable construction for a machine of its value as well as no overheating under normal use. Even video playback doesn’t cause the Toshiba to overheat. This means that you can use it on your knees without it feeling hot, and you don’t hear a fan kicking in, trying to cool the laptop down, as you use the computer.

User Interface

The keyboard that the Toshiba Satellite P870 is equipped with has the backlit keys. But they are pretty slippery. On the other hand, the keys are easy to locate by touch and wide enough so you can touch-type comfortably.

There is a numeric keypad which is good for working spreadsheets, bookkeeping and other number-crunching applications.

The trackpad is overly sensitive when it comes to typing and the ability to disable it is very similar to what happens with recent HP laptops and can cause confusion. Personally, I would prefer that Toshiba maintain the separate hardware switch for controlling the trackpad. As well, I would prefer Windows 8 users to use a Bluetooth mouse for better control of the screen because this computer isn’t equipped with a touchscreen and the trackpad can take a fair bit of getting used to.

Audio and Video

Toshiba Satellite P870 desktop-replacement laptop Harman-Kardon speakers

Harman-Kardon speakers to give this laptop full sound

The visual experience for the Toshiba Satellite P870 was very smooth and responsive although you may not know what graphics mode you may be using for the application, thanks to the NVIDIA Optimus setup. Here, this engages discrete or integrated graphics depending on what you are doing as well as whether there is much battery runtime left in the computer’s battery.

When I played some music using Toshiba’s Media Player software, the laptop yielded full-response sound, thanks to the Harman-Kardon sound tuning. It didn’t sound wimpy and was adequate for a desktop replacement computer. Also, I was watching some content from SBS Video On Demand and found that the sound quality was impressive when it reproduced the dialogue and sound effects from the movie while I was using the integrated speakers.

Connectivity, Storage and Expansion

Toshiba Satellite P870 desktop-replacement Left-hand-site - Gigabit Ethernet, 2 USB ports and a Blu-Ray reader / DVD burner driver.

Left-hand-site – Gigabit Ethernet, 2 USB ports and a Blu-Ray reader / DVD burner driver.

The Toshiba Satellite P870 has plenty of connections like a VGA and HDMI output, separate audio input and output jacks, Gigabit Ethernet and 4 USB ports. Three of these are the 3.0 variety for newer higher-performance peripherals while one of these is a 2.0 variety for external mice and similar peripherals. The USB 2.0 port also provides the user-selectable “Sleep and Charge” function so you can charge your mobile phone or other USB-charged gadgets from this laptop especially while it is plugged in to AC power. This function worked as expected when I set the Toshiba up to charge my Samsung Galaxy Note II smartphone and can be a bonus if you are in those areas where there aren’t many power outlets to plug mobile-phone charges in to.

Toshiba Satellite P870 desktop-replacement right-hand side - audio input and output, 2 USB ports, HDMI and VGA video outputs.

Right-hand side – audio input and output, 2 USB ports, HDMI and VGA video outputs.

The hard-disk capacity for each of the variants of this model is realistic to current expectations for a desktop replacement especially where you intend to take the Toshiba between home and work. This is more so if you are a media packrat and you have heaps of digital pictures, music tracks and video material on the hard disk.

The release button on the optical drive is located on bevel underneath the laptop, and is asking for trouble due to accidental opening when the computer is switched on. Personally, I would have the switch located on the front of the optical-drive tray or, for the price position, I would prefer to run with a slot-load drive.

Battery life

For regular use, the battery runtime is very good when you engage in most tasks. If you do intend to watch online video for longer than an hour, you have to make sure that the battery is charged up fully or you are using external power.Similarly playing a DVD would last for around two and a half hours from a full battery.

With this class of machine, I wouldn’t really expect to have a long-tine of battery use when engaging in multimedia.

Other usage notes

The Toshiba Media app that come with this laptop is no crapware. Infact it worked tightly with the home network and was able to play what was on my WD MyBook World Edition network-attached storage clearly and reliably.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

Toshiba Satellite P870 desktop-replacement lid viewFor a laptop of its price range, the Toshiba Satellite P870 could benefit from a touchscreen, which would make the Windows 8 user experience worthwhile. Similarly, the Wi-Fi network functionality could be set up for 802.11a/g/n dual-band across the range.

Conclusion

I would recommend the Toshiba Satellite P870 Series of desktop-replacement laptops for its purpose as a desktop-replacement computer rather than primarily for portable “on-the-road” use. This would be preferred by those who value the large screen for imaging, multimedia and related activities. It is one of these laptop computers that suit a person who lives out of their car boot (trunk) and only uses it in the location where they stay; or those of us who want to have a computer that they can easily move around the house or stow away in a drawer out of sight.

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Product Review-Western Digital MyNet Range Extender

Introduction

I am reviewing the Western Digital MyNet Range Extender which is a surprising take for the new crop of Wi-Fi range extenders. This dual-band range-extender has the Ethernet port so it becomes a client bridge for an existing Wi-Fi segment, but it has the ability to work as an Wi-Fi access point for a wired network segment. This means that it can be set up to extend a wireless network’s coverage once you use it with a HomePlug AV kit or an existing wired Ethernet backbone.

WD MyNet Range Extender

Recommended Retail Price: AUD$149.99

LAN Connectivity

Ethernet 1
Wireless 802.11a/g/n dual-band single-radio WPA2-Personal WPS
– access point, repeater, client-bridge

The device itself

A lot of devices of this class can show their worst side when you are setting them up and integrating them in to your home network. Manufacturers tend to say that they are easy to set up but they can be difficult to set up for reliable operation.

Setup

WD MyNet Range Extender connections - Ethernet and band selector

Connections on rear of the range extender – Ethernet connection, band selector and power

The WD MyNet Range Extender is very much close to plug and play installation if you are using a router or access point that works with the WPS “push-to-setup” method for the wireless network. On the other hand, you have to log in to a special SSID to set the unit up for most networks. Don’t expect this dual-band range extender to work like a radio or TV “translator” station where it can pick up on one band and extend the network to another band, like picking up on the 2.4GHz band and repeating to the 5GHz band – it doesn’t support this functionality.

There is the problem of a worrying error message that mentions that the network connection has failed when you are setting up wirelessly even though it can work. Another problem that also worries me is the use of the same SSID and channel for “extending” the network. This can cause problems that lead to this same error message due to a “beat” frequency being created by the range extender or the risk of a data storm being created. As well, I had to configure the range extender so that its “extended” area is identified separately to the main router so as to identify if it is working properly.

Other than that, the use of a signal meter on the side of the WD MyNet Range Extender allows you to determine how strong the signal is to allow for optimum positioning, whether it serves as a range extender or a client bridge.

The WD Range extender also works well as a client bridge for an Ethernet-ended device even while it works as a range extender, serving one or more wireless devices. This is although the manual says that it is to serve on device but if you use a switch with this device, it could be a different case. It is worth knowing that the bandwidth for the wireless cell created by this device is effectively half of what would be normally available from the router but this is more about assuring reliable operation for your network equipment and it would be installed at the “fringe” of your main access point’s coverage.

The fact that the DC power comes in from the supplied AC adaptor as 12 volts 1.5 amps may also please people who may want to use this device in a vehicle or a boat to “draw out” a caravan park’s or marina’s Wi-Fi coverage or feed it to an Ethernet device without the need of an inverter.

On the other hand, I had a fair bit of trouble getting this unit to work as an access point and found that the review sample wouldn’t even obtain the DHCP address and identify itself on to the network. Following the instructions in the online manual was a futile exercise and I would suggest that WD make the job of setting up as an access point an easy effort. For example, the use of DHCP or Auto-IP be implemented properly on the Ethernet connection in this mode.

Operation

I used the WD MyNet Range Extender as a “fringe coverage” extender for the existing network and found that it was able to work with my phone when it came to streaming Internet radio at the London-based station’s maximum rate.

I also ran it as a client bridge but it also works as the “fringe coverage” extender and it was able to work properly with an old laptop that didn’t come with integrated Wi-Fi wireless.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

Western Digital could offer a simultaneous dual-band variant of the MyNet Range Extender that could extend both bands of a simultaneous dual-band router or work as a simultaneous dual-band access point.

Similarly they could have this unit be able to work properly as an access point including using DHCP or Auto-IP setup for integrating itself to the Ethernet segment so you can configure it. It could also support an “access-point” setup mode for simplifying the setup of an extended-service-set where one of the access points is equipped with WPS or you run it as a “client bridge” or range extender and it locks on to the wireless network you intend to “extend”. This issue could be sorted out through a firmware update that could apply to equipment that is in current circulation.

As well, there should be a “client WPS” button so you can quickly enroll client devices to the MyNet Range Extender rather than just enrolling the Range Extender to the host router.

Conclusion

Like most wireless range extenders, the WD MyNet Range Extender would require a bit of work in getting them to extend a small wireless network properly. It works well as a client bridge but the access point function does need more work on it. I would recommend it more as a dual-band client-bridge or range extender for someone who has had experience in setting these devices up.

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Product Review–HP Envy 4 Touchsmart Ultrabook (Model: Envy 4-1121TU)

Introduction

I am reviewing the HP Envy 4 Touchsmart Ultrabook which is a newer take on the previously-reviewed Envy 4 Sleekbook. But this unit also comes with a touchscreen that takes advantage of the touch-enabled interface that Windows 8 is all about. Of course you have the regular keyboard and touchpad for content creation, especially if you want to create content.

HP Envy 4 Touchsmart Ultrabook at Intercontinental Melbourne On Rialto

Price
– this configuration
RRP AUD$999
Form factor Regular laptop
Processor Intel i3-3217U Ivy Bridge
RAM 4 Gb RAM shared with graphics
Secondary storage 320Gb HDD  with 32Gb SSD cache SDHC card reader
Display Subsystem Intel HD4000 integrated graphics
Screen 14” widescreen
(1366×768)
LED backlit LCD touchscreen
Audio Subsystem Intel HD audio
Audio Improvements Beats Audio by Dr Dre
Network Wi-Fi 802.11g/n
Ethernet Gigabit Ethernet
Bluetooth 4.0
Connectivity USB USB 2.0 x 1, USB 3.0 x 2
Video HDMI
Audio 3.5mm stereo output jack, 3.5mm stereo input jack, digital audio via HDMI
Operating System on supplied configuration Windows 8
Windows Experience Index – this configuration Overall: 4.8 Graphics:  4.8
Advanced Graphics: 6.2
Insert variants with relative price shifts

The computer itself

Aesthetics and Build Quality

HP Envy 4 Touchsmart UltrabookThe HP Envy 4 Touchsmart Ultrabook is the regular slimline clamshell laptop that satisfys Intel’s “Ultrabook” specifications but uses an aluminium escutcheon around the keyboard and trackpad. This yields a luxurious and cool finish where there is nothing plasticky about using this machine. Even things like rubber feet that aren’t as ready to come off along with a non-slip rubberised finish for the underside show that we are dealing with a well-built computer.

It is small and light enough to stash in to a shoulder bag or “bike bag” for easy transport. It doesn’t matter whether you are doing a lot of travelling or simply visiting your favourite “second-office” cafe or lounge.

HP Envy 4 Touchsmart Ultrabook with Windows 8 Modern UI

This Ultrabook makes use of the Windows 8 Modern (Metro) touch-enabled user interface with the touchscreen

It feels slightly warm to use when you are using it on your knees, this not as ready to overheat for most computing tasks. This is due to the grillework on the top between the hinges and a ventilatilation grille underneath the Envy computer.

User Interface

The Envy 4’s keyboard has that distinct feel that allows accurate touch-typing. Here, the keys are also finished in black rather than the matching grey so as to make them easier to identify.

he trackpad is very accurate but, like trackpads used on other recent-issue HP laptops, it has the enabe-disable function which requires you to dwell on the top left corner. This can cause you to mistakenly disable it if you are dragging an element and you take too long about it.

As for the touchscreen, it does its job with providing the coarse navigation and selection by responding properly and promptly.

Audio and Video

The visual experience with the HP Envy 4 is what I have expected from a recent laptop where it can handle most tasks properly with a proper frame rate out of video playback. I wouldn’t expect this kind of performance for “on-edge” gaming or advanced video editing tasks.

The Beats Audio sound-tuning had done its bit in providing some “body” to the sound even through the integrated speakers which are located above the keyboard. But I would gain best performance out of this laptop for sound when I use headphones or external speakers.

Connectivity, Storage and Expansion

HP Envy 4 Touchsmart Ultrabook left-hand-side connections - Ethernet, HDMI, 2 USB 3.0, SD card reader

Left-hand-side connections – Ethernet “clothes-peg” connector, HDMI, 2 USB 3.0, SD card reader

Like the previously-reviewed Envy 4 Sleekbook, this HP Envy 4 Touchsmart Ultrabook uses the same “clothespeg” Ethernet socket so as to allow “dongle=free” connectivity to a Gigabit Ethernet segment. As well, there is a good complement of connections for use with current-generation peripherals such as an HDMI video connector and 3 USB sockets.

The 320Gb hard disk is big enough for most secondary-computer needs especially if you 00Gb hardmove data off it when you are finished with the data. But I would also like to see either a 256Gb solid-state disk for faster performance or a 500Gb hard disk for extra capacity available as an option.

HP Envy 4 Touchsmart Ultrabook right-hand-side connections - separate headphone and microphone jacks, USB 2.0 connector and power socket

Right-hand-side connections – separate headphone and microphone jacks, USB 2.0 connector and power socket

I am pleased that this computer still uses the SD card slot as removeable storage, which I consider important for those of us who download images from our digital cameras by removing the memory card out of the camera. This is compared to some Ultrabooks like the Dell XPS 13 which omit this feature, and would earn its keep with those of us who take pictures and coarsely edit them while on the road.

Battery life

The HP Envy 4 is not demanding for battery life when subjected to most regular computing tasks especially if the computer is working with a Wi-Fi network.  But, after I watched a 90-minute video from SBS On-Demand, I found that the battery was at half capacity at the end of the video.

Other comments

When I used the HP Envy 4 Touchsmart Ultrabook in the lounge at the Intercontinental Melbourne on Rialto hotel, the staff were amazed at the touchscreen interface that this computer has. This was a difference for them as they were used to guests who use the lounge as a “second office” using laptops and not touching the screen to work with the computer or the guests touching the screens on tablets and smartphones.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

HP Envy 4 Touchsmart Ultrabook rear view

Rear view of the Ultrabook

One improvemeit I would like to see for the HP Envy 4 Touchsmart Ultrabook is the availability of a deluxe version with extra RAM and secondary storage as well as 802.11a/g/n Wi-Fi. As I have said before, this would encourage us to think of having more storage when we are on the go for longer times as well as having the computer be future proof for high-speed 5GHz Wi-Fi networks. Similarly, going for 3 USB 3.0 connectors can work well as we move towards more USB 3.0 peripherals like secondary-storage devices.

Other than, there isn’t much to improve on for a secondary travel computer with a large screen.

Conclusion

The HP Envy 4 Touchsmart Ultrabook earns its place as the logical successor to the Envy 4 Sleekbook. Here, it comes across as another example of a  lightweight secondary travel computer option where you value the  13”-14” screen. This is where you place value on content creation including creating elementary graphical content like PowerPoint slides or going through digital photos you have taken as well as creating written content on the go.

It then ends up alongside the HP Envy 4 Sleekbook, the Acer Aspire S3 and Sony VAIO T Series in my short list of ultraportable computers that I would use or recommend as a secondary portable computer for one who uses a desktop or larger laptop at home or the office.

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Product Review–Denon MusicManiac AH-D600 Audiophile Headset

Introduction

I am reviewing the Denon MusicManiac AH-D600 audiophile headset which is a pair of closed-back circum-aural headphones pitched at those who value their music. They have a long replaceable cord to connect to the computer, amplifier or CD player but they also have a separate mobile cord with an integrated microphone pod that converts them in to a headset that works with your smartphone or laptop for communications purposes.

Denon MusicMainiac AH-D600 stereo audiophile headset

Price

RRP AUD$600 / US$499.99

Type

Headphone Assembly Traditional over-the-head
Driver Positioning Circum-aural (over the ear with sound-containing foam wall)
Driver Enclosure Closed Back
Microphone Position In-line on mobile cord
Connectivity
Headset 3.5mm four-conductor plug on mobile headset cord
3.5mm stereo phone plug on long cord
Adaptors 6.5mm stereo phone-plug adaptor

The headset itself

Connectivity

 

Denon MusicManiac AH-D600 headphones with stereo-equipment cord

The headphones with the regular cord for use with your hi-fi

The Denon MusicManiac AH-D600 headphones come with two separate cords that plug in to the earcups. One of these cords is a long one that has a cloth-effect insulation for use when listening to your hi-fi or laptop whereas the other is a short headset cord with a pod that houses three control buttons and a microphone, thus making it become a mobile headset for your smartphone.

 

Denon MusicManiac AH-D600 headphones plug

Gold-plated equipment plug as expected for good headphones

All the plugs are gold-plated for optimum connectivity to the headset and the device you are using. As well, the separate mobile cord can work in “headset mode” with both the Apple iPhone and the Android handsets, the latter of which I tested for myself where it worked properly with my Samsung Galaxy Note II during a test call.

 

Denon MusicManiac AH-D600 stereo headphones with mobile headset cord

The headphones working as a fully-fledged audiophile headset for your smartphone, tablet or computer

I also like the concept of the detachable cords because you can easily repair broken plugs or replace broken cords, thus allowing you to gain a lot more mileage out of these headphones.

Comfort

The Denon MusicManiac AH-D600 headphones are comfortable to wear for a significant amount of time even though they do feel heavy. This is brought on through the use of leather earcups, which can be sweaty at times with hot weather. Of course, you can’t feel the headband when you wear them due to a well-cushioned headband design.

 

Denon MusicManiac AH-D600 stereo headphones earcup detail

The earcups with a cloth-lined grille and leather-wrapped foam rings allowing for long-term comfortable wear

Even for a pair of circum-aural headphones, you don’t find that the speaker grille in the earcups doesn’t touch your ears at all and you have a cloth speaker grille rather than the typical plastic or metal-mesh one that can be par for the course for this headphone class. This makes it appeal to you wearing the headset for a long time compared to most headphones of this type.

Sound

The Denon MusicManiac AH-D600 does satisfy the expectation associated with a pair of good circum-aural hi-fi headphones.

 

Denon MusicManiac AH-D600 stereo headphones headband

A soft and comfortable leather-lined headband

I have listened to a range of different music content on these headphones and have noticed tight bass with clear sound for the popular music including the current dance and R&B music. Here, the bass didn’t dominate unnecessarily while you could hear the vocals and lead instruments clearly. For classical music and other music that requires detailed listening, the Denon headphones still lived up to that ability, allowing the instruments to be heard individually.

I placed a “confirmation call” to the public-relations agency who lent me these headphones using my Samsung Galaxy Note II and the headphones with the “mobile” cord to observe how they performed as a headset for a mobile phone. Here, I heard the staff member’s voice very clearly through the headset and they heard me clearly from the microphone on their telephone equipment. This feature comes in to its own for use when you use your smartphone as a music player while you are on public transport. As well, the centre button on the microphone module works as a call-control button for Android handsets as well as iPhones. But you don’t have audio control for anything other than the Apple iOS platform.

You do have very significant noise reduction which may be a boon for noisy transport environments, but it may be at a disadvantage if you are walking along the street and need to hear the traffic.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

The Denon AH-D600 with its mobile headset cord could appeal to some teenagers and young men as a gaming headset due to reduced ambient noise so you could hear that other player talk to you. But this ability is limited by Denon not supplying a headphone / microphone breakout cord or USB communiactions audio adaptor to allow it to work with a PC for talking with your comrades while playing that MMO game. Here, they could offer the gaming interface cables and adaptors for PCs or consoles as optional accessories.

Other than that, I have found very little to fault this headset as a premium all-purpose pair of circum-aural headphones

Conclusion

I would position the Denon MusicManiac AH-D600 as an all-purpose music-grade circum-aural headset that cam be used where you want to concentrate on the audio content. It doesn’t matter whether you are on the train or plane listening to music on that smartphone, tablet or laptop; you want to listen to that CD or record in detail through that good amplifier, you are doing some serious recording in the studio or with that good recording device; or are wanting something as an alternative to the fashionable DJ headphones as cue / monitor headphones for your DJ work. The headset cable will also come a long way with communications devices (including mixing-desk talkback setups) that exploit the standard headset plug wiring used for mobile phones.

For that matter, I would recommend these headphones as a major-special-occasion gift for someone in your life who loves their music very much. This could be something like a major birthday. graduation or retirement gift and could be best purchased by a group of people like a family.

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Product Review- HP Envy X2 detachable-screen hybrid tablet computer

Introduction

This is the first chance for me to review a touch-enabled Windows 8 computer in the form of the HP Envy X2. This computer comes in the form of a detachable-keyboard “hybrid” tablet  which exploits the Windows 8 abilities. Last month, I had set up my primary desktop computer with Windows 8 and established the Microsoft.com single-sign-on arrangement so I can exploit this operating environment in a manner as it is to be exploited on these computers.

This experience has shown that it is easy to have a common operating experience across a primary computer and a secondary computer such as the HP Envy X2 thus reducing the need to reconfigure both units exactly.

HP Envy X2 Detachable-Keyboard Hybrid Tablet

Price – this configuration AUD$999 / USD$899
Form factor Detachable-keyboard hybrid
Processor Intel Atom Z2760
RAM 2Gb RAM shared with graphics
Secondary storage 64Gb solid-state drive MicriSDHC card reader on tabet + SD card reader on keyboard module
Display Subsystem Intel HD display Display memory in discrete options
Screen 11” widescreen (1366×768) LED backlit LCD
Audio Subsystem Intel HD audio
Audio Improvements Beats Audio by Dr. Dre
Network Wi-Fi 802.11a/g/n single-stream
Bluetooth 4.0 Smart Ready
Connectivity USB USB 2.0 x 2 on keyboard
Video HDMI socket on keyboard unit
Audio 3.5mm input-output jack on keyboard unit 3.5mm headphone jack on tablet
Authentication and Security TPM
Sensors NFC Yes
Operating System on supplied configuration Windows 8
Windows Experience Index – this configuration Overall: Graphics: Advanced Graphics:

The computer itself

Aesthetics and Build Quality

This Windows-8 computer comes in the “hybrid tablet” form factor which has the “system” integrated in the screen and has a detachable keyboard. This would remind you of the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer Prime Android-driven tablet which put this concept on the map.

The HP Envy X2 is finished in a brushed-aluminium finish with metallic-black keys on the keyboard and a black bezel that surrounds the touchscreen. Here, I have not noticed any overheating or other temperature issues when I have used this computer even with viewing video content.

I have also noticed that this computer is built very well and even things like the mechanism to detach and attach the screen had that solid but easy-to-use feel about it.

User Interface

HP Envy X2 Hybrid Tablet detachable-keyboard dock

The detachable keyboard dock

Like most netbooks and small notebooks, the HP Envy X2 is equipped with the shallow chiclet keyboard but the way the Envy’s keys are spaced apart makes it supportive for an improved typing experience. I also admire the idea of having the keys finished in black rather than the same silver colour so they are easier to identify.

The trackpad can become a bit “hair-trigger” at times but it still uses the hold-down square in the top left to enable and disable it. This is a common foible with recent HP laptops and I would like to see a separate switch with indicator used for this function because if you dwell on the square to drag an item, you could accidentally defeat the trackpad.

The touchscreen is very responsive and accurate with there being very few issues with hair-trigger behaivour. This is more important if you are using the computer in the tablet mode The screen and keyboard are easy to detach from each other with you just having to move a latch above the keyboard to release the screen. When you want to reassemble the computer, it is as simple as dropping the tablet in to the groove atop the keyboard dock.

Audio and Video

The HP Envy X2 yielded a smooth visual experience for the display, even with the video playback which I did with the SBS On Demand service. Of course there is the glossy display that is common with consumer-market portable computing equipment and can be a problem in bright sunlight.

HP still does their best effort with improving the audio experience but even the Beats Audio sound tuning doesn’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. The only bonus with this detachable-keyboard tablet layout is that the speakers “fire forward” from the screen when the keyboard is attached to the screen. Instead, I would use headphones or external speakers if you want the best out of your music or video content.

Connectivity, Storage and Expansion

HP Envy X2 main tablet unit connected to the charger

Main tablet unit connected to the charger – microSD slot and audio jack

There are two USB 2.0 connections and an HDMI connection on the HP Envy X2’s keyboard dock but the tablet itself could benefit from at least one USB connection. The power is supplied through a special plug which can connect in to a slot on the right-had-side of the keyboard or the docking slot on the tablet itself, and can be confusing for new users when they want to charge the tablet itself without carrying the keyboard dock with them.

HP Envy X2 Hybrid Tablet left-hand side connections - HDMI, USB 2.0 and 3.5mm audio jack

Left-hand side connections – HDMI, USB 2.0 and 3.5mm audio jack

There is 2Gb RAM and 64Gb as solid-state secondary storage but it could benefit from more capacity but this is limited by the design constraints brought about by the tablet design.

You can add on a microSD memory card to the tablet itself or use a regular SD “camera card” with the keyboard dock for storage expansion. This can be limiting if you just want to show pictures from your camera on the Envy’s screen without the need for a keyboard dock.

HP Envy X2 Hybrid Tablet Right hand side connections - SD card slot, USB 2.0 port and charging socket

Right-hand side connections – SD card slot, USB 2.0 port and charging socket

Battery life

There is the typical long-lasting battery that can work well with using the Envy X2 in a portable context but it doesn’t identify whether there is a secondary battery in the keyboard dock to allow the computer to run for a longer time.

Other usage notes

The HP Envy x2 has a digital camera on the back and the front so you can “grab” pictures using this computer, something you could benefit from if you do something like take things apart yet want to create  reference images. It also has the NFC panels on the screen and the back so you could transfer Web links and contact details between the Envy and other Windows 8, Windows Phone or Android devices (Sorry Apple!)

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

HP could offer a variant of the Envy X2 with a 128 Gb SSD and 4Gb RAM as a higher-performance option rather than the simplified “second-duty” tablet computer that this is pitched as.

The Envy X2 could benefit from a regular SD on the tablet rather than the microSD so you can use the digital-camera SD cards when you want to quickly show and use pictures from your digital camera. Similarly there could be a microUSB “On The Go” socket or standard USB 2.0 socket on the tablet so you can connect USB memory keys directly or using an “On The Go” cable without the need for the keyboard.

Conclusion

HP Envy x2 Hybrid Tablet rear view

Rear view of tablet

The HP Envy x2 is positioned more as a detachable-keyboard hybrid tablet computer that runs a regular-computer operating system using a lightweight “regular-computing” processor. This can be useful for those of you who like a detachable-keyboard tablet computer but would like to run the Windows 8 operating environment that you run on your desktop or large laptop computer.

But you may find that the price is too steep unless you place value on a hardy construction and orthodox look and feel for this kind of computer. On the other hand, I would even recommend this to ASUS Transformer Prime users who want a portable computer with a similar form factor yet would like to run the “regular-computer” operating environment.

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Product Review–Sony SA-NS510 Portable Wireless Speaker

Introduction

Previously I have reviewed the Sony SA-NS410 wireless speaker as an example of one of Sony’s new wireless speakers. This time, I am reviewing the Sony SA-NS510 portable wirelesss speaker which a larger speaker in this series, that has the ability to work for five hours on its own battery as well as working on AC power.

Sony SA-NS510 Portable Wireless speaker

Price

The unit itself:

RRP including tax: AUD$429

Functions

Internet audio Internet radio via vTuner, MusicConnect streaming music service
Network Media DLNA MediaRenderer, Apple AirPlay

 

Connections

Input Count as for a device
Audio Line Input
(connect a tape deck, CD player, etc)
1 x 3.5mm stereo jack
Network
Ethernet 100Mbps Ethernet
Wi-Fi wireless 802.11g WPS wireless

Speakers

Output Power 12 Watts (RMS) per channel for high frequencies +
Watts (RMS) for low frequencies
Stereo
Biamplification
Speaker Layout 2.1 speaker layout 2 x 30mm (1 3/16”) tweeters per channel + 110mm (4 3/8”) woofer

The unit itself

Sony SA-NS510 portable wireless speaker sound port and main controls

The sound port that doubles as a carry handle; as well as the main controls for this speaker

The Sony SA-NS510 portable wireless speaker is in the form of a tapered tube which is able to yield an efficient sound output without much amplifier power. At the top of this tube, where the controls for the power, volume and “Party Streaming” mode are, there is a port which doubles as the speaker’s carrying handle. This port is part of the acoustic design for the speaker and is lit up in blue when the speaker is ready to use and in white while it is playing.

I needed to reset this speaker using the ALL-RESET button before enrolling it with the home network. This speaker, like the rest of the NS series of wireless speakers could benefit from an “easier-to-implement” first-time-setup mode like the OPERATE switch (which turns the power on an off fully) having a “SETUP” momentary position.

The speaker is easy to carry with one hand using the abovementioned port where there is a hand-grip, and runs on a rechargeable battery as well as AC power. When it is on battery, the “CHARGE / BATT” light glows green whereas it glows red while charging from the external power. This light is off when you run this speaker from external power so as you know it is using that power rather than the battery.

Sony SA-NS510 portable wireless speaker sound port with glowing status light

The status light glows in the sound port

Having the power, volume and other controls on the top of the speaker makes it easier to operate these essential functions without looking for hard-to-read buttons on a bottom edge or a remote control if you needed to “drop the volume” to make a phone call. Yet there is the remote control which is the same as the one that comes with the SA-NS410 speaker.

As for the sound, there is that punchy tight bass with the clear sound from vocals and other higher frequencies. I have taken this speaker to higher levels without it sounding muddled or confused due to clipping and it can provide that room-filling sound for a small room.

 

Sony SA-NS510 portable wireless speaker connections - Poewer connection, 3.5mm line-in jack, Ethernet jack, Firmware update button and WPS setup button

Connections available – Power socket, 3.5mm line-in jack, Ethernet socket, Firmware update button and WPS setup button

The Sony SA-NS510 had very good network prowess for a wireless speaker. It could pick up well for a speaker positioned at the other end of the house thus performing as expected with the Wi-Fi network. There wasn’t any issues with streaming content from the network sources and the Internet-radio sources. Even the ability to be “discovered” with Airplay worked well when a teenager who lived with us was trying out that function on his iPhone and the music came through promptly on the speaker. Like the SA-NS410 stablemate, it presented the streaming-media sources as two empty folders to other DLNA media devices but wouldn’t list out the Internet radio stations or similar resources.

Of course, there is the ability to connect this speaker to a wired (Ethernet or HomePlug AV) network segment via the Ethernet socket. This is alongside the ability to have this speaker playing from a Walkman, Discman or iPod full of tunes via the 3.5mm input jack.

The Party Streaming function does perform although it was a bit glitchy at times. This was with this speaker picking up the DLNA content from my phone and the SA-NS410 acting as a guest role. This can be a problem as the Sony speakers keep a best effort to satisfy the network-wide broadcast requirements for Party Streaming across the Wi-Fi segment.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

Sony wireless speakers remote control

The remote control that comes with these speakers

The Sony SA-NS510 could benefit from simple access to a “new-network-setup” mode so you can get going with enrolling it with that wireless network.

Other improvements I would like to see regarding network setup for these speakers is the ability to remember two or four wireless-network parameters as well as a Wi-Fi Direct / own-access-point mode. The former feature could work when you do things like use them with a “Mi-Fi” mobile router or a wireless range extender or temporarily at another person’s house; whereas the latter feature could come in handy if the speaker is used alone with a smartphone or tablet.

As well the “Network Audio Remote” Android smartphone software could benefit from a bit more work. For example, it could be quick about reflecting new status changes with the speakers or showing the latest changes as they occur such as when you adjust the volume using the controls on the speaker or “push” a new song to the speaker using another DLNA controller program.

I went through the instructions for this speaker and it talked of the time to replace the battery in this speaker was something to be done at the end of the speaker’s useful life. But I would like to see this being allowable if the battery started to lose its charge over the years of use, something that can happen if you use the speaker on an occasional basis. Here, I would like to see the battery available as a spare easily-replaceable accessory that can extend the speaker’s useful life.

Conclusion

I would specify the Sony SA-NS510 Portable Wireless Speaker as being suitable for applications where portability is to be important. This includes situations where you expect that the speaker could be used near wet areas such as to play music to accompany a pool party or serenade a long bath because of the fact that you are not supplying it with AC power to have it in operation.

If you intend to use this speaker “on the road”, the five-hour battery runtime may be a bit short for this application. As well, you would have to use it alongside a MiFi device if you are away from a home network or similar small network.

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Product Review–Sony SA-NS410 Network Speaker

Introduction

Previously, I had covered the concept of the Wi-Fi-based wireless speakers on this Website including writing an article about how to get the most out of these and the Bluetooth variants. Now I have the chance to review two Wi-FI-enabled speaker sets from Sony – one being the midrange SA-NS410 and the other being the more-expensive SA-NS510 which will come up in a separate review.

Sony SA-NS410 wireless speaker

Price

The unit itself:

RRP including tax: AUD$299

Functions

Internet audio Internet radio via vTuner,
MusicConnect streaming music service

Connections

Input Count as for a device
Audio Line Input
(connect a tape deck, CD player, etc)
1 x 3.5mm stereo jack
Network
Ethernet 100Mbps Ethernet
Wi-Fi wireless 802.11g/n WPS

Speakers

Output Power 15 Watts (RMS) per channel  for high frequencies + 15 Watts (RMS) for low frequencies Stereo
Biamplification
Speaker Layout Integrated speakers
– 2.1 stereo layout
2 x 30mm (1 3/16”) tweeter per channel +
1 x 110mm (4 3/8”) woofer

The unit itself

Sony SA-NS410 wireless speaker control details 1 - volume, party streaming, input select, firmware update

Speaker controls – volume, input select, Party Streaming, firmware update

The Sony SA-NS410 wireless speaker is a deep speaker with a leaf-shape profile. You see a blue status halo appears from the bottom of the speaker if in standby but this halo glows white when the speaker is in full action playing music. There are local controls on the bottom edge of the speaker to turn it on and off, invoke WPS network enrolment, adjust the volume and select whatever is connected to the 3.5mm input jack on the back of the unit.

Sony SA-NS410 wireless speaker control details 2 - power switch, Party Streaming

Other controls – the power switch and the Party Streaming button.

There is also another button to invoke the “Party Streaming” function which is an audio-broadcast function that is part of recent network-capable Sony home AV equipment. Here, you can have audio content playing on one of these devices such as the Sony CMT-MX750Ni music system configured as a “Party Streaming Host” and press this button to “pick up” the content through this speaker. Similarly, you could have content served to this speaker via a DLNA Media Server and “pick it up” from another of these speakers using the “Party Streaming” button.

Sony wireless speakers remote control

The remote control that comes with these speakers

Of course, this speaker can also be controlled by a card-sized infra-red remote control as well as your computer or mobile device running the Network Audio Remote app.

For setup, I was able to integrate the Sony SA-NS410 wireless speaker with the home network using the “Network Setup” App on my Android phone. This required me to transcribe the SSID and security passphrase in to the phone. The app could support the ability to transfer the parameters of the network you were connected to or another network from the phone to the speaker. The speaker works as its own access point during the setup phase but I would like to have it able to work as a WiFi Direct master device or own access point so it can work as a standalone setup when you don’t have a proper small network to use it with when you want to play music from your phone. Of course, you can use these speakers with an Ethernet or HomePlug wired network segment thanks to an Ethernet jack being provided on the back of this speaker.

It is also worth noticing that these speakers have a “Network Standby” switch so you not have them come alive from DLNA control-point apps on the home network including the Audio Remote app. This can be useful if you have network problems or don’t necessarily want people to play a practical joke on you if you have the speakers in the bedroom.

Sony SA-NS410 wireless speaker connections - WPS button, power connection, 3.5mm line-in jack, Ethernet jack, Standby - Network-Standby switch

Connections on the back of the speaker – WPS setup button, power connection, 3.5mm audio line-input jack, Ethernet jack, Standby – Network Standby switch

The Network Audio Remote app worked properly managing the volume and pushing music from other media servers. It could find Internet radio stations and programs but this function does leave a lot to be desired with filling out the list of stations or areas. This is where it stalls when downloading these lists and then reloads the last few stations and can be a pain with US and European localities with many stations. This was “fixed up” through a firmware update that Sony “pushed” out to this speaker and the SA-NS510 speaker.

Personally, I would recommend that Sony offers a DLNA media server with the Android “Network Audio Remote” application so you don’t have to find one of these apps to “push out” music held on your Android device. But I used the Twonky Mobile DLNA server to share out the music on my Android phone and had it controlled via the Network Audio Remote and this may be an ideal path if you have DLNA software on your Android phone that serves well but is balky as a control point.

For the computer, I was able to use the “Play To” function in Windows 8 to push music to the Sony SA-NS410 speaker from the PC and the NAS and this worked properly. If you still run a Windows XP box and use it as a DLNA server, you may have to use other DLNA control point software on that computer or use Network Audio Remote on your smartphone or tablet to manage your music.

The Sony SA-NS410 speaker was still sensitive with the Wi-Fi network although it took a few attempts to register to the router. The music played very smoothly from the DLNA server on the network-attached storage and from a French Internet-radio station. As for this Internet radio station, this was noticed during the day and with good bandwidth.

I have run the Sony SA-NS410 at the maximum level possible with Network Audio Remote and played  some Italian folk songs recorded in the 1970s and a recently-issued dance track. Here, I was doing this to identify any points where the speaker can “stress out” and make the music sound awful. At that level, I noticed very minimal amounts of clipping with the dance track and the bass accompaniment was there and came through very tight. The folk music tracks sounded clear with the guitar accompaniment and even when there was full accompaniment going on, it didn’t sound muddled.

This speaker performed well as a Party Streaming guest device but can sound glitchy due to the network not supporting proper multicast behaviour over the Wi-FI segment.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

I would like to improve the way that the Sony SA-NS410 wireless speaker and its peers are set up so as to allow for transportability. Here, it could have an easy-to-invoke “new-network-setup” mode like holding down the Standby button to have it act as if it is to be set up with a new network.

Similarly, it could benefit from the ability to remember the parameters for up to five wireless networks. This could have it work with range extenders or “Mi-Fi” routers as well as being able to be taken between two different home networks for party applications. As well, the speaker could work fully as an 802.11n single-stream wireless client device rather than using 802.11g as the preferred wireless network setup. This is a problem that will beset a lot of small comsumer-electronics devices like these speakers until a wide number of manufacturers make the single-stream 802.11n WiFi chipsets for these devices at cost-effective prices.

The “Network Audio Remote” Android software could be improved so it responds to changes that affect the device as soon as they occur with minimal time lag. It could also benefit from an associated DLNA server for Android phones so you don’t have to “hunt for” separate DLNA server apps from the Google Play store.

Conclusion

I would recommend the Sony SA-NS410 wireless network speaker as being suitable for most network-speaker applications where you want the speaker to yield room-filling sound that has tight bass and good response across the frequencies. It would work with DLNA or AirPlay setups as well as being a line-level amplified speaker that doesn’t sound wimpy.

The Sony Party-Streaming feature can also go a long way if you have recent Sony network-capable music or home-theatre systems in use on your home network and it could add a fair bit of extra value to these systems.

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Product Review–Creative Labs LiveCam Connect HD Webcam

Introduction

I am reviewing the Creative Labs LiveCam Connect HD Webcam which is a high-resolution compact Webcam that fits in with most peoples’ needs. There is a 1080p variant of this Webcam for those of you who value this resolution from a Webcam.

Creative Labs LiveCam Connect HD Webcam

Price AUD$89.95

Connection: USB 2.0

Resolution: 720p

Lens: Auto-focus

Microphone: Noise cancelling single microphone

Installation

Creative Labs LiveCam Connect HD Webcam on base

Flat base for shelf, desktop or CRT monitor

A common problem with many peripherals and I end up receiving assistance calls for is installing the peripheral device and making sure it works with the host computer’s operating system.

Firstly, I had to install it on the edge of my LCD monitor and it clipped to the monitor properly. It hasn’t fallen off for as long as I have used it but you may find that your monitor’s shape may cause it to fall off easily. This may include setups such as laptops or some all-in-ones where the user can angle the screen back as they wish.  Here, you may need to use Blu-Tack or something similar to hold it in place on the screen’s top edge.

As for software, the setup routine for setting up with Skype or similar software was a very quick plug-and-play experience with Windows identifying it very quickly and pulling down the necessary drivers from Windows Update. Here, I didn’t need to use the supplied CD to install the drivers. Even upgrading the operating system to Windows 8 didn’t require me to look for and download new drivers from Creative’s Website.

I didn’t bother to run the full-featured software that Creative provided because most of these cameras would primarily be set up as video-conferencing cameras with Skype or similar software and I wanted to replicate this kind of setup.

Creative Labs LiveCam Connect HD Webcam with stand hinged for LCD monitors

Stand hinged like a peg for use with flat-screen monitors or laptops

It presents itself as a microphone sound device and as a Webcam-class video camera device. There is the ability to add on a Windows Imaging Class driver from Creative to allow for full-on image-capture activity for photo applications.

In operation, there is a red light around the lens primarily to work as a tally light but this stays on all the time while connected to the computer. At the moment, the software doesn’t control the light.

Capabilities

The Creative LiveCam Connect HD webcam is capable of 720p resolution and can work with H.264 video. It has a real autofocus lens which yields clearer pictures compared to the typical Webcam that uses a fixed lens. I used this unit for a practice Skype videocall which was part of helping a friend of mine “get the hang of” Skype before their daughter went overseas and found that it could work properly in existing room light.

I also observed the sound and found that the camera’s microphone yielded clear sound without you needing to be close to and facing the camera for the recipient to hear your voice.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

The Creative LiveCam is representative of a very mature Webcam product class where there has been work on improving its vision and audio capabilities.

There is a control  button which works properly with Creative’s full-featured software but I would like to see this tie in well with Skype and other softphone applications and it may be a driver and application-programming-interface issue with these applications.

Conclusion

I would recommend the Creative LiveCam Connect HD Webcam as a replacement for a desktop or laptop Webcam that has failed or worked below par. Similarly you could purchase this Webcam as a way to add a highly-capable Webcam to a regular desktop computer that isn’t already equipped with one.

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Product Review–HP OfficeJet 150 Mobile Multifunction Printer

Introduction

Previously, I had written an article about the HP OfficeJet 150 as being the first mobile battery-operated multifunction printer that could also scan and copy when it was launched in May. Prior to that, if you wanted a device that did this, you may have bought the Canon BJC-80 alongside a scanning-head accessory for that printer. Then you had to swap the printhead and the scanning head every time you wanted to scan a document.

There are some workflows where you have to prepare and print a document like a quote, then this document has to be signed or annotated before it is emailed back to the office. This work may have to be done while you are on the road and it wouldn’t be feasible to do this on the road in a simplified manner before the arrival of this machine.

As well, this unit’s scanner would allow you to file documents electronically on your laptop or to a USB memory key or SD memory card. It also can become an “on-the-road” convenience document copier.

I have now been given the chance to review this printer and assess it as a mobile computing accessory for those of you who work on the road.

HP OfficeJet 150 mobile multifunction printer closed up

HP OfficeJet 150 mobile multifunction printer ready for operation

 

 

Print Scan Copy Paper Trays Connections
Colour Colour Colour 1 x A4 USB 2.0
Ink-jet Resolution Bluetooth
Sheet-fed

Prices

Printer

Recommended Retail Price: AUD$449

Optional Extras:

Car power adaptor (Purchase from HP store): USD$79.99

Inks and Toners

Standard High-Capacity
Price Pages Price Pages
Black 25.40 420 30.58 480
Colour 36.57 330 47.58 560
Photo 34.16 130 photos

 

The printer itself

The HP OfficeJet 150, like the previously-reviewed Canon PIXMA mobile printer is the size of a small “shoebox-style” cassette recorder. It is able to run from AC power using the supplied power adaptor or from internal rechargeable batteries. As well, one can also purchase from HP the “OfficeJet Mobile Car Adaptor” so you can run the printer off your vehicle’s 12V cigar-lighter socket, something I would consider very useful for those of you whose office is your truck or van.

It would take the equivalent of four to five hours to charge the printer’s battery from empty to fully charged, which means that it could be ready to go after you wake up if you charge it overnight.

User Interface and Walk-up functions

HP OfficeJet 150 mobile multifunction printer touchscreen control panel

The touchscreen control panel used as the printer’s control surface

The HP OfficeJet 150 uses a small LCD touchscreen user interface for managing setup and walk-up functions. I find that this screen may be seen as being too small especially when you use the dialog boxes associated with the various operations. As well, I would rather that HP do implement the OLED technology for this printer’s display rather than the common LCD display.

HP OfficeJet 150 mobile multifunction printer copying a document

It can even work as a personal copier

The copy / scan mechanism is a sheet-fed system similar to the typical fax machine and requires you to have the document with the text facing downwards and the top of the document towards the back of the machine.

The OfficeJet 150 was able to print out an image from my Canon PowerShot GIX camera properly and smoothly using the PictBridge setup. This is good if you want a “quick print” of one or more images that you just took with your digital camera.

You can also print from and scan to SDHC memory cards or USB memory keys using the control panel. The SD card slot is very difficult to find but is located on the bottom of left edge of the printer, up the back while the USB socket for this kind of printing is located on the back, close to the USB host socket which you use to connect this printer to the computer.

The advantage of this is that you could scan all those receipts that are in your van’s glove box or those signed documents on that clipboard to a memory key or SD card, then transfer them out to your main computer when you get back to your office. Similarly, you could turn out the preview images from your digital camera to show your customer, again without needing to bring out your laptop.

Computer functions

The HP OfficeJet 150 can connects to a computer via USB or Bluetooth but it cannot use the Bluetooth option for anything beyond printing. Of course, this printer can work with regular computer based on Windows or MacOS X operating environments.

It can also print from an Android device if you load that device with Printshare. Other than that, there is very little support for mobile operating environments.

The software installation experience was very quick although I downloaded the software from the HP site rather than using the supplied CD. This is so I can be sure I am running the latest drivers for this printer. It is infact also going to be the method one will have to use when loading the software on to any of the newer ultraportable computers that aren’t equipped with an optical drive.

Useability

During initial setup, the printheads didn’t move to loading position instantly. Instead I had to turn the printer off and on to cause this to happen. As for installing the ink cartridges, you placed them in to their respective holders then closed the lids on these holders to cause them to be in the correct position. This didn’t require much force.

When you scan or copy receipts, dockets and till-rolls, you will need to have the receipt in the middle of the scanning head and manually push the receipt in to the machine as you start the scan or copy process. You will need to “ignore” the dialogs that come up on the touchscreen about the document not being loaded properly by tapping “Ignore”. This is a task that I find that most users are likely to do as part of organising their expense receipts for tax or reimbursement purposes such as those fuel receipts that pile up in the glove box; or managing those payment-terminal or cash-register journal reports as part of your accounting and tax needs.

HP OfficeJet 150 mobile multifunction printer SDHC card slot

The SDHC card slot is located on the left side of the printer, on the bottom edge and towards the back

One thing that confused me initially was the location of the SD card slot that is used for “print-from-card” and “scan-to-card” applications. It was initially hard to locate this until I looked up the supplied product documentation which mentioned that the slot was just about on the bottom edge of the printer’s left had side.

This SD card slot would present itself as an extra disk drive in Windows or MacOS X. It is a bonus if you use an ultraportable computer like the Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook that doesn’t have an SD card slot. You also then benefit from an extra memory card slot which can come in handy for jobs like “upsizing” a MicroSD card by moving data to a larger-capacity card.

Printing speed and quality

The HP OfficeJet 150 had turned out clear crisp text at the typical inkjet printing speed when it was printing regular documents. This didn’t matter if it was connected via USB or Bluetooth. The scanning and copying speed was also very similar to what you would expect for most of the smaller fax machines.

I have done the usual colour-photo printing test using the supplied cartridges rather than the photo cartridges. This is because most of us may find it harder to locate the photo cartridge at most stationers or won’t be bothered to buy and install that photo cartridge every time we want to print a photo. I assessed it against the previously-reviewed Canon PiXMA iP-100 mobile printer and noticed it yielded colours that were more saturated yet the image lost out on the contrast. As well this printer also yielded a relatively darker output of the same images compared to the Canon.

HP OfficeJet 150 mobile multifunction printer back view with battery and USB sockets

Back view with stick-like battery, USB host socket for memory keys and digital cameras and USB computer socket to connect to a laptop computer

It is also worth noting that the photo printing tasks tended to ask more of the printer’s battery life. Of course, the battery life that is rated in pages for these printers assumes that you turn the printer on for the task at hand, complete the task then turn it off before packing it away.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

A limitation that I have noticed is that the HP OfficeJet 150 can have trouble printing an A4 photo when connected via Bluetooth. Here, it could “cut off” the printout very early and cause the host computer to resend the image for printing.

As for receipt / till-roll scanning, the printer could have a second guide from the right in order to simplify this process or the scanner’s feed system can be optimised on the left or right to keep thermal-printed receipts from drifting while scanning or copying. Similarly there could be a “copy and scan” mode which scans a document to an SD card or USB memory key while copying it, which can come in handy when you have to turn out a customer copy while creating an electronic file copy of that work order.

HP and other could move towards a 4-cartridge ink system for these mobile printers so that they are less costly to run when it comes to ink cartridges. This is a system that is commonly used with most regular-sized inkjet printers and has been considered more cost-effective due to the need only to replace only the empty cartridges.

This printer could be able to support Wi-Fi printing through the use of an optional Wi-Fi connectivity kit. Here this could work via an existing Wi-Fi network or use Wi-Fi Direct for standalone mobile printing. This option would make it work with mobile operating environments like Apple’s iOS with its AirPrint function; as well as the ePrint Home & Biz apps available for iOS and Android.

Conclusion and Placement Notes

I would recommend that people who are needing to print, copy and / or scan hardcopy documents but want to avoid carrying many different accessories for each task buy the HP OfficeJet 150 mobile printer.

As well I would recommend that those of us who use this printer as part of working out of the back of a vehicle like a van; or work from a small powerboat purchase the optional car adaptor. Here, you can charge the printer’s battery up while under way or avoid the worry about compromising battery life while printing or scanning near the vehicle.

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